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States Racing To Build Field Hospitals For Patient Surge; Spain Now Has More Cases Of Coronavirus Than China; U.K. Bracing For Peak Of Coronavirus Outbreak. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 31, 2020 - 05:30   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow.

Here's a recap of our top story this hour. The U.S. has reported its biggest spike in coronavirus fatalities, pushing its death toll past 3,000 people.

In New York -- take a look at this -- authorities have opened a field hospital in Central Park to deal with the surge in cases. Still, experts warning that even if the country responds perfectly to this pandemic it could see as many as 200,000 people dying.

Now, President Trump is extending stay-at-home guidelines until the end of April. He is also considering whether to recommend that anyone out in public wear a mask.

Now, Americans across the country are also being asked to heed social distancing measures but not everyone is cooperating.

A popular pastor in Florida was arrested after continuing to hold large worship services at his megachurch despite the stay-at-home order. Rodney Howard Brown is being charged with unlawful assembly and violating public health emergency rules. But as he says, the rules discriminate against -- he says the rules discriminate against religion and his church and he took necessary health precautions.

Well, Don Lemon spoke to the county sheriff about this case. Take a listen.


SHERIFF CHAD CHRONISTER, HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FLORIDA: This had nothing to do with a pastor and a church. If this was a gym owner -- any type of other business or group that encourages large gatherings would have been in defiance of this law.

But again, we pleaded with him. We talked to him, we talked to his attorneys, and we talked to the church leaders. We've did it since Friday through Saturday into Sunday, into Sunday afternoon. Sunday afternoon, even went there to meet the -- his legal staff and church leaders in person, pleading with them not to put people's lives in danger.


CURNOW: He certainly was.

So, Florida currently counts more than 5,000 cases of COVID-19 -- a warning, indeed.

Now, with some hospitals in the U.S. pushed to their limits and beyond capacity, officials are racing to build these makeshift field hospitals in parks and in convention centers -- and even in one case, a parking garage.

Here's Brian Todd with that.


ANDREW DUNCAN, NURSE, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK: We have to line them up one after the other, bed by bed, trying to intubate anywhere we possibly can to save people's lives.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some doctors and nurses on the front lines say their hospitals are facing an overwhelming flood of patients.

DR. ELIZABETH STACHTIARIS, EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK: There's patients building up in all the corridors on oxygen. Their oxygen tanks are running low. The rooms are short, the nursing staff is short. The doctors are falling ill, too.

TODD (voice-over): These emergency room doctors say shortages are at dangerous levels.

DR. MONALISA MUCHATUTA, EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK: We're running out of medication, we're running out of equipment. And we're even running out of oxygen, which is something that patients that have COVID-19 need.

TODD (voice-over): One of the most critical shortages, ventilators.

DR. RAVI WETTASINGHE, EMERGENCY MEDICINE DOCTOR, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK: Think of it as your lungs being filled with fluid, like they're drowning. And once you get to that point where you're drowning, you need a ventilator to stay alive. And we're running out of that equipment for people.

TODD (voice-over): Racing to fill the breach, New York is now urgently building emergency field hospitals at the Javits Center, in Central Park, and elsewhere. And around the country, cities bracing for impact are rushing to build out their capacity in case they're hit by the same tsunami as New York.

DR. ERIC TOSH, EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR, MARY WASHINGTON HOSPITAL, FREDERICKSBURG, VIRGINIA: So this is our field hospital. TODD (voice-over): In Fredericksburg, Virginia, about an hour south of Washington, Mary Washington Hospital has set up a field hospital in the parking garage, just a few feet outside its emergency room.

TOSH: We're going to start out with two triage stations but we'll be able to scale that up as we need.

TODD (voice-over): E.R. Dr. Eric Tosh takes us through what looks like a MASH unit with portable x-ray machines, oxygen units, intravenous equipment. They saw what was happening in the hardest-hit cities, Tosh says, and got this facility operational in a few days.

There are now only a few coronavirus patients inside the main hospital -- none in the field hospital -- but Tosh is confident that will change.

TOSH: We hear from colleagues in New York and New Orleans that they're seeing as many as 200 to 400 percent of their normal daily volume. So this is designed for about that sort of influx.

