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Chicago Turns Convention Center into Hospital; Florida Denies Cruise Ship Docking; Atlanta May Near Hospital Capacity by May 3; Healthcare Workers Voice Fear and Frustration; Hundreds of Medical Workers Sick and Hospitals Fight Shortages; Economy Braces for Devastating Week. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired March 31, 2020 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go around the country now to see how different cities are experiencing this.

Chicago, one of several major U.S. cities trying to make room in hospitals now for Covid-19 patients.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Omar Jimenez joins us now.

Good morning.

What are you -- what are you seeing and hearing there?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, a big struggle for cities across the world, frankly, is trying to make sure their hospitals don't get overwhelmed in the midst of this pandemic. So the city of Chicago, state of Illinois and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working to transform Chicago's convention center into an alternate care facility. Now, their goal by the end of the week is to have at least 500 beds set up. And for most of the day yesterday, they were just unpacking medical supplies.

But that's just the first phase. Their goal, by the end of this all, is to have at least 3,000 beds set up in three different sections of this McCormick Place Center here. And, again, all of this is to ease the burden on hospitals as we continue to see the number of coronavirus cases rise here in the state of Illinois, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Omar Jimenez, good to have you there.

Now to Rosa Flores. She is live in Florida.

And a clash there over a cruise ship. Tell us what's happening.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the Zaandam (ph) cruise ship is headed towards Florida and the situation there has worsened. Now eight people have tested positive for Covid-19, four individuals have died, the cause of death has not been determined yet, and dozens of others are exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

Now, this ship is expected to arrive Wednesday or Thursday, but it does not have permission to dock. That decision will be made by Broward County commissioners and also unified command.

But, here's the thing, Governor Ron DeSantis has already announced that he, the U.S. Coast Guard and the White House do not want this ship to dock, saying that he wants to make sure that there are hospital beds for Floridians here in the state.

But here's the thing, 305 U.S. citizens are on board, including 49 Floridians. We also know that 247 Canadians are on board. And so a lot of these passengers and their families are going to social media making a plea asking for mercy and compassion so that Florida can take them in.


HARLOW: Wow. We'll see what happens when it gets there Wednesday or Thursday.

Rosa, thank you, in Miami.

And let's go to Atlanta. The mayor there says hospitals could reach capacity by May 3rd if not sooner.

Our Amara Walker joins us from Atlanta.


Yes, that stay at home order remains in effect here in Atlanta and there is no timeline as to when that will be lifted. In a FaceBook audio call to her city's constituents, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that she was concerned that as you were mentioning the hospitals here could reach capacity by May 3rd, possibly sooner. She said the city has ordered 1,200 ventilators and they should arrive by April.

Now, three hours south of here, in a city called Albany, Georgia, it's a very different scene. The hospitals there have already been overwhelmed. In fact, the Georgia National Guard has deployed three medical teams to be on the ground there to help the hospitals on the ground for the Covid-19 response. The ICUs have reached capacity. That is according to the Phoebe Putney healthcare system. And they say their main challenge right now is meeting the demand (INAUDIBLE) their critical care staffing. There are reported 27 confirmed deaths in Albany, according to the Putney healthcare system and that accounts for about 30 percent of all coronavirus deaths in Georgia.

Jim, back to you.


SCIUTTO: Listen, if there's any doubt this is a national issue, just listen to those accounts from around the country.

HARLOW: Yes. SCIUTTO: Amara Walker, great to have you there.

HARLOW: Look at this, a stunning visual. That's an aerial shot of more than 800 cars lined up outside of a food bank near Pittsburgh just yesterday. Officials say people started to arrive three hours before the drive through emergency distribution began. Every car load received 50 pounds of groceries, no questions asked. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank has waived all economic requirements during this pandemic.

Jim, just a reminder, when we all go to the grocery store what can we give to those who are waiting like that.

SCIUTTO: Listen, and in every one of those cars is a family -- a family affected by this.


SCIUTTO: Well, doctors, nurses, medical staff, they are treating infected patients every day, often, if you can believe it, without the right protective gear. What happens when those doctors, when those healthcare workers get sick?



SCIUTTO: This was quite a moment, quite an image last night. That is, of course, New York's iconic Empire State Building lit up like an ambulance siren overnight. Flashing red and white spinning there. This was honoring the healthcare workers risking their lives every day, every moment, to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

HARLOW: Now some of those workers are expressing their frustration and, of course, their fear, turning to Instagram, if you can believe it, to try to ask anyone essentially for help.

