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Seven States Band Together to Buy Medical Equipment; Many Not Wearing Masks, Ignoring Social Distancing; Pompeo Says China Did All It Could to Conceal Virus; Some 40 U.S. States Loosening Restrictions Despite Warnings; Trump Says Virus Originated in Wuhan Lab; Italy, Spain Lift Some Lockdown Restrictions; Russia Reports More Than 10,000 New Cases on Sunday. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 4, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, more U.S. states getting ready to ease their lockdowns as President Donald Trump once again shifts his estimate for how many Americans could die from coronavirus.

The parts of Europe that have been in lockdown the longest are starting to open up. How they're slowly getting back to normal.

Plus, why a top White House economic advisor says stimulus relief for states is on pause.

Well, thanks for joining us. Some states are sprinting and some are jogging, but by week's end, coronavirus restrictions will be loosened in more than 40 U.S. states. The road to reopening is being cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. That's despite the virus killing hundreds of people in the U.S. every day and the number of infections rising.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really believe you can go to parks. Can you go to beaches. You keep the spread. You stay away a certain amount and I really think the public has been incredible with what -- that's one of the reasons we're successful, that's one of the -- if you call losing 80 or 90,000 people successful, but it's one of the reasons that we're not at that high end of the plane as opposed to the low end.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That number has changed, Mr. President.

TRUMP: It's going up.


TRUMP: I used to say 65,000 and now I'm saying 80 or 90 and it goes up and it goes up rapidly.


CHURCH: Well, the President's numbers fly in the face of his own COVID-19 task force. In an interview aired Sunday, Dr. Deborah Birx repeated projections of the pandemic killing up to 240,000 people in the U.S., more than 1,000 deaths have been recorded every day since early April. And Johns Hopkins University says there are 1.1 million cases nationwide. More than 67,000 people have died topping Mr. Trump's earlier projections of around 60,000.

Well, in the absence of a national program in the U.S., to acquire needed supplies, seven eastern states are banding together to coordinate the purchase of medical equipment and protective gear. They're preparing for a possible second wave of the virus even as more and more states move ahead with reopening. Natasha Chen has our report.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared in a virtual show of force and unity today with his fellow northeastern governors to make an announcement.

ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK GOVERNOR: We're going to form a consortium with our seven northeast partner states which by about $5 billion worth of equipment and supplies.

CHEN: Cuomo also cited a CDC report to seemingly pour cold water on the President Trump's often repeated boast of the China travel ban being a critically decisive action his administration took early on.

CUOMO: What we have seen in New York didn't come from China but actually is a different strain of the virus that came from Europe. We were looking at China and the travel ban on China may have been helpful but the horse was already out of the barn in China.

CHEN: Meanwhile, as the U.S. heads into another work week, more than half of the states are marching towards reopening. But it doesn't appear any of them have met the White House's guidelines of having a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period. Today the doctor coordinating the administration's coronavirus task force once again urged the importance of that downward trend.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: As states reopen, we really want them to follow the gating criteria.

CHEN: On the medical front, Remdesivir received emergency FDA approval Friday, but Birx stopped short of calling it a silver bullet. Instead calling it a first step forward. As far as operation work speed, the Trump administration's ambitious plan to make 100 million doses of a vaccine available by November, Birx struck a more tempered tone.

BIRX: On paper it's possible. CHEN: And for some in the states not yet ready to open, restlessness

continues to mount defying a stay-at-home order. Spectators took to the national mall in Washington DC for the Blue Angels fly over.


And on a sunny day in New York City, large crowds gathered in Central Park, many flouting social distance guidelines and without masks earning the ire of Governor Cuomo.

CUOMO: How people cannot wear masks, that to me is even disrespectful. It's disrespectful.

CHEN: And while Governor Cuomo offered some good news in New York, hospitalizations under 10,000 for the first time since March, he cautioned against a false sense of comfort, especially as more nice days lay ahead.

CUOMO: My gut says the weather is going to warm, people are bored, people want this over, they see the numbers going down, they can take false comfort. Oh, it's going down. That means it's over. No. No, we never said it was over.

