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Majority Of Americans Told To Stay Home, Death Toll Over 5,000; Virus-Stricken Cruise Ships Remain In Limbo Off Florida Coast; Trump Says, Federal Emergency Stockpile Is Nearly Depleted. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 2, 2020 - 07:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day.

So let's take stock of where we are today, John, because America has changed so much in just the last month.

So 30 days ago, there were fewer than 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus. This morning, 90 percent of the country is under a stay- at-home order because of the virus and 5,000 people have died. The president has not issued a national stay-at-home order but five more states did add or expand theirs, and that includes Florida.

12 states still have not imposed statewide orders. The message from California's governor, what are you waiting for? The nationwide death toll has doubled in the last three days.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Also new this morning, the nation's stockpile of much needed protective equipment is nearly depleted. President Trump says the supplies are being sent directly to hospitals, but governors across the country are reporting critical shortages.

New York City's mayor says the city has enough surgical masks to last until this coming Sunday, but then they'll face a dangerous shortage.

There are also new questions about the national ventilator stockpile. The New York Times reports that more than 2,000 breathing machines are unavailable because they're broken or not functioning and haven't been maintained.

Overnight, Los Angeles, the second largest city in the country, became the first to urge residents to wear homemade masks in public.

There's also new reporting on the medical front this morning in terms of clinical trials and possible treatment for coronavirus. We have doctors standing by to talk about that. We'll get to them in just a moment.

I want to begin our coverage though with CNN's Brynn Gingras live outside Elmhurst Hospital for the latest. Brynn? BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, I mean, really, the hope across the board is that people follow these mandates, that they stay home to ease the burdens, not only on Elmhurst Hospital but hospitals that could be in your community. We're actually seeing some cities take even stricter measures.

There are four cities in New Jersey that are now under mandatory lockdown, meaning they can't leave their home unless for an emergency for the next seven days.

Here in New York City, by order of the governor, all playgrounds are closed, encouraging people to stay home. And, of course, the goal here is to get everyone, all hands on deck.


GINGRAS: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sending a warning to other elected officials while his state is devastated with the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the nation.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): It's a New York problem today, tomorrow, it's a Kansas problem and a Texas problem and a New Mexico problem.

GINGRAS: Florida, among states, giving into growing pressure, issuing a stay-at-home order from Friday until the end of April.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I did speak with the president about it. He agreed with the approach of focusing on the hotspots. But at the same time, he understood that this is another 30-day situation.

GINGRAS: Despite red flags from the medical community, governors in some states, like Tennessee, have yet to do so.

GOV. BILL LEE (R-TN): There's very little evidence about exactly how and when these are most effective and working. But it's a really hard decision.

GINGRAS: California issued the first statewide stay-at-home mandate on March 19th and the governor asking those who haven't --

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): What are you waiting for? What more evidence do you need?

GINGRAS: President Trump still refusing to enact it nationally.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: There are some states without much of a problem.

You have to give a little bit flexibility.

GINGRAS: That's not what the surgeon general suggested earlier Wednesday.

DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: My advice to America would be that these guidelines are a national stay-at-home order.

The more we social distance, the more we stay at home, the less spread of disease there will be.

GINGRAS: The New Jersey governor says there's no time for flexibility.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): Please God, the social distancing works.

It's simple. Stay home until further notice.

GINGRAS: Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence says it's not the Trump administration's fault the coronavirus response was delayed.

MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Mid-January, the CDC was still assessing that the risk of the coronavirus to the American people was low.

The reality is that we could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming.

GINGRAS: But as medical options expand in big cities, like Los Angeles, Seattle and Detroit, to handle an anticipated overflow of sick people, state leaders want to know when we'll have enough protective equipment and testing kits to supply their hospitals.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): We should have a unified national strategy so that every American, no matter what state you live in, you know that you're going to get the care you need.



GINGRAS: And, of course, ventilators still the biggest need all across the country.

Here in New York City, the mayor says he needs more than 3 million N95 masks to get the city through the next week. And we now have a familiar face. Former NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill, he's been tapped as the supply czar, essentially helping hospitals in this city move and make equipment available to them. John and Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Okay. Brynn, thank you very much for all of that.

