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Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down Stay-At-Home Order; Ousted Vaccine Chief Says, U.S Faces Darkest Winter In Modern History; Big Cities Face Uncertain Future After Reopening. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 14, 2020 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: You can see crowds enjoying their new found freedom, but certainly not socially distancing, definitely not wearing masks.


The governor likened the situation to the wild west, saying that the state now has no plan and no protections for its people.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: And, John, in just hours, a potentially explosive Congressional hearing. The ousted head of the department overseeing vaccine research is expected to testify about missed signals and lost time in confronting the pandemic in the U.S. He will issue an ominous warning that, quote, the darkest winter in modern history lies ahead if the federal coronavirus response is not accelerated immediately.

But let's begin with CNN's Omar Jimenez with the breaking news out of Wisconsin. Omar?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, Wisconsin, as a state, no longer under this safer-at-home order after the state supreme court overturned Governor Tony Evers' extension and the Health Department's extension through May 26th.

Now, the ruling reads in part that an agency cannot confer on itself the power to dictate the lives of law-abiding individuals, as comprehensively as the order does, without reaching beyond the executive branch's authority. And that's what it came down to in this as far as why this lawsuit was brought forth in the first place.

Republican lawmakers felt that the order itself overstepped the governor's authority and that the extension would cause too many residents to lose their jobs and too many companies to be adversely affected. So that's why it was filed in the first place. And now that we are at this step, Democratic Governor Tony Evers says, this is a mistake.


GOV. TONY EVERS (D-WI): Today, absolutely, Wisconsin Republican legislators and those four supreme court justices decided that facts don't matter, the statutes don't matter. And, frankly, it puts us our state into chaos. There's no regulations out there right now, period.

Now, we have no plan and we have no protections for the people of Wisconsin. This will cause the -- us to have spikes across the state. There's no question about it.


JIMENEZ: Now, despite warnings from health officials, both in the state and countrywide, bars did reopen in those just within a few hours of this decision and there were people willing to go.

Now, as far as moving forward, what the rules will be, we are starting to see local jurisdictions step in place. Like in Milwaukee, they said they are keeping their safer-at-home order in place. And then places like the State Capital of Madison and in Green Bay, they put in place new orders for safer-at-home just last night. But as far as what's next in the long-term, the governor and the legislature will have to work together and given their working relationship over the course of the pandemic, that may prove to be difficult.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting. We'll keep an eye on that. Thank you very much, Omar.

So, in three hours, all eyes will be on Capitol Hill when the former vaccine official who has filed a whistleblower complaint will testify, claiming that he was removed from his position for political reasons.

Joining us now is Debra Katz. She is the attorney for Dr. Rick Bright. Ms. Katz, great to see you. We have gotten a copy of some of Dr. Bright's opening remarks. So I just want to read one passage that has already gotten a lot of attention. He says, our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities. Without clear planning and implementation of the steps I and other experts outlined, 2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history.

What does he foresee? What does he mean by that?

DEBRA KATZ, ATTORNEY FOR DR. RICK BRIGHT: He means just that. There will be widespread illness and suffering and fatalities if this country doesn't develop a national strategy that addresses this pandemic.

CAMEROTA: He goes on to say, as I reflect on the past few months of the outbreak, it is painfully clear that we were not prepared -- we were not as prepared as we should have been. We missed early warning signs and we forgot pages from our pandemic playbook. Will he explain that? I mean, what exactly -- which pages does he think were torn out of that playbook exactly?

KATZ: Well, the issues that he raised, that instead of acting with urgency, as soon as it became clear that the strategy of trying to contain the virus at our border was not going to work and the experts certainly told HHS leadership that it was not going to work and, in fact, by January, the virus is already here, he immediately said, we need to obtain specimens so we can start working to develop medicine and diagnostics and vaccines and his early warning signs were just ignored.

He also immediately identified a problem with a lack of masks, a lack of syringes, a lack of swabs, the very basic tools needed to address a pandemic of the type that we are living with now.


CAMEROTA: But does he think we have learned nothing? I mean, does he think that there's been no progress made? There is more testing now. We do have more access to masks now. The idea that 2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history, don't we know more now about washing our hands and staying social distant?

KATZ: Sure. But we've lost months when we should have been doing social distancing, when we should have been able to supply our first responders, our medical personnel with masks and prevent the spread. We did not act appropriately and many people got sick that did not get to sick.

We still do not have adequate supplies. When he talked about the pandemic playbook, there was an assessment done that we need 3.4 billion masks to deal with the pandemic of the type we were dealing with. Our nation stockpile only had 100 million masks.

And in January, Dr. Bright started raising that as an issue, saying we have to up our production, we have to ensure that our masks are not sent overseas, and his warnings were ignored.

CAMEROTA: It sounds like Dr. Bright himself can expect a lot of pushback from some lawmakers today. Lately, there's been some reports on his record and his tenure there at BARDA. There have been former colleagues who have given some, I guess, quotes to reporters about Dr. Bright's mistreatment of staff and that he, they say, failed to consult his higher-ups. He made unilateral decisions. So, basically, is he -- what will he say to that? I mean, they're saying that his removal wasn't political. It was a long time in coming. What will his response be?

KATZ: His response will be that he received a glowing performance appraisal. None of these issues were noted. And, in fact, he was highly well-regarded and, unfortunately, this is what happens when people come forward and disclose serious issues of fraud, waste and abuse.

Whistleblowers face this type of smear campaign. He will say and the nation will have an opportunity to judge his credibility (INAUDIBLE) that he was a very conscientious person, his staff actually loved him. And the fact that this administration now is trying to politicize this by going after our nation's leading scientist in pandemics is disgraceful.

And it's exactly why people stay silent and keep their heads down. He's a courageous person because he came forward then and he's coming to testify before Congress today knowing that he's going to be subject to this kind of attack.

CAMEROTA: One of his claims is that he was trying to urge caution on the use of hydroxychloroquine because it was an unproven and possibly dangerous treatment for coronavirus. That appears to have been borne out by the latest research.

But the Health and Human Services spokesperson has a different take on this. She says that he was not trying to pump the brakes, which she says is, Health and Human Services Spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley pushed back on Bright's claim of retaliation. She said he had requested the emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to secure doses of chloroquine for the Strategic National Stockpile. Is that true that he requested it?

KATZ: She's mixing things up. Initially, he did an assessment to see any kind of drug that might be efficacious. And he responsibly said, let's get our hands around as much of these drugs as possible so we can conduct appropriate clinical trials. That did not happen. He felt strongly that clinical trials needed to be done to ensure that this drug was safe and efficacious. And that's what he was trying to get his hands-on. That's appropriate.

What the administration did was not appropriate. They said, let's flood New York, let's flood New Jersey with these drugs even though they were not scientifically tested to have any kind of efficacy. And we know there was significant risk to taking those drugs. And he absolutely pumped the brakes on flooding New York and New Jersey with these drugs.

CAMEROTA: The last time you were on New Day and you spoke to John, you would say that this had taken a toll physically on Dr. Bright. So how is he feeling and is he prepared for whatever is going to happen this morning?

KATZ: He will testify today as a result of what has happened. He was suffering from hypertension. And he is doing some better. But this is a lot of pressure. And the kind of ad hominem attacks that he's now being subjected to from this administration are unfair and they're hurtful, and they're harmful to the public as well.

CAMEROTA: Debra Katz, we appreciate you giving us a preview of what to expect. Obviously, we'll be watching very closely when Dr. Bright testifies. Thank you very much for being here.

KATZ: Thank you, Alisyn.


BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.


Obviously, we will see wait and see what Dr. Bright says. It will be interesting because he was there in the early stages of the response in the pandemic. But, Sanjay, another bit of breaking news overnight, and that's Wisconsin, where the state supreme court struck down the stay-at-home orders that were in place by the governor and it resulted in this, scenes at bars across the state where, clearly, they're not social distancing, clearly, they're not wearing masks, look, you can't make a toast like that social distanced, to be clear, Sanjay.

So when you see these pictures, what are your concerns?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, this is obviously concerning. I mean, I think anybody who has been following the story along now for the last few months recognizes that a contagious virus is still out there. It's in the environment. And people clustered together like that, the chances of that virus continuing to spread and developing these clusters is really concerning. I mean, that is some of what we saw a few months ago. I think people's memories are short.

In some ways, I'll tell you, this doesn't surprise me. You get the sense that there's been a real impatience among people for some time and understandably. People have been going stir crazy being inside their homes and maybe they're not directly affected by this in some way. They don't know somebody who has been affected by this. I know people who have been affected by this. Healthcare workers who have seen the patients, they're the ones who are sort of shaking their heads in disbelief because they see these patients all the time, but many people haven't.

So it's shocking, it's jarring, but it's not surprising.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, the Wisconsin Supreme Court was divided in their decision 4-3. Basically, the conservatives feeling one way, the liberals on the court feeling a different way. And, I mean, they philosophically disagree with the -- it sounds like, like the decision to stay-at-home, these stay-at-home orders. Here is what Justice Daniel Kelly said about it.

This comprehensive claim to control virtually every aspect of a person's life is something we normally associate with a prison, not a free society governed by the rule of law. What are your thoughts on the decision?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: The Republican Party has turned Wisconsin into a failed state. I mean, this is such an outrageous lawsuit, such an outrageous decision, including by Daniel Kelly, whom you quoted, who has already been voted out of office but he just hasn't been thrown out yet. His term isn't quite over.

The idea that -- this lawsuit, sure, as Sanjay said, it's understandable that people are frustrated. Everybody is frustrated. But the idea that a state cannot try to protect the public health of its citizens is contrary to Wisconsin law as well as common sense and this hostility in the Republican Party to the Democratic governor there has just jeopardized thousands of lives in Wisconsin.

BERMAN: Sanjay, you talked about the impatience. I mean, part of that might be that people are looking at the numbers. In Wisconsin, the number of new cases is going down. You can see that chart. Now, it's just beginning to go down and, in fact, across the nation. We are testing more, a little bit more but the number of new cases going down, and the positive test rate, by the way, also going down substantially.

So how do you explain to people that, yes, things look good right now, but we still need to be careful?

GUPTA: I think the criteria, we're pretty clear on this. There's two major things. There were several criteria, but there were two major things. One is that you had to have a downward trend for 14 days. I get it. People say, hey, I've had a downward trend for a week, we're good to go. 14 days exists for a reason. That means you get to a rate of new infections and there will be new infections no matter what when things reopen. That's true. But you get it down to a low enough level where then if you have testing in place, which is another second very important criteria, that you can quickly identify people with new infections, isolate them, trace their contacts. Everyone in the country now knows these terms. The states don't meet that criteria yet.

I mean, the concern is that you have a few day downward trend. I mean, Wisconsin there, May 1st was, I think, one of their largest days of new cases and they still are bouncing around over the last few days. Even though, overall, you may have a few days in a row where it goes down and then all of a sudden you have a spike again. Those are concerning because -- does that mean you're start to go get new spikes or new clusters of cases? That's why you want 14 days in a row of a downward trend and then the testing in place.

It's not clear that there's enough testing in place that will be required to then find people with new infections and isolate them. If you don't do that, you're going to just keep having these spikes again. And what you're trying to prevent is this going into exponential growth.


If that happens, I mean, that's going to be a huge problem.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, I'm interested in the philosophy of all of this that you fastened on with Justice Kelly. Because, obviously, it is human nature to want to go out and socialize, it is human nature to want freewill and to not want to be told that if you don't know anybody who is sick, why are you having to stay home for months and months. And then the other side is that your actions end up having repercussions on an emergency room doctor and on your neighbor. You know, you may not know. You may be asymptomatic. But you may accidentally infect someone else.

And so, you know, I just don't know if -- if you're waking up in Wisconsin this morning, I just don't know what message you're supposed to go with.

TOOBIN: Well, I think the problem is that this -- the virus has been politicized. And you have Democrats believing in science and believing in the need to listen to people like Sanjay and Dr. Bright, who is going to testify, and you have Republicans who are looking at this, it seems to me, through an ideological lens that is about hostility to government, disbelief in science.

And the government has just got to come down on one side or the other, that either you are with science or you're not. And if people have to stay home and if there's economic suffering, as there clearly is, that's a price we're going to have to pay so thousands more people don't die.

I mean, no one wants this. But there is either response to the real world or there is fantasy about what you want the world to be. And it seems to me between those two choices, you got to go with the former.

BERMAN: Sanjay, one place we know that continues to be a problem around the country, meat packing plants, food processing plants. We're getting new information about the outbreaks there. What have you learned?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, so, first of all, these meat packing plants have been real drivers of these new rates of infection. What we've known is that they've led to a recent eightfold growth in certain places in rural America with these coronavirus, new coronavirus infections.

What we're now finding, and you can take a look at the numbers there, these various plants have had some significant outbreaks. What we're finding, I think, is very interesting. This is a new report that came out from the environmental working group just overnight that basically says, now, if you start looking in a 15-mile sort of radius around that area, and 15 miles was chosen because that's sort of the average length of a one-way commute, you find out that in those counties around those meat packing districts, meat packing plants, that you have twice as many cases of new coronavirus infections as in counties that are not 15 miles within a meat packing plant.

So you're starting to get a sense now of the impact of these clusters not just on the plant itself, the workers in the plant, but on the counties surrounding it. And, again, that's the real concern. If you start to get clusters and then people are moving around, whether it be a meat packing plant or a bar in Wisconsin, then you start to see the broader impact on the community around them. That's what the scientists are talking about in terms of these spikes and trying to contain them.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay -- quickly, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: If I can add, that's the problem here, is that the libertarians who are drinking in that bar in Wisconsin are not just saying, oh, well I'll take my chances about getting the virus, they're putting all sorts of people at risk. And those people have no choice. They are at risk because those people are in the bar.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, Sanjay, thank you both very much.

All right, more universities are announcing plans to keep students off campus this fall. So what about the rest of the schools? What about the schools in New York City? Well, the New York mayor is going to join us next to tell us.



CAMEROTA: Cities across the United States are obviously facing a lot of uncertainty as they weigh how and when to reopen. What would that mean for America's largest city?

Joining us now is the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. Mr. Mayor, great to see you this morning.


CAMEROTA: If you could give us just a timeline of what you're thinking, of what's going on behind the scenes. I mean, let's just start with something that is on everyone's minds, particularly parents, of course, schools. Will schools, the public schools in New York City be reopened in September?

DE BLASIO: So, Alisyn, first and most importantly, New Yorkers have done an amazing job with social distancing, with shelter-in-place. And that's why you see the health situation here improving so intensely. We've got to keep to it though. We've got to be really, really disciplined.

And the schools' decision is several months away. We're almost four months until the beginning of school. And we're going to make that decision based on health and safety. My goal, my plan A is open schools as normal. That would be the best thing for our kids and families, but only if we can do it safely.

If we don't feel we can, then we've got a lot of plan Bs and Cs that we can look at as alternatives to make sure our kids are educated. But we've got a while before that decision.

CAMEROTA: How about restaurants? I don't know, Mr. Mayor, if you've seen the video from Wisconsin, but last night, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court decided that the stay-at-home order that the governor had issued was over effective immediately. They ruled against the governor, and within 45 minutes, this video was taken. People in Wisconsin were apparently very thirsty because they raced out and you see them reveling in bars.

Obviously, New Yorkers want to be able to do the same thing. What's your timeline?

DE BLASIO: Look, what the supreme court did in Wisconsin is just dangerous. A governor, mayor, we're elected by the people to make decisions about health and safety. That's what we do. And for a court to interfere with that is very problematic. The idea of people rushing to gather together in a moment where the coronavirus is still alive and well, that worries me deeply.


