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FDNY Members Test Positive for Virus; New Study on Pregnant Women and Coronavirus; Grisham Leaving West Wing. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired April 7, 2020 - 09:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Short staffed, longer hours, brutal decisions on the front lines, and, of course, health risks to themselves. The White House warning of a devastating week, particularly for medical workers, first responders, and, of course, facing a lot of difficult weeks.

In New York, the FDNY (ph) says nearly 500 of its members have now tested positive for Covid-19 and more than 3,000 members are now out sick. Imagine the burden that is on the others who are still working.

I'm joined now by Anthony Almojera, a lieutenant with both the NYPD and the New York City Fire Department EMS.

So good to have you on, Lieutenant.

You're getting, by the figures we have, 6,500 to 7,000 calls a day. Imagine that. As a Sunday, you have nearly 500 FDNY members who had tested positive, 3,000 members out sick.

How are you able to respond to all those calls given you have so many folks struggling with this themselves?

ANTHONY ALMOJERA, EMS LIEUTENANT PARAMEDIC, NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT: Well, I'm a fire department EMS lieutenant. I don't -- the NYPD thing, they'll get mad if you lock me in with them.

The -- it's -- I don't know how we're doing it. We're -- it's -- it's truly a testament to the EMS workers that we have here, the EMTs and paramedics. We're really stepping up. It is pretty amazing to see how they're going out in spite of seeing all their co-workers get sick, it's frightening for a lot of us. We don't want to bring it home. We don't want to get sick with it. But, you know, this is our job. We treat the sick and injured daily. We still have our regular 911 calls to go to.


It's truly a testament to the EMTs and paramedics that are doing this day in and day out. SCIUTTO: Yes, I've got to say, as a New Yorker, when I see you guys

out there and the risks you're saying and the health consequences, I can't help but think of the wake of 9/11. It just -- it just echoes those memories in my mind.

I want to read one of your tweets from last week, because this really struck us. Sixteen hour day, 15 runs, 10 cardiac arrest calls, that's a lot of death. Please, everyone, stay home, this is not a joke.

As you know, some communities around the country, they've been slow to institute these stay at home orders or they're still dismissing the risk. What's your message to communities like that who might imagine that they're somehow immune from this?

ALMOJERA: They're not immune. Nobody is immune. This Sunday, this past Sunday, I personally did 12 cardiac arrests. I had another medic who worked long hours tell me they did ten. All various ages. Underlying medical conditions. Some not.

Nobody is immune to this. You have to stay home, if you can. It's -- this -- the numbers they're reporting are not including the deaths that are occurring in the field. I have no way of testing. We have no way of testing ourselves.

The 911 providers in New York City are not getting tests. So if we know we have it. So the people that are out there, you have to stay home. The systems traditionally underfunded and understaffed cannot handle this. It's really -- it's really a true pandemic that will hurt you. I see these churches, people going to churches, people still gathering for weddings, that's going to keep us in the EMS busy until the summer.


ALMOJERA: You know, this cannot happen. You have to stay home. And the toll it's taking on the people that I work with, you know, I get phone calls every day about people who are sick and injured --


ALMOJERA: And, you know. And you know what really moved me the other day was an EMT call, because she was sick, and she's giving us an update and she says, you know, I'm still feeling -- I feel bad. And I go, of course you feel bad, you know, you're sick with the virus. And she goes, no, I'm -- I feel bad because I'm not there with you guys. That's, you know, that's EMS.

SCIUTTO: Well, that's -- yes.

Let me ask you this, because I want to be clear here. You're saying the fire department in New York still does not have the ability to even test its own staff in the midst of this?

ALMOJERA: So the fire department of New York and the city of New York is not providing any testing -- dedicated testing for 911 providers. They are not letting us work in 12 hour shifts, which would be ideal so that we can rest probably. They're not giving us the testing so that we know if we have it so that we don't bring it home to our families. The personal protective equipment is still short supply. We're worried about running out of the N-95 masks as we -- you know, so is everybody else in the medical field, but especially 911.

