Return to Transcripts main page


CDC To Release Supplemental Recommendations On School Reopening; Virginia Adopts State-Wide Workplace Safety Standards; Hackers Target Prominent Twitter Accounts In Online Scam. Aired 12:30- 1p ET

Aired July 16, 2020 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: President Trump and his education secretary say schools must reopen in the fall and we are told to expect new guidance from the CDC on that question, school openings as early as tomorrow.

A senior CDC official telling CNN, two new sets of supplemental guidance are expected to be released with the first being made public by Friday, tomorrow. Joining us now, Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, he's director of Resolve to Save Lives and a former CDC official. Doctor, it's good to see you again.

I want to start with this question of the CDC and school guidance but also in the context of what we seem to be seeing the White House pushing the agency in recent days. There are some school guidelines out. The White House said there would be new ones. The CDC said there were not. Now we're told there's two new sets of guidelines coming. And this in the same week, we have learned that the administration is telling states and hospitals send your data to a central Washington database, not the traditional way no longer sending it to the CDC. Does this worry you?

DR. CYRUS SHAHPAR, FORMER CDC OFFICIAL: It does. And John, I want to be clear, the hospital data issue is a disaster. And it makes our mostly absent piecemeal federal response worse. The way to make Americans safer is to build on not bypass our public health system. And the CDC Hospital Reporting Program represents 20 years of work, progress, and relationships.

And rather than strengthening that they've chosen to hand the data to an unproven private commercial entity.

KING: And so obviously, you know, school decisions are made at the local level for the most part, but a lot of -- when you talk to mayors and governors and school administrators and county administrators, they say they would like the scientists, the federal scientists at the CDC, who have more information more access to information than they do to give them some guidelines that they can then apply to their local situation. What should the CDC be doing here and the question of schools reopening and what should it not be doing?

SHAHPAR: CDC should be providing evidence based guidance. There's so much information out there, it can be what we call an infodemic. And CDC has the capability and expertise to consolidate that information and put out useful guidance. That's something they've done throughout their history. And they should do that now for schools. So we should expect that from them, and we should expect it to be released in a timely manner.

KING: And this is happening at a terrible time. And let's hope it gets better. But 39 states right now reporting higher cases this week than they did last week, 39 out of the 50 states, as all these local officials need to debate. We're in the middle of July. What do we do in August and September? We're supposed to go back to school.

The director of the CDC says there's a pretty simple way to get this current summer spike under control, listen.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Face coverings are the key. You know, if you really look at it, the data is really clear. They work. You know, we're not defenseless against this virus.


KING: And so one of the challenges is for leaders to set examples. I just want to show you some pictures yesterday, the President in Atlanta, and the mayor of Atlanta says, you know, city runs the airport, you're supposed to wear a mask here. The President gets off the plane and he doesn't want to wear a mask.

Now you don't have to wear a mask everywhere. But there he is in proximity. That's the Republican governor of Georgia. You see some others in the greeting party deciding I am wearing a mask. Governor Kemp takes his off, but he has been wearing a mask. Again, I'm mixing medicine and politics here. But would it be a better example, if the President not every second, not every event, not every day, would put a mask on more often to back up that message from Dr. Redfield?

SHAHPAR: Of course, the President is a role model for many. And so if he demonstrates good behaviors, more people are likely to follow that. And we know that mask wearing is one part of a critical strategy to control transmission. So wearing a mask, watching your distance, and washing your hands are all important. So if he were to model those behaviors, more people would do it, I think, and we'd have a better situation.

KING: I want you to listen, it's a quick bite. But I want you to listen here to Dr. Anthony Fauci. As I said 39 states now have higher cases this week than they did last week. The hospitalization rates and sadly the death rate as well, trickling up. Listen to Dr. Fauci.




KING: Put yourself back in the CDC, put that hat back on. If you were involved in a coronavirus taskforce meeting, what does almost, you know, the almost a total reset? What does that mean?

SHAHPAR: Well, I think we can't lose sight of the most important point. In the three minutes we're talking an average of 140 Americans will be diagnosed with COVID and one to two people will lose their life. This is unacceptable. And we're among the worst performing countries in the world. And there are over 140,000 fewer parents, friends, nurses, and others here today because of the poor federal response.

So we do need to do things like trust science, use data to inform decision making, and have a coordinated national response. If we do these things it will benefit all Americans no matter where they live, how old they are, or who they vote for. And so I think we do need to take a look at where we are and it's not good. And think about how do we change the strategy because the strategy we've been implementing isn't working or is absent.


KING: Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, very much appreciate your insights as always, Sir, in your candor, thank you so much.

