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States Loosen Restrictions As U.S. Death Toll Soars; Armed Protesters Call For End Of Michigan's Emergency Orders; Trump Administration Draws Up Plans To Punish China Over Virus. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired May 1, 2020 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: This morning, we are seeing a delicate balancing act in America.


Much of the country is reopening for business in just the next few hours, even though the pandemic is still killing and infecting Americans day after day.

Take New Jersey, for example, more than 450 new deaths were reported there just yesterday. That was the highest single day total yet. So they are not yet reopening.

But nationwide, the number has surged past 63,000 Americans with 2,000 new deaths a day. Why is it staying so high?

Still, as of midnight, about a dozen states eased their stay-at-home orders, which will allow retailers, restaurants, movie theaters, salons, even malls to reopen. In the coming days, 2/3 of the country will be partially at least reopened.

So friction of all of this is spilling over in some places. Here is Michigan. This is where hundreds of protesters stormed the capital, some of them carrying guns. They demanded an end to the state of emergency that the governor had just extended through Memorial Day.

Then over in Georgia, there was this mock funeral procession outside of the state capitol. They were protesting the governor's order to reopen because they think that that puts their lives at risk. John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: So this morning, CNN has learned the White House is now reviewing a draft document from the CDC that details how businesses, schools and others should handle reopening. At CNN's town hall overnight, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that states face a significant risk if they reopen too soon, especially the states where coronavirus cases are still spiking.

In the meantime, a new report predicts this pandemic could continue to spread for up to two years. This report says we would need 60 or 70 percent herd immunity to get it under control. That means 60 to 70 percent of us will need to get it and recover from it to get the pandemic under control.

On the hopeful side, Dr. Fauci suggests a potential vaccine could be available by January, if, if everything goes well.

We want to begin with Dr. William Schaffner, Professor of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and CNN Senior National Security Analyst Lisa Monaco. We should note that Lisa serves on Joe Biden's vice presidential vetting committee and his pandemic advisory group.

Dr. Schaffner, Look, I want to start with you, because this is no longer a debate about if the United States and states are going to open up. They are, more and more every day. The question is, how at this point. So how do you assess that?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, John, you're exactly correct. It's no longer a matter of if, it's whether and how soon -- I mean, how soon and how.

This is a little like a tightrope walker. You're walking across the tightrope holding that big pole trying to balance the medical side with the cultural and financial side. And, incidentally, those tightrope walkers walk very slowly. And I think that's the way we need to go. We need to maintain social distancing activities while we're slowly opening up and seeing how things work. Because Dr. Fauci is exactly right. The virus is out there ready to be transmitted and if we go out, and about and try to turn the clock back to what was, to the old normal, we will have more cases.

So slowly and carefully, please.

CAMEROTA: I hope people are heeding your warning. I'm not sure that this sort of haphazard piecemeal approach is following all of that. But, Lisa, I want to talk about national security, because we've talked a lot about the public health crisis that this is and certainly the economic crisis that this is.

But yesterday was the first time that it dawned on me. I'm sure it dawned on you months ago. This is a national security crisis because you start to see in these pockets of places, Michigan and Georgia, just two examples, the simmering stress that people have been under is now kind of coming to the fore.

And in Michigan, armed protesters, a small, relatively, small group showed up and went inside the capitol because they are so angry that the governor there is extending the stay-at-home orders. These are people who want to get back to their life. And in Georgia, there was a quieter protest of hearses. They're angry that the governor who is reopening their state.

And so what do you see from a national security point of view?

LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Alisyn, you're right. Those pictures and those clashes really show the chaos that we've had to endure and the patchwork approach that the states and the governors are taking as they do this balancing that Dr. Schaffner rightly pointed out.


Look, what it cries out for is leadership and clear guidance. And that's what we've been lacking.

Now, look, a couple of weeks ago, the White House did issue a set of modest guidelines about reopening America, and it set out some gating criteria. And so the question really should be from a homeland security perspective, from a public health perspective, how do we open up responsibly? How do we resume responsibly?

And it seems to me there's at least two factors you've got to be considering. How do you do so while giving confidence to people that they can go back and go about their daily lives safely and how can they do that while minimizing the spread and the potential for resurgence? And questions like -- should be asked by governors and by public health officials and, frankly, by citizens, have you met those gating criteria? Has there been a sustained decrease in new cases? Is the number of deaths on a daily basis going down? And do states have the capacity to test, to trace and then to isolate those pockets of resurgence?

And if those questions can't be answered affirmatively, we've got to really wonder whether you can open up safely and resume and give people confidence because that's what it's about. Otherwise, you're going to see these boiling protests and that's really concerning, both from a security perspective and, of course, from a public health perspective.

BERMAN: But the states aren't meeting the gating criteria. We know that. The 14 days of declines in new cases and deaths and things like that, they aren't meeting. They may be a gradual, general decline, but when you look at these, it's pretty clear to us that they're not meeting relatively vague guidelines.

Dr. Schaffner, the things I'm looking at are the daily death counts here, still higher than 2,000 people, new report of deaths in the United States every day. That's been the way for 14 straight days. New cases, still hovering around 30,000 new cases every day. I do wonder, again, as the states and the country is making the decision to reopen, have we decided just to accept 2,000 deaths a day going forward? What does that mean?

SCHAFFNER: John, you are stating the issue very, very clearly. Most people don't want to state it in such stark terms. But I think there is an undercurrent that accepts that notion. Namely, we're actually obliged to start returning to commercial activity because there are so many people that are hurting who are without any kind of income and we're just going to have to deal with the collateral damage. That's a very harsh statement, but I get a sense of some of that.

And that's why I caution, please maintain the social distancing because otherwise we will see a second wave, another surge of cases as we start to interact with each other. Keep the mask, keep the mask, keep the six-foot distance, keep your hands clean all the time.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Schaffner, I do want to ask you about that daily death toll. Because we have been staying at home for the past month, people have begun wearing masks outside. I know that the death toll represents a lag time and that these are people who got critically ill or just sick three weeks ago or two weeks ago. But we were already staying inside then. We already had the guidelines about handwashing. Why do you think the death toll is staying so stubbornly high?

SCHAFFNER: Well, as you say Alisyn, first of all, it is a lagging indicator, as they say. You become infected and then I have to say this, it takes a while for you to die if you're going to. However, although many of us have been staying home and being careful, all of us haven't. This is such a communicable virus, it's so contagious that if we let up in any way in our social distancing activities, we're going to see another surge. This virus has continued to be transmitted in our communities.

BERMAN: Lisa, to what extent do state leaders and the national government, federal government need to be nimble here? I mean, it probably is too much to ask for a governor to come out and say, you know what, we have accepted that hundreds of people are going to continue to die. I don't expect that level of brutal honesty. But if they do see the numbers spike, what happens then? How much do they need to level with the people and what level of public trust is necessary?

MONACO: So they absolutely need to be leveling with the American people.


The first thing you learned when I started as homeland security adviser in the White House and worked through the Ebola crisis, one of the things we learned is you've got to communicate clearly, consistently and credibly with the American public because you're asking them to do a lot through a crisis and you need their confidence. The only way you get that confidence is by communicating clearly and credibly.

So I think the governors do need to be -- being transparent and being very clear. And, yes, indeed, they need to be nimble. And I go back to those guidelines that were issued a few weeks ago, we talked about the gating criteria. It also talked about if those gating criteria aren't met or if there's slippage and there is resurgence, having to go back through the gates. So, absolutely, there needs to be nimbleness in the response and you're going to need cooperation from the public to do that. And that means being transparent and being clear.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Schaffner, I want to talk to you about something that Dr. Fauci said last night at our CNN town hall. We've all heard that there could be and, in fact, we should expect a second wave in the fall and winter. But I think that Dr. Fauci put a slightly different spin on it, a more optimistic one, where he said that he didn't think it had to be as ferocious as this current wave because it might not kind of spread with the same wildfire quality that it has this time around. Your thoughts on that?

SCHAFFNER: Well, I hope -- excuse me, I hope Dr. Fauci is right. I find myself a little bit more conservative than he is, which is surprising. But you see a still very large majority of the United States population remains susceptible to coronavirus. We're not going to have so-called herd immunity, which interrupts the transmission or reduces the transmission of the virus until a very large proportion of our population is immune.

So this virus still has much opportunity to spread. We need that vaccine. I hope Dr. Fauci is correct and optimistic that we will get a vaccine soon. I'm not sure it will be available quite as soon as he hopes. But nonetheless, the deployment of a vaccine will start to reduce the transmission.

BERMAN: He says, if everything is perfect, by January of 2021, maybe. As we all know, it's hard to get everything perfect.

Lisa, not to go back to this point and to be too grim here, but is the issue now that we've proven that 2,000 deaths a day, 30,000 new infections won't overwhelm our healthcare system if the goal in staying at home for as long as we did was to create capacity in the healthcare system. Have we created that capacity? Are we now deciding that, you know what, we can handle this level of death and infection without overwhelming the system? I'm not talking about our hearts and our souls here. That's a different matter. I'm talking about the system.

MONACO: Well, I think it really remains to be seen, John. And it really depends on where in the system you're talking about. We know, for instance, that different healthcare systems and different hospitals, different localities have faced different pressures and I'm sure they wouldn't all say that they've got everything that they need today.

And on the testing front, we know that even as testing and lab capacity has come -- has increased and come online, you've had supply chain concerns with the ability to actually take those tests. So I don't think this is a situation where we've determined we've got all that we need and that we should just accept our current level. That would be quite a grim statement in my view.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Schaffner, Lisa Monaco, we really appreciate both of your expertise. Thank you very much.

SCHAFFNER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: So let's take a look at what happened here in Michigan. This was the state capitol, okay? This was yesterday. These are protesters. Some of them had guns. And you're allowed to bring those into the state capitol in Michigan. But what was it like while that was happening inside? Well, we're going to talk to a journalist who was there, next.



BERMAN: All right. Quite a scene in Lansing, Michigan, inside the capitol there. Protesters shouting about that state's stay-at-home orders. Some of them are armed. They clearly want the stay-at-home orders to come to an end. Michigan's governor has now extended a state of emergency until the end of May.

Joining me, two people who were there, Michigan State Senator Dayna Polehanki and Anna Nichols, she's a reporter for the Michigan Advance.

And, Senator, I want to start with you. And I want to post a tweet that you put out during this yesterday, an image of what was going on inside the capitol. You can see the armed men above you and you said some of your colleagues were actually wearing bulletproof vests. What was it like for you yesterday?

STATE SEN. DAYNA POLEHANKI (D-MI): I was a school teacher for about 20 years before I became a state senator, so I have no wimp. But what I saw at work yesterday at the Michigan State Capitol, which was a bunch of men in the balcony of this chamber carrying rifles, I'm not embarrassed to say that I was afraid.

And, yes, one of my colleagues, Senator Sylvia Santana, who is a black woman, did not feel safe because the day before she introduced a bill banning the confederate flag on Michigan's capitol grounds. So she was wearing a bulletproof vest.

BERMAN: I just want to note, it is legal for people to carry firearms inside the Michigan State Capitol, so they weren't breaking any laws there. You can't carry signs but you can carry guns.


Anna, you've covered a number of protests over the last six weeks in Lansing. What did you see yesterday and how did it compare to what you've seen before?

ANNA NICHOLS, REPORTER, MICHIGAN ADVANCE: Yesterday, it was an angry protest. Michigan is pretty tired of the stay-at-home orders. We're all tired. Over a million people have filed for unemployment. People want to get back to work.

I've seen a lot of threatening signs. There was a lot directed at Governor Gretchen Whitmer, tyrants get the rope, Witch-mer, all sorts of things. And then that was just the protest outside. They had to leave those signs. The signs are not allowed in the capitol. And then once it got into the capitol, it became a yelling match outside the chambers.

BERMAN: And I understand you got hit in the head with a rifle? What happened there?

NICHOLS: I did. I believe it was an accident, completely. But I got in the thick of things. I was standing next to someone. I also looked at footage of them swinging around the whole time on their back. It had a strap. But, yes, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wasn't being careful with their weapons.

BERMAN: So, Senator, Michigan has the third highest number of deaths in the country from coronavirus behind New York and New Jersey. Obviously, it's having a big, awful impact there. But there is also pressure to reopen. So how do you juggle this?

POLEHANKI: You know, I understand people's frustration who want to get back to work. By far the most calls we get to my office are calls pertaining to unemployment claims. But Governor Whitmer is right to look at facts, data and risk analysis as she makes her decisions about how to safely open Michigan's economy. So I have complete trust in her leadership.

BERMAN: Of course the big state, right? Do you need to do things differently in different areas, for instance, the Detroit metro area, does that have to be under a different set of guidelines as Opposed to the U.P. (ph), where I actually have family?

POLEHANKI: Again, the governor is -- we have the cream of the crop of medical professionals here Michigan, especially at the University of Michigan, and she is consulting them as she makes decisions about how to roll out a safe economic reopening. And it could be regionally starting with Detroit or ending with Detroit. I don't know.

BERMAN: Anna, it is interesting, because you have noted that yesterday, and the pictures grabbed a lot of people with firearms inside the state capitol, actually a smaller protest than the one a few weeks ago. And in some ways, these are just a smattering of people and when we look at the polls -- and, actually, let's take these pictures down because I don't want to mislead.

The point that I'm making is when we look at the polls and ask people nationwide, I assume it's the same in Michigan, the vast majority of people, in some cases, between 60 and 80 percent of people say they would be nervous going back to work right now. They respect the stay- at-home orders. So, in some ways, do these pictures misrepresent what's going on across the state?

NICHOLS: Yes, I would say that they misrepresent what's happening across the state. I think as much as Michiganders are tired and upset with that facts of not being able to go to work, not being able to do the things they want to do, the whole show (ph) that Michiganders largely approve of Whitmer's approach to COVID mitigation. But that doesn't change the fact that we want to get back to work. I love my job.

BERMAN: Look, we all want to get back to work. We don't want to see a new group of people, the same three people every day. it gets old fast. Trust me. Anna Nichols, Senator Polehanki, you're laughing like you have something to hide there. I don't know. I don't know what's going on at your house but I appreciate you both being with us this morning and telling us what happened in Lansing yesterday. Thank you.

POLEHANKI: Thank you.

NICHOLS: Thanks.

BERMAN: All right. Alisyn? CAMEROTA: Okay, John. For the second time this week, New York police had to disperse a funeral for the Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn. Police say many attendees of this funeral were not respecting social distancing guidelines. As you see in this video posted on Twitter, officers had to escort the hearse away after a big crowd formed.

Police can be heard shouting at dozens of people to get off the street. A 17-year-old was issued a summons for disorderly conduct. Now, earlier this week, New York police dispersed a large crowd in the same general area. That was a move that ignited tensions with the mayor of New York.

While the Trump administration is working on a plan to punish China for the virus outbreak in the U.S., what does that look like and how might China and global markets respond?


That's next.



DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: China is a very sophisticated country and they could have contained it. They were either unable to or they chose not to and the world has suffered greatly.


CAMEROTA: All right. That's President Trump. He's been trying to blame China for the coronavirus outbreak in the United States and at the very same time, he's been praising the response of China's president.

Now, President Trump says he wants to punish China. So how is China responding and what can President Trump actually do?

Joining us now, we have CNN Anchor Julia Chatterley and CNN International Correspondent David Culver, who has reported extensively on the crisis from inside Wuhan.

So, David, I want to start with you because this is a confusing message from President Trump. He has praised very publicly President Xi of China and President Xi's handling of the coronavirus but now says that he blames China. So how is that being interpreted in China?


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it seems like a contradiction, right, Alisyn? And you hear that and I think partly the Chinese are a little bit confused as they're receiving it.