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THE SITUATION ROOM

Possibility Of Millions Of Coronavirus Cases And More Deaths In The U.S.; New York City Has 32,308 Coronavirus Cases; Colorado Ordered Stay-At-Home Statewide By The Governor; Stimulus Check To Arrive In Three Weeks; Downtrend In Deaths And Cases In Italy; White House Task Force Coronavirus Update. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 29, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: There is a live picture coming in from the Rose Garden right now. And it comes as the nation's top infectious expert is giving a very sobering new warning about the reach, the potential reach of this outbreak.

Dr. Anthony Fauci telling CNN that the coronavirus could infect millions, millions of people here in the United States and could take the lives, potentially of hundreds of thousands.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Looking at what we're seeing now, you know, I would say, between 100,000 and 200,000 cases, but I don't want to be held to that, because it's -- excuse me, deaths.

I mean, we're going to have millions of cases, but I just don't think that we really need to make a projection when it's such a moving target that you can so easily be wrong and mislead people. What we do know, Jake, is that we've got a serious problem in New York.

We have a serious problem in New Orleans, and we're going to be developing serious problems in other areas. So although people like to model it, let's just look at the data of what we have and not worry about these worst-case and best-case scenarios.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Right now, the number of confirmed cases here in the United States is over 135,000 and more than 2,300 people have died. All of this as the White House is reviewing new proposals that potentially could lead to reopening some parts of the country.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is standing by. He's in the White House Rose Garden right now, waiting for the briefing to begin. Jeremy, what are you learning about these new recommendations?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we are just days away from the end of those 15 days to slow the spread. Those were the social distancing guidelines that the president put in place. And now within a matter of days, we're reaching the end of that.

And so the president and White House officials are currently reviewing recommendations to potentially begin opening up parts of the country that have the lowest risk. But in order to do that, a senior federal health official tells CNN that those regions of the country would have to hit certain benchmarks, but then could start seeing some schools and businesses begin to open up.

That as this morning, we heard Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading public health expert, working on the coronavirus task force, he was talking about the fact that, look, he is in favor of beginning to open up parts of the country.

But in order to do that, the United States government first needs the tools to do that -- needs the eyeballs in these parts of the country to actually confirm that low numbers of cases actually correlate to low infection rates in those areas.

Particularly, Wolf, given the fact that there is this long incubation period where people can be asymptomatic, but still transiting the virus. Of course, Wolf, we do know that in recent weeks, the U.S. has expanded testing but still, in terms of per capita numbers, the U.S. still lags behind several other countries, most notably, South Korea, which of course has been ahead of the U.S. in terms of testing capabilities.

We now are expecting to hear from the president in about a half an hour, after delaying the briefing. It was supposed to start about now, Wolf. We'll have to see what the president says about whether or not he's willing to relax those guidelines and how quickly he's prepared to do so.

Of course, all of these coming as we have seen the number of deaths in the United States over the last two days double to over 2,000. Wolf?

BLITZER: Do we know, Jeremy, why they moved the briefing from the White House briefing room outside over to the Rose Garden?

DIAMOND: You know, Wolf, it appears to be -- well, first of all, it's a nice day here in Washington, so certainly the weather allowed us to be here in the Rose Garden. It seems to be a move to kind of put a little bit more space between reporters and to allow for some more of that social distancing instead of that cramped briefing room.

But I will tell you, Wolf, just standing here in the Rose Garden where the president is going to give the press conference, we're actually sitting closer together than we would be in the briefing room. Now, we are outside, at least, so there is that. But, of course, Wolf, I'm not a medical expert, so I can't tell you how much that's going to help with the spread of this virus.

BLITZER: Yes, and hopefully the people standing behind the president can spread out a little bit because we know in the briefing room, they've all been cramped, one on top of the other, which is a dangerous situation. All right, Jeremy, we'll get back to you. We'll have coverage of that briefing once it begins.

There is other important news just coming into "The Situation Room" right now. The New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio discussing his city's response to the coronavirus pandemic. He now says there are more than 32 -- listen to this, 32,000 cases in New York City alone.

Let's go to our crime and justice correspondent, Shimon Prokupecz. He's joining us right now. Shimon, the mayor also discussed a conversation he had with President Trump.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he did. And 32,000 cases, Wolf, with 678 deaths. And so this number keeps rising. The conversation the mayor says he had with the president this morning was all about resources. And about getting enough help and getting enough resources into the hospitals, specifically it was about ventilators.

[17:05:00]

He and the president talked about getting more ventilators and here's what Mayor de Blasio said he needs from the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: I spoke to the president this morning, and in truth, I did not want to discuss with him the travel advisory that had been settled in a way that, again, I think we can live with.

What I wanted to talk to him about was ventilators. What I wanted to talk to him about was medical personnel. And I went over with him again the reality in New York City, the fact that we have until next Sunday, April 5th, to get the reinforcements we need, particularly when it comes to ventilators.

There's a lot we can talk about, about what the federal government has and hasn't done over the last two months, but in the last week, we have seen some real support, and I want to see it again with the 400 ventilators we would like to get in immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PROKUPECZ: And Wolf, the mayor there is talking about ventilators. He needs them in days. We don't have a whole lot of time, the mayor says, and so he's asking for those 400 ventilators to be here within days.

