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Florida Reports 10,328 New COVID-19 Cases Today; Interview With Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) Regarding Death Of Rep. John Lewis; WH Report: 18 States In Virus "Red Zone" Should Roll Back Reopenings; Rep. John Lewis, Titan Of Civil Rights, Dies At Age 80; Police Clean, Disinfect Ambulances To Keep Hospital Workers Safe. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 18, 2020 - 18:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Breaking news. More stunning numbers out of Florida where hospitals are just trying to keep up with the number of coronavirus patients.

We are now learning more than 9,000 people are hospitalized in the state, a jump from 7,000 just eight days ago. That's not all. ICUs in Miami-Dade County are at 122 percent capacity and ventilator use is at 64 percent in the last two weeks.

Florida has become the new epicenter of the coronavirus in the U.S. with more than 10,000 new cases reported just today, pushing the state total past 337,000. South Florida lawmakers are cracking down by implementing stricter curfews, limiting private gatherings and mask fines. In Miami-Dade County, you could be fined $100.00 for not wearing a mask.

Dr. Mark Supino is an ER physician at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where just this week, 153 employees tested positive for the virus. Dr. Supino, I know you yourself contracted the virus and have since recovered. I'm so glad to see you're doing well. What is your hospital's capacity right now?

DR. MARK SUPINO, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN, JACKSON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: We are full. What I will say is we have managed to expand our capacity. We've opened parts of the hospital that we're not previously receiving patients. We've converted those areas into full capacity patient care areas.

We have expanded our ICU capabilities by the same methods in order to accommodate the patients that we have been seeing and receiving at our hospital.

CABRERA: You've said you are just trying to hold your head above water. So in terms of that analogy, if you're just treading water, how much swim do you have left in you?

SUPINO: Whoa. That's a great question, Ana, and you know, I kind of liken it to when you see the shore, you can kind of estimate how much more distance there is to go. And right now, it's very difficult to see the shore if at all, and it's a sink or swim type of scenario and we are swimming and swimming and hoping that that shore pops into view.

CABRERA: That has to be one exhausting, but also disheartening and defeating. How do you keep going?

SUPINO: Yes, it's been challenging. I have to really admit you, it has been a challenging kind of moment for all of us. We are really focusing on being there for our patients, doing our best to provide the best patient care we can given our resources.

We are fortunate to have been able to expand our resources, and we're really just trying to take it day by day.

It's really difficult to try to look forward too much because the situation is so unpredictable, so we are taking it day by day and holding each other up.

CABRERA: Yes, the Mayor of Miami says he thinks the city could be days away from a second shut down. The Mayor of Miami-Dade County, however, tells CNN the county isn't near a shutdown yet.

As somebody working in the hospitals there, does Miami need a shutdown?

SUPINO: It's a tough question because, you know, my heart really breaks with the economic impact that a shutdown has. We have been through a shutdown. I've seen it. Things really are affected on multiple levels. I wish I had an answer that said -- that could accommodate no shutdown and make everyone safe and better and heal our community. I just don't know.

What I do know is what I see, and what I see is the virus spreads and spreads quickly and affects kind of all parts of our society.

I don't know if we can continue without some significant scale back to enable the virus to be contained.

CABRERA: I think for so many people right now, it's hard to fully grasp the danger of this virus because you can't always see its impact. Cameras are rarely allowed in clinical settings for privacy reasons.

So help us put faces to these horrendous numbers in Florida. Tell us about the patients you're treating. What are you seeing?

SUPINO: It's really a mix and it's very difficult to predict who will get sick and who will not, but I can tell you, we've seen everything from young and otherwise healthy individuals who managed to get sick. We've seen older individuals with multiple medical illnesses who get sick, and kind of everything in between.


SUPINO: What I do want to say though, is we've also had plenty of patients who can get swabbed at the hospital or get evaluated and go home and rest and recuperate at home and go on to do fine.

This is certainly an illness that does not discriminate. This is an illness that affects all of us to various degrees. We have not yet succeeded in coming up with a robust prediction model to kind of prognosticate how individuals will get affected.

We do know that older individuals with more medical issues tend to get sicker, but this is not an absolute and it really has run the gamut.

CABRERA: And there are people who despite what doctors say believe masks are ineffective or they say they don't want to live in fear. Are the patients you're seeing people who were wearing masks, practicing social distancing and doing what they could to stay safe? Or are these people who now maybe wish they had been?

