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Parts of U.S. Plan to Reopen Local and State Economies; Trump Administration Drawing Up Plans to Retaliate against China for Coronavirus; Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Denies Sexual Assault Charges; Joe Biden Denies Former Staffer's Sexual Assault Allegation. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 1, 2020 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Still, in the coming days, two-thirds of the country will be partially reopened. In Michigan, hundreds of protestors stormed the Capitol Hill to protest these stay-at-home orders. It was a small but notable action. Some of them carrying guns. They want an end to the state of emergency that was just extended through Memorial Day. In Georgia, a mock funeral procession outside the state capitol protesting the order to reopen there as the stay at home mandates expired.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, John, until now, governors have been on their own with no consistent federal guidance on how to resume daily life. But CNN learned the White House is now reviewing a draft document from the CDC that details how businesses, schools, and other organizations could handle reopening.

At CNN's town hall last night, Dr. Anthony Fauci saying that states face a significant risk if they reopen too soon, especially the states where coronavirus cases are still spiking.

Meanwhile, a new report predicts this pandemic may continue to spread for up to two years. It says we would need 60 or 70 percent herd immunity to get it under control.

And breaking just moments ago, Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president is denying in his own words an allegation of sexual assault in the 1990s. We have much more on that coming up.

We begin with the latest on coronavirus, and CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us. So Sanjay, let's get to those -- the death tolls and the trends that John was just outlining there because I still need your help understanding why they've plateaued at such a high level. So we're still bouncing around, as we have for two weeks, between more than 1,000 and more than 2,000 deaths every day in the United States. And I brought this up in the last hour, but I still need some clarification, we have been at stay-at-home orders now for weeks. So these deaths, are these the people who can't stay at home? Are these -- I know that we're on a lag time, are these the grocery store workers, the emergency responders, the hospital workers, why is it still so high when so many of us are staying at home? SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no, it's a good

question. I think there's two points here. What would it be if we hadn't stayed at home, right? I think a lot of what we thought the curve was going to be in comparison to places like Wuhan, because that was the only data that we sort of had. And we said, OK, they stayed at home at this point. If we do the same thing, will we have the same sort of curve that they do, flatten the curve and then start to bring it down?

But I think to your point, Alisyn, I think that was much more stringent in places like Wuhan. So stay at home in one place may not exactly equate to stay at home in another place. To be fair, I think in many places around the country we have done a remarkable job of staying at home, I think far better than many people predicted, but still, not at the level of I think what was initially modeled on, places like Wuhan.

And then this lag time, Alisyn, so we're talking roughly six weeks now, right. It was middle of March when we started doing the stay at home orders here. We have said that the lag time typically between the time that someone is exposed to the time they develop symptoms, couple of weeks, that's that 14-day incubation. Then from the time they develop symptoms to the time that they actually might need hospitalization if they do, could be another 10 days or so. And then from that point to sadly dying could be another week.

So you're get close to that sort of six week time frame overall. This is arbitrary, we're learning as we go along, but you're absolutely right. And I think the larger question is, OK, if this is what it is like when we stay at home, what is truly going to happen when we start to lift some of the orders?

BERMAN: Even with the lag time, if we're having 30,000 new infections reported every day, the lag time on the infections reported today puts us in June, where we could still be getting deaths at a very high level. That's what concerns me. We'll have to watch this.

Sanjay, in terms of the re-openings, which are happening today. I think 31 states will be open in some capacity within the next week, what is the different level of how they're doing it, and what about the recommendations now or guidelines that they have from the federal government in doing it?

GUPTA: The different states are opening at different levels. I don't know if we have a map we can show, there are some states that are opening, pretty much going to be mostly reopened by the end of the day today, many more that will slowly start to reopen, doing a little bit more phased.

But you're right. You can take a look at the map there, the White House is now reviewing these guidelines and they look at everything from schools to places of businesses to try and determine how do you best try and maintain physical distance primarily in these places. The CDC put out these guidelines for both employees and employers.

I was interested in the employees one, I think people have heard many times now, the idea that you should not congregate in public places, that you should obviously stay home if you're sick, that you should wear a mask if you can't physically distance, all of that.


