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Trump to Unveil New Federal Guidelines Today to Reopen Country; Governors Warn Many Test Kits Lack Supplies to Process Tests; Anthony Fauci: Vaccine Could Be Ready Sooner Than 12-18 Months. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 16, 2020 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. 31,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus. Just about half of them in New York, with more than 600,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., and more than 2 million cases around the world.

Today, the president is planning to release new guidelines telling state governors they can ease social distancing and lift stay-at-home orders even before May 1st. But, several governors are joining business leaders and public health experts in making it clear none of this can happen before there is widespread testing.

HARLOW: That's exactly right. And that seems to be having an impression on the president. They say the only way that they can get their employees back to work is to know who is safe from the virus and who is not.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most difficult thing we face is the testing kit supplies for the testing. And this is a huge frustration for all of us.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: The more testing, the more open the economy. But there is not enough national capacity to do this.


HARLOW: When have we heard that before, right? It's a huge issue. In response the White House often promotes the overall number of tests done, 3.3 million given so far in the U.S. But health experts say we need to know something different. We need to see that kind of number each week, maybe even each day. So we're nowhere close. Until then, without a vaccine, there will be no grand reopening, no, quote- unquote, "back to normal."

That is not likely to be the message, though, from the White House today. Let's get more on that with our White House correspondent John Harwood.

So we're going to hear from the president today his plan. And we should note it's not up to him, the states are going to decide what they want to do but what should we hear from the White House today?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, I think you identified the key variable in what we're going to see. The difference between having this be just more public relations tap dancing from the president versus a real step forward is whether or not he outlines with these guidelines steps that states need to achieve and a commitment by the federal government to help the states achieve them. In particular, on, as we've discussed, testing, surveillance testing, symptomatic testing as well contact tracing.

Those are the things that for all of the talk about reopening the economy, business leaders agree, public health authorities agree, state governors who will have the ultimate decision-making authority agree has to be done. The president spent earlier parts of the week blame casting others for the administration's performance and the catastrophe that we're in, disavowing responsibility for doing that testing.

But with these guidelines, he has the opportunity to say here are some metrics that need to be achieved state by state in the densely populated metropolitan areas that have had the most cases. And by stating those guidelines, you then have an implicit commitment by the federal government to help. He did say yesterday, I will be working with the states on testing. We'll see how he's going to deliver on that suggestion.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and seemingly different messages every day.

John Harwood at the White House, thanks very much.

HARLOW: So week after week we've been talking about the need, this need, urgent need for more testing. What's the holdup?

Our Drew Griffin, our senior investigative correspondent, has been looking at this for a long time, he joins us with the answers.

So, I mean, you've been looking at this literally now for months, Drew. And some labs say testing capacity is not an issue. Others still reporting shortages. What is the holdup?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: I think the problem here, Poppy, is what is evident. We do not have a national plan, a national overseer that's looking at testing as a whole. There are so many different parts of this testing issue. The big labs as you say are reporting to us that the backlogs that we reported about a couple of weeks ago are now gone. That's because their orders to the big labs have stabled off because the hospitals are doing more and more testing on site.

The problem is, everybody is still having problems getting things like nose swabs and vials and the re-agent chemical supplies. It's a matter of having the right equipment and the right tools and the right personnel at the moment that you needed it. It all has to do with this supply chain and capacity issues and right now even though big labs may have space, you probably can't collect the samples to get to them.


GRIFFIN: So it's just a lack of coordination and a lack of being able to direct traffic at a national level instead of having all these competing resources going all over the place.


HARLOW: And you know, Drew, what seems to be so important is particularly those higher speed tests, right? Like the ones that can do it in 15 minutes, et cetera.


HARLOW: And there are states that finally have high speed machines to detect COVID-19, but apparently few tests to run on them?

GRIFFIN: Well, this was another part of the big confusion. You know, Abbott rolled up this rapid I.D. test which is great.


GRIFFIN: Because it tells people at the point of contact, within minutes, if they have COVID or not. This is exactly what you would need if you wanted to open up a business and test your employees. Now, there are a lot of those machines out there, but the federal government went ahead and bought extra machines for state labs but didn't provide the actual test kits they needed to run it.

