Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Ousted Vaccine Expert Warns 'Time is Running Out'; Moscow Health Officials Hit Back at Underreporting Claims; Questions Over Mexico's Reported Death Toll; Chinese Officials Ramp Up COVID-19 Testing; Seoul Nightclub Cluster Grows; 36.5 Million U.S. Unemployment Claims Filed Since Mid-March; Singapore's Migrant Workers Stuck in Dorms; U.K. Scientists Working on Unconventional Vaccine. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired May 15, 2020 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes, and coming up right here on CNN NEWSROOM, a dire warning and damning testimony.

[00:01:22]

A top vaccine expert turned whistleblower, telling U.S. lawmakers that time to get the coronavirus pandemic under control is running out. And that his early warnings that were ignored by the Trump administration.

Mexico's mounting death toll has some worried the outbreak is more serious than they thought.

And in the U.K., a radical experiment to create a completely new kind of vaccine. If scientists are successful, it could be a game-changer in the fight against coronavirus.

We begin in Washington, and a stark warning for the U.S. A government vaccine expert turned whistleblower says time is running out. His name is Rick Bright, and he testified before Congress on Thursday, saying without better planning, the U.S. could be facing, in his words, quote, "the darkest winter in modern history."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK BRIGHT, FORMER DIRECTOR, DHS'S BIOMEDICAL ADVANCED RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: Time is running out, because the virus is still spreading everywhere. People are getting restless to leave their homes. And we have to make critical decisions on how to balance the economy and science. We don't have a single point of leadership right now for this response, and we don't have a master plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Meanwhile, the virus is spreading around the world, killing more than 302,000 people so far, at least that number. Johns Hopkins University reporting right now more than 4.4 million confirmed cases worldwide. And the U.S. makes up almost a third of them, even though it's only five percent of the world's population.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins with more now from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Today, the vaccine official ousted from his job during the coronavirus pandemic said the administration's failure to warn the public about coronavirus cost lives.

BRIGHT: I believe Americans need to be told the truth. People were not as prepared as they could and should have been.

COLLINS: Testifying for the first time since he was removed from his role as the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Rick Bright with a dire warning that the U.S. doesn't have a master plan, and there still aren't enough tests.

BRIGHT: There still are not enough tests.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): So even this week, as we're being told, anybody who wants a test can have a test, is that true in the United States of America?

BRIGHT: No.

COLLINS: Bright alleges he was demoted for objecting to the widespread distribution of a drug promoted by the president.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hydroxychloroquine.

COLLINS: And he says he was pressured to make it more widely available.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the pressure from the White House and HHS general counsel put you in a difficult position?

BRIGHT: Yes.

COLLINS: Bright says his superiors disregarded his early warnings about mask shortages, even though he passed along this urgent message from Mike Bowen, one of the only mask manufacturers in the U.S.

BRIGHT: "We're in deep shit. The world is. And we need to act." And I pushed that forward to the highest levels I could in HHS and got no response.

COLLINS: The former vaccine chief said he's troubled by the government's seeming inability to ramp up production of simple resources like swabs.

BRIGHT: It says to me, sir, that there is no master coordinated plan on how to respond to this outbreak.

COLLINS: Bright cautioned that there could be more shortages to come if the U.S. doesn't make a plan now about how to distribute a vaccine once it's ready. He also cast doubt on the president's optimistic timeline about when that will be.

[00:05:08]

TRUMP: I think we're going to have a vaccine by the end of the year.

DINGELL: Will we be able to vaccinate people in the next few months?

BRIGHT: It is very unlikely.

COLLINS: As he left the White House for Pennsylvania, President Trump said he watched Bright but dismissed his allegations.

TRUMP: To me, he's nothing more than a really disgruntled, unhappy person.

COLLINS: The health and human services secretary also pushed back on Bright's claims as he testified, arguing that they're unfounded.

ALEX AZAR, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Everything he's complaining about was achieved.

COLLINS (on camera): Now Mike Bowen is the executive of that company that Bright was talking about as he was testifying, warning about possible shortages of masks.

He also testified, and he said that he's been a lifelong Republican, but he's embarrassed by how the federal government has responded to the coronavirus outbreak. And he said that they need to be listening to the scientists, something he says he doesn't think they are doing right now.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And Dr. Clayton Dalton joins me now. He's a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Good to see you again, Doctor. I wanted to start with what we heard from Rick Bright, the senior adviser at the National Institutes of Health. Extraordinary testimony. What to you were the most significant elements of it?

DR. CLAYTON DALTON, PHYSICIAN, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: I thought -- I thought the whole testimony was quite courageous, to be honest. He gave voice to a lot of what a lot of us on the front lines have been feeling, which is that there doesn't really seem to be a plan at the highest levels of our government, and there -- there seems to have been a lot of missed opportunity along, a lot of warnings that were not heeded, and lost time. It really feels like there was a lot of lost time.

