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Will Navy Reinstate Captain Who Warned Against Coronavirus?; Trump's Dangerous Suggestion to Inject Disinfectant to Treat Coronavirus; U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Pass 50,000. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 24, 2020 - 15:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Our special coverage continues now with Brianna Keilar.

I will see you later tonight on "360" at 8:00 p.m.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington on this Friday, April 24.

Today, the United States death fold passing a grim and stunning figure, more than 50,000 people in this country lost to coronavirus.

In Los Angeles County, coronavirus is now the leading cause of death. But in the state of Georgia, where daily cases appear to be on a decline, but deaths are still on the rise, you can now visit gyms and bowling alleys, as nonessential businesses reopen.

But, first, health experts are rushing to clarify President Trump's latest medical suggestions that could kill Americans if followed. This is one, that sunlight or heat could be used to treat coronavirus, and, two, that disinfectants like bleach -- that's right, bleach -- could perhaps be injected into the body to kill the virus, these absurd comments following this statement by a senior Homeland Security official about how the virus responds to light and disinfectants in the air and on surfaces, not including the human body, to be clear.


WILLIAM BRYAN, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY DIRECTORATE: Our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus, both surfaces and in the air.

I can tell you that bleach will kill the virus in five minutes. Isopropyl alcohol will kill the virus in 30 seconds. And that's with no manipulation, no rubbing, just bringing it on and leaving it go. You rub it, and it goes away even faster.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: But the president made a cognitive leap that would be purely hilarious, if it weren't so incredibly dangerous, saying this to his medical advisers:


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would like to you speak to the medical doctors to see if there is any way that you can apply light and heat to cure.

When I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute, 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.


KEILAR: President Trump has since claimed that he was being sarcastic.

But if you look there at Dr. Deborah Birx, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, she surely didn't pick up on the sarcasm, nor did most people with any basic grasp of science or household cleaners.

So how bad is this?

Well, the maker of Lysol issued a statement, saying -- quote -- "As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body through injection, ingestion, or other route."

I want to go to CNN's Kaitlan Collins joining us now live from the White House.

And, I mean, Kaitlan, of all of the unreliable and even wackadoodle stuff that the president has said in these briefings, this may really take the cake. And now the president is claiming this he wasn't being serious. What are you hearing?


So after there was a lot of criticism from these doctors, and, as you noted, Lysol had to put out a statement saying not to pursue this route, the White House first put out a statement this morning saying that reporters were taking the president out of context, and, of course, he always has said that people should consult with their doctors before pursuing treatments.

What that statement did not say was that the president was being sarcastic, which is now what he is arguing, as he did here in the Oval Office not long ago.


TRUMP: No, I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you, just to see what would happen. Now, disinfectant or doing this maybe on the hands would work. And I

was asking the question of the gentleman who was there yesterday, Bill, because when they say that something will last three or four hours or six hours, but if the sun is out, or if they use disinfectant, it goes away in less than a minute -- did you hear about this yesterday?

But I was asking you to sarcastic, and a very sarcastic question, to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside.


COLLINS: Brianna, I was in that room. The president was not asking that question to reporters. He was turning instead to the officials to his right, Dr. Birx and Bryan, this official from DHS who laid out this presentation about it working on surfaces and in the air.

And the president suggested at one point that doctors should look into this, noting that he himself was not a doctor. And so we should just note that as well.

And now, this afternoon, the CDC has even put out a tweet talking about household disinfectants and the ways that they should be used, saying it is not proper for people to use them -- or they should not be using them improperly and to follow the instructions on the label.

KEILAR: Yes, we lock them under cabinets, right, so kids don't get to them. Maybe we will do the same for adults now.

Kaitlan, the president seems to be backing off this plan to reopen the country on May 1.

Tell us about this.

COLLINS: Yes, the questions are really, what is everything going to look like on May 1?


Because we know, internally, that is what they have been pushing for here at the White House. That is the -- really been the agenda when the Coronavirus Task Force has been meeting and the president has been speaking with executives.

