Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
First Responders Return to Front Lines After Battling Virus; Coronavirus Drug Authorized For Emergency Use; Status of Kim Jong-un?; Interview With Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH); Trump Touts Promising Remdesivir As Drug Gets FDA Emergency Use Approval; Study Predicts Virus Will Spread For Up To Two More Years. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 1, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The Food and Drug Administration here in Washington has just authorized remdesivir for emergency use on patients hospitalized with severe cases.
Studies now show the drug can improve recovery and reduce mortality rates.
Tonight, also, a new model warns that 100,000 people could die in the United States by midsummer, even as more than 30 states are now taking a huge gamble and starting to reopen. The current U.S. death toll, by the way, now nearing 65,000, as we're getting new insight into the early spread of the virus as well.
A new report by the CDC says a lack of testing accelerated transmission in the United States in February, along with continued travel into the country by people infected abroad.
Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, first.
Jim, the president spoke about the approval of remdesivir. What's the latest over there?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A lot of high hopes, Wolf. This could be the positive news that most people had been hoping for in the struggle to contain the coronavirus.
President Trump just announced in the last hour or so that the Food and Drug Administration has given emergency use authorization for the drug remdesivir to be used for patients who have COVID-19, and vials of the drug are being deployed as we speak.
ACOSTA (voice-over): It could be a major breakthrough in the battle against the coronavirus, as the Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency authorization for the use of the drug remdesivir to treat COVID-19.
Gilead, the company that produces remdesivir, said it will be donating more than one million vials of the drug, with more on the way. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: An important treatment for hospitalized coronavirus patients. And it's something -- I spoke with Dr. Hahn and Dr. Fauci. I spoke with Deborah about it. And it's really a very promising situation.
ACOSTA: Holding the first traditional White House briefing in more than 400 days, new press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted that there is no distance between President Trump and his own intelligence community on whether the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's statement is consistent with the other intelligence assessments.
ACOSTA: But that's not quite the case. The president told reporters he has confidence that the virus came out of a lab in China, while not offering any proof.
TRUMP: Yes, I have. I can't tell you that. I'm not allowed to tell you that.
ACOSTA: That was a clear departure from a statement from the director of national intelligence, saying: "The I.C. will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was a result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan."
The World Health Organization appeared to push back on the lab theory.
DR. MICHAEL J. RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: with regard to the origins of the virus in Wuhan, we have listened again and again to numerous scientists who looked at the sequences and looked at this virus. And we are assured that this virus is natural in origin.
ACOSTA: A new Centers for Disease Control report looking at the spread of the coronavirus notes there were major factors behind the early days of the outbreak in the U.S., including importation of the virus by travelers infected elsewhere, attendance at professional and social events, introduction of the virus at places like nursing homes, and problems detecting the virus, namely, testing.
The White House was also pressed on the protests against stay-at-home orders, including demonstrations in Michigan, where some participants brought weapons with them.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): Politics has no business when we're talking about saving lives. Every person in this state matters to me, whether you agree with this order are not.
ACOSTA: The president tweeted the governor of Michigan "should give a little and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely. See them, talk to them, make a deal.
MCENANY: Encourages everyone to protest lawfully and also to engage in our social distancing guidelines, which we think all Americans should engage in. ACOSTA: Top administration Dr. Anthony Fauci warns, governors who are racing ahead with reopening may be putting Americans in danger.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: So the concern that I have is that 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.
ACOSTA: As for McEnany, she promised to be straight with reporters at her briefings.
MCENANY: I will never lie to you. You have my word on that.
ACOSTA: Something her predecessors failed to do, from Sean Spicer.
SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.
ACOSTA: To Sarah Sanders, who once admitted to federal investigators she misled the press.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I mean, I have heard from a large number of individuals that work at the FBI that said that they're very happy with the president's decision.
ACOSTA: And some news on the Coronavirus Task Force just coming in the last couple of minutes. The White House confirms is blocking Coronavirus Task Force Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying before the House Appropriations Committee next week.
A White House spokesman told CNN it is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in the administration's efforts appearing at congressional hearings.
Wolf, as you know, having officials like Dr. Fauci testifying at hearings is pretty standard up on Capitol Hill, especially for something as significant as a global pandemic.
