Return to Transcripts main page


Global Coronavirus Cases Surge Past 1.5 Million; Fauci" We Can Evaluate How Quickly to Normalize at End of April; Trump Clashes with Governors on Volume of Tests; Philadelphia Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, Discusses Philadelphia's Nearly 5,000 Coronavirus Cases & 78 Deaths; 6.6 Million Americans Filed Jobless Claims Last Week; Trump's Task Force Focuses on Reopening Economy as Dems & GOP Clash over $250 Billion Small Business Relief Bill; Bill Gates: Americans' Behaviors Are "Utterly Changed" by Coronavirus. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 9, 2020 - 11:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King, in Washington. You're watching CNN's continued coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

The global coronavirus case count eclipsing 1.5 million now. In Spain, the death toll climbing above 15,000. In Italy, this sad number, 100 frontline doctors have now died trying to save others. In India, hundreds of containment zones in place and you cannot go outside without a mask in the two largest cities there, Mumbai and Calcutta.

Here in the United States, some glimmers of hope in the latest public health data. But more crippling pain in new economic numbers.

The coronavirus count, more than 432,000 infected in the United States, nearly 15,000 lost. Just yesterday, 1,973 Americans perished. Again, that is the highest day-to-day total since the start of the pandemic.

The economic fallout is beyond massive. Another 6.1 million Americans now say they're out of work. In just six weeks, nearly 17 million Americans, 16.8 million Americans have filed for unemployment. That's roughly 11 percent of the entire American work force.

The economic ripple effect is why the president hopes, he says, that he can open the country sooner than most think. The treasury secretary this morning says he'll brief the president later today on details of an airline bailout plan.

Also today, a Senate collision over adding more money to a small business emergency lifeline program.

New CDC guidelines issued Wednesday for essential workers could offer a test case of what a return to work may look like for all workers. When will that be? The experts say we need a ton of more testing first. The president says ASAP, but he does add we have to be careful. Today, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the

government, says, yes, by summer, life could look somewhat normal, but he also warns there's a lot to do between then and now.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It can be in the cards, and I say that with some caution, because as I said, when we do that, when we pull back and try to open up the country as we often use that terminology, we have to be prepared that when the infections start to rear their heads again, that we have in place a very aggressive and effective way to identify, isolate, contact, trace and make sure we don't have those spikes that we see now.


KING: Here with me to share their insights and expertise, our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the director of the UCLA Center for Global and Immigrant Health, Professor Anne Rimoin.

Sanjay, let me start with you.

We're at this incredible delicate moment where, if we look at the data, there's a plateauing. When you look at case counts, when you look at what, sadly, the death numbers are in some places. There's a conversation now about what next. Is that conversation premature or is it time to start?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's premature, and I know that's not what people want to hear right now because people have been homebound, they're going stir crazy, and they're starting to wonder about how long this will last.

It's not going to last forever, but it's going to last longer than the next few weeks, John. I think that's something that's become pretty clear.

What's important to emphasize, John, is the picture you're seeing on the screen in terms of these tragic numbers, in some ways, they reflect people who became exposed to this virus two to three weeks ago, maybe, depending on how you look at the trajectory here.

Which also means how we're behaving right now will sort of affect the trajectory two to three weeks from now. That's how long it takes between exposure to potential hospitalization. Most people won't need hospitalization, but if you do, it's typically 10 to 14 days after exposure.

So if you let up now, John, two to three weeks from now, we'll pay the price for that. Now is not the time to be thinking about reemerging. Again, I know that's hard to hear, but I think that's what the data shows us.

KING: Dr. Rimoin, that's part of the psychology of this exercise, if you will. I want you to listen to a little more of Dr. Fauci. He essentially

says what Sanjay says, that there may be a point where we can at least talk about a limited reopening of the American economy, but we can only have that conversation -- it's three weeks before the end of April. Dr. Fauci says this is on you.


FAUCI: It is more likely we will progress toward the steps of normalization as we get to the end of this 30 days. And I think that's going to be a good time to look and see how quickly can we make that move to try and normalize. And, hopefully, hopefully, by the time we get to the summer, we will have taken many steps in that direction.


KING: Dr. Rimoin, when you look at the data, whether it's national numbers or state numbers, do you see enough hopeful signs that you believe, if everybody listens, follows the guidelines until the end of the month, that in three weeks, the end of April, we could start to have that conversation, or are you pretty convinced already, no, no, we're going into May and beyond?


DR. ANNE RIMOIN, PROFESSOR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, FIELDING SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH & INFECTIOUS DISEASE DIVISION & DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR GLOBAL AND IMMIGRANT HEALTH, UCLA: I think this is exactly what Sanjay was just saying, which was we've made so many gains by having a really good national effort at social distancing and doing everything we can to flatten the curve. But if we start to open up, we're going to see these numbers rebound.

