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CNN Special Reports
New Cases Decline in 24 States in Past Week, 9 States See Increase, 17 States Remain Steady; HHS Whistleblower Rick Bright Warns of "Darkest Winter in Modern History," Slams Federal Response to Pandemic; CDC Issues Alert to Doctors on Mysterious COVID-19 Illness in Kids; WHO Official: Coronavirus May Become Endemic and "Never Go Away"; Update From Vaccine Trial Volunteer; Wen: U.S. Returning to a New Strategy on COVID-19; FDA Alert: Abbott ID Now Test May Give False Negative Results. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired May 15, 2020 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hello, welcome. I'm Anderson Cooper in New York.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. I'm Sanjay Gupta. And this is the CNN Global Town Hall -- Coronavirus Facts and Fears. This broadcast is being seen around the globe on CNN International, on CNN Espanol, and also streamed on CNN.com. This is our 11th consecutive weekly gathering.
COOPER: Sanjay, over that period, we've gone from 12 lives lost to the virus, to almost 86,000 in this country alone. More than all American combat fatalities in the Vietnam and Korean wars combined.
In addition, tremendous economic pain, nearly three million more jobs lost since our last Town Hall last week, and on the clinical front, an emergence of a mysterious and sometimes deadly related COVID syndrome in children.
GUPTA: So there's a lot of very important medical developments. Obviously, we're going to get to that. But tonight, for the first time in 11 weeks, we're not going to be able to ask anyone from the White House coronavirus task force about them.
The White House has now declined to allow any scientist or doctor from the task force to come on tonight. In the past, as you remember, we've had Dr. Fauci, we've had Dr. Birx, Dr. Redfield, Dr. Hahn. But not tonight.
COOPER: Yes. And we know the reason can't be a technology thing, because nearly all of the medical staff from the task force appeared remotely in front of the Senate on Tuesday. So their computers work.
This is just the latest example of the White House trying to put as much distance between the President and this virus as possible. Limiting the appearances of government scientists, the White House coronavirus task force hasn't had a full briefing in 17 days, according to the White House website. Perhaps tonight, the White House didn't want government health professionals being asked about the government's former top official in vaccine development, who gave damaging testimony before Congress today as a whistle blower. You'll get to hear from his attorney tonight, though.
It's also possible they didn't want government scientists having to explain new watered down recommendations by the CDC that were just released. Watered down from the former detailed and fact based recommendations the CDC had originally come up with.
We will, however, be joined by other doctors and scientists, a top expert from the World Health Organization, a former CDC director, and a former health and human services secretary.
GUPTA: Also, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred is going to be here on the details of his plan to safely play ball again. And later, climate change activist Greta Thunberg on the help she is giving to UNICEF to address the needs of children, particularly the most disadvantaged children around the world, during this pandemic. She's donated $100,000 to UNICEF from a grant that she was awarded, and is now helping raise even more money and more attention.
Plus, as always, your questions answered by many of our doctors and scientists. Tweet them with the #CNNTownHall. You can leave a comment on the CNN Facebook page.
COOPER: And a lot of you have also sent in video questions. We'll get to as many as we can. We'll also check with our correspondents around the country and the world. We start, as always though, with the very latest here at home.
COOPER (voice over): There have now been more than 1.4 million positive cases of coronavirus in the U.S. More than 85,000 people have died. But the number of new cases is currently on a downward trend.
24 states are reporting a drop in their numbers, including Georgia and South Carolina, which took steps to reopen three weeks ago. By Sunday, 48 states will be partially reopened.
ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: It's important to emphasize that we're not out of the woods yet. (Inaudible) months. But we are more prepared.
COOPER (voice-over): The number of new cases may be falling, but people are still dying in alarming numbers. A new model predicts 147,000 Americans will have died from the coronavirus by August. That's nearly double the projection from two weeks ago.
CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, CHAIR, HEALTH METRICS SCIENCES, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: What's happened is that states that relaxed early. They've become more mobile, they're having more contact. And we're seeing the effects already. COOPER (voice-over): A partial reopening doesn't mean life will go back to normal any time soon. Unemployment is still at record levels, with nearly three million new claims last week. And grocery store prices are spiking, with the largest increase in 50 years.
Some schools may not reopen in September. The California state university system has already canceled their fall semester on campus, offering remote learning instead.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The idea of having treatments available, or a vaccine, to facilitate the re-entry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far.
COOPER (voice-over): We're learning more about how the virus attacks the human body. A new study shows it can infect the heart, liver, brain, kidneys and intestines, as well as the lungs. Long-term effects are still unknown. And the different ways it may affect children is also little understood.
FAUCI: If you think that we have it completely under control, we don't.
COOPER (voice-over): The WHO has warned that coronavirus may become endemic and may never go away. There's no set timeline on a vaccine, and the threat of a second wave, which some experts, predict is looming in the fall and winter of next year.
DR. RICK BRIGHT, FORMER DIRECTOR, DHS BIOMEDICAL ADVANCED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: I fear the pandemic will get worse and be prolonged. There will be likely a resurgence of COVID-19 this fall, and it will be greatly compounded by the challenges of seasonal influenza. Without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history.