Our Erica Hill reports on how emergency room doctors are trying to get by.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (voice over): In emergency rooms across the country, the battle being waged is unlike any these doctors have seen.

DR. STEFAN FLORES, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Right now it's kind of like drinking out of a fire hydrant.

HILL: Dr. Stefan Flores is an emergency room physician in New York City, the epicenter of this pandemic.

FLORES: It's been very overwhelming and stressful. Pretty much everyone that we see has corona, some flavor of corona. HILL: With each approaching siren, congestion in the ER grows. They

need more beds, more gear. They need to stay healthy. They need more information.

FLORES: I had so many friends, family, colleagues reach out to me from across the world and be like, oh my God, are you OK? What is actually going on over there?

HILL: In response, Dr. Flores and a fellow emergency physician, Dr. Lynn Jang (ph), launched Air It Out Covid-19 on Instagram and encouraged others to join in.

FLORES: It's been therapeutic and also I think just helpful to let everyone know what is going on. And I'm just here in New York, but we've also been trying to chronicle and get snapshots of what's been going on across the country.

HILL: Snapshots of life in the ER. Your eyes tell it all. A window to the war you've been through, reads this post.

Sometimes we just look at each other through our masks and we know what each other is feeling. Sometimes we just let each other know we're OK.

Crowded ambulance bays. A seemingly endless stream of patients. Tents to help alleviate the strain inside. Each image, a personal story.

Our health care workforce is more than just our doctors and nurses, reads this post, about our fearless EMTs.

FLORES: We need to recognize that paramedics and EMTs, who are also out there risking their lives with the lack of personal protection equipment, who are obviously seeing things that might not even make it to the emergency room.

HILL: Everywhere I look, someone is being intubated, someone is dying, this staffer writes. I am someone who wants to be holding their hand, to whisper in their ear to say, you are not alone, but knows it's a risk not only for myself, but also for others.

Moments like this one define how much has changed in just a few short weeks.

FLORES: You know, I wanted to console her, sit at the bedside, put my hand on her and let her know that it would be OK. You know, I couldn't touch her. You know, I had to don my personal protective equipment and kind of keep my distance. At that moment I almost felt kind of helpless.

HILL: And yet there are still reasons to hope. New York cheering the city's health care workers. This brought tears to my eyes, wrote one local nurse.

The signs of support, encouragement, and deep appreciation are the silver lining. These moments of positivity and gratitude keep us going. FLORES: It's a frightening time to be working, you know, in the

emergency room and just to be working in the hospital in general. But that being said, if there was any time probably to validate and reinforce why we chose to go in medicine, now.

HILL: A determination to push forward for as long as they're needed.

I'm Erica Hill, CNN.


SCIUTTO: Goodness, those sounds and sights of people clapping for healthcare workers just really moving.

Joining me now is one of them, Dr. Darria Long. She's an ER physician, clinical assistant professor at the University of Tennessee.

Doctor, thanks so much for coming on.

It's great to have you on because I think folks are used to hearing accounts from cities like New York or more and more a places like New Orleans, seldom from Tennessee. Can you tell us what the outbreak is like on the ground there? Are you seeing the first signs of this spreading widely?



And, you know, just in that last segment, a lot of Americans have heard about the shortages that we are having. We're now seeing an even new iteration and we're seeing this across the country, is that hospitals are reaching out to doctors to say, are you comfortable practicing in another specialty, because we know we're going to have shortages of ER and ICU doctors.

My husband's an orthopedic surgeon. He got one of those e-mails too.

What we need to be focusing on is not letting our doctors get sick in the first place across the country.

SCIUTTO: No question.

But let me ask you this because, of course, a concern is that many doctors and healthcare workers don't have sufficient protective gear as they're treating patients.

Are you, do your colleagues feel like you're risking your lives as you treat the infected?

LONG: We do feel that we are not getting the protection we need. And they do say that ER doctors, we're kind of the MacGyver's of medicine. So I have seen many of my colleagues, on talking to them, making masks out of items from Ace Hardware. I have another college who's testing it it's better to clean her mask using a rice cooker or a dehydrator. We are having to be pushed to that level.

