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Dr. William Schaffner Discusses Abbott Laboratories' Tests Producing False Negatives, Tennessee Opening Businesses, Contact Tracing; Nursing Homes Across America Taking Brunt Of Outbreak; "Project 100" Gets Money To Food Stamp Recipients. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 22, 2020 - 13:30   ET



DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Now, if you think that you have symptoms that might relate to coronavirus, you can come. And we're even welcoming the worried well, people who don't have symptoms but are concerned and they want to know.

So, that's the way we ought to be able to expand testing, and we'll be able to get a better sense of how penetrant this virus is in our population, in our cities as well as in our rural areas.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Is that across Tennessee or just with the facility that you're at?

SCHAFFNER: This is across the state. We're now in a better position to offer testing across the state. And we're looking forward to that and finding out more about where the virus actually is progressing in our communities.

Fortunately, in Nashville, the number of patients that are admitted to the hospital with coronavirus have plateaued. We think we've flattened the curve. And they may be even going down a little bit. My fingers are crossed.

So, all this social distancing, the sheltering at home seems to be working in our neck of the woods.

COOPER: Well, I know in Tennessee also now, they're talking about kind of opening up and relaxing some of the social distancing. I think April 27th is the day for that in Tennessee.

The director of the CDC is warning of another possible outbreak or resurgence of the virus later this year, saying it could be more difficult to deal with because it could be at the same time that the seasonal flu outbreak takes place.

Is that a concern for you? And do you think we will be better prepared for it this time around?

SCHAFFNER: Well, I think all of us in public health and infectious diseases anticipate that, come the fall, we will have a double- barreled outbreak, influenza along with coronavirus. It makes it all the more important that, when September comes around,

people get vaccinated against the flu. We can talk about how good the flu vaccine is. It's not a perfect vaccine, but it's better than nothing. But we'll be working with both of those.

By that time, I hope we will have better information about treatments that are available for coronavirus. That will put us in a much better position.

COOPER: And just finally, in terms of contact tracing, you're saying that, in Tennessee now, pretty much anybody who wants it can, and you know, has the access to it, can get a test, even if they're not showing symptoms, if they're just concerned.

If somebody does test positive, is there a system in place that does extensive contact tracing on that person, or does that need to grow?

SCHAFFNER: That's also been improved and has grown. Our local health department has gone recently from about four contacting persons who deal with routine infectious diseases to over 30. So, those people are being trained. They're being deployed.

So we're both mitigating and confining influenza -- excuse me -- coronavirus. And so, I think we're working on both kinds of systems.

COOPER: Dr. William Schaffner, I appreciate your time. Thanks very much.

California's now recommending coronavirus tests, even for people without symptoms, if they work in high-risk places like nursing homes.

Coming up next, CNN speaks to families who have already lost loved ones and the centers themselves to find out what more can be done to stop the spread.



COOPER: In Florida, 25 percent of the state's coronavirus deaths have now been linked to nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Governor Ron DeSantis in recent days releasing a list of specific senior care facilities where outbreaks and deaths have occurred. But according to the "Miami Herald," the information released to the public is incomplete.

Our Sara Sidner's been following the angle for us. She joins me now from Los Angeles.

What are you learning about the nursing home outbreaks in California?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They're getting worse, just like many other parts across the country. There are about 1,224 nursing home facilities and about 20 percent of those have reported at least one or more COVID-19 cases. And, Anderson, of course, they are dealing with the most vulnerable

population. And with COVID-19, lack of PPE, lack of enough testing, it really is a lethal combination.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Better, same, or worse?

SIDNER (voice-over): Family members from across the country --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was an amazing human being. She didn't deserve to die like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just so fast.

SIDNER: -- all experiencing the same tsunami of grief after their parents contracted COVID-19 in a nursing home.

DENEEN BARR, FATHER DIED FROM COVID-19: For my daddy to just die by himself, it just hurts my heart.

SIDNER: Deneen Barr says her father was a retired fire captain who worked hard to help others, only to die alone at a hospital.

BARR: He was a certified lifeguard, and he couldn't breathe. It just -- it just hurts me to my heart. And I'll never see him here again.



SIDNER (on camera): I am so sorry.

(voice-over): Nursing homes across America are taking the brunt of the outbreak. This is just a small sample of states that publicly report coronavirus cases in nursing homes, from more than 10,000 in New Jersey to 1,700 in California.

