Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Anthony Fauci, Brett Giroir, Robert Redfield Testify Before Senate Today; Updates on Reopenings Around the Country; Following Elon Musk Tweet, Alameda County Orders Tesla to Stop Production. Aired 2- 2:30p ET

Aired May 12, 2020 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[14:00:00]

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): -- build a public health infrastructure so we can handle a situation like this next time. The investment in public infrastructure is long overdue, they've talked about this for years. There are dozens and dozens of reports that will talk about the bad shape of our roads and our bridges and how bad our airports are compared to international airports, and our --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right, you've been listening there to New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo, demanding federal help for states just moments after a critical hearing on Capitol Hill over the federal response to the pandemic.

And for the first time since the coronavirus became a pandemic, the nation's top health experts are testifying before Congress. The hearing itself, a testament to the outbreak's prevalence -- all four witnesses here as well as several lawmakers spoke remotely amid concerns of possible exposure.

And the testimony today shows progress has been made, but the nation's leading infectious disease authority, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is also repeating his warning about states who may move too quickly to reopen.

All but two states now are moving ahead to ease social distancing restrictions despite the fact that at least 11 states are still seeing their cases go up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What I've expressed then -- and again, is my concern that if some areas -- cities, states or what have you -- jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up, without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks.

There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control, which in fact, paradoxically, will set you back not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to trying to get economic recovery.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: At this hour, the U.S. has more than 1.3 million infections reported, more than 80,000 people in the U.S. have died from the virus. And Dr. Fauci testified the loss of life in the U.S. is actually probably higher.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: Given the situation particularly in New York City, when they were really strapped with a very serious challenge to their health care system, that there may have been people who died at home, who did have COVID, who were not counted as COVID because they never really got to the hospital.

So in direct answer to your question, I think you are correct that the number is likely higher. I don't know exactly what percent higher, but almost certainly it's higher.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Testing capacity was one of the key topics of today's hearing. So while testing in the U.S. is certainly increasing, it's improving, claims by President Trump that the U.S. is leading the world in testing are off by several measures. But this is a claim that the president has made repeatedly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America has risen to the task, we have met the moment. But testing certainly is a very important function, and we have prevailed --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: The federal government has been under fire for months now, for its slow production of tests. Public health experts universally say regular testing is critical to understanding the spread of COVID- 19, and to control it.

And today, Assistant Health Secretary Admiral Brett Giroir predicted that the country will ramp up its testing extensively over the summer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT HEALTH SECRETARY: So by September, taking every aspect of development, authorization, manufacturing and supply chain into consideration, we project that our nation will be capable of performing at least 40 to 50 million tests per month if needed at that time.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: Let's get a reality check now. We have CNN's Drew Griffin with us to take a look at the president's claims. And, Drew, there's multiple data sources that show the U.S. is not the leader when it comes to testing.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's not really worth arguing about. All of these different ratings sort (ph) of (ph) show that per capita, the U.S. is far behind other countries.

What's interesting, Brianna, is this contest that the president seems to be making with other countries, in trying to prove that America by numbers is better than anyone else. When the real number we should be looking at is, what number is it that's going to make Americans healthier or get over this crisis?

And in this hearing today with Brett Giroir, you heard that number: 40 to 50 million tests per month. That's what the scientists, that's what the health experts say we need to get through this crisis, to find, isolate, mitigate and locate any kind of spread to contain the virus. It is why Vice President Pence and the White House promised 27 million tests by the end of March.

[14:05:10]

Well, look, it is now almost mid-May, we're not even a third of the way there yet. So while testing is getting better, certainly the president's claims that we are leading the world in testing is not true. And yes, we are heading in the right direction, that direction being 40 to 50 million tests per month, as the admiral in charge of testing testified today.

KEILAR: All right, Drew, thank you so much for breaking that down.

Let's bring in Dr. Jorge Rodriguez. He is a specialist in internal medicine. And we have David Gregory, a CNN political analyst, with us as well.

