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Trump Administration Rejects CDC Guidelines on Reopening U.S.; States Reopening Despite Rising Number of COVID-19 Cases; New York City Operates "Disaster Morgues" to Help Overwhelmed Funeral System; New York Under Stay-At-Home Order as Daily COVID-19 Deaths Drop. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 07, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


The White House is all in on opening the country's economy. But why is it rejecting CDC guidelines that it asked the CDC to prepare to do that safely?

CNN first told you about this guidance to open places like schools and businesses and places of worship last week, but we've just learned that the administration is now tabling that guidance even as most states move to reopen by the end of this week.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Recommendations that the Trump administration asked for. We're also asking another question this morning. Where is the nation's top infectious disease expert in all this, Dr. Anthony Fauci? And why are states reopening as cases climb and none of those states have yet met the federal government's guidelines to reopen?

Let's begin with CNN's Nick Valencia on reports that the White House is shelving those CDC guidelines this morning.

So, Nick, as you reported, the Trump administration asked the CDC to draw up these guidelines, they did. Now they're not accepting them?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this request came specifically from Dr. Debbie Birx, you know, over the course of the last weeks. Innumerable hours spent have been spent, a lot of manpower has been spent at the CDC to come up with these draft recommendations. And it was, according to a senior CDC official, late last night that they realized that the White House was not going to implement their 17-page draft document, that the White House task force had asked the CDC to draw up.

And speaking to this senior CDC official earlier, this is what they had to tell me, reacting to the news. "We are used to dealing with the White House that asks for things and then chaos ensues." The White House task force went on to say, and White House principals disagreed strongly on what kind of public health response should still be in place, and it was just a little while ago that I also again touched base with that source and they said this is really all about, in their opinion, liability on businesses.

We know that this document was the subject of intense internal debate over the course of last week. This senior CDC official telling us that Department of Labor officials felt that the current draft documents -- draft recommendations would lead businesses in America more vulnerable to legal liability if a worker got sick there on the job. We also know that the HHS Office of Civil Rights took exception with some of the recommendations specific towards faith-based institutions, churches.

And we want to tick through here a little bit, Jim and Poppy, what was exactly in this 17-page document that myself and Kevin Liptak reported last week, first reported by the Associated Press. So some of these recommendations include guidance for restaurants, things like disposable menus, plates, utensils, installing sneeze guards, no salad bar buffet, self-serve drinks.

Also includes guidance for schools. Space -- desks spaced six feet apart, non-essential assemblies cancelled, field trips, lunch in classrooms. And then finally also, I mentioned churches, faith-based institutions limiting large gatherings and stationary collection boxes -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Wow, Nick, thank you for all of that.

All right. So to Texas, starting tomorrow, places like nail salons, barbershops are going to reopen. Ed Lavandera is in Dallas with more.

And we saw this, right, we saw this about a week ago in Georgia. So now this is coming to Texas.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, you know, this was part of -- was supposed to be part of the second phase of the reopening here of the Texas economy. Originally when Governor Greg Abbott here in Texas had announced that -- talked about hair salons, barbershops and nail salons, that that probably wouldn't open until mid-May. But that has been pushed up and that unfolds tomorrow here in the state of Texas.

This in a state where the average -- the number of new coronavirus cases being reported every day has been rather high, the highest we've seen since the pandemic started. More than a thousand cases a day for the better part of the last week. So a great deal of skepticism and concern about how all of this is unfolding, but what is interesting as these salons and barbershops get ready to reopen tomorrow, there is one salon owner here in Texas that has become kind of a celebrity among those wanting to push and reopen the economy faster.

Shelly Luther is in jail right now. She ran a salon defying orders to shut it down. She was put in jail two days ago and sentenced to seven days in jail, held in criminal and civil contempt of court, Jim and Poppy, for doing so. And politicians here across the state have come to her defense saying that the judge's orders were excessive.


SCIUTTO: Ed Lavandera in Dallas, thanks very much.

To California now, the city of Los Angeles, it's allowing some businesses to reopen tomorrow, including curbside pickup for retail stores.

HARLOW: Dan Simon joins us this morning from San Francisco with more -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy and Jim. Retailers across the state of California will spend the day preparing to reopen their stores tomorrow. This is under the new guidelines put out by Governor Newsom. He's going to be giving out some more information today but what we know in terms of the broad strokes is that retailers, we're talking about, clothing boutiques, florists, sporting goods stores, et cetera, they can reopen their stores for curbside pickup only.

