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Fauci Says, Early Remdesivir Trial Shows A Drug Can Block Coronavirus; Study Shows Men More Likely To Die From Coronavirus Than Women; Arkansas Food Bank Runs Out Of Food In One Hour Due To Demand. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 29, 2020 - 13:00   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And I think the World Health Organization has been the most optimistic about.


We've been talking to lots of researchers, Elizabeth and I, around the world. There's a big trial that's part of this 152-center trial that's happening right here at Emory University as well.

So I'm sure we're going to get more data maybe from some of these specific sites as well, but this is obviously the news, and it's the best news I think we've heard in terms of a therapeutic in some time.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Best news in terms of therapeutic in some time.

Dr. Brilliant said optimistic, we've heard these announcements. Is there a dose of skepticism there or do you have confidence that they would not have announced this unless they were certain that it at least helps?


KING: I was asking Sanjay. I was noting your optimism. But you're more than welcome to jump in.

BRILLIANT: Go ahead, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Okay. I saw you on the screen, and I always love to hear from the brilliant Larry Brilliant. But, yes, I think -- Larry said he's, by nature an optimist, and I think I would probably say that as well. But, you know, we've been following the story along for some time. And I think there is a real desire for good news, understandably. And I think this is some good news.

I mean, under other circumstances, John, we wouldn't be talking about this on your program. It's early study. It wasn't a huge difference between the placebo group and the other group, but it was significant enough in a time when we don't have something else to obviously talk about it. But I don't want to be throwing cold water on this by any means. I just -- we like to proceed cautiously.

And we've also got to make sure in larger and larger groups of people this doesn't cause some sort of problem. I don't anticipate that it should, but that's why you do studies.

KING: And so, Dr. Brilliant, what happens now? American people are watching this. They saw Dr. Fauci in the Oval Office. They saw the president say this is hopeful, a building block. What happens to people like yourself right now when the phone starts ringing and patients, either somebody who maybe has COVID, who's saying, should I take this now, or somebody else might be saying, well, will it help me prevent getting COVID? What happens in the real-life experience now that the American people hear there might be something that helps?

BRILLIANT: As the months go on and we learn more about COVID, we realize it is really truly an awful disease. It is respiratory and spread, but by no means is this a respiratory disease, if we compare it to influenza or anything like that. It is so bad that we're going to be in a -- and we are, for people who have this disease -- in an area of desperation. And the old saw is weak tea is better than no tea at all.

KING: Interesting way to put it, Dr. Brilliant, Dr. Gupta, Elizabeth Cohen as well, thanks for helping us analyze that breaking news at the White House. Dr. Fauci saying the drug remdesivir shows some progress in battling COVID-19 in patients.

Our coverage continues with Brooke Baldwin right now. Have a good day.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: John King, we'll take it from here. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me. And I want to continue the conversation that they've been on this massive development in the fight against coronavirus. This is a big deal.

Moments ago, the nation's top infectious disease expert expressed not just optimism but enthusiasm about a medication to treat COVID. It is called remdesivir. And Dr. Anthony Fauci is calling the result of this randomly controlled study, more than 1,000 people, quote, quite good news. In fact, he's speaking about it early so that other patients can get it right away. He says that these early trials show the drug can actually block the virus.

So, let's stay on this, because we all could use some good news when it comes to making sick people better. With me now, I have -- Sanjay is back, Elizabeth Cohen. Sanjay Gupta is back, Elizabeth Cohen is back and Dr. Kathleen Neuzil is with us. She is the Director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. And she's currently working on two coronavirus therapies, one of which could become a potential vaccine, vaccine separate from remdesivir.

And, Sanjay, let me just start with you, because, listen, I know, I've been out the last couple weeks, so I'm not entirely hip on remdesivir and I'm getting caught up just like so many other people. And so this is a drug, and you're the boss, so you explain, but this is a drug that, let's say someone has coronavirus, and for me, it lasted two weeks. This is something that one could take. And then it sounds like, according to Dr. Fauci, you just get better sooner if you take this drug, according to this trial. Is that right? GUPTA: Yes, that's right, Brooke. And, you know, typically, when we do think of antivirals, like Tamiflu, for example, it's not the same really as an antibiotic, but it can lessen the duration and lessen the severity of the disease, which is, you're absolutely right, in some ways, how Dr. Fauci was presenting his thoughts on remdesivir.


