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University of Washington Revises Model Up to 74,000 Deaths as Some States Begin Reopening; White House Disagrees on Required Testing Rates; President Trump to Reopen Meatpacking Plants by Executive Order. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 28, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST, NEWSROOM: We roll on. You're watching CNN's special live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I'm Brooke Baldwin, thank you for being with me.

As the United States is on track to see a million reported infections in the next 24 hours, a million. The governor of the state which has suffered the most deaths is calling out those he thinks failed to, quote-unquote, "blow the bugle." Here was New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just a short time ago.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Where was the whole international health community? Where was the whole national host of experts, the WHO, the NIH, the CDC, that whole alphabet soup of agencies? Where was everyone?

Where were the -- where was the intelligence community with the briefings, saying, this is in China and they have something called an airplane and you can get on an airplane and you can come to the United States? Governors don't do global pandemics, right?

In this system, who was supposed to blow the bugle and didn't because I would bank that this happens again. And is the same thing going to happen again? I hope not.


BALDWIN: There are also new warning signs coming, specifically about how the nation should reopen. Nearly 20 states, like Georgia, Florida and Texas are starting to relax restrictions, allowing some businesses to open doors. But new models predict that reopening too early will bring deadlier outcomes.

And one of them is from the University of Washington, which is often cited by the White House. It increases the projection of deaths to 74,000, partially due to mobility data showing more people will be out and about, moving around.

Joining me now, one of the researchers behind that modeling. Ali Mokdad is the chief strategy officer for Population Health at the University of Washington. He is also a professor at the university's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

So, Dr. Mokdad, thank you so much for being with me and thank you for all the work you're doing. Just first, in your words, explain why your group increased its projection to 74,000, roughly, of overall deaths?

ALI MOKDAD, CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER OF POPULATION HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: First, it's good to see you doing very well. You've been through a lot.

So what we have raised the projected number of deaths from -- by 6,000 from the last run that we have done on April 22nd, so it's now about 74,000 deaths by August 4th. And the main reason for that is, we are seeing an increase in mobility in the United States, especially in some of the states that are relaxing their measurements of social distancing.

BALDWIN: If you look at a state like Georgia, which is slowly, you know, reopening restaurants, et cetera, and you are a neighboring state of Georgia, I'm just wondering how you think Georgia's behavior impacts those neighboring states, say a month from now?

MOKDAD: It will impact every other state, not only the neighboring, which is a very good point. The neighboring are immediate impacted. But also, somebody from Georgia could get on a plane and come to California, where California is about to ease its social distancing at the right time.

So we are all in it together, and if one state starts relaxing measures and allows the virus to circulate, then we have to test people coming from the state, even by road or by plane. And that will delay the country as a whole for opening up for business, so that's not a right decision at this moment.

BALDWIN: I take that point. But also, if you're a neighboring state of Georgia's do you think that you'll feel some sort of, I don't know, pressure to reopen as well? Or not necessarily?

MOKDAD: You know, there is a pressure, of course, and a balance, between opening our business and keeping our people safe. Right now, the data and the virus is telling us, we're not ready to open.

So, yes, I would feel pressure that one way that I need to open the business, and I'm confusing my public with like (ph), that is a state line that on one side, people are going back to normal or kind of normal, where in my state they're not. So there will be a pressure on me.

But at the same time, the governor of the neighboring state, by delaying the opening, are -- they -- he or she -- are doing the right decision, and they're protecting the lives of their people and allowing for their business to restart faster. And we know that from history. If you shut down, you open your business much faster.

BALDWIN: Yes, that's exactly what I was wondering. And the thing is, with some of these states opening early, I was talking to Sanjay Gupta. You know, he was making the point, we won't even know the consequences of opening early in terms of sickness or even worse for weeks.

MOKDAD: Exactly.

BALDWIN: I know, Dr. Mokdad, health experts have said that there would be an increase in cases and deaths once the social distancing is actually eased. So can you just put those new projections of more deaths in perspective for all of us? Are they a warning? Is the outcome worse than you expected?

MOKDAD: Yes, it's very concerning. So, yes, you're right, we will see the impact 14 days from now, because the incubation period of the virus is 14 days. So 14 days from now, what happens in Georgia right now by relaxing, we'll see it.


And I hope I'll come to your show and say I was wrong, but if history is correct, we know that in Georgia, when they implemented these measures, mortality projection, mortality went down, demand on their hospitals went down.

