Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

First U.S. Coronavirus Death Earlier Than Thought; States Planning to Reopen This Weekend; Tyson Foods Closes Waterloo, Iowa Plant for Coronavirus Testing. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 22, 2020 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:02]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It's the top of the hour, I'm Anderson Cooper. I want to reset CNN's special coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

At a time when the nation needs clarity from its leaders -- arguably more than ever before, with more than 37,000 new cases and more than 2,700 deaths just reported in a single day, well, there's new confusion and contradiction coming from the White House. The president's announcing his CDC director will be putting out a new statement after he warned of a potential second wave of the pandemic in "The Washington Post."

Robert Redfield, head of the CDC, said, quote, "There's a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through... We're going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time."

We're going to wait and bring you Dr. Redfield's new statement as soon as it is released, see if it's in some way different. But on top of that, the president is praising the governor of Georgia for opening some nonessential businesses this Friday, a move that goes against this just-updated model from experts, often cited by the White House.

This new model shows Georgia among 12 states that should wait longer to relax social distancing rules. Also, there's a stunning new development regarding deaths from the coronavirus in the United States, specifically where and when that first death occurred. Our Nick Watt is in Los Angeles with more.

So, Nick, what can you tell us?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, listen Anderson, you know, as we move forward, it turns out that some of the things we thought we knew about this outbreak were in fact false. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): We thought the first coronavirus death in the U.S. came the last day in February in Washington State. Not true. Now, we know COVID-19 killed someone in the Bay Area more than three weeks earlier.

ASHISH K. JHA, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: That is a very significant finding. The things we put into place in late January, like the travel ban? The virus was already here by then, and probably circulating quite widely.

WATT (voice-over): Meanwhile, the president claims states are safely coming back but Georgia's governor, forced to defend, even on "Fox," what he calls a measured stop to open gyms, hair salons and the like this Friday.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): The fitness owners, I have great confidence in them, spreading people out when they're doing a workout.

It's not saying they've got to screen them. These are best practices -- they could do temperature screening.

WATT (voice-over): While others preach caution.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA): And it will look more like a turning of a dial than the flip of a switch. We will not be able to lift many of the restrictions by May 4th.

WATT (voice-over): In New York, that Navy hospital ship, no longer taking patients, pressure on beds easing in the city. But the body count continues to mount. Some dead will now be stored in freezer trucks in Brooklyn, waiting for the backlog at cemeteries and crematoriums to clear.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (-NY): I'm talking to many local officials. They feel political pressure to open. I get the pressure, but we can't make a bad decision. Frankly, this is no time to act stupidly.

WATT (voice-over): In Texas, daylight, emerging between the Republican governor, who is expected to soon announce business openings, and the Democratic mayor of the state's biggest city.

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D- HOUSTON, TX): When it comes to allowing something like the surgeries, which will start today, I agree with it. But if you go much further than that, if you start opening up everything, like what is taking place in Georgia, then I think you run into a serious problem of creating a resurgence of this virus.

WATT (voice-over): A pork-processing plant in Iowa just finally closed after pressure from local Democratic officials and resistance from the Republican governor.

MAYOR QUENTIN HART (D-WATERLOO, IA): I understand the impact that this has on our national food chain, but in order to be able to stop the spread, this was the best course of action.

WATT (voice-over): Projected U.S. deaths, now bumped up around 10 percent by one influential model to nearly 66,000 by early August. A vaccine, we're still looking at March next year earliest, says the FDA director.

And hydroxychloroquine, that malaria drug much-touted by the president as a possible COVID cure?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're having some very good things happening with it --

WATT (voice-over): One small unpublished study just found that patients given the drug actually had a higher death rate.

Meanwhile, we're now told this virus could come back hard in the fall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's certainly a possibility and the whole task force set of doctors is concerned about the second wave --

TRUMP: If they do come back -- and they could come back together with heavy on the flu and much lighter on -- because I really believe we'll be able to put out the fires. You know, it's like fires. And we've learned a lot. You know, we've become very good at this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And, Anderson, we just got some new modeling out of the University of Washington. It is just modeling, but it is in regards to when those researchers think states can relax social distancing and start opening up.