Now, a federal agency that oversees nursing homes says they must report their coronavirus deaths and infections directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(on camera): What's causing the problem inside of nursing homes when it comes to COVID-19?

MICHAEL DARK, ATTORNEY, CALIFORNIA ADVOCATES FOR NURSING HOME REFORM: It's really two things, Sara -- understaffing and infection control, and the two things go hand in hand.

SIDNER: In New Jersey, at Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center, police discovered 17 bodies piled at its morgue. Thirty-six people have died from coronavirus there.

In Richmond, Virginia, 45 residents dead from COVID-19 at this facility. In Massachusetts, Holy Oaks Soldiers Home, coronavirus killed 47

veterans, including Patricia Cowden's husband of 38 years. She says she believes the administrator there may not have initially taken the virus seriously enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And, you know, he's a military person. The commander-in-chief was saying it was nothing, you know?

SIDNER: The very first major outbreak in all of America happened at a nursing home just outside Seattle. A hundred twenty-nine people linked to the facility infected with COVID-19, 35 people died.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden, there were so many patients. Everybody needed medications. Everybody needed treatment.

SIDNER: Their facility was fined, in part, for not doing proper infection control.

But watchdog groups say that is one of the most common citations for many facilities. Life Care Centers disputes the finding.

TIM KILLIAN, MEDIA LIAISON, LIFE CARE CENTERS OF AMERICA: What went wrong? An unprecedented viral outbreak, which we did not know enough about entered our country. And because we have a vulnerable population, it entered our population. That's what went wrong.

SIDNER: He stands by the frontline workers, saying they were the first in America to heroically battle a new and invisible enemy.

Representatives of many nursing homes warn, the government's failure to provide enough testing and the scarcity of personal protection equipment can be a lethal combination.

(on camera): What is the nursing staff having to do? I mean, can they even self-distance from the patients? Don't they have to clean them and lift them and help them rehabilitate?

DARK: That's exactly right, Sara. That is the problem. Many of these patients have to be fed. So, nurses are touching and handling patients all the time. They can't avoid it. They have literally no way of protecting themselves.


SIDNER: And so many of the nurses have also come down with coronavirus.

And then here is another terrible wrinkle. Life Care Centers of America say at a couple of their facilities, they are receiving threats, including a death threat that is being investigated now by police.

There's a lot of stress and pressure on those people trying to help the elderly -- Anderson?

COOPER: Sara Sidner, appreciate it. Thanks very much, Sara. The first round of stimulus money passed by Congress still hasn't made

its way to some of the people who need it most, to many people. So, former presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, has joined a team working to get money directly into the hands of food stamp recipients. I'll speak to him live as well as a young woman who says the program has been a lifeline.



COOPER: Congress' latest efforts to keep hard-hit Americans afloat in midst of this pandemic is one step closer to becoming reality. The Senate has passed a $484 billion relief package, most of that for small businesses, but also billions for hospitals and additional testing. The House is set to vote on the package tomorrow.

In the meantime, a new initiative called "Project 100" is hoping to ease the burden for thousands of families in need right now. It's providing $1,000 in a one-time direct cash payment.

With me now is Andrew Yang, CNN political commentator, former Democratic presidential candidate, and a backer of Project 100, and Dominique Devezin received a payment from Project 100 after losing her job due to the coronavirus.

Dominique, I just want to start with you.

Can you tell us more just about how your job was affected by the pandemic and how you learned about Project 100?

DOMINIQUE DEVEZIN, RECEIVED PAYMENT FROM "PROJECT 100": Yes. So, I work at the airport. I'm a bartender at the airport. And so, March 16th was actually our last day of work. And we were scheduled to come back in April, April 16th, but we were -- our stay-home order down here in Louisiana got pushed back a little further.

So, as of now, I haven't really heard anything about, you know, going back to work, but I am a food benefit recipient. I get food stamps. And so, I use an app to check my balance.

And so, they had a problem with the app. It was saying, you know, you could qualify for $1,000. So, I filled it out to see. They told me I qualified. I did it on a Saturday. And come Monday, they sent me the money, which was a relief because I don't --


COOPER: Wow, it was that fast.

DEVEZIN: Yes, it was super fast! Super fast! And I really needed it at the time because my unemployment hadn't kicked in yet. And I don't get stimulus money. So, that was --

COOPER: Dominique, let me bring Andrew in. Andrew, Project 100 has a range of supporters, lawmakers to pro sports

organizations to Google. Tell me why you became involved in this, why you think it's important. In this and why you think it's important.

