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Governors Move To Reopen Businesses In Some States; Oklahoma City Mayor Concerned About Reopening Too Soon; China Claims All Hospitalized Virus Patients In Wuhan Discharged. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 27, 2020 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: Some of their businesses this week.


That includes restaurants and movie theaters in Georgia. And there will curbside retail business in Colorado. There will be elective surgeries available in several states starting now.

Even states that are not changing anything yet, like New York, are beginning to talk about how and when to reopen.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Yes. So the question this morning really is can these re-openings be done safely? What exactly does that look like? Does it look like this, this packed beach in Southern California? Is that social distancing? The answer to that is no.

Dr. Deborah Birx says that Americans should expect social distancing to be with us for months. She also says that widespread testing will take a technological breakthrough. What does that mean? As for how the White House is responding to all this, CNN has learned the White House plans to adjust its messaging, scaling back on the president's daily briefings and pivoting to the economy. The latest plan is to leave the medical advice to the experts after the president dangerously suggested that injecting disinfectants into people might help kill the virus.

CAMEROTA: Okay. So let's talk about all of the developments. Joining us now is CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. We also have Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases. Great to see both of you this morning.

So we are about to engage in a grand national experiment. And, basically, it starts this week with at least 13 states, Sanjay, now opening a significant portion of their business. And I'm just wondering, as a doctor, how nervous does this make you? Obviously, staying at home forever is unsustainable. It seems like we're getting to the tipping point where people are very, very anxious to get back to work. So when you see the red, that map there, how anxious does it make you?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It makes me nervous. I mean, I think that people may engage in better practicing of physical distancing even as things reopen. I mean, I think that a lot of people understand that there is a virus that is still out there, that is still circulating, that is still contagious. But there's only so much that's sort of within people's abilities. And you can maintain physical distance, which should be important. But if these places start to open, people are visiting these places and they're going to other places, potentially carrying the virus with them unwittingly, that's a problem.

And in some places like where I am in Georgia, there are still not enough testing at these places. I know we've said that for months and people are sick of hearing it. But that's still the reality, is that if people don't have the confidence that they're not carrying it inside of them they haven't tested in some easy way, such the way that Dr. Birx is sort of talking about, then I think they lack the confidence to be able to do things, the virus continues to spread and we see a resurgence in cases.

I mean, no matter what, Alisyn, to your question, when we start opening, whenever that may be, wherever that may be, you will see an uptick in cases because this is a very contagious virus. I think right now, it's a question of what you're willing to tolerate.

BERMAN: It's interesting, Dr. Marrazzo, social distancing will stick, it leads through the summer, so says Dr. Birx, but we are seeing some states start to relax some restrictions and open some businesses. So my question is, what needs to stick? To do this as safely as you can, appreciating what Sanjay says there, that there is no perfectly safe way to do this and cases will rise, what measures need to stay in place, what do we need to keep doing beyond just washing our hand to minimize the spread of this?

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, DIRECTOR OF THE DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: Yes, great question. Good morning, John and Alisyn. I'd like to think of this as a difference between responsible good to see you both.

I like to think of this as a difference between responsible social distancing versus defiance of social distancing, right? So when people are really defying these obviously effective measures, I mean, there's no question that social distancing has actually worked. Just look at the trends in New York City, certainly look at China. Probably the largest scale experiment at social distancing, extreme social distancing we've seen, and look at Seattle, very good examples. We really know that it does work.

So we do have to do some measure of that as the months go on. What does that look like? I think it looks like what most responsible people have been doing, which means you can go to the grocery store. You just have to be very thoughtful. You can wear a mask if that is going to make you feel better. Certainly, I think, that's a good idea, but really common sense sorts of things, not clustering in a beach full of 20,000 people who are on top of one another. That is not a good idea.

CAMEROTA: People are obviously desperate for a cure. They are desperate for a treatment and vaccine, as we know. And the desperation is part of why what the president said at the podium about maybe people can inject disinfectant, why it was so dangerous.


And we wondered, Sanjay, you'll remember at the time, what the fallout would be. Would anybody try something like that when the president of the United States recommends it? Well, we now have at least one data point about it and the fallout because the governor of Maryland talked about it this weekend about what happened to his hotline after that. Listen to this.


GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): I've raised concerns multiple concerns about conflicting messages. We had hundreds of calls in our hotline here in Maryland about people asking about injecting or ingesting these disinfectants, which is 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?


