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Coronavirus: Facts and Fears; NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins On COVID-19 Vaccine Trials; At Least Three Teachers In Three States Have Passed Away In Recent Weeks Due To Complications From COVID; 28- Year-Old Teacher Dies Of Coronavirus. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 10, 2020 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Yes, absolutely. All right, Brian, as always, thank you.


BURNETT: Thanks to Brian and thanks to all of you for joining us. CNN's Global Town Hall, CORONAVIRUS: FACTS AND FEARS with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anderson starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome. I'm Anderson Cooper in New York.


This is our 21st CNN Global Town Hall CORONAVIRUS: FACTS AND FEARS. It is being seen around the world on CNN International, CNN Espanol and streamed on

COOPER: I cannot believe it's our 21st. The average number of new cases in the country is down since we last met which is certainly welcome news by any measure.

That said, where the numbers have settled between 35,000 and 40,000 a day is not nor is a new forecast from the C.D.C. projecting as many as 217,000 deaths by October third. That would be more than 25,000 Americans dying from COVID over the next three weeks.

Since our last Town Hall, many schools and college have reopened and a number of them have seen outbreaks. Several promising vaccines have ventured large scale trials, but one is now on hold after a test subject developed serious adverse effects, and into this mixed picture came the audio recording of the President from back in February, telling journalist, Bob Woodward how much deadlier than the flu the virus was, even as he publicly said the opposite.

He said that February 7th to Woodward at a time when taking decisive and concrete action might have saved tens of thousands of lives. We've looked at these numbers before, but imposing social distancing just a week sooner might have prevented 36,000 deaths. Two weeks sooner, it could have reduced fatalities by 84 percent.

But the President knew it was airborne and deadlier than the flu in early February, he continued to hold massive indoor rallies, no social distancing and no masks. He continues to hold those rallies.

Tonight, there is one in Michigan in violation of his own administration's safety guidelines, which is not to say this is a political Town Hall. Those are pictures right now. Those are live pictures -- for politics and public health, when they intersect and intertwine, we'll talk about that tonight.

GUPTA: Yes. And also tonight, we're going to be joined by the country's top health scientist, Dr. Francis Collins. He is Director of the National Institutes of Health. He'll be taking your questions as well.

You can tweet them to us with the #CNNTownHall. You can leave a comment on the CNN Facebook page.

A lot of you have already sent in these questions in video form. You can see some of them up on the screen now. We're going to try and get to as many as we can tonight.

Also beyond your questions for him and for us, we do have one for you. It's there on the bottom of your screen. The question is, would you take a coronavirus vaccine as soon as it's released? Or do you have concerns?

Tweet CNN Town Hall with the word ASAP or concerns and tell us why and we're going to feature some of your responses during the show. You can also do a comment on our Facebook page.

COOPER: As always, we have reports from across the country and the world. We start with where we are right now.


COOPER (voice over): More than 191,000 people have died in the United States from coronavirus with more than 6.3 million documented positive cases.

For millions of students this week, school is back in session. This, as more than half a million kids in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the virus. There have been more than 70,000 new cases between August 20 and September 3.

On Monday, a third grade teacher, Demetria Bannister died of complications from the virus in South Carolina. She was just 28 years old.

On college campuses, the virus is still spreading. At the University of Tennessee, school officials allege that fraternities are undermining the rules meant to keep students safe.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fraternity leaders communicating to houses how to have parties and avoid being caught, avoid the police.


COOPER (voice over): On the race for a vaccine, the President has now been suggesting one could be available before the November election.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we're going to have a vaccine very soon, maybe even before a very special date. You know what date I'm talking about.


COOPER (voice over): But nine leading biopharmaceutical companies signed a pledge this week to stand with science stating they would not seek government approval or an Emergency Use Authorization for a vaccine until it is proven safe.




COOPER (voice over): Testing in the U.S. remains inadequate. A new report finds that at present infection rates, approximately 200 million tests would be needed each month well into 2021. At the moment, fewer than 30 million tests are done each month.

There is good news as well. The number of new positive cases has largely been declining in hotspots like California, Texas and Florida, even as the impact of the virus continues.


FAUCI: We will end this crisis that we are in right now, both from a public health standpoint, and from a scientific standpoint.


COOPER: So given all of that and all we've learned this week, Sanjay, what is your take?

GUPTA: Well, you know, more than seven months after the first confirmed case of coronavirus in this country, I feel like we're still in limbo filled with lots of mixed messages about the virus.

We know as you mentioned, in many places, people are told it's safe to send kids back to school. But we still don't know just how large a role children might play in transmitting this virus and how that would affect cases in the community.

We know that testing is key in helping us to return to some sense of normalcy. Some have said that we should have enough testing in this country to be able to regularly test in our homes, maybe even like every morning, like when you brush your teeth.

That may sound crazy to you. But truth is, we could have been there by now. But there was no warp speed for testing. We still don't have enough tests. Instead, we're arguing over the basics still.


GUPTA: The C.D.C. saying two weeks ago that people without symptoms didn't necessarily need to get tested, even if they had had close contact with someone known to be infected. That's false. That's wrong. That's dangerous. Just so you know.

And at least today, Admiral Brett Giroir did finally say, we need to test asymptomatic people. There's no doubt about it. Full stop. His words.

