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Remdesivir May Reduce COVID-19 Duration; State Reopening Despite Lacking 14-Day Decline in Cases; Trump Promises Five Million Tests a Day, Then Walks Back Comments. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 29, 2020 - 14:00   ET




BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me. Right now, I can bring you one of the best headlines since coronavirus took hold of the United States. Here it is, the potential for a true treatment.

Now, there are no approved medications for coronavirus. But just a short time ago, the nation's leading infectious disease expert said that the result of this randomized controlled study of this drug called remdesivir is, according to Dr. Fauci, quite good news. Why, you ask? Because it showed remdesivir appeared to be effective and helped people recover more quickly once they were sick.

Here he was, Dr. Fauci today, from the White House.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery. This is really quite important for a number of reasons, and I'll give you the data. It's highly significant. If you look at the time to recovery being shorter in the remdesivir arm, it was 11 days compared to 15 days, and that's a P-value, for the scientists who are listening, of 0.001.

So that's something that, although a 31 percent improvement doesn't seem like a knockout, 100 percent, it is a very important proof of concept. Because what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus. The mortality rate trended towards being better in the sense of less deaths in the remdesivir group, eight percent versus 11 percent in the placebo group.

The reason why we're making the announcement now is something that I believe people don't fully appreciate. Whenever you have clear-cut evidence that a drug works, you have an ethical obligation to immediately let the people who are in the placebo group know so that they could have access. And all of the other trials that are taking place now have a new standard of care.

This drug happens to be blocking an enzyme that the virus uses.


BALDWIN: Let's go straight to our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And, you know, you feel the optimism coming from Dr. Fauci. I know, you know --


BALDWIN: -- let's live in the world of -- you know, be realistic. One to 10, 10 being incredibly exciting and optimistic, where do you fall on this remdesivir study?

GUPTA: I'm optimistic, Brooke. I mean, you know, in the context of the fact that we haven't had any good news for some time, just like you framed it at the top of the show, I think it's absolutely right. I mean, there is nothing that we can sort of point to right now as a therapeutic. So it is -- it is probably the best news we've had in a while.

But I think -- let's break down some of those numbers for a second, just so we're clear on exactly what Dr. Fauci was saying, and I think we have some that we can show you.

First of all, you know, the big questions, you know, does it improve mortality, are you more likely to live if you get this medication versus the other? Placebo, as Dr. Fauci mentioned, 11 percent chance of someone dying; eight percent with the remdesivir. Now, it's a difference in numbers, but actually from a statistical standpoint, that's not a statistical difference, or statistically significant difference between those two, so.

But look at the bottom thing, the duration of illness. Remdesivir, 11 days; people who were on the placebo, 15 days. Now, the reason that's significant -- because the numbers, you may say, well, four days' different duration, should we be making a big deal about this? I think the biggest thing is that it shows that something can work, that something can have an impact on this virus. It is a complicated virus, we haven't had good trial data showing, you know, benefit like this. So this shows proof of concept, as he mentioned.

I think that there's a couple of question marks still. Who should get it, Brooke? I mean, should someone like you have received this early on in your illness or not? I was just talking to the former FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, about this, who's been following this for a long time. And he said that perhaps -- he doesn't know either, but he said perhaps it's for people earlier in their illness but who have clear-cut risk factors, right? Pre-existing illness that makes them of --


GUPTA: -- special concern to progress to something --


GUPTA: -- more considerable. We don't know.

Another question is, does it also reduce the amount of virus that you're shedding? Because that would be huge, if you could actually start to reduce spread by taking a medication like this as well, that would cut down on the spread of the virus around these communities.

So these are open question marks. You know, as you said, Brooke, I'm an optimist, I think that's how I'm born. But, you know, I like to make sure we're presenting this data so people really understand. The World Health Organization, interestingly enough, just heard from them and they said too early for us to comment on this.


