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Governors Form Groups to Coordinate Reopening; Harvard Study Predicts Full Reopening of Country May Wait Until 2022; Interview with Rapid City, South Dakota Mayor Steve Alender. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 14, 2020 - 14:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, RIGHT NOW: Their findings, contradicting research that the White House has been touting.

For his part, President Trump has been meeting with Americans who have survived the virus, as worldwide cases are now nearing two million, more than 580,000 infected people here in the United States.

Debate is also intensifying on just who Americans should listen to when the nation reopens. The president is finding himself at odds with some of the country's governors, some of whom have banded together by region to work on restarting their states' economies. CNN correspondent Nick Watt has been looking into the rift.

Nick, the president's doubling down on what he believes is his authority.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Anderson. And, listen, just as we're getting some encouraging numbers from those hotspots in New York and New Jersey, in trying to end this coronavirus chaos, in trying to open things up again, we are now at risk of kicking off a constitutional crisis.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): 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.

WATT (voice-over): New York's governor insists that he, not King Trump -- his words -- will decide when and how the state reopens for business.

This morning, the president tweeted, "Cuomo's been calling daily, even hourly, begging for everything-- and now he seems to want independence? That won't happen!"

CUOMO: The president is clearly spoiling for a fight on this issue. If he wants a fight, he's not going to get it from me. Period.

WATT (voice-over): Northeast governors in the group, now coordinating their economic comeback, are preaching caution. GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): We're just getting started, and I don't feel

comfortable yet at all. We've ramped up our testing, but it's just two or 3,000 a day. On May 20th, we'll make a decision about how and when we really can start opening things up. I think it's going to take at least another month of being careful.

WATT (voice-over): But unemployment is up nearly 17 million; reopening is key for families like the Wards from Kansas, their restaurant, still closed.

KRISTEN WARD, RESTAURANT CLOSED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS: We're jobless, we have no income, we don't know how to support our family right now --

WATT (voice-over): Today in Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries, phase one of reopening began, more stores and businesses allowed to open but with rules. They must provide hand sanitizer and enforce mask-wearing. And some Italian regions, also choosing to take it ever slower.

Here in the U.S., opinions also vary.

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI, FLORIDA: One of the things that worries me or concerns me is asymptomatic carriers like I was, actually, when I contracted the virus on March 13th. So we don't know how many of those are because we're not doing asymptomatic testing --

WATT (voice-over): Also in Florida, Hillsborough County officials just imposed an overnight curfew on Tampa Bay, but WWE will resume without fans after Florida's governor reclassified wrestlers as essential workers.

SUAREZ: It's hard to argue that wrestling is an essential activity.

WATT (voice-over): Meanwhile, in California, some pastors, now suing the state for essentially stopping church services. On the West Coast, California, Oregon and Washington State are also now collaborating on a phased reopening.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Using science to guide our decision-making and not political pressure --

WATT (voice-over): Governor Newsom, promising more details in about an hour from now.


WATT: And as we all know, testing is going to be key to the reopening, and we have some good news: The FDA has now approved a saliva test, to be used in emergency circumstances. It's quicker, more scalable and also safer for the person administering the test.

FEMA has also ordered 750,000 test kits from Korea. Some of them are already here and, Anderson, we're expecting a big shipment to arrive on these shores, tomorrow. Back to you.

COOPER: All right. Nick Watt. Nick, thanks very much. I want to bring in Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, who's a board-certified

internist. Dr. Rodriguez, thanks for being with us. Let me ask you about this research, that the U.S. may have to endure social distancing until 2022 unless a vaccine becomes available.

From a testing standpoint, do you agree with that? I mean, obviously, if there is no vaccine, there's no way to protect yourself other than social distancing. I'm not sure the idea of people staying at home until 2022 is feasible.

JORGE RODRIGUEZ, BOARD CERTIFIED INTERNIST: Well, it may not be feasible, but it may be something that, to some degree, is going to be necessary. I think if you speak with any physician, any infectious disease specialist, this is not going to be a simple up-and-down curve. This is going to be almost like a roller-coaster, that may go on for a year or two.

So what's needed here is not just testing. Because even the testing, for example, everybody's hyping the fact that we need to know antibodies on people. We're not even sure if antibodies give you permanent protection or even protection for a year.