SUPINO: Yes, I mean, it's hard to know. There's definitely a lot of familial transmission. So you might be doing your day-to-day wearing your mask, and maybe one family member inadvertently contracted it, and then brought it home and then everybody in the household gets infected. So that's certainly something that we're seeing a lot of.

I do believe that people now especially are wearing masks, at least from what I can see when I'm heading towards the hospital. A lot of people are wearing masks. Certainly, everyone on the hospital premises is wearing a mask.

And so I would like to believe that the importance of wearing a mask is finally being understood, and that that is one component that will help us decrease our numbers.

CABRERA: Dr. Mark Supino, thank you very much for all you do. Stay strong and stay safe.

SUPINO: Thank you.

CABRERA: Our other big story, a Titan of the Civil Rights movement, a hero of American history and the conscience of the U.S. Congress is gone.

Longtime Georgia Congressman John Lewis died last night of pancreatic cancer, a disease he fought with the same courage and strength he used to battle racial injustice.

With us now is Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Thank you, Congresswoman for being here. You served alongside the Congressman for two years. What was that like?

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): Ah, it was one of the most amazing experiences. You know, none of us really felt like that we should be getting the opportunity to serve with such a giant like him. I mean, I would get nervous every single time I saw him in the Halls of Congress.

And, you know, he was someone who was always excited to see young leaders and welcomed them and made them feel be seen and heard. He never really left the House floor without saying hi to me. He would find me in whatever corner I was in almost every single time we were here voting.

And you know, I also got the opportunity to go to Ghana with him for the return. And just, you know, he was just a generous soul. Someone who really loved our country and his youthful spirit and his faith was very contagious and filled everyone up that was around him.

CABRERA: Do you have a favorite memory with him? You mentioned traveling to Africa with him.

OMAR: Yes. When we were in Ghana, you know, he called me daughter, which always made me feel really special. And I remember when we were in Ghana, we went to go see one of the dungeons, and he was overcome by so many emotions. So was I.

And I remember trying to ask him if I could help him adjust himself. And he said, daughter, I don't think you understand how incredible it feels to see someone like you serve in Congress with me, and how exciting it is to be here, home with you.

And for me, you know, getting to serve with someone who has fought for the right for someone like me that you can participate and made that easily accessible for so many of us was such an honor. But to have him still there to acknowledge what my path meant for what he worked for, was really special.


CABRERA: One thing you've noted and that I certainly noticed as well was his optimistic spirit and how John Lewis, you know, he fought hard in his battles, the battle for equality and racial justice, but sort of did with a joyful countenance. What do you say is the impact of that?

OMAR: Yes, I mean, I think that was the thing that was really special, and you know, the one thing that I shared with everyone who would ask me about him, and many of the young people who came to shadow me, who I would always take to go introduce them to him was that as organizers, as activists, there's always a conversation about burnout, getting exhausted and getting tired in this struggle for equality.

And he really was never tired, never burned out. He was always excited about the fight. And I remember my colleagues and I, when we went to visit the Senate end the shutdown, you know, we were there. And there were people who had an energy about them that wanted to disturb.

And he said, no, we're here to make our presence seen and felt, and that's how you make change.

And, you know, he would always say, you know, make good trouble, necessary trouble. And I think for him, it meant that, you know, you always created an opportunity for voices to be uplifted and for change to take place, and you saw yourself as a change agent no matter how exhausting and tiring it got.

CABRERA: I want to play a part of my conversation with Congressman Lewis just this past March. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Finally, what is your message to any young potential John Lewis out there today trying to make whatever it is they do count and make a better, more equal more just life for those that are in the future generations.

REP. JOHN LEWIS (D-GA): I would say to young people to be bold. Be brave. Be courageous. Never become bitter or hostile. Never hate. Whereas Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said on so many occasions, hate is too heavy a burden to bear. The weight of love is a much better weight.


CABRERA: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, what does that message mean to you?

OMAR: I mean that was the message he shared with us as freshmen when he came to talk to us, being bold and brave in times of challenge is really what you know, we will strive to do.

And for me, I know that the movement for Black Lives Matter has made him recognize, right, that full circle of life. He paved the way and there is just so many young people today who are being bold and brave and demanding change like he did.

The kind of sacrifices he has made, not just in the streets, but in the halls of power has allowed so many of us to see ourselves as part of a process that pushes our country to be its best self and to seek progress.

And I just know that I will forever cherish the moments I got to spend with him and the privilege and the honor I had in serving with him as my colleague and it is really a loss, not just for our nation, but for everyone who has ever met him, loved him and worked with him.

