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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 25,000; Trump Backs Away From His 'Total Authority" Claim, Now Says He Will Work With Governors To Reopen Country; Trump Halts U.S. Funding For WHO; Pres. Trump Claims About 20 States Could Open Soon; Fauci Says May 1st Reopening "A Bit Overly Optimistic;" Nurse: "It's Like Going to War Every Day". Aired 8-9p ET
Aired April 14, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening, thanks for joining us today. After saying that his authority to tell States when to life coronavirus restrictions is "total". President Trump tonight reversed himself without acknowledging that he was reversing himself completely.
At a briefing that was preceded by a day of jousting with Democratic Governors over this very issue, as more Americans died or fell ill, the President tonight said that governors, not him, will decide when to reopen their States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will be speaking to all 50 governors very shortly and I will then be authorizing each individual governor, of each individual State, to implement a reopening and a very powerful reopening plan of their State at a time and in a manner as most appropriate. The day will be very close because certain States, are you know, are in much different condition and in a much different place than other States. It's going to be very, very close, maybe even before the date of May, 1st.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So keeping him honest as constitutional scholars and other experts on the subject have pointed out and as we pointed out last night, the governors do not need the President's authorization. They are not sitting by the phone waiting for an official authorization to reopen their States.
In addition, saying "before the date of May, 1st" as the President puts it, that is before the expiration of the Center for Disease Control Social Distancing Guidelines as they now stand and just today, Dr Anthony Fauci, called a May, 1st reopening in parts of the country "a bit overly optimistic" and said with the wide spread testing that would be needed to safely lift restrictions, "we're not there yet".
That said, it was as close to a total about-face as one can imagine, though unacknowledged. And though it certainly is the lead story or tens of millions of Americans worried about their safety but also about their jobs, it was not what the President began the briefing with today.
He started by announcing a halt on US funding for the World Health Organization. The President blaming it for opposing his restrictions on travel from China. Also he said, for failing to inform the world about a lack of transparency from China on the outbreak.
Now, there are certainly very legitimate criticisms to be had on the WHO and of China and CNN has reported on them extensively. However, not so long ago, the President was expressing a very different view of each, on China.
He's a tweet from the President, January, 24th, "China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi." Transparency.
A month later, here's a tweet on the WHO, quoting again from the President, "The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CBC and World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock market starting to look very good to me." Then and now, just four days later, the first American would die of coronavirus.
Today, the death toll topped 25,000. CNN's Kaitlan Collins was in the Rose Garden for tonight's briefing. She joins us now. Certainly, the - I mean, so much for the President being in charge of how the country will eventually reopen. I mean, it's a complete 180 from what he said yesterday, though he doesn't acknowledge he was just wrong.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, he - he isn't saying, you know, "I don't have total authority of this. Actually, the governors will make these decisions." Now, he's framing it more as he's coordinating with these governors, which as we noted last night, is what these governors would like. Federal guidance on this, they just don't want the Federal Government to try to dictate what they're doing.
And Anderson, the President's change in - change in position today came after constitutional scholars were saying he was wrong, Republican lawmakers, even Republican Governors, in addition to those Democratic Governors that he referenced in Twitter not that long ago when he was saying that they were essentially trying to have some kind of a mutiny and was invoking that movie talking about this. You know, that was just this morning.
And now, he's striking a much more cooperative tone, talking about reopening the country. But what's also going to be notable is the President was hinting that there are some places, some States, that could open before these guidelines that they've put out, expire at the end of the month. Anderson, he did not name those States but of course, that comes after Fauci said it's likely most of the country would be ready to open by that May 1 deadline. COOPER: The - the President also said that the US was halting funding to the - or pausing funding to the World Health Organization. You tried to point out that he himself had been praising the World Health Organization for the exact things he is now criticizing them for. He didn't really have - he certainly didn't answer your question.
COLLINS: No, and another reporter had actually tried to ask that question before me, pointing to the president's January tweet where he praised china for its transparency when it came to the coronavirus. That is exactly what he criticized the WHO for tonight, saying that was in part one of the reasons he was withholding this funding pending this review, saying it was because they had praised China for being transparent here. So the president was criticizing them for something he had done.
