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NYT, Fauci To Warn About Prematurely Opening Country; Trump Claims the U.S. Has Prevailed on Testing; White House Mandates Masks in West Wing; Most of U.S. Reopening with Increased Deaths Projected; U.S. States Attempting to Restart Businesses; Seoul Reports 100+ New Cases Linked to Nightclub Cluster; Putin Announces Russia to Ease Restrictions as Cases Surge; Paris Metro Riders Required to Wear Masks. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 12, 2020 - 04:00   ET




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 White House's renewed push to highlight COVID testing, but it's falling short of what experts recommend. Regardless, dozens of states are reopening in a matter of days and we will look at the steps they are taking.

Plus, more than 1/3 of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. may be happening at long-term facilities. The new plan to tackle the virus in nursing homes.

So let's start in Washington where Senators will soon be getting their chance to grill the administration's top health officials. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force is set to testify remotely before a Senate committee in coming hours.

"The New York Times" reports Dr. Fauci will warn about the dangers of opening the country prematurely.

Saying in an email to reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg -- and I'm quoting here -- we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country. This will not only result in needles suffering and death but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.

Well the U.S. death toll has now surged past 80,000 with more than 1.3 million cases across the country. But at the White House President Donald Trump is focused on testing when he stood in the Rose Garden. He claimed victory on that front saying the U.S. had, quote, met the moment and prevailed. The White House says more than 9 million coronavirus tests have been conducted but the U.S. is still falling short in parts of the country. The President also claimed anyone who wants a test can get one before later contradicting himself.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As far as Americans getting a test, they should all be able to get a test right now. They should be able to get a test. If somebody wants to be tested right now, they'll be able to be tested.

We have the greatest capacity -- tested. But for the most part they shouldn't want to get tested. There's no reason. They feel good, they don't have sniffles, they don't have sore throats, they don't have any problem.


CHURCH: Mr. Trump also fielded questions about the discovery of two positive cases among White House staffers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can you ensure Americans that it's safe to go to their own workplaces when the most secure workplace in the country, the White House, cannot contain the spread of the coronavirus. It's infected some of your own staff.

TRUMP: When you say some, so we have a person and the person got -- something happened right after a test was done. Three other people met that person, came into relative contact, very little contact, and they're self-quarantining. That is not exactly not controlling it.



CHURCH: The White House is now requiring staff to wear masks while in the West Wing but it would appear that policy doesn't apply to President Trump himself. CNN's Kaitlyn Collins has the details.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House announced to staffers on Monday it's implementing a strict new mask policy basically telling people if they are coming into the West Wing, they are going to have to be wearing something covering their face. And then if they have a permanent desk or office inside the West Wing, they do not have to wear it as long as they can be socially distanced. And that change in policy from the White House in just a week ago where staffers were not wearing masks comes after two people who interact closely with the President and the Vice President both tested positive for coronavirus.

However, the question is whether or not the President and Vice President are going to follow their own new policy. President Trump appeared in the Rose Garden Monday at a press conference that was to be focused on testing. He was not wearing a mask and the Vice President was not there, which is a pretty rare move for someone who typically does attend these press conferences when he's in Washington, which he was on Monday. Now the President said the mask policy change was his idea. Though he

didn't get into whether or not he's going to wear one. But this press conference was supposed to focus on the administration's ramped up efforts on testing. However, it quickly devolved at the end into the President storming off because he did not like the questions that one reporter was asking him about what he was saying about how the U.S. ranks globally compared to how it's testing with other countries. And that question I followed up on the President though he called on me did not let me ask a question in the end and instead stormed off, turned, and did not answer any more questions after that and went back into the Oval Office.

Kaitlyn Collins, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: So let's talk more about this with CNN medical analyst, Dr. Celine Gounder. She's also an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist in New York. Thank you so much for talking with us.


CHURCH: Now we know, of course, with the COVID-19 outbreak at the White House and the U.S. death toll at more than 80,000, President Trump called a news conference Monday and declared the U.S. has prevailed in testing for the virus and said if a person wants a test, they can get a test. How has the President met the moment and prevailed on testing as he suggests? And can everyone get a test if they want it?

