Return to Transcripts main page


Jared Kushner Trying to Rewrite History?; Promising Drug to Treat Coronavirus?. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 29, 2020 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The death toll this time a month ago was only 2,425.

But we do have a glimmer of good news for you this afternoon. Dr. Anthony Fauci shared today what he described as good and highly significant news on a potential treatment for coronavirus.

A new NIH study now shows evidence that a medication called remdesivir can help block coronavirus and has a -- quote -- "clear-cut effect" in diminishing the length of time one suffers from it.

Dr. Fauci also saying that the mortality rate for patients taking this drug was lower.

"The New York Times" is now reporting that the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, is expected to issue emergency authorization for the drug to make it available to coronavirus patients quickly.

As CNN's Nick Watt reports now, Dr. Fauci said the remdesivir results remind him of the desperate effort to find a drug to help treat HIV more than 30 years ago.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Very early results from trials of remdesivir suggest this HIV drug actually might treat COVID- 19.

FAUCI: The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant positive effect in diminishing the time to recover. This is really quite important.

WATT: This is not a cure. In studies touted by Dr. Fauci today, it lowered mortality and shortened the duration of the illness.

DR. LARRY BRILLIANT, PHYSICIAN: This has not been a proven therapeutic. Physicians would probably be reluctant to, if they had other choices, to use something that protected in such a marginally valuable way. But we don't have other choices. DR. KATHLEEN NEUZIL, CORONAVIRUS VACCINE RESEARCHER: For an antiviral

to work in a positive way in these very sick patients, to me, is indeed very good news.

WATT: Many states in this country now planning to reopen, and soon, despite dire warnings from Dr. Fauci for the fall.

FAUCI: It is more likely than not that we will see this again and again until we really stick the nail in the coffin of this outbreak by a vaccine.

WATT: Pfizer now says it will begin testing one in the U.S. shortly and claims it could supply millions by the end of the year.

Oxford University in the U.K. started human trials last week of its own possible vaccine. Still, parks reopened in Miami this morning.

Florida's governor, who was late to close, just unveiled his plan for reopening the state.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We don't see any more infections, but we are going to work on that.

WATT: Right now, it does not appear that any state meets the vague advisory White House guidelines that call for a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period before any reopening.

Haircuts are already allowed in Colorado and Georgia. In California, we're told that's still months away by a governor now feeling pressure from those earlier openers.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): There's no question it puts pressure. I would be lying to suggest otherwise. I'm worried we can erase all the gains in a very short period of time.

WATT: Meanwhile, a new Marist poll shows 65 percent of Americans think it's also a bad idea for people to return to work without further testing, and 91 percent think we shouldn't be holding large sporting events yet.

FAUCI: I hope that there's some form of baseball. I mean, it's for the country's mental health.

WATT: Around 2,500 just attended the funeral of a popular rabbi in Brooklyn. Twelve summonses were issued for violating social distancing and refusing to disperse. The city's mayor called out the entire Jewish community on Twitter and was criticized.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I regret if the way I said it in any way gave people a feeling of being treated the wrong way. That was not my intention. It was said with love, but it was tough love. It was anger and frustration.

WATT: That model often cited by the White House says 74,000 will have died by August 4. It could be sooner. We're already nearing 60,000.


WATT: And, as you mentioned, Jake, we have in fact just passed that stunning and sad milestone, 60,000 Americans dead.

I just want to say one more thing about remdesivir, this drug that is being much-touted today. It is worth noting that, right now, it is not approved anywhere in the world to treat anything. So, an extraordinary use authorization from the FDA would be extraordinary.

But these are extraordinary times. And the FDA tells us that they are in ongoing discussions with the maker of that drug to get it to patients -- quote -- "as quickly as possible" -- Jake.


TAPPER: All right, nick watt, thank you so much.

Joining me now is CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, Dr. Fauci seemed very optimistic about remdesivir. What's your read on it?


I think my read is, you know, we have been waiting for a trial that actually is a randomized trial that's of a larger group of patients. Most of the reporting that's been out there so far, most of these trials, have been pretty small, retrospective, meaning looking backwards, not randomized.

This was a well-conducted trial, about 1,000 patients in 68 different centers around the world, Jake.

