Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Navy Mercy Hospital Ship Arrives In Los Angeles; MI Doctor: "Need To Build Alternative Care Sites"; Doctors Search For Safe, Effective Covid-19 Drugs. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 27, 2020 - 12:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: -- folks with about making these ventilators to speed it up. Of course, as he himself noted last night, ventilators are a pretty complex machine. So it's not something that you can make as quickly as something like mass, which has also been another question of whether or not there's enough in these hospitals because you're seeing doctors and nurses say they don't.

But the thing with ventilators is this is not a new problem. The administration has known about this. And this has been a problem that has been on their plate for several weeks now. It's something we've been quizzing them about all those daily at these press briefings about how many they have in the national stockpile, whether or not it's going to be enough and how many they are projecting that they are going to need moving forward as they're dealing with all these coronavirus patients.

So this isn't a new problem. And this is why you've seen Governor's call on him to use the DPA because then that's you know, the federal government is asking these companies to do this in a government mandate. But so far, they've argued it's not necessary. Of course, the President seems to be making a different case on Twitter.

So that is the question is going to be, it's whether or not there are going to be enough ventilators which we should remind people are going to be lifesaving machines for people who have worst cases of coronavirus.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Right. And you get the sense from the tweets, the President as he often does is trying to make it somebody else's problem. Kaitlan Collins, appreciate that live at the White House.

We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, Detroit, suddenly a surge city when it comes to the coronavirus. Why?



KING: The mayor of Los Angeles is warning his city could be just days away from the sort of crisis currently playing out in New York. But help is arriving. Just within the last hour, the U.S. Navy Hospital Ship, Mercy arrived. You see it right there at the port of Los Angeles. It will help ease the burden on local hospitals in LA which are expecting a dramatic increase in the number of coronavirus patients.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is live in Los Angeles. That is a welcome docking, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, for sure, John. And getting here right as I said it was at 8:30 local time. The Naval Ship here with more than 1,000 beds and this is very welcome to Los Angeles.

The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti saying that Los Angeles could be where New York is in just six days time. So we're pacing behind them at about that rate. So therefore, they're looking for more bed capacity here in the area to make sure that they are clearing out people who still have many a myriad of health concerns that are not COVID related. And that is where the Mercy comes in.

This ship will take those patients, take them here so that they can alleviate some of the stress on the hospitals on land, and also free up space to allow for more COVID patients. That will also free up ventilators. That means that more patients could perhaps be in the same room. I spoke to a local emergency room doctor says, that after a COVID patient is in a room, it's a couple of hours that that room is out of service, because it has to go through a deep cleaning.

So if you think about what that means as far as space for patients who need it, that is huge. So what this hospital does, it's a full service hospital here. They can do surgeries on board. All of that will help relieve that tension. What the other thing that they're doing is that they're working with local and state officials to make sure that they're getting the right people and sourcing them here to this floating hospital to get them here.

That's what they are working on. I know we're taking a look at the numbers for California overall right now, talking about 3,000 cases more than that, and also the deaths of 65 people. Well, in L.A. County, we're looking at 21 deaths so far and 1,200 cases. So obviously this is another hotbed in the country and that is why they are working to make sure that they have the bed space because they do believe they are going to need it even though we are not at capacity right now, John.

KING: Right now, right now it's the question. Stephanie Elam, appreciate that live report. And as we salute the first responders in the medical professionals around the country, remember, that's members of the United States military as well on that naval medical ship now in L.A.

And one of the hardest hit states in country, Michigan, seeing a staggering surge in reported cases now more than 2,800 compare to just over 500 cases. A week ago, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, one of Michigan's top health officials spoke with CNN's Alisyn Camerota this morning, warning her state struggling to keep up. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. JONEIGH KHALDUN, CHIEF DEP. DIR. FOR HEALTH, MICHIGAN DEPT. OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES: I've now got doctors and nurses on the front lines who are using one mask for their entire shift. We got a shipment from a Strategic National Stockpile a couple of weeks ago that actually had no N95 mask on it. So no, we don't have enough. Also, we're going to need to build alternative care sites. And we're currently looking at that and we need staff to help us get those up and running very quickly.


KING: Joining me now to continue the discussion, Robin Erb, the health writer for the Bridge Magazine in Michigan. Do we know exactly why they were starting to see this surge in Detroit?

ROBIN ERB, HEALTH WRITER, BRIDGE MAGAZINE: Well, there are a lot of theories and probably some pretty good thinking out there about this. You know, one of the first things is we're an international help for travel Detroit Metro Airport is very busy with students, same with business travel. And we were one of the 11 airports, if you remember, in Detroit, it was taking the -- doing the extra screening for folks coming from China.

