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CNN Global Town Hall, Coronavirus Facts And Fears; Experts: Six Feet Of Distance May Not Be Enough To Prevent Coronavirus Transmission; Third Night Of Protests In MN After Death Of George Floyd; African Americans Almost One Quarter Of All Deaths From Covid- 19 In U.S.; Taraji P. Henson On Access To Therapy During The Pandemic; U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 100,000; 1.7 Million Cases. Aired 8- 9p ET
Aired May 28, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MAURA LEWINGER, LOST HUSBAND TO COVID-19: Experience to be supported by so many including yourself. So, I thank you so much.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Well, thank you for your inner thoughts, always.
And I thank all of you for being with us. Our Global Town Hall starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening and welcome. I'm Anderson Cooper in New York.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta and this is our 13th consecutive CNN Global Town Hall, CORONAVIRUS FACTS AND FEARS.
This program tonight is being seen around the world on CNN International, CNN Espanol and also streamed on cnn.com.
In the four months since this virus started to kill in this country, more than 100,000 people have died here. When we did our first Town Hall, 12 people had died. Not 12,000 or even 1,200. Twelve.
A dozen weeks later, the death toll has surpassed 100,000. It's hard to even imagine that number, let alone make sense of it and for all the comparisons made, so many 9/11s, this many Hurricane Katrinas, this war, that war, there is simply sadly this.
For every story of life that deserves to be told, there are a thousand more. It would take weeks to tell them all and days just to read their names, and that is just one awful measure of this tragedy which is counted, too, in all the mothers and fathers, grandparents and children, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors who died without being held by those who love them most.
It's counting every parent taken off a ventilator and every child watching on FaceTime instead of being there. The stranger holding that parent's hands and all the thanks they deserve and should get.
This tragedy is measured in medical students who went straight from the schools to the busiest ICUs on Earth, and in the weeks that went by, without testing that made them so busy by letting the outbreak spread.
It's built on every promise made and broken by elected officials, every falsehood uttered and truth told, and the sadness surrounding those hundred thousand deaths is joined by the pain of more than 40 million people now out of work in this country. About one in four Americans unable to provide for their families or even themselves.
So much has brought us to this point and so much lies ahead, not all of it known, and that's our focus tonight. What we know and what we still don't know about this virus that has now taken more than a hundred thousand lives.
GUPTA: And helping us tonight, experts on the Medicine and the Science. We want to hear from you. So tweet us your questions with the #CNNTownHall or leave a comment on the CNN Facebook page.
A lot of you have already sent in video questions as well. We're going to get to as many of those as we can tonight.
COOPER: We also have reports from across the country and around the world.
We also have some breaking news just in from the C.D.C., which has just published a new forecast. It's based on more than a dozen individual models from outside institutions and researchers.
The projection raises yet another chill, about 123,000 lives lost by June 20th. That's the projection.
In other words, in the next three weeks or so, another 22,000 Americans may die, according to the C.D.C. projection. That is a difficult medicine to take so soon after such a bitter milestone.
COOPER (voice over): More than a hundred thousand people in the U.S. have died from the coronavirus and more than 1.7 million people have tested positive.
Despite these grim numbers, the majority of states are either reporting a drop in their numbers or holding steady. There are 16 states showing an uptick primarily in the southeast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The best news of public health is that we are seeing in certain areas a significant plateauing and diminution. That's sort of sobered by the fact that in other areas, unfortunately, we are seeing some upticks.
So, in the areas that are going down, it means when you do the mitigation, it works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice over): Most of America is now partially reopened. Even New York State, which is the epicenter of the outbreak has begun reopening. Though New York City remains largely closed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): New York is back. We're reopening all across the state, and we're going to get back and we're going to be better than ever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There we go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice over); The entertainment industry is slowly coming back. Some Las Vegas hotels and casinos plan to reopen next week, and theme parks in Florida, including Disneyworld are also making plans to reopen over the next few months.
Health officials are urging everyone to keep wearing masks in public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: I want to make it simple for some people to see that that's the kind of thing you should be doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice over): This week, the C.D.C. issued guidelines on how to return to work safely which includes air filtration systems and socially distant office layouts.
But they also warn that antibody tests should not be used to determine when people can go back to work because up to 50 percent of the tests could be inaccurate.
Though Dr. Anthony Fauci is still optimistic about a vaccine this year, other experts say we're still in the early days of this pandemic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: For all the suffering pain, death and so forth we've had so far, only about five percent of the U.S. citizens have been infected and this virus is not going to rest at all until it gets to 60 or 70 percent.
COOPER: It's a lot to get your arms around this week, and so many ways with new cases fluctuating state by state, reopening announcements coming, vaccine developments, new guidance from the C.D.C. There is a thought talk about in this hour.
First let's get back up to speed on the medical front with Sanjay -- Sanjay.
GUPTA: Yes, Anderson, it feels like the nation is collectively holding its breath right now. Waiting and anticipating to see what's going to happen next.
We know for sure the virus is still out there. That hasn't changed. And we know that public health officials are keeping a close eye on several states. Five in particular that all reopened early, four of which now have started today see a surge of people newly infected.
At the same time we know, as you mention, Anderson, there are states holding steady, even trending downward, and it seems in many of those places, the policy is to reopen, but the people are still doing all they can to keep their distance. Wear a mask. Reduce everyone's exposure.
