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Stephanie Grisham Out As White House Press Secretary; Trump Removes Watchdog Of Pandemic Accountability Group; Drug Hoarding Making Life Difficult For Patients; Health Care Workers Sound Alarm On Severe Staff Shortages & Urgent Need For Medical Supplies; Michigan's Two Largest Health Care Providers Say Over 2,000 Health Care Workers Test Positive; Grocery & Other Essential Stores Introduce New Safety Measures Amid Pandemic. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 7, 2020 - 14:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: People had the idea when the president hired his new chief of staff, Mark Meadows, there could likely be a shake-up. We've seen it before. Now we're seeing a full-blown communications shakeup happening. Because the communications shop was not holding press briefs.

Stephanie Grisham's office said it was the president who told her not to hold those briefings. Anderson, you have seen the president really take over the briefing room during this pandemic. So he wants a forward-facing public strategy. And now they're replacing those officials. She's going back to the East Wing as Melania Trump's chief of staff.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: President Trump has removed the person in charges of overseeing the coronavirus emergency funds. Which is -- that's something that Congress mandated that somebody overlook these things. Who was that person and who now is in charge of oversight?

COLLINS: This is notable. This is Glenn Fine. He was the acting inspector general for the Pentagon. He's been in that position since before Trump took office. And he was the one who was picked as basically this panel of watch dogs who are going to oversee how the trillions in taxpayer money are going to be spent, making sure it's proper.

Last week, this umbrella watchdog picked Glenn Fine to head it up. He was going to make sure the money was spent properly. Now he's been removed as acting inspector general.

The president is replacing him with an official from the EPA. So he's effectively removed this person from overseeing this panel and making sure this money is spent properly.

People say it could be, you know, another sign of the president and his feelings toward inspector generals, that he's not really aware of, after you saw him yesterday go after that one from HHS after there was that report of hospitals across the nation experiencing shortages of desperately needed supplies. COOPER: And getting rid of the inspector general that forwarded the

whistleblower complaints to Congress, doing their jobs.


COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. Thanks.

Anxious patients and doctors treating the virus making a run on the prescription drug, Hydroxychloroquine. The drug the president is pushing for a drug to treat the deadly virus. His push may cause patients who need it to treat other illness, like lupus, they can't get it.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN's senior medical correspondent, has one woman's dilemma.


DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Elaine MacKenzie has a lot to do in her home in Connecticut. A mother of five, she needs to take care of her daughter, Kayla, who has autism, and take care of her mother, who is 91.

But it hurts, even to do this because Elaine has rheumatoid arthritis and she can't get her medicine.

ELAINE MACKENZIE, RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS PATIENT: I tried probably seven or eight different pharmacies in our area.

COHEN (on camera): So it wasn't just one pharmacy. It was several pharmacies that didn't have the Hydroxychloroquine?

MACKENZIE: Yes. Absolutely.

COHEN (voice-over): Over the past few weeks, President Trump said that Elaine's medicine, Hydroxychloroquine, plus an antibiotic called Azithromycin, better known as a Z-Pak, might work against the coronavirus.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it could be a game changer and maybe not. And maybe not. But I think it could be, based on what I see, it could be a game changer.

COHEN: Right away, doctors started hoarding it.

A pharmacist in Oregon tweeting, "A dentist just tried to call in scripts for Hydroxychloroquine plus Azithromycin for himself, his wife and another couple."

Atlanta pharmacist, Ira Katz, seeing the same thing.

IRA KATZ, PHARMACIST: I'm getting electronic prescriptions from all over the country, from doctors, from doctors I don't know and patients I don't know, for Hydroxychloroquine with Azithromycin, with a Z-Pak.

COHEN: At least 22 states have now enacted regulations to stop the hoarding since no one even knows if the drugs will work against coronavirus.

Studies are happening now but they are a long way from making conclusions. And these drugs could, in the end, even prove harmful to COVID patients.

KATZ: This is a prescription drug, by definition. It is a dangerous drug. And there are adverse effects and side effects. And it is not for everybody.

COHEN: Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat malaria and lupus as well as rheumatoid arthritis.

For Elaine --

(voice-over): Without any medication, how does it feel?

MACKENZIE: It is just very painful. It is -- it makes it very difficult to go on with my day. It is -- trying to find some more holistic approaches to it. I've been ordering some ginger online and things like that to see

if that could help with the inflammation.

COHEN: And is that taking care of your pain?

MACKENZIE: No. No. No. Not at all.

COHEN (voice-over): She has heard about what Trump said.

