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WH Reverses Course, Recommends Wearing Face Masks Amid Outbreak; U.S. Cases Surge To 278,000-Plus, More Than 7,100 Deaths; Nearly 96 Of People In The U.S. Told To Stay At Home; Gov. Cuomo: NY Somewhere In The Seven-Day Range Of Reaching Apex; Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Is Interviewed About Military Czar For Medical Supplies; Coronavirus Upends Law Enforcement Norms; Thousands Of Doctors Respond To Italy's Call For Help. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired April 4, 2020 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

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FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin with a shifting strategy in the White House's coronavirus response after weeks of saying Americans should not wear medical masks in public, the administration is now recommending Americans do just that.

Meantime, President Trump is not ready to follow the same guidelines himself despite the CDC recommendations. The shift comes as more people become infected by the coronavirus. Johns Hopkins University now has the total number of U.S. cases at over 278,000 and more than 7,100 deaths.

Stay-at-home orders are now in place in 42 states. That's nearly 96 percent of the people in this country but despite the high numbers, a new sign of hope. Just last hour New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said two-thirds of the people hospitalized in his state had been discharged by doctors and they may be near within 7 days of reaching the apex that the governor has been talking about.

We have a team of correspondents standing by to bring you what's happening right now with the nation's response to the coronavirus pandemic. Let's start with these new guidelines coming from the CDC.

CNN's Kristen Holmes is there so Kristin, while the White House, the task force is encouraging these CDC guidelines, the President himself as saying you know what you could do it or maybe not but I'm certainly not. It's up to you.

KRISTEN HOMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's absolutely right. So I'm going to start with why we ended up here because we've been talking about this obviously for weeks as the coronavirus has spread here in the U.S. and we had heard from health officials originally that masks were necessary, particularly if you are healthy and if you're healthy, you actually shouldn't be wearing a mask.

But we are getting more information, more evolution in what we know about coronavirus and its spread and this is coming at a time where health officials are working overtime, trying to stop that spread. So essentially two new pieces of information. One being about those patients who might have coronavirus and not be symptomatic.

They could still spread the disease. That is more evident that we're seeing of that. On the other side we know that a letter was written up by a scientific panel that said that coronavirus could be spread not just by coughing or sneezing but also by breathing and talking.

So they're encouraging people to wear cloth or fabric over their mouths when they are in public, particularly if they are in those hot spots. Now as you mentioned, President Trump said that he wouldn't be, that this was just a recommendation, which does raise the question of these conflicting narratives again.

You have the health professionals on one side saying something should be done, you have President Trump saying, it's not that importing, it might work, it'll probably work but I'm not going to do it but I will note that even though President Trump might himself not be taking that precaution, we did learn from the White House that there are being precautions taken for him.

From now on anyone who's going to come into contact with the President or Vice President or even into close proximity is going to be tested by one of these quick coronavirus test first so they'll have to wait, get that 15 minutes, that result there and then they can be near the President or Vice President.

WHITFIELD: Also will be interesting to see whether people who come and go at the White House will themselves be wearing masks.

HOLMES: Yes, absolutely and we have not seen that yet but we do know one of the precautions that they're taking here at the White House is taking the temperature. Every morning when we come in here even if it's 5 in the morning as it was today, there are people outside standing by to take our temperature, to take the staff's temperature, even if it was secret service agents which I saw this morning, they usually go in a different entrance than we do.

And I saw they were getting their temperature taken as well so there are a lot of new safeguards that have been put in place but now of course, this is really ramping it up a level, particularly because of the fact that we've learned that people who are asymptomatic can still transmit this virus.

WHITFIELD: All right if anything else so exhibits the belief of this real threat. Kristen Holmes at the White House, thank you so much. The need for medical supplies in New York remains dire. However today Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his state is set to receive 140 ventilators from Oregon and 1000 from China.

This as New York reports more than 113,000 cases statewide and more than 3,500 deaths.

CNN's Athena Jones joining us now so Athena, the governor also spoke about New York's Javits center and the conversion that it's about to undergo.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi Fred. That's right. Well, you know they've been working on bringing this center online. It's already been accepting patients. Starting Monday, this convention hall behind me the Javits center is going to be accepting of patients who have been diagnosed with Covid-19.

