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High Stakes Move, States Ease Restrictions As Death Toll Climbs; Dr. Fauci Says, Vaccine Possible By January, But Not Guaranteed. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 1, 2020 - 10:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Of states are now attempting what is really a high stakes balancing act.


They are now easing restrictions in an attempt to kick-start their economies. Look at the number of states there.

Their strategies though not all the same, consistency not the only concern. Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that states could face a significant risk by reopening too soon.

And a new report, we've got a long way to go before this fight is over. A team of pandemic experts says this virus is likely to keep spreading in this country for up to two years. I spoke to one of the experts behind that study. Here is what he had to say.


DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Look how fast it spreads. And the point being is that this is going to continue to do that until 60 or 70 percent of the population has been infected, which then basically brings us to what we call herd immunity.

This is going to continue 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.


SCIUTTO: Many more New Yorks. sobering words. We have a lot to cover today.

First though let's get to CNN's Martin Savidge for more on states reopening today. A patchwork of approaches here, right, but still a majority of U.S. states now moving to reopen to some extent.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Jim, yes. Now, it's at least 30-plus states that by the end of this week will be reopening or have announced their reopening plans in some way, shape or form.

The only consistency is the inconsistency. No state seems to have exactly the same plan. Some critics have said this is an example of the lack of national leadership here. After all, everyone is dealing with the same thing. But they're not apparently going to approach the reopening in the exact same way.

You take a look at Georgia. It has now lifted its stay-at-home order as did a number of other states that was affected at midnight last night, but then you had the State of Michigan that actually extended it. You had protests in Michigan, people wanting things to reopen, and then you had protests in Georgia, where people are saying that things are moving too fast here and the governor is putting the population at risk.

It's that balancing act that states are trying to perform between preserving public health and safety as well as trying to help out the economic hardship that they know many businesses and many individuals are suffering through.

A month ago nine out of ten of us were under some sort of shelter at home and now millions are able to go out and go shopping. And even to places like the mall, where we are here. And this is kind of interesting. The Simon Property Group that oversees this particular mall here said it was going to open today. Then late last night, they put out a notice saying, no, it wasn't.

This actually is the owner of some of the most malls in the country, and they have at least delayed their openings until, in this case, Monday. They didn't say why. Could be that stores weren't ready. The question is, is the public ready, ready to spend money, especially when many people are finding it very hard in this economy to get by at all.

SCIUTTO: Yes, that's a big part of the equation, how do people respond to the opening. Martin Savidge, thanks very much.

Let's go to CNN's Ed Lavandera. He is Texas, where some businesses are opening their doors today. So what's happening, Ed? Are you seeing people responding to this? The doors are open, but are people walking in?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDNET: Well, we are at The Shops at Park Lane, which is an outdoor shopping area mixed with restaurants, businesses, clothing stores, residential high rises, a mix of places.

Right now, it's still early here in terms of people coming out to shop, but this is the first day where retail stores, movie theaters, malls can reopen, but at a 25 percent capacity. So this is the big question of today, what we're going to see.

And to talk more about that, we have the general manager of The Shops at Park Lane. This is Neisha Vitello. Neisha-- and she's smiling underneath that mask. She assures me, she's smiling. What are you seeing, what are you hearing from the businesses here? Are they going to reopen, and is it going to be everybody reopening? What are you hearing? NEISHA VITELLO, SENIOR GENERAL MANAGER, NORTHWOOD RETAIL: Yes. I think the retailers and the restaurants are all excited to hear that they are going to be able to reopen at 25 percent occupancy. We have several that will be opening today, including DSW, St. Bernard's, Whole Foods, of course, is open, Sprint as well, which Wich, Zoe's Cafe.

So I think everybody is excited to look at the opportunity of being able to get reopened and re-invite customers and guests into their locations.

LAVANDERA: Has there been trepidation or is there anxiety about how to do this? The stores that you've talked to, have they gotten the guidance they need to kind of do it safely?

VITELLO: Yes. I mean, everyone is following and we've encouraged and distributed to all of our tenants the guidance by the Governor Abbott, and there is a checklist in there along with the CDC guidelines. We want to make sure that we can protect everyone within those guidelines, including offering face masks to guests on request, as well hand sanitizer.


We have also put up a collateral and signage just as a reminder to walk six feet apart and practice social distancing.

Additionally, there are some other directives inside the retail stores, which includes offering hand sanitizer at the door and protective masks for all the employees.