COHEN (on camera): Any thoughts on that?

MACKENZIE: Yes, I believe that he should probably leave many things to the medical professionals. And that's who we should be listening to. And I think he needs to back off.

COHEN: She says she'll just keep working through the pain so she can take care of the people she loves until this pandemic passes.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, reporting.



COHEN: Now states are trying to make the situation better for patients like Elaine. Many are passing regulations that tell doctors, if you want to prescribe Hydroxychloroquine, you have to write a diagnosis right on the prescription, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus and scared dbboct or is not a diagnosis -- Anderson?

COOPER: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

E.R. doctors on the front line struggling with so many shortages, from supplies to staff member. Well, of course, are things getting any better. We'll find out ahead.

Also, grocery stores getting more serious about protecting customers and employees. We'll talk about new rules.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need supplies. We need more than one gown per shift. We need to not be transmitting coronavirus from patient to patient, and home to our families. We need cleaning supplies. We need medications. We need ventilators. We need healthy staff.


COOPER: Health care workers treating infected patients demanding action and sounding the alarm about severe staff shortages, and urgent needs for medical supplies. Hospitals across the country are struggling to protect the doctors and nurses working tirelessly to keep people alive.

Two emergency medicine physicians on the frontlines in New York city, Dr. Calvin Sun, and Dr. Snehalata Topgi, join me now.

Dr. Sun, you've documented your experiences. Can you describe what you are seeing now?

DR. CALVIN SUN, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Thank you for having me, Anderson.

It's been progressively worse. We always compare it to yesterday, and it's always been relative, is it the next apex? Everyone is talking about the apex is coming.

Well, every day has felt like an apex, where we are overcrowded, understaffed, worried about our health, afraid of going to work, spread it among ourselves, among our patients, and also not adequately protected. We still have to go in. Who else is there to take of you when you get sick?

So it's just been an enduring battle, but there has been improvement in the last couple days as New York has stepped up to the challenge. Effort have been made to decompress our emergency rooms, which we do appreciate.

COOPER: How do you manage this? You're still going into work. How do you manage that fear?

SUN: I mean, courage can't exist in the absence of fear, right? Fear is fear. It's what you do with it. You can let fear overcome and not go in, but we have no choice. We have to derive some meaningful production.

It takes courage to go in, to keeping going in, for my colleagues and brethren who are now sick and hospitalized to go in for them. If we stop, emergency rooms, you can't function. The system would collapse. Then who is around to take care of you when it's your turn to get sick?

COOPER: Doctor Topgi, you are in downstate in Brooklyn. I know you are low on beds. How making it all work?

DR. SNEHALATA TOPGI, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: First of all, thank you for having me. Thank you for sharing so many doctors' stories.

This is a tough time for everyone. It's very inspiring. Times are tough, but what I do see in a lot E.R.s a lot of bravery in so many different ways. Bravery in patients that are dying there and struggling to fight this virus. Bravery of the nurses, the janitors, the people we don't talk about, the security staff, everyone there to help make this hospital function.

It's a heroic effort. We are trying with what we have.

There has been almost what seems like three waves of patients. First, the wave of people with fever and cough. Then, it seemed like last week it was very old people coming in trying to fight this virus and just couldn't.

And now I feel like this new wave that's coming in are the people we sent home and they were trying to fight the virus and they just couldn't. So now we have healthier people with the virus coming in. And they're coming in very sick.

I know that we're talking about a plateau, and I would love to think there's a plateau. But to me, in the E.R., it's still very overwhelming. Still so many people are coming in. And I feel like every person in the E.R. needs some type of respiratory support, some sort of oxygen.

COOPER: Dr. Sun, I think I heard you say that if somebody comes into the hospital, they're home and have the symptoms, they should only come to the hospital if they can't breathe easily, I think that's what you want, without trying to catch their breath? Is that right?

SUN: Right. If you are talking -- like -- it this -- and it's not normal, but if you are walking, talking speaking full sentences, there's nothing we can do in the emergency room that you can't already do with supportive care.

The emergency room, in fact, may be more dangerous. If the virus is actually true and it's aerosolizeable and in the air two or three hours after someone coughs, and hospitals are 85 percent to 95 percent positive for COVID-19 exposure -- and it lives in the air. You may catch it or be exposed to a higher viral load when you could have stayed at home and ride it out on supportive care on your own.


