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Experimental Drug Raises Hopes in Pandemic Fight; California Governor to Close All Beaches and State Parks. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired April 30, 2020 - 06:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So far we know that it's safe and tolerable. And we're able to get even the sick patients out of the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I worry that we want something so bad that even something that looks a little bit promising is getting blown out of proportion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have literally heard nothing but order to state at home. Now we're starting to tell people, go out and re-enter the economy. That mental transition is going to take some time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Florida will take a step towards a more hopeful future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes a lot of sense to exempt Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County. Miami-Dade alone has one-third of all the COVID cases.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, April 30, 6 a.m. here in New York.

This morning an encouraging sign for a coronavirus treatment. The drug Remdesivir is showing promise in speeding up the recovery of patients. "The New York Times" reports that the FDA is planning to announce approval for emergency use of this drug.

But not everyone is so optimistic. So we will get into the details of what that clinical trial actually shows.

As for reopening, today, many states will end their stay-at-home orders. The federal guidelines expire at midnight tonight. And breaking overnight, CNN has learned that California's governor

will order all beaches and state parks to close starting tomorrow. That's after he saw these images of crowded beaches last weekend. Thirty-one states will be partially reopened by the end of this week. Florida plans to open some businesses next week, except in the heavily-populated counties near Miami.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So new developments this morning out of Los Angeles. It is the first major city to offer free coronavirus tests to any resident who wants one, though there's so much demand that residents are having a hard time finding a slot.

Overnight, inexplicably, the president questioned whether more testing was even necessary. It is. There are now more than 60,000 reported deaths in the United States, more than 2,500 recorded yesterday alone. So despite all the happy talk you might hear, the number of new deaths

doesn't seem to drop significantly at all.

This morning, new weekly jobless numbers will likely show 30 million Americans filing first-time job claims in the last week. President Trump is clearly feeling the pressure. CNN has learned he erupted at his campaign manager last week over sagging poll numbers and, as a sort of self-care mechanism, we have learned that he will hit the road to visit battleground states next week.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, the news about Remdesivir, everyone looking for a hopeful sign. This seems to be that.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, it is, John. The nation's top infectious disease doctor excited about this new treatment for Remdesivir, and indeed, it is exciting. But to be clear, it is not the blockbuster drug that we've been waiting for.


COHEN (voice-over): 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.

FAUCI: 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 1,000 patients were randomly assigned to take either Remdesivir or 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. ANDREW KALIL, REMDESIVIR TRIAL RESEARCHER, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA: If you stay four more days in a hospital, intubated on a ventilator, you increase dramatically the chances that you're going to have infections and a 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 in 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, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: I think that we are seeing a slight glimmer of hope here. But I worry that the exuberance is related to an old saying. That there's no sauce better than hunger. And we want something 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: Also yesterday, a Chinese study was published in the medical journal "The Lancet," showing that Remdesivir did not work. But that study was much smaller, along the order of 200 patients, whereas, the one we've been talking about and that Tony Fauci has been talking about is along the order of about 1,000 patients -- John.


CAMEROTA: I'll take it, Elizabeth. Thank you very much for all of that.

Joining us now is the lead researcher on the NIH Remdesivir trial, Dr. Aneesh Mehta, from the Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Mehta, thanks for being here. You are exactly the man of the hour

that we need to be talking to. So I mean, it's hard for us to know whether we're supposed to be, you know, tempering our exuberance or juicing our exuberance. Because we hear different things from different people who've analyzed the results.

So on a scale of 1 to 10, how excited should we be about this clinical trial?

MEHTA: Well, thank you for having me today. I think, as has been mentioned, we who have been taking care of patients with COVID-19 for the past several weeks, we're looking for something. And I think this is the first real glimmer of hope.

But we do need to temper that, one, because this is preliminary data; and two, like any good science data, it just leads to more questions that we have to answer, which is exciting. And we will continue to push forward until we get more answers.

BERMAN: Reducing the length of a hospital stay, Elizabeth, is important, right? But no statistically significant results in terms of changing the mortality rates. What exactly does that mean, Elizabeth?

