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COVID-19 Could Spread for Up to Two Years; Dozens of U.S. States Begin Reopening as Death Toll Climbs; U.S. Still Lacks Enough Testing; Turkey Deploys Thousands of Contact Tracing Teams; Spaniards Allowed Outside as Death Rate Slows. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired May 2, 2020 - 03:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, and welcome to Studio 7 here at CNN Center in Atlanta. I am Michael Holmes.

And coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, a new warning about how long the coronavirus threat could last, as more states in America reopen for business.

There could be some new hope fighting it. How a clinical trial on one drug could show some promise.

And Kim Jong-un appears to resurface just in time for May Day in North Korea.

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HOLMES: As the world is thrown into a new normal, there is a new dose of what could be a sobering reality. A new report from a group of pandemic experts say that the virus could continue spreading for another 18 months, two years. That we should prepare for that long, feared, second wave.

All of this coming as more states open the valve on business and leisure activities in the U.S., like beaches in Alabama and elsewhere. Meanwhile, New York police department say it will have 1,000 officers on the street this weekend to enforce social distancing. The governor of West Virginia warns as his state prepares to reopen. He will try to back down if he needs to.

That, as the U.S. approves the drug remdesivir as a COVID-19 treatment in some cases. And, as President Trump continues to point his finger at China over the virus, the World Health Organization disputing his claim that it might have come from a lab, saying that it is no doubt the virus is natural in origin..

Meanwhile, in Europe, the U.K. says it has met its target of doing 100,000 coronavirus tests per day or at least, issuing them. France and Italy say that the rate of new cases and deaths continue to decline in those countries. Here in the United States, experts are warning that reopening the

country is a mistake as the nation's death toll near 65,000, it has doubled in two weeks. CNN's Nick Watt takes a look at a new CDC study that explains why coronavirus spread so quickly.

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NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Limited testing, the continued influx of infected travelers from overseas hotspots and cruise ships and large events like a conference in Boston, a funeral in Georgia and 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 issued by the CDC's principal deputy director.

Apparently, flu season also made it hard to detect 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 2 years, says one new study, until 60, to 70 percent of us are infected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to continue to be a rolling situation throughout the world, not just our country, for these months ahead. So, expect many more New York's to occur, it is very likely they will.

WATT: The U.S. death count doubled these past two weeks, one newly updated model from Northeastern University now suggests 100,000 people in this country will die by mid-summer.

This morning, in Katy, Texas, a line at Snappy's Cafe and Grill, today, restaurants, movie theaters, animals can reopen in the state at a quarter capacity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are beginning to see 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 of this began.

DR. HILARY FAIRBROTHER, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: We are reopening today and it does feel like a bit of a gamble.

WATT: A partial opening now underway in a least 32 states, but it does not appear any of them meet White House guidelines that states have a downward trajectory of cases within a 14-day period.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: There are some states, some cities, or what have you, who are looking at that and kind of leapfrogging over the first checkpoint. I mean, obviously, you could get away with that, but you are making a very significant risk.

WATT: Meanwhile, with ongoing outbreaks of meat processing plant slowing production, some military commissaries now limiting how much meat shoppers can buy. Down in Florida, they will start reopening Monday with restaurants and retail.

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WATT (voice-over): But the state's three largest in 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, the governor in the shadow of armed protesters at the capitol extended her state stay at home order through May 28.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): Yesterday's scene at the capital was disturbing, to be quite honest. Swastikas and Confederate flags, nooses and automatic rifles do not represent who we are as Michiganders.

WATT: In California, we were among the first in the U.S. to be told to stay home. That was 43 days ago. The governor now says that we are just days, not weeks, away from him lifting some of those restrictions. Among the first, businesses in retail and hospitality but, he says, with serious modifications that they are working on right now -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.

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HOLMES: Joining me now is Dr. Jennifer Lee, CNN medical analyst, and clinical emergency medicine expert at George Washington University.

Always a pleasure, Doctor, thank you.

With this curve, the U.S. curve was flat in the month of April, nearly 60,000 died. The number doubled in two weeks. Yet the political trend is towards reopening. It's underway in many places.

Do you fear, given the U.S. trend, this is going to mean the second wave is potentially worse?

