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Johns Hopkins: U.S. Has 245,000+ Cases, 6,000+ Deaths; On the Frontlines Battling the Coronavirus; Questioning China's Transparency; Record U.S. Jobless Claims Far Worse than Expected. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 3, 2020 - 05:00   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. Welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So, just ahead on the show --


LAURA UCIK, REGISTERED NURSE: Every day when I go to work, I feel like a sheep going to slaughter.


CURNOW: U.S. medical workers on the front lines are fearful, worried they may die simply because they are doing their jobs.

And mistrust and new concerns about China as the original epicenter of the coronavirus now opens up.

And then later on, a welcome respite and escape. How some are turning to virtual safaris live in their living room to pass the time in isolation.


CURNOW: One million people and counting. That is the number of people with coronavirus around the world, and that's according to Johns Hopkins University.

And while that's easy to measure, the human toll is not, is it? The stunning loss of life and livelihoods is too enormous to fully comprehend. In the U.S., infections have soared to nearly a quarter of a million people in less than a month. Yet, the governors of 10 U.S. states still don't think it's serious enough to order residents to stay home.

And adding urgency to the face masks debate, there's new evidence the virus can spread through casual conversation and breathing.

Here's Dr. Anthony Fauci at the White House corona task force speaking on CNN's town hall. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: Given the fact that we know that asymptomatic people are clearly transmitting infection, it just makes common sense that it's in a bad idea to do that. It's not going to be 100 percent and it's more not to protect you from getting infected.


FAUCI: But to protect a person from getting infected from you.


CURNOW: So, we, of course, have this story covered from Beijing to London and many cities in between, including a look at how the coronavirus is impacting many people struggling to feed their families.

So, Johns Hopkins reports more than 6,000 deaths so far in the U.S. alone. Now, the surge in patients and the lack of protective equipment has medical workers in fear for their lives, as Nick Watt now reports.


JUDY SHERIDAN-GONZALEZ, PRESIDENT, NEW YORK STATE NURSES ASSOCIATION: We are dying. We are getting sick. It doesn't matter how many ventilators get if we are dead and cannot run the ventilators.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Twenty-one thousand health care workers are now flocking to New York to help in their hour of need.

BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Lives are going to be saved because these reinforcements came.

WATT: Still, latest projection, 16,000 people could die across this state and --

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: At the current burn rate, we have about six days of ventilators in our stockpile.

WATT: Sunday, officials say, is New York City's crunch day for masks, gloves, and gowns.

LAURA UCIK, REGISTERED NURSE: I was given one disposable yellow gown to reuse all day taking care of COVID patient, that I would hang it up on an IV pool in between patients and put my single N95 mask into a brown paper bag. Every day when I go to work, I feel like a sheep going to slaughter.

WATT: A spike now in Louisiana, cases up nearly 4,000 in two days according to Johns Hopkins University.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA: The current increase in cases appears to be less a sign of exponential growth over the last couple of days and more a sign of a log jam.

WATT: A testing log jam now clearing. Supplies from the national strategic supply shipped out to hospitals by the National Guard. But that federal store is now nearly dry. And 2,000 ventilators in the stockpile are unavailable because they weren't maintained properly while in storage by the Trump administration and now --

GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D), MONTANA: They're bringing these big planes from supplies overseas. Immediately everything that's brought, 80 percent of it is just dumped into the private market, so then governors are competing against one other, at times the federal government, to try to get these supplies.

WATT: The Defense Department is now looking to procure next 100,000 body bags.

Last week, alone 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment and more than 90 percent of Americans under stay at home orders.


WATT: Nicole Buchanan's 39-year-old husband Conrad just died.

BUCHANAN: Our life has turned into this horrible nightmare.


You guys have to take this seriously.

WATT (on camera): With some experts now saying that this virus can be transmitted not just by coughing or sneezing but by talking or perhaps even breathing, the mayors of Los Angeles and New York are now telling us if we go outside, we should wear some sort of covering on our face.

And also here in Los Angeles, the mayor has told the utility companies that they can cut the water and power to any non-essential businesses that are still refusing to shut down.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


CURNOW: Thanks to Nick for that report.

So, so far, U.S. authorities have not recommended the use of facemasks in public. Now, as Nick was saying that could be coming. On Thursday, the U.S. President Donald Trump said new guidance is coming.

Here's Jim Acosta with that -- Jim.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump told reporters at the coronavirus task force briefing that his administration is preparing new guidelines for Americans to wear masks when they go outside to protect themselves from the coronavirus. The president said if Americans don't have access to those masks, they should wear scarves instead.

