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America Divided Over Reopening As Guidelines Expire, Deaths Rise; Experts Say, Expect Two Years Of Misery, 70 Percent Of Population To Be Infected; California County Plans To Defy State's Stay-At-Home Order. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 1, 2020 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: There you go. Tune in for that. Thanks for joining us today. Have a great weekend. Brooke Baldwin picks up our coverage right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here with our special coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

And the stakes could not be higher as the divide in the nation is getting wider over how to reopen and enter this next phase of this fight. At least 32 states are on track to ease some restrictions by the end of the week, yet others are extending their stay-at-home orders, and governors are facing defiant demonstrators and business owners who don't agree with how the state is proceeding.

Keep in mind the protests aren't just against social distancing. For example, in Georgia, one of the first states to reopen, protesters held a mock funeral procession, saying the governor's choice will cost lives.

And as the nation moves forward, so far, what remains consistent is the rise in infections. At this hour, it is exceeding 1,070,000. You see the numbers on your screen with more than 63,000 deaths.

So we'll take you across the country here just to show you the growing divide and how businesses are trying to balance staying in business with staying safe. So let's begin the hour in Texas. CNN's Ed Lavandera is live there in Dallas.

And so, Ed, today, it is phase one for Texans and that means folks can actually go shopping but maintaining social distancing, how is all that going?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, if you thought today was going to be this day where it was markedly different from yesterday, it just doesn't feel that way at all, and perhaps that's part of the phase out of -- or the phasing in of these businesses.

So, essentially, today across the State of Texas, retail stores, movie theaters, restaurants can open up but only at 25 percent capacity. There has been some debate as to exactly how you enforce all of that. But nonetheless, that is what's going on here today. Libraries and museums, also open, more of an outdoor kind of shopping area called The Shops at Park Lane in Dallas.

And this is really a collection of about 50 different stores, a lot of national chains here. A few of them are opening up and taking advantage of this beginning of this phasing in approach of revitalizing the economy here in Texas. And it's not like it's a bustling situation by any means.

And I have driven around this morning as well and that seems to be kind of what we're seeing around. Because, Brooke, as we have talked to people over the course of the last few days, there is just a great deal of trepidation as many business owners kind of anxious to protect their customers, protect their employees, not really sure exactly how to phase all of this in. And also you're only operating at 25 percent capacity.

And we talked to one restaurant owner yesterday who said, basically, he's opening for his employees just to get them paid but they will be losing money.

So it's a really delicate and confusing time as people try to figure out how to make the best of this situation, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Yes, it was such an insightful interview with that restaurant over there in Texas. Ed, thank you so much just on this do we, don't we go out.

Meantime in California, where a statewide stay-at-home order remains in place, there's growing anger at the governor's decision now to temporary close all beaches in Orange County. Governor Gavin Newsom says he's putting a temporary pause in place in the Southern California county after crowds just, look at these pictures, flocked to beaches. This was last weekend, as it was perfect beach weather, right, 90 degrees.

The cities of Huntington Beach and Dana Point have each voted file an injunction against the closure order. And CNN's Stephanie Elam is live in Newport Beach there in Orange County. And, Stephanie, what's the reaction from folks there? I mean, I see an empty beach behind you. And what does Newport Beach plan to do?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, we see some people coming out here still surfing, still enjoying, taking part of the ocean, but there are still a lot of people out here who are very, very angry about this. Officials from the Orange County town are thinking about that. They are also looking at ways that they can get this changed.

The mayor of Huntington Beach had something to say. In fact, I'm just going to read it to you. This is coming from Mayor Will O'Neill. He said, the governor's brief and general directive raises enforcement questions that will require further clarifications from the governor's office and state office emergency services. The city's public safety officers will strive to educate the public on the governor's directive and are hopeful citations will be unnecessary. But all of this here, people are feeling their beaches are being targeted since it was the only area, Orange County, that the governor mentioned yesterday. San Diego County, their beaches are opening. The people are moving, they're not just staying still. And that's what the governor is afraid of, is that if they actually do have people here that they're coming together too much, coming from other parts of the state, they could then get the virus and spread it other parts.


So that's part of the anger here.

BALDWIN: All right. Stephanie, I appreciate you. Thank you very much in Newport Beach, California.