One reporter tried to ask him about it. The president didn't answer that question. He was talking about his trade deal with China. Then I tried to follow up on that question repeatedly. He was talking about the travel restrictions that he has touted many, many times. But that is not, of course, the same thing as what the president's tweet said. He didn't walk that tweet back or say anything about that.
He said he hadn't called them transparent when, of course, we have seen the tweet where the president has. And this has come, you know, overall where the president has repeatedly spoken with the Chinese leader, praised them for their efforts on coronavirus, said that they have it under control several times and, of course, he did not answer that question tonight about why he's criticizing the WHO for doing something that he himself also did.
COOPER: Yeah. Kaitlan Collins. Appreciate it. Fascinating about face. Reaction now to the president's about face from one of the state governors who joined together to formulate plans for reopening their states and for returning to what will certainly not be the same kind of normal that existed before the virus hit.
Oregon Governor Democrat Kate Brown joins us now. Governor Brown, thanks so much for being with us. So the president is saying he's going to authorize governors individually to implement reopening plans for their states. You clearly do not need his authorization. What are you thinking about in terms of reopening?
GOV. KATE BROWN (D-OR): So we obviously have the power. As a governor, I have the power to protect the health and safety of my constituents, my Oregonians. And that's exactly what we've done.
We took aggressive social distancing measures early in this pandemic, and as a result we've been able to provide, for example, extra ventilators to the city of New York. And I think that speaks to Oregonians' willingness to take action to socially distance, protect themselves, their neighbors and their communities.
In terms of reopening, we've aligned with California and Washington around a framework. A handful of things that need to happen. Number one, we need to make sure that the growth rate in new cases is slowing. Number two, we need to have adequate protective equipment: gloves, masks and gowns.
Number three, obviously additional testing. We probably need to roughly double our testing capacity. Number four, we'll be able to have an aggressive contact tracing system. And number five, make sure that we can provide care in isolation for those who test positive for the disease.
COOPER: Did you expect the president to ultimately back down from his comments because, again, there was just no legal authority for the president to claim that he was the one who was going to determine for all the states what was going to happen.
BROWN: Look, the reality is with this pandemic, we are all in this together. And it's critically important that we work together. I'm really proud of the work that the states are doing in the west, our western states, to create a framework that not only protects the health and safety of our citizens, but also because our economy is so interconnected, protect the businesses all up and down the west coast.
COOPER: When you talk about the aggressive contact tracing, every epidemiologist that I've talked to has stressed that that is so important moving forward. Is the state of Oregon set up? Because everybody I've talked to in different states says their state is really not set up at this point with a public health system to have the number of people required to kind of do real aggressive contact tracing.
BROWN: So our Oregon health authority is working on a strategic plan to address this particular issue, but I also think that it's going to be incumbent upon us to develop partnerships. For example, one of our hospital systems in southern Oregon has volunteered to provide a private partnership with local county public health to both train and increase the number of health care workers that would be able to do this work. Making sure obviously they have the knowledge, they have the expertise and they have the ability to work with families in their communities.
COOPER: Do you know how many people you think might be needed to do contact tracing? Because, I mean, there's been some epidemiologists who say nationwide, you know, it could be as many as 100,000 people, you know, which was obviously, I mean, a huge rise in employees.
BROWN: Certainly my medical advisory panel is working on those details. We think it's going to be a lot, hundreds at least for a state like Oregon with a population of 4.2 million, but as I said, we can create public/private partnerships.
We have a very good system of health care workers, folks already working in the communities that could provide this assistance as well, and then we're exploring other creative concepts that we could easily train and increase the amount of local community health care workers. What I think is really important is that this be done in a culturally competent way, and so that's going to take time and energy. It's time and energy worth investing in our communities.
COOPER: Do you agree with Governor Newsom that when things do return, when businesses, you know, open up and stuff that it's going to be a very different kind of normal really until a vaccine is found and a vaccine that actually works and is something that, you know, that works?