LAVANDERA: Well, thank you so much for that. Good luck today, stay safe.

VITELLO: Thank you.

LAVANDERA: And, Jim, to steal the line from the old movie, Field of Dreams, if you open it, will they come? That's really the question. And it's still early here at this particular shopping area. We'll able to monitor that throughout the across the state today. Jim?

SCIUTTO: We know you'll be watching. Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

To Michigan now, where protesters, some of them armed to the hilt, angry over the stay-at-home order there. They entered the state's capitol on Thursday with those weapons. Governor Gretchen Whitmer has extended the order in her state until May 28th.

CNN's Ryan Young, he's been covering. The president has tweeted about this this morning, calling those protesters, quote, good people. Some lawmakers felt they need to wear bulletproof vests inside the state house, fearing for their safety. What happened there?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. First, let's start with the president's tweet. He said, these are very good people, but they are angry, the president wrote. They want their lives back safely. See them, talk to them, make a deal. We should note it's about a few hundred people that showed up for this protest.

And I called the state after our last live shot, Jim, just to have a conversation, and apparently you are allowed to open carry inside the state capitol but you're not allowed to bring signs, so wrap your mind around that. But there were some tense moments that were definitely taking place as we show this right now, that people who were armed, who were trying to make their voices heard.

There are people who are tired of the stay-at-home order in that state that's been going on for weeks. If you think about the State of Michigan though, it's been hit very hard. In fact, nearly 40,000 people have contracted COVID-19, 3,400 people have lost their lives through the fast-spreading virus that has swept from certain cities, like Detroit, hit them very hard.

So you understand the governor saying she's trying to protect some people, but there are other parts of the state that haven't been hit as hard, and there are people saying they are losing their livelihood and their businesses and they want to go back to work.

Let's listen to the governor what she had to say about putting this order in place.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I am not going to make decisions about our public health based on political games. I'm going to make them based on the best science, the best data, what our epidemiologists and public health experts are telling us.


YOUNG: Now, a few weeks ago, of course, Michigan made headlines when the governor banned people from buying paint or going to the home goods stores. So you can understand there has been tension rising for quite some time, but those images inside the state capitol from yesterday, lawmakers wearing bulletproof vests, these are things that people will be talking about for quite a few days. But that order has been extended to the 28th of May, so that's not changing.

SCIUTTO: Look at those weapons there. Ryan Young, thanks very much.

Now to get an on-the-ground perspective from across the country. Joining me now are Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. Thanks to all of you. We really appreciate you taking the time this morning. We know you have a lot on your plate.

I want to begin, and I might, if it's okay, ask this question of all of you. You have a tough balance here, right? I mean, you've got people out of work, you've got businesses failing. Are you confident it is safe today for the people of your cities and the businesses of your cities to begin opening up? Perhaps I could begin with you, Mayor Holt. MAYOR DAVID HOLT (R-OKLAHOMA CITY, OK): Well, thank you, and thanks for having us on. Well, I gave remarks about a week ago when we made this decision, and, of course, we had external factors at play. We really had to follow the statewide regulations.

And to answer your question, no, I have great mixed emotions about this. I don't think, however, I would ever feel good about this next transition, going from a state where we were escalating regulations to a new phase where we are deescalating restrictions means that there is potential for more spread of the virus, and I'm always going to feel uncomfortable about that.

I also recognize it has to happen at some point. I recognize we can't shelter in place for two years. And so I think we're trying to muddle through and find the best path forward that represents a middle ground, and my communications with the people of Oklahoma City today will be that even though today marks a new phase, we still have a virus in this community. That virus does not carry this to May 1st, and you still have to have extreme precautions for your safety and the safety of those you love.

SCIUTTO: Mayor Suarez, perhaps to you next, if I can, because you yourself faced this yourself. You tested positive for this so you know the nature of this and how easily it spreads.


How do you approach it?

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R-MIAMI, FL): Yes. And I was an asymptomatic carrier, which makes it even more complex. We're thankful that our governor exempted South Florida from the lifting of the restrictions, so that cities like ours, which happens to be the city with the most cases in the State of Florida, can take the individualized approach to how we come out of this.

We are analyzing the data every single day. We get data from the Department of Health twice a day. We get data from our hospitals via the county twice a day as well. And we are crunching the numbers with our epidemiologists and with the Department of Health, trying to make sense of this to make sure that we strike that we strengthen (ph) our very a delicate balance.