But for the employers, do they have a system in place to make sure, for example, the ventilation is not blowing potentially germs across workspaces, have these places been disinfected on a regular basis, can you maintain some sort of physical distance? I think it is going to be hard. And as I said many times, I get no joy in saying that. But I think even if people do the best that they can in terms of maintaining that physical distance, there are going to be shared spaces, shared restrooms, shared handrails, shared elevator buttons, whatever they may be, and people will do a good job of washing hands, I'm sure, better than they ever have done in their lives before.

But it is just hard. We're dealing with a really contagious virus out there, and I think, to Alisyn's point, with what we have been doing with stay at home orders, we still have this sort of very aggressive slow burn of cases that is going on out there. When we start to lift, everyone knows the numbers are going to go up. Everyone knows there is going to be people becoming infected that otherwise wouldn't and sadly lead to hospitalizations and deaths. What we don't know at this point is just how significant that jump is going to be and when are we going to see it.

I think what is going to happen is for a couple of weeks like here in Georgia they'll say, hey, we made the right decision, no more additional hospitalizations, no more deaths, forgetting that there is this latency period between exposure and hospitalization. So it makes me and I think a lot of people nervous.

CAMEROTA: Everyone has cautioned that we will see a second wave, and what people are trying to avoid is the second wave of the kind that we saw with the Spanish Flu in 1918 where it was an even huger wave and huger spike.

So last night, Sanjay, during your town hall, Dr. Fauci said something that got my attention, which was he thought that the second wave could be less ferocious than this time around. Do we know why?

GUPTA: I don't know why. There is a lot that goes into a statement like that, and I will say that I think Dr. Fauci understandably, to a large extent, has been striking a more optimistic tone lately about the Remdesivir, which is potentially some good news, but by no means a knockout punch with regard to treatments. He's striking a more optimistic tone with vaccines now, saying maybe one could be available by January if everything goes perfectly.

And then what you said, Alisyn, that this second wave could be less significant. I hope he's right on all these things. The deal is, though, that the virus really hasn't changed. The virus is the virus. That's the constant in this equation, and it is a contagious virus. We know it has a long incubation period, which leads to this -- people sort of becoming complacent. And we know that it is a very -- it can spread asymptomatically, which confuses the picture even more. So I worry that the second wave, as Michael Osterholm and Marc

Lipsitch have written about, and I think that they paint a picture of what could happen here, the second wave in the fall. We have got to prepare as if it could be bigger, not sort of bank on the fact that it could be smaller. The only comparison that we really have something similar to this was the Spanish Flu 100 years ago. And in that case, people may not remember, but it was the second wave that was most problematic. Maybe it was because it was compounded on top of the regular flu, whatever it may be, whatever they're anticipating this time, I don't know. But the virus itself, in terms of what it does to the human body, the microbiology of it, as Michael writers, is what it is. So we have got to prepare for that as if it could be bigger.

BERMAN: All right, Sanjay, thank you so much for this. We'll talk to you again in a little bit.

This morning, the Trump administration is drawing up plans to punish China for the virus outbreak. The president is claiming he has seen proof or evidence that the virus originated in a Wuhan lab but didn't provide any evidence.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a lot of theories, but, yes, we have people looking at it very, very strongly, scientific people, intelligence people, and others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What gives you a high degree of confidence that this originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?

TRUMP: I can't tell you that.


BERMAN: CNN's John Harwood live in Washington for us. John, it is interesting, because yesterday the Office of National Intelligence put out a statement that said they were looking into whether or the possibility that the virus originated by an accident in a lab in Wuhan. They didn't say anything about actually seeing evidence, and behind the scenes intelligence officials tell CNN, "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" they haven't found any evidence of it yet. So do we know what exactly the president is talking about, what he's doing here?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know, John, the president is pretty loose in the things that he talks about. Some people say I hear this, do you have proof, well, I can't really talk about it.


What we have known is that we believe this virus originated in China. They have ascribed it to this wet market in Wuhan. Is it possible that it could have escaped in a -- been studied in a laboratory and escaped by an accident? Yes, it is. But nobody has documented that. There is no evidence that we are aware of, either in our intelligence agency or others, that this was a concocted virus. The question of whether there was an accidental leakage is a different matter, and then whether it was on purpose or not is still another matter.

