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Cal State University System Says Student Won't Return in Fall; Dr. Rochelle Walensky & Dr. Jen Kates Discuss Worries of Rising Deaths as States Reopen, New IHME Model Predicting 147,000 Deaths by August; Whistleblower Warns of "Darkest Winter in Modern History" Without Ramped-Up Countermeasures; House Democrats Planning Vote on $3 Trillion Stimulus Package; John Friedman, Opportunity Insights Founding Co-Director, Discusses Economic Conditions in 50 States with 50 Plans; New CNN Poll: Trump Leads Biden Among Battleground Voters. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 13, 2020 - 11:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm John King, in Washington. This is CNN's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Global case count quickly approaching 4.3 million this hour. Here in the United States, 1.4 million cases is the next awful benchmark. The U.S. closing in on 83,000 deaths.

Reopening is under way in most states to varying degrees and the increased mobility is impacting projections on just how high the death toll will go. The model the White House relied on for months now projects a significantly higher number, 147,000 deaths here in the United States by August.

The Federal Reserve chairman says the coronavirus crisis is hurting those who can least afford it the most. Jerome Powell says -- get this -- almost 40 percent of households that bring in less than $40,000 a year lost their jobs.

Goldman Sachs now predicts one in four Americans will be out of a job thanks to the coronavirus.

That massive job loss also means massive health care disruption. New data shows 27 million people may have lost their employer-based health insurance since this started. Millions now without options to get new coverage.

Everyday life is also getting more expensive. Government numbers now show grocery bills jumped in April by the biggest amount in nearly 50 years. Eggs and beef are the biggest price hikes.

The president's posture is open now, and he promises things will look more normal by fall. That, despite warnings from his own top scientists that if states ease restrictions too quickly or too much, there could be a major resurgence in cases.

The president's testing czar says 50 million tests a month is the target number by fall when schools are schedule today reopen. But already, the nation's largest four-year public university system said it will not take the risk of bringing students back to campus for the fall semester.


EDUARDO OCHOA, PRESIDENT, CAL STATE, MONTEREY BAY: In order to maintain distancing guidelines, we would have to reduce the capacity of our classrooms to 25 percent of their normal levels. We would have to drastically reduce the member of students enrolled.

And, frankly, the prospect of bringing students from across the state and across the country to converge on Monterey County, we face the prospect of turning the campus into a cluster that would singlehandedly drive the infection rates in our county. We didn't really want to do that.


KING: Let's get straight to CNN's Stephanie Elam, in Manhattan Beach, California.

Stephanie, a big wow, a big shockwave. How big that Cal State won't let students come back in the fall?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a huge shockwave, John. Think about it. We're talking about some 500,000 students affected by this. The campuses also employ 50,000 people as well.

They're saying all 23 of their university campuses will mostly not be open. Nearly all closed. All of that education going virtual. The whole idea here being, if they do this now, this could help temper the expectations.

It's May, so people are still working on graduating from high school. If they're coming back to start college, they at least know what they're looking for as they begin the school year.

Take a listen to what the president of that Cal State Student Association had to say about this.


JOSEPH CASTRO, PRESIDENT, CAL STATE STUDENT ASSOCIATION: It is the right call. Looking at the safety of our student body population, looking at the safety of our campus communities, we're talking about more than half a million people on 23 campuses across 800 miles of California. And we're looking at the most diverse, ethnically, economically and academically, student body in the nation.

It's uncertain what the future is going to look like. In order to give students a little bit of a level of certainty, I think this decision might have needed to happen sooner rather than later. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ELAM: And it's not just the Cal State system, which is the largest public system in the country, but it's also the University of California system as well, saying that their 10 campuses that stretch throughout the state will likely not be open and will have virtual education as well.

You may see some small gatherings, but the issue here is there's just not a vaccine yet and, therefore, they can't see getting the students all together on the campus. They say this is going to be a couple years in development on how they're going to attack this problem.

But for now, at least these students know they can start planning to learn from home -- John?

KING: Stay at home.

Stephanie Elam, a big deal out in California not reopening. Stephanie, thank you so much.

Reopening in 50 states, 50 plans. When we talk about the increase in the national death toll projection, it has a state-by-state dynamic, too. Take a peek. The new IHME model projects higher deaths in North Carolina and Maryland, for example, but it's lowering its projections for Indiana and for Georgia.

