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Largest U.S. Health Care Lab Tackles Backlog of 160,000 Tests; 12 States have not Ordered Residents to Stay Home; State Department Tracking 24,000 Americans who may be Stranded Abroad; FDA Authorizes First Coronavirus Antibody Test; Experts Tell White House Virus can Spread through Talking and Breathing; Dr. Fauci Forced to Beef Up Security as Death Threats Grow. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 2, 2020 - 09:30   ET




DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Data from those documents show on March 25th, last Wednesday, Quest diagnostics had 160,000 tests on backlog. Half of its total orders were waiting to be processed and according to Quest data obtained by CNN, that backlog appeared to be growing by the day. Quest told CNN it can now do 30,000 tests a day, and recently, "Our capacity has exceeded our demand, allowing us to reduce the backlog."

Illinois Governor Jay Pritzker said the federal government has failed to produce millions of tests promised by the president and now commercial labs can't process all the ones they do have.

GOV. JAY PRITZKER (D-IL): In fact, their federal testing is slowed down because they throw it all at Lab Corp. and Quest and they've got a huge backlog. Those tests are coming back in four to 10 days.

GRIFFIN: It is the latest in a series of problems that is crippling coronavirus testing in the United States. Two months into the crisis, and testing is still limited only to the sickest individuals in most places, limiting health experts in knowing exactly where the virus is spreading.

DR. CAROLINE BUCKEE, HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Right now, I don't think that we're at capacity for testing, so we just don't know how big the epidemic is or how big it is going to get.

GRIFFIN: Because of the backlog at Quest and other commercial labs, states and hospital systems tell CNN they have bypassed the logjam, by starting to conduct their own in-house tests, which can turn around results in hours rather than days. Louisiana has turned to its state lab to more quickly turn around the tests, but that's only for the most critical patients, all the rest go to the backlog.

DR. JOSEPH KANTER, E.R. DOCTOR: It has gotten better. No question about that. But it is still a problem. The commercial labs have been challenging. GRIFFIN: The delays in getting test results back are straining limited supplies of personal protective equipment. Patients suspected of COVID-19 must be treated as if they are infected, requiring hospital workers to burn through gear waiting for results. In some cases, only to find out days later they didn't need to.

KANTER: It's a direct relationship between the speed at which we can get results back for hospitalized patients, and the amount of PPE that's going to be expended in their care.

GRIFFIN: The result of the limited testing and now huge backlogs is most of us are not going to get a test. Even if we are sick. And, yes, that even includes nurses on the frontlines.

MEGAN SCHLANSER, NURSE IN DETROIT: We're not getting tested as healthcare providers. We are, you know, I had a couple of friends who have said, you know, I feel like I'm getting sick and employee health --they will say we don't have enough tests, you haven't fit all the criteria that you know we have in place, so you're not getting tested.

GRIFFIN (on camera): And even as testing improved, experts are telling us the 100,000 tests a day milestone announced by the administration yesterday still is nowhere near what they say we need to get ahead of this pandemic.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Still not getting tested.

The governor of Louisiana John Bel Edwards said that his state has received 150 ventilators from the national stockpile, but that that is still nowhere near what the residents of Louisiana need.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. There's just been an explosion of cases there, especially in New Orleans, Louisiana has more than 6,400 confirmed COVID-19 cases. And 273 deaths as of this morning.

Our correspondent Ed Lavandera joins us again in New Orleans. What has happened overnight? I mean, clearly, they don't -- they don't have what they need.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Poppy and Jim, one of the things interesting to playoff here, what Drew Griffin was reporting in that story, we've seen that cases - we see that case totally here in Louisiana approaching 6,500. That has jumped about 3,000 cases or so since Sunday. And one of the things that state officials here were looking at is whether or not this could be in part all of a sudden a sudden appearance of all of these tests that have been backlogged and taking several days to come through or if these are all just brand new cases. That's some of the things that state officials here on the ground are trying to have to comb through to figure out what exactly is going on. But there is no question that there is a great deal of concern about what is coming here in the coming days, and weeks. The governor says the worst is still yet to come. Other officials that I've spoken with say the peak of all of this could be two to three weeks away. The promise of ventilators at the federal government may send 150 ventilators. The governor says those ventilators have arrived here in Louisiana, but it is still far short from what the governor here says they need going forward as the crush of medical space is needed and equipment is needed here in the coming days. Jim and Poppy?

SCIUTTO: Well, if you want to know what's going on the ground, ask the governors. Ed Lavandera at Louisiana, thanks very much.

12 states now have not yet called for a stay-at-home order. California Gavin Newsom, he's calling them out.



