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White House Working To Reveal More Testing Details On Reopening Plan; White House Gives Governors Three-Phase Plan To Reopen, But No Testing Plan; Actor's Organization Conducts Drive-Up Coronavirus Testing. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 17, 2020 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you. We'll circle back with you. I appreciate your work. And thanks for joining me today. Have a great weekend.

Anderson Cooper picks up our coverage right now. Take care.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for joining our continuing coverage.

As Americans endure one of its deadliest day since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, states, business leaders and health workers say the country is not ready to reopen yet despite the pressure by the Trump administration. The president unveiling his roadmap to try to reopen the economy, but that plan doesn't include what to do about the lack of widespread testing. We are told tonight the White House is revealing more details on plans for more testing.

Meantime, after the president told governors to call the shots in their own states, he seems to be picking fights with them in a Twitter spree, claiming they're in charge of tests and tell New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to stop complaining. The governor just fired back.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We try to coordinate with our neighboring states, western states are coordinating, middle states are coordinating. All he is doing is walking in front of the parade but he has nothing to do with the timing of the parade, right? The governors are going to open when they think they should open.

All I'm saying is there're two things they need help from, they need help from the federal government. Two things, help on testing because states can't do that, and I don't want to redo the mayhem of the PPE debacle. Second point, we need them funding to do it. And the way you love talking about how funded everything, big businesses are all getting bailed out, airlines are getting bailed out, bail out, bail out, bail out, all taxpayers' money. State governments, which are the only ones who are doing this whole reopening, they're going to need funding, right? And we'll show gratitude.

How many times do you want me to say thank you when I'm saying thank you for doing your job? This was your role as president.


COOPER: As the number of U.S. cases top 672,000, the White House says any states should see downward trajectory of cases for two weeks before entering what they're calling the first phase. That phase would see the openings of restaurants and elective surgeries but not schools.

We are seeing cautious optimism today about another medication that may help treat coronavirus symptoms. It's not the one the president has been touting. This drug is called remdesivir. It's one of a number of treatments being considered. Our Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is following this.

So multiple trial going on, why is this drug suddenly getting attention today?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Anderson? I'll be honest with you. I really wish that it weren't. What happened was that there was a conference call that apparently was videotaped and it was leaked to Stat, which was a health news website. And the doctors were speaking enthusiastically about how great patients were doing on these drugs.

I will tell you, these doctors are part of a clinical trial that is being paid for by Gilead, which makes the drugs. I talked to a doctor, who is in another trial where Gilead is not paying. And she says, look, I have seen patients do great on remdesivir, that's the name of the drug, I've seen patients do great without remdesivir. It's human nature to think, oh, I gave them a drug, they're doing well. But she's seen plenty of patients do great without it. That's why we need carefully controlled clinical trials that are published, not leaked out to the media for all the drugs that are being studied as well as the vaccines.

COOPER: So this is not --


COHEN: It seems to be President Trump's favorite drug.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it could be something really incredible.

COHEN: It's hydroxychloroquine. And early study results suggest it might not work and it could cause heart problems.

Thursday, the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told The Washington Post that he doesn't feel political pressure to push this drug forward as a treatment for COVID-19.

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, COMMISSIONER, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: I can promise the American people that FDA will use science and data to drive our decisions always. COHEN: And there are other drugs being studied to see if they may work against the novel coronavirus. On Thursday, in just one day, nearly 40 new clinical trials to study potential treatments for COVID- 19 were registered here on this government list of clinical trials. Biotech company Genentech announced Thursday that the FDA had given approval to move on with the next stage in trials for its drug called Actemra, which is already used to treat arthritis and other ailments.

A similar drug called Kevzara from manufacturer Regeneron is also being studied to treat COVID-19. And in a video leaked to the health news website, Stat, doctors from the University of Chicago discussed how their patients taking an experimental anti-viral drug, called remdesivir, were recovering quickly.


But it was literally just talk, not published research. So no one knows for sure, not yet anyways, whether remdesivir, which was designed but didn't work for Ebola, will work for COVID-19.

