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Dr. Anthony Fauci: May 1 A Bit Overly Optimistic; Grief Swells In America As Death Toll Nears 24,000; Battle Escalates Between Trump, Governors Over Power To Reopen U.S. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 14, 2020 - 13:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper. You're watching CNN's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

A short time ago, President Trump was set to meet with survivors of the coronavirus. And as they get back on their feet, the debate is escalating over who Americans should listen to when the nation tries to recover and reopen and exactly when should it happen.

Today, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told the Associated Press that May 1st is, quote, a bit overly optimistic for many areas of the country.

Here is the latest on the U.S. More than 584,000 people have been infected and nearly 24,000 people have died so far from the virus.

New York's Governor, Andrew Cuomo, just gave an update about his state.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Total hospitalizations, actually, basically flat, technically ticking down, which is probably the first tick down. So that's a good sign but basically flat. So we think we are at the apex on the plateau.


COOPER: CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live for us in New York. So talk a little bit more about what the governor had to say.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The governor feels that we are in on the right path. We keep seeing consistent signs that the things that we are doing, the social distancing is working. And they're looking at statistics, the hospitalizations, the number of people that are being intubated, the number of people that are leaving hospitals, that is all pointing in the right direction.

And the governor said, his concern is, with all this talk of reopening, the concern for him is that we did all this. For these past several weeks, we have all stayed at home, we distanced our self from people, we have not been out together with people, that if we go back to that, that everything that we have done up to this point could be a big waste. And that is the big concern.

The other thing the governor said is that we are just not prepared to reopen, to go back to regular life. He talked about things like, we need to disinfect subways, we need to disinfect the buses, we need to disinfect parks and park benches so that people, when they start going back out into these areas, they can be safe.

The other thing the governor talked about is tracing. We don't have the capacity. And he wants the federal government to do this to trace. So that if there is a new infection, so that if there is a new rise in the number of infections, they need to be able to trace where it's coming from. And he said, without all those tools, you just can't reopen.

And so he wants all of that in place. Of course, we know that he's going to be working with other governors close to New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut to try and come up with some solutions.

But the bottom line, of course, from the governor, what we keep hearing is that we are just not there yet and, Anderson, we need a lot more measures in place before the country, before this city, before the state can reopen.

COOPER: Yes, a lot of questions unanswered. Shimon Prokupecz, thanks very much. I appreciate it.

As the nation debates when to reopen American life, there continues to be a holdup on distributing tests that give rapid results. CNN's Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin has been looking into why there is a delay. Also with me is CNN Medical Analyst Dr. James Phillips. He's an assistant professor at George Washington University Hospital.

Before we talk about the delay, Dr. Phillips, I do want to get your reaction on Dr. Fauci who said a May 1st reopening for some parts of the country may be overly optimistic. Do you agree with that?

DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I certainly do. I think that it's quite farfetched. I think that if we are plan to do this appropriately in a way that prevents continued spread of the virus and more deaths, May 1st is a pipedream. He's a little bit more eloquent than I am when it comes to that.

But I think that the only way that we would open up significant portions of the country by May 1st would be to do so under significant risks of the worsening health potential lives of American citizens.

COOPER: I am not sure he's more eloquent than you but I am sure eloquent than you. I think he just has some political concerns, obviously, given the task force situation. So -- but, yes, what you are saying is echoed by many other doctors and scientists I have talked to.

Drew, I mean, regarding the rapid result test, let's talk about that, because, obviously, that would incredibly important. Rapid result test would be incredibly important in terms of reopening for companies to be able to make sure their employees are okay.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And this is another area where I think you have this overhyped from the house and underdeliver of reality.


The rapid I.D. test works, Anderson, and it's made by Abbott. And Abbott had sent it out to all of its entities that use their machines. And they have been able to deliver about, well, exactly 556,000 tests as of last Friday. But they're very much a niche test. They only are able to use where the Abbott test machines are. Some states didn't get the tests that go go along with those machines just because of supply problems. So this kind of overhype from the White House was underdelivered in terms of what the state health labs were doing. But the tests work.

It's only part, only one small part of the massive testing that we're going to need, Anderson, to eventually reopen and they have confidence that we are catching all the people who have the virus.

COOPER: Drew, can you just explain that, because I don't quite understand? So the -- it's not like a little mobile test that anybody can use at home, is what you're saying?

GRIFFIN: No. This is a machine. So Abbott has machines that they test for strep throat, flu, something you can use in a doctor's office that doesn't require a lab. Abbott developed a COVID-19 detection system that works in conjunction with their already built machine. This is why it was going to be so great.

