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U.S. Suffers Deadliest Day of Coronavirus Pandemic; Alarming Rate of African-Americans Killed & Infected by COVID-19. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired April 8, 2020 - 06:00   ET



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We're projecting that we are reaching a plateau in the total number of hospitalizations.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the past couple of days, discharging more patients than we are admitting.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE; That's not to suggest that we'll continue to see these declines. It's to only reinforce the importance of maintaining physical distancing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have patients here ranging in age from 31 to the 80s, and we're working hard to save them.

VICE ADMIRAL JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I and many black Americans are at higher risk for COVID.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a really significant manifestation of these longstanding structural inequalities.


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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, April 8, 6 a.m. here in New York.

This morning, we try to see where the coronavirus hits next in the United States. As New York City grapples with its highest numbers of deaths yet, there are some signs that the worst projections of the death toll might be avoided.

On Tuesday, the United States had its deadliest day so far. Coronavirus has now killed nearly 13,000 Americans. But the CDC director believes that, thanks to the stay-at-home orders and social distancing, we may -- may -- see fewer fatalities than the Trump administration projected. But still, this morning, many governors and mayors around the country

are warning that they are still dangerously close to running out of medical supplies for whatever comes next.

And new statistics show that coronavirus is disproportionately killing black Americans. Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates why, and we will bring you his findings in a moment.

Also, developing overnight, the lockdown in Wuhan, China, has been lifted. Eleven million people in the city where this pandemic started are now free to leave their homes for the first time in ten weeks. So we'll show you what that looks like and if we're seeing a glimpse into our future, John.

BERMAN: so this morning, President Trump, who on February 24 said the stock market looked good to him and on February 26 said the number of cases in the U.S. was a couple of days away from being zero, he's now threatening to withhold funds from the World Health Organization for its response.

Also this morning, President Trump, who himself voted by mail in Florida last month, is dismissing mail-in voting as corrupt. It comes after thousands of Wisconsin voters stood in long lines on Tuesday with little or no protective gear. State Republicans went to court to keep the government from postponing the state's primary.

CNN has just released new polling about what the public thinks about the pandemic and the federal government's response. We'll bring you those numbers shortly.

But we wanted to begin with Athena Jones live here in New York City with the latest on the battle against coronavirus.

The highest number of deaths yet in New York, Athena. But continuing hope that it might be leveling off.


That's exactly right. You know, New York and New Jersey now account for more than half of all coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S.

But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the curve could be flattening here, with the number of people being hospitalized and the number of people needing breathing tubes dropping.

But officials and experts say that these gains are dependent on people continuing to practice social distancing. Here's more of what the governor had to say.


CUOMO: Right now, we're projecting that we are reaching plateau in the total number of hospitalizations; and you can see the growth and you see it's starting to flatten. Again, this is a projection. It still depends on what we do. And what we do will affect those numbers. This is not an act of God that we're looking at. It's an act of what society actually does.


JONES: So the governor is saying it is up to us to make sure that these gains continue to go in the right direction. The governor also said that the rate of increase for cases in New York appears to be flattening.

And meanwhile, the epicenters of the outbreak, here in New York and in New Jersey and in Connecticut, I should mention, all saw their highest single-day death toll.

But on the good news front, the CDC director says the stunning model suggesting as many as 240,000 people could die of the coronavirus were based on only about 50 percent of Americans following these social distancing guidelines. So it shows you that this can work.

Now New York is averaging, I should mention, about 200 deaths a day at home. That is roughly ten times the normal average. Not all of these are tested for coronavirus. But that is one issue they are facing here.

And more than 200 members of the National Guard are now assigned to New York City's office of the chief medical examiner to help with the dignified recovery of these bodies. This mission began last week, and the teams are working 24/7. They're also joined by 52 members of the army. These are mortuary, military specialists who are trained to process bodies. They're also helping the medical examiner. So a really big operation going on here -- John, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Athena, thank you very much for that reporting.

Joining us now, doctors from two of the hardest-hit states. We have Dr. Rob Gore. He's an emergency physician at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, and Dr. Suraj Saggar. He's the chief of Infectious Disease Department at Holy Name Medical Center in New Jersey. Great to have both of you.

Dr. Gore, I want to start with you. You've been so helpful for us over these past weeks. That piece that our reporter, Miguel Marquez, did in your hospital. I can't -- I can't stop thinking about it. I mean, that's where, when he was there, there kept being the announcements overhead of code 99, need help, code 99, I mean, just one after another.


And so when you hear that things in New York may be -- may be -- leveling off or plateauing, are you seeing that yet in your hospital?

DR. ROB GORE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, SUNY DOWNSTATE MEDICAL CENTER: I -- one can hope that those numbers continue to drop.

