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Some States Move To Reopen As U.S Death Toll Climbs; Hundreds Of Detroit Police Officers Infected Or In Quarantine. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 21, 2020 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


While some governors dig in on restrictions, others are already easing up. It is a high stakes decision that could mean the difference, for some residents, between life and death. These states moving to reopen some businesses this week despite warnings and despite the fact that the U.S. death toll has nearly doubled in just the last week.

HARLOW: Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alaska, Texas, even Vermont all releasing plans to at least partially open up for business starting this week.

At the same time, the president, out of the blue, says he will suspend all immigration to the United States as the nation battles the crisis, but why and why now? We'll get to all of that in a moment.

Let's begin though with our Martin Savidge. He joins us in Atlanta. Marty, the city, as the mayor just told us last hours, sort of struggling to figure out how to keep people safe and healthy as the state prepares to open for business on Friday.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. A lot of the business leaders, as well as civic leaders, are kind of perplexed by the governor's decision here, not so much that he would favor business but that he has done so aggressively in the opposite direction now. You know, there was a long time he was blasted for not shutting the state down and sending it into a quarantine. Now, he's being blasted for apparently opening the state up too soon.

Here are some of the things that are going to be impacted. Starting Friday, Georgia residents can go back to the gym, they can get haircuts, pedicures, manicures, massages, even a tattoo and they can go bowling. Then on Monday, they can dine in at a restaurant and go out to see a movie.

We've talked to people this morning, it's about half and half. Some say it is way too soon to be opening it up so much. There are others who were saying, look, the small business people and those who are without work, they can't continue the way they've been going.

However, as you point out, the mayor of Atlanta here, and she is one that, if she could, would probably try to override some of the governors, deeply frustrated. Here is what she had to say to all of you earlier.


MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D-ATLANTA, GA): I've searched my head and my heart on this and I really am at a loss as to what the governor is basing this decision on other than getting people back to work, which is extremely important. But for us to have a strong economy, we have to have a strong and healthy community.


SAVIDGE: A lot of these businesses on social media have come forward to say despite the governor relaxing the requirements, they're not necessarily ready to reopen. They think it's not the right time and it could be an endangerment to their staff and to their customers. Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: Martin Savidge, thank you for that. We really appreciate it.

Let's discuss all of this with our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Okay, let's take this big picture beyond just Georgia. Georgia is telling because you had Governor Kemp there essentially acknowledged, yes, the cases are going to go up but this is a decision we're making. Talk about what this means nationally.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think a lot of people are going to be paying attention to Georgia, and I think there are the same pressures I think the governor is feeling here everywhere. I don't think it excuses it, but I do understand, these are tough calls. Small businesses want to open up again. But I think we've been sort of seeing the impact of physical distancing, and it's had significant impact, beneficial impact.

I think when that happens, a lot of times, people don't realize that it's happening and they think, well, look, it's not that bad. We're fine. It's okay to start reopening, not remembering that we've gone through something for the last several weeks in this country that is truly unprecedented. The way that you stop or at least slow down the spread of this virus is by distancing each other. It's just basic sort of, you know, the way that this virus spreads.

As we start to reemerge, there's going to be new cases, and I think the governor, he acknowledges that, as you said, Poppy, but he's making that calculation, and I think everybody is telling him from a public health standpoint it's too early.

SCIUTTO: So the White House released guidelines that were well received by many health experts, one of them being 14 days with declining number of cases. That's the standard, for instance, Georgia has not met. Explain to folks at home who probably themselves want to get back to work or they want the business they work for to reopen again, what the importance is of meeting those standards before reopening safely.

GUPTA: The way that they sort of arrived at these guidelines were to basically try and determine at what point are we comfortable enough that the rate of transmission of this virus is going to be at very low levels.


There is no question that when we reemerge, there probably will be new infections no matter what. But at what point will it be low enough levels? And that's how they came up with this 14-day of downward trend.

And I think you can see, we can show you Georgia, for example, what things looked like over the last several days, the numbers have sort of bounced around, but there's not been a 14-day downward trend. I think that that's the practical part of it. That is the numbers part of it. And we also know that we're not doing enough testing in the state as well, so we don't have full visualization.

