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Unions Voice Concerns After President Trump Orders Meat Plants to Open; Blood Clots Pose Lethal Danger to Coronavirus Patients; Dozens of Bodies Found in Unrefrigerated Trucks Outside Funeral Home. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 30, 2020 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: This morning, unions and advocates for plant workers are sounding the alarm about President Trump's order to have meat plants reopened despite big outbreaks of coronavirus. So is enough being done to protect the workers? Joining us now is Linda Chavez; she is the chair of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a former Reagan White House official and she was on the board of Pilgrims Pride, big processor of poultry.

So, thank you so much for being with us. You know this industry so well. In your mind, how responsible is the president's order for these plants to reopen?

LINDA CHAVEZ, CHAIR, CENTER FOR EQUAL OPPORTUNITY: Well, first of all, the food supply is critically important in the United States. And the president does have a responsibility to try to keep meat flowing. However, he's put the cart before the horse in this instance because the only way that you can keep these plants operating safely is to ensure that each and every person who goes into one of those plants is tested on a regular basis and is COVID-free. And that is not being done.

BERMAN: No, it is not being done. So, in your mind, how big is the gap and what exactly is the gap between what needs to be done to meet these -- make these plants safe, and what is being done now?

CHAVEZ: Well, first of all, I think the employers do absolutely want to protect their workers, and it is in an employer's interest to make sure that they have a healthy workforce. They don't want to see people getting sick and dying. But the federal government is not offering much assistance. In really, Colorado where a JBS plant, that's probably one of the biggest producers of meat in the country, had a serious outbreak of about 300 people got sick, several people have now died there.

They were shut down because of the health hazard. And then they did begin testing but stopped that testing. I don't know if they ran out of tests or what the problem was. They did try to do things to mitigate the problems in the plant by putting barriers between places and making sure that people have masks, et cetera. But until you have really ubiquitous testing, if you have a supply of tests, and you are able to ensure that anybody who goes into a plant are safe.

And frankly, that cannot be just on the employer. The federal government itself has to get in there and has to provide the resources to make sure that, that can be done.

BERMAN: And it's hard, look, it's hard to social distance inside one of these plants. You know that. People are standing shoulder-to- shoulder. Masks and gloves might do something but not enough. And I want to read you something we heard from an employee at Tyson Foods who said, "I just don't know how they're going to do it when there are people dying and getting really sick", said an employee of Tyson's independent Iowa plant.

Who is to say people are even going to show up to work. Now, that's a different issue altogether. What happens if these plants open and people don't want to show up to work? What are the protections for these workers?

CHAVEZ: Well, of course, we did abolish slavery. You cannot force somebody to work. The government cannot make you go to work, particularly if you see that it's unsafe. The problem is that these are very low-wage workers. And they live paycheck-to-paycheck. They need those paychecks. And so the worry is that even if they become sick, they may not want not to show up for work, and if the government is threatening to do in certain states, decides that they're not going to get unemployment insurance if they choose not to go back to work and a job is available, then that again is going to make more people at risk.


BERMAN: That's a big deal. If you're not eligible for unemployment insurance, if you're scared about your own health in going back to work, but it means you get fired or you lose your job, any way you get no benefits, that's a problem. And another part of this issue, and this is something -- you have areas of expertise that around the span of this story is the demographics of the people who work inside these plants, predominantly minorities.

Look at that, Hispanic or Latino, African-American, Asian, other -- a lot of the workers foreign born, these are in many ways underserved groups in our population.

CHAVEZ: Yes, and of course, even though responsible plants do try to ensure that everyone they're hiring is legal, often that's not possible. When I worked at Pilgrim's Pride, we were an early adopter we verified to make sure that we were hiring only people legally, able to work in the United States. Nonetheless, when ICE decided to conduct a raid, they found out in 2008 that about 400 of our employees were working on phony Social Security numbers.

So you've got people in there who are not just frightened because they might get the disease, but they're also frightened because they're not legal. And if they end up getting sick, they may not want to go to the hospital. This could be a real tragedy. BERMAN: You know, there's a very thorny issue here, which is

liability protection for some of these companies. And it's not just the meat processing plants, it's going to really become a very big issue for companies in general. They want protection so that if they do open and their employees get sick, they're not in some way on the hook for it. What does that mean --

CHAVEZ: Very important --

BERMAN: For a worker?

