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New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut Reporting Possible Leveling Off of Death Rates Due to Coronavirus Spread; President Trump Comments on Availability of Testing for Coronavirus; White House Economic Adviser Peter Navarro Issued Early Warnings of Severity of Coronavirus; British PM Boris Johnson in Intensive Care Unit as Symptoms Worsen. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 7, 2020 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day, 8:00 now in the east.

And the major question this morning, are we beginning to see the first signs of progress in the battle against coronavirus. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the numbers show his state may be flattening the curve of this outbreak. Governors in neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut reporting similar trends, with the death rate appearing to level off some. These could be signs that social distancing is working. But all three governors insist they're taking nothing for granted, and this is no time to relax any of the social distancing restrictions.

Breaking this hour, the U.S. Navy now says a crew member of the hospital ship the Comfort docked in New York has tested positive for coronavirus. He is being isolated from patients and other crew of that vessel. The Navy official also tells CNN that new orders to treat coronavirus patients on board means that the ship will have room to treat only about 500 patients instead of 1,000. They need more room on board to separate those who have the virus and those who don't.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And 97 percent, John, of Americans are now under statewide stay at home orders. Seven states, though, are still holding out. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infections disease expert, warns that life in America may not get back to so- called normal until there is a vaccine.

And developing overnight, a new story that one of President Trump's top advisers warned the White House back in January and then February that coronavirus could kill millions of Americans and cost trillions of dollars. So why did it take so long for the White House to react? We'll share that reporting with you.

We're also monitoring the condition of British prime minister Boris Johnson. At this hour he remains in intensive care at a London hospital. And we're just learning that the U.K. cabinet was taken by surprise by Johnson's deteriorating condition. BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay

Gupta. Sanjay, great to have you here this morning. We all heard Governor Andrew Cuomo say the number of hospitalizations down, the number of ICU admissions down, daily intubations down. We just saw the death rates -- or death numbers, I should say, in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey showing them flat over a few day period. That's not very long, we want to see more, but what does this all show you, Sanjay?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's definitely encouraging. This is the sort of direction you want to see things going. A couple of points, whenever you look at these models, they're always wrong, but some are useful, as we talked about last hour. I think there is two things. One is that you are seeing a lag in the picture because people get tested several days, maybe even 10, 12 days after they become exposed typically, and then there is some time after that before -- if they're going to go to the hospital, they will go to the hospital, and then after that if, sadly, they are going to die, it's obviously there is some time that passes in between. So we're still getting a glimpse, my point is, from a couple, three weeks ago. How that plays out depends on how the last two or three weeks have gone in terms of social distancing. And I think it's safe to say that we have been doing a better job, still probably not where we need to be, but a better job.

The models, and let me just show you this quickly, because the models change now as a result of looking at what is happening in states like New York and Connecticut, but if you look at the number of deaths overall, and the model a week ago compared to the model now, I don't know if we have that, we can put it up, you'll see that there is a difference now. So this week they're saying projected deaths around 8,200 compared to closer to 9,300 last week. So that's a change of about 11,000. Again, this is a model, and this is sort of a best case scenario model.

Look at the bottom line, though. So actually the peak deaths is higher than it was last week, and yet the overall deaths have come down. And that's because they think that the peak deaths will actually be a shorter duration of peak deaths and that more of the states are coming online and sort of peaking closer together now. So, again, we don't know that this is going to sort of hold up. It is a best case scenario. Many states have said, look, people will look at this model, and they'll say we are sort of getting into the free and clear. We don't have to worry as much about ventilators and personal protective equipment. That is not the case. Many of these states are still very concerned about this even as the models seem to be improving somewhat.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, as we've discussed, Dr. Fauci said yesterday that he doesn't believe that life in America will get back to normal until we have a vaccine, which as we have been told, will be something like 12 to 18 months away. What does that mean, back to normal? What are you -- when you think about back to normal, what does that look like?

GUPTA: Four months ago, right, seems like two lifetimes ago.

[08:05:00] But I think it's when people have the confidence, both physically and psychologically, to start going out back in public and conducting their lives the way they used to.

I think there are some things that maybe are going to be changed for a long time. I think traditions like shaking hands, making sure surfaces are clean, the washing of hands much more regularly, I think those types of good things may be legacies from all of this. And I think Dr. Fauci has talked about the fact that the vaccine ultimately will provide the ultimate confidence.