And we know that makes a difference, a big one.
We should be clear on this, and is this should inspire people. There are places around the world that have started to reopen safely, and they did it with no other tools than the ones we have. No magic medicine, no vaccine, just aggressive action and done early.
There are lessons that we have to learn here, and if we apply those lessons now, yes, more testing, more tracing, more mask wearing, but also more compassion and empathy because we are still very much all in this together.
If we get that part of it right, then, Anderson, I think we may be able to finally catch our breath.
COOPER: All that said, there is this notion of just wanting to be done with the virus already. The upheaval it's causing in so many lives, even those we've been discussing. The virus is certainly not done with us.
The tension between those two thoughts, we are seeing that playing out across the country and with the number of new developments tonight.
So, for a closer look we're joined now by CNN's Jason Carroll. So, Jason, taking a look at the states trending up in the southeast and California. I understand that Governor Kemp just said that Georgia is trending favorably. Is that accurate?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think a lot of the health experts out there, Anderson, would say favorably is a stretch.
The numbers in Georgia are basically flat. You know, they were up, they were down. But at this point they're basically flat. As you know, in the State of Georgia, the governor basically said, look, you know, you can have no more than ten people who can gather.
Now he says as of June 1st, that number is going to go up to 25 people, and some of his critics are saying, look, why are you doing that? Your numbers aren't great.
He says if there is any sort of uptick in numbers in that state, it's because of a backlog of testing.
But when you look at the State of California, the numbers there, Anderson, very clear. And then late tonight comes word that the largest single day increase of coronavirus cases in that state since the pandemic. They are now reporting 2,617 new cases. This, as the state is just starting with its reopening efforts -- Anderson.
GUPTA: And, Jason, are you learning about anything that's driving what's happening in California there?
CARROLL: You know, look, interesting question. I think a lot of folks are going to be looking and saying, did they do too much too soon? I think these are some of the questions that folks are going to be asking.
But at this point, it's anyone's guess. You know, I mean, we've seen upticks in California and some of these other southern states where they were a little bit more aggressive in terms of reopening as opposed to places like here in New York where they were sort of slow to reopen.
New York's Governor, in fact has made it very clear, even though a lot of people have been pressuring him to reopen here, he says, I want to do it in the smartest way possible.
COOPER: Jason Carroll. Jason, thanks. Brazil right now appears to be on a familiar and troubling path. Total confirmed cases, the U.S. is in green, Brazil is in pink, several weeks behind us, but apparently climbing the same kind of exponential curve seen here, in Spain, Italy, the U.K. and elsewhere.
In fact, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, Brazil with upwards of 438,000 confirmed cases is now second only to the U.S. with authorities there reporting a record number of new cases today.
Our Nick Paton Walsh is in Rio de Janeiro for us. Nick, what is the latest?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, 26,417 cases confirmed in just one day, Anderson. That is a record for Brazil. A startling number, frankly, if you just bear in mind that is not the entire picture here.
Many doctors we've spoken to essentially say that you need three coronavirus symptoms to qualify for a test in Brazil. So, when you say the number 438,000 positive cases in a population of 210 million, that possibly suggests there may be a lot happening here in Brazil that isn't part of that formal number.
GUPTA: And Nick, you also traveled to the hardest-hit city there as well. What did you find? What has it been like there now?
PATON WALSH: Yes, Sao Paulo, the biggest, the wealthiest city, too, we are seeing a lot of that over the course, Sanjay, wealth not necessarily protecting anybody from the spread of this disease in the post densely populated cities.
Sao Paulo, one of the hospitals we went to -- one of the best, frankly were already full. And this was a week ago now. Essentially, I think we're about a week to a fortnight away from the peak of the virus hitting Sao Paulo.
PATON WALSH: They are reporting approximately 15 percent of the confirmed cases so far. It's an enormous city in itself, but it does appear at this point to be trying to ease some of the lockdown restrictions.
And that is contradictory because the governor of that particular area has been a bit of a different voice in Brazil compared to the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who has played down the severity of the virus.
The Governor of Sao Paulo has put it under lockdown, made facemasks mandatory level like we are here in Rio de Janeiro as well.
But all the same still, appears to be realizing that the months of lockdown now possibly need to be relaxed somehow because the economy is suffering so much.
It is just quite troubling to see those ideas and essentially nonessential shops could open if they present a plan on Monday that the government approves. Those idea of easing the lockdown happened as the peak is about to hit.
GUPTA: And have you heard specifics about what that reopening might look like then? Because everyone is trying to figure that out, obviously, around the world. What about there in Sao Paulo?
PATON WALSH: It would essentially mean that certain shops, nonessential, you might call them, exceptions being made for food courts and gyms. They will not be allowed to open.
They will have to present a plan on June 1st, Monday, in which they say this is what we intend to do and then the government will stamp that and approve it, essentially an impossible bureaucratic task in a city of that particular size.
It was in effective lockdown when we saw it four days ago. A lot was closed, take-out essentially only available in restaurants, mostly pharmacies and supermarkets open and deserted streets to some degree.
And these facemasks pretty much mandatorily observed in Sao Paulo. But that hadn't slowed the numbers down. That's what was so troubling.
COOPER: Nick Paton Walsh, thanks for being there in Rio. Perspective now from award-winning science writer, David Quammen, author of a book that may have come some years ago, but certainly saw this day coming. The title is "Spillover." It is a remarkable book. I've read it. "Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic."