BROWN: Absolutely. This is not a light switch going on or off. This is going to be making a change, testing it, it modeling it, and then seeing whether it works, and then if it does, you can make another change. It was a very, very--
COOPER: So do you see social distancing remaining?
COOPER: Some form of social distancing remaining?
BROWN: I think you're going to see broader cultural changes. For example, hand-shaking. I think we're going to see a move towards a more Asian style of head-bowing.
I think you're going to see folks really limiting large gatherings for a long period of time, months, and I think you're going to see other social changes. We've been laughing, of course, about the use of Zoom and other technologies. For introverts that's a great way to limit your social interaction but still have the social connections that you need to get your work done.
COOPER: I don't know if you're saying that because maybe you've read that I am a huge introvert but I am a huge introvert so I appreciate you bringing up introverts. Governor Brown, thank you very much, I really appreciate it.
BROWN: Thank you, take good care.
COOPER: All right, you, too. More insight now on reopening each state, the WHO and some news on one of the President's favorite medicines with CNN chief medical correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta. So, Sanjay, the President talking about states reopening this evening. Earlier today Dr Fauci said we're not there yet. Putting politics and Dr Fauci aside, just health risk of reopening things too soon too fast.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The health risks are that, you know, you could have many more people become infected, Anderson, and it's -- the concern is it's not an incremental thing.
You run the real risk of sort of going back to square one as has been described I think by many people and has been evidenced in some places around the world. So there's a real risk to that. I can say as well, you know, I think with Dr Fauci, I think, you know, he obviously looks at the data, the same data I think most of us has access to although he may have other data as well. I think he's known for some time that it would be very difficult to open, you know, reopen things in any kind of normal way on May 1st. The data just hasn't suggested that. I think, you know, Anderson, it's
interesting. I think his strategy is -- he knows but he sort of slow rolls it a little bit so as to not, you know, shock the country, you know, into this stuff. But I think there's -- it will be very hard to believe that with the current sort of state of affairs with the virus -- eventually we're going to open, but it seems like to would be hard to believe by May 1st.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, he also knows better than sort of announcing a date or just flat out saying, "May 1st, there's no way," because it would contradict what the President is saying and that would cause tensions.
The President saying about the World Health Organization tonight, halting funding to the organization, I'm wondering what your reaction is. Because the US gives a lot of money to them, the World Health Organization. You know, what does that money go to? What do they do?
GUPTA: Well, they do lots of different things. I mean, part of it is the, you know, creating diagnostics, lab diagnostics and helping set that up in countries around the world. As you might imagine, Anderson, as you know, because you and I have traveled to these places, the countries that would be most adversely impacted by cuts in funding aren't going to be countries like us.
They are going to be countries that don't have established health systems or minimally established health systems. That's usually who ends up getting penalized when there's a cut in funding, and, you know, I mean, I think we all in some ways look to the World Health Organization right now because they are focusing on these trials. They are collecting data from around the world like a World Health Organization can do. I will say, Anderson, I mean,
I think there have been some missteps for certain by the World Health Organization. It was pretty clear that the, you know, first patients out of China, a significant number of them, were not related to that animal market as we kept getting told.
That was significant because of these patients -- I'm sorry, these people were not getting the infection from that market, where were they getting that infection from? Was there already evidence of community spread long before we were told about it -- that the rest of the world was told about it?
I think there's some legitimate criticisms. President Trump even said -- I don't know where he got this number, but he said 20-fold more infections occurred because of the slowness of the World Health Organization. I'm not sure how he arrived at that number, so I think there's some legitimate criticisms. But to stop funding in the middle of a pandemic, to penalize countries that are more dependent on this, I'm not sure that makes sense.
COOPER: The WHO says they are investigating cases of reactivation of the virus after Reuters reported some people in South Korea tested positive after being cleared. How does this change how scientists and doctors study antibodies and immunity? Because, again, the concern is are people really immune once they have had the virus?
GUPTA: They use the word "reactivation" in this Reuters article, not "reinfection", and it -- you know, as you know, Anderson, it's two different things. I think that's more than a nuance.
