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Researchers Around The World Race To Develop A Vaccine; Report Says China Suppressed Critical Information About Coronavirus Threat; U.S. Says Iranian Vessels Harassed American Warships. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 16, 2020 - 05:30   ET



ROBIN SHATTOCK, PROFESSOR, HEAD OF MUCOSAL INFECTION AND IMMUNITY, IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON: -- looking at their strengths and weaknesses so that we can then focus on getting something out there as fast as possible to make a difference on the pandemic.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: I know that you've spent 20 years trying to find a vaccine for HIV-AIDS. I mean, how -- are you optimistic this will be quicker?

SHATTOCK: Yes. I mean, this is a very different target to HIV. HIV is probably one of the biggest challenges of vaccinology of a generation because it mutates so readily and there are so many strains.

The good news about this virus at the moment is it seems to be fairly stable from a genetic position and so it's really much easier to target with a vaccine approach. And as long as that stays the same, and we think it will, then it's not like HIV, which is almost a moving target.

CURNOW: So give us a time line then.

SHATTOCK: So, time lines are difficult and --

CURNOW: They are -- I'm sorry.

SHATTOCK: No, that's fine. I mean, I think it's important to understand that most vaccines take many years to generate and make globally available. And I think what we'll see is probably more than one way where we see some of these candidates being developed and starting to be deployed in different geographical regions before we get to an ultimate solution that becomes a globally available vaccine.

CURNOW: I know that you were mentioning HIV and it's a very different virus, but it is a virus and there are different strains. Are you -- you are certain that coronavirus will stay stable. There's not a -- there's not a chance that it will change or mutate as it moves across the world.

SHATTOCK: Well, we think it's unlikely --


SHATTOCK: -- but obviously, that needs to be followed very carefully.

And to put it into context, we know, for example, influenza -- we make a new vaccine every year because it does change. But the degree that influenza changes globally is the same -- is almost as much as the degree of change with an individual HIV-infected subjected. So we're going from extraordinary diversity, to HIV which is diverse, to this virus which so far has shown very little change in terms of its surface proteins.

CURNOW: As we wait for a vaccine, and I know you guys are doing it as fast as you possibly can, are you also trying to figure out, again, a cocktail of drugs that might at least manage corona in the same way antiretrovirals manage many HIV-infections? Is that something that also needs to be done in parallel with what you're doing?

SHATTOCK: Absolutely, that needs to be done and that needs to be done with a sense of urgency. I'm aware there's at least 60 clinical trials that have been with different types of drugs for coronavirus. Of course, there are no shortcuts there either because they need to be done in a very systematic fashion so we know what really works rather than throwing a whole cocktail of different things in and then hoping that one of those is going to provide benefits.

So, there are no shortcuts. There is a sense of urgency. I'm sure as each week and month goes by we'll get better and better treatments out there.

CURNOW: As you study viruses and you look at this, what is -- and I've been asking a lot of experts this one question. What is the one thing you still want to know? Is it about the virus or is it about the way that it's -- you know, it works in different people? Why are some people more vulnerable than other people?

What is the main question you have here?

SHATTOCK: So I think that's the main question is why do certain individuals seem to be much more vulnerable and tip from what might be a mild or moderate infection to something that becomes life- threatening. And if we understand what causes that tipping point that may give us a better chance to intervene with strategies that prevent that happening.

CURNOW: Professor Robin Shattock, I really appreciate you sharing your expertise. Good luck. Send our best to your team -- Godspeed. Thank you.

SHATTOCK: Thank you.

CURNOW: So, if you have questions about potential vaccines or just want more details on this pandemic, you can hear more from Dr. Sanjay Gupta when he joins Anderson Cooper for our next global town hall, "FACTS AND FEARS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS."

They've been fantastic, haven't they -- so useful. Watch it on Thursday at 8:00 in the evening in New York. That's Friday at 8:00 in the morning in Hong Kong.

