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W.H.O. Says Seven COVID-19 Vaccines in Clinical Evaluation; Atlantans Volunteer in Trial of Potential Vaccine; New York Hospitals Study Heartburn Drug as Treatment; New Zealand Begins Reopening, Says Virus is Eliminated; E-Commerce Soaring in South Korea During Quarantine; Former Students Making Protective Gear at Closed School. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 28, 2020 - 04:30   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: 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 participate in an antibody survey starting over the coming hours. In Boston, the mayor says 1,000 residents who haven't had any coronavirus symptoms will undergo antibody testing.

And New York state has tested 7,500 residents for antibodies. Almost 15 percent of them tested positive.

Meanwhile, the race for the first coronavirus vaccine is ramping up. The World Health Organization says there are currently seven potential vaccines in the clinical evaluation phase and more than 80 others are undergoing preliminary testing.

Joining me now is Jack Krost, a senior digital writer at the weather company who signed up to take part in the vaccine trials at Emory University here in Atlanta. Great to have you with us.


CHURCH: So, Jack, the whole world, of course, is frantically searching for a COVID-19 vaccine. And as a part of that effort you're participating in these clinical trials at Emory. What are you able to tell us about the three phases of this trial and of course the process involved?

KROST: Well, it's very detailed. I'm very impressed in how thorough Emory University is in this process. There's two groups, one in Seattle and one in Atlanta. And the trials are going to be taking a long time. Unfortunately, they expect it to last about a year before they're able to roll this out to the public.

But they start with a small group to determine whether it's effective or not -- whether it's safe, whether it causes any complications. And then they start testing whether it's effective. Whether it will help you develop immunity, whether you'll develop antibodies.

And then there's a third phase with even a wider group to test its effectiveness. In addition to all of that, there's different age groups. So they started with a young group, 18 to 55 and then they moved on to my group, I have to say, 55 -- 56 to 70 and then later they will be testing 70-year-olds. So they're starting out with the healthiest people and then moving on throughout this process. And there's a lot of tests involved.

CHURCH: Right, and that's the thing that's very difficult to explain to a lot of people, the time that these sort of clinical trials take. Because you've to check that this is safe, there's no reaction to it. But the frustration for so many people is the world has come to a standstill in the meantime. But I did want to ask you why you decided that you wanted to take part in these clinical trials.

KROST: Well, I mean, I feel it's just something I can do to help out. This coronavirus is so terrible, all the deaths and the economic devastation it's causing and the isolation it's causing, and this is something I can do. I have to admit it's a bit unnerving because, you know, they don't know what the risks are. That's what they're trying to determine. But, you know, maybe I can do this and help this process along and maybe I will benefit. Maybe I'll be able to become immune to the coronavirus fairly early.

CHURCH: Because that is the worry, isn't it? The risks involved. Because clearly, in the older age group, we know that at least, even though there's a lot we don't know about this virus, we do know that you're particularly vulnerable the older you get. So there is the risk. Isn't there? That you could get involved in some sort of complication physically with this.

KROST: There is, but, you know, I trust people at Emory. They're very thorough. And the way the process works is, first you go through all kinds of physical tests. They draw your blood twice, give you a complete physical. And then after -- and you are asked all kinds of questions in your medical history. After they establish that you're a good candidate, then you get a vaccine. Then a month later you get another dose, a booster shot. And then you start coming back to be checked to see what's happening.


First, it's a week, then it's in a couple of weeks, then it's a couple of months and then it's like six months and then it's a year. But they're testing two things, one, how you're doing and, secondly, they want to see whether you're developing antibodies. But they're moving very fast with this.

CHURCH: Right and they're moving much faster than they ever would have. I mean, in the past any vaccine has taken years to develop. And so, the race is on right across the globe. What was interesting is that, you know, we've learned from the World Health Organization that there's no evidence to show for how long a survivor of COVID-19 might be immune. Which would certainly impact the search for a vaccine. What's being said about that at Emory?

KROST: Well, one thing that's interesting about this vaccine is that it was developed very quickly. Unlike the flu shot in which you are injected with a -- the activated flu virus, this is sort of artificial. They use something called RNA sequencing to make cells in your body, develop a protein that mimics the coronavirus. So you're not actually being injected with COVID-19. And it's hoped that your body will respond by developing antibodies.

But by going through this process they were able to develop the vaccine much faster than a flu shop. They came up with it in 42 days, whereas, in the flu shot you have to predict the strain of flu that you expect to happen and then develop the flu vaccine and -- the flu virus and developed the vaccine and that takes months. So even though the trials take a long time, they moved very quickly to develop this vaccine. And as far as I know, it's the only vaccine being tested in the United States.

