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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Two Models Predict Dramatic Increase in Deaths; Updated Coronavirus Model Projects 134,000 Deaths in U.S. Nearly Double its Last Estimate; Sources: Intel Shared with U.S. Allies Indicates Virus Likely Came from a Market, Not a Chinese Lab; Pressure Mounts for Coronavirus Vaccine; Trump Says He Believes U.S. Will Have One by the End of this Year. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 4, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Wolf, there have been threats in other states against people like Wal-Mart employees trying to do that very thing.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thanks very much.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, two models predict a massive spike in deaths in the next few weeks, double prior projections. Why? Two of the nation's top disease experts are OUTFRONT.

Plus, a dangerous face off tonight between the U.S. and China. The United States claims there is enormous evidence the virus was made in a Chinese lab. The Chinese tonight responding.

And airline stocks tumbling as one of the nation's largest carriers suggests it may be forced to lay off a third of its pilots. Is this just the beginning?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, two major projections both forecasting the number of deaths in the United States from coronavirus is about to double. One key model, this one often cited by the White House now predicts more than 134,000 deaths by the beginning of August. That is nearly double that same model's forecast from just days ago.

The director of the institute behind the model says, "This rise of mobility in the last week or 10 days is likely leading to increased transmission." The administration is also privately projecting the number of deaths is about to spike.

An internal document obtained by the New York Times warns that by early June 3,000 Americans will die every day from Coronavirus and this is according to modeling by the CDC. Again, that is nearly double the current number in just a month.

So these are very, very grim projections. You're going to get there and that model by the end of May and the other model not even until August, both of them are doubling. Why this surge in death?

Well, the administration is projecting the number of cases is going to spike eightfold to reach 200,000 cases in this country a day. That compares to the current rate, right now we have about 25,000 new cases in a day. The new projections are coming as President Trump is assuring Americans that it is safe to reopen.

By the end of the week, 42 states at least will have rolled back restrictions even though many of them are not seeing a downward trend in cases. In fact, the former FDA Commissioner under President Trump, Scott Gottlieb says, "In more than 20 states outside New York region, cases and hospitalizations are still rising. We need to prepare to deal with COVID as a persistent threat."

Athena Jones is OUTFRONT to begin our coverage this Monday evening. And Athena, despite all of this, these models and predictions basically saying that their forecasts here of death is doubling because restrictions are being loosened. Many states are still plowing ahead with those reopening plans.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erin. That's exactly right. We've been talking a lot in recent days about quarantine fatigue, people getting tired of staying at home, eager to get back to some semblance of normal life. With a beautiful weather this weekend here in New York and in places across the country, we saw a lot of people out gathering in public places, even as the numbers show the coronavirus is still on the march here in the U.S., with more states seeing an increase in new cases than a decline.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES(voice over): The reopening of America gaining steam. In Florida, restaurants and retail spaces allowed to open at 25 percent capacity. Elective surgeries, once again, allowed. Some state parks and beaches and popular spots like Clearwater and Panama City now open, at least for some part of the day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISSY MCLAUGHLIN, RESTAURANT OWNER: Wow. Just wow. It's been great to see people just really happy to just be released.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES(voice over): But schools, movie theaters, bars, gyms and hair salons still shuttered. For now, restrictions remain in place in the states' three hardest hit counties.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R) FLORIDA: Being safe, smart and step by step is the appropriate way to consider that. (END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES(voice over): In Georgia, Simon malls opening their doors.

In Colorado, non-essential offices can reopen today with increased cleaning and employee desk staying six feet apart, while Nevada began allowing curbside pickup at stores and expanded outdoor activities late last week. By the end of the week, more than 40 states will have begun lifting restrictions meant to stop the spread of the virus.

This even as the picture across the country is mixed, with cases rising in more states than they are falling and the number of new cases confirmed daily remains stubbornly high at around 30,000.

In fact, an influential models cited by the White House now projecting nearly 134,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., nearly double their previous estimate, due in part to the relaxation of social distancing restrictions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIR. INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION: This rise of mobility in the last week or 10 days is likely leading to some increased transmission.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES(voice over): And the New York Times citing in an internal document reports the Trump administration projects about 200,000 new cases per day and some 3,000 deaths a day by early June, nearly double the current total.