And finally, Anderson, as you mentioned, we're moving at this pretty fast speed to produce a vaccine. But along the way, it seems that something important was lost, which is trust. Only 56 percent of people say they would take the vaccine if one became available this fall. In May, that number was 66 percent.

And, you know, Anderson a friend of mine recently reminded me of Cassandra's Curse as a figure in Greek mythology. Cassandra had this amazing power, the gift of prophecy and the gift of always telling the truth. But her curse was that no one believed her.

In some ways, it feels like we've been living that curse the last several months. We know what we need to do to control this virus. We've seen other countries do it. We could do it. But people have to start believing.

COOPER: Yes. Sanjay, even as you lay all of that out, the President continues to act as though it's behind us. Tonight, as we mentioned, he is holding another mass gathering that by almost any reasonable definition as a potential super spreader event.

CNN White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins joins us now. So, I mean, this is exactly Kaitlan, what public health officials on the White House's own Taskforce are begging people not to do, what we are looking at right now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and Dr. Anthony Fauci said he is frustrated by seeing images like the ones that you're seeing because this isn't a rarity. This has become the new normal for the Trump campaign.

And based on the sources that I've spoken with, this is their plan going forward until November. These rallies where they can be half inside, half outside because they're in an airport hangar with the door open.

But as you see, people are crowded together and they are not wearing masks despite the fact that the campaign does hand them out, they do not require them and we even have them on video asking the crowd at one of the rallies to put them on and the crowd booed when the announcer asked them to put their mask on.

Now, you've seen that it does not go in line with the states that they are in very often. Tonight, you see the President in Michigan. Earlier this week, they were in North Carolina and of course, the governor there has banned gatherings outside of more than 50 people. It was many more than 50 people at the President's rally that night, and the President even flouted a rule that was put in place by the governor about wearing a mask, something that the head Republican in that county said the President should follow while he was there.

And instead, Anderson, the President has tried to turn this in saying, well, if people can go out and protest then people can come to my rallies, though, of course, a lot of the protests we've seen people have mainly worn masks, we should note.

GUPTA: You know, it's so interesting to just watch these images, because even the few people who are wearing masks aren't necessarily even wearing them properly. I mean, it's just -- it's amazing to me that we're still talking like this.

And how many rallies has it been now, Kaitlan, since that conversation that the President had with Bob Woodward about airborne?

COLLINS: There have been several, but here's the thing that I've got to point out, and this has been the biggest blowback that the President has faced since Bob Woodward's -- part of his book has come out -- is that the President admitted on February 7th that he knew this was an airborne virus.

That is not something that was well known to the public no matter what the President says, yet, for five weeks, I believe after that, they held six rallies that did not look like the rally you're seeing tonight. They were not outdoors. There were not, at least, some people wearing masks. There were not temperature checks to get in the door.

I know because I was there. And instead those rallies that you're seeing on the left side of the screen in Manchester and Phoenix, Vegas and North Charleston, they were packed like the old rallies with tens of thousands of people, indoors crammed inside with no windows open, no doors open. Nothing like that.

Yet, the President knew it was airborne. Yet, he still continued to put all of his supporters in one room chanting, screaming basically everything now that people look at and say, no way.

COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it. Thank you. For more on the complicated situation in schools and higher education, the spikes in cases and I guess, the loss of life, we are joined now by CNN senior global affairs analyst, Bianna Golodryga.

Bianna, Labor Day has come and gone with signals, the beginning of the school year, obviously for a lot more parents. How are school districts welcoming students back this week?


it's definitely not your typical start to the school year. Of the 17 largest school districts that we've been tracking that started school this week, 15 of them started online. That includes cities like Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Fairfax County in Virginia, and Baltimore.

And those that began online had some disruptions as well in terms of cyber disruptions, including cyber disruptions in Houston and a ransomware attack in Hartford, Connecticut, which blew out power for 20,000 students who tried to log on for the day. They are now back online, but it just gives you an indication of some of the other disruptions that we're seeing online.

This follows on the heels of the same cyberattack that we saw in Miami last week, and I of course, am standing in front of a New York City public elementary school that will be opening along with others here for over a million students, the largest school district in the country will be opening September 21. It's a 10-day delay after there was pushback from the teachers and principals union about wanting more safety measures put into place.

They're now going to have testing available throughout the city. They're going to have extra nurses at schools and PPE as well.

And in terms of colleges, we've spent a lot of time focused on universities and colleges. I spoke with a lot of administrators going into this semester that were quite confident that they had the testing, they had the PPE, and they have the resources. Well, now, of course, we know that at least 40,000 positive cases have been reported in 50 states across the country of the 20 percent of universities that are offering in-person classes.

And it was interesting, Sanjay to hear you speak with Admiral Giroir today, who seemed to indicate a lot of the blame lies with the schools themselves.

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, that was a little surprising given that there's just simply not enough testing period. You know, Bianna, I remember in July, a lot of teachers writing their wills, they were so frightened about returning to school in the fall, it is really heartbreaking. And now we know educators in at least three states have died from COVID after the fall semester began.

I'm just curious how do these school districts respond then when an educator dies like this?

GOLODGRYGA: Well, they respond with heartache and tears and obviously concern for the parents and students, and the nurses and school staff that have to return as well.

