Return to Transcripts main page


Anti-Malaria Drug Doesn't Help Virus Patients; Pandemic Response under Scrutiny; Obama Endorses Biden. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired April 15, 2020 - 06:30   ET



BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Made based on the science that he sees and that he is advised about.

From this point forward, the restrictions on U.S. troops will be reviewed by Esper every 15 days. And when he is sure, he says, that the troops can be kept safe and communities in which they live and work can be kept safe, there will be some easing of movement restrictions on U.S. military forces.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: John, it's interesting to see that story out of Fisher Island in Florida where they can get tested and have easy access. And, you know, look, as we've learned throughout this pandemic, the wealth disparity in this country is, by definition, a health disparity.


CAMEROTA: And they're just closely connected.

BERMAN: You say interesting. Some people might say depressing or enraging. I mean it shouldn't be -- getting tests should not be based on your zip code or how much money you have. Now, granted, these are the antibody tests, not tests to find out if you have it. But, still, that should not be a determinant here. And, clearly, at a certain level, it is.

So there is a new study out overnight which does raise questions about the effectiveness of Hydroxychloroquine. This is one of the drugs that the president has been very optimistic about. We'll discuss, next.



CAMEROTA: This morning, another study that raises questions about the use of Hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus. This is a French study. It was not peer reviewed. It concluded that the anti-malaria drug did not help hospitalized patients and was associated with heart complications.

This comes as CNN learns that President Trump again touted the drug in a meeting with recovered coronavirus patients yesterday.

Joining us now is Dr. Joshua Sharfstein. He's the vice dean at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg's School of Public Health and a former principal deputy commissioner with the FDA.

Doctor, great to have you here.

President Trump continues to be very excited about Hydroxychloroquine. Yesterday, in -- with a group of patients, he once again sort of repeat what has become his slogan for it, which is, what have you got to lose? And, you know, I mean, he's basically telling people that they should roll the dice and take it.

But according to some of these studies, I mean the Brazilian one is most concerning, that found that of the 81 hospitalized coronavirus patients, they gave them the Chloroquine, 11 patients died developing heart arrhythmias and sudden -- from sudden cardiac death they also experienced. That sounds serious.

So do you have any idea why the president is so bullish on Hydroxychloroquine and the risks of it?

DR. JOSHUA SHARFSTEIN, VICE DEAN, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, I think instead of what do -- what do we have to lose or what do you have to lose, we should be asking, shouldn't we find out whether this works? There has never been high quality data that Hydroxychloroquine works for coronavirus. I don't know why the president has been almost like a marketing person for the drug when studies that would really answer the question still haven't been reported.

And what's really serious is that people who need Hydroxychloroquine for other conditions, like lupus, where it really matters for them to feel better and avoid organ damage, have not been able to get it. So it's -- it's both that it may be putting patients with coronavirus at risk and we know patients who really need the medicine for something else can't get it. So it's not a good situation. We really need evidence to know for sure whether the benefits exceed the risks.

CAMEROTA: One of the other curious thing is that there are probably, by our last calculation, 500 clinical trials underway right now of different drugs. There are dozens of different drugs that may work to fight coronavirus. A handful of them, including Hydroxychloroquine, seem promising in some patients. So to zero in and become fixated with just this one suggests that there's only one possibility, that, you know, as you can tell us, scientists are working on a whole bunch of things that might work.

SHARFSTEIN: Yes. I mean the whole purpose of saying that it's unknown, it's an experimental drug is, we really don't know whether the benefits exceed the risk. Taking it is, you know, basically a shot in the dark.

And I understand why some doctors are trying this drug or that drug. But what we need for patients is not just hope, we need evidence. We need to know whether things work. And it takes a little bit of time. Not a lot of time. But a little bit of time to really understand through a high-quality study whether something is going to make a big difference.

Now, for Hydroxychloroquine, with so many people using it, if it were a miracle drug, we certainly would know that by that. It's possible that there's some benefit for some group of patients. It's possible. But we're not going to know until we really get the results of those studies. And I don't think it's responsible for anyone to be claiming that it's a miracle drug without that evidence in hand.

CAMEROTA: The CIA and the FAA are actually doing the opposite. The CIA put out this internal warning to its employees. "The Washington Post" got ahold of this, this week. Here's what they are telling employees. At this point the drug is not recommended to be used by patients, except by medical professionals prescribing it as part of ongoing investigational studies. There are potentially significant side effects, including sudden cardiac death associated with Hydroxychloroquine and its individual use in patients' needs to be carefully selected and monitored by a health care professional. Please, do not obtain this medication on your own.

Similarly, I'll read the FAA statement that they just put out to their pilots. Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine were both reviewed by the FAA Federal Air Surgeon when they entered the market and have long been considered generally incompatible for those performing safety- related aviation duties.

