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As U.S. Death Toll Tops 70,000, WH Plans to Phase Out Coronavirus Task Force; Ousted Vaccine Director Says Warnings About Virus Were Ignored; Trump Blocks Dr. Fauci from Testifying Before House: "House is a Bunch of Trump Haters". Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 5, 2020 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. Tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, deaths in the U.S. topping 70,000. The number of new cases growing every day, yet the White House is looking to phase out the coronavirus task force, why?

Plus, some scientists say herd immunity is likely the only way to end the pandemic. Herd immunity means a lot more people get this. How many more cases and deaths does that mean? Two global experts on that subject OUTFRONT.

And a major pharmaceutical company thinks it can have millions of vaccine doses ready to go by the end of the year. Find out from them why they're so optimistic.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, the death toll in this country from coronavirus is now at a staggering 70,000 people. It is a staggering number no matter how you look at it. And think about it this way, it was just last week that the model used by the White House projected that we would have just over 70,000 deaths by August 4th. It is, of course, May 5th and the number of cases continues to rise, now nearing 1.2 million.

So if you take a look at this graph, this is the number of new cases a day in the United States. You can see that that's not yet going down. The U.S. is still adding roughly 25,000 cases a day that we know of and this does come as we're learning that the administration is having conversations about winding down the coronavirus task force. That's the group of people running the national response to the virus.

The task force, obviously, Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the country is on it. Deborah Birx is on it, Dr. Deborah Birx. The Director of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar and the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. And what they've really been doing is coordinating their response across the federal government. The administration says that medical experts will still advise the

President, but they're going to leave it to the federal agencies to manage the government's response. Apparently deciding that the meetings to coordinate that response aren't necessary anymore.

CNN's Nick Watt is OUTFRONT live in Los Angeles. And Nick, obviously, as these cases continue to rise, you do have states opening up to varying degrees. Some of them now giving new details on when they're going to reopen schools.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, that is the question at the forefront of every parent's mind. In Montana we hear some small schools may open actually this week. But that state is an outlier way out there. In fact, Connecticut just became the 46th state in this country to say, yes, there's not going to be any more school this academic year.

The Governor, in fact, said in making that decision, he said it breaks my heart. And also what school kids will go back to in the fall, we still don't know. Chances are it will be different.

Meantime, pretty much everything else, the doors are beginning to inch open but Aaron, there is a price that we will have to pay.



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D) NEW YORK: The faster we reopen, the lower the economic cost. But the higher human costs.


WATT(voice over): At least, 42 states have now taken steps towards reopening. Today in Washington State you can fish, hunt and play golf again. In Arizona, barbers can open this weekend. Restaurants with distancing can open their doors Monday.


MAYOR KATE GALLEGO (D) PHOENIX, ARIZONA: You very shortly will be able to get your nails done here in Arizona. That's not something I would do. I would encourage people if you can still stay home, please do so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) ...



WATT(voice over): In Texas, a park ranger told people to social distance and was pushed into the water for his trouble.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom says some retail can finally reopen Friday after 50 days. But the State's two biggest cities say they might take it slower.


MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D) LOS ANGELES: Our timing on opening may vary from other parts of the state. One national model has now near doubled our number of projected deaths to nearly 135,000.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: How many deaths and how much suffering are you willing to accept to get back to what you want to be some form of normality.


WATT(voice over): And we're still waiting on some much needed tools.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D) MICHIGAN: We can't resume normal life until we have a vaccine.


WATT(voice over): Some researchers say we'll also need 100,000 contact tracers as we reopen to keep track of the virus.


CRYSTAL WATSON, SENIOR SCHOLAR, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: If we don't do this, I believe what we're going to see is large surges in cases, large epidemics that may send us back under social distancing measures.


WATT(voice over): Now, new case counts are dropping in New York.



CUOMO: There's no doubt that we're coming down the mountain.


WATT(voice over): But they're still putting new precautions in place, 1 am Wednesday morning, the city's subway will stop the first suspension of 24 hour service in 115 years.


CUOMO: Why? Because they have to be disinfected.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WATT(voice over): Meatpacking plants across the country have also

closed for cleaning after outbreaks. Nearly 800 employees were sickened at Smithfield's plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, it's now reopening.


