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Key Model Now Forecasts 134,000 U.S. Deaths By Early August, Almost Double Last Estimate; 40+ U.S. States to Partially Reopen By Week's End; Doctors: Virus Was Spreading in France in December; Retailer J.Crew Files for Bankruptcy. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 5, 2020 - 05:00   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. Welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow.

So, just ahead on CNN, facing pressure to open their economies, dozens of U.S. states lift lockdown measures. But new projections show easing restrictions could lead to more people dying.

And doctors in France find evidence the coronavirus was circulating in Europe much, much earlier than thought. We have that story.

And Greece is getting ready to welcome tourists this summer. So, what did they do right? We'll have an exclusive report from Athens.


CURNOW: Dozens of states across the U.S. are slowly reopening their economies, even as disturbing new projections show the death toll from the coronavirus is far, far from over. We know a key model now estimates more than 134,000 deaths by August 4th.

Take a look at these numbers. That is nearly double its previous prediction.

And even a Trump administration model predicts a steep rise in death. An internal document obtained by "The New York Times" projects about 3,000 deaths every day by June 1st.

Nearly 69,000 people have died across the U.S. so far.

And America's leading expert on infectious disease warns about easing social distancing too soon. Take a listen.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When you have a lot of virus activity and you know you're able to contain it to a certain degree by the mitigation, the physical separations, the kinds of things we've been talking about, gateway, phase 1, phase 2, phase 3, and you start to leap-frog over some of these, you're inviting rebound. And rebound is going to give you spikes and spikes are going to give you the kinds of numbers.

I don't know if those numbers because I have skepticism about models, about they're only as good as the assumptions you put into them, but they're not completely misleading. They're telling you something that's a reality. That when you have mitigation that's containing something and unless it's down in the right direction and you pull back prematurely, you're going to get a rebound of cases. And that's something that I've been talking about in multiple interviews multiple times.


CURNOW: Well, those words of caution as states ease restrictions and Americans try to get back to work and get back outdoors. That has many worried that the relaxed social distancing will only lead to a jump in cases.


DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION: Things that are going to drive up transmission are people getting out and interacting more. People can protect themselves a bit by wearing, you know, face coverings, masks. That will help. They can avoid as much contact as humanly possible.

But there are some things in our favor. States can scale up faster testing and contact tracing. The faster they do that, the more we can reduce the risk of these resurgences.


CURNOW: Now, by the end of this week, more than 40 states we know will have partially reopened their economies. That move even as the number of cases continues to rise.

Our Nick Watt has more on all of this -- Nick.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, restaurants can reopen in Nebraska, bars in Montana, offices in Colorado.

Yes, some social distancing restrictions remain, but, by the end of this week, more than 40 states will be partially back open for business.

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: Well, we have been staying indoors, we have been slowing down the spread. But what we haven't done is gotten rid of the virus.

WATT: This is what new normal looks like: eating in Texas complete with masks.

In Miami Beach today: They had to close the popular South Point Park again after police issued 7,300 warnings to people not wearing masks. The projected number of deaths forecast by early August in this

country just nearly doubled to more than 134,000 in that well-known model from the University of Washington.

The reason --

ALI MOKDAD, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: Each one of them increased mobility before relaxation, premature relaxation and social distancing, with adding more presumptive deaths as well, and we're seeing a lot of outbreaks in the Midwest, for example.

WATT: Another model used by the administration predicts a short rise in deaths to around 3,000 a day by June 1st, according to sources and a rough eight-fold increase in the number of new cases every day nationwide.

Now in 15 states, the daily new case count is falling. Among men those northeast hot spots.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): You see the decline is, again, not as steep as the incline.


But reopening is more difficult than the close-down.

WATT: But in 20 states, the daily new case count is still rising, among them, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois.

The governor of California will now allow some retail to open Friday with significant modifications. He says certain areas of lower concern can move even faster.

NEWSOM: We will afford them that right with conditions and modifications that meet the health needs of the entire state.

WATT: Meanwhile, the White House is now focusing on 14 potential vaccines.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are very confident that we're going to have a vaccine at the end of the year.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Miracles can happen. It could come together, but I'm certainly not banking on it.

WATT: The makers of that potential therapeutic, remdesivir, say they have had donated 140,000 courses to the federal government.

