Return to Transcripts main page


Northeast Governors Report Signs That Social Distancing May Be Working; U.K Cabinet Taken By Surprise By Johnson's Deteriorating Condition; U.S Health Officials Concerned About Emerging Hot Spots. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 7, 2020 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: Is up a little bit in some states like New Jersey, but it appears it could be leveling off.


This could be signs that social distancing is working. But all three governor insists that they are taking for granted and that this is no time to relax restrictions. We have to see what happens today and for days ahead.

97 percent of Americans are now under statewide stay-at-home orders. Seven states are still holding out. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert warns that life in America may not get back to a, quote, normal until there is a vaccine.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Meanwhile, President Trump is showing growing contempt for anyone who questions his handling of the crisis. The president lashing out at a government inspector general report that found severe and widespread shortages of medical supplies at hospitals across the country, and the president passing the buck when asked about critical shortages and testing, claiming that responsibility lies with the states.

And developing overnight, multiple reports that one of the president's top advisers warned the White House in January that coronavirus could put millions of Americans at risk and costs trillions of dollars. Remember, the president has made the claim that no one could have predicted this, his own White House did.

We're also monitoring the condition of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He remains in intensive care at a London hospital this morning, and we're just learning that the U.K. was, quote, taken by surprise by Johnson's deteriorating condition.

CAMEROTA: All right. We'll bring updates on that as soon as we have it.

Meanwhile, let's bring in CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood. Great to see both of you.

So, Sanjay, I mean, look, I know we're all so desperate to see some light at the end of the tunnel. We lasso any good news from the governors of New Jersey and New York and Connecticut. And I know that you're going to tell us to temper that and tell us that it is premature, two days does not make necessarily a trend. But what do you see in terms of the curve and also what are the models telling you?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, I mean, you know, when you look at these numbers, obviously, there is some signs of hope there. I think that the big question, as you point out, Alisyn, is it going to continue, because there's also a lag time, right? We see the people who are diagnosed, the confirmed infections, and then you see hospitalizations and then sadly you see these deaths.

So I think, you know, we have to see if is this sort of hold up, because it is a reflection in some ways of the people who are infected, you know, a while ago, Alisyn. So you really have to be asking yourself what was happening a few weeks ago as opposed to now.

I think the models are really interesting and I'm happy to show you specifically what we're looking at with this Washington State model when they're talking about the number of projected deaths and the peak and when that's likely to occur. But suffice it to say that they think that the peak is sort of -- well, there's the I believe the New York model there, I think. I can't even tell. You could see that --

CAMEROTA: It's hard to tell. The print is so fine. But, okay, so let's assume that that's the --

GUPTA: The shaded area though is -- yes, that shade -- just to give you an idea, the shaded area is how variable these models are. You know, the saying goes, all models are wrong, but some are useful. And I think that's sort of what we're seeing here.

BERMAN: Sanjay, can we just put up again the death totals in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey so people can see that over the last couple days, they have been basically flat. This on top of Andrew Cuomo saying the total number of hospitalizations are down, ICU admissions down and daily intubations are down. How do you know when you've reached the peak and what exactly does that mean in terms of the long term?

GUPTA: Yes. I think that the critical point there is, right now, you are seeing at least a couple of days of flattening. What you want to see when you look at that curve, what is driving the curve up and then what drives the curve down is the pace at which these confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths are starting to spread out. So, you know, the doubling time right now in New York City and the whole country is around six or seven days. So every week or so, the numbers double.

Now, if it starts to stretch out to eight or nine days and stays that way for a little bit, that's how you know you're sort of on that downward trajectory.

John, what we might be seeing is you see this upward slope and then sort of a flattening for a period of time appear and then they downward slope. You've always sort of assumed it was going to be this peak in a certain point in time and then come down. It may be a longer sort of plateau than we realize.

CAMEROTA: John, of course, we've been hearing on our program and everywhere on the media doctors saying that they have all of these critical shortages. They've had critical shortages of their protective gear, they've had critical shortages of testing, of course, ventilators, and now it's kind of been codified in this inspector general report. They interviewed, I think, 300 hospitals and found out that it's widespread, it's across the country, hospitals were not prepared for this. They could not get the critical supplies that they desperately needed and were pleading for.