CHAVEZ: Well, it's very important. And I have to tell you, I mean, one of the ironies of the executive order the president issues is the very last line in the executive order makes it clear that despite this order, the government will not be held responsible for any liability should anyone suffer because of this. And I think a lot of employers are saying, wait a second, particularly in some states, you've got states like California, which is very litigious, and you may end up seeing lots of lawsuits.

So, even though the president may think he's helping these companies by insisting that they stay open, he may be exposing them to increased liability. And this is a state-by-state issue. So, you could have -- you could have these companies facing big liabilities and big suits if their workers get sick.

BERMAN: And of course, the big issue here is keeping people safe and healthy. Linda Chavez, thank you very much for being with us and helping us understand these issues.

CHAVEZ: Thanks very much.

BERMAN: So, doctors trying to figure out why some coronavirus patients are getting dangerous blood clots.


JOHN PUSKAS, HEART SURGEON, MOUNT SINAI MORNINGSIDE: So here we went from being pretty much OK at home with a cough to now almost dying of a major pulmonary embolism.


BERMAN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports next.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Every day, it seems doctors learn new ways that coronavirus can affect the body with deadly consequences. Dr. Sanjay Gupta spoke with one young man who just got out of the hospital after suffering a blood clot in his lungs, and he is sharing his story first on CNN. What did you learn about him, Sanjay? SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, Alisyn,

I think almost since the beginning, there's been these stories of people who, you know, had the virus, they were having these respiratory symptoms and then when suddenly have a significant decline. And I think it's puzzled, you know, doctors, nurses, researchers all over the world for some time. These clots may at least in part explain what is happening to these patients. Listening -- listen to Warnell Vega's story.


GUPTA (voice-over): One day for healthy 33-year-old Warnell Vega, when it started with a cough and a headache, took a sudden turn.

WARNELL VEGA, COVID-19 SURVIVOR: I was home and I went to go wash my hands, and the next thing I know I was on the floor. My mother was home with me, she was the one that found me and called 9-1-1 to come and get me.

GUPTA: He was diagnosed with COVID-19, a mild respiratory illness for many. Doctors are finding a growing number of patients who have strange symptoms. Loss of smell, gastrointestinal troubles, and in Warnell's case, life-threatening blood clots that had traveled to his lungs.

PUSKAS: One of the things we're seeing is thrombus clot forming in various parts of the body causing problems like clots in the legs or pulmonary emboli where clots move to the lungs or clots causing stroke or heart attack.

GUPTA: That's Warnell's physician, Dr. John Puskas; chair of cardiovascular surgery at Mount Sinai Morningside in New York.

PUSKAS: And you can see that the dye stops where it hits the clots. So, here we went from being pretty much OK at home with a cough to now almost dying of a major pulmonary embolism at the age of 33, which is pretty young.

GUPTA: When I first heard about people developing these sorts of clots, I immediately wondered, was this sort of a late stage of illness that we sometimes see in all sorts of patients that just have advanced disease and their clotting systems aren't working properly. What do you think is going on here, doctor?

PUSKAS: In some patients, it can be the first symptom or among the first symptoms. When a patient is ambulatory and pretty well, not at the end of life from some advanced heart failure or trauma.

GUPTA: Why this happens is one of the big puzzles facing doctors right now, and so is how to treat it. According to Dr. Puskas, the low doses of blood thinners, they usually give to ICU patients to prevent clotting just isn't enough for patients like Warnell.


A potential solution? PUSKAS: Even most of patients in the ICU has a higher prophylactic

dose. We're on a razor's edge between bleeding and clotting, they try to thread the needle and for each individual patient.

GUPTA: How worried were you about this COVID disease before all this happened to you?

WARNELL: I know having to go to work, being at work and just being outside in general, there was a chance that I could get it. I wasn't like 100 percent concerned, but I knew that there could have been a chance.

GUPTA: After more than a week in the hospital, Warnell is now a COVID survivor.

