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As Unemployment Continues to Rise, States Look to Reopen; Interview with Union President D. Taylor; Former HHS Official Claims Wrongful Termination. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 23, 2020 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00]

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): -- but what we found so far is the statewide number is 13.9 percent tested positive for having the antibodies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Plus, we're learning the virus was spreading in the United States far sooner than first known. New modeling from Northeastern University finds that on March 1st, when there were 23 confirmed cases in five major cities, the true number was 28,000.

All of this, coming out as some states will begin reopening tomorrow in -- well, in defiance of White House guidelines. In Georgia, places like tattoo parlors, nail salons and gyms will be allowed to accept customers.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in Atlanta. So, Martin, small business owners there, they've got to be, you know, torn up about opening, especially after seeing the new jobless claims.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are. I mean, there's no question, there's still a tremendous amount of controversy over this. There's a lot of questions. In fact, no one really knows what exactly is going to happen tomorrow, other than it is going to happen, according to the governor.

And it's clear that despite the medical pushback, there's also a lot of economic pressure at play, as today's unemployment numbers clearly show.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE (voice-over): The staggering numbers jumped again today, revealing the wider pain of a pandemic. Another 4.4 million people filed for unemployment, bringing the five-week total to greater than 26 million.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sitting here without a paycheck, with no definitive answer on when I will be returning to work.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): It's roughly 16 percent of the entire workforce.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've gone through all of our savings. You know, we really had to dig in.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): The economic turmoil is pressuring a number of states to begin easing quarantine measures, allowing nonessential businesses to reopen.

Georgia's plan has been one of the largest, but other states are quickly following including South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): You're going to be able to go to to a hair salon, you're going to be able to go to any type of retail establishment you want to go to."

SAVIDGE (voice-over): But as states rush to reopen, medical experts warn they're making a deadly mistake.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Of course, there is a danger of a rebound. And I know there's the desire to move ahead quickly, that's a natural -- human nature -- desire. But going ahead and leap-frogging into phases where you should not be? I would advise him (ph), as a health official and as a physician, not to do that.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): The openings also carry political risks. After the president, the vice president reportedly praised Georgia Governor Brian Kemp for his aggressive reopening plan, Trump publicly rebuked the Georgia governor, Wednesday, in a dramatic flip.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's just too soon. I think it's too soon.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): In a tweet, Georgia's governor praised the president, but implied nothing had changed. "I appreciate his bold leadership and insight during these difficult times."

TEXT: Governor Brian P. Kemp: Earlier today, I discussed Georgia's plan to reopen shuttered businesses for limited operations with @POTUS. I appreciate his bold leadership and insight during these difficult times and the framework provided by the White House to safely move states forward. (1/3) #gapol

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Even as states open, coronavirus continues to spread into the heartland of America, triggering new outbreaks and public fear. These latest hotspots, blooming in Midwestern communities, often home to meatpacking plants and manufacturing facilities.

And a new modeling study reveals a hidden explosion of coronavirus was rapidly spreading through U.S. cities long before many Americans and government leaders understood what was happening. According to researchers at Northeastern University, reported by "The New York Times," outbreaks were blooming in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle long before testing revealed any serious problems. COLLEEN KRAFT, ASSOCIATE CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, EMORY UNIVERSITY

HOSPITAL: We have a lot of community transmission that was really unknown. And our efforts in the beginning to sort of contain and mitigate, you know, were -- it was definitely, you know, out of the bag at that point.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: The researchers behind that model are saying that it's a clear and relevant warning to the governors today, as they consider reopening, saying that it shows how even if they relax just a bit, the social distancing plans, this coronavirus could come roaring back. Despite that, the governor of Georgia is going to go forward, even though he's been asked by the medical community and even the president of the United States, not to -- Anderson.

COOPER: Martin Savidge. Martin, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

As scientists track how the coronavirus spread, there's new reporting out today challenging some early assumptions. Researchers at Northeastern University shared their modeling with "The New York Times," and it shows that coronavirus was spreading largely unknown through several U.S. cities far earlier than originally thought.

On March 1st, the CDC reported 23 confirmed cases of the virus. Compare that with the modeling, which suggests there was actually 28,000 infections in the United States at that point. Joining me now is Dr. Carlos Del Rio, executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System.

We're going to return to modeling in a moment. But first, I just want to get your thoughts on the preliminary results of a study New York's governor announced. Andrew Cuomo said that it -- from a sampling of 3,000 randomly selected New Yorkers, nearly 14 percent tested positive. What does that number indicate to you?

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CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, Anderson, we've -- New York has suffered a very, very significant epidemic. The number of cases there has been -- it's almost a third of the entire United States, so it's not surprising that you've got almost 14 percent of the population infected, that's a lot of people.

