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Trump Tells Governors They Call the Shots on Reopening; Lack of Testing Complicates Reopening U.S. Economy; U.K. Extends Lockdown Until At least May 7; Prime Minister Boris Johnson Out of Hospital After Being Infected; Singapore Reports 728 New Virus Cases in Single Day; Wuhan Revises Its Numbers, Death Toll Jumps by 50 Percent. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 17, 2020 - 04:00   ET



NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Coming to you live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

4 a.m. here on the East Coast. Thanks so much for joining us.

If you think the White House's strategy for dealing with the pandemic is changing by the day, you are not imagining it. Just a few days ago President Trump was saying that he would decide when to reopen the country. Now he's telling state governors they're calling the shots. That according to a source familiar with the phone call they had several hours ago, and this comes as Johns Hopkins University reports there are now more than 671,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S.

The White House also revealing new coronavirus guidelines in hopes of restarting the economy. The three-phase approach involves testing, the state of medical supplies and how hospitals are doing, but they are not mandatory. Top health expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said there's still a long way to go before going back to any kind of normal.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When we get to the point where we're going to take those steps towards trying to get back towards some form of normality, then it would not be a light switch on and off. Light switch on and off is the exact opposite of what you see here, which is a gradual gradation with the first thing and the only thing in mind as the health people here, my colleagues who are either physicians, scientists, or public health issues, the predominant and completely driving element that we put into this was the safety and the health of the American public.


ALLEN: Mr. Trump says he wants the United States back on track as soon as the first of May, if not earlier in some places. So now it is up to each state to decide what restrictions will no longer be necessary and when. Our Nick Watt has more about it.


ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Why don't you open tomorrow? Because we're afraid the infection rate will go up.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As President Trump pushes his plan to reopen states and the economy, many say too soon. We just don't have the testing.

NED LAMONT, CONNECTICUT GOVERNOR: And I think that would be really dangerous. We're ramping up the tests so we got to see what the infection rate is.

WATT: Massachusetts and Rhode Island could still be days or weeks away from their worst.

Michigan may have passed its peak. And some are now protesting their stay-at-home orders that are still in place.

GRETCHEN WHITMER, MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: The fact of the matter is, it's still too dangerous to have people just out and about.

WATT: Getting out ahead of those new federal guidelines New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. all extend their stay home orders another month through May 15th. And New Yorkers will now have to wear masks, riding the bus or subway.

CUOMO: I'm sorry it makes people unhappy. I do not consider it a major burden.

WATT: Detroit one place now using a quick 15-minute test.

MIKE DUGGAN, DETROIT MAYOR: We now have returned 700 police officers to duty because we brought every police officer, exposed firefighter, bus driver and got them a 15-minute test. Those who are negative go back to work.

WATT: Amazon has now begun the process of building its own testing lab. In a letter to shareholders CEO Jeff Bezos wrote, for this to work, we as a society would need vastly more testing capacity than is currently available.

CUOMO: The plain reality here is we have to do it in partnership with the federal government. You're talking about supply chains that go back to China.

WATT: But Trump says he wants the states to take the lead on testing.

DAVID SKORTON, CEO, ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN MEDICAL COLLEGES: We need to have national coordination of the supply chain to get these reagents 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.

WATT (on camera): So, testing will be key. So here at the forum in Los Angeles we're not going to have any sporting events or concerts, we're told, for maybe a year, so they've turned the parking lot into a drive-through COVID-19 testing facility.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.



ALLEN: Peter Drobac joins me now. He is a global health expert with the Oxford Said Business School. He's live for us. Peter, thanks for coming on.


ALLEN: All right, so this is a pivotal day. The President announcing guidelines to open states, but they're in stages but the ultimate concern is if the economy is opened prematurely. And we just heard one governor say it's too dangerous to have people out and about. What are your initial thoughts?

DROBAC: Yes, I understand the sense of urgency to open things back up given the real devastation to the economy and unemployment in recent weeks. At the same time, it needs to be done safely. In fact, if people don't feel safe, if they don't feel like we have this under control, you can reopen shops and businesses and people are not necessarily going to use them.

