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Coronavirus Killed Americans Weeks Earlier Than First Thought; New York Doctor Chronicles Experience Through Video Diary; Tyson Shuts Down Waterloo, Iowa Plant Linked To Virus Outbreak. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 22, 2020 - 10:00   ET




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


This morning, we are learning coronavirus killed Americans weeks before initially thought. Autopsies now show that two people infected with COVID-19 died in California in early February. That is three weeks earlier than the first reported coronavirus deaths out of Washington State. What does it mean for how this virus spread?

And now, the head of the CDC is also warning that we are in for a second potentially even more devastating wave of this in the winter. Robert Redfield is saying we're not just going to be battling coronavirus then but also the flu as well, Jim.

SCIUTTO: All of this news, several states as still moving forward on plans to loosen restrictions despite a lack of tests or a clear proven treatment. One of the treatments touted by the president and by friendly media, including Fox News, the anti-malarial drug, hydrochloroquine, now a new study by the V.A. shows it has no benefit and is in fact linked to higher death rates.

Joining us now is CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, let's talk about the new study in a moment, but, first, what more do we know about the new cases in California and how significant is it that they came earlier than we realized?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's definitely very interesting that they were doing autopsies in California that show that people had coronavirus after they died and that was before the first official deaths in the United States. What that suggests to us is that people were dying of this virus before the U.S. realized it. And also super important to point out that according to The New York Times, the coroner says that these people did not travel. At that time, the CDC was thinking travelers had this, they were in China, then they came here. But these people apparently did not travel, and that's important. Now, back to the hydroxychloroquine issue that we were discussing, no matter what happened in the past, we know for the future, we need good treatments for this virus.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: One of the reasons --

COHEN: It's President Trump's favorite drug combination to talk about.

TRUMP: I just hope that hydroxychloroquine wins coupled with perhaps the Z-pack, as we call it.

COHEN: But Tuesday, the National Institutes of Health recommended against the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, an antibiotic also sold as a Z-pack, unless a patient is in a clinical trial, saying there is potential for toxicities.

At the White House briefing Tuesday evening --

REPORTER: A panel of experts at the NIH is actually now recommending against the use of hydroxychloroquine in combination with Z-pack, which is something you've recommended --

TRUMP: Okay. Well, we'll take a look at it. I'm also willing to take a look.

COHEN: There are several other drugs being studied to see if they'll help COVID-19 patients, such as the antiviral drug, remdesivir. The NIH panel didn't endorse any of them, saying more clinical trials need to be done.

And now, doctors are planning to study another class of drugs, those that treat blood clots.

DR. JEFFREY LAURENCE, WEILL CORNELL MEDICINE: Virtually, every single person that I'm seeing that I'm asked to interview and examine has a clotting problem with severe COVID disease. And the clotting problems are the most profound that I have ever seen in the ICU setting.

COHEN: Broadway actor Nick Cordero contracted the novel coronavirus and had his leg amputated because of a blood clot. He survived, but blood clots can be deadly. Doctors trying to figure out the right drug to prevent these clots, another way to save the lives of patients with the novel coronavirus.


COHEN: This blood clotting issue is so huge that doctors are hoping if they can get to the bottom of it, they really can save lives. Poppy, Jim?

HARLOW: Let's hope so. Elizabeth, thank you for that important reporting. To Georgia now, Governor Brian Kemp facing opposition from some local officials there, but he is sticking to his plan to ease restrictions and open up some businesses there on Friday, and, Jim, more on Monday.

SCIUTTO: Well, CNN's Martin Savidge outside Atlanta, what are you hearing about this conflict? It's a consistent pattern we're seeing here. Red state governors pushing for this, but often community leaders, mayors resisting.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Let me give you a visual depiction of all this. We're at a strip mall outside of Atlanta, one of many of them. If you take a look at here, you can see the places not quite deserted but almost. So it used to be thriving. That was before coronavirus.

