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New Model Uses Cell Phones to Forecast Virus Spread; New Report Suggests Coronavirus Killed Americans Weeks Earlier Than Previously Thought; Three Hundred and Seventy Nine Die of Coronavirus in New Jersey, Highest Single-Day Toll. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 22, 2020 - 07:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: As some states move towards reopening, a new model highlights whether or not we're doing a good job with social distancing. And the way they do this is by using cell phones to figure out if people are actually complying with the guidelines. Joining us now is Lauren Ancel Meyers; she's a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. She leads the team of researchers working on this other model.

Professor Myers, it's great to have you. We hear so much about the University of Washington model that the White House has used, the IHME. And your model now at the University of Texas is getting a lot of attention. But first, just explain how are we doing with social distancing based on what you're seeing in terms of cell phone use?

LAUREN ANCEL MEYERS, PROFESSOR OF INTEGRATIVE BIOLOGY, STATISTICS & DATA SCIENCES, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Yes, I think what our forecasts show which also the IHME forecast show is that we are doing a very good job. The reason that the projections for COVID-19 deaths are not continuing to skyrocket and do seem to be subsiding is because of the extensive social distancing. Because people have actually stopped going to common places, stopped congregating, and are spending more time at home.

CAMEROTA: And I know it is awkward for you as an academic and a researcher to at all criticize your colleagues at the University of Washington. I know you have a lot of respect for them and the model that they do. But clearly, you thought that there was a different way to do things because you all are putting out a different model. So, what were they not getting exactly right or what did you want to build on?

MEYERS: Yes, I think it's more what did we want to build on. So the original model makes projections for what is going to happen in the United States and states around the country based on data from China and from Europe. The assumption is what happened in those countries after social distancing measures were enacted will also happen here. Instead of looking to other countries, our model looks exclusively at what's happening here in the United States right under foot.

We are using data from cell phones, from the cell phones of tens of millions of people that tell us actually on a daily basis how much time are people staying at home. How often are they ending up in the grocery stores or in pharmacies or in other places where they could have contacts that lead to disease transmission. So, that is what is fueling our forecast. The day-to-day changes and the extent to which we are actually coming in contact with each other or effectively social distancing.

CAMEROTA: And can you quantify that for us? How much time are people spending at home?

MEYERS: Well, the data suggests that people really have dramatically reduced over the last few weeks the extent to which they are going to these common places where we call Points of Interest, and that they're spending a lot more time at home. And that is the secret to success. That is why we have seen a trailing off of mortality in this country.

And that is why it's going to be important going forward that we continue to take measures to prevent transmission by just keeping out of contact with each other or actually reducing the likelihood of transmission when we do have to come in contact with each other.

CAMEROTA: So, what does your model suggest about what's about to happen in South Carolina and Georgia, places that are lifting some of the social distancing guidelines or I guess I should say reopening some of their key businesses this week?

MEYERS: Yes, so, I need to make a distinction. This -- our model and the IHME model, these models are based on just the first wave of transmission. They can project -- or our model can project what's going to happen in the next three weeks with respect to COVID-19 deaths. And it assumes that we are undertaking social distancing and it's going to continue to carry us in a downward slope.

We use other models to project what is going to happen if people start to come in contact with each other. And what those models say is that as people start to come in contact with each other again, there are going to be more opportunities for transmission. And since not a lot of people have been infected yet, most of our population is susceptible. That means that unless we continue to take measures, we do expect to see cases and hospitalizations and mortality are starting to climb again in many of our cities.


CAMEROTA: Does your model suggest that the U.S. at this moment has passed the peak in terms of deaths?

MEYERS: Yes, our model says it's pretty likely that the U.S. has passed its peak, and that many of the states around the country have also passed their peak. But that is under the current social distancing measures, right? And we can only --one of the things our model and our website does is try to communicate not only what we can predict, but what we can't predict.

And one of the things we can't predict at this point is how behavior is going to change in the next week or two or month or two. And to the extent that, that changes, those forecasts may look very different.

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, since you only look at three weeks out, do you know what the death toll, do you have a prediction for what the death toll will be three weeks from now?

MEYERS: In the United States as a whole?


