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Trump Threatens to Permanently Pull WHO Funding; Trump Announces He's Taking Hydroxychloroquine; Promising Results from Moderna's Early Vaccine Trial; Navajo Nation has Highest Per Capita Infection Rate in U.S. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 19, 2020 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: The president's temporary funding cut for the World Health Organization could be permanent. What it means for the global fight to slow coronavirus.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And scientists say it won't work, but what message is the president sending taking an anti-malaria drug to ward off coronavirus?

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's Tuesday, May 19th, 5:00 a.m. here in New York.

And we begin with the breaking news overnight. President Trump threatening to permanently cut U.S. funding for the World Health Organization unless it commits to, quote, major substantive improvements over the next 30 days. The president in a letter accuses the WHO of repeated missteps saying it must demonstrate independence from China.

ROMANS: Today, the World Health Assembly plans to vote on a draft resolution calling for an independent investigation of the pandemic, both the origin and how the WHO handled it.

CNN's Ivan Watson live in Hong Kong with the latest -- Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Laura.

The Chinese government is defending the World Health Organization after this broadside from President Trump and these threats about permanent reductions in funding. With the foreign ministry, its spokesperson has just given a briefing and he claims that the U.S. letter, the letter from President Trump is, quote, full of vagueness. It tries to mislead the public, to smear China and shift the blame away from its own incompetent response.

And the diplomat goes on to say that it's an obligation for every member state of the World Health Organization to support this institution to pay it annual fees. Now, the criticism and the full page letter from President Trump goes

through a time line of what he claims are mistakes that the WHO made in the first months of the epidemic when it had only been detected, this new virus, in the Chinese city of Wuhan. And we've done some fact checking and some of this is in fact true. It points out, for example, that on January 14th, the World Health Organization was repeating a Chinese claim that the coronavirus did not have human-to-human transmission, and that tweet from the WHO is still up there. Within a couple of weeks the Chinese government and the WHO had to go back from that claim and to, in fact, admit that this was a highly infectious virus.

This debate is far from over and it doesn't overshadow the fact that President Trump himself has had a lot of contradictions about the virus itself and claims that China was being very transparent in those first few months -- Laura, Christine.

ROMANS: Ivan, in the beginning of these months, he was saying -- praising President Xi and saying the Chinese was doing a great job and now that tone has really changed. Ivan Watson for us, thanks, Ivan.

JARRETT: It changed a lot.

Well, President Trump touted the drug as a game-changer. Medical studies said it was not, but he says he's taking it anyway now. The president's revelation he's been prescribed an anti-malaria drug poses a real risk to not only himself but it could send a message to Americans that directly conflicts with scientists' warnings that the drug could be harmful. Overnight, the White House doctor weighed in.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins has more.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Laura and Christine, the president caught reporters off guard when unprompted on Monday, he announced that he's now been taking hydroxychloroquine for over a week.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The frontline workers, many, many are taking it. I happen to be taking it. I happen to be taking it.

REPORTER: Hydroxychloroquine?

TRUMP: I'm taking it, hydroxychloroquine. Right now. Yeah. Couple of weeks ago I started taking it.


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

COLLINS: That's the drug that he had been pushing for months, encouraging doctors, even those here at the White House to pursue it as a potential treatment for the coronavirus. But now, the president quieted down on it after there were several studies, including a statement issued by the FDA saying there was not anyway any evidence that hydroxychloroquine was a safe or effective treatment or way to prevent getting coronavirus.

Now, the president's physician later said in a statement that he has continued to test negative after he came into contact with that presidential valet who tested positive for coronavirus. The doctor said the president has no symptoms but after much discussion between the two of them, Dr. Sean Conley says that they concluded that the benefits of this treatment outweigh the risks.


Now, we know the risks are that it can cause an abnormal heart rate. There are concerns about people who have kidney disease or heart disease. And according to Dr. Sanjay Gupta who reviewed the president's last physical, he does believe the president has a pretty common form of heart disease for his age.

Now, the question going forward is how long is the president going to take this? What other details are there? Because so far, health experts have said they do not believe the president should be taking hydroxychloroquine. And, of course, really a big question is going to come out of this whether or not it encourages others to want to try hydroxychloroquine despite these warnings that it just -- is not a safe or effective way to treat or prevent getting the coronavirus based on the FDA.

