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U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 14,000; Report: U.S. Intel Warned Of Coronavirus Spread In November; White House Model Revises U.S. Deaths By August From 80,000 Down To 60,000; China Lifts 76-Day Lockdown On Wuhan; Fauci: Planning For "Re-Entry Into Normality" Not Like "Turning A Light Switch On And Off;" New CDC Guidelines For Essential Workers Exposed To Virus: Wear Face Masks And Take Temperature. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 8, 2020 - 20:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Erin, thanks very much. Good evening everybody. Some cautiously optimistic news to report this evening. The White House coronavirus task force is talking about glimmers of hope. Social distancing, they say, is working and lowering the projections for the number of dead and hospitalized, even as New York announced its highest death count for a single day.

We're going to talk about the new projections in a moment. We'll also talk about how a reopening of the country, when it occurs, might occur. The president, who was far more measured in his comments during the press briefing today, said this evening he wants to reopen the country as quickly as possible, but would rely a lot on his medical experts in terms of how and when to do it.

We have a new report on how the reopening of Wuhan in China, the source of the virus, how that has been going. "ABC News" is out with a new report that quotes a source who says U.S. intelligence was warning as far back as November that the virus posed a danger.

Analysts reportedly compiled a report that included it could be a "cataclysmic event". Now, the same source tells "ABC" that top members of the Defense Department as well as the White House were briefed and it was included as well in the president's daily brief in early January.

The president's first comment on the disease that was in an interview with "CNBC" on January 22. This is what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, not at all, and we're -- we have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It's going to be just fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Seven days later we now know his trade advisor, Peter Navarro, wrote the first of at least two memos that warned in the first memo of as many as about half a million dead potentially.

Yesterday the president said he never saw the memo. Today, our Jim Acosta asked a slightly different question, was he briefed on that memo? Here's the exchange.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Just a follow-up on something from yesterday and a quick just "yes" or "no" question. Yesterday you said you had not seen Peter Navarro's memo on coronavirus back in January, February 23.

TRUMP: Yeah.

ACOSTA: Were you ever briefed on those memos? Did you ever discuss those memos with anybody?

TRUMP: I don't remember that. I've now seen the memo. I saw it -- it was -- Peter sends a lot of memos. I didn't see the memo. As you know, World Health was saying that was not correct because at the time they called it wrong.

But I didn't see the memo, but I acted as quickly as -- people were shocked I acted so quickly and everybody thought I was wrong because I did act so quickly, as you know, with respect to closing the borders, with respect not only to China, but with Europe I closed the borders. And I think that was very important. But, no, I didn't see the memo at the time, but I have seen it since.


COOPER: Well, for the latest on what's supposed to be the most deadly week so far for this virus, I want to start with Erica Hill.

Erica, you're in front of the hospital at the Javits Convention Center, the makeshift hospital. How many patients are actually there?

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, we are told there are 104 COVID-positive patients being treated here. Of course, there are 2,500 available beds.

Governor Cuomo said today that hospitalizations for the state are down. And in terms of all these extra beds, remember, the Javits Convention Center and the Comfort ship, which is in the Hudson River just a few blocks from here, those are what the governor is referring to as relief valves.

He was saying today the fact there are still so many beds available is a sign of good preparation.



HILL (voice-over): A blunt assessment from the top.

FAUCI: It's going to be a bad week for deaths.

HILL (voice-over): For the second day in a row, New York State announcing a new high for single-day deaths: 779 on Tuesday. With morgues overloaded, hard hit communities are bringing in refrigerated trailers and more help.

In New York City, hundreds of national guard members and more than 50 active duty mortuary military specialists are now assisting the medical examiner's office.

As states and cities report a rising death toll, there is some hope. Projected deaths nationwide now expected to be closer to 60,000 by August, revised down significantly thanks to social distancing. The message from officials, this is no time to let up.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: We're all looking to finally get out from under this, but it's not that time yet. The progress confirms the strategy is working.

HILL (voice-over): The White House task force also zeroing in on several additional cities as potential hot spots, including Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and Houston.

New CNN polling reveals a majority of Americans feel the federal government has done a poor job preventing the spread. Eighty percent feel the worst is yet to come.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: More rural areas are starting to get hit, and I'm really worried because hospitals in those areas don't have as many ICU beds, don't have the same capacity.

HILL (voice-over): With each day there is also mounting evidence that the virus is impacting African-Americans at a much higher rate. Under- served communities also hit hard.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Whatever the situation is, natural disaster, hurricane Katrina, the people standing on those rooftops were not rich white people. Why? Why is it that the poorest people always pay the highest price?


Let's learn from this moment and let's learn these lessons and let's do it now.

HILL (voice-over): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state will increase testing and research in minority communities starting today, to better understand the disparity.

