Return to Transcripts main page


Model Projects U.S Daily Deaths Will Peak On Easter Sunday; Officials Concerned About Spikes In D.C., Baltimore And Philadelphia; Health Experts Say California Is Flattening The Curve. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 9, 2020 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow.


We as a country are now closing in on the worst days of this pandemic. And with the peak still days away, the numbers, the total numbers, they keep rising. Yesterday, it was a new record. Nearly 2,000 people died in the United States. And as we see some positive signs in New York, the coronavirus task force is now warning about troubling signs in other cities, cases now spiking in Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

In areas with fewer infections, governors credit strict stay-at-home orders. They're making a difference. Some extending those orders now out of fear that going back to, quote, normal too soon would then drive those numbers back up.

HARLOW: That's right.

Still though, CNN has learned that the president's aides, some of them are in talks about plans potentially reopen the economy more broadly as soon as May. Those discussions happening as we see more news of another crushing week for the economy and for so many of you, 6.6 million Americans filing jobless claims last month alone. If you add up the last few weeks, it is nearly 17 million Americans filing for those claims over the last three weeks.

We're covering all of this across the country. Let's begin right here in New York City with our National Correspondent, Athena Jones. Another sad record in terms of deaths here.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Poppy. That's exactly right. Governor Cuomo is saying he came to that press conference yesterday when he released these numbers with mixed emotions because there are deaths that are increasing. New York yesterday reporting the highest single day death toll for the second day in a row. And this is something that the governor and other officials say we can expect to continue to see in part because deaths from coronavirus are a lagging indicator. People who ultimately die of the disease may have been hospitalized -- may have been in the hospital for two or three weeks. And so that is something they've warned we should continue to see.

But on the brighter side, the side that signals that New York may be turning a corner, we're continuing to see a drop in hospitalizations. The three-day average of hospitalizations continues to fall, and authorities say this is because of social distancing. Social distancing is working. Governor Cuomo is saying, we are, by no means, out of the woods yet. We have to keep doing what is working.

And just to give a sense of the size of the problem in a place like New York, New York now has more coronavirus -- more people testing positive for coronavirus than any country in the world, including Spain and Italy that we talk so much about.

One thing we've been talking about the last few days is the way this virus is impacting different communities. We know that in states like Louisiana, Michigan, Illinois, blacks are particularly dying at a higher rate than their proportion of the population. We're seeing a similar thing here in New York with disparities, black and Hispanics. Although it's at a lower level than other states, but it's still an issue.

Black and Hispanics account for 62 percent of the fatalities from coronavirus here in New York City, and they only make up about half of the population. So this is something the governor says is going to be studied, they're going to be increasing testing in minority communities to try to better understand this.

And one more interesting news we learned in the last day is that researchers at Mt. Sinai's Medical School have studied the genome of the coronavirus in several cases, about 80 something cases here in New York. And they have determined that this virus, the point of genetics, did not likely originate in China, it likely came from Europe and came from other parts of America where it was already circulating.

This is a study that Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is, of course, a part of the White House's coronavirus task force, says it's probably accurate but it shows that this virus has been circulating for quite some time, at least in New York, and it most likely did not come straight from China.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And being around longer makes you think that there might be more infections than we realize. Athena Jones, thanks very much.

Researchers are studying everything they can in order to find something that can stop this virus. One possible tool could be something that's already worked in the past.

HARLOW: And by the past, we're talking about 100 years ago when this vaccine actually was used for tuberculosis. That was when it was first developed.

Let's go to our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen with more. Tell us.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, this is really fascinating. So there's this vaccine, as you said, that's very old, been out for a long time, used mostly in developing countries. Billions of people have been given this vaccine. It is safe and it is effective against tuberculosis.

And some researchers started noticing, hey, wait a minute, we're seeing lower rates of COVID, lower rates of coronavirus in these developing countries that use this vaccine, could there be a correlation? Maybe it's because they are using the vaccine because the vaccine isn't used nearly as much in developed countries.


And so clinical trials underway in Australia and in the Netherlands. And they're going to be -- they're expected to start soon in other places, including the U.S. to see if this works. It's not that the vaccine would work in the usual way. Usually, a vaccine works right on the virus. Instead, this vaccine would boost your immune system so you can fight the virus off better. That's the theory.

