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Milwaukee Shooting; Interview With Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY); President Trump To Hold News Conference On Coronavirus. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 26, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: First, let's go to our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He is now over in the Briefing Room at the White House getting ready for the president's remarks.

Sanjay, we're learning that White House officials are privately considering appointing a so-called czar to oversee the coronavirus response.

Would that be an effective way at least to begin with to help curb the potential spread of the virus in the United States?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that would be really helpful, Wolf.

We have seen this before with Ebola, for example. Now, keep in mind, when you talk about outbreaks, you are talking about Homeland Security, national security, HHS. It has been a somewhat chaotic response thus far, so to have some sort of a coordination, I think it would be very beneficial.

We have seen that benefit in the past. I should point out as well, Wolf, what we're learning, as you may know, Wolf, the president obviously going to be here. He's only been in this room twice before, to give you some idea of the significance of this.

Also, we're also just hearing that the vice president will be joining the president as well, in addition to the corona task force. So we are going to ask these questions obviously about the czar. We are going to ask the questions about funding going forward, the planning going forward.

But the czar question is a big one and I think pretty clear that that would offer a lot of help.

BLITZER: What is the risk, Sanjay, as far as you can tell right now, to Americans from this virus tonight?

GUPTA: I think the risk is still low, Wolf.

I mean, we know of I think 60 people now. There was somebody else who was just confirmed over the past couple of hours. But, look, for the vast majority of people who have any kind of symptoms, it's going to be more likely to be a cold or the flu, not likely to be the corona virus.

But what we're hearing from CDC, and, to be fair, what we have been hearing all along from public health officials was that these strategies that have been in place in China, these travel restrictions, all these different things were to slow down the progression of this outbreak, not to stop it.

It's very hard to stop the virus from traveling across borders and boundaries. So the question I think tonight really is, with that extra time, what has the United States been able to do? Are we in better position now than we were a month ago, than we were several weeks ago?

BLITZER: What would you like to hear from the president tonight?

GUPTA: I think that I'd like to hear that there is a plan in place. On one hand, we're hearing from medical officials within the administration that this is coming, that there is going to be community spread of this virus in the United States.

And that means that one person gets it, they pass it on to a few people. And those people all pass it on to a few people and so forth. When you get to four or five generations of that, four or five back and forth, that is what they usually classify as a systemic spread.

What are we going to do about that, at the individual level, at the societal level, at the medical level? How much is it going to cost? Are we prepared? Are we ready? There have been these pandemic preparedness plans in the past 2009, 2014 with Ebola. 2009 was H1N1.

How are we planning for this? I think that's going to be the big question.

BLITZER: Well, I know you will be there in the Briefing Room when the president walks out. I know you will try to get some questions to the president as well.

We will get back to you, Sanjay. Thanks very much, Sanjay Gupta here in Washington over at the White House to cover this story for us.

I want to bring in our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, right now.

Kaitlan, you're also learning new information about the president's reaction to his administration's response. What are you hearing? What's going on behind the scenes?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you heard Sanjay there talking about how the president has weighed nominating a czar to oversee the administration's response to all of this.

And we're being told that that is because the president has been frustrated with the person who currently is handling all of this, and that is the Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar, who the president has blamed in recent days for the reaction to how the administration has been responding to all of this. And he's been frustrated, we are told, that he's been left out of key decisions, only finding out about them later when people complain to him about those decisions. And two of those examples that sources pointed out to us were, one, how they made that decision to allow those patients who had tested positive for coronavirus back into the United States, those American citizens, and, two, that decision initially to put them in a FEMA facility in Alabama, which the president later assured state representatives he would not do after they complained about it.

Now, Wolf, the question is whether or not that criticism of Alex Azar is warranted. Today, he said they do not have a need for someone to be appointed to that position because it is up to HHS to handle something like this.

But, of course, there are a lot of questions. But, Wolf, most of them lead to the president himself, because he's been the one publicly downplaying this for weeks since it first broke out, even when he was overseas in India for the last several days for that state visit, where he was saying he thinks it's going to go away by the summertime, when it warms up, though he has not provided any evidence for why he feels that way.

And, of course, Wolf, we know one thing he's been keeping his eye on as he has been frustrated with all of this is the stock market and how volatile it's been, because, of course, he sees a good economy as key to his reelection in November.

[18:05:03]

BLITZER: Yes, down another 100-plus points today, almost 1,000 points yesterday, more than 1,000 points the day before.

COLLINS: Yes.

BLITZER: Kaitlan, we're going to get back to you as well. I know you're getting ready for this White House news conference for the president.

We're going to have a lot more on what's going on, on the coronavirus. That's coming up.

But, right now, I also want to get an update on the other breaking news we're following, this out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The mayor there now says multiple, multiple people are dead, including the shooter.

CNN's Brynn Gingras has been following all these late-breaking developments.

What's the latest, Brynn? What are you hearing?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, well, the Milwaukee Police Department says they're going to be holding a news conference in the next hour or so. So, hopefully, we can get some definitive answers. But, as you just

said, the mayor, Tom Barrett, of Milwaukee indicated to us that there are multiple people that have died in this shooting that occurred on the Molson Coors complex.

He also said that he believed the shooter was among those fatalities, calling this a horrific shooting that had occurred. Now, he couldn't pinpoint exactly where officials -- where the police believe that shooting happened.