Meantime, supply needs continue to be a concern across the country. GM announced it will produce 30,000 ventilators for the national stockpile, costing nearly half a billion dollars. But those won't be delivered until the end of August.

Another concern, how and when to reopen the country. That conversation is starting with a focus on antibody testing, to learn who is infected but asymptomatic.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE: This makes a very big difference in really understanding who can go back to work and how they can go back to work.

HILL (voice-over): Dr. Birx says those tests could be available in the next 10 to 14 days. Though in reality, there is no clear end-date for this pandemic. Pennsylvania and New York following New Jersey's lead, flags lowered to half-staff in honor of the thousands lost to this virus.


COOPER: Erica, what's the latest from -- from Governor Cuomo? Is - is he cautiously optimistic?

HILL: I would describe it as cautiously optimistic with a healthy dose of -- of realism. You know, one of the things he said today is we -- it may look like we're flattening the curve in terms of what we've seen, but this is no time to be complacent. This is just, you know, further proof that you need to be doubling down on all of these measures of social distancing and staying at home.

And he was also talking about whether there was a new normal to come on the other side of this, could we get back to normal. His whole point there was there's no going back. There's only looking ahead to the future, and that future will not look like what life was yesterday. It will, in fact, be a new normal, and that's something that people are going to have to start wrapping their heads around -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, also, Erica, if this newest projection is correct in -- in the 60,000 range, that still means, you know, between now and -- and August, 45,000 people in this country may -- may die if that projection is -- is correct. I mean, it's still early in -- in that sense. Erica Hill, thank you.

Joining me now is CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta and Senior Investigative Correspondent, Drew Griffin.

So, Sanjay, the new model shows a lower number of deaths in -- going to August than originally predicted. Talk a little about what -- what is attributed -- what that's attributed to.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that when they -- when they were looking at the previous models, I mean, they were working on the data they had and -- and a couple of assumptions that was really focused on -- on China. I mean, that was a -- a place, a location where they had gone through this curve of the infection, and they were trying to, like, plug in that -- those assumptions from China into this. But now, as you look at those new numbers, you'll see they've gone quite a bit down. And I think when you -- when you sort of dig into it, Anderson, it really reflects the fact that there's other countries now that they're looking at that may have not had as much stringent -- these stay-at-home sort of lockdown policies as China, but still did have some success -- significant success with regard to decreasing hospitalizations and decreasing deaths. So, it's -- I -- I think that's really what's informing, and in -- in addition to some new data that's coming in from the states.

I -- I should point out that it's still -- you know, it's -- there's a lot of variability still in these models. I mean, we've been following several of them, Anderson. Like this one, for example, New York City, I -- I was looking, their range, at the peak, they say it could be anywhere from 300 people to 1800 people possibly dying on the peak days in New York City. It's a wide range, is my point.

And you have several other cities around the country now that are, you know, cities of significant concern. So, the models are, you know, only as good as the assumptions you're putting into them, and there's a lot of assumptions still.

COOPER: Yeah. Jim, I mean, in the briefing you asked about the new model. What was the response?

ACOSTA: Yeah, I asked Dr. Deborah Birx because last week, you'll recall, we were in that dramatic briefing where The White House essentially said we could see 100,000 to 240,000 deaths. Yesterday we were starting to get an inkling that they were backing away from those figures.

And then Dr. Deborah Birx essentially said that, yes, they're starting to see the -- the models coming down, and so they're anticipating fewer deaths. And here's what she had to say when I asked her that question.


BIRX: I know many of you are watching the Act Now model and the I -- IHME model from -- and they have consistently decreased the number, the mortality, from over almost 90,000 or 88 -- 86,000 down to 81,000 and now down to 61,000. That is modeled on what America is doing.


ACOSTA: And so, she credits the social distancing for doing this.

But, Anderson, one of the things that they're concerned about -- we know this from talking to people inside the task force, they repeated this today -- is that, as people see these models come down, they don't want people to dial down the social distancing. That could cause these guidelines to snap back because, obviously, outbreaks could reoccur if people start going back to the way life was before we started doing all of this.

[20:10:00] COOPER: Drew, I mean, the - the President made the claim today that, you know, the U.S. has what he said was "the best testing systems". Obviously we know about all the problems that, you know, have existed with testing.

What is the status of testing right now? Because Governor Cuomo talked about this today, and every scientist I talk to points this out - that testing is going to be - Governor Cuomo called it the bridge that's going to get you to opening up the economy again, people going back to work. Without testing in every state and contact tracing, it's not going to happen.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And the testing is getting better. The capacity is getting better. But like you said, Anderson, keep in mind, we are just playing catch up to what was an abysmal roll out of the - of the testing that we needed, the testing you needed to - to identify, isolate, mitigate what is now this huge virus spread.

I will tell you we're talking with labs every single day. They are still running out of these nose swabs. There is a constant problem with getting the re-agent supply, the chemicals they need to run the test.

