Return to Transcripts main page


More Coronavirus Vaccines And Treatments Move To Human Trials; Analysis Suggests Deaths May Be Higher Than Reported In Spain; Ex-NFL Player Now On Front Lines Of Coronavirus Fight. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 10, 2020 - 07:30   ET



DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: (via Cisco Webex): Be a dozen or more candidates. And we can actually talk about why do we need so many candidates --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, why do we? I mean, we have a list of some of the ones --

HOTEZ: -- go to into the pipe --

CAMEROTA: Yes. So we have a full-screen of some of the ones that are approaching clinical trials. The names don't mean that much to anybody not in the pharmaceutical or medical business. But why do we need so many?

HOTEZ: Well, the problem is this. It's a -- it's a brand-new virus pathogen that we've never seen before. And we don't have a lot of experience, of course, with this virus so we don't know really which is going to be the best technology that's going to work.

And it's kind of like, you know, trying to hedge your bets -- trying to get a wide array of -- a portfolio of candidates out there because probably 90 percent -- there's probably going to be a 90 percent attrition rate, meaning the vast majority of the ones that you're seeing up there and the ones that are coming online, including ours, may not make it to the finish line because either there's a safety signal -- there's something uncertain about them or because they're not working as well as we want.

So if you figure 90 percent aren't going to make it, then that's why you get as many out there as you can so you can hope that at least one or two or even three get out there. And you might say well, do you need two or three? Well, you might because there might be different uses. Some you might use for older Americans, some you might use for younger individuals --


HOTEZ: -- adults. Some high-risk groups, such as health care providers. So this is all going to roll out, so it's a very carefully orchestrated and very complicated dance.

CAMEROTA: That's really interesting that there's about a 90 percent attrition rate. That's obviously a stunning number.

And so, are we still, do you think, 12 to 18 months away?

HOTEZ: Well, that's the aspirational goal. Dr. Fauci, who's been a friend and mentor to me for 40 years, has charged us with trying to do this in a year to 18 months and that's why none of us sleep anymore.

We are in the lab at Texas Children's at Baylor College of Medicine -- there morning until night. You know, I wake up at 4:00 in the morning and text my science co-partner Maria Elena Bottazzi at 4:00 in the morning and find out that she's already texted me at 3:30 in the morning.

We're all very -- we're all very wired up and geared up for this. And I'm sure all the other groups are the same way. We really want to make a difference. But -- so it's a very scary, troubling, very energizing time as well but we've got mixed emotions there.

CAMEROTA: I feel your pain. You guys can text me at 3:30 in the morning, too, if you need somebody else to talk to.

HOTEZ: Right.

CAMEROTA: We just had Dr. Fauci on and he talked about an antibody test being ready to go in the next week. He says that there have been -- they have been developed, they've been validated, and he believes that they will be ready to go in the next week.

I know that that's different than a vaccine and then what you're working on but how will an antibody test change our lives?

HOTEZ: Well -- so, this is actually a good segue to the next part of the discussion, which is that the vaccine is important technology we're going to need, but there's lots of others that are moving forward.

So we have the convalescent antibody for treatment. We have the antibody tests.

We also some very innovative immunotherapies for patients who are already sick to prevent -- or for their lung injury. So you have stem cell treatments, you many monoclonal antibodies. And as I like to say, this is where you're seeing the full power of American science.

The fact that -- you know, we've been asking the United States -- the people of the United States to invest around $36 billion a year in the National Institutes of Health and Americans might be saying well, what do we get for that? Well, here's what you're getting for that -- this vast array of new technologies.

And, you know, we've had incredible leadership at the NIH, not only with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins. So there's this full massive assault that's underway right now and the antibody test is a component of that.

CAMEROTA: That's really good context for us to understand this.

Dr. Hotez, have a nice weekend. Thank you very much for all you're doing. Great to talk to you.

HOTEZ: Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: All right.

He used to tackle opponents on the football field. Now, he's on the front lines against coronavirus. A former NFL safety-turned E.R. doctor joins us ahead.