[12:05:00]

There was some discussion early on about how this center would not take those patients, who are the only non-Covid patients to help relieve the strain on hospitals but one hospital administrator said look, he was relieved that this - this convention hall with 2,500 beds is now going to be accepting Covid patients because that's what most New York hospitals are seeing. Almost everyone who comes in is a Covid patient.

Even people coming in for things like appendicitis and stroke when they do a chest X-ray, they see lungs that look very much like the typical tell-tale signs of a coronavirus infection. Now what we've heard the governor say about the Javits center shows what a big deal it is. He said this is going to make a big difference.

It has to work and if it works well, it will change the numbers dramatically so they're really hoping that this is going to relieve pressure on the system, the hospital system, in this area. Now this - this center is going to be staffed by federal, medical professionals and so Cuomo putting a lot of faith in this and this is just one of the extraordinary steps that have been taken to try to meet the needs of the New York's hospitals.

Both in the city of New York which are really under stress and also the state of New York. One thing that I thought was very interesting coming out of that press conference was to hear Governor Cuomo say you know, the numbers are shifting. You said that we were several days away from the apex but he acknowledged that that date of reaching the apex may shift depending on the model.

It's also important to note the apex is not the end of all this. It just means that perhaps we'll see fewer new cases per day after that and I should mention that just between today and yesterday, there were almost 11,000 new confirmed cases of coronavirus. That is the biggest one day jump and so a real sign that things at least right now are still headed in the wrong direction.

But one point we should make that - that we should share that the Governor Cuomo made is that watch Long Island. So much focus on New York City. Now you got to watch Long Island. The cases have been growing there for the last ten days or so. They now represent more than a fifth of the cases in New York State.

New York City before represented three-quarters of the cases. Now that's down to 65 percent because cases are rising in Long Island which also has overwhelmed hospitals and fewer resources. Cuomo's saying, look, this is like a fire that is spreading. Fred. WHITFIELD: Yes, it's very interesting for him to say New York City actually dropping. Long Island is the one that's growing like you said. The one to watch. Athena Jones, thank you so much. All right, later in the hour, Senate minority leader and New York senator Chuck Schumer will join me with his thoughts on the response efforts both in New York and federally.

You don't want to miss that. And with over a quarter million Americans infected with coronavirus, Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana is now calling for a national registry to track the number of people who have recovered from the virus.

CNN's Paul Vercammen joining me now from California where a recovered patient is doing his part to help those still in the fight. Paul, explain.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Fred. Yes, those recovered patients are critical because they have these antibodies in their plasma that are rich and they can help patients right now fight the coronavirus.

We will tell you the story of Jason Garcia. He's 36 years old. He's an aerospace engineer, he had been traveling a bit and at the end of his trip, he starts to feel like he has a shortness of breath. Well, it turns out, Jason has the coronavirus.

Well, he recovers early on and they understand that Jason is ready, healthy and willing to donate his plasma. So he comes here to Saint Joseph's hospital and what he does is he spends about 15 minutes and he gives that anti body rich plasma over to the hospital.

And now he's helping a patient who's currently in ICU. Let's listen to what Jason has to say about how it felt to make that donation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON GARCIA, RECOVERED CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: It felt amazing. It felt good and I'm glad that you know, the nightmare of testing positive and the fear, the dread to you know, know that I recovered and now that this bad thing can now potentially you know, my antibodies are there to get to other people and potentially you know help them fight a fight that they are having problems with.

You know and pretty much helping fight the fight of their lives and survive. So I'm glad that this turned out to be a positive thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: And we understand now that the patient who received Jason's plasma is now doing a lot better. He's requiring less oxygen and also that two more patients here will receive Jason's plasma in their fight.

We should note here in Orange County so far, 711 cases of coronavirus and we also understand there's been 13 deaths so California has been praised for taking those extreme social distancing measures that are at the DC yesterday and right now they feel like it's the calm before the storm or the calm before the apex. Fred.

[12:10:00]

WHITFIELD: Wow. And Paul, that's remarkable that one person after his recovery might be able to help at least three people by way of his plasma. That's pretty extraordinary.

VERCAMMEN: That -- that's exactly right Fred and that's why they want to get the word out across the country that healthy recovered patients can really help others in this fight. You can do the math. If everybody can help three, then those three help others, that's nine. It'll add up quickly and you can also go to a Red Cross website if you're interested in finding out where you can donate in your hometown.

