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Reopening Schools?; Race Intensifies For Coronavirus Vaccine; U.S. Surpasses One Million Coronavirus Cases. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired April 28, 2020 - 15:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining us.

The United States just hit a milestone that people may have seen coming, but it is still hard to believe, and stomach, quite frankly, as the number of coronavirus cases in the country now tops one million, and the U.S. now accounting for a third of the world's coronavirus cases, doubling in just over two weeks.

And some additional very sad perspective on all of this, the current U.S. death toll, now over 57,000, is about to pass the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. That's three months compared to two decades of violent conflict.

At the very same time, there's a change now from the CDC, now highlighting seven COVID models on its Web site, one of which nearly doubling the death toll projections between now and August.

Another model often cited by the White House has now raised the projected us death toll to 74,000 by August, in part because of all of the signs we have seen out there that people are heading back out into public.

These sobering numbers are just one reason the top doctor behind the model, that model cited by the White House, tells CNN right now is not the time to be reopening.

And Dr. Anthony Fauci, he seems to share that very concern in a new interview just this morning. Listen.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: 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. It could be a rebound to get us right back in the same boat that we were in a few weeks ago.


BOLDUAN: A few weeks ago was not a good place.

Let's get to Florida. Let's start in Florida this hour.

CNN's Rosa Flores, she's in Miami.

Rosa, Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis, he was just meeting with the president at the White House and talking about his reopening plans for Florida, for the state. What are you hearing about those plans?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, what we heard from the Oval Office is that Governor Ron DeSantis will be announcing the reopening plan for the state of Florida sometime tomorrow.

Now, he did not give any details. He did not tell us exactly what's going to happen. What we did here, though, is a lot of the same things that we hear during press conferences related to COVID-19 right here in Florida. And that is a lot of patting himself on the back for the successes of his state.

Take a listen.


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.


FLORES: Now, Governor DeSantis has not provided details about his reopening plan. Some counties and localities have beat him to the punch.

Duval, Bay and Sarasota counties have already reopened beaches. And right here where I am, Kate, Miami-Dade County is expecting to reopen parks, waterways, and golf courses starting tomorrow, with some restrictions -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right, Rosa, thank you.

So, the White House is also right now facing pushback today over its latest strategy on the single most important aspect of getting the country opened safely again, which is testing.

The White House unveiled new guidelines and new testing targets yesterday in a Rose Garden event, the president saying pretty boldly, at one point, that testing is not going to be a problem at all.

But, largely, the strategy leaves the states to shoulder most of the responsibility, designating the federal government as a -- quote, unquote -- "supplier of last resort." A White House official told CNN the goal is to help each state test at least 2 percent of people in each state per month, a target that a wide range of experts says is not nearly enough.


DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: That's seven million a month. That's way too little. Just to put a number on it, it would take four years to test every American.

You would think everybody at the White House would be focused on this 24/7. They keep lowballing it, I don't get it. It's fundamental to getting our lives back.


BOLDUAN: On fundamental to getting our lives back.

Joining me right now is CNN's Drew Griffin, who is looking into this.

Drew, talk to us about this White House strategy and why it is facing this criticism so quickly.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, because it was a blueprint for change is what it was billed at, but it's really not much change at all.

One governor telling our Dana Bash it's a plan to have a plan, not really a plan itself.

And Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington state, really trashed this place as nothing more than the White House kind of patting itself on the back.


If you look at the plan, the plan for the White House is to dump everything on the states. I don't know how else to put it. And that includes getting the supplies, which have been the most problematic, Kate.

The government would enable innovation, provide strategic guidance, but look at what the state and the private sector needs to do, formulate and implement all the testing plans, and on the private sector to meet the supplies of the states.

When the White House put out its actual testing plan, look at the first thing they say, acting as a supplier of last resort. Kate, the supplies are what's holding everybody back.


GRIFFIN: States, labs, they can't get these supplies. They were looking for federal guidance to try to have some kind of oversight.

The American Association of Medical Colleges sent Dr. Birx a letter saying just this. It's just, we don't have the supplies, saying that not one of these components in terms of support lies is readily available in sufficient quantities to each and every lab that needs them.

