Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Announces Guidelines for Reopening States; Brutal Economic Data Around the World; China Revises Wuhan Death Toll. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 17, 2020 - 05:00   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. Welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So just ahead:

Backpedaling from his claims of absolute authority, President Trump tells U.S. governors it is up to them to decide how and when to re- open their states.

And this as the economic pain of this virus just won't let up after more U.S. job losses. Now China's economy is shrinking.

And the city of ground zero of this pandemic revises the death toll way up. What we're learning from Wuhan.


CURNOW: Great to see you. Thanks for joining me. So in the U.S. more than 33,000 lives have been lost to COVID-19. That is the latest number from Johns Hopkins University. And it's believed many victims could have been saved if the country had been better prepared.

President Trump says he's angry and that he and other world leaders weren't warned about how deadly the virus was. He spoke after meeting with fellow G7 leaders but he did not mention China by name where the first cases appeared.

Now, President Trump also revealed new coronavirus guidelines in hopes of re-starting the U.S. economy.

Kaitlan Collins breaks them down for us -- Kaitlan.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president is unveiling the new guidelines he says are the first steps towards reopening the U.S. economy. In a call he had with governors shortly after before he unveiled this in the briefing room, the president backed off of his claims of total authority to tell states what to do, those claims that he made earlier this week when he now told governors they are going to be ones calling the shots about when it is that their states re-open.

And if you read through the guidelines, there are several phases. The president says it's a slow start, step by step. They are going to see these states start to re-open. None of the guidelines are state specific though the president said he believes there are some states that could start doing this right away, that they do not have to wait until the end of April and wait for those guidelines they put out in recent weeks to expire. They can go ahead and move ahead with these new phases.

Now while he says he lays out when he believes schools, gyms, whatnot should start re-opening, there is a little bit sense of vague numbers here. It doesn't say when the states should start doing it, what levels of cases they have in the state. As long as they've had a downward trend for a certain number of days, then they can feel comfortable moving from certain phases to another phase.

Now, of course, one thing that is not addressed in the packet of guidelines the president distributed to the governors is a strategy for a national testing system. Over the last several days, the president has heard concerns from senators, from governors, from business executives who are worried there is still inadequate testing throughout the nation and therefore it is going to hinder any kind of attempt to reopen the country. And when the president was asked about this, he repeatedly deferred to states to say it was up to them to be the ones to make sure that they were up to par to make sure they were reopening businesses and sending people back to school and back to work.

Of course, there are going to be looming concerns. There was a lot of the concerns we've heard from states is they are saying they need the federal government's help in order to get to that place.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


CURNOW: And as you heard Kaitlan say there, Mr. Trump was saying a few days ago that he, not the governors, would decide when to reopen the country. That was when the governor of New York threatened him with a lawsuit if the state was threatened to re-open before it's safe to do so.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you say my authority, the president's authority. Not mine, because it's not me. This is -- when somebody's the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that's the way it's got to be. The federal government has the power. The federal government has the absolute power.

COLLINS: Has any governor agreed that you have the authority to decide when their state --

TRUMP: I haven't asked anybody. You know why? I don't have to. Go ahead, please?


CURNOW: A lot certainly changed over the week. So, Mr. Trump says he wants the U.S. economy back on track as soon as May 1st, if not earlier in some places. So, it's up to each state to decide which restrictions will no longer be necessary and when.

Here's Nick Watt with that.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: 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 re-open states and the economy, many say too soon. We just don't have the testing.

GOV. NED LAMONT (D), CONNECTICUT: I think that would be really dangerous. We're ramping up the testing. We've 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.

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

WATT: Getting out ahead of those new federal guidelines, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., all extended their stay at 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 in, got them the 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: Trump says he wants the states to take the lead on testing.

DR. 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: So testing will be key.

So, here in The Forum in Los Angeles, we are not going to have any sporting events or concerts, we're told, for maybe a year, so they turned the parking lot into a drive through COVID-19 testing facility.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


CURNOW: So much changing.

So, thanks, Nick, for that report.

My next guest co-chaired the Hong Kong government's inquiry into the SARS virus. Sian Griffiths is the director of the school of public health at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Talk to us about all of the lessons learned from that virus and what you're seeing now. Great to see you.