Let me show the results, though, just so when we talk about the significance and what this really does, it's important to look at what their -- outcomes they were looking at. They were trying to figure out obviously survival overall, the mortality rate.

That's on the left. And then duration of illness. Now, with regard to mortality rates, you see that there's a difference between the people who were treated with remdesivir vs. placebo. When you do the calculation, though, that's not a significant enough finding.

It's hard to say that that drop was actually due to the medication, given the sample size. But it's the thing on the right, the duration of illness, that is significant, the 31 percent faster recovery in those patients who got remdesivir.

Now, that -- you know, that could be significant. You know, it shows a couple things. One, it's proof of concept that this seems to have an impact on this virus, Jake. This has been a difficult virus, as we know, to treat.

So, this is the first one to show that impact. Also, you know, there is this question -- and I think it's going to be something we want to really find out -- does it also decrease the amount of virus in your nose and your mouth?

Because, if it also does that, as you know, Jake, even once you're feeling better, that might decrease the spread of this as well, which would be a big deal. We don't know that yet, but I think there's certainly enthusiasm.

This isn't a home run, by any means, but it's the only thing, as Larry Brilliant said, that we really have at this point.

TAPPER: Right. But it is a glimmer of potentially very good news.

The former FDA Commissioner under President Trump Scott Gottlieb said the drug has -- quote -- "enough data to support consideration of access under an emergency use authorization by the FDA."

"The New York Times" is reporting that that could be as soon as today. What happens after that, assuming that the emergency authorization from the FDA goes forward?

GUPTA: Well, as Nick Watt was just saying, they have got to get -- talk to Gilead and make sure that they can start to produce enough of this medication.

This is a medication, again, many people may know. It's been around for a while. Right? It was trialed in Ebola as well. So it is an existing drug. I think it's going to be a question, with Gilead now, can they start to actually meet the demand that is certainly going to come?

I should point out -- and you know this, Jake -- but the EUA, the emergency use authorization, has been -- there's been a lower bar for that recently, given that we're in the middle of a pandemic. So I'm not surprised at all that it will be sort of approved under this EUA sort of thing.

I think it's a question of being sure that people who need it can get it. I talked to Scott Gottlieb just about an hour ago as well about this.

I think one of the question marks is who? Who should get this now? And he was thinking that people who early on have the illness and are at high risk because of some sort of preexisting condition, they probably will be the ones who may be the ones most likely to benefit from this, at least early on.

TAPPER: Do you think this is a breakthrough?

I mean, Fauci compared it to the feeling he had when AZT was discovered during the HIV/AIDS crisis 30 years ago.

GUPTA: Yes, I heard that, and I was a little surprised by that.

You know, you could see the data in terms of what it does. There's at least in this early data really no impact on mortality, on saving lives. It does seem to shorten the duration of illness, and that could be significant. If you look at things like Tamiflu, even, shortening the duration and

the severity of illness is important. It's not clear that it actually will decrease mortality at this point. So, we will have to wait and see.

It's also, again, an existing drug. This is a drug that already existed, is being repurposed for this indication now to treat coronavirus.

So, you know, Dr. Fauci obviously has 40 been doing this, so he has a lot of context for these sort of things. But I think people should look at the numbers, look at the data. We will continue to -- we will put that up on the Web site, so people can look at this themselves.

TAPPER: And, Sanjay, projections of what a death toll will be, projections are not facts. Projections are just predictions.

And the projection of the death toll of 60,000, just a few weeks ago, we were told we weren't going to get there until August. We just reached it. It's April. Why? What's going on?

GUPTA: Yes, Jake, I think you and I had a conversation about this a couple of weeks ago. And you said, is it likely that we're going to get this to this number before August 4?


And it was pretty clear by all the trends that we were seeing. And as, you know, that same model that predicted 60,000 now have the projected death toll around 74,000 people.

You know, Jake, these models are -- frankly, they're all over the place. If you look at the numbers that we put up, they're actually part of a wide range. They give a wide range of numbers, anywhere from 30,000 to 140,000 in some of these ranges here.

And I think it's difficult. There's two things I think that happened over the last couple of weeks. One is that we started to include probable infections, probable hospitalizations, and probable deaths with regard to this COVID infection.

