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Psychological Toll Front Line Workers Are Facing In Virus Fight; North Carolina Dog Tests Positive For Coronavirus; U.S. Food Banks Struggle To Meet Surge In Demand; Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 29, 2020 - 07:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New questions this morning about the mental health of medical workers. Two on the front lines of the coronavirus fight in New York have died by suicide this week.

Dr. Lorna Breen was a top E.R. doctor at a Manhattan hospital treating coronavirus patients. She also got the virus herself before recuperating and returning to work. Shortly thereafter, she took her own life.

Dr. Breen's father spoke with Chris Cuomo last night.


DR. PHILIP BREEN, FATHER OF LATE E.R. DOCTOR LORNA BREEN: I talked to her just before her final 12-hour shift. And during the time she was on that shift, she basically went down in the traces like a horse that had pulled too heavy a load and couldn't go a step further and just went down.

If we ever were trying to prognosticate about who would be silent, Lorna would have been the very last person to have lost her equilibrium, so to speak. She had not one scintilla of any emotional problem of stress or anything.


BERMAN: That's just heartbreaking.

John Modella (sic) -- John Mondello, a young EMT with the fire department here in New York, died by suicide after less than three months on the job. A friend says Mondello experienced a lot of anxiety witnessing a lot of death.

Joining me now is CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, this is such an important issue and there are really two aspects I want to dive into here.

First, just the pressure that is felt by these front line medical workers. We've heard the stories.

So many of them separated from their loved ones for long periods of time. They can't go home, working long hours, trying to get the personal protective equipment they need, and then being around so much death and suffering. It has to wear you down.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question, John. I mean, even outside of a pandemic you're talking about a vulnerable population of people. I mean, death by suicide among the medical community is higher than the general population and with EMTs and emergency workers it's the highest even among medical workers. So there's a lot of stress.

I think there was a lot of unfamiliar roles as well. A lot of times, as challenging as the roles can be for EMTs, in particular, and the E.R. doctors, there is still a pattern to things. Like how you get things done -- how you sort of work your way through problems. When you're dealing with things that are completely new and unfamiliar that can be really challenging. I heard that from a lot of my colleagues.

I think that the lack of personal protective equipment -- I mean, we've talked a lot -- we've talked a lot about that. We still talk about it.

The significant psychological toll of that as well, not just for themselves in terms of am I -- am I safe? Did I contract the virus? Was I just exposed? But then, as you mentioned, John -- then going home, potentially exposing it to others.

And then just the hours. I mean, to hear Dr. Breen's story and her father sort of talk about it. I mean, just -- they were just toxically tired after a while in terms of being able to deal with these things.

So who knows? I mean, it's always such a personal sort of thing and it's tragic. But I think that these are some of things that you're hearing from these front line workers.

BERMAN: You know, I know from being in warzones and being around a lot of death one of the things that starts to get to you is the idea is that I can't change this. I'm seeing all these awful things and I can't change this.

Does that weigh on medical workers who are in the middle of it all and seeing in some cases, despite their best efforts, people still dying?

GUPTA: Yes, absolutely. And I think a preventable death -- and how to define preventable obviously is open to interpretation, but if it's felt to have been a preventable death had that person arrived here sooner, had I had this piece of equipment -- whatever it might be, a preventable death is one of the most, I think, significant influencers.

I've had friends in the medical field, John, who died by suicide and I was shocked at all the things that they had done in their lives -- all the good they had done, the number of lives they had saved. But in the notes that they had written it was about a particular patient and it was about a particular loss. And so one loss, even --

And I don't know. Again, Dr. Breen's father -- I was just so -- it's amazing that he could even come on and talk about it. No one knows exactly what was happening in her mind.

But those are particularly -- they take a real different kind of toll, I think -- preventable deaths, John.


BERMAN: Now, the other area I want to explore here -- which is in your wheelhouse Sanjay, as a brain surgeon -- is the possible neurological impact of coronavirus. And, Dr. Breen, we know --


BERMAN: -- was infected with it.

We know from the 1918 flu --

GUPTA: That's right.

BERMAN: -- a lot of the people who ended up getting that, they had neurological damage also. There were psychological impacts after the fact from the 1918 flu.

What is happening in terms of that here?

GUPTA: I think it's a really important point, John. We don't know, but it's clear there's something happening here beyond what would just be called a respiratory virus. You know, something that you think typically affects the lungs, causing pneumonia. It could be quite significant.