GOUNDER: Well, sadly, Rosemary, this is a promise that has been made for a couple months now by the President that everybody who wanted a test could get a test and unfortunately that is still not the case in many parts of the country. We don't have enough tests. We still don't have the supplies necessary to allow you to collect specimens to perform the test in some parts of the country. And so, this remains a real very important bottleneck. We want to be able to test everybody who has symptoms. Everybody who wants a test and everybody who's come into contact with somebody who's had COVID-19 or symptoms concerning for that. And we're still not at that point yet.

CHURCH: And of course, extensive testing is critical to opening up a country and we know that 48 states are expected to reopen partially at least across the country by the end of this week. Where should the level of testing be in the United States? At 200,000 tests a day as they are right now or at 900,000 a day as Harvard University says they should be?

GOUNDER: Well, no one knows exactly how many tests we need, but we know for sure we need more than the 200 or 250,000 tests a day that we're performing right now. So you know, we really need to dramatically increase the amount of testing we have, and as part of that, too, we also really need to be hiring people to do contact tracing. So that means to follow up on everybody who's been potentially exposed, to screen them for symptoms, to offer them testing and to isolate them in a safe way so that they're not potentially exposing others.

CHURCH: And why do you think the United States has been unable to get ahead of this? It's always playing catchup right now. We are seeing other countries across the globe starting to get back to some new normal at least. But we're stuck in this situation in the United States where people are still dying at an incredible rate. So what does that say about the United States?

GOUNDER: Well, I mean, take, for example, Germany, they were much more strict up front about their social distancing. They were much more aggressive about contact testing and tracing, and that is now allowing countries like that to reopen more quickly. I think unfortunately the U.S. has not taking this seriously. We did not Institute social distancing and lockdown measures strictly enough and quickly enough. And then in the meantime, when we finally did, it wasn't as rigorously.


We didn't use that time to scale up testing and contact tracing. And so now we still find ourselves very much behind. And I think, honestly, Rosemary, this is because of who is dying from this, who is getting sick from this. And it's largely people of color in this country and people who are working in service and you know, less well- paid jobs and they just are not valued in the same way in this country as others.

Look at the White House -- if somebody wants to be tested every single day in the White House, that kind of testing is available to them. That is just not available to the average American.

CHURCH: And the FDA has given emergency approval for new antigen tests that will apparently be cheaper, faster and simpler for COVID-19 testing. How will that work exactly and improve the fight against the virus? And when would it be available to everyone who wants or needs it?

GOUNDER: So antigen testing is a bit simpler than the testing we've been using up until now. So up until now we've really been testing for the genetic material of the virus. The antigen testing is really just testing for components of the virus, proteins of the virus. And it's a much simpler test. It can be done much more cheaply, more rapidly. It can be done as a point of care tests. For example, when you do a urine and pregnancy test, that's the kind of test you're doing. And so these tests are not perfect. They're not as sensitive as the PCR tests which check for the genetic material of the virus, but they're quite good still. And so if you're really looking at trying to scale up access and do this quickly, you know, this is a really breakthrough technology.

Now how long will it be, you know, until we have that available to everybody? There are a few other companies getting into the mix in addition to the one that just had the FDA emergency use authorization. By the fall I think we're going to have a number of companies in the mix. But this really is going to allow us to scale up testing, to do much more intensive testing, for example, in places like nursing homes and jails and prisons and homeless shelters where we really need to be much more focused right now.

CHURCH: Dr. Gounder, thank you so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

GOUNDER: My pleasure.

CHURCH: Well tests or no tests, President Trump is very clear, he is keen to move ahead and get the U.S. back up and running. But learning to live safely in the age of COVID-19, means small businesses across America must figure out how to navigate their new reality. CNN's Erica Hill takes a closer look.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Face coverings and social distancing the new norm. At least 48 states will be partially opened by this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's almost like we -- it's our first grand opening.

HILL: Restaurants, retail, and manufacturing coming back online.

CURTIS PEERY, OWNER, VOODOO BAYOU: I'm really excited for customers to come back and enjoy, you know, the experience.