The reinforcements that the mayor is talking about, I spoke to an emergency room physician this morning. They are seeing the benefits of that. They are seeing the benefits of doctors and nurses that are being brought in from all across the country, from different states, into the city. They are seeing some relief in that.

The other big thing that the city and state have been doing is that they have been moving around some of the patients, out of some hospitals like Elmhurst, which is seeing an influx of very critical patients. Some of the less critical, patients who just need oxygen, those

patients are being moved around to other hospitals across the city, to relieve the pressure at hospitals like Elmhurst.

So there are some benefits. They are seeing that what the city and state are doing is helping, but obviously, the big thing is going to continue to be those ventilators because at some point, the hospitals fear that they're going to run out, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Shimon. I understand that Mayor de Blasio also discussed a rise in 911 emergency calls in New York City?

PROKUPECZ: Yes, and this is really taxing the system in some ways here, Wolf. The mayor saying that the ambulance system, the EMS system, the 911 system, is being inundated with calls. He described it as the calls just skyrocketing.

Record number of calls, we're talking about 6,000 calls a day from folks seeking help, folks seeking ambulances. They're sick and they want to go to the hospital. So what they're doing to respond to this is they're going to shift personnel.

He says they're going to be adding ambulances. They're going to come up with more ambulances. They're going to shift personnel. They're going to move resources around to try and respond to this need. It's a big need in this city.

The fact that the EMS workers are being taxed in this way could eventually cause a lot of problems. It's taking longer for ambulances to get to people. And obviously, that could be a serious problem in the days to come, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly could be, and what's happening in New York City, we hope it won't happen -- it could happen in other major urban areas around the country. We're watching that closely. Shimon, thank you very much. Shimon Prokupecz in New York.

Colorado is under a statewide stay-at-home order to control the coronavirus outbreak. That order coming from the state's governor, as Colorado now has more than 2,000 cases of the virus. Governor Jared Polis is joining us right now.

Governor thanks so much for taking a few moments and being with us. I know you got a lot going on. You just issued a stay-at-home order a few days ago. So, can you imagine loosening those restrictions in some areas as the president seems to be considering?

GOV. JARED POLIS (D-CO): Well, you know, Wolf, when you say 2,000 cases or so in Colorado, that's a number diagnosed, but like so many other areas, because of the lack of testing, we very likely have 5,000 to 10,000 active cases.

There are many people who are symptomatic, being asked to stay at home, instead of going out for a test, unless you need medical attention, and nine in 10 people who attract COVID don't need additional medical care. You need to just stay at home and stay isolated.

So we have many, many, many people doing that and they're not included in the over 2,000 confirmed cases. Look, we had to use the only instrument we have. It's a very blunt one and that's effectively a stay-at-home order. That's where we are in Colorado.

Critical industries continue to work but our advice for everybody. And really, Wolf, this is advice for everybody across our entire country, whether your mayor or governor has ordered it or not, stay at home unless you absolutely need to go out.

By going out unnecessarily, associating with others, having parties, shopping when you don't need to, you're only jeopardizing your own life and the life of others.

BLITZER: Yes, because even if you have no symptoms at all, you can still pass along the virus if you go out so it's really wise to stay at home for the time being.

We've heard many governors across the country raised the alarm about a critical lack of medical supplies as they prepare for this escalating crisis. What's the situation in Colorado?

[17:10:00]

POLIS: So we're fine where we are today, but when you look at the projected increases, if we fail to take action to reduce the growth factor, we would very likely have been out of ventilators and hospital beds in a matter of a couple of weeks.

What we hope we're doing by taking these extreme and difficult measures, Wolf. I mean, this is really difficult for folks who aren't able to go to work and earn a living. I mean, this is tough stuff. Thank goodness the federal government stepped up and will be sending some aid to families, $1,200 per person.

But what we're trying to do is buy time. The virus is still likely to course through and infect large numbers of people. But we are literally, we have the Army Corps of engineers here in Colorado building additional beds.

We're doing everything we can to build the capacity so that we're able to save the lives of the 10 percent or so of people who contract COVID-19 who needs some form of medical intervention to help keep them alive.

BLITZER: As you know, governor, the president has warned some of your colleagues, other governors, Washington State, Michigan, for example, have been critical of him to show more appreciation. Do you fear your federal support could be at risk if you were, for example, to criticize the president or the federal government, his administration in any serious way?

POLIS: Well, on behalf of trying to do my best that I can for the people of Colorado, I'm not going to test that, Wolf. So, we're going to be respectful of everybody. I've had many constructive conversations with the vice president, with the head of the CDC, with many others.

We want to alert them as to what we need in Colorado. We put in a formal request around masks and tests. We continue to work with our entire federal delegation, Republicans and Democrats. And we're going to do everything we can to make sure that we can save lives here in Colorado and reduce the spread of the virus.

And the best way individuals can do that, because this is ultimately a matter of individual responsibility no matter what the government orders may say, is just to stay at home unless you absolutely need to.