Today, the vice president said he believed that most of the country could be opened up by Memorial Day. Of course, that's at the end of May. And we're looking at these plans. But one thing the White House is watching closely today is, of course, the reopening that are happening in Georgia.

The president has expressed his displeasure with that, believing that they are moving too fast. And, of course, they are still arguing over testing and whether or not there is enough in the country, as we have seen governors say they do not feel like they are there yet.

You saw Dr. Fauci say yesterday he also agreed with that sentiment, and the president said he did not agree.

KEILAR: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much at the White House.

And joining me now is Dr. Vivek Murthy. He served as us surgeon general under President Obama.

Doctor, thanks so much for being with us.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Thanks, Brianna. Good to be with you again.

KEILAR: I just wonder what you think of the doctor -- or of the president saying the doctors should look at sunlight or U.V. rays or bleach being injected into the human body to treat coronavirus?

MURTHY: Well, just so everyone is clear on it -- and this has been echoed by others over the course of the day -- there is no indication and it is really not safe to inject household cleaners into your body in order to address coronavirus. That's not an approved treatment.

It's likely to be extraordinarily dangerous to you. And what this episode illustrates is that you have got to be extremely careful with what you say in the White House Briefing Room and certainly in the middle of a pandemic.

But to speculate on unproven treatments and during a time of crisis like this is really quite dangerous. And what it also has become is a distraction. We are finding that government agencies and private companies are having to now put out messages clarifying to people that they should not ingest or inject detergents and chemicals.

What we really need to be focused on, though, is laser-focused on testing, because if we want to open up the country safely, which is an objective, I think, all of us share, we're not going to be able to do that if we don't get beyond the testing plateau that we're at now and dramatically increase the number of tests available, the distribution of those tests, and shorten the turnaround time to get real results.

KEILAR: Do you see that happening anytime soon?

MURTHY: Well, we are making progress bit by bit on testing, but it is incremental and it is too slow.

And what we're finding is that it's not just the testing machines that you need -- and this has been obvious to people in the world for a long time -- but you need the chemical reagents that go with it. You need the swabs that are used to do the test.

You need to have the cartridges and many of these machines require. And you need to have the protective equipment that you can wear to ensure that it's safe to actually administer a test.

All of these are really important. And what we have been hearing is some arguments that, OK, these machines exist in states, they should just use them. But states are saying, we don't have the other materials. And to encourage people just to keep using the machine without the materials is like telling somebody to wash their clothes because they have a washing machine, even though they have no detergent and it's not hooked up to water.

That just doesn't work. You have got to pull all the pieces together.


MURTHY: That's why what we need to do now is, we need the federal government to step in, take over the supply chain, and ensure we can produce the testing materials and machines that are required and distribute them to places that have need.

KEILAR: Let's listen to what the vice president said about timing on coronavirus.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think, by Memorial Day weekend, we will largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, from your lips to God's ear.


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


KEILAR: By Memorial Day, largely, coronavirus epidemic behind us.

Do you agree?

MURTHY: Well, I think there are some parts of the country where you may see a slight and gradual relaxation of restrictions, but those will be in places where you have had a sustained decrease in the number of new cases and where the ability to both test and trace and quarantine contacts is in place.

To do so ahead of time would be, frankly, irresponsible. And to indicate that the entire country will be there, when we still don't have a clear pathway to achieving the levels of testing that we need, is just simply not realistic.


If one wants to accelerate the timeline between where we are now and when we can safely open up, then you have to have a clear plan for how to reach the goals on testing that we need to reach, where it is available to everyone who needs it.

But, right now, people who need to get tested who have symptoms, actually, many of them still can't get tested. So, we're nowhere clear -- near to where we need to be in order to open things up safely. KEILAR: Dr. Vivek Murthy, I should also mention you're the author of

the book "Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World."

Dr. Murthy, thank you so much.