However, we have been receiving text messages from some of the employees of that complex, which is, again, a very large complex there in Milwaukee, learning that it appeared -- or at least the alert -- that it was in the south packaging building. So that would just suggest that likely this happened where employees are located, rather than possibly where tourists are, which is also part of that major complex.

The mayor saying also that law enforcement was doing a sweep, Milwaukee police saying, while it's an active situation, there isn't an active threat. So we do have that update as well.

But, as you can see, still, like the mayor said, a very active scene with a number of federal and local law enforcement there continuing to work that scene.

BLITZER: Happens way too often here in the United States, multiple fatalities and other gun incidents, this time in Milwaukee.

Brynn, we will get back to you as soon as you get more information. Thanks very much for that.

I want to bring in former CIA Counterterrorism Official, former FBI official Phil Mudd. He's a CNN analyst.

So, what do you think so far? We're getting initial indications of multiple fatalities, Phil.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I'll tell you, the biggest takeaway I have is the mayor saying or suggesting that the threat has been taken care of at this point.

That tells me a couple things. Until you identify the shooter and identify some sort of motive and whether there's a circle around the shooter, you can't go out and say that the threat has been mitigated. That tells me the individual has been identified, whether it's a co- worker or someone else who entered the facility, and that officials know that once that person -- and they're saying that that person is dead now.

Once that person is taken off the scene, there's not an additional set of conspirators who still pose a threat on the scene, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, stand by, Phil. We're going to get back to you as well.

We're going to have more on these developments, very worrisome developments, out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That's coming up.

But, right now, I want to continue our special coverage of the coronavirus. We're standing by to hear directly from the president. He's getting ready to walk into the White House Briefing Room, make a statement. And then we -- we're told he's going to answer reporters' questions.

He will be joined by the vice president and other officials as well who are dealing with this crisis. We have got our analysts and experts here.

Dr. Zeke Emanuel is with us right now, former Obama White House health policy adviser. You're also, what, a special adviser to the director general of the World Health Organization.

How worried are you right now about the coronavirus worldwide, as well as here in the United States?

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISER: That's a loaded question.

The risk in the United States is low at the moment, but it's going to get worse before it gets better. There's no doubt that it's going to spread, as it has spread in other countries.

And I think, as Sanjay Gupta made very clear, the lockdown, the travel restrictions, they retard the spread, but they don't end it. And so we're going to see more coronavirus in the United States.

But we should also be clear that while their transmission is high, the risk to any particular person is very low, including low for that many cases are so mild, people don't even know that they're infected.

It will have a big and outsized economic impact, because people are responding by locking down to prevent transmission and closing facilities, closing sporting events, closing political rallies during an election season. All of these things will have an impact. And if people stop going to restaurants, stop traveling, that could be a big impact.

I'm thinking that the lack of preparedness on the administration's official reminds me a little about Katrina. We knew about it, it was coming, and it did significant damage to President Bush. And I think the same thing -- people have been talking about this, the experts at the CDC, the NIH.

Obviously, we have the vaccine already because they have been working at this, not because the president and the administration, and the political administration, has taken it seriously.

[18:10:00]

BLITZER: Well, there's no vaccine yet for the coronavirus.

EMANUEL: There's a candidate vaccine. They haven't tried it.

BLITZER: But it's going to take a long time for it to go through tests.

EMANUEL: Absolutely.

So there's a safety test. Then there's an efficacy test. Does it actually increase the antibodies? And then we have to compare it to not getting a vaccine.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Because Dr. Fauci told me, of NIH, it could be a year.

EMANUEL: I was going to say nine months. By the end of the calendar year is probably what we're looking at.

So it's not going to handle the immediate process. But these people have been working on it to get a candidate vaccine ASAP faster than ever. So that's important. But that's not the administration. And I think, as Sanjay said, only someone in the White House can do this.

I was in the White House during H1N1. We had 10 people in the Old Executive Office Building working, I was part of that team, and making lots of decisions, monitoring the situation, making sure the local governments were prepared for this.

This administration doesn't seem to have done any of that.

BLITZER: Yes.

John King, you and I have covered a lot of these incidents over the years. This is a major potential crisis for this president.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a public health crisis for the president. It's potentially an economic crisis for the president.

And it's hard to ignore the fact that it's also a reelection year, which is one of the reasons he's mad about the turmoil in the stock market. Priority number one should be putting together with Dr. Emanuel just talked about, is, who's your team of people? Do you trust your team of people? Who do you need to add to your team of people? What additional resources do you need?

Should there be a czar? Do you trust the organization that you have? We will hear from the president shortly.

I will tell you this. The public health crisis, those questions are number one, but there is a growing economic debate here. Just today, a number of the leading officials from the U.S. airlines were at the White House. They were pleading for more information. They support a czar.

The Chamber of Commerce tonight putting out a statement it supports a czar. There's no criticism of President Trump in the statement, but let me read it to you.

"At this critical time, we need clear accountability and database guidance, so the public and American businesses can take proper precautions to mitigate the impact."

Let me translate that for you. When the president of the United States is overseas saying this is going to go away, it's not a big deal, there's nothing to worry about, when the American business community knows, from people canceling airline reservations, airlines canceling flights to Asia and otherwise around the world, to questions about who's in charge at the White House, who's in charge in the government, they are nervous about this. And they want more done.