Now, New York City has more than 6,000 confirmed and more than 4,000 probable coronavirus deaths. That's according to the city's Website. So the health department is defining probably deaths as people who did not have a positive lab test but their death certificate lists COVID- 19 as the cause of death. Now, that's because many of them are dying undiagnosed and alone at home.

Here's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Leonardo Frazier shows CNN the simple-looking device that made all the difference for him.



TODD (voice-over): It's a finger monitor measuring Frazier's oxygen, heart, and blood. The 54-year-old wore it at home alone while he was battling coronavirus. It was connected to his cell phone and when his condition took a sudden nosedive it let his doctors in northeastern Ohio know.

FRAZIER: It told me I needed to be in the E.R. -- I needed to come down to the E.R. immediately. And so that's what I did.

TODD (voice-over): Frazier says he felt so incapacitated at home alone that he doesn't know if he'd have had the wherewithal to get himself to the hospital.

FRAZIER: And this, right here, saved my life and that's why I'm here today.

TODD (voice-over): But, Frazier's is a rare case. He happened to be placed in a pilot program at University Hospitals in Ohio, designed to help save the lives of patients who are fighting coronavirus from home, where experts say a victim's condition can plummet in an instant.

DR. PETER PRONOVOST, UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS, OHIO: It's unpredictable and so some patients will go home and they'll stay well -- their lungs will get improved. Others may deteriorate. We don't know who will.

TODD (voice-over): And often, they deteriorate and die at home with no one knowing. Officials in the areas hardest-hit say they're struggling now to count those who are isolated with the virus at home and the numbers of people they believe are dying at home, they say, are staggering.

New York City Councilman Mark Levine, who chairs the city's Health Committee, said before the pandemic, 20 to 25 people died at home in New York on an average day. But in recent days, Levine says, "It's been over 200 people a day who are dying at home. We presume that most of that increase is due to coronavirus."

Even with ramped-up testing, experts say the numbers of those who died from coronavirus may be well undercounted when all is said and done because of the massive gaps in monitoring of those who died at home.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: I think during this acute period of time where so many people are not accessing medical care -- the folks who are dying at home -- the numbers that you're talking about -- this will definitely, I think, be a blind spot during this period of time.

TODD (voice-over): New York state officials are now scrambling to try to fill those gaps of information, devising ways of counting probably coronavirus deaths, including victims who were not previously tested and those dying at home whose symptoms fit certain parameters of the virus.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: And it's just horrendous but the numbers speak for themselves. I've been over this with our health colleagues that this used to be a very, very rare thing in New York City and suddenly, it's jumped up. And obviously, the only thing that's changed is COVID-19.

TODD (on camera): But experts say getting a truly accurate count of the overall numbers of people who die from coronavirus at home may be near impossible. One doctor told us there's another category of people who could be counted as overall victims of this pandemic -- the people who die at home from things like heart attacks, strokes, and other illnesses who refuse to go to the hospital out of fear they might get coronavirus.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CURNOW: Thanks, Brian, for that.

So, you're watching CNN. Still to come, a new report takes a closer look at China's response to the coronavirus outbreak. We're live in Shanghai. There are a lot of questions. Stay with us for that.



CURNOW: Welcome back, it's 5:41 a.m. here in Atlanta. I'm Robyn Curnow. You're watching CNN.

So we are looking at this new report from the A.P., the Associated Press, based on an internal Chinese document that says China sat on critical information about the scope of the threat from coronavirus for six days before alerting the public. China has repeatedly denied it suppressed information.

Well, David Culver is following all of these developments. He joins us now from Shanghai. David, hi, good to see you. Tell us more about this.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Robyn. Good to see you as well.

Well, these internal documents that you mentioned, they were acquired by the A.P. and they suggest that China's top officials knew of the potential severity of this virus but for six days held off on sounding the alarm to the public.

Now, the A.P. report is based on what they characterize as a leaked memo from a confidential teleconference involving the head of China's National Health Commission. CNN has gone through the government's public release of that teleconference and it highlights the worries expressed by health officials to other leaders.

Now, here's what we know of what China knew and when.