And many of these lawmakers, all these lawmakers are taking big risks to their health, coming back to Washington to work up on Capitol Hill. But the White House says, despite all of that, they are blocking Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying up on Capitol Hill next week, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, that's a pretty significant development. We will continue, of course, to follow up on that.
Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks for that report.
Now to the new research on the spread of the coronavirus here in the United States.
CNN's Nick Watt is joining us from Los Angeles.
Nick, the CDC has this new report highlighting the early lack of testing, along with other factors. Update our viewers.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.
Listen, February 23, there were 14 confirmed cases in this country. We are now, of course, over a million. So this report looks at what happened between February the 24th and the beginning of last week and our public health response to this issue.
The idea is, if we see what we did, that might help inform what we should be doing now. It's kind of an early look at what might have gone wrong, what could perhaps have been done differently in those crucial early days.
WATT (voice-over): Limited testing, the continued influx of infected travelers from overseas hot spots and cruise ships, and large events like a conference in Boston, a funeral in Georgia, a Mardi Gras in New Orleans, all fueled the devastating early spread of this virus here in the U.S., this according to a just-released report written by the CDC's principal deputy director.
Apparently, flu season also made it hard to detect some early clusters, and the early introduction of this virus into nursing homes, meatpacking plants, and dense urban areas, like New York City, accelerated transmission.
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 York's 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 midsummer.
But, this morning, in 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.
DR. HILARY FAIRBROTHER, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: 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.
FAUCI: 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, but we have to be careful.
FAUCI: To just say I have a vaccine, throw it into people, what people don't appreciate, because there's so intent to getting a vaccine quickly, is that there could be deleterious negative effects of enhancement of infection.
WATT: Meanwhile, with ongoing outbreaks at meat processing plants slowing production, some military commissaries now limiting how much meat shoppers can buy.
Down in Florida, they will start reopening Monday with restaurants and we detail, but the state's three largest and hardest-hit counties are excluded.
MAYOR DAN GELBER (D-FL), MIAMI BEACH: I don't know that we're going to be able to open up our beaches really before June.
WATT: Meanwhile, in Michigan, so the governor in the shadow of armed protesters at the capitol extended her state stay-at-home order through May 28.
WHITMER: Yesterday's scene at the Capitol was disturbing, to be quite honest. Swastikas, and Confederate flags, nooses and automatic rifles do not represent who we are as Michiganders.
WATT: Now, here in California, we were amongst the first people told to stay home. Now the governor says it's going to be days, not weeks, before he begins to lift some of those restrictions, retail and restaurants probably among the first open, but, as the governor says, with serious modifications.
Wolf, he says he has experts looking right now at each industry to try and figure out how we can get back to some kind of normal as safely as possible -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Nick Watt in Los Angeles for us, thanks for that report.
Let's talk about the breaking news on remdesivir and more.
BLITZER: Joining us now, the governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine.
Governor, thank you so much for spending a few moments with us. We're grateful to you.
Do you believe the FDA's authorization of this drug remdesivir for emergency use, does it give you more confidence in your ability to protect your citizens while you fight this virus?
GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Well, we're always hopeful, but I'm certainly not counting on that.
We're not factoring that in, in the decisions that we make. I mean, I'm an optimist. I think that the scientists out there are working very hard, and some things are going to come up, and -- but we can't count on that.
I mean, we have to assume that the original prediction that it's going to be 12 to 18 months before we get a vaccine comes up. And if there's anything that helps mitigate this virus, then that's great.
But we're not we're not counting on that.
BLITZER: The other news today -- and I'm sure you saw it, Governor -- is this new report from the CDC that finds that international travel, a lack of testing accelerated coronavirus transmission here in the United States in January, in February.
Did those factors, do you believe, contribute to the spread of coronavirus in your state of Ohio?
DEWINE: Well, we don't have a huge international airport.
And I think that's probably one of the differences that you saw between what's going on in Northern Ohio and, say, Detroit. It could have been speculated that's one of the differences.
But we're just now in Ohio, in the last week, coming so that we now have good testing as far as numbers. I mean, we're going to be up in a couple weeks to over 22,000 tests per day. And that's a significant change.