We don't have a population immunity to this virus. We don't have vaccines. We don't have therapeutics. And we don't have serology or widescale testing for acute infection in place at this point. We don't have any of these things in place.

So any kind of flattening of the curve certainly reflects efforts that have been very successful at pushing down the number of cases of the virus, but that will all be for naught if we start to open up too soon. We need all of these things in place.

Scott Gottlieb, others have put together plans and outlined the steps that are needed and all the infrastructure that needs to be in place in order for us to be able to even consider this.

And I understand, too, just the same way that Sanjay does, this is hard. This is frustrating. But lives are at stake. We're seeing the impact of the lack of social distancing and the lack of early action throughout the country at this point and throughout the world. We have to let the global data speak.

KING: What I hear from both of you while we have our conversations and every other health expert that comes in, whether at the federal level, the state level, the city and town level around the country, is, if you want to get to that point, one thing they need is to know more about the population in their community, whether it's our country or a small town out there, and they say they need more testing. That's the frustrating part.

I want you to listen here, Sanjay. It's the president of the United States saying we've made progress by leaps and bounds, we're in a much better place. And then a Republican governor of New Hampshire saying, even when they send me kits for testing, these instant tests, I love them but I don't have enough of them and I don't have all the pieces.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're testing more than anybody. You saw exponentially more by anybody by far. And our testing has become -- I think it will end up being a big strength.

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): It's incredibly frustrating because there was a lot of talk about this device. There was a lot of hype on it nationally and it was wonderful, and then when they showed up, expectations were set really high, as they should be. But to have 13 of these devices and have no way to use them, I'm banging my head against the wall. I really am. It's really frustrating.


KING: A Republican governor in the relatively small state of New Hampshire, but that's part of this calculation, too. Will state public health directors recommend to governors, who also have to face the voters someday, hey, the president says or the White House says it's time to gradually reopen, should we do that if you do not have a comprehensive testing paradigm in place?

GUPTA: No, we shouldn't. Testing was, is, and will remain very important, one of the cornerstones of this entire strategy. And we'll have time to really look in the rearview mirror and say, why was testing inadequate at the beginning.

There are things that I think are happening now which are going to be beneficial, but this increased testing has not been applied uniformly across the country yet. I think that's what you're hearing from the governor of New Hampshire there and in other places.

I talk to people on the phone every day in various places around the country. You hear the same thing. Testing is ramping up but it needs to be applied uniformly.

There's a list of things, to Professor Rimoin's point, about what needs to be done. Some of this is from Scott Gottlieb and others. But if you look at the list, you need to make sure hospitals can be ready to accommodate patients, make sure they're not redlining, as has been described in New York, that we see a substantial reduction in cases.

But look at that third point. States have to be able to test everyone with symptoMs. They have to be able to test, they have to be able to trace and they have to be able to treat, as Vivek Murthy always says, the former surgeon general. That's going to be key, especially at the tail end of this curve,

John. We're going to get through this. I think it's important for people to know that, we're going to get through this.

But at the tail end of the curve, in order to open up these states again, these states have to feel comfortable that they have enough actual, functional testing. Not just the tests themselves but something that translates into a reliable, quick result for a patient. That's all that matters to patients and the health care professionals.

It doesn't matter how many tests we're sending to a lab or how much capability is being defined. It's what matters to the patient ultimately in terms of getting them tested.

KING: And, Dr. Rimoin, we're continuing to learn about this, especially now that you have in at home in the United States and our scientists are working more closely on it trying to track China and Europe beforehand.

A letter to the White House from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says be careful. Remember, the president some time ago said, we're going to get April, it's going to get warm, it's going to disappear. That obviously has not happened.


This letter from the scientists say, "There's some evidence to suggest coronavirus may transmit less efficiently in environments with higher ambient temperature and humidity. But given the countries currently in summer climates, such as Australia and Iran, are experiencing rapid virus spread, a decrease in cases with increases in humidity and temperatures should not be assumed."

So we should not just decide, it's spring, it's warmer, we're good.

RIMOIN: Absolutely. We don't have enough data. And what we do know is the data that we do have is global data that suggests that it is spreading in areas that do have these conditions that should be more favorable in principle to stopping spread.

So we really just need to follow the data. Decisions need to be based on science and evidence that we are seeing, not on conjecture. And we risk everyone's lives, millions of people, if we do not do our best to keep people safe and to have policies in place.

Everybody is looking for a way to open up soon. And I understand that. It is very frustrating. It's scary. It is difficult for people. But we're all trying to save lives here. That is the purpose. And so we have to follow the data.

KING: Dr. Rimoin, Dr. Gupta, I very much appreciate you helping me sort through where we are today. We'll speak again I'm sure as we go through this.