WHITFIELD: All right Paul Vercammen, thank you so much. We'll check back with you throughout the day. Appreciate it. All right, the Centers for Disease Control is now recommending Americans use cloth face coverings when they leave their homes to help, slow the spread of the coronavirus.

CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more on what you need to know.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: If you've been a little confused about the whole mask thing, you're not alone here because the recommendations have been changing and I got to say you know, this whole situation is obviously evolving.

So let me tell you what the current guidelines are and give you a little bit of an explanation as to why. First of all, now the CDC is saying, if you go out in public, if you have to go out in public for some essential reason, then you should wear a cloth mask of some sort. Something that looks something like this.

This is something that my daughter actually made for me but point is you should not wear a medical mask. You need to save those obviously for health care workers. Now you may be asking why do I have to wear a mask. Here's the thinking.

It's the sort of idea that even if you don't have any symptoms, if you're asymptomatic as you have heard this term now, you're not coughing, you're not sneezing, you could still harbor the virus in your nose, in your mouth and you could still spread the virus that way.

That is what asymptomatic spread is so by wearing a mask like this, even a cloth mask like this, you're actually decreasing the amount of virus you're putting out into the environment so when you wear a mask in public. That is to protect other people, not to protect yourself necessarily.

So that's an important point that I want to make sure people understand. The other thing again, it goes without saying that the first recommendation is that you stay home. I mean this is still about social distancing and a mask should not give you some sort of - make you feel like you have a sense of comfort about going out.

You don't have that false sense of security from the mask, nor do you want to lose your discipline about staying home as much as possible. I will say, look, it's still a controversial recommendation. The World Health Organization doesn't necessarily recommend this. This is unusual in the United States.

I mean obviously culturally around the world, there are countries where people are more likely to wear masks and I'm sure that was a big part of the debate as to whether or not to recommend it voluntarily in this country but here we are. This is a changing time for everybody everywhere in the world.

So the current recommendations, again recommendations if you have to go out for some essential reason to wear a cloth mask, not a medical mask. The reason being to protect others from you possibly spreading the virus to them. Hope that helps.

WHITFIELD: Very helpful. Thanks so much Dr. Sanjay Gupta. All right, poor judgment, those words from the Acting Navy Secretary on the actions of a now former aircraft carrier Commander who was relieved of duty after he sounded the alarm about a coronavirus outbreak on board. More on the controversial decision, next.

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WHITFIELD: All right, the U.S. sailors aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt had a lot to say as their captain left the ship for the last time.

They were cheering him. The navy actually relieved Captain Brett Crozier of his command, Thursday after he wrote a letter warning about a coronavirus outbreak on the ship. At least 137 sailors on board are confirmed to have the virus and now the navy has launched an investigation into Crozier's actions.

And the results of that initial inquiry are expected Monday. CNN's Military and Diplomatic Editor, a retired rear admiral John Kirby joining me now.

Good to see you, John. So -

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RETD), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You too, Fred.

WHITFIELD: That this inquiry is taking place now. Why wouldn't we happen first and then see whether it merits removal?

KIRBY: Yes, that's actually a great question, Fred and a terrific point and it was one that I made in a piece that I published last night on our website too. I think it would have been better for the navy to have let this inquiry go forward, get a sense of the circumstances surrounding the miscommunications in the communications process in general on the Roosevelt and then make determinations about personal actions.

Unfortunately, Acting Secretary Modly decided to go another way and did the removal first. I don't think that as a result of this investigation, we're going to find them doving into the removal decision itself. It'll really be more about the command climate issues there on the Roosevelt.

WHITFIELD: But now that you've got this videotape circulating of people who are cheering for him, you know really advocating for Crozier. It seems like that might be a bit of a challenge and I know as you mentioned, you know, you wrote in an Op-Ed on Friday. You said the navy's decision really was reckless and petty and does this kind of video now underscore that?

KIRBY: Well, I think it's certainly underscores the degree to which the crew embraced their captain and the degree to which they feel that this was an unwarranted action as well. I mean look, you - I've been around sailors my whole life. You can't be as a sailor, they don't - they don't just know good leadership when they see it, they feel it and you can certainly feel it when you watch that video how much they appreciated his efforts and his leadership.

[12:20:00]

I think it was a particularly reckless decision at this time on the ship when you're trying to move hundreds if not thousands of sailors off the ship into safe quarters, assure all that turmoil and the uncertainly - uncertainty and the fear playing on them and their - and their families and I just think this was a bad time to do this.

