Return to Transcripts main page


White House Scrambles To Contain Coronavirus Outbreak; 47 States Partially Reopen, Loosen Restrictions Amid Outbreak; South Korea Tracking New COVID-19 Cases Linked To Nightclubs. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired May 11, 2020 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


The administration is scrambling as coronavirus makes its way inside the White House. Vice President Mike Pence is there today despite his own press secretary testing positive for the virus. Officials spent the weekend trying to track down who she was in contact with. Pence's decision to not self-quarantine goes against CDC guidelines but three other officials there, key officials, are isolating.

SCIUTTO: Folks who know a thing or do about pandemics, Dr. Fauci, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephan Hahn are all now in quarantine. They will now testify remotely tomorrow at a Senate hearing on the U.S. coronavirus response.

But as states moves forward, 47 of them with reopening, a key model has now upped its death projection to 137,000 by early August. Will that give local leaders any pause? It's a tough decision state-to- state.

Let's kick things off at the White House. CNN's John Harwood is there. John, who else is quarantining in the White House, who isn't, and describe the level of concern in there among staffers.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jim, this is a really strange situation and a fairly incoherent response from the White House. First of all, everybody in the White House is scared about getting the coronavirus. Let's be clear about that. Kevin Hassett, the economic adviser, made that crystal clear in an appearance yesterday saying it's scary to go to work.

We know that President Trump is scared of getting the coronavirus. He doesn't want to be around people who haven't been tested. He's tested every day. Of course, he's got fantastic medical care and Secret Service protection. Vice President Pence is not quarantining. And part of the equation for President Trump and Vice President Pence is keeping up appearances as they try to urge the country to reopen the economy. They're trying to mitigate the economic damage we've suffered.

Of course, the economy is not going to effectively open up until the virus is contained. And what we see from the testing of the valet, from the testing of Katie Waldman, the fact that they are positive, from the fact that we've got a hearing tomorrow on Capitol Hill where Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the committee, is going to be questioning witnesses from quarantine because he's got a staff member who has tested positive, the three public health officials he's going to be questioning are also in quarantine because of their exposure.

All of this communicates a message to the American people that, guess what, it is not safe right now to go back. There are positive things happening in the United States. Testing is expanding, positivity rate is going down, but we do not have the kind of comprehensive testing regime that would make it safe for everybody to go back. And so the administration is sort of stuck between self-protection on a very personal basis, and some of Vice President Pence's aides are staying home today.

We don't know exactly which ones, but they've been trying to figure out who is Katie Miller in contact with? Of course, her husband, Steven Miller, is also a senior official aide to the president. He's staying home. So it's kind of a jumbled situation and that kind of reflects where the country is right now.

The one potential salutary effect of this for the country is that when people see that there are big safety questions facing the country, they may not go out and put themselves at risk and that poses a problem for the attempts to reopen. Because once you got confidence in the public health safety aspect of this, you're not going to have a robust economic recovery.

HARLOW: You're not, indeed. John Harwood, thanks so much for the reporting.

SCIUTTO: We're joined now by Dr. Patrice Harris. She is the President of the American Medical Association. Dr. Harris, give us your view from a doctor's perspective of the White House's internal handling of this. It's got a sort of microcosm of the coronavirus outbreak in the country taking place inside its own walls. A consistent response, a model of a response for the rest of the country, in your view?


DR. PATRICE HARRIS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: In a public health crisis, it is so important to have a clear and consistent message. And, unfortunately, that's not what we're seeing. I think that everyone should take the lead of the physicians on this. The CDC guidelines are there for a reason.

And I think this is a perfect opportunity for leadership to model what good public health practice is and, really, what will maximize safety and the public confidence. I agree with John that public confidence goes a long way in getting our economy back on track. And I think a feeling of safety would be critical in that.

