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Researchers Are Using Mice to Develop Antibody Treatment; CEO Predicts 25 Percent of All Restaurants Will Permanently Close; Mayor Says Hundreds of Contract Tracers Will Start in Days; Nicaraguans Accuse Government of Hiding Real Death Toll. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 15, 2020 - 15:30   ET




ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Another company, Regeneron is trying a similar with mice who are engineered to have portions of the human immune system. The scientists call the magic mice, they extract and clone the best antibodies.

DR. GEORGE YANCOPOULOS, REGENERON: We literally genetically humanized mice. We put in the genes for the human immune system into mice so that these mice have pretty much exactly a human immune system.

COHEN: Both companies plan to start human clinical trials early this summer.

(on camera): If all goes well, when might this drug be on the market?

YANCOPOULOS: So, if all goes well, we expect that we'll have the drug on the market by early next year.

COHEN (voice-over): Of course, there's no telling if this will work. But hopefully these part human animals will play a role in saving lives during the pandemic.


COHEN: An interesting note, all of the cows that you saw in our story, they're all female. The company makes it that way because female cows produce more antibodies -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN: Fascinating, Elizabeth, thanks, so much.

Still ahead for us, record retail sales losses happened last month. The food and hospitality industry one of the hardest hit. Is this what's behind my next guest's prediction that one in four restaurants may not reopen at all.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BOLDUAN: It is the largest monthly drop in retail sales on record. That is the depressing news coming today on the impact of the coronavirus crisis. Retail sales plunging more than 16 percent last month. The pain felt across all sectors including restaurants which reported a nearly 30 percent drop in sales from the month before. With that in mind, our next guest predicts a quarter of all restaurants in the United States won't come back. Out of business because of the virus.

Joining me now is Steve Hafner. He's the CEO of OpenTable and the travel booking site Kayak. Steve it's great to have you here. Talk me through this prediction. I saw it and it got my attention and a lot of people's attention. What are you seeing that has you there right now?

STEVE HAFNER, CEO, OPENTABLE/KAYAK: Sure, Kate, thanks for having me on. You know, even in normal circumstances, operating a restaurant is a really tough business. They have very thin margins and in a post- COVID-19 world it's even worse, right.

Because you have all these incremental costs associated with keeping your restaurant clean, your staff safe and customers safe. But also, the impact on your capacity from social distancing. You know, you're not going to be able to operate restaurants with the same table footprint as before. You're not going to have -- be able to have crowds sitting around at bar. So, it makes it very tough restaurant business even tougher.

BOLDUAN: It really does. It really does. And on every level. And I don't think people really appreciate it as much as they should. What does that mean for your company? I mean I've seen reporting that you've had to make the tough call and furlough or layoff hundreds of workers. What adjustments do you see having to make?

HAFNER: Well I think everyone in the hospitality business both on the travel and restaurant side is making tough staffing decisions. You know, business is down dramatically. But I'm very optimistic that, you know, as business returns to normal or the new normal, whatever that might be, that we'll emerge even stronger.

So, at OpenTable for the restaurant community we're going everything we can to help. So, a lot of restaurants and bars never took reservations before. Our software allows them to do that, allows them to manage capacity. And allows them to communicate to consumers all the additional safety measures they're taking. So, I think the industry --

BOLDUAN: Go ahead, I'm so sorry.

HAFNER: No, it's quite all right. I think the industry will emerge stronger from this but, you know, restaurants, 60 percent of new locations used to close in the first year but they would re-emerge under a different brand or concept. The ones that we're talking about going out of business I don't think they're going to return.

BOLDUAN: You are such in a unique position of being connected to so many restaurants across the country. For the restaurants that do survive, when do you envision this starting to get better?

HAFNER: Well, it's already starting to get better in the states that are loosening restrictions. So, demand was down almost 100 percent across most of the U.S. and we've got about 60,000 restaurants on OpenTable so we can get good insight into the industry. But as states are reopening, we're seeing consumer demand bounce back pretty quickly.

It's funny I was looking at some data this morning, Texas is open, Arkansas is not. People are actually making hotel bookings on Kayak and going to Dallas to have dinner. So, I think I the business will come back but for the restaurants that reopen, business is going to be very different.

