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World Health Organization: "Getting On With The Job" After President Donald Trump Cuts Funding; Governor Gavin Newsom Warns Social Distancing Will Continue; Food Supply Concerns Grow After Outbreak At Major Meat Plant; South Dakota To Conduct First Statewide Hydroxychloroquine Trial; President Donald Trump Praised China's Coronavirus Response Before Blaming Them For Global Pandemic; Dr. Anthony Fauci: No "One Size Fits All" Method For Reopening States. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 15, 2020 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: This trend did not start over night. According to one non-profit group, at least 50 universities and colleges have dropped their testing requirement in recent months.

Top of the hour now I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world I'm John King in Washington and this is CNN's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

A wow and sad marker today there are now two million confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide. We'll hear soon from New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo his state of course the hardest hit here in the United States.

Also this hour the President the United States holds a call with industry executives from health care, technology, telecom and transportation industries that call happening after a morning of horrible economic indicators here in the United States. Retail sales contracted an emergency loan program about to run out of money as of today.

The big warnings for Americans now out of work this is going to kill small town America. The sputtering economy is why the President is eager to get the country back to work. White House sources say the President is set on a May 1st date to reopen many doctors and scientists though even some on the President's team say the country is simply not ready not enough people have been tested.

The Food and Drug Administration says some new antibody tests are not reliable. Today the World Health Organization says "It is getting on with the job" that after President Trump announced the United States will now withhold funding for the World Health Group.

There are global questions about the wisdom of that decision in the middle of a pandemic but the President's fury flows from his insistence that the WHO did not shout loud enough about the virus in the early weeks of the crisis. Dr. Deborah Birx last hour the President's one of his top advisers echoes the boss. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Once this is over we'll be able to look back and see did China and the W.H.O. say and do everything to alert the rest of the world to the nuances of this virus? Because when it first explodes someone had to have known that there was human to human transmission.

You really have to go back and ask yourself why there wasn't this level of transparency when this virus exploded. I think people would have prepared differently if they had known the level of transmissibility of this virus.


KING: In America's most populous state California the Governor Gavin Newsom says it's too early to tell when his state will be able and ready to reopen. But he says it will be science not politics that guides his decision. This as the number of cases in California alone tops 25,000 nearly 800 people have died close to half of those deaths happening in Los Angeles County.

Joining me now Dr. Anish Mahajan Chief Medical Officer at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Doctor thank you for being with us today so you see the case numbers though you see especially the L.A. County issue and you see the Governor trying to balance what all political leaders are trying to figure out right now.

How do we continue to suppress this virus while we think about reopening? What is the current state of play are you optimistic or do you see any signs of worry?

DR. ANISH MAHAJAN, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, HARBOR-UCLA MEDICAL CENTER: Well, we are very fortunate in California that the stay-home-orders and shelter-at-home orders have helped us flatten the curve here. We are seeing more and more patients coming into our hospital and our public hospitals but not at a very high rate. So we're able to keep up with the demand though the demand is still high.

KING: And so let's just look at it. Again you look 10,075 confirmed cases statewide 366 deaths but when you look at the 5 day rolling which what we look at to try to get a sense anyone day can spike or can drop and you think you're out of the woods? So you look at a more five day moving average of cases.

And again at the very end there a little bit up but if you're in the public health community you're trying to average that out are you convinced that trend line is heading in the right direction or is the last day or two have you a little worried?

DR. MAHAJAN: Well, you know we're not yet sure. We need a few more days to know. I would say another week before we can really understand whether we are now getting to the place where there are fewer new cases happening.

As you know when new cases occur there's a lag time for the patients to get sicker and then come into the hospital and then there's a lag time for the most terrible outcome of death and so we are somewhere in that in that space right now here in California.

KING: So I'm mixing a bit here and forgive me. Mixing a little bit of public health with politics in the sense that California is one of the states that acted quickly, acted earlier than other states in enacting stay-at-home orders, social distancing and the like and you are peer to be in better shape than say a New York or say New Orleans or a Detroit, Michigan.

And now you have the conversation with our new reporting is the President is determined that May 1st is his date to essentially say go ahead states. You have your own flexibility. You have your own calls but please get about the business of reopening.

Even in a state like California which is in better shape than some places around America do you think you're ready on May 1st or do you think you need from a public health standpoint more time?

