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70 Sailors On U.S. Navy Ship Test Positive For COVID-19; South Africa Begins Three-Week Lockdown; Pop-Up Hospital With 4,000 Beds To Open In London. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 1, 2020 - 05:30   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Even restrict containment measures in place.

Well, the commander of a U.S. aircraft carrier says decisive action is needed to save his crew as they face a coronavirus outbreak. And we know at least 70 sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt are infected. Officials confirmed to CNN their captain wrote a memo to the Pacific fleet saying, quote, "We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die."

Well, Ivan Watson is covering this live from Hong Kong. Hi, Ivan. Good to see you there. Tell us more and particularly, about this plea.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, since the beginning of the pandemic, we'd heard about civilian cruise ships full of tourists getting infections. It was probably just bound to be a matter of time for a warship to have an outbreak.

And that is just what has happened aboard this nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which has a crew of more than 4,000 people and has seen its number of suspected cases jump from perhaps around a dozen a week ago to more than 70 now.

Now, the "San Francisco Chronicle" was the first publication to publish this four-page letter from the ship's captain to the U.S. Navy, making the case that there needed to be extraordinary measures to basically remove most of the crew of the ship so that they could be protected from the outbreak and to disinfect the ship.

Here's an excerpt from that letter from Captain Brett Crozier. Quote, "We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset -- our sailors."

Now, as of today, the ship is docked in Guam at a U.S. naval base there. And the governor of that American island, as well as an admiral there in the Navy, have announced that they are coming up with a plan to get sailors off of that stricken aircraft carrier and to move only sailors that test negative for the coronavirus to several civilian hotels where they would be under quarantine managed by military personnel -- not allowed to leave the hotels or go to any beaches for that matter. This is not an easy thing to do because Guam is an island with a population of about 170,000 people struggling with its own outbreak. It's had at least three people die due to coronavirus.

So you can imagine it is unsettling to imagine thousands of sailors potentially infected moving into the populous. But these are some of the extreme measures that people are having to take to try to stem the outbreak within the ranks of the military, as well as civilian population centers -- Robyn.

CURNOW: OK, thanks for that update. Ivan Watson there in Hong Kong. Thanks, Ivan.

So, Britain has just recorded what is thought to be its youngest victim of the crisis -- a young boy who was just 13 years old. The number of dead in the U.K. is nearly 1,800, but a senior health official says he sees green shoots in the battle to contain the virus. The country has been in lockdown for more than a week and it comes as the country scrambles to get enough beds to contain the virus.

And as we all know, the pandemic has been incredibly isolating for people across the globe, especially though for the elderly. Many care homes have now banned visitors while others living on their own are being restricted by stay-at-home orders.

So I want to go now to London where Maureen is standing by. Maureen is 80 years old and is currently isolating in her flat in London. Maureen, great to see you.

And much is being said about how vulnerable the elderly are. How are pensioners like you managing?

(Audio difficulty)

CURNOW: Oh, dear, Maureen is frozen. Hopefully, we get her back. Maybe we can try and reconnect with her. We will try and chat to her a little bit later on in the show.

Let's go to South Africa, which is at the beginning of a three-week lockdown. But those who are homeless have few places to go and the decisions made at the highest level could mean life or death. David McKenzie now explains.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On day one of the lockdown the army and police ordered them to go to a home they do not have.

MCKENZIE (on camera): What do you think about this whole lockdown?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to give us a tough time.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): On day four, around 1,000 of them were taken here to a soccer stadium in the nation's capital. South Africa's homeless rounded up and confined, 10 people to a tent, many instead choosing to sleep in the stands.

SASHA LALLA, COMMUNITY ORIENTED SUBSTANCE USE PROGRAM (COSUP): Our hope is that no one here is -- has COVID-19, but it's a real risk. If one person gets it everyone could get it. It will be like wildfire.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): Before the pandemic, Sasha Lalla's program treated many of these men for substance abuse. Now he is here to make sure they aren't locked away and forgotten.

MCKENZIE (on camera): Why does it worry you if COVID-19 could get into these communities?

LALLA: Because I think then we'll be seeing a situation where people with compromised immune systems aren't just at risk of COVID-19, they are at risk of death. And so we have a responsibility to keep our most vulnerable safe.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): The city says it's working on more permanent, safer shelters but the need is now.

MCKENZIE (on camera): It strikes me even if just one person in here becomes positive it's almost impossible to slow this virus.

OMOGOLO TAUNYANE, CITY OF TSHWANE: Almost impossible, but we're really hoping that we don't have anyone right now who has contracted the disease. And if that is the case we will be moving them to our quarantine facilities.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Here, the positive cases number more than 1,300 but the virus is already hurting everyone. Africa's economic capital is shuttered and millions could lose their jobs in South Africa alone. Across the continent, the U.N. says half of all jobs are at direct risk because of the virus.