Another data point we watch is the case count. As the states get deeper into their reopening plans, let's take a peek. First, the national trends. You see the national map. You see the different colors.


The red states still going up. If you're 50 percent higher this week than the week before, you're in the darker red. The more orange, that means your case count is up 10 percent to 50 percent from the week before. You see nine states still heading up. That's a bad trend. And 19 states, that's more of the gold/yellowish color, they're holding steady. And 21 states on the way down. One state way, way down.

You're tracking this on a state by state experiment. Again, some states are up, some states are going down. Some of them are reopening.

Let's walk through some of this. Oklahoma, look at Oklahoma. You come back here to April 24th. This is when they started to reopen. You want to look. Case count going up. Case count going stable. The red line is the seven-day moving average. It's relatively flat. Here's the one- week mark, the two-week mark. A couple daily spikes but overall, it's flat.

The question is, are they headed back up or is this a blip? So you want to keep watching this. Is this a one-day blip or is Oklahoma starting to head up? We'll track that.

Alaska, another state, reopened back on April 24th. The red line is your rolling average. Down or flat? Even down a little bit from when they reopened. A little blip in recent days.

The question is, is the case count going up or is this a one-day one- off and the line stays down here. Something to watch as the states get deeper into reopening.

Georgia has received a ton of attention. Among the earliest to reopen. You come back here, April 24th, you watch the line, a concerning day. But overall, the red line is the average. Some days are lower. Some days are higher. The red line averages it out. Georgia has been relatively flat. In this case, the governor would say I can manage this case count.

The question is, what's this in the last couple days. Is it heading back up or is it a low day and a big day and it averages out and you stay down here?

That's what you have to watch in each of the states as they begin to reopen. Can they keep it flat and keep going down or does it start to go back up?

Georgia's governor said we're going to continue to reopen and I'm going to continue to keep watching those numbers.


BRIAN KEMP, (R), GEORGIA GOVERNOR: Many have warned of a second wave and asked if we are willing to change course if conditions decline. Let me be clear, we will continue to track the numbers. We will take whatever action is necessary to protect the lives and the livelihoods of all Georgians.


KING: Joining us now is Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. Also joining us, Dr. Jen Kates, senior vice president of global health and HIV policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Doctor Walensky, let me start with you.

When you look -- I looked at three states and we could look at them all -- most of those states relatively flat, even down a little bit with a day or two that leave you worried.

As you're watching this experiment -- we heard Dr. Fauci yesterday say, I'm worried -- do you see anything concerning or is it, so far, so good, let's keep watching?


I was worried when it happened. I remain worried. I think time will tell. And we really have to watch carefully.

Certainly, you know, the trends of flat over this period of time may be falsely reassuring. We know there's quite a delay, up to two weeks, until things start taking off.

So I do hope that, as we pass that two-week mark, that when we're actually in this three-week mark, that we don't see the manifestations of sort of exponential spread as could have happen during the time of things happening.

KING: And, Jen Kates, to that point, the IHME has increased quite significantly its national projection, likely to die by the first of August. It's up in some states, down in other states because we're going through this remarkable 50-state experiment, 50 states, 50 plans.

Listen to Chris Murray, who runs that model, explaining why he thinks people are getting out of the house and that means you'll have a higher death toll.


DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS & EVALUATION: What's happened is states have relaxed early. People have heard the message, they have gotten out, they become more mobile. They're having more contact. And we're seeing the effects already of that transition and then that's playing out in the projections, unfortunately.


KING: Jen, the increased mobility is inevitable as states reopen, whether people like it or not, whether they support it or not. I think one of the big sub questions to that increased mobility is, how do people behave. Will they keep their social distance, will they wear masks in public and so forth?


It is a critical time and a critical question. From surveys we have done and others, people are still afraid, and most say that they want to be very cautious.

But as you noted, the people are moving. I think we're seeing fatigue of staying inside.

And also some mixed messages. One state is doing one thing. Another state is doing something else. The federal government has provided just very general guidelines. So I think there's also confusion, what is safe and what should I be doing.

And as Dr. Walensky said, time will tell. I think we all need to be very vigilant and watch the trends very carefully. Not just on a state-by-state base but within states. People don't live in one spot. They move.

KING: Right, they do move. I can show you just from our new CNN polling, have you left home to visit friends, family, or neighbors in the last seven days, and 35 percent say yes now. Back a month ago, only 22 percent said that.


