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CNN NEWSROOM

Jacksonville Beaches Reopen Despite Rising Death Toll in Florida; Fauci Says "We Still Have a Way to Go" with Antibody Tests; McConnell Confirms No Deal on Small Business Loan Package Today; Concerns Grow over America's Vulnerable Food Supply Chain Amid Virus; Oil Prices Crash to Unbelievable Record Low. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 20, 2020 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00]

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's also part religious rally, with many people, like this right here, saying, "Trust Jesus. Another sign that I've seen out here that is, "Jesus is my vaccine."

So it's a great sense among many people here I spoke to that the government is overplaying the COVID-19 pandemic for political gain, and people here today saying they have to stop it now -- Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Our Miguel Marquez. Miguel, thank you for being there. I appreciate it.

Mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, is defending his decision to reopen public beaches and parks after images like this drew scrutiny over the weekend: crowded beaches, people close together, only a few of them wearing masks.

The mayor insists the people are following social-distancing guidelines, he says. More than 26,000 confirmed cases in Florida and 800 deaths so far.

For more on all of this, Rosa Flores in Miami.

So are other beach communities in Florida planning to follow Jacksonville's lead, Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, We know of at least one other city -- this is based on local reports -- that was thinking about it but perhaps cancelled that meeting. We're trying to confirm all that information, but it could be.

But back to Jacksonville, there's been a lot of criticism about the decision to reopen those beaches. But like you said, the mayor doing a press conference earlier today, defending his decision, despite the fact that there are videos out there of crowded beaches, people not wearing masks.

Congresswoman Donna Shalala, a Democrat from Florida, was critical today, calling the move reckless and premature. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. DONNA SHALALA, (D), FLORIDA: You cannot open up the beaches. As much as I'd love to run down through the beach, opening up the beaches is the most dangerous thing that you can do. We must demand leadership from our leader in Tallahassee and in Washington. This is about life and death.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: The U.S. congresswoman calling for leadership from President Donald Trump and the governor here in Florida, Ron DeSantis.

Now, the governor, Ron DeSantis, has been highly criticized for not closing all of the beaches in this state. He actually left that decision to local authorities.

Instead, he did issue a statewide stay-at-home order earlier this month, but there's an exception in there that says recreational activities are allowed, that, of course, is the running and walking that you see on the beaches.

But, Anderson, because the governor left the decision to open or close beaches to local governments, that's why we're seeing places like Jacksonville, the mayor of Jacksonville exercising the power in reopening beaches.

COOPER: Rosa Flores, appreciate the reporting as always. Rosa, thanks very much.

Up next, as the fight over when and how to reopen the country continues, there are doubts about the effectiveness of antibody tests. Why health experts are now raising red flags.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:36:54]

COOPER: As the coronavirus death toll in the United States continues to rise, many are pointing to antibody tests as a way to help identify who's been infected and developed antibodies that could protect them from future infection.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci urging caution about what these tests can actually tell us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: So the assumption that with the tests that are out there, if you have an antibody positivity, you're good to go, unless that test has been validated and you can show a correlation between the antibody and protection, it is an assumption to say that this is something that we can work with. We still have a way to go with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Let's discuss with our medical analyst, Dr. Jennifer Lee, a clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University.

Thanks for being with us, Dr. Lee.

Dr. Lee, what Dr. Fauci was saying, obviously accurate, he and others have been sort of assuming and hoping that antibodies mean or translate to immunity. But at this point, just scientifically, we can't say that for sure, correct?

DR. JENNIFER LEE, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: That's exactly right, Anderson. We're hopeful these antibody tests will be very helpful in the fight against the virus but there's a lot we don't know.

There's some key caveats. I'd like to talk about three of them.

So, first, these antibody tests, we have to make sure that we're using them in the right way. So these antibody tests are not meant to diagnose active infection.

If someone has symptoms and they think they have COVID-19, then they really should be getting one of the tests they were using now to look for signs of the virus itself.

COOPER: Right.

LEE: These antibody tests are not going to be as effective early on when you're just getting symptoms in that first week. Sometimes, it takes a few weeks in order to detect the antibodies.

Second as Dr. Fauci was saying, are these tests even accurate. We now know over 70 or so companies are making these tests and there's some real questions about whether they're really accurate or not.

What I mean by that is, are they going to deliver a false negative saying that you haven't had COVID-19 when you actually have because it's not sensitive enough to pick up the antibody or, even worse, tell you a false positive because it's picking an antibody to a different coronavirus and you are not immune, thinking that you are.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: There's a very few numbers of tests that have been approved by the FDA for the antibodies?

