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Interview with L.A. County Public Health Director; Interview with Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett; China to Test All Wuhan Residents Within 10 Days. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 15, 2020 - 10:30   ET


BARBARA FERRER, DIRECTOR, L.A. COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: -- data so that we don't jeopardize all of the progress that we've made. You know, we have slowed the spread here in L.A. County, and we want to make sure we can continue to do that.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: You've heard the argument -- I'm sure you do, and the president -- and you're hearing this more and more, and the president has friendly media that, OK, yes, deaths and cases will rise as you reopen. But shutting down the economy causes its own deaths from suicides, from drug abuse, et cetera, opioid overdoses, et cetera.

You're a public health official with enormous experience in those health challenges as well. What's your response to that argument?

FERRER: I think there's a lot of merit to saying, you know, this is -- we have to look at the totality of the pandemic's effects. Right now, we haven't seen an increase here in L.A. County, in either suicides or overdoses. That could lag behind and we could start seeing that data.

I want to thank all the rest of the county family that's stepping up to provide services. We do know for sure that people are very stressed, they're depressed and they're anxious: All, you know, normal reactions to the pandemic.

But we do have to be attentive to people's needs, their economic needs, their social needs, and try to really balance that, which is why we are on a recovery journey, we do need to reopen. But we have to do it carefully.

I don't think it's an either-or, you know? I would never buy that argument. I think you have to be measured, you have to provide social supports to people so that, you know, the safety net is strong in our county and people can get the things that they need to survive. But we can't have an explosion of cases, so much so that our health care system becomes overwhelmed. That, too, not only will lead to an increase in COVID-19 deaths, but also to deaths from all other -- from all of the other diseases because the health care --



FERRER: -- overwhelmed.

SCIUTTO: Final question, if I can. To folks listening -- I'm sure in L.A. County, but elsewhere around the country -- they want to know when things will get back to normal, or as close to normal as possible. Do they have to wait, in your view, until there's a reliable and widely available vaccine? Or can you get close to that normalcy before then?

FERRER: No, I think there's three strategies that will help us get closer to normalcy. One -- and you know, really prominent one -- is obviously having a good and effective vaccine. The other two are -- is having therapeutic medications. So if you had really good medications that could help reduce the severity of illness and reduce the number of deaths, that would give us a lot of reassurances that we don't have right now, that we would prevent unnecessary deaths.

And I think the last is what's going to happen with testing. You know, if we got to the point where there was a rapid test, people could use it every day, it was inexpensive and you could figure out on a daily basis, you know, whether you're positive or you're not, that too would give us another tool that would give us some security in reopening more quickly.

In the absence of any of those or all three of those, we're going to need to go slowly on the recovery.

SCIUTTO: Barbara Ferrer, good luck to you. We know you've got a lot of big decisions to make in the coming weeks and months.

FERRER: Thank you so much, Jim. And have a good day.

SCIUTTO: You, too.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: All right, so Ford is going to reopen its U.S. plants on Monday. It's a huge move for the 71,000 workers who will be back on the assembly line, but how will they stay safe? I'll ask Ford president and CEO Jim Hackett, next.


HARLOW: A really big moment coming on Monday, as Ford reopens its plants across the country after largely being closed for nearly two months. That means 71,000 U.S. workers will be back on the job.


HARLOW (voice-over): Some assembly lines, though, have been open as the auto giant shifted essentially overnight to making PPE and ventilators. They'll keep producing that to keep Americans safe, but a key to successfully reopening Monday? Keeping all their workers safe.

Ford president and CEO Jim Hackett is with us exclusively this morning. Jim, it is so good to have you. I would imagine that those assembly lines are going to look remarkably different on Monday. What is it going to be like?

JIM HACKETT, PRESIDENT AND CEO, FORD MOTOR COMPANY: Poppy, it's good to see you and hear you again. We work really hard at imagining a world with COVID-19 in an assembly plant. So they have lots of consideration, of course, for social distancing. We used to have two people, for example, that would be inside a vehicle as it's going down the assembly line, and we stopped that.

In addition to masks and screening and in fact, new kids of testing that we're just starting to initiate that will help us screen folks, you know, for problems.

HARLOW: Let's show this video because you guys are piloting watches by Samsung that actually beep, right? Or go off if people get within six feet of one another. Is that right?

HACKETT: Yes. This is an early wearable -- as they're called -- that will give proximity warning if you get too close to someone else who's also emitting this signal. These are early tests. It's our belief that these kinds of capabilities are going to end up in all kinds of devices around your neck, your cell phone, your wrists. And so we're prototyping them early because we think it's going to be part of the everyday experience.


