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At Least 43 States Will Partially Reopen By The End Of The Week; Biotech Firm Uses New Technology For Potential Treatment; Pompeo Says, U.S Does Not Have Certainty About Origin Of Outbreak. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired May 6, 2020 - 13:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: -- from day-to-day.


14 states, their case count is going down. People we're tracking in those states, many of them reopen. Let's just look at a couple. This is the State of Mississippi. You see, this is not a drop, right, a little bit of a drop here but then no. You're not on a 14-day steady decline.

CDC officials telling Congress, say no state meets every guideline the president laid out for reopening. We'll watch as Mississippi plays out. A spike in deaths, that is a concern, of course, to officials there.

Let's look at Illinois in the middle of America. The case count here, you see it bouncing around a little bit, down a little bit in recent days, still not a steady drop repeatedly. And look at this, a death spike in the state of Illinois.

So, as each state goes through, 50 states, 50 plans, the great American reopening starting with some hesitancy. Listen here, a top public health official in Illinois saying the people of that state and the people of the United States need to rethink their stance in the coronavirus war.


DR. NGOZI EZIKE, DIRECTOR, ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: The truth is that we're still in a significant war with an enemy. If this was a traditional war where there were soldiers outside of our doors in the streets and people would be risking their lives to be outside of their homes, no one would think about the need to go to work. No one would think about getting their dog groomed.


KING: The death toll in Illinois, Cook County is among the top five in the nation with more than 1,900 lives lost. The City of Chicago reached what the mayor called the sad milestone of 1,000 coronavirus deaths on Monday.

Dr. Seth Trueger is an E.R. doctor in Chicago and joins us now. Doctor, thanks for joining us on this day. Well, you just listened there, the state health official essentially saying this is a war and people need to rethink their personal privileges, if you will, whether it's getting your dog groomed or going out to a nail salon. Is that message sinking in or are you seeing in your daily work that as people keep hearing more and more about reopening, is the psychology changing? Are people taking more risks?

DR. SETH TRUEGER, EMERGENCY MEDICINE, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY: I think it seems, you know, there are certainly more people out on the streets and more people, you know, going about careful parts of their daily lives. But I think, overall, we've seen the numbers, we've seen the poll numbers, I've seen people scared to even come to the emergency department, that people really are taking this seriously and appreciate how big the risks are.

KING: And when you say scared to come to the E.R., one of the concerns we've heard from colleagues like yourself around the country is that some people who need help are afraid to come to the hospital because of COVID-19. Is that still the case?

TRUGER: Yes, absolutely. And we're certainly seeing people who are delaying care, you know, delaying care they absolutely need to come to the E.R. We're seeing people coming in in later stages of acute illness. We're seeing people who, once they're in the E.R. and they need to stay and be admitted to the hospital, being scared about staying or being really anxious about being around sick people and potentially exposed.

KING: I want to show our viewers, if we can just show the daily deaths, first, the daily deaths in Chicago. And you see every one of these, you show these bar graphs and they're not quite doing the humanity of this because you're showing numbers, but these are people. We see the daily deaths in Chicago. We also see the daily cases in Chicago. There's the deaths for you there, 40 deaths just yesterday, 40-plus deaths yesterday. It's just, they're stunning when you look at this, look at the daily cases as well.

What are you seeing on a day-to-day basis in the E.R.? You know, we listened to the governor of New York's briefings almost every day in these hours, and he talks about that stubborn level, even as they start to come down, there's still a stubborn level of people presenting themselves every day as new patients. What are you seeing and what does that tell you?

TRUEGER: Right. We're still seeing a consistent flow of patients in the E.R. We are very lucky during the first hump. We were able to get our capacity up really high. We basically quadrupled our ICU space and made it through without getting overwhelmed like a lot of places in New York City did. But the margin was really close. And the difference between the number of sick patients that we can manage and being totally overwhelmed is not nearly as big as anybody would want it to be.

KING: And is there a pattern in what you're seeing in new patients? I mean, one of the questions Governor Cuomo was trying to answer earlier, why are we getting so many every day? Are these people who are essential workers, and therefore, they're being exposed because they're going out there?

And he says in New York, they actually found in a 1,000-patient sample, two-thirds of them were people who were staying at home, which was surprising to them. So the question is, is that from going to the grocery store, is that just have to go refill the gas tank? Is that because someone is coming into your house and there are lapses in safety? What are you seeing?

TRUGER: Yes, we're seeing a lot of different things. There's a couple different threads. First of all, unfortunately, the virus is just everywhere and getting it from the grocery store or getting from being on the street is certainly possible and something that's a real risk.

