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President Trump Sends Tweet Indicating Possible Removal Of Dr. Anthony Fauci From Administration; Modeler Examines Peaks Of Coronavirus Spread In Different States In U.S.; At Least 18 Dead After Tornadoes Rip Through Southeast United States; Mississippi Reports At Least 11 Dead After Tornadoes; NYT Reports Experts, Aides Tried To Warn Trump Of Coronavirus Threat. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 13, 2020 - 08:00   ET



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: 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 there.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A revealing "New York Times" investigation outlined how President Trump spent weeks ignoring warnings about coronavirus. This morning, the number of confirmed cases has grown to more than 557,000, and again, more than 22,000 Americans have lost their lives.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And John, this morning the debate is of course when to reopen the country and how. Dr. Fauci suggests it could happen as early as next month on a rolling basis, guided by testing and risk assessments by governors and mayors. The governors of New York, New Jersey, and Maryland all stress that their priority is public health.

So we are all also watching this deadly break, outbreak, I should say, of tornadoes that has hit the southeast. It's tearing through various states. This happened overnight. At least 18 people there have been killed in several states. Nearly 1 million people are without power this morning. We will have much more on what it looks like in the aftermath in a moment for you.

BERMAN: We're going to begin, though, on the pandemic. Joining us, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. We want to welcome and Ali Mokdad, the professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the University of Washington's Institute for Health, Metrics, and Evaluations. Sanjay, I just want to start with you on the news overnight, President Trump retweeting this message with the hash-tag #FireFauci. I call Dr. Fauci the public health conscience of America. I know you've looked to him for decades. Your reaction when you see that?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, this inflection point between politics and public health, it's an uncomfortable place, no question about it. I was a little surprised. I think that Dr. Fauci clearly is somebody that the country, maybe the world has gotten to know, especially over the last few months.

But people in the public health community have known of him for decades. As you mentioned, John, he's worked for several presidents, and then handled some of the biggest public health stories of our time, HIV/AIDS, but also SARS and MERS and H1N1 and anthrax and all these other things. It's a tough spot, I think.

I think sometimes Dr. Fauci sort of gets pinned down, these are tough questions to answer, because at the time, we were dealing with a novel coronavirus, so exactly how it was going to behave, what the trajectory was going to be, there was lots of models out there, and it was something he had to balance.

So I will say this. I don't know that there's a clear replacement for someone like a Dr. Fauci. Ambassador Birx was a student of his. She's obviously at these briefings all the time as well, but she is -- he was clearly the lead, has been the lead, so I think it would be a real loss. I don't think it's going to happen personally. I don't know if this is just saber-rattling, but I think it would be a real loss if it did.

CAMEROTA: Let's move on to the models that Sanjay was just talking about, Professor Mokdad, because these are your models. This is what we've been relying on, the University of Washington models. So tell us where we are today. What are the latest models showing you about where we are on the curve, what places the virus has peaked, and where it's headed?

ALI MOKDAD, PROFESSOR OF HEALTH METRICS SCIENCES, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: Good morning. So we are right now as a country, the peak has happened April 11, and we're coming down as a country. But several states are behind. And what we are seeing right now is kind of two epidemics.

One epidemic in states that issued social distancing early on that is going to go down early May, and the second epidemic in states that came later in social distancing where we see it's going to be June. So this is the problem is we have like two countries right now within one country.

When one country will say I control the infections, and I can be ready for opening business, whereas another part of the country is still behind, and we are frayed that people who come from one place to another being a country like U.S. where people travel around.

BERMAN: The issue is what happens when these two countries are, in fact, the same country, the United States of America, which gets to something that Dr. Robert Redfield, the Director of the CDC, is saying this morning, Sanjay. He says it's important to look at the country as many different separate situations. He said that this morning, as he was asked questions about the potential of reopening in May. So how accurate is that? Can we look at America as many different situations, and can you do different things in different parts of the country? GUPTA: I think that's going to be challenging. Somebody once said to

me during a previous pandemic that an infection anywhere is an infection everywhere. And maybe that's overstating the point a little bit, but I think that is sort of I think how a lot of people in the public health community approach this, can you really cordon off certain areas and say, OK, now you're a safe zone because people do move around so much, if not throughout the whole country, then at least throughout the region.


So up there, for example, where you are, John, would it be not just New York but New York and Connecticut and New Jersey, and other places to really create a zone where you think it's now reasonable to start getting people back to work. I think it's going to be challenging just knowing how people do move around, and the fact that the virus moves around.

