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Nearly 400,000 U.S. Coronavirus Cases, Deaths Top 11,000; Wisconsin Voters Face Long Lines Amid Pandemic; Acting Navy Secretary Ordered To Apologize After Calling Navy Captain Stupid. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 7, 2020 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Our special coverage continues with Anderson Cooper. Have a great afternoon.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I am Anderson cooper. You are watching CNN's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Right now, the total number of cases nearing a staggering 400,000 people here in the United States, with all but one state, Wyoming now reporting deaths from the virus.

In New York, which is home to roughly a third of the total cases, Governor Andrew Cuomo is once again offering a glimmer of hope even as he announced the state recently posted its largest single day increase of COVID-19 deaths.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Right now, we are projecting that we are reaching a plateau of the total number of hospitalizations and you can see the growth and you see it starting to flatten. Again, this is a projection. It still depends on what we do and what we do will affect those numbers. This is not an act of God that we are looking at. It's an act of what society actually does.


COOPER: Shimon Prokupecz is at the Comfort, the Navy ship, which will now be treating patients with the virus after initially being brought to New York City for non-COVID cases. We'll get to that. But, first, and a large chunk of the NYPD is suffering from the virus. Give us the numbers.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a large chunk suffering. We're talking a large number of people, but more importantly, it's the number of people that have been calling out sick. We are almost at 20 percent at the NYPD, the number of officers who have been calling out sick. At last count, it was close to 7,000. That number is likely to grow today.

They've had, as you know, 12 deaths, a detective, police officers, civilians who have lost their lives. Of course, this is everyone who is part of some community. And in many case, that is how they are contracting the virus. But nonetheless, it is taking its toll on the NYPD and also close to 2,000 members, police officers who have tested positive for the virus, Anderson.

COOPER: So we should point out that almost 20 percent figure, that doesn't necessarily mean that all of them have COVID, it's just that's the percentage of officers who are calling in sick or employees of the police department calling in sick.

PROKUPECZ: That's right. And these are officers who are calling out sick for other reasons or some who have symptoms and are waiting to get results back from the tests that are being conducted.

So there are a large number certainly for the police department. But as you said, it is important to point out that a large number that have called out sick don't necessarily have the coronavirus.

COOPER: Yes. The Comfort, they're now admitting coronavirus patients. Any sense of how many patients they already have on board? And I also understand one crew member has tested positive.

PROKUPECZ: That's right, Anderson. So we are just getting in numbers from the Navy on the number of patients behind me here at the Comfort, 41 patients, five of which have tested positive for the coronavirus.

And as you said, initially, the ship was not going to take these coronavirus patients but the governor said he spoke to the president, he spoke to the military, and so they decided to help the hospitals. They were going to take these coronavirus patients.

They're only allowed to take up to 500 now. Initially, they were going to take a thousand. But they said they needed -- because of isolation reasons, they can't take that many patients, as they initially have hoped, so they're only taking up to 500.

And, yes, Anderson, there is a crew member aboard this ship who tested positive for the coronavirus. It's not clear how he contracted the virus. But keep in mind that anyone who works on this ship, who's been aboard this ship can't leave the ship since it's been here docked in Manhattan.

So the likelihood is that the person contracted the virus sometime before they left Virginia and came here, that crew member is isolated. The crew member hasn't had any contact or interaction with patients, but nonetheless the ship, we are told, the Navy is taking every precaution to try and keep that person quarantined and anyone who may have had contact with that crew member, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, I appreciate it.

To Louisiana now where a surge in cases is revealing the devastating effects of coronavirus on African-Americans. Despite being just a third of the state's population in Louisiana, African-Americans account for more than 70 percent of deaths from COVID-19 in Louisiana.

The former mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, says the numbers point to the impacts and the equities and health and the economy in the U.S., something echoed by the surgeon general today.


DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I 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. Then I actually have asthma and I'm pre-diabetic. And 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.


That's why we need everyone to do their part to slow the spread.


