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Pfizer Says, They're Testing Vaccine In U.S Shortly Could Supply Millions By End Of Year; JetBlue Will Soon Require All Passengers Wear Masks; New York City Mayor Under Fire For Singling Out Jewish Residents After Crowded Funeral. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired April 29, 2020 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Experts say it is the real key to getting life back to normal, a vaccine. Now, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer says it will begin testing a new experimental vaccine as early as next week, adding it could be ready for emergency use if it proves efficacious in fall and be widely supplied by the end of the year.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Of course, officials say, you've got to watch the numbers overtime, the studies, another sign perhaps of things getting closer to normal. Sports going to games, but top infectious disease Dr. Anthony Fauci says that sports may have to skip this year all together, unless, and this is key, there's a guaranteed way to keep the fans and players safe. That's something the leagues are still working on.

And as we hit the 1 million mark in cases here in the U.S., that is confirmed cases, states are starting to move to reopen. We're going to hear more details on those plans, how they vary state to state today.

First, let's get to CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen on this experimental vaccine by Pfizer. Elizabeth, emphasis on experimental, what do we actually know now and how long will it take to know for sure if this is effective?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So what we know right now, Jim and Poppy, is that there are seven candidate vaccines being studied in various parts of the world. The news today, according to The Wall Street Journal, is that U.S. trials are going to begin of one of those seven. They were already trials going on in Germany. So what's interesting here is that now there will be trials starting up in the U.S.

Again, seven companies or seven teams, I should say, are studying seven different vaccines. And that's a good thing. It's good to have different kinds of vaccines that work in different ways being studied because not all of these are going to work out. We're going to have some duds, that's for sure. And there's 80-something more behind them that hope to get to clinical trials. There will also be duds in that group.

So it's good that we're trying a lot of different things. This has proceeded with lightning, unprecedented speed. However, when we start hearing, we can distribute widely by the end of the year or by whatever date, take those with a grain of salt. That's people looking into a crystal ball. I don't know anyone who has a completely reliable crystal ball. It just doesn't exist.

HARLOW: Elizabeth, that's for sure. Elizabeth, before you go, talk to us about positive data. Gilead, which makes remdesivir, says they have some positive data from their wider study, the broader study of this drug on COVID patients, but is that headline totally, you know, does it tell the whole story?

COHEN: You know, it definitely doesn't tell the whole story, Poppy. And I'm glad you asked that question that way, because it doesn't. And what we're seeing here is that some companies, not all, but some companies are sort of jumping up to give good news about their drugs that are being studied, but when you really dig down, you know, that news is -- it's fine, but it doesn't mean that the drug is going to work.

What they say now is that ten days of their drug works as well as five days of their drug. That's not what's important. What's important is does the drug work at all? When you compare it to giving nothing, does it work better? Five days, ten days, the point is does it work at all better than just giving a patient a placebo. Until we know that, really, we don't even really need to pay that much attention.

What we really want to know is did this drug work well when you compared it with a placebo. that's what we're trying to figure out. We don't know the answer to that question.

HARLOW: It's an important one. Elizabeth, thanks so much for that.

Joining us is Dr. Rajiv Shah. He's the President of the Rockefeller Foundation. They're working on a new plan to drastically try to increase testing in the U.S. to 30 million people per week. And, you know, that's the question, right? I mean, how can we have enough testing to make sure that people are safe to go back to their somewhat normal lives until there's a vaccine?

You've called your testing plan the 1-3-30 plan. What is it, and is the government onboard?

DR. RAJIV SHAH, PRESIDENT, ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION: Well, thank you for having me. The Rockefeller Foundation pulled together scientists, industry leaders, former administration officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations, epidemiologists and others, and really put forth this 1-3-30 plan, which we believe is the only safe way to reopen the American economy. And the reason it's called 1-3-30 is we have been stuck at 1 million tests per week for about the last three weeks. And we believe we can get from 1 to 3 million tests per week in America very quickly in about eight weeks' time.


