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Pence Will Not Self-Quarantine Despite White House COVID Cases; COVID-19 Concerns Grow Inside the White House; Interview with Dr. Ashish Jha, Director, Harvard Global Health Institute, U.S. Death Projections and Vaccines; U.K. Prime Minister Lays Out Plan for Easing Restrictions; Germany Sees Troubling Rise in Measure of New Infections; Parts of Spain Begin to Partially Reopen; Students Begin to Return to Schools Across Europe. Aired 4-4:30a ET
Aired May 11, 2020 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.
Just ahead, the push to reopen the U.S. is raising concern both inside and outside the White House as staffers test positive for the coronavirus.
Parts of Europe ease restrictions but already some are seeing infections on the rise and new outbreaks in Asia, including the original epicenter. A warning that no one can be too vigilant.
Good to have you with us. The numbers look grim. In the U.S. nearly 80,000 people have died from the coronavirus. That is according to Johns Hopkins University. That's not stopping U.S. President Donald Trump from pushing for states to reopen. Take a look at this map. It shows coronavirus cases are still rising in some states and the new University of Washington model projects more than 137,000 people will die from COVID-19 by August.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus has crept into the White House. Mr. Trump's personal valet and Vice President Mike Pence's spokeswoman have tested positive for the virus. Three top U.S. health officials are self- quarantining but Pence plans to be at the White House in the coming hours, that is according to his staff.
This week Europe is starting to emerge from its lockdown. Spain, France, Italy and Germany are easing some of their harshest restrictions. And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is changing the U.K.'s slogan from stay-at-home to stay alert. But new cases are being reported in China and South Korea where the outbreaks were thought to be largely under control. White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond has more now on why Vice President Pence is not self-quarantining.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Vice President Mike Pence's office on Sunday saying that the Vice President will not enter self-quarantine after his press secretary tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. Vice President spokesman, Devon O'Malley, saying in a statement that Vice President Pence will continue to follow the advice of the White House medical unit and is not in quarantine. Additionally Vice President Pence has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House tomorrow, that is on Monday the Vice President is expected, indeed, to be at the White House so certainly not as self-quarantined there.
Now his decision is in contrast from what we're seeing from three of the doctors on the coronavirus task force. Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Steven Hahn, the head of the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, all three of them entering some form of self-quarantine for the next two weeks after they came into contact with a White House official who tested positive for coronavirus.
Their announcements about going into quarantine came within 24 hours of the news that Katie Miller, the Vice President's press secretary, who is also a spokeswoman for the task force had indeed tested positive. So certainly some differences here in the approach and that is kind of the thing here that we're seeing from the White House, is kind of a miss matched piecemeal approach to what these officials should do if indeed they come into contact. Certainly, the Vice President has spent far more time with Katie Miller, the Vice President's press secretary, than any of these other officials on the task force.
And so far, the White House is also declining to say whether any other officials on the task force or any other White House officials who would be in frequent meetings with the Vice President's press secretary, whether they will also work from home and enter some kind of quarantine.
What we are also learning is that those three officials who are going into quarantine, they were set to testify before the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday. Those officials will still go forward with that testimony. But instead Senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of that committee, announcing that all three of them will appear via video conference.
Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.
CHURCH: Meanwhile, President Trump's economic advisor told CNN that working in the West Wing at the White House can be risky for one's health. Saying the building is a little old and under ventilated. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN HASSETT, SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I knew when I was going back in that I would be taking risks that, you know, I'd be safer sitting at home at my house than going into a West Wing that even with all the testing in the world and the best medical team on earth is a relatively cramped place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: Hassett added that he wears a mask when he feels it's appropriate.
Joining me now from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dr. Ashish Jha. He is the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. Thank you so much for being with us.
DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Thanks for having me on.
CHURCH: So two staffers inside the White House have tested positive with COVID-19. The President's valet and now the Vice President's press secretary Katie Miller, who's husband is a senior advisor to the President, Steven Miller. And yet neither the President nor the Vice President intend to quarantine themselves. They will be at the White House on Monday. But three senior medical professionals on the coronavirus task force do intend to quarantine themselves. It is a mixed message for the nation coming from the very top. What are the optics with quarantining and not wearing masks?
