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Interview With San Francisco, California, Mayor London Breed; Stimulus Checks Delayed to Add Trump's Signature?; Business Leaders Warn Trump About Reopening Country Without Testing. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 15, 2020 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Welcome to CNN's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington.

And we have breaking news this afternoon.

Business leaders warning President Trump today that coronavirus testing needs to be ramped up and widespread before anyone can return to work.

Sources tell CNN this. This was part of the first meeting of President Trump's business council. This was first reported by "The Wall Street Journal," and it signals some of the major hurdles that the president will face as he pushes to reopen the economy by May 1.

Let's go straight now to CNN Kaitlan Collins. She is live for us at the White House.

Kaitlan, tell us what else you're learning about this, what's really a warning to the president.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

And, Brianna, this was the first of a series of calls that Trump is going to have today. And on this call, it was executives from banking, financial, hospitality services, restaurants, retail stores, and they had a message for the president, that before people are going to feel comfortable going back to their establishments, they are going to have to ramp up testing here in the United States.

That was the message that came through to the president in this call that we're told by sources lasted about an hour-and-a-half. And they had these extensive discussions, where they -- a lot of them were praising the president and his efforts so far, but they made clear that they are going to see testing -- need to see testing ramped up before they can move forward with reopening the country, which is really the primary reason the president is gathering these business leaders together.

You saw him yesterday list off about 200 people, some of them executives, critics of the president, some of them his friends, that he says is going to be part of this council that's focused on reopening the country, though it's a little bit different than what officials had imagined initially, where they thought it was going to be a much smaller group focused on ways to reopen the country.

Really, this is going to be a much larger group that we're seeing play out, because there were dozens of people on this call. And that was just the first of four calls, Brianna, the president is scheduled today -- to have today.

But this is notable because, for days, the president has been insisting that testing is the best in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world, something we know that is not true. And he's also saying he's not hearing concerns anymore about testing.

And, clearly, today, on this call, that was one of the first things these executives wanted to bring up with the president. So, it's certainly a little bit of a reality check, as he is moving forward with this plan of reopening the country, something we are told by many sources he is still aiming to do by May 1, at least a little bit, starting that day.

So the question is, going forward, does this change the president's thinking on this? Because this really mirrors what public health experts have been telling the president, which is that they're not sure the testing is going to be at the level it needs to be by May 1.

KEILAR: Yes. And is he going to be a general without an army in a way, saying that the economy should reopen, and then you have businesses saying, no, we're not going to?

I wonder, Kaitlan, do we know, did this get through to him? Did he respond to this?

COLLINS: It's not clear. They said the president was really taking a leading role on the call. He was talking to them about testing and what they're doing moving forward with it.

But the question is, of course, does that change his thinking on this? Is he listening to it and ingesting it in a way to where it's going to factor into his decision-making? Because he's been saying he will listen to the health experts.

But, Brianna, we know that some of his conservative allies have been saying, listen to the business leaders here, listen to these executives and what they're telling you, because, of course, they want to get the country reopened, but they also want to make sure they have the testing ready to do that first.

So, the question that we're going to be asking the president this afternoon at that briefing is whether or not this is a message that has registered with him. If these business executives are even saying they're hesitant to move forward, that's really going to be a critical factor to this decision-making process, because, as we have been saying all along, it's not up to the president to open these businesses and open these states back up. It's going to be up to the people who own these businesses and these

restaurants and these retail stores. And, of course, it's going to be up to the consumers. And if they feel comfortable going into these places, that's really going to be when you see the country reopen.

KEILAR: Indeed.

All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you for that report.

The FDA approving two more antibody tests that could detect if people have been infected or not with the novel coronavirus, this as Abbott Laboratories announces the release of their own antibody test that was not approved by the FDA.

I want to bring in CNN's Drew Griffin.

Drew, up until now, you had a lot of these antibody tests that really have not worked, or, as one lab official said, they are just crappy tests, a very technical term that I think we can all relate to.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

KEILAR: So why were they allowed to be sold? And where are we on getting these antibody tests that work?

GRIFFIN: Well, that first batch of tests, the FDA basically relaxed the rules, allowed some of these tests to go out on the market, as long as they didn't say that they had any kind of FDA approval or emergency use approval.

