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Prime Minister Boris Johnson Moved To Intensive Care; Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 10,000 In U.S.; White House Pushes Anti- Malaria Drug For COVID-19 Treatment; Boston Mayor Says Stop Sending Mixed Message To Washington; Life And Death Struggles In A Hospital Emergency Room; Louisiana Cases Jump Again After Weekend Slowdown; Coronavirus Strains Emergency Services Across U.S. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 6, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Yes, it's amazing, Modly saying that Captain Crozier was too naive or too stupid, I think not knowing that the letter would get out and then Modly's audio gets out as well. Fascinating

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room." We're following breaking news on the coronavirus pandemic.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved to intensive care just 24 hours after being hospitalized for treatment of persistent coronavirus symptoms. We'll go live to London in just a moment.

We're also standing by to hear this hour from the experts on the White House coronavirus task force as the U.S. death toll from the pandemic now surpasses 10,000 more than three times as many people has died on 9/11. All that coming up.

Let's get the latest first on the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's condition. Our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is in London for us. Clarissa, what's the very latest information you're getting?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Downing Street is very keen to emphasize, Wolf, that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in the best hands. He possibly could be here at St. Thomas' hospital just behind me.

But make no mistake about it. This is a pretty dramatic update. No one was really quite expecting this. The tone that we had heard from Downing Street throughout the day was largely positive.

We were told that the prime minister was in good spirits that he continued to lead the country from his hospital room that he was simply there as a precautionary measure because he had these persistent symptoms of coronavirus for 10 days. Now, of course, we are hearing a very different story. He is in the

ICU. There is no indication as of yet, Wolf, that he has been intubated or that he requires a ventilator.

But one can assume or speculate that certainly they would not have moved him to the ICU were it not for the very real prospect that they think he might possibly need that kind of treatment in the future.

They say, the doctors I've spoken to, that they do see dramatic shifts in COVID-19 patients, particularly around the day 10 or 11 mark. So clearly they want to be prepared for any scenario, particularly given that this is the prime minister.

One other thing to add, of course, Wolf, is that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has deputized to the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab. Raab made a televised statement to the nation just about an hour ago in which he said, again, the prime minister is in good hands and will continue to carry out his mission, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ten days ago, 11 days now, he acknowledged that he had tested for coronavirus. He was home the first 10 days then all of a sudden he goes into the hospital. Now it's revealed he's in intensive care. And all this time the government, Downing Street, was suggesting things were just fine, right?

WARD: And that's I think what Downing Street is really going to have to answer to because there is a real sense among people here of hold on a second, how did this happen? How did this change so quickly? We know that with coronavirus patients and we've seen that they can deteriorate quickly and dramatically.

But once we understood that the prime minister had been admitted to the hospital last night, people don't go into the hospital on a Sunday night, Wolf, if they just have mild symptoms and are feeling fine, which is the line that Downing Street had really been trying to push from the get-go.

It was clear from that moment that something more serious was going on. And yet we saw Downing Street to continue to push this narrative that this was just precautionary, these were just persistent symptoms of coronavirus and that he was just there essentially for routine tests.

Now, in very dramatic fashion, it has become quite clear that the reality is much more serious than that, and the British public feels strongly that they have a right to know, Wolf.

BLITZER: They certainly do. All right, Clarissa Ward in London, we'll check back with you to get more information. I want to continue to follow the breaking news right now. Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us.

Sanjay, he's 55 years old, now day 11 or day 12 of a positive coronavirus, you know, confirmation and all of that. What does it tell you that he was finally taken to the hospital and now is in intensive care? SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, when he

went to the hospital last night, they said at that time it was for routine sort of testing, I believe, Wolf. But it's a significant decision to send someone to the hospital in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic.

There are obviously a lot of people there who have the infection. You're more likely to become even more sick if you're in the hospital sometimes because you can contract things there, so.

[17:05:00]

And obviously these beds, hospital beds are at a premium. And the ICU beds even more of a premium. And as you know, Wolf, ventilators, those are being reserved for patients who are among the most critically ill.

So, you know, it's concerning. It's always a little bit more challenging to figure it out when it's someone like the prime minister. Is this more an abundance of caution, sending him to the ICU because he may be having some shortness of breath, just to make sure he can be in the intensive care unit?