From the west coast now to the middle of the country. The issue of reopening led to armed protest inside the Michigan's state capitol. A state lawmaker says some of her colleagues felt compelled to wear bulletproof vests. About 400 to 700 people gathered there in Lansing, demanding the governor allow them back to work and let them handle how to restrict their own movements.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you are immunocompromised, you should stay away from large crowds and use PPE when in close contact with others, but this is America and that is your choice.


BALDWIN: The demonstration didn't stop the Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer, from extending the state of emergency using some older laws that defied a vote by the Republican-controlled legislature that was supposed to stop the extension. Governor Whitmer also linked in the state's stay-at-home order all the way through May 15th.

Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin represents the Lansing area. Congresswoman Slotkin, first and first foremost, it's just nice to see you, nice to see you're well. Welcome.

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): You too. Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you. I know that you are against the fact that many of these protesters didn't social distance, weren't wearing masks, but are you against what they're asking for, right? They're standing there at the capitol. They want to open business and they want folks to let them make the call on how to protect themselves. Where do you stand on that?

SLOTKIN: Well, listen, I mean, first of all, they have the right to protest. As we saw yesterday, they got to exercise their rights. And we've had a couple of protests now in the past two weeks and I have lots of residents and constituents who called me and said, listen, I took part in that protest. I stayed in my car but my business wasn't able to open and some kind of live savings into it. So you understand where the frustration is coming from. I think what we saw yesterday was a bit different and different even from the protests we saw a few weeks ago. First of all, it was much smaller but it also had speakers who just were questioning sort of the health advise. They were questioning whether we've had over 3,600 people died. They were sort of making that sort of first principle argument that this wasn't really real in some cases.

And then they used some hateful speech. We saw representation of a swastikas and confederate flags. And that stuff, to me, completely dilutes the message that I think a lot of people do want to get across, which is they want to get back to work as soon as possible. We all do. That's something we all want.

BALDWIN: Of course.

SLOTKIN: What bothered me yesterday is they endangered the police, the sergeant-at-arms, the staff, by not social distancing, yelling in their faces. And I think it loses some of its strength and message.

BALDWIN: I'm curious because I know you're in touch with your constituents, as you mentioned, overall, because there is this push/pull of you think about the 30 million Americans who filed for unemployment in the last six weeks and, of course, people want to go back to work, of course, because they need to take care of their family. On the other side, you see the numbers on the side of the screen of all the people who've had coronavirus and too many have died.

Where do your constituents, Congresswoman, sit ongoing back to work verses staying at home?

SLOTKIN: I mean, I'm doing constant -- I was at a call with 50 dentists from across my district. Everyone wants to get back to work but they also were concerned about safety. I mean, we don't want a second wave. The only thing worse than a first wave is a second wave.

And people want to know that they can protect their customers, their employees. They're still looking to get masks. Imagine a dentist which is really literally handling someone's mouth. I mean, that is a contagious area. So they want to do it but they want to do it safely.

And the vast majority of Michiganders realize we're in this sort of once in a generation moment, we're in a crisis and they're doing what Americans do best when we are in a crisis, which is coming together and realizing that we are part of a community and we owe something to each other. So the majority of Michiganders, I think, looked at those protests and felt like that doesn't represent them.

BALDWIN: Well, with regard to the protest, the president of the United States tweeted out today support of these protesters that you described at the top of our conversation. And I am curious if you think that President Trump's whole Liberate Michigan tweet inspired these people.

SLOTKIN: Well, I don't know. I'm sure they were bolstered by that kind of messaging. I think that there are people here who have those concerns. And it wasn't just generated by the president, but leadership (INAUDIBLE) is at the top. If the president is supporting those kinds of tweets and sending out those kinds of messages, we shouldn't be surprised when people are energized and mobilized.

And for me, that's not where I think the president should be putting his energy in the middle of a federal crisis. Focus on getting us testing. I would love his help on testing so we can get back to work.


Everyone is asking about that. Where are the tests? And this idea that suddenly we have enough tests is not correct. So I'd love him to focus his energy on a proper federal response as opposed to egging on people who aren't getting us any closer to opening up.