So the problem is that, in addition to all these machines that are out there, the federal government decided, we'll buy up some of these machines and send them to state health labs, which don't do a lot of testing, quite frankly. But the state health labs got the machines but didn't get the actual test because the supply was just not there yet. They are going to get them, Anderson.

In the interim, you had a couple of news story that are kind of, in my opinion, overinflated this problem, it was oversold by the White House. And so you have a few days of confusion until finally the supply lines will catch up with this. But the rapid response test, you use them find out immediately within five minutes if that worker walking in the door does or does not have COVID-19.

COOPER: But would it ultimately get to a place where -- or even in the short term, get to a place where -- I mean, you need to have the Abbott machine in order to do the tests. So would a company, a large cooperation, would they be able to have one those machines that they can then run their own tests or does it have to be in an Abbott facility?

GRIFFIN: I mean, theoretically, if you could buy a machine from Abbott, if those machines are available, and again, they're trying to crank them out, you could buy those machines, then you would buy the supplies needed for those machines, the actual test to run in the machines. And then you, as a company, theoretically could use this but with some training.

The problem is demand is incredible, Anderson. Already, among the existing 350 sites that use these machines, Abbott is just trying to keep pace. They are pumping out 50,000 of these tests a day. But like every other portion of the testing, this production is really at capacity trying to expand in an environment where the demand is just insatiable.

COOPER: Yes. Dr. Phillips, how -- I mean, I'm wondering what you make of Drew's reporting on these -- the rapid tests. Because, clearly, testing -- I mean, again, any epidemiologist I've talked to will say testing is critical in terms of restarting the economy.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Look, Anderson, this continued discussion about reopening our society and, therefore, our economy is very important. In disaster medicine, we talk about something called the disaster cycle, where you start considering the return to normal almost immediately after the event occurs. So it is appropriate to start talking about this.

But we have to have the right steps in place before we get there. There is a great document just published by the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Crystal Watson and her team put out a document about what's necessary before we start this process from a testing standpoint, as you've asked.

Now, we are just grossly deficient in our ability to test right now. I believe a month ago, we were told we would have 27 million tests, and I think we are just over 2 million a month later. What we're going to need to see is a rapid widespread ability to rapidly test for active disease. We need widespread ability to test for immunity to the disease, which is that antibody test that we talk about. We need continued PPE production.

And as this paper alludes to, which is brilliant, is that we still need to be able to do contact tracing where we're looking for people that have come in contact with the infected. And that's going to require upwards in their estimates of 100,000 people to be either volunteers or sort of drafted or join the public health service in an effort to do that type of nationwide contact tracing.


So there is a well-laid out plan here in lieu of a national strategy and I encourage people to take a look at it because it is great.

COOPER: Where is that again? That's Johns Hopkins School of Public --

PHILLIPS: Yes, the school of public health. And it's a group called the Center for Health Security. There's a great group of epidemiologists and doctors who study this stuff and advise at the highest levels.

COOPER: I am going to look that up today.

The researchers have just published findings in the journal science saying, the U.S. may have to endure social distancing measures, stay- at-home orders, school closures, staying six feet apart, they said until possibly until 2022 unless a vaccine becomes available. I am wondering your thoughts on that, Doctor?

PHILLIPS: I think it's absolutely right. It's difficult to swallow. I am tired of being at home as well. But the reality of the situation is the only way to prevent the spread of this virus is for people to stay away from people with the virus. And so what we call non- pharmaceutical interventions are the only way that we can do that, and the primary among them is social distancing.

So I think that what we are going to see is sustained school closures. We don't want a repeat of Liberty University, where they allowed students to come back and who would have thought that the disease spread around, right? So we've got to avoid that. And until we have widespread testing, where we can prove that employees at businesses or students who have to go to school are immune to the disease, we won't know.

And another big question right now is whether or not a positive antibody test actually means that you are immune to the virus.

COOPER: Which -- and by the way, this is hugely important. And I was really stunned. I mean, I've known all along that the evidence still really officially isn't in. But the idea that we still don't know for sure if you are immune, and that's really significant.

PHILLIPS: It is. There are several papers out there recently, one from South Korea this week, talking about patients who had tested negative and all of a sudden tested positive again. Now, there are some caveats to that. Number one, when we look at the family of viruses that this one belongs to, the coronaviridae, they are not really known for reactivation.

When you remember about Ebola, when they started finding continued viral particles within different body fluids up to weeks or months later, that's a different family of viruses. This one -- this family doesn't tend to do that.