So it was -- it was encouraging to hear someone sort of speak truth to power in that way, and I think a lot of what he had to say, it needed to be said. HOLMES: Yes. It was interesting. You raise that about the -- talking

at length about that sort of lack of what he called a comprehensive strategy on the national level.

One thing he said was the window is closing to address this pandemic, because we still do not have a standardized, centralized, coordinated plan to take this nation through the response.

I mean, this is the United States. I mean, that's extraordinary that that has not happened from the beginning, let alone is the case now.

DALTON: I agree. I think a lot of us are just sort of in this kind of state of stunned disbelief at how we've seen this play out, because we have had so much faith in our government for so -- for so long, and we've just seen this really -- this total failure of leadership and planning and preparation, and also a failure to really pull together in the midst of a crisis and find some solidarity and find some solutions.

Instead, it seems like things have broken down along sort of familiar political fracture lines, which is so dispiriting to see. It's really frightening, to be honest.

HOLMES: And I guess what concerns you most about his removal from that post to begin with? I mean, he pushed back on hydroxychloroquine, quite rightly, as it turned out. Complained about shortages of masks and so on.

And yet, you have the president, even on Thursday praising hydroxychloroquine, by the way, and saying that testing is overrated. I mean, what -- what troubles you most when someone like Mr. Bright were turfed out, when he was right on all this stuff?

DALTON: Yes. I think he was right on all this stuff. I mean, unfortunately, it's not all that surprising that it seemed like he was just pushed out, because this entire administration has seemed uninterested from the very beginning in taking things seriously, even -- even when it was a bitter pill to swallow or even when the news was frightening.

There has -- there has been no sense of wanting to take ownership of this crisis, wanting to lead, wanting to accept responsibility for mistakes that were made and learn from them and move forward. It's all about deflecting blame and, basically, trying to silence people that are critical is what this looks like to us.

HOLMES: When you look at how the administration is continuing to handle the pandemic, particularly when you think about pushing states to reopen, even though those states don't beat the federal government's own guidelines to reopen, but Donald Trump pushing for them to do that, pushing back on scientific evidence like Rick Bright or even Dr. Fauci. I mean, what do you as a medical professional make of that? Who should the country be listening to? I'm going to guess your answer.

DALTON: I think I -- I think you'd guess that my answer is please, please, we need to listen to our public health authorities who have the experience and the education and the training to -- to lead us through this, to know how best to try and navigate this. I mean, this is, you know, a first for everyone. No one alive today has lived through something like this, and so, of course, mistakes will be made.

[00:10:04]

But we have people who have experience in handling these things. There are some basic tools that have been used to quell outbreaks in other parts of the world. We know how this can be done safely. And it doesn't seem like the administration is interested in heeding that advice.

The way -- I understand that livelihoods are -- are at stake here. And it -- I can't imagine how hard it is to have lost your job and not know how you're going to make ends meet and just feeling like you need to do something.

So I understand the economic pressure. It's unprecedented. But we're just not ready to reopen. We don't have the testing capacity to do it safely. I'm concerned that this is just going to lead to more harm and more lives lost.

HOLMES: I did want to ask you, too, just very briefly before we go, you know, hey, it's great when you see, you know, some trends downward, and you know, that there's some improvement or whatever.

It just strikes me in some of my own interactions with people. People are, like, oh, great, you know, this is -- there's still hundreds and hundreds of people every day who are not catching it, dying from it.

DALTON: Yes, that's --

HOLMES: Does it trouble you the potential for complacency?

DALTON: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's hard to really grasp the reality of what it means when you have 1000 people dying a day or more. It's so hard to grasp that.

Even someone -- I work on the front lines, I see people who are stricken with this, and I see people who are critically ill who will likely die, and it's still hard for me to grasp the significance of the actual numbers.

And it is hard, But this is a crisis, and people are dying. People are suffering. And I'm just worried that we're becoming a little bit inured to it. Yes, it really is frightening. It really is frightening, what we're seeing.

HOLMES: Yes. I hope people don't become used to it, because it is horrifying. Dr. Clayton Dalton, appreciate it so much. Good to see you.

DALTON: It's so good to be with you, Michael.

HOLMES: Well, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is issuing an alert for a rare inflammatory syndrome that may be linked to COVID-19. Symptoms include persistent fever, inflammation, and poor function in one or more organs.

The CDC warning the syndrome can affect young children and young adults up to 21 years of age.

And the department has also released guidelines to help businesses and other public spaces reopen. But there is criticism of it. It's pretty simplistic. The checklist does encourage social distancing, handwashing, and intensified cleaning.