But the even greater danger, of course, is that if you reopen before you've got this thing under control, we'll very quickly see a second surge in cases and a return to lockdowns. And that's going to be really even more difficult. I think what we need to do is be very careful and thoughtful about finding ways to gradually reopen up safely but not risk going back into the cycle of kind of lockdowns going on and off endlessly.

ALLEN: Right. So the key here seems to be adequate testing and equipment. White House officials say the CDC has 500 plus, people on the ground in every state. But as we heard, some states say that is not in place for them. And the big question is, are we trying to move too quickly here?

DROBAC: Yes, so the things we need to be able to start to open up safely are that we're past our peak and that there's been a sustained decline in new cases, but that doesn't mean just a decline, it really means that the absolute number of new cases is small enough that you can handle it.

Because what we really need to do then is to get back to the place where we can trace every chain of transmission. That means we can diagnose every new case. We can understand where that person was infected from and then we can follow all of their contacts and be able to test and isolate them as needed so we can keep on top of this.

We know that in most places the availability of testing is still inadequate. The actual contact tracing is a very labor intensive effort and we could use technology and there are some apps being developed for that, but it's also going to require thousands and thousands of people probably in every state who are trained and deployed and coordinated to work with that technology to really get that infrastructure in place.

If we don't have that, then we're really operating in the dark and the risk is that we won't know when cases are starting to creep up and we don't want to get behind an exponential growth curve again.

ALLEN: Right, because the numbers are still staggering, the number of cases, the number of those who have died. And also as the country slowly opens, could it be the case that people would need to get tested on a regular basis, like every week before going back to work again the next week?

DROBAC: It is possible that that might be fairly intensive. Again, if we have a good system in place where everybody who has symptoms is getting tested and then we're able to trace all of their contacts, that's going to go a long ways to be able to do this.

To my knowledge, other places that have started opening up, this is mostly in Asia where there has been a bit more experience, haven't resorted to that kind of regular testing of the entire population. That's a pretty massive effort. I think we can be a little bit smarter about that. The point is, that we're not even close to probably where we need to be in terms of testing and tracing.

ALLEN: Yes, and let's talk about that. Because that has been the key problem over and over again, and the fact that the United States is still seeing huge lags in the process really doesn't make sense.

DROBAC: It's hard to fathom. And this has been months now that we've seen challenges in this. Of course, the U.S. is not alone. Because as this pandemic spread around the globe, there are global shortages. It's not just the test kits, it's the swabs and it's the reagents and all of these different things that everyone is competing for. And, likewise, with protective equipment for health workers and key workers.

And that's why the role of the federal government here is so important. Because if you sort of leave this to all the 50 states to fight with one another and to fight against every other country in a bidding war, you know, you're going to have winners and you're going to have losers. And you know, we're not going to be safe until this is under control everywhere. And that's why a coordinated response, particularly by the federal government, would be very important here and unfortunately, we're not seeing that.


ALLEN: Peter Drobac in Oxford, England, we appreciate your expertise, thank you.

DROBAC: Thanks for having me. ALLEN: The United Kingdom is extending stay-at-home orders now. That

means the London streets will look like this right here for at least another three weeks. The foreign secretary said the British government could extend the guidance again if five key goals have not been met. The points include a sustained decrease in deaths and a measurable drop in infections.

Joining me now with more about it is Nick Paton Walsh. He's live from London. Nick, it wasn't long ago we saw you live from the park in London, people walking, jogging by. How is this playing out now that the measure is being extended? Are more people following the rules?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: The British government was at pains yesterday to point out that they believe Britain's are more adhesive than other European countries' civilians to the rules as they've been in place the last three weeks.

But I have to tell you this anecdotally, being in London at the beginning of the first lockdown, there was a real sense of empty streets. And yesterday and the previous days it's felt a little bit busier, frankly. That said very clearly yesterday, Dominic Raab standing in for U.K. Prime Minister, who is recuperating from the disease, was clear.

There are five goals. In short -- infection rate down, daily reported death rate down, enough protective equipment for the hospital workers, no risk of the free U.K. health service, the NHS being overwhelmed and also no risk of a second peak. Arguably five things that the government itself will determine whether or not they've met. And they do face an issue here, frankly, with no obvious direct exit strategy having been published.

