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Doctors Give Blood Plasma from Survivors to Virus Patients; New York Woman Connects Coronavirus Survivors with Researchers; Wisconsin Holds Primary Today After Court Overrules Governor. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 7, 2020 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: 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 the disease.

Joining me now is Diana Berrent; she is the founder of a group that connects coronavirus survivors with researchers. Diana, first of all, people may recognize you. You were on our show a couple of weeks ago when you were still in self-quarantine keeping a diary of your struggles against COVID-19. Just tell us how you're doing and how you're feeling today.

DIANA BERRENT, FOUNDER, SURVIVOR CORPS: I have to tell you, I am completely recovered. Not only do I feel completely back to normal, but I finally got a negative for the virus yesterday, positive for the antibodies. And even better news, it turns out that I'm a universal donor and I will be going tomorrow to donate my plasma.

BERMAN: You're due for some good news, clearly. So we're happy that you are getting this. So talk to us about now being on the front lines, this weapon, you yourself are going to turn into a weapon to battle coronavirus.

BERRENT: I like to think of it as a superhero. So I got this virus and my body naturally created the antibodies to fight it off. Not everyone is that lucky. So now all -- me and all the other survivors, we have these internally built hazmat suits. And we can use that power, those super powers and donate our plasma and have that extracted and given to the sickest to be used in various viruses before H1N1, with SARS, MERS, and it's been one of the -- a long-time tested way of treating viruses like COVID-19.

BERMAN: We've talked to people and doctors who are helping to run some of these trials and testing centers, the convalescent plasma treatments, which is what this is. Your antibodies --


BERMAN: Are supercharged now. I wonder, how does that feel? I mean, do you feel you're walking back into society now with some kind of immunity shield? BERRENT: There's a very strong suspicion of immunity. I did wait to

release myself from quarantine until I did get that positive -- that negative test, which is unfortunately not widely available. But I do keep -- want to remind people that people are showing up with it still in their systems after 14 days. So in terms of the CDC guidelines of releasing yourself from isolation after 72 hours, you might want to look at some of that data and hold yourself in there a little bit longer --

BERMAN: Oh, sure.

BERRENT: To be sure.

BERMAN: That's a totally different issue. I mean, the one thing is people --


BERMAN: Need to be damn well sure that they're not shedding the virus anymore when they go --


BERMAN: Back out into society, that's clear. It's another thing to use the antibodies that might be in your body to battle things going forward, and you want to raise awareness to this, to other survivors like yourself.

BERRENT: Exactly. Within two weeks, I've started an open Facebook group less than two weeks ago. We have about 23,000 members already, and are really the fastest, most robust grassroots solution-based movement in the country right now, trying to stem the tide of this pandemic. And we are serving as a matchmaker between people like me, survivors, and the medical community.

They need our plasma, but they also need to use us for other studies to understand how long the virus is shed, the methods of transmission, et cetera. And we want to help that scientific community in any way we can, and right now, we are flooding them with volunteers. And I hope that's a message of hope for those of you who are suffering at home through the miserable nastiness that is this virus.

And if -- assuming that you were one of the lucky ones like me and the vast majority of you will be, you can join our ranks and we can -- so many of the mysteries of this virus are in our bodies. Let's use -- let's support the scientific community in every way we can to get to the bottom of this.

BERMAN: What's the most important lesson you learned during your quarantine that you can pass on to all of our friends who are now in the middle of it? What are your tips to get through this?

BERRENT: You have to keep hope. You have to see what's on the other side. We -- look, this is a tragic situation and enough people have spoken about all of those parts of it. But this is a ray of hope. And to know -- we all feel that we're very -- it's all very out of control, and this is a way that you can give back. And that's a very motivating factor when you're home and you're sick and you're scared.

And to know that in a couple of weeks, you can go out and save lives. Every plasma donation can save 3 to 4 lives. That is incredible --

BERMAN: Yes. What was the first thing you did when you got the negative test that you no longer had the virus?


BERRENT: I called the New York Blood Bank after jumping for joy and announcing it to my family, I called the New York Blood Bank and got the first possible appointment, and I'll be going in tomorrow to donate my plasma.

BERMAN: Good for you. Listen, thank you for spreading the message. This is such an important part. It's just one part, but it's an important part to battle this outbreak, and we thank you for coming on. We're so happy for you that you got through this, and are now able to be out there with everyone else. Thanks so much, Diana, be well.

