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Georgia to Reopen Some Businesses; Latest Coronavirus Update around the World; Rural Hospitals Struggle with Pandemic; Answers to Your Coronavirus Questions. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired April 21, 2020 - 08:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Georgia's governor plans to reopen many businesses in his state by this Friday, including gyms, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors, barbershops, hair and nail salons and massage therapists. On Monday, movie theaters and restaurants can reopen.

So joining us now is Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz, who called for a stay at home order in his city even before the state wide order.

Mayor Girtz, great to have you here.

So what do you think of your governor's plan?

MAYOR KELLY GIRTZ (D-ATHENS-CLARKE COUNTY, GA): Well, clearly these kind of businesses you mentioned are high contact environments. They're exactly the kind of places that we need to have maintain closure for the moment. All the health experts are telling us that we need a couple of weeks of decline in new cases and we certainly need a great ramp up in testing.

Georgia's been one of the lowest testing states per capita. And, unfortunately, this has had a damaging effect on healthcare outcomes and this, of course, reflects a series of decades in which we've had negative healthcare outcomes in Georgia relative to much of the rest of the United States. We've been in the lowest third or quartile of healthcare outcomes for new mothers and children. And I hate to see this add insult to injury.

CAMEROTA: Not only have you not seen a decline, Johns Hopkins University, their latest numbers, this is confirmed and presumed cases, and just yesterday Georgia had a spike in cases. So, I mean, basically the numbers have been fluctuating up and down, but there certainly hasn't been a decline over the past two weeks.

And so what do you think is going to happen in your county on Friday when these go into effect?

GIRTZ: People here in Athens have been fantastic about taking care of themselves and taking care of one another. And I'm extorting everybody in this community to continue to shelter in place. Do not reopen at this point. It's not the time to do it. It's like telling the quarterback, we don't have helmet -- a helmet for you, we don't have pads, but get out there on the field and just try not to get sacked. We've got to make sure that we're continuing to take care of ourselves and each other. We need testing. We certainly need to work on treatment and we need contact tracing of the sort that we just don't have in this state yet.

CAMEROTA: Have you shared your concerns with Governor Kemp?

GIRTZ: I have. Prior to the state wide order, I asked Governor Kemp to join Athens in creating an order so that we could be unified as a state. People cross jurisdictional boundaries here. They don't recognize those. People go to work. People go shopping. People go to school. And as Senator Schumer was saying just a little bit ago on your program, the same is true around the country, we've got to be united on this for our own health and safety.

CAMEROTA: And what was his reaction to your concerns?

GIRTZ: He said that he was paying close attention to everything. And I certainly hope that he would pay close attention to the health experts who are telling us that we need to continue to hunker down. And I understand the concerns about the economic health of this state. You know, we, right now, are working on our budget for fiscal year 2021 and it's a challenging environment in which to do that because we know we're seeing declining revenue. But more than one thing can be true at the same time. We can work on the fiscal health of our economy, and we can also work on the raw, human health for our population. If somebody's not alive, they're going to not be able to be a customer. And so I'm very concerned about that for Athens, for Georgia, and for the United States.

CAMEROTA: I hear you, that people in your county, you think, have been complying and have done well with the stay at home orders. But what if on Friday, and then Monday, people are itching to get out, back to the gym. They do want to get their hair done. They do want to perhaps go to a restaurant.


What happens to the healthcare system, locally, in your community, if people end up getting sick?

GIRTZ: Well, we're just a community of 130,000 people. We service the Catchman (ph) area for about three quarters of a million people with our two local hospitals from all other rural counties that surround us. And so I've been encouraging all of our neighbors to kind of follow the similar pattern that we've established here in Athens- Clarke and continue to stay at home. And I'll continue to ask the general population to do that for yourselves, encourage your neighbors, encourage your friends, encourage your business colleagues to stay at home. Now is not the time to come out of sheltering.

CAMEROTA: Mayor Kelly Girtz, we really appreciate you giving us a status report on what's happening there in your county, as well as sharing your concerns about what is ahead. Thank you very much for your time.

GIRTZ: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Over to Italy.

Italy is getting ready to announce a plan to lift their lockdown. So we have more from our reporters all around the globe, next.


CAMEROTA: New this morning, Europe is lifting some lockdowns. So have they gotten through the worst of the pandemic?


CNN has reporters all around the world, bringing us the latest developments.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Barbie Nadeau in Rome, where here the Italy the government is working on final preparations to begin lifting restrictions on May 4th. Giuseppe Conte, the prime minister, wrote on FaceBook Monday night that he thought it would be irresponsible to open everything up too soon. He didn't want to sacrifice all the hard work made to flatten the curve. Instead, he says the way forward is finding a way to co-exist with Covid-19 and keep workers and citizens safe as they try to find a new normal.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Berlin, where Germany is gradually emerging from the coronavirus induced lockdown. Smaller stores can now open in this country and we were in a small German town, we did see a lot of people who were out and about wanting to go shopping. Angela Merkel, however, is warning that people still have to adhere to these social distancing measures or risk another spike in corona cases.

