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Trump: "I'm Not Happy" with Georgia Reopening Plan; Trump Dangerously Suggests Injecting Disinfectant as Treatment; Trump Previously Insists Warmer Weather in April Will Kill Virus; Researchers in China Clone Antibodies from Recovered Patients; Dr. William Schaffner Discusses China Antibody Cloning & Trump Saying Doing Well on Testing. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 24, 2020 - 11:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Hanks' instructions simple, ask an adult how to use it and write me back.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: It's very special because I always feel like I'm famous. He says I'm a friend of him.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Oh. That's make my whole week seeing that. Corona said he plans to send Hanks a typed letter on his new typewriter, a friend of his, very soon.

Thank you so much for joining us this week. Have a good weekend. We'll see you Monday I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

"NEWSROOM" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King in Washington. This is CNN's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some global warning signs today as the United States begins its coronavirus reopening.

Germany, where the progress has been the watch word of late, says the rate of infection is climbing to dangerous levels that would overwhelm its hospitals.

Australia closes its beaches again after hundreds ignore social distancing rules.

Here in the United States, the state of Georgia right now is the new case study. Nail salons, massage therapists, bowling alleys and gym removing storefronts hanging on doors to read "open" as of this hour. But look at the map. Georgia just part of the reopening way. At least eight states are unwinding the coronavirus shutdown in

limited ways. In Texas retail to go is the new way to shop. In Illinois, greenhouses and pet groomers can again take customers.

The backdrop of today's action, nearly 870,000 confirmed cases, more than 50,000 Americans dead. T

he other relevant number, 26.5 million. That's the number of Americans who lost their jobs in what is now a coronavirus depression. The tug- of-war between economics and science is right now the defining American dynamic. The president again exacerbating these tensions, though it would be wrong to suggest his latest recommendation has anything to do with science.

The president asked aloud whether there might be a way to fight coronavirus by injecting or ingesting disinfectant. An idea so dangerous that the company making Lysol rushed out a statement making clear that its products are to clean surfaces, not people, and in no way should be consumed by humans.

We will circle back to the president's latest leadership detour in a moment.

First, though, the legitimate question being asked and tested around the world: Is coronavirus corralled enough to begin leaving the house and going back to work?

The president enthusiastically backed the Georgia plan but then withdrew that endorsement, which tells you he wants no part of the blame if things don't go well.

Just a short time ago, though, his vice president says in an interview airing this morning, the nationwide reopen date not that far off.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Do you think I'll be fishing in early June, Mr. Vice President?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think, honestly, if you look at the trends today, I think by Memorial Day weekend, we will largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From your lips to God's ears.

PENCE: State and local officials will begin to reopen activities. You're going to see states in the days ahead here begin to do that.

But the key for President Trump, for all of us, is we want to do it in a safe and responsible way. We don't want a resurgence. And we think the key to that is a phased approach the president outlined to the nation and to the governors last week. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In Georgia, the Republican governor's challenge is that the criticism is now not just from Democrats.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said, you're not under guidelines but I'm letting you make your own decision, but I want people to be safe.

I could have stopped him, but I decided, and we all agreed, they have to watch it closely.

But if you ask me, am I happy about it? I'm not happy about it and I'm not happy about Brian Kemp.


KING: Just within the last few minutes, President Trump doubling down on that criticism of Governor Kemp, tweeting he never gave him the OK of reopening businesses such as salons, tattoo parlors and spas.

The governor insists the plan is safe as long businesses follow the rules: screening workers for fever and respiratory illness, enhanced sanitation, maintaining social distancing by keeping people six feet apart, and limiting capacity, and implementing staggered shifts and teleworking when possible.

CNN's Martin Savidge is outside a business in Atlanta that is reopening today.

Martin, the president just moments ago going after the governor again. What are you hearing on the ground?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's kind of a mixed result, John. There are some businesses that clearly have decide to open, such as in the shopping center behind me.

There are actually a number of businesses that could under the governor's guidelines. But only one hair salons are opening today. Other businesses in the area say it's just too soon. They worry about the safety of their customers and for their employees.

