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Gov. Ned Lamont (D-CT) Discusses Connecticut's Reopening Process Tomorrow; The Political Battle To Reopen America; California Builds Army Of Contact Tracers. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 19, 2020 - 07:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What's your thinking there?

GOV. NED LAMONT (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, first of all, I hope she is one of the 80,000 companies here in the state of Connecticut that got the paycheck protection loans, and that was to keep people --

CAMEROTA: And she's not. And, I mean -- sorry to interrupt you, Governor, but I just want to be clear.


CAMEROTA: She's not. She has tried. She says that Wells Fargo, every day for the past two months, has sent her the same form letter saying your request is in process, your request is in process. She has not been able to get that and she's in dire straits.

LAMONT: Well, that's why we'll be one of the first states in the country -- or first states in the region, I should say, to allow hair salons and barbershops to open May 20th, which is coming up.

We were surrounded by a fair number of employees of the hair salons and barbershops who said I can't do it now. I can't get the child care that I need. I want more time for my salon to prepare to open.

So we said all right, let's put it off by 10 days. That's gives you a little more time to prepare. Make sure the stylists can get the child care that he or she needs and give the salon operator a little more time to get the cleaning disinfectants and other things that they may need.

So, it's 10 days. We'll still be one of the first in the region to open.

CAMEROTA: Have you calculated how many small businesses you think won't be able to ever kind of get back on their feet after this?

LAMONT: I haven't calculated it but I'm afraid there could be a sea change. We'll see whether people feel comfortable going back to restaurants. Maybe there will be more takeout. The world will change.

I'm really cautious about what we're going to do with colleges. A number of colleges around the country are saying no residential living next year -- this coming fall. We're trying to make sure that we don't have to have that happen.

But I think you are going to see some fundamental changes.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, obviously, Connecticut is home to Yale University as well as many other colleges of note. What is their plan? Have you heard from them about what they plan to do in the fall?

LAMONT: A little bit, yes. Actually, the former president of Yale, Rick Levin, led our education reopening committee. And that team was amazing -- The folks from UConn, Trinity -- all the higher education, as well as parents and academics.

And what they said was look, community college, go back now. That's more like a business.

Graduate students, probably they go back next. They can probably socially distance a little easier than an undergraduate. If you ever saw "Animal House" you know what I mean.

And then we'll have to make up our mind in August regarding September.

I'd like to think those residences will also be open and we can get back to normal. Normal, meaning everybody's going to have to be tested before they go back to college and there have to be places where you can quarantine if people are found to be infected.

CAMEROTA: Gov. Ned Lamont, thank you very much for all of the information and for giving us a status report. Obviously, everyone will be watching as Connecticut tries to get back to some level of normalcy. Thank you for your time this morning.

LAMONT: Thanks, Alisyn.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to remember some of the more than 90,000 Americans lost to coronavirus.

Ruben Burks -- his focus was on community. He spent his life involved in the labor movement and became the first African-American secretary- treasurer of the United Auto Workers. Ruben's grandson remembers his grandfather's constant thumbs up and repeated encouragement to face a difficult situation with positivity and enthusiasm.

John "Jack" Hennigan served in the Army during the Vietnam War before returning to the U.S. to join the NYPD. Family and neighbors who lovingly refer to him as the mayor of 63rd Street say he will be missed for his selflessness and generosity.

Elizabeth Lombardi's sister remembers her as supporting, caring, and fierce. Never one to show up to someone's home empty-handed, Elizabeth would bring meals for the week, flowers to plant in the garden, or new clothes she found on sale.

Elizabeth loved her family. Her sister says Elizabeth is someone who brought joy and beauty to everyone's life.

We'll be right back.



CAMEROTA: Developing this morning, new details about the terror attack at a Pensacola Naval air station last December. The FBI says the Saudi military trainee who killed three sailors coordinated and planned the attack with al Qaeda.

CNN's Evan Perez is live in Washington with the latest developments. This is a huge development, Evan.


It took several months but the FBI was finally able to get into the iPhone belonging to this attacker and what they found was that he was planning this attack with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as far back as 2015. That's when, according to the FBI, they have communications indicating that he was talking about a special operation. He joined the Saudi military at that time and he continued communicating with them all the way to the night before he carried out this attack.

