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Trump Administration Pushing To Reopen U.S In May; Ohio Governor Says, Residents Making Huge Difference In Slowing Spread; Every Continent Except Antarctica Impacted By COVID-19. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired April 10, 2020 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


The State of New York now leading the world in the worst way. The number of coronavirus cases here, more than any other country outside of the United States.

SCIUTTO: And now with the U.S. just days away from the projected peak of this pandemic, the White House is now pushing to reopen the U.S. economy as soon as May 1st.

On CNN this morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci said very clearly now is not the time.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The virus kind of decides whether or not it's going to be appropriate to open or not. Now is no time to back off. As I say so often, now is the time to actually put your foot on the accelerator, because we're going in the right direction. Let's keep in that direction.


HARLOW: Yes, let's do that and let's begin this hour in New York where hospitalizations are going down but the number of deaths is going up.

Our National Correspondent, Athena Jones, is with us. Good morning again to you, Athena. What are the stats and just the state of affairs in New York, specifically New York City this morning?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Well, like you said, there is good news or better news, I should say, but there's also a lot of bad news. New York State reporting its highest number of single-day -- that's in a single day -- for the third day in a row and we know that 7,000 people have died from this virus. But hospitalizations are down, intensive care unit admissions are down and also the number of people who need a breathing tube have fallen.

But still the governor, Cuomo, is saying even though we've been focusing a lot on New York City, we need to be paying attention to some of the counties around New York, like Rockland County to the north and like counties out on Long Island, Nassau County and Suffolk County where the numbers are rising. They have sent more equipment out to hospitals in those places.

Now, I mentioned more than 7,000 New Yorkers have been killed by this virus and that is putting a huge strain on funeral homes. One funeral director who spoke to CNN said in a typical month, he gets 30 to 40 calls in a typical month. Now he's getting that number on a typical day, on a daily basis, he's getting that number. So he has had to invest in a 40-foot refrigeration truck.

And Governor Cuomo, in order to address this issue, signed an executive order last night allowing licensed funeral directors from all around the country to come to New York to help out with this overflow.

Another thing is Hart Island. That is an island off the coast of the Bronx in Long Island Sound. It has been used for the last 150 years for unclaimed bodies, but usually those bodies would be held 30 days or 60 days before ending up on Hart Island. Now, according to new rules issued by the medical examiner, bodies will be buried there if they haven't been claimed after 14 days.

Now, they will be well marked so that they can be disinterred and given a proper burial later should family members come forward, but it's just a sign of the stress and strain and toll, the steep toll this virus has taken on New York. Poppy?

HARLOW: Of course, it is. That's so sad to even think about. Athena, thank you for the reporting.

SCIUTTO: Well, John Harwood joins us now. John, President Trump talking about reopening the country quickly. I mean, it's only three weeks ago that the president came around to declaring this pandemic a very serious threat to the country. What's the debate like in the White House right now? Because you hear Dr. Anthony Fauci on our air this morning saying very clearly now is not the time.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, Jim. Not just Anthony Fauci, but you're hearing that from governors and healthcare workers on the frontlines. Govenror Cuomo, who Athena was just referring to a moment ago, said yesterday, these numbers aren't going down by themselves, they're going down because of the things that we're doing, therefore, we need to keep the things that we're doing. So does Trump's former FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, who says, we need to meet strict testing scale-ups before we can safely reopen the economy.

But on the other hand, everyone is rattled by the 16 million Americans who have been thrown out of work, rising unemployment, especially the president who is seeking re-election in November.


And as a result of that, you get statements like this from the president yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: You see what's happening and where we are, where we stand and hopefully we're going to be opening up. We could be opening very, very soon, I hope.


HARWOOD: Now, of course, Trump's economic advisers are talking about potentially an opening in May. The president has not committed to that date. And, of course, previously when he faced pressure to reopen by Easter or raised that possibility himself, he backed off at the end. But it's a lot easier to back off when the news is getting worse rather than when the news is getting better as it is now.

