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CDC Chief Warns of Potentially Worse Wave This Winter; Georgia Governor Defends Plan to Reopen Some Businesses; U.K. Gets Planeload of Protective Gear from Turkey; CNN Returns to Wuhan After Lockdown Ends; U.S. Senate Passes $480 Billion Relief Package; PEW Says Half of Low-Income Families Have Lost Jobs or Wages; Oil Prices Rise After Unprecedented Dive. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 22, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, we are still caught in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, but one of the nation's top public health officials is already warning of a second wave.

More help is coming to small businesses struggling because of closures after lawmakers reached a deal on a relief package. We have details on what exactly is in it.

The world is marking Earth Day, and though we're seeing cleaner air since the pandemic started, it's only temporary, and activists say more action is needed to combat climate change.

Well more than 2.5 million infections of coronavirus have now been reported around the world with almost 178,000 deaths. The U.S. has confirmed the most fatalities and now believes its first death happened in early February. As the death toll grows, the head of the CDC says the situation could get worse. He warns of another wave this winter, during the flu season, which could further overwhelm hospitals. But Dr. Deborah Birx from the White House coronavirus task force disagrees.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: I don't know if it will be worse. I think this has been pretty bad. When you see what has happened in New York, that was very bad. I believe that we'll have early warning signals, both from our surveillance that we've been talking about on the vulnerable populations. We're going to continue that surveillance from now all the way through the fall to be able to give us that early warning signal.


CHURCH: Meantime, the governor of Georgia is defending his decision to reopen certain businesses in just a couple of days from now, even though the number of new cases in the state is not decreasing.


BRIAN KEMP, GEORGIA GOVERNOR: We're seeing more patients in our trauma centers in our state because people are just, you know, they're tired of it. I will tell you that I imagine there will be people in gyms that will be a lot safer than they would be going to the grocery store or some of the other places of business that are part of the critical infrastructure that's been designated at the federal level.


CHURCH: Dr. Birx also reacted to the governor's move and tried to offer some advice.


BIRX: I believe people in Atlanta would understand that if their cases are not going down, that they need to continue to do everything that we said -- social distancing, washing your hands, wearing a mask in public. So, if there's a way that people can social distance and do those things, then they can do those things. I don't know how, but people are very creative. I mean, we've been very clear in the guidelines, and I think it's up to the governors and mayors to ensure that they're following the best they can each of those phases to make sure that both the public is completely protected.


CHURCH: Also during the briefing, the U.S. President said he would look into a new study which casts doubt on a drug he's recommended to treat the virus, but Mr. Trump remained optimistic about other developments. He praised the Senate for passing a $480 billion relief package for businesses and hospitals, and he said he would soon sign an executive order suspending immigration for green card seekers for 60 days.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as our new immigration, it will also help to conserve vital medical resources for American citizens, a short break from new immigration, depending on the time we're talking about, will protect the solvency of our health care system and provide relief to jobless Americans.


CHURCH: Joining me now is CNN medical analyst Dr. Amy Compton- Phillips. She is also chief clinical officer of Providence Health System. Thank you so much for being with us.


[04:05:00] CHURCH: We have been watching countries across the globe try to figure out how to balance the health of their population with the need to get their economies open and people back to work. But the United States has shown a much more aggressive effort, with the southern state of Georgia particularly, poised to open up close-proximity businesses on Friday like hair and nail salons, massage and tattoo parlors. How smart is that, considering infections across the state are not showing signs of decreasing?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: Well, it definitely puts people in Georgia at higher risk. You know, the challenge is with this germ, if you don't know that it's in circulation, you don't know who has it, it's very difficult to control the spread. And so, the worry that we all have in medicine is are you feeding the flames? Are you adding more people into the fire as this thing grows out of control? And that's really why social distancing is still in place in so many places, that you really need to be able to tamp down that wildfire control so that it doesn't get completely consuming the entire community.