Reinfection would suggest that somebody has the infection, the completely recover and there's no more virus in their body, and then they get reinfected again, that the antibodies didn't really fight off the infection. Reactivation sort of suggests that the virus just lives and stays in the body a lot longer than people realize. Anderson, you know, you and I have seen this because we interviewed -- I'm blanking on his name right now, University of Nebraska, we had him on the town hall several times in a row.
COOPER: Yes. They have the special center. They do a lot of work on this.
GUPTA: They do a lot of work on it. He was found to continue to have presence of the virus for I think - again, you'll correct me if I'm wrong -- 28, 29 days.
COOPER: Yes. I think his first name is Carl.
COOPER: He has a radio station and his wife had to go and pick up after the dog while he was quarantined.
GUPTA: That's right. Yes, exactly. But because he was being tested so often, they realized he actually harbored the virus a lot longer than people realize. So I think that's something we do have to pay attention to. How long does this virus really stay in our body after we recover? I don't know that we can clearly answer that right now.
COOPER: Yeah. Sanjay, appreciate it as always. Thank you very much. Coming up next, in light of the president's criticism of the World Health Organization, China, state governors, anyone but himself, we'll take a look at the timeline for the month February which the president almost entirely left out of the campaign-style, propaganda-style video -- call it what you want -- that he played, boasting of his accomplishments. We're keeping him honest. We're joined by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
And later to the question of lifting restrictions. We'll talk to one researcher whose team has published a study that says they might have to continue in some shape or form until 2022. We'll talk about what can make that necessary and how to avoid that fate ahead.
COOPER: We've been discussing the President's criticism of the World Health Organization this evening, accusations of delayed actions and a lack of candor perhaps not surprising charges which echo the exact criticisms being leveled at the President. On Monday, he began the news conference with a campaign-like video attempting to show how much the President has been on top of the Coronavirus response.
It ended up documenting how little he did during the critical month of February. The President said he said he did a lot at that time although he couldn't name anything of substance yesterday when asked. It's the kind of the stuff he was doing, this is kind of the stuff he was doing and saying in February, downplaying the virus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I think the virus is going to be - it's going to be fine. You know, in April, supposedly it dies, with the hotter weather and that's a beautiful date to look forward to.
Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away. I hope that's true.
We have it very much under control in this country.
The coronavirus which is - you know, very well under control in our country. People are getting better. They're all getting better. There's a very good chance you're not going to die. In fact, we're very close to a vaccine.
This is a flu, this is like a flu. Of the 15 people, the original 15 as I call them, eight of them have returned to their homes. We're going down, not up, we're very going very substantially down, not up. And again, when you have 15 people and the 15, within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a good job we've done.
It's going to disappear, one day, it's like a miracle, it will disappear.
Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. One of my people came up to me and said, "Mr President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia. That didn't work out too well. They tried the impeachment hoax. This is their new hoax."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining us now to talk about missed opportunities, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, of Connecticut. Senator Murphy, I want to read you a tweet that you tweeted out February 5th about the White House's response at that time. You said, "Just left the Administration briefing on Coronavirus. Bottom-line, they aren't taking this seriously enough. Notably, no request for any emergency funding which is a big mistake. Local health systems need supplies, training, screening, staff et cetera. And they need it now." What did you see in the medium, what was the problem?
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, that was an extraordinary montage that you just played and that attitude was reflected in the meeting, inside that meeting in early February, where the President's top Coronavirus experts. It was led by then-Chief of Staff Mulvaney and Secretary of HHS Alex Azar and they were just incredibly confident that they had beaten Coronavirus. At that time, they were only a few cases here, they were reflecting what the President said in those clips because they thought that the travel bans have kept it out of the United States.
We told them that they needed money and they needed money fast in order to buy supplies, in order to hire more staff and they told us that they didn't need any funding, that they had everything that they needed. And I walked out of that closed-door briefing just with chills running down my spine because many of us on both sides of the aisle knew what this virus had done in China.
We knew it was a matter of time before it arrived here and it was shocking how cavalier the Administration was. This was at a time when the President really, you know, viewed this as a hoax. He said so on TV and the reason that we're in the crisis that we are today, is not because of anything that China did.
