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College Sports and Coronavirus; Vaccine Search; Study Finds Hydroxychloroquine Linked to Higher Risk of Death; Trump Demands Governors Reopen Churches. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 22, 2020 - 15:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining us this hour.

Just moments ago, President Trump is announcing that he's declaring churches and other houses of worship essential and demanding that governors across the country reopen them immediately.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now for this weekend.

If they don't do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less.


BOLDUAN: This from the president who declared that he didn't have the authority to really force governors to do anything early on in this crisis when it came to actually shutting things down.

And just to be clear, it does seem that there may be more at play here than just getting people in the pews on Sunday. We're going to get to this in just a second.

This also comes just hours after a large study showing that the drug hydroxychloroquine is linked to an increased risk of death and heart disease and -- heart problems, rather, in coronavirus patients.

Remember, the president announced this week he's taking the drug himself. He's repeatedly promoted the drug, posing the question, what do you have to lose? It seems we now may have the answer.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House. Elizabeth Cohen is here with us as well.

Kaitlan, what exactly is the president ordering here when it comes to houses of worship? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not really

clear what he can order, Kate, though the president is asserting his authority.

What he said is that the CDC is going to put -- be putting out guidance where they deem houses of worship to be essential services. So that means they can reopen if certain states have guidance, opening -- of course, grocery stores are essential, other things that have been deemed essential.

Now places of worship are going to fall under that category too. But where the president made this interesting is where he said he wants this to happen starting immediately, meaning today and this weekend, and he said he will override governors who do not honor that guidance.

But Kate, of course, that's just that, guidance, for these states as they reopen. And so some have reopened and moved more aggressively to allow people to go back to church with certain distancing measures. But there are other states that have still remained closed and pretty big metro areas that have also done the same.

So it's not clear that the president has any authority to be able to overrule those governors in that sense, and he didn't cite any laws that he believes give him that power.

So, the question really is the president just saying that, as you know, this is my statement, I'm saying that I do have the authority to do that? It doesn't appear clear that he does, Kate, because he left those questions to Dr. Birx, to his press secretary.

Dr. Birx gave a much more nuanced version of this, saying that if people do feel the need, given the number of COVID cases that they have, they need to stay closed for another week, then they should do that.

And the press secretary said the president was just speaking hypothetically when he said that he could overrule the governors if he needed to, because they didn't think it would come to that, though some governors may make the decision that they do not want churches reopened yet if they are still experiencing these outbreaks.

So we should be clear the president does not have the authority to overrule the governors when it comes to that, despite that assertion, but what's new here is that they are putting out this guidance deeming this essential, because so far there have been questions, Kate, about the guidance and what it was going to be for places of worship, because they had put out some pretty strict proposals internally.

They have been talking about that from the CDC. And the White House had pushed back, believing that they were much too detailed.

BOLDUAN: And, Elizabeth, the White House says that this guidance is coming out right now.

But president , I think it's notable, the guidance is coming out now, but the president wants houses of worship to be opened up this weekend. So, one, there's a question of, could they be -- could houses of worship even be ready in time, when you can see what even restaurants and other types of businesses have had to do to get ready to reopen when their announcements have come out and guidelines have come out?

But we also know why this is so important to consider is that houses of worship have been a source of outbreaks, of community spread. The CDC has talked about it.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. They certainly have. Certainly, there's been more than one outbreak at churches in the United States.

Let's take a look at one that the CDC has written about. This was a church in Arkansas. A husband and wife attended a service. Later, it was found out that they had COVID; 35 people at that church service caught the virus, and three died, 35 people attending services over the next several days, and three died.

And 26 caught the virus from those people, so, in other words, the second generation, 26 caught the virus and one died. And this is in addition to, in Washington state, there was a choir practice were 45 people became ill and two died.


Now, this was in March, before we knew to take all the measures that we know to take now, but people have died because of coronavirus that they caught at churches.

And so, to your point, Kate, yes, why would we give people so -- churches so little time to prepare? You're going to put out guidance now for this weekend? It's already Friday afternoon. That just patently, on its face, doesn't make sense.

