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South Dakota Tribe Refuses Governor's Request To Remove Checkpoints; Public Transit Workers Concerned As States Reopen; Romance Author Reveals Dr. Anthony Fauci Inspired Novel Hero. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 11, 2020 - 07:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: A South Dakota tribe is rejecting an ultimatum by the governor to remove checkpoints on state highways that the governor says are illegal. South Dakota is among the top-five states that have seen a sharp rise in mobility, which experts say will likely lead to more cases.

CNN's Sara Sidner is live in Timber Lake, South Dakota with more. So, what's the latest on this, Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, the tribes here are saying they absolutely will not take down their checkpoints. And the governor is insisting that they must because she says these are state roads governed by the state and federal roads governed by the federal government. The tribe isn't buying it and they're saying that they're doing these checkpoints for one reason Alisyn, and that is to keep their people safe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No fever, cough, or shortness of breath?

SIDNER (on camera): No, I don't have any of those things.

SIDNER (voice-over): The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe says this is their front line in the battle against coronavirus. If you want to enter their land in South Dakota, you'll have to answer some questions at their checkpoints.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you traveled to or from an area reported with Covid-19 cases?

SIDNER (voice-over): If you don't answer correctly, unless you're engaging in essential activity, you could be turned away or at the very least, tracked closely and quarantined if you have a reason to stay on the reservation.

HAROLD FRAZIER, CHAIRMAN, CHEYENNE RIVER SIOUX TRIBE: We love our people. You can't replace a human life. And so that's all we're trying to do is to save our people and our residents on this reservation.

SIDNER (voice-over): But the governor of South Dakota says these checkpoints are not legal because she says they're interfering or regulating traffic on U.S. and state highways. She is trying to open up the state while the tribes are trying to keep their reservations closed off for now. Here, there are even curfews in place.

GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: In some of these tribal governments they're making it very clear they don't want visitors.

SIDNER (voice-over): That's right, they don't want tourists or non- essential visitors -- not right now.

FRAZIER: This virus doesn't travel. It's the people with the virus that travel.

NOEM: The state of South Dakota does not have jurisdiction in this area but the federal government does.

SIDNER (voice-over): The governor said she was concerned about whether medical crews, truckers hauling supplies, or road work crews would be able to get through. The tribe said, of course, they would. But on Friday, the governor gave them and the Oglala Tribe an ultimatum. Remove the checkpoints within 48 hours or be sued in federal court.

SIDNER (on camera): Are you going to take them down as she has requested or are you going to stay put?


FRAZIER: We're going to stay put.

SIDNER (voice-over): Tribal leaders say if the tribe can't contain the virus here, it faces catastrophe. They did the math. If the virus escaped and tracked similar to other parts of the country, the numbers would overwhelm their hospital.

FRAZIER: We knew that we need 1,000 beds.

SIDNER (on camera): How many beds do you have?

FRAZIER: Right now, we only have eight.

SIDNER (on camera): Eight beds?

FRAZIER: Eight beds.

SIDNER (on camera): Any ICU?


SIDNER (voice-over): With eight beds to serve some 12,000 residents and the closest intensive care unit three hours away, their best bet, stop it before it spreads.

MOLLY LONGBREAK, REGISTERED NURSE: It would just hurt so bad for our people to get this and it just run rampant and take out our elders.

SIDNER (voice-over): Molly Longbreak and other tribal nurses say the information gathered here helped them find, track, and quarantine the very first case of Covid-19 on the reservation before it could spread.

LONGBREAK: So we identified her that way prior to testing. And because of our daily calls with her we were able to identify that she was getting sick and get her the proper help she needed fairly quickly.

SIDNER (voice-over): The tribe has set up two separate areas where residents can go into quarantine -- all part of a plan to safeguard their people because, they say, if history is their guide they can't afford not to.

FRAZIER: We've got to stand up and take care of ourselves because they won't.


