Transcript: Eugene Woods on "Face the Nation," July 26, 2020

Atrium Health CEO calls for national registry for COVID testing supplies
Atrium Health CEO calls for national registry... 05:10

The following is a transcript of an interview with Eugene Woods, President and Chief Executive Officer, Atrium Health that aired Sunday, July 26, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to turn now to Gene Woods, the president and chief executive officer of Atrium Health, which operates 36 hospitals and over 900 care locations in North and South Carolina, as well as Georgia and he joins us from Charlotte this morning. Good morning to you. Well, we heard you testify before the Senate committee this past week, and you said at the time that you could process about 4,000 COVID tests a day, but that you're actually unable in your labs to do that because of shortages. What do you need to fix this problem? And does that need to come from the state or federal government?

ATRIUM CEO GENE WOODS: Well, thanks for the question. I think, yeah, we have our own in-house capabilities to run our tests and- and- and many times we can do actually same day turnaround. The challenge that we've expressed that I expressed at the Senate was that we don't have enough reagents, which is actually the chemical compound that you can- that you use to process these tests. So we have- we've asked for- part of my request to the Senate was really in part we may need a national registry in terms of how these supplies are distributed to hot spots around the country. But we certainly- we believe that we at Atrium can do more. We want to do more. We just need some more of the testing reagents to be able to continue to serve the community as we have. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: In all of your facilities, supply-wise, what is the area of greatest needs- need?

WOODS: Well, the good thing is that we spent the last several months stocking up on PPE. We stocked up on ventilators. And so we feel like we're in a much better shape than we were before, starting this pandemic. The other thing is you've heard a lot about hospital capacity. The thing I'm as excited about is early on, we realized that we needed to have more capacity inside of the hospital. So we launched what we call a virtual hospital. And so imagine if you have COVID and you are actually being treated in your own bedroom. And we've converted people's homes and bedrooms into the hospital rooms. We have monitoring. We do virtual visits. And if you need something like medications, we're working with the paramedics to actually deliver them into your home. So we've actually cared for about 11,000 COVID patients in their homes. And I think that gives me a lot of confidence going forward as we continue to battle COVID, that we'll have the- the beds that we need to serve the community.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've also been looking at how to target the communities that have been hardest hit. And as we know from the CDC, Blacks and Latinos are three times as likely to become infected. What are you seeing in your community? Why this disparity?

WOODS: Yeah, you know, what COVID has magnified the disparities and the crisis and marginalized- marginalized communities. You know and as we as we think about, you know, the legacy of Congressman John Lewis, he said if- if you see something that's not right, we have a moral obligation to fix it and address it. And that's why early on, we engaged with communities of color, these marginalized communities. First of all, we had established relationships there, but also we have the data. We had the science. We saw early on- we- we geo-spatially mapped hotspots in our communities down to the zip code. And what we saw early on was the disparities in testing. So we worked with the pastors, we worked with the community leaders, and we loaded up mobile vans, medical vans with supplies and personnel. And we said to the- to the- to the pastors in the community, where do you need us? So we went into the parking lots. We went wherever- wherever we were needed. And in a matter of about a week's time, we eliminated the disparities of testing in these vulnerable communities. And our message to the community has been, you know, we- we were there before this started. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

WOODS: We're going to be there throughout, and we're going to be here past this pandemic. And I will say, MARGARET, as- as a Black man that also has Spanish heritage, this is personal for me. You know, I feel the vulnerability of these communities. They could be my cousins. They could be my uncles. They could be my aunts. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

WOODS: And it's also personal for our organization. From our board to our leaders to our- to our frontline, our mission is to care for all and that extends well beyond our walls. And we're going to be there for the long haul--

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Are you-- 

WOODS: -- to deal with inequities. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you going to ask in your conversations with Congress for your health care workers to be at the front of the line for a vaccine? And what do you see happening with distribution of it?

WOODS: Yes, we have asked that health care workers throughout the country, especially in the hot spot areas, be- be- be at the front of the line together with essential workers, including teachers and- and so forth. So we've already made that- that request. The challenge, and I shared this with the- the Senate committee is that, you know, even when we have the flu, a flu season, 40% of Americans say they're not going to get vaccinated. And so what you heard in my testimony was that I do think we need to launch a national campaign, national PSA that really talks about the benefits of vaccination, because I'd be very, very concerned--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

WOODS: -- if- if we did get a vaccination and then we had a problem with actually adoption.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we need to start talking about that. Gene Woods, thank you very much. We'll be right back.