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Experimental drug raises hopes in pandemic fight. Dr. Fauci says, remdesivir significant, positive effect on recovery time. California governor to close all beaches and state parks. New York Times reports, Trump officials press spy agencies to find virus link to Wuhan lab. Florida officials dispute report about state's death count. Florida Panhandle town to reopen beaches tomorrow. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired April 30, 2020 - 10:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Health experts warn some states may be moving too quickly.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: But this morning, there could be some hope. Dr. Anthony Fauci says he expects the FDA to authorize emergency use of a drug called remdesivir. The FDA commissioner says this morning it's moving at lightning speed to review data showing the drug helps patients recover faster.

Dr. Fauci also says the administration's goal to a potential vaccine ready by January is possible, both promising signs.

First of all, let's talk about states reopening. Ed Lavandera joins us in Dallas. Good morning.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Well, here in Texas, this is the last day of the stay-at-home order, which means restaurants, movie theaters, malls across the state can officially reopen tomorrow.

We are on the patio of Beto and Son's Mexican restaurant in a little area called Trinity Groves West. We're just west of downtime Dalls. You kind of see how all of this is going to play out.

And joining us is the owner of Beto and Son. He is the son in Beto and Son, Julian Rodarte. And we are standing this far away, because if you look at on the ground here, there are a couple of Xs and Julian will explain why this is happening.

But, first, let me just ask you, why are you reopening?

JULIAN RODARTE, CO-OWNER, BETO AND SON: Yes. So we are reopening because our staff, unfortunately, a lot of them are trying to get their citizenship, therefore, they're not able to be on unemployment. And, unfortunately, they have come to me and saying like we have to make money or else we might lose our homes, we might not be able to provide for our families. So there is no way we, as owners, are going to able to make money throughout this, 25 percent revenue with 100 percent of the cost. It's not going to happen. So we are opening specifically for them to make sure they can put for on their tables. We can give them the hours and put money in their pockets.

LAVANDERA: And you've got be feeling that pressure. And you mentioned there 25 percent capacity. That's the rule here in Texas. These places can open but only at 25 percent capacity.

RODARTE: Absolutely.

LAVANDERA: What precautions are you taking? We mentioned here these Xs. What are they? What kind of precautions are you taking to open up?

RODARTE: Yes. So we're actually going above and beyond spreading more than even six feet apart with the tables. We have Xs down here to kind of show the servers where exactly we expect them to stand to give the correct social distancing to their guests. That way, our guests can feel confident that the servers are going to give them their space and vice versa. The servers will also know that as the staff, they will be protected as well.

So we just want to make the most safe environment we can possibly, not just for our guests but also for our staff.

LAVANDERA: And for you guys in particular. You guys will only be operating outside here on the patio.

RODARTE: Exactly.

LAVANDERA: The inside dining room is still shut down.

RODARTE: Because we believe here, open air, we've got a little more room. Inside it's a little more cramped. We figure, you know what, go above and beyond. We can have 25 percent technically inside, but it is definitely going to be a lot more safer out here, warmer climate, open air. So we figured, let's just put people in the patio. It's a beautiful time right now in Texas, so we'll just enjoy the weather and keep people safe outside.

LAVANDERA: All right. Julian, thank you so much. Good luck to you.

RODARTE: Thank you.

LAVANDERA: Stay safe.

Jim and Poppy, as you see, one restaurant here in particular, but we can tell you that just because these businesses are getting the green light to reopen even in a partial capacity, it doesn't mean many are. So there is still a great deal of concern, and Julian was talking about the trepidation and the nervousness about reopening. But here, the economic factor is playing a much bigger part in their decision to reopen.

Back to you guys. SCIUTTO: Listen, every business has a judgment call to make here. Ed Lavandera, thanks so much from Dallas.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said this morning that he expects the FDA to, quote, really quickly issue emergency authorization of the drug, remdesivir, after data shows it helps to lessen the recovery time.

HARLOW: Let's learn more about this. Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is with us.

So this is not a cure. What is it proved to be effective for doing?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy, it's not a cure. And Dr. Fauci is very enthusiastic because it did shorten the amount of time it took for people to recover. But to be clear, this is not a blockbuster drug.


COHEN: Finally, after months of illnesses, deaths connected to the scourge that is COVID-19, we have some good news. Doctors have found a medicine that seems to work. It's called remdesivir.

DR. 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.

COHEN: Remdesivir was a drug developed for Ebola but it didn't work very well for that virus. It's never actually been on the market for any illness.

