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Some California Beaches Reopen Social Distance Enforced; Dr. Deborah Birx Reacts To President Donald Trump's Disinfectants Comments, Calls Them "Dialogue"; Dairy Farmers In Wisconsin Dumping Milk Due To Drop In Demand; Dozens Of Healthcare Workers Attacked In Mexico; New Jersey Hospital Worker Facilitates Facetime Calls For Families Of Dying Coronavirus Patients. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired April 26, 2020 - 15:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: --the nation's top infectious disease expert Pitt translated President Trump's recent remarks about COVID-19 testing.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Anybody that needs a test gets a test, we're there they have the test and the tests are beautiful.

BRAD PITT, INFECTIOUS DISEASES EXPERT: Okay, couple of things. I don't know if I would describe the test as beautiful unless your idea of beauty is having a kind of swab tip tickle your brain. Also, when he said everyone can get a test, what he meant was, almost no one.


WHITFIELD: Okay, almost spot-on there Pitt going on to joking about Dr. Fauci's job security before offering a message of gratitude for those on the front lines.


PITT: I'm getting fired. Until then I'm going to be there putting out the facts for whoever's listening and when I hear thing likes the virus can be cured if everyone takes the Thai Pod challenge, I'll be there to say, please don't.

And to the real Dr. Fauci - thank you for your calm, and your clarity, in this unnerving time, and thank you to the medical workers, first responders and their families for being on the front line. And now - live, kind of, from all across America, it's "Saturday Night."


WHITFIELD: This week's episode was produced remotely because of the Coronavirus pandemic all the talent at home.

Hello again, everyone. Thank you for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin with two of the key figures tasked with helping President Trump navigate this unprecedented economic crisis brought on by the Coronavirus.

Appearing to be at odds over the state of the U.S. economy Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin offering an optimistic outlook on the recovery prospects this morning saying he expects the economy to really bounce back by September while economic adviser Kevin Hassett, who returned to the White House earlier this month on a temporary basis to help address the economic fallout of, from the pandemic, is delivery a very dire warning.


KEVIN HASSETT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Make no mistake it's a grave situation, George. The biggest negative shot our economy I think has ever seen. We're going to be looking at unemployment rate that approaches rates we saw during the great depression.


WHITFIELD: Hassett noting that the U.S. lost just under 9 million jobs during the 2008 financial crisis while nearly 27 million people have already lost their jobs as a result of the strain from the Coronavirus. And what is placed on the national economy over the last five weeks states across the nation pushing to reopen their economies in order to get people back to work as the U.S. quickly approaches 1 million Coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signaled just hours ago that his state may be ready to reopen but in phases it comes on the same day the "USNS Comfort" announced that it discharged the last patients onboard the navy hospital ship.

CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is near the "Comfort" which is docked in New York. And so Evan, they've allowed all patients to leave it didn't really have a lot of patients in the first place, however?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Fred. The "Comfort" docked here 27 days ago, on March 30th and originally it was intended to be an overflow hospital for anticipated taxed state hospital systems.

That never really came to fruition so fruition and turned into a COVID hospital about a week later and over the course of its time here, it's dealt with a 182 patients I'm sure those patients are happy that they were served by the crew but this depot holds a lot more people than that.

So now that chapter has come to an end. The boat will leave this city at the end of the month, after the crew cleans it up and gets it ready to leave. It's a big ship got to make it ready to move. But that chapter closing, another chapter may be opening.

Governor Cuomo said today in his press conference that the stay-at- home order known as New York Pause that's been in place for quite a while now five weeks today is scheduled to end at about 19 days may actually be replaced by a phased reopening. A cautious phased reopening.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D-NY): The pause is state-wide until May 15th, right? Then you have the CDC guidance that says, hospital - total hospitalization declining for 14 days. Okay? So we get to May 15th. What regions have seen a decline for 14 days?

