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CNN NEWSROOM

Seattle Hospitals Prepare Additional ICU Space; Interview with Oklahoma Medical Worker; Private Companies Working to Repair Broken Ventilators. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 1, 2020 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:30:00] JOHN LYNCH, DOCTOR, HARBORVIEW/UW MEDICINE INFECTIOUS DISEASE CONTROL: -- because the way they were built was for onetime use, but that's not the way -- if we did that, we would already be out of them (ph).

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wow.

SIDNER (voice-over): They have completely revamped two intensive care units.

LYNCH: So this whole unit was meant to be for people with brain injuries and strokes and so forth, and so now we have to move -- I have all them someplace else because we have to continue that care.

SIDNER: So all the people with brain injuries were moved, and this was turned into a COVID-19 ICU unit?

LYNCH: Correct.

SIDNER (voice-over): All to try and help coronavirus patients live, isolate them from others and keep the staff safe too.

SIDNER: So I am not wearing the full personal protection equipment because in these rooms where the actual COVID-19 patients are, these are considered negative-pressure rooms. That means that we are considered in a safe space, not wearing full personal protection.

Patients are being cared for, but we don't need to wear the full apparatus unless you are a doctor or nurse who has to go into the room to care for the patient.

SIDNER (voice-over): Inside the rooms, patients are hooked up to a shocking number of tubes, using those precious ventilators, the only thing keeping them breathing.

LYNCH: So for the ICU patients, they tend to stay -- they get very sick and they stay sick very long. So needing to require the ventilator for weeks at a time, and that's really the big issue.

SIDNER (voice-over): Across just their four hospitals, 60 coronavirus patients were hospitalized last week. Already this week, it's at least 100. For each one, a delicate dance to keep staff healthy and patients alive. SIDNER: It is -- just coming in here and seeing the work that's being

done and seeing the patients being cared for, it's stressful. It's -- I'm scared for their families as well. And so as you walk through and you see the hard work being done and people doing everything they need to take care of patients, it's awe-inspiring, considering the fact that they too could be putting themselves in harm's way.

SIDNER (voice-over): Outside the hospital, a large tent has been erected to assess and test potential coronavirus patients. And this is happening before the anticipated surge here.

SIDNER: I feel dread and I feel fear, and I'm not working on the frontlines. What are you feeling, as you're dealing with all these COVID-19 patients?

ARIEL ROGOZINSKI, REGISTERED NURSE, HARBORVIEW/UW MEDICAL CENTER: It's certainly a sense of anxiety because we -- you know, right now, we're kind of wondering what it's going to be like when that peak comes and when people are, you know, flooding in.

SIDNER (voice-over): While the number of new infections in Washington seems to be slowing down, there's a growing sense they haven't seen the worst of it yet.

LYNCH: What they do every day is heroic; going and taking care of patients without protection is not acceptable.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SIDNER: It is not acceptable, everyone can agree on that.

I want to give you an idea of how the nurses and doctors are thinking of where they are right now with this pandemic because Washington was the first state in the country that had a confirmed COVID-19 case.

Some of them said, we think we're kind of in the eye of the hurricane and we don't know what the other side of that hurricane looks like. And that really struck me.

I do want to leave you with a happy note here. With all that is going on and with all the work that our health care workers are doing, these doctors and nurses came up with a couple of things that could be used across the country or world. One, they have a checklist. It is put on the door of every single patient's room, and it tells you exactly how to put on and take off all of that apparatus.

they have also done something that is wonderful and adorable. They have what's called COVID socks. They've put it on Instagram, #COVIDsocks, and they use them to make sure that their scrubs don't drag on the ground and potentially contaminate them. We decided to donate --

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Yes.

SIDNER: -- some socks to them as well -- Jim and Poppy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Oh.

SCIUTTO: Little steps like this, they make a difference. Sara Sidner, thanks very much.

SIDNER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Now, imagine being faced with a surge of patients but you're not in a big city, you're in rural America where there are already limitations on resources, ventilators, ICU beds, you name it.

Joining us now, Thomas Engle. He's a physician assistant at Fairfax Community Hospital's emergency room in Fairfax, Oklahoma. Doctor, great to have you on this morning. We appreciate you taking the time.

THOMAS ENGLE, PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT, FAIRFAX COMMUNITY HOSPITAL E.R.: Thank you for having me, sir.

SCIUTTO: So first question, there's this argument out there that, well, you know, this is a big risk to some parts of the country, not others. We had someone from Florida on in the last hour who said, well, only some counties are seeing this, we don't have to worry about the other counties yet.

I just wonder, is that true in your experience? Because a lot of our viewers might say, Oklahoma, do they really have a problem, do they really have to brace themselves for this? I'm curious what you say to that.

[10:35:00]

ENGLE: I would say that's false. The longer we get into this, the more cases we're going to see. I think it's spreading from the coastal lines and going inward. And I absolutely agree that we have not seen the worst of this.

