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Deadly Tornadoes Tear Through Southeastern U.S.; President Trump Debates When to Reopen Economy; U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson Thanks Health Service for Saving His Life. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 13, 2020 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[05:00:00]

ROBYN CURNOW, ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Hi, welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Robyn Curnow here in Atlanta. So, just ahead, the U.S. leads the world in coronavirus cases. People begin another week of social distancing and isolation. And then severe weather has battered the southeastern states and more is expected.

Also, coping with isolation. Musicians and celebrities unite online to lift spirits. It is 5:00 a.m. here on the East Coast, and we are following two major stories. It is the beginning of another grim week as coronavirus cases continue to rise. Globally, we now know there are nearly 2 million people that have been diagnosed with coronavirus as you can see from that map.

And more than a half a million cases are in the U.S. That means the U.S. infection rate has now surpassed every other country in the world. And as millions of Americans cope with being sick or stay-at- home orders and social distancing, severe weather including a barrage of tornadoes have slammed across 20 states. It's being a double whammy leaving many people struggling, already struggling with the impact of the pandemic without shelter or a home or at the very least a sleepless night.

So, the sun will rise pretty soon, and the new day will give us a better sense of the damage after those powerful storms rarely battered the southeast in U.S. from Easter Sunday into Monday. It was pretty rough, and it's not over yet. So, from Texas to Georgia here, which is where we are here at CNN, more than half a million people have lost electricity from these storms.

The National Weather Service says more than 30 tornadoes were reported in the past 24 hours. Officials say the severe weather has killed at least eight people that we know of. Authorities are working to find shelter for victims while grappling of course with this public health concern over the coronavirus pandemic. One man at a tornado shelter in Mississippi told CNN that staff told people to practice social distancing while taking refuge from the storm. They're trying their hardest here, aren't they?

Now, in some areas, heavy rain triggered flash flooding, hundreds of homes and buildings we know have been damaged. OK, we'll have more on that in just a moment. But in the meantime, the U.S. is once again reporting a huge spike in coronavirus cases. Nearly 1,500 people died on Easter Sunday. That raises the death toll to at least 22,000 people nationwide. That's the highest total anywhere in the world according to Johns Hopkins University.

Now, despite all these developments, this Easter weekend did have some positive moments. In Virginia, take a look at this. A local church held a drive-through food bank for those in need. As you can see here, volunteers are handing out meals all the while also practicing social distancing. But the U.S. President Donald Trump hopes these types of social restrictions could be lifted as soon as possible.

And he'd like to restart the economy and get people back to work by May 1st. But it's really not clear how he would do that. And also, of course, some of the nation's top health experts believe that, that target date would be very unrealistic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Given what you know, is May 1st a good target when you look at it now?

STEPHEN HAHN, U.S. COMMISSIONER OF FOOD & DRUGS: Well, it is a target and obviously, we're hopeful about that target, but I think it's just too early to be able to tell that. We see light at the end of the tunnel, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx have said that. We see the incredible resiliency of the American people with respect to social distancing, hand washing and all those mitigation factors. So, that gives me great hope. But I think it's just too early for us to say whether May 1st is that date.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It is not going to be a light switch that we say, OK, it is now June, July, whatever click the light switch goes back on. It's going to be depending where you are in the country, the nature of the outbreak that you've already experienced and the threat of an outbreak that you may not have experienced.

So it's going to having to look at the situation in different parts of the country. I think it's going to have to be something that is not one size fits all. I think it could probably start at least in some ways maybe next month.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:05:00]

CURNOW: ell, the decision to reopen the country isn't even entirely up to Mr. Trump. It will rely on the cooperation of governors and mayors who have put in place most of the country's restrictions. And right now, many of those leaders say they are in no hurry to lift them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We want to reopen as soon as possible. The caveat is, we need to be smart in the way we reopen. What does smart mean? It means a coordinated approach, a regional approach, and a safe approach. Nobody wants to pick between a public health strategy and an economic strategy.

And as governor of this state, I'm not going to pick one over the other. We're going to need testing, more testing, faster testing than we now have when you start to move people back to work, and we're going to need federal help. There is no doubt about that.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): There's a sequence here that we have to abide by, and that is, we need a healthcare recovery, a health recovery first, and then the economic recovery. It has to come in that sequencing. And I fear if we open up too early, and we have not sufficiently made that health recovery and cracked the back of this virus, that we could be pouring gasoline on the fire, even inadvertently.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: Well, let's get more from our medical analyst, Dr. Sanju Matthew. Good to see you, doctor. In many ways, governors and mayors have led the way, not the president, in making many of these tough calls about shutting down local businesses and schools. And you heard both the politicians and the healthcare experts saying that, that it's important that these -- any reopenings are not politically-motivated and they're not rushed.

