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Valet To President Trump Tests Positive For Coronavirus; 3.2 Million Americans Filed New Unemployment Claims Last Week; Leading Scientist Says, Vaccine Not Likely This Year. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired May 07, 2020 - 13:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: -- said yes, Bridget Anne Kelly, an aide to Christie, and Bill Baroni, a Christie ally, who is deputy director of the Port Authority, did act corruptly.


Hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I am John King in Washington. This is CNN continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

A shock wave through the Trump White House today. A military aide who works as a personal valet to the president of the United States has tested positive. It's the first known case of coronavirus in the west wing. The president is being tested regularly who is described as upset at this news and he was immediately tested again.

More now on this big development today, the first positive coronavirus test in the west wing. Let's get to CNN's Kaitlan Collins who is covering the White House for us.

Kaitlan, your part of breaking this news this morning shudders through the White House. What do we know this hour?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I broke the story with my colleague, Peter Morris. And just to give people insight into who these valets are and what they do, this is a Navy member who is assigned to the White House, this is elite military unit that is dedicated to the White House.

They are basically the right-hand for the president and the first family. They help them not only with food and beverage service when they're in Washington but also on the road, out of the country. They have a ton of personal tasks that they help with the president, and, of course, that means that they are around him frequently and sometimes in the Oval Office and White Houseresidence. They interact with other valets.

And so that's why it's so crucial that this person is tested positive because it is someone who is obviously close to the president.

Now, we are told by sources that the president was upset when he was informed that his valet has tested positive for coronavirus. He and the vice president were then subsequently tested once again, as they are weekly for coronavirus. And the White House says those results came back negative.

And the White House only confirmed this morning that a staffer had tested positive, saying that they were informed by the medical unit that a military staffer who works on the White House campus has tested positive for coronavirus. And, of course, John, it's significant because this is the first known case of coronavirus inside the west wing.

And so the questions going forward is what does it change for the president? Does it change any kind of protocol for him? Because, as you know, as well as I do, he has so far been resistant to things like wearing a mask and whatnot, often citing just how often he's tested.

And so we'll be waiting to see if we hear from him on this in the Oval Office this afternoon as he meets with the governor of Texas. So far, he has not commented himself though.

KING: And, Kaitlan, I know it's hard to get information, but any indications of what the White House is doing because of this? You mentioned the president and the vice president is being tested. Obviously, we wish the best for this military aide and we hope he recovers quickly from this. But the president traveled the other day, if he was in proximity, to say it's possible he had been exposed by then. He was surrounded in the Oval Office yesterday by nurses.

In a normal situation, we've all learned the term contact tracing in recent days. Clearly, they will do that with this military aide, who else was he in contact with. But are there steps being taken to retrace who might have been close enough to the president?

COLLINS: So far, that's not really clear how they're going to respond to this? Will they try to quarantine the president? As you see, health experts have recommended for anyone who comes in contact with someone who has been positive. We don't have any indication that they are leaning that way.

Does it change the president's travel schedule is another question, because this is just when he was wanting to start getting back on the road, making that first trip to Arizona this week. They are planning several others, including potentially a stop at Ohio coming up. So whether or not that changes is also another question. But right now, we do not have any indication one way or the other as to what they're planning.

KING: Kaitlan Collins, come back to us if there is new reporting. We appreciate what you have so far. It's a very important story.

Now, let's bring in CNN Medical Analyst and Primary Care Physician Dr. Saju Mathew to discuss this. Doctor, let's go through this step by step. Number one, somebody in close proximity to the president of the United States. So, somebody close proximity to anybody, how would you treat this patient whose patient happens to be the president of the United States?

We know that this aide had symptoms on Wednesday, so yesterday. The president was tested and he was negative, but run the clock for us. How long, how many days in a row would you have the president tested before you felt comfortable if it kept coming up negative that you would run out the clock and he may have been exposed to his aide but he did not get infected?

DR. SAJU MATHEW, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: So a couple of things, John. When somebody is exposed to COVID-19 in such close proximity as the president has, the most important thing is, technically, the president needs to be quarantined for 14 days. And remember, the incubation period which means the time it takes from when you are first exposed to develop symptoms could be anywhere from five days to 14 days. So the incubation period is pretty long.

And even after the incubation period, remember, there are a lot of cases that are asymptomatic.