Not - not to mention, I've seen no evidence that it was necessarily warranted either.

WHITFIELD: You mean the removal?

KIRBY: The removal, yes.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So the handling of this certainly is going to send a message to other you know, aircraft carriers, other - other vessels where it is close quarters on you know whether it's a frigate or whether it's you know an aircraft carrier so what message is this sending?

KIRBY: I'm very worried about the chilling effect that this is going to have Fred on other commanding officers of other ships and other units throughout the navy, in fact throughout perhaps the military. Just the day before Captain Crozier was fired, the head top officer in the navy and Acting Secretary Modly stood up at the Pentagon podium and said we're not going to shoot the messenger.

We want our commanding officers to speak truth to power. We want to get this right and yet the very next day he was fired for it. In essence, the communications process. The speaking truth to power and how he did it.

WHITFIELD: And he - and just so people know, he - so he sent an email and it was sent to somewhere between 20 and 30 people and so the criticism at least within, I guess navy or maybe DOD as a whole is that he should have sent that to perhaps just one person? Maybe the Secretary of Navy only?

KIRBY: I think, well, no, I don't think he - they - they expected that he would send it directly up to the Secretary of the Navy. I think - I think there are probably legitimate questions to be asked and I think that's what the navy is trying to get at here is that how the communication process unfolded and the degree to which he actually did respect the full chain of command.

But I don't think it's fair to say that nobody in the chain of command were aware of his concerns or even aware of that memo you know, before - before it leaked in the San Francisco Chronicle.

So there may be a legitimate questions about how he communicated this and that's fair. I think they should get at the root of that but I don't think that it rises - what he did and how he did it rises to the level of him being removed, particularly at this very sensitive time aboard the ship.

WHITFIELD: Rear admiral John Kirby, good to see you. Thank you so much. Be well.

KIRBY: Thank you. You bet.

WHITFIELD: All right, coming up, a conversation with Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. We'll get his thoughts on the federal response to the coronavirus crisis and his concerns about the situation in his home state of New York.

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[12:25:00]

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WHITFIELD: Today New York governor Andrew Cuomo said his state is still about a week from reaching the apex of the coronavirus crisis. New York remains the epicenter of the outbreak with more than 100,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths and it has been dealing with a major shortage of medical supplies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): By the numbers, we're not yet at the apex. We're getting closer depending on whose model you look at, I'll say 4- 5-6-7 days. Some people go out 14 days. But our reading of the projections is we're somewhere in the 7-day range.

So we're not yet at the apex. Part of me would like to be at the apex and just let's do it but there's part of me that says, it's good that we're not at the apex because we're not yet ready for the apex either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, with me now Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Senator, good to see you.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Good morning, Fredericka. Hope you and your family and loved ones are safe.

WHITFIELD: We're doing well. I hope you are as well. So you know the governor tried to be very optimistic there. You know saying that while some of the numbers are going down in New York City, you know some of the numbers are going up in Long Island.

He's getting some assistance from the state of Oregon and even a shipment from China. Are you optimistic even though this apex of the government is talking - the Governor's talking about is still a week possibly away? How optimistic are you about New York, your home state being prepared?

SCHUMER: Well, look, we New Yorkers are a tough breed and will overcome it no matter what happens and I can't predict how long it will be. I leave that to the medical experts but I can tell you one thing Fredricka, and this is what I'm focused on.

We do not have the supplies we need. The Governor, the Mayor, they're reaching out all over the place, all over the country and all over the world to get what they need but just during the last day, I heard from hospitals who didn't have ventilators.

Police officers who don't have masks. Nurses, medical technicians on the front lines risking their lives who don't have PPE. So the system that the federal government has put in place is not working, plain and simple.

It's not adequate. Our mayors, our governors, I spoke to our hospital heads, they have to run big hospitals. At this point, they're spending hours each day reaching out to private contractors or other countries even, to get supplies.

So here's what we need. We need the President to invoke the Defense Production Act.

[12:30:00]

It dates from this Korean War, President Truman and the DPA allows a military leader, the military to take over the factories and supply chains and then the same person can distribute the materials, the PPEs, the ventilators, the masks.

I heard in Michigan, they're short of swabs to all over to where exactly it is needed.