That's on the economic impact side. And, obviously, Dr. Emanuel better than I can laid out the public health issues, as well as Sanjay.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's the big question, who's in charge? And what are they saying?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.

BORGER: The president originally said, look, this is seasonal, we're sort of hoping it's going to go away when the weather gets warmer.

Then you have HHS taking it a little bit more seriously, CDC taking it more seriously. So, we have an administration that isn't telling the American public one thing. So the public doesn't know what to believe.

Then you have on top of an administration that clearly before this has a credibility problem. And so the people have to be able to trust what is coming from that podium tonight. And if you're a member of Congress, might I add, and you're hearing from your constituents, what do I do? How do why keep my kids safe? What if my schools are closed?

There is no communication. The complaints from the hill are, there's no communication, there's no coordination. And, by the way, how are you going to reimburse me and my locality if we have to spend all this money to take care of this?

And you know there are competing budget requests, the administration lowballing at $2.5 billion and Chuck Schumer at $8.5 billion for the Democrats.

BLITZER: It's going to be very costly, no matter what it is ongoing.

Nia, the president yesterday said the administration is doing a great job of handling the coronavirus.

HENDERSON: Oh, well, listen, I think we know that the president is frustrated by some of the things that have been coming out of this White House.

I think what has jolted him into action in these public comments that we will hear today is what happened with the stock market, right? We know that this -- the president watches the stock market closely, sees the stock market as reflective of he's doing as president, how he's doing with the economy.

So we will hear from him today. But it has certainly not been helpful to hear mistruths from this president's mouth about this virus. He's not a scientist. He's not a doctor by any means. And I think his first instinct is always to say, everything's fine.

But, in many cases, it hasn't been fine. And I think there is a sort of growing sense of unease, you talk about people on the Hill and the American public too, about what this is, what to expect local officials, school officials trying to figure out what this means that this -- this new virus is upon us.

BLITZER: And it's much more deadly, potentially, for older people than younger people, right?

EMANUEL: Yes.

So the two groups of people that have unusually high mortality rate are older individuals and people with comorbid conditions, diabetes, hypertension, congestive heart failure, emphysema. That seems to be who it targets and who have a more severe case and get this respiratory distress syndrome that can land them on a respirator and kill them.

[18:15:03]

It's a lung problem primarily. So that's the major threat. I would say that a lot of local people have -- or local health officials have a hard time preparing and knowing when they should actually take action.

And that's one of the advantages of having a White House coordination. I don't know whether you need a czar, but you need a dedicated group of people who are experts in infectious diseases and expert on the public health responses.

And we have -- we had someone in the White House, Admiral Ziemer. I suggested that person actually to the president in February or March 2017. They had him, and then they fired him.

BLITZER: Why they did fire him?

EMANUEL: And they didn't -- John Bolton fired him. I don't know. He was on the NSC committee. He was perfectly positioned. He's nonpartisan.

He helped do the malaria initiative that brought malaria down around the world. He was outstanding.

Simultaneously, we should not forget the president proposed a budget that drastically cut the CDC by 19 percent, when this was brewing. And so it's hard to trust the guy that, yes, we're really doing everything we can. The bureaucracy is doing everything they can.

But the political administration is not.

BLITZER: I just want your thoughts, because I know you're an adviser to the director general of the World Health Organization.

Right now, globally, 81,244 confirmed cases, 2,769 deaths worldwide. Most of those are in China. The Chinese government says 78,000 in China, 2,700 deaths in China. (CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Are those numbers accurate? Can we trust what the Chinese government is releasing? Because the suspicion is, the numbers are a lot bigger?

EMANUEL: Well, undoubtedly, the numbers are a lot bigger, because, in China, most medical care is hospital-focused.

And the hospitals have been submerged by the number of people coming in. And so the mild cases, first of all, they may not even recognize that they might have coronavirus, and they wouldn't go to the hospitals.

And, undoubtedly, it's low. The question that health policy experts have is, is it low by fivefold? Is it 350,000? Low by tenfold? So we're now in the 700,000, almost a million category?

That's what we don't know. And the Chinese have been very protective. I think Tom Frieden was on and said, it's less open now than it was five years ago. And they have not allowed external individuals in. They haven't allowed external individuals to look at the raw data. And that is a serious problem.

You cannot confront a worldwide pandemic, and have the country that has most of the cases hoarding the data. It's also important to be able to test new interventions there, therapies that might counteract this virus.

Vaccines are going to have to be tested. We need participation. China can't just lock itself away and say, we can handle this.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: And that gets to the point, though, earlier about coordination, who's in charge.

Secretary of State Pompeo has been demanding that Iran and China be more transparent and more forthcoming. The president keeps saying, I trust President Xi. This is not a big deal.

You need it to come from the top. And Secretary Pompeo needs to be backed up by his boss, if you're going to put that pressure to China.

EMANUEL: Absolutely.

BORGER: And if you had a global health security unit, which they disbanded, would that global health security unit have been doing this?

(CROSSTALK)

EMANUEL: Well, I can't tell you in this administration. I can tell you, in the Obama administration...

(CROSSTALK) BORGER: Would they have been prepared for this?

EMANUEL: Yes.

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by.

