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Airlines Struggle to Enforce New Rules; Grocery Prices Surging; Vaccine Volunteers. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 13, 2020 - 16:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And so those two individuals are going to be the ones who are really heading up this effort, though we're also told that the HHS secretary, Alex Azar, is also expected to be involved, of course, as well as Dr. Anthony Fauci and a slew of others.

And so it's notable that the administration, they're looking ahead, working on this project that there's been a lot of excitement about inside the administration, as this other former vaccine agency head, Rick Bright, is getting ready to testify on Capitol Hill tomorrow to not only talk about the efforts that his office, he believes, was slowed in its efforts early on.

But, Jake, he's also going to offer a warning about what's to come if the federal government doesn't step up and take efforts that he and these other experts have been recommending, many of those including things like a national testing strategy, which you have seen lawmakers call for as well lately.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And, Kaitlan, tell us about Mike Bowen. He is a businessman from Texas. He's also testifying tomorrow.

I read Dr. Bright's whistle-blower complaint. It includes descriptions and e-mails from Bowen from January offering to help manufacture millions of and N95 masks that were barely needed.

COLLINS: Yes, he's an executive at a company here in the United States that makes these masks.

And, basically, if you look at some of the e-mails that he had with Rick Bright early on back in January, he's talking about calls that he was getting from some people at the Department of Homeland Security asking about masks. He was trying to give the federal government a heads-up, he says, about what he saw as a demand that was coming down the pipeline.

And, Jake, it's notable, because he's someone who says he's warned about too much dependency on foreign supply chains for some time now, mainly China. And in these e-mails with Rick Bright that he's expected to talk about tomorrow, this executive, Mike Bowen, says things like, hey, we're getting interest from China, from Hong Kong, from several of these other countries wanting to know more about getting these masks. And, obviously, he would want to prioritize them for the United States. But he wasn't hearing a lot of interest, he said, from the federal government.

TAPPER: Yes, Dr. Bright trying to push up and let people in the administration know about these masks, and, apparently, according to him, not getting much of a response.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much. Appreciate that breaking news.

Coming up next: It's risky, perhaps even deadly, but volunteers are signing up to try to find a coronavirus vaccine.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: You're going to be infected with something for which there is no treatment for at this time.





TAPPER: Right now, there are actually thousands of people around the world who have volunteered to be exposed to the novel coronavirus on purpose.

They're called challenge vaccine volunteers.

And, as CNN's Drew Griffin reports for us now, they're part of a program to try to speed up a cure for the rest of us.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): He donated a kidney last summer. Now Abie Rohrig is ready to medically volunteer again, this time as a human guinea pig in a vaccine trial designed to infect volunteers with a virus the world has never known.

ROHRIG: Just like the nurses and the doctors on the front line, I'm willing to take some risk to myself if it means that we can move through this as a nation and as a world.

GRIFFIN: He's 20 years old, lives in New York, has seen what the pandemic can do, and has signed up online to be a volunteer in a potential COVID-19 human challenge vaccine trial.

Unlike other vaccine trials, at a challenge trial, a group of volunteers would first be injected with a potential vaccine, and a second control group would be injected with a placebo. After allowing sufficient time for the volunteers who got the vaccine to hopefully build up immunities, it's all challenge. All the volunteers, those with and those without the vaccine

candidate, are intentionally contaminated with coronavirus, risky, potentially even deadly, yes, all of that. But it also might be a quicker path to an actual vaccine for the rest of us.

(on camera): This is designed to get some people sick.

MARC LIPSITCH, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR COMMUNICABLE DISEASE DYNAMICS: That's right. The intention is to make some people at least infected.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Marc Lipsitch, Harvard epidemiologist, is one of the scientists whose idea of using a challenge vaccine for COVID-19 is now gaining interest from the World Health Organization.

LIPSITCH: This could save months off the time required to evaluate a vaccine. The goal is to do the fastest responsible and scientifically valid way of evaluating the vaccine.

GRIFFIN: Multiple vaccines could be at the same time, controls put in place for proper medical care for all the volunteers. And by selecting only young, healthy adults, Lipsitch says the chances of someone dying is extremely low.

LIPSITCH: But it is not zero. And that's why this is an altruistic act to volunteer for this.

GRIFFIN: It's not just the risk. It is the unknown risk, says Professor Robert Read the University of Southampton in the U.K. He's in favor of the idea, but insists there would need to be full disclosure.

DR. ROBERT CHARLES READ, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON: This case is different. We're not able to quantify the risk to the volunteer. And when we take informed consent from them, we will have to say to them that we cannot say exactly what is going to happen to them.