But, also, how much can you mitigate all of this at a church? A church or any place of worship is by definition where people come together. Even if you clean everything, even if you decide to forego the collection plate, there is a limit to what you can do, when the whole purpose is to get people into one place.

Religions value human life. They value protecting what God has created. Why would you want to bring people together, at the risk that you could have an outbreak where people would die? It's a mystery to me.

BOLDUAN: Real quickly, Elizabeth, if you could, just switching gears to hydroxychloroquine, can you just sum up the top line of what the study showed?

COHEN: Yes, the top line of what the study showed is that people who took hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine as hospitalized patients were more likely to die than those who didn't take hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine.

And they were more likely to get cardiac arrhythmias. So these were hospitalized patients. This is now one of several published studies that shows that hydroxychloroquine didn't work in this study. And in others, they found that it actually hurts.

So, this, I think, is sort of the nail in the coffin of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for patients in the hospital. The question is still open as to whether it might possibly work for prevention. The doctors I have talked to said they don't see any reason why it would, given what we have seen in hospitalized patients, but they do still need to study it.

BOLDUAN: And so, Kaitlan, the president wasn't taking questions today.

Has the White House responded to this study?

COLLINS: You only saw Dr. Birx respond to it. And she talked about the FDA warning about how they had not obviously proven any way that this is a way to treat or prevent getting coronavirus, as the president has alluded to.

But, also, what was really notable about what Dr. Birx said is, she didn't dismiss this study or dispute it, but she actually gave more credence to it by citing just how many people were surveyed and observed as part of this study that Elizabeth was talking about.

So they're saying, basically, what we know is, this is the largest analysis to date of this, of looking at what effects hydroxychloroquine does have on coronavirus patients. And so it only seems to be backing up what we have been seeing in these other smaller studies.

BOLDUAN: Guys, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

All right, just a reminder, this wasn't -- this wasn't just once or twice that the president promoted this unproven and serious medication. He repeatedly encouraged people to try it, again, based on the advice of, we don't really know.



TRUMP: I had a two-week regimen of hydroxychloroquine.

A lot of doctors are taking it. A lot of people swear by it.

I get a lot of tremendously positive news on the hydroxy.

I really think it's a great thing to try. What do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it. Hydroxychloroquine, try it.

If things don't go as planned, it's not going to kill anybody. It will be wonderful. It will be so beautiful. It will be a gift from heaven if it works.

What has been determined is, it doesn't harm you. It's a very powerful drug, I guess, but it doesn't harm you.

I'm not going to get hurt by it. It's been around for 40 years for malaria, for lupus, for other things.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is Dr. Eric Topol. He is a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute.

Thank you so much, Doctor, for being here.

What is your reaction to this study?


This is a really powerful study. It HAD 96,000 people, patients in the hospital with COVID-19; 15,000 almost had either hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine. And this isn't a global study, six continents, 670 hospitals.

And what it showed is harm, that is, a higher death rate, about 35 percent increase in death rate for the people who had hydroxychloroquine. And that was even made worse with the heart arrhythmias.

These are malignant arrhythmias that are associated with cardiac arrest, so-called ventricular tachycardia. It was twice as likely with hydroxychloroquine. And it went up even higher with chloroquine or when it was used in combination with these macrolide drugs, such as azithromycin.

So, this is a whole different look, because this is now, Kate, sixfold more than all the other studies combined of hydroxychloroquine. And to your point earlier with Elizabeth, the issue here is that you pick up ventricular tachycardia, these life-threatening arrhythmias, when a person is in the hospital.


So, now that we know it's at least a doubling or up to fivefold when it's taken with azithromycin, that this risk, you don't want to have it happen outside the hospital, because there's no monitoring. There's no way to treat it.

And that would potentially be a cardiac arrest. So this is a dangerous drug. It's -- the risk of arrhythmia we saw in the previous studies, those were small studies. This is a very, very large study.

And it's compelling new data that goes against the safety of hydroxychloroquine. And it really questions all the assertions that have been made previously.

