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Federal Social Distancing Guidelines To Expire Today; Florida Governor Announces Reopening Plan, Excludes South Florida. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired April 30, 2020 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day.

And big changes coming today. The federal guidelines for stopping the spread of coronavirus expire at midnight tonight. And a number of states are lifting their stay-at-home orders today and allowing some businesses to begin reopening.

Now, that is not the case in California. Breaking overnight, CNN has learned that the state's governor will order all beaches and state parks to close starting tomorrow. That's after he and everyone saw these images of crowded beaches last weekend, people clearly not social distancing there.

Now, 31 states will be partially reopened by the end of this week. New information about Florida, it plans to open some businesses next week, except a giant exception, the state's most heavily populated counties in the south.

There are now more than 60,000 reported deaths in the United States, more than 2,500 reported yesterday alone. I really do think this is notable that as so many people hope and talk about turning a corner, the number of new deaths isn't dropping, at least not significantly.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: And, John, this morning, there are encouraging signs for a coronavirus treatment. The experimental 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 the drug. But not everyone is so optimistic. So we will get into the details of what the trial actually shows.

Also, new developments out of Los Angeles this morning. It becomes the first major city to offer a free coronavirus test to any resident who wants one. But there is so much demand at the moment, residents are having a hard time finding a slot.

Also, this morning, new weekly jobless numbers will likely show 30 million Americans have lost their jobs in the last six weeks. We'll have the new numbers in our next hour. So let's begin with the medical developments. Joining us now is Dr. Rochelle Walensky. She is the Chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Dr. Jeremy Faust, he's an Emergency Physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital at the Harvard Medical School. Great to have both of you here with us.

Dr. Faust, I just want to start with you, because you are interesting this morning, you are one of the doctors who is basically, I think, advising people to pump the brakes on their exuberance about remdesivir. So what are you seeing that other doctors who are more excited are not seeing?

DR. JEREMY FAUST, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL AT HARVARD: Good morning. First of all, when Anthony Fauci says what he says, it comes with a lot of credibility, decades of looking at these kinds of questions. So we take it very seriously when he sees something good. But we also are invited to look at the data themselves and to look at how the study was done. And because of the federal government's rules, the studies have to post what they're looking for at all times and if they make changes, they have to announce that.

And they did kind of quietly made a big change within the past ten days where they went from really looking for a homerun of seeing if there was a mortality benefit to scrapping that plan and saying, well, let's just see if other patients who can go home, a few of them can go home faster. That's not nothing. That helps us with capacity, it helps us with PPE and it means people are feeling better sooner. But it's not the game changer that we were hoping for. And so that, to me, is as much of a disappointment as it is a success.

BERMAN: Dr. Walensky, it's not a cure. It just isn't. And I think people need to understand that. But what is it then? Why was Dr. Fauci so hopeful and so positive yesterday? Remember, Dr. Fauci, any chance he gets, will tell you that there's no proof that hydroxychloroquine works. He will go out of his way to dismiss anything where there's not proof. Why in this case is he looking at this differently?

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CHIEF, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: Good morning, John. You know, we have all been looking for something that works in this disease. And this is the first sign that we've seen anything that works in any way. So while I agree with Dr. Faust, it looks like they have changed the outcomes that they were initially looking at. This does look like it shows some promise.

So a couple of things to just mention. First, it's only an I.V. drug. So this is not a drug that we can give to people who are sick at home.


That's important to know.

Second is that the study demonstrated that people can go -- have gone home faster, 11 days versus 15 days in the control group. We only have seen a snapshot of data for the first half of patients in the study, 460 of about 1,063 who were enrolled. And the other thing that's interesting to note is, at the same time, there was a study that was published. We've seen now in peer review data in the Lancet that demonstrated the similar clinical trial that was done in China on 267 patients, a much smaller group of patients. And I think by the end, they had troubling enrolling because the disease sort of died out there. But in that study, they did not see a signal difference.

So I think we still have a lot to learn. I'm encouraged by the signal difference. But I agree, this is not the game changer. There were mortality suggestions and mortality difference, and I think that's really going to be something we're going to look for as we see the rest of the 1,000 patients' data and as more data emerge in published version.

CAMEROTA: Let me pull those up, because I need your help, doctors, explaining what we see here in the difference in mortality rate. So what we can see here in the remdesivir study, the duration of illness, as you've discussed, with a placebo with 15 days, with remdesivir, it was 11 days. Then the mortality rate on the right side on the right side of the screen, with the placebo, it was 11.6 percent, with the remdesivir, it was 8 percent. Isn't that significant, Dr. Faust?