TODD (voice-over): It's required some creative ingenuity. The hospital took old waiting area recliners and converted them into treatment chairs.

TOSH: And we put old plant hangers that we're going to repurpose as I.V. bag holders.

TODD (voice-over): And they've installed a rather sobering feature -- that Tosh hopes his E.R. team will never have to use -- in case patients get violent.

TOSH: If the people need to get out, we'll be able to get out through the back of the tent here and into the main treatment area.

TODD (on camera): An escape hatch.

TOSH: Yes.

TODD (voice-over): Tosh says right now, he's balancing being prepared with managing the fears and concerns of his staff over what may be coming.


TOSH: I don't know that anybody alive has ever seen anything like this. But we've had lots of training at being flexible and creative and doing things in the way that maybe they weren't meant to or designed to be done.

TODD (on camera): One thing Dr. Tosh is now concerned about is a drop-off in patients seeking emergency treatment outside of coronavirus. He's seeing much fewer patients come in here seeking treatment for heart attacks and strokes over the past few weeks. He says they're all fearful that they're going to get coronavirus.

Brian Todd, CNN, Fredericksburg, Virginia. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: Thanks, Brian, for that.

So, one of the saddest things about coronavirus is not being able to comfort or even say goodbye to critical patients in isolation. This is devastating.

Michelle Bennett lost her 79-year-old -- her 75-year-old mother Carolann last week to coronavirus and she was unable to be with her in the room when she died. So, nurses at the hospital made sure Michelle and her siblings were able to say a final goodbye on Facetime.

Brooke Baldwin spoke to Michelle about her family's painful ordeal. Take a listen.


MICHELLE BENNETT, LOST MOTHER TO COVID0-19: So, the nursing staff and the health care professionals at Swedish Issaquah Hospital were amazing. They knew we couldn't be with her. I could tell the emotion in both their and the doctors' voices of their frustration knowing we couldn't be there or be -- risk the infection.

So the nurse, Tatiana -- and she had called me about 10:00 at night and said you know, your mother's breathing is changing. You know, we can see that. It probably won't be much longer.

I'm going to take my cell -- it was her personal cell phone -- and I'm going to -- I'm going to go and get dressed in all the protective gear I have to be in. And then I'm going to put the phone up to her face so that you can tell her you love her and say your goodbyes.

And it was so touching just to know that -- I couldn't be there and I said to the nurse -- I said can you please hold her hand, can you rub her head? Can you pretend, you know, like we're there with her? And she said she will not be alone. We will stay with her until the end.

And so, 10 minutes later we get the phone call for Facetime. And, you know, she put it right up to my mother's face and I could tell my mom I loved her and how much I was going to miss her. And as the -- as I was finishing saying goodbye and the nurse took the phone back up, I could see the nurse was just crying -- like tears just coming out of her eyes -- you know, through the mask. I could see it.

And I know how difficult this is for them. I can't even imagine being on the front lines of that and having to go home every day and risk infection themselves, but then having the compassion and the empathy to be right there in that moment as if it was their own mother. And that was one of the most amazing things I've experienced.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Do you feel that your mother at least passed in peace?

BENNETT: I hope so. I know she wasn't alone. That was the biggest thing for me was her not to die alone, and the hope that was given by those nurses holding her hand and staying with her to the end.

You know, my mom was a nurse for 38 years, probably doing the same for other people. So it's amazing to me that these nurses were able to give back to her in that way.


CURNOW: Well done for Brooke for doing that interview. Such a powerful piece. Michelle says she obviously can't thank the hospital staff enough for that opportunity to say goodbye.

You're watching CNN. Still to come, why some health care workers in Spain refuse to show up for work amid the coronavirus pandemic. Stay with us. You're watching CNN.



CURNOW: So, some alarming news coming out of Spain this day. Europe -- the European nation has confirmed cases of the coronavirus -- has more confirmed cases of the coronavirus than China. Now, that's according to Johns Hopkins University.

There are nearly 88,000 cases in Spain; more than 8,100 deaths. There are, though, signs of hope amidst all of those dire numbers. According to the government, the daily infection increase has slowed since strict shutdown measures were imposed.

Well, Al Goodman joins us now from Madrid. Hi, Al.

