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Schools Try to Figure Out How to Reopen in The Fall; Premature Announcements About Vaccines Without Supporting Data Is Harmful; Trump Threatens to Withhold Funding for Michigan And Nevada Over Absentee Ballot Push. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 20, 2020 - 15:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Every educator, teacher and principal in America is rushing right now to figure out what school in the fall is going to look like. And the considerations can be quite different for kindergarten through 12th grade schools than say universities. When should kids go back? What does classrooms look like? How do you keep buses safe. And what about lunch and recess. All very real questions.

One of the school districts that shut down and moved to remote learning earliest on was Northshore Public Schools outside of Seattle. Let's check in with the person making these tough decisions there right now. Joining me right now is Northshore superintendent Michelle Reid. Thank you so much for being here this afternoon. You're a big school system. You have seven high schools set to hold virtual graduations in the coming weeks. What are your plans for the fall right now?

MICHELLE REID, SUPERINTENDENT, NORTHSHORE PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Well, thanks, Kate. That's a great question. And as I was reflecting with one of my colleagues yesterday, thinking about what's different from when we close to when we're expected to do some type of reopening in the fall, what we realized is what's different is that we've had more people die, more people are ill. We have the same staff that are now older and still no vaccine or widespread testing. So we're struggling with those data points that would indicate that we could safely have some type of reopening, honestly.

BOLDUAN: Where are you learning right now in terms of bringing everyone back, keeping it remote learning? Where are you right now?

REID: Great question. As we think about bringing approximately 27,000 students and staff back together for some kind of a robust productive learning experience, we're recognizing that we need to look at this in phases. Recently Mr. Nadella from Microsoft indicated the phase ought to be respond, recover and reimagine. And I think we're somewhere in between recover and reimagine at the moment.

Our district is working on a five-phased approach and I think paramount is going to be a robust distance learning platform for those students and staff who have medical concerns or anxiety about returning in addition to some type of in-person connectedness if it's possible. Again, without widespread testing and a vaccination I'm not sure it's

going to be possible in the way we might have imagined it.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it is -- I want to ask you about distance learning in just one second. But now since we have these new CDC guidelines that were put out over the weekend, there are many considerations that they outlined that they recommend for schools and we'll roll them on the screen for you because here are some of the ones that stuck out to me.

Spacing desks at least six feet apart. Turning desks to face the same direction. Closing dining halls and playgrounds if possible. Cleaning and disinfecting shared objects between uses, like toys, games and art supplies. Staggering arrival and drop off times and locations. On buses, one child per seat in every other row, if possible. Can you pull that off in your school district?

REID: Well, as we've been discussing this, Kate, we've realized that 60 percent of our bus drivers are in the high-risk category.


REID: So even if we minimize students on the bus, they still pass the bus driver to get on the bus. We've looked at alternate ways to board the bus, be safe on the bus. But the resources required to run more buses because we're going to be limited to the number of students. It's going to make things really challenging.

Furthermore, the requirement for PPE for our almost 3,000 staff members, it's going to be significant. And I think that what we're realizing is that having a backbone of a robust distance learning platform is going to be most critical. In our house in Northshore we've worked collaboratively with our teachers and our support staff and their safety and health, and the safety and health of our students are still front and center. If we don't feel it's safe to have them back, we're going to not bring them back in that fashion.

BOLDUAN: As a parent, I have to say, I took some -- I don't know if it was relief, but just your candor and your assessment on remote learning to this point. Because I read that you told Axios just taking everything that we used to do and trying to wedge it into a new virtual reality is not a promising practice, it doesn't work. Where does that leave kids now?

REID: Well, So, we worked on a Northshore Learns Version 1.0 as you know because we closed schools and went online within 72 hours back in early March. What we now have done is move to a Northshore Learns Version 2.0 which is more project based, more integrated, more holistic and shifts the role of both the teacher and the learner to providing a much more robust independent learning mode.


And we feel like our students are engaging. We've had over 95 percent engagement throughout the spring, and we feel like have to do something significantly different. As I said to Axios, you cannot simply take everything that we did,

which was amazing, in our brick and mortar schools and move them into this online climate. It is not a promising practice. It will not keep our students engaged. It will frustrate our parents and our teachers and that's not why they've signed on. You know, they love our kids. They want (INAUDIBLE) in rich discussions and engagement and in a safe and healthy way which we're going to have to problem solve.

