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New York Hospitals Closer to Breaking Point as Cases Surge; Florida Governor Under Pressure to Issue Statewide Shutdown; White House Projects 100,000 to 240,000 Americans Could Die. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 1, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. A very tough two weeks ahead, the president finally leveling with the American people and warning that we could see up to 240,000 deaths in the United States from coronavirus. And that is even if all of these safety guidelines are followed to a T.

SCIUTTO: Listen. We know these numbers are staggering. Yesterday 830 deaths, that is the most recorded in one 24-hour period so far here in the U.S. Total deaths in this country now approaching 4,000.

And as more and more patients fight for their lives, states are still fighting for supplies. Governors begging the federal government for more ventilators in particular, while the president says that nearly 10,000 are being held back because another surge is coming.

HARLOW: Well, this morning, companies enlisted by the government to produce critical equipment say they're not really getting guidance on where to send those supplies. Can you imagine that? And the reality for 80 percent of Americans, we are staying at home. The question many are asking, though, is how long and will the shutdown go national?

Let's begin again in New York this morning. Our national correspondent Brynn Gingras is with us.

What is the state of play in New York City?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, more than ever right now, Poppy and Jim, the stay-at-home is so vital. Even the city taking more steps to make sure people stay in their homes, closing 10 parks within New York City. 41,000 positive coronavirus cases in New York City, more than a thousand deaths.

And, listen, the hospitals is where the focus is right now, right? We know that there's sort of a balancing act going on within these hospitals, essentially just trying to move patients around to the overflow place like Javits and the Comfort. But also just within the hospital system. But what we're learning from the hospital here behind me, Elmhurst, one of the ones that was hit the hardest, is it's not so much the volume that they're seeing of patients coming in, it's how sick the patients are when they do come in.

For example, this hospital is having to keep people in the ER hallways because the ICU units are too full. Just within the last 48 hours, we're told doctors inside Elmhurst had to intubate 19 people. So that's 19 people needing ventilators. So again, that, you know, request, that demand for more equipment, more personnel, is now more vital than ever -- guys.

SCIUTTO: Well, like those demands to get answered. Brynn Gingras, in New York.

Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis, he's facing hard questions, a state with a lot of retired people, older people, why has he not issued a statewide shutdown with the growing number of cases of COVID-19.

CNN correspondent Rosa Flores joins us now from Port Everglades, Florida. Many counties there, they have stay-at-home orders in place, why no statewide order?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, the governor has maintained from the beginning that among other things that he hasn't issued a statewide order because every corner of the state has been impacted by COVID-19. But as you mentioned, he did issue a few days ago a regional order, which impacts Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe Counties. And it's no mistake because those first three counties account for about 60 percent of the more than 6,000 cases here in the Sunshine State.

But, Jim, I should add that the regional localities had already issued similar orders, so it's a bit late to issue that regional order when everybody in this area was pretty much already following that order.

HARLOW: Rosa, before you go, there are these two huge cruise ships with sick passengers on them, one of them, I believe, has four people who died and they're heading to Port Everglades right now. Are they going to be allowed to dock? And if so, what will happen to all the people on board?

FLORES: You know, that ship still does not have permission to dock. Broward County Commissioners and Unified Command will be making that decision.


They met for more than five hours yesterday, Poppy, and they tabled the decision until tomorrow. And they did not accept the plan that the cruise ship presented which included allowing the passengers that don't have symptoms to get off the ship and go home, the passengers with symptoms would be allowed to stay on the ship for 14 days, quarantined, and two individuals would need to be hospitalized.

But as you and I know, Governor Ron DeSantis has been very clear, he says that it is a mistake for this ship to come to Florida. He has suggested that medics be flown to the ship so they can treat people there, because he says that he's worried about the number of hospital beds available for Floridians. But here's the thing, 305 U.S. citizens are on that ship, including 49 Floridians and one of those Floridians writing a very powerful letter, Jim and Poppy, asking for mercy, asking the governor to allow the ship to dock.

HARLOW: I can only imagine what it is like to be in that position. Rosa, thank you for your reporting.