But they did turn out to be crappy tests, and just weren't responsive to what we need to know, which is, for sure, did I or did I not have coronavirus?

So we now have three FDA-approved, under emergency use authorization. We have a bunch more in the pipeline. Those are going to be coming out probably in the next week or so. Actually, the National Cancer Institute running tests on those tests to try to see the validity.

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It's very important to determine, especially for those people who have had novel coronavirus, recovered from it, and perhaps -- we don't know for sure, but it's assumed -- would have immunity.

Those are people that you wouldn't have to retest over and over again to get them back to work. So that's where we stand on the antibody testing right now, really in the initial stages.

KEILAR: This -- there's a new CNN analysis, Drew, as you know. It found that corporate testing of coronavirus actually decreased over the past week.

Why was there a decline? Do we know?

GRIFFIN: There's so many different theories on why it declined.

It could be that the social distancing is working, and because we have only been testing the really sickest of the sick, with that level of sick people being reduced, the testing is not being done. The big commercial labs tell us they have the capacity. They're just seeing their orders reduced.

Now, that contradicts some local labs, public labs, state labs that are still having trouble getting swabs, reagent supplies and other things to run the tests. But, overall, you can still get tests. It's just, for a variety of reasons, these tests have overall reduced in the last couple of days.

KEILAR: Yes, it's a very interesting trend that we have seen in our analysis.

Drew Griffin, thank you for your report.

Let's talk about this now with a CNN analyst, Dr. Amy Compton- Phillips.

I wonder, Doctor, what your reaction is to seeing this decline in testing? Do you have a sense of whether this is a positive or a negative indicator?

DR. AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's actually a positive, in the sense that we had put artificial constraints on the number of those tests going into the commercial labs, in that they were really for, as Drew said, the sickest of the sick patients, so people in the hospital or under suspicion and needing to have their care determined by a positive or negative test.

And so because we put those artificial constraints on it, it's a sign that we're probably over, in most parts of the country, the peak of the wave, and that those sickest of the sick patients are starting to go down.

So that's great. But now what we have to do is start opening up that bottleneck and allowing more people to get tested for lesser symptoms, or even for screening.

KEILAR: And that's the thing is, there just aren't the tests that are needed.

We just heard from business leaders warning President Trump, look, if you want us to reopen, people need to be able to test.

What is going on with the testing. Where are we with that?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: We are we are better than we have been. And we're not anywhere near where we need to be with broadly available testing for anybody on demand.

And the whole rationale behind that is, the tests themselves are like the cars. The reagents, the tools that we use to develop the test, are like the gas that goes in the cars. And those reagents are the supply chain constraint.

We rapidly shot up the number of these kinds of tests that are needed across the globe. And the supply chain hasn't caught up. It's kind of like PPE. It takes a while for the supply chain to catch up for this newly manufactured demand.

KEILAR: And I want to talk to you about a study that was just released. This was in the "Nature Medicine" journal.

And it found -- this may be really the issue of why testing is so important -- it found that people may be most infectious before they even show symptoms.

So, as we're looking now, we're looking ahead to easing restrictions, I think a lot of places are still very far off of this, but they're trying to come up with their plans. How can people protect themselves and others if there may be no symptoms?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: Well, and that is exactly why broad testing is needed, particularly, if you think about the highest-risk people -- and that's health care workers and first responders and grocery store clerks and bus drivers, people that have had to be out in the public, those folks all need to be screened.

And they need to be screened regularly. If they're immune and they have antibodies, great, they might not need to be -- have ongoing screening. But, otherwise, they would need regular screening, because they might be those asymptomatic carriers and can continue to spread the virus to others, unless they know that they have it.

And so how do we at least get everybody screened in those highest-risk professions? And then you can start moving out beyond that, but, right now, we don't even have that supply for those highest-risk professions.

KEILAR: Abbott Laboratories has announced they're going to release a non-FDA-approved antibody test. Is that a test that you personally would be confident in, without having FDA approval?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: I think that it's really critical to make sure that we're doing the testing for the appropriate SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

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And so that's why we look to FDA approval to really certify that, are we testing for the right coronavirus? There's other cousin coronaviruses that cause colds. And the big risk is, are we testing for these cousin coronaviruses, or are we testing for SARS-CoV-2, the COVID coronavirus?