Now this of course is not a great shopping experience, but it does allow employees to get back to work and allow these small businesses to begin generating revenue once again. We should also point out that Los Angeles, which previously said that it was not going to allow these stores to open on Friday, has reversed course and these stores can now open tomorrow.

Meantime, we do know that we saw a couple of counties in northern California take things a step further. They allowed restaurants to reopen and hair salons. Well, they went farther than what Governor Newsom has allowed and we now know that state regulators have paid a visit to some of these places and have told them that they need to shut down immediately or they could risk losing their licenses. So we're seeing a bit of a push/pull in northern California.

We'll sent it back to you.

SCIUTTO: Dan Simon, thanks very much.

Well, let's go to CNN's Polo Sandoval, he's in New Jersey, another of the hardest hit states.

Polo, the state is now actually extending its public health emergency into next month. So where does that leave their approach to this? Are they beginning to open some things or saying that's a decision we're going to make at a later date?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, remember, Jim, just last weekend we saw some of the state golf courses, also some parks reopened with restrictions. So now they're making it very clear that this extension should certainly not suggest to residents that there's been any pause in the progress that they've actually made in one of the states hardest hit by COVID-19.

Instead, it's much simpler than that. You see these kinds of measures usually expire after about 30 days. This was issued about a month ago so naturally this would be extended to at least June 5th. For another 30 days. And we could potentially see more extensions. But let's be reminded of what this actually does, provides more resources to the state as they try to get a handle on this, and then most importantly.

And also kind of a new angle here is that they've also introduced a team that would take a really hard look at some of these long-term care facilities, where the state says that they've experienced the most issues about 4200 COVID related deaths in long-term care facilities. That's about half of what the state has seen. So New Jersey officials here recognizing that that is an area of concern here.

In Hoboken, New Jersey, they've been going door to door, checking in with seniors and testing them as well so it's certainly what we're seeing here, Poppy. But as for the extension itself, Poppy, health officials are making it very clear that this is really more procedural than anything else.

HARLOW: Understood. Polo, thanks a lot.

Let's talk about all of these developments. We're happy to have Dr. Megan Ranney back with us. She's an emergency room doctor and assistant professor at Brown University.

Good morning, Dr. Ranney. And if I could just begin on this news that Nick Valencia broke about the White House, asking the CDC for guidelines on reopening things like schools and places of worship, getting a 17-page report and then shutting it down, and not distributing it to governors like Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut who just told my colleague John Berman it would be helpful in making these decisions.

What are the ramifications of that?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: You know, Poppy, our states look to the CDC for public health guidance. That's the purpose of the CDC. It creates general guidelines and messaging that states across the country can roll out both to judge when it's safe to reopen and then to stay in contact with their citizens to help them understand what the next steps are, what to expect, et cetera.

Having the CDC guidance shutdown is really just unprecedented. And it's going to have really negative ramifications for states across the country. I'm already hearing from people that they're feeling fatigued and not understanding what it is that they're supposed to do. The CDC does a good job on messaging and now states are not going to have access to that scientific guidance.

I am disappointed and angry that this has happened.

HARLOW: Yes. OK. So let's talk about some of the medical developments that we've been learning about. First I want to ask you about blood thinning drugs because there is new information coming out that blood thinning medication may help to treat severely ill patients. Help us understand that. I don't want everyone running out and, you know, taking aspirin, et etcetera, prophylactically, but what does it tell us? RANNEY: Yes. I am not going to claim at this point, Poppy, that it is

a game changer, but it does make sense based on the scientific evidence that we have about COVID-19.


We've been seeing increasing reports both anecdotally for those of us that work in hospitals and in the scientific literature that patients with COVID-19 are getting severe blood clots like clots in their lungs and their brains.


RANNEY: Later in the course of COVID-19.

HARLOW: Right.

RANNEY: So now there is this new report out, it's an observational study, right? So it wasn't a trial. It's just watching what happens. And it says that people that are giving blood thinners, with severe COVID-19, do better than people that didn't get blood thinners. There is still a lot of questions for us in the medical field, but it's encouraging. It's a treatment that makes sense and this is an encouraging study.

I'm looking forward to seeing more and to seeing trials expanded. But yes, I would not go tell everyone to go take aspirin or coumadin right now.

HARLOW: Because, you know, there were some people that were dying here in New York, doctors talked about it, just suddenly and they found that it was because of a blood clot and then they tested positive for COVID.

