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Trump Valet Tests Positive for Coronavirus; White House Blocks Release of CDC Guidelines for Reopening; Texas Salon Owner Released from Jail. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired May 7, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: -- should this meeting even be happening at all? We'll bring you the event when it's available.
As the White House deals with the first known infection in the West Wing, it is also facing questions about why it rejected a draft of CDC guidelines that help schools, churches and businesses move forward in this pandemic, especially as the majority of states are reopening, despite cases spiking or remaining about the same in so many areas.
It's not quite clear why the guidelines were shelved, but a CDC official was told some of the suggestions were just too stringent.
So back to this valet breaking news, let's go to the White House, to our correspondent there, Kaitlan Collins. And, Kaitlan, what do you know about President Trump's reaction to the news that one of these valets tested positive?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, we're told the president was upset when he heard about it, because obviously this is somehow who works incredibly closely to the president.
And for those who aren't totally aware, fully sure of what a valet is, they work very closely with not only the president, but also the first family. They're part of this elite military unit that's assigned to the White House. They deal with all of the food and beverage service, other daily tasks that are personal to the president and the first family.
So basically, they work really closely with him. So news that someone who works that closely to the president tested positive for coronavirus, obviously upset him. It's the first known case of coronavirus inside the West Wing.
And so the question is, you know, what does it change, going forward? Because the White House has confirmed that they were informed by the White House Medical Office that a military staffer who was on the White House grounds tested positive for coronavirus. But, Brooke, they haven't said much other than that.
I should note that Kellyanne Conway was just doing an interview on "Fox News" when she was asked about our story. She didn't really answer much, beyond saying that the president and the vice president were doing well.
But then she said that she believed in part that the media could do more to show respect by starting to wear masks, though we should note mostly reporters, when they go into the Oval Office -- like they will any minute, for this meeting with the Texas governor, do wear masks when they're that close to the president.
Now, the question is, does it change the calculus about staffers inside the West Wing wearing masks, social distancing, things of that nature? Because so far, Brooke, the White House has relied on the fact that often the senior staffers, those who are meeting with President Trump and Vice President Pence, get tested for coronavirus.
And so of course, that's a lot of questions, going forward. We don't know much else about this individual except that they were on White House grounds yesterday, they were exhibiting symptoms. But there are still questions about whether they were in the Oval Office that day, the day before -- really, what their schedule looked like.
BALDWIN: Got it. Kaitlan, thank you.
I can also tell you right now that in the United States, there are more than 1,231,000 cases and nearly 74,000 people have died from COVID-19. CNN's Athena Jones has been following all the latest on states reopening, vaccine trials and new just jaw-dropping numbers on jobless claims.
So, Athena, these figures on how many have lost their job is -- it's a punch in the gut. In Kentucky, one in three workers has filed for unemployment, just to put it in perspective for everyone.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brooke, that's exactly right. And nationwide, another 3.2 million people filed first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week. That brings the total number of initial claims filed since mid-March to 33.5 million. These are truly stunning numbers, and a big reason why so many states are allowing businesses to open again.
JONES (voice-over): With Maryland allowing elective surgeries and certain outdoor activities to resume starting today, at least 44 states will be partially reopened by Sunday. But now, the Trump administration is blocking the release of step-by-step CDC guidance, meant to help states reopen safely.
LAURIE GARRETT, AUTHOR, "THE COMING PLAGUE": Every day, we're faced with mystery. Every day, the virus throws a curveball at us. And instead of having a single agency that provided wisdom for all of the states and all of the public health departments across the United States and, frankly, the world, we have mum's the word and chaos.
JONES (voice-over): The 17-page document, a draft of which CNN obtained last week, was compiled at the request of White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx, according to a senior CDC official. It spells out guidance for schools, day camps, childcare programs,
faith communities, restaurants, mass transit and employers with vulnerable workers.
JEANINE MARRAZZO, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA BIRMINGHAM: It's not just helpful, it's crucial and vital.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am disappointed and angry that this has happened.
JONES (voice-over): The Associated Press, who was first to report the administration's hold on the guidelines, saying a CDC official told them the agency's scientists were told the document would, quote, "never see the light of day," raising concerns among leaders seeking clear guidance.
GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): Let us hear from the experts. I think we'll be able to make much better decisions accordingly. Don't politicize this.
JONES (voice-over): Already, states that are reopening don't appear to be meeting four criteria set out in CDC guidelines, including a 14- day decline in new cases and the ability to test everybody with COVID- like symptoms.
