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CDC Releases Guidance As All 50 States Reopen; Thousands Evacuated After Two Dams Fail In Michigan; Boston Takes Cautious Approach As Massachusetts Reopens. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 20, 2020 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: New Day continues right now.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day.

And as of this morning, all 50 states have at least partially reopened, easing some of the stay-at-home restrictions.

Now, whatever noise you might hear, the real debate is not over whether to reopen but how to do it safely. After hitting resistance from the White House, we learned overnight that the CDC has finally released detailed guidance on how restaurants, workplaces, schools should reopen. There is no guidance for houses of worship.

A senior CDC official says the White House stripped that from its original roadmap.

Also this morning, Florida and Georgia, two of the earliest states to reopen, are now under scrutiny for their reporting of coronavirus cases.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: Also, we are following breaking news. Catastrophic flooding in Michigan. Thousands of people forced to evacuate after two dams fail. A dangerous situation is unfolding there at this hour. So we have a live report from the scene for you in moments.

BERMAN: All right. We begin though with the latest on the pandemic. Joining me is CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, it's interesting. In the dark of night, the CDC releases this much anticipated list of guidelines, 60 pages, that happened over the weekend. We just learned about it yesterday because no one knew it was even on the website, which tells you something.

Let me give people a sense of what's on it. This is the guidance for schools and day camps, so people can see. It says, desks at schools should be at least six feet apart facing in the same direction, lunch should be in classrooms, staggered arrival times, cloth masks for staff, daily temperature screenings for everyone. That's the kind of guidance it gives. It's pretty specific and probably very helpful for schools and camps looking to reopen.

No guidance for churches or houses of worship. Why? What does that tell you about the pressure from the White House?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That it has been intense. Look, we know that it has been intense because this report has been delayed for some time. I mean, just think about the big picture here. These guidelines are coming after all states, as you just reported, are already beginning reopening measures. I mean, it's like literally the barn door slamming after the car has been released. So there's that issue.

But then to your specific question about churches and other houses of worship, this has been incredibly controversial inside the administration because for obvious reasons. This is very, very sensitive. The problem is that we know from recent history that a lot of the outbreaks began in those places, in houses of worship, where I am in Washington, D.C., the very first positive case came from a church. It makes sense. That's where people gather. They are very close. A lot of religious practices require people to be touching each other and touching the same things that other people are coming in contact with.

So the fact that that is missing, it's very troubling, particularly, I would guess, if I am a pastor or a rabbi or if I'm at a mosque, I want to know what the CDC says that I should do.

BERMAN: Yes, we used to have a list up on the screen. Coronavirus can't tell the difference between a baseball game and a church gathering. The virus is going to go where the virus is going to go. And we showed in Arkansas 35 of 92 attendees tested positive at one church in California, 180 exposed at a Mother's Day service, the list goes on and on.

Now, there was guidance at one point in the draft from the CDC on what churches should do. We can put this up on the screen so people can say what the CDC wanted to include here. Avoid choirs, limit large crowds, limit sharing of books and hymnals, stationery collection plates. It might seem like common sense advice to the churches, but, clearly, there is political pressure or there was political pressure to remove it.

And why do we know that the CDC is feeling this political pressure? Our reporter, Drew griffin, reported overnight on what some people inside are saying. Multiple sources inside the CDC tells CNN they are convinced politics, not science, is the driving force between the White House response to COVID-19 and those decisions have made the effects of the pandemic of the United States worse.


That's reporting from Drew Griffin.

How do you assess this tension between this important government agency and the White House? BASH: It's gotten worse. It's gotten more public. The tension between people within the agency who have been there and working on these issues, many of them for their whole careers, never mind the president's own appointee to head it, Robert Redfield. That tension has really spilled out into the public.

And it speaks to the tension between the political desires and the science. And it is coming to a head now when the president and his team are desperate to reopen this country. And they don't want to hear scientific data that flies in the face of what they want to do to help the economy to get back up and running, to help society get back up and running.

And there's no other way to say it. I mean, I think we should just be blunt about it. That is what is going on here.