COOPER: Well, that was Rick Bright. Lisa Banks is Rick Bright's attorney; she joins us now. Ms. Banks, thanks for being with us. How do you feel -- how -- how do you and Mr. Bright feel that the hearing went today? Does he believe his warnings are being taken seriously, at least on Capitol Hill?
LISA BANKS, ATTORNEY FOR RICK BRIGHT: Well, I think he was happy to be able to speak to members of Congress and to the American people and to give them his insights and raise his concerns. And I do think he thought that members of Congress took him seriously today and thought that what he had to say was instructive for all of us.
GUPTA: I was hoping maybe we could play a couple of clips, you know, of something that Mr. Bright said today. So we'll start with this and then we can ask a question after.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BRIGHT: Congresswoman, we've known quite some time that our stockpile is insufficient in having those critical personal protective equipment. So once this virus began spreading and became known to be a threat, I did feel quite concerned that we didn't have those supplies, and I began pushing urgently in January, along with some industry colleagues as well, and those urges, those alarms were not responded to with action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: OK, Ms. Banks, I -- read the -- the complaint, obviously heard the testimony today. I'm curious, who -- who specifically is Mr. Bright saying did not respond with action? Was it -- was it HHS, The -- The White House? Who does -- who does he blame for -- for the insufficient stockpile in the first place?
BANKS: When he was raising these concerns in January and February, he was raising them to HHS Leadership. And so various members of HHS Leadership unfortunately were delaying and not taking any action in response to what he was raising. They just didn't have the same sense of urgency for whatever reason.
COOPER: Did -- did they actually say that in the emails? I mean, did they respond in that way, or was it just not responding to his communications?
BANKS: There were actually emails that we attached as exhibits to our submission to OSC, where they specifically said, "We don't see a sense of urgency here, we don't see the need to act." And this was in January. And so, he continued to raise these issues and insist that there were urgent concerns that needed to be addressed. And unfortunately, there just wasn't the same sense of urgency among HHS Leadership in those early months.
COOPER: I want to play another clip from Mr. Bright's testimony today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIGHT: I believe part of the removal process for me was -- was initiated because of a pushback that I gave when they asked me to put in place an expanded access protocol that would make chloroquine more freely available to Americans that were not under the close supervision of a physician and may not even be confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus.
When I spoke outside of our government and shared my concerns for the American public, that, I believe, was the straw that broke the camel's back, and it escalated my removal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The president was still promoting hydroxychloroquine as recently as today, despite studies showing it's ineffective against coronavirus, potentially dangerous as it relates to -- to increased case of cardiac arrest. That said, you -- you know the pushback, the president says that Mr. Bright is a disgruntled employee. HHS. Secretary Alex Azar says his allegations do not hold water. What do your client -- what does he say to that?
BANKS: What he has always said, which is, he's a scientist, he's a public health official, he's a public servant. He has wanted from the beginning to allow science to lead this fight. He's been preparing for a pandemic his entire career, and when faced with a -- an environment in which politics trumped science, he had to push back. And as he said today, he's never been a whistle-blower before. He's never had to push back like that or file a complaint. But here he had to because American lives were at stake.
GUPTA: I -- I am curious what he thinks -- what Mr. Bright thinks of the work that the taskforce is now doing. I mean, you do have Dr. Fauci, you have Dr. Birx, Dr. Redfield, head of the CDC.
I mean, despite the concerns that -- that -- that Mr. Bright raised in the past, does he think the coronavirus taskforce is doing a good job or not?
BANKS: I think he respects the scientists that are in the United States government, including the scientists you mentioned. And what he testified to today, and what he firmly believes, is that scientists should lead the way here, and they should be allowed to speak, speak truthfully, and not face retribution for doing so.
COOPER: What does Mr. Bright might think will come -- what does he realistically think will come out of his speaking out? I mean, Congress, obviously, are limited in what it can do without the president's signature, and clearly the president, you know, doesn't want Mr. Bright even working for the government.
BANKS: Well, ideally, he would like his job as BARDA director back. It's what he's best suited for, and it would -- it's what would best serve the American public, for sure. I don't know that that would happen, or that that will happen, but he's prepared to serve in any way he can, and roll up his sleeves to try to fight this virus, and come up with drugs or a vaccine that will let us get back to some semblance of normalcy.
GUPTA: What you're hearing from the White House and H.H.S. is that he does have a job, right, and it's in vaccine development. But they're -- I mean, they're also saying that he's essentially been skipping work since he was removed from his position at BARDA. I mean, is that a concern for the American people, for the people that he's working with?
BANKS: Well, it's false. First of all, since he's been removed from BARDA he has been on a short-term medical leave, which they well know, and he did that at the direction of his physician. But he's also been in communications with N.I.H., trying to determine what his role will be over there.
And what he learned only yesterday is that he won't be working in vaccines at all. So, this idea that he would be working on Operation Warp Speed or that he's somehow neglecting his duties on that are simply false. They don't even have him slated to work on Operation Warp Speed, or in vaccines at all. So it was unclear what job they had in mind for him, and that's only coming together now.
COOPER: Does he believe a post at N.I.H. is safe? I mean, does he -- you know, when the president of the United States, you know, indicates he doesn't want you working for the government, what happens?
