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NEW DAY

Southern States Move to Reopen Businesses Despite Warnings; U.S. Official: Kim Jong-un in Grave Danger After Surgery; Trump Claims He Will Temporarily Suspend Immigration to U.S.; Albany, Georgia, Mayor is Interviewed about State Reopening Businesses. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired April 21, 2020 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gyms, barbershops, hair and nail salons all clear to reopen in Georgia on Friday.

[05:59:24]

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): We will get Georgians back to work safely without undermining the progress that we all have made against this battle against COVID-19.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that decision was reckless. It shows you how undisciplined the leadership of this country has been.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We know that the virus is still out there. We know that it's a contagious virus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are hearing Leader Kim Jong-un could be in grave danger.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. has been monitoring intelligence that he had a surgery. The aftermath of that surgery, there were complications.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, April 21, 6 a.m. in New York. A huge amount of news this morning from the American south to North Korea, to the U.S. border.

First, a huge gamble being taken by some U.S. governors, even with the national death toll from coronavirus doubling in just one week. Some states are relaxing many social-distance restrictions.

On Friday in Georgia, gyms, bowling alleys, hair and nail salons, massage therapists, even tattoo parlors, they can reopen. Theaters and restaurants can reopen on Monday. Tennessee, South Carolina, Alaska and Texas, planning to follow suit

in certain ways. None of these states -- none -- has seen a 14-day decline in cases, which was one of the suggested conditions by the Trump administration.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp admits his decision will cause cases of coronavirus to spike in his state. Later this hour, we'll speak to a mayor of a Georgia city that has seen one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks. Why he is so nervous about this new order.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking overnight, President Trump claims the pandemic in the United States is so bad that he will sign an executive order, temporarily suspending all immigration into the United States. So, if the situation in the U.S. is that dire, why are, then, some states overriding the federal stay-at-home guidelines? We have no details about the immigration ban, how it will be implemented or how long it will last. We'll try to get those for you this morning.

We are also following breaking news out of North Korea. U.S. officials are monitoring intelligence that suggests that dictator Kim Jong-un is in grave danger after undergoing surgery. It's a story that CNN's Jim Sciutto broke late last night. He will join us in a moment with details.

But we begin with the coronavirus and the plan for some states to reopen. CNN's Martin Savidge is live near Atlanta for us with the latest. So what's the plan, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Morning, Alisyn.

We're outside of a strip mall here where there are a number of businesses that would be impacted now by the governor's loosening of this order. There's hair salons. There's restaurants. Even a couple of nail salons.

It wasn't that long ago the governor of Georgia was being blasted for delaying on implementing a statewide shelter-in-place order. Now he's being blasted again for easing that order that many people see as both politically and medically risky.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Georgia's governor, Brian Kemp, announcing he'll begin easing social-distancing orders in his state this week.

KEMP: When we have more people moving around, we're probably going to have -- see our cases continue to go up. But we're a lot better prepared for that now than we were over a month ago.

SAVIDGE: On Friday, place likes barber shops, hair and nail salons, bowling allies and gyms are all allowed to reopen. And by Monday, restaurants and theaters will be back in business, too.

KEMP: The entities which I'm reopening are not reopening as business as usual. SAVIDGE: The governor says they'll all, at minimum, need to screen

employee temperatures, require masks and gloves where appropriate, and enforce social distancing in the workplace.

Mayors in some of Georgia's cities frustrated with Kemp's decision.

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, ATLANTA: Our governor often defers to local control, and I wish that this were an instance that he deferred to local control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am beyond disturbed. In my mind, this is reckless.

MAYOR BO DOROUGH, ALBANY, GEORGIA: We're simply not ready to reopen. Our hospital is still at capacity, and we certainly don't have the capacity to contact trace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were all caught off guard and, quite frankly, surprised.

SAVIDGE: President Trump's guidelines for states to reopen recommended states show a 14-day decline of coronavirus cases, and that's not the case in Georgia, or neighboring Tennessee, which will allow some business to operate as soon as April 27. Nor in South Carolina, who will now let local leaders choose if beaches will open.

Dr. Deborah Birx says governors can decide for themselves whether they've reached the specific White House guidelines.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: When you inform the public and give them the information that they need, then they can make decisions along with the local government and governors.

SAVIDGE: In New York City, the mayor canceling all large gatherings, like parades through June, even as the state overall continues to see a decline of coronavirus-related hospitalizations and infections.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): People are a little more relaxed, because they see the numbers coming down. And we know human behavior. When that activity level increases, you can very well see that infection rate spread.

