Return to Transcripts main page


White House Coronavirus Task Force Provides Criteria for States to Reopen Economy During Coronavirus Pandemic; New Treatment for Coronavirus Showing Promising Results; Jacksonville, Florida, Mayor Announcing Reopening of Parks and Beaches in Duval County; How Coronavirus Pandemic is Changing Higher Education. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 17, 2020 - 08:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN has learned that in a conference call yesterday, governors told the president that they're not just lacking tests, but also the basic materials needed for tests, like swabs. At a CNN town hall last night, Dr. Deborah Birx called it unrealistic to expect that every worker in the country will be tested.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: John, we're also following potentially promising news this morning for the treatment of coronavirus. A new report says a clinical trial of coronavirus patients that was treated with a drug called Remdesivir shows the patients quickly recovering from severe symptoms. But there are reasons to be skeptical of these findings. We'll explain that.

We're also standing by for new modeling on where the country is. The University of Washington model is expected to show that southern states may not be hit as hard as previously expected, in large part because people are complying with social distancing, but hot spots, like New York, seem to be stuck at their peak levels for longer than originally expected.

BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN senior national security analyst Lisa Monaco. She served as adviser for Homeland Security for President Obama. And let me just say because we haven't said it, and I think it is really important to frame this entire discussion. Thousands of people are still dying every day from coronavirus. Thousands of new deaths still being reported every day. So keep that in mind.

Sanjay, let's start with what the guidelines released by the administration are and what they do say. So I just want to put up on the screen what phase one will be, when states start to reopen, what will be reopening first, just so people can see what some of these things are. Wasn't exactly what I was looking for, but things that will be open -- movie theaters, restaurants, sports venues, places for worship. gyms, elective surgeries. Things that will not be available, elective -- sorry, visiting senior living facilities, schools, bars, other things like that. So what is the take away from what they did release?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And as part of that as well they say vulnerable people need to continue staying at home as much as possible. That is an idea of how they want to sort of phase in the reopening. I think the big thing, though, John, is in order to get there, and you guys talked about this before, is that you have these criteria, you have these gating criteria. And they are in some ways I think a little bit more stringent than I expected, but in some ways they still lack a lot of detail as well. After that there is obviously phase two and phase three. There is the gating criteria there. We can talk more about that. But this is sort of the idea of incremental sort of reopening, all base on whether or not the country and individual states can actually meet the criteria.

CAMEROTA: Lisa, is this helpful for governors? Does this give them some sort of roadmap for what they should do in their state over the next month or two?

LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, look, Alisyn, I think let's focus on the good news. The good news is there's no artificial deadlines or dates attached to these guidelines. That's a good thing. They also acknowledge what we have all known to be true for a while, which is that it is up to the governors to determine when they're going to gradually reopen, just as it was up to the governors to impose the social distancing requirements that are in place now. So all of that is good.

All of that said, there are significant gaps which I think are going to be very difficult for the governors if they try and implement these issues. So the gating criteria called for robust testing. It calls for no evidence of resurgence of cases. Well, how is a governor supposed to know that if there isn't a widespread strategy for testing? And that is really the gap here. And it is really up to the national leadership to provide that strategy. And so what we have got here really is the outline of a plan, but not a plan.

GUPTA: What about that, Sanjay, as we put up these gating criteria first. It says a downward trajectory, but a downward trajectory to what? That's not exactly spelled out. And how much of a comprehensive plan can it actually be if specific testing guidelines and provisions are not included?

GUPTA: Everything is contingent on being able to test, and specifically the testing for the virus itself. I mean, the idea of going from mitigation, which is slowing down the spread of this infection, to saying we can realistically try and contain this means you have to test. You have to test people as soon as you see they have the virus, you have to be isolated, have to trace their contacts, the contacts have to be quarantined. So all of this, which we have been talking about for some time, is critical.

[08:05:00] And as I think everyone has pointed out at this point, while the number of tests have gone up, they're still not necessarily practically available to people who will need them. I asked Ambassador Birx about this last night, and the idea that ultimately you're going to work and you not just get screened in terms of getting your temperature checked, but might need to get tested on some regular basis to make sure you don't go into a crowded workplace and possibly infect others, that could be a real demand until we have a vaccine. It won't be forever, but for some point we may need to do that. Our businesses, our communities, our states, is the country ready to do that? It doesn't seem so as of now.

