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More U.S. States Ease Virus Restrictions This Week; U.S. to Resume Accepting Small Business Loan Applications; U.S. Blames China for Cyber Attacks on COVID-19 Research. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired April 27, 2020 - 05:00   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Hi, welcome to all of our viewers joining us here in the U.S. and all around the world, I'm Robyn Curnow. So just ahead here on CNN, the road to reopening in the U.S. has begun. Several states moved to relaxed lockdown measures. Plus this --


BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: We know it is tough, and I want to get this economy moving as fast as I can, but I refuse to throw away all the effort and the sacrifice of the British people.


CURNOW: Well, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is back, as you can see, back to work with a warning for the U.K., relaxing the lockdown now could be too soon, he says. Also, rumors of North Korean's Kim Jong-un's whereabouts still abound. We'll have a live report from Seoul on what South Korean officials may know.

Lovely to see you this Monday. So in just a matter of hours, some businesses across the U.S. will be able to open their doors again. Now a number of governors are slowly easing restrictions across the U.S. that were aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. And the hope is to restart local economies, but there is, of course, much concern that some states may be pushing forward far too soon as cases and death tolls continue to rise.

The White House task force says measures to prevent the spread of the virus will still need to remain in place for months to come.


DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Social distancing will be with us through the Summer to really ensure that we protect one another --


BIRX: As we move through these phases. There's very important pieces in that, in talking to the states to say this is not just about diagnosing cases that you see them. Over the last few weeks, we're really beginning to understand how much asymptomatic cases and asymptomatic spread may be out there.


CURNOW: So each state is now lifting restrictions on their own terms. The governor of hard-hit New York State is keeping restrictions in place for now, but is looking ahead for a phased-reopening.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The pause is statewide until May 15th, right? Then you have the CDC guidance that says hospital -- total hospitalizations declining for 14 days, OK? So we get to May 15th, what regions have seen a decline for 14 days? Well, we're assuming we will have seen a decline in the state for 14 days. That's where you will start the conversation to get to phase 1.


CURNOW: But in states like Colorado, the governor there is expressing concern even as he allows some businesses to reopen. Take a listen to this.


GOV. JARED POLIS (D-CO): We're all worried about a potential for a second spike, whether it's in the Fall along with flu season, in September, October. Whether it's July, it's why we've really been really laser-focused as an administration on figuring out how we can endure and sustain these kinds of social distancing measures.

Our target is about 60 percent to 65 percent social distancing from the way people used to live, and how we can do that over a period of months in a psychologically sustainable way and of course an economically sustainable way that meets the health goals of the state.


CURNOW: Well, some Colorado businesses will be allowed to reopen this week. But the governor is keeping in place a safer at home order in which people would not be ordered to stay in their home, but are encouraged to stay there as much as possible. However, not every county in the state is ready to let their guard down yet, as Gary Tuchman now reports.



GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This is the city of Greeley in Weld County, Colorado, where many businesses will be open on Monday just like in the other 63 counties in Colorado. The governor has called for a reopening of retail businesses that were considered non-essential, but that it follows safety protocols and will deliver goods to curbside. On Friday, on May 1st, those retail stores will then allow people inside if they're still following the safety protocols.

Also on Friday, barber shops, beauty shops, manicurists to parlors, other personal care businesses will be allowed to open. What's different about this measure is that the 64 counties have some say in how this works out in this state. For example, Denver City and Denver County don't want things to reopen tomorrow, so they're allowed to postpone it.

But other counties like Weld County want more businesses to open. They're supposed to ask for a waiver from the state to reopen businesses. As far as we know, that waiver hasn't been asked for. But county leaders here have told business leaders they can open up their stores. So, this place right here, this is a barber shop called The Barbershop, their plan is to reopen on Monday.

They say they have a full book of appointments between 9:00 and 6:00. You can see on this door, there's a sticker, there was a cleaning crew that came in here at April 26th to sanitize, to clean up, they specialize in COVID cleaning, they say. So, the plan is to open this business, this barber shop even though the governor doesn't want barber shops to open just yet. This is Gary Tuchman, CNN, in Colorado.


CURNOW: Thanks Gary for that. Now, let's go over to southern California because this week, officials may consider temporarily actually closing some of the beaches after a weekend heat waves sent flocks of people to the sandy shores there. Well, Paul Vercammen has more from Ventura County, take a look.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The weather cooled off, but more of that head-on collision between the need to social distance and people's desire to get some fresh air and get down to the beach here in southern California. Here in Ventura County, the beach opened, limited access, maintain your distance, the authorities said, don't go ahead and throw any bonfires or parties or that sort of thing.