And beyond drugs, the FDA has put out a call for people to donate blood plasma if they've already recovered from coronavirus. Their antibodies could help people who are currently suffering. Studies are underway in New York and at universities around the country.

The ultimate weapon, a vaccine, is moving along at research centers around the world, including at the University of Oxford in England. They announced that they teamed up with an Italian manufacturer to make a vaccine, all with an eye towards putting an end to the pandemic.


COHEN: Now, to go back to remdesivir, the drug that we were talking about before that's been made all the headlines today, is it possible that it's going to be a great treatment for COVID? Absolutely. Is it possible that's going to be useless? Absolutely.

Anderson, you and I were both around when we were covering Ebola. There was a lot of hype about a lot of drugs that were going to be the cure for Ebola. Most of them did not end up working out. Anderson?

COOPER: A good note of cautions on all of this. Elizabeth Cohen, I appreciate it. Thanks.

CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Celine Gounder is an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist and the host of the epidemic podcast. Dr. Ali Raja is the Executive Vice Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Thanks for joining us.

I want you both to listen to the Director, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which produces the model that is often used by the White House. Here is what he told me last night about their latest upcoming projections.


DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION: There has been more social distancing across the country than I think we expected.

Certainly, they're going to go down to a number of states in the south, places like Florida will certainly come down.

The other phenomenal that's sort of a little bit of a counterbalance to that is that places like New York seem to be stuck at the peak for longer than we originally expected.


COOPER: Dr. Gounder, the social -- he's talking about the south (ph), and there's more social distancing and more adherence to it than previously projected, which was some good news there. But this notion that the peaks are longer than we expected, Dr. Gounder, what do you think is behind that?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, it's hard to know for sure, Anderson. But as somebody who is here in New York City and practicing in New York City, I do wonder if the social distancing may not be adhered to in certain pockets. So there're sort of, in my mind, two reasons people may not adhere to social distancing. One is they don't believe that they need to, and, secondly, because they can't.

And what we're seeing New York is the disease is really hitting hard in places like the Bronx and Queens and Staten Island, where people are more likely to be police officers and FDNY, firefighters and working in other frontline essential services. Some of that might be working in transportation, food preparation or healthcare workers.

So I think part of what may be happening, as you have pockets of people where they just haven't been able to comply as tightly because they just really have no choice and don't have the means to do so.

COOPER: Dr. Rashad, a week ago, you told the Boston Globe that you were, quote, waiting for the other shoe to drop in terms of surge of coronavirus cases. I'm wondering what has this past week been like? Are you expecting a longer peak?

DR. ALI RASHAD, EXECUTIVE VICE CHAIRMAN, DEPARTMENT OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE AT MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL: Anderson, we are. We are in the upswing right now. We have definitely seen more patients this week than we did last week. But we're still projecting our rise to really go on for another week or two. The question is how long that plateau at the apex is really going to last. Hopefully, it will just be a week or two. But if it's longer, we're going to be using a lot more resources than we've planned.

COOPER: Dr. Gounder, obviously, the plan that the -- or plan, the guidelines, the suggestions the president put out yesterday, it really does not address testing at all. It says that states should have adequate testing available. And the president is clearly saying it's up to the states to do this. The states are clearly now (INAUDIBLE) Governor Cuomo saying, look, we don't have the money to do the kind of testing and to hire the -- what someone described as an army of people that would be needed to do real contact tracing.

GOUNDER: Well, that's right, Anderson. And, unfortunately, local areas cannot go into deficit spending the way the federal government can. So, I mean, this is really something that needs to be supported by the federal government even if it means some deficit spending, and it needs to be coordinated by the national government, the federal government in part because we have seen before, for example, with personal protective equipment and ventilators that you end up with a free for all as opposed to a rational system of allocation and distribution to really meet the size of the population and, you know, the need in terms of how many cases in terms of the transmission.


So we really do need a national coordination plan for this.

