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Trump Downplays Importance Of Vaccines; Dr. Mason Freeman Discusses Gene Therapy Treatment Vaccine Research; Red Sox Star Pedro Martinez & His Wife Discuss Joining The Coronavirus Fight With Baseball Players From Dominican Republic & Possible Start Of Baseball; NFL To Release Schedule For 2020 Season Tomorrow; Two California Counties Defy Governor And Start Reopening Businesses; Trump Signs Proclamation In Honor Of Nurse Appreciation Day, Takes Reporters' Questions. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 6, 2020 - 13:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: 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 using gene therapy might be different from some of the other vaccine efforts?

DR. MASON FREEMAN, DIRECTOR, TRANSLATIONAL RESEARCH CENTER, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: Good afternoon, John. Thank you for having me to present about our vaccine therapy.

The vaccine is different from all of the other vaccines that are currently in process, in development, particularly with those that have commercial partners, in that we use a adeno-associated virus, abbreviated AAV.

The other vaccines that you're seeing out there use something called adenovirus, so it's pretty close and can be confusing.

And then many of them are using more traditional vaccine techniques, such as just injecting protein with an adjuvant, no virus.

And then there are interesting and newer ones, like the one you probably talked about before, called Modera (ph), where there's no viral vector delivery in the vaccine into the body, but it's just RNA attached to an agent made up of lipid that helps it get into cells.

Ours is unique in terms of the delivery vector that's being used, which makes is very efficient at delivering the vaccine into the body where the antibodies can then have an immune response to it.

KING: I was reading your work. One of the things you're concerned about is that everybody's in a rush here, for good reason. Everybody's trying to hurry, but you worry about something called disease enhancement. Explain to someone without your expertise what that means.

FREEMAN: Well, for most of vaccine development in the history of vaccine development, this hasn't been an issue that's been of much concern. But in recent years, we've seen this process whereby you create a vaccine. The goal of the vaccine is to have the person who's being vaccinated generate an immune response, typically an antibody response. There are other responses, but that's the typical response you want to see.

And what we've seen with dengue fever and with something called respiratory syncytial virus is that the antibodies themselves can actually enhance the ability of the virus to get into cells, when is a prerequisite for the virus to be able to divide and replicate and cause disease.

So, this is a significant concern to make sure that the antibodies that we raised to the coronavirus don't actually make the patients worse after vaccination but actually provide the immunity that we're seeking.

KING: And in terms of your work using gene therapy, where are you on the trajectory in the sense of when do you think you'll be testing in humans? And when is your most optimistic hope of, if things go well, where you might have something to say, hey, this works?

FREEMAN: Well, just yesterday, we got data back from the animals that we've been testing our viral vector system in and had just an enormous increase in the antibody response. So that's very exciting and I'm propelling our team, which is led by Luke Vandenberghe, from Mass Pioneer, creating the vector in his laboratory.

So, we think we will be in a position to ask the FDA to allow us to go into human beings by the end of June. We would hopefully then be in the clinic by late July. And we would have answers as to the first response from the antibodies within about a four to six-week period.

So, we think that we will have good evidence that we are producing a vaccine that has real benefit by the first month or two of fall.

All of that has to be approved by the FDA. So when I say we think that we still have a very important step, which is to go through the FDA and get approval for the plan we put forward. But that's the plan we're working on right now, John.

KING: Dr. Freeman, appreciate your expertise and insights. And I wish you the best of luck in the very important weeks ahead.

FREEMAN: Thank you so much. Appreciate the opportunity to be on your show.

KING: Thank you, sir.

Coming up for us, a violent arrest in New York now adding questions about how law enforcement, other communities should enforce social distancing orders.



KING: A baseball Hall of Famer among the sports stars joining the fight against coronavirus. Former Red Sox star, Pedro Martinez, focusing on the Dominican Republic along with his wife, Carolina, along with players who hail from the D.R.

Pedro and Carolina Martinez join us now from Santo Domingo.

Thank you for being here.

Special moment for me, Pedro, as a Red Sox fan. Just watching the 2004 world series back on SNEN last night. The reverse the curse makes you happy, even in a time of coronavirus.