So Dr. Walensky, your governor of Massachusetts is about to reopen the state. We can show you the 14-day trend there. It is certainly down. But I was reading the "Boston Globe" this morning and a lot of the scientific experts are kind of apprehensive about this. Some wish, could we wait another week or two, could we let it play out?

When you look at this, put Massachusetts in the national context, are you ready in the state of Massachusetts, which has been among the states hardest hit, or do you think the governor should pause a little longer?

WALENSKY: Great question. I have been very grateful to live in the state of Massachusetts. As you see our trends are trending down.

I think, if you looked at the federal guidance as to whether we should be ready to reopen, we certainly don't have the tests we would need. I don't think we'll have the tests we need for a long while. And I think patience will run very thin before we have that.

But our trends in disease are trending downward. Our trends in death are trending downward.

And I'll say, on Monday, Governor Baker announced a very slow and vigilant four-phase policy, so -- a four-phase plan to reopen. So I don't think there's going to be rapid reopening. I think this has been a very thoughtful process, and it will be a very slow process.

KING: And, Jen Kates, I want to come back on the point you made, Jen, about lack of national guidelines. There were CDC guidelines about reopening. They were very detailed. They were also very prescriptive. If you read the CDC guidelines, which have been shelved or are being reedited, depending on how you have to context from people at the White House, by those guidelines, Texas and Georgia would be way out ahead of where the CDC would like them to be already.

I want to show you pictures here. It's a graphic of shelter-in-place patterns. You see two maps on the screen. One from April 9th, one from May 9th. On the left, a deeper blue. That means people are staying home. You might not see a giant difference when you look at the one on the right, but it is getting lighter. That's people getting out and moving around as their states reopen. Some of them, frankly, just get cabin fever.

To the point you were making, Jen, do you think, is this up to individual governors, mayors, county executives, to say here's what's happening in our county, therefore you must be six feet, you must wear a mask, or do you think national guidelines would be more helpful?

KATES: I do think local health officials have a really critical role to play. And the CDC guidelines you mentioned actually specifically say everything should be done in consultation with local health officials. But this is a virus, and viruses don't understand borders, whether

it's a county border or a state border or a country border. And so there's a real need, I think, for some general standards that can be used across the country. Certainly, there's going to be different experiences, and that's important.

But I'm worried we're going to be in the situation of having so many disparate movements and potentially outbreaks in different parts of the country that this could really explode. And that's what we have to be prepared for.

And testing is a big part of this, if we have enough testing going on, which we don't yet.

KING: We don't yet, is what you hear constantly from people like yourself and around the country. The White House says it will get there.

Dr. Walensky, let's close the conversation with this. I want to listen to Dr. Fauci from yesterday and ask you a question on the other side.

Here's Dr. Fauci.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: There's 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.


KING: So 50 states, 50 plans. What would you look for most specifically? Is it rate of transmission? Is it day-to-day increase in case counts? Is it hospitalization pressures? What data point do you study the most as you watch each of the states start to progress and get deeper into a reopening plan?

WALENSKY: Great question. There are a couple metrics that I have been using. One is the percent positive of cases, of tests that are done. So I have been watching that carefully in Massachusetts. We have gone from, early on, 28 percent positive to 23 percent of a rolling average. Over the last week or so, we have been anywhere from 9 percent to 10 percent of cases that are positive, to yesterday, I believe, we were at 13 percent.

So that reflects two different things. It reflects how much disease is out there. And it also reflects how many tests are being done. If you're really widely testing, and there's very little disease out there, then you should be in the 2 percent, 3 percent range. I would love to see us get there relatively soon.

The other place that I look a lot is to see how our hospitals are doing. Do we have the resources to care for the people who are coming in the door? Certainly, that is getting better in Massachusetts. Or in Mass General, anyway. We still have quite a few patients with COVID in the hospital, over --nearly 200. So that certainly is a stress on our system.


And what I would reiterate is, we already have a stress on the system in the fall and winter during the influenza season. When you combine those with influenza and potentially COVID that could be escalating, I really worry about the capacity to care for those surges.

KING: Which is why we need to keep our eyes on that data every single day.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Dr. Jen Kates, really appreciate your time and insights and expertise today. Thank you so much.

A new warning now from a whistleblower. Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted head of the agency in charge of medical countermeasures, says the United States is headed for, quote, "its darkest winter" without dramatically ramped-up countermeasures against the coronavirus.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond joins us now with more on this.