BANKS: He has every indication from the people at N.I.H. that he is valued there and will be welcomed.
GUPTA: I'd like to play something else today that really caught my attention, and, I think, a lot of health care workers' attention, something that Mr. Bright specifically said about masks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK BRIGHT, FORMER DIRECTOR, DHS BIOMEDICAL ADVANCED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: Lives are endangered, and I believe lives are lost. And not only that, we were forced to procure these supplies from other countries without the right quality standards, so even our doctors and nurses in the hospitals today are wearing N95-marked masks from other countries that are not providing the sufficient protection that a US-standard N95 mask would provide them. Some of those masks are only 30 percent effective, therefore nurses are rushing into hospitals thinking they're protected, and they're not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: I mean, that's pretty staggering to hear. I work in a hospital, I wear an N95 mask. I mean, he's suggesting a 30 percent protection; that's a false sense of security. I get it that it comes back to this idea of preparedness overall, but if this is true, I mean, should he have not even spoken up earlier? I mean, we're months into this. Inadequate masks for that long with health care workers?
BANKS: He was speaking up all along. He understood that we had a significant supply chain problem with respect to masks, and he was beating the drum early on at all levels of H.H.S. and with the stockpile, trying to get domestic production ramped up, and to try to keep us from exporting masks, and to do whatever he was capable of doing to sound the alarm.
And he did that, and unfortunately the administration delayed several months before they put any of those plans in place.
COOPER: What happens now to him? I mean, assuming he doesn't get his old job back, assuming, you know, whatever N.I.H. comes up with him to do, that's his job that he's offered. Does he -- I mean, is he, regardless, just going to go and take whatever job N.I.H. offers?
BANKS: He's prepared to go to N.I.H. and do the work he needs to do to fight the pandemic. It's what he has prepared for his whole career, so he will do everything he can do, and bring all of his skills to bear on the work at N.I.H. But, that said, he was extremely well suited to lead BARDA, and he did that very well for a number of years, so it's truly unfortunate for him and for the American people that he's no longer there.
COOPER: Lisa Banks, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
BANKS: Thank you.
COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, your questions for a top expert from the World Health Organization. Her organization's new assessment about the possibility -- well, we'll ask her about this possibility -- that the virus may be with us year in and year out.
Also tonight, will there be Major League baseball this season, and what would it actually look like? We're going to get into details with the Commissioner, Rob Manfred.
COOPER: This is our 11th CNN Global Town Hall. We've learned so much since the first one. Yet every time we get together -- this week especially -- the disease seems to present new challenges and mysteries. So before we go any further, I just want to ask you, Sanjay, to -- just to bring us up to the minute, kind of from the medical standpoint.
GUPTA: Sure. You know, one of the big things we learned this week, Anderson, is that this virus may have more of an impact on children than we realize. There is now a new disease in the world, just alerted this evening, that has been named MISC -- multiple -- multi system inflammatory syndrome -- in children.
And just like its name suggests, it's a disease that can lead to severe inflammation in the body, and even in the heart, in which case it can be deadly. We don't know four sure still, Anderson, whether this is even related to COVID, or if we're just being hyper vigilant, and everyone is paying closer attention to everything, as often happens during an outbreak. We do know, thankfully, for now, it is rare.
That's -- that's important to note. Fewer than 200 children in the country have been unofficially diagnosed now. We still are getting the official diagnosis.
We don't know why children in Asia, Anderson didn't appear to get this illness and why children in Europe and the United States seem to be more affected by this. It could be genetic, it could be the environment, it could be something else entirely.
We also know that the CDC just moments ago put out an alert now to hospitals to be on the lookout for children who are under the age of 21, who become sick with a persistent fever, have evidence of inflammation in their blood work and have at least two organs involved with their illness. That's what the description of this illness now is. But again, it is rare, because I know this is going to frighten people as they hear this news.
But for now, it's just another example of how this virus is so unusual -- affecting everything from the nose to the toes and every organ in- between. And Anderson, I should also point out that just even in the commercial break, to give you an idea how fast this is moving, the FDA just released an alert about the (abit)-ID now test, the point of care test alerting the public about potential inaccurate results.
The FDA now alerting that, that's the one used at the White House, Anderson and there's a concern that they have false negatives. That you think you're clear and you actually have the virus.
COOPER: We were just -- we've been reporting on that just, I think it was last night.
COOPER: That was a big story we were reporting on, so they've been alerting that now again today. So, just for parents who are out there what should, you know, what should they be looking for? Again, you said it's very rare -- less than 200 cases in the US.
COOPER: And that's important to emphasize not to be -- we don't want to be alarmist, but what should a parent look for in their child?
GUPTA: Well, it can be challenging, there's a few things with this particular inflammatory disease, oftentimes the skin, you get these rashes that are present on the skin. Sometimes kids will have what's called a strawberry tongue, the tongue actually looks like a strawberry, they'll have persistent fever.
But you know, a lot of this diagnosis is going to be made at the hospital, so, you know, this look out that is now going out from the CDC in many ways is for hospitals to say "Hey, look, even if a child's not actively diagnosed with COVID, maybe they had it in the past, think about this. Think about the fact that this could be this inflammatory syndrome and possibly treat it early, decrease the inflammation in the body to try and give the child a better chance at recovery."