It goes back to December eighth when the Wuhan government first noted the first patient's symptoms of the unknown virus. Nearly a month later, on January third, Wuhan health officials stressed that there was no obvious human-to-human transmission. On the same day, China notifies the U.S. of the virus.

On January seventh, President Xi Jinping's first public awareness is made known and he ordered actions to be taken.

A week after that on January 14th -- that's the date of that teleconference -- the government release, which came out more than a month later, says a quote "...sober understanding of the situation was made known to top government officials." Adding that, quote, "Clustered cases suggest that human-to-human transmission is possible."

But there's the concern. Publicly, as late as January 19th, the Wuhan Health Commission said the outbreak was controllable and preventable; not contagious. The next day, a very different narrative. Leading health officials acknowledged cases of human-to-human transmission and even stressed that medical personnel had gotten infected. And, of course, three days after that we know that Wuhan went on lockdown.

Now, in response to past questions over transparency, China's repeatedly maintained Robyn that they have been open and forthcoming in their handling of this outbreak. CNN has reached out to the National Health Commission for their comment on this latest reporting. We've not yet heard back, Robyn.

CURNOW: That's fascinating, isn't it? But just tell us why those six days would be so important -- so crucial for containment.

CULVER: It may sound -- just short of a week, what is that really going to do? Well, you've got to think of what was happening here in China and really, across Asia during that period. It's the Lunar New Year. It's the largest human mass migration each and every year that happens. You're talking about hundreds of millions of people getting on planes, trains, getting on the highways, coming together in mass gatherings. And so the argument is that those six days were crucial and that had that been made aware early on, even from day one of them knowing the human-to-human transmission was possible, that could have really significantly stopped the spread of this virus.

CURNOW: OK. Thanks so much, David Culver, for that update there live from Shanghai.


CURNOW: Thanks, David -- thanks.

So, Russia has seen its biggest increase in cases yet -- nearly 3,400 reported on Wednesday alone. It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a video call with officials, announced a $2.7 billion economic package meant to support regions all across the country.



VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): I have already spoken about the need for additional financial assistance to the regions. Their incomes have now dipped for various reasons at the regional level, where a lot of work is underway to support the economy and the citizens have a big load. The regions must have the financial resources for this.


CURNOW: Well, Russia has officially reported -- officially reported almost 25,000 cases of the virus. Most of those are in Moscow, which is bracing for a shortage of hospital beds and trying to get 24 more medical facilities online.

And after vanishing from public view for more than a month, the president of Nicaragua has reappeared. In a televised speech on Wednesday, Daniel Ortega did not address his long absence. Instead, he tried to reassure the public that Nicaragua is capable of dealing with the pandemic. He also defended his decision not to impose social distancing measures, saying the country will continue working during the outbreak.

And the U.S. Navy says Iranian Navy boats harassed several of its warships on Wednesday in the North Arabian Sea. I want you to take a look at this. The U.S. has released this video. You can see multiple Iranian-flagged vessels passing in front of an American Navy ship. U.S. Defense officials say some of these boats got dangerously close.

Well, Sam Kiley is in Abu Dhabi with more on this story. Talk us through those images. Hi, Sam.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, this is not something that we've seen for a while but we were used to seeing it, weren't we, about a year ago when there were tensions in the Arabian or Persian Gulf, depending on which side you sit on it. This is naval footage from the U.S. Navy of IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) naval vessels. These fast-moving swarm boats often either mounted with suicide bombs on board or more often than not, heavy-caliber machine guns manned by sailors or Iranian Marines on the bows of them -- buzzing, effectively -- harassing, in the words of the U.S. spokespeople.

The -- this significant flotilla of U.S. Navy Ships that were, the Department of Defense says, conducting operations -- essentially, training Apache pilots to land on one of the vessels -- an expeditionary craft designed for the forward projection of force.

