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Update on Coronavirus Responses Around the World; Trump Announces He's Taking Hydroxychloroquine Despite FDA Warnings; Dr. William Lang, Former White House Physician, Discusses Trump Taking Hydroxychloroquine to Ward Off COVID-19; New York State Begins Phase 1 of Their Reopening But Hard-Hit NYC Has to Wait; Hard-Hit Miami Reopens Tomorrow; Warren Grills Mnuchin over Lack of Penalties. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 19, 2020 - 11:00   ET




FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They went on a lockdown very early on, they shut their borders very early on and are now able to get out of that lockdown fairly quickly again.

The interesting thing about Denmark is they don't really believe in things like wearing masks in public. They also haven't really started mass testing for coronavirus until fairly recently.

The big thing here has been washing hands very, very often and very thoroughly, and sanitizing well, and of course, keeping that physical distance. That's been very successful for the Danes. Their cases of coronavirus have been fairly few and their death toll is fairly low as well.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Copenhagen, Denmark.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Here in the U.K., the government is seeking funding for a project hoping to train dogs to detect COVID- 19 in people. They've already had success with malaria and prostate cancer and are pretty confident they'll have success with this, too.

If they do so, one of the first appointments for these dogs could be at airports where dogs are already used to sniff out drugs and other contraband. If these dogs could open up air travel again, it could have huge impacts on the economy.

One of great advances these dogs have over technology, for example, when it comes to testing for the virus is the rate at which they can test. Up to 250 people an hour could be screened by just one dog.

Max Foster, CNN, Windsor, England.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Up next for us, despite warnings from his own FDA, President Trump says he's taking Hydroxychloroquine to prevent, he believes, him from getting COVID-19.



KING: President Trump is ignoring his own administration's medical advice and says he has been taking the drug, Hydroxychloroquine, to prevent COVID-19.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A couple of weeks ago I started taking it.


TRUMP: Because I think it's good. I've heard a lot of good stories.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did your doctor recommend you take that drug? Is that why you --


TRUMP: Yes, the White House doctor. He didn't recommend it. I asked him what he would think. He said, well, if you would like it. I said, yes, I'd like it. I'd like to take it. A lot of people are taking it. A lot of frontline workers are taking Hydroxychloroquine.


KING: There have been studies suggesting it's not that effective, but the president says his evidence that it does work is that he, quote, "gets a lot of positive calls about it."

Those calls are not coming from his own Food and Drug Administration, which says right now the drug should only be used for COVID-19 in hospitals or clinical trials because the FDA says it can cause potentially deadly side effects.

Let's discuss this with Dr. William Lang. He's a former White House physician, currently the medical director of the WorldClinic.

Doctor, it's good to see you again.

Quickly, this is the memo from the White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, released after the president said yesterday he's taking it. He said this: "After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of Hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit for treatment outweighed the relative risks."

That memo does not say that the White House physician actually prescribed it.

If you were the White House physician right now, the Food and Drug Administration says don't do this, in that setting, the president is not hospitalized, the president is not part of a clinical trial, would you say, sir, I'll give you a prescription for this, or would you say, sir, think again?

DR. WILLIAM LANG, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, WORLDCLINIC & FORMER WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: Any time you prescribe a medication, you're doing a risk benefit analysis. Just about every medication has risks. You think about all the commercials you see on TV and the long lists of risks that sound terrifying. But when you look at the benefit of the medication, with the risk benefit analysis, you do decide you do prescribe the medicine.

You're looking at two separate decisions. One is the risk benefit of taking it. The other is the risk benefit of not taking it.

In this case, there are competing studies, a number of studies that have shown there may not be any benefit. Many of these have been later stages of the disease. But then there are also studies that have shown that there may, in fact, be some benefit.

So we know the downside of taking it from the potential benefits is not high. And then we look at what is the risk of the drug? Well, this is a drug that we have huge amounts of experience with. Hydroxychloroquine has been used for many years.

In fact, the primary use of Hydroxychloroquine is in rheumatologic disease. Many around the world take it but that's not unauthorized use. The other authorized use for Hydroxychloroquine, other than this emergency use authorization that still exists, is for malaria. It's rarely used for malaria anymore. It's primarily used for other purposes.

So when you do the risk benefit analysis, yes, I would seriously consider prescribing it for the president today.

KING: You would?

Is there anything in his health history that you know that would give you pause, 73 years old, overweight?

