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Early Signs Social Distancing Is Working As Nation Battles Outbreak; U.K Prime Minister Johnson In ICU After Coronavirus Symptoms Worsened; Surgeon General Says, Many Black Americans At Higher Risk For COVID. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 7, 2020 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Jim Sciutto. Thanks so much for joining.

We, of course, wish you and your families the best through this as this country battles a pandemic that has now killed nearly 11,000 people, concerns that might even over -- understate the number. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the curve, as we say, could be flattening in the hardest hit area so far in the U.S., that is New York City. He says that hospitalizations and ICU admissions, or new ones, are down on a daily basis. Of course, the total is still growing, but on a daily basis, the rate of growth is slowing.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, he is keeping optimism in check, warning that the U.S. may never get back to the way things were before this outbreak, especially without a vaccine.

HARLOW: Also this morning, a major question, what did they know and when did they know it. This is about reports from a top White House adviser memo right there, written in January, warning the administration about a pandemic and the potential for millions of deaths. Again, this was written to the president and his team in January. It directly contradicts what the president was saying then and has been saying for weeks.

We're on top of all the headlines here and around the world, that includes in London, where U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Jim, is in intensive care right now.

SCIUTTO: Listen, it shows that really anyone can end up at risk of this.

Let's begin though in New York. It remains the epicenter of the outbreak here in the U.S. Athena Jones, she's in New York City. So, Athena, tell us what the latest numbers are there and how officials are reacting to them. ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jim. Well, the latest numbers are showing that New York State could be turning a corner. I say, could, because we have to see if this is a trend, it's still too early to say. But we know that the numbers from Sunday into Monday that deaths in the State of the New York were mostly flat.

Now, we're still talking about a high level of deaths. Nearly 5,000 people have died of the coronavirus in New York State. But it is a positive thing if they are leveling off.

The other positive indications we're seeing, the daily intubations are down, that means the number of people needing to be hooked up to ventilators, daily intensive care unit admissions are down and daily hospitalizations are down, that means the number of new hospitalizations. And so those are all good signs.

Governor Cuomo saying, look, we don't know if we're flattening this curve yet. We have to wait and see what the data looks like as we move forward. And so we're anxiously awaiting what comes out of the governor's next press briefing in about an hour from now.

But all of this comes as state and local officials, not just here in New York but across the country, are concerned about making sure that they have the capacity to care for whatever number of coronavirus patients end up coming to their hospitals. And so that's why there is a bit focus here on bringing new beds on line, like right here at the Javits Convention Center, 2,500 new beds, but also getting supplies and staff. And so that is something that New York has been getting reinforcements of.

We know that 600,000 N95 respirator masks, those very important masks for healthcare workers to make sure they are able to safely intubate people, put them on ventilator machines, those arrived in the city yesterday.

We also know that California is giving 500 ventilators back to the Strategic National Stockpile so they can be used by states like New York that are seeing a real surge in cases.

So a lot of movement is taking place with supplies, staff and also hospital beds to make sure that New York is able to handle this surge. But, again, maybe, just maybe, New York is beginning to turn a corner.

And one more thing, guys, we've been talking a lot about the impact on hospitals and the medical system. Also ordinary people are struggling. People who were struggling before this crisis are probably struggling even more. And so that is why the New York City Department of Education is now making three free meals a day available to any New Yorker who can pick them up at 400 locations around the city, no one turned away.

HARLOW: That's great.

SCIUTTO: It makes a big difference. I mean, the lines we've seen, people showing up at food banks, for instance, in other places around the country, folks who never thought that they would depend on that kind of aid.

Athena jones, thanks so much to you.

Well, police, of course, very much on the frontlines of all this. And as they visit the restaurants and super markets, other public spaces to warn people to maintain that social distancing.


Nearly one in five of New York Police Department's uniformed workforce is now out sick.

HARLOW: Shimon Prokupecz is live in New York. I mean, Shimon, you're so tapped in to this community. That's remarkable that 20 percent of them have contracted this or are out at least with the symptoms of it.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is the number of officers that are out sick, whether it's because of the coronavirus or other issues. There's a large number, obviously, that have the symptoms. Some 2,000, almost 2,000 officers have tested positive. There's going to be new numbers later today. Those numbers are expected to get higher.

