Return to Transcripts main page


Study Finds COVID-19 Outbreaks in NYC, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago Began Earlier Than Thought; Family of Woman Known As First COVID-19 Patient to Die Describes Her As Healthy and Active; How Will Coronavirus Impact Voting?; Biden Searches for a VP Pick Amid Coronavirus Chaos; Dozens of Food Processing Plants Report Outbreaks; Texas Governor Announces Businesses Will Open Soon. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired April 23, 2020 - 15:30   ET



BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via Cisco Webex) -- I've even talked to several people today who are now starting to ask those question themselves of what did I have. What sort of symptoms were those?

So of course, this something we'll probably likely learn, just more about in the very near future, and possibly when we actually get out of this crisis from these two major states -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And tell us about this massive effort to start contact tracing in the region.

GINGRAS: Yes. It is a massive effort. Right. We've heard the Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo say how it's an army that's going to be needed to form in order to do this contact tracing which isn't just contact tracing it's also and coinciding with the testing and then the isolation of people, their contacts, who do -- are confirmed with coronavirus.

Well, there is going to be this coalition formed with the help of Michael Bloomberg and Johns Hopkins University to work in the tri- state area, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut to do this and even recruit people to really form this army in order, again, another step to hopefully get this region back to work -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Brynn. Thank you. And we are learning the first person to have coronavirus in the United States appears to be healthy 57-year-old woman from the California Bay Area. Her family telling CNN that Patricia Dowd was active, she exercised regularly, she did not smoke. So, this only adds more questions about how she died so suddenly.

CNN's Dan Simon is live in San Francisco following this story. Tell us, Dan, what have you learned?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well hi, Brianna, the Bay Area we should point out was considered an early hot spot for the virus and it's not terribly surprising given the fact you have a lot of people going to China, a lot of people traveling from China to the Bay Area. So, you did see a spike here. That said, what we're learning now is that the virus appeared in Santa Clara County much earlier than people realized. It was actually here in late January.

So, what we know is that 57-year-old Patricia Dowd, she suddenly died on February 6th. And her family thought that she had a heart attack. But they were suspicious. And the coroner was suspicious as well. In fact, he took some tissue samples, sent them to the CDC, and they confirmed just yesterday that, in fact, she had the coronavirus. And when the family learned about this, of course, they were shocked because as you said this is somebody who is seemingly healthy, had no pre-existing symptoms, only 57 years old, and died of the coronavirus.

And the question now is how many other cases are like this? According to officials in Santa Clara County this really represents the tip of the iceberg that there are probably many more infections that just went undetected -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Dan, thank you so much. More than a dozen infections now linked back to the Wisconsin primary. What that could mean for the general election in November. We'll talk about that next.



KEILAR: It is really hard to forget these images. Wisconsin voters lining blocks, risking the chance of infection to cast their ballots in the Democratic primary and now the state health department says at least 19 people have tested positive for the coronavirus. This is 19 Wisconsinites who also said they voted in person or worked the polls on April 7th. We're joined by Presidential historian Doug Brinkley. Doug, thank you so much for joining us.


KEILAR: And I think voters must look back at Wisconsin. It was almost like we knew as we watched it, right, this is a disaster waiting to happen. And now people are wondering what if that happens in November, and how do I make this decision between casting my ballot and possibly endangering my health?

BRINKLEY: The truth is the American people shouldn't have to put -- make a decision to vote or my health. Wisconsin is a microcosm of what could happen writ large in the fall particularly if there's a second wave of the coronavirus, so we've got to start being innovative.

One thing at all costs we got to keep -- we have to vote November 3rd. I mean we did Presidential elections in the Civil War and World War II. So, we are going to vote. They shutdown many polling places. They only had five open and made people stand in long lines in Wisconsin for a while.

The smart states are Ohio who's doing it largely by mail in and Kansas by mail in. Oregon has a long history of doing mail-in voting. So, I think this fall we're going to have to do a lot more mail -- absentee voting by mail and then also maybe extend election day not one day but spread it out over three- or four-day period.

KEILAR: Yes, it's hard to see there'd be an agreement to do that, right. It's difficult for what it would take to achieve that change. You know, you look back in history, 1918, there was an election, but it was a mid-term election. People did go out and vote. There was a shift in power in Congress. But it wasn't a presidential election. I know you mentioned the Civil War, but when it comes to something like this, we're just being congregating is contagious. Is there anything to look back to and learn from?

