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Coronavirus Killed Americans Weeks Earlier Than Thought; 37 States And D.C. Close Schools Through End Of Academic Year. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired April 22, 2020 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day.

This morning, 45,000 Americans have died from coronavirus. And breaking overnight, a report that shifts the entire timeline about what we know about this pandemic. Officials now say the first known death on U.S. soil was weeks earlier than previously thought, early February in California, which means, it was spreading much earlier than previously thought. We're going to discuss of the implications of this shortly.

Also new this morning, a warning from the director of the CDC that a second wave of the pandemic this coming winter could be even worse than the one we're battling now, this as some states push to reopen immediately despite pushback from some mayors, business leaders and residents who are wary of the danger.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: John, there is also development on hydroxychloroquine. That's the drug that President Trump and many Fox hosts have touted repeatedly. There's a new study that shows that those who took it had higher death rates than those who did not. Now, the National Institutes of Health is recommending against using this drug in combination with the so-called Z-pack that the president has also been pushing.

Meanwhile, the Senate passing a $480 billion relief package for small businesses. It also provides money for hospitals and for more testing. The House is expected to vote on this measure tomorrow.

But let's start with the significant change to the timeline of the virus outbreak here in the U.S. CNN's Dan Simon is live for us in San Francisco with the details. What have we learned, Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Alisyn. Experts have been speculating for some time now that the virus had been in the country earlier than anybody ever knew. And now, this adds to the growing body of evidence.

What Santa Clara County is saying, keep in mind this is the heart of Silicon Valley, is that somebody who died in their home on February 6th had the coronavirus. Keep in mind, the first reported death in the country actually came on the February 29th in the Seattle area. So we're talking weeks earlier.

Santa Clara also is saying that two other deaths are linked to the virus, one on February 17th and one on March 9th. So not only does it mean that the virus had been here much longer than we knew but it also represents many more infections according to Santa Clara County officials.

Now, at the time to get tested for the coronavirus, you had to -- you need to have traveled over to Asia or to China, known travel history, and you had to have had certain symptoms. Now, none of these people had history of travel. So we're talking about community spread.

So how did this all come to be? Well, Santa Clara County collected tissue samples from these deceased individuals, sent them to the CDC lab and they got the results back yesterday. John, we'll send it back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Dan Simon for us in California. This is really interesting.

Joining us now is CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And in just a moment, we'll also speak to Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Sanjay, this news that the first known death three weeks earlier than previously thought from community spread, it is believed, which means, I presume, that this virus was here maybe mid-January. What are the implications to this?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think this is pretty stunning, John, and not surprising at the same time, so stunning and not surprising at the same time. Because I think for some time, we have thought that the first patient that we've diagnosed in the United States, did we just happen to catch the very first patient? We were looking for specific people who have traveled back from China at that point or had known exposure to people with coronavirus. But the idea that this was a virus, that it was already spreading, it was already spreading in the community, I think, was suspected for a while. We just didn't know for sure.

So if you put up that timeline again and say February 6th and February 17th, I believe, when these patients now when they went back and looked, they were suspicious. Maybe they were thought to have had the flu before or there are many other patients out there as well. Because if these were patients who died, how many -- how much of this -- how much coronavirus was actually spreading in the community and when, probably much more and a lot earlier.

And right in the middle of those two dates, between February 6th and February 17th, February 12th, you remember, is when the CDC also disclosed that the testing that they had was not working. The testing was flawed. So this is a combination of things. Inadequate testing, not testing the right people and now as a result, recognizing that this was probably spreading much earlier in the community. I'm talking maybe early mid-January, probably at least between the time someone was exposed and the time that someone died from this.

Also, just one other thing I'll add to this.


January 31st is when that travel ban from China was implemented. You know, obviously, I think it made sense to a lot of people at the time and we start layering in this new information, it's going to become clearer, I think, that the virus was already here by that point.

CAMEROTA: Yes, there's a lot of interesting things. This was California, not Washington State. So we had previously thought that, first, this was not the Washington State nursing home that we had heard so much about. These were people who have not traveled, they were not off of a cruise ship. So all of the previous assumptions that we have thought about how it got here or how it was spreading.

And then here is what the Santa Clara County chief medical officer said, Sanjay, just alluding to exactly what you're talking about in terms of the CDC. She says, each one of those deaths is probably the tip of an iceberg of unknown size. It feels quite significant. We had to ask the CDC every single time, does this person meet the case definition, may we send a sample. We had this very, very uncomfortable feeling we were hearing about a lot of patients who really felt that they were cases but we couldn't test.