DR. JENNIFER LEE, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I absolutely do. We are all afraid that we are going to see a second wave. The thing about it is, we haven't seen the first wave resolve yet in the U.S.

Just like you said, we are at a plateau state, a high plateau level, where we are seeing confirmed cases each day between 20,000 and 30,000 newly confirmed cases. Also, high levels of death, very sadly, around 2,000 in the last several days. So we haven't seen this first wave even completely resolved just like it has in other countries.

HOLMES: That is a very good point. The first wave is not done yet. You hit on a number there that leaps out, 2,000 people a day are dying, in many areas the numbers are growing. Yet it is like some on the political side of things -- I don't know,

they are OK with that. Let's open up, let's take the hit. It's like the numbers are not people or something.

Does that kind of attitude anger you as a health care professional?

LEE: It really makes me worried about the numbers of preventable deaths that might be coming towards us, with many states, as you said, the majority reopening in different ways.

The White House COVID Task Force put out clear guidelines to states about when they should reopen. They were very clear criteria. There were three, in fact.

One, you should see over 14 days of a decline in the numbers of confirmed cases; second, you should have enough capacity in hospitals to treat patients with COVID without having to ration care; third, you have a robust testing program in place, especially for those at high risk, like health care workers, essential workers.

I don't think any of the states that are reopening have met all of those criteria. In fact, I know that some of the states that are reopening the most aggressively have not. And we are going to see outbreaks as a result.

HOLMES: Georgia being one of them. You hit the big word in that, testing. The thing about testing is that it is nowhere near where it needs to be. Where testing is happening, the number of infected people is stunning.

Without testing, you don't get to do the contact tracing, slowing this thing down. Yet the president, he has downplayed the necessity of testing.

Speak to the importance of it, we don't get ahead of this without widespread testing.

LEE: You are exactly right. I cannot emphasize enough the critical importance of testing. Unfortunately, we are just not where we need to be in the U.S.

We have heard a lot about how we have reached the highest number of total tests, at about 6 million now, higher total numbers of tests than any other nation.

However, that's not the measure we need to look at because we also are the nation that has had the largest outbreak, the most number of deaths. So a measure that we should actually look at instead is the number of tests per confirmed case.

If you look at that number, you start to see the countries that have done a really good job of containing, like Taiwan, New Zealand.

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LEE: , South Korea, at the high numbers, over 100, 120, or Korea, with 57 per confirmed case.

In the U.S. we are at six. That means you do six tests to find a confirmed case. Actually the U.K. is at four. We know that we are not testing enough people to be able to identify everyone who has the infection, appropriately isolating them so it doesn't spread.

HOLMES: You get this rosy testing line from the White House, that all is well. The president said it's a spectacular job being done. It strikes me, with one notable example, the U.S. Senate is returning this week, there are not enough tests to test the 100 U.S. senators.

So much for plenty of availability; if a senator cannot get a test, where does that leave the rest of us?

How does this happen?

LEE: That is exactly right. It's an indicator right there that there is not wide enough, easy enough, availability of testing. I've experienced same thing in treating my own patients.

There are a couple factors involved. One, there is a whole supply chain behind testing. Not only do you need the test kits but you need every single component in order to do tests.

You need protective equipment for the people doing the tests. You need swabs, the nasal swabs. You need the culture media, the viral culture media. You need the reagent in order to process the test. If at any point, there's a weak link in the supply chain, you can't process the numbers that you need to do.

HOLMES: We'll have to leave it there, unfortunately. Dr. Jennifer Lee, always a pleasure.

LEE: Thanks for having me, Michael.

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HOLMES: Some doctors are cautiously optimistic that they are one step closer to a coronavirus treatment as remdesivir enters its second phase of testing. This means that every COVID-19 patient in the new trial will be treated with the new drug.

This comes as the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization on Friday. So far, 1,000 people have taken part in initial trials across the U.S. and doctors say the treatment sped of recovery and reduced hospital stays.

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DR. FRANCIS RIEDO, EVERGREENHEALTH: It's huge. This is the first scientifically proven beneficial drug in terms of treatment of SARS CoV 2.

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HOLMES: For now, the drug is still only being used within hospitals on the sickest of patients and doctors stress it is not a cure, nor a vaccine.

