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New York to Roll Out Statewide Antibody Testing Today; South Carolina Governor to Reopen Public Beaches, Retail Stores Today; Contamination at CDC Lab Likely Caused Delays in Early Testing; Floridians Troop to Beaches After Reopening; U.S. Death Toll Tops 40,000 as Need for Testing Grows; White House, Congress Close to a Deal for More Small Business Aid. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired April 20, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Move too fast, set yourself back, as protesters prepare for more rallies today across the country over state restrictions. The nation's top infectious disease expert warns this morning reopening now will not get the results.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not going to happen. So what you do, if you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you're going to set yourself back.


SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, there's really not a debate on this among health experts and the key to getting the virus under control, another subject of agreement that is testing. But many governors, Republican and Democrats, say they are running far from full capacity, disputing the president's claims that states not only have the responsibility but the resources to do so.

The clash between federal and state governments in full view as cases in the U.S. head closer to 800,000 and deaths passed a sad milestone of 40,000.

HARLOW: Also today, possibly more relief for small businesses struggling through this crisis. The president says an aid package could be announced today. This would be a second one.

Let's get to Brynn Gingras, though, to begin this hour with more on where things stand at the nation's epicenter that is here in New York.

Good morning, Brynn.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Poppy and Jim. Good morning. Yes, listen, we have been told by the governor we're at halftime. Listen, hospitalizations are down here in the state of New York but we are really just still going down that descent and the governor warns that we have to be vigilant. We have to keep these measures in place, in order to really make more progress in this fight against the coronavirus.

And you guys mentioned the testing, that is still such a big deal not just here in New York, but really across the country. We know those CDC guidelines for those phases calls for states to amp up their testing. The president even mentioned again and again that it comes down to the local level. States need to do their own testing, but governors all across the country, as Jim said, both on the Republican side and on the Democratic side, are saying they need help.

They need Washington to step in, not only just to get more personnel, like lab technicians but also get more supplies. They need more nasal swabs. They need more of the reagents to help with the diagnostics of these tests.

I want you to listen from these governors as they make really these pleas to the president.


GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA: That's just delusional. We've been fighting for testing. It's not a straightforward test. We don't even have enough swabs, believe it or not.

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R), MARYLAND: The lab capacity has been increasing, but it's not accurate to say there's plenty of testing out there and the governors should just get it done. That's just not being straightforward.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: We have a shortage, worldwide shortage of some of the materials that go into this, so we really need help. Anybody in the FDA is watching, this would really take our capacity up.


GINGRAS: Yes, the president has said millions and millions of people are getting tested when actuality Harvard researchers say about 150,000 people per day are getting tested. Really it needs to be at least three times that to get to where we need to really open up this country back again for business.

On a different side of testing, antibody testing, I want to mention quickly that New York state today is taking the steps first time aggressive widespread antibody testing. 3,000 people in the state will be tested at random. That's to get a true percentage of how many people may or have the virus and also who may have antibodies, too, that can hopefully again take us a little bit closer to reopening the country, but again we know about those antibodies, not necessarily foolproof that that people won't get that virus again -- Poppy and Jim.

HARLOW: Yes. Not at all. Brynn, thanks so much for the reporting.

Well, the governor of South Carolina is expected to lift restrictions on some beaches, river and lakefront access as well today. This is despite a coalition of four beach towns near Charleston saying they'll continue limiting access to nonresidents.

SCIUTTO: National correspondent Natasha Chen, she's in Columbia, South Carolina.

So I wondered, Natasha, how are people reacting to this? Are they listening to it? Are they filling up the beaches again?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim and Poppy, as with all situations I think there are people who feel strongly on both sides. We know that the governor tweeted on Saturday that he felt South Carolina was ready and he used the #acceleratesc, and this morning we're seeing on social media that people are using that hashtag and twisting its meaning saying that if they reopen too soon that this could actually accelerate the spread of the virus.

Now there are people planning a protest here in Columbia on Friday, but I'm also seeing a Facebook group with more than 28,000 members urging the governor not to do this.


So I think it's -- there's conflict on both sides -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: What is behind the beach town coalition? I mean, I do think that's interesting, when you have smaller localities basically saying no, we're not going to do what you're saying we can or should do.

CHEN: Right, so the opening of the public access to beaches, rivers, lakes, is supposed to be happening tomorrow, according to "The Post and Courier." Now these four beach towns, I'll name them here, they're Isle of Palms, Sullivan's Island, Folly Beach and Edisto Beach. They're very concerned about the reopening and they're still restricting access to non-residents.