So most people were cooperating, but just down the road, a couple of miles, L.A. County beaches still shut down. No access allowed, so people left L.A. County and they went to the beaches in Ventura County and Orange County. So, we talked to some of those residents here and they say they were just desperate for a chance to get out of the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, as a person who loves to get out, I wanted to get out. You know, we've been stuck inside and honestly, how can you stay inside on such a beautiful day. You know, as long as we're abiding by the rules that they are giving us, why shouldn't we be able to do what we want?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our own four walls around us at home are starting to feel like prison. So, you know, if we can walk around outside on our street, why can't we walk around at the beach as long as we're social distancing.

VERCAMMEN: L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti weighed in on this on Twitter, he said, "we won't let one weekend ruin a month of progress. While the sunshine is tempting, we are staying home to save lives."

As idyllic as the scene looks behind me, there are people who told us on this beach, they don't have a job -- well, they are exhorting city officials, their state representatives, the governor to give them some time line in this state. They want to get back to work. Reporting from Ventura County, California, Paul Vercammen, now back to you.


CURNOW: Thanks, Paul for that. So, as you just heard, millions of Americans in addition to being desperate to get some sun at the beach, they're also desperate for financial relief. But many of them don't know when that will come. In fact, not even the White House seems to know. This weekend, two top officials sent very mixed messages about when the economy could recover. Take a look at this.


KEVIN HASSETT, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: You know, I think the next couple of months are going to look terrible. You'll get to see numbers that are as bad as anything that we've ever seen.

We're going to be looking at an unemployment rate that approaches rates that we saw during the great depression.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, UNITED STATES: I think as we begin to reopen the economy in May and June, you're going to see the economy really bounce back in July, August, September. We've never seen anything like this. This is not the financial crisis.


CURNOW: Well, Christine Romans joins me now from New York with more on all of this. Christine, hi, good to see you --


CURNOW: And it's Monday morning here, it's eight minutes past 5:00 a.m., folks are waking up, and there are so many mixed messages coming from Washington on how this is all going to play out. So much uncertainty still.

ROMANS: No, the president's economic adviser Kevin Hassett is absolutely right when he says that right now, we're looking at depression era numbers. We're looking at numbers that we have never seen in modern history. I mean, 26.5 million people lost their jobs in 5 weeks. During the great depression, it was 8.7 million people and it took months for that to happen.

So, this is really unprecedented. The difference here isn't a depression, the depression, right? We have a safety net. And what I think the Treasury Secretary there is being optimistic about is that the safety net is going to catch these people. And between the small business loans and between stimulus checks and unemployment benefits and extended unemployment benefits, that this thing is going to turn around with what they call a v-shaped recovery when the economy finally reopens.


So, on the one hand, you have Kevin Hassett being absolutely grim, and rightfully so about what we're going through right now. And you have the Treasury Secretary who is painting a more hopeful picture about a v-shaped recovery that the president has been advertising.

CURNOW: OK, so then, you know, in your experience of how things play out, what is key for you as we look ahead in this next week? I mean, are folks getting their loans? Because it's all very well being optimistic, but if you can't the loan, if you can't get --

ROMANS: Yes --

CURNOW: Unemployment benefits, each same has different problems and different processes. There's still a lot of log jam.

ROMANS: And anxiety. I mean --

CURNOW: Yes --

ROMANS: You know, Robyn, when you look at other countries in the world, other countries like the U.K. and some countries in Europe and in Canada, they have just stepped in. The government has just stepped in and paid a big portion of the payroll of companies. So, people aren't running out, trying to file an archaic -- you know, old- fashioned ways to get unemployment benefits and try to get money to pay their rent.

They are being made whole. So they don't have that anxiety about their financial anxiety, they have the health anxiety and you know, social distancing anxiety. So, in the U.S., it's really a tough position here right now. I think the most important thing for this week is that more people start to get those stimulus payments, 88 million have been paid out.

The unemployment benefits can start to flow with the extended unemployment benefits. They're supposed to get an extra 600 or so that the federal government is going to pay for. Some states haven't even begun the process of figuring that out. And the Goldman Sachs overnight, Robyn, really interesting. They said you should plan on state aid; another kind of stimulus package from the government, you should plan on maybe another round of stimulus checks or payments.