And you're right, John, as well. So the 14-day trend downward of both symptoms, which they defined as influenza-like illness symptoms, and 14-day downward trend of actually confirmed cases. But, starting from where, going to where 14-day downward is obviously important, but it is interesting, other models like the one out of the University of Washington did put a number on that, John. And maybe that's an arbitrary number as well, but they said 0.03 percent. So that meant that there needed to be fewer than 90 people who died every day in the United States as a whole. Once you got -- and that's still, it's hard to talk about these numbers and just give them as numbers. But fewer than 90 people a day, they thought at that point you could start to think about reopening. There's no numbers attached to this particular plan.

CAMEROTA: Lisa, do you understand why three months into this we still don't have a national strategy on testing when every single person universally agrees that that is the key to getting the country to reopen, President Trump is quite eager to have the country reopen. What is the problem with testing?

MONACO: It is confounded, Alisyn. And it's been said, the failures and the difficulties in having the testing at the outset and the wasted and squandered time in that regard is the original sin. That sin is tracing through all of this, and it is still with us, both with diagnostic testing and now with this serological testing for antibodies. It is the key to being able to move through any of the gates in this outline of a plan that we now have. So the fact that we are facing supply chain challenges with nasal swabs, with the actual ability to produce these tests, to distribute them, this is a logistics challenge, this is a planning challenge. This is what the federal government does or should be doing in a crisis. You need national leadership with a national strategy and national implementation, yes, to be done according to state needs, and to be tailored by the individual states, but you need to have the guts of that and the resources at the ready and a strategy laid out by the national leadership.

BERMAN: Sanjay, I want to ask you if I can about this report that came out last night that set the stock markets on fire, right. Its first reaction was from an investor who went crazy with Stat News reported recordings from doctors involved with trials of Remdesivir, which is an antiviral drug, it was originally produced to fight Ebola, didn't work great on that, but they're trying it against coronavirus. And this doctor is on tape in this news report saying that they're seeing encouraging things. Here is one quote, "The best news is that most of our patients have already been discharged, which is great. We have only had two patients perish," also saying they're seeing fevers go down and general discharges much more quickly than they expected. Again, this isn't the study. This is a recording of a doctor talking about what they're seeing. But what is your takeaway here?

GUPTA: Yes, well, I read the transcript -- heard the summary of that recording as well. The patients that were being treated were, I guess, severely ill. So that's important, because other studies said give it in mild illness or moderate illness, so severe illness. And, again, from this recording, 113 patients were severely ill that received this.

Severely ill patients with coronavirus, if you look at the statistics overall, you get maybe nine, 10 percent of those patients who then progress on to critical illness and perhaps even death. So the fact that they said the majority of those patients, I think, all except for two, two patients did die, but the majority of patients did recover, if that's true, that would certainly be very encouraging.

Now, you would want to compare this against people who did not get the treatment. They didn't do that, that would be a placebo trial, they didn't do that. But still, there is enough sort of evidence I think that is gathering that says if you become severely ill with this infection, what the rates are of people who then go on to critical illness or death. And this seemed to really beat that.


So I take all these studies with a grain of salt. Short of a coronavirus, we wouldn't be reporting on a study like this at all because it is such a small study. But we've talked about this medication, Remdesivir, we've talked about hydroxychloroquine, which hasn't been showing as much promise. This shows promise. It is still a small study. The reason you think about placebo controls is that, look, sometimes optimism can cloud how people interpret results. That's why you want a randomized, blinded placebo-controlled study. Everybody wants a therapeutic that works.

I'm not suggesting the doctors, I think this was in Chicago, somehow were -- they're optimism clouded the results, but that's why you have to do these trials in the right way. And hopefully we should get some real results back maybe even within the next few weeks.

CAMEROTA: That would be great. Lisa Monaco, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you, both very much for all of the information.