BERMAN: Look, if you want more proof that politics is involved here, we learned overnight that the Trump campaign is looking for doctors now who will come out and speak in support of what the president is saying. The campaign is, the political arm is, there are a lot of government doctors who work in the administration. You would think if you could get government doctors to support some of its physicians, he would. Interesting that he has to do it through the campaign.

Dana, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, has joined us now. Sanjay, I can't tell you how great it is to see you. Thank you for being with us this morning.

I want to ask you about your assessment of what the CDC finally released over the weekend, these guidelines.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we saw the original draft. We saw what was included in that original draft, the level of detail there. And then we saw these sort of flow charts that were very basic and now these new guidelines which have a lot more detail specifically about how people should -- if they're going to go to restaurants, how they should dine out, but also information about schools and things like that. They don't have any mention of religious institutions, places of worship. That is clearly absent now and it was in the 68-page guidelines before. So that's a concern.

I mean, it's a concern because we know that those are places, religious institutions where this virus is more likely to spread, just given the way that people are congregating in places like that. And I think everyone sort of realizes that and a lot of these institutions are going to think about this on their own.

But, you know, I've seen confluences of science and politics, science and religion, science and everything else, more so with this particular story than I think than anything else I've covered.

So I think it's pretty clear what's happening here. There are other forces at play that are superseding the science in certain situations.

BERMAN: What does it tell you that I guess this was actually posted over the weekend, but there was no announcement, no release. Isn't this exactly the kind of thing you would want to draw enormous attention to? Say hey, everybody, look at this, we've got instructions for you.

GUPTA: Absolutely. I mean, this is the kind of site and these are the kinds of guidelines that I'm looking at every day, sometimes several times a Day, as are many of my colleagues. And we are monitoring this pretty regularly. And there's lots of physicians and healthcare providers who are trading within chat groups information about these guidelines. And, lately, it's been a lot of surprise.

Wait, there's new guidelines out? Typically, not only would we hear about it, it would be the CDC director coming out, talking people through it. That's what often happens in these pandemics, saw it with Ebola, saw it with Zika, saw it with H1N1. And, instead, very little fanfare, and instead, these are just coming out.

So they're important still. I think people should still look at them. There's lots of questions that people have about how to navigate their lives forward right now. And this -- the CDC still represents some of the best epidemiologists in the world. So it's worth looking at it and really understanding not only what the guidelines are but what's driving the guidelines. Why should we be living our lives in a certain way right now?

But, yes, I think what you're asking is the CDC, once again, being sidelined and they are. I think it's pretty clear at this point.

BERMAN: If you want to see, I think, the personification right now of these lines being drawn between politics and science, it's how the president talked about these studies that have been done on hydroxychloroquine.


I want to play that sound for both of you now.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: If you look at the one survey, the only bad survey, they were giving it to people that were in very bad shape. They were very old, almost dead. It was a Trump enemy statement.

That study was a phony study out out by the V.A.


BERMAN: Again, it's one thing, Sanjay -- and, dana, I definitely want your take on this too. It's one thing, Sanjay, to say, you know what, I'm taking it. I had a conversation with my doctor. We decided it was the best course. There are implications there that are troubling in and of itself. But that's one thing. It's another thing to go to war against this study which was done by researchers and scientists, by the way, it's also inaccurate to say there was only one study. But he's going to war against the scientists saying they're somehow Trump enemies. There's no evidence of that, is there? GUPTA: There's absolutely no evidence of that, absolutely not. I mean, the studies, one could argue, and often this happens any time you release studies, I have issues with the study. It was not prospective. It was not large enough. It was not randomized in a way that I found suitable. That happens all the time. And you could make some of those arguments about these studies.

The, quote/unquote, V.A. study was -- it's true, it wasn't a V.A. study. It was a study of V.A. patients, that data was then analyzed retrospectively. Meaning, the data existed, now, we're going to go look at that data and see what we find.

And that was the study where they found that people who got both the hydroxychloroquine and the Z-pack, the azithromycin, tended to do worse. Not only did it not help, it likely worsened their condition.

There was another study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine based on some 1,600 patients and hospitals in New York who really found no benefit, again, wasn't really as clear about whether there was harm but certainly no benefit. That was on the treatment side of things.

