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CDC Director Says Mission Shifting as New Virus Cases, Deaths Are Down; CDC Releases Detailed Reopening Guidelines after Tweaked by Trump Administration; All 50 States Are Now Partially Reopened; Connecticut Begins Reopening Process; Dr. Dan Barouch Discusses Study Finding Vaccine Success in Group of Monkeys; Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, (D), Discusses State Reopening; Trump claims Flawed Study Failed Hydroxychloroquine; Dr. Radha Rajasingham Discussing Multi- University Study on If Hydroxychloroquine Can Ward Off COVID-19. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 20, 2020 - 11:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm John King, in Washington. This is CNN continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some potentially encouraging information today on two big coronavirus questions: Where are we in the vaccine race, and if you recover from coronavirus, are you immune or can you get it again? New research suggests progress on vaccine development and that recovered patients should have strong antibodies to fight reinfection. Details on those studies in a moment.

First, a few other things you need to know right now. The national coronavirus picture this hour, well over 1.5 million confirmed cases here in the United States. Soon, 92,000 Americans will have lost their lives to COVID-19.

But there are signs of progress in the numbers. New hospitalizations are down 50 percent in the last month.

And the CDC chief says the mission now shifting.


ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: I want to clarify that the community-based -- community transmission that overwhelmed the public health departments in late February, March, April, that's really coming down.

Right now, what CDC and the state public health systems are doing is we're fighting outbreaks. We have nursing home outbreaks and we're going in and containing them.


KING: Today, there are finally detailed CDC guidelines to help answer your reopening questions. They were tweaked after the Trump White House complained they were too cautious. Still, read the details and envision the new normal.

Back to school, for example, would happen without field trips or most extracurricular activities. Meals would be served in classrooms, not crowded cafeterias.

The president today meets with governors from Arkansas and Kansas. Grievances stir his morning tweet storm, including accusing China of a mass worldwide killing.

The president, though, is heavily into reopening, even tweeting he may reschedule the G-7 for June at Camp David. He said America is transitioning back to greatness.

Each state, though, 50 states, 50 plans. Each state charting its own path and weighing data from scientists as we move forward. Numbers from economists to decide what to open and when.

Let's take a look at some of the newest, latest trends and the map as we go through this. Let's bring this us first. Where are we? Remember, 50 states, 50 plans. If you're orange or red, that means you're heading up. And 18 states are doing that. One, Montana, going up quite dramatically at the moment. Although it has a relative low case count, it's going up.

And 18 states on the way up. And 15, that's the base, they're holding steady. Essentially flattening the curve, as you start the reopening process. And 17 states headed where you want them to go, heading down. And 16 of them, 10 percent to 50 percent reduction in cases week to week. One down more than 50 percent.

Let's take a look at a few of these states to see how it's going.

State of Wisconsin, you can see the seven-day moving average, yes, you get a spike every now and then. The important thing to watch is the trajectory, and it's flat, heading down the last couple of days. Let's hope that continues. Wisconsin flattened. The question is, is it dropping? That would be great. And 200 cases reported yesterday.

Look at Illinois. A higher number of cases. You're still looking in the area of a ballpark of 2,000 cases. But Illinois, one of the hardest-hit states soon on, flattening. Starting to come down we hope. You see a spike, but you're nowhere near where you were back here. Starting to come down. Encouraging yesterday. Still a high number, but Illinois making its way down.

The state of Connecticut, we'll get more on that in a minute. A big day today. One of the last to accelerate the reopening. Look at the seven-day moving average. And 600 cases plus on average. A drop, below 400 yesterday. Let's hope that continues again. You see definitely a flattening beginning to see some evidence there of coming down.

As I noted, Connecticut among the last states to accelerate the reopening. As of today, it has reported more than 38,000 cases, nearly 3,500 COVID-related deaths. But starting today, offices, retail and restaurants are reopening with some restrictions.

CNN's Brynn Gingras in Milford, Connecticut, where outdoor dining is one of the first steps.

Hey, Brynn.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Yes, so metrics here in Connecticut, as you explained, they're going in the right direction. That's why the governor feels confident we can start with this phase one, at least in this state.

But remember, this is part of the hard-hit tristate, not the worst. New Jersey and New York are definitely hit harder. But it's part of that whole geographic area.

Today comes with some anxiety and also a lot of excitement. We're here on the deck of Archie Moore's in Milford, Connecticut. As you can see, they have a nice outdoor space, which is really in their benefit, but this isn't the case for all restaurants. Only restaurants can open if they have outdoor dining.