It's not because of anything that the WHO did. It's because of what this president did. He didn't take this virus seriously. We weren't going to be able to keep every case out of United States, but we didn't need tens of thousands this of people dying.
COOPER: It's clear that the WHO has said very positive things about China and kind of downplayed, you know, their lack of transparency. Even the Chinese death tolls, you know, right now just seems ludicrously low, the official death toll in China. I'm wondering what you make of the president now focusing on WHO, though he previously had praised them for -- China for transparency and the WHO's work.
MURPHY: Well, pulling money out of the WHO has nothing to do with keeping America safe. It's all about the president's attempt to try to find scapegoats. Let's be clear. Early on in this crisis, there was no bigger cheerleader for China and their response to coronavirus than president Donald J. Trump. It was President Trump who on 12 different occasions praised President Xi's efforts to control coronavirus, specifically praised China's transparency, which we now know was a complete joke.
And so the president is engaging in, you know, sort of middle school grade deflection trying to blame the WHO for something that he was responsible for. And the fact of the matter is, while the WHO is imperfect, in the early days of the virus, they invested in testing. They created by the end of February 1.4 million tests in collaboration with a German manufacturer.
And so had we been working with the WHO early on, we might be in a very different position here, being able to test twice as many, three times as many people as we have. We'll be weaker as a nation if we pull out of the WHO because there's no way to stand up an effective anti-pandemic program without them. This is just about the president's attempts to try to blame others for problems that he created. COOPER: Yeah. I know earlier you had said that there's very
coordinated effort amongst the White House and their allies to try to find scapegoats for the fatal mistakes that the president made in the early stage of the virus. You believe that the president made mistakes that ended up costing lives?
MURPHY: Absolutely. Absolutely. The fact that we didn't start buying up medical supplies, masks, gowns, face shields early on, when we were begging for that funding in early February. The fact that the president didn't put in place an effective plan to develop new tests. The fact that he didn't work with governors and mayors to push social distancing measures earlier has cost lives.
Listen, let's be honest. There is effectively no response to coronavirus from the administration. All the president does is hold press conferences. Everything that has been done to effectively control this virus has been done by governors. My governor has had to find almost every single face shield and every mask that has been dispensed to hospital.
It's been my governor that has had to decide when to close schools and businesses. It's my governor who is organizing a process of identify, trace and quarantine. The president talks in these press conferences, but all of the response has been left to governors. And so if the president had had a more effective national plan from the beginning, we would be in a very different position than we are today.
COOPER: Do you watch the coronavirus briefings? Because I've just been struck how they have now devolved to it the president essentially hijacking them to, you know, talk as long as he wants, an hour, more than an hour sometimes before any scientists really - you know, we get an update from the scientists about what's actually going on.
MURPHY: Yeah. I mean, my sense right now is that the president does the press conferences and other people are trying to manage the virus. We did a call last week with the vice president and a team of experts, and, you know, there were really good people on that call, but it's hard when the president is this disengaged, when he is so focused on trying to save himself politically and not terribly interested in learning the details of how you fight a vicious virus like this.
I tune into, you know, bits and pieces of these press conferences because a lot of my constituents are watching them and I want to be kept up to date, but they are just for show. They are just to keep the president occupied on a daily basis. It's others in the administration that's doing the work, but they don't really have clear guidance from the commander in chief.
COOPER: Senator Chris Murphy, I appreciate your time. Thank you.
COOPER: Just ahead, a Harvard research remember joins us to talk about new modeling that suggests social distancing guidelines may be needed for longer than many realize, maybe even as far as 2022. We'll explain ahead. [20:30:00]
COOPER: With all the talk to the about lifting social distancing guidelines state by state there's an eye-opening new study from a team of researchers at Harvard School of Public Health. It predicts under certain scenarios the potential need for those measures and school closures to continue until 2022.
In our next segment we're joined by someone working to brighten that picture considerably. She leads the vaccine effort at the National Institute of Health. But first, Yonatan Grad, Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard University School of Public Health.
