Return to Transcripts main page


Key Model Revises U.S. Death Projection Slightly Downward; Moderna Vaccine Shows Positive Early Results; Trump Says He's Taking Hydroxychloroquine; Trump Threatens to Permanently Pull Funding from W.H.O.; China Supports Independent Review Once Virus is Contained; Mnuchin, Powell to Face Senate Banking Committee; Almost Every U.S. State Is In Some Phase of Reopening. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 19, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead --


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm taking hydroxychloroquine. Right now, yes.


CHURCH: A shocking admission that has health experts worried that the U.S. President maintains a controversial drug with no evidence to prevent coronavirus is safe.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump takes on the World Health Organization. Again threatening to pull its funding.

And CNN goes to one of America's most remote places struggling to battle the pandemic.

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has passed another grim milestone. More than 90,000 Americans have died with more than 1.5 million cases now reported. Still the process of reopening the country continues, and over the next week all 50 states will have eased restrictions or partially reopened for business. This map shows the trends when it comes to new cases as states gradually get back to work. And despite the increased mobility, a key model has revised the U.S. death projections slightly downward. Now forecasting more than 143,000 people will die by early August. That revision came as a surprise to researchers.


DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH AND METRICS AND EVALUATION: We're expecting them to probably go up because of the big surge in mobility in the last two or three weeks that we've seen in cell phone data, but what's really been fascinating is it's not a strong correlation between where mobility has gone up and the trend in cases in deaths. Even when we take into account the increase in testing. And our explanation for that is if you dig a little bit deeper and look into how the faction of the population in different states that are wearing masks, we think that's really the key difference there. Both their behavior and mask wearing.


CHURCH: And a cautious glimmer of hope as one company reports progress in developing a coronavirus vaccine. Moderna says early results show participants developed antibodies against the virus. U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed that news.


TRUMP: This was a very big day therapeutically, cure wise and vaccine wise. Tremendous progress has been made as I've been saying for two weeks because I've been seeing what's going on and think spearheading it largely. And this was a very, very -- some big announcements are coming and have just come out.


CHURCH: Meanwhile, President Trump says he is now taking hydroxychloroquine, a drug he has touted as a potential cure for COVID-19. He made that astounding admission at a briefing Monday even though medical experts question how effective the drug is and warn of potential side effects.


TRUMP: The front-line workers, many, many are taking it. I happen to be taking it. I happen to be taking it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hydroxychloroquine.

TRUMP: I'm taking it, hydroxychloroquine. Right now. Yes. A couple of weeks ago I started taking it because I think it's good. I've heard a lot of good stories. If it's not good, I'll tell you right -- I'm not going to get hurt by it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the White House doctor recommend you take that? Is that why you're taking it?

TRUMP: Yes, White House doctor didn't -- no, I asked him, what do you think? He said, well if you'd 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 front-line workers are taking hydroxychloroquine. I've taken it for about a week and a half now. I'm still here. I'm still here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you explain, sir though, what is the evidence that it has a preventive affect?

TRUMP: Here we go. You ready? Here's my evidence. I get a lot of positive calls about it. The only negative I've heard was the study where they gave it -- was the VA, with, you know, people that aren't big Trump fans.


CHURCH: Now as we noted, most in the medical community disagree with the President on this, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious disease expert who has warned against taking it before it's tested. Even the U.S. food & drug administration has warned against taking hydroxychloroquine before it's been tested.


Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned against using it outside of a hospital or clinical trial due to the risk of heart problems, and the President could well be at risk. He is 73 years old, and according to his 2018 physical, he has a common form of heart disease. His physician says they both agreed the potential benefit outweighs the relative risk. Here is CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta's take on that decision.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no evidence that it works. There is potential harm. This flies in the face of all of his own medical organizations including the FDA which says this medication should not be used outside of a clinical trial or outside of patients who are hospitalized. There's no evidence that it works either for treatment or prophylaxis.


CHURCH: And during an interview with CNN, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a shot at President Trump for taking hydroxychloroquine and questioned the drug's effectiveness.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA) U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: As far as the President is concerned, the -- he's our President and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group, that is morbidly obese, they say. So I think it's not a good idea.


CHURCH: Joining me now is Dr. Ashish Jha. He is the director of Harvard Global Health Institute. Thank you so much for being with us.


