Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Nursing Homes in Crisis?; Philadelphia New Coronavirus Hot Spot?; 6.6. Million Americans File For Unemployment. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 09, 2020 - 15:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And I'll see you later tonight.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

It's really all about perspective, perspective today, it seems. The rate of new corona case -- coronavirus cases is falling, but the rate of new deaths is not.

You can see that as a country and also at the epicenter of the outbreak now, New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo offering some more devastating perspective today. Listen.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): It's gotten to the point, frankly, that we're going to come to bring in additional funeral directors to deal with the number of people who have passed.

If you ever told me that, as governor, I would have to take these actions, I couldn't even contemplate where we are now.


BOLDUAN: New York reporting again the most deaths yet in a 24-hour period.

It was also the deadliest day nationwide, with nearly 2,000 people dying yesterday, pushing the overall death toll to nearly 16,000 now, meaning, if the current projections are accurate, New York has only suffered about half of the deaths that it could see by August, and the U.S. hasn't even really seen a third of the deaths projected during that same time period.

The economic pain of all of this is setting in today in a new way. Take a look at this, the government reporting that, this morning, that 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment for the first time this past week.

So, in the past three weeks, almost 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment. Unprecedented. Let's be honest, it's starting to lose its meaning.

Let's start in New York, where the governor says today there are more signs of hope. But he also made clear again that in no way means it's time to relax or let up on anything.

CNN's Erica Hill, she is here in the city standing by.

Erica, what's the latest you're hearing?

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, there was that moment, as you just played for us, when the governor talked about never could he imagine having to bring in extra funeral directors.

And that is because of the number of deaths. But there is -- as you said, Kate, there is some good news in what we're learning today. The number of hospitalizations specifically is way down. So, 200 new hospitalizations on Wednesday, that is down from 585 the day before. That's a very good sign.

We also learned from the governor that the number of patients being put into the ICU is also at its lowest since March 19, also a good sign.

But as we're seeing perhaps a little bit of a plateau, the governor was also adamant this is not the time for anyone to change their behavior.


CUOMO: You stay at home and you save a life, period. You're not out of the woods. And now is not the time to misunderstand what's happening.

We have done great things. And we have saved the lives because we have followed these policies.


HILL: As the governor pointed out, Kate, the reason that you're seeing a drop in hospitalizations is because of the actions that New Yorkers took days and even weeks ago in changing their behavior.

So, the actions that are being taken today, we won't know their full effect until a number of days or even weeks out.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Erica.

So, as we mentioned off the top, the depressing news about the economy, millions more people filing for unemployment for the first time last week. Now sources tell CNN President Trump is preparing to announce a second coronavirus task force focused entirely on economic recovery.

CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, she's tracking this side of the story.

Kaitlan, what are you hearing about that?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they're expected to announce this in the coming days. It's not exactly clear when.

But, basically, what they want is to have a group of aides that are solely focused on reopening the economy and the ways to do that, because, of course, as we have noted, it's going to be a complicated situation. And so the White House is aware of that.

They're still even trying to figure out when that's going to happen. And so the president is expected to announce this task force. We're being told by several sources that it's not only going to include those administration officials that you would expect to see on something like this, like the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin. Larry Kudlow, the president's other top economic adviser.

But we're also told they're going to have some private sector figures on this, including economic experts as well. And really the reason is, they want this to be solely focused on this the way the Coronavirus Task Force is solely focused on public health.

They have been considering the economy, of course. You have seen what the Treasury secretary has done with Congress to get that relief funding, what they're doing for those small business loans.

But now they want to focus on what it's going to look like when these social distancing guidelines are up at the end of the month. And, today, Mnuchin said he's hopeful they could reopen the economy in May. The president himself, though, is not putting a deadline on it yet, Kate, because, of course, there are so many things they still have to figure out


If they are going to sending people back to work, is there enough widespread testing, contact tracing, things of that nature to make sure that they're aware of that this is going back to work -- when people are going to people back to work, they're not having -- going to have to redo this shutdown with the economy.


And, Kaitlan, you have just learned that there are new safety measures that are going into effect for people, including journalists at the White House? What's going on?

