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Antibody Testing Available Soon?; White House Holds Coronavirus Task Force Briefing. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 10, 2020 - 16:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Spain needs them desperately. Italy needs them desperately. Mexico needs them desperately.

He asked me last night, would it be possible to get 10,000 ventilators? Within a short period of time, I will be able to help out Mexico.

No, Jim, just the opposite of your question. It's not, no, no, no. It's, yes, yes, yes. We're in great shape.

And you know what? What's happening now is, those numbers are horrible. But take a look at the number of beds. We have beds available all over New York, New York really being the epicenter.

New York -- New York has experienced something that has been absolutely horrific. I saw Hart's Island yesterday. I saw those people being buried yesterday. Fortunately, we have the beds. And you can speak to Mayor de Blasio. You can speak to Governor Cuomo.

People are -- people can't even believe the job we have done. They can't even believe it. And I give tremendous credit to the military. This has been a military operation, with private people.

But wait a minute. Wait. Wait. I give tremendous credit to our military, to the Army Corps of Engineers, to FEMA, to these people. The job they have done is incredible.

And you shouldn't be asking that kind of a question, Jim, honestly.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But do you accept the criticism that, had the country been better prepared from the onset of this...

TRUMP: OK, look, I really don't believe you're that bad a guy.

You shouldn't be asking that kind of a question. You should say, you know what, it's been really incredible, what's been happening.

(CROSSTALK) ACOSTA: Mr. President, that's the reality.

TRUMP: Jim, nobody's asking. What governor...


ACOSTA: ... too few tests.

TRUMP: Let me ask you this.

ACOSTA: That's not enough...


TRUMP: What governor -- we have more tests than anybody in the world.

We have every...

ACOSTA: Not enough for what is needed right now.

TRUMP: We have virtually every country in the world calling us, asking us, how do we get these tests that you have? Your testing is the best in the world. How do we get it?

They have done a fantastic job. And when you ask a question like that, it's very insulting to a lot of great people.

OK, one more, please. Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

You may have seen how Sweden has responded to the pandemic. The schools are open.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

You have been listening to President Trump and the White House Coronavirus Task Force during their briefing. It has been going on for more than two hours now. So we are going to resume our regular programming.

And this is THE LEAD. And I am Jake Tapper.

The death toll from coronavirus globally has now surpassed 100,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. It is more than 101,000, and more than 18,000 of those deaths are in the United States, the death toll at this moment a horrific 18,022 in the United States.

This time last week, that number was about 7,000, meaning, since then, some 11,000 of our neighbors and friends and family members have been lost in this country just in the last week due to this pandemic.

There are 1.6 million cases being reported worldwide. Almost half-a- million of those are in the United States. In fact, New York state alone now has more reported cases than any other country in the world. That, of course, means you have to believe China and Russia and Iran

and other countries that aren't necessarily reliable when it comes to accurate data. That's a huge if.

But, on that information, New York is at that level. The briefing at the White House that we just cut away from also brought some news that two companies have been tapped by the Trump administration to develop machines that can sterilize N95 masks for health care workers.

The president and his team also delivered a clear message that mitigation, the steps that the American people are taking, stay at home, physical and social distancing, those steps are working. President Trump, pressed on when he might call on the nation to reopen, said it would be the biggest decision he has ever had to make.

The U.S. has not yet reached, of course, the deadly peak of the pandemic. The vice president, a man of faith, also cautioned his fellow believers to not pack the pews this Easter Sunday.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And to my Christian brothers and sisters across the country, let me encourage you with the words we should all remember, that Jesus said wherever two or more are gathered, there he is also.


TAPPER: Generally speaking, that and most of the briefing was quite a contrast from the messages President Trump delivered to the nation on Twitter earlier in the day.

While many of you are probably more focused on the number of those who are infected and the number of those who have sadly died, the president was extolling the TV ratings for his briefings and his approval ratings among Republicans, according to some polls.

While the public is eager to have the resources of the nation devoted to focusing on beating the coronavirus, President Trump was focused on Twitter and attacking the media and attacking Democrats.

CNN's Nick Watt reports that some health officials across the country are bracing for the worst this weekend.




NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are triumphs, cheers for the recovered.