Jacksonville, Florida, is taking the first steps towards reopening. The mayor announcing that parks and beaches will open this afternoon with some limitations. CNN's Rosa Flores joins us now from Florida to explain. So what is it going to look like, Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, Governor Ron DeSantis was set to announce the plan to reopen the state next week. But Jacksonville beat him to the punch. The mayor announcing the reopening of parks and beaches in Duval County, starting this afternoon. Yes, it would include restricted hours and social distancing. But according to the mayor, this decision was made in conjunction with first responders and law enforcement, and even cited Governor Ron DeSantis' stay-at- home order, which states that recreational activities are essential, such as walking and running and even swimming. The mayor in Jacksonville went even on to say that surfing is also an essential activity.

Now, in Duval county there are more than 770 COVID-19 cases of state's more than 23,000. As for deaths, 14 have been registered in that county. The death toll here in the state of Florida exceeds 630. You probably remember that Governor Ron DeSantis did not close all of the beaches here in this state of Florida. There is video of a lot of beachgoers in Tampa. That was very controversial very early on in this pandemic. Governor Ron DeSantis leaving the decisions to localities. Jacksonville exercising that power today.

You're probably seeing the Florida National Guard behind me. They're setting up a testing site here in Broward County. And Governor Ron DeSantis will be here at about 10:00 a.m. to announce that. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, Rosa, please keep us posted on how this goes. Thank you very much.

So this pandemic has completely disrupted the college experience for students, for professors, for high school seniors who were ready to go. The plan for universities to get back on track, next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, this morning, across the country, communities are taking drastic measures to slow the spread of coronavirus. For many colleges and universities, that means closing dorms, canceling events, moving all classes online.

The question really now is what happens in the fall when students would normally be returning to school?

Joining me now is Gordon Gee, the president of West Virginia University. Thanks so much for being with us.

Just so people know, you've got years of experience leading universities of all sizes, all around the country, public and private.

So, spring semester is what it is at this point. We know what it looks like. The question now is about the fall, and what are the range of things that colleges need to be considering for the fall right now?

GORDON GEE, PRESIDENT, WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY: Well, John, first of all, thanks for letting me be on.

And I can tell you honestly that as -- I've been a university president for four years and I thought I had seen everything, but I've never seen a pandemic. So I feel like a small boy walking through a picket fence.

I'm thrilled but in danger of being impaled. We just don't know what it's going to look like. But we're planning for almost everything.

As you can imagine, we did pivot very quickly to online classes and I take that as a mark of greatness in many ways. People said they can't be first in line, but we didn't that. But now for the fall, we're planning on almost every possible scenario. Now, one of the things we have to remember, there are 4,570

universities and colleges in this country. Not every one of them are going to have the same problem. If I -- if I were in New York, I wouldn't think about opening up.

If you're in Morgantown, West Virginia, or Ames, Iowa, then that's a different scenario. So, we all have to think what is in best interest for our faculty, our staff, our students and their families obviously.

BERMAN: How do we account for what has been lost or is being lost by these students. And by that I mean months -- many months -- not on campus with each other. Many months not in a physical classroom with teachers and other students and an open exchange of ideas, how can these students ever get that back? How are you going to account for that?

GEE: Well, you know, it's a sad moment for me because of the fact that I so enjoy our students, I so enjoy the kind of intellectual comments we all have, the fun things we do together, and I know they're all missing that too.

But, you know, what we're all trying to do, and I know every university is doing it, but I certainly do it myself, I call up a lot of students and say how you doing? How are you feeling? I can't call up all 33,000, but we do all sorts of videos, (INAUDIBLE), those things, but the moment, the point is that this is their family.

Many students missed being on the campus because it's become their family. So we have to act like a family even in this kind of endeavor. And I think it will be a lost moment of their life, but we cannot make it a black swan moment in their life. It's a black swan for universities but for them, and we can't let that happen.

BERMAN: You know, I'm interested in some of the things that will change by necessity. One is the standardized testing. The SATs and the ACTs, they're talking about moving them online, some kind of online home testing for this spring.


What do you think of that and is it possible that this is it for this type of standardized testing?

GEE: Well, you know, I think that they've been under siege for some time and rightly so. You know, I've always made a point of particularly certain not when I was the president of Brown or chancellor of Vanderbilt, but certainly at a large public university like this that the one thing you can't measure with an SAT or ACT, you can't measure grit. You can't measure motivation.