BLITZER: Yes. So many of the governors are praising the vice president as opposed to the president. They say he's doing, the vice president, a really important job. Kansas, as you know, has ordered anyone coming in from Colorado to quarantine themselves for two weeks when they arrive. Do you support these types of domestic travel restrictions?

POLIS: Well, you know what we really need is we need more of a regional or national approach. So whether that comes from the president, whether it comes from more states, we have states that border us that have similar stay-at-home orders that we do like the state of New Mexico. We have other states that border us that don't.

So, of course, we worry about spreading the virus in those states. Let's just talk about this for a moment, Wolf. Let's say that all of the stores that people want to go to that are closed in a particular area, but they're open in adjacent state. What you're going to have is a lot of people driving in, crowding and actually spreading the virus in those fewer and fewer areas that are staying open.

So, it's a greater public health threat when there is fewer and fewer places open. So we really do need a more cohesive approach to this to prevent the virus from spreading even further, even in areas that don't have it.

BLITZER: How long do you anticipate that residents in Colorado will need to stay at home?

POLIS: Our current order goes through April 11th, but we're going to look at the science and data every day. No one would love more than me to end it sooner. And I think the president has a beautiful vision of ending of by Easter Sunday. But if the science and the data aren't there, and at this point, I think it's unlikely that they will be. It could have to be extended longer.

BLITZER: One quick question before let you go. Aspen, Colorado, a city I love to go to in the summertime. What's it like there? I've heard various reports that there are some serious coronavirus problems?

POLIS: Yes. So over 2,000 cases, Eagle County, which is Vail, which I hope you also spend time at, has 150 cases.

BLITZER: I do.

POLIS: I mean, just one of the highest rates per capita in the country. Pitkin County, which is where Aspen is, is a bit better. But a lot of the ski country, no surprise, Wolf, right. This is where people from all over the world come and mix, No surprise that the virus is brought there from Europe by European tourists and others, it's spread there.

So that was really, really, the first hot zones in Colorado, and that infecting people who brought it back to the Denver metro area from spending weekends in the mountain area. So, we were addressing it in those mountain areas. They've been in shutdowns and stay-at-homes even longer than the state as a whole. And I think by acting early, many of them were able to reduce that spread.

BLITZER: Well, that's encouraging to hear that. Governor Polis, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in Colorado. You got a beautiful state and we appreciate you joining us.

POLIS: And we hope to be in a place where we can see you again soon in beautiful Colorado, Wolf.

BLITZER: Right now, nobody is flying too much, but hopefully it will be able to get back out there at some point. Thanks so much for joining us and good luck once again.

And still ahead, the White House says financial help is on the way for Americans, but when will it actually arrive? We'll talk about that -- we'll talk about when you can expect some stimulus checks, that's coming up.

And once again, we're waiting for the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing to begin. You're looking at live pictures coming in from the Rose Garden. That's where the briefing is about to take place. We'll have coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, saying today that Americans could expect checks from the historic $2 trillion stimulus bill to be direct deposited in their accounts within three weeks.

Individuals making less than $75,000 will receive $1,200 and that will double for couples. They will also receive $500 per child. The amounts get reduced above $75,000 and disappear for individuals making more than $100,000.

Richard Quest is joining us right now from New York. Richard, if that money will be going out, let's say, within three weeks, do we have any idea of when we could see that trickle down into the broader economy, if at all?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Depends how people choose to spend the money. Many will, of course, put it into savings. Some will start spending it immediately to pay things like utility bills, grocery bills. They may have run up a local bill at the grocery shop or the supermarket.

[17:19:58] So, almost immediately, you will start to see stimulus effect from this. But I think the difference of this time since when it was done in 2008, is that in 2008, the economy hadn't shut down. There weren't so many people unemployed immediately. The unemployment number took a lot longer to rise.

So I think, Wolf, that whilst in 2008, you did see people save a lot of the money that they got in stimulus checks. I don't think that's going to happen this time because although people always say save for a rainy day, well, for many Americans, that rainy day is here now.

They need the umbrella now, and that money can't get to them fast enough. So whether it comes by direct deposit or it comes as a check through the mail or the IRS has to find the people to pay the money, it can't arrive soon enough.

BLITZER: Important information. Initially, as you well know, Richard, the markets went on a spectacular three-day run. It was higher when the stimulus package was introduced, then all of a sudden, by the end of the week, it began to fade. Where is it heading? What are the experts telling you?

QUEST: Well, the experts say is that a flaw has been put underneath the U.S. economy by the actions of the Federal Reserve, the whole raft of them from interest rate cuts to special programs put in place, and the government through this latest piece of legislation.

Everybody knows that the government will do more when the time is right. So to that extent, a flaw has been put under the economy, one that will need shoring up. So people are not quite so worried about total collapse, as they were, say, two or three weeks ago.

Now the concern is to use an awful phrase, the damage -- the collateral damage, the small and medium-sized businesses that either can't get their hands on the loans being offered fast enough or the loans aren't sufficient, or they simply can't -- their customers have disappeared.

And so the market is taking a breath, a reasonable breath, bearing in mind anybody who thinks this is going to be a V-shape, down and straight back up again, what every expert tells me, says that is not the way it is going to go. It won't be a catastrophe, it won't be a calamity, but a V-shaped recovery for the market is highly, highly unlikely.