Should he need some more breathing support? You know, we don't know at this point. You know, we're hearing the same things, obviously. But it's concerning, Wolf. And, you know, 10, 11 days, as you point out, into this, it's not unusual.

Oftentimes, that's what we're hearing, is that patients who end up needing to be hospitalized, sometimes they can sort of be, you know, doing okay for several days and then start to have more of a decline, even that many days out.

BLITZER: He's 55 years old. What kind of treatment, Sanjay, would he get in ICU that he wouldn't necessarily be able to receive in a general hospital room?

GUPTA: Well, you know, the biggest thing, Wolf, as you might imagine, is the breathing machine. Now with -- again, in the midst of this pandemic, if you're in the ICU, that's usually why you're being sent there.

There are a few different reasons. One is, you know, the ventilator, more breathing support. There could be something related to the heart or someone needs to be given medications to maintain someone's blood pressure.

It could be just additional monitoring, this abundance of caution that we're talking about or a new sort of therapy. But as you know, Wolf, there aren't any particular proven therapies for this coronavirus.

So what's given are usually things that are considered supportive therapies, someone's having difficulty breathing, you address that. If someone is having difficulty maintaining their blood pressure, you do that.

And I should point out, Wolf, I mean obviously, he's 55, so he's not in this more vulnerable population, but there are, you know, obviously many stories of people of that age group who do need hospitalization.

And, you know, as frightening as it is, most people still do recover, not to minimize this in any way. But if you just look at the pure statistics here, most people still do recover from this, Wolf. And you know, I think that's part of the reason you want to be aggressive with care as well.

BLITZER: What about those admitted to ICU? What do we know about the recovery of coronavirus patients who have to wind up in the intensive care unit?

GUPTA: Well, if they end up on a breathing machine, obviously that's going to be more serious, you know, and there's different data around the world. I think it's tough to -- it's hard it actually make sense of that right now.

What we have heard, for example, in New York City is that for, you know, most people outside of a coronavirus pandemic, the average length of time that someone would be on a ventilator is three to four days.

But with the coronavirus infection, it's a lot longer. You're talking 11 to 14 days, even longer than that. So, it's a prolonged hospital course once someone ends up on the breathing machine, typically, which is why that, again, has to be a very careful decision.

I think the bar, you know, by which someone would actually be placed on a ventilator, have a breathing tube placed and all that has got to be high because they're going to probably be on that machine for some period of time. And again, Wolf, I mean, there is a high demand for these ventilators right now and it's not clear in many places whether there's enough of a supply.

BLITZER: We of course wish the prime minister a speedy recovery. Let's hope for the very best. All right, Sanjay, we're going to get back to you. We have more questions coming up in this hour.

I want to get some more on the pandemic's impact across the United States. CNN's Nick Watt is joining us right now. Nick, Americans are being warned to brace for what's expected to be the worst week yet. What's the latest?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. We heard this morning from one official here in the U.S. who said we should expect rolling peaks over the next few weeks.

And that's why today we've seen, for example, Arkansas, which is doing okay right now, giving five ventilators to Louisiana, which is being hit very hard. And here in California, still waiting for the surge, so the governor is going to give 500 ventilators from California to the national stockpile.

So, this we are told, will be the picture over the next few weeks, different places getting hit hard at different times.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what we train to do. This is what we signed up for. Just not in this volume.

WATT (voice-over): In New York State, the rate of new infections is finally falling.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: It is hopeful but it's also inconclusive. And it still depends on what we do.

WATT (voice-over): So despite good news, the governor just extended their stay-home order through the end of the month and doubled the fine for noncompliance.

[17:10:05]

CUOMO: This is an enemy that we have underestimated from day one and we have paid the price dearly. While the numbers look like they may be turning, yay, it's over? No, it's not. And other places have made that mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- with any pain anywhere?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

WATT (voice-over): Even if peak infection has passed, health officials say peak death rate is still likely to come.

BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HAELTH: For New York and New Jersey and Detroit, this week is going to be the peak week.

WATT (voice-over): In New Jersey, Sheryl Pabatoa just lost both her parents, both health care workers.

