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THE SITUATION ROOM

White House Holds Coronavirus Task Force Briefing; U.S Now Has Second Highest Number Of Coronavirus Cases Globally, Behind China; California Reports 65 Deaths with 3,000+ Cases; Interview with Mayor London Breed of San Francisco, CA. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 26, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:03]

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But we made a deal with China and we're going to do another one, it looks like, they want to do it very badly.

Maybe they want to wait like Iran, they want to wait to see whether or not Trump gets beaten in the election because would they love to negotiate with Biden or somebody else other than me, I would love it. That's the best dream in the world. So many others.

So, there are some that maybe, you know, waiting until after November 3rd, the Election Day. But I think we're doing very well.

It would be sad if we blew all of the advantages that we have right now because we've made unbelievable trade deals. Whether it's Mexico, Canada, Japan, South Korea, China, and others. We have -- we have changed the whole thing around. Please.

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, earlier today, you set a notification letter to the nation's governors saying that you will soon come out with new guidelines about social distancing and other items.

Do you have any data yet, to suggest which specific areas of the country may have their guidelines relaxed?

TRUMP: Yes.

ROBERTS: Which areas of the country may have their guidelines --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I think, Deborah told you about that, and Tony in a few minutes. But I think we'll start talking about that because we have to open up. We can't say let's close. People don't want to close, John. I say it again and again. The reason I do, because I want you to report it eventually.

Go ahead, Steve.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How that works without (INAUDIBLE), testing them, Mr. President? TRUMP: Go ahead, Steve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From President Xi tonight, what do you want to talk to him about?

TRUMP: Yes, it's his call. I mean, I'll talk to him whatever he wants. I mean, you know, we'll have, I think a very fruitful call. I have a good call tonight at 9:00, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's about the virus (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: We'll be talking about that. Yes, we'll be talking about the virus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you --

TRUMP: In the back, first, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. President. Despite the jobless claim numbers today, the market rallied again. It's up over 4,000 points the last three days.

TRUMP: You look, record.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, the largest chart since 1931. Do you think that the economic uncertainty has passed?

TRUMP: No, not yet. It hasn't passed, but it's come along way. I think they think we're doing a really good job in terms of running this whole situation having to do with the virus.

I think they feel that -- I think they feel the administration, myself and the administration are doing a good job with people keeping very important, that people informed because it was a great fear. And a lot of good things are happening. The mortality rate is at a -- in my opinion, you have to speak to Deborah, Tony, all of the others. But in my opinion, it's way, way down. And that takes a lot of fear out.

You know, it's one thing to have it, it's another thing to die. You know, when I first got involved, I was being told numbers that were much, much higher than the number that seems to be.

And remember that people that have it, many people have. I just spoke to two people, they had it. They never went to a doctor. They had it, absolutely had it, but they never went to a doctor. They never went to anything. They didn't report it. You have thousands and hundreds of thousands of cases like that. So, you have to add that to the caseload also.

And the people that actually die. That percentages is a much lower percentage than I ever thought. That's one of the reasons I say, look, we're going to beat this and we're going to get back to work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have more question.

TRUMP: Yes, please. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From more news from the administration today, the DOJ announced charges against Nicolas Maduro, for drug trafficking. They does designate him that they are not terrorists.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Sad is appropriate --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's also expected that Venezuela is going to get hit really hard by the coronavirus. Does the administration see this as a weak point for the Maduro regime? You like --

TRUMP: Well, no, no. We don't look at a weak point. This is a serious problem for over 150 nations, the virus. I would say this, Maduro and Venezuela we're watching it very closely. We'll see what happens.

But that is correct. Those charges were made. Please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) you said a moment ago that you use the Defense Production Act on two minor occasions.

TRUMP: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What were those?

TRUMP: We will give you that notification. We'll let you know, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to question for you, Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir. Can I follow up on John's question about the classifying for counties? A lot of these areas have not done testing yet. Is it safe to say that the current guidelines will be extended into next week?

Will you? Will you wait to change those guidelines until you have the data?

TRUMP: Yes, I want those guidelines to go even when we're open and fully operational. And frankly, much of the guidelines like shaking hands, maybe people aren't going to be shaking hands anymore.

You know, Tony had mentioned to me. Tony Fauci's the other day that I don't think he was -- would be too upset with the concept of not shaking hands. He was saying that the flu would cut down, the regular flu would be cut down by quite a bit if we didn't do that if we didn't shake hands.

You know, the regular flow of which, you know, you have a lot of deaths and a lot of problems with that too. So, I think a lot of a lot of great things are going to -- when we're open, just so you -- just to finish, when we're open, as soon as we open, that doesn't mean you're going to stop with the guidelines, you'll still try and distance yourself.

Maybe not to the same extent because you have to lead a life. But I think the time is coming. How about one more question? Go ahead in the back, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Go ahead, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I also have two questions because I'm asking on behalf of foreign press as well. So, one domestic question, one international. Domestically, you just tweeted the other day saying that it's very important that we totally protect Asian Americans.

TRUMP: Yes, I did. Very important to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But still millions --

TRUMP: Very important to me. They have to -- we have to protect our Asian Americans. It's very -- it's a very important -- that was a very important tweet to me because I didn't like things that I was hearing.

Please, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On what's, what's, what's the concrete measures that you're taking to combat the hate crimes against Asia?

TRUMP: Well, I don't know. All I know is this Asian Americans, our country doing fantastically well. I'm very close to them, as you know, and they're doing fantastically well. And I think they appreciate the job we're doing.