JHA: Yes, so you know, the evidence on this and the guidelines on this are very, very clear. The CDC -- this administration's own CDC has made recommendations based on the evidence and based on that, certainly the Vice President should be quarantining himself and possibly also the President. But both of them should be wearing masks. It's a good way to keep each other safe. It's a good way to keep staff safe and it's also a very important leadership signal but they've chosen not to do it. I think it's unfortunate and they really are sending mixed messages to the American people.
CHURCH: Right and daily testing is now done at the White House because of this. To ensure the safety of the President and all those around him. So why aren't we seeing extensive testing across this nation? Obviously, not on a daily basis but for those who want to get tested to set their minds at ease or anyone who was showing symptoms or not showing symptoms. Because asymptomatic cases, just as -- that they pose just as big a test. So why have it at the White House but not elsewhere in any useful way along with contact tracing? Isn't that another mixed message from the top?
JHA: Yes, absolutely. And this has been stunning to me. You know, the White House has been suggesting that we have enough testing in the U.S. when everybody knows we do not. And they keep saying nobody needs more testing. And yet when they face dangers themselves, they have daily testing of all their staff. Now I believe that protecting the President and Vice President are very important. I think frequent testing is good, but it's not just good for them, it's good for all of us. And when they're telling America we should open up, then to say that you don't need testing but they do is I think it's very much a mixed message and a real problem. CHURCH: And the key coronavirus model from the University of
Washington now projects 137,000 U.S. deaths by August as states see a rising in mobility. If that's the projected death toll for August, how many more people will likely die beyond that date as this country rushes to get back to business without this sufficient testing in place?
JHA: Yes. You know that model has been consistently wrong in being too conservative. I believe it's going to be wrong again in being too conservative. So even by the end of August I think unfortunately, we're going to see more than 130,000 deaths. Of course, I hope I'm wrong. Of course I hope that that turns out not to be the case. But I'm worried that it is.
And of course the epidemic is not going to be over by the end of August and we're all expecting many more cases into the fall and winter. And so this I think kind of a real mismanagement by the federal government means that hundreds of thousands of Americans will have ended up dying. Most of that was unnecessary. It was just badly managed.
CHURCH: So what hopes and expectations do you have going forward for a vaccine and any possible antiviral treatment for COVID-19?
JHA: Yes, so there I am actually much more optimistic.
And even on the testing and tracing which has been such a debacle, we're starting to make real progress. Because states have gotten involved and states are really doing the work that usually we expect from the federal government. But on vaccines, look, there's a lot of different efforts going under way, there's a lot of hype. But I think there's also a lot of reality. I don't think we're going to have a vaccine in 2020. I think that would be extremely unlikely. But I can imagine one in 2021 but hopefully by middle of 2021. That would be great. And between now and then I'm hoping we'll have a lot of antiviral therapies that won't stop the pandemic but hopefully it will make it less deadly and that will be extremely helpful.
CHURCH: Right, that is nice to have a positive note there. And of course, it's worth pointing out that pandemic warnings from scientific experts go back as far as 15 years ago. So why didn't nations particularly like the United States, the U.K. prepare themselves for this? And why aren't they taking it seriously even now in the midst of this pandemic?
JHA: Yes, so the warnings have been around for quite a long time. And certainly in the last decade the warnings by public health experts have gotten louder and louder. And I think there was somehow among the political class this belief that if you just ignore it will never happen or it will go away. That's also been the way that many of the people, many of the leaders in Western countries, U.S., many western European countries have treated this pandemic hoping that it will just go away. Pandemics don't just naturally go away. When they do go away, first of
all it takes a while and, second, it kills a lot of people. So I think countries -- in the U.S., U.K., other European countries are starting to really take this seriously. But they've been very slow and unfortunately, that has meant a lot of people have gotten sick and a lot of people have died.
