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All States will be Partially Reopened by Memorial Day Weekend; Rice University Reopening in the Fall; Powell and Mnuchin Testify on Economic Recovery; California Builds Army of Contact Tracers; Pompeo Asked for Firing of the Inspector General. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired May 19, 2020 - 09:30   ET



ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Know full well, you talk to family and friends and you get this difference of opinion among everybody about how all of this should unfold. But the fact of the matter is, across the country, the push to reopen is moving.

And barring any kind of jarring -- as I've mentioned several times, the jarring medical data, you really get the impression that it would take a lot to kind of back track from the momentum that we're seeing in opening up the economy.

But if you take a closer look at that data, this is -- look at the nationwide map here, comparing corona -- the number of coronavirus cases in states from last week to this week, and it kind of gives you a sense of where we're at. So take a look at this map.

And if you look at the states that are in orange, in red, those are states that have seen a jump from last week to this week in the number of coronavirus cases. Those states you see he there in green on that map, those states have been holding steady. And then the states that you see -- I'm sorry, the states that you see in green have been dropping and the states that you see in yellow, yellow are the ones that are holding steady.

So it's really just, depending on where you are in the country, it's very, very different. And every state seems to be in a different time and place as to how they're dealing with the coronavirus cases, which is what medical experts have been saying for weeks, that all of this will move and be dealt with not on the same timeline.

And speaking of that, the university of Washington model that has been tracking the coronavirus cases that has been relied upon so heavily by health experts across the country, an interesting note here, they have updated their projection for the number of deaths expected to be attributed to the coronavirus. The latest model out today shows that they have dropped the death projections slightly by some 3,000 cases.

Jim and Poppy.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: We'll be watching that closely.

Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

Something parents certainly have been watching, some colleges and universities are making big changes to get students back to campus this fall. This week at least five institutions released plans to shorten semesters. University of Notre Dame, Creighton University, they plan to end the fall semester before Thanksgiving altogether. Notre Dame students will return to campus on August 10th, two weeks earlier than expected. The idea here is to reduce the number of times they shuttle back and forth between campus and home.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Yes, it's a really innovative move.

Rice, Purdue, University of South Carolina all following similar guidelines. Those schools will skip the fall break and face to face teaching before Thanksgiving and, as Jim said, so they're not flying back and forth so much.

These new developments also come after other schools, including the entire California State University system, the biggest four year system, announced their plans to cancel nearly all in-person classes through the fall semester.

Anna Margaret Clyburn is with us. She is president of the Rice University Student Association, a rising senior majoring in history and French.

Thank you for being here.

We heard the president of Rice University on CNN last hour talking about the changes that are being made, but what about for you guys as students? What do you make of this plan?

ANNA MARGARET CLYBURN, PRESIDENT, RICE UNIVERSITY STUDENT ASSOCIATION: I think the things that I've been hearing are that students are so excited about the possibility of being able to go back in the fall. There's definitely some nervousness and some uncertainty as we (INAUDIBLE) -- nothing is for sure.

SCIUTTO: A little -- a little choppy connection there, Ann. I wonder if you just could repeat your last thought -- if we -- oh, it froze up. We're going to fix that. Go break. And we're going to come back so we can hear from Anna Margaret Clyburn at Rice University.



HARLOW: All right, back with us on the phone this time is Anna Margaret Clyburn, the president of Rice University's Student Association.

Sorry for the technical hiccup, Anna. I'm glad you're with us on the phone.

But just reiterate what you were saying before, how do students feel about this change in Rice's schedule? You're going to get to go back to school in the fall.

CLYBURN (via telephone): Exactly. I think students are so excited and so grateful to hear that Rice is willing to do everything that they can to get students back on campus safely. I know that while I feel lucky to be able to come back to a home with a stable family and normally most of the time stable Wi-Fi, not everyone is in that situation.

And Rice is really students' home. So the fact that Rice is making the effort to bring us back, something that I think is more difficult than deciding to go entirely online or to wait until spring of 2021 is just awesome.


CLYBURN: Of course there is uncertainty and nervousness and people have a lot of questions about what this will look like, but as someone who's got an opportunity to sit on Rice's crisis management team, I've gotten a chance to see how thoughtful Rice has been about all of its decisions. And I've been able to see how much student well-being and health is at the forefront of every decision that's being made, which makes me really happy.

SCIUTTO: Anna, big challenge for universities and colleges is campus living, right? I mean dorms, by their nature, are concentrated, right, sharing rooms, sharing bathrooms, shared dining halls and so on.

What is Rice going to do to create some space there?

CLYBURN: Yes. I think that's a huge point. That's kind of funny, I've heard all of our residential areas referred to as 11 mini cruise ships and it really is like that.


