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Georgia to Reopen Businesses Evan as U.S. Infections Rise; Head of U.S. Vaccine Agency Demoted from Position; Reopening Raises Questions About Testing, Distancing; Human Trials of Possible Vaccine Starting at Oxford; Return to Wuhan and Investigating Source of Virus; U.S. Jobless Claims Expected to Rise Another 4.1 million; U.S. Oil Prices Rise After Trump's Threat to Iran. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 23, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, U.S. President Donald Trump says he strongly disagrees with the Georgia governor's plan to start reopening the state's economy, but Brian Kemp is going ahead anyway.

We will find out in a few hours how many more Americans are filing unemployment claims as the pandemic rips through the U.S. economy. A live report on what the numbers mean.

Plus --


CAROLYN GOODMAN, LAS VEGAS MAYOR: That's up to them to figure out. I don't own the casino.


CHURCH: The mayor of Las Vegas put safety measures in the hands of business owners as she pushes to reopen casinos and hotels. We will talk to the head of a union who has lost 11 members to COVID-19 in Las Vegas alone.

Well, the United States now accounts for almost one third of the world's 2.6 million cases of coronavirus, as tens of thousands of new infections are confirmed almost daily. Yet even as the number of cases and deaths keep rising, the Republican governor of the U.S. state of Georgia plans to begin reopening some businesses on Friday. But the U.S. President says it's too soon.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told the Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities which are in violation of the phase 1 guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia.


CHURCH: The medical community is focused on developing an effective treatment or vaccine as quickly as possible, yet the U.S. official responsible for providing a viable vaccine was pushed suddenly out of his job on Tuesday. Dr. Rick Bryce says he ran afoul of administration's desire to push unapproved drugs, a direction he was not willing to take.

He said -- and I'm quoting here -- I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science -- not politics or cronyism -- has to lead the way.

President Trump claims, he never heard of the doctor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to ask you about Rick Bryce. He's the head of the federal agency in charge of getting a vaccine out to Americans once it's ready. He says he has been pushed out of his job because he raised some questions of hydroxychloroquine and some of your directions on that. Was he pushed out of that job?

TRUMP: I never heard of him. You just mentioned the name. I never heard of him. When did this happen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This happened today.

TRUMP: I never heard of him. If the guy was pushed out of a job, maybe he was, maybe he wasn't. I do have to hear the other side. I don't know who he is.


CHURCH: Well, the President also is trying to tamp down predictions of a possible resurgence of infections in the fall, a view at odds with his own medical advisors.


TRUMP: It might not come back at all. It may not come back at all. He's talking about a worst-case scenario where you have a big flu and you have some corona. And if it does come back -- it's not going to come back. And I've spoken to ten different people.

Not going to be like it was. But it's all possible. It's also possible it doesn't come back at all.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We will have coronavirus in the fall. I am convinced of that because of the degree of transmissibility that it has, the global nature. What happens with that will depend on how we're able to contain it when it occurs.


CHURCH: Joining me now is Michael Head. He is a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton. Thanks so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So Dr. Birx says states can decide for themselves, but even President Trump said Wednesday he strongly disagrees with the Georgia governor who's set to open up close contact businesses on Friday. Mr. Trump saying it's too soon for hair and nail salons and gyms to open up. But that is a lot of mixed messages, isn't it? It hasn't changed the fact that some of those workers will return to their jobs on Friday. What's your reaction to a state opening up these sorts of businesses before infections are declining?


HEAD: Yes, I think the mixed messaging is extremely unhelpful. I don't think there is any real good evidence for Georgia to be opening up its businesses at this point in time as cases are increasing at the rate they are, so I think they would be best advised him follow the public health messaging that has come out to say that lockdowns remain in place a little while longer yet.

CHURCH: Now if we had extensive COVID-19 testing across the country, those that were sick could be isolated while the healthy could go back to work. The same goes with antibody testing. Those immune workers could return to their jobs. Testing is key here, isn't it? And yet we're not seeing anywhere near the necessary level of testing in either the United States or the United Kingdom. Why?

HEAD: Yes, there is too little testing going on. But I think it's in part because there are too few tests available. There are certainly supply issues here in the U.K. and perhaps also in the United States as well. They're very few countries that are doing is many tests as they would like. Countries like Germany who's obviously done fairly well. But if the U.K. and U.S. have a shortage of test kits, they're not able to scale up the capacity for testing at this point in time to levels that we'd like to see. But certainly testing is crucial.

