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Total Coronavirus Cases In The U.S. Have Eclipsed 300,000 With More Than 8,000 Deaths; New York Mayor Bill De Blasio: We Could Have 5,000 People On Ventilators Next Week, We May Need 45,000 Doctors To Get Through This Crisis; President Trump Accuses Governors Of Playing Political Games With Ventilators; President Donald Trump: Navy Captain's Letter Warning Of Ship Outbreak "Not Appropriate;" Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Says Avoid Going Out At This Time; Trump Continues To Tout Use Of Unproven Drug; Grocery Rush Leaves Many Shelves Bare For Low-Income Families. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 4, 2020 - 19:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. The worldwide spread of Coronavirus surges ahead as you can see by the staggering numbers on the right side of the screen.

Global cases now top 1.1 million with a death toll now over 64,000. Here in the United States, total coronavirus cases have eclipsed 300,000 with more than 8,000 deaths nationwide. Nearly 96 percent of the people in the United States have been told to stay at home and the CDC has urged all Americans to wear masks or face coverings if they go out in public.

During the Coronavirus Task Force briefing over at the White House earlier this afternoon President Trump dismissed the idea of a national stay at home order while painting a very grim picture of what's in store for Americans.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will probably be the toughest week between this week and next week. There will be a lot of death unfortunately, but a lot less death than if this wasn't done, but there will be death.


BLITZER: Now as the President discussed the very harsh reality is facing the country, our governors of hard-hit states are doing all they can to combat the virus locally from assembling makeshift hospitals to working out deals with each other and with other countries to try to get medical supplies, ventilators especially.

But President Trump during today's briefing accused some governors of playing politics in their requests for supplies. He also repeatedly touted an unproven drug for Coronavirus. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is joining right now.

He was at the White House briefing Jeremy the President seemed to be giving very mixed messages preparing Americans for a lot of deaths this week and next week but refusing to call for a national stay at home strategy which could potentially minimize a lot of deaths.

He was also showing some impatience with social distancing in fact what can you tell us about the White House's thinking on all of this?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, it certainly was the case of mixed messages again from the President today. We heard him in one breath talking about the grim reality to come in the weeks ahead, calling it a horrendous time talking about a lot of deaths to come.

And at the same time Wolf, we also heard the President talking optimistically about wanting to reopen the country, once again stressing that he would like to see that happen soon. But Wolf, it was also a situation, as you mentioned, about the national stay at home strategy.

Eight Governors, all Republican Governors have so far refused to issue their own stay at home orders and that's why I asked the President Wolf why he wouldn't simply urge those Governors to do exactly that.


DIAMOND: --manufacturers are doubling and tripling even quadrupling their production in some cases--

TRUMP: That's true.

DIAMOND: --and yet medical experts and some of these manufactures are predicting that there will still be shortages of tens of thousands of ventilators. Is it time for you to level with the American public that there likely will be shortages of ventilators in some cases?

TRUMP: Could be. And it could also be that you have some that have way overestimated the number of ventilators they need. We think that we have a good amount ready to move, literally, like an army, they're ready to move to any hot spot, but some of the ones that you're talking about always a nasty question from CNN.

DIAMOND: Why would shall --?

TRUMP: Yes, because I think that frankly you know because you know what you have asked that question about ten times over the course of about a month. Look, we're mobilizing ready to go. We have a lot of ventilators ready to go. If we had given them all out, we wouldn't. You would be overstocked in many areas.


DIAMOND: And Wolf you could hear the President there saying that there could be a shortage of ventilators that was of course not the right sound bite but the other sound bite that I was referring to Wolf is where I asked the President why he wouldn't simply use the - of the Presidency to urge those eight Republican Governors to issue those stay at home orders.

That is something of course that Dr. Anthony Fauci a strategy that he has endorsed. He has said that he doesn't understand why every state in the country has not yet adopted those measures. But the President Wolf once again saying today that he wants those Governors to essentially make their own decision and suggesting that it wouldn't make a difference.

Even though earlier in the briefing Wolf he said that he wanted to prevent every possible death that he could, the President though not using every tool in his tool box.

