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Dr. Anthony Fauci, Heads Of CDC In Quarantine After Virus Exposure; Forty-Seven States Partially Reopening Despite Rising Cases; Native American Tribes Reject South Dakota Governor's Ultimatum To Remove COVID-19 Checkpoints; Vital Conspiracy Theories Spreading Misinformation On COVID-19; Johnson & Johnson Aiming For A Billion Vaccines For Next Year; British PM Eases Some Restrictions, Unveils COVID-19 Alert System. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired May 10, 2020 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Imagine how nervous those mothers must be. So I want to thank them for what they're going through and for raising such wonderful children.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Again, Happy Mother's Day, and these amazing moms or moms-to-be.
Coming up, three doctors, all expecting, on the front lines of the coronavirus. They'll join me live.
Hello, again, everyone, and thank you so much for joining me and Happy Mother's Day. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin with the new staggering numbers in the global coronavirus pandemic. Right now there are more than four million confirmed cases around the world, and over 281,000 deaths. New projections forecast a much deadlier outbreak in the U.S.
One of the key models used by the White House now predicts 137,000 U.S. deaths by August. That's 3,000 more deaths than the previous projection. The revised number due to what researchers call an explosive increase in mobility among Americans in states that have reopened.
Meanwhile, several of the top U.S. medical officials may have been exposed to the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield and FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, are all undergoing quarantine after coming into contact with a White House staffer or staffers who recently tested positive for coronavirus. And today President Trump's economic adviser said everyone in the White House knows the risks they're taking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN HASSETT, SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I knew when I was going back in that I would be taking risks, that, you know, I'd be safer sitting at home at my house than going into a West Wing that even with all the testing in the world and the best medical team on earth is a relatively cramped place. That we set up a big data operation in the basement when I got there, and we were interacting constantly with people who were going to and from FEMA.
Right at the beginning when we were there, there were some people who caught COVID at FEMA. So we've all been exposing ourselves to risks, you know, under the best guidance we could possibly have to keep us safe, but we're willing to take that chance because we love our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House for us.
So, Jeremy, three top members of the task force self-quarantine. Is there a word of anyone else potentially that has been exposed?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Fred, there is no question that there would be more than these three doctors on the task force who would have been in contact with the White House official who tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. That would be Katie Miller, the vice president's press secretary who was also a spokesperson for the Coronavirus Task Force.
She is in regular contact with not only members of the Coronavirus Task Force but also senior White House officials in the West Wing. And you have to keep in mind of course the West Wing is one of those kind of cramped office spaces where you do have a lot of different officials all sharing small work spaces. And so there is no doubt that she would have been in contact with other officials beyond these three doctors.
All three of those doctors of course announced their decisions to go into some form of self-quarantine for the next two weeks, within 24 hours of the news that Katie Miller had indeed tested positive for coronavirus. But so far the White House is declining to say whether any other officials will be working from home for the next couple of weeks or having any form of self-quarantine.
What we do know, though, is that those three doctors on the task force, they were all set to testify on Capitol Hill in the next few days, actually. Instead of testifying in person now, though, Fred, they will be testifying via videoconference. So some precautions being taken there, and certainly at the White House, where we have seen weekly testing of officials who are in contact with the president, that has now been stepped up to daily testing, including yesterday, for example, when the president met with members of the military.
All of those officials were tested beforehand. But what we do know, of course, is that rapid 15-minute Abbott lab test that is being used, there is a 15 percent false negative rate. And so far most officials at the White House still not wearing masks -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much for that.
All right. Almost every state in the country has begun loosening coronavirus restrictions, but that hardly means the whole nation is on the same page. There is a whole spectrum of rules and orders that vary state to state.
So what happens if you live on a border of a state? Take the town of Bristol. On the Tennessee side you can go shopping. You can eat at a restaurant. On the Virginia side, phase one of reopening won't start until later this week.