David, in your book eight years ago, you wrote that the next pandemic that will kill millions will be, quote, " ... strange, unfamiliar, but it won't come from outer space. Odds are that the killer pathogen most likely, a virus, will spillover to humans from a non-human animal."
Those words were, I mean, right on the money and the idea that this was predictable and people like you and your book which I've read, which is fantastic, Bill Gates had been talking about it. There are a lot of people who have been talking about this and the evidence was all out there, and yet we still are woefully unprepared.
DAVID QUAMMEN, AUTHOR (via Skype): Right, right. The science was there. The scientists knew about this. The only reason I predicted it in "Spillover" in 2012 was because I was listening to a select group of shrewd infectious disease scientists, and they were saying this.
It's coming. It will be a virus out of an animal, possibly a bat, possibly a coronavirus or an influenza because they evolve quickly. Possibly in a place like a wet market or near, anyway someplace where humans are coming in contact with wild animals. And then it will transmit and spread around the world if we're unlucky.
So that was all there, and the most surprising thing, the least predictable thing was how unprepared we have been to deal with it.
GUPTA: I mean, just going a step further even, my understanding there was a close variant of this virus that was actually found in a cave several years ago. Not exactly the same virus, it was found by these virus hunters.
Somehow it spilled over, the name of your book, into humans. But there's been concern the virus could make that jump and cause disease. When I hear that, I wonder, could anything have been done even at that time to try and prevent this?
QUAMMEN: It could certainly have been done. The woman who led that team, Dr. Zhengli Shi at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, she and her group were writing papers saying, look, we're finding these coronaviruses in bats that are pretty similar to the original SARS virus.
They are probably very dangerous. These require high preparedness. There is a necessity for high preparedness.
She was publishing that in 2017, that kind of warning. And it wasn't just one virus. It was several.
But they turned out to be -- one of them at least -- very similar to this virus, not identical, but very similar to this virus. And the warnings went -- they may have been heard, but they were not acted upon, at least at the level of national preparedness that we needed in in country and several other countries. COOPER: In terms of this pandemic and why things have gone so wrong
here in the U.S., one former C.D.C. official you spoke to said it was a lack of imagination. What do you think he meant by that? And why has that been such a fatal flaw?
QUAMMEN: That's right, Dr. Ali Khan, now Dean of the School of Public Health at University of Nebraska, formerly at the C.D.C. which is where I originally met him back in 2006.
QUAMMEN: So, I went back to him recently, virtually, and talked with him and he said, yes, it's a failure of imagination.
The scientific warnings were there. It was an inability to say, okay, we must invest money and political will and skill in being prepared for this thing, and medical capacity, hospital capacity, healthcare workers capacity, responders capacity, technology, diagnostic kits that would be ready to do testing in real time at airport checkpoints, platform vaccines that could have quickly been adapted from a generalized corona vaccine to a specific vaccine for this virus.
All of that Ali Khan was saying, we just didn't get it. We didn't take the warning of SARS in 2003 and the warning of MERS in 2012, two other coronaviruses.
COOPER: And Bill Gates -- on that point -- Bill Gates had in 2015 had talked about that this would be -- it would costs tens of billions of dollars which may sound like a lot. But when you compare it to what this coronavirus, you know, the price tag it has already cost, not just in human life, but in dollars, it's incalculable.
QUAMMEN: That's right. That's right. And that's what Dennis Carroll, formerly of USAID told me. He ran the Predict Program for ten years, which was sending people out to sample viruses in the wild and find out what's there and what he told me was that he thought it was a risk averseness.
That scientists could provide the warnings, public health officials could echo the warnings to political leaders, but political leaders tend to be risk averse, and as Bill Gates said, it would cost billions and billions of dollars. I don't know, 20X billions of dollars, to be prepared against a pandemic like this.
And a politician of a certain sort doesn't want to spend that money if the event is not going to happen during his term of office. And I'm afraid that's what occurred.
But, of course, the COVID-19 makes, you know, tens -- 20X billions of dollars look like chicken feed.
GUPTA: I mean, that's obviously very sad to hear that they just wouldn't spend the money because of their term in office. But you know, you bring up SARS and in one of the articles that you wrote, you described that -- someone described it, I think it was Ali Khan who described it as the bullet that went whistling past humanity's ear. I mean, that really gets your attention for sure. That was also a
coronavirus like you mentioned, ended up infecting 8,000 people around the world, 800 died. But what -- did something go right there that didn't go right here? Did we get lucky?
QUAMMEN: We got lucky because that virus was not as transmissible as this one. It didn't have, as far as we know, silent spread. You know asymptomatic people shedding virus while they walked around feeling healthy.
And we did some things right, public health community, scientific community did some things right. They identified that virus and characterized it very quickly.
Got the genome figured out after some very unfortunate events of super spreading that infected a lot of healthcare workers. They figured it out and the virus spread from Southern China to a hotel in Hong Kong, and then from the Hong Kong airport to Toronto, Beijing, Singapore, Hanoi, and those are countries that had strong healthcare systems, but also strong governments.
COOPER: Do you think it's going to happen -- I mean, obviously we're still in the early days in this. We don't know fully what lies ahead. But we know more people are going to die and this is going to be around awhile.