And the big, big companies - Quest Diagnostic, LabCorp - telling us just this week their backlog is still four to five days to turn around a test. That's four or five days that you, your doctor, your health care workers are waiting to see whether or not you have COVID or not. So we're still far behind, but it is improving in capacity.

COOPER: Sanjay, I mean, just on testing - first of all, talk about that idea of testing being the bridge. Because it's not just the antibody test which would tell you who was exposed already and, therefore, has some immunity, we - we believe, as far as I know. But also it's - it's the other testing just to see - you know, who may still be infected, who is not, and to give people information and confidence.

GUPTA: Yes, absolutely. I mean, testing was, is and will be, I think, the cornerstone of all of this. You know, right now when you test, you not only want to find out if someone is positive, but also be able to isolate that person, trace their contacts, so that you can really try and, you know, slow down the spread. That's challenging as you know, Anderson, because of so much community spread right now.

At the beginning of the curve, and then again at the end of the curve, testing will be, you know, obviously very important. And at that time, as we sort of come to the - to the end of the curve, the tail of the curve, you will see an increased focus on testing, and the ability to isolate folks and contact trace them. That will be part of sort of getting the -the infection to stay low, you know, to really reduce that community spread.


GUPTA: That in addition to making sure hospitals have capacity and all of that sort of stuff. But, yes, this is the antigen test. This is the virus testing, not the antibody testing. That will be important as well, but the testing for the virus will remain important.

COOPER: And this could be up to states and state health departments. From all the people I've talked to, they say the states just are not ready for that and the contact tracing.

I want to ask you about these new CDC guidelines for essential, critical workers. I think we have them to put it up on the screen. Seems like a lot of what they're saying is - is already happening. It says, "Take your temperature before work," "Wear a face mask at all times," "Practice social distancing in the workplace".

GUPTA: And if you look at the top, this is for people who have a known exposure to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Although one could argue that it should be everybody, because anybody may have been exposed to COVID-19.

But you're right. Some of these things have been in place for essential workers, particularly health care workers. For health care workers, there's even been recommendations that if - even if you have mild symptoms, you can continue to work with a mask.

But you're getting a glimpse, I think, Anderson, of what the return to work might look like more generally. Take your temperature first thing in the morning. Your temperature will be taken again when you get to work. You may wear a mask at work. You won't be allowed to congregate in break rooms, things like that.

Employers will have to create better air flow within buildings, make sure there is deep cleaning of all the surfaces on a regular basis. You're starting to get an idea of what this might look like for all workers.

Again, this is essential workers now, and it's for people who have had known exposure. But I think as we start to extrapolate and expand people going back to work, these are the glimpses of what it might look like.

COOPER: Jim, the President told you that he didn't see the memo from his adviser Peter Navarro. Didn't acknowledge getting briefed by intelligence officials back on it. It is interesting given - I mean, you know, the President said Peter Navarro sends a lot of memos. I'm not sure what the likelihood is that he - he would have seen it. Do you know?

ACOSTA: Yes. It was interesting, Anderson. Because yesterday he said he didn't see the memo, he wasn't looking for the memo. And so I asked the President this evening, "Were you briefed on the memo? Was it discussed in your presence?" And he said, "I don't remember that."


That was the answer that he gave to that question. And so it's very possible that this - this memo did come up in conversations inside the White House. We are still digging on that. But the President said he began to take seriously what was going on with the coronavirus when he shut down travel, or began travel restrictions on flights coming in from China. That is around the time that the Peter Navarro memo came out.

The memo came out on the 27th. Those restrictions went into place a couple of days after that. And so the President seems to be saying he was listening to the memo without acknowledging that he saw the memo, or read the memo, or was briefed on the memo.

The other thing we should point out that is he did not really indicate one way or the other how much he knew about this intelligence information that was coming into the Pentagon back in November of last year, which backs up the time line of course, Anderson, as to when it intelligence officials were aware there could be a very serious pandemic developing over in China.

COOPER: Yes. Sanjay, stay with us. Jim, thank you. Drew Griffin, thanks so much. Still to come tonight. A live report from China on the reopening of Wuhan - again, the source of the coronavirus - the number of people allowed to leave, plus whether the danger there has truly subsided.

Also tonight - remembering John Prine, who died of complications of the coronavirus on Tuesday. A legendary singer, song writer and guitarist. Bonnie Raitt is going to join us to remember the life of her friend, one of the most storied song writers in American history, whose melodies caught you and whose lyrics kept you.



COOPER: Before the break, we were discussing the possibility of reopening this country, and how long that would take, and what the risk of doing it too soon might be. Now China is already taking steps in that direction.

