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Dr. Fauci Expects the Drug Remdesivir Will Be Approved for Emergency Use "Very Quickly"; Economist: Testing Every American is Key to Reopening Country. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 30, 2020 - 16:30   ET


DR. BARRY ZINGMAN, LEADING REMDESIVIR DRUG TRIAL BACKED BY NIH: But the information that we have so far is very strong that people are being discharged about four days earlier, and that the mortality difference is very strongly in favor of remdesivir being also about 30 percent less, which is a very sig -- very significant.


And -- and I wouldn't be surprised if as the data is analyzed further, that subgroups from the thousand patients are identified in whom it's even clearer, but that awaits further analyses.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: If studies -- if studies such as yours show that this is an effective treatment, how soon, theoretically, would this be available for patients?

ZINGMAN: So, my understanding is that Gilead is working with the FDA to make this available as soon as possible. It is available right now through clinical trials, it's available through what's called Expanded Access Protocols and then the emergency use authorization that is being worked on between Gilead and FDA is coming in the next few weeks.

So we do think that there are going to be multiple ways to get remdesivir over the next few weeks. And that will improve and improve and improve as the weeks and months go by.

TAPPER: All right. Well, Dr. Barry Zingman, we wish you all the best with your trial. Thank you so much, and thanks for -- thanks for the work you do. We really appreciate it.

ZINGMAN: Thank you so much for covering this. This is a really important advance.

TAPPER: Yes. Well, fingers crossed. Hope it goes exactly as you want it to.

Coming up, in a matter of weeks, one in five Americans has lost his or her jobs, 30 million people.

We're going to talk with a Nobel Prize-winning economist who has a plan to re-open the nation responsibly. That's next. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Dramatic, and for many, disconcerting moments in Michigan today as demonstrators, some of them armed, began protesting at the capital building in Lansing. They demand stay-at-home orders be lifted in the state.

Today's Michigan Republican-led House voted against extending the order. But Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she may take other measures to keep some restrictions in place. Firearms can legally be carried inside the state's capital building in Michigan. Michigan state police called the protest peaceful. Many Democratic lawmakers expressed fear.

In our money lead, 30 million Americans have now filed for unemployment for the first time over the past six weeks. That's roughly 18.6 percent of the entire U.S. workforce. This as at least 31 states will be partially re-opened by the end of the week, despite the U.S. testing about 5 million people or less than 2 percent of the population.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer joins us now with his plan for getting the country back to some semblance of normal in a safe way. And it starts with testing.

Paul, thanks for joining us.

You say to get the economy going as soon as possible. We should test everyone in the United States every two weeks and isolate those who test positive. How would that work?

PAUL ROMER, 2018 NOBEL PRIZE IN ECONOMIC SCIENCES RECIPIENT: You know, it's often easiest to bring these things down to the level where you can relate to them yourself.

I had some electricians doing work on my home in New York City when the pandemic hit. They didn't want to keep coming because they didn't want to get sick from each other. They didn't want to risk getting the infection from me. My wife and I didn't want them to come because we didn't want to catch it from them.

So what will it mean to recover? It will mean that we'll all be happy to going back to doing things like closing up all the open, you know, wires and conduits in my house and getting some work done.

But to get to that point, the fastest way is to have a test so that I could say I have been tested in the last week. I was negative. My wife was tested. She's negative.

The workmen can tell each other, we were recently tested. We're negative.

That's the kind of thing that will give us all confidence to come back together and do some useful work. And it won't matter whether the governor says you can work or you cannot work, unless we're confident that we're not going to get sick. We're all just going to hold back and wait.

TAPPER: So, Admiral Giroir, the top Health and Human Services official leading the federal government's testing response, recently said, 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 5 million tests, unquote.

Your plan would require approximately 20 million, 25 million tests per day. What makes you think it's feasible to do what you're talking about?

ROMER: I just talked to the people in the labs that can do this work. I wondered, has the admiral talked to Eric Lander at the Broad Institute, talk to anybody like Jay Schneider at the University of Washington, talk to Jay Tischfield at the Rutgers Labs.

These people are on the cutting edge of technology for genomics. They see how to scale up tests to do millions a day with the sequencing equipment they already have. I just think that the people who are denying this possibility are not talking to the people who know something about what is possible.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the cost of testing every American. The St. Louis Federal Reserve President Jim Bullard says the U.S. is already losing about $25 billion a day right now because of the various lockdowns. He also supports universal testing.