But I did want to put that statement out the social media statement. Because to me, Asian Americans are great part of our country. Thank you all very much. We'll see you soon. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) Mr. President. I've got two questions for you, Mr. President. On your guidance --

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, good afternoon, everyone. The White House coronavirus task force met today. We continue to move out on President Trump's directive to slow the spread with mitigation. And to advance and expand testing across the country, and to work on the critical supplies that our healthcare workers in our nation needs.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, we're going to continue to monitor the vice president.

We're going to come back and listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci and Ambassador Deborah Birx. We will get back to this briefing.

But, right now, we have just been told -- and Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us. I want to get his reaction.

So far today, it's been, Sanjay, the deadliest day in the United States so far, so far, just today, 237 deaths here in the United States. And, by our count, the United States has now surpassed Italy in deaths. The U.S. now has almost 81,000 coronavirus deaths. You see -- excuse me -- not deaths, cases, I should say. DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.

BLITZER: These are cases worldwide, 80,837 cases of coronavirus here in the United States, compared to Italy, 80,589, China still slightly ahead with 81,782 cases.

But the U.S. is expected to surpass China fairly soon. The president, on the other hand, he was once again pretty upbeat. He says, hopefully, this won't be a problem too much longer. We're making a lot of progress. We will vanquish this virus.

Once again, he's trying to give hope to the American people at a time when these numbers of these confirmed cases and deaths here in the United States continue to explode.

GUPTA: Yes, it's very hard to look at those numbers and say, hey, look, we're heading in the right direction, that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I mean, this will end, I mean, to be clear, at some point. I think it's just a question of when and how significant the measures have to be.

Look, when you compare the U.S. numbers to China numbers, it's worth remembering as well they're, I think, four times or so our population as well. So the infection rate in the country, obviously, in the United States, it's much higher than what China was now.

So, that's the perspective you have to keep in mind.

Wolf, what these public health officials are looking at in terms of the data, the numbers, obviously, but I think almost more importantly is the pace at which the numbers are changing. People refer to this as the doubling time. A lot of people are probably looking this up over the last couple of days.

How quickly are these cases doubling? How quickly are these hospitalizations doubling? And how quickly are these sad deaths doubling as well?

And when you look at that, and it's a low doubling time, your concern is that this has acceleration, Wolf. It's kind of like think of a big ship in the ocean. It's going a certain speed. But if you hit the brakes on it, it's going to take a while for that to slow down.

So it's the inertia you have got to take out of this. And there's no evidence that we have that yet. They say, look at the data. Well, we're looking at the data. The data doesn't look very promising.

It will one day, but not right now.

BLITZER: Yes.

And, Sanjay, what jumped out at you from what we heard from the president? Because, earlier in the day, he said he wanted some new specific data to show which counties in the United States are in high risk, medium risk and low risk.

He clearly wants to get huge parts of the United States off all this social distancing and back to work.

GUPTA: Look, I think that that's a real concern, a real problem to do that.

[18:10:02]

And part of this is just looking at what the data is that does exist already. Keep in mind that, in many of these places, where you say there's not that many cases, well, they just haven't done testing yet.

I know we have said that 1,000 times probably now, Wolf. But if you haven't done the testing, you don't know really what's going on there. So you have to start extrapolating.

And keep in mind, Wolf, a month ago, there were 60 cases in the country. There are now over 66,000 in a month. You have talked about the number of deaths. There 149 deaths a week ago, and now we're having some of the -- we have more deaths in a single day than we had in the entire time last week.

So the concern is that, in these rural areas, the numbers will continue to grow, like we have seen in Michigan, like we have seen in Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, increasing by 20 percent a day.

And the numbers that we have now, not only do they reflect inadequate testing, they're also behind the curve. They're showing a picture from 10 to 14 days ago. Of course things were better then. This is spreading.

If you start to let people go back too soon, Wolf, I'm worried that it's just going to erase a lot of the gains that we have made. There's some evidence of progress. I'm worried that will be erased.

BLITZER: To understand -- and, Sanjay, I want your reaction to this, because a month ago -- and I remember it vividly, and we have the sound bite from the president -- he said, well, there may be 15 cases, and pretty soon, it's going down to zero.

Well, instead of going down to zero, the number of cases, I just put up there, are incredibly high, 180,000-plus right now, and more. And there you can see it right now, almost 81,000 cases in the United States right now, and 1,100 Americans are dead.

So, the question is, why should anyone trust the president when he gives this upbeat assessment right now, when he was so wrong in saying that there were 15 cases and, pretty soon, within a few days, they're going to go down to zero?

Instead, they exponentially -- they have exploded here in the United States.

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, look, it clearly didn't go the way that he said it was going to go. We're going to be down to zero. I was at that press conference: It's going to go down to zero.

I think, look, I know the public health officials absolutely did not think that was the case. I know those public health officials were guiding and telling the president this. So I think he was trying to paint a rosy picture for things.

And, look, we saw what's happening, what's happened in Italy, what continues to happen there, and in Spain, similar sort of scenarios, people not taking this seriously, thinking this is something that is not going to affect me, it's over in China and that part of the world, not realizing that viruses don't respect boundaries or borders.

Wolf, this was predictable, OK? I mean, we keep saying this is an unknown, new virus. True. But there's a lot of this that was predictable and known. It was known how widespread this could become. It was known what would be necessary in the country to protect health care workers and protect citizens, how many ventilators would be necessary, how many hospital beds, how many ICU beds.