I haven't seen the data yet on this. And I think we're all going to need to want to really dig into the data, although Dr. Fauci, obviously, talking about it in the way that he did, saying it was quite good news, saying it should become standard of care based on what he's seeing. I think it still seems like a small study.

And Elizabeth, I know, and I have both been following this very closely, I mean, there was a report just last week that was not as optimistic about remdesivir. It was a report that was put on the World Health Organization Web site for a little bit and then taken down, and it was subsequently thought to be an underpowered study. This is a larger study than the ones we've seen, although still small. It wasn't a knockout punch, I don't feel, in terms of what it can do. And I'm not trying to sound pessimistic, Brooke.

BALDWIN: No, you're being realistic and that's why we care. Yes.

GUPTA: Yes. And I think we also have to make sure as we, potentially -- and now it's going to start getting used by a lot of people, especially after what Dr. Fauci said today, we need to make sure in these larger groups of people that it doesn't cause any kind of problem as well. You know, that's one of the reasons you go through these various phases of trials.

BALDWIN: I know, we all want to have this hope and this fix, and this may or may not be it.

I want to get to Elizabeth, to you, and Dr. Neuzil in just a second, but let me play this so in case you're just tuning in, you missed what Dr. Fauci just said at the White House. Let's roll it.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery. This is really quite important. It is a very important proof of concept because what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.


BALDWIN: So, again, you hear that, Elizabeth. And, listen, I'm very careful because I also have Sanjay in one ear being the realist here. How promising do you think this is? What do you make of Dr. Fauci's words?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So I'm going to join Dr. Fauci in his optimism and also join Sanjay in his caution. I think it's possible to do both at the same time. And let's look specifically at what these numbers are, what this study of more than 1,000 patients in the U.S. and other countries showed, is that when you look at mortality rate, the mortality rate on people who were on a placebo, a pill that does nothing, it was 11 percent. When you look at the mortality rate on remdesivir, it was eight percent. Dr. Fauci noted that that did not turn out to be statistically significant.

But when you look at the duration of illness, which is how long it took for people to get discharged, he said that was statistically significant. And on placebo, it was 11 days -- I'm sorry, on remdesivir, it was 11 days, and on placebo, it was 15. So it cut the duration of that illness by four days.

So, here's where the optimism comes in. It's a proof of principle. It did something. This drug did something. And so we should put everyone on it because it did something. Here's where the caution comes in. This is not a cure. Terribly sick people did not jump out of their hospital beds and start walking around. That didn't happen. This is not a cure. But it does appear to help. It does appear to have a proof of a concept, and we can go from here to expand on that.

BALDWIN: And, again, just for people who are wrapping their heads around this, Dr. Neuzil, I know your work is in vaccines. This is about this drug, remdesivir, this is about making sick people better faster, so says the top doc in the country. And so this has nothing to do with getting people a vaccine. That said, this is your realm of expertise. How do you see this?

DR. KATHLEEN NEUZIL, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF MEDICINE'S CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: Well, here at the University of Maryland, we did participate in this trial. And this medicine was given to sick people who were in the hospital, who had lung abnormalities, and that's a really tough test. And so, for an antiviral to work in a positive way in these very sick patients, to me, is indeed very good news.

BALDWIN: Wow. I mean, so you're talking about those who were sitting in the hospital, this took a suffocating hold on their lungs, and the fact that they got better. How will we know? I get that this is just a trial, but for everyone sitting there at home thinking, all right, this sounds great, you know, how much more needs to be done, testing- wise, Dr. Neuzil? And to Sanjay's point, you know, it's so -- it's still so soon to know if there's anything negative, any sort of negative reaction to this drug as well. When will we have those answers?

NEUZIL: Well, I understand that they'll be releasing more data later. You know, we physicians and scientists like to see the peer-reviewed literature and really scour over the data. I think as Dr. Fauci suggested though, we don't really have that luxury to always wait for that in this current environment.