And I think that we need to take a lot more look at that particularly first generation students, kids who come from rural America. And I think this is really an opportunity to look at our students when coming in.

BERMAN: I have to tell you, there's a whole generation of students right now picking up a certain kind of grit living through a pandemic, I think, that they never imagined. It's interesting that you brought that up. Sports -- look, Mountaineers, who doesn't love the Mountaineers?

GEE: Oh, I love those Mountaineers, yes, sir.

BERMAN: Will they be playing in the fall?

GEE: I don't think any of us know. I think first of all, I heard someone say you can have them play and have no students on campus. We need to remind ourselves that athletes are student athletes.

And so, I think that there are going to be variations. I think the one issue that we're going to have to look at all together, by that I mean, the Para Five (ph), the NCAA, we can't have one league playing and one not playing.

And my hope is the fact that we'll be able to play. We'll probably have to do it at some limitation. And maybe, you know, at our stadium, we give everyone masks. I have no idea what we're going to do.

But athletics has to be safe. But also it really does go to we all discovered this. Do I know a damn thing about football? No. But let me say I do know it provides an emotional, spiritual center for so many people, including our students. And so we need to think about it that way.

BERMAN: Gordon Gee, president of West Virginia University, we appreciate you talking to us this morning. It sounds like the bottom line is we all got to be flexible for now. You know, you can't predict the future, at least not yet.

GEE: We've moved from pandemic to panic. Now we need to be realistic, but also we need to be relevant.

BERMAN: Gordon Gee, thanks very much for being with us. I do appreciate it.

GEE: Have a great day.

BERMAN: So before everyone goes back to work, this is something we all would like to know. How far can coronavirus travel through the air? We're going to ask an infectious disease doctor next.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Perhaps you've seen this incredible video we're about to show you from "The New England Journal of Medicine".

On the left, you see that trajectory of is a lie have droplets from a person without a mask. On the right is someone wearing a mask. All of those droplets you see on your screen on the left were produced by the person only saying the words, quote, stay healthy. So what does this tell doctors about the spread of coronavirus?

Joining us now is Dr. Harvey Fineberg. He's the chairman of the National Academy Standing Committee on Infectious Disease.

Dr. Fineberg, it's great to see you.

This video certainly got our attention yesterday, as did this still frame, to be able to see highlighted all of those droplets just from the words, stay healthy.

And so, does that tell you how coronavirus has spread so fast?

DR. HARVEY FINEBERG, CHAIR, NATIONAL ACADEMIES STANDING COMMITTEE ON EMERGING INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The impressive thing about that video is it makes visible the size of droplets that would otherwise be so tiny that they wouldn't be visible to us. The coronavirus spreads from our respiratory track. It hitches a ride on these droplets that are of all different sizes.

We've all had someone shouting in our face, felt the spray. Well, that's a droplet. Speaking as that video illustrates, stay healthy. Those percussive continents spread the spit there. Even just quieter talking or breathing can generate tinier aerosol droplets.

All of these are capable of carrying a virus. What we do not know is exactly what proportion rides out and infects others from what size droplets. All are capable. We just don't know exactly which ones are most important.

CAMEROTA: Percussive consonants that spread the spit. Well done. Well done, Dr. Fineberg. That's -- that really gives us the impression of how the spittle comes out.

So, the rule of thumb at the moment is that you're suppose to stand six feet away from other people so that you can be socially distant. When you watch that video, is that far enough? Is that too far? Can those droplets really travel six feet?

FINEBERG: It makes good sense. And the reason is the larger droplets do tend to hit the ground nearer with us at about three feet actually. So six feet is a pretty good distance to be away from someone and avoid perceptible or medium sized droplets.

It is true that the tiniest droplets can be propelled much further. For example, if someone gives one of those rip roaring sneezes, you don't want to be in front of them even ten feet away. But basically what happens is when you're outdoors, these very tiny aerosols dilute very rapidly in the air. So they're not really a problem.

This does illustrate, though, why it is so important for our health professionals and caregivers to be fully protected when they're in the room taking care of patients with coronavirus infection.

CAMEROTA: Well, what about that? What about people who are not part of a hospital team? Just regular workers. If John Berman walks down the hallway before me and says "stay healthy" and one minute later, I walk down that.