What does it tell you that these organizations took to warning their employees about trying it?


Just, well, you know, giving it a shot.

SHARFSTEIN: Well, it -- sorry. Well, I mean it goes back to the question, what do you have to lose? I mean there are serious heart complications. People can have heart arrhythmias, like in the study in Brazil. People can die from the heart arrhythmias. There are eye complications.

You know, medications have side effects. And so if there's no benefit, you don't want to risk serious side effects. And even if there's a tiny, tiny, tiny benefit, it may not be worth risking serious side effects. Only if there's a big benefit do you want to risk serious side effects. And we don't know that yet.

So it really is experimental at this moment. And for that reason, it's important that the patients who need the medicine for something else entirely get it and that this be used sparingly and, you know, really with a solid understanding that this is not proven for patients who are -- who are very sick. And that we all realize that getting more evidence isn't red tape. Getting more evidence isn't bureaucracy. Getting more evidence is what tells the difference between something that works and something that doesn't. And that is the critical need right now for not just this medicine but for others.

CAMEROTA: Doctor Sharfstein, we really appreciate all of your expertise. Thank you very much.

SHARFSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: So, deflecting, blaming others, President Trump's response to the criticism of his coronavirus response. What did he do and not do as the virus took hold here? We dig deeper, next.



BERMAN: So how effective has the federal response been to coronavirus? It really is an important question. How can it be better? How could more lives have been saved? How can more lives be saved going forward? The president really refuses to answer these questions directly. Instead, he blames others. But they are important questions.

CNN's Sara Murray live in Washington.

And, Sara, you've been digging into this.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. We know that the president likes to blame pretty much everyone besides himself for the coronavirus crisis. But my investigation with Scott Glover showed that there are a number of experts who believe that lives could have been saved if the president had taken this seriously and acted quicker from the beginning.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We think we have it very well under control.

MURRAY: In the months since President Trump assured workers at a Detroit area factory that his administration had a handle on the coronavirus --

TRUMP: We think it's going to have a very good ending for us.

MURRAY: A handful of the factory workers have fallen ill with Covid- 19. The plant ceased production, laying off workers like Don McMurray.

DON MCMURRAY, EMPLOYEE LAID OFF FROM DANA INC.: I don't think our country or this world prepared us for -- for what we're going through now. So I think, on all fronts, leadership has failed.

MURRAY: The company's stock price has plunged by nearly half and southeast Michigan became a coronavirus hotspot.

The devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic is the kind of thing experts have spent years worrying about and planning for. But no simulation, no tabletop exercise accounted for a crisis like this with a president like Trump.

TRUMP: Everything we did was right. MURRAY: A president who would use false statements, self-

aggrandizement and bullying to understate the threat posed by the coronavirus.

DR. LAURA KAHN, RESEARCH HEALTH POLICY SCHOLAR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: He downplayed the severity of the crisis. He minimized it. He ignored his experts.

MURRAY: As the death toll climbed past 25,000, Laura Kahn, an expert in leadership during epidemics, say Trump made pretty much every mistake a president can in this situation.

KAHN: This response would have been different if we had a president who listened to scientific advisers. It would have been a very different outcome.

MURRAY: From the beginning, aides struggled to get Trump to pay attention to the emerging pandemic, though the administration's top healthcare experts began meeting daily back in January. Sources say Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar tried to bring the coronavirus up with Trump on a call in January, but the president wanted to talk about vaping instead. At the National Security Council, officials primarily saw the virus as a problem to wall off from the U.S.

TRUMP: I did a ban on China. You think that was easy?

MURRAY: The president's January 31st move to block foreigners who visited China from the U.S. bought the administration time, but it was the only significant step Trump would take for at least a month.

TRUMP: Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.

MURRAY: Days after Trump's travel ban, Americans evacuated from China and potentially exposed to the virus were greeted in the U.S. by emergency response teams with insufficient protective gear, like baby wipes and construction-style dust masks, according to sources.

And while other countries, like South Korea, had success suppressing the virus with widespread testing, some of the CDC's tests were flawed, leaving the U.S. with limited testing in February as the coronavirus spread.

TRUMP: They have the tests.

MURRAY: While Trump promised testing for all --

TRUMP: Anybody that needs a test, gets a test.

MURRAY: It came as news to those directly involved in the process at the CDC. Even now, everyone who wants a test cannot get one.

A looming shortage was also coming in hospital masks, gowns and other supplies called PPE, to protect doctors and nurses from coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like we're -- we're going into a war with no protection.

MURRAY: In early February, the State Department sent almost 18 tons of personal protective equipment from private donors to China.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: In America we provide aid because we're generous and noble people.

MURRAY: These e-mails, obtained by CNN, show the same month supplies were shipped to China, the CDC was warning health departments across the country about supply chain concerns, urging them to maintain any stockpiles of expired PPE until further guidance.

