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White House Holds Coronavirus Task Force Briefing; U.S. Reports 869 New Deaths Today, Most In One Day. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 1, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:02]

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're building thousands. We will fairly soon be at a point where we have far more than we can use, even after we stockpile for some future catastrophe, which we hope doesn't happen.

We're going to be distributing them, the extras around the world.

We'll go to Italy, we'll go to France, we'll go to Spain, which is, you know, very hard hit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On that note, is there any truth on reporting that your administration is stopping shipment of USAID stockpiles of PPEs abroad?

TRUMP: No, no truth whatsoever. No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, your administration is not --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: And we want -- I would love China and other countries if they have additional supplies -- medical supplies to give to other countries.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How the U.S. is still shipping to USAID?

TRUMP: 151 -- 150, why would I stop that? Wouldn't it be terrible to stop that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, I mean, is the U.S. stopping shipments of our own stockpile through USAID to other countries?

TRUMP: No, whatever we have, whatever we've committed to, we commit. But we also need a lot for ourselves. So, we're very focused on that until we get over this. So, obviously, we're not going to be shipping too much. Until now, we do have excess of certain things, and we don't have enough of others.

I just had a great talk today with the Doug McMillon from Walmart. And I gave him a very, very big order to -- for gowns, for protective gear for the doctors, for the nurses for everything. And he's actually very excited about it. He's the biggest purchaser of this kind of thing.

I mean, of anything, probably in the world, and he is very excited about it. And he said, what size? I said it's almost an unlimited.

When you look at these hospitals, the amount that they order, you almost say, how could they possibly use so much whether it's masks or the protective gear, but we are supplying a tremendous amount, and we just ordered a lot from Walmart.

And he's taken this on personally. And I said let it go ship -- let it be shipped not to a warehouse, directly to the side of the hospital, or wherever they need it because we save a lot of time when we do that.

So, Walmart, in addition to many other companies and people is now involved at the highest level. Please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The announcements that were made today are aimed at curbing the flow of narcotics into the country. Are you concerned that we're possibly losing ground on the drug crisis while we're --

TRUMP: I don't think we're losing ground, but we don't want to lose ground that's why we're doing it. I don't want to lose ground. It's a big fight. I've seen many families where they're wiped out because they lost a son or a daughter or a husband or a wife or whatever. Where we're all of them.

And we don't want to lose ground and we are heavily focused on the virus, very heavily focused. And with this, we have never -- after this goes into effect, which essentially is now we will never have been so focused on drugs coming into our country as we are right now.

And remember, as that wall gets bigger, that really helps us a lot. Really helps us a lot. Yes, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the Mexican government or any other Latin American government working in conjunction with this operation to help that drug?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Many of the governments are. In Mexico, in particular, is in Mexico right now is we have 27,000 Mexican soldiers on our southern border, keeping people out of our country.

And were -- very few people are coming into our country right now. And as we complete, again, the wall, in addition to the 27,000 soldiers, it's, it's a very -- it's a very tough place to come into.

When I -- when I took over, people were coming in and they were bringing whatever they wanted. They were bringing drugs of any type. And now it's very hard for them and it will get harder and harder.

But, the president of Mexico is a great guy, who's really helped us a lot. 27,000 soldiers -- 27,000 Mexican soldiers. And you remember when I first took over, they had all of the caravans coming up with 10,000, 15,000, people in the caravans they were marching through Mexico. That's not happening anymore. Please, on the back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, are Norco Militants such as the FARC 57th, front of Colombia or the Maduro regime, do you know if they're working in conjunction with the Mexican cartels? Is there any intelligence indicating that?

TRUMP: I cannot tell you that. I can -- I know the answer to that. I believe I do. But I cannot tell you that. We have information that would lead us to believe something very powerfully, but I cannot tell you the answer.

Yes, please, Jeff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, have U.S. forces in Iraq taking the precautions?

TRUMP: Yes, sure, sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And because of this particular attack. And that you --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: We're taking precautions and we watching it very closely. And if something bad happens, it's going to be very painful for the other side.

QUESTION: Have you been in touch with the Iraqi government about this?

TRUMP: They know about it, yes. They know about it.

QUESTION: Are they offering additional protection...

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, we're going to continue to monitor this briefing and see if they get back to the issue of the coronavirus.

That's what we're primarily interested in right now, given the horrible numbers that we have been told over the past couple of days, maybe 100,000, maybe as many as 240,000 Americans in the coming weeks and months, may wind up dead as a result of this virus.

[18:05:07]

I want to bring in John King to give us some analysis.

John, they're obviously trying to shift the focus, at least partially, right now with this counternarcotics program that the defense secretary, Mark Esper, has just announced.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is remarkable, Wolf, and some would say shameless.

This is Coronavirus Task Force briefing. The country is in the middle of a pandemic. Americans are afraid. They're tuning into these briefings to try to get information from the White House. Amen, amen, amen, and congratulations. If the United States military

and the Justice Department are doing a better job keeping cocaine and other illicit drugs from getting into the country, good for them. Congratulations.

You can schedule an event at the Pentagon, at the Justice Department or in the White House Briefing Room, if you think it's that big of a deal, but call it what it is. Say, we have a major announcement on the war on drugs.

Instead they walk off for the Coronavirus Task Force meeting, and the president's trying to have a bit of a political statement here. It's a big policy move. And, again, let's hope they are right, and this is successful, and they're keeping drugs out of the United States of America.

Good for them for doing that. And we should applaud that success. But that's not what this briefing was scheduled for. And so what happens?

When the president's own efforts to rewrite the history of what he said early on in this pandemic, what does he do? He has the defense secretary, the attorney general and the national security adviser come to the podium and thank the president and tell him how great he is.

