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Johns Hopkins: Virus Cases Now Top 2.7 Million Worldwide; The President Versus Science; Georgia on Track to Reopen Today. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired April 24, 2020 - 05:00   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. Welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around. Great to have you with me.

You're watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So, just ahead:


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.


CURNOW: Donald Trump versus the scientists. We'll take a look at the president's ongoing effort to downplay what his own health officials are warning the public.

And ready to open. From bowling alleys to gyms and even hair salons, some businesses here in Georgia are preparing to open their doors.

And the singing surgeon. This doctor is not only using his medical skills to help his patients during the outbreak, he's also using his voice.

And singing is actually a powerful theme in today's show. Bringing a message to the world in troubled times, Alicia Keys debuts her song here on CNN.


CURNOW: Two-point-seven million and counting. Johns Hopkins University says that's how many people in every corner of the world is being affected by fast-moving and deadly coronavirus. The global death toll 190,000 and climbing.

And the hottest of the hot spots is right here in the U.S. Almost 870,000 cases, 1/3 of the world's total and close to 50,000 deaths so far.

With a cure probably many months away, the Trump administration has been teasing on any tidbit of information for a possible breakthrough.

On Thursday, there was a word that a U.S. laboratory military lab had observed the virus doesn't do well in sunlight. Well, the president immediately suggested that being outdoors to bring an end to the pandemic. It's a view no health experts shared, even one of the top medical advisers seemed mystified, to put it simply.

Mr. Trump said he was just brainstorming ideas.


TRUMP: 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, if sunlight is good, that's a great thing as far as I'm concerned.


CURNOW: Meanwhile, many states are actively making plans to get life back to normal as soon as possible, but experts caution it will not ever happen all at once. That's certainly not slowing Georgia Governor Brian Kemp from trying to reopen his state, even the worst of the crisis, as you can see from these data. It's not expected to hit Georgia until next week.

Just hours from now, places like barber shops, gyms, and massage parlors across the state will be allowed to accept customers. And it's a move many say is premature, including actually the president.


TRUMP: I want the states to open more than he does, much more than he does, but I didn't like to see spas at this early stage nor did the doctors. Is that a correct statement, Deborah? I didn't like to see spas opening, frankly. I didn't like to see a lot of things happening, and I wasn't happy with it and I wasn't happy with Brian Kemp.


CURNOW: Anderson Cooper has more on where things stand right now -- Anderson.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are now more than 860,000 positive cases of coronavirus in the U.S. more than 49,000 people have died and though the number of cases across the country is currently declining, there are fears a second wave could be even worse than what we've seen so far.

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

COOPER: We've also learned the virus has been in the United States earlier than previously reported. Autopsies in Santa Clara County in California showed two people died of the virus there in February, the first on February 6th. More than the first reported victim in Washington state.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: That means there was community spread happening as early as mid-January if not earlier than that.

COOPER: It's been almost six weeks since the president declared a state of emergency in the U.S. seems like these are no longer surprising in most parts of the country but some states are taking the first steps on reopening. Georgia is one of them.

Governor Brian Kemp is allowing some non-essential businesses to reopen even though public health officials warned it may be to soon.

FAUCI: I would tell him that he should be careful and I would advise him not to just turn the switch on and go.


Because there is a danger of a rebound.


CURNOW: Thanks, Anderson, for that.

So, President Trump has also said he strongly disagrees with Georgia's plan. Despite his objections, those reopenings are now just hours away.

So, also, with mixed signals coming out of the White House whether states should reopen or not, we also saw the U.S. president openly supporting a drug that's not been proven. Well, now, he is talking about using sunlight and disinfectant treatment.

Here's Alex Marquardt with more on that.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a showdown that plays out again and again, the president versus science.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

MARQUARDT: Armed with facts, figures and some of the smartest minds in the country, President Trump chooses to instead go with his gut.

TRUMP: Now, this is just my hunch.

MARQUARDT: Or what he hopes will happen.

TRUMP: It was also possible it doesn't come back at all.

MARQUARDT: The latest episode was saying Wednesday, that the coronavirus may not come back later this year. It was in response and direct contradiction to the head of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, telling "The Washington Post" that the virus could come back in the winter and be even more difficult when coupled with the seasonal flu.

