Return to Transcripts main page


Governors Say They'll Decide When Their States Open up; FDA Approves Use of New Saliva Test for Coronavirus; Dr. Amesh Adalja Discusses What Numbers Say about What's Working to Flatten Curse; Trump Falsely Claims "Total" Authority over States. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 14, 2020 - 11:00   ET




NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Acevedo sees the risk for himself and others. It means not pushing to go back to work before he's ready.

ANTHONY ACEVEDO, TESTED POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS: To me, that the worst fear is to put other people in danger, so just to know that I have it so I can stay home and try to take care of this problem without infecting other people.

VALENCIA: Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Such important reporting. Out thanks to Nick.

And thanks to all of you. We'll see you back here tomorrow. I'm Poppy Harlow.


"NEWSROOM" continues with John King right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I'm John King, in Washington. We also welcome our international viewers watching around the world.

This hour, we expect to hear from President Trump. He is in the Oval Office, in the cabinet room, we're told, as he welcomes patients who have recovered from the coronavirus.

We're also waiting to hear from the former President Barack Obama. CNN is told he will release a video today officially endorsing Joe Biden. Politics a little later.

Here's the numbers where we stand on coronavirus. More than 580,000 cases across the United States, approaching 24,000 deaths. Worldwide, we are close to two million cases. But there's some encouraging news out of Italy, one of the hardest hit by the virus. It's now loosening some lockdown regulations to allow select stores to reopen.

Back here in the United States, President Trump will name a recovery task force today. We know his new chief of staff, Mark Meadows, will take a lead role in that group. It is tasked with writing a plan to reopen the economy.

The president, ignoring the Constitution, boasts he calls the shots and he has the absolute authority to tell states when and how to reopen. Governors don't see it that way, to put it mildly.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The president should not even think of going there. If he ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn't do it.

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): The governor is going to make the determination of what's best for their state. He's got the bully pulpit but we're the ones that have to enforce it. Everyone knows it's the governors where the rubber meets the road.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): We'll have to make a decision. That's my responsibility. But we'll certainly consult with the White House. Ultimately, the buck stops with me and it stops with the other governors.


KING: A very grim economic warning today as this power play plays out. The International Monetary Fund saying the global coronavirus recession could rival the Great Depression and could take a deeper toll than the 2008 financial collapse if there's not another more of a coordinated global recovery strategy.

And today, we're also learning important news on the health front. The approval of a new saliva test for the coronavirus. The FDA giving the go ahead for the first tests of its kind, a test which could expand capability and capacity for testing across the country.

Let's discuss with our CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, take us through this. How does it work and how big a deal?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We're used to hearing about the virus test, the test being a swab, which goes in and swabs the back of your nose, the back of your throat. If anyone described it to you, they described it as uncomfortable.

There's also a need for people who are administering the test to wear personal protective equipment. As you know, in some places, John, those are at a premium, that personal protective equipment. This is a saliva test, where someone would, just like you do for some

of those Ancestry tests, you're basically using saliva, collecting that in a little tube, and then possibly using that to be tested positive or negative for the coronavirus.

A couple of things. First of all, this is not an at-home test still. It's a test that needs to be done with a health care provider. It has to be done in a clinic or something like that. The person doesn't necessarily need to be wearing the PPE, but it's not an at-home tests.

I should also say that there are a lot of tests, John, we've been talking about, understandably, people want to get these types of test out there. This is one that's been approved under emergency authorization.

It was basically they took this test and compared it to the actual swab test to see could they validate it that way. They did this on 60 patients and they found that 100 percent of the time it was accurate. It showed the same thing the swab test showed.

That's still a small sample size, John. Just a word of caution, we are throwing these emergency authorizations in, again, understandably. But these are small sample sizes.

And if the test comes back negative, the saliva test comes back negative, then that negative test has to be confirmed with the swab test. That's gives you an idea.

They're saying, yes, this looks like a potentially good test. Yes, it could save a lot of personal protective equipment but we still need to have the confidence and backup of the swab test to confirm this if it's negative -- John?

KING: Then how much of a difference will it make, if you need that redundancy, number one? And number two, like every testing conversation we've had, there's the question about, how quickly can you scale it up and get it out to where it is most needed.


GUPTA: I think we will have a better idea of just how useful this is going to be probably soon, because there's such a demand for these tests.

But that is the point you're raising, John. To scale up, they say ultimately they could do some 10,000 tests per day, which is very good.