MAYOR PAUL TENHAKEN (R) SIOUX FALLS, SD: That's what these plants are having to try and figure out is where do they get to a point where they can say to their employees with confidence, yes, it is safe for you to return to work.


WATT(voice over): The President has ordered plants open, the supply chain is suffering and according to one analyst, one in five Wendy's is now out of fresh beef, no longer serving burgers.


WATT: Now today, it struck me that the Disney corporation is kind of looking like a microcosm of this entire situation. They just announced that their first quarter profits fell 91 percent, 10s of thousands of workers furloughed, executives have taken pay cuts. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, they just announced that next week, Disneyland Shanghai, their first park to reopen, will reopen, but guests must wear masks, they will have their temperature taken and employees are right now being trained in what they're calling contact lists guest interactions. Sounds like fun. Erin.

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

OUTFRONT now, Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Ashish Jha, Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

So let me start with you, Sanjay. We hear about the coronavirus task force being phased out and they want to do that over the next few weeks and Vice President Pence says, well, we're going to transition this back to the federal agencies. Is the taskforce useful in terms of getting them all in a room to do that in one place?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think it is useful and you thought about during Ebola, for example, there was a tsar to sort of coordinate that federal response. I think it's important here - objectively, I think it's important. Subjectively, I think it's also sent a message of seriousness of gravity around this and help translate some of these more difficult medical concepts for the public, which I think has been really important.

And keep in mind, Erin, on March 16th when they started the pause on these briefings in more earnest, there was some 4,500 people roughly with the confirmed infection at that point and around 70 people had died. I mean, you see the numbers, it's a thousand fold now in terms of deaths. States are reopening. I worry that this is all sending the wrong message, disbanding the task force, states reopening. It feels to many people like it's over and it's not. BURNETT: Well, that certainly is the message it sends, Dr. Jha. I

mean, do we still need to hear from the doctors on a regular basis? And I guess, I'm wondering if maybe the reason that we're not hearing from them as they would maybe be saying what you're going to say or what Sanjay just said and that's not the message that the White House wants out there.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes. So I think abandoning the taskforce at this moment is a terrible idea. What most people need to know is I think we're sort of at the top of the third inning of a nine inning baseball game. We have a long way to go and this is not when the coach walks out and says we're done.

And that's basically what we're seeing at this point and I think it's not going to be useful. Yes, states are going to continue to have to play a big role but we have a long way to go on this pandemic and a lot of people are going to get sick and a lot of people are going to die and we need a really effective federal response helping working with states.

And I'm deeply worried that if we stop hearing from Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci and we stopped having a coordinated federal response, things are going to get worse, not better.

BURNETT: I mean, Sanjay, look at least 20 states right now are seeing a growth in case numbers and as you just pointed out, I remember asking you 10 days ago, was there any way that we would be at 74,000 deaths as they were projecting, the White House task force by August and it was obvious that wasn't the case.

And now we pass their number by August today. I mean, we're right there, we're right there. I'm sorry. We're a couple of thousand short. But states are moving ahead with those plans to reopen. I mean, Dr. Fauci summed it all up this way, Sanjay.


FAUCI: How many deaths and how much suffering are you willing to accept to get back to what you want to be some form of normality sooner rather than later?


BURNETT: What will Americans accept? I mean, Sanjay, asked that in the context of, if two months ago, you had said 70,000 Americans were going to die of infectious disease in the next nine weeks, would you be OK with that. Nobody would have said yes. And now people are opening up and it seems saying yes.

GUPTA: This is a really challenging question, Erin. I mean, I don't know. I mean, I think you're absolutely right. I think it depends in terms of, in some ways, of how it's presented.


I've taken a strong stance and not sort of creating these equivalencies like to say that's two 747s a day, maybe three a day passengers would be dying. That's what the coronavirus is doing and I don't like to present things in those stark terms, because people should just sort of recognize that this is serious and that there's something that can be done about it.

