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New Jersey Nurse Details Struggles After Treating Three Family Members for Virus; New Groups of Infected Patients Tied to Kansas Church Events; Hockey, Basketball Consider When to Bring Back Games; More Than 12,000 People Have Died from Virus in The U.S. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired April 7, 2020 - 15:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: The fight against the coronavirus is incredibly personal for so many medical professionals. Not only trying to save the lives of others but also trying to protect their own.

But then take this one story of one nurse in New Jersey and consider this -- Michelle Acito works at Holy Name Medical Center in what 's likely the hardest-hit community in the whole state. As the Director of Nursing, she was in the middle -- is in the middle of the pandemic. When three of her family members contracted the virus, ended up in her hospital. Her mother-in-law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

Her brother and sister-in-law are recovering and her mother-in-law, Edna, you see there, she died. She passed away Saturday morning. And the nurse Acito told "The New York Times" this about it all. She said you could compartmentalize. You go home, you shower it off. But when you have a family member here, you can't scrub that off.

Joining me right now is nurse Michelle Acito. Thank you so much for being here. Michelle, I'm so sorry for your family. How are you doing?

MICHELE ACITO, DIRECTOR OF NURSING, HOLY NAMES MEDICAL CENTER (via Cisco Webex): Thank you, Kate. We're doing the best we possibly can under the circumstances. Still with my sister-in-law here at Holy Name as she continues to recover. The family is working through their grief individually unlike a normal circumstance where you could be together gathering as a family. You know, we've all had to work through this separately through phones and things like that.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Of course, you can't compartmentalize losing a family member no matter how extreme and extraordinary the circumstances are. And also, being the only family member able to be with her because of your job. I mean what was that like for you?

ACITO: You know, I felt very fortunate because I was able to be with my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law and be the connection to the rest of the family. While the nurses here and the doctors are amazing and extraordinary, each one of them realizing that not only are they the caregiver, care provider, but they are the stand-in family member.

Having the ability to be with my mother-in-law during the last days was really very special for me and I was able to share that with the rest of the family through, you know, iPad and FaceTime and just communication and pictures that way.

BOLDUAN: Well, unbelievable and yet another pressure to put on your shoulders. I can imagine that was such a relief to the rest of your family that you were able to be there too. I don't know if you could hold her hand but to be there with her.

ACITO: I was able to hold her hand and actually celebrate her 89th birthday with her and the rest of the staff who came in and sang for her and presented her with a piece of cake. It was very important to the family to know that she was surrounded by people who cared and that she knew that the care they were giving her was important and singing happy birthday was very important. And the rest of the family was happy to know she was not alone and she was being celebrated with her last birthday here on earth.

BOLDUAN: Your strength is truly remarkable. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but in some strange, cruel way, it's almost like your family was lucky because of your unique position that you were able to be there with her and with your other family members.


How is that impacting how you are with your patients now when you know that they can't have someone from their family with them?

ACITO: You know, when you go into a patient room, when there's no other family around, you know you are that stand-in family member. But ever since this happened, it's even more important to walk in, communicate with the family, even for the patients who are critically ill who can't communicate back, knowing they could probably hear you.

It's so important to let them know you're here while you're in the room, what you are doing. If they can communicate to ask them about their family, to offer them the opportunity to FaceTime with their family. It just brings more meaning every time you walk into a patient room.

BOLDUAN: Look, and we talk about these numbers on TV. They're on the side of the screen right now. And this is -- you're reminding me right now that every number there is a story and there is a family. And your hospital system has been hit incredibly hard. 20 people dying in the span of 72 hours. How are you doing? What do you need?

ACITO: Well, I'm doing very well, thank you. And the staff is as well. And mainly the staff is doing as good as they are because of the support that we received from Holy Name Medical Center, from our CEO Mike Maron down to everybody who's contributing to make every unit safe and keeping the resources, our primary resource and that is our staff at the forefront of their mind.

