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White House Coronavirus Tests Faulty?; Will Schools Open in Fall?; Projected U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Rising. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 13, 2020 - 15:00   ET



MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It now has more than 240,000 cases, the highest total in the world after the United States.




And our special coverage will continue now with Kate Bolduan.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining us this hour.

He says he was pushed out for putting science above politics. He then filed a whistle-blower complaint to raise the alarm. And the president then called him a disgruntled employee trying to help the Democrats.

And that man is set to lay out his explosive allegations to Congress. And we now have his opening statement, in it, an unsettling warning from the government's former top vaccine expert, Dr. Rick Bright. That's who we're talking about, that the United States is headed for, in his words -- quote -- "the darkest winter in modern history," with unprecedented illness and fatalities, unless something changes now.

More on what Dr. Bright is expected to tell Congress tomorrow in just a moment.

But here is where the numbers stand right now. The national death toll in the U.S. now tops 83,000 people. Nearly 1.4 million Americans have been infected. But the picture on the ground looks very different depending on where you live right now.

You can see nine states there on your screen are trending in the wrong direction with increased cases this week, with the biggest jumps in South Dakota, Arkansas and Delaware. But 22 states are trending in the right direction, with decreased cases this week, so some good news for the moment.

But, again, this is only a snapshot in time, what you're seeing here. And that means even more Americans are asking key questions about everyday life, like, when will children be able to go back to school? There are big moves on that front today, too.

But let's start at the White House.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is there. She's joining me now.

Kaitlan, you got your hands on Dr. Bright's opening statement. What else is he going to say to Congress? And is the White House preparing?


We know he was going to say that it was retaliation, and he believes that's why he was pushed out of his job, Kate. We have seen that in that detailed complaint that he filed this week.

But what's new here is that he's really talking about what's to come and the warnings about whether or not the U.S. is prepared for that, something he makes pretty clear in this opening statement that he's prepared to deliver tomorrow to lawmakers that is not happening right now.

And he lays out a series of steps in this, talking about things he thinks that need to happen, the ramping up of those supplies. He says that those supplies need to be coordinated and equally distributed among states, instead of the way that it's being done now, a patchwork, as some of the governors have described it.

And he also says, Kate, that there needs to be a national testing strategy. But he's basically warning about what's going to happen if this advice that he's offered and that other experts have offered doesn't happen.

And he says -- quote -- Our window of opportunity is closing. He says, "Without clear planning and implementation of steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history."

So he's got a pretty dark warning there at the end, Kate, about what this could look like. And, of course, he is also, we should note, trying to be reinstated to his job. He's not just coming out and offering this critique or this analysis of what's been going on. He wants to be put back in that position.

Now, we have heard that's unlikely. It's really unclear how that's going to be resolved. And we know that we have heard from some HHS officials who have pushed back on Bright, saying that he had other issues when he was in that job during his tenure.

Of course, Bright seemed to push back on that, Kate, by giving us his reviews and showing that one of the top HHS officials that he often feuded with actually gave him really good reviews during his time as the head of this vaccine agency.

So, tomorrow is going to be really interesting, because it's going to be a look from someone inside the administration who apparently, based on his statement, does not have an issue offering this unfiltered view of exactly what he believes what went wrong in the early days of this outbreak.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Great work, Kaitlan. Thank you.

So, another focus for the White House today, for sure, is that key model that the White House has leaned on so heavily throughout this crisis, it just shifted yet again, now projecting 147,000 people will die from the virus by early August. That's up nearly 10,000 from the last projection.

But looking at the numbers from the last seven days tells a different story. When you look -- these are from John Hopkins University. And this is the last seven days again. Nationally, the rates of new cases on average per day are going down. And, nationally, the rates of new deaths on average per day are going down too.

And if you look at the average of new cases among states compared to a week ago, more states are on the way down than up. That is looking back.

Now let's get to this new projection, which is looking forward.

Joining me right now is Ali Mokdad. He is a professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which develops this model.

Great to see you. Thank you so much, Professor, for being here.


So, your report now projects 147,000 deaths by August. What is driving these new projections?

ALI MOKDAD, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION: Simply, it's increased mobility and premature relaxation of social distancing in some states.

So, states are at different phases right now when it comes to how much the virus is spreading, and some of them are relaxing measures prematurely. And we're seeing an increase of mobility at the same time when the virus is still circulating, which means more cases, unfortunately, and more deaths.

BOLDUAN: And when you look at the model, and you break -- and it's broken down by states, some states are looking at higher death projections right now.

And then I want to look at the lower in a second, but if you look at New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, they're looking at higher death projections than we had seen in your last report.

People might be surprised by North Carolina, as it really hasn't been seen as a hot spot, if you will. What is going on in North Carolina in particular?

MOKDAD: So, North Carolina, what you're seeing right now is the effect of increased detection of cases going on in North Carolina, and the relaxation of some of the social distancing. So, they are relaxing the social distancing at a time where their

cases' numbers are going up. So that would lead to expectation, of course, that they will have more cases and, unfortunately, more deaths in North Carolina.


And on the other hand, then you have states like Georgia and Indiana looking at a decrease in projected deaths. What's going on there?

MOKDAD: So, Georgia, a very good example. The comparison between Georgia and North Carolina is very important. So, what you look at Georgia right now, we have seen a steady number of cases coming on a regular basis.

Remember, they opened up about two weeks ago. So we will see the impact of that increase in mobility right now in the coming days, because the incubation period is 14 days.

But the fact they have declined their mobility for a longer time, we're seeing a leveling of their cases, and we're hoping that will be maintained, in one condition, if the people in Georgia, when they go out right now, and they're increasing their mobility, they're doing it safely by wearing a mask and by staying away from each other and keeping the safe distance.

BOLDUAN: So, in general, as we have followed every update from your studies and your reports, it seems that the big change is that, did you early on as a group expect the country, the nation states and localities to stay home longer, until there was more of a decrease or a leveling off in deaths before they went out?

Is that what we're seeing here is just, earlier on, you thought people were going to abide by kind of the guidelines put forth by the CDC in a more strict way than what we're really seeing happening.

MOKDAD: Exactly. That's a very good point, Kate.

Early on, when we projected mortality, we assumed that everybody will keep the social distancing measures until the end of May. And we assumed early on the states who have not implemented them will do so in one week. And, as you have seen, our numbers were coming down.

Then, when states started relaxing these measures prematurely, and mobility started increasing -- and, by the way, mobility started increasing even before the relaxation, because people started anticipating a change in the state policy, and they started moving around.

So, we have seen right now an increase in cases in some places. And we are projecting, unfortunately, for the country more mortality by August 4.

BOLDUAN: These projections, these death projections, they're only through August. Why is that, Professor?

MOKDAD: Because, right now, we don't have the information past August 4 what will happen.

We will keep doing this, and we will update our models on the long run, because, as everybody else, we are expecting, unfortunately, a second wave of the virus. And we are so concerned at IHME that the second wave of the virus will come at the same time with the flu season.

And you know from past that the flu season overwhelmed our hospitals sometimes. And now we will have a COVID-19 and flu seasons. And we have to be very careful right now. That's why we're concerned. We need to bring the level of circulation in every state very low, so we don't have high level of virus circulating when it comes back to the second wave.

BOLDUAN: And I think this is something that is quite important, that, in your assumptions and what you're working with, you're not assuming that, come August, that's going to be the peak of deaths, and it's all going to be gone.

That's just the material that you have to work with right now. So people need to understand, 147,000, that is not of all of 2020 or the lifespan of this virus at all.

MOKDAD: Indeed. This is not the -- this is -- we're not out of danger.

We're estimating 147,000 by August 4. This virus will be with us for a long time, until we have a vaccine or a super drug that will take care of it.

BOLDUAN: Professor, thank you for your work. Really appreciate it.

MOKDAD: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for coming on. Thanks.

MOKDAD: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: We also have a new warning just in from the World Health Organization.


A top official kind of getting to what the professor and I were just talking about, the top official now saying that the coronavirus may never go away.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, she's here. She's watching this and tracking this.

Elizabeth, translate this. Parse this for me. What is the World Health Organization really saying here?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this is so sobering, but it really makes sense when you think about it. Viruses typically don't just disappear, especially one like this one

that has become so widespread. When you think about it, measles didn't go away, as we learned last year. It's still here. It's just that most of us have been vaccinated against it.

So, this virus, until we get a vaccine, they're saying, appears to be -- it's going to hang around for a while. Let's take a listen to what this WHO official had to say.


DR. MICHAEL J. RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away.

HIV has not gone away. And I'm not comparing the two diseases, but I think it is important that we're realistic. And I don't think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear.


COHEN: You know, I think that word realistic, Kate, is so important.

As we decide as individuals and as a society how much we are going to go out and mix with other people, let's be realistic. This virus is not going to disappear. We are going to be dealing with the situation until we get a vaccine -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, people, everybody needs to keep that in mind as we kind of plan for life, to be quite honest.

You also have some new reporting, Elizabeth, on U.S. vaccine makers considering a move that is considered really quite unprecedented.

What are you hearing?

COHEN: Well, so this is an unprecedented situation, where we're trying to get not just a vaccine, but several vaccines all at once very quickly.

And I'm told that vaccine makers are -- and the government are considering doing something that really hasn't been done before in this country, which is, let's all get together and do one big trial. So vaccine companies that traditionally would compete, would get together, do one big trial. They would have one control group, because part of this trial is that you inoculate people, you inject people with nothing, with a placebo to see how that compares to people who get the vaccine.

If you all do it together, you only have to have one of those groups, and that saves time and saves money. So, this is being considered. It just tells you sort of how different this situation is from other situations.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Thanks, Elizabeth. Coming up for us: It's one of the largest university systems in the

country, and it just canceled in-person classes for hundreds of thousands of students this fall. Why'd they make this call now? And will others follow suit?

And, later, the biggest monthly jump in grocery store prices in almost 50 years -- what you need to know.



BOLDUAN: It's a question on every parent and student's mind: Will students be going back to class in the fall? Will college campuses be bringing students back in the fall?

The vast majority of schools from K-12 to higher education are still trying to figure out a way to make it work. The nation's largest four- year public university system just made the call. And the answer is no.

The California State University system announcing it will keep the majority of their classes off-campus and online. That's almost half-a- million students across 23 campuses.

This is the first major university system to make such a decision. Will more join?

Joining me right now is president of Cal State University, Fullerton, Fram Virjee.

Mr. Virjee, thank you for being here.


BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Cal State Fullerton actually made this call even earlier, back in April. Now the entire Cal State system is with you. What was the determining factor? What did this come down to?

VIRJEE: Well, it comes down to health and safety of our faculty and our students and our staff.

Our two North Stars, if you will, are keeping our communities safe and providing inclusive, excellent education for our students. And we're looking for the balance to be able to continue to do both.

The safest thing to do would be just shut everything down. But then students wouldn't -- wouldn't progress to graduation, wouldn't get their education. So we're looking for that balance.

BOLDUAN: Was it one thing in particular? Was it, you just couldn't figure out a way to keep students socially distanced and in a classroom or in a residence hall? What was it that couldn't be overcome just because of the way that --

what's required and the way colleges are set up?

VIRJEE: Well, you have to imagine that Cal State Fullerton is the largest of the CSUs, and we have 40,000 students and about 5,000 faculty on campus. So we have a lot of people on campus on -- and we're in an urban setting. So we have limited space.

We want to make sure that we can practice social distancing, physical distancing, for our students, that they have the proper protective equipment to protect them and their health and safety.

The density, if we were just to bring everybody back, would be unsafe, from our perspective. And we -- that is really important, to be sure that we limit the access or the exposure to -- potentially to the virus.

BOLDUAN: Why make the call in April and May? Do you not think they're -- I don't know -- that there's a way that progress could be made in three months that would make you feel any differently?

VIRJEE: Well, I will answer that two ways.

