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U.S Death Toll Nearly Doubles In Last Week, Need For Testing Grows; Contamination At CDC Lab Likely Caused Early Testing Delays; White House, Democrats Close To Deal For More Small Business Aid. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 20, 2020 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day.

The death toll from coronavirus in the United States is now nearly 41,000 people. Last Monday morning, one week ago, it was 21,000. So it has almost doubled in just one week. 755,000 cases, that is 500,000 times the number of cases from when the president predicted there would just be 15 in the United States.

The White House says that several hotspots, including New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Detroit, New Orleans, that they are stabilizing. They say they're seeing progress in stopping the spread. Over the weekend, the hospitalization rates in Connecticut and New York dropped after a week of a steady climb.

So which places are next to be hardest hit? Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, they are being closely monitored this morning as areas of concern.

The major question for so many Americans, are we on track to reopen parts of the country? It's hard to say because of the continuing problems with testing.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: So, John, as you know, many of the nation's governors say there are just not enough tests that they can access. They cannot get their hands on some pieces, critical pieces of these tests, like nasal swabs. This morning, researchers from Harvard estimate that testing rates would have to triple before the U.S. can safely reopen.

President Trump disagrees but he's been resistant to using the Defense Production Act to make more nasal swabs. Yesterday, for the first time, he said he would invoke the DPA, but the government website does not yet confirm that.

And a New Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows nearly 60 percent of Americans are concerned about reopening too quickly. Still, there are pockets of protests around the country calling for an end to stay-at- home orders which President Trump has tried to gin up via social media. One bit of economic news, important bit, there's word from Washington that a deal on additional small business aid could come as early as today.

So we begin with a glimmer of hope in the hotspot of New York City where the curve could be flattening. Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Brynn Gingras. She is live in New York with the latest. Hi, Brynn.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, fingers crossed that we're continuing to head in the right direction, Alisyn. Good morning. But there is this push to reopen the country or at least parts of the country. But major warnings particularly coming from governors to proceed with caution because, as you guys laid out, the country has nearly doubled the amount of deaths in this country just over the past week.

Here in New York, yes, hospitalizations are down. But Governor Cuomo says, listen, we are only at halftime and strict measures are still very vital.


GINGRAS: President Trump eager for states to reopen, there's one major component needed to even move into the White House's first phase, testing.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Our testing is expanding very rapidly, by millions and millions of people.

GINGRAS: But in reality, only about 150,000 Americans are tested daily, according to Harvard researchers. And state leaders say they do not have nearly enough resources as the president claims.

GOV. GINA RAIMONDO (D-RI): But the testing has to improve here and in every state.

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): To try to push this off to say that the governors have plenty of testing and they should just get to work on testing, somehow we aren't doing our job is just absolutely false.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D-VA): We've been fighting for testing. But for the national level to say that we have what we need and really to have no guidance to the state levels is just irresponsible.

GINGRAS: But Trump insists it's up to the states to figure out their own testing programs.

TRUMP: Testing is local. You can't have it both ways. Testing is a local thing and it's very important. It's great but it's a local thing.

GINGRAS: New York State appears to be past its coronavirus peak and Governor Andrew Cuomo warns residents now is not the time to relax.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): It's only halftime. We still have to make sure that we keep that beast under control, we keep that infection rate down, we keep that hospitalization rate down.

GINGRAS: While some Florida beaches, like this packed one in Jacksonville begin to open up, leaders in hotspots, like Louisiana, highlighting how the data shows measures like social distancing are working.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): We're in a much, much better place today than we thought we were going to be and it's because of the citizens of Louisiana taking the stay-at-home orders seriously.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to work. Open our states.


GINGRAS: Meanwhile, in a handful of cities, from Austin to San Diego and Denver, people are protesting stay-at-home orders. And according to President Trump --

TRUMP: These are great people. Look, you call it cabin fever. You've heard the term. They've got cabin fever. They want to get back. They want their life back. Their life was taken away from them.

GINGRAS: In states like Michigan, which faces the third highest number of coronavirus deaths nationwide, Governor Whitmer says that she can withstand harsh criticism for keeping strong restrictions if it means saving lives.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): We've got to be really smart about the actions we take now to protect life as well as the actions we take to reengage.

Because as tough as this moment is, it would be devastating to have a second wave.


GINGRAS: And about testing, today, New York is going to be the first state to roll out widespread aggressive testing for antibodies, 3,000 tests in a population of more than 19 million people. And the hope here is to get a true percentage of how many people had the coronavirus in the state and who may, again, emphasizing may, have antibodies against it.

Of course, this is all inching closer a little bit closer to hopefully getting people back to work. John and Alisyn?

