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U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 16,000; Trump Eyes May 1st to Begin Reopening of U.S. Economy; U.S. Blocked Private Labs from Using Tests in January; Downing Street: Boris Johnson Out of Intensive Care. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 10, 2020 - 05:00   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. Welcome to all our viewers here in the U.S. and all around the world. Thank you for joining me. You're watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So, coming up this hour, cases in the U.S. surge as top scientist holds out the possibility the pandemic could let up in the next few months.

Also, CNN is learning that early efforts to create tests were blocked by the U.S. government. Hear how and why.

And --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don't have a job at the moment, if you don't have insurance at the moment, if you didn't save up, if you don't have healthy parents, you are shut off at the moment.


CURNOW: Millions of Americans are filing for unemployment. Their stories and the Federal Reserve's plan to help. That's next.


CURNOW: So there has been another surge in reported deaths in the U.S. The United States is now the world's epicenter for the coronavirus. More than 16,000 people have died. That's according to Johns Hopkins University.

But there are also signs of hope as the nation's top infectious disease doctor explains.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: At the same time as we are seeing the increase in deaths, we're seeing rather dramatic decrease in the need for hospitalizations. Like I think yesterday was something like 200 new hospitalizations. And it's been as high as 1,400 at any given time. So, that is going in the right direction.

I say that and I always remind myself when I say that, that means that what we are doing is working and therefore we need to continue to do it.


CURNOW: So there's also more hope for those hurting financially. The Federal Reserve is planning to pump trillions more into the U.S. economy.

Nick Watt is tracking it all from us from the increase in deaths to the path ahead -- Nick.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than 16,000 have now died nationwide. In Detroit, health workers say people are dying in E.R. hallways. This Chicago jail, now America's largest known site of infection outside medical facilities - 400-plus cases, among inmates and staff.

In New York, military doctors now deployed not just to field hospitals but inside city hospitals.

DAVID NORQUIST, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: What they're suffering from is doctors getting sick or nurses.

WATT: This city, the crossroads of the world, now has more confirmed cases than any other city on Earth, according to data from John Hopkins University.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: It's been 18 days since we closed down New York. I know it feels like a lifetime.

WATT: New York state's curve is now flattening. The numbers are now encouraging. But the message stays the same: do not stop social distancing.

CUOMO: Because we can't handle the worst case scenarios. We can't even handle the moderate case scenarios.

WATT: The president regularly hails his imposing travel restrictions on China in late January.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I cut off China very early. I closed down our country to China, which was heavily infected.

WATT: Nearly 17 million Americans have now filed for unemployment in just these past three weeks. That's more than 10 percent of the total work force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I already can't swim and I literally feel like I'm drowning.

WATT: Air travel in the U.S. is down a stunning 96 percent year on year according to various metrics reviewed by CNN.

Dr. Fauci says we might still be able to take summer vacations this year.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It can be in the cards and I say that with some caution. 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 the spikes that we've seen now.

WATT: This summer might still be very different to the last. Just listen in to the Santa Clara County, California supervisors' virtual meeting.

DR. JEFFREY SMITH, SANTA CLARA COUNTY EXECUTIVE OFFICER: I don't expect that we'll have any sports games until at least Thanksgiving and we'll be lucky to have them by Thanksgiving.

WATT: For now in Brookhaven, Mississippi, a drive-by show of support for 90-year-old Bryant Johnston, sick with the virus that just killed Betty, his wife of near 60 years.

BRYANT JOHNSON, WIFE DIED FROM COVID-19: I didn't get to see her. I didn't get to hold her hand. I didn't get to tell her good-bye.


WATT (on camera): A political and now legal battle escalating in Kansas tonight. The governor wants to limit all religious services to 10 people or fewer in run-up to Easter Sunday. Some of her political opponents disagree.

So Thursday afternoon, the governor had to file a suit in the state's Supreme Court. The battle goes on.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


CURNOW: Thanks for that report, Nick.

Well, Dr. Peter Drobac joins me now. He's a global health expert with the Oxford Said Business School in England.

Thanks very much for joining us, Doctor.

You just heard that report. But really experts say it's the virus that will decide the time we go out, we shouldn't be trying to put dates and deadlines on it here.

DR. PETER DROBAC, GLOBAL HEALTH EXPERT, OXFORD SAID BUSINESS SCHOOL: Yes. None of us has a crystal ball and it's difficult to predict. But what we know is that we can make interventions that do bend the curve. It is going to be difficult to know exactly when that's going to happen, but if we look at places that are a little bit further ahead in the epidemic in the U.S., even in Spain and Italy, for example, they have started to see a flattening of the curve, still a spike in deaths, but they're getting there.