CAMEROTA: Let's take a look at what's going on in Spain today. Official government figures show the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths is down sharply there. The death toll in Spain is more than 15,000 people. It's the third-highest behind the U.S. and Italy. But a CNN analysis suggests the number of deaths could actually be higher than is being reported.

CNN's Scott McLean is live in Madrid to help us make sense of all of this. So what is the situation on the ground, Scott?


So according to the official data, in the last 24 hours, about 600 people died from the coronavirus in Spain. That is a high number but it is much lower than it's been. It's the lowest that it's been, actually, in more than two weeks.

But it is important to know before we get too optimistic that the true death toll is likely much, much higher than the official numbers suggests. Case in point, the Madrid regional government says that thousands of people have died in nursing homes with coronavirus symptoms but because they were never tested for the virus they were never added to the official tally.

Our own analysis, as you mentioned, showed that the number of the death tolls in the Madrid region may have been undercounted in just the last part of March by more than 3,000 deaths. It's impossible to know for sure though because again, if someone is not tested they cannot be counted.

We found a similar pattern in the region next to Madrid, Castilla La Mancha, where the death toll in March may have been undercounted by almost 1,000 deaths.

We don't have data from the other 15 regions of this country but the government is now compiling it to try to do their own analysis of where the discrepancy may lie. It's counting method is in line with WHO guidelines.


I should also point out that the Spanish Parliament voted to extend the stay-at-home order now until April 26th, though the prime minister says he is confident that they'll have to extend it again into May. Getting that passed, though, is no guarantee. The first time he asked Parliament for an extension it passed unanimously. This time, though, he had opposition from more than 50 different lawmakers.

There is some good news though for the Spanish economy and that is that non-essential workers in sectors like construction and manufacturing will be allowed to return to their jobs on Monday. But that does not mean that the shops or restaurants will be reopening -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Terrific work in Madrid, which is so important for us to see because in some ways, several weeks ahead of where the United States is, so there's so much for us to learn. Thanks so much.

So, as the human toll of this pandemic grows, President Trump has blamed everyone but himself. CNN's John Avlon with a reality check.


JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that famously said "The Buck Stops Here." Donald Trump might as well have one that says "The Buck Gets Passed Here" --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don't take responsibility at all.

AVLON: -- because while our country suffers from a once-in-a-century pandemic with over 16,000 deaths -- up from 70 since he declared that everything was under control three weeks ago -- President Trump has moved from denial to deflecting blame.

He appeared to blame doctors and nurses that worked on the front lines for lack of PPE by suggesting they're stealing supplies.

TRUMP: Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door?

AVLON: Of course, blaming Obama is an automatic reflex with him.

TRUMP: You remember this, we inherited -- the word is we inherited bad tests. We really inherited bad tests.

AVLON: But trying to blame Joe Biden seems like a bit of a stretch.

But it's still surprising to see any self-styled wartime president blame our states.

TRUMP: The states have to stock up. It's like one of those things -- they waited. They didn't want to spend the money because they thought this would never happen. AVLON: And targeting governors in some of the toughest cases in the country, from New York's Andrew Cuomo --

TRUMP: We're building them hospitals, we're building them medical centers. And then I watch him on the show complaining. It's a two-way street. They have to treat us well also.

AVLON: -- to Washington's Jay Inslee --

TRUMP: I think they should be appreciative. And I say Mike, don't call the governor of Washington. You're wasting your time with him.

AVLON: -- to Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer, who he just calls "that woman from Michigan." In a (INAUDIBLE) projection, he accused Whitmer of being quote " way over her head. Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude."

And he can't seem to stop teeing off on Michigan women, repeatedly blasting General Motors CEO Mary Barra.

It's no surprise that he blamed China. After all, that's where the virus began and it grew out of control because of their attempts to hide the truth.

TRUMP: And it could have been stopped right where it came from, China. The world is paying a big price for what they did.

AVLON: But it seemed that one phone call with China's President Xi was enough to change his tune, at least for now.