However, as our Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains, some were expecting a lot much more detailed guidance than that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it lacks a certain seriousness, and it lacks a specificity. There's not a lot of specifics here. And some of it seems very ad hoc, you know, sort of do it if you can. If you can't, you know, it's OK. I was surprised by this. I mean, most Americans know more than this is in this decision tree already.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Russian health officials are pushing back at the accusation that they are under reporting coronavirus deaths. They say there is a perfectly good explanation as to why the numbers of fatalities are relatively low compared with the number of overall infections.

CNN's Matthew Chance takes a look at how Moscow is calculating its figures.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Across Russia, it's become a common sight. Victims of this awful pandemic, buried by masked figures in hazmat suits, as the bereaved watch helplessly from a safe distance.

But one of the most pressing questions has been why? With the second highest number of coronavirus infections in the world, has the death toll in Russia been so low? Just a fraction of other badly-affected states. We now know one factor may be the way Russia counts its dead.

Health authorities in Moscow, the epicenter of the outbreak, have now acknowledged as much, saying up to 60 percent of suspected coronavirus deaths have been listed as other causes, like heart failure, stage four cancers, and other incurable diseases. Only deaths directly linked by autopsy to coronavirus, it says, are registered as pandemic fatalities.

For months, critics have accused the Kremlin of a nationwide cover-up, and of silencing attempts to expose the grim reality of the pandemic, especially by medical workers at the front line. "Doctors are contacting us from hospitals where people with the

coronavirus are actually being sent," she says. "But instead of honestly saying this, the authorities are calling them patients with pneumonia and acute respiratory viral infections."

[00:15:08]

Recent data indicating sharp rises in April deaths has fueled suspicions. But health officials deny manipulating the numbers. The country's deputy prime minister offering a clinical explanation by video conference.

TATYANA GOLIKOVA, RUSSIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I would like to point out that a decrease in pneumonia among the affected, almost nine-fold between the outset of the illness to hospitalization, allowed us to have low mortality rates in Russia, which today are 7.4 times lower than the world average.

CHANCE: Russian health officials say their methods are unlike other countries, and described their numbers as exceptionally precise. Few doubt that is partly true.

Matthew Chance, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And Mexico marking its highest daily increase in coronavirus cases with nearly two and a half thousand on Thursday. That grim milestone coming just one day after the government announced plans to reopen the country.

However, as Matt Rivers explains for us, the total number of reported cases and deaths could be creating a false reality.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miguel Garcia Galicio hasn't slept more than a few hours at a time in weeks.

"We're working so much," he says, and the numbers get higher every day."

He's referring to the number of dead. The funeral home he works at in Mexico City has almost run out of coffins. They've processed seven times more bodies than normal in the last month. The reason, COVID-19.

(on camera): So, what he's saying here is on this death certificate, there's three causes of death. There's acute respiratory failure. There's atypical pneumonia, and there's also probable COVID-19. And that's what we're seeing on certificate after certificate, after certificate.

(voice-over): He had an appointment to pick up a body that afternoon, so we went with him. This person probably didn't die of COVID, but Miguel says, it doesn't really matter. It's yet another coffin in a seemingly endless parade, now on its way to the crematorium. Mexico has only tested about 150,000 people and confirmed roughly

40,000 cases, but the government has always said that relatively low number is just a scientific sample.

HUGO LOPEZ-GATELL, MEXICAN DEPUTY HEALTH SECRETARY: Nobody is able to identify every single case that occurs in an epidemic.

RIVERS: The actual number could be well into the millions, says Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the epidemiologist leading Mexico's response. He quickly added that every country around the world has an untold amount of unconfirmed cases. That is why the government shut down the economy nearly two months ago and has urged people to stay home.

LOPEZ-GATELL: The size of the epidemic in Mexico is substantially lower than those in other countries.

RIVERS: But funeral home worker Miguel is worried that won't last. He drives all day through places with plenty of people still out and about.

"If the government gave us the real number," he says, "I think we would all go out less."

RIVERS: The official death toll is about 4,500, but Lopez-Gatell says the actual number could easily be double that. Miguel thinks it might even be higher, but admits he doesn't know the whole picture. All he knows is what's right in front of him. And today, that's body number six, being pulled from his truck, to be cremated.

"I'm just really tired," he told us outside the crematorium. "And this is going to keep happening."

Nearby, earlier in the day, we watched a typical funeral procession go by. Social distancing, not a part of this tradition. Amongst those who are seeing all these deaths up close, there is genuine fear that the people holding the casket could soon end up inside one just like it.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Xochimilco, Mexico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: We'll take a quick break. When we come back, China's health official stepping up testing for the virus. We'll have a report how they are trying to keep it from resurging in the city where it all began.