FAUST: Statistically, it doesn't reach the threshold that we look for, but it may. So that would be really good news if that's true. And let's assume for the moment that they are able to show that statistically that's real, you would actually notice that's really good news. But the number of patients you would have to give the medication to for one life to be saved would be somewhere in the 20 or 30 range. You have to give 25 or 30 patients for one life to be saved.

Now, in science, in medicine, that is actually a huge number. We don't like to admit it, but a lot of our treatments don't save as many lives per person as we would like to believe. So this would still be a big deal but it would still be saving one life for every 30 that you give the medication to.

BERMAN: One of the things, Dr. Walensky, and I mentioned this before, that I've heard this compared to with Tamiflu, right? It's not going to cure -- Tamiflu doesn't cure the flu but it just makes it a little bit less harsh and you might recover more quickly. Likewise, Dr. Fauci compared it to AZT treating AIDS and HIV in the '80s and '90s when there wasn't anything, something that makes a little difference is a way maybe to get a foot in the door.

WALENSKY: I think it's a great comparison. And if anybody would know that, it would be Dr. Fauci. But you're right, in sort of the Tamiflu comparison, I mean, we give Tamiflu and it decreases symptoms, maybe it decreases viral -- it does decrease viral shedding. We don't know if remdesivir decreases viral shedding as of yet. But we don't have anything for this disease.

So the other thing I think that's really important to understand is we don't know when to give it. So this trial that was funded by NIAID, NIH, looked at patients in any part of the disease from moderate to severe to critical. The study in the Lancet suggested maybe it helps people with moderate disease but less so with people with severe, critical disease.

So I think as we see the bigger spectrum of those 1,000 patients and map it to the kinds of disease they were in, we'll have a little bit more information about how best to use it. It may very well be, I worry, that people with critical and severe disease will not benefit from it.

CAMEROTA: Let's just listen to Dr. Fauci. Because -- let's hear him in his own words assess what he saw in this yesterday.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Although at 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.


CAMEROTA: Dr. Faust, can you explain that? How did it prove that the drug can block the virus?

FAUST: What he is saying there is there has to be some reason why these patients were able to go home sooner. So he's suggesting that the mechanism that we know about in the laboratory or under the microscope or with our biochemical assays means something to patients that they can go home sooner. The question again is to that treatment size effect and also for whom does it work, because there's a very important concept as well, which is who does it work for in terms of an indication.

And we have a concept called indication creep in medicine. And that is we study a drug, we find out it works for a small percentage of people and then we give it to everybody without remembering the fact that actually it doesn't necessarily help everybody. And in some cases, some drugs, a drug that helps one person hurts the next. So we must be very careful.

Dr. Fauci is so measured when he speaks and that's why he has the credibility. But I think that we have to watch carefully in terms of these issues.


BERMAN: All right. Let's talk about today, Dr. Walensky, in going forward. It was interesting overnight, CNN got word from the Police Officers Union in California that Gavin Newsom, the governor there, is going to announce today he will close beaches statewide as of tomorrow. Why? Well, it was those pictures that everyone saw from last weekend, people crowding the beaches in California, clearly not social distancing there.

This is clearly a tension, right? I mean, people want to go outside. People want to be able to go outside in this. They just can't do it this way. As a matter of public health in a state like California, how do you look at that decision to close the beaches? WALENSKY: Yes. A lot of these are just judgment calls and relying on individuals to do the right thing. And when you look at some of these pictures and you say, well, what if we could open the beaches at half capacity or a third capacity and what if we could say when you're anywhere closer than ten feet from one another, we would say, you need to wear a mask. And what if we close them when the wind is up, because we really don't transmission from the wind.

All of these are judgment calls. And what I think those photos indicate is that people who want to be on the beach are not necessarily exercising good judgment.

CAMEROTA: All right. Dr. Walensky, Dr. Faust, thank you very much for giving us all of the analysis this morning. Great to talk to both of you.

WALENSKY: Thanks so much.

BERMAN: All right. Breaking this morning, a report from The New York Times that crossed a short time ago that Trump administration officials are pressuring the intelligence agencies to find evidence that pins the spread of coronavirus on a Chinese lab in Wuhan.

Joining us now, CNN National Security Analyst Mark Mazzetti. He's an Investigative Correspondent for The New York Times who was on the story.

