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Trump Re-Tweets Call To Fire Dr. Fauci After He Concedes On CNN That Quicker Response Could Have Saved Lives; At Least 13 Dead After Tornadoes Rip Through Southeast U.S. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 13, 2020 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: In the United States and all around the world.


This is New Day.

And as of this morning, 22,000 Americans have died from coronavirus. And there continues to be a debate about when to end these stay-at- home orders.

Also breaking overnight to tell you about, President Trump signaling his frustration with Dr. Anthony Fauci. The president re-tweeting a message on social media, they've called for the firing of Dr. Fauci.

On Sunday, Dr. Fauci told CNN that things could have been different if they'd taken aggressive action sooner.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: 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 pushback about shutting things down back then.


CAMEROTA: There's also a sweeping New York Times investigation outlining how President Trump spent weeks ignoring or resisting warnings about coronavirus.

This morning, we will tell you where the virus has already peaked and where experts believe it is headed next.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: The debate this morning when to reopen parts of the country and how, Dr. Fauci suggests it could happen at early as next month on a rolling basis guided by testing and risk assessments made by governors and mayors. The governors in New York, New Jersey and Maryland all stressed their priority is public health.

We also have more breaking this morning. A deadly outbreak of tornadoes tearing through the southeast United States overnight. At least 13 people have been killed, hundreds of thousands without power. We're going to have more on that in just a moment.

CAMEROTA: Okay. But let's begin our coverage on the coronavirus with CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, great to see you, as always.


CAMEROTA: I like on a Monday morning to just get an assessment of where we are in the country because the models that we've been relying on, particularly the University of Washington one, shows that this weekend, the virus peaked in New York, it sounds like. And so you tell us, but that mean we might be on the other side of that peak. And in terms of other places, it has -- I'm looking for where it has apparently -- still going to peak in a couple of days in California on April 15th and then. At the end of the month, all the way until the end of the month, Florida, that's when the deaths would peak and the hospitalizations, not until April 27th.

So, I mean, obviously, we're still a long way from breathing a sigh relief, but we're starting to have those conversations about what that would look like.

GUPTA: Yes. I think it's reasonable to have the conversations. The thing about the term peak, I was talking to public health epidemiologists about this over the weekend, on one hand, a peak, two people who look at a curve think, well, that's the peak, it's a day or two days and then you sort of coming down. But at the same time, as you know, Alisyn, we've talked about flattening the curve, which in some ways if you envision that, means the peak is much more spread out.

Now, that could mean that we have several days of numbers that are still sort of bouncing around the same relative number before you start to see the downward slope. We don't know yet. So I think we have to see what happens in New York. Everybody obviously wants to see the numbers continue to come down. There's evidence of that because hospitalization rates have come down. And if hospitalization rates have come down, then within a few days, a week, two weeks after that, you should see deaths start to come down as well.

So it's these trends that we still need to look for. We look at other countries that had bouncing around of numbers, even after they've gotten to the peak. So that's where we should be going, Alisyn. But I think this week probably -- New York will be a good sort of thing to look at for the rest of the country. But this wee in New York, I think, this week will be the best data, probably.

BERMAN: So, Sanjay, over the weekend, The New York Times put out a report which outlined how, at several different instances, the president was warned and chose to either ignore or disagree with recommendations about the spread of coronavirus. Over the weekend to CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci said something which is obvious and should be non-controversial, which if the United States had taken mitigation actions sooner, he said, and we played the sound bite in the intro here, that more lives could have been saved. And we woke up this morning, Sanjay, to a tweet from the president, a message on social media, he was highlighting it, retweeting, as they say, with the #firefauci.

Now, you, as someone deeply concerned about public health, what are your feelings when you see the president highlight that type of message?

GUPTA: Well, that's concerning, obviously. And I do talk to Dr. Fauci on a regular basis. I did not happen speak to him after this happened.

One thing I will say is that Dr. Fauci, obviously, a lot of people in the country have gotten to know him over the past few months, people within the public health world, especially within government public service, have known him for 40 years.


He's got a pretty unique position and a unique stature there. There isn't sort of a team of people like Fauci. Fauci is sort of an individual who holds that stature. I mean, there's

people who, like Ambassador Birx, who is acolyte of Dr. Fauci, who clearly was very well-regarded also.

But I just got to say that he's clearly the person who has been leading the charge and been out front on this. So anything can happen, I guess, John. I don't know if that was sort of a reactionary re-tweet or what or if it means something more. It's always hard to tell.

But it would be a huge loss. I think everybody probably recognizes that in the country right now. But the tentacles of knowledge that he has with regard to this particular pandemic, the context that he can give with other pandemics to really sort of see around corners with regard to where this is going to go, it's pretty invaluable now. And I think most people both inside and outside the administration recognize that.