But on the other hand, when we think about creating herd immunity -- so how much immunity do we need to protect the population -- we still have a ways to go. You would need almost 50 or 60 percent of the population infected before you can actually have the kind of immunity you would need from a vaccine.

So we have a long way to go. And even 14 percent of the population infected, look, the staggering, you know, burden that this has caused on health care and hospitals in New York City.

COOPER: Yes. How important is antibody testing in understanding how the virus has spread? I mean, especially for people who are asymptomatic.

DEL RIO: I think it's critically important from a public health standpoint to really understand the extent of the epidemic, and to understand how much spread there is in a community.

I think it's going to be important, as we bring people back to work, to know what percentage have been infected and what do we know about them, and who has been infected and who hasn't. This is going to be particularly important for vulnerable populations. And I think in the long run, it may help determine who's actually immune and who's not immune.

COOPER: Back to the model suggesting the virus was more prevalent than earlier known, what does it tell you about our understanding of the virus? And does it -- I mean, does it -- is it just an interesting fact? Or does it matter for future, you know, preparation of a rebound of the virus?

DEL RIO: I think it's both of the above. I think, you know, for those of us that have been doing -- I've been doing HIV/AIDS for many, many years. And you know, we know that even though the first cases of HIV were discovered in this country in the early '80s, the virus in fact had been circulating here since the '70s. So, you know, viruses, not uncommonly, will circulate without you noticing them until there's mortality in (ph) the (ph) disease. And that's what happened with this virus.

So this virus came in. And it's not surprising because from the time that we think this emerged in China, somewhere in mid-November, to the time that it was detected, it was notified and we heard about it in mid-January and then flights from China into the U.S. were stopped, it's calculated that over 1,300 flights came from China to the U.S., many of them from Wuhan, directly into New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles. So there had to be people here who already were infected, who were transmitting the virus.

And we know that a lot of transmission occurs from asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic individuals, so this is not surprising. I suspect that by the time we closed flights and we did many of the things we did, the horse was out of the barn.

COOPER: It's so fascinating to me that researchers are able to kind of model back to see, you know, how early a virus was. I was reading about HIV that they've actually now figured out that it actually was probably -- jumped over into humans from animals, probably in, like, around 1920 or before.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: The idea that it was around for, you know, the entire -- for most of the 19th -- the 20th century, that's extraordinary.

DEL RIO: Yes. I think you can do that nowadays, and you can do it through genetic analysis, you can construct genetic trees that allow you to trace back the virus to its origin. But I think the speed of this virus is driven by two things. Number one, globalization: we travel, we were able to go everywhere and be almost everywhere very quickly --

COOPER: Yes.

DEL RIO: -- but number two, this is a virus that transmits so quickly. I mean, the time between disease and manifestation is only five days, its incubation period is so short and the reproductive numbers is in the order of about three. So for every infected individual, you have three people subsequently infected. What that means, Anderson, is that if one person is infected, at the end of the 30 days, you have over 400 people infected as a result of that one individual.

COOPER: Wow. That's incredible.

DEL RIO: That is a tremendous number.

COOPER: That's -- I mean, that's extraordinary, when you put it like that.

New York officials told CNN that the state is not currently conducting any studies examining whether there were coronavirus cases prior to the first reported case on March 1st. Other states like Indiana are -- they've discovered earlier cases. I mean, will we ever truly know the scope of infections and deaths in the U.S.?

DEL RIO: I think we will, once we have -- you know, we need to take a brief little bit of time, and be able to do those kinds of studies. Most of us are working really, really hard, just barely to stay ahead of where we are right now.

But I think, you know, in California, there's a recent study, for example, from Northern California, showing deaths that occurred, I think, in early February and mid-February that were way before the first death actually reported in the U.S.

So I think as we go back in serum samples and as we go back, we will be able to reconstruct exactly the entry point, exactly when it happened. And I think the lessons there are, is that when something occurs anywhere in the world, we need to be concerned.

COOPER: Yes.

DEL RIO: I think many people said, Oh, this is in China, we don't need to worry about it, it's going to be contained. And the reality is, a disease like this anywhere in the world should be of concern to everybody in the world.

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COOPER: Yes. We are all connected, whether one wants to acknowledge it or not. Dr. Carlos Del Rio, I appreciate it. Thank you.

DEL RIO: Good talking to you, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, soon, the House is set to vote on another emergency aid package for small businesses. We'll take you live to Capitol Hill for that.

Plus, as worried governors and mayors plan to reopen their states and cities as early as tomorrow, the head of a culinary workers' union in Las Vegas reacts to calls to reopen restaurants and other facilities there.