Keep in mind that the numbers we're talking about, as we start to try to ease out of this curve and think about reopening things, is more like hundreds of thousands, maybe close to a million tests a day. So this could provide some relief there, but it's not going to be the answer for everybody.

And, again, there's no test that has been approved at home yet. That would obviously be a game changer for people to be able to do these tests at home, to get a result quickly at home, especially when people are home, they're staying at home right now.

But in terms of the current scale, it could be a very useful tool, but it's not going to be the answer to the significant demand there's going to be, especially as we start to ease out of this curve.

KING: Let's hope it's a useful tool. I'm a tad skeptical because we've had this conversation so many times and failed to see things move.


KING: But let's have a little bit of hope today.

Sanjay Gupta, really appreciate the insights --


KING: -- and new reporting there.

A mounting case count and death toll yet also some glimmers of hope. What do the latest numbers tell us about what is working and what is critical to keep flattening the curve?

Joining me now, Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Thank you so much for being with us today.

Let's focus on this. You hear from people like Governor Cuomo, who says we are flattening the curve. We can show you just the hospitalization rate in the state of New York, something you look at to see are we getting ahead of this, are there fewer patients showing up in the hospital. If you look at the change in the hospitalizations, you see that drop.

When you look at a chart like that, what does it tell you about today and what is critical to keep that line going in the right direction?

DR. AMESH ADALJA, SENIOR SCHOLAR, CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: It tells us that the social distancing interventions are having an impact, that hospitals aren't going into crisis. And that's the most important thing we're trying to preserve, is hospital capacity.

It means we have to continue to think about, what are the most effective social distancing measures that we need to continue to do in order to keep us below that hospital capacity. That's going to be part of the calculus on how we decide to lift some of these economic restrictions going on, is what does hospital capacity look like? And hospitalization is the key number that I look at to gauge that.

KING: Hospitalization, one key number.

If you look, New York, obviously, heading in the right direction. Let me show you some other states, Louisiana, New York and Massachusetts. New York is the big number on the top when you see this chart. That's the testing. We'll move on to the other and we'll come back to this one in a

minute. Move on to the coronavirus by state graphic. If you look at this, New York is the one on top, but you do see it flattening. It is that high but you do see a flattening. At the bottom, Massachusetts still heading up. It's flattish. Louisiana heading down.

So we've talked national numbers. We've focused on the big epicenter of New York. When you look state-by-state, is it mostly encouraging, is it a mix?

ADALJA: It's mostly encouraging. And it's important to remember that these won't be synchronous across the United States. There are going to be different time scales that the virus has. Some people may get a later peak. Some have the benefit of watching what other cities do and initiating social distancing in a manner that's more impactful.

But I think everything we're seeing overall looks encouraging. Where I practice in Pittsburgh, things look very encouraging. We've not been stressed. We've not had issues with personal protective equipment or ventilators. But that's different than other parts of the state, for example, in Philadelphia.

But I think, in general, everything is looking good and nothing is alarming to be.

I do a lot of qualitative talk, calling up some of my friends in different hospitals and ask them what's going on, friends in New Orleans and Seattle, and things are looking good. It doesn't mean we don't have hard days ahead, but I think we're going to hopefully avoid the worst of this.

KING: I'm going to take you from medial into psychology. In the sense, when things are looking good, people have been coupled up. Whether it's the president of the United States or we had a guy who runs an auto dealership on the other day, people want to get back to work. People want to start selling things.

When you look at that other map that we put up -- let's show it again -- top five states for testing. If you're feeling good, and hospitals are in a position where they can handle this, and people start to think about this reopening, one of the keys, every time you talk to every public health professional, is we must have more testing if we're going to do this.

Where are we when it comes to that?

ADALJA: We're still not quite there with testing. There are more test kits available. I know the doctor who talked in the last segment about how many test kits have been emergency use authorized. But the fact is we still have issues with reagents, the materials you use to run the tests, the swabs. And there is still rationing going on.

Even I, when I'm seeing patient, decide if I'm going to test somebody based on what the availability is, and they're going home and they're pretty stable, I'm not going to necessarily test those individuals. But we can't have that going forward. We need to be able to test for

this like we test for HIV. We should be able to test everywhere and get a rapid result back that has a lot of accuracy.


We want to do that so we can have situational awareness so we can lift these economic restrictions in a measured way that's safe and we can keep an eye on what's going on with hospital capacity. But we have to know where this virus and where it isn't and who has it and who doesn't. So we want to get really optimized with testing.