CAITLIN RIVERS, SENIOR SCHOLAR, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: To my knowledge, there are no states that meet all four of those criteria.
JONES (voice-over): New infections are still on the rise in at least 19 states, including Texas, which will allow swimming pools, barber shops and hair, nail and tanning salons to reopen Friday.
MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON, TEXAS: I just think, for me, we're going a bit too fast.
JONES (voice-over): New Jersey's governor, extending the state's public health emergency into early June.
And there are new concerns in New York. While new cases and hospitalizations continue to fall, there is a new hotspot upstate: dozens of employees at a greenhouse farm, testing positive for the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, at least 64 children have shown up in New York hospitals with serious inflammatory symptoms, like persistent fever and toxic shock syndrome that state officials believe could be linked to the virus.
And in Illinois, evidence the virus is having an outsized impact on the Latino community, which is now testing positive for COVID-19 at the highest rate of any demographic in the state. GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): Nearly 16,000 of them have tested positive for COVID-19. That's a positivity rate of 60 percent. That's nearly three times our state average.
JONES (voice-over): Meanwhile, the Labor Department reports another 3.2 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total number of first-time claims to more than 33.5 million since mid-March.
Still, there are new developments on the vaccine front. Biotech company Moderna, announcing the FDA has approved phase two trials of their vaccine, bringing the company one step closer to the final phase: large-scale clinical trials.
JONES: And one more thing about those CDC guidelines the White House has rejected. One doctor described the situation like this: This whole reopening is like learning to walk again. You can't learn to walk on your own, we have to talk out the details of how this is going to be done. Her point was, it makes sense to listen to the experts -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: We're going to talk about those guidelines being shelved with these two next guests, waiting in the wings. Athena, thank you very much for the broader look.
Let's hone in. With me now, I have emergency room physician Dr. Leana Wen. She is the former health commissioner for Baltimore. Also with us, Retired Army General Wesley Clark, NATO's former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.
So welcome to both of you, and I'm glad you're both well.
Dr. Wen, let me start with you. And let's back up to this story out of the White House that is really percolating this afternoon, this valet. This is someone who brings, you know -- when people think valet, I know what they're thinking. This is an elite military unit, this is someone who is bringing the president, you know, food, drink in the White House, someone very close, physically, to the president.
We know that this person was showing symptoms Wednesday morning, has now turned up that he's tested positive. The president has tested negative. Does that mean the president is in the clear?
LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: Not at all. So for this, we look at the CDC guidelines, which are really clear on this. So if one is exposed to somebody who tests positive, that person should be in quarantine for 14 days. Even if they test negative, they should still be in quarantine until such a time that they could be cleared.
And that's because the incubation period, the period of time between exposure to the virus to when it manifests as symptoms, is up to 14 days. And frankly, the president should follow this guidance no differently than anyone else. BALDWIN: So we know the president's meeting with the governor of
Texas, we know that the room will be filled with, you know, White House staffers, members of the media. What are you saying, then?
WEN: That that is not the appropriate thing to do. That would go against the best public health guidance.
BALDWIN: It would.
WEN: Look, if I had a patient coming in -- right, if I had a patient coming in who had this type of exposure, I would tell this person to quarantine themselves, meaning that they should not leave their house, they should not go to work, they should not be in public. They should not even be with their household contacts, they should be in a room, separate from everybody else living in their home.
And so I mean, I guess I don't know the exact level of exposure that the president had --
BALDWIN: We don't know --
WEN: -- with this aide --
BALDWIN: -- we don't know, that's the thing --
WEN: -- but --
BALDWIN: -- but we know that these -- this role, this individual does come in close contact, but we don't know the specifics, as Kaitlan pointed out, you know, the exposure, let's say, in the last 24 hours or so. Let me come back to you.
General, to you, just on this -- and let me -- I'm looking down at our notes from our White House unit. Apparently, when the president found out about this, he was upset. When news that someone close to the president had tested positive for coronavirus, they've (ph) been, quote, "hitting the fan" in the West Wing. What would you like to say about any of this?
WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, they should be. Because -- because here's the thing. If they'd done the right teaching for their people, they would have understood that you've got to do continuous testing, and you can't wait until you're symptomatic because this disease, apparently, has two, three days' incubation period in your body, in which you're infectious to others and you don't even have any symptoms.