Well, we're assuming we will have seen a decline in the state for 14 days. But what states - what regions of the state has seen decline for 14 days? That's where you will start the conversation to get to Phase 1.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, look. People who watched that press conference in New York most of you will not be going back to school or going back to work on May 15th. But some of you may be able to do it.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: The Governor said that it's possible to have a phased re opening that possibly the upstate regions where the virus hasn't been as bad, could reopen first, and opening first with construction sites, manufacturing, businesses after they've proven that they are socially distant and safe for employees to go back.

Followed by that a two-week process, after checking those businesses out, then you talks about other businesses. Businesses would have to submit plans to state they'll then be reviewed of how they would reopen safely and possibly they could re open too.

So again a lot of possibly, or could, a lot of may, a lot of caution but at actual conversation about the - the pause process ending and something different beginning which is a big deal if you're here in New York which has been so hard-hit by this virus.

WHITFIELD: Right. Lots of contingencies all right. Thank you so much Evan McMorris-Santoro. Appreciate it. So as some states consider reopening businesses, two key White House economic advisers are offer conflicting messages CNN Politics and Business Correspondent Cristina Alesci joining me now with more on this. Cristina, how surprising was it to hear White House official paint such a grim picture?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS & BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It is a surprising, because the President in his daily press briefings has been selling this idea of what economists call a V-shaped recovery. Essentially what that means, you can start the economy back up just as fast as you shut it down. But reality is it's a lot more complicated to get the economy back up and running.

So one of the White House Advisers, Kevin Hassett, is taking a realistic look at what the economic pain is as a result of shutting the economy down? And he's essentially saying that if you look at second quarter economic growth, the GDP figures, they're going to be grim, because that data will capture all of April, which is essentially when we saw, like, the height of the shutdowns.

It was in mid-March into April and the economy remained closed in many places through April. So here's what he had to say about that.


HASSETT: You know, I think the next couple of months are going to look terrible. You're going to see numbers that are as bad as anything that we've ever seen. I think GDP growth in the second quarter is going to be negative big number - Wall Street estimates are 20, negative 20 percent, negative 30 percent to the annual rate so that's because we've done something that's really unprecedented.

We basically stopped everything. Output has kind of gone to zero for huge swaths of the economy. And so that unprecedented moves gives us a really, really big negative shock, but the good news is all of these policies that we've adopted have hopefully built a bridge to the other side of that stop.


ALESCI: Whereas Steven Mnuchin is spinning the story a little bit differently. Of course, he is looking at the same data that Kevin Hassett is looking at but he is putting on you know a show of force. He has been the face of a lot of these relief efforts and the fact he's been the bridge between the White House and Congress in getting the stimulus money into the economy.

So he's going to be a little bit more positive, and he rarely veers from the President's talking point. Here's what he said about the outlook going forward for the economy.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I think as we begin to reopen the economy in May and June you are going to see the economy really bounce back in July, August and September. And what, we are putting it an unprecedented amount of fiscal relief into the economy. You're seeing trillions of dollars that's making its way into the economy and I think this is going to have a significant impact.


ALESCI: So he's really betting on the $3 trillion in stimulus making a difference, but end of the day it's going to be up to the consumer when do they feel more comfortable or comfortable going into a restaurant or movie theater even if states decide to reopen those in the various regions across the U.S?

It's also the economic recovery is dependent on something that the administration can't control which is company spending. Are they going to hire or they're going to pull back until they get more clarity on what economic growth looks like a couple months from now? And this is going to be a critical issue for the President's re-election campaign. Fred? WHITFIELD: All right Cristina Alesci, thank you so much. All right, some beaches in California are open this weekend, as communities look to return some normalcy to everyday life, but other beaches including those in Los Angeles County are staying closed.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is just to the north of L.A. in Ventura County where the beaches are open. But there are some restrictions, Paul?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are some restrictions. You can't build a bonfire or have a mass gathering or a big football game. But look behind me. Here is what's imbalance will just show you. You can chat with your friends or take a stroll. And then often the distance surfing is completely inbounds.

This is putting a lot of pressure on Ventura County with L.A. County being closed, because we're seeing that L.A. County residents are going to both Ventura County and Orange County.


VERCAMMEN: And if you want a dramatic contrast, look at the pictures over in Los Angeles County. They are still not allowing anybody to go to the beach in Los Angeles County. Now, as we come back live, when we look at this unfolding scene at Ventura County, it's interesting to hear from state legislators.