Still, on the issue of the coronavirus, there was some very interesting news there. And, again, it tells you everything you need to know about this president's management style.

Robert O'Brien, his national security adviser, on March 11 told the Heritage Foundation, the Chinese government covered up what happened in Wuhan province. He said those two months of a cover-up, as he called it, could have dramatically curtailed what's happening around the world.

If the rest of the world knew, instead of two months of a cover-up, Robert O'Brien said, the United States and other countries around the world would have had a head-start, an earlier start in fighting this pandemic.

He was asked pretty much the same question in the briefing. Did Chin -- has China been under-reporting? Is China not telling us -- And he said, I don't know. He said, we don't know that yet.

Because the president of the United States was standing there, and because the president of the United States values his relationship with President Xi, and doesn't like his aides to say that the president sometimes puts too much faith in those personal relationships, and is not pressing the Chinese to be more honest.

It is just striking. We have the tape of it, Robert O'Brien saying the Chinese for two months covered this up in the Heritage Foundation, but with the president a foot, five feet, six feet away, he wouldn't say it again.

BLITZER: And you know, John, you don't even have to go to the tape from O'Brien, the national security adviser, saying that. Earlier today, the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, in an interview with me, he said, one of the reasons the U.S. may have come a bit late was because of China under-reporting the severity of what was going on in China at that time.

That was one of the reasons perhaps the U.S. was late in all of this.

Stand by for a moment.

Jim Acosta has been listening very closely as well.

What did you think, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, the president knows he has a built-in audience right now. And he is trying to take advantage of that.

And after essentially flip-flopping on the threat posed by the coronavirus yesterday, he is now trying to use this airtime to talk about other things that the administration is doing, while Americans are sitting at home wanting to know, what's the latest on this deadly pandemic?

I will tell you, Wolf, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other experts are waiting in the wings. I'm told. They're sort of the undercard at this coronavirus press briefing. They're expected to join the president at any moment to talk about this.

But I will tell you, behind the scenes, Wolf, administration officials, advisers to the president, they have been second-guessing what he has been doing throughout all of this, despite the fact that the vice president was telling you earlier today that the president has gotten everything right.

I talked to a source close to the Coronavirus Task Force earlier today who said, had the U.S. adopted some more stringent social distancing measures earlier on in the pandemic -- quote -- "It might have made a difference."

And one thing I also want to tell you about, Wolf, I talked to a Trump adviser working with White House officials on the pandemic response messaging, who said that, essentially, the president, the reason why he got some of this wrong is because he was siding with aides who were pushing back on doctors on the task force who were warning about these very serious consequences if we did not engage in social distancing, and that the president was essentially thinking that the warmer weather that comes with spring would cause the virus to dissipate.

According to this Trump adviser -- quote -- "He took a gamble and got it wrong. He analyzed the data and opinions of experts and sided with the one that said warm weather will slow the virus, will likely slow the virus."

That's according to a Trump adviser.

So, Wolf, even though the president has been trying to claim that he's gotten this right all along -- he tried to do that yesterday when we were in the Briefing Room with him -- and the vice president telling you that he's been right at every turn in all of this, there are advisers to the president behind the scenes who certainly question that -- Wolf.

[18:10:03]

BLITZER: Let me get Dr. Sanjay Gupta into this conversation as well, as we await for Dr. Fauci.

We're told Dr. Fauci will be appearing and making a statement, answering questions. We will go back to the briefing once that happens.

But, Sanjay, if the Chinese government had been fully forthright on the enormity of what was happening in December and January, about what was happening to Wuhan and elsewhere in China, would that have made a difference as far as the U.S., the Europeans, others around the world responded?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, perhaps, Wolf.

I mean, I think that they -- certainly, I think a lot of cues were taken from those early days of what was happening in China. And I think the thing that we knew early on was that there was a novel virus.

Actually, the first thing we knew was that there was a respiratory illness that was unusual. And then this novel virus was found. I think, if there was evidence of human-to-human transmission that was clear earlier in China, and that wasn't shared, if there were higher numbers that were happening in China, and that wasn't shared, perhaps that would have made a difference.

Now, one thing I should say, Wolf, though, is that when you look at those graphs and everything, and Jim Acosta was at that press briefing yesterday where those graphs were presented, what the case is that's being made there is that there was a very low level of virus in this country at that time.

We're talking February and early March even. And they were basically saying, because of that low level of virus at that time, that's why some of these actions, these social distancing recommendations, weren't made at that time.

Now, as you know, as I think everybody probably knows at this point, is that we weren't doing adequate testing. So it was really hard to say that there was low levels of the virus. But I have asked about this question, look, could the virus had been circulating in the United States much earlier than we realized?

Could that be the case? And if that's the case, that definitively means that we didn't act quickly enough. And it could be because we didn't anticipate it circulating here, given what we're hearing out of China. But every time I have asked that question, they say, look, there's really no evidence that the virus was circulating widely earlier than we think. If that were the case, you would have seen a lot more hospitalizations, you would have seen a lot more deaths, things like that.

Perhaps that's true. But I think it's a very fair question to ask, were are we getting everything in terms of data out of China at the time that we needed it?

BLITZER: And I just want you to share with our viewers, when the vice president, Mike Pence, earlier today told me that what's been going on in Italy potentially is going to be happening here in the United States, what did you think?

GUPTA: I mean, that's obviously -- that's grim news, because what happened in Italy is a significant strain on the medical system, a real sense that they weren't prepared.

I mean, even after it was clear that the virus was circulating sort of in mid-February, it -- actions still took a while to take place over there.

If you look at this graph, I mean, for a while, obviously, we were sort of tracking along with Italy. And now the confirmed cases are higher.