There have been rumors for weeks now that North Korea's Kim Jong-un is in grave danger or even dead but now state media is releasing video of him, saying that he spoke at a ceremony on May Day, also known as International Workers Day. CNN cannot independently confirm of the images are real or when they were taken.

Paula Hancocks standing by for us in Seoul.

We saw the photos, now we have the video.

What's your take?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, certainly there will be many poring over this video to see if there are any signs of ailment, any signs of a limp. I can't see any at this point but I am not a medical expert.

It appears as though Kim Jong-un did in fact go to open up this fertilizer plant on May the 1st. Now we do see posters and signage at the event where it looks as though they are saying it is May the 1st, that we cannot independently verify that.

We are seeing him walking, smiling, laughing with officials, he is cutting the ribbon to open this plant and we see him with his sister and with a number of other officials. Interestingly, none of them onstage are wearing masks but the hundreds, if not thousands in the crowd greeting him were wearing masks themselves.

So it does appear as though things are back to normal in North Korea, if in fact this was happening on May the 1st. He is quoted in North Korea state media saying that this is a splendid display of our nation's great economic potential.

It has been 3 weeks since we last heard or saw Kim Jong-un and North Korean media. He has, according to state media, been sending thank you letters and been sending greetings around the world but this is the first time that we have seen him on North Korean media.

HOLMES: I guess, how unusual is it for him to disappear for a few weeks at a time?

It's not entirely unprecedented, is it?

HANCOCKS: It's not. It's not that unusual. We have seen periods of a couple of weeks, maybe even more, in the past back in 2014, he disappeared for 40 days but he did come back with a cane and it was understood he had a foot surgery or a cyst removal.

The way that this started was the fact that he missed a key event. It was the birth date of the founder and his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, on April 15th. It is the first time during his leadership that he has not paid his respects on that day.

That was really the time when the alert was raised and of course, as we know, the speculation spiraled shortly after that. HOLMES: Paula, thank you, Paula Hancocks is there in Seoul, South

Korea, thank you, appreciate it.

We are going to take a short break, when we come back, contact tracing by the thousands, why Turkey says that it is their best offense against COVID-19.

Plus, a live report from Spain as one of the country's heart of state by the coronavirus begins to try to ease back into some normalcy. All that and more, when we come back.

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HOLMES: Welcome back.

Turkey is centering its coronavirus response around contact tracing. With more than 120,000 confirmed infections across the country, it is now deploying thousands of teams to track down who might have been in touch with COVID-19 patients. CNN's Arwa Damon reports from Istanbul.

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ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are following one of the contact tracing teams in Istanbul. We just met up with them, they are out there every single day, trying to put together the clues, connect the dots as to how the virus is spreading.

Turkey is crediting a lot of its success against coronavirus to the fact that it is able to very aggressively contact trace.

There are about 6,000 teams, countrywide, and they are just constantly out.

They are asking about her medical history. So she has hypertension, she has been complaining of a runny nose, her son has been in touch and come into contact with someone who has previously testing positive. They are about to take a sample.

It's a swab. It takes a maximum of 24 hours for the results to come back. If she ends up testing positive, then, that is the jump off point for another contact tracing round to take place.

What they are doing right now was actually registering her son into their internal system. It is an app that allows them to track everyone who needs to be quarantined and others as well. Because it is the son who was actually in touch with someone who is COVID positive, he may or may not have been the one who passed to his mother.

Either way, he now has to stay quarantined for 14 days. If people make their quarantine, the consequences can be quite severe, ranging from paying a fine or even doing prison time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): As of the first day, Turkey already had a pandemic plan within the system from past pandemics. So we were always ready.

We took the plan off the shelf, put it into action and alerted all of our contact tracing units. So we did not lose time to plan a response or to say, what should hospitals do during this disaster?

DAMON: So this is the operations room. They have -- people are speaking Turkish and Arabic.

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DAMON: Right now, they're on the phone with somebody, trying to get their history as to where they have been and who they have had contact with.

DAMON (voice-over): What Dr. Aslan (ph) is telling us is that these people have to rely on people to be honest. If they do not have accurate information, they can go in the wrong direction. Everyone here is aware that their success against COVID-19 is what hangs in the balance -- Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.

