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San Francisco Offering Tests For All City Workers; States Grapple With Reopening Amid Mixed Messages From WH. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 24, 2020 - 12:30   ET

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


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[12:32:36]

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Testing is a constant flashpoint in any coronavirus conversation. The President says governors have all they need. The governors say, that simply isn't true. President says the United States is where it needs to be on testing. Dr. Anthony Fauci, his own top expert, disagrees.

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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I am not overly confident right now at all that we have what it takes to do that. We're getting better and better at it, as the week's go by. But we are not in a situation where we say we're exactly where we want to be with regard to testing.

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KING: Dr. Fauci was not at Thursday's White House briefing, the President was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you agree with Dr. Fauci just not there yet?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I don't agree with him on that. No. I think we're doing a great job in testing. I don't agree if he said that. I don't agree with him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Cities and businesses across America also dealing with this testing question, especially as they get closer to reopening at least parts of their economy, San Francisco now offering itself as a model, offering testing for any and all essential city employees and other residents who have no access to testing.

Othman Laraki is the CEO of color, which is partnered with the city to provide testing. Sir, thank you so much for joining us today. Take us through your experience in San Francisco are far away from Washington, which I assume you're grateful for, when you watch this testing fight play out between the politicians. What are you learning as you get into this space about the coronavirus? And has there been any big surprise, as you start to look at the testing?

OTHMAN LARAKI, CEO, COLOR: Sure. Hi, John. Thanks for having me.

So Color is a health technology company that specializes in doing broadly distributed clinical testing. And so as about a month and a half ago, we mobilized the company to help -- to try to help address the crisis that we're all facing collectively. And I think it's been there's two main efforts that, you know, we've been kind of working on here. The first one has been around, that has been talked a lot about which is the capacity challenge that we're having.

And at the beginning, one thing that we saw is that we felt that especially to bring America back to work, we were going to need to have a lot of testing capacity onto the system much more than had been discussed previously. So thinking about how do we bring on labs onto the system that can do tens or even hundreds of thousands of tests a day.

The second part, in addition to making testing accessible, or making the capacity to bring capacity onto the system is actually making the testing accessible. And that's been the context for our work with the city of San Francisco. We're working with local communities to set up programs so that tests can actually make it to the people who needed the most.

[12:35:11]

So with San Francisco through the leadership of Mayor London Breed, we set up a program to make testing accessible for frontline and essential workers in the city. And this week has actually expanded to all frontline personnel, independent of whether they're city employees or not.

KING: And so one of the questions that people keep asking and I'm a lay person, I'm learning every day. In this horrific story you learn every day. And one of the questions is, how blind are we? How many people are walking around who have COVID-19, but who have no symptoms or who have mild symptoms and think they have a bad cold or maybe a touch of the flu?

I want to read you a little bit from a story in the Boston Globe just the other day. In Boston, health official set out to see how the virus was spreading among the homeless population. What they did not expect to find was that over half of the people who tested positive did not feel sick at all. And last week, researchers in Chelsea found a similar trend of 200 passersby on the street who agreed to have their blood samples taken, 63 tested positive for antibodies that suggested they had been sick with COVID-19. Of those, 25 said they hadn't felt sick at all.

Are you seeing this out there in San Francisco as you test that, wow, there are a whole number of people who are walking around who had no idea?

LARAKI: Yes. So far, it looks like there are two challenges on that front. So first of all, like you mentioned, a lot of people could be infected and are infectious, but actually are not exhibiting symptoms.

The second part is even for the people who later do exhibit symptoms, they actually seem to be going through a phase of being infectious with -- even before the symptom -- the onset of symptoms. And that I think, brings to the question even for example, as we're thinking about reopening the economy, et cetera, is the reality is we're going to be entering for every kind of large company, CEO et cetera, they're thinking about reintroducing their workforce.

We have a reality that we will have cases of COVID in the population. That's a reality that we're going to have to live with for quite a while. The question that we have is what are the measures that can minimize the spread with that reality? And so the two main strategies there are one are around social isolation kind of putting in measures operationally on how do we minimize the amount of exposure in each individual subject to.

The second part, which is now that we're really ramping up the testing capacity is getting a handle of the percentage of people who are infected but are not exhibiting symptoms, because so far, we have not, you know, known what that number is. And to your point, it seems likely that maybe even three quarters of all infections are happening from people who are not currently exhibiting symptoms, which means we have to be testing very aggressively, especially in the workplace.

KING: Three quarters that is a wow number. So help somebody watching at home or maybe they don't live in San Francisco, but they're getting ready. They think in the next two, three, four weeks, they're going to be going back to work. What is our new world going to look like?

Let's assume you have either a city requires it or a business is aggressive about it, and says for you to come back to work, you will be tested. If you're negative, you go back to work. Is that it in your in your view, unless you develop symptoms, or are is the new normal going to be periodic testing, you know, if there's one case in the company, everyone gets tested. How is this going to work?