These goals are goals they can possibly meet you might argue in the forthcoming three weeks. But there are heavy arguments about damage being done to the economy here. The European neighbors possibly relaxing some elements of their strategy and frankly, manifold absence of testing here in the United Kingdom to work out who's had it, who has it. And possibly show a bit of light as to where in the country things might be able to get back to normal. But still, the U.K. plowing ahead there, using the scientific numbers it has, increasingly positive frankly, and this desire to put health at the very foremost of the policy to give three more weeks of lockdown --Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes, you've that the United States kind of easing up leaving it up to the states but the U.K. right now going in a different direction.

You mentioned Boris Johnson. What about the Prime Minister? Is he out of the hospital? Is he fully back in office?

WALSH: For the vast majority of the last three plus weeks in which the U.K. has been in lockdown, Boris Johnson has either been in isolation or in intensive care or in hospital or now as currently is, at the Prime Ministerial retreat in Chequers.

Now we understand that when he left hospital, he didn't resume his day-to-day work. His spokesperson was talking about his intentions to honor a war veteran who had been walking lapse in his garden to raise money for the free health care service, the NHS. And other things suggesting that the Prime Minister may be somehow in touch with the levers of government.

There is no suggestion that he masterminded or was at the helm of the decisions made yesterday. And frankly, anyway for weeks it's been fairly obvious that the lockdown was going to be extended. He seems to be improving. Certainly being at a country retreat of Chequers, suggests he's not in need of urgent constant medical care that a hospital would provide.

But quite when he comes back into being the key decision maker is obviously important over the next three weeks. He may have a different set of ideas as to how to balance the dynamic of getting the economy running again and not bankrupting the country through the support it's providing for businesses. While at the same time keeping the country healthy enough again. Most economists essentially all agree that a secondary peak and having to shut the economy down again would probably be more damaging than another few weeks' worth of lockdown.

So there's a lot to weigh up here. And I think increasingly a difficult message for a government who are trying to say, we've got spare capacity in our hospital beds. We are seeing the number of dead still awful, awful on a daily basis coming slowly down. But at the same time that's a sign the measures we're doing are working. So we need more of them and increasingly warm weather and Britain seeing economic damage growing -- Natalie.

ALLEN: It will also be interesting to see if the Prime Minister's leadership will be affected since when coming back, he has had the coronavirus. All right. We appreciate it. Nick Paton Walsh for us in London. Thanks, Nick.

Global health authorities had praised Singapore's response to the coronavirus, but now new cases have spiked. Why? We'll go live to Singapore with more about it.


Plus, Wuhan in China revises its death toll up by a staggering 50 percent. We'll go live to Beijing with our reporter to understand what's behind that new figure.


ALLEN: Singapore was praised for its coronavirus response but now it's reporting 728 new cases. The largest single day increase since the outbreak began there and officials say most are linked to migrant workers. Because they often live in large dormitories and have little access to expensive testing.

Let's go to our reporter Manisha Tank. She's live for us in Singapore. It sounds like these migrant workers have really been impacted do their living conditions. And likely see here in the United States, they are essential frontline workers. MANISHA TANK, JOURNALIST: That's right, they really are. They are the

backbone that keeps Singapore running, I have to say, Natalie. And when you take a look at the dorms that many of them live in, you will see, for example, 12 men living in a room of six bunk beds. They live in very close proximity. And even the areas where a lot of the migrant workers socialize, and one of them was a cluster that was reported late in March. An area called Little India, for example, many of them go there for supplies.


Because many of these workers come from India or they come from places like Bangladesh. So you can imagine how they're here, they're on their own, they're away from their families and of course, they love to socialize. And then they work in construction sites or building roads. So again, these are all the sorts of functions that require a lot of workers at one time in close proximity.

But I wouldn't want to look at that and say, this is the only reason why we suddenly seeing this surge in cases. I think what it also shows us is that though Singapore has had measures in place for some time now in terms of social distancing. Employers, for example, in those construction sites would have been taking temperatures, et cetera. You just can't be complacent about this highly contagious disease.

In mid-March travelers came back to Singapore from all over -- not just travelers, residents. Came back to Singapore and they brought the coronavirus with them from places like the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. When here we had gotten new cases to about zero. And then we started to see those cases begin to tick up, begin to tick up.

