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6.6 Million More Americans File for Unemployment; Protective Medical Gear and Vital Supplies About to Run Out; Lawrence Summers, Professor, Harvard University, is Interviewed About the Unemployment and Economy in the U.S.; Anger Rises in the U.K. as Government Fails to Ramp Up Mass Testing; Tim Spector, Lead Researcher, COVID Symptom Tracker, is Interviewed About COVID-19 and Testing in U.K. and in U.S.; Rural America and the Pandemic; Interview With Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman. Aired 2- 3p ET
Aired April 2, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
Another 6.6 million Americans sign up for unemployment benefits as do almost 1 million Britons. How do people whole economies recover? I ask
former treasury secretary, Larry Summers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: And I want to say a special word about testing, because it is so important. And as I have said for weeks and
weeks, this is the way through.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Under quarantine and under fire, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson again promises to ramp up testing, while President Trump admits the
United States is running out of vital supplies.
Plus, five years ago, his boss, Bill Gates, predicted the world would face a crippling pandemic. Gates Foundation CEO, Mark Suzman, on how to avoid
the next wave.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REGINA BENJAMIN, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I look at this as a category 4, now a category 5 hurricane, sitting in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.
And it's not a matter of will it hit landfall, it's a matter of when and how hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Former U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Regina Benjamin, lays out the unique threats to the American south.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Coronavirus hits another painful, painful record, from the United States to the United Kingdom. The latest figures show another 6.6 million Americans
filing claims for unemployment benefits last week. That's a surge of over 3,000 percent since early march. The pandemic has knocked nearly 10 million
people out of the workforce so far over the last two weeks.
Here in the U.K., almost a million people have applied for welfare support. And as the number of coronavirus infections around the world climbs to
nearly a million, the British prime minister himself has -- having the virus is also under fierce criticism, even from allies, for failing to
deliver the testing that he promised, 25,000 per day by mid-April. So far, only a fraction of that has been delivered. As a new poll shows, over half
of all Britons believe their government was too slow to enforce the lockdown.
And in the United States, a major admission from President Trump. Federal stockpiles of protective medical gear and vital supplies are about to run
out. And we're going to delve into all of this. But first, to the economy and to people's livelihoods. I'm joined by the former U.S. treasury
secretary, Larry Summers.
Larry Summers, welcome to the program.
You, like everybody else, are under lockdown. But I wonder what you make of this staggering figure. 6.6 million in the last week. That's 10 million
Americans on the jobless rolls over the last couple of weeks because of this virus.
LAWRENCE SUMMERS, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Christiane, we're only partway through. Basically, you can't be working unless either your job
involves or can be done at home, like I'm fortunate enough to be able to do, speaking with you, or your job is something that's absolutely
necessary, being a phlebotomist who draws blood, being a deliveryman for a grocery store, being a policeman or a fireman.
But everybody else, people who work in stores, people who teach elementary school, people who work in dental offices, people who do routine work in
factories, they're not able to do their jobs. And either their employers are going to have to keep floating them or they're going to be counted as
unemployed. And in the United States, that's probably several tens of millions of people. So, I don't think we're halfway through the increase in
AMANPOUR: Did you say several tens of millions?
SUMMERS: I did. That are going -- that are not able -- I mean, just think about the number of jobs that can't be done at home and aren't essential in
time of corona, and those people all are going to need to get a check somewhere. And it's either going to be because their employer keeps them
going, which many employers won't be able to do, or from unemployment insurance. So, my guess is that we're certainly less than halfway through
the increase in unemployment insurance claims.
AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, that is really a staggering statement. Of course, you were secretary of the treasury, you were President Obama's adviser on
the economic council.
Look, has the United States ever seen anything quite like this? I don't know whether you go back all the way to the great crash in the late 20s.
But has the U.S. ever seen anything like this? And more to the point, is this an elastic jobless moment? In other words, can it snap back if the
economy, when the economy goes back into motion?
SUMMERS: I think this is going to be a larger change, but I think it is, at some point, going to snap back relatively quickly. I'm speaking to you
from Truro, Christiane, that's a seaside town, you know, off of Cape Cod. In Cape Cod, outside of Boston.
You know, every Labor Day, when everybody goes home again, the GDP of Truro probably falls by more than half. The population falls to about a quarter
of what it was before and the number of people working goes way down, as all of the shops and all of the restaurants close. And then every June and
July, it snaps back. Now, that's something that's expected and people plan for, and it can be managed. So, it's not a problem, the way this is a
catastrophe. But it does illustrate that it is possible for things to collapse very fast and then to come back quite quickly.
And I think there's the hope that if we're able to support businesses and able to support workers and able to support purchasing power through this,
that when and if we get this virus under control, you could see a quite rapid economic recovery. And that's why I think it's so crucial that we do
what's necessary to reverse the course of this disease and to get it under control, to keep people at home as long as they need to stay home.
