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U.S Death Toll Tops 40,000 As Need For Testing Grows; Experts, Governors Call For More Testing Before Reopening Economy; Hundreds Defy State Orders, Medical Experts To Protest Restrictions. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired April 20, 2020 - 13:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ACNHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for joining. You're watching CNN's special coverage of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Exactly three months since the first U.S. case was reported on January 20th, more than 761,000 have so far contracted the virus in the United States. More than 40,000 people have died from it, the death toll basically doubling in the last week. But the White House task force says the first hot spot in this crisis, New York, Detroit and New Orleans are beyond their peak.

This week, some states, like South Carolina, are set to start reopening their economy. Just how to do that across the nation, of course, has set off an intense conflict between some governors and president. The state leaders and medical experts across the board say, before states can ease restrictions, testing on the coronavirus has to drastically increase by at least three times, according to one study. They're pleading for federal help to do that.

Here is New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo, earlier today.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): This is a quagmire because it's not just funding, because I have offered funding to the national manufactures. And I have said, you know, I'll buy, I'll pay, what do I have to pay to get the tests? The national manufactures will say, well, it is not that easy.

I can't get the chemicals, the chemicals come from China. I can't make the vials fast enough, I can't make the swabs fast enough. So I don't know what's right or what's wrong with that national supply chain question, but that's where the federal government could help. But should states take the lead on the tests? Yes.


COOPER: Meanwhile, the president is cheering on protesters who were demanding an end to stay-at-home orders despite the fact that his own directives, his own guidelines say there should be a downward trajectory of cases for 14 straight days before reopening. They are protesting against the guidelines the president himself has been encouraging everybody to follow.

Governor Cuomo also said he's expecting the results today of a study going on in his state regarding hydroxychloroquine. That's the drug the president has touted as a possible, quote, in his word, game changer in the fight against the coronavirus, even though scientists insist it is just too early to tell and there haven't been enough studies.

I want to turn to CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen. So, Elizabeth, there is an initial phase on looking into whether the drug works on coronavirus patients. Is that not part of a clinical trial?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are lots of different studies going on. In fact, on, which is sort of the database, there're more than 30 of them.

This New York study is interesting. This study, they could do a lot faster than a clinical trial. Because in a clinical trial, you give people the drugs and you look into the future, you have to wait to see how they do. This New York study is retrospective. It looks at hospitals that have already prescribed, doctors at hospitals who already prescribed hydroxychloroquine to see how they did.

So we were expecting results to be announced today. We were told the results would be announced today. But when we asked about this at the governor's press conference, he said that first there had to be some checking in with the FDA and with the CDC so we didn't get to learn the results. But, certainly, we're looking to learn. This is a large study. They're forecasting hundreds and hundreds of people so we'll be very anxious to hear what they have to say about these results.

COOPER: New York is also launching an initiative using antibody tests. What are they doing?

COHEN: Right. And we just heard the governor talk about how difficult it can be to get all the parts of all the different tests that are going on right now.

So what the governor says is that in the next week, they are planning on testing, he says, thousands of New Yorkers to see how many might be immune. This testing is what Deborah Birx, the head of the White House task force, has said. She has used the word, critical. It's critical, Anderson, because that way we know how many people have antibodies to this disease and might be immune. That is so important now to figure out as we think how do we get to return to normal again.

So this is a huge effort. It will be the biggest effort in the country. There have been little pockets here and there. But this is a big one. We'll see how it goes.

COOPER: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much. I appreciate it.

Professor Anne Rimoin is an infectious disease epidemiologist at UCLA. We have turned to her throughout this pandemic.

A number of governors are saying they don't have what they need for testing. We all know the shortage swabs and reagents and long turnaround times at labs, chemicals, you heard the governor saying, coming from China. Realistically, how can the country get back to normal if -- or some semblance of normal if these issues go unaddressed?

ANNE RIMOIN, PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF EPIDEMIOLOGY AT UCLA: Well, I think that this is a significant problem, Anderson. We are hearing from Governor Cuomo that he's having to outbid other states and that there is a lot of confusions over where to get these things.


