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Death Rate Slows In Hard-Hit Spain & Italy; Global Oil Market Grows Volatile Amid Coronavirus Spread; Texas Oil Worker, William Walla, Discusses Having No Job And Struggling To Get Government Help; Communities Across U.S. Brace For Becoming Next Hot Spot; New Orleans Mayor Says Coroner's Office & Mortuary At Capacity; Almost Half Of All U.S. Coronavirus Deaths In New York State; Heated Disagreement In White House Over Unproven Drug. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 6, 2020 - 11:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: There are perhaps hopeful signs in two European countries hard hit by the coronavirus. That's why some in the Trump administration are now using terms like "light at the end of the tunnel," even as we brace for a horrible week or more in the death toll. Flatten the curve is a term you keep hearing.

Spain and Italy are being looked at closely as the White House debates its strategy.

Here's Spain. Take a look. The line shows a big increase throughout March but it does level out a bit at the end, with today showing the lowest daily rise since the surge in cases began.

Italy's rate looks similar with a slowdown in its daily number of cases since March.

The first cases in both of those countries were announced almost a week after the first case here in the United States.

Our international correspondents have more on the numbers and, hopefully, what they mean going forward.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Italy, all signs point to the country having passed the worst as far as the coronavirus goes. Sunday saw the latest daily death toll in two weeks. And for the second day running, Sunday, it was reported that there was a drop in the total number of people in intensive care units due to the virus.

Now, the improving situation has led to talk about Italy entering what's known as phase two, the phase when the numbers of coronavirus cases is falling and the nationwide lockdown can be eased.

Officials are warning, however, that phase two needs to be introduced gradually to avoid a second wave of a disease that has, until now, killed nearly 16,000 people.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Rome.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A single day would be a national tragedy under any other circumstances but, today, during the age of coronavirus, it's considered progress, a sign that three weeks under strict lockdown measures is working.

The increase in new active cases has slowed substantially and deaths and recoveries are taking some of the strain off of this country's health care system.

The trouble is, much of that pressure is now being felt by cemeteries, which are struggling to bury bodies fast enough. The backlog in bodies waiting to be buried or cremated has meant that Madrid is now using two ice rinks as temporary morgues.

When bodies do show up at the cemetery, priests are giving brief five- minute curb-side funerals with no more than five family members in attendance.

Spain's stay-at-home order is expected to be extended until late April. But officials say there is light at the end of the tunnel. Today, they announced one million rapid tests would be distributed across the country. They're hoping that will further slow the spread of this virus.

Scott McLean, CNN, Madrid.


KING: Up next, a return here to the United States. Out of a job and struggling to get government help despite thousands of calls. That's the story of a Texas oil worker, who joins us next.



KING: Part of the enormous global economic disruption right now, oil prices are in disarray. Crude oil slipping again today. Part of this turmoil, a big meeting between OPEC and Russia that was supposed to happen today is now postponed until Thursday.

CNN Business Anchor, Julia Chatterley, joins us now.

Julia, you have this price war on oil, largely Russia versus Saudi Arabia. That has a global impact at the very time coronavirus is already putting the brakes on the global economy.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS ANCHOR: Your last point there, John, is the key point because, for me, it's the collapse in demand we've seen with this driving less, flying less as we suppress economic growth to fight in the coronavirus that actually dwarfs the broader price war and the supply challenge out there. Finding that balance is what's so difficult here.

The message from big players like Russia, like Saudi Arabia, as you mentioned, is that they're getting closer to a deal but, and it's a big one, they want other big oil-producing nations to play their part, too, and cut supply as well.

That includes the United States. Now, President Trump is resisting. He even talked this weekend about applying tariffs on incoming oil to the United States.

Look, I spoke to the industry's biggest body in the United States today, the American Petroleum Institute, and they said two things. They said, one, tariffs are a no-go. They will only hurt U.S. consumers.

But he also said the supply cuts in the United States are already happening. Up to a third of output in the United States has already been switched off because oil prices are too low to make it feasible for them to pump oil at this stage.

So his argument is, look, the United States is already playing its part. It's an interesting one.

The call, as you said, has been postponed until Thursday. There's also a suggestion that the G-20 energy ministers might also have to be brought into this as well, because it has to be about more than just OPEC and Russia doing this deal.

In the short term, John, the bigger issue, jobs, businesses in states like Texas. Access to that stimulus money is the critical issue and part of the fight for survival here with oil prices so low.

KING: Julia Chatterley, appreciate that.

And you're exactly right. This big local fight has enormous local and personal impact.

The drop in demand for oil is a very real and very personal fight for oil and gas workers in places like Texas. Texas, as a whole, has seen a giant spike in unemployment claims.

Take a look at these staggering numbers just from the first of the year to the last weekend in March. In the last two weeks in March, more than 430,000 Texans filed for jobless benefits.