David, we heard Dr. Fauci talk about his concerns about reopening too quickly, but we've seen federal and state officials really not listening so far to his warnings.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, I think there's this disconnect here between the public health officials, who are a lot more somber about this and sober about where the data is taking them and where the cases are taking them -- and the fact that they have a very singular vision, right? Which is to prevent any more loss of life, and to arrest the spread of this virus, which is what you'd expect them to do -- and the White House and other leaders, who are, you know, spinning this a bit, to be honest, or worse. And trying to increase consumer confidence.

You know, when I've spoken to some governors around the country in some of my talks, I'm hearing a desire on the part of governors for people to have an increased consumer confidence about the ability to get back out, to get back to work, to get back into society. Because there's a fear that even when the government says it's safer to do so, people will still hang back, and they're worried about the impact on the economy.

But it's that divide that we're still hearing right now. And as Drew said, the testing piece is what's so important. If my kids are going to go back to school in the fall, here in Washington, D.C., I'm going to need to know that there's enough testing to find out whether the school can contain an outbreak or prevent one. And I just don't feel confident that we know that well enough yet.

KEILAR: Yes. Especially, you know, I think of some families who are multigenerational, especially if you're sending a kid back to school and they're coming home and Grandma or Grandpa are living with the family, that's certainly a big concern.

Dr. Rodriguez, there was a moment in this hearing about what the real death toll is, right? Because we know what the official numbers are, but Dr. Fauci said that it is likely higher than what is currently being reported, and part of that has to do with people who may be dying at home. Do you think we'll be able to get an accurate look at what the real number is?

JORGE RODRIGUEZ, SPECIALIST IN INTERNAL MEDICINE: Well, first of all, I completely agree with him. I think it isn't likely. I think it is absolutely what is happening. For example, my last patient, his father just died in a nursing home yesterday. And he's saying he died of his heart and he had COVID, he died of COVID.

Now, I don't know how that is going to be reported. So we do need to get absolute numbers of this because it tells us about the virus and how it's affecting.

Now, what states need to do is to be completely honest about if the patient had COVID, you must assume that that is what was the number one cause of death. That could be manipulated very easily in a death certificate, so we need that information up-front.

KEILAR: You heard the CDC director Robert Redfield. He was asked if White House testing protocols are a model for other workplaces. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D) WISCONSIN: I'm asking you if you think that the White House protocols for testing are a model for other essential workplaces.

ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: I would just say that I think each workplace has to define their own approach (INAUDIBLE) to operationalize.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: He walked through some of the protocols that he would like to see in workplaces, David, and it seemed like the sort of polite way of saying, actually, no, what's going on at the White House, where we've seen an outbreak of coronavirus, is not a model. GREGORY: Yes. And you know, he's choosing his words carefully, as

other witnesses there did, and we see this all the time. But I think what's more important is to focus on what's happening within states, you know? Not all states are the same, not all communities are the same. New York is not Oklahoma City for lots of reasons: number of cases, density.

And so, you know, I think what he's getting at is important, which is, you know, how does you know, a school deal with essential workers, both older workers who might be more vulnerable, who have underlying conditions, as well as disinfecting, cleaning and distancing. That's going to be more important, to see what happens in individual states and individual workplaces, I think that is the essential point.

A hair salon is going to be different than a place where you have, you know, say a law office, where people can naturally distance and naturally do it if you shut down, say, conference rooms and other gathering spaces.

[14:10:11]

KEILAR: Let's listen to what was an exchange between Dr. Fauci and Senator Rand Paul about students going back to school.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Shouldn't we at least be discussing what the mortality of children is? This is for Dr. Fauci as well. You know, the mortality between zero and 18 in the New York data approaches zero. It's not going to be absolutely zero, but it almost approaches zero.

As much as I respect you, Dr Fauci, I don't think you're the end-all, I don't think you're the one person that gets to make a decision. We can listen to your advice, but there are people on the other side saying there's not going to be a surge and that we can safely open the economy, and the facts will bear this out.