Talk about what you're doing here and why it's so important for you at home in the Dr. You say you have a lack of PPE. You have family struggling in this economic environment to eat. Walk through a little bit about what you're doing.

PEDRO MARTINEZ, FORMER RED SOX STAR & FOUNDER, PEDRO MARTINEZ FOUNDATION: Well, this is -- first of all, thank you. I'm honored to be here with you guys and sharing this initiative that we decided to take.

It came up with an idea. We knew all the players in the Dominican that we somehow needed to contribute to help, especially during the quarantine time, because there's a lot of poor people here in the Dominican that don't have food every day, and they have to go out to get it. And then you set them for 17 to 25 days of quarantine at home. It's impossible for them to reach out and grab food and grab, you know, things that they need.

So, since we knew that as players, we needed to somehow chip in, we decided to do it as a group.

And Edwin Encarnacion started reaching out to me, reaching out to David, some of the veterans we have in the group, the coalition of players from the Dominican.


And we came up with ideas and ways to actually make this happen. And that's what we wanted to do, just reach out to the people that have to go every single day to go get those meals. And we have been doing that.

We also want to help the medical society and provide them with the proper protection. You know, we're a third-world country here in the Dominican, and we also have -- and it's a lot to carry around. It's really difficult.

So, we decided to get together, all of us as players, come up with ideas and then I decided that we could use my foundation as a link to actually donate the money. And that way, we don't have to waste any time waiting for another foundation or going to another foundation that we don't trust.

The players all trust me and they are donating right away.

KING: And I see, as of this morning, you're approaching $600,000, as of this morning.

Carolina, you're the executive director of the foundation. Walk through what Pedro was talking about in terms of the D.R. people watching here in the United States or people watching around the world, some of them may not understand the infrastructure challenges or the hospital challenges or just getting food to people who need help challenges. Walk through the steps of that.

CAROLINA MARTINEZ, WIFE OF PEDRO MARTINEZ: Well, like Pedro said, as a third-world country, there's a lot of challenges in terms of education and food and medical services.

And the reason why the Pedro Martinez Foundation is shipping in, it's because in a lot of the different regions -- north, south, east and west -- vulnerable families are suffering right now. Basically, with the lockdown more than two months, the head of households, they cannot go out to get jobs to get income.

So what we decided to do was prepare food kits that will last, you know, a family two to three weeks, maybe a month, if they know how to administer it correctly. And just we are handing those out ourselves, going by the regions, giving it to the baseball players and their communities. They're doing it themselves.

And it has been a really gratifying experience for us, just seeing the little kids, seeing the elders receive these food kits. And we know that this will help them alleviate the burden of not having an income secure.

KING: And it's remarkable, if you just go through the list, Pedro, Ortiz, Encarnacion, Soto, Guerrero Jr, Sanchez. You go through this list, it is remarkable. And it's great the players want to help out in this point of need.

I hope you charge, give the Yankees double to help the cause as you go through this. Just as you're also involved in the conversations that you do stuff for the MLB network. You're involved in the conversations.

As you know, as Americans watch, as people around the world watch the players try to help out in the Dominican Republic and around the world, one of the psychological things that would help would be seeing baseball again.

In your conversations with the commissioner and others, where are we in that process?

PEDRO MARTINEZ: Well, the commissioner is coming up with ideas about how to get baseball going without fans, without having to use too many people around the players and around the things that he wants to do.

I heard from his own mouth that he was thinking about using maybe Arizona, Dallas, and Florida, as the three places to have 10 teams on each division. And also testing the players a lot so that they don't get infected or they -- if one of them happens to get it, not infect the other players.

But there's a lot of stuff that needs to get done if we want to watch baseball. But it would be really, really gratifying if the people at home, especially during quarantine, can get to see baseball.

Even though they have already, in addition to the Yankees, I guess it will make no sense that we'd play, right? That's why we play the games.

So I hope that they find a way to get baseball going, especially during these rough times that people really need something to watch on television, and baseball, could be great.

KING: Baseball could be great. It would also, if the game could come back, just to keep the focus on the work that you're doing.

Pedro and Carolina, congratulations for what you're doing in the D.R. And wish you great success. Maybe this time together will help bring in the money for people there and everywhere who need the help.