And President Trump really bristled at the results of this inspector general report. He doesn't -- we've seen in the past, he doesn't like inspector general reports and oversight of anything the way that he's handled this sort of thing. And, you know, he was trying to claim that people were playing politics. These were just hospitals, you know, reporting the data.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's no basis for the claim of playing politics. He doesn't like bad news that might be -- that he might be held responsible for. Look, you made the key point, Alisyn, which is that this is something that we've all known. This has been on our television screens for weeks now. The begging by hospital workers, by doctors, by frontline providers for protective equipment, for testing supplies, for quick turnarounds on tests, no news in this.

But, for the president, he's been presiding for three years essentially in a good news United States of America. The economy has been strong, unemployment has been low, and so all the controversy surrounding him have been about words, have been about style, have been about some controversies involving Russia or Ukraine that are hard for ordinary people to understand.

But we're now in a situation where American life is being shaken to its core. He's the president of the United States. And you can imagine that any president would feel a tremendous amount of pressure for that. He's reacting to that pressure by lashing out at the legitimacy of the criticism and it wasn't pretty last night.

BERMAN: Look, John, I think there's an effort to rewrite history here and we're seeing that in some other major reporting out overnight from Axios and The New York Times which discusses these memos that Peter Navarro, who is a trade adviser, a social scientist, as he said yesterday, that he sent to people inside the White House, one in January and one in February, talking about the severity, warning about this pandemic.

February memo includes this language. There is an increasing probability of a full blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans with the loss of life of as many as 1 to 2 million souls. This was days before the president was saying, it's going back down to zero. By April, it's all going to go away. And he frequently said, who could have predicted this, John? Well, according to these memos, his own White House predicted exactly this.

HARWOOD: Well, that is the point. You know, it's one thing to have George W. Bush having emphasized when he was president preparation for a pandemic and his team worked very hard on that. It's another thing to have President Obama having dealt with the Ebola left behind a pandemic preparedness post at the National Security Council that the president took down. They walked through the Trump people on pandemic preparedness before they took office.

His own HHS department walked through an exercise in 2019 that underscored how unprepared the United States was to deal with the pandemic. But it's another thing to have those warnings come from people very close to the president, inside the White House, and that underscores the problem the administration has had in its own performance.

And so the president was lashing out, again, at the legitimacy of criticism itself. He went after a reporter and said, do you work for China? He criticized the HHS inspector general saying, did this person work for President Obama? This is the kind of thing he did, we remember, in 2016 when he said, well, it's a Mexican judge, I'm trying to build a wall, they can't be fair. That is not the case. There is expertise within the government. He has disregarded that expertise.

And now he's trying -- I think he feels a sense of injustice that the good conditions that he was running for re-election on have been taken away and he's reacting in a way, frankly, that authoritarian leaders behave. You can't question me, I'm the leader of the country, what I say is true. And we can all see what the consequences of American life are at this moment. That is on his watch and he's got to take responsibility for it.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, I want to get back to something that Dr. Fauci said yesterday, and that was basically that he doesn't think that life will return to normal for a long time. I mean, I think that he was basically saying that we'd have to wait for a vaccine and that's maybe 12 to 18 months away for life to be normal.


Everybody has a different definition, of course, of what that means, but that is in stark contrast to the governors saying, if they're seeing any sort of leveling off or any sort of flattening of the curve, that's different. I mean, Dr. Fauci just -- is seeing it through a different lens.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, look, you know, I think that the idea that there could be a therapeutic, something that can start to change how we look at this disease, people have a little bit more confidence is real, I think that it's not going to happen all of a sudden where life returns to normal. I think there's going to be a psychological sort of hangover from all this. People still, you know, unsure about touching an elevator button or grasping a handle or whatever it might be for some time.

But, Alisyn, I got to tell you, I mean, this is obviously a wholly unique story. I mean, it's unlike anything I think any of us have ever covered before. But we also know, you know, things toggle back and forth. I mean, it's a very fast moving world nowadays and I've always been stunned at how quickly things can revert again.

I'm not saying it's going to happen right away but a vaccine is a year or 18 months away. I think we're going to have a sense of normalcy, I think, long before that.

CAMEROTA: We hope so.

John Harwood, Sanjay Gupta, thank you both very much.

BERMAN: So major developing story this morning, the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, remains in intensive care as one cabinet member there says they were all, quote, taken by surprise by Johnson's deteriorating condition.