BLITZER: What was also interesting Jeremy and you were there at the briefing and I'm look up notes he kept touting this one drug that is used for Lupus that is used for Malaria, but certainly hasn't been proven for Coronavirus, Hydroxychloroquine saying you know what there are some tests going on right now and there some tests going on.


BLITZER: He kept touting it suggesting people should think about it. We did some checking some of the side effects from this drug include seizures, nausea, vomiting, deafness, vision changes and low blood pressure. Those are some of the side effects. So it is potentially as Dr. Fauci and others have said not necessarily going to do much and could do some potential damage until full testing is done.

DIAMOND: Right. And this is the drug that the President has been talking about for the last several weeks now. He has repeatedly gotten ahead of the FDA's actual guidance on this drug and whether or not it actually is effective.

There are clinical trials going on with that drug and some doctors are using it as an off label use, but again there has not yet been sufficient medical scientific proof of this drug. And I thought Wolf the most striking moments was when the President at one point suggested that individuals with Lupus who actually take that drug for that condition that somehow they were not getting Coronavirus.

The President initially said it was reports that he had seen. And then after you saw the FDA Commissioner down play that the President referred to it as rumors. Especially notable Wolf because it came during the same briefing with the President suggested that we in the media are sharing fake information or trying to over sensationalize or cause panic in the public. That of course Wolf is not the case.

BLITZER: It certainly not the case and we are reporting only the facts and only the facts as our viewers have come to appreciate. All right Jeremy Diamond thank you very much. Let's get more on the late breaking developments. In New York City where more people in the country are now infected than anywhere else, where more people have actually died from the virus than anywhere else in the United States. The Governor today saying he expects those numbers to keep rising at least for another week. Let's go to CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro who is in New York City for us just outside the massive Javits Convention Center, there that convention space now being transformed into a life saving hospital. Evan, Governor Cuomo says he's very eager for that make shift hospital to be up and running. Update our viewers on the very latest.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you mentioned, the apex has not arrived in New York yet. This remains the epicenter of the Coronavirus pandemic in the United States and it hasn't reached its highest point. So really New York is in what is still a building phase trying to create enough medical infrastructures to deal with that peak in Coronavirus infection when it comes.

That's what the Javits Center is part of that process. That's what it is for it's usually a Convention Center now it is a massive hospital with more than 2500 beds. The goal of which is on Monday to start taking Corona patients out of the New York hospital system.

And here to create more bed space create more personnel that are working with stuff and more equipments which is why the Governor again in his press conference today talked about how much he needs ventilators and how hard he is trying to get them.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): On ventilators, remember, we ordered 17,000 ventilators. To give you an idea of how many 17,000 is, the federal stockpile was about 10,000 ventilators for the nation.

We ordered 17,000 just for the State of New York. When we ordered the ventilators we were paying for the ventilators, so, trust me, the financial situation of the state, we were not looking to spend a penny that we didn't have to spend. We placed that order for the ventilators and were paying for that order.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Now Wolf, you and I have spoken about this on a couple of weekends now and it seems like more often than not the weekends are where politics comes out to play. That was Cuomo is kind of taking a shot at the White House for their continued claims that Cuomo may be asking for too many ventilators and more than he needs.

And obviously as you heard from Jeremy earlier the White House sort of firing back saying we don't think you need as many as you are saying that you need. So while this apex is still coming and they're building this infrastructure, still on these political weekends we see this political tit for tat going on.

BLITZER: All right Evan thank you, Evan McMorris-Santoro in New York City for us. And let's keep our focus right now on New York City that is the epicenter of the outbreak here in the United States where Coronavirus has now killed over 3500 people. In Manhattan as you just saw the convention center, the Javits Convention Center has been converted into a Coronavirus hospital. And a U.S. Navy hospital ship has been deployed to treat non-Coronavirus patients but days after this ships arrival the vast majority of its beds have gone unused.

This as the city faces a critical shortage of medical supplies including of course ventilators. The New York's City Mayor Bill De Blasio is joining us right now. Mayor, I know you have a lot going on.


BLITZER: We appreciate the time you're going to share with us and our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. Thanks so much for joining us and let's get right to the questions.

You previously told CNN in New York City would run out of these essential resources as early as tomorrow with Governor Cuomo's announcement that 1000 ventilators are going to be arriving from China another 140 from the State of Oregon is that still the case Mayor?