I think that probably, the data's going to show, in the next two to three weeks, that cases are going to rise, especially in the heartland of America, specifically Oklahoma. My county in Oklahoma has not been hit yet, but there are cases starting to pop up frequently.

HARLOW: Let's talk about what happens if your county does get hit. You only have 20 hospital beds and no ICU unit at all?

ENGLE: Right. So at my facility, we have 15 inpatient beds, we have five E.R. beds and now we have one isolation that we brought up this weekend. If patients decompensate, requiring ventilation, we have two ventilators here and then we would transport them to the nearest ICU or COVID-accepted place.

And there are several around our area that are accepting patients: Oklahoma -- or, excuse me, Oklahoma State or OSU Medical Center in Tulsa has two floors that are designed just for COVID patients.

HARLOW: But you have 10,000 --

(CROSSTALK) HARLOW: -- I was just going -- the numbers -- you have 10,000 people you serve.

ENGLE: Correct, correct. Our local town is about 1,500 and then we serve a radius of about 10,000 people.

HARLOW: Wow.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Doctor, as you know, even a lot of the cities, communities that are already right in the midst of this, they're having trouble getting the equipment they need, sometimes states bidding against states, bidding against the federal government.

Rural areas -- although we on this broadcast have talked to a lot of folks in rural areas in many states who said, listen, this is going to be a problem for us, it's just a matter of when, not if -- as you reach out for help, are you finding that you're kind of -- said, get to the back of the line, you know? There are other cities ahead of you.

ENGLE: Not here. And we have actually had a two- to three-week jump start on this, just because we knew it was coming when it started hitting Oregon and New York. We started stocking up on supplies right then, and we're even -- probably have the ability to start helping out some of the bigger hospitals that might be a little bit low on supplies.

But as of now, everybody has been super-kind and super-grateful and easy to work with, especially with transporting these suspected patients, even patients we're concerned about having them, into a facility that is well-equipped to handle them.

HARLOW: Very quickly before we go, what is your ask of the federal government?

ENGLE: What would I ask the federal government to do?

HARLOW: Mm-hmm.

ENGLE: Oh, I think they're doing everything they can, especially given how quickly this has exploded and progressed. I think that the CDC is offering great information. I'm looking at the CDC webpage right now, actually, and I update (ph) it three or four times a day. But I think the government is doing everything that they need to do at this point.

HARLOW: OK. We wish you a lot of luck. Thanks to you and all the doctors and nurses you work with, Thomas.

ENGLE: Thank you guys.

[10:38:10]

HARLOW: Well, CNN gets rare access into Spain's largest makeshift hospital as the cases there also skyrocket.

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HARLOW: A convention center in Madrid is now acting as Spain's largest hospital as the country surpasses 100,000 cases.

SCIUTTO: Just amazing, one of the hardest hit. CNN international correspondent Scott McLean joins us now from Madrid. Scott, tell us what you're seeing there.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jim and Poppy. So the hospitals here are really bursting at the seams, so instead they are filling empty hotels with patients. The more milder cases end up here, at this sprawling convention center which is easily the size of an airport. It's the largest hospital now in all of Spain, and yesterday it allowed CNN inside for the first time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCLEAN (voice-over): The IFEMA Convention Center in Madrid normally hosts car shows, art displays, even baby fairs. Now, it hosts only COVID-19 patients there's no room for in hospitals.

MCLEAN: This is Spain's largest hospital. There's obviously plenty of space here, but one of this country's biggest unions says that there hasn't always been enough (INAUDIBLE) change (ph) rooms have been too small and protective equipment has been too sparse.

ALBERTO CABANAS, SPANISH DOCTOR: It was an absolute chaos because as (ph) a (ph) ward (ph), there was no organization of human resources.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Dr. Alberto Cabanas says the facility is so disorganized that doctors have waited hours to get protective equipment, and some staff -- himself included -- have even gone entire shifts without seeing a single patient. One union says some of its members were even refusing to work there.

CABANAS: (INAUDIBLE), there is people just doing nothing and people overwhelmed with workload.

MCLEAN (voice-over): The Madrid regional government allowed us inside to see the corridors and this perch overlooking one of the pavilions. From above, the staff below looked well-equipped and the situation seemed calm, save for the sporadic applause every time a patient is sent home healthy.

Nurses Marta (ph) and Vero (ph) say at times, things have seemed chaotic -- but not today.

We haven't had any problems with equipment or with the robes (ph) today, said Vero (ph). But we take it day by day.

There have been challenges turning a convention center into a hospital from scratch, according to Fernando Prados, who runs the operation. But chaos? He hasn't seen it.

[10:45:03] FERNANDO PRADOS, IFEMA HOSPITAL COORDINATOR (through translator): In eight days, more than 1,500 patients came here and we've discharged more than 500. If there had been chaos, that wouldn't have been possible, he says. It is true that there were some who complained. We've given them our apologies and found solutions.