BERMAN: So, John, the other thing that has happened within the last 24 hours is the idea that the White House is now trying to figure out ways to punish China for how they handled the pandemic and their level of transparency, which was poor. Let's be clear, China has not handled this well in terms of the world and what they told us. But some of the things they're discussing or being floated, like, basically, reneging on debt that the U.S. owes China, that would be problematic. Also problematic is exactly how the president intends to blame China without blaming President Xi. So listen to how he responded to this question.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've referred to China, but do you hold President Xi Jinping responsible for misinformation?

TRUMP: I don't want to say that. I don't want to say that, but certainly it could have been stopped. It came out of China, and it could have been stopped, and I wish they stopped, and so does the whole world.


BERMAN: How can you punish China while still holding the leader of China blameless?

HARWOOD: Very difficult to do, and certainly the punishments that are being talked about, things like not repaying U.S. debt, are simply not practical or realistic solutions. They would hurt the United States more than they would accomplish.

But think about it from a common sense perspective, from how American voters are processing this, John. In the beginning of the year, the president said this is not a big deal, China is on it, my friend President Xi is on it, and Democrats are just hyping this to try to spook the stock market. Then the thing gets out of control, shuts down the economy, causes massive amounts of debt. Then you switch gears and say actually this is China doing this on purpose to hurt me, to stop my reelection. Is that plausible? Maybe you can get some people who already support you to believe that, but can you get most people? Not likely. And if you look at the polls, two-thirds of the American people say the administration is behind the curve. They're losing in most of the swing states. They're in a difficult place, and certainly looks like the administration is looking for a scape goat as opposed to generally addressing the source of this and the solution to this.

BERMAN: John Harwood for us in Washington, great to have you on this morning, John, appreciate it.

You can join CNN's Jake Tapper as he investigates what really happened during the U.S. fight against coronavirus. A CNN special report "The Pandemic and the President" Sunday night at 10:00 p.m. eastern.

Breaking news -- Joe Biden denies a former Senate staffer's sexual assault allegation. You'll hear his comments next.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We do have breaking news.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has denied a former Senate staffer's sexual assault allegation.

Here's how the former vice president just addressed it.


JOE BIDEN, PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE: It is not true. I'm saying unequivocally it never, never happened, and it didn't. It never happened.


CAMEROTA: CNN's MJ Lee joins us now on what we know about the alleged incident that Tara Reade claims happened 27 years ago -- MJ.

MJ LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, this has already been an unusual campaign season for Joe Biden, unable to physically go outside and campaign because of the coronavirus outbreak. And now he's confronting a slew of new questions about a sexual assault allegation that he says never happened.


LEE (voice-over): For the first time, Joe Biden addressing a sexual assault allegation dating back to 1993.

Tara Reade, an aide in Biden's Senate office in the early 1990s, coming forward with a serious allegation against the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.

Reade, telling CNN, that in 1993 she was ordered to take a duffel bag to her boss. In a corridor, somewhere on Capitol Hill, Reade alleging that Biden had her up against a wall, spread open her legs with his knee and put his fingers inside of her.

The Biden campaign vehemently denying the allegation saying it is untrue, this absolutely did not happen.

Biden, yet to address Reade's allegation himself, as he campaigns from his home in Delaware amid the coronavirus outbreak. Reade's former neighbor, Lynda LaCasse telling CNN this week Reade told her about the alleged assault sometime in the mid-1990s, saying, somebody putting their hands up your skirt, that's something you don't forget.

Reade's friend declining to speak on the record, telling CNN, Reade confided in her in 1993, within days of the alleged assault. And in 1993 segment on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE," appearing to feature

Reade's mother who died a few years ago.

CALLER: Yes, hello. I'm wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington? My daughter just left there after working for a prominent senator and could not get through with her problems at all and the only thing she could have done was go to the press and she chose not do it out of respect for him.

LEE: The anonymous caller, not naming Biden, or describing in any detail what problems her daughter confronted.

Reade telling CNN the voice on the show belongs to her mother, and that she told her about the alleged assault the night that it happened.

Reade, among multiple women, to say publicly last year she experienced physical interactions with Biden that made her feel uncomfortable.


But none of those women, including Reade at the time, accused Biden of assault.

Reade alleging she complained to multiple colleagues in Biden's Senate office in 1993 about sexual harassment and not the alleged assault. Those colleagues denying to CNN and other media outlets that they ever received such a complaint.

