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Allies Contradict Virus Theory; China Calls for Investigation; Questions over Nursing Home Death Numbers in Florida; France had Covid-19 in December; Businesses Reopen in Italy. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired May 5, 2020 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00]

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Coalescing around.

And, Poppy, it's not just officials behind the scenes saying this. You have the prime minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, saying nothing that they've seen indicates that the virus comes from a lab. You have the WHO saying that they have seen no evidence of that either. Nothing really from international partners that lines up with what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called significant evidence that the coronavirus escaped from that lab in Wuhan.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, Alex, one of the -- one of the issues also here that is so important, obviously you want to know for sure the origin. But it's also about what the retaliation is, right? And you have the secretary of state this weekend talking about ultimate retaliation which could be another imposition of additional tariffs, which could have a whole host of ramifications on the U.S. economy right now as it's already on its knees.

MARQUARDT: Well, it's clear that this is a political play. This is something that, you know, if you don't have your international partners lining up in some sort of agreement with you, then -- and you're isolated like this, it becomes painfully clear that this is more political. And what that does in terms of the intelligence community is it puts them between a rock and a hard place. And we saw that last week when we saw the U.S. intelligence community come out and not really line up with the Trump administration but say we are still looking into both of these theories, the market and the lab. And now the U.S. intelligence community has taken that one step further, saying that there is evidence for both of those. The only thing that the U.S. intelligence community is saying with any sort of certainty right now is that the virus comes from China and that it is not manmade.

Poppy.

HARLOW: Understood.

Alex, thank you for that reporting.

Jim. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, China is striking back at the Trump administration, saying the U.S. should be investigated for its own handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

CNN's David Culver live from Shanghai.

And, David, we've watched the rhetoric back and forth escalate. This report from the Chinese state media, which is often used as a mouthpiece for the government, called the U.S. the main exporter of the virus.

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's right, Jim. And, as you know, CCTV, the main evening broadcaster, when they put out their evening broadcast, they put this to say that the U.S.' handling of this should be investigated.

But it goes beyond that because as Alex pointed out, with the U.S. allies now questioning what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was putting out there as the origin, coming from a leaked lab, the Institute (ph) of Virology, and also echoed by President Trump multiple times, as they have now started backing off that and U.S. allies suggest that's highly unlikely, it's given more credit to the Chinese argument that the U.S. is simply putting lies out there. And so that's a damaging place because prior to that, even if it was just in the market that it originated in, there was enough concern there and enough questions that were merited to be asked that the U.S. had that global support in asking those questions. Now it's become highly politicized.

And it is a war of words, but the concern is that this war of words, that it fuels emotion and can then turn into action. And that's highlighted in a report by Reuters that's out today and it mentions a report that went all the way to the top Chinese leadership, including President Xi Jinping, according to Reuters, and it was essentially framing the anti-Chinese rhetoric and the sentiments as being as high as they were going back some 30 years to the Tiananmen Square crackdown. And the concern there from the Chinese perspective is that the U.S., as they frame it, could be pushing hostility that then would lead them to have to prepare for armed conflict. That's how they have phrased this. So it's frightening to hear those words, but it also is the reality of where things are right now.

SCIUTTO: No question. And, of course, in the context of the trade war, military competition, there are other factors here.

David Culver, in Shanghai, thanks very much.

Joining me now is Lisa Monaco. She's a former homeland security adviser to President Obama. She also serves on Joe Biden's pandemic advisory committee.

Thanks so much, Lisa Monaco, for joining us this morning.

I wonder what your reaction is to China's own study there, worried about this U.S./China battle spiraling out of control. You know, even beyond the pandemic. I don't have to tell you that, you know, that the trade war with real economic consequences and ongoing military competition between the two countries, how concerned are you that the rhetoric leads to something more serious?

LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, look, Jim, first of all, good to be with you.

And I'm worried that the rhetoric is very divorced on both sides. It's very divorced from the reality. And that distracts all of us from what we need to be doing, which is mounting a coordinated global fight against this virus.

And so the reality here is that the intelligence community has been very clear that there's no evidence that this was manmade. They have concurred with the scientific assessments. And there's also no direct evidence of the fact that this was a -- being a naturally occurring pathogen being studied in a lab that escaped.

[09:35:09]

The experts who have looked at this, scientific and intelligence experts, cannot completely rule that out. But there's no evidence of that, contrary to what Secretary Pompeo is saying.