We were making -- showing these projections two months ago, Wolf, on CNN. I put those up to say, hey, look, this is what we say that's going to be needed, and this is what we have. The two numbers don't match up.

So, yes, you can imagine it's pretty frustrating, I think, for a lot of people in the public health community to say, we bought this time. What did we do with it? Did we use it wisely?

BLITZER: Yes.

And it's all this unfolding, and on a day -- Daniel Dale, I want you to come into this conversation -- you're our fact-checker -- on a day that's so far the deadliest day in the United States as far as the coronavirus pandemic is concerned.

So far, just today, 237 deaths, the deadliest day so far, and the U.S. now surpassing Italy in the most cases, about to surpass China, I suspect.

What jumped out at you as you were listening to the president?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Wolf, this was a barrage of false claims, some of which we hear at his campaign rallies, like the claim that the U.S. has never before received 10 cents in tariff revenue from tariffs on China.

But even if we just look at the coronavirus-related stuff, this was a lot of stuff that was not true. For example, Trump denounced what he called fake news and corrupt news over a story about Washington Governor Jay Inslee today telling Trump, we don't need a backup on medical supplies. We need Tom Brady.

And Trump said that was fake news and corrupt news. And then he confirmed the story. He said, Inslee did say that, but he said it in a positive way. But Trump also claimed repeatedly that everybody wants to go back to

work, people want things to reopen fast.

I think, when Trump says everybody, and doesn't cite any data, we have to look at the data. The polling data we have seen so far shows that there is strong, very large majority support for closures, for school closures, restaurant closures, sporting event closures.

And so Trump's claim that everybody wants to very quickly go back is not necessarily supported by what we're actually seeing on the ground.

Trump also said the restaurant -- of the restaurant industry, he said, all restaurants will be back, maybe under different ownership.

[18:15:00]

That is not what we're hearing from the restaurant industry. They say that a prolonged closure could be catastrophic for them.

So, many of the things Trump said, Wolf, are just not grounded in reality here.

BLITZER: All right, let me bring Gloria into this conversation as well.

Gloria, once again, the president saying, we're making a lot of progress, we will vanquish this virus.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

BLITZER: Hopefully, it won't be a problem too much longer.

Almost all of the health care experts say, that's not true. This is going to be a problem for quite a while.

BORGER: Right.

And while he paints this rosy scenario, he kept saying over and over again, I'm hearing from people, we need to open this country up. We need to -- our people want to work. We want to open it up.

And then, at one point, he went into a riff about, you know, we talked to some people.

BLITZER: All right, Gloria, hold on for a second. Hold on, Gloria.

BORGER: OK.

BLITZER: Ambassador Deborah Birx is now speaking. I want to listen in.

BORGER: OK.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We do have 19 out of our 50 states to be reminded that had early cases, but have persistently low level of cases and, at this point, have less than 200 cases.

So, that's almost 40 percent of the country with extraordinarily low numbers, and they are testing. Some of our governors had been very adamant about their need for test kits. We have gotten them test kits when we had Abbott add about a week ago to the test kits.

We've been able to open up additional test kits for states that want to do surveillance and want to do contact tracing. These 19 states are doing still active containment. They're at 200 cases, despite the fact that they've been measuring them over the last three to four weeks.

Still, though, 55 percent of all cases and 55 percent of all new cases continue out of the New York at -- New York metro area. That's the New Jersey part and New York part in particular. I haven't added in Connecticut or other counties at this point.

We are concerned about certain counties that look like they're having a more rapid increase. When you look at Wayne County in Michigan, and you look at Cook County in Chicago.

So we have integrated all of our information to not only look at where the cases are today, but how they're moving. So, we can alert FEMA to where we think the next potential hotspot is.

All of the counties that I've mentioned, the hotspots are in urban areas or in the communities that serve that urban area. And I think that's something very important to remember as we move forward.

Because of the innovation within our private sector, we continue to have these new platforms added for laboratory testing. And these become critical platforms for states that have very low rates and very low rates needed to test.

Why is that important? Some of these machines have wells and plastic plates that in order to be effective, you have to put on about almost 96 samples. And others are made for four samples or 24 samples at a time.

So, what's critical for us to be able to do is to match the need to the county and state. And that's the role that we can provide advice on, because we get to see across the whole country, and where those items are needed most.

And so, this is allowing us to adapt and adopt really allocation of tests or recommendations to state of what piece of equipment they may need.

Of the 550,000 tests, you can do the math, but we're still running somewhere about 14 percent overall. That means 86 percent of the people with significant symptoms because remember, you had to have a fever and symptoms to get tested at this point.

So, still, 86 percent are negative. These are really important facts for the American people. I'm sure many of you saw the recent report out of the U.K. about them adjusting completely their needs. This is really quite important. If you remember that was the report that said there would be 500,000 deaths in the U.K. and 2.2 million deaths in the United States. They've adjusted that number in the U.K. to 20,000.

So, half a million to 20,000. We're looking into this in great detail to understand that adjustment. I'm going to say something that's a little bit complicated. But I'm going to try to do it in a way that we can all understand it together.

In the model, either, you have to have a large group of people who are asymptomatic, who've never presented for any test, in order to have the kind of numbers that were predicted, to get to 60 million people infected, or of 6 million people infected, you have to have a large group of asymptomatic, because in no country to date, have we seen an attack rate over one and 1,000.