Jeremy, this is Dr. Bright's opening statement. He's a whistleblower, called before Congress. What is he going to say?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Well, first of all, he's going to reiterate what we have already seen in his previous complaint.

Last week, of course, Dr. Rick Bright, the former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research Office, filed a whistleblower complaint alleging he was fired, that he was ousted from that post as the head of that office in charge of vaccine development because he resisted efforts to push the treatment Hydroxychloroquine, which, of course, President Donald Trump had repeatedly promoted in February and in March.

He will say, according to the written testimony that we have obtained -- let me read a quote from this: "And, finally, when I resisted efforts to promote and enable broad access to an unproven drug, Chloroquine, to the American people without transparent information on the potential health risks, I was removed from Barda."

BARDA is the acronym for the office that he led until recently.

But, John, beyond that, what we're also going to hear is hearing from Dr. Rick Bright talking about the future of this pandemic, not only talking about the fact that he raised warnings that the United States was unprepared for this coronavirus pandemic early on in January and in February, but also talking about the fact that unless the United States government begins to ramp up its response to this coronavirus pandemic, that the United States could face the darkest winter in its history. He talks about the potential for unprecedented illnesses and

fatalities if the government does not ramp up a national coordinated response.

Among many of the things he says the government needs to ramp up is that perennial issue of testing, John, which, as you know, has been a central focus, was a central focus yesterday during that testimony from some of the top experts in the federal government.

And it was a focus of the questions not only from Democratic Senators yesterday but also from several Republican Senators.

So Dr. Bright, again, will be testifying tomorrow before a health subcommittee on the House side this time. And again, reiterating those allegations of retaliatory firing, tying it to Hydroxychloroquine, but also warning of the future of this pandemic and the risk that the United States faces if the government does not ramp up its response -- John?

KING: Jeremy Diamond, appreciate that reporting on the big testimony coming tomorrow.

I believe Dr. Rochelle Walensky is with us from Boston.

Doctor, let me go through this in two parts. Number one, Rick Bright said he was pushed out because he was not willing to accept the president's exuberance for Hydroxychloroquine. Studies more recently have shown that Dr. Bright was right. That it is suspect at best as helpful. Is my interpretation of that correct?

WALENSKY: Yes. I think we just have to be scientists here and researchers as we try to do the best for our patients. When we do that, we don't sort of advocate for any unproven treatment that has not been shown in a controlled randomized trial. That's how we assess the goal standard for how we assess things that work.

We did not know. We did not have those data for Hydroxychloroquine at the time. We have increasing data now that Hydroxychloroquine not only does not appear to be working, but, in fact, causes toxicity, cardiac toxicity.

So you know, I think everybody was anxious to have something for patients because people were dying quickly and we had nothing to give them. But we do have to recall that our gold standard here is the randomized trial.

KING: And so then, looking forward to the warning there of the darkest winter. These things are complicated. He's a whistleblower. We're going to see what the testimony is. There's any members of a team, some people may say we're up to speed, we're behind, we're ahead.

But testing has come up repeatedly. His main concern in warning in this prepared testimony about the darkest winter is he does not see the administration built up, A, in the context of the coronavirus testing, and then, B, when you overlap it, as you were mentioning in the previous conversation, about we're going to have a seasonal flu anyway and other challenges ahead of us.

What did you make of what you heard from Jeremy Diamond about his warning about a dark winter?


WALENSKY: I -- I worry about it myself. I think Dr. Fauci said it best during his testimony yesterday, we should be humbled about what we don't know. We're learning a lot about this disease every single day. Manifestations we never thought we were going to see, we're now seeing.

We're using drugs now that we have never used before. The long-term manifestations of those interventions. So I think we have a lot yet to learn.

We are not scaled up in the testing that we need to do. It's getting better, but it's not where it needs to be, and I'm worried about the fall.

KING: Dr. Rochelle Walensky, I appreciate your sticking with us to go through that breaking news. I always appreciate your insights but, more importantly, I appreciate the work you're doing every day. Thank you so much.

Up next for us, House Democrats say the country needs another giant stimulus plan. Senate Republicans say it's too big and too soon.



KING: House Democrats say their new $3 trillion stimulus plan is urgently needed so they plan to vote this week on the package, which includes direct payments to Americans and billions in aide to state and local governments. But Senate Republican leaders and the White House say, not so fast, arguing it's too soon to know if more federal spending is needed.

CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is live for us on Capitol Hill.

An impasse between the House and Senate, Manu. What happens next?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's going to be a vote on Friday. The speaker, Nancy Pelosi, making it very clear she plans to push ahead, even though there's even some concern within the left flank of her own caucus, which has not believed it goes far enough in protecting the jobless. But this bill would be the largest relief measure ever passed by Congress, if it were to pass both chambers.

And this measure affects virtually all aspects of the economy, providing a trillion dollars in aid to state and local governments. Also providing money to small businesses, bolstering money for the unemployed jobless benefits, including $6,000 -- up to $6,000 for payments for certain families, depending on their income threshold, and an additional $75 billion to help renters and homeowners, in addition to $75 billion for expanded testing.

So the Democrats are pushing forward on this after weeks of closed- door discussions about how exactly to piece another proposal forward. And this comes on the heels of Congress enacting roughly $3 trillion just this spring alone, which amounts to the most aggressive intervention by Congress, by Washington, into the economy since we have seen since the Great Depression.

And that's why the Republicans in the Senate are saying, let's wait to see how that is being implemented, how those programs are working before we agree to more.

But, John, I can tell you, there are Republicans in the Senate that do want to move forward on some aspects of this, including money for state and local governments. That division within the Republican conference continues to play out -- John?

KING: Continues to play out, which means horse trading and vote counting in the days ahead.

Manu Raju, on Capitol Hill, appreciate the latest there.

The reopening is stirring some business activity, but it's worth remembering, America's three largest cities are still shut down and they are major pieces of the American economy.

Look at these numbers from Moody's. This pegs the daily loss in GAP, $722 million from New York City, $831 million from Los Angeles, and Chicago, $351 million.

John Friedman, founding co-director of Opportunity Insights, joins us from Rhode Island.

John, when you look through the numbers -- and you have a tracker and I want to put it up on the screen here. You do find that spending is rebounding some in some places, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Dakota, Maine, Kentucky and West Virginia. But there's still a big lag in spending where I am, Washington, D.C., California, Rhode Island, Nevada, Delaware and Connecticut. What are you seeing out there?

DR. JOHN FRIEDMAN, PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS AND INTERNATIONAL AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, BROWN UNIVERSITY & FOUNDING CO-DIRECTOR, OPPORTUNITY INSIGHTS, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: You mentioned there are 50 states and 50 plans. We're seeing the economic conditions are differing across all of these 50 states in very interesting ways.

We're seeing stronger spending rebounds in the middle of the country especially. Not necessarily places where there have been fewer instances of the disease. But in some places, like New York, New York, obviously, a hot spot of the disease, they're kind of a middle place in terms of spending. Places like Nevada, which is heavily dependent on travel and tourism, we're seeing spending really still lagging very far behind there. KING: Again, another piece of your tracker, this visual I find really

interesting. If you look at where the national emergency was declared and where spending was, and then it drops way down. You see the stimulus checks go out on April 13th and you see spending go up some and then it flattens again.

It has rebounded a bit if you look at the numbers but, still, way, way down. Is that fair?

FRIEDMAN: That's right. Spending was down about 30 percent at the beginning of April, as everyone was really pulling back. There's a clear rebound to about down 20 percent now. We say down only 20 percent, right? That's only great relative to the beginning of last month. But it's a clear sign the stimulus is working.

Of course, I think it's going to be those neediest families who are spending the stimulus checks most. And so we're going to be on the lookout for not just when but where these stimulus checks are starting to run out and where we may need another boost to keep people afloat with money to put food on their tables going forward.

KING: John Friedman, really appreciate it. Fascinating data. Keep in touch. You're on the lookout. When you see new numbers or see a change anywhere, up or down, give us a shout. We'll bring you back on. It's fascinating to watch as this all plays out and as this stimulus debate in Congress will intensify.

John, thank you very much.

To politics now and brand-new CNN poll numbers. They show Joe Biden with a national lead in the race for president. But there are warning signs for the Democrat when you dig deeper into the numbers. It's a five-point national lead for Biden -- you see it right there -- 51 percent from registered votes. President Trump receives 46 percent.


But remember 2016. We pick presidents state by state. Look at the horse race in the 15 states that CNN designates as presidential battlegrounds. Take a peek. The president leads in those battleground states, 52 percent to 45 percent.