LANG: Right. The major thing you're going to be looking at in health history today with someone who you're putting on Hydroxychloroquine is there's a problem with heart arrhythmia that can develop. However, this has been shown only recently.

The original packaging labeling, FDA authorizations for use of it never even mentions arrhythmias. But we did find, in certain conditions, the condition is called Long Q.T. Syndrome, that you can have an arrhythmia can develop.


If you are monitoring beforehand, as you can imagine the president would have a regular EKG, and that EKG shows no evidence of Long Q.T. Syndrome, and then subsequently, you can do additional monitoring, even after you start the medication. We're not sure that's being done.

But you can monitor that to make sure, even if you don't have a risk up front, do you have a risk after the fact. It's easy to check. It's not something that would typically be a sudden change in the absence of a prior history.

KING: Why, then, do we have FDA recommendations if the president of the United States -- can I just say, I don't care. Doctor, could you give me a prescription right now if I said the FDA says you shouldn't use this unless you have emergency use authorized or unless you're part of one of these clinical studies. Would you write me a Hydroxychloroquine prescription right now?

LANG: Two different questions. Two very different questions. One is from a public health standpoint. Are you ever going to make a recommendation on a public health level just saying across the board, this is OK to take, when you don't know the medical status of every person that's out there?

You need to say this is not something that for everybody because there's this risk of cardiac anomalies and there are more minor risks also. But there are risks like cardiac issues out there. So the last thing the FDA would say is, yes, everyone go talk to your doc, get this done.

But in an individual situation, whether it's you, me, or the president of the United States, when you look at the potential risks and the potential benefits and, in light of your personal individual health history, that's a different story. So you have to consider what's good for making general pronouncements for the public versus what is good for individual patients.

And that's the whole reason why many, many drugs, as many as some studies say a fifth of all drug use is off-label use. The FDA has not said that it's OK to use. But we, clinicians, in considering the individual risks and benefits in the setting of a particular patient, feel that it's beneficial for the patient. So that's what's happening here.

KING: Dr. Lang, I appreciate your insights very much.

LANG: Happy to be with you.

KING: Take care, sir. Appreciate it.

It's reopening day for a big slice of New York State, but just what is the timeline of hard-hit New York City?



KING: New York State opened today, including Buffalo, Rochester and Niagara Falls. Governor Cuomo says the area has now hired enough contact tracers to begin phase one of the reopening process. That means retail, manufacturing and construction can resume, along with activities like fishing and hunting.

Looking ahead to the Memorial Day holiday weekend coming, state beaches and parks are set to reopen on Friday. That does not include beaches, though, in New York City. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins me now.

Shimon, you have an interesting situation where a lot of New York is it beginning to reopen but the timeline for the city is still down the road a bit.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's still down the road a bit, probably weeks away. The mayor saying he's not going to reopen beaches. A lot of people not very happy about that. We'll see as the days go on, how that goes.

As you said, we have northern regions now, western regions that have reopened, as you said, Buffalo being one of the big parts of the western region that have reopened. And it's jobs that don't really require a lot of contact with people that the governor is going to allow to softly restart.

This is all in some ways a test for the state, to see how this goes. And if this is successful and if things are going to continue to head the way they're heading, in the downward trend in terms of the number of people who are getting infected, the number of hospitalizations, and if they can keep on containing this, it's going to help other parts of the state, of course.

And it is, John, a big question here for New York City: When are we going to see that reopen? The mayor indicating it's probably going to be sometime in June. What exactly that will entail, we don't know yet.

The other thing the governor pointing out was Buffalo. He says he's hoping to see sports come back, perhaps maybe getting the Buffalo Bills started again. That was something he raised yesterday. Of course, a lot of fans would like to see sports come back. So we'll see where that goes.

But this is all very good indications, of course, for the state, John, if things continue to head in the right direction. We'll hear from the governor momentarily and we'll see what he has to say.

KING: See if he says the reopening does expand in part of the state.

Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate the reporting.

Now to Florida, where most of that state too also reopening tomorrow. Miami moving to phase one tomorrow. It's also one of the cities hardest hit by COVID-19. More than 9,700 cases in Miami.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in Miami with more.

Rosa, this is a big step.

ROSA FLORES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a huge step. The city of Miami announcing it will start reopening tomorrow, allowing retail stores to reopen at 50 percent capacity. Barber shops will also reopen, 26 parks as well.

