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COVID-19 Deaths in New York City Jump to More Than 10,000 After Officials Start Including "Probable" Deaths; Morgues Filled to Capacity in One of New York's Hardest-Hit Counties; President Trump Halts U.S. Funding of World Health Organization; California Governor Outlines What It Will Take to Reopen States; CDC Director Warns of Second Wave of Coronavirus in the Fall; Scientists Brief White House on Issues with Antibody Tests. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 15, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


As most of the country continues to stay home and tries to imagine a return to normal, California's governor is now talking about and showing us what normal could look like. Things like routine temperature checks, when restaurants reopen, they could have fewer tables, servers wearing masks, handing out disposable menus.

When schools reopen classes could have staggered start times with reimagined PE classes. All of this at least, Jim, until there is a vaccine.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and there's uncertain timeline for that. As for concerts, sporting events, still not being considered for now without a crucial vaccine. Here is the governor.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: This is an imperfect science. There is no -- you know, there's no playbook that someone else has put together. There's no light switch here. I would argue it's more like a dimmer. And that dimmer is -- about what I was talking about, this toggling back and forth between more restrictive and less restrictive measures.


SCIUTTO: Yes. That's what the experts are saying. Newsom echoing the warnings of the CDC director, we should expect a second wave of infections in the fall. Another one possibly even sooner if the reopening is not done gradually and properly, while Dr. Anthony Fauci says that new cases are flattening out across the country, that's the good news, social distancing is working, the first wave is still rolling over us. There were a record 2,129 deaths recorded in this country just yesterday.

HARLOW: Horrible news. Let's begin this hour in San Francisco, our correspondent Dan Simon joins us now.

I think Governor Newsom did a really important service in terms of painting the picture, the bleak picture albeit, of what we could be looking at months down the road.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I totally agree with that. This is really all about managing the expectations and letting people know that, you know, when that stay-at-home order is lifted, life is not going to instantly snap back to normal.

And so you touched on some of these things, but he made clear that we're not going to have any mass gatherings for some time. He said maybe come back to him in August. But for the time being, no sporting events, no concerts. You know, when you have 100 people, thousands of people, tens of thousands of people, that's just not going to happen for the foreseeable future.

He talked about schools, you might have staggered start times where you have people coming in at one particular time, you know, and an hour later you might have more folks coming in. The idea behind this is you want to have the right amount of social distancing and so you don't want everybody rushing the school at once.

Face coverings going to continue for some time and then he had this to say about restaurants. Take a look.


NEWSOM: You may be having dinner with a waiter wearing gloves, maybe a face mask. Dinner where the menu is disposable. Where the tables -- half of the tables in that restaurant no longer appear. Where your temperature is checked before you walk into the establishment.

These are likely scenarios, the prospect of mass gatherings is negligible at best until we get to herd immunity.


SIMON: Well, again, he did not specify a date for this. But he did lay out a couple of important benchmarks. You know, things that need to be in place before you even want to think about lifting the order and, of course, you want to have widespread testing, which does not yet exist in California and throughout much of the country, and you want to make sure that your hospitals remain prepared, that they have all the equipment, all the staffing necessary.

Poppy, Jim, we'll send it back to you.

HARLOW: Dan, pretty hard to imagine, but it looks like that is what is ahead of us. Thanks for that reporting.

Dr. James Phillips is with us. He's an emergency room physician and assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at George Washington University Hospital, of course in Washington, D.C.

Doctor, good to have you. General question here, how, though, do we go to any form of opening, right, even with all those restrictions on restaurants, et cetera, if we don't have two things, contact tracing, successful, and not only widespread testing, but widespread testing with those rapid results, like Abbott Labs? We don't have those.

DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's exactly right. We still have work to do there. You know, it's important when we take a look at this whole process, this whole pandemic process, if you will, that while we're still responding to the immediate needs, we're also thinking about how to reopen, how to sort of reshape our society going forward with these new restrictions.


So I don't fault anybody for looking at the pathways going forward, to get back to some form of normalcy. It's important. It's all part of the disaster cycle as we call it. However, we're still struggling to try to get the appropriate testing regiments, testing machinery, in all of our hospitals. There is no uniformity across the country. And we've still only tested somewhere around two million people in our country.

So I think it's still premature for us to be talking about reopening things in some sort of large bang at the end of the month.