I'm going to read you part of a statement that they wrote together. They said, "South Carolina is still in the acceleration phase and even with the reduction in growth of new cases, new cases could begin to grow quickly if social distancing restrictions are lifted."

And so you hear people concerned that if things reopen too quickly, their hospitals may be inundated especially because they have not seen peak here yet in South Carolina.

SCIUTTO: Natasha Chen there in South Carolina. It's really not a subject to debate that to reopen safely you need broad-based testing. You hear that from health experts. HARLOW: Of course.

SCIUTTO: You hear it from Democratic and Republican governors but months into this crisis, the U.S. as a country still does not have the number of tests available that would make it possible to do so, to do that broad-based testing. CNN has learned that a break in protocols and contamination in manufacturing at the CDC put the country behind in getting those tests ready in time. The Health and Human Services inspector general is now looking into what exactly went wrong.

HARLOW: Our Sara Murray broke this story, she joins us now.

Wow, Sara, what happened with making the test?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well you know, my colleagues and I have really been digging into this and one of the things we all remember was this period in February where the CDC sent out its tests. The states were saying it wasn't working and it took a while to figure out what was going on. You know, over at the White House, Dr. Redfield, the head of the CDC, and Secretary Alex Azar were insisting it was under control. But it turns out there was actually a problem with one of the CDC labs where there was a contamination issue, that's what I was told by a senior administration official this is now under investigation.

And when I spoke to an FDA spokesperson about this, they explained that part of the issue was the CDC was doing its manufacturing in its labs which caused this contamination. It took a little while to sort out how the states could move forward with some of the tests they already had, by making adjustments to them, and then the CDC actually partnered with an outside manufacturer to remanufacture a number of these tests.

This is just one of the delays, Poppy and Jim, as we know. We know that the commercial labs were slow to get in on this and obviously as you have seen from these governors, they're still struggling to get the supplies they need to be able to do widespread testing.

HARLOW: So it's sort of -- so unbelievable to me that these things aren't available. Your reporting is so important. Sara, thanks to you and your team.


MURRAY: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well, with me now is Dr. Richard Besser. He's former acting director of the CDC and now president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. He's also working with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey on reopening the state.

Doctor, good to have you on this morning.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: Good to be here Jim, Poppy. SCIUTTO: So you heard the reporting there about -- explaining what

exactly happened at the CDC early on in terms of developing these tests, a combination it seems contaminated lab, guidelines that were too restrictive that disallowed many people from getting tested but also a failure to enact an agreement between public and private labs.

When you look at that, having formerly been acting director of this, whose fault is it, and are you amazed to see that failure?

BESSER: Well, you know, Jim, I ran emergency preparedness and response at CDC for four years, and one important thing that is done with every response is what's called an after-action review, and a lot of the conversation that's going on now about what happened when, I think is really missing the point.

We're trying to shift now from a strategy where everyone is in lockdown, and testing of people who are really sick to see if they need to go in the hospital, to much more traditional public health approach, where you identify every single person you can who is infected with this virus. You isolate them. You identify everyone they've had contact with. You put those individuals under quarantine.

You give people the support so that they can do that safely without getting anyone else infected, and that way, you can continue to keep the numbers of cases down low. In order to switch to that kind of testing, instead of just testing people who are really sick, you want to be able to test people with even the mildest symptoms.


BESSER: Because one thing we know about this virus, most people are going to do well. Most people are going to have either no symptoms or mild symptoms, and if we don't have the capacity to test mild -- people with mild symptoms, we're not going to be able to shift gears and open up.


SCIUTTO: So that's a consistent message. I hear it from you, I hear it from every health official we've spoken to, I hear it from every governor, you need that testing capacity. I just wonder, since there is no evidence there is that broad-based testing capacity today, does the country risk not only having made the mistake on the way into this, not having the wide testing available, but making the same mistake on the way down?

BESSER: Well, I think you're right, Jim. I think that, you know, from a public health perspective, we're not ready to reopen the country. Many hospitals are still at capacity. In order to reopen, you want to make sure that there's excess beds, and not just beds in some communities, beds in all communities.

We're seeing black Americans, Latino Americans dying and being hospitalized at incredibly high rates here. We want to make sure there's capacity in the health care system that's serving lower income communities, community clinics. Do they have the PPE, the protective equipment they need? Do they have test kits? Do their hospitals have excess beds and ventilators so that everyone in America has the opportunity to protect themselves, their families and their communities.