All of this with some restrictions, of course. Face coverings will be required and social distancing.

It's important to note that the city of Miami Beach will also be reopening with retail stores at 50 percent capacity. The beaches, however, will remain closed.

Both of these cities announcing that restaurants will not reopen until next week. But the mayors of both of these cities saying they want to take it slow. They know that their cities are magnets for people because of the iconic locations, like South Beach, so they're taking it very slow.

And, John, I just checked the Florida Department of Health Web site. Florida crossing a grim milestone, more than 2,000 deaths related to COVID-19 reported and cases are near 47,000 -- John?


KING: Rosa Flores, we'll keep in touch with you in the next few days and watch how this experiment plays out.

Up next for us, the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin faces a grilling from Senator Elizabeth Warren for how big corporations are spending taxpayers' stimulus dollars.



KING: More now on the big Senate hearing today on your tax money and the coronavirus response with the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the Fed Chair Powell over the taxpayer money they've spent.

Just moments ago, Senator Elizabeth Warren digging down to the regulations and what she sees as a lack of penalties for businesses to take your money, your money, and used to keep people on the payroll.

But Senator Warren says some of those companies are not listening. As you are listening to this here, a little glitch in the tape but it is fascinating.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Taxpayers are on the hook here for nearly half a trillion dollars. You are not going to require they keep a single person on the payroll.

There are some rules, you identify it earlier, like prohibiting companies from getting bailout money from double dipping into other CARES Act programs. By law, for companies to get this money, they have to sign agreements certifying that they're in compliance.

Secretary Mnuchin, this is what I want to know. Will you create a certification process that ensures that executives are held personally liable and are subject criminal penalties if they provide false information or misuse bailout funds?

UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: And if you can be brief, Mr. Secretary.

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: We will review that. And, again, I'll just comment on programs like the airlines program have very specific requirements to keep jobs, which was the intent of Congress.

WARREN: That's right. And the rest is left up to you. And what you are saying is that you won't do it.

You're not worried that we have a situation where 35 million Americans have filed for unemployment. You are in charge of half a trillion dollars. You're boosting your Wall Street buddies. And you are leaving the American people behind.

MNUCHIN: Senator Warren, I think that's a very unfair characterization. And these issues were discussed with both Republicans and Democrats at the time. You were not necessarily part of these discussions but these were discussed.

WARREN: You were given the authority to determine the terms. You said it yourself. You're putting out terms. And those time sheets do not require that a single corporation getting millions of dollars of taxpayer money retaining one job.


KING: CNN's Phil Mattingly is joining us now.

Phil, we know the Senator is very skeptical of how the administration is administering this. That's raw anger there.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's no question about it. Senator Warren has served on the Senate Banking Committee since she's been in the United States Senate. She's prepared for those types of moments that go viral and get millions of views. She can do it.

I think what's fascinating about this is that this back and forth is at the heart of the tension that comes with programs like this. You saw back in 2008 with TARP and the rescue measures back then. You saw it this time around, specifically on the $500 billion, the $54 billion that's being used for these facilities.

It was in intense debate and negotiations between Republicans and Democrats and the administration, whether or not you can put requirements on maintaining payrolls for firms getting loans through these lending facilities. In the end, the administration's position on we're not going to require that, we may do it, but it won't be a requirement ended up winning out.

You're seeing the debate continue on live television between Senator Warren and Secretary Mnuchin. The administration's point has always been, we are weary of issuing requirements for companies to maintain payroll that only the healthiest companies would be able to get these loans. They need things besides payroll and other things.

What Democrats have maintained throughout the process is keeping people in their jobs is the most important thing. We have learned lessons from 2008 of the programs back then those lessons need to be applied here. Again, this is the tension.

Watching that tension spill out in the public is a precursor of what's coming months ahead. There will be a lot of hearings from this. There will be deeper dives from oversight commissions and inspector generals into how these programs work.

Pay attention to this stuff. This will come back around. There will be people misusing these programs and lawmakers and oversight commissions are going to pay close attention to how well it works, if this works.

It is not a policy application. There are political ramifications to whether or not this works, whether or not these programs are misused. These back-and-forths are extremely important.

KING: As we get closer and closer to the elections, there will be questions about the economy, about how are all this money is spent?

Phil Mattingly, appreciate the reporting. Thanks very much.


Hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I am John King, in Washington. This is CNN continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.