Thanks so much for being with us, Professor Grad. Your team used models of what we now know about COVID-19 along with other viruses to create possible scenarios of the pandemic, one which concluded a potential need for social distancing until 2022. Can you explain how you found that?
YONATAN GRAD, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, IMMUNOLOGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, HARVARD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Absolutely. So there are two ways in which the pandemic acts. One, we eliminate the virus. I think with global spread of the virus, that one is quite unlikely. And the second, the pandemic ends because there's sufficient immunity in the population. So with that as a backdrop, we were interested in asking about the impact of social distancing and what happens when we stop a one-time effort.
So we are doing social distancing with the idea of flattening the curve and trying to prevent overwhelming our health care infrastructure. So if we're successful in doing that, we also keep a lot of people susceptible to the infection so that if we stop social distancing after four weeks, eight weeks, 12 weeks, or what have you, there will still be a pool of people who are susceptible and we might see again a rise in infection, which might prompt us to reinitiate social distancing.
So keeping in mind that our goal is getting up to population level immunity, in the absence of a vaccine or other types of interventions, what we might see is kind of on/off intermittent distancing and get up to population immunity, again, that end point, would take until 2022.
COOPER: And that's predicated on the belief that once you had been infected you would develop an immunity, is that correct? Because I know that hasn't been proven conclusively.
GRAD: That is correct. We are in this model assuming that infection brings along with it sufficient immune protection to last at least that duration. COOPER: So the idea of 2022, that's just how -- I mean, you've got
that date really just by projecting out when enough people would develop what they call herd immunity?
GRAD: That's right. So what we -- what we took as an approach to this is, keeping in mind that we're flattening the curve to try to reduce the pressure on the health care infrastructure, that what we want to do is institute these social distancing measures when it looks like when we project that we would start to approach what the critical care infrastructure is, that -- the maximum there, and then we could turn it off as we're starting to see the curve go down.
Again, we have this kind of thermostat model where we would titrate to, again, trying to maintain our health care infrastructure. When we use that as our goal, we end up projecting these multiple rounds of social distancing that takes us out to 2022.
COOPER: So when you say multiple rounds, what does the social distancing look like? Is it sort of the current system of stay at home, schools are closed, six feet apart, wear masks outside, or are there varieties of it depending on certain circumstances?
GRAD: In the scenarios that we modeled, we used very effective social distancing. So that would be the kind of whole hog effort that we're seeing now. It's certainly worth exploring the impact of alternatives for using other approaches or introducing new interventions, increasing the critical care capacity of it our hospitals, developing new therapeutics that are very effective, putting into place contact tracing, quarantine and isolation.
All of those could change those scenarios. Similarly, if we learn that there are particular parts of the population that are more infected than we had been aware, that there's greater spread of the disease in the population so there is already much more immunity, that would also change these scenarios.
COOPER: Well, it's really fascinating. Professor Grad, I appreciate all that You're doing. Thank you.
GRAD: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next, the lead researcher into a vaccine at the National Institute of Health joins me to discuss how close or far we are to having one.
COOPER: Earlier tonight I spoke with Oregon Governor Kate Brown about what needs to happen for states to reopen their economy. She mentioned, among other things, the growth rate in cases slowing and additional testing. It's a similar list to what her counterpart in California, Governor Gavin Newsome, mentioned today. He added there also needs to be herd immunity, which we were just talking about, and most importantly a vaccine.
My next guest is a lead researcher into trying to develop a Coronavirus vaccine at the National Institute of Health. Joining me now is Kizzmekia Corbett. Back with us also is Dr Sanjay Gupta who I know is going to be asking you questions as well, Doctor. Miss Corbett, first of all, can you just explain what you're developing and where things stand right now with it?
DR KIZZMEKIA CORBETT, LEAD SCIENTIST FOR CORONAVIRUS VACCINE RESEARCH, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH: Yes, absolutely. So, we're developing a vaccine for COVID-19. It is based on several of our previous projects where we were investigating vaccines for MERS and SARS, Coronaviruses which are very closely related to the virus that causes COVID-19. So, this vaccine incorporates the spike protein which is the protein that is on the surface of the virus, and that protein is the reason essentially why the virus is able to attach to a cell and then get into a cell and cause an infection.
