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Surgeon General Says, U.S Hot Spots Appear To Be Leveling Off; Study Warns Against High Doses Of Drug Trump Called Game-Changer; Trump Retweets Call To Fire Dr. Fauci After He Concedes On CNN That Quicker Response Could Have Saved Lives. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 13, 2020 - 13:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper. This is CNN's special live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

The nation's sacrifices are working, so says the surgeon general, who tweeted today, that due to social distancing and mitigation, hot spots like New York and New Jersey seem to be leveling off or going down. Dr. Jerome Adams adds, there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. And the CDC director gave some signs of just how long the tunnel is.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We are nearing the peak right now. I think we'll, sometime, hopefully this week, we will be able to say that, you know, you know when you are at the peak or when the next day is less than the day before. But, clearly, the rate we are stabilizing across the country right now in terms of the state of this outbreak.


COOPER: There are still more than 22,000 people have died from COVID- 19, while the number of people infected in the U.S. approaches 600,000. No doubt those numbers hanging over health and government officials who are trying to determine when to restart the U.S. economy.

A short time ago, New York's governor weighed in, saying, easing restrictions will be regionally coordinated.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The optimum is to have as coordinated a regional plan as you can. I understand intergovernmental coordination can be somewhat of an oxymoron but to the extent we can work with Connecticut and New Jersey and Rhode Island and Delaware and Pennsylvania, I want to. It is smarter for everyone.


COOPER: Two nations are now reporting some negative developments on using chloroquine to treat the coronavirus. Hospitals in Sweden have been directed to not use it on infected patients. And in Brazil, a small study ended early due to patients who were on high doses of the drug died.

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has the details. So what does the CDC report say and what happened in Brazil?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What happened in Brazil is really interesting and it's a great cautionary tale

So let's take a look at the 81 patients who they did they interviewed -- well, I mean, I'm sorry, who they did their story with. And what they found, Anderson, is that out of those 81 patients that they gave them a high dose or a low dose of this drug, it's called chloroquine, it's very similar to what we're using here in the United States, and they found that the ones on the high dose had a higher incidence of heart problems, potentially deadly heart problems. And the higher dose didn't work any better against COVID. So they said, look, we need to stop giving people this high dose. That was the conclusion.

COOPER: And just in terms of the study, this is not a double blind study as from what I understand. I mean, it's a pretty limited study.

COHEN: It is a pretty limited study. But you mentioned what was going on in Sweden, they found something similar in both countries. Doctors are telling their colleagues do not -- and, in fact, in Sweden, the government is telling people, don't use chloroquine unless it is part of a clinical trial.

When it is part of a clinical trial, they're paying attention, they're tracking these side effects better but they're both concerned enough of what they've seen that they don't want doctors to use chloroquine unless it's part of a clinical trial. And even then, they're being careful.

COOPER: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

Also just in, there's new data to talk about. But before that, we want to go to a number of our correspondents. Actually, Dr. Peter Hotez is joins me right now. He's a vaccine researcher and a professor and dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

First of all, Doctor, I just want to get your reaction to this warning about the chloroquine drug out of Brazil.

PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes, right. So this was a study that was done by my medicine colleagues in Manaus, in the Amazon. It's a very good scientific group. and what they did was looked at the high dose, which was what the Chinese had shown may have had some promise.

But there was a lot of heart toxicity. In fact, the heart toxicity was so severe, as measured by an EKG that they had to prematurely stop the study. And two of the patients what's called ventricular tachycardia, which is a potentially fatal arrhythmia. So that really nixes the high dose. I think one of the other things we have to realize, and it's only starting to come out, is that there is a lot of heart disease associated with this virus. We don't understand it but we are hearing more and more about acute heart injury in people with COVID-19.

We don't know if because they are having heart attacks or whether the virus is actually invading into the heart and causing what's called a myocarditis, actually a virus infection of the heart. And it may be that those two things together are synergistic and that's why we're going to have to definitely probably stay away from the high dose of chloroquine.

COOPER: Dr. Hotez, also, I just want to bring in our Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, I understand you have new data on just what impact orders the stay-at-home had on the nation's hardest hit cities, including New York and New Orleans.


