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Interview with University of Miami President Julio Frenk; Interview with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ); Trump Considers Latin American Travel Ban. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 20, 2020 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Welcome back. So right now, the hardest hit area in Florida is entering phase one of reopening. Today in Miami, people can shop to an extent, they can get their hair cut, they can visit a park. And now, news that the University of Miami, a community of 35,000, is confident that in-person classes will resume in August.

I'm happy to be joined by Dr. Julio Frenk, the president of the University of Miami. Good morning.

JULIO FRENK, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: Good morning, Poppy, thank you very much.

HARLOW: So, August? It is ambitious. How are you going to restart college for thousands in August? What will it look like?

FRENK: Well, we've developed a very detailed plan, very careful. Four big pillars. The first one is testing, tracing and tracking, the triple-T, that's essential in epidemiologic surveillance.

The second pillar is cleaning, both hand hygiene and very careful, meticulous, repeated cleaning of surfaces. The third big pillar is protecting personal space, and we do that through distancing but also through making the use of face covers, masks and basically an expectation, a requirement every time we're in a public gathering.

And then the fourth is vaccinating, not against the coronavirus -- because I don't think we will have a vaccine then, probably in a year -- but against the flu because come the fall, we will have the regular flu season and it's very important that the one vaccine we will have, which is a flu shot, that everyone is vaccinated so that we don't have those cases, you know, putting pressure on the health system.

So we think that --

HARLOW: It's --

FRENK: -- those four components, we can reopen safely. HARLOW: It's interesting you bring up vaccines. Just looking at

numbers that just crossed about New York City, vaccination of children is way, way, way down in this crisis. And I wonder, are you making flu vaccines mandatory for any student that wants to return to the university?

FRENK: Yes, yes, we are. Because we already do that. We have a medical campus with a medical school and a series of hospitals. It's been mandatory there for many, many years. We're going to extend that to the main campus.

And the reason is that this is both for your protection and for the rest of the community's protection. It's like wearing a mask, it's exactly that. The mask will certainly protect you, but it's most importantly that element of neutrality of responsibility, where I protect you, you protect me and that way --


HARLOW: And --

FRENK: -- the transmission.

HARLOW: It sounds like masks are also going to be mandatory for students and professors going to class?

FRENK: Yes. I mean, we're not going to have a mask police, but we're going to explain very carefully, these are young people, eager to know, eager to learn. There's a lot of school spirit, I don't anticipate a problem.

This is obviously in public places, any place where you can't keep the six feet of distance, you need to wear a mask for your protection and for your friends' protection as well.

HARLOW: OK, OK. We had the president of Rice University's Student Association on with us yesterday, and she made an interesting point when we asked her about dorms and shared bathrooms. I mean, she said it's essentially like a cruise ship, 11 mini cruise ships, in terms of their 11 different dormitory and shared spaces. How do you handle that? I mean, how do you make sure that there's not an outbreak in a dorm at the university?

FRENK: Well, let me tell you, we are extremely lucky because we had begun, about five years ago, a very ambitious plan to renovate all our residential facilities, and we just finished a beautiful new vacility called Lakeside Village, right on the lake, beautiful.

Right now, in May, we were then going to demolish two of the old dormitories, so we stopped the demolition. They're still in very good shape, we're going to phase two (ph). So we find ourselves with many more beds than we had originally planned. We didn't know there was going to be a pandemic, but we were able to react quickly and stop the closing of the old ones.

And that way, we can guarantee, you know, very small occupancy. And that -- I understand not every university will have that capability, but I think it is important to make efforts to lower the density in dorms. And then be very careful cleaning up any common areas and the wearing of masks. I think we can do it safely.

HARLOW: That's very, very lucky for you guys, to have that extra space.

On another note, before this job in a previous life, you were the minister of Health in Mexico for six years, from 2000 to 2006. They're looking to reopen their economy, and I was struck by comments that basically, their equivalent of Dr. Fauci in Mexico, Dr. Hugo Lopez- Gatell, said to CNN -- he's an epidemiologist -- and he said, I don't think testing is a must. This doesn't mean we're resisting testing, we'll use it in a carefully planned manner.


What will it mean for Mexico and also for the United States, when the southern border is reopened again, if there is not mass testing in Mexico?

FRENK: Yes, I think -- I don't know why he would say something like that. I think testing remains the backbone of any epidemiologic surveillance system, it's the eyes of the surveillance system. And Mexico was very slow in doing that. It's number of testing still continues to be low.