COHEN: Right. So there was a difference in mortality. It was relatively small. But Dr. Fauci made a point to say this wasn't statistically significant. In other words, that difference in mortality might have been due to chance. And they're going to keep looking at the numbers, keep studying more patients.

But that's what everyone is looking for, John. We want to be able to tell patients, You are less likely to die if we give you this drug. We can't say that right now about Remdesivir.

CAMEROTA: But Dr. Mehta, let's just -- just tell me a little bit more about that.

So it reduces the number of days that patients were in the hospital. That sounds good. But does it reduce the severity of their symptoms or the severity of the way that their bodies, you know, tackle this virus?

MEHTA: So it seems, again, from this preliminary data that Remdesivir does decrease the time that patients need to be in the hospital. And therefore, also the time that they are severely ill. But we need to see what the full data set shows before we can make any hard conclusions from that. But getting people home from the hospital earlier does help prevent future complications.

BERMAN: One of the reasons, Elizabeth, when I've been talking to people at the White House and other places, that they're leaning in, or they have leaned into hydroxychloroquine more than Remdesivir isn't because of the effectiveness. It's because Remdesivir, you know, it's an intravenous treatment for five or ten days. This is not a minor thing, as opposed to popping a pill. It's also expensive. Can you explain these things to us? COHEN: Right. So Remdesivir is an experimental drug that's owned by

one company, and that allows them to charge a pretty high price. We don't know what they're going to charge, but it will not be cheap. I think it's safe to say that.

Hydroxychloroquine, on the other hand, is made by many, many different companies, and it's not expensive. As you've noted, hydroxychloroquine is a pill. And so, if it worked, you could take it preventatively, if it worked that way. We have no reason to think it does. But you could.

It would, of course, be much better if something that could be taken as a pill could be used preventively. And also, something that's inexpensive and that's in great abundance. But right now, the studies have not shown that hydroxychloroquine does anything.

CAMEROTA: So Doctor, the fact that the FDA has announced that -- or, I guess, announced that it plans to announce that it will allow Remdesivir for emergency use, what does this change for doctors and patients starting now?

MEHTA: So, I think it gives opportunity for many patients to receive a therapy that looks like it's effective. But we do need to understand exactly which patients it's most effective in. And so the research will go on to figure out those answers and what we can add on top of Remdesivir to help our patients with COVID-19.

BERMAN: Well, Dr. Mehta, what do we know about that right now? Because that is a key question. Is this more effective for people early on? Is this more effective for people who are sicker? What do we know?

MEHTA: So most antiviral medicines work better earlier in the infection. And what we need to understand from this data -- and again, we don't have all this data available yet -- is, is this working only early on or does it also work in severely ill later patients? That data will come soon.

We do believe that we may need to do other medications in addition to Remdesivir, particularly for those severely ill patients.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Dr. Mehta, what about "The Lancet" study that Elizabeth just told us about in her piece, that it didn't look promising?


MEHTA: So it's an important point to note, that "The Lancet" paper was done by a great (ph) group in China. But they were only looking at patients in their region. And also, they did not enroll enough to make statistical conclusions. That is the one great advantage that the NIH study has. And thanks to the wonderful leaders at the NIH for putting this together, because we enrolled over 1,000 patients of all ethnicities of -- in multiple regions of the world so these answers will be more meaningful down the road.

BERMAN: So Elizabeth, it's interesting. Because over the last 24 hours, I'd heard -- I've heard Remdesivir compared to Tamiflu in terms of what it can do to someone who is sick, the idea that it reduces the time you are sick. It doesn't heal you, but it might make what you're suffering better and you get over it quicker.

And also, Dr. Fauci mentioned and raised the possibility AZT in treating HIV back in the '90s. It was this first thing that was shown to have any impact on the virus.

What about these comparisons? What do people need to know?

COHEN: You know, I think those are pretty apt comparisons. To take the second one first, you remember in the days of HIV, we were lost in the wilderness. We had absolutely no idea what would work for years. And then, finally, we sort of came upon AZT, and that led us to other things. And right now, people with HIV, they don't take just AZT. They take a cocktail. And perhaps that's what we'll need for coronavirus, as well, is more than one thing.