Joining us now to talk about where we are today is Dr. Rochelle Walensky. She is the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Mass General Hospital, and Dr. Jodie Dionne, Assistant Professor in the Division on Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Great to have both of you. We have a lot to talk about.

Dr. Walensky, I want to start with something that the vice president said yesterday during one of the White House briefings. And he said that he felt that the country that was most similar to ours in terms of the trajectory of the coronavirus was Italy. And that got a lot of attention because we think of Italy as being, I think, in pretty dire straits.

Yesterday, there was interesting news out of Italy and I would need your help in how to interpret it. There was a rise of 724 deaths in Italy just yesterday. That was in 24 hours. But that was the smallest percentage rise, just 5 percent since the beginning of their records on this pandemic. So when you look to Italy, as the vice president is, what lesson are we supposed to take from that?


Yes, I have to admit that when we are following the epidemic curves, we are looking to Italy because our epidemic curves early on have matched Italy's.

I'm hopeful that we have integrated policies, stay-at-home policies a little earlier than Italy did. And we're hoping, starting to see that some of the policies might be working, it may be a little too early to tell, certainly too early to be too optimistic and certainly our cases continue to rise. But as we match our epidemic curves with another Country's, it's Italy's that we're matching.

BERMAN: Yes. It's good news and bad news in that, isn't there, right? With the steepness of the curve in terms of cases and the deaths, if the United States matches Italy, that's not a good inning. But in Italy, there has been a little bit of a leveling off, which shows how effective stay-at-home orders can be if implemented strictly and consistently.

And. Dr. Dionne-Odom, let's just address that. About 90 percent of the United States is under some kind of stay-at-home order. There's no national stay-at-home order. And in some state, like Florida, there are exemptions or exceptions for religious gatherings. What does an exception like that do to the theory behind stay-at-home?

DR. JODIE DIONNE-ODOM, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: You know, we've definitely seen signs from both other countries that even now in the U.S., John, that a stay-at-home order makes a difference. We start to see the curve shift when people follow physical distancing over a period of time. You don't see the effect immediately.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work to have certain segments not have to social distance. We are a country, we need to take these measures all together in order to really have an impact. The virus doesn't know borders. The virus doesn't know place. It will continue to spread as long as people are together.

CAMEROTA: And, Dr. Odom, you are in one of those states. You're in Alabama. That does not have a stay-at-home order. So is that having an impact?

DIONNE-ODOM: You know what, we do have is a stay-at-home order in Birmingham, in the City of Birmingham, thanks to our mayor. So we are encouraging everyone who lives here in the most populous part of the state to stay at home. And our neighborhoods, our citizens are following that very well. I don't see many people when I'm going to and from the hospital. I think we are encouraging statewide officials to consider a statewide decision. I'm hoping that they may be influenced by Governor Kemp and Governor DeSantis, the decision made yesterday.

BERMAN: So, Dr. Walensky, you are an infectious disease doctor, so trials always interest you. I think the entire world now is fixated on medical trials at different levels. And, of course, the rest of the world, I don't think, has the understanding that you do. But when we look is laypeople at this new study out of China on hydroxychloroquine, a study that was done on people who were mildly sick, and on those who were mildly sick, some showed some improvement or quicker recovery when taking hydroxychloroquine.

What should we take away from that? How important is that? What does that tell us?

WALENSKY: Great, Thanks, John. There are a couple things I think it's worth mentioning. One is we on the frontlines don't have anything to treat these patients with aside from supportive care. So we are really desperate for something to give patients when they are deteriorating in front of us. We want a drug to pull to.


We're not used to not having something that we know can make somebody better. So we are really motivated to have clinical trials and we're desperate to give people something.

This clinical trial that just came out of China was the first clinical trial that I have seen with hydroxychloroquine. I want to warn people, the trial is not registered on, which is one of our standards. The trial is small, it was only 30 people, and the trial is yet unpublished. So it was posted on a pre-publication online, so it has not undergone peer review.