SCIUTTO: So, Doctor, I live in Washington, D.C. as well, and Washington is a place where testing has just not been broadly available. As we look to that next chapter of testing, which is to see who has been infected, antibody testing, et cetera, have any states shown a capacity to test broad-based as Poppy was referencing there, in other words to have capacity in the next phase that they clearly did not have in the first phase of this?

PHILLIPS: Right, you bring up a good point. So when we've taken a look at pandemic response in the past, and we've -- we in the disaster medicine and emergency management world have been looking at pandemics for decades. When we have -- tried to figure out the best way to both test and to eventually immunize people, we've taken a look at how to recruit people to help us in that process.

There is this whole concept called the Medical Reserve Corps, which is a group of volunteers, several of them in different states, where we bring people in and teach them the basics of public health, to where we can do contract tracing, and contact tracing is going to be very important going forward.

You know, this great paper out of Johns Hopkins earlier this week estimated the need for maybe 100,000 people to be brought into the public health sector to help do contact tracing. So we take a look at the need of people there, but even further down the road, say a year or two years from now when we finally have a vaccine, how do we distribute that widely to 320 million people?

You can't just send 320 million people to the doctor's office to get an injection. So bringing in these groups like the Medical Reserve Corps across the United States to help distribute those vaccines has been a plan for many, many years. And it may be called into service for this.

HARLOW: Before you go, how about a moment of levity for everyone. I think they need it now, Doctor. Your socks, you wore some special socks to the ER. Can we show them, control room? Look at that. All right. Tell us who's on your sock and did they give you --

PHILLIPS: I got my Fauci socks. That's great.

HARLOW: Do they give you special powers?

PHILLIPS: My wife gave me that excellent gift. I believe that Dr. Fauci is a superhero in this particular instance. His ability to function through a filter is incredible. And I look up to him greatly. So thanks for showing those.

HARLOW: Thank you. Thanks for what you do.

PHILLIPS: Appreciate it. Thanks for having me on.

SCIUTTO: Thanks so much. Thank you.

Let's bring in CNN's Elizabeth Cohen.

So, Elizabeth, the White House has been looking at antibody testing in particular as a gateway to getting the country back on its feet. But there is a question about this test, is there not? Because, I mean, the key question is, does having antibodies, in other words having exposure to this, necessarily give you immunity to coronavirus?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, that's the $64 question as the scientists put it to me. So the White House's own scientists are telling the White House there are a lot of issues with the antibody testing. It would be great if it worked well, Jim. And the reason for that is you could give antibody tests to large numbers of people and you would get sort of a feeling for who has antibodies and who might be immune.

But there are so many roadblocks to that. First of all, the FDA loosened its standards, so now you don't have to show that your test works in order to sell it. You can pretty much say to the FDA, I'm selling a test and I'm not going to tell you if it works or not, I'm not going to show you the data actually that tells you if it works or not.

So according to the American -- to the Public Health Lab Association, there are, quote, "crappy," that's their word, crappy tests flooding the market. So we don't even know if they work or not. So that's the first hurdle. The second hurdle sort of as you alluded to, Jim, is that we don't even know if you have antibodies if that means that you're immune. We think it does. But we're not sure because every virus is different.

For example, if you have antibodies to measles, you are immune to measles. We feel confident about that. If you have antibodies to this coronavirus, do you know that you're immune to it? We're just not sure.

HARLOW: Elizabeth, before you go back to this issue, the question about hydroxychloroquine, the drug that the president has called, quote, "a game changer," there is a new study out of France. What does it tell us?


COHEN: Right, this study is really not looking good for hydroxychloroquine. They took 84 patients, looked at 84 patients who had taken the drug and compared them to 97 who had not. And they found there wasn't a difference, the drug did not help the 84 patients who took it. In addition of those 84, eight of them developed heart problems, which is a known side effect of hydroxychloroquine.

So the bottom line if the French study didn't work and it hurt some of the patients, why in the world would you want to give that drug en masse? Now, having said that, we haven't tried this in many, many clinical trials yet. That's what we're working on right now.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's why you do the studies, right? You got to test it out.

COHEN: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: To see the benefits, but also the side effects.

Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

COHEN: Right.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, New York City suburb is facing really just a dire sad situation. The number of virus deaths so big it's pushing the Suffolk County morgue to the very limit. Just look at those pictures.

Plus, a new Harvard study reveals that social distancing at least for periods of time may be necessary through the year 2022. We're going to speak to the lead author of that study.

