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White House Coordinator Urges Lab Directors To Help Find Testing Kits; Dr. Rob Davidson Discusses No Tests Available For Suspected COVID-19 Patients; Bernie Sanders Suspends Presidential Campaign; Dr. Michael Wasserman Discusses Taking Elderly Family Members Out Of Nursing Homes; Early Data Shows Black Americans At Higher Risk For Coronavirus. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 8, 2020 - 13:30   ET




DEBORAH BIRX, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: The machines are throughout the United States. There's hundreds of them. Right now, about 80 percent of them are idled. Over a million tests sitting -- test kits sitting, ready to be run.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: In the meantime, doctors on the front lines continue to plead for more testing. And that includes my next guest, who just tweeted he is, quote, "Still not able to test 70 percent to 80 percent of my patients who I think have COVID-19."

Dr. Rob Davidson is an E.R. doctor from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare.

Dr. Davidson, describe the circumstances that you are seeing. You say you have a lot of patients who you could test, would like to test, and you can't.

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMITTEE TO PROTECT MEDICARE: Yes, I see people coming into my Emergency Department every shift. My partners see that as well and people I talk to from around the country, as a part of our committee of doctors, from Denver to the east coast.

And what we know is these people have symptoms consistent with COVID- 19 -- fever, cough, chills. You know, perhaps they are not sick enough to be admitted to the hospital and they don't fit a very narrow set of parameters that we could test them.

And so, you know, it's about three-quarters of the folks that I'm seeing that I tell, listen, I think you have the virus. You need to go home and isolate, which means be away from everyone, even within your home away from your family.

And yet, I can't do the test because they don't fit those parameters.

And you know, I think as a guest earlier, Dr. Del Rio said, this is the key to opening us back up again, getting these tests online.

COOPER: When you hear Dr. Birx saying that a million test kits are sitting idle and that there may be pieces of equipment in labs, in hospitals that could be found to run more tests, what do you think?

DAVIDSON: Well, I hope that the federal government is doing more than, you know, speaking this at a press conference. I'm hoping that, and I wish that our president would fully enact the Defense Production Act so that whatever reagents or swabs that are needed to run these tests -- because frankly, we're being told some of the holdup is that we don't have enough reagent or we don't have enough swabs to do this.

And so, you know, there's more than just the kit that allows these tests to go forward. So, whatever needs to be done, I wish the president was standing up on his chair and screaming about it at meetings of the task force to actually get something done on this.

COOPER: When you are able to test somebody -- when you say it's the standards, they don't meet the criteria, what are the current criteria? Is it still traveled to a region that --


DAVIDSON: It's changing.


DAVIDSON: Yes, it's changing. And actually, we just opened it up a little bit more yesterday. Now anybody over 65 we can test.

But really, if you are immunosuppressed and there's certain criteria, if you're a frontline health worker, if you're pregnant, and if you're living in a nursing home or another facility like that. And now, if you're over age 65.

But if a 50, 55-year-old relatively healthy person who comes in with classic symptoms -- again, we're just telling them, we think you have it. I think if we could actually test them and show them a positive, it might make them isolate a little more aggressively, not, you know, expose their family members who are then going out.

COOPER: Right. Let me ask, is it -- do you have -- if the standards were different, if, you know, the hospital said, OK, look, you're allowed to test anybody who you think may be positive or who has symptoms, would you have enough testing to be able to do that currently?

DAVIDSON: Well, you know, just like the PPE standards change based on availability of N-95 masks and the like, the testing standards are all based on availability.

So, we don't open it up because the science tells us, well, these are the people we should be testing. The science tells us the only way out of this is to be testing everybody with --

(CROSSTALK) COOPER: Those standards exist -- those limited standards exist because there's limited testing and limited capabilities.

DAVIDSON: Right. Right. Right. So, we need the equipment to test so we can open it up to everybody.

COOPER: It's a little frightening that standards of care are being dictated by availability of PPE or availability of testing. You would kind of want the standards of care are the standards of care and then let's do everything we can to meet those standards of care.

DAVIDSON: I agree. Exactly. And it's frustrating when you hear the president from the podium saying that we're doing everything great and everybody, you know, is doing what they're supposed to do.

But you know, of course, if you move the goal line, then you're going to be scoring a touchdown a lot more frequently than if you leave it in place and then try to, you know, kind of ramp up the equipment, ramp up the capabilities to meet those guidelines.

It's very frustrating on the front lines.

COOPER: How long -- just quickly, how long do the results take from the test that you are currently able to do?

DAVIDSON: In our system, it's actually pretty quick. Our main hospital in our region is doing the tests in House, and it's 24 to 48 hours. I hear other places, it's still four to five days. Takes a little bit more time. But, again, that's hit-or-miss, depending where you happen to be.


