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U.S. Sees Largest Single Day Increase in Deaths Due to Coronavirus; Governor Newsom Likely to Ban Mass Gatherings for Foreseeable Future Due to Coronavirus Pandemic; New Study States Social Distancing May Be Necessary Through 2022; Trump Halts U.S. Funding of World Health Organization. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 15, 2020 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Governors will make these decisions.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So this morning, John, we're also getting our first look at the national plan being developed by FEMA and the CDC. "The Washington Post" obtained a draft, and in it the government agencies lay out their plan for how to get back to some version of life with measures that start as early as May. So that's the speedy version of recovery.

Then on the other end of the spectrum is a new Harvard study that finds that social distancing may be necessary through the year 2022. We have one of the authors of that study here to give us the details.

In terms of the human toll, the United States just marked the highest number of deaths in a day after several days of a downward trend. So nearly 2,500 people died in just 24 hours, more than 26,000 people have now died in America.

President Trump is blaming the World Health Organization for some of this, and announcing that he is halting funding to the organization.

So there is so much to get you this morning. Let's begin with Dan Simon, who is live in San Francisco. So what does it look like there, Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Alisyn. Governor Newsom trying to paint a picture of what things are going to be really looking like once these stay at home restrictions are over. And it is sort of a foreign land. He didn't put a timetable on this, but he suggested maybe come back to him in two or three weeks.

So let's go over some of these things. And John alluded to them, we're talking about no mass gatherings, whether it's 1,100 people, thousands of people, tens of thousands of people. Don't expect those anytime soon. So no concerts, no sporting events, and he said schools might have to be reimagined in the fall. P.E. classes, school assemblies and lunches, you're going to have to figure out how you have the right social distancing, and start times and end times could be staggered, so you don't have everybody coming into the school once and leaving the school at once. Face coverings are going to be continuing for some time.

And then he had this to say about restaurants. Take a listen.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM, (D) CALIFORNIA: You may be having dinner with a waiter wearing gloves, maybe a facemask, dinner where the menu is disposable, where the tables, half the tables in that restaurant no longer appear, where your temperature is checked before you walk into the establishment. These are likely scenarios. The prospect of mass gatherings is negligible at best until we get to herd immunity.


SIMON: Again, the governor did not set forth a date, but he did establish a few benchmarks, things you're going to need for when this stay at home is lifted. And just a couple of these things, of course, widespread testing, which you still do not have in California, and of course, through a lot of the country doesn't have it yet. And he says the hospitals are going to have to remain vigilant. They're going to have to be prepared for another surge should that possibility exist. And he says it does exist. So hospitals have to remain vigilant, they have to make sure they have all the equipment going forward. John and Alisyn?

BERMAN: Dan, such an important look. Remember, California, about one- sixth of the country and often a look to the future for the rest of us, the things that we will all be going through all over the country. Dan Simon, thanks very much.

Joining us now, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta as well as Dr. Dr. Yonatan Grad. He is assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

And Sanjay, I just want to start with you. We heard from California there, and what we're about to hear from the doctor here, about what restrictions might be in place, but from you I want to know why. Why will these be in place for some time, these types of measures as we begin to reopen, and how will they help?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The thing to remember, I think, John, the constant in all this is that there is a virus that is still circulating out there. We get these different pictures of what is happening in the country and sort of realize that we have been doing these extraordinary things, most of us staying at home, and it has had an impact on the transmission and the spread of this virus. The numbers, as you just pointed out, still going up in some places, but maybe plateauing in others. I think everyone agrees at this point it could have been a lot worse at this point had we not put these stay-at-home orders in place. But that hasn't changed the fact that the virus is still out there.

At the time we start reentry, if you will, incrementally even, there are people who are going to get infected again, and there may be people who get sick enough to require hospitalization, even die. That would be a very small percentage, but it could still happen. So the virus is still out there, and I think that's what's driving all these decisions. Knowing the virus is still out there, how do we slowly, incrementally reenter and some sort of sense of normalcy again.