But our emergency departments are still filled with new patients. Every shift I come in, we're still intubating patients and putting them on ventilators. Every day, we're still seeing people die from this. While working, you're still hearing, like the other day, there may be three or four code 99s within the span of 30 to 40 minutes.

And, you know, so I don't work on the floors, but when I contact the internal medicine docs upstairs or talk to the ICU docs, the ICUs, the floors are still saturated with patients, and they're still overwhelmed.

BERMAN: So Dr. Saggar, when you look at this -- and I know people are at home, and they want to know what does this mean for me? What does it mean if the number of deaths, while still high and tremendously upsetting, is leveling off? What does it mean if the number of hospitalizations is leveling off? What does it mean for me at home as we try to get through this pandemic?

DR. SURAJ SAGGAR, CHIEF OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE DEPARTMENT, HOLY NAME MEDICAL CENTER: Sure. So I echo the sentiments of my E.R. colleague. You know, I'm working in the E.R., as well as in the ICU on the floors, I agree. We're still seeing a large amount of inpatients coming in every day, very high acuity, and oftentimes requiring advance support, including being intubation.

I think what's important for the general public to understand is that these models are based on assumptions. And assumptions include social distancing. So the early information is such that it shows that the social distancing, the mitigation is indeed working. So I think those at home should feel empowered that what they're doing is just as important as what we're doing on the front lines.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Gore, President Trump is getting a different message somehow or different information. Last night he said something to the effect of everyone is doing great. So let's listen to this moment.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via phone): I think we're reaching a level of where it's going to start coming down, where it's going to start sloping down.

The good thing is that the number of beds needed, I think we were right about that. I was right. My group was right. They're not needing nearly as many beds as they thought. They're not needing as many ventilators as they thought.

In fact, we just saw -- in fact, I just saw on your show, and a couple of other people just reported back to me, that everyone is in great shape from the standpoint of ventilators.


CAMEROTA: That is not reflected in what we're hearing this morning from governors. Massachusetts says they, in terms of PPE, they're in a dangerous place. Kentucky says the same thing. Oregon says the same thing. Kansas says the same thing, just in terms of the masks, the gowns, I mean, everything that you've been grappling with.

So how are you in terms -- What are you seeing in terms of medical supplies and the need? GORE: So, well, any time -- I mean, right now we're still -- we still

have a lot of patients that we're taking care of. And if those numbers -- Right now we're seeing a plateau. At least they're saying that there's a plateau. But if those numbers do decide to turn -- remember, the incubation period is about two weeks. If we have patients who are asymptomatic right now, and then all of a sudden, they start manifesting symptoms over the course of the next two weeks, you're going to see a major spike.

And in any disaster situation, we're always mindful of the supplies that we're using. Any time we're working in our emergency department, and just in medicine in general, we're cautious of what we're using, how much we're spending. Are we going to have enough medication? Are we going to have enough protective gear? Because if we don't and we get hit hard, we're not prepared for it.

But I'm still very cautious. And when the president says that, Oh, everybody is great. Any time you have somebody who loses their life, then, people are not doing great. Any time you have someone who's dying because of a disease that's spread via -- via communication in close proximity, we are not doing OK.

So if we let our guard down at least once, those -- the number of new cases -- (AUDIO GAP) -- if we cut back on (AUDIO GAP) services or on the crucial staff that are required to care for patients in the emergency departments, on the floors, in the intensive care units, those death -- that death toll will continue to increase.

BERMAN: You know, Dr. Saggar, one of the other things that's interesting when you are in a public health phenomenon like we are right now, is that behavior changes can bend some of the statistics, right?

Hospital admissions, maybe they're going down because fewer people are being admitted, because the standards are getting higher, right?

Another thing that's interesting and upsetting, perhaps, is that in New York City, at least, the number of people dying at home has spiked. It's 20 times what it normally is. Now, we don't know for sure if all these people are dying from COVID-19 or coronavirus. But there is a suspicion that some of them are. What do you see when you look at the dying at home numbers?

SAGGAR: You know, that's a great point. As this pandemic continues, we're learning more and more about the virus every day.


And we're learning that, indeed, it doesn't just affect the respiratory system. It can also affect the cardiac system. So there very well may be people having heart attacks, having blood clots, having strokes at home and dying that may not be readily evidenced that it's from the virus, but in fact, it very well may be.

So as we go along, I think we, unfortunately, find a lot of deaths that, not necessarily directly but at least indirectly; either indirectly because patients weren't coming in routinely. They're scared to come to the E.R., and they're dying of heart attacks and strokes. Or they're having the effect of this virus, as -- because as we're learning, this virus can have a lot of different what we call systemic effects. And the virus may be causing heart attacks and strokes and blood clots, et cetera, causing people to die at home.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Gore, on that note, we spoke to a young woman. Her -- I believe her husband was 31 years old. They were -- we're hearing this from more people. I can't remember exactly if they were turned away from the hospital. But I think that what's happening -- anyway, he died at home is my point.

