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Phase Three Vaccine Trial Underway in U.S.; Senate Republicans to Unveil Economic Stimulus Bill; Coronavirus Cases Continue to Rise in States Across U.S. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 27, 2020 - 08:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Over the weekend Florida surpassed New York in total coronavirus cases. The pandemic continues to impact President Trump's approval ratings. We are now 99 days out from the election, and he is trailing in three critical states.

And today millions of struggling Americans are expected to learn what's in the Senate Republicans relief plan. It is not expected to include an extension of that $600-a-week added unemployment benefit. We'll give you the details of what is in it in a moment.

But CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now live in Savannah, Georgia, where that phase three vaccine trial has just begun this morning. So tell us what you saw on the ground there, Elizabeth.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, today is truly a historic day. The first person in the U.S. to get a shot in a phase three coronavirus vaccine clinical trial, and I met her. Her name is Dawn Baker. She's actually a local anchor, a news anchor here in Savannah. And I talked to her after she got that first historic shot.


COHEN: Now, you don't know if you got the vaccine or the placebo, but either way you're helping to find a cure.

DAWN BAKER, PHRASE THREE VACCINE VOLUNTEER CANDIDATE: Either way it's a really important role to have and to be a part of that research. I never thought that I'd do something like this.

COHEN: You are the first person in the United States to get a shot in a phase three COVID trial. What does that feel like?

BAKER: It is very exciting. I'm very anxious about it. I just hope that there are really, really good results. I know a lot of people are doing a lot of different vaccine trials and things are going on, but I feel so proud.


COHEN: Now, you'll notice that I asked Dawn about getting a vaccine versus getting a placebo. Eventually Moderna, that's the vaccine company, will vaccinate 30,000 people. About half will get the vaccine, the real vaccine. About half will get a placebo which does nothing. They'll then compare the two groups and see who does better. John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Elizabeth Cohen for us in Savannah. It is remarkable to see that play out before our very eyes. We've never seen anything like this, six months after a pandemic comes to light, a vaccine trial. And we saw the shot being administered here.

Joining us now, CNN White House correspondent John Harwood and Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, former health policy adviser for President Obama. He's the author of "Which Country has the World's Best Health Care?" Zeke is also one of the authors of an open letter of health professionals urging the U.S. to shut down.

Dr. Emanuel, I want to start with what we just saw, because it is so unusual, unique, in fact, to see something like this, the first shot of a phase three of a vaccine being administered. You would never see something like this normally, and you would certainly never see something like this so quickly. But set our expectations here. What's the significance of this, and what is the reasonable hope?

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE HEALTH POLICY ADVISER: Well, first of all, this is the fourth phase three trial. There's already the AstraZeneca trial and two Chinese phase three trials for vaccines. So we have about 20 vaccines in human trials. It's really important to find out whether this vaccine is effective. And it's not just in terms of raising antibodies. It's has to protect people from infection of coronavirus, and that's the real question. You might raise antibodies and not protect people or not protect them long enough to actually give them immunity. And those are the big questions being asked here.

We do need, as you say, large numbers of people, that's both to assess the safety of this vaccine but also to be sure that it really does protect in a worthwhile way. And the WHO and NIH and the FDA have also said it has to be at least 50 percent effective in protecting people and last at least six months for it to be approved.

CAMEROTA: And Dr. Emanuel, I just want to stick with you for one second, because this morning is a good news/bad news situation in that that's very promising. We just watched the first shots of a vaccine. But there are so many parts of the country right now that have not gotten their arms around this. And in California cases are spiking. In places like Texas and Arizona, the cases may be plateauing, but at such a high level of deaths and hospitalizations. And so you were one of the medical experts who have sent an open letter to the White House, to Congress, to state governors, urging them to really take more drastic action than they have been. You write "Non-essential businesses should be closed. Restaurant service should be limited to takeout. People should stay home, going out only to get food and medicine or to exercise and get fresh air. Masks should be mandatory in all situations, indoors and outdoors, where we interact with others." Basically, you're calling for another shutdown. So can you just tell us how long would that last, and what would that accomplish?


EMANUEL: Well, we reached a peak in early April. We came down. Then lots of states like Florida, like Texas, rapidly said, oh, we're ready. We're fine. We don't have a lot of cases. Let's open up. They opened up things like tattoo parlors, beauty salons, gyms, indoor places where we know there's high exchange, and we see this huge spike. We're up between 65,000 and 70,000 cases every day, deaths are rising.