This morning tens of thousands who could prove they were healthy were allowed to leave the city of Wuhan, which is the source of the virus, after a 76 day lockdown. For more on how that has been going, I want to go to David Culver in Shanghai. So, the lockdown has ended. Is everything open in Wuhan?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. Far from it, Anderson. I mean, state media portrays, through the images they put out there, a very dramatic reopening, and the reality is now people, for the first time in the 76 days since the lockdown started, can leave Wuhan freely. And as you point out, they have to show that they have a clean bill of health.

But talking to residents on the ground there, life is still far from normal. In fact, many of them are still subject to the rules of their local neighborhood committee. So, in the U.S., it would be like your HOA, or your condo association, that stipulates that you can go outside for two hours per day, one person per family, and the you've got to be back inside.

So those are still in place. Schools are still closed. Businesses in many places - even, you know, specifically within Wuhan - are certainly shut down. Some of them, Anderson, are simply not going to reopen. They were crushed financially because of those 76 days of having to be closed.

COOPER: It's a pretty extreme condo association rules there. The - how do the folks prove that they are healthy to authorities so that they can leave?

CULVER: It has to do with big data. And I'm going to just show you. I mean, I've referenced the QR codes before. But we do everything on - on apps here, including payment. So there's no touching, handing credit cards, there's no cash.

So they use this big data, this Alipay app. And you have to push a button every single time you're going to show it, so that you can't just screen shot it. And you wait for what we consider to be our golden ticket - in this case, a green one. It's a green QR code. If it turns yellow or red, you've been flagged for some reason.

So it's kind of a big brother, you know, surveillance type, but the reality is that's become a source of pride for many people here, when, you know, you can get into a hotel or restaurant or shopping mall.

And people even have gone to the extent of having those in the hospitality industry and service industry print them out on stickers and put them on their lapel so that you know you're dealing with somebody who likely has not been exposed to a confirmed case.

But here's how specific this data gets, and it's kind of frighteningly so. They can tell where you have been on a plane. For example, if you were on an aircraft that had a confirmed case - if you were at the front of the cabin, well, chances are you'd still have a green qr code. If you were eight rows ahead, you might have a yellow one. If you were four rows ahead of that confirmed case, might be red. So that's the kind of detail they get into.

COOPER: Wow. I mean, we have nothing - we're not even close to anything like that here in the U.S. just in terms of contact tracing. I'm not sure - you know, obviously there's all sorts of civil - civil liberties issues as well. David, appreciate it - all your reporting as always.

Back with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Also joining us is Dr. Rishi Desai, a pediatric infectious disease physician, and Chief Medical Officer for the health education Web site

Sanjay, first of all, just seeing that in China I mean, is that something that actually would be built here? A testing system - a disease surveillance system effective enough that - I mean, that seems - I mean, there's a whole bunch of issues with that, but what kind of a system would be in the United States to ensure that the society could reopen? GUPTA: Well, I think - you know, when we get towards this - you know,

this - this tail end of the curve, when the numbers start to come down, the idea of just basic public health strategies where you - you - people are getting tested, that's still a cornerstone of this. They can be isolated if they're found to be positive because the test results come back quickly. And their contacts can be traced.

I agree with you, Anderson. I think it would be tough to do something. As has often been the case with some of the strategies in China - as effective as they may be, they may be difficult to implement things like that here in the United States. But that's really not to take away from strategies that have worked in this country.

The reason - again, without belaboring this point - it didn't really work in this country initially was because we didn't have adequate testing initially. So it was very - by the time we caught up, I think it was pretty clear the virus was circulating.

COOPER: Dr. Desai, what- what concerns me about the system in the U.S. is that it's state by state. And it just seems like - from every - every epidemiologist I've talked to, the states really are not - the public health systems are not robust enough in order to have the widespread testing needed, and also to do the contact tracing that's going to be needed to ensure people have confidence that - that they can be safe.

DR. RISHI DESAI, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, OSMOSIS.ORG: Yeah, that's exactly right. I mean, for multiple presidencies now, just to be very clear - this has gone on for a long time. You know, public health systems have been quietly - their budgets have been chipped away at. And they're amazing individuals working in those roles, but they need to be supported with resources.


And so a lot of that contact tracing work is now put on the individual that is sick and their family to say, "You know, you -- you need to contact all the people you've been around and let them know that this is something that we're worried about for you."

And so, right now, that's -- that's how we're doing it. And, unfortunately, that's the situation we've been in because of this long-standing de-investment in our public health system.

COOPER: I mean, Dr. Desai, the good news is scientists and medical professionals know what works. The question is, you know, funding it and getting people to do it. How possible is it to -- "upscale" is not a word, but -- or to scale up such a system, you know, very quickly, state by state?

DESAI: You know, there -- there is one thing that I've noticed in the -- in the past couple of weeks that I don't think I realized as much as now, which is the innovation and the creativity that comes from a desperate situation.

So, a simple example is the idea of block or batch testing where, you know, right now, imagine you're trying to screen 100 people, you -- one way to do it is to screen them individually. It's 100 tests.