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Wolf, it's going to be very tight going into next week. I am thrilled that Governor Brown Organ who I spoke to a short while ago that was extraordinarily kind decent thing one American state helping another.

So that's a step forward the additional ones from China that'll get us into next week for sure. How far into next week we're still not sure? We think at some point next week we could have 5000 people on ventilators that's a real potential a horrible milestone we might meet.

So it's going to be touch and go on the question ventilators next week. Also very, very concerned about the fact we need more and more medical personnel the doctors nurse every kind of personnel. We've lost a lot to the disease at least for a while.

The ones we have of course who have been fighting now for this last month a lot of them are really strained. I am thrilled to hear we are finally getting some help from the Federal Government in terms of military medical personnel.

We heard that announcement from the President that's something I've been asking him to do now for the last week or two. I'm glad that's happening that's going to help a lot. But Wolf, I think we need to go farther. I think the country has to mobilize fully because New York City is just the tip of the spear.

I think we need a national enlistment initiative for healthcare personnel to be listed by the Federal Government brought to where the need is greatest around the country. We have over million doctors over 3.8 million nurses so many of them right now we're doing good work but they could be doing even more crucial work saving lives in New York City.

And then all the other places that will experience this crisis over next few weeks. We need to mobilize and be on a war footing in this country we're not right now that's just a blunt truth. But if we do that quickly and if we get the military involved to coordinate it there's a chance to really get the kind of medical personnel that New York City needs in the other places need before this crisis gets much worse.

BLITZER: Because as you point out that the President did say he was ordering one 1000 U. S. military medical personnel to New York City to help out. But what you're suggesting is that is not enough. And when you say you want to compel do you want some sort of actual draft some sort of order telling medical personnel, doctors, nurses and medical technicians from all around the country to come to New York?

BLASIO: Yes Wolf, here's the reality. I liken it to what we saw after Katrina in New Orleans our whole nation watched in shock as so many people lost their lives that didn't need to. And who could have been saved.

Right now if we don't get a lot more medical personnel. I'm grateful to the President I did make that request. He is fulfilling at least a lot of it that's great. But if we don't get a lot more my projection for New York City over the next month or two is we're going to need 45000 doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists et cetera to get through this full crisis all the cases that are going to surge all the people going to need to be in the hospital for weeks and weeks.

Now this is just one place Wolf, so we do not have a national mechanism at all right now for ensuring that medical personnel are where they're needed in a time of national crisis. What we are going to go through here is going to happen in Detroit it's going to happen New Orleans is going to happen in Florida could happen all over the country in one form or another.

So instead of one place like we had in Katrina we're going to see many places in crisis simultaneously. This requires a national mobilization. So I think it should be a voluntary basis to begin but it must be coordinated by the Federal Government and must be cornered by the military.

People should be compensated of course but if there are not enough medical personnel to save thousands of American lives who could've been saved well then it has to be something stronger than that it should be this is a war.

Yes. If it was any other situation Wolf where thousands of American lives are at stake and I told you these thousands Americans can be saved of our national government acted and we don't. We'll lose them.

Are you would say bring in the military bring in everything we have even to save one American life let alone thousands. So why don't we mobilize this nation as if the lives of so many Americans depended on it because they actually do and it will be in state after state after state the country is not prepared. But if we act quickly this nation could actually get ahead of this crisis in time.

BLITZER: So let me just be precise. You're saying you need an additional 45000 medical personnel in addition to all of those who are already there in New York City who are genuine heroes and working around the clock is that right?

BLASIO: Yes. And Wolf here's the horrible math. Someone who comes in the Coronavirus who needs ICU treatment for example that could be three weeks four weeks that bed is taken up for a long time making sure we save that life.


BLASIO: We're projected to have a huge growth in the number of cases. I started the month of March with about 20000 hospital beds in my entire city. We have to add over 60000 more beds in places like the Javits Center in makeshift hospitals we are going to create in hotels in arenas. You name it.

We have to add 60000 more beds in the course of the next month or so because there's going explosion of cases and then people are going to need treatment for weeks and weeks. Each person will need a lot of treatment and that's going to require a huge amount of medical personnel.