So President Trump now says he has been taking hydroxychloroquine for about a week and a half despite the potential risks and FDA warnings. So let's just listen to what he said about this drug.


TRUMP: The FDA also gave emergency authorization for hydroxychloroquine. We're having some very good things happening with it.

It's shown very encouraging, very, very encouraging early results.

There are some good signs. You've read the signs. I've read the signs.

And I say it. What do you have to lose? I say it again, what do you have to lose? Take it.

If things don't go as planned, it's not going to kill anybody.

It will be wonderful. It'll be so beautiful. It'll be a gift from heaven if it works.

If some other person put it forward, they'd say, oh, let's go with it. You know, what do you have to lose?

Try it if you'd like.

I've seen things that I sort of like. So what do I know? I'm not a doctor. I'm not a doctor, but I have common sense.


CHURCH: And he isn't a doctor but I want to talk to you, Dr. Jha, about this. Your response to the U.S. President taking this drug and do you worry that the general population will try to do the same, as they have done in the past?

JHA: Yes, so if I were the President's physician, I would strongly discourage him from taking this medicine. I would not prescribe it. Look, there's no evidence whatsoever that it is helpful in the situation like this. There's no evidence at all that it's helpful at all for COVID-19. But there is evidence that the drug has toxicity. And so, on balance right now the drug is not recommended clinically.

Now there are clinical trials happening and if they show benefit, then sure. We can change our approach at that point. But right now there's no evidence that he should be doing what he's doing.

CHURCH: So why do you think the President keeps pushing with this telling people it's beautiful, it's wonderful, try it. He's now apparently trying it. Why would he be doing this?

JHA: It really does baffle me. I'm not sure. I don't know what it means for a drug to be beautiful or wonderful. I know whether drugs are safe and effective or not. And this drug is reasonably safe under monitored circumstances for the right patient population, but we don't know if it's at all effective. And the safety is really under very monitored circumstances so people should not be out there and just taking it on their owns. It does have toxicities and has to be monitored carefully by a physician. CHURCH: All right, let's move on to some very positive news, where we

hope certainly in the end, we're seeing promising early results from the U.S. Moderna vaccine with human trials showing participants developed neutralizing antibodies that can block the virus. How positive are you about this very different vaccine -- it has to be said?

JHA: Yes, so it's very early days. And look, if you're going to just be kind of hard-nosed about this, you'd say, OK, it's phase 1. Phase 1 wasn't meant to assess effectiveness for efficacy. It was really for safety. Eight patients showed neutralizing antibodies and we don't really know. OK, so that's all the skepticism and that's all scientifically true and we should have that.


But that said, you know, as somebody who's closely tracking this, I look at this and I say, hey, this is good news. It does seem like the vaccine may be working. A lot can happen between now and all the way to approval day. But ultimately what I think when I see this is it gives me confidence that we will develop a vaccine that's going to be effective. I don't know if it will be the Moderna one, if they'll be a different one, but it gives me confidence that we know how to induce an immune response in people and that's good news.

CHURCH: Yes, and I think what people want at this moment now is some sort of hope, particularly when the W.H.O. and the U.K. business secretary was saying we might not ever get a vaccine. And of course, on this one, the Moderna vaccine, there will be large scale clinical trials in July and it could be on the market, they are saying, by January 2021 up to mid next year. Does that sound possible to you? And what about manufacturing and distribution? Because that's a whole other part of this equation. Isn't it?

JHA: Yes, I think January 2021 is very ambitious. It is, I mean, theoretically possible, but I certainly wouldn't bet on it. I would think that could be very difficult to achieve. Part of it is you have to produce hundreds of millions of doses. You've got to do that safely. And you also have to make sure the vaccine itself is safe and effective in various populations. You know, we're not going to give it to kids unless we have some evidence that it's safe in kids. The current trial so far has not included any older people. Well, older people are at really the highest risk of COVID-19. So there's a lot of work to be done before this vaccine is widely available to the whole population. I'm hoping sometime early 2021 as a more realistic timeline.

CHURCH: We'll keep our fingers crossed. Dr. Jha, always a pleasure to talk with you, thank you.

JHA: Thanks for having me on.

