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Trump Says, Don't Know If I'll Wear Mask During Visit To Ford Plant; Cases Rise Across South, Including Surges In Texas And North Carolina; Ford Plant Worker Speaks Out After Two Employees Test Positive. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 21, 2020 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: So, again, our relationship with Russia has improved greatly, especially since the Russian hoax has been proved totally false and illegal, what they did. This was an illegal hoax, and they got caught. They got caught doing a lot of bad things. So let's see how that turns out. But our relationship with Russia has come a long way in the last few months. I think that the open sky will all work out. But right now, when you have an agreement and the other side doesn't adhere to the agreement, we're not going to adhere to it either. But I think something very positive will work out.

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: What?

REPORTER: The launch, the rocket launch on Wednesday?

TRUMP: I'm thinking about going. That will be next week, to the rocket launch. I hope you're all going to join me. I'd like to put you in the rocket and get rid of you for a while. Okay, thank you very much. Thank you, Steve.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: You've been listening to President Trump on his way to visit a Ford plant in Michigan where they're demanding that he wear a mask. And his response there to whether he will, he said he's not sure, but he wants to, quote, normalize the country, then he pivoted to opening churches. He says he is almost finished with two weeks of the unproven drug, hydroxychloroquine, which most health experts warn against as a preventive measure for coronavirus. It is still in clinical testing for that.

His comments also come as a model shows nearly 40,000 American lives could have been saved had the U.S. acted earlier.

John King is with me now. John, let's start here with the mask situation because he has just refused over and over to wear masks. And it seems that the folks around him have started picking up that process. He also seems frustrated to talk to people with masks. You just heard him do something there that he's done to reporters a number of times when they're asking a question, he says, I can't understand you because you're wearing a mask. What do you make of this? JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is just a tough riddle to solve, Brianna, in a sense that the president is trying to project all is well. He says the United States is ahead of schedule on the reopening. We don't know that. We won't know that for several weeks. And we need to watch the data, see what happens, see as states go, see what the new cases are. Some states are going in the wrong direction. Some states are going in the right direction. It's going to be quite some time before we know.

But the president, very much this trip, almost everything he says is geared towards convincing the American people you are safe, leave your house, go back to work. So he does not want to be seen wearing a mask because he thinks that runs counter to that message.

He also knows a lot of his political base thinks it is the elites telling them to wear masks, to try to govern their behavior, restrict their behavior. And so he is trying to stay in touch with his base.

At the same time, he's the president of the United States, his own government now, the government he leads, recommends that if you are two years of age or older and you go outside and you're going to be in proximity to other people, you should wear a mask. So this is a giant conflict with the president. We've seen this before, not the first time. He is stubborn, sometimes to a fault, he doesn't want to do it. We'll see what happens when he gets to Michigan.

KEILAR: Yes. And to remind ourselves as well that CNN reporting is he does want the people around him wearing masks. He does not want to be wearing a mask.

So he also pushed, John, you heard him push back against this model that shows thousands of lives could have been saved if measures had been put in place sooner. He basically gave himself a pat on the back for measures he had put in place. And he referred to this model as a political hit job.

KING: He was misleading when he did that too. He said did put in place the China travel ban. It was not a complete ban, but it was a close ban. And the president gets credit for that from his own infectious disease experts. But the question was about -- the study was about social distancing.

But, Brianna, again, there's a pattern here. If you question the president, if you, in any way, ask him a question that might lead to a, well, you could have done better or you're not doing as well as you could have, whether you are the Columbia University study, whether you're a reporter in the briefing room, whether you're an inspector general at a federal agency who is asking questions about accountability, the president pushes back, accuses you of politics and a hit job.

Now, let's also be fair to the president. As we go through this, right, this study says, if he had been a week earlier with the social distancing, about 35,000 lives could have been saved nationally. If he was two weeks earlier with the social distancing, if you look at the numbers on the right-hand of the screen, 80 percent of those deaths might not have happened.

Let's remember, at the time, there were not a lot of cases in the United States. That is a big huge debate for the president of the United States to shut down an economy. Governors and mayors also will face this accountability, about should they have acted as quickly as the Bay Area did, in California, should they have acted as quickly as Governor Inslee did in Washington State.

This will be a legacy conversation for quite some time, but the president is part of it. He's not the only one who should be asked these questions. He's not the only one. And hindsight is 20/20. I get that part. It was a tough call to even do it when the president did it. But it's more of the tone and the temperament.

