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Study on Resurgence Contagion; Mayo Clinic Dealing with Financial Crisis; Pork and Beef Producers Ask for Help. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 15, 2020 - 09:30   ET





Kylie Atwood, thanks for trying to keep up with it, at the State Department.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, important reporting.

All right, so Bill and Melinda Gates, this morning, are sounding the alarm on the president's plan to defund the WHO. Early this morning they tweeted the same message, calling it, quote, as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of Covid-19 and if that work is stopped, no other organization can replace them. The world needs WHO now more than ever.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, I should note, is the next largest donor to the WHO behind the U.S.

Just a few days ago I asked Melinda Gates in an exclusive interview what would it mean if the president were to actually make a move like this. Here's what she said.


MELINDA GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: The WHO is a credible institution that has helped us through other pandemics and other epidemics. Just take Ebola, our most recent one. The WHO was fundamental during that crisis. The WHO absolutely needs to be funded. We have worked with them for well over a decade today -- well over a decade as a foundation and they need to work with us on a coordinated response as a global community. So they're fundamental to this.


HARLOW: Fundamental to this.

We should note, just, Jim, as this move happened, the U.S. trying to cut all the funding to WHO, the U.K. announced it will increase its contribution to the WHO by 65 million pounds. SCIUTTO: Other countries expressing their confidence in the

organization as well.


SCIUTTO: President Trump's name, note this, will now be printed on the stimulus checks set to be mailed out in the coming weeks. A White House official claims the decision will not result in a delay for Americans receiving those checks. Of course this is money authorized by Congress, not by the president. Millions will begin seeing payments direct deposited in their bank accounts today.

This marks the first time a president's written name will be featured on a check from the IRS. Treasury payments are typically signed by a government employee to protect checks, note this, from politicization.

HARLOW: Social distancing ahead could be part of our lives for, get this, two years. That's according to a new study. We'll talk to the lead author of that study, next.



SCIUTTO: This morning, as the White House searches for ways to reopen the economy, "The Washington Post" is reporting that government officials from the CDC and FEMA have lined out a strategy to reopen at least sections of the U.S. However, a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health says that Americans may need to practice some social distancing over the next two years. It reads, quote, intermittent distancing may be required into 2022 unless critical care capacity is increased substantially or a treatment or vaccine becomes available.

Joining me now is the lead author of that study, Stephen Kissler, a research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Thanks so much, Steven, for coming on.

Explain first what you mean by intermittent testing, because I think when people see this headline, they think, wait a second, I've got to stay six feet away from people for the next two years. You're saying this is during spikes, as it were.


So, you're exactly right, that intermittent social distancing essentially means that there will likely be periods of time when we can go back to something that resembles more like our normal life from before this pandemic, although I don't think that, you know, things will really go back to normal for some time.

But then as incidents start to rise, as cases start to rise, then we'll have to start distancing again to just avoid overwhelming the critical care capacity that we have to care for patients in the U.S.

SCIUTTO: OK. And that's the key. I mean that was the whole point of this, right, was to flatten the curve, as it were.

Your research shows that if we -- if we were to stop social distancing in the near term, next month perhaps, as the president has suggested, there will be a pool of people who are susceptible to the virus. And I suppose the risk is then that you have another one of these peaks where you overwhelm hospital facilities.

KISSLER: Yes, you're exactly right. And that was precisely the question that we set out to explore with this model that we developed. And, you know, it's beyond just a risk. It's -- both history and the models suggest that it's almost a certainty that cases will arise once social distancing measures are lifted. And so our question with the paper was -- was what can we do next? Assuming that cases will rise, once these distancing measures lift, how often will we need to do this? And that's what we set out to answer.

SCIUTTO: Can you, based on your research, reliably reopen and with confidence and with people having confidence to obey reopening orders if there's not broad-based testing to figure out who's been exposed to this?

KISSLER: You know, absolutely not. I think that testing really underpins the ability to do this intermittent social distancing without overshooting our critical care capacity. You know, the alternative is to advise social distancing measures once critical care starts to reach capacity, but at that point the infections that are coming down the pipeline have already started to occur and so there's a good chance that we'll overshoot that capacity time and again.

SCIUTTO: So you hear, for instance, say governor of California, Gavin Newsom, talk about some examples of social distancing that remains, even as we relax, like, you know, moving tables further apart at a restaurant, for instance. Just one example.

Are there particular activities that are more risky than others and therefore, in your view, just way too early to talk about starting again. For instance, I don't know, sports match -- you know, sports games where you have thousands of people together in the same -- in the same venue?