Joining us now is CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward live at the hospital where Johnson is being treated. Clarissa, the very latest on the prime minister's condition, please.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, no indication that there have been any major changes to the prime minister's health, John. We know that he continues to be kept in the intensive care unit. That apparently being done out of an abundance of caution should he need to be intubated or put on a ventilator. But at this stage, he has not been intubated. He is breathing on his own. We know that he has received oxygen therapy. One of the most common side effects, of course, of the coronavirus is that sort of struggling to breathe and very low saturation of oxygen in the blood.

The question on everybody's mind, of course, is how long will the prime minister be kept in the hospital, how long will he be kept in the intensive care unit and when will we start to get really substantive, factual, informative updates on his health? Because a lot of people here are really feeling that they did not understand the full gravity of the prime minister's symptoms. Even senior cabinet office minister Michael Gove saying that he was caught by surprise. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was the government leveling with the nation at those briefings telling them what the situation was and was it as taken by surprise?

MICHAEL GOVE, MINISTER FOR THE CABINET OFFICE: Yes, we were. We were informed subsequently the prime minister was admitted to intensive care at 7:00 and that information wasn't given to us in government to those in the cabinet until just before 8:00.


WARD: And in a sort of twist, Michael Gove himself has just announced that he is also in self-isolation because a family member of his has some of the symptoms of the coronavirus, not clear yet whether, indeed, he has contracted the virus or not. But all of this really contributing to a sort of palpable sense of anxiety and uncertainty at a time when British people very much feel and need for that leadership. People of all political persuasions here in the United Kingdom just desperately hoping that the prime minister will get well and get well soon. John, Alisyn?

BERMAN: Yes. That confusion only added to, Clarissa, by the question who's actually in charge right now or going forward if Boris Johnson is incapacitated.

WARD: Right, John. Because what they did, which was sort of confusing, is that they released a statement saying that Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, has been deputized or deputize where necessary. And the crucial thing is the semantics of those words where necessary, what does mean. That seems to indicate that the prime minister, Boris Johnson, is still -- we know she's conscious, certainly -- but is still making some sort of decision.

So the question a lot of people will be asking themselves is who is really in charge. Who is in the driver's seat right now? The U.K. is very different to the U.S. The cabinet is where the seat of power really is. But a lot of people, as I said before were wanting that sense of certainty and direction.

BERMAN: Yes. The Constitution ends up being a nice thing right now, something to lean back on. Clarissa Ward for us in the United Kingdom watching Boris Johnson very closely, thanks very much for being with us this morning. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Okay. John, as you know Louisiana has been one of the coronavirus hot spots but there are new signs that they may be turning a corner.


We'll get the latest next.


BERMAN: Top health officials in the U.S. growing concerned about emerging hot spots, including New Orleans and Long Island, that's in New York. It comes as some northeast governors are suggesting that deaths could be leveling off in their states.

Joining us now is Dr. Rebekah Gee. She is Louisiana's former secretary of health and the CEO of the Louisiana State University's Healthcare Services Division. Also with us is Steve Bellone, the executive of Suffolk County in New York.

And, Dr. Gee, if I can start with you, it's interesting because Louisiana had its highest jump in number of deaths on Sunday. But from Washington, those people doing the national models, they are suggesting that perhaps Louisiana has plateaued and has post-peaked. What are you seeing on the ground?

DR. REBEKAH GEE, FORMER LOUISIANA SECRETARY OF HEALTH: So the governor announced yesterday that our hospitalizations are leveling off.


We're seeing that in New Orleans that we're having fewer admissions per day. We're also seeing less need for people to be on ventilators.

So the death rate you're seeing is an artifact of the fact that we had several weeks ago huge spikes in cases and it takes a long time for people to really get sick. Now, we think that the social distancing is working and we're very optimistic that we're very optimistic that we're starting to see a flattening of the curve because of those measures that were implemented several weeks ago.

BERMAN: I want to ask you, Dr. Gee, about a statistic that we are seeing in some other metropolitan areas. In New Orleans, 70 percent of COVID deaths are African-Americans. I think that's actually statewide. Statewide in Louisiana, 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths are African- Americans. It's just 32 percent of the population that is African- American. Why that disproportionate figure?