I really want to hear your expertise on all of this. We have just been hearing how the U.S. president has laid out a pretty vague set of guidelines to get Americans out and about, but as Kaitlan Collins, our reporter said, there's no emphasis on testing or rigorous contact tracing.

What is going to be the impact of that?

SIAN GRIFFITHS, CHAIR, GLOBAL HEALTH COMMITTEE, CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: Well, if we talk about SARS, SARS is in 2003, and I'm actually no longer the head of the school, I've retired since then, but I'm still in touch with what's going on in Hong Kong. If you look at Hong Kong, Hong Kong was very well prepared because of the experience with SARS. It had learned some of the lessons from SARS.

But at the time it first saw SARS, we didn't have as much information about the virus so we had to rely very much on the public health measures and social distancing measures. Those will still be necessary even with testing. Testing is important. Testing is going to be important both to look at the antigen, that's who's got the disease, and the antibody, who's had the disease.

And I think, globally, we are in need of more testing, more reliable testing and then we'll get the statistics right and then we'll get the information right to actually help guide us through the breaking down of lockdown. CURNOW: But from your experience and your understanding with the way

this has played out with the previous pandemics, can you start easing restrictions if you don't know how many people are infected? Can you do that without major focused testing?

GRIFFITHS: You really need to know how many people are infected because if you start to release lockdown and people start to go back to their workplaces with an infection, it will spread to those who haven't already had it. The major -- major task here is to break that chain of transmission to really reinforce the social isolation messages to stay home. In the U.K., our mantra is stay home and save the NHS because we want to ensure the capacity there is for people who do need ITU to be able treat them on a ventilator.

We know from SARS that the pattern of the disease is that more people will get the disease than will need to go into hospital, but at the same time, we also know that the epidemic did come and go but it affected more vulnerable people and that it will still be the vulnerable people, the elderly people, the big underlying conditions who are most at risk in our communities.

CURNOW: As you look at the way the world is dealing with these early months of this pandemic, is there one overriding lesson that you think needs to be taken into account? I mean, what is different and what is the one lesson you perhaps have learned from your days?


GRIFFITHS: Yes, sorry. It's a very difficult question to answer, when Wuhan tells us that the figures were 50 percent different because of the asymptomatic cases, and a lot of the modeling that's been undertaken which has guided the policy and principles of the U.K. and other countries has been based on the data from China.

One of the important things is to share accurate data, to share information and enhance communications so that the response can be one that's global. Now we're partly there, but we now have some question about the data. People are getting worried about asymptomatic cases. People who don't have symptoms who are infectious who can pass on the disease. Another reason why we need testing.

We need testing. We need to understand the disease and until we have tests and until we have the vaccine, we need to put in place public health measures that allow us to break the chain of the disease, to stop the spread of the infection. For most of us, that's to stay at home.

CURNOW: It certainly is. You mentioned China. How culpable is China, particularly for those early days of underreporting? What is your -- I mean, I know a lot of world leaders, particularly Mr. Trump, are blaming China about this.

GRIFFITHS: Well, I don't think we should be blaming anybody. What we did learn from the SARS review, which we did the review after the epidemic had finished, and what we did is we looked back and we said, what lessons can we learn? That was the most important thing. What can we learn?

And as Tedros from the World Health Organization says at the current time, this isn't the time for blame, this is a time for coming together to share what we know, and that's a really important lesson from SARS before, we need to share what we know to make sure we look at wide numbers of people across the world. This is a global problem.

So it's not really a time to say what did China do, what didn't China do? When did we know there wasn't a problem and what could we have done? It's what can we do now to stop the disease from spreading. That's the most important thing.

So, in a way, I think the effort needs to be there. We need to say, well, we've had eight revisions of statistics from China. We need to understand what's been going on. Was their system really so deficient in the first place that we couldn't have gotten a clearer picture? Or is this learning that we need to take from this particular pandemic?

CURNOW: And also, just final question briefly, so little is known about the origins of this virus. Again, we go back to China. Did it come from wet markets or some lab experiment gone wrong? How important is it to know that?

GRIFFITHS: I don't think it's important to the current because China was very quick to share with us the structure of the molecule to identify the coronavirus. We didn't know that in the first SARS epidemic in 2003, we didn't know that for ages and that really hampered the way the epidemic was delivered. So, I think it doesn't matter.