This is going to happen everywhere else after us. So rather than you know the country look away from it and then be shocked when it happens in our own home towns we have a chance right now to actually build up a muscular you know national effort.

Again lead and coordinated by the military because there's no other organization that could possibly do the logistical the command and control tasks that's needed here to actually move these personnel where they're needed on time.

We need a national mobilization if it was wartime we know what to do if we were dealing with a foreign enemy a foreign army this is an invisible enemy but it is killing thousands of Americans. And we know it's going to affect the whole country. Why don't we mobilize for the kind of war now?

You and I have never experienced before but it is what our generation is called to do. We heard the stories from our parents and grandparents World War II and that greatest generation fought that battle.

We have to fight a very different battle but we have to mobilize with the same spirit that our forebears had. They created something great. They created a national mobilization single minded save every American life that could be saved. We have to do that now in our time.

BLITZER: Well and the only way that's going to be done as you well know Mayor is for the President of the United States to issue a directive in order along those lines to declare not just an emergency but this is a disaster.

And you're going to need that kind of assistance from the Federal Government especially the U. S. military. Have you been in touch with the White House are you begging for that kind of action by the President?

BLASIO: I've had this discussion with the President. It's been a respectful conversation but I've made clear to him that I believe we need to go to a much higher level. I've talked to our military leadership at the Pentagon.

I've made clear to them that in my view when you think about our men and women in uniform right now who are at their bases are going about their normal work when there's a war going on. I know they want to serve they should be called up the Commander in Chief needs give the order to mobilize our military to create the listening system for civilian medical personnel.

I've made this case to the leadership in Washington. I'm going to keep making the case but what I hope the President and everyone around him understands is time is running out so severely Wolf to set something like this up I believe America could do it.

I believe we have the finest military in the world and we have that millions of people who have come forward to help their fellow Americans. But for it to be organized in time before this virus overtakes more and more parts of the country that order needs to be given right now.

BLITZER: And so you're appealing to the President to do it. He's a New Yorker as you well know and I assume he might be watching us right now. He's listening very carefully he did at his news conference just a little while ago Mayor accused various Governors of playing politics about getting critical medical supplies. As the Mayor of the country's hardest hit city do you think your Governor, Governor Cuomo is playing politics right now?

BLASIO: No of course not. I think Governor Cuomo and Governors all over the country are just trying to get action to protect our people. I think you know what a look what Governor Brown of Oregon did as an example of the decency of so many of our leaders who are trying to help people.

I mean imagine the beauty, the power of her saying look New York is that the place is hurting we'll come to New York's defense and we know New York will be there for Oregon when their moment comes.

I mean that's what we should all be talking about. Now I see a lot of people just trying to fight for help for the people who are suffering. But it's not going to happen if it's left to each state and each city to fend for itself.

I think states right now should start their own enlistment structure for those medical personnel. I think every state in the country should start the ball rolling. Get a list of all medical personnel willing to come forward and serve where the need is greatest around the country?

And then the Federal Government should make that a system that can move rapidly with the military coordinating. Get - look if there's a 1000 doctors in Missouri right now who could get to a place like New York and help save us and then we'll send our doctors to them when on our crisis is over.


BLASIO: Well wouldn't it be a beautiful thing of those doctors who were ready to come forward. If they said I'm ready to serve and the military was there. There was a staging area the military knew exactly where to bring them in rapid fire.

Get him to the front and then when the front shift somewhere else the military is ready to move doctors including the doctors that we would donate to the next place. The ventilators all the equipment moves toward a crisis is.

Again think about a hurricane, think about natural disaster the whole country converges on that site sends our best to help that place in need but this time unlike anything we've experienced before it's going to be ten places need simultaneously, twenty places in need.

The only way to address that is with the entire nation mobilized in common cause with our military coordinating a full scale response. And yes the President has to give that order. He has to say this is the equivalent of war.

Thousands are dying we have the power, we have the finest military in the world and we have people good human beings all over America. Millions of medical professionals ready to do the right thing. Let's put it together and one plan and save thousands of American lives.