One of them who would like to be part of that statistic because he needs help is William Walla. He joins us from Montgomery, Texas.

William, you lost your job at an oil and gas company. You have made nearly 5,000 calls trying to apply for benefits. You haven't been able to get through and get help. What in the world is going on?

WILLIAM WALLA, TEXAS OIL WORKER (via telephone): John, thank you for taking my call.

My online portal somehow has a problem. My Social Security is attached to two different log-ins, and when I try to log into one, it tells me to log into the other. And when I try to log into the other, it tells me to go back to the first one. And after the second time, it tells you, you have to call in.

When you call in, it takes about a hundred calls to get through. When you finally get into the system, the system says, hey, look, we're overloaded, sorry about that. Use the online portal. I can't even get into the system right now.

And I have multiple friends in the same situation. They're setting their alarms for midnight, 2:00, 3:00 in the morning to get up and try to get on to the online portal. They can't get in. They can even -- nobody even knows we're unemployed at this time.

KING: The state knows this is an issue and set up an area code system to try to sort of break it down or break it out a little bit, and that hasn't worked for you, either, right?

WALLA: We made 500 calls on Saturday. My call time is on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. From 1:00 to 4:00 on Saturday we made 500 calls trying to get through.


KING: And so some people would say, online is not working, phone is not working, I'm going to show up in person. What happens then?

WALLA: I drove to the Bryant College Station office. Same thing. There's a sign on the door that says, hey, look, we're sorry, because of the COVID-19 virus, we're all working remotely. Please use the online portal or call the 1-800 number.

I also went to the Shenandoah office, same thing. Nobody is there.

I sent a certified letter to the governor. I sent emails to anyone I can find in the system. And I reached out to everybody I can on LinkedIn to see if we can get any kind of restitution on this, just to get into the system. That's what we're worried about more than anything else.

KING: I hope somebody in the Texas government, whether it's a member of Congress, somebody in the state employment office, the governor's office, is listening to this.

I just want to close by asking you this. This is a time when every American, people all around the world, are under enormous stress. You need and deserve help. You need and deserve help.

What does this do, if anything? I guess, how do you keep at it?

WALLA: So more than anything, we know that, sooner or later, we'll get into the system. And the government here in Texas has come out and said they will backdate all of the unemployment, which is a great relief. Because here in Texas, the day you actually file for unemployment is the day you start getting paid in the past. They're going to backdate these. My biggest problem is I don't have insurance as of now. I was laid off

in March. So as of April 1st, I have to go on COBRA. So I'm trying to weigh all that out.

If I get sick, that could easily wipe out whatever little savings I have. And I don't know what would happen, I really don't.

KING: William, I hope, just giving you a few minutes here caught someone's attention. Keep in touch with our team. If it doesn't, if you still haven't gotten a call after a few days, let us know and we'll try again.

WALLA: OK, great. Thank you. Thanks for your time.

KING: Best of luck, William. Best of luck in these hard times.

When we come back, the surgeon general says this is Pearl Harbor week in the United States. One of the hardest hit spots? New Orleans.



KING: Across the nation, there are warning signs of which community could be the next coronavirus hot spots. Here's a heat map of the virus in the United States. You can see the virus spiked in New York, New Jersey, Michigan and California. Those states are experiencing the highest number of confirmed cases.

And if you look at the top five states with the most deaths from the coronavirus, it becomes clear which states are being hit the hardest at the moment.

Another potential hot spot, Pennsylvania. That state now has over 11,500 confirmed cases. That number has more than doubled since the governor issued a stay-at-home order back on April 1st.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in New Orleans, another hot spot.

Ed, we're learning now that a model suggests Louisiana has perhaps past some peak, but too early to say for sure?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're making a bunch of calls this morning trying to figure out what all of this means for the state of Louisiana.

What has happened is this University of Washington projection and modelling has detailed, in the latest projection, showing, at least in that model, that the peak use of hospital beds and ventilators and that sort of thing passed her on April 1st.

The other thing that was a dramatic change in that is that, for the last week or so, the projected overall number of deaths have been put in about just over 1,800. That has been slashed down to about 750.

But again, just a word of caught caution with all of this. I spoke with one person here in New Orleans who has been analyzing all of these. They said a lot of these projections are based on people continuing their behavior of sheltering-in-place through the end of this month. If, all of a sudden, people change their behavior, this would drastically change the models once again.

So we are waiting to hear from state officials on what they think of this modeling change and what it means long-term here for the state of Louisiana.

State officials here, as you know, John, have been saying for the last few weeks that the strain of the system was going to be tested here, this week in particular. And even the mayor in New Orleans, just a few days ago, was talking in dire terms about what she was seeing here in New Orleans.


MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL (D), NEW ORLEANS: Our coroner's office is at capacity as it relates to our dead bodies of our loved ones. Mortuaries cannot even go pick them up or store because they're out of capacity.