We talked to two of them. It's fine and well that the beaches are open, but they're talking about getting California going again. This nation state, if you will 40 million people. There are also 40 Counties in California that have less than 500 Coronavirus cases.

And in talking to Melissa Melendez of Riverside County, she says key date right now is May 4th, that's when the assembly is supposed to get back together in whatever form. Maybe they will social distance in the Capitol but say it's important that they do start passing laws, most of them COVID-19-related. Let's take a listen.


MELISSA MELENDEZ, CALIFORNIA STATE HOUSE: Our hospitals are not being overwhelmed across the state. So I think given that, it seems like what we have done has worked, but now we have to go back to that conversation of, okay.

So how long are we going to continue to do this because we can't continue to do this with the goal being zero percent cases of infections? That's - I mean, that's not going to happen and it's not realistic.


VERCAMMEN: So back here live in Ventura County, one of those counties that has not been as hard-hit. The beaches are open with some restrictions. As we said, San Diego County will open at dawn tomorrow. We're seeing a loosening up here in California. Back to you Fred. WHITFIELD: All right Paul Vercammen, thank you so much. One of the top doctors on the White House Coronavirus Task Force says she's unsure how long antibody protection lasts in recovering Coronavirus patients? So what does that mean for the race to find a vaccine? Plus, the U.S. says foreign hackers are actively trying to enter systems dedicated to fighting the Coronavirus. Details on who they say might be behind that.



WHITFIELD: U.S. research on Coronavirus is under attack from hackers. And the Trump Administration is blaming China. The targets include hospitals, research labs, health care providers, pharmaceutical companies and the Department of Health & Human Services.

CNN's Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt is following the story for us from Washington. Alex, tell us what top officials are revealing about these alleged attacks?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, broadly speaking, U.S. officials, Cybersecurity experts, are saying that they are seeing a surge of cyber attack against the United States both related to Coronavirus and taking advantage of this Coronavirus pandemic.

As you mentioned, hospitals, research laboratories, bio biopharmaceutical companies that are working on the vaccine all see a surge of attacks. One big example one very worrying example, my colleagues - and I have been told by an official who is familiar with the attacks that the Department of Health and Human Services which oversees the CDC and is helping lead the response to Coronavirus, has come under a growing daily surge of attacks.

Now, it is very difficult, we should note, four officials to, as they say, attribute these attacks to trace these attacks back to countries, and to groups, but increasingly, U.S. officials are confident that China is involved. In fact, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo he said on Thursday that one of the biggest problems is to make sure we have the resources available to protect ourselves against Chinese cyber attacks.

Now of course one of the most important parts of the response to the Coronavirus pandemic is going to be a vaccine. And on Thursday the Department of Justice pointed the finger right at China saying that they are going after these research laboratories and other research facilities that are looking into a vaccine for the Coronavirus.

I want to read you a bit of what John Demers, who is the Head of National Security for the Department of Justice, had to say. He says, it's of great import importance not just from a commercial value but whatever countries, company or research lab develops that vaccine first and is able to produce it is going to have a significant geopolitical success story. So, Fredricka, this is part of the great power struggle. This is not just related to the Coronavirus, and this is a moment in which China and other countries can take advantage of this chaos during the pandemic, Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: And you're also learning that this might be part of a broader kind of cyber campaign being carried out by groups, not just linked to China but other countries?

MARQUARDT: Well, when you look at the landscape of attacks that of people who come after the United States traditionally, it's China, it's Iran, it's North Korea and it's Russia. And they are continuing to. We have heard from the, a Google threat analysis group that said that they have traced these attacks to at least a dozen government- related groups.

And then you've got the cyber criminals who are taking advantage of this moment. So we're seeing all sorts of different types of groups, we're seeing all sorts of different types of attacks whether it is denial of service attacks, malware, phishing, ransom ware disinformation.

All of these groups and all of these countries taking advantage of this moment to steal information related to Coronavirus, to steal other information and to simply, Fredricka, sow chaos and destruction as the world as this country grapples with this pandemic.