SHERYL PABATAO, PARENTS DIED OF COVID-19: This was the year that they were supposed to retire. I didn't know this was their retirement.

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.

WATT (voice-over): More than 10,000 Americans dead already, according to Johns Hopkins University. And one model the White House task force is using suggests we're still 10 days from the peak when we could lose 3,000 or more in one day. In Michigan, more than 600 dead and counting.

GRETCHEN WHITMER, GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: We are running dangerously low on PPE. At Beaumont Hospital, we have less than three days until N95 masks run out.

DEANNE CRISWELL, COMMISSIONER, NYC EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT: This is a nationwide impact and it's hard to adjudicate those resources across the nation knowing that you're not going to have enough for everybody. WATT (voice-over): Peak infection in California now not projected

until mid-May.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's pretty clear at this point that this 1is what April is going to look like.

WATT (voice-over): Most of us still told to stay home at least another three weeks, likely longer. In Louisiana, the same model suggests they've actually passed their peak need for beds and ventilators. It was grim. Still is.

LATOYA CANTRELL, MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: Our coroner's office is at capacity when it relates to our dead bodies of our loved ones.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (on camera): Quick note on those models we're quoting. No one says they're rock solid. No one says they weren't changed but what they do say is they are based on the level of social distancing we are currently doing and if ease up, those models could get worse, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. Nick watt, reporting for us. Let's got to the White House right now. Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is standing by. Jim, as we wait to hear from the experts of the coronavirus task force, I understand you're learning new details of what's been going on behind the scenes there. What have you learned?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The administration is warning the U.S. is heading into what health officials are describing as a critical week for the nation's battle against the coronavirus.

But during what could be the darkest hour for this pandemic, top administration officials are feuding over the president's recommendation of an unproven drug for the virus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Despite only having a background as a businessman, President Trump is offering free medical advice, urging Americans to load up on an unproven drug used for malaria patients as a treatment for the coronavirus.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What do you have to lose? What do you have to lose? What do I know? I'm not a doctor. I'm not a doctor, but I have common sense.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But health experts including the president of the American Medical Association say misuse of the drug hydroxychloroquine could have serious consequences.

PATRICE HARRIS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: You could lose your life. It's unproven. And so certainly there are some limited studies, as Dr. Fauci said. But at this point, we just don't have the data to suggest that we should be using this medication for COVID-19. ACOSTA (voice-over): Even though some of the common side effects from

the drug, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and headache are not serious, studies have shown hydroxychloroquine can be potentially dangerous for patients with heart troubles and overdoses can be fatal. Dr. Anthony Fauci has repeatedly warned the drug has not yet been proven as an effective treatment of coronavirus.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The data are really just at best suggestive. There have been cases that show there may be an effect and there are others to show there is no effect. So I think in terms of science, I don't think we can definitively say it.

ACOSTA (voice-over): A heated argument over the drug flared up inside the White House situation room over the weekend. Trade adviser Peter Navarro insisted the drug has been proven even though it hasn't, while Fauci correctly noted its efficacy is only anecdotal.

PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: Doctors disagree about things all the time. My qualification in terms of looking at the science is that I'm a social scientist. I have a Ph.D. and I understand how to read statistical studies whether it's in medicine, the law, economics, or whatever.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Then at Sunday's coronavirus briefing, the president would not allow Fauci to comment on hydroxychloroquine.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How many times we answered that question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May be 15

DIAMOND: -- the doctor.

TRUMP: Fifteen times.

ACOSTA (voice-over): A month ago as the president was touting a low number of cases, White House officials seemed to say medical opinion should carry more weight.

[17:15:04]

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: It is being contained. And do you not think its being contained?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not a doctor

CONWAY: You said it's not being contained. So, are you a doctor or a lawyer when you say it's not being contained?

ACOSTA (voice-over): On the government's response to the pandemic, an inspector general's report looked at how hospitals are coping and finding severe shortages of testing supplies and extended waits for test results and widespread shortages of personal protective equipment, put staff and patients at risk. The president claims the administration's performance has been miraculous. TRUMP: FEMA, the military, what they've done is a miracle. What

they've done is a miracle in getting all of this stuff. What they've done for states is incredible.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the shortages come at a critical time, when the U.S. is expected to bear the brunt of the pandemic.

DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: The next two weeks are extraordinarily important. This is the 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.

ACOSTA (voice-over): On the firing of Captain Brett Crozier who wrote a memo sounding the alarm that sailors on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt were suffering from the coronavirus, the acting secretary of the Navy is defended the commander's removal, accusing him of a betrayal.

THOMAS MODLY, ACTING SECRETARY OF THE NAVY (via-telephone): If he didn't think that information was going to get out into the public, in this information age that we live in, then he was A, too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this. The alternative is that he did it on purpose.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (on camera): And as for this battle over hydroxychloroquine, a source close to the coronavirus task force said Dr. Anthony Fauci would continue to offer his opinion that the drug is still unproven. He has done that in the past in a number of interviews and we are told he will keep doing so.

And something else we're tracking, Wolf, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden did speak by phone today about the coronavirus pandemic. There was some speculation over the last several days that they might not actually get on the phone and talk about it, but that did happen today, Wolf.

BLITZER: I want to know what -- how that conversation went. I assume we'll find out fairly soon. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Stay with us, we're waiting for the experts over at today's White House coronavirus task force briefing. We'll have coverage when the experts start speaking.

I'll also speak with the mayor of Boston. He's calling on officials here in Washington to stop sending mixed messages about the coronavirus response. Much more of our special coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:20:00]

BLITZER: Once again, we're standing by to hear from the experts over at the White House coronavirus task force as the U.S. death toll from the pandemic now tops 10,000. Joining us now, the mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate the time your sharing with our viewers.

Last night you said this and I'm quoting you. You said, "I hope that Washington stop sending mixed messages." Are those mixed messages, mayor, having an impact on your city's response?

MAYOR MARTY WALSH (D), BOSTON: Well, I think they're going to have an impact on everyone's response. When you have people talking, the president talking about he might lax services and let services be happening for Easter. That's a mixed message.

I think we have to be consistent on our messaging now and let people know the impacts of the coronavirus and how serious this is in every city and state in the country. And you can't be doing that. I mean, that wouldn't be responsible.

It would certainly not going to be responsible in the city of Boston to do that. And another thing, criticizing governors for the way they're operating. Again, I mean, we're in this together and I think it's about us supporting each other and moving and getting the American people out of the situation that we're in.

BLITZER: Your state, Massachusetts, has requested I understand, 1,400 ventilators from the federal government, but as of Sunday you've only received 100 of those ventilators. How concerned are you about having enough of these critical supplies?

WALSH: Well, that's a problem, certainly. I'm watching every day what's going on in New York. Governor Cuomo has been talking about the need for more ventilators. And, you know, we're not exactly where they are right now, but that could change on a daily basis.

And I'd rather have the equipment here and ready to save lives than not have it. And the fact that things have been so slow coming from Washington is quite honestly, it's been a very sad state that we're not prepared enough in every single city and state in the country to deal with this pandemic and what's happening.

So, I mean, I would suggest to the federal government that they get on the ball here and get the equipment down here. And no state or city should be begging for equipment.

BLITZER: Yes. Those ventilators will save lives, everybody knows that. Right now, you've just announced, mayor, some increased social distancing restrictions to brace for the peak of this virus including a curfew for nonessential workers. How critical is the next week or so in Boston, for example, your city, to keeping the number of cases and deaths down?

WALSH: We're expecting that the surge, the dates they're giving us, between April 10th and April 20th. So, over the next two weeks, it's very important. So, what we implemented yesterday was we closed the active part of our parks, our basketball courts, our hockey courts, our tennis courts. Today, we're going to institute a recommended curfew tonight from 9:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. because there's really no reason for people to be going out that time of night unless they're going to work for an essential business or getting an emergency something at the store.

And also what we did was we followed the CDC guidelines and we're asking Bostonians when they go outside for a walk or they're going around to work or what have you, put a mask on. And I think that's really important.

We're following the recommendations. I mean, the CDC is passing down recommendations and most of them coming down we're taking very seriously and we're going to continue to until we get to this crisis.