CHURCH: But why is that? I mean, what's right at the core of this?

HEAD: Well, certainly here in the U.K. the core has being the supply chain issues. Getting enough reagents and materials to be able to process the tests. We are scaling up capacity and there has been this target of reaching 100,000 tests per day on the end of the month. Although that target is looking a little optimistic. So certainly here in the U.K. and perhaps probably in the U.S. as well, that's a key issue.

CHURCH: Well, I just want to listen to what the W.H.O. chief has said about the virus. So let's just bring that sound up. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Make no mistake, we have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time. One of the greatest dangers we face now is complacency.


CHURCH: All right. So we mustn't be complacent. Then we hear President Trump suggest on Wednesday that the virus may not even come back in the fall, but his medical expert Dr. Fauci contradicted him, reminding everyone that the virus will return along with the flu. So with that in mind, what is the smartest way to open up an economy while living with this infectious virus that won't go away until we get a vaccine?

HEAD: You know, I think we need to listen to the public health experts I think in each country and in the U.S. in each state. We probably will see some phased openings of businesses as we go through. And certainly increasing the level of testing so that we know how many cases we're dealing with and effective the community is, it's going to be key going forward. Until we get to that end point where we have a vaccine that can be distributed widely.

CHURCH: And just very quickly, how far away do you think we are from getting that vaccine? Is it going to be accelerated? Are we going to see those trials accelerated a little bit more now?

HEAD: Well, I think the trials will be accelerated as much as they can, certainly faster than any previous vaccine has been tested. So the University of Oxford have been optimistic that they will have a vaccine ready in about six months. I don't quite share that optimism. I think probably more likely to be 12 months or so. But we certainly are at least a few months away from having a vaccine available that can then be scaled up and widely distributed.

CHURCH: All right. We should watch that very closely, of course. Michael Head talking with us there. Appreciate it.

HEAD: Thank you.

CHURCH: And as we just heard, researchers in Oxford, England, will begin testing a vaccine on humans today, in fact. It's based on a weakened version of the common cold virus found in chimpanzees. The British Health Secretary says the government will throw everything into the hunt for a vaccine.

So let's turn to CNN's Nic Robertson. He joins us live from London. Good to see you, Nic. And of course everyone around the world wants this vaccine. How much hope might this bring them?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, Oxford University and Professor Sarah Gilbert who's heading the study have some experience with this vaccine already because they have used it in a trial for the MERS coronavirus a few years ago. So they have knowledge of what they're handling. Obviously, everything is being accelerated to the best that the

researchers can do and that the government willing to provide and allow for. Because, you know normally, it takes vaccines many, many years to be going to trial and then be prepared and then meet clinical approval. So all of that is being fast tracked.

So what they're setting out to do in the first phase here that we understand, is it could involve several hundred people. And that's to make sure that this drug is safe in people.


Now having tested this to agree previously, they should have some knowledge of that. What Oxford University is saying is that by fall if those initial tests go well, then they should be able to scale up the vaccine to a more wider population. But, again, it will still be in the testing and research phase when they do scale it up. So it's two steps. So safety and then more of a fully-fledged clinical trial. That's what's expected at the moment -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: I think I speak for all of us when I say the sooner the better. Nic Robertson, many thanks to you, joining us live from London. Appreciate it.

Well, now to the original epicenter of COVID-19. CNN's David Culver reported from Wuhan, China just before the lockdown took effect there. He is now back looking into the source of the virus. Was it a wet market as the Chinese insist or a laboratory? He takes us to both locations.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You can just look at the street behind me in Wuhan, China, and you can tell that traffic is coming back onto the roadways. The life is starting to resume albeit amidst a cautious optimism. A lot of folks here are hesitant that this virus is gone for good. In fact, many of them believe there could be a second wave.

(voice-over): CNN back at the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Wuhan, China, and it's more than 11 million residents navigating this post lockdown uncertainty -- among them American Christopher him Suzanne.

CHRISTOPHER SUZANNE, AMERICAN IN CITIZEN LIVING IN WUHAN: him Yes, let's switch out masks and see it's your preference here.

CULVER: He suggested we upgrade our protective before going for stroll. It's a city he knows well.

SUZANNE: So this place is -- you know, I was married here, I had a baby here, and I've been here for the past ten years.

Culver (on camera): This is home.