So the reason that I think the "Science" journal and the Harvard Public Committee there said this, is because nobody is sure. And you have to think of this as multiple fires going on throughout the country and throughout the world. And you can't just stop them all at once. So it may be an up-and-down, with varying degrees of isolation, varying degrees of protection.

Not necessarily staying at home, but people have to change the paradigm of how we're thinking about this. This is not going to be something that is going to be opening up all doors May 15th or even June 1st. This is going to be a long haul. This is a marathon, this is not a sprint.

COOPER: Dr. Fauci, in a new interview today, said that a reopening on May 1st is a bit overly optimistic in parts of the country. I think a lot of other scientists would go farther than that and say, you know, that it's just not a scientifically viable thing to do.

RODRIGUEZ: I think that is not a scientifically viable thing to do. It just doesn't make any sense, Anderson. We have hotspots throughout the country, we have transportation going through different areas of the country that may bring the virus to a quiet area, relatively speaking, like California.

So right now, what we need is intelligent consideration, where we try to find a medium between the clang of the coin and the beating of the heart. In other words, the health and the economy.

So opening the doors without absolute both scientific and both economic joining, I think would be disastrous. Look what happened in China after the first day that they stopped quarantining, hundreds of thousands of people just ran out, you know, into the street, into sites.

I have patients, for example, some that are being re-examined today, that have been asymptomatic now for a couple of weeks. We've re-tested them, they still have active virus in their upper respiratory system. There is so much we don't know, that I think it would be almost disastrous to just say that we can just open the doors with having a clear path, how we can protect everyone --


COOPER: Right.

RODRIGUEZ: -- in (ph) the (ph) country.

COOPER: Dr. Rodriguez, I also want to bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent.

Sanjay, I wanted to get your take on Fauci's comments about reopening, saying that, you know, not realistic by May 1st in some parts of the country.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's, you know, sort of expected, I think, Anderson, after our conversation, certainly with him. And you know, it's been interesting, I think Dr. Fauci's been sort of -- he's had this balance, where he basically says, look, this is what we're going to do for now, and then we'll re- assess.

You know, frankly, I think he kind of knows, as Dr. Rodriguez is saying, what the science is showing, what the epidemiology, the spread of this virus is showing. I think he's balancing what he knows with, you know, frankly, not wanting to shock people, not wanting to shock the country.

So the data was clear, even when they did that first 15-day pause, I think, in the middle of March, middle of last month, that it was going to have to last longer. And even, I think, when they said maybe April 30th, I think Dr. Fauci knew, based on the data, based on the curves, that it was likely to last longer.

So I don't think this reflects as much a constantly sort of changing the mind as much as, you know, a strategy to try to balance what needs to be done with how best to present that information to people.

COOPER: Yes. I think it's not just presenting it to the country, I think also, obviously, to the president and the considerations about his relationship with the president.

Well, Sanjay, what about this idea of social distancing that we're hearing from Harvard, until possibly 2022?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, this is a significant article. And, you know, Mark Lipschitz, who is, I think, the guy that we all certainly pay attention to with regard to this stuff, is one of the authors on this paper. You know, there's a couple of things that struck me about this. First

of all, you know, some of this, you know, social distancing in terms of the length will obviously be affected by the presence of a vaccine. If we have a vaccine that's widely available as well.

And that's an important point. Developing a vaccine's one thing, but actually making sure that everyone everywhere has access to it is a very important thing. And, you know, it's something that has to be thought of almost from the start. But that would obviously change the equation.

But I think -- what I think Lipschitz and -- Dr. Lipschitz and others were sort of driving at was, we're getting a better idea of how this virus spreads, how it even spreads in warmer conditions. We get the sense that there may be some variation to it, but there will likely be resurgences of this vaccine -- I'm sorry, of the virus come the cooler weather again, it will come back in larger numbers.


So we may have to either continuously or at least intermittently, to some extent, think about social distancing. So maybe it's -- certain groups are allowed to have -- be able to go out more readily in the warmer months, but then understanding that some vulnerable groups may have to social distance continuously until there's a vaccine, and other groups at least intermittently until there's a vaccine.

Perhaps that's until 2022. As you know, Anderson, what we've heard is that vaccine timetable is variable, but hopefully it'll come by next year, sometime. We just don't know yet.