But we have seen from other countries, Italy is a very good example that was very bad right at the start, but in eight weeks, from basically the end of March to the end of May, they were able to lockdown and they brought their cases very, very low. They are now rivaling countries like Japan. We could do the same. We have to stick with it nationally for eight weeks. And that's the important point.

Once you get a very low number of cases, you can actually do very careful testing, and you can then do suppression. Find out the cases, do the contact tracing, turn it down. I called for that early in -- or late in March and early in April. We just have not been able to do that because we've lacked the national leadership and the national resolve. We're talking about eight weeks. We're not talking about months and months. And we keep pinning our hopes on this vaccine or some other major breakthrough. It may happen, let's hope it happens, but it may not, or it may take longer than we hope. On the other hand, these public health measures we know work. And if we just were concerted about introducing them, it would make a big difference both in terms of number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

BERMAN: I will say I see no sign that there will be a national push, and that would be from the White House or the administration, for some kind of 50-state stay-at-home shutdown or pullback. It just isn't what we're hearing from the White House right now, John Harwood. In fact, we're hearing a push from the top to open schools as much as possible. Although it is conflicting, right, because you have Dr. Deborah Birx literally traveling to certain states like Kentucky saying you should close your bars. You should close your bars, but we should open schools at the same time. It's tough, I think, for people to understand exactly what should be happening.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is, and I think the administration's hope is to do as little as they have to in order to get this under control. As Zeke was just saying, the impatience was overpowering when the number of cases came down in the spring. And I think the administration's hope, the hope of Republicans in Congress, was that the very vaccine developments that you were discussing with Zeke, that was going to be the resolution of this, that the positive momentum that was achieved in the spring would carry us through the summer. Then we'd get to the vaccine and there would be a minimum amount of economic dislocation.

What we're seeing now is that the reluctance to embrace a strategy of delayed gratification is now putting economic gains into reverse, the virus surging. And there are some positive developments now. Every time there's an action/reaction. Cases surge, governors slow down. There's more discussion of masks. But it's been a very incoherent strategy and we've been paying the price for it.

CAMEROTA: But Zeke, aren't schools easier to control than bars, having spent a lot of time in both?

BERMAN: Sometimes simultaneously.


CAMEROTA: In your plan, in your plan of an eight-week shutdown, what would happen to schools, since they were scheduled to start during that time?

EMANUEL: Bars, we created a risk index, and bars are one of the worst places you can have, right? You're inside for a prolonged period of time drinking alcohol that impairs your judgment. On the other hand, for a lot of reasons you would think that schools are essential. And in places where the transmission rate is down, we do think you can actually open up schools safely. You can do it with six feet apart, kids wearing masks, a lot of hand hygiene, using the spaces that you're not going to use for gym and in the cafeteria and in the band room for additional classrooms to spread students out and keep them between 10 and 15 in a class.

So I think we shouldn't look at bars as essential and schools as a non-essential. It's quite the reverse. Schools are very essential for kids and education and bars are not. And we should be closing bars and we should never have opened them in the first place so soon. And we should have schools under the proper circumstance. And remember, the proper circumstance is states that have a low rate of transmission, a very low positivity rate in their tests, meaning that there's not a lot of community spread out there. So I think we can do it properly. It's not going to happen in all parts of the country. Florida and Texas are probably very unlikely to be able to open schools in person given their transmission rates.


CAMEROTA: That's really helpful.

BERMAN: It is. But look, there were two things in that answer which we don't hear which, really from the administration, when, but more often we don't hear how. How are you going to open schools? That's what schools want more than anything is they want a map, they want some guidelines, they really want help and resources to do this.

EMANUEL: Yes, I've gotten a lot of calls from schools, and we're this week going to come out with a school risk index to help them through this. The CDC advice that was given out late last week I would say was very inadequate. It was mostly a checklist, think of this, think of that. But they need advice. Most schools can't do this. They're not public health experts. That's why we have experts at place like the CDC. Unfortunately, what they produced was not very helpful. CAMEROTA: Are we going to hear something to that effect, John

Harwood, at a coronavirus White House briefing today?

HARWOOD: We will see what we hear from the White House briefing. They have not been particularly useful so far. When they started, the president of course was urging mask wearing. He hadn't done that before. But then he reverted into offering things that weren't true, and the value is very limited.

