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Earthquake Hits Nevada; States around U.S. Reopening Economies; Medical Journal "The Lancet" Call for U.S. to Elect New President in 2020; Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) is Interviewed About the Coronavirus Pandemic and the Michigan State Capitol Closed Amid Armed Protest. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 15, 2020 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Can ease those restrictions starting today. By Sunday, 48 of the 50 states in the country will be reopening at least partially.

The pace has become a flashpoint across the country, particularly in three key swing states. In Michigan, the state capital was shut down during protests from hundreds of heavily armed demonstrators. Michigan's governor joins us in just minutes.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We do have some breaking news at this hour. A powerful earthquake struck just minutes ago in central Nevada. Initial reports are that it was a magnitude 6.4 quake with an epicenter between Reno and Las Vegas. There have been several strong aftershocks as well. We are seeing reports on social media that it was felt as far away as San Francisco. We've just go this video from a resident in Fresno, California, where you can see a chandelier swaying from the earthquake. So far no reports of damages or injuries, but of course, this is our early minutes. So we will bring you more on this as soon as we get it into our newsroom.

Right now the latest on coronavirus. Joining us is CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, great to see you. It's going to be a big weekend. The weather is good in lots of places, and 48 out of 50 states are going to be easing at least partially their stay-at- home orders. Maybe we can pull up right now the map of a snapshot of where the country is right now in terms of the cases. Basically, what you'll see is that the majority of cases, so if you look at the tan color on your screen, those are the cases that have held steady over the past week. And then the green are the cases that have gone down, the states that have had cases go down significantly in some places, 10 to 50 percent.

So when you look at where we are in the country, and know what this weekend is going to open up, how do you see this?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We follow these numbers day to day, and you look at some of these places that are now saying that they are greater than 50 percent downward decline, four or five days ago they had significant increases still. My point is that these numbers are still bouncing around quite a bit, which is why we when we say, when you look at the criteria that say we want a 14-day downward trend, that was enough of a trend to say, OK, we are definitely moving in that direction.

And even in those states, again, where you have seen day to day some significant downward trends, it's sort of reflection in the statistics. You have a big up day, and then you had a lower day which may be more in the line with the normal days. That could be a significant downward day, 50 percent downward day. But that's not really reflective of the trend.

So I guess, Alisyn, it makes me nervous still. There's a reason that the criteria existed. We won't see the impact of some of these reopening, as we've talked about, for some time. You look at that snapshot of the country right now, and you keep in mind, that is a snapshot in some ways from two weeks ago, right? It's like the light from a star that we're seeing just now, but it actually left that star a long time ago. That's what we're seeing. We want to see that continue. That would be great news if that continues. We've just got to make sure it continues for several more days still.

BERMAN: And I know it does concern you, Sanjay, but when you look at that timeframe and you talk about the life of a star, Georgia, for instance, where you live, they began reopening two weeks ago now at this point, and they've seen a reduction in new cases by about 12 percent since then. You can see there's noise in that, but the general trend is downward. So you know, people will look at that and say, well, Georgia did it. Why can't we?

GUPTA: Yes. This data is really hard to look at, John, right now. First of all, you do see somewhat of a downward trend there. But I can tell you, even here in Atlanta things were starting to reopen two weeks ago. It doesn't mean that things just suddenly went back to normal two weeks ago. There's a lot of people who still aren't doing that. We're still in a very different state of affairs. Even though things are open doesn't mean people are all going out.

I realize, I saw some of the images at restaurants last night, and I know people are starting to do it more and more, but I still think there's a lag period here, and we've just got to account for that lag period.

Also, it's kind of like TV ratings, John. You're doing TV ratings in Colorado, three guys go up and go to the bathroom, and your TV ratings drop in Colorado. You're getting such a small sample size to inform that graph that we're seeing there, I think we have got to be careful in trying to read into those numbers too much. It's day to day. It's small sample sizes. Weekends will suddenly drop because people aren't getting tested. All those things influence this. So we'll go over the weekend, we'll say look, the numbers dropped even more. That's because fewer people are getting tested over the weekend. That's just the nature of people going into clinics and getting their visits in hospitals and stuff.