ANDREW YANG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because of many who are in the same boat, their income is evaporated. They don't know when they're going to get their next paycheck. Some aren't going to qualify for the stimulus checks.


And thanks to Stanford Children Give Directly and Propel, the money could go directly to people and families in Louisiana and around the country.

We need to do everything we can to keep families afloat, and the stimulus checks, while a move in the right direction, aren't getting to everyone clearly and they're not going to be enough.

In many cases, they're paying last month's bills when this month and next month's bills are right around the corner.

COOPER: Andrew, you've long promoted a universal basic income. Your plan is monthly, while this is one time. With the discussion of a potential second wave of COVID, do you think there's going to be supporter extending Project 100?

YANG: There's going to be enormous support for a standing monthly stimulus. And I just saw a poll that said the majority of the country is in favor of Americans getting monthly cash in our accounts for the duration of this crisis.

But Dominique said many don't qualify for the stimulus checks. We should have made them completely universal.

Project 100 also ought to be in perpetuity.

I'm grateful to all the philanthropists that have stepped up to support it. We're at $55 million and counting. Getting $100 million into the hands of 100,000 Americans would be the single-biggest direct cash transfer in our country's history.

COOPER: Dominique, you've got the thousand dollars. What did you end up using it for?

DEVEZIN: Well, my daughter is also out of school because of this, so we went and groceries, medicine, clothes, stuff to go walk around the neighborhood in. Just to keep busy inside.

COOPER: It was a big help. It came before other sources did.

DEVEZIN: Yes, and it helped me stay afloat on my bills, so I wouldn't be behind.

COOPER: Andrew, when you look at the stimulus that's been done and the aid that's been sent, what's working, do you think? What's not working?

YANG: Well, what's working is getting money directly into our accounts so that we can actually pay for groceries and keep our roof over our head.

What's not working is that state unemployment offices have been overwhelmed where they don't have the capacity to accommodate the millions, tens of millions of Americans who've lost their jobs, so we're stuck in this bureaucratic bottleneck, which doesn't serve anyone.

It's one reason why Project 100 is so tremendous that it's getting money straight to people as quickly as possible. Again, she hit the button on Saturday, gets the money on Monday. That's the way it should work.

And, unfortunately, our government systems are not set up for individuals, families, and in many cases, small businesses to be able to access the funds in a timely way.

COOPER: Dominique, when you saw this thing pop up saying a thousand dollars, did you think it was for real?

DEVEZIN: At first, I didn't. And then I did my research, and then I was like, why would they try to scam anyone but you never know because things get hacked.

So I did my research and felt comfortable after I talked to my friends about it and went ahead with the process of putting my bank info in and I'm happy that I did go forward with it.

COOPER: Dominique, when Andrew said you saw it on a Saturday, got the money on Monday, you broke out into a smile. That was a big, were you surprised at how fast you got it?

DEVEZIN: I was so surprised because I had still been waiting on unemployment. It had been week three already and I hadn't heard anything back from them, so I was really, you know, looking for something so that I could take care of what I needed to at home.


DEVEZIN: And that was a blessing.

COOPER: Andrew, how would this -- it's obviously great for people who get it. A lot of people who can't get this. What do you see this as a model for?

YANG: It's a sign when private philanthropists can get money into Dominique's hands, the hands of thousands of Americans faster than our government. This has to be a sign that our government systems need to progress and evolve.

And also, put more trust in us, where you can tell Dominique got this thousand dollars in cash, and we know she's going to do the right thing for herself and her family. She's going to be able to adhere to public health guidelines.

Instead of having these massive processes where you're trying to check up on where each dollar is going, we should be flooding our economy and our society with money right now so that people can actually take care of ourselves and our families. That has to be the message here.


COOPER: Andrew Yang, I appreciate talking to you.

Dominique Devezin, I wish you the best. I hear your mom tested positive. How's she doing?

DEVEZIN: She's doing much better now. I talked to her yesterday. Seems like her normal self. I'm actually going to take my daughter over to see her tomorrow because we haven't seen her in a while. She was sick for at least 20 days.

COOPER: Well, I hope she's completely cleared. And stay safe, Dominique.

Thank you very much.

DEVEZIN: Thank you for having me.

COOPER: Andrew, thank you very much. Talk soon.

President Trump called Georgia's governor to praise him for his plan to reopen some businesses this Friday, even though it violates the White House's own recommendations.



COOPER: Top of the hour. I'm Anderson Cooper. I want to reset CNN's special coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.