There is another question as to whether or not it's just a testing issue. Maybe as the body starts to clear out some of these dead cells from the lungs, they have that viral RNA in those cells, so that might be a false positive. As far as the tests shows, you have the virus particles in you but you may not be contagious.

COOPER: Interesting.

PHILLIPS: So there's still some work to find out if those tests really do mean you are immune.

COOPER: Yes, it's fascinating. Dr. Phillips, thanks very much, Drew Griffin as well, thank you very much.

Also, just a reminder, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and I will be hosting a live global town hall, I think it's our sixth one, to answer all your questions about coronavirus. It's going to be Thursday night 8:00 P.M. Eastern only on CNN.

As the president falsely claims he has total authority to reopen the country, President Obama's former national security adviser says he is already caused tens of thousands of lives. Susan Rice joins me next.

Plus, in South Dakota, its governor resists the stay-at-home orders, her state now has one of the country's biggest hot spots.



COOPER: In the fight against the coronavirus and a battle is emerging, this between President Trump and the nation's governors, as the president ratchets up his calls to reopen the economy, he claims he alone can decide what happens next for the states. That is not what he has said in the past.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work, and they are doing a lot of this work. The federal government is supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. We are not a shipping clerk.

REPORTER: Should every state in the country have the kind of stay-at- home orders we know see in places like Washington?

TRUMP: I think it's up to the governors. The governors know what they are doing.

We have thing called the Constitution, which I cherish, number one. Number two, those governors, I know every one of them, they're doing a great job, they're being very, very successful in what they're doing. And as you know, I want the governors to be running things.

The states can do things if they want. I can override it if I want.

I have great authority if I want to use it. I would rather have the states use it.

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

REPORTER: Your authority is total?

TRUMP: Total. It's total. And the governors know that.


COOPER: So you just heard the president says he loves the Constitution. Obviously, the 10th amendment limits the powers of the federal government. And it reads, the power is not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively or to the people. Susan Rice served as the national security adviser and U.N. ambassador under President Obama. She is also the author of Tough Love, My Story of Things Worth Fighting for. Ambassador Rice, thanks so much for being with us. So President Trump has gone from saying he takes no responsibility, putting everything in the states and saying, as he did at the Republican Convention, I alone can fix it. Does the president have the authority to tell the states to reopen and how to do it and when?

SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Good to be with you, Anderson. No. The president doesn't have that authority absolutely. He doesn't, as he claims, have, quote, total authority. There is, as you read, something called the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, which pertains in this case.


So the president and the White House certainly will offer their judgments, their recommendations, their advice and, obviously, that will bear some weight with the states. But at the end of the day, it was the states who made the decision and not all of them made the decision simultaneously or even some of them had made it to date to actually issue stay-at-home orders. It is therefore on the states to lift those stay-at-home back to business orders when they deem it appropriate and safe.

COOPER: One reason the president said that he takes no responsibility is because the actions of your previous boss, President Obama. Here is what he told our Jim Acosta earlier this month.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You were preparing for a pandemic. If this government were preparing for a pandemic, why is it that we don't have enough masks? Why is it we don't have enough medical equipment?

TRUMP: The previous administration gave us very little ammunition for the military and very little -- let me just tell you. You know it. You know the answer. The previous administration, the shelves were empty. The shelves were empty. So what you should do is speak to the people from the previous administration, Jim, and them that question.


COOPER: I know you wrote in The Washington Post that you left, in your words, a 69-page playbook which was sort of pandemic for dummies. So when President Trump says that we need to ask previous officials about empty stockpile and other things, how do you respond?

RICE: Well, Anderson, this would be comical if it weren't so serious and deadly. We have a president of the United States who says with a straight face after being at office over three years that he takes responsibility for nothing. Imagine that. We've never heard that ever out of the mouth of the president of the United States. The fact of the matter is that when the Obama administration left office, we left the National Strategic Stockpile fully stocked, adequately prepared, as one would expect it to be. That has been validated by independent journalists who had the opportunity to visit the stockpile in late 2016.

But more than the stockpile, we left this incoming administration with all the tools that we had created for ourselves and that they need it to confront such a pandemic, because we understood that a pandemic was not only predicted but was actually inevitable. And the only question was when.

In 2014, President Obama warned the nation that this could happen. I established an office at the National Security Council in the White House purely for the purpose of tracking pandemics and outbreaks and biological threats. That office was disbanded by 2018 by the Trump administration.