TRUMP: I had a great conversation last night with President Xi. It's a tough situation and I think they're doing a very good job.

AVLON: Now he's on to blaming the World Health Organization, flip- flopping on whether he'd cut their funding.

TRUMP: And we're going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We're going to put a very powerful hold on it.

And I'm not saying I'm going to do it.

AVLON: He's blamed the CDC, the FDA, and starting a predictable purge of the administration's inspectors general. Really, anyone whose job it is to keep him accountable.

Dismissing a report from the Department of Health and Human Services I.G. which described severe shortages of hospital supplies is "just wrong" and "another fake dossier."

And, of course, he's blamed the media.

TRUMP: One of the reasons I do these news conferences because if I didn't, they would believe fake news and we can't let them believe fake news.

AVLON: The truth is that President Trump is lying. His blame game is an attempt to deny and deflect. His administration's playing catchup with the pandemic because the president refused to take it seriously for weeks, despite warnings, while the disease spread. And now, we're reaping the whirlwind while the president still refuses to take responsibility.

And that's your reality check.


CAMEROTA: Our thanks to John for that. It's nice to see John Avlon and get a reality check. We've been missing some reality.

BERMAN: With many leather-bound books behind him.

CAMEROTA: That's John Avlon.

All right, John, we want to take moment now to remember some of the more than 16,000 Americans who have died from coronavirus.

Here's 72-year-old Annis Creese. She taught high school Spanish in Hyattsville, Maryland. Creese overcame an impoverished childhood in the Caribbean to become a figure so beloved at Northwestern High some students just called her mom. After 25 years there, she was set to retire this year.

BERMAN: Cody Lyster was a criminal justice student and baseball player at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction and at 21, the youngest confirmed coronavirus death in that state so far. Known for his big smile and personality -- you can see it right there. Lyster had wanted to become a police officer like his father.


CAMEROTA: Ezra Alexander had worked for the Gary, Indiana Parks Department for 30 years, rising to director of recreation until health problems forced him to retire. Alexander also volunteered as a basketball and track coach. Some of the many young people he mentored called him a second father in online tributes. He died of the virus on Wednesday at age 59.

We'll be right back.


CAMEROTA: Basketball legend Magic Johnson spoke out about the coronavirus and how best to beat a deadly virus, something he knows a lot about.

Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report." Hi, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT (via Cisco Webex): Yes, good morning, Alisyn.

You know, Magic Johnson says the way that the coronavirus is affecting the African-American community reminds him a lot of what happened with HIV 30 years ago. There's just a lot of misinformation out there. [07:50:00]

Magic telling CNN's Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta during last night's town hall that all African-Americans need to take this seriously and know that everyone can get the virus. And, Magic also says testing is key and needs to be made more available in the inner cities.


EARVIN "MAGIC" JOHNSON, BASKETBALL HALL-OF-FAMER: The reason my life -- I'm still living is because early detection. I had a test. I had a physical. It came up that I had HIV and that saved my life.

And so, people want to get tested and until they get tested people won't be comfortable because that's going to tell them whether they have this virus or not.


SCHOLES: Yes, and Magic also said we really need sports, especially in a time like this, but only if everybody is safe.

Now, when we get back to sporting events with tens of thousands of people in the stands that's, of course, still up in the air. But according to a Seton Hall University poll, nearly three in four Americans say without a coronavirus vaccine they would not feel safe attending games. Seven hundred sixty-two people participated in the poll.

And, you know, John, when I saw those numbers I was like -- I immediately thought that number was way high because as soon as sporting events open back up I, for one, want to go attend games. But my wife immediately said well, I'm not going.

BERMAN: Right.

SCHOLES: So there's definitely different opinions out there and it will be interesting to see what games look like when they do return.

BERMAN: It's a similar number to what people say about if they'd be comfortable going back to work, Andy. People are nervous about going back until they feel that a corner -- a serious corner has been turned in this pandemic.

Andy Scholes, thanks so much for that.

