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U.S. Surgeon General Compares Coming Days to 9/11; Trump Says We See Light at the End of the Tunnel; Governor of New York Says New York Could Be Near Apex of Infections; British Prime Minister in Hospital for Tests; Queen Addresses Nation, Urges Citizens to Stay United; Researchers Race to Develop Treatment for Virus; Spain Distributing Rapid Coronavirus Tests to Hospitals; Italy Records Lowest Death Rate in Two Weeks. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 6, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, preparing for a hard and sad week in the United States as coronavirus cases continue to mount.


VICE ADMIRAL JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment. Only it's not going to be localized, it's going to be happening all over the country.


CHURCH: New York is still being hit the hardest, but there was some optimistic news on Sunday that led President Trump to say this --


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.


CHURCH: Plus, the Queen gives a primetime address to rally the U.K. as its Prime Minister spends the night in the hospital.

Well, the top U.S. public health official with sobering words for the United States. Surgeon General Jerome Adams telling Americans the week ahead will compare to Pearl Harbor or 9/11 in terms of heartbreak and lost lives.

Here's where things stand right now. According to Johns Hopkins University there are more than 337,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States. More than 9,600 Americans have died because of it. At least 25,000 new cases were reported on Sunday alone along with more than 1,100 deaths.

Whilst authorities are coping with the deluge of patients and preparing for more, in some places National Guard units are helping build field hospitals like this one in Los Angeles or this one in Detroit. And on the Sunday morning talk shows the doctors leading the U.S. response told Americans to brace for more gut-wrenching days to come.


ADAMS: This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans' lives quite frankly. This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment only it's not going to be localized, it's going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that, but I want them to understand that the public along with the state and the federal government have the power to change the trajectory of this epidemic.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We are struggling to get it under control and that's the issue that's at hand right now. Just buckle down. Continue to mitigate, continue to do the physical separation. Because we got to get through this week that's coming up because it is going to be a bad week.


CHURCH: Well, the U.S. President and Vice President sang a different tune. They struck optimistic notes at Sunday's coronavirus task force briefing.


TRUMP: We see light at the end of the tunnel. Things are happening. Things are happening. We're starting to see light at the end of the tunnel. And hopefully in the not too distant future we'll be very proud of the job we all did.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are beginning to see the glimmers of progress. The experts will tell me not to jump to any conclusions, and I'm not, but like your President, I'm an optimistic person and I'm hopeful. And the truth is, we're starting to see cases and most importantly losses and hospitalizations begin to stabilize.


CHURCH: Now one reason for their optimism is the drop in coronavirus- related deaths in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. On Sunday the state reported 594 new deaths compared to 630 on Saturday. Now while encouraging, Governor Andrew Cuomo told CNN it is too soon to say this is a trend.


ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Every day we're waiting for this quote, unquote apex of the curve, and there's a theory that the apex is actually a plateau where you'll hit a high number and then you'll stay at about that high number for some period of time and then start to drop on the other side. But it's the first time we've seen any drop at all. So, you know, in a place where we're just hoping and praying to see a light at the end of the tunnel, it was good news. We'll know better tomorrow, in the next day when we see what the results are.


CHURCH: But the situation remains dire. New York City is still desperately short of critical medical supplies. The mayor says they could run out of ventilators in the next couple of days if they don't get help. The city is also coping with sickness among police.


Around 20 percent of the force is out due to various illnesses and it has lost its 11th officer from a suspected case of coronavirus.

Well, it is just after 9:00 in the morning in London where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in the hospital. His office says he was admitted Sunday night for tests as a precautionary step after he continues to have coronavirus symptoms.

We turn now to our Nic Robertson who joins us now live from London at the front of 10 Downing Street. So, Nic, what more are you hearing about Prime Minister Boris Johnson's hospitalization ten days after testing positive for the virus?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, we're being told Boris Johnson is still in charge of running Britain's coronavirus fight. However, in the last few minutes we've seen the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, who is the first Secretary of State heading into Downing Street -- actually to go inside there and chair the cabinet meeting, the coronavirus cabinet meeting with experts this morning.