But if we keep kids out of school for another year, what's going to happen is the poor and underprivileged kids who don't have a parent that's able to teach them at home, are not going to learn for a full year.

FAUCI: I have never made myself out to be the end-all and only voice in this. I'm a scientist, a physician and a public health official. I give advice according to the best scientific evidence.

There are a number of other people who come into that, and give advice that are more related to the things that you spoke about, about the need to get the country back open again economically. I don't give advice about economic things, I don't give advice about anything other than public health. So I wanted to respond to that.

The second thing is that you used the word, we should be "humble" about what we don't know. And I think that falls under the fact that we don't know everything about this virus, and we really better be very careful, particularly when it comes to children. Because the more and more we learn, we're seeing things about what this virus can do that we didn't see from the studies in China or in Europe.

For example, right now, children presenting with COVID-19 who actually have a very strange inflammatory syndrome very similar to Kawasaki syndrome. I think we better be careful if we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: You know, Doctor, I wonder what you think about this. Because on one hand, I think everyone is of course concerned that kids are not going to be learning, and also that low-income kids are not going to be getting what is so often provided for them at school.

But on the other hand, I mean, we yesterday interviewed a young girl who barely survived these inflammatory syndrome -- this -- these inflammatory symptoms, where she was having really organ failure. So this is -- you know, this is something they're still learning a lot about when it comes to kids, not the least that they can be incubators of this disease.

RODRIGUEZ: You know, absolutely. I find this -- I found this a very fascinating sort of back-and-forth because there were two physicians that were talking, right? And I --

KEILAR: Yes, yes.

RODRIGUEZ: -- have to remind Senator Rand Paul that he is also not the end-all. Neither are the governors or even the district school supervisors, because if a parent does not feel that their child is safe going into school, they're not going to send them.

So the parents are the end-all when it comes to the health of their children, so they need to reassure the parents that their kids are going to be going to a safe environment, just as the other speaker said.

So, yes, it is a local decision and we are seeing so many things with children that we never had seen before. Not only are kids incubators, but this is a myth that has to be thrown out, that this is not just a disease of the old, this is a disease of every age. I've had patients in their 30s that have been very, very sick with this.

So we don't know what's happening, many things are evolving and children in school need to be safe. They're -- we need to know that their teachers are not carriers. So testing in schools, I think, is going to be very important.

KEILAR: You know, David, I couldn't help but listen to that exchange between Dr. Fauci and Senator Paul, and think about how, you know, Senator Paul has had coronavirus, but he's also someone who you know, even when it appears he wasn't symptomatic, he was concerned enough in March to seek out a test that was incredibly difficult to get, but certainly may have been available to him because he's a senator or maybe a physician. And he actually was tested, and then subjected himself to a lot of

other people before finding out that he was positive. I just -- I wonder, as he kind of thinks about the risk analysis of this, if it might be different than what some Americans think.

GREGORY: Well, I -- yes. I mean, I think that was reckless behavior on his part, and I thought his questioning today was just really sloppy, particularly from a physician. And the reality is that lots of members of Congress don't ask good questions, and we see that every time there is a hearing. And the lack of precision in his question was really problematic.

[14:15:00]

And just as the doctor said, you know, we have to have a level of confidence, a level of testing to make sure that our kids are safe in school. But at the same time it is fair for state officials to not just look at the anecdotal cases.

I mean, one of the challenges we have as presenters of news is if we focus on individual cases that we deem to be newsworthy, that's purely anecdotal and it's not very helpful to overall health rends. And the trends are still that there's a lot we don't know about the effect on children, but we also know that mortality has been low.

So it's fair for state officials to look at that, look at the issue of community spread, as they were saying today, and make a determination about returning back to school. But there are vulnerable people, including older teachers, who could either be incubators, who could be more vulnerable than children. All of that should be factored in.