CABRERA: How will you carry forward his legacy?

OMAR: By being bold and brave and creating good trouble, a necessary trouble. For us, we know that he fought for voting rights that is being attacked every single day, and so we must keep up that fight and make sure not only is his legislation signed into law, but that we never really allow for it to be dismantled again.

And, you know, I think the spirit of remembering that hate is too big of a burden to carry. We must be loving in our fight for a just society, in our fight for a more tolerant society, and in our fight for an America that celebrates its diversity not just spaces, but in voices and in votes.


CABRERA: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, thank you for being here and offering your thoughts.

A few years ago Congressman Lewis won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature for his graphic novel, "March 3." His tearful acceptance speech was a reminder of how far he had carried us and how much work was still left to do.


LEWIS: This is unreal. This is unbelievable. Some of you know I grew up in rural Alabama, very, very poor. Very few books in our home.

And I remember in 1956 when I was 16 years old, with some of my brothers and sisters and cousins going down to the public library trying to get our library cards and we were told that the library was for whites only and for colors.

And to come here for a prestigious award, it is an honor. It is too much. Thank you.




CABRERA: Tributes continue to pour in for late Georgia Congressman John Lewis who died at the age of 80 of pancreatic cancer. Born to sharecroppers in Alabama, he became a follower and a cohort of Martin Luther King Jr., organizing sit-in at lunch counters and challenging segregated buses.

He was also the last surviving speaker from the 1963 march on Washington.


LEWIS: Leave the march with the spirit of love and with the spirit of dignity that we have shown here today.

We must wake up America. Wake up, but we cannot stop and we will not and cannot be patient.


CABRERA: In 1965, he was beaten brutally leading a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, a momentous event that would become known as Bloody Sunday.

Even in the face of such violence and hate, his desire for peace knew no bounds. And one of the most beautiful stories of forgiveness in recent American history, Lewis once forgave a man who years later came forward and apologized for beating Lewis as he attempted to enter a white waiting room.


LEWIS: Well, I've said to Mr. Wilson, I met with him early during the week when he came to Washington to visit with me, and he said he wanted to apologize and that he was sorry. And I've said I forgive you, and I don't have any bitterness or

hatred, because it was in keeping with what we believed in, that we should have the capacity and the ability to forgive.


CABRERA: Words don't capture the scope of Lewis's legacy, but we are left remembering what he said he wanted. He wanted people to get in good trouble, necessary trouble.


LEWIS: I see no signs that said white men, colored men, white women, colored women, white waiting, color waiting. And I asked my mother, my father, my grandparents and my great grandparents why? They said, boy, that's the way it is. Don't get in the way. Don't get in trouble.

But in 1945, fifteen years old, the action of Rosa Parks, the words and leadership of Dr. King inspired me to get in trouble what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.


CABRERA: CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is with us. Now, Suzanne, we want to hear some of these wonderful tributes. But first, President Trump did mention Congressman Lewis's passing in a tweet a few hours ago. The two men, safe to say, did not get along.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, they didn't, and I mean, throughout the day, we've been hearing condolences from leaders around the world, U.S. Presidents, activists, young people who were all inspired by Congressman Lewis's work in his life, dedication to justice, and the President, quite frankly, spent most of the day golfing at his Virginia resort.

But just a couple hours ago that he tweeted this very brief, saying, "Sad to hear the news of Civil Rights hero John Lewis passing. Melania and I send our prayers to he and his family."

Now this, Ana, comes after 40 -- forty tweets or retweets since he learned of John Lewis's passing last night and so clearly, a lot of people wondering really what was the issue or the problem here? But we know that these two men were not close.

Congressman Lewis did not feel that Trump was a legitimate President because of the evidence of Russia meddling in the election. He boycotted his inauguration and Trump in response had said that he was all talk and no action and that his district was crime infested.

But there were many, many occasions that Congressman Lewis called out the Trump administration on what he believed and what he said was immoral, indecent, inhumane policies, really, one of those policies regarding immigration.

At the height of that debate, I had an opportunity to talk to the Congressman about what he felt was going on, children being separated from their parents and here's that discussion.


MALVEAUX: Congressman, if you could just respond to President Trump's tweet. He is accusing yourself and other Democrats, he says, in his words of wanting migrants to, quote, "infest our country." Can you please respond to the sentiment into the language that he is using?