This could also all just happen again. I mean, what do you hope we learn from this?
QUAMMEN: Well, I hope we learn a couple of things. First, to spend the money and spend the political will and capital to be prepared to prevent the next spill over, the next outbreak from becoming an epidemic or a pandemic.
We can do that with sophisticated internationally coordinated systems of surveillance. Beyond that, even more important than preventing the next outbreak from becoming a pandemic, I think, is learning about the deep causes, taking the lesson about the deep causes of this.
7.8 billion humans on the planet. We're very smart. We're very hungry. We want resources. We want meat. We want timber. We want minerals. And we're disrupting the wild ecosystems of the Earth.
And as we do that, we are coming in contact with all of these wild animals that carry all of these viruses. And as long as we keep doing that, we're going to be facing these spillovers and these outbreaks in the future.
COOPER: David, I appreciate you being with us. I loved your book, "Spillover." I think just think it is such an important read to really understand not just this virus, but so many others. Thanks so much.
QUAMMEN: Thank you, Anderson. Thanks, Sanjay. Very good to be with you.
GUPTA: David, thank you. [20:20:07]
COOPER: We have a lot more ahead tonight starting next with a top expert from the World Health Organization. We'll talk about the latest and sometimes changing guidance health officials are giving about social distancing.
GUPTA: Also, we will have your questions for Dr. Leana Wen. She will be joining us, and later, a conversation with Oscar nominated actress Taraji P. Henson and a noted psychologist, Dr. Alfiee Breeland-Noble.
Dr. Alfiee, we will talking to her about the African-American community which has already borne the brunt of this outbreak. How are they going to cope and what the future may hold.
That and more as the CNN Global Town Hall continues.
COOPER: We continue tonight's CNN Global Town Hall CORONAVIRUS: FACTS AND FEARS with answers to your questions about the pandemic. It crossed the 100,000 mark just yesterday and has now taken more than 101,000 American lives tonight in this country.
In a moment Dr. Leana Wen joins us answering your questions. But first, one of the leading authorities on the global stage, World Health Organization COVID-19 Technical Lead, Maria Van Kerkhove.
COOPER: Maria, obviously, the United States has hit this horrific milestone, 100,000 deaths in just the last several months. Globally, what's your assessment of the virus right now?
MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION COVID-19 TECHNICAL LEAD: So, thanks again for having me on the show. We hit another horrible milestone of more than five million cases and over 300,000 deaths.
You know, in many parts of the world, you know, we are seeing positive signs, but there are some worrying areas that we're concerned about.
KERKHOVE: You know, there are many countries in the Americas right now that are seeing a very large increase in cases.
There's a few countries in Europe, Russia in particular that's seeing a large increase in cases and we're seeing some more in countries in South Asia.
And so these are areas that we are concerned about because as we know, and as you know, when this virus has an opportunity to really take hold, it can grow very, very quickly.
The other area where we're quite concerned about is Africa, and it's not homogeneous across the whole continent, of course, but there is almost like a long fuse that we're seeing where a large number of countries are seeing cases, not huge numbers of cases, but any one of these can really take hold and take off very, very quickly.
And we have not seen how this virus affects vulnerable populations, and that's a big worry of ours.
GUPTA: One of the things that came up this week has to do with individuals, going down to the individual level, a group of experts saying that six feet of physical distance may not be enough to prevent transmission.
Now, they're basically making the suggestion that this can be airborne, it can start to travel further, especially indoors. But people have really gotten the six feet number in their head. I know it's arbitrary to some extent, but this suggests that it could be significantly further.
KERKHOVE: Yes. So, there's a number of things that we look for when we think about transmission. In fact, this is one of the biggest questions that I have in my mind about how much do we really know about transmission?
And I think we know quite a lot from the literature that's available. If you take it as a whole and if you look at the studies that have been done indoors and outdoors, our recommendation is one meter or more, at least one meter which is three and a half feet or more. And the longer the distance, the better obviously. And in many situations you can't have that long.
I think there's different ways in which the virus can transmit. It's a respiratory virus, so you have got different droplets that come out of your mouth. Some of those droplets are bigger. They're all small, but some of they have are bigger and some of them are smaller.
The bigger droplets can fall quickly and the ones that are smaller can remain suspended a little bit longer.
But we're not seeing that they travel far distances where people are talking with one another. You can cough or you can sneeze or you can sing where you're actually projecting these and they can go a little bit further and ventilation in rooms helps.
If you're outdoors, the ventilation is much different than if you're indoors.
GUPTA: The World Health Organization says one meter, though, three feet?
KERKHOVE: We say at least one meter. So, at least one meter means just that and so if you could do more, you should do more.
Remember, we are a global agency, and so we have to make this recommendation that fits every type of setting. So, many countries do a little bit more and that's great because they're able to do so.
But, yeah, so what we look at is we look at the literature on the way particles release in people's mouths, if they sneeze. There are interesting ways in which you could do that where you can use ultraviolet lights and use different types of light to see how far it goes.
COOPER: Dr. Fauci yesterday said that he thinks there is a good chance a vaccine would be deployable by the end of the year, assuming if everything goes right with the search for the vaccine.
I mean, is that realistic time line in your mind? Because I mean, in coming -- getting vaccines -- I've talked to a number of experts who say, you know, rarely does everything go right, does everything fall into place.