BERRENT: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: So, while the coronavirus pandemic is an added challenge for so many Americans who are struggling even before the crisis hit.


MISSA FINKLE, DALLAS RESIDENT, GEORGIA: What does this mean? It means things are getting rough.




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: The coronavirus is creating big challenges for so many of us. We're all coping with changes to our work life and our home lives. CNN's Martin Savidge shows us some of the faces of this struggle.



FINKLE: My name is Missa, I'm 38 years old, I live in Dallas, Georgia.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Missa Finkle is living her worst nightmare, sheltering in place in a house full of food.

FINKLE: And I have an eating disorder in the middle of a pandemic. And what does this mean? It means things are getting rough.

SAVIDGE: Her bulimia and anorexia have been under control, thanks to therapy and meetings, but coronavirus is a perfect storm forcing her to stock up as it shuts everything down.

FINKLE: And isolate you, which addiction loves, and stick you in a house with your drug of choice, but try not to be bad.

SAVIDGE: Like millions of Americans with addiction issues, Missa is struggling.

FINKLE: Typically on a Monday, this place would be bustling with people for our weekly celebratory recovery meetings.

SAVIDGE: In-person counseling sessions have just become phone calls or online chats. It's not the same.

FINKLE: I am honestly not sure how long I'm going to be riding that recovery relapse line because right now, that's kind of where I am.

SAVIDGE: She still has weeks, maybe months to go.


SAVIDGE: Gustavo has his own struggles. He's the spokesperson for the El Paso independent school district, the largest along the border.

REVELES: We have about 60,000 students, of course, we are closed.

SAVIDGE: Like many districts, the learning is online.

REVELES: We did have some hiccups, of course.

SAVIDGE: Many student families can't afford computers or internet, so Gustavo's district made sure every high school student got a laptop and 10,000 elementary students got iPads and internet hotspots.

REVELES: We're a community that is largely lower income.

SAVIDGE: Nearly 95 percent of the students in his district qualify for the federal school meals program. Even during the closure, staff deliver on average 16,000 meals a day.


SAVIDGE: To Gustavo, the school year seems book-ended by tragedy.

REVELES: We started out the school year in August right after the shooting here at the Wal-Mart in El Paso.

SAVIDGE: Twenty two people died, 24 others were wounded in the attack. In El Paso, coronavirus is not the only thing they struggle with.

REVELES: It's been a trying year.

SAVIDGE: These are trying days for Yolanda Harrison; a home-care nurse in Flint, Michigan. YOLANDA HARRISON, HOME-CARE NURSE: This virus has affected my

community, people that I have known has passed away from this. This virus has made me scared and paranoid.

SAVIDGE: The wife and mother of three is afraid of bringing the virus home.

HARRISON: On a daily basis now, I have to get up and take my temperature and my family temperature before leaving the home.

SAVIDGE: She goes into six or seven homes every day to care for her patients.

HARRISON: I'm putting on my gloves, I also have to put on my N95 mask.

SAVIDGE: But like Gustavo in El Paso, coronavirus is not the only crisis Yolanda must deal with, remember, she lives in Flint.

HARRISON: Also, I am dealing with the water crisis. My pipes have not been changed.

SAVIDGE: Six years after dangerous lead began leeching into the city's water supply, Yolanda's family still relies on bottled drinking water. Now she wipes down each and every bottle with sanitary wipes. One more stress in her already stressful life.

HARRISON: So I'm on my way in, here we go.


CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, John, I'm so glad that Martin did that story because the mental health aspect of all of this is something that I don't think we can talk enough about. I mean, you heard Yolanda there, she struggles with anxiety and paranoia. You heard Missa, she struggles with -- in recovery. I mean, I'm sure we both have lots of friends who are --

BERMAN: Yes --

CAMEROTA: Wrestling with mental health issues through this right now. And I just think that it helps to know that people aren't alone.

BERMAN: I think it's exactly right. You have to remember your other challenges don't go away when there's this pandemic. In fact, in many ways, they're exacerbated. Really important for Martin to go out and tell these stories. Our thanks to him.

So, the Wisconsin primary is going ahead today as scheduled after the state Supreme Court halted efforts to delay voting due to coronavirus. The court overruled an executive order from Wisconsin's Democratic governor postponing the primary until June. The ruling is a victory for Republicans who have opposed all efforts to stop in-person voting. The governor criticized the decision, saying voters now have to choose between exercising their right to vote and staying healthy and safe. CAMEROTA: And, John, this morning, we remember some of those we've

lost to coronavirus. Let's start with Anthony Smith. He worked as a mail handler in Detroit. The National Postal Mail Handler's Union says Smith spent 30 years working for the Postal Service. He served in the army for 12 years. He was married and helped raise 15 children. The union says Anthony loved music, a good barbecue and singing karaoke.