I've had to ask the federal government for additional refrigeration so we can take care of people while they're resting in peace, but not resting well because they haven't been laid to rest as they deserve.


LAVANDERA: Anyway, John, you can see the intensity of what people across the state are dealing with. Definitely different aspects of good news and bad news in the latest analysis, as you heard the mayor kind of talking about there.

And what we have seen the last 24 hours is that the number of deaths reported by the day has gone up. But at the same time, it seems like we are starting to see signs the need for ventilators and hospital bed space are perhaps beginning to slow down.


We have not heard from state officials here today as to how they're reacting to this new modeling. And, obviously, there will be questions we'll continue to ask throughout the day -- John?

KING: Let's hope, Ed, let's hope. Some hopeful signs, we'll get more data, and we'll match it up and, hopefully, things will begin to turn around.

Ed Lavandera, live for us in New Orleans. I appreciate that.

I want to go to what remains the absolute current epicenter of the virus in the United States. That is New York.

CNN's Athena Jones is at the makeshift hospital at the Javits Center -- Athena? ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi John. This hospital, just

today, as we know, the last update, about three dozen COVID-19 patients are being treated here at the Javits Center behind me. There are 2,500 beds in this temporary hospital so a lot more beds that can be filled.

But today was the day they were to begin accepting COVID-19 patients. We confirmed through the mayor's office they're already doing so.

This comes at a very important time. Governor Andrew Cuomo has called this, Javits, saying it could be a big operational shift, it could lead to a dramatic change in a situation here.

It is coming at a time where the state desperately needs a relief valve for the system with so many patients flooding into hospitals.

In recent days, we've seen some down ticks in numbers. But still New York state accounts for more than 120,000 cases, which more than a third of the cases a nationwide. New York City accounts for half of those. That's why you need a place like the Javits Center.

If you talk to hospital administrators, E.R. doctors, others, they'll say it only makes sense to make Javits COVID-19 facility because most of the patients people are seeing in hospitals are patients who are infected with COVID-19.

One emergency room doctor I spoke to over the weekend say that, even people coming in for appendicitis and strokes, when they are admitted, when they get chest x-rays, typical for being admitted, all of those x-rays show what they're calling telltale signs of a COVID-19 infection, pneumonia on both sides of the lungs, bilateral pneumonia. That's why they say it makes sense for this center to be welcome to COVID-19 patients.

A couple of things I want to mention on the supplies front. There's been a lot of focus on supplies, making sure that hospitals in each state and city have the supplies and personnel they need when they need it.

We've heard from Mayor Bill De Blasio. He's calling on a nationwide mobilization of doctors and nurses and supplies. He wants to see millions of doctors and nearly four million nurses. He wants the military to come in and help send those doctors and nurses and other medical professionals where they need to go, move them around the country, along with supplies, when they are needed.

One more thing I should note is that California is now going to be giving 500 ventilators that does not need right now to the national strategic stockpile. So that's an example of the kind of shifts that's going on along with 600,000 N-95 respiratory masks, which we learned from the mayor, are due to arrive here in New York today -- John?

KING: Athena Jones, for us on the scene in New York. And we'll get some new numbers from the governor in just a short bit. We'll bring you that live report.

Athena, appreciate that live reporting.

Confirmation today of a giant White House Situation Room dust up between the White House's trade adviser and the nation's top infectious disease expert. The dust up over the president's preferred and unproven way to battle the coronavirus.

The president sees big positives and no negatives to treating coronavirus with a drug cocktail of Hydroxychloroquine and a so-called Z-pack. "What do you have to lose," is the president's message.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says, at best, the evidence that treatment works is suggested and there are dangerous side effects in some patients. So Fauci wishes the president would stop hyping the drug and let some limited trials test its efficacy first.

But trade adviser, Peter Navarro, took issue with Dr. Fauci at a White House meeting. And things got testy as Navarro, like the president often does, decided that he's smarter than the medical professionals.

On CNN this morning, Navarro suggested you should consider his credentials as equal to those of Dr. Fauci, who's been in this job for 30 years and is world renowned in the public health community.


PETER NAVARRO, TRADE ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I would have two words for you, "second opinion."

Doctors disagree about things all the time. My qualifications in terms of looking at the science is that I'm social scientist. I'm have a PhD and I understand how to read statistical studies, whether it's medicine, the law, economics or whatever.

When I look at a study, just this latest one, I read it, from Wuhan, and there's a control group where 80 percent do well and only 50 percent don't. I mean, you could be a plumber and read that and come to the same conclusion.


KING: CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House for us.

Kaitlan, I am going to pick Dr. Fauci over "Dr." Navarro.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, but the question is: Who does the president pick? And who does the president listen to?

Because we've seen Navarro become more empowered then he's actually been inside the White House, where frequently he has been sidelined.