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Key Model Projects Higher U.S Death Toll As States Reopen; D.C. Mayor Launches Task Force To Reopen Nation's Capital; Race For Coronavirus Vaccine Faces Challenges. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 28, 2020 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world, this is New Day.

And breaking overnight, new projections for the coronavirus death toll in the United States. The model used by the White House was updated late last night. It now shows deaths in the U.S. Increasing to 74,000 by early August. And the change is a choice in a way. By that, I mean the math is based on the choices that states are making by opening up. On April 8th you can see the death toll projection was 60,000 people, that was with the full stay-at-home orders in place. As of this morning, more than 56,000 Americans have died.

The nation is moving forward with a staggered, uneven approach to reopening. In Texas, the governor announced an expansive reopening plan that begins on Friday, first to open or allowed to open, we should say, will be retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls at only 25 percent capacity.

Meanwhile, their neighbor, Louisiana, is extending its stay-at-home order through May 15th.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: And, John, overnight, the White House outlined new guidelines for testing that puts the onus on states and it calls the federal government the, quote, supplier of last resort for tests.

A White House official tells CNN the goal for each state is to test at least 2 percent of its residents, but that figure is well below the minimum level that most public health experts and many economists think is necessary to safely reopen the country.

Also, there are new developments this morning out of Oxford University where we are getting word of scientists moving forward quickly with a coronavirus vaccine trial. We'll tell you the details.

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now is CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Rochelle Walensky. She is the Chief of the Infectious Disease Division of Massachusetts General Hospital.

And, Sanjay, I do want to start with the new models and connect it to the new decisions that have been made, because I think there is a direct connection. You can see projections now, 74,000 Americans dead by August. On April 8th, the projection was for 60,000. Well, what's changed? What's changed is that states are beginning to open up in ways earlier than we had thought they would than at the beginning of April. One other thing that's changed is while the number of deaths has sort of peaked or plateaued, it's plateaued at a fairly high level and stayed there. What do you see going on here, Sanjay?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I will say, you know, in preface that these are still models. And the models do sort of bounce all over the place. They change based on the inputs. And so, you know, we are going to see continue changing of models. But, John, I think you're absolutely right, it's a little frustrating and I think disquieting that we've seen the numbers go up this much.

It shows that there was a real impact, I believe, in the stay-at-home orders because, you know, some of the original models had we done nothing, as people likely know now, would have been in the hundreds of thousands, even millions, sadly, of people who died. These numbers came down significantly as a result of the stay-at-home orders.

And as we're starting to see states think about reopening, the numbers go up. This is -- this is frustrating but not surprising. There is a virus out there, it is contagious. As people start to go out and about, even if they're taking precautions, the numbers are going to go up. I mean, that's the nature of a contagious virus.

So we're going to keep an eye on those numbers and see what happens as other states start to consider these re-openings. But you're starting to get a little bit of a glimmer here. And keep in mind again, states open now, will we start seeing people going to hospitals? That's two to three weeks from now. So there's going to be a period of time where people are going to look at these states and say, not so bad, it doesn't look so bad. Pay attention to the models and pay attention to what happens over the next two to three weeks.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Walensky, let me pull those numbers up just one more time because I think it is instructive for people to see that on April 8th, so, basically, three weeks ago, the models for how many people in the country would die, this is by August 4th, were 60,000. As of last night, this was just released late last night, they have gone up to 74,000. Is that kind of spike and are those the numbers that you would expect given what's happening in many states around the country?

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CHIEF, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: Right. Good morning, Alisyn. The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, the place that is using these models for projections says very clearly on the top of their website that they assume that all of the mitigation strategies, the stay-at-home strategies are in place until containment is possible.


That is not a proper assumption here, but it is how those models are based.

I think it was a rational assumption at the time they developed these models and now they're updating them as they should with new input parameters when they can. And so I think that this is -- they have to update these based on changes in their assumptions.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, I want to put button on this discussion with a WWSD, what would Sanjay do. In Texas, movie theaters can open at 25 percent capacity. Is that enough? Would you go to a movie with 25 percent of the seats filled?

GUPTA: I wouldn't. And, you know, we will get to the point where we can start doing that. I mean, people hear that I wouldn't do it then other people wouldn't do it and they think, am I ever going to be able to go to a movie again or go out? Yes, you will, just not yet.