SUZANNE: Yes, this is home. CULVER (voice-over): Christopher's home is slowly emerging from a

brutal 76-day lockdown. He returned to Wuhan during in the midst of it.

SUZANNE: I'm real happy to see like people agrees to, you know, keeping their distance, getting around, going about their day.

CULVER: But just two weeks after the reopening, and some here are closing the gap on social distancing. Many stores and restaurants keeping people from going inside but that's not stopping crowds like this one from standing shoulder to shoulder waiting outside for their orders.

In places like our hotel there are noticeably stricter measures. Staff spraying us down each time we walk in and checking our temperatures. Inside, even the elevators telling you, where to stand and offering you a tissue to touch the buttons. But will it last?

SUZANNE: Like we are afraid that there is going to be the second wave. I think everybody here knows.

CULVER (on camera): You think it's coming?

SUZANNE: Absolutely.

CULVER (voice-over): Yet there is growing skepticism over where the first wave actually originated.

(on camera): So this is where Chinese health officials believe the source of the novel coronavirus is. This is the Huanan Seafood Market. Of course they believe other things may have been sold here, hence, the transmission from animals to humans of this virus. But you can see it's all closed off still. This has now been since January 1 that they shut it down.

However, I want to take you now to the lab where U.S. intelligence is looking into the possible origins of this virus having come from there.

(voice-over): We drove to the lab inside China's Center for Disease Control just down the street from the market.

(on camera): This is one of the labs within Wuhan. Not too far from the market either.

(voice-over): It's an origin theory Chinese officials quickly dismissed. They also pushed back at claims that their reported number of claims and deaths is far less than reality even as numbers have been revised upward to account for previous undercounts. Just last week another 50 percent was added to the Wuhan death toll alone.

SUZANNE: Whether or not they want to share that information with the public doesn't really concern me. I'm really more concerned about my family and what we can do.

CULVER: And others like this convenience shop owner, more worried about resurrecting their businesses.

I'm a bit worried. I don't know when we will resume completely.

As China claims to get the virus under better control, in places like Wuhan there's greater concern of those coming in elsewhere, from our arrival into the city to this interview out in the street, we were questioned repeatedly.

(on camera): I'm from the U.S. but I live in Beijing.

(voice-over): A group of plain clothed and uniformed police growing increasingly uneasy with our being there. A reflection of both their fear of imported cases and a mounting distrust of foreign media.

Suzanne: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) walk in the park. We'll go.

CULVER (on camera): It is interesting to note that as you walk around Wuhan, you begin to assess different levels of complacency. You have some folks who seem to be very comfortable just wearing a mask, which is still part of the law. It is mandatory.


And will often go into crowds and be shoulder to shoulder with others. And then you have those who are still wearing protective gear from head to toe. They are not in the medical profession. They simply do not trust that this virus is gone for good. And hence, they want to protect themselves in as many ways as possible. And that means sometimes wearing as much protective garb as possible. And for them it's about protecting not only themselves, but also those they could come into contact with.

David Culver, CNN, Wuhan, China.


CHURCH: And still to come, 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment over the past month. Now a new report will reveal how much worse it's going to get. We'll be back with that.


CHURCH: The university that provides CNN with a lot of data about the coronavirus pandemic is warning it will have to bring in a combination of salary and staff cuts and freezes. Johns Hopkins says it expects to lose $100 million for the 2020 fiscal year due to the pandemic, and it could lose as much as 375 million next year.


The university's President blames a loss of tuition fees, a loss of revenue from its clinics and decreasing donations. And Johns Hopkins is one of many employers under financial pressure.

In just a few hours though we're about to find out how many people filed new unemployment claims across the United States in the past week. And CNN's Christine Romans joins us now live from New York. Good to see you.


CHURCH: So everyone is feeling financial pressure right now, but no one more than those losing their jobs and filing for unemployment. How bad is this looking?

ROMANS: These Thursday mornings have become -- in the U.S. have become a grim mile marker of where we are on the road here to this pandemic to finding a solution to this pandemic. We're expecting maybe another 4 million jobless claims filed in the most recent week. I mean, that number alone is astonishing, and in normal times would be just simply unheard of. Even in crises before a number like that is unheard of. But put it altogether, that's over 5 week. If it is really 4.2 million, that's 26 million -- more than 26 million people either furloughed or laid off over the past five weeks.

So that shows you what it looks like when you slam the brakes on a big chunk of the American economy. Those numbers, each one of those numbers on your screen is a person who has bills to pay and a person who is now concerned about where the money will come from going forward.