At the same time, we just instituted this Monday a rent subsidy program to help bridge the gap for people who are going through economic difficulties and make sure that we can get them from today up until the time when our businesses start opening.

SCIUTTO: Mayor Faulconer, San Diego, of course, and California, one of the more aggressive states early on. Now, it has a battle underway to some degree, local communities pushing back against the governor, particularly on the question of the beaches. You opened city beaches to limited activity on Monday. But with things like six feet distancing, social distancing, are you confident residents can get that kind of balancing act right? MAYOR KEVIN FAULCONER (R-SAN DIEGO, CA): Well, you hit the nail on the head, Jim. It really is that balance. We developed a plan in San Diego that's working. We developed it with lifeguards, with our public safety and it's in a phased approach. And that's important because you want to make sure that people are doing the right thing and you're able to monitor it. In San Diego, you can be on the water, you can surf, you can swim, but on the beach, you've got to keep moving. We want people to get that exercise.

So far, that's the plan that I think has been working. The governor, even yesterday, said San Diego is doing an outstanding job. I agree with that. I thanked him for that.

But all of us as mayors are really working through the same issues, which is how do we safely open up, whether it's public spaces or whether it's getting back to work. We're still under the stay-at-home order in California but it doesn't mean that we have been preparing the business task force. We're going to have a several hour call today. We're making all of the necessary preparations to open, to open safely, to open in phases.

And I think all of us, as mayors, it's important that the public has that confidence that we have a plan, that we're going to stick to it and we're going to monitor it and dial it one way or another if we need to. That key of balance and public safety, I think, is the most important thing.

SCIUTTO: And, listen, I know, you're all prepared to dial it back up if need be, but I want to -- this is a tough question because, again, you have a balance here. Again, perhaps I could go back to you, Mayor Holt.

At the end of the day, do you, as elected officials, and do we, as citizens, have to accept to some degree that as things open up more, there will be more infections? And because of the nature of this virus that there will be more deaths by opening up? I mean, is that, in effect, a reality, Mayor Holt?

HOLT: Well, Oklahoma City, we're adding conditions to our re-openings today that are intended to limit that reality. I think that just because things are opening, yes, there is more potential for spread. But if each of us makes individual decisions through the course of our day to keep our distance, to wash our hands and to wear a mask, we do not necessarily have to see an increase in cases and in deaths. I really think that is avoidable.

And so I really will be imploring our citizens here in Oklahoma City to continue those measures in their own personal decisions. I am optimistic and I am hopeful that we don't have to see an increase like you're describing. Obviously, that is a possibility. And we're going to try to do through conditions and through messaging, everything we can to avoid it.

SCIUTTO: Mayor Suarez, do you agree?

SUAREZ: I totally agree with Mayor Holt. I think there's a clear coordination when we look at the data between the steps that we took in terms of stay-at-home, in terms of implementing a curfew, requiring masks at grocery stores, construction sites and pharmacies and the peak and also the decline past the peak. So there is, I think, a clear evidence that the actions that we took had a positive reaction and a delta in the number of new cases.

And so if our residents simply acknowledge that and take the personal responsibility and are disciplined and follow through on the distancing guidelines on washing your hands, on implementing sanitary -- enhanced sanitary -- sanitation practices, then I think it's not necessarily inevitable that we will go back in reverse.


But it all depends on striking these delicate balances and making sure that our residents are able to follow through.

SCIUTTO: Mayor Faulconer, one issue I imagine -- listen, you see 31, 32 states around the country doing some sort of relaxing, but sometimes neighboring states are not, or within states, California included. One community might do X, another one might do Y. Given that the virus -- it doesn't know borders, right? It doesn't know timelines. Does that patchwork work? Or do you wish there was a national plan, a national direction here?

FAULCONER: Well, I think the reality is, obviously, a big country, and in the case of California, a big state. And that's why it's important that you have regional plans that I think are fit and ready to go for the area in which folks are.

And I agree with all of my colleagues in terms of everything we're doing on precautions, on opening up. And I think something that all of us are going to be working with no matter what state you're in, it's going to be the issue of testing and contact tracing. That's going to be very important for us to continue to beat back this virus for the long haul.

And I can't say enough about we have, it's in everybody's individual hands in terms of following these rules, these guidelines, because that is what is going to make a difference on a daily basis.

SCIUTTO: Yes. So much is on all of us.

Well, listen, you guys have got a lot of work to do, so we're going to let you get back to work. But Mayors Holt, Faulconer, Suarez, thanks very much.

