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U.S. Cases Near 1 Million as Several States Reopen and Others Wait; White House Releases Blueprint for Increased Testing; Study Shows Most Patients in New York Hospital Didn't Have Fever; W.H.O. Program Aims to Accelerate Vaccine Development; Spain Moves Toward Further Easing of Lockdown; British Prime Minister, Too Soon for U.K. to Ease Restrictions; Glitches Hamper Small Business Loan Funding. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 28, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, coronavirus cases and deaths are still rising in the United States, but several states are going ahead with plans to reopen. Antibody testing is ramping up, and so is the race to find a vaccine. We will talk to one man who signed up to participate in a trial.

After weeks of strict lockdown and 19 reported deaths, New Zealand is easing up its measures but the country isn't celebrating just yet.

Well, the United States will soon have 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases. That is 1/3 of the total number of global cases. In the past few months, the virus has spread to all 50 states killing more than 56,000 people isolating millions of others and bringing the country's economy to a standstill. But several states are making plans to go back to work and some already are despite warnings it may be too soon. Experts say more testing is needed to do this safely. It was President Donald Trump seems to think the U.S. has enough tests.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have enough testing to begin reopening and the reopening process. We want to get our country open and the testing is not going to be a problem at all. In fact, it's going to be one of the great assets.


CHURCH: And CNN's Kyung Lah has more on the states where businesses are being allowed to open their doors to the public.


GREG ABBOTT, TEXAS GOVERNOR: Our goal is to get those Texans back to work.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Texas joins the move to reopen. The governor announcing the statewide order will end. Restaurants, malls, theaters allowed to reopen with restrictions Friday.

ABBOTT: Now it's time to set a new course, a course that responsibly opens up business in Texas.

LAH: In New York home to the nation's largest COVID hot spot, the state's governor signaled a pivot is coming as numbers flatten to a high plateau.

ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK GOVERNOR: May 15th is when the pause regulations expire statewide. I will extend them in many parts of the state. Some regions, you could make the case that we should un-pause on May 15th, but you have to be smart about it.

LAH: Being smart, says Governor Cuomo, means showing a 14-day decline in cases. That's not exactly being followed in other states. Open for some seating in Georgia with plastic grocery bags over chairs, other seats roped off. The new dining normal rolled in. Restaurants and movie theaters with restrictions are operating again in Georgia. It's unclear if any diners are ready.

From Georgia to Montana to Alaska, the national push to reopen expands this week. At least 13 states will reopen some of their major businesses. The mayor of Oklahoma City says he wishes reopening his city could wait.

DAVID HOLT, OKLAHOMA CITY MAYOR: I would be nervous really at any time. Until there is a vaccine or proven treatment, you know, I'm not going to be comfortable about this transition.

Each state's governor is calling the shots leading to an uneven and dangerous national response to the pandemic warns this Georgia coroner.

MICHAEL FOWLER, DOUGHERTY COUNTY, GEORGIA CORONER: I think it's like playing Russian roulette. Every time you walk out of the house or go to a place without a mask and practice social distancing, you're playing Russian roulette.

LAH: Some state level Republicans now tell CNN they're weary of reopening too quickly after President Trump publicly rebuked Georgia's governor.

TRUMP: I disagree strongly with his decision.

LAH: Florida's governor likely taking note after being criticized for taking too long to shut things down, this morning signaled more caution.

RON DESANTIS, FLORIDA GOVERNOR: This is going to be slow and steady wins the race. It's going to be very methodical, very data driven.

LAH: The food supply under ongoing strain as outbreaks continue to close meat processing plants.


Stores will not run out of food, but farmers warn they are running out of space at this hog farm in Minnesota, Farmer Dave Mensink struggles with how to humanely euthanize his pigs if he can't send them to processing plants.

DAVE MENSINK, MINNESOTA HOG FARMER: It's a difficult decision to make, to put an animal down that was cared for.


CHURCH: Kyung Lah with that report.

Well a new report suggests President Trump failed to react to multiple warnings about the threat of the coronavirus. According to "The Washington Post," intelligence agencies prepared more than a dozen briefings for the President warning him about the virus as early as January but he reportedly failed to register the threat. Since then the White House has denied Mr. Trump responded too slowly and on Monday he pushed back against further criticism, this time he denied he was responsible for growing misuse of disinfectants even after he suggested injecting them could treat the virus.