I mean, I think it's probably the same for Ashish as it is for me. I've known people who've died of this, Erin. I've been in hospitals and I've seen people struggling to breathe because of this. And I think for a lot of people who have not seen that, this still feels like something that they're immune from, that they don't have to pay attention to that they're not worried about, that they think it's not a risk to them.

And thankfully there'll be a lot of people who won't get sick and that's obviously a very good thing. But right now, I think, not only is our people's health potentially at risk, but how I behave could potentially put other people at risk. How they behave could put me at risk.

I mean, people talk about being risky and taking a sacrifice and starting to get things open again. Well, you're not just risking it for yourself, you're risking it for me as well, and for you, Erin, and for Ashish. So I think it's a different sort of, you know, metric that we have to think about this.

BURNETT: So, Dr. Jha, the number of new cases per day in the United States has largely plateaued, albeit it as Sanjay points out at a level where he makes the 747s' comparison, you're having a 9/11 a day and you think about the response in this country to that. But when you compare the plateau of where we are to other countries like Italy, Spain and France, they have these huge outbreaks, but then their curves did sharply drop. Why isn't that happening here? Do you think it could happen with the reopenings that are about to go on or not?

JHA: Yes. So one thing to Dr. Fauci's comment about how much suffering are we willing to live with, let me just make one quick comment on that. I think it's a false choice between do we want our economy open or do we want to save lives. I think there is a third path.

If we had spent the last three months, building up a fabulous testing, tracing, isolation infrastructure where we were doing testing all the time, we could open up our economy and not have 3,000 Americans, 2,000 Americans dying every day. So we have just chosen not to do the thing that gets us out of this bind and now we've presented this decision of which of these two horrible choices do you want.

In terms of what other countries have done and how Italy and Spain have brought their numbers down, they went into full lockdown. I mean, in Italy everybody was shut inside for four weeks. You could only go out for the bare essentials.

We kind of did it halfway. We still had spring break and you had those spring breakers partying on the beaches. You had some states that never really fully shut down at all. So we've had this very mixed approach and not much testing or not enough testing and no surprise. We made some progress, but we didn't make as much progress as we wanted. We kind of did this halfway.

BURNETT: Sanjay, final word.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, and the other thing is there is a plan. There is a criteria that has been put forth that states should follow. I think that's gotten lost in this conversation. Seeing this 14-day downward trend like Ashish was saying making sure that testing is in place.

I mean, there are countries that have had success. I mean, New Zealand, I think yesterday, got down to basically no cases. It's obviously a much smaller country. These downward trends in countries in Europe. It is possible. This doesn't have to be the way that it is.

But it has to be the way that it is for a bit longer. I think that that's the point that I think these public health officials are making.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks to both very much as always.

And OUTFRONT next, Trump's ousted top vaccine official, Dr. Rick Bright, now says that he warned about the pandemic repeatedly and was ignored. What else is he alleging tonight?

Plus, Sweden saying its capital could reach herd immunity in weeks. Is mass infection possibly the best weapon against coronavirus?

And Pfizer at the front of the race for a vaccine, projections of millions of doses from Pfizer by the end of the year, is it real or wishful thinking?



BURNETT: New tonight, Trump's ousted vaccine chief tonight alleging that his repeated warnings starting in January about the coronavirus pandemic were ignored by the Trump administration. Dr. Rick Bright who will now testify before Congress next week filing a whistleblower complaint.

And one of the things it says, "It was obvious that Dr. Bright's persistent demands for urgent action to respond to the pandemic had caused an 's***' storm and a commotion and were unwelcome in the office of the HHS Secretary."

Jeremy Diamond is OUTFRONT at the White House. So Jeremy, how worried is President Trump and the White House about Dr. Bright testifying? Again, he was the top official in charge of vaccines until he was removed from that position days ago.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He was and at a time when President Trump is trying to portray his administration's response to this crisis as a great success and at a time when he is also barring members of his coronavirus task force from testifying before House Democrats on Capitol Hill. This is certainly not something that President Trump or the White House would like to see. Dr. Bright coming forward on Capitol Hill as he is expected to do next

week now and testifying, not only because he is alleging that he was fired in retaliation for objecting to that hydroxychloroquine treatment which we know the President repeatedly promoted from the White House, but also because, frankly, he paints a picture of a chaotic response to this coronavirus in its early days.