BLITZER: Well, let's hope that President's been watching this interview. He did say in his news conference New York City is the hottest of hot spots and he also praised you Mayor. He said Mayor De Blasio has been very nice. He's watching hopefully he'll respond and take some of those steps that you are pleading to him to take.

Good luck to you and good luck to everyone in New York. Mayor I know you got a lot going on. Thanks so much for joining us.

BLASIO: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: As hospitals across the New York City run short on crucial supplies, ventilators specifically and beds U. S. Navy Hospital Ship sent to provide relief is right now mostly empty I'll ask the commanding officer of the ship. We'll discuss what's going on when we come back.



BLITZER: President Trump today weighing in on the controversy surrounding a U. S. Navy Captain relieved of Command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after writing a stark warning letter about a Coronavirus outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier. The President saying Captain Brett Crozier's letter was "Not appropriate" watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: The letter was a five page letter from a captain. And the letter was all over the place that's not appropriate. I don't think that's appropriate. And these are tough people these are tough strong people. I thought it looked terrible to be honest with you. Now they've made their decision.

I didn't make the decision Secretary of Defense was involved and a lot of people are involved. I thought it was terrible what he did to write a letter. I mean this is in a class on literature this is a captain of a massive ship that's nuclear powered and he shouldn't be talking that way in a letter.


BLITZER: As of today a 155 sailors from the Roosevelt have tested positive for the Coronavirus when Captain Crozier walked off the Roosevelt for the last time on Thursday the ship's crew gave him a warm and very loud send off.

Now the U.S. Navy has launched an investigation into Crozier's actions and some Democrats up on Capitol Hill are calling for a full scale investigation there as well. I want to bring in CNN Military and Diplomatic Analyst John Kirby a Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral.

You know John you wrote an op-ed very strong piece on calling the Navy's decision to relieve the captain of his duties in your words a reckless and foolish tell us why?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Two reasons mainly. First of all I thought the justification put forth by the Acting Secretary of the Navy when he did this on Thursday was pretty weak based on what we know right now.

He wasn't really forthcoming with a lot of details. It basically boiled down to the fact that he sent this over email that his immediate superior didn't see the email. And that there was some measure of public embarrassment by what he had to say and his - the President alluded to that embarrassment in that clips you just showed as well.

That's pretty weak grounds for removing the Commanding Officer of a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. And the second reason is because of the timing. I mean to remove him in the middle of what they're trying to deal with in Guam getting thousands of crewmen off the ship so that they can clean the ship preserve the ship put it - put healthy people on there to watch over the systems and the nuclear power plant and to deal with the spreading epidemic on this ship. I thought it was just an appropriate time to do it as well.

BLITZER: And a lot of people agree with you as well. John the Navy is investigating the situation involving Captain Crozier being relieved of his command should the President be weighing in publicly as he did today while that investigation is under way?

KIRBY: No absolutely not. But I've almost you know stop wasting breath talking about the number of times that the President you know shouldn't involve himself in personnel matters in the in the military to fairly low level.

But I mean just think about it for a minute the Navy is working on an investigation they say they're going to be wrapped up on Monday. If you're in on the investigating team I mean how much more pressure does it put on you to have the Commander in Chief already act as Judge and Jury today at a press conference and basically say what he wants the results to be.

Now I'm sure the Navy investigators will do a thorough fair job but it doesn't help them do that job any better when the Commander in Chief weighs in like this.

BLITZER: It certainly does and all right John Kirby Retired Rear Admiral. Thank you so much. We're going to take a quick break much more of our special coverage right here in "The Situation Room" right after this.



BLITZER: More now from the frontlines in the battle against coronavirus. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School is joining us. She is also an Infectious Disease physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Walensky, thank you so much for joining us. We really heard something pretty extraordinary. First time I've heard this from Dr. Deborah Birx of the Coronavirus Taskforce. She's the Response Coordinator. I want you and our viewers to listen to what she said just a little while ago.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: This is the moment to not be going to the grocery store and not going to the pharmacy but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe and that means everybody doing the six feet distancing, washing your hands.



BLITZER: The time I heard Dr. Birx or any of the key members of the Coronavirus Taskforce say, don't go to the grocery store, don't go to the pharmacy. Just stay away and avoid all of this if possible. What's your reaction to that?

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: We have been saying for a long time, now is the time to simply stay home.

I think we just need to reiterate, we do not have a treatment for the disease. Our best armamentarium against it is prevention, and the only way to prevent it is to stay at home. It's an inconvenient tool. It's an imperfect tool. And it's -- it

takes some time to see. We have to be patient, but it's the only thing that we have and certainly preventing a disease is way better than getting it.

BLITZER: So what should yo u do if you have to go to the pharmacy? If you have to go to the grocery store? Sometimes you need drugs, sometimes you need food, obviously.

WALENSKY: Right? So we are suggesting essential items and certainly there are people who are going to the grocery store who are going to get their essential items. But those essential items are, you know, when you go, you should be wearing a mask. The C.D.C. has now recommended wearing a mask.

I want to remind people that that mask is to prevent -- your own -- to prevent you from getting the disease, nobody else, not somebody else giving you this disease.

And so I would say do your best, stay at home when you can, for those essential items, go at off hours. Stay away from people when you can and wear a mask.

BLITZER: I want you to also listen, Dr. Walensky to what the President said about hydroxychloroquine. This drug that's used for lupus and for malaria. He's very upbeat about the possibility it could also deal with coronavirus, although it has certainly not been tested in clinical trials along those lines. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a possibility. A possibility. And I say it, what do you have to lose? I'll say it again. What do you have to lose? Take it.

I really think they should take it. But it's their choice. And it's their doctor's choice, or the doctors in the hospital. But hydroxychloroquine. Try it, if you'd like.


BLITZER: What do you think? Is there evidence that folks watching right now should simply go try it?

WALENSKY: Yes, you know, let me just reiterate, we're in a tough spot. We in Infectious Diseases are not used to being in a place where there's an infection out there and we have nothing to give.

So we have this tension between wanting to try something that might have evidence even in a lab, not even in people of working and yet not knowing if not having the proper evidence to say it is actually doing what we expect and it's not doing harm.

I have seen four studies now, two have been entirely uncontrolled and they speak to the fact that the virus is less in people who they think that the virus comes down faster in people who get hydroxychloroquine.

I've seen two randomized trials, one is actually not even in English. The other is also very -- they are both very small and one of them shows some benefits to decrease progression and decrease symptoms earlier. The other show no benefits at all.

The total number of patients who got those drugs is under 50 in both of those trials. I also want to reiterate that those trials were limited in who they enrolled. They did not enroll people with heart disease, with liver disease, with renal disease, those people who might be a higher risk of bad outcomes with COVID-19.

They did not include people in intensive care. Again, people who have potentially bad outcomes. So I think our data are extremely limited in what we know about this drug. We certainly would love to have something that we can pull off the shelf that we think it might work.

We have some early evidence to show that maybe it decreases symptoms in people with mild disease, but I don't necessarily think we are ready to give it to all patients and certainly with its toxicities, cardiovascular toxicities, retinal toxicity, I certainly don't think we should be blanketing it everywhere.

BLITZER: Yes, and as I pointed out at the top of the hour, some of the side effects of this drug include, before you go out and simply try it, as the President is telling everyone, it includes seizures, nausea, vomiting, deafness, vision changes, and low blood pressure. So be really careful before you run out and simply try it.

Dr. Walensky, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks to what you're doing. We're going to continue our special coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after a quick break.



BLITZER: Many of the large chain supermarkets and retail stores around the United States are recovering from the initial panic buying spree that was when shoppers tried to scoop up cleaning supplies, canned food, toilet paper, as much as possible.

But fear over putting food on the table especially for low income families certainly has not gone away at all. CNN's Tom Foreman has more.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The rush is on with the first of the month release of government food assistance funds, some grocery stores are expecting floods of low income shoppers desperate to stock up and rattled by reports of shelves emptied by more affluent folks.

Antonio Pinchback says he is out of work on aid and he has seen it.


ANTONIO PINCHBACK, FOOD ASSISTANCE RECIPIENT: When you go, all of the cheaper like options are gone, like if it's like chicken or like -- even like ground beef, like all of that is gone.

QUESTION: It's all bought up.

PINCHBACK: Yes, all that you've got left is like salami, you know, and I can't afford to eat salami every day.