Up next, we take a look at the global perspective cases in India, Hong Kong, cases India up Hong Kong cracking down on social distancing, global headlines in just a second.


KING: Russian hackers are now targeting organizations taking part in the development of coronavirus vaccines that warning from British, Canadian, and U.S. security officials. They say the Russian government is almost certainly involved in these efforts to steal intellectual property linked to vaccine development. The Kremlin of course denies any wrongdoing, more now on the global headlines from our international correspondents.



AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Al Goodman in Madrid, Spain state ceremony to honor the more than 28,000 Spaniards who died from the coronavirus and to thank the police officers, nurses, doctors, and other essential workers who kept the country going during the pandemic.

In attendance, the top leadership of the European Union, the World Health Organization, and NATO, along with the Spanish Prime Minister and the government, all of them seated in a socially distance fashion. The setting, the Royal Palace in Madrid, presided by the king of Spain.

More than 400 invited guests, about a fourth of them who lost relatives to the coronavirus in the center of flame lit in their honor and flowers laid around it. Spain has been one of the hardest hit countries by the coronavirus in all of Europe with more than 250,000 cases, the nationwide lockdown has ended, but officials are now grappling with a series of localized outbreaks.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Hong Kong, the trend is not looking good to public health officials who are concerned because dozens of new cases have once again been detected here. And the vast majority of them are local cases, some of which they cannot trace.

That's a big problem in a densely populated city of 7 million people like Hong Kong, a city that just two weeks ago saw zero cases of communities spread. We've been speaking with infectious disease experts who attribute this latest spike directly to the lifting of social distancing measures.

So now Hong Kong is reversing. Most of the things that they opened up are now closed again, whether it's Hong Kong Disneyland or schools or bars or gyms. And restaurants after 6:00 p.m. are no longer allowed to have customers dine in.

What officials are trying to do is to change the public's behavior and detect and isolate as many of these cases as possible before the numbers that we're seeing today blow up even bigger.

Will Ripley, CNN, Hong Kong.

VEDIKA SUD, CNN PRODUCER: Here in India, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India is just over 30,000 cases short of reaching a million confirmed cases of COVID-19. Over 400 million people across three states in India have reentered lockdown conditions after witnessing a spike in COVID-19 cases.

On Wednesday, more than 32,000 new infections were reported. This is the highest jump in daily numbers that India has seen. According to the Ministry of Health, a third of the total cases of COVID-19 are active. The Western State of Maharashtra, the southern State of Tamil Nadu and India's capital, New Delhi, have reported the highest caseload. And its death toll is nearing 25,000.

Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Mexico City domestic violence is a big issue and it certainly didn't get any better during the height of the government imposed lockdown here that went from March largely through the end of May.

We spoke to one domestic abuse survivor who said just before the lockdown started, she joined the chat group with other victims of domestic abuse. And she said during the height of this lockdown, the number of messages in that group skyrocketed, with women asking for help because they were trapped with their abusers. And the numbers do seem to back that up.

If you look at the number of 911 calls that relate to domestic violence registered by the government from March through May of 2020, that number jumped more than 44 percent as compared to the same time period last year.

Now, the government has been accused of not doing enough to solve this problem. President Lopez Obrador here has admitted that domestic violence is a problem, but actually said in a made press conference that 90 percent of those 911 calls I just mentioned, were fake. It was a startling thing to say when you consider the fact that from March through May an average of 10 women per day were killed in Mexico.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.



KING: Up next for us, Virginia tries to set an example when it comes to workplace safety in the age of the coronavirus.


KING: In the absence of federal guidelines, Virginia now implementing what it calls the first in the nation workplace safety standards for the coronavirus pandemic. The requirements include employees and customer facing positions must wear a mask and keep social distance.

Employers on the other hand, must provide frequent access to hand washing for their employees. They must also notify employees within 24 hours if a co-worker test positive.

Joining me now Megan Healy, she's a chief workforce advisor to the Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam. Thank you so much for being with us. Let me start with the question of why did you think this was important to do for commonsense and to be proactive? Or did you think this was necessary to do because of evidence that employers were simply not giving the workers the protections they need?

MEGAN HEALY, CHIEF WORKFORCE ADVISER TO GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D-VA) : We have heard from thousands of Virginians that they are scared to go to work or they're an unsafe work environment, not only for their own personal health but for their families and their communities. And we knew we had to do something. We have a lot of great businesses, our great actors really working hard to make sure that workers are safe.