Obviously, the plateau that we're seeing is more of a plateau, that's at a high plateau, vs. a curve. You know, this is not looking like a curve, as much as it went up, is staying up for a while, and we're going to see what happens next. Hopefully, it will start to come down.

And, finally, Jake, these stay-at-home orders that are getting lifted, I don't know that that's already had an impact, because I don't think a couple, three weeks, but it's certainly affected the models.

I think that's part of the reason the projected deaths now by August are going to go up. And, look, even 74,000, which is now the August 4 model, what that's showing, that may be low, based on what we're seeing right now.

TAPPER: Yes. That seems like a conservative estimate to me, at least based on today's facts.

Sanjay Gupta, thank you, as always. We appreciate it.

And be sure tune in for a CNN town hall, "Coronavirus: Facts and Fears," hosted by Sanjay and Anderson Cooper. That is tomorrow night, Thursday, at 8:00 p.m., only on CNN.

Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner on a mission to change the facts when it comes to the administration's response. The stunning claim he is now making, that's next.

Plus, hundreds of TSA employees, many of them who screen passengers, have been infected with coronavirus, as airlines start making major changes that could impact the future of air travel for a long time to come.

That's next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead today, President Trump once again taking time to praise his administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, calling son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner "brilliant" after Kushner touted their coronavirus response as a, quote, great success story. A claim made on the same day that the U.S. hit 60,000 deaths from coronavirus, a death toll that had previously been projected the U.S. would not hit until August.

As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports for us now, despite the president's praise of his administration's actions, members of his administration are still sharing information and acting in ways that are contradictory to the coronavirus guidance they tell the rest of us to follow.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I don't know where it came up.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After confidently predicting the U.S. will be able to run 5 million coronavirus tests a day soon, President Trump hedged his bets today.

TRUMP: That was a study that came out. Somebody came out with a study of 5 million people. Do I think we will? I think we will but I never said it.

COLLINS: The number came from the new report published by Harvard University which anticipated the U.S. will need to be able to conduct 5 million tests a day by early June to safely reopen. Asked Tuesday if he's confident that the U.S. can hit that mark, Trump said yes.

TRUMP: Well, we're going to be there very soon. COLLINS: The U.S. is currently testing nowhere near 5 million people

a day, though, instead averaging about 200,000 daily tests. Hours before the president made those comments, the White House testing coordinator, Admiral Giroir, told "Time" magazine that given the current technology, there is absolutely no way on earth on this planet or any other planet that we can do 20 million tests a day or even 5 million tests a day.

TRUMP: That's a big number.

COLLINS: Trump and his aides have often complained the administration hasn't gotten enough credit for scaling up testing and other efforts to fight the coronavirus.

TRUMP: He may be my son-in-law, but he is a brilliant person.

COLLINS: Despite concerns if some health experts, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said the country does have enough testing to start opening and he praised a widely-criticized testing rollout.

JARED KUSHNER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: Somebody asked me why it took so long. I actually said, you should look at how did we do this so quickly.

COLLINS: With 1 million people now infected and the death toll higher than the Vietnam War, Kushner also predicted most of the country will be back to normal by June.

KUSHNER: The government, federal government rose to the challenge and this is a great success story and the hope is by July, the country is really rocking again.

COLLINS: The White House's messaging on reopening the country has at times been confusing and contradictory. The president has encouraged states to reopen even if they haven't met the administration's own criteria of a 14-day decline in new cases. And during a visit to the Mayo Clinic, the vice president flouted guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about wearing a face mask or covering when in public.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis and everyone who is around me is tested for the coronavirus.

COLLINS: The first lady seemed to remind the vice president of the CDC's guidance in a tweet today, urging people to cover their face.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, when the president first assembled the coronavirus task force team, they met basically every single day except Easter weekend. They did not meet for three days in a row this week. But they were scheduled to have a meeting today.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much. President Trump today with many promises but few concrete answers on

how to protect workers in meat processing plants after he ordered all those facilities previously closed down because of coronavirus issues, to reopen.


REPORTER: How do you protect the workers in those plants? What are you doing to protect them?

