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States Move To Reopen Economies As U.S. Nears 1 Million Cases; Common Heartburn Drug Being Studied As Possible Treatment; Wisconsin To Remain Shut Down Until At Least May 26. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 27, 2020 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


CNN is learning this hour that the White House is weighing new recommendations on how and when some types of businesses can reopen. The administration expected to issue those guidelines on opening places where many worry that the virus is still spreading, such as restaurants, childcare centers, public transportation and places of worship.

HARLOW: At the same time, the governors moving forward with their own plans to open up their state's economies, but the White House Task Force Coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, says there will need to be some sort of social distancing through the summer.

Let's begin this hour with our Martin Savidge. He joins us again in Georgia. And today, you have a second round of openings, restaurants, movie theaters, despite warnings from experts, despite new cases going up. Are people going, though, and are these businesses actually opening?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, we can only judge it based upon this one waffle house, which as you know are breakfast chain in the south that are pretty popular. And the indication here is that they've had maybe a dozen customers since they opened about 6:00 A.M., of which almost everybody opted to carry out.

And that's how many of the businesses have, or restaurants, have been able to keep on doing business during this whole coronavirus outbreak. And it appears right now many of the customers, despite the fact they can, are not that really that enthusiastic about dining in. They are sticking with the way they've been doing it for weeks at a time.

Let's just take a look at some of the other things that other states are doing, starting today. Colorado, for instance. Retail businesses can open with curbside delivery. You can also get an elective medical procedure done there. In Iowa, farmers' markets are able to reopen with limited operations. And in Montana, main street and retail businesses can open, but, of course, they're got to limit capacity and they're also going to have to practice physical distancing or social distancing as we've come to know it.

And in Georgia, we mentioned that restaurants can have dine-in. Movie theaters are also open. Although I have not -- well, the only one I've heard of is a drive-in movie theater. You have to wear a mask, can't get out of the car, and, no, the concession stand is not open. Poppy and Jim?

SCIUTTO: The next question, of course, is how comfortable are people taking advantage of that. We'll be watching. Martin Savidge. Thanks so much.

Let's go now to Shimon Prokupecz. He is New York. And, Shimon, Governor Cuomo the, really, perhaps the most aggressive, right, in terms of social distancing early on through this as New York faced the worst of this outbreak. Tell us how and when exactly he's recommending that businesses can begin to relax some of these restrictions?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be, Jim, a very slow process based on what the governor has outlined already. Yesterday, he gave more details than he has before, saying this is going to be in phases.

We're going to have two phases. The first phase is going to include construction workers, manufacturing companies, and it's not going to be in the New York City area. We're looking at more of the locations in Upstate New York, some of the less dense locations. And that is because he wants to keep an eye on the rate of infection. And as the rate of infection starts to decrease, he suspects we'll be able to open up more.

And then we'll have the second phase, which is going to include some of the less essential, some of the places of offices and work locations that could potentially pose some risk. But with the infections going down, he thinks they can minimize that risk. So it's all about the risk. And he's looking at the rates of infection, the hospitalizations, and as long as that keeps going down, we should see more openings in the New York area and New York City.

But remember, New York is on pause. Of course, the governor has been using that word to basically say that New York has been shut down. That lasts through May 15th. After that point, we should start seeing where things start to ease and how things get better and hopefully more will open up, Jim, Poppy.

HARLOW: Shimon, thanks very, very much.

In some of these states moving to reopen, it is a battle between local governments, mayors and the governor.

SCIUTTO: So let's speak to some involved. We're joined now by Savannah, Georgia Mayor Van Johnson and Sarasota, Florida Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch. Thanks to both of you for coming on. And, Mayor Ahearn-Koch, you have written, and I think this is an important thought, that local city decisions where you are will be guided by science, data and credible public health advice lessening restrictions to early, especially with limited local testing could backfire.


So I'm curious, as you look at that, as you speak to the experts, what do the experts, what does the science, what do the experts tell you is safe and how quickly and where to open up first?

MAYOR JEN AHEARN-KOCH, SARASOTA, FLORIDA: Exactly. What we're looking at is the gaining criteria. And that criteria asks for a downward trajectory of the COVID cases over a 14-day period. We in the City of Sarasota, we're just not there yet. They also ask for robust testing, which we are working really diligently right now to get into place, but, again, we still are just not there yet.

