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Coronavirus Update from around the U.S.; Dominant Strain of Coronavirus; Three Russian Doctors Fall from Windows; NFL's Plans to Resume. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired May 6, 2020 - 06:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Awful recession in the Reagan years. The jobless rate reached 10.8 percent for two months back in 1982. But this, what we're seeing right now, today, this would be the worst since 1933.

Of course today's economy is very different from the Depression. Congress has passed record aid for workers and small business. Stimulus checks have landed for millions of Americans. Taxpayers are footing $600 extra a week in jobless benefit for four months for those millions of people who filed unemployment.

Now, some of these jobs, Erica, will come back once the economy reopens and the public feels confident enough to shop and dine and fly. But some of these jobs, we just don't know how many, won't come back maybe for years, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: It's a lot to wrap our head around.

Christine, thank you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, this morning, there's growing concern about the nation's meat supply. New guidance for reopening schools and an ambitious effort to convince New Yorkers it's safe to ride mass transit. We have reporters covering these stories across the country.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Brynn Gingras in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The MTA, which oversees the largest mass transit system in the entire country, finished its first day of a massive disinfecting effort. The plan called to shut down the New York City subway system for four hours overnight so every single subway car could be cleaned top to bottom. The goal here, of course, is to get more riders to feel comfortable to return to the transit system and the workforce as well. We're told by a spokesperson that this effort is going to continue throughout the pandemic.


Even more grocery stores are now placing a limit on just how much fresh meat their customers can take home with them. Costco, Kroger, Hy-Vee and HEB all making these announcements. Now, this comes as a financial firm analysis determined that nearly 20 percent of Wendy's fast food restaurants across the country are out of beef. Now, Wendy's says that it has limited supplies, but they expect the shortages to be temporary.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Shimon Prokupecz. And in Holly, Michigan, police say that they've arrested a 68-year-old man, charged him with assault and battery after he walked into a Dollar Store without wearing a mask, and when one of the employees confronted the man, the man, they say, pulled on this employee's shirt, told him that he was going to use that as his mask. Police say the entire thing was caught on surveillance tape. They were able to identify the man and later arrest him.


The American Academy of Pediatrics has new guidance for schools looking to reopen. The group says schools should plan to reopen in phases and brace themselves for more closures later. Schools should start with reduced hours before returning to full activity. Schools will have to clean and sanitize all facilities, monitor and test students for a potential spread of the virus and limit student interactions with each other and staff. So far, 46 states and Washington, D.C., have recommended or ordered school closures through the end of the current academic year.


BERMAN: In a little bit we'll have some new information on studies about kids and coronavirus.

Also, a new study shows that the strain of coronavirus currently spreading across the United States is different than the one that emerged in China. What researchers say they've uncovered about how quickly this mutated virus has spread, next.



BERMAN: Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico says they have identified a strain of the coronavirus that began spreading rapidly in Europe in March. It eventually became a dominant strain of the virus globally, including here in the United States. The study is still in the review phase, but the researchers say they have made it publicly available for those working to develop a vaccine and other treatments.

To be clear, they say this is a different strain, a mutated strain, from the one that came from China originally. Joining us now is a member of the study's research team, David

Montefiori. He's a professor of surgery at Duke University and the director of its laboratory for AIDS vaccine research.

Doc, thanks so much for being with us.

This strain is different how and in layman terms different where?

DAVID MONTEFIORI, PROFESSOR OF SURGERY, DUKE UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: So, first of all, let me say that this project was spearheaded by Dr. Betty Korber at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. And it was enabled by scientists around the world who have been sequencing the genome of the virus and depositing those sequences in a central database that Betty was then able to access.

Betty is an expert in studying the genetic variability of HIV. She's been doing that for many years. And when this virus came on the scene, she immediately put her attention to it.

And I contacted her early in March and asked her to let me know if she saw any evidence of the virus starting to mutate and change and spread in the human population. And in about the middle of March, she contacted me and told me that there was indeed a mutation that had arose and was spreading rapidly in Europe, as you mentioned, and then to other parts of the world.

This mutation is in a part of the virus that the vaccines are based on. And it determines, in part, the sero (ph) type of the virus. So it raised concerns that the mutation might make the virus less susceptible to the current vaccines, which are all based on initial Wuhan strain. And that's the focus of our research right now, is to determine whether or not it's possible that this new form of the virus would not be as susceptible to the current vaccines.

If that turns out to be the case, then it will be -- it will be important for people to quickly modify the current vaccines so that they will be able to target this new form of the virus, as well as the initial one.