The number of sick is probably much higher at this point. And as the days go on, it's, of course, expected that a lot of these officers who are patrolling the streets but also go back to their communities where they live. A lot of them live within the five boroughs, a lot of them live outside of New York City, Long Island, parts of Westchester. So they go home, and that's perhaps where they're contracting it, perhaps it's out on the street. That at is still unclear.

NYPD, at some point, is going to try to figure all that out. But it is significant, the number of officers that continue calling in sick, the number that are getting sick, and it's also the civilian members of the NYPD, some close to 300 civilian numbers who have contracted the virus.

Despite all this, the department is working, they're able to patrol the streets. They're not seeing any significant decrease in terms of how they can perform their duties. Crime, obviously, is down, so numbers -- statistics are down for any kind of activity that you would normally see from police officers. All that is down.

So, luckily, the one good news is despite these high number of officers being out sick, they still are able to perform their duty. And the other thing is some officers actually -- some other good news, having come back to work after they've contracted the virus.

So there are some glimmers of hope here within the NYPD, but nonetheless, of course, Jim and Poppy, this is significant that the numbers continue to climb for the NYPD.

SCIUTTO: Shimon Prokupecz in New York, thanks very much. Poppy?

HARLOW: Joining us now is Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our Chief Medical Correspondent. Sanjay, thanks for being here. We have so many questions.

Let's start with hope and the fact that Governor Cuomo here in New York, which has really been the epicenter, says the curve is flattening a bit and the number of deaths at least and admissions isn't going up. What does that actually indicate to us?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think that is hopeful, Poppy. I mean, that is the direction you certainly want to see things going. And as we think about this curve visually, it may be more to think about this is a line that goes up, sort of flattens for a period of time and then comes down. That is sort of what flattening the curve means.

One thing to keep in mind, and we've talked about this before, is that what we're seeing, the picture we're seeing is still a delayed picture between the time someone is exposed to the virus to the time they are tested for the virus, several days can pass. If someone is going to go to the hospital, it can be another eight, nine, ten days after that.

So you're starting to see an image of some three weeks ago, roughly, in terms of how things have been. How have we done over the last three weeks? Have we done a better job? Probably. And if that's the case, then that suggests that this curve should stay flat and even start to go down.

But what it doesn't mean, I think it's important to say, is that we can't let up yet either because these are early numbers, we want to make sure they hold, the trend continues and that we don't suddenly start to have a re-emergence or sort of a peak again later on.

SCIUTTO: Sanjay, so I can understand here, what does this mean for people who are lucky enough to not have been infected or at least to their knowledge not having been infected? Does that mean we and others like me are less likely to be infected going forward, or does it mean that if we are and other members of the population aren't infected, it's just that they won't all be infected at the same time and therefore won't overwhelm healthcare facilities, if you know what I mean here? By flattening the curve, are you decreasing the area under that curve and the total number of cases?

GUPTA: This is the critical point, Jim. I mean, this is exactly it. You may be decreasing the area underneath that curve a little bit, but that is not really what the flattening of the curve really means. It is more about trying to spread out the rate at which people get sick. I mean, look, this is still a very contagious virus. One person can spread it to two or three other people, as we know. That doesn't change by these measures. It changes in the fact that we social distance from each other and will slow down that rate of transmission.

But I think what you're hearing from public health officials and what we've seen throughout history is that, ultimately, a lot of us are likely to be exposed to this virus.


It may not happen during the first wave, it may happen a second wave or a third wave. But before there is a vaccine, there is a good chance, Jim, to your point, that a lot of us will be exposed to this.