Even if the virus, even if people are being sensible, and so many people are being very sensible nowadays, the virus can still move around because it is a contagious -- the virus is still a contagious virus. Someone said to me over the weekend, I'm reading reports that says that the risk that anyone could contract this is low in the United States. Yes, that's true.

That's because we are doing something in this country that we've really haven't done maybe ever in terms of these universal stay-at- home orders, almost universal across the country. This is a really unique situation, and that's why the risk right now is low.

Start to open up certain parts of the country and the risk will go back up. We know people will get sick that otherwise wouldn't have at the time that that happens. This is going to be a question, how do you balance the risk at that time with the desire to open up the country.

CAMEROTA: So Professor Mokdad, what you're saying about some places that didn't do early social distancing and that their peak isn't for a couple weeks out yet, so for instance Florida, I was interested to see you predict, I think, correct me if I'm wrong, the last model I looked at was April 27th.

So the end of this month is the projected peak in Florida, and so given that, what about this overarching question of is it safe, do you think, in some places, to reopen the country, stop the stay-at-home orders in some regions where it has peaked?

MOKDAD: That's very true. So you see Florida, Arizona, Texas, and Georgia will be at the end of April, the peak, and then start coming down then. But we in the public health sector, we should start rolling out a blueprint for how we can open business again, and we've done similar things before. You remember after 9/11, we stopped flying, then we opened and had to go through metal detectors, long lines, and now we have a better way to do it. We have TSA pre-check, people can go faster. We need some model like this.

But the key for us to open our business would be testing. Are we able to test people and check to make sure when they go back to work they're negative? That's the key issue. And we need the testing to be able to start rolling out plans for people to go back to work.

BERMAN: Professor, what are your models telling you what would happen to this curve if parts of the United States did open too early?

MOKDAD: If we would have run two scenarios, if we open by first of May or first of June. And of course, if you start early on in May at the national level, you see it going up again, so there will be a surge and a second wave. And that's very concerning for all of us. We're all still susceptible to this virus, and it's still here. It's still around.

Unless we have a measure for us, until we have a vaccine and a medication for it, the only way we can go back to normal business is to test people and make sure we can trace any infection, follow up and have people stay at home when needed. We need to monitor the situation as we open up in waves, and phases in certain places in the country. Keep an eye on the situation, and when we see a virus circulating we have to go back and impose more restrictions.

CAMEROTA: So you're saying that without the tracing, the contract tracing and the testing, we'll see the peaks spike back up. What are you seeing right now in terms of the death toll? Because I know that that has fluctuated, or come significantly down. So today, if we stay at stay-at-home orders through April, what do you see for the death toll in the United States?

MOKDAD: If we stay until end of April right now, this is what our models are assuming, stay until the end of May. The death toll is coming down, and in many states, we see like by early May, the death toll will be below what we consider an epidemic here, which is 0.3 cases per million.

So it's coming down in the country. It's coming slower in places in the country where they impose social distancing later on. But as a country, we're doing very well, and the worst is behind us. But again, we cannot relax until we are sure that we, the virus is not still circulating in our own communities, and it could go back.

CAMEROTA: Just to be clear, sorry, professor, to be clear, that's through the end of May, that's stay at home through the end of May, that's where you see the death toll coming down?

MOKDAD: Yes, so far that's our assumption is to stay at home, all the social distancing until the end of May, and we're seeing it working and it's coming down.


BERMAN: And those are the decisions being made right now, Sanjay. And I know you spent a lot of time this weekend thinking about the last three months, because of this "New York times" article which outlined many different examples of when the administration was warned fairly specifically about the possibility of a pandemic and the types of things that have happened. What jumped out to you? GUPTA: There's an objective timeline we could put up, but I'll give

you subjective thinking around this timeline as I was talking to people at some pretty high levels within public health both at the state and the federal level. We know certain things.

We know when we started to first hear about this pneumonia cluster of unknown cause end of December. I'll tell you, even that is a little bit open to interpretation, because now when you look at some of the journals, as early as the beginning of December, there were patients diagnosed with that.

Nevertheless, if you focus sort of on the next graph where you look at December -- I'm sorry, January 30th and January 31st, those particular dates were when we first got letters about the idea that there was asymptomatic transmission.

That was on January 30th that the "New England Journal" published a letter on that. It was subsequently thought, is this real, is this just an isolated case? But there was already evidence on January 30th. And January 31st, the next day, CDC said that was happening in this country. Now, that is all known.