And you're right, we have now confirmed that three teachers have passed away in three states and I just want to give you their names and tell you a little bit about them, 34-year- old Ashley DeMarinis was a middle school teacher in Missouri. She passed away after suffering from a three-week battle of COVID related complications. Thomas Slade was a high school History teacher in Mississippi. He

passed away this week, and our producer spoke with the principal at the high school who said quote, "He is kind of like the father to our campus." And then there's 28-year-old Demetria Bannister who is a third grade teacher from South Carolina.

A lot of heartbreak there. I know you're going to be speaking with members of her family as well, but with her parents' permission, the school released a statement saying that the parents wish to remind others about the seriousness of this disease caused by the coronavirus.

Every single teacher and administrator I've spoken to, Anderson and Sanjay, have complained about one thing and that is a universal plan. They have stuck with the C.D.C. regulations that were implemented and introduced in June. They were rather strict and all of a sudden, we know what happened in August where the President came out and insisted that schools be open. The C.D.C. loosened some of those restrictions. And of course now we're seeing deaths and a lot of concern.

COOPER: Bianna Golodryga, appreciate it. Thank you.

We want to take you next to China where even in the original epicenter, Wuhan, the picture these days could not be more different than ours. CNN's David Culver is in Beijing. What is the status now throughout the country?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I say this with a lot of hesitation, but this is perhaps the most closest to normal really that we have lived in this country since I would say the outbreak started back in January.

And I say that with a lot of hesitation, because you're seeing a lot of these restrictions ease, you're seeing the mass policy become optional outside in most places, and even inside some places, people aren't wearing them nearly as often in schools, they went back in the past week and a half all to in-classroom learning and what we saw there were some policies in place, some of the social distancing and some of the mask policies, some of the temperature checking, but they go to a place like Wuhan, like you mentioned, the original epicenter, and they don't even require mask for their students in school.

And they've got two million college students, university students in that city, they likewise are back on campuses, and resuming life as it was pre-COVID. So it's strange to think this is where things are.

However, I can tell you, going on Chinese social media, you do see a lot of folks, Anderson and Sanjay who are a bit hesitant and a little uneasy thinking that this thing has just passed.

GUPTA: You know, and David, there's been at least two companies here in the United States, as you know, that are moving forward with these large scale vaccine trials. What is China's progress on a potential vaccine?

[20:15:09] CULVER Actually, they've got about 13 that are in the works right

now. The majority of those are in Phase 3 of clinical trials and I even visited with one of the companies, SinoVac and they're moving forward with their trials outside of China.

The reason, Sanjay, that they give is they simply don't have the numbers. Certainly, the official government numbers are each day perhaps zero, maybe single digit reported cases coming in. So they feel like they don't have enough volunteers here, so they go to other places. Places like Brazil, places like Indonesia.

And the biggest issue that they're facing, I think, ultimately will be that of trust. Can you actually trust the vaccines given how quickly they're being processed? And one of the concerns is obviously transparency in that. You saw the vaccine AstraZeneca put on hold, the questions raised that would a Chinese company be that honest and open and transparent about saying where any flaws were coming up?

But the other side of that is, Sanjay and Anderson, they cannot afford negative public relations at this point. If the Chinese were to put a vaccine out into the world, especially given what happened with the initial outbreak and a lot of criticism coming from countries like the U.S. following that, then if it's anything less than effective, it's going to be huge backlash.

COOPER: David Culver, appreciate it. David, thanks very much.

Coming up next, taking your questions. Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health which is at the forefront of vaccine and treatment research for us all.

GUPTA: Yes, and later, we're going to be joined by the cousin of third grade teacher Demetria Bannister, who we just told you about a moment ago, just 28-years-old and she died of COVID this week.


COOPER: Welcome back to our CNN global Town Hall.

At the top of the program, we asked you this question, would you take a coronavirus vaccine as soon as it's released or do you have concerns? We asked you to tweet #CNNTownHall with the word ASAP or Concerns and tell us why. We're going to show you some of your responses in the bottom of the screen starting now.


GUPTA: And since our focus tonight is on vaccines, we want to welcome Dr. Francis Collins to our Global Town Hall. He is the Director of the National Institutes of Health. By the way, he also used to be my Genetics Professor in Med School where he asked me the questions, so tonight, we get to pose a few to him.

Dr. Collins, thank you for joining us.


GUPTA: We do want to talk about vaccines and we've got a lot of viewer questions about this, sir. But, I do want to ask also about this event tonight in Michigan, the President's event.

For months, health officials on the Coronavirus Taskforce have been urging people not to have mass gatherings and you see a lot of people you know, gathering together clearly without masks on most of them. I just have to ask, so what do you think when you see these images of an event like this?

F. COLLINS: It just deeply puzzles me, Sanjay, how did we get here? Imagine you were an alien who landed on planet Earth and you saw that our planet was afflicted by an infectious disease and that masks were an effective way to prevent the spread. And yet, when you went around, you saw some people not wearing them, and some people wearing them, and you tried to figure out why. And it turned out, it was their political party.

And you would scratch your head and think, this is just not a planet that has much promise for the future. If something that is so straightforward, can somehow get twisted into decision making that really makes no sense.

So I'm -- as a scientist, I'm pretty puzzled and rather disheartened.