And if you look further ahead to China where Wuhan this week, after 11 weeks, was finally able to lift a lockdown. So, it is possible. And we will get there in the U.S. as well. But it will take some time.

CURNOW: And let's talk about social distancing, though. In many ways, perhaps, people will be let out of their houses. The lockdown might ease in the next few weeks or months. But the whole concept of social distancing might go on much longer, and it perhaps suggested it should do.

DROBAC: That's right. And sometimes I'm uncomfortable with the term lockdown that we've been using a lot because it gives you the impression that all forms of social distancing are the same and it's something that you sort of flip on and off like a switch when in reality, there are lots of different degrees of social distancing. And the more significant or extreme we can make them, the more we can bend the curve.

But when we think about how to relax some of these measures and begin to open up the economy a little bit and open society, it's going to have to be a gradual process rather than suddenly just going back to normal. If we were to do that, we'd be at high risk for a second surge in infections.

CURNOW: So you are saying, you know -- I mean, what I'm asking about is how people, you know, manage each other in the coming weeks and months as people try and come outside, you know, less about handshakes, more about waves still. Or do you think the whole concept of parties and getting together is really very delayed? I mean, where are we in terms of how people can think about this?

DROBAC: Yes. One of the things we're learning is that, you know, parties and festivals and gatherings of people like that have big drivers of this epidemic.

CURNOW: Super spreader events, exactly.

DROBAC: Sort of super spreader events, exactly. And so, that's something we really have to take into consideration when we begin to open things up again.

Dr. Fauci has said maybe handshaking should be a thing of the past. I think, certainly, in the near term, that makes sense. But we're going to look at is a very careful relaxing of some of these restrictions.

It's also going to be a learning process, to be honest. I think we are all figuring out. South Korea, China, Japan, countries ahead of us are doing those kinds of experiments right now. What's going to be very important in the U.S. is that testing can be ramped up so that we can have a better sense of intelligence and be able to identify new cases and isolate them early.

CURNOW: And we're going to talk about that a little bit more after we say goodbye to you because there's a lot of controversy around that issue, particularly here in the United States.

Just from your perspective, how important is it for death rates to be reported correctly? Are you concerned that we don't have a real sense of the fatalities?

DROBAC: All the indicators we have are uncertain. We know that reporting cases is difficult. Particular places where testing hasn't been very widespread. Death tends to be more accurate but we are probably missing particularly deaths at home.

Now, if we're -- if we are missing deaths in the same way over time, then that kind of uncertainty will be consistent. And so, you can still measure the trends, and that's probably going to be the more accurate indicators of where the epidemic is going and also a very lagging indicator, because people tend to die a month or more after the initial infection.

And so, a social distancing intervention started today may not actually show up in the sort of trends in deaths for several weeks

CURNOW: Yes. That's an excellent point.

Great to speak to you Dr. Peter Drobac, appreciate it. Coming to us there live from Oxford, thank you. Have a lovely weekend.

DROBAC: Thank you.

CURNOW: So, and as I was saying with Peter there, this is -- this is an issue that's certainly a touch point. After much criticism about lack of testing in the U.S., the president says more than 2 million tests has been done. But he is not looking to carry out mass testing despite calls from health experts to do so.


Take a listen.


TRUMP: We want to have it and we're going to see if we have it. Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes.

We're talking about 325 million people. And that's not going to happen, as you can imagine. And nope, it would never happen with anyone else either.

Other countries do it, but they do it in limited form. We will probably be the leader of the pack.



CURNOW: So, CNN's Kaitlan Collins has more on that issue from Washington -- Kaitlan.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, as the president is focusing on getting the economy back open, he is now saying he doesn't believe there needs to be mass testing in order to do so, even though health experts have said if they want to reopen the U.S. economy and send Americans back to work, they're going to have to be able to not only test people but test people to see if they had coronavirus and also do contact tracing. So, if someone does get it, once they've returned to work, they can easily isolate people that they came in touch with and then we do not have the outbreak like we are seeing in several major U.S. cities right now.

The president said falsely that the U.S. has the best testing system of any other country in the world. We know that's not true. It's a claim the president has made repeatedly in recent days, though the U.S. lags in testing per capita when it comes to other countries. Although they are trying to make that rapid test, the one that produces results in 15 minutes or less, more widespread throughout the nation. Still, though, some governors say, right now, testing in their states is not at that level.

Now, this comes as the president has his eye on May 1st when the guidelines are going to expire. We know the president is pretty set on opening the country by then, at least in parts. His team has been meeting behind the scenes in order to find a way to achieve that.

And he's even about to announce a second coronavirus task force. This one is solely focused on reopening the U.S. economy. And unlike the one that's focused on the public health aspect, this will include administration aides, but also some private sector economic experts as well.