But a top doctor on the coronavirus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, said Americans should not lull themselves into a false sense of security with these masks and they should continue to practice social distancing.

In addition to that, Dr. Birx says she does not believe Americans are doing enough to protect themselves from the virus.

Here's more of what she says.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: I can tell by the curve and as it is today that not every American is following it. And so, this is really a call to action. We see Spain, we see Italy, we see France, we see Germany and we see others beginning to bend their curves.

We can bend ours, but it means everybody has to take that same responsibility as Americans.

ACOSTA: The president was also asked about shortages of critically needed medical supplies in states across the country, but the president tried to shift the blame to the states saying it's up to the states to stock up on the supplies.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


CURNOW: So Mr. Trump has taken a second coronavirus test. Once again the result was negative. His test on Thursday was a new point of care procedure delivering results in about 15 minutes or so.

The president talked about it at the briefing by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They said the president tested negative for COVID-19, so that's the second one. I think I took it really out of curiosity to see how quickly it worked, how fast it worked and it's a lot easier. I've done them both.


CURNOW: Authorities in Wuhan, China, the origin of the pandemic, are warning residents not to go out unless it's necessary. Wuhan's communist party chief says residents should keep on practicing social distancing measures even be as the city begins to open up. Now the city was on strict lockdown for two months during its peak of the epidemic.

And, China, of course, was the hardest hit until the virus spread to Europe and the U.S., but as David Culver now reports, we may not be hearing the whole story -- David.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the United States and the rest of the world locks down, China cautiously opening back up, easing travel restrictions, and next week, it will allow people to freely leave Wuhan, the birth place of the epidemic, for the first time in more than two months.

The World Health Organization has consistently praised China's handling.

DR. BRUCE AYLWARD, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: They're rapidly finding these cases, rapidly containing them and using the principles that China employed.

CULVER: President Donald Trump also applauding the Chinese efforts just a few weeks ago.

TRUMP: I know President Xi loves the people of China, he loves his country and he's doing a very good job with a very, very tough situation.

CULVER: But as numbers in the U.S. continue to rise, so does the skepticism over just how reliable China's numbers are and how transparent it's been with its data.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Reality is that we could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming.

CULVER: Video shows Wuhan is greeting residents collecting the remains of their loved ones.

Caixin, a leading Chinese business publication, claimed there were thousands more urns delivered than the official coronavirus death toll. But it's worth pointing out, two days after the lockdown, Wuhan officials halted all funeral services in the city of 11 plus million. So, it is plausible the urns are used for something other than dying from coronavirus.

But CNN's early reporting inside Wuhan back in January suggested the numbers were not adding up when compared with the stories from the front lines in part because of something that now many countries are challenged with, a shortage of tests.

DORA JIANG, NIECE OF CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: It's really difficult. And it's really emotional.

CULVER: Dora Jiang told us it took four days for her uncle to get tested, the test results delayed.

JIAN: I don't think it's because they really want to control the numbers, but I think it's more about the capacity.


CULVER: Kyle Hui told us by film his mother died in mid-January in Wuhan. She never had a nucleic acid test he told us. Her cause of death was officially listed as severe pneumonia. But during her treatment, the doctor said it was very likely that she had coronavirus and yet she was not a confirmed case and, hence, could not be counted.

China said they first detected the virus on December 12th at this Wuhan seafood market but they did not should it down until January 1st. And during that three-week period, the people of Wuhan continued on with their normal lives, as local government officials censored so- called rumors about the then mysterious illness, and silenced whistle blowers like Dr. Li Wenliang, who tried to sound the alarm. He was reprimanded by police, later died from the virus and now the Chinese government is hailing him a hero.

The country's national health commission officially began releasing daily figures on January 21st, almost six weeks after the first detection. Within days, they had reported a total of 1,052 confirmed cases in Hubei province alone, but almost immediately, health experts at the University of Hong Kong challenged those figures believing the real number to be 40 times that in the city of Wuhan.

One possible reason, China in the early days, not allowing international experts in the country. For weeks, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the CDC was ready to deploy, hoping to get a handle on the problem before it got out of control.

ALEX AZAR, HHS SECRETARY: We are ready to go.

CULVER: But a World Health Organization team did not land in China until February 10th. Again, almost two months after the first detection, and now, two months after that, experts still doubt China's official count.

HO-FUNG HUNG, POLITICAL ECONOMY PROFESSOR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: The China's government, they're definitely not transparent. Their local government has incentive to under report the cases, to boost appearance of the good performance. We don't have the information and evidence needed to be more confident about the Chinese government's number.