[14:05:08]

Some states, May 4th. That's Vermont, North Carolina, Alaska, a few other places. But 12 states, these researchers say -- and among those states is Georgia -- should be waiting until after June 8th before they relax social distancing. That's more than six weeks away. And, Anderson, of course Georgia, planning to open nail salons and such this Friday. Back to you.

COOPER: Yes. And restaurants on Monday. Nick Watt, thanks very much.

Joined now by CNN medical analyst Dr. Celine Gounder, she's an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist. She's also host of the epidemic podcast.

Dr. Gounder, does it make sense for restaurants to be open in Georgia on Monday?

CELINE GOUNDER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST AND EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Well, it's very concerning because we still don't have the level of contact tracing, testing and ability to isolate people who may be incubating infection right now.

Georgia in particular, we know is testing at rates that are nowhere near where it needs to be happening. And it's the state that's been very hard-hit by COVID. And so it is very concerning, that what we could see is another resurgence.

If you look back to what happened during the 1918 flu pandemic, cities that lifted social distancing restrictions too soon ended up with a second peak, and a higher peak during their second peak. And so this is very worrisome. COOPER: How worried are you about a second wave of the pandemic

hitting this winter at the same time that the seasonal flu is hitting?

GOUNDER: Well, I think we're guaranteed to have both at the same time. We are going to see a resurgence of COVID as you lift social distancing restrictions. I think what you're going to see is a patchwork of approaches across the country, some places that will lift and then re-implement and lift in waves, these restrictions.

Hopefully, you know, places like New York that have been hit especially hard will be ready to re-implement those kinds of restrictions, especially during flu season.

COOPER: We're also learning that the first U.S. death from coronavirus happened three weeks earlier than initially thought, not February 29th in Washington but February 6th in California. And it was a person who had not traveled overseas. How significant is that?

GOUNDER: Well, that implies that there was already community transmission back in early February. And so that means that the first cases were probably even before that. And that's not really surprising when you consider that the virus hit in China, was already circulating widely, you know, in December -- and probably even before that -- in China.

And I would not be surprised if we start to see more autopsies as well as more testing of banked specimens going back to January and maybe even earlier, that demonstrated that the coronavirus was already here back then.

COOPER: And I mean, it is remarkable, the idea that it was -- it might have been here longer and just not been picked up on?

GOUNDER: Well, right. Because we didn't have testing back then. And this is part of the problem we're still facing, is we don't still know what's happening in many parts of the country, really, because we don't have the testing.

And so to be lifting social distancing measures, we really need to be paying attention to health care system readiness, which includes are you ready to hospitalize patients when we see a resurgence -- which there will be, as you lift measures -- do we have the capacity to test?

And from a public health capacity perspective, can we trace contacts, people who have been exposed to cases? Can we test them, and can we isolate them safely where they'll be safe, they'll get their needs like food and clothing and shelter attended to, and that they're not getting other people infected at the same time.

COOPER: It is -- you know, just reading about Taiwan's efforts and South Korea's efforts on contact tracing and testing, and it's just remarkable how far behind we are. I mean, we seem -- obviously, there's a whole bunch of privacy concerns that Taiwan is doing stuff that the United States would not be able to do or want to do. But using technology, I mean, we're just -- it's antiquated, the way we're going about this.

GOUNDER: Well, and unfortunately, I think the tech solutions are going to be very difficult, partly for privacy reasons in the U.S., civil rights reasons, but also because if you think about the people who are the hardest to reach and track down, they're not necessarily going to have a smartphone, they're not necessarily going to opt into these programs.

New York City today has announced a huge trace and test program, which is going to involve hiring a lot of just shoe leather, you know, people on the ground, contact tracers. And that's the kind of thing that's really going to be needed across the country here.

COOPER: Yes. Dr. Celine Gounder, appreciate it, thanks.

A new study, warning of dangerous side effects for a drug touted by President Trump to treat coronavirus. The new revelations about hydroxychloroquine, ahead.

[14:10:06]

Plus, a key coronavirus model says many states -- as we've mentioned, including Georgia -- will need to wait longer to reopen, though that doesn't seem to be happening.