Numbers in New York's ICUs are actually down for the first time, some encouraging signs. DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: As

encouraging as they are, we have not reached the peak. And so, every day, we need to continue to do what we did yesterday and the week before.

WATT: And still so much pain.

Tara Gabriele's mom now gone, but more than just a statistic.

TARA GABRIELE, LOST MOTHER TO CORONAVIRUS: My mother was a real person. She was loving and selfless and kind.

WATT: In New York now, the bodies of unclaimed COVID-19 victims being taken to Hart Island for mass burial. That state now has more confirmed reported cases than any country on Earth, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

But in the current hot spots, apparently fewer people are getting sick.

BIRX: In Washington and Philadelphia and Baltimore, it looks like their attack rates and the attack rates in Denver and some of these other states that we have been talking about are much lower than New York and New Jersey.

WATT: In L.A. now, you have to wear a mask in a store.

ERIC GARCETTI (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: If you're not covering your face by Friday morning, an essential business can refuse you service.

WATT: Florida, they're thinking about reopening schools.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If we get to the point where people think that we're on the other side of this, and we could get kids back in, even if it's for a couple weeks, we think that there would be value in that. This particular pandemic is one where I don't think nationwide there's been a single fatality under 25.

WATT: Called out, he's now walked that last part back a little.

DESANTIS: So, in Florida, we have had no -- no fatalities under 25.

WATT: From tomorrow in Michigan, you can't travel from one household to another. In Illinois, they're warning all big events could be canceled until there's a vaccine, months, perhaps even a year or more away.

LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: Today's Good Friday, Easter Sunday.

We have to stay inside.

WATT: But, in Kansas, the governor is still in a legal battle, hoping to limit church services to 10 people.

GOV. LAURA KELLY (D-KS): The need to congregate is important, but not during a pandemic.

WATT: Just over two weeks ago, the president said this:

TRUMP: I'm also hopeful to have Americans working again by that Easter, that beautiful Easter Day.

WATT: Instead, Easter could now be our nadir. According to one model, reported deaths projected to peak nationally, and more than 2,200 on Easter Sunday.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Nick Watt for that report.

Joining me now to discuss this and much more. CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, first, I want to talk about the exchange we just heard between our own Jim Acosta and President Trump, where Jim was asking President Trump about the fact that we constantly are reporting, not just CNN, but everyone almost, reporting on the fact that we constantly hear from health care workers and from governors that they don't have enough masks, they don't have enough N95 masks, they don't have enough personal protective equipment, and then there are other needs out there.

President Trump seemed offended by the question and said we should be focusing on the things that they have been able to get to hospitals, to governors, such as ventilators.

Where are we right now when it comes to the needs of different parts of the country, just factually? I don't really -- I'm not interested in the president being sensitive about it. I just -- where are we in terms of what our health care workers need?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have been trying to do our own surveillance, if you will, Jake.

I talk to people on a regular basis. And it's sort of uneven. There's places that seem to have plenty of these supplies. There's other places where health care workers, not only do they not have enough personal protective equipment. There's also concerns that sometimes they can't get tested themselves, health care workers.

So that's obviously a concern. But there's other places that have gotten a lot of attention, a lot more resources. So I think that's part of the issue. Some of the places that we're not hearing about as much, only anecdotally, if you will, is because they're not really -- the surveillance is not really reaching those areas yet, in terms of PPE, in terms of testing of health care workers, but even testing of the general community.

So, we don't still have a clear eye on that, other than what we're hearing from these front-line workers, who we have to take them at their word in terms of what they have and what they don't have. So you're still hearing these complaints. That is true. It's hard to

characterize the nation this way. But you are still hearing these complaints.

TAPPER: And the other thing -- and you and I talk about this, it feels like, every day -- it was roughly a month and change ago that President Trump went to the CDC in Atlanta and said everybody who wants to test can get a test, which is obviously not true.

It wasn't true then, and it remains untrue today.


Now, what the vice president announced, I think it was yesterday -- or maybe it was President Trump himself -- was that two million tests have been done in this country.

But I thought that, at this point, according to what the White House said, we were supposed to be in the 20 million tests having been done at around this time, as opposed to two million.