WHITFIELD: All right, Alex Marquardt, thank you so much.


WHITFIELD: All right, the President and his administration facing growing criticism over the handling of the Coronavirus pandemic and now one key officials' job may be in jeopardy.


WHITFIELD: Today one of the top medical experts on the President's Coronavirus Task Force tried to downplay the President's controversial remarks about injecting disinfectants as a way to treat Coronavirus. Dr. Deborah Birx dismissed the controversy as just a dialogue involving the President.



DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: That was a dialogue he was having between the DHS Scientists and himself for information he had received and he was discussing. We had made it clear and when he turned to me I made it clear and he understood that it was not a treatment.

And I think that kind of dialogue will happen. I think what got lost in the there, which is very unfortunate, I think, in what happened next is, that study was critically important for the American people, and you say, why was that important?

Because we had an M.I.T. study just from a few weeks ago that suggests when people are talking and singing, aerosolized virus could be moving forward. I think as a scientist and a public health official and researcher sometimes I worry that we don't get the information to the American people that they need when we continue to bring up something that was from Thursday night.

So I think I've answered that question. I think the President made it clear that physicians had to study this. I think I have made it clear that this was amusing as you described. But I want us to move on to be able to get information to the American people that can help them protect each other and also help them understand how devastating this virus is to different age groups and different symptoms and different co-morbidities.


WHITFIELD: All right CNN's Kristen Holmes joins us now from the White House. So Kristen, is it the hope from the White House point of view that now Dr. Birx has spoken and that ends this conversation about what the President's meant?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, White House officials that I've spoken to want to end this conversation. I want to note something that's very important in what Dr. Birx said. She said she believed critical information about the virus was lost in the President's remarks, in a stir, the controversy about what he said.

And that really raises two big questions. One, why was he onstage during this critical presentation? And lending himself because he'd only gotten the information 15 minutes before to pondering out loud, to asking these questions? As we know to eventually suggesting testing for some kind of treatment that involved ingesting or injecting disinfectants to clean out the coronavirus?

So big questions there but it really goes to what we've been hearing from aides and allies for the last several weeks. They were concerned about these briefings for exactly the reason we saw Thursday night. President Trump is not a medical expert.

They have been asking him to stop attending these briefings or at least to strongly limit himself. Maybe come forward if there is positive numbers or good information but to leave this to the medical experts. That is why this conversation is still going on.

Because President Trump stood there in front of the camera national cameras, where thousands of people are watching him for messaging to hear what the fixes are, updates in the economy? They're out of work. They are sick, they have family member whose have died and want to know what the latest information is, and that is when President Trump stood up there and said that.

So again, why these aides and allies are hoping that he will take this to heart this criticism? We know upset by coverage and not have these briefings on such a regular basis.

WHITFIELD: Of course it only raises more questions about this M.I.T. study that she referred to and I'm looking at an M.I.T. study that really is talking about personal hygiene the responsibility of washing your hands and using disinfectants but nowhere at least in this study does it say anything about injecting you know a disinfectant.

So now there is also new reporting on a possible shake-up with the White House and involving one of the heads, or "the" Head of the Health and Human Services?

HOLMES: That's right. A senior administration official has confirmed to us that White House officials are discussing the possibility of replacing HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Now this comes after a series of events that we've been watching very closely.

First, of course, being President Trump placing Pence in control of that task force instead of Azar. We also know that Azar was butting heads with Seema Verma, another task force member who works at HHS and importantly she is a very close ally of Vice President Pence.

So two big things there's. We haven't seen Azar in any of these publicized briefings, on camera, doing any interviews for weeks now. So the speculation has been growing, but there is another side to note. One, we know that there's a lot of finger-pointing now.

A lot of blame game. We're coming off of weeks of a negative criticism from not just the American people but also from state leaders who are asking for help from the Federal Government they say they hadn't received and there is finger-pointing as to who exactly it is to blame for this response and to blame for the negativity surrounding it.