KISSLER: Yes, that's right. You know, we're still working really hard right now to quantify exactly how much each of these distancing measures that we've been taking contributes to reducing transmission. Personally, I think that it's very unlikely that we'll have really large gatherings, like sports matches, for quite some time. I'm reluctant to put a date to it but potentially through the end of the year. But, on the other hand, you know, every little bit helps and with all of the different interventions that are going on around the country, we're getting a lot more information about how much each of those contributes to flattening the curve. So I think we'll know a lot more soon, be able to locally tailor our responses in a way that is both effective at reducing the transmission of the disease, but is also hopefully less disruptive to society as a whole.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, just so much more to learn about this. I mean that's one of the lessons throughout.

Kevin Kissler, we appreciate your research and good to have you on this morning.

KISSLER: Thanks so much.

HARLOW: All right, this just in to us here at CNN. Another key endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden. Senator Elizabeth Warren just officially endorsed him in a video.

Here's part of it.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In this moment of crisis, it is more important than ever that the next president restores Americans' faith in good, effective government. And that's why I'm proud to endorse Joe Biden as president of the United States.


HARLOW: She will also be sending an e-mail to supporters encouraging them to support Biden as well. Her endorsement comes just a month after she decided to end her own presidential run. In part, to focus on the coronavirus pandemic.

All right, getting sick while treating the sick. It is a devastating reality for thousands of healthcare workers. Now Minnesota's largest employer is also dealing with a -- largest private employer, the Mayo Clinic, is also dealing with a financial crisis.



HARLOW: This morning, new data about the devastating toll coronavirus is taking on health care workers. The CDC reports nearly 9,300 health care workers have tested positive for the virus since mid-February. Seventy-three percent of those cases are among women. One of the Nation's most renowned medical institutes is not just grappling with this health care crisis, but also a financial crisis.

The Mayo Clinic, which is the largest private employer in Minnesota, announced significant pay cuts and furloughs in anticipation of a $3 billion loss this year.

Jeff Bolton is with me. He is a chief administrator officer at the Mayo Clinic.

Sir, thank you very much to you, to all the doctors. Many family members of mine have been treated there. You guys do critical work. So thank you for that. Let's talk about this headline. I was so struck seeing it cross just a

few days ago, a $3 billion projected loss for you guys this year. That means that you are issuing pretty significant pay cuts for tens of thousands of workers, furloughing some of them, you're taking a 20 percent pay cut. You say you haven't seen anything like this since the Great Depression.

JEFF BOLTON, CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER, MAYO CLINIC: That's correct, Poppy. And thank you for having me here today.

I think it's important to put the financial crisis within the context of the human crisis associated with Covid-19, the pandemic. And if you look at this as a global healthcare crisis, it has taken a toll and I -- and some of your earlier segments clearly represent that. Also the healthcare professionals, scientists, that have risen to accept the challenge, both in terms of treating Covid-19 patients, but also in terms of searching for solutions. And we're very confident that we will find solutions.

However, as you pointed out, this healthcare crisis also represents a financial crisis across the healthcare industry. And Mayo Clinic is not immune from that.

So as you reported, we're currently forecasting reductions in revenue of $3 billion to $3.5 billion and have had to take significant actions to reduce the impact on the clinic.


As someone who, you know, is lucky enough to have friends who are ER doctors, surgeons, et cetera, I know personally what many of them are going through in terms of putting themselves on the front line, like your physicians are to treat people, but also making less money and taking home less. And I wonder, if when things -- if things hopefully return to normal, will there be an effort to make those front line healthcare workers whole again or is this lost revenue that will never be replaced at all levels?

BOLTON: The intention of the actions that we're taking are temporary. We're forecasting a recovery in the fourth quarter and expecting next year, if things turn around, as projected, we will be able to return the cutbacks that we've had to implement.

HARLOW: OK. That's good news for many of them.

You know, I think people don't understand, and I didn't have a full understanding of it until more recently, a lot of the reason that the revenue is down so much is because all of these elective procedures have been canceled. And that's not, you know, plastic surgery we're talking about here. That's breast cancer surgery, many cancer surgeries, and partly because of a lack of protective gear for those?

BOLTON: Yes, that's correct. There are really two reasons at Mayo Clinic. One is, we have a significant number of travel patients coming from all over the country and from over 140 countries also the globe. But also the decision to proactively eliminate elective surgeries and visits.


And that has a significant impact.

For example, on our largest campus, the Rochester campus, we're operating right now at about 40 percent, 30 percent to 40 percent of capacity. We normally operate between 85 percent and 100 percent.