GRIFFIN (on camera): You're going to be infected with something for which there is no treatment for at this time.

ROHRIG: Right.

GRIFFIN: Does that give you pause?

ROHRIG: It certainly gives me pause. And I don't want to be naive or arrogant. And I don't want to hide myself from the fact that there is a serious, not-at-all trivial risk to me doing this.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): Despite the risks, 16,000 people from more than 100 countries have already signed an online form saying they're interested in becoming volunteers.

That includes U.S. Army veteran businessman, husband and father of four John Gentle of Alabama. JOHN GENTLE, TRIAL VOLUNTEER: Yes, I am putting more people directly

related to me at a greater risk if something were to go wrong, but I feel like the risk is low.

GRIFFIN: So far, the challenge vaccine trial is hypothetical.

But John Gentle, Abie Rohrig, and 16,000 others say they are ready, if needed, to take the risk, if it means they can be part of ending the COVID-19 pandemic.


GRIFFIN: Sixteen thousand, two hundred and thirteen people have signed up to date, Jake.

It's not as crazy as it seems. John Gentle says he's probably going to get the COVID-19 virus anyway. He'd rather get it in a controlled setting, where he has a guarantee hospital bed if he needs it -- Jake.

TAPPER: Well, that's one way to look at it. I think it's pretty selfless.

Drew Griffin, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next: It's not just your grocery bill that's been going up. The essential items are seeing a price surge.

Plus, do airlines owe you a refund? Well, that depends. A look at whether you might qualify.

That's next.



TAPPER: You have likely noticed that the cost of groceries has spiked. Prices are up 2.6 percent. That's the biggest jump in almost 50 years for everyday staples.

Eggs are up 16 percent, chicken up 5.8 percent, ground beef almost 5 percent, fresh fish 4.2 percent. Even baby food is up almost 3 percent.

Let's bring in CNN business anchor Julia Chatterley.

And, Julia , industry experts predicted this when some factories had to closed due to sick workers. Is that why prices are up, because of the factory closures?


But there's more to this story. The whole food supply chain was shaken up by the lockdowns and us staying at home more and cooking for ourselves. And the grocery stores just couldn't keep up with the extra demand. Plus, we saw hoarding. So, that explains the broad price rises that

we're seeing. The key here is that just reopening economies won't fix this overnight. Supply chains take time to adjust.

So, I think we have to expect higher prices for the foreseeable future. And that, of course, comes at a time when one in five families are food-insecure. The timing couldn't be worse.

TAPPER: And prices for groceries are up, but it seems like almost everything else is down. Clothes prices are down, airfare, even the price of gas. The price of cars has dropped.

But, as you know, that's not necessarily a good thing.

CHATTERLEY: No, it's not. Cheaper stuff is good when you have got the ability and the money to go out and buy things.

The good turns to bad if people hold off from spending because they think they will get cheaper prices in the future. And that can be a downward spiral. That mind-set is really critical in an economy like ours, where it's spending-driven. It relies on consumers being out there and spending.

This is just one more thing to watch for policy-makers. It can be bad for business and it's also bad for jobs. The fixes here need to be right for those things.

TAPPER: All right, Julia Chatterley, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Airlines want passengers to feel more comfortable flying, but new memos obtained by CNN show major airline carriers are reluctant to enforce the new mandatory face mask policies. And if you don't feel safe, you're not entitled to a refund.

CNN's Pete Muntean joins me now.

And, Pete, so what happens if a passenger does not want to wear a face mask, even if the airline says, hey, you have to?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, all of that, Jake, is outlined in these airline memos that I have obtained over the last day.

Airlines can essentially prevent a passenger from boarding if they show up without a mask. But once on board, it is an entirely different story. Flight attendants are now being guided to give gentle reminders to passengers and essentially avoid confrontation at all costs.

I want to read you some of the American Airlines memo it sent to its flight attendants and also to pilots. It outlines some exceptions to this rule for health concerns, but -- quote -- "If the customer chooses not to comply for other reasons, please encourage them to do so, but do not escalate further. Likewise, if a customer is frustrated by another customer's lack of face covering, please use situational awareness to de-escalate the situation." The unanimous message here, Jake, from airlines is, do not get in situations where flight attendants have to boot passengers off a flight, or, even worse, turn an airplane around and land.

Airlines are doing all of this in the absence of a requirement from the federal government.

TAPPER: Right, in the absence of leadership, really.

United Airlines is an airline trying to keep the middle seats of their planes empty, despite some photos we have seen of crowded flights. What happens if a customer booked on a flight wants a refund?

MUNTEAN: Well, it's important to note that those photos of United flights, according to the airline, are the exception and not the norm.