And God knows that the United States of America cannot produce a reasonable number of basic masks has to say something very distressing about our
AMANPOUR: Well, what does it say, Secretary Summers? What does it say about your society? Because this is stuff that has been predicted in
pandemic playbooks and apparently, weren't utilized, that the federal government, the war games, all sorts of things like this. What does it say
that as millions and millions of lives that are at threat because of the virus and because of economic losses here, what does it say that this is
impossible and that shiploads of humanitarian aid are coming in from Russia and China? Plane loads.
SUMMERS: Look, at the deepest level, it says the same thing that the images of Hurricane Katrina said. It says the same thing that the fact that
kids were losing I.Q. because of the water in Flint, Michigan says. It says that we Americans need to understand that for all of our individualism, we
need a government that performs basic functions that can only be performed by a government. We need to support and respect the people who work for
that government and we need to be prepared to fund it adequately.
And the public philosophy we've had for almost two generations now since President Reagan's election has had advantages, but it has neglected that
fundamental point. And if any good comes out of this, it will be the recognition that we are a community and that we need to make investments a
as a community.
AMANPOUR: So, can I just get back to the issue of people who are signing up on the unemployment rolls right now. We've obviously been watching
Congress and the White House negotiating all of these different phases of stimulus bills, it's $2 trillion. It's not peanuts, for heaven's sake. Does
this not go to people who are suffering or does it just go to the top dogs?
Let me just read to you what Paul Krugman has said about it. What can be helped -- what can be done to help those cut off from their normal incomes
during this period of national lockdown? They don't need jobs. We don't want them working at a time when normal work routines can spread a deadly
disease. What they need instead is money. That's what's needed now is disaster relief, not economic stimulus. Do you agree?
SUMMERS: Yes, I do agree. And part of the scandalous neglect of our public infrastructure is that we don't have unemployment insurance offices that
are able to handle all of this demand. And we need, as a crash matter to be figuring out how to distribute all of these checks, the websites for
unemployment insurance need to be made to work.
Every genius who's working on targeting ads for Google should instead be redeployed to figuring out how to have an unemployment insurance website
that can ask the necessary questions and get the check dispersed electronically in a day, and we don't have that. And it should be a much
larger focus of national effort than it has been so far.
AMANPOUR: And, Secretary Summers, I mean, how frustrating is it to hear over and over again that the War Defense Production Act or whatever it is
has been invoked, and yet, almost nothing has been done to requisition very capable American industries and manufacturers to produce the masks and the
ventilators and all of the things that they need?
The president of the United States has said that federal stockpiles are running out. How is it not possible that these enterprises, which America
touts as the best in the world, are not put into action now?
SUMMERS: This is the kind of thing that happens when the president of the United States puts his son-in-law, a real estate debt operator, in charge
of the most fundamental aspects of government. You cannot run the greatest country on earth like an opportunistic shifty family business. And that's
what we have been trying to do for the last several years. And we're now seeing what happens when that experiment is tried.
We need to respect professionals who work in government. Emergency preparation professionals, income welfare distribution professionals. We
need to respect the performance of core public tasks. I think that's a lesson we're going to learn as a society from this, but we're going to
learn it in a very, very painful way and we need to get on it as rapidly as we can.
And frankly, if our nation's business leaders, instead of talking about how they're going to give a few of their employees' bonuses or extra payments
were prepared to step up and offer to put their businesses at work, doing what needs to be done. Our largest software companies could solve the
problem of figuring out how as a society we could distribute unemployment benefits in a matter of days. Our largest banks could figure out how to
distribute assistance to small businesses in a very short period of time. We need the kind of patriotism from our business leaders that we saw during
the Second World War.
AMANPOUR: Kenneth S. Rogoff, who is a professor of economics at Harvard where you used to be president has said that this is already shaping up as
the deepest dive on record for the global economy for over a hundred years. Everything depends on how long it lasts. But if this goes on for a long
time, it's certainly going to be the mother of all financial crises.
Well, we've discussed a little bit about that. But let me ask you, the finance minister of Denmark was Denmark was on this program last week and
they implemented -- I know Denmark is smaller country than the United States. However, they went out fast, early and big and bet on freezing
their economy for some three months and guaranteed 90 percent of people's wages. Obviously, some people will not manage, but for the most part, they
guaranteed that. And now, Denmark looks like it's going to be able to emerge. It's quietly, quietly saying that they may be able to get back to
work in the next couple of weeks.
Are there lessons to have been learned from that or is it apples and oranges?
SUMMERS: Look, that illustrates the first law of crisis response. It's much too easy to do too little than it is to do too much. You're much
better off overreacting than you are underreacting. And, yes, more containment, more quickly supported by more income is the right answer.
And when the record is written, those who contained more and provided more financial support during the containment will be those who did better.
We've still got states in the United States where people are all over the place, where people are off taking tennis lessons and playing golf and
going to all kinds of stores and mixing with each other. That is madness. And we need to impose the control. The more control and the more money we
commit early, the less we will in total. That is the lesson of every financial crisis.
What made the depression great was that people took so long to respond. If people had responded aggressively in 1930 or late 1929, the total cost to
the world would have been much less. That same principle applies today. We are not even thinking for the most part in the western world about the
catastrophe that's to come in Africa, the catastrophe that's to come in the developing world. And there's one human gene pool. And so, that catastrophe
is not going to be confined to those places and we're not going to be able to build walls. We need a much more aggressive response than we're seeing.
AMANPOUR: Well, we're going to deal with that part of the story later in the program. But for now, Larry Summers, thank you very much, indeed, for
And we're going to turn now to testing. Here in the U.K., there is rising anger at the government's failure to ramp up mass testing, even for medical
professionals, only 5,000 have been tested so far. And the country is lagging behind much of Europe when it comes to this crucial, crucial issue.
But today, the health minister pledged to reach 100,000 tests per day by the end of this month. As we said, the government is under real fire
because of this. With me to discuss is Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology, and the lead researcher on a special tracking app for COVID-
19 systems. It was devised by Kings College London and it's done so to better understand the virus. And on the issue of testing, ventilators,
masks and hospital beds in the United States, we're joined by Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious specialist at NYU. Both of them are joining us.
So, welcome to you both.
So, let me first ask you about testing, Tim. Because this is a real big issue here and you've seen all the headlines and all the news, even in
friendly outlets to Boris Johnson are just fit to be tied. And even today, the national -- the health minister said that they're not even going to
prioritize front line health workers. The testing, when it ramps up will go to patients. Just tell me your take on that.
TIM SPECTOR, LEAD RESEARCHER, COVID SYMPTOM TRACKER: Well, my view is that the testing now is probably a little bit too late. I think people are
thinking that, you know, based on our estimates, you know, perhaps a third of people have been infected anyway. And if you've been working in a
hospital long enough, it's highly likely you're either a carrier or have been infected. So, I do worry about that.
And really, testing patients nowadays, you know, most of them are going to be infected if you're going into these hospitals. So, I think I would be
looking more to protect the medical staff and promoting the idea that if people have had the test in the past and they can go back to the front
line, pretty much knowing they're going to be immune and reserve for the people who haven't been exposed. So, I'm a bit worried about those
priorities. But it all comes from a general lack of getting the testing out there early enough. And so, I feel the best place --
AMANPOUR: And why?
SPECTOR: Why? Why didn't they think --
SPECTOR: Well, you have to ask the government why they thought that they could contain it with other ways. I think there's a general idea in the NHS
that if you do things centrally, it's done well. And so, they had this idea they could do everything in this center just outside London in Callendale.
And that no one was allowed to get involved, because -- I actually was approached by a company about six weeks ago who had a rapid test. And I
tried to get them some samples to test on it. They're almost giving them anyway. They've said, no, no, we're developing R1, we're going to make it
big, it's all going to be fine. So, they really cut off any sort of entrepreneurial activity quite early through this centralized system, which
in other situations, can work well. But I think in this one, as we're clearly seeing, it's breaking down. It's more of a mindset, I guess, about
how the government tends to work in a place like U.K., dominated with one big city.
AMANPOUR: So, in the last 24 hours, in the U.K., 569 people have died of coronavirus. That's the biggest leap since this crisis began. The biggest
24-hour leap since this crisis began.
I want to quickly turn over now to the United States, to Dr. Celine Gounder. You also have major problems of testing there. The president
promised 5 million, you know, very, very rapidly, maybe a million tests have been done and produced. What is the structural impact, Dr. Gounder, as
best you know it, to the lack of testing there and presumably, unlike in Britain, it's not too late to keep testing and therefore, isolating and
figuring out, you know, what is the pattern and how best to stop this?
DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So, just to back up a little bit, Christiane. I think it's helpful for people to understand,
there are different kinds of tests. So, there's the PCR test, which is to look for the DNA, RNA of the virus, the genetic material of the virus in a
person. And the purpose of that test is to figure out if the patient sitting in front of you has COVID-19. And that is really necessary when you
have a patient who comes in with symptoms of, you know, respiratory distress that could be caused by any number of conditions, not just COVID-
19, and where what you do in terms of treatment will really matter.
There's a second kind of test that's just coming online in the United States now and is also available elsewhere, which is antibody testing. Now,
antibody testing will tell you if somebody has been infected in the past and if they are likely to be immune. And I think for much of the general
public, that's actually what they want to know. They want to know. Were the symptoms I had a month ago from COVID-19. And we would also like to know,
for both health care workers as well as other essential workers, have they already had this, have they already been exposed and might may they already
be immune, in which case it would be safer to send them back to work than somebody who has not yet been exposed.
AMANPOUR: You are also a front line medical -- you -- Dr. Celine, you're also front line, you're in the hospitals. What are you seeing in the
hospitals now, for the health professionals and also, you know, obviously, for the patients? I mean, ventilators, masks, all of those things?
GOUNDER: Well, we are really running very short supply on the N95 respirator masks, even the very basic surgical masks, face shields, gowns.
We're really in very, very dire straits when it comes to supply of those materials.
And with respect to ventilators, we're also in a very difficult situation. And the ventilators that were supposed to be sent to us from the National
Strategic Stockpile in the United States, as we're discovering now, many of them don't even work.
So, you know, when you have a patient that goes into respiratory distress and needs the assistance of a ventilator, you don't have days, you don't
have hours, you literally have minutes. So, it's really critical that we have those in the hospitals set up and ready to go. And we, unfortunately,
don't have what we need in that respect right now.
AMANPOUR: Can I just ask -- I want to go back and ask you, Tim, because this app, this tracking app, as well, is really important. Can you explain
why and what has it done, this tracking app for symptoms? What does it actually do in terms of, you know, the big picture of trying to stop this
SPECTOR: Well, we launched it about a week ago at Kings with a biotech partner Zoe who put together an app in about three and a half days. And
using social media, we rapidly got a million and now, have adopted 2 million users within a week, which is pretty amazing.
Everyone is basically logging their symptoms, whether they have them or not. So, we're asking people in every part of the country to tell us what's
going on, a sort of form of radar, if you like, in their area, to say whether that it's an at-risk area or not. And at the same time -- so, that
gives us this early warning device. Because the problem with everyone is now just facing these hospital counts or these death counts in different
areas, and that's really four weeks further down the line than these early symptoms.
So, what we're seeing is something that's able for each area or each district or, for example, in the U.S., each state, would be able to
mobilize its forces towards those problems, which currently they're just running around blind at the moment. So, it's mostly like a type of radar,
if you like. And then secondly, it allows us to understand a bit more about the disease and which drugs, et cetera, might be causing it or making it,
preventing it, what type of people are really at risk and are those old people, again, getting it, early infection, so they're going to be a
And then finally, what we've discovered is that, actually, there isn't just two symptoms of this disease. There's perhaps a dozen that are related in
some way. And in the app, people give the -- allowed to give these symptoms not just the cough and the fever, but actually a whole range of other ones.
And one of the commonest ones we see -- and that is based on 400,000 people who reported symptoms. So, it's a huge study which we've managed to get
together in just about two days.
But it does tell us that fatigue is the number one symptom. And the particular one is a really severe fatigue that people can't get out of bed.
Again, that's not classified as recognized as a necessarily important indicator, but as well as hoarse voice and chest pains. The one that stood
out, we found, only through this population survey was an acute, sudden loss of taste and smell.
SPECTOR: And that is like an early warning sign that someone's got an infection. Some stay like that and get nothing else. Others might go on and
progress and get disease. But these sort of findings are like a -- we've actually -- what we're trying to do is work out an algorithm that people
put these symptoms into the app and then we're hoping that we'll be able to tell them whether their chances that if they had had a test, they would be
positive. Because in the U.K., although --
SPECTOR: -- like the U.S., we don't have that many tests, the proportion are being tested. And so, once you've got 2 million people, you can base it
on that sub portion that have been tested to see if those symptoms matched. And basically, something like a sudden loss of taste is really important
So, we think we can use these symptoms like a surrogate for actually have these viral tests, which probably won't reach everybody in time. So,
another way of --
AMANPOUR: Yes. Let me go --
SPECTOR: -- screening.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Let me ask Celine, Dr. Celine, whether you think that would be useful for the United States, because I'm hearing so much about this
loss of smell, loss of taste. And also, in the U.S., you're seeing -- you know, you're seeing not just the elderly, who everybody said, or people
with, you know, pre-existing conditions. They're very young -- I mean, there was a baby who died. And, you know, there are all sorts of a range of
people who are succumbing to this.
GOUNDER: Well, we're certainly seeing younger people. I would say the median age of patients I'm seeing in the hospital with COVID-19 are
actually in their late 40s. So, that means half the patients are younger than that. We're certainly seeing patients in their 20s and 30s. I think
one risk factor that's significant in the U.S. and also in the U.K. is obesity. A third of people in the United States are obese, another third
are overweight, and that clearly seems to be associated with worst disease. You know, so that is concerning here.
SPECTOR: The other -- I should just say -- we have just launched --
AMANPOUR: And I just want to -- yes?
SPECTOR: We have just launched the app in the U.S. actually. So, it will be interesting to see how it does there.
AMANPOUR: Good. OK.
SPECTOR: And that's with colleagues in mass general. So, you know, the take-up in different areas will be very important. But it has the ability
to see if these symptoms are the same. And people can download the app now in the U.S. on our website, which is --
AMANPOUR: So that will be very, very useful.
SPECTOR: Yes, covid.joinzoe.com.
AMANPOUR: OK. Great.
SPECTOR: And look at it and see the maps in real-time in their area, which I think will help local hospitals a lot.
AMANPOUR: Good. OK. That's great. Dr. Celine, Dr. Gounder, I just want to know what you make of Dr. Fauci saying earlier that this is an unusual
disease. I'm fascinated to say it to Sanjay Gupta by what I would call the pathonogenesis (ph). You know, you get so many people who do well and then
some people who bingo, they're on a ventilator, they're on oxygen support and then they're dead. How difficult is that for you as a doctor and as a
professor trying to figure this out?
GOUNDER: Well, I think it is quite startling how quickly some of these patients decompensate, so where they go from not needing any oxygen or
minimal oxygen support at all to requiring a ventilator.
And this happens quite suddenly. Over the course of a morning, for example, I had a patient who went from seemed OK to needing an ICU bed and being on
So there is something about this infection in terms of how it interplays with the immune system. And I think a big part of the story is that you end
up with an immune system that's overly revved up, that's causing too much inflammation.
And that in itself may in fact be worse than the viral infection itself.
Dr. Celine Gounder, Professor Tim Spector, thank you both so much for joining me.
GOUNDER: My pleasure.
AMANPOUR: Now, nowhere is the inequality and fragility of the U.S. health care system more apparent than in poorer communities, of course.
Dr. Regina Benjamin served as the U.S. surgeon general under President Obama. And she founded the BayouClinic, serving a poor fishing community on
the Gulf coast of Alabama.
Having worked through Hurricane Katrina that tore through the South in 2005, she talks about Walter Isaacson about the lessons learned.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dr. Regina Benjamin, thank you for joining us.
DR. REGINA BENJAMIN, BAYOUCLINIC: Thank you. Good to see you.
ISAACSON: We're about to see the effect of this epidemic in rural America and what it's going to do to the world health care system. You have run a
clinic in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. You know the Gulf Coast area there. What are you seeing and what are you worried about?
BENJAMIN: My biggest worry is having people to take this very seriously.
Most of the people are really embracing the social distancing, but you're seeing pockets of people going to the beach, going to the plane. And, as my
governor said, this is not time to have your friends over for supper.
And you're seeing that sort of thing. So that's my biggest concern.
ISAACSON: Tell me about the Bayou La Batre clinic. It's on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. You started it, worked on it for years. How's it doing now? And
how is it preparing for this crisis?
BENJAMIN: It's doing fine.
We're seeing the challenges that everyone else is seeing. I have converted the clinic mostly now to the Gulf States Health Policy Research Center to
start to look at some of the social determinants of health. We're focusing more on trying to improve the entire health of the community and the entire
health of the Gulf region, the states that border the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida.
We have the poorest health outcomes. And so we have been trying to find, why is that? We have to some of the best medical schools, the best doctors,
and yet our health outcomes are poor. And when you put on top of that a disaster, as I call it, this pandemic, it stresses it even more.
I look at this as a Category 4, now a Category 5 hurricane sitting in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. And it's not a matter of, will it hit
landfall. It's a matter of when and how hard.
ISAACSON: In the areas where you have worked, which is basically the Gulf Coast of Alabama and nearby areas, there's not a whole lot of insurance and
health coverage and security.
What's this going to do when it hits areas that are highly uninsured?
BENJAMIN: The uninsured is a big part of it. But even more so, we have got -- in small towns, we have hospitals who have already been stressed. We're
seeing the critical access hospitals closing over the past several years.
They're going to be even more stressed. And they have been taking people who have -- uninsured or underinsured. These folks are really vulnerable,
because, when we talk about testing, are we having the testing available? Will there be charges?
When we go to rural areas, for example, you see, in bigger cities, they will have drive-through testing. Many people in rural areas don't have
cars. And so how are we going to test people without a car? Are they going to get a ride with somebody else, which defeats the purpose?
So, those are real concerns. And I hope that our government and our leaders are trying to make sure that we don't be separated by economics, that our -
- your access to care doesn't depend on your income or your pocketbook.
ISAACSON: This virus is particularly brutal to people with underlying conditions.
Is there a political problem you face in the and rural areas of America, where there are greater numbers of these underlying conditions?
BENJAMIN: So, we're -- with the health disparities -- we have been speaking a lot about health disparities over the past year, several years,
to anybody who will listen, that we do have disparities in certain illnesses.
Particularly in the African-American communities, we have more diabetes and more hypertension, strokes. And we're seeing that this particular virus is
particularly worse on people with underlying conditions.
And so you're seeing places like New Orleans, like Detroit, where we have a number of people with these underlying basic conditions, where, when they
do come in the hospital, they come in sicker, and they're getting sicker faster. And so we have to kind of start to pay attention to that.
And, oftentimes, many of the folks normally could get by, and they're getting by, but then you have got a history of high blood pressure or a
history of diabetes. And some people may not even know they have high blood pressure or diabetes, and they come in much sicker.
ISAACSON: Do you have to deal with a lot of misinformation that has to be corrected?
BENJAMIN: I have to deal with misinformation all the time, things like how you can get the virus and how you can't.
There are myths out there like, if you hold your breath 10 seconds, you won't get it -- or if you can hold your breath a certain time, or if you --
questions about -- around food, for example. Do I wash my vegetables in Clorox?
No, you don't wash your vegetables in Clorox. And there are these types of myths that you see all the time. But keeping good information out there is
really vital. That's why I think it's so important that we give good science, good factual information.
People are hungry to know what to do and what's safe and what's not safe.
ISAACSON: When you're talking to people in your community, what are they asking you?
BENJAMIN: Most people will say, what happens -- how do I know if I'm starting to get sick? It's allergy time. And we got all this pollen around.
I'm sneezing. Am I getting sick? Should I go to the hospital?
They're practical kind of questions that everyone is seeming to ask. And, of course, those complicate things.
We're -- I'm also getting questions about family members who have illnesses. Should the grandkids come and visit or, if we're in the same
house, can they come in the same room, those kind of questions. They're very everyday, real questions that I'm getting.
And it's really -- everyone's different, how you respond. If your grandkids have been socially distancing for the last two weeks, then it's probably OK
for them. But if they have been out in the community and stuff, they may bring something back, and it's not.
And so those are the kind of questions I'm kind of getting.
ISAACSON: Are they afraid?
BENJAMIN: They're scared. We all are scared. People are scared. The unknown is frightening.
We're hearing all these numbers and possibilities of infection and possibilities of death and probabilities of death. And they are real. These
numbers are real. And so it's going to be someone. It's probably going to be someone we know or we love.
And so that's very, very frightening. And people are told to socially distance when you really need to be close together. So the mental health
issues that -- those concerns are real, and so we have to find ways to stay in touch, stay connected with those that we love, because you really need
that emotional support right now, particularly when you're fearful of the unknown.
ISAACSON: Are you hearing from people with mental health problems now? And what do you do to deal with the mental health problems that might be coming
out of this?
BENJAMIN: So, the mental health infrastructure in our country has been weak anyway. We haven't put enough resources. And almost every state has
needs for more mental health services.
Here in Alabama, we really, really need more services available. So it was very difficult to get people into mental health services before this. And
now it's going to be even harder, or it is harder already.
There are different stages of mental health. There's the severely mentally ill, which are afraid, paranoid, that -- those are made even worse. But
then there's the other part, where it's just simple depression, simple anxiety, simple fear.
And those, we're seeing as well. And those are just as real. We're probably going to see more domestic violence, because we're stressed. We see
domestic violence increase during stress. We saw it during Katrina. People are together a lot more. And so how do we deal with those?
And how do we let people know that this is a possibility, so we can prevent that from happening?
ISAACSON: This is not the first major crisis that the Gulf Coast has faced. Let's discuss Katrina, which you and I remember well.
What are the lessons we learned from Katrina, the hurricane, that might be applied to this situation?
BENJAMIN: There are a lot of lessons from Katrina.
The first lesson, I would say is, right after Katrina, we learned that the federal government wasn't going to come and rescue us right away. We had to
roll our sleeves up and do for ourselves.
A couple of weeks later, they did -- or, I mean, some time, and they stepped in, but it takes time to ramp up. So we had to take care of
ourselves. And so we did as a community.
We also knew that it wasn't, again, geographic boundaries. Katrina affected the entire Gulf Coast. And it wasn't the counties or the state borders that
it affected. It was all of us.
We learned that the rebuilding took all of us together as well. And we put in a number of things around to get us ready for disaster planning. And
that's why I think we already know what some of these things to do. We have processes in place that we just have to activate.
And some of the community, some of the mayors and county commissions are now activating them. It would be better if our states would activate them
all at the same time, and that would help, because we have those. We did all that planning. So we learned from Katrina.
We also learned from Katrina that we will get through it, and we will overcome it.
ISAACSON: What would you recommend in the future, if you were surgeon general or part of the public health corps again? What should we as a
nation be learning from this and doing?
BENJAMIN: I think the public health infrastructure has to be solid and kept solid, and remember that the public health infrastructure is there.
And that's not just going to the doctor. That's, do you have clean water? Do you have good sewage? Do you have clean food? Those things are part of
public health, and you can't weaken any one of those. And we need to strengthen every single one, because they all relate.
ISAACSON: I know you come from an incredibly strong family, and you have a very deep faith.
How has that affected your way of looking at this pandemic and help tide you through this, as you look at the people in Bayou La Batre and other
places that you have served?
BENJAMIN: We all have a sense that we should have a sense of duty, that we really should have a sense of taking care of each other, because we can
look at what happened in Italy.
And when I saw that the pope stopped mass, I don't know if that's ever been done in the history of Catholicism. Yet it was the right thing to do. And
so we're -- as a world, we're linked. And so our faith -- I was kind of disappointed a little -- not a little -- a lot this weekend, when we had
churches, bands going around picking up people to bring them to church, when we have asked people to socially distance themselves.
We don't have to be in a big mega-church to be able to pray. Prayer is personal. Your relationship with God can be personal. We don't have to defy
science, defy the instructions to be able to have a relationship with God.
And I hope people know that. Many of the churches, there were places are having online services. They're teaching us different ways to be faithful.
And so that's been very helpful for me to be able to call on my faith.
ISAACSON: Dr. Regina Benjamin, thank you for being with us this evening.
BENJAMIN: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: Now, let's just take a moment to register this.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is one of the world's leading infectious disease experts, and he's a member of President Trump's Coronavirus Task Force, he
is facing death threats. A source confirms that he now requires a constant security detail.
Imagine that. Fauci has consistently recommended sticking with data and social distancing measures, making him the target of online conspiracy
theorists and haters, at a time when we most need facts and experts to save lives and get us out of this danger and get us the vital equipment we need.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been providing funding and expertise since the outbreak began. And Bill Gates has been sounding the
alarm about pandemics for years.
So, I'm joined now by Mark Suzman. He's the CEO of the Gates Foundation.
Welcome to the program, Mark Suzman.
I just wonder. You know, you have been listening to a lot of this. And there's just such a sense of anger about 10 million or more now in the U.S.
on the unemployment rolls. You have got a million here signing up for welfare. You have got these endless stories about not enough equipment and
masks and testing and ventilators and beds and the whole lot.
And your boss, he actually predicted, didn't he, that this was a possibility, this kind of pandemic. And the U.S. knew this. What do you
think went wrong?
MARK SUZMAN, CEO, GATES FOUNDATION: Well, yes, absolutely.
So, Bill and along with many others have said for several years that the biggest potential threat to the world that could cause mass death is likely
to be a global pandemic, and that there are steps that can and should be taken to help address that and get ready, prepare vaccines, prepare
treatments, prepare protective gear.
And I think those messages were heard partially, but only partially. There were steps by many governments to do initial plan, setups after the Zika
crisis, after the Ebola crisis. But, clearly, not enough was done and certainly not enough scale. And that left many, many countries just ill-
equipped to deal with the outbreak now, which is why we're scrambling to catch up.
AMANPOUR: And he said -- he's written on a lot of things. We're going to play a couple of sound bites. But he wrote an op-ed for "The Washington
Post" -- it was printed here in the U.K. as well -- about steps that can be taken now. It's still not too late.
But also he raised this very, very ugly specter of all 50 states, for instance, governors are competing to try to get, acquire somehow lifesaving
equipment, paying exorbitant prices, some hospitals are being forced to do.
And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services warned about all of these shortages in medical supplies almost 15 years ago in a 400-page
So, I mean, that's what we knew was going to happen. And it wasn't taken up. What is now Bill Gates saying are the essential steps that can and must
be taken now to get out of this?
SUZMAN: Yes, well, there at least three essential steps. And these are steps that are not just for the United States. These are global steps for
all countries to be taking.
And the first is to absolutely follow those social and physical distancing guidelines, to make sure that we are isolating and bending the curve of the
pandemic, that phrase that many people have heard.
It does work. It is working in countries and places where it's observed, but it can only work if it's nationwide. It doesn't work if you do it in
one spot and then another spot. You need to actually do it consistently. And that's been one of the real challenges in the United States, relative
to some other countries, including up to this date.
Second beyond that is the criticality of testing. We have all heard about the testing shortages. And testing is indispensable to both understand the
scope of the epidemic, but also to help you address it. How do you make sure that we know who might already have immunity? How do we know in the
long term who we're going to use isolate or quarantine or do contact tracing on?
And so that massive ramp up-is under way now, but that's also a critical second step.
The third step is really about the search for a vaccine.
SUZMAN: Yes. Go ahead.
AMANPOUR: No, sorry. Go ahead.
The search for the vaccine, because that's massively important, too. And we have been told a whole load of stories about that, from the podium of the
White House, to places over here, that somehow vaccine is going to be possible in the not-too-distant future.
Obviously, now we know that that's not the case. What is the foundation doing? What is Bill Gates and you all saying about how long that's going to
take and the steps that are necessary?
So one of the steps that was taken a few years ago, after the Ebola crisis, and after Bill made those initial comments in TED speeches and elsewhere,
was we, along with the Wellcome Trust, some governmental support from Norway and others, did set up a group called the Coalition for Epidemic
That group right now is that the forefront of the search for a vaccine. It's funding eight current candidates in real time. There are many other
steps under way.
But that is an area where we did get a little bit ahead of things, and the current science means we can probably do this on a rapidly accelerated
basis, much faster than it's ever been done before. But that still means 18 months.
I mean, 18 months is really our best case on a vaccine. And until you have a vaccine, you need to have all these other steps, which includes also the
search for effective treatments. While people are getting sick, we also need to think about, what are the fastest, most effective treatments?
So we need to do the same trials, tests on communities in real time. And, there, we have also set up something we call a global therapeutics
accelerator, again, with the Wellcome Trust, which is a large U.K. medical charity, with support from the MasterCard Foundation, most recently the
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
The U.K. government has put some resources in. We have had a lot of support from some pharmaceutical companies, trying to help share some of their
knowledge. But, really, how do you get these collective steps to both accelerate treatment, because that's what we need until that vaccine comes
along, and then get ready for the vaccine, but not just an appearance of a vaccine?
We then may be ready to scale and manufacture that vaccine in literally hundreds of millions and billions of doses, because it needs to go global
when we have it. And so that's the challenge we have. It's a daunting timetable.
AMANPOUR: And I want to ask you, because we just heard about the vulnerable communities in the United States.
And it hasn't quite, this pandemic, hit in a massive way further south. But what about vulnerable communities around the world? CARE International has
got 15 of the most at-risk countries, which have three times higher risk of exposure to the epidemics, six times lower access to health care services,
more than four times higher risk of food insecurity, nine times higher risk of socioeconomic vulnerability, over three times more likely to end up
providing refuge for displaced people.
And we will put up a little map to show you where these 15 countries are. But what happens when this hits the so-called developing world?
SUZMAN: Well, it is starting to hit.
Literally, the call I did just before coming on your show was a meeting with our teams right across Africa and Asia about the preparedness, what
they're seeing in the -- from Bangladesh to Pakistan to India to Ethiopia to Nigeria.
The virus is there. It's not there at the scale and scope that it is in Europe or the United States yet. Many of those countries have actually
taken much firmer steps more quickly. They are learning from the experience and have gone into national shutdowns. Countries like South Africa, India,
Pakistan are in national shutdowns right now.
And that's important for containing the spread of the virus, because one of the really big risks in places like that is, these big urban slums make it
impossible to do social distancing. If you're living three, four, five people to a room, families, where are you going to go?
That's our big concern is that, if the virus really gets loose in communities like that, it could be devastating, especially because those
countries don't have access to those medical facilities and all the statistics you were just citing.
And last but not least, there is already a knock-on effect in those places that have very scarce medical resources of just routine medical care.
What's happening to pregnant women with complications? What's happening to your regular vaccination? There's already a knock-on effect happening,
which we're quite concerned about.
AMANPOUR: And just finally, obviously, the Gates Foundation does a lot of work in the developing world, a lot of work around Africa and elsewhere.
Is there anything specifically that you're looking at, anything you could sort of target now to try to help out?
SUZMAN: Well, the first is just really helping, again, scale up their own testing facilities, treatment.
That was the earliest support we gave. We actually gave support right at the end of January, when the crisis was still largely China-based, to the
African Centers for Disease Control to help countries develop the testing facilities, because, at that time, only two African countries actually had
the equipment to actually test.
So we have helped build that up. That's critical. Now, you talked about 50 states competing for PPE here. What you have are these very poor unequipped
countries, who are getting outbid massively by rich countries to try and get essential gear and treatment.
And so we need to try and help them get access to that collectively. And then there are also some other steps we're looking at, and with partners,
about, are there ways you can get your big emergency treatment facilities outside those big slums, for example, that might allow you to take some of
the more vulnerable people out, like the elderly, who can't self-isolate, or early people who have contracted the virus?
So, a number of steps under way. A lot of these countries are working really hard and responding well, but it's very, very daunting, especially
with the economic dislocations.
Yes, it doesn't bear thinking about, really.
Mark Suzman, CEO of the Gates Foundation, thank you so much for joining us.
And, finally, we want to salute the jazz legend Ellis Marsalis, who has died at the age of 85, after contracting the coronavirus. A jazz pianist
from New Orleans, he recorded 20 albums over his decades-long career.
He was a mentor and a teacher to so many musicians, including four of his own sons. Most famous, of course, are Branford on the saxophone and Wynton
Marsalis on the trumpet. Both are titans of American and the world jazz scene.
And at a time when we need more music and light in our lives, Ellis and Wynton Marsalis play us out tonight.
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