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U.S. Governors Balance Risks as Economies Open; Senior CDC Official Rebukes Criticism from White House Trade Adviser; U.S. Expected to Revise Paycheck Protection Program. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 18, 2020 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: Governors across the U.S. are walking a fine line this morning, trying to reopen their economies without triggering a second spike of coronavirus. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, this is EARLY START, I'm Laura Jarrett. Good to see you, Christine, on this Monday morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: Yes, nice to see you too, Laura. I am Christine Romans, it is Monday, May 18th, it is 5:00 a.m. exactly in New York City. All right, a big test for governors and hundreds of millions of Americans across 48 states. Balance old risks with new ones as states begin to reopen or expand reopening. Now, the human toll reveals that risk. Nearly, 90,000 Americans have been killed by coronavirus, nearly 1.5 million people infected.

JARRETT: You can see new deaths are actually on the decline and new cases are trending down or at least holding steady in 33 states, but at the same time, isolation rules are being relaxed and health officials say big gatherings could reverse all this progress we've seen. Two important states to watch this week, Florida and Texas both trending the wrong way.

ROMANS: Yes, Florida expands to a full phase 1 reopening today. Restaurants and retailers allowed now to operate at 50 percent capacity. Gyms are opening, too, with social distancing, but not everyone is ready to go.


MAYOR DAN GELBER, MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: I don't think anybody really has a playbook or a manual for this. There's not a whole lot of direction coming from Washington, and there's an incredible amount of desire and frustration. So, you've got to really try to make sure that you don't rush into this thing.


JARRETT: Florida experienced a slight uptick in new cases last week. Some of the test results from Florida actually in question. CNN has learned about 33,000 tests from AdventHealth Medical Centers in Florida have been found unreliable because of problems with one of the processing labs. In Texas, one of the first states to reopen, new cases are spiking. The state recorded its highest single day increase on Saturday, over 1,800 new cases there.


MAYOR STEVE ADLER, AUSTIN, TEXAS: Everyone is watching this to see what this grand experiment is going to result in. But we know for an absolute certainty that as you increase physical interactions between people, you are going to increase the number of new cases. It just happens.


ROMANS: Texas health officials say the majority of new cases, Saturday, originated from meat plants in Potter and Randall Counties as a result of targeted testing. But the uptick remains consistent no matter how much testing is done. The percentage of positive tests in Texas over the last few weeks are flat as the national average goes down. And now more people will be moving around as restrictions are loosened. Natasha Chen has more.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, most states have reopened in some form without having met White House guidelines. We're seeing the continued rollout of reopening region-by-region with mixed results. Still, more reopening begin this morning. Arkansas will now allow indoor venues to reopen including that state's three casinos.

San Francisco which extended its shutdown longer than the rest of the state of California will now allow businesses to do delivery or curbside pickup. Vermont is also now gradually reopening stores. In Maine, restaurants are also reopening, but only in 12 counties where transmission rates are lower. In New Hampshire and Rhode Island, you can also go out to restaurants now but only in the outdoor seating area.

Now, gyms reopen in five states, West Virginia, Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Kansas. And in Kansas, you can now make an appointment for a nail salon, hair salon or tattoo parlor. Yellow Stone National Park says it is opening in a limited form after being closed for two months. Looking further ahead, beaches on the Jersey shore will begin reopening, but New York beaches will stay closed through Memorial Day. Christine and Laura, back to you.

ROMANS: All right, Natasha, thank you for that. Simmering tensions between the White House and the Centers for Disease Control thrust into very public view. A senior CDC official delivering a sharp rebuke of White House trade adviser Peter Navarro after Navarro harshly criticized the agency. Quote, "we should remind Mr. Navarro that the CDC is a federal agency, part of the administration. If there is criticism of the CDC, ultimately Mr. Navarro is being critical of the president and the man who President Trump placed to lead the agency."

The escalation is part of a broader growing sense of mistrust between the White House and the agency tasked with slowing the pandemic. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House. [05:05:00]

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Laura. Well, it's certainly remarkable to hear a senior White House official criticizing the Centers for Disease Control in the middle of a pandemic. And that is exactly what Peter Navarro did on Sunday, accusing the CDC of dropping the ball early in this response to the coronavirus.


PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: Early on in this crisis, the CDC which really had the most trusted brand around the world, in this space really let the country down with the testing because not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test. And that did set us back.


DIAMOND: Now Navarro is actually hitting the mark there as far as some of the critical errors that the CDC made early on. They had an issue with manufacturing, that early coronavirus test that led to delays of about three weeks, and actually getting those tests to deploy across the country. But of course, what we now know is that there have been several other missteps from the Trump administration in responding to this pandemic.

So, the question is why is Navarro singling out the CDC. And what we do know is that there have been rising tensions between the White House and the CDC in recent weeks. On the White House end, there have been frustrations about how the CDC is gathering and tracking data about this virus. And then at the CDC, we know that they had developed the 68-page, very detailed guidelines on how businesses and states can begin to reopen.

The White House just a few days ago released just a six-page document shelving much of the detail that CDC officials had tried to offer there to those businesses. Christine, Laura?

JARRETT: Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much for that. We all know social distancing can be tough sometimes, but it works. According to a new study in the journal of "Health Affairs", the practice may have prevented tens of millions of COVID-19 infections. Researchers found government ordered social distancing cut the daily growth rate of the virus by about 9 percent after two to three weeks. The study concludes, without social distancing, the number of cases in the U.S. might have been 35 times higher.

ROMANS: Wow, that really is interesting. All right, the largest small business bailout in history has been riddled with issues. Many small business owners have been shut out of getting the much-needed funds. And for those who get the money, there are strings attached. The "Wall Street Journal" reports significant changes may be coming to the Paycheck Protection Program.

Currently for the loan to be forgiven, business owner must use 75 percent of the money to pay their workers. For many, they want more flexibility on how to use the money and when to use it. On Friday, the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration released a form for loan forgiveness and said regulations and guidance will be issued soon to help borrowers and lenders.

Now, fiscal relief for small business has been a critical bridge between the pandemic and a hope for recovery. The Federal Reserve has also announced, nearly unlimited support to help the economy through the crisis. But a recovery timeline is still unclear. The Fed chief Jerome Powell was asked if a recovery is possible without a vaccine.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE, UNITED STATES: Assuming there's not a second wave of the coronavirus, I think you'll see the economy recover steadily through the second half of this year. For the economy to fully recover, people will have to be fully confident. And that may have to await the arrival of a vaccine.


JARRETT: No one knows when a vaccine will actually arrive. And two European leaders are bluntly warning the world to accept living with COVID-19 and stop waiting to be saved by a vaccine. Isa Soares has that story live from London. Isa, how are you?

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, good morning to you, Laura. That's right. As many European countries begin to ease or lift lockdown restrictions, we've had two prime ministers re-issuing stark warnings. The Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy as well as the Prime Minister Boris Johnson here in the U.K. basically saying either you need to adapt to living with COVID-19 because there is a high chance of possibility, in fact, that we might not get a vaccine.

Now, let me talk to you through to what Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said. He was speaking over the weekend, in fact. And he said this, "we are facing a calculated risk, knowing that the epidemiological curve could rise again. That the epidemic curve is encouraging, we are now in a condition or to phase this new phase with faith and responsibility", he says.

"We cannot afford to wait for a vaccine." Now, he said this on Saturday. As of today, Laura, Italy is opening albeit, a very small baby step, I should say. Shops, restaurants, bars, even hair salons, they're opening. This is after two months lock down. More than 32,000 people have died and we're expecting the economy to contract by 10 percent.


So, that's the view from Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Here in the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote a piece in the mail on Sunday in which he said this, I'm going to read it out. "I said we would throw everything we could at finding a vaccine that remains a very long way to go. And I must be frank, that a vaccine might not come to fruition. Despite these efforts, we have to acknowledge we may need to live with this virus for some time to come."

So, a pretty sobering words there from the prime minister. But as you were saying this, we also heard, Laura, from his Business Secretary yesterday, Alok Sharma, who basically said they are offering everything they can in terms of money, more than -- a quarter of a million pounds, in fact, almost a quarter million -- over a quarter million dollars to finding a vaccine.

It seems to be good signs. Oxford University trials have already started. We expect to know the results by June, said the CEO of Astra Zeneca. This, Laura, as U.K. government, Astra Zeneca and Oxford University have agreed on a licensing agreement, which means that if -- it's a big "if" here, if the vaccine is successful, the U.K. will get 30 million vaccines by September as part of a 100 million vaccine deal. That is if of course, it's successful. Laura?

