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CDC Director Forecasts 100,000 U.S Coronavirus Deaths by June 1; White House Predicts Vaccine This Year, Experts Skeptical; Second Brazilian Health Minister Out; Questioning Online COVID-19 Data; TikTok Popularity Soars. Aired 12-12:30a ET

Aired May 16, 2020 - 00:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, and welcome to Studio 7 here at CNN Center in Atlanta. I am Michael Holmes.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, Operation Warp Speed: President Trump says that his team is on pace to deliver a vaccine in record time.

But does this latest White House claim have any credibility?

Brazil's president refuses to take the coronavirus seriously and his country is feeling the effects. The latest official to step down.

Forget Netflix and chill, it is all about TikTok and quarantine these days. We will take a look at how many are coping or staying at home.




HOLMES: A warm welcome, everyone.

Unbridled optimism and sobering reality both on full display from the Trump administration. The president unveiled an ambitious and, some think, unlikely to succeed effort to have a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.

Even if that goal is not met, the president proclaims, in his words, "vaccine or no vaccine, we are back."

Later, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that every model of the CDC tracks forecasts at least 100,000 deaths in the U.S. by the 1st of June.

This comes as 28 states are seeing a downward trend on the rate of new cases. Even though the country added roughly 1,500 deaths a day or more. Meanwhile, the U.S. House passed a $3 trillion coronavirus aid package, mostly along party lines. Republicans say the bill though is dead on arrival in the Republican controlled Senate. Word that retail sales dropped 16.4 percent in April, perhaps not

surprisingly, given what is going on. Also, the retail icon JCPenney filed for bankruptcy protection.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force is adding five new members, including America's Agriculture and Labor secretaries.

That is a clue that the group will be focusing on the economy. The most pressing issue and the biggest challenge to safely open business again is, of course, developing a vaccine. Kaitlan Collins reports.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Unveiling his vaccine effort in the Rose Garden today, President Trump said the country would return to normal with or without one.

TRUMP: I just want to make something clear. It's very important. Vaccine or no vaccine, we're back. And we're starting the process.

COLLINS: Asked what he meant by that, the president offered this explanation:

TRUMP: We think we're going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future. And if we do, we're going to really be a big step ahead. And if we don't, we're going to be like so many other cases where you had a problem come in, it'll go away. At some point, it'll go away.

COLLINS: The president was formally announcing the leaders of Operation Warp Speed, his administration's effort to develop and distribute a vaccine.

GOV. GUSTAVE PERNA, U.S. ARMY MATERIEL COMMAND: It is going to be a Herculean task.

COLLINS: But, at one point, the president seemed to downplay how critical a vaccine would be.

Though many health experts have viewed an effective vaccine as the only way life can truly return to normal, the president made clear he doesn't agree.

TRUMP: No, it's not solely vaccine-based. Other things have never had a vaccine and they go away.

COLLINS: He also repeated his hope that a vaccine can be ready by the end of the year.

Some health experts have said that's unrealistic. And, yesterday, the administration's former vaccine chief, Rick Bright, who was pushed out of his job, said he's doubtful it could happen soon.


And I think it's going to take longer than that to do so.

COLLINS: The president said he's hopeful a full vaccine will be ready by the end of the year and available to the general public, not just for emergency use.

(on camera): Do you mean a fully approved vaccine for everyone, the full public, or a partially approved vaccine with emergency use?

TRUMP: No, we're looking for a full vaccine for everyone that wants to get it. Not everybody's going to want to get it. But we're looking at a full vaccine.

COLLINS (voice-over): Nearly all of the guests in the Rose Garden today were wearing masks, but on stage some of the president's top officials were and some weren't, including the president.

TRUMP: I told them. I gave them the option they could wear it or not. So you can blame it on me.

COLLINS: Sources say Trump and his aides have questioned whether the coronavirus death toll is being overcounted.


COLLINS (voice-over): Today, the president said he assumes the numbers are correct.

(on camera): Do you think that's accurate, or do you think it's higher than that?

TRUMP: I don't -- or lower than that. I don't know. I don't know. Those are the numbers that are being reported. I assume they are correct.

COLLINS: You may have noticed the vice president was not in the Rose Garden today with the president. That is because he has been keeping his distance from Trump this week after one of his top aides tested positive for coronavirus. He has been on White House grounds but instead of being in the West Wing, in attending these meetings or of it's in the Rose Garden he is instead remained in the executive office building, next door, which aides say is just out of an abundance of caution -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.