BLITZER: The president says it will skyrocket once this crisis is over with.

QUEST: Well.

BLITZER: But we shall see. Richard Quest, thank you very much.

This week, we also learned a record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment and while they wait for the checks promised to them under the stimulus plan, they're doing what they can to simply get by. CNN's Kyung Lah reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing, guys?

JOSH SOUDER, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, I.E. ENTERTAINMENT GROUP: It's just been a completely life-altering experience from start-to-finish and within a week. I mean, this is unbelievable.

KYUNG LAH, CNN (voice-over): A record number of newly unemployed Americans as the virus leave no business untouched.

SOUDER: We would have all of the seats filled.

LAH (on camera): All of these seats?

SOUDER: It would be a line out the door.

LAH (on camera): 3.3 million filed jobless claims last week -- coronavirus cratering businesses.

SOUDER: We went from being -- we're about to franchise to basically running a to-go business. I, you know, haven't slept, I -- I'm worried about having a heart attack, to be perfectly honest with you.

LAH (on camera): With no diners, the "Drunken Crab" is hemorrhaging thousands of dollars a day. Every business, every industry, re- evaluating under this economic tsunami.

SOUDER: Have a good night.

LAH (on camera): Josh Souder already forced to make that hard choice.

SOUDER: I had to, you know -- I was forced to layoff 75 people. At first, you're thinking about them. Okay, I feel horrible for them. And then they have to go home and tell their family, I just got laid off.

JAY BOCKEN, RESTAURANT GENERAL MANAGER LAID OFF LAST WEEK: I called my wife over the phone and said, honey, I'm on my way home. And she just -- she pretty much immediately knew.

LAH (on camera): Laid off from the "Drunken Crab," former general manager Jay Bocken immediately filed for unemployment. And it's just the tip of the iceberg, say economists, predicting by summer, 14 million workers will lose their jobs due to the coronavirus shock.

BOCKEN: You're talking thousands and thousands of people looking for work simultaneously. It's going to hit every aspect of life. And the government needs to react and help us get through this. That's the only way it's going to work. And people are not going to be able to support their families for more than two months.

LAH (voice-over): And already, signs money is getting tight. Outside this West Hollywood bar, employees only, a line.

[17:24:58]

Inside, the small staff preps meals, free meals, for workers who show a pay stub. Like bartender, Geri Courtney-Austen.

GERI COURTNEY-AUSTEN, BARTENDER: All of us like immediately lost our jobs, I think, as of Monday or Tuesday.

LAH (on camera): Are you worried about how long this is going to last?

COURTNEY-AUSTEN: 100 percent, yes. If it goes on months, like, I don't think any of us have any idea what we're going to do.

TOM SOPIT, RESTAURANT OWNER: The moment this happened, we're going to dig ourselves in a hole, regardless.

LAH (on camera): Are you scared?

SOPIT: I'm concerned.

LAH (voice-over): Restaurant owner Tom Sopits rent is $1,000 per day. He doesn't want to fire anyone. But this is a new reality he will have to face.

SOPIT: Yes. All we can do is help each other.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Heartbreaking stories, indeed. And stay with us. We're waiting for the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing to begin. Looking at live pictures coming in from the Rose Garden today, a little bit more space out there. We'll see if they separate themselves a little bit more than they do in the tight quarters of the briefing room. We'll have live coverage once it begins.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:30:00]

BLITZER: In Italy, a small moment of relief. The country has recorded a slight decline in new deaths from coronavirus and officials now say it is also pointing to a slight, pointing to a slight downward trend in cases.

But the country still has almost 8,000 active, confirmed cases right now. Our Ben Wedeman is in Rome. He's joining us on the phone. Ben, these numbers may hold some promise, but this is obviously very cold comfort for Italians. What's the latest?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes, what we've heard from the Italian Civil Protection Agency is that in the 24 hours before 6:00 p.m. local, 756 people died. That is down somewhat from the record high that (inaudible) on Friday of 969 deaths. So we are seeing a decline in deaths, the weighted increase in new cases is also slowing down.

But really, as you said, that is cold comfort, because the death toll here is approaching 11,000 people. And that is the highest on Earth. And keep in mind, Wolf, the average age of those who died in Italy is about 78. And it's raising fears that in some parts of the country, particularly the north, where 80 percent of the cases have been reported, that the older generation is slowly being wiped out.

It's expected that the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will announce that the nationwide lockdown is now almost three weeks old, is going to be extended beyond the 3rd of April when it was due to expire.

And finally, Wolf, today Sunday, Pope Francis appealed for a global cease-fire as nations struggled to combat this virus. He made the appeal via the internet from his library. There was no one in St. Peter's Square to see or hear him.

BLITZER: Yes, all of these stories, so heartbreaking. Italy, a much smaller country, 11,000 dead and the United States, right now, about 23, almost 2,400 dead. It's an awful situation all around. All right, Ben Wedeman, be careful over there. We'll stay in close touch with you.

The White House coronavirus task force is expected to begin a press briefing in the Rose Garden any moment now, we're told. Originally 5:30 p.m. eastern. I want to bring in Ron Klain, President Obama's former White House Ebola response coordinator. He is now a senior adviser to the Biden campaign, as well. So Ron, what questions would you like to hear the president answer today?

