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New Modeling Finds Spread Much Wider By March 1 Than Known; Trump Backtracks, Now Disagrees With Georgia Governor's Reopening; House Voting On $484 Billion Relief Package Today. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 23, 2020 - 13:00   ET

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


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[13:00:00]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for joining me. This is CNN's special coverage of the global coronavirus pandemic.

At this hour there are more than 843,000 infections and nearly 47,000 deaths. Now, we are learning another stunning number. New York's governor just revealed that a random sample showed nearly 14 percent of New Yorkers tested positive of antibodies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We did 3,000 surveys in about 19 counties, 40 localities across the state. The surveys were collected in grocery stores, box stores, et cetera.

These were people who were not at work and they're probably not essential workers, okay? So that has to be calibrated.

But what we found so far is the statewide number is 13.9 percent tested positive having the antibodies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: As we get a hint of just how widespread the virus could be, some states will begin to reopening tomorrow in defiance of White House guidelines. By this time tomorrow, places like tattoo parlors, nail salons and gyms in Georgia will be allowed to accept customers, as ordered by Governor Brian Kemp.

Kemp is now the victim of the major reversal by the president, and just days ago, praised the governor's reopening plan when the national health experts blasted it's dangerously premature. A source now says top health officials on the White House task force sent in response coordinator Deborah Birx to convince the president to oppose Governor Kemp's reopening. She succeeded. We'll have more on that in a moment.

But while the nation tries to get it right on how to move forward, there is a new modeling first reported in The New York Times, which indicates how much we may have gotten wrong in the beginning of the pandemic. Researchers at Northeastern University now believe that on March 1st, when there were 23 confirmed cases in five major cities in the United States, the true number was 28,000.

Joining me now is the lead researcher on the new modeling out of Northeastern University, Professor Alessandro Vespignani. He's the Director of the school's -- excuse me, sorry about that -- of the school's Network Science Institute.

Professor, I'm sorry, first of all, how do you say your last name?

ALESSANDRO VESPIGNANI, DIRECTOR, NETWORK SCIENCE INSTITUTE AT NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: Vespignani. Good afternoon.

COOPER: I apologize. Thank you very much.

28,000 cases verses 23 cases, that is really stunning. Before I ask you about that, I just want to get your take on the new finding from New York that just under 14 percent of tested positive for antibodies, what does that say to you?

VESPIGNANI: Well, it says that the epidemic has affected a large number of people in the hot spot of the country. I think similar numbers probably will appear in other places. And this is also where it's found across Europe, in Italy and Germany, where similar surveys have shown 50 percent of infected people.

COOPER: So, explain your team's research and that you believe that the state and coronavirus in the U.S. by March 1st, what was it?

VESPIGNANI: Well, we have a model that tracks people, individuals, we integrate data from air transportation and other traveling patterns. And so we can follow their travel trajectory of the epidemic from China and other countries, even the United States, when those cases arrived in the United States, and how they started chain of transmission of COVID-19 within the county.

And most of those chains of transmission were undetected. So that was February, so, flu season. People doesn't have severe symptoms. Many people do not have severe symptoms and the disease spread under the radar.

COOPER: And in terms of where it came from, is it clear where those early cases, where that infection came from? I mean, was it from China, was it from Europe?

VESPIGNANI: Well, actually, there is some of those chains that started probably from China. They're at least -- at the time, that probably was really early on than we thought, even mid-January or early January.

And then also we started to get infected people from Europe at a moment, in which also in Europe, the pandemic was, I would say, much undetected through that continent.

COOPER: so at a time when nobody really thought it was here, by the time the first case popped up, how many other cases were there already?

[13:05:00]

VESPIGNANI: You know it changes by dates and changed by place in the United States. The most internationally connected places are the ones that started the epidemic first. And so we are talking about New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle. Those places we are talking about thousands of infections by early March and February.

That means that we had transmission events (ph) and we had the people infected much earlier in February. And that is confirmed also by, for instance, yesterday, to that where it traced back to COVID-19 in February, in mid-February. So you see this is the picture that is emerging.