You and your team have been at it there. Every day you're out there giving us the latest. Just tell us -- this is a bit of good news that you've seen some sort of leveling out in the death rate.

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what the health minister says, Robyn. He's saying that Spain is not yet at the peak. It's very close to the peak.

He says that as of last Wednesday, the Spanish officials -- the health authorities saw the percentage increases -- they're still going up but not as much. They're starting to level off a bit. He thinks that the peak is soon.

But the numbers are still sobering -- the more than 8,100 deaths. That's the very latest figure out just a few minutes ago for the last 24 hours. That was an increase of 849 deaths in just 24 hours and more than 40 percent of the deaths have come in just the last few days of all of these deaths.

So the lockdown order has been in place now for more than two weeks, but that lag time -- we're seeing an increase of the cases, increase of people to ICU, and increase, unfortunately, in the deaths.

We're also seeing an increase in the complaints from medical workers who are tasked at the provisional hospital out of the convention center refusing to work until they got the protective gear in this cavernous many, many pavilions of hospitals that have been set up to alleviate the normal hospital beds at the standing hospitals in the capital. The regional government in Madrid apologizing, saying they're going to fix that.

But the concern is that more than 12,000 medical workers in Spain have coronavirus. Most of them, the government says, are mild cases but some have died -- and including the director of Spain's Health Emergency Center. The point man for the whole fight against coronavirus, himself, now has COVID-19 -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Goodness, me -- 12,000 nurses and doctors and health care workers just in Spain alone -- wow.

Al Goodman, thanks so much, live there in Madrid -- appreciate it.

So, taking you now to the U.K. The chief science adviser there is warning there's still much worse to come from this pandemic in the U.K. The country will be facing, he says, that crisis with a shortfall of vital medical equipment.

Well, let's go now to Nick Paton Walsh. Nick is in London with more on that. Hi, Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Robyn, the problems the U.K. facing mirroring basically those of every country, shortages of PPE for front line workers.

But behind me here is NHS Nightingale, a pop-up hospital, if you like, that could potentially have 4,000 beds inside it designed to protect the measures of confidence to a country that knows the surge is a matter of days away here.


There are concerns it may hit the capital of London as soon as this weekend. And many are concerned quite how ready the United Kingdom may be.


WALSH (voice-over): London may be a week from the worst. This sprawling pop-up hospital on the banks of the Thames is due to have 4,000 beds is part of a message of readiness. But elsewhere, some doctors feel far from ready.

George Zumbadze is one, working this weekend in an urgent walk-in health care center. U.K. guidelines told him to wear this but he saw images from Italy and wanted extra protection and bought these in a hardware store.

DR. GEORGE ZUMBADZE, LONDON: This (INAUDIBLE) so, you know, we made a little bit of like I find to say (ph) look almost like an astronaut. And I said well let's go (INAUDIBLE).

WALSH (voice-over): But the health care center told him not to wear the extra gear as they had to obey guidelines. So he's had to stop going to help in the center not just to protect him; he doesn't want to spread the infection to other patients.

ZUMBADZE: We want to help. That's what we do. That's what we train to do. And this kind of program is in our head.

But at the same time, we also -- you know, we know that we shouldn't harm to others. So I feel very uncomfortable for myself and for the people that I will see one to the other because I feel I might not get this virus in (INAUDIBLE) but there's a possibility I could transfer the infection from one person to another person.

WALSH (voice-over): A doctors' support group said Monday many have reported having to get their own PPE. The health care center in question said staff safety is non-negotiable and a doctor recently left their shift after refusing to use appropriate PPE.

The government has pledged nationwide PPE deliveries.

ROBERT JENRICK, U.K. SECRETARY OF STATE FOR HOUSING, COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT: To NHS and social care workers -- all those who rely on this equipment -- and to their families and loved ones watching this afternoon, we understand and we will not stop until we have got you the equipment that you need.

WALSH (voice-over): Grave uncertainty just as the peak nears in London.


WALSH: Now, one NHS manager I spoke to in London here says they didn't really get enough detailed access to the national modeling about the virus spread so they had to try and do their own. And that projected the peak is likely to hit the sixth of April, this weekend, and worsen up until the week of the 13th of April. And each of those weeks they were concerned there may be several hundred intensive care beds short of demand in just their district in part of London.

