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NYT Reports Trump Adviser Issued Start Warning About Coronavirus In January; British Prime Minister Boris Johnson In Intensive Care With Coronavirus; Inmates Warn That U.S. Prisons Are Not Prepared For Coronavirus. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 7, 2020 - 05:30   ET





DR. ROBERT GORE, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, SUNY DOWNSTATE MEDICAL CENTER, BROOKLYN, NEW YORK: This is definitely a disaster. It's kind of difficult to -- for people from the general public who don't work in the hospitals.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN U.S. CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): SUNY Downstate is ramping up, adding beds, staff, and capacity as fast as possible. Still, the worry it won't be enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the support things we need like the respirators, the bed space, the bed capacity -- those are my fears, that we are not going to be able to truly meet our patients' needs.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The need already overwhelming. When we started our visit in the E.R., one person had just died and was being moved out. By the time we came back around, another victim of coronavirus was moved already into the same bed, struggling to breathe.

MARQUEZ (on camera): One more disturbing data point about how the hospital is ramping up right now.

Their regular morgue is overwhelmed. They brought in two semi-tractor- trailers to put excess bodies into. They're talking about adding shelves to those trailers now so they can get more bodies into them. And there's even a plan afoot to shut down one of the side streets next to the hospital and bring in three more trailers.

Back to you.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Miguel, for that report. Extraordinary images there. So, we want to go now to Natasha Lindstaedt. She's the professor of government at the University of Essex in England and joins me now from Colchester. Great to have you.

You heard that report there. America's hospitals are struggling -- at breaking point, almost -- over 10,000 people.

However, the president said that he didn't expect this. However, there was a memo and apparently, according to "The New York Times," there was a warning coming to the president that this would happen. What do you make of that?

NATASHA LINDSTAEDT, PROFESSOR OF GOVERNMENT, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX: Right. Well, this actually isn't even the first warning. I mean, there were warnings before by the spy agencies in January that this was going to be quite devastating -- the virus could be quite devastating.

There was warnings from the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar -- this was on January 18th -- that the virus could be very devastating as well. But at the time, Trump dismissed this. Apparently, Azar wasn't forceful enough.

But this "New York Times" story is about Peter Navarro, Trump's trade adviser, giving the highest alert that had circulated inside the West Wing. This was on January 29th and the memo explained that in a worst- case scenario this could be absolutely devastating and up to a million people could die.

He urged that at the moment, we shouldn't be stingy. We need to maybe spend up to $3 billion in an aggressive effort to contain. And the memo also talked about the need to prepare by providing protective equipment or personnel to ensure that there are face masks, to ensure that there are beds.

Now, one of the confusing things about the memo was that it was labeled or titled "Should there be a ban on travel to China?" And that was the one thing that Trump heeded. He did, the next day after receiving this memo, decide to impose a travel ban with China.

But the issue was that because Peter Navarro is considered to be so hawkish on China that people were dismissing his claims that this was going to have not only devastating effects on human life but also be incredibly devastating to the U.S. economy.

Certainly, there were plenty of warnings that Trump received and he didn't heed those warnings. And as we know, we heard him on February 28th saying that -- this is actually a month later than the memo took place -- that the virus would just disappear miraculously.

CURNOW: So we've also heard him change his tune, as you say, a lot. And many Americans are still confused as to what exactly the protocol is because it is so piecemeal.

I want to just play -- if we do have some of that sound -- to give a sense about where the leadership has been on the warning signs.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By April -- you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer it miraculously goes away.

The coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country.

And we're going down, not up. We're going, very substantially, down.

It will go away, just stay calm. It will go away.

Challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days, and this is a very vital 30 days.

This will be probably the toughest week between this week and next week, and there will be a lot of death, unfortunately.


CURNOW: What do you make of that?

LINDSTAEDT: Well, his tone has completely changed. I think in the beginning he was hoping that it would just miraculously go away. He was going to some of his rallies and just saying it was just like the flu. And he went on Fox News and said that, you know, even if you had the coronavirus you could still go to work.