We're also seeing not everybody is at the same level of risk. We talked a lot about co-morbidities, people with past medical problems are being higher at risk. But those are really very much straightforward common things, like hypertension is the most common co-morbidity that people have that puts them at risk.

And then also disparities of vulnerable populations. People from vulnerable populations who are more likely to need to go to work, to not have jobs, they can work from home, are more likely to be with interacting with others, to be in public transportation, to be cashiers, to be on the bus and just, you know, those constant low- level exposures.


KING: Dr. Seth Trueger, I appreciate your time and insights today. More importantly, I appreciate the work you and your colleagues are doing every day in Chicago and across the country. Thank you, sir.

TRUEGER: Great. Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

The president at any moment now plans to sign a proclamation to honor America's nurses. Let's get straight to the White House and CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, this is one of these days where we get a little whiplash. Yesterday, the vice president says the coronavirus task force is going to wind down. Today, the president says, oh, no, I'm going to keep it indefinitely.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, John, the president even seemed to confirm that yesterday, saying that they couldn't continue their work. The country couldn't be shut down for five years, even though, of course, no serious medical expert has suggested that. But now, seemingly after the criticism of people questioning, why would you end a coronavirus task force when the health experts say we are still very much in the middle of it, the president is saying it is going to continue its work indefinitely.

What's notable about the president's tweets following up on what he said yesterday and the vice president, after they confirmed that they would likely wind down the task force work by the end of this month, is the president is now saying they're going to shift their focus to vaccine and therapeutics, and he also says they may add people or subtract people as they feel needed.

Of course, the question is, is who would the president subtract from the task force as it is now? Who would he add to that? We know that people like Dr. Birx have office space inside the west wing, so it doesn't seem likely that they're going to go anywhere soon. And if the president is saying, John, that they are continuing their work indefinitely, a lot of people are going to be questioning, what does that look like?

Because what we've already seen in the last few weeks is when the president often speaks to reporters, you're not seeing reporters where they can ask questions of Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci, though we are still seeing them do television interviews.

But also, the question is, how many times are they meeting? They've already started to scale back these meetings. They are not meeting on a daily basis for hours on end like they were at the beginning of the formation of this task force. So, even if they are still together as a task force, does that start to scale back?

And so, there are a lot of questions about what that's going to look like inside the west wing. And today, the president is contradicting what he said yesterday, John, so we're really just going to have to wait to see if they continue to meet and what this looks like going forward.

KING: We'll see if he clears it up at all or gives any further explanation at this event. Again, he's celebrating America's nurses today. That's a good thing. We'll see what the president says during that process. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, I appreciate it very much. And we'll keep an eye on the president.

Up next for us, a biotech firm uses new technology to try to find a coronavirus treatment. They say, say, it could perhaps be ready by late summer.



KING: A leading biotech company says it's hopeful we may see a treatment for COVID-19 by the end of summer. Their method, mixing a century-old concept with some new technology.

CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now.

Elizabeth, what can you tell us about this proposed treatment?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, this treatment, it starts with an ingredient from the human body, and from there, they go in the lab to do clones.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COHEN: The key to making a brand-new drug for COVID-19 could be in this vial of blood. It comes from this man, Eli Epstein (ph), who has recovered from coronavirus.

Now, doctors at the Rockefeller University in New York City are searching his blood for just the right antibodies.

DR. MICHEL NUSSENZWEIG, THE ROCKEFELLER UNIVERSITY: You really want something very potent. Potent means can neutralize, kill the virus.

COHEN: It's a twist on the use of convalescent plasma where someone who has recovered from COVID gives blood directly to someone who is sick. That can work, but it's old technology.

Dr. Emil von Behring won a Nobel Prize for his research on convalescent plasma in 1901.

The new approach uses monoclonal antibodies and it's cutting edge. Here is how it works. When someone is sick with COVID, antibodies inside their blood fight off the virus. After the person recovers, they donate blood. Scientists select the most powerful antibodies and clone them and turn it into a drug. It's one of the hottest areas in COVID research.

Companies in New York and San Francisco, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, even the Department of Defense and many more are involved in monoclonal antibody research.

We caught the team at Vanderbilt as they picked their favorite antibodies. The treatment could possibly prevent infection or treat those already sick. Vanderbilt's lead researcher on the project, Dr. James Crowe, specializes in vaccines, but he says monoclonal antibody research will be faster.

DR. JAMES CROWE, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: I think antibodies will be finished first and will be the bridge toward longer immunity, which will be conferred by vaccines.

COHEN: So fast that the pharmaceutical company, Regeneron, says they might be able to have their monoclonal antibody drug on the market by the end of the summer. Their technology is already used to treat cancer, arthritis and asthma.