By our account, there are at least a dozen businesses here that would benefit as far as opening, according to the governor's executive order, hair salons, nail salons. There's even a movie theater and a couple restaurants.


Here is the thing. The business owners say, in many cases, they can't be ready to open by Friday. It's not enough time. Too much has to be reserved, equipment as well as product. And they don't know if customers are even in a mindset to show up out of fear. Jim and Poppy?

SCIUTTO: Martin, thanks so much. We should note that CNN has invited the Georgia governor, Kemp, to come on multiple times. The answer so far has been no.

Another state we're following, in Florida, a state with nearly 28,000 cases overall. The governor there, Ron DeSantis, is expected to announce his reopening plan details on Friday.

HARLOW: Our Rosa Flores joins us this morning from Miami. So, Rosa, Governor DeSantis says predictions about the number of cases didn't prove out and hospitals have not been overwhelmed, he says, in the state. So what does that indicate to you about what the reopening plan may be?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Poppy, let's start with the facts first. Yes, if you do look at the daily number of cases reported, they are smaller this week than they were last week. But if you look at the numbers overall, the total continues to grow. Total cases are nearing 28,000. Total deaths are at 867, and 25 percent of those deaths are linked to nursing homes.

But you're absolutely right. At a time when the CDC is warning about a possible second wave, Governor Ron DeSantis here in Florida is touting the successes of the state, slamming the media, saying during a press conference yesterday that it was predicted that Florida would be the next New York, the next Italy, and that hospitals would be overwhelmed. Well, the governor saying that, quote, that did not happen, Jim and Poppy. Now, he did concede on one point, Poppy, and that was his state did not succeed in the unemployment system because it's completely overwhelmed, Poppy, calling it a, quote, jalopy.

HARLOW: I mean, we saw those lines, Rosa, remember, a week or two ago with people just so close together because they couldn't process unemployment online and they had to go wait for it, and it was a desperate situation. Thanks for the reporting. We'll see what his announcement is on Friday.

So here in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo now says that the USNS Comfort is no longer needed and can be redeployed from New York City. The ship was sent to relieve stressed hospitals. This comes as some parts of the states will begin elective surgeries once again, Jim.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Brynn Gingras, she joins us now. Brynn, that's remarkable and it has shown that New York as well did not reach this point where hospitals didn't have, for instance, the ICU beds or ventilators they needed. How has that now factored into the governor's plans to ease restrictions there?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and, you know, just like we're seeing sort of in parts of the country, what the governor is saying here in New York is that it's going to be a regional approach within the state.

So, essentially, the areas that aren't really considered hot spots still or aren't still seeing a large amount of cases like New York City, of course, they'll be able to restart those elective surgeries starting next week. And, really, he said he's got teams all around the state, and he's going to follow the data. Well, what's that data going to be? It's going to be testing, right?

He had that very important meeting which he says he called with the president yesterday, or at least requested, with his team, which he called productive, saying that, together, with the federal government, the hope is to ramp up testing from 20,000 to 40,000 tests per day here in New York, and, of course, that's going to help with the decision-making in the near future. Jim and Poppy?

SCIUTTO: We'll be watching closely. We know you will. Brynn Gingras, thanks very much.

In Texas, Dallas County officials have extended the stay-at-home order there through the middle of May, but the governor could override that decision as he plans to reopen the whole state.

HARLOW: Let's go to our Ed Lavendera. He joins us in Dallas this morning. Ed, what are we going to hear more about Abbott's next move? I suppose he could give the mayors out to do what they want. Does it look like that will happen?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's hard to tell right now, Jim and Poppy, but local officials seem to be on a collision course with the governor of Texas, as you mentioned, here in Dallas County. The county judge has extended the stay-at-home order until mid-May.

The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, is saying that next Monday, April 27th, he is going to issue more executive orders presumably to allow easing more restrictions on the stay-at-home orders and allowing more businesses to begin opening up. This is all part of what they have described as the phased reopening of the Texas economy.