I'm grateful that two million tasks have been done. I'm grateful that it's an improvement on what there was. But don't we need to be like in the 10s, if not hundreds of millions now, and, if not now, soon?

GUPTA: Yes, we needed -- we need -- needed, need and will need mass testing.

I mean, I think that's one thing we have heard over and over again. Dr. Fauci describes it as, we need millions and millions of tests. Two million is obviously a significant improvement per capita, I mean, which is important. People say you're using per capita sort of to draw a distinction.

We are drawing a distinction, because you need a sample size. The sample size, if it's bigger compared to the population you're testing, it has more significance. We don't still know, for example, what percentage of people out there might have been exposed to the coronavirus, but never shown any symptoms.

These asymptomatic folks out there who may have still been spreading the virus, we still don't have a clear idea on that. People are still discussing just how transmissible has this been in the United States. We don't know.

One thing that I think is interesting, Jake, it's important to distinguish complete country testing, 325 million people. I don't think anybody is suggesting that. But mass testing is different. That's when you not only test people who are coming in with symptoms, but you're also doing surveillance in the community, really getting an idea of just how widespread this is.

I think, if you were to ask anybody up there right now, how widespread is this infection, the coronavirus, in the United States, we could not answer that question right now, several months in.


GUPTA: Maybe it's fair to say we couldn't answer regardless, but we'd have a much better idea of what we're dealing with. Right now, it's pretty opaque.


And on that subject, both Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx said that we could see a large rollout of antibody tests in the coming days. Tell us what that means.

GUPTA: Well, so there's two different types of tests now.

And I will explain this to you. But it's important to note that still there's there's many folks out there who haven't been able to get the virus test, but they may think that -- they think, maybe I was exposed. I just don't know.

Was that sniffle, was that significant illness something more serious earlier? I don't know. So here's how they might find out.


GUPTA (voice-over): According to the Coronavirus Task Force, more than two million tests have now been performed in the United States. And yet there are still people who need to be tested, such as health care workers, who can't get one.

It's part of the reason there is now so much interest in a different kinds of test, an antibody test.

Dr. Fauci told CNN on Friday it's coming soon.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I'm certain that that's going to happen, that within a period of a week or so, we're going to have a rather large number of tests that are available.

GUPTA: But what exactly are antibodies? They are proteins in the immune system that develop days after someone has been infected.

And it's the antibodies that make someone immune to becoming reinfected. It means two things. You were previously infected, and you are now likely to be protected, at least for a while.

STEPHEN HAHN, COMMISSIONER, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: We think it'll be a tool to help us get people back to work. It'll be additional information, because, as you know, if you have an antibody, that means you were exposed and have recovered from it. That, with the information about diagnosis, should help.

GUPTA: That's why public health agencies around the world want these antibody tests, because it could help some people get back to their daily lives.

You remember the swab test we're all familiar with. Well, that tests for the virus itself, specifically its genetic material. The problems are, first of all, at some point after you recover, that test will be negative.

And, secondly, a lot of people have had trouble getting that diagnostic test in the first place. The antibody test is more definitive. There are only a few reasons you would have antibodies in your blood. You got someone else's antibodies by an injection of their blood, you got a vaccine, which teaches your body to make antibodies, or you were infected.

The antibody test requires a sample of your blood and this strip, which has proteins from the virus on it. If your blood reacts to that strip, it means you have antibodies in your blood.

BIRX: And I think really being able to tell them -- the peace of mind that would come from knowing you already were infected, you have antibody, you're safe from reinfection 99.9 percent of the time.

And so this, I think, would be very reassuring to our frontline health care workers.


GUPTA (voice-over): another benefit of antibody testing, surveillance. In places like Miami-Dade County, Florida, Santa Clara county, California, and Telluride, Colorado, they've already started using antibody tests to get a better sense of how many people, many of whom will be surprised to learn have already been exposed to the virus.

LOU RESSE, CHIEF OFFICER, UNITED NEUROSCIENCE: Whoever volunteers is getting tested twice, and the purpose of that is to see whose seroconverts and develops the antibodies, meaning who was actively infected during this period of quarantine.

