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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Warns about Reopening Economy Too Soon; Sen. Mitch McConnell Draws Controversy for Claiming Obama Administration Did Not Prepare Trump Administration for Possible Pandemics; Some Media Analysts Criticize Dr. Anthony Fauci; Soon: House to Hold First Coronavirus Briefing on Reopening. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 13, 2020 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: An ominous warning this hour, a major world leader warning about the dangers of reopening too fast. I want you to listen to what the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said just moments ago.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We are watching intently what is happening in other countries. And it is very notable that in some other countries where relaxations have been introduced, there is signs of the arc going up again. And that's a very clear warning to us not to proceed too fast or too reckless.


BERMAN: There has been a little spike in new cases in countries including South Korea, Germany, even Wuhan in China, Singapore as well.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And John, the British prime minister's warning echoes what we heard yesterday from some of the top public health officials in the U.S. Overnight, Dr. Anthony Fauci, though, one of the most trusted voices on the coronavirus pandemic, came under new attack from some of the president's allies who seem to need a fall guy.

As of this morning, more than 82,000 Americans have been killed by coronavirus, and that key University of Washington model that the White House uses now forecasts nearly 60,000 more Americans will die by July 4th.

BERMAN: I want to bring in CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Ron Klain. He's the former White House Ebola Response coordinator who is supporting Joe Biden for president.

Sanjay, I want to start with you. It was interesting to hear from Boris Johnson specifically say to the people of the United Kingdom, of course the United Kingdom is beginning the stages of opening in its own way, it's whole program, saying we've got to be careful, because I'm looking around and seeing what is happening in South Korea, in Germany, and Singapore. What lesson can you learn with what has happened in these countries?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that the lesson has been pretty much the same. It is just that people, for whatever reason, they get new evidence of the same lesson and all of a sudden, it strikes them. The virus is still out there. It is a contagious virus. And you saw, like in Singapore, which was being praised, I think understandably for their response, once they started to see a resurgence and they became a country that had some of most cases in that part of the world, you were reminded, once again, that as you start to ease some of these stay-at-home orders, you are going to see these resurgences.

I think the difference, even taking place like South Korea, the difference is right now is that they have the capacity to quickly then test and isolate. So you're going to see a linear sort of increase in cases. The question is, is it going to turn into exponential growth? And that's really hinging on the ability to test and then isolate people.

It is interesting, with Boris Johnson in particular, he did have a significant change in his approach and his thinking on this after he himself became sick. And I think that's also something you see. As people actually know somebody who has become sick or they become sick themselves, their awareness of this virus and the impact it can have changes. I think that's why a lot of healthcare workers are really, really, shouting this from the rooftops. They see these patients in hospitals, they see how quickly patients can deteriorate. So I think you're going to see more of that, more of this sort of reckoning as people actually understand what this virus can actually do, especially in these places where there is a resurgence.

CAMEROTA: I think that's a great point, Sanjay. And, Ron, I think that also explains some of our geographical divide philosophically on this. If you live in a hotspot like New York, you see this differently than if you live in, perhaps, say Montana or someplace that hasn't been hit as hard. And what Sanjay points up with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he had been dismissive, Boris Johnson had, of things like not shaking hands and wearing a mask, and then he himself was in such a precarious health situation with coronavirus. Of course, it doesn't always have that effect. Yesterday with Rand Paul, who also had gotten sick, I don't know if it changed his perspective on it, but I just thought that it is interesting to hear how far Boris Johnson has come now.

RON KLAIN, COORDINATED WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE TO EBOLA UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes, Alisyn. I think we have seen this in this country too. We see this in polling about the coronavirus. If you know someone, if you yourself, of course, if a loved one or a friend has gotten a serious case of the virus, then you're much more likely to support social distancing measures, you're much more likely to support closures, stay-at-home orders, you have a different view of this than if you don't. Now, what is happening in our country right now is that we're starting

to see, as cases come down, perhaps in places like New York, they're going up, not down, but up in other parts of the country. Parts of the country that really haven't seen a lot of cases are starting to see more cases. So we're going to see if attitudes there change. Some of those places stayed open, some of those places are now reopening. And as we see cases climb, more people will now know someone who, sadly, has had the virus, maybe got sick from it, and maybe those attitudes will change as well.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Ron, while I have you, I just want to get your response to something that Senator Mitch McConnell said on television on Monday night.


He made a claim about your time in the Obama White House and how, wow, if only you guys had sounded the alarm about a pandemic, if only you had somehow been able to prepare the Trump administration. So listen to this moment.


MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We want to be early, ready for the next one, because clearly the Obama administration did not lead to this administration any kind of game plan for something like this.


CAMEROTA: Ron, as you point out, and as we have a graphic up, you put it in black and white, you have a game plan, you actually had the page number where you attempted to sound the alarm and tell them what a global pandemic would look like. So tell us what you did in fact do.

KLAIN: So we did a number of things. The thing you're referring to specifically is we wrote something called a pandemic playbook. And you know that's what it is, because on the front it says "playbook" in big red letters. And it had a detailed plan for what you should do with an emerging infectious disease threat. The Trump administration apparently didn't follow that here.

We also set up a Pandemic Preparedness Office inside the White House, which the Trump administration took apart in 2018. We set up 45 monitoring stations around the world to find outbreaks, report them. The Trump administration cut 75 percent of them and didn't fill the position in China that would have found this disease earlier.

What's ironic about what Senator McConnell said is, I have to give him credit, actually, that during the Ebola response, he worked with us very closely to fund a lot of these things. I think he deserves some credit, mostly with President Obama, but he helped us pay for a lot of these investments. And so in trying to defend President Trump, he's not only negating the Obama record, he's actually negating his own record in helping us get ready for this. This falls squarely on President Trump for undoing the work we had done in the Obama years to get America ready for something like this.

BERMAN: Sanjay, if I can, I want you to explain a couple of developments overnight that I think may sound discordant to the American people. Number one, we are doing more testing and getting fewer positive cases. The number of positive cases, people coming down with coronavirus, is going down. So people see that. And then they see the news coming out of California, that the Cal State University system announced now in May that it will not be holding for the most part in-person classes in September. So how do you explain those two things?

GUPTA: Well, I think that they're concerned, obviously, over there in trying to project what is the environment going to look like come fall. And are we in a position to be able to give people the confidence to return to a place like a university campus, which can be a concern for potentially becoming a cluster. I would draw a distinction between colleges, universities, by the way, and lower grade schools. I think that those -- there might be a situation where grade schools in certain parts of the country are going to have a hard time reopening as well. But that's the big concern.

I think, yes, we are doing more testing. I think we get really hung up on we need to be doing this number of testing. I'm not sure that's going to be the way we look at this going forward. It may be more of a situation of we know it when we see it. But if you're at a college campus, and you do have enough testing to immediately be able to find somebody who has the infection and isolate them, you're going to be in much better position to be able to start to think about opening things up. But right now, I think what you're hearing in California, and I think other university systems around the country may follow suit, is that we don't have that in place right now. We don't have the confidence to be able to say that even if we started doing things in implementing physical distancing measures, all the things that we should, can do, that we guarantee or at least have some degree of confidence that we can find people quick enough to isolate them and prevent this from going into exponential growth.

Again, grade schools may be different. We'll have to wait and see. I've been doing a lot of reporting on that, talking to superintendents in large school systems around the country. We'll see. But I think the college campuses, if we had the testing, which we say every day now for several months, we'd be in a different position right now.

CAMEROTA: We'll see if Cal State is also an outlier or a bellwether of what's about to come with other college campuses.

Ron Klain, Sanjay Gupta, thank you both very much.

As experts, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, warn of more deaths if the country reopens too fast, President Trump is trying to distract from what the scientists are trying to tell the American people. CNN's John Harwood is live at the White House with more. So, John, look, the president's Twitter feed is a window into his mind and a window into what he wants his followers to be thinking about.

[08:10:00] And I'll tell you, it's hard to follow the bouncing ball, because he has in the past two days been tweeting about such a laundry list of grievances, he has been talking a lot about his perceived enemies, everybody from TV morning show hosts to a comedian to former Justice Department officials. Have you been able to make sense of what is happening there?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, it is not possible to make sense of what the president has done. He's behaved erratically for a long time. He's not -- he does not have focus. He does not have a long attention span. What the president does moment to moment is what he thinks is good for him, for his psyche, for his ego. And so he'll lash out at people who criticize him. He will hear advisers say, oh, the public health aspects are incredibly dire here. You need to do X. And he says, OK, I'll do X. Then economic advisers, business people, friends that he talks to late at night say, oh, man, the economy is really hurting, look at the unemployment numbers. Your re-election is in trouble, you need to do Y. Then he says, OK, I'll do Y. He's not governed by fixed principles, and we see that under the pressure of this pandemic, which would be intense for any president, he wavers back and forth in his behavior, in his rhetoric, in his actions, from one moment to the next.