HARLOW: So, to make people feel safe, they are not reassured by these numbers, the latest modeling out of IHME at the University of Washington that shows more than 137,000 deaths now expected by August 4th. And it named some of those states, particularly Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Georgia, where they have seen at least a 20 percent increase in mobility patterns. So I wonder if you think America's activity is undoing a lot of the gains that had been made by social distancing.

HARRIS: So, I think we should look at models in context. They are very important. They are not necessarily, though, absolutely predictive of the future. I think they tell us what could happen in perhaps a worst case scenario or if we suddenly loosen all of our restrictions. So I think models are there to give us information.

But, again, the public, we all have an opportunity to make sure those numbers aren't as high as they are. And they are making sure that we wear masks and we continue to stay six feet apart. And I know that there is variability and the states can decide how they reopen, but it should always be in a phased process, making sure we have testing, making sure our hospital capacity is the same.

And unless we have those metrics in place and hopefully the infection rate is going down, unless we have that in place, we have to really, really go slowly.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Harris, just while you've been speaking, the president tweeted a claim that does not seem to be backed up by the data. He is claiming that cases are getting steady around the country, big progress. Coronavirus numbers looking much better, going down almost everywhere. In fact, and we can put this on the screen too, the data tells a different story in terms of where cases are going up and where they are not. Look at the red and the purple there where they're going up steady for other parts of the country.

What difference does it make when you have, well, false claims coming from the highest office in the country about the actual progress of this outbreak?

HARRIS: Certainly from the beginning at the AMA, we have been talking about the critical need to focus on the science and the evidence and the data, and that really should lead all of our response. You know, this is not political. This is a public health crisis. And if we use the data correctly, we can, again, get on the other side of this. But we cannot deny the data. The data and the facts are there, and knowing that information really helps us. It doesn't hurt us. Knowing the data and the facts doesn't hurt, it only helps.

HARLOW: Dr. Patrice Harris, thank you for your time for being with us.

HARRIS: You're welcome. Thank you for having me. HARLOW: Let's talk more about this modeling and some other developments over the weekend. Our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is with us. Now, what's your take, Sanjay, when you see the developments out of the White House, people scared to work there, cases, unfortunately, within the White House and then this new modeling?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, with regard to the White House, the virus is now there. It's confirmed to be there. It was probably there for some time. And as they started doing more testing, they found people that actually were harboring the virus inside their bodies. It doesn't sound like they had symptoms. That's good. I know Katie. I hope she doesn't develop symptoms.

But I think what this means is, in a place like that, where it's very hard to physically distance, people who have been inside the White House, it's actually fairly small in the west wing. Similar to hospitals in a way, where it's also hard to physically distance from one another. In those situations, you've got to do everything you can to slow the spread. We know it's a contagious virus and we know it's in that small setting now. So that's just the reality of it.

I think that -- I was interviewing Ambassador Birx the other day, and I said, in some ways, it strikes me that this is like the Secret Service protecting the principals in the White House. How is this different? Wouldn't you be doing everything you can to protect the principals in the White House?


People around them are wearing masks.

The testing is important, Poppy. But the testing is after the fact. You want to prevent the virus from infecting people in the first place, and the president of the United States would fall into the vulnerable population on top of that.

I'm telling my parents, who I'd love to see. I would have loved to see my mom for Mother's Day this past week, and I'm saying that can't happen right now. This is a time when we have to do everything we can to protect people, and the same is at the White House. So, yes, I think this is concerning.

I also think that in a few weeks from now, Poppy, as we learn and people sort of come to terms with what's happening here, that some of these conversations will seem trivial. So you were talking about opening hair salons. You were talking about maybe I won't wear masks. That's going to seem trivial compared to the situation that we're likely to be in.

HARLOW: Geez. Okay, there is all of that, and then there's the important reporting you've been doing on these children. So if we could just talk about what's happening, this mysterious disease, it's inflammatory, there is rashes associated with it. They think it's tied to COVID, but it's not Kawasaki disease, is that right? GUPTA: Well, Kawasaki disse is sort of an inflammatory disease that affects many organs in the body. People notice it because of the skin, seeing rashes on the skin. The skin is the largest organ, and that is what parents typically will notice. Oftentimes, they'll see an interesting appearance of the tongue where the tongue looks more like a strawberry tongue, they call it, redness in the eyes.

