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More Than 40 U.S. States Set to Loosen Restrictions; President Trump Raises His COVID-19 Death Projection for U.S.; Scientists Identify 14 Vaccines for Development. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 4, 2020 - 05:00   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Hi, welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow here in Atlanta. So just ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, states across the U.S. are slowly easing their lockdown restrictions, and as more Americans return to beaches, parks and malls, U.S. President is now giving a higher death toll forecast.

Also, many Americans may have to wait for additional financial assistance after the White House says more stimulus relief is now on pause. And cases in Russia are spiking, mounting pressure on Vladimir Putin.

Well, at this hour, we continue to watch the death toll in the U.S. which remains the highest in the world. Johns Hopkins University reports COVID-19 cases have topped 1.1 million in the U.S., and the virus has now killed more than 67,000 people here. But that isn't stopping dozens of states from seeking to loosen restrictions.

They range simply from opening state parks to allowing businesses to restart. By week's end, regulations will be eased in more than 40 states, and the U.S. President is cheering them on.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I really believe you can go to parks, you can go to beaches. You keep it -- you know, you keep the spread, you keep -- you stay away a certain amount. And I really think the public has been incredible with what the -- 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 plan as opposed to the lower end of the --

BRETT BAIER, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: That number has changed, Mr. President. You said --

TRUMP: It's going up --

BAIER: It's 60, says 60, now you're at 80 --

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


CURNOW: Oh, Mr. Trump's raised death projections still fall short of those used by doctors on his coronavirus task force. And despite the economic falling -- the economy falling flat, he remains bullish on a recovery.


TRUMP: I think we're going to have an incredible following year. We're going to go into a transition into third quarter and we're going to see things happening that look good, I really believe that. I have a good feel for this staff. I've done it for a long time.


CURNOW: Well, that raised the outlook, doesn't reign true for many businesses. We know that Texas ended its stay-at-home order over the weekend. Shops there have the green light to reopen at quarter capacity. The mayor of Dallas says many are struggling with what to do next?


MAYOR ERIC JOHNSON, DALLAS, TEXAS: Even though the governor reopened the economy on Friday, that people aren't pouring into these restaurants or to malls or the other establishments that the governor opened. And I think it's a combination of A, many of these businesses that were allowed to open have decided that they can't make it work economically at a quarter of their capacity. So they're not doing it.

Some have figured out how to do it. But again, just are waiting. They're going to wait until they can have a higher amount of capacity. But I think the main thing is that a lot of folks just aren't quite ready to go jump into some of these social settings that they were in just, you know, a couple of months ago.


CURNOW: Now, in Florida, businesses in all but three counties are reopening their doors. Governor Ron DeSantis says they're taking small, deliberate steps to resume normal life. But researchers say there just isn't enough data yet to know whether the state is out of danger. The number of reported cases as you can see from this is certainly still rising, but the governor is touting Florida's strategy, saying predicted worst-case scenarios haven't played out. Well, Randi Kaye reports now from West Palm Beach about what happens next?


RANDI KAYE, CNN INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Today begins phase 1 in the reopening of Florida, that includes state parks, it will also include some of the largest beaches in the state of Florida including Pensacola, Destin and also Clearwater. They will be opened from sunrise to sunset. Social distancing of course is encouraged.

Also open as of today will be restaurants. They will have seating outside as long as the tables are six feet apart. Inside, people will be allowed up to 25 percent capacity. Retailers can also open their stores up to 25 percent capacity as well. Elective surgeries can resume and golf courses will be opened again too. Some things that will still be closed, there will be movie theaters, dog parks, salons and spars.


The governor met with salon owners over the weekend, and they were pleading with him to allow them to open. But he said he's going to have to take that under consideration. They said they can text customers, have them wait outside, whatever it takes, but he did not commit. Also still closed are three major counties in southern Florida that were hardest hit, the most populous counties, that will be Miami- Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County.

But on a bright note, the governor does plan to increase testing in the state. Right now, the state is testing about 15,000 people a day. He hopes to ramp that up to about 20,000 people a day by May 15th and 30,000 people a day by June 15th. Also Walgreens, he just announced will also be opening some drive-through testing areas at nine locations. And the National Guard will continue to ramp up testing in nursing homes. Randi Kaye, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.


CURNOW: Thanks Randi for that. While the U.S. President Donald Trump told "Fox News" he's confident the U.S. will have a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this year. His White House coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx believes his timeline is possible, but it also depends on a lot of factors. Take a listen.


DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: On paper, it's possible. It's whether we can execute and execute around the globe. Because as for phase 3, you have to have active viral transmission at a community in order to study its efficacy.


CURNOW: Help us to talk about it, Sian Griffiths joining me now, she was the chair of the Hong Kong government inquiry into SARS back in 2003, she was previously a professor at the Chinese University in Hong Kong. Professor, good to see you again. I know we've chat a bit about --


CURNOW: But I do want to get your sense of where we are now. It's Monday morning, and the U.S. President is touting January. Is that in the realm of possibility here in terms of a vaccine? GRIFFITHS: It think it's probably rather optimistic. There is of

course, a lot of work going on, on vaccines, and there's lot of work going on and lots of different science groups across the world. So, good progress is being made. But you'll also hear some very sage commentators saying to us, you know, you can't guarantee the vaccine, and even if you can make the vaccine, can you make it at scale and can you make it available to those who need it most, which will be the communities where the rates of vaccine are high.

So, although, we all want to stay optimistic, we want to see the success of the different vaccines that are being made. It's still -- it's still a process that has an element of doubt to it. And we also need to see the work on treatments continuing, such as remdesivir and we also need to see the prevention measures fully implemented and continually implemented during this phase.

So, it's not as -- it's not as straightforward as just saying there will be a vaccine, that's all we need, because it's not going to be as simple as that.

CURNOW: No, and I want to talk about the other things that you mentioned just a moment. But also when it comes to a vaccine, I mean, we're talking about as if it's one sort of monolithic thing. I mean --


CURNOW: There are hundred vaccine trials, I think out there or studies at the moment. Will there be just --


CURNOW: One vaccine or will there be variations based on different strains or who the patients are for example?

GRIFFITHS: Well, that's all the question for the future. At the moment, what we're looking for is, you know, we're looking for different vaccines to a single strain. So, it's going to be even more complicated. In the U.K., we have two major contenders, we have one Oxford University and we have one at Imperial College London, and they're both using different technologies.

And so, it will be a matter of maybe not just one or the other, but both being available, and then you have to decide in your population who is most at risk. And obviously looking at the data and the epidemiology, it's older people that are most at risk. So, how do you target older people? Do you make the vaccine available to health care, to social care first, to health care workers?

Who would you make the vaccine available to? So just producing the vaccine per se is not going to be the solution. We're going to need a good strategy for putting it into place. And it will be different vaccines. And the other thing we need to monitor all the way through is the science. You know, which we're looking at. And has it changed?

And I go back to 2003 and the SARS epidemic in 2003. And as some -- the person speaking before me was saying, you need active disease to make the vaccine because you have to see if it's going to work. And the SARS epidemic in 2003 came and went, and there wasn't time to capture it, to make the vaccine. People did try, but we never really got a vaccine to the 2003 epidemic. So, you know, the whole thing, the whole science of making a vaccine is very complicated.


CURNOW: It certainly is, and so until that happens, we know that people have been warned they need to social distance. But I know we've got lots of pictures of crowds in Florida, on beaches, of crowds in China for example. I mean, it seems like people are willing to accept the risks now, that they just want to get out basically.

GRIFFITHS: Yes, well, the danger was just accepting the risk, is that you can get a second peak of disease. We've seen that, we saw that in Hong Kong and they've managed to suppress it. We've seen it in Singapore, and in Singapore, they're having to work very hard at suppressing their second peak of infection. So, you have to be very careful when you lift the lockdown regulations.

And in the U.K. for example, we haven't lifted lockdown at all yet. We won't be hearing until next Sunday what steps will be allowed. And so, it is quite risky, and people may think, oh, I want to get on with it, but -- and they may be in lower risk categories, they may be fine. But what about the vulnerable in our populations? What about the elderly? What about those with predisposing disease?

And they've also found in a research that social inequality comes into play, and that lower income and poorer communities are worst affected. So, are we actually protecting them? So, all of those questions need to come into play as people go back. And I think that social distancing is advised. I know you haven't got the local community police out there looking at those pictures --

CURNOW: Yes --

GRIFFITHS: But you do need to still maintain social distance, still wear masks in public. All of those issues are important to stop the spread of the disease --


GRIFFITHS: And a second peak rising.

CURNOW: OK, Sian Griffiths, great to speak with you, thanks so much, have a good week.

