Return to Transcripts main page


FDA Cracks Down on Coronavirus Antibody Tests; CNN: Intel Among Allies Contradicts Theory Coronavirus Came from a Lab; Senate Back in Washington to Consider Nominations. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 5, 2020 - 07:30   ET




SEVERIN SCHWAN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, ROCHE GROUP: Full immunity or is a real infection, just less severe.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scientists still need to work that out, another mystery of the virus that's caused this global pandemic. Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, reporting.


ERICA HILL, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Even with advances in testing the death toll in the United States is now expected to spike with social distancing being relaxed in many areas of the country. A lot -- out of the University of Texas at Austin uses real-time cell phone data to predict how the virus will spread in the next few weeks.

Joining me now is Lauren Ancel Meyers, she leads the team working on this model at UT Austin where she's a professor of Integrated Biology and Statistics and Data Sciences. I'm fascinated by this information because it's so easy for us to wrap our head around too. So, you use anonymized cell phone data, and basically look at the way Americans are moving and what that tells us about how the virus could be moving and how many lives could be lost.

But what we see today in terms of numbers is actually based on what people were doing three weeks ago, right?

LAUREN ANCEL MEYERS, PROFESSOR, INTEGRATIVE BIOLOGY & STATISTICS & DATA SCIENCES: That's exactly right. If somebody becomes infected today and sadly ends up in a hospital or ends up dying from the infection, they won't actually end up in the hospital for ten days. They may not die for three weeks. And so if people are changing their behavior today and the disease is starting to spread faster today, we won't actually see that in the data coming out of hospitals or in these death data point -- in the death data until the end of the month, perhaps.

HILL: When we first -- when we spoke with you three weeks ago, your prediction at that time was 53,000 deaths total. The modeling you've since updated to about 65,000 for today. Well, we're just below -- just below 69,000. So, based on what you've seen in terms of how you've adjusted that modeling, what concerns you in the next few weeks heading forward?

MEYERS: So, let me just clarify, we haven't adjusted the model at all. So, we're always only forecasting three weeks ahead. So when I visited with you a couple of weeks ago, we were giving you a projection for three weeks ahead. Now, we're looking three weeks from today and when we look at May 24th, we predict that overall in the U.S. on that day, we may see somewhere between 500 and 3,000 deaths.

And that will bring us to a total of somewhere between 80,000 and a 100,000 deaths. And what will happen beyond May 24th really depends on the policies that are enacted in the next couple of weeks, how much people change their behavior, the extent to which people go out and start coming in contact with people without taking precautions that limit transmission.

So, all we can say is that's what it looks like three weeks from now. There's a lot of uncertainty in those numbers I gave you, and it's really hard to know what's going to happen beyond that.

HILL: The high-end of those numbers though, you know, as high as 3,000 deaths per day, that is right in line from this draft from the CDC that "The New York Times" obtained that found that deaths per day could hit 3,000 by the end of this month.

MEYERS: That is -- you're right, that is the high-end of what we're projecting. And again, that doesn't even yet take into account the possibility that people are going to start relaxing their social distancing in the next couple of weeks. If they do, those numbers could look even more dire in four weeks, in five weeks.

HILL: We see pictures of people out there and we hear from people who are ready to get back to whatever sort of normalcy they can find. That being said, there's a new poll out just this morning from "The Washington Post" and the University of Maryland that finds a high percentage of Americans are not yet ready, they're not ready for nail salons, gyms, movie theaters and restaurants to reopen.

In fact, 78 percent said they wouldn't be comfortable eating at a sit- down restaurant, 67 percent said they wouldn't be comfortable shopping at a retail store. You have this map of states that are probably past the peak. It's interesting to look at that compared to how people may be feeling. What should we look at in this map?

MEYERS: OK, so when you're looking at this map, the purples and the oranges, it is telling you these are projections of our models. These are projections of the probability that the city or the state has passed its first peak and mortality from the pandemic. So, let me emphasize that the reason that some states even possibly are past just the first week in peak in mortality is because of the extreme social distancing that we have all adopted over the last few weeks.

This could have been a much larger, a much more severe wave had we not all been sheltering in place. And I think it's very healthy that people are concerned about going out in public. They're concerned that by interacting with other people, this virus could start spreading faster because it absolutely will. And so, whether you're in a purple region, meaning that you're in a region that looks like it might already be past its first peak or you're in an orange region where it's much less certain that you've even gotten to your first peak.

Regardless of where you are, if we change our behavior, we will expect this virus to -- that this virus could spread faster, and we may very soon see a second wave with an even more catastrophic peak.