CAMEROTA: He also seems to be trying to drum up a new -- I don't know if it is a conspiracy theory or at least accusation against President Obama, but, here again, it is hard to follow the logic because even President Trump seems unable to explain it. When pressed by reporters about what are you trying to say about President Obama, he's been vague. He hasn't been able to explain what he's so exorcised about.

HARWOOD: Look, Alisyn, it is complete nonsense. There is no such thing as Obama-gate. The stuff about Joe Scarborough, our colleague on MSNBC, is complete nonsense. The police have explained what happened with the unfortunate case of the young woman who once worked for him. This is all stuff that pops into his head that he uses to try to deflect blame, to direct opprobrium at other people. He's seeing that the American people have a negative judgment of his performance in this pandemic. You see that a large majority of the American people don't believe what he says. That has got to be very unsettling for somebody like President Trump who requires constant affirmation. That's why you see aides around him constantly praising him lavishly. Look at what Mike Pence says almost every time he speaks. It is very difficult for President Trump to take what he's experiencing right now and the way he reacts on Twitter, the way he reacts at those press conference, is the expression of his discomfort, his unease. And we're going to see some more of that.

CAMEROTA: John, it was very interesting to hear what happened to Dr. Fauci after he was part of this three-hour hearing. Then last night, you know, on some cable shows, President Trump's allies went after Dr. Fauci and vilified him after Dr. Fauci had made a point during the hearing of saying that he and President Trump have a fine relationship, there has never been anything confrontational. Somehow, they've decided that Dr. Fauci should be the fall guy. Do you think that's being countenanced somehow by the White House, or are they just freelancing, or what is that about? HARWOOD: Well, I think there is a tremendous interaction, synergy,

between the FOX News and the conservative communications apparatus and the president. You have this entire network that important parts of its day, not all of its day, but important parts of its day is profiting by appealing to the ignorance of people. Dr. Fauci is the target for that. No, he's not an elected official, but he is, as Liz Cheney said in a tweet, our leading expert on the subjects. We need experts like this at times like this.

So FOX News will appeal to the disquiet, the unease, the unhappiness of people over being locked down, but it's not really linked to a rational plan for how to solve the virus and therefore solve the economy. And it has a big effect on President Trump who is responsive to people who he thinks are on his side, who are praising him. And so we're receiving from the American people, most of them are very apprehensive about opening. They're following their own instincts and what they see in terms of the coverage of this pandemic. But President Trump is more likely to be responsive to that message on FOX than maybe some people -- some of his constituents are.

CAMEROTA: John Harwood, thank you very much for all of the political analysis for us.


So what should our leaders do if new clusters of cases pop up as the country reopens?

I'll talk to one of the experts the government relies on about that next. I'll talk to one of the experts the government relies on about that, next.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: My concern that if some areas, cities, states, what have you, jump over those various checkpoints, and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes this might turn into outbreaks.


CAMEROTA: That is the nation's top infectious disease expert warning of dire consequences if the country reopens too soon.

The House of Representatives will hold its first coronavirus briefing today, where they will hear from public health experts about how to attempt to safely reopen the country.

Joining us is one of those experts who will be testifying today, Dr. Ashish Jha. He is the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Dr. Jha, good to see you as always. What's your message to lawmakers today?

DR. ASHISH K. JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: So, good morning. And my message to lawmakers is that we can open safely, and protect public health and get our economy going, but we have to let science and evidence drive that decision-making. And we are not doing that, not nearly as much as we need to.


And I am worried that until we do, it's going to be difficult for us to move our country forward.

CAMEROTA: I mean, so what does that look like? I don't think you're going to find a lawmaker who says, I don't want evidence and science to drive this. At least not publicly. So what would we do differently?

JHA: Yes, so we could begin with the White House's own guidelines on opening up America again, which, you know, while I have some modest disagreements with, is largely right and it's largely scientifically driven.

