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CDC Warns Doctors About Inflammatory Syndrome in Children That May Be Linked to The Coronavirus; Florida Governor to Allow Visitors Back into Nursing Homes; Russia Case Toll Now Second in The World Behind the U.S. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 13, 2020 - 15:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: A new alert coming from the CDC. CNN has learned the agency is preparing to warn doctors across country to keep an eye out for this mysterious inflammatory syndrome affecting children that is believed to be linked to the coronavirus. And reported -- and also asking them to report cases to local and state health departments when they do see them. Doctors in the United States started reporting these troubling findings weeks ago but now New York is reporting that it's investigating more than a hundred possible cases just as one example.

Joining me right now is Dr. Jeffrey Burns. He's chief of critical care at Boston Children's Hospital. He's coordinated a panel of pediatricians working to get to the bottom of this. Dr. Burns, thank you for coming in. You brought together a group of very smart minds to look into this. What is the consensus right now?

DR. JEFFREY BURNS, CHIEF OF CRITICAL CARE MEDICINE, BOSTON CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL (via Cisco Webex): Well, Kate, if I could, let me break out, because it's confusing, the infection and its impact on children versus what we think this inflammatory syndrome means. And as I think people have been reading, one of the bright spots in the pandemic is that COVID-19 has not been producing critical illness in children frequently. Now it is true that some children are becoming critically ill from COVID-19 and some have died. But most are able to use their white cells, what we call an immune response to really fight off the infection in a way that if it worked for adults, we would not be in this terrible pandemic, and their white cells and how they fight it off are clues on how to develop a vaccine and treatments.

Now this inflammatory syndrome that people have been talking about the last several weeks, we believe the working position is that it's their white cells, their immune response, that successfully fought off an infection perhaps four to six weeks ago, such as their parents weren't even aware they were ill but now four to six weeks later, the leading thought is that it's their own immune response, their white cells that are in a sense accelerated and causing the fever and the inflammation in the children.

BOLDUAN: And I think that is something that's very striking is what you're talking about here that this kind of -- it's a post viral response is how I heard you say it. So this is they've had -- they've had COVID and they might have even known it, you know, even their parents might not have even known it considering how children have responded, and then weeks later this happens. Can you explain that more?

DR. BURNS: We've known about a post-viral syndrome and its ability to cause illness for decades. Other viruses are known to do this. What we didn't know was whether COVID-19 would do this because as we all know COVID-19 has only been present in the human population for six months.

But from the data that we have so far, it would appear that this is a post-viral syndrome. So in other words it's important to emphasize the children who have this inflammatory syndrome, they're not actively shedding virus and being infected, rather it is likely that they completely fought off the virus and that this is their white cells causing inflammation.

Now what makes this a little more confusing is the clinical picture of what the child looks like can take many forms. The one constant in a way is fever. They have a fever greater than 38 degrees or 100.4 Fahrenheit or 38 degrees centigrade. But after that they could have rash, they could have abdominal discomfort or

abdominal pain.

But I think the important thing for parents is to remember is it doesn't come on quickly. It's not as if you have to, you know, see this right away and rush to

the hospital. It comes on gradually. So, parents will be able to see it. They'll see that their child has got a fever and is persistent over a day. They'll see that their child is not responding well as if they had influenza.

And so, parents do have the tools to recognize this. It is not subtle. You'll know that your child is not well. And then with this alert to the clinicians throughout the country, you know, bring the child to the pediatrician, pediatricians are going to be aware of this. They're looking for other causes of fever in the child, all of the same causes back in May of 2019, a year ago, what were the things that caused fever in the child then, those have to be considered right now.


But if they don't find those causes, then they know to look for this and transfer the child or have the child be seen at a major children's hospital where experts in immunology, infectious disease, cardiology, critical care can all take a look at the child and make sure that we understand what's going on.

BOLDUAN: And thank God for you, and for your work and what you're doing on a daily basis. Thank you, Dr. Burns.

DR. BURNS: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate it.

Still ahead for us, sticker shock at the supermarket. The cost of groceries seeing the biggest monthly jump in nearly 50 years at a time when people need that the least.