KING: You say optimized with testing. We've got -- the end of the month is fast approaching. The president has been itching to reopen the economy. Do you see a scenario where, if the numbers keep going the way you see them now and hopeful about it, that May 1st is the time to do that, or do you think, as we have some states behind in terms of when their peak would be, the government should, today, say, oh, we need at least two more weeks or we need another month?

ADALJA: It's going to be really hard to come up with an exact date certain when this can happen. It may be different for different regions where testing is somewhat regionalized. Some places have more testing than other places. Some have more drive-in clinics, have more availability of this test kits and reagents than other places.

I do think what you'll see if not a switch being turned and that's the analogy that Dr. Fauci used. But you see a layered response in a regionalization type of manner where certain regions may be able to lift some economic restrictions because they have those resources in place where others done. So I don't think it's going to be synchronous.

KING: Dr. Adalja, very much appreciate your insights. Keep in touch as we head into these next couple of weeks where they'll be a lot of critical decisions about both the health care and the economic front. Appreciate your insight today.

When we come back, to the point the doctor was just making, the president says this authority rests with him, he alone, at the White House, about reopening the economy. As we go to break, this flashback. One month ago, President Trump on his confidence about the U.S. economy.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our country is in the best financial shape. We've -- so different than in the past, over the years, if you look at some of the real big crises we had. It was financial problems and different things. We now are in a very, very strong financial shape with all of the trade and all of the other things that we've been doing. It's been pretty amazing.



KING: President Trump often tries to rewrite history to ignore or explain away things he says that turn out to be way, way off. Like, no, coronavirus won't become a pandemic. Or, the United States has 15 cases and will soon be down to zero.

Now he's also trying to rewrite the Constitution. The president, he says, has total authority.


TRUMP: When you say my authority, the president's authority. Because let me --


TRUMP: This is --


TRUMP: When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that's the way it's got to be.

Does the federal government have the power? The federal government has absolute power.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Has any governor agreed that you have the authority to decide when their state will reopen --


TRUMP: I haven't asked anybody You know why? Because I don't have to.

Go ahead, please.


KING: No president, no president has total authority, even at a moment of national emergency.

Governors on both coasts are moving ahead with regional talks now about how best to reopen, making clear they would welcome federal help but would put their states' interests first when making these big decisions.

With me to discuss this concept and the president's mindset, Dan Balz, chief editor for the "Washington Post," and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, CNN contributor and the congressional editor for the "New York Times."

Thank you both for being with us.

Dan, I want to start with you.

I've been at this a while. I spent nine and a half years at that White House covering the White House in the briefing room, and I've never seen anything like I saw yesterday.

DAN BALZ, CHIEF EDITOR, "WASHINGTON POST: John, you've spent more time in that briefing room than I have, but I've probably spent plenty of years around different presidents. I've never seen anything like it, either.

He was as contentious, as aggressive, as angry as I've ever seen a president. Go back to Richard Nixon at the time of Watergate. He could evoke kind of a sense of self-pity.

This was raw anger on the part of the president. This was lashing out. And to see that in a briefing room, and for it to go on as long as it did, tells you something about the state of mind of the president right now.

KING: And to that point, Julia, you covered the Trump White House for quite some time. This president played a video -- I call it a propaganda video -- selectively edited, some cherry-picking moments, Trump moments that they play in the video that left out the month of February when the president said things like this.


TRUMP: By April, you know in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.

People are getting better. They're all getting better.

We're very close to a vaccine.

When you have 15 people, and the 15 people within a couple days will be down close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done.

We're going down, not up. We're going very substantially down, not up.

We have it so well under control. We really have done a very good job.

We're testing everybody that we need to test, and we're finding very little problem, very little problem. Now, you treat this like a flu.


KING: He came into the briefing room with some grievances, Julie. And on some of these things he might actually be right. But to run a video like that and then to essentially ignore his own history tells you what?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He was just being incredibly defensive. And that video, to me, really played like a campaign video, a sort of highlight reel, it seems, of things he's proud of and things he wants his supporters to know. But it did, as you say, ignore several weeks, a couple months, really, of the president wanting to play down the threat from this virus.

The president characterizing people, who were trying to sound the alarm and criticizing his attitude, as partisans who were engaged in some sort of a hoax.


And so he really was, I think, focusing more on casting blame on his own rivals than he was the actual response, which is supposed to be the point of these briefings, to give people information about the government response.