I don't see anything in this blueprint for change that changes that. And that is what we are reporting today. Many states, many health departments just do not have those swabs, vials, reagents that we have been talking about over and over for weeks now.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and continues to pit states against states trying to get to these supplies, which is exactly what we have heard for weeks now.

Thank you, Drew.

Joining me right now for more on this is Dr. Amesh Adalja. He is, of course, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security.

Doctor, it's good to see you again.

We -- you and I have talked about testing so many times. I want to get your reaction to the White House's testing target here of at least two percent. But, essentially, they're putting the line at 2 percent each month.

If that's as much as the White House can and is hoping for, what does that say to you?

DR. AMESH ADALJA, INFECTIOUS DISEASES SOCIETY OF AMERICA: Well, just that you're not really right-sizing this response, because there may be places where you have to do more than 2 percent. And there may be places where 2 percent is OK.

This isn't a homogeneous outbreak, and there are places that you want to be able to do extensive testing to be able to get them to a point where they're confident in reopening, in having hospitals operate in a way that they're not going to get crushed with surges of patients.

So, we want to really not set a specific ceiling on testing. I think the ceiling has to be what the outbreak demands. And that's going to be different in different places. And we want to get to a point where doctors can order these tests without having to worry about reagents or nasal swabs or having any problems with the supply.

And we're not there in many parts of the country.

BOLDUAN: Definitely not there. No evidence of that so far.

The White House's testing czar also said -- and I'm going to play it for you -- he said this about testing just today on ABC:


ADM. BRETT GIROIR, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: The tests are absolutely important. They're critical. They will be expanded dramatically as we reopen.

But it's not the only tool we have in the toolbox.


BOLDUAN: But we have been told all along, Doctor, that testing is essentially the whole ball game of getting people back in public safely.

So, what do you make of that statement? I mean, can you just remind folks why testing is really the linchpin to getting this right?

ADALJA: Because we really need to know who's infected, who isn't infected, and we have to tie that to public health interventions, like all the case -- the case finding and the case interviewing that we're going to be thinking about doing as we move to the next stage.

That's all contingent upon having a positive test. So, this really is something that you can't understate. And it is one part of the toolbox, but it's a major part of the toolbox. And it really needs to be robust, and we really should not have anything that's compromising the ability to test, because, therefore, if you can't do the testing, all the rest of that will basically fall.


And what you're saying is a reminder of just why it seems governors, doctors, everybody seems to be banging their head against the wall on this, because the White House is now making clear that, from its position, the federal government, as they have said, should be consider the supplier of last resort for getting all of these things that we're talking about.

Is that the right strategy?

ADALJA: No, we need federal coordination here.

You don't want states bidding against each other. We don't want states doing international deals that really the federal government should be doing. We have already heard about Maryland getting nine million tests from South Korea. We want this to be a coordinated response, just like ventilators, because the federal government has the ability to coordinate this, if they actually chose to do so.

And that really is where we want to see this, because, right now, you have everybody kind of out there on their own, all 50 states, and within those states, we even have counties and hospital systems doing this all on their own.

We want to have this much more smoother, because we can't be like this forever and get out of this pandemic.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and it's going to require consistent testing. This isn't one test and done. This is consistent testing to make sure that things are working, that these policies that are being put in place, that people are doing it right. Doctor, thank you so much.

ADALJA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: I also want to get now back to what Dr. Fauci was talking about today, his concern that, if states open too quickly, the virus could rebound to where the country was a few weeks ago.


There is new data out that really backs that up from a study of more than 200 counties across the country.

Joining me right now is the doctor -- director of PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. David Rubin, who is creating this model that I'm talking about here.

It's good to see you, Dr. Rubin.



BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Your model is taking a look at the county level of the impact that social distancing and other factors are having on the spread of COVID, but also how reopening, let's say in mid-May, could impact that.

And from what I'm seeing, it looks like there's good news and bad news when it comes to rural counties vs. urban counties. Can you explain?

RUBIN: Yes, it's a mixed picture.