HILL: Initially -- correct me if I'm wrong here, but if I'm remembering correctly, initially, some of this and out of my cell phone data was really encouraging because it showed that people were, in fact, listening to the guidance in many areas. And in some cases in places where perhaps it wasn't as expected because it hadn't been as explicit a need because there weren't as many cases there at the time.

What are you seeing changed in terms of how people are moving around based on that data?

MEYERS: Yes, so you're right. When we first looked at the cell phone data, we saw that the number of times people left their house for public settings, for parks, for schools, for hospitals, for grocery stores, dramatically dropped. Even in the days preceding state orders to social distance. And it has stayed very low since then. In the last week of data, I've actually only looked in Austin, Texas, where I live.

And last week of data we're seeing a slight increase in the number of those trips. A slight decrease in the time of the amount of data people are staying at home. And we don't know how much that will continue to change in the coming weeks. But one thing to emphasize about this map is that our model may -- projects mortality in the United States in the 50 states, and it's also the only one in the nine models in the CDC's assemble of forecasting models that actually makes these projections for individual cities.

So, those little -- those little shapes you see in the middle of the states, those are 99 different metropolitan areas. And the other thing we see when we look at this is that cities are different. Some cities have past their peaks, some cities have not. They sometimes differ from the general overall trend in their state, and so it's really important when we're thinking about what is the risk of relaxing social distancing, what steps should we take to realize that this disease is spreading on a very local scale.

HILL: Yes --

MEYERS: And we should be looking at how much disease is currently in our population, how fast is it spreading? Is our city equipped to deal with the possibility of an increase in transmission? Is there ample testing, tracing, and isolation resources? Have we sufficiently cocooned our high-risk populations? Protected the people who live in nursing homes, protected others who have high-risk conditions? So, it needs -- HILL: Right --

MEYERS: To be a very local decision.

HILL: Yes, a reminder that this is certainly not --

MEYERS: And we should be looking at --

HILL: A one size fits all solution, that is for sure, not in the national or even most cases on a state level. Really appreciate you joining us today, I want to thank you.

MEYERS: All right, thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: So we want to remember some of the nearly 69,000 Americans lost to coronavirus. Giovanni Graziani was a beloved restaurant owner in Salem, Massachusetts, for 26 years. Born in a village outside Rome 72 years ago, he married an American tour guide and emigrated to Boston. His wife Paula couldn't be with him when he died in hospital isolation on Friday.

But she says the outpouring of love from the people of Salem helped sustain her. Edward Ciocca was a second generation firefighter who rose to deputy chief of the White Plains, New York Fire Department. The firefighter union calls him a consummate professional who was always calm, cool and collected whether inside a burning building or in command outside.

Twenty two-year-old Nyla Moore, 22 years old died from coronavirus last Friday in Chicago after three weeks on a ventilator. Her family says she had shown signs of improvement, but then suddenly declined. She was known as a family leader, organizer, party planner. She leaves behind a 2-year-old son. We'll be right back.



BERMAN: This morning, the president and Secretary of State insists there is evidence that coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China. But CNN has learned that intelligence shared among top U.S. allies contradicts that theory, calling it highly unlikely. Joining us now is Senator Angus King; an independent from Maine who serves on the Intelligence Committee. Senator King, great to have you with us this morning. We'll get to China --


BERMAN: In just a minute, but I'd like to start with the fact that you're there. You're in Washington, the Senate is in session and not everyone's particularly happy --

KING: Right --

BERMAN: About that. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate said, quote, "I don't think we should have come back. Coming back for Mitch McConnell's former intern to get promoted to the second highest court in the land doesn't fit the prescription of a national emergency." He's talking about the fact that you're there for confirmation hearings for Judge Justin Walker to the D.C. Court of Appeals. How do you feel about this?

KING: Well, I feel the same way. I don't mind coming back, I came down yesterday, I'm glad to be here. But when people in Maine were talking to me, they said, now, when you go back, let's work on unemployment, let's work on aid to the farmers, let's work on the PPP or help for the lobsterman. Nobody said, Angus, we want you to go down there and confirm that unqualified judge for a lifetime appointment. I mean, it's ridiculous.

Now, the other thing we are doing, John, that is meaningful is hearings on various nominees. I have a hearing later this morning on the nominee to be the director of National Intelligence, but that could be done exactly the way you and I are talking right now. We could ask questions, we could listen, and there's no reason to bring -- and remember, you bring in 100 senators, you're also bringing in lots and lots -- several thousand staff people, capital police, all the people that are based upon this operation here.

And my point is, sure, let's do it if we're working on coronavirus. But we shouldn't be doing it for extraneous reasons, and we could do these hearings remotely.