So that is one thing there to point out. The other thing is that President Trump and we're told this by a senior administration official would have to sign off on any sort of removal. We know right now across the White House across the administration, there is not a big desire for some kind of massive shake-up amid this response.


WHITFIELD: Christian Holmes, thank you so much, from the White House. The President's remarks about injecting or ingesting disinfectants to treat the Coronavirus created serious concerns in at least one state. Today Maryland Governor Larry Hogan says health officials in his state were flooded with phone calls about this dangerous theory.


GOV. LARRY HOGAN, (R-MD): We had hundreds of calls in our hot line here in Maryland about people asking about injecting or ingesting these - these disinfectants, which is, you know, hard to imagine that people thought that was serious, but people actually were thinking about this, was this something you can do to protect yourself.


WHITFIELD: Dr. Suzet McKinney is the CEO and Executive Director of the Illinois Medical District. Good to see you, doctor.


WHITFIELD: So how concerned are you to hear Governor Hogan, would say hey, people have been calling the health officials concerned about whether to take that seriously or not? How concerned are you that it really may go beyond the border of Maryland? People might be taking it seriously elsewhere, too?

MCKINNEY: You know, it's very concerning to me and I do think that people are taking it seriously elsewhere. Here in Illinois, we are seeing increased calls to our local health department officials and we're also seeing increased calls to poison centers around people ingesting disinfectant products.

You know, contrary to Dr. Birx' comments, I don't think that this is an issue that we can put to rest anytime soon. The fact of the matter is the American people look to the President for guidance.

And so when you have a claim that ingesting disinfectant can somehow cure the disease, unfortunately there are many people out there who believe that. And I think we're going to see many more serious ill illnesses and chemical burns and all sorts of other conditions as a result.

WHITFIELD: Essentially you're saying there are people who can't un- hear what they heard from the President of the United States right there in the White House. So today Dr. Deborah Birx addressed the issue of immunity from antibodies today saying it's still unclear how long immunity lasts for those who have recovered from the Coronavirus, but she is hopeful that antibody testing will help provide a way forward. Take a listen.


BIRX: The CDC is not only measuring antibody but they're also looking and seeing whether that antibody is neutralizing. Is it a functional antibody in our functional assays? At the same time through the FDA and working with hospitals they're collecting plasma and giving plasma and recovering antibodies, recovered people's antibodies back to sick people to see the impact it has.

So all of that data together, I think it's going to create a very clear picture about antibody. I think what W.H.O. is saying, we don't know how long that effective antibody lasts? Then I think that is a question that we have to explore over the next few months, and over the next few years.


WHITFIELD: So how hopeful are you that there may be something learned about the antibodies in the direction of immunity? Or do you feel like we would have learned that already if that were the case?

MCKINNEY: Well, you know, I feel as though while there are some promises results that we might be seeing from these antibody tests, there are also not so promising results that we're seeing from antibody tests.

My concern is that we are accepting data from these early tests and using that data as evidence towards a way forward. The fact of the matter is the science is very new. Science is very early on antibody testing, and the W.H.O. has said already that we have to protect against governments using these antibody tests as so-called immunity passports.

A reason, if you will, to move beyond our social distancing measures and the other strategies that we know will work. I think it's just too soon, and antibody testing and its effective results will take a much longer period of study.

WHITFIELD: Dr. Suzet McKinney thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it and be well. Coming up, Wisconsin is finding itself particularly hard-hit by the economic downturn from the Coronavirus from agriculture to manufacturing. So how will the state weather the storm? We're live in Milwaukee.



WHITFIELD: In Wisconsin, the drop in demand for milk is causing some dairy farmers to dump their supply. This as the state's economy is being hit in almost every industry. CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Milwaukee for us. So Miguel, Wisconsin is a big Union State. How are employees there weathering the storm? Which industries are getting hit the hardest and why dumping of so much milk?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, everything is taking a hit, from agriculture to manufacturing, retail and restaurants. It is across the board, the pain that Wisconsin is now feeling. 12.5 percent, about 12.6 percent of the workforce here has already applied for unemployment benefits.