We're going to bring you much more information on this. We're standing by to hear directly from the president of the United States on the coronavirus.

We're also getting new information about this shooting in Milwaukee.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:22:55]

BLITZER: Following breaking news on a shooting with multiple fatalities in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

It happened how at the Molson Coors Beverage Company complex. We're told the shooter is among the dead.

Here's what the mayor of Milwaukee said just a little while ago:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM BARRETT, MAYOR OF MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN: There was a horrific shooting that has occurred. We're urging all residents and people in this area to stay away from this area, simply because of traffic diversions and things like that.

But they are continuing their sweep to make sure that nothing more is occurring. But, again, it is a horrible, horrible day for the employees here. It is a very rough day for anybody who is close to this situation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We will stay on top of that situation.

But there's other breaking news unfolding this hour. We're awaiting remarks by President Trump about the coronavirus and the dangers for Americans, as the outbreak spreads worldwide.

We're joined now by Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney. He's a Democrat from New York, a member of the Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

The president says that the administration is doing a great job handling coronavirus. Are you satisfied with their response so far?

REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): No, of course not. And if you compare to the response to previous situations like this,

it is inadequate. And the most dangerous thing is trying to happy-talk a national health emergency because it suits some personal or political goal or because you are worried about the stock market.

There is only one thing to do in the situation. It is to let the experts speak and to react accordingly. And that means surging resources at this, making sure that we are going to have adequate test kits, adequate education, that you are going to able to make sure that people who can't afford the treatments for this are being treated as well.

The secretary of health and human services said something very alarming today about that, not being able to guarantee affordability in treatments.

This is not the response we have seen in previous administrations of both parties.

And I was in Asia last week. I can tell you, this is a very serious situation. We don't need to panic, but we need to be prepared.

[18:25:02]

BLITZER: When the president walks up to the podium, the lectern there, what do you want him to say?

MALONEY: What I want him to say is that he is listening to the people who understand public health, he is listening to the experts on this, that he is going to demand better access into China, so we can get better data and a better understanding of the course of this virus, that he's going to build an international effort to combat this, and that he is going to give the agencies the resources they need to do their work, that he will not be at war with science or with the truth, the way we have seen in the area of, say, the hurricane that didn't go where he said it did, or in the area of election security, where he doesn't like the fact that his intelligence professionals are telling him something he doesn't want to hear.

In this case, that's going to cost human life. He has to let the experts do their jobs. And he should be bringing a supplemental bill up to the House and the Senate right now for multiple billions of dollars to be prepared.

BLITZER: You think you should name a czar, a coronavirus czar to take charge?

MALONEY: He should probably name the person whose job it is to worry about these things, who is Secretary czar. But he needs to...

BLITZER: But he's got other issues to deal with too, not just coronavirus.

MALONEY: Look, he needs to empower whoever it is.

I'm less concerned about what you call the person or who it is than that they be empowered to listen to the experts. We actually have outstanding people at the Centers for Disease Control. It's alarming that the president has slashed that budget, that he has weakened that critical part of our defense against these types of viral outbreaks.

But it is not too late to let the experts speak, to provide the resources. We have some time, if we get organized now.

But people should be clear. This is going to be something that we're going to have to deal with.

BLITZER: Your governor, Andrew Cuomo, said: "It is highly probable that we will have people in New York state who test positive."

Your district is just, what, north of New York City right there. How worried are you about what could happen in New York state?

MALONEY: Look, I don't want to -- I don't want to oversell this. And I don't want to create undue concern.

But what is necessary is that we appreciate that there's nothing really separating us from the spread of this virus, any more than there was the folks in Italy or the folks in South Korea. We're a little further away, but there are hundreds of flights a day that come in and out of the United States.

Realistically, we are going to see this virus come here. It already has. Now, we can -- we do have a lot under our control about what happens next. But that means letting the experts do their work, coming together across partisan lines, staring the truth in the face, and getting ready for this -- for this issue.

This is not something that needs to become a major public health event in the United States, even if we have a spread of the cases, because, like regular flu, the fatality rate is quite low. People should know that.

There's no reason people who have the virus won't recover fully. But they need to be tested. They need to get treatment. They need to be kept away from other people, according to certain protocols that we know work.

So I just want to see the president act like any other responsible leader in this position, and follow the facts and the science and the experts and provide the resources and the leadership we need.

BLITZER: Because he's clearly concerned about the Dow Jones industrial, 1,000 points on Monday, almost 1,000 points yesterday, another hundred points today.

He's very worried about the economic fallout, especially during an election year.

MALONEY: Well, I'm concerned that you could see a situation like in Hurricane Katrina, where people were suffering at the Superdome because there was a desire not to acknowledge how serious the situation was.

The problem is, is, while he's trying to happy-talk the stock market, we're going to lose a human life. And what price do you put on that? And the president needs to act like the president of all of us in a situation like this. It's too serious. He has to step up and do his job.

BLITZER: Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, thanks very much for coming in.

MALONEY: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is over at the White House Briefing Room getting ready for the president of the United States to walk in.

I understand, Sanjay, you're getting some more information?

GUPTA: Yes.

I mean, look, there's news that is coming in on this just about constantly. As you know, Wolf, another person was confirmed to have this coronavirus infection in the United States some time ago.

