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Trump To Unveil New Federal Guidelines Today To Reopen Country; Local, State Officials Warn It's Too Dangerous To Reopen Too Soon; Dr. Fauci Says, Vaccine Could Be Ready Sooner Than 12-18 Months. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired April 16, 2020 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


This morning, another really horrible number, 30,990 Americans have now died from the coronavirus, just about half of them right here in New York. That is out of more than 600,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. so far. But without widespread testing, that's just a fraction, really, of the actual number.

SCIUTTO: That is a sad fact of this. We don't know how many.

Today, the president is planning to release his new guidelines giving the go-ahead for states to start reopening as soon as the next two weeks. But the fact is many state, city leaders, they're joining business leaders and saying that it's just too early without widespread testing or a vaccine, not possible or safe, they say.


MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-LOS ANGELES, CA): It's difficult to imagine us getting together in the thousands any time 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? 12 to 18 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.


HARLOW: In pushing for a reopening, the White House often talks about and promotes the 3.3 million tests given so far in the United States. What health experts say is we need to see that kind of number in terms of testing every week, or maybe, Jim, every day.

SCIUTTO: And we're well behind in terms of percentage of the population, other countries, such as South Korea.

For more on that, let's go to CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Is there any evidence that the U.S., as a country, or that states are going to get a capacity where they can do this broad- based testing any time soon?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, it is, for sure, going to take some work. And, Jim, we're talking about not just one kind of testing but two. One involves a swab that goes into the nose, that's typically how it's done, and that shows you whether you currently have coronavirus. The other involves taking your blood to see if you've already, in the past, been infected. Both kinds of testing crucial in this outbreak.


COHEN: With the country shutting down, one thing that could help bring it back to life is this test. It tells you whether you've had COVID-19 and developed antibodies. If so, you could be immune.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: So these are the kinds of tests that we know will be critical in the future.

COHEN: On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the second and third antibody test for the United States, especially helpful for doctors and nurses.

BIRX: I think really being able to tell them, the peace of mind that would come from knowing you already were infected, you have the antibody, you're safe from reinfection 99.9 percent of the time. And so this, I think, would be very reassuring to our frontline healthcare workers.

COHEN: The concern now, getting those tests out and distributed to hospitals and doctors' offices.

Meanwhile, more concerns about hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug much touted by President Trump to use against COVID-19.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes, I think it could be a game changer and maybe not, and maybe not. But I think it could be based on what I see. It could be a game changer, very powerful.

COHEN: But a new French study of 181 coronavirus patients suggests that hydroxychloroquine doesn't work against coronavirus, and the patients who took it had a higher risk of developing heart problems. The study has yet to be peer reviewed, but doctors in Sweden and Brazil say they've seen heart problems too, and they're issuing warnings about the drug.

The ultimate weapon against coronavirus would be a vaccine, but it will take many months or even more than a year to get a vaccine on the market, so until then, social distancing is the best we can do.


COHEN: Now, we can't emphasize enough, we've been talking so much about these treatments, these vaccines, but these are in process. They're being investigated. They are not available now. They are not in play right now. So it's important to remember that we can't turn to these right now. The best thing we can do is stay at home. Jim, Poppy?

HARLOW: Yes, really, the only thing we can do to stop this from spreading. Elizabeth, thanks for that reporting.

Now to a new clinical trial happening in Connecticut where doctors are treating current coronavirus patients with blood plasma from recovered patients.

SCIUTTO: Joining us now is Dr. Syed Hussein. He's Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer at Trinity Health of New England. Doctor, thank you so much for taking the time.

Explain to our viewers how this works exactly.


I imagine it's about antibodies, is it not, in the plasma?


So, basically, in our search for tools to fight this pandemic, we came across an article that was published in a major American journal a couple weeks ago. And it looked at a series of cases, critically ill patients from China, a very small study, five patients. But they did receive convalescent plasma. And as you mentioned, convalescent plasma is fluid that contain antibodies.