Obviously people visited China know what the conditions in the wet markets are like. They know the story of SARS in 2003 when bats are a reservoir for coronavirus and at that time they passed it through cats. This time, there are questions about could there have been another animal -- there would be another animal, which animal is it?

All of those questions are really secondary to the need to contain the epidemic at the current time. Overtime, the research would be done and the answers will be there.

CURNOW: Dr. Sian Griffiths in Oxford, England, appreciate you joining us. Thanks so much.

GRIFFITHS: Nice to see you. Thank you.

CURNOW: You too.

So, it's not just movement that's being restricted. Our lives, you know, being changed. Cash isn't exactly flowing either. You know that. We're seeing fresh numbers from the world's two largest economies, and they are brutal. Everything you need to know about that, next.



CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So, the U.S. president seems to be itching to reopen the country, and it's clear why. Some 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment over the last four weeks alone, and small businesses are looking for government loans to pay their workers are now seeing this, a message that all $349 billion set aside to do that has just gone.

Kyung Lah looks at what's playing out now in the real world.


TOM SOPIT, EMPLOYEE ONLY OWNER: We have served several hundred, over 1,000 for sure.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tom Sopit and his team load hundreds of meals bound for the USC medical Center.

Sopit, the owner of Employees Only Restaurant and Bar donating, even though he is in need himself.

A month ago, fear gripped Sopit as coronavirus shut down Los Angeles restaurants.

(on camera): Are you scared?


LAH (voice-over): Now, that has turned to anger, as the married father of a toddler waits for a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program or PPP from his bank, Wells Fargo.

SOPIT: Then I was calling basically almost every day, wait on the phone for about an hour. So every day, we're just looking at our bank account, just waiting for the money.

LAH: But now, the Small Business Administration says the PPP program is out of cash. It is a life line, a forgivable loan that gives businesses 2-1/2 times their monthly payroll, 75 percent of that must go to workers. It's been a battle to get the available money.

ALEX HARTUNIAN, STUDIO METAMORPHOSIS OWNER: We're desperate for this -- for this relief from the government. And if we're just --


LAH: It's been call after call to the bank for Alex Hartunian and Jen Yates, owners of Studio Metamorphosis, a fitness center in Los Angeles, shut down for a month, unable to pay bills or staff until finally this notification.

(on camera): What does this now mean for you guys?

HARTUNIAN: This means we have hope. We know we're assured at least to pay our staff.

JEN YATES, STUDIO METAMORPHOSIS OWNER: That was the number one thing for us is to take care of our team.

HARTUNIAN: OK, guys. We have something to announce.

LAH (voice-over): On a staff call, the owners shared the news. The PPP loan will help cover the payroll.

HARTUNIAN: So, it looks like we're going to get some money for you guys.


LAH: Until the end of May.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's amazing.


LAH: Cheering here is Matt Wood, Studio Metamorphosis employee.


LAH: And new dad to 2-week-old Lavender.

WOOD: I understand there's so much that has to happen to get a bill passed, but it's very scary waiting for that money to come through.

LAH: These funds stop after eight weeks. Their message to Capitol Hill arguing now over the next stimulus bill, the clock is ticking.

WOOD: There we go.

YATES: We need the funds now. We cannot wait.

HARTUNIAN: Put partisanship aside.


HARTUNIAN: You know, you came up with it. You all come together for us. We need it.

LAH: Sopit has even less time. His business and donations to hospitals have only days before he's completely underwater.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.


CURNOW: Powerful piece. Thanks for that.

So, it's not just America's economy taking a beating. China's extraordinary run of non-stop 40 plus year growth has come to a screeching, screeching halt. Its GDP plummeting by 7 percent for the first three months of the year.

So, let's get straight to Alison Kosik for more on all of this.

Hi, Alison.

What more can you tell us on that?


Yes, I mean, you look at that plunge in GDP for China, it's the worst for a single quarter since publishing in 1992. The contraction really underscores how difficult this is going to be to revive the global economy because China is so vital and interconnected with trade aid, economies of other countries. China's troubles could wind up impacting the world's progress as it tries getting back on its feet from the impact of the coronavirus.

Now, this news from China comes as the U.S. had its own terrible week of economic news. Data that we really don't pay much attention to in normal times. The stark evidence of how much the U.S. economy is being impacted.