I mean, we are the United States of America and we should have a plan that works for everybody and the states are coordinating. This is a big problem here.

And so I think until we have a national strategy and that everyone is working together for a good supply chain, we're going to have problems here.

COOPER: One of the problems that we are -- the president talks about America first, but this is a very -- the supply chain is international. As we said, a lot of chemicals come from China, a lot of pharmaceutical drugs come from China, which there are increasing concerns about shortages of. So while the president is going after China in a number of ways, they ultimately may be critical in terms of what supplies the United States is able to get.

RIMOIN: You are absolutely correct. Here is the thing. Epidemics and pandemics in particular are inextricably intertwined with politics. It is a delicate balance here. We need -- we are not alone in this. And the whole world is looking for the same things that we are looking for.

And so we have to be working nationally in a united way and also looking internationally, having excellent cooperation because we really depend upon many places, including China, for these reagents, and the -- and many of the supplies that we need to be able to enact testing in the way that we need to do it right here at home.

COOPER: So, New York talked about doing antibody testing. How does that work? I mean, do you do a certain number and that allows you to project that number on to or estimate what the population exposure has been thus far?

RIMOIN: So -- exactly. So the idea -- so I think the first thing that we have to be really clear about here is that antibody testing, as it stands right now, is not going to tell people whether or not they are immune right now. We don't know if having an antibody actually means that you have immunity. And if you do have immunity, we don't know how long that immunity is going to last. So with that caveat in place, yes. What we'll be able to do is be able to see -- these antibody tests will tell us how the virus has spread in our population, who has already been infected and who may not have already been infected. And so we have to be really careful about what information we are going to be gleaning from these antibody tests right now.

And I think that this is why WHO made a big statement over the weekend that we have to be very careful about how we interpret antibody tests.

COOPER: There has been -- as you said, we don't know whether having antibodies means immunity. Do you -- is it clear to you when we will know, when we will be able to say, okay, yes, if you have had coronavirus, you are therefore immune and we believe your immunity will last for a year or three years or whatever it may be?

RIMOIN: Well, as we've noted, this is a new virus. We are still learning a lot about it. We are trying to understand these things. And so we are learning in real-time. This is exactly what we are doing in UCLA. We're looking to try and understand what immunity actually means, how long it lasts. And the way you determine how long antibody lasts is you look to see how long they last. And so this is the problem. We're still trying to understand this.

We spend decades, we spend long periods of time trying to understand viruses. This virus is new to humanity, and so we're scrambling to get this information.

COOPER: So we may not know -- I mean, again, I don't want to put you on the spot and we may not know this, science may not be able to predict this, but, I mean, do you have a sense of how long it will take to even understand what the immunity situation is?

RIMOIN: Well, we're looking in real-time. And I know I'm not giving you the perfect answer here.

COOPER: No, it's fine. If we don't know, we don't know.

RIMOIN: We are learning overtime. So the way you do it is you look to see how long does it take for these antibodies to start waning, to go down. And if we're seeing robust responses over a period of time, that's what we can say. So it is a confusing situation right now.

But there are things that we can do. We can look to see, well, people who have just recently been infected, do they have robust responses, and how long do those robust responses last. And people who have been infected asymptomatically or with mild disease, are their antibodies different, because it could be very different. People who were very sick could have very strong responses versus people who had mild disease might not have immunity.

And then we also need to be looking to what happens when people are treated with some of these antivirals or the plasma or serum or the transfusions because these could have impacts on people's immunity as well and whether or not people retain immunity after being treated with certain drugs as well.


So I mean, there is a lot to learn. It's a wide open space. All we can do is look to other coronaviruses or similar viruses and look for answers here but there are no guarantees.

COOPER: Yes, and it's going to take time. Anne Rimoin, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

RIMOIN: My pleasure.

COOPER: Coming up, despite state orders and warnings from medical experts, hundreds of protesters are defying social distance guidelines, many of them without protective equipment, demanding the reopen of the economy, a live report on that ahead.

Plus, South Carolina about to lift restrictions on retail stores and some beaches. We'll take you there to see if it's too soon.