But there is a big caveat here. Just because we're seeing lower rates of coronavirus in these developing countries doesn't mean that it's because they use the vaccine. There could be many reasons. One reason is they may not be doing as much testing as we're doing in the United States or in Europe. They may be doing less testing. It may also be that their population doesn't travel to other parts of the world as much as Americans or Europeans or Chinese people do.

So there are other explanations besides the vaccine, but they're doing research if possibly the vaccine is playing a role.

SCIUTTO: As we learn more about this virus, the CDC updating, sometimes changing its guidelines, it's now changing guidelines for essential workers who have tested positive but have to go back to work. Tell us what's new.

COHEN: Right, so this is interesting. This is doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, first responders and other kinds of essential workers. In the beginning of this outbreak, when I would speak to people in hospitals who were making these decisions, if you had been exposed to coronavirus, they wanted you out. They wanted you home for 14 days.

So, for example, if a nurse worked on a patient who had coronavirus and she wasn't as protected as she should have been, they would tell her to stay at home. That's not what they're doing now. What they're saying is that if you've had an exposure, as long as you're not sick, you can wear a mask and gloves and protective gear and still work.

You're supposed to take your temperature as you are coming in to work and you're supposed to take it other times during the day. You are supposed to not come to work if you do feel symptoms, if you do get sick. But as long as you're not sick, you can come to work. I will tell you I have spoken with experts who feel very hesitant about these guidelines. They say this is not the way we should be doing it. We know that people can spread coronavirus when they're asymptomatic, when they're feeling just fine, so you can take your temperature a hundred times a day, it doesn't really matter, the point is you can spread it asymptomatically.

They say that this is a guideline of necessity. It is not the smartest guideline we have, but we're doing it because if everybody stayed home who have exposed, we wouldn't have enough essential health workers at work.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, tough choice being made here. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

Well, with me now is a doctor facing this, an Emergency Room Physician, Dr. Darria Long. Doctor, great to have you back again.

And I wonder, just listening to the updated guidance from the CDC, saying infected health workers like yourself, even if you test positive, you can still go to work, you just have to kind of watch your symptoms. Do you think that's the right move?

DR. DARRIA LONG, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Jim, good to see you. And I think as Elizabeth said, this is a guideline out of necessity. We're seeing lots of healthcare workers being exposed getting sick. I do think we have to be very careful and I really do think we should make these guidelines and really titrate them to your role and to your community and how widespread this infection is in your community, so that we're doing this very smartly and not in a blanket guideline.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Well, tell us about your experience there in Atlanta. Atlanta not yet a hot spot as identified by federal health officials, but you've seen a lot of cases. Do you expect those to increase in the coming days and weeks? When is Atlanta's peak of this?

LONG: Jim, that's a question we're all looking at. It looks like we have not yet hit our peak in Georgia and Tennessee, some of the other southern states. It's supposed to be happening within the next couple of weeks. So we'll keep watching.

I know one infectious disease doctor I was talking to said he had taken care of patients in malaria in Africa and this is worse than that. So we're already seeing higher numbers.

SCIUTTO: So given that experience and the different cities are peaking at different times, and some of them, like Atlanta, are not there yet, what is your reaction when you hear government officials talking about -- already beginning to talk about when and how and how much they'll relax the social distancing guidelines that have made a real difference in bringing down the numbers?

LONG: Jim, I get really concerned when I hear messages that we're just going to open up all the floodgates all at once. Reopening from coronavirus lockdown, this isn't a movie premiere. We can't just open it according to what is a good sound bite. And we're starting to see the CDC start to do this already, but we should do a phase rollout by your job type, by your community, how widespread is it, and by event type.

SCIUTTO: Another question, just, again, as we learn more about this, that based on the genome of this virus, it now becomes clear to researchers not only that most cases in the U.S. came from Europe rather than China, but more significantly, that it may have been on U.S. soil for longer.


What does that mean as a doctor to the number of people who have been infected? I mean, is it likely that many more people have been exposed to this than we realize?

LONG: Jim, I think we've always been asking, what is the denominator? How many people have actually been exposed? We don't know. That's really the impact that we'll be able to find out once we can get those serologic tests beyond just the virus as serologic, then we can know what communities have been most affected, that will also help us in that phased approach of releasing the lockdown.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Final question. I think a lot of folks probably have this as well. And, again, I'm not getting ahead of ourselves here. Just given that and given at some point we're going to have an antibody test, when eventually these things are relaxed, these restrictions are relaxed and people go out there, they still may very well be exposed to this, right? I mean, the virus has not disappeared. It's just that we flattened the curve so that not everybody is infected at the same time. Are people any safer at that point?

