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New Cases, Hospitalizations Surge In South Texas Hotspots; U.S. Mayors Demand Trump Withdraw Federal Forces From Cities; NYT: $52 Million Pop-Up Hospital Treated 79 Patients At Peak of Crisis. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 22, 2020 - 15:30   ET




BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The coronavirus crisis in Texas is deepening by the day and in South Texas, particularly Hidalgo County, the situation has become dire. In fact, health experts are describing it as a tsunami of patients that's wreaking havoc and overwhelming the hospitals.

And as officials race to stem the outbreak, the Hidalgo County judge has issued a shelter-in-place order for everyone who lives there starting today. But Texas Governor Greg Abbott isn't having it and his office is calling the order, quote/unquote, "an unenforceable recommendation." Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez joins me now. Judge Cortez, welcome. 2 JUDGE RICHARD CORTEZ, HIDALGO COUNTY, TEXAS: Thank you, Brooke. Good afternoon.

BALDWIN: So first, your response to the governor that what you say doesn't go.

CORTEZ: Well, I obviously don't agree with that. You know, Brooke, we're in a desperate situation. Two months ago, when I had control of the county, we had this virus under control by simply following the CDC recommendations for guidelines.

After the governor opened it up and I understand why he did it and we needed to open Texas, but we've lost control. So, to me it makes sense that we go back and follow the guidelines that helped us control this disease two months ago then we all turn this thing around.

Right now, we're in a desperate situation. Our hospitals are full, our mortuaries are full. We have tired -- doctors tired, nurses tired, technicians. We, in the last eight days, not counting yesterday, we were averaging 624 people testing positive with 22 deaths. Yesterday we had 49 die and today already we have 33.

So, to me this is extreme, and I have to do everything possible. I have to do everything possible to stop it and one way, to keep people at home, they're not going to get infected. BALDWIN: Have you had a conversation with the governor about this? I mean, obviously, you know all the numbers. You know the governor knows the numbers too. Why do you think he's fighting you on this?

CORTEZ: You know, I can't speak for him. But yes, I had a conversation, in fact, with him yesterday through Zoom. We did talk about all of the needs of the county. We talked about the needs for the hospitals. The needs for staffing and the needs for enforcement. Basically, I think he prefers that we use the vehicle of a curfew as opposed to a shelter in place. Because we do have a right to issue a curfew.

But again, I want to go back to the things that work for us when we had it totally under control and that is why I want to do this. And I only asked our citizens for two weeks, two weeks, two weeks. I don't believe that is asking too much and I would like to support not only the governor but our president and everybody else who wants this thing to continue, no one.

But we can't wish for it to stop. We have to make it stop and take the appropriate action to make it stop.

BALDWIN: I imagine you made your case to the governor on Zoom. I'm assuming since you're not telling me otherwise that he's basically still standing his ground and saying no to the shelter-in-place. Will you just confirm that for me? And also, what -- what then is your second-best option?

CORTEZ: Well, in answer to your first question, we have 254 counties in Texas. Ours happens to be the seventh largest. We're a little over a million people here. We have counties that have as few as 5,000 people. So, we know that each county in Texas is -- has a lot of similarities but we're all unique. I think that their strong argument, we have a small county with less population. You don't need some of those rules.

But again, who knows best than we do that are actually living here to what is best for us. So, I think you should allow local officials more control over all counties. I live close to the border so we're unique because we live close to the border. Other counties are close to Louisiana. Other counties are close to Oklahoma and --

BALDWIN: How hopeful are you, Judge -- I'm running out of time, just how hopeful are you that the governor will see eye to eye with you. I understand that you know - you know what is best for your county?

CORTEZ: We have a very good conversation yesterday and I believe he's receiving some good information from us and I hope that the at end he will come to the realization that I think that would be a good decision to give local officials more control.

BALDWIN: OK. Let's follow up and see if that happens. Judge Cortez, in the meantime, stay well, stay healthy. Thank you very much.


CORTEZ: Thank you very much for caring.

BALDWIN: You got it.

And I should mention to all of you, Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta with special guest Bill Gates will answer your questions about this pandemic. The new "Global Town Hall: Coronavirus Facts and Fears" begins tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern.