One thing I do want to say, this cannot go unnoticed, is that we are watching out and sharing even our precious resources with each other, physician to physician. And it's very encouraging to see fellow physicians standing above the fray and reaching out, looking out for each other, even with our very little resources, to take care of our fellow each other, our community, and to take care of our country. And that cannot go unnoticed.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen, and it's not. You guys are doing great stuff and deserve credit.

I want to ask you, because a lot of hospitals are saying, when this peaks, when the cases spike, their concern, their facilities will be overwhelmed. They won't have enough ventilators, for instance, and they'll have to be rationing healthcare.

Is that a prospect you're now preparing for?

LONG: We all are very concerned about that. The reality, Jim, is that our hospitals and our ICUs run at 100 percent capacity, even before we have the Covid pandemic or whatever is going on. So we know when something comes in like this, we're going to have more demand. And we are seeing states fight for resources and precious resources. So, yes, I'm definitely concerned that once we see that peak, we won't have enough of the ventilators, the masks, the medications, the doctors, any number of things and we've going to have to decide where to allocate those resources --


LONG: Which is not a decision that I or any doctor wants to be making.

SCIUTTO: No. No, it's a remarkable reality.

But before I let you go, the infected, they often have to suffer on their own, no contact with their families to reduce the risk of spreading this to others. What is that stress like on patients?

LONG: You know, that's a great question. And as an ER doctor, yes, I view my job as giving somebody medications and doing diagnostics, but just as much a part of my job is reaching out, is holding that patient's hand, is helping them find ways to connect with their loved ones. That's still part of my job for my patients in the ER and for our greater Americans to help them connect with each other to help all of us as we go through this very scary and uncertain time to be there and help them connect.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen, thank you so much, again, and we wish you, we wish your team and we wish all the people you're treating there the best of luck in the coming days and weeks.

LONG: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: So on top of the health impact on so many and the risks that all those healthcare workers are putting themselves in front of every day, you've got the economic impact, tens of thousands of workers being furloughed because of coronavirus and economists are now saying this is going to get much worse.



SCIUTTO: The economic damage from this is just staggering. I mean we've never seen something like this. This morning, Goldman Sachs significantly downgraded its outlook for the U.S. economy. This comes as tens of thousands of workers are being furloughed across the country. Many of you watching perhaps today.

HARLOW: Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans is with us.

We'll get to the global report in a moment because it's startling.


HARLOW: But what are we looking at in terms of furloughed workers across so many industries?

ROMANS: Just in the past 36 hours, tens of thousands of them, you know, retail -- retail workers are almost 10 percent of all the employed people in the country. And you're not going to stores and malls, right? So you've seen furloughs from Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Macy's, Kohl's, Gap, Gannett, the newspaper company, and you've got just outright layoffs in other companies. The furloughs, I think, are interesting because this rescue package from Congress, this big stimulus, it has provisions in there to try to keep that infrastructure for some of these companies intact, meaning, if you have a furlough, it means you're not -- they don't tell you to go away forever. They say, if the work comes back, you can have that job.


ROMANS: You keep your health care and the government pays your salary for the next four months.

HARLOW: Well, at least --

SCIUTTO: Christine -- sorry, sorry. Go ahead. I was just -- this Goldman report.

HARLOW: No, no.

SCIUTTO: I mean it's talking about a contraction of 34 percent in the second quarter in the U.S. economy --

ROMANS: You know --

SCIUTTO: By one-third. That's just remarkable.

ROMANS: We all had to kind of rub our eyes, you know, to see, is there a decimal missing there? I mean a 34 percent contraction. Goldman goes on to say that they think there will be a snapback in the third quarter. Pretty optimistic. More like a v-shaped recession than a u- shaped recession that so many others are talking about. But those numbers are actually not that controversial, really. I mean when you look at some of the other modelling that people have, you know, we stopped a big part of the American economy, just stopped it in its tracks in a way we have never done before.


So the numbers are terrifying, but they reflect just how dramatic the move here was.

The big question for me is how much stimulus will get out there how quickly. Bills are due right now and the checks haven't come yet, right? So this is the hardest week, I think, for workers and consumers.

How quickly will the money be there? Will there be more after that? And what does it look like on the other side for the economy? That's -- we just don't know.

HARLOW: Christine Romans, thank you so much.

Right now three out of every four Americans have been ordered to stay at home. Is that enough? Is enough being done to actually slow the spread of coronavirus? Dr. Fauci joins us next.



SCIUTTO: A good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

America hits a milestone as the nation fights this pandemic.