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Trump Returning to Campaign Trail After COVID Diagnosis; Trump Campaign Stand By Misleading Commercial; U.S. Schools Adapting to In- Person and Virtual Learning; Russia Reports 13,500+ New COVID-19 Cases; Volunteers in Britain Take Part in COVID-19 Vaccine Trials; Qantas Sells Out Sightseeing "Flight to Nowhere". Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired October 12, 2020 - 04:30   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. We do want to recap our top story. The U.S. President is returning to the campaign trail ten days after announcing he had COVID-19. He insists he's totally negative, and even immune from the virus. This as polls show most voters are critical of his pandemic response.

The Trump team wants to change that with a new campaign ad, but it may have backfired already. It uses a clip from Dr. Anthony Fauci out of context in an effort to falsely suggest he's praising the President. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus and so is America. Together, we rose to meet the challenge. President Trump tackled the virus head on as leaders should.



CHURCH: Let us talk now with CNN political commentator, Dr. Abdul el- Sayed. He endorsed Bernie Sanders for president this year. Also, CNN political commentator, Alice Stewart. She is a former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz. Welcome to you both.



CHURCH: So, Alice, I do want to start with you. President Trump talks a lot about fake news, and yet his latest ad uses a quote from Dr. Anthony Fauci taken out of context. Dr. Fauci said he did not give permission for his words to be used and has never endorsed a political candidate. It's exactly this sort of behavior that adds to the distrust many voters are feeling right now, with the Trump administration. Polls showing 6 in 10 voters disapproving with the way he is dealing with the pandemic. So, what do you say to that?

STEWART: Well, Rosemary, it's pretty clear that for quite some time, the last couple months, the administration has considered Dr. Fauci the bogeyman when it came to the coronavirus, and really downplayed a lot of the advice and information he was portraying. But they realized that he certainly had the support and faith of the American people, and the information and the warnings that he had been giving were actually helpful and correct.

So, I understand why the campaign would want to use his comments and advice that he was giving, because people do support him. These are the kinds of things from a campaign standpoint, you generally do run it by the person that you are using, but this was just a situation where they clearly saw that COVID is a situation that they need to get in front of. They need to show someone that has strength and confidence in the American people. And that's exactly why they did this.

CHURCH: Doctor, what is your reaction to that?

EL-SAYED: It is the height of cynicism. Right? They have to the point where the White House actually released a number of times, a sheet of indications of where Dr. Fauci got it wrong, as if to downplay him. Despite the fact that as you noted, he is one of the country's most trusted experts on COVID-19. And then they turn around and cynically use his likeness and his words taken out of context in a campaign ad. I just think it's such a cynical ploy on the part of the campaign that is clearly drowning right now.

CHURCH: And Alice, the President's physician gave him the all clear to do upcoming rallies and then in a call to prayer, Mr. Trump said he tested totally negative for COVID, but that is not what his doctor said. In fact, his physician avoided stating directly that the President had tested negative, but instead said he is no longer considered a transmission risk. Why the play on words here? And why is it OK to put people at risk at these rallies?

STEWART: Right, Rosemary. I will believe that the President has tested negative for coronavirus when the doctor looked squarely in the camera and acknowledges as much. And the reality is just because it is OK for him to go out and conduct rallies again, doesn't mean that that's what should be done.


I think it's imperative, especially given the fact that he is just recovering from COVID that they need to use caution. They need to socially distance. They need to avoid large crowds, encourage mask wearing. That is the advice moving forward.

Look, he does need to get out there. He does need to get his message out there. He had the perfect opportunity to do so this week, and in the debate with Joe Biden, and he decided that he didn't want to participate in that when it was being done virtually. That was a tremendously huge missed opportunity. But he is moving full speed ahead, going out there to meet face to face with voters, which is very important, because the poll numbers, not just nationally but in a lot of these key battleground states, he needs to make up some ground. And this is the best way, obviously they feel they need to do so by holding rallies.