CAMEROTA: And just one more thing on the Dr. Fauci thing. Because as I hear him say that sound bite and read it, he's saying, we. He's not casting blame on anyone else. He's saying, we. I mean, he's saying, had we started sooner. I know the right wing media is trying to make him some sort of fall guy because back on January 21st, he didn't sound the alarm. But he's saying, we. And like John said, it's not controversial to say if we had all started sooner, things might have been different.

GUPTA: Yes, absolutely, Alisyn. I mean, he is sort of using the collective, we. I'll tell you, it was earlier when he was giving testimony and he talked about the testing at that point. And he said, look, that was a failing. And I can't remember the exact quote. But there's no two ways about it. That was a failing. To me, at that point, that was a much stronger statement, something that I thought might really ruffle some feathers within the administration, within CDC, within other organizations.

And that really didn't seem to cause a ripple effect here. This seems less, to your point, Alisyn, of an infraction, if you want to call it that, than the statement from before.

If I can, Alisyn, just because you bring up this timeline, I saw your interview with The New York Times reporters earlier. We've been sort of looking at timelines sort of really from a medical standpoint to overlay on top of what was happening at the White House at that. If we can take a peek at that. December 31st, 2019, that was when the WHO first informed of this pneumonia cluster of unknown cases.

Now, as we know, Alisyn, we talked about this last week, it was probably earlier than that that they knew, maybe even a month earlier that China knew at least that it was an unusual pneumonia cluster. But it was January 7th that they actually identified the novel coronavirus. But there's two dates I really want you to keep in mind. I think people will look back on these dates, January 30th and 31st. January 30th, New England Journal of medicine publishes a paper saying that there is asymptomatic transmission. That was in China. On January 31st, the CDC announces there's human to human transmission in the United States.

Here is why I bring it up. I think up until that point, there was still a question among many in the public health community, look, is this going to be another SARS, which was terrible, but it was 8,000 people around the world, around 800 deaths. Bad disease, but never really spread that far. Or H1N1 which spread very, very far but ended up being not that lethal. What was this going to be?

I think up until the end of January, sort of early February, when these papers came out, it was still sort of like we don't know. It's a novel coronavirus. We've had other examples of these sorts of viruses. Who knows where this is going to go exactly. When the human to human and the asymptomatic transmission papers came out, that was it. Everybody was already worried. But those were the markers. And you can start to overlay those on the markers that you guys were talking about in terms of what was happening with the response of that time.

BERMAN: And you know who knew about these markers? People within the public health community and people within the government health community, including HHS, because we have the emails in this New York Times article. I want you to pull up P-13 if you can, guys, in the control room, P-13. This is an email from Robert Kadlec, who is the assistant HHS secretary, and he's talking, Sanjay, about one of the studies, about asymptomatic transmission of coronavirus. And he's writing a professor at Georgia Tech.

And he writes, Eva, is this true? If so, we have a huge hole in our screening and quarantine effort.


This is February 23rd, with someone at HHS saying, holy cow, if this is asymptomatic, we're in big trouble. This is a major alarm bell, Sanjay. GUPTA: It is a huge alarm bell, no question. But I think what has struck me -- so that's February 23rd. But, again, New England Journal of Medicine publishes on January 30th, three weeks earlier, that this is likely in China. But it was really interesting to me to sort of now go back and reflect after three months. That's what I spent the weekend doing and say, who knew what when?

And I think even though there was this paper published that showed this asymptomatic in China, there was still a question, okay, that happened in China, is that really going to happen here as well? SARS happened in China. We learned about it late. China was not transparent about it. It was very opaque. Are they being opaque here as well? Is what's happening there going to happen here? There was no reason to suggest it wouldn't. I mean, a virus is a virus. I virus isn't going to behave necessarily differently in one country versus another.

But on January 30th, there was evidence of this asymptomatic transmission. Kadlec wrote the letter on February 23rd. I think he already probably had some recognition that this was happening. But now, he wanted to say, holy smokes, this is not only happening but is it happening here in the United states as well? Because that means it's just going to exponentially grow, without question.

CAMEROTA: I think that's really helpful, Sanjay. I really appreciate you going back and helping us with this timeline because it is all the fog of war, I mean, that we've talked. It's the fog of war. People in the middle of it couldn't quite figure out what was happening. But it is helpful as it informs now that we know so much more about it regarding what we do now for the next month. And so, obviously, that's the big question. So we really appreciate you helping us retrace our steps here.

BERMAN: All right. So at least 13 people are dead after a series of tornados swept through the southeast overnight. Dozens of tornadoes have been reported, nearly one million people without power.

CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers tracking it all, he joins us now with the very latest. Chad, what are you seeing?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: John, dozens of reports, as you said yesterday, probably over five dozen. But for now, many of those reports are for the same tornadoes looking from a different direction. We're going to go with the number 40, 40 independent tornadoes on the ground yesterday. And there are still tornadoes on the ground right now. Walterboro, South Carolina was just hit by a tornado on the ground. We know that because there was debris on the radar, not raindrops, not hail but things that were picked up from the ground, hopefully leaves, but more likely something more sinister than that.

Summerville, you are next in line for that as well. Let me get to the radar. Here it goes. All the way from Raleigh, all the way farther north than that, almost to Blacksburg, right on down to Tallahassee, you are still under the gun for severe weather right now. And there is the weather moving to the north of Charleston. That is the Walterboro tornado, that purple square you saw there. The watches continue all the way from Virginia to Florida. Here is what it's going to look like. This is the 8:00 hour, the 9:00 hour, right around 9:30. And then we'll swing up to the north. There will be gusts in New York City and Boston, over 70 miles per hour. That will bring down trees for sure in that entire northeast corridor there. I- 95, all the way through.

Richmond, Raleigh, all the way down to Wilmington and Charleston, you are still in this threat. We do know that tornadoes will be on the ground and they are quick. They are on the ground for just a few minutes. But if that minute is over your house, it's a significant tornado. This is going to go on for the next few hours before these storms move offshore. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Yes, thank you very much.

At the moment, search and rescue teams are trying to get to victims near the Chattanooga area. That's where at least 14 patients have already been transported to hospitals.

So joining us now is the public information officer for Hamilton County, Tennessee, Amy Maxwell. Ms. Maxwell, thank you so much for joining us.

What's the situation on the ground there in Chattanooga?

AMY MAXWELL, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE, CHATTANOOGA: Well, we're currently about ready to wrap up search and rescue efforts. Hopefully, the daylight is going to help confirm the last amount of structures that we're trying to search. Currently, the emergency operations center has reported that we have 110 collapsed structures. That would be homes and businesses are a total loss. We actually -- the 911 center took over 1,300 911 calls. 500 of those calls were regarding collapsed structures, either in their homes, trees on their homes or trees on their cars. And, currently, we're still assessing at least over 550 calls that are still pending.

CAMEROTA: Wow. Those are big numbers. And so when you say that the search and rescue operations are either underway or trying to wrap up, of those 110 structures that collapsed that you know about, are you certain that nobody is still in them?


MAXWELL: That's what we've been reported, is they were totally searched with professional rescue and tactic services. They went in for our urban search and rescue units. And then we have at least 500 other crews that are out there doing a grid search of every single subdivision and area that was affected. This area was pretty concentrated. So we were able to get into the subdivisions quickly. And then we were able to account for a lot of the -- pretty much everybody that was in these residences, because everybody was home.

This actually struck our area about 11:30 last night. So everybody was pretty much home, and especially since we're still at a shelter in place for COVID-19. CAMEROTA: Yes.

MAXWELL: Yes. So we've had to -- you know, we've had some struggles. We've had a lot of debris on the roads. And it was hard for these first responders to get in. But we had the help of public works to cut their way to allow these people to get through to start saving lives.

CAMEROTA: Wow, what a tremendous, herculean response from your first responders there. And of the 14 people who were transported to hospitals, do you know their condition or what their -- which injuries they're suffering from mostly?

MAXWELL: No. I just have been told by EMS, the command here, that we had 14 transported to the hospital weather-related injuries, severe weather-related injuries.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Amy Maxwell --

MAXWELL: We also have -- the National Weather Service will be here today to confirm what size of tornado hit the Chattanooga area last night.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Let us know as soon as you get any information like that. Amy Maxwell, we really appreciate you taking time this morning to fill us in on what's happening in the Chattanooga area in Hamilton County. Thank you very much.

MAXWELL: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Now, back to coronavirus, because Chicago has been particularly hit hard. What is the status there? What's happening with hospitals? What are officials doing to address all of the racial disparities that we've seen exposed by this outbreak?



BERMAN: This morning, new questions about Dr. Anthony Fauci's future in the White House coronavirus task force. Overnight, the president re-tweeted a message which explicitly called for Dr. Fauci's firing. It comes after Dr. Fauci told CNN that if the Trump administration had acted earlier to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, it might have saved lives.

Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Lauren Underwood of Illinois. Congresswoman, thank you very much for being with us this morning.

We should note, you have experience in the medical field as a nurse and HHS official, so you come at this from many different angles. And as you wake up this morning to see the president re-tweeting this message, which is #firefauci, what's your reaction to that?

REP. LAUREN UNDERWOOD (D-IL): Well, it's certainly disappointing. Dr. Fauci has become a trusted healthcare voice among the American people in a time of a pandemic. And I hope that his counsel is still warmly received at the White House.

Listen, Dr. Fauci has continued to alert us of the very real and grave medical threat that the COVID-19 virus poses to the American people, offering really common sense approaches for each of us to step forward and take action, to protect ourselves and our families and our communities from this virus, most notably, to stay home. And, you know, I hate to see this kind of bullying happening.