Let's stay on Florida for a minute and talk about what's behind the governor's thinking there, especially with so many elderly residents. You know, political reporter for "Politico" Marc Caputo is with us.

Marc, you know a lot about Governor DeSantis' thinking. Why, why has he not issued these orders?

MARC CAPUTO, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, as you alluded to, he is concerned not just about the health ramifications of COVID spreading to Florida, but he's also concerned about the economic ramifications of shutting everything down. Now if you talk to every expert, economists who know what they're talking about when it comes to pandemics, and scientists. They say Ron DeSantis is making a false choice. That is, you don't get to choose between the two.

If you don't shut down properly, you're going to have a bad economy anyway. Understand that DeSantis also kind of came of age politically speaking in the era of reactionary Republican politics to President Obama. And there is instinctive mistrust of the news media and a lot of institutions, including what a lot of scientists are saying. So he's struggling with that.

And I don't want to say that he's a complete ideologue. He does have a Democrat who is his Emergency Management director of the state. And there is bipartisanship that's occurring but the governor has not been persuaded yet that this is necessary. Also understand that his own spokeswoman about five days ago, six days ago, said look, we're not going to do a statewide order in Florida because out of the 67 counties, well, 21 counties don't have any COVID cases.

Five days later those 21 counties are now down to 12 and it is spreading. There is community spread and there is a contradiction between the idea of like, oh, we're not going to let the cruise ship dock here, we're not going to let people from Louisiana in the state, we're going to try to keep people from New York out. But, you know, folks from Miami-Dade, which is where I'm at, which is ground zero for COVID in Florida, well, while we're under these stay-at-home shelter- in-place orders, we can still go to Henry County nearby.

We can still spread the disease if we happen to have it. And so the whole state has not been put under that blanket order. The number of COVID cases is dramatically increasing, it's increasing by double digit percentages as testing increases by double-digit percentages. And we don't have a full handle on just what this is here.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen, there aren't walls between states and there certainly aren't walls between counties. People can move back and forth. Looks like we might have lost Marc Caputo there. But we'll be watching the experience in Florida. Thanks very much to Marc.

Joining us now is Dr. Jennifer Lee. She's former medical director for the state of Virginia.

Doctor, so good to have you on this morning. You know, that news conference yesterday from the president, quite a dire prediction there. You know, 100,000 potentially dead, that made headlines this weekend. Now a number 240,000 as part of the range of what's possible here. Is there anything that could be done at this late stage to prevent the projected shortfall of beds, ventilators, ICU units, et cetera, or are we hurdling towards that kind of mismatch, right? The need and what's available?

DR. JENNIFER LEE, FORMER MEDICAL DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF MEDICAL ASSISTANCE SERVICES: Well, you know, Jim, as horrific as those numbers were when we heard them yesterday, I think what is even more scary is that that is actually a best-case scenario. That is if all across the country we start to do -- we're doing the social distancing, the stay-at-home, that we're maximizing all of the mitigation strategies that are taking place in some parts of the country.

And so I'm afraid that the numbers of deaths could be even higher than that if we don't take action and quickly all across the country.

HARLOW: What is your message to national leadership? The president, in terms of the next seven days because the modeling that the White House is basing all of this off of, from the University of Washington, shows the scenario in seven days, if we don't have a nationwide lockdown, stay-at-home order. Is that the only thing that can mitigate the pain and the death toll rising even more is a nationwide order?


LEE: Well, I don't know what the exact extent of the authority the president has is to ask for that. But one thing is for sure, he can ask all the governors, explain the data and the risk and that, again, this is the best-case scenario. Hundreds of thousands of deaths is the best-case scenario? We need to do the stay-at-home order every single state, all across the country. We need to do everything we possibly can.

I think the federal government should pull out all the stops when it comes to the equipment as well. You know, take a look at what countries like Taiwan and Korea have done where they faced serious shortages in their supplies as well. And they required private manufacturers to work 24/7, and they were able to fill that gap and quickly. You know, Taiwan is making over 10 million masks per day right now.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen, South Korea and the U.S. have the same --


SCIUTTO: Their first case on the same day. South Korea tested early. They put these restrictions in early. They've had just over 100 dead. The U.S. as you could see there, now totaling nearly 4,000.