CNN's Natasha Chen is there.
Natasha, how are Bristol residents navigating these two different sets of guidelines? Are you kind of standing on -- you know, in between both states?
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, right now I'm standing in Tennessee while the camera I'm looking at is in Virginia.
On this side of the street, of State Street, you've got restaurants that are able the do dine-in service. So if you look at the marquee there, it says seating by reservation only. No walk-ins. And that's just a decision this particular restaurant made because after all there are restrictions for reduced capacity in those restaurants that can take dine-in service.
But I'm going walk across the street now. I'm going to cross state lines where people will be encountering a whole different set of rules. OK. Now I'm in Virginia. And on this side of the street, there is no dine-in service yet. So that's a challenge for even the Chamber of Commerce who has tried to advocate for Virginia businesses asking the governor if they can maybe look at things by region. Here's what she told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN: But it doesn't sound like there is any luck in letting one section of their state open first.
BETH RHINEHART, PRESIDENT AND CEO, BRISTOL, TENNESSEE AND VIRGINIA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: That's true. We've been told that he's not really interested in a regional approach for a number of different reasons. But for us here, I mean, when it impacts you at face value, you know, you have a restaurant who can look out the window and 30 yards across the street there are people walking into businesses, dining, shopping. And so that's a challenge.
JOE DEEL, OWNER, BURGER BAR IN BRISTOL, VIRGINIA: It's tough because I can see the Tennessee side. I can see them. So if there is a virus over there, it's over here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHEN: Absolutely. And now I'm on the Virginia side where that burger bar owner has his business. And it is rather frustrating to just look across the street at your neighbors, at your competitors, and see something completely different. But there was another business on the Virginia side who told me, you know, they understand. Things look really different perhaps in Richmond and Norfolk.
And so they understand the governor has to do what he has to do for the entire state. Now that being said, phase one may begin for them in Virginia on Friday, and that's when some of these restaurants on this side of the street may start looking at dining on the patio outdoors, but still, it's a very interesting dynamic. A lot of them are experiencing the same economic impact, both the burger bar and the barbecue shop on the Tennessee side.
The two owners were talking about the price of meat and other things that they have in common. But this, their governors' rules on stay-at- home or opening businesses, that is something they absolutely do not have in common. And that's something they're still working on -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Wow. In Bristol, Virginia, now, the less busy side of Bristol.
Natasha Chen, thank you so much.
All right. A showdown in South Dakota where the governor threatening legal action if a pair of Native American tribes don't remove road checkpoints designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus on tribal lands. The tribes are rejecting the governor's ultimatum, setting the stage for a legal battle over who has ultimate jurisdiction on tribal land.
Sara Sidner joins us now from Timberlake, South Dakota.
Sara, what are you hearing?
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Fred, you know, look, they've got nine of these checkpoints set up, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. This one in Timberlake, South Dakota. And, you know, just take a look. They've got four or five people who come out here. They are wearing the appropriate gear to make sure people know that they are the policing agency here. And they stop the cars.
They ask them a bunch of question, ask them whether or not -- we went through this, too, by the way, too, when we came up, whether or not they came from a place that has COVID cases, whether it's a hot spot, their names, their telephone numbers. The reason for these particular checkpoints, and there are nine of them in this area that are about 324 miles around, they are basically to make sure that they can contact trace anyone who may come into the reservation and potentially have coronavirus and spread coronavirus.
So that's really the main reason why the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe told us they have these up. They said they're stopping probably 1 percent of the people who come up. And those people who come up that they stop and keep from coming on to the reservation are people who are doing, for example, nonessential travel that may have been to a hot spot that have the potential of spreading it.
But they said, look, we are trying to save lives. That's what we do as a tribe, trying to save our own people. The governor, though, of the state has said you cannot have these particular checkpoints. You cannot stop people. You cannot stop the flow of traffic. And she has given them 48 hours to clear these away. That was sent to them on Friday, telling them that they are impeding traffic and that they cannot have these up.