LEE: I believe there's four that have been approved, but there's a lot more out there that the FDA has let go forward in the interest of speed. But sometimes, with speed, you sacrifice accuracy.

COOPER: Yes.

LEE: Some of those rapid tests, in general, are what you should be worried about.

And then, lastly, the immunity, how long does it last? With the SARS virus, we did see there's some studies that showed immunity to SARS did last for up to three years in the majority of patients. We hope that that is the case with COVID-19, but we don't know until we do the longer-term studies to see how long immunity lasts.

COOPER: I know there's probably not an answer to this question, because everybody time I ask it to somebody really smart, they say, we just don't know at this point.

[14:40:04]

Do we know when we will know whether or not there's immunity and how long that immunity might last for? Do we have a sense of the timeline, how long it takes to actually learn that?

LEE: I think we'll have -- well, over time, we'll get more information back. We'll need studies that look at the antibody response at different intervals of time, three months out, six months out, 12 months out. Of course, that's time that we have to wait to get the results back.

So the more time that passes, the more that we'll learn about that antibody response. Do you still have the antibodies circulating in your system and is it effective to keep you from getting re-infected again? So --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Obviously, this is a novel coronavirus, which is why we don't know. It's only been around for a couple of months that we've known about it. We don't have the studies.

Do other coronaviruses tell us anything about how this is likely to be? I don't know, with other coronaviruses, how long immunity lasts for.

LEE: So, yes, actually, I've looked at some of those studies. So the virus that this SARS-COV-2 is most similar to is the virus that caused the SARS outbreak. And, fortunately, I think, that gives us some good indication, some positive indicators that immunity can last for several years if it behaves like that virus.

Now, with the more --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I'm sorry. Did you say three years?

LEE: There were studies that show about 80 percent of people who were tested again after three years still had antibodies that were effective. So we're hopeful that's the case with this.

But, however, there are other coronaviruses that circulate yearly during the winter seasons that you don't have immunity for longer than one season. So we'll have to have these studies to tell.

COOPER: Yes. Does it depend on how fast this mutates or if it mutates? LEE: That's part of it. And it also depends just on the person, the

individual to individual, and how strong their immune response was to the virus and then how effective the antibodies will be and how long they stay around.

COOPER: Dr. Jennifer Lee, I really appreciate your expertise. Thank you.

LEE: It's a pleasure. Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks so much.

Just ahead, struggling small businesses have to wait a little longer for a financial lifeline. We'll go live with what's holding up the funding on Capitol Hill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:42:05]

COOPER: Small businesses, still waiting for help from the federal government, will have to wait a little longer. Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, confirming a new deal to provide billions more in assistance during the crisis is still being negotiated.

The first Paycheck Protection Program ran out of money in just a matter of weeks. Smaller businesses were unable to get the help they desperately needed.

Phil Mattingly is following the developments.

So, Phil, portions of the new bill would include billions in funding for coronavirus testing. Is that what's holding up the things?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In part, yes. I think there's no question about that.

Look, there's broad bipartisan agreement on the extra additional money for that small business lending program, $310 billion. Of that $310 billion, $60 billion would be allocated specifically for underbanked, underutilized portions of the community, the concerns Democrats had.

The big issues now are on the actual specific details of how the $75 billion is being allocated for hospitals, would go out, what the formula would be in terms of its disbursement. But the money for testing. There's about $25 billion in there for testing.

And how that money, who actually controls that money has been an item of dispute between the two sides over the course of the last several hours.

But I also want to note, Anderson, Democrats have continued to push for more money for states and local governments, something they believe a necessity now. Republicans said they want to deal with it in a later bill.

That said, the fact these negotiations are still ongoing, clearly frustrating Republicans.

Take a listen to what the Senate majority leader said a short while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The Paycheck Protection Program ran out of money. Republicans have been trying to secure more funding for this critical program, a week and a half now.

At this hour, our Democratic colleagues are still prolonging their discussions with the administration. So the Senate, regretfully, will not be able to pass more funding for Americans' paychecks today.

However, since this is so urgent, I've asked the Senate to meet again tomorrow in a new session that was not previously scheduled and the Democratic leader has agreed to my request.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: So, Anderson, that's your timeline. The expectation or hope of negotiators I've been talking to is to finalize the deal by the end of today. Set up the Senate passage for it tomorrow and the House and could come back to Washington by Wednesday to pass this.

Still details to work out, but there's an urgency. Everybody understands that. Everybody seems to accept that at this point. They just need to actually finish the agreement -- Anderson?