CAMEROTA: Well, Sara -- I mean, they've obviously made a very compelling case for why they're doing this but it sounds like they're at an impasse. So what now?

SIDNER: Well, they have gotten some support, actually, from 17 bipartisan state legislators who have basically written a letter to the governor saying that her statement that tribal governments do not have a right to put checkpoints on their own lands is simply not accurate. They say that it's governed by the 19 -- or the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty and that she needs to reconsider.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. But as this sort of legal battle goes on, if it does end up in court as the governor has promised, the tribes say they're going to continue to stay here, they're going to continue to do these checkpoints, and they're willing to stand here even if it means a physical confrontation -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Oh my goodness, let's hope it doesn't get to that.

Sara, thank you very much --


CAMEROTA: -- for all of your reporting from the ground there.

So, as more people begin returning to work, how will they stay safe on buses and trains and subways? Hear what some front line workers, like bus drivers, are saying today.



CAMEROTA: Breaking overnight, 19 members of the Iranian Navy were killed and 15 others hurt in an apparent friendly fire accident. Iranian state media says the incident happened near the Strait of Hormuz, that crucial waterway that connects the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. We will monitor this story and bring you all developments.


New this morning, hundreds of public transit workers have tested positive for coronavirus nationwide. Riding buses and trains is essential for workers who still need to commute. It's also essential as people begin to get back to work. Still, some bus drivers fear their safety is at risk.

CNN's Pete Muntean live in Silver Spring, Maryland with more. First of all, Pete, welcome to CNN and welcome to NEW DAY. Great to have you here.

As so many people think about working again, one of the biggest questions they face is how are they going to get there?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, transit systems want to show that they're on the right track. This is typically one of the busiest transit centers in the state of Maryland but rail ridership here has now dropped by 95 percent. Transit systems want commuters to come back but they warn that your ride will not be the same.


CARLOS GONZALEZ, NEW JERSEY TRANSIT BUS OPERATOR: It's still -- it's still fresh in my mind.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): As Carlos Gonzalez laid in a Hackensack hospital, he worried he would join more than 100 transit workers from across the country who have died during this pandemic.

GONZALEZ: There's nothing there to protect us.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Gonzalez is a New Jersey Transit bus driver who believes he contracted coronavirus on his daily route to New York City.

GONZALEZ: We're the first ones that make contact with people. You know, this is -- you know, everything comes in through our door. You don't know who's sick. You know -- you don't know who's -- who has what.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): The Amalgamated Transit Union says more than 1,000 transit workers from Staten Island to Seattle have tested positive for Covid-19. Union president John Costa fears that number will grow significantly as states start opening up and commuters, many with no other choice, start coming back.

JOHN COSTA, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION: Yes, I'm concerned. Every night, I'm still losing a member. And the numbers are still going up, not down.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Many bus systems, such as those in Austin, Texas, have barred riders from using the front doors near the driver. On buses in Washington, D.C., distance from drivers is kept with a yellow plastic chain. But keeping six feet of social distance between passengers, themselves, is difficult on vehicles that are often only nine feet wide.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): Paul Wiedefeld runs D.C.'s metro bus and rail and system. Right now, crews are cleaning station surfaces nightly. First and last train cars are now empty to keep train operators insulated from riders. Two months ago, these trains were carrying 600,000 riders a day; now, only 30,000.

WIEDEFELD: We were on a very good climb in terms of our ridership and I see that coming back. The reality is to move the vast numbers of people that you need to move in a congested area like ours, transit has to play the role.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): Unions want passengers mandated to wear masks but agencies have struggled with enforcing new norms.

In Philadelphia last month, police removed a bus rider who was not wearing a mask and refused to get off. That transit agency has since changed its policy.

MUNTEAN (on camera): Will masks be a condition to ride, do you think?

WIEDEFELD: I think the public is going to demand it.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Carlos Gonzalez's battle with Covid-19 is in the rearview mirror but he knows he fellow transit workers have a long road ahead.