CHURCH: Yes, absolutely. And of course, the CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, is warning that a possible second wave of COVID-19 will come back in winter. But President Trump says, if that happens, the U.S. will be able to put out the fires -- his words there. How much comfort does that give you? And do you agree that this second wave is coming?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: I think that we have a lot of time between now and this winter to prepare for a second wave, and so, we can do certain things to be ready for that, right? We can make sure we have stocks of PPE in the entire industrial supply chain, reconfigured so we won't run short. We can make sure that we have appropriate testing so you can test for both flu and COVID at the same time. And you can understand what you're dealing with.

And between then and now, we should have many of these clinical trials that are happening help identify actually some medications that work and that will help us survive whatever's coming next. And so, I think what we can really focus on between now and then, because the future's not known, but we can focus on the things we do know, and that's we can identify treatments and we can identify testing and we can better quarantine and contain the germs.

CHURCH: Yes, it certainly seems we do need that time, don't we? We've been quite slow in the United States to get up to speed. And as we talk about some of these southern states opening up, we still don't have extensive testing in place for COVID-19, as you mentioned. President Trump insists that we do, but doctors, nurses, hospitals, governors, and mayors across the country are telling us they don't have the necessary tests available. How is it possible that the wealthiest nation in the world can't get testing organized for its citizens, and of course, enough PPE, as you mentioned?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: I think it takes will, right. It takes will of the entire country. And it's not flipping a switch. It's turning a dial and making sure that we have the entire industrial complex of our country focused in a direction that changes their production. And we've done this with many of our manufacturers for PPE, that we now have some onshore manufacturing of things like gowns and masks, which we didn't have before, which is fantastic.

And we absolutely need to do the same thing for the reagents and the testing supplies so that we can actually make what we need here, because if we source things from China, we are bidding against the rest of the world. And so, we need to actually have the industrial complex of the United States focusing on manufacturing those products that we need to use here in the U.S.

CHURCH: Right. Because I wanted to ask you that, you know, how can the U.S. get on top of this? And how concerned are you when you see Georgia and other states preparing to open up and protesters on the streets pressuring other, I would have to say smarter states, to do the same? So, you see that, really, the Defense Production Act perhaps needs to be put in motion more than just making swabs?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: I think whatever we can do to align industry to focus on delivering on what we need today. Right now, people aren't buying cars, right. People aren't buying clothes. So, let's take that capacity and use it to create what we need to safely get this economy back on its feet. And so if we actually leverage the tools of capitalism, right. In capitalism, people go to where supply needs to meet demand. We need to ensure that we're turning that industrial might to meet the demand of today, which is for PPE, testing reagents, testing kits, and the capacity to make sure people stay safe.

CHURCH: It seems so logical, doesn't it? It does. I mean, all of us know the answer, but it's not going to the top, for some reason or other. Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, thank you so much for talking with us. Appreciate it.



CHURCH: And tune in this Thursday for a special coronavirus Global Town Hall. Alicia keys joins CNN for the world premiere of her new song dedicated to the everyday heroes on the front lines of this pandemic. That's Thursday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Friday at 8:00 a.m. in Hong Kong.

Well, a plane carrying personal protective equipment from Turkey is finally back in the United Kingdom. British officials say they are working directly with companies to purchase much-needed personal protective equipment. The government is under fire from medical staff for the lack of protective gear, and this comes as new data shows the true death toll from the virus in the U.K. was significantly higher than the government's daily count indicated.

So, let's go live now to London to CNN's Nic Robertson. Good to see you, Nic. So, what is behind this discrepancy in the U.K.'s death toll?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Very simply, the government's accounting is, for those who have died in hospital from coronavirus, valid on their death certificate. The government presents that figure every day, and it presents four different graphs every day in its daily press briefing, and it says the reason that it sticks to that particular figure is because it can do a direct comparison with other countries. And it likes to do that so it can show that Britain is faring reasonably well against other north European countries in handling of the coronavirus.

But the reality is, according to the office of national statistics, is that it misses a lot of people, and it misses them because they're in care homes or they have died at home from the coronavirus and that isn't reflected in the government statistic.

So it took a look at the first week in April, ending April 8th, and it saw very clearly that there was a discrepancy of about 40 percent, 41 percent. So, instead of having a death toll, as the government would have it that week, or total that week of 9,288, the actual death toll was 13,121. So, big discrepancy.

