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Parts of Europe Make Public Mask Use Mandatory; W.H.O. CDC Recommend Wearing Masks Only If Sick; Online Tutorial Show How to Make Your Own Face Mask; European Governments Looking into Virus Tracing App; Backlog of 160,000 Tests in Just One Lab; Olympian Releases Song for Disappointed Athletes. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 2, 2020 - 04:30   ET




ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): -- unless they are sick or caring for someone who is. But as the coronavirus pandemic spreads, some European countries have made wearing mandatory. The Czech Republic's government has required everyone wear a mask since March 18th. And the health minister is appealing to other countries to institute a similar measure.

ADAM VOJTECH, CZECH REPUBLIC MINISTER OF HEALTH: I recommend to all fellow ministers and governments to implement population wide use of facemasks, I even homemade ones. Today we see that this was one of the most important decision that we have made. And if it helped here, it's going to help anywhere.

SOARES: Masks are also required in Slovakia. Every official seen here is wearing a mask in the swearing in ceremony for the country's new government. And no exceptions. Even TV anchor people in Slovakia followed the new regulation.

Nearby Austria will require people to wear masks in grocery stores starting next week. Employees at this location are already handing them out to customers. Bosnia and Herzegovina's government closed schools, shops and barred foreigners from entering the country to prevent the spread of the virus. Now they, too, are taking the extra step and mandating facemasks.

Some cities within other countries have jumped on the trend. In Germany the town of Yana is the first in the country to require everyone to cover their nose and mouth while in public.

Dr. Anthony Fauci tells CNN that we all have to behave as though we have the virus and that if you are leaving home for something essential, wearing a mask can't hurt. But he warns that we need to be careful not to take away masks from the healthcare workers who desperately need them.

On social media a new campaign backed by the Czech government called Masks4All, not only pushes for everyone to wear masks, but encourages making facemasks from home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Many companies, theaters, or even retirement houses changed their buildings into sewing rooms. And thousands of people started to sew masks at home.

SOARES: Advocates for facemasks suggest that Asian countries including South Korea and Taiwan have been able to slow the spread of COVID-19 more quickly than countries like Spain or Italy because their residents wore masks, but there's no real scientific evidence of that. Isa Soares, CNN.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Dr. Zeynep Tufekci writes about the impact of technology and she is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina and joins us now via Skype from Chapel Hill. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: Now as we reach truly alarming death tolls and cases across the globe, the question being asked increasingly is should we all be wearing facemasks. Some countries are making it mandatory -- as we just saw in that package. And you have been saying that the United States needs to speak with one voice on the pros and cons of wearing masks in the midst of this pandemic. Why do you think they have failed to do that?

TUFEKCI: I think we have two competing realities here. One of them is that there's a grave shortage for certain kinds of masks -- the surgical masks, the N-95s that healthcare workers need for high-risk procedures. On the other hand, there is increasing evidence that a lot of people are spreading this disease before they even have any symptoms. They may never develop symptoms. They may have such a mild case that, you know, they just get it and it passes. But meanwhile, they're infecting other people.

And that's where the experience of countries like Hong Kong, countries like South Korea, like Taiwan that have basically either mandated or culturally have mask wearing as a response to epidemics. Their success shows that if everybody masks up, it's not just the sick people or the healthy people but everybody masks up, that we cover the sick people by default. And we have no other way of making sure that they're not spreading this disease which mainly comes when you sneeze or talk. You know, those respiratory droplets.

The problem in the messaging has been that the shortage has made authorities afraid that there's going to be hoarding, there's going to be people buying the masks that would have been reserved for the people in the front lines who need them. But I think giving a contradictory message, don't get them but we need them for the healthcare workers actually encourages mistrust than encourages fuel hoarding.

CHURCH: Yes, let's talk about -- I wanted to talk about that separately. Because clearly if doctors are wearing masks to protect themselves from COVID-19 and other infections, it makes perfect sense that we should probably be doing the same, whether we're sick, whether we are not or whether we are sick and don't know we are.


And it looks like we will soon get clear guidance on that from the U.S. Surgeon General and the CDC. But how do we trust government authorities when we're told not to wear facemasks because there aren't enough of them instead of because they could protect us?

TUFEKCI: Well, doctors wear them not to get infected. The population as a whole should wear them not to infect. So there's a little bit of difference there. But you're right, I think messaging has been terrible because they wanted to emphasize the shortage and instead sometimes ended up saying things like, you know, they won't work for you. You won't figure out how to wear them. Those are really messages that backfired.

Because of course people can figure out how to wear masks. And even if they wear them a little incorrectly, the scientific evidence even not an imperfect mask is better than nothing. And what you have seen is that a lot countries and a lot of people have responded with homemade masks. And I think that's great. And that's where I would like guidance from the CDC. I'm happy to make my own mask but I want guidance on, how do I sanitize it? Do I put a towel in between?

I mean, those health authorities, World Health Organization and the CDC have to step up, have to recognize the evidence is clear. There's asymptomatic, increased symptomatic spreading of the disease. So if everybody masks up, we'll be better off. But they need to lead us rather than giving these contradictory messages that and up with people trusting them even less and I fear actually lead to hoarding. Because we don't trust you, just go by something.