So what are antibodies? These are basically cops or policemen that recognize the virus and are able to fight the virus. So the premise of the study is to get convalescent plasma from patients that have recovered from COVID-19, have a good enough antibody level and inject that into the critically ill patients that are on ventilators, respiratory failure and really have no chance of survival.

HARLOW: So what have you seen so far, and who is getting this at this point?

HUSSEIN: So it would be reserved. There is an inclusion/exclusion criteria. It would be reserved primarily for those that are on ventilators requiring high oxygen. They are in a condition called ARDS, which involves the lungs. And, basically, those are the patients we are studying. We are putting the nuts and bolts to this study currently and we hope to go live in the next day or two.


SCIUTTO: Are there any other treatments, Doctor, that have been working, showing signs of working?

HUSSEIN: So I did -- this is one of the treatments that we're looking at, but there are no proven treatments, though, for COVID-19. And there are a lot of studies going on worldwide, whether it's hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, remdesivir, compassionate use programs as we as we race toward the development of a vaccine, the science is still out there whether or not what will actually be effective in terms of treating this condition.

HARLOW: Doctor, before you go, are there risks also associated with a procedure like this that you guys are going to start in the next few days?

HUSSEIN: So these are risks that we currently are aware of related to blood transfusions. It could be something as small as irritation of the skin, swelling, pain at the site to more rarer type of side effects that include involving the lungs or circulatory overload.

SCIUTTO: Well, Dr. Hussein, we appreciate what you're doing. We know it's early, but we appreciate what you're doing, trying to work our way towards something that saves lives.

HUSSEIN: Thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: Well, despite the president pushing to ease social distancing quickly, several state officials are warning that life will not look the same, sadly, for quite some time.

HARLOW: That's right. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says sports gatherings, large events of any kind, they may not return to the city until next year.


GARCETTI: Here in Los Angeles, we might only have 5, 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 any time soon and probably not for the rest of this year.


HARLOW: Stephanie Elam joins us from Los Angeles. I mean, that's quite a statement, but, really, California has led on this in so many ways. What's the reality in terms of what people should expect there?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, the idea of this new normal, it's still going to be a long time before it looks like anything we were doing before, Poppy and Jim.

When you take a look at what the mayor is saying here, Eric Garcetti is saying the idea that we don't know who has had this virus and that the testing is not widespread, that's the number one concern.

And he's not the only mayor that's saying that. You're seeing the same thoughts echoed from Mayor Bill de Blasio from New York City. You're talking about the two largest cities in the country very much concerned about people getting together.

Listen to the mayor of New York City.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): I want to get people back to work, of course, I want to get kids back to school. But I think it's going to take months to go through that whole sequence, and the last thing we should do is gather 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 people in one place.

I'm a big baseball fan, a big sports fan, but that's the thing I could live without to make sure people are healthy and safe and we get the basics back.


ELAM: Yes. And here, they were looking to see if maybe the Lakers are going to have a championship. All of that right now is such a faraway thought, that that's not what they're thinking about. What they're thinking about is whether or not there is going to be testing, so we know who has it, and then tracking any outbreaks to immediately squash that outbreak and then to contact the people who may have been near those people so that they can also quarantine.

The other issues there is the hospital capacity.


We have the new surge capacity hospital here in Los Angeles to take these COVID-19 positive patients only here. That's another part of it. And then what you were just talking about earlier, that pharmaceutical intervention, having some sort of vaccine that once that is out, which we know is months away, then you could say maybe we could go back to some sort of normal.