The Health Secretary, we saw him go into 10 Downing Street just a couple of moments ago. Various shouted questions about the health of the Prime Minister. He didn't provide any comment about that. But the moment, what we understand is that the Prime Minister having now had the coronavirus symptoms and had tested positive ten days ago is in that window where if the condition -- if the symptoms don't improve, then doctors begin to get worried because that's the period where people -- some people have been seen to take a turn for the worse, if you will.

So the Prime Minister taken not in as an emergency procedure we're told but as a precautionary measure for routine tests to the hospital. But we don't know what those tests are at this time. Medical experts speculate about it, but Downing Street hasn't given any clear indication. He did, however, spend the night in hospital. Won't be taking part in that cabinet session in a few minutes that he normally would have been chairing. I think that gives you an idea of just how serious his situation is. CHURCH: Indeed, it's a real concern and we'll continue to follow that

story, of course. Meantime, Queen Elizabeth gave a rare televised address to the nation. What all did she have to say and how was that address received?

ROBERTSON: Well, this was a message that would have been coordinated with Downing Street. The Queen's own words, of course. And she praised the healthcare workers, all those who are on the front line of fighting the virus. But one of the messages that Downing Street's been communicating to people across the country, and I think this is where they're very happy to have the Queen step in as well, is that people should stay at home to protect lives. And this was something that the Queen thanked the people of the country for doing.


ELIZABETH II, QUEEN OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it. I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say the Britain's of this generation were as strong as any with the attributes of self- discipline, of quiet good-humored resolve and a fellow feeling still characterize this country.


ROBERTSON: And that message from the Queen there really sort of extolling people to do what was done during World War II, for example. And she raised her own first speech to the nation as a child when she was speaking to all of those who had been evacuated from London during the war.

She invoked again the war as well when she was speaking about the difficulties of being in isolation, the difficulties of being separated from the people we love when she invoked the words of Dame Vera Lynn's song saying we will meet again. And I think that strikes a chord in this country, you know, reminding people that they can rise to the challenge, that they would hopefully be able to look back and say they have risen to the challenge. And that this won't last forever.

It was a message from the Queen that was really was one that the British Prime Minister would have wanted not to be in hospital when that was going out because this is something that he really wants communicated to the people of this country.

CHURCH: Yes, and the Queen's appearance underlines the historic moment that we all are witnessing here. And, Nic Robertson, many thanks to you for bringing us up to date on the situation there from 10 Downing Street. We appreciate it.

Well, joining me now is Nicolas Locker, Professor of virology at the University of Surrey in the U.K. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm hoping you can hear me.



CHURCH: CHURCH: Let's talk about British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He was infected with COVID-19. Ten days ago he tested for that. Now he's in the hospital for additional tests. We don't know how serious this is, but as a virologist yourself, what is your sense of what is happening right now?

LOCKER: So it's difficult to comment without having more specific details about his condition, but what I would say is that this is the normal course of following patients that are infected with the virus. You know if you haven't recovered after a week and if you are still experiencing symptoms, then maybe his personal physicians are estimating that the symptoms are getting slightly worse, then you have to be checked in in the hospital for further testing to check on your lungs. Maybe do some x-ray of your chest and see whether the infection is progressing and damaging the lungs so that we can take care better of the individual in question. So that would be applied not just to the Prime Minister but to the general population.

CHURCH: Of course. All right. We'll continue to watch that story. He had said that his temperature had remained high so we will keep people updated on that situation. I did want to ask you this because U.S. President Donald Trump keeps promoting the anti-malarial drug, hydroxychloroquine. Here's what he said about it in his daily briefing. Let's just bring that up.


TRUMP: We want to get out of this. If it does work, it would be a shame if we didn't do it early. But we have some very good signs. So that's hydroxychloroquine, erythromycin. And again, you have to go through your medical people to get the approval. But I've seen things that I sort of like. So what do I know? I'm not a doctor. I'm not a doctor, but I have common sense.