I think the most significant thing that we're looking at now is what can Democrats and Republicans in the Congress agree on in terms of a new coronavirus relief bill. Democrats passed a bill in March. Republicans were hoping that the virus would recede and they wouldn't have to have another bill. Now that we're in the soup and the economic gains have fallen into reverse to some degree, they see the need to do it. The president's poll numbers are tanking. Republican House members and senators are seeing their poll numbers tanking.

But Republicans really, really dislike spending money on domestic programs. And so you've got a mix of people who are motivated because they're up for election and they say, oh, we've got to do something, and others who think the money is going to be wasted. So what do Republicans decide they absolutely have to do in terms of extending unemployment benefits, offering checks to workers? Do they agree to any money for state and local governments, which are seeing their revenues collapse, or have seen their revenues collapse?

Not at all clear. Democrats have the most leverage because they're on the more -- the high side of public opinion in terms of response to coronavirus, but we haven't seen the Republican bill yet and we don't know exactly what the administration and the president will ultimately sign off on.

BERMAN: John Harwood, thank you. Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a pleasure to have you on. Thanks so much.

EMANUEL: Thank you.

BERMAN: Coming up in just minutes, we're going to speak to one of the vaccine trial participants who just received the first dose of the first U.S. coronavirus vaccine trial candidate, and that will be very interesting to hear what that person has to say.

So clusters of coronavirus popping up in one state that had flattened the curve. New Jersey's governor with a message to young people, no spike ball, among other things. That's next.



CAMEROTA: Coronavirus cases in New Jersey continue to drop on average, but officials are investigating small outbreaks tied to parties with young people. More than 20 teenagers tested positive after a house party in Middletown, New Jersey. And joining us now is New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. He is joining

us from Middletown, New Jersey where one of the clusters formed. Governor, great to see you. You know, I'm a fan of Middletown, New Jersey, but we'll get right to -- we'll get to what's going on there in a moment.

But first, I just want to talk about a larger picture of why did you decide to pause in terms of stage -- moving to Phase 3 reopening? You were close to being able to reopen indoor restaurants for dining and gyms and then you put the brakes on. So what changed?

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): Alisyn, first of all, it's good to be back. Secondly, the evidence is overwhelming that the virus is a lot more lethal indoors, particularly when you're sedentary, lack of ventilation, you're taking your mask off by definition to eat or drink.

We also saw what was happening in other states where the virus is raging, most of that from indoor activity. And we said, you know what we want to get to indoor activity. Our restaurants are getting crushed. But we just did not think and we continue to not think we're there yet in terms of doing it responsibly.

I hope we'll get there. I hope it'll be sooner than later, but not yet.

CAMEROTA: Governor, how about the beaches? So many people are flocking to the Jersey Shore. Have beaches and all of those gatherings proven to be pretty safe?

MURPHY: Yes, the evidence we have, Alisyn that beaches, parks, the peaceful protests outdoors, folks have handled themselves really well, and we don't see a whole lot of spread from any of that activity.

Where we are seeing it, you mentioned a house party in my town here in Middletown. Apparently there was a party where a bunch of lifeguards in Long Beach Island attended.

We are seeing it in indoor, again, lack of ventilation, not wearing masks, more young people than not. We are seeing the virus flare up there, and that's a concern for us.

CAMEROTA: So let's just drill down on that house party for a second because it is a microcosm of the risks, particularly now in the summer, particularly where teenagers are involved and they're partying.

So 20 kids tested positive, have those kids gotten sick? Or did they just test positive? And then did that cause any larger outbreak? I know that you had some trouble after that, with contact tracing?

MURPHY: Yes, I mean, the mayor and the local health folks have really been driving this and they've been very good about it. To the best of my knowledge, the kids are doing the right thing in terms of self- quarantining. I've not heard of any hospitalizations, and I hope it stays that way. Your point on contact tracing, though, is one that we made a lot out

of over the past few days. There may have been -- and I'm not saying for sure -- but there may have been things like underage drinking going on, and neither parents nor kids were wild about talking to somebody in fear that it would be a witch hunt.

And the point that we've made is we don't condone underage drinking or any illegal behavior, but this is not a witch hunt. This is about public health and preventing a lethal virus from spreading even further.

I think we've cracked through that.


MURPHY: But that is an issue that's out there. In fact, we've read Alisyn, in our Friday press conference, the exact questions that contact tracers are going to ask you, and they're completely unrelated to any other activity that you might have been engaged in.

CAMEROTA: I think that's an important message to get out there. People need to be helpful. If they're going to have reckless behavior, the least they can do is afterwards be helpful and try to contain the outbreak.