COOPER: The President today said, quote, "We're going to have vaccines very soon, maybe much sooner than you think." He keeps hinting at this accelerated timeline put out by Election Day. Is that realistic? I mean, what's your current assessment of a vaccine timeline?

F. COLLINS: So, as the Director of the National Institutes of Health, this is my consuming passion and has been since January. And you've talked to my colleague, Tony Fauci many times who is the real expert in the Infectious Disease area, but I'm learning fast. And let me tell you, we have now six vaccines that are either already in Phase 3 trials are will be quite soon, each of those requiring 30,000 participants to be sure we have enough evidence to decide about safety and efficacy.

And it is moving forward at a pace that the world has never seen, but I will say not in a fashion that allows cutting corners with safety. I want to make that really clear. We sped up this process in a variety of ways, but not to compromise safety.

In fact, I would say these trials are more rigorous than almost any that have ever been done for vaccines. Will we be likely to have the results before November 3rd? I think all of us looking at those timetables say that that's really very unlikely, but much more likely we'll have a readout on one or more of these maybe in December, possibly in November, but late October seems beyond the likelihood that most of us can predict when you look at what has to happen between now and then.

GUPTA: You've emphasized this point before that it's going to be a safe and effective vaccine. You do know that nine vaccine makers signed the Safety Pledge this week to uphold, as they said, quote, "high ethical standards" suggesting that they're not going to seek premature government approval for COVID-19 vaccines.

I thought it was an extraordinary pledge, Dr. Collins. I'm just curious, what's your take on it was because it seemed to be in reaction to this erosion of trust of the F.D.A. nowadays? I mean, I hate saying it, but that does seem to be what sort of generated this.

F. COLLINS: I welcome that particular pledge. I think it was great those nine CEOs got together to do this. I think really, they were reacting to what they see as the public concerns about whether or not this is a vaccine that they should trust when it becomes rendered as safe and effective.

And they're trying to do everything they can to say, wait a minute, we are also part of this very complicated ecosystem. We're committed to safety and efficacy. We're not going to push something forward that isn't actually up to those standards.

Everybody, look at the all the players here, whether it's F.D.A., whether it's those CEOs, whether it's N.I.H., we are determined that science and science alone will be the way in which this decision gets made and I'm glad they added their voices today.

COOPER: There's a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll showing that the majority of Americans, 62 percent believe political pressure will cause the F.D.A. to rush a vaccine. Can you say anything to reassure people in this country that this process will be focused on science with no political interference?

Because I mean, to Sanjay his point, we have seen the F.D.A. just recently, you know, say they -- there would be no Emergency Use Authorization for the plasma treatment, then reversing themselves after the President threatened them and then the F.D.A. -- you know, the head of the FDA misstating the efficacy of it and then having to kind of walk it back and apologize.


F. COLLINS: Well, I think I can provide some reassurance about all the steps that are involved in this kind of decision making. First of all, there is something called the DSMB, that Data and Safety Monitoring Board that watches over these vaccine trials. They are the only people and they're not political appointees. They're scientists looking at the data. They're the only ones who are watching to see who got the vaccine and who got the placebo, and what happened.

Nobody else knows. Nobody else is unblinded, just that group. They aren't going to raise their hand and say, hey, it's time to look at this F.D.A., unless they see strong statistically convincing data that this vaccine is working and it's safe.

They might raise their hand and say, it's not working, give it up. They might raise their hand and say, there's a problem here like there was yesterday with the AstraZeneca trial, which needed to be put on clinical hold, but they are the first gate here in this process, and they're not going to start the ball rolling unless they see evidence, strict scientific evidence that something looks like it is working.

Then of course, it goes to the F.D.A. They have their own advisory process, this advisory committee, the Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, VRBPAC, that will be very engaged in looking at the evidence and advising F.D.A. about issuing or not an emergency use authorization. And we have the CEOs that you just mentioned who have also said they're not going to go to the F.D.A. unless they believe the data. They don't want their reputations to be smirched either.

A lot of people ought to feel pretty comfortable. There are a lot of protective steps here that will keep this from running off the rails.

GUPTA: There is some guidance though that comes, the F.D.A. does provide ahead of time, right? They gave this guidance saying for manufacturers who are working on the vaccine, they're asking for 50 percent efficacy that it works 50 percent. That's not normally done, is it?

I was trying to look back through the type of guidance that the F.D.A. provides. First of all, is this common and 50 percent? Does that seem like enough?

F. COLLINS: There was a lot of discussion about that. I think, again, ideally, you want a vaccine that's a hundred percent effective, and we hope one of these might actually turn out to be that.

But if you had a vaccine that was 50 percent effective, and that's all you had, maybe for the next year, you'd still want to use it. I mean, look at influenza. The vaccines every year are rarely better than 50 percent, and yet, we recommend everybody get them because it saves lives, and it certainly helps people maybe who aren't completely saved from a fatal outcome that they have a milder illness.

So 50 percent is not what you hope for, but a whole lot better than nothing. I think it was a reasonable decision.

COOPER: What do you make of the fact that we just found out that this pause in the AstraZeneca trial this week is actually the second pause and they never told us about the first one in July. Are you confident in what's going on at AstraZeneca?

F. COLLINS: I'm trying to find out a little bit more about why that first episode was not considered to be significant. There is some explanation that it seemed as if this was not related at all to the vaccine trial. I have to see some more information about that.