They'll have to. With Madrid's case load continuing to grow, this impromptu convention likely won't end soon. Scott McLean, CNN, Madrid.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: So many countries around the world, struggling with this. There is a lot going on today. Here's "What to Watch."

TEXT: What to Watch... 11:30 a.m. Eastern, Vice President Pence LIVE on CNN; 1:15 p.m. Eastern, House Speaker Pelosi LIVE on CNN; 5:00 p.m. White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing

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HARLOW: States need ventilators. California, desperate for thousands. And that is where our next guest comes in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: Right now, California has the fourth highest number of confirmed COVID cases. Governor Gavin Newsom says the biggest need is ventilators, he wants 10,000. So far, the state has gotten 4,200 but nearly a thousand of them need to be refurbished.

So enter Bloom Energy. The fuel cycle technology company is now refurbishing ventilators, something they'd never done before. And the governor is calling on everyone to find one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: Everybody, look in your basement, look in that old garage. If you've got old equipment and you want to send it, send it our way and we'll send it right here to this facility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: K.R. Sridhar is the founder and CEO of Bloom Energy. He joins me now. Thanks for being here, I've been following your company for the last decade or so, watching the work that you've done. And I certainly didn't expect this. How did this happen? Because as I understand it, overnight, you guys got these and googled how to fix them?

K.R. SRIDHAR, FOUNDER AND CEO, BLOOM ENERGY: So, yes. So we literally got the call and you know, we just jumped to action and said we have to help. So the governor called us and said he's got both in a state stockpile in Sacramento as well as units in Los Angeles that need to be fixed, and would we take it on. While we knew nothing about ventilators, we are a manufacturing company with a repair line and we do sophisticated engineering products, so it's our skillset. So we said we would love to try it, and got 20. Within a very short time, opened it up, googled it, understand what was going on, figured it out, and put together a line and fixed it in a single day.

And here we are, two weeks later, we will have done about a thousand ventilators by the end of the week, and sent it back, and happy to do thousands more in the next weeks, if that is necessary.

HARLOW: A thousand in a week? OK, so --

SRIDHAR: Yes.

HARLOW: -- the question I have is in terms of risk. I know that you're working with biomedical engineers at the Stanford health care facility, but is there any risk to refurbished ventilators by a team that hasn't done this before? How are you preventing risk? Are the hospitals willing to take these ventilators?

SRIDHAR: Look, we are in a dire situation where the secretary of Health and Human Services said, you can actually take these as a last resort and connect one ventilator to two people, with cross- contamination and things like that.

What we are doing is completely safe in that we have learned how to do it, we have gotten the validation testing from the -- you know, Stanford consultants, who certify this. They do the validation testing on every single device that we ship out, and we just refurbish them according to plans.

And the state has given us (INAUDIBLE), but we take our work very seriously. This is important work, and we do a very thorough job --

HARLOW: Of course.

SRIDHAR: -- of refurbishing it and validating it.

HARLOW: What else have you taken on in terms of some of these makeshift hospitals that are being set up?

SRIDHAR: So Bloom at its core, our Bloom Box, just like you said, Poppy, provide reliable on-site power, 24/7, with our combustion. So there are no noxious fumes that come out, there's no noise and vibration.

So imagine a parking lot of a hospital, where you have these pop-up tent hospitals coming up. That's very important because the health care workers can go back and forth with proximity. However, being able to provide reliable power there cannot be a diesel engine (ph) that's putting out fumes that actually affect the health of patients who cannot breathe.

So in Northern California, we are doing this for a hospital and we have offered both on (ph) the East Coast and the West Coast that we -- HARLOW: Right.

SRIDHAR: -- are happy to provide this kind of rapid Bloom Box deployment anywhere they have a pop-up hospital. That's one.

The second thing -- go ahead.

HARLOW: I just -- I just had one other quick question for you on all of this. Given that Bloom has received pretty substantial tax credits from the government, state grants like the $12 million grant in Delaware, is all of this work that you're doing for free? Or is this for-profit work, meaning are the states paying for this?

SRIDHAR: Look, we will -- we have -- we are not interested in a penny of profit. This is something our employees want to do because it's a national calling and we want to help.

[10:55:07]

We are just keeping track of costs of real (ph) parts. At some point, we'll get paid but we just jumped in and wanted to do it because it's the right thing to do.

HARLOW: We wish you guys luck. And thanks for what you're doing, to you and your team.

SRIDHAR: Thank you.

HARLOW: Appreciate it.

SRIDHAR: Thank you.

HARLOW: Yes -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Lots of folks, doing their part certainly.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Up next, Vice President Mike Pence will join CNN live to discuss the White House response to the rapidly expanding pandemic. That interview begins at 11:30 this morning, Eastern time, right here on CNN. Stay with us.

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[11:00:00]