I think you hear about these various establishments having less capacity and trying to separate people out. And, you know, I give them props for trying to do that. The problem is I think a couple things. One is that you're starting to touch a lot of the same surfaces, even if you're a 25 percent capacity, going through a single door, touching single handrails, those fomites, as we call them, that's a potential source for infection. And that's -- you'll clean and you'll disinfect, but it's still harder to do that unless you're doing it almost after every person goes through, which is just not practical.

The other thing I think we learned from some of the earlier studies and why I think the scenes out on those beaches, for example, are frustrating, have always been, is that there's a question of how far apart you are and then I think it's a question of the prolonged sort of contact as well. The restaurant in China, for example, we went back and looked at the data, people were sitting at these tables next to each other for on average of 53 minutes.

So I think that there's something to be said for not just the distance that people are but also how long are they sitting there in those areas as well. You just -- it's a gamble, it's a risk. And I think it's an unnecessary one at this point.

CAMEROTA: And we were trying to figure out, Dr. Walensky, how much Americans are willing to gamble. And, of course, it varies person by person, but there is a new poll just out by The Washington Post and University of Maryland that gives us some metric of how people are feeling. Americans overwhelmingly support the state-imposed restrictions on businesses. 66 percent feel that those restrictions are right. 17 percent feel that they are too restrictive. 16 percent feel that they are not restrictive enough. So if you add that to the appropriate box, people are more cautious than are not cautious.

And then they also, in terms of the size of public gatherings, 64 percent feel that those restrictions on public gatherings are appropriate, only 14 percent feel that they're too restrictive. You know, obviously people are sort of hard wired to have an impulse to stay alive. And so we just don't know now that states are lifting these restrictions. You can go to a mall this week in Texas at 25 percent capacity, but we just don't know how many people want to rush out to a mall.

WALENSKY: And I think it's a key point. I mean, we, I think, all recognize that when we are able and wanting to open, it's not going to be risk-free. We all have a personal level of risk. As an infectious disease doc, I'm pretty risk averse personally. And so I intend to be out with a mask when I go out. I think when I see these beach scenes, as Sanjay's saying, never mind that people are on them and they're so crowded, they're not wearing masks, I just -- I worry.

And so as a risk averse person, I tend to crowd with perhaps the 16 percent, actually.

BERMAN: Look, that's why the JetBlue decision is so interesting to me. JetBlue is requiring that all its passengers going forward wear masks, so the first airline do so. There may be a public health reason for it. But I think there's a business reason for it, which is they want the passengers and their customers to feel safe when they're on a plane. So they're doing it, I think, to actually promote business and welcome back people back.

Sanjay, some medical developments overnight. The New York Times is reporting about this vaccine study at Oxford University that's going to test up to 6,000 humans. I want to be clear, CNN actually reported on this study a week ago also. But it's getting a lot of attention because there is a sense that maybe they're further along in the process than some other trials. Talk to me about this test and what hope it might provide, if any.

GUPTA: Well, I've read the, you know, the data coming out of Oxford and I also looked at that report from last night in The New York Times. I mean, I think I just want to be clear that I think that this -- the Oxford site and how they're sort of describing it, saying that they want to get to 6,000 patients by the end of the trial, is a little different than saying that they would get there within the next month or so, which may have been the interpretation from reading that article.


It's still going to take a little while.

I think there was two key points. One is that the Oxford trial had a little bit of a head start, as other trials have as well, some here in the United States, because they had already been working on certain coronavirus vaccines such as the ones for SARS or even more recently the Middle East respiratory syndrome, MERS vaccine. And there were some trials that were done at that point. Those vaccines never got completed but they had made some progress at that point.

They have done these monkey studies as well in Oxford and they've seemed to see some good results. And now, when you're in this phase that they want to go into for trialing, you need to be testing it in a population of people where the virus is circulating. That's sort of key. And that is now. We know that there's virus circulating in the U.K., for example, so they want to start these trials and actually start to see if we give this to certain segments of the population, do we start to see reduced likelihood of developing the disease?