CHEN (on camera): Well, you heard Governor Cuomo's strong feelings about people wearing facemasks in public but requiring people to wear masks in other part of the country has been met with backlash. For example, in Stillwater, Oklahoma the city amended its ordinance after store employees were threatened with violence when they tried to enforce it. Also in Ohio, an order requiring customers to wear masks in stores was reversed. Governor DeWine said today that was a bridge too far though store employees will be wearing facemasks.


CHURCH: Well, the U.S. is accusing the Chinese government of intentionally concealing the severity of the coronavirus from the international community, while it stockpiled imports and decreased exports. A Department of Homeland Security report says China likely cut its exports of medical supplies prior to notifying the World Health Organization about the spread of the virus.

Well, tensions have been mounting between China and the U.S. over the handling of the pandemic. On Sunday, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China of hiding details of the outbreak. Listen.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We can confirm that the Chinese Communist Party did all that it could to make sure that the world didn't learn in a timely fashion about what was taking place. There's lots of evidence of that. Some of it you can see in public, right. We've seen announcements. We've seen the fact that they kicked journalists out. We saw the fact that those who are trying to report on this, medical professionals inside of China were silenced. They shut down reporting. All the kind of things that authoritarian regimes do. It's the way

communist parties operate. This is classic communist disinformation effort. That created enormous risk. And now you can see hundreds of thousands of people around the world, tens of thousands in the United States have been armed. President Trump is very clear. We're going to hold those responsible accountable and we'll do so on a timeline that is our own.


CHURCH: Joining me now from Los Angeles is Dr. Anne Rimoin. She is a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at UCLA and the director of University's Center for Global and Immigrant Health. Thank you so much for being with us.


CHURCH: So doctor, more U.S. states are opening up this week despite the fact that about 2,900 people died in this country in a 24-hour period from Friday into Saturday. We still don't have extensive COVID- 19 testing in place and some Americans are pushing back on wearing masks. Where do you see this going in the weeks ahead?

RIMOIN: It's a difficult situation. People are trying to -- I understand that there's a lot of fatigue with quarantined. That everybody wants to get to the other side of this. It's been a long time for people to be inside. And nobody has ever had to deal with this before. So it all makes sense why everybody is so anxious to get back to business. And people's lives are at stake.

That being said we don't have the testing in place that we need. We don't have the contact tracing and the surveillance in place that we need. We don't have the therapeutics and we don't have a vaccine yet. So we really aren't in a place where opening up makes a lot of sense from a public health perspective. So you know, it's a difficult situation and the focus should be moving as fast as we can to get all of these things in place. Every minute that we don't have it in place the more lives are at stake.

CHURCH: And White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said over the weekend that a vaccine by January looks possible on paper. What does that mean exactly?

RIMOIN: There are so many steps to getting a vaccine to be widely available to the public, we have to go through the necessary safety testing. The -- I mean, there are several stages. It has to go through animal studies. It has to go through preclinical studies. It has to go through the safety testing. There have so many different stages that it needs to go through for a vaccine to be determined to be safe and effective in a population before it can be available. And so, you know, I think we're in the early stages.


I think that the fact of the matter is, is that we're seeing positive signs, data that's coming out that suggests that there are several vaccine candidates that could be useful. But I think that, you know, it's too early to say we're going to have a vaccine by X date. I mean, it takes time to make something happen. I think everybody is getting creative in terms of how were able to roll out vaccine studies quickly. We saw it with Ebola. I'm certain we'll see it here. But the fact of the matter is they have to be effective and safe before they can be put into a population.

CHURCH: Right, and Dr. Birx also reiterated that the White House always said 100,000 to 240,000 people could die even with full mitigation measures in place. So what does it mean now that most states are opening up and those mitigation measures will not be in place anymore?

RIMOIN: Well, I think it's exactly as they've indicated. If we do a good job mitigating disease, doing mitigation as needed, we will likely reduce the number of deaths. But if we don't, we are going to see an increase in both morbidity and mortality. That's just a fact. And the virus is dictating the timeline. We unfortunately are not able to dictate that timeline and are having difficulty being able to manage to get our arms around this because we don't have the testing in place. We don't have the ability to do the community contact tracing and case investigations that we'll also need to be able to do as well. So at this point we're still behind the eight ball with the things we need to be able to do. We just aren't there yet.