CULVER: It's a claim that Chinese government has repeatedly shut down.

HUA CHUNYING, SPOKESWOMAN, CHINESE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (through translator): The fact is that China has always been open, transparent and responsible on informing the World Health Organization and international community.

CULVER (on camera): China's health officials also heavily stress their recovery rate, pointing out that of the about 82,000 reportedly infected here in China, more than 76,000 have survived this illness. And just this week, after some pressure, health officials began releasing data on asymptomatic cases. The new concern here, as lockdown restrictions ease, both people without symptoms and those infected coming in from other countries may expose others to the virus and lead to a second wave of infections here, the place where it all begun.

David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.


CURNOW: Thanks, David.

So, you're watching CNN. Still to come, new jobless claims show just how hard the pandemic is hitting everyday Americans. What the government is doing to help. That's next.



CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks for joining us.

So, a rural county in southwestern Georgia is emerging as a coronavirus hot spot. State health officials said it likely started to two funerals in the city of Albany. So far, more than 5,000 people have been infected with the virus here in Georgia where CNN is based, where almost one in four in the Albany area.

Well, Dianne Gallagher now reports.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mel Murray (ph) has endured a lot of pain over the last 30 days. Back on February 29th, hundreds of family and friends came to the small Georgia city of Albany to say good-bye to Andrew Mitchell, the man she loved for several years.

After several hours of hugging each other, Murray started feeling sick.

ALICE WISE BELL, DAUGHTER OF CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: That night, my mother went to bed. She had a fever. We didn't even know it at the time.

GALLAGHER: The 75-year-old was presumably one of the first in Albany to be exposed to the coronavirus. She was hospitalized, but not immediately tested. Other members of their family, their friends who attended the funeral began to get sick, too. And since then, several have died.

BELL: I knew things that we're living in the days, I knew things were going to be bad, but until it hits you, you know, that's when you're really just like, wow, it's here, and it's now.

GALLAGHER: A positive test on March 10th from a visitor who attended the funeral tipped the Phoebe Putney Health System off. At least 20 of the first patients to be diagnosed with coronavirus in Albany had attended one of two funerals in town. A second trip to the hospital confirmed Murray was one of them.


first day, it was six the next day, it was eight the next day. And it just began to cascade from that point.

GALLAGHER: So far, more than 5,400 people have been infected with the virus in Georgia, more than 175 have died. Nearly a quarter of those are from the Albany area. As the virus rips through their rural community, for so many here, it's overwhelming.

CAMIA HOPSON (D), GEORGIA STATE HOUSE: With us being a small city, we're not -- we're not in New York. But we are still impacted and when you look at the percentages of our population that's impacted, I mean, that still is a significant number.

GALLAGHER: Scott Steiner, the CEO of Phoebe Putney Health Systems which serves southwest Georgia, says they blew through six months worth of personal protective equipment in one week.

STEINER: We got 4,500 warriors. That's what these people, they're flat out warriors that do this day in and day out. They put themselves at risk. They run into the fire when other people might run away from it.

GALLAGHER: Some of the hospitals office workers have now traded their computers for sewing machines, making mask covers, an attempt to extend the use of PPEs. But even still, Steiner says they only have enough right now for less than two weeks.

STEINER: We have seen that curve go up. We have not seen it bend over yet.

GALLAGHER: The governor deployed the National Guard to set up additional intensive care units.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA: We have shipped necessary supplies and plan more shipments based on the needs of the Phoebe Putney System in the future.

GALLAGHER: As for Murray, she's back home now. But her daughter says like many in this family and small community, the road to recovery will be long.


BELL: It's hard watching her suffer.

GALLAGHER (on camera): The statewide stay-at-home order in Georgia goes into effect on Friday. But they have been dealing with the effects of this virus for weeks now here in Albany. I asked the hospital CEO if they thought they turned the corner, if things were going to get better. He simply took a deep breath, looked down and told me, no, they have likely not seen the worst of it just yet.

Dianne Gallagher, CNN, Albany, Georgia.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CURNOW: So, from small counties like that to big cities around the world, this pandemic is hitting economies around the globe. And for many people, the dignity of a job has vanished.

In the U.S., a record 6.6 million Americans filed unemployment claims last week. Now, that is equivalent to population of Los Angeles and Chicago combined. And if you add it to the 3.3 million claims from a week before, it amounts to an enormous 10 million job losses so far in this pandemic.

Well, Christine Romans joins me now from New York.