BOLDUAN: If you've been to the supermarket you've likely noticed grocery prices are soaring. Especially when it comes to staples like egg, meats and cereals making for the biggest one month increase since 1974. Joining me right now is CNN business anchor Julia Chatterley for more on this. Julia, with prices falling seemingly everywhere else, what is behind the jump in the at grocery store?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: These eye-popping price rises as you pointed out, Kate, and it's at worst possible time, there's a couple of things going on here. But let me just give you a sense of what we're seeing in terms of the monthly jump. It's particularly hard if you are trying to feed meat eaters at home. We saw beef and pork prices hit records a couple of weeks ago. This now translating if you look at that more than 4 percent rises for egg, meat and fish. 16 percent rises for egg prices in the month of April but as you could see it's pretty broad based.

Two things, more demand, less supply. We saw the supply chain issues at meat processing plants. They, of course, had worker safety issues that meant less supply on grocery shelves, but our demand has changed so dramatically. We're cooking more at home and grocery stores with all of our shopping just couldn't catch up. We will see supply chains adjust but it doesn't happen that quickly, Kate. We're stuck I think with these higher prices for a while and it comes at a time when one in five households are suffering from food insecurity. The timing couldn't be worse.

BOLDUAN: Yes, exactly. The timing with all of this stuff it seems couldn't be worse.


BOLDUAN: And, Julia, the Federal Reserve Chairman, he offered up a devastating stat today that 40 percent of households earning less than $40,000 lost their job in March. Could you tell us about what he's warning?

CHATTERLEY: I mean, what he's saying there is that the pain of the crisis that we're seeing is being felt by a lot of people but it's hitting the lowest income families the hardest and I think that statistic for everybody was just heartbreaking quite frankly. He also pointed to the length of the recovery. He basically echoed I think what Dr. Fauci said yesterday and that is a safe reopening of an economy is going to be a slower one as we try to contain case outbreaks. That just extends the pain for households like this. He spoke about this directly. Listen in.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE BOARD: The burden has fallen most heavily on those least able to bear it. The scope and speed of this downturn are without modern precedent, significantly worse than any recession since World War II. We are seeing a severe decline in economic activity and in employment and already the job gains of the last decade have been erased.


CHATTERLEY: The Kaiser Family Foundation, Kate, said today that 27 million Americans may have lost employer-based health insurance, less than half qualify for Medicaid. Just think about that statistic in a pandemic. These are real people being impacted. It was a warning from Jay Powell. It was also a call to action. He said Congress likely needs to do more. They do.

BOLDUAN: And time is of the essence. Good to see you, Julia. Thank you.

CHATTERLEY: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, nursing homes has been the site of some of the largest outbreaks of the coronavirus in this country. But today, Florida's governor says that he's trying to find a way to allow visitors back inside. How can it be done safely?



BOLDUAN: This afternoon Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced that he is working on a plan to allow visitors back into nursing homes in the state. Saying that it's necessary in order to counter the psychological toll that isolation has taken on residents in long-term care facilities.

But other states like Pennsylvania and Georgia they are focusing in on ramping up testing in nursing homes. And "The New York Times" is reporting one-third of all coronavirus deaths in the country are connected to long-term care facilities. More than 28,000 people.

Joining me right now is Mark Parkinson, he's President and CEO of the American Health Care Association which represents over 13,000 long- term care facilities. It's good to have you back. Thank you, for being here, Mark.

On what the Florida governor is working on, this plan to allow visitors back into nursing homes, what do you think of that? Do you think they could do that safely right now?

MARK PARKINSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ASSOCIATION: I don't. The thing that makes this is virus so incredibly dangerous is that people can contract it and have absolutely no symptoms. And in fact, that's what caused this problem to begin with. The fact that in January, February and early March, there were tens of thousands of people in the country that were running around having the virus and showing no symptoms.

They visited nursing homes, many of them worked in nursing homes, some of them sold goods to nursing homes and unwittingly they spread the virus. It would be a major mistake to let folks back into buildings until we can test them and make darn sure that they don't have the virus, because if we allow visitors, inevitably,

some of them are going to have the virus and will continue to spread it.

BOLDUAN: Testing is something that you have been kind of sounding the alarm on for a very long time, honestly, since we started talking about this, which feels like a million years ago but really was just in March when we started this conversation. The White House is now pushing for states to ramp up testing in nursing homes in the next two weeks. I want to just kind of get your gauge on what percentage of nursing homes right now have enough testing to make sure that residents and workers are safe?


PARKINSON: Well, first of all, we can't solve this problem until we test everybody, because until we test everybody, we don't know who has it, we don't know what residents have it without symptoms or what staff members have it without symptoms.

And what we learned when we test everybody is that are a lot of both. A lot of residents and staff have this with no symptoms and again are accidently spreading it to other people.