And we're seeing even in states like Kansas where ministers are resisting the advice not to congregate this Sunday on Easter Sunday. So very intense pressures on this president, huge leadership test for him as he wrestles with the decision.

SCIUTTO: John Harwood at the White House, thanks very much. Let's speak now to our medical experts, Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Colleen Kraft as well. She's an infectious disease expert and Associate Chief Medical Officer at Emory University Medical Hospital in Atlanta. Thanks to both of you.

Sanjay, if I could begin with you, here is the debate again. I mean, we had the same debate on the way up whether you should do social distancing. You've done it on a broad basis. It's worked to flatten the curve. Now, you have the debate on how quickly to lift it. I mean, one simple question, can you make that decision reliably without broad-based testing?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, you really can't. This has been an issue all along. Testing was important, still is important and will be important. There's other things that are going to be part of the strategy of opening things back up, but testing really is one of the cornerstones. Simple. You have to find out who is still infected, you have to be able to isolate them, those people who are infected and also trace their contacts to try and really slow, you know, and hopefully contain the spread ultimately.

It's a lot of work. You need a lot of testing and you also need a lot of people, actual human beings, who can go do the contact tracing as well. I've been looking at some studies saying 300,000 people might be necessary to do just that part of the job. So testing, tracing, treating are all going to still be critically important.

HARLOW: Dr. Kraft, there is more and more talk about antibody testing. We heard Dr. Fauci say just on New Day this morning, antibody testing will be available in a week or so, but he did emphasize the importance of validation. And he said, you don't just switch to this, you keep with the other coronavirus testing as well. Can you explain to most folks out there who don't really know what antibody testing is going to mean in all of this?

DR. COLLEEN KRAFT, ASSOCIATE CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, EMORY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Right. So I think this is going to be one of those interesting times where we also learn how it's going to be most valuable. I think there's never been a time where we've used an antibody test that we've brought up so rapidly to then try to figure out if a large group of people have immunity to it. We have obviously use these in clinical scenarios, such as with hepatitis, HIV infection, all those things.

But I think that we really are going to learn if this is something that really tells us that somebody can go back to work, for instance, tells us that somebody is no longer infectious and tells us that somebody cannot get the virus again.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Gupta, one thing that's clear is that the U.S. does not have the national infrastructure to test broadly. I mean, it was clear going into this, right, that the tests just didn't come quickly and they're well behind, at least on a per capita rate, places like South Korea, which really was able to keep the cases down. Is there any evidence that as you develop these antibody tests and talk about loosening, that there's better infrastructure in place now to do broad-based testing than there was at the beginning of this?

GUPTA: That's a good question. I mean, you're really dealing with, obviously, the federal sort of public health structure and then all these states, all these communities that have their own public health structures as well. And I think some are better than others, Jim. But the problem is they all need to be good here because it's a virus, it can spread anywhere, really. So all these public health institutions need to really be good.

And I think as many people have said, we haven't really put a great premium and value on some of these public health structures in the past. They've been underfunded. That's going to have to change in order to do this. And I keep coming back to the fact you need testing in these places. People have to be able to have the testing available to them.

I have friends still who are eve within the healthcare world who don't know where to go get a test right now if they need to get tested because they have symptoms. And they are people who know how to navigate that world.

But also then this contact tracing, I think that's going to be a big issue. Once you test them, you've got to Figure out, how many people did you come in contact with? Probably not many because we're mostly staying at home nowadays. But as you start to open back up, how many people did you actually come in contact with? How do you find that? It's a laborious task, and so that structure needs to be beefed up as well.

HARLOW: That's amazing that your contact even in the healthcare sector are having a hard time figuring out how to get tested.


It shows us where we are.

Dr. Kraft, you were integral in the response to Ebola just not many years ago. Any lessons learned? A very different disease and how it's communicable, et cetera, but lessons learned from that applied here, thoughts on that where we are right now?

KRAFT: I'm really thrilled, at least locally in my healthcare system here at Emory Hospital how we were able to have that small team that took care of Ebola and sort of did it really well. I feel like we've actually scaled that in these healthcare systems.