We can do that by unlocking the roughly two-thirds of America's molecular testing capacity that resides in small labs and research labs and in university labs and we've laid out a clean blueprint for how to achieve that.

We then need to know from 3 million to, as you point out, 30 million tests a week within a six-month period of time. And we think especially when the next flu season hits in late August, early September, America needs to be ready with a high level of testing so we can make the distinction between typical flu symptoms and COVID-19. Otherwise, we'll be stuck with another lockdown that is causing immeasurable pain and suffering to most American families.

SCIUTTO: The president has made clear that this is not a federal government responsibility, in his view. He says it's about to the states. You have said this would require major coordination between manufacturing distribution. Is that possible? I mean, you're talking about a ten-fold jump here. Is this possible without a national plan, national resources, national coordination?

SHAH: You know, we have laid out a plan that requires the federal government to make some very significant leadership actions, and requires states and localities to do their part. For example, we have asked every state to create an emergency operation center to monitor lab capacity in their state and identify which labs are not fully utilized. Right now, there are a lot of labs in America that are simply underutilized and to come up with ways to bring them online, improve their capacity to report results quickly, and quickly accelerate testing capacity through such state action.

We have also asked for the federal government to have a blanket reimbursement level of about $100 per test that would be available to people whether they are in network or out of network. Right now is not a time for insurance industry distinctions. It's a time to come together and make the resources available so testing can be ubiquitous and accessible and perhaps most importantly, we have suggested that the federal government should be a part of a public/private collaboration where we bring together all the labs in this country and engage in longer term, larger scale purchase orders that have real financial backing from foundations like the Rockefeller Foundation, and we have committed resources, but also from major American banks and the federal government because that's the only way we're going to get the 10 to 30 times increase in the manufacturing side and the supply side to have available test kits and necessary equipment.

HARLOW: Are they onboard, Doctor? I mean, have you heard from the White House? Have you heard from the decision makers on this?

SHAH: We have. We have worked with members of the administrations, as well as with states and localities around the country. And I'll be honest, there are important political disagreements that are, in my view, slowing down progress. And what we have proposed is we just need to come together against this really pragmatic and practical set of actions and start focusing on the number of tests per week and getting it up to the 30 million over the six months.

And the path we have laid out allows the federal government to participate in an important way but isn't entirely reliant on the federal government using, for example, the Defense Production Act at a very large scale. We believe that this is a pragmatic, responsible approach that doesn't need to be the subject of partisan disagreement.

And, frankly, America doesn't have time for partisan disagreement right now. We just have to get this job done. And we have a very specific proposal that the Rockefeller Foundation is proposing almost $15 million to help implement and bring people together to solve what we think is the biggest barrier to reopening the economy in the United States.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Well, we wish you luck. We know it's going to be tough. Dr. Rajiv Shah, thanks very much.

SHAH: Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: Thanks, Doctor.

Let's get now to California and what the governor there is saying about plans to reopen.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Stephanie Elam joins us now from Los Angeles. There's a reopening plan, but it's a pretty gradual one, is it not?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it's very gradual. For all the people who wanted to get a haircut, that's not until phase three, and that's months away. But let's go in order here, Jim and Poppy, starting off with phase one, and that is where we are now. That's the part where we are preparing to have the emergency people able to go to work, that they have the PPE that they need, all of that protective equipment, that all of the essentials are getting done, and those people can work.

And then he says, it's not going to be too much longer. Weeks, not months, until we move to phase two, and that is when you could see some non-essential businesses start to come back online, perhaps retail, manufacturing, these businesses. Also, he's talking about getting daycares back online, and some school programs back online.


He also floated the idea of school not starting again for the next school year at the end of July or early August because of the loss of learning due to the pandemic. And they're also talking about then that's when they could open up maybe some hiking trails and the like, public spaces that people like to enjoy.