So, they're saying there's going to be more safety net spending that's going to be needed to keep people whole. So, I think we're still in the early innings of this quite frankly.

CURNOW: Yes, we certainly are. Christine Romans, good to see you, thanks so much.

ROMANS: You, too, Robyn.

CURNOW: OK, so, in a few hours, another round of businesses will reopen here in the U.S. state of Georgia. Restaurants and movie theaters were actually cleared to open their doors today, Monday, by the Governor Brian Kemp. And this is despite heavy criticism and even President Trump's disapproval. We know over the weekend, gyms, nail salons, barber shops and bowling alleys were allowed to open on Friday.

So, they -- you know, they've been up all weekend. And the governor has said he has confidence in this rollout and his bad cities from imposing their own restrictions on businesses. Well, I want to talk about this with restaurant owner Gary Leake, he runs the Johnnie MacCracken's Celtic Firehouse Pub in Georgia. He joins us now. So, good to see you. You heard our economics reporter there and no doubt this has been an extremely tough time for you as a business owner. Was it a hard decision? Why have you decided to open your pub today?

GARY LEAKE, OWNER, JOHNNIE MACCRACKEN'S CELTIC FIREHOUSE PUB: Your question, hard decision? Yes, it's a hard decision. We have a very large restaurant chain that's here headquartered here in Georgia. And one of the CEOs made a wonderful plea yesterday on national TV, and said that we've gone through the pandemic, which is -- nobody underestimates how important that is, but we're now entering the next phase of this, which is called an economic catastrophe we're in right now.

Opening a restaurant right at this point is more of a symbolic move to get us to the next point, which is the recovery which some people estimate could be 30 percent conservatively of the destruction of this whole industry that we operate in which is about 15 million employees.

CURNOW: How many -- I want to know about you particularly though, with your pub. How many people are relying on you or at least getting a paycheck or tips? And are you concerned about their safety? I mean, have you had to now make a decision that their economic health or your economic health is over weighing their personal health?

LEAKE: Yes, not exactly. We are -- every step of this before it actually -- we had a mandatory close-down, we sent messages out every single day to our employees and said, you are not required to work. This is a voluntary basis, and we ask people to come forward and say if you feel that there's something safety-related, let us know and we can deal with it.

And that's before we knew what kind of safety net we had. Now, the safety net that we have going here in Georgia and the United States is an additional -- and I've just heard part of your broadcast, there's an additional $600 a week that's coming for unemployment. We actually have employees right now, thankfully, that are -- that are indemnified to actually making in some cases more money, and they have their safety covered.


So, a few days ago, we asked if we opened would anybody like to work, and we had a few people that agreed to, and of course by now you've heard we have 39 edicts that we have to cover to open. And some people have kind of -- including our governor have made reference to the media to check out that. There seems to be a little bit of a disparity on how businesses were allowed to be opened somewhere not.

CURNOW: Well, basically in Georgia, he said Georgians can open their restaurants today. But you have a pub. Is it -- I mean, how can you social distance if someone is coming in and having a few Tequilas tonight, and you know, wants to have a chat to the guy sitting on bar store. I mean, you're going to be having folks sitting six bar stores away from each other, and how do you ensure the safety of say, your waiters and waitresses and bartenders?

LEAKE: Yes, OK, well, let me -- you know, let me go -- there is about three questions in that one. There will be no waitress service. This will be more typical of the experience you get when you go into Europe which is, you know, like England, Ireland, which is pub-style service, so there will be no waitress service and no close contact.

The bar thankfully represents a barrier which can give us the distance that we need, and as far as food goes, same thing applies. It won't be delivered to the table, it will be called out and a person can come to pick it up. But please, let me make this be very pointed to you. This is not a normal way of doing business, and we would be out of business --

CURNOW: Yes, sure --

LEAKE: For permanently if we had to do business like this. This is more of a symbolic move because part of a recovery of an economic situation is the psychology involved in saying that we've got to carry on with our life. We're in an economic crisis right now.

CURNOW: Thank you very much for your perspective. I hope this is the best decision for you and your staff. Stay safe. Gary Leake, thank you very much.

LEAKE: Thank you.