The message the Iranians are probably trying to send here is that amidst all of the coronavirus dramas worldwide they are still suffering and suffering very badly under U.S.-imposed economic sanctions, signaling that they could theoretically turn off the oil taps at a time when the oil prices are at nearly an all-time low. Certainly, the lowest price it's been for some time.

Amidst this crisis, the Iranians saying that they need to find a billion-dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund, which the United States is standing against. So in that context, this is being seen really as a projection of power back at the United States, Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes. I mean, that was kind of my question, is why now? What's with the timing on this?

KILEY: (Coughing)

CURNOW: Yes, have a good cough, I'll chat. Are you OK?


CURNOW: No. I just want to know what the -- you know, the timing of this in the middle of a pandemic. Obviously, Iran really struggles or continues to struggle with people dying and getting sick from coronavirus. So, what's the strategic value in doing this?

KILEY: Well, the Iranians see strategic value in their ability to destabilize. They operate across the region supporting Hezbollah in south Lebanon, the Assad regime in Syria, Shia militias of various colors in Iraq. And, of course, the Houthi rebels in the Yemen.

In that context they like to maintain a level of instability, keeping their regional rivals, particularly the Saudis, on the back foot or at least rattled by what they may do next. But they have, in the past, been seen to have overplayed their hand and suffered as a consequence.

Of course, it was just a few months ago that Qasem Soleimani, the -- arguably the second-most powerful military individual in Iran, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad and that backfired quite significantly on both belligerents -- Robyn.

CURNOW: OK, thanks so much, Sam Kiley. Go and get yourself a glass of water. Thank you.

You're watching CNN. More news after the break. It will be good news, as well.




Mother meets baby after battle with COVID-19.


CURNOW: I could watch this over and over again.

Hospital workers in New York here celebrating as a mom meets her baby for the very first time. She had severe coronavirus complications and doctors had to put her into a medically-induced coma. Then they delivered the baby boy. The mom had to wait almost two weeks to finally see her baby's face and, as you can see, hold him tight. That's beautiful.

So, the stories of people defying the odds don't stop there. A 106- year-old woman has defeated COVID-19. Take a look.

Connie Titchen was met with applause as she was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday. She was born in 1913. That was before the 1918 flu epidemic. She lived through two World Wars and has once again emerged as a survivor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you remember early on this morning we was having a chat, and do you remember I was telling you that you were the oldest person to have survived this nasty virus that's going around.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Do you feel lucky that you've survived all of this?

TITCHEN: Yes, I do. Yes, I do, really.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you looking forward to seeing your grandchildren?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you looking forward to a spot of lunch and then go home?

TITCHEN: Yes. I'm hungry.


CURNOW: Oh, 106 years old -- wow.


Now, in Brazil, a 99-year-old, Ermando Piveta, also left the hospital in celebration after beating the virus. The World War II veteran is the oldest Brazilian to recover from the coronavirus. He says this is -- winning this battle is bigger than winning the war. Resilience, stoic -- wow.

So, parents are getting creative and pretty resilient in their attempts to keep their families safe from the virus.

Take a look at this one in Shanghai. A father designed an inflatable suit to protect his kids. It features an air purification system and has a fan to keep his 2-year-old cool.

It's not the first suit the dad has designed. Last month, he created a safety pod for his 2-month-old. Most are -- most are impressed with this suit, though. One person even telling the dad it reminded them of a cartoon character.

It might just be easier to stay at home.

I'm Robyn Curnow. "NEW DAY" is next with John and Alisyn -- enjoy.



MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D), LOS ANGELES: It's difficult to imagine us getting together in the thousands anytime soon.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They are going to unveil these new guidelines. The president has been hinting that he believes there are some states that could reopen.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want the states to administer these tests and if we're not happy, we'll take very strong action against a state.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Why doesn't the president want to go near testing? Because testing is a quagmire. No one can bring it up to scale quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Checks are starting to be cut by the Treasury Department. We have almost 17 million Americans who are out of work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So much of the transmission occurs from asymptomatic people. Perhaps the way to really put this fire out is to start testing asymptomatic people.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, April 16th, 6:00 here in New York.