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Top U.S. Experts Say Virus Will Likely Be Here in Winter; Trump Orders Meat Processing Plants to Stay Open; U.S. Vice President Slammed for Not Wearing Mast at Mayo Clinic; Critical Shortage of Testing Supplies at U.S. Labs; Oxford Conduction Human Trials of Potential Vaccine; China to Hold National People's Congress May 22; U.K. Death Toll Much Higher than Daily Stats Showed. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 29, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, Dr. Fauci warns the U.S. could be in for a bad second round of the coronavirus if states lift restrictions too early, as some leaders rush to get things back open.

After recovering from COVID-19, the British Prime Minister could face questions in Parliament in a few hours as the U.K. deals with a worsening death toll.

And we will get a bigger picture of how badly the pandemic is hitting the economy with the release of the U.S. first-quarter GDP report.

Good to have you with us.

In the United States, there is growing concern that officials are rushing to reopen the country, even as the coronavirus continues to claim more lives. So far, it has killed more than 58,000 people nationwide. And in the coming days, the death toll is expected to surpass 60,000. This would exceed the maximum number of deaths that U.S. President Donald Trump predicted just last week. Despite the grim numbers, the President insists the worst is over. And when pressed about it by reporters, he again claimed that the virus will go away.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will go down to zero, ultimately.


CHURCH: But America's top expert on infectious diseases isn't as optimistic. He says the pandemic could linger for many more months if we're not careful.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It's not going to disappear from the planet, which means as we get into next season, in my mind, it's inevitable that we will have a return of the virus, or maybe it never even went away. When it does, how we handle it will determine our fate. 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.


CHURCH: Well, despite the warnings, several states are moving forward with their plans to restart their economies, and President Trump is taking action to keep the food supply chain afloat. As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, all this is sparking concern about the public safety.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order under the Defense Production Act that is going to mandate that those meat processing plants stay open. As there were concerns about what was going to happen to the food supply chain and if meat was going to disappear from it altogether. After some of these factories started closing their plants, given that they are now turning into coronavirus hotspots.

You're seeing thousands of workers at these plants start to get infected, calling out sick. Some of them, like Tyson Foods, was saying they were going to have to close, and that could mean big percentage cuts in the supply chain of what that was going to look like.

So, the White House clearly had heard those concerns. They, in turn, decided to have the President sign this executive order. But now we're hearing from some groups that they're worried that because these plants are going to have to stay open, they're worried that these people who work there are going to be in danger.

The White House seems to be aware of those possible criticisms, so they said the Labor Department is going to put out guidance essentially saying that people who are over a certain age or if they have a pre-existing condition, can stay home instead of going to work. Though there are still a lot of questions about what this is going to look like. And some of those companies, like Tyson, said that they had not seen that executive order or gotten any heads-up from the White House. So we're still waiting to see exactly what that reaction is going to be like.

And that comes as the Vice President's office is dealing with another matter after he traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and was the only person seen in a group not wearing a mask as he was visiting with these plasma donors, these health care employees. You can see that everyone around him is wearing a mask, even the FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, who traveled with the Vice President there.

And of course, it is the Mayo Clinic's policy for the last two weeks, at least, that everyone who comes on the premises, whether you're a visitor or a patient, must wear a mask.


The Vice President later said the reason he did not wear one is because he had been tested, and the last time he took a coronavirus test, it came up negative. Though his team is admitting that it is not good optics for the Vice President to go there and be the only person not wearing a mask.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: And as Kaitlan she mentioned, the Vice President is defending his decision to not wear a mask at the Mayo Clinic. Here's more of what he said.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As 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. And when the CDC issued guidelines about wearing a mask, it was their recognition that people that may have the coronavirus could prevent the possibility of conveying the virus to someone else by wearing a mask.


CHURCH: Earlier, the clinic tweeted that it had informed Mr. Pence about its face mask policy, even before he arrived, but that tweet has since been deleted.