I think national models and even state models don't pick up how different areas of the state are really having different outbreaks with the COVID epidemic.

And what we chose to do here at PolicyLab -- and you can visit the models at -- what we chose was to actually make the assumption that it wouldn't matter if you lived in a rural or an urban area.

And so as we looked across counties in the country, we wanted to give them a selective experience of what would happen if they tried to reopen. And so by using models that were much more refined for local area analysis, we have been able to kind of see that some places may be ready to reopen, while others, like our large, densely populated cities, are not yet ready.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And in these densely urban areas, from the model -- from your modeling you're seeing, how bad could it get if these stay- at-home restrictions and social distancing are lifted too soon?

RUBIN: Well, to me, the clearest checkpoint that these areas need to pass, if you will, is that they need to degrade the number of cases in the area.

So even if you have the same risk of transmission, it matters whether you're starting with five cases that are doubling to 10 or 500 cases that are doubling to 1,000. And these large, densely populated cities, they don't have a lot of margin for error.

Now, that said, we have new scenario models that will be out later this week, which is, if they delay just a little bit and give themselves time to erode their cases, if you will, in terms of new cases, and if they go a little bit more cautiously around their mitigation strategies, I think you can find that they can have significant impacts.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I mean, finding that sweet spot is really everything at this moment.

I read in an interview that you did that you were actually more optimistic before you started doing this modeling. Why is that? What did you see here that is troubling you so much?

RUBIN: Well, I think we learned sort of fairly quickly over the last few weeks that the mortality rate, we continue to fluctuate in terms of what is the true estimate of mortality here?

And I think I began to learn as we did this model that not only were we finding that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was more contagious, but some indications that, even in these densely populated areas, that being in these close, crowded conditions could also increase the inoculum of the virus you're receiving, and so perhaps increasing the severity and even the mortality rate.

And so that was sobering. And that's extra reason why these large, densely populated cities have to be very careful, consider waiting. That extra week or two is really important in those areas, and also going more cautiously.

We shouldn't underestimate the value, as people come out of their homes and come out of confinement, that they're going to be wearing masks in indoor locations, that there's going to be strong workplace safety rules to assure that people working on a factory floor are protected, that we're protected, both employers -- employees and the consumers alike.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it's a really fascinating look on a county level. I really appreciate it.

Thanks, Doctor.

RUBIN: You're welcome.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us: Most vaccines take over a year to develop, for sure, but could one group of scientists working on a coronavirus vaccine have something a touch sooner? We're going to get the very latest on the vaccines being tested right now. And, later, President Trump suggested that disinfectants could treat

COVID-19, yes, that thing he said on Thursday. Well, now poison control in one state is reporting a dramatic uptick in cases involving cleaning chemicals.



BOLDUAN: Right now, researchers around the world are in a race to come up with a vaccine for the coronavirus. It's the one thing that everyone has pointed to as the surefire way to really turn the tide on this horrible virus.

The World Health Organization is saying seven teams, three in China, three in the U.S., and one in the U.K., are in human clinical trials right now. So what does that mean for actually getting a vaccine to the public?

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins me now. She's been looking into this.

Elizabeth, where do things stand? There's so many of them. Where do things stand with trials and research?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it's interesting case, Kate, just to even look backwards a little bit.

It's amazing that we have come as far as we have just in these past couple months. I mean, this virus didn't even exist at the end of last year, so let's take a look at where we're headed.

Seven, as you said, are under way. There are 82 more in the works. So seven are actually giving these vaccines to real-life human beings; 82 are preparing to. They're still basically in the labs. Most of these will fail. And that is OK, because the world does not need 89 vaccines against coronavirus.

It's good to have this competition to see which will work the best and also some might work better for older people than younger people. There are all sorts of variations that can happen, but certainly most will fail. And we should keep that in mind when we hear sort of exuberant, exciting talk about any one vaccine.


BOLDUAN: Yes. And, of course, the timeline has all long been 12 to 18 months, and that seems to be as quick if -- as quick as it could possibly be.

When a vaccine is approved, is there a protocol already in place for who would get it first?