[19:05:04]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAJU MATHEW, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We're opening too early. I mean, I'm being honest about that. I'm not surprised at the projection. It's really based on how exponentially this virus can grow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES(voice over): With the nation's death toll surging past the 60,000 figure he estimated just two weeks ago, President Trump acknowledging the sobering reality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, we're going to lose anywhere from 75,000, 80,000 to 100,000 people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES(voice over): Even that number may be low.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Our

projections have always been between 100,000 and 240,000 American lives lost and that's with full mitigation and us learning from each other of how to social distance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES(voice over): Still there may soon be promising news on the vaccine front. With Oxford University scientists predicting there's could be available by this fall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIR JOHN BELL, OXFORD UNIV. MEDICAL CENTER: We're pretty sure we'll get a signal by June about whether this works or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES(voice over): And the drug company, Roche, saying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization for its new coronavirus antibody test, that it says is nearly 100 percent accurate. The FDA has not yet confirmed it gave emergency use authorization to the Roche test. Testing is critical to reopening safely.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D) MICHIGAN: As tough as this moment has been, as great as the price that we have paid in this moment, we know we don't want to do it again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: And here in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today he thinks local governments across the state should be enforcing his statewide order requiring that people wear masks when they can't social distance, including by issuing sanctions because this is a public health emergency. The Governor is saying you can literally kill someone because you didn't want to wear a mask, how cruel and irresponsible would that be? Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Athena, thank you.

And I want to go OUTFRONT now to Dr. Jeremy Faust, an Emergency Physician handling coronavirus on the ground at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Dr. David Rubin, Director of the PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Thanks very much to both of you.

Dr. Faust, let me start with you. The model that the White House often cited or cites revise its projections. They're now saying 134,000 plus deaths from COVID-19 by August, which is double that model's prediction from literally yesterday. One of the research tied to the model said the increase was due to basically relaxed social distancing, people getting out and about as we see them doing.

Are these reopening that we're seeing right now in states, Dr. Faust, really this risky?

DR. JEREMY FAUST, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: They very well may be. The thing with models is that they tell you about what you think will happen in the future and sometimes that comes at the expense of measuring facts that are on the ground today. Models are about thinking, guessing the future facts about today.

We need to be guided by the facts that we see today which is increasing case loads and a lot of these states that are opening have failed to reach even the White House's specifications for the next phase. So that is the problem as these models can change on a dime but the facts on the ground do not.

BURNETT: Right. And as we just were pointing out, right, in 20 states that are going ahead here with relaxing social distancing, you have still an increase in caseload. Never mind the several weeks of a decrease which they were supposed to have had, according to the White House guidelines.

Dr. Rubin, according to that, again, that model, the one the White House cites publicly, they say outside temperature can help roughly about a 2 percent reduction in transmission for every Celsius degree increase in temperature, so a couple of degrees Fahrenheit. So they are counting in, they say, some reduction from heat. Does that all add up to you that you would see such a stark increase without a full relaxation in social guidelines with summer?

DR. DAVID RUBIN, DIRECTOR, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA POLICYLAB: Well, I think that, fortunately, we are moving towards summer and I

think that's going to help us in terms of mitigating transmission as we move forward. But temperature alone is not going to bail us out. I think when I look at the forecasts, nationally, I think they remind us just how dangerous this virus can be.

But the factor that - and I think those models can be really important to acknowledge that, but the X factor they're not reporting is the individual choices we're going to make in this new phase. We're moving to a phase where people individually are going to have responsibility to remain vigilant, to remain cautious and this gets to the other points about wearing masks and indoor locations.

We have a personal blockade, and that is our mask, and that is our ability to wash our hands, and how we protect our family and how often we decide to mix in gatherings. And if people are smart, I think we can beat those forecasts, but those models can't - don't really know how to factor in exactly what our decisions are going to be made individually as we move forward and I think that's an important factor to talk about.

BURNETT: Right. And it's very hard to predict when we can see in certain places, not very much mask wearing and others much more.

I mean, Dr. Faust, The New York Times also was talking about that Trump administration models sort of feeding from the CDC.

[19:10:00]

They're going now to 3,000 daily deaths by June 1st, which obviously is a big increase.

Now, President Trump had early on, many times, and we've all heard many people compare coronavirus to the flu simply because of the numbers. But obviously when you look at those numbers, we have past any annual flu numbers of any recent outbreaks. But I think it's important to note, Doctor, you actually say flu deaths are much lower than CDC estimates anyway and you noticed this just because you're a doctor. You asked a simple question, have I seen someone who died from the flu.