COLLINS: Yes, we were just told by the White House that everyone who attends that press briefing today, the ones you have been watching every day, are going to be tested for coronavirus beforehand. That's a measure of the White House had been taking lately.

They have been testing senior staffers who were meeting with the president and with the vice president, and now they're going to be doing so for the reporters in the room today, after there were reports that one reporter has coronavirus symptoms. They do not know if they have actually tested positive for it yet. I think they're still waiting to get the results of that. And the

other thing that's not clear, Kate, is if this is going to become a daily thing, because we know the White House has been weighing how to handle this. They're even considering at times maybe potentially testing everyone who comes into the White House complex, though they have not made any decisions on that yet.

But, for now, all the reporters, photographers, technicians, everyone in that Briefing Room today is going to be someone who has already taken a coronavirus test.

BOLDUAN: Yes, where we are today. Kaitlan, thank you.

All right. Joining me right now is Dr. Julio Frenk. He's the president of the University of Miami.

But, if I may, Doctor, your resume covers almost every aspect of this crisis. So, folks should know, you're a former minister of health of Mexico, chairman of the board of the institute who is creating these projection models that the White House is using, and you're a former executive with the World Health Organization.

So, with that, thank you so much for being here.

As the president of the University of Miami, I look at those unemployment numbers, those grim numbers, and I'm struck wondering, that is going to, of course, include families with kids in college.

How are you preparing for families to come to you and say, we can't pay for school anymore after this?

DR. JULIO FRENK, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: Yes, I mean, it's clear that, alongside the public health emergency, there's an economic emergency that's unfolding.

It started a little bit behind and it's probably going to outlast the public health emergency. So we all need to be preparing for that parallel emergency that's going to happen.

The -- by definition, every time there is a novel pathogen that appears, as is the case of this particular coronavirus, by definition, the defining characteristic of the emergency is uncertainty. And that requires that we develop what's called contingency planning to really make an exercise in figuring out what are the worst-case scenarios, so not that we hope that they don't happen, but we work very hard to avoid them, to -- it's -- the idea is to create a self-defeating prophecy.

The idea is to be proven wrong when you create those scenarios. And we're seeing that in the public health emergency. The measures are working. But, clearly, we also need to start preparing for those scenarios on the financial front.

BOLDUAN: Yes, on both fronts. You're exactly right.

And you're also about to become the interim head of University of Miami's health system. And speaking about the worst-case scenarios, I'm seeing that the projected peak in Florida is still 12 days out. You have got places like -- ahead of you, like Detroit, where hospital workers are reporting things like people dying in E.R. hallways before help could arrive.

How do you make sure that doesn't happen in your hospitals?

FRENK: Well, that is exactly what that sort of contingency planning has to entail.

One characteristic of this pandemic, like almost all of them, is that it is unfolding at different rates and in different parts of the world. And it is everyone's duty to be learning. Because of that uncertainty, that inherent uncertainty, we are learning as the pandemic evolves.

So we're watching very closely what happened first on the West Coast, Washington state, in California, now what's happening in New York that I think has really provided incredible lessons of what we need to avoid.

We're watching what's happening in Detroit and other areas. It is expected that Miami will be facing a surge in demand. So, we have been getting ready from the beginning, making sure we have the necessary protective equipment, the necessary ventilators, getting ready for that.

And you are right. Because of my own professional training, I am now taking the additional role of being interim CEO while the emergency lasts of our academic health system, because, in addition to our educational mission, we do provide a vital service to the community, especially for the most acutely ill, critical patients, as we are a highly specialized hospital system.

BOLDUAN: The CDC -- when you're looking at kind of the broader public health emergency, and when you're kind of looking at when society can open up again, the CDC is loosening its guidelines now, saying that when it comes to essential workers who've been exposed to the virus, that they can now return to work, taking certain precautions, which they list out, if they're not experiencing symptoms.


Are you comfortable with that? I mean, what do you think it is going to take to open society back up?

FRENK: Well, I mean, clearly, we're trying to -- we need to change the mind-set that there is a sort of conflict between the public health objective and the economic recovery objective. They actually need to work synergistically.

If we prematurely reopen the economy, and we have a second surge, and many more people die, that obviously will play havoc with the economic recovery as well.