HARLOW: Sanjay, can you talk a little bit about the study we saw this morning? We just had an OBGYN on last hour, but about it was hopeful for pregnant women, that they don't seem to get any more adverse impact from coronavirus than anyone else, even though they're immunocompromised. I know it's pretty small, but is it reliable to you and uplifting?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, I certainly do look at these -- all these studies optimistically but also with humility, Poppy, because these are early studies. I mean, part of the reason they're so small is because we are all dealing with this as a world for the first time. So you're right, you would expect women during pregnancy, because they're immunocompromised. They're immunocompromised because they're trying to basically not have their immune system go attack the fetus. So that's why the body naturally weakens itself.

But in this case, it doesn't seem to have an impact really in terms of making the more susceptible to the virus. They also don't seem to spread the virus through amniotic fluid or through breastfeeding as well. And these are good signs. Again, like everything, we want to see if it sort of holds up as we see more and more women, but it looks promising so far.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, it's so good to have you clear things up so many things for us. I appreciate your time.

HARLOW: Thanks, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Remember, you can join Dr. Gupta and Anderson Cooper for the next CNN town hall on coronavirus with special guest, the basketball great Magic Johnson. This is going to be Thursday night at 8:00 Eastern Time, of course, only on CNN.

HARLOW: Well, this morning, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in stable condition but he is still in an intensive care unit at a London hospital. He has said to be breathing without assistance and receiving, quote, standard oxygen treatment. This is after his coronavirus symptoms worsened overnight.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Clarissa Ward, she's been covering the story. She joins us now live outside St. Thomas' Hospital in London.

Clarissa, what more do we know about the prime minister's condition? Because there have been genuine, valid questions raised in the U.K. about how fulsomely the government has been sharing information about this.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fulsomely is exactly the word, Jim. What we know essentially is that his condition hasn't deteriorated. He is still in the ICU, he is conscious, he is breathing on his own, meaning he has not been intubated, he does not require a ventilator. He is getting oxygen treatment, though they were emphasizing that it was standard to show that it's not severe. But very, clearly, the mere fact that he is in the intensive care unit does underscore just what a serious situation this is. And that has not always really been matched by the rhetoric that we've heard coming from 10 Downing Street, who, just yesterday, were telling us that, you know, everything was essentially fine, this was a precautionary measure, he was just getting some tests because he had these persistent symptoms.

Now, it's become abundantly clear that it is more serious than that. Certainly, we haven't heard of any improvements in his condition either. But the good news is that he does not appear to have contracted secondary infection, like pneumonia, he is still breathing on his own, he has deputized where necessary, using the words of his spokesman, the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, to take action while he is absent, so to speak.

But make no bones about it, there is a lot of the concern here, there's a lot of anxiety, and I think everybody of all political persuasions here in the U.K. really would like to see the prime minister make a speedy recovery. Jim, Poppy?

HARLOW: Clarissa, thank you. Sending well wishes certainly for a recovery soon.

Some sad news in the U.S. We've just crossed the 11,000 threshold in terms of deaths, according to Johns Hopkins, who tracks these numbers, 11,008 deaths, Jim, right now in the United States. We're going up so much every day.

We have a lot ahead. The coronavirus is taking a disproportionate toll on African-Americans not only in Michigan but across the country. We'll speak to one African-American state lawmaker in Michigan who contracted coronavirus, and we'll talk to him about the numbers that we're seeing.

SCIUTTO: And in Wisconsin, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, voters are going to the polls, this after state officials tried to extend voting, allow more voting by mail. That was blocked by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court, what does this mean for November? Listen to this. It has big implications.

And the acting Navy secretary has been ordered to apologize after calling a Navy captain who was relieved of his duties stupid.


We're going to have the latest ahead.


HARLOW: This morning, the U.S. surgeon general says African-Americans are at a higher risk for coronavirus. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I've shared myself personally that I have high blood pressure, that I have heart disease and spent a week in the ICU due to a heart condition, that I actually have asthma and I'm pre-diabetic. So I represent that legacy of growing up poor and black in America, and I and many black Americans are at higher risk for COVID. It's why we need everyone to do their part to slow the spread.



HARLOW: He's exactly right, and you can see that higher risk when you take a deep look at the numbers we have so far. Out of Detroit, they show that the black community there is suffering much more than any other group. It is a similar story in many cities across the country.