BRINKLEY: Well, you know, in 1918, Woodrow Wilson didn't even mention the word Spanish flu or pandemic even though his own daughter caught the virus, his personal assistant did.


And he got ill himself when he went over to Paris because World War I was on and they didn't want to make a big deal about influenza, even though 650,000 Americans died between 1918 and 1920.

But, you know, if you look at the founding fathers and the war of 1812 and that we ran, you know, an election when, after Washington burned. And just look at Franklin Roosevelt in 1944 winning an unprecedented third term.

We don't talk about turning the faucet of voting off. Voting is the soul and the bloodstream of what it means to be a democracy. So, we're going to have to do November 3rd. We're just going to have to use this crisis as a way to innovate, to find ways that more people are going to be able to vote.

Why in the world would we ask people this November that are in nursing homes or that are senior citizens to go wait in five-hour lines in Wisconsin and Michigan when it might be snowing and cold. So, we're going to help some of these -- the people that are at high-risk vote by doing a lot of, I think of early balloting.

KEILAR: And 15 states at this point have pushed back their primaries until June or later. They are hoping for a lull so that it will be safer for people to vote. I hear a lot of people saying, what if the President tries to postpone the general election? What if it's potentially a political decision? What do you say to that?

BRINKLEY: Well, Congress has the power to decide, first off. Second, you know, Donald Trump cannot be an authoritarian.

Incidentally, talking about mail-in votes, President Trump mailed in a vote in Florida for an election recently and did it by mail. This idea that we can't do mail-ins. My fear is voter suppression. We didn't run a good election in 2016. We had Russian interference. The Electoral College got debated because Hillary Clinton won by 3 million votes more than Trump. It's in Donald Trump's best interest to be a two term President to make sure that the American people are really behind him. He's got a great chance of getting reelected.

So, for him to try to sabotage it and suppress voters, I'm worried about COVID-19 hot spots, places like Detroit and Milwaukee, you know, New York, Atlanta, New Orleans. People in those cities have to find ways to be able to vote if there's a second wave and I think early absentee balloting and opening up perhaps election day to being a few days is going to be the sanest way. There're going to be lawsuits. There're going to be Democrats and Republicans having to negotiate.

But we've to come up with a new set of rules. These are extraordinary weird times but one thing no matter what we all have to agree on is that we're going to be voting this November.

KEILAR: Extraordinary weird times indeed. Doug Brinkley, thank you so much for coming on. We appreciate it.

BRINKLEY: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Campaign rallies, meet and greets and selfie lines may be cancelled for now, but the presidential race is just about six months away and former Vice President Joe Biden is now searching for his own vice-presidential candidate.

As CNN's MJ Lee reports, some hopeful picks are making very public cases about why they're the best choice.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): He knows what it takes to be a good vice President.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): That is a decision that will be up to the Vice President.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): I'm honored to be included in a rare conversation.

STACEY ABRAMS (D), FORMER HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE, GEORGIA: All I can say is that if asked to serve I'd be honored.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Obviously, I would be honored if I were being considered.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's full steam ahead for the 2020 "Veep" stakes. Joe Biden searching for his future running mate in the middle of a global pandemic.

JOE BIDEN, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The only thing I know a little bit about is the Vice Presidency.

LEE: Traditional in person campaigning and retail politics all but coming to a halt and the former Vice President fighting for the presidency from his home in Delaware.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're in your basement, I'm in my garage. This was just never the circumstances with which it thought we'd ever meet.

BIDEN: No, mine either.

LEE: He's already made one significant promise about his upcoming decision.

BIDEN: I commit that I will, in fact, pick a woman to be Vice President. There are a number of women who are qualified to be president tomorrow.

LEE: But Biden unable to campaign alongside the women on his short list. As presumptive presidential candidates typically would during their selection process.

Instead, auditions to be Biden's right-hand woman largely unfolding across cable TV, life streams and podcasts. California Senator Kamala Harris co-hosting a virtual fundraiser for Biden.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar appearing as guests on Biden's new podcast.

WHITMER: No one anticipated that we would confront a crisis like this.

KLOBUCHAR: Empathy is something that we are missing right now in the White House.

LEE: Both women, side stepping the VP speculation.

WHITMER: I'll be very frank with you. The job that I want is the one that I have.

KLOBUCHAR: Right now, I am focused on my state. I'm just not going to engage in hypotheticals.


LEE: Former Georgia Gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams taking a notably different tack.