I think as more information set in and he started to realize the gravity of the situation, he did have to change his tone. But his tone shifts back and forth quite a bit. There are moments that he is very serious about it and he does understand how devastating it is. But there are other moments where he just wants to get the economy going again and he's very impatient.


Of course, we had some of the comments from -- I think it would have been about a week or two back when he said he's hoping that the churches would be filled with people on Easter, and that's obviously very unrealistic.

Now, to some extent, a lot of this is there is a lot of confusing news information and narratives about the virus. There's a lot of unknowns because there are so many people that may have it that have no symptoms at all. And so we're starting to learn different things that now people need to wear masks.

But one of the things that has been consistent is that Trump has not provided a federal coordinated effort and that's one of the things that governors have been calling for because they're fighting amongst themselves for ventilators, for hotel beds. They're worried about they're not going to have enough personnel. They're not going to have enough protective equipment for their personnel. And this is where the federal government could step in and offer a more coordinated effort.

CURNOW: As you've watched the global response to this virus across the world -- you know, where do leaders fit in in terms of those who've managed this, and what has been the key leadership point of contact? What is the main thing successful leaders globally have given citizens to manage this?

LINDSTAEDT: Well, I think we look to South Korea who has been often pointed out, in this case, has done a phenomenal job of dealing with the crisis in that they were able to very aggressively and early on test, and test as many people as possible and then trace what these individuals had been doing so that they could communicate to people who had been exposed to the virus to self-quarantine or self-isolate. That has then ensured that the number of cases haven't spiraled.

The other case is Germany, which though they have a very high number of cases has done better in terms of their health system being able to help people who have the virus. And they've had an incredibly low death toll and that's because their health system is so good that they are so over-prepared -- that they have more than enough beds to ensure that when people do get sick that they have a place to be.

So those are two countries that have stood out. And you also see some other countries in Asia, like Singapore, like Taiwan that have dealt effectively with it.

And a lot of it is just preparedness. A pandemic -- it's hard to predict when it's going to happen and that was one of the issues with the Trump administration in either dissolving it or letting it dissolve. The office for pandemics -- the White House office for pandemics -- that this is something you can't predict and it's better if you are as prepared as possible.

CURNOW: OK, thank you for your perspective and expertise, Natasha Lindstaedt. Thanks very much.

LINDSTAEDT: Thank you.

CURNOW: Thank you.

So we'll be right back. You're watching CNN. Join us.



CURNOW: So, we're following our breaking news this hour. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in the intensive care unit weeks after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

So, the British Cabinet Minister Michael Gove tells BBC radio that Mr. Johnson has received oxygen support but is not on a ventilator. He was moved to the ICU on Monday when his condition started to get worse. Foreign Sec. Dominic Raab has been asked to deputize for Mr. Johnson where necessary. And those are quotes.

So for more on all of this, I'm joined now by conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith. Good to have you with us.

No doubt, deeply worrying and concerning times. What have you heard about the prime minister's state of health at the moment?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP: Well, we don't know any more than has been released. We know that he went onto oxygen yesterday -- late yesterday evening. He's in intensive care unit, we're told because they want to make sure just in case his condition deteriorated any further or he struggled with breathing he could go onto ventilator because they'll be in the intensive care units, but as a precaution.

But we don't know exactly what is happening -- whether he has a secondary infection, which could easily happen and it does often happen afterwards -- it could be quite nasty -- or whether, in fact, this is just getting into the last stages of the coronavirus. So all of those things uncertain.

But what is certain is that Boris Johnson is having to fight at the moment to get well. And our thoughts and prayers are very much with him and with his fiance Carrie Symonds, who is carrying a baby, and all the rest of his family.

CURNOW: Exactly. So, that's certainly a concern as well.

But in terms of the prime minister, he was -- he was -- was he rushed to hospital? It seems like he'd been sick for 10 days and then he took a real turn for the worse -- he crashed.