FAUST: Correct. It's one of those aha moments when you see what the CDC says should kill 60,000 people per year, it's opioids, it's going violence, it is things of that nature. And so I see that all of the time, but I never see flu, so it led me to dig in.

And again, they estimated, but I'm worried that people use the fact that the CDC has estimated accounts to be so high to shrug off the severity of what we see today. It sort of feels like that scene in Jaws where they say, OK, I'm going to get back in the water now because it's not that common and it's just like the usual risk.

This is not the usual risk. We found that COVID is killing 20 times the number of people as flu does at the worst part of flu season and, frankly, it might be quite more than that.

BURNETT: And you're saying it could be quite more of that, but you're saying 20 times more than at the height of flu season.

FAUST: That's correct.

BURNETT: So when the state of Kentucky today, Dr. Faust, the Governor says, "I never thought we'd be plateaued for three weeks." Sort of justifying this is way better than I thought we would be, so it's okay to go ahead and relax restrictions.

Again, the guidelines in the federal government said you needed to decline not a plateau. Is it possible, though, that governors like Gov. Beshear of Kentucky could be right that opening up may not cause a surge? I mean, to your point, we don't know what we don't know.

FAUST: It's a big gamble and we'll have to see. Right now we know that the number of cases is one thing and the number of deaths is another. If a thousand of people who are young get it, you might have just a few deaths. If 500 elderly people, you might have a hundred deaths.

So it really depends on who gets it and I want to make sure that we are actually doing the correct strategy. I don't see that happening.

BURNETT: And before we go, Dr. Faust, the President has changed his projection on the number of deaths. He said 50,000 or 60,000 in April 20th, April 27, 60,000 or 70,000, May 3rd, 80,000 or 90,000. The number has gone up and up and up.

I guess the bottom line from what you're both saying, but just to be clear about it, Dr. Faust, no one really has any idea what the real numbers are going to be. But they will be significantly higher than we are right now, given, what's happening in terms of relaxation of standards.

FAUST: Correct. When we see the numbers go down, it's interesting that people say, oh, why do we do all that mitigation, why do we have to social distance. The answer is it worked, we should feel proud of that, not abandon the strategy.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I really appreciate it.

And OUTFRONT next, U.S. versus China and it is getting extremely ugly between the two superpowers. The President, again, saying the virus may have originated in a Chinese lab, perhaps leaked out. But now new intelligence from American allies does not seem to support that. We have breaking news coming into CNN.

Plus, President Trump predicting we will have a vaccine in a matter of months. This would be a record by a factor of years. Is it possible? Top former executive from the vaccine division at Merck is my guest.

And one leader taking a page from Trump's coronavirus playbook and the outcome in his country has been deadly.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:17:02]

Breaking news, U.S. allies are contradicting President Trump's claim that coronavirus was leaked from a Chinese lab. CNN is learning the intelligence assessment found no current evidence to suggest the virus leaked either by accident or on purpose. Both President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have claimed very, very clearly in black and white manner in recent days that evidence shows coronavirus came from the Wuhan lab.

Alex Marquardt is OUTFRONT with this breaking news. So Alex, what are you learning this hour?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, for months now, really, intelligence agencies all around the world have been trying to pinpoint exactly where this virus came from. And the two leading theories have been either that it was accidentally released by the Wuhan Institute of Virology or that it appeared naturally in that market and Wuhan.

Now, as you noted, the Trump administration for political reasons it appears has been pushing that notion that this virus came from the lab, but I was speaking with a western diplomatic official who is familiar with the intelligence who said that that scenario is highly unlikely. Rather that it's highly likely that this was a natural occurrence that a human was infected by an animal in the Wuhan market. Now, this is an assessment that according to this official, the

countries of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing group, of which the U.S. is part. They're generally coalescing around this assessment that it did, in fact, come from the market. I spoke with another official from the Five Eyes, that official also agreed with this assessment.

Erin, this is an assessment and I use that word carefully because what that means is this is not 100 percent. What this means is they look at this intelligence and this is what they see. We also spoke with a third official, who said that while it's still a possibility that the virus actually came from a lab, it is clear that the virus exploded in the market in Wuhan, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Alex.