And right now, for a state like Georgia where the peak hasn't even reached a peak -- I mean, they're still going up, today is their peak for hospital utilization, and they started relaxing their measures as they're going up? I mean, that's a -- not a good sign, and not something good to do.

BALDWIN: Speaking of neighboring states, let me ask you about Florida. Because this is a comment that the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, made just a short time ago, as he was visiting -- he's in Washington today, visiting with President Trump. This is how he defended his response to coronavirus. Listen to this.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): -- the most draconian orders that have been issued in some of these states, and compare Florida in terms of our hospitalizations per 100,000, in terms of our fatalities per 100,000. I mean, you go from D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, you name it, Florida's done better.

And I'm not criticizing those states, but everyone in the media was saying Florida was going to be like New York or Italy, and that has not happened because we understood, we have a big diverse state, we understood the outbreak was not uniform throughout the state --


BALDWIN: Dr. Mokdad, I'm just curious, your response? I mean, to his point, why do you think Florida has seen lower numbers?

MOKDAD: So people in Florida, many parts of Florida issued stay-at- home orders. So what he's saying right now is not true for the whole state, so many people stayed at home. And we know from mobility data in Florida, that many people stayed at home and did their part. So that's why we see less than expected mortality in Florida.

He is right that Florida is a concern for us because he has an older population and he has, on top of what he has, he has disparity in his state, where there are people who have more diabetes, more blood pressure, more cancer and he should be concerned about those, and especially the elderly population he has in his state.

BALDWIN: What about -- lastly, just big picture -- I mean, I think a lot of people are thinking, OK, how much longer, when are we going to fully flatten the curve, when will this be over? But then when you listen to Dr. Fauci, he is now saying that he's almost certain, that this will return in the wintertime.

And here's my question to you. You know, if the U.S. starts meeting the testing threshold, the contact tracing threshold by winter, how do you think that changes all of our lives?

MOKDAD: So they're very good points. So testing will enable us to test, of course, more and test the workforce as it goes back, and would able us to detect a case early on and do the isolation. So more testing is good. And our testing capacity is increasing.

And, yes, we expect this virus to come back again, there will have a second wave, especially in the winter. It's like a flu season, we'll have it again the second time. So by increasing our capacity of testing and preparing our hospital for the second wave, and informing the public and giving them the straight talk.

Telling them that if we stay at home for a couple of weeks -- all of us -- it will come down to a level that we can manage from a public health standpoint, and from a medical standpoint, and we reduce the virus circulation. So when it comes the next time, there is less of it to start with and then we are ready for the second wave.

So, yes, we have --

BALDWIN: I hope so.

MOKDAD: -- dangerous (ph) (INAUDIBLE) this virus as vicious and circulating more than we expected. We have data right now from New York for example, where they have tested people for antibodies, and we know, like in New York, 14 percent of the people had tested positive for antibodies.

So this virus has been circulating widely, much wider than we expected. And here's a stubborn virus that is like taking us a long time to bend the curve and bring it down. We need to be careful.

BALDWIN: It is indeed stubborn. We should all continue to be careful, and here's hoping you are correct that by this winter, so much more of this will be under control. Dr. Ali Mokdad, thank you so very much, sir.

MOKDAD: Thank you.

BALDWIN: And speaking of New York, let's turn to CNN's Erica Hill.

And, Erica, as we all engage in this whole debate, this life-and-death debate over how the nation should actually reopen, go back to business. I know the states are conducting more testing. What do you know about that?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are. And as we hear from all of the officials, Brooke -- and officials, I mean also public health experts -- we know that testing is going to be key. And that's what we're learning, not just from officials but also from some of this modeling that you were referencing earlier in the show, and that you were just talking about with your guest.

And as you look at all of that, it just goes back to what we've been hearing, that it is the data that needs be driving these decisions, not necessarily the dates.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: In my mind, it's inevitable that we will have a return of the virus, or maybe it never even went away. When it does, how we handle it will determine our fate.

HILL (voice-over): At least a dozen states, pushing forward as new models suggest the country could face a major setback if change comes too soon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our forecast now is for 74,000 deaths. There's a lot of unknown factors there, but our best estimate is going up.

HILL (voice-over): The updated model, often cited by the White House, also predicting there could be longer peaks ahead if restrictions are eased too soon.

FAUCI: If we are unsuccessful or prematurely try to open up, and we have additional outbreaks that are out of control, it could be much more than that.