Dr. Rodriguez, you were saying that you have asymptomatic patients who still have -- I don't want to say this wrong --


RODRIGUEZ: They're still shedding the virus.

COOPER: Still shedding the virus, they still have the virus inside them --


COOPER: -- what does that -- what does that mean? Does that mean that they would test positive?

RODRIGUEZ: That means that the RNA test, basically the test where you actually check for the genetics of the virus, which is the most accurate test, all right, to tell you whether there is live virus, yes, is positive.

So here, we have, for example, the county of Los Angeles, saying that people are basically free to join the workforce as long as they're protected, if they have been without a fever for three days and asymptomatic for seven. Well, that seems logical but that isn't always the case.

For example, these two patients, one of them wanted to visit their parents that were elderly. The other one, another doctor wouldn't see them. So we wanted to make sure that they were not contagious. And lo and behold, they still had active virus.

So as Sanjay's saying, we're learning so much as we go along that it's almost like sailing. You know, you have to tack to the right and tack to the left, depending on what you learn, to try to get to that point.

And even a vaccine -- to be honest -- would be very helpful, but we don't know if this is a onetime vaccine. This may be a yearly vaccine that may have to be given to -- almost like a flu vaccine.

So, like Sanjay said, Anthony Fauci, I think, is disseminating information in a way that the American public can start growing into the information as we learn it. Because the truth is, we are learning as we go along, which is why I believe some abrupt decision to just open up everything, could be very deleterious.

COOPER: Sanjay, did you want to comment on that?

GUPTA: No, I agree. I mean, this -- and also about the vaccine. You know, one of the things -- to give some context here -- is that, you know, vaccines can take a long time to develop. I mean, there have been vaccines that have taken a decade to develop, and there are certain viruses, certain infections for which we've been trying to develop a vaccine for --


COOPER: Yes. I mean, for HIV, there's still no vaccine.

GUPTA: Exactly.

RODRIGUEZ: Hepatitis.

GUPTA: So, you know -- hepatitis. And then there's some vaccines, as Dr. Rodriguez may remember, for like RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, where, as it turns out, the virus actually cause -- the initial virus -- sorry, the initial vaccine caused a sensitization in patients, meaning that when they were exposed to the virus again, those patients actually got worse than the original infection. So that would not be a good scenario, obviously.

So it can take a while to develop this, and it may -- you know, like flu shifts, drifts a little bit every year and needs a new vaccine; this may be in that same scenario. But there's no question, that would be a big deal, with regard to all this.


GUPTA: But until then, this balance between social distancing and what we can do in terms of opening the country is going to be a constant discussion, I imagine.

COOPER: Dr. Rodriguez, Dr. Gupta as well, thank you very much.

As new clusters of coronavirus cases pop up in South Dakota, more than 150 city and county leaders are calling on the governor to issue stay- at-home orders. They haven't. The mayor of Rapid City joins me, next.

Plus, new reports that two years before the coronavirus brought the world to a standstill, diplomats in China warned U.S. officials about a lab now linked to the pandemic.


And why are some people continuing to test positive for the virus, weeks after their symptoms go away?


COOPER: One of the nation's largest pork processing plants is shut down indefinitely after more than 300 employees tested positive for coronavirus. The Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, despite now having one of the country's largest coronavirus clusters in a (ph) state, South Dakota's governor continues to resist calls to issue a stay-at-home order.

Instead, Governor Kristi Noem has announced the first statewide clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine in the country. The anti-malarial drug has been championed, obviously, by President Trump although its effectiveness has not been scientifically proven.

Steve Alender is the mayor of Rapid City, South Dakota. Mayor, thanks so much for being with us. You're one of more than 160 city and county leaders in the state who signed a letter, urging the governor to declare a statewide public health emergency. Why do you think she continues to be resistant?

MAYOR STEVE ALENDER (R) RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA: Well, that's the question of the day, Anderson. We've all achieved some level of unity, here in South Dakota, and we're big and spread out here geographically. I mean, we're sparsely populated. So more than 150 mayors and some county commissioners also signed onto that letter, asking for the emergency.

So I -- so we really don't know what the holdup is, but it seems to be a combination of her questioning the authority she may have to do so, versus the tactical or strategic benefit of doing so.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Governor Noem argues that because the majority of the cases in South Dakota have happened in the Sioux Falls area, where the pork plant outbreak occurred, that a statewide shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders is not necessary.