Meanwhile, Denmark is already going one step further, hairdressers, tattoo parlors and dentists can open there as well.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Scott McLean in Madrid, where Spaniards have been living under some of Europe's strictest lockdown conditions for more than five weeks. Though there is freedom in sight if you're a child. Today, Spanish politicians will meet to determine the conditions under which kids will be allowed out of their houses beginning next week.

Some regional leaders have also called on adults to be allowed to exercise outdoors. The central government says that is on the table, though won't say when it might be allowed. On Wednesday, lawmakers are expected to approve an extension of the stay at home order until May 9th.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our thanks to that reporting from all around the world.

So, New York, Seattle, Detroit, major urban centers with a high number of coronavirus cases, we know about them, but rural areas have been hit hard by the pandemic without getting nearly as much attention. Rural hospitals especially are struggling.

CNN's Leyla Santiago live in Sperryville, Virginia, with the latest here.

And capacity is a real issue for some of these institutions.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a real issue, John. You know, I talked to one rural hospital here in Virginia. They described the coronavirus in their county as crippling. And that county hasn't even had a case yet. Our team spoke to five different hospitals across the country, they echoed that same sentiment. And this comes as Covid-19 cases are on the rise in rural areas.


SANTIAGO (voice over): Among the rolling hills and the open fields --

DANIELLE BAIR, PATIENT, SCOTLAND COUNTY HOSPITAL: A laid back community. To me it's one of the best places to live.

SANTIAGO: Rural America has largely been able to avoid the worst of coronaviruses. No packed ICUs or morgues filling up. But there are people with Covid-19. Eighty percent of rural counties across the country have now reported cases. And though it is nowhere near the spikes seen in metropolitan areas, for doctors like Dr. Donovan Beckett in West Virginia --

DR. DONOVAN BECKETT, PHYSICIAN, WILLIAMSON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: It's been devastating. I mean it -- having Covid on top of an already struggling healthcare system has been quite burdensome.

SANTIAGO: The presence of a pandemic is just one more financial burden on struggling rural hospitals, already trying to stay afloat. Nineteen rural hospitals closed last year, victims of cuts to Medicare and Medicaid funding and reduced populations.

DR. RANDY TOBLER, CEO AND PHYSICIAN, SCOTLAND COUNTY HOSPITAL: It's just a perfect storm for Armageddon.

SANTIAGO: Dr. Randy Tobler is an OB-GYN and the CEO of Scotland County Hospital in Missouri, when serves about 5,000 people. When elective procedures came to a halt in response to the coronavirus, their revues dropped by more than half.

TOBLER: When we were already in a tremendously fragile financial situation, it has really put a tremendous burden on our ability to meet payroll.

SANTIAGO: Last month, the hospital furloughed some staff and reduced pay across the board, desperate to avoid running out of money and having to close, which would be devastating to the community. TOBLER: Yes, these are the vulnerable populations. They're older and

they're sicker. The, therefore, more venerable to the coronavirus menace.

BAIR: It is critical for our area to keep the hospital here.

SANTIAGO: Tobler's patients, Danielle and Jake Bair, are both recovering from Covid-19 and said having a hospital with familiar faces closer to home made all the difference.

BAIR: We are about an hour from any other healthcare facility. And there are times when people need emergency care, and we need it now.

SANTIAGO: Back in Mingo County, West Virginia, Williamson Memorial Hospital will likely shut down any day.

BECKETT: And we've obviously had to do away with having elective procedures done on an already struggling volume level.


So that creates a perfect storm and makes it difficult.

SANTIAGO: After filing for bankruptcy late last year, the hospital was hoping a future partnership could save it. Then came Covid-19.

BECKETT: It was the last straw and the current owners decided that they would go ahead and pursue closing the hospital.

SANTIAGO The relief package Congress passed last month provided some temporary relief to rural hospitals, with a $100 billion fund for hospitals and other healthcare providers. It's not enough, Tobler says.

TOBLER: We were a vulnerable and remain a vulnerable and are probably now a more vulnerable rural hospital because there's no foundational change.


SANTIAGO: And restarting elective procedures is something that will be determined on a state and local level. Some states already starting to have that conversation. But let's go back to Dr. Donovan Beckett in West Virginia here. You heard from him in the story. We asked him about that closure of his hospital. He says that if there is not some sort of state or federal intervention, they may have to shut their doors April 21st. And check your calendar, John, that's today.

BERMAN: Wow. All right, Leyla, such an important report. I mean whatever advantages in density they have in some of these rural hospitals, there's no margin for error here at all.