BALDWIN: On the -- yes, that's the macro on the micro though where you are in Michigan with regards to those protesters and the elements that we could see in those crowds. How worried are you? Yes, it was peaceful and, yes, they could carry those firearms but how worried are you that it could become violent? You have this Democratic governor or republican state legislature, it's clearly a clash. How do you prevent it from escalating?

SLOTKIN: Yes. Well, listen, I just -- the fact that there were less than a thousand people there, I think, demonstrates that it wasn't a widely felt feeling. And while people are frustrated and they want to go back to work, they realize that they have a part to play.

So I hope that people act responsibly. It is hard to see those pictures, semiautomatic weapons in the gallery above the Michigan House and Senate. That was difficult for all of us to watch. I think that that is not something we want to project onto the world.

But, I also think that the people who understand we're going through something important are far out way the number of people who are using hateful words and carrying weapons in the capitol.

BALDWIN: That's quite a scene, even though it was a thousand people. Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, thank you so much. Great to have you on.

SLOTKIN: You too. Thanks.

BALDWIN: A new report that this virus will spread up to two years and that 70 percent of the population will likely be infected. So let's talk about those new findings.

Also, we will talk to a California mayor who is asking for his county to reopen as some defied the governor's order.

And how about this number, 900, nearly 900 workers have been infected with COVID-19 at this one Tyson plant as the president ordered them to stay open.

So much to talk about on this Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN's special live coverage.



BALDWIN: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

It is a reality we all need to face. Coronavirus isn't going away any time soon despite what some politicians may be saying.

A new expert predicts we could be expecting two more years of this until 70 percent of the population is infected. So let's talk about that.

Dr. Jorge Rodriguez is a board-certified internist in California. Dr. Rodriguez, a pleasure, welcome, sir.

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, BOARD-CERTIFIED INTERNIST: Likewise, so glad to have you back.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much, good to be back.

Let's go through these potential scenarios. So report says we need to prepare for the long haul and they think these three possible scenarios, which I'd like to go through with you. So, number one, the say the first wave will be followed by a series of smaller waves for one to two-year period. What would that look like, Doc? And would the smaller waves be more centralized hotspots or would it be a few people everywhere?

RODRIGUEZ: Yes, probably a combination of both. Listen, these things are models and I think they're very good, realistic models made by very intelligent people. A lot of people are poo-pooing these things. I grew up in Florida. Think of those models for hurricane, it made hit closer, it may hit further away. But model number one is that we just went through one wave and that we're going to get maybe, you know, a larger one coming up but then sort of the smoldering. And, yes, it is probably going to be some pockets that are hotter than others, right, but everybody is getting a little bit of something.

We are traveling - we're going to be traveling to different parts of the country so that's what it looks like. That looks like some places are saying stronger forms of restrictions, some places are looser but everybody taking precautions all the time.

BALDWIN: No, that's an interesting analogy spoken like a truthful Floridian, right? The outer bands of the storm and then the eye of the hurricane, that helps me actually wrap my head around all of this.

So with this report, the second scenario is that the first wave of COVID is followed by a larger wave, maybe the fall, maybe the winter, and then smaller waves next year. What conditions do you think we have to be in place for that scenario to play out?

RODRIGEUZ: Well, unfortunately, the conditions, it might have to be in place for the ones that are happening right now, which is that people are coming out and not obeying physical distancing and other restrictions. I don't know how many ways we can say this. This is a virus that has never been seen in humans before. It's almost like smallpox was brought to the Native Americans. They have no immunity and everybody was wiped out. So we don't have any immunity to this.

So if right now, like in California, only 4 percent of people have antibodies, assuming that's immunity, if everybody comes out now and goes hog-ass wild, sorry, I don't know if could say that, but if they go crazy, people are susceptible now. So what are you going to get? You're going to get a largely -- a greater bulk of people that are infectious that are going out.

Listen, what's wrong with this -- what's (INAUDIBLE) with this virus many things. But one is it's -- are not, right? Its infectivity is super high. We have a certain amount of time where people are asymptomatic but are also infectious. So in the worst case scenario is that we go crazy too soon and that we have huge wave that comes up, right, in the next six months to a year, potentially, yes, killing maybe millions of people and it just sort of putters out for a year or two.