Also, South Korea seeing a new outbreak, and it is pointing a finger at night clubs. We'll have a live report from Paula Hancocks, after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:21:31]

HOLMES: Welcome back. Humanitarian groups are sounding the alarm now that this deadly coronavirus has apparently reached a major refugee camp in Bangladesh. There are about a million Rohingya refugees in that area, and of course, it goes without saying, any infection taking hold there could be devastating.

A senior Bangladeshi official and a U.N. spokeswoman say one Rohingya refugee and another have tested positive so far.

The humanitarian group involved, in Cox's Bazar, Save the Children, says, quote, "Now that the virus has entered the world's largest refugee settlement in Cox's Bazar, we are looking at the very real prospect that thousands of people may die from COVID-19. This pandemic," it goes on to say, "could set Bangladesh back by decades."

Well, as we said, about a million Rohingya are living in these crowded refugee camps. Many of them arriving from Myanmar in 2017 as they escaped a military crackdown there.

China trying to stop a resurgence of the virus in its tracks through a massive testing campaign. Officials are testing residents in Wuhan, the original epicenter of the outbreak, aiming to test 11 million people over just 10 days.

For more on this, I'm joined by CNN senior producer Steven Jiang in Beijing. That is a massive undertaking. How confident they are they're going to do it?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: A daunting task, even for China, Michael. But we are already seeing pictures from state media of people lining up in outdoor areas, or getting tested in hospital facilities. So the process is well underway.

Now, the arrangement seems to vary across the city. Some tests are organized by people's employers, while others by local residential communities. But the authorities have said priority will be given to people living in more cramped conditions in the city's older neighborhoods.

But still, a lot of questions remain, including the city's testing capacity, but also why they are doing this now, instead of before lifting the 76-day lockdown.

And also, when they're going to announce the results, because as you know, generally speaking, the more you test, the more cases you uncover.

Now, the authorities, of course, have framed this process as their response to the latest cluster of cases in the city, saying they just want to give people peace of mind, and also, not only to reassure the city, but also the rest of the nation.

They say the key goal here is to try to find asymptomatic cases, because most of the more recent cases were asymptomatic for a long time, which has caused quite a bit of anxiety. But one thing, of course, is if they pull this off within 10 days,

it's going to put the U.S. testing capacity to shame. Mr. Trump, the U.S. president, has been touting the U.S. capacity, 300,000 per day, as unrivaled in the world. So if the Chinese pull this off, it's an added bonus for the Chinese authorities as the war of words between these two governments continue to heat up -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yes. To that very point, Donald Trump has always touted what he calls his great relationship with President Xi. He's saying now that he doesn't want to talk to him right now, and might even cut off the U.S.-China relationship altogether.

Is that kind of talk being seen as concerning, or just brinksmanship?

JIANG: Well, you know, that's certainly hyperbole on a different level, but you know, Mr. Trump is increasingly adopting these campaign rally rhetoric when he talks about China as we move closer to the November presidential election.

[00:25:03]

And this is also, of course, a -- this war of words between the two governments I just mentioned, you had the FBI warn about Chinese cybertheft of U.S. corona resources just yesterday. But now, of course, Mr. Trump is also, you know, sounding alarms on China almost on a daily basis, and blaming China for causing this pandemic, even expressing doubts over the very trade deal he was once so proud of.

So this is not going to stop as we move closer to the election. But in terms of his latest remark, it seems even the most pessimistic China watchers are not expecting a total breakdown in this relationship. And as a sign of that, I think you see the U.S. markets actually went up, despite his remarks. So nobody is taking that remark too seriously, Michael.

HOLMES: They're just not listening anymore.

Steven Jiang, thanks very much. Appreciate it there in Beijing.

In South Korea, the COVID cluster linked to Seoul's nightclub district is growing, 148 people now testing positive. Officials testing and contact tracing thousands of people.

Paula Hancocks joining us now live from Seoul with that. How -- how is that -- how is that hunt going to try to contain this?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, that is another 27 cases that were confirmed over that 24-hour period, but the fact is, the number of tests that they're doing is rising significantly, as well, another 15,000 tests done within the 24-hour period they were reporting on.

So what officials are trying to do at this point is to -- to test as many people who may have come into contact, not just with those who went to that area over that two-week period, but of course, there are a number of secondary transmissions. Two positive cases, for example, went to church services without

realizing they'd been infected. But interestingly, they had 1,000 people at that church service, and so, far everybody has tested negative. They said they've still got five tests outstanding.

And they said the reason for that was 300 were online; 700 people were all wearing masks, all wearing gloves, and they had distance between them within the -- the church.

