Return to Transcripts main page


Florida Governor Considering Reopening some Schools; New Orleans Data on Social Distancing; Pennsylvania Orders Schools Closed for Rest of Year; Covid-19 Patient Shares His Story. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 10, 2020 - 09:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So, right now, Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, is considering actually reopening some schools. This is despite top health officials saying social distancing is finally working, Jim, to get our arms wrapped around this thing.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And as Dr. Fauci said on this network this morning, the virus determines the timeline.

CNN's Rosa Flores, she's live in Miami with the latest.

So, Rosa, the governor was slow to institute social distancing statewide early on. Why this current consideration of lifting it so quickly?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, there's a lot to unpack here, Jim. But let me start with this because Governor DeSantis, yesterday, said that he has not made a decision yet on when to reopen schools. The problem is that in the information that he's planning to use to reopen these schools is not based on fact.

Take a listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I don't think nationwide there's been a single fatality under 25. For whatever reason, it just doesn't seem to threaten, you know, kids.


FLORES: Now, according to the CDC, at least five people ages 24 and younger have died from Covid-19. CNN has reported on the deaths of a newborn in Connecticut, an infant in Illinois as well. We reached out to the governor's office since yesterday, including this morning, and we have not heard back yet.

But it's -- I must add too that the governor talked about opening some schools, in some counties across the state, saying that some of the counties in the state have not been impacted as much as other counties.

Now, that is the exact same rational, Jim and Poppy, that the governor used very early on when he didn't issue the state wide order. And, of course, we know that he was one of the last governors to issue that statewide stay at home order.

Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: I mean it's -- it's totally forgetting the fact or ignoring the fact that you've got staff and teachers and janitors at schools that are -- can be all sort of ages.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.

HARLOW: So looking for more clarity. Rosa, thanks for trying to get the answers.

All right, let's talk about New Orleans now.

Our Ed Lavandera joins us where the mayor there says the data shows that social distancing is working. Some good news this morning.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, the last few days of the statistics coming out of Louisiana and coronavirus statistics here, you know, continues to kind of show this mixed bag, but everyone here seems to think that they're on the best possible trajectory at this point. And that is that for three days in a row the number of people on ventilators have dropped, although there was a slight dip in hospital bed usage, but that went up -- back up yesterday. However, the number of cases continues to grow and the number of deaths here in this state continue to unfold as well. So that is a great deal of concern.

But, one of the drive through testing sites, there had been three and then it had been knocked down to two about a week ago, but there is now -- today will be the last day of one of the drive through testing sites. State officials here say they're doing that so that they can move those resources to other parts of the state.

And the city here of New Orleans is also trying to put together a plan where they can do mobile testing. There's a great deal and a great number of people here in the New Orleans area who have transportation issues and that sort of thing, so there is some plan in the works to try to be able to get to those people more directly. So essentially the bottom line is here, here in the New Orleans area. After today there will only be one drive through testing center.

Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: That's -- it's amazing. We're days away from the peak and the country still does not have widespread testing. It's remarkable.

Ed Lavandera in Louisiana, thanks so much. CNN's Alex Marquardt, he's in Philadelphia, where the governor of Pennsylvania has just announced that schools will remain closed for the rest of the year.

Alex, what more are you learning? Because we've heard some conflicting data from Philadelphia. You know, national officials talking about a coming spike. Local officials saying, well, maybe the numbers aren't so bad. What's the reality?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the reality right now is that we have passed a grim milestone in the city of Philadelphia with some 5,000 confirmed cases, more than 5,000, and more than 100 deaths.

But you're right, Jim, there has been a difference in tone. We heard from Vice President Mike Pence just yesterday saying they are seeing a trajectory that is worrying to them, to the Coronavirus Task Force, about the city of Philadelphia.


But you're hearing a much more optimistic tone from local officials. The health commissioner, Thomas Farley, saying that the -- actually the number of positive cases is slowing. He even allowed himself to say that they might be reaching a plateau. And we have seen similar numbers over the past few days. But, at the same time, Farley is saying that you can't be too cautious, that there could -- that this virus is very clever and that there could -- that it could find a new population.

Listen to what the mayor, Jim Kenney, told CNN.


MAYOR JIM KENNEY (D), PHILADELPHIA: But we never -- you never know when it may surge back, and you want to make sure people don't get too complacent that they start stopping the social distancing that we've been encouraging them to do and then we definitely will have something come back in a surge.

But right now, the federal government believes that we're a potential hot spot, send us all the equipment that we need and we'll really appreciate it.