And the battle over billions of dollars for small businesses, this is why Democrats and the White House are close to a deal but not there just yet.



COOPER: There have been more protests over -- across the country over states' stay-at-home orders. Over the weekend, there were multiple rallies in places like Maryland, as well as Indiana. We've seen people in some areas openly defying social distancing guidelines. The president has publicly encouraged the protests and even accused governors of going overboard with stay-at-home restrictions.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're allowed to protest. I mean, they feel -- I watched the protests and they were all six-feet apart. It was a very orderly group of people. But some have gone too far, some governors have gone too far, some of the things have happened are maybe not so appropriate.

They got cabin fever, they want to get back. They want their life back. Their life was taken away from them.


COOPER: These are the very guidelines the president himself has put in place.

Miguel Marquez, our National Correspondent, is in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where hundreds of protesters now outside the state capitol. Miguel, what's it like?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, as the president has used the briefing room at the White House and his Twitter feed to sort of encourage these protests, this is what we have. There are several hundreds still here. They've just wrapped up the official heart of this protest, but there are still several protesters here. Let me show you the truck here that's going by with all the flags (ph).

Much of this feel like a Donald Trump re-election rally at the same time. Many people coming out to support the president and many are not wearing masks. Some are but most -- a lot of people in this crowd right now are not wearing masks and don't have a particular concern about the coronavirus. They think either it is completely political or it doesn't really apply to them or it's not as serious as they say.

There were several hundred on this side of the street. There were several hundred on that side of the street. And then you have hundreds and hundreds of cars coming up and down. I mean, in all, they probably have thousands of people, of protesters out in front here urging the governor to reopen the state. The governor issuing an extension of the stay-at-home order while this protest was going on.

So, clearly, there is a standoff between the state governor here in Pennsylvania and the protesters. Many, at least in the poll that we've seen in recent days, many, both Republicans and Democrats, think that the stay-at-home orders should be lifted as soon as possible but many are for them at the moment on a at least a national basis. Anderson?

COOPER: Miguel, the president said he seems -- everybody seems to be staying six-feet apart. It certainly doesn't -- or at least what he saw, people are staying six feet apart. It doesn't certainly seem that's the case there.

MARQUEZ: Yes, it is concerning. We spoke to several people. This is after the protest. It's far fewer people here right now, most people are not wearing masks, almost nobody is staying six feet apart from each other. There is no sense of social distancing on either sides of the streets. The cars going by are the ones thing that part of the protest where people can stay in their cars and sort of honk their support for the protesters for reopening the state.

There are a lot of different organizations that has part a feel of a religious sort of a protest, part political and part campaign sort of campaign rally for the president. Anderson?

COOPER: So, Miguel, just finally, just logically, the thing I don't quite understand is these are the president's own guidelines that he has supposedly backed, at least publicly backed. I know he's now tweeted out, liberate various states. But the supporters seem to be in favor of the president and yet believe that the guidelines he himself has been pushing are too onerous.

MARQUEZ: Yes. Well, I think it's part and parcel of sort of the chaotic response that the White House has had to this and the president's own thinking about whether or not this is real or whether he has known it all along that it's real.

Many of the people out here that I spoke who aren't wearing masks say, it's just either made up by the media, it is completely created by politicians and they fear that this is part of an effort by at least the state government in Pennsylvania and other Democratic forces. Nancy Pelosi's name has been uttered here in not the most favorable terms. But this is an effort to sort of control the political process by using the coronavirus to their advantage. Anderson?

COOPER: And they believe the president is, what, a victim of that somehow, that he doesn't realize that what's going -- anyway, okay. You know what, I'll let you go. Miguel Marquez, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Pleas to reopen commerce in South Carolina appear to be working. The governor there is expected to loosen restrictions on some retail stores and maybe even public beaches.

Natasha Chen, CNN National Correspondent, is in the state capitol. Natasha, under what conditions will stores be allowed to reopen? Is it stores of particular size?