HOLMES: Joining me now is Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, a CNN medical analyst and chief clinical officer of Providence Health System.

Great to have you on. We heard at the White House Friday that early data suggests that vaccine doses by the end of the year. A lot of experts already casting doubt on that sort of timeline, expressing concerns, the right precautions will be taken.

What would you make of that sort of prediction of doses by the end of the year?

DR. AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think it's very optimistic and optimism is never a bad thing. But I think we need to plan for it taking a more rational from now for 12 to 16 months.

I would love to see it happen, I just think everything has to be absolutely perfect to hit that timeline.

HOLMES: Your own team is working on vaccine trials.

Will you tell us how complex that process is and how your own team's work is progressing?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: It is very complex, there is lots of steps to making a vaccine, first of all there are several different types under studies right now. There's over 100 vaccines being piloted and I just know that the work we are doing ourselves, how complicated it is.

So you have to decide, are you going to go for the activated virus or a virus that's dead but could still provoke an immune response or are you going to try a live attenuated virus, meaning a less virulent strain, a less powerful strain of the virus?

Or are you going to go for a new style that no approved vaccine is yet but there are many pilots underway of an RNA virus. And each of those has different steps in both the testing, whether it is safe, whether it actually provokes an effective immune response.

And then you actually have to make 7 billion doses to actually ensure that everybody on the planet gets it. So it is really complicated.

HOLMES: Sort of makes you wonder about the end of the year being the timeline. On the issue of guidance with all of this, it has been interesting the last few days, the CDC had detailed guidance. The White House apparently suppressing that detailed guidance on reopening and instead they put out this simplistic one page document that basically says things we all knew anyway.

And do you worry about scientific experts being muzzled in a way by politics in that sense?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: I really do worry about that, to be honest with you. From the very beginning, the CDC had a pandemic playbook before this all started. And for some reason, politics, complications in the U.S. political environment at the moment, it never got filed, never got used.

And even still we are seeing these experts, these international experts at the CDC being muzzled and not being able to use their expertise to guide the scientific basis for the recovery that we all want to see.

So we would love to see the CDC unchained and actually be allowed to lead in this area that they really should be.

HOLMES: Yes, even the venerable publication, "The Lancet," saying the same thing about the CDC, let them be.

I wonder, this has the sort of troubled me, do you worry about complacency?

You've got a president saying we probably don't need a vaccine, testing is overrated, let's open, people opening bars and restaurants in parts of the country. In the last few days around 1,700 people have died every day in the U.S.

Are people getting used to the numbers, 1,700 people dying every day?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: I think a couple things. One is we have had very confusing messages coming out from the government. You look at the difference between New Zealand, for example, where the leader is very clear, coherent, consistent and then everybody has trust in the leadership.

We have cacophony here in the U.S., because the federal government has said it's the states, every state has their own rules.


COMPTON-PHILLIPS: The governor fights with the Supreme Court and then every public health department is different.

And that cacophony erodes the trust of the public. And because of that, we have got all different types of voices, with many different opinions, forgetting the fact that we are all in this together and that, as a country, we are going to be stronger if we can actually all adhere with what we know works and not believing the dark corners of the Internet that promote conspiracy theories that this came from elsewhere.

And so I really think that it is a major issue to not have clarity, coherence and trust.

HOLMES: Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, always great to have you on, thank you so much.



HOLMES: With or without a vaccine and with or without a coordinated approach, almost every state in the U.S. is now, to some extent, open for business, as they try to regain some sense of normalcy. CNN's Nick Watt with the details.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across Louisiana, dinner and a movie is now an option once more, but your server might be masked.

COLLIN ARNOLD, DIRECTOR, NEW ORLEANS OFFICE OF HOMELAND SECURITY AND EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS: We really have kind of crushed the curve and because -- it's due to our residents, really. They stayed at home.

WATT: Forty-eight states now have an opening plan under way. Today, half of New York state begins is long road back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I can do is get back to work and hope that they'll come.

WATT: Beaches in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will, we're told, be open in time for Memorial Day.

But New York's pause order extended another two weeks for millions in the state, including everyone in New York City, unless numbers improve.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), NEW YORK CITY: We need a massive citywide apparatus, testing, tracing.

WATT: Meanwhile, in Michigan, resistance to regulations goes on. The blue governor says they're red protesters.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): These are not just citizens who are unhappy about having to stay home. This is a political rally, essentially. WATT: That might actually delay reopening.

WHITMER: It's the congregating of big groups of people who aren't wearing masks, who aren't staying six feet apart that will perpetuate the community spread.