HARLOW: Mayor Johnson, I mean, as of last week, as I understand it, you had not been able to reach or have a conversation with Governor Brian Kemp despite multiple attempts. Have you spoken to him yet?

MAYOR VAN JOHNSON, SAVANNAH, GEORGIA: Not as of yet. We have not heard back from his office. We were told that they would take it under advisement and at the point of which they decided to talk to us, they will call us.

HARLOW: At the point at which they decide to talk to you -- I mean, you have some major concerns about your city.

JOHNSON: We do. Obviously, the gubernatorial order has really made people get a false sense of security. We have experienced many more people on our streets, in our parks on a beautiful Savannah weekend. And, unfortunately, I think we're putting ourselves in some jeopardy.

SCIUTTO: Mayor Ahearn-Koch, I know these are difficult decisions for you to make at the local level because businesses are hurting, workers are hurting, they're not making income. They are concerned about when they can go back to work or even if they will survive, their business will survive this. Does any part of you wonder, concerned that social distancing restrictions were too aggressive at any point, or do you think that you achieved the right balance here?

AHEARN- KOCH: Well, we as a city, we were very quick to act to issue our declaration of public health emergency, and that was on March 13th. And I think that that -- acting quickly like that has proven a good scenario for the City of Sarasota. While we do have increasing cases on a daily basis, acting like that, I believe, because we had a number of large events planned for that weekend and the upcoming weeks, I think, that that helped us be in the position we are in now, which is our hospitals are not overwhelmed. And that is where you really want to be.

However, as far as your economy recovering, a lot of the models and matrix show that if you want a strong and fast recovery of your economy, what you need to do is to continue the shelter in place until those numbers start to decrease over 14 days.

HARLOW: When we, Mayor Johnson, look at the financial stability and health of cities going forward, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it very clear that not only does he think municipal bankruptcies are an okay route, he thinks state bankruptcies would be a good option, granted bankruptcy laws do not allow state bankruptcies, it's not allowed in the Constitution so something would have to change.

Governor Andrew Cuomo called that, quote, one of the really dumb ideas of all time. I mean, as you you look at what's ahead, what would a municipal bankruptcy mean for your city?

JOHNSON: I think it will be devastating for our city. We are trying to petition through the National League of Cities for municipalities such as Savannah's, municipalities that are less than a half-a-million people to get direct assistance directly through the federal government.

As of right now, they go through the top 36 cities. And Georgia does not have a city in the state that has over half-a-million people. So we're trying to get that money directly. We need to be able to take care of our folks.

SCIUTTO: Mayor Ahearn-Koch, and I know you don't have a crystal ball, no one does, but I'm sure you hear every day from constituents, residents, to say when, when can we expect a sense of normalcy. When you speak to the experts, what are you telling people in answer to that question?

AHEARN-KOCH: Well, what I tell them is that the most important thing for us to think about right now is that we want to be safe and we want our entire city and our community to be safe. And the experts, the public health experts and the medical doctors are telling us right now we need to continue to shelter in place and continue to exercise, you know, the social distancing, wear masks when you're out in public, work from home if that's a possibility for you, and just continue to be safe.

I don't think it's that far off, but what we want to avoid with all our efforts is a second wave, and that second wave would be devastating for an economic recovery. And that's really what we want to avoid.

SCIUTTO: Well, listen, we know you all have such difficult decisions going forward, you've got so much on your plate. We always appreciate you taking the time and we wish the good people of both your towns the best of luck.


AHEARN-KOCH: Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thank you so much.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, growing concerns about the nation's food supply chain as the coronavirus forces some meat plants in particular to close and farmers to simply let crops rot, even throw away milk.

HARLOW: Plus, a CNN exclusive, a U.S. Army reservist and mother of two says she fears for her life after conspiracy theorists falsely accused her of being patient zero.



HARLOW: New York hospitals are studying Pepcid, right? You've heard of Pepcid. It's a really common heartburn drug. But they are looking at this as a possible treatment option for coronavirus. Patients in clinical trials are getting a high dose of it along with hydroxychloroquine.

Our Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins us now.