This is an interesting point because, of course, all of this comes from the Lancet journal, the medical journal, which had traced the epidemiology of this not to the market, but that it came to the market and then that would be consistent perhaps with what Alex is saying then exploded. But all of this argument is, of course, bringing relations between the U.S. and China to a dangerous new low.

And I want to bring in David Culver. He's been reporting from inside Wuhan. And David, you actually were showing us that lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and how it's right there in the middle of the city. It's not a couple of hours outside. It is right there. And the Chinese now after they've been accused here by Mike Pompeo and President Trump, calling Mike Pompeo evil saying his claims about the lab are completely false.

So with all of your extensive reporting, what are you able to tell us about this lab?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As you point out, they're within Wuhan.

[19:20:00]

There's two labs in particularly, there's the Wuhan CDC, but the real focus is on the Wuhan Institute of Virology. And it is just a few miles away from the Huanan seafood market, which Alex mentioned as that place where it essentially, as he put it, exploded, where it really believed to go from person to person to person in a rapid manner. And so that was believed to be kind of the original source of the outbreak here.

One thing we do know is that there's mostly circumstantial evidence that would suggest the leak. So it's the location as we pointed out. It's the fact that they do study corona viruses there at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It's a level four of biosafety so they do have that type of experimentation that's underway. And we do know they also include bats in those experiments too.

Some photos of also surface, Erin, and those photos have not been verified by CNN, but they seem to suggest all sorts of standard lab conditions. All that aside, circumstantial, there's no real hard concrete evidence that has come forward. And that's where the Chinese are coming out and saying to Pompeo in particular, look, if you've got this evidence, show it. Otherwise, we think you're bluffing.

BURNETT: All right. David Culver, thank you very much. So David is really one of the few people who's actually been in there to give everyone those perspective of the physical proximity and what this lab actually does.

I want to go to Jim Sciutto now, our Anchor and Chief National Security Correspondent. Jim previously lived and worked in China as well. And Jim, you just heard what David's talking about. It's circumstantial, but you have a lab there that studies corona viruses where the U.S. had reports at one point of substandard safety procedures. You have that Lancet article which says that the virus came to the market. It didn't originate in the market. Now, you have the Five Eyes saying they don't see any evidence that it came from the lab. Are we ever going to know?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Listen, you got to wait for the intelligence and more importantly you have to wait for a public statement on the intelligence as well. Remember, to this point, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, their public statement today said one, we don't think that this was developed intentionally.

In other words, to set aside the idea that this was some sort of bio weapon. They said they're still exploring the possibility, two possibilities that originated in the market or it originated in the lab, but made no public statement on there being intelligence is conclusive. Those have only come from Pompeo and Trump, and now you have Alex and Kylie Atwood's reporting saying that the Five Eyes report which is the kind of collection of America's closest intelligence sharing allies is that they're leaning towards the market explanation here.

Listen, because of the political element to this, the Trump administration's attempt to pin the whole outbreak on China suggest you wait for a public statement from the intelligence services on what their assessment is. I mean, that's going to be where real answer will come from.

BURNETT: And do think they'll come forth with that, at some point, come forth with what they have and knowing that even if they feel quite confident, they'll never perhaps be fully sure, because the Chinese will be very good and focused 100 percent on covering their tracks if anything like this even happened, so will they even come forth with any evidence if they have it?

SCIUTTO Well, it'll be a decision of the senior most intelligence officials. Right. I mean, look back at the precedent here. The intelligence agencies made a very public sharing of their assessment, for instance, on Russia's interference in the 2016 election, they said so publicly. And then they even released a declassified version of the assessment to show the goods, to show how they reached that conclusion, because they knew that this was quite a charge to make. Will we see that from this current intelligence leadership, we don't

know. But if they have the goods and they want to be able to make that argument, that would be a step they would need to take.

BURNETT: Right. And certainly, if you've got your allies coming out and saying that the allegations don't add up to them, you got to kind of put up or shut your mouth. All right. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto.

And OUTFRONT next, doctors in France suggests they may have had their first coronavirus patient in December, which really changes the timeline here and could tell us a lot about the spread of the virus. Sanjay Gupta is OUTFRONT.