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Any questions about accountability, any questions that might lead you to, sure, given what I know now, I wish I acted a week earlier. That wouldn't such a horrible thing to say. At that time, I made the best judgment I could, but this president just simply won't go there. He was perfect and you need to remember that.

KEILAR: And fact-check this Michigan voter fraud claim for us, John, because I think this is so important for people to understand what the president is saying here.

KING: Well the president, number one, he's wrong about what Michigan did. He has been wrong about Michigan did. Michigan sent out applications to all of its registered voters allowing them to apply for an absentee ballot for November. So they did not mail ballots. They did not send out actual ballots that you return, here's my vote, President Trump or Joe Biden or one of the third party candidates. That's not what they did, number one.

Number two, on the bigger issue, the president keeps saying that when there is mail-in elections, when there is mail-in balloting, it is ripe with fraud. That is simply not true. That is simply not true. Look at Washington State. Yes, there's a Democratic governor, there's also a Republican secretary of state, they have mail-in balloting. They have for some time. It works quite well. The instance of fraud is actually lower. The percentage of fraud is actually lower than traditional show up in person or same date voter registration.

Look at the State of Utah, Republicans when -- in Utah. Look at the special election in California last week, a Republican candidate flipped a Democratic House seat in a California election largely on mail ballots. Does the president want to say that was fraudulent and throw out the Republican victory? He's just wrong on this issue but he refuses to change his mind.

This is, again, part of a pattern. He lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, he says, because 6 million undocumented people voted illegally in the election. That didn't happen. It didn't happen. It didn't happen, no matter how many times he says, it didn't happen. And no matter how many times he says it, there is zero evidence that vote by mail is a fraud problem. There's actually considerable evidence that it increases participation and that it is more than safe and reliable.

KEILAR: John King, thank you so much for walking us through that. Very good to see you.

I want to bring in now Anne Rimoin. She is a Professor of Epidemiology at UCLA. And, Anne, the president says he's almost done with his hydroxychloroquine experiment. He said that he's been taking it for two weeks. He thinks he has another day left. Just give us your medical opinion of that.

ANNE RIMOIN, PROFESSOR IN DEPARTMENT OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, UCLA: Well, I'm not a physician. So I can only tell you as an epidemiologist that you have to follow the data. And we don't have enough data yet to determine whether or not using hydroxychloroquine would be enough benefit to outweigh risks. We know that there are a lot of risks with toxicity with this drug.

And so I think that if anybody is interested in taking this drug, they really need to consult with their physician first. And in terms of making recommendations, you have to have good data before any recommendations that can be made that take into account safety as well as efficacy.

KEILAR: He also emphasized after taking the hydroxychloroquine he was taking that he's been testing very well. But, really, when you're talking about testing for coronavirus, it's either a yes or a no, right? He seemed to be saying he's testing very well which is he tested negative. But it's not to show that -- you know, it seems like he's paving the way to say, I took hydroxychloroquine and I did not get coronavirus. But there's really no way to prove that, right?

RIMOIN: This is part of the problem, understanding the limitations of testing which we know no test is going to be perfect. We do not have perfect sensitivity and specificity of tests that are available right now and what it actually means. So I think that, once again, we just got a problem of not understanding data, not understanding where we are in terms of what tests allow us to say. It's all in the interpretation of these tests. And what taking taking hydroxychloroquine would actually mean for him. So I think the conflation of these issues is really the problem.

KEILAR: Sure is. Anne Rimoin, thank you.

Right now, every state in the nation has reopened in some way. As more states race to relax restrictions, a new study warns that we could see a surge of new coronavirus cases in these states, especially in the south. And new data out today already shows worrying spikes across many southern states, for instance, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.

So what measures, if any, will local officials take to stop the spread? CNN's Victor Blackwell is live for us from Montgomery, Alabama. And, Victor, the mayor there is warning that health services in his city are already overloaded.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna. The mayor here, Mayor Steven Reed of Montgomery, is making it plain. He says, and let me quote him here, if you're from Montgomery and you need an ICU bed, you're in trouble. That's because there has been a surge of COVID cases and COVID-positive patients going into the ICU beds at hospitals across the City of Montgomery.

And let me give you some of the specifics.

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There are three other hospitals here that have maxed out, according to the mayor, their ICU bed capacity. There is a single ICU bed at Jackson Hospital right behind me.

