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Virus-Stricken Cruise Ships Trigger Intense Debate in Florida; Cancer Survivor, Mother of Six Dies from Coronavirus. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 1, 2020 - 07:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Hundreds of passengers and crew members aboard two cruise ships are still stranded at sea this morning as Florida officials debate whether to let them dock. Eight people on board one ship have tested positive for coronavirus, four have died and almost 200 have flu-like symptoms. Florida's governor is refusing to let that ship dock in this state. CNN's Rosa Flores is live near Fort Lauderdale where the ships could arrive tonight. So, what's the plan, Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Alisyn, the problem is that the ship does not have permission to dock. Broward County Commissioners and members of Unified Command met for more than five hours yesterday, and decided to table the issue after they did not accept a plan that was proposed by the cruise line which would include allowing the passengers that don't have symptoms to go home.

Passengers with symptoms would be asked to quarantine in the ship for 14 days, and then the cruise line is asking for two passengers to be hospitalized. But Governor Ron DeSantis has been very consistent and very clear from the get-go, saying that he does not want the ship to dock. He thinks it's a mistake. He would rather have paramedics flown to the ship to treat individuals off the coast of Florida.

Because he says that he wants to make sure that there are hospitals beds available for Floridians. Now, here's the thing. We know that 305 Americans are on board, including 49 Floridians. And one of those Floridians writing a very powerful letter to Governor Ron DeSantis, saying in part, quote, "please do not be like the unresponsive governments along our path who now have the blood of four human beings on their hands." That is Laura Gabaroni, and of course, she is referring to the four individuals who had died on board, their cause of death has not been announced.

We know that at least eight others have tested positive for COVID-19 and dozens of others have exhibited flu-like symptoms. That's why passengers and their families are asking Florida and the U.S. government for mercy and compassion. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Rosa, thank you very much, obviously, we will follow that story very closely. John? JOHN BERMAN, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: All right, joined now by Fort

Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis. Mayor, thank you very much for being with us this morning. You do not want the ships to dock in Port Everglades. Why?

MAYOR DEAN TRANTALIS, FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA: Good morning. And thank you for having me on your show this morning. We were not against the ships docking in our community. The problem is that no protocol has been established yet to allow these folks to come off the ship. We are in a midst of a humanitarian crisis here and no one denies that. And John, let's face it, we have sick people there and we have well people.

But we have to be able to allow people to step off the ship and to be able to come, return to their families, whether they'd be in Florida, anywhere in this country or anywhere around the world. But we cannot do it so willy-nilly. We have to be sure that we're taking precautions. I've been listening to your show this morning and looking at the pervasiveness of this contagion. And we cannot -- there can be no missteps in this process.

BERMAN: Right.

TRANTALIS: Now, you may know -- so in Oakland, the Port of Oakland, California, what did they do? They systematically removed people from the ships and those people that were not symptomatic, they were quarantined for 14 days. Those that were symptomatic or suffering from an illness, they were directly given medical assistance. That's what we want here in Fort Lauderdale.

BERMAN: Let me just tell you what Carnival says their plan is here. They say yes, there are nearly 200 flu-like symptoms on Zaandam. But they say "passengers who appear healthy can disembark and go home. Would travel home by charter or domestic flights, would self- quarantine once home. Passengers showing flu-like symptoms quarantined on ship for 14 days, most serious patients medivac flights to local hospitals." So, that's not enough for you?

TRANTALIS: Well, look at what you just said. Allow to self- quarantine, allow them to go from the port to the airport. What happens in-between? What remedy is being sought to be able to ensure that the local population is not going to be infected by a virus that's extremely contagious, as deadly with no known cure, and you're asking these folks to disembark and be able to go on their way without any supervision. It's all on the honor system.

Look, we're not trying to hold these ships back. In fact, we're holding them out at sea, they're still not here. But they're on the horizon. They're ready to come tomorrow. And yet, we still don't have a plan in place. What is that about? So, I am meeting with the CEO of Holland America today. We're going to see -- I'm going to see how I can contribute to the solution.


We want these ill people to find immediate medical assistance. We want those people that have been exposed to the virus to be able to -- we have to be comfortable knowing that they're being quarantined in such a way that they do not infect the rest of the community.

BERMAN: All right, so just to be clear, yes or no, because I want to move on to another subject. There is a way you would allow them to dock, or you would be -- you would approve of them docking at Port Everglades if they met certain standards?