It ran into lots of complaints by governors, who were confused by this. They still don't know where they can get the tests for these rapid I.D. tests. We weren't prepared for this. We don't have the machines for this. We're trying, you know, as a manufacturing base to get ramped up.

But I just want to make one point, Poppy, about what you said in the beginning.


GRIFFIN: Testing, testing, testing. When the White House promised 27 million tests by the end of March, I think they knew that testing was a big issue. For them to say now that we've tested more than anybody else, because we have three million tests done? That's 24 million short of what they thought we would need by the end of March. Just think of that.

HARLOW: It's also discounting how big the population of the United States is.


HARLOW: Drew, thank you. Such important reporting. SCIUTTO: Well, testing is key. You've heard it there.

Joining me now is Dr. David Skorton. He's the president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Doctor, thanks so much. You've been on the forefront of this testing issue. I'm just going to quote from a letter that you sent to the White House saying the following. "Widespread but uneven shortages in one or more of the essential components for testing have resulted in the situation where few labs are able to maximize the testing capacity of any one machine, platform or test."

So that's your view. I've heard this from every state official, health official, doctor I've spoken to, and you just heard our Drew Griffin who's been reporting this out. Shortages across the board. Whose failure is that?

DR. DAVID SKORTON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN MEDICAL COLLEGES: First of all, good morning to you. Thanks so much for having me on. I think (INAUDIBLE) very, very well. It's a pretty simple and straightforward issue. Many sectors have to come together to do this testing. The big labs and also the labs that are in the hospitals and schools of medicine.

In order to get it done, we have to have supplies and Mr. Griffin ticked off the most important ones. What we need is national coordination of this effort. Of course we in the academic medical centers of course want to see the country opened up. And that has to be done very carefully and in evidence-based way. And the evidence is going to be the results of this widespread testing.

So we need to have national coordination of the supply chain to get these re-agents and swabs and everything to where they need to go. And it's unevenly distributed across the country. We need a national point of view to win this battle.

SCIUTTO: OK. National, that means federal government? Are you getting that national plan, that national leadership?

SKORTON: Yes, it does. And in the letter that we sent to Dr. Birx, and by the way, we very much appreciated her reaching out to those who run labs in our academic medical centers. In that letter we cited three things that we think would really move this along. The first is to establish a sort of a Web portal where laboratories all over the country could say, I need this supply or I need that re-agent.

Secondly, to have a way for the federal government to step in and actually help manage the supply chain. And then thirdly to have as much transparency as possible as to where these areas of inadequate supplies are cropping up, so there's a national view of it and a national way to deal with the supply chain.

SCIUTTO: OK. These are key issues. I mean, listen, shortage even of the nasal swabs necessary to do these tests. We're already in middle of April. You have the federal government, the president talking about relaxing social distancing in early May, couple of weeks away. Everyone says you can't do that without widespread testing.

Can -- is there the time necessary to do all those things you just described so that broad-based testing could happen before relaxing these restrictions?

SKORTON: You know, for my perspective, a couple of weeks seems like a very, very short period of time. But the sooner we get started with this national coordination, the sooner we're going to be in a position to have an evidence-based approach to opening up the country.

SCIUTTO: OK. Can you -- very simple question before I let you go. Can you safely reopen parts of the country, parts of the economy without the broad-based testing that you're describing?


SKORTON: I don't think that would be safe because we would see a resurgence of the virus, but I want to be optimistic about this. We have many sectors that want to move together to get this going, and I think with a bit more leadership from the federal government there is a lot of really smart people working on this problem. We can get there. We just have to get on with it.

SCIUTTO: Dr. David Skorton, let's hope we see those changes. Thanks very much. Poppy?

HARLOW: All right. We have a lot ahead. Still to come, the Los Angeles mayor says the city might not hold any major sporting events or concerts until 2021. We'll take you live to Los Angeles.

Also, the president says cities like Detroit are flattening the curve. We're going to be joined by the mayor of Detroit about whether the cases in hotspots like his city are leveling off and what they need most there.

SCIUTTO: Yes, listen to the mayors here. They've got good information on the ground. And later, new questions are surfacing about what China knew about COVID-19, when they knew it, and where exactly the virus originated.



