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Persistent Testing Issues Complicate Reopening U.S.; Dr. Rochelle Walensky Discusses Massachusetts' High Number of COVID-19 Cases; CA Governor Newsom: Science Will Guide Decision to Reopen Economy; Trump Halts Funding for World Health Organization; Trump Changes Tune on Testing. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 15, 2020 - 11:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King in Washington. This is CNN's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

The global case count now topping two million. There's also global outrage over President Trump's decision to withhold any U.S. funding for the World Health Organization.

In Japan, new projections that hundreds of thousands may die. This as workers in the country's -- in the country with the world's oldest population are still going to the office.

In Singapore, deaths up sharply again. Masks are now mandatory in public.

In Africa, coronavirus precaution is disrupting the food supply. Now putting millions at possible risk of starvation.

Here in the United States, another sobering record, 2400 people died here in the United States on Tuesday. That is a single day high for coronavirus deaths. The upticks snapped a streak. The death number had been coming down.

Still, the belief is the underlying numbers show promise.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: There's still a couple of cities right now, Savannah, that we're worried about that haven't yet peaked and turned around.

There's no doubt what we have seen over the last several days is a flattening out. And even when you get to New York, it's actually starting to come down regarding admissions, hospitalizations, need for intensive care and intubation.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Now, the more incurve flattens, the more the president will use that as ammunition to reopen the country. Dr. Anthony Fauci says, quote, "We're not there yet."

New alarms today for what and when, how to reopen debate. Six states, including California, will run out of money to pay the unemployed in 10 weeks. U.S. retail shelves shrinking nearly 9 percent last month.

And the Small Business Administration telling Congress its emergency loan money will run out today.

That's why the president says the sooner the better on getting Americans back to work.

But his scientists have a long list of questions, testing is still a massive problem. The number of tests analyzed over the past week declined sharply.

And there's still a debate over if or how quickly someone infected can get infected again. That a key piece of the back-to-work puzzle. Absent more testing and more data, the scientists are left to hope.


FAUCI: I hope we don't get a second wave. Is it possible that we do? Yes, it is possible. What I hope we'll be able to do and I believe we'll be able to do is respond to that in a very, very vigorous way, because we will have had several months to get all of these cards in order.


KING: Here to share his expertise and insights, our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, number one, you look at the death toll yesterday, 2405 Americans dying. That's a sad record. As we go day to day after a few drops, it's gone up. How has this virus changed? What do we know about how to handle it?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that the virus itself has been pretty constant. You know, John, it's not mutated a lot. It's still very contagious virus. We're still getting a better idea of the death rate, you know, just how lethal this virus is. But it's significant.

You know, I think what has changed is what we're learning about it. We're learning that it doesn't always necessarily affect the lungs as much as we thought it did. It may affect other organ systems first.

People may have these neurological sorts of manifestations, John. Loss of smell, we heard that one. But also dizziness, headache, confusion, things like that that you don't typically associate with a respiratory infection. Those seem to happen about a third of the time and often can be the first symptoms someone experiences. This is just a note to people out there, huh, I don't feel like I have

a respiratory infection, but I have one of these. Could this be the COVID? That's not to alarm people. Just to make them more aware.

So we're continuing to learn a lot. We're seeing also, you know, I think to your conversation just now, John, the fact that when you start to let up these stay-at-home orders, without a question, there will be people who will get infected, who otherwise wouldn't have. Because the virus is still out there. It's just going to be question of what's the balance. How much are you willing to accept in order to start opening things up.

KING: And to that point, Sanjay, you're a doctor. You rely on evidence, data, practice, what happened the last time you went down this road with a certain illness.

The president wants to reopen the country. And listen to Dr. Redfield here, one of the things we're still not sure of, there has been some data of South Korea, but we don't have enough data yet. If you had coronavirus and go back in, how long are you immune? Does that give you immunity for a year, for two years, immunity forever, for only a couple months?

Dr. Redfield says we don't know. Listen.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Does having COVID-19 give you immunity? Do we know the answer to that?


FAUCI: When you develop an antibody after infection, it almost invariably means you're protected.


We don't absolutely know that for sure yet. I think it is going to be the case.


KING: What is the risk of opening the door to people leaving their homes and going back to work if we don't know whether even those who have been infected, let alone those who haven't been and the risk of exposure, but even if those who have been infected, whether or not they can get it again?