But I thought that back-and-forth was sort of pointless, because Dr. Fauci's been saying all of those things. He's not considering himself to be the only authority about this, and he's not saying that economies should not open back up.

KEILAR: No, it's a very good point. David, thank you.

Dr. Rodriguez, thank you, really appreciate it.

And ahead, Boeing says at least one major airline will go out of business in this, quote, "apocalyptic" setting.

Plus, the CEO of Tesla defies local orders in California to reopen his factory, and says if anyone's arrested, it should be him. I'll be speaking live with a local lawmaker who says, F Elon Musk.

And as today's hearing on Capitol Hill went on, so did the blockbuster hearing at the Supreme Court over whether the president can keep his tax returns secret. We'll talk about what happened inside. This is CNN's special live coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:21:02] KEILAR: There is one state that is opening back up, and it's now weighing a serious crackdown on quarantine violators. We'll have more on that in just a moment.

But first, let's get to CNN's Nick Watt. He is in Malibu, California. You've been following the reopenings, Nick, even though some of the nation's leading health policy experts just warned from Capitol Hill that moving too fast could set off another out-of-control outbreak.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, this is a balance between our health, our mental health and, frankly, our economic survival. Here in California, they are trying to take it slow. Beaches here in Los Angeles County will open tomorrow, after six weeks. But masks are mandatory unless you're in the water, and no tanning on the sand, no canopies, no coolers. This is exercise only. And this parking lot, all of these parking lots, will remain closed. They want to keep it slow here.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): Stores in Ohio today, opening doors to a brave new world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have cleaned everything. Everything is marked off, and everybody's safe.

WATT (voice-over): Nearly 90 percent of Ohio's economy can now reopen. Through this weekend, 48 states will have begun reopening. The logic? Lockdown can't last indefinitely, 33 million Americans have lost jobs already.

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEAERCH AT UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: What we have to do is find that middle ground. I call it threading the needle with rope.

WATT (voice-over): New York State starts reopening Friday, as we hear New York City's terrible toll of nearly 19,000 dead through early May might be even higher. The CDC now says another 5,000 deaths are potentially related to the pandemic.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK, NEW YORK: Testing, testing, testing from day one, it's what we needed most, didn't get what we needed from the federal government --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Temperature check.

WATT (voice-over): Over in Hawaii, every single new arrival might now be photographed as officials scramble to enforce a 14-day quarantine for visitors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly, having photos would be helpful --

WATT (voice-over): New case counts in South Dakota, climbing dramatically. And after clashing with the governor over COVID checkpoints on tribal land, the Oglala Sioux now in a three-day lockdown. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be absolutely no movement of anybody or

anything throughout the reservation.

WATT (voice-over): Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders, an international organization, has teams helping the Navajo Nation, as a new CNN poll finds 54 percent of Americans think their government is doing a poor job preventing the spread. A majority also think the worst is yet to come.

Still, some signs of near- normality on our horizon: Major League Baseball might start spring training in June, according to "The New York Times," and an 82-game fan-less season. First pitch? July 4th.

But some researchers fear a rerun of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic: a spring, summer lull and then?

OSTERHOLM: A very large wave this late summer or fall, that could be much, much larger than anything New York has seen or many other places around the world. That's a concern to us, if 1918 holds as a model, as it has so far.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And as we reopen, a cautionary tale from here in California. Officials in Pasadena say they have raced at least five COVID cases to one birthday party of extended family and friends, where there was a woman who was coughing without a mask, and other people weren't wearing masks.

As one official says, this woman was joking with people at the party that maybe she had COVID-19. And lo and behold, she did. Masks matter -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, they certainly do. Nick Watt, thank you so much for that.

There's a new twist now in the battle between Tesla and Alameda County, California, one day after CEO Elon Musk said he would defy local orders and reopen the automaker's plant in the city of Fremont, the "San Francisco Chronicle" is reporting that county officials are now ordering the Tesla plant to stop production.