There is one state study that Moody's got hold of that shows one model that unemployment here could hit 27 percent. Let that sink in for a second. That is more than one in four employees without a job in this state, at the height, the very height of the gray recession in 2009, unemployment rate in Wisconsin hit no more than 10 percent. It was just below 10 percent.

We also spoke to an economist who tracks current economic data and activity right now by using anonymous cell phone data at 50,000 different locations across the state.


MARQUEZ: They're showing a cessation of economic activity across the state, across all industries, at 50 percent. In the manufacturing industry they're showing a 60 percent decline in economic activity right now. They are stunning and terrifying numbers. The people that I speak to who have lost their jobs, they are incredibly anxious over what tomorrow will bring and not entirely sure that idea of a quick recovery, a V-shaped recovery, as they say, went off fast, will come back fast, that is dissipating quickly.

Economists say especially in, like, the travel industry, the hospitality industry, the restaurants. All that will take a long, long time for consumers to get back to work. You'll be safer-at-home orders that have been so controversial.

Most of that economic activity ceased before those orders went into effect. So it's not clear that even once they're lifted that you're going to see people rushing back to movie theaters, rushing back to restaurants, and rushing back to spend, and that will also have an impact on companies, how much they buy? How much they plan for? And how quickly those supply chains get back up and running?

It is looking like a very long time before there's anything close what we think of normal here in Wisconsin. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right. Miguel Marquez, thank you so much. All right, they're seen as heroes around the world, but in Mexico the same care workers trying to safe people from the Coronavirus are now being attacked.



WHITFIELD: Mexico is continuing to battle its Coronavirus outbreak where there are now almost 14,000 confirmed cases. And as front line healthcare workers wage their battle against the virus, there have been some disturbing incidents and violence against them. CNN's Matt Rivers joins me now from Mexico City. So Matt, it is hard to believe that those workers are risking their lives to save lives are now being targeted. What's going on?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Fred, I mean it is just a very unusual situation. Things are getting worse by the day in terms of the outbreak here in Mexico and the people who are really tasked with confronting this outbreak the health care workers. They have to worry about more things than just this virus.

We've spoken to 10 different doctors and nurses over the past few weeks who say that they're scared and they're angry. In Argentina, they clapped for health care workers. In the UK, even the youngest come out to say thanks and in the U.S., police departments do the same.

But in some places, like Mexico it's very different. Inside one Mexico City hospital this month angry family members assaulted a nurse for not letting them see their loved one. Its face later swollen and breezed and he's not alone.


DR. ALONDRA JOVANNA TORRES, ATTACK VICTIM: They attack us, and it's frustrating.


RIVERS: Dr. Alondra Jovanna Torres was walking her dogs last week while wearing her medical scrubs. Someone screamed and threw bleach on her face and neck. Her vision went blurry and her skin burned. Were you scared?


RIVERS: Were you scared?

TORRES: Like in shock. Then I was - kind of scared and angry.


RIVERS: Five days earlier, a nurse of 40 years Ligia Kantun was in a parking lot. She heard someone scream (speaking in foreign language) infected. That person threw scalding coffee on her back.

We're scared for our lives, she says, but we have to go to work because we have to help people. Mexican officials say there have been at least 44 attacks against health care workers since last month. Authorities say that common motive is misinformation. People lash out because of rumors that doctors and nurses are actually the ones responsible for spreading the virus. Health officials have begged people to stop the violence.

It hurts to talk about what's happening to my colleagues, says the head nurse in Mexico's public health system. We are also people. We also have families. Melody Rodriguez works as a nurse in a hospital about 15 minutes from her home in this area, but when she came home after a recent shift, these men blocked her from entering her town. She could get everyone sick, they said. Now she is staying with a friend near the hospital.

Most Mexicans don't feel that way they support health care workers. For every attack, there are far more examples of people trying to do some good donate protective equipment and send the thank you card. But that doesn't changed the fact that many doctors and nurses aren't wearing their scrubs in public anymore because they say it makes them a target.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are fearing an attack.


