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CNN NEWSROOM

Need for Testing in the U.S. Grows; Critics Hammer U.K. Prime Minister; Putin Using Pandemic To Edge Closer to Trump; Shake Shack Returns Government Loan. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired April 20, 2020 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:30:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And people should know, sir, that the drive through testing you've set up in New York and the surrounding area, you've tested about 300,000 people for Covid-19 to date, which is a lot.

DR. JON COHEN, EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, BIOREFERENCE LABORATORIES: That's correct.

HARLOW: What have you found in terms of -- of these tests? Meaning, do you have the Abbott Labs 15-minute test that people are able to find out right away?

COHEN: No, we do the swab test and then we're running it on three or four different platforms in the laboratory. We don't do -- the Abbott test is more of a point-of-care device. They're excellent for certain circumstances, but they can't scale to large numbers at a time.

HARLOW: OK. Understood. So listen to this. This is the response from two governors yesterday to my colleague Jake Tapper, one a Democrat, one a Republican, when asked about having enough testing as the vice president and the president said we have at this point.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D-VA): That's just delusional to be making statements like that. We -- we have been fighting every day for PPE and we've got some supplies now coming in. We've been fighting for -- for testing.

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: How many tests do you believe need to be done per day to start to reopen this economy? COHEN: Well, really, Poppy, there's two different types of tests. To

reopen the economy, we really need -- should be talking about the immunity test for the antibody test, in addition to the Covid-19 test. So it's a combination of both that you need to reopen.

HARLOW: OK, so -- so we'll get to the antibody test in a moment, but just in terms of detecting if someone has Covid-19 or not, Harvard is saying somewhere in the range of 500,000 tests a day, for example.

COHEN: Well, you -- let's look at the population of the U.S. I mean if you tested a million people a day, you'd be able to test the entire population in a year.

So the question is, is if you consolidate that time frame, what do you actually need to test and you don't need to test everybody, you need to test where the hot spots are, where the virus is emerging. So really it depends on which state, which hot spot, which location. Could it be 500,000 a day? Sure. But, again, it depends on where the virus is and where it's emerging.

HARLOW: Antibody testing, it's something that you are piloting right now to maybe scale up, but there are a lot of concerns about it, especially given that the FDA has relaxed requirements so that more tests could come to market, but a lot of them are coming in from China and a lot of them have not been fully checked and a lot of them, according to experts, aren't foolproof.

What are you finding?

COHEN: So we're going to -- our tests -- the tests that we're going to bring up are going to be highly sensitive and highly reliable, upwards of 95 percent or greater. The difference is, is that many of those tests you're talking about have been point of care or a little finger prick. Those tests are not as reliable as a -- as a blood draw test, which is one that we're talking about.

In addition, we'll be able to scale to thousands and thousands of tests a day, compared to the Covid-19 test because a blood draw serum based test is much easier, quicker, more efficient and has the ability to be much more automated than the other tests that are being run. Once we bring those tests up, we'll be able to test many more people. And -- with a very, very reliable assay (ph).

HARLOW: What -- do you have a warning, finally, for people that may be getting these tests themselves? I mean you -- they can be purchased from anywhere to 60 to, you know, $115 because you don't want it to give them false -- a false sense of security that they are completely immune.

COHEN: That's true. My -- my -- my biggest -- my biggest concern is not -- is certainly about the point of care testing. But what we also want to do is talk about people going back to work and having the confidence to be able to go back to work as opposed to staying at home, which family member will have immunity, will multiple families have immunity and what does that mean? And it's really a spectrum. This is the next step in the national reaction to getting testing

done. It's not going to be perfect, but it will tell us which people have essential immunity so that they can begin to function normally and go back to work. It's just the first step, but it's a great step as we move forward.

HARLOW: No question. We wish you a lot of luck on that front as well as you guys -- as you guys begin that.

Dr. John Cohen, thanks so much for being with us.

COHEN: Thank you.

HARLOW: Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on the defensive now over his handling of the coronavirus. Why critics there say the government and its delays cost lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:39:00]

SCIUTTO: Critics are hammering the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, over his handling, early delays of the coronavirus pandemic.

HARLOW: Johnson, who is now currently working as he's recovering from Covid-19, apparently missed five of the government's emergency Covid meetings back in January and February.

Let's go to our Clarissa Ward. She joins us again this morning in London.

Key meetings as this pandemic was, you know, about to really strike the U.K.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, there were key so- called COBRA meetings, emergency cabinet meetings, five of them according to "The Sunday Times" in January and February that the prime minister, Boris Johnson, did not attend.

This all part of a sort of blistering critique of the prime minister's performance that came out yesterday in Britain's newspaper "The Times" on Sunday. We've already heard 10 Downing Street firing back on multiple fronts, firstly to the accusation of him missing those COBRA meetings.

[09:40:01]

Ten Downing Street's response is essentially that this is normal, that the prime minister does not always preside over COBRA meetings. That whichever -- whoever is the relevant departmental head may, in fact, preside over them. So they are really trying to fight back against this, but there are other accusations in that article to.