You know, they're going to look to try to take contact points out so that, you know, you won't go to a host stand to check in, you may not even be walked to a table by a host. You may order from your app, and you may pay from your apps so you don't have to touch a dirty menu or a dirty credit card folio. So, I think all of the changes will help the industry emerge.

BOLDUAN: And how much do you think how and when a state makes these moves to open impacts the likelihood of survival for the restaurants? Essentially how much of a factor is the state's reopening regulations you think on their survival?

HAFNER: Well, there's no playbook for any of this stuff. So I think the most important variable is that it's safe. That people don't get sick. So, I think there's a great diversity of opinion about what states should do and I think we're approaching this on a local level.


And we're starting to get some signal from the states that have been open like Florida and Georgia that with proper social distancing measures and face masks, et cetera, that we can safely reopen a lot of these businesses. And I hope as more states reopen, we get even more data that supports that analysis. Because the consumer demand to go out to dine and drink is definitely there. People want to get out of their house.

BOLDUAN: Yes. That's never going to go away. Maybe I'm speaking selfishly in that regard. Does the industry do you think need more help from the federal government?

HAFNER: Well, help is always welcome. You know I think the government has actually done a good job in terms of the payroll protection program and small business loans. I would like to see the government be a little bit more open minded about business models.

So opening hours for the restaurants for example extending them, letting them open earlier and stay open later. Letting them try new models like selling their food right at the front of the restaurant. And finally a lighter touch on payroll taxes and permit fees would also go a long way too. BOLDUAN: As you've talked about, you're also the CEO of the very

popular travel booking site Kayak which is a -- and the travel industry being another industry that's been so hard hit in this crisis. The CEO of Boeing said something this week that got a lot of attention. Predicting by September one major U.S. airline is likely to go out of business. Some of the airlines not so happy that he said that. But do you see that happening?

HAFNER: I don't, because I think the big airlines are sufficiently capitalized and are well run and the government is stepping in to help them. But, you know, I'm doing something similar to what the Boeing CEO did I'm predicting the demise of 25 percent demise of my customers. So that usually isn't a good move politically.

BOLDUAN: Well, truth is truth, we'll just see if it bears out and then we'll see what a prediction that ends up being. Steve, thank you so much for coming in. Really appreciate it. Thanks for highlighting the needs of the hospitality industry.

HAFNER: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, as states reopen, many are hiring and training thousands of people to work as what we've come to know as contact tracers. Why New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the effort is the greatest challenge in the history of his city.



BOLDUAN: You've heard this phrase a lot in the last couple of few months, contact tracing. That's because it is essential experts believe to contain any spread of the virus and in one of the hardest hit areas New York City the effort to train people to do this critical work is ramping up in a big way. Listen.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK CITY: Contact tracing effort again is bigger more complex and much greater operational challenge than anything we've seen in the history of contact tracing in this city. We now have hundreds of people who have been trained and they're going to start their work in the coming days.

We'll hit the thousand mark of people ready to go by certainly the end of this month. By the beginning of June we're going to get up to about 2,500 and then build as needed to there. Potentially as high as 5 or 10,000.


BOLDUAN: Really amazing. Joining me right now is a scientist leading the effort to train all of these contact tracers, Emily Gurley of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Those numbers are really amazing, Emily. Just so everyone understands, I hear experts say it is critical. Why is this such a critical part of fighting this virus?

EMILY GURLEY, ASSOCIATE SCIENTIST, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: So, I would agree that it is the best tool we have. And here's why. It helps people know that they're infectious or could be infectious and helps them change their behavior, so they don't pass the infection on to anybody else. So, it's our best way of knowing ourselves that we've been exposed and making sure we do everything we can, so we don't infect people that we love and care about.

BOLDUAN: And as I've been thinking about contact tracing, as we're all learning what this is, as states open up, there are going to be cases that pop up. Right. We know that is inevitable. And the bottom line then is, we all in some regard need to become a contact tracer. So then what do we all need to know?

GURLEY: Well, there are a few basics. I think everyone would be better off if they knew, and that's just things about the disease itself, what to look out for? How it's transmitted? How does contact tracing work? I think there's some misinformation. But you need to know sort of just theoretically how it works, and then practically, what are the steps. So, if you're called and someone tells you that you've been exposed, you know, what's going to happen next to try to demystify some of this.

And then we need to know and really understand that this is the best way for us to get back to some kind of new normal. But it doesn't really work unless we all buy in. So, we have an online course. It's available in Coursera.