KERKHOVE: So, that's actually the integral part of that statement, it is, if everything goes right. So, I hope so. I mean, the answer is I hope so. And there are scientists that are working to accelerate the development of these vaccines.
One thing that's really important for all of your viewers to understand is that even if we are work -- even though we are working toward accelerating vaccines that will not compromise on efficacy and safety. Importantly safety.
We're hearing a lot of people come back and say, well, if you rush it, then it means you're not going to put out a safe vaccine and that is not the case.
So, there's more than a hundred candidates that are in development and the way that I like to think about it is, I like to think of it in stages almost.
In a few months, we're going to start to get some results from these pre-clinical trials and the clinical trials that are underway. That will help us narrow down which ones are showing some promise. And we'll have more data in a few months after that, and more data.
But there are no shortcuts in the development of a vaccine. Safety is not compromised.
GUPTA: I would like to ask one more question about the whole idea of this distance thing again because really, it's fascinating, the idea of what constitutes a close contact.
So if Anderson and I were working in the same building, we walk by each other in the hallway, but within -- closer than six feet, but walk by each other that presumably would not be considered a close contact. It has to be at least 15 minutes, is my understanding.
But can you define that in a practical way? What, like when a contact tracer is trying to figure out who to trace? What are they looking for?
MARIA VAN KERKHOVE, TECHNICAL LEAD FOR COVID-19 RESPONSE, WHO: Yes, so that's a -- that's a very good question. So it's not only the distance that somebody is from, from another individual, it's the amount of time and it's the nature of that contact. If you're just walking past someone, if you're not talking face to face, if you're not embracing or touching, if you're not caring for an individual, you know, who's a potential patient. Those are very different types of contacts. We think of a contact as someone who is in within a certain amount of distance to another individual. It depends on the nature of the type of content, like I mentioned, if it's a healthcare worker, then you need a much shorter duration in terms of how close you are with someone, because you are potentially in contact with someone who is infected.
We use a guideline of around 15 minutes, but that is quite long. I think that many governments will look at how long an interaction needs to be, it could be a lot shorter depending on the type of nature that somebody has with someone.
COOPER: Maria Van Kerkhove, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time.
KERKHOVE: Thanks for having me.
COOPER: All right, let's take some of your questions joining Sanjay and me, Dr. Leana Wen, emergency room physician, a former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. And reminder at the bottom of your screen, you're going to see our social media scroll showing what people are asking. We're also giving answers there. You can tweet us your questions with hashtag CNN Town Hall, you can also leave a comment on the CNN Facebook page.
Dr. Wen, welcome back. Thanks so much for being with us. What do you make of what Maria was just saying about distancing that the WHO standard is one meter which is around three feet and not the six feet that we've been following this country?
LEANA WEN, FMR HEALTH COMMISSIONER, BALTIMORE: Yes, I mean, we've always been saying that six feet is a rule of thumb. So it's not as if, if you are five feet from someone, you're going to get coronavirus, and if you're seven feet, you're safe. So I think it's important for us to use common sense. Think about these indoor crowded areas where you cannot maintain that physical distance. That's the highest risk, especially if you're going to be singing, talking loudly. And I agree with what the point that Sanjay just brought up to about the time of exposure as well, that if you're just passing someone by when you're jogging or you're in the elevator with somebody for 30 seconds, that time of exposure is pretty low. Your risk therefore is low. Not all interactions have the same risk. So think about not only the distance but also the time too.
COOPER: Sanjay, this question from Trina in North Carolina. It reads can you get COVID from trying on clothes at a department store? I live in a small rural town, a lot of people do not wear a mask when they're out.
GUPTA: Yes, well, so the answer is it's possible but unlikely. I mean, we know that this virus can stay on surfaces for some period of time. There was an article that came out in the New England Journal specifically about this, on countertops, on steel, on copper, things like that. It actually didn't look at fabrics specifically, but the more permeable a fabric, the less likely the virus is to stick. The biggest risk as I think people realize by now is coming in contact with somebody directly who had might have the virus or touching like a countertop or some sort of shared handrail or something.
COOPER: Dr. Wen, James in Mobile, Alabama sent in this video, let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES WALKER: My question is compared to the average death rate per day in America over the last five years from all sources, accidents, heart attack, cancer and flu, et cetera. What is the current death rate per day from all sources, including COVID-19?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Dr. Wen?
WEN: So prior to coronavirus, the average number of deaths per day in the U.S. was between 7,000 and 8,000. And you compare that to yesterday we had a 24-hour period we had about 1,000 deaths due to COVID-19. So, there's another concept here that's illustrated in this graph. That's about excess deaths. And that's comparing the number of deaths that we normally would have compared to what it is that we have now. And that's attributable to not only COVID-19 directly, but also causes associated with it as well. And I think that just paints the picture of the awful toll that COVID-19 is having in our country.
COOPER: Sanjay, this is a question from Dot in Alabama sent in reads, I hear about the addition of plexiglas barriers, such as in front of the cashier, in between tables in a restaurant, how well do these work? Do they offer much protection?
GUPTA: Yes, I think that they can offer, you know, a fair amount of protection, just basically creating a physical barrier between somebody who may have the virus maybe not even know it, and somebody who could potentially contract the virus. So it's not foolproof by any means. And I think that that's something that we have to keep emphasizing, these are all parts of things in the toolbox to try and reduce transmission. I think we're going to see a lot more of these plexiglas barriers and all sorts of different places. But again, it's not that you no longer have to physically distance then or wear a mask then it's not in lieu of these are in addition to measures.