So how does that inform where we are now?

GUPTA: You know, I think that the notion that this has been around for a lot longer than we realize, you know, within the United States certainly maybe in other places around the world, it's interesting information to have. But I think it also speaks to how we need to move forward. I mean, this is all sort of in the rearview mirror now. But it does mean that this was probably spreading, that if we go back and look at other patients now who were thought to have died of flu or had flu-like symptoms, you may find a lot more patients that, in fact, had coronavirus.

I think, at the time, we weren't doing enough testing. At the time, we were talking almost exclusively to the federal government about the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship around that time. And it just, I think, highlights, again, that the testing was the key, because some of this was missed. If it had been caught at that point, maybe we would have had a better chance at containing this, maybe not. And I think a lot of this is going to be stuff that we start to look at in the rearview mirror but, hopefully, informs as we go forward.

BERMAN: Look, just to be clear, the February 6th date of the first fatality before that ship even left port.

Dr. Hotez, if we can, I want to get your quick take on this before we move on to next -- the next wave of the coronavirus pandemic. But first, on this, how likely is it that there were more deaths from coronavirus in February than we realized now given this information?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes. So everything Sanjay said, as it always is, was spot on. He's absolutely right. And this really does highlight the dangers of silent community transmission, and here's why. We've not mark lip ships (ph) and others about looking at the story of COVID-19 in China. And there's a very interesting analysis to show that the number of patients you're going to have in your intensive care unit in your community is pretty much related to how long silent transmission continues before you intervene.

So, for instance, the reason Wuhan was Wuhan, where you had more than 2,000 ICU patients was because community transmission went on for six weeks, most of it silently before there was an intervention for social distancing, as opposed to another Chinese city where you intervened after a week.

So what this means also for a city like New York, which has been so devastated, it means that we probably had silent community transmission going on for quite a bit. And the way that -- as the number of cases doesn't rise in a straight linear fashion, there's a lag and then there's the steep exponential rise that catches you off guard. So this is going to be a very important lesson learned when we look at relaxing social distancing as we move into the summer months.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, I want to ask you about what Dr. Redfield of the CDC, the director of the CDC, said that has gotten a lot of attention, which is that the next round of coronavirus, which he expects in the late fall and winter, could be even more difficult than the one we just went through. Now, Sanjay, how is that possible when we all know so much more about how to protect ourselves now than we did months ago?

And doctors know more about how to -- I mean, obviously, we don't have a treatment. I don't know that we will next winter, but they do know more about the virus and about some things that are, I guess, ameliorating some symptoms for patients. So how can it possibly be worse next time around?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I think you raise a really important point, Alisyn. First of all, even though we learn more, we do have to act on that knowledge as well. I mean, I happen to be living in a state right now where they're starting to think about relaxing some of these guidelines despite all the public health evidence suggesting that we shouldn't. And what really, I think, is going to be striking is that people will get exposed as a result of relaxing these guidelines.


But we won't know it for a couple, three weeks later.

So there will be a couple of three weeks where people will say, hey, we're doing fine. We relaxed the guidelines, nothing happened. Look, everything is fine. And then a few weeks later, all of a sudden, people will start become sick, hopefully not that many. But there will be people who will need to be hospitalized. But as a result, just the other places around the country who may say everything is fine in Georgia, we'll start relaxing guidelines as well. So even though we have the knowledge, we have to act on it. And I think there's another issue, Alisyn, is that this coronavirus

outbreak from the United States, as we're seeing the timeline is changing but it still seemed to happen as flu season was starting to wane off. This time around, in the fall, you might get both at the same time, the flu and coronavirus. And flu is very significant. It causes lots of people to be hospitalized and all that uses the same resources. So you compound these two things and that's part of what I think Dr. Redfield was saying.

And, frankly, he said this a few times in the past as well. This wasn't the first time he sort of brought this up. So if you're relaxing things, you compound this with flu, if we don't abide by the lessons that we've learned. The good news in all of this, I think, to keep in mind is that physical distancing has worked. It's hard. It's tough. It requires a lot of sacrifice from people. But it has worked. We've just got to make sure that we can continue to do it.

BERMAN: Yes. The concept of a second wave is not new. In some ways, it's more than 100 years old. All we have to do is look at the 1918 flu, which -- here is a graph of that right now. We know there are three waves there and it was the second wave in the fall that was by far the most deadly.

And, Dr. Hotez, I've been reading what you've been saying about what Dr. Redfield of the CDC said in his interview with The Washington Post and your reaction is something along the lines of, duh.

