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How Contact Tracing Can Help Stop The Spread Of Coronavirus; U.K. Death Toll Could Be Higher Than Reported; Animals Venture Out In Yosemite Amid Park's Closure. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired April 22, 2020 - 05:30   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, I'm Robyn Curnow. It is 5:30 a.m. here at CNN's world news headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to all of you here in the U.S. and around the world.

So I want to give you a quick reminder of our top story here at CNN. The number of coronavirus infections has now topped 2 1/2 million people worldwide with more than 170,000 deaths. The U.S. remains the country with the most confirmed cases.

But the head of the CDC warns the situation could still get worse. He says a second wave of the virus may emerge this winter right when flu season starts. He predicts both outbreaks will further overwhelm hospitals and doctors.

Meanwhile, contact tracing is an important tool in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus. Brian Todd explains how it works and some of the obstacles surrounding it -- Brian.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mission, build an instant army.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: I have to put together an army of tracers. That's thousands of people. It's never been done before.

TODD (voice-over): Contact tracers who track down the people who a coronavirus-infected person has had contact with to monitor them for infection. Public health officials say it's a crucial component to being able to reopen the economy so new cases can be contained.

A Johns Hopkins study says an army of about 100,000 contact tracers may be needed to track the number of cases in the U.S. Other experts suggest two or three times that many.

But tonight, a crisis within this crisis could be brewing. According to various reports, the U.S. has nowhere near the number of contact tracers needed. By some estimates, only a couple thousand people have been doing it before the outbreak started. ERIC FEIGI-DING, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: Health departments are completely overwhelmed. Health departments are not designed to send out field armies of people to trace every single case that pops up in their community. Some communities have hundreds of cases in a single day.

TODD (voice-over): States are rushing to ramp up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're already training hundreds if not thousands of contact tracers.

TODD (voice-over): But among the concerns tonight, how quickly states can build armies big enough to call dozens of people for each new person infected and who's going to pay for them.

As for the type of person needed --

CUOMO: It's a detective -- investigator in the public health space.

TODD (voice-over): For example, this Massachusetts job posting seeks people who can make calls, follow a script, and give instructions or referrals. Quote, "A headset is preferred." They have to interview an infected person and get them to help identify anyone they've been in close contact with over the past two weeks.

FEIGI-DING: You could define it as anyone within six feet for more than one minute or it can be anyone within six feet for more than 10 minutes.

TODD (voice-over): And contact tracers have to race against the clock. Experts we spoke to say they have on average less than three days to find someone who an infected person has been in contact with and get that person to isolate.

At this contact tracing center in Arizona, now working virtually, a team leader tells us it's time-intensive, emotionally taxing work.

KRISTEN POGREBA-BROWN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA: Our biggest challenge, honestly, is just getting people on the phone initially and talking to them, and then getting them to open up once you get ahold of them.

TODD (voice-over): And there are more obstacles tonight. Health professionals says the decision by some governors to reopen businesses so quickly, like Georgia's governor throwing open gyms and hair and nail salons this week, will make accurate contact tracing harder.

FIEGI-DING: If you reopen businesses, now you infinitely increase the number of people that people have been in contact with. It makes contact tracing so much more difficult than if we have a lockdown or shelter-in-place.


CURNOW: Well, that's to Brian for that report. It's so important to know all of that. I want to take you now to the U.K. where the death toll in England and Wales could actually be significantly higher than what the government has been reporting. So we have new data that shows the true death toll through April 10th may have been about 41 percent higher than what's being reported. Meantime, hospital workers say they're running critically low on personal protective equipment.

So I want to go to London and talk to Nic Robertson about this. Nic, hi.

I know there's been a lot of criticism aimed at the government and the way they've managed the PPE supply situation, but the fact that this death toll could be so significantly higher also raises a lot of questions. What's happening?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: There are a lot of questions being raised, Robyn, and even some finger-pointing now.


Another one of the questions being raised before getting to those points you put there is the flawed testing of the National Health Service workers -- doctors and nurses -- in allowing them to go back and work on the wards in hospitals there. Some of the testing -- the coronavirus testing that's been done has been found to be flawed.

Another question being raised is why the European -- is why Britain didn't join the European Union in purchasing a -- or joining an E.U. scheme to get more ventilators. A senior government civil servant yesterday said it was a political decision which got knocked down by the health secretary and then retracted by that senior civil servant. So, yes, finger-pointing.

On that point about underreporting the deaths, the government says that every day when it reports a death, it does -- it wants to do a like-by-like comparison with what other European countries -- other countries around the world are doing, which is reporting the number of deaths in hospital directly attributed to coronavirus.