We're also hearing now about spot shortages with regard to medical devices, because, keep in mind, so much of our medical supply, be it medications or devices, in some way is dependent on China.

So this has been a concern for some time. Besides the ongoing infection, what about the medical impact in other ways? So these spot shortages, not widespread shortages, to be clear, but is this a sign of things to come?

This is what we're hearing from the FDA. They are going to have to keep an eye on things like that because of this impact in China. Hopefully, that's -- we're hearing the numbers are plateauing in China. But things like that are sort of these ripple consequences of an outbreak like this.

BLITZER: But, as you know, Sanjay, a lot of people are skeptical about those numbers coming out of China, that they don't necessarily believe the numbers are real.

[18:30:00]

It could be a lot worse.

GUPTA: There's reason for skepticism, I think, Wolf. I mean, we learned, for example, in the medical journals afterward that the first patients, in fact, were not diagnosed in the middle of December, as we were initially told. The first patient was actually diagnosed at December 1st. We were told that all the patients initially had had contact with this animal market and then we came to find out that the first patient, in fact, had not had any contact with this animal market. Why is it important? It's important because there may have been evidence of human-to-human transmission a lot earlier than we were told and anybody was told. And, look, hours, days, make a difference in the midst of an outbreak. So, yes, I think it's tough to take everything in terms of these numbers.

I also think that there may be many more people out there in China and maybe other parts of the world who -- and, Wolf, take a look, Secretary Azar is walking in.

BLITZER: All right. Let's listen in. The president is about to walk out. He is joined by experts, including the secretary of Health and Human Services. I see Dr. Fauci up there from the National Institutes of Health, who is in charge of infectious diseases. Other aides from the president are about to walk in as well. The vice president is coming in and the president will be there momentarily. They are just getting ready for the president.

Dr. Zeke Emanuel is here as well and we're waiting. You know, I suspect, Zeke, some of those people who are already there.

EMANUEL: Tony was over for dinner a few weeks ago.

BLITZER: Anthony Fauci.

EMANUEL: Yes.

BLITZER: Yes, he was on the show yesterday.

EMANUEL: Right.

BLITZER: He is a real expert and I'm reassuring, and I'm you are reassured that he is briefing the president.

EMANUEL: I agree. It wasn't happening recently and I think that it's a step up that they have gotten him involved.

BLITZER: That's a nice group, John King, that the president has assembled together with him. I assume some of them, after he makes a statement, will be making statements and answering questions as well.

KING: And, again, the optics after several days of who is in charge, why is the president saying it's not a big deal when other people are saying it is a big deal, why the president is saying it's going to go away, while other people are saying, don't panic but prepare. We've had this mixed messaging. That's the kind way to put it.

But the optics here are, we are getting in this together, left hand is talking to right hand, we have some serious professionals around, we have people like the vice president who can move the levers of the United States government, can get things done if they get done. So the optics here are great. The key thing is what do we hear from the president of United States when he stands between that --

BLITZER: And, Gloria, we see representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health. These are serious people.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. and what I think the president is going to try and do is reassure the American public and the market, which he is very concerned about, but reassure the American public that his administration is doing everything and not just saying this is some seasonal problem that will eventually go away. And I think that the array of people there is going to give an indication that the president has consulted with his advisers.

Don't forget he was in India when the market started tanking and has been very upset, according to our reporting with the way this has been run. And I think that the fact that you are having various parts of the administration represented here is an indication that there may be some coordination now and perhaps going forward.

HENDERSON: And that's key, right, the going forward part. Because we know this president oftentimes will be the kind of president that the country needs in front of a teleprompter at a press conference and then maybe later on strays on Twitter or something. So I think that's the real thing to look for going forward, if he is able to stay on message with this coordinated task force and array of experts. So that will be something to look forward in the next couple of days.

BLITZER: And what specifically, Dr. Emanuel, are you going to be looking for?

EMANUEL: Well, I'm looking for the president to recognize the seriousness of the problem and the potential seriousness of the problem.

BLITZER: Well, he clearly recognizes that with that array of experts who are already there.

EMANUEL: Someone put that array of experts together, he didn't necessarily. And he has to recognize it because he is going to have to defer to expert opinion in making judgments about what do we do in terms of travel restrictions, what do we do in terms of reporting the actual numbers to people?

What do we do -- let's say there is a conflict, I think, as John mentioned, between how serious the problem and here is the economic potential threat to the stock market. He is not good at doing that. We know that he will hedge the truth or even lie when things aren't the way he wants them. I am looking for him to actually say, here is how we're going to handle it.

And, by the way, we should remember, it is not just the people up there, this is going to be handled in a lot of local and state levels. A lot of decisions are going to be made there. What information are they getting from Washington and what's the coordination with Washington? We were constantly talking to state secretaries of health and getting coordination because they ultimately make decisions. Washington will not close down an area, it will be a state that has to do that.

KING: These optics will tell you they understand that they have a political problem.

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It's only the president's words could tell you that they've understand the policy problem and the policy coordination. They clearly know that political problem.

I was mentioning earlier airline officials over at the White House today, they went a meeting up to Capitol Hill and they were not happy with what they heard at the White House. They did not think as if this morning that the White House team, at least the people they talked to, had their act together. We will see here.

President had several hours since. His tone did change. When he landed from India, his tone did change where he said he's going to have these meetings and bring these people together. So now it's incumbent on him to come out and convince the town and convince not just Democrats in Congress, but Republicans are nervous too.

