Return to Transcripts main page


All 50 U.S. States Now Partially Reopened; Tension Increases Between CDC and President Trump; Even With Masks, Virus Can Spread Widely in Restaurant Setting. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 20, 2020 - 14:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: I'm Brianna Keilar, and I want to welcome viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. You're watching CNN's special live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

We have several fast-moving developments this Wednesday, including the head of the Centers for Disease Control. now in hot water as the battle between his agency and the White House intensifies.

A top administration official, telling CNN that informal conversations about, quote, "what to do" about Dr. Robert Redfield have taken place, as several Trump aides complain publicly and privately about the CDC's response to the outbreak. And another source says Redfield is concerned he may have a target on his back.

In the meantime, Johnson and Johnson has announced positive results in monkeys from a study involving six different experimental COVID-19 vaccines. But the doctor in charge of the study cautions it is still too early to celebrate.


DAN BAROUCH, CO-LEADS VACCINE WORKING GROUP: The protection was very good, it was 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 is 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.


KEILAR: All of that, as the U.S. hits a milestone. For the first time since lockdowns began nationwide, all 50 states are now partially reopened. Connecticut, becoming the last state to lift those restrictions, effective today.

CNN's Nick Watt has been following the reopening efforts across the country, and he joins me now, live from Los Angeles -- Nick. NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, yes, it has been more

than nine weeks since those first counties up in Northern California told people to stay home. And now, today, in every single state, we are trying starting to get back to normal.

In Los Angeles, car washes are now allowed as of today. And at this one, every worker gets a health check first thing in the morning. And now, they're not just washing the cars, they're also disinfecting them.


WATT (voice-over): Retail reopens in Miami Beach today, but not the beaches or the hundreds of bars and restaurants, not yet.

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D), MIAMI BEACH, FL: This is to see how we do. We're a crowd-based city, so we want to make sure we don't draw too large a crowd.

WATT (voice-over): Mike Schultz thinks he caught the virus in Miami Beach pre-lockdown at a festival, posting these pictures before and after six weeks in the ICU.

Controlling crowds was, is and will be key maybe for many months, and rules will vary because the Great Plains are not the Big Apple. This weekend, beaches open on Long Island, but not New York City, where they're now offering free testing to anyone who works at or lives in the city's 169 nursing homes.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: We have to redouble our efforts to help those who are most vulnerable.

WATT (voice-over): Boston, now targeting June 1 to start but taking more time than the rest of Massachusetts before opening up, say, office space.

MAYOR MARTY WALSH (D), BOSTON, MA: For example, making sure that when people go into buildings, they get temperature checks, they get asked some questions, some basic questions, making sure there's proper protocol in place, tracing. I don't think we can afford to shut back down, so I think we have to get this right the first time.

WATT (voice-over): July 4th, still six-plus weeks away, is now the goal to have most businesses back open for the 10 million who live here, in Los Angeles County. Maybe even movie production.

DONNA LANGLEY, CHAIRMAN, UNIVERSAL FILMED ENTERTAINMENT GROUP (via telephone): The longer production remains shut down, the more full- time industry jobs are in jeopardy of being cut.

WATT (voice-over): As of this morning, when Connecticut got rolling, all 50 states have now started reopening. Yet in at least 18, including Kentucky, new case counts are going up.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY: But the way we're reopening gives us the type of gradual and safe reopening ,where we can do it while watching the data at the same time.

WATT (voice-over): The CDC did finally publish its nationwide reopening guidelines. Among them, sneeze guards in bars and every second row empty on the school bus. But missing from an earlier draft shelved by the White House as too strict? Any and all guidance for faith communities.


RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: I see some key elements that should be in there that aren't. And I'd like to understand, is that based on science or is it not there for other reasons?

WATT (voice-over): Multiple CDC staffers tell CNN that politics more than science is driving White House policy. "We've been muzzled," said one.


WATT: Of course, it doesn't just matter what we do inside this country, it matters who and what we let in. And this morning, the vice president, saying that the administration is looking into perhaps more travel restrictions on South America. A big spike early this week in Brazil, in both new case numbers and deaths.