But to have one thing work, as Dr. Fauci put it, it's a proof of concept. To show that this drug did something gives us a hint. Well, maybe we can try this or maybe we can try that. And that's -- that's really, really important.

Now, as to the comparison to Tamiflu, I think that's also apt. Because, you know, Tamiflu doesn't get rid of the flue, right? If Tamiflu was a cure for the flu, then we wouldn't have the flu anymore. But people still get the flu. Tens of thousands of people a year in the United States die of the flu. So Tamiflu is not the solution.

But it does seem to shorten the duration of time that the flu goes on. That's a good thing, right? It's better to be sick with the flu for a few days rather than for a few more days. But it didn't get rid of the flu. Remdesivir is not getting rid of COVID-19.

BERMAN: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, Dr. Mehta, thanks for being with us. Dr. Mehta --

MEHTA: Thank you.

BERMAN: -- thank you for your work on this also. Appreciate it.

We do have breaking news this morning. We've learned overnight that California's governor is expected to close all beaches in the state after this happened over the weekend, after the beaches were packed. Will this move work? How is it going to go over with people desperate to get outside?



BERMAN: All right. Breaking overnight, CNN has learned that California's governor is expected to announce that he will order all beaches and state parks to close after scenes like this of crowded beaches last weekend.

This comes as nearly 2/3 of states will reopen in some way by the end of the week. Clearly, the people on this beach not social distancing the way that they needed to. Joining us now, Dr. Manisha Juthani. She is associate professor of

medicine and epidemiology at Yale School of Medicine. And Dr. Joshua Sharfstein. He's the vice dean of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the former principal deputy commissioner at the FDA.

Dr. Sharfstein, I'll start with you. As a matter of public health, how necessary is it, do you think, to issue an order to close the beaches in California?

DR. JOSHUA SHARFSTEIN, VICE DEAN, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, it's obviously a concern if people are going to bunch up like that and potentially pass the virus to one another.

I think the California governor is sort of walking a tightrope, because he really wants people to pay attention, but he doesn't want to, I think, be so heavy-handed that people get angry at him and stop listening.

So I think this is probably part of a back and forth he's going to have. Maybe it won't be for the whole summer. Maybe he's sending a message. And I think we're going to have to watch. It's very important to take this seriously. And I think that is the right message to be sent.

CAMEROTA: So I mean, Dr. Juthani, in terms of the message, at the same time that the governor in California is taking that, you know, call it heavy-handed approach to shutting all of the beaches and parks, tonight the federal guidelines on social distancing end. And so do you think that people understand, starting tomorrow, what they're supposed to be doing?

MANISHA JUTHANI, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE AND EPIDEMIOLOGY, YALE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: I think the American public has received a certain dose of reality, and they're seeing certain things that are going on.

Look, I think, like Dr. Sharfstein said, I think there's going to be a little bit of back and forth here in certain circumstances. I know here Connecticut, I received certain notification that local beaches are going to be open to residents of that town only and that people will be able to maybe walk on the beach but no towels, no umbrellas. Limited parking. So no people from other towns.

And I think that is sort of an in-between, where they're encouraging people to get out and exercise and be able to maybe utilize public spaces without all bunching on top of each other like some of the images that you've shown.

BERMAN: Dr. Sharfstein, another bit of breaking news overnight, we learned from Los Angeles that they will now make tests available in that city to anyone who wants one. Also available people in L.A. County. They can go into Los Angeles city proper and get a test.

Now, people have rushed to the web site to sign up for a slot. And there's more demand right now than they can meet. But how important is it, do you think, for cities like Los Angeles, places all around the country, to make that offer, to say, OK, it is now the time to get a test if you want one?

SHARFSTEIN: I think it's great for more testing to be available. It's really important that that testing be linked with follow-up action. So cities should really be making sure, particularly, that nursing homes have access to a lot of testing, given the scale of the problems that have been seen there; that jails and prisons have access to a lot of testing, because hundreds of people have gotten infected there.

And that when people who have symptoms get tested, that there's follow-up, that they get support and instructions to isolate themselves, that people find their contacts and instruct them to quarantine and give them support.