We're obviously a much bigger country. But when you look at not just the cases, but the illness and death, I mean, the cases are one thing, but how sick, how many people are really going to get sick and how many people are going to, sadly, die from this, I mean, I think it's dictated in part by the virus. It's a bad virus. There's no question about it.

But it's also dictated in large parts by whether the medical system can handle it. I mean, Wolf, why does a country like Italy have a 10 percent fatality rate vs. a country like Germany, which is much lower, I think, 1 or 2 percent, I think maybe even lower than that?

Why is that? We humans are basically all the same. Why would there be such a difference, a multiple-fold difference? A lot of it has to do with the strain on the medical system.

And if Vice President Pence was saying that's where we're tracking like Italy, that's a real concern. The only good news potentially is that you are starting to see a slowdown in Italy now, which we will see if that trend sort of continues.

But that would mean that the social distancing measures, though put in place late, still had some impact. And that would obviously be welcome news.

BLITZER: And I'm anxious -- and our viewers are as well, Sanjay -- for your thoughts on whether or not it's time now for all of us when we go outside to start wearing a mask or a scarf, a bandana, something along those lines to protect our mouth and our nose. GUPTA: Yes, I think so. It could be, Wolf, but maybe not for the

reasons that people think.

And maybe it's going to feel like whiplash for a lot of people, because they're hearing from the World Health Organization, they're hearing from the CDC that this is not recommended yet. And they say, if you start doing this, two things will happen. It'll lull people into a false sense of security, and it'll make them less likely to be disciplined about social distancing.

[18:15:05]

I got a mask now. I can go out, no problem.

That's not the advice. The first advice is, people should still stay indoors as much as possible, but only for essential things go out.

Here's what changed though, Wolf. And Dr. Lee sort of referred to this earlier. It's that -- this isn't so much about protecting yourself from getting the virus. This is more the realization that there's a significant percentage of the country that may be carrying the virus and may be able to spread the virus and they have no idea. They are asymptomatic.

So if you go out and you're one of those people, could you be spreading the virus? If you go out and you're one of those people and you have a mask on, even if it's a cloth mask, not one of the medical masks, not the N95 mask, we don't need to take those -- obviously, health care workers need those, but just a cloth mask.

If you were one of those, you're less likely to put as much virus into the environment. So you're wearing a mask to protect others, not to necessarily put protect yourself. It's not going to prevent viral particles from getting in, but it may prevent large loads of viral particles from leaving your nose or mouth, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let me go back to John King.

John, you and I have covered Washington for a long time. Under normal circumstances, there's a Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the White House. The defense secretary shows up to make an important announcement about a counternarcotics operation.

But wouldn't that normally take place at the Department of Defense over at the Pentagon? The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, other military leaders are there. They would make an announcement there. Why are they doing that at the White House at a time when the American public is bracing for perhaps 100,000 Americans are going to die in the coming few weeks and months as a result of the coronavirus pandemics?

You would think they would do that at the Department of Defense, make the announcement, let the Defense Department reporters report it.

KING: Or, Wolf -- look, you and I covered the White House together for a long time. If they think this is a big enough deal, if they are truly making substantial progress, and they wanted to highlight it as a major administration accomplishment, then you could use the White House Briefing Room, if you wanted to bring in the attorney general, as well as the defense secretary, as well as other people involved.

Sure, you could use the White House Briefing Room, but announce that you're having a major announcement on anti-narcotic efforts. Don't come out at the beginning of a Coronavirus Task Force, when, again, we're in an election year. Sometimes, we forget that, and, sometimes, it's good to forget that, because the country is dealing with a pandemic. This should not be a time for politics.

But the president knows what the coverage has been the last 24 hours, reminding people of what he said in February, reminding people of what he said even in early March dismissing the threat of the coronavirus, and this in the context of the very sobering numbers they gave yesterday.

So what was the president looking for? A, change the subject. B, get some praise.

So he brings in three members of his Cabinet, the defense secretary, the attorney general, the national security adviser, to have a -- again, we should salute the United States government and the military if they are making substantial progress in the war on drugs. That is awesome and wonderful and great for the American people.

But that is not why the audience is up at 5:00 at night when the people are told the White House coronavirus briefing is right now. The American people were told yesterday a city the size of Green Bay or South Bend could get wiped off the map. If it's worse, it could be Birmingham, Alabama.

The American people were told that yesterday. So if they're watching the White House briefing today, they want to hear from Dr. Fauci. And they want to hear from Dr. Birx, and they want to hear the latest. And they want to hear, is there any data about this question about the masks? Are we getting any better at the testing?

Because you say everything's great. My governor keeps complaining. You say the pipeline is good for the protective gear, the masks, the gowns. I saw somebody from my local hospital on TV today saying they're running out.

That's why there's a big audience for these briefings. Again, congratulations to the president and his team if they are making substantial progress in anti-narcotics efforts. Schedule a briefing and call it an announcement on anti-narcotic efforts. Have it wherever you want to have it.

But be honest about what you're doing.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point, indeed. At least be honest with the American public and say, there's going to be a briefing on counternarcotics operations. The president is going to have an opportunity to discuss that with the defense secretary, the attorney general, the national security adviser, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

And that's important. We're not belittling that at all. It's very important.

KING: Not at all.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But it sounded, John, like it was also an opportunity for the president to tout the construction of the wall that the U.S. is building along the U.S.-Mexico border, another opportunity for him to say 161 miles are being built right now.

KING: Look, the president is in the same box all of us are in, Wolf.

He cannot go out and have the rallies that he so loves. He cannot go out and campaign. And I don't say that to be snarky. This is brand-new territory for everybody.