BERMAN: What a loss. A Bronx teacher has passed away. David Behrbom was just 47 years old. He was an elementary school teacher at PS 55. He loved the Yankees and old school Hip Hop. He just got the virus days after he was diagnosed with leukemia. Behrbom leaves behind a wife, an 8-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son. They spent days fighting to get him antibody treatment. David died a few hours before it got to him.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, that's heartbreaking. And Philadelphia has lost its first police officer to coronavirus. Lieutenant Jimmy Walker was 59 years old. The Police Department says Walker was a three-decade veteran of the force. He was set to retire in December. His widow, Vida, says this is, quote, "the most devastating feeling imaginable not to be able to be with my husband at the end to hold his hand, to tell him what our life together has meant." We'll be right back.



CAMEROTA: It is holy week for millions of Christians around the globe, and for Jews, Passover begins tomorrow. But the social distancing we're all doing means that people who normally gather together to observe these holidays cannot. Joining us now and back by popular demand is his eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York.

I'm not kidding Cardinal Dolan, I can't tell you how many people told us that they felt better after your last segment on NEW DAY. So we wanted to have you back to just help us with how we should experience this holy week while we're all going through this.

TIMOTHY DOLAN, ARCHBISHOP OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, NEW YORK: Thanks, Alisyn, you're gracious to invite me back. And that was my mom who was writing to you about how good she felt after you saw me a few weeks. By the way, thanks for all you're doing. You keep us connected, you keep us informed. And is everybody there OK? Is anybody sick or --

CAMEROTA: Well, two of our colleagues on the air, Chris Cuomo and Brooke Baldwin have gotten sick. But we check in with them all the time, and they tell us that they are on the mend. You know, this virus is sneaky, you know. You know, you can think that you're feeling better one day, and then decline the next day. But as of this morning, they tell us that they're doing OK.

DOLAN: I've heard -- I knew about Chris and I've been in touch with him. Who is the other one? CAMEROTA: Brooke, Brooke Baldwin who is on in the afternoons --

DOLAN: Brooke --

CAMEROTA: Here, yes.

DOLAN: I'll remember Brooke in my prayers as well --

CAMEROTA: Thank you --

DOLAN: As Chris. But Alisyn, thanks. And so, adding to the kind of somberness and burden of this traumatic time in our city and our nation, heck on our planet, with all the terror of the virus is the fact that you mentioned that these are the high holy days for Jews and for Christians with Passover and holy week. And many are saying, oh, how horrible, how desperate that we're unable to celebrate them.

I might have another read on that, Alisyn. I'm wondering if the lessons, the timeless lessons that come right from God about the Passover and about the cross and resurrection of Jesus provides an extraordinarily providential backdrop to what we're all going through in our lives. Why? Well, what Passover and what Easter both teach us would be what? For the Jews, they gratefully and reverently recall that God delivered them from darkness, from degradation, from despair in Egypt to new life and hope in the promised land.

For us Christians, we recall that dreariness, that somberness, that literal darkness of Good Friday afternoon with all of the evil and the death of the -- of love incarnate is a Passover as well to his glorious resurrection to new life. The resurrection of Jesus and Easter Sunday. So in a way, in a way, Alisyn, even though we might miss, and I hope people do, they're telling me they do, I sure miss their company and I'm glad they miss ours.

Even though they're going to miss that physical proximity, actually being in the church or their synagogue for that -- for worship and the sacraments and the holy Eucharist, there's still a chance here inside, which is where it really counts, of renewing our faith that God's in charge and that he delivers us from -- he delivers us from darkness to light, from death to life.

CAMEROTA: Do you feel like God is testing us right now?

DOLAN: Well, God will often test us, but it's only to bring about a greater good. He's not a -- he's not a vicious, vindictive Father who sends these punishment to us to try us and tests us. What he does say is, look, there is trials, there is adversities, there are setbacks, there is suffering that will come in life, but know that I'm with you and know that there will be a passing over from all of that to something greater, to something -- to something better.