But I think sort of what Marty was just saying, I think, is also what I'm hearing. How comfortable are people going to be? I mean, is that door handle contaminated? Is the person that's about to do my nails, has that person been tested? Has the air in this room -- do we have adequate ventilation? Has it been deep cleaned? I mean, the psychological impact of this is very important, and it goes hand in hand with how we think about this in terms of the actual testing and the data.

HARLOW: You got tested, Sanjay. I think we have a video of that. Thanks for letting us sort of get totally an inside look at your life on air and off air. But can you tell us about the experience, tell us about how quickly you got your results and, I guess, how you feel -- do you have your results?

GUPTA: Yes. So, yes, that's no fun. I mean, that's a nasopharyngeal swab. And it's no fun. It's the part of your body that's behind your nose on top of your mouth, and they really have to stick that probe in there. I think the person who was doing that testing particularly cared for me, so she really turned it in there a few extra times.

But that's how you get your -- I will tell you, that I found out just a few hours after I had that test that some of these other tests which are a lot less invasive, just in the nose test using flocked swabs are now approved, so I would have preferred to have known that a few hours earlier. But that is just to give you an idea. I got as a healthcare worker and healthcare workers are asked to be tested because I'm still seeing patients. But I got my test results back and they're negative, so I am negative for the virus.

And it's a good test, I think. But as we've talked about, Poppy, just to keep in mind, that if you get tested negative, that means you're negative right now, this snapshot in time. It doesn't mean you'll always stay negative. If you are positive, that means that, yes, you have been exposed to the virus. So in some ways, a positive test is a more meaningful test in terms of what it actually tells you. But right now, I'm negative according to that test.

HARLOW: Yes, those things never --

GUPTA: Yes, I feel good about that.

HARLOW: We all struggle with those, Sanjay. We've all had them done. But I think you're right, that a positive test tells people so much more because everyone that's negative is still susceptible. Thanks, Sanjay.

SCIUTTO: That's right. Sanjay, thanks so much.

Joining me now to discuss all this, Michael Chertoff, he was the former Homeland Security secretary under President George W. Bush. Secretary Chertoff, good to have you on this morning. Thanks for taking the time.


SCIUTTO: So, in your position as DHS secretary at the time, you had to make judgments like this all the time, balancing security safety against other interests. As you watch this now, governors relaxing these social distancing guidelines, but crucially before they meet the Trump administration's, the White House's own standards for when you can do that safely, for instance, having 14 days of declining number of cases, is that a smart thing to do? Is that a safe thing to do at this stage?

CHERTOFF: Well, first, let me say, based on my experience, I do understand these are very difficult judgment calls. And the easiest thing in the world is to keep the highest level of restrictions indefinitely, because then you can't be criticized but there's a real downside to it. So I understand the pressure.

Nevertheless, I do think the decision has to be fact and science- based, which is to say, you need to have metrics that give you the sense that the rate of infection is declining so that you simply don't reopen and then wind up with a spike in infections.

The other thing is you've got to do it gradually. There's got to be a logic to what you're doing. And so, for example, reopening for essential things, for widely spaced venues may be the first way to start as opposed to having movie theaters or entertainment (ph) with lots of people. So it has to be based on some theory of what the science and the facts are.

SCIUTTO: In the midst of this, the president says he's going to sign an executive order temporarily suspending immigration due to coronavirus. The fact is there are already a lot of restrictions in place that have greatly reduced immigration at this point. But from your perspective, given that the cases are now in this country, many hundreds of thousands of them sadly, does that protect the country to suspend all immigration at this point?


CHERTOFF: I think, frankly, we've, more or less, essentially have been doing that up to now. So I'm not sure it's going to make much of a difference. What will be important is to make some exceptions. For example, we do want healthcare workers to be able to come to the United States and help us out. I think we're going to need migrant labor unless you want to have (INAUDIBLE).

So I think this is going to wind up being something that has to have some real loopholes.

SCIUTTO: And there are, apparently, exceptions for that. I guess my question is when you look at this, you said that decisions in this environment, including reopening, they have to be fact-based, right? They have to be based on science, not politics. And I wonder from your perch, is that what you're seeing happening in this country, or are you seeing politics Trump the health experts?