GONZALEZ: We're all in this together, you know. For us to move forward and past this, and for the future, we just have to be more careful with each other.


MUNTEAN: Now, the D.C. metro system tells me it may mandate masks maybe by the end of this week. It says it does have a solution to that situation that we saw in Philadelphia. It says that transit police officers will carry masks to give out to riders who do not already have one -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Pete, really interesting to see all of the measures they are trying just to try to keep people safe. Thank you very much.

Now we want to remember some of the nearly-80,000 Americans who have been lost to coronavirus.

Jose Rivera was a Navy veteran, a cancer survivor, and a father. Friends remember his infectious smile and his unique way of making anyone feel comfortable in any situation. Jose leaves behind a wife, six children, and 11 grandchildren.

Celia Marcos was a nurse at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles. She served on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, ultimately dying in the same hospital where she worked. Her son John said that regardless of the dangers she was in she always worried about others.

And, Kipp Lyons worked in a long-term care facility helping care for patients with dementia. In her free time, she loved to ride motorcycles with her husband. She died at 59 years old, less than a month after being diagnosed with coronavirus. Her husband describes her as a hero.

We'll be right back.



CAMEROTA: The 1991 best-selling romance novel called "Happy Endings" is set in steamy Washington, D.C. and tells the story of a dashing doctor who seduces a former first lady, all while developing a cure for AIDS. The story is a work of fiction but the inspiration for the leading character, the doctor, is none other than the real Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The author of that book and well-known Washington insider Sally Quinn joins us now. Sally, great to see you.

This sounds juicy. So as I understand it, you were seated next to Dr. Fauci at a D.C. dinner party and I guess you were quite taken by him. So tell us what happened and how he became a character in your book.

SALLY QUINN, AUTHOR, "HAPPY ENDINGS", CONTRIBUTOR, THE WASHINGTON POST (via Skype): Well, I had just finished "Regrets Only," which was the first novel. This is a -- there are two novels. "Happy Endings" is the -- a sequel.

My main character in the first novel was the first lady. She, in the second novel, is widowed. And I was looking for the perfect person for her to have an affair with and I hadn't quite -- it hadn't quite gelled in my mind.

And I was seated at the Pension Building dinner, which is this huge dinner hall in Washington where there are a lot of black-tie dinners. I was seated next to Tony Fauci and I had not met him before.

I knew who he was because he was the famous AIDS doctor who had sort of basically discovered the cure for AIDS and had been involved in amFAR and all of the -- and had been very controversial because AIDS was not -- it was not recognized as something that we should worry about. At that -- in those days, it was seen as only a gay disease and so there was a lot of controversy around him.

And we started talking. And usually at Washington dinner parties, the conversations are about politics or -- but chit chat about the news. But we just sort of immediately got into a very intense conversation and I just found him riveting and unbelievably attractive and charismatic.

I thought he was brilliant. He had an incredible mind. He had a wonderful sort of witty sense of humor.

And he was -- he was one of those guys who was interested as well as interesting. I mean, he was asking me questions. And we just hit it off immediately.

And I just thought wow, this guy -- I thought he was really sexy. And he was -- he was -- he was -- he just oozed decency and integrity.


QUINN: He was kind and caring and all of those things.


QUINN: And so after the dinner -- after the dinner, everybody left the table. He and I were still locked in conversation.

And on the way home, I said to my husband, Ben Bradlee, you know, I've found the guy. I've found the perfect person for her to have an affair with. Because she had been married to the president, who was a jerk, and she wasn't really in love with him, and he was totally in love and involved with himself.

And here was Tony Fauci, who -- and even though he was famous and well-respected and all that, didn't care about fame or money or power. He just was in it to do good. And that's very rare in Washington, by the way. I mean, even though people often start out that way they often don't end up that way.

And so I told him that we was --


CAMEROTA: And so, I --

QUINN: Right -- I told him --

CAMEROTA: Yes, sorry --

QUINN: And so --

CAMEROTA: -- for the delay.


