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Houston Mayor is Interviewed about Containment of the Virus; President of MTA Talks about Transportation in New York; Boris Johnson out of Hospital; Spain Lifts Some Restrictions; China Restricts Research. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired April 13, 2020 - 09:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We have some sad news to report. This just into us here at CNN. A sailor who was serving on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt, of course you remember that ship with many, many sick sailors off the coast of Guam, one of those sailors has died of coronavirus. The sailor tested positive for Covid-19 on March 30th and was removed from the ship. He was sent to the ICU last week on Thursday. So far nearly 600 sailors on the Roosevelt have tested positive.

The commander, of course, Captain Brent Crozier, the previous commander, was ousted earlier this month by now former acting secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly. Captain Crozier wrote to Navy leadership flagging his concerns about trying to get those sailors off the ship, take care of them and contain the disease on board. Of course he also was diagnosed with it.

As the nation's death toll soars from Covid-19, the country's second largest state is already talking about when to get back to business. Texas Governor Greg Abbott will introduce an executive order a little bit later this week to talk about his plan for reopening some businesses. His message, quote, protecting lives while restoring livelihoods. We can and must do this. We can do both.

This move comes as cities like Houston race for a surge in cases.

Listen to Dr. Fauci.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Right now, you know, obviously, right here where I'm standing, in the Washington, D.C., Baltimore area, Philadelphia, Houston, St. Louis, those are the areas we're looking at to try and make sure that they could stay in what we call the control phase.


HARLOW: Joining me now is Houston's mayor, Sylvester Turner.

Mayor Turner, thank you very much for being with us.


HARLOW: Dr. Fauci highlighted your city, trying to say -- saying we're trying to keep things under control. And the chief physician executive of your largest hospital system there in Houston said just on Thursday, quote, we're now on that steep part of the curve where we expect cases to double every two days. And Dr. McCarthy talked about the dramatic sort of trend this is taking in terms of how many more cases you guys are seeing.

Why that spike in Houston?

TURNER: Well, we haven't reached a peak yet, Poppy. We know that there will be more cases. We know there's more community spread.

As of this morning, we have about 2,124 cases. Sixteen people have died in the city of Houston. We know that there's more community spread out there. And we are expecting, you know, more deaths. But hopefully we can keep that under control. That's one of the reasons why we are continuing to push people to stay at home, engage in social distancing --


TURNER: All of those things are important. But we know there's more community spread than what the numbers indicate.

HARLOW: Well, I do want to highlight, if we could pull back on the screen, the deaths, though. I mean 16 deaths. Obviously any -- a single death is tragic.

TURNER: Right.

HARLOW: But we -- we looked at the numbers here and 16 deaths out of a little over 2,100 cases is about 0.75 percent fatality rate. It's much lower than here in New York or in Chicago.

Do you -- do you know why that is?

TURNER: Well, you know, we have a fantastic medical center right here in the city of Houston, and so we're very pleased with that. And they're doing a fantastic job.

And I will tell you, of that 16, that you don't want to lose anyone, like you said. Nine of the 16 have been African-American and in that number, when you include Hispanics, certain people of color are representing the greatest percentage of that 16.

But I want to give a lot of credit to our health care providers, to the hospitals, they've done an incredible job. Our hope is that we can keep those numbers down. But all 16 of the individuals who have died have suffered from underlying medical conditions. And so we recognize that's a major problem, especially for our vulnerable communities. HARLOW: Well, and I'm so glad you bring them up because one of the

crises on top of a crisis, I think, that you've highlighted is that, frankly, some of these, you know, infections and perhaps deaths are happening in the African-American community because of just a lack of transportation for some to get a test.

TURNER: Right.

HARLOW: So I wonder what's being done? Can you bring the tests to them more?

TURNER: And that's the goal. We're -- in conjunction with our -- I want to give special acknowledgement to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. They're opening up another site today at noon that's in one of these underserved, under resourced communities, and that will be helpful.

We have two public standing sites in the city of Houston supported by FEMA. They were testing 250 a day per site. Just this past Saturday, FEMA gave us the supplies to increase that to 500 persons per site. And then we're going to look to expand the eligibility anyone pretty much who wants to be tested can be tested. But we need more sites in these particular at-risk vulnerable communities because for many of these individuals, they don't have the transportation or the means to get to these two public sites.


They're too far away from their respective communities. And what we have noticed is that when the testing was in those communities, we were able to identify more of the community spread.

HARLOW: OK, so, finally, we're going to hear from Governor Abbott this week and he says we can do both, right? We can protect livelihoods, meaning prop up the economy, get some things back open, and protect lives.

Is Houston ready to be back open in a week, in two weeks?

TURNER: No, we're not -- we're not at the peak yet. And, again, hopefully all of the decisions will be based on the medical professional advice that we received, whether or not we have ubiquitous testing. And we are a long way from having the testing that we need across the city of Houston, whether or not there are ample supplies and a lot will depend on the capacity of our hospital systems. But we're working very hard to control the spread, to make sure that it stays within the hospital abilities to handle the cases that com into their system.

HARLOW: Sounds to me like a pretty clear no, governor, we're not ready. Don't open.

