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New York Doctor Recovers from Coronavirus After Fighting for Life in ICU; Protesters Rally Against Stay-At-Home Orders in the U.S.; U.S. Governors Blast Federal Inaction to Step Up Virus Testing. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 20, 2020 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: So for the first time this morning, we're hearing from a New York doctor who fought his own personal battle against coronavirus. Now, we heard from Dr. Arnold Weg's sons a few weeks ago while he was fighting for his life in the ICU. Dr. Weg has since been released from the hospital and is now at home recovering.

Dr. Arnold Weg and his sons, Justin and Dr. Russell Weg join me now. It is terrific to see all three of you, particularly, you, Dr. Arnold because when we spoke to your sons last time, you were in the ICU and you couldn't talk to anyone. You're out now, but you say, this was a serious thing you ever experienced. How so?

ARNOLD WEG, RECOVERING FROM CORONAVIRUS: Well, you know, first, I want to give Mr. Berman -- to my son, Justin, and my son Andy before anything -- I'd like to take a second -- everybody that supported me -- I admire my four sons, the wonderful stay of doctors and nurses at New York Presbyterian, my office staff and the tremendous outreach of support and prayer from my patients.

It's a great privilege to be home each of the times that I've left the hospital over the 35 years, attending and seeing patients at Cornell, I always would say a prayer, thanking God for the fact that I could leave on my own two feet and expressing empathy for the patients that I had just seen that I left in the hospital. Needless to say, leaving the hospital this time, that sentiment was multiplied by several orders of magnitude. So, I'm grateful to be home, I'm privileged and I'm happy to make the best of it. And not taking even the smallest thing for granted at this point.

BERMAN: You're talking about leaving on your own two feet. There were moments where you were not sure that was going to happen.

A. WEG: Right, well, this was the most terrifying experience I've ever had in my life on a personal basis from the way I felt. I can only begin to describe to you, if you could imagine a sense of uncontrollable chills and fever and sweats, and a progressive shortness of breath. I had the sense that I was drowning at certain points. I was unable to even stand and unable to even walk to the bathroom, which was a dramatic detriment in my ordinary stamina. And you know, there was this tremendous fear and perception that there

was a substantial chance that I wouldn't be able to live long enough to be here today with you, and have this privilege.

BERMAN: You know what? We're so grateful that you are here with us today. Justin, I know one of the things that was so challenging was you couldn't talk to your dad. He was going through this all, and it was text messages at best. So, how gratifying was it to finally get to at least hear his voice?


JUSTIN WEG, SON OF DR. ARNOLD WEG: It was great. I mean, it's -- I'm the happiest I could be here right now. You know, he's our hero, like I told you the last time, and to know that he is back and you know, healthy, it just -- it just -- it just warms my heart, and you know, gives hope for everyone else out there. Yes, it was really hard at first. I mean, we were doing like a group -- face -- group chats, you know, through the phone.

And it was just me and my family, and we never really got to speak to my dad up until he basically got out of the hospital. So, it was -- it was very hard, but you know, we're very relieved that he is home now with my mom, and you know, he's here for us, to be with the rest of his family.

BERMAN: So, Dr. Arnold, there were a couple of treatments that you received that you think were very helpful, one ended up being remdesivir. But even before that, you got something that I think was an anti-inflammatory for your lungs that we haven't heard much about. Tell me about that.

A. WEG: Well, this is something that's very important to us, and one of the main motivating factors for us to want to come on national television and bring attention to this, to help others survive. I had a very strong personal experience with a medicine called Actemra which tells you -- was in -- which is an anti-inflammatory that reduces cytokine storm which are inflammatory mediators that wind up in the lungs and cause fluid to accumulate in the airspaces and effectively cause that drowning sensation.

From the moment which was the second night early in the morning that I received the actemra, since then, I had absolutely no fever, my sense of well-being improved, and I'm convinced that it came at a pivotal moment in my hospitalization, so much so that it was critical in avoiding my need for intubation. This was followed by remdesivir for a five-day course.

