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Half of Cases are Young Adults; Trump Wants to Reopen by Easter; Germany's Death Rate Lower Than other Countries; Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 25, 2020 - 06:30   ET



DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CHIEF OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: Two things are different about the flu. One is there's a vaccine. And about half of Americans get vaccinated every year to protect themselves. The second is, it's about half as contagious as coronavirus. So you put those two things together and you have a much more contagious disease that can hit a lot more vulnerable people.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We hear your warning. I mean we hear you sounding it. Everybody needs to pay attention this morning. It feels -- every day feels different, but today, with all of these new numbers, definitely feels more nerve-racking for people.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, thank you very much. We know how busy you are. We really appreciate you getting all this information.

WALENSKY: Thank you for having me.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, President Trump is saying that full churches on Easter, he says it would be a beautiful thing. But it's the exact type of behavior that public health officials, governors and mayors say could cost lives. What is the president hearing from allies, from Republican senators on this subject? That's next.


CAMEROTA: We just got some breaking news from Buckingham Palace, and that is that Prince Charles has tested positive for coronavirus.


He is 71 years old. Obviously, this is concerning on many levels. We don't know his condition. We don't know if he requires hospitalization. We don't even know if he had symptoms, John. But we will follow this. This is just the breaking news literally moments ago out of Buckingham Palace and we will bring people an update as soon as we have it.

BERMAN: Obviously this is developing and developing quickly. As you say, we don't have any details as to his current condition. But we do know that the United Kingdom later than other European nations on putting certain restrictions in, putting in those stay at home orders. We've been told the queen had moved away from people several days ago. I had not yet heard how the Prince of Wales was behaving or how he was living. But, again, this is interesting information and we'll get you these developments as soon as we can.

In the meantime, the president of the United States is telling the country that he would love to ease social restrictions by Easter, despite a soaring death toll in tens of thousands of cases. This timeline is setting up a clash with governors and health officials.

Joining us now, CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman and David Gregory. Maggie is a White House correspondent for "The New York Times."

Maggie, we're digesting the Prince Charles news. Forgive me, this is just coming in as we speak.

But as we process that, explain to me the anatomy of how the president got to this Easter date and what he's hearing now from leaders around the country because the governors we're talking are saying this is a bad idea. Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland told me yesterday he's confused by this message.

We know the public health officials think it's a confusing idea and some Republicans, including Liz Cheney, are indicating they think it's a bad idea.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, John, it's actually easier to talk about the number of people who think this not worth doing than the process by which the president arrived at this.

There were a number of White House officials and people close to the president who, heading into the weekend, were already having a conversation about the fact that they might need to change these social distancing guidelines after the initial 15-day period ended. They were looking at the devastation on the economy.

They are predicting the unemployment numbers are going to be staggering. There are obviously many people who have been laid off and businesses that have closed and they wanted to start putting this at the forefront of the president's mind. This kicked into overdrive with the president on Sunday night. He tweeted, as we've discussed and as we've been talking about all week that the cure should not be worse than the disease.

But this Easter deadline basically came to the president on his own, he said. What it does do is it builds in a couple of additional weeks where if the virus starts to get worse, if the curves in states start to get worse, the president can modulate. He can change the date. He can push it back.

Unfortunately, it cuts against the message that a lot of governors are sending, particularly in New York state, where there is a huge number of cases -- are a huge number of cases. And I think that the more there are conflicting messages coming, not just form the president versus governors, but the entirety of the federal government, it's hard to see how that helps the economy, hard to see how that helps the financial markets. And I think that's the dynamic the president has created with this sort of whip saw messages in the last two weeks.

CAMEROTA: David, as I was listening to the president's press conference yesterday at the White House, I was taking notes, as always, and the first two words that I wrote down on my paper, I feel like Smerconish right now, were "magical thinking." Magical thinking.

That's -- that -- when Kaitlan Collins asked the president, where did you come up with your Easter date -- he said -- he had said that it would be a beautiful time for people to be able to come back out and to -- for churches to be full. And she asked him, where did you come up with that date, and he just said that that -- he thought it would feel good. You know, it would be a beautiful time. And he also said, quote, we're near the end of our historic battle. That's just wishful thinking.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, there's no question about it. And, to me, what strikes me as the obvious danger is that you have a lot of people around the country who don't pay as close attention to what government does day in and day out as we do. And they were just coming around to the idea of, oh, yes, this is serious. I've got to do what they're tell me. Let me change my life and go into a lockdown mode.

And here the president's coming along and saying, well, we're almost done with this, light at the end of the tunnel, and we want to get back to going church or religious services by Easter time. It's just totally contradictory and confusing and raises the specter of, well, how much longer do we really have to do this?

We have all this problem with younger people in particular not paying close enough attention to what you have to do because -- not realizing their own vulnerability, and then the president says this.