COOPER: Dr. Topgi, in terms of testing, that's still a major issue that just there's not enough testing. Do you agree with that? TOPGI: We're not testing people we're sending home. That's what we

call the walking well. But I feel like we're testing a lot of people, just because the people that are coming in that do need hospitalized, they need intensive care, they need admitted. And for all those patients we are admitting, we are testing.

I think the new thing now that should be more prevalent is the antibody testing to know whether we are immune or not. I want to know if I'm immune, so I feel safer going to the hospital. I want to know that I'm not going to give it to my patients, and the patients should know they're not giving it from the doctor.

I think it could help our economy if we know or immunity. Those people that are immune could go back into the workforce. I think that's the testing we need right now.

COOPER: Certainly, it will be crucial just in terms of trying to -- when and if -- and no telling when that would be -- in terms of getting back to some normal life, testing. And particularly the antibody test will be crucial.

Dr. Topgi, I appreciate all you're doing.

Dr. Sun, as well.

Thank you both. Stay safe.

Thousands of health care workers in Michigan have already tested positive for the virus. New dangers for this hot spot already running low on protective gear. That's next.



COOPER: Michigan, a hot spot for coronavirus, the state's two largest health care providers say that more than 2,000 health care workers have now tested positive.

Ryan Young is in Detroit.

Ryan, the White House task force predicts that the next few weeks are the deadliest. How is Michigan preparing with so many health care workers infected?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're getting a lot of mixed messages, Anderson. When you talk to people in the health care field, they tell you stories that would scare you.

One nurse said she only gets one set of PPE for the entire day for 12 hours and doesn't want to go to the bathroom and shed the PPE.

When you think about the hospital and the Beaumont Health System, they have employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus. And so you understand what the health care workers are being put under right now. But let us show you some video that was sort of just blew our mind.

There were workers who basically did a walkout. They were upset there were not enough nurses to cover a shift. They were so upset they tried to make the hospital bring in more staff. When that didn't happen, some of the nurses decided to leave.

Now the hospital, for its part, said that they brought in extra staff for that night and some of the ones who worked the prior shift came back and started working to help out.

But you could understand the stress here, when you see ICU beds almost at capacity in the city, when you think about the state, 617 people have lost their lives.

Now there's a bit of good news about all of this so far. Because you see Ford and G.M. putting their hands on the situation in terms of getting out very special parts of equipment.

We'll show you video from the Ford plant. They're doing the face shields, the PPE masks basically. And they could do one mask every 10 seconds. They've made a million. And they're getting faster and faster every single day.

So that means the good news is it is being spread across the entire country, in fact, being sent to Chicago and New York. So that is the good thing so far -- Anderson?

COOPER: Ryan Young. Ryan, thanks very much.

This week, the government warned Americans not to go to the grocery store unless they have to. What are the supermarkets doing to make is safer for customers and employees? We'll have that.

Plus, the coronavirus is hitting black communities harder than others.



COOPER: Supermarkets and grocery and other essential stores are starting new safety measures to help protect shoppers and employees during the pandemic.

For more on this, I want to bring in CNN's Amara Walker.

So what are some of the steps that retailers are taking?

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: In the coming days, we'll see changes, Anderson, at least at major grocery chains. When it comes to occupancy limits, stores like Walmart will significantly reduce the number of shoppers inside of the store at any given time.

So, for example, Walmart only allowing 20 percent of the maximum capacity compared to Kroger operating at 50 percent.

Also, we'll see some stores enforcing one-way aisles. This is a way to protect shoppers from getting into contact with each other while they're walking through the aisles.

Walmart, we're being told, will be using floor markers to direct foot traffic.

Also, I think by the end of the week and next week, we're going to see more and more store employees at the grocery stores wearing face masks and gloves, including Target, Walmart and Kroger.

They are not required to wear these face masks or gloves. They'll be strongly encouraged to wear them in most cases. And in places like at Walmart, they will be -- the supplies, not N-95 masks, but other kinds of masks, because those are in short supply and reserved for health care workers.

We'll also see clearly separated entrances and exits at these stores. And we'll see temperature checks that will also be carried out.

Anderson, I want to mention sadly, we're learning about deaths of grocery workers. Two workers at a Walmart in the Chicago area recently passed away due to COVID-19-related complications, along with one worker at a Giant's Food Market in Largo, Maryland.

We know they are deemed essential workers. They can't stay home. And we've heard them in the past days and weeks saying they're concerned by just going to work. They're at risk of contracting coronavirus.

Back to you.


COOPER: Amara Walker, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

Our special coverage continues now with Kate Baldwin. I'll see you later tonight.