Is the governor getting any pushback on the new guidelines?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I just spoke with someone with direct knowledge of the plans about 20 minutes ago. So we know the stores to be reopened that he's going to announce later this afternoon are stores that were closed on April 6th, and they include furniture stores, clothing, jewelry, accessory stores, books and music stores, flea markets and florists. So the idea is that they have to maintain a 20 percent capacity in their stores. That's a restriction already set on other businesses like big box stores.

Now, there is a scheduled protest here on Friday to protest stay-at- home orders, but we also see that there are people forming Facebook groups. There is one more than 28,000 members strong urging the governor not to do this. When he tweeted about this on Saturday saying South Carolina was ready, he tweeted with a #acceleratSC. And today, we're seeing on social media people using that hashtag and twisting its meaning to say that this could actually accelerate the spread of the virus, Anderson.

And we also hear from beach towns that they are very concerned about the reopening of beaches and they say they're going to restrict still to residents only and we'll be sure to ask the governor about that later today.

COOPER: Interesting. Natasha Chen, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Lawmakers are back to the drawing board after the billions set aside to help businesses ran out in a matter of weeks. We'll have details on what's holding up the new stimulus deal.

Plus, New York City mayor says there may need to be temperature checks at workplaces before the economy can fully reopen. The only problem is, as you probably know, there are not enough thermometers.



COOPER: As the coronavirus death toll tops 40,000 and continues to climb and the governors from both parties say that testing is far from where it needs to be for the country reopen. Still, at least a few states are easing some restrictions this week.

In Texas, state parks opened again today but plans to restart businesses wouldn't come until at least next Monday. My next guest says that lifting state home orders too soon could be incredibly dangerous. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Carlos del Rio joins me now. Dr. del Rio, thanks for being with us.

What is your biggest concern about lifting the stay-at-home orders or what do you think needs to happen before some states can start kind of easing them open?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, EMORY UNIVERSITY: I think we made a lot of progress. I think a lot of things have happened that was good. We are seeing a decrease in number of new infections. We are seeing an increase in the doubling time of infections, and that is all good.

But I think, Anderson, that we still need to ramp up testing. As you mention, we still are not where we need to be in testing. And we need to be better prepared to do contact tracing, which is critically important to control this.

And, again, it's not going to be the same in New York State or New York City as it is going to be maybe in Austin or Nevada. I think each city needs to be looked at a little different. And I think decisions have to be locally based. But they need to be locally based based on science and based on data.

And I think looking at the -- what's happening locally, the doubling time is, the testing capabilities are and what the responses are at a local level is really good and informed where we need to be and what we need do.

COOPER: I'm wondering, the White House put out three stages essentially of kind of reopening. And, again, those are just guidelines. Obviously, even they finally came around saying it is totally -- it's up to the states. But were you concerned at all that there wasn't really a blueprint for federal support for testing, federal backing for getting all the things you need for testing, not just to test themselves and the ability to get the results but all the reagents and the swabs and all of that?

DEL RIO: Absolutely. I think that while the decision has to be made on a local level, we really need -- everybody needs a lot of federal support and any support, I mean, industry, private partnership, academia, to really do the things we need to do. There is no way to do the kind of testing we need to be doing just by relying on our public health laboratories, just by relying on our hospital laboratories. We all really need to come together and to work together.

And we need to get as much as support as we can possibly get from the federal government to really get those kits and get those supplies, such as swabs and reagents, ready so we can then go ahead and be where we are in testing.

We are testing a lot of people. We have ranked -- the scale up has really happened, but we're not quite where we need to be. I would say, we're probably about halfway where we need to be. And depending on the state in some states, we're doing better than in others, depending on the number of tests we have. But, roughly, we need to be able to test about 3 percent of the U.S. population. And at that point in time, we'll be in a much better position.

COOPER: And in terms of temperature checks, obviously, some people are asymptomatic. Would their temperature read any differently? I mean, I guess one can't generalize, right? Do temperature checks, is that an efficient method or is that just one of several methods to try to kind of keep this monitored?

DEL RIO: Nothing is going to be perfect. But I think if you think about -- if I was thinking about opening an industry, I would think -- an office, I would think about it the same way we are working right now, for example, at my hospital.