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White House Press Secretary Holds Rare Briefing; Future of Coronavirus in United States?. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 1, 2020 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We began the show one month ago, on April 1, with 4,564 deaths from coronavirus in the United States. Now, today, on May 1, the death toll right now tops 64,203, just a stunning and tragic number.

Moments ago, the Trump administration announced emergency authorization for remdesivir. That's a medication that early trials have shown help treat coronavirus, treating it, shortening the recovery time for patients.

We will have more on that with Dr. Sanjay Gupta in a second.

But, first, the other big news on the health front, a team of leading pandemic experts predicting today that, barring the discovery of a vaccine, the devastation in the United States is not ending anytime soon, detailing in a new report that coronavirus is likely to continue spreading for at least another 18 months to two years, until about 70 percent of the U.S. population has been infected, 70 percent.

The experts recommending the U.S. prepare for a worst-case scenario that includes a second big wave of infections this fall and winter. And even in their best-case scenario, more people in this country will continue to die of coronavirus.

Now, I spoke with Michael Osterholm. He's one of the authors of this new study. And he told me this is what's going to happen unless, A, there's a vaccine or, B, unless the Trump administration begins what we have been discussing now for weeks, an intense program of testing hundreds of millions of Americans repeatedly, and then contact tracing and isolating those infected.

But there has been little indication that the Trump administration is attempting anything remotely like that.

A stark warning, as today marks more states reopening nonessential businesses.

Dr. Anthony Fauci telling CNN that communities can expect to see local spikes of coronavirus cases and again emphasizing the need for widespread testing.

But consider this. Today, on May 1, there is not even enough testing available for all of the 100 U.S. senators who are returning to the Capitol to try to lead the nation out of the pandemic. The Capitol physician says testing is limited and only available for those who are feeling sick.

For all the insistence by President Trump and others that testing shortages are not real, currently, the United States Senate is not able to muster the resources to conduct 100 tests.

And amid all this depressing news, a reminder that this week President Trump called his response to the pandemic -- quote -- "spectacular." And his aide and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, called it a great success story.

And, as CNN's Nick Watt reports, the number of new confirmed cases per day here in the U.S. continues to be in the tens of thousands.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This virus might circulate among us for another two years, says one new study, until 60 to 70 percent of us are infected.

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH: This is going to be continued to be a rolling situation throughout the world, not just our country, for these months ahead, so expect many more New Yorks to occur. It's very likely they will.

WATT: The U.S. death count doubled these past two weeks, and one newly updated model from Northeastern University now suggests 100,000 people in this country will die by mid-summer.

This morning, Katy, Texas, a line at Snappy's Cafe & Grill. Today, restaurants movie theaters and malls can reopen in the state at a quarter capacity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beginning to see the beaches open, beginning to see guests on the beach.

WATT: But up in Dallas County yesterday, nearly 180 new cases, the biggest single day spike they have seen since all this began.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're reopening today, and it does feel like a bit of a gamble.

WATT: Partial opening now under way in at least 32 states, but it doesn't appear any of them meet one of the vague White House guidelines that states have a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: There are some states, some cities or what have you, who are looking at that and kind of leapfrogging over the first checkpoint. And, I mean, obviously, you could get away with that. But you're making a really significant risk.

WATT: A vaccine maybe by January.

DR. WALTER ORENSTEIN, EMORY UNIVERSITY: If we didn't care about safety, we'd be using these vaccines today.

WATT: On testing, "The Washington Post" now reporting that Maryland's governor was fearful the federal government might confiscate the half- million tests he bought direct from South Korea.

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): We guarded that cargo from whoever might interfere.

WATT: The plane landed in Baltimore last month, the cargo now at an undisclosed location.

HOGAN: We landed it there with a large contingent of Maryland National Guard and Maryland State Police, because this was an enormously valuable payload.

WATT: Down in Florida, they will start reopening Monday with restaurants and retail. But the state's three largest and hardest-hit counties are excluded.

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D-MIAMI BEACH, FL): I don't know that we're going to be able to open up our beaches really before June.


WATT: In California, Orange County beaches closed again by the governor, after last weekend's crowds.