What do you know about the circumstances? Had you spoken to him at all while he was at -- in Downing Street in the days beforehand?

SMITH: Yes, I had been in contact with him. But I don't think -- I don't think the words "crashed" work here. He didn't crash.

What had happened was he had been taking the advice of his doctors. He had delegated a huge amount of work to many in his cabinet, including Dominic Raab, who is now stepping in for him as his deputy. But he just couldn't shake this virus.

And I know others who have found exactly the same. And some of them have then found after a period of time, they have a secondary infection, which you have to treat obviously with antibiotics, et cetera. So --

CURNOW: But if he's needed oxygen it's clearly perhaps more than that.

SMITH: No. What's going on here at the moment, and this is important --


SMITH: -- is that he is -- his situation was he went to the hospital because they wanted to have him right there in case he struggled any further. It turns out that he found breathing a little difficult later on in the -- in the early evening and they put him on oxygen. This is not the same as a ventilator. But they moved him to the intensive care unit because just in case his situation deteriorates they will want to have him ready and available to be on a ventilator. Right now, I suspect, they are treating him very heavily and very carefully with probably antibiotics and such, but I'm not a doctor so I wouldn't know specifically what his case is. But he's in very good hands, that's for sure.

CURNOW: And when you were speaking to him beforehand, were you texting him or were you actually having conversations on the phone? Was he rasping for breath? Was he finally able to talk?

SMITH: No, he's made a couple of public statements during his time. I tend to be in contact with him and others by text, particularly if they're not well because the last thing you need to do is drag them to the telephone because when you're --

CURNOW: Have you spoken to him on text while he's been in hospital?


SMITH: No, no, no, absolutely not. No, I wouldn't dream of it because, you know, he is now being treated and he needs to rest. He needs to have all his powers focused on getting himself through this and out the other side.

He's a tough guy and he's a fighter, and he will be fighting this with the support of the medical staff who are doing a brilliant job. I do generally believe that he will pull through. But, you know, we need to give him that space.

And right now, the government will continue. Dominic Raab is part of that government. He now --

CURNOW: What does it -- what does it mean to -- that he's been asked to deputize where necessary? Does that mean he's half in-half out -- half-leading or what does where necessary mean?

SMITH: Where necessary means exactly what it means, which is he will deputize and take the decisions where those decisions need to be taken.

CURNOW: Is Boris Johnson still taking other decisions from his hospital bed?

SMITH: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Boris Johnson has delegated his authority to his deputy.

When they say where necessary that's exactly what it means. He is the head of a cabinet government. This is not a presidential government, this is a government where a cabinet makes the decisions.

The prime minister leads them. Praise first amongst equals is critical here. So he will make key decisions, but he will also make those important decisions after the full concentration with cabinet where these are debated, and this will be the same for Dominic Raab. Having sat in cabinet myself as a cabinet minister, that's how cabinet government works. It's a collective where the prime minister -- the leader -- eventually sums this up and decides --

CURNOW: Thanks.

SMITH: -- whose side of the debate he will follow.

CURNOW: Yes. I think we understand that.

In terms of where the country is politically, particularly with Brexit, are you going to be asking for some sort of coordinated response or help -- or at least, a lot of interaction with Europe, for example? Do you need to deal with this beyond the initial national response?

SMITH: No, not at all. This is something which we are working through as a nation. We've gone to lockdown two weeks ago and I believe that is beginning to work. We've taken all the advice from the scientists and also from medical advisers and the prime minister has been acting on those. And now, his deputy will do exactly the same.

We don't need to be shouting (ph) around saying help us. But obviously, things like PPE equipment and various other that are being bought and brought in from different countries as is the reverse the same. So it's part of a process. We're all trying to share information.

Yes, that takes place but there's nothing right now that we'll be asked of them specifically for Boris Johnson. We have an excellent health service with an excellent set of doctors and nurses, and they know --

CURNOW: It wasn't specifically for Boris Johnson -- that was a question just regarding in terms of the way the country deals with this crisis as well.