So, either, we're only measuring the tip of the iceberg of the symptomatic cases and underneath it are a large group of people. So, we're working very hard to get that antibody test, because that's a good way to figure out who are all these people under here, and do they exist or we have the transmission completely wrong.

So these are the things we're looking at because the predictions of the models don't match the reality on the ground in either China, South Korea, or Italy.

We are about five times the size of Italy. So, if we were Italy, and you did all those divisions, Italy should have close to 400,000 deaths. They're not close to achieving that. So, these are the kinds of things we're trying to understand. Models are models. We're adapting now to the real -- there's enough data now of the real experience with the coronavirus on the ground to really make these predictions much more sound.

So, when people start talking about 20 percent of a population getting infected, it's very scary. But we don't have data that matches that based on the experience. And then finally, the situation about ventilator, we are reassured and meeting with our colleagues in New York that there are still ICU beds remaining, and there's still significant over 1,000 or 2,000 ventilators that have not been utilized yet.

Please, for the reassurance of people around the world to wake up this morning and look at people talking about, creating DNR situations, do- not-resuscitate situations for patients.

There is no situation in the United States right now that warrants that kind of discussion. You can be thinking about it in a hospital. Certainly many hospitals talk about this on a daily basis. But to say that to the American people to make the implication that when they need a hospital bed, it's not going to be there, or when they need that ventilator, it's not going to be there. We don't have any evidence of that right now.

And it's our job collectively to assure the American people that -- it's our collective job to make sure that doesn't happen.

Right now, you can see the state -- these cases are concentrated in highly urban areas. There are other parts of the states that have lots of ventilators, and other parts of New York state that don't have any infections right now.

So, we can be creative, we can meet the need by being responsive. But there's no model right now. I mean, no reality on the ground where we can see that 60 to 70 percent of Americans are going to get infected in the next eight to 12 weeks. I just want to be clear about that.

So we're adapting to the reality on the ground, we're looking at the models of how they can inform. But we also are learning very clearly from South Korea and from Italy and from Spain, just to find out, because I know many of you will look up my numbers.

The only people who are over really, one in 1,000 cases are people that have very small populations, like Monaco and Liechtenstein. So, you will see a different number coming from when your population is really tiny. One case can put you over one to 1000, or two to 1,000. Thank you.

PENCE: Good, we'll do questions and more. Dr. Fauci.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. I'm going to change the topic just a little bit because there was a questions that came up, and I've been asked about this on a couple of media interactions regarding the interventions that we're talking about.

And it's important because it's about something that I said yesterday, about what we would likely see, whenever you put the clamps down and shut things down, you do it for two reasons. You do it to prevent the further spread is be call mitigation. But you also do it to buy yourself time to get better prepared for it might be a rebound. It may be a rebound that we get things really under control, and then you pull back which ultimately, we're going to have to do, everybody in the world is going to have to do that. You either going to get a rebound, or it might cycle into the next season.

So, what are we going to do to prepare ourselves for that? One of the most important things is one that I mentioned several times from this podium, and that is to clarify a bit about the timeline for vaccines, and would that have any real impact on what we would call the rebound, or what we will call a cycling in the season?

Certainly, for sure, a vaccine is not going to help us now, and next month, the month after. But as I mentioned to you, we went into a phase one trial, and I keep referring to one vaccine, there's more than one.

There's a couple of handfuls of vaccines at different stages of development. But they're all following the same course. And the course is your first go into a phase one trial to see if it's safe. And you have very few people, 45 people within a certain age group, all healthy, none at really any great risk of getting infected. And the reason you do that because you want to make sure that it's safe. And the next thing you do and that takes about three months, easily, maybe more. So that's going to bring us into the beginning of middle of the summer.

Then, you go to a phase two trial or what we say two, three, which means we're going to put a lot of people in there. Now we hope that there aren't a lot of people getting infected. But it is likely there will be somewhere in the world where that's going on.

So, it's likely that we will get what's called an efficacy signal. And we will know whether or not it actually works. If, in fact, it does, we hope to rush it to be able to have some impact on recycling in the next season.

And like I said, that could be a year to a year and a half, I'm not changing any of the dates that I mentioned. But one of the things that we are going to do that you need to understand that has been a stumbling block for previous development of vaccines, and that is, even before you know something works, at risk, you have to start producing it. Because once you know it works, you can say great, it works.

Now, give me another six months to produce it. So, we're working with a variety of companies to take that risk. We didn't take it with Zika, that's why, you know, we have a nice Zika vaccine but we don't have enough to do it because there's no Zika around. Same with SARS.

So, that's one of the things we're really going to push on, is to be able to have it ready, if, in fact, it works. Now, the issue of safety is something that I want to make sure the American public understand. It's not only safety, when you inject somebody and they get maybe an idiosyncratic reaction, they get a little allergic reaction, they get pain.

There's safety associated, does the vaccine make you worse? And there are diseases in which you vaccinate someone, they get infected with what you're trying to protect them with, and you actually enhance the infection. You can get a good feel for that in animal models. So, that's going to be interspersed at the same time that we're testing. We're going to try and make sure we don't have enhancement.

So the worst possible thing you could do is vaccinate somebody to prevent infection and actually make them worse.

Next, and finally, with regard -- I'll get you to your question. Finally, with regard to therapies, I mean, we keep getting asked about therapies, there's a whole menu of therapies that are going into a clinical trial.

