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Trump vs. States?; Amazon Developing Coronavirus Test For Workers; Interview With Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 17, 2020 - 15:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington.

And any moment, the White House is expected to reveal more details on guidelines to reopen the United States. This is according to a senior administration official. The main focus is how widespread testing needs to be and how steep the drop in infections must be before it is safe to relax restrictions.

And this comes as President Trump encourages protests against stay-at- home orders in some of the hardest-hit states, going against the advice of his own scientific advisers, and as the president lashes out on Twitter after several governors said they need more federal help with testing before they can reopen.

Testing is the most critical component, with nearly 680,000 confirmed cases in the United States and a significant, but unknown number of asymptomatic patients who are spreading the virus.

Today, the head at the CDC, Robert Redfield, addressed concerns about these so-called silent carriers and warned the American public not to let up on mitigation efforts.

We are right now monitoring three live events across the country, as governors from Minnesota, Michigan and California are about to speak or speaking. And we're going to keep an eye on those. And we will bring you any of these new details live.

I want to start with their team of reporters.

We have CNN's Nick Watt, who is live for us in Los Angeles.

But we're going to start with CNN's Kaitlan Collins, who's live for us from the White House.

Kaitlan, the president is really lashing out at these governors. This was just hours after he said they can make the decisions about when their states will reopen. What happened here? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and he's

singling out the New York governor specifically after earlier he was talking about this plan that you saw the president unveil yesterday that many people noted did not include a strategy for installing any kind of a nationwide testing system.

And that has been the concern that the president has been hearing not only from business executives and lawmakers, but also from governors as well, about those concerns that they have if they are going to start reopening their states.

Governor Cuomo spoke about this during his press conference earlier today, and the president tweeted while he was still speaking, but listen to what it was that Cuomo had said.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): First of all, if he's sitting home watching TV, maybe he should get up and go to work, right? How many times do you want me to say thank you? But I'm saying thank you for doing your job. This was your role as president, OK?


COLLINS: So he's saying he believes he has thanked the president enough for the federal efforts that are in New York, but he shouldn't have to go any further because he is president.

But what Cuomo was saying there is that New York is not going to be able to fully open without advancing their testing. And he says they're not going to be able to do that without federal help.

So that's going to be the question going forward is how the White House is going to address those concerns. And, right now, it doesn't seem that the president is registering them or believes that the federal government needs to step in, and instead he's saying that states need to be able to do that on their own.

KEILAR: All right, Kaitlan.

And, Nick, governors now are -- they're starting to announce their plans for reopening, maybe not the timelines always here, but whether this is going to be soon, whether this is going to be some time in the distant future. And we have seen that at least one governor, Cuomo, publicly came out today and he said he's not getting the help that he needs from the federal government, as Kaitlan mentioned there, to make this happen.

Tell us about this.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, the headline on the governors in general is that a lot of them are going to have very different opinions. So we're going to see this rollout in very different ways across the country.

Pretty much everybody agrees that testing is going to be the key, so that we can keep an eye on maybe some outbreaks, but also to get through those phases laid out by the president, that relies on testing data. You have to see a downward trend for 14 days before you can move into phase one, then into phase two.

So testing is key. We had the governor of West Virginia saying he now wants to test every single resident and staff member of nursing homes in the state. And, as you mentioned, Governor Cuomo had some pretty harsh words about the lack of federal help for this testing. Take a listen.


CUOMO: This is mayhem. We need a coordinated approach between the federal government and the states. The federal government cannot wipe their hands of this and say, oh, the states are responsible for testing.

We cannot do it. We cannot do it without federal help.


WATT: And states are going to handle this differently. Also, within some states, they're going to handle it differently. So, in Florida, Jacksonville is opening the beaches this evening.

But as the governor says, Southeast Florida, where they have had many more cases, may be treated differently as we move through reopening. We have heard from Texas, so they are going to open parks, state parks, on Monday with social distancing.


They're going to open stores at the end of next week, but for pickup only. But they are going to keep the schools closed for the rest of the school year, because the governor says that is what the medical advice is telling them to do.

Utah, fewer than 3,000 state cases, they will be open quicker. Massachusetts, more than 32,000 cases, it will take them longer -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, no doubt.

Nick, thank you. Kaitlan, thank you.

And we're following a trio of governors who are talking about their plans moving forward. I want to dip in now to California's Governor Newsom and see what he's saying.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): And, as a consequence, we need to be very prescriptive in our strategies, very targeted in our strategies and approaches, as we begin to sectorally and regionally focus on the issue of economic recovery and economic growth. That's specific typically what I want to now talk about today is what

that looks like and how we can be guided and aided in our effort to fully recover as a California economy, and, by the way, not just as a California economy. As California goes, so goes the nation.

I should just note, since the Great Recession, California led the nation with 15 percent of all the American jobs were created since the Great Recession were created right here in the state of California, 3.4 million jobs since that recovery began, only to be confronted by this new reality.