On the other hand, if we keep the economy locked down longer than strictly necessary, people will also experience the health consequences of an economic downturn, if they lose their jobs. Just both physically and emotional health will be in jeopardy.

So these two elements of planning have to go hand in hand. It is true that we can do some testing. This is not the diagnostic test that is used to see whether you have the virus. But this is a test done in blood to see if you have the antibodies, which indicates that you already were exposed to the virus, and, therefore, you are very unlikely to get it again.

And, most importantly, you can also not get it, not be infected or infect other people. And it does make sense in a gradual way, based on that kind of testing -- it's not just that the aggregate numbers are better, because if we prematurely let our guard down, then we can generate a second spike.

We're seeing this in Singapore, which has had now to introduce more -- tougher measures because of that second wave. So it is a very careful balancing act. And the two pieces need to go hand in hand.

It's not one or the other. It's not one against the other. Nothing hurts the economy more than having people sick or dying. And, of course, nothing helps -- hurts health more than having people out of jobs and in this kind of economic distress.

So the two work hand in hand. But those guidelines do make sense. And they have to be based on rigorous testing. And we're not in a new normal now. We're in an abnormal. When we come out of this, that will be the truly new normal. And we will see permanent changes in the way we work, the social distancing measures we introduce.

Dr. Fauci was half-jokingly saying that we may abandon handshakes. I don't think that's going to happen. But we are going to have to change the way we interact. Some of those changes will be positive.

I think you will see very positive changes on education, much more use of online, blended with different classroom experiences. I think you will see it with telehealth, new ways of delivering and improving access to health using technology, and also with work, being more productive using some of the technologies that they will be forced to use, but that should become permanent.

And then I think the way we interact, the way we're more aware of the need for personal hygiene and for measures, not of social, but of physical decency, I think those are likely to be positive lessons from this emergency.

BOLDUAN: I will take a positive lesson of any positive anything coming from this at this moment, though.

Dr. Frenk, thank you so much for being here. Good luck. You have a huge, huge job ahead of you. Thank you so much.

FRENK: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: New cities are emerging as potential new epicenters for the virus.

One mayor now ordering all residents to wear masks when they go to the grocery store. We're going to go there next.

And a nursing home evacuated after employees stop showing up for work. Are things getting better or worse for the elderly at long-term care facilities?



BOLDUAN: Philadelphia is a growing concern, according to the White House task force, reporting 1,400 new cases of the coronavirus per day.

And Pennsylvania's governor just canceled schools statewide for the rest of the academic year.

CNN's Alex Marquardt, he's in Philadelphia.

Alex, the top government health experts were essentially wondering aloud at the White House yesterday of Philadelphia is the next hot spot, the next epicenter. What are you hearing?


Well, local officials are taking some exception that this is as hot a spot as the White House is making it out to be. They are happy that there is this concern for Philadelphia, but they're saying that the trend lines aren't as bad as the Coronavirus Task Force is making it out to be.

That 1,400 number, that's for the metropolitan Philadelphia area. And we heard earlier from the health commissioner for Philadelphia. He says that the White House is actually using outdated numbers, that the numbers are actually slowing, that curve is flattening, and, actually, in the last few days, that there has been what he called a plateau.

But at the same time, Thomas Farley, the health commissioner, issued a warning that they are in dire need of various supplies. Take a listen to what he told CNN earlier today.


DR. THOMAS FARLEY, PHILADELPHIA HEALTH COMMISSIONER: We're having problems with personal protective equipment for our health care workers.

Our health care system could come under strain. We have put in place a lot of safeguards. So, at the moment, it's looking like we can manage the surge. But it's been tough to prepare for that point. So we're by no means over this.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MARQUARDT: So they're not downplaying it. What they're doing is expressing some cautious optimism that the growth numbers are slowing.


The numbers that they put out today, positive cases, 494, Kate, that compares to yesterday's 505. So it's kind of in the same range. And you can see what he means by that plateauing, that flattening out.

Farley there also saying that 104 Philadelphians have died, that number surely to grow in the coming days, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Unfortunately.

Alex, thank you.