CAMEROTA: Yes. And so you told your husband and he said great -- I think that sounds like a great idea. And then he --


CAMEROTA: -- at some point, read the book and saw the steamy scenes. And then what did he think?

QUINN: He wasn't too thrilled. Tony Fauci, huh?


QUINN: But we saw them -- we saw them every once in a while at parties and Ben was always like hello, Tony. How are you? (INAUDIBLE).

But I think he was a --

CAMEROTA: That's great.

QUINN: But I wrote -- what I -- I hadn't read the book since I wrote it. And so, when it came -- it came about -- this guy called me up and said he wanted to write about it. I said sure.

And so I talked to him and he read the book. He read both of them -- "Regrets Only" and "Happy Endings," which is the sequel. And he said he certainly wrote this piece.

And when I read the piece I thought, my God, I can't believe I wrote this. It's so close to what the truth is today. I mean, the scenes at the White House and the relationship with the president at the time in the White House, and his relationship with her and what she saw in him.

What she saw in him was exactly what everyone is seeing in him now. I mean, he's now -- there's a petition now for him to be named sexiest man alive and he's become this great sex symbol.

And it was kind of like who knew? I just wrote it the way I saw it and suddenly here, 30 years later, it's all coming true, except that he's not having an affair with the first lady.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, that we know. But that leads me to --

QUINN: (Audio gap).

CAMEROTA: -- you know, that Brad Pitt depiction of him on "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE."

So, Sally, just let me recap this moment and I wonder if you've seen this. So, watch this.


BRAD PITT, ACTOR, PORTRAYING DR. ANTHONY FAUCI ON "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": There's been a lot of misinformation out there about the virus and, yes, the president has taken some liberties with our guidelines. So tonight, I would like to explain what the president was trying to say.


CAMEROTA: So, Sally -- I mean, when "SNL" got Brad Pitt to play Fauci, I think that they were playing off some of the irony of the sexiest man alive. But what did you think with that depiction?

QUINN: Well, I thought it was very funny, obviously. And, I mean, Tony Fauci is not Brad Pitt and Brad Pitt's not Tony Fauci, but the idea was beautiful because Tony Fauci is really sexy.

And at age 79, he's great. You know, he's a real renaissance man.

He -- you know, he went to a Jesuit school so he -- you know, he studied Greek for four years and Latin for four years, and French and philosophy and the humanities.

And he's a runner, he's an athlete. He was captain of his basketball team in school. He's a big baseball fan.

He loves music. He loves Sting. You know, he's just a very all-around --

And when you talk to him you don't just -- it's not just sitting there talking to a scientist. You're talking to someone who is a philosopher, in a way, and a -- and a person who is brilliantly educated and well-read. And it's just -- he's just a treat to be with and a delightful companion and somebody that -- you know, that I --


QUINN: I'm sorry, in a way, that we never really got to be close friends because --


QUINN: -- it just didn't work out that way. But he's somebody --


QUINN: -- I'd really like to spend more time with because he's so fascinating.

CAMEROTA: I can hear that, Sally. I mean, you have, I think, really spelled out his finer points for all of us. And I think that it's great to see -- to be able to see Dr. Fauci through your eyes and through that lens.

Sally, we're out of time but great to talk to you. Thanks so much for sharing this version of Dr. Tony Fauci with us. Great to see you.

So, we have some new details on the coronavirus outbreak that is now inside the White House, and "NEW DAY" continues right now.


KEVIN HASSETT, SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: We've all been exposing ourselves to risks but we're willing to take that chance because we love our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two people in the West Wing tested positive for the virus. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The vice president, Mike Pence, will not go into self-quarantine. Three of the doctors on the Coronavirus Task Force entering some form of self-quarantine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they can't contain it at the White House, how are they going to contain it a restaurant or a bar?

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Toddlers and elementary school children are presenting symptoms similar to toxic shock-like syndrome.