CHURCH: I mean, that's the problem there's been a lot of dysfunction on the governments part. Hasn't there? With these sorts of messages and of course, as the pandemic rages, there aren't even enough masks for medical professionals. Doctors are dying in the United States because they don't have enough protective gear. That's just astounding. And now the national stockpile is nearly depleted. So we talked about people making their own masks but we do need guidance on making sure we make the right kind of mask.

And as you say, when we take it off, we have to make sure we don't infect ourselves in some way. So we do need guidance on that. But why do you think the W.H.O. is saying that there's no evidence to suggest masks protect you and saying that they may even put you at more risk if worn incorrectly?

TUFEKCI: I can't answer that, but I think W.H.O. has been rather than leading following on this issue. We have health authorities in countries like Hong Kong, countries like Taiwan that have responded and have gotten great results, including South Korea, in containing this epidemic, this pandemic. And in fact, the mask shortage once you've realize that you need masks for the whole population, countries could do what Taiwan could do which is as soon as they realized there was this epidemic growing, they ramped up their national production and they distributed some masks to individuals.

They put limits on how many you could buy per person and therefore made it impossible to hoard. But made sure everybody had it while they ramped up. Their doctors have it, their nurses, front line people have it, their population has it. So I think that's a much better message.

And as for W.H.O., I think they haven't been fast enough in changing their recommendation especially after it became clear in late January, early February this infection was being spread by people who didn't even know they were sick. So saying wear it only if you're sick makes no sense. If we don't have a way of knowing if we're sick, there's not enough tests available, and some people have no symptoms.

CHURCH: Exactly right. I mean, it feels like the United States and the W.H.O. in some instances are playing catchup continually and individuals have to figure this out by themselves. Doctor Tufekci, thank you so much for talking with us, we do appreciate it.

TUFEKCI: Thank you for inviting me.

CHURCH: What you just heard, facemasks are getting hard to find, so some have taken to making their own to donate to emergency medical workers or to use themselves. Esco Life Science has created an online tutorial how to make an improvised facemask out of a paper towel. And for those who can't sew, this may be the mask for you.

All you need is a paper towel, some rubber bands and a stapler. And as you can see, you just fold it, turn the edges in, insert the rubber bands and staple them. And then adjust the mask to your face. Now it's not likely to offer full protection but it will discourage you from touching your face and sends a signal to others to social distance themselves. And then of course, you just take it off and dispose of it very carefully.

Well, the U.K. is lagging behind some of its neighbors when it comes to coronavirus testing with some officials turning to Germany for advice. How the U.K. is handling the crisis.


That's next.


CHURCH: Well, there's new guidance for British doctors about which patients to save if the health system gets overwhelmed during this pandemic. More than 2,300 people have died in the U.K. so far in the pandemic. Public health officials, meantime, are trying to ramp up testing to keep that number from going up.

So let's go to Hadas Gold in London. Good to see you, Hadas. Now the United Kingdom it's looking into virus tracing apps. So how's that going to work? What can you tell us about it? HADAS GOLD, CNN REPORTER: So, Rosemary, this is a really interesting

initiative that's being looked at across the world. Some countries like Singapore already have these apps in place. But the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe are looking to launch these apps that would really interestingly use Bluetooth to help establish who people might have been around in case they get tested positive.

So how this works in the U.K. and the rest of Europe, this would obviously be an opt-in basis. You would download this app and what it would do, is while you're out and about -- so this would potentially be after the lockdown of some sort. If you're around somebody else and your two phones have enough time to establish a Bluetooth connection, they would kind of mark each other down.

Then what happens, if you were to be tested positive for COVID-19, we'd mark that in the app. It would be authenticated by a healthcare official, your doctor or a nurse, or something like that. And then what your phone would actually do, it would alert anybody who had that Bluetooth handshake with you that they had been in the vicinity of somebody who had tested positive and they should either self-isolate or get tested themselves.

And this is supposed to be in addition to our social distancing guidelines as a way to really importantly trace who might have been in contact. Because it's really hard right now -- if someone was to ask you, hey, in the last two or three weeks who have you been around for 10 to 15 minutes that might have possibly contracted this virus? If you were to take the subway, if you were to take a bus, if you were to be in a supermarket, it's a little hard to tell who you've been around.


So this technology sort of does that for you.

Now these apps have not been launched yet in Europe or the United Kingdom. The NHS is looking into it. There's a consortium in Europe that's also looking into building this sort of backbone so that every country could use the same backbone of the app. So that all of Europe could be connected on this.

Obviously, when you have countries, people are moving in and out of different places in Europe, across borders. It's really important that all of that data is shared because this does not work unless enough people opt in.

Those that I spoke to said that they want around 50 to 60 percent of people to opt in and use this app in order for this to work because it is voluntary. In Singapore, for example, this has already been downloaded on a massive scale and it is helping researchers try to trace who has been in contact with anybody who has been positive as a way to try and tamp down the spread of this virus -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: It is fascinating. We look forward to seeing that, out. We don't have a timeframe yet. Do we? But we'll keep an eye out on that. Hadas Gold bringing us the very latest on that from London. Many thanks.