As I've told you all and I repeat it again, the best way to get the best drug as quickly as possible is to do a randomized control trial. So that you know, is it safe, and it's effective. If it's not effective, get it off the board and go to the next thing. If it is effective, get it out to the people that need it. So, you're going to be hearing over the next month or more about different drugs that are going to go into these randomized controlled trials. And I feel confident knowing about what this virus is and what we can do with it, that we will have some sort of therapy that give at least a partial, if not, a very good protection in preventing progression of disease. And we'll be back here talking about that a lot. I'm sure. Thank you.

PENCE: Tony, do you want to take a question?

ROBERTS: If I can just imagine what you're saying about this idea of risky drug manufacturer, are you saying that, at some point, in the phase two trials that if you're seeing some form of efficacy, that you may try to convince a laboratory to spool up production at that point, so there's a reason --

(CROSSTALK)

FAUCI: Even before -- even before. When I go into phase two, I'm going to find somebody that's going to make it.

Well, partially, the federal government, I think, in some respects to de-risk it, but also investments by the companies. A lot of companies are not shy now about doing that. Usually, when you do that at risk, John, you got to get some backup for them. And we've done that, we've put hundreds of millions of dollars into companies to try and make vaccines. I wouldn't hesitate to do that for a moment now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the county issue, start by having low risk, medium risk, and high-risk counties. Yes, for Dr. Birx. But there's no domestic travel restrictions. What prevents somebody from a high-risk county going into a low-risk county? (INAUDIBLE) creating a patchwork system, allowing more cases to sub to the cracks and the virus spread into other areas of the country.

BIRX: I think this is a very important concept, and it's why we've really worked on messaging to the American people about these 15 days to stop the spread. Because part of this will be the need to have highly responsible behavior between counties.

And I think the American people can understand that. That they will understand where the virus is because we'll have the testing data and where it isn't. And make sure that they're taking appropriate precautions as they move in and out of spaces.

I think this will be critical for our future as we work together to really understand where the virus is and where it isn't in real-time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Birx -- Dr. Birx, can I just follow up on sort of your modeling? Every time as Neil Ferguson study out of Imperial how the model is change. You, last week, said -- I was on Monday that you talked about a serology test something promising coming out of Singapore. Where are we on a serology tests the president said very quickly?

And then, is that what you need to do some sort of community survey so you can get to some of this X and Zs, so you can figure this all out?

BIRX: So, we're talking to CDC right now, they are extraordinary in outbreaks and contact tracing.

[18:30:04]

So they are going to be the workforce behind any new strategy that looks at counties, that need to completely move into containment and surveillance and contact tracing.

But part of what they are looking at now is where are these antibody assays. To be clear, there is antibody assays available right now, but they're by ELISA. And what we are trying to do is not just do ELISAs because they can use that now, but to be able to have pointed care rapid diagnostics, like we have with HIV. We just got to drop of blood, you put it on a little cassette and it tells you if you're positive or negative. So that's what companies are working on.

REPORTER: Like the IGG --

BIRX: Yes, correct, that's the IGG to measure. Now, remember, that's not going to be helpful in diagnosis. That's going to be helpful for us to know how many asymptomatic cases there are or were.

REPORTER: How close are you to figuring out what the asymptomatic rates are? Because that seems to be the big question here on where we are on the --

BIRX: It is a big question. It is a very big question. And so we have people -- the FDA is working on that around the clock. They do have applications that are coming in. We've put out a call for applications. I've been talking about it from this podium. If you have an IGG assay, rapid test, not an ELISA. I mean, you can do the ELISA today, because the SARS -- the original SARS antigens react very well to the current COVID-19 antibodies that people have. But we're really working on the both so that we could have therapeutics that could be plasma-derived. So, thank you, yes, we're very much focus on that.

REPORTER: How soon will you be able to classify these counties, because there are a lot of testing that that has not been done yet?

BIRX: Well, you know, there states and I just want to really recognized state and local health officials that behind all of this have continued to test and have continued to do surveillance. So we do have states that have been doing surveillance all along, have been doing contact tracing all along. It never gets reported because it's not that exciting that they have identified ten cases. But there are states doing that and have been doing it throughout this entire outbreak, and that's why we have some confidence that that testing has been going on.

We have to expand testing for surveillance. But this is that -- we talked about a little bit yesterday the flu platform. So the flu platform is driven off of emergency rooms and hospitals reporting flu- like illness to their state and local governments. And that then will we trigger the individuals to get tested. So we have a platform that states and local governments are completely used to.

They're not used to doing it this late in the season. They'll do it usually through the end of March, but flu usually tails off a lot by April. So we're asking them to continue the activation of screening for flu-like illness.

Now, that doesn't get to his question, about, where is the asymptomatic and how much of that. That helps us find cases and contact trace on systematic cases.

REPORTER: -- guidance for the places, the counties that don't have the data yet? So will there be different CDC guideline?

BIRX: So these are very early days of us trying to -- what we're trying to do is to utilize a laser-focused approach rather than a generic horizontal approach. And I think in the 21st century, we should be able to get to that.

Why am I confident that we can do that? Because we do that in sub- Saharan Africa right now for HIV. That's how we're stopping the epidemic there.

So we've done it, we've done it in resource limited settings. So I do believe we can transpose that approach here to the United States and be able to have -- we have granular data down to a GPS coordinate of a site of a clinic and hospital. We think that same thing can be done in the United States.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dr. Birx, quick question, would you suggest restrictions for states for something like that, like if there was a high risk county and the restaurants are open and a low risk county, wouldn't your fear be people in the high risk county go over to the restaurants --

BIRX: These are dialogues that the federal government has to have with state and local governments because state and local government make those decisions. And that has been inspirational to me, seeing how much the governors understand, where they are in their epidemic and what they will need to do in the future.