COHEN: Right, this is really interesting. This is literally just published seconds ago by the Centers for Disease Control. They looked at four different cities and they found that when stay-at-home orders were issued, that people really did, to a great extent, pay attention. They found that mobility in those cities went down by about 20 percent to 40 percent.

And that -- and it is interesting, Anderson, because they counted mobility as people staying at home. So in other words, 20 percent or 40 percent of the people literally stayed at home and didn't go anywhere. They could tell by tracking their cell phone devices.

That is telling us these orders for social distancing really are working and hopefully it will flatten the curve and it will help slow the spread of this virus.

COOPER: Elizabeth, thanks. I want to go back to Dr. Hotez. Dr. Hotez, what do you make of that? I mean, it sort of confirms obviously what others have been saying.

HOTEZ: Well, it means people get it. And if it's backed up by the leadership of the state, as well as the federal government, people will do social distancing. There is also some app data from the Kansas (ph) system showing that rates of infection are going down as a consequence of social distancing.

I mean, right now, what we're looking at across the country are different areas in terms of the peak. So New York may have just reached its peak and gone a little past it. But down here in Texas, we're not going to peak for another two weeks. So the number of admissions of ICU are now increasing. And so I'm a little worried that we're going to jump the gun and reduce the requirement for social distancing too soon.

And what does it mean? We are down here in Texas and we see New York is lifting things and people are going to want to jump the gun to reduce social distancing now in Texas when we haven't even peaked in two weeks and the ICU cases and the morbidity and mortality is going up.

So this is going to be a tricky dance. And I can't emphasize enough, let's not rush this.

COOPER: So Sweden, Brazil now telling scientists or medical personnel not to be using high doses of chloroquine. Detroit is said to lead in the U.S., but first, large scale, I understand, study of hydroxychloroquine in preventing, not treating COVID-19 but in trying to prevent it. It is going to be used in a trial, I understand, of 3,000 frontline workers. What's the thinking there? What's the hope?

HOTEZ: Well, I think there's a lot of concern among frontline healthcare workers, because we saw this in China, we saw this in Europe and now we're seeing here in the U.S. so many frontline healthcare workers getting sick and even inappropriately worried about even coming into work. So if there is anything we can do to reduce the likelihood of them getting infected, I think that's what this is all about.

With regard to chloroquine, there was a study done around influenza because chloroquine was shown to block the replication of the flu virus in the testing, like it does with the COVID-19 virus, SARS 2 coronavirus. And then they did a study exactly for that indication that did not pan out. Maybe it will be different for COVID-19.

So it's hard to know what the effect is going to be on chloroquine for this use. But we do need new treatments for healthcare workers to prevent them from getting sick. I'm actually very interested in looking at the convalescent antibody, not only for the treatment, as what's being talked about, and just talked about it before on your show, but also using a prophylactic in smaller doses. That, what I think, may have more promise than possibly the chloroquine.

COOPER: The CDC director says the U.S. is nearing the peak, you talked about Texas as still being two weeks away. The moment officials give the green light to sort of start the process of opening and it may be different according to how state governors and state health authorities want to do it because it really is a state by state case, just as shutting it down has been done by state, will that automatically reverse? It seems like no matter what, there is going to be a rise in cases.

HOTEZ: Yes. Well, the idea is if you get to the point where the infections are going done. At some point, you will have to ease up on some of the restrictions. The thing that I'm worried about is I understand the rationale that all of the countries not the same and you may want to lift restrictions in one part of the country versus the other.

But just for a practical point of view down here in Texas, if you see that the social restrictions are being lifted in New York, the business community here, so the great business community here in Texas is going to look at this and that's going to put extra pressure on them in order to stay competitive.

[13:10:01] So I think this is going to be a very complicated dance that really has to be looked at not only, of course, from a medical perspective but also the policy perspective as well. And this really -- and I think just saying, we're going to leave it up to the individual governors, I am not sure if that's the answer.

I think we're going to really need some federal coordination around this. And also because with that relaxation of social distancing comes the requirement where we have to do massive scale up in the amount of testing, for antibody testing, contact tracing, for individual testing, all that also has to be coordinated.

So my suggestion is let's not rush this, let's keep this going for another two weeks and see how this plays out in New York. And then this will give all the states more time as well to have everything they need for gearing up for diagnostic testing capability, because I think in most country, we're still not there yet.