It is now 48 hours later. There is a threat of legal action. No one knows what is going to happen after that. But we asked the chairman of the Sioux River -- sorry, of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe what he is going to do, if he is going to listen and comply with what the governor and the state have asked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAROLD FRAZIER, CHEYENNE RIVER SIOUX TRIBE CHAIRMAN: We're going to stay put. You know, this is right now with a lack of resources we have medically, I mean, this is our best tool we have right now is to try to prevent it.
And I believe that this is a good practice. And if we should ever get it, you know, again, it's a good tool for us to use to try to isolate as quick as we can the virus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: So you hear him talking about isolating the virus. And they have had a case where they were successful. They had one case of COVID-19 that did make its way into the tribal lands, and they were able to find that person and make sure that person was isolated and get them treatment because they had done a checkpoint. They had found out where the person had come from.
They were making sure that they were in contact with that person, and it turned out that that person did indeed contract COVID-19, and they were able to sort of separate that person, make sure that person was isolated. Unfortunately, that person got very ill and had to be taken to the hospital. But that is the whole purpose of this.
On the other hand, the governor is saying that they do not have the right to block off state highways. And so this battle is ensuing. Right now the tribes, both the Olalla Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe are saying we're staying put -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Real determination. All right, Sara Sidner, thank you so much.
Coronavirus conspiracies are spreading online. But why do some people knowingly spread misinformation? We'll have a closer look next.
And later, it's a special Mother's Day for three doctors on the front lines of the coronavirus fight. Each of them pregnant. I'll speak with them live, straight ahead.
[16:15:41] WHITFIELD: Despite pledges from the big social media companies to reign in dangerous coronavirus misinformation, they're struggling to stem the flow of false claims. Everything from fake cures to false causes are getting millions of views around the world right now.
CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has been reporting on this story for us. And some of the steps that they are fighting to keep off social media seems downright dangerous and it still gets out there.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. Even before a coronavirus vaccine has been developed, there is a community of conspiracy theorists online that is trying to undermine us, the results of which could be devastating.
Here is our story.
O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Social media companies like Facebook and YouTube say they are fighting COVID-19 misinformation.
MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: If someone is spreading something that puts people at imminent risk of physical harm, then we take that down.
O'SULLIVAN: But the sites are struggling to keep up with a flood of conspiracy theories. This week you might have seen friends and family sharing this slickly produced video called "Plandemic." By the time Facebook and YouTube took it down it had millions of views.
ALAN DUKE, EDITOR IN CHIEF, LEAD STORIES: I've not seen a video of this type gain this kind of viral traction so quickly.
O'SULLIVAN: Facebook said it pulled the video because it claimed wearing masks could make people sick. YouTube said it removed the video because it included medically unsubstantiated diagnostic advice for COVID-19. But even after the company said Thursday they would remove the video, copies of it still circulated. Online fact checkers like Alan Duke whose company works with Facebook says COVID-19 misinformation is spreading almost as fast as the virus.
(On camera): So the expression a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on really applies here. Is it impossible for fact checkers to keep up with the level of COVID-19 misinformation?
DUKE: You're absolutely right about a lie traveling faster because people want to believe these things. And it fits their beliefs, the bubble that they're in. And so then they want to share it with their friends like they've got some inside knowledge.
O'SULLIVAN: Why are people pushing misinformation like this? Why do people do this?
CLAIRE WARDLE, FIRST DRAFT, DIRECTOR AND DISINFORMATION EXPERT: So some people push misinformation to make money. So it's to sell a health supplement. Some people do it to push a specific political agenda. Some people do this because they want to see if they can get away with it. But a lot of misinformation is around people's existing world views. So if you already don't trust vaccines, you want other people the take on your beliefs because it makes you feel better.
O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Online COVID-19 conspiracy theories have targeted not just Dr. Anthony Fauci, but philanthropist Bill Gates as well.