I do think, though, the fact that they did in this instance, say, okay, we need to put this on clinical hold. That should be reassuring to people. Like you said earlier, if this was China or Russia, do you think they would have stopped then and told the whole world that they might have a problem? I have to wonder about that. But in this instance, they did. That's, again, I think the DSMB

probably had a lot to do with that, and they're doing their job, saying, hang on here, we better look really carefully at the thousands of people who have gotten this vaccine and see if there are any subtle indications that other people had a similar problem, and until we know the answer to that, nobody is going to get further enrolled.

GUPTA: We talk a lot about the vaccine, but I wonder if I can ask a question as well about medicines to try and treat people who already have COVID.

The N.I.H. has launched this new stage trial about blood thinners specifically to treat COVID-19 patients. I'm wondering, you know, what can you tell us about that? If someone is on blood thinners now, would that be potentially protective and how would you assess the therapeutics or medicines for the virus right now?

F. COLLINS: Well, it's very important that we push hard on therapeutics. This partnership we have with 20 pharmaceutical companies and multiple N.I.H. Institutes and the F.D.A. and the C.D.C. has really been helping with that, something called active.

The trial announced today is to try to do a better job of figuring out exactly how we can prevent the blood clots that tend to be really serious in the people who have the most severe form of the illness, who are in the ICU, and we learned somewhere back in March and April that that was a pretty significant and unexpected part of this viral illness.

But we don't know exactly the right way to treat that. Do you give a low dose heparin? Do you give a high dose heparin? Do you use platelet inhibitors? This is a trial that aims to try to figure that out, and also to figure out should we be giving everybody as an outpatient, some sort of a gentle amount of a blood thinner like a baby aspirin or one of the platelet inhibitors?

Because maybe that would keep them from getting into real trouble. We don't know. It's time to find out. That's what clinical trials are all about.



FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NIH: -- a trial that aims to try to figure that out. And also to figure out should we be giving everybody as an outpatient, some sort of a gentle amount of a blood thinner, like a baby aspirin or one of the platelet inhibitors, because maybe that would keep them from getting into real trouble. We don't know it's time to find out. That's what clinical trials are all about.

COOPER: We want to give you real questions and Jerry in Indiana sent in this video. Let's take a look.


JERRY VUKE, REAL ESTATE APPRAISER: Hello, can you utilize more than one COVID-19 vaccine? As an example, a more effective vaccine becomes available after your initial vaccination. Thank you.


COOPER: What about that?

COLLINS: Lot of discussion about what would happen if one of the vaccines gets approved because it really has met this very high standard, but other trials are still going on. Do you ask those people who are part of those trials to continue or do you give them permission to jump over to the other one? A lot of ethical questions there as well. I think in general, it would be difficult if you had an approved vaccine to ask anybody who's in a trial to engage in a trial where there's a placebo, and then there's the vaccine, instead of that placebo, you would now probably introduce the approved vaccine, and then you try to see is the other one better. Recognize when we get that first approval, that's not the end of the story, it'll be probably something pretty good or they wouldn't have approved it. But maybe you could find something that's even more effective, especially in high risk groups. You could find something that doesn't require low temperature freezers in order to distribute it. All those things are going to be in play.

COOPER: Just quickly because I think he was wanting to know as a civilian, not in part of a trial, you know, if he got there early, first shot, if three months later another one comes available, that seems to be better, would he be able to get it -- could he take that also?

COLLINS: I don't know the precise answer because that would depend on the details, but that's certainly plausible. Look at where we are with shingles right now where we had a vaccine that was pretty good. And then there was one that was a lot better and everybody took both.

COOPER: OK, interesting. This next question came in via Facebook with our hashtag CNN Town Hall to the bottom of your screen, it reads, what do you say to close relatives who believe the disease just has to, quote unquote, run its course and there's nothing to do about it?

COLLINS: Well run its course think that through, it suppose we decided, oh, well, let's give up all of these public health measures and just let it rip. The estimates are another 2 million people would die. Is that a, an outcome that any of us are willing to accept? I would say no. And so, running its course doesn't seem like the kind of option that a thinking person would want to embrace.

Meanwhile, we have to practice the public health measures where the mass keep six feet apart, don't congregate indoors. And while we're waiting for the therapeutics and the vaccines to really kick in, it's kind of up to all of us to keep those lives that are otherwise going to be in jeopardy. And I guess right now I'm talking to young people, especially, who may feel that they're somehow immortal, they might be less likely to get really sick, but they could be the super spreader. So OK, if you don't care about being a super spreader and infecting a lot of vulnerable people, Fine, go out and go to the bar and don't wear your mask. But if you have any concerns like that, it's up to you just like it's up to me, and it's up to all of us.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We have another question here, this response to her question about whether people would take a vaccine as soon as it's released. This came in from a viewer via Twitter, you can look at it there at the bottom of the screen, it reads my family will not be taking it referring to the vaccine. We don't take the flu shot, definitely not going to take the COVID shot. We don't have underlying conditions. And our doctor says it's not necessary. Dr. Collins, what do you think?