So officials are saying that it is possible that the social distancing will make a difference. We heard from the health minister, as well, saying if you wash your hands, if you wear masks, and if you do report as soon as you think you may have the coronavirus, then we can live win the long war against this -- this virus.

So really putting the onus on the public, once again, saying you have to wash your hands, you have to wear masks, and then, of course, the South Korean officials are doing their best to try and contain this outbreak.

Now, at this point, as we understand it, the schools will start to reopen from next Wednesday. It was supposed to be this Wednesday, but that was pushed back a week because of this outbreak. But officials are hoping that they will have it under control by ten.

All right, Paula, thanks very much. Good to see you. Paula Hancocks there in Seoul. We are going to take another quick break. When we come back, the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, of course, staggering. We're going to break down the latest unemployment figures and other very worrying numbers coming out of the U.S.

Also, as Singapore opens up, its migrant workers stuck in lockdown. We'll find out why, and the latest from Manisha Tank.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:30:49]

HOLMES: Welcome back.

For weeks now, the pandemic brought the U.S. to a standstill, but now, as more states are beginning to reopen with the president's encouragement, there is some good news. The 24 states are now seeing a downward trend in new cases, but, still there have been more than 1.4 million confirmed infections nationwide, almost 86,000 deaths.

And when you talk about downward trends, 1,700 people died just yesterday.

And a top vaccine expert is warning the virus is still spreading. Time, he says, is running out. Here's Nick Watt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIGHT: Without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history. NICK WATT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wow. Warnings today in

Washington.

BRIGHT: People are getting restless to leave their homes. We have to make critical decisions on how to balance the economy and science.

WATT: Meanwhile, in Michigan, protesters who just won't stay home anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to be bullied, browbeaten, or intimidated. We're not going away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open Bucks! Open Bucks!

WATT: Pennsylvania's governor under pressure to accelerate reopening in harder-hit counties.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically living in fear. They're living under threats from the governor to revoke their license, their way that they feed their families.

WATT: sunday In Wisconsin, some bars opened almost immediately after the state's supreme court struck down their stay-home order as unlawful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think that the risk presents any higher than me going to a grocery store.

WATT: But is this dangerous? Well, Georgia started gradually reopening nearly three weeks ago, and since then, the average number of new COVID cases every day has actually fallen, down 12 percent.

In Florida, Miami-Dade and Broward counties, home to nearly half of that state's confirmed cases, will now start reopening Monday. And on Sunday, four of golf's big guns will tee off in Florida for charity and TV cameras. The governor is now opening his doors to all pro sports.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If you have a team in an area where they just won't let them operate, we'll find a place for you here in the state of Florida.

WATT: The Jersey Shore will now be open in time for Memorial Day.

Midwest, the Mall of America opens June 1. Out West, Yellowstone will reopen a little on Monday. And other national parks could follow.

Case counts are now slowing in nearly half our states. There could be a rebound in the fall.

BRIGHT: Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to improve our response now, based on science, I fear the pandemic will get worse and be prolonged.

WATT: Still, tomorrow in Louisiana, gyms, barbers, casinos, zoos, and more can reopen at quarter capacity. SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): Yes, there is a greater risk of not

reopening. So we have to use our data to figure out how to thread that needle.

WATT: Today, some good data from New York City. Hospital admissions, numbers in the ICU, and the percentage of positive tests are all falling.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: My friends, today is a very good day, and you deserve the credit.

WATT: The city will likely wait until early June, but tomorrow, parts of New York state, which has suffered more confirmed cases than any country on earth, will slowly start on the road back to some sort of normal.

(on camera): I am now one of the 10 million people here in L.A. County who must wear a mask when I leave my house. I have to take it off so you can hear what I'm saying.

One line from the governor of New York state really struck me today, and that is, phased reopening does not mean the problem has gone away. He's right. COVID-19 has now killed more than 300,000 people, globally. And it is not done yet.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Well, the economic pains of the pandemic are also still piling on, of course. Another three million Americans filed initial unemployment claims just last week.

Now, that brings the total since mid-March to 36.5 million, since mid- March. A number difficult to wrap your head around.

[00:35:03]

And Megan Greene joins me now. She's a global economist and a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Business.

Good to see you again, Megan. The last few days, some truly stunning facts and figures emerging. I mean, a potential 25 percent unemployment in the U.S., 40 percent of households earning less than $40,000 a year lost their income, groceries up by the biggest amount in 50 years.

What -- what is the overall state of the economic impact of coronavirus on people, and how much is it exacerbating inequality?

MEGAN GREENE, GLOBAL ECONOMIST/SENIOR FELLOW, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: Yes, we didn't need all these figures to know this would be the biggest recession we'll see in our lifetime, certainly, if not ever.

And, you know, I think it is exacerbating inequality. I mean, the statistic you said about, you know, 40 percent of workers making under 40,000 have been laid off. That's -- that's huge.