GEE: Look, this is really concerning. At first and foremost, we have health disparities in every area of health, in cancer screening, in diabetes rates, in hypertension rates, and those underlying illnesses, you know, do not help people when they have the COVID virus, number one. But number two, African-Americans are disproportionately essential workers, those who have to be cashiers or bagging groceries or on the frontlines of pharmacies. And those jobs typically don't come with sick leave, are more low paying.

And we don't have affordable childcare options. Many African-American families are intergenerational, the grandma's watching the children during the day while mom is at work. And that, unfortunately, exposes grandma to children who may have a virus.

And so, unfortunately, low income families who are disproportionately African-American don't have the options that families who are doctors and lawyers and other folks can to work at home. They don't have that luxury. And so they're very worried about the intergenerational childcare options, as well as the fact that our frontline workers do not have appropriate workplace safety, masks and so on.

BERMAN: So, Executive Bellone, you are in a different place completely than Louisiana is this morning. If Louisianan plateauing and maybe hopefully, fingers crossed, might be post-peak, you aren't. You're just getting in the middle of it right now. What are you seeing in Suffolk County?

And just so people know where Suffolk County is, it's in Long Island. It's one county separated. There's a county in the middle between New York City and you. So what are you seeing?

STEVE BELLONE, SUFFOLK COUNTY NEW YORK EXECUTIVE: That's right. I mean, Suffolk County is a big place of about 1.5 million people. And we've had the sense for some time that we were anywhere from 7 to 14 days behind what was happening in New York City. And as the governor said just a couple days ago, the battle really is shifting to Long Island. And we're seeing it in the numbers. And you can feel the surge happening. Every day, the number of positive patients grows more than a thousand. We see new hospitalizations rising every day. And worse of all is the death toll continuing to rise. Three weeks ago we did not have a COVID-19-related death in Suffolk County. Yesterday, that number soared well past 200.

And I'm in a position where I'm having conversations I never imagined having in this position. We talked to our emergency operations center every day, and we're talking about what our morgue capacity is and the number of body bags that we need.

The governor has a plan, we're working in coordination, but it's these conversations that have continued to drive me to request more supplies and more equipment.

BERMAN: You're asking for more supplies and more equipment. How has it been getting what you need, especially given the crisis that's been going on in New York City with so many resources pouring into the city? Does that mean there hasn't been enough for you?

BELLONE: This has been an incredible challenge. I think Governor Cuomo has been articulate on this issue. He has done a great job leading in our state. And the message has been --

BERMAN: I think we just lost Executive Bellone who is out in Suffolk County. What he has been saying is that he has been struggling to get supplies, he's been getting help from Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York. But it's been difficult. And he notes that based on some modeling, he needs more ventilators to meet what he thinks will be the peak a week or two from now.

Dr. Gee, maybe you can give some advice to Executive Bellone in absentia, given that Louisiana, I think, is a couple of weeks ahead of where he is. What has been the most effective means of preparation? What has been the most effective means to deal with the spike?

GEE: Well, fortunately, we saw what was happening in Manhattan earlier and we prepared. We have a thousand beds in our convention center ready to go, needing to make sure that you're able to offload hospitals so that those beds can only be used for the sickest patients. And people that can be managed more of an outpatient setting or a less critical setting can be moved. So that was an important consideration.

But it's been challenging for all us. Sourcing personal protective equipment and vents has felt like -- we feel like we're on eBay every day. Who's the highest bidder? We're bidding against not only New Jersey and New York, but we're bidding against the federal government. It's really been a free for all and, unfortunately, very disorganized.


And it's very disconcerting when you're a doctor, a hospital, someone on the frontlines not knowing if you're going to have PPE tomorrow or people were using their PPE again putting, it in a bag next week, not knowing if we would have enough vents this week. It looks like the flattening is working and that's fortunate for us, but it has been challenging. And, certainly, we as lower income states or smaller cities are competing with powerhouses like New York for resources and that's happening all across the country.

BERMAN: Dr. Gee, Steve Bellone, who we lost a second ago, I thank both of you for being with us this morning. Very important to watch these areas throughout the country.

GEE: Thank you.

BERMAN: In the meantime, some coronavirus survivors banning together to try to help those still suffering. One of those survivors joins us next.


BERMAN: The first survivors of the coronavirus are starting to come out of self-quarantine.


And now researchers are looking to use their blood plasma rich in antibodies to help people who are still suffering fight off.