All right, Mark, let's break this down if we can. The key new bit of reporting here is you say there's pressure on the intelligence agencies to do what?

MARK MAZZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: There is senior administration officials are pushing spy agencies to try to get more evidence to bolster this theory that perhaps coronavirus escaped from the lab in Wuhan -- one of the labs in Wuhan, China. It did not -- the outbreak was not natural. And this is something we've seen administration officials talk about publicly. And there is this sort of corresponding campaign by the president to lay blame on China for the outbreak. So this is all happening at the same time.

Intelligence agencies, notably the CIA, have not made a judgment. They say there's only circumstantial evidence at this point, pointing to that theory. And there's a lot of evidence in the scientific community pointing in the other direction.

BERMAN: Let's just reiterate that point. What are you hearing about how they are assessing the evidence in this case?

MAZZETTI: They are pushing to get more evidence. They are trying to get evidence. Obviously, finding the origin of this pandemic is an important endeavor. But they have -- there's division in the intelligence community about the likelihood of these different options. And the CIA, for several months, has said that there is no strong evidence indicating that it escaped from the lab.

I should also point out that there is pretty much universal agreement in the intelligence community and the scientific community that this was not a bioweapon, that this pandemic, this outbreak -- I'm sorry, this virus was -- came naturally. So whether it came naturally in China or whether it did escape in the lab, there is no evidence to support this theory that it's exploded (ph) around that it was a bioweapon.

BERMAN: One that's interesting to me that you noted in your article is that it might not be spy craft that finds the answer to this. And this is one of the problems at the intelligence communities are having right now. It's not about the work spies or intelligence, it's science that ultimately will determine where this started, correct?

MAZZETTI: That's right. And you see that the intelligence agencies are obviously looking at a lot of open source information that comes from the scientific community. Scientists have looked at the genetics of the coronavirus and that's what led them to these conclusions that it was something that originated naturally. And there's really important implications here for this debate because any intelligence judgment, and there's concern in the intelligence community that there will be pressure to -- what they -- one called conclusion shop, get a conclusion that the administration wants. That's going to have a huge impact on the U.S./China relations.

The president has said he potentially wants to seek reparations for China. And any intelligence judgment that is produced along those lines could be used in that arsenal to not only lay blame to China but also to seek financial compensation from Chinese government for the outbreak.

BERMAN: Now, I want to make one thing clear.


Whether or not the intelligence community finds evidence that this began in a lab is a different question than whether or not China has been transparent or open or forthcoming from the beginning about this pandemic, which, clearly, it hasn't. But those are separate issues, right?

MAZZETTI: Yes, that's an important point, John. Most people will agree that the Chinese government has been -- has buried a lot of information since the beginning of the outbreak, underplayed the extent of the outbreak, underplayed the amount of deaths. So this is not to say that the Chinese government has been transparent at all.

One of the things that the CIA has pointed to over these months about why it is unlikely there was a leak is that they detected nothing at the time indicating the Chinese government was in alarm mode, concerned. If there had been such a leak, they might have picked up intelligence that there was a race to contain it. And they didn't contain -- they didn't pick that up at the time, and they reported that to the White House back in January.

BERMAN: This is really interesting reporting. Everyone should read this story immediately. Mark Mazzetti, thank you very much for being with us this morning. I appreciate it. MAZZETTI: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up in the next hour, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joins us to talk about the government response to the pandemic and the economic crisis.

Also, Florida has reported success in its coronavirus response, keeping cases and deaths down. But there are questions this morning about the accuracy of those numbers. A live report, next.



CAMEROTA: Much of Florida will reopen on Monday except for the three most populated counties in South Florida. And there are questions this morning about the accuracy of the death toll in that state.

CNN's Rosa Flores is live in Miami with more. What do we know, Rosa?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, good morning. Yes, as you mentioned, Governor Ron DeSantis planning to reopen the state of Florida starting Monday, but excluding the counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. These three counties account for about 60 percent of the cases here in the State of Florida. This as reporting by the Tampa Bay Times creates brief controversy about the COVID-19 death count in the state.

We looked at the numbers. According to the Tampa Bay Times, they compared the COVID-19 death count reported by the Florida Department of Health and by the Medical Examiner's Commission. Now, the M.E.'s number was 10 percent higher according to the paper at that point in time. And when the paper re-asked for those numbers, the paper reported that the M.E. Commission said that the Florida Department of Health intervened and that that data was not released.