MURTHY: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Coming up: It's really like we're living in The Twilight Zone, right? That is the message from the Atlanta mayor, as Georgia allows visits to the gym, the hair salon and more.

Plus, breaking news just in about the commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, who was ousted after raising the alarm about coronavirus on his ship.



KEILAR: Despite objections from medical experts about rising deaths, lack of testing and inadequate contact tracing systems, Georgia and Oklahoma join the list of states that are reopening some nonessential businesses today.

There are no such plans in hot spots around the country, we should mention.

CNN's Erica Hill is live in New York following all of this.

And still New York with the most coronavirus cases, Erica, and deaths there in the entire country. But the governor there today cautioned strongly against reopening anytime soon, at least in his state.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. He's been asked about it.

Obviously, people across New York state dealing with different situations, depending on where they live, whether they're in New York City or whether they're in some Upstate areas. And the governor has repeatedly acknowledged, saying earlier this week that, when it was time, New York state would likely open on a regional basis.

But he said again today, now is not the time to reopen, that he would revisit New York Pause, which is what his measure is known as here in the state, next week, but certainly not opening up anytime soon, and not like we have seen in Georgia and even Oklahoma today, Brianna.

KEILAR: And the states are looking to Congress now for financial aid. The governor there, Governor Cuomo, is again calling out Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, who suggested that states file for bankruptcy to get help.

Cuomo is really piling on here, right, Erica?

HILL: He certainly is. I mean, he is not mincing words. As we know, he's a pretty direct guy, let's be honest.

It's probably best to just let him say it, though. So here was his latest response to what we're hearing from Senator McConnell. Take a listen.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Your suggestion, Senator McConnell, pass the law, I dare you. And then go to the president and say, sign this bill allowing states to declare bankruptcy.

You want to send a signal to the markets that this nation is in real trouble?


HILL: They governor called the coronavirus an economic tsunami, Brianna, as you heard there, literally daring the Senate majority leader to put forth this bill. We will see what happens with that.

KEILAR: All right, we will be watching with you, Erica. Thank you.

As the death toll rises today in Georgia, the governor there is reopening a slew of nonessential businesses. You can go to the gym. You can get your hair done. You can hop on a massage table, even go bowling.

Atlanta's mayor says, it's like we are living in The Twilight Zone and warns that cases will rise because of the governors decision.

CNN's Martin Savidge is joining us now from Atlanta.

And what exactly is open now, Martin? And are people saying, yes, I'm going to go in there?


Well, just because the governor says you can open doesn't mean that everybody is open. He essentially left it up to the individual owners to make that final decision. And it seems that a lot of owners are waiting and seeing.

For instance, the shopping center behind us, there is about a handful of businesses that could technically open under the guidelines the governor set forward, but actually only one business did. It's a hair salon. They have had a steady stream of customers going in, but these were appointments made ahead of time.

And they very, very carefully -- they have got all sorts of safety garb on, those that are the stylists, and the customers are told they have to wear a mask. Temperatures are taken.

And there's a strict protocol as to where people have to wait if it isn't their turn. There are other businesses that have opened, a barbershop around the corner, where things were a lot more lax when it came to following the health guidelines of the state. And that's, of course, a concern, is that if it isn't evenly adopted

in so many places, that's when you can start to see a resurgence of the coronavirus.

As for customers, a lot of them seem to be worried. I just have to say, it's really hard to know how many businesses actually opened. A number that did told us that they thought they were going to get more customers than they did. Clearly, fear is the driving force here.

A lot of people aren't certain it's safe to go out and about.

KEILAR: Do we know why, Martin, the governor opened these specific businesses, and why so soon?

SAVIDGE: Yes, I get asked that one just about all the time. And I have tried to ask that.

No one really knows. In fact, the businesses themselves say they are surprised. There's a bowling alley in Douglasville. They opened up today. They said that they couldn't believe it when they heard that bowling alleys made the top tier of businesses that would open.