But I've got to tell you, we all have been in the news business for a long time, things shift quickly. We shifted quickly into this -- I've been amazed how quickly we have adapted to this new lifestyle. I think that at some point probably over the next few months there is going to feel a sense of normalcy again, maybe not completely normal. But things do shift again pretty quickly. A therapeutic, a medicine that works, I think, will go a long way towards giving people that confidence as well.

BERMAN: One thing that will also help is testing at levels we are not seeing now. I want to remind Americans it was just one month ago that the president made the false claim that everyone who wants a test can get one. And yesterday he had a revised version of his take on testing. I want to play that.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: States are supposed to be doing testing. Hospitals are supposed to be doing testing. Do you understand that? We're the federal government. Listen, we're the federal government. We're not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing.


BERMAN: Sanjay, I want you to explain to people where we are on testing, and what actually needs to happen in order for testing to be able to help control this pandemic.

GUPTA: We are still ramping up testing, which is something that I think we have said for the last month now. It is certainly a lot better than it was. And you got a lot of tests, I think, close to 1.8 million tests. I don't know they're uniformly distributed in a way that everybody would like as well. So while some places say, hey, look, we have got a lot more tests than we used to, there are still a lot of places around the country where they're saying, we still can't get tested if we need to, and some of the people that are saying that are healthcare workers. So that obviously still needs to improve. It's getting closer.

I think there is two important points here. One is that while I think President Trump is right that commercial labs, hospital labs, public labs all are now picking up some of that testing burden, it's not just the federal government, it was the federal government that set the standard for who should be tested early on. And you remember, early on, they said, only if you just returned from China or you've come in known contact with someone with coronavirus.

When you go back and look at those restrictive testing guidelines early on, did it really put us behind in this country? Did we not have the surveillance that we needed to be able to then find people, isolate them, contact trace them. By the time we really started to ramp up testing, it was pretty clear there was significant community spread in many places around the country. And that's going to be one of those things that we go back and analyze so that it doesn't happen again. But clearly, we didn't have eyes on this early enough.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, moving forward, aren't we still going to need testing in terms of we hear this futuristic, brave new world, sci-fi term of certificates of immunity that some countries are considering having people carry so that they can go back to work and go back out in the world. Don't you need -- won't we need widespread testing for that to happen?

GUPTA: Yes, there is two types of testing that are still going to be needed. One is just the basic testing for the virus, which is what we're talking about here. As we come over the slope, come on the other side, it is almost like this side of the slope and this side of the slope are very similar in terms of how we have to approach it. As we get over here, on the downward part of the slope, we still got to find people who have the virus, isolate them, contact trace them, that's how you really bring this to a flat line ultimately.

But the antibody testing, Alisyn, what you're talking about basically is this finding the antibodies, people who have antibodies to see if they in fact have been exposed and are now immune to this. I think that's going to be a pretty big deal. I don't know if people are going to be given a certificate of immunity because we don't know how long that immunity lasts or if there should be an expiration date on that certificate. But I think the idea that people, once they have been exposed, they have these anti-bodies, they're going to have the confidence physically and psychologically to start getting out there and doing things again.

I think it's true. We have seen that with other types of outbreaks as well. Nothing, again, like this, because this is wholly unique. But I think that may happen. And that type of testing is starting as well. There was an emergency authorization this past Thursday to start allowing antibody testing from this one company. Again, other laboratories are going to have to start picking that up again.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, also, we know we're going to have you back, because we have new information about the condition of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. So we'll have you back because we have lots of questions about that. Thank you very much.


GUPTA: Got it. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Also this morning, we're learning new details about what the Trump administration knew about coronavirus and when they knew it. "The New York Times" is reporting that White House economic adviser Peter Navarro, who you saw on our air yesterday, he wrote two memos trying to warn the White House that coronavirus could cost the country trillions of dollars and kill up to 2 million Americans. The first memo he sent was in late January, a second memo in late February. That was still just days before President Trump was still saying this.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The coronavirus, which is, you know, very well under control in our country.

We're going to be pretty soon at only five people. We're going down, not up. We're going very substantially down, not up.

It is going to disappear. One day, it is like a miracle, it will disappear.


CAMEROTA: Not clear whether President Trump actually read or knew about Peter Navarro's memos or if he believed them.

Joining us now, CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman, she is a White House correspondent for the "New York Times" and she reported on this story. Maggie, great to see you.

What is the background here? Why did Peter Navarro, who is an economic adviser, obviously not an infectious disease specialist, feel compelled to take this step of putting this down on paper and trying to get this message to the White House?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Navarro would not respond to my requests for comment, but as best as I can tell from other sources, Navarro was one of a very small group of people who were from early on in this crisis urging the White House to take it more seriously. Navarro is a China hawk, and because of that, a number of his colleagues didn't take his warnings particularly seriously. They assumed that his concerns were coming through the lens of being concerned about that country more broadly and not specifically about this virus.