CHERTOFF: I think we're seeing both, we're seeing politics and political pressures play a role in some decisions, for example, governors are making. But we're also seeing a lot of people being responsible and being careful, and, again, recognizing that not like all the balance of equity is on one side. There is a real cost to people not being able to work, not being able to get basic services, and it's fair to weigh that. But, again, the most important thing is to make sure we don't wind up actually reversing the progress we've made.

SCIUTTO: Final question, then. Given that, and again, we talk about that oftentimes in this broadcast because people's lives are being hurt, damaged by the shutdown of the economy and so on. Does the country need a national plan or a state-by-state plan to make these judgments?

CHERTOFF: I think it really needs to be national because people travel between states, and, therefore, if you have one state, it's going to affect the neighboring states. That's one of the reasons some of the governors regionally have come together to cooperate and coordinate in terms of what their plans are.

So, I mean, obviously, the authorities rest with the individual governors for the most part, but we should have a coordinated sense of what the science is, what the consequences and decisions will be and take a cooperative approach, making sure one state doesn't cause a problem for every other state.

SCIUTTO: Yes. There aren't walls at those state borders. Michael Chertoff, good to have you on this morning.

CHERTOFF: Good to be on.

SCIUTTO: Let's dig in more on this decision by the president to suspend immigration into the United States. HARLOW: Our White House Correspondent, John Harwood, is with us again. I mean, the key question, this came out of the blue, it came in a tweet. The key question is why now and to what effect? Because so many people have contracted coronavirus and died in this country already, and he did not totally cut off travel from China or travel from Europe. Months ago, he made some steps, but I don't get this move right now.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's very hard to understand, Poppy, either a public health or an economic logic to this. He cited both in his tweet last night saying that he's concerned about jobs. Well, 22 million people have filed for unemployment in the last several weeks. The tiny number of people whose immigration status into the United States might be affected have nothing to do with that, and as you pointed out, the virus is already spreading in a community- based way all around the country, so it has nothing to do with stopping the virus either.

It is understandable though, Poppy, as a political matter. This is a president who is feeling the immense weight of a negative public judgment. Only 36 percent of the American people in polling say they trust what he has to say, they trust governors a lot more. Two-thirds of Americans believe that the president was late on the coronavirus.

And so what he's been trying to do lately is escape blame for this catastrophe. We see it at his briefings when he is going after governors and blaming him for the testing situation, which is critical for trying to reopen the country, directing blame at the World Health Organization, at China, at Europe, and now at immigrants, which is consistent with the theme of his political career. Hostility toward immigrants has been a core part of Trumpian politics, but he's in a very deep hole right now.

HARLOW: John, thank you very much for that reporting. I think we'll all wait to see what's actually in this as it's drafted.

So, the Detroit Police Department particularly reeling in this pandemic. Hundreds of officers either infected or in quarantine. Even the city's police chief is recovering from the virus, and he'll join us, ahead.

SCIUTTO: Police and health care workers suffering so much.

Plus, several cities are now seeing a surge in cases prompting local governments to make tough decisions in order to combat the spread. Ahead, we'll speak to one mayor who thinks the worst is still yet to come.



HARLOW: All right, I want you to take a look at something for a minute. Take a look at this picture, a five-year-old girl. This is Skylar Herbert, just five years old. She died on Sunday at a hospital in Detroit after being on a ventilator for two weeks. She tested positive for coronavirus and then she developed a rare form of meningitis and swelling in the brain. Her parents were two of Detroit's bravest first responders.

The Detroit police force has been rocked by this pandemic.


More than 700 have been quarantined or tested positive for COVID. That includes now recovered Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who is with me. Good morning and thank you for being here. I'm so glad you're better.


HARLOW: I'm so glad you're better.

CRAIG: Thank you so much, Poppy.

HARLOW: Of course. Let's just begin though, if we could pull back up the picture of that beautiful little girl, Skylar Herbert, because I think this really speaks to the toll on the department beyond even the officers, right? I mean, you talk about the toll on their families. Her mother had been a Detroit police officer for 25 years.

CRAIG: Yes, what a tragedy. I've had an opportunity to talk to her twice, once since death of her daughter, and then prior to. And what wasn't said, both her and her husband were also fighting COVID at the same time. At the same time, they were dealing with their five-year- old daughter, they were fighting as well, so, a tragedy.