Well, according to President Trump, testing is not going to be a problem at all -- his words there. In fact, he now claims the U.S. will soon be able to run 5 million coronavirus tests per day. As he expressed confidence there's enough testing to begin reopening the economy.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you saying you're confident you can surpass 5 million tests per day? Is that --

TRUMP: 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. We're really doing a great job on testing.



FAUCI: The issue about tests is that as we get into the next weeks to several weeks to a month, as we get into May and June, from what we're hearing -- and I'm telling you, Jake, what we're hearing from the people in the task force who deal directly with the companies, namely, the major firms that make the tests -- this is predominantly admiral Brett Gerard -- is telling us that we will have a very, very increased production so that by the time we get to those months, we should have what we need.


CHURCH: Still, officials and medical associations tell CNN hospitals and clinics across the country are dealing with critical shortages in testing supplies. Our Drew Griffin takes a closer look.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What the President says at his briefings --

TRUMP: I'm confidence that we have enough testing to begin reopening and the reopening process.

GRIFFIN: -- is not the reality at labs across the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every day is a struggle.

GRIFFIN: A CNN investigation finds a critical shortage of COVID-19 testing supplies at many labs is delaying and halting testing, and the supplies that are available are often distributed unevenly, leaving big, commercial labs with everything they need, while some hospitals, clinics, and other medical centers don't have enough.

MARY BOOSALIS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, PREMIER HEALTH: I knew we needed capability to do 1,000 tests a day, and we didn't have that.

GRIFFIN: Mary Boosalis is CEO of Premier Health Hospital System, who sent a letter earlier this month to Ohio's governor, saying inequitable distribution of reagents, the chemicals needed to perform tests, was impacting patient care standards.

BOOSALIS: We kept running into anecdotal information from vendors that said they had reagent, but they couldn't sell it to us. And so, that was of concern to me.

GRIFFIN: Different labs need different supplies. For some, it's swabs, others pipettes or reagent. Multiple health care facilities tell CNN supplies they order either don't arrive or they only get a fraction of what they need.

SUSAN BUTLER-WU, KECK SCHOOL OF MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: It's not unusual for us to place an order and to be told that the order is going to be canceled and it can't be filled or that we only get 10 percent of what we order.

GRIFFIN: Meanwhile, the biggest commercial labs, like Quest and LabCorp, tell CNN they have the supplies they need. The White House task force even shared plans to prioritize supplies for commercial labs. The big labs make up more than half of all testing in the United States, more than 3 million tests so far, though experts say the inequity is leaving critical health care facilities where sick patients go to get tested without necessary supplies.

BUTLER-WU: I think it's a disgrace. So, to prioritize testing to be sent out, away from a hospital that may have the capacity to do in- house testing is basically contrary to all the principles of optimal patient care.

GRIFFIN: The heads of major lab associations have been writing directly to the task force asking for help, like Carmen Wiley with the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, describing significant barriers to testing because of shortage of necessary supplies.

CARMEN L. WILEY, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR CLINICAL CHEMISTRY: We feel there's a disconnect between the theoretical capacity and what we're actually able to do.


GRIFFIN: Some state governments also complaining about lack of supplies. Washington, D.C.'s health director says the district is only able to do half the number of tests it could if it had proper supplies, and it's clear the task force knows. This document shared with governors obtained by CNN shows the federal government discussing barriers to testing, including insufficient laboratory personnel, funding, and supplies.

TRUMP: Today we're releasing additional guidance on testing to inform the states.

GRIFFIN: Monday, the White House released a blueprint for change that critics say changes little. States and local labs fend for themselves for precious supplies, adding to confusion, scarcity, and lack of tests where they are needed most. Overall, testing numbers are inching up when experts say we need leaps. Harvard estimates 500,000 tests a day at minimum are needed to reopen the country. Current averages are less than half that amount.


CHURCH: Joining me now, Peter Drobac, infectious diseases and global health expert at the University of Oxford. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So, as countries across the globe start to open up their economies, the need for COVID-19 testing becomes even more urgent. President Trump insists the U.S. has done the best job at testing, although we know the numbers don't support his claim at all. He also says the U.S. will soon be doing 5 million tests a day. How possible is that, given we're currently doing around 200,000 tests a day?