But it's still going to take a while. I mean, I don't know, the timeline seemed to be this fall in that article. I find that hard to believe, that is far more accelerated than anything I have seen, looking at the RNA (ph) vaccines, anything, I would love that. But I don't know. I want to temper expectations a little bit.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Walensky, early fall, I mean, according to The New York Times, again, I've not spoken directly to the Oxford researchers, but that, just to Sanjay's point, it's strange credulity that they could have some sort of results and maybe even start using it in September because everything we've heard from you both, Dr. Fauci is that we need to -- our expectations need to be set at 12 to 18 months, not this fall.

WALENSKY: Right. Well, I would agree with everything Sanjay has said. They did have a jumpstart. They could jump through and not really conduct a phase one because they had done this with other vaccines candidates for other coronavirus diseases. So that gave them a bit of a jumpstart.

I do think they have massive capacity to scale up quickly, so that perhaps gives them another edge. But I think the real issue is how much disease is out there. On the one hand, we'd like disease to calm down over the summer. We'd really like to see less of it. Wouldn't that be a good thing? On the other hand, the best way to enroll in a vaccine study is to have a lot of people have disease. That's the fastest way you're going to get results from a vaccine study.

So it's hard to know what to wish for here. If there's a lot of disease out there, we will get results from a vaccine study sooner. September does feels a bit ambitious, but I think it really just depends on how much disease we see.

CAMEROTA: Really helpful. Dr. Walensky, Sanjay, thank you both very much for all of the information.

WALENSKY: Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: All right. So Congress is heading back to Washington next week despite concerns from some members. Is it safe while so many states are on lockdown? Why do they want this timeline? We're going to talk to D.C.'s mayor and get her thoughts, next.



BERMAN: So this morning, while some cities and states begin to relax their lockdowns, the mayor of Washington, D.C. says we're just not there yet. She launched a task force with some high-profile names to help reopen the nation's capital.

Joining us now is Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Mayor Bowser, thank you so much for being with us.

You say you are not ready yet to reopen. Why aren't you ready yet? Why not? MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D-DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA): Well, we're looking at all of the information coming in from our scientists and medical experts and even looking to the guidelines put out by the White House Corona Task Force, which suggests that we have to have 14 days of declines in cases in our jurisdiction. And our businesses and residents are working very hard to stay at home to make sure we can see that, but we haven't hit that peak yet.

BERMAN: It's interesting to me when you talk about Washington, D.C. You say you're not ready to reopen business yet. One of your key businesses in your city is going to reopen next week, and that's Congress. Congress is coming back. And I know you don't have jurisdiction over that, but how do you feel about the fact that there are going to be people, many more people up on Capitol Hill that are there right now?

BOWSER: Well, many essential businesses and organizations are working during the stay-at-home order, including our government in Washington, D.C. and the federal government. All of them, all of those functions are considered essential. But not everybody, and not every job is considered essential. D.C. government, for example, 60 percent of our workers are teleworking. And I assume that that's what's going to happen at the Congress and that's what's happening in other parts of the federal government, that those who can telework are working from home.

BERMAN: That's going to make your job more difficult though to have those extra people in the city?

BOWSER: We know essential workers and hospitals and grocery stores, our sanitation workers are all reporting to work because they have essential jobs to do. And the work of the Congress is essential, especially now when workers need relief, when small business need relief and when state and local governments need relief.

So the Congress has to get to work. We know we work very closely with the architect at the Capitol who's responsible for a lot of the buildings and grounds and we know that they will put the appropriate social distancing restrictions in place.

BERMAN: In terms of testing, the White House yesterday announced plans, a testing strategy, really not a ton new there. They say that states, and I think in this case, D.C., the District of Columbia, they are the ones primarily responsible, the White House says, but they will help get you up to capacity to test 2 percent of your population. Is that enough?

BOWSER: We're learning more and more about this virus and what it's going to take to reopen. I've empaneled a group of experts on emergency management, on healthcare to inform how we open. Now, our health officials will determine when we open.


But we know a big part of how we open is making sure that we can advise our businesses on testing their employees and customers and leave practices and social distancing practices and all of those things are critically important.

So what we know in our talks with Dr. Fauci and other experts is it's important who you test and how strategic you are about testing and making sure that all of our providers so that we're operating in a crisis but in normal medical practices they can provide tests as well. And that test has to be a part of our strategy.

