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Americans Brace for 'Hardest' Week as Deaths Near 10,000; Trump Continues to Push Unproven Treatment for Coronavirus; Inside NYC Emergency Room Battling Coronavirus. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired April 6, 2020 - 06:00   ET



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: We are struggling to get it under control, and that's the issue that's at hand right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment. Only it's not going to be localized. It's going to be happening all over the country.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've also sent an additional 200 ventilators to Louisiana, definite hot spot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We now think it's probably around the 9th of April before we exceed our ventilator capacity.

TRUMP: New York, the first time deaths were less than the previous day.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The number of deaths has been dropping. What is the significance of that? It's too early to tell.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, April 6. It's 6 a.m. here in New York.

And this morning, the surgeon general is warning the country to brace for a disaster on the scale of September 11th or Pearl Harbor. He says it's clear that the hardest, saddest days of the coronavirus pandemic are still ahead.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease doctor, is warning that the outbreak is not yet contained and cautions that as many as half the people infected with coronavirus may be asymptomatic.

Deaths in the country are about to surpass 10,000. The U.S. is now losing more than 1,000 people a day. Dr. Deborah Birx of the coronavirus task force is advising Americans

to avoid even going to the pharmacy or the grocery store this week.

Now, New York is actually reporting its first drop in deaths. But Governor Cuomo warns that it's too early to tell if that will stick.

We're going to take you inside a New York City emergency room to witness the fight firsthand in just a moment.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So John, President Trump continues to push for the use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, despite scant scientific evidence of the drug's effectiveness. Now later this hour, we will speak to a family of the youngest person to die from the virus in the state of Massachusetts. His family says he was given the anti-malaria treatment, but his parents claim it did not help.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains hospitalized in London for coronavirus. Downing Street says it's a cautionary measure because of the persistent symptoms that he's had for nearly two weeks.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Athena Jones. She is live at the Javits Center in New York City, where coronavirus patients are expected to start arriving today.

So what's the situation, Athena?


We're here outside the Javits Center. It's going to be opening its doors to COVID-19 patients. And this is coming as we begin what the federal task force is saying is going to be a tough week in the fight against the coronavirus.


JONES (voice-over): Experts predict a difficult week ahead for the nation.

VICE ADMIRAL JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans' lives, quite frankly. This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment. Only it's not going to be localized. It's going to be happening all over the country.

JONES: As the numbers of cases is expected to peak in some hot spots like New York in the coming days.

FAUCI: If you look at the projections of the curves, of the kinetics of the curves, we're going to continue to see an escalation.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: This is a moment not to be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe.

JONES: On Sunday alone, more than 1,100 Americans were reported dead.

FAUCI: We are struggling to get it under control. And that's the issue that's at hand right now.

JONES; In New York, hospitals are bracing for the possibility of hitting the apex of COVID-19 cases this week. Mayor Bill de Blasio warns the city only has enough ventilators and medical supplies for the next few days. This as the state saw a decrease in deaths over the weekend.

CUOMO: The number of deaths over the past few days has been dropping for the first time. What is the significance of that? It's too early to tell.

JONES: But in some states, like Illinois and Michigan, the race for ventilators and other medical supplies has governors growing more frustrated at the federal government's lack of an early response.

GOV. J.B. PRITZER (D-IL): If they had started in February building ventilators, getting ready for this pandemic, we would not have the problems that we have today and, frankly, very many fewer people would die.

JONES: But President Trump expressing some hope.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.

JONES: Before doubling down on what he says are the benefits to treating coronavirus patients with an anti-malaria drug, even though there is no scientific data to back up that claim.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Why not just let the science speak for itself? Why are you promoting this drug?

TRUMP: I'm not. I'm not.

DIAMOND: You come out here every day, right, sir, talking about the benefits of --

TRUMP: I want them to try it. And it may work, and it may not work. But if it doesn't work, it's nothing lost by doing it, nothing. Because we know long-term what I want, I want to save lives. And I don't want it to be in a lab for the next year and a half as people are dying all over the place.


JONES: Now, later in the briefing, CNN's Jeremy Diamond, who you saw speaking there, trying to ask Fauci if he agreed. But the president refused to allow him to answer.

Now, Fauci also made news yesterday when he said that as many as half of people infected with coronavirus may not show symptoms. That's a much larger estimate than the CDC director gave last week. Fauci did caution that other experts differ with his opinion -- Alisyn. CAMEROTA: Yes, that was a big headline. Athena. Thank you very much

for all of that.

Joining us now is CNN medical analyst, Celine Gounder. She's a clinical assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at New York University. And Dr. Daniel Varga. He's the chief physician, executive at Hackensack Meridian Health in New Jersey.


Doctors, thank you to both of you for being here.