Kawasaki has been around for some time. And now, however, many weeks into this, there's been these kids, these little pumpkins who developed this sort of disorder. It seems to have some relationship to COVID, Poppy. They're not sure yet.

There're 85 reported cases mostly under the age of five. We know that three children have died, two others are under investigation. In that first trial of 15 children, Poppy, four of them had active virus, six had antibodies to the virus and five didn't seem to have a particular relationship to the virus. So they still got to sweat that out.

It's interesting, early this morning, I was talking to some of my sources in Asia, and, you know, it's a little surprising that they didn't see the increase in this inflammatory disorder in China or Japan. They don't know for sure why that is, but we first saw the alert go out in the U.K., now we're hearing about it in the United States. It's still rare, thankfully. So I know, as a parent myself, it's alarming to hear, but thankfully it's still rare, as far as we can tell.

SCIUTTO: I think, guys, do we have some of those images that we can show? I know you were showing them earlier, Sanjay. We can put them on social media if not. But just what people should -- if you can quickly describe what people should be looking at here in their children.

GUPTA: Yes. So it's hard to look at these images, but the rash is what's called a maculopapular rash. So you get these areas of redness surrounded by areas of normal skin and then back and forth. The eyes can be red, but that's obviously -- that's more vague. I think, I don't know, the tongue, they call that a strawberry tongue picture. That's one of the more distinctive things.

I think a fever, an unexplained rash, things like that, what I would do, and I would advise this to all parents. I've been telling all my friends who have kids, set up a telehealth communication now with your pediatrician. Pediatricians are home mostly now as well. They're going to video if they have to. But a lot of doctors are home doing these telehealth visits. Set that up even if you don't need it right now. Create an avenue of communication with your pediatrician, so if you develop any symptoms that are unusual.

And you can even have someone take a look via camera right now. I mean, it's not the same as actually laying on of hands, but I think that's something people should have in their back pocket.

HARLOW: That's really a good advice. You're not scrambling in the moment. Sanjay, thank you. We'll see you soon.

GUPTA: You got it, Poppy. HARLOW: Jim?

SCIUTTO: Hospitals across the country a grappling with a shortage of the one drug so far approved to treat coronavirus. How are they deciding this very difficult question, which patients get it and which do not?

Plus, South Korea did a great job early on with coronavirus response, but now they're dealing with some small, new outbreaks stemming from bars and nightclubs. We're going to be live from Seoul.

HARLOW: And tension is rising in South Dakota between the governor there and some Sioux tribes clashing over coronavirus checkpoints. I'll have a late update ahead.



HARLOW: This morning, 47 states are at least partially reopening for business. There are still though a lot of restrictions. SCIUTTO: Well, the economic pressures here are real. CNN's Rosa Flores is in Florida, one of those states. Rosa, states -- and we should be clear here -- governed by Democratic governors, Republican governors making steps to reopen here.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right. And they're all at different stages of their reopening plans.

Let me take you around the country starting with retail with what is new today. Indiana reopening retail stores there at 50 percent capacity. In New Hampshire, retail staff will have to get screened before entering their places of work.

And on to restaurants, in Arizona and Arkansas, restaurants will reopen today with social distancing, and in Indiana, dine-in services will be allowed at 50 percent capacity.


Now, manufacturing is also reopening in two states in Kentucky and Michigan, with the three big automakers in Michigan reopening their doors for the first time. Now, workers can expect to be screened before starting back to work.

But back in Florida where I am, Palm Beach County joining Florida's other 64 counties in phase 1 of the reopening plan. What that means is that restaurants and retail stores will be allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity and restaurants will be allowed to have seating outdoors, but that seating will have to be at least six feet apart. Barber shops and nail shops will also be able to reopen in those 65 counties.