DR. MAHAJAN: Well, we have to do what's right to protect the public and health care workers. May 1st would seem premature to lift the stay-at-home orders. Local modeling, regional modeling suggests that if we were to lift the stay-at-home orders at this stage we would again see a resurgence of infections at a high rate.


DR. MAHAJAN: And so as Governor Newsom and others have pointed out what we need to do is reopening in a stage manner and very slowly at a time when we understand that we have sufficient hospital capacity to take care of patients that may spring up and get infected as we do so.

You've also heard that we absolutely need to understand how we're going to do a better job of testing? We have to test in the community and then contact tracing quarantine people who are sick without doing that it would be too soon for us to talk about reopening.

KING: Dr. Mahajan thank you for your time and insights today more importantly. Thank you and all of your colleagues for what you're doing every day to keep us safer. We greatly appreciate it cannot say thank you enough sir.

DR. MAHAJAN: Thank you.

KING: Thank you and you just heard it right there again from the good doctor it is the Groundhog Day line of this pandemic. We must have more testing before we can reopen. It is necessary to have aggressive testing in order to reopen. So what is it going to take to get there?

CNN Senior Investigative Correspondent Drew Griffin has been following this testing issue from the start of the pandemic. Drew in the most powerful advance we are supposed to be the world's exceptional nation you just heard the doctor again how are we doing a testing?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: You know the bottom line is mixed and do not very good. We have caught up with testing in these hot spot areas where doctors and patients who are sick needed to know immediately in the hospital if they are sick with a COVID-19 or not?

There still are supplies issues there are still no swab issues but the labs have basically caught up. The bigger labs, commercial labs say they have dropped their backlog. But this is just again John for those people who get a doctor's order to basically be allowed to test the sickest of the sick.

We are nowhere near the testing that the rest of us have been asking for. You know my kids got a little fever do I get them a test or not? It's really not that widely available. And then the next phase of the testing is are we doing enough testing to allow people like Donald Trump and his advisors to actually know if we can open up different portions of the country or not?

One of the hot spots the Mayor, Mayor De Blasio of New York says he's still having problems with testing listen.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Federal Government still has not provided testing to this country that's the central problem they have to fix. You know what we're doing now John we're creating our own tests here in New York City. We just couldn't wait any longer. I think a lot of other places have to do the same thing.


GRIFFIN: And the problem with that is John if all these individual states, cities areas start doing their own testing and coordinating their own testing will that information that much needed data be sent to Federal Authorities to decide whether or not there is enough testing to open up in New Jersey, open up in Oklahoma or not?

More testing are coming on the market. It's a matter of where is the coordination? Where is the national data bank to look at these tests? I just don't believe we are there yet anywhere near close.

KING: Drew Griffin has been on top of this from the beginning. Drew appreciate it, you make the case. We need a national moon shot not a 50 states trying to do the best they can in the middle of a pandemic. Drew Griffin again thanks so much. Up next for us here an explosive outbreak of Coronavirus inside one South Dakota Food Plant.



KING: Concerns about the nation's food supply are growing after an outbreak of Coronavirus at one of the country's largest pork processing plants here in the United States. As of Tuesday, 438 workers at the Smithfield Plant in South Dakota had tested positive for Coronavirus. Those numbers alone account for nearly half of the state's cases. The Smithfield Plant is now closed indefinitely, but it's important to point out that food processing plants are not the only vulnerable part of our food supply chain. There are farmers and grocery store employees who are also at risk. Let's bring in CNN's Dianne Gallagher she's tracking the story for us.

How concerned should people watching be about the possibility of food supply interruptions or shortages, Dianne?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think we should focus on that word food supply interruption. This does not mean that you need to go to the grocery store and panic-buy meat and horde it in your freezer. Please, don't do that. That's not what we're talking about at this point.

What we are talking about is these various interruptions that we're seeing at every level of the food supply chain, from the farmers, who at this point have more product than they know what to do with because they can't sell it to the meat-packing and processing facilities because they've closed down due to workers that are dealing with the Coronavirus, workers that are dying from the Coronavirus.

And then you have the grocery stores that can't get the meat eventually from those meat packing facilities. There is ample stored meat at this point. However, the big concerns are these workers at every single level. And in speaking to the unions, the question that they want answered is, are we essential workers or are we sacrificial workers?