COOPER: And I know you went to a restaurant to kind of show some of the better ways to, you know, do the best you can dining out safely. So let's take a look.
GUPTA (on-camera): First thing you want to do is just sort of take a look around. Does the bar area look too crowded? Is it too crowded at the entrance area? How about the physical distance of the tables? If any of those are problematic, you should probably walk out.
Second, I'm wearing a mask. I'm obviously not going to wear the mask when I eat, but you're going to have a hard time maintaining physical distance. So wear the mask and get it go to the bathroom anything. You have the mask. I also and one of those people who now carries hand sanitizer with me everywhere I go. You should probably as well. Also, if your restaurant has an online menu, check it out ahead of time, that's going to cut down on the number of surfaces you have to touch.
One thing about this restaurant is that they disinfect in between each customer, someone coming around wiping down the table wiping down the chairs, but they're not doing that may want to bring your own wipes if possible, and do it yourself.
If you can eat outside, that'd be preferable and safer as well. But that's not always possible. So if you're sitting inside, try and think about finding a table that's not in a heavy traffic area, eat off hours if you can. And also keep this point in mind, a close contact is defined by someone who's within six feet, but also for around 15 minutes or more. Those are the types of exposures you want to try and reduce.
Now you obviously can't eat with a mask on. I do want to remind people that this is not a food borne illness, I can't get this virus from breathing it in or touching your eyes, your nose or your mouth. So this should be safe and good to go.
Now, if you aren't going to go out to eat, it's probably best to eat with your family or the family unit. If you're going to go out with people that you haven't seen in a while, have some idea they've been doing a good job about staying safe, because how they've been behaving it's going to affect you.
GUPTA: There's so much to think about now when you -- when you go I teach you just have to pay attention all these things. One thing if you're not up to it yet, you know, you can still order food out from these places, you know, help the restaurant industry, but have the food delivered instead of going there yourself.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, I live in New York, I'm obviously I'm, you know, doing takeout, because I don't really know how to do anything in the kitchen except make butter jelly sandwiches, which I mean, a lot of. But Sanjay, I mean, I would feel nervous going to a restaurant at this point. Still, obviously, they're not open in New York, so don't have to make that choice. But where do you stand on?
GUPTA: Yes, me too. And I think a lot of it's because, you know, I just talked about all the things that you should pay attention to, but so much is dependent on how everyone else is behaving as well. And, you know, if you're with your own family, or people that you've been quarantine with in some way or staying at home with you have an idea but you don't know about everyone else in the restaurant. I think people are generally doing a good job. But it just takes one person who may be unwittingly unknowingly carrying the virus to potentially start spreading it.
COOPER: This question Polina sent in from Mexico City which reads, how come my whole family tested positive and I tested negative for COVID- 19, if we're all living under the same roof. What why might that be Sanjay?
GUPTA: Well, that's interesting. So that obviously if you're their whole family's tested positive, and you have not, there's a good chance you're exposed. First of all, I think that's the sort of point of the question. So there's two things that come to mind. One is that there are these false negative tests, people get tested and it comes back as a false negative. Second thing is just because you're exposed doesn't necessarily mean you're going to become infected. And that's not to minimize this virus, but for some reason, there are people for whatever reasons, something different genetically who get exposed to the virus but combat it and the virus is never able to take hold in their body.
COOPER: Dr. Wen, Leah in Chicago sent in this video. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEAH O'CONNOR: Our masks with exhaust valves dumping air into the environment where it could spread the virus from an asymptomatic carrier. If so, should these masks be legal?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Dr. Wen, certainly a lot of types of mask out there. What about the question?
WEN: Yes, so we can think about the masks that are available as in three categories. One is the n95 mass, which is the gold standard to protect the wear, but these are in short supply, and we should reserve them for healthcare workers who really need them and are exposed to a lot of virus. The second type is the type that all of us should be wearing, which is a surgical mask or a cloth mask that covers our nose and our mouth, that protects other people from us if we're asymptomatic carriers, and studies are now clear that if all of us wear masks, we reduce the rate of transmission in the community.
Now the mask that Leah is referring to is kind of the opposite of that. It's a one way valve that protects the wearer but expels the virus into the air and there is really no place for that during this pandemic.
COOPER: All right, Dr. Leana Wen, as always, thanks so much. Great to see you.
Just ahead, actress Taraji P. Henson joins us to discuss the mental health aspects of diseases disproportionately affected the African American community. What her foundation designed to fight those stigmas is doing a help? And how it's happening in Minnesota around the killing of George Floyd is compounding Of course, the mental toll.
COOPER: The CNN's Global Town Hall. We want to talk about some of the issues that are happening the African-American community which has been hit harder than any other by this virus.
GUPTA: Let's show everyone this chart for a second. Black Americans represent about 12.5 percent of the population, but close to a quarter of the fatalities. Non Hispanic white Americans, meanwhile, make up about 52 percent of the deaths despite being a much larger about 60 percent of the population.
COOPER: There's coronavirus, the physical and mental toll is exacerbated obviously by things like the breaking news out of Minneapolis this week, a third night of protesters demanding justice after the death of an unarmed black man in the hands of police. National Guard have been activated after what happened last night.