TRUMP: I can't imagine why. I can't imagine why, Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you take any responsibility?

TRUMP: No, I can't imagine it. I can't imagine it.


CHURCH: So let's talk now with Dr. Seema Yasmin, CNN medical analyst and former CDC disease detective. Thank you so much for talking with us.


CHURCH: So the states have been pleading for more coronavirus testing for weeks. And now the White House appears to have heard their calls releasing a new plan Monday to increase testing capability to about 8 million a month starting in May. Will that be sufficient? And given what we have seen so far, is it even achievable?

YASMIN: There is so much skepticism here in the states, Rosemary, because there've been many, many false promises about testing for a couple of months now. Based on the White House saying how many tests would become available, that there would be these widespread drive through testing centers, and much of that has not transpired.

Now certainly the need for testing is great. Especially as some states are already moving towards reopening. And surely that will require the availability of widespread testing and testing that can be done quickly. Because any time that you lift containment measures, you're always keeping an eye out for future outbreaks or a potential second wave. So you need to do contact tracing and you can't really do that without having sufficient testing.

So the need is there and it's not just about test kits, it's also having enough swabs to do the kits, having enough reagents. And remembering that the whole world at the same time has a demand for these same test kits, for these same reagents, for all of these same supplies. So again, so much skepticism because we just haven't seen the delivery of these promises.

CHURCH: And a new study published in the journal of the American Medical Association reveals that 70 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in New York did not have a fever and displayed an unusually wide range of symptoms. What do you make of this? And what will it mean in terms of temperature guidelines to determine if people have COVID-19?

YASMIN: Right. So this is the largest health outcome study in the U.S. so far of COVID-19. These doctors looked at 5,700 patients who were hospitalized in 12 New York hospitals in March and early April. And what's fascinating is that 70 percent of those who were sick enough to be hospitalized did not have fever. And we have to remember that people have been turned away from testing centers basically because they didn't have a fever. And because the CDC was really listing fever as one of those top symptoms of COVID-19.

So this new data starts to change that. And as we see more studies like this one, large ones in the American context and other places, we're going to have to think about resifting those guidelines around fever.

And another thing from that study that wasn't so surprising but was worrying, that it was people with hypertension, diabetes and obesity who were the ones who were hospitalized with COVID-19. That's also a really important point. And we remember those with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable to severe disease.

CHURCH: Yes, we keep learning these new things every single day, don't we. And doctor, the W.H.O. says there's no evidence that proves COVID-19 survivors have immunity over any particular length of time. What might that mean for any future vaccine?

YASMIN: So the World Health Organization isn't saying definitively that people don't have immunity, they're saying we don't have evidence yet. And I think that's a really important statement. Because I don't want people to have the presumption that, oh, I had COVID-19, I had some kind of illness, now I must be protected. I hope that that is the case, but right now science can't prove that, it's too soon.

So we have two key questions. Once you have COVID-19, do you have antibodies that stick around? And the second question is, how long do they stick around for and how protected are they. We really need to answer those questions before we think about reopening and before we think about people just having this false sense of security that they're somehow protected when that might not be the case. [04:10:00]

CHURCH: Yes, that is a very important point. And the U.S. is not participating in the W.H.O. global COVID-19 vaccine and drug initiatives. What might that mean for Americans if that global effort gets the vaccine first?

YASMIN: We're in this together. This is a global pandemic. And viruses don't stop at borders. They don't discriminate in that way. So our fight and our response against the virus also needs to be international, also needs to be collaborative. We need to make sure we're all putting money into the pot. We're all donating resources, human personnel, whatever it takes to develop a vaccine as soon as possible. So seeing countries like the U.S. pull out from some of these initiatives, frankly, it's not good for global health. You need to see more collaborations.

CHURCH: Will it mean that Americans will be at the back of the cue?

YASMIN: I really hope that that's not the case, Rosemary. Because clearly, we're seeing the numbers still rise here in the states. You know, we've seen five days straight of more than 2,000 Americans dying every single day. The vaccine is needed here and it's also needed in other countries, too. That's why I think it's so important that we all partner together, don't isolate ourselves and make sure that we're collaborating in our fight against the global pandemic.

CHURCH: Dr. Seema Yasmin, always a pleasure to talk to you. Many thanks.

YASMIN: Thanks.