I also thought it was interesting that Gilead, they do have a quick sort of update on their website that reflects what Dr. Fauci said, but they didn't have much more data up there either. So still some -- we're still digging on this, Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK. Dig away, I'm not going to let you go too far because I want some thoughts on what Drew (ph) is about to report, so hang with me, Sanjay.

Let's talk about testing, and it appears -- OK, and it appears the president's vision about where the U.S. stands on testing is not fully connected with reality. This admiral, the top administration official in charge of testing, said in an interview with "TIME Magazine," quote, "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 five million tests a day."

Hours later, the president declared the opposite.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're confident you can surpass five million tests per day? Is that --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, well, we're going to be there very soon. If you look at the numbers, it could be that we're getting very close. I mean, I don't have the exact numbers. We would have had them if you asked me the same question a little while ago, because people with the statistics were there. We're going to be there very soon.


BALDWIN: But wait, that wasn't the final word. Just a short time ago, the president backtracked on whether we even need five million tests a day.


TRUMP: Somebody started throwing around five million -- I didn't say five million. Somebody said five million. I think it might have been the Harvard report. There was a report from Harvard -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were asked --


TRUMP: -- and they said five million.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- you said you will (ph) be there very soon.

TRUMP: Well, we will be there, but I didn't say it. I mean, I didn't say it. But somebody came out with a report saying five million. It sounds like a lot. Yesterday I looked at Deborah, I said, what's with the five million? I think that was from the Harvard report.

But we are going to be there at a certain point, we'll be there but we're more advanced than any country in the world on testing --


BALDWIIN: Sanjay, let me actually come back to you on this. When you hear this from the president, what are you thinking?

SANJAY: Well, you know, I -- he was asked this question yesterday about the five million tests.

And just to give a little bit of background, this was part of the Harvard Global Road Map in terms of how we sort of start to, you know, come out the backside of the curve on this -- on this pandemic. And what they were saying is that in order to get there, we have to have more widespread testing and we want to put a number on that, what does widespread testing mean? And they said by June, we need to be at five million tests a day.

Now, that's what he was asked. You know, there have been other people who have suggested other numbers in terms of the amount of testing needed. So I -- you know, obviously, there -- I don't know if there was a miscommunication or a misinterpretation of what he thought the question was.

But one thing I want to also point out, Brooke, we're not necessarily talking about five million people being tested every day, it's five million tests. And, you know, there are people who may get tests more regularly depending on their line of work, if they're frontline workers or health care workers, whatever it may be.

Ultimately in that same roadmap that Harvard put out, they said ultimately, we need to get to 20 million tests a day, which is obviously huge. Because if you looked at the White House plan that was put out a couple days ago now, they talked about testing two percent of the country a month. If you do the math on that, that's six to seven million tests a month versus 20 million a day, which is --


GUPTA: -- what the Road Map from Harvard puts out.

So, you know, obviously, a magnitude of difference in terms of the types of testing that people think we need here.

BALDWIN: Let me move from testing to -- we've got some breaking news coming out of Florida where, in Florida, the state Medical Examiner's Commission says that it has stopped releasing its list of coronavirus deaths as the Florida Health Department has now stepped in. This is all coming from this reporting from the "Tampa Bay Times."

State officials apparently told the medical examiners they needed to review it, and that they may remove causes of death and case descriptions. Why would they do that?

GUPTA: I just saw this news come across as well. I don't know what exactly is motivating that. You know, what I will say --

BALDWIN: Is that odd to you?

GUPTA: -- is that -- it is odd because data is more crucial than ever right now. I mean, we need to have the data. I mean, it's the one thing that's driving, I think, a lot of the policy decisions and, you know, helping guide how we best sort of come out the back side of this curve. How many people are infected, how many people are hospitalized and how many people are dying.

I mean, when we look at this data, Brooke, on a daily basis, right? And we get pretty granular about it. And sometimes, you know, it's grim, you know? And I always hate just talking about numbers because there's always people behind these numbers.

BALDWIN: Of course.

GUPTA: I think that ignoring, you know, some of these potential deaths from COVID, I think, is -- you know, I don't know how that helps move us forward in terms of crafting the plans that need to happen.