Others have difficulty finding personal protection equipment that are mandated by the state's requirements for reopening.

Then there's also the pushback. The mayor of Atlanta has been extremely critical and continues to be so. Here's what she's saying.



MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D-GA): Very simply, stay home. Nothing has changed. People are still getting infected. People are still dying. We don't have a cure to this virus. The only thing that's helped us is that we have stayed apart from one another. And I'm simply asking people to continue to do that.


SAVIDGE: We were at a barber shop that opened up this morning. The door opened at 7:00. The line was starting at 6:30 in the morning. There was social distancing that was taking place, but the barber was not following the protocols.

For instance, he does wear a mask. He's not wearing any gloves. We didn't see any temperature taking happening. And we also didn't hear him asking the medical questions he's supposed to ask of his customers.

So, clearly, even though some businesses are opening, they're not necessarily following those strict guidelines, which, of course, the governor says they should. And that has always been the fear for both civic leaders and for the medical community -- John?

KING: It's early moments of an interesting experiment. We'll keep tracking.

Martin Savidge, I appreciate your reporting on the ground.

As this plays out, let's discuss this challenging moment with three Georgia business owners.

Greg Smith is owner of She's Fit in Martinez, Georgia. Mario Zelaya is the CEO of Bad Axe Throwing. Lester Crowe is the owner of the Three-13 Salon in Marietta, Georgia.

Lester, let me start with you.

I'm sure employees want to get back to work, and I'm sure they're concerned about the safety of themselves and customers. Walk us through this moment, whether you this today is the right day or should Georgia have waited another week or so?

LESTER CROWE, OWNER, THREE-13 SALON: When we got the news, we got all of our 85 employees in our 150-space parking lot and we had a meeting. We asked our employees if they wanted to come back to work this weekend. Half said yes, half said next week.

So we opened with about half our employees, and next week we'll be back to normal hours, Monday through Saturday, 8:00 to 9:00 and Sunday 12:00 to 7:00.

KING: And you have no hesitation?

CROWE: I definitely have hesitation. I'm anxious, I'm scared, I'm excited all at once. I'm just trying to rely on the advice of our local government.

I saw on the news this morning channel 2 saying we had less than 50 new coronaviruses on April 22nd, which was Wednesday. It looks like it's going down to me. I'm not sure.

KING: Let's hope it goes down.

Craig, I see one woman working out behind you. Every business has its own unique set of circumstances to space people out, to wipe down equipment.

Take us to this moment for you. How important is it for you to reopen and what are your clients saying when they ask, should I come work out, will I be safe? How are you handling this?

GREG SMITH, OWNER, SHE'S FIT: It's very important for us to reopen. I've been mitigating health concerns for over ten years, not just with coronavirus. But a lot of our participants who come to work out with us, they're worried about heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and they're ready to get back and get started again.

KING: Ready to get started again.

Have you had any clients say not yet, I want to wait?

SMITH: Yes, we've had a few clients who have expressed, and we certainly respect that.

But we are spacing -- we're going overboard. We're spacing our equipment 10 feet apart. We're checking temperatures as our clients come in the door. We just purchased an air filtration system that's going to be cleaning the air. So we believe that what we're offering today in getting our clients started back is going to be safe as possible.

We're following the guidelines of all of the health professionals, Dr. Fauci and everyone I hear on the news. So we want to offer a safe experience and believe that we're going to be able to do that and continue to help our clients work on all of their health and fitness goals here at She's Fit in Augusta.

KING: Mario, come into the conversation here.

In the sense that you go to these ax-throwing events, you're going with your friends, you're often going to air out after work, you had a frustrating day. I'm sure there's stress relief people like by going to do something they find enjoyable like that.

But how do you spread people out? How do you handle the fact that one person is part of ax throwing, and how do you clean it before the next person gets their hands on it?

MARIO ZELAYA, CEO, BAD AXE THROWING: That's a great question. So we have a large facility. I think it's close to 11,000 square feet so we have significantly reduced the occupancy load to do the calculations if we're able to comfortably put people within six feet.