This is what we're trying to tailor. It requires us to have very clear data disaggregation at the country and state level. But I think you've been hearing from us, these outbreaks and clusters, we have been able to very well define to date the one that was in King County, the one that is now in New York City, the one in New Orleans, the one in Wayne County. And we can see that spread throughout the region and those closely related counties.

[18:35:02]

So this is what we're talking about, how to do surveillance, how to do contact tracing and how to do each of these items to make sure that you prevent that.

COLLINS: So what's your timeline for implementing guidance like this? BIRX: Well, we have to get all of our data together. We owe it to the president. And we owe it to the president to be able to make decisions. So that's what we we're working on right now, is getting that granularity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Guys, last question.

PENCE: I'll go to John for a second.

The president sent a letter to all the governors today --

BLITZER: All right. So we're going to continue to monitor this. This is the last question for the vice president. But what they're talking about right here is this letter that the president today wrote to all the nation's governors in which the president made it clear that he wants certain parts of the country to basically open up. He says they are monitoring the spread of the virus throughout the country.

And then he writes this to the governors. Under these data-driven criteria, we will suggest guidelines categorizing counties as high risk, medium risk or low risk. And you heard Dr. Birx try to explain what this means. She was vague on when this might go into effect and there is enormous concern by a lot of health professionals out there right now that if there's a low risk county, a lot of people will go to that low risk county and perhaps bring in the virus as they leave medium or high risk counties all over the country. And the question is how long will it take to come up with those list. That was the proposal the president put forward.

Gloria, I interrupted you before. But I want you to elaborate on what you heard right now. Because one of the points the president kept making, Gloria, the president kept saying that this is -- nobody believed anything like this could happen. This is totally new. No one could foresee this developing.

But we do know that last year, the U.S. intelligence community had their global assessment, threat assessment put out there and it specifically warned of the dangers of a high risk flu, some sort of other disease emerging causing a pandemic that could eventually lead to an enormous amount of cases and death here in the United States. That was the warning that was issued by the president's own intelligence community.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's right, Wolf. And, you know, everybody is going to have to go back and take a look at why more was not done at the time. And to talk about what Dr. Birx is saying here, what the president seemed to be saying about, you know, people want to go back to work, certain areas of the country, you know, there's not as much coronavirus, and so maybe we can work that out.

The big question is not only the one that Kaitlan Collins raised, which is about people going back and forth between heavily infected areas, say, and one that is not, and how you might spread the disease there. And she said more people -- Dr. Birx said people would have to exhibit a different kind of behavior. But also there's no testing that we know of that could -- at this point, there's no surveillance of every one. And so the question is, would you possibly have the data, Wolf, by Easter, say -- and by the way, we didn't hear the president mention the word Easter today, but would you possibly have the data by that point to decide whether this is feasible or where the virus is and where the virus isn't or whether the virus is going to move from one part of the country to another part of the country?

And if you don't have that data and you don't have the kind of surveillance you need, would you, in fact, be exacerbating things and spread the virus more across the country and undo all the good work that people are doing now by staying home?

These are not easy decisions for governors to make. These are not easy decisions for all of us to make. But I think what everybody needs to have is the data, and I know Sanjay has been talking about it, that in order to make these decision, you can't just come out there and say, as the president said today, well, I'm hearing from a lot of people and the virus wasn't so bad for some people, and I know the country really wants to get back to work and we have to think about that. Sure, everyone wants to think about that. But you just need to be sure that you're not going to make things worse.

BLITZER: Yes, and that's important. And, Sanjay, I want you to weigh in on what we heard from Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci. But just to underscore the point, how this has exploded over this past couple of months, we did some research on January 23rd, there was one case of coronavirus confirmed here in the United States. A month later, in February 27th there we're 60 cases confirmed here in the United States. And then it exploded to the point now, there's, what, almost 80,000, more than 80,000 cases and 1,100 deaths here in the United States.

[18:40:09]

It looks like you'll continue to explode at least in the near future.

GUPTA: And in just last week, Wolf, to give that even more sense of the growth, just last week, there were 8,800 cases. So it's gone up ten times roughly in the last week. To look at those numbers and at the same time, say, well, there must be areas of the country where, you know, they're safe enough, there's low enough case count to go ahead and reopen them. I mean, I don't think any public health official would actually do that based on the data, which is what ambassador Birx and Dr. Fauci said. They were saying, we're going to look at the data, we're going to do more testing in these areas and then see what we see.

We haven't had the testing. That's been a problem that we discussed many times. But when we do the testing, I think it's going to show a very different picture. I mean, we know that the numbers have grown tremendously in the areas where we've tested. There's not much reason to think that they won't have grown there as well.

In more rural areas, maybe not as densely populated, not as much public transportation, so maybe the explosive growth will be less explosive but it's still growing.

Wolf, just quickly and, again, we've talk about this, but I think there's this notion that young people can start getting back to work, elderly people stay quarantined. And I just want to remind that, first of all, younger people can obviously transmit this virus. I think most people understand that by now, hopefully. But they can also get quite sick, Wolf. I mean, the idea that 20 percent of people in the hospital are between the ages of 20 and 44.

The young people are finding themselves on ventilators as a result to this illness, not just a cold. It's not even just a mild flu. I mean, it's very significant.