Which I think, mechanistically helped in a tremendous way by helping to eliminate the virus. So, I think the combination was wonderful, subjectively, it worked, and I think we need to advocate for patients who are desperate and a very severe state to be able to receive now the privilege that I had in receiving these medications --

BERMAN: That's right. And we are waiting -- we are waiting for some more comprehensive data on some of the testing on remdesivir. The anti-inflammatory is very interesting. I've heard other doctors talk about the hope for some of those. It hasn't received as much press coverage. Dr. Russell, I want to talk to you as both a doctor and as a family member here, what advice would you give to other families that have -- that are going through this? Having been through it yourself successfully, thank goodness, what advice would you give?

RUSSELL WEG, SON OF DR. ARNOLD WEG: You know, John, when we last spoke three weeks ago, that to this day, there were 2,400 deaths due to coronavirus in our country. And as you can see on the right of your screen, there's now 40,000 -- over 40,000 deaths in our country. And in modern medicine, those are just unthinkable numbers.

We have to maintain faith and trust in our healthcare workers who are putting their lives on the line to treat our family members, also, advocating for our family members and praying for them. We've had a big sigh of relief, knowing that our father is better. But our heart goes out to the hundreds of thousands of family members and patients out there still suffering from this disease.

And as we continue to open up our economy, to maintain social distancing, to protect yourselves, your communities and your healthcare providers and frontline workers, over 9,000 people -- 9,000 healthcare workers who have fallen ill from this disease and countless police officers and other frontline workers.

And if we don't maintain these proper social distancing measures, these heroes of ours won't be around to help us in our times of need.

BERMAN: I've got to let you all go, Dr. Weg, just quick last words, 10 seconds, your last -- I know you're a marathoner, you think it helped you recover, having these lungs that can -- that can breathe so well. When are you going to get out there and run again?

A. WEG: Well, I view it as a privilege to get to run and get to work. And we're going to be doing that and my son Russell is going to be joining me in practice, and we're looking forward to doing more work and better things and helping people more than ever before. So, it's going to be a great future God-willing, we're going to make the best of it.

BERMAN: All right, well, listen, I'm so grateful to get to speak to all three of you, not in the same room, but at least, all where we can see each other's faces. It is a blessing, great to have you recovering, Dr. Weg, thanks for being with us.

A. WEG: Thank you.

J. WEG: Thank you.

R. WEG: Thank you for your time.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: John, these survivor stories give us all so much solace, but of course, they're not everyone's story. We want to remember some of the nearly 41,000 Americans who have been lost to coronavirus. Luis Caldera-Nieves was a doctor in south Florida, an obstetrician at the University of Miami Health System.


He worked in that department for more than 25 years. He joined the university after serving in the U.S. Air Force. Dr. Caldera-Nieves is survived by his wife and six children. Joshua Pearson of Minnesota was just 38 years old. He was initially told to stay home and isolate until he felt better. But days later, his mom took him to the emergency room.

She says Joshua told her it would be OK, those were the last words that she ever heard from him. Pearson died a week later, leaving behind a 7-year-old son. And this is 5-year old Skylar Herbert of Detroit. Last month, she told her parents, she had a headache. Skylar tested positive for the virus and developed a rare form of meningitis and brain swelling. She showed signs of improvement, but she kept relapsing. After two weeks on a ventilator, Skylar died yesterday. She believes behind her parents, both of whom are first responders in Detroit. We'll be right back.



CAMEROTA: About 2,000 people turned out in Washington State's capital over the weekend to protest the governor's stay-at-home orders. Protests are planned today, and at least four states, and President Trump appears to be trying to gin up the protesters. Joining us now is CNN's political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.

Maggie, it's great to have you. You have taught us over these many months about how President Trump is a study in contrast, and how to always sort of keep our ears open for the president, giving mixed messages to different audiences. So here's another example. His -- the White House is giving guidelines to stay at home and socially distance, and the president is tweeting, ginning up the protesters. So how does that work?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, as you said, Alisyn, this is a president who was very successful in 2016 at taking both sides or many sides at the same issue, and never clarifying what his position was. It allowed different groups to hear what they wanted to hear. In his words, in this case, it's him tweeting, liberate. Now he gets to the podium, he has a more, you know, modified message of it.