HOTEZ: Well, I don't know about that. But we have had not for at least a week or so the models coming out of Harvard showing that the prediction is we'll be seeing seasonal waves probably in the winter around January, February in 2021, 2022. So this could be a regular occurrence until ultimately we have several vaccines out there where we can vaccinate the population.

But, you know, I think another point just to reinforce what Sanjay said, again, Dr. Redfield talked about the second wave in January or February, and I agree that's a high likelihood. But I would just revise that to say that won't be the second wave. That might be the third wave. The second wave could easily be this summer and fall. As we're relaxing social distancing prematurely in several states, some of the models coming out of the Institute for Health Metrics in Seattle show that for many states, including states like Texas, we really need to maintain social distancing until June 1 or even the middle of June before we go back to the containment phase where we're actually preventing new cases.

Most states are not willing to do that, and I understand the economic urgencies. But the problem is this. We don't have a health system in place in order to manage opening up social distancing prematurely. By that, I mean, in the workplace, we don't have a system of testing. We don't the contact tracing. We don't have syndromic surveillance in most cities. And I'm starting to talk to city health directors and it's pretty scary. They're not getting any guidance at the federal level from the CDC, in some cases. They're not getting any guidance from the states. So they're pretty much on their own. And they don't have the bandwidth to know how to manage this in their cities. So we -- I understand the urgency of opening things up a bit sooner than those projected dates from the models, but if you're going to do that, at least have a system ready to go in order to manage those detection of new cases. Because, once again, we all know that the reason why we have this tragedy in New York was we weren't able to monitor that first wave of infections.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Sanjay, quickly, new developments on that drug that we've heard so much about from President Trump as well as Fox hosts, hydroxychloroquine. So there's a new study out of the Veterans Hospital System. They studied 368 patients. They did not find that those who took the drug needed less ventilation. In fact, it was the same amount as those who did not take the drug. But here is the finding. Those who took the drug had higher death rates. That seems significant.

And when President Trump says, what do you have to lose, I think now doctors have an answer to that.

GUPTA: Yes. I think this is part of another drumbeat of evidence that has not shown a lot of good evidence around hydroxychloroquine. But these are still small studies, Alisyn. That's the problem. Whether the studies are good, showing benefit or not good, they're still small studies. And we wouldn't be talking about this on CNN were it not for the situation that we're in right now.


And I do want to point out that it's not a randomized study, and that's significant. Because that means that the people weren't randomly assigned to different treatment groups. If doctors had any -- and I'm not suggesting they do. But if people have any sort of inherent bias going into the study, then that would influence the outcome. So they think if this doesn't work, we're giving it to people who are sicker, it might lead to conscious bias. The point is that you have to randomize, you need larger trials. And we're going to get that data.

But you're right, so far, when you look at what's come out of Brazil, what's come out of Sweden, what's come out France and now this V.A. study out of the United States, it certainly hasn't shown benefit. In some cases, it's shown harm. But we need the larger studies where we don't know that it was blinded. Who got what, we don't even know in here. Now, we look at the results and it shows what it shows.

I want a treatment. You want a treatment, because all these other dire statistics that we're talking about could be beneficially affected by that. But we don't have that yet and we still need more data in either direction, good or bad.

BERMAN: Yes. The lesson clearly seems to be just wait for the science in both cases.


BERMAN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

HOTEZ: Thanks so much.

BERMAN: So it was a controversial decision, to say the least, holding elections in Wisconsin during the pandemic. New reporting on several cases linked to in-person voting, next.



CAMEROTA: New this morning, seven coronavirus cases in Milwaukee have now been linked to the election that was held there two weeks ago. The city's health commissioner says six people who voted at polling locations tested positive as did one poll worker. Milwaukee had five polling sites open for this election. You've seen all the videos there. This is after Wisconsin's Supreme Court overruled the governor who had tried to suspend in-person voting.

BERMAN: Also new this morning, 37 states in Washington D.C. have now closed schools for the rest of the academic year. The largest city in Massachusetts, Boston, remains a hotspot with 6,000 cases and nearly 200 deaths.

And joining me now is the mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

I was encouraged last night to hear Dr. Deborah Birx say that they have seen some improvement in Boston. I wonder what you are seeing this morning?

MAYOR MARTY WALSH (D-BOSTON, MA): Well, we had a high number of cases yesterday. We're not really seeing a lot of improvement as far as cases, people testing positive, but we still have a lot of work to do here to slow the spread of the virus. I think that one of the things that we're pushing for in a big way here is more testing and then the tracing as well, the contact tracing. That's really what's going to ultimately what's going to make us better here in the City of Boston, the commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the country, quite honestly.