BERMAN: We will see. And it will be a long road ahead. Brynn Gingras, thanks very much.

Joining us now, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

I want to start with testing, not the antibody testing, which was where Brynn ended on, but the diagnostic testing. There is a political battle now. The governors say despite what the president said, they just don't have enough testing. They need more swabs. What I want from you is the public health angle. Why do we need the testing and how much? The WHO and this new Harvard study says, we need to be able to test to the point when fewer than 10 percent of outcomes are positive. Now, we're at 20 percent. Why is that so important?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's when you get sort of an idea that you're start to go get wide enough surveillance when you get that testing rate, those positive rates back below 10 percent. And there's different ways of sort of calculating that.

But there's two important points here, as you follow this discussion all weekend long. One is the capacity for testing. Are labs sort of sitting by with the machines and everything once they get a sample in? And do they have the capacity then to test those samples to actually run them on the machines?

And the capacity part of things really does seem to have increased, maybe not uniformly across the country but certainly a lot better. Then it's all the other components, from the time that someone is actually tested with one of these swabs. That swab is put into a particular medium for transportation. It is taken to a lab where a reagent can pull the material off of the swab, all of those various components.

There's various places where you have not enough of a single component, not enough of all the components, but the bottom line is that to get from point A to point B from the point of testing to the point of analysis, something is short. And that's the real issue here.

The question of whose responsibility it is, I had an interesting conversation with Dr. Tom Frieden, who is the former head of the CDC. And I asked him specifically, you've done this before, you ran CDC during Ebola. Whose responsibility is it, the states or the government, to make sure testing is done? Take a listen.


DR. TOM FRIEDEN, FORMED CDC DIRECTOR: It is absolutely the federal government's responsibility. Currently, we're doing in this country less than 150,000 tests a day. Earlier today, we released a report and then calculated quite simply, if we were just testing the highest priority people and nobody else, we'd need about three times as many tests. And since we're also testing some lower priority people, we're going to need more than that. And if we try to test really extensively, it would be 10, 20 times that.


GUPTA: So to just get the highest priority people, you heard there. Dr. Frieden says you need at least three times what we're doing now, healthcare workers, people with symptoms, other frontline workers. So just to get to that point, we need to do three times as much to start doing surveillance to get a better idea of who is actually infected in this country, maybe 10 to 20 times as much testing as we're doing now. CAMEROTA: Sanjay, nasal swabs, producing nasal swabs, it's not like putting a man on the moon. I don't get why we're still here and that we can't produce enough nasal swabs that doctors say they are desperate for. I know that you often are in touch with the White House and Dr. Fauci, and I don't want you to weigh in on the political angle of this, but what's the problem? I mean, why not use, that the president -- he's been resistant to the Defense Production Act. But he did say yesterday that he would invoke it, that we're check being website to make sure that that's actually happening. Do you know where the disconnect is with just something that simple?

GUPTA: Well, it's been a predicted, I think, disconnect for some time.


Even five weeks ago now, I just started hearing from some of the labs that, look, we're going to run out of nasal swabs. And it seems hard to believe because there's reagents, there's transport mediums, there's all these other things that you think are more important.

The problem, Alisyn, is that in the middle of a pandemic, everybody in the world wants the same thing, and here, it's nasal swabs. So if the supply chain can't keep up, you do have to run into the mode of trying to create your own, produce your own.

And then there are the types of swabs which actually go all the way back through the nose and into what's called the pharynx, the nasopharynx, quite deep. And then there're these other swabs. I don't know if we have pictures of them, these flocked swabs which is sort of produced a little bit differently.

But those swabs can actually go a little more shallow into the nose, which could allow people to swab themselves which would be a huge boon. Because it would prevent healthcare workers from needing to put on PPE to do this sort of swab.

But you're right, it seems ridiculous with all the things that we're talking about that this could sort of hinge on a cotton swab. But that's the reality right now. If you can't do the swab, you can't actually collect the sample, you can't do the test.

BERMAN: I want to bring in Beth Cameron. She was the Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense in the White House National Security Council under President Obama. That is the office of pandemic threats that President Trump restructured, got rid of the actual part of that office.

So, Beth, two pieces of interesting data this morning that I saw. One is that Singapore reported its highest number of cases to date. And Boris Johnson in England has got his own problems. The U.K. has got its own problems. His biggest fear is a second wave of an outbreak if they start to reopen.

So when you see what's happening in Singapore, which had really done a terrific job in suppressing coronavirus, has the biggest case to date, what should our concerns be in the United States?