Can the U.S. afford to do universal testing, or can it not afford to not do it in and follow (ph)?


ROMER: Yes. If we were testing everybody every 14 days at $10 a test, that would come in under $100 billion a year. And I think that would be a good investment for us to make to just give everyone confidence that we are on top of this pandemic. We can stay on top of it, that there's a plan that will work. It will not require a return to lockdown and it will prepare us for the next version of a pandemic that comes down the pike.

Remember, this is SARS COV 2. We had a SARS COV 1. There's going to be a 3 and a 4, and we may as well make the investments now to be ready so the next time this hits, we do all that it takes to handle it. You just find a very small number of people who are infectious. You ask them to stay in quarantine and you let everybody else go about their business.

TAPPER: When President Trump announced that he was going to enable the states to get at least 2 percent of their populations tested, you pointed out that's not enough to test every healthcare worker in the states once.


TAPPER: What's your biggest concern about states starting to re-open businesses now? ROMER: Well, I think it makes sense to explore some possibilities.

Like outdoor work may not be that dangerous, especially outdoor work in windy conditions.

So, you know, there may be some things we could start, if we had some surveillance testing, we'd find out much more quickly if infections are starting to spread because of some experiment. Otherwise, we wait until people show up at the hospital or at the doctor's office with symptoms and by that point, you are already too late. You know, the horse has left the barn.

And if you close the barn door at that point, you're not doing any good. People are already out there infecting other people well before they get symptoms.

TAPPER: So one of the things we hear about why they can't even get up to speed on testing beyond the 5 million number where we are at now, you are talking 330 million is that it's not just the testing, equipment, but it's also labs, manpower, labs, equipment at labs, reagents that hold the samples, swabs. I assume that you think that this plan would need to come along with president Trump invoking the Defense Production Act and forcing the production of these reagents, forcing labs to hire more workers and so on?

ROMER: Jake, actually, no.


ROMER: I don't think we need to do any of that. We need to go talk to the people who know what's going on here.

Jay Schneider is a researcher at the University of Washington. He's got a paper which shows the reagents that everybody is whining about because they don't have them to do these tests -- you don't even need those reagents. You don't need to do what is called the RNA extraction step to have a valid test.

And he's also shown you can do this with dry swabs. You don't need this complicated expensive swab system we've used before.

Other people have shown -- at Rutgers, they've shown you can do this with saliva samples. We just need to give the amazing talent we got on our university campuses the runway to just go with what they know how to do and also we need to give them some resources so they can hire the staff. They already have a lot of this equipment. But, if next buy more equipment.

Give them the resources. Give them the freedom to go. And just let them do what they know how to do.

TAPPER: All right. Paul Romer, thank you so much. Appreciate your time and expertise.

ROMER: Thank you.

TAPPER: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson taking questions today for the first time since recovering from coronavirus. And he came with a clear message.

Plus, another world leader tested positive for coronavirus. That's next.



TAPPER: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson took questions today for the first time since returning to work after recovering from coronavirus, urging people to continue to follow lockdown restrictions and saying the U.K. implemented those measures at the right time.

CNN's Max Foster joins us now.

Max, the prime minister said he will be releasing a reopening plan as soon as next week?

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so he's talking about a comprehensive plan that he wants to deliver next week. It's about getting the economy going, getting people back to work and children back in schools.

This is his big plan going forward, because the public are aware that the numbers are getting better in hospitals. But the big caveat here is, he's set five tests that have to be met before the lockdown is lifted.

They are that there's a sustainable drop in deaths, that there isn't a very high infection rate, that there's enough personal protective equipment, for example. But the big issue is preventing a second wave of the virus.

So he's saying that test has to be met. And it's impossible really to see how that's possible without having a vaccine in place. So, I think what he's been trying to do today is show people there is some light at the end of the tunnel, if they stick with his plan.

So, he's saying, we will end the lockdown at some point. But just stick with it for now, until we're sure there isn't a second wave. And lots of questions about the economy today, because the economy is suffering massively here, as it is everywhere. But he's basically saying, the most important thing for the economy is not having a second wave.

And that's what he's really focusing on right now, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Max Foster, thank you so much.

In other world news today, Russia's prime minister announced during a videoconference with President Putin today that he has tested positive for coronavirus. The prime minister now the most high-profile person in Russia to have tested positive that we know of.

Russia today reporting they have more than 100,000 confirmed cases. Coming up, CNN is going to speak with a whistle-blower accusing Amazon

of not protecting its workers from coronavirus. It's a story you will see and hear first on THE LEAD.


Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our money lead: Tomorrow, front-line workers from some of the biggest delivery services, home delivery, have planned a May Day strike.

Their national walkout calls on, Whole Foods, and Instacart to offer better protection from coronavirus for its workers.

This comes as Amazon is facing questions about its initial response to employees who complained about safety.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux spoke exclusively with one prominent whistle-blower who is calling out labor practices nationwide.



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirty- year-old Chris Smalls worked his way up the company at Amazon's Staten Island warehouse, even becoming an Amazon volunteer teaching kids how to code.

But then the coronavirus arrived at the facility.

(on camera): When did you first become concerned when you were working in Amazon?

CHRIS SMALLS, FORMER AMAZON EMPLOYEE: Late February, beginning of March, I noticed some of my employees around me begin to fall ill, and the domino effect.

It was very alarming for me. So, I decided to raise my concern through my local H.R. department.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): He said the response he got surprised him.

SMALLS: Their response was nonchalant. They said that, we're following safety guidelines, they understand my concerns.

Our tables in the cafeteria was still together. We still were piling on top of each other.

MALVEAUX: Smalls says he was urged by supervisors to stay quiet, even after an Amazon employee in the building tested positive for the virus.

SMALLS: They told us, don't tell the employees. Don't tell the employees. We don't want to cause a panic.

MALVEAUX: Amazon responded, saying: "When a COVID-19 case is confirmed in one of our buildings, we communicate this news to all individuals who work at that site."

According to Smalls, a couple of weeks later, during his lunch hour, he led a small group of co-workers to leave the building and demand better protection from the coronavirus.

SMALLS: All we wanted originally was just to have the building closed down and sanitized. That's all we wanted. We will return back to work after that happens.

After realizing the entire week we were just getting excuses and we weren't getting anywhere, that's what forced me to mobilize the walkout I did on March 20 -- on March 30.

MALVEAUX: Smalls was then fired. The single father of three children decided to take on the massive corporation and hired a top civil rights lawyer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amazon has to be held accountable for wrongfully terminating Chris Smalls. This is a life-or-death situation. We can't play with COVID.

And it's completely disingenuous of Amazon to take that position.

MALVEAUX: Amazon is fighting back, saying: "We did not terminate Mr. Small's employment for organizing a 15-person protest. We terminated his employment for putting the health and safety of others at risk and violations of his employment. Mr. Smalls received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines. He was also found to have had close contact with a diagnosed associate with a confirmed case of COVID-19, and was asked to remain home with pay for 14 days. Despite that instruction, he came on site, further putting the teams at risk."

According to Smalls, that's not true. Small says he wasn't informed he was being placed on quarantine until days after his contact with the infected colleague.

SMALLS: The colleague that I sent home, she was allowed to come back to work with a positive because of their own policies. I was exposed because that happened.

MALVEAUX: New York state's attorney general has sent a letter to Amazon, saying it may have violated whistle-blower protections and safety regulations, and is investigating.


MALVEAUX: Amazon has since added temperature checks, as well as mandatory masks.

And Smalls tells me that, tomorrow, for the walkout, it will begin at the Staten Island facility, go on to the New York governor's office. He assures me that they will be wearing masks, as well as practicing social distancing.

And, Jake, what he wants everyone to know is that this is not about insubordination or being rebellious. He says, this is a cry for help to protect workers, as well as everyone's families -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much. Great report.

Today, we remember 58-year-old Benjamin Schaeffer, a New York City subway conductor who risked his own life for his passengers. He died this week of coronavirus, after working for the MTA for more than two decades.

During an incident in 2018, he put his own life at risk to evacuate the passengers in his care.

We also remember Mario Mayorga Jr., the 42-year-old manager of a cleaning service contracted to clean Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida. He died there on Sunday, only weeks after the virus killed his parents, Mario Mayorga Sr. and Esperanza Tapia, who were both 72 years old.

This year would have been the couple's 50th wedding anniversary, but now the family is instead planning three funerals.

May their memories be a blessing.

With more than 230,000 lives lost around the world, many of us could use a hug. And now Switzerland is dropping its restrictions for children under the age of 10 visiting and hugging their grandparents.

The country's top coronavirus physician said children under age 10 are likely not infected themselves and emphasized the importance of grandparents being able to embrace their grandchildren.

A spokesperson for the Swiss government confirmed to CNN that visits should be brief, but are nonetheless permitted and are even beneficial for the mental well-being of grandparents.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.