COOPER: It's fascinating, studies, and it's fascinating, the researches that you were able to do. Alessandro Vespignani, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

We're also learning new details today about the first person believed to have died from coronavirus here in the U.S., 57 years old. Her name was Patricia Dowd. She lived in the bay area of California. Her family said she exercised regularly, she watched her diet, took no medications. And when she died in February 6, her family thought it was a heart attack.

Dan Simon is in San Francisco following this story. So what did you learn of this case?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Hi, Anderson. You are right. When Patricia Dowd died, her family was baffled. They just assumed that she had a heart attack because she was seemingly healthy, did not have any underlying conditions.

But from what we understand, she did have some flu-like conditions in late January and then seemed to recover. In fact, she was actually going back to work at least at a home basis. She was working, she was taking phone calls the morning she died. She was actually found by her daughter. She collapsed in her kitchen.

But what this really illustrates is that there are people out there who may have died and their families may have thought they died of a heart attack or some other reason but, in fact, it was coronavirus.

Now, her brother told CNN that she was a frequent world traveler but he wasn't exactly sure where she went in the days and weeks leading up to her death. But according to Santa Clara County authorities, they believe that she got it from a community spread.

But the bottom line here is, according to officials here, at least locally, this is really the tip of the iceberg and it makes them wonder how many others infections may have gone undetected around that time, Anderson.

COOPER: It's really extraordinary. Dan Simon, I appreciate.

I want to talk now to Dr. Peter Hotez. He's the Professor and Dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Hotez, we only learned about Patricia Dowd's case because the medical examiner's office sent a tissue sample to the CDC. Moments ago, New York's governor said the state would not be doing any retrospective study to try figure out when the first cases may have happened there. New Jersey isn't either. Would that information be helpful in any way?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes, I think it would, Anderson. Actually, I'm really glad Dr. Vespignani did that study, because from my point of view, it connects a few dots.

So let's think of it this way. New York implemented its social distancing order. I think it was on March 22nd. And yet they all had a pretty awful epidemic that's still under way. The models coming out of Harvard looking at China say that level of epidemic probably means that transmission, significant levels of transmission might have been going on for six weeks before social distancing was implemented. So if you backtrack March 22nd, six weeks, that puts you roughly at the beginning of February, maybe just a few days after the first case occurred in Italy.

And to me, that actually would make some sense. So I think actually having some autopsy information from a public health point of view would certainly be valuable. Remember, the first known case in New York, I think, was recorded on March 1st. And this says to me probably the epidemic may have been going out a month earlier. It would be great if you were to someone like (INAUDIBLE) or Chris Murray to kind of validate that since I'm not really a modeler.

But my (INAUDIBLE) calculation would now put this maybe in the beginning of February when the epidemic started in New York.

COOPER: And the study now out of New York showing that nearly 14 percent of the people in the state and at least in this study already have antibodies to coronavirus. Is that a high number to you? Is that a low number to you? Does it sound surprising?

HOTEZ: The New York State number means less to me than the fact that it's not 14 percent across the state. It's about 20, 21 percent in New York City and then much less in the rest of the state. So that means one in five New Yorkers may be infected if the study is validated by larger sampling.

And it probably means that a large percentage of those who were probably became infected before March 22nd when the order was implemented to do social distancing.

[13:10:00]

So, again, that tends to reinforce the fact that his epidemic had been going on for weeks. And remember how it works. It's not like the epidemic starts in a very linear fashion. There's a lag that kind of plateaus for a while and then it goes up exponentially.

And so a lot of these pieces, I think, starting to come together about this horrible, horrible tragedy that happened in New York, a city I love and did my medical degree and my PhD there. So it's really heartbreaking.

COOPER: So do you think we'd see a similar number in cities nationwide?

HOTEZ: Well, it's possible. We've heard about California. I think this epidemic was probably well underway in February, just like it was underway in Europe in January. But it's also an important lesson learned when we begin to start relaxing social distancing, how easy it is to become caught off guard, how easy it is to miss the return of this epidemic if we now start loosening social distancing and how if we don't have that testing in place.

Look how easy it is to miss. We missed it potentially in New York, maybe a month later than it actually started. And the same thing could happen again if we don't want to start seeing, repeating what's happening in Jackson Heights, Queens, and cities across America starting this summer or fall. That would have catastrophic consequences.