COOPER: Want to get more perspective now on something that we've touched on briefly this week, the notion that despite our best efforts -- treatment or no treatment, vaccine or no vaccine, the virus may never fully go away. That assessment coming from someone at the World Health Organization, epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove is their technical lead for the COVID-19 response.
Maria, your colleague, the executive director of the World Health Organization Health Emergency Program said this week that quote "this virus just may become another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away." Obviously, you know, it made headlines people are obviously concerned about that idea, is that how you see it and what would that actually mean? MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, TECHNICAL LEAD FOR COVID-19 RESPONSE, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: So, thanks again for having me on the show, it's such a pleasure to be here. He did say that but he also said a lot of other things. And I think what's important is that the timelines of this pandemic, that is understood that these timelines are in our hands.
And they're in our hands in two different ways. The first is that we have the tools to be able to suppress transmission and I think that's important. I think many people think that this is in a sense, it's out of control, but that's just not the case. We've seen a number of countries that have actually applied a comprehensive set of measures to bring that under control and that's important.
So, that timeline of how the outbreak and the pandemic occurs in each country depends on what measures are put in place and how those are put in place. And then secondly, around the development of therapeutics and a vaccine, we've seen the global community come together, manufacturers, scientists, leaders to accelerate the development of a vaccine.
Everybody wants to know exactly how long that's going to take, we can't give an answer to that because it takes time to do these studies, these clinical trials to see if it's safe and effective. And not only is it important to have a safe and effective vaccine, we need to ensure that there's excess to that to everyone on the planet.
And so, it will be -- this virus will be with us and we need to find a way to get to that steady state where we can suppress transmission enough, get back to our lives, to get back to living our daily lives.
GUPTA: And now if you look at the sort of trajectory of this pandemic, I mean, what is your global assessment of the situation right now? How do you answer that? Because we've seen new cases in Wuhan since their lockdown was lifted, we've seen new cases in South Korea and Germany, what is your assessment?
VAN KERKHOVE: Yes, so that's an important factor to look at.
So, to give a global assessment there isn't a one size situation in each -- in each country and each region. Some countries are seeing suppressions, a reduction in transmission, while we are seeing a number of countries that are -- that are having an alarming growth rate.
In countries that have success in suppressing the transmission -- you mentioned Wuhan, you mentioned Korea, you've mentioned -- you might not have mentioned Singapore, but Singapore as well. What they -- what they're seeing now is -- is a resurgence in specific situations.
In Singapore, it's related to dormitories. In Korea, there was an outbreak related to some night clubs. But what is really important is that in China, in Korea, in Singapore, they have systems in place to rapidly identify the virus again, and rapidly start their contact tracing. And so they've never let up. And this is a lesson for all countries. The virus likes to find opportunities to -- to resurge, to increase again. And we just all need to be ready for that. It's a state of readiness that we need to be in.
GUPTA: Yes. I mean, it sounds like what you're saying, there will be new patients who get infected once things open up. But if you can identify them quickly, isolate them, that can make a difference.
Because there's a concern, as you know, from -- even from Dr. Fauci here in the United States, that we're opening up too quickly. We're not following the guidelines set out by the CDC. I mean, this is a big point of debate right now, as you probably know. Do you agree with Dr. Fauci?
VAN KERKHOVE: Yes. I share his concern. You know, we have been saying for -- for a while now that with the lifting and the adjustment of the measures that have been put in place, it needs to be done in a slow and a steady way, and it cannot be done all at once. It should not be done all at once. There needs to be a data driven approach to this.
So in areas where you're considering lifting some of these measures, you need to do a -- proper assessment, you know. What is the risk? What is the risk of resurgence? Do we actually have this under control? Are we looking hard enough? Do we have surveillance in place? Do we have contact tracers in place? Do we have hospital beds?
And if the answer is no, then you need to really consider, are we ready to open this up? I think -- I think the -- the balance of -- I -- I fully appreciate people wanting to get back to work, and wanting to get back to, quote unquote, "normal". But we need to define what this new normal is.
There needs to be a balance of minimizing the risk of resurgence, protecting people, while getting the economy going back -- back again. It's not public health or economy. It has to be both.
COOPER: Maria, you know, in the U.S., it's -- its complicated, because we've seen in some states that opened early -- and I'm wondering kind of how you squared that concern, which is understandable that you just said, with the fact that some of the states that opened early are currently seeing declines now.
So there are some states that have opened. They're seeing increases. But there's also states that opened early that are seeing declines. Does that -- is that contradictory?
VAN KERKHOVE: No, it's not. It's because in some areas you have to look at the intensity of transmission. You have to look at the testing capacity. This applies all over the world.
I mean, you're seeing -- as you said, it's complicated. There is no one size fits all. There needs to be a -- a national plan in every country, but there needs to be local adaptations of that. And that needs to take into consideration what is the transmission happening in that area. What is the -- the rate of which people are moving? Is physical distancing in place? Can you keep that in place? Are people adhering to respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene?
That should not stop, regardless of which measures are lifted. But you can have a different application of the lifting applied differently in different settings. And that's okay, but it needs -- you need to have an evidence based approach to that.