For any government, there are no easy answers to this pandemic. But in South Africa, where social distancing is a privilege, the task is enormous.

MCKENZIE (on camera): Are you scared about this virus?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very scared -- two weeks and we are carrying out dead bodies here.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): And the cost of getting it wrong, unimaginable.

David McKenzie, CNN, Pretoria, South Africa.


CURNOW: Thanks, David and his team for that. Such challenging times, indeed, across the world.

So, coming up, some health care workers overwhelmed, frightened, and frustrated are now finding comfort in a sense of community on social media. That's next.




DR. STEVEN MCDONALD, EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR: There's good and bad in this shift. The good, I would say, is that we have doctors from all sorts of specialties here who are eager to help. And I have orthopedic surgeons who are doing rudimentary favors for me, like drawing blood. It's really something to see and it's really a notable group effort on behalf of doctors from all specialties.


CURNOW: That's one perspective from a doctor on the front lines of this COVID-19 pandemic.

Worldwide, though, many health workers are clearly overwhelmed, frustrated, and afraid. And some are now finding solace and a sense of community on Instagram.

Here's Erica Hill with that report.


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, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, NEW YORK CITY: Right now, it's kind of like drinking out of a fire hydrant.

HILL (voice-over): 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 (voice-over): With each approaching siren congestion in the E.R. grows. They need more beds, more gear. They need to stay healthy. They need more information.

FLORES: I've had so many friends, family, and 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 (voice-over): In response, Dr. Flores and a fellow emergency physician, Dr. Lynn Jiang, launched "airitoutcovid19" on Instagram and encouraged others to join in.

FLORES: It's been therapeutic. And also, I think it's helpful to let everyone know what is going on -- and not 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 (voice-over): Snapshots of life in the E.R. "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 space, 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 are also out there risking their lives with the lack of personal protective equipment, who are obviously seeing things that might not even make it to the emergency room.

"Everywhere I look, someone is being intubated, someone is dying," this staffer writers. "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: I wanted to console her, sit at the bedside, put my hand on her and let her know that it would be OK. Now, I couldn't touch her, you know. I had to don my personal protective equipment and kind of keep my distance. But at that moment, I almost felt kind of helpless.

HILL (voice-over): 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. With that being said, if there was any time probably to validate and reinforce why we chose to go into medicine, no.

HILL (voice-over): A determination to push forward for as long as they're needed.

I'm Erica Hill, CNN.


CURNOW: Thanks, Erica.

So, as we were saying, the pandemic has been incredibly isolating for people across the globe, especially the elderly now that many care homes have banned visitors. Others, of course, living at home, restricted by stay-at-home orders.

We have reestablished our connection with Maureen in London. Maureen, as I was saying a little bit earlier, is 80 years old and currently isolating in her flat in London. Maureen, good to see you.

And the question I wanted to ask you before you froze is how are pensioners like you managing?

MAUREEN, ISOLATING IN LONDON HOME: We're doing very well because we're the sort of -- we have the temperament to sit and piddle around in the house. (Audio gap) having problems, I think.


CURNOW: So you're saying that the young and the rest of us need to maybe learn a few lessons from people like you.

MAUREEN (laughing).

CURNOW: Enjoy the moment, enjoy the quiet, take life a bit slower. Is that what you're saying?

MAUREEN: That's one of the things, yes. I think it's unfortunate that we have to learn in these circumstances.

CURNOW: Many people are worried about their elderly parents, their elderly grandparents. What is your message to families that are disconnected around the world and here in the U.S.?

MAUREEN: Not to worry. We've seen worse things in our life.

(Audio gap)

CURNOW: You're breaking up a little bit. Hopefully, we can -- hopefully, we can reestablish that connection.

You certainly have seen worse things in life. The war, for example.

MAUREEN: Yes -- absolutely, yes -- and that was far worse than anything since then so we can be quite blase. As older people say, you know, there's worse things in life.

CURNOW: And how are you managing with things like food and keeping your medicine supply stocked? I mean, the U.K. certainly has a better health system in terms of back-up for the elderly than, say, the United States, but this is about long-term planning as well.

MAUREEN: Well, I bought a lot of food -- frozen food -- and put it in the refrigerator. But I'm very lucky. I don't suffer too much in -- with ill health, so I don't have to worry about medicines.

And I like to think I eat healthily. Many older people do. They -- during the war, we had rationing and so that taught us quite a bit about how to eat properly.