BALDWIN: Let's hope that doesn't play out. But I hear you in terms of how these earlier states have been reopening and the fears there.

This third scenario from this report, explain this to me. They talk about how there would be a slow burn. That's the quote from this report, a slow burn of ongoing transmission. What do they mean by that?

RODRIGUEZ: They mean that there is never going to be millions of people getting infected or dying but it is going to be smoldering for years, meaning that you're going to have the deaths of 1,000 or 2,000 people a day for many years, right?

Any of these scenarios is bad. This one is probably the most manageable, which means that a few people are getting infected, a few people transmit it. But this one probably would be lasting even longer.

So, a couple of things. I think people need to wrap their head around the fact that this is here to stay for a protracted period of time. This is not six months, unless some things happen. If there is a vaccine, this could all be completely decreased, right? If there is medication that treats it, then people get over it more quickly and less spread. But right now --

BALDWIN: Which hopefully there will be, right, as we are hearing about the potential for remdesivir to be working or maybe Fauci talks about this vaccine coming around in January, right? So --

RODRIGUEZ: Right. If those things happen -- listen, if remdesivir turns out to be a game changer, if you just decrease the number of people that get ill by 30 percent, that's huge, all right? Otherwise, we're going to have to rely on mother nature. And mother nature says that in order for a community to be safe, which is what we call herd community, you need like 60 or 70 percent of everybody to be immune to it so that it does not spread.

Right now, there are some countries that are experimenting this way, for example, Sweden, not so successful. They have four to five times more people getting infected than dying than neighboring countries.

So we have to find a balance. We have to find a balance.

BALDWIN: Okay. Let me jump in because you read my mind on that point of balance. Dr. Rodriguez, you are seeing patients. You're in California. We know what Gavin Newsom has said. How do you thread the needle? I understand. I talked to a barber shop owner yesterday from California, Vacaville, right, and he was talking, Brooke, I'm going to defy it. I need to provide for my family, I need to provide for my barber's families and we're going to defy this order and we're going to reopen. And you can understand why he wants to do that on one hand.

On the other, for all of the reasons you've already provided, health, safety, we should stay at home. What do you tell patients who are sort of stuck in the middle?

RODRIGUEZ: I am stuck in the middle. And I tell patients -- I get a little bit sarcastic, to be quite honest. Because at the end of the day, you learn in medicine early on that you cannot force someone to take the pill after you write the prescription, all right? So a good doctor is a good salesman and you have to convince people so they understand it.

But at the end of the day, I sort of get sarcastic. I was like, you know what, do what you want, all right? But, A, don't get near me, and, B, don't call me at 3:00 in the morning. Obviously, they call me -- obviously, they call me at 3:00 in the morning, I'm going to take care of them. But the only way that some people learn is from experience.

Now, I love what Gavin Newsom is doing in California because he is showing clear and concise leadership, which is what I think -- it's like federally. We need a three-pronged approach, which is what's happening here.

We need treatment and we need policies for the immediate. We need policies for the short term, right, to open up and that's what we need information for like who is safe to go to work, right? Who should stay home? And then we need policies for the long-term because this is going to be for many years.

And I get it. We are all suffering economically and socially. So what we need intelligence to drive this and we need it quickly.

So what do I tell my patients? This is my recommendation. At the end of the day, you're going to do what you want to but the danger is that it's not just affecting you, all right? It's not just about your freedom and your family's freedom. Dude, you're going to sneeze on me and it's about me and my family's freedom also. So --

BALDWIN: Thank you for that. You have been excellent. Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, thank you so much. We'll talk again.

RODRIGUEZ: I am so glad you are here, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Good to be back. Thank you very much. Good to be healthy again. Nobody wants this thing. I'm going to speak from experience and say that.

As senators voice their concerns are returning to Washington next week, we are learning that the capitol physician says they don't even have enough tests for all of the members. So that's kind of an issue.

Plus, one California mayor says his businesses are, quote, unquote, dying on the vine. He wants to reopen. Will he defy the governor's orders?


Let's ask him, next.


BALDWIN: We were just talking about this with the doctor there. Some rural, less populated areas of California are balking Governor Gavin Newsom's stay-at-home order and say there needs to be an alternative.