Dr. Gounder, the surgeon general is trying to tell Americans to brace for themselves for what is about to happen this week, and he likened it to, you know, obviously, two huge traumas in our national memory. And that's Pearl Harbor and 9/11. But you think that those are not the best analogies. Why?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, so Pearl Harbor and 9/11 imprinted on the American psyche in a way that very few things have in our national history.

That said, some 2,400 people died at Pearl Harbor, about 3,000 at 9/11. We're already close to 10,000 deaths and counting from the coronavirus in the United States. So it's on a completely different scale, unprecedented scale.

Not to mention that with Pearl Harbor and with 9/11, you're talking about attacks by other people, by a foreign government and by a terrorist that were somewhat less predictable. This is something that -- you know, we've been warning about a pandemic of this scale for decades, quite literally. This is not something that could not have been anticipated.

BERMAN: Not only that, but we saw the pandemic in China a month before it as in the United States and could have taken that time to prepare for it. It would be akin to seeing the Japanese aircraft carrier on November 7 instead of December 7, so that you could prepare for that month.

Dr. Varga, I want to ask you about the peak. The idea that we may see the peak here in New York City sometime in the next seven to ten days. Is that your predicted timeline, where you are in New Jersey? And what does that mean exactly for your hospitals?

DR. DANIEL W. VARGA, CHIEF PHYSICIAN EXECUTIVE, HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH: So, just looking at specific data from our own health system, starting the week of the 22nd of March to the 29th of March, we went from about 600 cases to 1,400 cases. Last week, we went from 1,400 cases to 2,100 cases. So we haven't necessarily seen, you know, a change in our trend.

You know, New York is certainly experiencing -- starting to see some change, it looks like, a little bit. But we're anticipating, via the models, that it could be anywhere between the next week or so all the way into the middle of May.

CAMEROTA: So Dr. Gounder, if 9/11 is not the right analogy and Pearl Harbor is not the right analogy -- and I think that you make a compelling reason that they're not -- what should Americans be thinking as we start this week?

GOUNDER: Well, I think Americans need to be thinking that this needs to be taken very seriously. And yes, while we in New York City here may be approaching a peak, this is the first city to truly be affected on this scale. And what we're going to see is sort of like the dominos falling, city after city being affected. Unless those cities take measures before this truly hits.

And I think a lot of local leaders are waiting for it to hit before they take measures. And the problem is the message here is that is too late.

BERMAN: And Dr. Varga, I was struck by Deborah Birx, Dr. Birx, saying that don't even go to the pharmacy or grocery store this week or next week. You know, we've been in these social distancing measures, but there's always been the exception. If you need to go to the store to buy food or get drugs, go ahead and do so. She's saying if you can avoid it, don't even do that right now.

VARGA: Yes, I would agree. I mean, I think while this may not be a Pearl Harbor or a 9/11 moment, it's still a chance for people to be heroes. You can be a hero by staying at home. You can be a hero by washing your hands. You can be a hero by checking in on someone who's alone and may not have someone to support them. This is going to be a really critical next couple of weeks for us if we're going to bend the curve.

CAMEROTA: So Dr. Gounder, as you know, there's a debate. I guess -- I think in the White House task force about the use and efficacy of the hydroxychloroquine. Dr. Fauci had been pumping the brakes and reminding everybody that it is not approved for use with coronavirus. The president is very bullish about it. He, I think, wants it to work for coronavirus, and I think that, anecdotally, there are some scattered cases that sound promising.

So where does that leave Americans who are listening to this and listening to these briefings? Should they rush out and try to get some?

GOUNDER: Alisyn, wanting something to work does not make it so. And I think we all want to see something that will work for this.

But hydroxychloroquine is a medication that has very serious side effects, including cardiac arrhythmias, which means an abnormal heart rhythm, which can be fatal. And the people who are at risk for the most severe cases of COVID-19 are precisely the people who are the most at risk for these cardiac arrhythmias. In other words, these are people with underlying heart and lung conditions.

And, you know, so that's very concerning that this is being promoted as something people should be going out and rushing to get or asking their doctors to prescribe them. You know, frankly, only a doctor should be making recommendations about what medications are appropriate for the treatment of this. No politician, I don't care what your stripe is, should be prescribing medications to the American people.


BERMAN: Yes, it's interesting. There's not a disagreement about wanting it to work. Everyone wants something to work. If it's hydroxychloroquine or anything else, we can all get behind that. The disagreement is over how much to claim that it does work before the appropriate scientific testing has been completed.

Dr. Varga, I am curious, and it's out there. I mean, people are, in some cases, taking it with differing degrees of claimed success on this. I know we're going to talk to people on this show who have used it and said they haven't seen success. But Dr. Varga, what are you seeing?

VARGA: Well, it's definitely too early to tell whether there's any utility to it at all, as Celine was saying.