CURNOW: So experts say a vaccine will be key to fully reopening societies. We'll speak with a lead scientist behind one of the first human trials of a vaccine. And also British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is back on the job after recovering from the coronavirus. And he has a big message to share with the world as he gets back to work. There he is in front of 10 Downing Street just a little while ago, we have that as well next, stay with us, you're watching CNN.



CURNOW: Well, the Trump administration is pointing the finger at China, accusing it of attempting to steal coronavirus research. And it comes as officials warn they're seeing a growing wave of cyber attacks on government agencies and medical institutions. Our Alex Marquardt reports on that. Alex. ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When it comes to cyber attacks

against the United States in the words of one cyber security expert we spoke with, they are trying to steal everything. U.S. officials are particularly disturbed about the growing attacks on the U.S. medical sector. So hospitals, labs, researchers doing research into a coronavirus vaccine, and one wave of attacks that is particularly disturbing is against the Department of Health and Human Services which oversees the CDC.

They are of course, helping lead the charge against the coronavirus pandemic. They are seeing what one official called a mounting daily surge of attacks. The sophistication scale and scope of which according to this official means that they could only come from China or Russia. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is singling out China, calling them out by name, saying that China is carrying out attacks specifically against researchers looking into a vaccine for coronavirus.

The head of the National Security Division for the Department of Justice says, quote, "there is nothing more valuable today than biomedical research relating to vaccines for treatments for the coronavirus." This official, his name is John Demers, went on to say that the country that would -- that comes out first with a vaccine would have a significant geopolitical advantage.

We did reach out to the Chinese Embassy here in Washington D.C., they did not respond to our request for comment. Now China and Russia are not the only countries involved. They are the classic main adversaries for the United States in the cyber realm along with Iran and North Korea. There are also a number of criminal groups that are getting involved.

A Google's threat analysis group says that they have identified at least a dozen government-related hacker groups, and the attacks really span the spectrum from ransomware to malware to phishing attacks, disinformation all with different goals, whether it's to steal information related to coronavirus, to take advantage of this moment, this pandemic to steal other types of information or simply to sow chaos and destruction in this unique moment. Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.

CURNOW: Thanks, Alex, for that. So U.S. President Donald Trump is facing intense fallout for comments about potentially injecting disinfectants to treat the coronavirus. He insists he was being sarcastic, but he may be adding to a dangerous trend. Health officials are already reporting a rise in poisonings from cleaners and disinfectants. And now, some states in the U.S. say there is an uptick in calls to poison control centers after the president's remarks. Have a listen to the governors of Maryland and Michigan.


GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): We had hundreds of calls in our hotline here in Maryland about people asking about injecting or ingesting these disinfectants, which is, you know, hard to imagine that people thought that, that was serious, but people actually were thinking about this. Was this something you could do to protect yourself?

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): All I know is this, when the person with the most powerful position on the planet is encouraging people to think about disinfectants, whether it was serious or not, people listen, and so we have seen an increase in numbers of people calling poison control. And so I think it's really important that everyone of us with a platform disseminate medically accurate information.



CURNOW: So, despite those concerns, the White House coronavirus response coordinator has downplayed the president's remarks, and he says he was having a dialogue. Now, Deborah Birx tells CNN, Mr. Trump understands injecting disinfectants isn't a COVID-19 treatment.

And the head of U.S. Health and Human Services is keeping his job for now. Sources told CNN, there was talk at the White House over replacing HHS Secretary Alex Azar. One even said Trump aides may want to use Azar as a scapegoat for the president's missteps including talk of injecting disinfectant as a coronavirus treatment.

But President Trump is denying he was on the chopping box so as Azar, he praised Mr. Trump on Twitter and bashed the media. So, you're watching CNN, as the race for the first coronavirus vaccine ramps up, we speak to the director of the Oxford University vaccine group, he says a million doses could be ready by September.



JOHNSON: I ask you to contain your impatience because I believe we are coming now to the end of the first phase of this conflict, and in spite of all the suffering, we have so nearly succeeded. We defied so many predictions. We did not run out of ventilators or ICU beds. We did not allow our NHS to collapse. And on the contrary, we have so far collectively shielded our NHS so that our incredible doctors and nurses and healthcare staff have been able to shield all of us from an outbreak that would have been far worse.


CURNOW: There you have it. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking just in the last hour or so. He's back at Downing Street for the first time since his own battle with coronavirus. Mr. Johnson is warning against relaxing the U.K.'s virus restrictions too soon as you heard there. Well, let's go to Isa Soares joining me.