LEWIS: Well shameful, racist. It's not in keeping with the dreams and the hopes of the American people.

MALVEAUX: Is it dangerous?

LEWIS: It is rather dangerous.



MALVEAUX: And Ana, you could hear that emotion just welling up from inside of him. That was something that was a classic Congressman Lewis there, always speaking his mind and speaking very forcefully.

We heard from President Obama today in a statement saying, "He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise. And through the decades, you not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice, but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example."

And Ana, we saw from just the past couple of weeks when he was surprisingly at the Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C. with the Mayor of D.C., Mayor Bowser, and it was really an extraordinary scene to see the two of them together and it was a very clear message of support for Black Lives Matter for young people for change, and also a call that it's necessary to continue the fight -- Ana.

CABRERA: Suzanne Malveaux. Thank you. We'll be right back.



CABRERA: A secret report put together for the White House coronavirus task force spotlights at least 18 states that should roll back reopening plans. Now, these 18 states are all considered in a red zone reporting a concerning level of new cases and test positivity rates.

The report which was obtained first by the Center for Public Integrity is important information in and of itself, but especially when you contrast that message with the exact opposite message you hear from President Trump. Dr. Peter Hotez is a vaccine researcher and Dean at the National School of Tropical Medicine. Dr. Hotez, do you agree with this assessment? Should these 18 states hit pause on reopening?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE: Oh, absolutely. Well, I haven't seen the full list of the 18 states, but what I can tell you is we are seeing a massive resurgence across the southern part of the United States. If you look at a map of the U.S. everywhere now from Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama into Texas is lit up like a Christmas tree. As, of course, is Arizona now in Southern California.

So this is a dire situation that we're facing. You heard from the doctor and you reported earlier about the awful situation in Florida exceeding ICU and bed capacity. The other piece to this, of course, is it's not just the beds, it's the hospital staffs are getting exhausted across the southern part of the U.S. donning and doffing PPE multiple times a day and then they're getting sick and so that's the other piece.

We're having to send in nurses and doctors and healthcare professionals from all over the country into the south. This is not working. We need action now.

CABRERA: Yes. It's a grim assessment you're providing today. As you mentioned, Florida, had some more really sobering numbers reporting more than 10,000 new cases. We've known hospital capacity and that state was running dangerously low. And as you just discussed, last hour, we learned ICUs in Miami-Dade are at 122 percent capacity right now. Here's the Governor addressing that capacity concern this week.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R) FLORIDA: We have 21 percent of the beds statewide are available. That's a greater percentage than was available in early March before the pandemic took off. I mean, typically, hospitals run at 90 percent or 88 percent to 90 percent. That's how they stay in business.


CABRERA: Is that a valid argument or is the Governor's simply in denial?

HOTEZ: Well, he's right that most hospitals in order to stay in operation have to be near full capacity. But that's not what's happening. What's happening is not only is it exceeding capacity but also, as I mentioned, the staffs are getting exhausted. It's the human capital that we don't have and now we're starting to see the deaths start to go up and that's happening for a couple of reasons.

One, patients on ventilators requiring other intensive support are starting to die, but also as staff gets overwhelmed and we saw this situation in Spain, in Italy, in New York, then it gets harder to manage these patients. And because everyone is so exhausted and getting sick and therefore the mortality rises for another reason. And it's not just in Florida, this is now in this band across the southern half of the United States.

And in some ways, I don't blame entirely the governors. They were set up to fail. This is the absence of the executive branch of the federal government that never took ownership, never took a lead, never provided directives to the governors, provided a plan, a roadmap with epidemiologic models on what needed to be done.

And right now, the southern half of the U.S. accounts for one quarter of all of the COVID-19 cases in this pandemic, I mean, globally. This is the epicenter of the global pandemic, so we have to take action and I'm hoping this week to - it's not fully vetted plan by any means, it's just a 30,000 foot aerial view of what I think needs to be done.


So I'm going to start some necessary trouble and I hope it's good trouble, but I'm very (inaudible) the nation are right now.

CABRERA: It is concerning and I spoke to a doctor there in Florida earlier who said he feels like he's just barely keeping his head above water. And when I asked him, "How much swim do you have left?" He said, "Gosh, that's a good question. Right now, it feels like we're further away from shore than ever. I can't even see the shore."

I mean that is not where anybody wants to hear our doctors at this point. Nine times in the last month though, the U.S. has set records for daily case counts. Today, we know there are 33 states at least trending upwards. Why are things still moving in the wrong direction?