DUKE: Just this whole idea that there's this deep state that has brought this COVID-19 crisis to the world in order that they may promote their own interests.
O'SULLIVAN: And as social media companies struggle to keep up with the misinformation, it's more important than ever to think before you share.
WARDLE: If it makes you angry, if it makes you scared, if it makes you smug, if it makes you want to go out and buy something immediately, that emotional impulse means there is probably something about that information that makes it very difficult for you to be critical.
O'SULLIVAN: And underlining just how viral that conspiracy theory video has gone online, a book by the woman that is interviewed in the video shot at the top of the Amazon best-seller list on Thursday, and this evening it's still among the top sellers on the site. And an Amazon spokesperson told CNN that the book, Fred, does not violate its consent guidelines.
WHITFIELD: All right. Very complicated. Donie O'Sullivan, thank you so much.
All right. One drug maker says it is planning to have one billion COVID-19 vaccines next year, but researchers haven't produced a proven vaccine yet. We'll have an update on those efforts, next.
WHITFIELD: As the world races for a vaccine to fight the coronavirus, today a top executive for the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson says his company is aiming to have a billion vaccine doses by the beginning of next year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. PAUL STOFFELS, JOHNSON & JOHNSON CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICER: We are preparing clinical trials. We are fully upscaling. And we start clinical trials in September and hopefully have data by the end of the year as well as now working towards one billion vaccines for next year.
We will have some vaccine available this year, but it all depends on the authorities, the FDA and others, to decide whether it can be used earlier before efficacy date are available.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Dr. Dara Kass is an emergency physician at Columbia University Medical Center.
Doctor, good to see you. Happy Mother's Day.
DR. DARA KASS, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: So what's your reaction, you know, to hear Johnson & Johnson say, yes, we've got to get FDA approval, clinical trials, all that has to happen. But they do see a billion vaccine doses by next year.
KASS: Well, they see an opportunity to produce a billion doses of a hypothetical vaccine. I think we really need to put this into context. At this point we have no viable vaccine options, although we're working very, very hard on that. What they're saying is if we find a viable vaccine in the next few months we will be able to produce it at scale, which is remarkable. But we have to deliver it to people and make sure it's safe.
It's very important that we keep those promises in context. That right now our best (INAUDIBLE) to keep this virus in check are tracking and tracing and learning how to reengage our community. But it's exciting that they can produce the vaccine once we figure it out.
WHITFIELD: Yes. But why in your view would a pharmaceutical company say, you know, we're aspirational, we're telling we think we can do what we want to do, but then there are all these steps that have yet to be taken to really solidify whether those things are possible?
KASS: I honestly think it's just to give people something to believe in, right? It's a little bit of hope. People need hope right now in context, and I think that they're looking for some answer that's going to bring an end to the uncertainty.
Look, right now it's Mother's Day. We're learning how to reengage with our families in a safe and really reproducible way over and over again as we work towards having the vaccine and being able to deliver it to all Americans. But we're just not there yet.
WHITFIELD: So today a key coronavirus model often cited by the White House predicts more deaths in the U.S. now that more states are dropping the shelter-in-place orders, reopening. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, MD, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR HUMAN METRICS AND EVALUATION, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: What's driving the change is, simply put, the rise in mobility. And that's the key driver. We're seeing in some states, you know, a 20 percentage point increase in just 10 days in mobility, and that will translate into more human contact, more transmission.
And then the other thing that we're seeing in some states is -- which is why we like to revise the forecast on a very regular basis is that we're just seeing more cases and deaths than expected in certain places. But it's mostly mobility that's driving up the numbers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Dr. Kass, that model is predicting more than 137,000 deaths by August. Should that force some states to kind of rethink their reopening plans?