So, Myron Rolle was once the number-one-ranked high school football player in the country. He played at Florida State and then in the NFL. But now, he's a doctor at Mass General in Boston on the front lines of the coronavirus fight.

And, Dr. Myron Rolle joins me now. Doctor, it's an honor to speak with you.

Thank you so much for the work you're doing. And your brother tells us you've worked nine straight days and you have a 24-hour shift tomorrow. How are you holding up?


It's very tiring, for sure -- mentally exhausting, but I'm just trying to do the best I can to stay focused. I look at every patient that I see and that my colleagues see with the utmost respect and trying to be as sharp and efficient in my thinking and -- my creative thinking and my critical thinking as possible because they expect that of us. So just trying to stay disciplined and focused throughout this whole pandemic and do the best I can, for sure.

BERMAN: We stalk you on Instagram and we notice you posted this. You said, "We are still in it and I believe that we will win." Hopefully, we can throw this up on the screen so people can see it. "We are still in it and I believe that we will win. The team, the team, the team."

Who's the team you're talking about here?

ROLLE: Well, the team is all of us, honestly.

You know, I come from a sporting background, as you know. I've been playing football since I was six and football taught me a lot about teamwork. Getting along with people who you may not have -- find yourself in the same circle with normally. They may come from different backgrounds, have different interests.

But all together, right now, from medical professionals in our hospital at Mass General -- where we as neurosurgeons are sort of redeploying and repurposing ourselves to help in this COVID-19 fight -- to everyone out in the street and the normal citizenry who have to adhere to those lifestyle behavior modifications to help us get over this curve, we all need to join together and have this collective goal of getting our country and our world back to the sense of normalcy.

That's the team I'm talking about. It's the biggest team that any of who would be a part of and it's something that I'm proud to be a part of, for sure.

BERMAN: Look, it makes me feel better as I'm at home most of the day, to know that you're on my team and, in some ways, leading that team in Mass General. So thank you very much for the work you're doing.

I was ready Sally Jenkins' profile of you in "The Washington Post" and she noted that you approached this in similar ways as you did to a football game, which is to say you want to go out on that field every day and beat the spit out of your opponent. In this case, the opponent is coronavirus.

ROLLE: That's right.

You know, in football we had to prepare, right? You had to watch films. You had to make sure that you knew the personnel and the groupings -- the kind of plays that teams were going to do -- the tendencies that they had. And now we have to prepare for what COVID-19 has for us. Is there an antibody coming. Is there a vaccine coming.

Who does it affect the most -- what sensitive population. Which demographic is hit the hardest.

How do we adjust as providers? How do we adjust and keep our self protected with our protective equipment. How do we mitigate pressure and how do we sort of work through those pressures by staying true to our fundamentals.

The things that football taught me on the field in practice and games, the weight room, the locker room is now translating into medicine and particularly, this very important situation that we have going now. So I'm fortunate that I had that experience. I'm trying to use it every single day because it keeps me motivated and it keeps me driving forward, and it's helped me so far.

BERMAN: What are you seeing in Mass General every day? What are you seeing in the hospital?

ROLLE: So, our hospital has transformed, certainly. I mean, you walk in, everyone has to wear a protective mask. There's hand sanitizer everywhere.


Our neurosurgical floor has been turned to a COVID-19-only floor. Our outpatient neurosurgical clinic is now all done virtually where we call our patients and tell them about their CT scans and MRIs and when we have to reschedule their elective cases.

There's a certain (audio gap) in our hospital where me and a few of my colleagues have volunteered our services to help triage some of these COVID-19 patients.

Our operating rooms are slower now. Now, only emergent or urgent cases are pretty much going.

So it's a total adaptation -- a total, you know, proactive response by our hospital administration to try to make sure that we're fit and we're ready for the influx of patients that are not only coming this week but certainly will surge in the next weeks or two here in Boston.

BERMAN: So you have such a unique view of this being on the front lines. And you also have some insight into professional sports. You know, there's a discussion going on right now across the country about when to reopen, how to reopen.