[14:25:16]

All of this is coming after Musk threatened on Twitter to pull out of the state altogether, announcing that he'd filed a lawsuit against Alameda County.

With me now is California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. She represents southern San Diego County, quite a distance away in this big state. Assemblywoman, thank you so much for joining us.

You're -- the threat from Elon Musk actually prompted you to respond with a tweet of your own with some pretty colorful language -- we can see it there on the screen -- and you went on to say that Tesla has a history of not prioritizing worker safety. Some of the employees have spoken out anonymously to the media in recent days, saying that it's hard to practice social distancing when working, that they don't have time to wash their hands or to observe other safety protocols that are recommended. What do you make of this report that Tesla has been ordered to stop production by Alameda County?

LORENA GONZALEZ (D), CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLYWOMAN: Well, look, you know, Tesla and Elon Musk should do what every Californian is doing right now, and that's listen to our public health officials.

We've been able to avoid some of the issues we've seen in places like New York because we have listened to the science. And so, you know, for a company that has received billions of dollars -- that's with a B, billions of dollars -- of taxpayer subsidies to partner with our state, to throw this kind of temper tantrum over an order that said, We'll work with you, give us some time, we'll make sure that you're doing this properly? You know, it's just unacceptable at some point.

KEILAR: Elon Musk has minimized -- and certainly not within the realm of what public health officials say should be -- he's minimized what coronavirus is, what it can do. At the same time, what we're seeing with Tesla -- and it's a huge manufacturer there in the state -- he's making a case that, look, the state has actually relaxed things when it comes to manufacturing, very recently. But Alameda County itself is still having sort of a more tightened approach than the overall state is.

What do you say to folks who may be manufacturers or have businesses in California, and are looking at other parts of the state that are reopening a little bit, and they can't because their county's being more restrictive?

GONZALEZ: Well, the governor has been very clear that this has to be a local decision, county by county, because our counties in California are extremely different. Anybody who's been here knows we have rural counties that have had zero deaths, and we have very populated counties, urban centers that have had a lot of deaths.

And so it's smart policy to let this be a county-by-county decision. Alameda County is relying on a doctor with very great pedigree to help make these decisions, and it will benefit us all if we don't' have hundreds of workers going into a workplace that could be unsafe, and can go back at home and continue to spread this virus.

And, you know, in a state like California, this often goes unlooked. I'm proud to be the chair of the California Latino Caucus, and the majority of deaths in California are Latinos. We know that we're at higher risk of dying from this virus, we see our farmworkers out there every day. We don't need to unnecessarily spread it, and that's what the county is trying to do.

I think Tesla can wait off a week or two weeks to get their plans in order, and it just -- I think we should all be outraged that a billionaire, who has gotten so much from their partnership in California, but continues to put workers in unsafe positions, continues to union-bust, continues to wave his middle finger at California, that we're supposed to just allow that and let him throw his temper tantrum and do what he wants, you know?

There are mom-and-pop businesses that are struggling to open up, and he should abide by the same rules as everybody else. That's the county public health orders.

KEILAR: The White House has now gotten involved, the Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said he agrees with Musk. And today, President Trump tweeted that the state needs to help Tesla reopen. What do you think about the president, here, effectively encouraging Elon Musk to defy county orders, even as Governor Newsom says, look, local businesses need to listen to their local governments?

GONZALEZ: You know, it's typical Trump. He probably hasn't even been to the Fremont manufacturing facility, and he's talking about something he's nowhere near it. He can't control a coronavirus outbreak in the White House, how are we to be sure that all of these workers aren't going to be exposed in the manufacturing plant that the county is looking at? They're looking at ways in which they can reopen.

So this is ridiculous. This is typical, they don't base anything on science, they base it on feelings and the only positive out of this is maybe some folks out there will look at, you know, electric vehicles in a different light, and maybe we can tackle (ph) climate (ph) change with his tweet.

[14:30:04]

KEILAR: Can I ask you, just real quickly before I let you go, what happens if -- because as we understand from --