The president is dismissing those, echoing his sentiment that we've heard him say so many times, which is, what do you have to lose?


ROMANS: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us -- thank you, Kaitlan.

The United States reaching a number of milestones, both good and bad. All 50 states now opening for business. The last two, Massachusetts where reopening is underway and Connecticut which enters phase one of its plan tomorrow. But the national death rate stuck at painful, painful levels.

JARRETT: Ninety thousand Americans have now died and the trend line is bending down very, very slowly. The U.S. death production in a key coronavirus model revised down slightly. But researchers say people's increased mobility is actually not the main issue, it's their choices that are driving the numbers.


DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR OF THE IHME: What's really been fascinating is there'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 deeper and look into how the fraction of the population in different states are wearing masks, we think that's really the key difference there, both their behavior and mask wearing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Now, the cloud hanging over all of this progress, the rate of new cases. Look at this map. As of last Friday, 28 states received fewer new cases, but by yesterday, that number was down to 18.

And as of this morning, just 16 states are seeing an infection rate trending down from a week ago.

JARRETT: Among the states going the wrong way, Nevada where ten days ago restaurants opened for dine-in service with social distancing. Also, Florida which expanded to full phase 1 reopening yesterday and South Dakota, which never had a full stay at home order.

Other states back sliding including Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, all big population centers reopening or under intense pressure to do so.

ROMANS: One state headed the right direction is Oregon, but last night, a local judge ruled the governor's emergency restrictions violate state law. The Oregon Supreme Court issued an order keeping restrictions in place while it hears an appeal.

CNN's Erica Hill has updates from across the country.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, good morning.

All 50 states have some sort of a plan when it comes to reopening.

We learned about a four-phase plan for Massachusetts. On Monday, the governor announcing the construction and manufacturing, as well as houses of worship could open immediately, starting next week. Curbside retail and personal services including hair cuts could start. There will, of course, be restrictions.

In Texas, a big announcement from the governor on Monday when he said that child care is now open. That as we know is huge in terms of getting people back to work. And the governor said as much.

Summer camps and youth sports will actually come back on May 31st. Starting this week, bars and bowling alleys can open in Texas, and restaurants can increase their inside seating capacity to 50 percent.

California also making some big moves on Monday. The governor there said he was actually loosening some of the restrictions that have been put into place, different counties are moving into the next phase recognizing it is a very large state and it is not a one size fits all. He also said that houses of worship may be able to meet, may have their congregations meet in person, in the coming weeks, in person retail could be back in the coming weeks.

And both he and Governor Abbott, along with Governor Cuomo in New York, all three encouraging professional sports to work on getting back to the field, to the arena, wherever they need to play, obviously without fans, but all three states saying they're eager, Christine and Laura, for those games to be played again.


JARRETT: Erica Hill, thanks so much for that report.

Also developing this morning, promising initial results from a new vaccine trial. Still very early days, but what researchers have so much optimism about and how long until it might be available?


Our CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has some answers.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Laura, Moderna is one of three U.S. companies that's in clinical trials for a vaccine against COVID-19. And what they found is that when they vaccinated eight volunteers, that they developed what are called neutralizing antibodies. So, these antibodies attached, they kind of glommed on to the virus and they disable it from being able to infect human cells.

Now, it's interesting. At the highest dose, some of those participants did get flu-like symptoms. So, what they found at Moderna is that the lower doses also worked well. So, they're going with those doses moving forward.

Let's take a listen to Dr. Tal Zaks. He's the chief medical examiner at Moderna.

DR. TAL ZAKS, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER AT MODERNA: These antibodies were proven to be able to block the ability of the virus to infect cells. Even at the lowest dose that we tested, at 25 micrograms of dose, we are seeing an immune response at the level of people who've been infected with this virus and are believed now not to be susceptible to further disease.

COHEN: So, now, let's look at the timeline moving forward. As of now, Moderna has vaccinated somewhere between 60 and 100 human study subjects. In July, they're going to step that up to do large scale clinical trials. That typically involves tens of thousands of people. And that's the important part. That's where we know if the vaccine works not just in the lab but also in real life.