And the same is true of a lot of salons. They didn't think that they were that essential to the economy that they had to open. The governor has never explained the list. It's never been clearly identified, why these businesses, especially which seem so literally hands-on, were the first to open, when you're dealing with a contagion and a pandemic like Georgia and the rest of the country is.


So that's never been thoroughly explained. And it's quite clear a lot of those businesses, even though they could open, decided not to.

KEILAR: Yes, because even they don't know why they should, right? The explanation would be very helpful.

Martin, in Atlanta, thank you.

President Trump now claiming that he never gave the OK for states to reopen businesses, even after tweeting to liberate some of the states -- a look at his mixed messages next.

Plus, the breaking news on the captain who was removed from his post after sounding the alarm about coronavirus on his aircraft carrier. We will have that next.



KEILAR: We have some breaking news just in.

This is a stunning turnaround. The head of the Navy has recommended that Captain Brett Crozier be restored to command the carrier Theodore Roosevelt. This is according to an administration official. And you may recall that Crozier was removed from command after he sent a letter asking for help to fight the coronavirus outbreak that was on his aircraft carrier. That letter became public, which some observers said he should have known it would have happened.

But, at the same time, he was able to sound the alarm on his ship.

CNN's Barbara Starr is joining us now on this breaking news.

And tell us what's going on here and if this is a recommendation that the defense secretary, Mark Esper, might be inclined to accept, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, what we do know is that, earlier today, Admiral Michael Gilday, chief of Naval operations, uniform head, four-star admiral, of the U.S. Navy, made a recommendation to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, after an investigation of the entire incident that lasted several days, the full investigation.

Admiral Gilday, we have now learned, recommended to Secretary Esper that Captain Brett Crozier be restored to command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the aircraft carrier that has a crew of nearly 5,000.

Captain Crozier grabbing world attention when he sounded the alarm that he was deeply concerned his troops were not properly being looked after as coronavirus spread through that ship.

But what has happened here today at the Pentagon is a very unusual turn of events. Admiral Gilday made the recommendation to Secretary Esper this morning. At this hour, Secretary Esper, we are told from multiple sources, has not accepted the recommendation, not accepted the recommendation of his Navy leadership, indicating he wants more time to think about it.

That is not the signal we got earlier today, when the chief spokesman for Esper, Jonathan Hoffman, spoke on camera to reporters and said -- and let me just tell you in part what he said, that Secretary Esper is -- quote -- "generally inclined to support Navy leadership and their decisions, but he will go into it with an open mind." And once he's briefed, they were supposed to come back to reporters.

So it was a signal that Esper was inclined to accept the recommendations of Navy leadership, even though he wanted to get the full briefing, think about it, all of that, of course.

But at this hour, Admiral Gilday, the leader of the uniform U.S. Navy, somewhat left hanging, because he can't get an agreement at this hour to his recommendation that Crozier be restored to command.

So, it's hard to describe this, other as sort of an unending military, political drama, and we will see where it goes.

Unanswered, of course, in all of this is whether President Trump intends to weigh in -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, and you have to imagine that is something that is really going to determine what happens here.

Of course, Barbara, I think a lot of folks remember that viral video of the sailors from the Roosevelt, and they were yelling, "Captain Crozier." Let's listen a little bit as he left the Theodore Roosevelt.


UNIDENTIFIED SAILORS: Captain Crozier! Captain Crozier!


KEILAR: Now, of course, he later tested positive for COVID and went through coronavirus himself, even as, you know, there were hundreds of folks on the Roosevelt who continue to be suffering from COVID-19.

I wonder how this news is being received among the rank and file, because it seems like there on the ship they would love to have him back.

STARR: I think that that's very fair.

Captain Crozier at the end of that walk down to the pier turns around and waves goodbye to the sailors. It was a very emotional moment all around. We are told today that Captain Crozier is no -- he's still in Guam, it is believed, where the ship is, but is out of isolation, still ashore on base in Guam.