So I think it's testing, but it's also testing plus the follow-up actions that are really going to slow the spread of the virus.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Juthani do you understand how this can even work? I mean, how is it that the L.A. County mayor, Eric Garcetti, can make a promise like this to all of the people in L.A. and L.A. County that, if they want a test, they can get it? I mean, given all of the challenges that we've heard with swabs and with testing over the past week, how are they in a position to be able to pull this off?

JUTHANI: It's ambitious. But I think it's the right direction that we want to be going in. I think, you know, what we've seen through this pandemic is that, in the beginning, we had such limited testing and things are ramping up. There are different types of tests that can be done more quickly and on the point of care. And I think that -- meaning you can have more rapid testing.

And I think as they're able to roll that out further and further, we'll be able to make a bigger dent in how we're controlling this virus.

I think what's really important to understand is how far we've come. So I think when we started all this, we were hoping to contain the virus. To the people who, let's say, were travelers and had come back, and we were trying to say we'd be able to contain it and it wouldn't get out of hand.

However, that was not able to happen, and we saw community spread. And then we went to mitigation, which was trying to flatten the curve, which we've effectively done, and tried to limit the number of cases at any one given time.

Now we're trying to get to the point where, as the number of cases go down, we can really have a lot of testing in place, but that follow-up needs to be there. Because it can't just be testing. It's got to be testing for case identification, followed with containing those people, knowing who their contact are, isolating those people so that the whole country doesn't have to get shut down again. Where you can just control the virus among people who have been exposed.

BERMAN: Just for information, there are 34 testing sites across the city and county of Los Angeles with a capacity to test 18,000 people per day. A hundred and forty thousand people have been tested throughout those sites, according to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

It's also notable as we're talking about testing, I hope the president is watching so he can hear you, Dr. Juthani. Because he seems to be waffling over whether testing is necessary. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're done incredible with the testing. And you'll see over the next coming weeks, Mike, you maybe want to speak about that a little bit. But over the next coming weeks, you'll see some -- some astonishing numbers. I don't know that all of that's even necessary.


BERMAN: It is. It is necessary, according to Dr. Juthani and every doctor we talk to. More testing, significantly more testing and more availability is necessary.

And Dr. Sharfstein, there is one other set of figures I want to put up so people can see here. And this is one -- I have a hard time getting my head around this every day.

For all the talk of reopening, for all the talk from Jared Kushner about the medical success that he says is being had in fighting this, there were 2,600 new deaths reported yesterday. If we can put that chart up, 2,600 new deaths; 2,000 the day before that.

More than 60,000 dead in the United States as of now, which was the number that, as of April 1, that the models said would be the total deaths in the United States if we stuck to social distancing. We're there already.

What does this high number of daily deaths, continued high number of daily deaths tell you?

SHARFSTEIN: Well, it's even worse than that, because there's now evidence emerging that a lot of people are dying that aren't being counted in those figures, people who may be dying of heart attacks, for example, because they couldn't get to the hospital.

So this has been a just absolutely horrific period of time for the United States. We are suffering just in an explosive number of deaths in a very short period of time.

This coronavirus remains an intense threat to the health of people in the United States, and we take it lightly at our own peril. We have to continue to maintain a lot of vigilance until we really have great treatments or a vaccine, and we cannot let our guard down. We can't have fatigue. We have to realize the danger that this poses. And many of those people are not -- you know, many of those people are in nursing homes. Many of those people are not in nursing homes. This poses a threat to every American family.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Sharfstein, Dr. Juthani, thank you both very much for your time. [06:25:04]

And coming up in our 8 p.m. hour, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to join us to talk about the government's response to this pandemic and the economic crisis.

The coronavirus is taking an even greater toll on minority communities in the United States, as you know. So we're going to take a closer look at the racial disparity and what's behind it, coming up.


BERMAN: As of this morning, nearly 61,000 Americans have lost their lives to coronavirus, with more than a million confirmed cases in the United States.

This morning, new research shows that the pandemic is having a disproportionate effect on communities of color. CNN has reporters across the country with the latest developments.



The CDC released new research on the racial disparities emerging in the coronavirus crisis. The research shows among a group of 305 patients hospitalized in Georgia, 83 percent were African American.