A little watched manufacturing index out of New York plummeting in April. We also found that retail sales contracted 8.7 percent. That's its biggest drop on record and really sets up sort of some trepidation of what it looks like for consumer spending to get those numbers out.

And, of course, those jobless claims numbers. After four weeks, 22 million Americans, Robyn, are out of work. That is about 1 out of every 8 American workers is on the unemployment line -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes, it's a very scary world.

Alison Kosik, thanks for that. Have a lovely weekend.

So, authorities in Wuhan, China, the first epicenter of this coronavirus outbreak, are revising the death toll. We know nearly two months after cases peaked in the city officials are now adding another 1,290 deaths. That's an increase of 50 percent. Officials say these new numbers include patients who died at home as well as delayed reporting from overwhelmed medical institutions.

Let's go straight to Beijing. Steven Jiang joins me now with more on this.

So, how many people in total in Wuhan died? And, actually, will we ever really know how many people really passed away?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, that's the question, big question mark right now, Robyn, as you mentioned. They have given several reasons. Another reason being a delay in errors in reporting because this process involved a large number of medical facilities run by different levels of the government as well as the private sector.

So, all of these might sound like reasonable explanations but it's very unlikely to satisfy or placate Washington at a time when a growing number of U.S. politicians and officials have been recently pointing fingers ate Beijing, blaming the Chinese government for their lack of transparency and for the mishandling of the crisis, at least initially for causing this global pandemic. Now, the government here, of course, has been pushing strongly --

strongly pushing back at any such accusations. Just a short while ago, a foreign ministry spokesman said there had never been any cover-up of this outbreak here in this country, and the government would never allow any cover-ups, but still, the officials in Wuhan when they released these revisions actually did not mention the U.S. and said they framed their revisions as their efforts to be accountable to history, to their own people, and the victims and also to ensure data reliability and open transparent disclosure of information.

Given how politically charged this has become, this war of words between the two countries is very unlikely to stop given China's history of censoring information, silencing whistleblowers and its data unreliability, as well as the fact that they're having a political issue in Washington as President Trump's own handling of the crisis is undergoing scrutiny -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes, you make some excellent points there. Steven Jiang, good to see you, live from Beijing. Thank you.


So, Singapore was praised by global health authorities for its coronavirus response, but on Thursday, Singapore then reported 728 new cases. It's the single largest day increase since the outbreak began there. Officials say most are linked to migrant workers. They often live in crowded dormitories.

Well, Manisha Tank joins us now from Singapore with more on that.

Certainly, Singapore an example of how quickly things can turn around, go bad.

MANISHA TANK, JOURNALIST: Yes, that's true, Robyn. I would say Singapore has a very joined up thinking way of approaching the coronavirus pandemic. But we've been called out, certainly feels that way, when it comes to how this virus got into the migrant worker population.

I think it's a story about how contagious this disease is. It only takes one or two people who aren't following the rules of lockdown, just spread it into a community where it can just rampant, which is what we're seeing here.

Let's just talk about these dorms for a second because we mentioned that they can often be crowded. So, in one of the biggest dorms, which is one of the biggest clusters for coronavirus here now, you can see 13,000 workers living in one of these buildings. And a typical dorm will house maybe -- anything between 6 and 12 migrant workers.

These are often guys who left their home countries, such as Bangladesh, for example. They're without their families, they tend to congregate. You know, they were to hang out after a long day shift work.

And let's just talk about that. These are essential workers in Singapore. They are the life blood of keeping the island nation running. Many of them work from construction sites and they perform really essential services. So, it's worth noting that we know at least 5,000 who are healthy have been removed and they're staying in disused army barracks or they're staying in even floating offshore facilities to keep them safe. They're being looked after by the government while extensive testing goes on in the dorms.

We were hearing from China about the importance of data. So, there's one positive way to look at this. As the extensive testing happens in those dormitories, we know what we're dealing with. And the next question here in Singapore is going to be, how are you going to hospitalize any of these people if you need to? Do you have the facilities? I think it's not a time to be complacent, Robyn.

CURNOW: No, it certainly isn't. Manisha, good to see you. Thanks. Live from Singapore.

So, still to come here on CNN, a governor in the U.S. sparks protest.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: I didn't sleep that night, honestly, you know? I'm not looking for a fight with anyone, frankly. I'm looking for help.


CURNOW: Michigan's governor appeal for support but some people think she's going too far with restrictions. That story coming up.