In preliminary results of this new study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, more than a thousand patients were randomly assigned to take either remdesivir or either a placebo. It took the placebo patients 15 days to recover. It took the remdesivir patients 11 days to recover, a 31 percent improvement.

FAUCI: 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.


COHEN: Specifically, the drug blocks an enzyme the virus needs to replicate. Researchers can use that knowledge to create other drugs.

FAUCI: There are a lot of other enzymes that the virus uses that are now going to be targets for this.

COHEN: Plus, four fewer days in the hospital means less time for something to go wrong, like a hospital-acquired infection.

DR. ANDRE KALIL, REMDESIVIR TRIAL RESEARCHER, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA: If you stay four days in a hospital intubated in a ventilator, you increase dramatically the chances that you're going to have infections and the chance that you're going to die. COHEN: Another advantage, it's thought that the drug has few side effects.

DR. ANEESH MEHTA, REMDESIVIR TRIAL RESEARCHER, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Through the data we had in our trials with Ebola patients, we knew that the side effects were pretty minimal in patients and they were easily reversed when the medication was stopped.

COHEN: But researchers are clear this is not by any means a cure for coronavirus.

DR. JEREMY FAUST, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: I think we're seeing a slight glimmer of hope here, but I worry that the exuberance is related to an old saying, that there is no sauce better hunger. And we want so bad that even something that looks a little bit promising is getting blown out of proportion in terms of what it means for the number of lives that we're going to save here.

COHEN: They'll forge on. They'll keep looking at remdesivir and also try to find another drug or maybe a combination of drugs that will be even more powerful against COVID-19.


COHEN: Now, again, to be clear, we don't want people to hear this news and think, oh, if I get coronavirus, I'll be okay because they have a medicine for it. That is not the case here. This just shortened the amount of time, on average, it took people to recover. People still became desperately ill on this drug. Some people still died on this drug. Poppy, Jim?

SCIUTTO: Let's hope it saves some lives.

The Trump administration, as you know, Elizabeth, talking about Operation Warp Speed for a vaccine, but has the timeline for a workable vaccine actually changed?

COHEN: You know what, not really. This is sort of a catchy name that they put on a plan they've really had in place since January. I remember talking to Tony Fauci back in January, and he said, Elizabeth, we are going full speed ahead, lightning speed to try to get a vaccine out as soon as possible, and vaccine companies really rallied to this call.

And he said back in January 12 to 18 months. Operation Warp Speed says, hey, we want to get this out to people available to Americans by the end of the year. That's exactly 12 months. So it's really on the shorter end of the 12 to 18 time scale that Dr. Fauci put out in January.

Now, I will tell you that I've spoken to several vaccine experts who say, look, you can try all you want to do Operation Warp Speed. They don't think -- they think it's unlikely that this will happen in a year.

HARLOW: We can always hope and be grateful to those trying to make it happen. Thanks, Elizabeth, very much.

Let's talk about all these developments. There are a lot today. Dr. Leana Wen, Emergency Room Physician and Visiting Professor of Health, Policy and Management at George Washington University, is with us.

I suppose let's start there on remdesivir and how telling you think this is. It shortens the duration of the illness for some by about 30 percent, and it shows that the medication can be effective. How big is this news?

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Well, I think that's the key, Poppy, that previously we didn't have any treatment that's proven to be effective against COVID-19 at all. And so this is a glimmer of hope that there is something that's effective so we can build upon it, as Elizabeth was saying, but we also have to be cautious that this is not a cure and this is not prevention.

So if we're talking about reopening, this is not what's going to reopen society. We still have to focus on those core public health measures of testing, tracing, building the public health infrastructure. The idea of remdesivir does not replace those elements, but it does offer some hope, especially for patients who are really ill that it could reduce the length of time that they're in the hospital and potentially increase the likelihood of survival too.

SCIUTTO: So where does that structure stand in terms of building the testing and contact tracing infrastructure capability that everyone -- every health expert and doctor we have on this show and even elected official have often said you need that to move forward safely. Where does that infrastructure stand?

WEN: Well, this is the problem, Jim. We are not even close to standing up that infrastructure. And actually we have President Trump and others in the administration even arguing about whether we need widespread testing in the first place, which I think has been just the biggest misstep that the administration has made in the entire COVID- 19 response.

I mean, if we have that infrastructure for testing and tracing to begin with, we might not have had to lockdown all society. We could have stopped with those containment measures.


