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Small Businesses Under Pressure as Bills Come Due; Louisiana to Extend Stay-at-Home Order Until April 30th; Interview with Vice President Mike Pence. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 1, 2020 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00]

CHRIS DENKERS, CO-OWNER, COYOTE HOLE CIDERWORKS: Then we re-did it this weekend. And come to find out that the SBA completely relaunched the application process. So we had to redo it again Monday.

And then from there, there's also the CARES Act that was just passed, for the paycheck protection program. But that doesn't go through the SBA. That goes through your local banks. So the banks, from my understanding, aren't even situated to start doing that yet. So we can't even apply for that for another week at least.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And, Laura -- I'm so sorry.

And, Laura, I think it's important for people to understand. This isn't just an economic story for you. This is a true health care crisis for you as well.

Your 10-year-old twin boys have cystic fibrosis, a disease, as everyone well knows, directly compromises their lungs. And so they're especially at risk to this virus. I mean, I can only imagine how scared you are.

LAURA DENKERS, CO-OWNER, COYOTE HOLE CIDERWORKS: I guess for us, with C.F., everything is a challenge with that. Any cold is dangerous to them, so it's not much different. I guess this is extreme, so, yes, we're keeping them pretty much home all the time. But we were already home schooling and kind of taking care of their health care full time.

That's just putting an extra spin on it because we're trying to balance staying in business and keeping them safe.

BOLDUAN: And you will do it. Because, you guys, I can already tell, are amazing parents.

Thank you both so much.

C. DENKERS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: I really, really appreciate it.

C. DENKERS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Hopefully, those calls are calls of people to come to help. Thank you so much, guys.

Moments from now, friends, Vice President Mike Pence will be joining CNN's Wolf Blitzer for a live interview on the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic. You would hope he hears the story of the Denkers and how the federal government can help them. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:36:41]

BOLDUAN: Welcome back, guys. Another hard-hit state, Louisiana, reporting its largest number of new coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period on Tuesday. There are now more than 5,200 confirmed cases in the state with nearly 240 people killed by the virus.

All of the numbers are, of course, scary, but in New Orleans, New Orleans has been especially hard hit. Louisiana's governor is now sounding the alarm, warning that the state could run out of ventilators this weekend.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in New Orleans with more on this.

Ed, what are you hearing there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. There's a great deal of concern about how all of this is going to unfold here in the coming weeks. Speaking with emergency officials here in the city of New Orleans, they don't expect to see the peak for another two or three weeks. And so that makes that ventilator concern, those medical supplies still a great deal of concern over all of that.

And then, one emergency official was describing to us one of the other troubling things they're noticing is, here, in particular, in the city of New Orleans, the death rate for people infected has been about 5 percent. A lot of factors that go into that.

But it is one of the signs and one of the things that officials, too, are pointed to here that, because of that number, they're really urging people to take all of these stay-at-home orders, to distance themselves extremely serious, which is something I think the whole state hasn't quite wrapped its head around at this point. So those state officials and local officials ss hammering that point away.

When it comes to ventilators, the governor of Louisiana, Jon Bel Edwards, says he has requested 14,000 ventilators. And 5,000 of those he's requested from the national stockpile. The governor says that, so far, they have only received 292 ventilators. All of those have come from private contractors, nothing from the national stockpile as of yet.

The governor did say that President Trump did commit to send 150 ventilators here to the state. But as far as we know, at this point, those ventilators haven't arrived and it's not exactly clear when they will arrive. So as you mentioned off the top here, the concern for that is that the

ventilators could very well run out that they have here by this weekend.

And why it's significant, if you look at the latest numbers we have, there was a jump of 50 people that needed ventilators in a 24-hour period. And they believe that those numbers will only continue to escalate quickly here in the coming days -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Ed, and one thing that Louisiana is facing, also, is Louisiana is surrounded by states who do not have statewide stay-at- home orders, and Louisiana does. What that means for the state is truly troubling as well.

Ed, thank you so much. Good to see you, man.

[11:39:20]

Coming up for us still, moments from now, stand by, folks, Vice President Mike Pence will be joining Wolf Blitzer for a live interview about the Trump administration's response, with the very latest coming from the top man on the task force of the coronavirus pandemic. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Welcome back. The president is now shifting and hardening his tone about the threat the coronavirus outbreak poses to the nation. The White House is now projecting the death toll could reach between 100,000 and 240,000 people. And that is if all Americans abide by the strictest mitigation guidelines, which isn't happening right now.

We have talked about Florida already this hour and what's happening there. And exacerbating the problem, governors and health care workers say they're still facing critical shortages of protective gear, critical equipment, and tests.

Today, Vice President Mike Pence is visiting Walmart distribution center in Virginia to highlight the efforts there to keep store shelves stocked and much needed essentials in the hands of Americans in the middle of this crisis.

The vice president joins my colleague and friend, Wolf Blitzer, right now -- Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks very much, Kate.

And joining us now, the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence.

[11:45:01]

Mr. Vice President, thank you so much for joining us.