That said, I would say that probably three quarters of the patients that we have, particularly in the ICUs in our system, and we have over 500 people in ICUs, almost 500 folks on ventilators. Probably the majority of those folks are getting some sort of recipe with hydroxychloroquine.

CAMEROTA: Sorry, Dr. Varga. I couldn't hear you for a second there. You said that they have -- things have improved when you've given it to them?

VARGA: No. So it's too early to tell whether it's having any efficacy as all. But just simply saying that a large percentage of our folks are actually being treated with hydroxychloroquine.

CAMEROTA: Well, we will wait to see. I mean, obviously, if this could be fast-tracked, everybody would be grateful if it works. Dr. Varga and Dr. Gounder, thank you both very much.

So up next, CNN is going to take you inside a New York City emergency room on the frontlines of this pandemic. Six patients going into cardiac arrest in the space of just 40 minutes. An exclusive look inside how that hospital copes with this influx, next.



BERMAN: This morning the death toll from coronavirus in New York now tops 4,000, the highest in the nation. And as much as we've heard from doctors and nurses on the frontlines, it has been very rare to get a look inside these hospitals themselves.

CNN was given exclusive access inside the emergency room at a New York City hospital. It is one of three in the state now treating coronavirus patients and only coronavirus patients.

CNN's Manuel Marquez joins up -- joins us with this exclusive report. And Miguel, you really went inside here and saw this firsthand.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, this was at SUNY. They are receiving some of the sickest patients. About a quarter of the people now that are admitted to the hospital, they end up dying.

We've been to two ER's in the last week or so now. Both let us in because they want the world to see what this crisis actually looks like.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): The frontline in the fight against coronavirus. The Brooklyn emergency room of SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. Patient after patient struggling to breathe. This morning has been brutal.

DR. CYNTHIA BENSON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, SUNY DOWNSTATE: Today is pretty intense. We've had a bunch of people die in a very short period of time, which you know, we are prepared for it, but when it happens so many times in one shift, it's pretty hard to tolerate.

MARQUEZ: As we arrive in the E.R., the latest victim of coronavirus at SUNY Downstate is being wrapped up in the emergency room bay where doctors tried to save them.

We visited SUNY Downstate for about three hours midday Friday. In the short time we were there, in the emergency room alone, six patients coded. In other words, they suffered heart or respiratory failure. Four of them died. A devastating part of just one day.

BENSON: This is what we train to do. And this is what we signed up for. Just not in this volume. You know, you may have a code. You know, maybe on a bad shift, you may have two codes where you carry that emotion and you wonder if you did everything that you could. I think it's emotionally hard to prepare for this level of sickness and suffering and morbidity and mortality in such a short period of time. I don't think any of us are well-prepared for it.

MARQUEZ (on camera): Have you ever seen this E.R. jammed like this?


MARQUEZ: You're not at max yet. But you're -- you're pushing it?

PALADINO: Yes. We're pushing it. So at times the emergency room here, there is no room to move. But we have a system of where we decompress them out behind here in the hallways, or other rooms. There's a fast track. Not many people have been bringing in their children. So we've taken over part of pediatrics.

There's also clinics back here that we can turn into beds, and they wait there once they're stabilized from here and then go upstairs. MARQUEZ (voice-over): The corridors in the E.R. here lined with those

suffering from coronavirus. Patients unresponsive, struggling to breathe.

It is the hard reality of this virus. For some patients, it attacks the lungs, depriving them of oxygen, slowly suffocating them.

PALADINO: With COVID, the pneumonia is not just in one lung but rather in both lungs, leaving the patient with no good lung. And it's also widespread with a massive inflammatory reaction that's damaging the lungs.

MARQUEZ: Keeping the most critically-ill patients suffering from coronavirus breathing, it is as simple as it gets in medicine but still a mystery, as coronavirus resists treatments, confounds doctors and kills patients.

PALADINO: Here in terms of the airway, we have to manage their airway once they become so altered from the lack of oxygen that they're unable to keep it open themselves.

MARQUEZ (on camera): And what is the mortality rate? Once they go on a vent, what happens to mortality?

PALADINO: It increases exponentially. [06:20:00]

MARQUEZ: More patients die, in other words?

PALADINO: They do. The numbers are not exactly the same from country to country. And there are various factors for that. But we all agree it skyrockets.

It's showing that there's some fluid in the lungs.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Dr. Lorenzo Paladino is an E.R. doctor who has done groundbreaking work on putting more than one person on a single ventilator. It's research he hopes that will never have to be used here.

PALADINO: What keeps us up at night is precisely what motivates us to do that kind of research here at SUNY Downstate. Is that want an alternative to give to these patients. Not just the ventilators, but also for CPAP and isolation, oxygenation, high flow. We try all sorts of maneuvers in order to keep them breathing and keeping them from suffocating for having a cardiac arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Code 99, code 99.