So just keep them -- it's not to frighten people but rather to remind them that they should behave like they have the virus, not transmitting to others, and do everything they can to not get it themselves.

BLITZER: Yes. And now, by our count, the U.S. -- Daniel Dale -- I want to bring in Daniel Dale into this, our fact checker. Daniel, the U.S. has now surpassed Italy in the number of confirmed cases and about to very soon to surpass China.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: It has, yes. So I think the president continues to project rosiness suggesting that we have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. We have turned some sort of corner and yet we keep getting numbers like this. And so I think it's important to keep bringing this reality checks.

And I think it's important to also help people understand what powers the president actually has and does not have when he talks about reopening the country. I think the president's rhetoric makes it sound like he himself can wave a wand and cause schools and local communities, cause businesses to reopen. And that's not the case. States and cities may take cues from the president but he's merely issued guidelines that state and local officials may or may not follow.

So regardless of what Trump does, we might see something very different happening on the ground if state and local authorities plan to listen to experts, their own experts rather than to the president's cues.

BLITZER: Yes. I want to bring in Dr. Celine Gounder. CNN Medical Analyst. You know, Celine, what jump out of you from what you heard from the president and then from Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci?

CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Right, Wolf. What really stood out to me was Dr. Birx's comments about the modeling study, which is the forecasting that's done about, you know, what can we expect. And that's a study that was done by Dr. Neil Ferguson and his colleagues at Imperial College.

Now, she said that it would appear that what the decisions of that study would imply are the cases are going to be lower. The number of deaths will be lower. In fact, Dr. Ferguson has himself said that his revisions are being misrepresented or at least misunderstood, that the major change to that modeling is really that perhaps more effective than we realize but the total number of cases and deaths that they are predicting are unchanged.

BLITZER: I like you to stand by. We'll try to improve your audio over there, Dr. Gounder.

Dr. Jaquis is still with us as well. What stood out to you, Dr. Jaquis?

DR. WILLIAM JAQUIS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF EMERGENCY PHYSICIANS: I think what stood out to me is there are a lot of things in play but they are not quite there yet. And many of your speakers, and panelists have already talk about this. But if we talk about testing, we are just ramping up and there's still this inconsistency.

We may have a test. We may have a new analyzer. We may not have the medium. We may not have the swabs. So there's different guidance from week to week in terms of testing. So we don't have good information on that.

We don't know yet, why younger people are getting sick. I think that's a big challenge for all of us who are working in healthcare to understand those factors that might help us.

[18:45:00]

We may have more production of productive equipment, but it's not gotten to the bedside yet. We can see, of course, all those pleas in New York and in other states and other entities where people are saying we have no PPE at this point.

And until we have that PPE and we can't guess who is coming in that might have coronavirus, we are all at risk. So, I think there's so many things in play.

And the curve up, as Dr. Gupta also said, we don't have a curve. We still have a slope. We don't have a curve to see if it's going to flatten.

And as Dr. Fauci has said multiple times, you know, the idea is not so much that it's the actual incidents of these that will change but it's the cadence of disease that may or may not change.

That cadence is key for a lot of these things we're talking about to be able to have enough people and enough supplies to be able to provide care and keep our held care workers safe. A lot of unknowns yet before we can go on to some of those more major decisions.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important indeed.

And, Sanjay, I want to get back to where we started. The president once again pretty upbeat in his assessment today. He says people are going to go back to work. I think it's going to happen very quickly. Hopefully it won't be a problem too much longer.

Although all the experts don't buy that. On what basis is he saying that?

GUPTA: It's a good question, Wolf. I mean, I know what the public health experts and the scientists on the coronavirus task force are saying and what they're telling us and I'm sure what they're counseling the president as well. And, you know, one they're saying is you got to look at the data.

So, we look at the data. The data is there. I mean, we've been putting it up all the time. And as you look at the data, as we just talked about, Wolf, we know the numbers are going up. And it looks like the pace of numbers, acceleration of this is going up as well.

Again, you know, some 8,000 or so cases last week. Wolf. More than ten times that now in seven days. So, you know, this is obviously concerning. I think what the president sort of ends with is as we will, you know, ultimately look at the data and make a decision, I think that he knows because his task force has told him, but the data is not going to look good. That by the time some of these arbitrary timelines have been set, it's likely the numbers are going to be still be going up at that point.

This isn't forever, Wolf. I always want to emphasize that. This isn't to say, look, this is -- how it's going to be forever, but it's not going to end soon, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And you make a point, last week at this time, there was 8,800 cases, 8,898 cases, and now, there's more than 80,000 cases, a tenfold increase. Last week at this time, there were 149 confirmed deaths here in the United States. And now, it's more than 1,100. I mean, clearly, another almost 10 percent increase. And if it continues like this, and we hope, of course, it doesn't, this is going to be -- it's already horrendous situation but it's going to be certainly awful for all of us.

Everybody, stand by. There's a lot more we're following right now. California officials fear their state may see a dramatic surge in cases comparable to New York state. I'll speak to the mayor of San Francisco, London Breed, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:52:39]

BLITZER: While New York state is the epicenter of the outbreak here in the United States, there are growing fears about what is happening in California right now.

Let's go to our senior national correspondent Kyung Lah.

What's the situation there, Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, today, the governor announced that there are -- there is a jump of 500 cases here in the state of California. There are now a total of 3,000 cases as the testing expands, a total of 77,000 tests that have now been administered. And part of it is that the expansion of the test is happening at

places like this. You can see that car there. My cameraman having to zoom in to keep our distance and also respect patient privacy.

The governor is warning that there is a good number of the tests that are out there. The number he anticipates will jump as California continues to ramp up.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-CA): I want to be clear, the worst days are still ahead.

LAH (voiceover): From the nations' most populous state, dire warnings of what is to come from the health agency.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We see cases doubling every three to four days.

LAH: To its biggest cities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We could have a scenario similar to the one that is playing out in New York.

LAH: California preparing for the same pandemic spread as New York, as coronavirus testing expands. Despite being the first state to orders its 40 million residents to stay at home, California has lagged behind New York in testing, a state that's half its size.

DR. MARIA RAVEN, UCSF CHIEF OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE: Testing for COVID- 19 has proven to be at a state level very disorganized and very unpredictable. I would say that reflects what is going on federally.

LAH: UC-San Francisco chief of emergency medicine, Maria Raven, says private, public, and for profit labs are fighting to get limited tests. Without one set of rules to work under, it's like the state is flying blind.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We must focus on meeting this health crisis.

LAH: California's governor announced the state had tripled the number of coronavirus tests to try and catch up to the reality on the ground.

ELISSA RILL, ER NURSE, NORTHRIDGE HOSPITAL: Patients are frustrated and they are scared.

LAH: Still, Northridge Hospital emergency room nurse Elissa Rill says California's health care workers have to pick and choose who is sick enough to get tested. Rill suffering from coronavirus symptoms herself has now been quarantined.

[18:55:05]

(on camera): Do you believe that you've turned away people who have coronavirus who could not get tested? RILL: Absolutely. Absolutely. We have seen so many patients that have

the classic symptoms, but they are still relatively healthy at that moment and we just don't have the capability to test them, so we just have to tell them assume they do and then send them home.

LAH: You have a cough?

GLORIA BOSSI, UNABLE TO BE TESTED: Yes. I have a cough. I have shortness of breath.

LAH (voice-over): Among those rejected for a test, Gloria Bossi, mother of four in northern California. Bossi's sister is also sick with the same symptoms.

BOSSI: She was tested because she's in the dental field. She's a hygienist. And she still hasn't gotten her results. I think there's much more sick people than we're aware of. It's kind of scary.

I am petrified. It is scary. You see some people that are going to the doctor, and by the time they are actually taking them and getting admitted, it's too late.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: Now, UC-San Francisco says that they were fortunate they were able to develop their own test and the emergency room, the head of the emergency room services there says she has seen the number of cases had actually begun to level off. But that emergency room, Wolff, is still bracing for what could be a surge in as soon as two to three weeks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kyung Lah, reporting for us -- Kyung, thank you very much.

Let's talk more about the rate of infections in California. The San Francisco Mayor London Breed is joining us right now.

Mayor Breed, what are you bracing for in San Francisco and the surrounding areas?

MAYOR LONDON BREED, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (via telephone): Well, we are basically bracing for the worst. I mean, the fact is we are doing everything we can. We shut down the city. We pushed for people not to go out unless they're part of essential services. We tried to explain to people the severity of the issue, and the fact that we need over 5,000 more beds, we need another 1,500 ventilators.

There's more that we need so that if we do reach those heights, we are able to support the people of this city. And if the people continue to go out and socialize and engage in activities with one another, then we are not going to be able to take care of everyone who is going to need a hospital bed. We tried to reiterate that time and time again so that people understand the severity of the situation.

BLITZER: The president today informed the nation's governors that he will issue new guidelines that will allow various areas identified as low risk to relax those social distancing policies, get people back to work.

You've actually advocated the opposite saying you'd like to see communities across the country right now shelter in place.

Does the administration's new potential guidance concern you?

BREED: I think, sadly, what the president is asking for is ridiculous. I mean, we have people who are dying. We have people that cannot even be tested. We have folks who are infecting people who don't understand that they're walking around with this virus as we speak, and we're already talking about reopening places where we need to basically make sure that those cases never make it to those places in the first place.

The whole point of why we're shutting major cities down, why we're asking people to do some things we've never asked them to do before has everything to do with public health, and if we continue business as usual and put a deadline on things without listening to the public health expert who are providing us with the guidance we need to make better decisions, then we -- I don't know what we're going to be doing. It's going to be even worse.

BLITZER: Your city's director of health is warning that you could see a similar crisis such as the one that New York is now facing. So, what steps are you taking today to prepare for a potential influx of critically ill patients?

BREED: Wolf, we had had to go around the federal government in getting our own materials and supplies from other countries in order to have the PPE that everyone is talking about. I mean, this is something that the federal government should be leading on and you have cities partnering with the private sector so that we can protect our nurses and our doctors and the people who are working on the frontline.

We are expanding our hospital beds. And we're working with private hospitals to do exactly that. We're trying to get more people to stay home. We're putting a lot of limitations on the residents in the city, and we are also trying to impress upon the people how significant this is, explaining what we have in terms of ICU beds --

BLITZER: All right.

BREED: -- and medical beds and what we need more of.

And again, we don't want to turn anyone away. And that's what it's all about is making sure that the least amount of people get infected as possible.

BLITZER: Mayor Breed, good luck to everyone in San Francisco. We'll stay in very close touch with you. Thanks so much for joining us.

BREED: Thank you.

BLITZER: And be sure to join Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper for a live global town hall later tonight, "CORONAVIRUS: FACTS AND FEARS". They'll be joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates. That's at 8:00 Eastern, only here on CNN.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.