There are others that are analyzing those same figures and using historical records for the average death toll in that week, the first week of April, going back a number of years. And they say that, actually, it's not just under recording by 41 percent, but an even bigger percentage, potentially 75 percent. So, it's not that the government data is flawed. It's only presenting on its daily briefing a partial picture. It takes longer to get these other statistics of people dying in care homes, for example -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, understood. Nic Robertson bringing us that live report from London. Many thanks.

Well, the World Health Organization says the coronavirus most likely originated from an animal. On Tuesday, a W.H.O. official said, quote, all available evidence suggests the virus originated in bats.

U.S. President Trump had earlier suggested the virus may have come from a lab in China, without providing evidence to support that idea. Meanwhile, CNN's David Culver, who reported from Wuhan and left just before the lockdown took effect, is now back in the area where the pandemic began. Here's his report.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Being back here in Wuhan, the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, you get the feeling that this is a city trying to reawaken after what was a 76-day halting of life, a brutal and harsh lockdown, the conditions that kept many people in some cases sealed inside their homes for those two-plus months, unable to leave even for some fresh air.

Now, as you can hear behind me, traffic picking up again. People are starting to resume life, though it's with this cautious optimism as they go forward, knowing that things could change quickly. The lockdown happened 76 days prior to April 8th, and when it came into effect, it came with little notice, just a few hours' notice. And so, people know that things can change rather suddenly, and they're prepared for that.

And yet, the screening mechanisms that are in place now are rather intense. To get into Wuhan for most locals, it's rather straightforward, but for foreigners in particular -- and this shows the concern for imported cases -- you're questioned extensively as to what country you're coming from, how long you've been in the country here in China and where you plan to be going while here. It's all about tracing from here on out, and they, of course, have technology that does that. But they also rely on self-reporting and a lot of questioning as you make your way from the train station, for example, into a hotel.


Now, here overall, you get the sense that people are trying to look past what was a very difficult period, and they're doing so by taking advantage of what they have right now in this moment. And for our driver, for example, that was going outside the city and taking in a hike with his family or camping, enjoying the outdoors, enjoying nature, for this moment, at least.

David Culver, CNN, Wuhan, China.


CHURCH: And Missouri is suing China for how it says Beijing handled the coronavirus. The lawsuit filed by Missouri's Attorney General says Chinese officials did not do enough to stop the spread of the virus, even though they knew how disastrous it could be. The state is asking for civil penalties, restitution, punitive damages, and more to compensate for the loss of life and economic consequences. China is protected by sovereign immunity, so it's not clear if the lawsuit will have any impact.

Well, more help is on the way for many U.S. businesses hit hard financially by the pandemic. A look at the relief bill that's heading to the U.S. House. That's next.

Plus, a record collapse in oil prices this week has investors on edge. What the U.S. government is considering to help the industry.



CHURCH: Well, the U.S. Senate has approved a new $480 billion relief package aimed at helping small businesses hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. Christine Romans joins us now from New York with the details. Good to see you, Christine.


CHURCH: So, many small business owners say they got nothing in the last stimulus package as chain restaurants and hotels and others swooped in and grabbed the cash. How will lawmakers going to stop that from happening again?

ROMANS: They just have to do a better job of getting the money into the hands of real main street mom-and-pop institutions. When you look at the size of the funding here, this is -- and experts tell me it's going to last -- hopefully, hopefully ten days, and hopefully, you've got small businesses already in the queue that are going to be able to get that money freed up. They've already been through this process, right. So, they were denied the first time around, so they've got the process at least started.

One of the ways they're trying to address that inequity, really, here, is that they've got $60 billion that's going to smaller lenders, think credit unions with less than $10 billion in assets. So, the idea, I think, is that if you are a smaller lender, then you're more likely to have smaller clients, but the big complaint I've had, Rosemary, for two weeks now, is small businesses who bank with a big bank and they just feel like they've been completely shuffled around and have not been able to get any kind of a resolution here.

So, I think getting money into the hands of small lenders is a good first step, but the SBA and these big banks have just got to do a better job, technically, of getting the money into the hands of truly small businesses.