We are now in April of an election year. And Joe Biden is at home in Wilmington, Delaware. Bernie Sanders is debating whether to get out of the race. The president can't campaign.

The president has every right to make political statements. Again, find different way to do it. There's an old thing called the Rose Garden strategy. If you're an incumbent president, this is one of the big advantages you get.

[18:20:06]

You have all the assets, all the platforms, all the power of the presidency when you're an incumbent president.

But to bring that in to a briefing in the middle of a pandemic the day after the incredibly sobering news, the administration rightfully delivered to the American people yesterday, is just -- it's shameless. And it's political.

And, again, the president has other opportunities to do this. There are 24 hours in a day. He has all the buildings of the government still at his disposal. He has the Rose Garden strategy. He has that advantage. Every incumbent does.

So when he does these things, the Trump haters will say, he's using the presidency. OK. Barack Obama used the presidency. Bill Clinton used the presidency. George W. Bush used the presidency when running for reelection. It happens all the time.

But this is different. This is a pandemic, where the American people are being told 100,000, maybe 200,000 of our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens could perish in this pandemic. You cannot abuse a Coronavirus Task Force briefing for other measures.

At least, I just -- I just -- there are ways for the president to make his point on every subject under the sun. He's the most powerful man in the world. He has all the platforms in the world. To do it at the regular scheduled briefing like this -- and you can say, at the top of the briefing, we're going to have other news.

Just be honest about what you're doing. But this is what we got.

BLITZER: Yes, that's really important.

And, Jim Acosta, I just want to be precise. Was there -- and you cover the White House for us, Jim Acosta. Was there any indication at all that this Coronavirus Task Force briefing was really going to be a briefing on a new U.S. counternarcotics operation?

ACOSTA: No, Wolf.

And I think this was a bait and switch, to some extent. The White House now knows, the president now knows there is an audience that is built in. Every day, around 5:00, 5:30, he knows he's going to come out and deliver this news to the nation about what's going on with the coronavirus.

Here's the problem. And I think John King put his finger right on this. We are now in the midst of a national emergency, a global emergency. And I think the expectation for every American sitting at home is, naturally, when the White House says they're going to have a Coronavirus Task Force briefing at 5:00 or 5:30 every day, that the officials are going to come out and talk to us about what the very latest is, especially after that extremely stunning and sobering assessment that we got yesterday from officials on the number of dead that are expected over the next couple of months.

And so when the president walked out with the defense secretary and other top military officials, as John was saying, obviously, that is very important information. And the administration likes to get that sort of news out to the American people.

Can't really begrudge them that. But, at the same time, I think that this is a very different circumstance. This briefing has now been widely accepted by the American people, including the national news networks here in the United States, as appointment viewing because it is a way for Americans who are essentially trapped at home right now, because they're following these social distancing guidelines, to get the very latest information on what the administration is doing right now.

And, Wolf, as we saw yesterday during the briefing, the president was trying to play cleanup. He was trying to send the message to the American people that he is now on top of this, when there are still some very serious questions that need to be asked.

What's happening with testing, what's happening with medical equipment, what's happening in the hospitals? Why is it that we are now facing 100,000 to 240,000 deaths, when he has said over and over again that this would go away, that he has things under control and so on? Some vital questions need to be asked. And it just seems to me, Wolf, what the White House sensed here is that they could turn this coronavirus briefing into just like any other briefing that we used to have back in the olden days, when Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders were in there, that they could surprise us with a surprise guest and so on.

Baloney. That's not the kind of situation we're in right now. This is very different, because we're in the midst of a national emergency and something that we just have never experienced before.

As Americans and as people around the world, we're expecting the White House, the president, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx to deal with the facts of this crisis as they're unfolding at this moment.

BLITZER: And we're obviously very, very anxious to hear from Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx and other experts on the very latest, especially the aftermath of that extremely dire assessment that was released yesterday that perhaps 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die as a result of the coronavirus over the next few weeks and months.

Everybody, stand by. We will take a quick break.

Much more of our coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:28:57]

BLITZER: All right, so we're monitoring all the late-breaking developments on the coronavirus.

We're anxious to hear what Dr. Fauci has to say, what Dr. Birx has to say. We anticipate that they will be answering reporters' questions fairly soon. Once that starts, we will go to that briefing over at the White House.

In the meantime, I want to bring in Daniel Dale, our fact-checker.

Actually, I guess the question-and-answer session on the coronavirus has started. Let's listen in.

TRUMP: -- deep trouble.

And my friend was the right person.

QUESTION: When you heard about that with your friend, like, was that a turning point?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Yes, well, I'm not at turning any point know before that I knew how, because I'm seeing numbers and I'm seeing statistics that are, you know, not exactly very good. So -- but, it hit him very hard. He's strong. A very strong kind of a guy. But he's older, he's heavier, and he is sort of central casting for what we're talking about, and it hit him very hard. I've never seen anything like it.

Yes, John.

ROBERTS: Mr. President, and maybe this question is well for Dr. Birx or Dr. Fauci. Senator Lindsey Graham, tweeted last time.

[18:30:01]

And we checked today that there are still flights that were running between hot spots, like New York and Detroit, New Orleans as well, and then their flights were completed today. Senator Graham's point is if you're going to declare mitigation, should it not be full mitigation and you stop people from traveling --

TRUMP: Well, we're thinking about doing that. At the same time, we just -- you know, to start these airlines and to start this whole thing over again is very tough, John. It's very tough. And you have them going in some cases from hot spot to hot spot. If you notice they're usually hot spot to hot spot. Very few flights, New York to Miami. And -- but we're thinking -- we're certainly looking at it. But once you do that, you really are clamping down an industry that is desperately needed.