Remember, they are on the ballot this year too, and they have concerns about their communities. So I don't want to make it all about politics, they have concerns about their communities and their constituents, but they're up for an election year too and they want to see that this White House with the president has wrapped is arm around this and is not being so dismissive.

BLITZER: I want to bring in Kaitlan Collins, our White House Correspondent, who is also monitoring these developments.

Kaitlan, you've got experts there, you've got the leaders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, you've got people from the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services, they are all there standing waiting for the president. And right now, the picture, as John King says, is very significant.

COLLINS: Yes, Wolf. And the door just opened. We're waiting on the president to come in any minute. Right now, the people that you're seeing here in the briefing room are the president's coronavirus task force that they assembled. And, of course, the big question is going to be coming out of this is whether or not they pick someone who is going to be really running point on this more so than they have already with the Health and Human Services secretary.

We've heard from lawmakers and several other sources inside the administration say that that has been something they have been weighing, like the Obama administration did with the Ebola virus. Though today, the Health and Services secretary testified they do not believe that's a position -- and, Wolf, here comes the president now.

BLITZER: Okay.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you very much.

Before I begin I'd like to extend my deepest condolences to the victims and families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Earlier today, a wicked murderer opened fire at a Molson Coors brewing company plant, taking the lives of five people. A number of people were wounded, some badly wounded. Our hearts break for them and their loved ones. We send our condolences. We'll be with them. And it's a terrible thing, a terrible thing. So our hearts go out to the people of Wisconsin and to the families. Thank you very much.

I have just received another briefing from a great group of talented people on the virus that is going around to various parts of the world. We have, through some very good early decisions, decisions that were actually ridiculed at the beginning, we closed up our borders to flights coming in from certain areas, areas that were hit by the coronavirus and hit pretty hard, and we did it very early. A lot of people thought we shouldn't have done it that early and we did and it turned out to be a very good thing.

And the number one priority from our standpoint is the health and safety of the American people and that's the way I viewed it when I made that decision. Because of all we've done, the risk to the American people remains very low. We have the greatest experts really in the world right here, the people that are called upon by other countries when things like this happen. We are ready to adapt and we're ready to do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads.

As most of you know, the level that we've had in our country is very low and those people are getting better or we think that in almost all cases, they are better. Again, we have a total of a 15. We took in some Japan. You heard about that, because they are American citizens and they are in quarantine.

And they are getting better too. But we thought we had an obligation to do that. It could have been as many as 42, and we found that we were -- it was just an obligation we felt that we had. We could have left them and that would have been very bad, very bad I think, for American people. And they are recovering.

Of the 15 people, the original 15, as I call them, eight of them have returned to their homes to stay in their homes until fully recovered. One is in the hospital. And five have fully recovered. And one is, we think, in pretty good shape, and in between hospital and going home.

[18:40:02]

So we have a total of -- but we have a total of 15 people and they are in the process of recovering with some already having fully recovered.

We started out by looking at certain things. We've been working with the Hill very, very carefully, very strongly, and I think that we have very good bipartisan spirit for money. We were asking for $2.5 billion and we think that's a lot. But the Democrats and, I guess, Senator Schumer wants us to have much more than that. And, normally, I'd say we'll take it, we'll take it. If they want to give more, we'll do more.

We're going to spend whatever is appropriate. Hopefully, we're not going to have to spend so much because we really think we've done a great job in keeping it down to a minimum. And, again, we've had tremendous success, tremendous success beyond what people would have thought.

Now, at the same time, you do have some outbreaks in some countries, Italy and various countries are having some difficulty, China you know about, where it started. I spoke with President Xi. We had a great talk. He is working very hard. I have to say, he is working very, very hard.

And if you can count on the reports coming out of China, that spread has gone down quite a bit. The infection seems to have gone down over the last two days as opposed to getting larger. It's actually gotten smaller. One instance where we think that we can be somewhat reliable, it seem to have gotten quite a bit smaller.

With respect to the money that's being negotiated, they can do whatever they want. I mean, they can -- we'll do the 2.5. We're requesting 2.5. Some Republicans would like us to get 4 and some Democrats would like us to get 8.5, and we'll be satisfied whatever it is. We're bringing in a specialist, very highly regarded specialist tomorrow who works actually at the State Department, very, very tremendously talented in doing this.

I want you to understand something that shocked me when I saw it that -- I spoke with Dr. Fauci on this, and I was really amazed and I think most people are amazed to hear it. The flu in our country kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year. That was shocking to me. And so far, if you look at what we have with the 15 people and their recovery, one is pretty sick but hopefully will recover. But the others are in great shape.

But think of that, 25,000 to 69,000 over the last ten years, we've lost 360,000, these are people that have died from the flu, from what we call the flu. Hey, did you get your flu shot? And that's something.

Now, what we've done is we've stopped non-U.S. citizens from coming into America from China. That was done very early on. We're screening people, and we have been at a very high level, screening people coming into the country from infected areas. We have quarantined those infected and those at risk. We have a lot of great quarantine facilities.