HARLOW: Yes. Let me ask you this. The chief physician executive in Houston issued a dire warning just a few days ago saying essentially if we stop social distancing too soon, if we open the economy too soon, quote, not only will more people die, but you will absolutely destroy and medical infrastructure of the country. He says there will not be enough PPE on the planet to keep all of the doctors and nurses safe and you will bankrupt the hospitals. There will be nothing left when it is done.

Is he right? Do you agree with that assessment, if we don't do this right?

BOLTON: Well, I think we have to do it right. Social distancing, stay- at-home orders have definitely had a positive impact. Flattening the curve. And they have been critical.

Also, the expansion of serological testing to look at individuals that have contracted the disease and have recovered will also be very important.

HARLOW: OK. I think we're all rooting for all of our health care professionals across the country, around the world, and for institutions like yours. Good luck. Thank you, Jeff.

BOLTON: Well, thank you. Thank you very much.

HARLOW: Of course.


SCIUTTO: Well, meat producers are asking the government now for a lifeline as major processing plants are hit hard by the coronavirus. What this means for the nation's food supply. Some key questions coming up.



HARLOW: So pork and beef producers are now asking the government to buy meat and speed up the stimulus money to them.


HARLOW: This as major processing plants across the country are forced to shut down because of coronavirus outbreaks, putting pressure on the nation's food supply chain. SCIUTTO: I mean just the broad effects of this on every industry is

just remarkable.


SCIUTTO: CNN's Dianne Gallagher, she's been following this.

So what are we learning? And I suppose the key for people watching is, does this mean it will be harder to get meat in the grocery stores?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not necessarily, and so please don't go run out and stock up on meat and put it in your freezer. There's still meat in the stores. But there's concern about the supply chain and what this does mean for producers and farmers at this point.

Pork producers, you've been watching these plants shut down. Well, they're asking now the U.S. government to purchase some of their meat. And in part that's because of the pandemic shutting those plants down, but also because the farmers that are raising the pigs have nowhere to sell them to. So they're also -- this oversupply of pigs that they're having to continue to pay to feed and house. And so it's just this situation where they're also financially hurting because they can't sell them off. They're paying more for it. So they're asking if the government will purchase their meat.

Now, whether that's going to happen is a big question. Look, the USDA says that there's already more than 2 billion frozen pounds of meat that are in storage in commercial and private areas and so they haven't really committed to that. But there are questions from really all of those who work in the agriculture business about what the USDA is going to do with that 9.5 billion that was set aside in last month's stimulus money for them. They haven't gotten any details on how they're going to be helped with that money at this point.

And it appears that those plans, Jim and Poppy, are not finalized right now. A tweet was sent out just yesterday saying that details are still forthcoming. But, as you can imagine, with all that we've seen this industry go through, just in the past week or so, they're concerned about getting that money and starting to implement it because their industry is hurting.

HARLOW: You know, and on top of this, so we started with your important reporting on South Dakota. Now we know about this plant in Colorado, shut down indefinitely after a third worker there died from Covid-19. The governor says hundreds of other likely infected. Then you've got nearly half of the new cases in Iowa tied to an outbreak at a meat packing plant. I guess how are officials responding and why, at all these meat packing plants, is this happening?

GALLAGHER: So I'm going to get to that part first, why is it happening at these meat packing plants? In part because they were declared essential workers. So while everybody else was social distancing and staying at home, all of these people were still going to work. And according to the unions, in some cases, they weren't practicing any kind of social distancing inside those facilities. It's shoulder to shoulder. There's a lot of interaction.

But, also, some of the unions claim that they weren't being given the proper protective gear. They weren't being given masks. They weren't being given things to separate them, even in situations where it was hard to distance themselves.

And then you look at the fact that they were essential workers. A lot of these facilities are in communities that they make up the large part of the work force. So they're going to their homes. The social spread after being in these facilities has just kind of exploded in some of these areas.

Now, what's being done about it depends on where you live and what plant you work at. If you're in South Dakota, we saw that the governor has resisted declaring an official stay-at-home order, even for those counties. So the local officials have tried to make up where they can, by declaring these proclamations to try and stop social spread. In Colorado, they've shut down that plant initially for cleaning, Jim and Poppy. Now the governor says it will be indefinitely. They want to test everybody who works there before they go back.

SCIUTTO: Dianne Gallagher, thanks very much.

Good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

The governors are stepping in to the void.


The president continues to suggest May 1st, that's just a few weeks from now, for a possible reopening of the country, even though Dr. Anthony Fauci says we --