GUPTA: A CDC spokesperson told CNN the agency has already used these tools to, quote, monitor contacts of infected people and to identify individuals who, due to mild infection, may have not known they were infected.

Getting the antibody tests up and running, much like the tests to detect the virus itself, have been challenging. In a rush to get these tests to market, the FDA lowered regulatory standards. And what followed were a lot of unreliable and inaccurate tests.

BIRX: There's a series of antibody tests out there that have not been validated. Some of the tests that may be available on the Internet may have very low sensitivity and specificity and give you a fall reassurance, that you either -- give you a false positive or a false negative, implying that you may be protected.


TAPPER: And, Sanjay, we heard President Trump yet again tout his optimism about the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. You've learned that there are countries that are not only not using the drug, they're advising against using it to treat coronavirus. Tell us more about that. GUPTA: Yes, I mean, there's several countries out there that have

been using this medication for a couple of different reasons, to treat patients who are already sick, and possibly as prophylaxis, so giving it to people who aren't sick in the hopes that it will actually prevent them from getting ill. Guidance was sent out to almost all the hospitals in Sweden where they're directed all the doctors there to stop using the anti-malarial drug to treat COVID-19, that's specifically what this guidance is.

Why, they said, was that, you know, they've been doing this for a while and basically they have not seen any evidence that it offers benefit, and there's real concerns about side effects. Different side effects, mild side effects from cramps, more serious like peripheral vision loss, and most serious, that the concern about is the impact on the heart where it can cause heart rhythm abnormalities.

We dug into some of their data. It doesn't look like anyone died as a result of these side effects, but they were quite worried, enough to send out this guidance to essentially all hospitals in Sweden saying, stop doing this. Just do it as a clinical trial, you can keep studying it in a clinical trials but don't just give it because the doctor decides to give it, we think that's too dangerous.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks as always.

GUPTA: You got it.

TAPPER: And you should be sure to listen to Dr. Gupta's podcast, "Coronavirus: Fact Versus Fiction," on Apple Podcasts or where you access your podcasts. It's a must listen.

Minutes ago, President Trump said it will be the biggest decision of his life, but he wants to reopen the economy soon. I'm going to talk to one expert who wrote a proposal on how to do just that. A former member of his administration.

Plus, Vice President Pence now encouraging worshippers to avoid large gatherings as we head into Easter Sunday. But there is a battle under way in one state. I'll speak to the governor, ahead.



TAPPER: Just minutes ago, President Trump said that ultimately the decision to keep the country open or closed is in his hands.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will say this, I want to get it open as soon as we can. We have to get our country open, Jeff.

REPORTER: Can you say, sir, what metrics you'll use to make that decision? TRUMP: The metrics right here, that's my metrics. That's all I can

do. I can listen to 35 people. At the end, I've got to make a decision. It's the biggest decision I've ever had to make.


TAPPER: I want to bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

And, Kaitlan, President Trump was asked specifically about this theoretical May 1st reopening date and if that's realistic right now. What did he have to say?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the president seemed to say that yes, he does want the economy open. He says he's going to make decisions based on his health advisers there that were in the room with him, Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci, and that he doesn't want to open up the country before it's safe to do so.

But, Jake, the president is dealing with two different factions here and he's not really giving any indication of what metrics specifically he's going to be using to make that decision, based on how many people can be tested, how many tests are being administered a week, what the attack rate is in certain areas.

Instead he just basically said he is going to be the one making the ultimate decision here. Of course, we know this comes as there are many discussions under way inside the White House right now including with the president, about reopening the U.S. economy starting next month.

And, Jake, they're even talking specifically about May 1st. The president said they are going to be announcing that second task force on Tuesday. That's the task force that's solely focused on reopening the economy. So, it certainly is something that the president is discussing.

And Jake, what was also notable is just how hesitant the doctors in the room were to talk about reopening the economy next month. You heard Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci both get up there, they said we are not seeing the peak yet in the United States.


And also neither of them really commented on that new "New York Times" reporting about those projections about what could happen and how cases and infections could spike if those social distancing guidelines are let up after 30 days.

So, basically, what you're going to see play out in the White House over the next two weeks or so before we get to that end date is the difference between the economic advisers who want the president to get the country open and the health advisers who still do not think it is time to do so yet.

