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Fauci on Reopening: "Now Is Not the Time to Tempt Fate and Pull Back Completely"; Experts Warn of Increase in Cases as States Reopen; Trump Administration Strikes Death with AstraZeneca to Mass Produce Vaccine; Columbia University Study: Lockdown Delays Cost at Least 36,000 U.S. Lives; Dr. Luciana Borio Discusses Trump's "Operation Warp Speed" Vaccine Development and Safety Concerns & Request for "Clear Pathway" for Virus Treatments; 2.4 Million More Americans Filed for Unemployment Last Week; Trump Pulling U.S. Out of Open Skies Arms Control Treaty; Trump Pushes for N.C. to Reopen as It Opens Slower than Bordering Southern States. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 21, 2020 - 11:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm John King, in Washington. This is CNN continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

The president today heads for Michigan. That's a key 2020 battleground and also a coronavirus test case. Fourth in deaths among the 50 states and on the leading edge of the painful economic fallout, too.

The U.S. coronavirus numbers this hour -- you see them on the screen -- 93,000-plus coronavirus deaths. On the near-term horizon, 1.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases here.

A national trend shows cases and deaths are flat or declining as America reopens. In New York, people can pray together again in small groups. In Ohio, you can go camping and eat in a restaurant.

More places open means more people back at work. This as a reminder of what is an economic tragedy, 2.4 more million Americans say now they do not have a job. The nine-week total, more than 38 million shoved to the unemployment rolls by this virus.

Testing is still a back-to-work challenge. Experts define the work as unorganized and in need of national coordination and riddled with mistakes that risk giving us a misleading picture of just how ready the country is to reopen.

There are a lot of studies and data points popping up. One puts a number on the weight to tell Americans to stay home. It costs 36,000 lives. That's how many Americans that Columbia University researchers say would not have died had social distance measures been put in place just a week earlier. Two weeks earlier, 80 percent of all U.S. deaths could have been avoided, those researchers say. Whether the president and governors and mayors should have acted

sooner is one of the debates playing out across America. Where we are right now is another.

The president framing things in military terms. He says, quote, "We have prevailed." The urgent need now, he says, is to reopen quickly to save American businesses.

But the nation's top expert voices a caution we do not hear from his boss.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The scientific evidence clearly indicates that physical separation has worked but not completely. If you look at the curves in our country, it isn't like everything is dramatically going down.

Now is not the time to tempt fate and pull back completely.


KING: Every day, we search for clues in the numbers, numbers of cases, of deaths, of testing and hospitalizations. Today, the global numbers tell us the front may shift from one place to another on the map, but the fight remains more than fierce.

The World Health Organization reports its biggest one-day case total since the pandemic started.

Let's look at the numbers both here at home and abroad. You walk through them here. You just look at the number of cases. This is somewhat encouraging. Number of new confirmed cases in the month of May, you see stubborn, but it is starting to come down some. It's a plateau, a little bit a dip. Stubborn but at least heading in the right direction.

When you look at the deaths, no number here is a good number. But if you look back earlier in May, you do see 1,500 a day -- it's nothing good to talk about -- starting to come down a bit as you watch the deaths.

This is where it gets interesting. This is the trend line right now as America reopens. All 50 states doing something on the reopening front.

Seventeen states heading in the wrong direction. You see the darker red. That means the rate of cases. Fifty percent or more cases growing from week to week. And 13 more states on the way up. Only 12 more states on the way down. And 21, the beige/yellowish color, they're holding steady. Just take a look at this. Remember this, 12 down, 17 up as of right now.

Let's take a look at last week. Only nine were going up and 24 states were heading down. So as America reopens, you're starting to see some states -- I'm show you again -- heading in the wrong direction. You do not want orange and red on this map. We're seeing more of it.

Globally, let's take a look at this as well. The World Health Organization reporting just a couple days ago its highest case total, 112,000 new cases. Look back one month before that, back in the middle of March right there. Globally, the case count escalating as of now.

As we come back to this map, I want to show you where we are right now. The experts said, all total, as America reopens, expect the case count to go up. The challenge, listen here, is how do we manage it.


JEFFREY SHAMAN, PROFESSOR ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SCIENCES, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: We have to maintain control of this virus. As we loosen these restrictions, it's possible we could start to have the growth of the virus in a lot of communities if we're not careful, if social distancing practices lapse, if people aren't wearing face masks as they start to go to businesses and restaurants and theaters.

If we don't monitor this, and if we don't recognize it really early and jump on it, it's going to jump out of control again.