RON KLAIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE EBOLA RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Wolf, I think a lot of the questions that have been out there for a long time. When will we really have the kind of ubiquitous testing that will enable us to figure out where the virus is and will ultimately allow people to go back to work?

You heard Dr. Fauci say this morning on CNN that we could, at some point, re-open parts of the country if we had widespread testing. So, when will that testing be there? And then specifically, what's he doing to get the masks and ventilators and all the gear that we need to protect our health care workers and to treat health care patients?

We've heard a lot of talk, but still, it seems like it's coming along rather slowly. And really, there's no time like the present to really get that sped up. You know, we went from the first coronavirus deaths to the 1,000th in this country.

It took 30 days for that to happen. It took three days to get from 1,000 to 2,000. So this problem is accelerating. It's getting more lethal in the United States in terms of the number of deaths. And I think the real question is when are we going to see more actual results?

BLITZER: I'm curious to get your thoughts. The briefing, we're told, in the Rose Garden is getting ready to begin. The president will be walking out, I don't know, I assume the vice president will be with him and other members of the task force.

They're doing it in the Rose Garden now as opposed to the tight quarters in the briefing room. What do you make of that because you worked in the White House for several years?

KLAIN: Yes. Look, I think, obviously, if you can spread people out that is safer. And I think it's a good move. I mean, it's a nice day here in Washington, I should say. It's nice to be outside. And I think that's an appropriate way to do it.

I don't think it matters really where he holds his briefing. What really matters is, do we start to get the answers we deserve about action on the things that are really important to Americans.

BLITZER: I will point out that the Press Corps are seated in the Rose Garden. They seem to be in closer quarters than they were in the briefing room.

[17:35:03]

You can look at some of the pictures coming in from the Press Corps. It's a beautiful day here in Washington right now. We're standing by for this briefing. We're told it will begin fairly soon.

You know, Ron, CNN has learned that the coronavirus task force of the White House has received proposals to begin rolling back some of these critically important social distancing guidelines in at least parts of the country. Is that wise?

KLAIN: Wolf, I think -- I would follow the lead of Dr. Fauci here, which is, no one wants to close down things that don't need to be closed down, but if we're going to open things up, we have to make sure people are safe. That's the first thing.

And that means you have to test people who are going back to work to know, are they carrying the disease? Will they spread the disease? So testing is the first condition. And then secondly, you have to know that the areas where people are going back to work, they have the hospital beds and the gear to treat the people who are sick.

I don't think America should be closed down one minute longer than it has to be, but I think opening too soon is not only -- it's not going to help the economy when more and more people get sick, when more and more people have to be forced off the job, you know. So I think we've got to do it the right way and I think Dr. Fauci and the medical experts are the ones who should decide that.

BLITZER: In Dr. Fauci's interview earlier today with our own jake tapper on "State of the Union," he stunned me when he said, it's possible -- he didn't say it was going to happen -- it's possible there could be millions of cases and 100,000 or maybe 200,000 deaths from coronavirus here in the United States.

He didn't say it was going to happen. There are models out there. But he said that was clearly possible. What do you think about that?

KLAIN: Well, look, I think that question, Wolf, is related to the last question we just discussed. As Dr. Fauci would be the first one to say, this isn't like predicting the weather. When you model the weather, that's natural factors and you run computer models and it tells you what's likely to happen.

What happens with coronavirus turns on people. It turns on human beings. It turns on whether or not we practice social distancing. It turns on whether or not we get testing going. It turns on whether or not we treat the people and save the people's lives.

And so we have a role, starting with the federal government, then the state governments, and all of us as individuals. We're going to play a role in determining where those numbers come out.

This isn't just math and models. It's about human behavior. Leadership from Washington, leadership in the states, how each of us handles this individually, we're going to have a big impact on the outcome.

BLITZER: At what point do you think it will be safe to reopen the economy?

KLAIN: Well, again, I think the safety turns on where we are in terms of getting people tested so that we know that they're not spreading the disease, and getting the equipment and the gear needed so we can treat the people who are sick.

I don't know how fast it's -- it should have happened already. I don't know why we're so far behind. The president, you know, had these warnings in January. There were warnings in February, but action wasn't taken. You know, we know there are a lot of problems with how this got staffed up in the federal government.

The question is, now, will the president do the things that he needs to do? Will he invoke the Defense Production Act to stimulate and direct the production of all of this gear and material? That's what has to happen so that we can get ourselves ready to go back to work.

BLITZER: One final question, Ron, before I let you go. I mentioned you're an adviser to the former Vice President Joe Biden and his campaign. What's the biggest single difference you see in what Biden is recommending as far as coronavirus is concerned and what the president is doing?

KLAIN: Well, Wolf, I think, first of all, I do think he would have a science-first approach. He always did when he worked at the White House on problems. He would be listening more to these medical experts than President Trump has and taking their advice.

And secondly, I think he would act more aggressively. He would have got the testing problem fixed earlier. He would have ordered more (inaudible) and so I feel like Trump is afraid that he's going to wind up with too many test kits or too many gloves or too many masks.