COOPER: So 24 to 48 hours. Obviously, you would like those to be, you know, those newer instant tests, because you then have somebody who is out there for 24 to 48 hours who may be infecting other people.

DAVIDSON: Correct, yes. Again, I think that having a positive right in front of them would certainly, I think most likely change their behavior and decrease the risk of spread and get us out of this a lot more quickly.


Dr. Rob Davidson, I appreciate all you're doing, you and your colleagues. Thank you very much.

DAVIDSON: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up, Senator Bernie Sanders says good-bye to his 2020 presidential bid. What's behind his decision to drop out of the race after hanging on so long. And also, exactly what is he going to do now?



COOPER: A little stunner from Bernie Sanders today, dropping out of the 2020 race. The Vermont Senator now clearing the path for his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Sanders ending his second White House bid, but he says he still thinks he and his campaign are winning the ideological war. Take a listen.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I wish I could give you better news, but I think you know the truth, and that is that we are now some 300 delegates behind Vice President Biden and the path toward victory is virtually impossible.

So, while we are winning the ideological battle and while we are winning the support of so many young people and working people throughout the country, I have concluded that this battle for the Democratic nomination will not be successful.


COOPER: A crucial point, Sanders says he is staying on the ballot in most upcoming primaries to collect delegates and exert influence at the upcoming Democratic national party convention.

I want to bring in Ryan Nobles, who's been covering the Sanders campaign.

I'm wondering what you're hearing about Sanders' support for Joe Biden going forward. He said he would work with or work for Biden's election.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's no doubt about that, Anderson, and that's been pretty consistent with what Bernie Sanders has said since he launched his campaign for president this time around, that no matter what, if he did not win the nomination, that he would ultimately support the campaign of the winning Democratic nominee.

And I do think that someone like Joe Biden makes it a little bit easier for someone like Bernie Sanders to support. There's no doubt that he and Biden have a lot of big differences when it comes to some of the big policy issues of the day -- for instance, Medicare For All, which is Sanders' signature policy issue, was something that Joe Biden does not support.

But that being said, they do have a very warm, personal relationship. They were colleagues in the United States Senate. The two men are very fond of each other.

And there was even points during Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign where many of his aides were pushing him to attack Biden a little bit harder, and it was Sanders himself who said that he wasn't interested in going in that direction.

So, I don't think there's any doubt that Sanders himself will, you know, be very passionate in his support for Joe Biden.

The question will be, can he bring his supporters along with him? And that will no doubt be the defining moment of this campaign for Joe Biden, at least the next big step for him.

And Biden already seems to understand that. He realizes that he needs the support of Sanders and his campaign in order to beat Donald Trump.

And this is what he said on Twitter today, quote, he said, "I know Bernie well. He is a good man. He is a great leader and one of the most powerful voices for change in our country. And it's hard to sum up his contributions to politics in one single tweet, so I won't try."

He goes on to say, "To Bernie and Jane, as friends, from Jill to me, you haven't just run a political campaign, you've created a movement. And make no mistake about it, we believe it's a movement that is as powerful today as it was yesterday. That's a good thing for our nation and our future."

So you can see, Anderson, Joe Biden understanding that the progressive movement is a powerful part of the Democratic Party and he's doing everything he can to bring them on board his campaign to take on Donald Trump in November.

COOPER: Yes, well, we'll see how that effort goes.

Ryan Nobles, appreciate it.

Still ahead, should you take your loved ones out of their nursing home? I'll talk to a doctor in California who thinks it might be a good idea.



COOPER: Nursing homes have been particularly hard hit amid the coronavirus pandemic. Infections and deadly outbreaks in facilities across the nation targeting the elderly, many with underlying health conditions that make them the most vulnerable.

The crisis is so dire, it's prompted L.A. county's top health official to say that families should seriously consider pulling loved ones out of nursing homes. Dr. Barbara Ferrer says it would be "perfectly appropriate" -- her phrase -- to do so.

Dr. Michael Wasserman, the president of the California Association of Long-Term Medicine and a specialist in geriatric medicine, is joining me now.

Doctor, what do you think? Is it a wise idea, if families can, to take their loved one out of a nursing home facility?

DR. MICHAEL WASSERMAN, SPECIALIST IN GERIATRIC MEDICINE & PRESIDENT, CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF LONG-TERM MEDICINE: So, Anderson, thank you. I actually told a reporter yesterday that, if it was me, I would take

my mother out of a nursing home, if under the circumstances that we have right now where we don't have enough PPE, testing, adequate infection control.

So, the challenge is -- I'm medical director at Eisenberg Village, which is part of the Los Angeles Jewish home. The folks we have working there are working really hard to protect our residents. And in almost all cases, there would be no reason to send them home.