We signed a contract. We got the reagent. We have got our own companies in Ohio that are making the swabs. So we're now in a place where we can be very vigorous in regard to the tracing. And we're very excited about that. We're standing up a group of about 1,800 around the state to do the tracing, and with this more robust testing.
We're very excited about this. We think, frankly, it's going to make a difference. It puts us on the offense, Wolf, for the first time. And I like being on the offense. And I don't like being on defense.
And, finally, we're on the offense.
BLITZER: Well, you have been in the forefront in this battle from day one, ahead of a lot of other governors out there. In fact, you were the first governor in the country to close schools.
You warned about the spread of coronavirus long before the White House actually took some hard action.
You're now facing a little bit of criticism, though, for your decision to reopen slowly. What do you say to the business owners? And we can totally understand where they're coming from. They want to reopen a lot more quickly.
DEWINE: Well, we're trying to walk this tightrope to get it right.
And we know that a down economy -- and this is a real down economy, obviously, it really hurts people, and that a lot of bad things happen, health-wise, as well as from an economic point of view.
And so we want to get back. What we're starting with in regards to business is where we can get the most bang for the buck, so to speak -- not really bucks, but the most impact for the less chance that we're taking.
So, we have got manufacturing that has not been open yet. That part of manufacturing has not been open will open up on Monday. And we're going to roll forward on that. We're not going to open up retail until the 12th of May.
So, we're phasing this in. What we have done is, we have put business groups together to come up with best practices. So, what we want to be able to assure people is, if you walk into a retail establishment, that, if they're open, they're following the best practices that anyone can come up with.
There's always risk. We know that. But we owe it to the workers there and we owe it to the customers to come up with the best practices. And so that's what we're doing. As we look forward to rolling out in different businesses, we have brought in people from those businesses who understand the businesses, put them with health people to come up with the best practices.
But we're doing this over a period of time. And, candidly, we're going to continue to monitor the numbers. Hospitalization has been fairly flat for a couple weeks. We had a downturn. We had a little upturn, but it's been pretty flat for a couple weeks.
So, we like that. We obviously would like it if it was going down.
BLITZER: Yes, well, these are life-and-death decisions, not easy decisions.
We're grateful to you, everything you have been doing. As I said, you have been in the forefront in this battle against coronavirus.
Governor Mike DeWine, thanks so much for joining us.
DEWINE: Thanks, Wolf. Appreciate it.
BLITZER: Thank you. Just ahead: How significant is the FDA approval of remdesivir? And how
quickly might patients get some relief? Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta standing by to join us.
And we're also getting some breaking news right on the fate of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
We will update you on that as well.
BLITZER: All right, so, we're following some breaking news, the Food and Drug administration authorizing emergency use of the drug remdesivir to treat severe cases of the coronavirus.
I want to bring in our -- bring back our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
How significant, Sanjay, is it for the FDA to authorize this drug so quickly?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the emergency use authorization has been used a lot lately.
So, the bar for that in the middle of a pandemic has been lowered, I think. A lot of testing getting out there quite rapidly.
Having said that, this is the only medication that has really been shown to have any kind of impact at all on this virus. So, it's -- as many people have said, Wolf, it's not a huge benefit. It does reduce the duration of the illness from about 15 days to 11 days.
It's not clear whether it actually reduces mortality, increases survival. We will have to wait and see on that. But it is a big deal, because it's the only thing really that we have right now.
It's the standard of care, as Dr. Anthony Fauci has called it, as a result of this emergency use authorization. So I think people who have been infected with this virus and are sick in hospitals, this is something that they're probably going to be offered. They're going to have conversations with their doctors about it.
BLITZER: Yes, they certainly are.
Are there any risks potentially, Sanjay, to taking the drug?
GUPTA: Well, I should point out, this medication, which I have been following the story of this since 2014, when it was trialed, unsuccessfully, for Ebola at that point, has had these side effect profile sort of evaluated.
It seems to be a relatively same drug. I noticed in the emergency use authorization, they do ask patients, if they have any history of liver or kidney problems, that's something that they're going to monitor, I'm sure, so it could have an impact on the liver or kidney.
But, so far, it appears to be relatively safe, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Sanjay, thanks very, very much.
GUPTA: You got it.
BLITZER: We're going to get back to our coverage of all the breaking news involving the coronavirus.