SUAREZ: Thank you.

HOLT: Thank you.

Still to come this hour, the U.S. is making a big bet in the quest for a vaccine. And right now, a lot of hope is resting on a company with as yet unproven technology.

Plus, how a city of millions, one of the nation's largest, is implementing what's known as contact tracing as a major tool in the fight against the virus. This is tracing people who have been infected and who they've had contact with.

And New York City is shutting down their subway system overnight for cleaning, but could that have major implications for the city's homeless population that often take shelter there? We'll have more.



SCIUTTO: The nation's top infectious disease doctor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says we could have a coronavirus vaccine as soon as January. This as the U.S. bets big on some promising, though as of yet unproven technology, that has the potential to revolutionize healthcare forever.

CNN's Drew Griffin joins me now with more. Drew, tell us exactly what their approach is.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And the technology they're betting on, Jim, is in the hands of a company that has yet to bring any drug to market.


GRIFFIN: Three weeks ago, Ian Hagen (ph) was injected with one of the first possible vaccines against the novel coronavirus. He runs, takes his temperature several times a day, and he has not gotten sick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, I feel exactly like I did two months ago. I have absolutely no symptoms, nothing to report.

GRIFFIN: Hagen was injected with a vaccine using a new medical technology developed 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's CEO promoted the technology and speed at this meeting at the White House March 2nd, which President Trump ran like an episode of Shark Tank.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We want it fast, okay?

GRIFFIN: Most of the companies were talking vaccines some time in 2021, when Moderna's CEO, Stephane Bancel, took his turn. He told the president this.

STEPHANE BANCEL, CEO, MODERNA: And it will be a few months to get the 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 could have a vaccine?

BANCEL: Correct, for Phase 2.

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

BANCEL: Phase 2, yes.

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

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

GRIFFIN: The next day, the FDA greenlit 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 already had been collaborating with the NIH on a vaccine for another similar virus, so it was able to quickly pivot.

Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, who is 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, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, FLINDERS UNIVERSITY: If we want to really have an impact on this pandemic, then we should be using vaccine platforms that have been proved to be safe and effective rather than an unproven technology.

DR. TAL ZAKS, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MODERNA: We have delivered on everything that we have promised.

GRIFFIN: Dr. Tal Zaks is Moderna's Chief Medical Officer interviewed via computer from his base in Boston.


ZAKS: Actually, the public investment proportionally is a small investment on top of what this company has invested in its core technology for years now.

GRIFFIN: For the last decade, the company has been trying to use its mRNA technology to cure cancer, restore damaged tissues, even cure heart disease and develop vaccines. The research promising, the results mixed.

Moderna has never brought a vaccine to market, never had a drug FDA- approved, and the skeptics are wondering why your company was able to achieve this contract.

ZAKS: We're a young company with an emerging technology. And for that reason, we have not yet brought anything to full licensure. We planned (ph) again, demonstrated clinical results in Phase 1 across multiple different vaccine applications.

GRIFFIN: But vaccine development is tough. Even the lead investigator from (INAUDIBLE) vaccine trial Emory University says nothing is certain.

DR. EVAN ANDERSON, : If it's successful, it could allow us to shorten the timeline for developing new vaccines in the future, but it comes with its own challenges.

GRIFFIN: Dr. Evan Anderson says challenges for this type of vaccine include that it's difficult to store, difficult to mass produce, and no one knows yet whether it's effective. The NIH is testing Moderna's vaccine on humans without waiting for animal trials, a speed that was unheard of before the pandemic.

The company is already preparing to produce its vaccine in mass quantities, on the sheer hope it gets approved and can be distributed almost immediately.

ZAKS: The biggest source of pressure is the fact that, you know, this is personal. I think for my colleagues and I who are in the frontline of trying to develop a vaccine, it's an equal weight of the sense of potential that we can do something about it and a tremendous sense of responsibility that we have to do something about it.


GRIFFIN: And, Jim, just this morning, Moderna announced that it's partnering with the pharmaceutical company to mass-produce this vaccine if, in fact, it gets approval. The company says Phase 2, Phase 3 are coming, and with luck, with scientific success, this company believes it could deliver millions of doses by the end of this year.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, good for Dr. Fauci to note there that it's about a vaccine so far for testing and then you see how well it does. Drew Griffin, great reporting as always.

New York City will stop subway service overnight for cleaning, this after Governor Cuomo called the situation there, well, disgusting, in his words. We're going to have the details, next.