We're rapidly developing a vaccine and they can speak to you, the professionals can speak to you about that. The vaccine is coming along well. And then speaking to the doctors, we think that this is something that we can develop fairly rapidly, a vaccine for the future and coordinate with the support of our partners. We have great relationships with all of the countries that we're talking about, some fairly large number of countries, some it is one person and many countries have no problem, whatsoever. And we'll see what happens.

But we're very, very ready for this, for anything, whether it's going to be a breakout of larger proportions or whether or not we're at that very low level. And we want to keep it that way. So we're at the low level. As they get better, we take them off the list so that we're going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time. So we've had very good luck.

The Johns Hopkins, I guess, is a highly respected, great place. They did a study, comprehensive, the country's best and worst prepared for an epidemic and the United States is now -- we're rated number one. We're rated number one for being prepared.

[18:45:01]

This is a list of different countries -- I don't want to get in your way, especially since you did such a good job.

This is a list of the different countries. United States is rated number one most prepared. United Kingdom, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Thailand, Sweden, Denmark, South Korea, Finland. This -- this is a list of the best rated countries in the world by Johns Hopkins.

We're doing something else that's important to me because he's been terrific in many ways, but he's also very good on health care and we really followed him very closely. A lot of states do.

When Mike was governor, Mike Pence of Indiana, they've established great health care. They have a great system there. A system that a lot of -- a lot of the other states have really looked to and changed their systems. They wanted to base it on the Indiana system. It's very good.

And I think -- and he's really very expert in the field. And what I've done is I'm going to be announcing exactly right now that I'm going to be putting our Vice President Mike Pence in charge and Mike will be working with the professionals, and doctors and everybody else that is working. The team is brilliant.

I spent a lot of time with the team over the last couple weeks. But they're totally brilliant and we're doing really well and Mike is going to be in charge and Mike will report back to me. But he's got a certain talent for this and I'm going to ask Mike Pence to say a few words, please?

Thank you.

Mike?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President.

President Trump's made clear from the first days of this administration we have no higher priority than the safety, security, health and well-being of the American people. And from the first word of an outbreak of the coronavirus, the president took unprecedented steps to protect the American people from the spread of this disease.

He recounted those briefly, but the establishment of travel restrictions, aggressive quarantine effort of Americans that are returning, declaration of a public health emergency and establishing the White House Corona Task Force are all reflective of the urgency that the president has brought to a whole of government approach.

As a former governor from the state where the first MERS case emerged in 2014, I know full well the importance of presidential leadership, the importance of administration leadership and the vital role of partnerships of state and local governments and health authorities in responding to the potential threat of dangerous infectious diseases.

And I look forward, Mr. President, to serving in this role, and bringing together all the members of the Corona Task Force that you've established -- HHS, CDC, DHS, the Department of Transportation and State.

This team has been at your direction, Mr. President, meeting every day since it was established. My role will be to continue to bring that team together, to bring to the president the best options for action to see to the safety and well-being and health of the American people.

And we'll also be continuing to reach out to governors, state and local officials. In fact, in the recent days, the White House met with over 40 state county and health officials from over 30 states and territories to discuss how to respond to this -- to the potential threat of the coronavirus.

We'll be working with them in renewed ways to make sure they have the resources to be able to respond and as the president said, we'll be adding additional personnel here at the White House to support our efforts on the president's behalf.

We'll also be working with Congress to make sure that the resources are available for this whole of government response, and we'll be working very closely with Secretary Azar and his team that have done an outstanding job communicating to the public, to ensure the American people have the best information on ways to protect themselves and their families, and also that the public has the most timely information on the potential threat to the American people.

Mr. President, as we've been briefed, while the threat to the American public remains low of the spread of the coronavirus, you have directed this team to take all steps necessary to continue to ensure the health and well-being of the American people and the people of this country can be confident that under your leadership, we will continue to bring the full resources of the federal government, in coordination with our state and local partners to see to the health and wellbeing and to the effective response to the coronavirus here in the United States of America.

With that, the president's asked me to recognize the secretary of health and human services, Alex Azar, and also the deputy director at CDC, Dr. Anne Schuchat, for remarks.

Mr. Secretary?

ALEX AZAR, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Well, thank you, Mr. Vice President. And thank you, Mr. President, for gathering your public health experts here today and for your strong leadership in keeping America safe. And I just want to say I could not be more delighted that you've asked

the vice president, my old friend and colleague, to lead this whole of government approach with us under the emergency support function number 8.

As of today, we have 15 cases of COVID-19 that have been detected in the United States, with only one new case detected in the last two weeks. We also have three cases among Americans repatriated from Wuhan and 42 cases among Americans repatriated who had been stuck on the Diamond Princess in Japan.

The president's early and decisive actions, including travel restrictions, have succeeded in buying us incredibly valuable time. This has helped us contain the spread of the virus, handle the cases that we have, and prepare for the possibility that we will need to mitigate broader spread of infections within the United States.

The president's actions taken with the strong support of his scientific advisers have proven to be appropriate, wise, and well- calibrated to the situation. We're grateful for the hard work that health care workers, first responder, communities, and state and local leaders have put into the response so far. Because of this hard work and the president's leadership, the immediate risk to the American public has been and continues to be low. Our containment strategy has been working.

At the same time, what every one of our experts and leaders have been saying for more than a month now remains true. The degree of risk has the potential to change quickly, and we can expect to see more cases in the United States. That is why we've been reminding the American public in our state, local, and private sector partners that they should be aware of what a broader response would look like. CDC has recommended that the American public and especially state and local governments, businesses, and other organizations should refresh themselves on how they would respond in the event that the situation worsens.

