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U.S. Testing Rates Must Triple to Safely Reopen; CDC Identified Early Test Kit Problem; Interview with Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired April 20, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- with governors. And we're told by one of the governors who was on that call that it was pretty much all about testing, that the general cry from governors was that they need more help, and that Vice President Pence assured them that the federal government is moving as quickly as possible to provide that help.
The testing, they can't get past it because, number on, it's complex, it costs quite a lot of money, and also it is critical to the next stage of this pandemic. As we begin to open, we need to be able to keep track of this virus.
WATT (voice-over): There are protests against stay-home orders, now spreading, fanned perhaps by the president. There is some relaxation some places. South Carolina, expected to open stores and beaches Tuesday, which were open all weekend in Jacksonville, Florida, with social distancing rules flagrantly flouted.
REP. DONNA SHALALA (D), FORMER HELATH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I think that decision was reckless. It shows you how undisciplined the leadership of this country has been. Because we do not have a consistent message.
WATT (voice-over): And there are still hotspots: Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia. While our leaders struggle to balance the pain of the virus --
ARNOLD WEG, CORONAVIRUS SURVIVOR: I had the sense that I was drowning at certain points. I was unable to even stand --
WATT (voice-over): -- with the pain of the shutdown.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D), LOS ANGELES: It may be a year or more before a vaccine or medicine frees us from periodically returning to safer (ph) at home. But let me be clear. We cannot stay indoors for six or seven months without risking an even greater economic catastrophe.
WATT (voice-over): One influential model suggests just these four states can safely open first on May 4th, still two weeks from today. ALI MOKDAD, PROFESSOR OF HEALTH METRICS SCIENCES, UNIVERSITY OF
WASHINGTON: What we are reporting is a level that a state can comfortably move to a containment stage.
WATT (voice-over): That level is one new case per day per one million people. So for example, New York State would need fewer than 20 cases per day. Right now? They're still seeing more than 5,000. All large events in the city -- concerts, parades -- were just cancelled through June.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): You don't need protests to convince anyone in this country that we have to get back to work and we have to get the economy going and we have to get out of our homes. Nobody.
The question is going to become, how, when, how fast --
WATT (voice-over): Apparently at one new case per million per day, a state will have the capacity to care for that patient and also trace and test their contacts.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Testing is a local thing.
WATT (voice-over): And now, the key to reopening.
GOV. MIKE DEWINE, (R-OH): We have a shortage, worldwide shortage of some of the materials that go into this. So we really need help --
GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D-VA): We don't even have enough swabs, believe it or not.
GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): 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.
ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The governors do say, appropriately, well, maybe there's untapped capacity, but how do we get to it? So we've really got to help them to get to it.
WATT (voice-over): In the U.S., we're testing around 150,000 people a day. Harvard researchers say that must more than triple to over 500,000 a day for us to reopen right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Social distancing's been an effective tool so far, it's been a blunt tool but we need to take a little bit more surgical approach if we are to think about returning back to normal.
WATT (voice-over): Bottom line?
FAUCI: But unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not going to happen.
(END VIDEOTAPE) WATT: And one final note, the ban on all nonessential travel between the U.S., Canada and Mexico was set to expire. By mutual consent, Anderson, it has just been extended another 30 days. Back to you.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, NEWSROOM: Nick Watt, appreciate the round- up. Thanks very much.
CNN has learned that the CDC's early testing failure was caused in part by a contaminated lab, which resulted in malfunctioning test kits that were desperately needed to track and help control the spread of the virus in the early days. Took the CDC far longer to sort out than they expected. Our correspondent Nick Valencia has been following this.
So we're talking roughly three weeks it took before this was actually resolved?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Anderson. A lot went wrong in the initial days of the national response. And we're learning from health officials and sources -- Sara Murray and myself -- that the initial problems were reported from state labs to the CDC as early as February 6th. Two days later, at least 30 states -- 30 state labs across the country -- were reporting problems.
And this is where critics say that Americans should get upset. You mentioned that gap of 20 days? According to the CDC, it took the FDA at least 20 days to approve what they call an EUA, which is an Emergency Use Authorization in order for the new test kits that they developed to be fixed. So a 20-day gap for that -- those test kits, those states to receive that. The FDA, of course, says, as you mentioned at the top, that there was a problem, a contamination problem in the CDC labs.