BERMAN: That's the potential impact of -- if there are, in fact, these different strains of the virus, if they're so different that the vaccine that they're developing now doesn't work.


That could be a serious issue.

Let me run down some of the things that this study has found. And, again, it's not peer-reviewed. We tell our audience that often because we're talking about studies now in ways that we haven't necessarily talked about them before. But have found it's a more transmissible strain. Not more dangerous than others. It began spreading rapidly in Europe in March and is now the dominant strain globally, including the United States.

So what's the basis of thinking that the changes or the mutations made this more transmissible?

MONTEFIORI: So, again, the mutation is in a portion of the virus called the spike protein. This is the protein that the virus uses to attach to cells and to get into cells. It's also the portion of the virus that is the target of vaccines. It is what antibodies bind to, to prevent the virus from gaining entry into cells.

Mutations in the protein can improve the ability of the virus to attach to cells and get into cells. That's one of the proposed mechanisms that we think might be operating here and that we're looking at in the laboratory now.

BERMAN: Is it possible, I know you've looked at the geographic spread of this. You now say this is the dominant variant of coronavirus on the East Coast. That the East Coast U.S. version of coronavirus is this and, therefore, has been transmitted more easily than the coronavirus on the West Coast, or even in Asia?

MONTEFIORI: That's a possibility. We don't know what the full distribution of this form of the virus is across the United States because there aren't sequences available from every state. But as more sequences do become available, and hundreds more are being deposited into the genetic database every day, we'll learn more and more about the prevalence of this new form of the virus across the United States and in other parts of world.

But as far as we can tell right now, it is the dominant form in the United States and has been for several weeks.

BERMAN: And to be clear, though, because -- just because its spread more easily doesn't mean that it's more deadly. In fact, you have not found evidence that it's any more deadly, correct?

MONTEFIORI: That is correct.

We collaborated with colleagues in Sheffield, England, where we were able to get clinical data that were linked to the sequences that they provided to the database. And, in particular, Dr. Korber was able to use these data to look at whether or not the mutant form was associated with a greater likelihood that people would have to be hospitalized. And the data showed no association between hospitalization and this new form of the virus. So it does not appear, at least right now, to be any more dangerous, any more likely to make you sick than the initial strain of the virus.

BERMAN: And, again, though, just to wrap up what you think this all means, and the potential impact of this, right now the vaccine research that's being done by and large is into the initial Wuhan, as it were, strain of the virus. And the concern is, is that even if a vaccine is proved effective against that strain, it might not be as directly effective against this mutated strain?

MONTEFIORI: That's correct. That's our major concern. Yes.

BERMAN: All right, Dr. Montefiori, thanks for helping us understand this. It's really interesting research. Everyone should go check it out. And we look forward to hearing more from you after it is peer- reviewed.

Thank you.

MONTEFIORI: Thank you. Thank you for having me on your show.

BERMAN: All right, coming up, new video of a Russian doctor moments before he mysteriously fell from a hospital window. Details in a live report, next.



HILL: New video this morning. A Russian doctor filmed moments before he mysteriously fell out of a hospital window, suffering severe head trauma. Two other health care workers are dead after falling in a similar way. Russian police say they're investigating.

CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance joins us now live with more.

To say this raises questions is really an understatement, Matthew.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it does. It absolutely raises questions because Russia has a record of silencing its critics. And so when you see the not one, not two but three doctors who have criticized the coronavirus response in Russia sort of mysteriously fall out of a window, you've got to ask those questions. Is it a series of coincidences or is something more sinister at play?


CHANCE (voice over): Behind the face masks, two stressed-out Russian doctors struggling in this country's coronavirus pandemic. We haven't got enough protection gear the one on the right complains on social media. Now he says Russian police are accusing him of spreading fake news. The other doctor says he's tested positive for coronavirus but was forced to work anyway. Now he's fighting for his life after falling mysteriously from a hospital window.

This was him, Alexander Shulpof (ph), shortly before his unexpected plunge, with a video statement completely retracting his allegations of mistreatment.

I was just overwhelmed with emotion, he explains, and scared of my condition. But, of course, I was taken off shift and didn't treat any other patients.

Now he's dealing with severe head injuries and can say no more.

But he's not the only Russian doctor recently silenced by a suspicious window fall. In fact, he's the third. Earlier this month, the acting head of this hospital in Siberia died after plunging out of a window during a meeting with health officials. Local television reported she opposed plans to convert a hospital into a coronavirus facility, citing lack of protective gear, and asked a colleague what happened?

It's all very strange, he says.


She was a kind woman. Maybe with all this coronavirus, they pressured her with requirements, he suggests. Do this, do that.