COOPER: In L.A. County this week is going to provide coronavirus testing to every essential worker even if they show no symptoms. Does that -- I mean, does that need to be done nationwide when we talk about those are just essential workers certainly when we start to get people back to work? Is that going to be sort of what needs to get done every day?

HOTEZ: Well, here is, again, where we need really granular on-the- ground advice from the CDC about how to do this. Let's take my City of Houston, for instance, where we're looking at relaxing potentially social distancing. Who is going to be doing the testing in the workplace? Who are all the workers that are going to be hired to do the contact tracing? Who is doing the background syndromic surveillance? This is a big deal. This is a big undertaking. And do we have the staffing? Do we have all of the advice that we need from the CDC to get this done?

I am not convinced we're there yet for Houston, and that's the fourth largest city. And I think, if anything, we're ahead of the game in Houston compared to anywhere else. So this is what's got to go on the ground now as governors are under enormous pressure to responding to the economic consequences of this social distancing as they start relaxing it.

I understand we can't go all the way to the middle of June as the Chris Murray model's, Institute for Health Metrics model's say. But if you're going to open it up sooner, then at least have all the pieces in place ready to go so we do not detect a massive epidemic like what happened in New York. We have to take lessons learned.

COOPER: Yes. Dr. Peter Hotez, I appreciate it. Thank you.

Coming up, after initially praising his reopening, the president, towards the governor of Georgia, a curve (ph), saying he doesn't think things should open up on Friday. New details on what's happening behind the scenes.

Plus, a stunning new report on coronavirus patients that shows nearly everyone who needed a ventilator in the nation's largest health system ultimately died.

And doctors now telling CNN that they're seeing some strokes in young adults who have the virus. Stay with us.

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[13:15:00]

COOPER: President Trump now says he disagrees with Georgie Governor Brian Kemp's plan to reopen his state, but CNN has learned the president had to be convinced to come out against Kemp's decision, convinced by the White House coronavirus task force.

Among those raising a red flag, the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, CNN has learned that Fauci told his colleagues bluntly, I cannot defend this publicly. But as of now, Georgia and several states are on track to reopen over the next few days.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House. So, how exactly did this conversation with the president unfold? Do we know? And who delivered the message to him about Kemp?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, you saw this week where we saw this aggressive timeline that Georgia was pursuing. The president had not come out and said anything. He said he was going to have a call with the Georgia of governor. And during that call, the president spoke with him. The vice president also later spoke with the Georgia governor.

And then we were told that, by sources, are telling my colleagues, Dana Bash and Jim Acosta, that then members of the coronavirus task force basically had to go to the president and urged him to publicly oppose this because it was just so against the guidelines that the White House had put, which, of course, were just guidelines but it did not match them all and Georgia was not meeting the criteria that the White House had suggested for phase 1 and for phase 2, which was more aggressive reopening of the economy.

And so what's really also interesting about this is there are sources telling Jim and Dana that Dr. Birx played a role in this. But when she was asked publicly at the briefing on Tuesday, she talked about how she didn't want to judge certain governors and the decisions they were making based on the data they have and, potentially, people could get creative if hair salons and tattoo parlors were reopening.

And that is not what you saw yesterday when the president and Dr. Fauci spoke. Dr. Fauci very emphatic that he did not think Governor Kemp was making the right decision here. And the, of course, the president now saying he also disagrees with this aggressive timeline as well. And the question really is whether or not that's going to affect what the State of Georgia is going to do. COOPER: And, Kaitlan, the Trump administration, they're being accused of retaliation after the head of agency developing a coronavirus vaccine was pushed out of the job. What's the latest on that?

COLLINS: Yes. This is Dr. Rick Bright, who put out this statement that really shocked a lot of his colleagues yesterday. Because, initially, they were going to move him to another position but he was not going to be powerful in this very powerful position he had leading this agency, BARDA.

And now, he's put out that statement saying it was retaliation because he wasn't pushing drugs that the president wanted to be pushed enough to be more widely available because he said he wanted more scientific vetting of these procedures.

[13:20:04]

Now, the White House has not pushed back specifically on the allegations in this letter from Dr. Rick Bright. The president himself has said he does not know who this person is, who this official is. It's a very little known agency, though it still is someone who is leading a government agency.