The city is chronically underfunded and understaffed EMS. For years we told them that this was going to happen. We got lucky with H1N1 and SARS and those other pandemics. You know, just skirted the city, affected only a small few.

But the staffing level for us has been abysmal for years. You know, 68 percent of the workforce is gone in the last four years. And this is EMS throughout the country, but it's acute in the larger city. But the fact that we're still out there, answering the call, and I'm still getting EMTs and medic called because they're upset they -- they are upset they got sick because they're not out here.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.

ALMOJERA: You know, that's -- I mean --


ALMOJERA: I don't know what to say.

SCIUTTO: That's --

ALMOJERA: I mean, that's -- that's -- that's who is taking care of you. And we just, you know, we just want to make sure that when this is all over that this is all corrected, you know.


ALMOJERA: Seventeen years here --

SCIUTTO: Well, one thing we can say -- one thing we can say is thank you. I mean that's dedication to say that the one thing they're upset about is they can't get out and do their jobs.

Listen, Anthony, best of luck to you. Stay safe. Other members of the New York Fire Department and EMS who are out there going to battle, right, every day. It's not an exaggeration.

Take care of yourself.

ALMOJERA: (INAUDIBLE). Thank you very much for having us.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks to Anthony and all of them.

Coronavirus is upending so many lives, as you just heard, including new, difficult realities for pregnant women. But there is a brand-new study out this morning that has some good news for expectant mothers.


An OB-GYN caring for many pregnant women will talk to us about it, next.


HARLOW: So there's a new study this morning that finds pregnant women do not seem to be any more likely to develop severe symptoms from coronavirus. That is good news. They also do not seem to pass the infection on to the fetus.

With me now to talk about all of this is Dr. Xaviera Carter, OB-GYN at Tidelands Health Women's Center in South Carolina.

Doctor, thank you so much. I have been wanting for all of my pregnant friends out there to get them some of these answers and this study is such welcome news.

What is your take away from it? It's pretty small. It's 43 pregnant women. But it's -- it's uplifting.


DR. XAVIERA CARTER, OB-GYN, TIDELANDS HEALTH WOMEN'S CENTER: Absolutely. It's a very, very important study. It comes out of the epicenter of the coronavirus in New York. Two affiliated hospitals. And so we're excited about this news. It gives extra reassurance to my patients and pregnant moms all over the nation about the no greater impact of the coronavirus in pregnant women.

Typically, we tend to see pregnant women are more susceptible to increased illnesses, just simply because of changes in their bodies. So, again, this is very, very reassuring news, particularly the impact on no vertical (ph) transmission to the baby as far as we know and no identification of transmission in breast-feeding, which is also very important.

HARLOW: Yes, and, look, I remember, having been pregnant twice before, when you're sick, there's just not a lot of medicine you can take, right, which -- which complicates things even more.

CARTER: You're absolutely right.

HARLOW: What about questions that many pregnant women have about after their baby is born. Sort of the increased risk just being in the hospital to deliver, just in terms of germs, et cetera. How you handling that? And then on -- and then in breast-feeding their babies, any indication that this is transmitted through breast milk?

CARTER: Again, this is -- we're still in very early stages of what we know about the coronavirus. So I can't say with absolute certainty that it's not transmitted in breast milk. But the studies that we do have, the limited studies, are showing, no, that it's not transmitted.

We're having multiple discussions with patients about the importance of hand hygiene, social distancing, avoiding sick contacts. There are very strict visitor regulations at the majority of hospitals across the nations to protect the patients, the moms, the babies and their loved ones. So we're having those very important discussions. If our moms themselves are symptomatic, we -- and they're breast-

feeding, we would like them to wear a mask and make sure they're doing all they can to prevent any possible transmission to their family.

HARLOW: There has been a discussion about -- I have had friends asking me about, well, should I induce, should I induce at say 39 weeks, for example, before this reaches the apex in whatever city I'm living in. There's divided thought on that among professionals. Where do you fall?