The east coast, of course, bearing the brunt of the country's coronavirus cases right now. Live tracker here of the deaths by county throughout the United States. And as you can see, a lot of red on the right, northeast part of your screen. New York clearly the epicenter.

But the White House Task Force says officials are keeping another close eye on other potential hot spots.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: We are concerned about the metro area of Washington and Baltimore, and we're concerned right now about the Philadelphia area.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our message to the people of the Philadelphia area is, now more than ever, practice the social distancing so that Philadelphia and, to some extent, even Pittsburgh, do not have to endure what other communities before them have had to endure.


KING: At last official count, Philadelphia had nearly 5,000 coronavirus cases and 78 deaths.

Philadelphia health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, joins us now.

Dr. Farley, you're grateful for the attention, I guess, from the White House but you think they got their numbers a little wrong.

DR. THOMAS FARLEY, PHILADELPHIA HEALTH COMMISSIONER: We're grateful for the attention. Philadelphia has definitely been hit hard, like many cities in the northeastern part of the country, obviously New York City being hit the hardest.

We have 78 deaths. That's 78 more than I'd like to have. Our mortality rate, though, is one-tenth of New York City. And I've been a little more optimistic in the last two or three days that our case count each day has been more or less stable.

Cases are growing. Deaths are growing. We're not out of the woods by any means. But I'm hopeful the social distancing we put in place a few weeks ago are showing some signs of working.

KING: I just want to put up the last five days. On Saturday, your cases went up 18 percent, Sunday 22 percent, Monday up 11, Tuesday up 13, Wednesday up 12. So in that stability, every one of these is a challenge, obviously, is every one of them is a human life, either going through sickness or worse.

But in that stability, especially Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, that shows signs that what you're doing is at least helping.

FARLEY: What I follow is not the cumulative counts, which will always go up, but the daily counts. The daily counts in new cases has been stable for about five days now. The daily counts for deaths have increased each day, and deaths will lag from the case counts.

But I'm hopeful the case count is some sign that we're flattening the curve and that we can protect our health care system and protect people.

KING: And take me through your experience in the sense that -- I'm with you, and we certainly all hope you don't become a hot, hot spot. Obviously, everyone has a problem in terms of supply chain, in terms of resources.

In terms of lessons learned from densely populated cities like yours that have had to deal with this before you at a higher level, where are you?

FARLEY: Well, you know, testing has been a huge problem with us from the beginning. It's still a problem for us. It's a problem not just at the individual level for diagnosis, but it's a problem for us to have the data to know where this virus is moving.

If we had more testing earlier on, we could have had an earlier warning sign and perhaps put in place earlier smarter social distance measures.

And we're having problems with personal protective equipment for health care workers. The health care system could come under strain. We put in place a lot of safeguards. At the moment it's looking like we can manage the surge, but it's been tough to prepare for that point.

We're by no means over this. The numbers still continue to rise, but just in the past two or three days, for the first time I'm starting to feel a little more optimistic that the steps we're doing is making a difference.

KING: That's good to hear a little more optimism. We could hear that right now.

Dr. Farley, appreciate your time today and your insight. Best of luck in the days ahead.

FARLEY: Thank you.

KING: Thank you, sir.


A programming note. Join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta for another CNN town hall tonight, "CORONAVIRUS: FACTS AND FEARS." It airs tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Up next for us, millions more of American applying for unemployment as the coronavirus layoffs continue.


KING: New and stunning evidence today of the dreadful toll the coronavirus is taking on people all across the country. New Labor Department numbers out this morning show more than six million Americans filed for unemployment reports -- unemployment benefits, excuse me, last week. That brings the total new jobless claims for the past three weeks to 16.8 million.


In an interview just last hour, Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, said, yes, the situation is incredibly bleak right now. He believes conditions, though, will improve.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: When the virus does run its course and it's safe to go back to work and safe for businesses to open, then we would expect there to be a fairly quick rebound as people do go back to work and start resuming normal levels of economic activity. I think most people expect that to happen in the second half of this year.


KING: The president today plans to detail a new task force to focus on the coronavirus economic challenges, including the delicate question of when at least part of the economy can reopen.

And the Senate is debating today how to add even more money, $250 billion or so, into a program designed to help small businesses keep afloat. But there are some partisan differences there that need to be worked out. That's going to take a bit.

Joining me now, our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, and Martha Gimbel, the manager for Economic Research at Schmidt Futures.

Christine, let me start with you.

When you look at these numbers, it was three million, then six million, then six million again. Number one, they're stunning and devastating. Number two, the infrastructure of the employment system is just not built to handle this.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: No, because these numbers are unthinkable. Who would ever build a state unemployment office to handle 400,000 jobless claims? Like in North Carolina, they're used to 3,000 a week. They got 400,000, the governor said. So the infrastructure is just not there to handle this kind of flood.