REPORTER: But how do you make that calculation as to whether or not you keep the industry-- you risk spreading to change that?

TRUMP: Yes, that is a calculation that we're looking at right now. We are looking at it very strongly. Please?

REPORTER: So let me follow up on that, Mr. President. Not every governor has issued a stay-at-home order. All of you have made it very clear how important it is to stay home, that we are in a dire situation here, and that's how you stop the spread, staying home. Why not take the power out of the hands of the governors and you just issue a stay-at-home order for every state in this country?

TRUMP: Because states are different. And I understand that the governor of Florida, great governor, Ron DeSantis, issued one today. And that's good, that's great. But there are some states that are different. There are some states that don't have much of a problem. There are some -- well, they don't have the problem. They don't have thousands of people that are positive or thousands of people that even think they might have it or hundreds of people in some cases.

So you have to look at -- you have to look at -- you have to give a little bit of flexibility. We have a state in the Midwest or if Alaska, as an example, doesn't have a problem, it's awfully tough to say close it down. So we have to have a little bit of flexibility.

Look, we're helping governors --we're really here to help governors. They are the frontline of attack. And that includes on purchasing, by the way. We're here and we're backing them up, and there's never been a backup like we've given them. We've given them billions of dollars worth of things, medical supplies and ventilators, thousands and thousands of ventilators.

We have thousands under construction right now. We have thousands ready to go in case they need it. There's never been anything like this. I mean, we've -- they have done really -- the people have done incredibly. We're building hospitals all over the country.

We're building hospitals right now at a rate that has never even been contemplated before. They're mobile hospitals but they're really not mobile. I mean, they're incredible structures. But we're building many hospitals, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, we just finished a massive hospital complex, and we also have medical centers built in New York. We we're building hospitals at the rate that this country has never done before, and hopefully it's all going to work out.

Please, go ahead.

REPORTER: Mr. President, I just want to make sure we're clear on the planes, are you looking at just curtailing routes between certain hot spots or is it broadly?

TRUMP: Well, we're looking at the whole thing because we're getting into a position now where we want to do that. We have to do that. And so we're looking at the whole thing. And we may have some recommendations.

REPORTER: My second question on economics, just with oil -- oil prices are very low. The Saudis have increased production. I know that you've spoken about liking low oil prices, but then there's also the industry aspect --

TRUMP: From 1950, these oil prices. That's when they had big dollars, big, beautiful dollars.

REPORTER: So do you advocate cuts? Do you advocate cuts to production? Do you --

TRUMP: Well look, we have a great oil industry and the oil industry is being ravaged. And as you know Russia, and I spoke to President Putin, we had a great call, Russia, Saudi Arabia, I spoke with the Crown Prince and we had a great call. But I think that they will work it out over the next few days. If you ask me I think it's just -- it's too simple not to be able to. They both know what they have to do. So I think I have confidence in both that they'll be able to work it out.

But it has ravaged an industry worldwide. Not here, I mean, worldwide the oil industry has been ravaged. So there was a lot of oil production to start off with. And then on top of it, it got hit with the virus and business went down 35, 40 percent. So that business is a tough one. And, you know, they have ships all over the sea. I told you yesterday, all over the sea, massive tankers that they're using for storage. They go out and they just sit there. There's no place to go. They have massive amounts.

[18:35:00]

Now, gasoline is going to be 99 cents a gallon or less, you know that. That's already starting, it's popping up, 99 cents. So that's like giving a massive tax cut to people of our country. When we try and get the airlines going, if fuel is costing much less, it helps with getting the airlines, which is always a tough business, always has been a tough business.

But with that being said, look, I want to get that industry back to where it was. We were doing records in that industry also. We want to get it back to where it was.

So I think that Saudi Arabia, Russia, they're negotiating, they're talking. And I think they'll come up with something. I'm going to meet with the oil companies on Friday. I'm going to meet with independent oil producers also on Friday or Saturday, maybe Sunday. But we're having a lot of meetings on it. I think I know what to do to solve it. But if they're unable to solve it, then I think I know what to do to solve it. But it's tough. I think I know what to do to solve it.

We don't want to lose our great oil companies. You know, we're the number one producer of oil in the world. And, a month ago, when you said that it was great. Today, when you say it's not so meaningful. But I do believe there's a way that that can be solved or pretty well solve, and I'd rather not do that.

I think that Russia and Saudi Arabia at some point are going to make a deal in the not-too-distant future because it's very bad for Russia, it's very bad for Saudi Arabia, and it's very bad. I mean it's bad for both, so I think they're going to make a deal.

You know the free market is wonderful thing. It's amazing how it can work. but I think they're going to make a deal.

Yes?

REPORTER: Mr. President, a couple of questions, one for you, one for Mr. Wolf, if possible. Over 5 million immigrants in this country do pay taxes through their I.D. (ph) numbers yet they will not receive any money in their stimulus package, and no undocumented immigrant will receive any aid from the government during this crisis. How do you suppose they survive during the COVID-19?

TRUMP: Well, you know, you're saying undocumented, meaning they came in illegally, and a lot of people would say, we have a lot of citizens right now that won't be working. So what are you going to do? t's a tough thing. It's a very terrible -- it's a very sad question, I must be honest with you, but they came in illegally, and we have a lot of people that are citizens of our country that won't be able to have jobs.

Now, I do think once we get rid of the virus, I think we're going to have a boom economy. I think it's going to go up rather quickly, maybe very quickly, and maybe slowly. But it's going to go up. And it will all come back. And I think it's actually going to come back stronger than what it was because of the stimulus.

But it's a really sad situation, and we are working on it. I will tell you I'm not going to give you a hard and fast answer because I just want to tell you, it's something I think about, and it's something we're working on.