CHURCH: Dr. Ashish Jha, always a pleasure to talk with you. Many thanks.
JHA: Thanks for having me on.
CHURCH: Well British Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out his reopening plan in a televised address Sunday. He said those who can't work from home should return to their jobs and he loosened restrictions on some activities announcing a new five tier alert system for the country. Johnson says he wants to relieve economic pressure but keep new cases down. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I know, you know that it would be madness now to throw away that achievement by allowing a second spike. We must stay alert. We must continue to control the virus and save lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHURCH: So let's get the latest now from London. Our Phil Black is outside 10 Downing Street. He joins us now live. Good to see you, Phil. So how's this new plan going to work exactly and what's been the reaction across the U.K.?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's a hunger, I think, for details on this, Rosemary, because the British people have been presented with a very broad plan, a very general path forward for taking steps out of lockdown. But there is not a clear indication of precisely how this will work, not even in the first tentative steps that the Prime Minister announced.
In those first steps, they're not a clear break in policy or very clear new direction. As he said himself, it's merely a change in emphasis where the rules up until now have suggested that work from home if you can, go to work if you must. He's now shifting the emphasis to continue working from home if you can but if you can go to your workplace and is not something that can be done from home well, well you should do that. There is now an active encouragement to try and get people back into their workplace where working from home is not an option.
But crucially there has been no announcement yet precisely how that will work on an industry by industry, sector by sector, workplace by workplace sort of way. And that's the sort of detail that people are going to need in order to feel safe and secure about the idea of returning to their workplace after several months now of being told to stay home. But the idea is that this will begin to get the economy moving at
least a little to begin with and then perhaps down the track there can be further steps. The Prime Minister talked about perhaps at the start of June some school classes could reopen, some shops could reopen in a phased way. He talked about June at the earliest for that and then moving into July perhaps some of the hospitality industry could open. That is the broader plan but, as I say, we have not yet received the clear instructions from government about how that's going to work on a granular level in each workplace. And that's what people really want to know in order to feel safe.
On the positive side, they received some information which I think will improve people's quality of life. And that is that they're allowed to spend time outdoors.
There are no restrictions in theory there anymore in terms of exercise, or simply lying in a park going or going to the beach or driving to a beauty spot. People can now do all of these things without any sort of time restrictions, without any sort of limits as long as they confine themselves to members of their household. If they do meet up with other people, then social distancing has to be observed. So some consolation there. But still a great deal of uncertainty about how the practical reopening of the economy and workplaces is really going to work -- Rosemary.
CHURCH: Thank you so much. Phil Black joining us there from London.
And you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, as Spain gradually eases one of the world's strictest lockdowns, some of its best-known regions aren't in the clear just yet. We will explain why. Back in just a moment.
CHURCH: Well, as countries ease restrictions, they are keeping a close eye on what's known as the R-value or reproduction rate. That estimates how many people a sick person infects with the coronavirus. In Germany that number has now reached more than 1.1, indicating that infections are on the rise again. The federal public health agency says it's too early to draw conclusions but the number needs to be watched.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said restrictions that have been relaxed can be reimposed if the pandemic accelerates again.
And Spain is keeping its hardest hit regions under stricter measures as cases decline elsewhere. More than half of the country's population will be allowed to visit restaurants and small stores in a limited capacity as the government takes steps to ease its very strict lockdown.
Al Goodman is in Madrid for us. He joins us now live. Good to see you, Al. Good to see the mask. So while most of Spain starts to lift restrictions gradually, that's not the case yet for Madrid and Barcelona. What do the numbers look like in those two cities?
AL GOODMAN, JOURNALIST: Hi, Rosemary. The numbers are everything. The numbers are the health indicators, the regions that are opening up this day, that's about 50 percent of the population in territories all over the country have the best health indicators according to the Spanish government and the experts. That means they have the lowest infection rates. That their hospitals have enough ICU beds and other types of facilities to handle any sort of second wave. That's not the case here in Madrid and the second city of Barcelona and in a couple of regions right around Madrid called the Castilla regions. So they will remain on a more limited thing.