BOLDUAN: And can -- I mean, obviously, you are not the president's physician. Of course, that is clear. But do you think that the White House physician who prescribed this

treatment course for the president should answer some questions now, if this seems to really kind of shut the book on this entire notion, as you're describing it?

TOPOL: Well, there's a couple of things.

There are some ongoing randomized trials. And they have to be assessed whether this new data is compelling enough to stop the trial. It raises the ethical questions.

As far as the White House doctor, obviously, he didn't have access to this data. It just became published today in "The Lancet." But there was enough data to raise serious questions about safety or lack of efficacy.

This takes it into a different dimension of harm, of diminishing survival. So, this, I think, is really a different look. Before, we were just questioning about the efficacy with the higher risk of heart arrhythmias. Now we have got even the added feature of a higher rate of death.


Dr. Topol, thank you so much for your perspective. Really appreciate it.

This weekend marks the unofficial kickoff to summer, of course, but this Memorial Day is going to be like -- unlike any other with face masks, social distancing, other guidelines and restrictions in place to continue to try to slow the spread of the virus.

Take a look at where the country stands right now in terms of new cases. We should be able to show that for you if we don't -- there it is. In the past week, that number, the number of new cases is on the rise in 17 states, going down in nine, and holding steady in 24.

Against that backdrop, some officials are worried that the holiday weekend could erase the progress that states have already made. Here's the very latest advice from Dr. Deborah Birx for enjoying the weekend safely.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: And so, please, as you go out this weekend, understand you can go out, you can be outside, you can play golf, you can play tennis with marked balls.

You can go to the beaches if you say six feet apart. But remember that that is your space, and that's the space that you need to protect and ensure that you're social distanced for others.


BOLDUAN: Let's get to CNN's Rosa Flores now. She's in Delray Beach, Florida.

Rosa, what are you seeing there? What are you expecting this weekend?


Well, walk with me, because I can show you around. The rules are very easy here in Delray Beach. You can walk, you can run and you can swim. All other activities are not allowed. But take a look for yourself.

You can see that a lot of people are laying out on the beach. You will see a lot of two-piece suits, no three-piece suits. Masks are not required here. They are only recommended if you can't social distance.

Now, as you're looking at these pictures, I want you to think about this, because, last year, about 17,000 people flocked to this beach on -- in Saturday alone during Memorial Day weekend. When you add up Saturday, Sunday and Monday, more than 67,000 people flocked here.

So this is definitely not normal, not a normal scene, very much post- COVID-19. But, also, when you take a look at this, there's a lot of people laying out on the sun, things that they're not supposed to be doing, but they are spacing out, Kate, which is important.

But, again, Dr. Fauci probably said it best, Kate. You can go out. You just have to be safe and smart about it -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's right.

Rosa, great to see you. Thank you.

Coming up for us, a new development in the quest to find a coronavirus vaccine. The first published results of a clinical trial in humans -- details on that ahead.

And, later, are college sports on their way back? A big announcement from the NCAA and now the SEC. What does that mean for the fall season? The commissioners of the SEC and Pac-12 conferences are going to be joining us.



BOLDUAN: A new development in the quest for a vaccine against the coronavirus coming from one of the first candidates to begin human trials.

Researchers say the vaccine was safe and produced antibodies in the healthy adults that took part; 108 people were part of the study. This is out of Wuhan, China.

What does this all mean then in the worldwide search for a vaccine?

Joining me right now is Dr. Paul Offit. He's the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dr. Offit, it's great to have you back.

So, from the non-scientist, let me list out what I know happened in this study, and you tell me what it means -- 108 participants, their ages 18 to 60 years old. And they all received a dose, either like -- kind of like a light, medium and severe dose, if you will.

What is your reaction to this study?


DR. PAUL OFFIT, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Well, first of all, I want to applaud those investigators for publishing this in a scientific journal, "The Lancet."

This gives us a chance to look at all the data, as compared to the way it seems to have gone up to this point, which has been science by press release.

If you look at what these researchers did was, they took a common human cold virus called adenovirus. They then reengineered it so it couldn't reproduce itself and cause disease in people.