And there's still a lot of limitations. I talked to the owner here who told me that he'll be able to serve about 50 percent of the number of patrons he could have if he could have opened fully.

Again, a lot of restrictions. They're going by the CDC guidelines. You can see the "X"s on the ground and the arrows. There has to be one entrance, one exit for people coming in. They expect people starting at 11:30 for the lunch crowd.


Over here, they set out a nice table for us to show some of the things they had to do in order to reopen. They had to have this disinfectant approved by the government guidelines. They had to have individual menus, individual packets of food, individual utensils.

We have seen these precautions taken all across the country. Now Connecticut having to do the same.

Again, it's a lot of expenses for an industry that was hit so hard. Remember, this state closed just before St. Patrick's Day, when the owner tells me he was buying lots more beer, more food, expecting big crowds. Then that all went away two months ago.

So today, they're hoping to again now see a boost and hopefully have those metrics stay on their side so they can see even more restrictions sort of ease back for them,

But I want you to hear what he said the last couple months have been like for him.


JONATHAN RESSLER, OWNER, ARCHIE MOORE'S: We had to pivot almost overnight from our full-service bar and restaurant to a takeout operation. That was interesting because obviously, we didn't have a lot of warning.

It's been a rough time. Two months without, you know, normal operations is not easy in the restaurant business when there are such thin margins.


GINGRAS: So again, he got a nice big outdoor deck here. Tables six feet apart

But the question is, will people actually come. Will they feel comfortable enough? We know some places at least in Connecticut aren't even reopening because they don't feel comfortable enough to bring people in to work. We'll see how that goes when this opens up in about a half hour -- John?

KING: Brynn Gingras, appreciate you being there for us, reporting from the ground. We'll see how it plays out there. Thanks very much.

Some details now on an encouraging new study. Researchers say six different candidate vaccines proved effective in tests on primates. Of 25 animals vaccinated, eight showed no levels of coronavirus after being exposed to it. The others showed only low levels of the virus.

In the second study, nine primates were exposed to COVID and monitored as they recovered. They were then re-exposed and demonstrated what the researchers called near complete protection against the virus.

The senior author of the studies joins us, Dr. Dan Barouch. He is the director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Doctor, thank you for being with us.

Let's start, two big questions here you're trying to answer. Let's start on the vaccine front. You say that in these primates, the vaccine candidates were proven to be effective.

What does that tell you, A, what is the next step, and, B, what is the ratio in the sense of past research on primates and saying it definitely applies when it comes to humans?


Our studies address the question of the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, which is clearly a global priority at the moment. Our studies are in primates and not humans. Therefore, we have to be cautious in how we interpret these data.

Nevertheless, these data increase our optimism that the development of a vaccine will be possible.

KING: And so what's the next step from here? You look at these results, which are encouraging, and I get your caution and I appreciate it because people are hearing about new studies every day. What's next in the vaccine front?

BAROUCH: So there are several important findings from this study in primates. The first one is that we did achieve a substantial degree of protection. It wasn't complete. In some cases, we detect some virus following challenge in the primates, however, there was a substantial degree of protection.

The second major finding is that we showed that neutralizing antibody responses induced by the vaccine correlate with this protection.

So we hope that that marker will be useful for the clinical development of vaccines as a way of measuring how vaccines are doing before we actually have a clinical end point.

And then, the vaccines in this study are not the vaccines that are in clinical development right now. However, the information learned from the study we hope will be useful to our team as well as others for the development of clinical vaccine candidates.

KING: And let me shift you to the second part of this now, which is the antibody research. You exposed these primates, watched them recover. And then exposed them again.

And this is the big question. As America and the world start to go back to work, as we see the workers, whether it's frontline workers, people in your industry, health care workers, people in the meat packing plants, do you, as in most viruses, develop immunity or is there something different about COVID-19.

Tell us about the research and why you believe at least in primates the indication is if you get it, you do develop antibodies and protection from it again.

BAROUCH: So, a critical question is whether individuals who recover from COVID-19 are then protected against re-exposure.

We did the study in primates, and we showed the answer in this case is, yes, the protection was very good, near complete. It wasn't absolute. There was a very low amount of virus detected. But nevertheless, the protection was very good.


So this demonstrates that there's natural protective immunity to this virus. However, I'll emphasize again, these studies are in primates. And we have to be careful of how we interpret these data for humans.

KING: To that very point, what changes? Is it a tomorrow question, a neck week question, a next month question, for people watching the program and saying when might there be on the antibody front or vaccine front, something in this that translates to progress for me?

BAROUCH: I think these two studies increase optimism that the development of a vaccine will likely be possible. KING: All right, DR, Dan Barouch, really appreciate your insights.