HARLOW: How do you make sure, Jim -- I would think something like this keeps you up at night -- I mean, how do you make sure that it's not too much of a risk, that you don't end up in a scenario like we saw in those meat processing plants across the country, where there's just a huge outbreak?

HACKETT: I agree with you, Poppy. I called it two truths that compete, you know, that the safety and health of our workers is paramount, their families that they go back to. And at the same time, if the economy's turned off too long, we just are hearing now of unemployment numbers in excess of 36 million people out of work in the United States, and we've got to get the country turned back on.

So it's -- I think it's business and government working really well together. And that's why it is a step function of turn-on here. Not everyone is (ph) back at the same density they were before. And as we get control of this, to assure the safety, we're also in the midst of making that economy come back.

HARLOW: So as I understand it, the plants you've already opened in China and Europe in the last few weeks, you have not had a single COVID outbreak with these steps, that's good news. But I also know, Jim, you've said you basically had to write a 70-page handbook on how to reopen. Have you had any guidance from the White House or on the president's task force or any federal level, of how to do this thing?

HACKETT: I think people that have followed my career know I'm inspired by a concept called design thinking. That's basically a methodology for unpacking really complex problems -- you and I talked about this in the summer -- and the idea is that we designed the experience from the worker back. And so in that regard, I wanted us to own that. It gave us some great insight into all the kinds of issues.

We actually did role-plays with people in terms of the kinds of questions they have, as they come back to work. A day in the life of someone who's leaving their kids without any kind of supervision because there's no school, and they have to show up at work. We worked that whole thing, end to end, so that we could find what we needed to do to make this really work for everyone. And that's what made it 70 pages.

HARLOW: It's notable though, that you guys are really leading this yourselves, and trying to figure this out yourselves.

OK. So a thousand employees have volunteered to be working this whole time at four of your plants, and they've been rolling out and making PPE, protective shields -- we have some video of it -- they've been making ventilators as well that are about to roll out to a lot of different hospitals. Is this going to continue as you start making cars and trucks again?

HACKETT: Absolutely. In fact, Poppy, this week, you know, the Thunderbirds flew over the factory, we had people, you know, that were so touched by that gesture. And these are folks that very early -- you know, when it wasn't clear how virulent the virus was, but it was, you know, spreading very fast in southeast Michigan -- volunteered to come in and work. No one got ill from that.

And there's a demand in the millions still, even though we're producing unbelievable quantities of this stuff. And I've made a commitment that as we get the shelves stocked in the United States, we'll make this stuff for people all over the world if they need it.

HARLOW: How do you plan, Jim, for the future of one of America's most iconic companies, like five years from now, when you don't even know what the future's going to look like? I mean, I heard you talking about making like seats in interiors of cars where the virus can't stick to the material. Is that the kind of future we're looking at?

HACKETT: You know, when you and I talked this summer, again, we said that vehicles are so intelligent that in their navigation through traffic, they can reduce CO2 kind of challenges or get us closer to the Paris Accord, they can help in accident management, all kinds of advantages in the next few years, coming from the intelligence of the vehicle.

This kind of intelligence, though, inside the vehicle, is something that because of the virus, you know, I know we're going to need to do.

HARLOW: Yes --

HACKETT: And (inaudible) these are called antimicrobial surfaces, and they will help resist material -- a virus that's spreading in materials.

HARLOW: And, Jim, from a business case, I mean, I think everyone's rooting for all of America's companies right now. But how -- I mean, what are you guys going to do, long-term here? Demand is down, obviously, now. Rental car companies aren't buying things, government agencies aren't buying many of your cars. And people aren't commuting to and from work.

So how long do you think this downturn in auto sales is going to work and how do you prepare for a future where, frankly, people just may not need as many cars?

HACKETT: Well, I want to give you the optimism first, which is, Ford makes more vehicles in America than any other car manufacturer, so getting everyone back to work is really great for our country.


The second thing is that we've had some amazing resilience in the face of this. I mean, because of online or what -- we have remote (ph) delivery of vehicles, we're finding that demand has continued through the virus. China also showed us that as people came back, they wanted vehicles.

But I want to share one other insight. I think the vehicle's going to be as important in the future, now, because you want to control your own environment, it's yours. And so I'm actually bullish about people wanting their own vehicles in the future.


