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White House Projects 100,000 To 240,000 Americans Could Die; CNN Goes Inside Seattle Hospital Battling Coronavirus; Virus-Stricken Cruise Ships Trigger Intense Debate. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 1, 2020 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: -- to 240,000 Americans are projected to die from the COVID-19 virus in the coming weeks.


So this morning, is there anything we can still do? What can we do to bring this death toll down before there's a treatment for a vaccine? At the moment, all 50 states seem to have a different answer to that.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: This morning, the death toll in the United States is nearly 4,000 people. On Tuesday, another record was set for fatalities. There are more than 185,000 known cases of COVID- 19 in the country.

Governors in at least three states are warning that they will soon run out of ventilators. They say they are not getting the support they need from the federal government. They say they've been forced to bid against one another and FEMA for desperately needed medical equipment.

President Trump says governors should not be complaining. For some reason, he thinks they have all they need. It's unclear why there's that disconnect. The president says he is holding back 10,000 ventilators for the upcoming surge. Doctors say they need them now.

The director of the CDC believes as many as 25 percent of those infected may not show any symptoms but they can still spread the virus. That may be why Dr. Anthony Fauci says he is leaning towards recommending that everyone wear homemade masks.

Let's begin our coverage with Brynn Gingras. She is live outside one of New York's hardest hit hospitals. Brynn?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, good morning. And according to CNN sources, part of the reason why the president may have changed his tune a little bit in yesterday's press briefing is because he saw pictures of what's happening inside this hospital, Elmhurst Hospital near where he grew up. And I can tell you, we've been hearing what doctors say is happening.

They say the conditions inside are beyond belief. We know that within the last 48 hours, guys, 19 people had to be intubated. That means 19 people had to be put on ventilators. And, of course, this is very similar to what's happening at hospitals all across this city. And day by day, we're seeing this happening more and more in cities across the country.


GINGRAS: The White House Coronavirus Task Force presenting a chilling outlook.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: This is going to be a rough two-week period.

GINGRAS: Dr. Fauci says some models project 100,000 or more Americans could die from the coronavirus. And he encourages stay-at-home measures as a key tool to help mitigate the disease.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It's inconvenient from a societal standpoint, from an economic standpoint to go through this. But this is going to be the answer to our problems.

GINGRAS: The White House's goal is two-fold, slowing the spread in New York and preventing cities like Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles from seeing runaway cases over the next 30 days.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: There's no magic bullet. There's no magic vaccine or therapy. It's just behavior. Each of our behaviors translating into something that changes the course of this viral pandemic.

GINGRAS: But as states like Illinois watch case numbers rise in New York, the governor says he's worried a lack of federal help for critical supplies will leave him shorthanded.

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): If we don't have those ventilators delivered in the next week, we're not going to be prepared across the state for the kind of onslaught that we're going to see.

GINGRAS: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo frustrated by the lack of a national plan.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): So you have 50 states competing to buy the same item.

It's like being on eBay with 50 other states bidding on a ventilator.

GINGRAS: Meantime, President Trump says the federal government is keeping almost 10,000 ventilators on stand-by.

TRUMP: We have to hold them back because the surge is coming.

GINGRAS: While states struggle to purchase equipment, they also need more trained personnel to treat patients.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doctors, nurses, CNEs, physician assistants, social workers, therapist, if you're out there, I'm calling you up. I'm asking you, please, to respond.

GINGRAS: And in many hospitals, like where Critical Care Nurse Carley Rice works in South Georgia, there's a fear of not being able to do enough to help everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have what we need. But, eventually, we're going to run out of space and we'll have to rely on the other communities.

And I just pray that each patient is taken care of the way that they need to be taken care of and we have everything we need to.


GINGRAS: I mean, and that's the fear here. I mean, we're seeing ambulances more and more bringing, rushing patients into the hospital here behind me.

Now, listen, actually the volume is down of patients at this hospital. But they are coming in, we're told, more and more in critical need. We're hearing that patients are needing to sleep in the E.R. because there's not enough beds in the ICU units.

And, again, another fear for doctors and nurses, those on the frontlines, is that this surge, again, it's right on the horizon, guys.

BERMAN: It will get worse, which is what is of such concern to so many medical professionals. Brynn Gingras outside Elmhurst Hospital, thanks very much.

Joining us now CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, Director of the Infectious Diseases Division at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.


And, Sanjay, look, it's alarming when people hear a projection that 240,000 Americans will die. It's even more alarming when they're told that that many will die even if we do everything right. And more alarming than that is being told that that projection might be optimistic. You've looked at these projections and these models and it actually sets the groundwork for something beyond what we're doing now, correct? This isn't social distancing until the end of April. It's more than that.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. No, it's an important point. There are lots of models out there, John. This is one that's from the University of Washington. The White House has really cited this model several times now. But you're absolutely right. What they found was a few things.

First of all, they said that the social distancing recommendations at a federal level needed to continue until the end of May, John, not the end of April, end of May in order to get to some of the numbers that you're talking about.

They also said that there were several states around the country that are still not recommending these social distance. They don't have a policy in place, and if they had to do that this week. Otherwise, their models sort of wouldn't work either.