DANIEL O'DAY, CEO, GILEAD SCIENCES: They will determine, based upon things like ICU beds, where the course of the epidemic is in the United States. They will begin shipping tens of thousands of treatment courses out early this week.

WATT: And today in D.C., history was made. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business

before the Honorable the Supreme Court of the United States are admonished to give their attention.

WATT: That's the Supreme Court for the first time in history meeting by teleconference.

(on camera): So California will begin opening Friday. This was one of the first states in the U.S. to tell us to stay home. On Friday, that will be 50 days ago.

But the governor says that certain local areas can move faster or slower. If they want, the mayor of San Francisco said her city might need a little bit more time before they begin to reopen.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


CURNOW: Thanks, Nick, for that.

Now, we have new information on the origin of the coronavirus. A diplomatic source tells CNN intelligence shared among U.S. allies indicates the virus likely came from a Chinese market. The source adds: We think it's highly likely it was an accident. It is highly likely it was naturally occurring and that the human infection was from natural human and animal interaction.

The Trump administration has been pushing that the virus came from a Chinese lab, although at this time there is no evidence to back up that claim.

So, let's get more from our Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong.

Kristie, hi, good to see you.

I know you've reported from many wet markets in Asia. What more are we hearing about this, especially from the Chinese?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, we're still awaiting comment from China's ministry of foreign affairs .It is a holiday in China. We will be back to work tomorrow.

We have heard from China's state broadcaster CCTV. It issued a scathing and harshly worded commentary last night. It basically called U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo evil. It went on to accuse him of spewing poison and spreading lies.

It's interesting that the CCTV broadcast also name-checked virologists at Columbia University, as well as the executive director at the World Health Organization, both individuals saying the virus is natural in origin and did not come from this lab in Wuhan.

Now, there's also growing push back to this White House theory coming from the Five Eyes security alliance. This is the security alliance between the U.S., the U.K., Canada, New Zealand, Australia. It contradicts the theory that we've been hearing from the Trump administration that the virus came from this lab in Wuhan, says that there simply is not enough evidence to support that.

Now, there's a lot of reasons why there are question marks over the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It's famous for its research looking into coronaviruses in bats. There was reported warning about two years ago by U.S. diplomats in China. They sounded the alarm twice about safety concerns at the lab.

But again, when Secretary Pompeo repeated in claim, he provided no evidence about that on Sunday.

Now, meanwhile, Chinese officials have been peddling their own theory about the origin of the virus. For weeks now, Chinese officials have been saying that this was brought in by the U.S. military, that the U.S. Army somehow brought the virus into Central China.

So, here we have it in escalating words about the origin story of the virus, at the time when the two most powerful nations of the planet really should be working together -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Yes, a lot of politicization in terms of this origin theory. And you mentioned the Chinese backlash there, I mean, where COVID originated. I mean, many countries are slamming China for their lack of transparency, and early cover-up, all of that.

But it is interesting to see how China is dealing with this, at least the messaging and the propaganda internally.

STOUT: Absolutely. And China is managing this situation, it's in damage control right now in three different ways.


I mean, number one, denials. It is denying that it ever covered up the extent or severity of the pandemic.

And number two, it's merged as sort of this leader helping other nations manage the pandemic. The situation inside China very different now. The lockdown has worked. It is slowly returning back to normal.

It has been donating large supplies of PPE and other medical equipment to the West, including the United States. But it also has been engaging it, propaganda and messaging campaigns as we saw last week with that Xinhua tweet, which has been viewed 1.9 million times mocking U.S. pandemic response.

CURNOW: Kristie Lu Stout, it was great to speak to you. Thanks so much. Live there from Hong Kong.

Now the White House's Operation Warp Speed to fast track the coronavirus vaccine has identified more than a dozen vaccines it will focus on. An official tells us the goal is to have one million dozes of a vaccine available by November. Well, the Trump administration also says it will now oversee the distribution of the antiviral drug remdesivir. The maker of the drug has previously said right now, there's enough to treat up to 200,000 patients.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration says it will now require proof of accuracy from antibody test makers. The agency is taking action to try and rein in unproven and faulty test that have flooded the market.

And world leaders are pledging $8 billion for the research and development of the coronavirus treatment and vaccine. The European Union hosted a Monday virtual event. The president of the European Union says this is just the beginning and countries must be ready to contribute more.

E.U. officials say pharmaceutical companies should commit to making treatments and vaccines available around the world at affordable prices.