WARNELL: The moment I entered the hospital, I was in pain, shock, didn't know what was going to happen. But as each day went by, I got a little bit better and then I was happy to go home. I'm able to breathe, I'm feeling great.


CAMEROTA: Good for him. We're so happy that, that story has a happy ending. But Sanjay, what's the connection? Is there some sort of --

GUPTA: Yes --

CAMEROTA: Underlying thrombosis issue with these patients or an infection or what?

GUPTA: Yes, there seems to be, Alisyn. And again, the situation often is patients who have -- you know, they have this pulmonary infection, they feel like they're not feeling well, but they're otherwise doing OK, and then they have a sudden decline. And usually, a sudden decline means that the -- in this case, a blood clot was thrown into their lungs and they developed a pulmonary embolism.

Could be that the virus itself affects the way that the body is clotting blood, and therefore they're more likely to clot. It could be that the virus is in the blood stream and sort of damaging the lining of the blood vessel that's causing clots. We're sure yet, could be a combination of both. But it does seem to be something that's happening and could explain again these sudden declines.

CAMEROTA: And do we know how often patients are suffering from these blood clots?

GUPTA: Yes, you know, so, you know, we're four months into this. This is all still early data. But there was a study out of the Netherlands that showed when they went back and looked for clotting, they found that about a third of the time in patients who had COVID. And then there was some other studies, there was a study just published in radiology showing that about a quarter of the time, patients were developing clots that were significant enough to at least cause even minor pulmonary emboli. Maybe not a significant one that was catastrophic like Mr. Vega's. But

you know, pulmonary emboli that they found in the lungs. Then there have been some autopsy studies where they go back and looked then at the lungs of these patients, and they see the evidence of the viral damage, but then they find these clots as well. So it's something that they're finding more and more.

I think one of the things that was, you know, also concerning, Alisyn, in New York at Mount Sinai, same hospital, they have several patients all under the age of 50 who had strokes as well. And they think it's the same phenomenon. It's these clots, in Warnell's case it went to lungs. But in those patients at Sinai, it was going and causing a stroke in the brain.

So, you've got to figure this out. It may be, you know, putting patients on blood thinners when they come into the hospital that are more powerful than the typical blood thinners. But again, we're early days, Alisyn. We're learning this real-time just over the past couple of weeks.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, the learning curve for you doctors is so steep with this. But it does seem that every day, you do make new discoveries. Sanjay, thank you --

GUPTA: That's right --

CAMEROTA: Very much, we appreciate that --

GUPTA: You got it --

CAMEROTA: Story. John?

BERMAN: Right, we want to remember some of the nearly 61,000 Americans lost to coronavirus, including three members of one Miami family. Mario Mayorga Jr.; a cleaner at Mount Sinai Medical Center was diagnosed in March. He lived with his parents who both caught the virus just ahead of their 50th anniversary. Mario Mayorga Sr. died April 10th, his wife Esperanza died a few days later. Mario Jr. died Sunday, he was 42.

Jameela Barber was just 17 years old, a senior at Lancaster High School, South of Dallas, she was taken to an E.R. last weekend, but died before she could be admitted. The school district superintendent says Jameela was such a sweet student, great personality, a leader. I could tell that she was going to do something special in life.

And Mary and Wilford Kepler were married for 73 years. The Wisconsin couple died hours apart, both from coronavirus. Mary first reached out to Wilford during World War II around the time he was involved in the Battle of Okinawa. They started to date when he came home. With their beds side-by-side, their granddaughter says Mary and Wilford said, "I love you" one last time before they passed away Saturday. We'll be right back.



BERMAN: New developments this morning and a horrible story here in New York City. As many as 60 bodies were discovered in four unrefrigerated trucks outside a funeral home. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is on the story for us. Shimon, how did this happen?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's just awful, John, and quite simply, according to sources that we've talked to, the funeral director there just said he was overwhelmed. Too many bodies, you know, this is more indications as we've seen throughout this city, which is really the epicenter of this pandemic, where people are just overwhelmed.

Hospitals, funeral directors, funeral homes, and that was exactly what happened here. We're told that the number of bodies, perhaps up to 60, were being stored in U-haul box trucks stacked up in these trucks, and it was the stench, the stench of decaying bodies and fluid leaking from these trucks that led police there. Neighbors there were calling the police, they had complained about it, and the police came and, of course, they made this grisly discovery.