Let's talk about the stimulus. So it sounds like Senate Republicans have reached some sort of agreement with the White House, but it doesn't include what you have been clamoring for, and that is more assistance for states. So now what?

MURPHY: I mean, it's completely irresponsible. I don't know what country they're looking at, frankly, and this isn't a blue state issue. It isn't a legacy state issue. It's an American issue. States, red and blue are getting crushed. Our expenses are skyrocketing for obvious reasons to deal with this pandemic, to deal with unemployed folks, to deal with small businesses that have been crushed. Our revenues have fallen off the table.

The one smart thing we could do as a country right now is to inject a lot of cash into states to keep frontline workers employed at the very moment we need them the most, to keep those services up and running. It's unfathomable that they would have a bill that does not include that.

I spoke with Speaker Pelosi yesterday. She is in violent agreement with that, as you know, the House Heroes Act includes a big slug for states. That's what's got to be the end here. We've got to get to that endpoint and we've got to get to that endpoint sooner.

CAMEROTA: I know you spoke to President Trump recently. Also, is he in agreement with you?

MURPHY: I'd say, I can't speak for the President, but we've made the case forcefully with him, with the Vice President, and with his team, that it's good for all of us. It's good for America. This is beyond one party benefits or another. This is keeping people,

firefighters, police, EMS, healthcare workers, educators, keeping them employed at the frontlines, as I said, at the very hour, our darkest hour of need, this should not be one political party versus another.

And I'm hopeful, I remain cautiously optimistic we'll get there, but boy, they've got to get there with more momentum that we're seeing right now.

CAMEROTA: We only have a few seconds left, but if they don't get there soon, are you saying that all the people that you've just listed will be laid off or furloughed?

MURPHY: It's already happening, Alisyn. So this is not abstract at both the state level, county and local level, people will lose their jobs at exactly the moment we can least afford to have them lose their jobs.

CAMEROTA: Governor Phil Murphy, thanks very much for all of the information. Great to see you this morning.

MURPHY: Great to see you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Breaking news. The first Phase 3 coronavirus vaccine trial underway this morning in the U.S., so we're going to speak with one of the thousands of participants about how it went, what she is experiencing? Any symptoms? Et cetera.



CAMEROTA: Breaking News this morning. Biotech firm, Moderna just began the first Phase 3 coronavirus vaccine trial in the United States.

Joining us now is Elissa Greene. She is one of the 30,000 participants in this American trial. Elissa will get her very first vaccine seconds after she concludes this interview.

Elissa, great to have you. Thanks for taking time to talk to us right before you go in for the shot. Are you at all nervous about doing this and why are you willing to take this risk?

ELISSA GREENE, PHASE 3 VACCINE TRIAL PARTICIPANT: Well, I'm more nervous about being on television, honestly. I don't -- I've had a career as a study sub-investigator and I trust science and I'm not at all worried about getting the shot. I'm very excited about it.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Look, I tried the anti-TB vaccine some time ago and it didn't take. My question Elissa is, you know, you don't know whether you're going to get the vaccine or the placebo. So what's that uncertainty like?

GREENE: Well, I would prefer to get the vaccine for my benefit and the benefit of the patients that I see. But I will behave the same way either way, I will continue to protect myself and protect people around me.

So, I'll find out eventually and you know, if a vaccine does become available before the trial ends, we'll be able to get it so, I am fine.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you're a nurse practitioner and you have been doing as we understand, home visits with the elderly. Has that been nerve racking for them, allowing you into their home during this time?

GREEN: It's nerve racking for everyone. I mean, I do some of the visits by phone or virtually. I work in several states and traveling from state to state is an issue now because of the testing issues. So, yes, it's a difficult time for everybody.

BERMAN: Obviously, you are on the frontlines and you do deal with people every day. How has that affected or influenced your desire to be part of this? Why do you think it is important to be part of something like this?

GREENE: Well, I think it's -- I think that it's important because it's really the only way we're going to get this under control eventually, is to have herd immunity. And if you don't get herd immunity through vaccines, then you have to get herd immunity through everyone getting sick.

This is not the flu. This is a very serious illness. So it would be better for everyone that we get a vaccine that works and that everyone get it.

CAMEROTA: You wanted to be vaccinated during Phase 2 when a much smaller pool of people got the shot, but you weren't eligible. I mean, why are you eligible for Phase 3?