CHURCH: Right, and I did want to ask you this. Because no one disputes the fact that COVID-19 came from Wuhan China. But President Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are now saying this coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan. But neither one of them has offered any evidence to support that claim. How viable is that explanation and is there any scientific evidence to support such a claim?

RIMOIN: You know, this -- the question of where this virus came from at this point, you know, I don't have any data to suggest that it came from a laboratory. I know that there's been a lot of discussion with this laboratory. The laboratory says that it didn't come from this place. You know, whether or not it was an accidental release, an exposure with somebody who was working on coronaviruses or whether or not it happened from natural spillover, we are where we are right now.

And I think that the big effort should be on figuring out how we could mitigate it. Finding out where it came from certainly will be interesting and important in terms of thinking about what happens in the future. Is it something that we need to be really worry about the lab safety or is it preventing pandemics before they start by looking at closing down wet markets. All of these things are true no matter what the answer is. We need to have really good lab safety globally. We need to be monitoring disease at the animal/human interface. So you know, I'd like to see the focus on figuring out how we move forward as opposed to worrying about where it came from.

CHURCH: Right, and Doctor, just finally, actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson contacted you about donating their blood to the Convalescent Plasma Project after both recovering from COVID-19. They have now done that and will continue to do so. How much hope do you put into convalescent plasma compared to this elusive vaccine that may or may not become available early next year.

RIMOIN: Convalescent plasma is something that's been used for a variety of different illnesses in the past and so, you know, it's certainly something we need to explore. Just like any other tool we that want to bring to bear in this fight. We need good, randomized clinical trials so that we have data to determine how well this works.

I think it's really important to have as many tools in our toolbox as we possibly can. And so it's great to see all of these opportunities out there. There are a lot of drugs out there. We're seeing some very positive first steps with remdesivir and I'd love to see these same kind of randomize clinical trials for plasma as well so that we can see what the real effect is.

Dr. Anne Rimoin, thank you so much for joining us.

RIMOIN: It's my pleasure.


CHURCH: And you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, getting back to business across Europe. Several governments start to slowly reopen after weeks of strict lockdowns. We are live in Italy and in Spain with the details. Back in a moment.


CHURCH: Well, several European countries are slowly lifting restrictions as governments look to get their economies up and running. In Spain officials are launching phase zero of its gradual reopening with some businesses operating on a limited basis. On Sunday Spain reported its lowest daily coronavirus death toll in six weeks.

France also now reporting its lowest daily number of deaths in more than a month. Still, the government is expected to extend the state of emergency through July 24th. Though it will not impose a 14-day quarantine on travelers from the U.K. and other parts of Europe.

Italy is loosening some restrictions too. More workplaces will be allowed to reopen provided they can meet social distancing rules.


And we've got reporters standing by in Italy and in Spain. Barbie Nadeau is joining us from Rome and Scott McLean is tracking developments from Spain, from Ibiza. Good to see you both. Scott, let's go to you first. Talk to us about the situation in Spain generally and of course, where you are there and how people are responding to this slow, gradual lifting of restrictions.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sure, Rosemary. We're on the island of Formentera which is just about a 30-minute ferry ride from Ibiza. Before we even got on that ferry, we had to take a coronavirus test. We had to get our fingers pricked, our blood drawn and then we tested negative. It took about 10 to 15 minutes for results to come and then we were allowed onto the ship. Everybody had to go through this same process in order to get on.

That's because Formentera, this island it's one of the few places in Spain, one of four islands only, that are allowed to move onto the so- called phase 1 of reopening which allows stores to reopen. And you can see one of them here, this perfume store is opening for the first time in seven weeks. It's hard to under state how bizarre a scene this is to have stores like this just opening. Not business as usual by any stretch of the imagination. But in other parts of Spain they're allowed to open only by appointment. So people here can do a little bit of window-shopping, go in where they want.

Let me just show you into the main square here, where you can see there's a patio there that has people on it. I haven't seen this in seven weeks. As I said, obviously, there are restrictions. They are only allowed to have these patios 50 percent full. So there's not so many tables. There's a lot of empty chairs and things. But this is definitely progress for this island.

One of the other things that people are allowed to do here is go to their place of worship. This church here is going to be opening for Sunday service for the first time in a long time. It's only allowed to be 30 percent full but still it's better than nothing. This island, Rosemary, only had 7 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Sadly, one older person died from the virus but on an island that relies so, so heavily on tourism, this island had to lock down like everywhere else.