So you can still have the virus and not have symptoms and carry it. The temperatures need to be checked twice a day. And given the fact that the president gets tested every week, the most important thing again is quarantining him for two weeks and then contact tracing everybody in touch with the person of concern needs to be contacted in the same measures taken as well.

KING: Now, in the contact including the president, not just the military aide, the president as well, even though as we had this conversation, we have zero reason to believe the president has been infected. But you would contact trace those people as well.

MATHEW: I would contact trace everybody that the valet, person of concern has been in contact with. And that's the whole thing that we have talked about a lot, John, is contact tracing is key. Because, remember, if you have been in less than six feet away from anybody, all of them potentially have been exposed. So anybody that has been exposed to the person of concern needs to be contacted and they need to be quarantined and evaluated and make sure they don't develop symptoms of shortness of breaths, fever and a bad cough.

And, John, one thing to also keep in mind is that these tests are still only 60 to 70 percent accurate. There is still a 30 percent false negative rate.

KING: All right. So let me push back a little bit, challenge the medical advice just a little bit here in the case that this is not you and me, this is the president of the United States. So if they came to you and said, look, the president is doing essential work right now, critical right now, he can't be quarantined. What can we do? What's a reasonable compromise? What should the president be doing?

The president today, in an hour, is supposed to be sitting down with the governor of Texas to discuss his reopening plan. They keep five- six feet apart. Is that enough or should there be other -- if the president absolutely has to work right now, what other steps should be taken to make it as safe as possible?

MATHEW: It's a good question, John. I mean, I recognize the nature of his job and the fact that he needs to meet all these important dignitaries. But, remember, you're talking to a physician. So if he absolutey has to be in contact with other people, yes, there needs to be a separation, I would say, greater than six feet. Maybe even a division needs to be created between the president and people that he is meeting.

Remember, all this virus need less than six feet and even just talking to somebody, just the breath. That in of itself can put somebody at risk.

KING: It's an interesting moment for the president of the United States. Doctor, I really appreciate your advice. We'll see what steps, if any, the White House takes as a precautionary. Again, important to note, the president was tested and tested negative. But as the doctor notes, it would be days and days of potential exposure. They will have to keep testing before we find out for certain. Doctor, again, thanks so much.

And as more states begin to reopen across the country, you hear it over and over again how experts are saying widespread comprehensive testing absolutely essential to monitor the coronavirus and to mitigate potential outbreaks as people begin to get back into their workplace.

The director of the National Institutes of Health said they have initiated a program to ramp up testing and making millions of tests available to Americans by the end of summer.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: In 27 years at NIH, I have honestly never seen anything move this quickly. The experts review team are already in place. As identified, 20 of these completed applications that are ready to move into that first phase of intense scrutiny and the game is on. And it's going to be a wild ride.


KING: With me now is Infectious Disease Epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Caitlin Rivers. She also testified on Capitol Hill yesterday. Caitlin, thanks for being with us.

You heard the director of the NIH there saying, never seen anything move this fast. And yet, if you look at your own analysis, you said the goal should be 3.5 million tests. And right now, the United States is at about 1.6 million tests. So nothing has ever moved this quickly, but in your view, it's not moving quickly enough.

CAITLIN RIVERS, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: Well, as you say, last week, the United States ran about 1.6 million tests. Estimates from experts say that we should -- estimates start at 3.5 million tests per week and go up from there. So there is a gap that we need to fill.

And I think what you're hearing now our plans for how we look at from where we are to where we want to be. And I think the more that we can do that planning and make that information public, the better decisions we will be able to make. Because it's true that right now, governors, mayors, university presidents, business leaders, all sorts of people are having to make decisions about when and how to reopen, and testing is really a fundamental component of that decision.

KING: Right. And some of these governors, of course, already have reopened and some of their states are at least by the -- public health experts like yourself, not up to scale.

Let's just go through it, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Colorado, you see the left of your screen here when we get up the numbers, the minimum daily target that the experts think they need and then the current daily average on the right. Every one of these states short, some of them well short. Florida, you can say, is in the ballpark. Texas, sort of in the ballpark. Georgia and Colorado not even close.

If you're advising the governors, it's safe to reopen your economy if you do not have the proper scale of testing?


RIVERS: I think our first priority is really to get control of our outbreak. But I think what you see is governors responding to the economic pressure. And it's true there are more dimensions to health and wellbeing than just COVID-19. There are other things that governors are optimizing on.

And so for those who do decide to move forward, what I recommend is to do -- to choose activities that are at low risk of transmission, things that are out of doors, for example. You would consider that a very low risk activity, things that are normally indoors but could be moved outdoors. That might be a better opportunity.