That said, I commend the authors. This is what they did. They found about 60 patients and they randomized them to either get the drug or not get the drug. And as you noted, the people who got the drug seemed to have had less progression and improved more rapidly after five days of follow-up.

So there are quite a few limitations to the study, some of them I noted. The other is that we're not sure that this can be generalized to all patients. They gave it to people who didn't have comorbidities, like cardiovascular comorbidity and liver disease and renal disease. So we're not sure that we can the results from this trial and give it to all comers, especially people with heart disease who may be at most risk for bad outcomes.

So I think this is promising and another sort of piece of information that has us want to move forward. But I think we sort of should understand its limitations and recognize it may not be generalizable to everyone.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Dionne, same question to you, because I know you've been involved in clinical trials of drugs that fight diseases and viruses, such as malaria. So is this anything that you could hang your hat on right now?

DIONNE-ODOM: I agree 100 percent with Dr. Walensky. We all want to have a treatment for this. We all want to have a vaccine for COVID-19. And everyone is looking so carefully at this data as it starts comes out. I think it's a really good reminder that we have great clinical trials networks, and these networks follow protocols that are designed by scientists who thought for a long time about how to study the safety and the efficacy of new drugs for a number of diseases.

So this is similar to other studies we've done in the past. When a drug looks promising, we continue to study it. But you don't want to jump on the first one or two small studies and make broad recommendations for the large population. That's just not the way we do science.

BERMAN: No. Look, and I understand, we all are now amateur epidemiologists because we're all living in the middle of this right now, so we're trying to digest everything we possibly can.

On that front, Dr. Dionne, there's another series of tests that Dr. Birx yesterday is calling for a huge acceleration in, and that is an antibody test to detect if people have antibodies to the coronavirus, to COVID-19. Why is it so important, Dr. Dionne, to know that and how can that help ip us in terms of battling this from a public health perspective?

DIONNE-ODOM: So I agree with Dr. Birx on this point. What we've been talking about in terms of testing until, what we're offering is PCR testing. That means looking for the virus in the nasopharynx in the nose where it lives. That doesn't mean if you had infection six weeks ago or six days ago. It tells you if you had infection today.

What an antibody test does is it tells if the infection has passed through your body. Do you have antibodies that your body recognize this organism, fought it off and you still have some level of protection? That is really powerful because you can imagine testing doctors and nurses to see if they have antibody, and when they antibody, saying, we don't think that your risk of reinfection is high. We think you can go back to work and take care of patients on the frontline with a little more -- maybe a little more comfort about the fact that you already had this.

The caveat is that we don't know if those antibodies last for a long time or if they truly prevent reinfection. So it's a little complicated.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But, very quickly, following on that, Dr. Walensky, there is this plasma therapy. And I think it is starting. The blood donation centers across the U.S. are already working to collect plasma from patients who they believe have had it. And so, just very quickly, we only have a few seconds, that is closer, it sounds like, than the chloroquine.

WALENSKY: Right. Well, there was a study out of -- there was a study of five patients published this week that demonstrated that convalescent plasma, plasma from people who have recovered from the disease could be used potentially as a therapy, again, an uncontrolled study, but it did show promise. There's a drove of people that are coming in to donate their plasma after they've been cured of this disease or they've been successfully gone through this disease. And so I think it's really hopeful.

Again, these antibodies would work because they're given before your own body would get antibody -- its own antibody response so it could respond to the virus earlier.

BERMAN: Yes, timing is everything on that treatment.


Dr. Dionne and Dr. Walensky, thank you very much for bearing with our questions. I think we're like a lot of people right now. We just are looking for something, some light possibly at the end of the tunnel. So we appreciate your reality check this morning.

Her parents are sick and stuck on board a virus-stricken cruise ship, the ship trying to dock in Florida. The concerned daughter of this family joins us next.


CAMEROTA: Two Holland America cruise ships are off the Florida Coast waiting for clearance to dock in Ft. Lauderdale. The ships are carrying dozens of passengers exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus. Four passengers have died on board.

Florida's governor now says he is willing to accept Floridians on to shore but has concerns about taking in anyone else because of the state's limited hospital beds.

