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Trump Administration Rejects CDC Guidelines To Reopen U.S.; Healthcare Workers On The Pandemic's Mental Toll; Leading Scientist Says, Virus Vaccine Not Likely This Year. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 07, 2020 - 07:00   ET


ERICA HILL, CNN NEW DAY: And that would actually bring the nationwide total to 44 states.


Also keep in mind not a single one of them has satisfied the White House guidelines to reopen.

I want to get straight to CNN's Nick Valencia who has more on this breaking news. So, Nick, what are you learning this morning.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. I just got off the phone with the senior CDC official who tells me as of late last night, the writing was on the wall that the White House would not implement the 17-page recommendations on reopening America. Because of that, the CDC, this official tells me the decision late last night to pivot, to try to get the recommendations, which they consider very valuable to be implemented in some way.

They are trying to approach state agencies to get those recommendations implemented at some sort of level. But, again, last night it was very clear, according to the senior CDC official, who's approximate to the response, very involved in these matters, somebody who we've been talking to extensively over the course of the last eight weeks.

I also, I should say very quickly, Erica, reached out to White House -- I could say this. I just got a text message on background from a task force official, they did not answer any questions regarding this reporting that we have this morning about the White House reportedly dropping the CDC guidelines. But they said this very briefly. On April 16th, President Trump released guidelines for opening America up again. Those guidelines made clear that each state should open up in a safe and responsible way based on the data and response efforts in those individual states.

Again, this breaking this morning, Erica.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Nick, I'll take it here. Interesting. Those guidelines are far different than the 17 pages that you first reported on. You broke the story last week, very specific instructions for institutions about how to reopen safely. I'm not sure I understand why they would be controversial. What was the move of the CDC official you spoke to when these things that they worked on pretty hard rejected or sidelined by the White House?

VALENCIA: I mean, pretty hard is a great characterization. They've been working around the clock at the CDC to try to keep Americans safe and keep them from contracting this virus.

We know specifically leading up to these discussions or leading up to this decision that there was a debate between economic advisers, medical advisers there, the White House task force, and there seem to be some discrepancies or debate over business recommendations specifically.

We don't want to get too much into the details, but we know that was partially part of the hang-up regarding these recommendations. These recommendations specifically address things like classrooms, having students six feet apart. They also address faith-based institutions, things like whether or not businesses should close if a worker gets sick.

All of this apparently going into why the White House did not implement or chose to sort of couch these recommendations. We don't know what's going to happen next. We're working our sources and trying to get more information. John, Erica?

BERMAN: Again, Nick, to be clear, I was looking at your reporting from last week. Churches, for instance, go over some of the guidelines that was given to churches. It was saying, open. If you want to open, that is within your right. But we suggest, we don't order, we suggest you space people out six feet. You think about maybe not a full choir, maybe soloists. Again, talk to me about what the specific recommendations were that the White House has apparently rejected.

VALENCIA: Yes. This was a part of something that was discussed by the Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights. They felt that the CDC recommendations were singling out faith-based institutions unfairly. This was part of the conversation. Initially, language was put in or was requested to put in, things like if feasible, if possible, very starkly different from what the CDC has put out recommendations before during past pandemics like SARS.

The HHS Office of Civil Right felt that the faith-based institution churches were being unfairly targeted. So there was a lot of conversation over the course of last week. We checked in with sources this weekend. We knew that the recommendations were hung up. They feel though that this Office of Civil Rights, that the faith-based institutions, again, John, were being unfairly targeted.

And I'm sorry I can't give you the specifics here. I've been trying to work the sources. I don't have them in front of me. But we'll work to get those specifics and you can put them out there for our viewers and --

BERMAN: Yes. But bottom line was they were sensitive to these concerns with the suggestions that they made and a lot of the things they were suggesting to schools, churches, businesses, they just don't seem controversial to me. What they seem like is an instruction manual for how to reopen if you are going to make that decision. Nick Valencia --

VALENCIA: Sound public health advice, as one would say and characterize it.

BERMAN: That's another way to put it simply, sound public health advice. What's the harm in hearing it? Nick Valencia, we're going to let you get back to the phones and do some more reporting on this. But you let us know what you hear from your sources.

VALENCIA: You got it.

BERMAN: Joining us now is Dr. Rochelle Walensky, she is the Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Mass General Hospital, and Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, the Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

And, Dr. Marrazzo, I'm just confused. I'm just flat-out confused this morning, because this isn't an argument about whether to reopen, right?