Leyla Santiago, thank you very much.

So many developments on the pandemic each hour. Here's what to watch today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ON SCREEN TEXT: Soon, New York Gov. Cuomo briefing.

3:30 p.m. ET, Illinois Gov. Pritzker briefing.

5:00 p.m. ET, White House task force briefing.


BERMAN: So it has become a can't miss daily event. Dr. Sanjay Gupta back to answer some of your questions, next.



CAMEROTA: OK, more viewer questions coming in about coronavirus. And CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is back to answer them.

OK, Sanjay, let's start with Peter from Memphis, Tennessee. He says, if we face a rebound of the virus after relaxing the stay at home rules, will we see the same two-week delay before people show symptoms of the disease? And are we really showing a two-week delay or is it five days?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, five days is sort of the average incubation, meaning time from exposure to the time you develop symptoms. But, you know, two weeks, it can be -- it can even be longer than two weeks. Two weeks was originally sort of the incubation period that we were working with.

And the answer to the question is, yes. I mean, you know, there is a lag time between the time of exposure, if someone's going to develops symptoms. And, keep in mind, a lot of people never develop symptoms. But if they are up to that two-week period, if they're going to need to be hospitalized, it's typically nine or ten days after that. So you see, you know, this lag when you look at hospitalizations, they typically reflects exposures up to, you know, two or three weeks ago.

BERMAN: So, Sanjay, a question about laundry here from Miles in California. What about doing laundry in apartment washers? What about the previous tenants who might have done a cold wash? Does detergent alone kill the virus?

GUPTA: Yes, yes, great question. And, yes, you know, this is really interesting. Detergent alone, soap alone can inactivate, destroy the virus. You know, I don't want to use the word kill because viruses aren't technically alive. So you're not killing it, you're sort of destroying it or inactivating it.

But what's kind of interesting, you know, for Miles, for everybody, is that alcohol-based sanitizers can be effective, but the outer coating of this virus is basically a fat. And soap actually is really good at sort of disintegrating that fat. As one guy from the University of Pittsburgh described it to me, it's kind of like thinking about how you might clean a dish that's a buttery dish, would you use just water? No. Would you use an alcohol-based cleaner? Probably not. Soap and water do the job. That's the same reason it works so well on viruses, whether it's on your hands or in the laundry.

CAMEROTA: OK, good analogy.

This one comes from John. Has anyone been re-infected and died from the virus after getting it and surviving it the first time? Do we know the answer to this, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, there's -- there's been these various case reports talking about people becoming re-infected, meaning that they had the infection, the virus was gone from their body, and then it came back. Now, there's not clear evidence of that. It could be that the virus was never actually fully gone from their body. It could be that the testing, you know, was a false negative. And there's various reasons.

So, once you get infected, you -- there's good reason to believe that at least for a period of time you should have immunity to the virus. You know, we don't know how long that immunity lasts. We don't know how strong that immunity is. But you should have some immunity to it. So it's unlikely the scenario that John described.

I should point out, you know, we have to test this to find out if the immunity exists and how long, but you remember Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, MERS, that was also caused by a coronavirus. Some studies came out showing that people from that infection had immunity up to two years later. So, again, we don't know about this coronavirus, but there is some precedent for that.

BERMAN: So, quickly, Sanjay, we understand that you were tested and it was quite an experience.

GUPTA: Yes, I don't -- I don't know if people know exactly what it involves to be swabbed in the nasal farings (ph), that's a part behind the nose. But that -- that is uncomfortable for me to even watch it (INAUDIBLE) as opposed to actually go through it.


BERMAN: Oh! I think the physics of that are almost impossible. You say the back of the nose. That's like the back of the brain.


GUPTA: That's right. I was a little worried about that as a brain surgeon myself.

That woman who was doing it, I don't think she liked me too much. She like really got it in there and did a few -- few swabs.

But -- so that is nasal faringial (ph) swab. You're going to that space behind the nose, the top of the mouth called the farings (ph). That's where you're getting the sample from. It's not comfortable. I can tell you that right after I had that test done, which was on

Friday, a report came out and said that the phlox (ph) swabs, I think we have a picture of these, phlox swabs, are actually good to do the test as well, which don't need to go up nearly as far. That's just in the nose. So I found out about two or three hours too late for that. But that -- that is an example.

And I can tell you my -- I just got my test results back, negative, as a healthcare worker, they're testing healthcare workers. I still work at the hospital. That's why I had it done. But, thankfully, I'm negative.

CAMEROTA: I am so glad that modern medicine has made progress since just Friday when you had the test done.

GUPTA: Mid day. Mid day.

CAMEROTA: And now we no longer have to endure that. Thank you, Sanjay, for that horrible video.

GUPTA: You're welcome.


BERMAN: All right, CNN's coverage continues after this quick break.