I think his comments, he's a very well-trained epidemiologist, he has a Ph.D. or doctorate from Johns Hopkins, so he's highly trained. As we have lots of top, top epidemiologists in Mexico, mostly trained in American universities. I am one of those, by the way, of an older generation than Dr. Lopez-Gatell.

But I think he was referring to the acute phase, where what you need to see is that hospitals are not overwhelmed. I think it's clear, there's a consensus among experts that testing needs to happen thoroughly --


FRENK: -- it's the key to reopening.

HARLOW: Let's end on this, very quickly, 10 seconds. Will the Hurricanes be back playing football in the fall?

FRENK: We certainly hope so. I mean, obviously, everything we do will have safety of our students as the top priority. If we don't feel it's safe, we won't do it. But with the measures we're taking, we will and we hope -- they will probably play in empty stadiums, like so many other sports, but we hope to have a --


FRENK: -- season, and we hope to have a winning season.

HARLOW: We hope that for you, to the ire of Gators fans, I fear, for me saying that.


Dr. Julio Frenk, good luck to you and everyone working so hard to make this happen.

FRENK: Thank you very much, I appreciate the invitation.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Well, there is a bipartisan push now for much-needed relief for states. Two senators are working together to secure critical funding for state and local resources as they face huge budget shortfalls. They're going to join me, next, to discuss.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. State leaders of both parties, mind you, are sounding the alarm over budget concerns as this crisis continues. In Louisiana, for example, that state expects to see a $1 billion shortfall -- that's a big deal at the state level -- but it's not the only state battling to fund critical resources.

Republican Senator Bill Cassidy and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez are teaming up on legislation to help provide aid to states and local communities, and they join me together now. Senators, good to have you both on this morning, good to have you on together.

If I could begin with you, Senator Cassidy. A short time ago, I had a state governor, of Kentucky, call this a matter of survival for states, whether red or blue. I wonder if that is a message you're finding that is getting through. You'll remember, early on, Mitch McConnell was suggesting that states could take the route of bankruptcy to solve this problem. But is it getting through to the Senate leadership here under the president?

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): I think is is. Everybody realizes this is about economic survival. If you're having to lay off essential government workers -- think teachers, firefighters, police officers -- then if you lay them off, our businesses cannot reopen, our children will not be re-educated.

And right now, those states and cities have had their tax base collapse because they complied with the federal government's request to shut down business. We have to support our municipalities, our police officers like we're supporting our employers and our families.

SCIUTTO: Senator Menendez, maybe you could explain to folks at home how close is that crisis point for some states? I know some states, they've already instituted hiring freezes but there's also talk of layoffs. I mean, how urgent is this issue for states right now?

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Well, it's already manifested itself, Jim. The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that in April, one million public employees -- police, firefighters, paramedics and others -- have been laid off by states and municipalities.

The alarm is sounding in my home state of New Jersey and others that have balanced budget provisions in the state constitution, they can't do what seems to happen in Washington, which is to go ahead, spend money that isn't balanced. And so -- and their state budgets are due.

So the reality is, is that it would be the height of irony -- and a horrible one too -- that those who we've need the most -- police, firefighters, paramedics, hospital employees, public health institutions -- would be the ones who would be fired as a result of the economic distress that the virus created (ph).

So that's why I'm so thrilled to be joined with Bill Cassidy and other colleagues on both the Republican and Democratic side to support this $500 billion for states and municipalities.

SCIUTTO: I think folks at home, probably happy to see the two of you together on their screens this morning.

In the midst of this, Senator Cassidy, the president has been tweeting, this morning, about taking or holding money up from states -- he mentions Michigan in particular regarding mail-in ballot applications being sent out; he's also targeted Nevada -- is that acceptable, for the president to be making those threats when states -- whether red or blue -- gain, we should make that point -- are facing real budget issues now, responding to this crisis?

CASSIDY: You know, I can't speak for the president, I haven't seen the tweets. I think I can speak for Bob. We have put our heads down, blinders on: How do we go through? Do -- for us to get to a place where we have a bipartisan bill, which is being put in both the House and the Senate on a bipartisan basis, has taken a heck of a lot.


And I'll give my tip of the hat to Bob and his team for working with us to address issues we had. And to my own staff, for issues they had.

If we do our job, if we bring a bipartisan, bicameral bill forward that meets the needs of cities and states and our entire economy, I think the president will sign it. And we are doing our job now to make sure we also get that support. I can only speak for myself. We do our job, good things happen.