So, from our perspective if we can incorporate that protein into our vaccine and essentially allow the body to create a response to that protein that may block an infection later, we've created a successful vaccine. The really interesting part about this is that we have a collaboration with Moderna, which is a company that uses messenger RNA, which is essentially just genetic material, and we're using their platform to deliver our vaccine spike.
COOPER: That's fascinating. Sanjay, I know you've got some questions as well.
GUPTA: Yes. Doctor, thank you for being here and thank you for your work.
People don't always realize vaccines can take a long time to make. I mean, there's vaccines that have taken years and years to make. I think with SARS it took 20 months, if I remember correctly, just under two years just to get into phase 1 trials. I think you may have just talked about this. But - but - why - it - it's happening a lot faster now, I think, right? Correct me if I'm wrong on that. And how is it happening so much faster?
CORBETT: You know, there are several layers to our rapid response which is what we call it. Most of it is based on the work that we've done previously so towards the goal of being prepared for a pandemic and ready and able to aim to shoot so to speak, we researched Coronavirus vaccine development for the last seven years, particularly under my direction, the team has researched this Coronavirus development for five years.
And so coming into the onset of this pandemic, we had an idea about what we wanted to do as far as the - the design of the vaccine. We already had our collaboration set in stone with Moderna as we've been testing several other vaccine candidates, what you call pre-clinically or non-clinically, and so a - a lot of our work that we've done previously has essentially driven us into what we call a rapid response.
And so - I mean, you probably are aware that we were able to go from getting the sequence online from the Chinese Government at the same time as the rest of the world and essentially pushing for a vaccine to get into a human trial in 66 days.
COOPER: And - and - when you go - what is the process, pardon my ignorance on this - you - you have a - a human trial that's a phase 1 trial, is that right?
CORBETT: Yes, so vaccine development is a very long process and - and as Dr Gupta pointed out, it is something that generally takes years and years to develop. Here, in this first phase, we are testing the safety of the vaccine. That is just a simple question, is the vaccine safe to use in people?
And then there's a stepwise introduction of the vaccine for other endpoints like, does the vaccine work? Does it create an immune response? Does it protect people from infection? And those are second and third phase studies that are to happen somewhat simultaneously but after getting data that is - allows us to move forward with that process. So overall, our goal in the beginning, was to go from sequence through to general population at best in 18 months. It's looking like we're on track for that.
COOPER: That's great.
GUPTA: Doctor, you know, one more thing, you know, there's been all this - these reports recently about people may be getting reactivated with the virus. There were some earlier reports about people getting reinfected. It raises this issue, how - how protected is somebody after they get an infection? They built up antibodies, those are supposed to protect them. But if there's evidence that it's not protecting them, does that also make a vaccine less likely to - to work?
CORBETT: You know, from where we sit in vaccine development, it actually highlights the need for a vaccine. So these respiratory viruses - COVID-19's a virus, SARS COV2 is not alone in perhaps causing reinfections. So you know, people get reinfected every year, too, with a lot of the viruses that cause the common cold. Four of those viruses actually are cousins or akin to the SARS COV virus that is novel and circulating right now.
So we know that respiratory viruses generally don't necessarily cause very long-lasting immunity following natural infection. And that is actually one of the ways that the virus just really allows itself to continue to circulate and so to speak live amongst the human population.
So, you know, I saw that data and I wasn't surprised because this is something that we - we studied quite a long time, you know, under the direction of my boss who's an expert in respiratory syncytial virus, et cetera. The point of a vaccine is to do better than natural infection. The point of a vaccine is to essentially create an immune response that is very potent, so high-level immunity for an extended period of time.
COOPER: I - I know, I'm sure you get this question from anybody you meet, who finds out what you do, any idea when a vaccine, assuming that this vaccine works, when it might be available for - for use?
CORBETT: Yes, so you know, we are targeting fall - I'm sorry, we're talking - targeting fall for the emergency use. So that would be, you know, for healthcare workers and people who might be in constant contact and risk of being exposed over and over.