And that's what we want to get back to. We want to get back to a low enough number and we want to have enough testing so that every individual can be identified who test positive and all their contacts can be identified as well. But we are nowhere near there, and that's because we still keep on having arguments about whether we need that widespread testing.

Now, I know this is going to be hard to stand it up, but we can get there.

HARLOW: Well, the point was made by a guest earlier on the show that the fact that Mike Pence defended not wearing a mask at the Mayo Clinic because he gets frequently tested is exactly the point of the necessity of testing, but you have the assistant secretary of health, Brett Giroir, telling Time Magazine, quote, there is absolutely no way on earth that we can do 20 million tests a day or even 5 million.

So I guess even -- not even 5 million, where does that leave us?

WEN: It leaves us in the position where we cannot give people the reassurance that they need to go back to work or go back to school. And, again, I know this is going to be a huge undertaking, but to say we can't do this is just not -- that's not the right justification. We should be saying, this is what we need, here's our path for getting there, and we need the federal government to lead a national coordinated effort for us to do so.

SCIUTTO: Okay, so that's not happening. I mean, it's just not happening. We see it every day. What does that mean as 31 states in the country, red and blue states, move forward with some sort of opening now without that broad-based testing? I mean, are we in the midst of a big national experiment here?

WEN: Yes, we are. We're going find out very shortly what this means. We're going to find out if we will have a resurgence in cases. And what I hope is that we don't take away the wrong lessons, because it's going to take some time before we see hospitalizations increase and deaths increase as a result of loosening these measures.

I don't want people to say, well, we haven't seen the numbers increase yet, so it's not so bad, let's reopen even more. Let's be really cautious about how we proceed in reopening and be willing to gauge and change paths if it turns out, as I think it will, that we will see a surge in the number of infections.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Leana Wen, always good to have you on. Thanks so much.

WEN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, you can join CNN's Jake Tapper as he investigates what really happened at the White House as the U.S. started fighting COVID- 19. CNN's special report, The Pandemic and The President will air on Sunday night at 10:00 only on CNN.

And still to come this hour, a gruesome discovery outside of Brooklyn Funeral Home, four trucks containing up to 60 dead bodies, just a sad story. We're going to be live.

HARLOW: Plus, after crowds packed the beaches over the weekend, California's governor, Gavin Newsom, is planning on shutting down all state beaches and parks indefinitely.

And the NBA maybe going to take a shot at holding games eventually at Disney World. Will they finish this season at the magic kingdom without fans? We'll talk to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban about that, and, of course, the economy in small businesses and what all is ahead for so many workers.


SCIUTTO: Well, this happened quickly. CNN has learned that California's governor, Gavin Newsom, will close all state beaches and parks, this after seeing several crowded beaches in the state just this past weekend.

HARLOW: Stephanie Elam joins us again from Santa Monica.

I mean, he was pretty upset at those images and now he's just saying no more, not trusting you guys with this.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes. And he has reason to make this call. What we have seen over the weekend, we had a heat wave here, you saw people flocking to the beaches in Ventura and Orange County, and the Newport beach, the city council there voting earlier this week to go ahead and keep their beaches open, and just saying they would enforce those distancing guidelines more strictly.

However, now, the governor is going to come out, we expect him to say it today, saying he is just going to close all of the beaches. They're saying of about 100 of the beaches that they were looking at in California, 5 percent drew large crowds over the weekend.

Now, we know this because a memo was sent to the police departments across the state to give them time to prepare to institute this. As the governor has said, that the virus does not take weekends off, and the other thing he is really concerned about is that we are starting to see a flattening here in California and remind you, we've been in this state the longest time of the stay-at-home order. But he's saying he does not want to see a double peak now while this is happening. Orange County and Newport beaches, they are saying they -- one board member there saying that they do think that this is an overreaction, Poppy and Jim.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Los Angeles, they're now going to offer free testing to all residents in that city? I mean, that's a remarkable scale. We haven't really seen that in other communities.

ELAM: Right, and not just the city but the county of Los Angeles. They're saying now they're still going to prioritize the people who do have symptoms, a shortness of breath, other things that may look like they might have COVID-19. However, they're saying anyone, asymptomatic or not, can now sign up to get a free test if you go to this one website. You can sign up to get a test. They have testing sites throughout the county, because they do want to take a look at more people, see who has this virus, and that will allow them to contact trace, which is really a huge part of the governor's four phases of getting the state open, keeping in mind that we are only in phase one.

But that's key there, knowing who has the virus and then be able to track the people around them to see if they can shut down any outbreaks that may be happening.

