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Louisiana in Crisis; Did Trump Administration Ignore Outbreak Warnings?; U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 14,000. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 8, 2020 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Our special coverage continues now with Kate Bolduan.

I will see you later tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

Here is the state of things. Dr. Anthony Fauci is calling this week sobering. The governor of the state that's at the epicenter of the pandemic right now calls the news terrible, Andrew Cuomo announcing the highest day yet of deaths in New York, 779 people in 24 hours, pushing the national number then to nearly 14,000 lives lost.

Cuomo offering also some devastating perspective on this. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Just to put a perspective on this, 9/11, which so many of us lived through, yes, in this state and in this nation, 2,753 lives lost. This crisis, we lost 6,268 New Yorkers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: But there is some hope to grab on to in all of this in this moment.

All of the top officials say it appears social distancing is working and showing some result. The White House models now are being revised downward, projecting an overall death toll of 60,000 people to die by August, down from a prediction of something about 81,000.

That in no way is something to celebrate. But it is something to give you hope that there is an impact for all the hard work on the front lines and all the work of staying home and social distancing.

But -- here is another but -- that is only if the country continues to hunker down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: We are by no means out of the woods. And do not misread what

you're seeing in that data and on those charts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: If anything, it is time to be more vigilant, not less in the face of this hope, and that devastating news as well.

The White House task force is now looking at Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia as potential new hot spots emerging.

So let's start there.

I want to bring in CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins for perspective on this.

Kaitlan, if all the top officials are saying that this is no time to ease up, rather, it's time to redouble our strict efforts and be more diligent, why is the White House now talking about opening up the economy?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Because the president has made clear that , as soon as the social distancing can ease up, he wants an economic big bang, as he was calling it last night when he did an interview on FOX News.

And so he's basically instructed these aides to figure out a way to have this economic upturn, and they want to try to figure out something that -- where they can deliver results of the president wants, but also not erase all the gains that they have made by having the country practice these social distancing measures.

So they have started these intensive discussions. Dr. Fauci said they met late into the night last night. And he did tell Democratic lawmakers on a call today that they do expect to issue some kind of new guidance in the next few days as they try to chart a path forward to try to figure out how it is to return life to some kind of normal for most Americans.

And, of course, there are a lot of considerations going into this, Kate, because you have got the president. We know what he wants. He makes it pretty clear about this. But also they have got to figure out how to do this, because it's going to be determined if they do it in geographic locations, things of that nature.

And, of course, the one thing that you have to also remember is the president did not close the country down. It was these governors and these localities that are instructing their people in their states what to do. So they will be the ones who really make the ultimate decisions to reverse those stay-at-home orders, to lighten up on them, things of that nature.

That will really be the key factor. And you have got to look at that new CNN poll today that says 60 percent of Americans right now do not favor easing up on those restrictions. So, of course, it's really going to be up to the people if they feel comfortable going back to what their lives used to look like.

BOLDUAN: That's a great point.

I mean, as I mentioned off the top, there has been a big update overnight in the model the White House has been using about the predicted death toll of this virus. It's still tens of thousands projected, but it's lowered by tens of thousands.

What are you hearing from the White House today about that?

COLLINS: Yes.

As Dr. Fauci said, today, he said these models are only as good as the assumptions that you put in them. And if the assumptions turn out differently than what they had initially projected, then it is going to change what those numbers are looking like.

But something that you have heard from the health experts, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, is, this is not the time, just because these models are projecting downward, to ease up on these guidelines. This is when Dr. Birx said earlier today, this is the time to make sure you are following those diligently to make sure it doesn't change those projections more than they already have.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Kaitlan, thanks so much.

So there's also another blow, it appears, to the claim from the president that no one could have ever predicted that this virus was coming, a new report about just out early the U.S. intelligence community was warning about the coronavirus outbreak.

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CNN's Alex Marquardt is digging into this one. He joins me right now.

So, Alex, what is going on here?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this is a report from ABC News that shows that the intelligence agency was already issuing alerts as early as late November about this emerging threat.