GUPTA: Yes, and we've also been learning a lot more about the four police officers who were fired for their involvement in the events that led to the death of George Floyd. The officer who was seen with his knee on Floyd's neck had 18 complaints against him. No details about those complaints but two resulted in punishment. Another officer was part of the 2017 excessive force lawsuit that was then settled by the city.
COOPER: Here it talks about this, actress Taraji P. Henson. She's also the founder of The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation which seeks to end the stigmas about mental health and the African-American community. Also, Alfiee Breland-Noble, psychologist and provider for the foundation's network, also founder of the mental health nonprofit, the AAKOMA Project. Thank you so much, both of you for being with us.
Taraji, it's great to have you with us. That this virus I mean, it's been especially hard on people of color black and brown people in this country. Also people who have been on the front lines and have been able to because of the sacrifices they are making, they've been able to keep a lot of other people staying at home and so a lot of people, you know, the deaths that we have seen, many of them are frontline, frontline workers who have been infected on the job. I'm wondering what made you get involved in this and what do you hope to do?
TARAJI P. HENSON, FOUNDER, THE BORIS LAWRENCE HENSON FOUNDATION: What made me get involved is, well, first me recognizing my own battles with anxiety and depression. And then when COVID happened, I just my heart went out and I just knew that people were suffering and they're suffering alone in isolation. And no, I'm blessed. I can call my therapist, I could pay for it without thinking about it. But what about those who can't?
And knowing that the my people are being disproportionately affected by it because of economic status, because of past traumas that we haven't even addressed because of the stigma around mental health. I had to do something. So we created a virtual fundraising campaign for free sessions for people of color in our, you know, disadvantaged neighborhoods. I'm so nervous. There's so much going on right now. My brains just -- I apologize.
COOPER: I mean to talk about it. To talk about the virus, but also given what has happened to Mr. Floyd. I mean, it's just --
COOPER: -- it's --
HENSON: It's just like it won't let up. You know, it's like, I'm trying to stop a bleeding room and it just keeps bleeding, you know? But I'm raising money to help those who can't, who feel like they're suffocating right now, who feel like they can't talk to anyone. We're giving away free sessions. We're asking for the public's help. We've helped over 1,500 people in need. We have over 500 culturally competent therapists and now resource guide. You can check us out at the borislhensonfoundation.org or you can check us out -- oh, you can text no stigma to 707070. We're trying to help 1,500 more people. Our first session is over. We're going to start our second session at the end of next week. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.
GUPTA: No, please. Alfiee. I wonder if with the onset of coronavirus, the foundation was then set up to specifically help black and brown communities get free access. But can you just tell us a little bit more about how that works? How do people access the program? What would they experience if they do?
ALFIEE BRELAND-NOBLE, PSYCHOLOGIST, BLHF PROVIDER RESOURCE GUIDE: Sure. So what there should be doing is reaching out to The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, as Ms. Hanson shared, you can reach out through the web. And there's more information on their website. And I think what happens next is -- well not I think what happens next is you're connected with providers who are culturally competent. And you are provided with the opportunity to have five free sessions, mental health support virtually, because we know people can't go out and we do know as you both have shared, that African-Americans and Black Americans are being negatively disproportionately negatively impacted by not only the virus but by the secondary mental health impacts associated with the virus.
So it really is an incredible opportunity for people who may have never thought about participating in therapy to get help.
COOPER: Taraji, one of the things that, you know, that that's so destructive about this virus, not just for those who have lost their lives, but is the loss of a sense of community, a loss of being able to, you know, reach out and hold the hand of your grandmother or your mom or your best friend and just talk about what's going on.
COOPER: And I think that's one of the things, it seems like you're trying to kind of help create a community online, to those who feel like, you know, it's hard enough to talk about mental health issues, even in the best of times, but when you can't even do it face to face with the person, you know, best. It's, I mean, it's, it's, it's tragic.
HENSON: It's tragic and less traumatizing. And I mean, at this point, it seems like we have to save ourselves because we keep -- I mean, these issues keep coming up racism, police brutality. You know, these are traumas that have been passed down from generations to slavery. We still haven't dealt with that trauma. And here we are with these other -- I want -- I can't even call them microagressions anymore. They're not even microscopic anymore. They're huge aggressions. And they're live and then our faces every day and we're supposed to get up and smile and go on a go to work with this weight on us. It's too much.
And at some point, as a human, you will crack and you need someone to talk to and it's OK. And my hope is that we eradicate the stigma around mental health in the black community because we've been taught to pray it away, you know, be strong. Don't tell me to be strong, being strong dehumanizes me. It takes my trauma and it meant -- it makes it small, by human. I have a right to fear. I have a right to be scared, I'm not a superhero. You know, I -- if I get shot, I bleed and I die just like the next human. So, the fact that we're not even looked at as humans right now. So it's quite disturbing.
BRELAND-NOBLE: And I think what? No, I'm sorry. Go ahead.
GUPTA: No, please, try as you go.
BRELAND-NOBLE: I think what Ms. Henson is also expressing is what we would describe as happening for many of us who are African-American, black people of color. And that is this idea of vicarious trauma. Right? So it's repeated.
BRELAND-NOBLE: We had incident after incident after incident after incident, and people barely have time to collect their breath from the first incident before something else happens. And I was sharing earlier today in a conversation with Ms. Henson that George Floyd, I feel like it's important to say his name, and I think about Mr. Cooper, Christian Cooper, they remind me of my brother, right? These are people who look like the men in my family.