COOPER: Dr. Raja, I mean, when asked about this, the White House essentially says, well, the CDC is going to be sending some personnel to help out with the public health department in each state but they're not talking about sending hundreds of people. They're talking about a couple of people here and there.

RAJA: That's right. And we really do need a national testing strategy, Anderson, because without one, we have variability, not just at the state level, but at the hospital level. We have different states using different criteria for testing. We even have different hospitals in the same city using different criteria for testing.

So without a real standardize national protocol, we're never going to know how many patients are really infected.

COOPER: Dr. Ali Raja, I appreciate all your effort, Dr. Celine Gounder as well, thanks so much.

Coming up, how big the risk is of states and companies opening to soon. We'll talk to business leaders who are advising the president or a business leader is advising the president.

Plus, Sean Penn joins me live and how he's helping Los Angeles get more testing into the streets.



COOPER: In just a few hours from now, beaches and parks in Jacksonville, Florida will reopen, a sign some states are looking to ease restrictions. But as cases continue to surge in parts of the country, the question, of course, is, is it too soon in some places. The president has emboldened governors to act. And while look to open up, others are calling for more testing before doing so, something that was largely missing from the White House guidelines to reopen the economy. I'm joined by a member of the president's economic advisory panel on reopening, real estate developer Rick Caruso, as well as Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, a board-certified internist. Thanks for both of you for being with us.

Rick, to begin with you, we're seeing some signs states are readying for a May 1st date that the president proposed. There's a lot of concerns about, obviously, testing, is there enough in place? I'm wondering how you see the issue, for instance, in California where you are.

RICK CARUSO, REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER WHO'S ADVISING TRUMP ON REOPENING ECONOMY: Well, thank you for having me on, Anderson. I see it some way uniquely from a vantage point that I think we have to be very slow. I think we have to be very methodical. We have to follow the data.

And I would like to see a very unique twist to this as we reopen, that maybe it's just in this region. But I think it applies to across the country, that small businesses with small formats, I would love to see to be the first that open. One is they have been hurt harder than most businesses around the country.

I think small businesses and local entrepreneurs are really the connective tissue between local communities and the economy. It's a smaller format. We can collect data easier. We can limit occupancy within smaller restaurants and stores so that we have more data in order to very methodically start building up, opening up the economy, because what we don't want to do, obviously, is have a second wave of this.

So I think there is a unique call to action in this country to really work with local communities, local stores, the entrepreneurs. It will also give a lot of hope and brightness as you see your local retailers or restauranteur opening up in your neighborhood. So I think I look at it from a holistic view. But I certainly think we should be very methodical of how we do it and very much driven by the scientific data.

COOPER: And as you know, I mean, the program is, first of all, businesses which are obviously critical, as you say, they have been pretty much overwhelmed. I have friends who have small businesses who can't get through on the phone and then finally apply and for paycheck protection and then are told the money has run out or some don't have relationships with banks. It's a really complicated issue to -- it's vital but it's a tough issue.

CARUSO: Very much so. And the problem is also many of the small businesses around the country, they don't have really the ability or the background to know what to do. So one of the things I think we could do, we can go back to a model that Kennedy used in (INAUDIBLE) back in 60s and (INAUDIBLE) developing the peace corps. We have some 20 million that have applied for unemployment, very smart, talented people in the United States do a current version of that, call it the resiliency corps, whatever you want to call it, and deploy these people in local in communities to support businesses, small businesses to open, applying for the grants and the loans that they need. Because the real issue here is we not only want retailers and restaurants toward small ones to survive, we need them to thrive to get this economy back.

The American economy was built on the small businesses. And we really need to focus to make sure that they're resilient and have the support, the policies and the programs that they need in order to build up their business back and hire people back so we get people off the unemployment lines.

COOPER: Dr. Rodriguez, we've talked before about testing and the importance of it, and contact tracing. I'm wondering -- we didn't hear a lot about that from the White House yesterday. We understand they're going to be talking about it more today. The president is really leaving it up to the states. And the states now are saying, look, we don't have the funds, we need money to do this testing, we need money to hire people for contact tracing. How important to you, from a medical standpoint, Doctor, is testing?


DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, BOARD CERTIFIED INTERNIST: Well, it is the most important thing. And I love to hear what was just spoken about, the collection of data, bringing people back into the workforce, opening up small businesses, those are critical.

We are embarking on a huge social and medical experiment. That's basically what this is. And from what I read from the guidelines, let's just start off by saying that they are guidelines, there's a lot of ambiguity. So there's a lot of room for interpretation. And one of the things -- one of the reasons that we need testing is because that is the most important criteria in going through phase-to-phase.

So from what I see right now, from what I'm reading, it's almost a little bit like The Hunger Games, may luck ever be in your favor. It's what they're telling the state. We need a little clear federal leadership, like -- it was just said, it would be great if we could have people from the workforce that are unemployed participating in helping open up small businesses. That needs to come from the federal government.

We're going to have pockets -- hot pockets throughout the country that have more or less infections. We need the federal government to regulate travel between those areas. Do flight attendants need to wear masks? Do people that come into planes or trains need to wear masks? So it isn't just about the state where one country with multiple states. And yes, we need data. But we can't get data without testing.

COOPER: Rick, let me ask you on the testing front, just from a business standpoint, how do you think companies are going to be able -- big companies -- you're talking about small companies and I get that as kind of leading the way on getting them open for a lot of reasons, economic, psychological, morale, et cetera, but for big companies.

I mean, I'm trying to visualize what it looks like getting back to work at a big company. It seems to me they would have to be able to assure their employees, well, if somebody has a cough in the workplace, we can give them an immediate test on-site and therefore we'll know within 15 minutes if there is an issue or not. It seems like all those things, testing, taking people's temperatures, that's going to become a part for big companies, at least, of the day-to-day life, and that's what's going to be needed. Am I wrong on that?

CARUSO: No, you are absolutely right. So we've put together a whole bunch of protocols. We're working with the head of Infection Disease at Keck. And we've got a whole bunch of protocols and procedures for our office and properties. But every employee, the goal is, is going to have their temperature taken before they walk into the office. But the real physical testing is absolutely critical because you have to test and then you have to be able to isolate that person so they are not infecting other people.

Offices are going to look different. Ours is in terms of separation. The percentage of people that are going into the office is going to be a lot less. We're going to be very careful about it. But we also operate very large retail properties.

Now, fortunately, they're outdoor properties. But we're, again, looking at a whole bunch of protocols of how to keep those properties safe, how to keep them as infection-free as we can. Because any time you are going to get groups of people together, you run a higher risk. And so there is a lot of uncertainty, and we're going to need to be able to pivot very quickly.

But unless we have testing and accurate data, and we know the population's health, there is no way you can start and opening, in my opinion, start opening in a very large scale way. And that's why I'd like starting small, collect the data, do the testing, wait a few weeks, maybe 30 days, and then take the next step, and maybe there's a few more businesses that are open.

But it's going to be a timely process but I also know that if people just stay focused, they follow the rules, there is light at the end of the tunnel. And I would tell you I think it's a different light because I don't think we go back to normal. I think we go to a better normal and hopefully we learn a lot from this that we really build in much more productive and wiser society so that we can deal with this differently down the road.

COOPER: Rick, fascinating to hear from you, and I'd love to talk more with you about this another time. It's really to hear the business perspective on how to get back is really so crucial. And, Dr. Rodriguez, as always, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

CARUSO: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: There are now more than 30 people who have died from coronavirus inside a nursing home where bodies were found. I'll speak with a woman who lost her mom in that nursing home trying to find what was going on.

Plus, I'll talk to actor Sean Penn on how he is pairing up with Los Angeles to try to help get more people tested.



COOPER: Expanding coronavirus testing in the U.S. is becoming an all hands on deck situation. Some private enterprises are stepping up to supplement what the federal and state governments haven't been able to do.


Actor and humanitarian Sean Penn is one of those people teaming up with the city of Los Angeles right now.