How would you feel about football reopening in August -- having training camps in August? Or how would you feel if you were a baseball player playing as soon as May, which they're talking about?

ROLLE: Yes. Certainly, I realize how -- you know, how important football and other sports are to -- not only to fans and our local economy but to the players themself. You know, I -- when I was younger, I had a short window -- a transient

time where I could really show my athletic ability and do the best I can, and for a lot of these players they feel the same way.

But I think that to think that sports may happen in a month or two months is rather ambitious at this point. I think we need to see trends continuously fall. I think we need to allow staffs and our epidemiologists to really look at where the morbidity and mortality is going with this infectious virus.

And then also look at hospitals. Like our hospital, for instance, has a barometer for what's happening. Are we having less hospitalizations, are we using less oxygen and

ventilator support. Are we turning back those neurosurgical floors and other floors that have transformed into COVID-19 floors -- turning them back into their originally-purposed floors?

Are we not having surge clinics anymore? Are we seeing these things kind of go down in some of these major hotspots? And when we do, I think at that point we may consider returning to a sense of normalcy. But right now, I think we all need to be --


ROLLE: -- comfortable at just being a little bit uncomfortable. Be patient --


ROLLE: -- and allow this curve to continue to flatten and allow the brilliant intellectual people on the front lines the opportunity to figure this all out.

BERMAN: Like you -- the brilliant people on the front lines, like you.

And I just want to end on you for a second if I can because people who don't know your story, it's extraordinary. You were a phenomenal college football player and also a Rhodes Scholar. And in many ways, you chose to be where you are right now. You were doing both for some time but ultimately, you became a full-time neurosurgeon, which is what you are.

And in this battle now, do you feel now that you are exactly where you belong?

ROLLE: That's a great question. I do, actually.

You know, we came from the Bahamas and I grew up in New Jersey. My parents placed some really important academic role models in front of my face, like Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela, Paul Robeson, and Ben Carson. I read his book "Gifted Hands" when I was younger and he sparked the idea of neurosurgery in my head.

And I kept this academic and athletic parallel road going until football was done. I got all the athletic ability out of my body, jumped over into academics and into medicine, and now I think I'm perfectly positioned to help in this fight.

I love the central nervous system. I love the brain and spine. I love helping vulnerable people.

And I ultimately wanted to have another impact in my life when my second chapter started. Once football was done and the crowds were done and the cheering was gone -- no more touchdowns or tackles to be made -- I wanted to still be able to have influence --


ROLLE: -- in the community. And through (audio gap).

BERMAN: Well, anyone who says I love the central nervous system is, in fact, exactly where he belongs to be as a neurosurgeon at Mass General.

Myron Rolle -- Dr. Rolle, thank you very much for being with us and thank you so much for the work you're doing.

ROLLE: Thank you for having me -- appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: We are not worthy.

BERMAN: I know. It's an incredible story. I mean, first, that he was so good as a football player but he's even better as a human being --

CAMEROTA: Oh, brother.

BERMAN: -- as he's proving every day now.

CAMEROTA: You know, my daughters love watching "GREY'S ANATOMY." If his character was on "GREY'S ANATOMY" people would say too over the top.

BERMAN: Yes, you wouldn't believe it.

CAMEROTA: He's too perfect.

All right, that was an excellent interview and story. Thank you very much.

So now this. A young man has created an online service that delivers groceries to the elderly and immunocompromised in Bakersfield, California. It's called Relief Shoppers and volunteers do the shopping and then they deliver for free.


ULYSIS BAAL, CREATOR, RELIEF SHOPPERS: We tried to make the process as simple as possible. Everything's outlined on the Website. To be able to make a difference like this and potentially save lives, in this case, is just something I've always wanted to do.


CAMEROTA: Of course (ph), says they take extra precautions like wiping down the packaging with hand sanitizer.

To find ways to help your community during this pandemic go to

There are signs of hope as the pandemic grows, and NEW DAY continues right now.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In areas where the epidemic has impacted most we continue to see evidence of stabilization.