Dr. Bright in his complaint filed with the office of the Special Counsel talks about the fact that he raised concerns and sent up flares, essentially, about potential shortages of everything from masks to syringes, to testing swabs and all of those things, of course, ended up coming true because there were indeed shortages. So that's certainly not something that President Trump or the White House wants to be reminded about, certainly not in a public forum like a hearing room on Capitol Hill, Erin.

BURNETT: Right. Which is just what they're going to get. All right. Jeremy, thank you very much.

And I want to go to our Political Analyst, David Gregory and Gloria Borger.

So Gloria, President Trump has repeatedly touted the administration's response to Coronavirus, what a success it is. Dr. Bright though is coming out and in this report, whistleblower report, saying this is not at all how it was, that these warnings were ignored among other things. I mean, how damaging could this testimony be?


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as Jeremy was saying, I think it could be incredibly damaging. I think the White House and HHS will come up with some way to try and discredit Dr. Bright. But he is a professional. He was the man in charge of developing the vaccine.

And what he is saying effectively is that this is an administration that was asleep at the switch, that it was driven by politics, that it refused to listen to the scientists, that it was willing to approve or fast track drugs like hydroxychloroquine for the wrong purposes. And he also in a conference call with reporters today, he said something that really struck me, Erin, which is he said, the past few years have been beyond challenging. I was pressured to let politics and cronyism drive decisions over opinions of the best scientists in government.

So I think it's not only going to be about that this point in time, but he may peel this onion back and talk about what's been going on in this government when it comes to science for years.

BURNETT: And David, to the point that Gloria is making, he does claim in the complaint that HH leaders were doling out favors to people close to Trump for a long time. He says they pressured him to ignore expert recommendations and instead to award lucrative contracts based on political connections and cronyism. And he goes on, David, to specifically say that that includes efforts to give a contract to a drug company whose CEO he was told was friends with Jared Kushner. Could that be true?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It could and it could be really damning, but we have to put this into some perspective. This is an impeached president who faced down a whistleblower before, who brought up similar complaints about a president who was only thinking about his political fortunes and not about the welfare of the country and we saw how that turned out.

He was acquitted. The country is incredibly polarized and what's going to be different this time? The president saying he doesn't want Anthony Fauci to testify in the House because he thinks the House are full of Trump haters and there's a lot of people support Trump who agree with that.

So we're the kind of political stalemate around really important questions, which is did the government do enough to put us on a kind of war footing that the president says we're on to fight this virus at the earliest possible point. That's the question we have to get to the answer for.

And it's going to probably take some time. We're going to probably have to get through this before we get into a kind of 9/11 style commission about what was done, what wasn't done and what the federal response was like.

BURNETT: And I do want to note just so that everyone knows, the HHS has responded to the complaint from Dr. Bright now. Spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley says, "Dr. Bright was transferred to NIH to work on diagnostics testing - critical to combating COVID-19 - where he has been entrusted to spend upwards of a billion dollars to advance that effort. We're deeply disappointed he has not shown up to work on behalf of the American people." So they are certainly fighting back.

Gloria, you also have here the whole issue with Dr. Fauci, the President defending his decision to block Dr. Fauci from testifying to the Democratic-led House, but allowing him to go before the GOP. And the President literally said today, "The House has a bunch of Trump haters."

So he's just admitting here, he just doesn't want it to be there.

BORGER: Right.

BURNETT: He only wants it in - this is political to him.

BORGER: Well, look, this is a president - this shouldn't surprise us in many ways unfortunately. This is a president who's fired multiple inspectors general whose job it is to oversee parts of the government. He doesn't want oversight unless the oversight comes from his friends or his own political party.

Well, Tony Fauci undoubtedly would have been treated well by the Democrats as well as Republicans. Remember, in the Country, he is trusted more than Donald Trump by a nearly two to one margin. Remember that. So Fauci would have done very well, but Trump just didn't want to see

some of those difficult questions being asked to Fauci who would undoubtedly answer them honestly, as you know.