But even then, even with all of that here in Los Angeles, they're saying masks may be a part of life for a while now. And now, we are required to wear them. And also keep in mind we're not at the peak here yet in Los Angeles County, where the last two days we have seen the most deaths one day after the other from the coronavirus. So we are not there yet. And so it's very hard to even think about people coming back together in the ways that we were doing just a few months ago, Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: I mean, if you look at some countries in Asia, and mask wearing is fairly common even before COVID. Stephanie Elam in Los Angeles, thanks very much. Still to come, the case for widespread testing. Business leaders say, and in fact they told the president, the country cannot safely reopen without it, but President Trump says that responsibility falls squarely on the state's governors. We're going to get reaction to that from one governor next.

HARLOW: That's right. Also the latest unemployment numbers are out, and they are just horrible once again. Another 5.2 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment claims last week. That makes 22 million total in just the last four weeks. Much more ahead.



SCIUTTO: Amid his push to reopen the economy, business leaders are telling President Trump they would need widespread testing before sending their employees back to work safely. The president said he wants more testing too, but he is now passing that responsibility on to governors.


TRUMP: We have great tests and we want the states to administer these tests, for the most part, but we're standing behind them.

We will be working very much with the governors of the states. We want them to do it.

The states are much better equipped to do it. But we'll be working with the states. We're standing behind the states.


SCIUTTO: He mentioned the word, states, a lot in that comment. The president expected to hold a call with those governors later today. We should note the U.S. still does not have the capacity for mass testing, has not demonstrated on a large scale.

Joining me now, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. Governor, thanks so much for taking the time. We know you have a lot on your plate.

You heard the president there saying, in effect, it is up to you. Can states individually do that or do they need federal help and federal coordination?

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): Look, the feds can get the reagents, the feds can get the testing kits, the feds can tell us what type of antibody testing is approved so we can roll that out, and then at the end of the day, I think it's the governors who are going to get it done.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Are you getting that help that you need then, the precursor, those materials that you need, including supplies, et cetera, so that you can be ready to test in order to reopen?

LAMONT: No, that's been really hit or miss. If you've heard the frustration from the governors, it's really important that the federal government act as the central purchasing authority, everything from masks to reagents, and then get that distributed based on need, then we'll get the job done.

SCIUTTO: Okay. So you're going to have the president today release his guidelines for reopening. First question is, are you going to listen to the president on this or make your own judgment for the people of Connecticut?

LAMONT: Look, as you said, these are guidelines. Of course, we'll listen, see what he has to say, see what Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx recommend, what's a testing protocol that makes sense, how do we share data. And then at the end of the day though, every state is a little different, every governor will make up their own mind how to proceed.

SCIUTTO: Can you -- will you recommend the reopening of businesses, schools, et cetera, restaurants in Connecticut before you have broad- based testing to see who has been infected and how broadly?

LAMONT: No, Jim, I think that would be really dangerous. We're ramping up the testing. We've got to see what the infection rate is. We know what the hospitalization rate is.

Here in Connecticut, we're still on the upcurve in terms of hospitalizations and infections. And it's going from the southern part of the state towards the northern part of the state.

So we've got to be careful before we open the door again to schools and everything else, or else. You see what's going on in Singapore and Hong Kong. They have a second surge going on.

SCIUTTO: I suppose I'm skeptical of this just given the experience of this country at the national level and the state level on the rise of this. At the early stage of the outbreak still to this day, 3 million tests have been conducted nationally. That's less than 1 percent of the population of the U.S. Countries like South Korea has managed much more broad-based testing. What confidence should people at home have that as we get to the next stage of this, when we're talking about reopening, that the U.S. will demonstrate an ability to test that it clearly did not have as we got into this?

LAMONT: Jim, no question, if we had gone after the mask, if we had gone after the vents, if we had gone after the testing agents a few months ago, we would be in a very different position than we are today.


And that's why in Connecticut, I think a lot of my regional governors are out there on their own. I've talked to the local businesses coming up with their own testing protocols, getting their own reagents and such, seeing how much we can do ourselves. I can't simply wait for the federal government's guidance. But I'll listen when it comes.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you, because right now, Congress is debating additional help to small businesses, as I'm sure you know, because a lot of small businesses in Connecticut have drawn on this. That first tranche of money is running out already. But there is a debate about the next tranche agreement, more money is needed but Republicans want to keep it as it is, Democrats want to add provisions to help get it to other places, minority-owned businesses, rural businesses that don't have relationships with banks, et cetera.