HILL (voice-over): Harvard researchers estimate the U.S. needs to test five million people a day by early June to safely begin reopening. The White House testing czar disagrees.

BRETT GIROIR, WHITE HOUSE TESTING CZAR: So we don't believe those estimates are really accurate, nor are they reasonable in our society.

HILL (voice-over): Many areas around the country, looking to antibody testing to better understand the spread. Nearly 15 percent of the thousands tested across New York State were positive for the antibodies. That number is closer to 25 percent in New York City.

COREY JOHNSON, SPEAKER, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: A lot more people were getting infected before it actually started to show up.

HILL (voice-over): In addition to random sampling, states and cities also testing first responders and frontline workers for antibodies. As officials weigh the data, Americans are trying to figure out what the coming weeks and months could look like, amid new warnings about the economy.

KEVIN HASSETT, SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVIROS TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think by June, you know, I think that we're looking at numbers between 16 and 20 percent. The unemployment rate at that point will be something that's about as high as something that we haven't seen since, you know, the 1930s.

HILL (voice-over): The president, suggesting in a call with governors that schools should reopen, even if just for a few weeks. Yet 39 states have already decided children will not return to the classroom this school year, as concerns grow about a deepening divide. New York City, trying to bridge the gap with nearly 250,000 iPads and internet access.

In the meantime, at hospitals, grocery stores and on the streets of America, frontline workers push ahead. Along the East Coast today, grateful cities, pausing for a flyover to honor their sacrifice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a beautiful tribute. What better place than New York City for them to do this.


HILL: And, you know, Brooke, so important, every day, to take a minute to remember not just the tens of thousands of lives that have been lost to this virus, but the many people who are keeping communities across this country running.

And it is those frontline workers, not just those in hospitals, who absolutely deserve our respect and appreciation, but also those here on the streets, who are getting deliveries to you no matter where you may live, folks in the grocery stores, and quite a moment to have that tribute today.

BALDWIN: I know, huge. Collecting our garbage, delivering food to those in need, delivering those packages. Thank goodness for them. Erica, thank you.

And as we were watching your piece -- and this is the kind of headline I can't believe I'm now reporting, but the U.S. has now hit the million mark, as in one million coronavirus cases now reported in the United States.

One of the most valuable franchises in pro sports, the Los Angeles Lakers, says it has returned nearly $5 million in coronavirus relief money meant for small businesses. But why were they able to get the money in the first place?

Plus, the White House says it has a plan to increase testing nationwide. But the experts say it still falls short, we'll discuss. [14:13:36]

And a nurse on the frontlines of the fight against the virus joins me live. (INAUDIBLE) says she didn't sign up to die.


HILL: Welcome back, you're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

And, yes, there are still a lot of questions about the Trump administration's new plan to ramp up testing for coronavirus nationwide so the economy can safely reopen. And the one big question is, will it be sufficient?

Meeting with the president at the White House today, you have here, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. He was quite confident about how testing is going in his state.


DESANTIS: We have seven drive-through sites around the state of Florida that we operate. Our ability to test exceeds the current demand. If you have coronavirus symptoms, test. If you're a health care worker, first responder, come test. If you have no symptoms at all but just think you may have been exposed, come and test.

And so we have seen more of those latters start to come, but the overall numbers of people who are seeking testing is not currently beyond our capacity. So we're going to have a lot more capacity, going forward. But we still, right now, are able to meet the current demand.


BALDWIN: So Dr. Syra Madad -- let me bring you in -- special pathogens expert. You just heard Governor DeSantis there, saying testing capacity in his state exceeds demand. A White House official says the administration plans to provide enough tests for all 50 states to screen two percent of the folks who live there, two percent. Is that enough?

SYRA MADAD, SPECIAL PATHOGENS EXPERT: No, absolutely not. We need enough testing to be able to offer the test to anybody that needs it. We need to make sure that, you know, we're able to identify these patients, obviously isolate them, do the contact tracing. And that requires a lot more testing.

So that two percent, that just seems like an arbitrary number that's been kind of pulled out of thin air. But really, what needs to happen based on principle is anybody that needs to get tested, is offered a test. And we have that resource infrastructure available.

That's the only way that we can really move forward with opening up the economy, lifting any social distancing measures. Obviously, this is going to --

[14:20:01] (CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: But how do we get to that point, Dr. Madad?

MADAD: -- years, but it's very important we have a strategy.