CHURCH: Well, President Trump is now threatening to make his temporary freeze on funding for the World Health Organization permanent as he once again directs criticism at the W.H.O. and its leadership. Mr. Trump tweeted out this letter sent to the W.H.O. director general which calls for major improvements within 30 days or risk losing funding for good. The U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary was also critical of the W.H.O. while speaking at the World Health Assembly. Listen.


ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations with tremendous costs for the entire world. We saw that W.H.O. failed at its core mission of information sharing and transparency when member states do not act in good faith.


CHURCH: And in the coming hours, members of the World Health Assembly are expected to vote on a resolution calling for an independent review of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 100 countries have already voiced support for an inquiry, including China. CNN's Steven Jiang has more from Beijing.


STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Rosemary, China is now supporting this resolution, which include this much talked about international inquiry into the global response to the pandemic. But the way Beijing is framing this, is this is not a kind of independent international inquiry demanded by its critics, instead, this is a partial evaluation led by the W.H.O. based on science and professionalism and only to be conducted after the pandemic has been brought under control. And the Chinese President Xi Jinping in his address to the forum also highlighted the positive role played by the Chinese government in this global fight against the virus.

XI JINPING, CHINESE PRESIDENT (through translator): All along China has acted with openness, transparency and responsibility. We have provided the information to the World Health Organization and relevant countries in a most timely fashion. We released the genome sequence at the earliest possible time. We shared control and treatment experience and we have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need.

JIANG: Mr. Xi also made several major pledges including donating 2 billion U.S. dollars to the global fight against the virus over a two- year period. And to set up a logistics center to ensure the flow of medical supplies around the world. Especially to Africa where they're also helping to build a Penn regional health authority headquarters not to mention debt relief for African nations. And all of these moves to be strategic especially by U.S. officials with some of them calling the $2 billion pledge as a token to distract cause for a growing number nations demanding an investigation into China's response to the pandemic.

And the African initiatives also viewed to be a move to counter backlash against Beijing because of some recent reports of discrimination against African nationals in China's fight against the virus.


But one thing is clear though that this forum has become a showcase of growing tensions between Beijing and Washington and now with Mr. Trump, the U.S. President threatening to pull the U.S. out of the W.H.O., this has really created an opening for the Chinese government and for Mr. Xi for them to step in, grow their influence and as we have seen in previous cases, increasingly successful in reshaping the global narrative on China but also reshaping the global institutions that have long been dominated by Washington previously -- Rosemary.


CHURCH: Thank you so much for that, Steven.

Well as we've mentioned, the race for a coronavirus vaccine is picking up, and some promising news about a potential break through has markets soaring. We will have those details for you in just a moment.


CHURCH: In the coming hours, the chairman of the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury Secretary are set to address the Senate Banking Committee. Jerome Powell and Steven Mnuchin will testify on the government's payments of hundreds of billions of dollars in coronavirus relief aid. On Sunday Mr. Powell said the Fed and Congress could do more to help stimulate the economy. His outlook along with promising news about a potential COVID-19 vaccine had U.S. markets surging.


The Dow finishing more than 900 points higher on Monday logging its best day in six weeks. And here's a look at the Dow futures. You can see there just down very slightly. We'll keep an eye on that.

So let's get to CNN's John Defterios. He joins us live from Abu Dhabi. Good to see you, John. So as we just mentioned, in just a few hours the Fed Chairman and the U.S. Treasury Secretary will address the Senate Banking Committee on this coronavirus relief aid. What can we expect to come out of that?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, let's define it, Rosemary, as the main event on this Tuesday especially for financial markets. It's happening at 10 a.m. Eastern time. And what investors are looking for, is to see if there's any daylight between the two, the Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and Steven Mnuchin the Treasury Secretary.

Powell has suggested we always have to do a little bit more because of the shock of this recession we're seeing right now. And Steve Mnuchin suggesting, look, there's $3 trillion pumped into the system, let's give it some more breathing room. We know that the U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a proposal for another $3 trillion. These are numbers, Rosemary, we've never heard of before. But we've never seen a crisis like this since the end of World War II.

And that's what Jerome Powell is talking about in his testimony. We have an excerpt here if we can take a look. He's suggesting here that available economic data for the current quarter show a sharp drop in output and an equally sharp rise in unemployment. This is been a key point for him. And he goes on by saying, by these measures and many others the scope and speed of this downturn are without modern precedent and are significantly worse than any recession since World War II.