And when people are showing up -- we're hearing this story over and over -- unless they're in acute distress, the hospitals can't take, them and they're told to go home. And some of them are dying at home with their loved ones.

What are your thoughts, Dr. Gore?

GORE: Some people are dying at home with their loved ones. And one -- there are a couple of things.

One, if you have an opportunity to spend the end of this loved one's life here with, you know, you and the rest of the family in a more supportive setting, you'd rather do that. Because if they come to the emergency department and they do die here, we're not letting families in, because we -- we're concerned that we may increase the risk of those family members being infected by other patients in the emergency department.

So the question is, do we have the person come into the E.R. and die in a hospital with nobody that they know, or do we have them die at home, surrounding their loved ones?

And this is something I had recommended yesterday with a close family friend whose mother is pretty sick. And if we keep her in the hospital, even though she wasn't in super distress, we keep her there, she is going to wind up getting an infection, and she's going to wind up dying in a hospital. So if we can keep people at home and keep them as safe as possible and keep the around their loved ones, I'm sure that that's something that people would like and prefer.

CAMEROTA: That's a very great point.

Dr. Gore, Dr. Saggar, thank you both very much.

GORE: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Coming up, we're going to speak with the leaders of these two states -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy -- about what they're seeing, are they hopeful, where are we, in terms of numbers and a plateau.

BERMAN: So one of the most important developments in this fight against the coronavirus is the fact that it's killing and infecting black Americans at an alarmingly high rate. Why? Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates, next.



BERMAN: New this morning, disturbing new statistics show the coronavirus is disproportionately killing and infecting black Americans.

CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, investigates.

GUPTA: Well, John and Alisyn, as we get closer to the apex of this coronavirus curve, the apex, the peak of this curve as everyone has been talking about, another risk factor has really started to emerge. A significant one. That is race. Just how big a risk factor is it? Turns out pretty big.

Why is that? Well, I decided to find out myself.


GUPTA (voice-over): In the beginning, COVID-19 was far away, and it didn't even have a name.

DR. CAMARA JONES, PAST PRESIDENT, AMERICAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION: It was coming over to our shores from people who had traveled.

GUPTA: But once it got a foothold in the United States, its true self was revealed.

C. JONES: Once people got infected, because of their diabetes and heart disease and the like, that they would get it more severely and be at higher risk of dying.

GUPTA: Dr. Camara Jones is past president of the American Public Health Association.

(on camera): I was really struck, Dr. Jones. We're both doctors, and as I was hearing the story, it sounded just, all of a sudden, tragically familiar. Is this a familiar story?

C. JONES: What we see is so familiar, because the conditions of our lives haven't changed significantly. And so what's happening is that we are carrying the burden of these limited opportunities in our bodies, and it shows up as the diabetes, the heart disease, the hypertension, even in terms of, you know, immune-compromised and all of that.

GUPTA (voice-over): Already, we are hearing from some officials that blacks have been disproportionately hit by the outbreak.

Early data shows that in Michigan, where I grew up, 14 percent of the population is black, though they make up 41 percent of coronavirus deaths.

In Illinois, 15 percent identify as African-American, but they make up 42 percent of deaths.

Louisiana's population is 32 percent black, which accounts for about 70 percent of coronavirus deaths.

But here's the problem, according to Dr. Jones. As inadequate as testing had been for the country, the problem is even worse for African-Americans.

C. JONES: Our whole national testing strategy has started out as a clinical strategy, not a public health strategy. That, of course, has disadvantaged the whole nation in terms of knowing who is infected, and I am told also that it has been harder for many people of color to get the test, just because of where testing stations have been located.

GUPTA: While blacks are less likely to be tested, less likely to be treated, they are more likely to be on the front line, essential workers, upon whom we all depend.

JASON HARGROVE, BUS DRIVER: We're out here as public workers doing our jobs, trying to make an honest living to take care of our families.


GUPTA: Detroit bus driver Jason Hargrove posted this online on March 21.

C. JONES: It is not as easy for them to shelter in place. And it's not as easy, because they might have front-facing jobs like home health aides, or bus drivers, or postal workers, or working at Amazon and the like.

HARGROVE: For you to get on a bus and stand on the bus, and cough several times without covering up your mouth, and you know that we're in the middle of a pandemic, that lets -- that lets me know that some folks don't care.

GUPTA: Four days later, Hargrove, who is 50 years old, became ill. He died last Wednesday. It's still unclear how he got COVID-19.


GUPTA: Well, John and Alisyn, I think there's a couple of important things that are sort of more immediate.

First of all, we need to continue to collect this data. Data is actually hard to come by. First of all, there's been inadequate testing, as everybody knows. But then, some of the results, some of the data was not broken down by demographics, something we should continue to insist on.