But we're also right now getting some new information about Kim Jong- un. The North Korean leader has been out of sight now for several weeks amid reports that he's been seriously ill.
I want to bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, also CNN's Will Ripley, who has been covering North Korea. He's in Tokyo right now.
Will, you have been to North Korea many times. First of all, what are you learning? What are you seeing right now?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just minutes ago, Wolf, North Korean state media put out an article claiming that Kim Jong-un made his first public appearance in 21 days, attending the ribbon- cutting of a fertilizer factory near the North Korean capital.
There are no photos that come with this article, so we have to be very skeptical. This is obviously the most detailed claim that it's business as usual in Pyongyang. This article listed the name of high- level officials they say were on the stage for the ribbon-cutting with Kim, including his sister, Kim Yo-jong.
This comes after a week of North Korea releasing pretty standard articles claiming that he was sending thank you notes to various organizations and world leaders. But this is now a detailed account, albeit only in print for now, of Kim Jong-un attending a ribbon cutting.
Now, I have been to ribbon-cuttings in North Korea where Kim has attended. This is a relatively easy kind of event for him, because he doesn't speak. He just walks up onto the stage and he stands and listens to other officials as they speak about how great he is. And then he gets back in his -- usually a black Mercedes armed limousine and drives away.
So, what we need to watch very carefully in the coming hours is, do they release photos of this? And if they do release photos, those photos need to be analyzed very closely. They need to be checked to try to find any proof that they are -- that they are up to date, that these are recent photos, these are not archived photos, because, again, we still have not gotten what we really need from the North Koreans, which is detailed facts about Kim Jong-un's health,
It's been 21 days. One source that I was talking to on the phone just now said, this doesn't necessarily mean that he wasn't ill, doesn't necessarily mean anything.
But, again, it is North Korea trying to project business as usual. And if we can prove that these are recent photos, if we hear Kim Jong-un speak at some point and can somehow prove that this is actually accurate, well, then it does put to rest at least some of the more intense speculation that Kim Jong-un might have been at death's door.
BLITZER: All right, stand by.
I want to bring Jim Sciutto in.
Jim, you have been in the forefront in reporting on this. You reported first -- you were first to report that he's been missing in action. What are you hearing right now from your sources?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, exactly what Will said, as with anything with North Korea, you have to see it to believe it, right?
Will there be video or pictures associated with this? Will those video -- will that video or pictures, will it be new or stock footage? Will be doctored in any way? I have personally seen images supplied by North Korea that were doctored, and that U.S. intelligence was able to document that.
The fact remains that he's been out of public eye for some 20 days, about three weeks. And two weeks ago, or the beginning of last week, we know that the U.S. was monitoring intelligence indicating that he had a serious health issue.
Now, again, even with foreign intelligence regarding North Korea, as we said at the time, North Korea is the blackest of black boxes. It's very difficult for foreign intelligence to penetrate that black box with any certainty.
But even looking at the public comments, for instance, the national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, last week or saying that they were monitoring the situation there very closely, or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week saying that the U.S. was prepared to deal with whoever was leading North Korea, in effect, clearly, there were questions. There were unanswered answered questions.
So, going forward, in the next several hours and several days, do we see proof, video proof, that Kim Jong-un made this public appearance? And then what information can you glean from that video as to his health?
And then, also, will questions be answered about why this absence, not only the length of time, but, for instance, that key ceremony that he missed a couple of weeks ago honoring his grandfather, Kim Il-Sung?
SCIUTTO: So, this is an indicator. It's a new indicator. Is it conclusive yet? The answer is no.
BLITZER: Yes, I think I'm hearing the same thing. One source tells me, since there's no pictures to confirm this, U.S. officials remain skeptical right now.
We will see what happens in the coming hours and days.
Guys, good reporting, Will Ripley and Jim Sciutto.
They are way ahead of this on this story than all of us.
Just ahead: A senior administration official now says a majority of the intelligence community agrees with the president that the coronavirus came out of a Chinese lab.
And there's a troubling new study that says the virus may circulate for another two years, infecting up to 70 percent of the population.
We will update you on all the breaking news when we come back.
BLITZER: Tonight, President Trump is calling remdesivir very promising as he hails the FDA approval of the drug for emergency use on some of the sickest coronavirus patients in hospitals. The president eager to highlight any and all advances as he faces very serious criticism for his response to the pandemic.