GRIFFITHS: Have a good week.

CURNOW: So, tensions are mounting between the U.S. and China over the response to this pandemic. A new report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says China intentionally hid the severity of COVID- 19 from the international community. All the while, it stockpiled imports and cut exports of critical medical supplies. Well, on Sunday, the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said China would be held to account for its actions. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: But 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. We have -- there's lots of evidence of that, some of 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 were trying to report on this medical professionals inside of China, and 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 harmed. 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.


CURNOW: OK, well, let's go now to Kristie Lu Stout. Kristie is following the story from Hong Kong and joins me now. In fact, you've been following this all the way from the beginning when this first broke out in China. And what is clear is that the U.S. is not alone here. Many countries angry with the way China has dealt with this.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's true. The United States is angry, Australia is angry. It's also demanding some inquiry into the origins of the virus. We are trying to chase a reaction from Beijing, and we putting in a request for comment with China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs not likely to get a response because it is a public holiday in China.

That being said, we've heard from China's "Global Times" which said, quote, "Pompeo was doing here is a strategy to bluff and to fool U.S. voters" because this is something that China has read before. This is a repeated claim by the United States under Donald Trump, saying there's a link between the virus and this Institute of Virology in Wuhan.

A scientist may say that the origin of the virus, it looks more likely that it originated from those live while at animal markets in China. But according to the Trump administration, the origin is the Wuhan Institute of Virology. And this is what we know about the institute. It's known for its research into coronavirus especially in bats.

It has received funding from the United States, in fact, funding from the National Institutes of Health, and according to reports, about two years ago on 2018, U.S. Diplomats in China sounded the alarm twice about lax safety standards at the lab. Now, Mike Pompeo and his statements overnight, he didn't offer any new concrete evidence backing up his claim.

Also, he didn't weigh into the issue of whether he believed the virus was deliberately or accidentally released. Now, as we await official word from China, reaction to this mountain war of words, we know that China has been engaged in its own media and messaging campaign. You know, for weeks now, Chinese officials have peddled the theory, saying that the U.S. Army brought the virus to central China.


On top of that, you had this very bizarre video posting last week from the Xinhua news agency using animation to basically mock the American pandemic response. You know, all of this not boding well for the U.S.- China relationship which was under already so much strain before the pandemic. And now, more than ever, the time when we need information- sharing, we need transparency and we need collaboration to work on therapeutics and vaccine, we have this ongoing war of words between the U.S. and China over the origin of the virus. Robyn?

CURNOW: And as we heard Mike Pompeo there, you know, he's threatening to hold China responsible, hold them to account. What exactly do you think he means there? How will that be done?

LU STOUT: Well, we have heard from our colleagues, CNN in Washington D.C. who spoke to a source in the Trump administration about how the United States could pressurize China in the back of this. And they said they would use economic pressure. That there -- according to the source to CNN, that there is more an appetite to use various tools including sanctions, including canceling U.S. debt obligations as well as drawing up new trade policies.

This is a sign that the Trump administration is really to play economic hard ball, again, at a time when international cooperation is desperately needed. Robyn?

CURNOW: OK, good to see you, Kristie Lu Stout there in Hong Kong. Thanks for that report. So, you're watching CNN, still to come, the U.K. is on track to overtake Italy with the highest death toll in Europe. So, why is the government drawing up plans to lift restrictions?



CURNOW: Welcome back, I'm Robyn Curnow. Now, Italy is easing restrictions as it reported its lowest death toll in 24 hours since the beginning of March. Some small businesses can now reopen, but most must wait until mid-May. People can go to parks, but they have to maintain social distancing. We understand the masks are still mandatory in all closed spaces.

Three hundred and fifteen people meanwhile have died of COVID-19 in the U.K., and in just the last day alone. That number actually represents a decline, meaning the U.K. is past the peak of the outbreak. Well, still, it brings the toll in the U.K. to over 28,000 people. The country is about to overtake Italy for the highest number of deaths in Europe and the second highest in the world.

Well, Nick Paton Walsh is standing by in London with more on all of this. Hi, Nick, what more can you tell us?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, as you said, it is possible in the days ahead that the U.K. will take the sad title of being the worst affected country in Europe. Remember, it has a slightly larger population than Italy, and of course, has changed how it counts to include those deaths that have occurred with a positive test outside of hospitals recently which actually makes -- yesterday's reported number of 350 reported on that day, particularly small.