KASS: I mean, I think that the data we already had could have actually helped those states rethink their reopening plans before they reopened. But clearly, they weren't interested in that data. So if this data helps them figure out how to keep their citizens safer, then that's OK by me. Remember, these predictions are able to be changed. We saw that happened in New York where I live where these predictions show us what happens if we do nothing.
But if we actually start to decrease our connections, decrease our mobility, track and trace who we're seeing, even when we're seeing new people, be able to find them if we find out that we have the infection, that would decrease the number dramatically. It's double basically what we've seen right now, which is dramatic, right, for just a couple of months.
WHITFIELD: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo talked about a downward trend in his state over the past 14 days. But there remains growing concern about this mysterious illness in children that may be COVID- related. What can you tell us about this?
KASS: Look, I'm a mother and a daughter. So I now have to worry about not just keeping my mother safe, but also my children. I think that this new inflammatory condition we're seeing in children may have been out there all along. We don't know. We know it mirrors a lot of the symptoms we see in adults, and we know that it's probably time to start paying more attention to our children. How are they getting infected? Are they getting the virus?
We've largely not been testing children because we just didn't have enough tests. And this probably reminds us that we need to pay more attention to all of our citizens, not just the ones that we called vulnerable before, the older Americans, and really start understanding more about what really is an uncertain disease.
WHITFIELD: Dr. Dara Kass, thank you so much. Again, Happy Mother's Day.
KASS: Thanks, Fred. Happy Mother's Day.
WHITFIELD: All right. Three doctors in the same emergency room are helping patients battle coronavirus, and they're doing it while pregnant. What better day than Mother's Day to speak with them live. That's coming up later up in the hour.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying today that it's time for the gradual relaxation of his country's lockdown. He announced a long-term road map including a move to what he is calling a stay-alert plan from the current stay-at-home policy and introducing a COVID-19 alert system. But he also stressed it was just too soon to try to return to normal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week. Instead, we're taking the first careful steps to modify our measures. And the first step is a change of emphasis that we hope that people will act on this week. We said that you should work from home if you can, and only go to work if you must. We now need to stress that anyone who can't work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: The U.K. is also introducing a quarantine period on people coming into the country by air.
Even as the U.K. prepares to slowly ease its lockdown, the country is struggling with its death toll, now the highest in Europe. And it has overwhelmed the country's funeral homes. CNN's Phil Black meets funeral home worker as they pick up the deceased and lay them to rest.
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We all know this is a time of death, of loss so great it's difficult to comprehend. But Tony Oxley knows what it really means.
TONY OXLEY, AD OXLEY FUNERAL SERVICES: I was called out last night to a dear old gentleman. It was his wife, of many years, had passed away.
BLACK: Tony's job is collecting and moving bodies. He's never been busier.
OXLEY: I haven't had a day off since it started.
BLACK: Tony works a patch of territory along England's southern coast. The job has become a constant race around the clock chasing COVID-19's relentless body count.
OXLEY: Collected an elderly lady from a nursing home and have just brought her here. I'm now moving on again to another nursing home where somebody else has passed away.
BLACK: But it's not only the vast numbers challenging those who are trying to ensure dignity in death. These funeral workers in London follow Muslim tradition. It's an intimate, deeply respectful process, washing and wrapping each person before burial. But safety is now a key concern. Every body must be treated as a potential COVID-19 risk.
Issa Assam has been a funeral director for 25 years. This day brings Issa a new professional and emotional challenge.
ISSA ASSAM, FUNERAL DIRECTOR: There's a request of a very small baby passing away. I need some paperwork from him.
BLACK: A small, stillborn baby, and the baby's mother, both victims of COVID-19. Once collected, they lie side by side in the van, the baby in the adult-sized coffin.
ASSAM: Very sad. I've never experience that one ever in any life, you know.
BLACK: Issa wasn't prepared for this.
ASSAM: It's a tough challenge. It's a tough one even for me. It's very, very tough, very painful.