Joining us now, The New York Times Columnist Tom Friedman. Tom, thanks very much for joining us. And I remember when you and I spoke last month, you and I argued very strongly that the president didn't seem to have a plan as he confronted this pandemic. Does he appear to have a plan?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, Wolf, let me start at 30,000 feet, if I could. When you are up against one of mother nature's big challenges, I think you need to keep three things in mind. One is you have to be really humble. Dr. David Katz thought were pretty well when he said that if you don't respect mother nature, if you don't respect this virus, it will kill you or someone you love, number one.
Number two, you've got to be incredibly coordinated, okay, because the virus has evolved. These viruses are expert at finding any cracks, any openings you leave for them. And, third, you have to be rigorously about chemistry, biology and physics, because that's all mother nature is, chemistry, biology and physics. And if you are not rigorous about that, she will make you pay.
So what really worries me about our approach right now is that it's uncoordinated. We have 50 states doing 50 things, sometimes different things within each state. And at the same time, it's not being driven by the dictates of chemistry, biology and physics in all of this states. We have states like Governor DeWine, who you just interviewed, really impressive in how he is really being clearly guided by the science.
And with other states that are being guided by -- and by the way, I have sympathy for this. People have been locked down, they have lost their jobs, they have lost their livelihoods, they are desperate to come out. But as another of your guest, I think, noted earlier, that this virus will come back. Dr. Fauci have just told us, if you don't respect this virus, it will kill you or someone you love. It will come back. So that's the hellish choice we face right now.
BLITZER: So do you think the president does have a plan to deal with this right now?
FRIEDMAN: No, we don't have a plan. There are basically, Wolf, three approaches out in the world today. One is the Swedish approach, which is basically social distance, closed colleges and high schools, but keep K through 12 open, keep stores, restaurants and factories open, ask people who can work at home, shelter the elderly and the most immune possible and then let everyone circulate to essentially -- this is the essential logic of their plan -- to build herd immunity. Those people who will not be hurt by it are not likely to be fatally hurt by this disease, will acquire it, build herd immunity to it and be able to get the workforce going. That's the Swedish approach.
They have taken more casualties. They have lost more people than other countries around them, but they feel, in the long run, this will get them to a sustainable place of balancing lives and livelihoods faster than anybody.
The second is the China approach. That's a lockdown but then lift the lockdown, follow it up with tracing, tracking, sequestering and testing in a way that only a surveillance state like China can do. And that's working there, they are keeping the infections limited, but they're using all the surveillance systems they use on their own people now to track and trace and quarantine this virus. That's the second plan.
The third plan is the American plan, which is no plan. It's every state for themselves. And the problem is this actually virus doesn't know the border, Wolf, between Florida and Georgia, or between Georgia and any other state around it. So it's going to be a real problem. We have states that seem to be operating in a really rigorous scientific way and other states that are basically kind of winging it and a president who, one minute, is tweeting liberate your state, and the next minute, follow the guidelines.
So this is not going to end well, Wolf, if we listen to what the best experts are telling us, which is that the virus doesn't just go away because you got tired being locked down. And I say this as someone who is being locked down, who is totally sympathetic with people being locked down, but you've got to pursue this is in a coordinated, science-based way, and that is not what we are doing as a country.
BLITZER: How serious, Tom, are these tensions that have now escalated between the U.S. and China on the origins of the virus, what China should have done, what they didn't do and the impact on the overall relationship?
FRIEDMAN: Well, Wolf, I think it's very serious because I believe it's very important for the world and for China that it share share with us exactly where and how this virus started, and maybe invite in international organizations to be observers or help them in this search. It's really important. This virus has changed the whole world.
And on that I am a hardliner. But at the same time, where we are right now, Wolf, again, if we don't have global coordination on this virus, we are never going to get this behind us at the speed, scope and scale we need to, which is good for everybody.
There is a time to fight with China. Now, for me, is not that time. By the way, that's not only on us, that's on China as well because they have said and done some very objectionable things. We need to be working hand in glove with the Chinese as much as we can to find a cure to this virus, but also, Wolf, to stabilize the spread of this virus in the developing world where they don't have the technologies we have.