I want to ask you a question, this may sound like a difficult one, but given that the models predict half or even most of the population will eventually be exposed, once you get through this surge period, this peak period of the next two to four weeks, when you're concerned about overwhelming medical facilities, is there an argument to relax social distancing at that point so that people can build immunity? Or is that irresponsible to talk about?

LEE: I think it's hard unless you have the data. You know, and that goes back to the testing. You know, as we get more testing, and it is getting better, it's not getting better fast enough all across the board. But it is getting better, testing capacity, we will be able to have a better sense of what you can do, you know, in different parts of the country. It is not the same picture all across the country, and we'll have to do -- have very tailored approaches based on states and localities and what the virus is doing in those specific areas.

But the testing will help us and I'd like to see us look at the criteria for testing as the capacity grows. We should be loosening the criteria and testing more people. That has not happened yet.

HARLOW: Dr. Jennifer Lee, thank you for your time and for your work on all of this.


HARLOW: Still to come, a source tells CNN 1400 members of the New York City Police Department have tested positive for coronavirus. The commissioner will join us ahead.

SCIUTTO: And for many Americans, rent is due today. But they just can't pay it. So what happens now? Plus, this is a health crisis and an economic crisis and an educational one. Schools scrambling to take on the enormous challenge, what will be the lasting impact?



JIM SCIUTTO, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: This just in to CNN, and boy, the numbers just keep rising. Today, nearly 6,200 uniformed officers, 17 percent nearly of the NYPD are out sick as coronavirus spreads across the city. More than 1,400 have now tested positive for the coronavirus. Joining me now is New York Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea. Commissioner, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: First, this has been a difficult week, month, for the NYPD. I want to show pictures now of the five uniformed officers who have lost their -- members of the NYPD, I should say, who lost their lives so far to this, and, of course, now you have more than 1,400 who have tested positive. Tell us what the past few weeks have been like for the department.

SHEA: I mean, I'll tell you, Jim, I've lost at this point sense of time when this started. You know, it's been a -- clearly a difficult time for New York City as a whole. The message is to all New Yorkers that we're all in this together. Certainly, the NYPD is a part of that, uniform and civilian members. It's all of us pulling together, holding it together, if you will, and doing the best we can to get out of this as soon as possible.

SCIUTTO: So, those numbers there, 17 percent of the force out sick, says about one in six officers, more than 1,400 have tested positive. I'm curious what impact -- and I know your -- you guys are scrambling and no one does it better than the NYPD. What impact has this had on the force's responsibilities, and at what point are you concerned you've got to for instance move from eight-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts to make up for this?

SHEA: You know, it's a constant state of planning. Before this crisis ever took place, and certainly hour-to-hour during it, as we're looking at many metrics. I think we're still climbing the hill, if you will. I'm eagerly awaiting when that inversion point happens, where the number of people going out sick is -- passes and crosses to people coming back.

But we are -- the message to New Yorkers is we are scrambling. But that shouldn't have a negative connotation. We are able to handle many different tasks here. We're still fighting crime, there's still great work taking place on those that unfortunately still do commit crime. We've added a lot of things to our repertoire. We're reaching out more than ever to New Yorkers that need help, whether it's delivering food, calling domestic violence victims to make sure they're safe, and we're still out there on patrol.

We've had a lot over the last few days, people surprised how many cops they see on corners, in cars, making people feel safe. We're continuing to do all of that.


SCIUTTO: Now, the governor of New York warns about just a spike in cases over the next couple of weeks. That spike of course is going to affect your force as well. What percentage of folks are you preparing for being out when the worst of this strikes?