Tyrone Carter is a Michigan State Representative whose district covers part of Detroit. He was also one of the -- was the first lawmaker in Michigan to contract coronavirus. Thank you, sir, for being with me.

And just -- how are you feeling? I mean, you've come out on the other side of this.

STATE REP. TYRONE CARTER (D-MI): Yes, thank you for having me this morning, and you're absolutely right. I am on the other side. I feel almost 100 percent better. But a week-and-a-half ago, it was really rough.

HARLOW: What was it like to go through?

CARTER: Every symptom that you hear about, I had. My temperature was at 102, I had the sweats, then my teeth were just shaking. I had the chills. Then my entire body ached. And at one point, I had no taste at all, you know. There was no taste. And I think that's where the weight loss comes from for a lot of people. You just don't taste anything, you don't want to eat anything, and I think that was the worst part.

So after that broke, I started feeling a little better and got my taste back, muscles were okay, and I just tried to stay as hydrated as possible.

HARLOW: All right. Let's talk about what I think should be described as a crisis in this country on top of this pandemic being a crisis, and that is the fact that more black people are dying from it. Look at Detroit. 40 percent of the deaths or 41 percent now are African- Americans across Michigan despite being 14 percent of the population. Similar story in Chicago, similar story in Louisiana, similar story in Milwaukee, same in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. What is your reaction to those numbers and why do you think it is?

CARTER: Well, numbers and the facts don't lie. But it shows the -- this pandemic just magnifies what we already knew, access to healthcare, environmental issues in certain communities, air quality, water quality, we think about Flint, we think about my district, which has air issues, asthma. So environment creates some of these underlying issues, and then the disparity of treatment.

When we talk about healthcare, it's easy to say that it's accessible, but to people that don't have a job, a service job that has healthcare, sometimes they use urgent care or the emergency room as their primary care physician.

So what this has done is magnified those issues to show that there is still a huge gap between races when it comes to healthcare. And this is really magnifying it.

HARLOW: To your point, a number of U.S. senators wrote a letter to HHS on March 30th, and I just re-read it this morning, but pleading with HHS to start collecting and then distributing data in terms of racial and ethnic demographic data in terms of contraction and treatment and deaths for COVID in order to address racial disparities.

We have reached out to HHS, have not heard back yet. But do you believe that HHS should be collecting this, and if they are already distributing it?

CARTER: Absolutely. I think that we need -- once this is over, because we're in the middle of something right now, and the moment this is over, we need to drill down, look back and say, what could we do differently? We have a lot of work to do in this country.

HARLOW: Finally, when you talk about healthcare workers, the Henry Ford healthcare system there, which is huge across Michigan, 734 of their healthcare professionals this morning have contracted COVID-19. The CEO says, procuring daily supplies for those staff is a, quote, daily battle. The governor talked about this again just yesterday, saying they're dangerously low on PPE. What is your call to action to the federal government, to anyone who can help at this point in time to protect those frontline healthcare workers in your district?

CARTER: Anyone who is listening, anybody who is watching, anybody who has the resources, we need to get it to the hospitals first. Because if we have too many people that contracted that are working there, who is going to help the people that need it? I think they're the top priority, period. Our police and fire -- we need these people. We need these people to do their jobs to save lives. So whatever they need, we need to get it to them as soon as possible.

HARLOW: Yes, no question. Michigan State Representative Tyrone Carter, we're glad you're better. We're so glad and thank you for coming on to talk to us.

CARTER: Absolutely. If I can add just one thing --


CARTER: -- I need for responsible people to hold their irresponsible relatives accountable and make them stay home. Get them to stay home. The longer they stay in, the quicker we can go out.


And, finally, please fill out your census forms.

HARLOW: Thank you for that. We'll talk to you soon. Jim?

CARTER: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Don't miss this story. It's important and has national implications. Long lines outside polling places in Wisconsin, where despite the deadly pandemic, a court says today will be the last day voters can cast a primary ballot. This is about a bigger battle between Democrats and Republicans about voting access with national implications. Stay with us.