Because -- just because we may get it under control here, if someone in Africa or Central America or Brazil is traveling -- and if you think we can keep them out of our country -- you can -- we have seen how well the wall worked, okay, or the Mediterranean worked. So this is a global problem. It's everywhere. That's you go back. If you are not about the science, chemistry biology and physics and if you're not coordinating within your country, between your cities and with other states, this virus will find you, Wolf, it will either kill you or someone you love.
BLITZER: That's an awful situation. All right, Tom Friedman, as usual, thanks very much for your thoughts. We are grateful to you.
Just ahead, I'll speak to the infectious disease experts behind a brand new study, warning that the coronavirus could keep spreading for up to two years.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: As more than 30 states are beginning to reopen, a team of pandemic experts is predicting that the coronavirus is likely to keep spreading for up to two years.
Joining us now, Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Professor Osterholm, thanks so much for joining us.
Two more years, what? Your report suggested until 60 to 70 percent of the global population is infected. How do you determine this is really, really dire timeline?
MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Well, actually, this is not a new issue. We just finally made it public in a more formal way because everybody has been talking about it going away this summer.
As epidemiologists, infectious disease medical detectives, we know that a virus like this is going to keep spreading until it infects enough people that then results in immunity in those people, that then it doesn't have anybody else to go find in an easy way.
And so this has been true for other influenza pandemics that we've seen over the years, where once you get to this level, it makes it very difficult for the virus to transmit.
I think what may be surprised people with this was the fact that today, we believe only 5 to 15 percent of the U.S. population has been infected with this virus. And think of all of the pain, suffering and deaths we've had just with that. It's a long ways to get to 60 to 70 percent.
BLITZER: Yes, that's been pretty awful, when you think about it.
Your report does recommend that the U.S. prepare for a worst case scenario, a second big wave of the coronavirus in the fall and winter. And so what can we do to prevent that second big wave? Anything?
OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, we have to acknowledge this is a coronavirus. It's not an influenza virus, it's acting like an influenza virus. And so we think it might very be one where we would have a big second wave.
If you look at all the major influenza pandemics for the last 200 years, they have appeared, there has been sporadic to localized outbreaks that have occurred in those first months, and the virus seems to go quiet for a reason we don't understand. And then about four months later comes back with a vengeance, in a big wave or a peak wave. And so if this follows previous influenza pandemics, this is what might be expected.
We also did offer other alternative approaches and said, well, if it doesn't do this, what would it do? Maybe it's just going to be a bunch of foothill-like bumps, where a number of places, a number of cases overtime, or just a slow burn. We don't know but we surely have to be prepared for the big peak.
BLITZER: Well, right now, as of right now, over the past couple months, 64,000-plus Americans have died from coronavirus. What should we be bracing for in terms of death in the coming months?
OSTERHOLM: That we can't say other than the fact that if you think about it, half of the population even getting infected. And if, in fact, one half of 1 percent of those end up dying, which is really on the low end, that's 800,000 deaths.
And I think that's what we're trying to get across to people. And those numbers shouldn't be a surprise. If these many people have died with 5 to 15 percent of the U.S. population infected, what will it look like if 60 to 70 percent got infected? I think the thing, Wolf, people have to understand, this virus is acting on what I call viral gravity. It's going to keep flowing through society.
We can't stop it. We can slow it down. We can surely try to have an impact. But we need that vaccine. And until we have a vaccine, we have a real challenge on our hands to keep those from being transmitted.
BLITZER: And we heard Dr. Fauci yesterday said maybe by January, there will be a vaccine. We can only hope.
OSTERHOLM: I hope.
BLITZER: Thank you so much for everything you're doing, Professor Osterholm. We appreciate it very much.
OSTERHOLM: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
OSTERHOLM: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, we'll take a closer look at the thousands of first responders across the country that have already tested positive for the coronavirus, now returning to the front lines.
BLITZER: Police officers, firefighters, other first responders -- they are being hit especially hard during this pandemic. But many have already recovered and are returning to the front lines.
CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into this for us.
Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, first responders in Washington and New York have given as detailed accounts of how they battled back from the coronavirus. Thousands of them are now back on the front lines, saving others, bringing new perspective to the job.