SAVIDGE: And in cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston, leaders still bracing for the toughest days.

MAYOR MARTY WALSH (D), BOSTON: The worst is yet to come for a lot of people. I think even when we're beyond the surge, we're still going to have positive case of coronavirus. We're still going to have loss of life.

SAVIDGE: The governor of Georgia stressed that his order supersedes any local jurisdictions. In other words, if the mayor of Atlanta wanted to make it tougher for these businesses to reopen, she can't do that.

[06:05:09]

Meanwhile, on social media, a lot of the companies that would be affected have already posted to their customers that they're not going to reopen, saying that they believe it's simply too early and too dangerous, both for their employees and for their customers -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Martin, thank you very much. We'll be talking to some local mayors about how they feel, as well. Thank you.

Meanwhile, we have breaking news right now, because there are serious questions this morning about the health of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. One U.S. official tells CNN that Kim is in grave danger after undergoing surgery.

CNN's Jim Sciutto broke this story late last night, and he joins us now with the details. What do we know about his condition, Jim?

SCIUTTO: This is what we know, Alisyn, is that the U.S. is monitoring intelligence that Kim's health is in grave danger. This following a surgery. This is according to an official with direct knowledge of this.

Coupled with this, other indications, including the fact that Kim missed attendance on April 15, just give -- actually six days ago now, at a ceremony commemorating his grandfather, Kim Il-Sung. That absence notable.

His last public appearance April 11 at a Politburo meeting. His absence at that meeting raised questions, speculation about his health.

More recently, the U.S. monitoring intelligence that there was a heart -- there was a surgery, a procedure, and that the aftermath of that put his health in danger.

Now, we should note whenever you're discussing intelligence with North Korea, that North Korea, from the perspective of U.S. intelligence, is the blackest of black boxes. It is difficult to penetrate. They are always working with an incomplete picture of the intelligence on the ground.

But we also know that the U.S. is taking this intelligence seriously enough that they have reached out to North Korea experts and others to begin to assess what the aftermath might be if this is true, if the health -- health situation gets more severe, including potential repercussions like an outflux of refugees, need for humanitarian assistance, et cetera.

Again, we say very clearly, they're monitoring intelligence that indicates -- indicates this. But, again, with North Korea, you always have to be aware that this is a difficult country to penetrate for any international intelligence service.

CAMEROTA: Jim, what does South Korea say about your reporting?

SCIUTTO: So a South Korean official overnight told CNN that they have no indications of anything serious regarding his health, that, perhaps, he's traveling elsewhere in the country.

We know this, as well. The U.S. and South Korea share intelligence. It is certain that the U.S. has shared the intelligence it's seen with its South Korean partners, and it's certain, as well, that South Korea would be sharing with its U.S. partners as they assess what the truth is here.

But again, the questions began last week with his absence from the ceremony, and the questions became more serious as the U.S. began to monitor intelligence about the state of his health following this surgery.

CAMEROTA: OK, Jim Sciutto, thank you very much for all of the breaking news and your reporting. Please keep us posted throughout the program this morning -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Breaking overnight, President Trump declared he will suspend immigration into the United States during the coronavirus pandemic. He says he will sign an executive order, but details here are scarce.

CNN's Joe Johns is live for us at the White House.

Joe, first of all, immigration is effectively suspended anyway right now. So what's going on here? What does this change?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. The president has already taken a number of moves to suspend immigration into the United States. This apparently would add to it.

It would probably be the president's most drastic move yet in the coronavirus crisis. The president tweeting late last night around 10 p.m. that, in light of what he called the "Invisible Enemy" and to protect American jobs, he would be signing an executive order, temporarily suspending immigration into the country.

So what does that mean? Well, it's not clear. The administration officials we talked to, including people over at Homeland Security, couldn't say or wouldn't say what all of that involves, although there is reporting that it could affect green cards, as well as work visas. Not clear whether green cards that have already been issued would be affected by this.

The other question, of course, is does the president have the legal authority to do this? Probably so in a crisis, given Supreme Court precedent. Although it's very clear the president has taken a hard line on immigration ever since even before he was elected to the office. There are a lot of unknowns here, including a big question about how long such a temporary suspension would last, John.

BERMAN: Yes. For how long, what exceptions, these are all unanswered questions. And we should note there is a history of the president making statements on Twitter, for instance, that go very far. And then the reality is the president needs to walk much of it back.