[17:24:59]

BLITZER: Good luck to everybody in Boston. Good luck to everybody around the country, indeed around the world. This is a real crisis indeed. Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston, thank you so much for joining us.

WALSH: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, stay with us. We're standing by to hear from the experts at today's White House coronavirus task force briefing. We'll also take you inside the emergency room of a Brooklyn hospital where doctors and nurses right now are desperately trying to save lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:30:20]

BLITZER: We're awaiting the experts at today's briefing by members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Tonight also we have something specially a very unique look. It's the frontlines in the fight against coronavirus.

CNN National Correspondent, Miguel Marquez watch the daily struggle to save lives inside a hospital emergency room. Miguel is joining us right now. What did you see Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is the second E.R. in the last week or so that we've gotten into and it is incredible for as beautiful as a spring day as it is here in New York and in other places around the country. Doctors wanted to sort of lift the curtains on what they deal with every day, just this absolutely deadly and brutal battle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The front line 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: Today is pretty intense. We've had a bunch of people die. MARQUEZ (voice-over): As we arrived in the E.R., the latest victim of coronavirus at SUNY Downstate is being wrapped up in the emergency room bay for 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 them died. A devastating part of just one day.

BENSON: This is what we trained to do. This is what we signed up for just not in this volume.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The corridors in the E.R. here lined with those suffering from coronavirus, patients unresponsive, struggling to breathe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Code 99, code 99.

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Code 99, code 99.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): While interviewing doctors in other parts of the hospital --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Code 99.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): -- nearly constant overhead announcements --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Code 99, code 99.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): -- that another patient has coded.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Room 815.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Those announcements for patients already admitted, not those in the E.R.

(on-camera): Can I just stop you for a second? This, this --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Code 99, nursing station 52.

MARQUEZ (on-camera): -- this is the fifth or sixth code 99.

DR. ROBERT FORONJY, CHIEF OF PULMONARY & CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE, SUNY DOWNSTATE: Code 99 is typically a rare event. We're having, I would say 10 code 99s every 12 hours at least.

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

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

DR. ROBERT GORE, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: This is definitely a disaster. It's kind of difficult to -- for people from the general public who don't work in the hospitals.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): SUNY Downstate is ramping up adding beds, staffing capacity as fast as possible. Still the worry it won't be enough.

CHERYL ROLSTON, RN/DIRECTOR OF ER: But that support things that we need like the respirators, the bed space, the bed capacity, those are my fears that we are not going to be able to truly meet our patient's needs.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The need already overwhelming. When we started our visit in the E.R., one person had just died and was being moved out. By the time we came back around, another victim of coronavirus was moved already into the same bed struggling to breathe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Now another example of how SUNY Downstate is ramping up its operations, it's more, its regular more is now filled. There are two semi-tractor trailers out back that they are using to put bodies and right now they're going to add shelves to those so they could add more bodies. And there are plans afoot now to close off one of the streets around the hospital and bring in three more trailers. Wolf?

BLITZER: Wow. All right, Miguel, thank you very much. Miguel Marquez doing excellent, excellent reporting. Thank you very, very much.

Joining us now, Dr. Craig Spencer. He's the Director of Global Health in E.R. Medicine at New York Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Spencer, thank you so much for joining us. Much like the brave doctors, the nurses, we just saw in that piece, you're on the frontlines of this crisis. You've been described -- you've described being paged almost hourly with urgent messages. Tell us what you're facing.

DR. CRAIG SPENCER, NECESSARY-PRESBYTERIAN/COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Yes, you know, I think everyone else has been describing this. It's bleak. Every hospital is a little bit different around New York City right now, but they're all overwhelmed and they're all bad. Our emergency rooms have been turned into intensive care units. You just heard that morgues are getting filled. We have trucks outside to hold bodies and those are getting filled.

[17:35:03]

Here in New York City today we heard that we're preparing to bury the dead temporarily in public parks because we have no other place. And I know we've also mentioned that there may be some encouraging data to suggest that the number of new infections is going down, which would be great.

But it's important to remember that there's a lag between new infections when people get really sick, when they show up in the emergency rooms and when they end up on ventilators. So it may be even in the best case scenario, another week or two before we have a decrease in those really, really sick patients that are getting on ventilators.