CHURCH: And some European countries are easing COVID-19 restrictions. That includes Italy and Spain, two of the hardest hit countries in the world. And they've already begun to loosen restrictions on lockdown rules. And now they want to go a little further. Journalist Al Goodman is in Madrid, Spain. He joins us now live. Good to see you, Al. So children have been allowed to go out for one hour a day. How did that go and what other restrictions might be lifted?

AL GOODMAN, JOURNALIST: Hi, Rosemary. Well that started right here. The parks like the El Retiro Park here in Madrid. The parks and the beaches and the playgrounds remained closed across the country. But on Sunday, a few days ago, after six weeks of confinement, kids were able to go out with one adult for one hour near their homes. Of course, that brought a lot of joy.

Now at this hour, the Spanish cabinet is meeting because they may open up some other things in the de-escalation phase. Including for instance, the Prime Minister has already said that possibly on Saturday, this Saturday, adults may be able to go out for an hour to exercise, to run, take a short bike ride -- also near their homes. And also the elderly may also be able to get out.

Now the Prime Minister and health officials didn't want to do this until they were pretty clear that the numbers in this coronavirus crisis were coming under control. And so the number of new deaths is now just over 1 percent each day. It had been much higher at the height of the crisis. There are now more people recovering each day than new cases.

Still, the Prime Minister is under a lot of pressure to open up things more from regions that have not been as hard hit as here in the capitol which has had so many cases and so many of the deaths. And now he's got even more pressure. The latest jobless figures are just out for the first quarter. And Spain's jobless rate is up to 14.4 percent with 285,000 people losing their jobs in the first quarter. Most of that happening in March just as the pandemic was coming on to Spain. So everybody's watching to see how much more the government is going to allow the country to open up, the state of emergency is still in effect for a total of eight weeks until May 9th -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, Al Goodman bringing us the very latest from the streets of Madrid in Spain, many thanks.

Well, the U.K. won't be relaxing its coronavirus restrictions any time soon. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday the danger is still too high. And he knows all about that danger firsthand, of course. Monday was his first day back on the job after recovering from a serious case of COVID-19 which put him in intensive care for several days. His message, be patient a little longer.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I 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 and to risk a second major outbreak and huge loss of life and the overwhelming of the NHS. And 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.


CHURCH: Well, the government will take another look at its lockdown measures on May 7th. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live from London and joins us now. So, Nick, what has been the response to Prime Minister Johnson's announcement that this lockdown will remain in place for now, at least?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, that was entirely expected, Rosemary.


It's not until May the 7th where we might see some easing of the three-week extension that was announced just over a week ago now. What was key to this though, because it is the first time really, I think we've seen the captain of a ship, so to speak, back at the podium there. Boris Johnson out of action for so long. And a sense of his deputies trying to keep things going but perhaps not wanting to personally take the political decision to make any decisive moves. Now it appears that the numbers so far have mandated this continued

lockdown policy. The question, obviously, he began to lay out there was exactly when the payoff starts coming between economic damage and the health of the nation. Now the numbers we've been seeing over the past few days have suggested that the infection rate is getting near the position it needs to be at for the lockdown to begin to be ease. At about .6 or so per person infected and that at this point also the death rate. The numbers of people dying every 24 hours while still shocking to behold are in the 300s now for the past few days. That can reflect weekend reporting which often slows down. But the general trend is lowering, too.

The problem really, I think, for Boris Johnson is that he sees a British population increasingly I think edgy. Lengthy discussions in the British media about how the lockdown can be lifted. Which sectors of business need to get back, increase damage being done to businesses across the country.

But the overwhelming warning too, that if things are eased too fast, we could see a second peak. And the damage to the economy would not only be repeated, it could possibly be worse and the general reminder to the population here, that a population dealing with a massive death toll is by definition going to find it hard to keep its economy going and therefore funding health service here. Which in the U.K. is funded by taxpayers' money -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, indeed, Nick Paton Walsh keeping us up to date on the situation in the U.K. from his vantage point there in London. Many thanks.

We'll take a short break here. Still to come, some U.S. states are starting to reopen but small business owners around the country still don't have their loans as glitches hamper the system. We're back in just a minute.



CHURCH: Well, technical issues are plaguing the much needed second round of emergency funding for small businesses in the United States. And our Christine Romans joins us now from New York. Good to see you, Christine.