DR. GEORGE YANCOPOULOS, REGENERON: We can clone out the best of antibodies from recovered humans. We selected the best ones to create an antibody cocktail, as we call it.

COHEN: With so much work on this --

CROWE: I think the more groups we have working on it, all the better and the more shots on goal we have for getting an effective prevention or treatment.

COHEN: The hope is high for this old therapy turned new.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COHEN: The hope is also high that this will be a safe drug, because the ingredients originated in the human body. But, of course, they need to do clinical trials in people to see if that actually is the case. John?


KING: Elizabeth, one of the doctors they're talking about shots on goal. If somebody gets a goal, if you find one that works, how easy is it to ramp up production and then have national and worldwide distribution?

COHEN: Well to keep with the sports analogy here, the trick is, is to start producing while you're still playing the game, right? So, there's talk that they should be producing these sooner rather than later, and you don't wait until you find out which one works, and, hopefully, that will help save time.

Now, they've made these products for a while now, to treat HIV, lupus, arthritis, all sorts of diseases. They're not the simplest drugs to produce but they do have a lot of experience producing them.

KING: We wish them luck as they go forward here. Elizabeth Cohen, appreciate it, smart piece, thank you very much to help us understand this little bit better. Thank you.

When we come back, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo has a new answer about a China lab and the coronavirus.



KING: Well, more confusion today from the highest levels of the Trump administration. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, now says he cannot be certain about the president's assertion that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab, that just days after Secretary Pompeo said he had enormous evidence to support that unproven theory.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't have certainty, and there is significant evidence that this came from the laboratory. Those statements can both be true. We don't have certainty about whether it began in the lab or whether it began someplace else.


KING: CNN's Kylie Atwood joins us now from the State Department. Normally, Kylie, if you don't have certainty, you don't talk about it, but the administration seems to want to at least float this possibility as part of its blame China strategy.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. So, what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said today is that he is claiming that what he is saying is entirely consistent with what other Trump administration officials are saying.

So, for example, just yesterday, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, said that the Trump administration simply does not know where the original origin of the novel coronavirus is. But over the weekend, Secretary Pompeo seemed to put his finger on the scale in the direction of the Wuhan lab assertion here, that theory that it did come from this Wuhan lab.

Let's listen to what he had to say over the weekend.


MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Mr. Secretary, have you seen anything that gives you high confidence that it originated in that Wuhan lab?

POMPEO: Martha, there's enormous evidence that that's where this began.


ATWOOD: Now, then today, as you pointed out, Pompeo saying we don't have certainty about where the virus originated. He is trying to say that both of these things can be true, that there can be evidence that would lead to one of these possibilities being true, and overall, there can be general uncertainty.

But the bottom line here, John, is that the secretary of state has not provided any evidence that would back up his theory, even though he says there is this enormous evidence. And we have also reported that those who the U.S. shares intelligence with say that it is highly unlikely that the Wuhan lab is the place where this coronavirus originated. We've also heard from the prime minister of Australia, saying that they have no evidence to back up that theory.

And the Chinese are seizing on this confusion right now. They are saying that Pompeo isn't providing any evidence because he doesn't have it. And they are also claiming that what the secretary is doing here is just advocating for what is the Republican strategy politically leading into the 2020 election.

Now, we should note that the secretary of state said today that this has nothing to do with politics, it has to do with protecting the American people, but we cannot ignore the backdrop that is this 2020 election, and we know that the Trump political campaign has been pushing this China boogieman with regard to the coronavirus. John?

KING: You cannot ignore the campaign here and the campaign tactics. Kylie Atwood, I appreciate your new reporting there. We'll see if we can get to a conclusion on this one, one we can trust, ever. Kylie, thanks very much.

Before we go to break, take at this, some remarkable images here. This is a restaurant in Amsterdam testing out glass booths. Once meals are ready, waiters serve the food on a long board to limit social contact. Look at that right there. The restaurant says the so-called quarantine greenhouses are being tested now on family and friends of the restaurant's staff. Remarkable.

We'll be right back.



KING: President Trump is normally telling us vaccine research is humming along and we should have one sooner than you think. But now he says, if we have one, great. If not, we'll be okay.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: But the virus will pass with or without a vaccine, and I think we're doing very well on vaccines. But with or without a vaccine, it's going to pass, and we're going to be back to normal. But it's been a rough process, there's no question about it.


KING: Whenever the president says, the public health experts say we won't have anything like normal back until we have a coronavirus vaccine or vaccines. There are more than 100 possible vaccines being researched.

One of the newer projects is taking cues from successful gene therapy treatments. Dr. Mason Freeman is part of that project.


He's Director of Translational Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Doctor, thank you for being with us today. Walk us through why your research --