HILL: In Alabama, gyms, hair and nail salons and large gatherings also have the green light. Restaurants in Colorado are limited to take out and delivery. Yet this packed dining room was the scene on Mother's Day at one establishment. The governor's office telling CNN, the restaurant is endangering the lives of their staff, customers and community. The owner said she never expected it to be so busy but was happy people came out to support the Constitution.

In South Dakota, the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe using checkpoints to control the spread

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you travelled to or from an area that have reported COVID-19 cases?

HILL: Measures the governor says are illegal because they interfere with traffic. Though the state does not have jurisdiction over tribal lands.

HAROLD FRAZIER, CHAIRMAN, CHEYENNE RIVER SIOUX: That's all we're trying to do is to save our people and the residents on this reservation.

HILL: South Dakota is one of two states showing cases are up more than 50 percent in the past seven days. A model often cited by the White House is now predicting 137,000 Americans could die by August because of increased mobility.

JON HUSTED, OHIO LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: The coronavirus is going to be with us throughout the rest of the year. We need to learn to live with it. We've got to learn to live safely with it. HILL: The government sending remdesivir which the FDA says can be

used to treat severe cases to some of the hardest hit states. The first antigen test receiving emergency use authorization as the W.H.O. cautions against relying on herd immunity. Meanwhile, New York is investigating 85 cases of an inflammatory illness and young children that could be related to COVID-19. Three have died.

DR. DEEPIKA THACKER, NEMOURS CHILDREN'S HEALTH SYSTEM: If the child appears very sick, with shortness of breath, with severe headaches, vomiting, then probably head over to the nearest children's hospital.

HILL: A packed cross-country plane prompting Dr. Ethan Weiss to post this photo. He was heading home to California after volunteering in New York City hospitals for the past several weeks.


Connecticut announcing summer camps can open June 29th with limited capacity. Massachusetts set to begin a phased plan next Monday. While in the epicenter Governor Andrew Cuomo says three regions in his state were will reopen on Friday.

ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK GOVERNOR: This is the next big step in this historic journey.

HILL (on camera): Governor Andrew Cuomo saying there are two more regions in New York that have met six of the seven metrics needed to begin that phased reopening. And he says there's a chance they could actually be ready by this Friday. In New York, I'm Erica Hill, CNN.


CHURCH: U.S. car maker Tesla has reopened its California factory despite local restrictions from the county health department meant to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. On Monday Tesla's defiant CEO Elon Musk said he would be on the factory line himself. Musk has criticized California's lockdown orders with outbursts on Twitter in recent weeks. He's even filed a lawsuit and threatened to move Tesla out of the state. Local officials say they are negotiating with Tesla on a plan to reopen the plant fully and safely. California's governor says Tesla's factory could be at full speed as early as next week.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. South Korea is looking at a renewed spike in coronavirus cases and Seoul's mayor is warning that many of them are asymptomatic and spreading fast. Back with that in just a moment.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

The World Health Organization warns that easing social restrictions could lead to a second spike in coronavirus infections. And some countries are fighting to avoid that right now. Chinese state media reports authorities in Wuhan are preparing for a ten-day battle with plans to conduct city wide testing of around 11 million citizens. That's after six new cases were identified locally last weekend. The first such cluster in more than a month.

South Korea is reporting more than 100 new infections linked to the nightclub cluster in Seoul. The city's mayor is warning there have been multiple cases of secondary infection. More than 36 percent of the cases are asymptomatic and it's spreading fast. South Korea will also postpone reopening schools by one week due to a recent spike in coronavirus cases. CNN's Paula Hancocks has more.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Officials in South Korea are scrambling to try and contain the latest outbreak which has originated in Seoul's nightclub district. Now at this point officials have said that more than 100 people have been confirmed positive with coronavirus linked to this one incident.

It started with a 29-year-old man according to officials who went to the nightclub district of Itaewon in Seoul and visited a number of clubs. Later on he realized that he had tested positive for coronavirus. Now what we heard from Seoul city mayor that is that the next two to three days are critical to try and contain this outbreak. He has said that secondary infection is already a big issue.