But what the Office of National Statistics says -- if you take into account, as it did in the first week in April -- if you take into account all those who died in care homes and who died in homes as well, attributable to coronavirus, there's a 41 percent increase above what the government says.

On top of that, as well, there's another analysis of that same data that says if you use the Office of National Statistics for week-by- week death tolls going back a number of years, then you actually see for that first week of April a 75 percent increase over the tracked number of deaths in that week of any given year.

So, yes, the government's facing a lot of questions. And the prime minister's question time today and the new hybrid just reopened Parliament, leaders -- the new leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, will be there in person. Just a handful of MPs sitting in socially- distanced -- the socially-distanced house of -- the Houses of Parliament today for that -- for that session. So, no doubt, these questions are all going to come up, Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes, they certainly will.

Nic Robertson, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

So, you're watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow.

Still to come, normalcy is settling over the city where the pandemic began while almost everywhere else there seems to be nothing but upheaval.



CURNOW: So, the WHO, the World Health Organization, says the coronavirus most likely originated from an animal. On Tuesday, the WHO official said, quote, "All available evidence suggests the virus originated in bats." U.S. President Donald Trump had earlier suggested the virus may have come from a lab in China without providing evidence to support the 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 INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): 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 eighth 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 are 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.


CURNOW: So great to have David there. Thanks to him for that.

So, the U.S. state of Missouri is actually suing China for how it handled -- how it says Beijing handled the coronavirus virus. This lawsuit is interesting, filed by Missouri's attorney general. It says Chinese officials did not do enough to stop the spread of the virus even though they knew how dangerous 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, of course, protected by sovereign immunity so it's really not clear if the lawsuit will actually have any impact.

Well, you are watching CNN. With people staying inside, all sorts of creatures, great and small, are traipsing through the streets and filling the empty spaces. A look at the world's emboldened wildlife, that's next.



CURNOW: So you might not have realized it with everything going on right now with the pandemic, but this is Earth Day's 50th anniversary. And if you're one of the millions of people doing your part by staying inside it may be hard to celebrate the great outdoors right now. But you are helping others by staying safe and well -- that's for sure.

And the planet, itself, I think is benefitting from this global lockdown, especially the animal kingdom if you take a look at some of these pictures we're going to show you. It's transforming before our eyes.

Paula Newton now takes a look at how creatures great and small are enjoying the absence of humans.


PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Horns, engines, train whistles, people out and about. The background signs of everyday life gone quiet. With coronavirus shelter-in-place orders around the globe, it's turning the tables on human norms. Animals are filling up the empty spaces, from wild deer traipsing

through the streets of Japan to lions lounging across the streets usually traversed by cars in Karoo National Park, to herds of goats in Wales helping themselves to neighborhood bushes and flower beds. The animal kingdom is, for now, reclaiming spaces normally occupied by people.

And no, it's not your imagination. Birds do sound louder, a phenomenon that some experts say comes, in part, from birds being less stressed by human sounds, causing them to congregate in larger numbers and more easily communicate with each other.

MAHER OSTA, SOCIETY FOR THE PROTECTION OF NATURE IN LEBANON (through translator): The birds are more relaxed. They are not trying to get away from cars, from the crowds of people. Even the heart of the city, itself.

NEWTON (voice-over): And in Thailand, researchers say there's been a baby boom as sea turtle nests are at a 20-year high thanks to the absence of people walking in the sand where these endangered species lay their eggs.

But some animals are noticing the void left by their human counterparts. Monkeys like these who are used to tourists feeding them on a daily basis swarm over a little bit of food left behind.


And for the great apes and giraffes and other wildlife used to putting on a daily show in their zoological homes, some workers say they are now playing the part of tourists to alleviate signs of sadness they notice from the animals who still move like clockwork each day to the very spot they used to interact with spectators who are no longer coming to the parks.

But as spring blooms in much of the northern hemisphere, the quieter, gentler atmosphere may be beneficial if only for a short time.

FRANK DEAN, PRESIDENT, YOSEMITE NATURE CONSERVATORY: But I think nature is obviously welcoming the change. The wildlife in Yosemite certainly are.

NEWTON (voice-over): Bears are waking from hibernation a bit more free to explore. Newborn ducklings, baby elephants, and the like emerging into the world at a time when the earth is vibrating just a little bit less and turning just a little more slowly.

Paula Newton, CNN.


CURNOW: And as you heard in Paula's report, animals in California's iconic Yosemite National Park have certainly been taking advantage of the absence of tourists. I want to show you some of these stunning photos from the "L.A. Times." They show the usually crowded park now completely empty. And as you can see, it's also allowing some curious animals to check out the tourist spots for themselves.