And Brazil, by the way, also has a populist president who is also very eager to get the economy back up and running -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Indeed. Nick Watt in Los Angeles, thank you.

I want to talk more now about these reported tensions between the Centers for Disease Control and the White House, and the long-awaited guidelines to reopen the country.

Dr. Carlos Del Rio is the executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System.

And, sir, I mean, you may have heard some of Nick Watt's report there. CDC officials have told our Drew Griffin, quote, "We are working under a black cloud of an administration that doesn't have our backs." We've been muzzled, is what one said. What's your reaction to hearing that?

CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, it's very concerning. Because CDC is one of our national treasures. And having CDC in the past lead the response to many, many problems that I can remember, I mean, from HIV to Legionnaires' disease to H1N1 to you name it, Zika -- CDC has always been in the forefront.

I can remember, in 2001, H1N1, you know, Dr. Rich Besser who was CDC director was literally on the frontlines, on the news on a daily basis during the Ebola outbreaks. You know, Dr. Tom Frieden was key in the response.

So I think the CDC has always shown leadership, and has always done a remarkable job. They have great scientific expertise, they have the right people, the right tools, the right laboratories. So I have been really dismayed and, quite frankly, disappointed by not seeing CDC at all be part of this response.

And you almost wonder as, you know, if you're playing chess, you somehow gave up your queen and you still think you're going to be able to win.

KEILAR: It's a -- that's a great analogy.

We have reporting -- and I'm sure this alarms you, then, based on what you just said, that the job of CDC director Robert Redfield could be in jeopardy because of all this tension. It certainly doesn't seem like a good time to change the guard at the CDC. What do you think?

DEL RIO: I would agree with that. And again, I know Dr. Redfield. He is -- he's a friend, he's a colleague, he has worked on HIV for many, many years, I've known him for a long time. I think he's a very capable individual. I think he is really trying to do his best. But simply, he's not being allowed to do his best.

Now, there's also incredible, you know, career people within the United States' public health service, and all the way from, you know, Dr. Anne Schuchat all the way down -- many people at CDC that simply are terrific, and are the best in their business, not only nationally, but recognized internationally. And again, letting them do their work, do their science, issue their guidelines and do what needs to be done to get us out of this epidemic, is going to be critical.

If we don't respect the science, if we don't respect what comes out of CDC and don't implement it, we're not going to be in a good position. And I think we as citizens need to be wondering, where is CDC? Because we need CDC. These are our best people.

KEILAR: Yes. And, you know, one of the things, one of the holdups -- actually, finally, I want to ask you about the positive results that we've seen for this vaccine, one of the vaccines having been tested on monkeys. Johnson and Johnson, making this announcement. They're urging caution, but I wonder if you are optimistic or if you're sort of reserving your chance to be optimistic?

DEL RIO: Well, I think it's important to be optimistic. But as a scientist, I want to see data, I want to see, really, outcomes. And I don't want to see press releases which are geared primarily to the media and to investors. I really need to see the science, I need to see the data and I need to see what's going on.

My experience with the HIV vaccines is that we -- as you know, we don't yet have a vaccine for HIV, and there have been plenty of vaccines that shown efficacy in animals, in human primates and then when they were taken to clinical trials in humans, they failed. So I think I'm maybe scarred by that, and I would say I tend to be a little skeptical.

[14:10:03] Now, having said that, I would say that developing a vaccine for coronavirus may be a lot easier than a vaccine for HIV. But nevertheless, we have to see the clinical trial process occur, we have to see the science happen and then we'll look at the data and go from there.

Now, it's important, if this vaccine showed efficacy in primates, that's great. That's a great clinical stage. It's time then to think about moving it into humans to see if it's safe in humans, and then you go on and on with the clinical trial process.

KEILAR: You are the second expert in as many days who has said, I don't want to see a press release, I want to see the data. So I appreciate you bringing up that point, Dr. Del Rio. Thank you.

DEL RIO: Good evening, good talking to you today.

KEILAR: As all states reopen in some capacity, see how far the virus travels during a restaurant experiment. You will not want to miss this.

Plus, a stunning before-and-after picture of a nurse who survived weeks of coronavirus. We will hear his story.

And as some Americans refuse to wear masks -- including the president -- a new study shows how effective they are. This is CNN's special live coverage.



KEILAR: The last state, Connecticut, is rolling out its phase one reopening plan today, meaning that restaurants can now serve customers outdoors only. And this comes as each state is essentially charting its own path toward a return to traditional restaurant dining.

So how safe are restaurants during this pandemic? CNN's Randi Kaye found out with the help of a scientific experiment.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Put some in. And should I rub it all together as well?

KAYE (voice-over): This yellow-tinted goo is a mixture of petroleum jelly and fluorescent solution.

PATRICK HUGHES, E.R. DOCTOR: Under an ultraviolet light, this will glow.

KAYE: OK, and that's going to simulate germs on my hand?

HUGHES: Correct. So this will simulate contact spread, you know, from you to other things that you touch and may be touched by someone else. KAYE (voice-over): Dr. Patrick Hughes is an E.R. doctor who oversees

the emergency medicine simulation program at Florida-Atlantic University.

KAYE: Hi, ladies.


KAYE (voice-over): He invited us to lunch, designating me the so- called spreader, so we could see how germs on my hand, which could be coronavirus droplets, could spread in a restaurant setting.

At our table, we keep our masks on to protect ourselves and each other.

KAYE: There's a menu for you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

KAYE: Do you want a menu, too?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sure, thanks.

KAYE (voice-over): I pour water for everyone at the table --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is great. Thanks for having us for lunch.

KAYE: Sure.

KAYE (voice-over): -- and pass around the food, wondering if I'm passing around the virus too.

KAYE: Chips?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes, awesome. Thank you.

KAYE: Do you want to take the bowl?


KAYE (voice-over): We also share the salt and pepper. Then it's time to turn on the ultraviolet lights, to see what I may have spread. Remember, I was the only one with what could have been the virus on my hand.

KAYE: You didn't have any germs on you. I was the spreader. So when you look at my hands and look how it transferred to some of you, just by sharing items at the table or a knife in this case or a water glass, I mean, even -- it only takes a little bit, right? To make somebody else sick.

KAYE (voice-over): How about that bowl of chips I passed around?

HUGHES: You can see where she touched the edge of the bowl to pass it around, the simulated germs, you know, stuck right to the surface.

KAYE: And then everybody else touches the bowl.

KAYE (voice-over): Same with the salt and pepper shakers, and the pitcher of water. There was contact spread on the cups and menus, too. Even my lunch friends.

HUGHES: This is the spot where, when Randi came in to have lunch with her friends, she touched right on the shoulder just to greet everybody. And you can see the outline of her palm print, her handprint, right on the shirt.

It's quite scary, the amount of spread that one person can have in a room like that.

KAYE: We also wanted to see what would happen if you're out for lunch or dinner with a friend or your family at a restaurant, and somebody coughs. So let's turn out the lights, and let's see the cough.

KAYE (voice-over): There were now more droplets on the bowl of chips, the menus, and the water pitcher too.

KAYE: Look at what happened to the fork after that simulated cough. Those would be real germs if that was a real cough on my fork. I would have picked up the fork, not being able to see those germs with the naked eye --

KAYE (voice-over): Even the woman sitting to my right, several feet away from the mannequin that coughed, had droplets on her face.

HUGHES: You can see it's on her face, her glasses, her mask.

KAYE: If she wasn't wearing a mask, she would have breathed it in.

HUGHES: Correct.


KEILAR: Well, thank you so much to Randi for that report.

And joining me now is Dr. Rob Davidson. He's an emergency room physician and executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare.

So you know, Doctor, we saw in this report how masks can help in an enclosed setting. I want to ask you about a study by researchers in Hong Kong. They actually found that wearing a mask lowered the transmission of the coronavirus through airborne particles and respiratory droplets by 75 percent. Is that what you would expect? And what does that tell us about how people should be wearing them?

ROB DAVIDSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE COMMITTEE TO PROTECT MEDICARE: Absolutely, that is something that could be expected. It's nice to see some experimental evidence of this.