So those numbers I think are really important to put into context. Even heading into today. Not including the most recent week of layoffs and furloughs. You're talking about more than 13 percent of the labor market has lost its job in just the past four weeks alone. So really, really important to put those numbers in perspective that those are each person who is struggling to apply for unemployment benefits, to get the extra unemployment benefits that the stimulus, the emergency bailouts are allocating. And they want some clarity about when they're going to get back to work.

CHURCH: Yes, and most of those people they need food to put on their family's tables and they're lining up to get that. It is just horrifying. Isn't it? And there have been lots of problems associated with the small business program. What is the latest on those funds?

ROMANS: So we know that there's another $310 billion that's going to be put into that piggy bank at the SBA, the Small Business Administration. And we also know that there are no strings attached to prevent those big publicly traded companies from trying to tap that money. It's going to come down to I think public shaming. You know, Shake Shack took the money and then gave it back. And was you know admired. I think for giving it back. That was a move of corporate leadership.

These other big companies who have other ways to tap the public markets for money should not be trying to raid the piggy bank that's supposed to be going to small business. One provision in there that I think is important, $60 billion is going to be steered directly to smaller community lenders, credit unions and the hope there is that they already have business ties with small businesses who don't bank with the big, big banks and they'll be able to quickly get money to small main street businesses that way. But look, it cannot come soon enough. That money has got to start

flowing. And that's really why there was one of the problems getting that money out the door. Senator Marco Rubio has said, you know, they wanted expediency. They didn't want a lot of restrictions. They wanted to get the money out the door. And by doing that, of course, some of the big guys could jump in there and get the money, too.

CHURCH: Yes, and some of those bigger businesses need to return that money before some sort of action is taken. We weren't told what sort of action but it doesn't sound good, right? Christine Romans, many thanks.

Well, the pandemic also is taking a huge financial toll on American hotels. According to the analytics company STR, hotels reported last week that more than 3/4 of their rooms were empty. Well, that's down more than 64 percent from the same time last year. It's slightly higher than what we've seen in recent weeks, but that's likely because the rooms are mostly being used by workers responding to the pandemic.

The U.S. President has tweeted a new threat to Iran saying he has ordered the Navy to shoot down any Iranian gun boats that harass U.S. ships. The threat came after Tehran announced it launched its first military satellite into orbit and the U.S. Navy says Iranian boats pestered U.S. ships in the North Arabian Sea. The U.S. says the satellite launch uses the same technology needed to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile. Iran says it will not hesitate to defend its territory.

Well, U.S. oil prices jumped after the President Trump's threat. John Defterios is live now in Abu Dhabi. He joins us now. So, John, talk to us about the impact this back and forth, this increased tension between the United States and Iran is having on oil.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: I think we could frame it as a combination of gunboat and Twitter diplomacy, Rosemary.


And it's bringing the Middle East region back to the fore in terms of security and of course, impacts the oil markets. To remind our viewers, 1/5 of the global supplies come here from very near here in Abu Dhabi in the Strait of Hormuz. And that's why we see the price going up despite the glut in global markets.

So let's look at the influence. We're seeing gains of 5 to 7 percent. In the last two hours of trade it was 10 to 12 percent. But this price of 14 for the U.S. benchmark and around 21 for Brent is a far cry of where we were in the last 48 hours of $10 to $15 a barrel. And this is, again, despite the fact that we've had a rise in inventory in the United States in a report from the U.S. government yesterday. Which means they could run out of storage by the period of late June, which is going to strain the system overall. Because there's no place to put this extra production.

In the context of the Iranian situation, Rosemary, remember back in January with the killing of Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian general, this led prices up because of the tensions, to $68 a barrel. And we saw a shift in power within the Parliament as well, the modulus of Iran. With the hard liners taking control. So the response that we saw from the spokesman of Iran at the United Nations mission there was pretty bellicose as well. Saying we won't be intimidated by the United States. I wouldn't say this is a huge rise. The demand drop because of the coronavirus is prevailing, but you do see the spike up because it could wreak havoc on the region going forward.

All right, we'll keep a close eye on all of this. John Defterios joining us live from Abu Dhabi. Many thanks as always.


CHURCH: We'll take a short break here. Still to come, the mayor of Las Vegas rolls the dice. Ahead, her push to reopen her city's hotels and casinos as soon as possible. Why she's doubling down now in the midst of a pandemic.