CAMEROTA: That's just one state. They got hundreds of calls, Sanjay.

GUPTA: It was presented as, you know, even after the president talked about it even by some of the public health officials as, hey, a reasonable thing, maybe we should study this, that sort of presentation. And these are conversations happening between patients and doctors all the time. That's how it was presented. I think that's not the case.

I don't think that before that there were lots of patients going in and asking their doctors would it be reasonable to inject this stuff into my body, but then it gets raised. And these are some of the tragic consequences of what happens in these sorts of outbreaks. A lot of times, the misinformation can travel as fast, if not faster than the virus itself. And it can be as dangerous, if not, more dangerous. So, it's too bad. Hopefully, people will get the correct message as we keep talking about it.

I wish we hadn't had to talk about it in the first place because it raised an issue that probably didn't need to be raised, but now we have to talk about it.

BERMAN: Look, it's clear the White House knows how dumb and dangerous it was, because they're changing the structure of how they're going to present information going forward. They're backing off some of the daily briefings. We're told the president isn't going to do as much medicine and is going to focus more on the economy. So it's clear that even at least some people in the White House know

what a mess, a dangerous mess that was.

On to the future, Dr. Marrazzo, I was interested with what Dr. Birx said about testing. So let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We have to realize that we have to have a breakthrough innovation and testing. We have to be able to detect antigens rather than constantly trying to detect the actual live virus or the viral particles itself and to really move into antigen testing. And I know corporations and diagnostics are working on that now. We have to have a breakthrough.


BERMAN: So what is it, Dr. Marrazzo, antigen testing? How is it different than what we're doing right now and how would it be the breakthrough that might help the economy approach different levels?

MARRAZZO: So, antigen testing involves the detection of the particles of the virus in this case that are actually stimulating the production of antibodies. So, a good example with the coronavirus is that spike protein, remember, those things that stick out of the virus surface. We've been talking about detecting antibody to spike protein. The spike protein is the thing that binds to human cells and gets the virus into the cell.

So if you could devise a test for that would detect that antigen specifically, it could be scaled up rapidly. We use that sort of test for things like HIV detection and then we confirm it with the kinds of genetic tests that we've been talking about, like the PCR.

The advantage of the antigen test is that you can scale it up pretty quickly and you can do it pretty cheaply. The problem or the challenge with the genetic testing that you talk about is that you can do a lot of tests but it requires sophisticated lab facilities to do it. So you can do about 1,000 tests a day in a lab, but you've got to have people who really know what they're doing, you've got to have very expensive machines and you've got to have very strict measures so that you don't contaminate things. So, a lot of benefits to the antigen test.

Personally, I still have questions about how this would be scaled up. One of the things we know is that if you detect the virus today, it might -- or you don't detect it today, it might show up in a couple of days. So I think there are a lot of questions about how this would really be able to assure us that we're feeling safer.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Marrazzo, Dr. Gupta, thank you both very much for all of the information this morning.

BERMAN: So, at least 13 states are taking steps to reopen some businesses this week, but what about mayors of some of the cities in these states who say they're not ready to do so safely? We'll speak with the mayor of Oklahoma City about his concerns, next.



Oklahoma is one of the states reopening some businesses this week. That includes beauty salons, barber shops and nail salons. Restaurants will also be open by the end of the week. Not all of that state's mayors are comfortable with this plan.

Joining us now is one of those. He is Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt. Mayor Holt, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

On a scale of one to ten, how nervous are you about your state reopening this week?

MAYOR DAVID HOLT (R-OKLAHOMA CITY, OK): Well, maybe a seven. But, you know, I understand also that I would be nervous really at any time. Until there is a vaccine or a proven treatment, you know, I am not going to be comfortable about this transition. And so I also sort of recognize that and recognize, however, on the other hand, that we can't shelter in place forever. So I know there's a date out there. My gut would have picked a date farther out.

But we're trying to make the best of this. There's external factors here. Obviously, these restrictions are being lifted by the governor. But here at the local level, we can add conditions and we're going to put those into our proclamation to make sure that there are strict sanitation and social distancing protocols.

CAMEROTA: Like what? What are we going to see in Oklahoma City?

HOLT: I mean, I don't think we're going to reinvent the wheel. We're going to look at the best practices and the things you would imagine. I mean, social distancing in restaurants, making sure the tables are apart, making sure the servers are wearing masks.