HARLOW: And later, with thousands of healthcare workers sickened by COVID-19, this is causing both a healthcare crisis and a financial crisis for hospitals. The head of the Mayo Clinic is with us this hour.



JIM SCIUTTO, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: The governor of New York says the state is now seeing the very worst of this pandemic with the number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions still just incredibly high, but stabilizing. And that's key, Poppy. POPPY HARLOW, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: It is. We're learning more about

the true damage done by this virus though, New York City's Health Department is now also including what they deem probable deaths from COVID in their total count. Nearly 4,000 of them. That's an addition to the more than 6,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths, so that brings the total death toll from COVID-19 in this city to over 10,000 people. Our correspondent Athena Jones is live with us again this morning in New York. Over 10,000?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Poppy, that's exactly right. It's a really stunning number. Now, I want to be clear, it's not clear how this will factor into the official tally. We know of course, Johns Hopkins, which is tracking this, they are not including these probable COVID-19 deaths in their tally at this point. They're still looking at that.

But it does give you an idea of how hard it is to get a real handle on the real impact of this. That's what Mayor de Blasio, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on NEW DAY this morning, that this is an effort to try to represent the full impact this is having on communities. And the real issue here is so many people are dying at home. We've reported in recent weeks that the number of people dying at home is 10 times the usual number.

Now, of course, not all of those will be COVID-19 deaths, but certainly some percentage of them will be, and it's not clear that all of those will be tested or how they'll be tested. I also spoke to an ER doctor in Brooklyn who says that many confirmed COVID-19 patients who are very sick, but who also have -- do not resuscitate or do not intubate orders, which essentially means they don't want medical professionals going to extensive lengths to bring them back.

Those folks are being sent home to spend their last days and hours with their families, and it's not clear how quickly and how those people are counted. So, a real indication of how hard it is to get a handle on the overall death toll. But on the glitz side at least, in New York state, Governor Cuomo saying we are at the apex of the plateau. It's a way of saying things are stabilizing, they're stabilizing at a high level, but hopefully they'll go back down from this, we'll keep watching those numbers. Jim, Poppy?

HARLOW: OK, let's hope so. Athena, thank you very much. According to a county-by-county breakdown, based on Johns Hopkins University, Suffolk County, that's in Long Island, right outside of New York City, has the fifth highest number of COVID cases in the state. The county official there says they've seen anything between 50 to 60 coronavirus victims a day, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Wow, this of course an off-shoot of the outbreak in New York City. CNN national correspondent Miguel Marquez joins us now. So, Suffolk County morgue, and this is one of those sad facts of this case, as you see facilities overwhelmed, filled to capacity already. Just a sad measure of all this, Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they may be flattening the curve, but what you're about to see is very disturbing. I want to warn viewers that it is disturbing, but it is also the hard reality of what localities and not just big cities, but localities are facing right now, and the fear is many more will face it in the not- too distant future.


MARQUEZ (voice-over): The Suffolk County morgue nearly overflowing with victims of coronavirus.

STEVEN BELLONE, SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Not only are we seeing that death toll rise now, unfortunately, we're expecting to see it rise for the foreseeable future.

MARQUEZ: The county added two semi tractor-trailers, those two filled to capacity. A month ago, Suffolk County had no coronavirus-related deaths. Now, the toll in the hundreds and growing.

BELLONE: We have on average, 30 trauma deaths a month in this county. We're seeing a total of 50, 60 people dying a day from the virus.


BELLONE: All COVID-related, yes, it's -- the numbers are staggering.

MARQUEZ: So staggering, the county has now called back into service the coolers of an unused meat processing plant.

(on camera): How many total will you be able to get into this facility?

EDWARD BARNES, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, SUFFOLK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS: It is set up right now to hold 300. We can get to 450 in this facility if need be.

MARQUEZ: Four hundred and fifty?

BARNES: Four hundred and fifty.

MARQUEZ: Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

BARNES: I agree.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The county wants farm land and wide open spaces, now a second home for many of New York City's wealthiest families. But about 20 percent of its 1.5 million residents are Latino, many speaking Spanish only.