I really want to emphasize this is a test. People should not go out and buy this stuff in bulk and start taking it as a prophylactic. What are they looking at? Why do they think it could work?

ELIZABETH COHEN, SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's take a look at what their study is. They are looking at right now at 187 patients. They hope to get to up to 1,200. Half will get famotidine, which is the active ingredient in Pepcid, and it's also sold generically. You can buy it really at any drugstore. And the other half will not get it. These are patients with COVID-19. And they're going to see what happens and they hope to have results in the next few weeks.

So, Poppy, to your point, do not go out and try to hoard these drugs for two reasons. One, we don't -- actually, several reasons. One, we don't know that it works. It may not actually turn out to work. Secondly, people with heartburn need it. And thirdly, the folks who are getting this drug are getting it intravenously in mega doses in the hospital. So going out and just taking some of this stuff that you get off a shelf will probably not do you any good. So that's an important thing that we need to remember.

HARLOW: Elizabeth, can you also update us on remdesivir? It's a drug that's gotten a lot of attention. It's in a big clinical trial right now, but then there was confusion last week because Gilead pulled one of its earlier, smaller trials of this drug. Where do we stand?

COHEN: Right. Remdesivir has been on quite the roller coaster. First, we heard the doctors were saying that it was working for their COVID patients, then we found out that the World Health Organization posted on their website and then took down some information that made it seem like it didn't work, and the company that makes it said, no, it was inconclusive. It got very confusing. I think at the end of the day, we have to wait for the end of these clinical trials.

But we just found out yesterday that we may be getting some results, or at least preliminary results, in the next few weeks, maybe even next week. And so that's good news, that maybe we'll get some kind of an answer here. HARLOW: Okay, in the short term. Before you go, plasma-derived therapy. Essentially, donations of plasma from people's blood then put into other people, right, with COVID. Any sign if it's working?

COHEN: You know, we have been hearing from some doctors that it is working. Folks in Orlando had a press conference with the governor of Florida saying, look, we gave it to 12 patients and it worked. Well, I ran that by some experts and they all said this really doesn't mean anything. The fact you have 12 patients who survived, most coronavirus patients survive. You need to give it to many more patients, and importantly, you need a control arm. You need to compare those patients to patients who didn't get this therapy. 12 patients surviving does not really mean much.

HARLOW: But we're glad they did. Elizabeth, thanks on all fronts. I appreciate it. Jim?

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: All right. Let's talk now to the doctors, Dr. Carlos del Rio, he is an infectious diseases specialist and the Executive Associate Dean at Emory University School of Medicine, and Dr. Leila Hojat, an infectious disease physician at University Hospital Cleveland Medical Hospital. Thanks to both of you for coming on.

Dr. Hojat, if I could begin with you. The White House guidelines for reopening are pretty clear cut. One, downward trajectory of cases over a 14-day period, ability to treat all patients without crisis care, and robust testing in place for at-risk healthcare workers. Yet, we're seeing states, Georgia included, opening without meeting those guidelines. Why is that dangerous?

DR. LEILA HOJAT, INFECTIOUS DISEASE PHYSICIAN, UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS CLEVELAND MEDICAL CENTER: Well, I think that it's always going to be too soon from the health perspective. And then from the business perspective and from the people's perspective, it's always going to be a little bit too late. So I understand the anxiousness to kind of get back to normalcy.

I think that we -- it's a little bit too early for a couple reasons. We still don't have a good sense in terms of how many people are already infected or have been infected before, how to test those people. We don't really have quite enough testing yet and we're still working on our treatment options as well. So it does feel like it's a little bitterly early at this point.

SCIUTTO: Dr. del Rio, you're, of course, at Emory in the state of Georgia. When you look at this, I mean, on the other side, right, the peaks weren't as bad as some of the predictions. You look at New York, for instance, they didn't reach the point where they ran out of ventilators, for instance. Largely, it may be because of social distancing.

I just wonder, from your position there, have we learned something about this infection that allows greater freedom now in opening up?


DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY MEDICAL SCHOOL GRADY HEALTH SYSTEM: You know, this is a brand new infection, Jim. We're learning things on a day-to-day basis. I think we're learning a lot about the spectrum of the disease. I think the things that worry me the most is that we know that a lot of people who are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic can transmit the infection.