Obviously, some of the personal care services are the highest risk activities, and so we need to really look at that, things like, if you're getting a haircut, the hairstylist is wearing a mask, you're offered a mask, that type of thing. We're going to put those into our proclamation so they're enforceable and that's the best I think we can try to make out of this situation as we transition into a new phase.

CAMEROTA: I mean, is it true that if you follow federal guidelines, the curve has actually gone down and the number of cases has actually gone down in Oklahoma City, and in that case, why would your gut tell you to push it out and to what date?

HOLT: Yes. We pored over that data late last week. And our public health officials here at the Oklahoma City County Health Department, they like the White House gaining criteria. And we think that we just barely meet it. And so that certainly is a factor as well.

I think I just would have given everybody a little bit more time, you know. What's interesting is I get so many messages from restaurant owners and hair salons who want more time. They're not comfortable yet opening.

And so I think everybody just needed a little bit more time and I'm not saying it's July or August, maybe just a few more weeks. But that is essentially, at this point, largely water under the bridge unless there's a change in data this week. And the governor said this and I certainly am saying it, if there's something that changes in the next few days before Friday, you know, we will not hesitate to change course. We were very aggressive at the beginning of this and we want to stay that way.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, look, I think that -- I appreciate your candor and I think that everybody understands that everyone has a different comfort level about this. Some restaurants are comfortable, some aren't. But do you have a plan in place for if cases spike? What will happen at the hospitals in Oklahoma City?

HOLT: Well, we'll do -- we'll kind of just -- we'll go back to where we were. I think that if cases spike, this experiment will have failed and we'll have to find a new path forward.

But as far as hospitals go, that's another data point obviously that we're looking at. And that's one of the six gaining criteria that you can look at from the White House's perspective. But we meet it today and our hospitals are ready.

One thing I can say about May 1st, we are far more ready for this whole situation than were on March 15th when we had our first case of local spread. And as individuals, we've been conditioned.

And my hope and prayer for the people of Oklahoma City is that even as we move into a new phase that, which is -- that phase is inevitable, that we will apply better decisions in our daily lives than we might have applied six weeks ago, that we're ready for this as best we possibly can be as individuals.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about another Oklahoma City catastrophe that we all at least who lived through it remember so well. And last week was the 25th anniversary of the bombing at the Murrah federal building, at that time, the largest, I think still, homegrown terror attack on American soil. And were you able to mark that moment because of this crisis that we're in now?

HOLT: Well, we had to do it a little differently and, no, not in the way we were used to. We have always gathered -- we have a beautiful memorial downtown. I certainly invite everybody to visit it someday in the future where it would be beyond COVID-19, and we always gather there.

And even 25 years later, thousands of people come to those events on April 19th. Obviously, this year, the gathering was not in the cards. And so the memorial created a beautiful program, which you can watch at I'm in it and we have messages from Bishop Curry and some other great national leaders and it's a wonderful touching program.

And, actually, I think it resonated well. But it was very different for us. But it was very important on this 25th anniversary that we commemorate the lives lost, the survivors, those who came to our rescue and all those who were changed forever.

CAMEROTA: I'm sure a lot of people will go to the site and watch that video. Mayor David Holt, thank you for giving us your take on how you were feeling this morning. We really appreciate it.

HOLT: Sure. Thank you. Be well.

CAMEROTA: You too.

CNN has brought you unprecedented access inside the city where coronavirus began. David Culver is back with us with another look behind the scenes at covering the crisis from Wuhan, what you did not see on T.V., next.



BERMAN: This morning, China claims that all coronavirus patients in Wuhan have now been discharged from hospitals.

Now, we have no way to confirm that. Be that as it may, as Wuhan tries to return to normalcy, after a month-long lockdown, CNN Correspondent David Culver went back for a firsthand look at how life has changed. This is a behind-the-scenes look at his remarkable journey.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's Tuesday, April 21st, and after, I guess, about two-and-a-half months.


CULVER: We are leaving shanghai. The team is ready to go. Where is (INAUDIBLE)? She is somewhere back there. There you are. Yes, headed to our next stop. So we'll see what that's going to be like.

Our journey back to the original epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak required weeks of planning. While, within China, some cities are easing travel restrictions, new hotspots can suddenly surface and so too new lockdowns, which could trap us mid-travel for an unknown amount of time, but all layered. And we felt this was the moment to return.