In just a few moments, President Trump will be expected to lay out his plan for sending in federal officers into Democrat-led cities. But after tear gas and unmarked vehicles and controversial arrests in Portland, Oregon, is this what is in store for the rest of the country? We're live next.



BALDWIN: With little more than three months until Election Day, President Trump is taking his law and order message to new heights. These are live pictures there obviously inside the White House here, he's holding this event.

In just a couple of minutes, on this crime fighting initiative dubbed "operation legend." The effort involves sending federal law enforcement officers to cities across the country. And so, this is happening as more than a dozen mayors have joined Portland, Oregon, in asking the Trump administration to remove federal forces or stop plans to send them to these more Democratic-led cities. Our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is live in Washington. And Jim, just why is he doing this?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is part policy, part campaign strategy, Brooke. The president has been saying for weeks now that he wants to see as he puts it law and order imposed in cities where you see these protests, sometimes turn violent.

And he's about to announce in just a few moments from now an extension of what they're calling "operation legend" which will send federal law enforcement officers into cities around the country.

In this case, and this extension we're told it is going to be sending law enforcement officers into Chicago and Albuquerque. You mentioned Portland. Obviously, that's been in the news over the last several days with those protests, you know, resulting in some clashes with police.

And obviously complaints from people in that community that you have citizens who are just being swooped off the street by unnamed law enforcement officers and it is raising all sorts of questions as to you know how far can the federal government intrude in local law enforcement matters.

You've seen the acting secretary of Homeland Security saying you know that he is going to send some of his officers into these communities whether local officials like it or not. Obviously, you have mayors across the country like Mayor Lightfoot in Chicago who are saying, hey, wait a minute, no, we don't want President Trump's quote/unquote, "troops" coming into our city.

Of course, you know troops would be a different connotation altogether but that is how it feels to mayors on the ground. I will tell you Brooke, when the black lives matter protests were happening here in Washington, we obviously saw a taste of that ourselves. We saw armored vehicles on streets of the Nation's Capital, you saw officers in uniforms that weren't marked without names on the uniform and so on.

And this is spread out into other cities, something that White House officials have been telling us the president has been eager to do. And I talked to a Trump campaign adviser who said expect the president to continue this message right up until Election Day of talking about bringing law and order back to the streets of these major U.S. Cities.

Of course, you have a lot of people in those cities saying, how far is too far. And you know a debate has erupted, I think, as to what is appropriate use of force. And by the looks of a lot of the pictures, Brooke, could you tell it looks like it is way too much happening in these cities but the president is persisting here with what is happen campaign message and half policy here. And there's no sign of this stopping and if anything, it's a sign that he's going to continue to do this right up until Election Day, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I want to get some law enforcement perspective on all of this. But Jim we'll stand by with you for this event there at the White House. Let me bring in CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey, also former Philadelphia police commissioner and Washington, D.C.

And also, he's a consultant on policing reform. So, chief, you know on the one hand, you heard Jim talking about how the White House sees this as bringing law and order back to the streets. You have governors, other local officials who are comparing Trump's actions to authoritarianism. You know they want to stop the Trump administration from sending in these federal agents. They also claim their presence would do more harm than good. How do you see it?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it depends on what he actually plans on doing. Which hopefully this press conference will be a little more clear. If it is like in Portland, where you're sending in uniform officers and they're engaging in actions with demonstrators, that is not helpful.

And I can understand clearly how mayors would not want that to take place in their city. However, if it is in the form of beefing up existing federal task forces, like with the FBI, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, DEA, that can be very helpful.

In 2012, I believe, it was in Philadelphia we had a real uptick in violent crime and they had what they called a surge which meant they sent additional agents from ATF, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, into the city. I added some additional people into the task force. We already had an existing task force, but I beefed that up and it did have an impact. So, it depends on what he is he's actually planning on doing -- in a lot of these cases than what the federal court as opposed to local court.


BALDWIN: You look though - you look at certain cities where the violence, the shootings are up significantly, take Chicago, take New York, take you know L.A., why is this happening?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, listen. I don't know why it is happening. It's probably a variety of - of reasons why. One, people believe and understandably so that the police are being less aggressive in the current environment. And you have release of an awful lot of prisoners.