But patients showing up with the first symptom as loss of smell. Patients showing up as the first symptom as a blood clot that then traveled to the brain and caused a stroke. Those are more rare situations but they're happening, which -- it's important that they're -- to know why they're happening because is this causing a more systemic inflammation?

Is this causing some sort of microvascular issue that's affecting the brain and possibly leading to some of these other problems, including depression, insomnia, anxiety -- whatever it might be?

You are hearing this. And so far, we're so early into this in the calendar of it, but the idea that we're hearing about enough not only here in the United States but in other countries around the world, the longer-term impact -- what we would call psychologically, but maybe with an organic underpinning to it because of inflammation or something I think is real and it's tough to talk about.

I don't know if Dr. Breen's father is watching right now. He did allude to this when he spoke about it before that she changed, he said, after the infection. Everyone does, I guess, in some ways. It's a brush with your own mortality. Everyone has a -- has a different way of sort of reasoning with that.

But I think you're absolutely right, John. We're going to learn more about what has been the impact of this on other parts of the body, including the brain.

BERMAN: Sanjay, I like to think of you as a superhero and doctors as superhuman in general, but what's your advice for those who might be suffering?

GUPTA: Well, you know, first of all, just with the term hero, I think for workers -- front line workers, I think everyone's different in terms of how they -- how they look at that word.

Some people appreciate you. They feel grateful that people are looking at them that way. I think other people feel a lot of pressure from a -- from a word like that as well. So, I think it just depends on you know the person that you're calling that.

I think for the rest of us, what we've understood -- and I hope people understand at this point -- is that I think the United States has done a -- has done a really good job in so many ways at following these stay-at-home orders. I mean, I've been amazed at it, John -- I don't know about you.

But I was worried that as you start to ask for a significant -- and perhaps one of the biggest significant behavioral shifts that we've seen in our lifetime in this country that people would not do it -- they'd blow it off. Not see the unseen enemy.

But here, they did it and it's made a difference -- these stay-at-home orders -- on front line workers. So if there's something that you would do for these E.R. doctors and EMTs and people like that, it's continue to stay at home.

We know -- we know that it works. We know that it won't have to be forever. But for right now, to try and take the load off people who are working those jobs, I think we have to keep doing it for a while.

BERMAN: It's a great message.

Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much for talking about this.


BERMAN: I think it's a really important subject.

And if you or someone you know is struggling, there is help. Call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 800-273-8255 -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: John, thank you for that conversation.

And we want to remember now some of the more than 58,000 Americans who have been lost to coronavirus.

You'll remember Rana Zoe Mungin. She was just 30 years old. We did her story here. She was a beloved teacher at Ascend Academy in East New York, one of the Brooklyn communities hardest hit by the virus.

Rana had been in the hospital for more than a month. And we interviewed her sister Mia, a registered nurse, who told us that Rana was fighting a long fight but in the end, her body became too weak.

Rev. David Ford was a loving husband and a father of nine, a pastor in Lansing, Michigan. He is being remembered as a gentle giant with a booming voice.

Ford had been discharged from the hospital in March and he planned to tell the story of his recovery. But then, complications from the virus became too much to overcome.

David Ford was 59.

And, Ed Carter was a news anchor in Columbia, South Carolina in the 1980s and 90s. He was described as highly respected by viewers and a consummate professional in the newsroom. After retirement, Carter enjoyed his motorcycle, keyboard, writing, and painting.


He and former colleagues would meet for monthly breakfasts and they called themselves the Super Legendary Older Broadcasters, AKA the SLOBS.

Ed Carter was 81 years old.

We'll be right back.


CAMEROTA: A dog in North Carolina may be the first dog in the country to test positive for coronavirus. Winston the Pug was tested when his owners took part in a Duke University coronavirus study and all the family pets ended up being included in the study.

Joining us now is Winston's owner, Dr. Heather McLean. She's also an associate professor of pediatrics at Duke University, so we'll rely on your medical expertise as well. And then, there is the dog, Winston.

So, Dr. McLean, great to see you guys this morning. I mean, I know Winston gets all the attention but you also tested positive. So how are you and Winston feeling today?


DR. HEATHER MCLEAN, OWNER OF DOG THAT TESTED POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PEDIATRICS, DUKE UNIVERSITY: Well, we are very grateful to all be feeling very great. We've been well for a couple of weeks now and feeling very happy to be healthy and back to work and school, although much of it quite virtual.