But some of what I would like to know is what subsets of people did better. Were there age groups that did better?

[13:10:00] Was there timing? You know, if you started it earlier in the course of disease, did people do better? And I think that subset analysis will really help to guide not only who we treat now but what kind of testing we might do next.

BALDWIN: Sure. And, Sanjay, just to you. You know, doctor to doctor, do you have any questions for Dr. Neuzil?

GUPTA: Yes. You know, I think one of the questions that I guess I know that there's different sites where this medication was trialed, in Maryland and more severe patients and other places, perhaps patients who weren't as sick, you know, earlier in the course of the disease or just milder disease overall. How do you look at that sort of literature?

Because you know, I think part of the issue is that people who have milder disease, the majority of them do recover, right, even though some can progress to more serious disease. The majority do get better, ultimately, on their own. Brooke is an example of that. Is this something that you would start to think of for people earlier in the disease based on what we know now, Doctor?

NEUZIL: Yes. So, for full disclosure here, I've heard what everybody else has heard from Dr. Fauci. So, I have not seen the full results. Generally, with viral diseases and antivirals, we do best when we start early. And that's why to me this is remarkable that there is any effect at all. And, you know, there was this positive effect that Dr. Fauci talks about.

So, I think exactly what you're saying, I think we have to see, can we start earlier with this. You know, where do we go from here with the data that we have that will guide us? Remember, this is an intravenous medication. We would still love to have an effective oral medicine where we can treat people in the outpatient setting.

And the other important aspect is do any of these medications decrease virus shedding or virus transmission. Because then they're not only helping that patient, which is fantastic, but they also may be decreasing the spread of this virus. So, we still have a lot to learn with this and other antivirals.

BALDWIN: Okay, cautious optimism. I want to thank all of you. And forgive me, my audio, my ear was going in and out on some of that conversation, but I appreciate all of your smarts and your expertise. Remdesivir is the drug, and it sounds like Dr. Fauci is saying, perhaps, perhaps, this could be something that can make sick people better much sooner.

A quick break. We're going to continue our coverage here, continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Men and women seem to contract coronavirus at the same rate, but men are more than twice as likely to die. This is all coming out, part of the small study out of China that was just published overnight. A team studied 43 patients, and the records just over 1,000 others who had tested positive, and it's, of course, only representative of the virus spread in China. But it supports early observations about the virus from when it first began to spread that men were more likely to die than women.

Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Anne Rimoin is with me now. Anne, thank you so much for being with me. And, gosh, when you read that, twice as likely to die if you're a man, what do you make of this, and why would that be the case?

ANNE RIMOIN, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Well, this is really interesting epidemiologic data that needs to be studied in greater detail. And I think that there are going to be many more studies coming out looking at this. This is one of the cornerstones of epidemiology, understanding age differences, sex differences, distributions in populations.

And so, I think that, in fact, there is data that suggests in SARS and MERS we saw more cases in males than females and more severe cases. I think that we're going to be understanding a lot more about this in the coming weeks and months as we have data here in the United States as well, where we're able to look at it, have common protocols where we're collecting similar data across states, across populations, and really understand, is this something that is behavioral? Is this something biological? Does it have to do with access to care? We see in many studies that men tend to access care much later than women do in certain situations.

So, I think that there's still a lot more to know, but it is a very interesting finding.

BALDWIN: What about this soccer player, Paulo Dybala, who plays for the Italian team, Juventus. He's tested positive for coronavirus four times in six weeks, four times. And so, the club says he has been asymptomatic, he's been in self-isolation since March 11th.

But, typically, listen, there is actually no typical of this virus. People can get it for various length of time. But what does it say to you about how long this virus can last, especially considering the fact that he hasn't even been showing symptoms?

RIMOIN: There're so many questions about this virus that we're still trying to understand, and we're seeing many cases emerge where you see these anecdotal stories of people who have had positive tests and negative tests, then positive tests again, persistent positive tests overtime, and there are many questions about what this actually means.

And the big questions are, is this a symptom of an active infection? Can he still spread the virus? Is it just an artifact of having been infected, and it's just some sort of a colonization?