There is serious concern about the amount of protection that's being afforded to those who are working in processing plants and grocery stores right now, John. In fact, the UFCW Union President has asked authorities to basically declare these grocery store workers as extended emergency personnel or extended first responders. And this is his reasoning why?


MARC PERRONE, PRESIDENT, UNITED FOOD & COMMERCIAL WORKERS INTERNATIONAL UNION: That's going to give them access to testing and rapid response results to the test. And I think that's imperative if, in fact, we're going to slow the transmission of the disease down within those stores as well as within our communities that we operate in.


PERRONE: In addition it's going to give them access to get in the queue to receive personal protection equipment which is been very difficult to do.


GALLAGHER: UFCW John says that 30 of its members have died already from the Coronavirus. It's impacted thousands of them as well. KING: Thousands it is a great serious issue. Diane Gallagher thanks for keeping track of a very important watch all this play out South Dakota one of the places where the Coronavirus cases are going up.

Dr. Allison Suttle is the Chief Medical Officer for Sanford Health in South Dakota. She's also overseeing a clinical trial on Hydroxychloroquine in the State Doctor thank you so much for joining us. I want to start out with just looking at the - if you look at the five day average in South Dakota and were looking we were going state by state and we saying are they flattening of the curve that is troublesome to me.

And I'm sure to you when you look at it that arrow pointing up. Is that a result of the Smithfield Plant? Is it primarily that the one cluster the one problem or is there a broader statewide issue?

DR. ALLISON SUTTLE, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, SANFORD HEALTH: Yes, that's a great question John. Thank you. I think it is very specific and unique to the individual systems. When we look at South Dakota as a state where a population about 880,000 individuals across the entire state and when we look at Sioux Falls South Dakota where the Smithfield Plant is located that's 180,000 individuals.

We're lucky in South Dakota in that we saw a lot of this coming up on the coast and a lot of the stay-at-home and social distancing we've been doing. And we really started doing that before we started seeing a surge.

So we've seen our curve flattened and we're really only seen trickling of cases in our medical centers. And then we suddenly had a spike with Smithfield. So it is a very unique hot spot within the State of South Dakota.

KING: That you mentioned Sioux Falls, the Mayor there which is the Governor would be more aggressive and I want you to listen here. I had him on several days ago before we knew about the Smithfield Plant even then he was saying he wishes the Governor had more teeth and more you know statewide order as opposed to a statewide recommendation. Listen to the Mayor.


MAYOR PAUL TENHAKEN (R), SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA: The growth that we've seen in our COVID cases really in the last week has been a bit staggering. Right now we're doubling we've been doubling every four days for the last 18 days. I would rather be chastised for being over cautious then chastised for saying why did you act Mayor?


KING: The Governor correctly notes that even if you had a statewide ordered to stay-at-home these Smithfield workers would have been exempted because they are essential workers. They are food processing workers and they were going to work anyway.

Do you know what was being done at that plant where there any state requests or any business where people being screened for temperature for example or any precautions being taken in advance or is that an after the fact oh, I wish we had?

DR. SUTTLE: You know I don't know the inner workings and were not involved in the process at that plant. What they were doing? I work here as a health system kind of takes care of those individuals that do become ill. I do know that the State Department of Health does significant contact tracing.

And that we are able as a state to really do that careful contact tracing. So when one of the Smithfield employees is diagnosed as positive with the COVID virus they're able to identify all of those contacts and recognize those individuals and get those individuals isolated as well.

KING: As you know the Hydroxychloroquine debate has been somewhat controversial because the President talks about it from the White House podium. You are now doing a statewide study in your state, just map out when will you know if this is effective?

DR. SUTTLE: Yes. And that's really the beauty of science. Science is not political science is trying to answer a question. And what we're trying to answer is the question around Hydroxychloroquine does it work or does it not works?

So Stanford Health with our research arm started a couple months ago looking at the disease as a whole and trying to identify different areas where different therapies might be effective. Hydroxychloroquine is one of those that have the potential to prevent the virus from entering the human cell.

So what we decided to do there is look at patients who were exposed to the virus and then offer those patients Hydroxychloroquine or Placebo and look to see if they develop the disease or not? And if they do develop the disease is it less severe or is it no less severe depending on whether they receive the Hydroxychloroquine or not?

KING: You will know the answer to this question when? How long does it take?