Two cities say they will file injunctions. Meanwhile, in Michigan:

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): I know that people are itching to get back to work, and I get it, and I respect it. And it's OK to feel that way. There's nothing that I want more than to just flip the switch and return to normal. But that's not how it's going to work.

WATT: So, the governor, in the shadow of armed protesters at the Capitol, extended her state's stay-at-home order through May 28.

WHITMER: Yesterday's scene at the Capitol was disturbing.


WATT: And we have just heard from the governor California, who says that we are now days, not weeks away from some meaningful rollbacks in restrictions.

And the CDC dropped a very interesting report today about the early spread of this virus in this country. And they have listed a few issues that helped that rapid spread, among them, the continued influx of travelers from overseas hot spots and cruise ships, also some big events like a conference up in Boston, Mardi Gras, also a funeral in Georgia. Also, the fact that it was still flu season made it hard to detect some early cases, and despite what the president says nearly every single day, another early issue, according to the CDC, Jake, limited testing.

TAPPER: All right, Nick, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

And joining me now is CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, the breaking news, remdesivir receiving emergency use authorization from the FDA for extremely ill COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized.

How big a deal is this?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's the only thing out there that has even this sort of emergency use authorization.

I mean, there's nothing else right now for this. So, it's -- in that sense, it's a big deal. And it's the only thing that has been shown to have some sort of impact.

So, this EUA, or this emergency use authorization, is -- was expected. It was expected. I think, in the initial part, when they trial these types of medications, they always trial it on the sickest patients first, Jake.

I think the question now going forward is to really identify who is likely to most benefit from a medication like this, when to give it, how to give it, all that sort of stuff.

TAPPER: And we just have the sound in right now from President Trump officially making this announcement. Let's that tape.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm pleased to announce that Gilead now has an EUA way from the FDA for remdesivir.

And you know what that is, because that's been the hot thing also in the papers and in the media for the last little while, an important treatment for hospitalized coronavirus patients.


TAPPER: Now, remdesivir, as we have discussed, it's been found to help patients recover faster, about a third faster, I think, in this early NIH trial.

GUPTA: Right.

TAPPER: Right now, it can only be used on hospitalized patients. It's delivered from I.V., not orally.

Now, the CEO did say today he hopes it can be used earlier in patients with a light skin injection or orally.

What do you think? How soon might we see something like that?

GUPTA: Well, I don't know about whether orally or giving it as a skin injection underneath the skin, how well that will work. I guess studies will show that.

But in terms of giving it earlier, keep in mind, this is an antiviral medication. So the way that it's likely working is one of two things, sort of stopping or at least slowing down how quickly the virus can enter cells and how quickly the virus replicates once it's in the body.

So, if you think of it that way, it would make sense to give it earlier. That would probably -- would be when it has the most impact. And you could probably identify people who are at highest risk, because they have some underlying condition. And that might be the population of people who would most benefit from this.

I think, Jake, so take a look at the numbers there. The duration of illness is really what was significant here, 15 days without the medication, 11 days with the medication in terms of the duration of illness.

The mortality rates were better as well. But when you actually did the math on that, based on the sample size, it wasn't significant enough to say, hey, look, definitely, the medication is reducing mortality.

But I think -- Jake, I thought it was really interesting. Anthony Fauci, when he was describing this, sort of likened it to AZT at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. At that time, there was nothing else either until AZT came along.

It wasn't a panacea, but they built on it. So, for example, with remdesivir, if it's given early, might you give an anti-inflammatory later to try and decrease the inflammation and possibly help save lives that way?

I think that's where scientists are starting to head -- go with this.

TAPPER: So, that's some potential good news.


TAPPER: Let's turn to not-so-great news.

Infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm and his pandemic team, they issued a report, saying they expect at least two more years of the coronavirus. They anticipate 60 to 70 percent of the population will be infected, unless two things happen, one, there's a vaccine.


We all still hope for that. And, two, there is what we have been discussing now for weeks, Sanjay, which is a nationwide approach, led by the federal government and take -- carried out by the states, of testing everyone repeatedly, and then isolating and doing contact tracing for individuals who are infected, who test positive.

We talked to an economist yesterday who said that would cost about $100 billion. Why aren't we doing that? This is what I don't understand. We all want to get back to work. We see all these states doing this.

We're spending trillions of dollars on bailouts and packages to help people survive. Why not spend a few hundred billion and really actually address the issue?