Joining us now is Amy Weeds-Jones. Her 75-year-old father and 70-year- old mom are sick and stuck on board one of those cruise ships.


Amy, thank you for being here.

What are your parents -- as we said, 75 and 70 years old, what are your parents' conditions this morning?

AMY WEEDS-JONES, PARENTS SICK AND STUCK ONBOARD CRUISE SHIP: This morning, they both are running low-grade temperatures. They both are suffering from nausea. My dad is more severe. He has chills, body aches. He's been diagnosed with severe pneumonia. He hasn't been able to keep food or liquid downs for nine days. And therefore, medications aren't being able to be in his body. So we're very concerned for their health.

CAMEROTA: I can imagine that you are -- I mean, if he has not been able to eat for nine days or keep anything down, if he has severe pneumonia, as you say, is there any talk of airlifting him off that ship? WEEDS-JONES: That is not an option right now. I don't know -- airlifting has been discussed but it's not an option for any of the passengers.

CAMEROTA: Are you able to talk to your parents? I mean, how often are you in communication with them?

WEEDS-JONES: Yes, I am. I'm able to Facetime with them at least once a day. I communicate with them through email, just updating them about the situation. They update me about their situation, just communicating through email.

CAMEROTA: And does it seem to you that they're declining?

WEEDS-JONES: Their health?


WEEDS-JONES: Yes. You can see on Facetime visually my mom, her energy level, her being isolated in a cabin for over ten days now, her energy is very low. Their spirits on the ship, the passengers, their spirits are low. Yes, I definitely see a decline in their health.

CAMEROTA: So I guess the good news is that Governor DeSantis has said he will take some passengers on shore on Florida. Does that apply to your parents?

WEEDS-JONES: Yes, my parents are Florida residents, but they are on the -- they are on a sick ship. So I don't know if they will be able to get off the ship and go seek medical help at their local hospital.

CAMEROTA: What are officials telling them and you?

WEEDS-JONES: Officials aren't telling us really anything. We've had one letter from the president of Holland America that was released days ago. We're really getting -- my mom will tell me she gets vague updates but they're doing the best they can from the captain. Really, they are.

CAMEROTA: I mean, this is a nightmare, not having any information and watching your parents get worse. When they set off on the ship, I know that coronavirus was nowhere close to what it is now in terms of sweeping the country, but were you concerned about them when they said that they wanted to take this cruise?

WEEDS-JONES: Of course I was concerned. But you're right, it wasn't a global pandemic. This is a novel virus. So no one expected for this to escalate the way it had. They left March 7th. I was worried because there were a few cases. But they travel extensively. So it's --

CAMEROTA: And so what's your plan for them? What can you do from where you are today?

WEEDS-JONES: To seek out every avenue. This is a humanitarian crisis. We're going to seek out every avenue to get every passenger home. There are sick people that every moment their life is on the line. And these are people. These are human lives and there's American citizens. They're at the doorsteps right now of America after being turned away for over two weeks from several different countries to port. And they're at the doorstep of America asking for your help, so if we can all just do the right thing and save these people's lives.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that's what needs to happened. Amy Weeds-Jones, we're thinking of you and your family. Obviously, we'll be watching very closely what happens today. Thank you for sharing your story.

WEEDS-JONES: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: The NYPD's former top cop is coming back to help hospitals fight coronavirus.


Today is his first day on the job but he's taking time to talk to us, next.


BERMAN: The U.S. government's emergency stockpile of masks, gloves and ventilators is nearly depleted because of the coronavirus pandemic. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says hospitals still need millions of masks to protect healthcare workers. The mayor just appointed the city's former police commissioner to oversee the hospital supply chain.

Former NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill joins me now. Commissioner, thanks so much for being with us. You've been on this new job for all of probably six minutes. Tell us what this job entails.

JAMES O'NEILL, FORMER NYPD COMMISSIONER: Hey, John, thanks for having me on this morning. So I'm going to be overseeing the supply chain, make sure we maintain the integrity of the supply chain.


I'm going to be looking at sourcing. I'm going to be looking at transportation, distribution, making sure the supplies that we do get go to the hospitals that are in.