He was to preoccupied with Brexit, he was too slow to recognize the serious threat that Covid-19 posed and perhaps most importantly that he was too focused on the sort of politics and reshuffling his own cabinet. Again, as I said, 10 Downing Street firing back saying that these are grossly unfair allegations.

Jim. Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Clarissa Ward in the U.K., thanks very much.

Well, this morning, the Pentagon is confirming a Russian jet intercepted an American Navy aircraft in the Mediterranean even as Russia continues aggressive military maneuvers like this around U.S. warships, aircraft, the U.S. coast. President Trump, you may have missed this, has been warming up of late to his old friend, Russia's president, Vladimir Putin.

The two leaders have made a record-breaking number of phone calls to each other recently and some of the president's own former advisers say that Putin may be using coronavirus pandemic to realize his long- held goal of edging closer to Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With tremendous credit going to Russia.

SCIUTTO (voice over): An historic oil deal to try to stabilize prices in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

TRUMP: We're going to save hundreds of thousands of jobs for our energy industry, Texas and North Dakota, Oklahoma, all of our different energy states.

SCIUTTO: With the president's praise going to?

TRUMP: I want to thank President Putin of Russia.

SCIUTTO: There was a whirlwind of activity to get it done. For Trump, the art of the deal. For Putin, something very different.

Russia appears to be using the pandemic crisis to get closer with the U.S. and, in particular, President Trump. Trump speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin three times in just four days, leading up to the oil deal announcement on Sunday, including a call between the two leaders at the end of March, a record number of contacts between them in any two-week period during the Trump presidency.

ANDREW WEISS, V.P. FOR STUDIES, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: By appealing directly to Donald Trump, he's basically shown the rest of the U.S. government that their views on Russia don't matter, that he has direct access to the U.S. president.

SCIUTTO: In April, Putin sent a plane with medical supplies to New York City to help fight the pandemic in the U.S.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Our cooperation is developing, thank God. SCIUTTO: Meant to look like a humanitarian relief operation, the

reality is the U.S. paid Russia for the supplies. The publicity stunt by Putin in stark contrast, though, to Russia's continued aggression against the U.S.

U.S. fighter jets intercepted two Russian aircraft flying near Alaska on March 9th and again on April 8th, just a day before one of the phone calls between Trump and Putin. And the U.S. intelligence community assesses Russia is again trying to interfere in the 2020 election, as it did in 2016.

WEISS: It's the fact that Trump is allowing Putin to assert that U.S./Russian relations are back in business, and that basically we've turned the page, all is forgiven and that any Russian past behavior doesn't matter going forward in light of coronavirus.

SCIUTTO: Russia's maligned activities, including its continued aggression in Ukraine, did not stop President Trump from discussing, quote, current issues of ensuring strategic security with Putin, this according to a Kremlin readout of their most recent call. A detail that was left out of the White House readout of the call, but that President Trump admitted to when asked about it.

TRUMP: Well, I stressed many things. We did discuss China. We discussed many different things, but we -- it was primarily a call on the oil, as you can imagine.

QUESTION: Strategic security sounds more like arms treaties?

TRUMP: But -- but -- well, I mean, I -- we did talk about the arms, yes, we did. That was a very important part of the call, actually.

SCIUTTO: President Trump has even grander ambitions with Russia as the START Treaty limiting nuclear warheads nears expiration in 2021, Trump has pushed for an even bigger deal with Russia and China.

TRUMP: Russia wants to make a deal very much on arms control and nuclear, and that's smart, and so do we. We think it will be a good thing and we'll also certainly bring in, as you know, China. And we may bring them in later or we may bring them in now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: And you know what's interesting, Poppy, in the readouts of those calls between Putin and Trump, often the Kremlin readout provides more detail than the White House readout of what those two leaders actually discussed. Unusual.

HARLOW: Very. Raises a lot of questions.

Jim, thank you for that reporting. I think it's been getting missed in a lot of this lately.

All right, so, this morning you probably saw this headlines, Shake Shack giving back the $10 million government loan it got as smaller restaurants and businesses say they've been completely left out in the cold with no funding.

[09:45:03]

Why they made this decision. The CEO joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: Well, leaders in Washington say a new deal to help small businesses during this economic crisis could come today. This is after the first Paycheck Protection Program completely ran out of the $349 billion that was allocated in just a matter of weeks. A number of small businesses and restaurants say they were left in the cold, unable to get the loans they desperately needed to stay afloat.

This morning, Shake Shack is returning the $10 million that it received as part of that loan program. Shake Shack's CEO writing in a post this morning, until every restaurant that needs it has the same opportunity to receive assistance, we are returning ours.

[09:50:07]

Shake Shack's CEO Randy Garutti is with me.

Good morning, Randy. Thank you for being here.

Why are you giving this money back?

RANDY GARUTTI, CEO, SHAKE SHACK: Well, good morning, Poppy.

I think it starts with this -- this notion. I think that we've learned from this crisis is that no restaurant and no business, no matter its size, is unsinkable. That is the scary reality of where we are.