And so, the key principles are 14 days of declining cases, adequate testing and tracing capacity in place. Most states don't meet that. A few do. They can probably open up safely.

But most states don't. And until we have those in place, we should not be opening up unless we're willing to take a risk of having large outbreaks.

CAMEROTA: Well, what I think you might hear today is that being closed is having its own devastating effects and it being closed is hurting people, even hurting their health, being, you know, unemployed, being broke, obviously, the mental health repercussions.

And so, what's your answer to that?

JHA: I would say absolutely. The being closed has been devastating. More than 20 million Americans have lost their jobs, just has been an awful two months.

We know what it takes to open up safely. Our -- the bottom line is our political leaders have not done enough to get us ready to open up safely. And, again, a large chunk of that is about testing and tracing.

On the issue of declining cases, we're close. It's -- I don't think we have to be staying -- we don't have to stay closed for another month or two. In many, many places, we're a couple of weeks away.

But opening up prematurely just sets us up for big outbreaks, which will force us to shut down again. So, if you care about not being shut down, we should let science drive how we open up safely.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Fauci was saying that there is this sort of paradoxical effect, which is that opening up makes you feel good, and it may be more dangerous, you know, a few weeks from now.

But I want to play for you something that Dr. Redfield, the head of the CDC, the director of the CDC, said yesterday because I thought he was very candid, explaining how they thought they had their arms around contact tracing and they thought they could do it, and then it just sort of got away from them.

So, let me play this moment.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: When the outbreak started, we had an aggressive contact tracing program. But, unfortunately, as cases rose, it went beyond the capacity and went to mitigation. So we lost the containment edge.


CAMEROTA: It went beyond their capacity to do contact tracing. Has anything changed since then? Do we now have the capacity to do contact tracing?

JHA: Yes, so, remember, in order to do contact tracing, you first need to begin with having enough testing, right? You don't -- you want to trace the contact of people who tested positive. So, one of the reasons we lost our ability, we didn't have the testing capacity.

But beyond testing capacity, you do need an army of contact tracers. And a lot of states are really moving forward on this. But I think the CDC has not done enough. They had a contact tracing force for a much smaller outbreak than what we have, and I wish we had spent the last two months building up that force, so we can really be ready as the country opened up.

CAMEROTA: Do you see what is happening in Singapore, in South Korea, in Wuhan, as cautionary tales because these were lauded as places that had gotten their arms around it, and that had basically shut down coronavirus to the point where the cases were negligible. And now they have reopened, some pockets, and they're beginning to see clusters and spikes.

JHA: Yes, so if you look at -- excuse me, if you look at Singapore and South Korea as two places where we can rely on the data, they did a great job. And they have been mostly able to stay open. They had nightclubs open in South Korea.

But it's a cautionary tale of we will not be done with this virus until we have an effective vaccine that's widely available. And so, even under the best of circumstances, we're going to have many outbreaks.

But you know what South Korea did with this latest outbreak, is they tested 25,000 or so folks, they identified everybody who got infected and they're going to be open again in a few weeks, and they didn't have to shut the whole country down in the way that we have to. So, we are going to have to continue it deal with this virus. But if we are on top of it, we can get -- we can deal with outbreaks and open up quickly again.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you very much for your time.

JHA: Thanks so much.

CAMEROTA: The largest four-year college system in America has just canceled most of its in-person classes through fall semester. Two Cal State college presidents join us to talk about this, next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Parents around the country this morning wondering will their kids go back to school. California State University, the universities I should say, the nation's largest four- year public university system, announced its plans to cancel nearly all in person classes for the fall semester due to coronavirus. The decision will affect nearly half a million students.

Joining me now, Eduardo Ochoa, he's the president of Cal State University in Monterey Bay. And Soraya Coley, she's the president of Cal Poly Pomona.

President Coley, let me start with you. Why now, why make this decision now? It's May.

SORAYA COLEY, PRESIDENT, CAL POLY POMONA: Well, we had a couple of months involved in this remote instruction. And from all indications, health experts and scientists that there is expectation of a resurgence in the fall and in the winter, and so, we want to be able to provide our students and their families with sufficient planning time, but we also want to use this as an opportunity to review what we've done in the last several months, and to use this summer to be very intentional about providing the kind of quality education that the CSU system is known for.