And in fact, one of the things we have to be careful about is most families aren't prepared to do the type of stellar infection control, have their own personal protective equipment, and testing to bring mom home.

I think, in an ideal world, my heartfelt response was, yes, I would try to do that for the simple reason that it's not a coincidence that the first case in the United States was at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington.

And I'll tell you, every geriatrician and long-term expert in the country, from that moment until now, has been working tirelessly to inform our policymakers and elected officials about the challenges that nursing homes are facing right now.


You're warning, if families are considering this, there's a number of things they should take in mind. Essentially, I think was what you're saying in terms of their capabilities to care for somebody at home.

But also, isn't there the risk of exposing the elderly family member to younger people at home, who maybe haven't been tested, don't know if they have the virus or not or asymptomatic or whatever the situation may be?

WASSERMAN: One-hundred-percent, you are exactly right. We actually had one case in our facility and that case came through a transfer from another facility that hadn't been doing testing because testing wasn't available and fortunately, we have incredible staff. We were doing isolation from the very beginning, and we've been able to manage and contain that.

The concept I like to tell people is, if we don't do things right, nursing homes can act as an accelerant to the growth of this virus, so we need to be putting a moat, essentially, around nursing homes, doing good PPE, doing good testing, doing stellar infection control.

And the other part of this is, we must be creating COVID positive post-acute care centers that literally are centers of excellence so that when folks do get the virus and they need higher level of care and management, we have somewhere to send them. That will keep us from creating more Kirkland's.

COOPER: What advice do you have for someone who has a loved one in a facility, what should they look for in that facility to see if or learn about -- they're probably not allowed into the facility right now -- but to kind of figure out is this facility prepared -- are they taking care of a family member in a well enough, not just regular times, but in this pandemic?

WASSERMAN: Great question, Anderson. I've been giving this advice to family and friends who call me.

I'd be asking what they're doing in terms of infection control and prevention. Are they focused on stellar hand hygiene? Are they -- if they have any cases, and are they effectively containing it? Are they checking the temperatures of every staff that comes in every day?

We've developed a lot of expertise in the last four to five weeks regarding the type of infection control care needed in long-term care facilities.

Honestly, I think, by and large, across the country, assisted living, nursing homes have really been doing as good a job as they can with a caveat. Most everywhere, they don't have the ability to test. They don't have the equipment.

In the end, if we don't get that to them, then we'll have a bigger problem. And that's where my heartfelt reaction came from yesterday.

COOPER: Again, it comes down to testing. So many different people, different parts of the country, testing is essential now, and also as a bridge or a key to get the economy back when that's actually possible.

Dr. Michael Wasserman, I appreciate all of your efforts. Thank you very much.

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We'll be right back.


COOPER: We're seeing a major disparity in the toll the coronavirus is taking on the African-American community. In Mississippi, where black Americans make up about 30 percent of the population, about 50 percent of the people dying from the virus are African-American.

Early data also suggests that the number of black Americans dying from coronavirus is disproportionate in other states like Illinois, Michigan, Louisiana, and New York.

Our CNN correspondents are taking a closer look at the numbers.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Athena Jones, in New York, where the state released new information on coronavirus-related deaths by race. The data show the virus is disproportionately fatal for blacks and Hispanics.

In New York City, blacks make up 22 percent of the population but account for 28 percent of the deaths so far. While Hispanics account for 29 percent of the population, but account for 34 percent of the deaths so far. Similar disparities were reported at the state level, too.

These numbers are preliminary and are likely to change, something we'll be closely monitoring.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ed Lavandera, in New Orleans. New projections from the University of Washington show that as many as 950 people could die of coronavirus here in this state by August.

This comes at a time that state health officials are taking a much closer look at the death rate because of coronavirus among African- Americans here in the state. Black residents in Louisiana account for little more than 70 percent of the overall coronavirus deaths.

And this also comes at a time that the number of deaths reported each day over the last few days has continued to go up.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Omar Jimenez, in Chicago. More than 60 percent of the coronavirus deaths here have been black Chicagoans. And more than 50 percent of the confirmed coronavirus cases in the city have been black Chicagoans, despite just making up 30 percent of the total population.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says it tells a story of resource inequality. And it is part of why their office and the Department of Public Health have put in place an order to enhance the medical data shared to include demographics, so they can more accurately trace the impact of the disease on those communities.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ryan Young, in Detroit, a city that has been particularly hard by the coronavirus. In fact, they don't believe we have peak numbers yet in Michigan. But it's already reporting 40 percent of the deaths in this state are African- Americans.


In the city of Detroit, we don't have a breakdown by race just yet. We know the city will start passing out surgical masks to folks getting on buses over the next few days.