What is subjective is on January 31st, the human-to-human transmission in the United States was a woman to her husband in Chicago. They lived together. It was thought to be extremely close contact. That's the way the human-to-human transmission occurred. It wasn't still clear, I think, to a lot of public health officials, could that be more widespread at that point. But there was evidence of it even going back to late January.

CAMEROTA: I remember the day, Sanjay, that we were on the air, we were back in the studio, it feels like a lifetime ago, and we were talking about community spread when we got the first inkling that there was something called community spread and how alarmed you and other medical experts were, because of what that meant for these coming months.

Thank you both very much for all of the expertise.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: There's also been a series of deadly tornadoes overnight across the southern U.S. A live report on the damage. We'll also speak to an official from Mississippi where nearly a dozen people are dead.



BERMAN: All right. Breaking news. A series of tornadoes tearing up the southeast leaving at least 18 people dead in several states. Hundreds of structures destroyed. Thousands without power this morning. One person was killed in Cartersville, Georgia, northwest of Atlanta.

CNN's Martin Savidge live there with all the breaking details. Martin, what are you seeing? MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Yes, this is

part Bartow County. This is where there is at least one fatality, all told in the State of Georgia, six people are dead so far. We should point out that with daylight, the search operations are really just now starting to get underway.

Here's the scene that we rolled up on in this area. Here, you can see its power crews working on a street that is pretty much blocked off by all the heavy trees that came down.

The fatality that occurred in this community actually occurred about a block away. It was around one o'clock in the morning when the storm rolled through this part of the state, and a 34-year-old man died when a tree fell on his home.

There are five people that are dead in Murray County. That's it Northwest Georgia up on the way to Chattanooga. So six overall, four counties have been impacted.

One tornado came very close to striking just outside the City of Atlanta, and then of course, you start talking about the other states that have been impacted, 11 dead in Mississippi, at least one other person died in Arkansas plus the six you have here in the State of Georgia; 850,000 people without electricity, and here is the problem, dealing with the search and rescue effort is now at the time you're dealing with a pandemic. It is stretching first responders.

And of course, there's a lot of people out and about mixing, no one wearing masks that we can see, but in very close proximity. You have to deal with the tragedy, as well as the pandemic -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: That is a really important insight into what they're going through right now. Martin, thank you very much.

So the dangerous tornado outbreak continues to cause trouble up and down the eastern seaboard. Tens of millions of people are under a severe weather threat this morning. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking all that for us. So what's the latest -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Alisyn, certainly not over after 41 tornadoes yesterday, more are still on the ground right now.

There are some communities that I need you to be taking shelter now. Georgetown in North Carolina. We're going to move you on down here with their radar so you can see it. From Edisto to Seabrook to Folly Beach, you need to be taking shelter right now.

Not that far southwest of Charleston, you would be next in line, maybe 20 minutes from now. Farther to the south, Midway Island, Skidway, Tybee Island, you need to be taking tornado precautions. Now, tornadoes are likely on the ground. I am seeing debris in the air and rotation enough in these storms that I need you to be in your safe place right now.'

There you see Charleston. There you see the pink box. That's where that tornado is on the ground. By nine o'clock, we move you ahead, by 10 o'clock we take you a little bit farther to the north. There will be significant wind in New York City, Boston as well. We could see gust here 60 to 70 miles per hour that will bring down trees.

If you see a storm coming at you right now, think of it like there's a tornado because there will be winds of 70 to 80 miles per hour in some of these storms. That's almost an EF 1 tornado if it hits your house wrong. This is a big deal still at this hour -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Chad Myers for us. An active situation. Please heed these warnings if you're in the zones as the storm moves east.

The State of Mississippi is reporting 11 fatalities after the tornado outbreak. Joining us now is Malary White, Director of External Affairs and Mississippi Emergency Management.

Malary, what can you tell us about the situation in Mississippi, 11 deaths. We understand you feel that that's a complete count this morning.

MALARY WHITE, DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS AND MISSISSIPPI EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Right now that is what was being reported to us to our counties and we will continue to have assessment come in throughout the day.

Like you said, 11 confirmed deaths and 18 counties right now have already submitted their damage report to us. Multiple homes, apartments, a number -- dozens of people displaced from their homes right now.


WHITE: And so our next goal is to start looking at long term sheltering, and we're in the middle of a pandemic, so there are going to be some challenges with that.

But this is something that we started looking at seven to ten days ago. We knew the system was going to come. We knew it was going to be bad. So we've been in the planning phase for longer than a week now.

BERMAN: Just you know, we're seeing videos, in some cases, the aftermath on our screen and also the funnel clouds on our screen as these storms pass through.