Best of luck in the days ahead. The research is encouraging, and let's be cautious, but keep in touch as you continue the work.

BAROUCH: Thank you very much.

KING: Thank you, sir.

When we come back, Connecticut's governor joins us. A big day in his state as it begins the process of reaccelerating the reopening.



KING: Connecticut today makes it 50, as in all 50 states now on the path to reopening. Starting today, in Connecticut, offices, retail stores, and restaurants are reopening with some restrictions, meaning only outdoor dining for restaurants, for example.

Let's discuss this with Connecticut's governor, Ned Lamont.

Governor, thank you for your time today.

One thing you planned to allow hair salons, barbershops to open up now, and you decided to wait. I assume you're studying the lessons of every other state. Why the pause on that one?

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): Well, we work closely with Massachusetts and Rhode Island, so we thought we should do this more or less at the same time. The number of stylists gives us a little more time to get our salons up to speed, so that will be on June 1st.

KING: Walk me through your call calculation here. You were in the corridor hardest hit. As the country and world watches the reopening, everyone is trying to learn lessons from everyone else.

What are your metrics as you start today and we hope everything goes well? The case count is down in a significant way, which is great news for the state of Connecticut. What are your metrics if you have to say turn it up, we can go quickly, or we need to dial it back?

LAMONT: Well, our hospitalizations are going down. Our testing and track and trace are going up.

It's worth remembering that when you say we're just reopening today, we never closed down manufacturing. We never closed down construction. We kept our stores open for pick-up and delivery, the nonessential. So we did a lot of things in our phase one early on.

KING: So in some ways you almost started phase two because you did keep some things open. Obviously, you have learned some lessons from that about safety practice. You're in the hardest hit corridor. You move up in the northeast, the states that got it the worst. I want you to listen to the president of the United States. They're

there every day, you know the numbers because it's the pain and anguish of your state. The president sees the numbers going up and says this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So when we have a lot of cases, I don't look at that as a bad thing. I look at that as in a certain respect as being a good thing because it means our testing is much better.

I view it as a badge of honor. Really, it's a badge of honor.


KING: I hope he's corrects in the testing in every state is better, but do you view those numbers as a badge of honor?

LAMONT: No, the number of people infected is no badge of honor. It's a tragedy.

But perhaps what he meant to say is that if the percentage of people who are being tested lower and lower test positive, that's a good sign. We're less than a 10 percent, less than 5 percent yesterday. And that is a good sign.

That as we do more testing, the percentage of people who test positive is going down. That's one of the reasons we feel confident we're slowly opening our economy at the right time.

KING: And to the point you made earlier, I want to put on the screen the drop in hospitalizations. You see a very significant drop, especially in most recent days. I assume that is one of your metrics, what is the rate of infection, is the demand on the hospital beds suddenly increasing again.

Walk me through your day, when the public health experts come in with the numbers, is it infection rate, is it hospitalization, is it if that testing percentage starts to go up in terms of positives? What will convince you I need to think again?

LAMONT: So, John, a month ago, I looked at hospitalization. I was really worried. I saw what happened in Italy. I saw what happened in queens. I wanted to make sure we had capacity in our hospitals.

We did that. Nobody was ever turned away. We maintained the capacity. Now we have 40 percent capacity. So that's less my metric now than testing. We're testing symptomatic and asymptomatic first responders now. And beginning to broadly test throughout the broader community. That will be my template to see what's going on in terms of community spread.

We had Scott Gottlieb and Zeke Emanuel in yesterday, major public health officials. And they said we can probably expect progress through the summer. Watch out for the fall when the flu season, you have to be ready for the possibility of a second surge.

KING: To that point, any leader like yourself, everybody is exhausted. You have been dealing with this for month now, and you think maybe you have a little more space to breathe, but you're nervous about your reopening, worried about the fall.

Connecticut -- I'm from Massachusetts, I went to college in Rhode Island. You have beautiful beaches and the weather is getting warmer. As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, are you worried or you become a data expert, you're learning things about the virus you never thought you would have to study. You also have to be a psychologist to a degree, trying to encourage good behavior.

Are you worried about that?


LAMONT: I am. Data is one thing, but behavior impacts that data so closely. We're looking at outdoor eating restaurants and make sure people track the protocols carefully. Masks and gloves for waiters.

We kept our beaches open, kept our parks open. We limited capacity there, and so far, the folks have really taken this seriously. They know how serious it is that you be careful, especially on a hot weekend like this coming up.