BORGER: He hasn't been afraid to disagree with the President.

BURNETT: No. And, of course, earlier when the President was downplaying the virus, Fauci testified in front of Congress that the death rate was 10 times that of the flu.

BORGER: Of course.

BURNETT: And you know what, David, that's not the only time even on that podium with the coronavirus task force where he just directly contradicted the President. Here's a few.


TRUMP: That might not come back at all, Jeff. It may not come back at all.

FAUCI: We will have coronavirus in the fall.

TRUMP: Ultimately, we're doing more testing, I think, than probably any of the governors even want.

FAUCI: We absolutely need to significantly ramp up not only the number of tests, but the capacity to actually perform form them. I am overly confident right now at all ...



BURNETT: So that's what you're going to hear in testimony, David.

GREGORY: Yes. But I just want to disagree with this premise a little bit. The notion that Anthony Fauci, as you've just displayed, has not been heard from is wrong. He has been honest and he has been out there. Thank God. We see Tony Fauci all of the time informing the American people and the President has not stepped in front of that.

So, yes, you can criticize him for saying him for saying if the ...

BORGER: You can't.

GREGORY: ... House wants to do some oversight over the federal preparedness for this and how the administration handled this, that Tony Fauci ought to be able to do that. It's not the same thing as him briefing a Senate Committee on the way forward and how to reopen states. It's fair to prioritize that.

So I think this is being conflated a little bit like somehow the President is trying to silence Tony Fauci. Dr. Fauci has been heard from whether he agrees with the President or not. No one has gotten in the way of that.

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

BORGER: He just doesn't want to give him a big platform.

BURNETT: Right, which, of course, he would have to your point, Gloria. All right. Thank you both.


GREGORY: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, can herd immunity fully stop the coronavirus? Sweden is betting on it and officials there say they could achieve it by the end of the month.

And the President's economic advisor says we could see 20 percent employment. That could be the number coming out at the end of the week. That is like the Great Depression.



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tonight, is herd immunity the only way to stop the pandemic? Swedish officials say yes and they say Stockholm could reach herd immunity sometime this month. That would mean enough of the population has been exposed to the virus to slow it down or even stop transmission.

OUTFRONT now, Natalie Dean, assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida. And Dr. Ansgar Lohse, the chairman of the department of medicine at the University Medical Center in Hamburg, Germany.

Dr. Lohse, let me start with you. You've looked at this and you believe there may be some benefits to exposing low-risk groups to the virus, right? Younger people. Those people who are at lower risk of getting extremely sick.

How many people do you think, you know, in the United States would need to be exposed in order to reach some sort of immunity in the population overall?

DR. ANSGAR LOSHE, MEDICINE DEPARTMENT CHAIRMAN, UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER HAMBURG-EPPENDORF: I'm afraid we don't really know the answer because we don't really know that everybody can get infected. The basic presumption is that you need a population of at least 70 percent if you want to stop an infection, but it may well be that this virus can't really infect everybody.

There's some hint that up to about 30 percent to 40 percent of the population do not actually get sick. So the number may actually be lower. That may be one reason why in Stockholm, they're hoping with a 25 percent to 30 percent immunity they seem to have, they may be closer. BURNETT: So, that's interesting. I mean, I know for some, that may

give a lot of hope that when you look at that, when you're talking about asymptomatic people included that you could be looking at 25 percent to 30 percent to get to -- to get to that immunity.

I mean, Natalie, when you've looked at it, you're looking at it that we would need closer to 60 percent to achieve herd immunity, which would be 200 million people in the United States. So why do you think that strategy would not work?

NATALIE DEAN, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF BIOSTATISTICS, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA: Right. And even if it was something closer to 30 percent, that's still something like 100 million being infected. So, it's not a prevention strategy, what we're discussing. What are we preventing when people are getting sick?

So the idea is to prioritize the younger people getting infected as a way to protect the older people. But I don't see how that actually is going to protect the older people when there are lots of younger people moving around who can infect them.

BURNETT: What do you say to that, Dr. Lohse? Does that give you pause, this idea that she's saying segment's the population would not be so effective?