BERMAN: Now, even if you are having hearings on coronavirus, the White House now says you can't have members of the taskforce unless the White House Chief of Staff approves that. You can't have Dr. Anthony Fauci. You can't have Deborah Birx unless they say it's OK. What's your response to that?


KING: Well, that's really disturbing because when you add it, John, to the fact that when the president signed the big COVID-3 bill, he axed out the part where he had accountability, where the Inspector General could report to the Congress. He said I'm not going to abide by that. He then removed the Chief Inspector General to the Pentagon who was going to be in charge of oversight of this huge expenditure of money, and now he's saying nobody's going to come to Capitol Hill.

That's just wrong. We talk about congressmen and senators, we're representing the American public. We're the eyes and ears of the American public, and we just spent $2 trillion of the taxpayers money and to say sorry, you can't check on what we're doing, how we're doing it, what's going on, what the response is. It's just -- it's insulting to the American people and it's damaging because there -- we just have to know these things.

So it's all a pattern of stonewalling the Congress and thereby stonewalling the American people. That's the way it should be framed, I believe.

BERMAN: So we did mention that President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both claim that they have seen evidence that the coronavirus somehow originated as part of a lab accident in Wuhan, China. Now, U.S. allies, the so-called five eyes including Australia, their leaders say, no, that's not the evidence we've seen. The evidence that we have seen points this to animal-to-human transmission. Now, I know you can't tell us as part of the Intelligence Committee exactly what you've been briefed on. But what should we believe?

KING: Well, I think -- I think what we should believe is what the Intelligence community is telling us, and I haven't seen any recent intelligence on this in the last month or so. So, you know, I can't -- if the president and the Secretary of State have intelligence on this, then as a member of the Intelligence Committee, I want to see it. I'm entitled to see classified material, there are no limits on that kind of material being shared with the Intelligence Committees of the Congress.

So, it bothers me that for the president and the Secretary of State to assert in such certainty -- in fact, I think the president said a high degree of certainty without at least sharing with the Intelligence Committee on a closed classified basis, what the basis of that is. And I -- like I say, I haven't seen it, I can't contradict it except, I'm damn sure going to try to see it over the next week or so. And if we can't get it, then that raises serious questions about the basis of those assertions.

BERMAN: And again, just to be clear, CNN is reporting the five eyes including Australia saying the evidence that they have seen points to something else from animal-to-human transmission. You mentioned briefly about the Inspectors General and your concern about how the president has been replacing them. Why does that concern you, the Intelligence Inspector General we saw now with HHS, what is the concern there?

KING: Well, there are two concerns. One is that you're not respecting information. You don't want -- the indication is don't tell me something I don't want to hear, which is dangerous for anybody in a leadership position, particularly for the president of the United States. You want to -- you want all the information you can get, you don't want it cooked for your benefit.

Lincoln said, your critic is your best friend. And I don't think this president understands that or believes that because any time somebody says something critical, he tries to silence them. The second problem, John, is probably more serious, and that is the chilling effect that goes out through the federal government which says don't say anything that isn't cleared by the White House or you could lose your job or you could be replaced or you could be demoted.

The whole principle of whistle-blowers and Inspectors General is really important to the functioning of the government in response -- remember, it's the government of the people. It's not the government of the president. It's the government of the people, and it's -- if you're not responsive to the people, if you don't know what's going on and you're stifling people, that's not good for anybody.

BERMAN: If I can ask you to put your main hat on for one second, and people should know you never take that hat off, so just keep the main hat on for a second. Like just go to Summer camp in May. Do you think it's safe for them to go to camp there? What are your concerns about the huge tourist industry up there?

KING: Well, I'm very concerned about it because Maine is really in one of the most vulnerable positions in the country in terms of the economic effect because of the huge tourism industry that we have. We have millions of people that come to Maine in the Summer. It's one of the most beautiful places as you know, in the country. Fantastic and Summer camp is part of it, but just people visiting.

It's a very tough problem. Our governor is trying her best to navigate this to respect the economy. That's what everybody wants the economy open. But also to respect health and safety.


John, the scandal here is the lack of testing. This whole opening up without adequate testing which we don't have now is a crapshoot. It's a -- the governors are flying blind. If we had adequate testing and tracing, we could open up a lot more safely. But I'm very worried about the Summer in Maine, and I think we're going to have to really wrestle with that over the next month.

BERMAN: Senator Angus King, a pleasure to speak with you. We covered a lot of territory this morning.

KING: Yes sir.

BERMAN: I really appreciate your time.

KING: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: So it is getting physically dangerous for some to enforce social distancing. Wait until you hear what happened in this Texas Park ranger, next.