He's correct. Because jobless claims could hit 50 million by the end of June which is extraordinary by any measure. And also that he sounds like a man of the people as the Fed Chairman. That's very unusual to try to separate themselves from main street and focus on Wall Street and Washington policies. So he has changed the dynamics of the Federal Reserve.

But the markets went higher on Monday for this reason. Two key factors, that vaccine potential breakthrough, number one. And number two, we saw Emmanuel Macron, the President of France and Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany come together and say this half a trillion dollar plus plan for Europe is now coming forward, the stimulus plan. Germany was resisting such a measure. So that is amazing.

And while we saw European markets climbed 4 to 5 percent, the Asian markets continuing their rally here, most of them at least. Japan, the South Korean market and also Hong Kong, the gains of 1.5 to 2.25 percent. We see Shanghai rising but not by that much because of U.S./China trade tensions.

And I find this, again, an interesting twist to the investor sentiment right now. The IMF managing director was suggesting we're not going to see a recovery until the end of next year. So a full 19 months away, Rosemary. But right now the investors are focused on the short term and economies opening up again with the two breakthroughs I was talking about.

CHURCH: Yes, it's definitely day to day, isn't it? And we'll see what the reaction is as the market opens and then closes for Tuesday. John Defterios, many thanks to you for bringing us up to date on all that. Appreciate it.

Well across the U.S. states continue to ease restrictions from opening up their beaches to allowing diners back into restaurants. But this comes even as some spots see a rise in COVID-19 cases. CNN's Erica Hill has the details.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT(voice over): Gyms in multiple states are open today, including Texas where offices also have the green light as the state moves into phase two.

GREG ABBOTT, TEXAS GOVERNOR: One thing that we all know, an important part of reopening is access to childcare. So starting immediately, childcare services are able to open.

HILL: Summer camps and youth sports can return May 31st. Bars and bowling alleys can open Friday. The same day restaurants can start seating at 50 percent capacity.

Texas posted its highest single day spike in cases over the weekend, two weeks after easing restrictions.

DR. UMAIR SHAH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HARRIS COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH: We do have more testing that's happening. But at the same time, we're also recognizing that we have reopened and people are mixing. And so we don't know how those two equations coming together how that really is impacting the overall equation that we have.

HILL: More than a third of the new cases there connected to meat processing plants in the state. Overall, Texas is one of 17 states seeing a rise in new cases over the past week, 18 posting a decline, including Massachusetts, which just announced its plan for a phased reopening.

California's new cases are holding steady as the Governor loosens the criteria for reopening.

GAVIN NEWSOM, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: We recognize the conditions across the state are unique and distinctive depending where you are.

HILL: Churches may be allowed to meet in person in the next few weeks. In-person retail could open next month.

Automakers are returning to work in Michigan today with a few changes.


BRIAN PANNEBECKER, UAW WORKER, FORD MOTOR CO.: I'm pretty comfortable with the precautions that I've heard that they're going to be taking.

HILL: While across the country, beautiful weather, cabin fever and more reopening made for a busy weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been really steady. Busier than I thought it was going to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am beyond excited to be shopping again.

HILL: In Scottsdale, Arizona packed bars and restaurants.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have no more fear than contracting the flu, a cold, a virus that they haven't named yet.

HILL: Lines in the mall and outside this casino, though not everyone is ready for the crowds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you go to Wal-Mart and everybody is on top of each other and people in the bars are high fiving and people you don't even know and they try to get too close. HILL: The University of South Carolina will reopen its campus this fall. But after Thanksgiving, classes will move online over fears of a possible spike in cases in early December.

Purdue and Rice University is adopting a similar plan, while Creighton University will end the fall semester before the holiday.

One vaccine currently in the works is showing signs of promise. All eight participants in the small study developed antibodies to the virus. Moderna, which is partnering with the NIH says if future studies go well, the vaccine could be available to the public as early as January.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Everything I'm seeing so far makes me optimistic.

HILL (on camera): New York governor Andrew Cuomo also said he would like to see sports come back to his state. Saying the state is a, quote, ready, willing and able partner. Of course, any games will be played without fans but he said, they could be televised. And here in New York state, a sixth region is opening on Tuesday. Back to you.


CHURCH: Thanks so much for that.

And you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, why President Trump is warning that a temporary freeze on U.S. funding for the World Health Organization may become permanent. Back with that in a moment.