SHEA: I think it's a little bit of an unknown there, Jim. You know, when is that top going to be if you watch --


SHEA: Any news show or any expert. If I told you an answer, it would be nothing more than a --

SCIUTTO: Yes, got you --

SHEA: Guess. We're planning for any eventuality, and you know, it's -- the motto and the mantra here is next woman, next man up. People are coming back -- we've had people return, and that number is growing by the day.


SHEA: People returning from positive COVID tests back to work, to help their brothers and sisters on the front line. And we are going to hold that line.

SCIUTTO: The governor said Tuesday that he's open to using New York State police if the New York City Police Department has needs. Is that something you're going to ask the governor for, that kind of help?

SHEA: Yes, there's no plans for that right now. But I'll tell you that we work very closely. There is no -- there is no this police department and that police department, we're all law enforcement. We all work together. We all want the same thing, keeping people safe. So, we are all ready to participate in many exercises if you will and task forces with the state police.

Right now, we're in a good shape in New York City. But the bottom line is, anyone that can help will be asked upon to help to keep people safe.

SCIUTTO: New York police officers, like EMS workers, I mean, they're on the frontlines, they're often responding to cases like this, they're facing special risk, and we're seeing that in the numbers. There's been some consideration of hazard pay, even as mentioned as part of a further congressional stimulus package for first responders. Is that something that your department is asking for?

SHEA: Well, I could tell you that I've seen that come up many times. I did an interview yesterday. And with members of the department, just to hear their concerns, what am I missing, if you will? And a number of issues came up. And that was one of the issues. Certainly something that I'm not unreasonable to talk about. I think though that the first and primary thing that we should be worried about right now though is being there, being there for all New Yorkers.

The message to the whole country is unfortunately get ready. Be prepared for this. Start taking steps now to hopefully put yourself in a good position, people working from home, et cetera. And I think that we worry about hazard pay and things like that down the road.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Well, listen, I know, a lot of New Yorkers are watching this broadcast, a lot of people care about New York. So they're going to be listening to your words of encouragement very closely. Commissioner Shea, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

SHEA: Thank you very much, Jim. Stay safe.

POPPY HARLOW, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Thanks to all of the police officers for what they're doing every day for us. Ahead, wait until you hear what she has to say. An infectious disease specialist in Detroit says hospitals there are quote, "burning" right now as new cases soar. We'll take you there, next.



SCIUTTO: We've been taking you around the country to see how multiple cities, communities, states have been affected by this. Here is one of them. Right now, Michigan has more than 7,600 coronavirus cases. The number jumping by more than a 1,000 on Tuesday. Detroit is at the center of the surge there, now topping New York City when it comes to the rate of new cases.

HARLOW: Wow. Our next guest has been warning about this. She calls it a big tsunami that is now hitting Detroit. Dr. Teena Chopra is an infectious disease specialist at Detroit Medical Center. Thank you very much for being with us. The -- what Jim just said is striking, that the increase that we've seen, a 1,000 more cases in a day in Detroit surpassing that of New York City, do you know why?

TEENA CHOPRA, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, DETROIT MEDICAL CENTER: I think the first reason is the population we are dealing with. Detroit has a very high risk population with high prevalence of hypertension, heart disease, underlying CHS, diabetes and obesity. And also with all these high risk factors, on top of all of these we are socially, physically underserved. And the resources are poor like lack of transportation.

You know, a 36 percent of our population are below the poverty line. Lack of education, lack of access to clean water supply. I think all of these factors are social determinants of health, play a big role. And that's why we are become the next epicenter with the trends that we are seeing.

SCIUTTO: Your descriptions of this, Dr. Chopra, just alarming. You describe a tsunami of cases. You say that the Detroit Medical Center is burning right now. We keep hearing from the president, from others, about the next two weeks in particular as cases reach a peak. Can you describe what the peak looks like in Detroit?

CHOPRA: Sure. The whole southeast Michigan actually is facing the brunt at this time. All the hospitals are overwhelmed. And if we continue in this trend, you know, we may not peak in the next two to three weeks. And the hope is that when we peak, our hospitalizations come down. The rates of hospitalizations come down. But that will only happen if we have the strongest mitigation strategies which is as high as 60 percent.