So it's not just whether he was in the West Wing, the valet was in the West Wing yesterday, the day before, the day before that. And who did he talk to, and did he -- I mean, how close was he? Because it seems to us, looking at the experiential evidence -- and I defer to the doctor of course, but -- this is not just about where we started with, "Hey, you've got to make sure you wash your hands." This is about aerosols, it's about how you talk to people, how close you are, how often you're with them, are you in an enclosed room where there's no circulation, where you're constantly exhaling viruses and people are walking through these aerosolized virus clouds. So there's a lot here to be concerned about, and the president should be upset.
BALDWIN: Let me stay with you, General, because you know, we wanted to talk to you about your column on CNN, about leadership. You know, in this time, what should leadership look like?
CLARK: First of all, a leader has to build trust. And that means he has to be credible in what he says, he has to be -- he has to explain, he has to communicate, he has to take responsibility, he has to have a strategy and a plan. He has to accept the responsibility that he's the leader. He has to build a team and work with others.
And in all of those dimensions, in this crisis, what we have is a very effective political leader in the highest position -- in the world, really, and he's certainly the highest elected official in the United States, but people all over the world are looking for -- to the president of the United States for leadership in this crisis.
And he's running it like a political campaign instead of like a national leader, in the sense that he's not accepting responsibility, he's passing off blame, he's isolating, attacking certain groups. He just hasn't bellied up to the bar, is the way we would say it in the military.
And you can't do that at this point. It's a very simple calculus. He had a -- he has a tremendous opportunity to be re-elected if he's an effective leader. And if he's not, being the leader of that political party and doing the favors and getting another couple of judges appointed, and so forth, that's not enough.
The American people -- all of us, and all around the world -- are looking to the president for leadership, and he's got to step out of the role of being a political partisan, and move up to the role of being the national leader.
And I wrote the column --
BALDWIN: To -- to --
CLARK: -- because we need him to do that.
BALDWIN: To your point about leadership -- Dr. Wen, this is for you -- I think it's noteworthy, as we look at this story, how quickly the president, this valet, you know, everyone around them were able to be tested. But that is not, you know, what the president is advocating for, right? He, just the other day, said we don't need widespread testing -- Doctor.
WEN: That's right, and we're hearing members of his administration say that it's ridiculous to even suggest that there should be testing for every American, but that's what his staff need in order to feel safe going back to work. Why shouldn't that also be the same reassurance that every American needs in order to go back to work and to school?
Frankly, we do need that widespread testing. This is what public health experts like myself are saying, have been saying for weeks and months. We do need that widespread testing to identify people who have symptoms, and to see whether they have COVID-19. But also those without symptoms, so that we can know what is the true prevalence of this disease in our community, so that we can really contain this disease.
Because otherwise, we are reopening blind and we're going to suffer the consequences, which is more infections, more hospitalizations and unfortunately more preventable deaths. And the president clearly knows this. I now want this lesson -- to General Clark's point -- to be applied to all of the American people.
BALDWIN: General Clark, Dr. Wen, thank you both so much for your opinions on all of this.
And you can get more of your questions answered tonight regarding all things COVID-19. Former Vice President Al Gore, Spike Lee and the author of "The Coming Plague," Laurie Garrett, will join Anderson and Sanjay tonight, a new CNN town hall, "CORONAVIRUS: FACTS AND FEARS." It airs at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, here on CNN.
One mayor is encouraging his constituents to socially shame -- those are his words, he wants them to socially shame -- people who are not wearing masks in public. What will that look like?
Plus, a seventh worker has now died from a plant outbreak. I'll speak live with the daughter of one of the workers who is hooked up on a ventilator after the plant told her, Go back to work, it's just a cold.
And the governor of Texas just made a move on the fate of the salon owner, put in jail for reopening her shop.
You are watching CNN's special live coverage, I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.
BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN, I'm Brooke Baldwin.
The mayor of Providence, Rhode Island is encouraging people to publicly shame anyone not wearing a face mask amid this pandemic.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MAYOR JORGE ELORZA (D), PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND: What we need is people to, quote-unquote, "self-police." Now, we need everyone to take ownership of this and take it upon themselves to be part of the solution. And what I've been telling our residents here in Providence is, if you're out there and you see someone not abiding by the rules, you know, you should socially shame them so that they do fall in line. (END AUDIO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Dr. Roshini Raj, she's an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health. And, Dr. Raj, socially shaming and, you know, what that entails, we don't know. But you tell me, how effective are these face masks at at least slowing the spread of COVID-19?