The attorney general and the FBI director talked about this. Take a listen.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The phones contained information previously unknown to us that definitively establishes Alshamrani's significant ties to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, DIRECTOR, FBI: The evidence we've been able to develop from the killer's devices shows that the Pensacola attack was actually the brutal culmination of years of planning and preparation by a longtime AQAP associate.


PEREZ: There are some questions about the vetting that went into getting this man before this man was able to come into the United States to train at Naval Air Station Pensacola -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: So, Evan, law enforcement is frustrated that Apple didn't help more with trying to get into the attacker's phone. But as you point out, Apple says that they did actually participate in the investigation. So what's the truth here?


PEREZ: Right. Initially, the company was able to provide some of the iCloud information that the FBI was seeking as a result of a court- ordered subpoena. But there's only so far that Apple is able to go because of the encryption technology on their phones and that's what has the FBI and the attorney general very frustrated. They're asking for legislation now to require these companies, including Apple, to be able to provide a backdoor, so to speak, to these devices.

I'll give you a -- I'll read you a statement from Apple in response to this accusation.

They say, quote, "A backdoor will make every device vulnerable to bad actors who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. There is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys, and the American people do not have to choose between weakening encryption and effective investigations."

Obviously, Alisyn, this is something that's going to, I think, keep going for the next few months and perhaps years because this is a serious national security issue and it does bump up against privacy rights of Americans.

CAMEROTA: Evan, thank you very much for explaining all of that -- John.

BERMAN: Ninety-thousand Americans dead from coronavirus. There are political charges being hurled every day.

Though the majority of Americans consistently say they are not yet comfortable returning to their regular routines, the president continues to attack largely Democratic governors for their pace in easing restrictions -- governors who, we should note polls show are wildly popular right now.

Joining us now, CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers -- wow. He is the author of the new book "My Vanishing Country." Bakari, we see what you've been doing -- or not doing.

CAMEROTA: Vanishing chin.


BERMAN: Yes, face -- a vanishing face hidden behind your giant and very impressive beard. Just one more way you're impressive, Bakari.

I spent the weekend reading your book and I loved it. We'll get to that in just a moment.

SELLERS: Thank you.

BERMAN: But first, I want to you ask you about the politics now of this because the president is clearly betting in some way that attacking governors -- largely, Democratic governors for not opening or easing restrictions as quickly as the president would like is good politics.

What's the reality?

SELLERS: Well, I think that the president is going to delve into culture wars. He's going to pick these battles until he finds one that works.

But I will -- I will have to say I am not going to fall down along partisan lines in this issue because governors such as Larry Hogan in Maryland or Charlie Baker in Massachusetts have done yeoman's work.

You have to find a balance between public health and the economy and actually having a good public health strategy is good for the economy. And so, while the president may not follow science, I'm hoping that the governors and mayors of these large cities are.

What we're seeing is that Eric Garcetti and Gavin Newsom are doing a hell of a job leading their great state. We're seeing Andrew Cuomo doing a great job. We're seeing Mayor Steve Benjamin in Columbia doing a great job.

The President of the United States, though, just simply doesn't believe in facts. He doesn't believe in science. And as we found out yesterday, he's taking hydroxychloroquine like Tic Tacs. And so, we can't put a lot of faith in that at the top.

CAMEROTA: Bakari, as you know, President Trump also doesn't really deal in details and so one of the things that he's good at is sort of the simple message -- the slogan. And so, isn't he being more identified with let's get the country back -- let's reopen - everybody wants to go back to work -- let's reopen -- than Democrats?

And in that way, since this is not a partisan issue, everybody wants their old life back. Republicans, Democrats -- everybody wants their old normal. So is he winning in that way of making it seem simple and that he's on the side of getting life back to normal?

SELLERS: Well, I think that that's the argument he's trying to make. He wants to be the person who is saying reopen America.

The problem with that, Alisyn -- and you guys always bring a tear to my eye -- it's the best show on T.V. because you pay attention to the human side of what's going on. You guys talk about those lives that are lost.

The president, he can say reopen all he wants, he can try to delve us into culture wars, but he cannot erase the fact that 90,000 Americans died on his watch. Thirty-six million people are unemployed on his watch. And the reason being is because he doesn't believe in detail, because he doesn't believe in science, because he doesn't believe in fact.

And, Barack Obama laid a pandemic playbook out for him -- even Mitch McConnell will acknowledge that -- one that he has shredded, torn up, and thrown out the window.