ABRAM: I believe I have the capacity, the competence, the skills and the willingness to serve.

I try to be straightforward. Because while we hope the work speaks for itself sometimes the work needs a hype-man.

LEE: And Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren offering a simple one-word answer.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: If he asked you to be his running mate would you say, yes?


LEE: Biden says he is heeding this piece of advice from his former boss, Barak Obama.

BIDEN: Pick someone who has some background or some competence that may not be your strong point. Make sure that you're able to make up for each other's weaknesses. LEE: Now, as for the timeline that Joe Biden has in mind for all of

this, he said this week that by the beginning of May he hopes to have a full vetting committee up and running. And by sometime in July he hopes to have narrowed down his list to just a few people. And of course, as you know, Brianna, the Democratic National Convention has now been pushed back from July to August, though at this point we really just have no idea what that convention is going to look like.


KEILAR: All right, MJ, thank you so much. Coming up one type of business is now emerging as a center of outbreaks. We'll explain what that means for you next.



KEILAR: Food plants are emerging as the new coronavirus hot spot. There are at least nine major plants that are shut down today. Dozens more still open and processing food despite having confirming cases even deaths. One beef plant in Texas today reporting that 114 confirmed cases is what they are facing there. And they still remain open.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is joining me now. Tell us, Dianne, why are plants with confirmed cases remaining opened?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, the short answer is, they don't have to close. Every plant that is closed so far in the country has done so voluntarily, Brianna.

But even the unions have said that there are cases where they can keep these plants open while adding mitigating measures, these plexiglass boards to try and increase social distancing, reducing the number of lines that they are running.

The problem seems to be pretty much across the country here, no matter if we are talking beef or pork or chicken. That they may have started adding these measures too late. And so, in some of the cases like what we saw in Smithfield, South Dakota, or what see in Washington state, right now, with one of the Tyson plants that just shut down. They may not have been able to get ahead of any of these outbreaks. These are difficult places to prevent the spread to begin with because of the nature of the work.

But some of the workers we spoke too in Waterloo, Iowa, said that they weren't getting the appropriate safety measures early enough when they first starting getting positive cases.

And so actually, I was just on a call with the UFCW union that said they're not advocating for all of these plants to shut down. But they do want to see an increase in cleaning measures. They want to see an increase in safety measures. And they want to make sure that they are getting that PPE, that is most important -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And how is this going to impact the food supply chain when we're talking about the meat industry?

GALLAGHER: OK, this is a loaded question with a really layered complicated answer. And the truth is, is that they all appear to still be trying to figure that out. There's going to be an impact to the food supply, no matter what.

You have you these massive plants that are going offline. We are looking at, at least 15 percent, right now, as I'm speaking to you. And the pork industry, that's offline right now.

But I was speaking to the meat institute this morning. And they said that he way you feel that as a consumer at the grocery store may differ. Part of it might just be the type of meat you want to buy might not be available. The U.S. does have two weeks of frozen food meat storage, Brianna. But two weeks some of these plants are offline for two weeks so?

KEILAR: Yes. There you go. It's a very good point. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it, Dianne.

Texas right now among the states that are joining President Trump's eagerness to reopen the country. Texas Governor Greg Abbott saying so many businesses will be opening soon, including hair salons and retail stores that will be able to open for curbside pickup and delivery.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining me now from Dallas. Did the Governor, Ed, give a timeline for his reopening?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this idea of retail to go officially starts tomorrow here in Texas. And then on Monday, the Governor says, he will announce more -- the next phase of opening up the Texas economy and he's already kind of alluded to that. He says it will be many more businesses that could involve hair salons and that type of thing.

The exact details of that haven't been released yet. But earlier this week, on Monday, state parks opened across Texas. And then, really tomorrow is the day that everyone is kind of looking ahead toward to begin to see how exactly all of this is going to play out.

And this idea of retail to go will essentially allow retail stores to take in orders from customers. They can come and pick up things curbside. You know, we're in a shopping center here in the heart of Dallas, and you would imagine that perhaps people would come here to these store fronts, pick up their goods that they want to buy, and then move along.

But there is much more to come and, of course, this is all kind of being done in a patchwork frame across the state, which has some city leaders concerned about if the question is here. Is everything opening too soon? Are they rushing to open things up? And that is the concern that many city leaders across this city also have.


KEILAR: Yes, understandably. All right, thank you so much, Ed, appreciate it.

One top disease expert says up to 800,000 people could die in the United States from coronavirus. We will talk to him next.