He says well, I support everybody or well, there's a lot of flags. But I -- you know, I don't think that people necessarily realize because they are used to him doing this. He's the president now. This is not 2016. And what he is doing is encouraging people to violate statewide orders. These are not, you know, by choice issues from these governors. These are mandatory.

And so, you have a president who is doing something that some of his advisors acknowledge is probably not smart public health policy, but they think is probably effective politics for him because it helps him with a certain group of supporters and downplays his own responsibility.

BERMAN: Public health policy can mean a lot of things. In this case, Maggie, it might mean --


BERMAN: That it costs lives.

HABERMAN: Right -- no, look, it's very risky, and one adviser spoke to me at a point that if someone gets hurt in one of those protests, and we should be clear, these protests have been pretty small and scattered shot and organized as opposed to authentic so far. We'll see how durable they are. But if they remain, if someone gets hurt, if somebody gets sick at one of these protests where a lot of people are not wearing masks, that raises the potential stakes for the president and some of his folks are aware of that.

CAMEROTA: And Maggie, another point that I want to bring up, that is a study in contrast, is the testing issue, OK? So the president has, you know, said that, this is up to the states, it's their responsibility, this is a local thing he's called it.

HABERMAN: Right --

CAMEROTA: But the -- as we hear from doctors on every one of our programs and governors, they don't have the ingredients that they need for the testing, such as nasal swabs. That is something that --

HABERMAN: Great --

CAMEROTA: The president, it seems, could with one order quickly crank up the production of. And I don't quite understand, here's where he could be a hero. This is one that seems to have a very low downside, produce enough nasal swabs. Where is the downside of this, why is he so reluctant to engage in getting the governors what they need on this?

HABERMAN: In general, Alisyn, he has been very quick to point to the existence of the Defense Production Act, but not to literally use it on companies unless the companies, like in the case of GM, had already agreed to enter into a contract to produce ventilators. In this case in the swabs, you know, I think that it goes back to something his advisors have said for many months, which is that it is not in the nature of a Republican president to try to impose, you know, a winners and losers mantra on governments -- on companies, excuse me, and to try to force them to do certain things.

But to your point, we are now in a situation where that may have to happen in order to speed up production. And as you note, governors are oppositional to what the president is saying -- well, he keeps saying that there is enough testing, I have yet to hear a governor with serious outbreaks in their states say that there is. BERMAN: You know, it's interesting, Maggie because there's a through-

line to all of this. When you talk about the president saying "liberate Michigan", for instance, he needs to have an opponent. He sets things up --


BERMAN: In opposition to him. And in --


BERMAN: Some cases the governors of these states, and with testing and other things. In other times, it's reporters like say, you. And it was really interesting over the weekend. I'm not going to play any of it, but he went after an article you wrote about the new chief of staff saying that he cried inside the White House during staff meetings for whatever reason, you know, there's nothing wrong with crying as far as I'm concerned.

HABERMAN: No, there isn't.

BERMAN: You know, showing emotion --

HABERMAN: There isn't --

BERMAN: Is not a bad thing. But it's interesting what he chooses to focus on, and the enemies he chooses to pick rather than COVID-19.


HABERMAN: I think that's right, John, and look, that story, just to be clear had been written several days earlier, had not had complaints from the White House about it. We would have written it if Mick Mulvaney hadn't shed tears or if John Kelly had shed tears or Reince Priebus had shed tears. It was -- it was a story. I don't know why he felt the need to both embarrass his own chief of staff that way by having -- talking about this with him sitting there.

But also to attack a reporter at what is supposed to be a briefing about health. He literately came out and started doing it, it's not like he got asked a question. It takes away from what should be the actual focus of this moment which is the virus, which is the economy, which is how either one of those is going to get healed. And it's unfortunate for voters and for the general public that these briefings have frequently devolved into that.