OK, so let's talk about children because the New York state Department of Health has issued this advisory about a condition that is called pediatric multi-syndrome inflammatory syndrome. We might have images of this that can help people understand what this is. But it basically looks look a red and white rash along your child's skin. Similar to Kawasaki disease.

Have you seen this condition? Because they're saying it's associated to COVID in some children and I guess what do parents need to be looking out for?

RANNEY: So as a parent myself this -- these reports gave me fear. Right up until now we've said that kids are relatively safe from COVID-19. This report of around 15 kids in the New York City area with this new disease is scary. But it has not really been reported at this point out of the New York area. We've not seen it to my knowledge here in Rhode Island.

And what should parents look out for? It should be seven days plus of fevers, your kid looking really sick. It's not just a rash. It's also dropping your blood pressure. It's also -- in some of these reports it's a change in mental status, so being much more sleepy, not being as awake and alert. As always we tell parents that if your kid has had a fever for more than a few days, it's time to go get checked out.


RANNEY: Or if your kid has any symptoms that make you worried, go get checked out by your pediatrician or by your ER. It's not like this is the first symptom from COVID-19. It's a late one. Just like those blood clots in adults.

HARLOW: And finally, take a look at this exchange. This is yesterday in the Oval Office, the president differing with the president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, her name is Sophia Thomas, on the accessibility of PPE across the country.


SOPHIA THOMAS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF NURSE PRACTITIONERS: I think it's sporadic. I talk to my colleagues around the country, and certainly there are pockets of areas where PPE is not ideal, but this is an unprecedented time. I've been re-using my N-95 mask for a few weeks now.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sporadic for you, but not sporadic for a lot of other people.

THOMAS: Oh, no, I agree, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Because I've heard the opposite.


TRUMP: That they are loaded up with gowns now.


HARLOW: What do you make seeing that?

RANNEY: I think that for the president to tell the nurse practitioner that she doesn't know what she's talking about kind of takes my breath away. Hospitals across the country have scrambled to replenish their supplies, many including my own are using sanitizers, so that we can re-use those N-95 masks for longer periods of time.

But supplies are still difficult to get. There is still price gouging. You know, I run this organization, which is taking in donations for hospitals and nursing homes across the country and, Poppy, there are more than 8,000 facilities right now across the country which are in desperate need of gowns, gloves, masks, hand sanitizer.


RANNEY: So it just shows to me that he's not listening to the data, I hope that that PPE will be available. I know there are good people working on it. But it is certainly a problem in many places across the country still.

HARLOW: Dr. Ranney, thank you. I didn't even know you're running that group. That's wonderful. Thanks for being here.

RANNEY: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Of course.

Still to come, deaths from coronavirus are on the decline in New York City. Still high, but they're going down, but still the city has had to create a makeshift morgue on a pier in Brooklyn to deal with all of the dead. We're live there.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, what a sad scene.

Plus, doctors alarmed as dozens of children have been showing up at hospitals with very rare symptoms. Could those symptoms be linked to the coronavirus?

And this headline, 3.2 million more Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week. At any other time, just a single week like that would be off the charts. The economic impact of the pandemic ahead.



HARLOW: New York City is now operating a long-term disaster morgue. That's what it's called, to help with the city's overwhelmed funeral system. Bodies will be stored inside frozen trucks, this is all happening at Brooklyn's 39th Street pier. This comes one week after four trucks with as many as 60 bodies were discovered outside a Brooklyn funeral home. Our correspondent Shimon Prokupecz joins us now from there. I mean, Shimon, I remember that image in New York, they were like u-hauls essentially with bodies that had piled up, not being treated properly, of course. So what are they doing now in this makeshift morgue?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and that was really an extreme case, Poppy. You had bodies inside these u-haul trucks, unrefrigerated trucks, and the city has stepped in to help that one particular funeral home by allowing them to move a lot of those bodies to this morgue that they've set up in Brooklyn at the 39th Street pier as you said.


The city is dealing with really an overwhelming amount of bodies, so many people have been dying, you have thousands and thousands of people that have died. Funeral homes are overwhelmed. The morgue is overwhelmed. Hospitals were overwhelmed, and so in order to relieve some of the pressure that funeral homes are facing, and, of course, hospitals, they build out this disaster morgue where they brought in a bunch of extra refrigerated trucks.