However, it's going to be months, not weeks, until we get to phase three, and that's where he talked about personal care, so the gym, getting a haircut, getting your nails done, all of that, he's saying, that would be when it would come back in phase three, but it would not be the same way as we saw it before. In fact, none of this is about looking the way it was done before. This is all about a new world and how we operate in it.

So to that point, phase four is when you could see basically going away from the stay-at-home orders and you could see then, you could have your concerts and your big conventions and also those live sporting events, and for a lot of people, those live sporting events really do bring a sense of normalcy. That's months away because they're saying you would need to have a vaccine and since we don't have any of those therapeutics yet and that's month away, obviously, Poppy and Jim, it's likely that we won't see any live sporting events for a while.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's a shame. A lot of people looking forward to that moment. Stephanie Elam, thanks very much.

Florida's governor is set to lay out his statewide reopening plans later today.

HARLOW: Our Rosa Flores joins us again in Miami Beach. So what's open, what's not, and what are we looking at for the state?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Poppy. Well, parks and some walkways, like the one that I'm in right now, are opening here in Miami Beach, and there's restrictions. But if you look at Southeast Florida, the counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, they got together, they approached it in a regional plan to reopen at the same time, because they know that people in these three counties drive to and from these counties on a regular basis.

Now, there are rules and they are posted. Face coverings are required. Social distancing of at least six feet is also required. And then there are hours of operation, only 7:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. And because seniors are especially vulnerable, there will be hours for seniors as well so they can enjoy these walkways and also some of the views.

Now, the beaches are closed. And this is one thing that these mayors from these three Southeast Florida counties emphasized, is that whenever they reopen the beaches, they're also going to do it together because they know that beaches attract a lot of people. So the signage very clear that beaches are closed.

As for the state plan, we're still waiting for Governor Ron DeSantis to make that announcement, but we're expecting a press conference sometime today. Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: Okay. Rosa, thanks so much.

Also new this morning, the Navy is launching what they're calling a broader investigation into the USS Roosevelt, the aircraft carrier hit hard, of course, with so many sailors contracting coronavirus, this as some of those sailors begin to return to the ship. SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, this is after the chief of naval operations already recommended the reinstatement of the captain, Brett Crozier. Many of those sailors have been on shore in Guam. This was part of the Navy's effort to remove all of the nearly 5,000 sailors onboard until all tested negative for the virus. Officials tell us the investigation effectively delays that Navy recommendation that Crozier be reinstated as commander of the ship.

Still to come, airlines are now urging passengers to wear face masks on planes. What about social distancing?


Plus, long lines as Americans rush to local food banks for the first time just to put a meal on the table. But with high demand and not nearly enough supply, will food banks have enough to last through the pandemic?

And a potential shortage of life saving medicine, one doctor's cry for help as a key medication begins to dwindle.



SCIUTTO: As stay-at-home orders begin to lift and travel picks up, more airlines are now urging passengers to wear masks, but not all are requiring it. Starting Monday, all JetBlue passengers and crew will have to wear masks. As for American Airlines and United Airlines, they will provide masks for passengers but only require crews to wear them. This is similar to Delta Airlines.

The other big problem, experts suggest we stay six feet apart, which is, of course, almost impossible on a plane. So how do we stay safe when we fly?

With me now is Yan Chen, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, and Pete Muntean, CNN correspondent who has been covering the story for us.

Yan Chen, if I could begin, I just want to show some animation here that gets at the challenges of keeping the spread in check in confined spaces of an airplane. Here's one person breathing, throwing up, you know, the virus, in effect, around the plane and how quickly it spreads. So how does wearing a mask solve the problem in such a confined space? Is it possible? Does it solve the problem?

YAN CHEN, JAMES G. DWYER PROFESSOR OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, PURDUE UNIVERSITY: Yes, Jim, it is possible because when you wear the masks, and then the droplets will be captured by the mask. Although the efficiency is not very high, but I believe the majority of the particles will be captured in the mask. And therefore, when you sit side by side with another passenger, then the infection rate will be kind of very low.

