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Many U.S. States Loosen Restrictions; WHO: Dozens of Vaccines Under Development Worldwide; 30 Million Unemployment Claims in U.S. Since Mid-March. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 1, 2020 - 05:00   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. Good to see you this Friday.

You're watching CNN. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So, just ahead on the show, it is May the 1st.

And many U.S. states are loosening their stay at home orders despite warnings from American health officials.

And this as the U.S. is ramping efforts to develop a vaccine and could have one really as soon as January, we understand.

And President Donald Trump appears to undercut his own intelligence agencies, claiming he has seen evidence that links coronavirus to a Chinese laboratory.


CURNOW: So we know that more than 100 potential coronavirus vaccines are in the works around the world. That's according to World Health Organization. So far, eight of those drugs have been approved for clinical trials. America's most prominent disease expert says if everything goes right, a vaccine might be available as soon as next January.

Anticipating the worst is over, more than 30 U.S. states are taking tentative steps to restart their economies. That despite a growing U.S. death toll now exceeding 63,000 people, with well over a million confirmed cases.

Now, even with all of these re-opening, no one should expect to return to their normal routines any time soon.

Erica Hill now looks at what's happening across all of the states -- Erica.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By the end of the week, 31 states will be partially opened, despite none of them appearing to meet the vague White House guidelines that call for a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period before any opening, many resuming elective surgeries, opening parks, golf courses, stores and restaurants adopting new safety measures.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think our customers are going to feel comfortable, you know, shopping in our store.

HILL: As CNN learned, the White House is reviewing new draft guidance on reopening from the CDC, recommending schools place desks at least six feet apart, move lunch to the classroom and avoid assemblies.

Faith-based organizations also should limit large gatherings. Restaurants should avoid salad bars and buffets and use disposable plates, utensils and menus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to make anything. It's for staff to provide for the families for the day to day.

HILL: In New York, the state health department now investigating the discovery of dozens of bodies in unrefrigerated trucks outside a Brooklyn funeral home.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Well, let's be clear about this. Funeral homes are private organizations, private businesses. They have an obligation to the people they serve to treat them with dignity.

I have no idea in the world how any funeral home could let this happen.

HILL: While in California, a busy weekend on Orange County beaches, prompting Governor Gavin Newsom to close them.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: We're going to do a hard close in that part of the state, just in Orange County area.

HILL: In Los Angeles, the mayor says his city can now test all 10 million residents across L.A. County for free, regardless of symptoms.

ERIC GARCETTI (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: We all know this is a silent killer. It moves quietly through the population. And why it's so important for people who don't show symptoms to get tested is because, oftentimes, they're the super spreaders.

HILL: Health care workers will have priority at the city's 34 testing sites, which the mayor says can process 18,000 people a day.

Remdesivir, a potential coronavirus treatment, could receive emergency use approval from the FDA as soon as today, as experts warn this is only one piece of the puzzle.

DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: We still have to focus on those core public health measures of testing, tracing, building the public health infrastructure. The idea of remdesivir does not replace those elements, but it does offer some hope. HILL: The nation's top infectious disease expert says, if the next

phase of trials is successful, a vaccine could arrive by January.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: We're going to, safely and carefully, but as quickly as we possibly can, try and get an answer as to whether it works and is safe. And if so, we're going to start ramping up production with the companies involved.

HILL: Some colleges say they will bring students and staff back to campus, including the Universities of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Vermont, and Texas Tech.

And in New York City, a grateful send-off for the USNS Comfort, as the hospital ship heads home to Virginia.

(on camera): In New York City, an unprecedented move here as we learn today that starting next week, the subways and buses, public transportation is going to be shut down between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. for deep cleaning.


Ridership is down more than 90 percent, but there are 11,000 people who rely on public transportation during those hours. Many essential workers who need to get to their jobs. The city will make special accommodations to make sure they can get to their place of employment. This is seen as a necessary step to ensure that public transportation is safe and clean so the people can return to work.

Back to you.


CURNOW: Erica, thanks for that one.

So, Oregon is the latest state to announce it's relaxing some of its restrictions, bringing the total of U.S. states to 32. Now, beginning on Friday, it will allow non-urgent procedures to resume at hospitals, medical centers and dentists' offices.

Now, as we also mentioned, the quest for a coronavirus vaccine is certainly in high gear. Experts agree it's truly the only sure way to end this pandemic.