Now, I should point that every weekend, we see a drop in those numbers because of how reporting slows Friday, Saturday, through the weekend, and it may pick up again and rise later during the week. But we perhaps, since Boris Johnson said a few days ago, now consistently heard U.K. officials saying the peak is behind us.

And the focus really now of how they get out of this particular set of social restrictions that have been putting on people's movement. The U.K. in a complex position because its health service which is paid for by the government for either point of use was many thought under threat of being overwhelmed if too many people in fact got the disease. That never happened, it performed exceptionally well, and in fact, now has excess capacity in many areas that patient numbers dropping.

So, the question many are asking is how did it come to be? That still quite so many people have died in the United Kingdom. Some numbers suggest in fact that in England, certainly about half those that have died are being over 80. So, questions will be asked about that to inform also, 2, the next choices the United Kingdom makes. We're expecting to hear during this week, Thursday is when they have to renew social restrictions on the legislation.

But possibly the next weekend is when we'll hear from the Prime Minister Boris Johnson about how they intend to relax movement restrictions on people in the U.K. It doesn't look like it's going to be particularly substantial, in fact, actually some of the polling has suggested here in the U.K. that Britons are quite reluctant to go back to normal ways of life because they fear of still catching the virus.

There may be hints, always being hints from the mayor of London that transport here in the capital will change. Public transport, less people allowed on per carriage train, people encouraged to use bicycles as they move around. Face masks, something that the U.K. government has not unilaterally got behind, but suggest that there may be some benefits.

So, we may see moves with that as well. But a stark balance here, really, Robyn, between quite how the United Kingdom has sustained such a sad, large death toll with a large population there as well, but also the need for them to relax restrictions and get the economy going again. Robyn?

CURNOW: OK, thanks for that update, Nick Paton Walsh there in London. So, after months of stay-at-home orders, Spain is ready to start reopening. On Sunday, Spanish authorities reported their lowest death figures since March and announced plans to reopen in phases, starting Monday. Mainland Spain will start with phase zero, this means limited openings of businesses and mandatory masks on public transport.

Now, some Spanish islands will jump to phase one which further relaxes restrictions. And more good news, many countries including New Zealand also leading the way here. New Zealand has been continually praised for its coronavirus response, and it's marking another major milestone. On Monday, no new coronavirus cases were reported for the first time since mid-March when the country went into lockdown. Last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern lowered lockdown measures with 75 percent, 75 percent of the country's economy now back up and running.

And Iran will reopen mosques and schools in low risk areas starting on Monday. The country's Health Ministry there just reported its lowest daily increase of deaths in almost two months. President Hassan Rouhani says Iran will be divided into areas based on number of infections and deaths, and while optimistic, the president explained the country's cautious approach.


HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT, IRAN (through translator): At the moment too, we should prepare ourselves for a possible tough day ahead. Of course, we have began to gradually reopen businesses in different centers. We are gradually doing that. Today, we decided to have those reopenings for 132 towns which were considered as white areas or low- risk areas.


So, from tomorrow, their mosques will reopen, Friday prayer ceremonies will reopen and so on.


CURNOW: Well, Iran was once the epicenter of the pandemic in the Middle East before Turkey surpassed it. Iran has over 97,000 cases of the virus, and more than 6,200 deaths. So, still to come here at CNN, why the Trump administration wants to assess whether additional stimulus aid should be handed out amid the pandemic.


CURNOW: Welcome back, I'm Robyn Curnow here at the CNN Center, it's 5:30 a.m. in the morning here on the U.S. East Coast. Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and all around the world. So, U.S. President Donald Trump now claims intelligence officials did not raise the issue of coronavirus until late January. And he said officials spoke about it in a quote, "non-threatening" manner.

CNN is among several news outlets that have reported Mr. Trump's daily intelligence briefing included information on the virus as early as January the 3rd. Though, it's not clear if he read the information at the time. The president indicated on Sunday, the U.S. Intelligence agencies would be issuing a statement in the coming days. And while most states make moves to reopen, some are standing firm on

stay-at-home orders. California's governor has made it clear that he is in no hurry to lift restrictions, and that's causing some push back. Paul Vercammen takes us now down to Huntington Beach.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another day of a hard shutdown in Orange County and another day where police seem to be looking the other way early in the morning when it came to surfers. Let's look at this beach, Huntington Beach. What we saw was some of the surfers got out early in the morning and rode the waves.