GUPTA: That's a significant risk. I would answer, say that, presumably, it should have some impact. If you have been infected and develop the antibodies, presumably, based on infections with other coronaviruses, with other viruses in general, you should have some immunity. We don't know how strong or how long. That's the big question. So the risk is still going to be there. And you know, obviously,

there's a lot of people who won't have the antibodies regardless until they get a vaccine. So it's a significant risk.

I have to say as well, John, just following along for three months now, it's interesting to hear how Dr. Fauci sort of in a way sort of slow rolls the country into this.

If you look at the data right now, looking at the data obviously, yesterday was a terrible day in terms of deaths, but overall, if you look at the data right now, there's no way you can possibly open the country by the beginning of next month.

For so many reasons, based on the number alone and also the lack of widely available testing, which is, was, and will continue to be a real significant issue.

KING: And I was watching a conversation you were having with Anderson last night, and one of the lead NIH vaccine researchers and it left me cautiously optimistic. She seemed to think there was a timetable that perhaps by this fall, at least they would have an experimental vaccine to test with people on the front lines. Is that optimism, is that the right takeaway?

GUPTA: It was one of the best pieces of news I have heard in a while, John, as well.

So what she said, and she is spearheading the vaccine program at NIH. She said two things that really caught my eye. We're asking about, how quickly could this happen, the question everybody in the world wants to know.

She said, quote, "for the general public," she thinks, "by next spring," if everything goes OK, obviously, a lot of big ifs in there, but if it's shown to be safe and effective, by next spring, a vaccine could be available for the general public.

I know that's a long ways away. Vaccines can take a decade to make, John, just to give a little context.

The bigger piece of news, to your question, I thought, was really quite -- it was good, potentially good news. That is under emergency authorization, the vaccine could be made available even sooner. This fall, for health care workers.

So you know, again, there's a lot of caveats in there. So I always want to be cautious, but that would be amazing news. Obviously, for health care workers first, and then for everybody else by spring of next year.

KING: It would be on a day when we're processing a record number of deaths of Americans yesterday. We're watching the global case count go past two million, having something to grasp onto that is perhaps hopeful, I'll take it.

Dr. Gupta, I really appreciate all of your insight today. Outside of New York and New Jersey, no state has more cases of coronavirus than Massachusetts. The virus has infected more than 28,000 people in the commonwealth. Nearly 1,000 people have died. It's the fifth-highest death toll of any state.

Joining me now is Dr. Rochelle, Walensky, the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Doctor, it's good to see you.

Help us put Massachusetts in context when we look at New York and think, OK, more -- it's getting more encouraging. Not getting great by any means but more encouraging, a flattened curve. Massachusetts, not there yet?


No. Well, you know, I would like to say everybody projected that April 14th to 16th would be our peak. So perhaps we're in it. We are certainly unfortunate to be in third place here, for sure.

But we're hoping that maybe in the days and weeks ahead that we'll start to see a plateauing of the numbers. We anticipated we would be in a tough spot and we're finding ourselves in that tough spot.

KING: If you look at the graph on the screen, the five-day rolling average of cases does seem to show if that holds up, that maybe you're at the peak. The question is what next.

And I want you to listen here to the mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, who is trying to tell people we're at a key point. Do not mess this up.


MAYOR MARTY WALSH, (D), BOSTON: I just want to continue to re-enforce, as we get through the surge, as we have seen our numbers in the city of Boston double in the last seven days. We have seen the number of people that have lost their live increase in the last seven days.

We're asking everyone to continue to do your part and to make sure you practice everything that we're asking you to do.


KING: I know you're on the medical side of this, but what is your sense of whether it's from a patient count or just anecdotal observation, as this goes on for weeks and weeks and weeks, as people start to hear conversations about potentially reopening, people get antsy, people maybe let down their guard. Is that the case?

WALENSKY: Yes, one of the things I want to emphasize is, in my mind, in order to reopen, we really need to have capacity in our hospital system and our medical system.

[11:10:07] Right now, we are working to maintain some capacity to keep up with the people who are coming in the door, but they are still coming in the door at a pretty rapid clip.

The other thing I think is really important to emphasize is, over time, the number of people requiring our intensive care unit and ventilation has increased.

So a week ago, it was 30 percent, 35 percent of our inpatients needed ventilatory support. Today, we're up to about 45 percent of our inpatients needing ventilatory support.

We have at least 10 floors that are now operating like intensive care units. That's more than double what we normally have.

So our capacity right now to take care of other standard medical conditions is really quite limited. And I think that that needs to be a key component of how we decide when and how to open up.

KING: Do you know why? Do you know why, all of a sudden, you have the increased need for ventilators? Patients waiting longer to get care and are in worse shape?