TRANTALIS: Of course.

BERMAN: OK. I want to move on to Florida as a whole because Florida is still one of 20 states that has not issued a statewide stay-at-home order --


BERMAN: Or something akin to it. What do you think of that current decision?

TRANTALIS: Well, you know, I'm not going to second-guess the governor. But I do know that here in our own community in Fort Lauderdale in Broward County, we have a very strict stay-at-home order. We have very limited essential services listed. We are really trying hard to prevent this spread. As you know, South Florida and Florida overall has a large senior population.

But we're now seeing that it's not just seniors that are being infected. Three and four people that I know that went to an event in Miami Beach a few weeks ago all have died from this virus, and they're all under 40. So, we have to really be careful about this virus, and --

BERMAN: So, mayor --

TRANTALIS: As far as the governor -- I'm sorry --

BERMAN: And so we have to be careful -- does it make your job harder where you are in your town, in your city, in your county, does it make it harder to do what you feel you need to do if it's not been done in the rest of the states?

TRANTALIS: It is harder. But people are not traveling in the state. People are staying home. All of our restaurants, our bars, our entertainment sources, they're all closed. Our streets are dark at night. People are staying home. And I think that's -- I think there's a lot of self-quarantining around the state. There's -- we're really good here. But that's the reason why we cannot accept these ships, just allowing these folks to step off on to the dock and go on their merry way.

We want to take care of these folks, we want to make sure that there is medical assistance for them. But at the same time, not expose the rest of the community that day-after-day continues to sacrifice their own lives, some of whom have been terminated at work just because they -- we are in a stay-at-home order, and making sure that people do not expose themselves to the virus. BERMAN: Mayor Dean Trantalis, thank you for your time, we wish you

the best of luck finding some kind of solution that works --

TRANTALIS: Thank you --

BERMAN: For everyone involved --

TRANTALIS: We will. We will. There's a solution --

BERMAN: Hopefully, there will be lives saved. OK, mayor. So a Seattle area family had to say goodbye to a mother of six who beat cancer only to die from coronavirus. One of her sons helps us remember her, next.



CAMEROTA: Coronavirus has killed almost 4,000 people in the United States. So many people have lost husbands or wives, some children have lost parents. As is the case in our next story. Sandy Rutter was a breast cancer survivor and mother of six. She was raising her kids alone in Washington State after their father died in 2012. She died on March 16th, just two weeks after first showing symptoms. Her family said goodbye to her using a walkie-talkie as they looked into her hospital room from behind a glass window.

Joining us now is one of her children, Elijah Ross-Rutter. Elijah, we're so sorry for your loss. Your mother sounds like she was a beloved member of the community.

ELIJAH ROSS-RUTTER, MOTHER DIED OF CORONAVIRUS: Yes, good morning. She really was a beloved member. You know, she did so much for our community and so much for us, children. So, it's --

CAMEROTA: And so --

ROSS-RUTTER: Really tough --

CAMEROTA: She was only 42 years old. What were her symptoms and when did you figure out that she had coronavirus?

ROSS-RUTTER: So her first symptoms were on March 2nd, the night of March 2nd. She was really weak, she was having trouble breathing. She had really bad migraines and, yes -- and that was when we first found out -- that was when we first decided to go -- take her to the hospital was on the morning of March 3rd.

CAMEROTA: Yes, one of the cruel ironies of this story is that your mother had just beaten breast cancer. She had stage 3 --


CAMEROTA: Breast cancer, and then in January she had had surgery, she had chemo, she'd had radiation and she'd been declared cancer-free. And I can only imagine how relieved you all were then. And so when you got the diagnosis of coronavirus, that I can only imagine that added to all of your anxiety.

ROSS-RUTTER: Right. It was tough, you know, she was -- she just got over it, over the cancer in January. And we were just starting to, you know, feel whole again. You know, she just -- it was a tough battle, and you know, she was starting to get better and everything, and then after this happened, it was just like tragic, you know.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it is. It is horribly heartbreaking what you all have endured. And so tell us about what that experience was like. When she was in the hospital, you know, we've talked to so many family members who aren't able to be in there with their loved ones because the family members -- the hospital is trying to protect the family from becoming infected. And so, what was it like there in the hospital when your mom was so sick?