TAPPER: And, Kaitlan, President Trump was also asked about how some of his allies and supporters have been attacking Dr. Fauci, and whether or not they were wrong to do so, and the president refusing to answer that directly, praising Fauci but not condemning these wild accusations coming from the far right.

COLLINS: Yes, he offered no criticism of the people who have criticized the doctors that have been leading him through this and advising him on this. He only complimented them but he did not say that they should knock it off or that they should stop criticizing people like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx.

You can even see that when people like -- when Dr. Birx was answering questions about the models, that she had a sense of, you know, I've answered this question a lot of times before, as she personally has faced criticism over people saying she's putting too much faith in the models that the president is then being presented with.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

Joining me now is former Trump administration FDA commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who has been a leading voice about the coronavirus outbreak, since January, warning the Trump administration back in early February.

Dr. Gottlieb, thanks so much for joining us.

So, let's talk about the president's desire, all of us, we have a desire to go back to normal. How widespread do you think testing needs to be before it's safe to begin a process of getting back to normal in some way?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, PRESIDENT FELLOW, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Look, I think the bottom line is we're not going to have the testing in place that's optimal in terms of where you want to be when you start returning people to closed spaces, returning people to work. So, that's justly the reality.

Hopefully, the fact that we're hearing into the summer and the summer should be somewhat of a backstop against the transmission of this virus as we head into June, July, and August, that's going to help us. But I think the reality is we're going to be returning people to work in May and June before we have all of the capacities in place that we want to in terms of testing.

In terms of the number of tests you want to perform, as we're coming out of this pandemic, there's still going to be a lot of cases accruing. So, you want to have enough to keep up with the cases that is still accruing and do pretty aggressive surveillance in the community to make sure new clusters aren't forming.

So, we're talking about the capacity to do millions of tests and probably several million. A rule of thumb might be that there are 3.8 million encounters with the primary care system every week. You might want to test that level of people. You might want to test upwards of 3.8 million people every week, people who are presenting to the health system for whatever reason, just swabbing for coronavirus for a time being to try to detect outbreaks while they're still small. TAPPER: Why do you say the summer will be a backstop? I thought the

latest guidance from the National Academy of Sciences was that this summer is not going to have a favorable effect on the virus, that the warm air doesn't actually have an effect.

GOTTLIEB: Well, we don't know for sure. Coronas don't typically circulate in the summertime. So, there is a seasonal aspect to coronaviruses general. This one is still novel that it's likely to continue to transfer into the summer.

But droplet transmission becomes less efficient in the really hot humid months. And also epidemiology of spread changes because people are outside more, not inside. So you do get different spread of viruses in the summer, and typically what spreads in the summertime are enteric viruses and not necessarily viruses like this that are respiratory viruses.

But we don't know whether or not this is going to have a seasonal component. The one thing I would say, though, is that when you look at where this has become epidemic, it's the northern hemisphere. The southern hemisphere has not yet had coronavirus spread yet, and the rest is that when they go into their winter, they too are going to suffer epidemics of this and they want to come here in the fall.

TAPPER: So, Dr. Gottlieb, you've written a proposal on how to reopen the country, for want of a better term. What does it look like? And is President Trump listening to your ideas?

GOTTLIEB: Well, I've certainly made them available to the White House. What we're seeing in the plan we put forward was you want to see a sustained reduction in new cases, and then you want to wait an additional two weeks after you see a sustained reduction in new cases. We should start seeing a sustained reduction in new cases in most parts of this country in the second half of April, and towards the end of April.

So, if you follow the timing that we outline, that would put you in mid-May, when you would start to contemplate bringing people back to work. The other thing we say is you should have widespread screening in place, you should have the ability to do point of care screening in the community. Right now, screening is largely confined to hospitals. We don't have the capacity to broaden it.

So, we do need to contain or ramp up screening. I think that's going to be the big variable. I think we're going to be taking a step towards reopening aspects of the economy before we have the optimal level of screening in place. And that's the risk that we're going to take.

TAPPER: But you think it's worth taking that risk? It's not worth waiting until we have the right amount of testing out there or the right amount of screening out there?