And honestly, we have some ideas but we're waiting on our state. And I think one of our challenges is those people at that 30,000-foot level have a lot on their plate and we value their guidance and judgment. And often it's going to be guidance and judgment we might not anticipate at the ground level as we try to make things work for students and families and staff. So, there is a tension at times. The guidelines and the bureaucracy catching up with the work on the ground.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I mean take the one example of what do you do about buses? And that shows you just the beginning of the challenges that you face. Thank you so much. We'll check in with you. Thank you very much for your time and everything you're doing.

REID: Thank you so much -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us, another announcement from a company working on a vaccine that a clinical trial shows promise. I'm going to take to a researcher who warns that announcements like that could be dangerous.



BOLDUAN: This is getting a lot of talk today. Another company announcing progress in the quest for a coronavirus vaccine. Today it's Johnson and Johnson announcing six of its experimental vaccines show positive results in monkeys. Earlier this week it was Moderna announcing positive results in its early vaccine trial in humans. In the case of Moderna and many others, there is a critical caveat. The company is not releasing underlying scientific data to back up its announcement.

Now a pioneer in the research of HIV/AIDS, cancer and the human genome is raising the alarm on what he's calling publication by press release and the real world harm these reports of progress can have in the fight against the pandemic.

Dr. William Haseltine writing in "The Washington Post" this in part -- it's damaging trust in the fundamental methods of science and medicine at a time when we need it most.

Dr. Haseltine joining us now. Thank you so much for being here. Moderna is one of more than one example that you highlight. Why is this trend of announcing progress without showing the evidence behind it so dangerous? DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE, FORMER PROFESSOR, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL AND

HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: It's dangerous because you don't know what has happened. It's absolutely equivalent to a CEO of a publicly traded company saying we have had a fantastic quarter, and nobody gets to see the numbers. You're going to believe the CFO, he's got a lot of shares in that company or is it about to go public, again, do a secondary offering? Or would you like to see the numbers?

Well science and medicine has people's lives at stake, not just money at stake. We need to know what happened. And if somebody is going to make a claim, this works, this was a great result, we need to see the data. And it has to be looked at critically. The fundamental aspect of science is being able to reproduce somebody's results. You do what they did, you get the same result. That is the fundamental building of trust in medicine and science.

And if you don't have that, you don't have the data, you can't have that trust. And public needs to trust. People are really confused. They're upset. We need trust. At least in our medical and scientific enterprise.

BOLDUAN: And this isn't just an issue with private companies. I mean the NIH has made a similar announcement if you will, too. Dr. Fauci sitting in the Oval Office talked about the treatment remdesivir saying it has clear-cut significant positive effect in diminishing the time of recovery. And as you well note in your writing that was 20 days ago and the supporting data still hasn't been released.

HASELTINE: That's right. And I think doctors are likely to be very confused because the very same day a paper came out saying remdesivir doesn't save lives, has no measurable effect. And although it's supposed to be an anti-viral drug, had no effect on the virus. What is a doctor to do if he doesn't have the data to make the judgment. And now it's over 20 days, it's 21, 22 days since that announcement was made. It's not right. It was definitely premature. If they're not ready to show the data, how can they make the announcement? That is a violation of norms and it's a violation of trust.

BOLDUAN: These might sound like such basic questions, but I think it's fundamental in this. Is there a value in getting preliminary information out to the public in a time of crisis or do you think that no matter what it's best to wait until the vaccine trial is complete?

HASELTINE: We're not talking about being complete, we're talking about being able to see the data. See the data. So that's different.


I can tell you one thing, that we're in an extraordinary time and scientists all over the world are given permission by the leading journals to post their preliminary results as soon as they can even before they're reviewed or accepted. And that allows us to see the data. So, if you could see the data, then fine, make the announcement but don't make an announcement if data is not available for anybody to check. As I say. if was a CFO, you wouldn't be allowed to do that. You'd be

in deep trouble. Hey, we had a great quarter but I'm not going to show you my results. So that's the equivalent. But more important because it's lives.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. So, when a researcher has a positive development, is there any good reason why they might not release the supporting data. I guess on like the basic level I just don't get why they don't put it out if it's real.

