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Georgia Governor Sparks Anger and Confusion; British Prime Minister Hospitalized; Concerns over Antibody Tests; Pastor of Exposed Congregation Speaks Out. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired April 6, 2020 - 09:30   ET



ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Does not a trend make. But we will continue to monitor that as well. But state officials here continue to warn that the coming days will be the biggest test on the medical community here in the state with the use of hospital beds and the use of ventilators, all expected to continue going up, and that's the last we've heard from state and health officials here across Louisiana.

So a great deal of concern about what is going to unfold here, as you mentioned off the top there, that convention center hospital -- makeshift hospital is supposed to start taking in patients today. We're told to expect about 100 or so.

And that is essentially to alleviate the pressure on the main hospitals here in the city of New Orleans, which has been the hardest hit area here in Louisiana. And the hope is that the most critical patients can be treated in the hospital, and those lesser critical patients can be treated at the convention center.

Poppy and Jim.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Ed, appreciate the heads up, your reporting today. Let's hope for some signs of light there.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's move now to a dispute in the state of Georgia, where mayors, some of the beach communities, are criticizing the governor for overruling in effect their orders for closure. This after the state's governor reopened the state's beaches a day after issuing a stay-at-home order for the state.

I'm joined now by Georgia's lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan.

Lieutenant Governor, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

LT. GOV. GEOFF DUNCAN (R-GA): Yes. Good morning, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So help explain to our viewers what's going on here, because the mayor of Tybee Island, which is a popular beach there, had closed the beaches to help stop the spread. The governor came around to a statewide stay-at-home order but then reopened that -- those beaches there.

Why overrule local officials on that when the data has shown states that have been forward-leaning on this, Washington state, California. I mean the vice president singled them out yesterday, when the data has shown that those stay-at-home orders work?

DUNCAN: Well, I think it's important to understand that the beaches are not open for spring breakers, they're open for folks that are exercising. You know, over the weekend, we got to see a lot of footage from state patrol helicopters where, you know, thousands of folks or hundreds of folks were walking around way spaced out, practicing social distancing.

It would be like in my neighborhood, out in front of my house, shutting down my sidewalk. Folks are out there simply just getting some exercise in, getting some sunshine, headed back to their house and either, you know, telecommuting or watching church online, folks are getting back to the new normal.

SCIUTTO: Well, the mayor, though, is saying they're seeing cars from out of state, New York, New Jersey, Ohio. I just wonder, especially given the delay that Georgia had in issuing a stay-at-home order after getting a lot of criticism internally, why not err on the side of caution here?

DUNCAN: Yes. So, once again, the reports we get, right, outside of the sound bite of the beaches being opened, this is a non-story. This is just an area for folks to go get a little bit of exercise, maintain plenty of distance.

We've got all the -- all the state resources to be able to keep an eye on it to make sure that it continues to be a safe place. And, look, you know, Georgia, I'm so proud of Georgians, right? I'm proud of stories like today where CVS is partnered with the state of Georgia to be able to -- where today we're going to launch a thousand tests.

And things like, you know, I think we -- what we've realized throughout this process is it's not just the tests, the number of tests, it's the time it takes to get that data back. Today, CVS is partnering with the state of Georgia to give a thousand tests where somebody can walk, drive up and get almost an instant feedback as to whether or not they're positive. That's the importance (INAUDIBLE) here in Georgia.

SCIUTTO: Fair enough. And, listen progress on testing should be celebrated, trust me, and we've been talking about that a lot on this broadcast.

I do want to ask about, though, information here because the governor said that he only learned that asymptomatic transmission of Covid, that is transmission before you're showing symptoms, he only learned that was a fact last Wednesday. I mean that's been the CDC guidance for weeks now. And I just want to play some comments from public officials making this point and get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CDC: I do think there's been good communication with our colleagues to confirm asymptomatic infection, to confirm asymptomatic transmission.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: We don't want to say that the risk is low when we don't know how low the numbers are for people who are asymptomatic.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: And we're getting more and more information that someone can transmit even when they're asymptomatic.


SCIUTTO: So those are the public health officials saying in February and March asymptomatic transmission. Why did it take so long for the governor to realize that information?

DUNCAN: So it's unfortunate that the media continues to hang on a five-second sound bite in over an hour-long press conference. Governor Kemp has worked so hard on this. In fact, I would say that he's working harder than anybody in the state of Georgia. He understands the information. We've known for weeks in advance of this, putting policies in place --

SCIUTTO: Wait, wait, there's no reason to blame the media here.


I'm quoting the governor's public comments here on a fact of transmission. Why didn't the governor know earlier, given that all the national health officials were saying this very publicly, so that he could get that information out to the residents of Georgia that that was a risk?

DUNCAN: I think it's important to look back at the policies that were put in place well before that five-second sound bite. Policies like sheltering in place, the medically fragile and those that are elderly, looking for opportunities to make corporations, businesses have social distancing weeks before.