This is what the President should do. I talked to him last few days ago. Well, we all know what happened there. But yesterday, I talked to Vice President Pence yesterday afternoon. I talked to Chief of Staff, Acting Chief of Staff Mark Meadows yesterday evening, and they seem very seriously to consider this. We are not going to overcome this supply problem unless we have

someone, a military person, in charge. Someone who knows command and control, someone who knows logistics, and someone who knows quartermastering.

And then the President has to backup this military person with all the authority of his office. So when the military person says, factory A, you make a million swabs this week, you can do it. And then I'm going to take those swabs and send them to Michigan and New York say, where there were short of them. That is what's going to solve this.

And we're at the epicenter, as the governor said in New York. But it's going to spread to other places, and they're going to have the same supply shortages that we have. And those supply shortages, make people less healthy, less likely to overcome it and extend the timeline that you're talking about.

So I hope that the President could re-upping my call. I've been doing this for two weeks. I spoke to the President about this two weeks ago to invoke the DPA because right now, the supply system is scattershot, catches catch can, it's a spectacle that hospital chiefs, mayors, and governors have to be calling private companies in countries across the world to get the supplies that we should have ready and available to them.

WHITFIELD: So what is your assessment as to why the President has exercised portions of the Defense Production Act, but has not utilized appointment of a military czar, as you put it, you know, military leadership. If you're saying, you know, in your conversation, the Vice President is receptive to it, what is it going to take, who is going to be able to get at the President to make that selling point?

SCHUMER: You know, I called the president two weeks ago, and we suggested this and he said, we should do it. And he said to someone he must have been there in the Oval Office. Let's get it done. But then a few hours later, he said he wasn't going to do it. I don't know why --

WHITFIELD: What's behind reluctance, you think?

SCHUMER: Well, maybe, you know, there's a view let the private sector do what it wants. But you know, we're in wartime. In wartime, the private sector didn't have freedom. Ford couldn't say, I don't want to make tanks. And it's -- we're in a wartime here, and we need this military leader command and control with the President's full backing and that will make this horrible, horrible scourge and more quickly with fewer illnesses and fewer deaths.

WHITFIELD: How much of a dent do you believe it might make that the CDC recommends now face masks, cloth masks, people should use them if they're out and about but then the President yesterday kind of undermined that recommendation by saying he wasn't going to wear a face mask and that you can do it if you want to. What does that message send? And then for you, will you be wearing a face mask?

SCHUMER: Yes. I walk -- I tried to take an hour walk every day. I stay six-feet away from people. Other than that, the only people I've seen since I got back from Washington 10 days ago in person are my wife, my daughter, my son-in-law, and my one-and-a-half-year-old grandson. When it's my hour and a half to watch him. That's the most I'm busy all the time, working all the time.

But that's the most exhausting hour and a half. You know, we're not baby proof if he pulls down the books, pulls the pot set of it across everything else.

WHITFIELD: Of course.

SCHUMER: But, but no, I am wearing it yesterday for the first time given the recommendations of the experts. I wore a mask. I didn't enjoy it. But you have to do it. One of the big problems here we've had from the beginning, we have to listen to the experts, the medical experts. And they've been too many times when others, I won't name who, you can guess, have just ignored the military experts thinking I mean, sorry, the medical experts, we have to listen to the medical experts.

They know best. If they say wear a mask. I'm wearing a mask, even though I don't particularly enjoy it.

WHITFIELD: Is there encouragement. However, when you see the President standing alongside the leading infectious, you know, disease Dr. Anthony Fauci. However, Dr. Fauci was not present yesterday still unclear why not. But, you know, does it lend any encouragement that the President has?

SCHUMER: Yes.

WHITFIELD: It appears to be more on board with the science community or the medical community?

SCHUMER: Well, the truth is in the pudding when Fauci recommends something, we as a nation, he and the medical experts, we ought to do it. They know best.

[12:35:06]

WHITFIELD: What's next? How might, you know the Senate or, you know, the House of Representatives be able to play a role here in offering some optimism on the horizon, whether it be to further nudge the President on getting a military czar, or whether it's in some way, getting this, you know, Defense Production Act to work more aggressively for the American public?

SCHUMER: Well, you know, one of our most important job as legislators is to legislate. And we passed a very strong bill. I'm proud of it. It had much of the footprint of our Senate Democratic Caucus. It called for a Marshall plan for our healthcare infrastructure, $100 billion -- $150 billion to go to hospitals, nursing homes, clinics used flexibly for what they need.