CHURCH: Jack Krost, thank you so much for talking with us. Appreciate it.

KROST: Absolutely. Thank you.

CHURCH: Well, as researchers race for a vaccine, hospitals in New York are studying everyday heartburn medicine on patients to see if the drug helps fight the virus. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has our report.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Could it be that a medicine on drugstore shelves might help in the fight against coronavirus? Doctors are trying to figure that out. Researchers in New York City are studying the active ingredient in Pepcid, called Famotidine. It's because of something doctors observed in China.

DR. KEVIN TRACEY, NORTHWELL HEALTH: Patients who were sick with COVID but were taking Famotidine had a -- had a better outcome.

COHEN: Now doctors at Northwell Health are trying it out in a clinical trial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You do the hard work.

COHEN: So far, they've enrolled 187 patients and expect preliminary results in a few weeks.

TRACEY: There are many examples in the history of medicine where a drug that was designed for one purpose turns out to have an effect in another disease.

COHEN: But Dr. Tracey warns, don't rush out to buy heartburn medicine. The patients in the study are in the hospital, getting mega- doses intravenously, and it's not clear that it will work.

While the Northwell doctors work on Famotidine, Dr. Anthony Fauci Saturday had some hopeful words for another drug, Remdesivir, for animals with coronavirus.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: It was clinical benefit just reported a couple of weeks ago of SARS coronavirus 2 in rhesus macaques.

COHEN: A doctor at the University of Nebraska saying results on a major Remdesivir study in humans could be available in a week or two.

Also over the weekend, the governor of Florida held a press conference, where a doctor said 12 patients had done well on convalescent plasma. Antibodies from someone who's recovered from coronavirus are given to someone who's currently infected.

DR. SUNIL DESAI, ORLANDO HEALTH MEDICAL GROUP: And when we give it to that patient, we essentially are boosting their immune system to help fight this infection. This is going to be a huge game changer in our arm of determined to fight COVID-19.

COHEN: But doctors warn having 12 patients who recovered doesn't necessarily mean very much, since most COVID-19 patients do recover. A larger study with a comparison group would be necessary. Only the best science to get treatments that really work for COVID patients and their families, desperate for answers.


CHURCH: We're getting there. Elizabeth Cohen reporting there.

We have this just in. The President of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics says the games will be canceled if the pandemic isn't over by next summer. Now this is according to a just published interview. The Olympics and Paralympics games set to be held this summer were already scheduled to start in July 2021.


And still to come, New Zealand continues to lead the world in its coronavirus response. But now it faces the ultimate test as the country begins easing its lockdown declaring the virus has been eliminated. That's right. Eliminated. Back with that.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, New Zealand is starting to ease its nationwide lockdown allowing retailers, restaurants, construction sites and schools to reopen Tuesday with some limitations. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the virus has been eliminated but warns New Zealand is not out of the woods just yet.

So let's bring in CNN's Kristie Lu Stout. She joins us from Hong Kong. Good to see you, Kristie. New Zealand's Prime Minister showing the rest of us how it was done. What was the key to her success in eliminating the virus?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the keys where she moved quickly. They tested widely. And this was a leadership, it is a leadership that respects and relies on the advice of epidemiologists, scientists and disease experts. And on top of that, they're not resting on their laurels. As Jacinda Ardern said earlier today, they are not out of the woods just yet. The lockdown may be lifted but they're going from a level four alert to a level three alert.

So exactly what does that entail? Well, Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, addressed that earlier today in a press conference. Let's take a listen.


JACINDA ARDERN, NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER: So with more people going back to work today, we need to be even more vigilant at level three to prevent any inadvertent spreading of the virus. We must continue to stay home when possible, including for work and education. Please stay regional and limit nonessential travel. And even though you can expand your bubble, keep it as small as possible and exclusive.



STOUT: So make no mistake about it, New Zealand is still very much on alert. It's moving from a level four alert to level 3 alert. And what that means is, number one, the economy will be 75 percent open. 400,000 additional workers will be able to go back into the work force joining the essential workers who have already been working. That means everyone else must continue to work from home. Also, it's mandated that those working in catering are the retail industries must engage in something called contact free interactions. And that means if they have customers who need to pick up items, they need to do it curbside.

As for students in New Zealand, up to year 10 students can go back to school but year 10 and up, they have to continue with online learning. And as for social gatherings of up to 10 people now allowed but only for weddings and for funerals.