RIVERS: In Mexico there's more than just a pandemic to worry about. And Fred look, let's say it again. This is not the majority of Mexicans. Most people you would speak to here would say that they find this appalling and that they support health care workers but the fact that one attack happened let alone dozens of attacks, means that this is a problem and we should be talking about it. WHITFIELD: And it is shocking. All right, Matt Rivers, thank you so much. We have so much more straight ahead right in the "Newsroom" right after this.



WHITFIELD: As the number of Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. surpasses 50,000 people across the country have been unable to hug or hold their dying relatives because of visitor restrictions at hospitals. And that's where my next guest steps in.

In New Jersey, this patient advocate has been facilitating Facetime calls so that relatives can see and speak to their loved ones. His name is Joe Wojtecki and he's the Assistant Director of Patient Experience at Clara Mas Medical Center and he joins me right now. Joe, this is such a kind deed. It really is a gift for so many loved ones, families.


WHITFIELD: What inspired you to do this?

JOE WOJTECKI, PATIENT ADVOCATE: I started working at Clara Mass about 15 years ago and the patient is the center of everything we do here at Clara Mass Medical Center. And I have to say that when I was asked to Facetime with a family member, it was natural for me. I just went into the room, we connected and it was a bond that needed to be happening.

WHITFIELD: And then describe what has happened? What have you been witness to see, these are the last words and sentiments being exchanged by loved ones?

WOJTECKI: It's touching that when you're in that room, and you have the opportunity to connect with somebody who is either passing away or it's their final moments or someone who can't come into the building because of the COVID-19 and that I'm there as a vessel to connect with those loved ones. It's amazing.

WHITFIELD: Yes. It has to be amazing. And I - you know, this is so personal, it's such a personal moment and, you know, what is it like for you, you know, to be in such an intimate setting and to see, you know, this intimate moment being shared by, you know, loved ones and in many cases, a dying loved one?

WOJTECKI: It's difficult. It really is. I'm there - they're sharing the last moments together. And I'm in the room and I'm watching family members express to each other how much they love each other and they wish that they could be in the room and they can't. And it's - it's very emotional.

It's emotional for the family and it's really emotional for me to be in that room and sometimes touching the patient for the family members and just sharing those last moments. It's - it is emotional. WHITFIELD: Yes. And how do you, you know, keep it together, so to speak? It's not that you've done this one time, but multiple times. And as you just described, and I can hear your voice change, how emotional it is for you? How do you manage all of this?

WOJTECKI: It's - there are days that - there are trying days, but I get through it. I have a good support system. I go home, I talk with my family, my boys are always there for me. I have three boys. I have a - sensational leader, Mary Ellen Klein, the President of Clara Mass Medical Center, extremely supportive.

I have a great support system. My partner, Tanya Manigo, we all get together, my Director, Xavier, we're all doing it together. Everyone from patient experience, the nurses, the nurse leader, we're all working this together. I'm not only one. We're all out there together.

WHITFIELD: You have an amazing team. You have an amazing team. And I hear the response coming from families has just been through the roof. What have you heard about how they feel, about, you know, this gift that you are helping to extend?

WOJTECKI: It is - when they come in the front door and they ask, please, let me go upstairs and just say good-bye to my family members, to tell them know is difficult. And say that, you know what, we have this opportunity where I can go upstairs and I can use a virtual tool, where I can have you either Facetime or duo with your loved one, it does work out. It's not the best way, but it is a way. It's the safest way.

WHITFIELD: Yes. I know these family members feel like they cannot thank you enough, but, you know, really, I'm serving as an extension, you know for them just to thank you for all that you and your team are doing to allow these families this intimate, very special moment at the most tender time of their lives. Joe Wojtecki, thank you so much, and thanks to your team I appreciate it and thank you for sharing it with us.

WOJTECKI: Thank you. Bye-bye.

WHITFIELD: That's going to do it for me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. The "Newsroom" continues with Ana Cabrera after this.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. You are live in the "CNN Newsroom." Let's get you the very latest. The number of cases of Coronavirus in the United States has topped more than 950,000 and more than 54,000 people have died.

Just one month ago, the death toll was just over 1,000. That means 53,000 mothers; fathers, friends and neighbors have died in just the last 30 days. But across the country, states--