BETH CAMERON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY AND BIODEFENSE: I think this really emphasizes how important it is to be looking at, just as Sanjay said, how much testing we really need to have in this country before we're ready to reopen and, really importantly, clear communication to the American public that when we do begin to reopen, we're going to have to be prepared to snap back into social distancing when we see a rise in cases, because there is such limited immunity to this pernicious, nasty virus. We expect -- fully expect to see additional waves when social distancing is relaxed.

And so what I would say about the testing situation is that we know what the recipe is. We need to see at least those 500,000 tests per day, consistent with the Harvard reporting that came out over the last couple of days, and we know that we also need to see a huge increase in number of people who can contact trace to find those people who are contacts of the infected person, to quarantine them and then, if they're positive, isolate them.

We know the recipe, but now we really need to bake the cake. And we still need quite a bit of time to do that to find the changes and the problems in our supply chain to be able to help get to that situation all around the country, not just in a few locations.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, we've also talked about how helpful it would be to have those antibody tests so that we could figure out who is immune and who could then safely, we think, go back to work. But Dr. Birx, the White House Task Force, I think, threw a bit of a wrinkle into that plan this weekend because she explained how complicated even realizing if we have immunity is with this coronavirus. So, listen to her this weekend.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: In most infectious diseases, except for HIV, we know that when you get sick and you recover and you develop antibody, that that antibody is often confers immunity. We just don't know if it's immunity for a month, immunity for six months, immunity for six years.


CAMEROTA: How are we going to figure this out, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Yes, it's really interesting. I mean, this is the way it should work. When you get exposed to the virus and in a way, it's kind of like getting a vaccine. Your body is now exposed to the virus. It's taught how to fight the virus the next time it sees it. The question is, how strong and how long does that protection last?

What I think is really interesting, and I was in a couple -- talking to a couple of lab directors and visited one of them last week, you take your antibodies and put them in a vial with virus. And then you basically see how well does the antibody kill the virus or enable the virus -- disable the virus. It is sort of -- it seems logical that you have antibodies, and it should be able to disable the virus.

But not everybody's antibodies are going to do the same. It's not a question of how much in the way of antibodies. This is what is called neutralizing activity. So how well do your antibodies neutralize the other person's -- neutralize the virus.


It is maybe not the same for every single person. Some people may have a stronger neutralizing activity than others. We don't know yet.

It does seem logical though, Alisyn, that we should have some protection after we have been exposed. We just don't know how long or how strong. That has to be studied. And it may even vary individual to individual to some extent.

BERMAN: So, Dr. Cameron, I do want to ask about the overall goal of social distancing, flattening the curve. Because one of the initial goals, as described, was to spread out the number of cases so that hospitals, healthcare facilities wouldn't be overwhelmed. Healthcare facilities at this point have leveled off. most are not being overwhelmed at this point and most do have additional capacity. So has it worked, social distancing, worked to the extent that you do, should start allowing for some opening because the hospitals -- people are still going to get sick, but the hospitals can handle it?

CAMERON: So I think it's clear that social distancing is working. And you're quite right that what we wanted to do was flatten the curve. What that means is that we still do have a large opportunity for people to be infected. And so, absolutely, we should be planning for reopening the country.

But at this point, until we're actually able to tell who is infected so that we can ward off additional spikes, if people who are infected infect other people, we want to -- what we really want to do here is to prevent widespread community transmission, which is how we got into this situation of needing social distancing in the first place. And so we can easily snap back from that social distancing, flattening back into a spike.

And if you look at the charts and the models, that's exactly what's predicted to happen if we relax social distancing without having widespread ability to not only test but to trace and isolate contacts that are also infected.

So it's working but it won't continue to work unless we have that testing, tracing and isolation capability and protect those who are most vulnerable and at risk of dying from this disease.

CAMEROTA: Beth Cameron, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you both very much for all of the information.

So CNN has learned that a contamination in manufacturing for CDC's tests for coronavirus is likely what caused the weeks of delays in the crucial early days of this pandemic. CNN's Sara Murray is live in Washington with more. What have you learned, Sara? SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, we are learning. There was a dark period in February where the CDC test kits didn't work. But we did have a good sense of why. At the time, the CDC was saying that they weren't sure if it was a contamination issue or a design issue. This concerned the FDA.

So a diagnostics expert actually went down to the CDC in Atlanta, looked at the labs and determined, according to an administration official, that there was contamination in the lab and that was what was causing these tests that were being sent to public health labs across the country to malfunction.

And it took a little bit of time to work out what to do about these test kits, how to give states instructions on how they could use them and to remanufacture a set of new test kits, which the CDC actually used an outside manufacturer to help do.

And there are a lot of questions about why this took so long. Part of reason, sources are telling us, is that officials who are in charge with it, Dr. Redfield at the CDC and Secretary of Health and Human Services Azar, were assuring other administration officials that this was under control and it would be taken care of quickly. The CDC has now acknowledged in a statement that there was either some kind of manufacturing or design issue. We know that's being investigated by HHS.