And what governors should think about doing is choosing a handful of activities reintroduced into the community and then wait two or three weeks to see what happens. Because what we don't want to dive in and reopen everything and then have a huge surge of cases that we're not able to manage. We want to start slow and build up.

KING: So help me through the complexity of this, because you just raised fascinating point. You're in Baltimore, Maryland and I am in District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., right now. I live just across the border of Maryland. Virginia is reopening a little. Maryland is opening golf courses and parks today. In the District of Columbia, the case count is still going up. The mayor is saying, well, I need to go slow.

But as you know, people move quickly about. You can spend a Sunday running errands if you live in D.C. and be in both Maryland and Virginia and then back in D.C. within an hour. You could stop at all three of those locations.

Listen to the mayor describing the complexity and her urging for district residents, please don't cross the bridges.


MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D-WASHINGTON, DC): When economy, whether they are around us, around the nations, start opening up, that more people will get infected.

D.C. residents who are participating in non-essential activities, no matter the jurisdiction, put D.C., their households, their neighbors, people they're on public transportation with at risk.


KING: Is a good testing regiment a good testing regiment? Or when you have this sort of interstate complexity, inter-jurisdiction complexity that we have here in the Washington, D.C. area, do you need something that's regionally coordinated? Help me through that one.

RIVERS: Case-based management, which is another way to say the testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine that you've been hearing so much about as a means to control our outbreak would be able to manage cases regardless of whether they originated in Virginia or Maryland or D.C.

So I just want to make the point that travelers don't necessarily mean that strategy isn't going to work. But the problem you described is exactly why you see states banding together and adopting a more coordinated strategy.

North Mid-Atlantic states, if you can call it that, have decided that they will work together to make decisions. There is another similar block happening in the Western United States, and that's really to make sure that policies aren't not too discreet between locations so that people who aren't migrating to access the service and another state that's not available in their state. It's to have a more coordinate response.

KING: Caitlin Rivers, I really appreciate your help, your insights and expertise. I appreciate it.

RIVERS: Thanks.

KING: Thank you. Take care.

This program, I'll remind you, the former vice president, Al Gore, Spike Lee, the author of The Coming Plague, Lori Garrett, join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta tonight for a brand new CNN global town hall, Coronavirus, Facts and Fears. That's tonight at 8:00 P.M. Eastern right here only on CNN.

Up next for us, new unemployment number paint a dire picture of the coronavirus impact of the American economy.



KING: More punishing economic news from the government today. Another 3.2 million Americans filing for first time unemployment last week, filings number more than 33 million since the middle of March.

CNN's Cristina Alesci is here with a closer look at these painful numbers, Cristi?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John, you have been reporting on it all morning. We're in a jobs depression that is hurting families, that's impacting consumer behavior and that will have repercussions for the election in November.

Let's take a look at those numbers, about 3.2 million Americans filing for initial unemployment benefits, bringing that total, as you mentioned, to over 33 million over the seven-week period that we're talking about.

And, look, we heard a lot of economists this morning take a look at the weekly graph and point out the fact that fewer Americans week- over-week are applying for these benefits. But what's crucial to point out here that although that we may be seeing a peak or initial claim, that doesn't mean that people are going back to work or that the employment situation is getting better.

In fact, I would point to the continuing claims number, which continues to rise over this period of time indicating that people are staying on unemployment for the week of the reporting period and the week before. That is not an encouraging sign.

Now, these numbers are going to have an impact on consumers' psychology. People will look at these numbers and they'll back on spending or wait for crisis to come down to make big purchases. And, politically, this is just a disaster for the president. If you look at the swing states, places like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, you are seeing the percentage of people filing their versus the workforce in the high double digits. That is not a percentage. That is not a good sign for the president. And that's probably why we are seeing him agitate to get the economy reopen.

And what you have been reporting all day is talking to health experts and infectious disease experts who say, look, this is not a question of whether you keep people safe or turn the economy back on. This is a question of whether you can do two things at once and that requires going slower perhaps than the president wants.

Now, looking forward to tomorrow's April unemployment report, two things that I'm watching. One is the headline numbers is going to be misleading because it's not going to count the number of discouraged workers, those workers that are perhaps not looking for a job because they are unavailable or maybe a lot of states now are paying higher unemployment benefits than those workers would get on a weekly wage going to work.