And we know also from the mayor that the people who are filling those beds are not from Montgomery. He says that they are coming from rural areas across Central Alabama that do not have ICU beds at the medical centers and the hospitals where they are. And they are coming here. Those acute patients who need ICU beds are going to be sent, according to the mayor, to Birmingham.

But let me give you some of the numbers. The latest number out from the Montgomery County Health Department, 994 poll COVID-positive case here. The mayor says that there was a 45 percent increase in the first week of May of COVID cases, a 46 percent increase in the second week, a double-digit increase this week. Of course, we'll have to wait until today's numbers come out to get a full look at the picture.

But this comes after the governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, lifted the shelter-at-home -- or shelter-in-place order across the state at the end of April, and the bars and restaurants and gyms and churches, with some social distancing guidelines, those were allowed to reopen.

The mayor here says, to answer your question, what will leaders do to stop the spread? He says he is considering or would consider a shelter-in-place order, but he needs regional cooperation. He also says that this comes down to personal responsibility, that although people are anxious to get out, people have to remember what kept numbers low here and put those measures personally back into place. Brianna?

KEILAR: Victor, thank you so much for that report from Montgomery.

Now, for a wider perspective for what is happening in the United States at this point in the pandemic. CNN's Tom Foreman has been looking at how new cases have been rising and falling here over multiple weeks. And, Tom, all of the states are in some phase of reopening. So where are the trends right now that you're seeing?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a great question, Brianna, because trend, maybe that's a really strong word to use, except for one big trend, I'll address in just one moment. We took samples, the map, from every Monday for the past seven Mondays. Look at what happens. You see the darker colors in those states that have had an increase in new cases. Tan means they're sort of holding steady. Obviously, they move down to green, it's getting better. And look at moves all over the place over those seven Mondays. Sometimes, the state is up. The next time, it's down. Sometimes, it's steady, on and on it goes. Can you see a clear trend there? It's hard to see one.

We did the same thing over the past 14 days to see if maybe that would show us clear waves where it's getting better or where it's getting worse. If you look at that sequence, you can see the same thing, some states moving up, some states moving down. New Jersey, for example, recently had a move down. But New Jersey has had some of the most cases in the country. You might statistically expect them to move down because they would seemingly be closer to a peak, whereas states like South Dakota and Arkansas moving up. Well, they're more rural places where maybe they haven't had so much.

Really, Brianna, when you look at all of these, what it probably tells you more than anything else is that this testing protocol that we have in the country is still incredibly uneven. What's being measured, who's being measured, where, how it's been reported? And that make it hard to make sense out of this in a way that really justifies reopening or keeping everything closed.

But this last one, we asked about trends, take a look at this map. This is really the one that probably matters more than anything else, the overall number of confirmed cases in the country as of today. Look, anything on this map that is even vaguely orange or red or pink, all of those places have at least 5,000 cases, and in some cases more than 75,000 cases. The number one trend that we are certain of in this country is that the number of cases continues to grow and the number of deaths continue to grow, suggesting that we really don't have any kind of handle on this virus yet even as we're making some progress in some places. Briana?

KEILAR: Thank you, so much for that 30,000-foot look, Tom. I appreciate it.

And as scientists are racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine, the U.S. has just entered a $1 billion agreement with the pharmaceutical giant, AstraZeneca, to secure more than 300 million doses of a potential vaccine. That's about one-third of the initial doses the company is planning to initially produce worldwide.

CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now. What more do we know about this, Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, I want to sort of take a 30,000-foot view, like you just did with Tom. Let's do that with vaccines as well. It is extremely unusual.

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I don't think this has ever been done, where we make a vaccine and huge amounts of it at the same time we're testing it to see if it actually works, because this vaccine, which was developed at the University of Oxford in England and is being made by AstraZeneca, we don't know if it works. We don't know if any of them works.

But what was decided by public health officials is, look, if we do trials over the next few months and we find one or two or three or whatever that work and then we start production, we are going to be way behind. We want to be able to start giving it to people as soon as we realize that it works. So it's a gamble. You're rolling the dice.

It is possible. As a matter of fact, it's quite probable that we're going to spend a lot of money on many doses of vaccine that then will turn out not to work. But it also means that we will spend a lot of money and it will work and then we will have a vaccine ready. And the decision has been that it is basically okay to waste a certain proportion of this money in order to have a vaccine quickly.