And what they're doing is because there are so many bodies, it's really hard to -- for bodies to be cremated, for funeral homes to bury the bodies. They're storing them in these refrigerated trucks, they're freezing them and once they -- the pressure alleviates, and they're going to be able to bury some of these bodies, and also cremate some of these bodies. You know, we're going to keep seeing this.

This is where a lot of the bodies are going to be stored until then, and it's really very sad for the families who see their loved ones going to hospitals, they never see them again. And now they have to deal with this and having these bodies stored in this way. But that is the only way for the city to really handle the overwhelming pressure --

HARLOW: Yes --

PROKUPECZ: That funeral directors across the city are facing, Poppy.

HARLOW: My goodness, Shimon, thank you for that update.

SCIUTTO: Let's bring in Deanne Criswell; she's the commissioner of the New York City Emergency Management Department. Deanne, always good to have you on, get updates on the situation in New York --


SCIUTTO: First question, where does New York stand? And are you confident that New York is on the downward side of the curve here now in terms of cases, infections, hospitalizations?

CRISWELL: So, that is exactly where we're at. We're definitely over the peak, we've plateaued and we continue to see the numbers decrease every day. And so, that is a good sign that we are on the other side of the curve. But I always want to make sure that I let everybody know that, that doesn't mean that we can relax our standards yet, right. We need to continue to see that go down so we can protect those that are the most vulnerable still.

SCIUTTO: OK, then, for how much longer? What guidelines are you following? As you know, the White House had its own guidelines or the Trump administration did, but now CNN is reporting that it is no longer going to distribute those CDC guidelines as to what the standards are to reopen. So, what is New York looking for before it could begin to relax some of those restrictions?

CRISWELL: You know, the city and the state are working, you know, collectively together to look at the number of cases that are going down. The indicators that we look at is, you know, the number of new cases every day, making sure that continues to go down. But we also want to make sure that we have appropriate testing in place and enough to be able to test the population and then the appropriate measures in place to trace that.

And when we have all of that in place, and we know that we have the right amount of supplies to support that, then I think you'll start to see some of the standards relaxed here.

SCIUTTO: I'm not going to hold you to this, but best case scenario, for one when people in New York and New York area, but also people around the country who have been watching New York as something of a --


SCIUTTO: You know, I don't want to say test case, but a model for this.

CRISWELL: You know, best case scenario is really still hard to predict. We need to watch the numbers every day. You know, we would like to see some kind of a change when the pause day approaches on May 15th.


CRISWELL: But I'm pretty sure that we're going to see something that is going to extend past that, because we really want to make sure we have all the right pieces in place before we start to make any changes to the -- to the restrictions.

SCIUTTO: Do you have recommendations for other city leaders, big towns and small, for how to approach this? Because the sad fact of this today is that they're getting conflicting advice if you listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci, you listen to Dr. Birx, these are the experts in this, they will say, take it slowly, wait for these standards. If you listen to the president now and others, they say the nation is open for business.

So, what should -- where -- given that New York has had such direct and frankly, harrowing experience with this, what advice do you give other leaders?

CRISWELL: You know, I think the biggest thing is that every jurisdiction and every state is going to have its own unique circumstances. And you really have to look at what's appropriate for them, right? The population size, the density that we have here in New York City is very different than what you might find in the Midwest, and all of those pieces are part of the puzzle.

And so it really is a matter of taking a very close look at how your communities are being impacted, what's going to be the best for your community.

SCIUTTO: Final question, if I can, I'll admit some personal interest in this, and that I'm born and raised in New York. Will New York be anything like old New York before there is a vaccine, that gives people real confidence --


SCIUTTO: That they have some protection from this?


CRISWELL: You know, I think what we've seen and what we've learned is that New Yorkers really rose to the occasion, and that we can change how we do things. I think that you are going to see some differences, and we're going to have changes in how we approach the workplace and how we interact with people on a daily basis, especially until we get a vaccine in place.

And so I think that the culture has already shifted, and I think that we're going to continue to see, you know, that kind of social interaction change as we go through this recovery period.

SCIUTTO: Well, Deanne Criswell, we always appreciate you taking time out of what we know as a busy day for you, you've got a lot on your plate, we wish you --


SCIUTTO: And the people of New York the best of luck.

CRISWELL: Thank you very much, Jim, have a great --

SCIUTTO: Well, we're just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. We're going watch to see how investors react this morning to the new jobless claims report, 3.2 million more Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week. I mean, that number is just off the charts. But the odd fact is it's down a bit from even bigger numbers in previous weeks. CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans will help us break it all down. That's next.