We're looking at household groups, groups that come in together, husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend that live together. We're going to put them together. We're also using every other lane. This is similar to the approach

bowling alleys would take. In order to comply with six-foot social distancing requirements, we're going to be spacing out individuals accordingly in the lanes. So we're going to be using every other target instead of every single target within the facility.


On top of that, we're also wiping down axes after every single use. We are wiping down all the equipment. Anything that is a touchable surface, we're making sure it's being wiped down at least every hour if not after every group event.

So we're doing the minimum of and we're staying on top of all the cleanliness as well as binding by any state level regulations, including taking temperatures, reducing occupant loads.

We have enhanced sanitation that we're complying with, social distancing. Our coaches will not approach customers, they will be within six feet away from them.

Also any sort of payment processing system, we're implementing a touchless methodology for it. If there does need to be contact on any sort of POS system, that POS system will be wiped down as well.

KING: It sounds like you're taking a lot of precautions there.

We'll watch as this plays out. People around the world are watching as Georgia is one of the first states to try and do this.

Mario, does it matter to you? Does it make it more complicated that your governor has a plan? Most of the mayors have said, whoa, whoa, we're not ready for this, slow down. The president at first said, go ahead, governor, and then pulled back and now they're worried about businesses like yours, a salon.

Has the political debate and confusion contributed -- do you have any issues with that or is it just put on blinders and try to do the best you can?

ZELAYA: I think what the public really needs to realize is no one wants to open up. As business owners, we are all worried, we're scared, we're anxious. It's not something we're proud of doing. We are kind of waging our own war against survival.

What most people don't realize is when business owners, especially small business owners, when they sign a lease agreement and they move into a facility, they're putting their personal assets on the line. So they may have high rents for three or four years.

And typical lease agreements have clauses that say, if you default on a lease payment and you miss a lease payment, then you can escalate the rent for the remainder of the term.

John, I'm just going to give you quick numbers. Let's assume for a second I'm paying $5,000 per month. Clean, easy number. So every year I'm paying $60,000 a year.

I have 10 years left on a are 15-year lease. I would effectively owe them $600,000 just like that because I missed one lease payment. Not only do we not have the funds, but they put their personal assets on the line.

I think what's most difficult is the PPP program was very valuable and helpful to a degree. Unfortunately, the implementation completely fell apart. There are so many business owners that have not received the PPP program. They have to apply for a second round.

And you have people like JPMorgan and Chase saying, go to another bank, we can't fulfill it. So if one bank is telling you to go to another bank because they don't think they'll make it, too, and you have places like Bank of America essentially telling you the same thing, the need for small businesses is in the trillions, not in the hundreds of billions.

I think, politically, this whole thing -- I think everyone is trying to do well. I just don't think there's enough funds out there to keep everyone afloat and keep everyone whole.

KING: We're in the early stages of it.

Greg, Mario, Lester, appreciate your joining us. I know this adds more cleaning to your places of business. I wish you all the best. I know it adds to some of your costs, your clients, the cleaning and like that. Let's hope health and safety is paramount. And we'll keep in touch as we go forward. I wish you all the best.


KING: Thank you.

Listening to the president of the United States can be dangerous to your health. He will dispute that statement and launch into one of his attacks on the media. But to borrow a phrase, we report, you decide.

At yesterday's White House briefing, the president was very happy with the Department of Homeland Security official who said research shows the coronavirus breaks down in sunlight and heat. The government official also discussed the effectiveness of disinfectants when wiping surfaces.

That got the president thinking -- if that's the right word. He had some new advice to doctors. Watch closely as he made the case to White House Deborah Birx on the White House Task Force.


TRUMP: Supposing we hit the body with tremendous -- whether it's ultraviolet or just a powerful light.

I think you said you're going to test it. And I think you said you can bring the light inside the body, whether you can do it through the skin or some other way. I think you said you're going to test that, too. Sounds quite interesting.



TRUMP: Then I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside, or almost a cleaning?

Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.

I would like you to speak to the medical doctors to see if there's any way that you can apply light and heat to a cure. You know, if you could. Maybe you can, maybe you can't. Again, I say maybe you can, maybe you can't.

I'm not a doctor.


TRUMP: I'm a person that has a good you-know-what.


TRUMP: Deborah, have you ever heard of that, the heat and the light relative to certain viruses, yes, but relative to this virus?

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Not as a treatment. Certainly, fever is a good thing when you have a fever. It helps your body respond. But not -- I've not seen heat or --


TRUMP: I think it's a great thing to look at, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sir, you're the president, and people tuning in to these briefings, they want to get information and guidance and want to know what to do. They're not looking for rumor.

TRUMP: Dan, Dan, I'm the president and you're fake news.

You know what I'll say to you? I'll say it very nicely. I know you well. I know you well because I know the guy, I see what he writes, he's a total faker.

So are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready?

It's just a suggestion from a brilliant lab by a very, very smart, perhaps brilliant, man. He's talking about sun. He's talking about heat. And you see the numbers. That's it. That's all I have.

I'm just here to present talent. I'm here to present ideas. Because we want ideas to get rid of this thing. If heat is good, and if sunlight is good, that's a great thing as far as I'm concerned.


KING: John Harwood covering the White House for us today.

John, I'll defend the "Washington Post" correspondent. He's a very good reporter. And the president goes on attack. That's what the president does when someone tries to hold him accountable.

Are they trying to hold this one back at all today?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not really. You know, you could be generous to the president, John, and say was irresponsible when he was up there touting Hydroxychloroquine before there was evidence it was going to be effective, and now we see evidence suggesting maybe it was dangerous.

This idea was so obviously nutty that the Lysol, the maker of one of the disinfectant products we were talking about, said the idea of ingesting disinfectant was something consumers absolutely should not do.

The fact that the president should offer this idea, this nutty idea, seemingly unaware of how nutty, it was puts into question an issue that we've danced around in the media for the last few years, which is, is the president all there? Is he connected with reality?

One of his former national security aids, Brett McGurk, tweeted this morning, "You cannot escape the crazy in this White House."

Think about that. It's a dangerous think to contemplate since President Trump is the leader of our fight against coronavirus.

KING: Yes, Brett McGurk, a diplomat, worked in several administrations, "You can't escape the crazy in this White House."

Again, the president likes to attack us. Look at his own words and words of the people who work closely with him.

There was a change this morning. They tried to walk back a correction on the press briefing transcript put out by the White House. Walk us through that and why it matters.

HARWOOD: I think this was Deborah Birx trying to protect her reputation.

The initial transcript that came out of the White House reflecting that back and forth when the president leaned over to the side and addressed her had her saying that is a treatment. Instead, it was corrected this morning to say, not as a treatment. Kind of the opposite statement from Deborah Birx.

She's tried to be very diplomatic throughout this process and not contradict the president as much as possible. But this is one where she could not let stand the idea that she was countenancing this suggestion which, again, was so obviously a crazy idea.

KING: Pictures do speak a thousand words. It's a cliche but also true. Now they've collected the transcript to make sure she her reputation is protected. Just her face and her body language when the president was talking about sunlight and injecting --

HARWOOD: That's right.

KING: -- the possibility of injecting or ingesting disinfectant. You don't need proof to see how uncomfortable that made her feel.

John Harwood, thank you very much.

A very important footnote here, the president's belief that warmth and sunlight would somehow help in the coronavirus fight is not new.


TRUMP: A lot of people think that it goes away in April when -- as heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April.

During the month of April, the heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus.

It looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.


You now, in April, supposedly it dies in hotter weather and that's a beautiful day to look forward to.

(voice-over): Based on all signs, that the problem goes away in April.

(on camera): There's a theory that, in April, when it gets warm, historically, that it's been able to kill the virus.


KING: Those statements made in February, all citing April that the heat would, in theory, work its magic.