ALENDER: Right. And you know, there's some logic to that. But here, now, we've been identified as one of the nation's hotspots in Sioux Falls, and so it's just a question of when does it infiltrate the rest of our rural communities in South Dakota. And we're 340 miles from Sioux Falls, and you know, we're -- our metro

area is definitely smaller than Sioux Falls. But we have thousands of people here, working together and living their lives every day. So the question is, how and when and if we impose any regulation, or whether we let it run its course I think.

COOPER: In -- you know, obviously, in a lot of farming communities, there are a lot of -- a lot of farm workers, undocumented workers. Is testing where you would like to see it in your area?

ALENDER: Well, no. And I think that's the same answer that any -- any community in the nation would give right now, because there's a global testing supply shortage. That is breeding a feeling of distrust or even conspiracy that the numbers aren't accurate, and that our communities are infested but we just don't know it.

So we have to balance the testing results with the consultation of the local area hospital system and the clinicians, to find some credibility in the testing numbers. And so for Pennington County, where we are here, in western South Dakota, we have nine positive test results and five of those, at least, are recovered now. And that's in stark contrast to Sioux Falls.

So is there evidence to believe that's true? Yes, there is, speaking to the medical providers in this area. But no one's under the impression it's going to last forever.

COOPER: Yes. Mayor Alender, I appreciate your time and appreciate all you're doing. Thank you very much.

ALENDER: Thanks for having me.

COOPER: Still ahead, our CNN reporters will take you around the globe. In the U.K., the death tolls, a stark 50 percent higher than initially thought.

Also, we'll take you to Italy where some Italians are continuing to test positive for coronavirus, long after their symptoms are gone.



COOPER: While the U.S. considers when to reopen, CNN is learning that the Japanese island of Hokkaido is now under a state of emergency for a second time. Japan's northernmost main island is responding to a second wave of the virus, after it began efforts to reopen just last week.

For more on the global response to coronavirus, I want to go to my CNN colleagues stationed around the world, for the roundup of the very latest.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Clarissa Ward in London, where U.K. authorities are saying it could be a couple of weeks before the U.K. experiences the peak of the coronavirus outbreak. This, happening as people here are learning that the actual death toll is more than 50 percent higher than the number that the government has been giving in its daily briefings.

The reason for this stark discrepancy is because the government's daily toll only takes into account those who have died in hospitals, not those who have died either in nursing homes or residential homes.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matt Rivers in Mexico City. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has not been seen publicly since appearing on a video conference call with other Central American leaders, about a month ago. And that has prompted widespread speculation that something might be wrong with the 74-year-old leader.

Nicaraguan officials haven't responded to CNN's request for comment on the issue. Meanwhile, that country has done little to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus in this part of the world. They've put in no social distancing guidelines, schools and businesses remain open and the government's leaders are telling people to stay calm and keep working.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Scott McLean in Madrid, where you can hear part of the Spanish economy restarting as hundreds of thousands of non-essential workers go back on their jobs. This move is controversial though, considering that Spain is still reporting about 3,000 new cases every day.

Though, for the first time, it's recorded more recoveries than new confirmed cases, which means that the number of active cases might actually be shrinking. There are reasons to be skeptical of the official data, though, because Spain has really struggled to ramp up its testing capacity.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm Barbie Nadeau in Rome, where, here in Italy, we're starting to see some of the restrictions lifted since the country's been on lockdown since March 10th. Stores selling books, office supplies and even children's clothing have been allowed to open in some cities across the nation.

This, though, comes against a backdrop of disturbing news from the north of the country. There, they found that a number of people who tested positive for coronavirus, are still testing positive, even without symptoms, up to 30 days or more after their original diagnosis. That's caused officials there to recommend that self- isolation be increased from 14 to 28 days, to try to stop the spread.


COOPER: Well, Italy's also set to begin what it calls phase two of lifting lockdown restrictions, sometime after May 3rd. The question is, could the new quarantine guidelines change at all?

Dr. Jennifer Lee, CNN medical analyst and a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University, joins me now. How would you explain this? I mean, why would the virus still be in

someone's system, weeks after testing positive? We were just talking to Dr. Rodriguez, who said he has seen that in his own patients, that they're essentially still shedding the virus even though they have no symptoms.