So those factors might skew the numbers

So we might see discouraged workers skewing the unemployment rate and you factor that in. You're talking about an unemployment rate of nearly 30 percent, John.

KING: One thing we do know is we are not at the bottom just yet. Cristina Alesci, I appreciate your reporting and the insights there.

When we come back, back to the medical, there's a top scientists saying, do not expect a coronavirus vaccine this year.



KING: The drug maker, Moderna, today says it has government approval for a Phase 2 coronavirus vaccine trial. It's an almost daily event a company or a researcher claiming progress in the vaccine race, but there are also daily cautions that these things take time.

CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here with some new details on the vaccine timeline. Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, several vaccine developers are about at this place in the clinical trials. And while things are moving at a lightning pace, we might not have a vaccine on the market until well into next year or even later.


COHEN: Melissa Honkanen has just been injected with an experimental vaccine against COVID-19. She's a human study subject in one of the most ambitious and important medical endeavors ever.

MELISSA HONKANEN, NYU VACCINE TRIAL PARTICIPANT: I want to be able to help people and have people not be dying alone.

COHEN: Her vaccine was made by Pfizer. Currently, around the world, eight teams have vaccines in human clinical trials, three in China, one in the U.K. at the University of Oxford and three in the U.S., one by INOVIO Pharmaceuticals, one by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and one by the National Institutes of Health.

The NIH was the first to start clinical trials on March 16th. The most recent, Sinopharm in China on April 28th.

They're all in the beginning stages, making sure at this point that the vaccine doesn't hurt anyone. At INOVIO, one of the U.S. companies, so far, they've enrolled 40 study subjects.

JOSEPH KIM, INOVIO PHARMACEUTICALS: We want to demonstrate that the vaccine is safe in these small subsets

COHEN: Later, these teams will do studies with thousands of people. Some people will get the vaccine. Others will get a placebo, basically a shot that does nothing. Then they'll wait and see who contracts COVID and who does not.

In January, Dr. Anthony Fauci said it could take a year or 18 months to get the vaccine on the market. DR. MARK MULLIGAN, NYU VACCINE CENTER: A one year here or maybe a little better if we are very lucky. That's a blazing process for vaccine development.

COHEN: One way to make that happen, make large amounts of vaccine even before you know if it's going to work.

But remember, is it possible that a vaccine for COVID-19 might just not work?

KIM: It is possible. The world has been trying to develop a vaccine against HIV or AIDS for the last 40 years unsuccessfully.

COHEN: But with so many efforts around the world and more on the way --

KIM: I think having multiple shots on the goal against this pandemic is a great thing.

COHEN: The hope is that one of them will work out to bring the world back to normal.


COHEN: Now, the production of this vaccine will be very different than in previous years. Usually with a vaccine, you try it out, if it works, and only if it works, you make mass quantities. Because we are in such a rush, the plan is that several companies will make mass quantities while they are testing it. That means if their vaccine doesn't work, they've spent all that money for nothing. Some of those dollars will be taxpayer dollars that will be spent for nothing. But the thought is is that it's worth it in order to have mass quantities of the vaccines that will turn out to be the winners. John?

KING: It's a fascinating race. We shall see. Elizabeth Cohen, I very much appreciate the guidance there, fact-based guidance there. We had a lot of talk.

Meanwhile, the City of New York is launching its own antibody testing initiative beginning next week. 140,000 New Yorkers will undergo antibody tests with results expected within 48 hours. This as we learn new details about a clinical trial now underway that centers around blood plasma taken from patients who have recovered from COVID-19.

Researchers at NYU School of Medicine and Albert Einstein's College of Medicine are looking at whether injecting this plasma from a formally infected patient into a new patient will stave off the virus' more severe symptoms.

Dr. Corita Grudzen is the Vice Chair for Research and Emergency Medicine at NYU Langone. Doctor, take us through the early steps of this study, what are you finding?

DR. CORITA GRUDZEN, VICE CHAIR FOR RESEARCH AND EMERGENCY MEDICINE, NYU LANGONE: Sure. Thanks for having us. I think this is a really important step forward because what we're doing is we're enrolling patients who are hospitalized. We had so many of them across the city.

And what we're doing is comparing, giving them sort of what we call borrowed antibodies, really, from patients who are now recovered. So they're 28 days asymptomatic. And we use their antibodies through plasma and we give them to patients who are ill in a hospital, oxygen, not feeling well, and comparing that to saline.


So --