Look, what the CDC came out with that specific day was accelerated data showing that the infection rate was much -- much higher than first anticipated, but certainly asymptomatic folks were common knowledge here in Georgia that it spread.

SCIUTTO: Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

DUNCAN: Absolutely. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, the new blood test could determine who has built up an immunity to the coronavirus. This is important here. But there are -- but there are dozens on the markets. Which ones can you trust?


SCIUTTO: Well, if you needed more evidence that everyone is potentially at risk from this, right now the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, is running his country from a hospital room. He was admitted just overnight, ten days after announcing that he had tested positive for Covid-19.

CNN's Clarissa Ward, she is live outside the hospital with more.

And, Clarissa, do we know how severe his symptoms are and how much at risk he is now?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Downing Street, understandably, Jim, is being pretty tight (INAUDIBLE) that his symptoms are, quote, "persistent." Now that is different to what they had previously been saying, which was that it was just mild. But they're not giving any details yet on the kinds of tests that he may be undergoing. So at this stage it's anyone's guess as to how long he will be here.

It does appears to be possible that he will be staying here until tomorrow now. That originally did not seem very likely. Ten Downing Street also, Jim, really trying to emphasize that he is still able to carry out his affairs and run the country from the hospital.


SCIUTTO: We know you'll stay on top of it. Clarissa Ward outside the hospital there.


HARLOW: There's growing concern now about blood tests designed to figure out who has recovered and may have some immunity from coronavirus. There are dozens of those tests available. So far, only one has been approved by the FDA.


ADMIRAL BRETT P. GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF HEALTH: We don't want to tell a person, yes, you've had it and your immune, and that's not the case. So we are very optimistic. I'm personally very optimistic that by May we're going to have these in very large quantities with all the needed supplies.


HARLOW: We're joined now by our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

There's been a lot of hope placed in testing like this and how helpful it can be, but I think the question that he just raised is that it's not foolproof. Can you tell us about that and how these tests are getting to market? ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Poppy. Not

only is it not foolproof, but what labs are telling me is that they're being -- tests are being sold to them, or being marketed to them, that they say are crappy. That's actually the word that's being used by the head of an association of public health labs.

He said his members, as well as fire departments and police departments, are getting advertisements basically saying, hey, buy our tests. But when they asked for the data and they look at the data, they say the data is just not there, and they're afraid that they're going to give not only false positives but also false negatives. They're not buying -- literally not buying any of it because they are so unsure of whether they work or not.

So these labs -- actually the head of this association had a discussion with Admiral Giroir, who we just met a minute ago, and they're trying to fix this. It would be great if we could have these tests, then we know who's immune to this disease and who is not.


HARLOW: Yes, absolutely.

Before you go, Elizabeth, what should you ask your doctor if you want to get one of these tests?

COHEN: So, Poppy, I'm afraid for most people, the vast majority of people, that's going to be a very short conversation. Doctor, can I get an antibody test from you, and then the doctor will say, sorry, I don't have one. They just aren't out there now in great numbers.

I know, for example, we were talking to some Native American tribes who want to have these so that they can test their people, and it has been a long, difficult process and they still don't have it.

There is -- there may be a few places here and there that have it, but it's going to be tough to find.

HARLOW: Yes, thank you for all those important facts, Elizabeth. Appreciate it, as always. We'll see you soon.

Of course, this is a very holy week for so many people. Christians around the world, Easter is on -- is on Sunday. Of course, Passover begins this week. And for so many people, after the break, I'm going to speak with a pastor of a church exposed to coronavirus. What his message is for the nation on the devastating week ahead.



HARLOW: Today, New Jersey is set to open a makeshift hospital with 250 beds. This will happen at the Meadowlands Exposition Center. It was initially meant for non-Covid patients in order to ease the burden on the hospitals, but now the state's health commissioner says it may be used to treat patients also with the virus. This comes as New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced nearly 3,500 new cases in New Jersey. This brings the state's total up to more than 37,500 and more than 900 of those infected in the state have died.

Well, as the nation prepares to see the projected peak month of coronavirus, faith leaders around the world are preparing to try to provide comfort as best they can. On Wednesday, of course, Passover begins. Later this month, Muslims will observe Ramadan. And for Christians, it is Holy Week. Churches now set to hold Easter services digitally. A challenging time for so many, including pastors, especially for places of worship directly impacted by the virus.

You'll remember last month we brought you the story of Clay Bentley (ph) and his journey battling coronavirus. It's one of the first detected cases in the state of Georgia. Clay relying on his faith to get him through the darkest hours.


CLAY BENTLEY: It didn't look good.


It didn't look good for a while. It's been a hard road.


HARLOW: We're happy to say, Clay is now at home, he is healthy and he is out of quarantine.

Clay's pastor, Pastor Alan Mushegan Jr., of Fullturn Church in Hiram, Georgia, is with me.