CHURCH: Doctor, what's your reaction to finding out that the President will be going to Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa in the coming week?

EL-SAYED: It's quite clear given what his physician said that they were looking for a test that they could use that wouldn't say that he is positive for COVID-19 to give him some kind of fig leaf for the wantonly irresponsible choices that him and his campaign are making, to take a clearly sick man who could be shedding virus out onto the campaign trail, to potentially infect many other people after having already been a part of a super spreader event based at the White House that left 37 people and counting sick. And so, this is just, I just think, it is in keeping with the level of cynicism and lack of honesty with the American people. And a disdain for the well-being of the folks around him, that the President is making these choices.

CHURCH: And many thanks to Dr. Abdul el-Sayed and Alice Stewart for joining me.

Well, the Trump administration has been pushing for schools to reopen for in-person learning. This despite the President's own son doing virtual school. But it's left it up to the schools and local health officials to figure out how to do so safely. CNN's Bianna Golodryga has our report.


KAREN NGOSSO, ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER: I have this just up here so that the kids can refer back to it.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST (voice-over): For the past six months, Karen Ngosso has been teaching her third graders from this makeshift classroom in her Baltimore home.

NGOSSO: We connect first thing in the morning. We make that connection, and you find just a huge amount of information just asking that question. How's everybody doing?

GOLODRYGA: The first few weeks of remote learning last spring were challenging. Ngosso says less than half of her 42 students regularly logged in for class. And those that did seem gripped with fear.

NGOSSO: I can vividly remember this one student of mine. He was like, Am I going to die from COVID? Am I going to catch it? Do I have it already? Because I was coughing yesterday.

GOLODRYGA: The start to this school year has been much better.

NGOSSO: Everybody is coming on every day, even with all the technical issues and things like that. People are logging in.

GOLODRYGA: Also, better -- the city's seven-day average of new COVID- 19 cases, down to 65 from a high of almost 158 in July. Yet, online learning has not been without its challenges. Less than two weeks into the school year, fewer than two-thirds of Baltimore public school students were able to log into virtual learning classes, according to Sonja Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City public schools.

And while most of the nation's largest school districts began the semester fully online, nearly half are offering some form of in-person learning.

EMILY OSTER, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR: We can follow case rates and the kids in schools where pretty low.

GOLODRYGA: Without a federal tracking system, it is difficult to compile official data on school-related cases. However, initial data from some 700 school districts, collected by Brown University's COVID- 19 School Response Dashboard, suggests spread within schools may not be as rampant as feared.

OSTER: We had about 120, 130,000 kids in in-person learning.

GOLODRYGA: Confirmed cases were found in less than two-tenths of a percent of students.

OSTER: The rates in staff are a bit higher than that but still really quite low.

GOLODRYGA: As more is learned about the virus, experts are also learning which students appear more vulnerable, according to this initial data.

JENNIFER NUZZO, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: What we have seen is that sort of age- related phenomenon play out in the case numbers, where younger children are less likely to be represented.

GOLODRYGA: In New York City, where nearly half a million students returned to school buildings last week, already signs of trouble. One hundred and sixty-nine public schools are now closed to students after an uptick of COVID cases in their neighborhoods.

Karen Ngosso believes that schools should remain closed for now. The risks, in her view, far outweigh the benefits, even when presented with early data.

NGOSSO: You want to make sure it's safe. I don't want to be a guinea pig to see, you know, is it safe? I know what I do in my space.


You know, I know how I'm handling the pandemic. But I can't control what anybody else does.

GOLODRYGA: Bianna Golodryga, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: And just ahead, why some young volunteers are willing to expose themselves to COVID-19 for vaccine trials.


ESTEFANIA HIDALGO, 1 DAY SOONER VOLUNTEER: This was a way for me to take back control of the situation to be like, OK, I can do this, to make it better.


CHURCH: Next, more from volunteers deliberately putting themselves in COVID's way for the greater good. Back in a moment.