But as we saw with that January memo, January 29th, same day the president appoints this task force, Navarro was forecasting a couple of different scenarios for containment. But with no containment, he put the loss of lives in the hundreds of thousands, and he put the economic effect in the trillions. That is where we are now. A month later he wrote another memo cautioning about the economic needs to purchase equipment to try to help Americans who were suffering. So he was ringing an alarm bell. Whether the president heard that bell in terms of seeing the memos, we don't know. We also don't know whether the president was aware that Navarro had these concerns in the first place. But Navarro's concerns were not a secret in the White House.

BERMAN: He put them down on paper, not once, but twice. And they're extraordinarily explicit. I'm blown away by how explicit he is in the February 23rd memo. He said, there's an increasing probability of a full blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans with the loss of life with as many as 1 million to 2 million souls. So when the president who repeatedly, now even, says no one could have seen this coming, Peter Navarro, who works in the White House, saw exactly this coming in February.

HABERMAN: Peter Navarro saw exactly this coming. Somebody who Peter Navarro is close with, Tucker Carlson at FOX News, sat with the president at some point in early March and tried to encourage him to be more aggressive on this when the president still was not being aggressive. There are a small number of people who saw where this could go and were trying to essentially if not grab the president by the lapels, grab the administration by the lapels and say, this is coming.

There were a number of people who were not forecasting massive deaths and massive sickness at that point. And I understand that since then people have changed their tunes more publicly. But Navarro is one of the few people who was consistently saying all of this.

CAMEROTA: Steve Bannon, in response to your reporting and "Axios'" reporting said, I think it was his impression that Peter Navarro had to do this because of the, quote, arrogance and ignorance of the people around the president who disagreed with Navarro's assessment and put the country in danger. And so do you have a sense inside the White House of who was trying to block this message?

HABERMAN: We know that Peter Navarro had a fight with Anthony Fauci over the weekend related to chloroquine being a treatment for COVID, or at least a preventative drug for COVID possibly as well. Fauci is somebody who, as we understand it, was on the other side of the travel ban debate, for instance. Fauci didn't think the travel bans did much in terms of containment. Navarro argued otherwise.

But there were a bunch of economic advisers, and many of us have reported on this repeatedly who thought that this was being overstated as a threat. We know that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, had agreed with the president that this was being used by the media to harm him, which the president has said over and over again. Kushner has insisted since though other people that he took it seriously at the time, and there were other people who were really seeing where this could go.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Also, if you look historically back to January, it doesn't seem as if the president was particularly receptive to this message, but people can go back and look at that themselves.

I do want to ask you, Maggie, because you got another piece of fascinating reporting here, which is a question that Alisyn has been asking repeatedly, which is with hydroxychloroquine, which is this anti-malarial drug that the president talks about any chance he gets, one of the questions has been, does he have any skin in this game? Does he have any particular reason other than wanting people to get better, which I'm sure he does and we all do. Does he have any personal connection to this drug? And it turns out, you know, he knows people, and there is some money involved.

Can you explain what your reporting found?

HABERMAN: Sure. So, we have some reporting suggesting that there is a stock holding connected to the president that has an investment in a maker of this drug. It certainly is important to note given everything we're seeing, given his excitement about it, I do think, John, just based on other reporting we have that his interest in this is primarily about the fact that it has been suggested to him by people who he knows, including Larry Ellison at Oracle, that Dr. Oz on television suggested this and the president has gotten more interested in what TV doctors have to say than some of the people in his own administration.

But mostly, John, I think he's looking for a quick fix out of this. And I really do believe that that is his main focus. I have no way of knowing if that's the only one. But I do think that's the main one.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, there will have to be more reporting, but the fact he's fast fastened on to hydroxychloroquine just raises questions. There are dozens in clinical trials --

HABERMAN: Totally.

CAMEROTA: -- right now that could help. But this is the one he's focused on and we'll just see if we understand why.

But, Maggie, thank you very much for explaining all of your reporting to us and sharing it.

HABERMAN: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care at this hour. He is battling coronavirus. More on how he's doing, next.



BERMAN: A major developing story this morning, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care after his coronavirus symptoms worsened. One cabinet member says they were, quote, taken by surprise by the prime minister's deteriorating condition.

Joining us now, CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward. She is live at the hospital where the prime minister is being treated.