BLACK: Later, Issa arranges another special request. His hearse is driving by a London hospital so the staff can honor one of their own. They're clapping for Abdul Hafiz, an ambulance care assistant, another COVID-19 victim.
Only a close few can attend his funeral. They must stand apart to pray, and can only approach his grave one at a time. When the ambulance came for Abdul, his family didn't know it was the last time they'd see him.
Tell me what it's like to lose a brother this way.
TARIQ GELLALEDIN HAFIZ, ABDUL'S BROTHER: It's like to lose brother is like to lose half of you. You lose half of you.
BLACK: In this time of death, most of us are shielded from its awful reality. A committed few know what those terrible numbers really mean. Phil Black, CNN London.
WHITFIELD: All right. Being a frontline medical worker during the coronavirus pandemic is incredibly stressful and demanding. Being pregnant also incredibly stressful and demanding. So, doing both of those things at the same time takes a very special kind of strength.
And at one E.R. in Maryland, it is fortunate enough to have three strong women doing just that. You can see the picture there, Dr. Elizabeth Clayborne, Dr. Michele Callahan, and Dr. Tu Carol Nguyen. Good to see all of you and congratulations. And is it true that all three of you are expecting baby number two for all of you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
WHITFIELD: Wow. Serendipity. OK. So, you know, Dr. Clayborne, you first, you know. You are on leave right now, correct?
DR. ELIZABETH CLAYBORNE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND PRINCE GEORGE'S HOSPITAL CENTER: Yes. Michele and I went on leave last week because we're a little bit further along in our pregnancy. I'm almost 35 weeks. It was a huge relief to my family who was happy that I was coming off the front lines and coming home. I'm actually in my office right now which is supposed to be a nursery. So, I have a lot of work ahead of me which is not yet done.
WHITFIELD: All right. We talked a few weeks ago. I was getting a little worried about you even though you were, you know, very fit and strong and everything. But I thought, oh my goodness, you were on the front line and pregnant too. And then Dr. Callahan, you're what, 37 weeks along?
DR. MICHELE CALLAHAN, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, UNIV. OF MD PRINCE GEORGE'S HOSP. CTR.: Thirty-seven weeks and one day, not that anyone is counting.
WHITFIELD: Right, exactly. And of course, you've taken leave. So then, how did you come to that decision? I mean, it was enough to make the decision to say, I'm going to keep working, even though I've discovered that I'm now pregnant. But then, now you had to hit this crossroad of okay, it's time to take leave. What were your thoughts?
CALLAHAN: So, Liz and I both had babies early on for our previous pregnancies. We both had preterm babies. So, I think that played a little bit into it. And then the fact that now hospitals are testing you when you go in. And if you're positive, there's a chance that they may quarantine your baby away from you. So, you want to have a little bit of a buffer of about two weeks. That really weighed heavily into both of our decisions --
CALLAHAN: -- to take the time that we did.
WHITFIELD: Yes, that makes sense. Hey, my second batch -- that's what I'd like to call batch because they were twins -- they came at 35 weeks. So, I hear you. You never really know.
WHITFIELD: So, Dr. Nguyen, you're 29 weeks pregnant. You are still working. So, tell me what this journey has been like with your colleagues. How much have you all three been interacting at the University of Maryland, Prince George's campus, interacting at the E.R. while pregnant. Have you been cheering each other on, helping each other out in other ways? DR. TU CAROL NGUYEN, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, UNIV. OF MD PRINCE GEORGE'S HOSP. CTR.: Yes. We actually have been supportive of each other. And actually, Dr. Clayborne had created a group chat for us in order -- so that we could just, you know, talk to each other about our pregnancy [ph] and support each other.
And then, when the pandemic occurred, it actually became such a great medium for us to actually discuss how we felt and when we felt stressed out and what we wanted to do. And it just helped us to bounce ideas off of each other and provide support for each other every time we had to go to work.