And Tyson Foods, closing down production at another plant after a surge in cases. Now some workers are accusing the company of putting profits over their health.

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COOPER: Outrage and condemnation, that was the reaction from a Democratic congressman who represents part of Las Vegas, after the city's mayor said this during my interview with her around this time yesterday.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You don't believe there should be any social distancing, you don't believe that this is a --

MAYOR CAROLYN GOODMAN (I-LAS VEGAS, NV): Of course I believe there should be, of course. I'm a rational --

COOPER: But how do you do that in a casino?

GOODMAN: That's up to them to figure out.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Hasn't it been because of social distancing --

GOODMAN: -- our restaurants --

COOPER: -- that the numbers have been what they are?

GOODMAN: How do you know until we have a control group? We offered to be a control group.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: With me now is D. Taylor, international president of the -- I'm sorry, the -- which -- what is the --

D. TAYLOR, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, UNITE HERE: Unite Here --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: -- of Unite -- I'm sorry, Unite Here. Sorry, I misread something. I welcome --

TAYLOR: That's all right.

COOPER: -- thanks so much for being with us.

I'm wondering, the congressman we talked about, Steven Horsford, went on to tell CNN, quote, "My community is not going to be used as an experiment." Your union has lost 11 members to COVID-19.

When the mayor of Las Vegas, who doesn't have authority over, you know, opening on the strip, I'm just wondering what went through your mind when you heard her talking about, you know, wanting the city to open now and let businesses figure out, you know, who gets infected and who doesn't, and then the marketplace will determine whether those businesses stay open?

TAYLOR: One, we've had a lot more than 11 people die in our union throughout the United States. This issue's not just a Las Vegas issue. But here in Vegas, we've had 11 die as of yesterday, many more hospitalized.

We're not going to be like rats in a laboratory, you know? We're human beings, we're mothers, we're fathers, we're parents, we're cousins. The idea that we would be an experiment, like a petri dish, is beyond disgusting. It's -- it's actually immoral. And I'm so glad the governor -- and frankly, the industry -- has ignored calls like what Mayor Goodman and other frankly politicians around the country are saying that, in my opinion, have no regard for workers.

COOPER: Yes. I talked to the governor last night, after re-airing that interview. And he was -- you know, he talked about your union and the losses and obviously shares your sense of being appalled.

Earlier this month, I know you said that 98 percent of your workers lost their jobs because of the virus. I mean, that is just a staggering number. Can you just walk us through the various industries that you represent and --

TAYLOR: Sure.

COOPER: -- and what's being done to help them? How are these -- how are people getting through?

TAYLOR: Well, we've lost about 98 percent of our members. So we have people in casinos around the country, in hotels, in industrial cafeterias and school cafeterias, in big stadiums, arenas. And if you think about that, almost all of them are closed. We also have some at airports, they're all closed.

So nobody wants to get back to work more than our members. At the same time, they want to come back to a safe environment where they don't have to choose between their lives or money.

Now, what are we doing to help them? One, obviously, we're trying to work through an unemployment system that, frankly, is disgusting in most states. Florida, number one case where at one point, five million people have applied for unemployment, only 40,000 have gotten unemployment, which is beyond belief. We're trying to deal with the food insecurity, so food banks. We have

a large one just right here in Las Vegas, where we distribute 1,500 food baskets a day, we did a big one yesterday in Atlantic City. We're doing that all over the country.

Three, health insurance. The thing that has been driving us crazy, under our union plans, most of all the folks all still have their health insurance. But in hotels (ph) that are not union and casinos, people have lost their health insurance and you have a Congress that has spent over $2.2 trillion on a health care crisis and done nothing to assure health care or give additional health care right when we need it.

And then, four, on shelter, we have been dealing with predatory landlords to try to -- who try to evict people to not have them evicted, because they obviously cannot pay rent. So we're trying to help on all that.

But finally, we want to be part of the solution. We think in order to reopen a place, we have to have certain things. I think we should have testing. And you know, even though the president says there's testing available, he's full of it. He has had derelict of duty. And frankly, I think Goodman falls into that category.

We want to have testing. We want to have PPE where it's needed. We want to make sure that there's hand sanitizers. We want to make sure the cleaning methods in our facilities reach CDC standards. We want to enforce social distancing.

That graph you showed yesterday, of the Chinese restaurant, I don't dismiss that at all. I think that's right on the money. Social distancing has worked. It has been shown in this state to work, and thank God the governor intervened early.

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COOPER: Yes. You know, it's stunning. We hear, obviously, a lot about, you know, doctors and nurses who don't have PPE, and I'm glad we hear that because, you know, they're frontline workers just like a lot of your workers are -- would be frontline workers if they were able to be working, because they would be the ones interacting with the public.