GUPTA: Yes, I totally agree, Jake.

And what Romer, the guests that you had on yesterday, really interesting interview, he's basically saying the whole country should be tested every 14 days, 600 million tests a month, roughly.

I think, until we have some sort of therapeutic or a vaccine, it does make sense. It sounds outrageous, I think, for people to hear those numbers. But the reality is -- and, again, your guest made this point -- is that we do have the capacity, if you start looking at places like the Broad Institute and university laboratories and public health laboratories.

What we have been stymied by, as you well know, Jake, is just the basic supplies still, the swabs, the reagents, all that sort of stuff. We would need to get those supplies.

And we should be able to. I mean, this is a country that has done some remarkable things. The idea that we have been sort of hamstrung by just these basic supplies does seem a little ridiculous at this point.

Until we get a vaccine, how are people going to have the confidence that they don't have the virus in their body, even if they're feeling fine? How are they going to have the confidence to start reemerging into the public without being tested in some regular way?

That is the point a lot of people are making. This plan that Romer put forward and the Harvard road map put forward, it's an audacious plan, but this is an unprecedented time.

TAPPER: But when you hear the governors or the university presidents or others talk about their plans, which include, in some cases, testing -- we just heard from somebody at University of Michigan talking to Kate Bolduan -- but, in other cases, it really seems like a lot of, OK, let's put on masks and social distance and cross our fingers.

And I'm sorry, but hope is not science.

GUPTA: And the thing about it is that physical distancing clearly can help.

But I think when we have seen this downward trend in some places, or at least not having as high a trend, as far as hospitalizations and deaths, it's because people have stayed at home, the ultimate sort of physical distancing. I think, as soon as you start going out in public, because of duration

of contact with people, because of shared public spaces, as good as you may be, as careful as you may be, you're going to -- there's going to be surfaces that are contaminated. People are going to get infected.

It's just very hard. And it's not really the fault of anyone. It's just the human behavior in those situations. So, until people can be tested, if they're positive, they get isolated. That's critical, and it's worked throughout history in terms of actually curbing epidemics.

Keep in mind, Jake, you think about things like SARS. We always bring that up; 8,000 people around the world were infected with SARS, ultimately. Now, it wasn't as contagious as this, obviously, but it was basic public health tools that made a difference there.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much. Look forward to seeing you again on Monday.

And be sure to listen to Sanjay's daily podcast, "Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction," on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

A once-daily event just happened at the White House for the first time in more than 400 days. We will explain what that was next.

And ahead: a CNN investigation -- a company with unproven technology gets the most U.S. funding to develop a coronavirus vaccine. How a "Shark Tank"-style conversation may have convinced President Trump.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Breaking news in our politics lead, new White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany just held her first official briefing. In the Bush or Obama administration, the press secretary holding a briefing was not a big deal. It happened nearly every day.

But the Trump White House, of course, has become such an aberration that a press secretary holding a briefing is actually notable, breaking news. For the first time in more than 400 days, the White House press secretary actually deigned to take questions from reporters on live television.

This afternoon, McEnany defended the president's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and confirmed that the administration is considering punishments for China's -- the Chinese government's early handling of the virus, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins now reports.



first briefing by a White House press secretary in 417 days, Kayleigh McEnany made a promise to reporters.

MCENANY: I will never lie to you. You have my word on that.

COLLINS: After CNN reported the White House is considering ways to punish China for how it handled the coronavirus outbreak, McEnany said President Trump has been displeased with the country.

MCENANY: And I won't get ahead of the president's decision --

COLLINS: The new press secretary also said the president wasn't contradicting the U.S. intelligence community when he claimed he's seen evidence that suggests the coronavirus originated in a lab.

MCENANY: Well, the president's statement is consistent with the other intelligence assessments.

COLLINS: The day before, Trump claimed he's seen evidence that gives him, quote, a high degree of confidence that the coronavirus originated in that lab.


COLLINS: But he cited no proof to back up his assertion.


TRUMP: I can tell you that. I'm not allowed to tell you that.

COLLINS: That comment undercuts a rare statement in the office of the director of national intelligence that was issued only hours earlier. The statement was made on behalf of the entire intelligence community and said it agreed with the scientific consensus that COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified. The statement added that the intelligence agencies are still investigating whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a lab in Wuhan.