HILL: The former captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt is out of quarantine in Quam and on his way to a new assignment. Staffing the Navy's commander of the Pacific fleet, Brett Crozier was removed of course as the commanding officer of the Roosevelt for warning too publicly about a coronavirus outbreak on his ship. A Navy investigation recommended Crozier be reinstated. The Defense Secretary though so far has not done so. The Navy is launching a broader inquiry into the outbreak of the matter.

BERMAN: A park ranger in Austin, Texas, was pushed into a lake while trying to enforce social distancing. Ranger Cassidy Stillwell was not hurt. Twenty five-year-old Brandon Hicks faces a charge of attempted assault. His lawyer says he's embarrassed by his actions. This is part of a pardon. Last week a security guard was shot and killed in Flint, Michigan, after warning people to wear face masks at a family dollar store.

HILL: Starting tomorrow, New York City buses, subways and trains will be cleaned and disinfected around the clock to control the virus from spreading on public transit. Subways and buses are of course critical to any reopening here in New York. CNN's Brynn Gingras joining us now with more. Brynn, good morning.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erica, good morning. Yes, we've heard a lot both before in this pandemic, never been done before. That's certainly the case with this disinfectant process. The MTA which is overseeing it says that it's just going to learn as it goes really. They want to get faster, they want to get more efficient, but they say it's necessary in order for riders to feel safe, to get their workers who have suffered tremendous loss to feel safe, and really to get this city that relies on mass transit moving again.


GINGRAS (voice-over): It's an eerie scene underground in New York City's subway system. Platforms and trains are mostly empty. The pandemic slowing the country's largest transit system to a crippling pace. As New York gears up to slowly reopen, the Metropolitan Transit Authority or MTA which runs the system is strategizing how it will handle an eventual boost in ridership.

ERIK WEINBERGER, NEW YORK CITY COMMUTER: Of course, yes, I think that there's some fear involved with going back.

GINGRAS: And assure passengers it's safe to return. It's starting with a never-been done before effort of shutting down the 24/7 operation for four hours a night to disinfect every single subway car, top to bottom, and every station twice a day.

SARAH FEINBERG, INTERIM PRESIDENT, NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT AUTHORITY: That might not feel like a big deal, but we have almost 500 stations, and we're disinfecting every touch point, every place where a rider might touch a railing. The next step is as ridership starts to come back, making sure we're keeping up with it.

GINGRAS: Disinfecting is the priority. What comes next isn't yet on paper. The MTA says it's getting ideas from other countries and medical professionals, like how to achieve social distancing.

FEINBERG: And the advice we've gotten from them is be vigilant about mask use and get as much space as you can.

ERIC LOEGEL, VICE PRESIDENT, TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION OF AMERICA LOCAL 100: Ideally, in terms of social distancing, you have a pole right here, right, so that could be one person. The next person really shouldn't come into play until at least here, and then maybe have another person over here.

GINGRAS: Eric Loegel drives the trains. He's lost nearly 100 colleagues to COVID-19 in the last two months. Pre-pandemic, he says he'd carry nearly a thousand passengers on a single train, about 150 people per car. (on camera): How many people can actually fit on a car with social


LOEGEL: Oh, boy, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine -- eight -- maybe say less than 30.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The MTA plans to hire new people to man the platforms, direct riders to less crowded subway cars. Random temperature checks of passengers is being considered, and decals on the platforms is also a possibility. Since the pandemic started, ridership across all public transit is down more than 90 percent.

The MTA estimates it will lose more than $8 billion this year, and recently asked for nearly $4 billion in federal aid.

FEINBERG: We want ridership to come back, but we know that we have to make people feel safe and secure.

GINGRAS: For Weinberger, he says he'll be back, reluctantly.

WEINBERGER: For me, there really is no other option than taking the subway.

GINGRAS: It's going to look like a different subway, isn't it?

LOEGEL: It's going to be unlike anything we've seen before.


GINGRAS: And we came across a few people who are just going to outright change the way they commute once businesses start opening up. Maybe they once took the subway, now they're considering taking a bike or even a taxi or a ride share program. Of course, we checked with those, Erica, and as you can imagine, there are strict disinfecting policies with all of them as well as mandatory mask-wearing by both drivers and passengers. Erica?

HILL: Yes, it's quite a picture, hard to imagine any of those trains have only 30 people on them at the most. Brynn, thank you. NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This virus has enormous capabilities of spreading like wildfire. We know that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The projected number of deaths forecast by early August in this country just nearly doubled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It isn't that the models change anything. They're just looking at what is already happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House, they are pushing back on this internal administration projection that estimates as many as 3,000 deaths per day.