So, the D.C. -- the Washington, D.C., area is also bracing for impact, if you will, as it shares that unwanted title of the next potential hot spot.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, she's there outside Howard University Hospital.

Suzanne, what are you hearing there?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, we're under the awning at the entrance here, and turned away from the entrance just to protect the privacy of patients.

We have been talking to quite a number of doctors who've seen those who are experiencing and suffering from the coronavirus. The D.C. mayor earlier today saying, anticipate one out of seven D.C. residents will be impacted and infected by this virus.

They are already beginning to see a surge in the number of cases. We're talking about the DMV, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, now more than 11,000 and counting. The mayor saying that there was a dramatic increase as well just in the prior days.

And what they're doing here at Howard University, they are a world- renowned trauma center, trauma hospital, and so they have a triage tent outside the hospital, opening up a whole 'nother wing to provide more than 150, 170 beds for what they anticipate is going to be a surge in the weeks ahead. Take a listen.


DR. SHELLY MCDONALD-PINKETT, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, HOWARD UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: When seeing a patient, it's really -- it takes a lot of sympathy. It takes a lot of fortitude, because you're not only thinking about your patient, but you're thinking about yourself and your family.

So once we leave the hospital at the end of the day, we go home, we sterilize our cars, we clean our homes, head right for the shower, remove our clothes, and then interact with our families. It's a very stressful time for caregivers.


MALVEAUX: And Dr. Wayne Frederick, he's the university president, says they are ready, they're up for the task as a designated hospital for this pandemic, that the mayor has asked for 1,000 extra beds, and they're ready to help out as quickly as possible -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And they prepare.

All right, Suzanne, thank you.

Coming up, we're going to talk to one expert who says the coronavirus is a perfect killing machine at nursing homes. They have been hot spots since the very beginning. What do they need to keep their residents safe?



BOLDUAN: An alarming look at nursing homes across the country right now.

In California, at one nursing home in the San Francisco area, six residents have died, 30 others have tested positive. In New Jersey, 10 residents have died at one veterans home, two more at another.

And this is just over the past couple of days. Nursing homes have been at the epicenter of the outbreak since the very beginning. So is it getting better or worse for these most vulnerable populations?

Joining me right now is Mark Parkinson, the CEO of the American Health Care Association, which represents more than 13,000 long-term care facilities.

Thank you so much for being here.

The last time we talked was a month ago. And, then, you told me that this virus was a perfect killing machine for the elderly and that nursing homes needed help. A month later, do nursing homes have what they need? Is it getting any better? Because it sounds like it's getting worse.

MARK PARKINSON, CEO, AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ASSOCIATION: Well, it's slowly getting better, but we are still fighting this incredible battle with two hands tied behind our back.

One hand is a lack of equipment. We don't have enough masks. And this fiber spreads, of course, through coughing and maybe just through breathing. And without an adequate number of masks, we just can't stop it.

And the second hand tied behind our back is a lack of testing. We can now get tests, but it's taking too long to get the results back. So, often, by the time we know we have COVID in our building, it's already spread.

The really good news, though, is that we now have many examples of buildings that have been able to keep COVID out, or, more important, if they can find out early on that COVID is in the building, they have been able to isolate it.

So, what we now need is, we now need the country to rally around nursing homes and assisted living buildings, the same way that it has around hospitals, and get us the equipment and the testing that we need.

BOLDUAN: Why aren't nursing homes getting the tests? Why aren't nursing homes getting the protective gear that they need? Who is holding it up? What's the problem?

PARKINSON: Well, the problem from the very beginning has been that, of course, this virus started in the very province of China that makes the masks.

And so by the time it hit the United States, there was a massive shortage of masks across the entire health care spectrum.


PARKINSON: The issue of testing is one that is going to be have to be long-studied. And somebody's going to have to figure out what went wrong with testing in the United States.

The reality is, there simply haven't been enough equipment or testing for anybody in the health care spectrum, including hospitals.


BOLDUAN: Right, but do you think -- do you think it's something specific to -- like, nursing homes are just being left in the lurch or kind of being forgotten, as, obviously, hospitals need to be getting PPEs?

But nursing homes...


BOLDUAN: ... they do as well.

PARKINSON: Yes, we feel like we have been forgotten.