They also reengineered it so that it would express the protein, the so-called spike protein, that sits on the surface of coronavirus, the thinking being, as your body made that spike protein, you could make antibodies to the spike protein, and then the virus, coronavirus, wouldn't attach itself to cell, your cells, and cause disease.

So that's all good. But they needed to give an enormous amount of virus. They needed to give roughly about 100 billion infectious particles. That meant that they had a reasonably high side effect rate. About 50 percent of people got fever at the low and medium dose. At the high dose, some got severe fever. They also had muscle pain, fatigue, headache.

So, there was a side effect issue, which is tolerable for -- if you're trying to prevent a disease that is killing 1,000 to 2,000 people a day. The problem, though, was, if you look at the low and medium dose, only about half the patients got neutralizing antibodies, meaning antibodies that would neutralize the virus' ability to affect coronavirus' ability to -- and about three-quarters at the high dose developed neutralizing antibodies.

So, in general, I would say the data were pretty disappointing.

BOLDUAN: Not progress, in your view?

OFFIT: I don't think so.

Frankly, if I was them, I would bail out on this vaccine at this point.

BOLDUAN: That's so interesting. And that's why I wanted to have you on, because you put it into English for me.

The professor who was leading this study also made a note. And I wanted to get you on what he noted here. He said that: "The ability to trigger these immune responses does not necessarily indicate that the virus will protect humans from COVID-19."

This gets to something that's been an ongoing question about, how much protection do these antibodies provide us? How much immunity will we have? When will we know the answer to that, Doctor, do you think?

OFFIT: Right.

We will do that -- we will know that when we do a large prospective, placebo-controlled phase three study where there are 20,000 people that get a vaccine, at least, 10,000 that get placebo, and then you can see whether or not your vaccine works.

And you can see whether or not there's an immunological correlate for that protection, but that is the only definitive proof that we're going to have for protection. And until that happens, people should stop talking about whether or not a vaccine works and is safe, because we're never going to know until we do that kind of study.

BOLDUAN: Yes, announcement by press release is not the way to run a vaccine trial.

Dr. Offit, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

OFFIT: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us: the NCAA now allowing some athletes back on campus for training. Does this mean that they are a step closer to football season this fall?

The SEC and Pac-12 Conference commissioners, they join me next.



BOLDUAN: In less than two weeks, Division I student athletes will be allowed to head back to school for training on a voluntary basis.

The NCAA's decision only includes football and basketball for now, but it is a significant step, considering college athletics were essentially shut down back in March.

And let's be honest, everyone has an eye toward the fall and what this means for the upcoming seasons.

Joining me right now are two men who have to make these decisions, Greg Sankey, the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, and Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-12, two members, of course, of the Power Five.

Gentlemen, it's great to have you.

Greg, if I can ask you, today, the SEC also made a big announcement that you're letting student athletes back June 8. What should people read into that? What are the chances that we're going to be seeing SEC football in the fall?

GREG SANKEY, COMMISSIONER, SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE: Well, we still have a long way to go until Labor Day weekend, when the football season would kick off.

But I have said repeatedly, our focus is on preparing to play as scheduled. Our announcement today is a first step in that process. It's something for which we at the conference office have been planning, our institutions have been planning for weeks and arguably months.

We have engaged medical experts to help guide us. And that has led us to this initial step, which I think will be a very healthy opportunity for our young people.

BOLDUAN: Larry, what does this decision mean for the Pac-12?

LARRY SCOTT, COMMISSIONER, PAC-12 CONFERENCE: Yes, we're going through a similar evaluation.

We have got a world-class medical advisory committee. You can imagine some of the university hospitals and research centers we have in the Pac-12. And we have got three states in our conference where gyms are already open and student athletes are wanting to get back.

And in most cases, we feel that student athletes will be in a safer position and a healthier position if they can have access to the world-class medical care, supervision, support that they can get on their campuses and, if there are issues with the virus, have access to these world-class medical centers that we have.

But these are baby steps, bringing safely student athletes back to campus. And if things continue to progress in a positive direction, then training camp for football could start as early as late July.

And we could be on a nice glide path to the support -- to the start of the college football season at the end of August.