They were saying that there was a health issue that was spreading, contagion spreading throughout the Wuhan region. And this is coming from a small, not very well-known outfit at the Pentagon in the Defense Intelligence Agency. It's called the National Center for Medical Intelligence.

And what it does is combine medical with intelligence expertise to protect U.S. troops around the world. So, according to ABC News, this outfit, the NCMI, was seeing this threat in late November that could pose a threat to U.S. troops in the region.

Now, in the ensuing days and weeks, there was obviously more information that was coming out, there was more intelligence that was being gathered. That's in early December. We started to see the first public reports from China, social media posting about these health issues.

And we understand that there were more and more intelligence reports. But this report from ABC News is saying that the NCMI was alerting as early as late November about this threat.

Now, Kate, the big question is, who was briefed, who knew what when? And according to ABC, the Joint Chiefs was briefed, the National Security Council was briefed. We have reached out to the White House, to the National Security Council. They have declined to comment. We have also reached out to the Office of Director of National Intelligence. They declined to comment.

We are hoping to get some clarity from the Pentagon -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Alex, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Joining me right now for some more perspective on this and much more, Dr. Robert McLean. He's an internist and president of the American College of Physicians.

Dr. McLean, thank you for coming in.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: First, just on -- appreciate it.

First on what we're just hearing, when you hear this reporting that the White House was alerted to the real threat of the coronavirus back in November, as a physician who has been on the front lines, what is your reaction?

DR. ROBERT MCLEAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS: Well, I really can't speak to who knew what when.

As the president of the American College of Physicians, we have been focusing really on what to do now, how to get PPE and ventilators to where they need to be.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And that is understandable and where a lot of focus should be.

On one of these important issues, the important issue of testing, top officials in charge of the testing effort, they continue to say that testing is in a good place right now. That is not what I have heard from doctor after doctor who has been trying to get tests for their patients.

What are you seeing? What is the reality that you see?

MCLEAN: Yes.

Well, I'm in New Haven, Connecticut, and I can tell you that, while the amount of testing has ramped up a lot in the last week or two, there still are tremendous delays. Most of the tests in the first couple of weeks were going out to Washington state, were taking upwards of a week or so to get results back, sometimes even longer. Now, as we're starting to get more testing available, it's coming back

a little bit quicker, but it's still upwards of probably five to seven days for many people to get results back from the first round of tests.

There are some newer tests now coming out, and we're starting to have some of them with more a couple of days or a day or so turnaround. So that's helpful, but it's still too far away. When people are calling up our call centers to get tests done, they're sometimes not able to get an appointment to go to one of these drive-through centers for a day or two.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

As mentioned, you're the president of the American College of Physicians. The organization put out a report last week with a clear stance on this continued debate over using a drug, an anti-malarial drug, hydroxychloroquine, as treatment for COVID before clinical trials are done.

And the report said in part, public officials pushing this as a treatment could do serious harm. Why did you all feel the need to come out and say that?

MCLEAN: Well, I think there were concerns going back several weeks that there were shortages looming, as word was coming out from some preliminary studies that maybe this had an effect.

Some of those early studies we looked at were quite premature, were very small. Some analysis of them since then have shown that there are potentially a kind of problems with how to interpret them. So that was kind of one. The data just wasn't there yet to say exactly who was most benefiting, people who are more sick, people who were less sick.

There was not clear data on exactly what the dangers were, I think with the regimens that had been used. Some high doses are given in the first day or so. And that may be leading to some of these higher rates of cardiac complications, where people have these heart arrhythmias, maybe from that.

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Bottom line is, there's just not enough data to really say where and how we should be using this. So, we have been advocating, as have many other organizations, to have these done in clinical trials, which are ongoing in many centers, in very controlled situations.

But the last thing we want is for people to be using these in outpatient settings. We have no data that it is safe in that setting, when people are worried about taking these prophylactically or for very mild illness.

BOLDUAN: So I was very interested in seeing that today the CDC Web site has updated its guidance on hydroxychloroquine, no longer giving any dosage information. So that tells you something.