Please?

REPORTER: Thanks Mr. President. Question for Dr. Fauci. Looking beyond when we're on the other side of this curve, are we looking at living with some sort of social distancing guidelines, essentially until there's treatment or a vaccine? For example, people looking forward to the summer talk about, you know, going to baseball games, going to concerts, we have political conventions over the summer. Are things like that possible or safe without a vaccine or treatment in place?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Yes, I think if we get to the part of the curve that Dr. Birx showed yesterday when it goes down to essentially no new cases, no deaths at a period of time, I think it makes sense that you're going to have to relax social distancing.

The one thing we hopefully would have in place, and I believe we will have in place, is a much more robust system to be able to identify someone who is infected, isolate them and then do contact tracing. Because if you have a really good program of containment that prevents you from ever having to get into mitigation -- we're in mitigation right now. That's what the social and physical distancing is.

The ultimate solution to a virus that might keep coming back would be a vaccine. In fact, I was on the weekly conference call with WHO sponsored group of all the health leaders in the world who are dealing with this. And we all came to the agreement that we may have cycling with another season. We'll be much better prepared. We likely will have interventions, but the ultimate game changer in this will be a vaccine, the same way a vaccine for other diseases that were scourges in the pass that now we don't even worry about.

REPORTER: How are they doing with the vaccines now?

FAUCI: I mean, the vaccine is, as I said, it's on target.

[18:40:01]

We're still in phase one. There were three doses that we had to test. We've been through the first two doses. We're on the highest dose now. When we get that data, it will take a few months to get the data to feel confident to go to the phase two. And then, a few months from now, we'll be in phase two, and I think we're right on target for the year to a year-and-half.

REPORTER: If you don't mind me asking you and Dr. Birx, have either of you received threats of any kind or have you been given a security detail given you've been out here every day on camera speaking.

FAUCI: Well, I mean, anything that has to do with security detail, I'd have to have you refer that question to the inspector general of HHS rather than if I answer that (ph).

TRUMP: He doesn't need a security. Everybody loves him. As I have said there be a big trouble if they ever attack. You know, he was a great basketball player. Did anybody know that? He was a little on the short side for the NBA, but he was talented. He won a game, I read this. He won a game that was unwinnable against a great team, and his whole team says, we can't beat this time and they went in and won the game, right? That was couple of years ago, but they had never changed it. The attitude never changes.

REPORTER: Can I ask Dr. Fauci, because I know he loves being behind the podium?

TRUMP: He does.

REPORTER: Like pulling teeth, like going to the dentist.

I don't want to hit with you everything this coming along, but a lot of people who are watching television today heard from a researcher named Dr. Jacob Glanville, who's come up with a potential antibody therapy that he has given to USAMRIID. I just wanted to know if you know anything about this, when you might be able to tell people at home about it, have you seen it?

FAUCI: No, John, I don't know specifically this individual, what they're doing, but I can tell you, there's a lot of activity that is centered around a passive transfer of antibodies in the form of convalescent plasma. One, the number is to get immunoglobulin that you precipitate out of the plasma, and another is monoclonal antibody. It's based on the same principle of if you have a protective antibody, passive transfer of that could provide not only protection prophylactically but also treatment.

This is an old concept. In fact, immunology was born decades and decades ago and decades ago with the concept that giving passive transfer of serum to an individual to protect them from the infection. So it's -- I wouldn't be surprised if he and number of other people are pursuing this. It's the right thing to do.

REPORTER: Can I follow up on antibody testing, please, Dr. Fauci? At what point can we as a country expect there to be widespread antibody testing so we know exactly what we're dealing with here as well as other question such as, you know, people who are deemed to be healthy donate blood, for example?

FAUCI: Okay. So when you talk about antibody testing there are a couple of things you want to do. You want to find out if someone has been infected and whether or not they're going to ultimately wind up being protected. Anybody testing right now is not the first thing on our priority. It's something that we need to do is testing to see if someone is infected.

It is very important ultimately to be able to get a feel for what the penetrance of the infection was in society for a number of reasons. You get a better feel of what the impact has been, but also you get a better feel of what the herd immunity would be. So I can foresee in the future that when we get the facility, which we'll have for sure, I mean, ultimately you can get a test that can do this reasonably easy, and do the kind of what we call serial surveillance study. This is very analogous that Dr. Birx and I were talking about that a lot, and that is back in the day when she and I were both doing the HIV/AIDS issues back when we first discovered the virus in '83 and we had an antibody test in 1985, we found out by serial surveillance representative in different populations that we were dealing with the tip of the iceberg when we saw individuals who were the ones who actually got infected.

It gave us a really good feel for how many people were infected, how many are doing well and how many are getting ill. I foresee that we'll have that same sort of information, which will be important information. But right now, that's not our immediate problem.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Let me just follow up with that, because I think as I discussed before, we had great -- I just want to thank all the epidemiologists and scientists out there who worked with us over the last four weeks on models.

They really -- many came forward and really supported us. Right now, we're in talks with a whole series of universities. We have the most brilliant scientists in the world in our universities and state after state. Some of them public health universities, some of them basic science. All of them have received NIH grants for HIV or other development of assays in the past.

[18:45:00]

I've talked to a lot of them over the last few days to really ask them to develop these simple ELISA tests that could be used rapidly in their health care centers, because immediately, it's easy to do. We've all developed ELISAs. So in a day or two after development they could screen their entire hospital. I think that would be very reassuring to the health care workers who have been on the front line. We worry about them every day.

And so I've really called on every university and every state to develop ELISAs. You can buy the antigens and the controls online, and really work to test entire health care communities in your states and support them that way.