BERMAN: So as we sit here this morning, the big question is what to do next. How should the country address the future of the stay-at-home orders? And you look at this as an elected official, as someone with medical experience, as someone with administration experience, how do you see things this morning?

UNDERWOOD: Well, we have to get a handle on this virus. This whole notion of reopening the economy and going back to work, I see very much as something that we can certainly plan for. But United States hasn't hit the peak in terms of number of cases yet. We certainly are seeing our mitigation efforts being very successful here in Illinois, but we're also seeing exceptive (ph) disparities. We're seeing a lot about the virus that we just quite don't know because we haven't seen the widespread deployment of tests yet and certainly ongoing challenges in distributing personal protective equipment, we don't have a vaccine yet, all these other things.

And so I think that we obviously want to return back to normal. A lot of folks are feeling this cabin fever and this is a real economic disruption that a lot of households are facing. However, this is not the time to turn away from the strategies that have been proven to save lives so far.

BERMAN: So Dr. Fauci did say over the weekend that he could see some places opening up as soon as some time in the month of May. So how do you feel about targeted re-openings of some parts of the country and some parts of the economy?

UNDERWOOD: Well, I think it's really important to, again, listen to the scientists and the healthcare officials. They've offered pretty spot-on guidance so far to the fact of how to reduce community spread. And so if the modeling and the evidence shows that it's appropriate upon guidance from the CDC and other healthcare professionals, the leading scientists, like Dr. Fauci, then I think it's certainly appropriate for our governors and our mayors to consider.

But in the absence of that, then certainly plans are important but let's not send these mixed messages to the American people.

CAMEROTA: So you said two really interesting things there, which I think are part and parcel of the same thing. You emphasized what the governors and mayors will do. And it's worth noting, they will be the ones who actually do the re-opening and lifting of the orders. And then you brought up the idea of mixed messaging.


So is there a concern or what's your concern that these public discussions from the White House briefings are different than what's going on in city halls and governor's mansions around the country?

UNDERWOOD: Well, right now, there's a lot of communities, like the community that I represent, that we are on a stay-at-home order. It's been about a month that children have been out of school, people have been home from work, a lot of folks have been laid off, people don't know when this is going to end. And yet, we continue to hear of the number of increasing cases in our communities spread out into the rural communities that I represent.

You know, we are closely monitoring the number of hospital beds, the number of ICU beds and the like. I'm hearing from mayors about the real challenges that are facing their municipal budgets. And it's hard to imagine that this is all going to magically go away in a couple of weeks, right? We know that that is not the nature of a pandemic.

And so I think that it's really important that as we communicate with the American people, we do so grounded in the reality of what's facing each of our communities and the decisions that each and every individual makes when they decide whether to put on their masks and go to the grocery store that day, whether they want to take a walk around the block or whether they should just stay at home.

And what we want to continue to emphasize to people is that the best way to protect yourselves and your families right now today is to continue to stay at home, continue to wash your hands, continue to take these aggressive measures that we've been taking for the last several weeks in order to protect yourselves and your loved ones. And if you're feeling sick, call your health care provider.

I think that we need to continue to emphasize these messages so that we don't see people with a false hope beginning to re-enter the economy, personally, especially as it gets warm, right? And people want to go outside. That's where I think it gets to be dangerous if it's premature.

CAMEROTA: One of the things that Illinois highlights is a situation we're seeing around the country, which is a racial disparity in the victims, the people suffering from COVID-19 and dying from COVID-19. And you can see it in the ratios in Illinois. It's particularly glaring there. This is something I assure, as a public health professional, you have seen for a long time, but it's particularly worrisome right now in this national pandemic. What's your assessment?

UNDERWOOD: Absolutely. In Illinois, African-Americans are five times more likely to die of COVID-19 and yet, we find that there are significant lags in testing in vulnerable communities, communities of color. And so the governor has really prioritized extending testing and not just relying on individuals to come in but really partnering with community organizations to make sure that they are out in the community and doing these kinds of healthcare assessments, so that if there is widespread illness between now, based on the death that there likely is, then people can have an opportunity to be monitored and treated.

I think that that's going to be really important to have these kind of targeted, focused, aggressive tactics toward these communities of color to make sure we have a clear understanding of the way that the disease is being spread and the volume of people that are being impacted. We can't just rely on people to come into a healthcare system where there might be mistrust, where it might literally inaccessible and expect that the outcomes are going to be positive.

BERMAN: Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, we appreciate the discussion this morning. We look forward to a time where we can talk to you in person. Thanks so much for being with us.

UNDERWOOD: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: So, thousands of people lined up over the weekend at, really, probably one of the last places they expected to be just a few weeks ago, a food bank. We're going to speak to two people who were there, next.