Of course, in the middle of all of this is the White House and President Trump. He has tried to absolve himself of responsibility, really putting it back on the CDC for their problems, as well as others who were involved in the initial response. Of course, not enough was done, according to the officials we talked to, to cut the red tape for the FDA to push through those test kits.
This really leaves a lot of people worried, Anderson. You know, the next step for the CDC, aside from an internal investigation to try to figure out exactly what happened, is to try to go across the country to beef up the public health infrastructure.
But what happened in those initial days has really dug into the confidence of those keeping a close eye on the CDC. I spoke to a Trump administration official who says that there are concerns within the White House about the work output from the CDC.
We also had a chance to speak with the CDC director, Director Robert Redfield, who says that no one should doubt the ability or the standards set already by the CDC. They say that they are able to handle anything thrown at them, and it's -- they're crucial to the national response, even until this day -- Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Nick Valencia, I appreciate it. Nick, thanks very much.
I want to bring in Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine scientist, dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Doctor, great to see you. The CDC delays, they've proven obviously to be costly. How significant a fumble do you think this was?
PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, it may have been significant. I don't think we really know what happened between the agencies and the White House and all the branches of the federal government. And we will have to unpack that eventually.
Right now, I think we have a more imminent crisis that we have to address, which is that how are we going to juggle what we -- what's being recommended through the IHME models about when we can safe (ph) the country and go back to containment mode, versus the enormous pressure the governors and the mayors are feeling --
HOTEZ: -- to do this. And it's going to be a very delicate balance and I'm worried it could initiate a lot of political unrest and political foment. And I think we have to have a frank appraisal of that right now.
COOPER: Yes. And we're seeing that, obviously.
A Harvard study found that the United States has to increase testing by more than three times to reopen the country. They say the U.S. is testing about 150,000 per day right now, needs to be 500,000 per day.
How do you do that? I mean, how do you ramp that up unless the federal government really gets behind it? Because, again, you know, just talking to governors and hearing from governors -- Governor Cuomo giving a press conference today -- you know, getting the reagents and the swabs and all the things that go with it, it's -- it is not easy.
HOTEZ: Well, let me kind of bring this home and make it -- bring it to a very granular level to make it understandable, like for instance what's going on here in Texas. So the IHME models say that, you know, we've done a good job with containment so far -- with mitigation so far because we did early social distancing, and their recommendation now is, as of June 1, if we continue doing what we're doing, we'll be in containment mode and we'll be able to handle the testing and the contact tracing.
Now, there's just no way in hell people are going to wait until June 1 here in the state of Texas. There's just too much pressure on the governors and the mayors. And the question is how now do we go about navigating this during what's going to be a very difficult month of May?
And then we say, OK, well, we're going to increase testing. Well, what does that really mean? What that means is, people have to feel safe going back to work at Target and Walmart and -- and diners. And how do we do that? Do we do testing of individual employees? Is there a person in charge of testing for the employees?
And then how about -- how do we go about doing that contact tracing and notifying? How do you do the communications around it? And it's clear, talking to some of the mayors here in Texas, that they feel overwhelmed. That there's no easy way to put that in place. And they need guidance from somebody, whether it's the --
HOTEZ: -- state or local (ph) CDC health departments, about how to actually do it.
I mean, there's a good document that came up by FEMA and the CDC, but it's not very -- it's not very granular, you know, doesn't really go into the specifics. And here's where we're going to need help.
And what I'm worried about is everyone's kicking the can down the line. The White House is saying, well, let the governors work this out; the governors are going to say let the mayors work it out, and the mayors are going to say, well, the individual businesses have to work this out.
And (INAUDIBLE) got to get someone to take ownership of this problem and work out, at a very detailed (ph) (INAUDIBLE), how we're going to do the testing and that contract tracing --
HOTEZ: -- and it's not happening right now, and it's clear that we're going to open before June 1.
