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Trump Tours Ford Plant As State Warms Him to Wear A Mask; Ford Reopens Plants Across The Country with New Safety Protocols; Doctors Say Growing Evidence of Inflammation As Culprit in Severe Coronavirus Cases; New Study Says Late Pandemic Response Led to 36,000 Deaths. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 21, 2020 - 15:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: President Trump is expected to tour a Ford plant in Michigan any minute now. He's right now sitting down at a listening session with African-American leaders at the moment. This plant has been repurposed in Ypsilanti, Michigan to now make ventilators and PPE at this Ford plant.

This visit comes at a critical time for Ford and its thousands of employees as the country's number two automaker and other automakers reopen many plants at the beginning of this week, you'll remember after being shut down due to the outbreak.

And then for Ford it had promptly temporarily closed plants in Chicago and Dearborn, Michigan after employees tested positive for COVID-19. So, what is it like to be back on the line? What does the President's visit today mean?

Joining me right now is Todd Dunn. He's President of UAW Local 862. He's representing more than 14,000 members at two Ford plants in Kentucky. Todd, thank you, as I said before, thank you for taking the time right now.

First, can I ask you just about face masks because it's something the President has been struggling with, to say the least. We know that the President is in the building in the Ford plant in Michigan. But he hasn't taken a tour on the floor yet. If he would walk on the floor without a mask what would your reaction be to that?

TODD DUNN, PRESIDENT, UAW LOCAL 862: Well, I believe in my commander- in-chief, prior military serviceman but if I was there, I would be right in front of him to hand him a mask. I might not get too close, but I would hand him a mask.

Because, you know, just all jokes aside, our workforce, we're wearing them. There's been a lot of safety protocol put in, policies and procedures. And we've massaged every single day. And it's just part of the PPE that we rely on for ourselves to remain safe. So as our commander-in-chief, I would hope that he would respect his health and the health of the American workers inside that plant.


They got to go home to their families and it's just setting the standards. That's the leadership level he's in. So, I hope he's wearing his mask.

BOLDUAN: Talk to me about what you're hearing from folks as they're heading back in, back into the plants. We know two plants had to temporarily shut down because of positive COVID cases. Do you think there is enough protection in place? What your hearing?

DUNN: You know, I wanted to make sure -- I've been in the plant every day this week just talking to our members. We've have new hires that are hiring. Some of the problems, concerns, questions, comments. You know, the mask. You know, they hate the mask because they're itchy. Sometimes the masks break down if you have a beard.

You heat up. Some of our members talked about how you look. I feel a little foggy because I don't know because it's lower on oxygen level. I'm not a doctor. But, you know, my glasses are fogging up. So, there's a lot of different issues and a lot of complications with some of the safety protocol.

But overall the membership is not, I don't want to say surprised but I think I feel the from what I'm hearing that they are pleased to see the level of protocol that's been put out through UAW Ford and our safety protocol, our safety departments and what they are providing. So they feel good about it. Should we ever be satisfied? Absolutely not. Each and every day build on it.

BOLDUAN: Can you talk to me about the push-pull if you will for auto workers returning to work right now? They need to go to work. They want to go to work. But you're talking about, right, health and safety and their families. Can you talk to me about this push-pull you're hearing?

DUNN: You know, so I'll give you one example. I have a good friend that works in the plant. Him and his wife have a young child. She's a good friend of mine. I go to a lot of JDRF events with her and fundraisers. And here's a child with juvenile diabetes.

You have other families that are complex even more than that, multiple high-risk and diabetes, so you got to go home and you're going to work versus going to a grocery store or a gas station. So, the per capita, number of folks right there in the area. So, you're really at a higher risk because, you know, you've got a higher exposure limit, right, or level if you will.

But it's the safety protocol during the day. Making sure that we're using good common sense and we're going by those guidelines and then we go home, strip down, clean up, get into a neutral environment before you get back into your household whether it be in a garage or --

BOLDUAN: It's so hard. It's so hard for everybody. Just because we're running out of time, I just want to ask you. Is there one thing you want to hear from the President as he's on the floor today?

DUNN: You know, I hope that he thinks the men and women of Ford Motor Company and men and women across the manufacturing community thank them, everybody in America are true American patriots because we want to get back to work.

I would like him to thank them for what they are doing, what we've done at Ford Motor Company to help the health care workers is unbelievable. We had a meeting today from John Savona and also Jim Farley, the COO of the Ford Motor Company and it's amazing what we've been able to do and we've set record levels for companies like 3M and building these products for the healthcare community.

BOLDUAN: Thank you for what you do. Thank you for coming in. And God bless.

DUNN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. The link between COVID-19 and inflammation. The new discovery that could be key to treating the severe effects of the coronavirus.