Our workforce has never been so vulnerable to a pandemic like this. Because it's exactly those hourly service workers who have gone and lost their jobs. And actually, they weren't getting much in terms of wage gains over the last recovery already. So they were already struggling before this pandemic hit, and now they've lost their jobs. So I think that that's a huge problem.

And then, also on the other side, when you look at kind of the 1 percent or the 0.1 percent, it is still unclear how they will do it all of this. You might argue that, you know, their stock portfolios have gone down, although it's recovered quite a bit, and I would say that's just temporary. Equity markets tend to go back up.

But also, if you look at kind of the horse trading in Congress over this next fiscal stimulus bill, it does seem like, in exchange for some funding for states, we might get some tweaks in terms of the tax code. And one thing that's being discussed is cutting capital gains taxes, which of course, doesn't help those hourly service workers at all. Neither does apparel tax cut, in fact. It really just helps those at the upper echelons.

So unfortunately, I think this is just exacerbating the income inequality problem we already had.

HOLMES: Yes, yes. There's another disturbing fact in a country where there's no universal health care, of course, and where much of health care is tied to employment.

I mean, the latest estimates I saw were something like 27 million people lost their health insurance along with their jobs right in the middle of a pandemic. A lot of them are going to find it hard to get new insurance. Can we expect more healthcare-related bankruptcies?

GREENE: Absolutely. If someone has an accident or gets ill and they are not insured, I mean, that's just financially ruinous in our system in the U.S.

There is Obamacare, which the government is trying to dismantle. And that helps some people, but I do think that we could see some healthcare-related bankruptcies.

There was one report that also said that off the back of this, all of our premiums could go up by as much as 40 percent next year.

HOLMES: Wow.

GREENE: So health care may get way more expensive for everyone, even those people with jobs.

HOLMES: Wow, up 40 percent. That -- that's extraordinary. I mean, another area of concern -- you touched on this -- and let's visit it just briefly, and that is the states needing billions of dollars to stave off budget cuts in their states.

And so far, no real appetite among Republicans to help out. I mean, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, at one point suggested let states go bankrupt.

What could be the impacts of those sorts of state cuts on services? Because just to remind people, states can't blow out the budget. They have to balance it.

GREENE: That's right. And pretty much every state other than Vermont has a balanced budget rule. So they can't just go ahead and borrow to -- to finance this like the federal governments can.

And a lot of essential workers -- think about firemen, policemen, they're on state budgets or local budgets.

And so I would say our fiscal bills have all been top down, coming from the federal level, but it's really the state, and city, and local level governments who are able to go ahead and -- and dole out those resources and figure out exactly how to get it where exactly it's needed.

So you know, to starve the states right now, we already had 180,000 state employees who lost their jobs in the April jobs report. That's -- I mean, that's huge. And that's before the real cash crunch has even really come, as revenues have come to a screeching halt.

And so if any economist looked at the last fiscal bill, and you asked what more is needed, most of us would have said, the states need more funding. That's a no-brainer.

But there is reticence amongst the Republicans. And we saw this in 2008-2009, as well. We had a few bills where you could pass a law, and then all of a sudden, fiscal hawks started coming out of the woodwork and, you know, it's politically motivated, I think, more than anything else. And that's what we're seeing now, too.

HOLMES: Yes. Just quickly, before we go, I mean, what -- what are the chances are that the president puts it, in his words, a transition to greatness in 2021? I mean, what can easily come back in an economic sense, and what cannot, the president's optimism notwithstanding?

GREENE: Yes, look, I think the most important piece there is not necessarily policy in terms of when we actually go ahead and reopen. It's much more about certainty and confidence. And when people feel like they can go out to restaurants and bars without getting sick. And I think that's going to take a lot longer than anybody realizes.

[00:40:18]

And I think if we reopen too soon and have, you know, subsequent spikes in new cases or deaths, and have to have to have new measures implemented to lock us down, that's just going to push out confidence returning even further and could end up being more expensive and could push us further into recession. So I think it's the confidence piece.

I mean, if you told me, Go ahead, get on a flight tomorrow, there's no way I'm booking a holiday.

HOLMES: Yes. GREENE: Just not yet. So I think it's that piece that's most important.

HOLMES: Yes. The rush to reopen can certainly backfire big time. Megan Greene, always a pleasure. Good to see you.

GREENE: Thanks for having me.

HOLMES: Well, Singapore is gradually reopening its economy, but even as the government loosens restrictions, many of its migrant workers remain in lockdown until June.

The country is struggling to contain clusters in the dormitories where many workers from Southeast Asian countries live.

For more on this, I'm joined by journalist Manisha Tank in Singapore.

