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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Putin Aide Tests Positive For Coronavirus; Interview With Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; Nursing Home Nightmare; Los Angeles Extending Stay-At-Home Order?. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 12, 2020 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:22]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Los Angeles county will like -- Los Angeles County will likely extend its stay-at-home orders for another three months through July.

With more than 10 million people, L.A. County is the biggest county in the nation by population, with more people than 40 states. It comes as the governor announced more than one million coronavirus tests have been conducted in California, 41,000 in the past 24 hours alone.

CNN's Nick Watt is in the Malibu area of Los Angeles County.

Nick, this possible extension stay-at-home orders is really hitting a lot of people with surprise and shock. What do we know about the details?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are trying to figure it out right now, Jake.

But I have been getting texts from people saying, what is this? We have got to stay home another three months. People are stunned by this headline. We are digging into the detail.

What we know happened is that there was a supervisors meeting here in L.A. County. And during a discussion about a moratorium on evictions, the public health director said that, we are going to be extending our health officer orders another three months.

Now, the county is beginning to reopen. So it could be that it's going to be three months until we see the very end, or they could really be telling us to stay at home for another three months. We are trying to get the details.

But what is very clear is that, here in L.A. County, they are taking things slow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): While activists in Florida laid body bags on the steps of the capitol, stores in Ohio today opening doors to a brave new world. RANDY BENEDICT, OHIO SHOE STORE OWNER: We have cleaned everything.

Everything is marked off and everybody's safe.

WATT: Through this weekend, 48 states will have begun reopening. Colorado, South Carolina, Georgia, and Oklahoma were among the first. And their new case counts are holding steady for now, but it is still too early to tell the full impact of opening.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: My concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks.

WATT: New York state starts reopening Friday, as we hear New York City's terrible toll of nearly 19,000 dead through early May might be even higher. The CDC now says another 5,000 deaths are potentially related to the pandemic.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY, NY: I'm very much aligned with Dr. Fauci's concern. In the beginning of June, that will be the first chance we get to start to do something differently, but only if the indicators show us that.

WATT: Just one reason why Broadway theaters will be closed through at least early September.

Over in Hawaii, every single new arrival might now be photographed, as officials scramble to enforce a 14-day quarantine for visitors.

GOV. DAVID IGE (D-HI): Certainly, having photos would be helpful.

WATT: New case counts in South Dakota climbing dramatically. And after clashing with the governor over COVID checkpoints on tribal land, the Oglala Sioux now in a three-day lockdown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be absolutely no movement of anybody or anything throughout the reservation.

WATT: Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders, an international organization, has teams helping the Navajo Nation, as a new CNN poll finds 54 percent of Americans think their government is doing a poor job preventing the spread.

A majority also think the worst is yet to come. Still, some signs of near normality on our horizon. Major League Baseball might restart spring training in June, according to "The New York Times" and an 82- game fanless season, first pitch maybe July 4.

And Disney World in Florida is now accepting reservations for July.

But some researchers fear a rerun of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, a spring-summer lull, and then?

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH: A very large wave this late summer or fall that could be much, much larger than anything New York has seen or many other places around the world, that's a concern to us, if 1918 holds as the model, as it has so far. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: So, in L.A. County, the stay-home order may be extending for some time.

But, tomorrow, they are opening the beaches, but it's for exercise only, no lounging around in the sand. You got to wear a mask unless you're in the water. And also they are not opening the beachside parking lots. They do not want a crush of people here in Malibu and elsewhere this weekend -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Watt in Malibu, thank you so much.

One assisted living home owner has an idea as to how to slow the death toll in nursing homes. And he's already implemented the plan. Is it working?

[16:35:06]

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: More than half of all coronavirus deaths in at least 14 states are people living in assisted care facilities, according to the Kaiser Foundation.

The CDC director today called nursing home deaths one of the great tragedies.

[16:40:03]

Joining me now is Tyson Belanger. He's a former Marine infantry officer who served three tours in Iraq. And he now runs Shady Oaks. It's an assisted living facility in Bristol, Connecticut.

Thanks so much for joining us, Tyson.

You believe you have a solution to controlling the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes. You pay your staff to live at your facility full- time to lower the chances of the virus coming in.

And how is it working?

TYSON BELANGER, OWNER, SHADY OAKS ASSISTED LIVING: Jake, thank you for this opportunity.

I wouldn't call it a solution. I would call it a patch. And I would call it a necessary patch, until we can reach a time of better testing, better equipment, and strong quarantines.