One clever idea that's being rolled out in Germany is what if you took ten swabs and ran them as one test, and then if any one of them was positive, then you go back and figure out which one. But if they're all negative, then you can rest assured that all ten were negative and you essentially did 10 percent of the work.

So there are ways to scale up testing that are available today that we could try out and other countries have shown can work.

COOPER: Sanjay, Dr. Fauci said that going forward he thinks as a society we should just forget about shaking hands, just try to break that custom. Certainly, the president has talked about that.

He wasn't a big fan of handshaking in his civilian life. That would certainly be a big shift for, I mean, the world, but certainly the United States. I mean, in some countries it wouldn't be such a shift, because that's not their tradition.

GUPTA: Yes, I mean culturally in places around the world, handshaking is not common. You know, I don't know. I think it actually would probably be a good idea. I mean, even aside from coronavirus, I mean there's lots of other, you know, viruses including flu, which can be transmitted that way.

You know, I don't know, it will be interesting to see. I do think, as you and I have talked about Anderson, sometimes we have very short memory with regard to things, even something as significant as this.

But I think it would be a good thing to start and to encourage people to adopt, in addition to really thorough hand washing, which people are much better at now, maybe better than they've ever been in their lives because of all that's going on.

But those things, even outside of a pandemic, make a huge difference with regard to pathogens. So I would like to see it. I don't know if it will happen or not.

COOPER: Yes, Dr. Desai, thank you for -- very much for all you're doing and I appreciate the time you spent with us tonight. Thank you.

Sanjay, I want to ask you one more question. You know, actually, one of the things that Bill Gates had said to you and I when we were talking to him that, you know, it's a tens of billions of dollar proposition to prepare for the next pandemic, but that there are things scientists can do that will quicken the amount of time that a vaccine takes to come to fruition.

There's a whole bunch of stuff we can do to prepare for the next one. It's a question of political will to actually spend the money to do that. To your point about, you know, people forget very quickly and move on to other things, that would certainly be a shame if given all that we have been through thus far, if on the other side of this, we don't adequately prepare for the next time.

GUPTA: We can't let that happen, Anderson. I mean, you know -- and I think it's probably a little bit on us, you know, frankly, a little bit in the media to keep beating the drum on this because people will forget, I think, and move on.

But this is so important. I mean, we were not prepared. In 2017, Dr. Fauci also gave a talk that basically predicted a surprise pandemic. People have been talking about the idea of pandemic for some time.

But even aside from the preparation on testing and making sure we have surge capacity, that we have some redundancy in our health care system so we're not red-lining when it comes to ventilators and PPE like we are now, just the surveillance, really looking around the world, Anderson.

Like, you and I traveled to places around the world where zoonotic diseases, these pathogens jumping from animals to humans are happening.


GUPTA: That sort of surveillance is important. It's laborious work and most of it doesn't actually amount to anything that's going to turn into a pandemic. But when you do find it and you can start to squelch it, you know, at the beginning, think about the number of lives you could save, the amount of money that could be saved in all of this. So, yes, I -- we can't let people -- this can't just be a lessons learned that sits in a drawer somewhere.

COOPER: Just quickly, I want to ask you again, the president today again was, you know, praising hydroxychloroquine as a drug to treat the virus. It's certainly controversial. A cardiology group sent out a warning about the drug saying that some COVID-19 patients may be at higher risk of heart arrhythmias if treated with it. I wonder what you make of that.


GUPTA: Yes. This was significant. So there was actually three cardiac organizations. The American Heart Association, I think American Cardiology Association, and then one that was specifically an association that focuses on heart rhythm abnormalities.

This has been a concern with this particular medication -- that it could cause a heart rhythm abnormality, or worsen a heart rhythm problem in somebody who already has one. It's a small study. All these studies are small studies. So -- you know, just as difficult as it is to read into the benefits of these medications, it's difficult to read studies into the side effects.

But in this one, they found out of -- I think around 80, 83, 84 patients -- that 11 percent of them developed this particular type of heart rhythm abnormality. Wasn't necessarily something that caused significant problems or death, but it's a -- it's an issue.

So what they're recommending is that everyone be screened with EKGs before they try these medications, that they be monitored with EKGs. And if you have any kind of existing problem, you not get this drug. That could be a significant percentage of people, Anderson.

But again, this is why you do studies. This is what you have to sort of figure out, so you don't inadvertently harm somebody by giving them a medication like this.

COOPER: Sanjay, thanks very much. I'll see you tomorrow night for the CNN Global Town Hall -- Coronavirus Facts and Fears. Our special guests will include basketball hall of famer Magic Johnson, who'll discuss why the pandemic is hitting the African-American community so hard. Also joining us -- pastor Rick Warren. Two hours of guests, live reports, and answers to your questions about coronavirus. That's tomorrow night starting at 8pm Eastern.