And that's another good point here about this, Jim and Poppy, is that what we saw last weekend and all those people coming out to the beaches, it's going to take time before we see if anyone does get sick from being in that proximity, and that's the concern.


If they don't act now to stop this and shut it down, that we could see these cases ramp back up in few a couple weeks or so.

HARLOW: Stephanie, thank you very much. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

To New York where there is just a chilling discovery. Up to 60 bodies were found in four trucks outside of Brooklyn Funeral Home.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. It's just got to be heartbreaking for the families. A law enforcement official told CNN the home was just overwhelmed and it ran out of room.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz has been following the story. Shimon, tell us what the police found out and what's being done now.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was neighbors there. Residents of that neighborhood in Brooklyn, that it just got to a point where the smell was so bad coming from these trucks. The funeral director there just got overwhelmed and he was keeping the bodies on unrefrigerated U-Haul trucks. The bodies were stacked in these trucks.

There were up to 60 or so, as what we're told, and the smell of fluids started leaking from these trucks led residents there to call police, to call city authorities. And when they got there, they spoke to the funeral home director, and he just said, he was overwhelmed taking in a lot more than he can handle.

The thing is these bodies were supposed to go and be cremated. They were supposed to go to a crematorium. There was some delay in getting the bodies there, so they just would lay. They would just stay in these trucks.

The authorities came there yesterday. The health department, state health department, they ordered them removed. They brought in some refrigerated trucks and they helped. They were helping the funeral home move the bodies.

But as you said, Jim, you know, this is just a really sad, awful situation for the families now having to know that so many of their loved ones have been laying in these unrefrigerated trucks in just really just a horrendous situation.

SCIUTTO: Lord help us. Shimon Prokupecz, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Sort of a tragic story.

Okay. Next for us, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, he's also a member of the president's recovery task force. He's going to join us to talk to us about, of course, the league, but also all of the folks out of work and all of the small business owners he knows so well. What's ahead for all of them?



HARLOW: The NBA reportedly considering several options to finish the season, one believed to be on the table, play the games with no fans at Walt Disney World in Orlando. The NBA hasn't commented on that.

Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban, of course, was sitting courtside March 11th. That's his face, right, when he finds the season is over. He was shocked, we all were. Since then, he's been asked by the president to join his economic recovery task force. He joins me now. Mark, thank for being here. We're going to talk a lot about small business, the economy that you have your pulse (ph) on.

Let's just start with the NBA, because I have a sense you talked to Adam Silver more than most of us. Have you and where is the NBA's head on this right now in terms of season, maybe at Disney World?

MARK CUBAN, OWNER, DALLAS MAVERICKS: Safety first. Once we can determine that we can keep the players and all the important personnel that are required to put on the game, then we'll certainly look at all the options.

And, you know what, I'm cautiously optimistic we'll be able to finish the season for television. I don't expect that we'll have fans.

HARLOW: Well, that's telling. So, more than a 50-50 chance the NBA restarts this season?

CUBAN: I mean, I hate to put odds on it, but like I said, I'm cautiously optimistic. But you know what, this virus isn't giving us any information to help.

HARLOW: All right, well, there you go.

Okay, let's talk about the economy and loans and small businesses. One thing you said that struck me so much recently is that you are a full- blown capitalist, but you said that you think we're going to come out of this with a more compassionate capitalism, right?

For you guys continuing to pay the arena workers that would have made money if games were going on for the Mavs, what is compassionate capitalism and are other CEOs on your same page in this?

CUBAN: Well historically, I mean, we tried to put liquidity into the system and hoped people started business or continued to reinvest in their businesses. This is just different. We need consumerism, we need people to spend money in order for that to happen. And you can't do top-down. You've got to do bottom-up, and that means taking care of your employees, paying them a little bit more, keeping them on the payroll as long as you possibly can, being innovative and really pivoting where you need to for this new America 2.0.

And do I think CEOs will do that? Yes, out of necessity, out of self- interest, they'll have to. Because if there aren't enough people working and spending money, we have no economy. HARLOW: Do you think we need -- and I asked one of the economist at the White House just a few days ago. Do you think we need something -- when you look upwards of 20 percent unemployment that could e coming potential 40 percent contraction in GDP in the second quarter, do we need a version of a new deal, a federal jobs guarantee program?

CUBAN: Absolutely, 100 percent. I think one of the first things we should do is hire as many people as it takes, even if it's in the millions to do tracking and tracing, train them to be healthcare workers, train them to adhere to HIPAA requirement, so people trust their privacy will be safe.