WHITFIELD: So, at what point, Dr. Clayborne, did you all realize that, you know, you had this new commonality? And at what point did you kind of wrap your arms around each other and say, OK, we're in this together.
CLAYBORNE: Yes, absolutely. We, initially, were so excited that we were all pregnant at the same time and all having girls, and it was all our second child. So, we had all these commonalities that --
CLAYBORNE: -- were really exciting. And I think, you know, in early February when the pandemic first hit, that excitement shifted a little bit to being nervous and afraid. And we were entering uncharted territory, most of the country and the world was. And I think I feel so fortunate that I had both of them to kind of lean on.
I've talked to several other pregnant colleagues who -- and all the mothers out there who might be pregnant or at risk, and you feel alone and isolated. You have this elevated risk. You don't really know what to do. So, I was so happy that I had two other females that I could bounce ideas off of.
And we decided that we were going to go ahead and stay and keep working because we had support from our administration to have less risky shifts where our colleagues would step up and do more procedures for us like intubations that can put us at higher risks. And we went as long as we could. And I just feel really lucky to have the environment that I work in that I enjoy so much and that I was able to contribute as serving on the front lines as long as I did.
WHITFIELD: That's so wonderful, I mean, to be commended, all of you. And so Dr. Callahan, what kind of precautions or maybe even extra precautions did you all take to make sure you're protecting yourselves? Because you already have to, you know, head into the frontlines here, you know, with a heightened sense of, you know, self- preservation. But now, you're pregnant, and that much more vulnerable. How did you protect yourselves?
CALLAHAN: It's hard. It's definitely difficult to wear, you know, the N95 masks or the respirators, but you have to be really just be diligent about making sure that you're putting on your protective equipment and taking it off. That's really the higher risk time is when you're actually taking it off. So, we all, you know, worked really hard to make sure that we had the supplies that we need. And our administration, like Liz said, they were great with making sure that we had all the supplies we need. And also, when you get home, it can be a little hard because we all have sort of toddler-aged children and they want to run up to you and get a hug right away. So, I would have to be just be like no, no, no. Don't touch mommy. Mommy is very dirty, and sort of just clean everything off of myself, run and take a shower as soon as I got home and just be really diligent about it. And thankfully, so far, I haven't gotten sick. So, knock on wood. It's been working.
WHITFIELD: Fantastic. Dr. Nguyen, how about your family? How have they been feeling about your decisions of continuing to work and, you know, really kind of sticking it out here?
NGUYEN: They've been actually extremely supportive. And I mean, in the beginning, we did have like some discussions about, you know, what we're going do about this because my mom is 70 years old and she lives with me. So, she is under the higher-risk group. And essentially, we discuss like all the things I would have to do. You know, I'd change at work. I come home. And it's hard.
But at the same time, when you have, you know, a working husband as well as a 1-year-old and you need childcare, and in the emergency department, our hours are just all over the place 24 hours a day. I really rely on my mom a lot. So, I mean, I'm very lucky to have a very supportive family that still, you know, urge me to do what I enjoy and let me good to work during this time.
WHITFIELD: Wow. So, Dr. Clayborne, I mean, all these commonalities. I mean, you all are sisters forever for sure. So, was there ever a moment where you all talked about, you know, should you even do this? You know, did you all collectively have a conversation about, you know, did you want to take a break from the job early or, you know, how long you wanted to kind of be on the front lines while pregnant?
CLAYBORNE: Yes, we communicated frequently. We kept taking it at a day at a time. Because in the beginning, I don't think we were as nervous as when things progressed. And as the number of COVID-positive patients picked up and the acuity of patients picked up, that's when I think we had to had some -- had some more serious conversations amongst ourselves about what was going to be the threshold that we needed to stop.
And as Michele mentioned, you know, as we got further along in the pregnancy, it's just really difficult to continue wearing the PPE and you get very fatigued and short of breath. You can't drink water or use the bathroom as you might need to when you're pregnant. And in addition, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists came out with a recommendation that pregnant women should stop clinical work around 36 weeks.