We ended our streak of 120 consecutive months of net job creation. It ended officially with our March numbers. That said, our consequences of our actions will be felt all across the United States, and we recognize our unique responsibility as Californians to do our fair share and help lead the way in terms of job creation, retention, and job growth.

And so what I have done is, I have asked and tasked some of the best and brightest minds that we could source. A disproportionate number almost exclusively reside here in the state of California. Some of the most well-known business leaders in the world happen to reside here in California.

Some of the great social justice warriors reside here in the state of California, tribal leaders, health care leaders, small business leaders. We are blessed to have the kind of human resources that only a nation-state could be afforded.

And we have tasked 80 of them to begin to work through each and every sector of our economy to put together tangible, actionable ideas for short-term, medium- and long-term economic recovery.

We have an advisory every committee that represents the diversity of our state, geographically and otherwise. And it's an advisory council that also includes, I'm proud to say, all four living former governors of the state of California, two Republicans, two Democrats.

I want to thank Governor Pete Wilson. I want to thank Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. I want to thank Governor Gray Davis. And I want to thank Governor Jerry Brown for joining this effort as well. We can't do it without you. This is not a partisan endeavor.

This is about California and a California-first mantra to do everything we can across our differences and across the spectrum of political ideology to row in the same--


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): -- the city's first drive-through test site, which opened yesterday.

The site will serve people who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and all health care providers and first responders, whether or not they are experiencing symptoms. We want to get more people tested. Testing will require an appointment at that particular spot through

Quest's MyQuest online portal and app. And I -- that's the link right there,

And we are working to build more partnerships with our businesses to improve testing.

I want to take a moment to encourage anyone who thinks that you need a test for COVID-19, you're experiencing symptoms, to go online to the Michigan Web site and find out where the closest testing facility is to you.

We need to get people tested in Michigan. And I know we have been unable to meet need for a while, and so people aren't as hopeful that they can get a test. But you can get one. And we are encouraging everyone to do that.

In order to safely reopen our economy, we have got to know how much COVID-19 is still present in our state. So the more people that get tested, the better.


So I'm encouraging you to go online and find out where your local spot is, so we can make smart decisions and keep people safe as we move forward.

On Wednesday, the MEDC announced that 12 small businesses and nonprofits around Michigan had been awarded a total of $1 million through the pure Michigan Business Connect COVID-19 Emergency Access and Retooling Grants program.

This program is providing funding to small manufacturers so that they can retool and produce critical health and human service supplies. With this funding, these businesses will begin to make surgical masks, gowns, medical tents, and more.

I want to thank Gardner-White Furniture, who has donated their fleet of trucks to COVID relief efforts. They have been partnering with organizations like the Metro Detroit Diaper Bank, Litehouse, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce, the Oakland Public Schools, to collect and transport food and other needed products.

I also want to thank Walmart, Salesforce and State Farm, who have teamed up to donate 500,000 masks, 100,000 gloves and 50,000 shoe covers to Michigan.

With regard to PPE and what we have received, I can just say that, yesterday, we did receive another 274,000 face shields, 6,000 canisters of sanitizer wipes, 417,000 gloves, 1.8 million surgical masks, and 360 boxes of N95 masks.

We are working incredibly hard to make sure that, whether it's through production inside our state borders or contracting outside, we are getting the PPE that our front line needs. And we're hoping to expand, so that everyone who's in a business that is exposed to people can have the protection that they need.

I have been meeting and will continue to meet regularly with a group of business and labor leaders.

KEILAR: All right, so you're listening to Governor Whitmer there in Michigan.

This is a very hard-hit state. And she's detailing some of that protective equipment that front-line workers are getting there, a lot of it, in fact, that they're just getting yesterday, even as they're already dealing with so many cases in that state.

You heard just earlier Governor Newsom from California talking about how he's banding together with officials, and certainly with people who are leaders in technology and business in the big economy of California as they try to move forward in this.

We're actually monitoring a trio of governors who are detailing their plans about what they're doing to fight coronavirus and how they're looking at eventually reopening their economy and what they're doing to do that.

So, we're going to keep an eye on that. We will bring you any headlines that we see from those events in Minnesota, Michigan and California.

In the meantime, we have some breaking news, because there's some new modeling that is out on the coronavirus. We're going to break this down with a former surgeon general next.

And then dozens of cars lined up for hours, food banks reporting a 100 percent rise in demand. Just look at this. Look at this growing struggle to feed families in the age of coronavirus.



KEILAR: We have some breaking news.

Modeling, new modeling on the spread of the coronavirus is out. And this shows the peak in the U.S. happened two days ago, and that the estimated projected death toll has dropped to about 60,000.

This is according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. And it says that some states may actually be able to relax restrictions and reopen parts of their economies by May 4, as long as they maintain -- quote -- "robust containment strategies" in order to prevent a second wave.

So let's talk about all of this very interesting information with Dr. Vivek Murthy. He's the former U.S. surgeon general. He served under President Obama.