And I think it's so important to remember that this was happening early on in the outbreak. But it dragged on so long that there were public health experts, particularly in places like Washington State and California, who were really concerned that this virus was spreading in their communities and they had very little way to detect it. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Sara, thank you very much for all of that reporting. That's really important to know.

Well, on to the financial crisis. It sounds like more money for small businesses could be announced as early as today. But who will get this round of money? We'll look at that, next.



CAMEROTA: The White House and Democrats signaling they could have a deal today on a new $450 billion economic relief package for small businesses and to expand coronavirus testing. So who will get the money this time around?

Joining us now, CNN Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans and CNN International Anchor Julia Chatterley.

Christine, what's the fine print? What do we know about this?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, we need the money quickly. There are a lot of these small businesses who just didn't get money in time in that big first round of 350 billion or so, and so they want to replenish that fund.

One of the big criticisms, of course, had been that some big publicly traded companies were able to get hold their hands-on millions of dollars in loans and a lot of mom and pop operators just simply were shut out of the system. So there needs to be more money and there needs to be more money very, very quickly. It looks like maybe another 300 billion they're going to try to get passed sometime this week.

BERMAN: But no aid to state and local governments, which is something the Democrats have asked for, even though hospitals and there will be money for testing.

Julia, it's interesting, because Romans was talking about businesses that perhaps got the money and didn't need it. Shake Shack is returning some of the money or, I guess, all of the money that it was given.

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN ANCHOR AND INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of -- or a lack of clarity around the contours of who is going to get what, but it's almost like a naming and shaming. The Shake Shack CEO coming out over the weekend and saying, look, we got $10 million, but there are more deserving causes even if our workers could have used the money.

And for me, this is critical, John, that the difference between what I hope happens with the second load of money versus what happened with the first is that the online lenders now who catered to some of the smallest businesses in the country are up and running, they have access. I can give you a few names, like PayPal, Intuit, Funding Circle, OnDeck Capital, BlueVine.


These are the names if you're watching this program to go and have a look at their websites ahead of this money coming into play, because these provide money to far smaller businesses. And we need to see far more of the smallest businesses getting a look in here, not just the largest.

CAMEROTA: Yes, because it has been a revelation, and a kind of sickening one, to realize that the places that it feels like were just rolling along fine got millions of dollars. And then, Christine, we have all of these reports of small businesses, these mom and pop shops, these people who just opened their dream restaurant a few months ago hadn't been able to access it. So, clearly, something went awry in the process.

ROMANS: And the rainy day fund is gone. Let's be honest. I mean, small businesses don't operate on months and months of their operating costs in the bank, right? So they need the money right now and that's why it's just so dire here to get this money rolling. I mean, look, there's an intent from Republicans and Democrats and from the White House to get money to people. It's just so hard to get it out the door and get it out quickly.

One of the earlier problems was that it was sort of like first come, first serve, right? This money was going to run out and these banks were giving the money first to the companies that they already had lending ties with, they already knew that customer. It was easy to get it out quicker to some of the more the established, more financially savvy companies. And that leaves the little guy in lurch (ph).

I was working with two different companies last week, you guys, and one of them by today or tomorrow is going to have to lay off about 12 people because they need the money last week, not next week, last week.

BERMAN: Same. I was speaking to someone who owns a company having to lay off half or furlough half the workers because the loan, while approved, wasn't funding by the bank because the banks couldn't do it quickly enough or didn't have their act together just yet.

Julia, Neiman Marcus, Reuters is reporting that Neiman Marcus might declare bankruptcy. Now, that's not a small business. That's a big one.

CHATTERLEY: It's got lots employees as well and a huge debt load, a legacy debt load. This comes down, I think, to those that manage to harness online shopping versus those that stick with what we call bricks and mortar and have the shops where you have to go in there, the shopping malls where you have to go in there and shop. But what we've already seen from the retail sector, and this is just a specific one, is more than 1 million workers furloughed already in the last four, five weeks.

At the peak of the financial crisis, we saw around 2.5 times that. This is the damage that's being more specifically on the retail sector. It's another one that perhaps will have access and the hope is to get money from somewhere to restructure and keep the jobs in play going forward. But it's not, to Alisyn's earlier point, just a small subset of businesses that are struggling here, it's of all sizes, all shapes and sizes when over 90 percent of the country shut down or locked down in some way. Everybody needs money and help here.

BERMAN: Julia Chatterley, Christine Romans, thank you very much.

A doctor gets ready to return to the frontlines after his own personal battle with coronavirus. You will hear from him and his family next.