The White House has made that argument. States are doing it. What this is is a 17-page document for guidelines to how to do it safely if you're going to make that decision to do it. Why on earth won't you want people to see this? And what's the larger message here of the administration somehow blocking something that the CDC, which is the place that's supposed to be putting put this stuff out, blocking the release of this?

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: Yes. Good morning, John. I couldn't agree with you more. It is hard to make sense of it. You know, the devil is in the details when we think about how to do this. I've been thinking and talking about this, reminding people that this is something we, as society, have never done, right? This whole reopening is like learning to walk again.

And you can't learn to walk on your own, right? We have to talk out the details of how this is going to be done because it's not instinctual at all, right? We've never been here before.

I am sure the people at the CDC, who are the rock stars of public health and medical epidemiology, have spent days carefully crafting the language as they usually do to help us get the details we need to get things moving again.

So it's very hard for me to imagine what could be controversial in those guidelines. They are very versed in, again, crafting language that is sensitive to the realities of all of the things that we deal with in terms of faith-based communities, in terms of businesses and in terms of the reality of infectious disease transmission.

So I agree with you. We need more details.

HILL: You talk about the reality of the transmission. We should point out too, it's still readily available on the CDC website. They do have guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting. And even last week, there were some suggestions on there when it came to restaurants, when it came to reopening, not this comprehensive document, as we know, because the White House was looking at that draft.

But to your point, Dr. Walensky, as we look at this, some of that information, as we know, we're looking at what the information was from restaurants. These are things that we've seen some restaurants are already put into place, right? No salad bars or buffets, no self- served drinks, single-use items that range from menus to plates and utensils. That's important information because people need to know what's safe for them.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CHIEF, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, MASSACHUSETT GENERAL HOSPITAL: Right. Good morning, Erica. You're absolutely right. What I will say is that I'm on the CDC website many times a day. It's bookmarked on my desktop. And this is my go-to source for advice. So what I would say is I know businesses are hungry to understand and different sectors are hungry to understand how they should move forward into the next phases of reopening, how they can safely serve others, how they can create spaces that are safe for others.

The CDC offers that advice on their website. And that's my source of information.

BERMAN: Why would someone like you need it? I mean, to just tell us more about this, Dr. Walensky, you're obviously a very important leader in the medical community in Boston, but even you are checking that website all the time. Why?

WALENSKY: We're in uncharted waters here. I mean, I think that they are -- I was just offered a list of questions for somebody who wanted to ask me my advice and I couldn't answer a single one of them. What's going to happen on October? Can I travel? Can I bring in visiting students? How many people can be in a setting? How do we wear masks in Massachusetts while we're offering restaurant services? All of these things are really unclear.

And we can give our best advice based on what we know about transmission, based on what we know about distancing, based on what we know to be the most safe thing to do. But we also look to others for that advice, people who study public health, people who have studied pandemics and that's my go-to source.

HILL: It's interesting too, not only that you put in perspective for us, that even the smartest minds around us, that you need that guidance as well as we're all navigating this because it is uncharted territory. But there is also -- there are practical implications here that one would think the administration would want out there. Specifically, let's think about schools. And this was also, apparently, going to include guidance for summer camps.

To get people back to work, parents need to know what they're doing with their children. More than 45 states have either canceled or suggested that school be canceled for the remainder of the academic year. Summer camps are being canceled. So that information as well, Dr. Marrazzo, is helpful.

MARRAZZO: It's not just helpful, it's crucial and vital, right? And even if we don't know the right answers, as Dr. Walensky said, we need to have an honest dialog about it, right?

I think one of the most important things we can do as healthcare providers and communicators about health is to acknowledge what we don't know, right? And what we don't know with this virus almost grows bigger every day than what we do know.


So we really, again, need to be at the table talking to each other and not being on opposite polls of some sort of artificial spectrum, about open, don't open, have this place do this, have this place do that. And that's where the CDC comes in because they're very, very good, very experienced, as Dr. Walensky notes, and, again, really negotiating this delicate territory between the reality of our daily lives and the sort of nerdy science part of the virus and its transmission and its treatment.

BERMAN: Scientists and nerdy, Science is awesome.

HILL: I second that.

MARRAZZO: Thanks, John. That makes me day, thank you.

BERMAN: Again, this is eternally contradictory. The messages being sent from the White House, to me, they're incongruous, right? If you're going to encourage reopening, how can you not provide help for how to do it? It just doesn't make any sense. Unless you're nervous that when people see what they have to do, that they're going to think it's too hard to reopen, unless you don't want them to take these measures to be safe. I just simply don't get it.