And this is our ticket here, might be reversed, but you can see it. Take a picture as you can see it, our destination set for Wuhan. This is going to be about a four-hour train ride.

We've noticed it's relatively full so far. I'd say at least maybe half full, which is pretty significant given next to no one was traveling for several weeks.


Let's get on board here.

On board, the train attendants collect our passports. They try to place CNN Photo Journalist Justin Robertson's accent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are you from? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where I'm from? I'm from London. Yes.



CULVER: It is not just friendly conversation, because they want to be sure that we've been in the country for at least two weeks so that we're not potentially importing the virus from other areas. The threat to China now thought to be external.

Arriving in Wuhan, I'm quickly reminded of the last time we were here, almost three months to the day. We had spent just 29 hours on the ground when we abruptly learned that Wuhan was going on lockdown. CNN shared that scramble out of Wuhan with you.

A rush check-in sparked by a 3:00 A.M. phone call.

Our rush right now is to check out, get out.

We headed to the train station as soon as we got word.

As we arrived, crowds already lined up for tickets stretching out the door.

4:15 in the morning here, and the only way to buy tickets at this hour is in person.

From there, was off to a Beijing hotel, quarantining before the rest of the world realized you'd soon be doing the same, 14 days in a hotel room to make sure we had not contracted the virus. We continued our live reporting from quarantine, then we relocated to Shanghai. And here we were three months later headed back to Wuhan.

The lockdown was over but the hesitation remains. As we interviewed an American who has lived in Wuhan since 2009, we also experienced the increased skepticism towards foreigners like us and the growing distress of western media. A crowd of police questioning us.

What did he say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you from?

CULVER: You speak English. I'm from the U.S., but I live in Beijing.

It was not our only interaction with authorities when we returned to what some Chinese scientists believed to be the source of the outbreak, the Huanan Seafood Market and started recording, police stepped out of a nearby tent to ask us why we were there.

Okay. What did he say?


CULVER: Perhaps the most sensitive spot on our visit, this funeral home and crematorium. Normally, you do not find police posted outside. But last month, Chinese media published a report claiming more urns were distributed than reported coronavirus deaths, calling into question the official figures. We wanted to investigate. But even as we were across the street, police quickly approached us.

We just attempted to go to one of the funeral homes in hopes of seeing some of the grieving families and hearing their perspective of what transpired over the course of the lockdown and losing their loved ones. As we were there, the police didn't like that we were there. They happened to be positioned right outside. Held us there for a little bit, didn't let us leave. And, finally, after a few minutes, we were able to continue on our way.

Given that many medical experts believe the virus transmitted from wildlife to humans, we wanted to go to another wet market to see what they were selling.

It's pretty much markets, scenes like this all across China. This is actually a normal one. You've got a bag full of toads, some fish on the chopping block over there.

No wildlife but snakes, lots of frozen poultry, along with an array of fresh vegetables and spices all under the same roof.

Scenes like this appear to show the city of 11-plus million residents coming back to life, folks enjoying a game of badminton or just soaking in the stillness knowing that after weeks sealed inside your home, this is a luxury.

And while many of the businesses remain closed, the ones that have reopened are changing up the way they operate, keeping customers outside, bringing the products to them. Hotels, like ours, spraying down everyone who walks inside with disinfectant. The elevators are marked with a safe social distance. They provide a tissue to keep your bare fingers from touching the buttons. All of this as the testing has become streamlined here.

Before we left, we had to get ours done too, an easy appointment to make, a quick throat swab, $35 fee to expedite the results, and 24 hours later, we were handed the paperwork showing we were negative. With that, we could then safely depart.

A far less rush checkout this time leaving Wuhan compared to three months ago. We're getting in the car and headed to the train, we're headed to Shanghai.

On the train back, police carefully examining our passports and test results, allowing to return to Shanghai without having to do another quarantine, once again, leaving behind Wuhan as it slowly awakens in this post-lockdown era. The people left a bit shell-shocked, navigating this uncertain moment with a cautious optimism.


CULVER: And that's where the story finds us now back here in Shanghai, John and Alisyn. A lot of folks ask us why go there at all?


I think part of the frustration here is that we'll hear a lot of things on Chinese social media, we'll read it in Chinese state media. But unless you're on the ground.