JARRETT: Certainly, a hopeful sign, but managing expectations as we heard from both of those leaders an important part. Isa, thank you so much.

ROMANS: Yes, managing expectations, exactly. All right, the Friday night axe falls on yet another top government watchdog State Department Inspector General Steve Linick fired by President Trump Friday night. CNN has learned Linick was investigating whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a staffer walk his dog and run other personal errands. There has been no comment from the State Department.

JARRETT: The president has repeatedly attacked internal government oversight. Their entire function is to act independently without of fear of retribution as they attempt to uncover waste, fraud and abuse. Reaction from top members of Congress as well as you might expect along party lines.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I spoke with senior officials both in the White House and the State Department. I understand their reasoning, I don't know whether they're going to provide any more robust rationale for why they do it. But I understand it and I don't disagree with it.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The president has the right to fire any federal employee, but the fact is if it looks like it's in retaliation for something that the IG, the Inspector General is doing, that could be unlawful.


JARRETT: Linick is the fourth government watchdog removed by the president in the last few weeks, along with inspectors from the Intelligence community, the Pentagon and Health and Human Services.

ROMANS: All right, local authorities in Wuhan, China, suppressed key details in the early stages of coronavirus. That accusation coming from inside the country. CNN has an exclusive interview with the top medical adviser in Beijing. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


JARRETT: Welcome back. Developing overnight, more than 100 countries are now demanding an independent evaluation of how the World Health Organization responded to coronavirus. They don't specifically mention China, but Beijing has faced mountain international scrutiny for its handling of the outbreak. This morning, CNN has an exclusive interview with the Chinese government's senior medical adviser and the public phase of the country's coronavirus fight.

Basically, he is China's version of Dr. Fauci, and he has some harsh words for his own government. CNN's David Culver has more now.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is an interview that we have been working to get for months. A conversation with the Dr. Fauci of China, his name is Dr. Zhong Nanshan. And in our exclusive interview, he spoke about what he believes are the concerns still on the horizon for China even though things here are starting to open up and may feel safer, he says they are not in the clear and warns of a second wave. He also was highly critical of how things were handled early on, particularly within Wuhan.



CULVER (voice-over): In the U.S., many have turned to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert as that medical voice of reason. In China, it's Dr. Zhong Nanshan; a well-known respiratory expert speaking exclusively with CNN.

ZHONG NANSHAN, CHINA'S LEADING MEDICAL EXPERT: I cannot compare with Fauci who's the adviser of the president. Always been standing beside the president.

CULVER: Perhaps, he does not physically stand next to President Xi Jinping, but Zhong has the trust of China's central government. His advice sparks near immediate action. Take for example, Wuhan's unprecedented lockdown. On January 18th, five days before the city was shut down, Zhong traveled to the original epicenter of the outbreak. He questioned the local health officials.

NANSHAN: In the very beginning they kept silent.

CULVER: Zhong who gained international praise for his work on SARS 17 years ago believed this rapidly spreading novel coronavirus was far more devastating than being portrayed by Wuhan health officials.

NANSHAN: I suppose they are very reluctant to answer my question. The local authorities didn't like to tell the truth at that time.

CULVER: Publicly, Wuhan health officials as late as January 19th labeled the virus as preventable and controllable. And later, the city's mayor even acknowledged not releasing information in a timely fashion. Zhong pressed harder for the actual numbers, and when he got them, he headed to Beijing on January 20th. He briefed the central government and within hours, he was addressing the nation in this live interview on state-run "CCTV".

Zhong revealed that human-to-human transmission was likely, and as proof of that, he said the virus had already infected multiple medical personnel.

NANSHAN: That's very dangerous showing these kinds of disease, very contagious. So, I suppose at that time, the central government listened to our comment, subjection and advice.


CULVER: Within three days, Wuhan went into a harsh lockdown that lasted 76 days. Yet, even with China's central government now taking a lead, there is still skepticism over the official numbers. Zhong believes it's partly political, and says the Chinese government would not benefit from under-reporting.