That's not a problem Joe Biden would worry about. He would plow ahead quickly. He'd direct the companies. He'd use his authority to direct the companies to make this stuff and get it out there. I think it would be a lot of a faster approach and a more aggressive approach if Vice President Biden were in charge.

BLITZER: All right. Ron Klain, thank you very much for joining us, as usual. Once again, we're waiting for the White House coronavirus task force briefing to begin. We've got live pictures coming in from the Rose Garden.

I want to bring in our own John King and Elizabeth Cohen. John, you and I covered the White House for a long time. This is going to a briefing right now in the Rose Garden.

Over the past few days, you've noted this, I've noted this. We've seen various, you know, very confusing positions, sometimes very different positions, coming out of the president. What do you anticipate we're going to get from him today?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the question that we'll never know the answer to, in the sense that he has swung wildly back and forth, sometimes in the same day, sometimes from night-to-day.

Remember, last week, Thursday night, he told Sean Hannity, the governors were exaggerating the need for ventilators. Plus, that's a state responsibility anyway. It's not a federal responsibility to get them. The next day, he said, I'm invoking the Defense Production Act. I'm ordering General Motors to make 100,000 ventilators in 100 days.

[17:40:03]

Yesterday morning, he said, I'm seriously considering quarantine on New York.

He got back, met with his advisers. They looked at him and said, sir, we can't do that. The governor has also objected and he dialed back and issued a CDC travel restrictions that really didn't change existing policy. It just said, be careful if you've been through New York.

And if you're going somewhere else, make sure you self-quarantine if you have any symptoms or if you think you might have been exposed. So, the president has swung back and forth on this issue, Wolf, that we know is on the table. Will he extend these guidelines? It is critical that he speak clearly and consistently.

He said on Friday, after beginning last week saying that the cure is worse than the disease. By Friday, he was saying health and safety will come first. That he very much wants to re-open, but the health and safety will come first.

If you look at what mayors are doing and what governors are doing, and where the case load is going up, yes, we look at the big states, the top five, but even looking at other states, there are only, I believe, three states left with fewer than 100 cases. That was as of this morning.

The governors and the mayors are saying, not yet, not yet, not yet. And many of those governors are saying, do not say county A is fine, but county B is not, because then people are going to start crossing back and forth. And Elizabeth knows the science much better than me, but the governors and mayors are worried that if you open up parts of a state, if the federal government tries to do that, watch and see if governors fight back if the president tries to do that.

But the governor of Kentucky said it on Thursday. He said, if you're fine in county A and county B is closed, people are going to start going back and forth and you're just going to accelerate the problem all over again. So, what the president says on the issue of these guidelines is absolutely essential. The question is, will it be clear?

BLITZER: Yes, it's a really important point. Will it be clear and will it be confusing? Will it be contradictory? You know, Elizabeth, what are you hearing from the medical experts out there about possibly the president ordering -- well, here they come right now.

There we see the vice president walking out and Ambassador Birx walking out. Looks like the whole team of the coronavirus task force, Dr. Fauci is walking out. The president will be walking out. But while we wait for the president, Elizabeth, what are you hearing from medical experts about the possibility of loosening up some of these guidelines, social distancing guidelines, right now?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What I've been hearing from them, really, ever since this was mentioned last week, Wolf, is what Dr. Fauci said today to Jake Tapper, which is, you have to test first. You can't just blindly say we want the economy to get working again, so we're going to open up here, open up there because it seems okay.

Well, maybe it seems okay because you haven't done thorough testing. There are areas that seem like they don't have many cases or any, but how do you know? So many people are asymptomatically infected, Wolf. They're infected and they don't have any symptoms. And so you need to test.

And that means you need a rapid test. You can't test someone and say, all right, we'll get you your results in a couple of days, because then they're out -- if they're positive, they're out infecting people.

There's a rapid test that was recently approved that can be done in about 15 minutes. They need to flood these areas with these tests. That's what Dr. Fauci was getting at. And then you can start making decisions. But to start making decisions about what to open up without knowing the situation you're dealing with is really a problem.

BLITZER: I want to bring in our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, who's also watching. Let's go -- we don't have her right now, but we'll get to her. John King, the president will walk out of the Oval Office and then will walk down those stairs to the Rose Garden.

You and I covered the White House for a long time, very familiar -- well, here he comes right now, the president walking out. Just got a little book there. I'm sure he's got his notes. He'll make an opening statement and then at some point, we assume, he'll start taking questions from the reporters. Let's listen in. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank you. Appreciate everybody being here. Beautiful day in the Rose Garden. Tremendous distance between chairs. Social distancing. You practice it very well. We appreciate it. That's great.

I want to start today by highlighting several critical developments on both the testing and treatment that will help us win our war against the coronavirus. On Friday, the FDA authorized a new test developed by Abbott Labs that delivers lightning fast results in as little as five minutes. That's a whole new ball game.

I want to thank Abbott Labs for the incredible work they've done. They've been working around the clock. Normally, this approval process from the FDA would take 10 months and even longer, but we did it in four weeks. Abbott has stated that they will begin delivering 50,000 tests each day, starting this week.