TRUMP: Well, we're doing that. We're going to have a report on that probably this afternoon. We're going to have good form of protection, and through quarantine when we find somebody that's not -- they're going to be very careful. They are, as to who is going into the plant.


And, the quarantine is going to be very strong.

And we're going to make people better when they have a problem. We're going to get them better. Hopefully, they're going to get better.


TAPPER: The executive order is also a signal that the Trump administration will stand on the side of the meatpacking plants if any employee were to sue the plant for exposure to coronavirus at work.

Union leaders and workers have already told CNN that they're extremely worried about what might happen, noting that they work in extremely close quarters and there is not enough testing to know who is sick. There also are not proper safety protocols to keep the virus from spreading, they say.

CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez is live for us in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Omar, some of meatpacking factories account for more than half the coronavirus cases in their counties or towns but they are still being told to reopen.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the decision these plants are having to wrestle with, when you talk about -- the three major meatpacking plants in Green Bay alone, it's those employees that account for more than half in this country. And part of why this county now has the highest infection rate in the entire state of Wisconsin.

Now, when you look at those three plants, American Foods, Salm and JBS, JBS is the only one that has closed its doors over the past week, in part because of coronavirus. They've been most significantly affected, more than 250 employees testing positive there. But the important note is that this is an impact we're seeing across the country. That is the fourth plant that JBS has had to close. And while two others have reopened, based on President Trump's executive order, we'll now wait and see on whether the others will soon follow suit. Again, as we've seen, more than 20 plants closed over just the past

few weeks, the past two months, I should say, Jake, in the midst of this pandemic.

TAPPER: And, Omar, we've been covering the racial disparities in who gets sick by the coronavirus, who dies from the coronavirus. Data shows the majority of workers in these plants are Latino or African- American. So, I mean, here's another example of why that might be.

JIMENEZ: Yes, Jake, we're seeing 35 percent of workers at these plants are Hispanic, 20 percent black. When you add up black, Hispanic, and Asian, it's almost two-thirds of all workers in these plants are minorities at the very least. I spoke to one Hispanic worker at a plant in Green Bay earlier today who says that, honestly, 90 percent of the people he works with are Hispanic, and they speak Spanish before English.

And he says that he fears having to go back to work because he actually tested positive for coronavirus and has been home. He also says that while he is documented, he knows undocumented immigrants and say, they fear speaking up to management for possible consequences of not being asked to return, Jake.

TAPPER: That's right, Omar Jimenez in Green Bay, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

And be sure to tune in this Sunday night on CNN for a CNN special report, "The Pandemic and the President." My team and I investigate what happened in the White House as the coronavirus spread around the world and then across the United States. It's this Sunday night at 10:00 p.m.

Coming up, more potentially encouraging news. One major company says it could have an emergency vaccine ready in just a few months. We're going to talk to a vaccine expert about that, next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead today, new research from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia or CHOP finds the closer people live and work together, the more threatening and more deadly the coronavirus can be. This partly explains why New York City, for example, has been the epicenter of the virus while rural areas have yet to be hit nearly as hard.

Joining us now to discuss is Dr. Paul Offit. He's director of the Vaccine Education Center at CHOP and a member of the FDA's Vaccine Advisory Committee.

Dr. Offit, thank you so much for joining us. You co-authored an op-ed in "The New York Times" about how a dense population can make the virus spread more quickly. Can you explain why a dense population also makes the virus

theoretically more deadly?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR OF THE VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Probably because you're exposed to more virus, and the more virus you're exposed to a larger inoculum of the virus, and the more virus that you're exposed to, the sicker you're going to get. That's the most likely reason.

TAPPER: Just the same way we saw doctors in China die of it because they were exposed to more of it?

OFFIT: That's exactly right, yes.

TAPPER: And obviously, doctors here in the United States and nurses as well.

You compared this to the chicken pox in the sense that when a family is infected, the second child to get it is usually more seriously ill because they've been exposed to more of the virus. So if one lives in a major city like Philadelphia, or Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, is it unavoidable that you'll come in contact with the virus?

OFFIT: It's certainly much more difficult to avoid it. When you come in contact with somebody up close as a doctor does or as a second child in the family does, then you're going to be exposed to more virus, there's more viral replication and there's a greater degree of disease. And that's true of many infections.