So AstraZeneca is one of the places that's doing this, making many doses while at the same time they're trying to figure out if their vaccine works and if it is safe. Brianna?

KEILAR: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

And as the president gets ready to visit a Ford plant soon, the automaker halting production at another after employees there test positive. I'll be speaking with a plant worker from that factory.

Plus, experts say most children don't get hit hard by the virus, and a new study may show just why that is.

Also, the wife of Broadway actor Nick Cordero, who has been suffering complications from coronavirus for months now says he suffered another setback.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Things are going a little downhill at the moment. So, I am asking again for all of the prayers, mega prayers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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KEILAR: Next hour, President Trump is set to tour a Ford manufacturing plant that is just outside of Detroit. This is a facility that was repurposed to make ventilators and PPE. And this visit comes just a day after a different Ford plant in Chicago temporarily halted production after two employees there tested positive for COVID-19.

Scott Houldieson is an electrician at that Chicago plant. He is joining us now to talk about this. Welcome. Thanks for coming on.

SCOTT HOULDIESON, ELECTRICIAN, FORD CHICAGO ASSEMBLY PLANT: Hi, Brianna, thank you for having me.

KEILAR: And so your plant which makes the Ford Explorer among other vehicles reopened Monday after being closed for two months due to health concerns. You feel that this was too soon. Tell us why.

HOULDIESON: It's -- I know Ford is under a lot of pressure from Wall Street and their investors to reopen. We want Ford to survive. We also want our co-workers to survive. Chicago has one of the hottest areas in the country for the COVID-19 outbreak. And we've already lost two members over the shutdown to COVID-19. They became infected while we were still operating. And, you know, we don't want to lose any more people.

KEILAR: You don't want to lose anymore --

HOULDIESON: There are workers at the plant who are cancer survivors who have autoimmune disease. We have older workers. We want to protect them.

KEILAR: And when Ford reopened its plants, it implemented temperature screenings, it implemented medical tests for workers who exhibited any symptoms. Do you think the protocols go far enough, and if not, what else would you like to see? What do you think is missing?

HOULDIESON: Well, yes, that's the problem, is that they don't go far enough. And even the protocols that they have in place aren't being strictly adhered to.

So we'd like to see testing before people come back because we know that this disease is spread asymptomatic. So when workers come in, they can be infecting other workers for days before they get symptoms. So that's a problem.

Also, we know that there's going to be higher absenteeism because workers are told, hey, if you've got cold symptoms, don't come in, and that's the right thing to do. But we need to slow the line speed down because when those workers that know those jobs and are on those jobs, if you run the line at full speed, then you end up having to double up the jobs, in other words, putting two workers on the very same job that one worker was doing. And that brings people in closer contact to one another. And it is a violation of the six-foot rule, which is hard enough to enforce while workers are, you know, working their regular jobs on the assembly line.

Also --

KEILAR: And they're not slowing the line down or there's no plan to do that?

HOULDIESON: No. Ford has said that they do not plan to slow the lines down. They have --

KEILAR: Okay. We --

HOULDIESON: We want workers to be able to clean up their own areas at the beginning of the shift before the line starts up. I'd come in early to do it, but start the line in five or ten minutes to allow workers to clean up their own areas so they know that it's being cleaned properly.

KEILAR: Yes. I mean, look, anyone who goes into work, a lot of people are doing that.

[13:25:02] I know that's something I do going into work.

We know that the president does not wear a mask. He was just asked, as he left the White House, about whether he's going to. It's really unclear. So far, he has not. Do you think that he should be wearing a mask when he visits the plant in Michigan today?

HOULDIESON: Absolutely. Everybody that's -- that comes into a Ford facility is required to wear a mask. The enforcement hasn't been as strict as we would like to see it but that's the requirement. That's the rule.

And when the president or anybody else, a member of management, breaks that rule, violates that rule, it sets a bad example for the rest of the workforce.

KEILAR: Scott Houldieson, thank you for joining us. I can't tell you, we really appreciate you joining us from Chicago. Thank you.

HOULDIESON: Thank you so much for having me, Brianna.

KEILAR: There are thousands of pastors in California who are set to defy the state's lockdown order and hold in-person services.

Plus, as more people fly, London's Heathrow Airport unveiling a thermal screening trial for symptoms. We'll see how that works.

And a Broadway actor still dealing with coronavirus complications months later, including the amputation of his leg, and his wife gives a tearful update.

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