So, that gave us, I think, a deadline that we felt comfortable with, with our preterm history. We didn't want to push it. We don't want to become strains, you know, on the healthcare environments that are providing an actual service. And all of us are excited to bring our baby girls in the world, and we want to do that as healthy as we can.
So, I think Michele and I felt relieved when we had that actual date set. And it's been hard actually transitioning home. You do have a sense of guilt, of leaving your colleagues, you know, on the front lines while you're home.
But on Mother's Day, I really have to just commend all mothers because as you know, it is one of the most challenging, although rewarding jobs, that we have. And since coming home and running around after my 18-month-old, I certainly feel like I still have a job.
WHITFIELD: Absolutely. Oh, yes. And it's the toughest job in my book. Well, you all are amazing, all near full-term in your pregnancies, all with toddlers at home, and then all pregnant with girls and working the E.R. together. I mean, you're simply amazing doctors; Elizabeth Clayborne, Michele Callahan, Tu Carol Nguyen, all the best to all of you, and what a great Happy Mother's Day.
CALLAHAN: Thank you. Happy Mother's Day.
CLAYBORNE: Thank you, Fred. We appreciate it.
WHITFIELD: Thank you. Wonderful. Thank you so much. All right. Coronavirus has a lot of people considering voting by mail. So, why is President Trump against it? The battle over absentee ballot is next.
WHITFIELD: The coronavirus outbreak could lead to more voters turning to mail-in ballots this November. And as that issue becomes more of a focus, we're seeing President Trump become increasingly engaged in the legal battle surrounding it.
The president has claimed that mail-in voting will result in massive fraud despite experts saying voter fraud involving mail-in voting is rare. CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip is covering this for us. So, Abby, why is the president so concerned about mail-in voting?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, President Trump has spent so much time tweeting about this issue. And initially, he seemed to be convinced that mail-in voting actually benefits the Democrats. Now, I've talked to a lot of voting experts, both Republicans and Democrats. No one I've spoken to has been willing to say that there's any evidence at all that mail-in voting benefits Democrats and not Republicans. But the president seems convinced of that issue.
And I'm told that last week, he met with his political advisers and really urged them to be very aggressive legally in fighting Democratic-led lawsuits all over the country in more than 13 states where Democrats are pushing to expand mail-in voting and change existing voting laws to make it easier for the people to cast ballots at home because of the coronavirus.
The president wants his political allies to fight back against that. And they have now pledged $20 million for that effort. And now ironically, Fred, this weekend, the president was tweeting about a special election in a district in California this weekend where mail- in voting is happening there, but there is some in-person voting. But the president was actually complaining about an in-person voting location that was opened in a part of a city in California that is heavily a minority that is 22% black and where there were no in-person voting locations before this weekend.
So, the president is kind of confusing a lot of these issues. But he is very much concerned about this expansion of -- and changes in mail- in voting laws all across the country. California actually being the latest state on Friday to announce that in November, for the general election, they are going to mail ballots to every single registered voter on the voting roles so that everyone can potential mail in their ballots.
Republicans, however, say that's going to result in a lot of people who are ineligible vote or who are inactive voters receiving ballots anyway. Fred?
WHITFIELD: All right. Abby Phillip, keep us posted on that. Thank you so much. Be well.
All right. To New York now where thousands of employees at a hospital in America's hardest hit city were rewarded with a free vacation. More than 4,000 hospital staff, including doctors, nurses, and food service teams at New York City Health and Hospitals/Elmhurst were surprised on Friday when they found out they are all getting a complimentary three- night vacation care of Hyatt and American Airlines.
The public hospital in Queens was at the epicenter of New York City's outbreak, by far the worst in the country, and had to increase its ICU capacity by 500 percent as staffers face severe PPE shortages. Well- deserved.
All right. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday.