Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Ousted Vaccine Chief To Warn Darkest Winter In Modern History; Cal State To Keep Classes Online In Fall, Fearing New Wave; Airlines To Attendants, De-escalate Spats Over Masks. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 13, 2020 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:03]

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Kim, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck in the year ahead. Thanks for joining us here today too. We'll see you back here this tomorrow.

A business news day, don't go anywhere. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar and this is CNN's special live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

And we begin with some breaking news. The former head of the government's vaccine efforts ousted from his job will warn Congress that 2020 will be the, quote, darkest winter in modern history, if the U.S. does not coordinate its response. We'll have more on that in just a moment.

First though, a snapshot of where we are right now. With 48 states on track to be partially reopened by this weekend, most are reporting a downward trend with rates of new cases and deaths both declining nationally.

But in influential model, which is often cited by the White House, is making a pretty staggering projection, and that is that 147,000 Americans will die as a Result of COVID-19 by August 4th. This is 10,000 more projected deaths from just this past weekend, and it's double what as projected two weeks ago.

Here in Washington, D.C., today extending its stay-at-home order until June, so we'll be breaking down these maps for you in just a moment.

But, first, let's talk about that warning, that new warning from the former head of the government's vaccine efforts. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live for us at the White House. I'm also joined by CNN Medical Analyst, Dr. Seema Yasmin.

Kaitlan, tell us, what more is Rick Bright planning to tell Congress?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, we know about the allegations of retaliation that Rick Bright has made. He did it in a formal statement. He did it in that complaint that he filed last week. But what's new in this opening statement that we got a hold of ahead

of his testimony tomorrow is basically his warning about just how unprepared the U.S. was going into this pandemic and how unprepared it was to confront the pandemic, but he's also warning about what's to come.

And he lays out a series of steps in this opening statement where he says, basically, if these steps aren't taken and other measures that experts have recommended, he says that this winter could be one of the darkest in modern American history, basically saying it's going to get a lot worse if these steps are not taken.

Now, he says there is also retaliation. He talks about the fact that he tried to warn HHS leadership, he says, about a lack of resources going on, but he said that those warnings from him back in January in the early months, he says were confronted with hostility, especially when he then went to a White House senior adviser. That's Peter Navarro, of course, we have also learned.

And so it's going to be really interesting to see him tomorrow under testimony talking about what was actually going on inside the administration, though we should note, HHS has pushed back on these allegations in his complaint. They say that they're not true, but they're not really commenting any further than that right now, Brianna, because they say it's an ongoing investigation that's happening.

KEILAR: That's very interesting reporting, Kaitlan.

And I wonder, to you, Dr. Yasmin, a description of the darkest winter in modern history that we're going to be hearing from Dr. Bright. What would that entail?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: So, I've looked at the comments he plans to make to Congress tomorrow that have been obtained early by CNN. And for sure, the language is dramatic, but for me, as someone who's investigated epidemics, it really resonates mostly because when you are in an epidemic investigation, you are always behind where you think you are.

So, say you've counted 85,000 deaths. There will be more. Say you believe that there are a million confirmed cases. You will have missed a proportion of people just because of the incubation period of the virus, and also there's a lag time between when someone is infected to when there is enough virus in their body for a test to detect and to come up positive.

What he is really talking about here is also losing the window of opportunity, as he mentioned. He also warns about the lack of a coordinated national response that's based on science. And that's where this prediction of a looming disaster comes from as if things weren't already terrible.

KEILAR: That's right. Kaitlan, I wonder, because you know, we've heard from health experts on the task force who walked the fine line of not angering the president. Dr. Bright is no longer encumbered by that burden. So what are we expecting tomorrow? What's that going to look like? How is the White House going to respond?

COLLINS: Yes, and one thing to keep in mind as you're watching him testify tomorrow is he's still trying to get his job back as the head of this vaccine agency. He wants to be reinstated to that position. And we know the office that's investigating his claim says early on, it looks like it is retaliation. And so, they've recommended that he'd be put back in that role while they continue the next 45 days or so of investigations.

So, people aren't really expecting him to hold anything back tomorrow when he is testifying, though, of course, internally, we've heard pushback to the allegations against him, from complaints against him inside that agency, which he and his team responded by giving us his reviews.

[13:05:02]

And we looked at those, and he actually got high ratings from one of the HHS leaders that he clashed with the most. That's Bob Kadlec. So, that will be really notable.

But also, if you look at this opening statement today, he talks about things like informing the public about basic things like what handwashing, certain protective measures like wearing a mask can do. Brianna, he also talks about a national testing strategy, which is something that we know many lawmakers and governors say they don't feel has been properly developed and isn't ready for the nation that is now trying to reopen.

And so, those things will be interesting to see, you know, just what the lawmakers press him on, on those types of things, and what he has to say about, you know, people who are still working inside this administration and still dealing with this pandemic response.

KEILAR: All Right, Kaitlan, great reporting today. Thank you so much, Kaitlan Collins and Dr. Yasmin, for your perspective on this.

We want to take a closer look now at what is happening in some key states. And for that, let's go to CNN's Tom Foreman because he is tracking all of the numbers for us. Tell us what you're seeing, Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, let's look at the big picture first. If you look at the number of new cases in the country based on data from Johns Hopkins, you can say that it is showing the right kind of trend, fewer new cases coast to coast for the first time, really. We're just beginning to move that way. This is a new sort of movement right now.

If you go beyond that and you look at the number of deaths that are happening, remember, it wasn't that long ago, we were up over 2,000 a day, well over that. Now, we're looking at something below 1,500 in the latest number. Those are big overall good trends.

But now look at this map of the United States, because we don't live all over the country. We each live in our own community. And this really tells you something. Because if you look at the color coding here, it's as you'd expect, the darkest red states have it the worst. The ones that are the brightest green, I guess, or the darkest green, they have it the best.

So, still, some places are getting hit really hard now in terms of numbers going up. Arkansas down there in the south and the southeast. You can see there are a couple other hotspots there, North Carolina, Alabama not looking so good. Some of the others holding steady, some actually moving down.

Up in the middle of the country, top-middle, northern area, that's where you get into South Dakota having bad numbers right now, North Dakota and Minnesota next door also not looking terrifically great.

When you look at the worst ones, the dark red states, you have to look over there and you can see tiny Delaware is the third state really getting hammered right at the moment. And then those other red states, you go out west. The west actually looks pretty solid right now with the exception of Oregon having some troubles out there.

Now, does all this mean, even if you look at this map, and even if your state looks pretty good, does this mean that, somehow, things are actually better where you are? Well, they're relatively better compared to what we saw before.

This is why so many health experts are warning people to say, don't think that because you're moving the right direction or that you get some better news in your state, that that suddenly means a return to everything as normal. This is -- if you were in school, if you were failing a course and you did a bunch of extra credit work, you might get up to a C.

That doesn't mean that you're where you want to be. It means you still have a lot of work in front of you. So, these maps are encouraging because they would suggest that there is progress in the right direction. It doesn't mean that any state out there, any community, is yet at the point where they can throw up their hands and say, we've done our job, we're finished, it's all good.

There are likely going to be many weeks, many months ahead where it's going to take a lot of work to get everyone pointed the right direction. And simply put, Brianna, we are so mobile as a society. As we become more mobile again, as we open things up, the state lines will not make any difference. What will make a difference is our contact with other people and the ability of everyone to help solve this.

KEILAR: Yes. Thank you, Tom, for breaking down that map and giving us that important sort of qualifier there at the end.

I want to bring back Dr. Seema Yasmin to talk about this. I mean, to Tom's point, Dr. Yasmin, some states, you might be looking at your state and saying, this is good, we're doing well, we're coming down in cases. But the fact is there are a lot of states that are still at the point that is much higher than where they were prompting the shutdowns of their states in the first place. YASMIN: That's right, Brianna. And as an epidemiologist, I sometimes worry about the big-picture data, because when you lump the data from lots of states together, some individual states can skew the data and make the national picture actually look inaccurate.

So, let's take New York as an example. That state was really badly hit. It was the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic for a while. Now, as the numbers start to go down in New York, which is great news, but you add that New York data into the national data set, it makes it look like, nationally, the numbers are going down everywhere.