It's so nice to have you here. And it's just been an amazing story for us to follow Clay Bentley and his journey. You are his pastor. And, again, he was one of the first known cases with the virus. He also had double pneumonia at the same time.

What was it like for you to be in contact with him through all of that?

PASTOR ALAN MUSHEGAN JR., LEAD PASTOR, FULLTURN CHURCH: Well, I mean, it was -- it was totally something new, something like we've never had to deal with before. And, first off, let me just say, thank you for letting me come on your show and give a message of hope and faith during this time and during this week.

But, yes, absolutely, I mean it was a time -- uncertain time. It was like a roller coaster that week, I remember, because, as you said, he was one of the first known cases. And we felt like the spotlight was just kind of all on us in that moment. And having to navigate through that.

But what a miracle God performed in Clay's life. As the doctor was saying he was getting worse, but then the Lord touched him and healed his body. HARLOW: Clay was also so grateful to the hospital staff, to the

nurses, to the doctors there for all of the medical treatments they gave him. And, you know, they -- initially he was turned away and told to go home.


HARLOW: And then, finally, was admitted about five days later.

Talk about this week, if you could, because it -- you know, we have Easter coming up on Sunday. Passover begins this week. Ramadan. It's such a holy week. And I think for many people, their question has got to be, why me? Why have I lost a loved one? Why is this happening? I guess, what's your message at the moment?

MUSHEGAN: Well, the message of the church, the message of Jesus Christ has always been to comfort those who mourn. So that's something that the church has to do. To heal the broken hearted.

But also, I believe, that the message that we need to bring in this time is a message of -- to see people delivered from fear and to see them delivered from panic and to find hope. And I'm believing that during this holy week, I don't think it's by chance, Poppy.

I believe that -- that even God is -- did not bring this virus. I don't -- I don't believe it's by chance that this is a peak week during the time when the Israelites were in their homes and they applied the blood of the lamb to the door. And as we celebrate the lamb, Jesus Christ, who was slain for us, and as we're in our homes during this time of Passover, that the blood of Jesus Christ is applied to the doors of our home.

HARLOW: Pastor, one other thing that was sort of remarkable that happened is when Clay was sent home from the hospital initially, before they took him in, but he obviously was positive, they just didn't know it at the time, with Covid-19, he went to a Wednesday night service. Several people in your congregation hugged him. You hugged him, had your hands on him as well. What has that meant for the broader congregation?

MUSHEGAN: Well, you know, so much has changed over the past few weeks and even what we know about coronavirus. And at the time, this was before all of this really began to unfold and before we had these ordinances or stay at home or social distancing.

And so he came thinking that he had pneumonia, and he came for me to pray for him and he came in the prayer line, which at first when I heard, when he told me, when I talked to him in the hospital and he said, they're testing me for coronavirus, and then a couple of days later they said -- he said I've tested positive for the coronavirus, my first initial thought, just to be honest, was, I wonder why he came when he was sick.

But then the Lord showed me that he actually sent him there for the purpose of being prayed for, and God protected all the people that were in the church that night. Not one of us was symptomatic and (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: Wow. I mean that's amazing because now, given what we know, you know, no group should be coming together. As I know you're supportive of these orders, not to gather. You're not having people come to your church.

And so to that point, I just really want to relay to people the importance of distancing and ask you about this because a Louisiana church out of Baton Rouge, again, yesterday, had another big gathering, and the pastor of the church, Tony Spell, was on CNN yesterday talking about why he ignored orders from the state and the city.

Listen to this.


PASTOR TONY SPELL, LIFE TABERNACLE CHURCH IN BATON ROUGE, LA: If this were about self-promotion, then I would livestream and televise my services, which we have the ability to do, but we refuse to because the word of God commands us to assemble together.


HARLOW: Do you have a message for him?

MUSHEGAN: Absolutely. I think, you know, my personal view -- and I don't know this man. My personal view is that people are up on the wrong soapbox right now, thumping their Bibles and they're preaching the wrong message.


This is a time where the church should be showing forth healing and a message of love and a message of hope. Hope is the key in this and hope has seen beyond where we are into where we're going. But I believe it's just the wrong -- wrong message.

The reason that we made the decision to go online, understand this, the word of God is the word of God. It doesn't matter if it's being spoken with a group of people in the building or if the word of God is going forth online. People are hearing the word and it's the word of God that impacts people. It doesn't matter if they're in the building, because wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the (INAUDIBLE).


MUSHEGAN: And the church has left the building, and Jesus never said, you need to go to church, he said, go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every living creature.

HARLOW: Pastor, it's an important message to people. A reminder to stay home and not go to these gatherings.

Pastor Al Mushegan, thank you for your time this morning. MUSHEGAN: Thank you so much.


SCIUTTO: Yes, the science shows that this is a very communicable disease regardless of where you meet.

Other stories we're following.

Time is running out in places such as New York, where as soon as tomorrow, all of the critical supplies and ventilators needed to fight the coronavirus could be used up. We're following it all.

We'll be right back.