ROSS-RUTTER: Right. So the first time I took her to the hospital, I got to go back there with her, and she only stayed there for like four or five hours the first time. So I took her there and it was hard, you know, being there with her and knowing like that the virus is spreading around and you know, it's really big in our city. So I've got to go with her back in the room for the first time she was at the hospital.

And you know, it was kind of weird because, like, everybody that came in wearing like --air-sealed room and everybody that came in was wearing like full protective gear and everything. So, you know, it was kind of scary. It was really scary. Like the doctors and stuff, I was wearing a face mask. They were wearing full protective gear and they, like didn't even really want to touch my mom, you know. So, it was kind of hard.

CAMEROTA: It sounds really hard. And then Elijah, what happened on that last day, in the final moments before she passed? I know that you were outside of a glass window, and I guess the hospital had an idea of how you could still communicate or try to talk to her. And so what did you end up doing?

ROSS-RUTTER: Yes, so, it was -- it was pretty cool of them to let us go back there even though, like, all the stuff that's going on. You know, they're really cautious of not wanting the virus to spread. So, what me and my siblings got to do was go back to her room and we got to stand outside. And what they did was they took a walkie-talkie and they placed the walkie-talkie right by her bed-side on the pillow. And we got to say our final words and you know, goodbyes to our mom.

CAMEROTA: What were you able to say to her?

ROSS-RUTTER: I was able to tell her I loved her, you know, it's kind of hard. You like in the moment, you really don't know what you're going to say, you know. It's -- like it's your last words, and it's hard to think of what you really want to say. It's a moment that nobody really ever wants to be in. So, I told her, I loved her. I told her everything is going to be all right with the kids. You know, like us older siblings, we're going to make sure everything is OK with them, and that they're going to grow up to be some adults that my mom would want them to be.

CAMEROTA: Elijah, that's really touching of you and it's really strong of you to be able to promise your mom that. But what is going to happen to your younger siblings? There are six of you, and you're all between ages of 13 and 24. You're 20 years old. How are you going to take care of the younger kids? How will you financially support the family?

ROSS-RUTTER: So, we have a GoFundMe set up, and we've got so much love and support from the community. So that's really going to help. We're actually looking to stay together. So my older brother, he's 24, and what he's going to do is, he's going to take custody of the younger children. They're aged 15, 14 and 13 years old.

So we plan on staying together and all getting a house together, and you know, just sticking together through this, and you know, all fighting this together, you know.

CAMEROTA: Elijah, we pray that your family and that all of you are able to stick together and that you're able to do that. I'll put your GoFundMe page on my Instagram and Facebook. I know there are viewers who want to help all of you. Thank you for sharing your story and we're thinking of you and sending love to your family.

ROSS-RUTTER: Thank you. Thank you.


BERMAN: We are thinking of them and sending love to that family. There is so much loss now. Legendary Jazz musician Wallace Roney was a Grammy Award-winning trumpet player who was mentored by the legendary Miles Davis. The Jazz at Lincoln Center called Wallace a true modern great in the jazz world. He was 59 years old. Father Jorge Ortiz-Gray of Brooklyn, New York, is the first Catholic priest in the U.S. taken by the virus.

Parishioners are saying Brigid's Church called him father Jorge, he was born in Mexico City, ordained in Newark. He was 49 years old. Dezann Romain was a school principal at Brooklyn Democracy Academy in New York City. Brooklyn's borough president told us this about Principal Romain -- "too many in our society have written off the young scholars under her stewardship. But where others saw problems, she saw promise and potential." She was only 36 years old. We'll be right back.



BERMAN: The number of people who have died from coronavirus in the U.S. is now close to 3,900. And this is just part of the anxiety that so many Americans are now facing. Joining me now is Argie Allen- Wilson; relationship therapist and author of the new book "Courageous Conversations Connect". R.J., thanks so much for being with us. And I have to say that in some ways --


BERMAN: The anxiety of today is different than the anxiety of three weeks ago, right? Three weeks ago, we were all entering this unknown, and it was all new, and people were, I think, unsettled about the newness. As we sit here today, part of the anxiety is, I don't see an end to this. This could go on for two months more. So, how do you cope with this new anxiety?

ALLEN-WILSON: Yes, this anxiety is about the fear, the unknown, the uncertainty, and we don't know what the end is going to be. And so that's the hardest part. But the thing about it is that most of us will go through grief, we're grieving the loss of the lives that we once knew three weeks ago. So we've got to get to a place where we begin to accept what our norms are, and acceptance is healing.