COOPER: CNN's Ed Lavandera is in New Orleans for us. Ed, I spoke with Mitch Landrieu about this weeks ago. One of the things that he was saying was an event like this, just like with Hurricane Katrina, it reveals all the inequities that exists in society and this is certainly one of them. What are officials there saying?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's true. We just finished speaking with one doctor here in New Orleans who works in the hospital you see behind me, and he talked about that, how, as they're in the midst of working on this pandemic, and then you see the stats bear out like this and then it kind of jives with what you are seeing there in real life, unfolding before your eyes in these hospitals.

But look at some of the statistics we are seeing. If you take a look at the State of Illinois, 15 percent of the population there are African-American. They account for 42 percent of the deaths in that state. In Louisiana, 32 percent of the population is African-American, yet African-Americans account for 70 percent of the deaths we have seen in the coronavirus.

And when you look a little bit closer in individual cities, look at Chicago, 72 percent of the deaths there, African-American were -- the group accounts for 30 percent of the population. And in Milwaukee County in Wisconsin, 26 percent of the population, African-American, yet accounting for 71 percent of the coronavirus deaths. These are numbers that are extremely jarring to medical professionals across the country.

COOPER: Ed Lavandera, thanks very much, more on this throughout the day.

Two of the top medical officials in the country, both key members of the president's coronavirus task force warning the Americans that the U.S. may never get back to the way things were before this outbreak until there is a vaccine.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I don't think that you're going to have to say that the country cannot get back to a real degree of normalcy until you absolutely have a safe and effective vaccine.

ADAMS: Normal is going to be a different normal whenever we do reopen. We know that once we get a vaccine, we can get more back to the way we treat flu season.


COOPER: Dr. Erica Shenoy is the Associate Chief of the Infection Control Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Anne Rimoin is an infectious disease specialist and the director of the UCLA Center for Global and Immigrant Health.

Dr. Rimoin, if it's going to take a vaccine for life to begin returning to normal in the U.S., that's obviously something that we are still talking about a year or a year-and-a-half away. I'm wondering what you think of what Dr. Fauci and the surgeon general said.

ANNE RIMOIN, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: Well, I think that Dr. Fauci and the surgeon general are correct, that it is going to take some time to be able to get back to normal, and what normal is for us is going to change.

Anderson, you and I have talked for a long time about pandemics and being prepared. And I think that this is just a very good illustration of what we'll now need to be doing. We are nowhere near prepared, we haven't been, we have been suffering from this. And so, going forward, we're going to have to be taking all of this into account.

Our new normal will only begin to occur once we have vaccines and therapeutics and widespread testing. We still do not have any of those things in place, so it's going to take time.

COOPER: Yes. Dr. Shenoy, I mean, the widespread testing thing is so essential. Can you just talk to that piece of this? Because in order to get back to -- even to get out of the current kind of lockdown situation and, you know, to some sort of sense where businesses can reopen and people can start to go out more, even to get to that point is going to require a level of testing which is not currently possible.

DR. ERICA SHENOY, ASSOCIATE CHIEF, INFECTION CONTROL UNIT AT MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: That's absolutely true. I mean, we have come a long way with our testing from weeks ago. And it's actually almost like a day-to-day thing for us. I can give you examples at our facility. We're testing about 400 -- we're doing about 400 tests a day. It's a mix of inpatient, outpatient, but we would like to test more.

And so, actually, each day we are evaluating how many swabs we have, how many reagents and then physically getting to patients, especially outside of the hospital to try to diagnose them, implement some measures and really try to keep them out of the hospital. So identify ways that we can keep them in their setting in some way and then identify them, should they be developing more serious illness, actually need to come to the hospital. So I think we've got a long way to go with our testing but we have come a long way, I would say, in the last several weeks.

COOPER: Dr. Rimoin, flattening, and people are hearing and seeing slowdowns in new cases in New York, and the governor was talking about projections of that which depended on people behaving, still continuing to distance and stay at home also in the West Coast. I'm wondering what your takeaway from this and how concerned are you that people are going to kind of relax their efforts because they think this is -- you know, this is plateauing?


I bike to New York now. I bike to work every day, so I am not interacting with people in vehicles. And I got to tell you, New York is busy and the streets were busier today than I have seen in weeks.