BERMAN: We'll try to get communications up with Clarissa shortly.

Also with us is Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, what we know is that the prime minister was rushed into intensive care, this is after being admitted to the hospital earlier, and we were told overnight he was on oxygen but not a ventilator. What does all that say to you?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, typically when someone is in the hospital and they go to intensive care, it is one of the few reasons, one is that, you know, they need additional monitoring, you know, you have more intensive monitoring in the intensive care unit. This sort of, you know, you're concerned and so this is an abundance of caution. Two is if someone needs to be put on a breathing machine, a ventilator. Three, they have some sort of heart problem. And, four, there is some sort of therapy, some sort of treatment that can be given but only in the ICU.

As you any, John, there is no particular treatment for coronavirus. You know, it's more symptomatic therapies. And as you just pointed out, he's not on the ventilator as of now. So, this really sounds like it was an abundance of caution.

But just, if you look at the timeline here, John, I think it was 11 days ago that he was diagnosed, the prime minister, was sort of, you know, sounds like doing OK enough to not have to be in the hospital, then Sunday night he went into the hospital, they said it was for more routine testing. One of the things is that, you know, going to the hospital in the middle of a pandemic is a significant decision for his doctors to make. Beds are at a premium, a lot of people who are ill are in the hospital, so you try to avoid that as much as possible and they made that decision and then yesterday afternoon as Clarissa Ward was reporting, he, you know, went to the ICU. We didn't know for certain why at that point.

And, look, the circumstances may still change, but that's sort of what we know so far.

BERMAN: And I say he was rushed to the ICU. I don't know rushed or moved there after careful, you know, slow moving consideration. He was put in the ICU for whatever reason.

Clarissa, you are back with us again.

Give us a sense of the very latest on the prime minister's condition.

WARD: Yes, sorry about that, John, had a little technical issue there.

But we are getting an update now from the prime minister's spokesperson who's told -- told the public that the prime minister is stable, that he, quote, remains in good spirits, that he has not been diagnosed with pneumonia, that obviously is very good news. And that he's not required any invasive type of treatment.

So, he's not been intubated. He does not require a ventilator to breathe. We've also heard he's conscious. That he's been receiving standard oxygen treatment.

So all of this I would say somewhat encouraging. Although still deeply concerning that we have not yet heard of any real improvement in the prime minister's health. And all of this, I don't need to tell you, John, coming at a time of real crisis, when the British people want to feel very strongly that their leader is able to leave the country, that there is a strong plan going forward, that the government and the cabinet are trying to reflect that the show is going on still. But certainly everybody on every side of the political spectrum here in the U.K. just desperately hoping that the prime minister makes a speedy recovery, though no evidence that that is going to happen just yet, John.

BERMAN: So, Sanjay, new data points from Clarissa there, no pneumonia.

GUPTA: Yes, right.

BERMAN: But he is on oxygen. What does that tell you?

GUPTA: Well, you know, when you look at these patients who have this COVID disease, you know, a lot of patients are developing these breathing problems, but not necessarily having pneumonia. So, you know, pneumonia would be the most obvious sort of thing. You have an infection.

The infection becomes significant enough to cause these accumulations of inflammatory fluid in your lungs, those -- these infiltrates. He doesn't have that. That's what Clarissa is just reporting.

So what is it that required him to then require oxygen? Sometimes, it can be the body's own inflammatory system that is overreacting in a way.


That can cause problems. It could be a more of a respiratory distress type thing, where someone actually in addition to the physical aspects of this, the psychological sort of anxiety leads to shortness of breath. So, you know, we don't know what it is.

He's 55 years old. So, he -- I don't know much about his other pre- existing conditions. But, you know, he doesn't necessarily fall into one of the vulnerable groups.

And that could be why doctors want to have him in the intensive care unit. What is going on with him? Why does he have dropping oxygenation if that's what took him there or shortness of breath? What's driving it if not the pneumonia? It affects not only your diagnosis, but also how you approach the treatment, John.

BERMAN: Yes. One of the things we know from talking to friends of ours, Sanjay, who have this, is this messes with you in ways we're only beginning to understand now.

Fascinating. Sanjay, thanks very much.

Clarissa Ward, thank you very much for that new information. Really appreciate it.

GUPTA: You got it.

BERMAN: Retired healthcare workers heeding the call and heading back to work, a former emergency room nurse tells us why she decided to do it. That's next.


CAMEROTA: The need for doctors and nurses has inspired some retirees across the country to go back to work, rejoining the front lines now.