KING: Is that the problem?

WALENSKY: No, I think we know from the natural history of the disease that people sort of come in and have four or five days where they may have symptoms but not sort of turn for the worst until four or five days later. So we expected this. This is not surprising.

What we can say is if we're now at the peak number of cases. We're probably going to be at the peak number of need for ventilators in about five to seven days, and likely the peak number of deaths five to seven days after that.

So I'm heart wrenched to see the death toll numbers but I'm anticipating they're still going to rise, at least in Massachusetts.

KING: Dr. Walensky, very much appreciate your insights. Let's keep in touch as we go forward.

WALENSKY: Thank you so much.

KING: Looks like a tough week ahead for you in Massachusetts.

Thank you so much.

Public health, not politics -- that's the message from the California governor, Gavin Newsom. He says public health will guide his decision on reopening the economy of the most populous state.

The timing is still TBD, but the governor says Californians need to reimagine life, restaurants with fewer tables and disposal menus and social distancing here to stay as far as the eye can see.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): If we're moving into a next phase of our businesses so that we can practice safe physical distancing within the premise of a business, within and around a school site and facilities large and small, public and private, all throughout the state of California.


KING: Dan Simon, in San Francisco for us today.

Dan, pretty clear the governor sees any reopening as gradual and very carefully managed.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One-hundred percent, John. What he's trying to do is manage expectations and let people know who may not be thinking too deeply about things as they're trying to manage through this crisis day by day, of what things are going to look like once society and the economy open up once again.

And he's saying mass gatherings, don't count on them happening anytime soon, whether it's a concert or sporting event.

Schools, he said, could be reimagined with staggered start times so you don't have everybody going into the schools at once. And you might have lunchrooms that look different. And face coverings are here to stay for quite a while. And you heard what he had to say about restaurants.

He did not put a timeframe on this in terms of when he's going to put pen to paper and lift this order.

But what he did say is there a couple important benchmarks that need to be met. I want to go through some of those.

He says you need to have expanding testing and tracking. You have to protect vulnerable communities. We're talking about homeless folks and the elderly. You have to meet all the hospital needs. You have to collaborate on therapies and treatments. Redraw regulations on physical distancing. New enforcement mechanisms for stay-at-home orders.

That's quite a laundry list of things, John. And when all of that is going to be in place, we just don't know. He said check with him in about two or three weeks -- John?

KING: Check with him in two or three weeks. But important, the governor trying to at least start laying it out so people understand it won't be normal. It will be a very different new normal.

Dan Simon, appreciate the live report from San Francisco.

[11:14:13] President Trump says it's time to cut off funding to the World Health Organization. Even one of the president's own top scientists says that may not be such a good idea in the middle of a pandemic.


KING: More public tension today between President Trump and his top coronavirus scientists. The head of the Centers for Disease Control says he would not cut off funding to the World Health Organization in the middle of a pandemic, even if the agency has made some mistakes.


REDFIELD: I think it's important at this point that we leave the analysis of what could have been done better and what maybe we did well to once we get through this.

I would like to do the postmortem on this outbreak once we get through it together.


KING: But the president is cutting off that funding. And it's important to listen closely to why. The World Health Organization, the president says, not only opposed his decision to block travel from China, but the president says it also failed to hold Beijing to account.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China's lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death. Very little death, and certainly very little death by comparison. This would have saved thousands of lives and avoided worldwide economic damage.



KING: Now, there's no doubt the WHO was late to recognize the deep threat of this pandemic. But the president, on several occasions early on, praised the WHO, and specifically praised its work in China.

And look at this. He repeatedly, on more than two dozen occasions, more than two dozen occasions in January and February, President Trump praised China's handling of the coronavirus crisis, including its transparency.

Joining me now, CNN's Dana Bash and CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson.

Dana, I'll start with you.

The president did exactly what he is damning the World Health Organization for doing.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, if you're looking for consistency, this is definitely not the place to look for it. And we have shown that, unfortunately, in so many areas of this crisis, on so many occasions.

Look, what's going on here is that the president has -- there are two big reasons why the president has done this. Number one, he needs a place to blame. And the WHO is as good a place as any.

It fits with where he is with his gut and has been since he ran for president, even before that, which is international organizations are not things that the U.S. should support. And you know, he criticizes them over and over again. That's just a fact.

Couple that with the idea that he is getting a lot of criticism, he's hearing a lot of criticism of the WHO from the people he loves to listen to, his base, both the conservative media and elected officials, who are really blasting not just the organization but the head of the WHO, as somebody who is ineffective, and too aligned with the Chinese.