And in January, sometime between January and June of next year, Dr. Zaks thinks that it's realistic that his vaccine could be on the market. He didn't promise. He didn't guarantee, but he said that he thinks that could be a realistic timeline, sometime in the first half of next year -- Christine, Laura.


ROMANS: All right, Elizabeth Cohen. Important information there.

You know, that positive vaccine news from Moderna against the backdrop of trillions of dollars from the Fed and from Congress, all of that together fueled a big Monday stock market rally. The Dow finished up 912 points. The S&P 500 climbed 3 percent, more than 3 percent there. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 had their best day in six weeks. The Nasdaq also higher.

You know, the tech sector has been impervious to the lockdown. In the middle of a pandemic, the Nasdaq is higher for a year, thanks for huge drivers of yesterday's rally as well.

You know, the big news this morning, in a couple of hours, the Fed Chief Jerome Powell and the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, they will testify about the government's payments of billions of dollars in coronavirus relief. Powell has urged Congress to approve more stimulus and quickly. Republicans prefer to wait, will be looking to see if there's any daylight between the treasury secretary and the Fed chief.

Congress has passed almost $3 trillion in bailouts, but a report from the Congressional Oversight Commission finds the Treasury Department hasn't spent all of it meant to help businesses and local governments. Now for individuals, the stimulus checks in the mail, but it's not a check, it's a debit card.

And here's what it looks like. The Treasury Department releasing these images. It sent 4 million stimulus payments on debit cards to the Americans. The hope is, it's faster than the paper check. Debit cards can be activated immediately, of course, use to make purchases, get cash or transfer funds into a bank account without a fee.

Of course, Laura, most people got a direct deposit into their bank account because the Treasury Department already has your information for taxes, so you probably got a direct payment. But other people will be getting that debit card.

JARRETT: Well, I'm sure that will come in handy. I know you'll be watching that testimony closely later this morning.

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

JARRETT: All right. Well, still ahead, another troubling example of how coronavirus is attacking minority communities. CNN reports from Navajo Nations, next.



JARRETT: Five major universities saying they will cut short in-person classes for the fall semester at Thanksgiving because of coronavirus. Notre Dame, Perdue, Rice University and Creighton joining the University of South Carolina going remote after the holiday. Some schools are canceling fall breaks out of fear traveling students could bring the virus back to school with them.

ROMANS: And many small colleges are now in danger of folding. No students on campus means no revenue from room and board. One school in jeopardy here, Wells College in Upstate New York. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN GIBRALTER, PRESIDENT, WELLS COLLEGE: We're developing a plan to reopen, but on the one hand, we have to balance the financial reality. On the other hand, we have to balance the health and safety reality, which I want to say is at the top of the chart.


ROMANS: The college board announcing changes after students taking advanced placement at home and online were unable to submit them because of technical problems. Students will now be able to email their work as a last resort.

JARRETT: The Centers for Disease Control officially confirming a link between coronavirus and a rare potentially deadly inflammatory syndrome in children. New York City health officials found 145 cases of kids sickened by what the CDC now calls multi-system inflammatory syndrome. Sixty-seven tested positive for COVID-19 or the virus antibodies. But one teenager who got sick told CNN his symptoms didn't present like coronavirus.


JACK MCMORROW, HOSPITALIZED WITH SEVERE INFLAMMATORY SYNDROME LINKED TO COVID-19: I woke up and I couldn't move anything. Even for others to move my limbs at all was just painful and the only way I could describe it is that it felt like almost electricity or fire coursing through my veins.


JARRETT: Sounds scary.

Well, the syndrome has now been reported in nearly half of all U.S. states.

ROMANS: The Navajo Nation has been devastated by COVID-19, surpassing New York and New Jersey, and marking the highest per capita infection rate in the U.S.

You know, this is just another example of the disproportionate effect coronavirus has on minority communities. The Navajo Nation spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. And despite having one of the strictest stay at home orders in the country, the human toll has been high.


CNN's Sara Sidner is there for us.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, we traveled across some of the Navajo Nation to try and understand why COVID-19 is sweeping this nation. In some cases, it's hitting multiple members of one family. And what we found are the difficulties here.