And then for the general population, our target goal is for next spring. And that is if all things go well and if these phase one, phase two, and phase three clinical trials work simultaneously for the good, our plan is to have people vaccinated all over the world by next Spring.
COOPER: So let just be clear because, I mean, you're saying for the Fall, it might be available, or your hope is -- your plan is, if it works out in these clinical trials, to have it available for emergency workers, first responders by the Fall?
CORBETT: Yeah. And so all of these timelines - you know, I like to say the universe helps us to decide. Right. So we could be lucky and not even be under this level of stress and containment. There might not be this level of exposure come fall. But if there is, there are mechanisms by which you can get a product approved for emergency use, and people who might be exposed constantly.
COOPER: Wow, that's really fascinating. Wow. Well, thank you for all you're Doing. I help this works.
CORBETT: Yeah, we do too.
COOPER: Ms. Corbett, thank you so much. Sanjay as well. Up next, focus on front line health care workers battling this pandemic. A nurse sharing the toll this is taking on her and her co-workers when we continue.
COOPER: Well, we certainly know that healthcare workers on the front lines of the Coronavirus pandemic are facing enormous pressure every hour of every day.
Their job is necessary. It's making the difference between life and death and it's incredibly risky for them. It's also emotionally draining. There can be little to no space for a release of the emotion. One New York COVID-19 nurse went to social media to illustrate what she goes through. Here's an excerpt of some of what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
D'NEIL SCHMALL, NURSE TREATING COVID-19 PATIENTS: I just feel like there's only so much anyone can take. I'm tired of walking into rooms and your patient's dead. You just walk into a room, there's a dead body in there. I just feel like people think just because we're, like, a healthcare worker that we are somehow immune to this and we're not. It's so stressful. I wish that people would just understand and give us a break. Everyone is trying hard. We're human just like everybody else.
We have emotions. The same thing that affects you, affects me. Right now is the time that we should all have compassion for each other and try to at least acknowledge what the other person's going through. Everyone's really concerned about these patients, and I understand, I completely understand. But when their staff is not doing well, then, well, who's going to take care of your patients?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that nurse is D'Neil Schmall and she joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us and for everything that you and so many others are doing to take care of patients. What is it like? I mean, I know you and your colleagues are experiencing something that people who aren't working in a hospital setting or don't have a loved one in a hospital setting can even really understand at a time like this. What are you -- what's it like every day?
SCHMALL: It's difficult. I didn't -- I'm sorry, I didn't know they were going play that. Like, I didn't know they were going play the clip of that video because I've never watched it at --
COOPER: Oh, I'm sorry.
SCHMALL: And I actually went back on the morning after doing that, I immediately -- I wake up at 4:45. I immediately went to go erase that but it had been shared so many times. It was like, well, if someone -- if someone can say whatever, I said whatever, I thought if the original's not there -- so I kept it up on my account.
I never knew it would gain so much attention. So listening to that and listening to that, to the voice and just knowing how -- like, what it was in that moment is a lot was a lot. So -- but I'm okay. It's difficult. It's difficult working in -- it's difficult just being in the healthcare field in general.
It's like going to war every day, especially with COVID. But when you have just normal patients in trauma, you have a patient that was shot 16 times or a 23-year-old that, you know, jumps off a bridge and commits suicide, it's difficult. It's daily we have stuff we go through.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, it seems for families, often because of the, you know, health considerations, they can't really be with their loved one, and that adds a whole other layer to what families are going through and what patients are going through. SCHMALL: Absolutely. I can't imagine being -- the day that happened
actually, that's what kind of happened. I walked to the room and my patient had expired and I was like, "Wow." Like, he was by himself, you know, and it's just like there was no one around.
There was no resuscitation order, so there would have been nothing done, but normally if I've ever had a patient that was expiring, I would always sit in their room with them just so they -- if they didn't have any family just so someone was there.
COOPER: Yes. My mom passed away this summer and it -- I was able to be there at the end and it makes a huge difference for family members and also obviously for the person, you know, who's breathing their last, I think, to feel that.
One of the things at the end that you said on the video is that -- something I thought was just really important.