Now what's the difference? Over a 40-minute drive from where I'm standing in the provincial capital of Guadalajara, they're moving to phase one. So 10 people who don't live together -- remember people are separated to avoid the infections -- 10 people who don't live together, that could be relatives, that could be your friends, you could meet. OK. And in Guadalajara they could sit at an outdoor table like this. They could have a coffee or a beer. The stores are open and up to 30 percent of the store capacity.
But here in Madrid as you can see, no outdoor tables. No restaurant service except takeout service over here at this place. And for stores, you still need an appointment to get something like I did on the weekend where I needed a light bulb. I had to make an appointment at the hardware store. They sent a text message to my phone so that I could go over and pick up a light bulb.
So these are the kinds of differences the people who are not going to move over to phase 1 to be able to have meetings and be able to go to outdoor restaurants seating. There's a lot of complaints right now. Pressures building on health authorities to see if they can get these numbers right. But the Prime Minister has said the whole country was locked down at the same time, it's not going to open up at the same time. The priority is to maintain the health, keep people safe, masked, social distancing so that there is not a second wave -- Rosemary.
CHURCH: That is critical and being led by the data and not by anything else. Al Goodman bringing us that update. Many thanks to you.
Well, as countries in Europe start to reopen, children are now starting to return to school, but the classrooms will look entirely different once the students return. Melissa Bell has more on how countries are doing it.
MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some of those European citizens hardest hit by stay-at-home orders are finally getting back to something approaching normal. These teenagers in Germany were returning to their school building one by one. In Denmark primary school children were the first in Europe to get back to their classrooms on April 15th. Some less enthusiastically than others. With teaching staff facing a whole new set of challenges.
HENRIK WILHELMSEN, SCHOOL HEAD TEACHER: We have soap, disinfectant all over the place. We have put lines in the floor to indicate two meters intervals so the children can see what is two meters.
BELL: Since the start of Europe's coronavirus outbreak in late February, Italy, then Spain, France, many other EU countries gradually put in place stay-at-home orders and closed schools. Only now are many countries beginning to reopen.
And crucial to getting parents back to work is getting their children back into class. In the Netherlands, the classrooms that will open Monday will look very different. Here, as in France, some children have started early. Children of health care workers, for instance. This week other primary school children will return to class on a voluntary basis and classes will be smaller so priority will be given to the children of essential workers. In announcing the reopening of schools the French President explained it was a matter of social justice.
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): Too many children, especially in poorer neighborhoods and in the countryside, are deprived of school with no access to digital learning, they cannot be helped in the same way by their parents.
BELL (on camera): As schools like this one gradually reopen their doors, it will be an important test. The government here has said it will not hesitate to bring in another stay-at-home order should those COVID-19 figures rise once again. So can kids inside schools be kept safe from one another and are parents happy to be sending them back?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm looking forward to them going back to school because I have to work. My husband is working also and it's very complicated to work at home with kids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have asked for our children to go back to school but first children from disadvantaged backgrounds. That's not our case. And since we work remotely, we are not the priority.
BELL (voice-over): Many French school children will have to wait before going back to school, a reminder that closing down back in March was easy and not just enough, it is reopening that is harder even as the battle against the outbreak continues.
Melissa Bell, CNN, Paris.
CHURCH: And you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, a warning of a second wave. South Korea reports a surge in new coronavirus cases. Many linked to just one person. The details ahead.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well as U.S. President Donald Trump pushes to reopen states, the coronavirus has reached the White House striking its staff very close to Mr. Trump. His personal valet and Vice President Mike Pence's spokeswoman have tested positive for the virus and three top U.S. health officials are self-quarantining. But his office says Pence isn't and he plans to be at the White House over the coming hours.
Meanwhile, parts of Europe are cautiously reopening again, but in Germany coronavirus infections are up after restrictions were eased last week. Mainland China is reporting 17 new cases of the coronavirus. Seven were imported cases and 10 were locally transmitted. Fresh lockdown measures were announced for Shulan City in the northeastern Jilin Province. Five of the new cases are in Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.