Good to see you, Manisha. The plight of these migrant workers very worrying, of course. What's the latest on their welfare but also the containment efforts?

MANISHA TANK, JOURNALIST: Hey, Michael.

Well, in terms of their welfare, they are being very well looked after by the Singapore government. In particular, we spoke to one -- the last time I looked at the story more closely, and we were able to actually speak to migrant workers who were in dorms just as this outbreak was beginning to unveil itself in the dormitories.

And this young man called Yassin (ph) that we spoke to was talking to us about how well taken care of he was. And that was something that was echoed by other interviewees within these dorms. They've been given fruits. They've been given medical care. They have seen social distancing happen within their dormitories.

He himself actually felt unwell and went to hospital, and many of the bills for all of this are being put up by the government.

So there is a sense amongst migrant workers that the Singapore government is taking every effort to take care of them. But that doesn't mean that there hasn't been new attention directed at this subject as to how this outbreak came about, in these migrant worker dormitories.

And in some cases, you have tens of thousands of migrant workers living in the dorms. So you can understand how these cases have spread so quickly.

The current situation here is that we're still getting between about 600 to about 800 new cases every day. I say that as a very broad measure, because there is extensive testing going on in all of the dormitories. And it's giving the government here a very clear picture of what is going on.

Outside of those dormitories, we have new cases at just two, and 90 percent, 99 percent of the new cases detected here are linked to existing clusters. So there is a feeling that this is very much under control in the sense that we know where the cases are, but still very much the case of the migrant workers in particular, are bearing the brunt of it, Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, indeed. Manisha, thanks for that. Manisha Tank there in Singapore. Appreciate it.

Now, the teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg, has a message for young people who may not be worried about getting the virus. During CNN's global town hall on COVID-19, she urged others her age to be responsible during the pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRETA THUNBERG, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST: Many people don't even notice that they have symptoms, and then they -- they might spread the virus without even knowing it. And there especially, we -- We young people have a very big responsibility, because we aren't usually the ones, you -- usually the ones in the most risk. We might not experience the symptoms as -- as bad as in many others. So we have to be extra careful, because our actions can be the difference between life and death for many others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: And you can hear more of Greta Thunberg's interview in the next hour of CNN when we replay our global town hall, "CORONAVIRUS FACTS AND FEARS." That starts 9 a.m. in Abu Dhabi, 1 p.m. in Hong Kong. Just 20 minutes or so from now.

There is a new kind of vaccine that's never been approved for humans before, but coronavirus might soon change that. We'll take you inside one of the labs when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[00:46:42]

HOLMES: Welcome back.

Sanofi chief executive Paul Hudson walking back his comments after the French government called them unacceptable. He had previously said that any vaccine developed by his pharmaceutical company Sanofi should go to American patients first. That's even though Sanofi's headquarters are in Paris, France.

Well, Hudson now says that no country would get priority whenever a coronavirus vaccine shows up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL HUDSON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, SANOFI: We will make doses here in France. We will make doses in the U.S. And we'll try and make more than enough for everybody. And of course, the other companies will do that, too. But I'm, you know, deeply sorry that there's been such a debate locally. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: A French official reportedly said that President Emmanuel Macron will meet with Sanofi's chief executive next week.

Well, scientists, of course, around the world are trying to come up with different methods to come up with a vaccine to stop COVID-19. Now there is an unconventional technique that uses the virus's genetic code. It's called an RNA vaccine.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh visits one of the labs working on what could be a revolution.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Everywhere, there's a race for a COVID vaccine. But here in London, Paddington, there's a race for a new type of vaccine altogether.

Professor Robin Shattock is leading a team at Imperial College who are using a new technique to get the human body to recognize the most dangerous part of the virus, the hook, or spike on its outside, so the body can be ready if it ever sees the real thing.

(on camera): You're not even giving the body part of the virus. You're giving the body the plans for the most deadly part of the virus.

ROBIN SHATTOCK, PROFESSOR, FACULTY OF MEDICINE, IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON: Absolutely.

WALSH (voice-over): They begin human trials in mid-June and hope for 6,000 human tests by October. Maybe early next year, this revolutionary technique will be ready for you or I. Here's how it works.

SHATTOCK: The spikes on the surface of the virus are what allows it to attack and get into the cells in your body.

WALSH: Their technique injects the genetic code of that spike into the body, and lets your muscle cells make lots of the spikes.

SHATTOCK: And your immune system recognizes that and starts to make antibodies that bind and recognize that spike, so that when you see the whole virus, having been immunized, your immune system immediately makes antibodies that lock onto the spike and means that the virus can no longer infect cells.

WALSH: It's a new technique entirely, because most vaccines give a weakened entire virus for the body to learn to fight.