[08:05:01] So we'll see. I don't want to be the person who is raining on the parade, but I think you've just got to wait a little bit longer and make sure that these trends continue.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, I want to get your take on "The Lancet." They have just released an editorial in which they -- this is unusual, I would imagine, for a prestigious medical journal, but they basically say that they think that the United States needs a new president come January of 2021 because they think that President Trump has so minimized and so marginalized the CDC and mishandled this pandemic that they are basically suggesting that it's dangerous under his leadership. In terms of the CDC, they write "the CDC has seen its role minimized and become an ineffective and nominal adviser in the response to contain the spread of the virus." What do you think of what they're saying and the significance?

GUPTA: It's a strongly worded article. This is a prestigious medical journal, one that we all read since we're medical students on a regular basis. There have been times in the past where they've released editorials that have been more in the political sphere, but this is a strongly worded article. And I think they're making two points. First of all, it has become increasingly politicized. The CDC director is a political appointee. And also, I think what they're also saying, interestingly, is that scientists have become more compliant in some ways as well. And that was the part that I think was even more surprising.

Yes, there's a political influence on this very scientific organization. It's been around since 1946 to help eradicate diseases off the face of the earth like smallpox, and yet, you're not seeing the scientists step up and say we need our own autonomy, we need to be independent. We can't have political influence over us. So it's a very strongly worded article. I think a lot of people in the public health world have been saying this for some time, where has the CDC been in all this. If you go back to H1N1, it was Richard Besser who was the acting director, that's who you saw all the time. During Ebola, it was Tom Frieden. Those were the people that we saw at the forefront of the country during those outbreaks or pandemics. So we're not seeing the same thing here.

And I can tell you this, because I have a lot of friends and colleagues who work there. It's not because of lack of capability. The CDC still employs some of the world's best epidemiologists. When we look at the guidelines that they can provide to try and understand how we navigate our life forward in the middle of this pandemic, people from all over the world go to the CDC. That's not happening now. Instead we're getting these very watered-down guidelines from them that I don't think reflects their best work.

BERMAN: A couple points I want to make here, Sanjay. Number one, there were 1,700 news deaths reported yesterday. And I just don't want to gloss over that. Even when I'm asking about Georgia and the number of new cases going down, 1,700 new deaths nationwide reported. That's a very high number even if it is dropping.

Number two, nearly 86,000 people killed around the country. People need to keep that in mind. And it's interesting to me how little it gets mentioned now in some cases at the national level. And in terms of what "The Lancet" may have been looking at, it may have been statements like this from the president when he's talking about testing. Testing is something universally experts say is essential going forward in this country. And listen to how the president seems to diminish it.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It could be that testing frankly overrated. Maybe it is overrated. We have more cases than anybody in the world? But why? Because we do more testing. When you test, you have a case. When you test you find something is wrong with people. If we didn't do any testing, we would have very few cases.


BERMAN: Now, people are actually getting sick because there's a virus out there. We're finding out about it because there's testing, and as you test more, you do learn about new cases, but 86,000 people haven't been killed because we're testing too much, Sanjay. And I think that's the kind of message that probably disappoints or infuriates people at "The Lancet."

GUPTA: No doubt. You test. It has been the most important, it will be the most important. You test in order to save lives, because you can find people who have the infection, you can isolate them and keep them from spreading the virus which we know kills people. It's as simple as that. We don't have a vaccine, we don't have a super effective therapeutic right now. We wish we did and we will one day. But I think the big question is in the interim period, what do we do? What have we seen work in the past in the history of the world? What have we seen work in other countries around the world right now? It's all predicated on testing.

And I know you sound like a broken record after a while saying that. Yes, we have gotten better at testing. We started way late. It makes a huge difference that we started way late because there was so many more cases that spilled out into the community as a result of waiting that late.


I don't know that we can necessarily, quote, catch up now, but the fact of the matter is that we need to do more testing. People don't have psychological confidence still to go out. Again, going back to Georgia and other states, they're opening up. But go talk to people and say how comfortable do you feel? I know we show images of people crowding bars and stuff like that, but how about moms and dads at home with their kids who are thinking, do I go out? How safe is it? Could I bring that virus home? That is still a concern.

If they could get tested and have some degree of confidence, then that would make their lives a lot easier. We're not there yet. We released guidelines yesterday that say we want to promote hand hygiene in schools. We want to wear masks as feasible. We're not taking this seriously anymore, and we're still in the middle of it. People are declaring victory. The original draft guidelines had specifics in terms of how many tests should be on standby at businesses, how employers should make sure that their employees are safe, how they keep their customers safe. What happened to all that? We're not taking this seriously anymore, and I think -- I'm nervous. I know I'm the one who is trumpeting the horn and I'm going to get a lot of hate mail about it because people think I'm being too gloom and doom, but we're not out of this yet by any means.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, we appreciate you. We won't let anybody send hate mail, or if they do, just forward it right to Berman.