HARLOW: Today, while President Trump plans to unveil his vision, his guidelines for reopening the country, state officials are warning life will not look the same for a while --


HARLOW: And they're the ones in charge of this.


MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: It's difficult to imagine us getting together in the thousands anytime soon. So I think we should be prepared for that this year.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): When is this over? I say, personal opinion, it's over when we have a vaccine. When do we have a vaccine? Twelve to eighteen months.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Let's not make the mistake of pulling the plug too early as much as we all want to.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): I fear if we open up too early, and we have not sufficiently made that health recovery, and cracked the back of this virus, that we could be pouring gasoline on the fire even inadvertently.


SCIUTTO: Yes, listen to the state governors here, because they're the ones that really are going to make these decisions. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti said the sporting events in that city might not return until 2021. CNN's Stephanie Elam joins us no from Los Angeles. So, Stephanie, the mayor there saying potentially, not just sports events, but large gatherings, not allowed until next year. Is that hard and fast? Do they plan to toggle this up, toggle it down?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not hard and fast, but he's making a very good case as to why that could be, Jim and Poppy. Just taking a look at the fact that this was the first state to go into a stay-at-home order, we saw that shutdown here in Los Angeles as well coming in very early. But still, the last two days we have had the highest number of deaths to COVID-19, and the peak is still ahead of us.

So, because of that, they're taking these big precautions. But listen to Mayor Garcetti explain explicitly why this is of concern.


GARCETTI: Here in Los Angeles, we might only have 5 percent, 10 percent of people who have come down with COVID-19 by the Fall. That means that 95 percent, 90 percent of us still could get that and it still could spread rapidly. So, nothing I've heard would indicate that we would be in those large thousands of people gathering anytime soon and probably not for the rest of this year.


ELAM: And there are a lot of people who are not sure that they would even want to do that at this point. But the mayor also pointing to what he calls his five pillars of what would be necessary to open the city back up. And the main one which we've been hearing from other mayors and governors as well is testing. Knowing who has had it, who hasn't, who may be asymptomatic, so then you can therefore go ahead and shut down any outbreaks that are happening.

That would be another quick response that you need to have to that. The third part of his plan here is the immediate response and then hospital capacity. I've been inside the critical care unit of Los Angeles Surge Hospital, which just opened up this week, to take on patients who are suffering from COVID-19. And then he also points to ongoing research and development.

And a lot of this is contingent upon whether or not there is a pharmaceutical intervention, meaning that we could get a vaccine which we know will take months to get out there, but that we could start protecting people from the coronavirus. He said at that point, we might be able to start thinking about life going back to some sort of normalcy before this all started.

But it's going to take some time. And for us here in L.A., as of midnight last night, we had to wear masks anytime we go into any store that one of those essential stores that may still be open, you can't go into any business now without a mask, and they're saying that --


ELAM: This could be the way things are here for a while.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I think folks got to prepare for gradual change when it comes, not all in one felled swoop. Stephanie Elam in Los Angeles, thanks very much.

HARLOW: So, we turn now to the areas not seeing a surge in coronavirus cases. Here is the latest from White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx.


DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We do have nine states that have less than a thousand cases and less than 30 new cases per day. I will just remind the American people again, this is a highly contagious virus.


SCIUTTO: That's the point, easy to get around. Here are those nine states Dr. Birx was referencing. Collectively, they account for just 5,000 of the nearly 640,000 confirmed cases here in the U.S. With us now to speak about all this, Dr. Celine Gounder; infectious diseases specialist and epidemiologist. Thanks, doctor, as always.

I just wonder big picture here, you're going to have the president out today talking about his advice on relaxing restrictions, but you have all the state governors and health experts saying -- even business leaders telling the president you can't do any of that until you have broad-based testing. Is it -- is talk of reopening premature until that capacity is established?

CELINE GOUNDER, INFECTIOUS DISEASES SPECIALIST & EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Jim, I think it is premature. So, even if you have met one of the criteria for reopening, which is to see a suppression in cases for at least a 14-day period, so that would be in this case really influenza-like illness, not just COVID because we're not able to test to be sure whether something is COVID or not.


So, maybe there are some states that meet that criteria. But at the same time, if you're not able to do contact tracing, if you're not able to do testing, things can change very rapidly on the ground because the virus is so infectious. So, you know, I think there are some reasons to be hopeful, some states could open sooner, but they really still don't have all of the prerequisites in place.