We have taught the whole healthcare, everybody that's involved in healthcare, not just nurses and doctors and laboratorians, but everybody on the frontlines how to take care of themselves.

I'm also seeing this in the public. People are really changing their behaviors to minimize transmission of a virus and we should really be taking a lot of lessons learned through every respiratory season that we're doing now and apply them.

HARLOW: Yes. I think it was Fauci who said like handshakes may be a thing of the past. Just like, hello, we'll see. We'll see. I know. I hear you. Thank you both, very, very much, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Colleen Kraft.

Still to come, what Ohio got right in the fight against this virus. The state's governor will be with us.

And did red tape around coronavirus testing at the beginning of the crisis set us back today? We're going to take a closer look.

SCIUTTO: Plus, how people in Flint, Michigan are dealing with the crisis when many there are still wary of just using the water in their own homes. Stay with us.



HARLOW: All right. There's been some focus this week on Philadelphia and whether or not it has become sort of a major concentration center for coronavirus. But some of the data coming out of Philadelphia, the city's mayor says, is urging residents to not let down their guard. Let's get a clear picture here from Alex Marquardt.

To be frank, Alex, the whole situation about the numbers in Philadelphia has been very confusing for me and I think a lot of people. Where do we stand this morning?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, there is not a ton of disparity between what the White House officials are saying and what local officials are saying. It's really a question of tone. And I think what we're seeing here really sets this up.

This is The Liacouras Center at Temple University. This, of course, would normally be a basketball arena. You can actually even see the banners in the ceiling showing the retired numbers of past players. But right now on the floor, what you're looking at is 150 beds. This is essentially a field hospital in case there is spillover from the hospitals.

What the White House is saying, what Vice President Pence and Dr. Birx and others are saying, is that they are seeing worrying trend lines coming out of Philadelphia. They're cautioning that it is early yet.

Now, local health officials are actually saying the data that they're seeing, which they insist is more up to date is actually more accurate, and they're seeing a slowing growth of the positive coronavirus cases, that they're actually -- they might be reaching a plateau in the words of the health commissioner.

So they are tentatively, cautiously optimistic. The numbers of positive cases over the last few days has flattened, but they're very much cautioning that the virus might find new population centers and there could be a surge.

And in terms of the cases that we've seen so far, it topped 5,000 just yesterday. There have been more than 100 deaths in deaths in the City of Philadelphia. And as we've seen in other major cities, African- Americans have been the most affected.

Now, even as the local officials are cautiously optimistic and saying that the signs that they're seeing are good, what they're also saying is that they like the concern they're hearing from federal officials. They want that concern. Because what it's translating to is much needed medical supplies. Poppy, Jim?

HARLOW: Okay. Alex, thank you for clarifying that important reporting. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Officials in Ohio say that steps that state took early helped slow the spread of the virus there, even saved lives. Governor Mike DeWine says that residents in particular have made a huge difference, and he joins me now to discuss. Governor DeWine, good morning, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Good morning. Thank you. Good to be with you.

SCIUTTO: So credit to you, credit to Ohio for acting early. You say that in particular Ohioans, by following these social distancing guidelines, have made a real difference here. I just wonder your advice to the president as he discusses lifting national recommendations on social distancing as soon as the beginning of May. What's your advice?

DEWINE: Well, I don't give the president advice. Every time I've called the White House needing something, they've come through. For example, we have the tail (ph) labs in Ohio. They're doing an amazing job. What they now can do, they have a machine and they can sterilize the N95 masks. They can do up to 80,000 a day. And so we had to get that approval from the FDA. The president got the FDA to really, really focus on it. And so we're happy having that result.

I do want to thank all Ohioans. Ohioans have done a great job. They've changed the future, but we've got to keep doing it. We're doing well but we can't let this monster up. We've got this monster down a little bit, but you're still seeing, you know, a significant number of Ohioans who are dying every day and going into the hospital. So we're not through this yet.