WATT: And April's retail numbers are out, another historic low, retail sales down 16.4 percent, clothing sales down nearly 90 percent.

PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: Most of the 50 states are going back to work in some form. So I like to look forward.

WATT: Ford will start making cars again Monday and restaurants will reopen in hard-hit Miami as the county looks to hire up to 1,000 contact tracers.

Texas just set a record, most recorded COVID deaths in 24 hours, gyms and offices still scheduled to reopen Monday.

In North Carolina, big box stores can reopen, but church gatherings still limited to just 10 people.

KEITH STONE, SHERIFF AT NASH COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: I have not enforced it and I don't intend to enforce it.

WATT: Other sheriffs say the same.

STONE: And I would rather you turn towards the lord than the liquor store.

WATT: Meanwhile, in Sin City, now you can buy a mask from a vending machine at the airport, as Caesars gets ready to reopen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the new world, there will only be three chairs and nobody will be able to be within six feet.

WATT: Good news from L.A., the USNS Mercy hospital ship just left, after seven weeks supporting the COVID-19 fight. The curve here has flattened.

So the beaches will be open soon in New York state but not New York City and the mayor explained why. He said people don't really drive in New York City. So they might all go out to Coney Island and you will just have a crush of people there.

Here in L.A., this weekend will be the first weekend with beaches open, a big test, can we social distance in the sand? -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


HOLMES: Now Brazil's health minister is stepping down at what looks like to be, of course, the worst possible time. The country reporting its daily COVID-19 case record on the very same day. The minister thanked president Jair Bolsonaro for the opportunity. Did not say why he was leaving. Shasta Darlington takes a closer look for us.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brazil has lost its second health minister in a month. Nelson Teich stepped down on Friday after clashing with president Jair Bolsonaro over how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

His resignation came with the number of cases rising by a record 15,305 in one day; the death toll by rose by more than 800. At a short press conference on Friday afternoon, Teich thanked his colleagues and health professionals but didn't give a reason for his sudden departure.


NELSON TEICH, FORMER BRAZILIAN HEALTH MINISTER (through translator): Life is made of choices and today I choose to leave. I tell you that I did my best in those days that I was here in that period.


TEICH (through translator): It is not a simple thing to be in charge of a ministry like this in such a difficult period.


DARLINGTON: Teich also thanked Bolsonaro for the opportunity. But in recent days the two have clashed, as Bolsonaro pushed to expand the use of anti malaria drugs to treat COVID-19 and opposed quarantine measures, arguing that unemployment and hunger will kill more people than the virus itself.

Teich was appointed just a month ago on April 17th after his previous minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, was fired, also after repeatedly clashing with Bolsonaro.

Brazil has seen Latin America's worst outbreak of coronavirus. Officials say it is far from peaking. Now a new health minister is expected to be announced in coming days -- Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paolo.


HOLMES: We will take a quick break. When we come back, the spread of the coronavirus is creating a hunger for real time information. Data sites have seen a surge in activity since the beginning of the pandemic.

But are they reliable?

We'll take a look.




HOLMES: We are just getting word in that U.S. president Donald Trump has sacked yet another government watchdog. This time, it is the inspector general of the State Department, Steve Linick. Linick played a minor role in exposing Trump and Rudy Giuliani's activities regarding former Vice President Joe Biden and Ukraine.

There's also word Linick's office had opened an investigation into the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who was the one who just fired him. A Democratic congressional aide says that the investigation centered on the possible misuse of a political appointee to perform personal tasks for Pompeo and his wife.

So far, no official comment from the State Department.

Doctors are reporting more cases of a condition in children that appears to be linked to coronavirus and looks a lot like what is known as Kawasaki disease, a rare inflammatory condition. France reports a 9-year old boy has died, the first child with this new syndrome to die there.

This devastating news is just one of the reasons why Europe is more cautious about reopening.

Spain is easing restrictions for almost 70 percent of its population, although Madrid and Barcelona will have to wait a little while longer. The country has also put in place a 14-day quarantine for international arrivals.

Portugal, meanwhile, plans to open its beaches again on June 6th but is also announcing new crowd control measures.

The fast-growing, fast-moving coronavirus pandemic has spawned a global race for up to date statistics on cases, deaths and testing and so on. With every country reporting data differently, aggregation websites have surged in popularity.


HOLMES: One in particular, Worldometer, was relatively unknown prior to the pandemic. It has now been cited by governments, academics and news outlets. The British government called it well respected and the Spanish government trusts it because Johns Hopkins University does.