CAMEROTA: Dr. Grad, we're so excited to have you with us this morning because it's your study that has gotten so much attention this morning. And the headline of it, I think, is what has stunned people, and that is that you and your colleagues predict that there could be some form of social distancing through the year 2022. That is so much farther out than we had been led to believe. This trajectory, as we understand it, that you're looking at is if there is no vaccine in the next 18 months. But won't there be a vaccine in the next 18 months, and what if there is? Does that change the findings of your study?

DR. YONATAN H. GRAD, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF IMMUNOLOGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Yes. So I think picking up on Dr. Gupta's point that it's absolutely the case that we need to be very thoughtful and careful about what we do and how we reopen. If we rush headlong into opening without a clear evidence-based plan and abundant testing, we may end up confronting many of the challenges that all this social distancing is meant to help us avoid.

So returning to that idea that what we're trying to do is get up to herd immunity, that can happen either through infection of the population with then after infection developing immunity, or through a vaccine, which can, again, confer immunity on those who are vaccinated. So if we do get a vaccine, that will certainly get us there more quickly.

Our study looked at what -- how we can navigate both the goal of maintaining the healthcare infrastructure -- this whole idea of flattening the curve is to help us to keep hospitals intact and not overwhelm them. But while we do that, the more successful we are, the more of the population remains susceptible, so that when we stop social distancing, we will see a recrudescence of the resurgence of the virus. So we thought about intermittent distancing, so periodic distancing, an on/off kind of approach that would allow us to maintain the healthcare infrastructure so we don't exceed that critical care capacity, while then when we see thermostat kind of model, we get to some kind of peak, we can turn off the social distancing, and we'll go through several rounds of this, accruing that herd -- trying to accrue that herd immunity while still maintaining our healthcare infrastructure. And then we predicted that in one scenario could take quite a while.

BERMAN: Sanjay, it is interesting, one of the assumptions that continues to be made gets to one of the questions that hasn't been 100 percent answered yet, which has been there from the beginning, which is are you immune from coronavirus and COVID-19 if you've had it already and recovered. What do we know about that question and when and how we'll get a definitive answer?

GUPTA: That is a pivotal question. And I think presumably we're going to have some immunity if you've been exposed to this and recovered. But I say presumably because we're still early days into this, that has to be proven out with these studies. But the idea is that once you've been infected, your body develops these antibodies. Those are cells that will recognize this virus again, if it is exposed to it again, and will fight it. That's the immunity that we're talking about it.

But I had a really interesting conversation with Dr. Corbett who is leading up the vaccine program for NIH, and she made a really good point, which is, look, they're both the same in some ways. If you get exposed, you're going to develop some immunity. If you get the vaccine, that's designed obviously to give you immunity. One is far better than the other. If you get exposed, people are talking about, hey, look, maybe I should tough through this and go ahead and get exposed -- you don't want to do that. First of all, this can make you really sick, even if you are a young, healthy person, number one. Number two, John, is the point that you're raising, which is that, OK, now you've been exposed, you may have immunity, we don't know how long, we don't know how strong. A vaccine, the whole point of the vaccine is to give you as long and as strong immunity as possible without making you sick. So both can accomplish the same thing. One is far better, I think, in terms of that.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Grad, what about your research on that? Did you all look at whether or not people truly are immune after they've contracted coronavirus?

GRAD: Our study does not look at that in particular, but we do say that that is quite clearly the -- as was just mentioned, the pivotal issue here. So it really will influence what we anticipate will happen. If people develop robust long-lasting immunity that's great. That will be very helpful. If, however, immunity after infection is short lasting, for a week, that could spell many more challenges for us in how we try to deal with this COVID-19 challenge.


BERMAN: Dr. Grad, what is intermittent distancing? What does that look like effectively going forward? Right now, there is 97 percent social distancing around the country, but how do you turn it on and off?

GRAD: So testing, testing, testing, totally critical to be able to monitor the population and track the trajectory of the epidemic. And this is going to require both virologic testing, to see if people are actively infected and monitor what is going on in the population, as well as serologic testing, so looking for those antibodies that we were just mentioning that reflect past infection.