And I'm hopeful that money will go out soon. I've been urging the White House to do that. And it also called for workers first, helping unemployed workers, keep their full salaries, preventing foreclosures, and evictions. Making sure small business people need the help they need.

Now our job is now oversight. We don't implement that. By the Constitution, that's the Article two branch of government, the executive, but we can oversight. We can make suggestions. We can hear. I talked to hundreds of people in New York and what I hear on the ground here at the epicenter, I convey to the White House, to the President, to the Vice President, to the Chief of Staff, and to others about what needs to be done and what's not going right.

And sometimes they listen to us, sometimes they don't. But we're going to keep at it, because our constituencies depend on it.

WHITFIELD: And unrelated to coronavirus, what is your view on the President, you know, firing the intelligence community watchdog, you know, Inspector General Michael Atkinson, particularly, you know, he's the one who led the whistleblower complaint to Congress and now two months after, you know, an acquittal in the Senate, the President has removed him. What's your view on that?

SCHUMER: Let me say this, there's all too familiar a pattern in this administration. When you tell the President the truth, you get fired. This guy was a patriot. This guy stood for our intelligence agencies have done such a wonderful job. You know, they don't make movies about him, like about the military, because obviously most of its secret.

But they risked their lives like our soldiers do, like our men and women in uniform do. They do amazing things to protect this country. And by politicizing it, dismantling it, not wanting to hear the truth, that's since World War II, we've built up this fine, fine agency and the President is undermining it.

WHITFIELD: Is there any protection for retaliatory firing?

SCHUMER: -- in this Fredricka. When you when you speak truth to power, you should be a hero. But in this administration, when you speak truth to power, all too often you get fired, ask the captain of the aircraft carrier, Theodore Roosevelt, ask Colonel Vindman, ask other people.

WHITFIELD: Yes. So there is no protection against a retaliatory firing.

SCHUMER: No. It's the President's discretion. But it's going to -- I guarantee you, I've met thousands of men and women in the intelligence agencies are feeling awful today, that is fine man who protects them was fired.

WHITFIELD: Senator Chuck Schumer, thank you so much for being with us, continue to be safe, enjoy your grandchild as well and the rest of your family --

SCHUMER: You too Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: -- while there in New York.

SCHUMER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Take care.

SCHUMER: Thank you.

[12:38:36]

WHITFIELD: CNN viewers and readers from around the world have asked more than 90,000 questions about coronavirus on cnn.com at 2:30 Eastern right here on CNN, a panel of experts will join me to answer some of your questions. Go to cnn.com to submit your questions on health, family life, and your money. Again, that's 2:30 Eastern right here on CNN.

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WHITFIELD: The New York City Police Department has announced its ninth death related to coronavirus. In total, more than 1,600 uniformed members and 220 civilian members have tested positive. Many other members of the task, of the force rather, are out sick. The impact of the health crisis raises questions about how the NYPD is able to maintain order and safety without putting themselves in harm's way.

I want to bring in now CNN Law Enforcement Analyst, Jonathan Wackrow. He was a secret service agent for President Obama. Good to see Jonathan. I hope you're well.

JONATHAN WACKROW, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Nice to see you as well.

WHITFIELD: Thank you. So do we know what measures are being, you know, put into place to help keep law enforcement, you know, across the country as safe as possible while they continue to do their jobs as first responders?

WACKROW: Absolutely, Fred. You know, law enforcement entities across the United States, including the NYPD have had to adjust drastically to this this global health crisis. And what they're doing is they're focusing on officer exposure and trying to limit officer exposure because as we have seen from all the experts, the risk is predicated upon your exposure to this virus.

So how does a law enforcement entity do that? And the way that they're -- they approach is actually in two phases, one from administrative controls. And two, it's from the either environmental manipulation or engineering controls. So what I mean by that is from the administrative side, how do they go ahead and reduce that exposure, one, shut down training, training academies are shutdown, routine training is currently suspended.

They change their patrol shifts, again, maybe in some departments, they're changing to two patrol shifts per day, again, limiting the exposure of officers that are actually on the street. We're seeing in some instances, pre shift briefings or roll call is now being held outside. Again, creating distances between individual officers so they're not infecting each other.