GUPTA: Happy Friday.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, Sanjay, great to see you. Have a great weekend.

Quick programming note, be sure to join Don Lemon and Van Jones for a special conversation about the devastating impact of coronavirus on people of color. Plus, new messages of hope from around the country, "The Color of COVID" live tonight at 10:00 p.m. eastern on CNN.

Well, Michigan's governor says protests against the stay-at-home orders make it likelier that those orders will stay in place even longer. Governor Gretchen Whitmer joins us to explain, next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The legal showdown between Michigan's Democratic governor and its Republican-led state legislature kicks off this morning with the first oral arguments in court. The legislature sued after Governor Gretchen Whitmer extended Michigan's state of emergency.

Right now, stay at home orders are set to expire on May 28th and that's not fast enough for at least some people in the state.

The state capital was shutdown yesterday during this protest by a couple of hundred demonstrators. Some of them heavily armed.

Michigan's Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer joins me now.

Governor, thank you very much for being with us.

We see those pictures of few hundred demonstrators. Why was the state capitol shut down yesterday?

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: You know, the legislature apparently didn't want to be around for what, you know, this activity that many of them incited, frankly. And so, that's why apparently they decided not to come into work yesterday.

I'm glad to see that it was just a couple of hundred people. I think that the rain had an impact, but, you know, the more people that stay home, the quicker we can get through this posture and start to continue the re-engagement of our economy. I think while there's a lot of disagreement on a number of fronts, I think we're anonymous that that's our ultimate goal.

BERMAN: Why do you think when these protests happen that people keep showing up with guns, for instance? What message, do you think, they're trying to send?

WHITMER: Well, I mean, I think that these are not just citizens who are unhappy about having to stay home. This is a political rally, essentially. When the big float rolls in that is about, you know, Donald Trump, when people are showing up with guns, when people are showing up with things like -- you know, Confederate flags, it tells you that this really isn't about the lockdown or about a perception of a stay-home order. It's really an organized political statement.

And it's unfortunate because we got to take politics out of this conversation. This is about the public health. And whether you're a Democrat or Republican, if you live in the state of Michigan, everything I'm doing is trying to save your life, keep you and your family safe, and help us make sure that we can shorten the amount of time that we have to deal with this economic stress that is associated because of the public health crisis.

BERMAN: I understand during a conference call, you asked Mike Pence to discourage some of these protests because among other things, you said you think it may be increasing the number of cases you're seeing. What did he say?

WHITMER: I think that's -- I think that's the fear, that everyone from Dr. Fauci to Dr. Khaldun, who is our chief medical executive here in Michigan will tell you that it's the congregating of big groups of people who aren't wearing masks, who are staying six feet part that will perpetuate the community spread. You know, we've done an amazing thing here in Michigan. The vast majority of people are doing the right thing. And we've seen our numbers fall.

And the flat initially -- it looks like the numbers are falling. We're doing more testing than ever. But we are watching some rural parts of the state.

And when people come from around the state congregate, don't do itself responsibly, and then go home, that's what contributes to the community spread. And I think it's a very real concern. As we the numbers continuing, 79 out of 83 counties still have COVID-19 in them and that's why we've got to take this seriously.

BERMAN: Did the vice president say he'll help you discourage this?

WHITMER: Well, I asked -- I've asked a couple of times and both times, it was acknowledged that I had made the request. But I think that people with -- anyone with a platform has a responsibility to try to encourage people to do the right thing and to stay safe.

You know, I think, too, that we've been so successful at bringing the numbers down that we haven't seen the kind of devastation that some of the modeling was predicting early on. And because of that, COVID-19 hasn't impacted every person in the state. And I think that feeds into maybe the antsiness of getting re-engaged.

I lost a dear friend of mine this week. And that's why I'm so grateful when you identify and talk about the lives lost because this is still a very real threat. This is still prevalent across our country. And it still could be, you know, unchecked community spread if we don't continue to be vigilant.

BREMAN: Look, I think the fact that there were 1,700 new deaths reported nationwide yesterday, it's a national tragedy, and it's something that everyone should talk about every day, 86,000 deaths around the country now, nationwide. It's a tragedy, something we should be talking about every day.

That said, you talked about the numbers in Michigan going down.