COOPER: Yes. Dr. Peter Hotez, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
We are following breaking news in the markets, where oil prices have crashed to a record low today because of a massive collapse in demand. It's now at roughly $1 a barrel, the weakest price since the index opened in 1983.
OPEC, Russia and other producers have cut demand recently, but it isn't nearly enough to offset the sheer number of people staying home during the pandemic.
Coming up, President Trump, ramping up pressure on China over its handling of the coronavirus. But will the country agree to his latest demand? I'll talk with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about that and a lot more.
Plus, the mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, defending his decision to reopen beaches even though some people were not social distancing this weekend.
Also, serious questions about the nation's food supply as coronavirus shuts down processing plants in six states.
COOPER: Since the first reported case of coronavirus in China last December, President Trump's view on the crisis and that country's handling of it has gone from high praise to sharp criticism.
January 24th, he thanked President Xi by name and hailed China for its transparency -- his word -- on the coronavirus.
TEXT: Donald J. Trump: China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!
COOPER: A few months later of course, as the outbreak spread through the United States, the president began to lash out, announcing he would defund the World Health Organization in part because the agency is too, quote, "china-Centric," and missed opportunities to warn about the outbreak's severity.
Now, the president is repeating calls for an investigation into the origins of the virus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This is not a good thing that happened. Came out of China.
We're going to continue to fight the virus. We're talking to China, we spoke to them a long time ago about going in. We want to go in, we want to see what's going on. And we weren't exactly invited, I can tell you that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: With me now, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, whose new book, "Hell and Other Destinations: A 21st Century Memoir" is out today.
Madam Secretary, thanks so much for being with us. I'm wondering, first of all, what you make of what we've been hearing from the administration.
At a news briefing today, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry responded to President Trump's push for a COVID-19 investigation by saying, quote, "Certain Americans should be clear about this: China isn't their enemy. The international community must band together to win the fight against the virus. Keeping attacking and smearing China won't win back wasted time or lost lives."
Do you worry about the rhetoric between the U.S. and China right now?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I do, because I think it's counterproductive. And this kind of finger-pointing is not getting us to what we have to do, which is to cooperate with the Chinese and other countries to deal with this pandemic. And I think, frankly, it's each side pushing each other's hyper-nationalism buttons, and we're getting nowhere.
And I do think the following thing. There's no question that the Chinese bear responsibility, and there needs to be an investigation of some kind. But now, we have to plan forward. And the president has to admit that we made mistakes, but we need to go forward on this. And cooperation with the Chinese on supply chains and how to deal through the international system, I think, is absolutely essential now instead of this kind of bickering.
COOPER: Yes, you talked about supply chains. I mean, when you look at the global supply chain, it is a reminder just of how interconnected we are. I mean, a lot of the -- the prescription drugs, which, you know, may end up being in short supply -- and I know there's already concerns about some supplies of drugs, to -- you know, sedatives to keep people on ventilators and the like -- those come from China. Or a lot of the precursor chemicals for reagents or, you know -- they come from China and other places.
ALBRIGHT: Well, that's the reality of the 21st century, that we are interconnected. And therefore, kind of the virus doesn't know any borders and the supply chains don't know borders. And what we need to do is figure out how we work together with countries that we may disagree on on a variety of issues, but we need to figure out how to work together.
And then I'm really worried about the next part of this, where some of the developing world countries who don't have the capabilities of dealing with a pandemic, and how we deal with all that. And the international system at the moment has been very much weakened by the hyper-nationalism. So there's a lot to worry about.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, if -- you know, if it gets into a situation where, you know, China in -- comes up with a vaccine and the entire world wants it and is a customer for it, China makes decisions about who gets the vaccine first. I mean, all of this could have harmful national security ramifications for the United States, if in fact China decides -- or, you know, some other country decides, you know, who their friends are and who's not in terms of doling out needed medical prescriptions or, you know, drugs or vaccines.
ALBRIGHT: I fully -- it would be a disaster, frankly. And we don't have to be kind of a part (INAUIDBLE) children's games of blaming each other rather than trying to solve problems. I believe that the most important thing we need now are problem-solvers, not blame-placers or those who don't take responsibility. We need problem-solvers because this is way beyond any one country dealing alone.