COLLINS: I know there are a lot of people who are skeptical and distressful about where we are right now. I would just ask all of those who have already kind of make up their mind to say, hang on a minute right now, we really don't have the evidence to say about safety and efficacy. Why don't we wait until we actually have some of that and then decide, and don't let somebody else tell you what the answer should be and certainly don't depend on those crazy conspiracy theories you can find on social media. Come on, let's look at the actual facts. And then each of us can decide does that make sense for me and my family? Wait and see. I'm guessing that might change a lot of minds.

COOPER: Dr. Francis Collins, it's really good to have you on the show. It's really -- we really appreciate your expertise and your honesty. Thank you.

GUPTA: Thanks, Professor.

COLLINS: Glad to be with you. Nice to see you both.

COOPER: Just ahead, Sanjay along. Dr. Leana Wen will answer more of your questions. And (INAUDIBLE) cousin of the South Carolina School teacher who died of complication from COVID-19 this week. 28 years old.



COOPER: As we mentioned earlier, according to new CNN -- to new reporting from CNN and local media, at least three school teachers in three states have passed away in recent weeks due to complications of COVID-19. I'm going to tell you about one of those teachers now. 28- year-old Demetria Demi Bannister. She taught third grade at Windsor Elementary in Columbia, South Carolina. Virtually this year -- she taught virtually this year, she died Monday, three days after the school was alerted to her diagnosis and just over a week after her last teacher work day at school. Demi was known as the school songbird for her work with the choir and aspiring singers. Principal said Ms. Bannister loved her students never miss an opportunity to advocate for students and public education.

I'm joined now by her cousin Terrance Bannister. Terrance thanks so much for being with us. I'm so sorry for your loss and your family's loss. How are you, how are Demi's parents doing? I understand she was she was an only child and she lived with her parents.

TERRANCE BANNISTER, LOST COUSIN "DEMI" TO COVID-19: Right. Right now we all trying to cope with (INAUDIBLE) father tonight. He just want to her legacy to continue to go on. Demetria was a soldier for us. She always asked us free spirited, she always kept the family together. She will sit seven family community committees. She just did a lot for us and we're going to miss her.

COOPER: And that picture that we've seen of her with her smile outside her classroom. I mean, she it looks like the kind of teacher I wish I had. She -- was she -- did she did she loved teaching?

BANNISTER: Demetria love teaching. She practiced on us when she first initially got her teaching certificate we all --

COOPER: She practice on you, that's great.

BANNISTER: That's right. You know, I have some young kids. You know, we had those in the audience well, but she enjoyed her job. She enjoy teaching and educating people and you could, you know, you could call her in the middle of the night, hey, so and so needs help with a tutor and she would do it. She would meet them at a local Starbucks or whatever. She just was a one person.


GUPTA: Terrance, I'm curious because it sounds like they, you know, she was teaching virtually that was the plan for the school year. But she had these teacher days. So she may have been in and out of the school. I mean, maybe we never know. But did she have any idea did the family I mean, how she may have contracted this? Was she nervous about being exposed to the virus?

BANNISTER: She was very well aware that, you know, just like all of us in this in the community that, you know, we could get it any time. I wouldn't say she was nervous, but she just was aware.

COOPER: She loved the school choir. I heard that she was known as the songbird of Windsor Elementary and I just want to play a short clip of her singing with another cousin?

It's so beautiful. Was that a normal day for her stopped by a family member's house and spend time singing together?

BANNISTER: Yes. They enjoy being together and they would do things like that just hanging out and singing. (INAUDIBLE), they love just hanging out together.

GUPTA: I'm so sorry again, Terrance for your for your loss. I do have to ask, you know, what schools opening around the country there are so many scared families out there. I think families are both teachers and students. I know that Demi's parents allowed their daughter story to be told so that others would know the risks. But what is the message your family wants to get out there tonight.

BANNISTER: Stay safe, live your life. Follow the protocols as we should, you know wear your mask, wash your hands. It just stay safe.


COOPER: Terrance, thank you so much for spending some time with us and in your grief sharing your family with us and your memories. I really appreciate it.

BANNISTER: Thank you, no problem. I appreciate you having this song and I just make sure everybody knows that Demetria loves education.

COOPER: That's, you can see it. You can see that in her face and certainly in her work, thank you so much and we'll be thinking of you and her parents and the whole family. Thank you so much, Terrance.

Joining Sanjay to help answer questions Dr. Leana Wen emergency room physician, visiting professor at George Washington University and former Baltimore Health Commissioner. Dr. Wen, great to see you. I haven't seen you for a while. How's your new baby?

LEANA WEN, FMR BALITMORE HEALTH COMMISSIONER: She's doing wonderfully. Thank you for asking. She's five months old. How's Wyatt doing?

COOPER: He's good. He's good. He's like four and two weeks. So, I never know if you're supposed to say, what 8, 10 weeks or anyway. I have I don't know. It's very strange the whole month thing versus weeks but I'm glad --

WEN: It becomes months and then years at some point.

COOPER: Yes. Sanjay just -- I mean, a heartbreaking story out of South Carolina. Demi Bannister, 28 years old. So many teachers across the country obviously are worried. Our first question is from Hilary, a teacher in Connecticut. Let's listen.


HILARY GODIN, ART TEACHER: I'm a high school teacher. And my question is, what should I tell my students who will all be wearing masks and suddenly have to sneeze? Should students carry extra masks with them so they can change out to a fresh one when this happens?