You know, I talk to so many people who -- you know, grocery store workers who are not even given hand sanitizer, which just blows my mind, that -- that a business would ask people to be on the frontline, to be a frontline worker and not be -- not provide, you know, hand sanitizer. It's just beyond me, it's extraordinary.

TAYLOR: Well, when I was going into the grocery store -- because obviously, you still have to grocery-shop -- I was appalled. First, they weren't given PPE at all, there was no plexiglass in front of the tellers, there were no gloves involved, there was no distinct six feet social distancing. I -- thank God the UFCW Union has intervened in those union grocery stores, but I feel for those folks who do not have that kind of protection because they're dying, too. I mean, our folks are dying and frankly, I think this idea that

frontline workers do not have PPE, all the security? I've always said, my mother used to say, it's not what people say, it's what they do. So when I hear companies or politicians say, oh, we have to protect our workers, and then do not provide that kind of gear, their words fall on, you know, deaf ears here.

COOPER: Yes. D. Taylor, I appreciate all you're doing and I wish you the best.

TAYLOR: Thank you so much. Take care.

COOPER: All right. Keep going.

A top U.S. vaccine expert says he was forced out of his job because he refused to back up President Trump's claims about hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus. Dr. Rick Bright worked at a division of Health and Human Services called the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, BARDA, was focused on developing a coronavirus vaccine for the government.

We're getting new details about the turmoil that was happening behind the scenes at HHS. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is following that for us. What have you learned, Jeremy?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Dr. Rick Bright has alleged that he was dismissed because he opposed widening the availability of this controversial hydroxychloroquine treatment. That's the treatment that President Trump, of course, has been pushing from the podium at the White House day after day, although not of late.

But Bright's decision to go public is now exposing months of turmoil inside this key division at the Department of Health and Human Services, which has been responsible in part for fighting this coronavirus pandemic.

And now we are also learning, Anderson, of allegations that are flying against Bright, and that is that we have five current and former administration officials who are now accusing Bright of everything from mismanaging his office to mistreating his staff. Several of those officials said that his dismissal was a long time coming.

But the response to those allegations, Anderson, frankly comes in the form of a performance review that we obtained, Bright's performance review from May of 2019.

While we had several administration officials tell us that Bright mistreated staff, that he would go into fits of anger at sometimes, berating staffers and slamming things on tables, his performance review, which was conducted by this superior, Dr. Robert Kadlec, who we are told has had disagreements with Bright over the course of time, there's nothing negative, Anderson, in that performance review. In fact, Kadlec says that Bright -- BARDA has been very successful under Bright's tenure. But, again, a more complex picture is emerging than what we initially

were hearing when Bright was making those allegations, which he did just yesterday.

Now, Bright is also saying that he plans to file a complaint with the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services, so this is certainly a story, Anderson, that is not ending here. It's going to continue to evolve, and sources have told us to expect for a protracted legal fight. Bright is still fighting to get his position back as head of that office.

But what we do know, Anderson, from internal e-mails that we obtained, is that the leaders at HHS at the -- in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, they have been trying to paper over this issue, telling staffers not to talk to the media, telling them initially that there was nothing to see here.

But obviously, Bright's allegations that came out yesterday have certainly changed the picture. And, again, this is a key division that is responsible for fighting this pandemic, and this is all shedding a really serious picture of turmoil in one of those key divisions.

COOPER: Jeremy, we're also getting some new insight into why President Trump reversed course, spoke out against the Georgia governor's decision to reopen some businesses starting tomorrow.

DIAMOND: That's right, Anderson. Our understanding is that the president of course, we know in the last week, has been talking about the need to reopen the country. The president even encouraging some of those protests that we've seen in Democratic-led states that have been trying to reopen those states' economies.

And so it was a surprise when, yesterday, we saw the president come out and actually be quite critical of the Georgia governor, Kemp, a Republican, his decision to begin to reopen a slew of businesses, including those that include a lot of close personal contacts between individuals.

Now, what we're learning, Anderson, is that behind that decision was the health experts. And that is that Dr. Anthony Fauci and several other experts during the task force meeting that preceded the briefing, they expressed concern about the fact that the president might go out there and support Kemp's decision publicly, that they were not prepared to do that.

And so they asked Dr. Deborah Birx -- she was on the task force, a key member, of course -- to speak with the president privately. She did so before that briefing, and apparently convinced the president to actually come out and make clear that he was not supportive of this decision by the Georgia governor.

Now, the White House press secretary has responded. And she said that no one changed President Trump's views -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy, thanks very much. Any moment, the House is going to vote on a second emergency relief

package to help small businesses after another 4.4 million Americans file for unemployment. We're live on Capitol Hill, next.

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