MARQUEZ: And it's not just in the emergency room where patients struggle to breathe and code.


MARQUEZ: While interviewing doctors in other parts of the hospital --


MARQUEZ: -- nearly constant overhead announcements --


MARQUEZ: -- that another patient has coded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Room eight, one, five.

MARQUEZ: Those announcements for patients already admitted, not those in the E.R.

(on camera): Can I just stop you for a second? This -- this is the fifth or sixth code 99.

DR. ROBERT FORONIY, CHIEF OF PULMONARY & CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE, SUNY DOWNSTATE: Code 99 is typically a rare event. We're having, I would say, ten code 99s every -- every 12 hours, at least.

MARQUEZ: Well, we've been here for about 30, 40 minutes, and that's the fifth or sixth one.

FORONIY: And a lot of that, what that represents is calling for a team to put an individual, a patient on a breathing machine.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): What is most jarring about seeing the inside of an E.R. in a hospital making the transition to being one of three in New York state that will only treat patients suffering from coronavirus, outside it is quiet and feels like an early spring day.

(on camera): It's slow-moving and it's damn boring for a lot of people. But this is a disaster.

DR. ROBERT GORE, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN SUNY: This is definitely a disaster. It's kind of difficult to -- for people from the general public who don't work in the hospitals. Because when you walk -- when you drive down Clarkson Avenue, you're driving down New York Avenue and Nostrand Avenue, which are pretty busy thoroughfares, it's almost crickets. But then here in the emergency department, it's -- it's a level of intensity that you only see in disaster zones that -- that have been televised around the world.


MARQUEZ: And here's another disturbing data point about what SUNY Downstate is expecting in the days ahead. Right now, their morgue, their regular morgue is overwhelmed. They have two semi tractor- trailer trucks. They're talking about adding shelves to that, because right now, they just have all of the bodies on the base of the truck. They're also talking about shutting down streets around the hospital and bringing in three more trailers -- John.

BERMAN: Miguel, I have to say what a remarkable look inside that hospital. Thank you, first of all, for showing us what's going on there and risking your own well-being and that of your crew to give us that look. I saw you dressed up in that protective gear. What were you wearing?

MARQUEZ: Yes. So we -- we and the workers at the hospital had the proper gear, unlike Brookdale we'd been to earlier in the week. We had the Tyvek suits, the jumpsuit. It was photographer Andy Buck that went into SUNY Downstate. Frank Vivona (ph) went into Brookdale with me. We had proper gear. The N95 masks, the goggles. Foot protection, gloves, the whole bit. And they have that right now at SUNY Downstate. They have it for today. They're not sure they're going to have it next week.

BERMAN: And just one last question: Those code 99s you kept on hearing, it's just a constant din, it seems, of death or near death?

MARQUEZ: And what's really disturbing is that all those that we heard were for areas outside of the E.R. Inside the E.R., it's always an emergent situation there, so they don't code -- they don't call those codes out in the E.R. So they had six people code in the E.R. Four died there. And then you had all these codes happening elsewhere in the hospital. It's terrifying.

BERMAN: Look, Miguel Marquez, please stay safe. We thank you for this. I really appreciate the work you're doing, my friend.

MARQUEZ: Thank you.

BERMAN: miWe're going to speak to one of the emergency room doctors you just saw in Miguel's report, ahead. Stay with us.



BERMAN: It is an incredibly trying time at hospitals in New York, the epicenter of this pandemic. CNN just took you inside a Brooklyn hospital, one of three in the state completely dedicated to dealing with coronavirus.

Joining me now is one of the emergency physicians at SUNY Downstate Medical Center featured on last night's CNN special, "INSIDE THE E.R.," Dr. Rob Gore. Excuse me. He's also the founder of the Kings Against Violence Initiative and was honored as a CNN Hero in 2018.

Dr. Gore, we really appreciate the work you're doing. Thank you so much for being with us. Just tell us how you're holding up.

DR. ROB GORE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: Thanks for having me this morning. I'm -- I'm OK right now. I got a little bit of sleep this past night. But it's tough. Because every day you come in, you wonder is it going to be the same situation?

I know yesterday or the other day when the team from CNN was in the emergency department, you kept hearing code 99, code 99, code 99. That same was still present last night on my shift. I heard maybe three or four of those within the span of 30 minutes.

But it is scary, knowing what's going on upstairs and around the emergency department and wondering is it going to happen to you.

BERMAN: And code 99, just to our viewers who weren't watching, means that a patient likely needs to be intubated immediately and is at extreme, extreme risk.

I understand, Dr. Gore, you're staying at an Airbnb right now to keep your family safe, to be separated from them. How long do you think you'll have to be separated?

GORE: Yes, I'm staying at an Airbnb. I've been here, this is the third week staying in the same place, and I'm probably going to be here for at least another four, maybe six weeks.