[06:10:08] Joe Johns at the White House for us. Thank you very much for this reporting.

So, if the coronavirus crisis is so severe that legal immigration to the United States needs to be shut down completely, why are some states reopening, and why is the president OK with that? We discuss this public health gamble, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. Developing this morning, at least five states have announced that they will begin reopening businesses, despite warnings from public health officials about doing it too soon.

Joining us now is Dr. Manisha Juthani. She is an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology and an infectious diseases specialist at Yale. And Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a former principal deputy commissioner at the FDA.

[06:15:00]

Dr. Juthani, I want to start with you. Let's just put up on the screen some of the things that will be reopened in the state of Georgia as soon as Friday. Hair salons, massage parlors. You can go get ink. You can get a tattoo as of Friday in Georgia. There we go. Barbers, things like that, all open for business on Friday.

Now, one of the keys is that Georgia has not seen a 14-day decline in the number of new cases. In fact, I don't think they've seen a new week. And in fact, I think the number of new cases in Georgia went up yesterday from the day before, according to Johns Hopkins. So, Dr. Juthani, what would be your concern here?

DR. MANISHA JUTHANI, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE AND EPIDEMIOLOGY, YALE UNIVERSITY: I have several concerns. John, as you pointed out, to start, we still see cases going up in most of Georgia. And so that is certainly a first concern.

The second concern I have is that the type of reopening that is happening, these businesses that you outlined all require social connection. So, you know, when you're getting your nails done, you're sitting right in front of somebody. If you're having a massage done, somebody is right next to you. These are not the type of activities that really are conducive to social distancing.

So, you know, if they were to open, let's say, a small business where they're selling things, and they limited the number of people that came into the store. Or let's say they were opening a restaurant and said only five patrons could come in at a time, that would be more conducive to social distancing than the types of business you've outlined so far.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Sharfstein, it's hard to get a real handle on the numbers in Georgia, because the Johns Hopkins numbers are quite different than what the Georgia Public Health is putting out on their website. Those numbers are much lower. So we're trying to figure out that discrepancy.

But in the meantime, neither one fits the federal guidelines. So the federal guidelines are that you would see a downward trajectory within the past 14 days. But, as you can see from our graph that we can put up, this is Georgia's increased cases. At some point, we can show. It's a steep upward -- this is the total number of cases, and it's a steep upward trajectory.

So what do you think is going to happen in Georgia starting Friday?

DR. JOSHUA SHARFSTEIN, VICE DEAN, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, I'm concerned that governors are letting their exuberance to open businesses overcome the public health judgment about what is safe.

And I think that the virus is not thinking about the politics. The virus isn't thinking about, you know, whether it looks great to be the first governor to open things up a lot. The virus just wants more people to spread to and keep going and cause illness along the way.

And so we are up against something that doesn't really care about these, you know, even the policies that we put into place. So in this case, my concern is exactly like you heard, that we will see much more spread.

And it's not just the fact that it's already, you know, it's stable and not declining or maybe it's even going up. It's the fact that the healthcare system hasn't completely recovered.

I was reading that nursing homes don't have adequate protective equipment in Georgia. If that's the case, it's really not a great thing to be basically waving a red flag in front of the virus.

BERMAN: So what Georgia Governor Brian Kemp claims is that there is now capacity, or will be by Friday, in the Georgia healthcare system. His pushback against what you're saying, Dr. Juthani, is that the social distancing and the stay-at-home orders, they were never designed to make coronavirus go away completely. What they were designed do, they say, is to create capacity in the healthcare system that could handle the new cases.

So, if there is that capacity -- and I understand there are some people, including the mayor we're going to talk to, who says there's not -- but it there is that capacity, can you then begin to reopen some businesses?

JUTHANI: Certainly, it's true that creating capacity in our hospitals is part of this. But it's beyond that.

You see, if the cases are still rising, then if we open up things, then we know that there's cases still circulating. And so the number of cases that are going to happen are going to increase.

So if we think we have capacity, whether we're going to max out on that capacity as cases start to increase, as we change the trajectory of that curve, is very unknown. And I think that that's very risky, a type of risky thing to do at this stage. So I think we have to be very careful about making those kinds of choices.

CAMEROTA: By the way, Dr. Sharfstein, South Carolina's already doing it. They're opening some of their businesses today. They might even have started yesterday. And their businesses, department stores, clothing stores, sporting goods stores, furniture stores. Clearly it is, you know, the heart of retail that they're reopening. I think they're going to attempt to do some social distancing there.