One of the challenges that we face is that because so many people, we suspect in the population, have been infected and we don't know it because we didn't have enough testing, we don't really have a good sense of what the population immunity is, and those factors will very much influence how we want to use the next round or rounds of social distancing, whether we want to apply the same stringent measures we have seen in many places, or whether we can do more tailored interventions for particular populations. So I think there is a lot of work that needs to be done, looking

across the country at how different public health institutions have -- and governments have put into place these mitigation efforts, how successful they have been, and then learn from that what we need to do in the next round or rounds of distancing.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, in terms of herd immunity, what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated or, God willing, developed immunity if they have already suffered through coronavirus for people to feel safe?

GUPTA: That's another great question. And part of that depends on how long the immunity is, how strong it is. If you look at measles, for example, you're talking well over somewhere between 70 to 90 percent you want people to have some sort of immunity in order to create that herd of protection. That's obviously a lot of people. And that's why a vaccine is the best way to sort of get there.

One thing I want to build on what the doctor is saying, though, in terms of what the timeline is for this, you're hearing about vaccine maybe a year, year and a half away, I did have a chance to speak to Dr. Corbett. I think we have that sound. And I wonder if you want to listen to this, because I thought it was very encouraging, actually, the way she framed this. Let's listen if we have that.


KIZZMEKIA CORBETT, NIH VACCINE RESEARCHER: We're talking targeting fall for the emergency use. So that would be for healthcare workers and people who might be in constant contact and risk of being exposed over and over. And then for the general population, our target goal is for next spring. And that is if all things go well, and if the phase one, phase two, and phase three clinical trials work simultaneously for the good.


GUPTA: So, I mean, that is Dr. Corbett, she is spearheading the vaccine program there for the NIH. By fall, she is saying, potentially an emergency use authorization for a vaccine. That's the first time I had heard that. And then by spring of next year for the general public. Of course, there is a lot of ifs in there in terms of this vaccine trial has to go and show the safety, show the efficacy, all of that. But that's -- I thought that was really encouraging, and would dramatically reduce the need for social distancing that long if this vaccine were effective and made available. It has to be made available to people as well.

CAMEROTA: Let's hope that she can pull off phase one, phase two, phase three, all going exactly as planned. Sanjay and Dr. Grad, thank you both very much for all of the information this morning.

President Trump says he will cut off funding for the World Health Organization. This, the American Medical Association calls that dangerous. So the leader of the MAA is going to tell us why next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump says the U.S. will cut off funding to the World Health Organization for what the president claimed is their, quote, role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of coronavirus.

The head of the CDC moments ago reacted to that news.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: WHO has been a long-term and still is a great partner for us. We're going to continue to do all we can to try to limit this. Those decisions that are going to be made above related to some of the geopolitical issues I have to lead to those that really is that expertise. But for me, for CDC, and the public health arena, we're continuing to work side by side with WHO to do the best that we can.


BERMAN: So, again, the head of the CDC says the WHO is a great partner. The American Medical Association calls the move to defund WHO dangerous.

Joining me now is Dr. Patrice Harris, the president of the AMA.

Dr. Harris, just give me your reaction to the news yesterday, President Trump withholding funds to the WHO

DR. PATRICE HARRIS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: Well, good to be with you. And, yes, during the worst public health crisis in a century, halting funding to the WHO is a dangerous step in the wrong direction. Others, many others have said this virus knows no boundaries, this is a global pandemic, it certainly requires global cooperation, infections in other parts of the world could certainly impact us here in the United States. It has. And that, of course, ultimately means more infections and tragically more deaths.

BERMAN: When the head of the CDC says the WHO has been and is a great partner to the U.S., in doing what? In particular, as it relates to coronavirus, how is the WHO helping?

HARRIS: I know that the WHO is in the past offers technical assistance, particularly to developing countries that don't have the infrastructure that the developed countries of the world do.