BOLDUAN: As doctors across the country try to get a handle how to best treat the coronavirus the CDC just this week held a briefing on what may be at the heart of this disease. The growing the evidence that the culprit is inflammation.

The CDC looked to Dr. Vincent Marconi professor of infectious disease at Emory Medical School for answers about all this and Dr. Marconi joins me now. Thank you being here. Can you talk to me about what you're seeing that's pointing to this all coming down to inflammation? Why is that?

DR. VINCENT MARCONI, PROFESSOR, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Yes, it's a great question. So, when a virus typically infects a person that person's immune system attempts to fight back. And that's known as the inflammatory response. And, you know, traditionally it's rapid and effective for most people and so you'll end up with minimal symptoms and you'll recover after that.

And there are these chemical mediators called cytokines that the body clear the virus. And that's through killing infected cells, et cetera. But sometimes if that response, say, is ineffective or there may be other aspects you need to -- either the virus or the person that inflammatory response gets out of control.

It's sort of like having a campfire that's giving you light and heat allowing to you cook your food and it gets out of control and leads to a forest fire. And at that point it actually causes more harm to the individual than it actually does to the virus.

BOLDUAN: What does all of this mean for the approach that doctors can and should be taking for treatment right now?

MARCONI: Well right now, we don't have anything that's proven to be effective against this inflammatory syndrome. And so really what we have at least that's been proven so far is an antiviral. And if we can get the antivirals to at least slow that viral replication the body can hopefully regulate itself.


But there are many trials going on right now that are particularly looking at drugs that are going to slow that inflammatory response working in various different aspects across the body. And so right now we don't have anything that can treat that inflammatory response but there are over 50 trials right now that are looking at how to control this.

BOLDUAN: Why is inflammation -- because we all know inflammation. Right. Whenever we work out, I've got inflammation. Why is inflammation so damaging to the body and what we're looking at with this virus?

MARCONI: Yes, and just to be clear, it is usually good for people to have this amount of inflammation like you're describing in a workout or if you got a cold or flu because it is helpful for the body. But it's in these unique circumstances either because of the individual because they can't fight the virus effectively, or some things that this virus does to some people that makes it go out of control. And really once that happens, it becomes very difficult for the body to re-regulate.

BOLDUAN: And this is going to be very simplified, overly simplified. I already acknowledge it. If this all comes down to inflammation why couldn't some form of a super charged anti-inflammatory ibuprofen do the trick?

MARCONI: Yes, that's exactly right. And those are the actual drugs that we're looking at right now is super charged kind of ibuprofen type of drugs. Now there are many as you pointed out. It's a complex system. So, there are a lot of different of these cytokines or these mediators that we're trying to target. Some target a whole host of them, others individual components. And so, we're looking at all of these super charged ibuprofen if you will.

BOLDUAN: Please, don't ever make fun of me for having to oversimplify to that extent, doctor. But thank you so much. You can't get to a fix unless you know what gets to the root of the problem, which is what you're getting to. I really appreciate it, thank you.

MARCONI: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Ahead for us still a big decision made on Universal Studios and it's made at Universal Studios and its plan to re-open. That's next.



BOLDUAN: Let's go to Michigan where President Trump is taking questions from reporters.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- this country. You know, you go out and you buy things, and you have your picture -- you want to vote, the most important thing you can do is vote, And they don't want to go voter I.D., so ideally, that would be the ideal. There are many places that have that. Many places don't. But, no, we don't want to have vote by mail. We want people to vote now.

If you are President of the United States and if you vote in Florida and you can't be there, you should be able to send in a ballot. If you're not well, you're feeling terrible, you're sick, you have a reasonable excuse, just a reasonable excuse, you should be able to vote by mail-in. You vote by mail-in.

But when they send, in the case of Nevada, where they want to send out thousands and thousands of ballots and then they're going to send them back. Who knows who signed the ballot? Is anybody standing there acknowledging. Oh, that was Mr. Smith. That was Pastor Darryl Scott. That was Scott Turner? That was John James, the great John James, who better win, because you would be missing something, Michigan, if you don't vote for this guy.

But you know, who says -- who are these people that are voting? They get it. It comes by mail. Maybe. Maybe it doesn't come. A lot of the problem is they're not shipped to certain areas. You know if you have an old Democrat area.

Now I have to tell you the abuse tended to be on a certain side rather than another side. We won't get into that and frankly, the Republicans won a very big event on Tuesday where we have a man named Mike Garcia. He's a Congressman in a Democrat area. It was not expected to happen. He won by a lot of votes. You know about that, John. That was a big decision. That was an incredible victory. The first time in 22 years.