We're encouraging Americans to learn what future steps might be necessary to keep themselves and their community safe. Knowing these potential steps now can help keep the risk to you and your community low.

Americans can find useful information at cdc.gov/covid19.

And we're working closely with government and private sector partners to educate them about preparedness.

Finally, we began working with Congress to secure the funding that we need. There are five major priorities in the White House request to Congress that the White House made on Monday. These priorities are, first, expanding our surveillance network, second, support for state and local governments' work, third and fourth, development of therapeutics and vaccines, and fifth, manufacturing and purchase of personal protective equipment like gowns and masks.

As chairman of the president's Coronavirus Task Force, I'm committed to providing regular updates from our coordinated interagency process. We've had our top public health leaders like those joining me here today speaking to the media many times per day to inform the American public. The Trump administration's going to continue to be aggressively transparent, keeping the American people and the media apprised of the situation and what everyone can do.

With that, I'm going to hand things over to Dr. Anne Schuchat. Dr. Schuchat is the senior career official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the principal deputy director with an over 30- year career at the CDC and public health, and as a member of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

So, Dr. Schuchat, I'll turn over to you.

DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, CDC PRINCIPAL DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Thanks so much, Mr. Secretary.

As you know, this has been a difficult and challenging time, and our hearts go out to the individuals who have been directly affected by the virus and to all those who have been working tirelessly in responding to it. Our aggressive containment strategy here in the United States has been working, and it is responsible for the low levels of cases that we have so far. However, we do expect more cases. And this is a good time to prepare.

[18:55:01]

We -- as you heard, it's the perfect time for businesses, health care systems, universities, and schools to look at their pandemic preparedness plans, dust them off, and make sure that they're ready. And we have lots more information at the CDC's website and in partnership on how to do that.

But it's also a really good time for the American public to prepare and for you to know what this means for you. The coronavirus that we're talking about is a respiratory virus. It's spread in a similar way to the common cold or to influenza. It's spread through coughs and sneezes.

And so, those everyday sensible measures that we tell people to do every year with the flu are important here -- covering your cough, staying home when you're sick, and washing your hands -- tried and true, not very exciting measures, but really important ways that you can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.

So, this -- the trajectory of what we're looking at over the weeks and months ahead is very uncertain. But many of the steps that we have taken over the past 15 years to prepare for pandemic influenza and our experience going through the 2009 H1N1 pandemic of influenza remind us of the kinds of steps our health care system, our businesses, our communities and schools may need to take.

We're in this together, all of government, the public and private sector. And the CDC wants to make sure you have the best information available every day. Thank you. DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY &

INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I just want to give you a very quick update on the -- my name is Dr. Tony Fauci. I'm the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH.

Just a very quick update on the counter measurement in the form of vaccines and therapeutics. I had told this audience at a recent press briefing that we have a number of vaccine candidates and one prototype to give you a feel for the time frame of a vaccine and what its impact might be now and in subsequent years, is that I told you we would have a vaccine that we would be putting into trials to see if it's safe and if it induces a response that you would predict would be protective in about three months.

I think it's going to be a little bit less than that. It's probably going to be closer to two months. That would then about take three months to determine if it's safe and hemogenic (ph), which gives us six months. Then you graduate from a trial which is phase one of 45 people to a trial that involves hundreds if not low thousands of people to determine efficacy. At the earliest, an efficacy trial would take an additional six to eight months.

So, although the --

BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to monitor this briefing. Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIH briefing reporters on a potential vaccine.

I want to get a quick thought from our analyst, Dr. Zeke Emanuel.

What did you think? The Vice President Mike Pence is now going to be the so-called czar.

EMANUEL: Well, I think he's the so-called czar.

It's quite clear the president still doesn't understand it. He was pretty incoherent I would say. He said, you know, $2.5 billion, $8.5 billion, whatever it is. He doesn't seem to have a number. You would expect the OMB would have a clear number of how much they need to combat this given scenario planning.

And so, it wasn't reassuring to me that the president really understands the magnitude of this problem. Remember $2.5 billion is about $8 a person in the United States to fight this new infection. That doesn't seem good.

BLITZER: Senator Schumer wants $8.5 billion.

What did you think, John?

KING: I was most struck at the beginning, to Zeke's point about the president got his arms around this. If you can count on the reports coming out of China, the secretary of state said earlier today and recent days you can't. The president of the United States continuing to suggest that you can.

The president saying it's going down in China. Hopefully, that's the case. But U.S. public health officials, members of Congress, other governments around the world have been saying they need more information from China, they want to send their experts to China, and they need that now.

BORGER: And we don't have a window into it really. The president said he spoke with President Xi. He's working very, very hard.

Well, what does that mean? Where's the coordination here between our country and that country to find out what is occurring in China?

HENDERSON: Right, and hopefully there's more to come in terms of this kind of presentation, particularly from the doctors because I think those are the most effective people and the people that --

BLITZER: We're going to stay obviously on top of this story. This is a clearly major development. We'll watch it very, very closely.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

CNN's town hall event with four of the top Democratic presidential candidates starts right now.

First up, Michael Bloomberg.

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