But I was struck by something else that was contradictory yesterday and I thought it was more positive. The president, while he had his Fox News event earlier in the day and was saying that this is what he wanted to have happen, he came out, he was so much more disciplined during that briefing last night it was clear that his public health folks said to him, you can't commit to this date.


That it's got to be based on the data. It's got to be based in the science. And I thought, you know, Dr. Fauci, who was again at that briefing yesterday made it very clear with his hands alone, if you have cases in New York in particular, going like this, you're not going to tone down the restrictions around the country.

So I'm just confused about where we go. I can understand the need for certain parts of the country that don't have the level of disease that New York has, to try to, in their own isolated way, resume activity. I just don't know how it would work in practice. BERMAN: Maggie, if we can talk a little bit about another interesting

dynamic going on here, which is the president's relationship or the White House relationship with the nation's governors, because the president, during this town hall yesterday, said something that indicated it was almost a warning to governors that they better be nice to him.

Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a two-way street. They have to treat us well also. They can't say oh, gee, we should get this, we should get that. We're doing a great job. Like in New York, where we're building, as I said, four hospitals, four medical -- we're literally building hospitals and medical centers.


BERMAN: They have to treat us well also? What exactly does that mean and how does the president perceive these actions and statements being made by governors around the country?

HABERMAN: John, as you know, as well as anyone, this president internalizes almost anything that is said about the federal government as if it is some personal criticism directed at him. Pleas for additional help are a criticism of him. He is seeing all of this through the lens of how it's covered in the immediate and whether he is coming off well and getting credit or praise or blame.

And there had been a couple of days, I think about a week, where he and Governor Cuomo were often at odds, were praising each other. Cuomo clearly realized that praising the president was the best way to get help for his state. But at a certain point it stopped mattering because what Cuomo was seeing is that the number of ventilators that he needs vastly exceeds the number that he's getting from the federal government.

He made that plea to the president yesterday and without -- he was not naming the president, but as you saw by what the president just said, he takes it all personally and he genuinely believes that these relationships all go -- flow up to him as opposed to what government is supposed to do for the rest of the country.

I think that you saw that in his relationship with Gavin Newsom, where Newsom said nice things about him, the president then acted nice in return. Governors who have not been as praising of the president, he has criticized, such as Jay Inslee in Washington, who he called a snake at least two weeks ago. These weeks all blur into each other. And he said he had told Mike Pence to stop being nice with him or dealing with him.

This is emblematic of how the president views every relationship he has as president, that it is as much about how anyone treats him as his obligation to the country and, you know what, it has generally worked for him and not really moved opinion polls. Maybe it will continue to work for him here. But I can't remember another time where there has been a president that saying you must treat me nicely if you want to -- if you want to get medical help.

BERMAN: People are dying and people's lives should not have to depend on flattery.

HABERMAN: That's right. That's right.

BERMAN: Maggie Haberman, David Gregory, thank you for being with us this morning.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: And, John, I mean, ultimately, I was just struck by how ultimately it's going to be up to the governors, the governors in each state are going to decide when their city can get back to normal and New York City is so far away from it.

Meanwhile, Europe, of course, also hit very hard by coronavirus. Germany's death rate, though, is remarkably low. Why is that? That's next.



CAMEROTA: OK, we do have breaking news.

Prince Charles has tested positive for coronavirus. We do now have some more details on his condition. We have a new statement from Buckingham Palace. The statement says that -- this has been obtained, we should tell you, from our correspondent Max Foster in London. Quote, the Prince of Wales has tested positive for coronavirus. He has been displaying mild symptoms, but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual.

The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, has also been tested but does not have the virus. In accordance with government and medical advice, the prince and duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland. It goes on to say, it is not possible to ascertain from whom the prince caught the virus, owing (ph) to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks.

So it sounds as if the palace is telling us that he is still in good health with mild symptoms. He is 71 years old. Obviously, this is concerning any time anyone catches coronavirus, but particularly for someone at that age. But Buckingham Palace says at the moment he is in self-quarantine and doing well. We will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases around the globe is now more than 425,000 with nearly 19,000 deaths globally. Europe has been hit hard, of course. Italy and Spain in particular. Germany also has a high number of coronavirus cases, almost 33,000, but only 159 people have died. That's a lower rate than other countries are seeing. And the question is, why? What are they doing?

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is live in Berlin with more.

Do we have answers, Fred?


Well, we do to a certain extent, and it's really fascinating. The German death rate right now is between sort of 0.4 and 0.5 percent. And we actually, this morning, asked the head of German's Center for Disease Control why that was the case. And he said, to a certain extent, they actually, themselves, are quite surprised by it, but they said that essentially it comes down to three things, beginning testing, mass testing very early, doing a lot of testing for coronavirus, and then also, of course, a very good health care system as well.


The Germans say they started a massive campaign for testing people for coronavirus in early January already. Right now they have a capacity, and this is for a population of about 80 million, so about a quarter of the United States. It tests about 160,000 people per week and they say that they can ramp that up considerably if they want to.