SCIUTTO: So I wonder, who should make the call? Do you think it's better for state governors, city mayors to make the call based on the particular situation in their state or community at the time? Because, as you well know, different states, different towns, different counties are experiencing their peaks at different times, and some still haven't reached the peak.


DEWINE: Well, that's absolutely true. I mean, I talk to other governors all the time, I talk to our mayors in Ohio every day. And, you know, what we're seeing is certainly across the country very, very different things. We're at a different rate for each state.

And I think that, historically, health issues like this are handled by governors, they are handled by mayors, and I think that's generally what people expect. But we exchange ideas. I'm learning from other governors. And I think, look, we're all focused on this, we're all doing everything that we can in our respective states.

SCIUTTO: Looking forward, testing is going to be a big factor as communities begin to relax some of these standards because you have to know, one, who has antibodies, but also who has been infected so you could keep from spreading to more. To your credit, Iowa has tested more than 50,000 people.

But 11 million people in the state, I wonder, can the states, can communities, can the country reliably relax these social distancing recommendations without broad-based testing, much broader than on the way in, broad-based testing on the way out to figure out how far this has spread?

DEWINE: Our testing is going up and our capacity is going up. We have the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio State University, University of Cincinnati all doing a great job in regard to testing. So that testing is going up. But you're absolutely right, to come out of this and you get people back to work, we're going to have to have information. And so part of the plan that we are now in the process of putting together will certainly involve robust testing. It's going to be absolutely necessary to be able to get people back to work.

SCIUTTO: We have concerns, as you know, about the possibility of a second wave of this, perhaps in the fall. We talked about November. That, of course, would coincide with the general election in this country. Ohio has mail-in voting. You saw the scenes in Wisconsin when there were a lot of those efforts to expand voting were blocked. If there is another wave in November, do you think that states, communities, cities should allow more mail-in voting so people don't have to risk getting infected when they go to vote?

DEWINE: Well, you know, we have very robust voting in Ohio. We allow voting for about a month before the election. People can go to their local board of elections or they can get an absentee ballot. There is no -- anybody that wants an absentee ballot can get an absentee ballot. So we have very good experience in using that.

I think it's much too early to project what's going to happen in November. We don't really know where we're going to be at all in November, and so I think we just have to wait and see where we are when we're getting closer there.

SCIUTTO: On the principle there, because it gets to voter access, of course, beyond a pandemic, is there anything fundamentally risky about mail-in voting, as you heard from the president and others?

DEWINE: You know, I don't know how other states do it. We just have a long experience in doing it. You know, our secretary of state, Franklin Rose, does a great job. My lieutenant governor, John Houston, was the secretary of state for eight years. He does not have a concern about that voting. We just have a lot of experience in doing it in Ohio, and candidly we've never had much of a problem doing it.

SCIUTTO: Well, Governor Mike DeWine, I've got some relatives living in your state. I wish you the best of luck and the residents of Ohio the best of luck going forward.

DEWINE: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

HARLOW: All right. As China starts to get somewhat back to normal after just months of restrictions, South Africa fears it's on the front end of this pandemic. A look at the global impact of coronavirus is next.



HARLOW: It is pretty much impossible to overstate the global impact of this pandemic. Every continent except Antarctica has confirmed cases. While China is starting to ease their restrictions, South Africa is extending its lockdown measures. And in Italy, there are real concerns that the actual death toll will never, Jim, be known.

SCIUTTO: Yes. By definition, pandemic, it's global.

We have reporters around the world. Let's begin in Rome with our Senior International Correspondent Ben Wedeman.

And in Italy, concerns there, Ben, that, really, there's been a vast overstating of the actual numbers there.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Actually it's an understating. At this point, the death toll, Jim --

SCIUTTO: Understating, rather. Sorry.

WEDEMAN: -- is more than 18,000. That's no problem. Anyway, the death toll to this point is more than 18,000.

But we've been in touch with mayors in Northern Italy who were comparing basically the number of deaths that are being reported opposed to those reported as having died from coronavirus. And they say that by their estimate, the number of people who have died from the disease is actually twice as high as the official statistics.


Now, another problem is that people who die at home and who have not been tested.