SANJU MATTHEW, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: That's correct, Robyn. I think you know, what's crucial is what Dr. Fauci just mentioned. You know, as I've said before, every state in the U.S., every county, every city will have a hotspot. You know, we never shut down at once. It's going to be difficult to open the entire country at once as well. It needs to be done in a very graduated and calculated effort.

CURNOW: I also want to hear from Dr. Fauci again, because the U.S., as you know, is leading the number of global infections. Half a million people, but it didn't have to be this way. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: You could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated. But you're right. I mean, obviously, if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of push back about shutting things down back then.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CURNOW: What do you make of that from a doctor's perspective?

MATTHEW: I do agree, Robyn. You know, I think it's difficult to now cry over spilled milk, but we were definitely late into the game. There were warnings, you know, way back in January and February, but hey, we are where we are as Dr. Fauci mentioned, and we need to kind of move forward and see how we can slowly open the country back up again.

But again, as a public health specialist, and as a primary care physician, Robyn, we're always taught in public health that an infection somewhere is an infection everywhere. So, we just can't look at numbers per se, flatten the curve and going down that curve is going to be key. And there are a lot of parameters to look at. ICU admissions, hospitalizations.

So, you know, it's going to be really important that we become careful and not too excited. There are glimmers of hope, but that's exactly what it is. They're just glimmers of hope at this point.

CURNOW: We've also heard a lot, doctor, about shortages of critical equipment, but what about also shortages that we're starting to hear of, of things like asthma drugs or sedatives. The kind of pharmacy supply chain medications that have either been halted or slowed? And what does that also tell us particularly here in the U.S. about American reliance on medicines from China and India and Europe?

MATTHEW: Two points to make of that very important question, Robyn. A lot of times, you know, in the United States, the supply chain depends basically on historical data. How much drugs or how many drugs or physicians and pharmaceutical companies using or producing. At this point with such a critical shortage in PPEs and ventilators, you're right, we're not talking about shortages in anesthetics and sedatives and antibiotics that are absolutely necessary.

You know, I think the percentage is over 50 percent or 60 percent of these drugs are produced outside of the United States in China and in India. And of course, countries like India are also safeguarding their personal interests. They want to make sure that they have enough pharmaceuticals for their country first, before they supply it to the U.S.

[05:10:00]

CURNOW: And let's -- in many ways, let's put aside the political and a lot of the infrastructural problems here. And I also want to talk about all of these people, half a million people potentially, more having had coronavirus just in the U.S., 2 million across the world. A lot of people are going to be living with the after-effects. Maybe they wouldn't have been intubated and been on a ventilator, they weren't that sick. But what are some of the after-effects? I mean, I know a lot of -- a lot has been written about a loss of taste and smell.

MATTHEW: You know, this is a novel virus, Robyn. There's still so much that we don't know. But you're correct, I mean, for the patients that are severely sick, I was just talking yesterday on CNN that it could take 3 to 6 weeks for somebody who probably was intubated and who was severely sick with COVID-19. In terms of recovery, you know, there's still a lot that we don't know.

For the patients who were intubated, there could be a lot of long- lasting effects for patients who recovered very quickly, but recovering quickly much faster. It's all going to depend on the viral load and how severe the infection was to begin with.

CURNOW: As a doctor though with a lot of people will be coming to you, not just in the coming days and weeks. What advice or what kinds of doctor's advice would you be giving to them particularly if they've recovered on some level from this virus?

MATTHEW: I tell all my patients, Robyn, that if there's not any other time, this is the time to get in the best shape of our lives. I mean, I know it's difficult as we worry so much and we're socially distancing ourselves and not really seeing a lot of family members. But you know, if you smoke, this is the time to stop smoking. If you're overweight, this is the time to at least start having a plan when the pandemic is over to be in the best shape of our lives.

If you're an uncontrolled diabetic, make sure you take your medications. There are a lot of lessons, Robyn, that we can learn right now. We don't have to wait until the pandemic is over.

CURNOW: And also that big crucial one, sleep. We've got the time, perhaps rest. And this is one way of the world allowing our bodies to do that, even if you're not sick. Thanks so much, doctor, lovely to see you again. Cheers.

MATTHEW: Thank you, Robyn.