CHURCH: Within the last hour, Russia has reported its new case total for Monday, more than 13,000. That is a slight decrease after three straight days of record high increases in new infections.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins me live from Moscow. Good to see you, Fred. So, Russia has set a new daily record for these confirmed coronavirus cases. What is the latest on that, and what might it reveal about the efficacy of Russia's COVID vaccine?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think very little about the actual efficacy. Because that's something that's still being tested by the Russian authorities. But it certainly shows that despite the fact that the Russian vaccine has been certified, it's still pretty far away from being available to the general population here in this country.

One of the things that we have to keep in mind about the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, Rosemary, is that it was certified by the Russian authorities without having gone through those key phase 3 trials which of course are the big large-scale trials to determine whether or not a vaccine works and whether or not it is safe. So, the Russians still fairly at the beginning of those phase 3 trials, even though they have said that they believe the vaccine will work.


And it seems as though the authorities are acknowledging that fact as well, that they are going to have to go through this wave of infections they are seeing right now in the country without having a vaccine widely available. In fact, the Moscow mayor just said yesterday, he said, look, in a couple of months, as he put it, there will be a vaccine available on an industrial scale, but right now it's up to the population to get through this very testing phase at the moment.

The Russian authorities are urging people to stick by the anti- pandemic measures. Moscow itself, of course, is really the epicenter here in Russia. I was looking at the numbers just now, and it's around 4,400 new infections over the past 24 hours. It was around 4,500 the day before. So, they continue to remain very high.

They put some new measures in place already. They've extended some of the school holidays a little bit. But they're also saying that if things don't get better, that new additional measures might have to be put in place as well -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, many thanks to Fred Pleitgen joining us live from Moscow.

And Chinese officials are scrambling to ramp up testing after a new cluster of COVID-19 cases in Qingdao. The northeastern port city is home to some 9 million people, and officials hope to test all of them within the next five days. Authorities are tracking at least a dozen new cases, all linked to a local hospital. That hospital is now on lockdown with more than 114,000 people having been tested.

Well, at least one neighboring city is urging residents to stay away from Qingdao. Central China was the original COVID-19 epicenter, but the local outbreak was brought under control after an intense lockdown.

In Britain, some volunteers are actually eager to deliberately be exposed to the coronavirus to test the effectiveness of vaccine candidates. They're young and fit, but human trials come with risks of course. CNN's Phil Black caught up with some of those volunteers.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like so many, Estefania Hidalgo has quietly endured the challenge, the inconvenience, of living through a pandemic. But she wanted to do more.

ESTEFANIA HIDALGO, 1 DAY SOONER VOLUNTEER: This was a way for me to take control of the situation, to feel like I was in a more -- or in a less hopeless place, in a less hopeless world. And be like OK, I can do this, to make it better. I chose not to be in fear.

BLACK: So, she volunteered to be deliberately infected with the coronavirus.

HIDALGO: I was shaking but then I just, without knowing, I just typed my name in and was like let's go for it. I want to be a part of it --

BLACK (on camera): Shaking?

HIDALGO: Yes. Because it can be scary, right? Like you're going to be potentially exposed to the virus.


BLACK (voice-over): Alexander Fraser Urquhart is also very keen to be infected.

ALISTAIR FRASER-URQUHART: I've just got the email.

BLACK: He helps with running the recruitment campaign Estefania has signed up to. 1 Day Sooner finds volunteers -- so far tens of thousands around the world -- and has been lobbying the U.K. government to make use of them through potentially risky research.

ALISTAIR FRASER-URQUHART: I wake up thinking about science trials, I go back to bed thinking about science trials.

BLACK: Challenge trails involve giving young, healthy people a potential vaccine. Like this one developed by London's Imperial College. Then later, testing by deliberately dozing them with the virus. Proponents say it's faster than waiting for test subjects to be exposed to a specific virus in the real world.

With numerous COVID-19 vaccines being developed, some scientists think challenge trials could help identify the best of them sooner.

ALISTAIR FRASER-URQUHART: By taking that small risk on myself, I can potentially protect thousands of other peoples from, you know, having to be infected without consenting to it.