MEYERS: I'd have to look it up. If you go to our website --

CAMEROTA: I think --

MEYERS: Which is the University of --

CAMEROTA: Yes, I think -- yes, I think -- I think what you're saying, the latest number is 53,000, 53,000 -- we're at 45 right now. And so, that would mean by May 5th, I think your website says 53,000, which is, you know, just another bitter pill to have to swallow --

MEYERS: Absolutely --

CAMEROTA: Knowing that there will be that many thousands more.

MEYERS: Absolutely. And I think, you know, it is a horribly bitter pill. And I also could be so much worse if we weren't doing the social distancing that we're doing today.

CAMEROTA: Yes, really fair. Professor Lauren Ancel Meyers, thank you very much for sharing your modeling with us.

MEYERS: Thank you very much, have a nice day.

CAMEROTA: You too. Two new coronavirus deaths in California are now the earliest known fatalities in America. This is weeks before the first reported death. We have a live report from California, next.



JOHN BERMAN, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Breaking overnight. New information that shifts the entire timeline of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. Officials in Santa Clara County, California, now say that two people died from coronavirus in early February, the first three weeks before what had been the first known deaths which was in Washington State. So, that's all new.

What we've known for some time is that nursing homes, they're in an extreme danger zone that deaths continue to mount. CNN's Sara Sidner live in Riverside, California with the latest on this. Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, everyday, there is another case of someone dying, and sometimes more than a dozen people dying at nursing homes across the country. It really is ground zero there, taking the brunt of the coronavirus outbreak. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Better same or work.

SIDNER (voice-over): Family members from across the country --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was an amazing human being. She didn't deserve to die like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just so fast.

SIDNER: All experiencing the same tsunami of grief after their parents contracted COVID-19 in a nursing home.

DENEEN BARR, FATHER DIED FROM CORONAVIRUS: For my daddy to just die. But his stay off the -- that just hurts my heart.

SIDNER: Deneen Barr says her father was a retired father captain who worked hard to help others, only to die alone at a hospital.

BARR: Even to start a fire lifeguard, and he couldn't breathe. It just -- it just hurts me to my heart, and I'll never see him here again.


SIDNER: I'm so sorry. Nursing homes across America are taking the brunt of the outbreak. This is just a small sample of states that publicly report coronavirus cases at nursing homes. For more than 10,000 in New Jersey to 1,700 in California. Now a federal agency that oversees nursing home says, they must report their coronavirus deaths and infections directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What's causing the problem inside of nursing homes when it comes to COVID-19?

MICHAEL DARK, STAFF ATTORNEY, CALIFORNIA ADVOCATES FOR NURSING HOME REFORM: It's really two things, Sara, under-staffing and infection control. And the two things go hand-in-hand.

SIDNER: In New Jersey, at Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center, police discovered 17 bodies piled in its morgue. Thirty six people have died from coronavirus there. In Richmond, Virginia, 45 residents dead from COVID-19 at this facility. In Massachusetts, Holyoke Soldier's Home, coronavirus killed 47 veterans including Patricia Cowden's husband of 38 years. She says she believes the administrator there may not have initially taken the virus seriously enough.

PATRICIA COWDEN, HUSBAND DIED FROM COVID-19: And you know, he's a military person, the commander-in-chief for saying it was nothing, you know.

SIDNER: The very first major outbreak in all of America happened at a nursing home just outside Seattle, 129 people linked to the facility infected with COVID-19, 35 people died.

IZABELA IVANOVA, LIFE CARE CENTER OF KIRKLAND NURSE: So, all of a sudden, there were so many patients, everybody needed medications, everybody needed treatment.

SIDNER: Their facility was fined in part for not doing proper infection control. But watchdog group say, that is one of the most common citations from many facilities, life care centers disputes the finding.

TIM KILLIAN, LIFE CARE CENTERS OF AMERICA MEDIA LIASON: What went wrong, an unprecedented viral outbreak which we did not know enough about entered our country. And because we have a vulnerable population, it entered our population. That's what went wrong.