COHEN: It's interesting. There's not really a protocol, per se, and there is concern that developed countries, countries with more money will sort of grab them up, and that will be interesting to see what they do.

Another interesting point is that, before it's approved, it is possible that some high-risk people, like health care providers on the front line, they may be able to get access to it by being a part of the clinical trials. So some people might get access to it even before it's approved.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you, Elizabeth. Thank you so much.

Still ahead: President Trump, he's telling governors to, in his words, seriously consider opening schools back up before the school year is out. Is he changing any minds, as this is a really tough choice?

I'm going to talk with the superintendent of Dallas Independent School District. That's next.



BOLDUAN: Forty-three states have announced that they have ordered or recommended that public schools remain closed in their state for the rest of this school year.

But, apparently, don't tell that to President Trump. During a call with governors yesterday, the president pressed them to seriously consider sending kids back to school before this school year is out because -- quote -- "Young children have done very well in this disaster."

The president then said this in the Rose Garden:


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I think you're seeing that. You're seeing a lot of governors get out. And they want to open it up. Many are thinking about their school system, that -- not a long way to go in the school system right now for this season, for this year.

But I think you will see a lot of schools open up, even if it's for a very short period of time. I think it would be a good thing.


BOLDUAN: A good thing.

Well, joining me now, one of the people who has to make that very tough call, Michael Hinojosa. He's the superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District in Texas.

It's great to see you. Thank you for being here.

We heard from the president he thinks that it would be a good thing if schools could open up before the school year is out. What do you say to that right now?


First of all, we're thankful that our governor has decided to shut down for the rest of the school year and made that very public. We -- when this first started, we went out indefinitely. Things were changing by the hour.

So it's in the best interest that we finish the year just the way we are doing, virtual education, and then we start planning for next year.

BOLDUAN: Well, and that plan is something that everyone is wondering, what is it going to look like in the fall?

And I read that you were considering a split schedule of sorts potentially for the fall, half of the students attending school in person Mondays and Wednesdays, half then attending Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Honestly, Michael, right now, what do you think school in Dallas is going to look like?

HINOJOSA: Well, we have got plan A, that everybody shows up under no restrictions, but it's very unlikely that plan A will ever happen.

So we have to plan for other things. If you think about it, we -- the public education is the one industry that has never changed. You still have the same routines for school arrival. And it's masses of bodies. We have the same routines for lunch. We have masses of bodies.

And if we're under these current restrictions, we have to have an alternative. So that's why we're considering minimizing the number of students that come on certain days, and also staggering the arrivals, and then actually having lunch in the classroom, so that you don't have the situation, have one-way hallways.

So there are so many routines that we deal with every day, that, if we're going to protect our students, under these conditions, we have to have multiple plans as to where we are in August.

BOLDUAN: Do you think that you're going to have to have students and faculty wearing masks?

HINOJOSA: I'm afraid, at this current rate, probably. We're going to prepare for it.

We're going to purchase them. We're going to have everything secure and ready to go. We prepare for the worst and expect the best. And so, if we can have that opportunity to pivot and go back to normal setting, we would much prefer to do that.

The students need to be able to interact with their teachers and their classmates. And it's a bit restrictive with a mask, but we're going to listen to the health professionals. If the health professionals say do it, we're going to do it.

BOLDUAN: And it is a big part of a student's life, I mean, after- school activities.

Look, I mean, honestly, you're in Texas. Is there going to be football in the fall?

HINOJOSA: Well, we have two sport, football and spring football.

But, no, seriously, we have volleyball and everything else. But football is king. And it's a contact sport. And there's a lot of issues with that. So, we may have to have an alternative as to how we do it. We may have to delay the season.

Or we may have to do something differently. This is uncharted territory that we all have to prepare for. And then Friday nights, Friday night lights, there are fans that go to games, and so there are a lot of things to be -- we have to be prepared for. No telling where we end up with the situation in a few short months.

BOLDUAN: How scary is the proposition of you bringing faculty and students back into school, and then seeing the -- a spike in the virus in your school system?

HINOJOSA: Well, we're very concerned about that