On the prophylaxis side of things, the idea that you would take this medication, you've had an exposure, you're not infected, but you take the medication to try and prevent the infection, there's just no data that exists.

I think one of the other things that sort of struck me, and I read that letter from Dr. Conley carefully, is that they went out then started talking to other subject matter experts, as they called them, to see if they could find support for this, support for this decision for the president to take it.

And it's not clear to me at all that they found that support. There is, again, trials that are underway looking at healthcare workers who have been exposed, but we don't have any of that data. So it's all questionable in terms of taking it at all and possible harm.

BERMAN: Dana, I've got to let you go, but in ten seconds or less, that sounded like a very public spoken declaration of war against science that he doesn't want to listen to.

BASH: It is. And my understanding is the more he plays doctor on television and to the country, the worse he does politically. That was true when he started talking about the injections and I wouldn't be surprised if he either hears it internally or sees it in the numbers after what he said yesterday.

BERMAN: Dana Bash, Sanjay Gupta, thank you both so much for being with us. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Okay, John. Now, to breaking news. Thousands of people forced to evacuate in Michigan after two dams break. The governor says one county could soon be under nine feet of water.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is live in Midland County, Michigan, with more. What are you seeing, Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And a third dike may have broken just south of where we are. So last hour, we were a few miles south of the Tittabawassee River. We're at now a little farther north. This is in Midland itself. That green metal roof you see out there, that would be the farmer's market on a regular day. And this is how far it is gone up into town. You can see inside this parking garage here. They've had to close it off and it started to flood into this parking garage.

They are at 34 feet right now. They expect to hit about 38 feet. They were saying 8:00 A.M., so about an hour. But now, it looks like it might be later in the day. If it hits 38 feet, that will be a 500-year event for this town. It will eclipse any records that they have going back 500 years for this area.

This is also a slow-moving disaster within a slow-moving disaster. Thousands of people have evacuated. They have four different centers set up for those evacuees. We just spoke to a city official who says they have hundreds of people have gone in. And because of a pandemic, they are checking their temperatures, they are ensuring that they are feeling okay. There's enough room in these areas as well, that as people come in, they can keep socially distanced until this passes.

Right now, they're expecting the next hour or so for it to crest here. And then down river, it will continue cresting throughout the day. Just a massive, massive effort by the State of Michigan right now. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: And just remarkable that it hasn't crested yet when you look at, as you point out, that farmers market. Please stay safe, Miguel. We will check back with you throughout the program.


And there's a threat of flooding in other parts of the country as well. So, CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers has our forecast. What else do you see, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Alisyn, a stalled system that refuses to move offshore. It's raining very hard right now in Asheville, also other places around Georgia. Look at the numbers from 48 hours' worth of rainfall at Au Gres. We've got 8.10 inches of rain. My favorite town, Mio, to the north picked up something like that.

The Au Sable River out of its banks and place, and this is now the newest one we're talking about here. The river flooding at 38 feet, still forecast. We have now gone over the old record, which was called the great flood back in '86. So we're higher than that right now, and we're still going up from here because of those levees, the earthen part of the dams that did failed here to the north, Edenville and also Sanford.

I did look at some pictures from Sanford Lake, right, just about ten minutes ago, and there is still some water in it. So it didn't completely drain. That may be helping just a little bit. But widen the picture here, we'll see that all the way to the south, we have flash flood watches and warnings all the way from Charlotte even right there in South Carolina, upstate seeing some warnings at this hour. More rain is still coming down and that's still going to be happening for the rest of the day.

And river floods just about everywhere across the great lakes in the Midwest. And some of these spots on the next graphic, you're going to see some six-inch rainfalls still to come in 48 hours. And that's going to flood about anywhere six inches down. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Yes, that is not what they need. Chad, thank you very much.

So, Massachusetts is among the final -- one of the final states to begin the reopening process. But Boston is not following necessarily the governor's prescription. So Boston's mayor is going to tell us why he wants to take a more cautious approach, next.



CAMEROTA: As Massachusetts begins to reopen, the City of Boston is taking a more cautious approach maintaining some restrictions through the end of the month. Cases of coronavirus statewide do appear to be on the way down, though as you can see on your screen, they have bounced around.

Joining us now is Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to outline the steps his city is taking. Good morning, Mayor, great to see you.