LOHSE: I think you have to be careful when you do it. But the young people will not carry the virus for a long time. And once they've gone through the infection, they won't infect any of the elderly anymore.

So, yes, there will have to be and you have to differentiate regionally, there will have to be a transient phase when you really have to protect the elderly people from the young people, which is what we're doing now anyway. Once the young people have gone through the infection, they could safely care for the elderly.

BURNETT: Natalie, what do you -- what do you think?

DEAN: But there's a big interim period which I don't quite understand how that works. I mean, we have young people work in nursing homes. We have young people that live with older parents. I just don't think it's very realistic to think about segmenting the population.

I really feel like the best way to protect everyone is to include protecting young people from infection using proactive strategies like testing, tracing and isolating.

BURNETT: So, Dr. Lohse, let me ask you. In Sweden where they've been trying this as opposed to other countries, they stayed open, right? There's been social distancing, people have complied on some level but things were not shut down, bars, restaurants are open.

The death rate there is higher than neighboring countries which have tougher restrictions. They have about 27 deaths per 100,000 people. Denmark with eight. Norway and Finland around 4.

But I guess the question, Dr. Lohse, is that may not be a sign of Sweden's failure. It may be but it may not be. Is it possible that Sweden is experiencing everything just more quickly in terms of the cases and the deaths so that eventually those other countries may match? Or no?

LOHSE: I think that is very likely. It's difficult to compare deaths rates between countries as you know because the testing rate is different, as you said, the demography is different. And if you look, for example, to Belgium, they had a very straight lockdown and had a very high mortality rate. So it's not that simple.

But I agree that the death rate may rise earlier if you have a more open concept for the younger population. But let me remind again, Sweden does what I also recommend, is that you have to protect the elderly population, the care homes, et cetera, especially early on.


And Sweden wasn't that good in this. Most countries weren't very good in this. We should have been better. We should still be better in protecting that population.

Eventually, however, once we have immunity in the younger population, that protection will be much easier, and with what they just said, you will have to continue this protection indefinitely until we have a very good vaccine, which could be much, much longer than we are expecting right now.

BURNETT: Natalie, Dr. Lohse had the first word. I'll give you the last.

DEAN: Yes. So, I mean, I think we need to think about why is it better to be infected now than it is to be infected later? If we really think we can contain this, which I'm not fully convinced of because we're seeing other countries that are having a lot of success and very low death rates, but if you need to be infected now versus later, later we're going to have better treatments.

I mean, I'm optimistic about artificial antibodies. I mean, there are a lot of other scientific discoveries which could help us, you know, in the future.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. Dr. Lohse, Natalie, thank you very much.

And next, the president tonight backing off his claim that a vaccine will be ready by the end of the year. But a company working with Pfizer does say they could have millions of doses by the end of the year.

And a warning, Trump's top economic adviser saying America's unemployment rate this week may clock in at a level not seen since the Great Depression. Tonight, a special report on some of the Americans who are getting hit the hardest.



BURNETT: Many millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020. That is the optimistic view of the company partnering with Pfizer on a trial that the world is watching closely. And today, participants in the U.S. trial got their first injections.

Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A simple injection that some hope could help bring an end to a global pandemic. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announcing today they dosed the first participants in the U.S. with a vaccine candidate in a clinical trial. Twelve study participants in Germany received doses last month.

BioNTech's CEO saying preclinical data showed good results.

UGUR SAHIN, CEO, BIONTECH: We've seen vaccine responses, strong vaccine response at even low dose. And we believe that this vaccine response is in different animal models and will also translate to vaccine response in human subjects.

PLEITGEN: The program is called BNT 162. And it's actually a group of four trial vaccines using what's called an mRNA, or messenger RNA approach which causes the body to produce a protein that triggers an immune response.

Pfizer and BioNTech claim if the certification process goes smoothly, they could have millions of doses ready by the end of this year, hundreds of millions in 2021.

BioNTech's CEO saying he believes regulators will move fast.

SAHIN: The benefit of a vaccine in a pandemic situation is much, much greater. And therefore, therefore, approval and authorization of a vaccine in a pandemic situation has to follow other rules than what you have seen in the past.