DROBAC: Unfortunately, it's not possible. And President Trump's own testing czar came out and said that, I think, quote, on this planet or any other planet, that 5 million tests a day in the short term is not going to be possible. And that's unfortunate, because that's at least what we need right now to be able to safely begin to reopen. If we start to reopen our economies, we know that the risk of spread will increase. And if we're not testing, much less tracing contacts and isolating, that will allow silent spread and increase the risk of a second spike in infections.

CHURCH: Yes, that is what has concerned so many people, and in essence, what we've seen, certainly in Georgia, is these places are opening up, people aren't necessarily going. So, it's relying on those people to be smart in these sorts of situations. Listen to the medical experts and not the politicians, right.

So, I did want to ask you this, because the whole world is waiting anxiously for a vaccine, and you're at the University of Oxford, where human clinical trials are currently under way and new tests already show the vaccine was effective in monkeys. It all sounds very hopeful, of course. What sort of time frame do you think we're looking at, and how will they determine who gets this vaccine first, if this all works?

DROBAC: Well, the trial here in Oxford, of course, is very exciting. It's based on a vaccine that's already been tested for other viruses, at least to be safe, and that very small animal data that you mentioned looks promising. So, humans are being enrolled as we speak. And we hope that the trial will have results in some months.

Now, some of the leaders of this trial have given very optimistic projections that by September they may have results and efforts are being made to do some early manufacture of that vaccine. I think that's a cause for optimism. At the same time, we have to remember that this is something that is brand-new, that normally, the development of a vaccine takes years. And I still think that we're safer, we're smarter to be prepared for a longer time horizon for effectively having a vaccine available.

We've been hearing that number, 18 months, for a long time, and I'd love to be surprised and have something come sooner than that, but I wouldn't bet on it. I think we really still have to expect that this is going to be a longer wait.

CHURCH: Right, and just very quickly on that. How would you determine who gets it first? And how you get the whole world vaccinated?

DROBAC: Exactly. And so, we're talking about billions of people really needing this vaccine. And last week, some really important steps were made in this direction with the World Health Organization, the U.N., and many countries in Europe and across the world, to agree on a framework for cooperation and working together to make sure that the vaccine could be distributed to the places most in need and to distribute it fairly and equitably. We need to avoid a situation in which rich countries horde vaccines, and those in poorer countries and communities don't have access to the vaccine. So, that kind of global cooperation is going to be so important. Unfortunately, the U.S. government was notably absent from that discussion last week.


CHURCH: Yes, we have covered that, of course. And an increasing number of people across the globe are showing interest in getting antibody tests, because it turns out, some illnesses in February may very well have been COVID-19. What percentage of the population would you expect to be immune at this time? And for however long that lasts, of course, because there's a big question mark over that.

DROBAC: The only way to know for sure are by dealing Sero-Prevalence Surveys where you randomly sample communities for antibodies. That's been done in a couple communities in the U.S., most notably, New York, where about 14 percent of the state population was found to have evidence of antibodies and a higher percentage, about 25 percent in the epicenter, New York City.

Across the country in the U.S., we don't know. If you took the rough guess that about only one in ten of COVID-19 cases are actually being reported, that would suggest that maybe 3 percent of the U.S. population would have evidence of past infection. That's a bit of a speculation. What that tells you is it's still a small fraction of the overall population.

CHURCH: All right, Peter Drobac, thank you so much for talking with us. We do appreciate it.

DROBAC: Thank you.

CHURCH: And join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta for another "GLOBAL TOWN HALL: FACTS AND FEARS" about the coronavirus. That's Thursday at 8:00 p.m. in New York, 8:00 a.m. Friday in Hong Kong.

And this just into CNN. Actor Irrfan Khan has died. That is according to a statement from the public relations firm which was representing him. He was 53 years old and he was admitted to a Mumbai hospital earlier this week with a colon infection. He was an acclaimed Bollywood actor and starred in international films like "Life of Pie" and "Slumdog Millionaire."