When Dr. Fauci took the microphone, he backed up Redfield and set the president straight.



MARQUARDT: The other expert on the coronavirus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, also unwilling to agree with the president.

TRUMP: There's a good chance COVID-19 will not come back?

BIRX: We don't know.

MARQUARDT: Trump has said he wants to give people hope, that there's light at the end of the tunnel. But false hope can be damaging, even deadly.

President Trump has promoted the use of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine with no proof that it's effective against COVID-19.

TRUMP: If are you a doctor, a nurse, a first responder, a medical person going into hospitals, they say taking it be every the fact is good but what you do have to lose? They say take it.

MARQUARDT: Several new studies, including one by the V.A., said the drug may actually harm critically ill patients.

TRUMP: So what do I know? I'm not a doctor. I'm not a doctor. But I have common sense.

MARQUARDT: Trump's boosting of the treatment is a part of the firestorm that resulted in a top HHS scientist losing his job. In a stunning statement on Wednesday, Dr. Rick Bright said that he was sidelined after he resisted, quote, efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connection.

Bright said he had insisted that money for the coronavirus be invested into safe and scientifically vetted solutions and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit. One of those was hydroxychloroquine.

The president claimed Wednesday, he'd never heard of Dr. Bright.

TRUMP: The guy says he was pushed out of a job. Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn't.

MARQUARDT: Another scientist the president has heard of is Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. She infuriated the president after warning in late February that severe illnesses in the U.S. related to the coronavirus were not a question of if but when.

The president got the news as he boarded Air Force One in India to head home. He then cancelled a meeting with top health experts about mitigating the virus after he heard what Messonnier had said and the stock market crashed.

Trump's skepticism for science extends well beyond the COVID crisis. It's been a thread throughout his term from pulling out of the Paris climate accord to ripping up environmental regulations, even disputing the paths of hurricanes.

TRUMP: That was the original chart.

MARQUARDT: Last September, showing a map of the path of hurricane Dorian, that the president changed with a sharpie to include Alabama, even though meteorologists said there would be no impact on the state.

(on camera): The president, of course, is not a fan of anyone whose messages run counter to his. So, after Dr. Nancy Messonnier spoke out in February, she wasn't fired but she was no longer allowed to speak on behalf of the CDC about coronavirus. We should note that the CDC hasn't held a press briefing since last month. Instead, the CDC participates in the coronavirus task briefing which, of course, is now led daily by President Donald Trump.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


CURNOW: Thanks, Alex, for that.

So, let's bring Sian Griffiths from Oxford. Again, she's a formerly a professor at the Chinese University in Hong Kong and she chaired actually Hong Kong's inquiry into the 2003 SARS epidemic.

Good to see you, professor. Nice to see you. Happy Friday, even though I suppose none of us actually know what day of the week it is.

But it is -- it is important to have this conversation, because you have a global view on this.


You're a public health expert. Those incredulous comments from the U.S. president, how dangerous is it?

SIAN GRIFFITHS, EMERITUS PROFESSOR, CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: Well, it's very dangerous, because across the world, we're saying let's look at the science. And then the politicians are using the science to base their decisions.

So -- I mean, I think the element was good Georgia and the lockdown. It really is too early. They really risk a rebound. They risk more cases.

But the litany of testing out against science, the use of hydroxychloroquine without a randomized trial, not good. The idea that I even had some story about bleach and disinfectant, not good things to be talking about. They are meant for surfaces, they're not for anything else, and the sidelining of scientists who try to put across science as a point of view.

You know, science develops. Science isn't absolute, but science is always a guide. If we dismiss science as a guide, then we could be in big trouble.

CURNOW: Yes. Wishful thinking. Riffing by politicians doesn't turn out well for patients. There is a concern that E.R.s will deal with someone who has ingested bleach because the president said that might be a good idea.

I mean, there seems to be so much confusion, and that's the problem. And as we've said, you know, this is not the first time the U.S. president has been on a collision course for scientists. I want you to take a listen to this and I will ask an opinion on the back of it. This is him contradicting Dr. Anthony Fauci.


FAUCI: We absolutely need to significantly ramp up not only the number of tests but the capacity to actually perform them. I am not overly confident right now at all.