What they're trying to do, obviously, John, what the model is sort are counting on if you look at this curve here, is trying to flatten the curve, a term that everybody knows by now, but basically trying to reduce the number of people that are going to access the hospital system at any given time.

I think what was most interesting, and I think when I really looked at the data, was they count on this idea that there will be a shortfall when it comes to hospital beds and ICU beds. About 20,000 ICU beds short, they think, if they're not able to flatten the curve over the next couple of weeks.

This is all going to happen over the next couple of weeks, acknowledging that some states that are going to have a delayed curve than other states. But it all has to happen really this week in terms of social distancing. Otherwise, the models, the projections may be even worse.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Dr. Marrazzo, the worst case projections are 2 million Americans could die if there isn't strict social distancing. And by the way, I mean, Sanjay said, a few states are not following it. There are 20 states right now that do not have statewide stay-at-home orders. And so it's just hard to know what Americans should be bracing for over the next four to eight weeks.

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, INFECTIOUS DISEASES DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: That's exactly right, Alisyn. And I would add something else to what Sanjay said about the Seattle modeling. One important thing that they found was, with the social distancing they've already implemented, they estimate that they will be able to stay under that number of hospital beds and ventilators available over the course of the next six weeks. And that's critical when you compare what's happening there to what's happening in New York City.

The other point you make is that we're essentially in the middle of a gigantic natural experiment, which is tragic, because the end point of that is going to be measured in human lives. You have, as you mentioned, jurisdictions in the United States, both states and local government, that are essentially making their own decisions about imposing social distancing measures. So you've got, for example, the governors of Florida and Georgia, which have been very reluctant to implement these measures, compared to other states which have been much more aggressive and even mayors who have gone ahead and implemented these things.

Unfortunately, we're going to see this play out now over the next six weeks. And we'll get a sense of what these measures do and how they compare to one another. But, again, we're playing with people's lives here, and that's what happens in the absence of strong national leadership.

BERMAN: Yes. And just one point on the 2 million number. That's a number that the president used, I think, to suggest that a death total of 100,000 to 240,000 would somehow be successful. The 2.2 million projected deaths were if the United States did nothing. And I don't think it's a reasonable argument to suggest that a country would ever do nothing in the face of a pandemic.

The question, Sanjay, is then what more can we do? If the goal was to flatten the curve, how do you flatten the curve?

GUPTA: Well, you know, Dr. Fauci talked about this yesterday. Is the 100,000 to 200,000 number, is that sort of the bottom at this point? Can we possibly do any better? And he suggested, look, maybe if there's some sort of therapeutic or something that gets approved and can have an impact, perhaps. But that's going to be still months away.

It really is predicated on this idea that -- and I don't want to simplify it too much, but it's almost this idea that if we don't all do it, it's not going to have as much impact.


So you've got 80 percent of the country roughly now that is under some sort of lockdown policy around the country.

But that other 20 percent still has an impact on the country because how they behave affects people in other places. So this is a transmissible virus.

So I think the real question, I think, is are we going to have some sort of federal policy now that really takes into account that this does have an impact. We've seen the impact here in the United States. We've seen the impact of social distancing in other countries around the world. Are we really going to embrace it fully or not at this point? I think there's still some hesitation, as you point out, among states and, to some extent, from the government. I mean, these are still recommendations from the government. And as you point out, John, they're not long enough. They go to the end of April, whereas these models account for the end of May.

CAMEROTA: And, Dr. Marrazzo, I think it helps Americans set their expectations. I think it helps their mental health if they know how long we're going to be in this situation. And so when you look at the model, I think we've been showing the University of Washington model, I think this is the same, the peak, is there any way -- is there any consistency on when Americans should expect the peak to hit, I know it's different in each state, but generally speaking, and how long we would be in this situation of the stay-at-home orders and trying to avoid each other?

MARRAZZO: Yes, it's a great question. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, because of the variability of how these measures have been implemented by region primarily, it's going to differ for different parts of the country. So when you look at the rate of infections happening in New York and the number of deaths happening and the density of New York City, you're probably looking at another six to eight weeks.

When you're looking in another place that maybe has nipped this in the bud earlier or, like seattle, has started much earlier, in February, it may be another six to eight weeks as well. But I think people should be prepared for this as a longer siege. This is a part of a war, as I said before, that is going to last into May.

The other thing I wanted to add too is your comment about the number of people without symptoms is really important. One thing we're starting to appreciate is that a lot of the people who come in with infections are either completely asymptomatic or they have symptoms that are different than the classic flu.

So, again, we need to continue to increase testing dramatically. We're starting to do that. But that still remains a challenge to understand what's really going on.

BERMAN: Sanjay, I want you to pick up on that last point, because I think it's crucial and something that the CDC just came out and put a number on it in the last 24 hours, saying as many as 25 percent of people who have coronavirus are completely asymptomatic. And that's informing, I think, a lot of the other decisions and recommendations that are being made.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, look, the critical issue with that is that there is evidence that people who are asymptomatic can still spread the virus. I think maybe most people sort of understand that now, but that's the real relevance here. So when we've been saying, I think, for a couple of months now that everyone has to behave in a way like they have the virus, this is part of the reason why. Even if you don't have symptoms or, as was mentioned, don't have classic symptoms, you could still be harboring the virus so we have to act that way.