BALDWIN: How do we get to the point when the country, you know, we're not whoo over two percent. I mean, how do we get to where it needs to be on testing?

MADAD: We need to have a coordinated effort. This is not an issue at the city level, at the state level. This is a global problem, and there needs to be federal support and assistance with it, you can't just leave it up to the governors to kind of deal with it, that's not really how it should be working. This is not a state issue, this is a national issue and needs to be treated like a national issue.

And so we need the support and resources in terms of testing kits and the reagents, that needs to be offered through various means. You know, we need to make sure we have a good infrastructure in place. And then on top of that, we want to make sure that we're also offering testing to some of the harder-hit places. So this is not a one-size- fits-all approach.

There are some states like the state of New York that's harder hit than many others. And then even within those states, you have communities that obviously are disproportionately more affected, so you want to make sure that you're ramping up testing capabilities in those different localities.

BALDWIN: What about -- I want to ask you about antigen tests because the task force's Dr. Birx is pointing to antigen tests as a way to screen large numbers of people. Here she was.


DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We have to have a breakthrough innovation in testing. We have to be able to detect antigen rather than constantly trying to detect the actual live virus or the viral particles itself.


BALDWIN: So let me just back up for a second. What is an antigen test? And is it reliable?

MADAD: So you raise two very important questions. First, right now, we're relying on the molecular testing capability, so you're looking at the virus' genetic material to detect whether you have it or not. And then the other means is looking at the proteins, you know, on the virus itself, and be able to rapidly detect it.

With any of those type of testing mechanisms, regardless of how you want to test, you need to make sure that these are safe, effective, and reliable. So there are several factors that need to come into play. But the timing of the onset of the illness, the concentration of the

virus in the specimen, the quality of the virus, you know, of the specimen collected, as well as how it's processed.

So all of these things really come into play and we need to make sure that we are testing any type of infrastructure that we're offering to make sure that the positive or the negative that they're seeing as the result is actually factual.

Because this is not just a game where if it's positive, OK, it doesn't mean anything. It actually means a lot, these are lives on the line so we want to make sure these are tests that are specific, sensitive and actually reliable.

BALDWIN: Exactly right, that's exactly right. You know, it's great to throw a bunch of tests out there but if they're not accurate, like, worthless. Dr. Madad, thank you very much for your expertise on all of that.

Just in to us here at CNN, President Trump is to order meat processing plants to stay open as they sound the alarm and warn the nation's food supply chain is breaking.


Plus, Dr. Anthony Fauci gets personal in a new interview, talking about his own health and why a virus like this keeps him up at night.


BALDWIN: CNN has learned that President Trump is expected to sign a five-page executive order under the Defense Production Act today that compels meat processing plants to remain open. And this comes as companies like Tyson were considering only keeping 20 percent of its facilities open, and that would drastically reduce the amount of meat at your supermarket.

The president previewed the order during a meeting with the Florida governor in the Oval Office.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should we ban exports of --

TRUMP: We are. We're going to sign an executive order today, I believe, and that will solve any liability problems where they had certain liability problems. And we'll be in very good shape.


BALDWIN: All of this is coming as America's largest meatpacking union estimates 22 meatpacking plants have had to close at some point in the last two months as a result of coronavirus. In just one of the latest temporary closures, the JBS (ph) USA meatpacking plant in Green Bay, Wisconsin, hundreds of coronavirus cases were linked to that facility.

CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez is live for us there this afternoon. And, Omar, obviously, this is a growing crisis. What are officials at that plant telling you?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Right now, we got off a call with Brown County health officials, which is here in the Green Bay area, that had been monitoring, in conjunction with JBS here, the number of cases that they've had.

And specifically across the three major meatpacking facilities in just this community alone, they, either through their employees or linked cases, account for more than half of all confirmed coronavirus cases in this county, the vast majority, stemming from this JBS meatpacking facility behind me. More than 250 confirmed cases just among employees, and we heard from the contact tracing team that about 79 others linked to those employees tested positive.

And according to the company, they service 3.2 million meals to Americans per day, and this facility alone employs around 1,200 people, to give you an idea of the impact.

And this isn't the only facility of theirs that's affected, it's one of four that has had to shut down, two of them now reopened across the country. And this isn't the only company that has been infected, as we know, as well: Smithfield and Tyson as well, Tyson even taking out a full-page ad in various newspapers over the weekend, saying that the --