So you have that international hub, you know, part of it also, just like any metropolitan area, we have areas that are very densely populated. So that's going to help that spread. And then, you know, what's really unique to Detroit is even though we have this great economic revitalization going on right now, there's a lot of great things happening in it, we still have these areas of deep poverty, and that means lack of access to health care, and that in turn means, you know, those chronic conditions going unchecked, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and those as we know, make you more susceptible to this severest, you know, the severest symptoms of COVID-19.

KING: Right. And so, this story is going to be with us for months and it is going to move around pockets of the country. We're heavily focused on New York for obvious reasons, the giant caseload, they're almost half of the country. What we saw as we found this in Seattle. We were just touching base in L.A. and California.


When your governor came out yesterday and announced that dramatic increase in cases it's just one of those your head snaps back and you realize every day, you know, where is it going to come up next? What is the perspective there about you talk about, you know, there's inner city, Detroit, but then you have a state with rural areas as well, about the resources, the availability, the supply line, where is Michigan?

ERB: Well, you know, Dr. Khaldun, who you spoke to earlier today, she was one of the first people who raised the alarm several weeks ago saying, we don't have enough. You know, we don't have enough of the personal protection equipment, there were protective equipment we're hearing about across the country, we don't have enough ventilators. And that's become really acute in the last few days.

Our Metro Detroit hospitals are getting overwhelmed. And, you know, they're asking for donations. They're struggling to, you know, use those masks all day the masks that are supposed to be disposable. So we've got some really anxious healthcare workers out there right now.

KING: And let me ask you a question. I'm not sure it's a fair question. But let me let me try to ask it anyway, in the senses, as this plays out, your healthcare system is stressed, you mentioned the specific challenges of inner city Detroit, overlay that with the anxiety and the stress of the economic hit, Michigan taking a big piece of the economic hit here as well, in terms of what that does to the healthcare system?

ERB: Well, we've got healthcare systems very, very much worried about their bottom line. And they're saying, of course, absolutely, of course, the first priority is for patients. But, you know, we've got -- we already have some healthcare systems that are struggling from time to time and they are worried that right now they're trying to -- they're more concentrating right now on, you know, kind of balancing that load of patients. But I -- they're very worried.

KING: A difficult days and weeks ahead, Robin Erb, really appreciate your perspective from Michigan.

ERB: It really is.

KING: It is. It's a tough time and again, we watched this and this is going to pop up in different places at different times around the country as part of our reporting challenge. Really appreciate your help from on the ground in Michigan.

And as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world tops half a million. How close are we to finding a vaccine or other treatments? We'll explore that in just a moment.



KING: As the number of coronavirus cases around the world surpasses the half million mark researchers of course working around the clock to try to develop drugs to treat the outbreak. But the necessary testing and clinical trials could take months to produce results.

Joining us now two people with expertise in this topic, Dr. Michel Nussenzweig, investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He's also part of a group at the Rockefeller University Hospital working on a coronavirus clinical study. And Natalie Dean, assistant professor of Biostatistics at the University of Florida. She specializes in vaccine trial development.

Dr. Nussenzweig, let me start with you. You're involved in a clinical trial right now, explain to our viewers what it is and what the hope is.

DR. MICHEL NUSSENZWEIG, INVESTIGATOR, HOWARD HUGHES MEDICAL INSTITUTE: OK, very good, John. So what we're doing is trying to obtain the antibodies from people that are excellent responders to the virus, so that we can reproduce them and give them to other individuals to protect them from the virus or potentially treat the virus.

It's very similar to plasma therapy that you've been hearing about. And that I heard Dr. Fauci talk about yesterday on your program. But instead of using plasma pulled for many individuals, something that is not scalable, we're going to get just the very best components of that plasma and be able to reproduce it so we can give it to a lot of people.

KING: And a timeline your guess?

NUSSENZWEIG: A timeline for this is very similar to vaccines. It'll take a year, just about a year to be able to do something like this. But we're in the midst of recruiting people to be able to do this.

KING: And Natalie come in on the timeline point because a lot of people are watching. They want to know when there might be treatments. They want to know when there might be a vaccine, especially if we assume this will come back to us in another season down the road.

Let me try this in layman's term, if one is the starting point, and 10 is the finish line, where are we in terms of vaccine development? I know there are a number of different attempts out there. Where are we and again, what is realistic for people to think in terms of what it might be available?

NATALIE DEAN, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF BIOSTATISTICS, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA: Hi, John. Yes, thanks for having me. So on that 10-point scale, I'd say maybe we're still at the one or the two. I mean, things have been moving extremely quickly, people are working very hard. But there are a lot of necessary steps before a vaccine can become available to a wide population that includes animal testing.