CAMEROTA: Well, as you know, Maggie, all of the coverage of the coronavirus and this health crisis that we're in has eclipsed much of the presidential race. But former Vice President Joe Biden is trying to get some of that spotlight back. He's just put out a big political ad, campaign ad about how he thinks President Trump has been handling this. So, let's just play a quick portion.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He failed to act, so now Trump and his allies are launching negative attacks against Joe Biden to hide the truth. Here are the facts. Joe Biden warned the nation in January that Trump had left us unprepared for a pandemic. Then Biden told Trump, he should insist on having American health experts on the ground in China.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would be on the phone with China and making it clear, we are going to need to be in your country. You have to be open. You have to be clear. We have to know what's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Trump rolled over for the Chinese. He took their word for it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president tweeted, "China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus".


CAMEROTA: So Maggie, I assume that the White House will respond in some way to that. Are they going to crank up their political ads?

HABERMAN: Look, Alisyn, they've already been trying to focus on a contrast message regarding China with the president and Biden. The president's folks think they have a good story to tell over time. I think Biden is going to continue to highlight the failures of this administration to recognize the threat and to try to suggest that Biden saw it first.

And I think the question is how much money is being spent on television on that ad, which will matter in terms of how many voters actually see it.

BERMAN: Maggie Haberman, we appreciate you, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

HABERMAN: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: How will high schools and colleges recognize graduating seniors during this pandemic? That and more from our reporters across the country, next.



BERMAN: Nearly 41,000 Americans have died of coronavirus, and at least three-quarters of a million confirmed cases now in the United States. CNN has reporters all across the country to bring you the latest developments.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Omar Jiminez in Chicago. Tyson Foods is now taking extra precautions following guidelines from the CDC, USDA and health departments after at least 90 of their workers have now tested positive for coronavirus, stemming out of a single plant just north of Nashville. And now that means masks for all workers who are also now checking their temperatures before every shift.

And on food safety, the officials there say their plant production areas are sanitized, and that they've stepped up their deep cleaning, in some cases suspending a day of production.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Evan McMorris-Santoro in New York. Graduation will look very different for the class of 2020. On Saturday, Vice President Pence addressed a graduating class at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. Graduates sat 10 feet apart and parents weren't allowed to attend. It was about as close to a traditional graduation ceremony as any student is going to get this year.

Some high schools have opted for a drive-through graduations, others are delaying commencement until the end of the Summer. One student in California launched a hashtag, calling on President Obama to give a national commencement address. Obama's office told CNN, he's flattered but hasn't made a decision yet. And CNN learned last week that officials from 15 states are banding together to call for a nationally-televised commencement ceremony, students stuck at home everywhere can tune into.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Miguel Marquez in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where tens of thousands of protesters are promising to show up to the capital here to protest the stay-at-home orders issued by the Democratic governor of the state. Those protests encouraged by the president himself, both from his daily briefing which has become essentially a platform for his re-election campaign and on his Twitter feed.

In the last few days, the president tweeting all in caps, "liberate Minnesota, liberate Michigan, liberate Virginia." There have been protests from California to Virginia, Michigan to North Carolina. Many of them have not been well-attended. Tens of thousands promising they'll show up here, we'll be on hand to let you know.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Athena Jones in New York. Massachusetts now has more than 38,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and some 1,700 deaths. About 45 percent of the state's cases are in the greater Boston area, which Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House's coronavirus taskforce has called a hotspot. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker says "we're right in the middle of the surge now".

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Sunday he's prepared to send 400 ventilators to Massachusetts should they be needed.


BERMAN: All right, thanks to all of those reporters, I have to say I'm struck by the graduating seniors doing drive-through ceremonies as a generation of students losing experiences they will never ever get back. NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Testing remains a problem today. It is one of the key hurdles to reopen the economy. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been fighting every day for PPE. We've

been fighting for testing.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The governors want to have us, the federal government, do the testing. The testing is local. You can't have it both ways.