Plus, an internal memo from United Airlines, we have it, suggests up to a third of all pilots could be furloughed. A top official with United is OUTFRONT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:28:03]

BURNETT: Tonight, the race for a vaccine. Scientists identifying 14 potential vaccines to focus on for President Trump's 'Operation Warp Speed'. President Trump predicting that there could be a vaccine to develop in the United States in a matter of months.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We think we're going to have a vaccine by the end of this year and we're pushing very hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And when they say ready to go, they mean millions and millions, 10s of millions of doses. OUTFRONT now, Vijay Samant. He's the former Chief Operating Officer for the Vaccine Division at Merck. And Merck really is - that is the vaccine company developing and produces vaccines currently.

Vijay, I know you're a Board Member and consultant for some biotech companies, but I want to make sure our viewers know they are not producing vaccines at this point. So when you hear the President, Vijay, say he's confident there'll be a vaccine by the end of the year, that's only seven months away from now just from a pure logistical standpoint, because you have done this entire process from conception to testing to production and manufacturing, how hard will this be to do?

VIJAY SAMANT, FMR. CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, MERCK VACCINE DIVISION: Well, that pipeline is overly optimistic. If you're to break down that whole vaccine development process, there are four components to it, OK? The first component is you got to conduct a double blind placebo control phase three clinical study to show that the vaccine works and it's safe and that step is really hard to compress. You can't compress that step, because otherwise you'll have a vaccine,

which is not efficacious or not safe. Then, you need to get regulatory approval from the FDA. That takes time. It takes a year or more, but that can be compressed.

Finally, you need to make the vaccine in bulk quantity and then you have to fill it in containers. And don't forget the last step, you got to deliver this vaccine to all of the pharmacies through all the core chains and then you actually have to vaccinate people. All these four steps are pretty complicated, but the vaccine manufacturing challenge is humongous.

Just to give you an example, we make 150 million doses of flu vaccines every year, OK?

[19:30:01]

If you assume to make those vaccines for COVID-19, we'llhave to make 600 million doses. That's four times what we currently make for flu. That's a huge challenge.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So just even on that logistical standpoint, that's incredibly difficult to imagine. You then also to this point you have a safety and efficacy. There have been, you know, some medical experts, Vijay, concerns saying, look, there is a risk of some of these vaccines that instead of stopping the virus, they may actually worsen the infection in some patients. They might do the opposite of what they're actually intended to do.

Do you run these sorts of risks by speeding up the timeline?

SAMANT: I think we all run the risk of speeding up the timeline, but, you know, that's why -- that's why you conduct a phase three study which is placebo controlled study. You follow the patients for a sufficiently long period of time to make sure there are no safety signals and that's what good clinical practice is, and that's what is being done for all the vaccines that have been brought. Obviously, they could speed things, cut corners, but safety is something you cannot compromise.

BURNETT: All right, Vijay, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

Vijay Samant, as I said, the former chief of vaccines for Merck.

And I want to go now to Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So, Sanjay, you hear what Vijay is saying. Humongous was the word he used. Just the manufacturing challenge, putting aside his fair concerns about safety and efficacy, he's simply saying, you know, you've got people like Bill Gates out there now saying, look, I'll get all the plants together, the manufacturing plants, but that challenge is enormous. And it is -- it is not a sure thing that we would be able to even with all of the money and effort thrown at this to surmount that this quickly. DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, that's true.

I mean, there's no guarantee here. I mean, a few of the different type of vaccine platforms that are being trialed right now are things that have never been done before, Erin. If they work they could be maybe more easily manufactured than some of the more conventional vaccines. That could speed up the timeline. But as Vijay has said --

BURNETT: Things like that RNA technology?

GUPTA: Yes, like the RNA technology, so you're not requiring as much of the material like the actual virus you used in the past to make vaccines. Maybe that can be sped up.

But you -- yes, you have to -- I think what Dr. Fauci talked about is he said as we're going into phase 2 trials, if we start to see efficacy signals, signals that it's working, they may, you know, go -- they may start actually manufacturing the vaccine ahead of time, and that's a gamble because you just got signals at that point.

But it's the gamble I think they're willing to take so they can speed up the manufacturing process. And if doesn't work they lose that, but if it does work they'll be ahead of the game. I think that's what he's sort of describing. But some of what we're talking about has never been done to make that clear, Erin.

BURNETT: And now this comes as -- just to make the point as I know you so often do how little we know about the virus. We learn more and we learn more we don't know. One thing we still don't know is really -- when it got where it is, which is everywhere.