Doctor, thank you so much for joining us.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Thanks, Brianna. Good to be with you.

KEILAR: So, this is very interesting, what we're learning here about this model and what it says, that as early as May 4, you could be seeing some of these states able to relax some aspects of social distancing measures, but they have to continue with robust containment strategies.

We're talking Vermont, West Virginia, Montana, and Hawaii first, what does that mean, maintaining robust containment strategies if they're relaxing social distancing?

MURTHY: Yes, I'm glad that you ask, Brianna, because it's really important with not just the IHME model, but with all models, to recognize that these are imperfect systems that are based on a set of assumptions.

And I think the overall message from these models that we can rely on is the general message that social distancing is working. The reason you're seeing improvements in some of the models is that people are staying at home, and they're reducing the transmission of the infection.

But, beyond that, there's a lot that you have to take with a grain of salt. For example, understanding whether a state is actually ready to start relaxing restrictions depends in part on knowing what's happening with the cases there.

If you can't test adequately, then how do for sure that you don't have more cases than you think, you know that things are going in the right direction, and not the wrong direction? You don't.


The second point is that IHME clearly states that its recommendations are based on states being able to put in the appropriate mitigation measures. That means the ability to test broadly, the ability to trace cases, when you find a positive case, to trace contacts, and then also to quarantine and isolate people who may be infected.

Right now, we're really struggling to ensure that we have adequate capacity to either test, trace or quarantine. We have been struggling with this for months. And without having that in place, then relaxing restrictions means that you put a state or region at risk for another spike in infections.

And that's why you find so many public health experts, as well as so many business leaders and governors, saying, hold on, we need to really focus on hitting our testing goals before we move too aggressively with relaxing restrictions.

KEILAR: OK. OK. So you can relax restrictions, but you have to test, you have to trace, you have to quarantine. And that is certainly no small lift, I think we should say.

Part of the reason it's so important to be testing and tracing is because of what we have been learning about asymptomatic patients. In fact, there's actually a study that was released Friday. And this showed that between 50 and 85 times more people may have been infected with COVID-19 than have been confirmed by health officials.

This is in Santa Clara County, California. I also want to note this is something that the CDC director has addressed, this concern that there's all these people who are silent carriers.

What -- where do you see this as a problem? Because 50 to 85 times more people having it, I mean, that's a stunning number.

MURTHY: Well, it's a stunning number, Brianna.

And what it reflects is statements and concerns that have been raised for, frankly, months by public health experts, who have said, number one, we know many people who have this infection don't have symptoms, so the number of infected is larger than we think.

And, number two, even the people who do have symptoms, the majority of them aren't able to get tested right now. So the real number, the number that we're seeing tallied every day on our TV screens and in our newspapers is a small fraction of the cases that we have.

The way to think about testing is to think about it like your eyes. It would allow you to see clearly what's happening in a community. If you don't have adequate testing, it's hard to imagine that you could feel comfortable relaxing restrictions without putting the community at significant risk.

What we really need to hear at this point from our elected leaders on the federal side is, we need to hear clearly what the target is for testing, what the plan is to ensure that we close the gap between where we are now, which is doing under 150,000 tests a day, and where we need to be, which is likely in excess of a million tests a day.

And we need to also understand how we're going to reduce the turnaround time. Far too many people are waiting three, four, five days to get a test result. We need to close that gap.

KEILAR: Yes, no doubt.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, thank you so much for your insights. We appreciate it.

MURTHY: No worries. Take care, Brianna. Stay safe.

KEILAR: All right, you too. Stay healthy.

So, what -- Amazon, what are they doing? What's Amazon doing when it comes to testing what? And what does this mean for the men and the women who deliver your packages?

We're going to discuss this next.


[15:28:18] KEILAR: Amazon has announced that it is developing its own lab to start testing front-line employees of the company for coronavirus.

And this is coming as the company has been facing some ongoing criticism that it's not doing enough to address the coronavirus cases that have been reported at Amazon facilities in Washington, California and New York, as well as others.

Let's speak now with Jay Carney. He's the senior vice president for Amazon, a senior vice president for Amazon. He's also the former press secretary for Barack Obama. You will certainly recognize him as that.

And, Jay, tell us about this, because you have hundreds of thousands of employees. You have been hiring more and more. And you can't be fully operational as a huge company without knowing who has this virus.

Tell us about your timeline for testing your employees.


And you're absolutely right. The answer, I think, that we have reached, the conclusion we have reached, and a lot of leaders in the public and private sector have reached, is that the way to get the economy going again is to have testing plentiful and scalable around the country and the world.

Because there's a scarcity still, we are developing our own first lab at Amazon, where, hopefully, we will be in to be able to test some of our front-line employees in our distribution centers and fulfillment centers relatively soon.

Now, we're -- this is not -- nobody would say that Amazon has a lot of experience in the business of building medical testing labs. But we're putting resources on it. And we will begin to build that capacity.

I think we're under no illusion that we can do this all by ourselves. Obviously, we can't.