Up next tonight, I'll talk to a doctor who has one of the toughest jobs in a hospital during the pandemic -- intubating patients to go on a ventilator. He told the Washington Post, "You're basically right next to the nuclear reactor." What it's like, when we continue.



COOPER: More now on the new CDC guidelines released tonight for essential workers who have been exposed to an infected person or asymptomatic. When they're on the job, they're being told to wear a face mask at all times and check their temperature. This includes healthcare workers and those who work in grocery stores, deliver the mail or packages, cook food for deliveries and more.

CNN's Jason Carroll has a look at how the workers are putting themselves at risk as they help keep our country running.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Businesses close, streets are empty, as New Yorkers, like many people across the country, continue to live under a stay-at-home order. But for those who are deemed essential --

CARROLL (on camera): A lot of stress?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of stress.

CARROLL (voice-over): -- staying home is not an option.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just pray to God that I make it through the day.

CARROLL (voice-over): A number of so-called essential workers we found shared a common worry, thankful to have jobs when so many now do not, but also, grave concerns about working during a pandemic.

KHAJA KHATEEB, PHARMACIST, THOMAS DRUGS: It's not easy. It's scary, I'm telling you. Every day we come in, we pray to God, you know, to keep us safe, you know. But it's our responsibility at this time to take care of the customers and the patients. CARROLL (voice-over): The focus here at Thomas Drugs on Manhattan's

upper-west side, ensuring the staff's safety while keeping up with customer needs for items such as thermometers, gloves and masks.

KHATEEB: It's hard for us to get from the distributors, so we -- we are just trying to get it, but it's still -- no, it's not easy.

CARROLL (voice-over): But for some essential workers, they have to deal with scenes like this before they can even get to work. Myriam works in an emergency room and shot this video in a Bronx subway station last Friday.

MYRIAM VARELA, HOSPITAL BUSINESS ASSOCIATE, MONTEFIORE HOSPITAL: So, what do us essential workers do? How do we stay safe, where we're not even safe at work, where we're supposed to be safe because we have to deal with this pandemic and we're not safe getting to work?

CARROLL (voice-over): Varela says she has no choice but to take the subway. She said she doesn't have the luxury of a car, so she has to commute by train an hour and a half each way every day from her home in Harlem to Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. She says the CDC recommendation of six feet of social distancing is challenging, at best.

VARELA: To be honest with you, that really doesn't exist on the train. That's, like --

CARROLL (on camera): It doesn't exist?

VALERA: It's, like, nonexistent. It's to the point that you're lucky if you get on when there's a little bit of people. Usually it's very crowded in the morning.

CARROLL (voice-over): The city's transportation authority says ridership is down more than 90%, and they do watch for hot spots. But they say it is difficult operating even a reduced schedule, because there are fewer healthy people to run the trains.

Jazzmen Cloye works at Trader Joe's and commutes by train as well. Cloye says she does what she can to keep her distance on her way to work, where her job is to help customers keep their distance.

JAZZMEN CLOYE, GROCERY STORE WORKER, TRADER JOE'S: It is risky to come to work. It's a little bit scary, but I'm trying to keep the safe precautions. I'm trying to keep six feet away, constantly wear my mask, change my gloves, wash my hands frequently. So, I mean, it is a scare, but you've got to stay safe.

CARROLL (voice-over): And it's not just grocery store workers. Keeping spirits in supply is deemed essential as well. At 67 Street Wine and Spirits, customers wait outside for their orders. Here, they've hired some furloughed restaurant workers to keep up with demand.

DAVID WEISER, MANAGER, 67 WINE AND SPIRITS: At the end of the day, ultimately, it's about the people. So, if we can keep people employed, we feel happy. CARROLL (voice over): Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Well, up next, a firsthand account from an essential worker and ICU doctor who's had one of the most dangerous jobs in the hospital, intubating patients who need to go on ventilators. We'll be right back.



COOPER: In hospitals across this country, it's the brave and dedicated nurses and doctors who are in the front lines to fight against the pandemic. They're risking their own lives to save their patients.

Dr. Cory Deburghgraeve at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago weeks ago he was the anesthesiologist for those about to have a baby. Now, he has one of the most dangerous jobs. He's just inches from a patient's face as he intubates them so they can be put on a ventilator.

Recently told "The Washington Post," "You're basically right next to the nuclear reactor. I go in confident and fast, because if you miss on the first try you have to do it again and then you're bringing out a ton more virus."

Dr. Deburghgreave joins me now. Thank you so much for being with us and for what you're doing. Can you just talk about the -- what it's like doing this every single day? I mean, there's an intimacy to it, you're so close, you look -- you see the patient, you look them in the eye. What is this like?