SCIUTTO: Senator Menendez, do you share that hope there? I mean, do you take these threats from the White House seriously?

MENENDEZ: Look, I appreciate having work with Senator Cassidy and others -- Senator Hyde-Smith of Mississippi and Senator Collins of Maine, Senator Manchin of West Virginia, my own colleague Cory Booker -- to come together.

Moody's just put out -- I think the president will realize this, as will some of our colleagues who have not yet fully seen the light -- Moody's just put out that Arizona and Ohio are facing a fiscal shock of 20 percent of their entire budget. West Virginia, 40 percent.


MENENDEZ: This isn't a red or blue issue, this is a red, white and blue issue. It's an American issue, and we've come together to portray it as that. It is the right thing to do. Looking forward to later today, we're going to go on the Senate floor, have a colloquy with our colleagues so that we can proselytize more of the members of the Senate to join us.

SCIUTTO: Understood.

As you know, Senator Cassidy, 50 states now are opening or have opened to some degree. And again, that's red or blue states. I don't have to tell you that, you know. Louisiana, doing similar here.

As you watch that happen, are you concerned that some are moving too quickly, particularly since some -- and the CDC guidelines are finally out today, but -- some are reopening before meeting key benchmarks, for instance, like a 14-day decline in cases?

CASSIDY: Yes. There has to be some concern. But I will say that more than a general concern -- now I'm going to speak as a physician -- what has not been clear to me is that there is a strategy on testing. Everybody says we have to test, but I think it's more important that we have a strategy.

You may have a community which has not yet decreased there over 14 days. But if it turns out most of their cases might be in four nursing homes, and that inflates everybody's statistics. So if your strategy of testing doesn't subtract out the nursing homes -- which are really a self-contained isolated event, if you will -- from the overall statistics, then you're deceived by the statistics.

At some point in our federalist system of government, you have to give faith to the local public health units, and that's what I prefer to do.

SCIUTTO: Before we go, Senator Menendez, I'll give you the final word here. We've been talking about testing for months, right? I mean, I've heard it on the air from health officials, from doctors, et cetera, the necessity -- and Senator Cassidy has the advantage of being a senator and a doctor here -- is this country ever going to get to that critical mass on testing here? We've been talking about it for so long.

MENENDEZ: We must. And this is the most critical element, from my point of view, to ultimately creating the consumer confidence that is necessary in our society to truly regain our footing on the economy.

We control all the money in the world at this issue (ph) for small businesses, for states, municipalities. But if at the end of the day, I can't convince the average New Jerseyan that going to the mall, to the restaurant, to the public square, that the risk has been dramatically mitigated in terms of their ability to contract the virus? Then we will not have achieved what we wanted, and we won't get back to a new normal. I think we're all --


MENENDEZ: -- we're committed to that and we're going to keep working at it.

SCIUTTO: You're right. So much of it is a personal issue, a confidence issue.

Senators Cassidy, Menendez, we appreciate the work you're doing. You're welcome on this broadcast any time.

CASSIDY: Thank you, Jim.

MENENDEZ: Thank you.


SCIUTTO: And we'll be right back.


HARLOW: So the president is considering a travel ban on Latin America, Brazil in particular. Why? Because Brazil now has the third highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world.

SCIUTTO: Yes. This, to be seen in part of a broader assault on immigration into the U.S. CNN international correspondent Shasta Darlington is in Sao Paolo.

Interesting because the Brazilian president, like President Trump, has downplayed the threat throughout.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, that's right. That's why we haven't really seen an official reaction to the idea that there could be a travel ban, but we've seen plenty of reaction on Twitter, with Brazilians pointing out that the United States still has more than five times the number of cases that Brazil has.

On the other hand, Brazil actually barred entry to foreigners back in March, so they can't say too much now, can they? It was also in March when governors implemented quarantine measures in states across Brazil. At the same time that President Jair Bolsonaro was still referring to coronavirus as a little flu, and insisting that unemployment and hunger would kill more people than the virus.

Well, fast-forward now, as you mentioned, Brazil is the country with the third highest number of cases in the world. Yesterday, the health ministry reported 1,179 new deaths, a record; of the new number of cases, over 17,000, also a record.


And so on this day when these numbers are soaring, what we have is Bolsonaro, still talking about malaria drugs and how they're the cure, they're expanding use of those drugs.

HARLOW: Shasta, thank you very much. We'll keep everyone posted on how that develops.

Thanks to all of you for joining us today. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

Up next, the governor of Connecticut, on his move to reopen today.