And, fortunately, Abbott's a very reputable lab. There's some other -- exactly what you heard about earlier, this kind of junk science labs that have been out there. My presumption is, the Abbott test is probably very valid, but I will feel even more confident when something is FDA-approved. KEILAR: I want to ask you. There's a lot of scientists who say, if

there's no vaccine, Americans could be practicing social distancing until 2022.

What's your assessment?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: My assessment is that it's going to be gradually reopened.

And so we're not going to be able to go away from really valid handwashing. Highly -- it's probably going to be a while before we're comfortable shaking everybody's hands again. And that might be until we get a vaccine.

But between now and then, we definitely will be doing some degree of being out into our communities again, going back to work again. But it's going to be with some constraints. And that's making sure that we're staying slightly more separate and less touchy-feely than in the past.

KEILAR: The new normal.

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: The new normal.

KEILAR: Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, thank you so much.

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: Thank you.

KEILAR: New York's governor just issued a new order for every New Yorker going out of their home.

Then: how Major League Baseball is playing a role in a key study that could determine who has been exposed to the virus.

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KEILAR: Welcome back to CNN.

In hard-hit New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the stress on the health care system is stabilizing. The three-day average of hospitalizations and admissions into the intensive care unit are down.

But he reiterated, New York is in no way out of the woods.

CNN's Erica Hill is joining us now from New York City.

And, Erica, the governor there, he's ordering all New Yorkers who go out in public to have their nose and their mouth covered when they can't maintain social distancing. Tell us about this decision.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. He announced just a short time ago an executive order for everyone in New York state, as you point out, when they can't maintain social distancing. So, as he said, if you're out for a walk, and you're by yourself and

you're the only person the street, you don't have to have your face covered. But if you're going to cross a street, you see someone else is going to be in close proximity to you, less than that six-foot social distancing, then you need to have your face covered.

New Yorkers have three days to prepare themselves before that order goes into effect. The governor also talking today about when there could be an easing of some measures.

As everyone talks so much about reopening the economy, businesses, schools, the state, here's his take:

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GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): When is this over? I say, personal opinion, it's over when we have a vaccine. It's over when people know, I'm 100 percent safe, and I don't have to worry about this.

When does that happen? When we have a vaccine. When do we have a vaccine? Twelve to 18 months.

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HILL: Sounds like an easy solution, but, as the governor points out there, that vaccine is, of course, still in development, and is still likely at the very least a year away, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes.

And he said, Erica, that he has a blueprint for a phased reopening in New York state, but this can't be implemented until more testing is done. This is the refrain we're hearing from so many places, including business leaders who are talking to President Trump.

Tell us about what he said.

HILL: Yes, you're right. This is something we have heard over and over again from the governor here in New York, Governor Cuomo saying, it's not even so much about the diagnostic testing. That's still important.

And we should point out, New Jersey opening the first saliva testing site today. But it's this antibody testing. And he has said, we know that the New York State Department of Health has an antibody test. They are ramping up testing. But he has millions of people in the state of New York who needs to go back to work.

And, as he has stressed, without those tests to know who may have had this, but was perhaps asymptomatic, and to know who has hopefully some form of immunity, he can't move forward. And he stresses the federal government needs to move in here, so that we can scale it up quickly.

KEILAR: All right, Erica, thank you so much.

Now, today, the IRS said that those $1,200 stimulus checks are going out in record time.

I want to bring in CNN business anchor Julia Chatterley.

And, Julia, direct deposit money may be going out ahead of schedule, but it may be the president's own signature that's actually impacting the process to issue paper checks.

What's going on here?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: Let me try and explain.

For the first time ever, a U.S. president is having his signature placed on IRS checks going out to people. It's never happened before. It is an election year, after all.

But, politics aside, there are criticisms coming even from within the IRS that is saying this is going to create delays, because the computer system needs to be updated. The Treasury is denying that. They're saying that these paper checks will go out next week.

And that's actually ahead of schedule. And the other point to make here -- and the Treasury has been talking about it -- if you go back 10 years to the financial crisis, they made 800,000 payments to people in around two months.