Well, after a two-month delay, China says its huge National People's Congress will take place in the next few weeks. We'll take a look at that after this short break.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, China will hold one of its biggest political events on May 22nd. That is according to the country's state-run news agency. The National People's Congress was supposed to take place in early March but was postponed as the country dealt with the coronavirus pandemic. The highly choreographed spectacle had not been delayed or suspended since the end of the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s and even went ahead during the 2003 SARS outbreak.

Well, new data from the British government shows the true death toll from the coronavirus is much higher than initially reported, and that is because it didn't include people who died in private homes, hospices and care homes. We turn now to CNN's Nic Robertson, who's joining us live from London. Good to see you, Nic. So what is the latest on this new data? And also, I wanted to ask you whether we can expect to see Prime Minister Boris Johnson answering questions in Parliament today.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, on the Prime Minister, I think that's an open question at the moment. One would expect because he is back in Downing Street, back on the job. He said that he was raring to go and back with vigor. But Downing Street has yet to confirm whether or not he'll be in Parliament today to be answering questions at Parliamentary question time, normally a really grueling episode for the Prime Minister. Odd that they haven't done that.

But what they have been doing is putting more focus on the care homes, on the deaths in care homes from coronavirus, and they have been under a lot of pressure to do that. And what it's revealing is that the death rate in Britain exceeds that in other northern European countries. Until now, the government has only presented the data on a daily basis for those people who have died, confirmed of coronavirus in hospitals. That's compared relatively, favorably with north European countries.

The Office of National Statistics in the U.K. that tracks all the deaths -- hospitals, homes, and care homes for the elderly and terminally ill -- says that what they saw in the week ending the 17th of April reveals that one-third of the total death toll in the country was coming from care homes. That they recognize that the rate of death in care homes had tripled in the space of just a couple of weeks, in the beginning of April. This has caused a lot of concern. And what the concern is focusing on now is whether or not the death rate in the care homes has really peaked in the same ways that it's peaked in hospitals. So, the death rate in care homes is now creeping up close to that in hospitals, and that's why there's a lot of focus on this.

Not clear if that's one of the reasons the Prime Minister doesn't want to be taking questions during Prime Minister's question times today -- the Prime Minister's question time today. But one of the actions the government has taken over and above now presenting the complete daily death toll -- hospitals and care homes and people dying at home -- is the government has announced that they will test anyone in a care home, whether or not they have the symptoms -- workers and the elderly. And that is really to try to get on top of what appears to be an almost runaway situation that has sort of gone largely unnoticed and certainly underreported on a daily basis -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, incredible, isn't it? Nic Robertson reporting live from London. Thank you so much.

Well, President Vladimir Putin has warned that a new and grueling phase of the coronavirus pandemic could be in store for Russia. In a televised statement, he announced self-isolation measures would continue through May 11th. Russia will eventually plan for reopening, but Mr. Putin says the country has more dire needs at the moment and the worst is yet to come.


And France's Prime Minister has laid out his plan to relax lockdown measures. Starting on May 11th, the country hopes to gradually begin lifting the lockdown with the opening of shops and schools, though some limitations would still be in place. The restaurants, cafes, and museums could follow in early June, and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says the virus will be part of their lives for quite some time.


EDOUARD PHILIPPE, FRENCH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We are going to have to learn to live with the virus. Given that no vaccine is available in the short term, that no treatment has so far shown its efficacy, and that we are far from reaching the famous herd immunity, the virus will continue to circulate among us. It is not a cause for joy, but it's a fact.


CHURCH: Well, the country also hopes to start carrying out at least 700,000 tests a week starting next month.

You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, growing confusion as different states lay out different rules on how they're getting back to business. A closer look when we come back.

And the virus takes its toll on another life. An emergency room doctor who recovered from COVID-19 but couldn't fight the virus any longer. Memories from her father after the break.


CHURCH: Well, Georgia is one of the states that's already allowing some businesses to reopen, despite the steady rise in coronavirus cases. And now, according to a model shared by the CDC, the state is projected to see its number of daily COVID-19 deaths nearly double by early August.