And with so many scientists laser-focused on the challenge, there is this cautious optimism the goal could be reached in months rather than a year or more. But even the most hopeful predictions are based on many factors falling into place at the right time.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and philanthropist Bill gates addressed those challenges on Thursday at on CNN's coronavirus town hall.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FAUCI: I've been involved in vaccine work for decades. Not every vaccine that we went after worked. So that's an assumption that it's going to be safe, that it's going to be effectively and that we're going to be able to do it quickly.

I think each of those are not only feasible, not likely. That's what I mean when I say by January, we'll do it. But I can't guarantee it.

So, what might happen is that people months from now will say, well, you said we were going to have a vaccine in January. I didn't say that. I said, we're going to shoot to be able to have one if we're successful at each and every one of these places.

And believe me, there's nobody in the world no matter what they say, from what country, that's going to guarantee you they're going to have a safe and effective vaccine at any given timeframe. They may be cautiously optimistic about it, but nobody's going to guarantee that if they're being honest with you.

BILL GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: The best case now is, you know, somewhere early next year. You always have to be careful. Is it the first unit to be manufactured, or is that 100 million, 300 million, 7 billion, you know, so which -- what volume are you talking about? But some phase 3s are going to start faster than I expected.

The RNA approach, which we've been backing for over a decade, there's, you know, three of those that are all progressing. Thank goodness we also have some non-RNA approaches because we have never had an approved RNA vaccine. So, things like Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, GSK, those also, you know, are very promising.

So, yes, it's exciting but the idea of being pressed to give you a date, you know, I try and say the same thing Dr. Fauci is, because he and I are looking at the same data. And we want to let people to know it's quite a range of possibilities.


CURNOW: So, joining me now to talk about all of this is Professor Keith Neal at the University of Nottingham. He's worked for 30 years helping fight SARS, Ebola, swine flu, and other infectious diseases.

Professor, good to see you.

So, before we get on the details of this, I just want to get your take on this very cautious optimism but also the timelines, you know, as both of those experts say, you can't guarantee anything. What is your -- what is your opinion?

KEITH NEAL, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, EPIDEMIOLOGY OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, NOTTINGHAM UNIVERSITY: I think on the vaccines, with 118 groups working on it or more across the world, it's only a matter of time before we actually have a vaccine that works. Clearly, RNA vaccines are new and novel, but certainly I'm aware that other groups around the world at oxford having successfully used their technology to use antibodies to research animals and humans.

CURNOW: Yes, just tell me what RNA vaccines are and why they're different from other variations.

NEAL: Most of the current vaccines we have in place are either live attenuated vaccines like the measles vaccine, or the human papillomavirus vaccine and hepatitis A vaccines, which are virus-like particles, which essentially utilizes the fact that virus proteins auto assemble themselves, so then you can make the proteins. They then assemble themselves to make -- to make exactly the same as if they were a live virus, but there's no viral genetic material that's infectious. Each way, the virus proteins actually then stimulate the protective immune response.


NEAL: The RNA vaccines work slightly differently in that they use the RNA and the cells in your own body then generate the proteins, which mount an immune response against.


CURNOW: Am I correct in understanding that the RNA vaccines might be developed faster?

NEAL: I'm not sure exactly. It's a simple race between different groups and whether one will work quicker than the other is difficult to say. Certain groups have an advantage because they've already coronavirus vaccines, and they have some idea of how to whittle their own way to doing this. And, in fact, some groups started as early as January when the virus sequences were first released.

CURNOW: Yes, and that was from the Chinese. They gave a sort of breakdown of the sequences as you know. So, are we talking here about lots of competition? There's obviously scientific competition, but also I'm assuming there's huge money behind this, drug companies gambling on which team has the most likely pathway here.

NEAL: I think it's more important that yesterday in the United Kingdom, AstraZeneca, I think it was AstraZeneca, has announced they teamed up with Oxford who also teamed up with other groups as well who are going to produce this vaccine on a non-profit basis initially. Whether we would need the vaccine recurrently like the flu vaccine is separate.

The most important thing is not only the race to produce the vaccine, but wee need the production capacity in place as soon as possible, so when something is successfully, we're actually able to manufacture it quickly and in large amounts. Currently, vaccine production cross the world is actually quite a tenuous supply chain.

CURNOW: Oh, that's interesting.

I want to ask you about an email that we just got here at CNN, sort of a news alert coming from the U.K. And it's something that we're seeing here in the U.S. as well, the disparities in racial groups in terms of who is vulnerable to coronavirus. And we're hearing from the U.K. that deaths among British -- black British Africans in hospital is 3.7 times higher than the U.K.'s wider population. And they break it down between ethnic groups as well.