Now, that overflow, as it's called, will end up coming here to NHS Nightingale -- a 4,000-bed potential capacity. I have to say it isn't completely ready inside for 4,000 beds -- far short of that.

But it's a message of confidence. A country, the U.K., that was for some degree, an outlier trying to pursue a herd immunity strategy at the start to get the disease amongst the population to try and make sure it didn't defect in the seasons and months ahead. Changed course radically now with the worst restrictions on movement since World War II, really, with its prime minister the only head of a country currently testing positive for the disease.

A very difficult fortnight ahead. Some officials suggesting the numbers perhaps show it isn't going to be as bad as many had feared. But the moment of truth, unfortunately, is very close Robyn.

CURNOW: OK. Nick Paton Walsh there in London. Thank you. So, staying in Europe, in Italy, heart-wrenching stories of the tragic toll the virus is taking. An entire family, the Bertuces (ph), dying from coronavirus. The father, 86-year-old Alfredo, a well-known blacksmith. His wife Angela was 77. And their two sons, Daniel and Claudio, age 54 and 46, respectively.

And also in Italy, the country will hold a moment of silence in just a few hours for all the coronavirus victims, including that whole family.

So, you're watching CNN. Still to come, all over the world, random acts of kindness, both big and small, are bringing hope and moments of happiness for all of us, indoors and out.



CURNOW: From people singing to seniors, to delivering pizzas to police stations, to impromptu musical shows in neighborhoods, every day, people may not be congregating together but they're certainly pulling together to overcome this coronavirus as John Vause now explains some of the bright stuff.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're the heroes next door. Like most of us, living under some kind of lockdown, anxious and scared, but still able to perform small but meaningful acts of kindness.

Like the family singing outside their grandfather's nursing home for his 100th birthday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've worked, we've loved, we've had great lives because we had a great example.

VAUSE (voice-over): The neighbor who entertains in the street by practicing his accordion while practicing social distancing.

AL PORRECA, ACCORDION PLAYER: If you've got problems on your mind, when you play music you don't remember the problems.

VAUSE (voice-over): The seamstress spending her days fitting together her own style of face masks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guys here -- your order, sir.


VAUSE (voice-over): There's that guy bringing pizzas to his local police station.

And the churches with that familiar and reassuring sound of bells ringing out loudly to remind us we are not alone. ASHLEY WILKERSON, SAINTS JOSEPH AND PAUL CATHOLIC CHURCH: I think that's just a wonderful thing to do to keep our connection to one another at this time of separation.


VAUSE (voice-over): There's no way to know for certain how many and how often all of these moments take place. There's no way to count them like we do with confirmed cases of the coronavirus. But we do know as the virus spreads so, too, are acts of kindness and with them, some hope that together, somehow, we'll get through this.

John Vause, CNN, Atlanta.


CURNOW: We will with a dance and an accordion player. He was fabulous, wasn't he?


I also want to show you here another remarkable moment. Let's share some of the positive stuff. These are two dozen health care workers heading here in Atlanta to New York City -- hopefully, we'll bring that picture up -- to help in a battle against the virus. Each answering the call for help.

This photo was taken aboard their flight before they left the gate. You can see they're actually in this plane on their way to New York to help.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta -- our very own Sanjay, sums this up perfectly on Twitter. He wrote it reminds him, quote, "of the dedication, bravery, and sacrifice required to do the job."

So thanks so much for your company. Appreciate you joining us -- the small team we have here in the CNN center. Let's help all of our medical workers by staying at home and staying safe.

I'm Robyn Curnow. "NEW DAY" with John and Alisyn is next -- enjoy. You're watching CNN.



DR. DEBORAH BIRX, RESPONSE COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: This needs to be federal guidance. It may look like two cases today that become 20, that become 200, that become 2,000.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Please come help us in New York now. We need relief for nurses who are working 12-hour shifts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are playing Whac-A-Mole. There are other places that are going to come up and be a problem. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm out there literally every day and all night scouring the globe to try to find the necessary lifesaving equipment that we need.

DR. CORNELIA GRIGGS, PEDIATRIC SURGERY FELLOW, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: It feels like coronavirus is everywhere. We need everyone at home to hold the line, stay at home, and buy us time.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.