So we went to the source. We reached out to the M.E. Commission, they did not respond to our emails, texts and phone calls. The Florida Department of Health did. And here is what they said about intervening. They said, quote, the Florida Department of Health has spoken with council for medical examiners to explain concerns on disclosing personal, identifiable information.

Regarding the 10 percent discrepancy, according to the Florida Department of Health, they are reporting deaths based on CDC guidelines, which says that they need to report residents of Florida who died of COVID-19. They said quote, per CDC, people are listed according to their place of residence and ensures cases are not inadvertently listed twice. So it turns out medical examiners in the county level, they report deaths of residents and non-residents, basically everybody within their jurisdiction that dies. The Florida Department of Health only reports residents of Florida.

So we asked the Florida Department of Health the obvious question. So can you release to CNN, the list of non-resident deaths and they did. They sent us a list of 43 cases, individuals from out of state and out of the country who died from COVID-19 here in the State of Florida. Alisyn, John?

CAMEROTA: That is a really important distinction, and I'm glad that you got those numbers. That's important for us to know. Thank you very much, Rosa.

Okay. Joining us now is Gary Jarvis. He is the mayor of Destin, Florida. Good morning, Mayor.


CAMEROTA: Great to have you. I understand that last night, your city council had a meeting and you were going to be making a decision whether or not to reopen the beaches in Destin tomorrow. And so what did you all decide?

JARVIS: The council unanimously voted to open our beaches starting May 1st from dawn to dusk. There's a caveat there that essential activities will only be allowed, as described by Governor DeSantis, essential activities, which is walking, jogging, running, fishing and no groups of ten or more gathered in one location.

CAMEROTA: Okay. So, I mean, obviously swimming is part of that, I would assume.

JARVIS: Swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, yes.

CAMEROTA: Those are considered essential in Florida for sure. Why should Floridians feel comfortable tomorrow going back to the beach when -- let me just pull up some numbers in Florida. Here are the numbers of cases in Florida which -- it is a 14-day trend. And you can see it kind of bounces around, as these numbers do. A week ago, you had 1,300, more than 1,300 new cases. A few days ago, it went down to 300. It bounced back up to more than 700. So why should Floridians feel comfortable given these fluctuations?

JARVIS: Well, I'm not going to speak for the whole State of Florida. One of the things in Florida is there's a strong movement called home rule. We listen to Tallahassee, the governor has ultimate authority in a pandemic or any type of crisis, but we also reserve certificate the right to do what's best for our counties and our local municipalities.

In this case, Okaloosa County, we've had three deaths. We've only had 157 cases. This is in the past 45 days. And, presently, we have five people in the hospital. So the math gives us some confidence that we've got a pretty good handle on the pandemic in our county.


Now, of course, when you open up the beaches, that's going to spur tourism, people coming from outside the county. But we believe that people follow the CDC guidelines and the recommendations and the aspect of our beach opening that both our local community and our visitors will be able to enjoy our beautiful beaches in a safe and conscientious manner.

CAMEROTA: And what is your plan if you start to see cases spike? JARVIS: Well, part of that home rule is we made it absolutely clear last night. A couple of our council members did, that we reserve the right to -- we've turned on the dimmer switch and it didn't allow our economy here -- we're a tourist-based economy. We've allowed it to come back on. But we also reserve the right to flip that switch back off if we see a spike in illnesses or people won't be responsible and make good decisions.

So we're in the position to monitor the health, safety and welfare of our community. Being a tourist-based community, we're at a point after being sheltered at home, a lot of our citizens are beginning to have extreme duress with a lack of economic activity. So we're trying to find that balance of the welfare of our community and those of our visitors.

So, unfortunately, there's no playbook. We know how to handle hurricanes. We've been through those before. There's no playbook for pandemics. So, like most municipalities, we're kind of flying by the seat of our pants but we're doing it, paying attention to the medical community and trying to be prudent in our decision-making.

As you can imagine, it's a tough position to be in but we're doing the very best that we can.

CAMEROTA: Understood. Mayor Gary Jarvis, we will be watching to see what happens when Destin reopens. Thanks so much for your time this morning.

JARVIS: Thank you so much. Glad to be here. Bye-bye.

CAMEROTA: Americans eat a lot of meat, as you may know. But keeping meat plants open during this pandemic has put a lot of vulnerable workers at risk. So we discuss, next.