SCIUTTO: The governor of California Gavin Newsom has been sending a stark warning to leaders across the country about the need for stay- at-home orders.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): What are you waiting for? What more evidence do you need? If you think it is not going to happen to you, there are many proof points all across this country for that matter, around the rest of the world. Don't dream of regretting. Lean into the moment, take responsibility and meet it head on. You'll never regret overcompensating at the moment so that you're preparing people for meeting this moment in the responsible way. And there is no greater intervention, period, full stop, none.



HARLOW: Yes. Pretty clear there. Right now, though, 12 states still have not ordered residents to shelter in place. Let's talk about this. With former Ohio Governor John Kasich, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Good morning to both of you.

And Mayor Landrieu, if I can just begin - begin with you, because of the outbreak we're seeing in New Orleans right now on this. I don't understand what the incentive is to not perhaps take -- be overly cautious here. What is the incentive?

MITCH LANDRIEU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there should not be any. Based on the work that Governor Edwards has done, Governor DeWine in Ohio, Governor Newsom, it is absolutely clear that the right thing to do is to enforce social distancing. Every leader should be telling people what they need to hear. Not what they want to hear. That's what crises demand, especially ones as difficult as this one. You can see New Orleans as a model, New York. I mean what else do you need to know other than this virus is going to spread to every part of the United States of America. And so, I think Governor Newsom is correct and I hope the other governors in the country adhere to his warning and his advice.

SCIUTTO: Governor Kasich, Jim Sciutto here, you know, early on we saw partisanship infect the responses, the view of this. You know, Republicans, Democrats, have different views as to whether this was a real threat. And Gallup polling, Republicans and Democrats have different views as to whether they should stay-at-home. You know, obey those orders. Now, the president's language has changed on this. Are you seeing that changing? Or is that something that is difficult for the country to get over? I mean, it is --


SCIUTTO: -- institutions for years, that has an effect.

KASICH: Look, where we are today. I'm beside myself of the kind of things that are medical professionals are facing. We don't have the testing. We don't have the equipment that these people need, when they go into a hospital room, when they go into perform their duties, they don't think they're going to be properly equipped. So, what does that mean?

First of all, the federal government ought to open a fusion center so these governors can have a way to get directly to somebody in the federal government so they can get an answer.

Secondly, we've got some bureaucratic paralysis in this country. You know bureaucrats only get punished if they do something wrong, they never get punished if they -- or promoted if they do something right. They need to be set free to stop checking all the boxes so in fact they can make decisions to move this along.

And, Jim, I think in addition to all of that, we need the experts and the private sector, the ones that are experts in production, so we can begin to make the masks and the equipment.

Number two, we need the logistics experts. We need the people from Amazon and Walmart to be in the government, like happened before, with the dollar a day man that happened years and years ago. Get the ingenuity of the private sector to begin solving a lot of these problem, the delivery, the production, the distribution. All this has to be done in addition to the fact that governors should be working together. And for the 12 that are not doing this, they're making a terrible mistake in my opinion.

HARLOW: I mean it is a great point. We just saw a headline yesterday that Walmart is starting to drive through testing, for example, the power of the private sector cannot be overstated.

Mayor Landrieu, I do want to hit on the most vulnerable populations because you wrote about this in an op-ed about a week ago. And the data backed it up now. That, you know, the poorer you are, the less educated, the more you are having to go to work or out of a job. The wealthier or the more educated you are, you're staying at home, you're working, you're getting your same paycheck. Put very bluntly, when this is all said and done, do you fear more poor people will die from this virus simply because of their economic state?

LANDRIEU: No question about it. General Honore said it the best, when it gets cold, the poor get colder, and when it gets hot, the poor get colder and when it gets wet, they get wetter. There's no question that that is going to be the outcome. And it is going to expose a massive divide that we have in the country over that.

I want to go back to something Governor Kasich said though. We actually know what needs to be done. We need more testing because you can't fight an enemy that you can't see. We need to get PPE to the ground. We need ventilators and we need beds. Those are the things that the federal government has got to help push to the ground because the consequence is that you have these healthcare workers who I'm talking to on a regular basis, who have put themselves in harm's way. They are now making life decisions about who lives and who dies by having to decide who gets a ventilator. It is a terrible position to put them in.

And then we're literally losing everyday part of our families, part of our history, the great jazz legend Ellis Marsalis died last night. He's the godfather of New Orleans. Wynton's dad and Branford's dad.

I mean it is really tragic. And right now, what we have to do to the next two weeks is brace for the impact that this country is going to feel that we have not felt in the last half of the last century or the first two decades of this one.


SCIUTTO: For sure.


KASICH: Jim and Poppy, listen.

SCIUTTO: I get your point. I get your point, John. Just quickly, I get your point about private sector and -- but all the points you're making, they have been made for weeks. We got to get you know critical equipment, we got to get testing going. Where is the leadership now? Are you seeing it?

I mean, today, this morning, the president is tweeting attacks at governors saying that they're asking for too much. Where is this coming together - that everybody has been calling for.