So it's not just people who these have been to the club for potentially been in contact with this individual that are now testing positive but also their friends and family as well. He says 36 percent of them as well are asymptomatic -- meaning they have no symptoms. So if they haven't been told to go and get tested because they've been in the vicinity, they simply wouldn't have known that they were carrying the virus saying that the rate of spread is very high.

Now officials are using a number of techniques to try and find out exactly who was in that region. They have a two-week period they're looking at in this area. And they say there's almost 11,000 people that they have identified either through mobile phone usage, through credit card records or with police cooperation as well. This is the way South Koreans have been tracing this virus really from the beginning. They say more than 7,000 of those have already been tested but they are asking many more to come forward and to make sure that they can try and contain this.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Seoul.


CHURCH: One country still very much in the midst of the pandemic is Russia. It's had more than 10,000 confirmed new cases every day for the past week, and Monday was the worst one so far. And yet President Vladimir Putin says the country can begin to ease restrictions starting this Tuesday. So let's get to CNN's Matthew Chance who's normally based in Moscow for us. He's now live in London. Good to see you, Matthew. So why would Russia start easing restrictions at this time with so many new cases?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well it's not easing restrictions nationally. So a decision was made sort of by President Putin to end the sort of lockdown restrictions starting today. But there was a massive caveat on that, which is that it's up to regional governors, local authorities to decide whether measures should be lifted in actual effect or whether they should be even tightened in some cases.

And that announcement has already been preempted in Moscow, the Russian capital, by the mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin. He said that the lockdown in the capital city which is very much the epicenter of the outbreak in coronavirus in Russia will be extended until the 31st of this month. And so, you know, that's the lives of most people, most Muscovites, for instance in the capital where the majority of infections are, are not going to be changed by this announcement by President Putin.

What is going to change is that factories, some essential industries are gradually across the country are going to go back to work. And that's sort of the pattern we've been seeing in Russia and elsewhere as well. As we start to get to the tail end hopefully of sort of this phase of the pandemic.

This is, as you mentioned, takes place though in Russia, a country which has now has the third largest number of coronavirus infections in the world.


It's rising at quite a significant rate of more than 10,000 a day.

And there's been some other news coming out of Russia over the course of the past several hours as well. Which is that Russians have woken up this morning to news that a coronavirus hospital treating patients in St. Petersburg has experienced a fire in which five patients, all of them on ventilators, have been killed. That's the second fire in a hospital treating coronavirus patients in just a few days. At the weekend on Sunday there was another fire in a hospital in Moscow that showed at least one person dead. And investigators still looking at the reason for that.

But the hospital in St. Petersburg apparently was caused by a malfunctioning ventilator which had been worked so hard that it apparently short circuited. And so, that sort of gives us an impression as well of the kind of strain that the country's medical resources are under during this pandemic -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, that shocking news on that. Matthew Chance bringing us the latest on what's happening in Russia from his vantage point there in London. Many thanks.

Well in Europe, the constitutional court in France has approved a state of emergency until July 10th. That means in Paris metro riders must wear a mask or risk a fine. For more, here's CNN's Melissa Bell.


MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: For the first time in nearly two months the French are able to leave their homes without a special authorization. The lifting of the country stay-at-home order. That means that people are back on the metro although in much fewer numbers than they would be on an ordinary Monday. Clearly you can see that a lot of people have chosen to stay at home. Those who do come out have to wear facemasks when they're down here in the metro. And if they want to travel at peak time, they need to have a special authorization from their employer explaining why they couldn't work from home.

So in places like Paris, which remain in the red zones of France, still a lot of restrictions on people's liberty. And the government now looking very closely at the COVID-19 figures to see whether this very slow, gradual resumption of normal life will have an impact on those figures.


CHURCH: And an update on those figures. On Monday France reported a daily death toll almost four times higher than the day before.

As hard-hit Spain moves to reopen the country's health ministry recorded 123 deaths Monday, the lowest number since mid-March. Phase one of de-escalating the lockdown began Monday for about half the people in Spain. Allowing groups of up to 10 to gather and opening some restaurants at half capacity.

The pandemic may have hit the U.S. at the worst possible time -- a Presidential election year. And we will look at how a matter of life and death has been tainted by politics.