The patch that we found was that, in early March, we restricted our visitors. That helped us reduce the number of people coming in from outside. But we were still left with 48 staff members commuting in and out of our home each week. We tried a checkpoint to medically screen people, but we quickly felt

discouraged. We felt how uncomfortable that we'd be able to accurately decide who could be in and who couldn't, especially with asymptomatic transmissions.

COVID can transmit without any signs of ill health. So we had to try something different. And what we tried to something that I call on- site caregiving.

So, on 22 March, 17 staff members and I moved into our home, into R.V.s. and into the house next door, and we committed to living here for up to two months. Our goal at the time was to bypass the surge and reach a time of better testing.

And we have done that. We have had no cases confirmed or suspected of COVID in our home.

TAPPER: None. Huh.

In a "New York Times" op-ed, you suggested that all nursing homes in your state should consider paying staff to stay around the clock, as you're doing. But you did note this could cost taxpayers in Connecticut $55 million over a six-week period.

Do you think that's a realistic proposal, given the expense?

BELANGER: It depends on how much we care about our elderly.

I care quite a deal -- I care quite a bit. We're talking about World War II veterans. We're talking about Korea War veterans. And I think it's just been deeply unfair what's been happening in our senior homes.

I'm not saying that everyone should do this. What I'm saying is that the states should provide this as an opportunity. We need to recognize this as a public good. And so, yes, the states should step in. Yes, at least it should be experimenting with on-site caregiving as an option during the surge weeks especially.

TAPPER: No, I agree. And I -- the way that some people talk about the loss of the elderly makes me physically ill sometimes.

I wanted to ask you, what did you make of New York...

BELANGER: I found this morning that one of my VFW buddies has coronavirus in a nursing home nearby.

TAPPER: Yes.

BELANGER: And it's shaken me to the core. My heart is really, really -- and of men over age 80, about 70 percent are veterans.

TAPPER: Yes.

BELANGER: So, when people talk about, oh, this old man died, this old man died, these are the veterans that we cherish on Memorial Day. We're not going to see them anymore if we don't take care of them. And

here in Connecticut, if you do some estimates, it comes out to almost as many as 45 percent of nursing home residents have had COVID. That's wrong.

We need to patch the situation, until we can get to a better time of testing, so we can get to a better time of equipment, so we can get to a better time of quarantines. And we're not there just yet.

TAPPER: Before you go, I'm just curious as to what you made of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's controversial decision back in March.

He required all nursing homes to accept people even if they had tested positive for coronavirus. It's a decision he reversed this week.

But I know a lot of people were angry, thinking that he was basically forcing a bunch of vulnerable people to take in new patients that could infect them. What did you make of it?

BELANGER: The view that I had from Connecticut was that it's coming to all nursing homes. It's coming to all assisted living.

So, here in Connecticut, we're at over 74 percent of our homes have at least one resident with COVID-19 in our nursing homes. I know that's the case in New Jersey, that they went over 90 percent. So when we were talking about numbers like this, I think the fundamental problem is asymptomatic transmission going through the checkpoints.

And the fundamental solution, at least in the short term, is to bubble up, and to have on-site caregiving, until we can reach the time of better testing, better equipment, and better quarantines.

TAPPER: Tyson Belanger, a hero in Iraq and a hero in Bristol, thank you so much. Appreciate your time. Appreciate what you're doing for our seniors.

BELANGER: Jake, thank you. Jake, thank you very.

TAPPER: More on the breaking news this hour -- more on the breaking news this hour about L.A. County possibly extending the stay-at-home order through the month of July.

I'm going to talk to the mayor of Los Angeles. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:49:10]

TAPPER: More now on that alarming prediction from Los Angeles County.

The public health director there saying today -- quote -- "With all certainty, Los Angeles County will keep it stay-at-home orders through July."

Joining me on the phone is Eric Garcetti. He's the mayor of the city of Los Angeles. Mayor Garcetti, thanks for joining us.

What was so alarming in L.A. County for the health director to make this kind of warning? Explain to us what the situation is there.

ERIC GARCETTI (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES, CA: Well, I want to reassure people, because I think there was a lot of panic suddenly, when the headlines said, we're all going to stay exactly as we are for three more months, when that's not the case.

I think, quite simply, she's saying that we're not going to fully reopen Los Angeles and probably anywhere in America without any protections or any health orders in the next three months.