And as you know, even before this development, we've been doing more tests than any other country anywhere in the world. It's one of the reasons that we have more cases than other countries, because we've been testing.

[17:45:00]

It's also one of the reasons that we're just about the lowest in terms of mortality rate, because we've been doing more testing. So we have bigger numbers to look at.

I want to also thank General Semonite of the Army Corps of Engineers and General paulovich, who's here with us who's going to say a few words in a little while. What the Army Corps of Engineers did along with FEMA in New York was incredible.

They built 2,900 beds worth of hospital, an incredible hospital in the Javits Center, which I know well. And I just want to say, that was unreal. They did it in less than four days. People have never seen anything like that.

And it's an incredible complex, top of the line hospital. They did it so quickly. Everyone is trying to figure out how they did it, including me. And I was a good builder. But they did it very quickly, Mike. So we're very happy.

So I want to thank Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, the incredible job they have done. Now, they're moving to other locations throughout the country where they already have people building hospitals. We're doing them in Louisiana, in New Jersey, many other places.

But these are incredible men and women and they worked around the clock and the people of New York are very happy. Governor Cuomo expressed his thanks, which we appreciate. But these are -- I mean, nobody could have done a job like that. Most people have never seen anything like it.

The deployment of rapid testing will vastly accelerate our ability to monitor, track, contain, and ultimately defeat the virus. We will defeat the virus. It will also allow us to test doctors, nurses, and other health care workers immediately and enable us to act quickly and aggressively to shut down the spread of the virus -- so important in critical facilities like hospitals and nursing homes.

And we will ensure that we can give cities and states the best information to guide local decision makers and making. I want to point out that the hydroxychloroquine is being administered to 1,100 patients, people in New York, along with the Z-Pak, which is azithromycin.

And it's very early yet. It's only -- it started two days ago, but we will see what happens. I want to thank Stephen Hahn, who's a great doctor -- left one of the best jobs in our country, running an incredible hospital in Texas -- and he's the head of the FDA.

And Stephen got approval for that so fast. Let's see how it works. It may, it may not, but we may have some incredible results. We're going to know soon. So it's being tested on 1,100 people in New York.

The FDA is also allowing the emergency use of a blood-related therapy called convalescent plasma, as an experimental treatment for seriously ill patients. This treatment involves taking blood plasma from patients who have already recovered from the virus.

So they're recovered. They are strong. Something was good in them that worked. And so we take the plasma from those people that have recovered so well, meaning their plasma is rich in antibodies against the virus, and transfusing it into six patients very, very powerfully.

So, sick patients will be transfused with the blood taken to boost their immune system. We'll see what happens. And we're having some early results that are good, but we will see. And that's going, I think, very rapidly. Again, we got approvals in really very quick time.

We're also looking at an approval for the sterilization of masks. I kept saying to myself, I see some of the masks are very complex. We're delivering millions, by the way, millions. But I kept saying, why aren't they able to use that mask a second, third, fourth time?

And Mike Dewine, the great governor of Ohio called me. They have a company that is in the final process of getting approval for the sterilization of masks. And in some cases, depending on the mask, some of these masks are very, very strong, very powerful, very strong material.

They're able to sterilize the mask up to 20 times, so I guess it's like getting 20 masks, and so we worked on that. As soon as I heard from Mike today, I got involved. And the FDA is now involved. And we're trying to get a fast approval for the sterilization of masks. That would be a tremendous difference. It would be really helpful.

[17:50:03]

While much of the research has to be done, we have a lot of research left to do, obviously. This treatment on plasma has shown promising results in other countries and very strong communications and they're very reliant on us in just about all cases.

We have the greatest people in the world. They're very, very anxious to find out how we're doing on our different things, whether it's a cure or whether it's -- really anything having to do with getting people better. We have some interesting things will be announced I think over the next few weeks, but we'll see what happens.

They're being tested right now. The vaccines are moving along very rapidly. The vaccines are an answer, but I'd like to see if we could do something therapeutically so that we could take care of the people that are already sick and we're working on that at a level that people would be amazed.

These are incredible people. They don't stop. This method also has been used for more than a century, and that's the blood-related therapy, you know, more than a century to fight off infectious diseases. So, it's not unusual, our level of complexity has changed, but it's a concept that's been used for a long time including during the Spanish flu epidemic.

And that was really a pandemic of proportions like, frankly, nobody's seen until what we're facing now. That was in 1918. You know what the result of that was, probably from 75 to 100 million people were killed. And also other viruses like the one in this outbreak. This is a very tough one.

This is a tough one because it spreads so quickly, like nothing we've seen. It spreads so easily, so quickly. We're unleashing every tool in our nation's vast arsenal, economic (inaudible). If you look medical and scientific, military, Homeland Security is working very, very hard with all of them in order to vanquish the virus.

As you know, every level of government, state, local, and federal, is working nonstop to obtain more personal protective equipment for frontline workers. We're delivering vast orders of this material. I'm going to ask a couple of the people here to join me that both make it and deliver it.

Joining us today are the leaders of America's largest distributors of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, including McKesson, Cardinal Health, Henry Schine, Owens & Minor, Medline, Fedex and UPS.