And that's what's being used as part of a hiring process in New York state, maybe some other health departments as well will use it. And it's available to everyone. So, it's not meant for people with any special background. Anyone who is interested in contact tracing and learning more can go and take the course for themselves.

BOLDUAN: That's so interesting. I've heard you say that a contact tracer needs to be a therapist of sorts. What do you mean by that?


GURLEY: So, contact tracers are talking to people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or they're talking to people who have been exposed to people with COVID-19 and may have been infected. So, I think it's fair to say they'll be sometimes delivering bad news to people. And often talking to people who are experiencing a very stressful, traumatic time.

Contact tracers can't solve all those things. But they do need to be empathic and understanding and really engage with people to help try to solve as many of the problems as they can. Like, how are you going to isolate yourselves even within your home so that you reduce the risk to the people you live with? So that does take some special skills. BOLDUAN: Yes, and it really gets down to, from the broad to the very

narrow, and how to help people understand. I find it really fascinating.

GURLEY: Oh, thanks.

BOLDUAN: Emily, thank you so much for what you do. It is a huge job when I hear those numbers from de Blasio. But thanks very much for you and for Johns Hopkins for what you all are doing.

GURLEY: It's really gratifying to have something to offer in these times. So, thanks for having us on, and check out the course.

BOLDUAN: I'm actually very interested to do that. Thank you.

GURLEY: OK. Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us, families who lost loved ones to coronavirus. They say the police are now forcing them to bury their relatives in the middle of the night. The report coming out of Nicaragua, that's next.

But also, during this pandemic, people of all ages are finding really amazing ways to give back and to make a difference. Here 's Anderson Cooper with a look at two inspiring kids who mobilized to support their vulnerable neighbors.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: In the wake of COVID-19, these boys realized that senior citizens in their communities could use a helping hand. This 12-year-old expanded his nonprofit's efforts, providing hundreds of bags filled with essential items to a local senior home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm doing my part in helping. And I feel like it's everyone's duty to help out where they can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need your help to help others.

COOPER: This 7-year-old used his $600 in savings to purchase food and supplies for seniors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at all this food we got!

COOPER: And now these two remarkable kids are teaming up to help more people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone can have impact no matter their age, no matter if they're older or they're young.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's a care bag for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With love we can get through this together.


BOLDUAN: Total rock stars. For more on this, you can learn more, go to We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Nicaragua is holding steady at 25 confirmed coronavirus cases and eight deaths. Those low numbers are raising new concerns that number might not be accurate at all. Let's check in with our correspondents around the world.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: I'm Rafael Romo covering Nicaragua. Is the Central American country hiding the real number of coronavirus deaths? Relatives of a Nicaraguan immigration agent who died on May 11th told CNN that they were forced to have his burial at night. The relatives who showed CNN a death certificate say authorities only allowed a handful of relatives to attend the burial and they were followed by police cars so that no one, in their words, would take pictures.

Other relatives of coronavirus patients say that COVID-19 test results are not shared with them or made public in any way. Nicaragua's health ministry did not respond to CNN request for an interview.

Vice President Rosario Murillo said on an interview with a radio station that supports the government that pictures of what people are now calling express burials have been taken in other countries. Officially the government of Nicaragua says only eight people have died of coronavirus.

Five former Nicaraguan health ministers recently wrote a letter to the W.H.O. director saying Nicaraguan authorities are threatening health personnel so that they don't report the real death toll and number of cases. There has been no answer from the government on that either.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ivan Watson in Hong Kong. I'm watching how the Chinese city of Wuhan is struggling with a new outbreak of coronavirus, with 11 asymptomatic cases identified on Friday.

Earlier cases have triggered the ambitious goal of trying to test all 11 million residents of that city in a ten-day period, which is probably logistically impossible. But in the city that first detected the coronavirus and suffered more than 3,800 deaths, they clearly don't want this terrible disease to spiral out of control again.


BOLDUAN: Rafael, Ivan, thank you so much.

Tomorrow night, a special two-hour event to tell you about, CNN honors the graduates of 2020 starting at 7 P.M. "IN THIS TOGETHER" featuring Lebron James and Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and honestly, many more.

Thanks so much for joining me today. Have a great weekend. We'll see you back here next week. THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.