But because this is a new disease, we don't really have an animal model. And then these early in human trials. And then the big trials where we demonstrate that the vaccine safe and effective, and then finally actually manufacturing the vaccine at scale.

KING: And Dr. Nussenzweig as you go through trials, you need patients to help you in those trials. Is that an issue? Do you have availability of everybody, you need to run through the testing that is necessary to know A, it works and B, it's safe?

NUSSENZWEIG: Well, we're recruiting, John. And we're asking volunteers who have recovered from the virus to come here so that they can donate samples so that we can find the best individuals and do the antibody cloning.

KING: And that -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

NUSSENZWEIG: -- a site where you can go. And I believe we sent you the link so you can provide it to people who want to volunteer.


KING: Great. We will do that. As we as we do this, it's a challenge. And Natalie, as the conversation is played out, we're obviously learning every day, new things about this virus as we get more testing ramped up around the United States as you get more patients treated, and you'll learn more about it. In terms of when people do talk about it in the context of like the flu, Dr. Fauci has talked about this. Maybe as the weather gets warmer. The cases do go down a little bit, but it cycles back. Are we certain about that? Or are we still studying the novel coronavirus to figure out if that's a fact?

DEAN: Yes. I haven't never been too convinced about the, you know, the argument that it might go away in the summer. The reality is we are seeing cases pop up in the southern hemisphere. We're seeing some transmission there. And, you know, in places like Singapore that have, you know, a humid climate. We're seeing transmissions.

So, you know, there's not really enough evidence to think that it will go away in the summer just like the flu.

KING: And Dr. Nussenzweig, this is global challenge, you're focused on your work. How does the collaboration work here? Is it people off doing what they think is their best thing with their small group or their constant conversations with colleagues around the world to try to learn the lessons of China, the lessons of Spain, the lessons of Italy to get the larger mass, if you will, the larger database to study?

NUSSENZWEIG: John, this has been an incredible experience and just how collaborative scientists can be from every different discipline. Our team is working with people all over the world, and all over the country, to try to do this as rapidly and as efficiently as we can and to learn from each other so that we don't make any mistakes.

KING: Well, I want to thank you both A, for coming out to help us explain this today. It's very complicated. We want to make sure we do this fact based that has not always been the case during this story as it plays out. We appreciate both of you for the work you're doing. And for your insights here today. I can't thank you enough.

NUSSENZWEIG: Thank you, John. Thanks for having us.

KING: No. Thank you very much. Please, good luck in your work.

And before we go, I want to zoom in on a somber example of our new coronavirus reality and the desperate need on the frontlines of the virus fight. Forty-eight-year-old Kious Kelly, New York City nurse tested positive just last week. Days later, he was dead. He may be the first nurse in the hard hit city to die from the virus. His sister said he had asthma but was otherwise healthy. She spoke with CNN this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARYA SHERRON, SISTER OF NY NURSE WHO DIED OF CORONAVIRUS: Unfortunately, that -- everything happened so quickly. He told my parents that he was positive and had corona and three days later he sent me a text message and shared that he was in the ICU and on a ventilator and he couldn't talk or he would choke so he was having trouble breathing.

And six days later, he died. We can do something about this and that we didn't in time for to save his life is this challenging. But that I don't get the sense that we are, in fact, I know we're not to be to be honest, I know we're not dealing with it now. So that makes it hard because it's in vain if we're not going to get our -- every -- all of our health care workers, everything that they need.

And, you know, Chris, it's disturbing what is happening. I don't think America knows. The news is not sharing with us what our healthcare workers are seeing and being asked to do, and it's shameful, it is shameful.


KING: New York's governor, insist, hospitals have or should have enough protective gear for now though he admits distribution has not been as good as it could and should be. CNN has gathered ways that you can help from protecting healthcare professionals to assisting the homeless in the elderly, visit, for ways you can impact your world.


Thanks for joining us today. Still ahead, CNN speaks with the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Brianna Keilar continues our coverage after a quick break. Have a good afternoon. Stay safe.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar, and welcome back to CNN special coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Right now the United States has hit a shocking milestone. The number of cases here are now the most for any country in the world. The U.S. has 91,000 plus cases as a moment ago now more than China, more than Italy. And you can see this precipitous rise just over the past few days here.

New York, of course, is the epicenter for the United States right now anyways. But as we see cases rise all across the country, there are several other hotspots that are emerging.



DR. JEROME ADAMS, SURGEON GENERAL: Everyone's curve is going to be different. New York is going to look different than Boise, Idaho or Jackson, Mississippi or New Orleans. We also see hotspots like Detroit.