And the fact of the matter is, scientists and others agree that the most likely scenario and the weight of the evidence right now is that this is what's called a zoanotic (ph) disease. It came from an animal, made a jump to human, most likely a bat, and that is not, frankly, surprising, Jim, given that the intelligence community, our own intelligence community, has been warning about the danger of emerging infectious diseases and the potential for global pandemic for many, many years.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

MONACO: So we really need to be focusing not on the rhetoric and getting into an escalating war of words, but focusing on the reality.

SCIUTTO: Given the president's effort, broader effort to blame China for the outbreak, are you worried about political influence on the intelligence itself and the intelligence community here?

MONACO: I am. I think what we're seeing is a continued pattern of trying to politicize the intelligence community, kind of putting a thumb on the scale by having multiple political statements that are, again, divorced from what the career intelligence professionals are saying.

And the other thing is here, Jim, you know, in the discussion with the reporters in this segment, this discussion about retaliation and potential sanctions, even if the United States wants to go that route, the problem is, if you don't have your allies on board, if you're completely isolated, if we, the United States, are completely isolated in making our case, well, the effect of sanctions is quite minimal. So there is -- there are many, many reasons why you want to be working in coordination with your allies, both on the intelligence side and more broadly because you won't have the effect that you're even trying to achieve if you don't bring your allies on board. SCIUTTO: Now, that ship sadly seems to have sailed, has it not? I mean

the -- if anything we're seeing a greater focus on attacking, while certainly attacking China, but on steps designed, it seems, to make the U.S. an island in its response to this, right? You know, even steps to reduce or stop immigration, right, part of another agenda that proceeded the pandemic.

Do you see this administration course correcting on this as it goes forward?

MONACO: No, I don't. No, I mean it's -- the -- I think you're quite right, the course has been set here and it's a -- and it's a course that has us really facing entirely inward.

And when it comes to global health security, I think that's very, very dangerous. We should be leading and galvanizing a global response. Instead, we are on the outside looking in. Time and again it is other nations that are galvanizing a response.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

MONACO: Just yesterday there was a global summit of international leaders about vaccine research and drug research. Who wasn't there? The United States. You know, in a -- in a world where we have to be concerned about global pandemics from emerging infectious disease, we can't only focus inward. Global health security is critical to American security.

SCIUTTO: Yes, a pandemic by definition is global, of course.

Lisa Monaco, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

MONACO: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: The former captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, he is now out of quarantine in Guam and on his way to a new post. He's been assigned to the staff of the Navy's commander of the Pacific fleet. Brett Crozier, you may remember, was replaced as commanding officer of the Roosevelt after sending a letter asking for help with an expanding coronavirus outbreak on his ship. A Navy investigation recommended Crozier's reinstatement, we should note that, but the Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, has so far declined to endorse that investigation by the Navy. The Navy is launching instead a broader inquiry into the circumstances regarding the outbreak.

HARLOW: The state of Florida is now finally reporting coronavirus cases and deaths from nursing homes across the state, but do those numbers add up? Some of the critics say no. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:43:47]

SCIUTTO: Governor Ron DeSantis is posting about Florida's response to the pandemic, even saying that those who criticize the reopening of beaches, for instance, should apologize. So far the state has seen nearly 37,000 cases overall, 1,400 deaths.

HARLOW: Wow. And now questions are rising over how Florida is reporting its coronavirus cases and deaths, particularly those from nursing homes. As Randi Kaye reports, the numbers just do not seem to add up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As some of Florida's beaches and businesses start to reopen today, the state is also opening up the records of coronavirus cases and deaths in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The list from Florida's Health Department details more than 300 facilities where staff or residents tested positive for the coronavirus, including those who have died.

But the numbers don't always add up. Take the Atria Willow Wood Assisted Living Facility in Fort Lauderdale. Officials there tell CNN seven residents have died from the coronavirus, but the chart released by the state May 1st tells a different story, just three resident deaths, noting that three others are, quote, under investigation.

And there's more. The state's data also indicates a staff member died.

[09:45:00]

The facility told me a staff member did test positive for the virus, but recovered, and even returned to work.

Still, that's hardly the only discrepancy.

At Five Star Premiere Residences in Hollywood, the state's chart shows one resident and two staff members died, but Five Star told me by phone that it's three confirmed deaths from the coronavirus were all residents. Five Star says they did not lose any staff as the state's most current list suggests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was devastating. You know, I couldn't understand how something could escalate so quickly in a matter of days.