This really turned into a real extraordinary display of presidential sort of grievance and defensiveness.

KING: We've seen this before. And I'm going to stick with you, Julie.

I'll come back to you in a second, Dan, on this point.

I've seen this before, and you tell me if I'm right, the president doesn't like to be questioned by strong women.

Kaitlan Collins kept pressing him, asking him very fair, very tough, but very fair questions. And CBS's Paula Reid, bless here, is the one who watched that video and said, you know what, yes, Mr. President, guess what, you did invoke that travel restrictions on China in late January and then the video skips ahead to March. Mr. President, what happened to February?


PAULA REID, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The argument is you bought yourself some time. You didn't use it to prepare hospitals. You didn't use it to ramp up testing. Right now


TRUMP: It's so disgraceful --


TRUMP: It's so disgraceful the way you say that.


TRUMP: Let me just --


TRUMP: Listen, I just went over it.


TRUMP: I just went over it.

Zero cases, zero deaths on January 17.


TRUMP: I said in January. (CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: On January --


REID: You have a complete gap. What did your administration do in February after you had made a travel ban?

TRUMP: A lot. A lot. In fact, we'll give you a list.


KING: She was dead on. February was missing from the video, and his response was, you are a disgrace.

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Yes, it's really been striking to see some of my colleagues in the press corps, women in the White House press corps, really question the president pretty sharply on some of these inconsistencies.

And she did get right to the heart of the matter there, which is that no matter what you think of the response since the president started talking about social distancing and all the rest, there was a lost month or six weeks where he was being told, we now know, that those measures, those mitigation measures need to be taken, and he was reluctant to do so.

KING: And, Dan, we've known from day one this is a very different president in the sense that he's not ideological. He's not a traditional Republican. His campaign in 2016 was a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. But we also know there's very little push back when the president goes way outside the Republican lines.

Liz Cheney, the congresswoman, a rising member of the House Republican leadership, was one of those who, after listening to the press conference yesterday, said, no, Mr. President, she tweeted, "The federal government does not have absolute power."

She went on to include a quote from the United States Constitution making clear that many, many, many powers are, by design, delegated to the states. That's the way this country was built.

Justin Amash, now an Independent in the House, a former Republican, much more of a Libertarian, tweeting, "Americans who believe in limited government deserve another option."

In response to him by a woman on Twitter saying it could be you, he said, "Thanks, I'm looking at it closely this week."

Number one, Dan, very limited push back from the party who says they are the constitutional conservatives.

The Constitution is quite clear. The president was wrong. If you could add in Justin Amash now being more serious. A lot of privacy and Libertarian-like issues are front and center right now in the middle of this pandemic.

Do we believe he's more likely to run, and what would that mean?

BALZ: Well, I don't know about that, John. Go back to the point about the president's assertion of absolute power, you are not going to see, I would suspect, a lot of pushback from Republicans because they fear his wrath and they don't want to get in the middle of a fight with him.

Liz Cheney, who is a rare voice on something like this. We see this from time to time, someone will speak up or speak out or take issue with the president. But in general the party as a whole, the leaders as a whole have been quite timid in doing that. I think that the president recognizes that.

I mean, as you talk to Republicans about all these issues, they acknowledge that the president is in no way a traditional conservative, and yet they recognize also that he has completely changed the nature of the Republican Party and they are, in a sense, hostage to the takeover that he exercised in 2016 and continues to exercise now.

I think that tension is going to continue. We will see it in a variety of debates coming out of this in terms of what kind of spending is called for and what kind of programs are advocated and where the president stands on that.

We'll see it on things like the fight over the deficits that are being created here and where the president is probably in a different place than many traditional conservatives.

They are kind of stuck, frankly, in how they deal with this. And we have seen nothing over three-plus years to suggest there's going to be systematic or strong pushback from the traditional conservatives in the Republican Party.


KING: But that's an excellent point. Many of these questions being raised, whether it's absolute authority, whether it's spending, so on and so forth, will be with us for some time though this in what happens to be an election year and beyond.

Dan Balz, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, great to see both of you. Appreciate your insight.

The former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, wants an early release from prison, citing the risk to his health from the coronavirus. Manafort's lawyer is now asking that he serve the rest of his 7.5-year sentence at home. Manafort has been in jail since 2018 for bank and tax fraud and for violating foreign lobbying laws.

Up next, a very big endorsement week for Joe Biden.