NANSHAN: The government had got a lesson from the outbreak of SARS 17 years ago. They had announced one after the spike that all the cities, all the government department should report the true number of diseases. So if they -- if do not do that, you will be punished.

CULVER: What do you believe to be the origin of this virus in particular?

NANSHAN: I think the origin is very difficult to draw any conclusion at the moment. But I believe this kind of disease is originated from animals.

CULVER: U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have said they have evidence that it leaked from a lab, namely the Wuhan Institute of Virology, an origin theory many international medical experts and even U.S. intelligence say is highly unlikely.

Now, it seems more and more medical experts do not believe that it originated there. Do you feel that with certainty?

NANSHAN: I don't think so. It took about two weeks to make a very close and deep checkup that proves nothing about that. No, I don't think so.

CULVER: Zhong's focus now is preparing China for a second wave of the outbreak. Over the past few weeks, new clusters of cases have surfaced in several cities, including Wuhan.

NANSHAN: We are facing a big challenge. It's not better than the foreign countries, I think, it's at the moment.

CULVER: Zhong like Dr. Fauci has achieved a celebrity status here in China. His scientific expertise aside, many are impressed with Zhong's physical drive. What is that you have been doing during this period to stay mentally sane, physically fit? How does Dr. Zhong conduct his days?

NANSHAN: I still keep exercising and sport, and so all the things. I keep an open mind and eat not too much every time. So that's why it seems to be still can do something in my age of 84.

CULVER: Dr. Zhong also spoke about the collaboration that he says is ongoing with his medical counterparts in the United States, particularly with Harvard University. He suggests that despite things getting highly politicized and tensions between the U.S. and China heightened, the conversations and the collaboration is still underway, at least amongst certain medical professionals. Dr. Culver, CNN, Hainan Island, China.


ROMANS: Terrific reporting from David there --

JARRETT: Such a great scoop.

ROMANS: Wow, all right, the pandemic of the present is helping revive a business model of the past.



ROMANS: A blast from the past in the era of coronavirus. People looking to escape home while social distancing have revived an American classic, "The Drive-In Theater". CNN's Tom Foreman has more.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even with Virginia rain coming steadily down --

JAMES KOPP, DRIVE-IN OPERATOR: I hate it when it looks like this.

FOREMAN: Business is up!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know, which movie?


FOREMAN: The James Kopp's "Drive-In Theater".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, what's the first name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right-hand lane.

FOREMAN: Just in the nick of time.

KOPP: Small businesses are offering. If it wasn't for my retirement account, we would -- we would not be able to put the show on. People are seeing it as a safe environment, a safe way to come out to see the movie.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Hermes in the Car".

FOREMAN: With traditional cinemas and Hollywood itself reeling from lost income, drive-ins appear to be offering a rare and surging bright spot for the industry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello man, you got online ticket from tickets leak.

FOREMAN: And for fans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We drove from Washington D.C.

FOREMAN: Weary of sheltering at home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe about an hour to get here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the first time out of the house in a couple of weeks.

FOREMAN: Drive-ins were started way back in the early 1900s as an alternative to the stuffy, cramped conditions in some early theaters. They boomed in the 50s and 60s, then fell into decades of decline. But now that old idea, complete with popcorn suddenly seems new.

KOPP: You must provide space between that vehicle.

FOREMAN: And needed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely worked out in this pandemic time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least 6 feet away, and you know, we can stay in our cars if we need to.

FOREMAN: And not just for movies. Country star Keith Urban days ago staged a tribute concert to healthcare workers at a drive-in.

KEITH URBAN, AUSTRALIAN SINGER-SONGWRITER: God bless the healthcare workers.

FOREMAN: Suggesting live entertainment may find a home in the automotive amphitheaters too.

URBAN: Well, first of all, thank God, the drive-ins are still happening.

KOPP: To all of the essential workers out there --

FOREMAN: At Kopp's, movie goers expressed their support for hospital staffers with a blast of horns. Then the light faded, the projector came alive, and for at least, a little while, people sat apart but felt close and in the dark, the future seemed brighter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It helps to make things seem not as bad in the world. KOPP: For me it's like, yes! Oh, my goodness, it's like we're back

here, we're bringing the community back together, yes! The American drive-in theater rides again.

FOREMAN (on-camera): They're still practicing social distancing, telling people to stay apart. They're limiting the number of people who come in.