Once we accept, then we can begin to adjust, which is sort of reassessing, re-adapting or resetting --

BERMAN: Yes --

ALLEN-WILSON: Our mindset. So once we reset that mindset, then we can start adapting to those new norms. What is going to be our schedule? How are we going to talk to the kids? What are going to be our eating or rest times or our play times, when do we have to go out?


And then we begin quite frankly, to appreciating the progress that we've made, and just three weeks, because we learned so much about ourselves being all cooped up together. We tend to spend more time outside with our co-workers and our colleagues than our own families. So, now we're actually in a place where we get to learn more about each other together.

BERMAN: You talked about grief over the lifestyle lost. Now, as more and more Americans are dying, people are dealing with grief over actual lives lost. We're all going to know somebody --


BERMAN: Who passes from COVID-19. What's your advice on how to handle this?

ALLEN-WILSON: Yes, unfortunately, well, the grief is real, right? And so, yes, we're grieving the life that we knew, but we're also going to be grieving the people that -- who will perish, people who are sick. We're going to be grieving the process of just like your previous young man talked about, his mother, and not being able to be there when people transition, so that's real.

We want to not dismiss our feelings. Those feelings are real. And what I tend to say is, in order to heal, you have to feel that you can't heal what you don't reveal. So we have to process all of that. And then, we have to be patient. Patient with ourselves, patient with each other because all of this is new. None of us is going down this path before, none of us in this lifetime has dealt with pandemic before. So, we need to begin to focus on what really matters most, and then

we're going to remember what's the relationship that we've had? If those people have passed, do we still have memories of them? How can we talk about those memories and have therapy? There are so many people out there, health professionals, they're actually doing therapy online. Providing free services.

So we've got to process with those professionals that will help us to grow through this, and we can be stronger together, but this is going to take time.

BERMAN: Yes, we talk about people's memories being a blessing, and those memories are a blessing whether or not you saw them physically recently or not. Isolation absolutely does add challenges, but challenges that can be overcome. Look, I've had people even during this show reach out to me and I don't want to name names and I don't want to read the social media posts online, but people reaching out saying, I need help. How can people get help? How do you ask? Who do you ask?

ALLEN-WILSON: So that's a great question because we're all going to need help. We cannot do this by ourselves. So what I'm saying to people is go to your parishioner, your pastor, maybe a spiritual adviser, a friend, a colleague and even perhaps go and look online for health professionals that are happily putting out in social media that they are still working.

There is help out there, but you've got to recognize that you're going to need to connect with someone through this process. None of us can go through this by ourselves. We're going to need to be able to talk to people, we've got to process what we're dealing with, and we need to do it frequently and often, especially with our kids, who are also grieving the losses of their lives, of the life that they had with their play dates, with their friends or their proms. So this is difficult for everybody.

BERMAN: Right --

ALLEN-WILSON: And it's tough, it's going to get tougher, but we can go through this together. We're taught now that social distancing does not mean social isolation. So we've got to find ways to connect with each other in the social media platforms that actually keep us alive.

BERMAN: We only have about 45 seconds left. But you talked about courageous conversations. What's the courageous or honest conversation when confronted with the projection of death totals higher than 200,000 people. How do you have that conversation with a kid?

ALLEN-WILSON: Well you say, listen, I'm going to -- children need you to be in charge, they need you to be a leader. So, you say, I'm going to protect you, I'm going to provide for you, I'm going to plan for this, we're going to do this together. And if you have questions, we're going to have this recent sort of every single-day meeting to update you. But remember, you cannot use language like catastrophe or disaster or chaos with children. That's just going to tap into their anxiety and elevate it. So, you

need to use words like we're going to be there just like Mr. Rogers said, go for the helpers when you're in trouble, the parents and the guardians are going to be their helpers. And you'll say we'll all do this together and then you then could help -- so that you can provide that safety and that security. Children need predictability, safety and security, and it's our job to provide that for them.

BERMAN: I think adults need all those things as well. Argie Allen- Wilson, thank you very much for being with us this morning, really appreciate the time.

ALLEN-WILSON: Thank you. Thank you. Good to be here.

BERMAN: All right, NEW DAY continues right now.


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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened if people stayed home, it takes us down to 100 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The task force has not.