GUPTA: This is such a good question. Yes, I mean, I. So first of all, you know, I mean, maybe this goes without saying, if you're having symptoms, actual symptoms, then you should stay home. But if this is sort of a spontaneous sneeze or something like that, it can be challenging. Yes, I think the best thing is you want to carry extra masks, maybe even a baggie to put the old mask in, so that you can change out masks if you have enough of a heads up, so to speak. When you're sneezing, you could take the mask off you had tissue paper to cover your mouth and your nose, and then obviously throw that away. But yes, again, if you're sick truly sick stay home. Otherwise bring extra masks in baggie.


COOPER: I just got to give a shout out to our teachers because she's an art teacher. I had Ms. Diane Footleg (ph), Sheila and Bob Lahontan (ph) where my art teacher. All from gone back to kindergarten all the way through. And yes --

GUPTA: It's impressive.

COOPER: Yes. And there -- they were just such wonderful people. And I just love our teachers. So Sanjay, Jonathan from Baltimore has a question about how COVID deaths are impacting different communities. He writes, initially COVID deaths were disproportionately people of color compromised folks, the elderly, frontline workers, as we move forward in time, has the demographic of death shifted or does remain the same?

GUPTA: Yes, it's interesting, and we've talked a lot about this. There's definitely a disparity with regard to who's infected, who's hospitalized and who dies, we can show some of these numbers up. We've collected some of this data over time. And the biggest change that we've seen over the past few months is really the age. People who are becoming infected have are younger now than they were in the beginning. Probably because of increased mobility. But take a look at this, this is hospitalization rates by ethnicity. Black Americans, almost five times more likely to be hospitalized, Native Americans more than five times likely to be hospitalized. So that disparity still remains.

COOPER: And Dr. Wen, we continue to see these disparities in the healthcare system.

WEN: That's right. And we see these disparities mirrored in children as well, but it's also black, Hispanic, Native American children who are more likely to be hospitalized and to die. And there needs to be said that COVID-19 is not a virus that discriminates. It's our system that discriminates. And COVID-19 has unmasked these underlying disparities. And so, we have to address short term issues. For example, we have to make sure that testing reaches all communities, in particular, those that are the most affected, but we also have to work on long term systemic change as well, including recognizing that racism is in itself a public health issue.

COOPER: Dr. Wen, Alan from New York sent in this video.


ALAN ANIBAL, MUSIC TEACHER: Hi, both of my parents over 65 years old survived COVID-19 through Drug Administration, but no need of hospitalization. Does that mean that my child and I'd have more chances of survival?


COOPER: Dr. Wen?

WEN: Yes. So, this is an interesting question. And I am glad that Alan that your parents are doing well. You know, there's there are a lot of mysteries around COVID-19. And one of them that we still don't know much about is why it is that certain people get very sick, certain people get mildly sick and others don't get sick at all, but are able to transmit it to others. Now, we do know that age and underlying medical conditions that predisposes people to severe effects. And there are some studies that are beginning to show that some genes could be associated with severe illness from COVID-19. But as to whether that's passed down from person to person, we still don't know and we should all use an abundance of caution and stay on guard and recognize that we could all become ill from this disease that's still very dangerous, highly contagious. And so, we should all use an abundance of caution and stay on guard.

GUPTA: I think it's so important, right? I mean, this idea again, that I mean, young people, I think the storyline seems to be, you know, we're not worried about it. We're not really going to get sick. You're seeing that a lot on college campuses. I mean, there are it is less likely, but it does happen. I've seen some of these patients in the hospital and, you know, perfectly healthy. Again, rare, but it does happen. And we don't know why. I mean, six, seven months into this, Leana, it's still a little bit unclear, maybe it's genetic. Maybe it's something else. Sometimes it's your own inflammatory system over reacts to the virus. That's a cytokine storm, but it can be really, really devastating when it happens.

COOPER: It's also I mean, long term. I mean, I think they call them long haulers that we're seeing more and more evidence of sort of lingering effects, and sometimes very severe effects, whether it's on the heart on the brain or other parts of the body.

WEN: And I think that's the other part of this virus that we just again, don't know exactly why. But that makes it so dangerous that even though it's a respiratory virus, it certainly doesn't just affect the lungs. I mean, I've treated patients who are in their 30s and 40s, who have gotten strokes, and are now debilitated for life because of this virus. There are patients who have maybe many years of kidney damage and heart damage that they may never recover from because of this. And so again, we should all know that even though things are open, and we can now go back to doing a lot of the things that we can do before the pandemic, that doesn't mean that we should, it doesn't mean that it's safe.

COOPER: Will also -- I mean Sanjay, you know, you hear people there was a gentleman quoted earlier at one of the at the rally tonight in Michigan that the President had, and he was saying, look, I you know, if I die, I die, you know, the country needs to get back to, you know back to business if I die, I die. It's not just a either or proposition is not, oh, I just die and, you know and that's it.


The other option is you're hobbled for the rest of your life with, you know, lingering, painful, debilitating conditions and are a burden on your family and the healthcare system for the rest of your entire life

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, you know, we saw some of this, even in the early days, looking at some of the data from China, you know, I mean, we tend to put things in this sort of binary thing as you as you mentioned, you know, either you unfortunately died or you are considered recovered, survived and recovered, but there are a lot of people who sort of fall in between. Absolutely, and even, you know, again, younger patients, it's rare, but you know, the stories of people who, you know, were even athletes and now have difficulty running even a few blocks. I think, you know, that that's something that really, I think has caused a lot of concern in the medical community.