RIMOIN: So I think that you are absolutely right. It is time to double down. We need to double down. If we do not -- we've done a very good job starting to flatten this curve by all the major social distancing methods that have been put in place and all the additive things, like washing hands, now wearing cloth masks, anything that we can do. But if we start to relax right now, we will lose all the ground that we've gained.

So, now is not the time of thinking how we reopen, not the time we can make this -- we can really push on this curve and flatten it.

COOPER: Dr. Shenoy, CDC just released a new study showing that children make up just 2 percent of the coronavirus cases and most of those cases are mild. That's certainly some good news for parents, for families, for everybody to focus on.

SHENOY: Yes. I would say this is a study of 150,000 diagnosed cases and you have the number up there of 370. So we're already twice as many total cases of those, about 2,500 were in children, so a small proportion. And so the great news that you described is that they seem to have milder illness and they seem to require less hospitalization.

One of the challenges though is that these individuals can actually not develop the same sort of symptoms, and so identifying them as possibly infected and potentially a source for other members in the household is a challenge.

COOPER: And, Dr. Shenoy, what's the situation in the hospital at University of Massachusetts just in terms of the levels of patients?

SHENOY: Yes. So at Mass General right now, so, actually, an hour ago when I checked our numbers, we are really at a very high number of patients for us. So we have 225 patients who are confirmed COVID in- house. A large number of those are in our various ICUs, so critically ill. We also have over a hundred that we're investigating right now and testing. And we are not even at the top of the curve.

And so a lot of the work we have been doing around the clock is preparing and bracing ourselves for that peak, which right now, the experts suggests, for us at least, in our community right now maybe about the third week of April. So we have ways to go and we are already at pretty high numbers of cases in our facility.

COOPER: I wish you the best. Dr. Erica Shenoy, thank you, Anne Rimoin, thank you.

Coming up, in the middle of a pandemic, people at Wisconsin are lining up for several hours to vote in today's primary election. We'll take a look at how voters are reacting.

Plus, the acting secretary of the Navy now apologizing after calling a fired Navy captain stupid or naive. Now, we're learning that what led to the apology as cases skyrocket on the USS Roosevelt.

And later, there is growing concern that a fourth stimulus package is needed to help Americans. What's going to be in it and how quickly can the Congress pass it? We'll speak with House Speaker Pelosi, ahead.



COOPER: Despite having more than 2,500 reported coronavirus cases and nearly 100 deaths, today in Wisconsin, polls are open and in-person voting is currently underway. CNN video shows long voter lines in the midst of the pandemic. We're told wait times in Milwaukee are up to three hours long. This comes after state's Supreme Court overruled the governor's bid to delay the Democratic primary there until June, and the Supreme Court refused to extend the deadline for absentee ballots.

Bernie Sanders, who would also call for the primary to be delayed, lambasted the court's ruling in a statement saying, quote, let's be clear, holding this election amid the coronavirus outbreak is dangerous, disregards the guidance of public health experts and may very well prove deadly.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Milwaukee at a polling location. So I understand that residents there are supposed to be under a stay-at- home order. What are you hearing from voters who have come out?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. At this point, what we have heard so far, we are at one of five polling locations, only five in Milwaukee, five out of the typically 180 that we see. But because they didn't have enough poll workers that wanted to risk their health and show up to volunteer and work, they had to make that down to five. It is part of why have seen long lines at multiple of even these five locations.

And one voter we spoke to at this location, masked up, said that while she was happy to perform her civic duty, she was not happy she potentially had to risk her health to do so.


ROSA OROZCO, WISCONSIN PRIMARY VOTER: I was kind of upset coming out here today because they're telling us, don't go out, and if you can help not going to shop today, this week is pretty -- is the peak, it might be the peak. So stay home and be safe. But then they want us to kind of do our civic duty, which I don't mind. But I think they could have postponed the date to further down the line like the mayor had wanted to and governor. So it's pretty upsetting that our leaders don't take consideration of their citizens.


JIMENEZ: And that upset is what we heard from many voters who are walking out of the polling place here behind me. Though they did say all of what they saw inside these polling places did seem to be sanitary and they did feel comfortable once they were inside, Anderson.