We saw that people, 30 to 40 percent, don't have running water, which makes frequent hand washing very difficult. And also that, often, people live in generations inside one home, so it's very difficult to self-isolate. That may in part explain why COVID-19 has taken hold here.

We also know that according to the president of the Navajo Nation, that they have been testing more than any other state in the nation, with 11 percent of their population of 175,000 people. But the situation is dire here, and he has made an all call for help. There have been several organizations that have responded to that call, including Doctors Without Borders, you know, that group that goes into war torn areas or extremely poor nations. They are now operating very small group of them here in the Navajo Nation, but we should also mention that they began helping with COVID-19 in the United States in New York -- Christine, Laura.


ROMANS: All right. Sara Sidner, thank you for that, Sara.

Restaurant owners are pleading with President Trump to make changes to the paycheck protection program. During a meeting at the White House, they requested a longer period of time to spend the money, from eight weeks now to 24 weeks.

But President Trump was quick to minimize their pain.


MELVIN RODRIGUE, PRESIDENT & CEO, GALATOIRE'S RESTAURANT: Just a few small changes in cover period, length of the cover period on the forgiveness of PPP, you have a real great opportunity. We rely on social interaction, so it makes us really unique that we were hit hard quickly and it's going to make our come back really difficult. That being said, I'm glad to hear your news.

TRUMP: Well, my news negates what you just said because you would be back into business like you had it.


TRUMP: No seats lost, et cetera, et cetera. So, we'll see what happens, but it certainly negates it.


JARRETT: The president seemed to be referring there to news about vaccine development, but this was really just another example of the president shutting down an industry expert at the White House. Just two weeks ago, he rejected a nurse's claim of PPE shortages in some hospitals.

Meanwhile, according to the National Restaurant Association, three decades of restaurant job growth was lost in the U.S. during March and April. The online reservation service Open Table says, as many as one quarter of restaurants nationwide could close.

While all 50 states now reopening, but the rate of new cases is suddenly getting worse in key states. What it means for people hoping for a summer of normalcy.



JARRETT: New details this morning on the firing of the State Department's inspector general, the fourth independent watchdog to be purged from the Trump administration in just the last three months. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he asked President Trump to remove Steve Linick because the I.G. was undermining the department. Pompeo didn't go to any detail or explain more.

But a source tells CNN Pompeo refused to sit for an interview with the I.G.'s office which was probing an $8 billion expedited arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year.

On Monday, President Trump put the blame on his predecessor.


TRUMP: Most of my people, almost all of them, I said, you know, these are Obama appointees. And if you like to let them go, I think you should let them go.

I said, who appointed him? They said President Obama. I said, look, I'll terminate him. I don't know what else is going on other than that.


ROMANS: There's been no further comment from the State Department or the I.G.'s office. CNN has learned the inspector general was also investigating whether Pompeo made a staffer perform a variety of personal errands. President Trump said he would prefer government employees wash Pompeo's dishes so the secretary can focus on global affairs.

EARLY START continues right now.


ROMANS: The president's temporary funding cut for the World Health Organization could be permanent. What it means for the global fight to slow coronavirus.

JARRETT: Scientists say it won't work, but what message is the president sending taking an anti-malaria drug to ward off coronavirus?

Good morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans, this Tuesday morning. It's about 5:30 in the East. And we begin with breaking news overnight. The president threatening

to permanently cut U.S. funding for the World Health Organization, unless it commits to, quote, major substantive improvements over the next 30 days.

The president in a letter that he tweeted out accuses the WHO of repeated missteps during the pandemic and says it must demonstrate independence from China. This reflects a larger pattern of skepticism of global organizations and treaties, including the United Nations, climate agreements and, of course, the World Trade Organization.

JARRETT: Today, the World Health Assembly plans to vote on a draft resolution calling for independent investigation of the pandemic, both the origin and how the WHO handled it.

CNN's Ivan Watson is live in Hong Kong with the very latest.

What more can you tell us, Ivan?

WATSON: Well, we're in a strange situation where the U.S., President Trump is threatening to possibly withdraw completely from the World Health Organization.