And, Dr. Walensky, another concern I have, a month ago or six weeks ago, time runs so fast here, I have friends at the CDC who I was in touch with, and they were demoralized. They were demoralized. They felt sidelined in handling this pandemic. They felt in some cases not listened to about the severity of the pandemic. What concerns do you have about the morale at this agency that you consider to be crucial?

WALENSKY: It's a great point. I do consider them to be crucial. I, too, have friends there. I have gone to them for advice. I think they know that we in the scientific community, at the hospitals giving advice are looking to them, and I just hope they are still there for us because we value their input. We need them badly. They are our public health servants of the country.

BERMAN: All right. Pop stars and Doctors Walensky and Marrazzo, thank you very much for being with us this morning. We do appreciate your time.

MARRAZZO: Thank you both. Have a great day.

WALENSKY: Thank you so much, John. BERMAN: More than half of all Americans say stress from the pandemic has affected their health. We're going to speak to an expert and have a fantastic report from one Erica Hill on this anxiety. That's next.



HILL: Being on the frontlines of the coronavirus fight is taking a major toll on the emotional and mental health of medical professionals. I spoke with a number of healthcare workers about their experience.


DR. EVELINA GRAYVER, DIRECTOR, CORONARY CARE UNIT, NORTH SHORE UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: every single time I walk into that hospital, it affects me personally. It affects my family personally. It affects my daughter personally.

HILL: Dr. Evelina Grayver wasn't supposed to be in the ICU.

Is there ever a moment where you can leave it behind?

GRAYVER: In all, honestly, I am kind of afraid of those moments. I'm afraid of the moments that I actually will allow myself to truly think and absorb all that I've just seen.

They are all on ventilators.

HILL: When the coronavirus began to spread, she was redeployed overnight --

GRAYVER: This is my daily test.

HILL: From the coronary care unit.

Did anything prepare you for what you saw on day one?

GRAYVER: Nothing.

HILL: Day one with was nearly two months ago. In the weeks since, her parents and then her grandparents contracted the virus. On April 25th, her 99-year-old grandfather, a holocaust survivor, passed away. She still hasn't been able to see her grandmother. It's too risky.

There has been insomnia, anxiety and lingering fear.

GRAYVER: I'm fearful. I'm fearful that me being as a high risk person that I am and being exposed that I'm going to expose everyone and anyone that I love. I'm fearful of depression. I'm fearful of anxiety. I'm fearful of post-traumatic stress disorder.

HILL: There is no timeline, no handbook for this pandemic.

ALEX STORZILLO, PARAMEDIC, ST. JOSEPH'S HEALTH PATERSON, NEW JERSEY: Anyone who says they're not scared is lying to you.

HILL: As a paramedic, Alex Storzillo is trained to deal with death but he's never experienced it to this degree. He worries about the toll to come.

STORZILLO: I mean, we may not feel it now, but summer, fall, when the dust all settles, I think that a lot of first responders might be dealing with PTSD.

ADAM STERN, PSYCHIATRIST, BETH ISRAEL DEACONESS MEDICAL CENTER: Mental health concerns are so often stigmatized that it can be challenging, especially in a field like medicine.

Healthcare workers and anyone on the frontlines of this pandemic are really at increased risk of PTSD and other emotional disorders.

HILL: Hospitals around the country are responding, adding additional mental health resources, including counseling. Emergency medicine has some of the highest burnout rates for physicians. Now increasing numbers of frontline healthcare workers are dealing with similar unrelenting stress. Their families feel it too.

KAYLA LEVY, DR. GRAVYER'S DAUGHTER: I miss her a lot all the time.

HILL: Do you worry about your mom?

LEVY: Extremely. I worry about she can get sick and possibly infect others and infect me when she comes home.

HILL: Dr. Grayver says 13-year-old Kayla has been forced to grow up quickly.

GRAYVER: As a mother, you just feel like you're not there. You're not there when your child is scared. You just feel helpless and kind of useless. It's a horrible feeling. Sorry. It really sucks.

HILL: And as you're trying to juggle all of that, there are people looking at you and they are saying you're our heroes.

GRAYVER: There're so many times when I hear sound of claps from work. I just want to be home with my child, to just be there and to kind of feel like you're her hero, you're like as a mom.


HILL: It's those moments as mom that keep her going.