While the Trump administration continues to talk up the availability of coronavirus tests, CNN has uncovered disturbing evidence of a huge backlog delaying tens of thousands of results. Drew Griffin has this report.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was just two weeks ago.

TRUMP: And today we are announcing a new partnership with private sector to vastly increase and accelerate our capacity to test for the coronavirus.

GRIFFIN: Big commercial labs coming to the rescue of a floundering coronavirus testing plan but within a week of the President's major Rose Garden announcement. Internal documents obtained by CNN from one of the nation's largest clinical laboratories exposed huge backlogs. Results delayed up to ten days and demand outstripping the lab's ability to process tests.

Data from those documents show on March 25th, last Wednesday Quest Diagnostics had 160,000 tests on backlog. Half of its total orders were waiting to be processed. And according to Quest data obtained by CNN, that backlog appear to be growing by the day. Quest told CNN it can now do 30,000 tests a day. And recently our capacity has exceeded our demand allowing us to reduce the backlog.

Illinois Governor, Jay Pritzker, said the federal government has failed to produce millions of tests promised by the President and now commercial labs can't process all the ones they do have.

JAY PRITZKER, ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: In fact, their federal testing has slowed down because they throw it all at Lab Corp and Quest and they've a huge backlog. Those test are coming back in four to ten days.

GRIFFIN: It's the latest in a series of problem that is crippling coronavirus testing in the United States. Two months into the crisis and testing is still limited only to the sickest individuals in most places limiting health experts in knowing exactly where the virus is spreading.

DR. CAROLINE BUCKEE, HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Right now I don't think that we're at capacity for testing so we just don't know how big the epidemic is or how big it's going to get.

GRIFFIN: Because of the backlog at Quest and other commercial labs, states and hospital systems tell CNN they have bypassed the log jam by starting to conduct their own in-house tests which can turn around results in hours rather than days. Louisiana has turned to its state lab to more quickly turn around the tests but that's only for the most critical patients. All the rest go to the back log.

DR. JOSEPH KANTOR, EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR: It's gotten better, no question about that, but it is still a problem. The commercial labs have been challenging.

GRIFFIN: The delays in getting test results back are straining limited supplies of personal protective equipment. Patients suspected of COVID-19 must be treated as if they are infected requiring hospital workers to burn through gear waiting for results. In some cases only to find out days later they didn't need to.

KANTOR: There's a direct relationship between the speed at which we can get results back for hospitalized patients and the amount of PPE that is going to be expended in their care.

GRIFFIN: The result of the limited testing and now huge backlogs, is most of us are not going to get a test, even if we are sick. And yes, that even includes nurses on the front lines.

MEGAN SCHLANSER, NURSE, METRO DETROIT, MICHIGAN: We're not getting tested as healthcare providers. We are -- you know, I've had a couple of friends who have said, you know, I feel like I'm getting sick. An employee health will say, you know, we don't have enough tests. You haven't fit all the criteria that we have in place, so you're not getting tested.

GRIFFIN (on camera): And even as testing improves, experts are telling us the 100,000 test a day milestone announced by the administration yesterday still is nowhere near what they say we need to get ahead of this pandemic.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.



CHURCH: All right. Well, next on CNN NEWSROOM, when life seems gray, sometimes you just need to dance. A dose of good news coming your way.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

Well, for athletes around the globe disappointed by the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic summer games, one American Olympian is offering some encouragement.

Three-time Olympic track and field Olympic medalist, Will Claye, released this video "Dreams Don't Die" on his YouTube channel. It features numerous athletes and sends an inspirational message reminding Olympians that their dreams won't die, only be delayed. The Olympic games were postponed last week by the coronavirus pandemic originally set for this summer. It will now begin on July 23rd, next year, in Tokyo.


Well, it seems especially difficult right now to find reasons to smile, but despite all the depressing news there are still stories out there which might give you some hope. Maybe even a laugh. And if nothing else, a break from all of the bad news. So spend the next 60 seconds with CNN's Anna Stewart.


ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Love knows no borders. An elderly couple living on either side of the German/Danish border aren't letting its closure get in the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator) A day doesn't go by that we don't meet.

STEWART: And in Wales the streets of this town aren't as empty as they should be. Mounting goats are running riot, flouncy government stay at home rules, they've left their nearby headland to take advantage of the deserted streets. Providing a free hedge trim service not to every resident's liking.


STEWART: And in Tennessee a dance upheld by 6-year-old Keira Neilly. Challenge accepted by her 80-year-old grandfather who lives over the road. Social distancing made fun.


CHURCH: Well, the music world is mourning the loss of a legend called the prototype of New Orleans jazz. The pianist and composer ,Ellis Marsalis Jr., has died at the age of 85. His son Branford Marsalis told "The New York Times" the cause of death was complications from the coronavirus.

Marsalis was the patriarch of an incredible musical family. Four of his sons followed in his musical footsteps. His son Wynton posted that his father went out the way he lived, embracing reality. What a loss.

And thank you so much for your company. Stay home. Stay safe. I'm Rosemary Church. You're watching CNN. Stay with us.