KING: Part of the stunning part for me, though, is for a man who comes out of a television background, who understands very well that these things are recorded, that Twitter is recorded that we keep these things, that he walks into these briefings every day and says things that directly contradict things he's said over and over and over again. Again, more than two dozen times in January and February, he defended China's handling.

Here's just a little sample.


TRUMP: Right now, our relationship with China is the best it's ever been.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Do you trust we're going to know everything we need to know from China?

TRUMP: I do. I do. I have a great relationship with President Xi.

China, I can tell you, is working really hard. We're working with them. We just sent some of our best people over there, World Health Organization, and a lot of them are composed of our people. They're fantastic.

We're in very constant communication, President Xi and myself. Very, very constant.


KING: How can the person who said all those nice things about China, including about its transparency, say that the World Health Organization is complicit in deaths around the world because it's not pushed China for transparency and it's nice to China? BASH: It's a great question. It is unanswerable in the world of logic.

And that is just a fact, John. And it's important to point that out, as you have done and as we will continue to do.

What we are seeing from this president is, as he has done so many times, pretend like things that he has said don't exist.

I mean, just look at this week. Just look at what he said on Monday that got everybody upset, especially and even conservatives who say are you kidding me. It is impossible to say that the president has full authority when that is not what the Constitution says.

He came out yesterday and pretended like he never said that. And so that is a hallmark of the Trump presidency. A hallmark of the Trump personality.

And what we just have to do is what you just did, continue to point it out. But also note that it is his own top scientists who are worried about cutting off funding for the WHO in the middle of a global pandemic.

KING: In the middle of it.

I want to turn now to an issue. Some people watching say, why don't we wait until after this to hold the president accountable. We can't, not in the middle of the pandemic when he's saying things that are simply not true or trying to rewrite history. We have to call it out.

But this is critical to everybody watching, whether you support President Trump, whether you support Democrats, whether you're not sure. If you want to get back to work, testing is critical.

Listen here. The president's answers on testing, like many other things, continue to evolve, as a kind word.


TRUMP: We're testing everybody that we need to test. And we're finding very little problem.

Anybody that wants a test can get a test.

We took over an obsolete, broken testing system that wouldn't have worked for even a small problem.

We worked with the states and the testing has been pretty amazing.

There's not a lot of issues with testing. You don't have to test every single person to say let's open up.

The governors, the governors are supposed to do testing. It's up to the governors.


[11:25:02] KING: That was interesting. Yesterday, suddenly, it's up to the governors.

BASH: Exactly.

KING: Every time -- every time you talk to a governor, a public health professional, a mayor, somebody on the front lines, somebody, who like the president, wants to open the economy as soon as possible, the first thing they say is we need more testing.

He said he was going to ramp it up. He said everybody can get one. He was very proud of how the federal government was sending the fire department in to fix this. And now, all of a sudden, it's up to the governors again.

BASH: Yes, and it will probably be something different today.

But the way that this is working is that the federal government is and will continue to encourage the labs, like Abbott and others, to make the tests. And it is going to be up to the governors and mayors to distribute them. And the confusion in-between is very real.

But if the president is as goal oriented, as he says he is and as sources we talk to who are speaking to him privately say he is, very much May 1st, May 1st, May 1st, it has to be focused on testing.

We're told maybe there will be some symbolic announcement of so-called cold spot around the country that can resume some normalcy.

But if he wants to do, like, for example, one idea I was told today is manufacturers, big manufacturers, try to get those started again, the thing that has to happen is that they have to have tests that they can give to their workers at the door that can happen very rapidly, where they can get results. And they don't have them yet.

And so the inconsistency of the president and much more importantly the lack of evidence to back up what he has said is the single biggest thing that is stopping the president from reaching his goal and America from reaching the goal, which is reopening society, reopening the economy.

KING: It is striking, the story is changing by the minute, often in sad ways when you see the numbers on the right side of the screen. The one groundhog element we have had for months is testing, testing, testing.

Dana Bash, we appreciate it.

We are sorry we lost Nia-Malika Henderson. Technology. We'll get her back on the program as soon as we can.

And moving on to a quick political note here, Senator Elizabeth Warren now officially endorsing Joe Biden for president. The one-time Biden 2020 rival releasing this video this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): 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.


KING: That part of a big unity week for Democrats following Biden endorsements from Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama.

Up next for us, arrests for breaking a stay-at-home order.