CLYBURN: And so -- I know, it's funny and then you realize it's so true. I first see Rice changing the way that it does health (ph) and dining.


I foresee Rice making some changes to insure that everyone has the protection required, including masks. I see Rice changing up the way that it does classrooms and ensuring that students can still physically distance, hopefully not socially, but physically distance while engaging in their academic and social life to be sure that we're safe, but also that we're able to interact with one another and maintain the highly relational and communal nature of our campus life because I think it's really that which defines Rice.

HARLOW: In addition to this health crisis, there is a clear and present economic crisis, Anna. We'll hear from the Fed chief and the Treasury secretary on this next hour. But that is going to mean that fewer students are going to be able to afford the tuition they were paying at a school like Rice before. More families in pain. We heard about HSBUs yesterday that are on the brink because they -- many don't have the huge endowment that some other schools have.

What can be done for those students and those families?

CLYBURN: Yes. This is a huge question on a lot of student's minds, not just in relation to tuition, but also in relation to what I do -- what do I do after Rice? Rice (INAUDIBLE) a huge financial aid package called the Rice Investment, which makes strides for students that are now able to afford coming to Rice.

I think now Rice is taking a look at, OK, what parts of our campus life, now that we've gotten students here, who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford school here, now that we've gotten them on campus, how do we make all of these other aspects of campus life more financially accessible?

How do we make it so that students are able to apply for internships, something that we know in the future will be a lot more competitive as companies and other places that would accept interns are less able to do so because of the economic crisis. Rice has a lot of funding available for students who are in need of additional assistance, both at like the residential level and then also at the dean of undergraduate level.

So I'm really looking to see Rice put more money into those funds so that students can continue to sustain the quality of campus life and just the quality of life that they have in general there.

HARLOW: Anna Margaret Clyburn, thanks for being with us. We wish you guys a lot of luck.

CLYBURN: Thanks so much. I appreciate it. Bye!


At the top of the hour, as we just mentioned, the Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will give their report and face some pretty tough questions about the first tranche of money, the $2.2 trillion CARES Act.


HARLOW: They're going to be before the Senate Banking Committee.

SCIUTTO: That program was intended to help small businesses struggling to stay in business during the stay-at-home measures. Did it work? Not all the time.

Let's bring in chief medical -- chief business correspondent Christine Romans.

So, Christine, what were the key issues here with getting money to the businesses who needed it most?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, some of this money hasn't even been deployed yet. Like there's a bunch of money for state and local governments, there's a bunch of lending for small and midsized businesses. Some of this money, quite frankly, hasn't even gone out the door yet. So there will be tough questions about what's wrong there, why haven't they been able to get this up and running after a couple of months.

I'm sure there will be big questions about the PPP, that small business lending that really was, like, you know, hunger games for some of these small businesses who just couldn't get their hands on the money and now they're asking for different rules to make this loan work better for them, this money, essentially a grant, forgivable loan, work better for their businesses.

So you'll hear a lot about the small business lending from the Fed chief, you guys. We've seen his testimony. He's going to talk about the suffering of American families. They have given up their livelihoods.

They've given up their jobs. And that's for the better -- you know, for the better of the whole, the whole community, and they need to be made whole and kept solvent, those families. So he'll talk about that. And I think that will be really an eye to more money has to keep coming. You've got to get this money out the door and you're going to need more support for American workers, American families.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes. The question, of course, throughout has been, do the most needy companies get it as opposed to some of the bigger ones.

Christine Romans, thanks very much.

ROMANS: The fairness -- the fairness is really important, right.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And people watching, I'm sure they have personal -- many have personal experience with this.

Well, California is now recruiting an army of contact tracers to slow the spread of Covid-19. We will explain how that will work. It's ambitious, coming up.



SCIUTTO: So all the health experts say that contact tracing key to controlling the spread of this virus. California is now training an army of workers to do just that. Three thousand people have been recruited to test, trace and isolate anyone who may have been infected.

HARLOW: You've heard about this, but I think we're all intrigued about how it is actually going to work.

Stephanie Elam is with us now.

How is this going to work?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy and Jim, here's the thing, is that contact tracing has been around since the '30s, but a lot of us are just hearing this term for the first time because of the pandemic. California has had about 3,000. Now they're trying to grow that number to about 10,000 by the end of the month so they can find out who has this virus and then contain it.


DR. GEORGE RUTHERFORD, EPIDEMIOLOGY PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SAN FRANCISCO: The scope of this is unprecedented, especially for a respiratory virus.

ELAM (voice over): California is busy building an army to find out who has Covid-19 and to keep it from spreading further. Along with robust testing capabilities, these are key priorities under Governor Gavin Newsom's plan to fully reopen the state.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): These are simply disease detectives that will be trained to support the existing work force.