CURNOW: So more now on that severe weather that has ripped through southeastern U.S. It was quite a night I must tell you. Pedram Javaheri joins me now here in Atlanta. We had tornado warnings here at CNN center. I think a lot of families were sheltering their kids in the basements, and we know there's been a lot of damage across all these states and the southeast. What more can you tell us?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, METEOROLOGIST: Correct. We're seeing the final run here, obviously the weather into the morning hours. Great, always seeing you, Robyn, and you know, it is across eastern Georgia, that is exactly where we're watching the storm here when it comes to what is left of it at this hour. But notice the conditions, we saw hundreds of homes either damaged or destroyed across portions of Louisiana, certainly into the state of Mississippi as well.

The broader perspective shows you what is left of this with about a million customers without power across the southern-tier of the U.S. This does includes some of the areas across the north and east as well. But the state of Georgia there, 175,000 customers currently without power across the region. Here's the storm responsible for that. And almost the entire strongest energy of all of this has shifted off towards the south and east.

We do have a tornado warning even at this hour indicating either a tornado is on the ground or imminent across this region of Waynesboro, Georgia, which is south of the city of Augusta, Georgia. The storm is about to cross over the Savannah River, but this is really incredible considering the parent storm responsible for generating all of this activity began some 20 hours ago across portions of southern Texas and still pushes now and maintains its intensity. So incredible to see tornado activity even into this early morning hour across this region. But notice the city of Atlanta on into Macon, the tornado watches have been expired, we do have widespread tornado watches into southeastern Georgia, much of the portions of Carolinas that includes Greenville and also into Charlotte, North Carolina. And so, other areas of high populations still could be at risk here as we transition into the morning hours, you get some sunlight and you get some heating into the afternoon hours, you see these storms blossom.

But upwards of 40 tornado reports to tell you about, nearly 200 of them related to strong, straight line winds as well. The energy with its shifting off towards the eastern seaboard really impacts quite a bit of people. We think upwards of at least 40 million people are going to be dealing with the severe weather. And notice, the area indicated in orange, that is an enhanced risk, which means on a scale of one to five, that is a three there, and it includes some of the largest cities such as Raleigh on into Richmond, Virginia. So, we're going to watch this carefully here for another round of strong storms on to Monday morning and eventually Monday afternoon there, Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes, but it was a pretty sleepless night for many people in a long huge swaths of the U.S. there. Pedram, good to see you, love to your family --

[05:15:00]

JAVAHERI: Thanks a lot --

CURNOW: Stay safe as well.

JAVAHERI: Thanks to you --

CURNOW: Thanks a lot. So, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Robyn Curnow, great to have you along. Still to come, Boris Johnson gives thanks. The British Prime Minister says he is grateful to everyone who helped to save his life. Plus, controlling the coronavirus narrative. China imposes new restrictions on research into the origins of the virus. So, we'll have a live report on it, a lot of questions on that one. That's also next.

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CURNOW: Welcome back, I'm Robyn Curnow. It's 20 minutes past 5:00 a.m. here on the East Coast in the U.S., welcome. I want to take you now to the U.K. where the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is thanking everyone who helped him to recover from the coronavirus. Mr. Johnson was released from hospital on Sunday, he's now resting here at his country estate in Buckinghamshire. It's not clear when he'll be back at work.

So, this comes as the U.S. also reaches a somber milestone with more than 10,000 deaths recorded so far. Some experts are warning that the U.K. will be the worst hit European country by this Summer. Well, Max Foster has been following all of this. Max is in London. Max, good to see you. So Boris Johnson is at Chequers, his country retreat. What more are we hearing from him. He seems to be extremely grateful, doesn't he? He seemed to be really touch-and-go.

[05:20:00]

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's it. It could have gone either way in his words for him in that crucial 48 hours in the hospital. And that came as a real shock to many people that he came back close to a critical state. All along, we've been told that he is in good spirit, and we were told at various points that Michael Gove, for example, a minister very close to Boris Johnson wasn't fully apprised of what was going on.

He wasn't -- didn't have a latest information. So there is a slight sense of, was the government telling the whole truth to the public? At the same time in acceptance, I think they weren't trying to worry the public too much. And also the sense that of relief, really, that the Prime Minister is looking so well in that video. He is at Chequers, as you say. He will be briefed, I'm sure, daily, but he's not directly involved in the government. That's currently still in the hands of the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. He's still deputizing for the Prime Minister and the big question coming out for him really comes on Thursday when they are considering the review of the lockdown, Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes, but it certainly going to be a long recovery as we were hearing from the doctor earlier. You don't just bounce out of the ICU and recover from this very quickly. So, hopefully, he does take the time to rest. But as we know, Prime Minister is one of many people in the U.K. who has this. And again, very somber numbers coming on the death rate where you are as well.