Why do you think that is? There is a huge discrepancy between the rates of death in the African-American community and the white community. Why do you think that is?

NEAL: I think -- I think there's a lot of different explanations. Firstly, in the United Kingdom, you maybe have a few ethnic minority groups, the African-Americans and those Hispanic groups. In Britain, we've got a much wider Diasporas and immigrant group across different groups. Certainly, I haven't seen the Institute of Fiscal Studies paper I think is the one you're referring to in detail.


NEAL: Because I think when you say there's a high death rate in hospital, is that actually applying to more people dying or more likely once they got into hospital, and that's quite a fundamentally different question, in the sense that we know this outbreak has hit odd centers of conurbations, London in particular and Birmingham area, both of which have much higher rates of black and ethnic minority groups, 40 percent of Londoners essentially fall into that group. Therefore, if the epidemic was to hit that group, hits London, then the people in London are overrepresented.

Another factor is that we -- people blame popularity and overcrowding. I'll address later. The -- certainly, certain black and minority ethnic groups have higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, particularly in those from the Indian subcontinent, and obesity, and obesity comes in different types as well in that we have the so-called TOFIs, thin on the outside and fat on the inside who are probably at risk as well.


NEAL: The other point I'd like to make about minorities. Unfortunately, of the doctors who've died in -- and dentists who have died in United Kingdom, 94 percent have come from ethnic minorities, which is a really extreme figure and highly suggestively significant.


NEAL: And can't be explained by poverty.

CURNOW: No, it certainly can't.

So, still, so many questions about this virus, who it impacts, how it affects our bodies.

Professor Neal, I really appreciate all of your expertise. Thank you for joining us. Have a lovely weekend.

NEAL: Thank you, and yourself.

CURNOW: Bye-bye.

NEAL: Bye.

CURNOW: So, you're watching CNN. Much more to come.



CURNOW: Welcome back.

So, it's May 1st, you know that. But that means for many of you, rent is due. A staggering number of Americans and people around the world are having to deal with that just today and many are looking for work. We know almost 4 million new jobless claims were filed just in the last week alone.

Here in the U.S., that brings the total since mid March to more than 31 million people. That's about 20 percent of the U.S. workforce.

Now, despite the obvious economic pain, April was historic historically a good month for the U.S. markets. They closed down on Thursday and the futures -- Friday futures are sharply down as well. But April saw the best monthly gains for the Dow and the S&P since January 1987.

Well, let's go to Alison Kosik. Alison joins us from New York.

And, Alison, hi.

I mean, we can't stress this enough, nearly 30 millions of Americans out of work and nearly 20 percent unemployment. And today is a pretty big day. I mean, bills are due.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORERSPONDENT: Exactly. I mean, you know, we put up these data points. You know, 30 million claims filed in the last six weeks, in the past weeks. So, this has happened quickly. This has happened in such a short time.

Each one of those claims, Robyn, is a person. A person, as you said, who has bills to pay. Today is May 1st. That means mortgages are due. That means rents are due. And unemployment benefits are one of the key forms of financial aid that families -- that can help families stay afloat.

But here's the thing -- there are many Americans who are eligible for these benefits, Robyn, who are still waiting for their first check, or their first direct deposit because -- because these states have really been inundated with so many people filing claims.


They've had to update their computer systems and really just sort of get back on -- get on track just to get these claims in the process.

So, I'm hearing from a lot of people who -- here in New York, for instance -- who have yet to even receive any money since they filed in early March -- Robyn.

CURNOW: It's agonizing. It really is.

So, while ordinary people are dealing with that, there's a whole lot of money swishing around Wall Street. Why is that?

KOSIK: Yes, we got terrible news in April, no doubt about it. Meantime, Wall Street wrapping up its best month in decades, kind of a head scratcher. You see the S&P 500 up 30 percent from its March 23rd low.

It really illustrates the optimism and confidence that investors have that we could come out of this sooner than they expected we would especially when they were, you know, selling in February and March.

Look, the reality is there are lots of measures that have been put in place to support the market. The federal government, the central bank, they've pumped trillions of dollars into the economy and into financial markets, but it doesn't mean, even as states reopen, that the economy will bounce back. I mean, the reality is markets do tend to rebound long before we get the economic data showing that there's improvement. Markets are more forward looking.