I don't know if all of them came back and went to straight life or if they engaged in activities that are causing problems on the street. You got hot weather. I mean you've got so many things coming together, frustration around COVID. And you got a lot of things coming together. So they'll be enough people that are looking at this long-term. But right now, it is a problem. Chicago yesterday, mass shooting with like 14 or 15 people shot.

BALDWIN: At a funeral.

RAMSEY: At a funeral. But that is not all that unusual, believe it or not, when you're talking about a gang funeral. I don't know if he was a gang member or not, but obviously somebody didn't like him. And so, when you get those kinds of things that take place. But it can't go on.

So, all the help that you could possibly get, you're looking for. But not in the form of Portland. And I want to make that very clear. That is not the kind of help, in fact it is not help, it is not what you want. It is not what you need.

BALDWIN: We'll wait for clarification and if we get specifics to your point from the president any moment now speaking at the White House. In the meantime, Chief, your perspective always invaluable. So good to see you, sir. Thank you.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Still ahead here on the coronavirus pandemic, there was a temporary New York hospital with a $52 million price tag. Guess how many patients they treated? 79. Was it worth it. We'll talk to a nurse who worked there who is now speaking out.



BALDWIN: In the height of New York's coronavirus crisis when ICUs were overflowing and patients laid on stretchers on hallways, the city had to get creative. And so, for one month this new hospital popped up in Queens at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center. And it was equipped with hundreds of beds and medical professionals trained to treat COVID patients.

A total of 79 patients were cared for there. But guess how much this city spent to run this hospital, $52 million, do the math that is more than $658 thousand spent per patient.

Katie Capano is a nurse practitioner at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She was one of the medical professionals who came to Queens for a month to just help out on the caseload. So, Katie, thank you so much for joining me and thank you for all your work.


BALDWIN: So, 79 patients. All right, with that price tag. You were quoted in the "New York Times" saying essentially that despite the fact that New York City was the epicenter for COVID, you were basically paid $2,000 a day to, you know, scroll through Facebook. Why?

CAPANO: That is an excellent question. I think a lot of us are trying to find out why. I think overall we were expected to be there 12 hours a day. And we were told at any moment we could get an influx of patients. We could go out to the hospitals and to be ready. And so, we were.

Amazing health care providers from all over the country came to New York City to answer the call to help our fellow Americans. And we were blocked with bureaucratic red tape left and right. And probably only did clinical work maybe two to three days of the week but got paid every single day we were there as mandatorily we're paid.

BALDWIN: How could this have happened? What was missteps taken by local government? Were hospitals in the city not communicating with each other? What was the deal?

CAPANO: Again, it's an excellent question. I think that there was a lot of bureaucratic red tape in our health care system in general. I think it really goes to show our overall broken health care system. For instance, I wasn't able to get placed in the hospital because they didn't figure out a way for me to get liability insurance.

The hospitals weren't able to credential quickly enough. It was just a complete multisystem failure on the hospital side, and then of course the federal leadership was nonexistent. And there was no intercommunication. And I am curious where all of that funding or where all that money went.

BALDWIN: Yes. I do want to get in what the city is saying because again "The Times" was the first to report this out. And they said that city officials were arguing that more patients were inappropriate for this pop-up hospital because you guys apparently didn't have the proper equipment or drugs available.

And then "The Times" also reports that the city didn't even allow ambulances to take 911 calls to Billie Jean King because health officials said that they didn't trust the facility to triage patients. What's your response to that?

CAPANO: That can't be true. Because the health care providers who were there were excellent. I mean, I have 15 years of experience doing what I do. People were there with as much and more experience. We had hospitalists, emergency physicians and nurses. We had critical care nurses. We had surgeons. We had everything you could ever want.

I helped set up the hospital. The amount of medications we had. We had those automatic compressors for CPR. I mean, we had everything. I would have loved to have this amount of resources when I had worked in other countries in the world. I mean it was incredible and it sat there unused. And I wonder where it all went.

BALDWIN: I hadn't even heard about this until I read about it yesterday. Thank you for coming on. Thank you for using your voice. And we should do some digging. Katie, thank you.

CAPANO: Thank you.

BALDWIN: You got it.


Coming up, a bitter back and forth between the White House and Senate Republicans over this new stimulus bill and money for testing as Americans suffer from this pandemic.