COOPER: Phil Mattingly. Phil, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

[14:49:41]

Coming up, the call to ban shoppers from grocery stores. I'll talk with a union leader who says careless customers are threatening workers' lives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Nearly a dozen meat processing plants are shutting down in seven states as concerns grow over the country's food supply chain and the health of workers who get food to your table.

In Iowa, the state saw the biggest one-day spike in new cases over the weekend and two-thirds of those affected work in meat packing and processing.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is following this.

I understand a meat packing plant in Minnesota is closing as well.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, today we're learning from JBS Pork Production in Worthington, Minnesota, is going to shut down due to the number of coronavirus positive cases they're seeing there.

[11:55:06]

The governor of Minnesota mentioned on Friday he was concerned about the increase in numbers. He was sending a special health team down there to help deal with it. JBS announcing today they will shut down.

He mentioned the proximity to another plant very familiar to people watching, the Smithfield, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, home to one of the largest outbreaks in the country. As of today, Anderson, 891 cases linked to that plant.

It is only about 60 miles away from the Worthington, Minnesota, JBS plant. And the governor said there are a lot of families that both work in these facilities. Sometimes people may work in the same -- in the facilities themselves.

So there could have been spread from what was happening in Sioux Falls, the governor says, and brought it over to Worthington because of how connected they are.

This is a huge blow to farmers in the area because, between just those two plants, we're talking between 8 percent and 9 percent of pork production is offline.

The most important thing is the workers, their health and safety, making sure they could get into the facilities and clean them and upgrade safety features to help keep the workers safe.

COOPER: A lot of farm workers and processing workers, they work shoulder to shoulder in many cases.

GALLAGHER: Yes. They work shoulder to shoulder. They work long hours. They work hard days. With the increase in demand, a lot of the people we've spoken with and companies say they had to halt production. So they were working longer schedules than perhaps before. And it is hard to socially distance inside of these plants.

So what some of the plants have tried to insert dividers on the lines and trying to make it more difficult to be around each other in the crowded locker rooms and break rooms.

According to the unions, it may be too little too late. Several of the plants have seen workers die already in Colorado, in Smithfield -- excuse me in Sioux Falls, in Georgia. So they say it might be too little too late because the virus has already spread before the safety measures were taken and put in place.

But in some of the places that had them, Anderson, we're starting to see them reopen.

COOPER: Dianne Gallagher. Dianne, thank you very much.

An update on the breaking new in the markets. Oil prices have crashed to an unbelievable record low closing at negative $37 a barrel.

CNN's Julia Chatterley joins us now.

I'm not even sure what that means, negative $37 a bail. The national stockpile of oil is almost at capacity, as well.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: There's too much oil in the world, Anderson, and there's nowhere to put it.

To your point, it is a combination of a few things here. The fact that we're not flying so much. We're not driving. We're seeing rising jobless claims in the United States. There just isn't the demand for oil out there.

And we have seen a reduction in the amount of production of oil in the United States and around the world. We saw that big oil deal to cut supply from some of the major oil players in the world.

But the problem is, even with all of that, it is just not enough.

And what is being created just in the last 24 hours or so is the fear, you mentioned it, that the storage facilities that we have, particularly in Oklahoma, simply don't have capacity for the oil that we're still producing.

So what happened is all prices have effectively gone negative. In English, what that means is producers will actually have to pay a buyer in order to take the oil off them. That's what negative oil prices mean.

The critical factor here is no business in this industry is viable when prices are this low. Never mind, negative.

And this has huge implications for states like Texas and North Dakota that are all producing oil states and millions of jobs within the industry and beyond. That is pretty desperate.

COOPER: And the Dow is taking a hit. Is it based on what is happening in oil?

CHATTERLEY: This is cutting to the heart of the broad affairs that we're seeing. You got all of the big energy players under real pressure today. The likes of Exxon, for example.

Because everybody recognizes that, one, this is an oil price collapse, crash. That is what we'll call it. We've never seen prices at these levels. That has huge implications for the businesses.

And despite President Trump's best effort to support oil prices and get a deal here, it was just too little too late. And something more needs to be done, particularly for the United States' oil industry, the oil and gas businesses. They're going to need financial support.

And that's being reflected I think in the stock prices of these big players today.

COOPER: Wow.

CHATTERLEY: It's bad.

[14:59:59]

COOPER: Yes. Julia Chatterley, thanks very much. Incredible.

Our special coverage continues now with Brianna Keilar. I'll see you all later tonight on 360.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.