So, Alisyn, we're going to be slow and steady here in New York City. We're going to be very careful. It's about health and safety first. It's about avoiding that boomerang where the disease reasserts, which will be worst of all worlds if we are not careful and that disease makes a comeback here or anywhere else. The restart, the recovery gets delayed much, much longer.

So, I would say, when you think about restaurants in New York City, we're talking to restaurant owners, bar owners about the right way to do this in stages, do this carefully. There's interesting talk about focusing on outdoor rather than indoor, but it has to be with social distancing and it has to be with a safety first mentality.

CAMEROTA: And so what will be the first things in New York to open?

DE BLASIO: So we're looking forward, hopefully, as early as next month in June if the health indicators continue to move in the right direction. We're going to talk about the things that we can start up again with a lot of social distancing, with a lot of precautions in place where people do not have to gather in tight space in large numbers.

The last things we're going to be able to do are where there's large crowds. That's months away. But there are some things that we hope to do and we'll delineate them soon. Some of the retail sector, for example, where people can go and do what they do without creating a health danger.

CAMEROTA: You say that New York needs federal aid, that New York is financially in trouble. How much exactly do you want?

DE BLASIO: So, I'll tell you immediately. We found in just the first weeks of this crisis that we were losing billions of dollars. The money we use, Alisyn, to pay for basic services, the money we use to pay police officers, firefighters, teachers, everyone, healthcare workers who have been the heroes, over $7 billion lost already. You've seen the economic forecast. It's going to get a lot worse, this year and next year.

So right now, if we don't get a massive infusion of federal support, we cannot go through this recovery. We cannot get our city back on our feet because we won't be able to pay for the basics. What the House of Representatives has done, Alisyn, is exactly the right thing, to really make sure it is a stimulus, not here is a small amount so you can keep limping along. But, actually, the ability to get back on your feet and revive your economy, which we're going to need all the stimulus we can get if the American economy is going to come back.

So the proposal in the House of Representatives would allow New York City, New York State, cities and states, everywhere, blue states, red states, everyone to get back on their feet. That's the direction we need to take.

CAMEROTA: And is there a specific dollar sign you can give us of how much you think you need? DE BLASIO: What the House of Representatives delineated over two years, $17 billion, that's a very realistic figure. I know I've lost 7 billion already. The next year is going to be similar. So I guarantee you, and I hate saying, the lost revenue alone over the next few years will likely be $17 billion.

This is just getting us back to the point where we can run our government, provide the basic services, keep the people who have been the heroes in this crisis. I mean, think about it. The very same people we have lauded, the healthcare workers, the first responders, the essential workers, their jobs only survive if we get the federal support to stay whole. Otherwise, we're hemorrhaging so much money, we're not going to be able to do what people expect in terms of basic services.

How do you have an economy if you can't provide the basics to people? You can't have a recovery without the stimulus.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about the death toll. Yesterday, you announced that 20,000 New Yorkers have died. Our reporting is that President Trump is privately questioning the death toll numbers. He, in private, is suggesting that he thinks they've been inflated. Your response?

DE BLASIO: Alisyn, just think for a moment. When you ask the question, I mean, a pain came over me. 20,000 of our fellow New Yorkers, our fellow Americans, just one city, 20,000 lives lost to a disease we never heard of seven months ago. So just the sheer pain of this has to be -- remember the human reality, how many families are grieving right now, we have to be honest about it, Alisyn.

Look, what I'd say to the president is, when we said -- New York City really led the way in terms of transparency. We know that doctors, medical personnel noted on death certificates that even though they couldn't confirm it was the coronavirus, they thought it was the probable cause or a key contributor in the deaths of now over 5,000 New Yorkers. We wanted to be honest about that.

Why do we want to try and minimize this horrible crisis rather than acknowledging its human toll and then learning what we can learn to protect people in the future and find ways to make people whole and move us forward now? It begins -- everything begins in life with acknowledging the truth of the problem.

So we're simply trying to say what really has happened here. And I think this country needs to do that too.


CAMEROTA: Mayor Bill de Blasio, thank you very much for your time. Great to see you.

DE BLASIO: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Republicans in the Senate releasing a list of officials in the Obama administration who they say. END