PLEITGEN: But there is a long way to go and a lot that can go wrong. Pfizer and BioNTech are only two of a flurry of companies and institutes trying to develop a coronavirus vaccine ASAP.

The World Health Organization says there are currently more than 100 vaccine candidates under development, though only have been approved for clinical trials. The first was an experimental trial vaccine spearheaded by the National Institutes of Health.

In the U.K., researchers at the University of Oxford are also in clinical trials with their own vaccine candidate. The chief researcher telling OUTFRONT they're hoping to make the vaccine ready for use by fall.

ADRIAN HILL, LEAD RESEARCHER IN OXFORD'S VACCINE TESTING ON HUMANS: We'll probably enroll as many as 1,000 people into this trial, partly because we've used this type of vaccine before for other indications, and partly because we believe the safety should be very good.


PLEITGEN: Some encouraging signs there. But, of course, experts will always tell you that there is a ward of warning, these are still the early stages and there's still a lot that can go wrong and of the many vaccines being developed around the world, a lot won't see the market at all. The folks at Pfizer and BioNTech, though, say that they are very encouraged by what they're seeing so far and, of course, one of the reasons they are so encouraged is they are now able to start these trials with humans which they say will expand very soon, Erin.

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

And I want to go now to Dr. Jonathan Reiner, who, of course, advised the White House medical team under President George W. Bush.

Dr. Reiner, what do you make -- obviously, the timeline here, Pfizer saying you know, look, if the certification process goes smoothly, they've got millions of doses ready by the end of the year. The president seemed very gung-ho about that but now is sounding more cautious.

Do you read anything into that?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: No, not really. Look, these vaccine programs are really ambitious. But to create a vaccine by the fall is a pretty heavy lift.

It's not undoable. It doesn't violate any of the rules of physics. But it's a heavy lift. It's going to require an enormous financial investment, a lot of hard work, and also some luck to find the right vaccine that creates the most durable, best, and safest immune response.

But the challenges go beyond that. Once the vaccine is safe and effective we have to have enough of it to start vaccinating the population. And we can't wait until we have safety and efficacy data.

So we're going to have to do something that's never been done before, which is pick a vaccine that is likely or possible to succeed and start producing it to scale before we know the final results. And that's going to require a public, private, and probably philanthropic collaboration to really protect the companies that will need to make an enormous risk to create vaccine.


We need 329 million doses of that vaccine. In our best influenza year, we only vaccinate about 140 million people.

BURNETT: Right, right. And these are new plants. This is everything.


BURNETT: You know, and you can truncate the process for FDA approval. You can get rid of all that, right? But when it comes to efficacy and safety, you can get through safety pretty quickly, but efficacy is a bigger question. Does it risk someone getting it, how effective is it?

These are only things you can know over time and real exposure. And that we just don't control, do we?

REINER: No, we don't. And also to understand efficacy, we're going to have to see whether the people who were vaccinated actually have true immunity. And some of that is going to depend on how active the virus is when we get to fall. So there are a lot of really unknowables right now.

But it's not unreasonable to think that if everything went well, one of these many vaccines which are being investigated in parallel might show safety and efficacy, and then there's the challenge to produce it.

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


BURNETT: And next, the coronavirus is decimating businesses owned by Asian-Americans. Jobless claims up nearly 7,000 percent from last year and that is in one state, New York, alone.

And Jeanne Moos on how professional musicians are putting on bedside concerts for patients with coronavirus.



BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump's senior economic adviser warning that Friday's jobs report could show unemployment in the United States, size 20 percent. That is like the great depression, which of course maxed out at 24.9.

And Asian Americans are getting particularly hard hit by the downturn. New York seeing nearly 7,000 percent increase over last year in unemployment claims from that demographic group.

Vanessa Yurkevich is OUTFRONT.


VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 100 years, Nom Wah Tea Parlor has been serving up dim sum as the oldest restaurant in New York City's Chinatown. But today, it is staring down a different reality.

WILSON TANG, OWNER, NOM WAH TEA PARLOR: The future looks bleak.