CARTER: That is -- that's a great question. We tend to induce for obstetrical indications. There is a study that does support elective inductions at 39 weeks or greater in women who are at low risk. However, I cannot say that this is the time to really ramp up inductions in the hospital. We still want to be cognizant of trying to restrict visitors, limit inflection -- limit the transmission of infections. So I think that's a discussion that every patient should have personally with their OB-GYN or other provider.

HARLOW: Sure, because the other side of that is then you can have a -- you could result in a much longer labor, right?

CARTER: Absolutely.

HARLOW: It doesn't always -- doesn't always happen quickly.

CARTER: Yes. Yes.

HARLOW: Final question, what's the biggest question, the most frequent question you're getting from your patients?

CARTER: You know, it's a multitude of questions. A lot of patients are fearful, understandably, in this unknown and uncertain time. I think they just want to be assured that they're going to have a great labor and delivery experience. And that's the biggest thing that I reassure them of every day, that we, as obstetrical providers, will do our best to make sure that this milestone in their life is memorable.

HARLOW: Thanks for what you're doing. Good luck to all those moms out there.

Dr. Carter, we'll see you soon.

CARTER: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: Of course.

We'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: This breaking news just in to CNN. CNN learning about a shake-up at the White House in the midst of this pandemic.

HARLOW: Our White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins has the news. She joins us. Also media correspondent Brian Stelter is with us.

But, Kaitlan, let's just begin with you on the news about the White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone: Yes, this is notable because Stephanie Grisham has been in this job since last summer. She took over after Sarah Sanders, of course, left her position. But now she is leaving her job as press secretary. She's going back to the East Wing to be Melania Trump's chief of staff, where she initially spent most of her time.

But what is so notable about her departure is that she is leaving the job without ever having briefed reporters. That was something that became really striking early on in her tenure. She initially had told people she was going to revive those daily press briefings that had really gone by the wayside at the end of Sarah Sanders' time at the job, and then she never did.

She often told people that this had to do with the president himself, that he did not want her briefing reporters. But, of course, you've see how notable that has changed in recent days because the president himself has been the one coming out and briefing reporters on the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, what is also notable about this (INAUDIBLE) is that this comes as there is a clear communication shake-up happening inside the West Wing comms job, and that is that the chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who is now formerly in his role, is considering several people for press secretary.

It doesn't seem that he has selected anyone for the job yet, but he's also considering hiring the Trump campaign spokesperson, he's looking at the Pentagon spokeswoman, Alyssa Farah, as well. So he's considering several people and it doesn't appear he's made selections on those positions yet. But it's notable because we do often see chiefs of staff come in and try to change the communications shop during their time there.


And, of course, this all comes as we're in the middle of the administration responding to the coronavirus pandemic as well.

SCIUTTO: Brian Stelter, Kaitlan said it there, in effected the president is his own press secretary here and one who, as part of that role, has made attacking the press part of the message.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and that is unfortunate and part of a three-year strategy to delegitimize the press in this country. And Stephanie Grisham did not stand up to him. No one really seems to stand up to the president when he attacks the media in this way. At least internally no one stands up to him.

That is why this transition may not matter all that much, but I do think it is very disappointing and notable, as Kaitlan said, this is a press secretary who never held an on-camera press briefing. The president has been critical of the White House communications operation. He even recently, he said there was disappointment about not getting his message out the way he wants. Of course, ultimately, the message he wants to get out is oftentimes inaccurate.

The public deserves frequent and also accurate White House press briefings. And under Stephanie Grisham, they were not frequent, at least until the coronavirus pandemic, and now that they've been happening frequently, they've not been accurate, either. Ultimately, that's the fault of the president. but let -- you know, it doesn't seem any press secretary is able to change that in the Trump administration to date.

SCIUTTO: Yes, or make an effort to change it.

Brian Stelter, Kaitlan Collins, thanks for that reporting.

We're going to be right back after a short break.