And so to see what happens to these men and to think about women like Brianna Taylor, to see what's happening repeatedly, just as she shared it is -- it's unconscionable. And so what we have to do is resist the urge or resist the transition into feeling numb. I was talking earlier today on my Instagram page about, you know, because that's where a lot of people go to get that support. It is virtual, just as you said, Anderson.
And so what we want to do is make sure that we provide opportunities just as they're doing with this amazing campaign. I have to say, after 20 years as a disparities researcher first to do vintage Georgetown, and now with the AAKOMA Project, Ms. Henson and this foundation are doing what we in 18 months, what we spent our lives, our lives blood, lives work trying to do, and that is getting black people into care. And so for that, for this current campaign, 95 percent of the people who have utilized the care, have been happy with their care and have said that they would come back. That's tremendous for eradicating stigmas. I just commend all of us for the work and I come in Ms. Henson and Tracie J., the director for the effort that they've put into trying to make this better for all of us.
HENSON: I would love to see more men sign up, though I would love to see more men.
COOPER: Well Taraji, I know this is -- I mean, I understand I heard you speak -- I think you've spoken about this before, your dad who served in Vietnam. He suffered in silence for a long time after coming home from PTSD. And I think this whole, you know, I, my brother died by suicide and when, when he was 23 years old, I think this whole idea of, you know, kind of breaking the stigma around mental health issues. I just think it's so important.
HENSON: It's so important. The more we normalize the conversation, the more people will feel at ease to talk about it. I mean, how can you take care of your body from the neck down? Your mind is such a huge part of your body and its function, and you have to care for it, you must. And I think people misconstrue the meaning of strength. Strength is not raw, it's not a vibrato, you know, there's -- you're so much stronger in your vulnerability. And that's what I need my people to understand, it's OK to feel you're human. It's OK.
BRELAND-NOBLE: That's one, I would agree 100 percent it is OK to feel, it is OK to express those feelings. That's a normal --
BRELAND-NOBLE: -- part of our developmental process. And I think just as Ms. Henson is saying, if we don't do it, those are the things that lead to -- we talked about this idea of the weathering effect on African-Americans and how it literally at a cellular level negatively impacts us if we're not able to deal with and work towards healing from the many traumas that we expect we experienced, whether it's the microaggressions, the current, the term coined by Dr. Chester Pierce in the '70s, or whether it's these huge traumas that we're experiencing now watching what's happening.
So I encourage us to do things like stop sharing the video. It's important to be informed. But once you're informed, you really have to put that down because as Ms. Hanson said, we can't take care of anybody else unless we take care of ourselves first. And that is critical in reducing the stigma and eradicating the stigma around seeking help. It is OK to help. Everybody needs help.
So I just realized it's really important too, we can't stress that message enough. So I'm just clearly she knows I love her and I'm 100 percent behind what we're all trying to do with our campaign.
COOPER: Well, Taraji P. Hansen, and an Alfiee Breland-Noble, thank you so much, and I hope we can talk again, because this is important and it's not going away and we need to talk about it. Thank you.
HENSON: Thank you so much Anderson.
GUPTA: Thank you.
COOPER: We'll be right back with some final thoughts.
GUPTA: I wanted to end tonight where you started Anderson with a number. It's still hard to believe that 100,000 people have died in the United States of a disease none of us have even heard of just a few months ago. And now one in seven Americans know someone who has died of this. I know people who have died of this disease. Some very close to me.
Others patients being cared for in our own hospitals, all dying alone because of the brutal contagiousness of this disease. Some of their families are watching tonight suffering and wondering if it had to happen if it was inevitable. As a doctor, I can tell you there is no more painful conversation than this one. Because truth is, many of these sad deaths could have been prevented. Yes, the virus is awful. But this was not inevitable.
In countries around the world, countries afflicted with the disease at the same time we were, measure their death count in the hundreds, certainly not the thousands, and definitely not the hundreds of thousands.
As I said earlier, those countries didn't have a magic therapeutic or a vaccine, they had the same things we had. They just took it seriously, acted quickly, and had exponentially more success than we did. It's a tough comparison. I know, but I think it's a fair one. Even the greatest country on earth can learn at a time like this from other countries. And I think that's more important now than ever.
This is a once in a century illness and we don't know exactly why the world was stricken with this illness at this time in our collective history. But that doesn't mean we can't act, we must act. It's the best way to honor the memory of the more than 100,000 lives lost.
You can also head to our website to see where families all over the world are sharing memories now of their loved ones they have lost. And if you have someone you'd like to honor, submit their story at cnn.com/covidvictims. COOPER: Sanjay, thanks very much. I want to remind everyone about CNN's other town hall, Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Sesame Street cruise (ph) teaming up again with CNN for the ABCs of COVID-19. It's a new town hall for kids and parents, Saturday morning, 8:00 a.m. Eastern here on CNN.
Before we go, just want to thank everybody who joined us Taraji P. Henson, Alfiee Breland-Noble and Maria Van Kherkove and David Coleman (ph). Also want to thank all of you who wrote in with your questions. If you didn't get your question answered tonight the conversation continues at cnn.com/coronavirusanswers.
The news continues with Chris Cuomo.