TURNER: Well, if you -- if you're asking whether now we're ready to go -- to open up today or next week, the answer is no.

HARLOW: OK. TURNER: We haven't reached the peak yet.


TURNER: But we are anxious to get -- to get started again.

HARLOW: I completely understand it. The economic pain is huge as well.

TURNER: Right. Right.

HARLOW: Mayor, we appreciate your time and your work.

TURNER: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thanks so much.

TURNER: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: So, in New York City, transit workers are, of course, at risk, right, driving the buses and operating the subways. Well, several of the MTAs employees have said they have not had the proper equipment to protect themselves from coronavirus. We'll talk to the head of New York's MTA, next.



HARLOW: Well, starting today, all city employees in New York City and across New York who have had contact with the public must wear -- who have contact must wear face covering on the job. And that impacts thousands, of course, of transit workers who run the buses and the city -- and the subways in the city and trains in the metro area.

New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority has been hit hard by coronavirus. At least 50 of their employees have died from it.

Sarah Feinberg is with me, interim president of the New York City MTA.

Sarah, thank you very much for being with me and I'm very, very sorry for the losses of all of those lives. Do you -- I mean that 50 -- that number was as of Friday. I hate to even think that you could have lost more lives over the weekend, but did you?

SARAH FEINBERG, INTERIM PRESIDENT, METROPOLITAN TRANSPORT AUTHORITY (MTA) IN NEW YORK: So, Poppy, the 50 number is still the latest confirmed number. And, you know, unfortunately, I think that number will go up as the days go by.

HARLOW: We heard from the govern, of course, over the weekend with this executive order that anyone who is deemed an essential worker, as those who operate MTA busses and subways are, have to have protective gear. It has to be paid for by their employer.

I know you've put numbers out there in terms of what you guys have provided in terms of gloves and masks, but can you assure the public and those worker this morning that every single one has the gear, the protective gear, they need right now. And, if not, when will they have it?

FEINBERG: Yes, look, so we have -- we have, at this point, distributed millions of pairs of gloves, hundreds of thousands of masks, face shields for our conductors and other pieces of protective equipment. You know, we face some of the same issues that other large companies or large entities are facing of shortages, but we have, you know, at this point, hundreds of thousands in stock and millions on order.

So I think, you know, we are certainly doing, I believe, more than any other transit agency in the country's been able to do. But, you know, unless every single person who works for me has the protective equipment that they want and they need, we're not going to be satisfied and we're just going to keep distributing as -- as the supplies come in.

HARLOW: OK, so they don't all have it right now?

FEINBERG: No, no, they -- no, they do all have it. They do all have it. What I would like is to be able to change out masks, you know, every shift.


FEINBERG: At this point we can't hand out masks every shift, but everyone has it.

HARLOW: OK, I ask because NBC News did some important reporting on this last Wednesday and this may have changed since then, but they spoke to Robert Martinez, a bus operator in Brooklyn, the borough I live in, and he said he didn't have a mask. They talked to someone else, an MTA maintainer, who gave his last name, Hernandez, and said, quote, this is a byproduct of being unprepared for what was eventually going to come down the pike.

But you're saying everyone now, everyone who cleans the subways, runs them, works in the stations have masks and gloves?

FEINBERG: I believe that they do. And -- and they've all been told if for some reason we've missed you and -- and you showed up to work this morning or yesterday and didn't have a mask, raise your hand, tell your manager, and we will deal with it immediately.

To your point, these folks are on the front lines, Poppy. I mean so people think of first responders as police officers and paramedics. In New York, and you're familiar, you live here, transit workers are first responders. New York would not be able to respond to this crisis the way that we have if it were not for transit workers.

And -- and they have shown up every single day. And like other first responders, like police officers and health care workers, we are paying a heavy price and we need to make sure that everyone has the personal protective equipment they need.

HARLOW: Yes. For sure. And I think that, you know, the question that many of them have and that was raised in the deep dive by "The New York Times" last week is, why was this not coming to them much, much sooner? There will be time for an autopsy of this later on.

But let me just ask you one more question and this -- and let me --

FEINBERG: Well, yes. We're already doing -- but we're already that. We're already doing that autopsy, Poppy, because it's a really important question. And here's what's been incredibly frustrating to me and I think to others.


You know, we planned for something like this. We had a pandemic plan in place. Other agencies I think had something similar. We had masks and we had gloves and we were told by the medical experts, by the CDC, that we shouldn't be distributing them.

HARLOW: Well --

FEINBERG: So we finally went ahead and just at some point said, you know, common sense just means we should be distributing this stuff.


FEINBERG: So we went ahead and started distributing days before the CDC came out and reversed their guidance.

But, you know, we may be experts at running a transportation service, but we're not medical experts.

HARLOW: Well --

FEINBERG: And it's been incredibly frustrating that the guidance continues to change on this.

HARLOW: OK, I understand and I read the letter where you guys did point the finger at the CDC and the WHO. The CDC guidelines changed April 3rd. There was the executive order from -- from the governor of New York subsequently.