Well, Carolyn Cole is the Pulitzer Prize-winning "L.A. Times" photographer behind those really striking images and she joins me now from Oakland, California. Great to have you. Those are such amazing pictures. They're powerful and they mean so much right now.

What were you hoping to convey by going to Yosemite right now?

CAROLYN COLE, PHOTOGRAPHER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well, I felt very fortunate to get permission to go into Yosemite. Permission had to come from Washington, D.C. and it took a few days. But I felt a real responsibility just to show people what was happening inside the park and the beauty of it.

And I remember going there as a young child and remembering how crowded it was -- the parking lots and the stairs up to the falls and this time it was just completely peaceful. So I was hoping to capture the sights and sounds of the park with no people in it.

CURNOW: Yes, you certainly did. And a lot of your images -- and I know there are more -- that you had the contrast between the big waterfalls, the big sky, and the mountains versus the small -- the bobcats and the squirrels. There's a beautiful contrast between how nature, in all its sizes, is enjoying this.

COLE: Well, thank you. I'm not a wildlife photographer or a landscape photographer, but I did the best I could in the limited time that I had. I got into the park around 7:00 a.m. and I just tried to hit all of the major spots -- El Capitan at sunrise and Yosemite Falls, Mirror Lake.

Then I was particularly looking for animals and I felt very lucky to have seen a small bobcat very close to the visitor's center -- the main visitor's center. And so I followed it for a little while and was able to capture a picture of it. And I did see a couple of coyotes wandering through Curry Village campsite and I followed him for a while. So I felt very lucky to get what I did.

Unfortunately, I didn't see any bears during my time there but I know there have been a lot more sightings in the valley.

CURNOW: Yes, there certainly have. I mean, just to get El Capitan and the sunrise against that must have been extraordinary and powerful.

What did it feel like -- you alone, in many ways, with the animals roaming around? They're unfettered; you were outnumbered, which is not the way it usually is. What was the feeling like?

COLE: It's awe-inspiring. It's so big and you feel so small within the walls of Yosemite Valley. And it was completely peaceful. You could hear the waterfalls, you could hear the birds, the wind in the trees. It was just spectacular.

There are some people that live in the valley full-time -- some of the concession workers. And, of course, some of the park rangers have -- are there during the day -- and so I wasn't there alone. But it was certainly a wonderful experience to have.

CURNOW: Yes, and I think some of your photos also show that -- you know, whether it's hotel workers or the guides -- I mean a lot of adventures. A lot of livelihoods have been lost. It's not just the tourists who are not there. A lot of people whose lives were connected with Yosemite have certainly felt the pinch of this and you also showed that.

COLE: Well, I think people are craving the outdoors and craving nature. And so I'm currently on a trip around California doing stories about the coronavirus all over the state and I've noticed that people are really attracted to the stories that we have about nature.

And so, we've done some stories about the forest industry up in Upstate California. We just recently did a story about the bats and their connection to the coronavirus. So, I think people are really craving nature at this time.

CURNOW: Yes, particularly because many people are sort of locked behind doors and just seeing those images, even if they weren't there, it gives you a feeling of just the awe-inspiring powerfulness of nature.


Which is your favorite photograph?

COLE: Oh, well, I particularly like the bobcat. That's not an easy picture to get and I was very surprised that it allowed me to get within about 10 feet of it as it was hunting for mice and rodents. So I was -- I was very pleased with that picture.

And also the coyote. I think they're just very calm right now because there are no people in the park and they weren't intimidated by me being there. I know that coyotes sometimes get fed by people in the park so I think that's why I was lucky to get these images.

CURNOW: Lucky, and thank you for sharing them. I mean, I think it's made all of our day.

Carolyn Cole, photographer, coming to us there from Oakland, California. Thank you.

COLE: Thank you very much.

CURNOW: Well, thank you call for all of your company. Please help our medical workers by staying at home and staying safe.

I'm Robyn Curnow. Have a beautiful day. "NEW DAY" is next with John and Alisyn.

You're watching CNN.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The virus will return this winter and it might be even worse.

PATRICE HARRIS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: I'm also worried about a second wave to come sooner about those states who are relaxing some of the stay-at-home regulations.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R) GEORGIA: This is just not handing them the keys back to go back to where we were. It was done based on the data.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to see a dramatic downward curve before we relax the provisions.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to do very significant testing. You know, not everybody wants to do such significant testing and you have governors that don't want to go all- out on the testing because they think they can do it in a different manner and do it better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The supply chain issue is real. If you don't have the swabs and the reagents, they can't do a test.


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