There's new evidence tonight the virus may have been in France as early as December. OK? That is -- that is way before we thought that it was in France. That was before it was in Italy ostensibly, right, when the outbreak happened. That was when it was only kind of just starting to ramp up in Wuhan, according to what we thought we knew.

GUPTA: Right.

BURNETT: But now, doctors from a hospital in Paris looking at samples from patients who are admitted at that time with flu-like symptoms, they did find that a 42-year-old man had coronavirus at that time who had not been to China. What does this tell you?

GUPTA: This is -- this is pretty significant, stunning even, Erin, maybe not surprising. I don't know. I mean, I think we never thought for sure we caught the first patients, right? But now, you know, you're talking about two months perhaps because it wasn't until the end of January you had patients diagnosed in Europe, and it wasn't until the end of February there was evidence of community transmission.

Now, we're essentially saying there was evidence of community transmission in December? I mean, that's a lot earlier. And I don't know that it makes a difference necessarily in terms of how we go forward, but I think in the retro-analysis of this, when exactly did this virus hit the world? I think it's clear, I mean it seems to be clear it first hit the world in China but even that, where did it come from exactly and when did it come I think is still an open question.

BURNETT: All right, Sanjay, thank you very much.

GUPTA: You got it.

BURNETT: And next, the economic impact of this, the Armageddon in some senses.

And United Airlines warning nearly a third of its pilots could soon be furloughed. Air travel has plummeted in a way that none of us ever could have imagined or thought we would see in our lifetime. United Airlines chief communication officer Josh Earnest is OUTFRONT.

Plus, one leader's channeling Trump as he responds to the pandemic and it has had deadly consequences.

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[19:38:39]

BURNETT: New tonight, United Airlines asking employees to, quote, seriously consider leaving the company voluntarily after the senior VP of flight operations warned in a memo that nearly a third of the airlines pilots will be displaced on June 30th. This as shares of the country's four major airlines tumbled after famed investor Warren Buffett said he sold all of his airlines stocks, warning it could take years for the industry to recover. Truly something happened here no one could have possibly imagined as I said in our lifetimes.

OUTFRONT now, the United Airlines chief communications officer Josh Earnest.

And, Josh, I appreciate your time. So when we, you know, see this senior vice president of flight operations warning you could have more than 4,000 pilots displaced by June 30th, how real is this risk?

JOSH EARNEST, CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, UNITED AIRLINES: Erin, it's a real risk. You know, displaced does not mean they're leaving the payroll. We made a commitment to our employees and to the taxpayers when we accepted government support from the CARES Act to keep everyone on the payroll through the end of September.

Now, the things important for people to understand is that the assistance we got in the CARES Act is deeply appreciated and makes a big difference. But even if you include the amount of the CARES Act we have to pay back, it doesn't cover all our payroll costs. And just to put this in perspective for you, Erin -- most days in the month of April on an individual day, we were flying fewer customers in an individual day than we had pilots on the payroll.

[19:40:10]

So, there is a significant disruption to our business, and it's happening all across the industry. And we're just doing our best to deal with it. BURNETT: So, you know, do you have any sense of where it goes from

here? I mean, I understand that you're going to want more changes to the taxpayer assistance, but there's also your business itself. Today, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said and I quote him, it's too hard to tell if international travel will even open back up this year. So basically people with urgent needs, that would be it.

That -- you all obviously can't continue as an operational business if you don't have things like international flights going. Do you think that there'll be international flights this year, or are you assuming no?

EARNEST: Well, right now, Erin, we actually are operating a number of international long haul flights now. We are preserving connectivity around the world. That is the -- that's the bread and butter of our business. We do that better than anybody is.

Right now, if you want to travel to Australia, you can only do that by flying United Airlines, and we're proud of the continuing essential connections we're improving around the world, but we're obviously not anywhere close to what we typically are flying around the world. So we are going to have to make some changes and we do expect by all in all likelihood, by the time October rolls around that we're going to be a smaller airline. Now, the real question is how much smaller.

BURNETT: Right.

EARNEST: And it's just impossible to (INAUDIBLE)

BURNETT: So, you know, to that point, OK, you talk about the Australia example. I know that you are now saying, you know, people who fly -- for example, you know, social distancing, no one's going to be flying side by side, you're going to have social distancing, OK? But just to state the obvious for people, you have to maintain these planes, you have to fly a whole plane to get anybody from point A to point B, you have to fuel that plane, you have to pay for the labor on that plane, but you can't fly the plane full.