KING: With us to share her reporting and insights, our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, America is starting to reopen. We'll see the case count going up. As you look at those trends, what jumps out at you as you see more states in orange and red on that map, meaning headed in the wrong direction?


DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. This is the real challenge here, is that, as we open up, is it right to be opening up to the degree that we are? You don't have to have a PhD in immunology to know that the more people that get together, the more the virus is going to spread.

The trick here, John, is how are people getting together. Are people observing social distancing or are they just sort of partying as we've seen in various places, people not observing social distancing as if the pandemic never happened.

So the two question is, how much are people getting together, and are they getting together in a safe way.

KING: It will be fascinating to watch. It will take several weeks. We expect some blips up. The question is can they manage them.

Elizabeth, let's talk about another big development today. The Trump administration striking a very big deal with the drug maker, AstraZeneca, to mass produce a vaccine that we're not even sure if it works yet. It's being produced, a study at Oxford. Why? And is this a risk? COHEN: It certainly is a risk. I think federal officials have actually

been pretty open about that. This is a strategy that's never been tried before because we never needed to try it before.

The normal, the usual way of doing this pre-pandemic back when life was normal was you would test out a vaccine, see if it works and then mass produce it. If we do that, that will take a while, right? If we find a vaccine that works, we have to wait to mass produce it. And we're trying to vaccinate the world here. There could be a significant timeline.

What the United States has decided to do is what's called "production in parallel," or some people call it "production at risk." Really, it's both. While you're testing out the vaccines like the one AstraZeneca is making, you, at the same time, produce it.

Is there a chance that, at the end of the days, they're going to finish safety clinical trials and say, oh, gosh, it looks like it didn't work? Yes. And you will have a whole lot of vaccines sitting in a warehouse that you have paid for. But that's the way it goes.

Hopefully, another one that you have also produced in parallel did work, so you have that one sitting there ready to go.

Will we waste money? There's an excellent chance that we will. But it will be towards having a vaccine in large quantities that will work.

KING: Elizabeth, let me ask you, lastly, when you look at this Columbia University study that says, had the president imposed the national shutdown, if you will, a week earlier, 30,000-plus lives would have been changed.

Two weeks earlier, you take 80,000 of that horrible number you see on the side. This applies to governors and mayors as well. It's not just the president. There will be a conversation for years about should the politicians, the leadership have acted sooner. We will debate this for years.

What's your biggest takeaway when you see these numbers?

COHEN: My biggest takeaway is that hindsight is 20/20. As you said, we will debate for years to come, should we have done what other countries did and lock down sooner.

The feeling that I got at the time was there was a feeling at the CDC and other places that we could sort of control this better, that we would see a case, and we would do contact tracing and we would quarantine these people and that we would have control. We had a lot less control than we thought.

But let's take a look specifically at these Columbia University numbers. The shutdown in the U.S. was basically around March 15th. What they're saying is, if it had been done two weeks earlier, we could have spared 84 percent of the deaths that occurred between that date and May 3rd, and 82 percent of the cases. That's a huge number. This is modeling. Modeling, by definition, is always wrong. It's the

degree to which it's wrong is where we want to pay attention. But the growth of this, exponential, not linear. If you get it early on, we really could have cut off a whole lot of cases moving into the future.

KING: As you say, hindsight is easy, but it will be part of the fascinating conversation we'll have months and years into the future.

Elizabeth Cohen, I appreciate your help. Thanks very much

Joining the conversation now, the former director of medical and biodefense on the National Security Council, Dr. Luciana Borio.

Doctor, thank you for being with us.

I want to start on the vaccine question. The administration -- some people might question is this a wise use of taxpayer money, but you get the idea. We're going to mass produce vaccines as they're in the final stages of the study, and hopefully, you find winners and you already have them sitting in the warehouse.

I want you to hear from Dr. Fauci, who say, that's great, but we need enough not to just send around the United States but to send around the world.


FAUCI: We can't make a vaccine for ourselves and only know how well it works in ourselves.

If you don't control an outbreak in the developing world, it's going to come right around and bite you the next season. So unless you completely stop this, you're not going to wall yourself off from the developing world.


KING: What's your take as you watch? It's called "Operation Warp Speed." You have these trials all over the world. What's your take? Are they handling this the right way?


DR. LUCIANA BORIO, FORMER DIRECTOR, MEDICAL AND BIODEFENSE PREPAREDNESS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: We have only limited information, John, about the "Operation Warp Speed" so far, but it seems like they're moving at a fast pace. I think the strategy is proceeding with a very rapid clinical development. And in parallel manufacture, a huge amount of doses globally is the right one.