We just concluded a very productive meeting about ways to keep our supply chains and delivery systems moving at top speed. And maybe I'd like to just ask for a couple of minutes for Mike Kauffman to come up and maybe Ed Pesicka.

Mike is with Cardinal and Ed is Owen & Minor. And I appreciate, and if anyone else has anything, please come up. But if you could come up, Mike, for a second and Ed for a second just-- you could maybe say what you told tell me before when we had the meeting. Thank you.

MIKE KAUFFMAN, CEO, CARDINAL HEALTH: Thank you Mr. President and thanks for your leadership on this. Because of that leadership, we have really seen the government agencies working with industry like no time before. We've seen HHS, FEMA, the CDC work incredibly effectively with all of the distributors, and all of the distributors working together for the good of the people.

And all of us have been so focused on making sure that we take care of our customers because our customers are the ones that are taking care of the patients every day. And we need to do everything we can to make things good for them. And so, it's been great to see how well all these government agencies have been coordinating together with us.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

KAUFFMANN: Thank you.

TRUMP: Appreciate it.

ED PESICKA, CEO, OWENS & MINOR: Thank you Mr. President. Let me first start by thanking the administration for all their support you have provided to the industry. You know, one of the things we did, we did hear the challenge. And starting in January, we've ramped up our production in the Americas including our facility in North Carolina where we are now manufacturing an additional 40 to 50 million masks per month to get into the U.S. health care system.

We talked a little bit about this in the pre-meeting. One of the issues we're struggling with is the demand increase. You know, I've used an anecdotal example of one hospital in New York that traditionally uses roughly 10,000 to 20,000 masks a week are now using 200,000 to 300,000 masks a week.

So you multiply that times the entire U.S., let alone the same demand outside of the U.S., that's part of the issue we're running into, is even with a significant ramp-up in supply, you know, there's still that demand that is much greater than that supply.

[17:55:03]

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

PESICKA: Thank you.

TRUMP: And I bring that up because when we discussed back in a room, we were in a conference room, very nice one, actually. It's called the cabinet room. That statement was made, that they have been delivering for years 10,000 to 20,000 masks, okay. It's a New York hospital. It's packed all the time.

How do you go from 10,000 to 20,000 to 300,000 -- 10,000 to 20,000 masks to 300,000? Even though this is different, something's going on, and you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door? How do you go from 10,000 to 300,000?

And we have that in a lot of different places. So, somebody should probably look into that because I just don't see from a practical standpoint how that's possible to go from that to that. And we have that happening in numerous places, and not to that extent. That was the highest number I've heard. That's the highest number you've seen, I would imagine, right? But this man makes them and delivers them to a lot of hospitals. He

knows the system better than anybody, and I think you were more surprised than I was when you saw that number, so thank you very much. I hope I didn't get any of your clients in trouble, but it could be that they are in trouble. So, they have to look at that in New York.

FEMA's working with these companies to launch "Project Airbridge" to expedite the movement of critical supplies from other countries to the United States. The first flight arrived at JFK Airport New York this morning, filled with 80 tons of personal protective equipment, including 130,000 N-95 respirators.

Those are the ones that we were talking about before, 1.8 million face masks and gowns, 10.3 million gloves, and many other things, millions and millions of different items. FEMA has scheduled 19 additional flights and is adding more daily. We hope to have about 50 flights. We're going to have, I think including the one that came in together, we're up at 51 flights with these massive planes from the different companies that were so nice to be here today. Would you like to say something on behalf? Please, come up. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. President, for the incredible leadership. I will share with you that UPS is really proud to be part of this effort. Vice President Pence and I had the opportunity to speak before, and the way we're going to win this war is with great logistics, and UPS is going to be part of that effort.

We have a big, brown army, 495,000 UPSers across the country that are ready to deliver. We're bringing in the supplies from anywhere around the world as fast as we can so that they can serve the communities that need them most.

We're proud to be partnering with the states as well because we know that in partnership with those states we can deliver what is needed everywhere. So thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Great job you're doing. Please. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you Mr. President. I would certainly like to echo my colleague's comments that the collaboration amongst many of the government agencies and the private market and the distributors represented here today has been incredible, has been increasing and ramping up over the past weeks.

Today's first delivery of "Operation Airbridge" I think is the first evidence that it's working. The 51 flights you referenced we're excited about. We look to build upon that.

So, I would echo my thanks for your leadership and certainly to the staffs for the terrific partnership and the commitment to protect the people we think about most often, which are the people on the front lines providing care.

And maybe just a quick word of thanks on behalf of all of the CEOs here, to our teams that continue to show up in warehouses across the country, in pharmacies across the country, and do their jobs to keep the supply chain going. The supply chain is working. It's resilient. Supply is a challenge. We're tackling that.

TRUMP: Thank you very much for your job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you Mr. President. And thanks to FEMA and HHS. I think great leadership is really working well. The demand has skyrocketed and we're doing a lot of things to bring in more masks, more other protective apparel.

We are involved in reprocessing masks and we have already started at about 100,000 masks per day and we hope to expand from there. So, we're quite optimistic about it.

[17:59:59]

TRUMP: Great job, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

TRUMP: Fantastic job. Anybody else, if you want. Yes, please. You're doing such a great job.