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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Bus Driver Outraged Over Coughing Passenger Dies Days Later; Germany Testing Enhanced Version of 100-Year Old Tuberculosis Drug as Potential Vaccine; FDNY Firefighters Salute Medical Workers At One of The Hardest Hit Hospitals; New York EMTs Told Not to Bring Unresponsive Cardiac Patients to Hospital; White House Expected to Issue Guidance That American Should Wear Masks. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired April 3, 2020 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00]

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now of course we can't say where he got COVID-19 but what we do know is days later he did pass away. And this has had wide-ranging effects. In fact, March 17th there was a walkout by bus drivers across the city because they wanted gloves, they wanted masks to protect themselves.

Just on the way to this live location, we saw plenty of buses go by us full of people. When you think about a city the size of Detroit, where all of these people have been deemed essential workers, especially the fast food workers, the grocery store workers, they're all still using public transportation to get to where they needed to go.

We were outside the hospital yesterday and watched people use the bus to get to the hospital, so of course, if you're on a bus and you're coughing, you could be putting other people in danger. And you think about how many people go through a bus line on a day to day basis, you understand the danger the bus drivers are on. Listen to the mayor talk about this man's sacrifice and what he went through.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR MIKE DUGGAN (D) DETROIT: I don't know how you can watch it and not tear up. He knew his life was being put in jeopardy even though he was going to work for the citizens of Detroit every day by somebody who just didn't care. Somebody who didn't take this seriously. And now he's gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: When you think about how tough this has been, and he leaves behind a family that the union here says they're going to take care of. But so many questions about whether or not this had to happen. Of course, bus drivers are still fighting for those the gloves and masks throughout the system -- Ryan Young reporting in Detroit.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Ed Lavandera in New Orleans. And here the story is we're getting ready to hear another briefing from the governor of this state, is health officials really focusing on the higher than usual death rate because of the coronavirus infection here in this state.

And one of those factors that many people are taking a closer look at is just the underlying health issues that many people here in this region have. Where you have high levels of obesity, kidney disease as well as diabetes.

The United Health Foundation ranks Louisiana as the 49th in overall health here in the United States. And that is one of the contributing factors as to why health and emergency officials here in the New Orleans area say that has really been one of the factors in why the death rate here has been slightly higher if not significantly higher than what we've seen in other parts of the country.

And that is why state officials, government officials up and down the board really urging people to take the warnings of staying at home and distancing yourself from your family and friends so seriously, because it becomes much more complicated here in this particular area where we have seen this massive outbreak.

Just a short while ago the State of Louisiana released its latest figures here for the coronavirus. Remember yesterday we had seen the largest overall jump that we've seen since all of this started. And now the numbers are 10,297 overall cases. That's a jump of more than 1,100 cases and a jump of 60 deaths overnight, 370 deaths here in the State of Louisiana.

But what state officials will tell you, they're looking most closely looking at, is the hospital use and the hospital bed use and the ventilators. And all of those are continuing to jump up slightly.

There is still hospital bed space, ICU bed space in various areas and most of the regions here in the State of Louisiana. The Governor of Louisiana has been warning that we could start reaching kind of crisis levels and serious shortages here in the coming days.

But they're looking at this weekend, early next week before that becomes an issue. So, I'm Ed Lavandera reporting live from New Orleans, we will go to a commercial break now and hopefully return with Jake Tapper here shortly.

[15:35:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Scientists in Germany are looking to a 100- year-old tuberculosis drug as a possible stopgap vaccine for the coronavirus. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen explains why now a renowned microbiologist says that he is seeing some promising results.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As front line health care workers struggle to deal with an influx of coronavirus patients, and scientists around the world are racing to try and develop a vaccine, Stefan Kaufmann, a microbiologist from Germany's renowned Max Planck Society believes he may have an interim solution.

PROF. STEFAN KAUFMANN, MAX-PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR INFECTIOUS BIOLOGY: What we propose is we could use an intermediate stage of higher immunity, of higher protective mechanisms.

PLEITGEN: It is called VPM 1002 and it is an enhanced version of almost 100-year-old tuberculosis vaccine named BCG. And while tuberculosis and coronavirus have virtually nothing in common TB being a bacterial infection, they both can cause severe respiratory problems.

Professor Kaufmann believes VPM 1002 would boost the immune system to help it fight off infections with coronavirus.

[15:40:00]

KAUFMANN: To provide a kind of innate, nonspecific immunity against other infectious diseases and that also includes viruses that cause pulmonary diseases and coronavirus is one of them.

PLEITGEN: The researchers are gearing up for trials with groups at high risk of suffering severe complications from coronavirus. Medical professionals and elderly patients.

An advantage of VPM 1002 clinical trials as a tuberculosis vaccine have almost been completed, and so far, the drug has proven to be safe. Now they just need to see if it really is effective against COVID-19 which could take several months. Then it could be available fast, Professor Kaufmann says.

KAUFMANN: Our hope is that we can at least reduce significantly the proportion of individuals who develop disease and that hopefully the disease is also milder.

PLEITGEN: If proven to be effective, Kaufmann stresses VPM 1002 should still only be used as an interim solution, saving lives until a targeted vaccine is market ready. U.S. experts believe it could work.

PROF. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: I think it's a very innovative idea. You know the vaccines that we're

working on are against the virus itself. This would be a vaccine that stimulates the immune system so that it can fight off COVID.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: And, Jake, the German scientists seem very confident that this is something that could indeed work and they say if these trials are successful and does prove effective against coronavirus and offers immunity, they are already working very closely together with some of the biggest vaccine makers in the world to be able to mass produce hundreds of doses of this vaccine, of this stopgap vaccine and make it available around the world very fast -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Hundreds of firefighters in New York have been infected with

coronavirus. Coming up next, I'm going to talk with the FDNY Commissioner about what's being done to protect these heroes. That's next, stay with us.