Under better circumstances --

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

BLITZER: -- we would have done this interview in person in my situation room, but we're practicing social distancing right now as your task force has so strongly recommended.

So let's get to the news. We have a bunch of important questions we want to ask you.

The president, as you know, is now preparing Americans for the very, very real possibility that 100,000, maybe even as many as 240,000 Americans could die from this virus in the next few weeks and months. That's more than the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.

When exactly did you learn, Mr. Vice President, that that was likely the best-case scenario?

PENCE: Well, we have been working very closely with Dr. Deborah Birx and all of our health care experts on the White House Coronavirus Task Force to give the president the very best projections. They call it modeling, Wolf, where they look at what's happened around the world.

We think Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States at this point, for a variety of reasons, and so we built that modeling. I know that there's another organization, the Gates Foundation, has supported that done similar modeling.

What the president wanted to make clear to the American people yesterday is just how important the efforts over the next 30 days will be by every American to put into practice the president's coronavirus guidelines.

We truly believe that while some of the initial estimates even in this modeling suggest that without every American putting into practice those guidelines of wash your hands, avoid groups of more than 10, use drive-throughs through restaurants, and the like, that we could have literally seen between 1.6 million and 2.2 million losses.

But the president also wanted to make it clear that our most-recent modeling suggests that, with strong mitigation, the range is still -- it's still heartbreaking when we think about the lives that could be lost.

And so our message yesterday, our message over the next 30 days, is the future is in our hands. And if every American will listen to their state and local leaders, particularly in the areas where the coronavirus outbreak has been more significant.

But if, at a minimum, they will go to coronavirus.gov and put into practice for their home, their family, their community, their workplace, those guidelines for America that we will be able to lower that number.

And some of the early indication indications from states around the country is that what the American people have done so far in our first 15 days has made a real difference.

But the next two weeks, the next 30 days are vital, and we're calling on every American to do their part.

BLITZER: The president, unfortunately, said just two days ago, Mr. Vice President, that he had only seen these horrific numbers for the first time just a couple days ago.

Given that you and the task force are responsible for managing this crisis on the president's behalf, why had - apparently, he says he had never seen these kinds of numbers before. They had been out there. The studies had been out there. The models have been out there for weeks.

PENCE: Dr. Deborah Birx is one of the leading experts on infectious diseases in the world. When the president tapped me to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force in late February, the first decision I made was to bring her home to America to lead on all of our analysis.

And she completed the latest work using the latest data, Wolf, on Friday. And it was those numbers that were presented to the president, taking into account the measures we had done before, the fact that the president suspended all travel from China in January.

We put travel advisories and screening in place for people coming from Asia and also from Italy. Then suspending travel from Europe, the U.K., and Ireland, and all of the mitigation efforts that the federal government has advanced and states have been advancing.

But it was those numbers the president was presented with on Saturday. That's why he made the decision on the spot to call on the American people for 30 more days to slow the spread.

BLITZER: The president now says the next few weeks, in his words, "are going to be very, very painful." But let's not forget, on January 22nd, he said we have it totally under control. On February 25th, he said it was very well under control. On February 27th, he said the he said the virus, in his words, was going to "just disappear."

[11:50:06]

And, but now we're being told under the best scenario, 100,000 Americans over the next few weeks and months could die. It's an awful situation to even think about.

What happened? Why was the U.S. so late in understanding the enormity of this coronavirus?

PENCE: Well, I will be very candid with you and say that in mid- January, the CDC was still assessing that the risk of the coronavirus to the American people was low. The very first case, which was someone who had been in China, I believe, took place in late January, around the 20th day of January.

But, Wolf, I think the American people are grateful for the fact that while a lot of other things were going on in Washington, D.C., before January was out, the president stood up the White House Coronavirus Task Force, assembled a whole-of-government response.

And then did what no other president had ever done in American history. He suspended all travel into the United States from China. At that point, other than cases that had been people who had been in China, we had virtually no cases in this country. But the president took that unprecedented action on the recommendation of his Coronavirus Task Force.

And every step of the way, as the president did again this weekend, we've been taking bold and decisive steps at the president's direction to put the health of America first.

And I promise all of your viewers that we'll continue to do just that.

BLITZER: Less than a month ago, on March 11th, there were 11 deaths in the United States. We're now approaching 4,000 deaths in the United States. In the next few weeks and months, it could be 100,000 or 200,000.

The president last night said that New York and New Jersey, in his words, "got off to a very late start" in fighting the virus. But didn't the United States as a whole -- and I'll reiterate the question, Mr. Vice President -- didn't the United States as a whole get off to a late start?

PENCE: Well, the reality is that we could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming. I mean, the reality is that China's been more transparent with regard to the coronavirus than certainly they were for other infectious diseases over the last 15 years.

But what appears evident now is that long before the world learned in December that China was dealing with this, and maybe as much as a month earlier than that that, the outbreak was real in China.

But I have to tell you, having been leading this task force for now more than a month, I couldn't be more proud of not just the president's leadership, but all of those that have been advising this president every step of the way.

And I honestly also couldn't be more proud of the leadership at state levels all across the country. The president and I are in continuous contact with governors around the state, around the states.