DR. SHUTTLE: So the beauty of this part with prophylaxis is that it's a short time frame. It's about 14 days from when you're exposed to when you present with the illness. We're going to register about 2,000 patients because we can do it statewide. We would anticipate getting those patients registered relatively quickly and then be able to have results within six months.


KING: Well, I hope you'll come back to us when you have those results as you know in part because the President likes to talk about a lot of people are asking the question. So when the science speaks please come back and let us knows doctor. Thank you very much.

DR. SHUTTLE: I'll do, thank you. KING: I appreciate your work thank you very much. Up next the way for some Americans expecting those stimulus checks and aid for their businesses?


VANCE HAUGEN, DAILY FARMER, SPRINGSIDE FARM: These aren't President at times. I have no idea - is a business we're going to survive this pandemic. Smithfield Plant - runs getting the Coronavirus just plant getting knocked out not so 5 percent of all of our production for pork. There are similar issues in beef, and there are similar issues in dairy. We need to have policy that will spread things out and make mid, the small farms more viable.



KING: The World Health Organization just last hour saying it regrets President Trump's decision to now withhold U. S. funding for that agency. It also says though it will get about the business of doing its work during the pandemic.

This as we see global condemnation of the President's decision and some tensions even within his White House team the Head of the Centers for Disease Control saying this morning he would not have cut off funding in the middle of a global pandemic.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEAE CONTROL: I think it's important at this point that we leave the analysis of what could have been done better and what, what, what, and what maybe we did well to once we get through this? I'd like to do the post mortem on this outbreak once we get through it together.


KING: Also today sources in the White House saying the President is determined to have his team give him the green light to reopen the American economy on May 1st. And his team is trying to find ways for the President to get to that goal. One of the other top scientists on the White House Anthony Fauci says maybe we can get there by May 1st but he says he will not be one size fits all.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It probably would be a rolling entry into it with some states actually doing nothing different because they're still in a really difficult situation and you would not want to relax any of the physical separation guidelines and others that would be doing really much better. So it's not going to be a one size fits all end.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: CNN's Kaitlan Collins now joins us live from the White House. Kaitlan interesting there two top scientists on the President's team both trying in different ways to work the boss if you will through television interviews.

Dr. Redfield saying I wouldn't have picked this fights right now. I would have saved it for later. And Dr. Fauci knowing that the President wants to gin up the economy making clear he says we got to be very careful here. Don't try to do a national plan one size will not fit all.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's notable what Doctor Fauci said because what you're saying that's so different about this deadline that the President has said of May 1 is that it's very different than when he had that Easter deadline something that aid to spend days trying to talk him out of it and eventually succeeded of course as the President did back off of that.

They are not doing similar with this deadline instead they're working to try to please the President but also not a race the gains that they made from social distancing. When it comes to the W.H.O. though most people in the President's world figured he was going to move forward with this after last week he announced he was going to put a pause on that funding and then in the same briefing just a few minutes later he said he was just going to review putting a pause on it.

So many people saw this coming what he did yesterday. But John what was so notable about that is the President's reasoning for doing so. He not only criticized the WHO for taking China at its word he also criticized them for praising China for being transparent. But John that is something the President himself has done.

And when I pressed him on this yesterday in the Rose Garden he did not offer any answer on that in consistency.


COLLINS: You're criticizing the WHO for praising China for being transparent but you also praised China for being transparent.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES I don't talk about China's transparency. Well, you know if I'm so good to China how come I was the only person, the only leader of a country that closed our borders tightly against China?


COLLINS: Now John, what's also notable what the President said there yesterday as he repeatedly pointed to the fact that his administration was negotiating a trade deal with China in January talking about those tweets were he repeatedly praised the Chinese leader after the conversations they had and did not push them on the questions and the statements that they were making about the transmission of the virus either.

So of course now the President has put this hold on it. You see people like the CDC Director disagreeing but there are other people in the White House who did encourage the President to do so.

KING: And the President can say he didn't say something but your question was spot on. And we counted we counted more than two dozen times in January and February the President praised China including its transparency. He also on several of those occasions said that the World Health Organization was doing a fantastic job.

Kaitlan Collins live at the White House keep at it. Keep at it. Keep at it. Today is April 15th that used to be tax day right? But the IRS is delaying that deadline because of Coronavirus until July. So instead of tax refund checks people are waiting to get their stimulus checks. Plus tough economic news today retail sales down 8.7 percent for March, that's the worst drop since the government started keeping track.