CHURCH: Professor, he's not a doctor so what's your reaction when you hear the U.S. President promoting hydroxychloroquine even though its benefits in fighting COVID-19 are unproven at this stage?

LOCKER: Well, it's -- I would say it's mind boggling, especially with the President admitting that, you know, he's not a doctor. I mean, when the same question was asked to his head advisor, Dr. Fauci, the answer was pretty clear. And I would stand by the answer, that at the moment there's no real evidence that hydroxychloroquine is going to be of any use against this vaccine. There is some circumstantial evidence at best that would need some serious investigation because -- before they can actually warrant, you know, a massive million-dollar investment in stockpiling this drug.

And you know, this is an anti-malarial agent. So diverting the resource from actually treating malaria where it's needed could have a huge negative impact on the populations at risk in Africa and Asia. So you know, if you ask me, I really don't understand that move.

CHURCH: Right. Worth mentioning that Mr. Trump on Sunday didn't allow Dr. Fauci at that time to answer the question, very interesting point to raise there. Now while we all practice social distancing, regular hand washing, staying home and wearing a homemade mask if we need to venture out, what hope lies on the horizon in terms of anti-viral or antibody drugs, convalescent plasma from survivors of this virus or perhaps Germany's suggestion of a revised version of the tuberculosis vaccine. Do you see hope in any of those possibilities at this point in the short term?

LOCKER: In the -- well, in the short term we have to be realistic. Social distancing, mask, hand hygiene is all we have. OK. On the horizon within 12 to 18 months, whether we can have a vaccine mass produced is a possibility. We may actually end up with anti-viral drugs that would be faster to be tested, but we will then be facing problems of mass productions of those anti-viral drugs.

So at the moment, you know, for the public it's important to know that we have two vaccines that are in phase 1 clinical trials in human.


We have about 12 of them that are about to enter those clinical trials and then we have the 30 to 35 drugs, anti-viral drugs that are in clinical development. So you know, people are pushing really hard to get those drugs out there, but what we want to make sure is that, you know, we end up with something that is safe for the public and that can be mass produced globally for the worldwide population.

CHURCH: Understandably so, but of course there is a sense of desperation. People want to have some sort of hope that in the next few months there's something there. And we will wait. I wake each day hoping that there's been some sort of advancement while I've slept. Professor Nicolas Locker, thank you very much for joining us. We do appreciate it.

LOCKER: Have a good day. Thank you.

CHURCH: You, too.

Well, now to New Jersey, one of the surging coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S. And the state reported more than 3,000 new cases Sunday bringing the total to more than 37,000 people infected. State flags are flying at half-staff indefinitely to honor the lives lost. New jersey Governor Phil Murphy tweeting -- we've lost another 71 New Jerseyians to COVID-19 bringing our total to 917 deaths. 917 reasons to stay home and do your part to flatten the curve. Governor Murphy spoke earlier with CNN about the crisis.


PHIL MURPHY, NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: We're in the fight. This is war. There's no question about it. We're doing everything we can to stay out ahead of it. I suspect all of us would have liked to have gone into this tragedy and this challenge, this health care crisis with a lot more weapons at our disposal so the communications are open. I think there's a real spirit of trying to find common ground and do everything they can, but we've been dealt a tough hand right now as a country and we're living that right now in New Jersey.


CHURCH: And in the southern U.S., the state of Louisiana is battling a growing coronavirus outbreak. The governor says his state could run out of ventilators by the end of the week if the number of confirmed virus cases continues to surge.

In New Orleans a convention center has been turned into a makeshift clinic treating coronavirus patients who no longer need acute care in hospitals but still need medical attention. Louisiana is grappling with more than 13,000 cases at the moment and more than 400 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University.

The state of Illinois in the central U.S. is trying to cope with nearly 900 new COVID-19 cases including 31 new deaths. The total number of confirmed cases statewide is now more than 11,000 people. As the crisis worsens, the governor of Illinois and President Trump have been criticizing each other over the response to the pandemic.