DR. JESSICA KISS, CALIFORNIA: I am down to my last N-95 mask and I'm reusing it.

MURRAY: Early on, there were officials trying to warn the public about the seriousness of the virus. They were quickly sidelined.


MURRAY: For weeks the CDC's top respiratory disease doctor, Nancy Messonnier, said the coronavirus could become a pandemic. On February 25th, she caught Trump's attention.


MESSONNIER: We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare in the expectation that this could be bad.

MURRAY: Trump and some of his aides were furious believing she overstated the threat, sources said. A day later, Trump reappeared, offering reassurances rather than warnings.

TRUMP: And we'll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick matter.

Because we're ready for it. We're really prepared.

MURRAY: Americans didn't buy it. Trump was pummeled in the press. Schools were closing down. Americans started working from home. Investors were panicking.

An Oval Office address --

TRUMP: My fellow Americans --

MURRAY: Failed to fix any of it.

There was a turning point when advisers privately pressed Trump to view himself as a wartime president. This is a war, they told him. And experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx are your generals.

The economy, they assured him, would bounce back once the virus was vanquished. The president began doing regular televised briefly after noticing that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was getting good press for his daily appearances.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. That's what we're doing here.

MURRAY: When Trump appeared at the podium March 16th, he outlined more stringent, social distancing guidelines for the nation and appeared to finally be taking the deadly virus seriously.

TRUMP: Each and every one of us has a critical role to play in stopping the spread and transmission of the virus.

MURRAY: And then on Monday, Trump defended his response to the crisis, using a propaganda-style video of people complimenting him.

TRUMP: We did the right thing. And our timing was very good.


MURRAY: Now, there are still a lot of questions about how the U.S. is going to come out of this, whether we've hit our peak, how we are going to reopen the economy safely. So it's important to note that this isn't just an after action report on the president's actions during this crisis. We are still very much in the thick of this.


BERMAN: So much of it on tape. So much of it documented. It all happened.

Sara Murray, thank you very much for that look. Very important.

So, former President Barack Obama takes aim at President Trump's coronavirus response while endorsing his former vice president, Joe Biden. The details, next.



CAMEROTA: Developing this morning, it looks like major U.S. airlines will get tens of billions of dollars in federal aid. The Treasury Department says Delta, American, Southwest and United Airlines are among those accepting the bailout, which will keep hundreds of thousands of workers on their payrolls. The package includes a combination of grants, which will not have to be paid back, and about 30 percent of the money as loans, which will have to be repaid. The airlines and their unions had resisted having to repay any of the aid.

So, former President Barack Obama officially endorsed his former vice president, Joe Biden. Perhaps no surprise. But what was interesting and is, is the framing, very much through the license of the pandemic.

CNN's Arlette Saenz live in Washington. There was this 12-minute video. And as I said, unmistakable framing there.


And President Obama waded into the 2020 election, formally endorsing his former vice president, urging Democrats to have a united front. But as he described why Biden is prepared to be commander in chief, he was also quite critical of President Trump without necessarily naming him by name. The former president in that video was critical of the current administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic as he described Biden as a leader prepared to tackle a crisis like this.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: He'll surround himself with good people. Experts, scientists, military officials who actually know how to run the government and care about doing a good job running the government and know how to work with our allies and who will always put the American people's interests above their own.

This crisis has reminded us that government matters. It's reminded us that good government matters. That facts and science matter. That the rule of law matters. That having leaders who are informed and honest and seek to bring people together rather than drive them apart, those kind of leaders matter.


SAENZ: Now, The former president also warned that Republicans are more interested in power than they are in progress, as he warns that the country's future hangs on this election. And he wrapped up that video saying that he hopes to see people on the campaign trail soon. But, John, as you know, the campaign trail has come to a standstill. So we will see how Biden decides to use his former boss and partner going forward in the coming weeks.

BERMAN: Yes, there is no physical campaign trail right now. Everything is all online. Although, and we'll speak to David Axelrod later in the show, the former president does have a large online presence. So we'll see how he chooses to use it.

Arlette Saenz, thanks very much for that report.

So, we are getting some new details about what life will look like when things begin to reopen, radically different. In some ways, unrecognizable from the past.

NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a governor, I have the power to protect the health and safety of my constituents. I'm really proud of the work that the states are doing in the west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Large-scale events that bring strangers all together is not in the cards.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He praised China for its transparency when it came to the coronavirus. That is exactly what he criticized the WHO for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pulling money out of the WHO, it's all about the president's attempt to find scapegoats.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The plans to reopen the country are close to being finalized. It's going to be very, very close. Maybe even before the date of May 1st.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got very little help from the federal government. I don't expect it anymore.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota