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Reporting Indicates White House Will Not Release or Implement CDC Guidelines for Reopening Economy. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 07, 2020 - 08:00   ET



LAURIE GARRETT, AUTHOR, "THE COMING PLAGUE: Each community in each part of the country has to be ready and know, yes, maybe you've got things under control right now in May, maybe in June, but be ready. It's coming back again and again. And in particular, I think this virus is going to cycle to the southern hemisphere in our summer, their winter, and then return to the northern hemisphere come our autumn into our winter. And so it will be very much like influenza is. It goes north-south, north-south, around the world, in cycles every single year.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Laurie Garrett, I appreciate you being with us this morning. It has been a revealing discussion. Not sure it's designed to make any of us feel better, but I'm not sure it should. So thanks for being with us.

GARRETT: Thank you.

BERMAN: We're going to have much more on our breaking news, so let's get right to it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: Good morning. This is NEW DAY. Alisyn is off, Erica Hill is in. We have breaking news on a story we first reported last week. CNN has confirmed that the Trump administration is rejecting CDC guidelines for states to reopen. We previously reported that the CDC had put together a comprehensive 17-page document, a guide book for how to reopen safely. It included instructions for childcare programs, schools, day camps, religious communities, restaurants, bars, and mass transit. Apparently, this morning the White House doesn't want anyone to see it. Why?

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Doesn't want anyone to see that, but, of course, the White House did issue general guidelines for states to reopen, including the decline in new cases. As of this morning, 19 states are seeing an upward trend in new coronavirus cases over the last 14 days. And by the end of this week, all of those states will have started the process of reopening, and that will bring the nationwide total to 44 states.

Not a single one of those states has fully satisfied all the White House guidelines to reopen. Let's get straight to CNN's Nick Valencia with our breaking news. So Nick, last week you broke that this draft document had been put together by the CDC, it was being reviewed by the White House. We're learning that the folks who worked so hard on that at the CDC were told this is not going to see the light of day. What happens?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. This is a major development that's happening this morning. I spoke earlier to a senior CDC official who was involved in the matter, they tell me that it was very clear as of last night that the White House was not going to go forward and implement that 17-page draft recommendation that they were asked to put together by the White House Task Force.

I spoke to this CDC official just to gauge how they were feeling this morning. This of course is the talk of the CDC right now. And this is what that official told me, quote, "We're used to dealing with the White House that asks for things and then chaos ensues." They went on to say, John and Erica, that there were countless people that spent innumerable hours putting together these draft recommendations, again, that they were asked to put together specifically by Dr. Debbie Birx. This is a 17-page report which they feel includes very sound public health advice. They say this is what the CDC is there for. The White House Task Force, they go on to say, and the White House principles disagreed on how strongly a public health response should still be in place right now more than eight weeks in. John, Erica?

HILL: Disagree on how strong that response should be. We should also point out, it has been a long time since we heard from the CDC directly. There used to be regular briefings, that has not happened. And you have some reporting on that as well, Nick.

VALENCIA: I don't know if Americans are clear on this, but we are according to two federal health officials. People have been criticizing, very critical of the CDC for not being more front and center, at least optics-wise. Dr. Robert Redfield has been criticized by people internally at the CDC for certainly early on not being more visible.

What people should know, though, is that according to two federal health officials, the White House and HHS asked the CDC specifically to stop their daily briefings so that President Trump could hold his own daily briefings. The result has been, of course, that the American public is getting language from a politician instead of mostly from doctors. That, of course, is a huge issue with those at the CDC. They regret that they aren't able to be more front and center, but they say clearly that this is an ask from the White House and HHS.

HILL: So coming directly from the White House and HHS, they did not want the CDC to put out the science, the science that they worked so hard on, that Americans need to understand where this virus is, how it is working, what they can do to keep themselves safe. They were told to not share that information, which begs the question, how then do Americans get that information? How does the CDC continue to get that critical information out to the public?

VALENCIA: Yes, and when you lay it out just simply like that, Erica, it sounds terrifying that the American public isn't getting better access to this information. The CDC told us last night when it was clear that the White House was not going to implement their 17-page draft recommendations, they pivoted and now are contacting state agencies directly to try to get what they see are very valuable public health recommendations implemented at the state level. John, Erica?


HILL: Eye-opening to say the least. Nick, great reporting, appreciate it. Thank you.

VALENCIA: Appreciate you. Thanks.

HILL: John?