DR. CORY DEBURGHGRAEVE, ANESTHESIOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS HOSPITAL: Yes, thanks, Anderson, for having me on. You know, it's very challenging to describe what it feels like because, you know, you have this, what looks like a space suit separating me and the patient. I'm normally used to interacting, kind of, just face to face on eye level.

And now I have this big barrier between me and the patient, and, you know, they don't have any family or visitors around them, so you're kind of taking on the roles of a lot of different people. And it's -- it's very scary. It's scary for myself, you know, I know that I'm at risk. It's scary for my loved ones, who I may, if I do get sick, infect.


And, of course, it's scary for the patient. So there's a lot of pressure. But it's what I have to do, so I'm -- I'm happy to do it.

COOPER: You also -- and you wrote about this -- but, I mean, you're also -- you could be the last person that that person sees.

DEBURGHGRAEVE: Yes. You know, I take that very seriously, Anderson. You know, normally as an anesthesiologist, it's -- it's -- people having surgery, you know, they -- it's not maybe the happiest day, but they know what to expect, and we do our best to kind of make them happy and comfortable and, you know, set the expectations.

But -- and everyone expects to wake up. But when you're intubating a patient with coronavirus, you know -- I take it very seriously, but I may be the last face they see or voice they hear. And I try to take some -- some time to show some compassion, and really, you know, show that we're going to take good care of them, and I'm going to see to it they get good care at the hospital.

COOPER: And you write about, you know, you try to do this quickly, and it can be done, I think, in 10 to 15 seconds, you said. But the people cough, and often times your -- your mask is covered with what they bring up.

One of the things you wrote -- you said, "I have to find a way to hold it together in order to do this job. I tear up sometimes, and if I do, it can fog up my face shield." How do you keep doing this? I mean, you have an underlying condition, which is asthma, and I mean obviously that's a concern as well.

DEBURGHGRAEVE: Yes. So it's kind of a multi faceted, or -- there's lots of different components to it. I would say first and foremost it starts by having a good team, so starting with the leadership in the department, in anesthesia. And the my co-workers who, you know, we all share a lot of responsibility, and check in on each other day to day.

But then, of course, there's loved ones, friends. Some of my posts on Facebook and Instagram have gotten people from all over the world reaching out to me. just giving me support, offering to send me food. I mean, honestly, people have been -- it's -- it's blowing me away how supportive people are being. So that really does help.

And then, you know, you just -- you realize you're trained for this, and you go where the data leads you and you do the best you can.

COOPER: I read also you said that in between, when you go back to, you know, the break room or wherever you go, you exercise for your lungs to try to keep your lungs healthy. That's something that -- it's something Chris Cuomo was talking about, too, about -- sort of, you know, fighting this. How important is that to you? Is that something you recommend other people do?

DEBURGHGRAEVE: Well, yes. I mean, I think it can't hurt. We know that exercise and a good diet are really helpful for a strong immune system. And, you know, that's -- of course, this is -- you need your -- the best immune system you can to fight this virus.

But I don't -- I don't only do that to keep my lungs strong, but it also kind of keeps me balanced and kind of keeps me focused if I just take a few minutes for myself and can do that between patients. You know, it's not always super busy every night. So between patients, I try to go back to my call room and have a moment where I'm just kind of exercising, you know.

COOPER: You volunteered to be the person who -- who does this -- I mean, who does the intubations.

DEBURGHGRAEVE: Yes. So, initially -- you know, when the pandemic was first starting to arise in Chicago -- you know, we discussed kind of different plans, and we came up with a few different kind of clever ways or staffing ideas. And one of the things I said is I'm -- you know, I don't take care of older relatives. I don't have young kids. I'm relatively healthy, I'm young. I'm happy to do whatever I can.

And, you know, now that it's becoming a little bit busier, or quite a bit busier, we're definitely sharing the roles and responsibilities a little bit more. But, yes, I'm happy to do it, you know. I feel like I was raised and born to be a physician and to take care of patients.

COOPER: Yes. Well, thank you for what you're doing. It's -- I appreciate it. I know a lot of people do. Thank you.

DEBURGHGRAEVE: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Be careful. Coming up, we remember singer, song writer John Prine, who's died of complications of coronavirus. I'll talk to another American original, singer Bonnie Raitt, about her friend Prine, his music and his legacy.



COOPER: Today's one-day death toll to coronavirus is now at least 1,800.

We've been trying each night to honor those who died and tonight that means honoring a legend. Singer-songwriter John Prine died yesterday due to coronavirus complications, he was 73-years-old. He had a raspy voice, a musical style that was certainly all his own. Really, it was his lyrics that grabbed a hold of his fans, and he counted legendary musicians among them.

One of them, Bonnie Raitt, who appeared with Prine at an Austin City Limits concert just last November. The song is one Prine wrote and Raitt made her own. "Angel from Montgomery." Take a listen.