So, the president is keeping his eye on May 1st. Several sources said right when the deadlines are set to expire at the end of April.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, Washington.


CURNOW: Thanks, Kaitlan, for that.

And as Kaitlan mentioned there, experts say the coronavirus testing is absolutely necessary before even considering a return to normalcy. Well, CNN has now learned that as early as January private labs were trying to develop effective tests but they were blocked by the federal government.

Drew Griffin explains what happened and also crucially what didn't.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As coronavirus was silently racing around the world in late January and early February, the federal government failed to use the massive arsenal of hundreds of laboratories across the United States for emergency testing, it actually left road blocks in place to prevent non-government labs from assisting.

That is according to documents obtained by CNN and interviews with more than a dozen scientists and physicians involved in coronavirus testing.

DR. AMESH ADALJA, JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: At the very beginning of this pandemic, it was the federal government that had the sole ability to do the testing. It made it very difficult for private labs, for university labs to make their own tests based on several regulatory hurdles.

GRIFFIN: Several hospital and university-based labs have told CNN they saw the pandemic approaching, were developing their own tests as early as January to detect the virus. But the red tape with the FDA's regulatory process prevented them from moving forward -- meaning labs sat idle.

DR. GLENN MORRIS, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA: Rather than enlisting the tremendous strength and power of the U.S. laboratory capacity, getting everybody working on this and creating tests and having widespread test availability, we had CDC trying to keep running everything by itself.

GRIFFIN: The federal government was prepared to enforce the rules, sending this memo on February 6th, telling state health departments to actively police against labs using their own coronavirus tests. The reasoning behind the tight regulations were good to ensure the safety and efficacy of tests.

But Dr. Glenn Morris of the University of Florida says the FDA rules were written for normal situations, not a crisis.

MORRIS: When we suddenly hit the point where we were looking at China and seeing what was going on there, what we needed was extremely aggressive leadership. We got to move fast, because, otherwise, we're going to run into a problem.

GRIFFIN: The problem developed as soon as the CDC rolled out its own tests for verification. It didn't work. And weeks were lost as the CDC scrambled to make a new test.

SCOTT BECKER, CEO OF THE ASSOCIATION OF PUBLIC HEALTH LABORATORIES: So, we really were in -- in a basically on a pause for a few weeks within the public health system. And meanwhile, the academic laboratories who had developed their own tests also were not able to test because the regulations didn't allow it at that time.


GRIFFIN: What's even worse in 2018, after the Zika outbreak, the CDC came up with a plan to avoid the very testing disaster that's happening. CNN obtained a copy of this memorandum of understanding between the commercial and public labs and the CDC that was supposed to increase national laboratory testing in an emergency by engaging commercial labs early in the response.

It didn't work.

Dr. Karen Kaul who runs the laboratory services for NorthShore Research HealthSystem in Evanston, Illinois, was one of the labs pushing to start its own tests and was stopped by overbearing red tape.

(on camera): It seems like this is a bit of a failure.

DR. KAREN KAUL, NORTHSHORE UNIVERSITY HEALTHSYSTEM: I do think there is a definitely room for improvement. What's happened is we've had a number of laboratories and a number of manufacturers and groups that are not all working together in a coordinated fashion.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In a statement to CNN, the FDA insists there was nothing wrong in its process, and instead blames individual lab delays where labs did not understand the FDA process and mistakenly believed there was more work involved.

Despite that, the FDA did publish new guidelines on February 29th allowing labs to begin testing. Experts tell CNN, it was just too late.

(on camera): In a written response to CNN's questions, the CDC said it did keep laboratory communities up to date and informed of what's happening, but the CDC did not answer questions on why the CDC didn't pursue the laboratories getting involved in this massive testing program sooner.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.


CURNOW: So this is a panel of top U.S. scientists is sounding the alarm on testing actually. It's telling the White House that the tests now being used to tell if someone is infected with coronavirus actually far from perfect. In one study, tests missed about 30 percent of the patients who were actually infected. The panel also says the tests to detect immunity are imperfect as well.

So, you're watching CNN. Still to come, Boris Johnson is out of intensive care. That's good news, isn't it? What Downing Street is saying about the British prime minister's condition? That is next. We're live in London.



CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So, Boris Johnson is out of intensive care. A Downing Street spokesperson says the British prime minister is in, quote, extremely good spirits but will remain in hospital.

Now, we have not seen before Johnson since last week when he posted this Twitter update about his persistent COVID-19 symptoms just days before being admitted.

Max Foster is outside St. Thomas' Hospital.

Max, good to see you on Good Friday.

Tell us how the prime minister is doing?