SIDNER: He stands by the frontline workers, saying, they were the first in America to heroically battle a new and invisible enemy. Representatives of many nursing homes warned the government's failure to provide enough testing and the scarcity of personal protection equipment can be a lethal combination.

(on camera): What is the nursing staff having to do -- I mean, can't they even self-distance from the patients? Don't they have to clean them and lift them and help them rehabilitate?


DARK: That's exactly right, sir, that is the problem. Many of these patients have to be fed. So nurses are touching and handling patients all the time, they can't avoid it. They have literally no way of protecting themselves.


SIDNER: And now, there are new fears because of new policy in New York and New Jersey where health departments have a new rule. Nursing homes cannot deny admission to patients discharge from the hospital who have tested positive for coronavirus, and for those that have experienced what happens in nursing homes with this most vulnerable population that terrifies them, so does this.

There have been death threats at nursing homes, a life care center --

BERMAN: Right --

SIDNER: Has told us that they have received several -- in several of their nursing homes across the country. John?

BERMAN: That's horrible. Think of what that must do to these people already under so much pressure. Sara Sidner, thank you --

SIDNER: Yes --

BERMAN: So much for this report. So, we have new developments across the country, CNN with reporters covering it all for you.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Rosa Flores in Miami. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there are currently 87 cruise ships with about 72,000 crew members and 13 passengers. In Miami's U.S. Coast Guard 7th District of area of responsibility which includes the Caribbean and the Bahamas. The 13 passengers are awaiting final coordination and clearings for repatriation.

In the past week, the U.S. Coast Guard says it has facilitated eight medical evacuations of crew, two of them were COVID-19-related.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Athena Jones in New York. New Jersey reported 379 people died of coronavirus on Monday, its highest single day death toll. New Jersey has more than 92,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, and more than 4,700 people have died. The health commissioner says the state is seeing more cases in central New Jersey.

Previously, the majority of cases were located in northern New Jersey. Thirty four health care providers from Colorado arrived on Tuesday and will be deployed at hospitals across the state to help fight COVID-19, according to Governor Phil Murphy.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Erica Hill in New York where Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that some upstate hospitals can now resume elective surgeries. They had been artificially stopped, in the governor's words, he was concerned about capacity across the state in dealing with the virus. But he said, what they're seeing in some of those hospitals, they've actually had to lay people off because they haven't needed that space for coronavirus patients and because of elective surgeries had stopped.

The governor on Tuesday also noting that in New York State, they will look at any reopening plan as a regional plan.


CAMEROTA: All right, thanks to our reporters around the country. We want to take some time now to remember some of the lives lost to coronavirus. John Redd was an emergency medical dispatcher with the FDNY. He was a 26-year veteran --


Excuse me, who gave life-saving instructions to 9/11 callers. Redd also took part in the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center after 9/11. He was 63 years old. He is survived by his wife, Donna.

Anthony Brooks was a council man in the city of Live Oak, Texas. He was also a U.S. Army veteran and just 42 years old. His husband, Phillip was a local business owner. They died just two days apart after contracting coronavirus in March. Phillips' mother who lived with the couple also tested positive for coronavirus. And Darlene Mae Andes was a public health coordinator for Mercer County, New Jersey.

Governor Phil Murphy noted that she helped craft the health education materials and tools that the county is currently using in its response to coronavirus. Friends and colleagues remember Darlene's patience, kindness and her love of family and her faith. She was just 54 years old. We'll be right back.



BERMAN: This morning as several states start to reopen some businesses, there are growing concerns over the health and safety of the people going back to work. Are employers ready to have them back without widespread testing? Joining me now is Seth Harris; he was the former acting Labor Secretary under President Obama. Mr. Secretary, it's always great to have you with us. You say there's been too much focus on the when to reopen, and not on the how? Explain.

SETH HARRIS, FORMER ACTING LABOR SECRETARY, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Well, we hear the president of the United States talking about a rush to open and, you know, supporting protesters who want everything in our economy open right now. But there are very complicated details of how individual employers open up their work places. We're not getting a lot of guidance on that, either from the White House or from the federal Labor Department.

This is a difficult task, and employers are subject to a legal obligation to make their workplace as safe and healthy as possible. But it's different in every workplace. And so, they need a lot of help, and I don't think they're getting it.