KING: And let me ask you lastly, you mentioned when it comes to the barber shops, the salons here, talking to your neighbors. How long do you think that will continue? Can you stick together? There's obviously a little competition between states, between economies.

How much of that is going to be OK, we feel good now. I'm going to make Connecticut only decisions or how much is I think I have a Connecticut decision but I hit execute, I'm going to talk to my neighbors?

LAMONT: Oh, I talk to my neighbors. It doesn't do me any good to open a bar and have Andrew Cuomo not. Then you have hundreds of people back and forth. So we're doing this cautiously.

But like I said, manufacturing, construction, a lot of the main pieces of our economy, we kept open. That kept Connecticut in better economic shape than a lot of our neighbors.

KING: We certainly hope this next phase goes successfully.

Governor Ned Lamont, thank you for your time today, sir. Good luck.

LAMONT: Thanks, John.

KING: Thank you.

President Trump now says he's just about finished taking Hydroxychloroquine. He takes it to fend off the coronavirus. He rejects critics and studies and his own FDA, which says the drug is unproven and has risks. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It was a false study done where they gave it to very sick people, extremely sick people, people who were ready to die. It was given by obviously not friends of the administration.

We had great studies come out, Italy, France, Spain, ourselves, many, many doctors. Many doctors came out and said it's great.


KING: The presumptive Democratic nominee said the incumbent is setting a reckless example.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's like saying maybe if you injected Clorox into your bl it might cure you. Come on, man, what is he doing? This is absolutely irresponsible. There's no serious medical personnel out there saying to use that drug.


KING: Dr. Radha Rajasingham, leads a multi-university study on whether Hydroxychloroquine can help ward off COVID-19.

Doctor, thank you so much for being with us today.

You just heard the president of the United States. He said the study that says be cautious about this is a sham and all the other doctors say it's great. What's the truth?

DR. RADHA RAJASINGHAM, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: The truth is -- John, thanks for having me -- that we don't know if Hydroxychloroquine can prevent COVID-19 disease. There are a lot of small studies out there that have shown some benefit or no benefit. There are observational studies in really sick hospitalized patients that have shown no benefit.

But in the president's situation where he's taking it as prophylaxis, we don't know if Hydroxychloroquine works to prevent COVID-19.

KING: So if you were a White House doctor, and the president said, you know, I heard about this. I won't get into where he hears about it, but I heard about this, I want to take it. Would you say yes or would you say, sir, I don't think so?

RAJASINGHAM: I would say we need more data. I would suggest that we follow clinical trials that are out there to find out whether it's effective. Without knowing if it's effective, I would not prescribe this medication for COVID-19.

KING: So tell me about the work you're doing to try to answer this question. Are you looking at all COVID-19 patients as you do this study, whether it would work as a prophylactic, are you looking at only those with severe symptoms? Explain.

RAJASINGHAM: We're testing whether Hydroxychloroquine can prevent COVID-19 in high-risk health care workers across the country. So generally, these are people who are working in emergency departments, intensive care units, anesthesiologists and first responders like police officers and firefighters.

And those participants who have consented are randomized to either placebo or Hydroxychloroquine. While they're taking it, we observe whether they develop COVID-19 over a period of weeks to months.

KING: And how long will that take before you have -- where you think the numbers before you are reliable, they tell you something?

RAJASINGHAM: I think we're going to continue enrollment for about two more weeks and then we'll follow people up until the end of June. So it will likely be end of June, maybe early July when we finally have some results to talk about.


KING: And you mentioned asking frontline health care workers to enroll in your study. That's one of the groups the president constantly talked about. Listen.


TRUMP: I think it gives you an additional level of safety. But you can ask many doctors who are in favor of it. Many frontline workers won't go there unless they have the Hydroxy. Again, this is an individual decision to make.

But it's had a great reputation. And if it was somebody else other than me, people would say, gee, isn't that smart?


KING: The president suggests there -- I have seen anecdotally evidence of this, how many frontline workers have either through their doctor or through some other means gotten access to Hydroxychloroquine because they think it might protect them, do we know?

RAJASINGHAM: I don't know the answer to that question, John. I don't know if people are taking it out of studies.

What I do know is for people who are enrolling in our study, they have to be willing to be randomized to placebo. So if they want only Hydroxychloroquine, we don't encourage them to enroll because there's no guarantee that that's what they would receive.

KING: Doctor Radha Rajasingham, I really appreciate your insights. Good luck as you do the research and come back when you have some findings.

RAJASINGHAM: All right, thank you.

KING: Thank you. Have a great day. Thanks very much.

Just ahead for us, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, defends himself as questions swirl around the firing -- the president's firing of the State Department inspector general.