And we know that while mortality may not be as high when you think at a population level, because of a high transmission rate, the mortality, the excess mortality, especially in people who are vulnerable among the elderly, among people with diabetes, hypertension is pretty significant.

And we can see hospitals and ICUs getting overwhelmed very rapidly. I mean, what we've seen in New York and in other place, what we've seen down here in Albany, Georgia, for example, is really a good example of that.

So I think we're learning as we go along. I think I absolutely agree that we need more testing, we need better plans, and we really need to think about what are the best strategies to get us out of this place we're at right now. We obviously cannot stay forever in social distancing, but what is a safe way to find an exit, I think that's all what we're looking for.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And I know making judgments as you go, right, because people are making these decisions with incomplete information.

Dr. Hojat --

DEL RIO: And making corrections as we go. And as I tell people I wish I knew today what I'm going to learn tomorrow.

SCIUTTO: Yes, understood. Dr. Hojat, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force Response Coordinator, she said that in order to get the testing that everyone, you too included, said it's necessary to do this safely, there needs to be a breakthrough in testing, to get the broad-based testing everyone is talking about.

I feel like I've been hearing this from experts and elected officials for weeks, and yet that capability does not seem to be coming through. I mean, without it, are we essentially flying blind here?

HOJAT: Right. Well, I think she refers to the fact that the testing that we're using now, which is PCR-based test, looking for actual genetic material basically of the virus, it's still kind of difficult to do, for example, in an outpatient setting or on a larger scale. We certainly are able to ramp it up, but there are limitations in terms of reagents and swabs that we all have been hear about.

So I think when she talks about needing a breakthrough, she's hoping for us to shift a paradigm, basically. And it would be great to have rapid antigen testings and whereas we have for flu that she was mentioning. I think it will be a little bit difficult to develop a test like that, but I know they are working on that sort of thing. It will be hard to rule patients out for sure as not having had the virus with that type of testing, though.

So, yes, we'll have to see what people can come up with. I think we are moving quickly though.

SCIUTTO: Dr. del Rio, before we go and just quickly here, folks at home are getting so much conflicting information. They might hear one thing from their governor, another from the mayor. They might use something from the White House podium, from elected official, and something different from the experts here. And everything is different locally, right, different states, different communities.

Where should people go to get the answer they need, to make a decision, can I go to a restaurant, right? Should I go back to work? What's the best place for people to get an answer to that question?

DEL RIO: I think, Jim, you're absolutely describing the reality. There's a cacophony and there's conflicting messages and it's very frustrating for everybody. You need to look at your local data. You need to look at what's happening in your community. You need to understand what's happening really at the ZIP code and at the local, local level. And we're not quite there yet in all of our places.

I think for the time being, my advice to people is continue practicing social distancing, continue wearing a mask when you go outside as much as possible, continue supporting your local hospitals by ordering out food, and really be careful because you don't want to get infected, you really don't want to be a case. As a physician, I don't want to see you in a hospital. I don't want you to die as a result of this infection.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Well, listen, Dr. del Rio, Dr. Hojat, thanks so much for what you're doing. We wish you the best of luck.

DEL RIO: Thank you, Jim.

HARLOW: All right. Let's talk about another crisis in this country on top of the health crisis and the economic crisis, the food crisis. It's not just restaurants struggling in this epidemic. The farmers are scrambling to stay afloat. One of those farmers will join us, next.



SCIUTTO: Wisconsin's governor has extended stay-at-home orders until May 26 as the number of cases there keeps rising across the state. The pandemic has delivered really just a devastating blow to the Badger State's economy.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Milwaukee with more. Miguel, just how are people managing all this there?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, there is a lot of concern a lot, a lot of fear and a lot of anxiety about how this is all going to play out and how long it's going to take. But no matter what industry you are in in this state, it is going to take a big hit.


MARQUEZ: In cities across the Badger State, many businesses shuttered, manufacturing and freefall farming plowed under, Wisconsin's economy in a state of near suspension with no end in sight.


SUSAN BERNA, UNEMPLOYED: I have to turn off the news at a certain point. I have to go out for a walk. And I have to do other things so I don't get overwhelmed.