But economists across the board are bracing for the second quarter data to look devastating. Just for example, JPMorgan is expecting that the second quarter is going shrink 40 percent with unemployment hitting 16 percent. And you look at the current rally also, you know, trying to explain why we've seen markets up so much, the current rally is narrow and attributable to the tech sector, meaning gains from Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Google.

Proof of that, the Nasdaq has almost erased all of its losses for 2020. So, this is a narrow rally built on optimism that we could come out of this -- Robyn.

CURNOW: OK. Thanks for unpacking that for us. Alison Kosik, good to see you live there in New York.

KOSIK: Good to see you.

So, sales up for online retailer Amazon. Alison mentioned that, as many more people, as you know, shop from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Those sales jumped 26 percent in the first three months of the year. But managing the pandemic took a bite out of profits. We know Amazon's net income for the quarter fell almost 31 percent over the same period as last year.

Well, CEO Jeff Bezos warned shareholders that next quarter could be rough. The company plans to reinvest, they say, billions into managing the virus.

Well, Amazon is one of the few companies that are hiring large numbers of workers right now, and that means certainly a lifeline for some people, but there are employees who are worried. They say Amazon is just not doing everything it can to keep them safe.

As Clare Sebastian now reports.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Less than two months ago, Mike Bauer was getting ready for his 14th season as the in-game host of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team.

MIKE BAUER, IN-GAME HOST, ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS: Reggie, you look like you could still bench-press a semi-truck, are you prepared to take one yard?

SEBASTIAN: He was also working several other jobs hosting sporting events and trivia nights.

BAUER: All of those things came to a stop when the world came to a stop because there is no sports and no entertainment.

SEBASTIAN: He had some money saved up, but without health insurance he was worried about catching the virus and facing mounting medical bills.

So he got a job at one of the few companies in his area actively hiring, packing groceries at an Amazon fresh warehouse, one of the 75,000 people the company is adding to its ranks in the U.S. alone, as demand surges.

BAUER: Everyone is wearing a mask. They actually have employees that are dedicated to making sure that the other employees stay six feet apart. They have taken a great deal of precaution.

SEBASTIAN: Not all Amazon employees are as confident.

HAFSA HASSAN, AMAZON FULFILLMENT CENTER EMPLOYEE: We want to let you know that we have a confirmed case of COVID-19 at MSP 1.

SEBASTIAN: Hafsa Hassan, an employee at a fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minnesota, reads a text message from Amazon about a confirmed case at her center. She joined a walkout this week. She says she's worried the company isn't telling employees if they've been exposed to a confirmed case.

HASSAN: We noticed an associate leave, and the area that they were working in is disinfected. That associate was working with multiple people within my department. Are we sharing a scanner and pallet jacks? But they haven't told them.

SEBASTIAN: Amazon denies this, saying they do alert employees who have been in close contact with someone confirmed to have the virus.

But another employee at the same center told us he believes there's no clear process for determining exactly who should be alerted.

In a company where organizing is rare, the pandemic has brought small, but increasingly frequent protests. This was on New York's Staten Island in March. The New York attorney general has now warned Amazon it may be in

violation of federal workplace safety laws for inadequate precautions in its warehouse.


SUCHARITA KODALI, VP & PRINCIPAL ANALYST, FORRESTER: The balance of power at this moment in time is with the workers and that's evidenced by the fact that, virtually, all hourly workers at these essential retailers are getting paid more. The challenge, though, is that this is likely to be short-lived.

SEBASTIAN: Amazon says they have introduced 150 process updates to improve safety and it's extending its pay raise to all hourly employees through mid-May. But for May 1st, they're ending a policy to provide unlimited unpaid time off to workers. The company says it is still providing flexible leave of absence options for COVID-19 related circumstances.

KODALI: Now, workers have to decide, do I stay home, keep my family safe, end up with my UPT long and then facing termination, or do I go to work, risk my life and risk my family's life.

SEBASTIAN: For some in Amazon's fast growing workforce, it's a lifeline. For others, it feels like a life and death decision.

Clare Sebastian, CNN New York.


CURNOW: Thanks, Clare, for that.

So, you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, the pressure to reopen U.S. states quickly versus taking a more cautious approach. We'll take you to one battleground state trying to find that delicate balance.


CURNOW: Welcome back.

I'm Robyn Curnow. It is 5:30 a.m. in the morning here on the East Coast of the U.S. Welcome to all of our viewers in America and around the world. Happy Friday to you all.

So, the -- in the U.S., yes, the decision to restart state economies has descended into a clash of, yes, Democrats versus Republicans. Many Democratic governors have opted for a gradual approach while many Republicans.