Collecting the right data, reassessing it. And -- and we need to warn people. We need to get people in the mind set that we may need -- we can lift them when appropriate in a slow way, but they may need to be applied a little bit and -- and lifted.
We just don't want to get into a cycle of a very strong implementation of these so called locked down measures, and then a full lifting, and then a full lockdown again. That would be very, very difficult to maintain, because lockdowns are not a long term solution.
COOPER; We want to get to viewer questions. Dawn in Connecticut sent in this video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAWN MOLINA, RETIREE: Is there emerging evidence for any long term complications for people who recover from COVID-19? And if so, how debilitating are they?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN KERKHOVE: So that's a very good question. And we're now starting to learn about how people are recovering from COVID-19.
There are more than a million people that have recovered, many people are doing very well. There may be some individuals who will have some long term effects because the -- it depends on how severe the virus was and what disease that they had.
We are seeing some individuals that are having some long-term problems with their lungs and breathing. But we need to follow individuals over time, just because they test negative and they're released from hospital, there needs to be rehabilitation, there needs to be follow up.
GUPTA: Let's see if we can get to another viewer question. Linda in Wichita, Kansas sent in this video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDA ROSE, RETIRED MIDDLE SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHER: I know that there are two strains of the coronavirus, both the European and the Chinese. My question is if you have one are you immune from the other or is it possible to get the different strain a second time? Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN KERKHOVE: There are virologists and scientists all over the world looking at the viruses that are circulating all over the world and there are currently more than 16,000 full genome sequences that are publicly available and that people are comparing. There are several groupings of these viruses that are circulating and what we understand from them is that they're normal changes in the virus.
Viruses change all the time, but they're little, they're small changes and they don't change the way the virus behaves. The question that she asked about if you're infected with one can you be infected with another, the question is if you are infected with the COVID-19 can you be infected again? And we've talked about that on your show before, what we're learning is that people who are infected with the COVID-19 virus can develop an immune response.
We don't currently understand how strong that immune response is and for how long it'll last. And until we know that, we don't know how long people are protected, but based on our past experience with other coronavirus' that protection lasts months to years. So, it isn't a lifelong thing unless this virus is different, but those studies are underway to currently understand protection.
GUPTA: Can I just ask a quick question about that, because it comes up all the time.
VAN KERKHOVE: Sure.
GUPTA: In order, like if you wanted to know does it last two years, are you saying you wouldn't know until you've studied it for two years to see if people are still protected at that point? Or are there ways to find these answers out more quickly in the lab, taking some of the antibodies, putting it in a test tube with the virus and seeing if it neutralizes with the virus. Wouldn't that tell you the answer to this very important question more quickly?
VAN KERKHOVE: Yes, so there are ways in which you look at the type of antibody response and the type of response that you have in the body looking at neutralizing antibodies, there's also a T-cell response that you can look at.
Those studies are under way and in a couple of countries right now where they're looking at patients and they're trying to really understand what does the immune response in individuals look like? The other way we do that is indeed follow people over time, but we should say that we do expect people who are infected to mount a response.
VAN KERKHOVE: Mount an immune response, we just need to know for how long that will last.
COOPER: This is a question that Cheryl sent in, it reads "Is what's happening now to children a mutation of the virus?" Maria, we should point out it's now being called multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, can you talk about that?
VAN KERKHOVE: Yes, so we have actually called this the hyper- inflammatory syndrome and this is something that was alerted to us from clinicians in the UK and we raised this with our global network of clinicians that we speak to regularly -- multiple times per week. These are hundreds of clinicians across the globe that meet together through tele-conferences to share experiences of dealing with patients.
And at the alert that we received of this from the United Kingdom, we raised it with all of our clinicians and said "Are you seeing this? This is what we can describe it as, are you seeing this in your countries? Are you -- what does it look like?" From that, which happened a few weeks ago, we've pulled together a case definition which will help us to define which children may have this type of syndrome and pull together a case report form, because we need to collect information from these patients, from the children to better understand what the disease is.
What is this affecting children on a regular basis? It still seems to be rare although we're hearing more and more reports of that. But this is because people are on the look out, but we need to systematically collect information to know if it's associated with COVID-19 or not. We still don't know that, it may be, but we need this information to better understand more. Because some of the children have tested positive for COVID-19 and others haven't.
COOPER: Maria Van Kerkhove, as always we appreciate it. Thank you.
VAN KERKHOVE: Thank you very much.
COOPER: Well, we're going to take another quick break. When we return, a participant in an FDA-approved vaccine trial's going to join us.
We'll also answer more of your questions about the coronavirus, and if you've wondered what eating out might look like when restaurants reopen, we'll take you to one live.
COOPER: CNN's global town hall continues now.
Before the break, we discussed how long the virus may be with us. According to the World Health Organization, it's possible it could be around forever.
GUPTA: That makes the search for a vaccine paramount, and our next guest has been at the center of all this. He's been on our town hall before; he is Neal Browning. He's received an experimental vaccine dose in the COVID-19 trial approved by the FDA, now partly funded by the National Institutes of Health.
NEAL BROWNING, PARTICIPANT IN FDA-APPROVED VACCINE TRIAL: Thank you.