HARLOW: There is a new study this morning that is pretty startling that suggests, and the finding is that people might be most infectious, meaning, you know, they can get others sick before they are even displaying any symptoms of COVID-19. So if that proves out, what does that tell us about how any reintegration might be able to happen?

GOUNDER: Great question. You know, we've already pretty much come to the conclusion that people without symptoms or very mild symptoms are big drivers of disease transmission with COVID. The fact that they might be most infectious even before they have symptoms makes that even more complicated because how are you supposed to tease out and know who to even test if you're not having any symptoms at all from the disease.

So it's going to be very difficult, really until we can assess who is truly immune versus who is not. Right now, the tests that we're really using are really to assess that somebody have disease or not. And you know, you throw into the mix the fact that they may not have symptoms, who do you -- who do you even test?


SCIUTTO: So, on the question of a vaccine, Dr. Fauci spoke about this on the timeline last night. Just I want to play his sound here and get your reaction, have a listen.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I said a couple of months ago, I think a month and a half ago that it would be about a year to a year and a half. It is possible to shave a couple of months off that, but, you know, you don't want to overpromise. We'll just have to see how it goes.


SCIUTTO: I mean, even if you do shave a couple of months off, Dr. Gounder, that still takes you into the year 2021. And is that, for folks watching at home, really the moment when things go back close to normal, right, when you have a vaccine, when you have protection like that?

GOUNDER: Yes, I do think a vaccine is really what is going to allow us to go to approximately life as it was before. But one thing that has me very concerned is that already you're starting to hear anti- vaccination sentiment about a vaccine that hasn't even been developed -- SCIUTTO: Yes --

GOUNDER: And released. So you know, I think that -- the communication around the vaccine really needs to start now so that people understand the importance of this.

HARLOW: Yes, of course, that's horrible, of course, I didn't even think about that element --


HARLOW: Dr. Celine Gounder, thanks a lot. Tonight, you definitely want to tune into this. Join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, there is another CNN global town hall coronavirus facts and fears. They will be joined by presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden along with Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan, they of course run the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative and have done a lot of work on this front. It airs tonight 8:00 p.m. Eastern only right here on CNN.

SCIUTTO: Is the city like Detroit with hundreds of coronavirus deaths and thousands of cases even ready to start thinking about how it will reopen? We're going to speak to the mayor next.

HARLOW: Also, we're moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Of course, we're going to keep a close eye on how the market reacts after a sell-off yesterday. And learning that another 5.2 million people filed for first time unemployment benefits just last week. We'll get a grasp of just how devastating this pandemic is right now. In the past month, four weeks only, 22 million Americans filed for unemployment, that is nearly one out of every eight people who were employed in this country.



HARLOW: As Michigan approaches 2,000 coronavirus deaths, demonstrators yesterday packed the state's capital to protest those strict stay-at-home guidelines. Cars filled the streets for what they called Operation Gridlock. More protesters joining them on the sidewalks, many of them violating social distancing rules. They are calling on the Governor Gretchen Whitmer to ease restrictions, some even calling to reopen business.

I'm joined now by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. And of course, notable, people should know you led the Detroit Medical Center for nine years before you got into running this city, so you've got quite a background on all of this. Mayor, thanks for being with me. I just want to honor someone that the city lost, I think we have a picture that we can show of Courtney Jackson, a beloved City Buildings Department supervisor for boiler inspector.

I think he worked for you guys for 24 years, so thinking about him --

MAYOR MIKE DUGGAN (D-DETROIT, MI): Yes -- HARLOW: And all those families right now. Can we talk about your

reaction to the president later today, is going to lay out a plan for reopening the economy. He is not in charge of what you do, you are, the governor is, who is going to tell you what to do and what's your data point for when Detroit is ready?

DUGGAN: Well, we're not really having any problem. And I know for people around the country to look at their protest, you might wonder what's going on. But you have 4 million people who live in southeastern Michigan, Detroit and the surrounding suburbs, where we've got a very significant coronavirus problem. And then you have a rural part of the state that hasn't so much been touched.

And I think a lot of what you saw in the protests are folks who I think probably don't realize the impact. But down --