SCIUTTO: OK, so what solves the problem now? The president has changed his tune. Initially he was claiming credit for broad-based testing, now he's saying it's up to the states. The state governors as you heard them earlier in the broadcast, again, Republicans and Democrats, saying they need help from the federal government.

What fixes the problem now and do you see it happening?

BESSER: Well, there does need to be a federal response in terms of providing more testing. The other piece of this, though, is that we need to boost up our public health workforce. You know, there are estimates it's going to be thousands and thousands. Some have said -- Tom Frieden who said 300,000 public health workers to be able to do the contact tracing that's so important.

In addition to identifying people, we need to provide hotel rooms, dormitory rooms, spaces so that anyone who's living in close contact with others is able to isolate, protect themselves and other people from getting this infection.

SCIUTTO: So your part of a commission with New Jersey making this decision about if and when you can reopen and of course, New Jersey doing that in conjunction with other bordering states. As you're doing that, it sounds to me like you're saying, if you need testing and the testing is not yet available that it's unsafe to reopen New Jersey and other states at this point.

BESSER: Exactly. You know, every plan that's been developed out there calls on certain things being in place. Having excess capacity in your hospitals, making sure there's enough protective equipment. Not just for the people working in hospitals But think about all the essential workers, people in food production, people in their grocery stores, people who were running our transportation systems.

We need to make sure that they're protected. You need to have a workforce that's able to do that contact tracing. You know, there's a lot of pieces and you have to have money in people's pockets so that if they're being told to quarantine and isolate, they're able to take care of themselves and their families. In America right now, those pieces are not in place.

SCIUTTO: Yes. That's just a remarkable, remarkable fact.

Dr. Besser, thank you so much for taking the time this morning. We wish you and the state of New Jersey the best of luck.

BESSER: Thanks, Jim. Nice talking to you.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, this was the scene as some beaches in Florida reopened over the weekend. Listening to doctors like Dr. Richard Besser, is it too soon for all those people there? We're going to be live. Plus, with several states preparing to lift some of those restrictions

imposed during the pandemic, not just Florida, local leaders are wondering how they will keep their community safe.

HARLOW: Also, on those small business loans, burger chain Shake Shack announcing today it will return the $10 million it received in emergency landing from the government. Will other corporations follow suit and what led them to this decision? We'll talk to the CEO this hour.



HARLOW: The mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, is defending his decision to reopen public beaches and parks. This is after images like these, pull them up, look at that, obviously a lot of people paid a lot of attention to that this weekend. You can see crowded beaches, people pretty close together, and just some of them wearing masks. Still the mayor insists people are following social distancing guidelines there.

SCIUTTO: Yes, what risks are they taking? There are more than 26,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus so far in Florida. So question is, from a health perspective, is it too soon to ease these restrictions? CNN's Rosa Flores is in Miami. Who is the -- who is the governor rather listening to on this?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jim, there's been a lot of controversy about this since March. But let's start with the facts first here. Duval County, which is where Jacksonville is, has registered more than 850 cases of the state's 26,000. There's been 15 deaths in the county of the state's more than 770.

And as you mentioned, the mayor of Jacksonville reopened beaches this weekend and said the following about the move. Quote, "we are pleased to see so many following the guidelines at the beaches, but we need everyone to follow the rules." Now, here is what actually happened, and take a look at this video, it shows people flocking to the beaches to walk, run, swim.

And they grabbed their towels and coolers, but you see very few masks in that video, and it's safe to say that social distancing is not at the top of mind for some people that you see in that video. But Jim and Poppy, as you know, Governor Ron DeSantis has been heavily criticized for not closing all of the beaches in this state, and instead issued a statewide stay-at-home order that has an exception for recreational activities which is what you're seeing now. Jim, Poppy?

HARLOW: Rosa, thank you very much.


SCIUTTO: Well, this morning, mayors across the U.S. are front and center, leading the battle against the coronavirus outbreak. But in a state such as Arkansas that has not issued a statewide stay-at-home order, the challenge can be ten-fold for local mayors who are trying to keep residents safe.

HARLOW: Joining us now is Mayor Frank Scott Jr. of Little Rock, Arkansas. The county of Pulaski where Little Rock is located has 377 confirmed cases and 12 deaths. We're sorry for your loss and thankful that you're with us, mayor.

MAYOR FRANK SCOTT, LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS: Look, thank you so much, Poppy and Jim, and really do appreciate your kind words towards the city of Little Rock and the state of Arkansas.

HARLOW: Of course. If we could just begin with this. You were banned by the governor, by Asa Hutchinson from making your own decision. Yes, you couldn't put a quarantine order in. You could put some things like a curfew, which you did, but you couldn't say that there was a shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order for the entire -- for the entire city. Do you think that cost lives in Little Rock?