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, maybe we'll get another video, because he's allowed to use his phone.

CURNOW: Oh, great.

FOSTER: We are talking to his fiancee as soon he came out of intensive. So, he's well enough. We've also been hearing from --

CURNOW: She's pregnant, isn't she?

FOSTER: She is pregnant and she's been suffering from the virus herself.


FOSTER: So, it has been a really, really trying time for the family, as well as the government, to the wider world as well, to have this leadership vacuum effectively since it's been in intensive care.

Stanley Johnson telling BBC today -- really warning the country not to expect Boris to rush back to work, certainly not back to Downing Street just yet. He needs time to recuperate.

He said this, quote, Robyn, to use that American expression, he almost took one for the team. And well, we've got to make sure we play the game properly now.

So this is a call out to the public. We've been talking about it all week, of course, not to go out this weekend, to respect the lockdown. And it ties in with the government campaign being launched today, an awareness campaign, telling people that they could still create a risk by going out and socializing unnecessarily.

And the key message from it, Robyn, is pretty harsh when you see it play out. Don't accidentally kill someone.

CURNOW: Yes, by sunbathing or going to the pub or whatever. So, I think it is a strong message.


CURNOW: Thanks so much, Max Foster. You've had a busy week. You hope you have a blessed Easter with your family. Thanks, Max.

FOSTER: Thanks.

CURNOW: So, Spain is extending its state of emergency until April 26th amid hopes that coronavirus there is coming under control. Now, the prime minister told an almost empty parliament, just look at these images, on Thursday that the country reached the peak of the pandemic but he warned the public not to be complacent. Spain is being one of the world's hottest hit countries, second only to the U.S. in the number of actual cases.

Al Goodman is in Madrid with all of that.

Hi, Al. How are you doing out there?


Well, the officials, the prime minister and the health officials are cautiously optimistic because the rate of increase in the number of deaths topping 15,000 in Spain. The rate of increase is slowing down. And the rate of increase -- the percentage increase in new cases is way down, just about 1 percent.

But the socialist prime minister harshly criticized by the conservative opposition for what they say is his mishandling of the crisis. He and his officials don't want to move too quickly to open up the country. So, in that parliamentary session on Thursday, he did win approval as expected for a two-week extension of a lockdown order. That makes it six weeks.

And, by the way, all other MPs were voting from home. That was by design. That's why you saw such an empty parliament, just representatives from each party.

But the lockdown order, the prime minister said in the parliament, warning the people that in two weeks' time he said he's confident -- that's the word he used -- he's confident he will have to come back and ask for another extension, which would take it into May. That is because testing of people in Spain for the COVID-19, Robyn, has been very low. Now, they are trying to ramp up to see exactly where it is.

So, they want to open things up gradually. For instance, construction workers who have been forced to stay home will be able to go back to work on Monday. But they're going to go this -- they're going to do this very, very slowly so the Spanish people here on good Friday in this traditionally Roman Catholic country kind of stoically carrying on with their business.

Televisions, since there aren't any processions, religious processions in the streets, will be showing the ones from last year on TV across the country -- Robyn.


CURNOW: Yes, I think the words "stoic" and "stoicism" might be pretty relevant to many people, and to what many people are going through around the world.

Al Goodman and your team there, thanks so much.

So, in the Philippines, the coronavirus is taking a pretty heavy toll on front line health workers. Many of them are working without adequate health equipment as well, as Will Ripley now reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The number of coronavirus cases is rising in many parts of the world, but certainly the case here in Japan. And it's also true in the Philippines, where we're learning that doctors and nurses are putting themselves at increasing risk because what the Philippine Medical Association president tells CNN is a lack of personal protective equipment. He says that 21 medical personnel have died. That acts for around one in 10 deaths in the Philippines as a result of novel coronavirus.

Now, of course, that situation is not unique. Medical workers everywhere are putting themselves at risk. But in the Philippines, you have a lot of people living in very unsanitary conditions.

The slums in the Philippines, if you've ever been there, there are people who are packed in one tiny room. It is a breeding ground potentially for infection. When those people go to the hospital and the doctors and nurses don't have the protective equipment they need, the results can be really catastrophic. And that's why you see the numbers rising there.

Will Ripley, CNN, Tokyo.


CURNOW: You are watching CNN.

Still to come, another painful reality of this pandemic. Millions more Americans will lose their jobs. Next, the government's latest move to try and prop up the faltering economy.

And also, CNN goes inside a refrigerated warehouse prepared for those we've died. Now, how one major city is struggling to cope.


CURNOW: It is 5:30 a.m. Friday morning here in the United States.

So, the U.S. Federal Reserve is releasing an additional $2.3 trillion in loans.