We ran a side-by-side exercise with the incoming Trump administration cabinet and the outgoing Obama administration cabinet one week before the end of the transition in early of 2017. And that exercise was three hours long and we went through three critical scenarios, a terrorism scenario, a cyberattack scenario and a pandemic scenario to alert them to this very real possibility and the priority we placed on it.

And, yes, as you mentioned, we handed them a 69-page playbook in which I called pandemics for dummies. It tells you exactly what questions to ask, what steps to take, when an outbreak emerges.

And so this administration did not prioritize pandemics preparedness. They were completely behind the curve when the word came to them in early January of this year that there was an outbreak in China. In the first week of January, this was known to the CDC and it was then briefed to the secretary of Health and Human Services and the White House.

That is the moment at which we ought of have been scrambling to get the testing kits that we needed, created and deployed fully across the country. That's the moment where we should have said, okay, we know we are going to need more beds, more ventilators, more masks, more personal protective equipment than we have in our existing stockpiles and then we have in our hospitals and healthcare facilities. Let's get out and source that material, using the authority that the president has under the Defense Production Act.

Had we started the testing and the procurement and the organization for the surge that we knew was coming in January, we would be in a very different place today, Anderson, in April, with fewer deaths, fewer economic consequences and a less dire scenario than we have.

But instead, the administration wasted more than two months. The president downplayed the threat. He misled the public, he compared it to the flu.

[13:25:01] And it wasn't until, really, mid-March that this administration started to take it seriously and compare it to the war that it is.

COOPER: It's so interesting. Yesterday, he put sort of a -- you can call it a campaign-style video, a propaganda video made by people in the White House, I guess, with taxpayer money. And what was so fascinating about it, a CBS News Correspondent pointed this out and drew a huge, personal attack on her by the president.

But the president, you know, points to travel restrictions from China that he put in place in the end of January. And then there was a huge gap basically what some have referred to as kind of the lost month, a lost month of February, which, you know, the president was downplaying this, was saying it's going to magically disappear, he's meeting with Diamond and Silk and various characters, and saying that it just -- it's going to go away and saying we only have 15 cases and those people are getting better, were going to go down to zero.

Had that month of February been used, that was a time to prepare, essentially. And the president yesterday was asked about it and couldn't come up -- he said, oh, we did a lot in February. But in his own propaganda video, there is a huge gap between the travel restrictions and then stuff going on in March.

RICE: Yesterday's performance in the White House briefing room, his campaign performance was a grace, but it was also full of lies. And you point a critical lie, the month of February was a lost month.

But, frankly, Anderson, the month of January too was also a lost month because we understand in pandemics that once they break out and you have a novel virus in any part of the world, if it can be spread easily from human to human, we are in trouble. And that's the point at which things should have started to kick into gear, the kinds of preparations that I describe earlier.

The travel ban on those traveling from China, which by the way was full of holes, but nevertheless could have bought us valuable time to accelerate those preparations, that whole timeframe after the imposition of the travel ban, by the way, 40,000 came to this country after the imposition of the travel ban from China, but nevertheless, that ban gave us the opportunity to accelerate our preparations. But instead of accelerating our preparations through the month of February, as you pointed out, again, a completely wasted month in which the threat was downplayed.

And that was the period in which we also ought to have begun recognizing once we had cases in the United States and evidence of the beginnings of community spread that we really needed to look at lockdown sorts of orders and authorities. Again, that time was wasted.

The president creating a jungle environment where every state has to fend for itself, every state to make its own decisions, every state to buy the critical equipment that it needs, competing against one another, competing against the federal government, bidding up the price to the benefit of the private sectors in the detriment of the American taxpayer. that's not leadership, that's abdication of leadership. And it continues to this day.

COOPER: It's easy to kind of -- I mean, this wouldn't -- I don't know how to say this. It's one thing for the president to kind of do this stuff in other times when it's inappropriate and ridiculous and shameless.

RICE: Embarrassing, yes.

COOPER: But when people are actually dying because of lack of decisions being made and lack of preparation, I mean, it takes it to another level where people have died who did not have to die.

RICE: That's exactly right, Anderson. And we have over 23,000 Americans whose lives have been lost already. And this is not nearly over. We may be beginning to flatten the curve, God willing, in places like New York City and New York State, but this is going to take a long time. And we will be very, very fortunate in the United States and globally if we don't see a second and potentially a third wave of this before we have a vaccine that's widely accessible.

So I really hope the president does not declare prematurely mission accomplished and try to celebrate his success when we've already lost more than 23,000 lives in barely two months, lives that many of which necessarily didn't need to be lost.


And our economy is in the tank.