But in reality, almost nothing is known about how it operates, where it is based and who is really behind it. CNN's Scott McLean investigates.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not uncommon for politicians to use statistics to their advantage. But in late April, the Spanish prime minister went a lot further than that.


PEDRO SANCHEZ, SPANISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Today we found out about another study, from the Johns Hopkins University, that does not place us in eighth pace as the OECD did yesterday, but ranks us fifth in the world in total tests carried out.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Turns out not only had the OECD already revised Spain's position down to 17th, Johns Hopkins never published such a study.

MCLEAN: After initially claiming that their data came from Johns Hopkins University, the Spanish government put us on to a website called Worldometer.

We wondered, what is Worldometer?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not one I'm familiar with.

MCLEAN: You've never heard of it?


MCLEAN (voice-over): Worldometer aggregates COVID-19 data into slick tables and charts. It does actually rank Spain fifth in overall coronavirus testing but it is not exactly apples to apples. The table also includes both PCR and antibodies test for Spain but not for most other countries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it makes much sense to add those tests together. They present different things. In one case, you're testing people currently infected; in the other, you're testing who've been infected in the past.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Worldometer's owner seems to run 27 similar websites but has little online presence himself. The parent company, Data X LLC was once registered to a post office box in Delaware. CNN has made several unsuccessful attempts to reach Worldometer for comment.

The site relies on users to upload the latest government figures. It sounds like Wikipedia but even some Wikipedia editors decided that it was not good enough for them.

It was, though, for the British government, who cited Worldometer in televised press conferences for more than 2 weeks. Sanchez's office has not acknowledge his error, because Johns Hopkins tracker cites Worldometer as a source.

MCLEAN: Should they?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not sure. That's a great question. I had the impression that Worldometer was run by Hopkins.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Johns Hopkins says its COVID-19 tracker uses mostly automated scraping from designated, credible sources that are manually verified. One of those sources is Worldometer. Asked to explain why it trusts a website it knows so little about, the university would only explain that it is a process of continual cross checking and refinement to ensure that the data we are presenting is as accurate and timely as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are saying that people should be wary and especially media and (INAUDIBLE).

MCLEAN (voice-over): Scott McLean, CNN.


HOLMES: The coronavirus pandemic has forced millions, of course, to be at home, you may be one of them. But that is not stopping people from entertaining themselves and others with their TikTok moves. We'll have a look at the latest social media trend when we come back.





HOLMES: Welcome back.

Social media, of course, playing a big part in our lives and the newest trend is becoming TikTok famous. Our Max Foster explains the latest viral sensation after becoming a little TikTok famous himself. You've got to admit, he is pretty good at it.


MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When a guy drops off shopping for his grandmother during lockdown, he asks her to do a TikTok dance with him. The same dance has been done many times before. But the secret to TikToking is making it your own and if the lockdown had an anthem on the platform, this is it.

The platform's biggest star, American teenager Charlie Demelio (ph), garnering 8 million likes with her take on the sound.

Demelio's profile reveals she has an astonishing 55 million followers and getting over 4 billion lights on her videos, dwarfing any of the celebrities that joined the platform after her.

Like Demelio (ph), Australian Dante Moeller (ph) found stardom dancing and lipsynching in his bedroom. His mother getting in on the act in this video, which has been viewed nearly 5 million times.

DANTE MOELLER, TIKTOK STAR: Beforehand, I think everyone was kind of just doing it for fun and now it's kind of a way to escape. But now I think everyone is doing it, everyone and their grandma, just because they are bored sitting at home and they might as well do something creative.

FOSTER (voice-over): The power of the platform lies in the fact that anyone can go viral if they hit the right vibe. British psychologist Julie Smith (ph) has gained hundreds of thousands of followers with educational videos like this.


JULIE SMITH (PH), PSYCHOLOGIST: Your brain can read a word faster than it can label a color. It's a lovely lighthearted platform and that's partly what drew me to it in the first place, things that just give you that little lift, that bring your a moment's joy or make you laugh for a moment. So those little moments are not to be dismissed because that can help you to get through a day.

FOSTER: Don't do it, it's not worth it.

FOSTER (voice-over): Even journalists are finding the joy on TikTok, trying to make sense of lockdown like everyone else -- Max Foster, CNN, in social media's Wild West.


HOLMES: Too much time on his hands, that Max Foster.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM and for spending part of your day with us. I am Michael Holmes. "INSIDE AFRICA" is up next; we will see you a bit later.