URSULA VON DER LEYEN, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: The reality is that we will have to learn to live with the virus until and unless we develop a vaccine. And this is why we have to join forces and pool our money and our minds to kick-start work on vaccines, diagnostics and treatments against coronavirus. We need to develop, produce and deploy them to every single corner of the world.


CURNOW: Well, Norway, the U.K., Canada, and Japan are among the top contributors. You can see from the list, the United States is not participating, although the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is pledging $100 million to this effort.

I want to bring in Steven Riley, professor of Infectious Disease Dynamics at Imperial College, and an advisor to the British government. He joins me now from London.

Good to speak to you, Professor.

I mean, that's a huge amount of money behind this vaccine, over 80 billion.

STEVEN RILEY, PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE DYNAMICS, IMPERIAL COLLEGE: Yes, that's right. If we look at the current health impact of the virus, it does seem if we're ever going to invest in this scale, now is the time. So, it does seem appropriate.

CURNOW: It does appropriate. I want to talk about -- I know you're there in the U.K. and you give advice to the U.K. government. But as you look to the U.S., we're getting worse information in terms of modeling here in the U.S.

One model predicting about 135,000 deaths in the U.S., 3,000 cases per day by June. I mean, is that a bargain a country like America has applied to reopen the country?

RILEY: I think to some degree the forecasting models around the world are all in the same difficult situation but perhaps it's more difficult in the U.S. and other places. The main thing that's difficult to predict is how human behavior is going to change.

So, you're seeing across many different populations in the U.S., you're seeing a sustained level of infections. There's good social distancing but not quite as stringent as other areas. That transmission is right at the critical threshold and it does make it incredibly difficult to forecast accurately.

CURNOW: OK. And in terms of that, then decisions are having to be made. Governors particularly. Are you saying that in many ways, they're perhaps flying blind when they're making a decision to reopen because the testing and the contact-tracing isn't as prevalent, yes?

RILEY: So I think, you know, compared to certainly the U.K. over, you know, the last eight weeks, the U.S. has had much higher levels of testing.

And I -- and I think that that kind of awareness in the clinical (INAUDIBLE) is probably OK. The thing that's more difficult, the aspect of the pandemic that might be more difficult in individual U.S. states is understanding how people are changing their behavior and how many more contacts they're having as they're trying to reopen and the nature of those contacts.

So they're going to have to keep looking very closely at those data streams to see what the impact is of this relaxation and attempt to increase economic activity.


CURNOW: Yes, and where the spikes are. I don't know if you just heard our reporter there in Hong Kong talking about the origins and the political conversation that has been had in the U.S. and China about the origins of this virus. I know you studied the dynamics of this virus. That's your job.

In terms of your expertise, I mean, do you agree with the intelligence experts saying this was definitely in many ways originated in one of those wet markets rather than some sort of bio weapon in the lab?

RILEY: The scientific evidence is very clear. The genetic structure of the virus is perfectly consistent that it's just come out of nature, and by far, the most likely explanation is that it did happen via a wet market or animal or some other route. I think, you know, that's the science on the genome of the virus, it's very, very clear.

CURNOW: Yes, and you're the expert. Thank you very much, Professor Steven Riley, for your expertise.

RILEY: You're welcome.

CURNOW: So, there's new evidence that COVID-19 may have been in France for weeks earlier than previously thought. This is interesting. So, why this matters in the fight against the virus? We have a live report on that next.



CURNOW: The doctors in Paris are suggesting that COVID-19 was circulating in Europe well before previously thought, identifying the first patient is crucial to understanding how this virus may spread.

Now, you may recall France reported its first cases in late January in two people who traveled to Wuhan, China. But a new test, new test on frozen samples show another patient was infected with the virus back in December.

Well, Jim Bittermann joins us from just outside of Paris.

Hi, Jim. Good to see you. I mean, this is in many ways game-changing information.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is indeed, Robyn. And, in fact, it's very interesting for scientists, and like, with the professor that you just had on, Steven Riley, very interested in this information to track down exactly how the virus spread. The epidemiologists like to know that sort of thing because it helps them predict how it's going to spread in the future.

In any case, what happened was that doctors at the Saint-Denise hospital decided to go back and check all the very severe cases of flu that came in during the month of December. This was long before the coronavirus had become much of an issue and indeed unfreezing some of the samples they had from 24 patients, they found one that tested positive for coronavirus.