Thank you both so much.

The future of the NFL, like many other sports, also unclear. But tomorrow, the league will release its full 17-week schedule for next season. On Monday, the NFL announced that all games in the 2020 season would be played here in the United States, canceling the annual games planned overseas.

CNN's Coy Wire joins us now.

Coy, you talked to a top executive with the NFL about a return to football. How close? What do they tell you?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Hi, John. Executive vice president of football operations, Troy Vincent, tells CNN the league is planning to move ahead as planned, as normal, in terms of the start of the season.

But he says they are leaning heavily on medical experts. They hold the key and they will be willing to make any adjustments necessary. They're giving them daily guidance as far as, you know, when teams should gather, and when they do, how many should gather at a time.

The league has kept team facilities closed up until this point. They say they are putting public safety first and the safety of the personnel and the players.

Now, the players, they are eager to get back to practice. Can you believe, John, that new NFL head coaches were supposed to start their offseason programs a month ago today?

I spoke with Seattle Seahawks superstar, Russell Wilson, and he says that while he's excited, he says it's imperative that the league does not rush back to play. Listen.


RUSSELL WILSON, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS PLAYER: I can't wait to get back out on the field safely, you know, and just play the game that we all love to watch and love to play.

These are real times across the world. This isn't just a one-state thing. This is all across the world. The worldwide pandemic, and we've got to be smart about it.

But when sports come back, I know everybody's going to be screaming. They're going to be ready to roll. I think it's going to be crazier than ever before. I think there's going to be -- the ratings are going to be higher than ever.

And so, hopefully, we can bring a little hope to people soon. And hopefully, we can bring a little bit of inspiration, too.


WIRE: Now, John, while Russell has been training on his own, waiting to get back to facilities, he and his superstar singer wife, Ciara, they have been busy helping communities suffering from the pandemic. They donated over a million meals to an organization called Feeding America.

They also, John, auctioned off a double date with the two of them. It went for $240,000, with every penny of that, they say, going also to Feed America.

KING: That's great. It is great to see, whether it's Pedro, Russell, the athletes, trying to do their part to help out in the middle of all this.

And we'll keep the clock counting. Hopefully, Coy, we'll get some sports soon enough.

Coy Wire, thank you so much for your insights there.

Coming up, California's governor clashing with local leaders who are beginning to reopen and defy the state order to stay closed.



KING: Quick update now from New Jersey. The governor just signing an executive order. That order extends the state's public health emergency by another 30 days. But Governor Phil Murphy tweeting, quote, "To be clear, this does not mean we're seeing anything in the data which would pause our path forward." Meanwhile, out in California, Governor Gavin Newsom criticizing two

rural northern counties allowing some businesses and restaurants to reopen. The governor calls it a mistake.

CNN's Dan Simon joining us from San Francisco.

Dan, these northern counties defying the governor. A bit of a showdown here.

DAN SIMON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. First of all, aside from your essential businesses, for the most part, things have remained shut down in California. Beginning on Friday, you're going to be seeing some retail shops open up for curbside delivery.

But you have seen a couple of counties in northern California, Yuba and Sutter Counties, between them, they have 170,000 people. They have decided, you know what, we don't have a lot of cases, we'll open up.

What you're seeing there, you have dine-in customers at restaurants, the tattoo parlors are open, the hair salons. And right now, things are sort of opening up in Yuba and Sutter County.

And Newsom said, I don't want you to do that. Here's what he said yesterday. Take a look.


GAVIN NEWSOM, (D), CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: They put those businesses at risk, not only the health of their communities at risk. And I would encourage them just to do the right thing and know that we are committed to working with them, as we have been and their county representatives and their health directors to accommodate their local needs and their regional variances.

But we have a process and protocol to do that. So we believe in ready, aim, fire, not ready, fire, aim.


SIMON: Well, I spoke to the mayor of Yuba City, Shon Harris, and he says, well, the data tells us we can open up, and we're just going to continue doing what we're doing.

At this point, Newsom doesn't seem to want to intervene and cause a whole lot of friction there. He just gave them a bit of a tongue lashing yesterday.