And I think as we looked at (INAUDIBLE) and it gave us weeks ago, as we understood it, the opportunity to keep as many of our team members off (INAUDIBLE) line as possible. We have continued to keep 90 percent of our restaurants open. Our team members have been heroic. And we just can't thank them enough.

And in the midst of this, this opportunity came. On its face it appeared to be a great opportunity for companies like us and big and small. But I think what played out over this last couple weeks is you started to hear these stories that the very people, the small businesses, our friends who own small restaurants, couldn't get access to this capital. And they were in line or their banks couldn't get it done. That doesn't seem right to us.

HARLOW: Yes.

GARUTTI: And as we've watched this opportunity play out over the weeks, it's -- it was very clear that the program was underfunded and it wasn't set up for everyone to win.

Look, the restaurant business is going to sink or swim together (ph). We have to rise together. When we --

HARLOW: So, Randy --

GARUTTI: Go ahead.

HARLOW: Randy, just looking at -- at -- at your numbers, in your latest SEC filing, you guys had more than -- have more than $100 million of cash on hand, $104 million. So I think a lot of Americans looking at numbers like that would ask, why did you even apply for the money in the first place?

GARUTTI: For the very reason I think as it was intended, right, to take care of our team and employ as many people.

Look, our team members have equal value to any other team members in the world. And what we're trying to do, as any company is, is make sure, no matter how long this lasts, we've set up the necessary liquidity to take care of our team and continue to come out on the other side of this.

And the good news for us is, as a larger public company, we also have access to capital in different ways. When we were able to continue to do that, we're able to have an additional fund raised last Friday to really insure our long-term stability.

That was the moment where we were able to say very clearly, hold on, this isn't going right. We need to help the government do it better. And we need to help all of our friends who are out there struggling to get this money get it.

And by returning our $10 million, that $10 million now can go back into the pot, can go to the people who deserve it and we hope can go help inspire the next round, as you're seeing the Treasury and everyone talking today about how to make this next round better. We really hope that this conversation can help that round get it to the people who need it most so that all of us can rise up when we come out of this.

HARLOW: And I know you don't want to tell other companies what to do, but there are other big restaurant chains, like Ruth's Chris Steak House, and Potbelly, that also got millions and millions of dollars from this program. Should every big company akin to your be doing what you're doing and give it back?

GARUTTI: Remember what I said, I think there is no company that is unsinkable in this. And I think each company needs to make the decision for themselves.

This is what Shake Shack was able to do because we are in a position of strength that allows us to do so. And what's good for us is over these last few weeks we've begun to slightly see our sales come back up. I mean they're -- it's still challenging out there. But as that has happened, that continues to give us the ability to do this.

We've been able to unfurlough some of those employees. We've actually chosen this week to give raises to our hourly and manager team members who are working in these shacks day in and day out, providing -- these are essential workers and I can't thank them enough. That was what was right for us. And we're happy we could do that.

HARLOW: What about the thousand -- sorry about that, Randy -- the thousand employees I know you guys have had to furlough? Do -- do -- are you going to, do you think, by June or in the next few months, be able to bring them all back to work?

GARUTTI: Well, I think we're -- you know, all of us are done guessing where this virus is going to go. With every day we learn more. I hope we're seeing some positive signs in this country that hopefully we're flattening the curve and starting to get on the other end of this, but I don't think anyone can name a time.

My goal, as I've committed to our team, is, as soon as we can, we're going to get team members back.

HARLOW: Yes.

GARUTTI: And we've began to do that where we can.

But, again, our restaurant, too, is deeply impacted. Just because we're Shake Shack doesn't mean we're not also hit. We have all of our restaurants are closed. The only way to access them is we've created drive-throughs on the side of our restaurants. We don't have a drive- through. Our team is creating pickup for our digital app delivery (ph).

HARLOW: Yes.

GARUTTI: And they're working hard to just find the way to pivot this business so that we can come out of this.

HARLOW: OK. Thirty seconds, you know, it just seems like something in this program fundamentally missed some of the folks that need it most.

[09:55:07]

Even Secretary Mnuchin on CNN yesterday talked about the know your customer requirements and why people that have existing bank relationships, like you guys, can get the money more easily than the little guy.

Does that need to change? Is that something fundamentally wrong?

GARUTTI: That's exactly what needs to change. Our hope is that this next round can give everybody access, no matter where your banking relationship is, that every small business owner can get access and that they can have a longer, forgivable period so that this money does what it's intended to do, keep all of our teams employed and get the restaurant industry back on its feet together. We are all in this together.

HARLOW: People should read the entire post on LinkedIn from you and Danny Meyer about specific recommendations you have that would help those smaller restaurants in this.

Randy, we're hoping for all of the people that work for your company, that they all get to come back to a job that matters for everyone.

Randy Garutti, thanks very much.

GARUTTI: We do too. Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: You got it.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: Way to ask the hard questions, Poppy.

As governor across the U.S. plead for more testing, President Trump hitting back says now, different tune, it's a local problem.

Stay with us.

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