Domestic travel remains restricted across New Zealand. Only essential travel inside the country is allowed. And that ban on international travelers to New Zealand that remains in place. That has been devastating with the tourism sector in New Zealand. As you know, New Zealand is so dependent on tourism for its economy. But despite the knock-on impact of that, despite the strict nature of these measures, there's still widespread approval for them. In fact, according to one poll, 87 percent of Kiwis approve these measures for New Zealand as it wages its next battle against the coronavirus -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, she knew what had to be done, she did it and now they're back online. Many thanks. Kristie Lu Stout bringing us up to date on what's been happening in New Zealand. Appreciate it. Well, Australia's famous Bondi Beach in Sydney also reopened Tuesday for local surfers and swimmers. Many hitting the waves for the first time in weeks after the tourist hotspot was closed last month. Australia has more than 6,700 cases and 83 deaths as a result of COVID-19. The state of New South Wales has nearly half of the nation's cases. But it's set to relax some restrictions of movements this week as are some other states.

Well using the internet to shop has been popular for a long time in South Korea, but with the pandemic, online commerce is soaring now. CNN's Paula Hancocks has that story.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Staying at home's means shopping from home, something South Koreans have done for years. There was no panic buying, no empty shelves. People here know they can get what they need online delivered within hours or at least the next day. Coupang is the largest e-commerce platform in Korea. It saw it's next-day delivery orders jump from just over two million to 3.3 million a day when the coronavirus hit.

BOM KIM, CEO, COUPANG: Well, we saw a surge of demand across all categories. Of course, you would imagine fresh products -- milk, eggs, basic necessities surge more in the -- in the short term. The equipment to work from home, educational toys for the -- for the children.

HANCOCKS: South Korea has plenty of options to choose from when it comes to e-commerce. A recent study says last year alone, 2.7 billion parcels were delivered, maybe not that surprising for a country where 9 out of 10 people own a smartphone.

KIM: You have your mobile and internet infrastructure that existed and the ease with which customers were able to access technology. By the way, it's not just e-commerce. When you think about educational, you know, classes online or just consuming media and other services online.

HANCOCKS (on camera): In some ways, South Korea has been setting itself up for social distancing for years. This is how a lot of people shop here, myself included. And for the customer, at least, it means that from start to finish, there is zero contact with another human being.

(voice-over): Delivery men and women are being praised for being on the frontline and allowing people to stay home and social distance. Coupang says even before the virus, it was delivering 1,200 products to customers every minute. Delivery men leaving a package outside a front door. A photo and a text to let you know it's arrived. A faceless hero of the crisis.

(on camera): Do you feel like a hero?



(voice-over): It's hard to know if this increased demand will stay once the crisis subsides, but it is clear the e-commerce industry made social distancing in South Korea a lot easier.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Hwaseong, South Korea.


CHURCH: You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, former students go back to school in London, not to learn but to help make protective gear for doctors on the frontlines. Back in a moment.



CHURCH: Beautiful. And that is opera singer Phoebe Haines performing from a balcony during lockdown in London.

And like many countries, schools across the U.K. have been shut down, but former students from London's Latymer Upper School have returned to their old classrooms to make protective equipment for workers. Here's our Anna Stewart.

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): A small team making life saving equipment. It's an efficient production line with a difference. This is no factory, it's a classroom. The only busy room in this otherwise deserted secondary school in London. George Dzavaryan used to be students here. When the pandemic halted the work of his medical device startup, he decided to put his skills to good use making face shields.

GEORGE DZAVARYAN, FORMER STUDENT: So far, we've delivered to over 14 locations. It's only been 2,000 so far but today we're delivering 10,000 which will be a huge help for our frontline workers.

STEWART: He is joined by other former Latymer students all back in school. They give the visors to hospitals for free with raw materials because covered by crowd funding.

DZAVARYAN: It's nice to feel like you're helping. And it's nice being back at school.


STEWART: The U.K. government has been criticized for its failure to supply health workers with adequate PPE. Equipment that is so crucial in the fight against COVID-19.

DR. KATIE SANDERSON, FRONTLINE NHS DOCTOR: Desperate and people are making choices every day about seeing patients and taking considerable personal risk. And I think the other thing we have to be honest about, it's not only about the safety of health care workers, it's about the safety of all of the people we work after. STEWART: That's why Dzavaryan and his team say the demand keeps going

up. Their first delivery went to a doctor on the front line who was also once a student here

DZAVARYAN: She sent us the most heartwarming message. She said they use approximately eight of our shields which helps save two people's lives. It was a very touching moment for all of us as you can imagine. And it spurred us on to work harder and work longer.

STEWART: Since then they've helped thousands of health care workers across the country. And as 10,000 face shields get loaded here today, they'll soon be helping thousands more.

Anna Stewart, CNN, London.


CHURCH: Wonderful story there. And thanks for your company. Stay strong. Stay safe. I'm Rosemary Church. CNN NEWSROOM continues next with Robyn Curnow.