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HOLMES: In Australia, they are doing contact tracing but they are using a cell phone app. The COVIDSafe app is voluntary but it has been downloaded more than 2 million times since launching on Sunday. It uses Bluetooth to track when users are close to one another.

Users need to provide their name, their mobile number, their post code and age range. The app has raised privacy concerns but health authorities say that it does not collect location data.

India is reporting its highest daily increase in new coronavirus cases, nearly 2,300 over the last 24 hours. This coming as the country extended its nationwide lockdown another two weeks until May 17th.

Schools, colleges, along with theaters, malls and places of worship, all remain closed and travel by air, rail and road will only be allowed for select purposes. But restrictions will be eased in green zones, as they've been called, that have not reported new cases for three weeks.

After a grueling experience and weeks of restrictions, Spain is allowing its people to get outside. Up next, a live report from one of the countries that was hardest hit by the coronavirus. We will be right back.

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(MUSIC PLAYING) HOLMES: Welcome back, Spain has had more confirmed coronavirus cases than any other country except the U.S. But the rate of infection there is finally slowing. Al Goodman joins us now from Madrid.

Good to see you, Al. Spaniards now allowed to do a little exercise.

Tell us what is opening up?

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Michael, well, it's the first time in seven weeks most Spaniards have been able to get out of their houses under this lockdown for something other than going to the food store or pharmacy.

On this day, as you can see, we are at this park in Madrid just across the street, people are able to go out for walks, they are able to go out for individual sports, like running and bicycling and they are out in force. Some people are wearing masks.

But the rules are that they are out here, you are supposed to keep your social distancing and for the people who are over 70, that is in the late morning and early evening and most of the adults and early morning and late evening and the kids who got out last Sunday for the first time in six weeks, are now in the middle of the day from noon to 7 o'clock. Everyone is quite excited about this, Michael.

HOLMES: I'm sure they are. Bring us up to date on the situation there, the cases, the trend lines. There are reports that they have started closing one of the largest field hospitals.

Are authorities confident that they are over the hump?

GOODMAN: Well, they closed the field hospital at the convention center which treated 4,000 patients over six weeks because the pressure on the main hospitals is lower.

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GOODMAN: So the number of new cases is now being outpaced by the number of recoveries, the number of deaths has dropped very low and in absolute terms, about 200 per day. It had been 900 per day at the height of the crisis.

All of this has led the prime minister and the health advisers to say the country is now ready for this very slow transition, which is going to be in different phases across the country and looking at each part of the country.

Are they ready to handle a second wave if it comes that way?

That is how they are going to do it from now until the end of June, while they also try to get the economy back on track. One troubling number that keeps troubling everyone is that there is now more than 41,000 medical workers in this country, who have had the coronavirus.

They and their union say it is because they did not have enough of these at the beginning of the crisis, these masks. HOLMES: You live there, you lived there for many years now, so what is

the attitude of the people you have talked to and interacted with?

Are they happy with how it has been handled?

Are they over the restrictions?

GOODMAN: There has been a lot of criticism of the government. Basically, the main criticism, from health professionals and the opposition conservative parties, has been the government getting on this too late. They should've locked their country down sooner.

The government says the data they had at the time, the Socialist government says the government they had at the time was not like that. The Spaniard have responded by clapping, every night at 8 o'clock, to applaud the health workers.

And generally, have been pretty stoic and with a lot of good humor and dark humor, through the memes on social media, about what this is about. Everyone seems to understand that this is a life or death issue and they really have to get this right and not have a second wave.

HOLMES: Exactly. Good to see you, Al, thanks for that, Al Goodman there in Madrid.

An augmented reality company in China has joined the fight against coronavirus, it has developed goggles that use an infrared camera to detect the body temperature of people up to 3 meters away.

You can see it in action there. It does mean that people responsible for spotting fevers and potential coronavirus infections can do their jobs hand free.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Compared with a thermometer, it is more convenient and safer. We can keep a safe distance.

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HOLMES: Now the company is developing an enhanced version that can take temperatures of several people at once, for busy places like airports and shopping centers. Our new world.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM, spending part of your day with me, I'm Michael Holmes, "AFRICAN VOICES CHANGE MAKERS" is up next.