The Health Department has been investigating. They were out there, they said there was a process here. If funeral directors need help, they can get help, but they're supposed to keep these bodies in refrigerated trucks. This funeral director quite simply didn't have that. So the state officials and the NYPD came there, they helped remove these bodies.


What I'm also told is that a lot of these bodies were waiting to be cremated, and there was some delay, and that's perhaps what also caused some of this. Of course, just really not a very good situation for people who live in that neighborhood, Alisyn, and also the families. You can't imagine what they must be thinking to know that these bodies have been laying in these trucks in this way, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: It's so grisly to hear the details, Shimon. Thank you very much.


CAMEROTA: Globally, more than 220,000 people have died from coronavirus. There are now more than 6 million confirmed cases. CNN has reporters all around the world to bring you the latest developments.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Berlin where German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to meet with state governors to discuss further measures to try and push back the coronavirus pandemic. Also German company BioNTech says it has administered the first doses in a trial for a possible coronavirus vaccine. Now, BioNTech is the international partner of Pfizer. Pfizer says

trials could also start in the U.S. very soon, and that possibly millions of doses could be available before the end of the year.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Nick Paton Walsh in London where Prime Minister Boris Johnson will face tough questions at his first appearance, the daily press conference since he recovered from the disease. The first being as to why the United Kingdom is possibly on track to have the worst death toll in Europe, revising how it countered the dead yesterday up to 26,000, leaving it possibly overtaking Italy in the weeks ahead.

And while so too have the government failed to meet their most public goal they've set themselves of 100,000 tests a day. That deadline is today, and without greater knowledge as to who has the disease, the U.K. has tough decisions to make with very little information in the week ahead about easing restrictions.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matthew Chance. And for weeks, Russia has insisted its pandemic is under control. But these startling images from a Russian hospital showed just how desperate the situation has become. This tiny room was a laundry cupboard according to the narrator.

Now it's a makeshift ward for five coughing women, and these aren't even the hospital's patients. They're medical staff with COVID-19 symptoms. The hospital says the women are now on a proper ward, but amid shortage of essential equipments. It does paint a grim picture of the toll coronavirus is taking on Russia's health workers.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: I'm John Defterios at the Dubai Mall. This venue in the shadow of the world's tallest tower welcomed more than 80 million visitors last year. But that of course is before the coronavirus set in. After better than two weeks of a 24- hour lockdown, this city is gradually coming back to life, but caution is the watch word.

With temperature testing and limiting attendees to the mall at 30 percent of normal capacity. So the signal from this Middle-Eastern hub of tourism, trade and finance, we're on the mend, but it will take a lot of time.


CAMEROTA: All right, thanks to our correspondents across the globe. NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A drug can block this virus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So far, we know that it is safe and tolerable, and we're able to get even the sick patients out of the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I worry that we want something so bad, that even something that looks a little bit promising is getting thrown out of proportion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have literally heard nothing but orders to stay at home. Now we're starting to tell people go out and re-enter the economy. That mental transition is going to take some time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Florida will take a step towards a more hopeful future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They made sure a lot of sense to exempt Miami- Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County. Miami-Dade alone has one third of all the COVID cases.


CAMEROTA: And good morning, everyone, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. This morning, one encouraging sign for a coronavirus treatment, the experimental drug remdesivir appears to be showing promise in speeding up the recovery of patients. The "New York Times" reports that the FDA is planning to announce approval for emergency use of this drug.

But not everyone is so optimistic. So we will get into the details of what the clinical trial actually shows. As for reopening the country, today, many states will end their stay-at-home orders. The federal guidelines will expire at midnight tonight. Also, breaking overnight, CNN has learned that California's governor will order all beaches and state parks to close starting tomorrow.

That's after he saw some of these images of crowded beaches last weekend. Thirty one states will partially reopen by the end of this week. Florida plans to open some businesses next week, except in the heavily-populated counties near Miami.

BERMAN: New developments this morning out of Los Angeles. It is the first major city to offer a free coronavirus test to any resident who wants one. There is so much demand already.