And he suffered very severe symptoms. His children also got sick. His wife did not get sick. The theory is they're theorizing that perhaps that he was contaminated by his wife who worked in a supermarket next to a sushi stand and perhaps carried the virus home from fish or some other kind of contaminant.

In any case, he had never been to China. And so, there's no exact link that scientists know about right now. So, it was very interesting to the epidemiologists.

All this took place on the 27th of December which was almost a month before the first cases -- the first recognized cases in France up until now -- Robyn.

CURNOW: OK. Thanks for that update. It's fascinating.

Jim Bittermann there in Paris.

BITTERMANN: Thanks (ph).

CURNOW: So, we know that three health care workers have mysteriously fallen out of hospital windows in Russia over the past two weeks. Two of those people are dead, one remains hospitalized. All three cases are now in police investigation.

Matthew Chance now reports -- Matthew.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a potentially very dark development in Russia where a doctor who criticized conditions at his hospital on social media is now fighting for his life after falling out of a second story window.

Alexander Shulepov, a doctor who works in an ambulance in the city of Voronezh, is now in a serious condition with head injuries, according to local media reports. Earlier, he'd been diagnosed earlier with coronavirus and had posted defiant messages online saying he had been forced to work after testing positive. Shulepov later retracted his statements before plunging out of the window in unclear circumstances.

One of his colleagues has told CNN that he's been preparing to be discharged from the hospital where he's been receiving treatment. What's provoking so much speculation on social media is that this is the third Russian doctor who's mysteriously fallen out of a window in recent weeks. Earlier this month, a doctor in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk died of her injuries after falling during a meeting with local health officials. A local media said the doctor opposed the changing of her hospital into a coronavirus facility because of lack of protective gear, although the regional health department issued a statement denying that.

Last month the head of medical services at Star City, the main training space for Russian cosmonauts also died after falling out of a window there. The authorities there called it a tragic accident and gave no further details.

What we do know, though, is that the Russian health care system, and the medical staff who work in it are under increasing pressure as the coronavirus pandemic ravages across the country.

Matthew Chance, CNN.


CURNOW: Thanks, Matthew, for that.

So, still to come here at CNN, why lawmakers in the U.S. Senate are at sharp odds over the next stimulus package for Americans.



CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow. It is very nearly 5:30 a.m. here on the east coast of the U.S. Welcome to all of our viewers here in America and around the world. So, we know that millions of Americans who are in desperate need of a

new stimulus relief package from Washington could be waiting a little while longer. Democrats and Republicans are at odds over what it should include and the size and scope of it.

Meantime, the coronavirus pandemic could very well mean the end for a number of struggling retailers. The first major casualty is J.Crew, as you can see they have just filed for bankruptcy.

So, Christine Romans joins me with more on all of this.

Hi, Christine. Good to see you.

J.Crew filing bankruptcy. I mean, the first perhaps of many.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, so many of these retailers, really iconic American retailers honestly, have been facing a lot of competition from the way Americans shop differently. J.Crew had some other issues. They had some time where it may have seemed to have over expanded and then also, you know, just sort of fell out of taste -- taste of the consumer changed a little bit.

And now, it's so fascinating because usually when retailers, you know, file for bankruptcy, they often use these liquidation sales, going out of business sales just to get rid of their inventory, right? So they can have some cash on hand to get through the bankruptcy process.

And think about it, in the COVID-19 world, you can't have the going out of business sales where you open the doors and people get things for 70 percent off. So, it just sort of shows you what many of these retailers are facing. First, a real change in landscape and then COVID-19.

CURNOW: Yes, it certainly does. I mean, there's a lot to talk about. I want you to explain to us how key this is.

California, one of the first states, actually, I think the first state to borrow money from the federal government to continue to pay unemployment claims. I mean, is this also, again, a first of many here?

ROMANS: It is. And I think it really illustrates, Robyn, the tidal wave of joblessness in this country. A lot of people, tens of millions of people lost their jobs, were furloughed. They get state unemployment benefits. In California, it's $450 a week and then there are federal benefits of $600 a week on top of that.

So many people out of work that some of these states are saying, we're going to have to go borrow, you know, probably very cheap money from the federal government so we can keep paying all of these jobless people.

CURNOW: And then also, we know that people are suffering when it comes to just paying the rent or the mortgage. And I know that in Miami, we saw I think it was 10,000. END