BLITZER: Yes. Everybody says this week and next week in New York is going to be simply horrendous, the worst so far. I want to read something that you wrote on Saturday when you finished your shift, Dr. Spencer. Let me read this. "Just getting home from the E.R. It was brutal. Something you never want to see or experience. I promise. The virus cannot infect you if the virus cannot find you. So please stay home and stay safe. It's still our only hope."

Dr. Spencer, a very, very powerful warning as we face but it's certainly going to be an incredibly challenging week. What's your bottom line message to the folks who are watching right now?

SPENCER: The message is simple and it's clear. Instead of peddling a bunch of treatments that we don't know whether they work or some magic bullet, we know what does work. If you stay home, you will not get infected with this virus. If you do not get infected to this virus, you will not show up sick in the emergency room, we will not have to intubate you, you will not go into the intensive care unit.

It is the only -- it's the only thing that we have right now to keep all of the safe. Social distancing works not just in New York City, but also throughout the rest of the country where we're starting to see cases increase at a rapid rate.

WOLF: What do you think of the President pushing this drug hydroxychloroquine? You've studied this, what do you think?

SPENCER: Hydroxychloroquine is great for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. When it comes to coronavirus, we all hope that this is a miracle drug, all of us. But the reality is right now, we don't know. If you asked me what do you have to lose by taking this? I would say, as a doctor, maybe your vision, maybe the normal electrical activity of your heart, maybe your life. There are real side effects with this and all the other medications.

When I had Ebola, I was given a bunch of medications that were experimental and didn't help me and probably made me worse. The problem is we're focusing so much on hydroxychloroquine. We're overlooking all the really important social issues that are not being mentioned. We're not talking about the spike in domestic violence that's being seen by people, you know, being forced to stay inside. We're not talking about the impact on indigenous and undocumented communities all throughout the U.S.

And we're not talking enough about the impact of coronavirus on people of color, especially black Americans who are disproportionately impacted and dying from this virus. I wish we spent more time talking about that than hydroxychloroquine.

BLITZER: All right, Dr. Spencer, thank you so much for what you and your whole team, what you're doing. You guys are risking your lives to save other people's lives. Appreciated very, very much.

SPENCER: Our pleasure. BLITZER: All right. Thank you. We're awaiting once again for the experts at today's White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. You're looking at live pictures coming in from the White House.

Also coming up, a closer look at the challenges facing firefighters, paramedics, other emergency responders who are on the frontlines of the pandemic. And we're also going to go live to New Orleans, another national hotspot for the coronavirus case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:42:56]

BLITZER: We're awaiting the experts today's briefing by members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. On this day, the U.S. surpassed 10,000 deaths from the virus. Louisiana has been one of the nation's hotspots. But over the weekend, one model suggested the state actually may have passed some peaks.

Let's go to CNN's Ed Lavandera in New Orleans for us. What's the latest situation, Ed, there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf, well here state officials medical officials in Louisiana taking a much closer look at the new information in the modeling that is coming out. One model in particular from the University of Washington, which had shown that perhaps this state here is beyond the peak in terms of what is needed in ventilators and hospital bed space. But state officials and medical officials here remain very cautious and say that much more information is needed.

The governor said that perhaps and the hope is here that they're beginning to see the flattening of the curve. But just a little while ago, we spoke with the medical director of the health department here in New Orleans and she tells us that over, you know, just a couple of days does not make a trend. And she's urging people to continue doing what they're doing, to continue flattening this curve.

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DR. JENNIFER AVEGNO, DIRECTOR, NEW ORLEANS HEALTH DEPARTMENT: So we have a lot of factors that are working in the right direction. But if people don't continue to stay home, then we're going to be right back where we were at the beginning of the peak.

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LAVANDERA: And what really they want people to understand is that a lot of the modeling and the projections that they're seeing is based on people continuing to follow these stay-at-home orders, which are set in place here in the state of Louisiana, through the end of this month, all the way up until April 30th. So a lot of that projection as to what might happen here is very much dependent on people continuing to do what they're doing.