ROSHINI RAJ, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, NYU LANGONE HEALTH: Well, you know, the face mask story is an ever-changing one. And as you know, about a month ago, we were telling people not to wear face masks, save it for the health care workers. And now, what we realize is the asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 is very real.
And that's really the reason why people should be wearing face masks right now. It's not so much protection for yourself, although there is some, but really to prevent the spread to other people. So if you're wearing the mask, covering your nose and your mouth, then it's much less likely that you're able to spread if you cough or if you sneeze or even talk in a public place.
So they are important, and I do think people should be wearing them, certainly when they're required by law. But I don't think that social shaming is the way to kind of police or enforce this kind of rule.
BALDWIN: What about -- you know, I was just having a conversation about President Trump and leadership and this valet and, you know. The president said he doesn't like to wear a mask, and we're told most White House staffers actually remove their masks before going into the West Wing, and that's because the White House instead relies on those rapid-response tests.
A couple minutes ago, though, the director of the National Institutes of Health, you know, testified that this Abbott rapid-response test, that that's what the White House uses. You know, you get your test results in 15 minutes, but it has a 15 percent false negative rate, 15 percent. Is that a high number?
RAJ: It is a high number. It's definitely a high number when we're talking about a test for such a potentially deadly and very infectious disease. So, yes, I think the reliance on tests, that's certainly not a good strategy in terms of, I don't need to wear a mask because I'll just get a test.
First of all, if you're very early on in the disease, the test may not show it because that (ph) reason. Or the test itself may be flawed, and 15 percent, I would be -- I would consider that to be a somewhat flawed test. I mean, it's certainly better than nothing but I think they can do better than that.
So, no, I don't think the availability of tests should mean people, you know, should not wear masks or think that it's OK not to. At the very least, you want that physical barrier between yourself and (INAUDIBLE) people. BALDWIN: Did she freeze, or do we still have her? Man, that's what
happens when we're trying to do all of this over the internet because of this new normal we are all in. Dr. Roshini Raj, thank you so much for being with me.
Moments from now, we are expecting the president's first response to his valet testing positive, and his administration rejecting those CDC guidelines. So stand by for news there.
Also, do you remember the salon owner, jailed in Texas for reopening her shop? The governor just made a move that impacts her fate.
SHELLEY LUTHER, SALON OWNER: So, sir, if you think the law's more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision but I am not going to shut the salon.
BALDWIN: The Texas Supreme Court, just hours ago ordered the release of that Dallas hair salon owner who was jailed for defying a statewide stay-at-home order. The state's high court stepped in after a Dallas County judge sentenced her to a week in jail. CNN's Ed Lavandera has been following this for us.
And so, Ed, this woman's case has been really a flashpoint in Texas, with the governor and the A.G. siding with the salon owner.
So tell me more about the latest development.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, she's become -- Shelley Luther has become a celebrity among the number of people here in Texas pushing to get businesses allowed to open up much faster than some people would like to see here.
And as you mentioned, Brooke, the Texas supreme court ruled just a short while ago that Shelley Luther should be released from jail. She had been sentenced to a week in jail for civil and criminal contempt of court, of a judge's order. Last week, she had ripped up a cease- and-desist order from a judge here in Dallas County for keeping her hair salon open in North Dallas.
And the move from the Texas supreme court comes after Governor Greg Abbott says he amended his executive order, his stay-at-home order, which prevented businesses like hair salons to open up during his coronavirus pandemic. He had amended that executive order to not allow confinement in jail for any violations of his order.
Which really begs the question among many people here, as just exactly how do you enforce these orders if that kind of punishment is taken off the table? But nonetheless, Shelley Luther, about to be released from jail here, at some point this afternoon. There's a small group of supporters who have shown up here at the Dallas County Jail to see her walk out of this jail, where she has been just several days, serving part of that seven-day sentence. And all of this, ironically enough, happening as the governor here in Texas has decided to allow hair salons, barber shops, nail salons to open up, starting tomorrow -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: DO you think, outside of those, you know, hair salons, barber shops, her release today, what do you think that means for other business owners there in Texas?
LAVANDERA: Well, you know, that's the question that many people have here at this point. You know, there are still a number of businesses that are technically under the stay-at-home order and aren't allowed to reopen. You have gyms, you have bars, you have office buildings and that sort of thing.
So, you know, many people are asking, it's like, what happens if we just decide to ignore the orders altogether and just start opening up at will? There are fines and --