We need multiple shots on goal. We need multiple goals. No single manufacturer can meet the global demand for this vaccine.

KING: As you know, there are some, it's the minority, but there are some vocal people who question any vaccines, who question when experts tell them this vaccine is good for you. Dr. Fauci also raising some concerns about that because of the name,

"Operation Warp Speed." He told this to the "Washington Post:" People don't understand that because, when they hear 'Operation Warp Speed,' they think, oh, my god, they're jumping over all these steps and they're putting us at risk. Warp speed meaning they're skipping safety guidelines. He insists that's not the case.

Do you have any concerns about that, how it's labeled? Does the government make it seem like they're in a rush?

BORIO: Yes, I think we need to be really clear that we need to move very fast but we can't cut corners.

At the end of the day, we can do everything right, but if we don't get the trust of the American people and the global community, as a matter of fact, to be willing to receive a vaccine that was developed very quickly, it doesn't really do us any good.

So it's going to be important to proceed with very rigorous clinical studies that are going to be whether the vaccine is safe and it's really effective.

Importantly, you want to know that it's effective in preventing disease and that it's not going to make the infection worse. And we need clinical studies that are well down, that are randomized, that are large to get this information before the vaccine is made broadly available.

I know there will be a lot of desire to get a vaccine at the soonest possible time point, but we'll have to resist the urge to make it available before we have enough confidence that it's safe and effective to do so.

KING: That's a very important point.

As we wait -- and it could take months. It could still take a year or more, some think it could take longer than that.

You are part of a group urging some clear guidelines when it comes to therapeutics, things that could help in the meantime, help to treat. There's been a big debate over Hydroxychloroquine. A big debate of Remdesivir.

The group you are part of recommended a clear pathway for promising therapeutics, increased clinical trial effectiveness and capacity for those therapeutics, anticipate capacity for rapid access, once you have something that works, conduct effective real-world data collection and studies after emergency use authorization and approval.

Why are these guidelines, in your view, so important to create clarity and to create a clear process out there? And are you worried? I sit here every day and there's a study that says this drug works, the next day, there's a study saying it doesn't work. Are you worried there's some confusion out there as you go through this?

BORIO: Absolutely. There's a dire need to be able to conduct the right clinical trials and to leverage, you know, clinical trial networks and common clinical trial protocols because they create efficiencies. We need to do the right trials in an efficient manner.

Importantly, the therapy can be a promising therapy for not only treatment but can help bridge the vaccine because, in theory, they can be used to prevent disease. They could be a very important class of therapeutics.

This summer, we expect them to begin clinical studies. The sooner we know if these drugs are safe and effective, the sooner we can make them available.

We're not going to make it -- you know, to make it as fast as possible, we need to be able to cooperate and to leverage the common clinical trial protocols and networks that exist, plan for manufacturing capacities, and also realize we're going to have to keep monitoring their use even after they're license approved or approved for emergency use, because there's always something to learn after a product is deployed on a large scale.

KING: We're learning every day as we go.

Dr. Borio, I appreciate your expertise and insights today. Thank you.

BORIO: My pleasure.

KING: Thank you.


KING: Up next for us, new numbers just out show millions more Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week.



KING: Brand new government numbers today tell us massive job losses continue even as the state-by-state reopening accelerates. Nearly 2.5 million more Americans filed first-time unemployment claims just last week.

Let's bring in our chief business correspondent, Christine romans.

Christine, let's go inside the numbers. Last week not as a devastating as the week before but still.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This hole is so deep, John. It is so deep here. Another 2.4 million. That brings nine weeks to devastating losses to 38.6 million people have filed for the first time for unemployment benefits. I mean, these jobless rolls just get bigger and bigger.

You're right. When you look at that chart going behind the numbers, the bars are going down but from such a huge level. Couple of things here. You've got these backlogs that the states are

trying to close. Some of these people who are showing up this week might have lost their jobs several weeks ago, maybe even last month, right? So that's one thing here.

Now there's a concern about a second wave of layoffs. And why a second wave, a crushing wave here? Because you had nine weeks of this now. People had their April rent, their mortgage and credit card bills. They had May rent, mortgage and credit card bills.

Some of these employers can't see far out to know if they can get back to work. They may be trying to put more people out and try to get unemployment benefits, expanded benefits because they don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. So there could be this other wave that folks are worried about.

Can I show you the states? Because not all states are equal here. And this is a state ranking list you do not want to be on. In Georgia, 39 percent of the labor force in just the last nine weeks has filed for unemployment benefits. Devastating in Kentucky, Hawaii, Washington and Michigan as well -- John?