Today in Washington, D.C., we opened a new citywide testing site. We have more people going to that site. Former First Lady Michelle Obama is going to do a robocall for us today to vulnerable populations in Washington, D.C. to ask them to pay attention to symptoms and understand that the CDC has released a new set of symptoms for people to pay attention to. So if they're not feeling well, that they're calling our 1-800 number and going to be tested.

BERMAN: It's interesting this PSA from the former first lady was interesting to me. Why do you feel like you need to get that message out? Do you think there's -- there are people who are not hearing what they need to hear just now?

BOWSER: I think there are. I think that many people don't think that if they have a symptom that they may attribute it to something else or they may wait too long or they may not know that testing is free or they may not know where all the locations are. And so we want people to reach out to their medical providers, call our 1-800 line if you're not connected to a doctor, and ask a professional about how you're feeling and get tested if that's the recommendation.

BERMAN: Mayor Muriel Bowser, we appreciate you being with us this morning. Please stay safe.

BOWSER: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thanks for your time.

So the first human trials are under way to develop a vaccine for coronavirus. We're going to get an update from a medical student volunteering to help find a cure. That's next.



CAMEROTA: A large-scale human trial at Oxford University in England appears to have taken the lead in the global race to find a vaccine for coronavirus. CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has more.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: From Tokyo to Quebec, from Iowa to New Orleans, to Australia, scientists in a race to come up with a vaccine to end the scourge of COVID-19, more than 80 vaccine developers in all according to the World Health Organization.

At lightning speed, a vaccine group even suggesting that the vaccines be manufactured before they have been fully test. The so far, seven vaccines are in human trials.

On March 16th, a study volunteer was vaccinated in Seattle as part of a trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Two other vaccine companies followed, one Chinese and one American. And then researchers at Oxford University in England vaccinated their first patient on April 23rd.

SARA GILBERT, OXFORD UNIVERSITY: What we're doing with any vaccine is trying to trick the immune system into thinking that there's a serious infection here that the immune system needs to respond to.

COHEN: Different vaccines work in different ways, as Dr. Anthony Fauci, Head of the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We're using everything from genetic immunization with RNA and DNA vaccines, viral vectors, live attenuated proteins, nano particles, et cetera.

COHEN: And that's a good thing, said Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: By having that diverse array of different technologies, it increases the likelihood that you'll get one or two or three that will reach the finish line.

COHEN: That's right. Most of these vaccines likely won't work and those that do will take a while to be tested.

HOTEZ: Dr. Fauci has charged us with doing this in a year to 18 months. That would be a record. And we're trying our best.

COHEN: Hotez, who is also working on a vaccine, thinks it will take significantly longer than that to complete human trials. Researchers spend many months giving vaccines to their human study subjects to make sure they're safe and effective.

With dozens of companies developing vaccines, it's possible some might be overly optimistic.

HOTEZ: You may think they're talking to the general public. What they're really doing is talking to their shareholders and investors. So try to stay calm.

You want to be able to kind of distance yourself from a lot of the hype.

COHEN: Settle in for a long and remember --

FAUCI: We're dealing with an unprecedented global health problem. If we don't get control of it, we will never get back to normal.

COHEN: Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, reporting.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CAMEROTA: Okay. Joining us now is a man who has signed up to be a participant in a coronavirus vaccine trial at Emory University Hospital. Sean Doyle is one of just 45 people who has received this experimental vaccine.

Sean, great see you this morning.

SEAN DOYLE, UNDERGOING TRIAL VACCINE: Thank you very much for having me. It's great to be here with you.

CAMEROTA: Why do you want to be a human guinea pig for this?

DOYLE: I think it stems from the fact that like the whole world, I've been watching news of the devastating effects of this virus is having worldwide, and we really need a vaccine as a tool to be able to reduce and hopefully prevent the transmission of this virus so that we can night fight it. So if my participation in this trial and other folks' participation and other trials ongoing around the world for the development of a vaccine help reach that goal, I think it's definitely worth it, in my opinion, to be a human guinea pig.

CAMEROTA: And so what were your thoughts as you agreed to do this? And what did the doctors and researchers tell you might happen to you? I mean, normally you would have to sort of, I would imagine, read all sorts of fine print and sign away that you know you're taking this risk.


So what did they warn you about?

DOYLE: Yes. So every time there's an experimental treatment.