Now, if they're suggesting in some way -- and again, I don't know what's motivating this decision -- if they're suggesting in some way that they were not confident that these deaths that they're talking about in Florida were actually due to the coronavirus, maybe that's it. You know, there's obviously tests that we can do for this.

So I really don't know. But all I can say at this point is that we need to have the data, Florida needs to have the data. They're obviously making some significant decisions right now in how best to reopen. What guides those decisions -- and there's been a lot that's been written about that, guidelines that have come from the White House -- what guides those decisions is the data.

BALDWIN: Speaking of the data, you know, you're in Georgia, starting to reopen. But that's not supported by the data, not one state has met the White House recommendations of a decline in cases for 14 days.

And I know we're talking about a bunch of models, but you know, this is happening, is this prominent model from the University of Washington increases its death toll projection -- we talked about this yesterday -- up to 74,000. You know, why are states disregarding the data?

GUPTA: This is an inflection point. I think, as you might guess, between the economy and wanting to open up the economy, and what the public health sort of guidelines are and the recommendations are. I will point out that these are recommendations that the federal government put out, but they were very clear, very easy to understand.

That, in addition to having a 14-day downward trend in the number of infections, which we don't have -- as you point out, no state has -- a 14-day downward trend in what we call symptoms, you know, people who have not necessarily tested positive, but you know, they have the symptoms that are similar to coronavirus, and having adequate testing in place.

We don't have those things right now. So, you know, I think what we're starting to see here in Georgia -- it's just been a couple of days, Brooke -- is that while people can go out, even to restaurants and to movie theaters, now, as of Monday, there's a lot of people who still aren't.

I mean, there's a lot of fear out there because people don't know whether they may be having the virus in their system, they haven't been able to get tested. They may spread it. Or if they don't have the virus, they may contract it, bring it home even if they themselves don't get sick. So it's tough. I mean, I think psychologically more than anything else, it's been tough.

But you're absolutely right. States, including the one that I'm living in, are defying the data. The data is clear, the data doesn't lie. Dr. Fauci said regarding Georgia, I would advise against reopening. The president obviously said he disagreed with the decision. Ambassador Birx said, look, we made this as easy to understand as possible, here's why we put in these guidelines and these gating criteria. And obviously that's not happening here in Georgia.

So it's a problem. And, again, Brooke, as you know, that the impact of what's happening now may not be felt for two to three weeks because it can --


GUPTA: -- take time between exposure and people developing symptoms or needing hospitalization.

BALDWIN: Right. I understand the desire to get out and feel normal again. But, you know, how can you go to a restaurant if -- you know, if people start getting sick? And especially you down there, you know, we need you well, Sanjay. Please stay in a bubble for us --

GUPTA: We're staying home.

BALDWIN: -- I speak for so many people here at CNN and viewers too. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much. And just a reminder to all of you. Jake Tapper is investigating the

U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CNN special report, "THE PANDEMIC AND THE PRESIDENT," airs Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, even shopping malls reopening across several states, despite warnings that infections could rise, right? Speaking of the data.

And it comes as we learn new details about the devastating impact this is all having on the economy. Details on that, ahead.

And, oh my goodness, this story. They were married for 73 years, and they died hours apart in the same hospital room, after they both got sick with coronavirus. And their son will join me live, coming up.


You're watching CNN's special live coverage. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin. Just in, the Federal Reserve is leaving interest rates right where they have been, at zero, but vows to use its full range of tools -- that's a direct quote from them -- to help keep the economy rolling forward.

Today, we received another confirmation of just how tough these unprecedented times are. America's economy just experienced its worst quarter since 2008; we all remember 2008, right? Shrinking by 4.8 percent?

This is happening as workers in meat plants are resisting a return to work despite a presidential decree. And many consumers are resisting a return to businesses, as nearly 20 states relax social distancing restrictions this week.