KING: Michigan is fifth, 29 percent. Stunning.

ROMANS: It's hard to even wrap your head around it.

KING: And it's important to remember every one of those statistics is a person.

ROMANS: That's right.

KING: Every single one of those percentages is a person.

Christine, thank you so much.

Some other important news now, President Trump moving ahead with plans to pull the United States out of a major global arms control treaty. That Open Skies Treaty includes the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, among others. It allows increased surveillance of each other's militaries.

CNN Pentagon reporter, Ryan Browne, joins us now.

Ryan, why is the administration deciding to pull out of Open Skies?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: John, the administration has long thought about getting out of this treaty. It dates back to 1992. And it allows other unarmed aircraft to fly surveillance flights over each other's territory, help keep an eye on what the other is doing in terms of military movements and such things such as that.

But the Trump administration and the Pentagon, in particular, have accused Russia of putting unnecessary restrictions on those flights, particularly around its enclave of Leningrad, which is near Poland where they have a lot of military equipment, a lot of military personnel. So the U.S. has long accused Russia of not adhering to the treaty.

This comes shortly after the U.S. pulled out of another arms treaty with Russia, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, over what the U.S. said was Russia violations.

So there seems to be a little bit of a trend here with the Trump administration cutting out of some of these treaties with Russia with regards to arms control.

KING: Another example, the president is skeptical of these big group treaties. Likes to do things one at a time.

Ryan Browne, reporting. Appreciate it there.

When we come back, the coronavirus and politics. North Carolina is about to begin its reopening. And a president who has a convention planned in that state, wants it to hurry.



KING: North Carolina begins the next steps of its reopening tomorrow, making it the last of the southern states to accelerate. As it stands right now, the state just has over 20,000 confirmed cases, 728 coronavirus deaths.

The state's numbers do not show the two-week downtrend called for in the White House reopening guidelines. President Trump, though, is pushing North Carolina to get moving.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, traveled to North Carolina.

Among the questions there, Jeff, is whether the president might have a certain personal political interest at stake in North Carolina's pace.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, there's no question. President Trump has singled out Democratic governors across the country, including North Carolina's Governor Roy Cooper, accusing them of playing politics.

But, John, see that arena right behind me here? That's where the president hopes to be standing three months from now as the star of the show of the Republican National Convention. Of course, there are questions is that show is even go on.

It's also part now of the pandemic politics.


STEVE THANHAUSER, OWNER, THE ANGUS BARN: We will use this when we open. There won't be a bar. It will just be small tables. ZELENY (voice over): The Angus Bar in Raleigh has been closed more

than two months. But, Friday night, the dining room will open again here and in restaurants across North Carolina.

It's the last state in the south to do so, fueling criticism and controversy.

THANHAUSER: Anger is out there. I think a lot of desperation and a lot of just they have exhausted all their patience.

ZELENY: The politics of reopening the American economy is now at the center of a national debate.

But Steve Thanhauser hopes it stays out of his steakhouse.

THANHAUSER: There's no reason that this should be political. This is -- this is very black and white.

ZELENY: In this election year, there may be no such thing.

ROY COOPER, (D), NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: You know, I think, unfortunately, as this pandemic has -- has gone on, people have begun to use it for political purposes. And that's concerning because we're talking about life or death situations for people.

ZELENY: Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has taken measured steps to restart the economy. He's allowing restaurants at reduced capacity and barber shops and salons with appointments only to open Friday.

Republican leaders have condemned his approach.

COOPER: This is not political. This is not emotional. This is based on health experts, data and science, and that's it, for everybody to see.

ZELENY: Democratic governors in key battleground states have been called out by President Trump. But a difference in North Carolina is that neighboring states have reopened faster and more aggressively, making Cooper a southern outlier.

The president has blasted North Carolina's response, saying, "They're playing politics, as you know, by delaying the openings."

But his politics are also at play. He's eyeing the Republican Convention, now scheduled for August in Charlotte.

It's an open question how and whether that convention will unfold.

ZELENY (on camera): So President Trump says you're playing politics. You say back to him, Mr. President --

COOPER: Mr. President, we are all in this together. We've got to acknowledge this virus is highly contagious. We want to open the economy, too, but let's do it the right way.

PAT MCCRORY (R), FORMER NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: This Friday I can get a haircut. [11:30:04]

ZELENY (voice over): Pat McCrory is the state's former Republican governor, defeated four years ago by Cooper. For more than a decade, he also served as mayor of Charlotte and now delivers opinion on talk radio.