And so the hypothetical that you bring up, I think it would be a disaster if the Chinese decided they wouldn't share a vaccine with us.
COOPER: We also have a situation where now, you know, clearly for political reasons and other reasons, there's, you know, the president is saying he's put out guidelines but he's saying it's up to the governors and the testing is really up to them. Just in terms -- the governors want federal help in terms of getting
the supplies in order to make the testing even possible. Even things like, you know, hand-held thermometers that read fevers from -- without touching somebody are in short supply. And these are all things, which now governors and states are having to compete for. I'm wondering what you make of that breakdown between federal responsibility and state responsibility.
ALBRIGHT: I have to say, I have been forever, as a political scientist, fascinated by the functioning of the United States government, a very large country with a federal system, with states' rights and mayors and a variety of legal tools that we have to deal with things. And I'm disappointed, frankly, in the lack of capability of working together -- in a time when cooperation is essential -- and a lot of finger-pointing.
We need the federal government to do its part, and the governors to do their part. But mainly, we can't have a president who changes his mind every five minutes. Unpredictability is a trick of foreign policy, but not unpredictable unpredictability all the time. And that's what we're seeing.
COOPER: Finally, you wrote a recent column for "The New York Times." The title of it was, "The Best Response to Disaster is Resilience." And part of it -- I just want to read -- it says, "It might do well for us to view these abnormal days as an opportunity to ask more of ourselves, to reflect on our relations with one another, and think critically about improving the social, economic and political structures that shape our lives."
A situation like this really is, you know, an X-ray machine on the inequalities, the longstanding issues that exist is this society. Just as with Katrina, we saw, you know, issues that existed -- problems, social, economic -- come to the fore like, you know, like with an X- ray. What needs to change? Or what do you think now is an opportunity to kind of do things differently?
ALBRIGHT: I know this is a cliche, but a crisis can be an opportunity. And I do think that we need to analyze exactly the kinds of things you've been talking about. We need resiliency.
And in my book, I write about what it was like to be in England during World War II, where you're not in control of the bombs coming down. You're in control of your temperament, your mood and trying to solve problems. I think we're in that kind of a way now, and I do think that we need to use this as an opportunity: resiliency, problem-solving and working together.
That's what has to happen, and I'm going to do everything I can with my students and with people that I talk to and international friends, that we have to really develop that resiliency and see the 21st century as something that is going to be different, where we have to look at our organizational structure both domestically and internationally.
And so I think there's a lot of work to be done on finger-pointing and not taking responsibility is just -- should not be in the picture.
COOPER: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
COOPER: Still ahead, protestors hitting the streets to fight stay-at- home orders, we'll take you there live.
Plus, a call to ban shoppers from grocery stores. I'll talk with the union leader who says that careless customers are getting out of hand.
COOPER: We've been following the anti-quarantine protests, happening right now in Pennsylvania, hundreds of demonstrators converging on the state capital, demanding the governor end stay-at-home orders. But the governor says the restrictions will stay in place until at least May 8th.
Our national correspondent Miguel Marquez is in Harrisburg with an update -- Miguel.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so this thing sort of wrapped up officially about an hour ago, hour and a half ago or so. And people are still out here. I want to show you what's going on right now.
Most of the people you will notice out here don't have masks. The capital police have come down and brought those barriers down closer, and are now keeping people from moving any close to the capital building. And the reason a lot of people are staying out here is because the number of cars in this street that keep coming by and honking and showing signs of support for the people who have come out here.
I spoke to many people. This is part a (ph) protest over the state not reopening. There is great frustration, especially among business owners, that they are losing their livelihood over this. But it's also part a Trump campaign rally or an event for his re-election.
It's part a Second Amendment rally as well, we've seen very heavily armed individuals sort of showing up here and making a bit display of the fact that they are loaded for bear (ph). It's not quite clear why they're out here. I tried to talk to a couple of them, and they basically said, we're here to protect the people who are attending. It's also part-religious rally, with many people -- like this right here -- say, you know, "Trust Jesus." Another sign that I've seen out here is, "Jesus is my vaccine."
So there's a great sense among many people that I spoke to here, that the government is overplaying the COVID-19 --