[12:45:00] And in some places I have seen where the public is either limited or restricted from actually accessing police precincts or departments themselves in trying to keep that virus outside of those critical assets. From the environmental or engineering control side, it's ensuring that officers one, understand how the virus is transmitted and what type of PPE or protective equipment they need to actually do their job.

So making sure that they have the gloves, the masks, and not only just having it, making sure they understand how to utilize that equipment in the enforcement of the law. So can they utilize their standard equipment while utilizing this PPE. Also including is sanitizing their patrol cars, making sure that from an engineering standpoint that there are new barriers that are placed in between officers in those who may be symptomatic of the coronavirus.

So the key at the end of the day for law enforcement across the country is their agility in being able to shift quickly to the changing dynamics of this crisis.

WHITFIELD: Right. OK. So many shifting, you know, the -- everyone has to be very accepting of the idea that you've got to shift a lot. We've got to be really flexible.

WACKROW: Correct.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jonathan Wackrow, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

WACKROW: Thank you. I appreciate it.

WHITFIELD: All right, Italy, puts out a call for doctors to volunteer to help and the response is remarkable. We'll hear from those rushing to the frontlines of the pandemic, next.

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[12:50:58]

WHITFIELD: The Italian government recently appealed for 300 doctors to help out in regions most affected by coronavirus and nearly 7,000 responded. Since the crisis started, COVID-19 has killed dozens of doctors and more than 10,000 have tested positive.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Rome. Ben, you're out and about there. You have also spoken to a doctor and what did that person say?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Fredricka, actually, let me first bring you some good news. The Italian Civil Protection Agency is reporting that for the very first time since this crisis began, the total number of people in intensive care units being treated for coronavirus has actually gone down. That's good news for Italian doctors.

Also good news is that hundreds, indeed thousands are volunteering to come to the rescue of those in the north, in those most hard hit regions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN (voice-over): The hospitals of northern Italy are overwhelmed. Intensive care units overrun with coronavirus patients. Doctors and nurses pushed to the limits of endurance.

The Italian government recently called for 300 volunteer doctors to help their beleaguered colleagues, nearly 7,000 responded. Among them was Samin Sedghi Zadeh, a young doctor now working in a hospital in the badly hit northern town of Cremona.

SAMIN SEDGHI ZADEH, VOLUNTEER DOCTOR: There were several times in these weeks where I felt that I should cry or I should scream. The situation made us living in a sort of illusion, a bad dream, a nightmare actually.

(voice-over): And a nightmare for his parents knowing where he is at what he's doing.

ZADEH: I can see when I call my parents, for example, that they are scared, of course.

(voice-over): At a military airport outside Rome, a group of doctors prepares to fly north.

(on camera): More doctors and nurses are desperately needed in the effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. At this point, dozens of doctors have died from the disease. More than 10,000 medical personnel have tested positive.

(voice-over): The youngest doctor on the flight, 29-year-old Giulia d'Angelo, didn't hesitate to volunteer.

As a doctor, she says, I felt I had to help out and not think about me and my concerns, but rather to be useful to others. Thirty-one-year- old Dr. Giuliana Vetrangolo recalls that her parents were alarmed when she told them, she'd signed up.

They didn't react well, she says, they were worried, they tried to dissuade me. But they saw I was motivated and determined, so they accepted it and supported me.

Friends and family are worried yet cardiologist, Angelo Arestia, is stoic about the risks. It's our work, he says, if not now, when? And now is when the need is greatest.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN: And, of course, this is all good news. But if you look at the numbers, for instance, we've just heard from the Civil Protection Agency, that the daily death toll in the last 24 hours was 681. That's lower than the peak of 969 about nine days ago. But what is clear is that as things are improving an end to this crisis unfortunately, is far, far away. Fredricka?

[12:55:10]

WHITFIELD: And so Ben quickly, a sign of improvement is, does that explain why you were able to be outside today after the last couple weeks we've been, you know, you've been reporting from inside.

WEDEMAN: Basically, outside, there's nobody out here. So it's just me and the crew, and there's nobody nearby, so it's relatively safe. That really hasn't changed. And the actual easing of the lockdown however, nobody knows. It was supposed to end on the third of April. Here we are on the fourth and they're talking about the lockdown continuing for another month, perhaps Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Ben Wedeman, thank you so much in Rome, as some of life moves on behind him. All right. We'll be right back after this.

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