[13:10:09]

And actually, if you pull New York out of the national data set, the number's actually on the rise, nationally. And that's why it's really important to look at individual states to make sure we're not skewing the data by looking at all of the data together, all of the time.

And I'm here in California, where just this week, we were told that cases are increasing and that the projections for the number of expected deaths are higher this week than we thought about last week. So, at any given moment, things can change, especially as many states start to reopen.

And, of course, viruses don't stop at state lines, don't stop at borders, don't stop outside the White House. We are all susceptible, so we need to make sure that we're doing our part to help the numbers trend downwards.

KEILAR: And the World Health Organization, Dr. Yasmin, just said that the virus could become endemic. It may never go away. What does that look like moving forward in the years to come?

YASMIN: So, that could look like a scenario quite similar to the H1N1 influenza, which caused a pandemic in 2009. That was the first time we were seeing that particular strain of flu. It caused devastation in 2009 and '10, but now we see H1N1 circulate, just like any seasonal flu strain.

The same thing could happen with this coronavirus. It's completely new to us right now. Our immune systems have never been exposed, so it's causing this global pandemic. But it could be a scenario, as WHO says, where in subsequent years, this virus doesn't quite go away, but it also doesn't cause damage to this extent. That's one potential scenario.

KEILAR: All right. Dr. Yasmin, thank you so much, as always.

YASMIN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Parents and students right now, they are on edge as the Cal State University system becomes the first big university system in the country to cancel in-person classes this fall. I'll be speaking with the president of one of the universities in the Cal State system.

Plus, airlines having trouble enforcing their mask policies on board. And this is raising concerns about tensions between passengers.

Also, he's one of the most trusted voices of this pandemic, but right- wing hosts are now targeting Dr. Anthony Fauci for the guidance, the straightforward guidance that he is giving.

This is CNN's special live coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:15:00]

KEILAR: Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress yesterday that it was a bridge too far for schools to expect a vaccine or widely available treatment for fall re-openings. Most of the more than 770,000 students at California's two main university systems are not likely to return to campus after summer.

This is a decision not to reopen that goes against what we're seeing across much of the country, as states are continuing to reopen and many other schools insist that they will find a way to bring students back in the fall.

The Cal State University system and University of California campuses have been closed since March. Joining me now is Lynnette Zelezny. She's the President of California State University in Bakersfield.

The Cal State system announcing yesterday that it intended to continue remote learning in the fall. And I know that you're so glad this decision was made now. I know it was a tough one that was made. Tell us why you're happy to hear that this decision has been made so far out.

LYNNETTE ZELEZNY, PRESIDENT, CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, BAKERSFIELD: Well, good morning. It's a joy to be with you this morning. And we're very, very pleased that the announcement by Chancellor White for the largest system in the nation, the California State University system, which makes up 23 universities, is able to now again prioritize health and safety for our students, faculty and staff, but it also gives us time to prepare for high-quality education, because we are still open in the CSU. And in fact, our enrollments, CSUB, are high coming into the fall.

So, we're very eager to again work with our faculty and staff to make sure that we have very, very high-quality education for our students that will be with us in the fall.

KEILAR: What does that look like, high-quality education that you're providing at a distance?

ZELEZNY: So, we have really gone to virtual very brilliantly here at Cal State Bakersfield. Our faculty had advanced training so that they were able to deliver their course work in alternative formats, and it varies. It could be a Zoom call. It could be that we're engaging with students in other digital formats. But we'll be using this summer with our faculty and with our staff for that additional training. Also, we want to take the time to make sure our incoming students, our freshmen in particular, and our transfer students, have the technology and the access they need as we move into the fall. It really allows us to have maximum amount of time so that we have that high-quality choice for students coming to the CSU.

KEILAR: I think you're aware -- as a college administrator, you're aware how difficult it can be to have that shock of coming in as a freshman, or as you mentioned, a transfer student. Are you concerned that you are going to, say, lose more students who are freshmen or who are transfer students because they're coming in, and instead of being on campus or commuting to campus, they're going to be doing this remotely without the other aspects that college life offers?

ZELEZNY: Well, we're certainly very hopeful that we'll be back to that collegiate experience here as the pandemic comes forward with a vaccine and we are able to ensure the health and safety of all of our people here at the university.