And so, he may have had a good message on reopening and it may poll well. However, what he cannot overcome is 90,000 dead and 36 million out of a job.

BERMAN: But here's the thing, he doesn't poll well. We always say everyone wants things to be open. It's just not true. SELLERS: Got you.

BERMAN: The polling tells us the exact opposite. I mean, I'll put this up on the screen here.

We asked people if they're comfortable returning to their daily routines in May seventh to 10th. Only 41 percent said yes, 58 percent said no. It's ticked up slightly from April but basically within the margin of error there.


And if you ask about popularity of the nation's governors -- again, the governors who have led these states who have had restrictions in place -- they are beginning to raise them -- the popularity is wildly high. You know, DeWine, Cuomo, Newsom, Northam, Whitmer.

Whitmer, you know, there are these protests with armed guards out there or armed people every day. It's a fraction -- her -- she's at a 72 percent approval rate.

So it's just not clear to me that there's this giant national unanimous outcry for reopening. And honestly, it's a false choice, by the way. It's not reopen versus --


BERMAN: -- stay at home forever. It's let's -- you know, let's get out and do it safely.

SELLERS: But John, I think you're kind of missing the point because I do not believe that Donald Trump messages for most of America. I think he messages for the 35 percent which is his base.

He's going to have 62 million Americans come out and vote for him. That's -- I mean, they are there. I think he's messaging for these individuals who all of a sudden believe that they're Rosa Parks by going down the -- to Detroit, Michigan and protesting and doing squats outside of state capitols, et cetera.

And so, he is not necessarily speaking to those individuals who believe that we have to follow the signs and that we have to take our public health serious. But I agree with you that it is a false choice.

But, Donald Trump is very good at one thing, which is giving red meat for the base of the Republican Party, which is why he excels with that type of politics.

CAMEROTA: Well, also I would say, John -- and to contrast your facts that you keep throwing around and your stats -- I mean, as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich once famously told me on our program, I'll let you deal with the statisticians all day long. I'll take how people feel.

And, Bakari, on that front -- I mean, I understand what John is saying. Yes, are people really comfortable going out to a restaurant? No. Do people long for their old life? Yes, they do.

And so, do you worry at all that President Trump is appealing to more than his base -- to some of the Independents or whomever -- Democrats who think that his message is just more of sort of cheerleading one than the doctors who keep wagging their fingers at us?

SELLERS: I think that there -- people have to take Donald Trump seriously. I know that's difficult sometimes with the lack of complete sentences, with the inability to actually talk about this issue with some coherent nature. But you have to take him seriously.

The fact is that as I'm sitting before you today I have to preface all my comments, but I thought that Hillary Clinton was going to be the next President of the United States and we saw how that worked. So, Democrats, we have to message and we have to say something other than we're not Donald Trump.

But I still do not believe that he's going to get over the fact that incompetence caused 90,000 people, and that number still is going up, to lose their lives to a pandemic that did not have to -- did not have to wreak havoc the way it did.

He's still going to have to apologize for the lack of testing. He's still going to have to apologize just for the inept way that his government has run through this pandemic.

BERMAN: So, Bakari, like I said, I spent the weekend reading your book and it was a wonderful experience. And I've known you for a while now, so I learned a lot about you. I mean, you skipped two grades. You're heavily tatted, which I didn't know because I don't -- you know, I see you usually with clothes.

But the thing that was the most interesting --

SELLERS: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: -- to me is you write a lot about your father who is a civil rights icon, Cleveland Sellers, who was wounded in the Orangeburg Massacre years before you were born, right? And you write about how you think it's possible that you have been more acutely affected by this moment in history than your father, and I find that so interesting. I just wonder if you can talk about that.

SELLERS: Yes. I mean, I look at politics, I look at my life, I look at things through the lens of being a child of a movement.

And, February 8, 1968, I call it the most important day of my life. It's nearly 20 years before I was born but my father was shot along with 28 others. And three young men, Henry Smith, Samuel Hammond, and Delona Middleton were killed while they were protesting the last vestige of discrimination.

My father was not only shot, but my father was denied bond and housed on death row. My father actually went to prison.

And so, that trauma has stayed with our family for a very long period of time. And, to me, it's very difficult because I have to live with that pain and I have to see the person that was the scapegoat.