COOPER: Bonnie Raitt joins me now. Bonnie, thanks so much for being with us, I'm so sorry it's under these circumstances. But wow, to watch you two on that stage. You knew him since the 1970s and I know you stayed close to him through your career. Just what was he like? What were some of the things you remember most?


BONNIE RAITT, SINGER/SONGWRITER: Well, we started out in 1971 together. Both of us had our first albums. And we were playing Greenwich Village at clubs around the corner. And the word had spread about this incredible guy from Chicago, and we -- we just hit it off right away.

And ever since I've heard that first record with "Angel" on it, I knew I wanted to sing it. And it was -- you know, we were young, and everybody was -- a great time to be starting out. Really great. And he's one of my -- always been one of my talismans and best friends.

COOPER: To be young in the 70s in Greenwich Village. It must have been something. You -- you said something about -- about John. You said, "He's the combination of being that tender and that wise and that astute mixed with his homespun sense of humor. It was probably the closest thing for those of us that didn't get blessing of seeing Mark Twain in person." He had a really uncanny way of kind of capturing everyday life -- happy or sad, funny or thought-provoking.

RAITT: Absolutely. And, you know, he was -- like a lot of the people that I love the most, he was, you know, as humorous as he was deep. And he was the same guy offstage as he was on. And immediately adorable. And people fell in love with him the minute you see him.

And then he would hit you with one of these songs, like "Sam Stone" or "Hello In There". I mean, his ability to dig deep, as well as be humorous, is a great combination.

COOPER: I just want to read a quick lyric from "Angel From Montgomery" that we just heard. John writes, "Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery. Make me a poster of an old rodeo. Just give me one thing that I can hold on to. To believe in this living is just a hard way to go." He was able to capture through the human condition in, you know, a few simple lines -- just -- there's incredible power in so much of what he did.

RAITT: Yeah, and to be that succinct, you know. And it seemed effortless. It was just an incredible gift that he had. And to think of how many decades of music that he's given us -- I mean, it was just heartbreaking to all of us that this virus took one of our most beloved and treasured. You know, world -- all the world -- world around, there will never be another John Prine.

COOPER: Roger Ebert -- the famous film critic -- he was working for the Chicago Sun-Times. And wrote a music review back in the 70s, which was actually John's first review I read. And the headline of it was, "Singing mailman who delivers a powerful message in a few words."

And it amazes me that -- I mean, some of the aspects of John's life -- that he was a mailman at a certain point, and able to, you know, quickly dash off a song while on his route.

RAITT: I know -- an incredible story. And, you know, all of the -- growing up in Arkansas, just in that -- in that Muhlenberg County, and his family being from the roots that he was, he really represents so much of a cross section of America.

And for me, you know, as a west coast person, growing up -- I mean, Chicago and the Midwest and Arkansas were, like, foreign countries for me, and John brought it all home to the rest of us. He brought such truth and such universal truth. But it's so -- so precisely American, you know?

COOPER: What do you think his -- I mean, sitting here with all that we're going through, he had a wry sense of humor -- I wonder what his message would be to everybody?

RAITT: Well, his last record -- I mean, it's not that many people that can have five decades, and have the greatest time of his career be the last year, you know. The "Tree Of Forgiveness" album brought him such acclaim.

And there's a song on there that -- "When I Get To Heaven,". I mean, I think he lived a really full life that was very fulfilled, and a personal with a beautiful wife and kids.

His career and his peers and his fans that celebrated him -- I mean, he was at the pinnacle of his life, and he'd come through so many health challenges already. I just -- I really felt that he really knew how lucky he was to have made it this far, and was just -- you know, that song, "When I Get To Heaven", is just the one that I'm going to be listening to when I want to smile and think of him dancing a little jig going off stage.

COOPER: Well, what an incredible life, just extraordinary. Bonnie Raitt, thank you so much for talking with us. I appreciate that.

RAITT: Thank you, Anderson. Thank you.

COOPER: All right. You take care. I also want to take a minute now to just update you on a story we brought you a couple weeks ago. You might recall that a Colorado man named Zach Branson was facing liver transplant surgery. He was threatened with cancellation because of the pandemic. A lot of surgeries are being cancelled.

The donor was his uncle, and initially, hospital authorities said the surgery was on hold because of the virus. Some good news tonight, and we all need it. The surgery took place a couple days ago and was successful. Neither Zach nor his uncle have the virus. You're looking at Zach with his thumbs up, and the doctor who performed that operation. Some good news to end on.

The news continues right now. I want to hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

Chris, how are you feeling?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Coop, better than I deserve. I wish you, and everybody else out there, a very sweet Passover. I think it's going to have special meaning for all of us now. We get to count our blessings. And yes, we know what it's like to hope that a very evil spirit passes us by, because that's what we're dealing with right now.

But I am still better than I deserve. My brother, be well. Always great to see you. [21:00:00]