And so, right now it's obviously, progress that people are able to get out and about. People are allowed to go out on restaurant terraces. The big problem here is that they're missing the life blood here. They're missing the tourists. And they won't get them back for quite a long time. I just interviewed the head of the tourist bureau here, who said, this island can't survive without tourism. And so, something will need to happen at some point for this island to get back on its feet. I asked her if maybe testing is part of that, making sure everyone who comes onto the island is tested negative. She's not so confident in the reliability of those tests just yet. So she's waiting and seeing. But it's sort of uncertain at this stage what the future looks like here.

Yes, I mean, that is the difficulty and that's the story we're hearing in so many other places. Scott McLean, thank you so much for that report.

Let's go to Barbie Nadeau now in Rome. And, Barbie, talk to us about how Italians are feeling about the lifting and slow lifting of these restrictions?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think there's a lot of caution today. People don't want to waste the last eight weeks. And they've been locked down and have been able to contain the spread of the virus. Right now we're in face 2. That's coexisting with coronavirus. And the Prime Minister warned people not to squander all the hard work that they've done so far. We have behind me the Piazza Campo de'Fiori. It's one of the most beautiful, bustling markets during the usual normal time here filled with tourists and stands. It's just barely open today. But Italy is a country that's on its knees trying to get back on its feet. Nearly 29 million people have died, millions of people are out of work. You know, 4 million go back to work today but so many businesses will not be reopening once is lockdown is completely lifted. But we're just in the early phases of it. May 18th retail stores, more retail stores can open. Then maybe if all goes well on June 1st restaurants can start seating people inside. So there's still a long way to go here, Rosemary. But it sure feels good for a lot of people to be back outside today.

CHURCH: I totally understand that. But they're being very cautious understandably. Barbie Nadeau bringing us the latest from Rome. Many thanks.

Well, Russia reported more than 10,000 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday. The fourth record single day increase there in a row and that is despite a lockdown that's left the capitol, Moscow, looking like this with streets largely deserted. Last week President Vladimir Putin extended Russia's isolation period through May 11th warning the peak is not behind us.

So let's turn to CNN's Matthew Chance normally based in Moscow. He joins us now live from London.


These numbers are extraordinary, 10,000 deaths in a 24-hour period. It seems extraordinary. What is behind the numbers and of course, what more are you learning about the situation of the pandemic across Russia?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, the numbers are a little confusing. Aren't they? Because it's not 10,000 deaths, it's 10,000 new infections. Many of them are asymptomatic. We just had the latest figures for today and in the past 24 hours there's another 10,000 as well. And that brings to just over to 145,000 number of people infected who have been infected in Russia with coronavirus -- according to official figures.

The actual number of deaths is much lower. It's more like 1,300. Just over 1,300 deaths which actually are remarkably low number when you consider that Russia has a population of 140 million. And that's led to all sorts of sort of words of skepticism and voice from various areas of Russian society that these figures are not accurate. That the testing isn't good. That it's not comprehensive enough. And that the number of people who are dying of coronavirus in Russia is being systematically under played by the authorities. Initially perhaps, to prevent people from panicking.

I think there was a really sort of pivotal moment a few days ago when the Mayor of Moscow, Mayor Sobyanin, came out and said, look, I think that 2 percent of the Moscow population may have been infected with coronavirus and that the real number of infections in just that city are closer to 250,000 people. That's the sort of level of actual casualties we're probably going to see when the full figures come out into the light of day in Russia, not these sort of daily official counts that we're seeing coming from the Russian Central Statistical Authority about these number of new infections.

But you're right. The number of infections increasing by more than 10,000 a day. That's staggering. That's one of the highest rates of increase that we're seeing in Europe and it bodes very badly for the final toll that this virus is going to take inside Russia.

CHURCH: Yes, thank you for that clarification. Just repeating, 10,000 new cases of coronavirus. I misspoke on that. Matthew Chance bringing us the very latest from London. Many thanks.

We'll take a short break here. Still to come, after trillions of dollars handed out in stimulus money, the Trump administration is looking at whether Americans need another round and we will tell you where that stands. Back in a moment.