KASICH: It is inappropriate. It is inappropriate, Jim. You can't do that. And the fact of the matter is if I were president, I would have the Bezos' and the Walmart executives, I would set them free. And I would also tell the bureaucrats, stop checking all the boxes.

You know I read yesterday the IRS was saying they weren't going to send the check to a senior citizen until they filed a tax form. That was reverse stupid. I know that I've heard where they were cleaning masks, the FDA kind of held it up for unfortunately, the administration said get over it. I am told by people who were in the bows of the logistics operation in our country that the bureaucrats are holding up, they need to be our heroes. They need to be our leader and that has to come from the top.

And, in fact, the president needs to let his cabinet know get your people doing their job. And bring the best people in. The people that had do this all the time, how you deliver, how you make, how you manufacture, how you distribute. We're America. America doesn't fall short on this kind of stuff if we are free to go on.

So, I mean, I'm not looking backwards. I'm not looking at where we are today and forward. And I'm worried about including a number of my friends who are physicians who don't have what they need. We need to fix it. And it has to come from the top. And none of these attacking governors. They have a legitimate complaint. Answer them.



The governors -- the governor and the mayors are just telling you what they see on the ground. I mean, their feet are on the ground. They're touching people. They see the distance between what it is we need and what it is that we have. And they can tell you what is going to happen if we don't get it done. Don't blame them.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen, you've been a mayor and you've been a governor. Thanks to both of you. It is always good to have you on. Let's hope that - let's hope we get some of that --

KASICH: Somebody is listening.

SCIUTTO: Let's hope that somebody is listening.

KASICH: All right. Thanks, Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Thanks to both of you guys. Stay healthy.

This is a sad part of the story, Poppy. I know we're both shaking our heads when we learned about this. Dr. Anthony Fauci who is helping lead the fight to save lives in this country from the coronavirus, he's now facing death threats. Why? We'll tell you more.



SCIUTTO: It is just disturbing to hear. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member - you might even say, the leader of the White House Coronavirus Task Force on many days. He is now facing death threats.

HARLOW: We couldn't believe it when we learned about this. He's been forced to beef up his security detail following growing concerns for his safety. Our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez broke the story and joins us now. How can this be?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, that's one of the things that happens with the increased profile that Dr. Fauci has now taken. As you mentioned, you know he is essentially the face of the government's response to this pandemic. And it appears that as a result of that, he's gotten an increased number of threats. And so, the Health and Human Services Department essentially decided that he needed to have more personal protection. They reached out -- the inspector general for HHS reached out to the Martial Service which essentially deputized some officers from the inspector general at HHS who are now acting as Dr. Fauci's personal security.

We also know that the metropolitan police here in Washington has also increased the amount of protection around Dr. Fauci's home. But again, guys, it is one of those sad testaments to the increased profile that Dr. Fauci has taken during this -- during this crisis that he is getting these threats now.

HARLOW: Gosh. I can't believe it. Evan, thank you for that reporting. We wish him all the best. He's doing so much for this country right now.

Also, more than 30,000 Americans are back at home after being stranded overseas because of travel restrictions, of course, prompted by the response, Jim, to this outbreak.

SCIUTTO: But they're not all home. Thousands more still need help getting back to the United States.

CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood joins us now from the State Department.

How many still out there and how are they going to get back?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Jim, the State Department told us yesterday that they are still tracking about 24,000 Americans who may be seeking assistance from the U.S. government to get back to the United States.

And to give you a little bit of context here, these are largely American travelers who were in countries that then closed down their borders, closed down their international air spaces, preventing them from getting home. And the State Department has already helped 30,000 of these Americans get home, but the message from the senior State Department official who is leading this repatriation effort yesterday was pretty blunt. He told Americans, listen, when an earthquake happens, you don't stand on lower ground and wait for the tsunami to come, you seek higher ground. And he said in this instance, the earthquake has already happened.

So, these Americans who are abroad really need to be seeking assistance to get home now. And he said that that assistance that's being provided at this time by the U.S. government may not be available in a few weeks' time. [09:55:00]

So, it was a very clear call to these Americans to seek assistance now because they really should be getting back to the United States with their families to help the U.S. fight this coronavirus and keep it contained.

HARLOW: Kylie Atwood, thank you so, so much. I'm still thinking of all those folks waiting to get back here.

Ahead, experts are telling the White House that coronavirus can be passed among people through breathing. That's a huge new development. This is nearly 950 Americans died in just the last 24 hours. We'll have all of that for you, next.



HARLOW: Good morning, top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

Just a devastating headline this morning. The Pentagon is now working to fulfill FEMA's request for 100,000 body bags, 100,000. Just a measure of the preparations being made for the worst-case scenario from all this. This news comes as we learn that experts are telling us more details on exactly how the coronavirus can spread.