[13:20:03]

But looking at my numbers just this morning, we are still overenrolled as of fall. This is not the time for students to pause. This is the time for students to continue with their education. And what we're finding here at CSU Bakersfield is our students have a lot of grit, they're hard workers and they know that this is a very good response given the situation that we are in.

And by and large, our students have really moved forward with a lot of resilience. And we're very, very proud of them. So, for those new students coming in, they will know that they'll have wrap-around services. They'll be delivered in a different way. But we have support services in the health center. We have those enrollment advisers and counselors that are available to them, and their advisers and faculty are there giving the support that they'll need.

So, this is a new day. But, again, students continue to invest, invest in yourself, invest in your education. Do not pause. This is the time to move forward and take advantage of the opportunity that you have in higher education.

KEILAR: All right, President Zelezny, thank you so much for joining us. We will be watching as we see how this new school year goes for you and for colleges around the country.

ZELEZNY: Thanks for your great support and thanks for reaching out.

KEILAR: We're going to answer some more of your questions tomorrow night about coronavirus. The former acting CDC Director, Richard Besser, former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and also Greta Thunberg join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta for a new CNN global town hall, Coronavirus, Facts and Fears, starting at 8:00 Eastern.

A man refusing to wear a mask breaking the arm of a target employee. Plus, airlines having trouble enforcing their mask policies. Hear what they're asking flight attendants to do. And the sobering, new warning from the Federal Reserve chief, including his revolution that 40 percent of households making less than $40,000 have lost their jobs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:25:00]

KEILAR: Some businesses requiring customers to wear masks are facing major resistance, and sometimes even violence. Let's take a look at this video of a fight breaking out at a Target in Van Nuys, California. Police say that two men were refusing to wear masks inside the store, so a Target employee started escorting them out.

And then suddenly, one of the customers turned and punched the employee. And then a fight erupted with the Target employee suffering a broken arm. L.A. Police say the two male suspects are charged now with felony battery.

Several major U.S. Airlines are acknowledging that those new mask policies may actually be difficult to enforce. There's a United Airlines memo emphasizing avoiding confrontation. It urges flight attendants to, quote, use their de-escalation skills or change non- compliant passengers' seating. And from American Airlines, a memo instructing flight attendants to encourage passengers to comply with the mask requirement, but, quote, do not escalate further.

The memo adds this, likewise, if a customer is frustrated by another customer's lack of face covering, please use situational awareness to de-escalate the situation.

Joining me now is Sara Nelson, the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants. Sara, thank you so much for joining us. I think this is something that we're all looking at, because, you know, we see some of these things playing out in stores. You do not want these playing out on airplanes.

And you're being told, flight attendants are being told, avoid confrontation, avoid de-escalation, or de-escalate the situations with passengers. What's your reaction to the guidance?

SARA NELSON, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: Well, let's be clear. We have called for a federal guidance from the government so that this is clear and consistent across the industry, and we set clear conditions for people who want to fly on airplanes right now.

The fact of the matter is that there is no way to appropriately socially distance on an airplane. And therefore, everyone needs to be wearing masks. And that's why the airlines put these policies in place.

They put these policies in place to protect the crew and passengers that we're carrying, and they also put them in place to help build confidence in the traveling public in coming back to air travel. So, these are really important for health and safety, and it's also important for our financial security. Telling flight attendants that we shouldn't enforce or escalate this further, this is what we're very used to. Look, we have to deal with what we have to. We can't call for help when we're up in the air and the airplane is closed. So we use our de-escalation skills all the time. But I will tell you that there is an expectation here that everyone wear a mask, because we're in this together up in the air, and there's no way, as I said, to properly socially distance.

And so, we do expect that every single person who's going to come on a plane will wear a mask, because the only way that we can have air travel be safe is if we all have the spirit that we're in this together.

KEILAR: So, you've asked the Trump administration, like you said, for some guidance, for the weight, really, of the Trump administration to come out and say, look, this is what you have to do. You wrote a letter to two Trump cabinet members, including Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary, asking for this guidance, making mask- wearing mandatory.

[13:30:09]