BLACK: Critics say challenge trials have limited use because the young healthy people who take part don't represent the broader population. They have been used against other viruses.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Hi, Tom, welcome to FluCamp.


UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Through to quarantine then?


BLACK: This is corporate video from a London facility that recruits, exposes and strictly quarantines people to test influenza vaccines.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: We've got a wonderful safety record that we're all proud of.

BLACK: But there are always risks. Especially with a new virus that's already killed more than a million people. And epidemiologists say it's likely some volunteers would be needed for a control group, to make sure the virus does -- can cause disease. It means they'd be exposed to the coronavirus without receiving a vaccine. The real potential for doing harm to volunteers would be closely scrutinized by regulators.

PROFESSOR SIR TERENCE STEPHENSON, CHAIR OF ENGLAND'S HEALTH RESEARCH AUTHORITY: A challenge trial would have to make the cogent argument that the benefits to society greatly outweighed the risk. And that that evidence of those data could not be achieved in a simpler or safer way.


BLACK: Test subjects in challenge trials are compensated financially but Alistair's father knows that's not motivating his son.

ANDREW FRASER-URQUHART QC, VOLUNTEER'S FATHER: It's at the forefront of science and technology. It's something to benefit others. It's something rather brave, it's something slightly different. And that's him in a nutshell.

ALISTAIR FRASER-URQUHART: To be totally honest, I really don't care what he says. I do what I like.

BLACK: A crucial ingredient for any COVID-19 challenge trial will be the determined idealism of its young volunteers.

Phil Black. CNN, London.


CHURCH: Brave young people there.

Well still ahead, would you take a flight from Sydney to Sydney? How an Australian airline is aiming to boost spirits with a flight to nowhere. Back with that in a moment.


CHURCH: Well, Australia's Qantas Airlines took a scenic flight to nowhere Saturday. The flight sold out in just minutes. And hours after its departure, passengers were delighted to be right back where they started. Kim Brunhuber has the story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Qantas Flight 787 to Sydney now ready for boarding.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These die-hard travelers in Australia, many of them grounded for months because of coronavirus restrictions, are ready to embark on their next adventure, even if it's only a seven-hour flight on Qantas Airways, from Sydney to Sydney. For them, it's about the journey, not the destination.

WARREN GOODRIDGE, PASSENGER: Oh, it's very upsetting for us. Because we love traveling and so on, and as soon as we saw this one here, Jason and I thought, We've got to go on this one.

BRUNHUBER: Tickets to the so-called "flight to nowhere" sold out within ten minutes. The airline says middle seats were left empty so passengers could social distance.

The Boeing Dreamliner flew over some of Australia's iconic sites, for a birds-eye view of places like Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, it was spectacular. I thought that some of the sites that we saw today, one would never get the chance to see it quite like that. I felt that I was so close to a lot of them.

BRUNHUBER: And, of course, there was an in-flight meal for that special class of people who miss eating a meal at 30,000 feet. The experience is designed to be a morale boost for travelers yearning to fly again, and an airline that posted a nearly $1.5 billion loss earlier this year because of the pandemic.

CAPTAIN LISA NORMA, QANTAS 787 FLEET MANAGER: It's been a very challenging year. And you know when flying's in your blood, you know, I think we're all really struggling.

BRUNHUBER: Critics say flights like these are just joyrides and harm the environment, though Qantas says the flight will be fully carbon offset.

ALEX PASSERINI, PILOT: Hopefully, we've -- we've planted some seeds in terms of people's next holiday plans. We want more of these flights. Can't wait to get airborne again.

BRUNHUBER: And not to be outdone by the airlines, Singapore announced a travel plan to begin cruises with no port stops in November. An embattled travel industry that's taking the staycation to the next level.

Kim Brunhuber, CNN, Atlanta.


CHURCH: Makes me home sick.

Thanks so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. "EARLY START" is up next. You're watching CNN. Have yourselves a great day.