SCOTT: Well, one of the main things that we want to ensure is that we always are doing whatever we can to protect lives. Governor Hutchinson and I have a great partnership and trust. We understand the reason why he made certain restrictions as it relates to commerce. But in the midst of that, we were able to be creative to protect lives by instituting our curfews as well as other laws in place to protect lives and slow the community spread.

And we've seen because of those early and aggressive actions that we have saved lives in the city of Little Rock and we're grateful for that.

SCIUTTO: So what does it mean now then, mayor, if you saved lives with those restrictions, if every doctor we talked to, if the president's own health advisors say this -- Dr. Anthony Fauci was on the air again this morning saying the same thing that you need broad- based testing to safely reopen. And communities like yours don't yet have broad-based testing. Are these decisions to reopen now premature, and will they cost lives?

SCOTT: Well, what we understand right now as we and here in the state of Arkansas are looking to reopen, we're going to be guided by our healthcare professionals and experts. And we're starting to have more meetings as it relates to what that looks like in a very gradual phased-in approach.

But I can assure you, and the decision is going to be made. The Arkansans and Little Rockians are going to put first and their health and safety and welfare. And so again, we're being guided by our healthcare experts and really appreciative of our COVID-19 healthcare taskforce in Little Rock as well as those that are part of the state of Arkansas' reopening taskforce that will be listening to these --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCOTT: Healthcare efforts as we continue to find more testing efforts as well.

HARLOW: Part of the life blood of every, you know, city and town, large and small businesses, we know that, and the fund to help keep them open is out of money, hopefully it will be refunded this week, that's what it sounds like, maybe even an agreement today. But I just wonder if you've had the experience in Little Rock the last few weeks, that some of the bigger companies got these PPE loans and not some of the smallest businesses that need them.

I mean, I just -- you know, I have heard so many stories in the last three days from, you know, friends and you know, doctors offices here in New York that just couldn't access the money.

SCOTT: Well, I can assure you here in Arkansas, me being a former banker myself, still in tune with the banking community and economic all over here in the state of Arkansas. I understand that our bankers have been on the frontlines, ensuring that we get the PPE loans out as quick, fast and in a hurry.

And is really going to a lot of different small businesses because here in Arkansas, small businesses are the true backbone and life- blood of Arkansas' economy. We definitely need to continue to work with our federal delegation to ensure that we re-up on the PPE loans, but also focus on how do we diversify those PPE loans?

Because there are a lot of individuals that have businesses that aren't --


SCOTT: A traditional bank-type of customer, and so --

HARLOW: Exactly --

SCOTT: Really going to the gig economy for our barbers, our beauty salons, our nail salons, things of that nature. The average loan person isn't necessarily going to a banker, but still is feeling the effects of the economy --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCOTT: Right now.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and businesses that don't have those relationships, they're the ones who seem to having -- getting trouble -- the trouble getting those loans. I just want to ask you, mayor, because I've been asking every local and state official this question, you know, does your community have the testing capacity you need to reopen? It's already being discussed now. Can the people who need tests get those tests today, next week?

SCOTT: Well, here in Little Rock, we have continued to see our testing capacity surge. We're actually working with a number of our private sector partners that as early as this week, we're going to have even more of a surge capacity and the testing efforts. Clearly, testing is key as we make decisions on to reopening. And so there's always room for improvement, but we see a lot of great opportunity in improvement right here in Little Rock and Arkansas. And we're grateful to the state and all that -- what they've done to ensure that we have more testing available as well as the university of Arkansas medical sciences.

HARLOW: That's really good news and not a story we're hearing across the country. Mayor, good luck to you, thanks again.

SCOTT: Thank you so much, Poppy and Jim, really do appreciate you.

HARLOW: Of course. So, Dr. Anthony Fauci said this morning, there is still, quote, "a way to go" with coronavirus antibody tests.


We're going to talk about those, what you should trust, what you should not trust and the limitations of them, next.


HARLOW: I got it. This morning, new warnings from the White House about antibody tests as states like New York try to find out who has had coronavirus, and who may have some immunity to it. Dr. Anthony Fauci says the biggest problem with this right now is that a lot of those antibody tests that have been rushed to market have not been validated by the FDA, actually only a few have. The other big hold-up, testing for coronavirus itself.

Experts agree there're simply not enough testing at all at this point. Dr. Jon Cohen is with me, he's executive chairman for Bio-Reference Laboratories.