"The New York Times" also speaking to nearly two dozen people who worked with Biden in the early 1990s, none corroborating Reade's claim.

The allegation coming as Biden prepares to take on President Trump in the general election. More than a dozen women leveling allegations against Trump, ranging from unwelcome advances to sexual harassment and assault.


LEE: Now, Alisyn, a huge question is whether there is any paper documentation of Tara Reade's complaints, are there handwritten notes. Or is there a formal complaint form? And Biden confirming this morning what CNN reported last night that their understanding is that all personnel papers would not be at the University of Delaware, but rather at the National Archives and Biden himself is saying this morning that he would like for those records to be released -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, MJ, thank you very much for all of that reporting. We will have much more of the breaking news of Joe Biden's denial, next.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Breaking news, just moments ago,

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, denied a former Senate staffer's sexual assault allegation from the 1990s.


BIDEN: I would -- this never, ever happened. I don't know what is motivating her. I don't know what -- I don't know what's behind any of it. But it's irrelevant. It never happened. It never happened, period.

I'm not going to start questioning her motive, I'm not going to get into that, I'm not going to start -- I'm not going to go after Tara Reade for her saying these things. It's simple. What are the facts? Do any of the things she said, do they add up?


BERMAN: All right. Joining us to discuss, CNN political correspondent MJ Lee, who has been reporting this story for us, chief political correspondent Dana Bash, and senior political analyst John Avlon.

MJ, you've spoken to Tara Reade. You've also been digging on this story, speaking to other people.

How does what the former vice president has now said in the statement he put out directly address the questions raised in your reporting?

LEE: Well, you know, John, first of all, I think it has been clear for a while now that Joe Biden had to address this allegation himself. A statement from his campaign spokesperson just was not enough.

And I think the tone there that we just heard, he was incredibly defiant. There is no gray area. This is black and white. This simply did not happen.

So I think that, of course, is very important to note. He mentioned in this interview that -- his statement as well, that the media has been reporting on this extensively and he specifically cited the fact that reporters have spoken to multiple former staffers that worked at Joe Biden's Senate office and that none of them corroborated this allegation.

Now, that's true. CNN has also spoken with a number of former staffers that worked in Joe Biden's Senate office and they all said this is just not true. We never heard about this, and he is not somebody who would do this.

However, it is so important to note in any time when we're talking about this, that we also have spoken with people who did corroborate Tara Reade's allegation, whether it is a partial corroboration or a full corroboration.

For example, there is a friend who is speaking anonymously, does not want to be named, but had said that Tara Reade told her about the alleged assault at the time. There is a former neighbor that CNN has spoken with who said that Tara Reade told her about the alleged assault within a few years of the alleged assault.

So, Joe Biden, of course, is wanting to sort of highlight the people who have said that it did not happen, but we have to be very clear that there are also people who say they were told about this alleged assault, whether at the time or years later.

CAMEROTA: Oh, boy. Dana, I can just predict right now what is going to happen because we have all lived through the allegation against Brett Kavanaugh, as well as the 16 or whatever we're up, allegations of sexual misconduct, all the way to sexual assault and rape against President Trump.

Here is the prediction this is going to be super unsatisfying because there is no -- there is not going to be any closed-circuit videotape that, you know, is unearthed. There is not going to be some sort of smoking gun in some sort of National Archives that are going to be unearthed. This is going to be one woman's word of what happened 27 years ago against former Vice President Biden's word and strong denial and everybody is going to somehow have to make a decision for themselves about, you know, which way they fall and what they believe on this.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And how much it matters, right? When -- if you're Donald Trump, there are women who will never forgive him for the allegations that he denies. And there are women who just don't care as much as they care about other things that they believe that he is for and is supporting and pushing policy- wise they care about. The same is true for Joe Biden.

The issue and what makes this so tricky for Biden and for any Democrat, frankly, is that as the #metoo movement exploded, there was a zero tolerance situation for Democrats. I mean, Al Franken is probably the prime example. It was different, there were photos, it's not the same.

But just in terms of the political approach, it makes it very hard. But as you said, he said it so right, Alisyn, you have -- we all have, but especially you've been covering these issues so intensely.