But one of the most incredible things about that one -- the one projection that was made, this was a study that projection had been saying that as many as 1,800 people could die of the coronavirus here in the state of Louisiana, that number has been brought down to about 750. Again, all signs here, there -- it's a glimmer of hope in all of this. But some state and medical officials here are urging people to continue doing what they're doing or this could quickly change in the other direction very quickly, Wolf?

[17:45:12]

BLITZER: Certainly could. All right, Ed Lavandera in New Orleans for us, thank you.

Coming up, the new hurdles facing frontline heroes, including firefighters, EMTs, ambulance drivers and others. We're standing by also to hear from the experts on the Coronavirus Task Force. We'll be right back.

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[17:50:23]

BLITZER: The coronavirus outbreak is severely straining emergency services in cities all across the United States. Our Brian Todd is taking a closer look at some of the firefighters and emergency medical technicians who are on the frontlines right now. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one D.C. fire official told us they're hearing estimates that tens of thousands of people in Washington could get sick from coronavirus. This is, of course, taxing the resources of firefighters, EMTs here in Washington and all over the United States. In fact, the precautions they have to take just to go on one call are jarring.

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TODD (voice-over): In New York, frontline EMTs, and paramedics face an avalanche of calls.

ANTHONY ALMOJERA, LIEUTENANT PARAMEDIC, FDNY: When I look at their hospital, they -- there was about maybe 15 ambulances outside waiting to be triage.

TODD (voice-over): An EMT in Queens says it's overwhelming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Call volume, it's just ridiculous. It's one after another after another. Most of the station is out with symptoms. But the ones that are still working, we're so tired. We are extremely tired. We're working over 16 hours a day.

TODD (voice-over): So many patients hospitalized, they are spilling over.

ALMOJERA: The hospital doesn't have any beds. And they're using our stretcher to work up the patient and the patient's on a ventilator at the moment and I can't get the stretcher back. TODD (voice-over): And the dangers are real. Israel Tolentino, an EMT firefighter in Passaic, New Jersey died of complications of coronavirus. While it's not clear how he got infected, his fire department is considering it a line of duty death.

In the nation's capital, first responders are also decimated and bracing for an onslaught.

JOSEPH PAPARIELLO, UNION REP. D.C. FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION: Our firefighters EMTs and paramedics are used to handling emergencies that they can see and feel whether it's running into a fire ground or treating somebody in cardiac arrest or an asthma patient. This is an unknown enemy that we haven't dealt with before. And that definitely raises the anxiety level.

TODD (voice-over): Paramedic and D.C. Firefighters Union Rep. Joe Papariello told us about 10 percent of D.C.'s paramedics and firefighters EMTs are out of commission tonight, having tested positive for coronavirus or under quarantine. With potentially tens of thousands of cases on the horizon for Washington, Papariello and his teams are telling D.C. residents, only call 911 if it's an emergency, like difficulty breathing, not just because you think you might have coronavirus. On the call, describe all your symptoms so they can prepare.

Meet the paramedics outside if you can so they don't have to come in your house. And wear a mask if you have one to protect them from your germs.

PAPARIELLO: I think our members' biggest fear is bringing the virus home to our families.

TODD (voice-over): If a responding team in D.C. arrives at a home with a suspected case of coronavirus, Papariello says, each responder has to take an extra few seconds to dawn a mask, face shield, gown and foot covers. He doesn't believe there's enough of a delay to compromise a patient's safety. But sometimes it's out of a responders courageous hands.

New York paramedic Anthony Almojera gives a gut-wrenching account of trying to comfort a coronavirus victim's husband while social distancing

ALMOJERA: When he realized that his wife had passed away and we worked through up and did everything we could. And then afterwards, I went to tell him, and normally I would put my arm around them, but --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

ALMOJERA: -- this time around, I had to keep distance and I watched this man's grief come over him, his anger, his sadness. For the first time in my 17-year career, I went back inside in the truck and I cried.

TODD: The anxieties and the taxing of resources they're building up across the country. And that doesn't even include the simple steps that a station like this has to take just to fight off coronavirus infections. A truck like this has to be wiped off, disinfected two or three times a day. And after each call where there might be symptoms of coronavirus and ambulance has to be taken to a separate site, and aerosolized with a disinfecting spray. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting for us.