COOPER: Neal, we haven't talked for six weeks. How do you feel, and have you noticed any changes? BROWNING: Nothing's changed, really. I feel completely normal. I've
been through a few blood draws since then, as well as having a second dose of the vaccine, and all my blood work came back completely normal.
GUPTA: You know, I've got to tell you again, I'm really -- you know, I'm thankful for the volunteer work that you're doing in this regard. I think it's important, obviously, maybe nothing more important.
What are you learning about the trial now? I mean, where do things stand? Do you have any sense how things are progressing, or how long it's going to take?
BROWNING: Nothing has been officially released yet.
What I've gleaned from my own research, and hearing some interviews that have been done with Moderna's CEO, that's the pharmaceutical company who's supplying the vaccine.
They have been approved as of a week ago today for entering into the second phase of the vaccine trial, which will have 600 people expanded from the original 45 that I'm in, that's going to be a completely new set of people and they're also going to be administering both vaccine and placebos during that trial.
That's been green-lighted by the FDA already and they're already laying the groundwork to prepare for their phase three trial which will likely provide some challenge study, where people will be exposed to the actual virus. So, that's its not just academic and we can make sure that being exposed to the actual virus does actually show that the vaccine is effective.
COOPER: And Neal, just for those who haven't seen you before on this program, can you just explain how you got into this, you know, what made you decide to do it? How you did it and also what exactly you have been given thus far?
BROWNING: So, I threw my name into the hat and was contacted by the research facility, they ran through my entire medical background, did interviews, blood draws to make sure that I was as healthy as possible. And this first phase of the study there was 45 people broken up into three groups of 15 where my initial group received a very small 25 microgram dose of the vaccine.
After two weeks and we showed no signs of any untowards behaviour from the vaccination, the second group which got four times at 100 micrograms was introduced to their dose of the vaccine. Another two weeks pause to make sure that no ill effects were felt by that group and then the final group of 15 which got 10 times my original dose of 250 micrograms got their doses. In the interim between that, we all get blood tests to make sure that we're doing OK.
As far as why I did it, honestly I can see the pain that the world is suffering from, I can see the deaths and I feel like anybody else who was in my shoes and was close to the research facility and was a healthy person, I hope would step up and the do the same thing for mankind.
GUPTA: Again, I just I really admire that work. One of the things you just mentioned, the challenge test, so this is this idea that you have received the vaccine, typically what would happen in phase three is you'd find an area of the world where the virus is circulating, give some people the vaccine, some people wouldn't get it and you compare them, see if it's working.
GUPTA: You're talking about knowingly exposing someone like yourself who's received this trial vaccine and seeing what happens, right? Is that something you're considering?
BROWNING: That's not something that I'm personally considering, being given such a small dose and not knowing for sure whether or not antibodies were even generated in my body, I think that's a little bit of a dangerous attitude to take. I do know that from the interview I saw with Moderna's CEO they are actually doing some animal challenge testing right now and they're hoping to have the results of that very soon.
COOPER: Well, it's extraordinary what you're doing Neal and I really appreciate it for everybody's sake. Neal Browning, thank you.
GUPTA: Thank you.
COOPER: We'll continue to check in with you. A reminder at the bottom of your screen, you'll see our social media scroll that shows the questions people are asking. You can tweet us your questions with the hash tag "CNN Town Hall". You can also leave a comment on the CNN Facebook page. Back now with Sanjay and I also want to bring Dr. Leana Wen, who's an emergency room physician and visiting professor at George Washington University. She's also now a contributing columnist at the Washington Post.
So, Dr. Wen, before we get to the audience questions, I just wanted to ask you about something that you wrote in an OpEd in the Washington Post. It brings up the concept of harm reduction, that essentially we're you say quote "no longer trying to eliminate the virus, but instead we are accepting that Americans will have to live with it." Can you just explain what you mean by that? Because is that -- you think that's -- is that now what is going on?
DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: I think so, because it's -- we had a strategy before, that strategy was that we would reduce the number of infections and at the same time build up our capabilities to do testing, tracing, isolation. We know that that's what's going to be effective, but we are re-opening before those capabilities are in place.
So, in essence, we're saying "It's too hard, we're not going to be able to get there." And so we're switching to a new phase which in public health, we know as harm reduction. Knowing that what we do has risk, what is it that we can do to try to reduce that risk as much as possible?
So, people shouldn't be going to restaurants, ideally not going to school and day care, but if that has to happen, can we try to maximum social distancing? Can we not have students congregating in small spaces?
Can we try to do as much outdoor activity as possible and change the ventilation system, I mean, I hate that we're in this position but if we are then we should do everything we can to reduce the risk for ourselves, our loved ones and people around us too.
COOPER: I want to get -- Sanjay, I'm wondering what you think of that.
GUPTA: Yes, I mean, this is -- it is an unfortunate position, in part because, you know, we know what the right thing to do is.
I mean, harm reduction is a -- is a second or tertiary sort of strategy, right, Leana?
I mean, if we actually had -- had followed these gating criteria, seeing the downward trend for 14 days, have testing in place to quickly identify, isolate people so this doesn't potentially go into exponential growth, that would be -- I mean, that -- that's what has been recommended. That's what the -- the -- the states know. And yet, somehow, we're just blowing past that.