I know they share information, do some coordination across the world in previous infectious outbreaks.

And so, yes, I think Dr. Redfield is correct. You know, when get down to the science part of this, which is what we should all be focusing on, yes, WHO has, to my knowledge, and certainly Dr. Redfield knows this better than I do, has been a good partner on that level and so that's why it is very important, again, to continue the funding, certainly if there are any credible concerns, you can address that. Now in the middle of this pandemic is not the time to reduce funding.

BERMAN: What about those credible concerns as you say? The WHO has been criticized in some cases for being too China-centric. It took them a long time to declare this a pandemic. Do you agree with those criticisms?

HARRIS: So those are those geopolitical concerns that Dr. Redfield mentioned and certainly I'm not, of course, privy to the president's concerns, the specifics of those concerns. Those can be addressed, I'm sure.

But here in, in the middle of this pandemic where the number of infections are going up every day, we still have folks dying and this slope continues to increase in some areas. Now is just not the time. We need that global and international cooperation if we really want to reduce the spread or totally eliminate it as countries work together on vaccines and treatments.

We really do need to focus on the science piece of this and it's not a time to eliminate that funding.

BERMAN: How does it affect your work on this the science of it, as someone in the medical community, when you have mixed messaging coming from the top, like we just had over the last few minutes? Dr. Redfield saying the WHO is a great partner, President Trump saying he's got such concerns he's cutting funding?

HARRIS: Certainly, the key and I'm a former public health official and any health crisis you need clear and consistent messaging. The public needs to trust that their leaders are being honest, and forthcoming and really working cooperatively to do whatever they can on any -- again, infectious outbreak. And so, we really do need to have that clear and consistent messaging.

But certainly from the folks who are working on the science side of this, I gave an address just last week, and urged everyone from elected officials to the public to rely on a science. That's where we are at the AMA. We had long-standing partnerships with the CDC and so our focus will continue to be on the science and the evidence, and encourage everyone to let that drive our decisions at this point.

BERMAN: For more than a more or so into this, obviously, how are doctors, nurses, medical professionals, how do you feel like they're being supported now in their efforts on the front lines of the pandemic?

HARRIS: Well, certainly, there are some areas where there is support. But, again, I continue, the AMA continues to hear from our colleagues on the front lines, and there is still some areas where they don't have the equipment that they need. And now, we're not only running out of the PPE, everyone has talked about and that is variable, but certainly now there are shortages in medications. And, of course, we do not have the test capacity that we need. And this, you know, physicians feel like we're going into this with

one arm tied behind our back. And so, we really need the administration to use all the levers of the government to get those on the front lines all the support they need. And I also want to remind everyone that as, you know, there are medical needs unrelated to COVID-19 that still need to be met, and so, we need to make sure that even physicians that are not exactly on the front lines, those practices need the support both financial and need the equipment that they need to take care of our patients.

BERMAN: Dr. Patrice Harris, head of the AMA, thanks so much for being with us this morning. We do appreciate your time.

HARRIS: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: All right. Former President Barack Obama, officially endorsed Joe Biden, but the way he did it very interesting, seeming to take a swipe at president Trump in his handling of coronavirus. That's next.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Former President Barack Obama officially endorsing his former vice president on Tuesday, and using that opportunity to speak out about leadership during a time of crisis.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: The kind of leadership that's guided by knowledge and experience, honesty and humility, empathy, and grace. That kind of leadership doesn't just belong in our state capitols and mayors' offices. It belongs in the White House.

And that's why I'm so proud to endorse Joe Biden for president of the United States. 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.


CAMEROTA: Joining us now is CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod. He's a former senior adviser to President Obama and strategist on both of Obama's campaigns.

Axe, great to see you. Long time, no see.


CAMEROTA: Great to have you. You look well.

AXELROD: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: It's hard not to read between the lines there of President Obama speaking and sending a message. What did you hear him saying?

AXELROD: Well, yes, you would have to be trying not to get that message. He was drawing a direct contrast with Donald Trump and, you know, it is interesting, he said this is the president.