HOTEZ: Well, what does the federal government think is going to happen? Do they think this just disappears on its own? You have to intervene. This is an old school problem in virology, we know what needs to be done and no one is willing to exert the leadership to make it happen and we have to.

We're at 70,000 new cases today. We'll be at in 80,000 by the middle of this week and you know where this is going. Dr. Fauci says we could reach a hundred thousand new cases a day. I will be there and then we'll continue to exceed. There's no cap at a hundred thousand. There's nothing magical about it. This keeps on going.

And as hospital staffs get exhausted, as mortality starts to rise, then you see other effects in terms of the economy and it becomes a homeland security issue as people become scared, everyone becomes exhausted. This is an untenable situation and it's all going to come to ahead in the next few weeks unless we do something.

CABRERA: Doctor, we just got some new guidance from the CDC saying someone who was tested positive for COVID-19 and has symptoms may discontinue isolation 10 days after the symptoms first appeared so long as 24 hours have passed since the last fever without the use of fever reducing medications. What do you make of that?

HOTEZ: Well, it's all useful information. We're in a steep learning curve about this virus and we're learning more every day and these guidelines are useful. But just posting guidelines on an internet website is not enough. I mean, it's important, of course, but we now need to implement a plan. We now need a more aggressive plan for social distancing.

We have to help community transmission because clearly the hospitals and the staff are telling us they can't handle it at this point. So unless you take measures to interrupt community spread, all of the guidelines in the world are not going to help.

CABRERA: All right. Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you.

HOTEZ: Thank you so much, Ana.

CABRERA: We'll be right back.



CABRERA: Civil rights icon and American hero, John Lewis passing away at the age of 80. A longtime Georgia Congressman died last night. Lewis was a colleague of Martin Luther King Jr. and a freedom writer. Who can forget his bravery, leaving a pivotal 1965 voting rights march in Selma, Alabama, where he and other marchers were brutally beaten by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Now, in the wake of his passing, calls are growing louder to rename that bridge to honor Lewis. I want to bring in CNN's W. Kamau Bell, host of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA which debuts its new season five episode starting tomorrow night. Kamau, first, though I want to get your reaction to the passing of John Lewis, especially the timing just as this nation is facing a new reckoning on racial justice issues.

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA: I think a lot about my mom. my mom is 83, he was 80. If you're 80 years old, obviously, you've seen a lot of American, a lot of America struggling with racism and he was on the front lines of that. So he's clearly a hero and if there's any bright thing here so that he got to see, America start to reckon with this issue again that he thought that we reckon within the 60s.

CABRERA: You tweeted a John Lewis quote this morning and I want to read just a part of it. "History will not be kind to us. So you have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate to speak up, speak out and get in good trouble. Kamau, how do you think Congressman Lewis' idea of getting into good trouble might resonate with the younger generations of African-Americans right now?


BELL: I hope it resonates with more than just African-Americans and I think it already has. I think the good trouble he was talking about is what we've seen the protests in the streets, the pressure on corporations to not only tweet Black Lives Matter but actually put out policies and hiring policies that show that black lives matter.

And so I tweeted that out to remind myself that like we got to keep going in this direction and maybe to honor his memory, that's all we can do is keep creating more good trouble and putting ourselves online the same way he put himself on the line.

CABRERA: Absolutely. Kamau, out as the nation finds itself grappling with racial justice issues, you're kicking off your fifth season of United States of America, let's look at a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not upon you to finish the task, but you're not absolved from trying. So, you may not get to that pot of the rainbow.

BELL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that doesn't mean we're letting you off the hook from trying ...

BELL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... at least making a few steps of more progress.

BELL: To get a little MLK on it, no matter what our race, creed or religion, if we all do that every day to work to make the world a little bit better, it gets better.


BELL: I can't help but think of my mom in moments like this, it's like hearing her talk to her friends about racism and activism. She was playing Martin Luther King Jr. records in the house. And at the time I was, like, why do we have to - can't we put some Temptations on?


BELL: And to stand here and realize that she was building the bridge for me to be here right now talking to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you honor your mother by doing the same thing to your kids.

BELL: Yes.


CABRERA: Kamau, I can't believe you are in season five. You explored white supremacy in a visit with a Ku Klux Klan in your very first episode of UNITED SHADES five seasons ago. I mean, you're revisiting this issue this weekend and it all came after the death of George Floyd and all the protests that followed, but you filmed it before all that happened, so what brought you back to this topic? What more did you want to explore?

BELL: Well, I think talking to the KKK got me this job, but I think actually ending white supremacy might keep me in job. So I think that clearly that episode was not enough and the country is in a different place then. Barack Obama was president. There was a lot of open air and we all know that there's not hope around the President anymore.

So for me, it was like we need to go back in and talk about it from a much higher level in a much thorough way than we did in episode one of season one. CABRERA: I think when people hear the words white supremacy, a lot of

us think of white hoods, burning crosses, swastikas but you talk in the episode about those things really being just the tip of the iceberg of white supremacy. What's at the bottom of the iceberg? What's the full meaning of the term white supremacy?

BELL: Well, I think we have to understand that this country was built on white supremacy. It was built on the genocide of the Native Americans. It was built on the free labor of black folks. It was built on exploiting Chinese labor and the Chinese Exclusion Act and putting people of color on the bottom consistently throughout this history. And so everything that's built on top of that is still in that mode and sort of putting the country in that same direction.

So this episode is saying don't just think it's neo-Nazis and the Klan, that's just the tip of the iceberg. White supremacy when you look at the entire iceberg goes all the way down to people just go - a white person saying, well, I didn't benefit from slavery. I didn't own slaves. Well, yes, but the system has been created so that white people are automatically pulled towards the top, so it's like you don't have to own slaves.

I think a lot of white supremacy even like white person ask every black person they know to tell them about Juneteenth. We had that a couple weeks ago. It was like go Google it yourself. Like I think that white supremacy isn't just the neo-Nazis and the Klan, it's also mass incarceration, hiring practices, that black schools not being as good as white schools. It's much more than just the Klan and neo-Nazis.

CABRERA: And it sounds like this episode is going to be so thought provoking and we all have a lot to learn. W. Kamau Bell, thank you for being here with us and please everyone tune in to the all new season of UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. It premieres tomorrow night at 10 Eastern and Pacific here on CNN.



CABRERA: For months, port authority police officers in New York and New Jersey have been going beyond the call of duty to ensure doctors, nurses and paramedics on the frontlines of the coronavirus fight stay safe. CNN's Alexandra Field has more.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was like nothing this country had ever seen.


PAUL NUNZIATO, PRESIDENT, PORT AUTHORITY, PBA: These guys and girls are our heroes. They're out here in the medical profession doing God's work, just trying to save lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FIELD (voice over): New York and New Jersey's first responders were

doing battle at the epicenter for the COVID crisis before it spread across the country.


FIELD: Were you fearful?

DENNIS LUNDE, EMS SUPERVISOR, HACKENSACK MEDICAL CENTER: Absolutely. We didn't know what we were dealing with.


FIELD (voice over): The 911 calls kept coming. They kept answering. But at hospitals and among healthcare workers, one question remained.


MICHELLE KOBAYASHI, EMS DIRECTOR, HACKENSACK MEDICAL CENTER: How do we know we're going to not get our family sick?


FIELD (voice over): That's when police officers with New York and New Jersey's Port Authority responded with a solution.


NUNZIATO: We came up with a thought of, hey, let's try to get to the hospital, not only disinfecting the ambulances, but disinfect the doctors' and nurses' cars just to try to do something to help them because they are the front lines around COVID.


FIELD (voice over): The officers have travelled to hospitals throughout the region, deploying the same chemical disinfectant used to decontaminate patrol cars, using it even to decontaminate healthcare workers clothes.


KOBAYASHI: It changed the entire morale of the department. They went from being afraid to being a little bit more relaxed.


NUNZIATO: We were over at Elmhurst in Queens, it's one of the hardest hit in New York City, just trying to make a safer environment.


FIELD (voice over): They're just showing up for the sake of the people who show up for them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NUNZIATO: It felt good to give back. Like I said after 9/11, everyone

came running to help us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was stationed down on Liberty Street for like weeks.


FIELD (voice over): Medics who always raced to help now welcoming a hand.


LUNDE: We're doing a hundred to 200 calls a day. We have to make sure that we're definitely getting our trucks disinfected as best as possible to keep both the crews, patients and everybody safe, and then getting back out on the road and making sure that we're able to respond to help other individuals who are calling.


FIELD (voice over): Alexandra Field, CNN, Hackensack, New Jersey.


CABRERA: And that does it for me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. I'll see you back here tomorrow at 5 Eastern. Until then, our coverage continues with Wolf Blitzer. Goodnight.