I was -- a pastor just wrote me, Alisyn, about 108-year-old woman in her parish up in Yonkers, Theresa Gotchatorey(ph), who said to him, father, oh, don't worry, I lived through that flu back in 1919, and we all came out stronger than ever. By large, she still remembers that. And she remembers how physically we conquered that and how morally we got a little stronger afterwards.

CAMEROTA: That's a great story. But you know, I want to ask you about something the pope said on Palm Sunday at the Vatican. He said, quote, "may we reach out to those who are suffering and those most in need. May we not be concerned about what we lack, but what good we can do for others." And that's beautiful, of course, but how can we reach out to other people suffering when we're all forced to be inside and just be on our own right now.


You know, we keep hearing stories, cardinal, about people dying alone. You know, loved ones dying --

DOLAN: Yes --

CAMEROTA: In hospital rooms alone. And so how are we --

DOLAN: I know it --

CAMEROTA: Supposed to reach out right now?

DOLAN: I know it, I talked to one of my priests earlier this morning and his dear mother died during the night, and adding to the burden of her loss is the fact that he wasn't able to see her. Well, it's tougher now, isn't it? But we also admit that staying in touch, showing love and compassion, doesn't actually depend on physical connection. My mom, in Washington, Missouri, she may be watching now, hi, mom, she's in assisted living and she feels alone.

They can't even visit with them, her kids and grandkids, they might drive by and wave, but she said I feel so close to them. And she said I'm getting the phone calls and I'm getting letters and I'm hearing some -- from people that I haven't heard from in decades. So there are ways to stay close. You think about it, Alisyn, is this not what faith is about? Do you -- the Sunday after Easter, we always have the same gospel at mass and it's the famous story of doubting Thomas, remember?

When Jesus appeared to his apostles at first Easter, He said, here I am, I've risen from the dead, Thomas wasn't there. So when Thomas showed up, they said, hey, the Lord has risen, he was with us, he said, none of that, I'm not believing in his resurrection until I can actually see him and touch him and shake his hand and actually put my finger in his wounds.

Sure enough, next Sunday the Lord showed up and He said, come here, Thomas, and then, of course, Thomas makes his act of faith and Jesus more or less says big deal. It's easy for you to believe now because you can see me and touch me. Blessed are those who do believe without seeing me. That's faith, OK? We're talking now, Alisyn, about an invisible enemy in this vicious virus.

Remember there is an invisible power out there, in the grace and mercy of God, even though we can't see him, or touch him or feel him, we know He's there with us through the eyes of faith, and that's what our people are feeling now. CAMEROTA: Speaking of feeling, cardinal, yours is a hands on job.

You, you know, you deliver -- you offer communion, you offer solace visiting people in hospital rooms, you are with people. You -- here we have actual video of you doing your mass on Palm Sunday, remotely, and I'm just wondering, has it been hard for you to socially distance?

DOLAN: Yes, I feel -- I'm bristling, I'm chafing, Alisyn, I want to get out there, I want to embrace people, I want to give them a hug, I want to see how they're doing. I want to anoint them, I want to give them holy communion, I want to get close and hear their confessions and so do my brother priests, so do pastors throughout the world. Once again, we're saying, look, there is other ways we stay in touch with our people.

We have what we call a mystical, a spiritual and invisible communion with the Lord and with one another. And if our faith in that presence is being enhanced now, that's not such a bad thing.

CAMEROTA: His eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, we really appreciate talking to you today.

DOLAN: I appreciate you, Alisyn. Keep up the good work and invite me back when this is all over. I'll come by, OK?

CAMEROTA: I will hold you to that. Thank you very much --

DOLAN: See you soon.


DOLAN: A blessed Passover and Easter to everybody.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. John?

BERMAN: And I just want to say hi to the cardinal's mom in Washington, Missouri, who is no doubt watching. I got family out there also. So hi, cardinal's mom. So, the owner and head chef at a restaurant once named the world's best has turned it into a food commissary. The staff at New York's 11 Madison Park now makes 2,000 meals a day for first responders and New Yorkers who normally rely on food banks. They've teamed up with a nonprofit Rethink Food NYC. American Express helps with this funding effort.

To find ways you can help your community during this pandemic, go to All right, so many developments this morning in the pandemic, NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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."

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're the federal government. We're not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never seen a leader who is incapable of admitting a mistake. Right now, that refusal is costing lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First, 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.


BERMAN: All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY, 8:00 now in the east, and the major question this morning, are we beginning to see the first signs of progress.