I mean, it's still staggering to get your head around the number of people who now suddenly don't have a job but have families to feed. We are going to be getting a jobs report number.

What do you -- what do you expect from that?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: So that number is going to be a rear-view mirror kind of picture. You know, the devastating descent of the American jobs market in the last two and a half weeks likely won't be fully reflected in there. It will show job loss likely. The first job loss really in a decade kind of officially marking the end of this 10-year expansion of the economy. But it won't reflect the pain that we have seen the last couple of weeks and it won't reflect the pain ahead.

You know, Robyn, I have economists estimating up to 20 million jobs loss by the end of April, an unemployment rate that right now could be 10 percent, at the beginning of April, it could be 10 percent already. That would match the worst of the financial crisis, and you're talking about the worst kind of unemployment situation we have seen really in decades.

CURNOW: That's for sure. And it's quite unclear when all of this is going to end. And I think that's also part of the problem. And let's talk about all of these small businesses. I know we have been chatting about the loans, the government trying to give folks a boost.

But is it coming?

ROMANS: You know, look, we have been saying for two weeks now the promise is there. The government -- the Congress and the president promised this relief for small businesses. The White House has said today is the day you can go to website and start applying for these SBA loans. But the banks are telling us they need more details from Treasury. They feel like they have been sort of boxed in to a very quick timeline.

They have questions about how to carry the loans. They asked for higher interest rates, the White House said they can have up to 1 percent, you know, the interest rate can be higher. You are hearing from the banks they are not quite ready to deploy just yet, even as businesses are desperate for this money. And the money, you know, many say is generous, $350 billion in loans

for small business that will be for given if they keep -- they keep their workers on. We haven't got the money in their hands yet. And that's the big concern.

CURNOW: Yes. I mean, it's just a sort of a tangled web of bureaucracy.


CURNOW: But also, it seems like this is not what people need right now.

Thanks a lot. Appreciate it, Christine Romans.

Hopefully, they can get on those websites and sort things out with the banks as well. Appreciate it.

So, in the midst of the crisis, this piece of good news from the state of Maine. A dogsled team delivering groceries and medical supplies to the elderly and others, most at risk for coronavirus.

Hannah Lucas and her 12 dogs travelled 75 miles a day, that's about 120 kilometers, as long as there's snow on the ground, she says, she will keep doing it. Fabulous.

So you're watching CNN. Still to come, the U.K. has been promising more coronavirus testing. But to no avail. I know that sounds familiar. Now, the government is pledging an even higher target. But is it even possible? Details on that, next.



CURNOW: World health experts now report more than a million cases of coronavirus across the globe. That's about eight times what it was just three weeks ago when the WHO declared a pandemic. Extraordinary numbers, extraordinary growth as these cases soar across the United States to nearly of a quarter of a million people.

One woman whose husband died of the virus is pleading with everyone to simply stay at home. She spoke with John Berman. Take a listen.


NICOLE BUCHANAN, HUSBAND DIED OF COVID-19: People think it's going to affect people with underlying health issues, old people, but it doesn't. It affects normal, regular, young. There's no discrimination when it comes to this virus, and seeing what my husband had to go through was horrible. And now our life has turned into this horrible nightmare. You guys have to take this seriously.


CURNOW: So, the U.K. is vowing to test 100,000 people per day by the end of April despite being unable to meet its current target of 25,000 a day. This comes as criticism mounts over the government's handling of the crisis.

Preparations underway to turn this ice rink in the town of Milton Keynes in England into a mortuary should the death toll continue to rise.

Well, Nick Paton Walsh is live from another makeshift morgue in London.

Hi, Nick.

This virus, as we heard from the grieving woman, is touching everybody around the world, but the thought of ice rinks in Milton Keynes becoming morgues is just in many ways unthinkable for many people. How did we get here?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: It's hard to imagine any point in my life where I thought I would be standing on some outskirts of London looking behind me on a swiftly erected -- it's behind the fence here, we got some pictures of what's inside, a swiftly erected makeshift morgue.

Now, this is part of the Britain government's message to show they are ready for the worst eventuality. And they always caveat that that they hope it won't get to that point, the same thing today when Prince Charles who's recovered it seems enough from his COVID-19 positive test to open the ExCel Center, now turned into an HHS Nightingale town, on the banks of the Thames. That's supposed to have eventually a capacity of 4,000 ICU beds for the overflow of patients around London and elsewhere in the U.K., but it will initially open with 500 capacity.

This is a race against time for a government, frankly, that provide health care free at the point of access, a big distinction.