Let me just ask you one thing, because this is something I've -- I've seen, right, firsthand. The woman that I see every morning, who I get breakfast from, her name is Lia Motta (ph). And she was telling me that it was taking her three hours to get to work and when -- in the morning, leaving about 4:00 in the morning on the subway platform.

And that when she was getting on to the trains, as much as she covered up, it was impossible to social distance because there's much less service, there are fewer trains operating now, so that it was impossible for her to social distance.


HARLOW: And that was heartbreaking because she said an Uber is $70 for me each way. Is anything -- is there a consideration of increasing the number of trains operating so that people are not packed in at rush commute times?

FEINBERG: Yes, absolutely. So a couple -- a couple things on that.

First, about two weeks ago we had -- we had no option but to reduce service because, as I said, you know, transit workers are first responders. And just like many police are out on quarantine, or are ill, and health care workers are quarantined or ill, we've got more than 5,000 people who work for this agency who are home and quarantined.

We have more than 2,000 who have tested positive. And so we have -- we have huge numbers of crews and people who are out sick and who are out on quarantine. So we have faced massive crew shortages. So we're running all the service that we possibly can right now in order to address crowding issues, which have been pretty sporadic. We've added bus service. We've added train service wherever we can.

The reality is, we are running every single train and bus that we can possibly run right now with the workers that we have. And, you know, with thousands of people out, it means we can't run a regular service. We have urged folks, if you can please stay off a crowded car, please do so, move to a different part on the platform.

You know, as I came in this morning, you know, I -- I had to get onto a car that was a little bit crowded. At the next stop I moved to the next car. It's not perfect, but we are, you know, with the workers we have, we're running all the service we can possibly run.

HARLOW: I understand, and I think we're all wishing you guys a lot of luck.

Sarah Feinberg, President Feinberg, thank you for the work you guys are doing and thanks for taking our questions.

FEINBERG: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Of course.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now out of the hospital after what could have been a life-threatening bout with coronavirus. Now there are questions about how much his government revealed about his condition. We'll talk about it ahead.



HARLOW: This morning, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is thankfully at home recovering following successful treatment for coronavirus.

Our Nick Paton Walsh is in London.

Nick, for -- I guess first an update. How's he doing?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Oh, he's tested negative for the virus since leaving hospital, but is now in the prime ministerial retreat of Chequers. Now, we understand that on doctor's advice he's not yet back involved in running the day to day of the government. But as he's been out, it is troubling, frankly, to see how bad it seems to have got while he was in intensive care.

He himself said in the video statement that, frankly, it could have gone either way one particular night. And also he thanked NHS (ph) staff in his first statement for saving his life.

Questions about how open Downing Street were behind me during that period of time. Remember the man deputizing for him, Dominic Raab, said that he'd had a comfortable night just about the time he was being rushed into intensive care. Pressed today on this, a spokesman said, well, while they'd be using the phrase, he was in good spirits throughout his time in hospital, the spokesman said, well, we'd been trying to basically use information cleared for us by doctors.

But, frankly, a country here pleased that the prime minister is potentially back in charge again with key decisions about the lockdown to be made in the days ahead.

Back to you.

HARLOW: Wishing him a full recovery, as soon as possible.

Nick, outside of 10 Downing Street, thank you.

The world is still in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Of course some European nations are in some ways going back to work. Today, Spain is easing restrictions on some of their non-essential workers despite having more than 17,000 deaths.

Our Scott McLean and Ivan Watson join me.

Scott, let me begin with you. Why does the Spanish government think that now is the right time?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a great question, Poppy, and it's certainly not without controversy considering that Spain is still registering about 3,000 or 4,000 new, confirmed coronavirus cases every single day.

This decision affects about 300,000 workers, mostly in manufacturing and construction, sectors like that. In Madrid lone, we're at one of the busiest Metro stations in the city, where officials say they're seeing a fraction of the ridership, which is obviously good news, so that people can keep their distance, and police are also handing out surgical masks to people coming and going.

We spoke with one woman who said that, look, she wouldn't even go outside to buy bread, let alone go to work. So she's obviously nervous. Other people tell us, look, this is a good move, they need to work, they need to pay the bills, Poppy.


HARLOW: Yes, of course. It's an impossible decision for people to make.

Thank you very much.

Ivan Watson joins me now. He's in Hong Kong.

Ivan, you're hearing China may be restricting some research about the origins of the outbreak, even as they are easing so many of their restrictions?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the Chinese government has issued new restrictions to academic institutions regulating and stopping the publication of research on the origins of the coronavirus. Basically that if any academic wants to publish this research, they have to submit an application first to a state council to try to do that.

Now, why is that important? A number of academics we've talked to, researchers, doctors say that this is a form of censorship. It's holding back information that could be so valuable about this disease, particularly in China, where the first cases of known coronavirus were discovered last December.

And this also fits a pattern of the different levels of the Chinese government trying to shut up Chinese doctors and researchers who first tried to sound the alarm about the disease.


HARLOW: Wow. So much could be learned if all was allowed to be researched on that front.

Ivan, thanks very much, from Hong Kong for us.

The president talking about the important decision he has to make about reopening the economy perhaps next month. Several state governors not sure that's a wise idea at all. We'll talk about that divide ahead.