HASELTINE: I can tell you in this epidemic there are more papers being published more quickly than in the history of the entire world. The moment people have data that they believe is worthy of publication, or at least submitting to a journal, it's up and visible to everybody in the world. So, nobody is hiding their data. It's out there.

Now I'll answer your question very specifically and that is there is an issue if somebody makes a due discovery that's patentable, you don't want to put that data out until you file your patent. But today you can file your patent very, very quickly in a day or two. So that's not really a good reason not to put your data out.

Most of the data, and I'm very happy to say that and see that, is coming out very quickly, very, very quickly. Quicker than I've ever seen it for any issue. So, it's not a question that people aren't --- in this case data isn't visible. You can't see it.

BOLDUAN: So sorry about the delay in the audio, sir. I was really struck by the end of your piece in the "Post," I just want to read for folks.

When you said, medicine and science are not matters of majority opinion, they are matters of facts supported by transparent data. This is the backbone of our scientific progress and our only hope to end this pandemic. We can't give up on our standards now.

And I'm wondering is your message to the scientific community, to the political class, to the media or nonscientists watching at home right now.

HASELTINE: I think it's to everyone that you mentioned. The people who really matter are the people at home watching right now. They're the ones this matters to. But the message that comes out and you and I know if you listen to the data or the story that was coming out of the Moderna press releases, I think we have something great. You actually looked at the data, it was premature, it was unconvincing, and it was not transparent. And people got hopes up for that. People thought I's going to be able to take my kid back to school. I'm going to be able to take a trip to France next year. This is going to be great.

Well, we don't know what that means and what we did see, it was put in a very obscure language. And I'm not the only one who's seen that. There is a torrent of criticism from people like me about these announcements. I'm not by far the only one. BOLDUAN: Well, thank you for speaking up though. Dr. William

Haseltine, it's an honor to have you on, thank you, sir.

HASELTINE: You're welcome, thank you.

BOLDUAN: Ahead for us, President Trump is lashing out at certain states, threatening to withhold funding now and it's over absentee voting. That's next.



BOLDUAN: There is catastrophic flooding hitting Michigan today. Just look at this, thousands have been forced to evacuate. And the governor declaring a state of emergency after two dams failed there. That's still unfolding. In the midst of this disaster for Michigan, the President is threatening to pull federal funding to the state over absentee voting, leveling a misleading accusation in a tweet that the state is illegally distributing absentee applications and essentially, he's saying, promoting voter fraud. But what exactly is he threatening and why is he afraid, it seems, of absentee voting? CNN's Abby Phillip is following all of this. Abby, what is going on here?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this is an issue that President Trump has fixated on and has made a lot of, frankly, false, and as you pointed out, misleading claims about it. He is accusing Michigan of doing something, in his words, illegal by sending absentee ballot applications to all of the state's voters.

Now, Michigan is a state where any voter for any reason can vote by absentee ballot and the state's Secretary of State, who is a Democrat, has said that she is well within her authority to do that, and has already done it so far this year in a local election earlier this month without complaints from President Trump.

But it is just one of the two places where he attacked local election officials for expanding mail-in voting. He also criticized Nevada, another state that the President hopes to win in November, for making the primary election that is coming up a mail-in election. I just received a statement from Nevada's Secretary of State, who is a Republican, who says that they changed that election to a mail-in election legally. They basically pushed back on President Trump, saying they are well within their rights to do so and to do so according to their state law. Now, there is a question about how the White House is going to justify the President's claim that he'll withhold federal funds.


So far, we haven't gotten answers on that. But just now in the White House press briefing, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House Press Secretary, claimed that there is bipartisan consensus that there is widespread voter fraud in mail-in ballots. We have to say that is not true. We have seen no evidence of widespread voter fraud in either mail-in ballots or in-person ballots in this country. BOLDUAN: Yes, and there are certain states that do exclusively mail-in

voting and there hasn't been widespread voter fraud there, like Oregon. Great to see you, Abby. Thank you so much. Much more to come on that.

Still ahead, CNN's Jake Tapper, we'll be talking with White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro. Thanks so much for joining me. I'm Kate Bolduan. That's next.