[10:20:01] And therefore, it's really crucial to have everyone put their masks on when you enter in the airport, because the risk is not in the airplane but also during the check-in procedure, going to the gate, and especially during the boarding and deplaning procedure.

And at that time, because the people crowd close to each other and stand in a very short distance, that's a very dangerous period.

SCIUTTO: I want to be clear here, because many times on this broadcast, doctors, healthcare professionals, Yan Chen, have said that, really, to block the vast majority of particles, droplets, you need a high quality N95 mask as opposed to a cloth surgical mask or the kind of cloth masks people have been making. I mean, to be truly effective, particularly in the confined space of a plane, do you need to be wearing one of those professional health masks as opposed to something more makeshift?

CHEN: Yes. Either you wear N95 masks, which means that you won't be able to capture 99.99 percent of the particles, especially very small size of the particles with that diameter about one-micron meter. But I think when you were just even yourself made a mask, which might not be able to capture really, really small, tiny particles, however, you can capture still larger particles with that diameter, like 20 microns.

And I believe those larger particles contain a lot more virus than small particles. And that's why even CDC recommended we should keep social distancing of six feet, and that is really to try to keep larger particles away from us.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Pete, so you flew twice yesterday. A lot of this is going to come down, I imagine, to how comfortable people are just doing this. I mean, what practices did you see on the plane, walking around the terminal? Was everyone wearing a mask? Did they try to sit apart from each other on the plane? How did it work?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting you ask about masks because it was hard to find someone yesterday who wasn't already wearing a mask, even though these airlines are now providing masks to passengers and JetBlue requiring it, calling it the new flying etiquette.

Here is my experience, Washington to Atlanta yesterday and back, passengers were maintaining relatively good social distance in the waiting area, sort of skipping every few seats, waiting at the gate. The jet way was a pretty elongated line. The plane was only about maybe a third or a quarter full. So it was pretty easy to not take a middle seat, and frankly, it was pretty easy to take your own row.

It seems like the flight crews are really keyed in on this. Some are trying to help people move around. Initially, I was in an aisle seat next to someone in a window seat. I ended up getting moved up to my own row. So airlines are keen on trying to help passengers as they pass through.

You know, the interesting thing is, TSA numbers show that passenger travel is actually ticking up slightly after it cratered around April 3rd. And so now we're wondering whether or not passengers are getting more comfortable with this concept of maybe flying again.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yan Chen, before we go, there's been a lot of talk about and science that shows that the virus can survive on surfaces for periods of time. Is it a smart step for people when they sit down in a plane seat, if they choose to travel, to bring a disinfectant wipe, wipe everything down, especially the tray?

CHEN: Absolutely. We actually found that a lot of the studies show that if we wipe the tray tables, arm rests, even, say, the toilet and knobs by using the alcohol contained wipes, it will help a great deal.

SCIUTTO: All right. Well, be careful out there. Yan Chen, Pete Muntean, thanks to both of you.

CHEN: Thank you.

HARLOW: So New York City's mayor, Bill de Blasio, publicly reprimanding thousands who attended a funeral for a rabbi. This happened overnight. And now, some in the Jewish community are speaking out and against those words, including the Anti-Defamation League. We'll have that story next.



HARLOW: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio accused of singling out the Jewish community following a huge funeral in Brooklyn where thousands of orthodox Jews gathered last night.

SCIUTTO: Now, if you look at the video, clearly, the people involved were not following social distancing guidelines. And police were called in, as you can see, to disperse the crowd.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live in New York. He's been following this. Shimon, explain to us how this all transpired.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, yesterday, the funeral had been planned, we're told that the NYPD was actually aware that this funeral was going to take place.


They were aware that it was going to draw this large number of people.