At the same time, we worked in sub Saharan Africa on what we called dried blood spots. So we are looking at, could you use that in a community while we work on the point of care tests, where you just dot blood onto this paper, and then that can go into the lab and be analyzed. That would allow us to look in nursing homes at other long- term care facilities immediately.

And then finally we've reached out to the developers of the rapid test, the ones who developed it for malaria, the ones that developed them for HIV. It's exactly the same concept and process to ask them to rapidly develop these tests, because I think we owe it to the frontline health care providers, not only to provide them RNA tests, but many of them had been on the frontline now for four weeks, may have been exposed. We now know there's asymptomatic, and I think really being able to

tell them, the peace of mind that would come from knowing you already were infected, you have the antibody, you are safe from reinfection 99.9 percent of the time.

And so this I think would be very reassuring to our frontline health care workers. And our universities can do that by Friday. So I am putting that challenge out to them to really work on that and do that. That is what we did in the early days. We had ELISAs up and running within days of having the antigen. And so this is what is really possible. So we are not waiting. We're asking for help now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So potentially this could happen soon, even within this month, if people --

BIRX: It will happen soon, within this month, if the universities help us, absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, on Florida, Governor DeSantis says he spoke with you before issuing his stay-at-home order.

TRUMP: He did. He spoke with me this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has some loopholes in that.

TRUMP: That I don't know. He spoke to me this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For religious events for example, large religious groups can meet together.

TRUMP: Who can?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Religious groups.

TRUMP: He didn't speak to me about that. But he did speak to me this morning. We talked about it.

Please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Full mitigation, sir, does that go against your model, because that's not full mitigation?

TRUMP: I don't know. I'd have to look at what he did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Back to the health care workers on the front lines, following up with Dr. Birx as well, hazard pay, you have said you have wanted that for the health care workers on the front lines. I know Secretary Mnuchin has mentioned something about that possibly in the fourth level of the stimulus.

TRUMP: I like it. I like it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But can you make it happen now? Do we have to wait for a fourth --

TRUMP: I think it's something we are discussing in terms of bonus pay, or bonus pay. It doesn't have to be called hazard pay. It could be called -- I watched those people go into hospitals that I know. I talked about one of them, right? But I watch them walk into the hospitals. And they walk in, men, women, young, middle-aged, not so many older ones. And I watch them, they're almost like -- and I think I can take the word "almost" out, they're like warriors. They're going in.

People are cheering. Where there is a building across the street, the people are screaming, they're clapping. There like heroes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- the Empire State Building.

TRUMP: I will tell you, I think it's incredible. They're like warriors. There like soldiers. And we're going to be doing something for them. So whether it is a bonus, because we are hopefully going to be over this relatively quickly. It's going to be vicious for period of time, but hopefully we're going to be over this. You have a lot of questions today. Look at you. Do know this young lady behind you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never met her before in my life.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're practicing social distancing. It keeps our marriage strong.

TRUMP: It's good for a marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a lot of people who are worried about getting sick and do they end up in a hospital, people who are insured, and will they be crushed by medical bills. You were considering last month, last month already in March, reopening the healthcare.gov exchanges. There has been a determination not to do that. Could you tell us what the rationale was behind that? And what would you have as an alternative?

TRUMP: They took that out under the task force. And maybe Mike, you want to say a few words about that?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President. What I can tell you is that the president has made a priority from the outset of our task for work to make sure every American knows that they can have the coronavirus and they don't have to worry about the cost.

[18:50:01]

Now, we were very inspired as well because of the president's engagement with the leading health insurance companies in the country that now, so far, two of the top health insurance companies in America have announced that they're not only willing to waive co-pays on testing, and now testing is fully covered because of the bill the president signed for every American, but also these two insurance companies have waived co-pays on all coronavirus treatment.

And I can assure you that as Congress and the president and the administration begin to discuss the next piece of legislation, we're going to make sure that Americans have those costs compensated and covered. Our priority right now is ensuring that every American takes 30 days to slow the spread to heart. The best thing we can do for one another, for our families' health, for the most vulnerable among us, is practice those mitigation strategies that the president outlined yesterday for the next 30 days.

We are dealing with testing to make sure that every American can have a test that needs one. We are dealing with supplies, and we are making great progress in building personal equipment and ensuring that ventilators are available, particularly for the communities most impacted.

But the American people can be confident that as we move into this, we're going to make sure that our health care workers are properly compensated for their extraordinary and courageous work. And we will make sure that the financial burden on those who end up contracting the coronavirus and dealing with its most serious symptoms also can deal with those issues and deal with those costs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Understood, Mr. Vice President, but there will be people who don't have insurance who get sick before any of these mitigation efforts are put into place. And without opening the health care exchanges, where can they find insurance? People who aren't insured by these companies that are covering the costs of the co-pay, where can people go to now to get health insurance if they get sick, before they get sick?

PENCE: All across America we have Medicaid for underprivileged Americans. And at the president's direction, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services has given unprecedented waivers for states to expand coverage for coronavirus testing and treatment. We've also extended waivers for Medicare administration to make sure that people have access to that coverage. But we're going to continue to bring opportunities to the president. The traditional systems of Medicaid in particular for the uninsured in America --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you expend that to cover middle class people?

PENCE: I think what we're seeing health insurance companies do today, John, is really inspiring. One of the things that's characterized the president's approach here --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice President, I'm sorry to belabor the point, but that is for people who already have insurance.

PENCE: One of the things that has animated and characterized the president's approach is the way he is engaged American businesses to step up and do their part. And as the president said many times, we are inspired by the spirit of American businesses.