GRAYVER: The silver lining is the fact that the quality that we spend, maybe the quantity is not as much. But the quality is just so much more meaningful. We just -- us.


HILL: Healthcare workers are not alone in struggling with the mental health effects of the pandemic. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, over half of Americans say, worry or stress related to the pandemic has hurt their health.

Let's discuss with Paul Gionfriddo. He is the President and CEO of Mental Health America, an advocacy group. and we also, of course, are going to have tools up because people need help and sometimes it's tough to reach out. So I just want to let folks know we're going to put those up on the screen, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number, also Crisis Text Line. So those will be available.

As we look at this, your organization advocates for mental health conditions, advocates for people to talk about it and to get help. It isn't just Dr. Grayvers and Alexs of the world. What are you most concerned about?

PAUL GIONFRIDDO, PRESIDENT AND CEO, MENTAL HEALTH AMERICA: Well, for too long, we have waited until Stage 4, until crises occur to deal with mental health problems. And our view is that we have to act before Stage 4 with mental health conditions, as we do with every other condition.

What we've seen since the start of the pandemic is an incredible increase in the number of people who now have anxiety or depression and increasing severity of results for people who have other mental health conditions too. This is a big wave that's already here and a bigger wave coming.

HILL: A big wave coming and one already here, as you say. Only about I think it's 43 percent of adults with mental illness actually get treatment in a normal year. If we're seeing yet another wave, you're pointing out specifically anxiety and depression, how do we help people find within themselves to reach out? Because that is the hardest part, I think, for so many people, it's the stigma that I can't ask for help, that somehow that makes you weak. When, in fact, that is the strongest thing you can do.

GIONFRIDDO: Yes, it's especially difficult or challenging for men. It's especially challenging for older people. What we need to do is to recognize that it's okay to get help and that it's okay to offer help as well. And sometimes in just recognizing that the isolation and loneliness that are driving a lot of the mental health concerns right now that can best be addressed by connections and reaching out to people, that when we do that, when we reach out to others to help them, we also allow them to help us. So we maybe break down the stigma a little bit by using the tools at our disposal to connect to people.

HILL: You mentioned specifically anxiety and depression. And I just want to put on the screen. I know you gave us some things to look out for. Because sometimes, too, you may be feeling things, right, and maybe they're different, but we don't know what that means specifically.

So walk us through depression. You say if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, concentrating or a change in appetite, people's scheduled are all over the map. How do they know if it's depression and not just, I'm trying to juggle my kids' schoolwork and working from home or maybe juggling not having a job? GIONFRIDDO: Yes. I don't want people to guess about things like that. I mean, everybody is feeling worried right now. But for some people, this worry is transforming to anxiety or to transforming depression.

There are free online mental health screening tools that we offer at our website. They're the same tools clinicians would use to help diagnose anxiety or depression. You can take a pre-screen and get a result in a matter of minutes and get directed to resources that will help you. I really don't want people guessing about this.

We've seen (INAUDIBLE) who have had depression or anxiety in the last couple of months as a result of COVID-19, many of whom are thinking of self-harm or suicide. I don't want them to be afraid to go take a free anonymous screen and get some answers so they know what to say when it is they're seeking help.

HILL: In terms of seeking help, obviously, in-person therapy, the talk therapy can be very difficult right now because of social distancing. Can a phone call work as well? Can a text work as well?

GIONFRIDDO: Yes. That phone call is much better than nothing. And a number of us at the national advocacy level have been urging the Medicare program, which we hope is changing right now to allow for phone consultations be covered by Medicare.

But, honestly, people are not just looking for therapy. A lot of times, they're looking for more information, they're looking for do- it-yourself tools, they're looking for connections to peers. And all of those things can also be gotten in an online and virtual environment. So we don't have to let the isolation and loneliness that we're feeling now prevent us from getting all the kinds of help that people say they need when they take a screen.

HILL: I really appreciate you joining us this morning and helping us have this conversation. And as you point out, just reaching out to someone may be the bridge that they need. Paul, thank you.


GIONFRIDDO: Thank you.

HILL: And if you or someone you know does need help, you can contact the Crisis Text Line. Just text HOME to 741741. And you can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The White House is pushing for a vaccine by December. A leading doctor though says we should not expect one until this time next year. So who is right? How realistic is any of this? We've got the latest, next.


BERMAN: All right. New developments this morning in the race for a coronavirus vaccine. CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now with the very latest. Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, this pandemic is unprecedented and vaccine clinical trials are moving forward with unprecedented speed.


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.