[15:45:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: FDNY firefighters yesterday outside of Elmhurst Hospital in Queens gathered to say thank you to health care workers for their tireless efforts to save not just civilian New Yorkers but firefighters and EMS workers as well.

Joining me now is Commissioner of the New York City Fire Department Daniel Nigro to talk more about the challenge facing firefighters and EMS workers. Commissioner, thanks for joining us. So at least 282 FDNY workers have tested positive for coronavirus. How are they doing, have you spoken to any of them?

DANIEL NIGRO, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: Certainly. Right now, the number is actually 376 and it goes up hourly. That's firefighters, EMTs and paramedics here in New York.

TAPPER: And how are they doing? If you've spoken to any of them. Are they in critical condition, are they at home, just give us a sense -- it is a lot to talk about, obviously?

NIGRO: Sure, Jake. Most of them are home. In various degrees as you've heard, from the symptoms here go from mild to severe. We have at least one patient who is intubated for many days and is in very critical condition. Most of our members are not hospitalized right now but they are all fighting this fight against the virus as many Americans are.

TAPPER: Are your men and women on the front lines, paramedics, EMS workers, firefighters, do they have adequate protection when they go out and answer the call of duty?

NIGRO: Well, we're following the guidelines from our state and city Department of Health and the CDC. So, their protection consists of gloves and gowns and masks and eye protection which is the recommended -- but certainly every health care worker runs that risk. They're dealing with very sick people each and every day.

TAPPER: The FDNY has seen a 50 percent increase in call volume. I know FEMA sent 250 ambulances and I believe 500 EMTs to help handle the influx, the surge of people needing emergency care. Is that enough? Do you still need more?

NIGRO: Well, we'll see. The calls continue to rise. We've had a week now of record numbers, 50 percent higher than our normal call volume. These folks from out of state, these brave mostly young people from every state in the union, almost, is a big help to our very overworked work force that's been doing many of them consistently 16 hour tours to try to keep up with this call volume.

And it's not only the volume, they're dealing with a different type of person. Very sick individuals on almost every call.

TAPPER: EMS in New York have been instructed not to bring in cardiac arrest patients to the hospital if they're not responsive to CPR. We had an emergency physician on the show earlier who explained that he agreed with that position. But I want you to explain that decision because I'm sure it was not easy.

NIGRO: Well, I think it is a common practice. It was just instituted here. I believe all of our doctors tell us it's the right move. We will still work up a patient for some length of time, perhaps 20 minutes. But if we can't get the response -- if we can't get them breathing again and circulation again, we're not going to bring that patient to the hospital where -- and there's nothing more they could do.

So, it is a tough decision to make. Life and death decisions are just that, the most difficult decision anyone could make. So, our folks out in the field who already have a difficult job, have just one more difficult thing to do.

TAPPER: Do you anticipate that's just going to be the first protocol of that kind where because emergency workers, hospitals are dealing with such a surge of patients that more and more decisions like that.

[15:50:00]

That would have been made possibly differently during a normal time, will have to be made?

NIGRO: I think listening to the professionals in this field, one sees that this will not be the last. It's really turning into a triage situation for our doctors and nurses in the hospitals. And that comes down to those people in the field. The EMTs and paramedics here at the epicenter, really, in New York City who have to deal with these patients first, changes, additional changes may come.

TAPPER: And lastly, Commissioner, what's your message to anybody who's listening who either lives in New York or is in a position of power in Washington, D.C. or in Albany, what do you need? And what do you need from the public?

NIGRO: Well, what we need from the public, is for them to -- unless it's absolutely necessary, stay home and stop the spread. We have more than 2,000 of our members right now out on medical leave.

This is spreading in New York like nothing we've ever seen, and certainly spreading around the world. So, we ask them to please stay home. We ask Washington and the State and all manufacturers, the need for equipment is enormous. The need for personal protective equipment will not cease in the next week or even in the next month. So, our members, in order to be protected, will continue to need that stream of equipment to come in.

TAPPER: Commissioner NIGRO, thank you, god bless you and the men and women who work for you, please stay in touch in terms of anything you need so we can help bring and shine a light on it. NIGRO: Thank you very much.

TAPPER: The White House may soon advise all Americans to wear masks or face coverings when they go out in public, but where can you even get them? And would a scarf be sufficient? I'm going to talk to our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta next.

But first, after another long, emotional, grueling week, we would like to say a special thank you from the emergency rooms to the checkout lines to all our CNN heroes on the front lines in the war against this pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a New Yorker. It's essential that I'm out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a little risk coming outside but I kind of feel like a superhero, saving the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a war zone. It's a medical war zone.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): This is an extraordinary time where you need to see people at their best.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is in our heart and it is in our soul to sacrifice, to serve, to fight for you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I travel coast-to-coast, as long as we can haul food for the American people, we will have plenty of food on those shelves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heroes are all of the people that I work with who are showing up and helping us fight this pandemic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[15:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Right now, there are more than a quarter of a million confirmed coronavirus cases in just the United States, with 6,921 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Approaching 7,000 deaths. This time last week there were 1,495 deaths. A stunning increase as deaths continue to double about every three days. Globally, more than 58,000 individuals have died from coronavirus. And the number of confirmed cases tops a million.

Though many experts believe that the true number is exponentially higher. Australia's chief medical officer says that there may actually be 5 to 10 million infected worldwide. Here in the United States, the nation's most populated cities, New

York and Los Angeles, have already had their mayors ask residents to start wearing nonmedical masks or face coverings to curb the spread of the disease.