We're seeing this in college athletes even there are real concerns about that. And you could still spread the virus. Right, he's like if I get it, you know, it happens but you -- what if you gave it to somebody else, you know, a significant other someone in your community. There's a real concern.

COOPER: Dr. Wen Victoria from California has a question that I think a lot of us to, let's take a look.


VICTORIA SCHMIDT, RETIRED REGISTERED DIETITIAN: When should I get my flu shot? I'm 69 years old and have no health issues.


COOPER: I got my flu shot already. I went to CVS. They just they did it. I was like, wait, wait, is it ever too early or too late to get a flu shot Dr. Wen?

WEN: Yes, so actually, right now is exactly the best time to get a flu shot. You should get the flu shot at the beginning of the flu season in September or October. July, August and may be a little bit early especially for older individuals who may need more protection throughout the entire flu season and February March and may be a bit late because the flu season has mainly already passed, although you should still get it if you haven't gotten it by then.

The main takeaway I think for everyone right now is get a flu shot this season, it's never been more important. We are facing the potential twin dynamics of the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. And we don't have a vaccine for COVID-19 yet, but we do have for the flu and the flu has ends up hospitalizing hundreds of thousands of people every year, tens of thousands of people die. And so, if we could protect ourselves against one of these things we should.

COOPER: Have you guys gotten your flu shots yet? GUPTA: I actually haven't yet. Now inspired by you. I will be getting that probably. Yes.

COOPER: It couldn't be any easier. I'm telling you. I really think it was a revelation to me that the pharmacist can inject you with stuff. So I was like, OK, yes, sure. I'll do it.

GUPTA: I feel like I had to talk you into flu shots and --

COOPER: You did? Yes. I never -- for years, I never got them. I was like, you know, some? Yes, I was like, what's the point? I'm young, who cares? And then my doctor was like, what are you're an idiot. What are you talking about? Of course, you know, flu shot, and then I realized, yes, oh, yes, I'm an idiot.

Another one for Dr. Wen. Hannah has a question about face shield. She writes Dr. Burks Birx warned that coronavirus will be very severe in the fall and winter. She warned people to wear a face shield in addition to mask. Should the face shield be worn only when there's an outbreak in certain areas? There's this warning for all states even when there are no outbreaks.

I don't know that Dr. Birx warned, I know Dr. Fauci was talking to teachers and we asked him about this on the town hall. And he said, look, this was like a sentence I said to some teachers like, you know, if you have a mask and you have a face shield, sure wear it if your concern. He felt it was kind of taken out of context, should people wear a face shield and mask?

WEN: I think it depends. If you are a very high risk individual and you live in an area with a lot of virus surge, and for whatever reason, you have to go to a crowded indoor setting. And of course, I would advise that people don't go to crowded indoor settings. But let's say that you're older you have to get to a medical appointment. You have to take the bus to get there. It's really crowded, or you have to go grocery shopping and you can't physically distance that you could consider wearing both a face shield and a mask. Coronavirus could be transmitted through your eyes. Also a face shield can just provide further protection. I don't think it's something that everyone needs to do. Although everyone needs to make sure that we're wearing our masks correctly, I still see so many people walking around with their nose hanging out or the mask around their chins. And so, the consistent use of the mask is really the most important thing.

COOPER: I've been told Dr. Birx did in fact say that, so Dr. Birx and also Dr. Fauci said that at some point. Dr. Leana Wen, thank you so much, great to have you on.

GUPTA: Thanks Leana.

COOPER: Still to come more on how you can help others as well as yourselves and loved ones. We'll be right back.


[20:58:46] COOPER: Welcome back to our CNN Global Townhall: Coronavirus Facts and Fears. We hope tonight you've we've helped to answer some of your questions about the pandemic.

GUPTA: You know, I want to emphasize something that I think we've said from the beginning. We are going to get through this. We're going to get through this together. I do know there's a lot of Corona fatigue out there. People don't want to hear about it. Not even this guy Anderson. We found this picture and this guy did not want to hear about and had no interest (INAUDIBLE) --

COOPER: That was this morning. Yes, that was why this morning he was, first of all, he was just mocking me for reading an actual newspaper. He was like, who's this old man I'm stuck with and why is he reading that? He of course just reads online but these kids today.

GUPTA: You're doing the virtual education.


GUPTA: He's cute, four and a half months. You know, our impact your world team has also put together a bunch of resources at for how you can help during the coronavirus pandemic. You're going to find ideas there for where you can donate or find help for yourself or a loved one.

COOPER: Sanjay thanks very much as always, our 21st town hall. A big thanks to Dr. Francis Collins as well as Terrance Bannister and we want to thank all of you who wrote in with your questions or sending videos. If you didn't get your question answered tonight that conversation continues at

Also programming note Saturday morning CNN and Sesame Street are teaming together for a town hall for families, we love Sesame Street. The ABCs of Back to School. It's an hour special staying safe in classrooms making the most of virtual learning. It's Saturday morning 10:00 a.m. Eastern here on CNN.


The news continues right now with Chris Cuomo. Chris?