Let's bring in Gloria Borger, our Chief Political Analyst. Gloria, the President is facing an enormously difficult week right now. The American people are facing an enormously difficult week, maybe the worst one yet this week, and next week, by all accounts. This is such a sensitive moment for the entire country that's unfolding and it's hard to believe what's going on given the number of deaths.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly is, Wolf, we've never been to anything like this before. And I think what the American people are looking for is some sense of clarity here, some sense of leadership in which you see that the President and his scientific advisors agree and the President and governors agree, because after all, everybody is in the same business right now, which is trying to save American lives.

[17:55:07]

And I think what we have been seeing, and I don't know whether that will continue to be the case, but we have been seeing is a lot of disagreement here about whether this anti-malaria drug should be used, when it should be used, and disagreements among governors and governors disagreeing with the White House about what they should be doing in their own states.

And I think what the American public wants right now, when you look at the polling, and I know obviously, it's not productive to do that every day. But the public wants a sense that people are working together to get this done. And they trust the scientists and the doctors to tell them what they ought to be doing and how they ought to be doing it.

And I think what they're getting instead very often is mixed signals. Governor Cuomo in his state is very, very clear what he wants New Yorkers to do. For example, he wants New Yorkers to stay home. He's going to start fining them about staying home.

And you hear what all the emergency room doctors are telling you to do on your very own air, Wolf. So I think we need to get that kind of a signal from the White House and get some sort of sense about how the equipment is being sent to hospitals and doctors all across the country, how that is being distributed.

And whether -- it's not about whether a president likes a certain governor or state or doesn't like a certain governor, it's about the need. And whether there is one person who is in charge of that. And I know that's what Chuck Schumer has been talking to the President about putting Azar in charge of all of this, to make sure that the medical supplies go where they are needed, and that the doctor's advice is heated. BLITZER: Let me bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our Chief Medical Correspondent who's also standing by. We're watching all of this unfold. Sanjay, when they say this week could be another 911, the surgeon general yesterday said that another Pearl Harbor type of week, what should the American public be bracing for this week and next week?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I mean, I think most Americans have sort of heard these terms now over the last several weeks, if not months, about the curve and sort of understand that the number of patients who have been diagnosed with this infection, the number of people who will be hospitalized, and sadly, the number of people who will die is sort of getting to the top of this curve over the next few weeks, Wolf.

Maybe in the next week or so in New York, the next few weeks in the United States as a whole but there's other places around the country where, you know, that curve may be a little bit delayed. But that's what we're talking about here, Wolf.

And, you know, we have been following this for several months and sort of seeing these numbers slowly tick up and then the pace at which these numbers start to go up. And if you start to really understand that it takes some time between the time someone is diagnosed before the time they start to develop symptoms, before the time they may be hospitalized, all of that you start to understand what the lag period is here.

And when you put all that together, it looks like these next couple weeks are going to be some of the most critical, they're going to be some of the saddest, Wolf, as well, because a lot of people are going to get sick and, you know, are going to need these hospital services.

So that's what they're talking about. And obviously, we're hoping that the numbers are lower than some of the projections are but we don't know yet for sure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, these are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. These are people, they're not just numbers, and it's so painful to think about the huge, huge number of wonderful people who are about to be lost. And, you know, there's, you know, just hard to believe what's going on. Sanjay, stand by, I want to bring in Jim Acosta, our Chief White House Correspondent. Jim, there seems to be a lot of inconsistency in messaging coming from the White House.

ACOSTA: That is certainly the case, Wolf. And we've just been listening into the President just a few moments ago talking at the briefing that just started a little while ago. And, you know, the President has been insisting over the last several minutes that all of the governors around the country are happy with what's going on in terms of getting medical equipment shipped to their respective states.

Wolf, we just know that that is not the case. There was an HHS inspector general's report that just came out today that said that there are supply shortages across the country in hospitals and that hospitals are dealing with such a shortage of personal protective equipment that doctors and patients and nurses and medical personnel are all being put at risk.

And so, you know, we're in another situation as this briefing is just getting started, Wolf, where the President is saying one thing and the fact say otherwise. It does sound as though the President is sort of seizing on Illinois Governor Pritzker at this moment.