And it really makes -- it's going to make for an interesting discussion, I think. It's already started around masks, John. You know, the recommendation from World Health Organization and CDC is people don't need to wear masks in public. You know, if you're a healthy person, you don't need to do it. In fact, they go so far as to say, look, it may actually provide a false sense of security. It may lull people into not being as disciplined about social distancing.

But as I've talked to a lot of sources and done on the record and off the record interviews, there's two things that really jumped out at me. One is that, first of all, no one wants to take masks away from healthcare workers. So we're not talking about the surgical masks or N95 masks. But if everyone might be harboring the virus in their bodies, not know it because they haven't been tested, if you have to go out in public for something essential, would it be beneficial to wear a cloth mask of some sort? Again, not taking from healthcare workers, but a cloth masks. Because if you are harboring the virus, could that decrease the amount of virus than you're putting into the environment?

And I can tell you after sort of really not being sort of that engaged in this idea for some time, I think the public health organizations in this country are coming around to it. The balance, interestingly enough, is not really public health versus the economy here, it's public health versus perception. Is it going to be perceived that America looks sick as a result of people in public wearing masks?

[07:15:02] Obviously, it's done in other countries culturally, but it's not really been done in this country. But I think it's something that we may see based on the conversations I'm having.

BERMAN: Well, I think it's just one other way that there will, perhaps, be fundamental changes in this country and how it perceives itself, maybe now and for a long time to come.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, thanks very for being with us this morning.

MARRAZZO: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: So, CNN getting a firsthand look inside a Seattle trauma center treating coronavirus patients. We'll take you there, next.


CAMEROTA: Washington State was the first in the U.S. to experience the coronavirus outbreak. They now have more than 5,200 cases. 228 people there have died.

Strict social distancing is having an impact. But officials say the virus peak is still about two weeks away.


CNN'S Sara Sidner went inside a Seattle trauma hospital that treated one of the first coronavirus patients to see how they're coping now, and she joins us live. Sara, what did you see?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, it was incredible to watch the work going on inside this unit. It was created specifically for COVID-19 patients. They actually opened up two ICUs and created this entire unit. And all they do is deal with very, very sick coronavirus patients.



SIDNER: Nurses and doctors at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center suit up to go to battle with coronavirus. They have to go through an exhausted dressing regimen, hoods and tubes and masks and gowns just to enter a patient's room.

LYNCH: We think the greatest risk actually for healthcare workers is when they remove things that they contaminate themselves.

SIDNER: They have a checklist and a spotter helping with every step. They also have to adapt to new realities and shortages.

LYNCH: So these are what are called packer hoods. These are the hoods that hook up to these machines that filter air. And you get cleaned inside and out so they can be reused. Because The way they were built was for one-time use. But that's not the way -- if we did that, we would already be out of them.

SIDNER: 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 all of 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: All to try and help coronavirus patients live, isolate them from others and keep the staff safe too.

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.

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

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 get very sick and stay sick very long. So they require the ventilator for weeks at a time. And that's really the big issue.

SIDNER: 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.

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 they've done and people doing everything they need to take care of patients, it's on them considering the fact that they too could be putting themselves in harm's way.

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.

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 -- right now, we're kind of wondering what it's going to be like when the peak comes and when people are flooding in.

SIDNER: 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. Go in and taking care of patients without protection is not acceptable.


SIDNER: It absolutely is.

And we should mention that it's believed that the peak of this potential surge will happen April 19th. And this Harborview Medical Center was believed to be the very first hospital in America to have a patient die of COVID-19. Since then -- that was an entire month ago, more than a month ago. And since then, everything here has changed. Alisyn, John?

SIDNER: I mean, we just feel your emotion in there, just how intense it was to have to witness all of that. Obviously, the doctors and nurses are doing that every day. They are trained for it. But, I mean, I don't think that we can get -- I don't think that we can truly comprehend what it is they're facing without reports like yours.


How did you sense that they were coping?

SIDNER: Thank you. You know, you can see that they are doing everything is focused on the patient and focused on each other, trying to make sure that nobody is contaminated, that nobody goes home sick after dealing with the patients as well.

One of the things that the nurses told me is that what's really, really hard is that they have to tell families that they can't come in and be with their loved one. The idea of someone struggling with this alone, of someone potentially dying alone weighs very, very heavily on their shoulders. Alisyn?

SIDNER: Yes, the story, Sara, like that coming up, a mother of six who died and her kids weren't able to be in there with her. And we're going to be speaking to one of the kids coming up soon. Sara, thank you so much for bringing that story to us.

So there are passengers on these two cruise ships and they are stranded at sea because there is a debate over whether to let them dock in Florida. That's next.


[07:30:00] SIDNER: Hundreds of passengers and crew members aboard two cruise ships are still stranded at sea this morning as Florida officials --