And really, the CDC has been advocating for this for quite some time. Initially there were, you know, mixed messages coming out officially. Now, officially, all of the organizations, public health entities worldwide are advocating for this. So, yes. I mean, I wear a mask when I go to any public space, I bring

a mask with me even in a very rural area, when I go on a walk, just in case I can't avoid coming in near proximity to individuals. And I think everyone should. And, frankly, because our president does not do that, is a challenge to those of us who are trying to help our states open up safely. I think it's sending a mixed message.


KEILAR: How much would it help, do you think, if he did wear it? Because, you know, he has not been wearing one, even with the visit to auto plant. He's not wearing one even though the United Auto Workers say they wish he would because there could be auto workers present -- he's not wearing it.

DAVIDSON: Yes. I think it can't be overstated, the message that that sends to individuals who, frankly, support President Trump and who, you know, tend to believe what he says and what he does. I think that leaders should model good behavior, I think that is just common-sense good leadership.

And, you know, it's troubling. Is he a high-risk individual? Well, you know, he gets tested very frequently, we are told. And so probably he's lower risk than others. But again, he's not zero risk.

And just because millions of people are watching his every move, this would go such a long way for the rest of us, trying to open up safely; for those of us in health care, trying to decrease the numbers and keep the numbers down.

KEILAR: Yes. It's like -- it's why you get celebrities to take flu shots and be public about it, right? When you want people to take flu shots.

I do want you to listen to a comment that the president made about the state of testing in the country.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. So if we were testing a million people instead of 14 million people, we would have far fewer cases, right? So I view it as a badge of honor. Really, it's a badge of honor.


KEILAR: Just from your medical perspective, give us your reaction to hearing that.

DAVIDSON: It's hard to even listen to again; I heard it once, I responded to it on Twitter -- and many people did.

You know, having more cases, frankly, equals more deaths. We have over 92,000 people dead from the virus now. And really, it's been the anemic response in February, where we basically -- our administration ignored the virus and downplayed it.

And really, through this entire lockdown, where we were supposedly buying time, flattening the curve, relieving our health systems of any major influx -- but really, buying time to do testing, to be able to test, trace and isolate: our only logical way to opening safely. And, you know, we failed. This government has failed.

We're doing around -- the maximum I've seen is 400,000 tests in one day. And experts suggest the minimum number of tests we'd need would be 900,000 per day, so we're not even halfway there. And yet, you know, the virus just keeps going and going. The cases will mount, whether we test or not. And so I think his assertion that it's a badge of honor? Really, it really is just a marker of failure.

KEILAR: All right. Dr. Davidson, thank you for joining us from Michigan. We appreciate it.

A young and fit nurse, showing his before-and-after picture of what weeks in the hospital did to his body in a very long battle with coronavirus.


Plus, the president, again, going off on China, accusing it of, quote, "mass worldwide killing," apparently forgetting how he had praised China for weeks at the start of all this.


KEILAR: As President Trump faces increasing criticism for his botched response to the coronavirus, he is ratcheting up his attacks on China and blaming them for the pandemic.

Just today, the president, tweeting that it was, quote, "the incompetence of China and nothing else that did this mass worldwide killing." But it wasn't so long ago that the president had a very different tune when it came to China's handling of the coronavirus. Let's listen.


TRUMP: I just spoke to President Xi last night. That's a very tough situation but I think he's going to handle it, I think he'd handled it really well.

I think China is very, you know, professionally run in the sense that they have everything under control, I really believe they are going to have it under control fairly soon.

They're working hard. Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.

I spoke with President Xi, and they're working very, very hard and I think it's going to all work out fine.

TRUMP (via telephone): I think they've handled it professionally, and I think they're extremely capable and I think President Xi is extremely capable, and I hope that it's going to be resolved.

TRUMP: I think President Xi is working very hard. I really believe he wants to get that done, and he wants to get it done fast. Yes, I think he's doing it very professionally.

I think President Xi's working very, very hard. I spoke to him, he's working very hard. I think he's doing a very good job.


KEILAR: Back in January, the president also praised China's response on Twitter, saying, quote, "The U.S. greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well, in particular on behalf of the American people, I want to thank President Xi."

Joining me now to discuss, CNN political analyst Josh Rogin. And, Josh, what is this change of tune tell you about, really, what's happening with the president and what --