The bottom line here, John, is, whether it's sanctioned or unsanctioned, things do appear to be moving in the right direction in California. We're going to begin seeing those retail shops open up with some modifications. It's not going to be the whole shopping experience.

Shopping from the curb isn't too great for mom-and-pop shops. I'm not exactly sure exactly how that's going to work.

But things are certainly moving in the right direction -- John?

KING: California being the largest of the 50-state experiment.

Dan Simon, appreciate that update there. We'll certainly keep an eye on the nation's most populous state.


Now to New York and the video raising question over how far is too far when it comes to enforcing social distancing rules. Multiple NYPD officers caught on tape over the weekend violently scuffling with a man and later handcuffing him. One of the officers now on modified duty, while internal affairs investigates.

Our Crime and Justice Correspondent, Shimon Prokupecz, joining us now, live from New York.

Shimon, tell us what happened.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: This video surfaced after Saturday. The incident occurring Saturday when it was really warm here in New York City. This happened in Manhattan.

And officers, according to the NYPD, approached a group of people that were sitting on a corner, one of them sitting on a milk crate. They weren't wearing masks. And they were out there enforcing the whole social distancing issue.

And then there was a disagreement between the officers and some of these men, and then there was a scuffle. You can see one of the officers there wrestling the man to the ground. Punches were thrown.

Since that incident, the NYPD had been looking at other incidents involving social distancing, and interactions that officers are having in the community.

Particularly leaders of minority communities, black and brown communities have been raising issues that there's this disparity in the way that they're being treated among police officers.

Today, the mayor saying they're going go and look at some of the guidelines, going to look at some of these issues.

And here's the mayor talking about that.


BILL DE BLASIO, (D), NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: We've seen a couple of really unfortunate and inappropriate instances, but only in my view, a very small number compared to the vast number of interactions between our officers and our communities that we need to do more to create clear, simple protocols and make sure the supervisors are supporting them.

We also have to remember that, for weeks, we had the NYPD missing a huge percentage of its officers because of the disease. We're now coming into the situation where the force is becoming back to the normal levels. We're getting more and more experience with what works, what doesn't work.


KING: Thanks, Shimon, for his reporting.

Now we go to the White House. The president of the United States, Nurse Appreciation Day at the White House. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's the rational for --


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's been a great success. And Mike Pence has done a fantastic job, whether it was on ventilators -- when we started, we didn't have ventilators and we got them built very quickly. And now we're giving them to the countries all over the world that are desperate for ventilators.

There's been no person in this whole country, in our whole country that hasn't had a ventilator if they needed it.

You probably saw that, remember, at the beginning, it was really tough.


TRUMP: And we got them built so fast. It was really an incredible mobilization. Not since World War II has anything happened with not only ventilators but anything else. Testing is doing really well.

And the task force has done a great job. And I had a meeting yesterday. I had a meeting this morning. Probably even more importantly, and so we'll be leaving the task force indefinitely. We'll see at a certain point that will end like things end.

But adding some people to the task force and they'll be more in the neighborhood probably of opening our country up, because our country has to get open again. And the people want it to be open. But we have to open it up safely.

So we'll be adding two or three additional members to the task force. There may be one or two that will be less involved that were involved with the original formation of the ventilator and the ventilator systems. But if they want to stay, they can because they really did a fantastic job.

So at a certain point, we won't need the task force but we're going to leave that, we're going to add a couple of people to it. And that will -- again, we're opening our country again.

The most successful economy in history for the country anywhere in the world. And they came -- I was sitting right here, and said, sir, we'll have to close it. I said, close what? Basically, we'll have to close our country. And just like you said, I said, is it important that they not be

together? It's not a question, right? It's not a question. You can't have the family together. It's so sad.

So anyway, we did something that -- we did the right move. We saved millions of lives by doing what we did. But it's unbelievably tough for a country. And most countries throughout the world did something similar. But this affected 182, 184 countries. And it's a very sad thing. Very sad thing.

So we're keeping the task force for a period of time. I look forward to when we can close the task force because then the job will be essentially hopefully over.

Mike, right? And you've done a fantastic job.




UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you explain the change between what you said yesterday about winding down the task force?