So essentially what they're saying is they're missing fewer infections. A country like Italy, for instance, says that the actual number of infections that they could have is about ten times higher than what they have confirmed. The Germans believe that that number for themselves is a lot lower. And, of course, if they know which people are infected, they can also isolate those people a lot better.

Another really fascinating number, Alisyn, is that in Germany younger people, apparently, are being infected than, for instance, in Italy. In Germany, the average age is about 47. In Italy it's about 63. So the Germans are saying, on the one hand, they have fewer severe cases than for instance Italy, than for instance France and Spain as well, but they also have, and this is key, they say, a lot of intensive care unit beds with a lot of ventilators.

And they say right now, simply, their health care system isn't as overwhelmed as some of the other health care systems in Europe. And, therefore, their doctors aren't having to make those really difficult and sometimes tragic decisions about who gets to be on a ventilator and who doesn't get to be on the ventilator and they're preparing for more. They say they want to double the amount of intensive care units beds that they have.

But there's also a word of caution, and I got this directly from the German Center for Disease Control as well. They say, look, we always have to keep in mind, we are still at the early stages of this disease. All of this could get worse in Germany as well. Of course there's also some shortages here. But, in the end, right now, they believe that they're doing fairly well in keeping the death toll as low as they possibly can, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: That is great news, Fred. And, of course, yes, we will watch them, but maybe they are a model that some of the other countries could follow.

Thank you very much.


BERMAN: All right, the issue is so far. They're doing well so far. They know that could change.

Joining me now is Dr. Kent Sepkowitz. He's a CNN medical analyst, deputy physician in chief of quality and safety in Memorial Sloan- Kettering here in New York City.

And, Doctor, thanks so much for being with us.

I want to throw a chart up onto the screen so people can see the mortality rates in different countries around the world. We were just talking about Germany there and you could see that Germany's death rates at 0.4 percent, Italy at the highest at 9.5 percent. Of course, keep in mind, that a lot of this has to do with the relative number of tests. There may be far more -- many cases than we know of. The death rates may be lower. But you can see the difference here.

Broadly speaking, what gives a country a lower mortality rate based on what you've seen than a higher mortality rate?

DR. KENT SEPKOWITZ, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Where we would love to know what -- what they're doing right, it's certainly a mixture of the fact that they have tested more people, so they have many more cases that are mild. So that lowers the rate, doesn't help the people who are already infected.

The people who are already infected and sick, I think we're coming around to the notion that Germany prepared better. They have a better health care system for this sort of illness. And they just got it right. They did their homework, they were ready, they listened to China and they did it right. And they're the poster child right now of what happens when you plan and execute perfectly.

BERMAN: And they have a higher number of nurses per capita than other countries, relatively speaking.

SEPKOWITZ: They have, you know --

BERMAN: Which is a big deal. Which is a big deal.

SEPKOWITZ: Yes. Yes, they have very high rates of nurses.

Talking to colleagues in Germany, there are some shortages in some areas in -- with nurses, but nurses are the backbone of this care, that if we really try to dissect out what is the real thing that's going on there, yes, they've got more ventilators, they might have better respiratory therapists. They're a key part of this. And they seem to have, statistically from the World Bank, a lot more nurses.


SEPKOWITZ: Doctors -- doctors are good, nurses are better if you're very sick.

BERMAN: Right.

SEPKOWITZ: And respiratory therapists are probably best of all.

BERMAN: And in terms of the testing, we also know that they had a lot of testing and they had it early, too, so they could stop the spread perhaps before people started moving around.

Doctor, I want to throw you a little bit of a curve ball here which is we just got word that Prince Charles, who's 71 years old, has tested positive for coronavirus. The palace put out a statement saying that he's had some mild symptoms but is -- is doing well. He is in isolation in Scotland.

But what questions do you think this raises? What questions would you be asking about the health of this 71-year-old man?

SEPKOWITZ: I think that I will trust the British doctors with Prince Charles. I think he's a reason to continue to argue for social distancing. In his duties, as the statement said, in his duties he's around a whole lot of people. That's a wonderful thing for a politician to be, except when it's dangerous.


And -- and I think he probably, as everyone does, until they know someone, he probably thought it wouldn't happen to him and he went about his business. So I think for me the news is that, yes, social distancing is all we've got right now. We don't have a vaccine. We don't have medication that's predictably effective. So Prince Charles is a story to me of why we have to stay in our homes away from each other and kind of grind this out.

BERMAN: Doctor Sepkowitz, we really appreciate you being with us this morning, understanding what's going on around the world as every country battles this virus.

Thank you.

And as we just discussed, CNN learned moments ago that Prince Charles has tested positive with coronavirus. We're going to get a live report from London just ahead.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): At last we have a deal.


It will rush financial assistance to Americans.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): To all Americans, I say, help is on the way.