And the mayor of Las Vegas wants to reopen the strip.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: President Trump has called the reopening of America "a beautiful puzzle." And puzzling is -- might be a good word for it. A handful of states are saying they're ready to begin the reopening process, but a new model suggests at least a dozen states should wait until June 8th or even later to consider relaxing social distancing measures. That includes Georgia, which is planning to reopen some businesses this Friday.

[14:15:07]

In Texas, there's already mixed messaging. Take Dallas, where protestors are already disputing the shutdowns. County commissioners have actually extended stay-at-home orders until May 15th. CNN's Ed Lavandera joins me with more.

So Governor Greg Abbott says if he orders businesses to open next week, it's his authority that takes precedence. What are people in Dallas saying to you about that?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We talked to a couple of business owners here in the Dallas area, and there seems to be a sense of cautiousness and apprehension as to how all of this is going to unfold here in the coming days. But essentially, what you've seen here is a little bit of the continued patchwork of the way these stay-at-home orders have been put in place and executed over the last month and a half. Dallas County says it wants to extend the stay-at-home order,

Anderson, until mid-May. The governor has already proposed opening up retail to go, which essentially will give retail stores across the state, starting on Friday, the ability to sell for curbside pickup.

And the governor's saying this morning that next Monday, he will announce that even many more businesses will be allowed to reopen. And that if the state order -- if he decides to reopen more, that the state order will trump anything else that local communities do. So there seems to be kind of like this clash that's brewing and coming up here in the coming days, where you have the mayor in Houston talking about there isn't enough testing; what Dallas County is doing.

And remember, the political implications of all of this, the governor here in Texas, of course, a Republican getting hit hard from the right wing in the Republican Party to open up the economy here faster. And all of the big-city leaders -- like in Dallas and Houston -- those are Democrats. So the political insinuations here, I think, are playing into this quite a bit as well, as people here try to figure out how the economy here in Texas will continue to reopen in the coming weeks -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Ed Lavandera. Ed, thank you very much.

In Florida, there are nearly 28,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, nearly 900 deaths. And although the curve does appear to be flattening -- which is great news -- the state still reported more than 800 new cases on Tuesday. Governor Ron DeSantis, who's obviously a Trump supporter, is getting recommendations from his reopening task force on Friday. CNN's Rosa Flores joins us now from Miami.

So DeSantis says that Florida's hospitals have not been overwhelmed, and that the number of cases, fewer than predicted. What are you hearing?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's look at the numbers a little bit. Because if you look at the number of cases that are reported daily, they do appear to be smaller this week than last week. But as you said, the total number of cases continued to increase. Right now, they near 28,000 and deaths near 900.

Now, the number of deaths that are linked to nursing homes continue to grow. On Sunday, they were 23 percent of the deaths; today, that's 26 percent. Now, during Governor Ron DeSantis' latest press conference, he touted his successes and slammed the media, saying that it was predicted that this state would be the next New York, the next Italy, that hospitals would be overwhelmed. But then the governor said they got it wrong. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Those predictions have been false. Our work is succeeding. We have flattened the curve. In fact, not only did the hospital system not get overwhelmed, since the pandemic started, available hospital beds have increased in the state of Florida, not decreased. FLORES: Now, the governor did concede that his state has not

succeeded in one thing, and that is the overwhelmed unemployment system. The governor called it a, quote, "jalopy that cost the state $77 million." And, Anderson, as you said, the governor's task force on reopening the state continues to meet. There are local task forces as well that are meeting simultaneously.

The state one is expected to give the governor their recommendations on Friday. The southeast counties of Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe, they say that they plan to work together to reopen beaches, to reopen businesses together as a group. So that is a sign of some regional reopening happening in Florida. And of course, we know that about 60 percent of the cases in the state are right here in this hotspot in the southeast side of Florida -- Anderson.

COOPER: Rosa Flores. Rosa, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Just this morning, Tyson Foods announced it's shutting down a pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa, a plant that's been linked to nearly 200 coronavirus cases. Protestors rallied outside that plant earlier this week. Nearly half the known COVID-19 cases in the county have been linked to that location.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher has been following the story closely, joins us with more. So why the decision now?