COOPER: And just talk about precautions, because, clearly, there you see the line, people are distancing. It looks like they put up cones to kind of inform people where six feet should be.

JIMENEZ: For sure. As you can imagine, there has been a lot of thought that went into how to keep not only poll workers safe but also the voters that have been coming in. So when you walk into some of these polling places, some of the locations here in Wisconsin actually have plexiglass to divide from the workers sit and the voters themselves.


The poll workers are wearing masks and gloves. And even when a voter walks up to a table and has to, let's say, present their I.D., that process is completely non-contact. They'll put their I.D. down, step away, then the poll worker will look at that I.D., will not touch it, just examine it, and then they move on from there. So a lot of thought went into this to, if you are going to have election in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, to try and make sure it happens as safely as possible, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Omar Jimenez, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Still ahead, new details of the drama surrounding the fired Navy captain who raised the alarm about the virus on his ship, why a top official called him stupid or naive is now apologizing after saying he stood by his words.



COOPER: We now know why acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is apologizing after saying this about the former aircraft carrier commander who raised the alarm about an outbreak on his ship.


THOMAS MODLY, ACTING NAVY SECRETARY: 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Modly to apologize for slamming Captain Brett Crozier after making those remarks to Crozier's former crew members on USS Theodore Roosevelt. 230 sailors on that ship have tested positive. It's an increase of more than 30 percent since yesterday.

I want to bring in the secretary of the Navy during the Obama administration, Ray Mabus. Thanks so much for being with us, Mr. Secretary.

Modly initially defended his remarks, then hours later called Captain Crozier, quote, smart and passionate and apologized for, quote, any confusion his choice of words may have caused. It doesn't seem like there was any confusion about his choice of words. It's pretty clear what his choice of words was. Can you survive after this?

RAY MABUS, FORMER SECRETARY OF NAVY: Well, I don't know how you continue to lead after this. I don't know how you expect people to follow you after this. This is an all-volunteer force who raise their hands and said, send me.

But I think that the abrupt turn here shows what the problem is. This only happens, secretary defense only told the acting secretary of the Navy to apologize after the president said, I might get involved here. And so you've got a commander in chief who politicizes the military all the time, who gets involved completely inappropriately, who pardons war criminals, who decides who can be a SEAL, who calls people, my generals, and who be belittles people all the time and who attacks the press all the time. And the only people who seem to thrive under him are the people who emulate that -- those sorts of actions.

So it's not much of a surprise that somebody would say something like this, attempting to get ahead of the president. And when there was so much blowback, then they decided to the other direction.

COOPER: There is a lot we don't know about sort of the chains of events on this. The acting Navy secretary was clearly believing that Captain Crozier leaked the letter that he sent, which there is no evidence of that. I mean, the letter did get out. It was sent to a number of people.

And also there is this belief clearly by the acting secretary that it was inappropriate for him to even send such a letter and to send it kind of above his immediate supervisor. I'm wondering what you make of how -- of Captain Crozier sending this letter and how he did it.

MABUS: Well, you almost have to know that this one is the first thing he did, that somewhere, the chain of command failed him. Somebody in that position, their first instinct would be not to send the letter. The first instinct would be to go to the chain command.

And I have no doubt that somebody with his experience and his background would have done that. And that's one of the chief of naval operations, I understand, said, let's investigate this. Let's see why it happened. Because he had to do it, Captain Crozier had to do it as an act of desperation, as I am trying to protect my sailors, marines here, I am trying to do the right thing, and I'm willing to risk my career over it.

COOPER: I want to play -- and you mentioned what the president said about maybe him getting involved in this. I just want to play what he said yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The letter should not have been sent to many people unclassified. That was a mistake.

So the letter shouldn't have been sent. With all of that said, his career prior to that was very good. So I am going to get involved and see exactly what's going on there because I don't want to destroy somebody for having a bad day.


COOPER: I wonder what you make of that?


MABUS: I am going to get involved. He's gotten involved, as I have said, over and over again and politicizes the military.