So let me just put up for everybody what is opening in Massachusetts or what the governor says can open in Massachusetts this week and next. So there's essential businesses, there's manufacturing, construction, houses of worship can reopen, and then next week, hair salons, barber shops by appointment only, retail, curbside pickup, some office space with a capacity of up to 25 percent. And then we have the asterisk it does not include Boston.

So why do you feel that your city needs a different approach?

MAYOR MARTY WALSH (D-BOSTON, MA): Boston, in the office, we're looking at June 1st. The reason why we have 700,000 people that live in the city of Boston and many -- we double in size on an average day, many of the office spaces here, large number of the office spaces here in Boston in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. And we just feel bringing all those people in at one time is dangerous. And a lot of work has been done on the commonwealth side, the governor and the governor's office. And on the city side with our office here and cities and towns across Massachusetts.

And I just don't want to see all the work we've done to keep the numbers down and see the leveling off that's happening be for nothing and see a large spike later on down the road. I think we have to do -- lay down some good groundwork here into offices to what to expect and what we're expecting out of them to keep their employees safe. CAMEROTA: And what does that look like? What are -- so many people do work inside Boston, as you point out. So how will offices reopen? What's the protocol for when people go back?

WALSH: When we put together the plan for construction, put a very thoughtful plan together with folks from the industry, developers and contractors. We had the trades all sitting down and coming up with really good safety requirements and regulations. They're very strict. They're very thorough, COVID-19 safety plan.

And I want to make sure that as we think about reopening offices that we can do the same thing. Our offices are very different. Every office has a different feeling to it and different rules. And it's very hard to have a consistent message across the board. So my team here in the city are working to put together some regulations, for example, making sure that when people go into buildings, they get temperature checked, they get asked some questions, some basic questions, making sure there's proper protocol in place for tracing so we can make sure that if people come down with COVID, how we can isolate the issue.

I mean, I think as we reopen -- everyone is talking about reopening America and I think we have to reopen. Obviously, our economy is depending upon it. I don't think we can afford to shut back down. So I think we have to get this right the first time.

CAMEROTA: Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley thinks that this is all happening in your state too quickly. She tweeted yesterday, Massachusetts isn't ready to reopen. Policy decisions that offer a false choice between public health and economic recovery will hurt our community. I urge governor Baker to reevaluate his timeline and invest in the support needed to keep our families safe.

Is she right that this is all happening a little too quickly?

WALSH: You know, I think we all would like a little more time to be able to make sure we continue to see our numbers go down. The governor's approach is a thoughtful approach. He has a four-phased in approach. I think there are some concerns that we all have in this first phase with houses of worship opening, potentially barber shops and hair salons, as far as there're a lot of rules and regulations around them.

I think that we can look at it both ways. I mean, I certainly would like to have seen a couple of more weeks here to really continue to see our numbers go down. But the governor put together an advisory board that worked really hard at the different industries. And now, what we have to do is kind of judge -- not judge him but judge and see where the numbers are. And, hopefully, I hope we can get through this.

I mean, I think there's no crystal ball here. There's no -- we're all kind of sharing best practices with other states and cities around America.


And there's no question we have to open our economy at some point. I'm hoping that the numbers stay down and that we don't see a second surge. My concern, quite honestly, is hospital room capacity and making sure we have enough capacity in our E.R.s and our emergency rooms. So, hopefully, we'll see what happens.

I mean, I know that there's a lot of opinion on how to do this. I spoke would the congresswoman the other day. I spoke to the governor. And I think a lot of us have different ideas on how to do this. And as I said, there's no magic formula. So I think it's going to be being very vigilant on making sure that these industries that do open, that they follow the strict guidelines that are laid out for them.

CAMEROTA: Yes, understood. I mean, a lot of this is just going to be experimentation and trial and error, but, of course, it also involves people's lives. So we hear your concerns, Mayor. Thank you very much for sharing it with us this morning. Great to see you.

WALSH: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So the fall semester is going to look a lot different on many college campuses. How one university is going to change its curriculum to adapt.



BERMAN: We learned overnight that the iconic University of Cambridge in England will not hold in-person lectures at all in the 2020-2021 academic.