[06:20:07]

But in -- I mean, look, some state had to be first, right? At some point you had to reopen for business, and some state had to be first. So for researchers like you, how much study will be -- how much will people be looking at South Carolina and Georgia for what happens in the rest of the country?

SHARFSTEIN: You know, I don't want to give the impression that everybody in public health thinks that the economy should never reopen. I mean, it is very important, including for health reasons, for the economy to reopen.

The important thing is to do it safely based on good data and standards that, frankly, pretty much everyone agrees with, including the fact that the virus is under control and that facilities, not just that there are a few extra beds in the hospital, but that healthcare workers can protect themselves at both hospitals and nursing homes.

And very concerned to read the Nursing Home Association of Georgia is concerned about their access to protective equipment and, yet, this may still increase.

So obviously, it's not just researchers. Everyone's going to be looking at what happens here. And, you know, I hope that -- that there isn't a huge problem. But I'm worried that there will be people who will get sick, and some potentially and probably will die if -- if the cases spike up again.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, it sounds like what the governors are saying is that they're willing to take that -- to take that risk. They know that that's the risk, but that they think that the -- you know, getting their states back to some sort of economic normalcy is worth it for them.

And so, I mean, we're all going to be able to see. You know, if South Carolina and Georgia are willing to be the guinea pigs, we're all going to be watching what happens there over the next two weeks. And that will guide every other governor, as well.

Doctors, thank you both very much for this conversation.

So there were two funerals that turned the city of Albany, Georgia into one of the biggest hot spots in the state. What does the mayor there think about the governor's decision to reopen business? We talk to him next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [06:26:15]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEMP: And I will say that, you know, when we have more people moving around, we're probably going to have -- see our cases continue to go up. But we're a lot better prepared for that now than we are over a month ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Georgia's governor, Brian Kemp, conceding that cases likely will rise of coronavirus in his state after he will allow businesses to begin reopening on Friday.

Joining us now is the mayor of one of the city's hardest hit in Georgia by coronavirus, Albany Mayor Bo Dorough.

Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us. What is your reaction to this decision? How do you feel about this?

DOROUGH: Good morning.

Well, let me first say that I understand the governor had a difficult decision to make. I do, however, think he made the wrong decision. And on three levels.

As a citizen, we need to understand that reopening the economy should be guided by benchmarks and not dates. That reopening the economy should be a gradual and controlled process. And that's not what we're seeing here.

For instance, barber shops, beauty shops, nail salons, there is no way to maintain social distancing in these places.

And in Georgia we have a serious problem in our nursing homes. Notices -- it appears that a third of our deaths are in nursing homes. I have a problem, as a Georgian, because I believe that the deceleration of infection is attributable to the shelter-in-place ordinance order that the governor entered earlier this month.

And thirdly, as an elected official, I'm very concerned that the governor has prohibited us from implementing measures which might be appropriate to our locale.

BERMAN: Talk to me about that. Is there anything you can do? You think this is dangerous what the governor is doing. But is there anything you can do to countermand it in Albany?

DOROUGH: Well, the first thing that we're going to do, I hope, is implore the governor's office to make an exception to Albany and Dougherty County and, hopefully, southwest Georgia.

If you look at a map, you will see that the density of infection is highly localized in the state. And as it was mentioned earlier, here in Albany, we were already consumed by the virus when we realized what the problem was. We're rapidly approaching and probably will exceed this week 100 deaths in our county. In the surrounding counties, the total is over 60. So we understand how bad this virus can be.

Unfortunately, many areas of the state, which have only a handful of infections are, I believe, too anxious to return to normalcy, because they have not yet borne the brunt of this pandemic.

BERMAN: You are bearing the brunt of it. Let me ask you this. One of things the governor says is that hospitals now have capacity to handle new cases of coronavirus if they arise. How do you feel about your capacity in Albany?

DOROUGH: Well, let me say that here is one problem of addressing this on a statewide level.

One of your guests earlier was talking about the capacity in our state. Well, here in Albany, we have our medical ICU, our cardiac ICU, and surgical ICU are all full with COVID patients. The recovery room in our hospital has been modified to serve as the ICU unit for all other patients.

So if they have capacity in Macon or Savannah or Columbus, that is not helping the situation here in Albany. We remain at capacity. Our hospital has been under stress.

END