One Russian doctor, who knows about the current pressure, is Anastasia Vasilyeva, head of a doctors union, who's become an outspoken critic of Russia's coronavirus response, accusing the Kremlin of underplaying the pandemic.

This is her being man-handled and arrested last month trying to deliver protective equipment. She says it's a strange case of the three Russian doctors in suspicious window falls, including another last month who worked at the main cosmonaut training center, is more about psychological stress on frontline staff than any sinister plot to silence critics.

ANASTASIA VASILYEVA, DOCTOR'S ALLIANCE: No, I don't think that somebody's targeting -- targeting doctors. No. Their destruction of health -- health care system and, of course, this mean that it's very difficult to treat in such conditions a lot of patients with coronavirus.

CHANCE: We've seen the strain on Russian medical staff already, like these workers with coronavirus symptoms in southern Russia, crammed into a laundry cupboard with no space in the wards. Elsewhere, complaints abound of shifts lasting days or ten-hour waits in ambulances to admit patients.

Russia may not be murdering its doctors, but the pressures of its pandemic could be what's really killing them.


CHANCE: Well, Erica, there's no sign at this stage that that pandemic in Russia is showing any signs of slowing down. In fact, it seems to be quickening up. Within the past 24 hours alone there have been more than 10,500 new cases of coronavirus identified in the country.

Back to you.

HILL: Wow, it's just such great reporting, too. Such a great piece.

Matthew, thank you.

The NFL planning for a full season to start on time in September. I know two young boys who are excited about that. What one league official tells CNN that that decision, though, will likely hinge on. We've got the "Bleacher Report" up next.


[06:56:34] BERMAN: The NFL set to release its schedule for next season tomorrow, but how will the coronavirus pandemic affect that season.

Andy Scholes with more in the "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, Andy.


You know, despite all of the team facilities remaining closed until further notice, the league still hopes to start the 2020 season as planned in September. An executive vice president of football operations, Troy Vincent, told our Coy Wire that the NFL's return is going to hinges on the advice from medical experts.


TROY VINCENT, EVP OF FOOTBALL OPERATIONS, NFL: We're just moving forward as we would normally do until the medical community tells us that we need to make an adjustment.

Here are the number of people that can go back into the facility. Here's the processes that you have in place.

So public safety first. Safety of personnel. Safety of the players. That all comes first.

So we literally have been guided on a daily basis, making the adjustments on a daily basis, as the science and the medical community tells us to do so.


SCHOLES: Yes, the regular season schedule comes out tomorrow night. The Hall of Fame game between the Cowboys and Steelers is three months from today, August 6th, in Canton, Ohio.

All right, there's no word on if or when the NBA season will tip off again. In the meantime, LeBron James, well, he's staying busy, staying in shape and putting together an all-star team for a virtual graduation ceremony for 2020 high school seniors. LeBron announcing on Twitter that former President Barack Obama will take part in the "Graduate Together: America Honors the Class of 2020" special on May 16th. LeBron said, you know, not going to be the graduation experience these seniors were supposed to get, but we still hope we can give them something special because they deserve it, John.

LeBron's going to host this special. And you can watch it right here on CNN. Again, that's May 16th at 8:00 Eastern.

BERMAN: Oh, that will be really cool. I think it's wonderful to give these high school seniors something they can remember. And I think LeBron James doing your graduation ceremony, even if online, you'll remember that.

SCHOLES: Not bad. Yes. BERMAN: All right, Andy, thanks very much.

NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Coronavirus Task Force will start winding down.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't keep our country closed for the next five years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's insane. It's absolutely dumb-founding. How, when our epidemic is all still on the assent, could you possibly imagine that you would shut down all the leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And in a new whistleblower complaint filed today, Dr. Rick Bright alleges his early warnings about the outbreak were ignored and led to his removal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He pushed back on this idea that we should flood the streets with this drug because he knew it wasn't safe.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They gave clear guidelines, 14-day downward trend, have testing in place. What happened to that conversation? I mean it just sort of disappeared.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY.

Alisyn is off. Erica Hill with me again this morning.

Great to have you here.

HILL: Good morning.

BERMAN: So, 71,000 Americans are dead from coronavirus this morning. Around 2,000 new deaths every day. New data shows that while the New York area has seen a drop in new cases, the numbers in the rest of the country have steadily increased.

But it appears that the Trump administration is ready, or at least trying, to move on. The White House is moving to wind down the Coronavirus Task Force by Memorial Day.


Why? What message does that send? We will explore.

Also this morning, the ousted director of the office in charge.