The virus is much worse for the Latino community, she says, because we have no guarantees of work, healthcare or education. Maria Cortez(ph) has a family of six. Now laid off from her job, she says she knows many people with coronavirus and several who have died. The entire family now home. Today, they're loading up with food they hope will last for two months. It's hard to keep a job if you haven't been tested, but you can't get

tested unless you have symptoms, she says. And now with the virus, healthcare and everything is very expensive. Hospitals and healthcare workers have seen a constant stream of critically ill patients, old, young, minority and white.

JENNIFER ZEPLIN, NURSING DIRECTOR, SOUTHSIDE HOSPITAL NORTHWELL HEALTH ER: Being an emergency room nurse, this is what you sign up for. You sign up to be there no matter what comes in the door. This is on a much bigger scale.

MARQUEZ: Here at Southside Hospital, the wave of patients in the ER has slowed with the hospital that had 305 beds, now has 418. A new tent is being constructed for coronavirus-only patients.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're maxed out. We've been maxed out for a while and everyone is talking about New York City. But our local community has had a widespread disease and we've actually within the health system have had a very high percentage of patients in the ICU.

MARQUEZ: For the many suburban counties nationwide, Suffolk's executive has a simple message.

BELLONE: If I can convey anything to people across the country who haven't been hit, it's how quick this happens and how intense it gets and to do everything you can to prepare because once it does come, you're in for something that you've never seen before.


MARQUEZ: Now much of the problem is that families are sort of slowing down their funerals because it's very difficult to get families together right now to bury the dead. Crematoriums, mortuaries, they're as busy as ever but they just cannot keep up with demand. Back to you guys.

SCIUTTO: Just adding so much pain to the pain already there, not being able to say good-bye. Miguel Marquez, thanks for being on that difficult story. Well, President Trump wants to cut millions of dollars in funding for the World Health Organization, which, of course, is battling this pandemic around the globe. Will Congress say anything about that?



HARLOW: This morning, as the president announces that he's going to halt millions of dollars already ear-marked by Congress to fund the World Health Organization --


HARLOW: CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield is pushing back at the criticism of W.H.O by the administration. Listen to what he just said.


ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION: The W.H.O. has been a long-term and still is a great partner for us. We're continuing to work side-by-side with W.H.O. to do the best that we can to limit the spread of disease and to protect the American people.


SCIUTTO: Well, again, CDC director contradicting the president there. Joining us now, CNN's Kylie Atwood from the State Department. So, Kylie, you have new reporting that this is not just a sort of peace- meal decrease in funding. The administration wants to slash it, but as Poppy noted, this is funding authorized by Congress.


SCIUTTO: What do they want to do and can they do it?

ATWOOD: Yes, so Jim, yesterday, we heard President Trump announce that there was going to be a hold on the World Health Organization funding. It's key because as you well know, the U.S. is the number one donor to that organization. So they would really feel the pain here if the U.S. chooses to not only hold that money, but slash that money.

And that is what we are learning the Trump administration is looking to do. So as you said, there is money allocated from Congress to go to the World Health Organization. The Trump administration wants to redirect that money, so it's not just going to study it and look at if the World Health Organization should get it after the study is conducted, they're actually going to give it to other organizations.

And legally, they actually can do that. The other situation here is there is about$1.5 billion that Congress has appropriated for international assistance when it comes to coronavirus. That's another bucket of money that the Trump administration is going to try to keep away from the World Health Organization. So there are a number of fronts here where they are going to essentially move money away from the W.H.O., and towards other organizations causing a lot of criticism from Congress.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's not clear those organizations have the scope that the W.H.O. has. Well, the president has contradicted himself as well on China. Let's just show this tweet, China thanking -- the president rather, thanking China at the end of January. "China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus. The U.S. greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency", key word there. "It will all work out well and particularly on behalf of the American people, I want to thank President Xi." But now the president is blaming the W.H.O. for taking China's word.

ATWOOD: That's right. And as you point out, President Trump is the one who early on when the coronavirus was made such a focus, praised China for being transparent here. And our Kaitlan Collins at the White House pressed President Trump on that yesterday. He didn't really explain the irony or the contradiction here. But there are a number of ironies and contradictions, another one I think worth pointing out, Jim, is that the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in recent weeks has heralded the U.S. and how much assistance they have given to the World Health Organization.

He has gone out and talked about that assistance and used it to contrast with the little assistance that China has given to the same body. And now, of course, he is lining up and supporting this decision by President Trump --

SCIUTTO: Yes, Kylie Atwood, thanks for trying to keep up with it at the State Department.

HARLOW: Yes, important.