FOSTER: Yes, so, 10,000, crossing the 10,000 mark which is horrifying for any nation --

CURNOW: It is --

FOSTER: And actually puts the U.K. in one of five countries that have actually reached that point. And it's obviously expected to go higher, but scientists are saying, we're not yet at the peak. Lots of talk about the lockdown being relaxed in the same way as it is in Spain currently, but I think that's very unlikely from everything that we're hearing from our sources in Westminster simply because the scientists are pointing out you can't really relax the lockdown until you can identify the peak, and that hasn't actually been identified yet.

So some pressure because of the economy to loosen the lockdown and the pressure on people. Also, the mental health pressures on people as well, but I don't think there's any chance of it any time soon.

CURNOW: Max Foster there in London. Thanks, Max, for that, I appreciate it. So, officials are lifting some of the restrictions in Spain as Max was just saying there. Now, the changes mainly target those who can't work from home, construction sites, factories will open up after Easter while shopping centers, bars and other entertainment venues will remain closed. Now, the Spanish Prime Minister says the loosening of some restrictions doesn't mean the country is entering phase 2, even though the rate of deaths in U.K. are slowing. In Spain, he urged people not to be complacent, making it clear the state of alarm continues. Meanwhile, France is reporting 561 new coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday. That's the lowest daily increase there since early April. And the French Health Ministry says they are seeing past the start of a plateau, although the numbers remain very high. The French President Emmanuel Macron is due to address the nation in the coming hours.

There he is there. He put France under a confinement order one month ago. And China is reporting 108 new cases of COVID-19, it says most of the cases were imported from abroad. Meanwhile, Beijing is tightening its grip over coronavirus research. A new government policy mandates all research related to the virus must be approved by the government before being published.

Well, Ivan Watson is following the story, he joins me from Hong Kong. Tell us more about this, Ivan, hi, good to see you.

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Robyn. Yes, we learned about these new government regulations restricting the publication of research about coronavirus after one of China's premiere universities, Fudan University in Shanghai posted the new regulations on its website last week with the sentence, quote, "academic papers about tracing the origin of the virus must be strictly and tightly managed."

And there were instructions about how academics could apply to a government council to get permission to then publish their research. Now, there was also on this web page the name and e-mail address and phone number of an official at the Chinese Ministry of Education. We called that number, somebody answered the phone and confirmed that there were, in fact, new regulations, but that this wasn't supposed to be for public knowledge.

And then shortly after our phone call, that web page was removed from the university's site. But CNN has since learned that at least two other universities had posted similar guidelines suggesting, again, that the government is trying to restrict the dissemination of research from China about the origins of this deadly disease. Robyn?

[05:25:00]

CURNOW: Yes, well, that's some pretty good reporting by you folks over there at CNN in Hong Kong. So, well done for that. But you know, it also begs these wider questions of what does this mean? And what kind of cover-up potentially is happening here?

WATSON: Well, first of all, we've reached out to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Science and Technology and Education seeking some clarification about the reasons behind these new regulations. We haven't heard a response back yet. Now, we've talked to more than a half dozen different medical researchers, bioethicists around the world, and all of them, the first word that comes to mind in reaction to our reporting is censorship.

And as one bioethicist said in New York University put it, he said that the origins of the coronavirus have become a titanic political football, and that may be a reason behind this. Of course, the first cases of coronavirus that were identified where in the Chinese city of Wuhan back in December of last year. Some of the initial Chinese doctors and researchers who tried to sound the alarm were shut down by local, provincial and subsequently national authorities.

First and foremost of them was Dr. Li Wenliang who after he was summoned by police, he actually came down with coronavirus and later died in hospital in February of the disease. So, there is a pattern of the Chinese government trying to manage and control information about this disease and certainly about its origins from being shared with the outside world. And the fact that China has the first diagnosed cases means that it probably has more data that would be so valuable around the world as countries struggle with this disease, it has more data potentially to share. But as we're seeing, more obstacles to sharing that with the wider world. Robyn?

CURNOW: OK, thanks for that. So many questions still. Ivan Watson there, appreciate it. Thanks, Ivan. So, OPEC and its allies agree to slash oil production like never before. What that might mean for your pocketbook. That's next. You're watching CNN.

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