Finally here -- we have 20 seconds left -- you have not laid off any workers or furloughed anyone yet. It has sounded like that is a line for you, a last resort. Is there a breaking point for this economy, Jim, where that changes and you're just going to be forced to lay off workers?

HACKETT: You know, I'm really proud, Poppy, we went to all the employees and said, look, we're going to manage this like dancing on the head of a pin. I'm trying to keep everyone here, it doesn't make any sense to put them on the social (ph) systems or put them out of work. And it's going to cost us all money.

But if we get the economy turned back on, we think we can follow through now and make this work, and it's worked so far. So turning on May 18th, really important.

HARLOW: Good luck, and thanks to all of your workers who volunteered over the last two months, to be there and make that PPE. And good luck on Monday to everyone. Jim Hackett, thank you.

HACKETT: Thank you, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Great to have Ford on. An interesting point there, about controlling your own environment.

Well, China is trying to test nearly a million people a day, in a little over a week in Wuhan. Why officials believe this will help get people back to work, back to school and what about remaining questions about China's numbers on all this? Can we trust them?


HARLOW: So this is just remarkable, right, Jim? In Wuhan, China, they are trying to test all 11 million of their residents in just 10 days.

SCIUTTO: Residents, lining up for testing this morning as a cluster of new cases was traced back to that city, where this all started. Wuhan, of course, the original epicenter of the outbreak. CNN's Ivan Watson joins us now from Hong Kong .

Now, Ivan, given questions about China's numbers here -- you know, questions as to whether they tell the full story, the numbers, do they manufacture them. But based on what we know, what's happening there and to what extent?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, the Chinese are concerned about a new outbreak. They say that as of Friday, there were 11 new asymptomatic cases detected in Wuhan. Wuhan had about a month with no cases, according to the Chinese authorities.

And whether or not you trust the numbers, do look at the reaction, where the city officials say they want to test all 11 million people for the disease. And that reflects real concern that this could spiral out of control a second time.

And the first time around, back in the winter, Wuhan suffered more than 3,800 deaths, according to the official figures, tens of thousands of cases. These kind of dramatic gestures, trying to test everybody, suggest they're concerned right now -- Jim, Poppy.

HARLOW: Before you go, 153 new cases in South Korea, and we've been talking about this over the week, Ivan. But apparently, these are tied largely to a nightclub in Seoul, is that right?

WATSON: That's right, a number of nightclubs in Seoul at the beginning of May. And believe it or not, to one man in his 20s who's believed to have visited a couple of these nightclubs. And it's led to a big outbreak for Korea, which has really handled the pandemic pretty well thus far. They have only suffered -- believe it or not -- 260 fatalities as a result of coronavirus thus far.

But they're not taking any chances with this. They are testing tens of thousands of people, they conducting contact tracing of thousands of people.

And if you want to see the trickle-down, for instance, one person who was in one of these nightclubs, they found out later that he was a tutor in another city. And then a number of students of his then were tested positive. Some of them went to church, now they have to track down the entire -- the people who went to that church service.

It's a big job. And even countries that have done well, are treating these smaller regional outbreaks very, very seriously. They do not want to go backwards.

HARLOW: Yes, of course. Amazing they've kept the number down that much. Ivan, thanks for the reporting. [10:53:58]

Quick break, we'll be right back.



ALICIA KEYS, SINGER: -- good job, you're doing a good job, a good job --

I know you have amazing people in your community who are your hometown heroes that you're just thinking about right now, and really wanting to tell them, you're doing a good job, a good job --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My Auntie Katie (ph) is my hero because she's a nurse and she keeps all the sick people healthy.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you all good job to the doctors and nurses on the frontlines who have been working tirelessly through all of this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you to all the million unknown faces out there who are risking their lives.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you to our health care professionals, the first responders, the grocery store workers --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE My mom Julia (ph) is a health care worker, and I would just like to thank her for all the great work that she's doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the frontline workers who (inaudible), I mean for their sacrifice.

VAN JONES, CNN ANCHOR: Good job to my twin sister Angela, she lives in Tennessee, working with young people in the middle of this whole pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks to all those helping us living through the coronavirus.

KEYS: You're doing a good job, don't get too down. The world needs you now --


HARLOW: We needed that, something uplifting. And we want to know more about what inspires you, so do what they did, record a short video. Thank someone helping during the crisis, post it on Instagram with the hashtag #GoodJobChallenge.


Thanks to all of you for spending your morning with us, we'll see you on Monday. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: Got to love that song. I'm Jim Sciutto --