We can put up the curve here. We can put up the chart here. The number of daily new cases is bending downward. And I know that is something you've been pushing for.

That spike yesterday, by the way, was because of old cases that were newly reported.

But I also want you to look at Georgia, which began reopening two weeks ago or so, and they have not seen a major spike in cases, basically flat or downward trending.

So, why is it that you Georgia was able to reopen partially and not see spikes?

WHITMER: Well, if Dr. Gupta can't tell you the answer to that, I certainly can't.

But what I can surmise is that what we have seen is that the American public gets it. And while they've re-engaged the economy to some extent, unless you have consumer confidence, unless people believe they're going to be safe going back out and participating in our economy, it's -- all the statements from on high won't make a difference if consumers don't have that confidence (ph), if workers don't feel safe going back into the workplace.

And I think that's why we've got to not follow politics or our gut. We've got to follow the science. We've got to listen to our epidemiologists, because that's how we prevent a second wave. A second wave could be even more devastating in terms of lives lost and pain to our economy. And that's why we've got to get this right.

BERMAN: Governor Gretchen Whitmer, we appreciate you being with us this morning. Thank you very much.

WHITMER: Thank you for doing the graduation ceremony, too, tomorrow. I'll be watching with my daughter who is a graduate 2020 high school grad. BERMAN: Oh, congratulations to her, and congratulations to all the

seniors around the country. They'll never forget this graduation, I guarantee that. Thanks very much, Governor.

WHITMER: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Something I know they are thinking about in Michigan, Ann Arbor and Lansing, when will college sports return and what will they look like when they do? The president of the NCAA joins us next.



BERMAN: This morning new uncertainty about if college students can return to campus in the fall. But what about college sports? Is that a different matter entirely? Can you have one without the other?

Joining us now is Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA.

Thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate this. And I'm speaking to you, you know, not just as a journalist but also a fan.

And so the big burning question is, what can we expect with college football? How likely is it that we'll be able to watch college football in the fall?

MARK EMMERT, PRESIDENT, NCAA: Yes. Well, it's a question, of course, that thousands of young people are hinging their careers on and their football seasons on. Everybody's asked that question, Chris.

We're all working as hard as we can on the campuses at the conference level and at the national office level to try to make sure that we can -- we can have in place the kinds of protections that will allow student athletes first and foremost to return to college. And if we can get colleges open and operating, then we can hopefully get sports up and running as well.

BERMAN: Well, that's a distinction, isn't it? Can you have college sports if you have college campuses that aren't completely open?

EMMERT: Well, look, college athletes are just that. They're college students who are athletes on their campuses. And so, you have to have the campuses open in one fashion or another for students before you can have college athletics going on on those campuses.

Now, you know, I'm a former university president. I know full well the challenges that every university in college is facing right now. I think we're going to see a -- quite an array of openings this fall with schools opening in a variety of different ways, some totally online, some partially online, some trying to do as much normal, if you will, as they can.

And mostly, it's a hybrid of all of those things. So nothing, I think, is going to be typical this fall. And sports are likely to be the same.

BERMAN: I understand it will be a patchwork with many different systems in place, but is that a line for you that at least some students must be allowed to return to campus for in-person classes for college sports to be able to take place?

EMMERT: Well, it certainly is to me. You know, I'm not the ultimate arbiter of this. It's going to be a decision that each of the campuses is going to have to make on their own.

But you know, again, these are college students that are playing these sports. The one thing that we've been saying loud and clear is you can't put a student athlete at any greater risk than you would a normal student.

Students can come back to campuses under a variety of different modes. And you can do the same thing with sports. And what everybody's exploring right now is working closely with our medical advisers because that's who we've relied heavily on. I'm not in a physician or medical professional. So, we rely on the advice of professionals, many of whom who have been on your show, and we're going to try to set parameters who allow students to return to class safely along with classmates.

BERMAN: And, of course the other burning question about college sports and really professional sports too, what happens if an athlete tests positive?

EMMERT: Well, you know, we're really different from professional sports in just the sheer breadth of what college sports is. We have literally half a million student athletes. We've got 1,100 different schools that participate in NCAA sports, 19,000 teams, not 32.

So, to me, it's not if a student comes down with the virus, it's when. I think it's almost inevitable with those kinds of numbers. And so, you have to have in place the protocols for testing, for tracking symptoms, for tracking contact, and the ability to quarantine individuals and those they've come in contact with when this occurs.

Same thing with regular students.