I have to see my father and those tears that still fall down his face, that pain in his eyes. The fact that his shoulders don't stand up as upright as they once did. And I carry that burden of injustice with me daily.

BERMAN: And you are an example though, Bakari, for future generations.

And I think we hear it in the background --

SELLERS: Yes, you do.

BERMAN: -- of this interview right now. So you are carrying your message and you are sharing what you've learned with others, too, and we're so appreciative of that.

Congratulations on the book. It is called "My Vanishing Country" by Bakari Sellers. Go out and read it now.

Thanks so much, Bakari. Congratulations.

CAMEROTA: Bakari, great to see you.

SELLERS: Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: John, I thought for a second you had a baby in the studio. I'm glad it's Bakari a home.


BERMAN: No, but I might have a beard soon in the studio.

CAMEROTA: You wear it well, Bakari. Great to see you. Thanks so --

SELLERS: Great to see you.

CAMEROTA: -- much.

OK, could dogs be the answer to finding out who has coronavirus? You're going to see how researchers hope that dogs will help track infections, next.


BERMAN: All right, new information this morning about how California is now instituting this huge contact tracing program to identify people who may have been exposed to coronavirus and may not know about it.

CNN's Stephanie Elam live in Los Angeles with the details. Contact tracing might be one of the keys for this country moving forward, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For sure, John, and here's the thing. Contact tracing has been around since the 30s. It was actually brought around to control the spread of syphilis around military bases. Back then, it was a lot of knocking on doors and finding these people.


Now, what's going to happen here in California and it's been happening here all along, is actually picking up the phone and calling people, and then inputting that information into a database. It all is happening here even though you may not see 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 Gov. Gavin Newsom's plan to fully reopen the state.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: These are simply disease detectives that will be trained to support the existing workforce.

ELAM (voice-over): 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 --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, as a contact tracer --

ELAM (voice-over): -- 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 10 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. And we also want to know where they're working. This is also 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 (voice-over): One infectious person who led to five confirmed cases within the city, plus possibly five or six other partygoers who lived 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 (voice-over): Marie Plug normally works for the Pasadena Central Library. For now, she's assisting the city's health department as a contact tracer. After a 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 (voice-over): Getting back to work, the ultimate goal -- not just for the recovered but for California as well.


ELAM: And part of the reason why they need an army is that Marie told me that a call could take up to 45 minutes to get all of that information, so she gets through about eight calls a day or so.

But the other thing that they want to make sure that these people know is that there are resources to help them if they need to get food, if they need support.

But they also said they pretty much have compliance from people, Alisyn. They want to help out and most importantly, they want to get back on their feet and get back to work.

CAMEROTA: That is really good to hear, Stephanie. Thank you very much for the report.

Well, there may be a new reason to call them man's best friend. Researchers in the U.K. are studying whether dogs can sniff out coronavirus in humans.

CNN's Max Foster is live in London with more. How does this work, Max?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, you may not know this but dogs actually have 10,000 times the sense of smell as humans. And the team responsible for this latest project are very confident they'll have success based on past experience.


FOSTER (voice-over): This dog is being trained to detect prostate cancer. She's presented with urine samples and rewarded when she identifies the correct one. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good girl. What a good girl.

FOSTER (voice-over): This dog is able to identify the odor of malaria sufferers. Their next mission here is to train dogs to sniff out people infected with Covid-19.

DR. STEVE LINDSAY, PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGICAL AND BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES, DURHAM UNIVERSITY: The way we're going to do that is by collecting using face masks. And we're asking people to wear these face masks for a few hours and then we carefully collect those.

And the other thing that we're going to do is get people to wear nylon socks. That sounds a bit strange but we know from previous experience that this is a really good way of collecting odors from people and it's such an easy way to do it.

FOSTER (voice-over): If the training is successful, one of their first deployments is likely to be airports, where dogs are already used to sniff out drugs and other contraband.

It may help reopen the travel industry. That could be the boost to international trade that governments everywhere have been looking for.

Max Foster, CNN, outside London.


FOSTER: And the great advantage that dogs have over technology here is the rate at which they can actually test for the virus -- Alisyn, up to 250 people per hour. It's low-tech but it works.

CAMEROTA: That is fantastic. Thank you very much for that really interesting report, Max.

So, President Trump is defying science again by self-medicating with a potentially dangerous drug. NEW DAY continues right now.