CURNOW: Yes, and I totally agree with you because my grandmother's birthday is today and she's in her nineties. And she is also, like you, one of these people who has reminded us that times have been tougher and it's always good to ration your food in the first place, anyway.


CURNOW: But thank you very much, Maureen. I appreciate you and all these elderly people out there. Whatever you're doing, stay safe. Keep connected with each other even if it is only over WhatsApp.

Thank you, Maureen.

So, we're also staying in London. A sprawling conference center in London is being turned into a makeshift hospital. As CNN's Nick Paton Walsh now reports, it will add thousands of beds to an already strained national health service. Here's Nick with his report.


NICK PATON WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (on camera): Well, this is NHS Nightingale, potentially 4,000 beds capacity pop-up hospital here in just over a week. And behind me is very much the showcase of what they want us to see about the United Kingdom's readiness for the surge in cases they think could possibly be happening in the week ahead.

But it is still a work in progress. Tireless efforts to get up these separate booths in an area, which was an empty conference center just 10 days ago. A startling bid, to be sure, that in the event that they have to receive the overflow from other hospitals in London, that the equipment and the beds are ready here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will only receive patients who are COVID-19.

WALSH (on camera): So you have to have a positive test to come here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right. I understand that if we have to open all our beds, then yes, I believe we will be one of the biggest hospitals.

WALSH (on camera): But, of course, it's important, they stress, this will not be a hospital that directly receives patients. They'll have to coordinate the task of trying to work out who amongst the other facilities around London and the United Kingdom urgently needs this kind of help, and also manage expectations.

DR. ALAN MCGLENNAN, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, CHASE FARM HOSPITAL: It's worth emphasizing over and over again that actually, this is a hospital that gets referred to by another NHS hospital. So we don't have and A&E, we don't have a front door.

It's really important than any critical care nursing who could volunteer, recently retired or domiciled elsewhere -- if they came back into the system that would be excellent for us because those are the ones that are in shortest supply. WALSH (on camera): There's been a lot of publicity about what this venue might be able to do, but in the weeks ahead they'll find out what the limits of that exactly are. And also, the troubling truth about exactly how many patients there will be that require intensive care in the surge in the United Kingdom that could possibly happen over the next two to three weeks.

It's the only country whose leader has been tested positive for coronavirus. And the efforts here are a bid to reassure people in the U.K. that everything that's possible is being done to be sure they're ready for whatever numbers come in the weeks ahead.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, inside the ExCel center in London.



CURNOW: And you are watching CNN Newsroom. Still to come, as bleak as life under lockdown may be, we will look at how some people are finding a way to make the most of it. We all can.


CURNOW: As grim as the numbers can be, there are certainly positive headlines coming out of the lockdown and self-isolation. Here's Anna Stewart with that.


ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Birthdays are still being celebrated street style, and for all ages. Norbert Kopecko, a World War II veteran, turned 101 years old.

NORBERT KOPECKO, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: I think it's just so unusual to have the neighbors come together and celebrate a birthday to an old geezer like me.

STEWART (voice-over): Meanwhile, the balconies of Copenhagen are being put to good use with daily sharing that exercise at home doesn't have to be alone.

ELTON JOHN, SINGER-SONGWRITER: Singing "Don't Let the Sun God Down On Me."

STEWART (voice-over): And while concerts and gigs have been canceled, new ones are cropping up from living rooms. Elton John hosted a concert on Fox to raise money for those on the front line. He was joined by a number of A-list artists, including Maria Carey, Alicia Keys, and even the Backstreet Boys reunited apart.


BACKSTREET BOYS: (Singing "I Want It That Way").


CURNOW: Elton John and the Backstreet Boys -- wow. It's your lucky day, isn't it?

Here at CNN, of course, we have the latest updated facts and figures as millions of people are being impacted globally. You can also help and find out how to feed the hungry, protect health professionals and refugees, and, of course, support service workers during this pandemic. There's a lot you can do. Please go to

So thanks for watching. Keep yourself safe by staying at home, please. CNN will continue to bring you all the latest news and advice from doctors around the world.

I'm Robyn Curnow. "NEW DAY" is next. John and Alisyn are right here on CNN, coming up.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to go through a very tough two weeks.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, RESPONSE COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: What would happen if people stayed home? It takes us down to 100,000 to 200,000 deaths, which is still way too much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eighty percent of the people in America are under these kinds of orders. I don't know why other governors haven't taken these steps.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: The task force has not recommended that to me. If they do, obviously, that would be something that would carry a lot of weight with me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone requires oxygen. Everyone is borderline critical. According to our institutional protocol, we cannot work with them unless they have a certain 02 number (ph).

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Now is the time, whenever you're having an effect, not to take your foot off the accelerator.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, April first, 6:00 here in New York.