There're so many questions here, and we don't really have answers. But I think what this is showing is that we're looking at these things right now, we're collecting data, and that so much research has to be done to be able to understand what the biological mechanisms are and what it means in terms of can people shed for a long time. We don't know. What does asymptomatic infection actually mean?

BALDWIN: Sure. It just sounds like we need so much more information. This is all just so new to all of us. There was a story that also piqued my interest, and because I have a pug, and I had coronavirus, and I was actually really worried the first couple of days that somehow, you know, if the pug was hanging out with me, then my husband could get sick. But now we have the news, this pug in North Carolina is believed to be the first dog in the U.S. to test positive. And the owners, they don't know whether they got the dog sick, the dog got them sick. It was my understanding pets can't give it to humans. Help me understand this.

RIMOIN: So, Brooke, these are all of the questions we're all looking into right now. There hasn't been widespread testing in animals, and so, it's very hard to know what these one-off positives mean. And we've seen a couple of positives in cats. We've now had this report in a dog. We did see some earlier reports in Europe about dogs. We've seen the reports in the Bronx Zoo.

So, where we are right now in terms of science is we're at the very beginning, and we're trying to understand what this means. I think that what, you know, in my opinion, I think that we need to be doing large-scale studies swabbing animals and trying to understand what it means, because right now we don't have any data. And so we're just at the very early stages.

I think it's an important data point that we have right now that suggests because we don't know what it means, we should follow the CDC guidelines. We should always follow the CDC guidelines on these issues, but because they are really drilling down and trying understand it. But what we really need to do and what CDC recommends right now is that if you are sick, that you should social distance from your pets just as you would from other people because we know that they can have it. But we do not know what it means in terms of can a dog transmit it once they've been infected.

And we think that the common wisdom right now is that it doesn't seem that that is a likely mode of transmission. But, again, there's so many unknowns, and that's why research is so critical right now. Anecdotal reports just are not enough to make decisions on policy. So, research is key right now.

BALDWIN: I know. I hear you. I hear you on all of this. It's just frustrating. And I'm thinking of just single people who can't social distance from their dogs, right? And what are they supposed to do? It's overwhelming. It can be frustrating. I speak from experience, but I appreciate your candor and that we just need more information. Anne Rimoin, thank you very much.

RIMOIN: My pleasure.

And we are ready to answer more of your questions. Bill Gates joins Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta live for a new global CNN town hall tomorrow night, Coronavirus, Facts and Fears. Please tune in at 8:00 Eastern.

How about this story out of New York? Thousands of people show up to this rabbi's funeral in New York, and the mayor is really being criticized for how he reacted to this community, to these crowds.

Plus, as we learn that the economy shrank for the first time in six years, disturbing new numbers show how many Americans and their families are losing work in this unprecedented shutdown. We'll be right back.



BALDWIN: The cars started lining up in Little Rock, Arkansas, before the sun even came up. And when the Arkansas food bank finally opened yesterday, it only took them an hour-and-a-half to run out of food. Look at this line. 840 families received food at this one particular event. Workers estimate there were 2,000 people who did not.

Same story, different zip code, these are pictures from Newark, New Jersey. As layoffs and furloughs push unemployment rates to stunning new levels, half of the people who show up at food banks nowadays are newcomers.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've never done this before. It's a shame that I have to do this.

We're alone, you know. Even my neighbor, she's alone too. So that's why we really appreciate it.

>UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are experiences, you know, first time, because it's hard for them.


BALDWIN: Well, here's a whole other issue as people are lining up for food. A lot of farmers are seeing their crops go to waste. There's no one to pick their vegetables or process their milk.


PAUL FOUTS, NEW YORK DAIRY FARMER: I mean, the food is here. The farmers have it, and the consumers need it. Somehow, we've got to get the system in between to work for that.


BALDWIN: Meat producers are also finding themselves at the mercy of a stalled food pipeline. The president of the United States has now ordered meat processing plants to stay open despite serious outbreaks of coronavirus among workers who spend hours a day working in close contact.


But will these workers show up to work without protection?