COOPER: Well, I mean, if states get serious about gearing up for testing, diagnostic testing, contact tracing, how long does that take? I mean, I've heard estimates of the number of people it would require to do contact tracing is it could be in the thousands or tens of thousands.

HOTEZ: You mean the number of people hired in order to --


HOTEZ: -- actually conduct the test? Yes, I've heard that as well, Anderson. Well, maybe as many as a hundred thousand more employees, and where is that workforce going to come from. And that's why I say that it's not something to rush through because this is going to require a lot of careful coordination and planning.

I guess we are supposed to hear from the president either tonight or tomorrow about what the federal plans are, but we're going to need a lot more granularity, I think, in order to make this work.

COOPER: Dr. Peter Hotez, thanks very much.

Is Dr. Fauci's job in jeopardy? That question has been raised. The president's re-tweet raising questions after Fauci said more lives could have been saved if the government acted sooner.

Plus, some fallout after damning emails showed the president was warned very early about the threat.

And one of America's biggest pork producer shuts down and issues a dire warning about of what might happen to the nation's food supply.



COOPER: Disturbing scene in Detroit, which has become a hot spot for the virus, pictures showing the bodies of people on the floor of a mobile hospital freezer unit. CNN's National Correspondent Ryan Young is on the ground in Detroit.

So, Ryan, what else is -- what's going on there? What's the situation?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this is difficult. Anderson, look, we have been here for more than two weeks at this point. We've been talking to healthcare workers since we arrived here. And, of course, they gave us different stories about what's going on at each individual hospital.

But I will say Sinai Grace is the hospital where we've got several workers who were talking to us about the conditions on the inside. You may remember we covered when there was a walk out there last Sunday. But we want to show you photos there. We warn you that some of them are difficult to look at.

These are photos that we've obtained from emergency room workers. In fact, two other emergency room workers confirmed the photos are accurate and it is a portrayal of a scene from a hospital during early April. What we're told is the influx of patients. And then when patients started to die, the influx really put a strain on the entire emergency room operations.

And in this, you can see how they were trying to restore some of the bodies in the freezer room. You can see some of the bodies stacked on top of each other. A very grim site that you can see in that area right there.

And there was another room where they had hospital beds where they were laying out some of the people who were dead, and a sleep-stay (ph) room, because they had run out of space as well. All these, we are told, was during a 12-hour shift within the hospital where things were just sort of out of hand.

Now, of course, we've reported before that inside this hospital, there was one point where people may have died in the hallways of that hospital over this few-day period where they were having so many COVID patients come in. The E.R. workers, we're told, it was nonstop over the last few days. They were very upset about the conditions and the staffing. There were not enough nurses to patient ratio. That's something the hospital actually as addressed with us.

They have said, in response to CNN, the hospital has decided to also order more refrigerator units to put outside to make sure they could store some of these bodies. They have also said they have stepped forward with surging more staff into the emergency room to make sure some of these staffing levels didn't have the same issues. But when look at these pictures and you understand the position that some of these people were put into, it calls to question a lot of the things that are maybe going on, especially with the influx of COVID case in the city. Anderson?

COOPER: Yes. Folks are overwhelmed at that time. Ryan Young, thank you very much.

A sign of growing tension between President Trump and one of his top medical advisers, Dr. Fauci. The president re-tweeting a call for Dr. Fauci's firing. It's likely no coincidence. The re-tweet came after Dr. Fauci appeared on CNN and said this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: But what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated.

Obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.


COOPER: A new reporting, a source close to the White House tells CNN that President Trump has, quote, been fretting about Fauci for a while, according to the source. That's a quote. And had asked, quote, why isn't Fauci saying nice things about me? Reportedly, trying to make Dr. Fauci uncomfortable, it's important to remember Dr. Fauci has advised six presidents and he has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease since 1984.

Joining me now CNN's Senior National Security Analyst, Lisa Monaco. Lisa, it's understandable that the president, given that he likes to be praised, would be upset by what Dr. Fauci said.


What Dr. Fauci said is actually just a factual statement. Obviously, if things were done -- if things were locked down sooner, there would be a different -- fewer people infected and fewer people dying. You actually briefed the Trump administration about pandemics. Do you think Fauci is in danger actually losing his job?

LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, good afternoon, Anderson. I certainly hope not. That would be a horrendous mistake. As you said, Tony Fauci and has advised six presidents, I have been in the Oval Office when I served as Homeland Security adviser during the Obama administration, I've been in the Oval Office with Tony Fauci as he gives unvarnished, science-based, facts-based advice to the president, and that's what you need.

Tony Fauci's job is not to put spin on the ball, it's not to tell the president what he wants to hear, it's to give clear, credible, science-based, fact-based advice. And that's what you've seen him doing time and again on your program and other programs and in these briefings. And that's what we need. That's what we need in a public health crisis that we are in. He's a national treasure, in my view. So were he to not to be in that role, it would be a great disservice to, frankly, the president and to the country.

COOPER: "The New York Times" is reporting on a series of emails outlining how President Trump spent weeks ignoring warnings about coronavirus. According to The Times, Health Secretary Alex Azar, briefed the president on coronavirus multiple times. President Trump dismissed him as an alarmist, according to The Times. And we also know that Vice President Pence is now running the task

force, not Alex Azar. I mean, he's not somebody you see -- I mean, he is the head of HHS. He is not somebody you see daily at the coronavirus briefings.

MONACO: Yes, you know, Anderson, I read those reports and I saw the discussion in some of the reports over the weekend about a number of matter experts, subject matter experts, political appointees, as well as experts in these so-called Red Dawn emails that were reported on over the weekend, I was really struck by the fact that what came through clearly in those reports is a number of experts who were frankly screaming into the wind, who were straining to be understood to be heard to give their best advice based on years of experience, based on, frankly, years of the types of exercises and the one I ran in the transition for the incoming Trump team.

So this is a picture of people struggling to be heard and to tell policymakers, including the White House, that they can't ignore it, they can't minimize it and they can't contain it. And, unfortunately, based on the reporting we've seen, that reporting and those messages did not get through and there was a lot of squandered time and, frankly, chaos as a result.

And the last thing you need in responding to a public health crisis and a national security crisis is that chaos. You need to minimize that and make decisions that are fact-based, that are science-based, that can ripple out across the government and move forward on response quickly.

COOPER: Yes. Just briefly, what was the exercise that you ran through with folks from the White House?

MONACO: So this was during the transition. It was literally a week before the inauguration. I led an exercise that had the outgoing national security team from the Obama administration sitting downside by side with the incoming national security team for the Trump administration. We sat in a very large room in the White House campus and watched through a series of scenarios, one of which was very specifically a pandemic scenario.

And it raised exactly the types of questions that we have been confronting now for many weeks, shortage of supplies, vulnerable populations, when to close schools, how to deal with issues around quarantine. All of these are the types of things we said to the incoming team. You need to be thinking about this. You need to be planning for it. These are the types of issues and the threat that you're going to face because, frankly, emerging infectious disease, contagious disease should be treated like the national security threat that it is.

COOPER: And just finally, the president is now saying it's up to him essentially to whether or not the country reopens, which is completely at odds with his whole rationale not trying to order state governor to institute stay-at-home orders. They were just issuing guidelines to states. He wouldn't tell Florida's governor, yes, have a statewide stay-at-home order. Now, all of a sudden, he's saying it's up to him. That's just not the way our system works, is it?

MONACO: No, that's right, Anderson. L look, I don't know what he's referring to. I know of no law allows the president to overrule states and overrule governors. It was the governors and mayors who will move forward and put in place a number of these restrictions. And I think it will be the governors and mayors hopefully led by public health experts and real data that lift these restrictions, but it's got to be done in conjunction with a widespread testing scheme that, thus far, we haven't seen out there.


But, no, you are right, Anderson, the president does not have the authority to overrule the governors and mayors on this but it doesn't mean they can't use the bully pulpit. The president ought to be using the bully pulpit but it needs to be informed by public health expertise. And what you've heard consistently is that we've got ways to go here, that the social distancing restrictions have been working, we need to stay that course, lest we see a resurgence of the cases along the way.

COOPER: Yes. Lisa Monaco, I appreciate it, thanks.

The Navy confirmed today that a sailor on board the USS Roosevelt has died from the coronavirus, the same ship that saw its commander get fired when he raised the alarm.

Plus, a key player in American meat production forced to shut down one of its plants because workers getting sick. Now, Smithfield Foods is warning the country about the food supply.