COOPER: Harm reduction is usually a term, Dr. Wen, that I've heard, you know, for drug users, that -- that, well, look, you -- you are not going to be able to stop some people from shooting up heroin, so harm reduction says, you know, let's make sure they have access to clean needles.
WEN: That's right. So it's something we know very well in public health for that reason, because we know that -- that programs like needle exchange, they will reduce the transmission of HIV and hepatitis. So, ideally people are not using drugs. But if they do, that's a way to reduce their harm.
WEN: In this case, there is a big difference, which is that it's not individuals choosing this. Many individuals would not choose to be in the position that we're in now. But if that's the hand that we're dealt, we should do our part and help each other.
COOPER: It -- it also raises the question, and I think this is something all of us are going to have to wrestle with moving forward, if -- if one has a choice, do you choose to, you know, go ahead with what other people are doing and not wear a mask in a store, or do you choose to -- you know, how do you choose your own personal behavior?
And again, for some people it's not a choice, because they're being forced -- they are going to be forced to go to work. And we know many people have already been having to work because they're essential workers.
I want to get to viewer questions. Sanjay, this first one reads, "I had a positive antibody test, with 90 percent reliability. A month later, I had a second antibody test which was negative and has 95 percent reliability. Now I must have a third test because of a false reading. Because of these errors, shouldn't everyone be --"
COOPER: "-- tested twice for antibodies?"
GUPTA: There -- there's -- there's a lot there. So -- so, first of all, I should just say we don't have enough tests, so the idea of people getting tested multiple times for antibodies, we're probably not at that point. If -- if we talk about the diagnostic test having high false negatives -- meaning people have the virus, but they think they don't, false negative -- the concern with the antibody test is false positives, the idea that you think you have antibodies, but you really don't.
The test -- there's too many tests out there that just are not very good tests. So a lot of friends of mine ask me all the time, "Should I go get the antibody test?" The problem is that, unless we get to the point where you can have really low false positives with regard to these antibody tests, it's hard to really read into it.
And as we were just talking about, we -- we still don't know what exactly these antibodies mean, how long they provide protection or how strong. So we're going to get there, but I think right now is not the time, probably, to -- to start to drill down second or third tests with antibodies.
COOPER: And Dr. Wen, this is a question David in Florida sent in. It reads, "Which is safer for a thousand-mile trip, travel by plane or travel by car?" Dr. Wen?
WEN: From a COVID-19 perspective, traveling by car is safer, especially if you're going to drive yourself, then you're in control. You know what's around you. You can even be very careful at rest stops and make sure that you wash your hands carefully. If you're in a plane, you're in an enclosed space with -- potentially with a lot of people for a prolonged period of time. So I would drive, unless you have concerns with safety driving too.
COOPER: And Dr. Wen, Julie in Michigan sent in this video. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIE BACKALAR, RETIRED REGISTERED NURSE: Many universities are saying they're planning to resume on-campus instruction in the fall. Am I missing something? How can I send my 20-year-old son back to school without a vaccine or treatment? I don't see kids at college practicing safe social distancing. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Dr. Wen?
WEN: I'm also concerned for that same reason. Colleges, especially if there are residential spaces and dorms, there are lots of young people in one place at one -- at one time. And social distancing, I think, is hard at the best of times. And we know that young people tend to not get as sick as older individuals with chronic illnesses.
But younger people do get sick too, as we're hearing about. And also, young people can be the vectors for transmission within that community and with their family members too.
So I think we have to do everything we can now to increase that testing, tracing, isolation capacity. But in the meantime, I'm not sure how exactly campuses are going to open safely in the fall either.
GUPTA: Perhaps even at universities, right? I mean, the testing, when we say widespread, having the -- that sort of testing available in locations, I think, may be important as well. We'll see.
COOPER: Yes. Sanjay, this is a question that Michael sent in. It reads, "There seems to be a common assumption that restaurants will have to keep tables six feet apart. That may mean economic disaster for the restaurants. Would it not be at least as safe to install partitions between tables?"
GUPTA: I think that that could help. I mean, I think the point that Leana brings up, and I think people have brought up, is, you know, we're in that sort of harm reduction. These are not ideal scenarios at this point.
It's distance apart from people; it's also duration that you're in restaurants.
When we looked at that study that came out of China, Anderson, you'll remember, 53 minutes these people were at the table, and nine people got infected around them. Partitions might help with that, but I don't think that's going to be a fail-safe. I think we're going to have to have a better strategy going forward.
COOPER: I want to go to our Gary Tuchman. He's at a restaurant right now.
So, Gary, tell us about what's being done to keep customers and employees safe where you are?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, things are a lot different these days. It's incredible that just three months ago the most common thing for anyone to do was go out to eat for dinner, and now many people are scared to do that, but not everybody is scared.
This is a restaurant called Le Colonial; it's in Buckhead section of Atlanta. It's a very popular restaurant, and you can see this place is almost full. But what's happening here are things that are much different at Le Colonial.