Trump appeared caught off guard by the statement.

TRUMP: Who's that? Who is that that said that?

REPORTER: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

TRUMP: Who in particular? Who's the man who made that statement?

REPORTER: It was the statement that the ODNI --

TRUMP: Who would know that, huh? National intelligence.

COLLINS: His own scientists have cited studies dismissing the theory that it was created in a lab. DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND

INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The mutations that it took to get to the point where it is now is totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human.

COLLINS: President Trump leaves Washington today for the first time since March when he traveled to Virginia for the sendoff of the USNS Comfort. This time, he won't be going far. Trump and a small group of aides will spend the weekend at Camp David.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: It's a wonderful place to be, the think, to strategize, and he'll be having some meetings there.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, during her first briefing, Kayleigh McEnany also went to bat for Mike Flynn, of course, the president's former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. That comes as you're seeing more and more people in the administration turn to defend him following the president's lead, including even the Vice President Mike Pence, saying yesterday that he believed Flynn may have unintentionally misled him. Of course, he was fired for not only lying to the FBI but also to the vice president, and he also lied to the then chief of the staff and the then press secretary all at the same time as people are raising the question about whether or not this means there's a pardon in the future for Mike Flynn.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you so much.

And you can tune in this Sunday for a CNN special report, "THE PANDEMIC AND THE PRESIDENT". My team and I investigate how he got here, the Chinese government, the World Health Organization, governors, President Trump and the Trump administration. As coronavirus was spreading throughout the world, what did they do? What did they not do? It's at 10:00 p.m. on CNN on Sunday.

Coming up, how one company got nearly half a billion dollars to develop a coronavirus vaccine without ever having brought an approved vaccine to market before.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: The race to develop an effective coronavirus vaccine is in full force, and one of the companies creating the most buzz got nearly $500 million from the federal government, but that same company has never brought an approved vaccine to market.

CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin explains why so many people are pinning their hopes on this unproven technology.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three weeks ago, Ian Haydon was injected with one of the first possible vaccines against the novel coronavirus. He runs, he takes his temperature several times a day, and he has not gotten sick.

IAN HAYDON, VACCINE TRIAL PARTICIPANT: Today, I feel exactly like I did two months ago. I have absolutely no symptoms. Nothing to report.

GRIFFIN: Haydon was injected with a vaccine using a new medical technology by a company called Moderna, which has never had a drug or vaccine approved for market. The basic technology, synthesizing messenger RNA, a molecule in a person's body, prompting the body to make its own medicine. In this case, directing living cells to kill off any novel coronavirus.

In theory, the science behind the vaccine should work. In reality, no one knows for sure.

Moderna CEO promoted the company's technology and speed at this meeting at the White House March 2nd, which President Trump ran like an episode of "Shark Tank".

TRUMP: We want it fast, OK?

GRIFFIN: Most of the companies were talking vaccines sometime in 2021. W

When Moderna's CEO Stephane Bancel took his turn, he told the president this.

STEPHANE BANCEL, MODERNA CEO: It will be a few months to get human data that will allow us to pick a therapeutic dose to start the phase 2 right away.

TRUMP: So you're talking over the next few months, you think you could have a vaccine.

BANCEL: Correct, for phase two.

FAUCI: You won't a vaccine. You'll have a vaccine to go into testing.

BANCEL: Phase two, yes.

GRIFFIN: Dr. Anthony Fauci tried to temper the enthusiasm.

TRUMP: I like the sound of a couple of months better, I must be honest.

GRIFFIN: The next day, the FDA green-lit Moderna's product for a trial and within weeks, the federal government pledged to give Moderna up to $483 million, more than any other vaccine company.

Moderna had an edge over other companies. Its scientists had already been collaborating with the NIH on a vaccine for another similar virus, so it was able to quickly pivot. But Professor Nikolai Petrovsky who's working with a competitor to

Moderna is just one of the experts who question whether the U.S. government's investment makes sense.

NIKOLAI PETROVSKY, FINDERS UNIVERSITY, AUSTRALIA: If we want to really have an impact on this pandemic, then we should be using vaccine platforms that are being proved to be safe and effective, rather than an unproven technology.