And last I checked, United Airlines cannot make money and survive if you're not -- if you are flying planes that are mostly empty. So what are you going to do in a world where social distancing is the norm?

EARNEST: Yes. Look, that's a great question, and that is why today we actually began requiring all of our crew and our customers to wear masks when they're onboard our planes. And we're able to provide our masks to customers who don't have them. We hope people would bring their own, but if we don't have them, we could provide them.

We are overhauling our cleaning procedures. We bought 750 devices called electrostatic sprayers. These are the devices that they use to disinfect hospitals. We're going to be using them to clean the interiors of our planes. And by the next month, we'll be doing that before every single flight.

We're overhauling our boarding proceedings. We're now boarding back to front so you don't have to walk by a bunch of people when you're getting to your seat.

So, we're thinking really creatively, Erin, about new ways, about ways we can change the way that we operate every single day to ensure that air travel remains safe for people.

BURNETT: All right, Josh Earnest, thank you.

EARNEST: Nice to talk to you, Erin. Thanks for the opportunity.

BURNETT: All right.

Next, Brazil, it now has the highest number of cases in the southern hemisphere. And it's important for Americans to follow this, because what does it say about warmer weather and the spread of coronavirus with relaxed social distancing?

Plus, meet the poet with a message about life that has gone global about life after the pandemic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:47:37]

BURNETT: Brazil reaching a grim milestone, surpassing more than 100,000 coronavirus cases. The surge coming as Brazil's president has routinely scoffed at both the virus and stay at home policies dismissing the pandemic as a, quote, fantasy driven by, quote, a little flu.

Isa Soares has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like so many others, the Torres family will never be the same. Here in this improvised cemetery, this small family unit with some other safely on the phone bid a quick farewell to the 69-year-old father and grandfather who went to the hospital with a finger wound and came out with COVID-19.

His son Esron was in shocked.

ESRON TORRES, MANAUS RESIDENT (translated): What we went through, man, I don't wish even on my worst enemy. I don't with this on anyone.

SOARES: Tragedy though doesn't end with this family. Here in the city of Manaus, northwestern Brazil, excavators are digging trenches en masse, and while they bury their dead, President Jair Bolsonaro has compared the pandemic to a little flu, shaking the hands of his supporters in restaurants and supermarkets and joining massive protests pressuring governors and mayors to loosen lockdown measures, a move that could bring even more pain to the people of Manaus.

According to the secretary of health of Amazon state, ICU beds in Manaus are at 85 percent capacity. And as the city's confirmed case count remains among the highest in Brazil and rising hospitals buckle under the threat of COVID. ADRIANA ELIAS, MANAUS MUNICIPAL HEALTH SECRETARIAT (translated): I

have been a nurse for a little over 17 years, I've never seen anything like this, of illness, of the collapse of a health system. I'm very worried. I'm in a management positive now, but I'm a nurse before anything else.

SOARES: For Sandra, it's all too much.

SANDRA (translated): It's not fair what they are doing.

SOARES: Her mom was admitted after having a stroke, and now she says her mother's tested positive for COVID.

SANDRA: Inside, there are people that have the virus and are infected and are next to normal people.

SOARES: With ICU beds in short supply, many patients have been moved to maternity wards. This undercover video shows expecting mothers sitting face-to-face with COVID patients.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated): This is a pre-natal ward, where we handle the deliveries.

[19:50:00]

Do you see how close they are to each other? They don't have an area in the hospital for them anymore. This is where they are supposed to be isolated, but there is a patient in this room with COVID.

SOARES: Medical staff here say they feel unprotected, abandoned and powerless. On this ward, a nurse is seen working without personal protective equipment. Understandably, it's taking a toll.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated): I'm feeling really bad, tired, stressed, my minds is overwhelmed. I can't sleep well, I have nightmares, I think about my colleagues that died. I have a lot of colleagues who have died because of this COVID.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SOARES: And, Erin, that nightmare you heard there, that is likely to continue with no end in sight as President Jair Bolsonaro continues to push for this lockdown restrictions to be loosened, basically saying that economic downfall will take a greater toll on the country.

Meanwhile, we've seen over the weekend his supporters have been out at some of his rallies, completely ignoring social distancing rules, and that have many people fearful, of course, that the number of cases in Brazil could continue to rise. I can tell you in the last 24 hours, we had the numbers in the last few hours, more than 4,000 cases just in 24 hours, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Isa, thank you very much.