CHURCH: Yes, good point. And hopefully, some of those big chains will hand back some of that money they shouldn't have taken as well. Businesses, obviously, aren't the only ones feeling the financial impact of this pandemic, right. A new study finds lower-income families have been hit especially hard. What are you learning about that?

ROMANS: You know, I think this pandemic has really revealed something truly unsettling about the largest economy in the world, and that is that inequality, income inequality was really just barely below the surface here in what just two months ago was a booming economy. Really, we have revealed that this pandemic shows that lower-income Americans are right on the line and have been right on the line.

You know, 52 percent say they have lost wages or jobs, and only 23 percent, only about one in five, have emergency funds to last them three months. And that second number on your screen I think is really important here, because if this crisis lasts another month or two, there will have to be more done by Washington and by the states to really shore up these families, right.

I mean, this is not something that's going to go away on June 1st. This is not something that July 1st, people who have deferred their mortgages for a few months, they're going to have a balloon payment due on July 1st. For a third of Americans who didn't pay rent in April, what's going to happen in May? So, we are right now on the line, so many of these families. The rainy-day funds are gone. The small business money has not been flowing quickly enough. In many states, they haven't had their unemployment insurance check just yet. Stimulus checks are going out, but already you're hearing Congressmembers talk about maybe you're going to have to have more stimulus checks, more money flowing to these families, and quickly.

CHURCH: Yes. I mean, the sad reality, this isn't going away until we have a vaccine, right. Christine Romans, many thanks to you. Appreciate it.

Well, the oil price crash is weighing on investors. Dow futures down. Let's have a look at those numbers. Oh, in actual effect, they're up. There we go. I mean, that's very positive. We're seeing about 1 percent up in Dow futures, Nasdaq futures, and S&P 500 futures. So, maybe this is an indicator it might start to look good as markets open in the United States in a few hours from now. We shall see. Never like to predict.

U.S. oil prices moved higher Tuesday but are still trading at historic lows after an unprecedented dive to start the week. CNN's John Defterios is with me now from Abu Dhabi. Good to see you, John. So, where's this all going and how likely is it that President Trump will step in and perhaps bail out the oil industry?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, Rosemary, it's interesting, if look for silver linings in the Dow futures. The Asian markets held up, despite that major sell-off that you were talking about overnight in Wall Street and also in Europe.

The oil market today, though -- this is not an aberration that we saw Monday. The deep losses are still there. If we look at the U.S. benchmark WTI, just holding on to $11 a barrel. The Brent crude lost, geez, 25 percent in one day yesterday. Still on the downside here and hit an 18-year low.


So, don't be fueled or fooled by the stability that we see right now.

And let's remind our viewers, from the start of the year, we were trading at $68 a barrel and gave up $20 a barrel in this horrible downturn for North Sea Brent. We had inventories go up again in the United States, an obscure number but very important to the industry. Because we could have record surplus of 535 million barrels in the next month and run out of capacity to store it by the end of June. We're already seeing that in Cushing, Oklahoma, which takes in the Texas crude.

To your point about Donald Trump, there's probably going to be about 500 bankruptcies this year and next in the oil and gas sector, and he's looking to formulate a bailout, kind of similar to the airline industry, so they have access to capital right now. This is a very sensitive issue because he doesn't want to be seen as bailing out big oil but helping the small and medium-sized enterprises.

And then there's the radical solution they don't want to see here in the Middle East or Russia or Nigeria, and that is ban imports coming into the United States because of this turmoil we see in states like Texas and Oklahoma, and there's another proposal in Senate to put actually tariffs on imports coming from Saudi Arabia, Russia, and some of the other major players. That again, would be an extreme measure by the President, but we're living in extreme times, so his allies here in the Middle East are watching this development very carefully.

CHURCH: Indeed. John Defterios joining us there from Abu Dhabi, many thanks.

Well, this Earth Day may see a lot of people still under stay-at-home orders, but the good news is it's resulted in clear skies and low pollution levels in many places. And we will have an expert opinion on what more needs to be done for the planet. That's next.