And to see that in the areas where there's been significant outbreaks, in California and Washington, certainly in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, governors have been stepping up, putting into practice even tougher guidelines with our full support.

But this effort at the government level has been matched by places like where I am right now, a Walmart distribution center in Virginia, that's keeping food on the table all across America.

I mean, you remember about a month ago, Wolf, we had some real shortages taking place at grocery stores because people were going and buying as much as a month's worth of groceries. They were concerned that grocery stores would run out of food.

The president brought all of our distributors, all of the grocery store leaders in the country together more than a month ago. They all committed. And they're living it out every day. We're keeping the grocery stores open. We're keeping the truck lines rolling. Distribution centers like this are working. And American agriculture is working overtime.

We're keeping food on the table. We're rolling supplies to the American people. And places like this are, frankly, I think, an inspiration to people all across the country.

People that are working in what we call critical infrastructure are showing up for work every day. They're doing their part and they're making sure the American people have what they need for their families and their communities.

BLITZER: Yes, I'll just point out, it would have been good if the president wouldn't have been belittling the enormity of this crisis, the coronavirus pandemic, as he was. Now he's finally on board.

[11:54:59]

The models, Mr. Vice President, do predict that 100,000 people dying are based on a national, a national lockdown. But right now, the whole country isn't on the same page, as you well know.

Why not, Mr. Vice President, issue a national stay-at-home order right now?

PENCE: Well, Wolf, respectfully, I'd take issue with two things that you just said. I don't believe the president has ever belittled the threat of the coronavirus --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Well, I was suggesting, I was suggesting, Mr. Vice President --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: -- with all due respect --

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: -- this moment.

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: I think he expressed gratitude and confidence in health care workers in this country --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I'm not saying that.

PENCE: And the American people being assured --

BLITZER: But I was just suggesting -- (CROSSTALK)

PENCE: -- President Trump is going to continue to be confident that we will meet this moment.

But with regard to the modeling, let me --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Let me just interrupt, respectfully, Mr. Vice President.

What I'm suggesting that he was saying at one point, it wasn't as bad as the regular flu and he was talking about automobile accidents. He seemed to be suggesting at one point there were 15 cases, it would get down to zero very quickly. That was what I was basing that sentence on.

But go ahead and make your point.

PENCE: Well, look, the president -- the president is an optimistic person.

We've been, from the very beginning, when the president suspended all travel from China and stood up the White House Coronavirus Task Force in January, we have been hoping for the best but planning for the worst. And that's been being worked out every single day.

And what the American people can see in this president every day is a leader who knows that we will get through this. But as the president was clear yesterday, particularly, the next two weeks are going to be very tough.

And our hearts and our prayers go out to the families who have suffered loss so far.

We continue to urge people to put these guidelines into effect. Because, Wolf, while the risk of serious illness to the average American remains low, the risk of serious consequences to seniors with serious underlying health conditions or anyone with an immunodeficiency is very real. And we want people to practice these guidelines so that they don't inadvertently expose someone who would be vulnerable.

But let me be clear on the data point that you just made. The estimates that Dr. Birx unveiled yesterday, the so-called modeling that she laid out, was based on the mitigation efforts that are in effect in some states and also the president's coronavirus guidelines for America.

We really believe that if every American, whether you're in a state that has a significant outbreak of coronavirus or not, puts these into practice, and if every American in states that are impacted listens and heeds their state and local authorities, we cannot only -- we can not only meet that, but I hope and I pray that that number is much lower than the estimates that --

BLITZER: We certainly do.

PENCE: -- that were presented yesterday. That's what we're all working toward every single day.

BLITZER: If it's 4,000 now, another 96,000, at least, you know. It's hard to comprehend these numbers.

I asked you a question about national order --

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: Can I also say, Wolf --

BLITZER: Yes.

PENCE: Can I also say --

BLITZER: Go ahead.

PENCE: May I just say one thing? Is, you know, these are not numbers. These are Americans.

BLITZER: Right.

PENCE: These are our loved ones.

You know, my mom is 87 years young. My stepfather is 88 and has had some health challenges. You know, I want everybody to know that we are taking this one American at a time.

And I think if everybody takes the same view and recognizes, if all of us do all that we can to heed these guidelines, to listen to state and local authorities, we're not just going to bring numbers down, we're going to save lives. And we're going to hasten the day that we put this behind us.

I mean, when you look at that curve yesterday, the most -- there are tough days ahead, and the president was straight with the American people about that.

But I hope people look at what happens if all of us continue to do our part. And that is, by sometime in early June, we could well have the coronavirus largely behind us as a nation, reopen our country, put America back to work.

BLITZER: And would 100,000 people presumably be dead by then in early June here in the United States? Is that what you're saying?

PENCE: The time frame for the epidemic is a period of time where the number of losses becomes much lower by about Memorial Day weekend and June 1st.

[11:59:57]

But I never want to minimize the loss. I just want to make sure people know there's light at the end of the tunnel. We can save lives between now and the summertime by putting these guidelines into practice, Wolf --