I can't tell you how many police officers I've called, not just those in hospitals battling COVID, but also those who have lost loved ones. I'm talking about parents. Not a day has gone by.

HARLOW: You just lost -- the force just lost one of your beloved colleagues, Captain Jonathan Parnell, who headed the homicide division and was a veteran of 31 years with you guys. He just collapsed last Tuesday walking into the bathroom.

CRAIG: Yes, it was tragic. I had a conversation with him two days. I knew that he was battling COVID. He was a strong man. He used to be an SRT officer, certainly revered as a leader in the Detroit Police Department, and he's a fighter. His son is also a police officer with a local university in state. His dad was a hero throughout his career, and to lose him certainly has left a void in our department. It's left a void. What a great man. And also our 911 call taker also succumbed to COVID just before Captain Parnell.

HARLOW: You spent 28 years at the Los Angeles Police Department before becoming Detroit's police chief, and you have said that nothing in your career, mass shootings, earthquakes riots that followed Rodney King's beating prepared you for this. And you call this unknown enemy but the fight is real. What has this been like for you with all of your officers?

CRAIG: It's been an interesting journey; I will tell you, and while nothing compares to it, the issues that we dealt with while I was in Los Angeles for 28 years. But the one thing, why aren't the police officers across this country has to deal with the unknown? So police officers are prepared to go into situations, nothing is ever routine. And so you have to respond very quickly.

Now, this unknown is very different, and I am so proud of the men and women at the Detroit Police Department who I've got to believe have their set of fears, wondering if they're going to get the virus, take the virus home to their family, but that said, they still come to work. And even those that were quarantined, and I know you saw the numbers of officers quarantined, they wanted to get back to work so they could help their fellow officers.

HARLOW: And one sign of good news, as the Detroit mayor, Mayor Duggan, told us last week, is that this rapid test from Abbott Lab actually allowed you guys to test all 700 of your officers that were quarantined and all the negative results could come right back to work. That is great news.

But there is also -- we have some pictures of you and your fellow officers we can show folks here. One of your officers who just graduated, a rookie out of the academy, Mark Perez, told The Washington Post, I have to come into work concerned about whether I'm going to be the next victim -- this is not him, just to be clear, sorry about that -- whether or not I'm going to be the next victim. There is only so much an officer can do to prevent himself from coming into contact with the actual virus. Every day is stressful for me.

What do you say to, especially, the young rookie officers out there that feel like they don't know if they're going to contract this during a traffic stop or what's going to happen?

CRAIG: Well, I will tell you, and I know that's the feelings of so many, yet they still come out, they work hard to try to make the city safe. They also work hard knowing that this virus is real. They've seen too many of their colleagues quarantined, even the chief of police who contracted it. So they understand it.

But I will tell you, and I want to applaud Mayor Mark Duggan for really going out and getting the rapid testing. I mean, you said some numbers. But just to give you an example of the impact, 892 as of this morning cleared and returned to duty, phenomenal.

And so we've had some staggering numbers in terms of those who have tested positive, a total of 273 since we started testing.


As it stands today, there are 102 that are still positive. So we're fighting a good fight, but I will tell you early on, Poppy, we put measures in place to keep our officers safe. We were very aggressive about quarantines probably more than most places, but it worked out. I think we may have saved additional officers' lives because of being aggressive. It doesn't mean that the officers were not concerned.

If I had any criticism early on, I think if we had donned masks much sooner, we may have had fewer numbers. But this is one of those issues, this pandemic, you learn as you go.

And I'm so proud of how the city has responded. And when you look at our numbers now in terms of our sworn civilian employees, we're dropping. We are really dropping, and it's really having a positive impact on the police department.

HARLOW: I'm so glad to hear that. I'm so, so -- you must be so grateful for that. Detroit Police Chief James Craig, thank you, we're so glad you're better, but we're sorry for the losses you've endured. Thanks for being with us.

CRAIG: Yes, thank you so much. And I appreciate you giving me time.

HARLOW: Of course. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Yes, poor little girl.

Well, Vice President Pence says that the administration is closely tracking cities, such as Boston and Philadelphia, the mayors of both those cities will join us next, what they are doing to battle the coronavirus.