CAMEROTA: What were Winston's symptoms when he was sick with coronavirus? MCLEAN: So we think he had a mild cough, and then there was certainly one morning he didn't want to eat his breakfast. Other than that, it was not very remarkable. He wasn't even sick enough where we felt like we needed to call the veterinarian to seek advice.

CAMEROTA: I mean -- I see Winston is waking up. No offense to Winston but, I mean, aren't Pugs sort of known for breathing issues? How could you tell that he had coronavirus?

MCLEAN: Well, obviously, we don't know for sure. It was -- he -- my husband, in particular, noticed that he had a cough and that was the time in March where we were all very -- feeling sick, so we certainly could have missed some symptoms, and his symptoms were pretty mild.

So the cough that -- this is just my opinion that I think Pugs have is a little funny. And you're right, they do have respiratory problems. As you can see, his nose is a little bit short.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, to be clear, he did test positive, right? So as part of this Duke University test, your whole family, as well as Winston -- and you have another Pug and a cat --


CAMEROTA: -- all got tested.

MCLEAN: That's correct. So we enrolled in this research study at Duke University with Dr. Chris Woods and that was on April first. So that was the day he got swabbed. Although we just found out about it on Friday.

So we didn't know that he was sick. It could have been that they just recovered the coronavirus from his saliva. And the symptoms we saw could have been allergies because I don't know if you've been to North Carolina in mid-March but there's a lot of pollen hanging around.

CAMEROTA: I see. So you know that he was sick; you just don't if those symptoms were linked to it. But to be clear, you and your husband and your son all tested positive and got sick.

And we're seeing video here of Winston in more energetic days.

Your daughter, though, and your pet cat tested negative. Oh, and the other Pug tested negative.

MCLEAN: That is correct.

So my husband and I are both physicians and when we realized our symptoms could be due to the coronavirus we both got tested and our PCRs came back positive.

Our son, who had similar symptoms, did not go for diagnostic testing but as part of this research study they told us that he has antibodies, so that was confirmation he had the illness. Our daughter, who is 17, never really showed symptoms and so far, we don't know if she has antibodies. So we assume either she had a mild case or didn't really get sick at all.

And then our dog, Otis, who's 13, was swabbed and his test was negative, and our cat as well.

CAMEROTA: You know, so many people are interested in your story because there's been a big question about whether or not family pets can get sick. And to be clear, the thinking is that you passed the virus on to Winston, not vice versa.

I mean, there's so many questions about whether or not animals are passing it to humans or humans to pets, and also then if pet-to-pet. You know, when I take our new dog out for a walk now I see other neighbors not wanting their dogs to come near in case pets can transfer it to each other.

So you, as a doctor, what do you think? How do you think that Winston got this?

MCLEAN: Oh, I -- you know, we're just one story, one family, and one dog. But I definitely think that we gave him the virus. We didn't realize our symptoms were due to coronavirus and so we couldn't socially distance from ourselves and from our animals.

And I think we have to be careful about taking one case that's from a research study and generalizing it. You know, we really need to use science to guide our decisions, and then we need to participate in research to advance our knowledge. So that would be my advice.

CAMEROTA: And so, I see that there was no quarantining for Winston, so what was the treatment for him if he felt sick? He just had to soldier through it?

MCLEAN: Well, he was quarantined with the rest of us. We were all holed up in our house waiting to get better. So, we have a backyard and none of us felt like doing much for a while, so was effectively quarantined.

And we've been practicing social distancing just like everybody else in the world. So when we go on walks we veer around each other and try not to get too close to people or other pets.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it makes sense.

Well, we see you guys frolicking in the backyard where we know that you will soon be able to again.


So, Dr. Heather McLean and Winston, thanks so much for sharing -- for sharing your story. And Winston was very well-behaved during this whole interview. He's ready for his close-up.


CAMEROTA: Thanks so much. Great to talk to you. BERMAN: I don't know why Winston won't answer questions. What's he hiding?


Maybe the tongue hanging out there was his answer to whatever you were asking.

CAMEROTA: Maybe. I should also -- I can't believe I forgot to mention the pet lizard -- their pet lizard did not have coronavirus.

BERMAN: Well, that's lucky considering that Winston did not social distance at the appropriate levels with the lizard. Again, what's he hiding? That's all I want to know.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, OK, that's our next segment, so we'll get him back.

All right, thanks, John, for that insight.