TRUMP: Pritzker, I hear him, he's always complaining and yet I just said give me a list of some of the things we've done in Illinois and we're building a 2,500-bed hospital in McCormick place. That's the big convention center in Chicago. And we're helping to staff it and probably will end up staffing it because he's not able to do what you're supposed to be able to do as a governor. He has not performed well.

J.B. PRITZKER, ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: The President does not understand the word federal. Federal Emergency Management Agency. If they had started in February building ventilators, getting ready for this pandemic, we would not have the problems that we have today and frankly very many fewer people would die.


CHURCH: And that convention center turned hospital you heard Mr. Trump mention there, well, officials say the site is a last resort only if the Chicago area runs out of hospital beds.

And you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, some signs of hope from Europe's biggest hot spots. The latest reports coming from Spain and Italy. That's ahead.



CHURCH: Well, millions of people in India lit candles and waived flashlights on Sunday to show their solidarity in the face of the coronavirus. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, says everyone should ensure that dark clouds of the virus make way for the light of hope adding that no one is alone in this fight.

Well, some encouraging news out of two European countries hit hard by the coronavirus. On Sunday Italy reported its lowest rate of deaths in at least two weeks. Italy has struggled to consistently stabilize its number of new infections. The death toll there near 16,000, the highest in the world.

Meanwhile, Spain has begun distributing its new batch of 1 million rapid coronavirus tests. The tests are going first to hospitals and nursing homes. Globally right now only the United States reports more confirmed cases than Spain.

Well, joining me now with the latest from these two hot spots we have journalist Al Goodman in Madrid and CNN contributor Barbie Nadeau in Rome. Good to see you both. Al, I want to start with you there in Madrid. Talk to us about these new rapid tests being distributed.

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rosemary. These 1 million rapid testing kits are the first wave of a batch of 5 million that the government has been trying to get these. They had a batch earlier. They didn't work out. It wasn't reliable. But now they've got some, they're going to get them out to the 17 regions of Spain, especially the area right here around Madrid, the hardest hit part of the country and to the area of Barcelona, the second hardest hit area.

The Spanish reference lab has tested these kits. Say they are 80 percent reliable to determine if you have coronavirus. So if you test positive on this, you've got it. If you test negative but you're in a high-risk group, they're still going to go back and test you with an even more reliable -- higher than 80 percent reliable -- slower test.


But the numbers are working now in the favor. The number of new cases and the number of deaths while going up, are going up much more slowly than they have. That's giving hope. But for instance, with the intensive care ward, in the most recent period, 329 people went into the intensive care ward in the last reporting period. That was almost triple from the day earlier, the highest in a week. So it gives you an idea how tricky it is to try to stay on top of this. And intensive care wards here and in other countries are clearly the flash points that most serious concern for the medical community, will they have enough beds, will they have enough ventilators -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, that is the big concern. But it is good to have some encouraging news from Spain. Many thanks to Al Goodman.

I want to go to Barbie in Rome. And some promising signs there from across Italy, Barbie. Talk to us about what doctors are saying regarding these new numbers.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We're really hoping that the numbers that come out today about 6 p.m. local time, will confirm that the trend is going down. Now you have to consider that this exploded in northern Italy on February 23rd. The whole country went on lockdown on March 10th. So it's been a long time since we've had any sort of good news. And the authorities are saying the lockdown is working, the trend looks like it's going to stick.

And then they can start thinking about phase 2. How to unlock 60 million people. How to get this country back economically and on a personal level for so many people who have made so many sacrifices. But we're still waiting for those numbers today to confirm the trend. Fingers are crossed. Everyone is very hopeful here -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, absolutely, and across the world because Italy and Spain have offered a sign of our future, certainly here from the United States point of view. So this is good news for everybody across the globe. Many thanks again to our Al Goodman and Barbie Nadeau bringing us the very latest there.

And you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, the United States is injecting $2 trillion into its economy. But could more cash be on the way already? We take a look at that.

And small businesses are hoping stimulus checks from the government will help them stay afloat. I'll speak with a comedy club owner in the U.S. about the challenges he's been facing trying to do that.