So far 25 percent of all nursing home residents have been tested, about 5 percent have been positive. Which doesn't sound like a very high percentage until you learn that a good percentage of the nursing residents are positive and unfortunately end up dying.

So, until we can get the other 75 percent tested and not just tested once but tested on really regular schedule, so we know exactly what's going on in the building. We're not going to be able to beat this. We've really got to continue to ramp it up.

BOLDUAN: Do you see good news on the horizon for that anytime soon, though?

PARKINSON: I do. The availability of tests continues to expand. You know, so far in the country we've tested about 10 million people. But we're developing the capabilities to test literally millions every week. And that's what it's going to take until we get to a vaccine.

So, we've gone from almost no tests available at all, nursing homes either getting none or maybe two or three, to where we are right now, where we're getting, you know, a more robust supply. We will get to the point, you know, I think in the next month or two, where there are millions of tests available every week. But until we get to that point, again, I think it would be a mistake to open the facilities up to outside folks.

BOLDUAN: When I saw that statistic that "The New York Times" was reporting, about one in three people who've died in this pandemic are residents or workers in nursing homes, that's just really is crushing. And I wanted to get your message to families, millions of Americans out there who have a loved one that is in a long-term care facility, what is your message to them right now?

PARKINSON: Well, I agree with you, it has been devastating. You know, as a person myself who spent my entire career taking care of residents and all the providers who spent their entire lives taking care of residents, to see this happen to these residents, to their family members, to the staffs, have been absolutely devastating. And our hearts go out to each and every one of you. And please be assured that we have folks that have worked 60 days in a row, double shifts. They're not going to abandon these facilities. They're going to do everything they can to keep your loved ones safe.

And if we can get the resources that we need, we can make this better. There are literally tens of thousands of people that have recovered from COVID in nursing homes. So that's a promising thing that's encouraging. We need more positive stories like that. And we're not going to quit until we're able to do that.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Mark, thank you very much, I really appreciate it.

Ahead for us, Russia is now reporting over 10,000 new cases per day, it now has the second most infections of any country in the world. What's behind this huge rise in cases and can the government get control of it at this point?



BOLDUAN: Russia now has highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, after recording more than 10,000 new infections for the 11th day in a row. CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is following this. He's with us now. Matthew, what can you tell us about this sharp increase in Russia, what's going on?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, it's been increasing really exponentially for the past 11 days. We say there's been 11 consecutive days of increase of more than 10,000 people confirmed with the virus. Now what the Russian government says this is because they're stepping up their testing program, testing a lot more people and so people that infected are coming to light and being registered in those official statistics.

But I think what the suspicion is, is that Russia at the start of this crisis underplayed the extent and pervasiveness of the virus in the country. They said it was all under control. They didn't take the measures they perhaps in retrospect should have taken, and now they're paying the price. And so, you know, the general acknowledgement is, what we do know is, the general acknowledgement is that the figures are going to get much, much higher. Even the mayor of Moscow a couple days of ago was saying that he believes in his city alone, there are probably 300,000 people that are infected with the virus. And so, the upside on those figures is extremely worrying, extremely grim indeed for Russia -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And the virus has also now reached Vladimir Putin's inner circle. What are you learning about that?

CHANCE: Yes, has, in fact there's been a couple of people in the inner circle who have been affected. The Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago was hospitalized. But, you know, yesterday, Dmitry Peskov, and he's the sort of right-hand man of Vladimir Putin, he's his official spokesman. He's been with him over the past 20 years. He see's him on a daily basis. You don't see Putin anywhere without Peskov either at home or abroad.

But so, the fact that he's been hospitalized really, you know, poses questions about what's the health of Vladimir Putin like. Well, Peskov before he went into the hospital said, look, I haven't had a face-to- face meeting with President Putin for at least a month. And so, he tried to reassure the public. But it's got to make you wonder, has President Putin been effectively shielded from all the people around him? Again, including his spokesman, including the Prime Minister as well, who now have coronavirus and have been hospitalized in Russia.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean it really doesn't get much closer than Peskov to Vladimir Putin. That is for darned sure. Matthew, real quick, do we know the testing, like is Vladimir Putin getting tested on a regular basis? Is that something they're divulging?

CHANCE: Yes, I mean he's being tested all the time, so we're told are the people all around him. He's also, you know, not working out of his normal Kremlin, he's working out of his home office, usually --