Putting every measure in place to keep us safe makes us feel that coming to work, we're protected and we're able to give everything we can to our patients and still go home and know that our families are protected because of what's been done for us at Holy Name.

BOLDUAN: And you mentioned your sister-in-law, she's still recovering. How's your brother-in-law. if I may ask?

ACITO: My brother-in-law is home. He's doing well. My sister-in-law is still here recovering. Every day she's trying to get stronger. But you know, this disease, it can really catch up to you pretty quickly so every day we talk, and we try to get her to eat some meals and she's doing a little bit better every day. It was not easy for her to be here with absolutely no visitors to mourn the loss of her mother.

And I think that may have delayed her recovery a little bit because it was her mom and even though her mother was in the same hospital, she couldn't visit her. She just wasn't strong enough to do that. And so you know, my heart really broke for her because she had nobody to mourn with and it was very hard for her.

BOLDUAN: That is tragedy compounding tragedy. Michelle, thank you. That doesn't seem adequate but just thank you so much. I'm so sorry for what your family is going through. But thank you for being there day in and day out and the strength that you have and the courage you have for your patients and for your family.

ACITO: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: One of the many angels on the front line.

Coming up next for us, a very different scene that we are seeing. Take a look at this. This is a shocking scene in one state. In the midst of the pandemic people lining up to vote. Why Wisconsin is the only state allowing in-person voting this month. That's next.



BOLDUAN: Words of encouragement are pouring in from the around the world for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he remains in intensive care with coronavirus. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for one, also French President Emmanuel Macron and of course, the Queen, Queen Elizabeth among those sending well wishes.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo is following the very latest from London joins me now. Bianca, what is the latest on the Prime Minister's condition?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We got told a few hours ago, Kate, that the Prime Minister remains stable. We understand that he requires oxygen support but not any kind of mechanical ventilation. So that is encouraging news given how quickly he deteriorated over from Sunday night to last night.

Now the next question is how long is he going to be in there? Obviously, the fact that he remains in the intensive care unit shows that he still requires a lot of support, that kind of one-on-one care. And there's plenty of reasons why someone might be in intensive care other than needing a ventilator. We're also told that he remains in good spirits.

So, the man that's currently deputizing for the Prime Minister, leading the country is the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. There has quite a bit of confusion as to the extent to which he's really in charge. He said that he's fulfilling the strategy and the instructions of the Prime Minister.

Also, the former Prime Ministers, Theresa May and David Cameron, the immediate predecessors of Boris Johnson have wished him well. And tried to reassure the country that the Britain does run on a collective cabinet basis. Meaning that the entire cabinet together sculpt government policy and while the Prime Minister is obviously essential and important, the country can run without that influence.

BOLDUAN: We all wish him well and let's continue to track his condition. I know you will, Bianca. Thank you so much, I appreciate it.

Back here in the United States, new clusters are popping up in Kansas tied to church gatherings. Plus it is election day in Wisconsin. Let's check in on the latest coronavirus updates from our reporters across the country starting with CNN's Omar Jimenez in Wisconsin.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Omar Jimenez in Milwaukee. After a lot of debate, especially over the past 24 hours, the Wisconsin polls are open. Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.


Now, at multiple of the five -- the only five locations open to vote in Milwaukee, we have seen long lines. And for the election overall, absentee ballots are as crucial as ever. At this point, we have thousands that won't receive their ballot by the end of the election day today which per Supreme Court order means they won't be counted. They have to choose between either potentially risking their health and voting in person or not voting at all.

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Amara Walker in Atlanta. Kansas health officials say three out of 11 coronavirus clusters that they are investigating are linked to church gatherings. In fact, one of those gatherings was a recent church conference in Kansas City and they say that this is a place of exposure for multiple people who have now tested positive for COVID-19 in Kansas.

And also, with the upcoming Easter holiday, officials are urging people to avoid gatherings that would put them in danger. The Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed a stay-at-home order effective March 30, but religious activities are exempt.


BOLDUAN: Amara, thank you so much. Could some good news be on the horizon for sports fans? Some teams are

talking about getting back on the field sooner than you might think but there is a catch. That's next.



BOLDUAN: If things were normal, which of course they're not, we'd all, well, at least many of us, would be watching and enjoying the beginning of baseball season.

Today, for example, would be World Series Champions, the Nationals, would be playing the Marlins and my family would care about the fact that the Tigers would be playing the Royals. And the Yankees would be playing the Orioles. Instead, postponed, postponed, postponed, for who knows how long? But baseball's return might actually be sooner than you think. CNN's Tom Foreman has been looking into this, he joins me now. Tom, what are they working on?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Major League Baseball is throwing around an idea -- which some say is reckless, some people say is ridiculous and others say could be right on the money for a beleaguered nation.


FOREMAN (voice-over): A computer helping call the balls and strikes to keep umpires at a distance. No consultations on the pitching mound. Players not in crowded dugouts but spread out in the empty stands. And every team, every game, in Arizona. That's how it may look if Major League Baseball says, play ball, next month, according to multiple reports, fulfilling President Trump's repeated call for a fast return of pro sports.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the fans want to be back too. You know, they want to see basketball and baseball and football, and hockey. They want to see their sports.

FOREMAN: Baseball's official stance remains unchanged.

ROB MANDFRED, COMMISSIONER, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: We're going to resume playing when it's safe for our fans, our players, and the public for us to resume playing.

FOREMAN: The plan under discussion would attempt to create a safe zone with teams operating in isolation for months amid rigorous virus testing at their hotels, on buses, in stadiums, closed to all fans. Still, it's a stark contrast to health officials warning against any contact with others.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe. FOREMAN: Other pro sports are nibbling at resuming with similar plans

to limit exposure but only tentatively. Basketball Commissioner Adam Silver.

ADAM SILVER, COMMISSIONER NBA: At least for the month of April, we won't be in a position to make any decisions. And I don't think that necessarily means on May 1st we will be.

FOREMAN: Hockey's Stanley Cup playoffs should have started this week. Instead ideas are being floated for returning to the ice maybe this summer in North Dakota. Those seem barely more than rumors. The league is saying little.

And the biggest game around, football. The NFL's draft is this month with teams planning virtual parties to celebrate. In a conference call to sports officials days ago, the President said he hopes the league can kick off on time in September. But many state and local officials are questioning all this talk of sports coming back soon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not something I anticipate happening in the next few months.


FOREMAN: Look, with millions of dollars and thousands of jobs at stake, of course everybody would like to see sports back. But for now, the teams and the towns that host them seem to largely be saying they will let health officials, not politicians, make that call -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: But the talk of it, Tom, is making me start wondering what the new normal, as we've been hearing, will look like in the post initial coronavirus era?

FOREMAN: It's going to be very strange.

BOLDUAN: I know. Interesting, thanks, buddy, thank you very much.

FOREMAN: Yes. We watch the replay games, and they're fascinating. All right.

BOLDUAN: Exactly, still is good a third time around.

Coming up next, the CDC Director says the estimated death toll could actually be lower, much lower, in his words, than the previously projected 200,000 deaths that were feared across the nation. We're going to discuss with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

The coronavirus battle continues in what could be one of the worst weeks in the United States for this pandemic. Right now, there are more than 81,000 reported deaths worldwide from coronavirus, and 12,021 of those just in the United States alone. At this time last week, the number of deaths in the U.S. was 3,662.

The number of reported cases around the world now more than 1.4 million -- that's globally. About 383,000 of those are in the United States, though of course there continue to be major questions about the availability and accuracy of coronavirus tests throughout the world and in the United States.

And of course, there are continued questions about the reliability of any of the data coming from places such as China, Russia, or Iran. One silver lining in the dark cloud over all of our heads, the efforts that most Americans are making to stay at home and to practice physical and social distancing, seem to be working according to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.