Iain Duncan Smith, thank you very much. I really appreciate you joining us here on CNN and answering us these questions. Please send to the prime minister all the best wishes. Thank you.


CURNOW: You're watching CNN.



CURNOW: Welcome back, I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks for joining me this hour.

So, everyone is trying to stay healthy in the midst of this pandemic but there are certainly special challenges for those behind bars, as Jake Tapper now reports.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Death is imminent for us.

TAPPER (voice-over): Prisoners in the Alabama correctional system fearing for their lives as the coronavirus pandemic spreads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be a mass grave site up in these prisons.

TAPPER (voice-over): CNN obtained this video from inside state prisons in just the last week, capturing just how deplorable conditions are in the facilities.

The State Department of Corrections, in an internal document obtained by, sounding the alarm. Quote, "...21,900 inmates being housed in crowded dormitories creates a very high exposure risk situation."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are not giving us hand sanitizer. They are not giving us proper soap. They are not giving us masks.

TAPPER (voice-over): Inmates crammed together, overflowing in some spaces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We stupid crowded, we super crowded, and it's super dangerous with the coronavirus.

TAPPER (voice-over): Alabama state prisons are among the most crowded in the country, according to the Bureau of Justice statistics. And the Justice Department found the 13 major facilities in the state were 182 percent past capacity; one even at three times capacity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ADOC here, they has no preventive measures to stop coronavirus from coming in. And by the prison being so overcrowded, once it's in this prison it will flood like wildfire.

TAPPER (voice-over): Almost no testing of prisoners has been done. The internal Alabama Department of Corrections document reveals that in the worst-case scenario, nearly 200 inmates could die given that conditions will, quote, "accelerate the transmission of disease among the inmate population as well as the Alabama Department of Corrections staff."

Social or physical distancing is not an option.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stretch your arms out again. That's how -- that's how close we are.

TAPPER (voice-over): And while some states and Attorney General Bill Barr have released some inmates early to help mitigate the oncoming disaster, Alabama, for the most part, has not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, these are the people that they should be letting go due to the coronavirus. What in the world can this man do?

TAPPER (voice-over): The Alabama Department of Corrections gave us no specific response to our story, directing us to their Website detailing their response to the outbreak in general, which says, in part, quote, "Rest assured that all inmates in our custody will continue to be provided with the services to which they are entitled, including rehabilitative, medical, dental, and mental health, through the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak."

A response, seemingly, from a world unlike the one where prisoners say they do not even have basic hygiene needs met --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't bring no hand sanitizer with you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There ain't none.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm talking about none.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sinks are very outdated. We cannot wash our hands simultaneously at the same time, you know?


TAPPER (voice-over): -- leading these inmates to risk retaliation to publicly beg you right now --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My thing to the outside world is help, help. Help for the overcrowding, help for sanitary purposes, help for a release mechanism. We need to release some of these people. We need help.

TAPPER (voice-over): -- and forcing these men to potentially face a horrific fate no judge or jury sentenced them to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a death sentence. Death is imminent for those in my age category.

TAPPER (voice-over): Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.


CURNOW: What an extraordinary package -- just that simple message, "help." Thanks, Jake, for that.

I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks for joining me.

"NEW DAY" is next. John and Alisyn will take it from here. Enjoy your day.



DR. DEBORAH BIRX, RESPONSE COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: We want every American to know that what they're doing is making a difference.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A new government watchdog report finds quote "severe, widespread shortages of critical supplies across the country.

TRUMP: We're the federal government. We're not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing.

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, FORMER HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I've never seen a leader who is incapable of admitting a mistake. Right now, that refusal is costing lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boris Johnson was admitted into the intensive care unit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A surge in deaths here is upon us and the U.K. walks into that now with the prime minister in obviously, a bad medical condition.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, April seventh, 6:00 now in New York.