But I also, then, with that in mind, want to play what President Trump said just yesterday about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I say, try it. I'm not a doctor. I'm just saying we hear great results. And some people say, let's go to a laboratory. Let's test it for a couple of years. And then -- no, I got -- we got people dying in this country and all over the world right now, not in a couple of years.

They're dying. As we speak, there are people dying. And I really think it's a great thing to try, just based on what I know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: What do you say to that, Doctor?

MCLEAN: I say, as many have said, listen to Dr. Fauci. Listen to the science.

I think there is a concern when non-doctors are giving medical advice, especially on things like this, where the data is just not there around safety, around the validity of the data that we have, and also with the shortage issues.

I think if, in fact, this is helpful in people in the hospitals, we do not want there to be shortages of getting the medicine to who needs it most. And we just don't know that yet.

But there are lots of studies currently being done with hopefully rapid turnover of some of the results.

BOLDUAN: What do you say to someone who says, look, it could be helpful, what's the problem with he's jumping the gun a little too soon to say it would be a good thing?

Is there harm in someone with as loud of a voice and important voice as the president saying what he's saying?

MCLEAN: Well, I think that listening to the science is the most important thing. I think there is always potential harm.

With every medicine we ever give, you have to weigh the positive and the negative. And we just don't know, we can't quantify the positive or the negative, because it hasn't been studied enough.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

Doctor, thank you for what you do. Thank you for coming in.

MCLEAN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up: two states both seeing their deadliest days so far from coronavirus. We're going to check in with our reporters on the ground next.

Plus, the lessons learned, that should be learned from one nation, that dramatically slowed the spread.

We will be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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BOLDUAN: Amid so much darkness, some encouragement.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo says the hospitalization rate in the state is down and he expects that the overwhelmed hospital system to be able to stabilize in the coming weeks, if that trend continues.

But this news comes with a healthy dose of caution right now.

CNN's Erica Hill is here in the city with the very latest.

Erica, it was good news and bad coming from the governor. And he didn't even seem to know what to do -- what to make of it today.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, you're right, Kate. He really didn't.

And up at the top of his daily press conference, he said as much. He said, I'm not really sure what to do with this good and this bad news or what to make of it, so I'm just going to give it to you.

So let's start with what he pointed to as some of that good news, not just the hospitalization rate, but also overall in terms of the curve, what he's seeing. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: You have four or five days of flattening. You could have, tomorrow morning, we wake up and the number is back up.

So I'm not willing to say, because it's not true, that any of this is over or anything has been accomplished. This is just a small snapshot in time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: And what you will hear from Governor Cuomo and other officials is that that snapshot is also more reason to keep doing what you're doing in terms of social distancing.

In terms of that bad news that he referenced, Kate, the state hitting another highest single-day death toll on Tuesday; 779 people died in New York state.

BOLDUAN: And maybe potentially some good news also coming from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on the ever-present issue of ventilators?

HILL: It does seem we're always talking about ventilators. And, typically, you're right, the news is negative. But he told John Berman this morning on "NEW DAY" that New York City is in good shape when it comes to ventilators. He said he's good for this week, likely into next. But that doesn't mean that he's set for the future as a whole.

But he said today, for the first time, he can say that they actually have a little bit of breathing room.

BOLDUAN: Well, there is that. Thank you, Erica.

I want to check in with another state that has emerged as really probably in the next epicenter of the outbreak, Louisiana. The governor there reporting a new high in deaths from the virus just yesterday, leaving everyone to fear, of course, what today will bring.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in New Orleans with more on this.

Ed, where is the focus there today?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate.

Well, the new numbers from the state health department are out, and again, once again, a mixed bag. The number of cases has jumped as well. But -- and the number of deaths has jumped by 70 once again. So those are the highest levels of jumps in death counts that we have seen in the last couple of days.

Now, a little bit of the sliver of the good news. For the first time in all of this pandemic, we have seen the number of people required to be hospitalized has dropped. It's only slightly, 13 beds, but it is the first time we have actually seen that number drop.