CHURCH: What's going wrong with this if they just can't get this right. I mean, I know and understand there's a lot of people involved with this, but how are there glitches in this second round?

ROMANS: Simply, the system was not built for the overwhelming demand of all of these businesses, quite frankly. And you know, this is glitchy. It was frustrating and the money's going to run out soon, right. So it just shows you the demand for relief in small business is so great that the system simply can't keep up with it. People are very frustrated. And I have to say that getting money into the pockets of small

business, getting money into the pockets of consumers and employees and the jobless, this is the only way you avoid a depression in more than name only. Meaning, you know, some kind of a terrible, terrible protraction in the U.S. economy. I mean, the idea here is that this won't be a depression because you're going to have a couple of quarters of bad numbers but you're going to give a lot of money to people. People feel like they're not getting it fast enough.

CHURCH: Yes, and of course the constant worry with this is the little guy is going to get squeezed again. That was the problem the first time around. What sort of safety nets are there to ensure that doesn't happen again?

ROMANS: Well, the Treasury Department has said, do not take this money if you have other ways to get it in the capital market or if you are not suffering from COVID-19 just crushing your business. And so, it's kind of a honor system here. And there's going to be in the public pressure, no question. This morning in the newspapers there are already stories of big hotel firms, rich hotel firms who have managed to get millions of these dollars and are keeping it. You know, that's going to have to be the public pressure to tell people, no, this is not really meant for you.

But I have to say it's legal. Because Congress wrote the statute to be pretty broad, so they could get the relief as far and wide and as fast as they could. So it's one of those Washington stories where to work quickly maybe there were some judgment calls that were lacking.

CHURCH: Yes, it looks that way. And consumer confidence numbers, what can we expect?

ROMANS: Well you know, in March it was a three-year low. I mean, honestly this month of consumer confidence, I mean, all of these economic numbers are just completely off the grid, right. I mean, we've never seen something happen like this before. I expect you're going to see a pretty ugly picture.

The important thing here about confidence of the American consumer is this will decide what kind of recovery we have. If you have testing and tracing and treatment and you have reopening of states and local governments in a responsible way to keep people feeling safe, I think you'll have a fine recovery down the road in the U.S. economy. If you don't do all of those things properly, I think that hurts consumer confidence -- that's 70 percent of the American economy. And then you have a bigger problem in terms of recovery.

CHURCH: Yes, and just a few hours away from U.S. markets opening up. What do we expect? What should we expect today?

ROMANS: You know, I think the important thing about markets is that those -- markets are reflecting what investors think is going to happen. Main street is what I'm really focused on here. You might see a bounce on Wall Street. But right now the most important thing for most people is their health and their job. And the stock market is not reflecting either of those things right now, right. So it's one of those moments where main street and Wall Street are so absolutely on different pages. Investors are looking ahead.

They're looking at these reopenings. They're trying to guess into 2021 what kind of rebound there will be in earnings. For millions and millions of people around the world, they're wondering where the next paycheck is going to come from. How they're going to pay their rent. Friday is May 1st. Rent is due in the United States.

CHURCH: Yes, is come around again and that's the thing, the bills keep coming. But the checks don't necessarily.


Christine Romans, always a pleasure to chat with you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

CHURCH: Well, JetBlue will soon require all passengers to wear a face covering during travel. It will begin next Monday. According to a major flight attendants union, it's the first major U.S. airline to take such a step. Meanwhile, American Airlines says its flight attendants will be required to wear facemasks during every mainline and regional flight beginning Friday. Passengers will also be provided with personal protective items such as masks and wipes, quote, as supplies and operational conditions allow.

Well, the Los Angeles Lakers says it's qualified and received a loan issued under the payroll protection program. In a statement the NBA team says the loan was repaid once it found out the fund had been depleted to allow money to be directed to those most in need. That's a nice move.

Well health experts say a vaccine is key to containing the coronavirus, and I'll speak to a volunteer in one of the seven human trials currently underway. Back in a moment.


Welcome back, everyone. Well, the states across the U.S. look to reopen, health officials are turning to antibody testing to evaluate the real scope of the virus. On Sunday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized an eighth antibody test. Experts hope that having antibodies means that you are immune and can't get the disease again, but it's still no they can prevent a second infection.

Georgia residents in two Atlanta counties could have a knock at their door to --