And joining me now Dr. Jonathan Reiner, who advised the White House medical team under President George W. Bush. And, Dr. Reiner, so, Brazil's president downplaying the virus, calling

it the little flu, you know, a fantasy. Those are his words. Yesterday, he himself attended a massive protest against social distancing. How dangerous is this?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: You know, it's super dangerous. He appears to be a pandemic soul mate of President Trump. There are a lot of similarities.

Both presidents have called into question the seriousness of the flu. Both have at least given tacit support to protesters of social distancing and stay-at-home measures. President Trump on March 27th called the COVID-19 virus a flu, and then three days later President Bolsonaro did the same thing. So there are a lot of similarities.

But both presidents are really failing to do something incredibly important. They're failing to get their people to rise to greatness. The -- by failing to really enforce the hard measures of social distancing, they are very likely to cost lives in both their countries.

Ronald Reagan said that the greatest president is not necessarily the one who does the greatest thing, but is the one who gets the people to do the greatest things. And both of these leaders are really failing that right now.

BURNETT: And when you look at Brazil, you know, we've talked about the effects of whether the CDC study has shown that, we have talked to doctors about a lot of studies earlier this hour. Warm weather can help. Humidity can help. It can't eliminate, but it can help.

When you look at other countries in the southern hemisphere, you do have outbreaks, but nowhere like you do in Brazil, right? Brazil is in a league of its own right now. Does that raise more questions, especially given what you're hearing from Bolsonaro? It's not what you're hearing from the leaders of other countries.

REINER: Yes, you know, I think it was really magical thinking all along to believe that the onset of warm weather in this country or anywhere in the world was going to eradicate the virus. We do see hints in places, particularly in the United States, where the virus is a little bit less vigorous. It is a little less vigorous in places like Miami than it is in New York.

But the notion that it's going to disappear as the weather warms is really countered by the experience in Brazil and also places like Singapore. It's not going to happen.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you, Dr. Reiner.

REINER: Sure.

BURNETT: And next, Jeanne on why people are rallying on one man's message that the coronavirus will be a good thing in hindsight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:57:46]

BURNETT: Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: Today, I'm going to share --

JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Celebrities ranging from Michelle Obama.

OBAMA: -- miss maple seeds.

MOOS: To Danny DeVito have been reading stories to kids during the pandemic.

DANNY DEVITO, ACTOR: I am the Lorax, he coughed and he whiffed.

MOOS: But the one who hasn't whiffed is an unknown British poet whose storytelling from the future has gotten millions of views.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Tell me the one about the virus again.

MOOS: The kid playing the son is actually Tom Roberts's 7-year-old brother.

TOM ROBERTS, POET: It was a world of waste and wonder, poverty and plenty. Back before we understood why hindsight's 2020. We always had our wants. But now it got so quick, you could have anything you dreamed of in a day and with a click.

MOOS: From the future, Tom describes our present --

ROBERTS: We'd always had our wants, but now, it got so quick. You could have anything you dreamed in a day and with a click.

MOOS: The poet's sister, his mom and his dad all work at British hospitals.

ROBERTS: But then in 2020, a new virus came our way. The government's reacted and told us all to hide away.

MOOS: The story imagines phone obsessed families in a polluted past, transformed.

ROBERTS: And with the skies less full of voyagers, the earth began to breathe. And so, when we found the cure and were allowed to go outside, we all preferred the world we found, the one we left behind.

MOOS: Viewers smitten, loved, loved, loved, gave me chills of sadness but then hope.

ROBERTS: I would love you to understand I'm not naive to thinking that coronavirus is in any way a good thing. Maybe out of the bad, there can be some good.

MOOS: Drew Barrymore posted the video, "The Great Realization".

Jake Gyllenhaal messaged Tom about working on a children's book.

ROBERTS: I'm overwhelmed because it is overwhelming.

MOOS: This from a 26-year-old who had a card from his mom posted behind him.

ROBERTS: Go forth, act decent and call your mother from time to time.

MOOS: Now, he's getting calls. His little brother set up the clincher.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: But why did it take a virus?

ROBERTS: Sometimes you've got to get sick, my boy, before you start feeling better.

MOOS: Kind of puts the doctor in Dr. Seuss for the COVID generation.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: And thanks so much for joining us.

"AC360" with Anderson starts now.