MARQUARDT: So by no means are they stopping the guidelines when it comes to social distancing. That is very important across the state. But they are, according to the health secretary, planning for a day when they might be able to start relaxing those social distancing guidelines. In the words of the Pennsylvania health secretary, it is very important to have hope.

Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes, it really is.

Alex, thank you for that.

So, ahead, the effort. Bill and Melinda Gates pouring billions of dollars into fighting coronavirus. Our exclusive interview with Melinda Gates and why she says the U.S. just was not prepared for this pandemic.



HARLOW: Well, for years now, Bill and Melinda Gates have been warning about the threat of a global pandemic. And now they're fighting as hard as they can to save lives around the world and combat Covid-19. And like so many of us, Melinda Gates has watched those close to her fight just to breathe as they battled coronavirus. The Gates Foundation is now putting billions of dollars behind eight different vaccines, hoping to find at least one that works. And Melinda is sounding the alarm bell about what is to come for Africa and the developing world.

She spoke exclusively with CNN. Here's our conversation.


HARLOW: Why do you think we were so ill prepared for coronavirus?

MELINDA GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: We haven't recognized, as a global community, that we are a global community. And if we had recognized that and stepped up to it, we would have prepared for this, we would have systems in place, both monitoring, alerting very quickly. We would have had test kits available. We would have just -- you know, we plan for things as nations. We plan for earthquakes. We plan for tsunamis. We plan for tornadoes.

HARLOW: Right.

GATES: We didn't plan for disease. And I don't think that will ever happen now, thank God.

HARLOW: You and Bill and the Gates Foundation are literally putting billions of dollars right now behind the ability to quickly manufacture eight different potential vaccines just in case one or two of them may work.

GATES: Vaccine is the ultimate solution. What we are doing is preparing with our many, many, many partners, we're bringing compounds forward and then we have about eight different vaccines, candidates that will go into trials. Those are the ones we're working on. There are partners working on others as well.

HARLOW: There's a little glimmer of hope in just the last few days, and that is human trial, human testing beginning for one of these vaccines and the development of it partly backed by you guys from a company called Innovo. How promising is that?

GATES: I'd say it looks promising. We wouldn't have put it into preclinical trials if it wasn't. But, you know, to be honest, since we have been in this business before of vaccines, you want to have many candidates going into trials.


GATES: So we obviously put our most promising ones forward first. But I'm going to feel better when we have all eight into clinical trials.

HARLOW: The fact that the data show us that African-Americans in the United States are getting coronavirus more, and are dying at a much higher rate. When you started to see these numbers come in, what did you think?

GATES: It was heartbreaking when the numbers started to come in. We thought that might be the case. But what I see is that, you know, Covid-19, if it -- it affects everybody, but it affects people differently. We need a national response. And it needs to be equitable.

HARLOW: What was the moment like for you, Melinda, if there was one, when this hit you personally?

GATES: When I saw what China had to do to isolate such an enormous part of their population, my first thought was Africa. How in the world are they going to deal with this?

I've been in townships all over Africa, in slums. When we talk about in our country physical distancing and then handwashing, if you live in a slum, you can't physical distance. You have to go out and get your meal. You don't have clean water to wash your hands. And so, as soon as I saw that -- and we know from the foundation's work how quickly disease spreads. I thought, oh, my gosh, we have a crisis on our hands that we aren't even talking about yet in the United States and what's going to happen to the rest of the world.

HARLOW: That's how much worse it's going to be in the developing world?

GATES: It's going to be horrible in the developing world. And part of the reason you're seeing the case numbers still don't look very bad is because they don't have access to very many tests. So, you know, look at Ecuador, look at what's going on in Ecuador.


They're putting bodies out on the street. You're going to see that in countries in Africa.

HARLOW: You think that this pandemic is just naturally going to set us back in terms of gender disparity, that it will disproportionately fall on women. What do you mean?

GATES: Here's what I know is that 70 percent of the healthcare workers around the world are women. Women do more than two times the unpaid labor in their homes. So they're caring for people in the health system and they're caring for people at home. And at the same time, we have this disparity that we're not collecting what we call disaggregated data. What that means is, we're not differently -- differentiating data that comes in about men and women.

HARLOW: I wonder what keeps you up at night right now.

GATES: What keeps me up at night are the vulnerable populations. You know, what keeps me up at night is, in the U.S., the kids who are falling behind because they don't have access to broadband or to a computer. So they're not getting to continue their learning.

What keeps me up at night are the vulnerable populations who I know in Africa or have met some of them. I can't imagine being a parent in those circumstances. And those are the things that keep me up at night.


HARLOW: Jim, I was just so glad that she's, you know, sounding the alarm bell about the developing world, about Africa, because if this is the -- what it's wreaking in the United States, what is it go to be like there full blown?