And I should also note that an HHS spokesperson reached out to us last night. They said that, actually, it was Dr. Bright who reached out for that authorization of hydroxychloroquine, of course, the drug the president repeatedly touted here at the White House. And he was the one who wanted to get it approved and put in the national stockpile.

COOPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, we'll see. Thanks very much. I appreciate it.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are working on a massive new system for contact tracing. We'll have details on that ahead.

Plus, we're live on Capitol Hill, as the House begins a couple of crucial votes today on the coronavirus response, including $484 billion in a second round of emergency relief. You are watching our special coverage. We'll be right back.

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COOPER: Another 4.4 million Americans filed for a first time unemployment benefits in the week ending April 18th. That brings the total since mid-March to more than 26 million people without a job. Today, the House is expected to pass a second round of funding to help small businesses and hospitals, that means roughly $400 billion in relief. But, first, they're voting to create a committee to oversee all of the spending.

Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. So what do we know about the first vote happening at this hour?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this committee then will be established by a party line vote, who will broad authority to investigate all aspects of a U.S. response of the coronavirus crisis, including potentially looking into deliberations that occurred within the White House and the executive branch over all of this.

Now, I talked to the chair of this committee, Jim Clyburn, just moments ago and asked him if they were looking at the president's actions from February, which he's been criticized for acting too slightly. He said he didn't want to get ahead of the committee or he didn't want to say if they were looking for the removal of this doctor who raised concerns about the potential vaccine the president had been touting.

Now, the Republicans believe this committee is essentially something designed to hurt the president. Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, as for her part, says it's designed to look into how all this money is being spent, trillions of dollars that's going to be -- that had been greenlighted to deal with this crisis, including this $484 billion package that will be approved later this afternoon.

And all today, you will see something different on the House floor in just a matter of moment. They will vote. Members will be wearing masks. They will be spread out. Only roughly about 60 members at a time will be allowed on the floor to ensure that they maintain social distancing. And rather than about a 15-minute, which it would normally take, this is will spread out (ph) over two hours. So members here adjusting themselves to the realities of this virus. They're coming back just for this vote. They will leave afterwards, first, approving this committee, which could uncover new details about the U.S. response to this crisis, Anderson.

COOPER: Manu Raju, Manu, thanks very much.

Tomorrow a number of businesses in Georgia, from bowling alleys to hair or nail salons can once again be opened to customers, even though the state hasn't met the criteria for reopening that's outlined by the coronavirus task force, by the president.

But my next guest says his business will not be one of those opening at this time. Diamond Dallas Page is a former pro-wrestler, he's not the owner of DDP Yoga in the Atlanta suburb of Smyrna. Thanks so much for being with us. I really appreciate.

You voted for Governor Kemp. You supported him. You are not going to be opening your gym tomorrow. Can you just talk us about the thought process you went through to decide?

DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE, OWNER, DDP YOGA INC.: Well, I'm very fortunate that my DDPY program isn't solely based on walk-on (ph) traffic. Of course, the DDPY (ph) performance center in Smyrna, that is and that will be closed. But my DDP Yoga company, which is app, DVDs, if anything, that's booming right now. So I'm in a much better position than a lot of people who are in a spot that got gyms, whether it's L.A. Fitness or whatever.

And for me, I'm going to err on the side of caution because, first of all, I'm 64 years old. So I definitely don't want to be out there working with people and putting my hands on people or anything. So I am going to apply by what I've been doing since this, first of all, hit the fan.

COOPER: Yes. What did you think -- I mean, as a business owner, and that's great that a lot of business you're doing is in an app and online and I can imagine that's doing well because people wanted -- I would like to find something to do it from home as well. In terms of the --

PAGE: I've got this covered, baby.

COOPER: Okay, all right. I'll check it out. But in terms of the brick and mortar business, when do you think or how will you decide when is the time?

PAGE: Well, you know, like I said I did vote for Kemp and he is a good man. And I know he's just trying to get people back to work. And when he said Georgia, Georgia is a really rural state. There isn't a lot of people. There's probably very few people in, say, Dallas, Georgia or where ever that have maybe one or two cases.

[13:30:06]

Atlanta is a much different avenue --