Now, there are only two counties remaining with full restrictions and that is Broward and Miami-Dade where I am now. Jim and Poppy?

SCIUTTO: Rosa Flores there keeping track, thanks very much.

The federal government says that it will begin rationing the drug remdesivir which has shown signs that it can treat coronavirus patients. It comes as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his state has received enough of the drug to treat 2,900 people in 15 hospitals, all of those hospitals identified by the federal department of Health and Human Services.

HARLOW: Our Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins us now for more. If you can just explain why the drug has been rationed, and also just an example here in New York, how do you then decide which of those 2,900 patients gets it?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. These are very tough decisions, Poppy. About two weeks ago, the federal government said, hey, it looks like remdesivir shaves four days off of a patient's hospital stay. Not a blockbuster, but still making it a drug that doctors and their patients want. The government's distribution of this scarce resource has been called bungled.


COHEN: Remdesivir, the only drug that's been shown in a large rigorous study to fight COVID-19. Given limited supplies, the federal government has been doling it out, some hospitals getting less than they need, others getting none.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): New York State is working with HHS, Health and Human Services on the federal side, administering to 2,900 people at 15 hospitals.

COHEN: The federal government has given New York enough remdesivir for 2,900 patients, but there are at least 7,262 coronavirus patients around in New York hospitals. That same situation playing out around the country. This vial from the first shipment of remdesivir received last week by Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where Dr. Rochelle Walensky is Chief of Infectious Diseases.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: We know that the doses of this drug that we are going to get are not going to be enough to treat every patient that we have in the hospital now.

COHEN: So they have to make decisions about who gets remdesivir and who doesn't.

WALENSKY: This was hard.

COHEN: At Mass General, they have about 200 patients with the virus and they have enough remdesivir for only 65 patients. And more patients are being admitted every day, and doctors don't know when they'll get more of the drug. Mass General's decision, a hospital committee, not the patient's doctor, decides who gets it.

WALENSKY: This is not how we like to practice medicine.

COHEN: But she says it's the most equitable way to do it. WALENSKY: It's nearly an impossible situation to be in medicine when you think that there is something you could and should be doing for somebody and you don't have it to give.

COHEN: The federal government has never explained how they've decided which hospitals will receive remdesivir and how much.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This drug is promising and we want to get it to the American people and to the areas that need it most.

COHEN: Saturday, the federal government said, in addition to sending remdesivir to hospitals, they would also send to some state health departments and intend eventually to send it to all state health departments. But they haven't said how much they'll send to each state or their formula for determining those amounts.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): This administration, of course, doesn't believe in transparency, but healthcare providers need to know about this.

COHEN: Representative Lloyd Doggett runs the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee that has been following the remdesivir rollout.

DOGGETT: It has been bungled from the very beginning.

COHEN: And now doctors trying to do their best to allocate this scarce resource.


COHEN: Now, since it is a scarce resource, doctors are asking themselves which patients, which of my patients would most benefit from this drug and I'll give it to them. The problem is they don't have an answer. The National Institutes of Health study, that large study that established this in the first place, they haven't published it yet, they haven't explained why not. Jim, Poppy?

HARLOW: Wow. Elizabeth, thank you for that.

South Korea taking new action after a spike in coronavirus cases linked to nightclubs in Seoul. We'll take you there after the break.



SCIUTTO: After early success with its coronavirus response, South Korea is now working to contain a new spike in cases in places. We have reporters around the globe covering the pandemic.

HARLOW: Ivan Watson joins us and Clarissa Ward. They're standing by. Let's begin though in Seoul, South Korea with Paula Hancocks there.

Authorities there say 29 new cases all linked to -- or many linked to nightclubs? Is that right? [10:30:00]

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at his point, Poppy, we know that there is one particular man, a 29-year-old man who went to a number of clubs on May 2nd and then tested.