But also, you know, there may be this -- this tragic sort of story of the rationing of care, because there's not enough of some of these resources we've been talking about. I think it's a real -- it's really important to be sure that this -- these structural inequalities don't manifest, aren't affected by that rationing of care, as well -- John, Alisyn.

BERMAN: All right. Our thanks to Sanjay Gupta for that.

Dr. Rob Gore is back with us. And Dr. Gore, your hospital serves a largely minority community. And as upsetting as these statistics are, I have a feeling that they're not one bit surprising to you.

GORE: No. These statistics aren't surprising at all. I've always worked in black neighborhoods. The one I'm in right now just happens to be where I grew up, which is predominantly African-American and Afro-Caribbean.

Our rates of death are higher in central Brooklyn, which is the community which we serve. Our rates of homicide are higher. Our rates related to hypertension and diabetes-related deaths are higher. Our rates of spread of HIV infections are higher. Hospitalizations due to asthma.

And if you can think about any other potential health -- health- related problems, our numbers are a lot higher.

And, you know, people seem -- seem surprised that these numbers are going to be higher, you know, in places like Chicago, or in the state of Louisiana with marginalized communities.

All this is -- what the pandemic is showing us is what we've already known, is that our health system is fractured, and marginalized communities don't have the resources that are required to keep them alive and thriving.

There are social determinants of health that have been -- they have always impacted health. Education, (AUDIO GAP), economic development. You know, the more we start to see these economic divides, the more we see people -- patients in our communities not receiving quality education, we're going to still see those numbers continue to skyrocket, as it relates to the pandemic and every other health- related outcome that can potentially happen in the future.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Gore, that theory about rationing of care, AND the reason I ask IS because on NEW DAY, on our show, we've had -- we've interviewed several patients or family members of patients who are black; and they have told the story of having a horrible time getting tested.

And I know getting tested is challenging for everybody; for many, many people across the board. But there was something about their stories, about getting the run-around, of having to go from this place to this place and being denied testing, that you know -- I mean, we can't tell if that's sort of racially biased. But are you seeing anything like that?

GORE: Well, in our emergency departments, the only testing that we are doing are people who we are considering to admit to the hospital. That's -- we're not testing everybody who comes in with a cold or a runny nose or a little bit of a cough. It doesn't -- it doesn't make sense, because if you're -- if you test -- let's say if you test negative. Maybe about 20 percent of those tests may -- may be false negative and you may actually have the disease process itself.

If you still come in contact with other people, that still increases the risk of you being infected, even if, in fact, you tested negative to begin with.

But we just don't have the numbers and the resources to adequately -- adequately test every single patient that comes into our hospital for every complaint. But we're trying to save those tests only for those people who are considered highest at risk.

If somebody does have symptoms, then we'll tell them go home. You probably do have coronavirus or COVID-19. These are the supportive measures that we wanted to make sure that you take at home. But by keeping you in the hospital, doing testing, it just exposes you to other people who might be sick. And if you didn't have it before, you will contract it being in our spaces.


BERMAN: Dr. Gore, it also is the fact that African-Americans are subjected to a kind of double jeopardy when it comes to coronavirus, which is that they have -- because of structural issues, largely, many of the underlying health conditions that make COVID-19 even more dangerous. Whether it's diabetes or high blood pressure or higher rates of obesity, things like that.

Again, a lot of that can be explained through structural and socioeconomic reasons. But it does put you at a higher risk.

GORE: Well, you cut off. I didn't hear the last bit of the question. I'm sorry.

BERMAN: I was talking about the double jeopardy. Dealing with the underlying health conditions that do happen at higher rates in the African-American community.

GORE: That's definitely the case. The viral infection -- in order for you to heal from a viral infection, your immune system has to kick in and help fight off the infection.

If you have all sorts of other stressors, whether it's societal and environmental stressors; the stresses of preexisting health conditions like diabetes and long-standing hypertension, which in turn can lead to kidney failure; if you're suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis; you're on steroids, you're on any sort of immunosuppressant therapy, that sets you up for additional -- those are additional risk factors which help inhibit your ability to come back from this disease.

And so it's not surprising our deaths are a lot higher. But we also have a lot of other health issues that haven't been fixed.

And so if we want to change the scope, if we really want to flatten the curve, there are a couple things that need to happen. One, we need to mitigate the transmission of the disease process. No. 2, if we're looking at long-term goals, you have to fixed the

entire health system; you have to fix the economic system. Because if you don't have the resources that it takes just -- just for your basic survival, how are you going to expect to take on and be able to combat on this, like corona viral -- COVID-19?


BERMAN: Dr. Rob Gore, 2018 CNN Hero and 2020 hero forever. Thanks for being with us. We really appreciate it.


BERMAN: So a day after he was heard calling the ousted captain of an aircraft carrier stupid, the acting Navy secretary resigned. The latest in a live report, next.