[14:20:05]

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So Tyson said the decision was made for a multitude of reasons. But I can tell you, Anderson, we have been following this for more than a week now as local officials, including the mayor, the sheriff, multiple people from around the county have been trying to get the plant to voluntarily shut down.

Now, Tyson released a statement this morning. They said in part, quote, "Protecting our team members is our top priority and the reason we've implemented numerous safety measures during this challenging and unprecedented time.

"Despite our continued efforts to keep our people safe while fulfilling our critical role of feeding American families, the combination of worker absenteeism, COVID-19 cases and community concerns has resulted in our decision to stop production."

Now, that production is expected to stop around midweek, so starting today. And it's going to go on essentially until they determine it is safe for them to reopen the plant. They said that they are going to be testing -- according to the governor of Iowa -- each one of the 2,800 employees who work there before trying to get back into the swing of things.

This is something we've seen across the country, these plants that are shutting down after you see cases explode in those areas. What we haven't seen is what we saw in Waterloo, and that is this concerted effort. In fact, Anderson, the health department board, the health board

yesterday of Black Hawk County, passed a proclamation essentially asking the governor to either shut down the plant or asking Tyson to come around and voluntarily close it down until they could get a handle on things.

The mayor spoke this morning, saying that while he was glad that they had shut this down temporarily, that in his opinion, it may be too late, the damage might already be done. And speaking to officials there right now, again, nearly half of their cases have -- are connected to this plant, and they are concerned about making sure that they have the same things that every other hospital has, that every other first responders have. They're concerned about PPE, they're concerned about testing.

Again, the governor is insistent that the best way to handle these outbreaks across her state at these meat processing plants is through surveillance and increased testing. She was asked today if she felt like she should have acted sooner; she sort of responded that there's always more than could have been done, but she said she was acting on data.

Again, right now though, at least, this is Tyson's largest pork production plant in the entire country. It is offline indefinitely.

COOPER: Dianne Gallagher, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Still ahead, a drug that the president hyped as a gift from heaven. Now, a new study warns that using hydroxychloroquine could -- to treat coronavirus could have deadly consequences.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:27:24]

COOPER: Now to a new study that found coronavirus patients taking hydroxychloroquine saw no benefit and had higher death rates compared to those who didn't take it. This is the same drug that President Trump and "Fox News" have touted repeatedly above all others as a possible treatment. Take a look at some of the things they've said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: FDA also gave emergency authorization for hydroxychloroquine -- having some very good things happening with it.

It's shown very encouraging -- very, very encouraging early results.

There are some good signs. You've read the signs, I've read the signs.

And I say it, what do you have to lose? I'll say it again, what do you have to lose? Take it.

If things don't go as planned, it's not going to kill anybody.

It will be wonderful, it'll be so beautiful. It'll be a gift from heaven if it works.

If some other person put it forward, they'd say, oh, let's go with it. You know, what do you have to lose?

Try it, if you'd like.

I've seen things that I sort of like. So what do I know? I'm not a doctor, I'm not a doctor. But I have common sense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, the president was asked about this latest study last night, said he hadn't seen it yet. It's from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans Administration.

Now the National Institutes of Health is recommending against using the drug in combination with the antibiotic known as Z-Pak that the president has also been advocating.

Infectious disease physician Dr. Leila Hojat joins me now. This latest study, it has not been peer reviewed and it wasn't randomized, so it's got a lot of issues, this study. Several hundred people, I think more than 300 people, were in it. What do you make of the study and what should it tell us?

LEILA HOJAT, INFECTIOUS DISEASE PHYSICIAN, UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS CLEVELAND MEDICAL CENTER: Great, yes. So I think as you said, there are a couple of key limitations to this study in that the way we like to do studies is, we like to look at patients moving in a prospective (ph) direction, and we randomize them to different groups.

[14:29:28]

And they weren't able to do that with this study, but it -- you know, it definitely isn't encouraging in terms of using hydroxychloroquine. It doesn't necessarily support us using it more. And you know, you'd mentioned the guidelines that have just come out from the NIH about not using that. And in combination with azithromycin, I think this study certainly kind of speaks to that a little bit, although I do want to clarify that the recommendations were that they shouldn't be used outside of a clinical trial.