For example, they have all the tables at least six feet away from each other, no more than six people at any table, and they put planted -- they put pots with plants and with trees that separate the tables from each other, not only for an aesthetic reason, but it stops people from moving their chairs to other tables, or walking over to other tables, or getting close to other tables, and that's part of the idea.
Also, I'm holding this. This is the menu at Le Colonial. When you get the menu, you look at it, and when you're done with it they throw it in the garbage. That's one of the things: disposable menus.
In addition to that, silverware: no silverware is on the tables until you get to it, and then it's rolled up. And one other thing this restaurant has done: this is the bar. Bars are not open yet in the state of Georgia, but what they've done is they've turned it into a dining room, so they're actually able to put more tables in, which helps them economically. You see the plants, you see the trees, you see the people.
And then you go inside the kitchen, and everyone, the waiters, all the staff, everyone is wearing masks and gloves, and including in the kitchen. You can see right now it's more clean than usual, and everybody inside here is wearing mask and gloves.
This is Jake Guyette, he's the general manager here today. You're a nice guy, I know you must be concerned about your employees and the customers who are coming in, right?
JAKE GUYETTE, GENERAL MANAGER, LE COLONIAL: Yeah, of course we are. You know, but we have taken a standpoint of extreme caution in everything that we've implemented, so, you know, based on our discussions, both with our staff and our customers, we've seen -- received overwhelming support.
TUCHMAN: And could you make this economically work, not filling up the place every night, like you used to three months ago?
GUYETTE: I'm sorry?
TUCHMAN: Could you make this economically work?
GUYETTE: You know, first things right now, we're approaching this from a standpoint of sustainability, and not profitability. So, you know, for right now, if we can sustain our business and keep through the uncertainties of this world, we'll get to where we need to be.
TUCHMAN: Thanks for talking. And, once again, not everyone -- and we know that you viewers out there are ready to go to a restaurant, but the people you just saw inside this restaurant, they're the pioneers -- Anderson
COOPER: Gary Tuchman. Gary, thanks very much.
Sort of startling, I've just got to say, I mean, I don't know the last time I was in a restaurant, but just to see people sitting at a table with each other, talking without masks, it's --I don't know. Startling.
GUPTA: You can't wear a mask when you're going out to eat, and I think that's part of the problem. I mean, I find that quite startling as well. This is my hometown, and, you know, the state has not met these criteria. I mean, I know I say that over and over again, but it's a concern.
COOPER: Sanjay, just personally, would you go out, or Dr. Wen, would you go out to a restaurant right now?
GUPTA: I think it'd be very hard for me. I don't know about you, Leana, but the problem is that, you know, even -- first of all, you could be the -- you know, you're trying to protect other people as well. If you contract the virus and bring it home, I mean, you're potentially putting other people at risk.
I just think it's hard to sterilize and make sure those environments are as safe as possible. Essential work, yeah, those types of things, but I don't know. What about you, Leana?
WEN: I would not go at this time, either. I also really worry about the waiters, and folks who will have to be there, and there are people eating around them without masks, and I think we each have to minimize our own risk, and in so doing are protecting others, too.
COOPER: Sanjay, I know you're doing something new, where you answer kids' questions on Instagram.
Let's take a look at one from 5-year-old Nora.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORA: How are polices going to catch bad guys without staying 6 feet away? They may have a mask, but how are they going to keep 6 feet away?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's a good question.
GUPTA: That was really cute, first of all. I love questions from kids, because, first of all, they always ask things that are surprising, and I think oftentimes ask things that adults maybe are embarrassed to ask, about, you know, police officers, you know, having to catch bad guys, I think is how she put it.
You know, it's interesting, because police officers, and other people who are on the frontline, oftentimes have to wear personal protective equipment, as well, because they're doing this job. They don't know if the person they're going to be potentially coming in contact with is carrying the virus.
So, in addition to doing the job, they often have to wear the personal protective equipment, and then sterilize all their gear afterward. So it's a new world for every frontline worker in this regard.
COOPER: And I know you're -- so, you're answering more of these questions every week on CNN's Instagram.
So, parents, if your kids have questions about coronavirus, you can DM us a video to CNN, or to Sanjay, on Instagram. And your Instagram is @DrSanjayGupta or @CNN.
GUPTA: I can't wait to see the kid questions. Send them in.
COOPER: Yes. Me too. I love what she was wearing too. Dr. Wen, thank you very much. A lot more ahead on our Global Town Hall, including baseball. And the question, can America's pastime safely return this season? We'll talk about what that might look like and all the challenges involved with Commissioner of baseball -- of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred.
Plus perspective, including on some of the President's statements today, from two top former health officials. And later, climate activist Greta Thunberg on one overlooked aspect of this pandemic. The warning from UNICEF that thousands of children could die every single day from the virus' impact on the global health care system. That's ahead.
COOPER: Welcome again to our 11th consecutive weekly CNN Global Town Hall -- Coronavirus Facts and Fears. And we might add, new developments. As we reported in our last hour, the FDA has just issued an alert about what's it's calling "possible accuracy concerns" with the Abbott ID NOW coronavirus test. That's the test used by the White House.
Recent studies have shown it gives a large number of false negative results. In other words, giving someone with the virus a clean bill of health potentially. The FDA does say the test can still be used, and that it's working with Abbott to better understand what's going on.