LARAKI: Yes. So I think what all -- and we've been spending a lot of time with a number of major employers who are kind of working through this, and devising strategies and approach to be able to reintroduce the workforce as safely as possible.

And again, I think part of the reality that we have to face is that there will be COVID cases in any large workforce. And so the main kind of effort is around how do we intercept those cases early and have very clear protocols to be able to minimize their effect and find the people who have been contact to contact trace and then test those.

One of the interesting or kind of main challenges of this is implementing all of the logistics so that if you're an employee, you know, you want to be coming back to work and feel safe, you want to have access to very low friction testing so it doesn't take a lot of your time, you can submit a sample, you registered digitally, the results come back online, automatically, you know, if ever you're positive, you want to know that the right follow ups are going to happen that if there's a colleague who's positive that, you know, you will, you know, that the employer will be able to have all the appropriate follow ups.

And so really that's where kind of it's really a technology solution in terms of having the software services that you know really connect the data and connected back into the systems so you can have all the rapid follow up so it's not a multi day window before you have the kind of the reaction that kicks in.

KING: All right, Othman Laraki, appreciate it as you go through this work. When you get some data and you learn some lessons. Please come back, help us understand what you're learning. We really appreciate that.

LARAKI: Thanks for having me.

KING: Thank you, sir.

[12:39:55]

Up next for us, governors are calling the shots about when to reopen and at times, going against the President.

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KING: The reopening of America will be like a patchwork, 50 state governors making individual decisions about whether to go or to go slow. We see in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Texas governors who are beginning including starting today to test the limits of reopening, you see the map there. Other states as well, but many other governors say, not so fast.

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[12:45:07]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not there yet. We're just not there yet. The House is still on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting back to normal won't be like a light switch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to do it in a careful way. And we want to do it in a way that engenders confidence in people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If just one group does it wrong, we can spread the virus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've worked too hard for too long to throw away that great work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll be taking very slow, incremental, and thoughtful steps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not out of the woods yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: CNN senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, joins me now he's been taking a look at this sometimes complicated relationship between the President and the governors. Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, there's no question about it. You know, we thought that this might open on a red versus blue dynamic. That is happening to some degree, but it's much more nuanced than that.

A case in point is Georgia. Of course Brian Kemp, a close ally of the President, he threw remarkable rebuke. But in Oklahoma, there was no such rebuke in basically the same rules. So what we are seeing here, a glimpse into this state by state, you know, situation that varies tremendously as the President's guidance and reaction.

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ZELENY (voice-over): As states across the country inch toward reopening their economies. There's one thing governors have learned they can count on, mixed messages from the White House.

TRUMP: And we're starting to open our country again.

(voice-over): That much may be clear. But the question is how and when. In the absence of clear and consistent direction from President Trump, a messy patchwork of state by state rules are now emerging of what's open and what's closed in America.

A case in point is Georgia where Governor Brian Kemp is leading the way by allowing several businesses to reopen starting today from gyms and salons to tattoo parlors and bowling alleys. He thought he had the President's blessing until he didn't.

TRUMP: I wasn't at all happy because and I could have done something about it if I wanted to, but I'm saying let the governor's do it. But I wasn't happy with Brian Kemp, spas, beauty parlors, tattoo parlors, I know.

(voice-over): The contradictions from one state to the next. You can get a haircut in Georgia, for example, but not in South Carolina or the culmination of weeks of confusion over just who's calling the shots. First, Trump said it was him.

TRUMP: Well, I have the ultimate authority.

(voice-over): Then it was not.

TRUMP: Governors will be empowered to tailor an approach that meets the diverse circumstances of their own states.

(voice-over): But the President's condemnation of Kemp could offer the clearest signal yet for what other governors should and shouldn't do in trying to bounce back from their coronavirus fight.

TRUMP: I told him very distinctly I said, Mike was there I said, you do what you think is best. But if you asked me, am I happy about it? I'm not happy about it.

(voice-over): In the face of rare criticism from a close ally, Kemp is standing his ground.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Well, I can tell you, I don't give a damn about politics right now.

(voice-over): But the presidential rebuke is reverberating in state capitals across the country where governors are deciding just how far and fast to go.

GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): And I'm as eager as anybody to get our economy back open, spinning on our cylinders again. But again, we have to be careful and cautious in what we are doing.

GOV. HENRY MCMASTER (R-SC): We want to go as quickly as we can, as safely as we can to restore our economic vigor, while also restoring our personal health.

(voice-over): It's a complicated balance of studying health models, the rate of new cases, and even anticipating the President's own reaction.

One unquestionable dynamic at the center of navigating politics of the pandemic is pleasing the President. In Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has made clear from day one that he's eager to be in Trump's good graces.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Make America great again.

(voice-over): And that loyalty could now play a role in deciding how fast to start up the Florida economy with some beaches all partially reopening in his state. The governor has made clear he's itching to move quickly in the face of some public criticism.