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And for two days in a row now, we have seen the number of people on ventilators here in this state drop as well, so a mixed bag. The governor here has talked about -- has pushed back the deadline as to when they would run out of ventilators.

So they seem to be OK here on that front. And the governor and state health officials here are -- have been saying, very cautiously, that they hope they're beginning to see the flattening of the curve here in Louisiana, and, in particular, the New Orleans area here set in Southeast Louisiana that has been the hardest hit part of the state.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

And Louisiana is one of the states where the data is showing a huge racial disparity when it comes to infections and deaths. What are you hearing about that today?

LAVANDERA: Yes. A little more than 70 percent of the deaths in all are accounted for in the African-American community.

A great deal of concern about that. State health officials here say that this kind of underscore -- it underscores a large problem here in the state in terms of inequities in health care and that sort of thing.

But an immediate solution to all of this is really urging those communities and those neighborhoods to maintaining social distancing, that that will be the one thing that gets them through this crisis.

BOLDUAN: Ed, thank you. Appreciate it.

Coming up next for us: when doctor becomes patient, I'm going to talk to one doctor who recovered from coronavirus after 10 days in the ICU.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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BOLDUAN: Consider this snapshot from one county in New York.

Sources are telling CNN that two nurses have died in just three days from coronavirus on Long Island. Suffolk County is nearing 1,000 front-line hospital workers who have tested positive for the virus throughout the 11 hospitals in the county, which is another reminder of the great risks that they have to take every day to serve their patients.

But for health care workers who are able to recover, what is it like heading back on the job after doctor becomes patient?

One person who knows is Dr. Tomer Singer, an endocrinologist who was the first ICU patient with the virus to be discharged from Long Island Jewish Medical Center. He joins me now.

Doctor, thank you for being here. You look very well.

How has it been going back to work after having been through something like this, after having been a COVID patient yourself?

DR. TOMER SINGER, RECOVERED FROM CORONAVIRUS: Thank you, Kate.

It's been a challenge, being in the ICU for 10 days. One day, you're seeing patients, and then a couple of days later, you're suddenly admitted to the hospital and on the other side.

And it's been a humbling experience, to say the least. As you mentioned, I was one of the first patients the Long Island Jewish Hospital, and I kind of like learned through my admission the treatment, the prognosis and so forth. It was scary, to say the least.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely, you learning about this along with the doctors and nurses and physicians right along by your side.

As you're now back seeing patients, you're seeing patients, not in person, but only virtually; is that correct?

SINGER: Correct.

So I'm seeing patients in the past 10 days via videoconference. I'm a fertility specialist. And a lot of patients are eager to conceive and to continue with what we have begun in the last few months.

So I think that the videoconferencing is here to stay, and we will only bring patients when it's necessary or really mandatory, until we have a vaccination. So things are changing, no doubt, in the medical field all over.

BOLDUAN: That's really interesting. And we have heard so much about non-emergency procedures being postponed, some canceled, because of the need to focus all efforts on COVID and combating COVID.

What has that meant for your patients? Because I'm thinking to many people I know, some of whom have been on years-long journeys to try to get pregnant. And I can only imagine what that means for them right now.

SINGER: It's a very good question.

I think it's a point worth focusing on. Just from today's consult, I have seen over 12 patients. One of them was a wounded warrior from Iraq who his wife had to go through IVF for two years, and now they're trying for baby number two.

Those are couples that cannot just have timed intercourse at home. We don't hear Dr. Fauci or Dr. Birx saying, don't have sex. Another couple that I saw today, same-sex couple, were really on the plan of getting pregnant next month.

Another couple that are in a bind, because the wife's fallopian tubes are blocked. One last patient today I saw just now before our interview is a patient who's a breast cancer survivor who just did egg retrieval for fertility preservation, and would like to try and save more eggs, because she's about to embark on chemotherapy treatment.

So, it's very important to remember that infertility is a disease, and 15 percent of patients are suffering from infertility. And just to --

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