TRUMP: Doing very well in testing. If he said that, I don't agree with him.


CURNOW: What do you make of that? And particularly because testing underpins the whole return to normality if we're going to get it right.

GRIFFITHS: Well, I'm a great admirer of Dr. Fauci. And I think he speaks imminent sense.

In the U.K., we just had an announcement yesterday, we're going to test, track, and trace all cases. And our secretary of state has put a huge amount of effort and his reputation on the line to try and really increase the number of testing, because until we have a good testing regime, we won't move out of lockdown.

So I think the number of tests needs to be increased. The availability of tests needs to be increased. And the reliability of the antibody tests needs to be increased.

So testing, testing, testing. When the WHO said that initially, we possibly didn't all listen hard enough. Now, in terms of how we look how to get out of lockdown, tests will play a fundamental part.

CURNOW: You mentioned Georgia. That's where we are. It's about to open in the next few hours.

It's early morning here. Even though data shows it will not reach its peak until next week, I think we have some graphs to give a sense of that. I mean, a new model actually shows that this state should stay closed until June 22nd.

So folks should not get a haircut today. What do you expect to see based on your experience on how pandemics roll out, when you see maps and graphs like this, what do you expect to see in the coming weeks if people go out to gyms, barber shops, and tattoo parlors over the next few days here in Georgia?

GRIFFITHS: Actually, I can't see the graphs but I can tell you what I can expect from what you've been telling me. I would expect the infection to remain in the community, take a hold of the community, and you will see more deaths and more suffering and more illness, because you really need to keep the lockdown, keep the social isolation measures in place, the social distancing at two meters.

I mean, one can hope that the population themselves understand this. And do take precautions themselves so that not everybody immediately rushes off to stand close to somebody in the bar. We have to rely on people. But it does seem way too early to be lifting the lockdown.

CURNOW: Sian Griffiths, appreciate it. Thanks so much. Coming to us live there from Oxford, England, have a good weekend.

GRIFFITHS: Nice to talk to you. Stay safe.

CURNOW: You too.

So, you're watching CNN. Still to come: new numbers on unemployment paint a grim, grim picture across the U.S., even as the government is about to launch this massive new economic lifeline. We're going to talk about that.



CURNOW: Welcome back. Thanks for joining us here at CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So, the American jobs market hasn't been as bad as it is right now since the days of the Great Depression. More than 4 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits just in the past week alone. And as you can see here, the rate of loss is slowing down, but still, it piles on to a really awful numbers that we've seen more than 26 million people losing their jobs in just over a month.

Well, Christine Romans joins us now from New York with more.

I mean, every day this week that we have spoken, Christine, it seems to have gone worse and worse and worse.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, T.S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month. And for this pandemic, April is proving to be a very, very difficult time for American workers and American small business. You know, it is supposed to be a big safety net, all this stimulus and

bailout money that has been -- that has been passed here is supposed to be the Band-Aid for workers. But in too many places, they are having too much trouble getting a hold of the money. So, every one of the 26 million number is a person with bills to pay, who is likely stressed out trying to figure out how to get access to what is the government's safety net here.

Twenty-six and a half million, by the way, that is way more jobs than were lost in the Great Recession back in 1982.


You got to go all the way back to the Great Depression to see job loss like that.

Now, the Great Depression, we didn't have a safety net. That's why -- that's why we have jobless benefits, that's why we have the small business bailouts. The hope here is that many of these job losses will be temporary and there will be money to fill the gap. But right now, a very stressful month for American workers.

We have now wiped away, Robyn, all the job gains of the big expansion after the Great Recession. All the gains the past 10 years have been wiped away. And that is really, really just a troubling moment here.

Now, will we be able to turn the economy back on and people will be able to get back to work? That, of course, is the hope. But right now, it's very stressful for so many people.

The small business fund has been refilled. As of late yesterday, the House passing more stimulus money, about $60 billion earmarked for small, even unbanked institutions, companies on the community level, in communities. So, hopefully, you will get a wider spread of that public money.

The Treasury Department has asked big public companies to give back their money so there is more money for small businesses, although they are not legally required to do so. It has been a rocky rollout of the relief and rescue for all the millions people who've been knocked out of a job.