DESANTIS: For those who try to say you're morons, I would take you over the folks who are criticizing you any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

(voice-over): What's less clear is what signals could be coming from the president.

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ZELENY: And, John, it is that reaction from the President that many governors of both parties, particularly Republicans, though have their eye on. I am told by aides to several governors, they were paying very careful attention to the President's rebuke of Brian Kemp in Georgia. They do not want to incur that wrath themselves.

So of course, that will factor into the state's reopening plan, how fast they do it. But John, another interesting dynamic here is not just the President and the governors, it's the governors and the mayors of those cities across those states. That is what is going to be an interesting dynamic going forward. So yes, the road to reopening is happening, but it's clear, it's going to be a bumpy one. John? [12:50:00]

KING: Favor with politics, you might say. Jeff Zeleny, appreciate the reporting there. It's a fascinating time to watch these very complicated relationships back and forth.

Meantime, a little curious back and forth between the President and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden. President Trump says that Joe Biden is, quote, hiding in his basement. Biden at a fundraiser last night said, he thinks the President might try to use the pandemic to actually delay the November presidential election.

Now, it's very important to note that while the President cannot unilaterally change the date of the election. That would require congressional approval. It is not those steps some Democrats from worrying, the President might somehow try.

Fears over the coronavirus and its spread of increased concerns over how any election could be held safely with new calls, you heard it today from the Governor of New York, to expand access to voting, maybe voting by mail. We'll watch that debate play out in the weeks ahead.

Still ahead for us, Ramadan begins in the disruptive age of the coronavirus.

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[12:55:21]

KING: The World Health Organization today launched a global initiative designed to accelerate the fight against the coronavirus. But the United States is not taking part in what the WHO calls in landmark collaboration.

President Trump you'll remember withdrew funding from the organization saying it was too slow and too cozy with China in the early days of this outbreak, some other important global developments now from our great team of international correspondents.

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SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Spain for the first time since the outbreak began, more people have recovered from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours then tested positive for it. Health authorities say that is the best data they have seen in weeks.

Yesterday, Madrid announced that two of the 13 hotels being used as hospital wards had closed with an eye toward gradually and cautiously closing the rest of them. Plus, this Sunday, kids will get their first taste of freedom when they're allowed out for walks with their parents.

All of these are positive signs. The economic signs of recovery, though, may take longer to see. The coronavirus has caused hundreds of thousands of people to apply for unemployment, furloughed millions of workers, and caused many working people who until now had never seen the inside of a food bank to suddenly ask for help.

We saw this firsthand when we wrote along with the Madrid Fire Department which has been tasked with delivering meals to people in need. The economy, the broader economy, won't restart until at least mid May. And one of the last industries to restart will be tourism, which makes up 12 percent of the Spanish economy.

Scott McLean, CNN, Madrid.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Germany, the reproduction number for the coronavirus has risen after Germany rolled back some of the measures that were in place to combat COVID-19.

The German Center for Disease Control said that the R number as they call it, the reproduction number has risen from 0.7 to 0.9. That means every person who's infected in Germany on average is infecting almost one other person. Now the German government says the R number needs to stay below one in order for Germany to keep pushing the virus back.

Angela Merkel, for her part says that she fears that Germany might be squandering some of the gains that have been made in combating COVID- 19. She feels that some of the measures are being rolled back too quickly by state authorities, and that that could lead to a new spike in coronavirus infections.

Frederik Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in the United Arab Emirates, many, many people are preparing for the first time to celebrate the iftar feast at the end of the first day of the month of fasting of Ramadan. But it'll be a very different feast and particularly the prayers that follow because in both cases of physical contact or social contact with people outside of the home has been banned right across the Islamic world with one or two notable exceptions.

Now here in the Emirates and in Egypt, for example, small elements of the curfew have been lifted by a couple of hours to allow a bit of extra shopping. But the major sites such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Mecca and Medina are closed to worshipers and so almost all mosques in the post iftar prayer sessions.

Now, in that case, only Pakistan is the outlier where Prime Minister Imran Khan has suggested that whilst, the government has advised that people should not attend mosques. There will be no punishment for those that do.

Sam Kiley, CNN, in Abu Dhabi.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Hong Kong, I'm watching how Singapore is struggling with a second wave of coronavirus infections. This is a wealthy country, smaller geographically, the New York City. And it was initially applauded for it, how it handled the disease. It was able to keep schools open until the beginning of this month. But then it watched the number of confirmed cases explode in mid March from under 300 to now more than 12,000 with many of these infections among its foreign guest worker population. These are low paid laborers who can't isolate because they live in crowded dormitories, prompting the government to crack down hard until June closing schools, places of worship, most places of employment, and with new cases numbering it more than 800 a day.

The prime minister says that appears there's a, quote, larger hidden reservoir of COVID-19 cases in the community.

[13:00:06]

Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.

(END VIDEOTAPE)