That's what we have been seeing industry-wide as well. United says most of its flights are now less than half-full. After this whole P.R. debacle, United actually changed its policy, allowing passengers to rebook if they felt like their flight was too full, also giving them warnings ahead of time, as much as 24 hours ahead of time, and even at the gate.

When it comes to refunds, the bottom line is, you're not entitled to a refund if you balk on flying because of coronavirus concerns -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Pete, thanks so much.

And if you're still planning to keep your European vacation this summer, stick around -- a new proposal from the E.U. that impacts tourists.


That's next.


TAPPER: In our world lead: The European Union wants to try and save summer vacations.

It is proposing a phased and coordinated approach to reopening countries. But the E.U. warns, you will be traveling at your own risk.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins me now.

Fred, the E.U. wants to open certain borders, so Europeans can go on holiday?



But they do say that they have to do that in a very responsible way.. Of course, normally, the borders are open in Europe, but, right now, most of them are closed. And they say, if two countries are going to open their borders with

one another, they have to have about the same type of coronavirus situation there. For example, Germany and Austria actually are already easing some of their border restrictions.

But, right now, between Austria and Italy, it simply isn't possible because the situation Italy is so much worse. At the same time, they also say any country that wants to accept tourists has to have adequate capacities as far as ICU beds, for instance, are concerned, if there should be an outbreak, so that they would be able to deal with it.

And then it actually comes to traveling itself, where they say that's something that will remain very restricted. For instance, vehicles shouldn't have enough passengers -- or shouldn't have too many passengers in them, so people can keep their distance. Masks should be available at any given time, so should hand sanitizer as well, just to make sure that people are able to travel in a safe way.

And that, of course, is because, Jake, the tourism industry is such a big business here in Europe, and especially the countries that are the hardest-hit right now by the coronavirus. You look at the United Kingdom. You look at France. You look at Italy, which is such a beautiful country and Spain.

They're the ones who would really need tourism to also get their economies going again as well. But, of course, that can't come at the cost of a possible another outbreak. That's exactly what the E.U. is saying as well. They're saying they believe that summer holidays can happen, but they also say it has to happen in a safe way, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Fred Pleitgen in Berlin, thank you so much. Appreciate that report.

A staggering UNICEF report predicts an average of 6,000 children under the age of 5 could die every day, 6,000 a day across the globe in the next six months from preventable causes because of coronavirus-related food shortages and overwhelmed health care systems.

CNN's David McKenzie joins me now from Johannesburg.

David, 90 percent of these 1.2 million predicted deaths will be children in Africa.


Children and mothers are especially vulnerable here. And it's the indirect causes from COVID-19, Jake, that people are really worried about.

This is a UNICEF and Johns Hopkins University study. Now, it's modeling that is looking at the worst-case scenarios of those indirect consequences. People, families unable to access food, clinics closed and people stuck in their homes because of lockdown, all of these factors could result in many of these excess deaths, particularly those under 5 years old. Now, Jake, since the '90s, there's been a huge improvement in under-5 mortality across the world, especially here on the African continent. Now UNICEF says those gains could be lost because of the indirect consequences of COVID-19.

They say that policy-makers (AUDIO GAP) look very carefully at what the consequences of these lockdowns are on the economy and of health here for people across the continent.

Now, 118 countries, mostly low- and middle-income, were studied in these hypothetical models. They say they are hypothetical, but they come from very real world experience. I remember we were covering the West African outbreak of Ebola in 2014, Jake.

Even in that massive outbreak, more people died from other causes, like not able to access malaria pills during the Ebola outbreak, than Ebola itself.

So, some very tough decisions need to be made in the coming weeks, particularly in the African context, on how they combat COVID-19, but also all these other unintended consequences -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, David McKenzie in Johannesburg, South Africa, thank you so much.

Coronavirus has now taken the lives of more than 83,000 people in the United States.

Three of them were from this one family we're going to tell you about.

Leslie Leake lived with her son John Jr. in Washington, D.C. Daughter Enekee lived nearby in Waldorf, Maryland. Enekee was 45 years old. She was engaged to be married. Her family thought she'd quickly recover, given that she had no underlying conditions. But she died of coronavirus on April 11.

Her brother John died two weeks after that. He was the family jokester and known to cook up a few good meals. He was only 44 years old.

And then their mother, Leslie, died two days after John. She was the matriarch of the family. She was known for helping others.

The family says they're finding peace in God and prayer and knowing that their time together as a family was well-spent and full of love.

To the Leake family and friends, our thoughts and prayers go with you. Make your loved ones' memories be a blessing.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.

Stay healthy.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.