I think we know it's going to be even longer than three months. And, as I have said a million times, we're not moving past COVID-19. We're learning to live with it. We're not going to go back to pre-COVID-19 life anytime soon, or jump forward to post-COVID-19 time until there is a medicine or a vaccine that allows that.

[16:50:10]

So, we're still living in the age of COVID-19. And, that said, we don't have to freeze life or freeze our economy where it is. But we will continue to need to have a health order about covering our faces, physically distancing, protecting our vulnerable population, and following the numbers when it comes to what steps we take moving forward, assessing those, and staying or retreating in some cases when this disease gets bad.

TAPPER: OK, but she did seem to be saying that people were going to be staying at home still through July.

I understand that we're not going back to 100 percent normal for quite some time, maybe not even until next year. But are you saying that she's wrong, that Los Angeles County residents are not going to be staying home until July?

GARCETTI: No. And I just spoke to her a few minutes before, because we -- listen, we have got a great health director in Dr. Ferrer here. We have taken her advice and saved thousands, if not tens of thousands of lives.

And I know most Americans want us to get it right. You look at polls across the country, certainly here in Los Angeles, it's go slow, don't go fast, and get it right, so we don't have to retreat.

So she wanted to make sure that I communicated and what she was communicating is that we still need to have a public health order, because there are some populations who will need to stay at home. People need to know, whenever possible, it is safer to stay at home, so if you can telecommute, et cetera.

And there's no radical changes in the next week coming, but that doesn't mean, three weeks from now, six weeks from now, two months from now, we won't continuously edit that order and make sure that we open up safely as much as we can.

And if it gets dangerous -- I have always told people the hard truths -- we may need to step back at times as well.

TAPPER: Governor Newsom said that California has done more than one million coronavirus tests, with 41,000 done just yesterday.

How many tests do you need to be doing, for example, for schools to reopen in September or October -- or August? I guess they open earlier in California. How many tests do you need to be doing a day for that to happen?

GARCETTI: Well, I think we need to be, in a county of 10 million people, the base is that's been recommended nationally is about 15,000 tests a day.

We're now at that in L.A. County. I'm very proud we're the first county that is giving universal tests to anybody who wants them, whether they have symptoms or not. We have to figure out federal help for the city level to pay for that, because we're burning through about a million dollars a day in testing.

Some of that's reimbursable. But it is absolutely critical. And thanks to your last guest, we have to test aggressively in our senior homes, protect our veterans and our seniors, and, of course, with people who are vulnerable, like our people experiencing homelessness.

But for our schools, there's no question we're going to have to have, for our young people, not just testing once and you're good to go to school, but at least weekly, if not more frequently, to make sure nobody infectious is going to school, even if they don't have symptoms.

That will reassure not only the students, but, of course, their families and the teachers. If that's done, I do think we can get in the fall back to some version of school, even if it doesn't look exactly like we're used to.

TAPPER: All right, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, best of luck with all of that. Thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

GARCETTI: Thanks, as always. Appreciate it, Jake. Be well.

TAPPER: Coronavirus in the Kremlin.

The close member of Putin's inner circle now hospitalized -- that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:58:01]

TAPPER: In our world lead: A top aide of Russian President Vladimir Putin is now hospitalized with coronavirus.

As CNN's Matthew Chance reports, Putin is now facing a crisis across his country and in his inner circle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): News that Putin spokesman has coronavirus is gripping Russia.

Dmitry Peskov may be only the latest official there to test positive, but he's the one closest to President Putin. It raises questions about the health of the Russian leader.

For years, Peskov has been the public mouthpiece of his strong man president. Putin rarely appears without him at home or abroad. There's a strong chance the two could have been in close contact.

To allay fears, Peskov has insisted there's been no in-person dealings between the two for over a month. The Kremlin says Putin has been working remotely from his residence outside Moscow, although he clearly takes some meetings face to face, like this one with the head of the Russian state oil company.

It's a risk in a country reporting more than 10,000 new infections every day. And there are growing signs of the strain. At this hospital in St. Petersburg, at least five coronavirus patients were killed in a blaze on their ward. Over the weekend, another died when a fire broke out in a Moscow hospital.

Emergency workers say both incidents were caused by faulty ventilators bursting into flames. All this as the Kremlin moves to lift restrictions on a national lockdown. But the coronavirus in Russia shows little sign of easing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: In fact, Jake, it seems to be getting even worse, because the country now has more than 230 confirmed coronavirus infections. That's the second biggest toll in the world, after the United States.

TAPPER: All right, Matthew Chance, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

Thanks for watching. Stay healthy.

[17:00:00]