BERMAN: Joining us for more now on this breaking news, CNN White House correspondent John Harwood and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, I'm trying to wrap my arms around this. The White House and the president have been pushing states to reopen. That's one discussion. But this is separate. This is not giving them the instructions that the leading scientists in this country have put together for how to do it safely. I'm not sure I understand how this is responsible. What do you see here?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in some ways, John, nothing surprises me anymore. We were following the CDC daily briefings in January up into middle of February, end of February. That was the source for us as journalists, people I think in the public health community. It was really valuable.

I think I can tell you, February 26th, you know, one of the CDC principles, Nancy Messonnier, she made a comment that it is no longer a question of if this pandemic is coming to the United States, but when. And I think at that point, really, that was the point in time it felt like the CDC became sidelined. I interviewed Dr. Robert Redfield around that time, and it was surprising to me. I've covered this sort of stuff for 20 years. It was always the CDC director front and center. Richard Besser during swine flu, Tom Frieden during Ebola. It was really surprising that we just haven't been hearing from the CDC. They are the true investigators.

And we understand the biology of this virus, we're understanding more and more about that every day, but what does it translate to specifically in terms of how people should live their lives, that should come from the CDC. These are the investigators who are doing this day in, day out, and we're just not getting that sort of information. So there is not the translation of the microbiology to people's everyday lives. They are the ones who go out and take care of things like the andromeda strain in a sci-fi sort of way. This is disturbing, but not surprising.

HILL: Disturbing but not surprising. John, when we look at the messaging that we have seen from the administration, we have known since day one that the president likes to control the message and he likes the message to be what he wants it to be. Is there any more sense from the White House this morning about why they would not want to offer guidance to states? If they're offering some guidance on reopening, why not offer blueprint to perhaps help it go well?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Erica, it is crystal clear at this point that in terms of trying to suppress and control the coronavirus, White House leadership has collapsed. President Trump has decided that it is too hard. He's not willing to withstand the pressure and keep pushing. We did make progress during April with the shutdowns. But further progress has been thrown by the White House to states, to individual citizens and their own adherence to social distancing. They'll be helped by the apprehension and fear of a lot of people in going out. That may keep cases down. They're hoping for a benefit from summer weather and also from the vaccine projects.

But this is now on other people. The president has decided to shift a message to the economy. Of course, we're seeing a tremendous economic collapse. We expect a 40 percent drop in GDP in the second quarter. We expect an unemployment rate close to 20 percent. Tomorrow, millions more jobless claims will be reported at 8:30 today. The president's got multiple problems, and he's decided that coronavirus is the one he's going to throw to other people.

BERMAN: It is interesting, to me, Sanjay, that the message from the 17-page document, and Nick Valencia got a look at some of this last week, is that it is not easy to reopen. It's going to be hard for you to do these things, but these are the things you should try to do. Maybe the White House doesn't want that message going out to companies that it is actually hard to reopen. But people need to know how to do it safely.

GUPTA: Yes. That's one thing that has been I think important is to have some -- not just the what, but the how. Not just the what, but the why of these things. Like here's the reason you're spacing people out six feet, here is the reason you have to change the ventilation, here is how often you have to think about disinfecting surfaces, and this is why, because of the rate of time that this virus can live on surfaces, for example.

How the virus really behaves in a real-world environment I think is what this document was trying to get at, because, again, we can understand the microbiology, but I'm getting calls all the time. My kids are even going on the CDC's website because they want to know about the summer camps, for example. Can a summer camp happen? Can kids be in tents?


All these things, this is life. We need to know the specifics of how life is going to unfold in the midst of a pandemic, and that's what the CDC does. They actually take the microbe and apply it to real life scenarios, obviously in an investigational sort of way, and figure out how do we still live our lives. Can you still have restaurants that are open. Do hair salons make sense, when will they make sense? You can get as granular as you want on this, but this is what people need right now.

HILL: Sanjay, just --

GUPTA: That's why this document was even probably more important.

HILL: And, Sanjay, just to follow up on that --

HARWOOD: Hey, guys?

HILL: Yes, John.

HARWOOD: I was just going to follow up on what Sanjay was saying. Set aside the CDC guidelines. The White House is not trying to enforce or uphold or press governors to stick to the general guidelines they put out earlier. They have thrown up their hands here. I was talking to an aide to a governor last night who was saying that the pressure is intense. It is very difficult for us to resist it.

And last week we saw Jared Kushner say we're on the other side of the medical aspect of this. That is a fantasy, but it is a fantasy that has been embraced in the turn to economic issues. We saw the president in the oval office yesterday, when a nurse said supplies of PPE were sporadic, and he argued with her and said, no, I'm hearing from other people there is plenty of PPE. That is a president who is not willing to confront the reality of the virus, the virus challenge, and he's trying to get to an economic challenge, which is something that is perhaps more comprehensible to him or something that he thinks is more up his ally.

BERMAN: Sanjay, it seems to me that absolutism in this pandemic is the enemy, and to an extent absolutism is a lie. Yesterday we heard Kayleigh McEnany saying, well, we can't test everybody all the time. I'm not sure that's what's actually being suggested here, that 350 million people get tested multiple times a day.

Likewise, the idea of staying at home. At this point, the idea of everyone staying at home 24 hours a day isn't being discussed and it is not happening. That's a fake enemy here. Again, the discussion needs to be about how we live our lives as safely as we can, and it just doesn't seem that there is an honest discussion about it. And I want to know how you think we can do that most helpfully as a nation.

GUPTA: Yes, I think that there is no room for dogma here. We are all dealing with a new virus and learning as we go along. But the question I think becomes is that without some sort of real science-driven data in terms of how this virus is really behaving in real life scenarios now, which is what the CDC -- that's what they do. They go to the sites, they observe how this virus is behaving, they observe clusters. What happened? How did this virus move from here to here? That's surprising. Maybe schools really aren't that big a risk here. Or maybe we should do schools this way. That's surprising. That's not something I would have arrived at on my own. It's not the dogma of this is just how we should do it. You've got to actually arrive at these through real life investigations.

So that is what we need. And there is evidence around the world where this can work. I think people hear what's going on right now and they say everyone is being so gloom and doom, America is never going to reopen. That's not what anybody is saying, I think, within these public health communities. They're saying that, look, we don't want to be dogmatic, but we definitely know a safest way to do that. Maybe not absolutely safe. We know that there is still a contagious virus out there, but here is the safest way to do this. And then we can do it.

But instead, we're just getting this sort of rapid reopening, not even, as John Harwood mentioned, not even following the very basic guidelines of 14-day downward trending, having testing in place, having contact tracing, all that stuff, very easily spelled out. We're not even following that, let alone the granular information that the CDC is putting out.

My kids, again, go on this website, my friends go on this website, I get questions all the time. Hey, what about the NCAA this fall? What is going to go on with that? People calling me from all these various organizations. I go to the CDC's website a lot to get an idea of how has this virus behaved in the different scenarios, and then I can transmit some of that information to them. We need that.

HILL: Sanjay, just to follow up on that, too, for a second. One of the things that we'll hear from the White House in terms of why they're putting it on the states is because each state is experiencing things differently. And as we know within those states, right, we look at the New York City metropolitan area, for example, as opposed to upstate New York, you're going to see very different things happening.

That being said, even though the virus is moving at different rates, impacting communities in different ways, how difficult is it for people to understand what is safe to do if there is not uniform guidance across multiple states, because there is no one stopping me from driving from New York into Connecticut if I want, regardless of whether the rules are the same in those states.


GUPTA: Yes, absolutely, we're states. I mean, you know, what we're looking -- you know, we are the United States. I mean, you know, you've got to look at these things in some sort of uniform way for the reason you mentioned, people are going to travel from state to state, and also because there is a certain logic to it.

I think part of what's falling apart is that people have lost trust. They say, well, you said this on this day, you said this on this day, those guys are doing this, these guys are doing that, and I get it. There is a certain, you know, sort of lack of trust that starts to fester because of that.

Who is giving us not only the what of what we need to do, but the why? Why are we doing this, explaining it to people, really making people understand this is why six feet matters, this is why we said no masks, now we're saying masks are important to help you prevent the spread of the virus.

When schools start to reopen, when summer camp, why is that summer camp allowed to open up? That one that's doing this hiking in Appalachia but this one over here in New York City can't open up. You know, and we really got to explain this. We're going through something together as a world, and people can't get dogmatic as John was saying about this. We've have got to explain why we're doing these things.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Sanjay, John Harwood, thanks very much for being with us this morning as we cover this breaking news.

More and more states are reopening before our eyes. Many of them looking for guidance, like the guidance at the CDC apparently produced. So how did the state governors feel about being denied this information?

The governor of Connecticut joins us next.



BERMAN: Breaking news this morning, CNN has learned that the White House is blocking release of CDC guidelines for businesses, schools, camps for how to reopen safely. This is happening as more and more states are beginning the process. Connecticut will begin loosening restrictions on May 20th as the number of cases in that state hits 30,000.

Joining us now is the governor of Connecticut, Ned Lamont.

Governor, thank you very much for being with us. This breaking news that the CDC put together these 17 pages of guidelines, really a manual for how businesses and churches and schools and camps can reopen, the White House is blocking it, blocking the release. What is your reaction?

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): What do you got to hide? I think it would be very helpful for us. Right now, you know, we're convening internally, our higher ed, our K through 12, our small business, our retail, our restaurant groups trying to figure out the best protocols for reopening. You know, I share that information with Andrew Cuomo and Charlie Baker as the governors try and come up with a good solution as well.

But I'd love to hear what the CDC has to say. Maybe they've got some interesting protocols they found that worked at other places around the world that we could learn from here.

BERMAN: What message does this send that the administration doesn't want this information to be made public?

LAMONT: I want to hear what the CDC has to say. I like to hear what Dr. Fauci has to say. I would like to hear what Dr. Birx has to say. Let us hear from the experts. I think we'll be able to make much better decisions accordingly. Don't politicize this.

BERMAN: May 20th is the date circled on the calendar by so many in the Nutmeg State, in Connecticut, for when you will begin to reopen certain things. So what can your citizens expect on May 20th?

LAMONT: Right now we've got -- most of our main street stores are only available for pickup and take-out. Now they'll be able to have store services provided you wear a mask, provided you show distance. Nail salons and haircuts only by appointment only, very strict. Restaurants, outside only. You're 90 percent more likely to get infected inside than outside. So we are making baby steps as we slowly reopen our economy.

BERMAN: It's interesting, a new poll came out yesterday from Quinnipiac, a fine university in the state of Connecticut, that found that only 38 percent of people in your state favored opening in the next few weeks. 59 percent said the next few months or longer. Interesting that the majority, a fairly healthy majority, feel more comfortable waiting.

LAMONT: They want us to be cautious, there's no question about that. And even in Georgia, and Oklahoma and places where they have burst everything wide open, I find the consumer is being cautious. So that's why I'm being led by the scientists. We have an amazing scientific team that's helping this led by Dr. Albert Ko, epidemiologist from Yale, and they give us a lot of protocols that give the consumer confidence that when we open, they can do it safely.

BERMAN: So there is, I think, a discussion out there, a moral discussion that sometimes people don't want to have out loud, which is that there is risk in any action you take, and there will be risk in reopening. So how do you articulate to the people in Connecticut how much risk you are willing to accept as you reopen?

LAMONT: I told the people of Connecticut that for me, public health is number one. And I measure that by hospitalizations. Number two, I want to make sure our hospitals have capacity. If there is a flare-up, we'll be able to take care of you or take care of your grandmother. I've told people that we have strict protocols that I'm going to hold you accountable for honoring those protocols.

And people know that if there is a flare-up, we can throttle back a little bit, so we do this in a balanced way. We spent a lot of the last -- this week talking about education. K through 12 and college.


LAMONT: We're amazing college state. People from around the world come to Connecticut. What do we do with residents' halls? How do we phase those in?

BERMAN: And I know the colleges you are saying will be open, you hope, in September. Summer camps, you're suggesting that camps they can keep groups to 10 people, that may not be easy, that you're willing to explore that as well.

Again, this idea of risk and I don't think people explore it enough. The decision isn't whether to stay at home completely and shut your doors completely or to reopen completely, it's how much are you willing to accept and it is the struggle.


You know people in your state need to have the economy opened up to an extent. What are you hearing from them?

LAMONT: That they think we have the right balance, John. You know, we had this week to say this is not going to be any traditional K through 12 classroom education between now and the June 30. They said how about summer school a month later? And we said how about summer camps a week later?

They said summer camps are outdoors, easier to socially distance, than inside a classroom. We'll look at summer camps. We're going to have an educational component to summer camps. I've got to continue to ramp up the education, so September 1, kids are ready to go back to school. It will have been a long break in terms of traditional education.

BERMAN: How much trust do you have to put into the people of Connecticut? Not just the government, but you're putting a certain amount of faith in the people. So how much trust do you put in them?

LAMONT: You know, I put a lot of trust in the people of Connecticut and they've really honored that trust. I mean, I can say I don't want groups of more than five or six, you know, clanging around there. I can't enforce that. I can't have police doing that. I have to trust people that they're going to use their good judgment and overwhelmingly they have.

I've told stores, if you're going to open, you're going to do it deliberately and you're going to honor the social distancing rules. And I'd say 90 plus percent of those stores have done this. And you know who holds them accountable? Consumers who don't necessarily want to go in there if they see a crowd at a stop and shop, let's say, or a bunch of employees who aren't wearing masks. So people are self- enforcing. I think the trust is well placed.

BERMAN: Governor Ned Lamont, we appreciate you coming on this morning and talking us through what we can expect to see in Connecticut over the next few weeks and the challenges you're facing. Thank you, sir.

LAMONT: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right, we're just moments away from new unemployment numbers that will add to the historic job losses already. Those numbers next.