Now once one of those cases gets into an area where you have a cluster, like one with the migrant workers, where people are always very close together, there is that potential for a very quick spread. And this is something that the government seems to have -- seems to be seen as a weak spot for the government. In fact, they've even set up a designated task force just to handle the cases of the migrant workers.

ALLEN: So what other measures are they taking to control it and keep people safe?

TANK: Well, I can tell you that we're in a sort of partial lockdown right now. And up until two weeks ago we really did not see that coming. It started on the 7th of April and it will go on until the 1st of May. It means all nonessential services here in Singapore would be shut down.

And the reason I'm saying that we never thought we would see this is because Singapore and as you eluded to this before you spoke to me, it was sort of heralded as the gold standard for its approach to the coronavirus.

But now we're going to be in what we're calling circuit breaker measures. And this means people have to stay at home. When we go out, we all have to wear masks. As for those migrant workers, those dorms, a lot of them are in lockdown. So there are 43 dorms here in Singapore housing migrant workers, 19 of them have been declared isolation areas and teams have been sent in.

So why are you also seeing this spike in cases? It's because the testing is happening. But there's one positive way to look at that is to say, at least the testing is happening. You know where your cases are and data and information, is so important in handling this pandemic -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much. We hope this situation turns around. Manisha Tank for us in Singapore. Thanks, take care.

Well, authorities in Wuhan, China, the first epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak are now revising the city's death toll. They have added another 1,290 deaths. That's an increase of 50 percent. And this comes as U.S. and other nations accuse China of not being transparent in its reporting of cases.

Our Steven Jiang is following this story from Beijing. He joins me now live with more about it. What is China saying about these new numbers and the fact that they're just releasing them now?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: That's right, Natalie. This is a substantial jump at the original epicenter of the outbreak. That's why it's catching a lot of attention and timing wise, as you mentioned, it came on the heels of an increasing numbers of U.S. politicians and officials again pointing fingers at Beijing blaming its lack of transparency and its initial mishandling of the crisis to cause this global pandemic.

Now the government here of course has been strongly pushing back at any such accusations. Just in the last hour a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman says there has never been any coverup of this outbreak in China and the government would never allow any coverups.

Now in the statement announcing these latest revisions Wuhan authorities actually did not mention anything about U.S. criticisms. Instead, they framed these revisions as their own efforts to be accountable to history, to their people and to the victims of the coronavirus and also to ensure data accuracy and the open and transparent disclosure of information.

Now they also explained why the discrepancy. They listed several reasons including how many people actually died at home during the early stage of the outbreak and also during the peak of the outbreak, medical workers were so overwhelmed they had to focus on treating patients instead of reporting deaths. And then of course, there was errors and delays in reporting when this process involved a large number of medical facilities run by different levels of governments as well as the private sector.


Now all of these may sound reasonable explanations but it's probably not going to satisfy or placate Washington at this stage given how politically charged this issue has become, not to mention China's own issue of censoring information and also the fact that President Trump himself is under increasing scrutiny for his own handling of the crisis -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Steven Jiang for us in Beijing. Thank you.

Coming up here, countries are scrambling to provide a COVID-19 antibody test that could be key in helping get our lives back to normal, but the United States might be delayed in getting it. We'll have a report about that.

Also, the world's second biggest economy -- we're talking China again -- makes history for shrinking. What it means for all of us ahead here.


ALLEN: And welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

Our top story, back to the U.S. where COVID-19 cases are fast approaching the 675,000 mark. Johns Hopkins University also reporting more than 33,000 lives have been lost to this disease in the U.S. alone -- 33,000. Just weeks ago I reported 300 deaths.

That's lives that might have been saved if the country had been better prepared. President Trump says he is angry that he and other world leaders weren't warned about how deadly the coronavirus is. He spoke after meeting with fellow G7 leaders. He did not mention China by name where the first cases appeared.

Well, as cases continue to soar, the White House is giving America's governors a set of guidelines on re-opening the economy. It includes details on when to reopen places like restaurants, gyms, and public spaces. President Trump says some states that aren't battling major coronavirus outbreaks could open for business.