You see the horrific coronavirus death toll right there on your screen. On March 31st, that number was 4,000. At least 36,000 has been added to the death toll in the United States this month. April. We still have six more days to go.

Up next, major medical developments just ahead.



KING: Real science takes time, which is one of the big frustrations of the coronavirus fight. The World Health Organization says it could be weeks, maybe months, though, before we know which drugs really help in the fight against COVID-19.

This, as researchers in China say they have successfully cloned antibodies from recovered coronavirus patients for the very first time. It's one piece of very early research and a potential first step in developing new treatments.

CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins me now with more.

Elizabeth, this antibody research, is it interesting or could it be a game changer?

DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's definitely interesting, John, and if it works it could be a game changer.

Let's look at what it does. We've heard about convalescent plasma. John, let's say you recovered from coronavirus. You have antibodies because you fought it off. Take your antibodies -- let's say I'm currently suffering -- give them to me so your antibodies could help fight off the virus. That's the theory.

Cloning the antibodies helps because, John, you only have so much blood to give. You're not scalable. If you clone it, those antibodies are scalable and could help people suffering from coronavirus. That's the theory of it.

Here's why I'm saying theory. It might not work. And also cloned antibodies can cause problems. We need to see, does it hurt, does it help. That's why we have science. As you said, it takes a while.

KING: How long in this case? They have this first wave. Now what?

COHEN: Right, so now it's many months. Now they need to do clinical trials to see what it does. That is many months.

But I will tell you it is shorter than what a vaccine would take. That's the good thing. If this works, it could hold us over until a vaccine appears.

KING: That would be great if we get to that progress. It would be a great help.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much for that important reporting.

Joining me to discuss, Dr. William Schaffner, professor in the Division of Infectious Disease at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Dr. Schaffner, it's good to see you.

Let's start with this Chinese research. Elizabeth Cohen says this antibody research is interesting, it takes months. Do you see hope? Are you skeptical?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Sure, there's hope and it's very, very interesting. The notion is the body responds with a whole variety of antibodies to an infectious agent. The question is, which is the most effective in bringing the illness to a close. You try to home in on those.

One of my colleagues right here at Vanderbilt, James Crowe, is doing just that. He's an expert in this and he's working along the same lines as the investigators are in China. So this is a very promising line of research, because, as Elizabeth said, it can be scaled up.

Of course, you have to see if it works and you have to know what the adverse effects are, because there's no drug or treatment that doesn't have those, but let's monitor those carefully.

We need an effective therapy. This is a very provocative line of investigation, very 21st century.

KING: Very 21st century, very real, which is why, especially as people have anxiety about where we're going here, it's important that we talk about it.

Now I'm going to take you on a detour. I'm sad I have to, but the president of the United States stands up at a podium in the White House briefing room, listens to a presentation, and starts musing, should we talk to doctors like yourself about is it possible for humans to ingest or inject disinfectants?

What goes through your mind when the president of the United States -- and his supporters will say he's just musing. He made it clear he's not a doctor. He was saying doctors like yourself should think about this, I'm not saying people should do it.

What goes through your mind when you hear things like that?

SCHAFFNER: Regarding the disinfectant, John, I'm really worried about that, that someone misinterprets what the president said and would actually do that.

That would be a poison if they took it because bleach ingested, going down the esophagus into the stomach, that would destroy many of the cells that are in the mucus membranes of the esophagus and stomach. That would be very, very serious.

Apropos of the other suggestions, my email inbox gets a steady stream of suggestions about therapies of one kind or another from thoughtful people. But they haven't been vetted. They need to be studied before we apply them.

Absolutely, stay away from those disinfectants. Use them on surfaces, for sure, but not internally.

KING: Right. There's outside-the-box thinking and then there's what I call outside-of-this world thinking.

One more quick point I want to make with you. The president tweeting again this morning, in his view, testing is a great success. At the White House briefing yesterday, the president responding to something Dr. Fauci said. Let's listen to Dr. Fauci and the president's response.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We absolutely need to significantly ramp up not only the number of tests but the capacity to actually perform them.