TODD (voice-over): In 15 years with the Fairfax County Fire Department in Northern Virginia, there wasn't a lot that Captain Christopher Warner hadn't seen or couldn't cope with. But when you got the news in early April that he was positive for the coronavirus, he says it was flat out unnerving.
CAPT. CHRISTOPHER WARNER, FAIRFAX COUNTY FIRE & RESCUE: The potential that you could unknowingly come to work and spread this to your coworkers, so their -- they can spread it to their household and you being the source, very uncomfortable.
TODD: Across the United States, thousands of first responders like Warner have gotten sick with the coronavirus, battled through it, and return to the front lines. In New York City alone, where dozens of police and firefighters have died from coronavirus, more than 7,000 of them have returned to the job after recovering. But, first, they have to deal with their own illness, go through isolation, battle their own fears as New York paramedic Aline Reich did a few weeks ago.
ALINE BOCANEGRA REICH, FDNY PARAMEDIC: I have never been sick or in my whole entire life. I never feared dying as much as I have now.
TODD: Some come back fighting recurrent coughs, weight loss, energy depletion. Before getting sick, Warner used to be able to run an eight and a half minute mile.
WARNER: Nowhere near the eight and a half minute mile, and nowhere near being able to do the mile without being kind of fatigued.
TODD: Many of them wonder if they really do have immunity, worry about infecting their relatives and colleagues. But still, they battle. The work of saving people in this pandemic is too important to them.
D.C. assistant fire chief John Donnelly recently watch two young firefighters who had just recovered go on a COVID call.
ASSISTANT CHIEF JOHN DONNELLY, WASHINGTON DC FIRE & EMS: To watch them go back like that, look at it missed a step. I know inside, they had to be worried about it. It was a little emotional for me to watch them go out and do the work. I was very proud of how they represented our department, and our community.
TODD: First responders tell us that they bring new skills and sensibilities to the front lines after recovering.
SHANTICE SAMUELS, DC FIREFIGHTER/EMT RECOVERED FROM CORONAVIRUS: I was able to be more in touch with my patients who called because I know exactly how they were feeling with a lot of it.
TODD: And having gone through it, they're able to offer a knowing reassurance to patients. But many recovering first responders need their own reassurance. New York ER Doctor Lorna Breen who just had recovered from coronavirus took her own life recently.
Donnelly worries about the emotional wellbeing of his recovering firefighters.
DONNELLY: To take this job and to do this job, you have to feel a little invincible. When things go wrong, your mind says, I'm having problems with this. That those are chinks in the armor that can weaken the system.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Donnelly and other first responders acknowledge that there are professional stigmas associated with firefighters, ER doctors, and others who need help for anxiety and depression. Some of them actually are punished for seeking that out help. Even before this pandemic, ER doctors were at higher risks for suicide. And advocates say that on average, before the pandemic, suicide killed more firefighters in the U.S. each year than actual fires -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, these first responders are real heroes. And we're certainly grateful to them.
Brian Todd, thanks for that report.
We'll have more news just ahead.
BLITZER: Finally tonight, in the midst of so much sadness and loss, we'd like to share with you a joyous event within our CNN family. Our colleague and friend Anderson Cooper is a proud father of a baby boy. Wyatt Morgan Cooper was born Monday, weighing a healthy seven pounds and two ounces. Anderson made the announcement last night, thanking the surrogate who carried Wyatt, and honoring his late parents and brother.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "AC360": He is named after my dad, who died when I was 10 years old. I hope that I can be as good a dad as he was. My son's middle name is Morgan, which is the family name on my mom's side. I know my mom and dad liked the name Morgan because while I was going through her things recently, I found a list that they made 52 years ago when they were trying to think of names for me.
I do wish my mom and dad, and my brother Carter, were alive to meet Wyatt. But I'd like to believe that they can see him. I imagine them altogether, arms around each other smiling, and laughing, and watching, looking down on us.
Happy to know that their love is alive in me and in Wyatt, and that our family continues. New life, and new love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So beautiful. So beautiful indeed.
Anderson, your happiness is our happiness tonight. All of us here at CNN, indeed people around the world wish you and Wyatt only, only the very, very best. Congratulations on that sweet, little baby.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll be back tomorrow night for a special SITUATION ROOM at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNsitroom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.