Every one of those numbers is a person who has bills to pay. And they are basically the social sacrifice for the big public health problem that's happening here. So it's really just an unusual, unthinkable situation to be in.

And there's no playbook for it. You'd like to believe what Jerome Powell is saying, that there could be a quick economic response someplace down the road. But right now, these are people, who have been laid off and still haven't been able to secure their unemployment benefits just yet or are just now starting to get them.

So I think we have a really kind of tough few weeks to get through here.

KING: Martha, to that point, the first priority is helping people who are in desperate need, individuals, and then there's all these businesses. All this money is designed to keep the businesses afloat. The president hopes they keep their employees, but at least to keep them afloat.

You see the Senate back in today. They said $250 billion more just for small businesses. How much money are we talking about being essentially printed by the government and put out just to keep a foundation? Not to keep the economy -- it's not strong by any means.

MARTHA GIMBEL, MANAGER FOR ECONOMIC RESEARCH, SCHMIDT FUTURES: I think one thing that's really important to think about is these aren't stimulus plans. They're support plans for the economy while it's in a medically induced coma and we can bring it back.

To be frank, I think $250 billion may end up not being enough. We know that small businesses are already struggling. They're already going out of business. And it seems likely the federal government is going to have to spend likely trillions more dollars to keep workers and businesses going.

KING: And what do we know -- and I know there are a lot of things we don't know right now because we don't know how long this closure is going to last. We don't know how long we'll be going through this.

But to listen to Jerome Powell, he said fairly quick. The president likes to say, like a rocket, that he's going to flip a switch and the economy will go back to where it was like a rocket.

Listen to Bill Gates, this morning, who knows very well, the American economy is consumer driver. Consumers are scared. Even Major League Baseball plans to reopen. It's talking about doing it with fans. Bill Gates says it's going to take a while.


BILL GATES, MICROSOFT FOUNDER: The behavior of people in terms of wanting to travel or go to events or even go to a restaurant, it's been utterly changed by the concerns about this disease.

No one should think the government can wave a wand and, all of a sudden, the economy is anything like it was before this happened.

That awaits either a miracle therapeutic that has over a 90 percent cure rate or broad use of the vaccine.


KING: Martha, let me start with you.

Bill Gates sounds like he makes sense that we're not going to take off like a rocket. GIMBEL: Yes, I think that's the right attitude. First of all, we have

evidence from the 1918 flu pandemic that places that took much more stringent public-health measures were able to recover much more quickly with respect to the economic situation.

Also, consumers just aren't going to go back out and start spending until they feel safe. And that's why I come back to we need to be thinking about economic policy as support rather than stimulus.

We're probably going to be in this situation for a really long time to come, and I think workers and businesses need to start adjusting to that reality. And the federal government needs to help them do that.

KING: And, Christine, help, if you can, connect the pieces. I know a lot of this we just can't answer right now. But Canada's economic numbers, jobless numbers today -- it's a smaller country population wise but they're just as bleak. Britain's central bank is putting money into the economy just like the Fed is here. Airbus says it will stop or cut back a lot of production everywhere.

There's a global piece of this puzzle that's hard to wrap your mind around.


ROMANS: Yes. Usually, when you have a crisis or recession -- and I'm sure we're already in a recession -- there's someone around the world that is a global leader. And you just don't know who is emerging as the global leader yet.

But you want to avoid any kind of a false start. The consumer spending part of it is so important here. Our polling yesterday showed that 16 percent of Americans said, at the end of April, they would not feel comfortable going back to their normal routine.

That's why you have to have testing, you have to have therapeutics, you have to have contact tracing and quarantines where necessary, antibody therapies so you know who can go back to work in important jobs.

And a very carefully stage-managed reentry so people are comfortable and they know their government and states are going to protect them to the best interest of everybody, not just for getting people's businesses up and running like a switch.

KING: Consume confidence now tied to progress on the health front


KING: as much is it on the confidence on the economy.

Martha Gimbel, Christine Romans, really appreciate it on this depressing day when it comes to the numbers to get some experience and insights.

A quick update for us now. A guest we have on the program earlier this week -- you might remember William Walla, who was laid off of his job at a Texas oil and gas company. That was because of a big drop in demand for oil. Williams explained to us days of frustration trying to file for benefits. He tried online, tried the phone, he tried at the local unemployment office, tried all those things over and over again.

Williams said, after his interview here with CNN, he was contacted by someone who put him in direct contact an official at the Texas Oil Commission. Now William says he is enrolled to get his benefits and to get them backdated to the time when he lost his job.

Good news there. Best of luck to William in the days ahead and to all the people like him who are trying to get the help they need and deserve.

Up next for us, new poll numbers today on the somewhat forgotten 2020 campaign. One thing they tell us? Whether you think President Trump or Joe Biden would do a better job leading this country through this pandemic.