SCIUTTO: For sure. And let's hope there's progress on vaccines too and that they can help.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes. Yes.

SCIUTTO: That's such a priority here.


SCIUTTO: Well, coming up, he spent six days on a ventilator, battling the coronavirus, even as a young man. I'm going to speak to someone who survives but feels like he's one of the lucky ones.



SCIUTTO: Well, since the start of this pandemic, it's been a real scramble around the country for ventilators in areas hardest hit by the virus. My next guest, a young man, he spent six days on a ventilator in the ICU. David Lat says that that machine saved his life. After 17 days in the hospital, David is now thankfully recovering at home.

David, glad to see you out. I was following your case day by day and it's such a relief to see you getting healthy again. I know it's -- I know it's not easy. I wonder, could you describe to our viewers just how tough this virus is?

DAVID LAT, WAS IN CRITICAL CONDITION IN ICU AFTER CONTRACTING COVID- 19: Yes, so Covid is definitely a formidable enemy. As you mentioned, I was in the hospital for 17 days, almost a week in the intensive care unit in critical condition. Yes, hooked up to a ventilator that was breathing for me, fighting for my life. As you mentioned, I'm a generally healthy person. I'm 44. I don't

smoke, don't barely drink, don't use drugs, don't have high blood pressure, don't have diabetes. My one issue is I have a little bit of exercise-induced asthma, but I just take an inhaler before I work out, but I think that that condition may have made me more vulnerable to the virus or to a bad case of respiratory failure connected with it.

SCIUTTO: It is. Listen, it's, sadly, the great equalizer here because we have seen that, yes, although the numbers are concentrated among the older, anybody can get it.

You wrote in really a powerful piece in "The Washington Post." You said, as a patient whose life was saved by a ventilator, I believe it is an outrage and an embarrassment that a nation as wealthy as ours is even discussing possible ventilator shortages.

Describe what a difference the ventilator made for you and just your -- your view of this as, listen, places around the country are really fighting for these things.

LAT: Yes, so these ventilators, which help patients breathe when they can't on their own, are just amazing machines. I mean a ventilator saved my life. I wouldn't be here if not for a ventilator.

I was put on the ventilator after my oxygen levels started dropping and my lungs were filled with fluid.

I do want to emphasize, though, that it's not just also about the ventilators but also about the people who operate them. The doctors and nurses who really work with the patients like me who need ventilators, putting us on the ventilators, and then taking us off when we're ready. So I do want to emphasize it's not just about the machinery, it's also about whether we have enough qualified medical personnel to operate them.

SCIUTTO: Yes. We talked to one earlier this week who was just talking about the risk to those healthcare workers because they're -- you know, they're very exposed to someone when they -- when they put the tube down their throat.

You know, David, I can hear in your voice a little raspyness (ph). We spoke in the break and you said, you know, it's still hard to walk a flight of stairs.

You know, folks might imagine that when you're out of the hospital, everything's well and good. But tell us about your recovery now.

LAT: Yes, in some ways coming off the ventilator is not just the end of the story, really, it's the beginning. It's a long road to recovery. There have been a lot of reports and research done about the struggles that patients who are on ventilators face. I have this hoarse voice because the ventilator does damage your vocal cords. The -- you have to learn how to breathe again because for a while this machine is breathing for you. So I have to rebuild my lung capacity.

But I'm very fortunate. Some ventilated patients have something almost like a post-traumatic stress disorder.


Some struggle with things related to their job. Some have psychological issues. So it's not necessarily happily ever after. But certainly it's better than the alternative.

SCIUTTO: Yes, for sure.

The final question before we go, the country is already in the midst of a debate. Just, you know, three weeks after coming to a sort of national consensus on social distancing here. What's your advice to policymakers and others as they are considering lifting some of these social distancing things that have kept people from following you into the hospital?

LAT: I would say -- I mean, look, this is just my instinct, better safe than sorry. I think it's better for us to leave these restrictions in place longer and make sure we protect health and safety of citizens and -- as opposed to just doing it prematurely and risking losing the progress we've made. I mean I'm -- obviously I'm biased because I'm someone who almost lost life with this.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean you've been frank about that.

We're so glad you're out and recovering. And I know your family is as well.

David Lat, we really wish you the best of luck.

LAT: Thank you, Jim.

HARLOW: Talk about the picture of health almost dying from this.

OK, so just days from now, the United States could reach the peak of coronavirus cases as the Trump administration looks to reopen the economy sooner rather than later, but what are the risks of doing that too soon? Next.