ELAM: Through a new program led by the University of California San Francisco and UCLA, the state is virtually training mostly current state and county employees as contact tracers, growing the force from 3,000 to about 13,000 by the end of the month. Once a positive test result is reported to the health department, that person can expect to get a call.

RUTHERFORD: We'll talk to you about your symptoms and then really go over in detail where you've been in the last five days. We're interested in finding out with whom have you been in contact for more than ten minutes within six feet without a mask on.

ELAM (on camera): How much information are these people being asked to share?

RUTHERFORD: We need to know who they are, where they are, who their medical providers are, where they're going to go into isolation. We also want to know where they're working. This is all -- not only about managing the individuals, but also trying to identify clusters of transmission.

ELAM (voice over): Just as tracers did when someone in Pasadena decided to throw a birthday party recently. One person brought a gift no one wanted.

DR. YING-YING GOH, PASADENA HEALTH OFFICER: There was someone who was coughing, who attended the party, and there were subsequently five laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19.

ELAM: One infectious person who led to five confirmed cases within the city, plus possibly five or six other partygoers who live outside of Pasadena and were also beginning to show symptoms. All tracked down by talking to the person who initially tested positive for the virus to get the names and numbers of those they had been around.

MARIE PLUG, PASADENA CENTRAL LIBRARY: What we're doing is for a particular reason not to be invasive or intrusive or to take away any of their freedoms.

ELAM: Marie Plug normally works for the Pasadena Central Library. For now, she's assisting the city's health department as a contact tracer. After our call, she sends her notes to a public health nurse who does a secondary investigation.

PLUG: They make a determination as to whether or not this person would be safe to go back to work.

ELAM: Getting back to work, the ultimate goal, not just for the recovered, but for California as well.


ELAM: And Marie Plug telling me as well that she gets through about five to eight calls a day, so they do take a lot of time. And that's part of the reason why they need an army. And she says some of the stories are just heartbreaking, heart-wrenching. Some of these people are alone and they're happy to have somebody to talk to.

But the other part about this that Dr. Rutherford explained to me is the fact that for those people who need help, they do have social programs to make sure that they get the food and that they are actually isolating themselves and quarantining as necessary before they go back out into the public and before they go back out into the workforce, Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it would be nice to see a similar effort nationally.

Stephanie Elam, thanks very much.

Now to one small sign of the human toll of this virus. We recently reported on Tin Aye, an employee of the JBS Greeley meat packing plant in Colorado who tested positive for coronavirus following an outbreak at that plant. She was hospitalized, put on a ventilator in late March. Unfortunately, we hate to share that Aye died following complications from Covid-19. She is now the eighth worker from that one plant to die as a result of the virus.

HARLOW: The ultimate sacrifice. Aye and her husband left Southeast Asia in August of 2007. They arrived in Colorado in search of a better life. She was a mother, a wife, and recently became a grandmother to a little baby boy named Felix. Aye's daughter says she was able to see her mother in person before she died on Sunday afternoon, but Aye was never able to meet her grandson, who was born around the time that she was hospitalized. Aye was 60 years old. We'll be right back.



HARLOW: An important development on the firing of the IG that happened late on Friday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo now says he asked the president to fire the inspector general of the State Department.

SCIUTTO: As it turns out, not just one but two investigations were underway by the IG. Let's bring in CNN's senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt.

What was going on? What was Steve Linick looking into and how did that play into this?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there are, as you say, two investigations that Linick was carrying out into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that we know of. Pompeo hasn't gone into specifics about why Steve Linick was fired. He has simply said that Linick was undermining the mission of the State Department.

Pompeo has spoken to "The Washington Post" about Linick's firing. This is how he explained it. He said, I went to the president and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn't performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to. Poppy and Jim, that, of course, is interesting language that we had tried to get him to.

You know, these inspectors general is supposed to act independently as watchdogs within the agencies and departments that they're working in. But there were at least two investigations that Linick was carrying out. According to the House Foreign Affairs Chairman Elliott Engel, Linick had been looking into this expedited arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

You'll remember that last year their -- the Trump administration had said -- had imposed an emergency in order to be able to circumvent Congress which had blocked arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and so Linick was looking into this fast-tracking by Pompeo, Pompeo's role in the fast-tracking of this arms sales. And according to Engel's office, Pompeo had refused to sit down for an interview in this investigation.

Now, the second investigation that we know Linick was carrying out was of a more personal nature, the use of a political appointee by Pompeo possibly for personal reasons, including walking the dog, making a dinner reservation, picking up dry cleaning.


Pompeo says that he did not know about that, and so that was not -- that Linick's firing was not retribution.