CURNOW: Yes, and let's not forget, the 26 million who lost their job. We're about to hit 50,000 people dying nearly. I think it is in the late 40,000s. So many people impacted on an emotional and financial level, it's almost -- it is almost staggering.

Christine Romans, that's just in the U.S. here.


CURNOW: I know it is spread across the world as well, this pain.

Christine, good to see you, live in New York.

ROMANS: Nice to see you. CURNOW: So, as U.S. businesses anxiously await the moment they can reopen their doors and perhaps get some of that money, many are closely now watching Wuhan, that original epicenter of the virus as that place gets back to normal. Now, its harsh lockdown lasted 76 days.

And as CNN's David Culver now reports, some small businesses there are struggling to survive as well.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wuhan's mild spring weather luring people outside. They do not need much convincing, after enduring the most extreme of lockdowns.

CNN found folks enjoying the company of neighbors or soaking in the stillness, all the while still wearing face masks, a reminder that the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak is not in the clear.

Two weeks after Wuhan lifted its lockdown, a drive through commercial streets shows many storefronts still shuttered, the shops staying open finding a new way to serve customers.

(on camera): You can only go up until the box up front. They've got a little table set up. You order with somebody who either comes to the door or you can do it through an app. The idea is, you are not to go into the store.

All of this, still open business, but also keep the social distance.

(voice-over): But for some small business owners, there is no reopening in sight.

MR. WANG, SHOP OWNER (through translator): For private businesses like us, there's almost no subsidies.

CULVER: We talked with Mr. Wang. CNN agreed not to use his full name, as he wanted to avoid any trouble with local officials.

After three months of sitting closed, the 35-year-old restaurant owner is struggling with rent. If a government relief check arrives, he says the assistance will likely come too late, especially if there's another spike in infections here.

WANG (through translator): Considering the possibility of a second wave, very likely, we will leave this business and find another job.

CULVER: Mr. Wang opened up about the mental health struggles of living under lockdown, sealed inside his home.

WANG (through translator): I was actually very scared at that time. When I saw the news that the pandemic was gradually under control, I felt less nervous. When I got bored at home, I just watched TV. I played on my phone and slept. CULVER: And yet Mr. Wang, like many across the world, also had to deal with news that three of his loved ones contracted the virus, one of his extended family members passing away.

WANG (through translator): Of course, we were very sad. We couldn't see him for the last time when he died or even give him a farewell ceremony. It was a big regret in our heart. We will go to his grave after the pandemic to hold a simple ceremony for him.

CULVER: Likely thousands of similarly delayed remembrances to take place here in Wuhan over the weeks ahead, as others cautiously move forward with living, these the faces of those who endured a harsh lockdown, now navigating their way into an uncertain future.

And here we are more than three months after the lockdown initially took effect. And you can tell there that folks are still very hesitant to walk back into life as it was prior to the lockdown.

And businesses, the ones that will reopen, will do so as you see with different modes of how they operate.


And the ones that remain closed, including fitness centers and cinemas will be doing so until they get formal approval to reopen. Once they reopen, many are still concerned that the customers will be reluctant to come back, concerned they will face that added exposure ahead of what could potentially be a second wave of this outbreak.

David Culver, CNN, Wuhan, China.


CURNOW: Thanks, David, for that perspective.

So, you're watching CNN.

Still to come, ready or not, several U.S. states are beginning to open their economies. We speak to one hair salon owner in Georgia who is reopening her business amid the outbreak. That's next.


CURNOW: Welcome back. It is almost 5:30 a.m. here on the East Coast in Atlanta.

Wherever you are in the world, thanks for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So, more now on the small group of U.S. states that are beginning to reopen their economies today. Georgia has the most aggressive plan. That's where we are at CNN Center, with businesses such as hair salons, tattoo parlors and gyms being given the green light to get back to business.

Now, the early openings come as an influential model pushes back its projections for when states can consider easing restrictions safely. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now projects that no state should open before May 6th. It says that Georgia should open even later on June 22nd.

Well, still, the state is pressing ahead. But just because they're allowed to open doesn't mean all will.

Lyndsey Gough of CNN affiliate WTOC has more on how some businesses.