CNN's Nick Watt is live in beautiful Santa Monica. And, Nick, I know you've been tracking how states are trying to restart economies. What are you finding?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, I want to just talk about the governor of Iowa. Because the decision that she is facing is pretty much the decision that almost every elected official across this country is facing in one form or another.

Iowa just saw its highest daily death count. But as the governor says, this lockdown is just not sustainable for them when you look at unemployment, when you look at food security. So they are going to start opening some businesses. It is a balancing act, when to open to save jobs, how much to stay closed to save lives.



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

FAUCI: If, by that time, we have put into place all of the countermeasures that you need to address this, we should do reasonably well. If we don't do that successfully, we could be in for a bad fall and a bad winter.

WATT (voice-over): Parks reopened in Miami this morning. Florida's governor, who was late to close, will today unveil his plan for reopening the state.

In Colorado, office workers can go back Monday but, like many places, masks and distancing will remain.

GOV. JARED POLIS (D)-CO,: We're really facing a public health crisis here. But it's time to enter a more sustainable phase. Thirty-two days, Coloradans did an amazing job --

WATT (voice-over): 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. And 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'd be lying to suggest otherwise.

I'm worried we can erase all the gains in a very short period of time.

WATT (voice-over): He says there will be no true normal until we have a vaccine. 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.

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 (voice-over): 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.

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

WATT (voice-over): Felt by many. First quarter U.S. GDP dropped a stunning 4.8 percent, the biggest drop since the Great Recession.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the tip of the iceberg. These numbers reflect, essentially, the impact in the last two weeks of March.

WATT (voice-over): So more pain to come. Some even from within the White House say the second quarter could be even worse.

And thousands more of us will die. That model, often cited by the White House, says 74,000 will have died by August 4th; could be sooner. We're already nearly 60,000.


WATT: And, Brooke, we have just got an update on yet another outbreak aboard a U.S. Navy ship. The USS Kidd was out on counter-narcotics operation; the first confirmed case had to be medevaced to shore.

The ship has now docked down in San Diego, 78 positive cases on board, that's nearly a quarter of the ship's company. Right now, crew members are being isolated and quarantined in the base, on shore -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Wow, 78. Please let us know about how they're doing, Nick Watt. Thank you for the look at everything that's happening int his country right now.

And I want to go back to something we were talking about just a few minutes ago, about President Trump and his flip-flop on whether the country needs five million tests a day to safely reopen the country again.

Let me play something for you. This is something that his senior advisor and also son-in-law Jared Kushner said about testing.


JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx gave the innovation team and Admiral Giroir goals that they'd like to see hit on testing. We've been able to, so far, exceed those goals for the month of April.

If somebody asked me why it took so long, I actually said you should look at how did we do this so quickly.


BALDWIN: Senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin is with me now. And so, Drew, tell me where the country stands on testing right now, and was that victory lap a bit premature?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, I honestly don't know what he is talking about. What goal they set internally and what they have said they have met. I just don't know. We're nowhere near the testing that even the White House said we would have at this point, so any kind of victory lap that Mr. Kushner is taking is certainly premature.

And I just want to amplify what Dr. Sanjay Gupta was saying. You know, these numbers, you kind of get lost in the numbers. But if you can't get a test when you need a test, where you need a test, what is the point?


And that is what we're finding out from hospitals, from state labs, from small laboratories all across the country who say, yes, the big clinical corporate labs, they are getting the lion's share of the materials and the supplies that they can run the tests, but we can't because we don't have those supplies on a consistent basis. And so we have to take our patients, send them to a lab two or three days later, get the results. And that's slowing down the process and preventing testing all across the country.

That, Brooke, has been a consistent theme since February. They have not solved the supply issue, and therefore any numbers that Jared Kushner is talking about are irrelevant as far as I'm concerned.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes, Drew Griffin. Thank you for your perspective on all of that, and it does go all the way back to February. Thank you.

Nearly 50 malls across several states are gearing up to reopen on Friday. That is despite the data, right? The warnings from health officials.

And as Iowa's governor takes steps to reopen businesses, she's also warning that if people don't return to work, that there will be consequences. We'll be right back.