But the mayor of Houston, critical of the amount of testing that is being done currently in the State of Texas, the rates of coronavirus testing in the state right now are dismal, less than 1 percent of the population is being tested. So you sense this real push and pull and a struggle between local communities here and the state government. Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: Ed, certainly how is that going to play out for everyone living there? Thanks a lot. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Yes. It's a tough decision everywhere across the country.


Are the medical professionals who have been dealing with cases in hospitals and the first wave of this virus ready to handle a possible second wave? We speak to a nurse who is recording her work day to day in a video diary. It's revealing.

Plus, just this morning, Tyson Foods shut down a plant linked to a virus cluster in Waterloo, Iowa. We're going to speak live to the mayor about that decision.

HARLOW: And a Detroit bus driver's heart-wrenching plea before he died from coronavirus. Well, his wife and his best friend, a fellow bus driver, they join us to honor his life and echo his warning.



SCIUTTO: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is encouraging residents to remain vigilant even as hospitalizations fall across the state. It should be noted that hundreds of New Yorkers are still being diagnosed with the virus every day.

Our next guest is a doctor in Queens who has been documenting her life, her work, in and out of the hospital, throughout this pandemic. Have a look.



I walked in and they said everybody is intubated. And it looks like it's true, actually. Most of our beds are taken up by intubated patients, meaning patients who can't believe on their own.


SCIUTTO: We're going to bring the Dr. Malloy to you. We have a little bit of a technical issue here, repairing it in the age of social distancing. We'll take a short break. We hope to have her right when we get back.



SCIUTTO: All right, technical problems fixed. We're joined by Dr. Melanie Malloy, emergency medicine physician at Mt. Sinai Queens. Dr. thanks so much.

We showed a clip of your daily diary that you have been doing of your work through this outbreak here. I wonder for folks at home who don't have a great sense of just how difficult it is in the midst of this pandemic, what do you want them to hear?

MALLOY: I want them to hear that at times it was entirely overwhelming for everybody in there. Everybody was working together as hard as we could. I say was because it feels a little different right now. It feels like at least in New York that things have gotten a little bit slower and that maybe we have passed at least the first huge peak. But I worry for the rest of the country because I think that people thinking that because New York is getting a little bit better, that the rest of the country is going to be okay, but I really worry that this is out there, it has spread from New York, from places where people have congregated, and that smaller towns are going to be overwhelmed. I still worry for the rest of the country.

SCIUTTO: Are there lessons that New York learned because the sad fact of this outbreak, and we heard this from the CDC director yesterday, is that likely future waves are coming, whether in the fall or even next year, he said it might be worse. Is it your sense that hospitals have figured out to some degree what they need and how to handle this when another wave comes?

MALLOY: I think that at least for my local perspective, I have to tip my hat to the emergency management of all the hospitals that have worked so hard to get everything in order. I mean, we started from nothing. We didn't know anything about what was going on. We had a few months' notice from China about a terrible disease, you know, that we really weren't ready for. I commend them for really having stepped up just the work, just to ramp up the amount of PPE we have, the amount of services we have, people coming, I think we have organized very well for what it's worth.

And I think that if this comes back, we don't know. I mean, in the worst case scenario, this could be a seasonal thing. I don't want to say that. I don't know. I'm not an epidemiologist, but it is a virus. It is new. We don't know, you know? But I know that now having survived this first wave, we are more well prepared if this happens again.

And I think as a society, we're more well prepared. I see people wearing masks outside. I see people practicing social distancing, taking it seriously.

SCIUTTO: One thing that's lacking at this point is really a proven treatment that works in widespread cases. And, of course, one of the treatments that the president pushed very aggressively, a combination of an antimalarial drug, hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic, in fact, the study shows it may not help at all or it might even increase mortality.

In your experience there, were there treatments that you had more confidence in?

MALLOY: Well, I'll be honest with you and tell you that that's not really my purview, because as an emergency physician, we were stabilizing patients. You know, we were often having first doses of medication have had no idea really how those were working, how well those were working. We were just focused on immediate airway breathing circulation.