BERMAN: Interesting that you say you really haven't seen the improvement that Dr. Birx said she saw last night.

I also have heard you say, you can't even think about the process of reopening right now. What do you need to happen for that to even begin?

WALSH: I think it's too early. The information, I mean, one thing we're lacking is information. I think what the doctor might be referring to is hospital availability, which is consistent, and when you talk about hospitals in Boston is consistent. We did build out a hospital at the Boston Convention Center, or the BCEC, we call it. We have about 175 people in there. We have two sides of it. One is a homeless side and one is a hospital side. So we're putting people in there and keeping availability in our hospitals open. But, really, at the end of the day, it's going to come down to testing and data to see how we kind of get back to society here. There's a lot of focus on it. And I think it's a conversation we're having internally as well. But right now, we're still working on it. I think the important thing we can do here is stop the spread of the virus by social, physical distancing, all of the things that you hear about every day on the show that Dr. Gupta talks about all day.

BERMAN: How much help are you getting from the federal government when it comes to testing, which you clearly believe is a major need this morning?

WALSH: I mean, I think when you think about 1 percent of -- the last number time I heard, it was 1 percent of the American public has been tested. That clearly is not enough to be able to get a good gauge on where we have to go as a country. I know when you break that down to the City of Boston, clearly, the testing capacity needs to be expanded.

We're finding solutions (ph) right now in the City of Boston. We have ten health centers and we have five hospitals that have the capacity to do the testing.

BERMAN: Schools closed for the rest of the year in the commonwealth, that announcement from Governor Baker yesterday. I've heard from members of my family who will not be in school for the rest of the year in Massachusetts. What's your reaction? How tough will that be in Boston?

WALSH: I mean, when you think about it, when kids go back to school in September, they will have been out of school for six months. And that's just something that's never seen here in the United States. And I think it's going to be challenging. But our superintendent in Boston is working on a plan on how do we take these next two months, two-and- a-half months here and make sure our kids have a real focus on education learning through electronics.

And then when we get back to work in September, America has a lot of work to do, particularly those (INAUDIBLE) six months. We have a lot of work to do to get our kids by then (ph).

BERMAN: Look, I don't know if we fully understand what this is going to do to those kids and how they will adjust. It's a missing month, period, it's a gap for a whole generation of Americans that we're going to have to address as soon as the fall.

Mayor, Boston not even thinking about, as you said, reopening just yet. You're not there yet. But there are other states that are, Georgia, South Carolina. As you look at those decisions being made, what do you think of that?

WALSH: I was watching CNN last night and it's pretty -- it could be pretty scary. I'm watching a lot of the mayors push back. A lot of the mayors, my colleague, pushing back on some of the decisions being made, opening beaches, opening different movie theaters, things like that. [07:25:00]

That can be a very dangerous situation in those cities and towns and states, particularly if they don't have the testing, which we don't, if they don't have the tracing, which we don't, if they don't have all of that, all of the process set up. And what could happen is we'll see another surge in cases.

People are already talking about a second surge here in the fall, in the winter. I can't imagine having to go through what we're going through again. We need to prepare for that. So when we open up society and it's going to be a different normal, when we reopen society, we have to be thinking about what does a second surge look like and how do we keep our economy moving during that time.

BERMAN: So, Mayor Walsh, I have to tell you, I grew up in Massachusetts. And I knew I'd be talking to you this morning. So I went on the Boston Globe website last night to prepare and I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I thought the first story was going to be schools closed in Massachusetts. The first story I saw was Rob Gronkowski traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reunite with Tom Brady. So I just want to get your reaction.

WALSH: The coronavirus has turned us upside down. And what's been going on with the New England Patriots slightly (ph) has turned this upside down. But at the end of the day, we have the greatest coach of all-time. We'll be fine. But it was a little crazy to see that. I mean, during this pandemic, we've had Tom Brady sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We've had now Gronkowski to be traded to the Buccaneers.

I'm not quite sure what's happening here in society these days. But we'll have to -- at least we can kind of laugh and chuckle about it and we'll get back to some normalcy. The Patriots are still going to be a great team.

BERMAN: Mayor Walsh, thank you, from your lips, hopefully, to football's ears. I appreciate you being with us this morning. I appreciate your time. And wish you the best of luck going forward.

WALSH: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: So you've been hearing a lot about the model the White House is using to project deaths, cases and reopening dates. Up next, a researcher behind another model that thinks that the first model is not getting it right.