You mentioned the pandemic, obviously, so many parts of the country now under stay-at-home orders. How has that affected the response?

WHITE: Well, our first responders are out there. They're hitting the ground and they've been working into the night to ensure that everyone is present and accounted for.

We, right before the storms came out, I mean, we have pushed out another package full of PPE for those counties so they would have additional supplies. We've tried our best to make sure they're all supplied with hand sanitizer at their safe room shelters that they have as well. And so we're asking anyone that has to stay in a public shelter to

continue to practice social distancing as best as you can and wear a mask or some type of face cover if you can to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

BERMAN: Listen, thank you very much Malary White from Mississippi giving us an update on the ground there. Obviously, a very complicated and urgent situation. We'll check back in with you as the morning develops. Thank you.

WHITE: Thanks.

BERMAN: All right. "The New York Times" has an extensive investigation into President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, more than 80 pages of e-mails, specific warnings. How did he respond or in some cases, not respond to them? We are going to speak with one of the reporters who broke the story, next.



CAMEROTA: This weekend, "The New York Times" published a sweeping investigation into all of the people around President Trump who were trying to sound the alarm on coronavirus starting back in January and why President Trump was so slow to respond.

According to "The Times," on January 18th, Health Secretary Alex Azar briefed President Trump on the virus. Then on January 29th, economic adviser, Peter Navarro warned that coronavirus could cost more than half a million American lives.

The following day, January 30th, Azar again warned President Trump that the virus could become a pandemic. President Trump reportedly dismissed that as "alarmist."

Three weeks later, on February 21st, the White House Coronavirus Task Force conducted this mock simulation of the pandemic and concluded that aggressive social distancing measures had to be implemented.

Two days later, Peter Navarro doubled down on his warnings with yet another memo. Then two days after that, February 25th, the C.D.C. issued a public warning about the threat which reportedly angered the President.

It was not until more than two weeks later that the President declared a national emergency.

Joining us now to discuss is one of the reporters behind that story. Maggie Haberman, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent as well as CNN political analyst, David Gregory.

Maggie, great to see you. We'll start with you in terms of this really thorough, comprehensive report. So there were all of these different people who were trying to get the President's attention starting in January, and he declared the national emergency on March 13th. Why was he so resistant to the warnings?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's a variety of reasons, Alisyn. One is that throughout January, the White House was consumed by the impeachment trial. The President was focused on preserving the Phase 1 signing of a trade deal with China and he didn't want to do anything to rattle the stock markets, which he sees as something of his weathervane for his reelection effort.

He was getting warnings from a variety people -- not everybody. There were people on the economic team who continued to resist starker measures. There were people in the National Security Council by contrast, Matt Pottinger and Robert O'Brien, who were very forceful in suggesting more done.

The President's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, started out as not seeing this as a huge threat, and then once it was very obvious in March, he became more aggressive.

The President had direct warnings, and what we tried to do in this piece is not just capture the people who were on various sides of this at various points, but to make clear that there were issues raised directly with the President by his own advisers who were trying to flag what was coming.

His defenders say the criticism is unfair, that information wasn't reaching him or it was reaching him through people who he had already seen as discredited, such as Alex Azar, the Health Secretary.

That said, this is, you know, the best that we have been able to establish so far on what the President was aware of in real time as this was unfolding.

BERMAN: He had specific warnings from several different government agencies, whether it be H.H.S., his trade negotiator, Peter Navarro, the N.S.C. There were emails from the V.A. itself. This is benign, guys, if you can pull this up. This is from Carter Mecher, the Veteran Affairs Senior Medical Adviser.

"The chatter on the blogs is that W.H.O. and C.D.C. are behind the curve. I'm seeing comments from people asking why W.H.O. and C.D.C. seem to be downplaying this. I'm certainly no public health expert, just a dufus from the V.A., but no matter how I look at this, it looks to be bad."

"If we assume the same case ascertainment rate as the spring wave of 2009 H1N1, this looks nearly as transmissible as flu, but with a longer incubation period and greater (R0), the projected size of the outbreak already seems hard to believe."

David Gregory, you know, you look at the scope of this reporting and the specificity in "The New York Times" reporting, and you see, perhaps short term political gain put over larger public health.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in short term economic collapse instead of looking at the longer picture, right? I mean, I think everything that the President looks at in his presidency is about his political calculation, how it affects reelection particularly at this time and the impact on the stock market which for him is the weathervane for the broader economy.

He doesn't want to see anything upset that.