BERMAN: Georgia is way out in front on this with Governor Brian Kemp allowing nail salons, barbershops, tattoo parlors, massage parlors to reopen Friday. They have some safety guidelines that they have put out. Let me put those up on the screen. Touch free temperature checks for employees, limiting those inside, additional spacing, sick employees should stay home. What more do you think they need?

HARRIS: Well, I think Governor Kemp is listening -- reading Donald Trump's tweets rather than reading the plan that came out of the White House. The White House plan said that in order to get to phase one opening, you have to see 14 days of decline in the number of cases in your state. That's not what's happening in Georgia right now.

They also talk about maintaining social distancing during that time, and yet Governor Kemp is opening up massage parlors and nail salons, I'm not sure how you sustain social distancing in those contexts. So, I don't think that what Governor Kemp is doing and what some of the other governors who are opening up parts of their economy are doing is safe.


Employers are not obligated to open. They should only reopen their workplaces if they know that they have everything they need to keep the place safe. Do they have the kind of social distancing that you were talking about? Are they able to keep sick and infected workers out of the workplace, are they able to create barriers where there is a -- where you can't have social distancing? Do workers have the personal protective equipment that they need?

Employers need to make that decision for themselves, they shouldn't necessarily follow the lead of politicians.

BERMAN: You said something really interesting. Employers are not legally required to reopen. It begs the question, what do employees -- what are the requirements of employees? And the president was asked a version of this, the issue of liability yesterday during the briefing by our Kaitlan Collins. Let's listen to this.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: These companies that open and they have employees come back to work and they get sick, will these companies be liable?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll give you a legal answer to that when we look it up. But we had tried to take liability away from these companies, we just don't want that because we want the companies to open and to open strong. But I'll get you a legal opinion on that.


BERMAN: Let me ask your opinion, Mr. Secretary, what are the rights of someone who works at a company that reopens? If you don't want to go back to work?

HARRIS: Right, well, employees are going to be in a difficult position because your unemployment insurance is no longer available to you if your employer calls you back to work. But workers do have the right to work in a safe and healthy workplace under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act in some states under their state Occupational Safety and Health Act, they're also protected from getting sick in the workplace by workers' compensational loss.

And for those workers who are not employees, who are contractors, they have a right to sue in tort, a negligence claim against their employer. So, employers -- the answer to Kaitlan's question which was a fantastic question is yes, employers are potentially subject to liability. And the federal government has not waved liability. So employers should not rely on that fudge that the president gave at the podium. There is potential legal liability. Now, it might be hard to make out a case --

BERMAN: Yes --

HARRIS: But I think most employers in America try to do what's right under the law, and that means keeping workers safe.

BERMAN: How do you make a case though, if the president of the United States is suggesting that states should reopen, yet, the governor of the state suggesting that it's OK for companies to reopen. How do you make that case in court?

HARRIS: Well, the argument has to be that there are certain guidelines from the CDC, from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and from the White House itself that the employer is not following. So, if you're standing shoulder-to-shoulder with your co-workers and your co-workers are sick, and they are coughing, and you are subjected to that, then there's potentially a case that there's a violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and workers have the right to complain to federal OSHA or their state OSHA, and it is illegal for their employer to retaliate against them.

Workers should use that right to make sure that they are being kept safe by their employers.

BERMAN: I've got to say --


This raises some really interesting questions that I think we're all going to have to face in the coming months. Seth Harris, always great to have you with us, thank you so much for trying to understand this.

HARRIS: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Really stunning new details about the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, and new information overnight that shifts the entire timeline. NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The virus will return this Winter, and it might be even worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm also worried about a second wave to come sooner about those states who are relaxing some of these stay-at-home regulations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

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

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


CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. The death toll rises every morning. We are now at 45,000 people killed by coronavirus in the United States. We also have significant new reporting that shows that the virus was spreading in America weeks earlier than previously thought.

California officials now say that autopsies reveal that two residents who died in early and mid-February actually died from coronavirus. They are now the earliest known casualties of this pandemic here in the U.S. There is also a dire warning from the director of the CDC, that a second wave of the virus.