KAYE: George Dominio's mother died from coronavirus at the Residential Plaza at Blue Lagoon in Miami. The state's chart shows three deaths at that facility. But George shared these letters from the facility to families, one dated April 20th reports the death of three residents. Another from April 27th reports the death of another resident, bringing the total to four. Yet the state health department's chart, which is supposed to be updated weekly, still shows three deaths at that facility.

Our calls to Residential Plaza were not returned. Neither were e-mails or calls to the governor's office and the state health department.

George says families deserve the real numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the state provides a list that we know is incomplete, or doesn't match up with the total counts that have been released locally, we know something is wrong.

We know for a fact that it's not jiving, you know, the numbers are definitely off, and it's very disturbing.

And we're not sure what -- what is being covered up.

KAYE: Perhaps it's just fuzzy math. Whatever the reason, the numbers just don't sync up.

At the Court of Palm Aire in Pompano Beach, the state's chart shows seven deaths, including six residents and one staff member. The facility tells us there have been seven deaths, but they were all residents.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: That was Randi Kaye there reporting.

Through the state's in depth contact tracing process, the Florida Department of Health epidemiologists track cases and deaths related to long-term care facilities. As additional information is gathered, the associated data is refined and improved upon.

HARLOW: And the state says it's committed to transparency by providing the public with the most real time information it has available. And as such, the data will continue to be updated and we will keep you updated as well.

Meantime, there is new evidence coronavirus may have spread through France weeks earlier than previously thought. What this discovery could mean.

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[09:51:53]

HARLOW: Doctors in France now say coronavirus was there weeks before even the first case was reported in that country. This is Italy, one of the hardest hit countries in Europe from it, really begins to reopen.

SCIUTTO: Ben Wedeman, he's standing by there.

But let's begin with Jim Bittermann outside Paris.

And, Jim, this is part of broader indications here, right, that the virus came not only to Europe but to the U.S. earlier than thought. Tell us what doctors in France are learning specifically.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not what they did, Jim, is they -- primarily out of curiosity, doctors at one of the hospitals here went back and checked at their severely struck -- there severely injured influenza patients that came into the hospital in December. There were about 24 of them. And one of the 24, when they brought out the cotton swabs they had preserved in a freezer, when they brought them out and checked, they found out that one was, in fact, tested positive for coronavirus.

Now, what that means to epidemiologists is that in fact things were on a different timeline than they had assumed. What's more interesting, too, is this 42-year-old man had never been to China. And so the question is, how exactly did he contract the disease and what does it mean for the spread of the disease within France and perhaps within Europe?

Now, I know that in other places in the world they are now talking about going back and checking the severe influenza cases that they've had in December, end of 2019, just to see if perhaps there are more coronavirus cases that have gone undetected.

Jim. Poppy.

HARLOW: Thank you for that.

And, Ben, I mean you're in Italy, you're in Naples, southern Italy. I just -- you know, I wonder if you've seen the streets there that busy in months.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, and I've been in Italy for now than two -- more than two months.

HARLOW: Right.

WEDEMAN: And in this particular neighborhood of Naples, Porcella (ph), it is very busy. In fact, I'm just going to step aside and show you, there are stores open. Most of these are stores that are selling food or cleaning products. But people are out and about. And I don't know what this neighborhood is like on a normal day, but we're told that this isn't much different than it would be otherwise.

What is new, we're in the second day of what's called phase two, the gradual reopening of the country. What's new in Naples is that the pizzerias are open for the first time since the 12th of May (ph). They were ordered shut by the governor of this region who was very worried that if there was a massive outbreak of coronavirus in this relatively poor part of the country, the health system simply wouldn't be able to cope. Fortunately, however, the outbreak in this part in southern Italy has been relatively mild, unlike the northern part of the country, and, therefore, there is a willingness to reopen pizzerias but only for takeaway and delivery.

And, gradually, there will be, within the coming weeks, more things reopening.

[09:55:01]

But this is a part of Italy that can barely afford to go for a few days without working, and, therefore, that's why you're seeing so many people out and about and hopefully trying to restore some semblance of normal life.

Poppy. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, Ben, if pizzerias are open, maybe we'll all get through this. Thanks very much to you and Jim.

But while urging -- while urging Americans to follow social distancing guidelines, including avoiding non-essential travel, moments from now, President Trump, he's going to leave the White House for a trip to Arizona. These as new models suggest we could see the projected number of Americans who die from the coronavirus double in just the next few months.

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[10:00:03]

HARLOW: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

This morning, White House officials are telling CNN that