SCIUTTO: Understood.

MALLOY: And I would defer that to the ICU doctors who know a lot more about how the treatments are working. I'll tell you that the data I'm reading is not entirely promising for any of the therapies, to be honest, but that strides are being made. I know that we're using plasma now and that as studies start to come out on that, I hope that that starts to do some benefit.


But I just have to emphasize that not getting this disease is your best option.

SCIUTTO: I get it. I mean, you need data and time.

Final question, you've got children at home. How tough was it coming home from the hospital where it's sadly easy to get infected and worrying about the safety of your own kids?

MALLOY: It's difficult. As I said before, I would have liked to send them somewhere safer than with me, but it wasn't possible. I do my best to try to -- I can't isolate from a four-year-old. She's going to come and she's going to try to kiss me and try to hug me, so I do my best to just try to come change immediately, go take a shower, you know? And I'm getting my antibodies tested. I got them tested yesterday, and I hope to get the results soon. We'll see what that means in terms of have I been exposed, have I, you know, have antibodies.

You know, I have been in this a few months now, and so far my kids have been okay and I'm so thankful for that. I keep a close eye on it. But in the end -- go ahead.

SCIUTTO: We're thankful for that as well. They're really cute kids. We wish you and your family the best, as you go through this, Dr. Melanie Malloy.

MALLOY: Thank you so much for having me.


HARLOW: They are really cute kids. Bless her for that work so, so much.

All right, so a Tyson Meat processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa, just closed a few hours ago. This follows a month of outrage that it was still open despite being linked to nearly 200 COVID cases. Tyson made the decision to close last hour. Here is what they said in part, quote, despite our continued efforts to keep our people safe while fulfilling our critical role of feeding American families, the combination of worker absenteeism, COVID-19 cases and community concerns has resulted in our decision to stop production.

As I said, for weeks, locals have been pleading for a shutdown with Iowa's governor to mandate a shutdown.

With me now is one of those officials, Waterloo's mayor, Quentin Hart. Mayor, thank you for being here. I heard your pleas for this last night on with my friend, Don Lemon, and now it's happened. So what's your reaction to the plant closing?

MAYOR QUENTIN HART (D-WATERLOO, IA): First of all, thank you for having me this morning. And we are pleased. There are about 20 or so elected officials in our local community along with Dr. Nafissa from our public health department and the sheriff and we're happy that it's finally closing down and taking the necessary steps that we believe would help the situation.

HARLOW: my worry is sort of now what? Is it too late? Because you said 90 percent of the cases in Waterloo are linked to the plant somehow. So now you've got hundreds of cases out there.

HART: And that was the challenge from the beginning. You know, implementing safety precautions at this particular point, we believe that it was too late. We went from 21 cases of COVID on April 9 to about 380 yesterday, and we even doubled that number in two days from 191 to 380.

So at this point, closing, cleaning, testing people is the best scenario for it. And I understand the impact that this has on our national food chain, but in order to be able to stop the spread, this was the best course of action to support the workers that prepare our food.

HARLOW: You have also been pleaing for the company to test everyone. The statement I got from them says now they are going to test or the 2,800 team members will be invited to test. I know you wanted that to happen sooner.

You said something in this really interesting interview you did with my friend and colleague, Dana Bash, and you talked about the issue of respect. And you said you were concerned overall, not just this plant, but that there was for these frontline workers, many of them minorities, many immigrants, but there has been a fundamental lack of respect for what they are facing every day.

HART: Well, if you take a look across our country, people on the frontline don't necessarily have the opportunity to work from home. They need to be providing critical services and essential services. Our Tyson's plant, Waterloo alone, 70,000 people, 16 percent African- American, Congolese, Bosnian, Burmese, so many Latino, so many people from different walks of life and immigrants that provide a critical service to help prepare food for the entire country. And it hurts when it feels like your pleas to people falls on deaf ears.


This isn't a political issue. It's not a Republican, not a Democrat. This is a humanitarian issue.