LONG: This is a really important point. The flattening of the curve, you just asked, are people any safer, the reality is, yes, they are safer, because the whole point of flattening the curve was to keep it under the point where we overwhelmed our ICUs, ran out of ventilators and had an Italy-type situation. So after we release that lockdown, we will likely to see whether over the next fall or over the few months up until we have a vaccine waves. But the goal is that we're smart, so that we keep those waves under the final threshold size.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Well, listen, always good to ask the doctors, the folks who really know about this. Dr. Long, thanks so much.

LONG: Thank you, Jim.

HARLOW: Still to come, why cities like Washington, D.C. and now Philadelphia are rapidly becoming a new focus in this battle against coronavirus.

And should those places look to California as a model of how to combat it? What that state got right, coming up.

SCIUTTO: Yes, they were -- they went early there.

Plus, a sailor on the USS Roosevelt diagnosed with coronavirus is now in intensive care after the sailor was found unconscious. We're going to have an update. That's coming up.



SCIUTTO: This is a sad reality, this when one city begins to see some relief, other cities begin to see spikes. And this morning, President Trump's coronavirus task force is concerned about spikes in cases in Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

HARLOW: That's right. Our Alex Marquardt is in Philadelphia. They are warning people there, Alex, to practice social distancing, quote, now more than ever. What has happened there in the last 24-48 hours?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jim and Poppy. Social distancing now more than ever, that's been a guideline obviously nationally for quite some time, and it's clearly something that the task force and the president don't think that this city is taking carefully or seriously enough.

We are just off of Logan Square in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. I can tell you there are some encouraging signs. There are very few people out. Normally, there would be lots of joggers, lots of walkers. That is not the case this morning.

The vice president is saying that there are some worrying trend lines coming out of Philadelphia. He has spoken with Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, assuring him that Pennsylvania will get the vital federal aid that they need.

Dr. Deborah Birx, who is, of course, the expert on the coronavirus task force, says that in the greater area of Philadelphia metropolitan area, which encompasses a significantly wider area in Philadelphia, there are some 1,400 new cases per day.

And, Jim and Poppy, that is where we're starting to see some daylight between what the federal authorities are saying and local officials are saying. Locals are actually saying that the picture isn't as grim as it's being made out to be.

Thomas Farley, the Philadelphia health commissioner, he said just yesterday, Philadelphia, like other large cities in the northeast, has been hit hard by this epidemic. I doubt Dr. Birx is looking at the numbers as updated as we are. I'm glad she's concerned about Philadelphia, but at the moment, things are looking a bit better. So local authorities saying that the federal government has some outdated numbers.

In terms of the numbers we know of confirmed cases, that's 4,777 for Philadelphia with 87 deaths. So local authorities are not saying that this is turning around. They're not saying this is plateauing, but they are saying that the number of new cases is slowing. So that is encouraging. Jim and Poppy?

SCIUTTO: And that is a sign that folks look for as they monitor this. Alex Marquardt in Philadelphia, thank you. Now to Louisiana, where despite progress there, the governor is urging people not to let their guard down and crucially to stay at home because it's working.

CNN's Ed Lavandera, he's in New Orleans. Ed, a cruise ship is now heading to where you are. I mean, this has been one of those stories of this pandemic, right, is what happens to people stuck on cruise ships.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And this is a cruise ship with a number of crew members that are infected that will remain on the ship and other people that on the boat will be taken to the airport and then flown or repatriated back to their home country, so, that unfolding here.

This coming, Jim, on a day where the governor continues to say that they're seeing glimmers of hope here in Louisiana, and that is based on some of the numbers and analysis of the numbers that they've been looking at. So let's look at what now have, more than 17,000 cases of coronavirus here in Louisiana. The number of deaths though in a 24- hour period jumped once again by a very large number, 70.


So that's over 650 now.

But the two things that state and health officials here have been looking at very closely, the number of people in hospital beds and using ventilators, those numbers have dropped. The ventilators have dropped now two days in a row. That's why health officials here say there is a glimmer of hope. But, again, everyone here cautions it's way too early and this could drastically change quickly if people let up and change their behaviors and get back outside and try to get away from the social distancing.

In fact, the governor here says that the threat of coronavirus is going to last much longer than just this month.


GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): Until such time as there is an effective, clinically proven therapeutic intervention, some drug that can treat this disease and a vaccine, I don't know that you're going to see life as we knew it before COVID-19.


LAVANDERA: And, Jim, the governor is saying that because the vast majority of people here in Louisiana haven't been infected. They haven't had that natural immunity built up, and that's why he thinks it will continue to be a threat for months to come. Jim?

HARLOW: Ed, thank you very, very much. Thinking about those folks on that cruise ship as it comes.

Okay. So officials continue to worry about a spike in cases across the country, of course, healthcare experts are commending California for early steps taken that proved to be very prescient.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, this has been one of the clear lessons of this, right? Social distancing works.

CNN's Dan Simon, he joins us now from San Francisco. So, Dan, tell us what California did right early on here.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy and Jim, California is not in the clear by any means, but experts will tell you it is seeing a bending of the curve. Let's just look at San Francisco as an example, the second most dense city in the country behind New York, huge public transportation city in the region, a big international tourist destination, but experts say we did not see that surge in cases. Why? Because San Francisco acted early and the same principal applies across the state.


SIMON: As states across the country scramble to increase their supply of N95 masks, California, the world's fifth largest economy, made a striking move. Governor Newsom announcing the state put together a deal to acquire 200 million masks a month for healthcare and frontline workers.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We're dealing at a time where we need to go boldly and we need to meet this moment without playing small ball any longer.

SIMON: In Los Angeles County, authorities are lifting the restrictions on coronavirus testing, and beginning Friday, the city will require residents to wear a mask or covering in supermarkets and other essential businesses.

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-LOS ANGELES, CA): And if you're not covering your face by Friday morning, an essential business can refuse you service.

SIMON: It follows a series of aggressive moves throughout the state beginning in mid-March that health experts say appear to show that California is bending the curve.

MAYOR LONDON BREED (D-SAN FRANCISCO, CA): These measures will be disruptive to day-to-day life, but there is no need to panic.

SIMON: On March 16th, San Francisco became the first city in the country to issue a stay-at-home order. Bustling neighborhoods quickly became ghost towns.

NEWSOM: We direct a statewide order for people to stay at home.

SIMON: Three days later, on March 19th, Newsom issued a stay-at-home order for the entire state. California got it right, medical experts say, as the results of these actions appear to be coming into focus. The state has not seen the sharp escalation in cases nor deaths that experts have predicted. Hospitals from both Northern to Southern California appear to have had little problem keeping up with the volume of patients.

Is it fair to say that California right now is seeing a flattening of the curve?

DR. ROBERT WACHTER, CHAIR, UCSF DEPARTMENT OF MEDICINE: There's no question about it. We've been reluctant to say it because we didn't want to jinx ourselves, and we worry that people would hear that and change their behavior. But at some point, you have to look at reality and the curve is remarkably flat.

SIMON: Dr. Robert Wachter, Chair of the Department of Medicine at UCSF, credits the state's early call, but believes other factors, including many companies' early decision to have employees work from home.

WACHTER: Apple and Google and Facebook and Microsoft has a big presence here, ordered their people to work from home ten days to two weeks before even the politicians did that. I remember when it happened, everybody said, is that an overreaction, but it turned out it was prescient.

SIMON: It's one thing to call for drastic social distancing, it's another to actually see people comply.

Headed to California in early March, the return of the Grand Princess cruise ship with an unknown number of sick passengers and crew. Experts suspect it made the crisis seem more imminent and real. Because of the quick action, Santa Clara County says the doubling time of cases has gone from three days to two weeks and perhaps even longer.


But officials say now is no time to let up.

DR. SARA CODY, HEALTH OFFICER, SANTA CLARA COUNTY: But that doesn't mean that we're not seeing new cases and new hospitalizations. This incident is a marathon, maybe even an ultra-marathon.


SIMON: While California has been very successful on the mitigation side, it has not been as successful, officials acknowledge, when it comes to testing. So you could have thousands of people potentially out there who have not been diagnosed.

That said, one of the key things here when you talk to doctors, they will tell you without too much trouble, hospitals have been able to manage the patient inflow and Governor Newsom has pledged to boost testing substantially by the end of the month. Poppy and Jim?

HARLOW: Wow. Yes, a lot of lessons learned there. Dan Simon, thanks very, very much.

Coronavirus is now spreading through the U.S. military sailors onboard four U.S. aircraft carriers have tested positive. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)