YURKEVICH: That's because hundreds of restaurants in Chinatown have closed due to COVID-19, leading to thousands of laid off or furloughed workers, including 40 from Wilson Tang's restaurant.

TANG: The main hub of Chinatown, we're all pretty empty.

YURKEVICH: The service industry has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19.

ED CHAN, GIG WORKER: This weekend is the 5th weekend since my last paycheck.

YURKEVICH: Ed Chan works several jobs in the industry, as a school lunch caterer, wine vendor, guest service employee at sports arenas, and as marketing for trade shows.

In March, he lost all four jobs and is still waiting for unemployment.

CHAN: Day after day, you go into this system and it is still pending.

YURKEVICH: He's one of more than 30 million Americans who filed for unemployment since mid March, and one of nearly 150,000 Asian- Americans who filed in New York state in the past 4 weeks. It's a staggering 6,900 percent increase from one year ago, the largest among any one racial group in the state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This particular virus severely affects frontline workers, basically retail and restaurant workers and the service industry. And so, when this thing hit, we were the first ones to go down.

YURKEVICH: Tang closed the Nam Wah Tea Parlor before the states stay at home order was announced mid March, and told his employees to file for unemployment, a move says goes against a proud Asian-American culture.

TANG: It really takes a pandemic for Chinese people to really go seek out additional help.

YURKEVICH: Racial discrimination against Asian-Americans has also forced some workers to make a tough choice. Staying at home to avoid potential racism, or fear confrontation going to work.

CHAN: There was that brief reference about the Chinese virus or the Wuhan virus, that term for at least a short period of time. They have since, of course, corrected that. The damage has been done.

YURKEVICH: Meanwhile, Wilson Tang is preparing for an uncertain future.

TANG: I am going to continue to be a voice for my community, and a voice for my staff. I am going to do my best to keep them safe.


YURKEVICH: Now that dramatic increase in unemployment amongst Asian- Americans here in New York state may not even tell the full picture, Erin. And that is because there are some 250,000 undocumented Asian immigrants here in New York, and those individuals cannot apply for unemployment. They cannot be counted, so that number, that unemployment number amongst Asians here in New York could actually be much, much higher -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Vanessa, thank you.

And next, Jeanne on the professional musicians who are trading concert halls for more personal performances.



BURNETT: OK. Here's Jeanne.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is not Carnegie Hall. The gowns are a world apart. And yet --

HENRIQUE EINSENMANN, PIANIST: I was playing live in the ICU.

MOOS: Accomplished musicians are playing private concerts for COVID patients over phones placed by hospital beds.

EINSENMANN: And all I could hear were the beeps of their machines, which is a scary sound to be hearing.

MOOS: They don't expect applause for these performances. Many patients are unconscious, on ventilators.

MOLLY CARR, VIOLIST: The ego is left behind and what is left is, I want to be here for this person.

MOOS: The playlist ranges from Beethoven to "What a Wonderful World" to "La Vie En Rose", and almost always Bach.

This trio has played several dozen private concerts at New York Presbyterian Allen Hospital. The program was the brain child of ICU Doctor Rachel Easterwood who was a trained musician before studying medicine. She told "The New York Times" how it felt when she helped stream a live concert.

DR. RACHEL EASTERWOOD, NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN ALLEN HOSPITAL: I was standing there next to this COVID patient. It was so surreal. I thought to myself at that time, if I don't make it through this, then I've done what I'm supposed to do.

MOOS: She recruited some musicians from a nonprofit called Project Music Heals Us. Musicians call in. Most of the time they never see the patient, but still --

MICHELLE ROSS, VIOLINIST: I felt like I was in the room emotionally. I felt so, so close.

ANNA PETROVA, PIANIST: Sometimes this might be the last thing that they hear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have the phone at the bedside. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. So we're going to play some music for you.

MOOS: Sometimes, they play for staff as well. But what sticks with musicians is the beeping, the chiming -- sometimes overpowering the music.

PETROVA: That beeping actually starts to react to the music that we play in a way that we feel they are breathing gets calmer.

MOOS: As if the patient had joined the trio.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: Incredible.

Thank you for joining us.

Anderson starts now.