But within a number of complaints we have received in Virginia, we know that not everyone is a good actor, and that we had to come up with our own standards to make sure that these workplaces are workable in this time of COVID-19. KING: And so there's obviously as I've gotten predictable, some pushback from the business community. I can show you from "The Washington Post" here the story says Virginia jobs first in the nation, you know, coronavirus workplace safety. But the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Small Business Group, is mad that with this vote Virginia's repeated ranking as a top state for business has evaporated, and we won't be able to compete with other states and our economic recovery will be put in low gear. That's Nicole Riley, the Virginia director of the NFIB.

Respond to that, do you think that -- are these restrictions so oppressive that businesses that if I run a small business in Tennessee, that's the same business I'm going to have a benefit?

HEALY: No, these standards are really for businesses to do the right thing. We had the safety and health codes board is half business, half labor. And they actually agreed to a nine-two vote that we needed to move these standards forward and that they are very important for workers.

Again in Virginia to keep our business open for economic resiliency and to open up our businesses, our workers have to be safe, and they want to want to come back to work and really encourage, you know, to move this economy for that it's really important that they have to be safe in the work environments.

KING: Walk me through enforcement. I know the provisions allow fines up to $130,000. I assume that's not, you know, that's not your hope. Your hope is if you have an infraction, you work it out before you get there. But walk through the various steps of enforcement if you do get a legitimate complaint.

HEALY: Yes, we had it to emerge say temporary standards so we could enforce. So not just use guidelines and say businesses needed this or that, so that's why we had to bring these standards for and that's what's important.

So first, that any business that wants to have the Department of Labor and Industry, our safety inspectors come on and do some consulting. We would love that because we want to work hand in hand with our businesses to make sure they're doing the right thing.

The fines, they're based off of many things, how many employees are affected? What is the level of concern have we said, hey, you shouldn't do that and you continue to do the wrong thing for workers, then that's the level of fines. And then ultimately, if our workers are in great condition, imminent danger, then we can close the business.

KING: Megan Healy, she's the chief workforce advisor for the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam. We'll keep in touch as this experiment plays out, as you know, everything that's done in this environment makes somebody mad and we'll see how it plays out and we'll see if the workers stay safe. We wish you the best of luck. Thanks so much.

HEALY: Great. Thank you. KING: When we come back, a major Twitter hacking involving some very prominent names in American politics.



KING: A coordinated social engineering attack hijacks some big name Twitter accounts, Wednesday. Vice President Joe Biden, Bill Gates, other prominent names appearing, right there you see some of the tweets to promote Bitcoin, but it was all a scam. And it took Twitter several hours to lock down this virtual assault. That's troubling anyway, but especially close to the 20 presidential election, given what we went through in 2016.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has more. This is sophisticated to say the least.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Yes, John, I mean, if just one of these accounts got hacked, you know, Joe Biden's accounts in an election year, it would be extraordinary in itself.

But like yesterday, we saw multiple Twitter accounts from some of the world's most high profile people being attacked. And right now we don't know a lot about what actually happens. Twitter has some serious questions to answer here. They have to, you know, tell us if other accounts were hacked that we don't even know about just what sort of access that these attackers had.

Were they able to see private messages, for instance? And also, if you know, how this attack was done and who was responsible for it. Twitter put out a statement last night saying that they are investigating now along with the FBI. And they said this, we detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools.

We know they use this access to control many of the highly visible, including verified accounts and tweets on their behalf. What that means is that Obama's account, Biden's account, Bill Gates account, they were not hacked individually. Somebody hacked a Twitter employee or in some ways convinced the Twitter employee or coerced or trick the Twitter employee to hand over basically keys to the kingdom.

And those hackers were then able to use the access that that Twitter employee had to take over the accounts of these very high profile people. The Senate Intelligence Committee, over the past few hours have told CNN that they are seeking answers from Twitter about how all of this happened and some serious questions here, John, about Twitter security.

KING: And serious questions about as they try to figure out what happened. Can they prevent it, Donie, from happening again?

O'SULLIVAN: Yes. And I mean, you know, we saw this in 2016. You know, I think one of the big questions here is, if this was just a Bitcoin hack, if it was just some sort of scam about Bitcoins, you know, I think we'll all have gotten off very easy.

But it's also possible the court said, the Bitcoin angle here could be just a distraction. Maybe the hackers were going after what was in people's private messages or other parts of their accounts. So really, this is just the beginning I think of a very troubling story for Twitter, John.

KING: We will circle back Donie when you know more. Appreciate the reporting today. It is troubling to say the least. And thanks for spending your time with us today. I hope to see you back here tomorrow.


Busy News Day Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now. Have a great day.