SHATTOCK: The cells are working like a factory. They're making the vaccine themselves, doing the heavy lifting, rather than us having to make huge amounts of virus in a manufacturing plant.

WALSH: And this technique has two advantages: the amounts needed per dose are tiny, and so 16,000 liters could in theory, they say, be enough to vaccinate the entire world.

And two, the technique, if successful, can be used for other viruses, too, in the future.

The huge steps coronavirus is forcing us to take, leading us into a new world of great, unexpected advances.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[00:50:08]

HOLMES: We'll take a quick break. Europe is going to soon see top- flight football again when the German Bundesliga returns. How the league plans to resume, and the big question: is it safe? We'll discuss when we come back.

And what about Major League Baseball in the U.S.? What are the chances the boys of summer will actually play ball? We'll tell you what the commissioner of baseball says after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: The head of the International Olympic Committee has announced an $800 million aid package due to the postponed 2020 Olympics. That money will support the committees in charge of the Olympics and will help cover the cost until 2021.

Tokyo, of course, was supposed to host the summer Olympics this year but was forced to postpone them due to the coronavirus.

Some estimates but the total cost of delaying the games at more than $12 billion. Yes, billion with a "B."

In a normal year, we'd now be in the heart of Major League Baseball season, but of course, this is anything but a normal year. And while there are tentative plans to have some sort of season, perhaps beginning in July with no fans in the stands, it is by no means certain even that will happen.

Here's what the commissioner of Major League Baseball said earlier on the CNN global town hall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROB MANFRED, MLB COMMISSIONER: I think it's hopeful that we will have some Major League Baseball this summer. We are making plans about playing in empty stadiums. But as I've said before, all of those plans are dependent on what the public health situation is, and us reaching the conclusion that it will be safe for our players and other employees to come back to work.

We hope that we will be able to convince the vast, vast majority of our players that it's safe to return to work. The protocols for returning to play, the health-related protocols, are about 80 pages in length. They're extraordinarily detailed. They cover everything from how the players will travel, private charters, how those charters have to be cleaned, who has access to the ballpark, strict limits on number of people, tiering of employees, so even those people who are in the ballpark will be isolated, in general, from the players.

So we'll hope that we'll be able to convince them that it's safe. At the end of the day, however, if there's, you know, players with either health conditions or just their own personal doubts, we would never force them or try to force them to come back to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: Manfred also said there will be, of course, testing for players, plans for removing and quarantining those who test positive, and contact tracing.

One of Europe's top football leagues returns to action this weekend as the German Bundesliga takes the pitch. But some players have already tested positive for coronavirus, and many say it is too soon to return.

Fred Pleitgen with the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The Bundesliga is coming back. After more than two months, Germany's top soccer league will play again this weekend, although some fans seem to have mixed emotions about the move.

[00:55:05]

"I don't think it's a good idea," this man says. "People in Germany are suffering from coronavirus, and we're now making exceptions for soccer players?"

But she says, "I think a little step back to normality, that we can at least watch football on TV, is a good thing. We just have to see if it will all work."

The Bundesliga hopes an extensive hygiene concept will make it work. Stadiums will be empty. The matches can only be viewed on TV. Players won't have to wear masks on the field, but coaches will. That will require some coordination, RB Leipzig's manager says.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll have to pull the mask off shortly before yelling commands and then put it back on right after I stop screaming. That's not so easy.

PLEITGEN: The league's coronavirus testing scheme is extensive. All players, coaches, and other staff will continuously be tested for coronavirus, requiring thousands of tests.

And the teams have gone through quarantine training camps to try and ensure no one will be infected when the matches start. (on camera): Germany is one of the first big soccer countries to

restart its professional league. And many football federations will be looking to see whether the Bundesliga's path and its hygiene concept will prevail.

(voice-over): But there have been problems. Three people, of 1. FC Koln tested positive for COVID-19 and were quarantined. And two players from second division club Dunamo Dressen (ph) also came down with the disease.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The coronavirus.

PLEITGEN: And there have been disciplinary issues. Hertha BSC forward Salomon Kalou was suspended by the club after seemingly laughing off coronavirus safety rules in a leaked video.

If there are new coronavirus infections, the league's play could be shut down again by the German government, says Philip Kusta (ph), a football magazine editor.

"This is an experiment with an unknown outcome," he says. "It could indeed happen that we might see two or three weeks of football and then everything gets canceled. Teams don't have the same capabilities if, for instance, there are many infections, or if there are very serious infections."

PLEITGEN: The head of Germany's football league has said they are playing on parole. Soccer is coming back to Germany, but no one knows if it's here to stay.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Thanks for spending part of your day with us and watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes.

Up next, a CNN global town hall, "CORONAVIRUS FACTS AND FEARS."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END