What we have seen, with the help of direct deposits, is 80 million payments made in just two-and-a-half weeks. That's impressive, however you look at it.

KEILAR: And, Julia, the IRS launched a new portal today so that Americans can track their stimulus check. Social media has been flooded, though, with complaints that it doesn't work.

What is the IRS saying about this?

CHATTERLEY: They're pointing to overwhelming demand from people.

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It is two days early. It was meant to be up and running on Friday. So perhaps they should have waited a bit longer. But this is just millions of people now trying to get online to update their payment information with their direct deposit details.

It's also people just trying to get a sense of when they're going to get their money. The only message right now is to people, keep trying.

KEILAR: And, today, there was this dose of reality, retail sales down 8 percent, almost 9 percent. This is the worst drop on record, Julia.

It's a number that really drives home people are buying what they need right now, and certainly not what they want.

CHATTERLEY: No, this is what spending collapse looks like.

To your point, these numbers show an overwhelming tightening. People aren't spending so much, but they're buying essentials. They're buying medicines. We were hoarding groceries. We were also buying liquor.

What we weren't doing is buying nonessentials, like cars, of course, and clothes and visiting bars. But the bottom line from this number is, we only spent half of the month of March in a lockdown situation. We're going to do the whole month in April, it looks like.

So, as bad as this number looks, Brianna. I think April is going to be a lot worse. And it circles back to why people need these checks and they need this money, and they need it now.

KEILAR: Yes.

All right, Julia Chatterley, thank you so much.

California's governor just laid out his plans to start reopening the state. The mayor of San Francisco will weigh in on how she's preparing to implement the plan next.

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KEILAR: California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a six-part road map for reopening the state, giving a window into what life may look like when things start to return to some normalcy, getting your temperature, for instance, taken before entering a restaurant, waiters in masks, disposable menus, just on the restaurant front.

Now, joining me to discuss this is the mayor of San Francisco, London Breed.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.

And, as a large city there in California -- and you have gotten a lot of credit for the way San Francisco has handled this pandemic, shutting down and trying to really flatten that curve -- I wonder -- let's talk about the timeline in just a moment.

But, first, what would reopening look like? What would life look like in San Francisco, as you would move towards implementing this plan?

LONDON BREED (D), MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: Well, it definitely won't be that we would basically say, OK, now everyone can go back out, and we can move forward with our lives as we knew it before the pandemic.

It is definitely going to take easing our way back into some level of what we remember as normal. And the governor is right. We want to get people ready for the realities of what the new normal looks like here in the city.

Even in San Francisco, way back in 1918, the Spanish Flu that basically took millions of American lives and people all over the world, here in San Francisco, we took the same precautions. We were praised at that time for what we did to really flatten the curve, whatever term they used back then. And we opened the doors the next day. We celebrated. And thousands of

people a few days later died. And it basically -- the virus, at that time, the Spanish Flu, came back with a vengeance.

And what we have to be very careful about is that we don't let history repeat itself and we get too comfortable. We have to make sure that we are communicating with the public clearly, we're listening to our health experts on what the best methods are in order to keep people safe, because this thing is not just going to go away.

It is going to take time, but we do want to try and do what we can to get the city reopened.

KEILAR: And where are you on testing? Because it's really almost impossible to commit to a timeline without knowing what your testing timeline is.

BREED: Yes.

And part of what -- we definitely have had -- like the rest of the country, we have had challenges with access to testing, more specifically, the swabs used to collect the samples in order to administer the test.

And we have had a real challenge there. But we have expanded our capacity. We're testing a couple of thousand people a day. And it's really been incredible. But we would like more, because there are a lot of folks -- unless you meet the criteria, unfortunately, we can't test you.

So, now with, again, contact tracing, when we start making those phone calls to people who have been in touch with someone who's infected, we need to make sure that we have the capacity to test those people to eliminate them as a potential person who's infected with the virus.

So, we definitely continue to need more testing.

KEILAR: And so you just unveiled a contact tracing program for the city. This is something that you were just explaining there.

I wonder, as you look at your big challenges here, especially being the homeless community, how that is going to help you attack that problem? Because this has really been the challenge for you, is fighting this pandemic with the city's homeless community.

BREED: I think you're absolutely correct in that, because what I think I want people to understand --

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