So now to this story. Why are some farmers dumping tons of food as unemployed Americans line up at food banks?


PAUL FOUTS, NEW YORK DAIRY FARMER: I mean, the food's here. The farmers have it and the consumers need it.


CAMEROTA: OK, we're going to have more on this horrible paradox, next.



CAMEROTA: Food banks across the United States are struggling to meet the demand that has exploded during this pandemic. So with more people in need, less food, though, is being donated.

CNN's Jason Carroll joins us now with the details. Why, Jason?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via Cisco Webex): Well, Alisyn, it's really alarming. Food banks are seeing unprecedented demand from people who are needing help. And most of this demand is coming from people who have never had to ask for help from them before.


CARROLL (voice-over): The line of cars stretch for more than a mile.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many people are in your household?

CARROLL (voice-over): The wait for food at this emergency distribution site in Newark, New Jersey more than an hour, but the need so great those who came looking for help were more than willing to wait.

RITA CHARLES, FIRST TIME AT A FOOD BANK: I've never done this before. It's a shame that I have to do this.

CARROLL (voice-over): Many here say it is their first time asking for food.

CHARLES: There's two families in here, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open your trunk right here.

CARROLL (voice-over): People like Rita Charles, who brought her elderly neighbor.

CHARLES: We're alone, you know -- even my neighbor. She's alone, too. So that's why we appreciate it.

CARROLL (voice-over): Julio Ortega, a furloughed truck driver, came with his wife who was laid off from her job at a dry cleaner.

JULIO ORTEGA, FOOD BANK RECIPIENT: It is an experience, you know -- first time -- because it's hard for them.

CARROLL (voice-over): Week after week, as the number of unemployed rises across the country, so too does the number of people needing food assistance.

Feeding America, the nation's largest group of food banks, says it is now seeing a staggering 100 percent increase in demand at some of its distribution sites like this one in Little Rock, Arkansas where they ran out of food in less than an hour Tuesday.

The states seeing the biggest spike, Ohio, Florida, California, and Texas, where in San Antonio, last week, people lined up for hours.

And with the increased demand comes more worries about meeting those demands, given diminishing donations food banks once received from what were reliable sources before the pandemic.

ERIC COOPER, CEO, SAN ANTONIO FOOD BANK: Restaurants, hotels, and caterers aren't donating. Grocery stores are selling out and so there's not as much food to collect while the demand has doubled.

CARROLL (voice-over): So much need and yet so much waste. Down the food chain, hogs in Minnesota to be euthanized, chickens slaughtered, their carcasses thrown out, while dairy farmers such as Paul Fouts, forced to dump 8,000 gallons of milk last week.

FOUTS: It kind of makes you feel sick to your stomach, really.

CARROLL (voice-over): Part of the problem, restaurants and schools now closed so farmers have fewer outlets to sell in bulk to. And with so many people sick, it has crippled their distribution channels, like the trucking industry.

FOUTS: I mean, the food's here. The farmers have it and the consumers need it. Somehow, we've got to get the system in between to work for that.

CARROLL (voice-over): Billions in federal assistance is scheduled in the next few weeks to aid farmers, along with a program to get distributors to work with food banks.

And at the state level, New York, which saw a 60 percent jump in food bank demand, launched an initiative to help cut the waste.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We're also immediately to stop this dumping of milk and get it to people who need it.

CARROLL (voice-over): In the meantime, the lines and the demand keeps growing.


CARROLL: And, Alisyn, there's just been so much demand that officials worry that that federal help is not going to arrive in time. And so what they're doing is they are asking for those who are in the private sector who have money to step in and fill in for this gap. And they say that this is a problem that's just not going to be going away anytime soon -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, so many cities and different locations are going to have to rely on philanthropy right now.

Jason, thank you very much.

NEW DAY continues right now.


GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: We're starting to open up a little bit, but we're trying to do this in a reasonable way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amid calls to reopen the American economy, a patchwork of rules is spreading as haphazardly as the virus itself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the game plan seems to be if we ignore it, it will go away. It's completely illogical.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: If you look at some of the most Draconian orders that have been issued in some of these states and compare Florida, Florida's done better.

GUPTA: The White House plan is six to seven million tests a month. Ultimately, we need to be at 20 million a day.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: One of the problems has been is the tests getting to the people who need them, or are the tests out there were not connecting the dots. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

And of this morning, there are more than one million confirmed cases of coronavirus --