I was at a distribution center for Walmart today in southern Virginia, and I saw the way this company that literally has already hired thousands of people. These workers are coming to work, the truck drivers are coming to work, farmers are working in the field. Grocery stores made a commitment to the president a month ago that no grocery store in America would close down.

The food supply is strong. We are getting food on the table of every American. But it's because the president went to these leaders and said we need you to step up and do your part. We engaged health insurance executives early on in this process to waive co-pays on coronavirus testing.

And because of the engagement, and frankly because of that patriotic and compassionate spirit that's been reflected, we have already seen two of the largest insurance companies in the country announce that they're going to be providing full coverage, free of charge, for coronavirus treatment.

I fully expect, I think as the president does, too, that we will see more of that for people to have insurance. We will continue to provide flexibility for Medicaid for people that don't have insurance, and we will make sure that Medicare has the flexible to meet this moment.

For seniors, we remember that seniors with underlying health conditions are the most vulnerable to serious outcomes from the coronavirus, but we'll get through this.

[18:54:41]

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right. You've been watching the coronavirus task force briefing.

Good morning. I'm Erin Burnett. You saw President Trump there and Vice President Pence. They, of course, were joined by Dr. Birx, giving the latest on the pandemic.

The president saying the next few weeks, his words tonight, will be horrific, adding that the U.S. strategic national stockpile, supplies, is nearly depleted.

[18:55:02]

This comes as the United States reports more than 869 deaths just today related to the coronavirus. That number has doubled in just the past three days.

And there's a lot to talk about from that briefing. John King is with me. Daniel Dale is with me, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with me as well.

Sanjay, can I just get your perspective here, first of all, as the president is speaking, 869 deaths doubling in just the past three days. Put that in context, especially the rate at which it is growing.

GUPTA: That is the key measure, really, Erin. I mean, people pay attention to the overall numbers but I think what all the public health officials, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx do want to pay attention to is just quickly are these numbers growing.

And, you know, everyone talks about the apex of the curve, right, the top of the curve. You don't really get a sense of where you are on the curve until you start to see some change and slowing down of how fast these numbers are growing. So, that's not -- not the right direction, Erin, obviously, in terms of the overall growth but then the pace of that growth.

The other thing that sort of came up, I think, that's very important that feeds into this is just where are we as a country with regard to these stay at home orders? You know, I think 90 percent of the country, maybe roughly, is under some stay at home some sort of recommendation at this point.

But, you know, as we've talked about, Erin, for some time, if you are in a place where you're not under these stay at home orders, people are not doing that, that affects everybody. It affects their families. It affects your communities. It affects, you know, people that they have never even met that could be far away.

So, when you look at places where they've had success, it's been -- it's been national sort of stay at homes and we're not there yet.

BURNETT: Right, and it does raise so many questions. I mean, Florida's not even there yet until tomorrow maybe in some way.

John King, when you heard the president there today using the word horrific to describe the next couple of weeks right now in the past 24 hours. He said it's going to be hell. He said it's going to be horrific. You know, continuing the sort of try to sound the alarm on that now.

KING: Continuing to sound the alarm and continuing to say that he and his team are on top of it. But then you get, when you listen to these briefings, some mixed messages and mixed signals, Erin. For example, to the point you just talked about with Sanjay. The president was asked a perfectly legitimate question.

There are some exceptions in this Florida order, allowing religious groups to meet. He was asked to way in. Tell your govern Santa is maybe that's a bad idea. The president refuses to get involved when he's asked about these governors, and this matters because we see the early evidence that the social distancing works. Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, telling our colleague Jake Tapper today, what are these other governors waiting for?

And yet the governor of Tennessee today, well, you know, there's no evidence. Some states are doing this, some states are doing that, and there's no evidence that it works. Of course, there's evidence that it works. It's an inkling or a little bit as Dr. Fauci says.

BURNETT: Right.

KING: That the president does not want to touch issue to me is a big mind-boggling because he -- look, he made the brave decision to reverse himself and say leave these guidelines in the face. Why won't he look the camera in the eye and tell these Republican governors get with it?

Another point, they don't like to answer -- they like to talk about how good they're doing. They don't want to answer tough questions. The president doesn't want to answer that one. The vice president there just went off on two, three to five-minute meanders when asked the three specific questions. The administration decided not to reopen the Obamacare enrolment period for the uninsured. He kept talking about how insurance companies are helping their customers, how health care workers are great, how they're delivering things.

John Roberts, God bless him, asked a follow up question there, I asked you about the uninsured and he went off on another meander, saying when maybe Congress comes back to it, we'll deal with the uninsured. There are uninsured Americans all across the country right now who make money so they don't qualify for Medicare who want to know, can I get treatment? Answer the question. Answer the question.

One more. Sanjay would know more about this. Dr. Birx talking about getting on the phone with universities, asking these medical researchers, develop this antibody test. Get it out there so that health care workers and others can have their blood tests to see if they've already been exposed to the virus. She said, we did this with HIV, we've done this with other past health care issues, and it's easy. It can be done by Friday. If it's easy and can be done by Friday, why the hell did they wait to do it?

BURNETT: Right. I'll say I know a nurse at Elmhurst Hospital in New York, one of the hardest hit, her husband has all symptoms. She's been a nurse there, she's unable to get a test. Hospital says she can't get a test, can't get a test. Told her not to come to work in two weeks.

But you're talking, even in some of these hardest hit places, you're still not able to get that. Never mind that the antibodies point that you're making.

Jim Acosta is joining us now.

Jim, what is your takeaway from the briefing?

ACOSTA: Well, one point, Erin, during the briefing, the president said as for the reason why he changed his position on, you know, taking saying the threat of this virus seriously. He said at one point nobody's ever seen anything like this where large groups of people just by being in the presence of someone have it.

That is just not true, Erin.