I wonder, given the urgency here, do you support additional federal funding for small businesses without those new provisions?

LAMONT: Look, we definitely need additional money for the small businesses. The service economy is virtually shut down in half of our states right now. They have zero revenues. And to keep them intact, we've got to expand the loan program there.

One of the things I like what the Democrats are doing is also saying we're going to need more revenues for state government, and that state government goes to locals as well.

Right now, we get reimbursed for COVID-related expenses. Thank you, that's really important. But around 80 percent of our revenues have collapsed at this point, and we need some revenue backup or else you're going to see a lot of states in real financial trouble over the next few months.

SCIUTTO: No question, we've seen that.

Before I let you go, yesterday, you announced you will likely issue an executive order by the end of the week about wearing masks in public. This is something we've already heard from neighboring Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York. Will this recommendation require people to wear them everywhere all the time? What will the guidelines be?

LAMONT: Yes, Jim. The guidelines are as follows. Any time you can't appropriately social distance, wear a mask. When you go into a grocery store, wear a mask. If you're working in a grocery store, wear a mask. If you're walking down a lonely street, you don't have to wear a mask, but if you get to a red light where there is a crowd, put on a mask. It protects you and it protects them, and we'll get this virus behind us a lot sooner.

SCIUTTO: Well, Governor Lamont, we wish you, we wish the people of Connecticut good luck as you face and get to that spike in these cases, the peak, rather, in the cases coming up in these next few days.

LAMONT: Thank you, Jim. Keep doing the good work you're doing.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, as the nation anxiously waits for a coronavirus vaccine, Dr. Anthony Fauci says one could come maybe a few months sooner than thought, but we're still talking at least a year from now. We'll talk to a doctor actually working on a human trial of a COVID vaccine today. That's next.


HARLOW: This morning, multiple state and health officials are warning that mass gatherings in the U.S. are not going to happen any time soon, maybe for a year plus, until a vaccine is actually ready and widely available.

The nation's top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, weighed in on the timeline last night.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I said a couple months ago, I think about 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 months off that, but, you know, you don't want to overpromise. We'll just have to see how it goes.


HARLOW: With me now is Dr. John Ervin. He is the Medical Director for the Center for Pharmaceutical Research, and is one of just two clinical research sites selected for COVID-19 vaccine studies in the nation. Doctor, thank you so, so much for being here. I have so many questions.

I mean, but, first, you say, and you've worked on hundreds and hundreds of vaccine trials, that this one is the most important trial we have ever done, and you've already started injecting it into healthy humans.

DR. JOHN ERVIN, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR PHARMACEUTICAL RESEARCH: That's true. I think that there is nothing that we have ever dealt with like this pandemic, which, therefore, makes this by far, I think, the most important vaccine or trial of any type that we've ever done.

HARLOW: What are you finding in terms of -- I know it's literally been just since April 7th that you have started this human trial in healthy people who volunteered. How is it going?

ERVIN: Well, as with most vaccines, we give kids vaccines the first year of their life, and as a result, all the child illnesses our generation grew up with, we've kind of wiped out. Eighth grade girls are taller than I am and every NBA team has a seven-footer.

And so I think the vaccines have been tremendously effective. We haven't been successful 100 percent. We haven't been successful against AIDS. We haven't been successful against another infection called RSV, but we wiped out smallpox, which killed off more than all the wars in history. We've wiped polio, which was a devastating, crippling condition.

We hope that we will be successful against this killer virus that we're dealing with right now. We have high hopes.

[10:30:00] HARLOW: Good. I spoke to Melinda Gates last week, and the Gates Foundation is funding part of this effort. And I asked her specifically about this trial through Inovio.