So, something's happening. But that was a vote by mail. They mailed it in. And actually, the Democrats saw they were losing and all of a sudden, they threw voter booths up in certain Democrat areas. I wouldn't say that was so good. Right. But it didn't have much of an impact. So, Mike Garcia won. And we won in Wisconsin.

But we can't do that. To vote, to really vote and without fraud, you have to go, and you have to vote at the polling place. People have to check you in. Go ahead, John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you just clarify, sir, what federal funding you are considering removing from Michigan?

TRUMP: Oh, I'm not going to discuss that. There are so many forms of funding. And we're not going to discuss that. What we want is we want good, straight honest voting. OK. Honest voting.

And by the way if that could be honest -- which obviously it can't be. You get a ballot you're sitting in your bedroom signing it, who knows who's signing it? Who knows that it ever gets to your house? Who knows if they don't pirate. You know, they pirate these applications. They print new voting forms and then they send them around, people sign them, or one person signs them with different pens and a different signature every time.

It's obviously there's going to be fraud. We're not babies. There's tremendous fraud. You have all of the harvesting. You have all of the things they walk in at the end of a race. We had a lot of them in California. They walked in at the end of a race and they dumped thousands -- you think the race is over, you think somebody won and then all of a sudden out of the blue come thousands of votes at the very end.


Oh, what happened? Harvesting. A wonderful thing, harvesting. They just happened to find thousands of ballots just at the end. So, somebody that thought he or she was going to win the race, all of a sudden gets clipped. We can't have that.

John. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, in the midst of this coronavirus crisis, the Chinese government is considering a new national security law that would give it the authority to clamp down to a greater degree on Hong Kong. Do you have a message for the Chinese government about changing the relationship with Hong Kong?

TRUMP: Well, we'll have to see what happens. I haven't seen it yet. I've gotten a little briefing. But I'll have a statement to make at the appropriate time. OK. Hong Kong's been through a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, we've seen this historic flooding. We see this historic flooding here in Michigan and we have seen forecasts that we could see a really severe hurricane season. Is FEMA and the federal government prepared to meet the needs of some of these potential disasters?

TRUMP: You say FEMA and the federal government? Yes, they're here right now. FEMA is here right now. They did a fantastic job on the coronavirus, a fantastic job in Michigan. They did a fantastic job everywhere, frankly. You know, you have ventilators.

You're going to see them now. Because this is one of the plants where we make thousands of ventilators. But FEMA was involved and we also, if you know, you know that the Army Corps of Engineers at the highest level is right now in Michigan working on the fact that you had some dams breaking, that shouldn't have broken and they were probably maybe not maintained properly, something happened to them. It could have been human error from what I understand. But it was certainly a physical error, too. They were old.

But have you the best in the world to fix them and to get that water stopped. And we have FEMA here and we have the Army Corps of Engineers here. They'll be able take care of it. Let's go take a tour. And you're all invited to join me if you want and we'll take a look at a great assembly line making ventilators. Thank you. Thank you very much.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: President Trump at the Ford plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Today, there are more than 5 million coronavirus cases worldwide and the United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population has about a third of them. As the World Health Organization is now reporting, a new record, the most new cases recorded in a 24-hour period since the pandemic began. More than 100,000 new cases worldwide. Four countries driving that increase, Russia, Brazil, India and the United States.

The death toll in the United States is getting closer to 100,000. Right now, it's 93,863. This afternoon, as the President was leaving the White House headed for Michigan he defended his response to the pandemic. As a new study suggests that 36,000 coronavirus deaths in the U.S. could have been prevented if social distancing and other measures had been enacted just one week earlier.

President Trump saying he was early in his response and claiming that the Colombia University study is a, quote, political hit job. Yet, we should note, the study does not mention President Trump at all. He called it a political hit job. It doesn't mention his name.

The study, in fact, also suggests that earlier action would have been most effective in places such as New York City and the study could have been seen just as damning for Democratic leaders, such as the Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio or Governor Andrew Cuomo who began shutting down non-essential businesses around March 15th.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live for us now at the White House. And Kaitlan, there are more than 53,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in just the state of Michigan 5,000 total deaths. This week the state of Michigan has seen a slight upward trend in new confirmed cases, about a 44 percent increase from the previous 7-day period. Did President Trump address that?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's why it's so notable what he was just saying repeating his threat to withhold funding from Michigan if they tried to move ahead with sending out these applications to get a mail-in ballot for voters, something he has been railing against since yesterday morning.

Because reporters keep asking, Jake, what funding is it the President is talking about threatening to withhold? Because of course, they are seeing a hot spot and they are having to deal with an outbreak that is not like other places in the nation right now.

The President will not say. But he did seem to back off, yesterday, he told us he didn't think it would be necessary to withhold funding. He now claims he didn't say that, though he did. I was in the room when he said it. And so, he's now, once again, putting those threats out there.