First of all, it's important to know that the university will be open. We will be serving our students. So we didn't make a call to close the university. We made a call to provide predominantly our courses virtually.


And the reason to make that call is ,if you look into the future, if you listen to the epidemiologists and the scientists that are the experts in this area, and as your last guest just mentioned, we're expecting a small wave in August and then probably a much larger wave in October, November.

And it is -- we just pivoted from face-to-face instruction to virtual instruction literally on the dime. We want to make sure that we can be careful to protect our students. And it's much easier to move from virtual to physical face-to-face instruction, if it becomes safe, and to phase that in, than it is start face-to-face, and have to move to virtual quickly.

That is a potential for disaster.

BOLDUAN: No, that's a great point.

What do you need to see happen, what needs to happen for you, for Cal State Fullerton or the system, the entire system, to feel comfortable for more students to be back for in-person classrooms? Is it anything short of a vaccine?

VIRJEE: Well, it won't -- it won't surprise you that my -- what I need to see is reflective of what the CDC needs to see, our state Department of Health, our health experts, which is a continuing reduction in the number of coronavirus cases that are reported in California and especially in Southern California.

Those numbers are still increasing, not decreasing. A decrease in the number of deaths as well, hopefully none. And those numbers are still increasing in Southern California. We would also have to have a much more vigorous ability to test and trace.

And when you have 40,000 students on campus, and a very porous campus, where there are literally thousands of entry points onto campus, it's very hard to test and trace.

So, short of a vaccine, we are going to be living with this virus for a long time to come. As our chancellor said, you can't change the biology. So, what we are trying to do is work within that biology to provide the best protection for our students.

And as things become better, as the number of cases drop, as we increase our expertise and being able to assure physical distancing, and have the appropriate protective equipment, and sanitation and sanitizing, more and more students and more and more faculty will be brought back onto campus.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I think everyone respects someone who's following the science, President Virjee, that is for sure, and letting science lead the way.

In general, do you think -- what do you say to students who are concerned that they're not going to be getting as good of an education, that the college experience is not the same if they can't be in classes together?

VIRJEE: Well, the first thing I would say to students is the same thing I would say to my faculty, staff and my community, which is, I understand not only that virtual learning may not at first seem the equivalent to face-to-face learning, but, more importantly, that you are under stress in this pandemic right now.

And I appreciate and feel for and empathize with the stress that you are under. I want to assure you that, as I said, we pivoted to virtual instruction in a matter of days. So, we went from all face-to-face instruction to all virtual instruction in a matter of days.

We have been working hard to make that virtual instruction vibrant and engaging for our students and to measure the pedagogical outcomes to make sure that we do provide what is appropriate.

But we will continue to provide that equipment the best we can. I think I might have lost you.

BOLDUAN: No, I think we still have you.

But, President Virjee, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time. And thanks for what you're doing. We will check back in.

We also have this just into CNN, a new study raising questions about a coronavirus test used by the White House and touted by the White House. CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is back with us.

Elizabeth, what is this?

COHEN: So, even before this study, Kate, there were other studies that called into question the accuracy of this Abbott test.

This is the one that the White House is using on its staffers, sometimes daily, to make sure that they don't infect each other or the president. And what they found was that, when they compared it to another test, that the Abbott test missed about half of the positive specimens.

About half of the positive specimens, they said were negative. And according to this study, it looks like they know they're positive because the other tests said they were positive and the people had symptoms of COVID-19.

So, one doctor I talked to, an infectious disease specialist, he said maybe it's time for them to look again and see if there's another test they could use. The advantage of the Abbott test is that it's very fast. It's about 13 minutes. It's portable, it's easy to carry around, it's very convenient.


But, as doctors told me, you sacrifice accuracy when you get portability and quickness.

BOLDUAN: Yes, if you can't trust the test results, I mean, where does that leave you? It leaves you at square one.

COHEN: Right.

BOLDUAN: I mean, thanks, Elizabeth. I really appreciate it.

Still ahead for us: The CDC is set to issue a new warning now about the coronavirus and children -- what doctors and parents now need to keep an eye out for.