FOREMAN (voice over): The store owner here says shortages have driven prices through the roof, too.


IN SUK PAK, OWNER, BEST WORLD SUPERMARKET: I never ever believed one dozen eggs for almost four dollars right now.

QUESTION: Everything costs more?

PAK: Much more, not a little bit more. Much more higher.



FOREMAN (voice over): Prices, of course vary from place to place and Federal officials believe those shortages are now largely under control. But they also expect pressure for food assistance to intensify.

Millions of low wage earners are losing their jobs and private free food lines like this one in Pittsburgh can't handle it all.


CHARLESE MCKINNEY, GREATER PITTSBURGH COMMUNITY FOOD BANK: We really can tighten the controls and know exactly what it is that we have so that we have enough to go out for the need.


FOREMAN (voice over): In California alone, applications to CalFresh, which administers Federal SNAP funds or food stamps have reportedly jumped dramatically. So the USDA is loosening guidelines coast to coast, hoping to get more people signed up and fed faster, especially children. And that could help businesses too while everyone waits for slower moving stimulus funds to make it into the marketplace -0 and better times.


PINCHBACK: I'm waiting on two jobs right now.

QUESTION: Do you have much hope that they will come through in these circumstances?

PINCHBACK: Maybe. I don't really know.


FOREMAN (on camera): Prior to the pandemic, the Trump administration was involved in an effort to push a lot of people off the food stamp rolls -- that legal battle continues.

It's a sharp contrast to advocates for low income families who would actually like people to stay away from grocery stores for a few days to give those folks a better chance at feeding their families well.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Thank you very much, Tom. Other news we are following, even as Italy is reporting a decline in the number of ICU cases, it's putting out an all call for doctors around the world to volunteer to help fight the coronavirus there.

We're going to hear from those rushing to the frontlines of the pandemic. Much more of our special coverage when we come back.



BLITZER: For the first time since the coronavirus outbreak, Italy is now reporting that the number of intensive care unit coronavirus cases has actually started to go down.

Health officials say this is important because it allows their hospitals to breathe a bit. They've been overwhelmed for weeks and weeks. The number of ICU cases in Italy still stands at nearly 4,000.

The Italian government recently called for volunteer doctors to help in regions most affected by the virus. CNN's Ben Wedeman is in Rome for us. He has got more on the overwhelming response.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The hospitals of Northern Italy are overwhelmed. Intensive care units overrun with coronavirus patients. Doctors and nurses pushed to the limits of endurance.

The Italian government recently called for 300 volunteer doctors to help their beleaguered colleagues. Nearly 7,000 responded.

Among them was Samin Sedghi Zadeh, a young doctor now working in the hospital in the badly hit Northern town of Cremona.


these weeks where I felt that I should cry or I should scream. This situation made us living in a sort of illusion, a bad dream, a nightmare actually.


WEDEMAN (voice over): And a nightmare for his parents knowing where he is and what he is doing.


ZADEH: I can see when I when I call my parents, for example, that they are scared, of course.


WEDEMAN (voice over): At a military airport outside Rome, a group of doctors prepares to fly north.

WEDEMAN (on camera): More doctors and nurses are desperately needed in the effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. At this point, dozens of doctors have died from the disease. More than 10,000 medical personnel have tested positive.

WEDEMAN (voice over): The youngest doctor on the flight, 29-year-old Giulia d'Angelo didn't hesitate to volunteer.

"As a doctor," she says, "I felt I had to help out and not think about me and my concerns, but rather to be useful to others." Thirty one- year-old Dr. Guiliana Ventrangolo recalls that her parents were alarmed when she told them she'd signed up.

"They didn't react well," she says. "They were worried. They tried to dissuade me, but they saw I was motivated and determined, so they accepted it and supported me."

Friends and family are worried, yet cardiologist Angelo Arestia is stoic about the risks.

"It's our work," he says, "If not now, when?"

And now is when the need is greatest.


BLITZER: We certainly salute those doctors Ben Wedeman, thanks for that report. Of course, Italy is far from the only nation right now suffering in this global pandemic.

Tonight, a very stark reminder that everyone is vulnerable. The U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in self-isolation after testing positive for the virus, and now his pregnant partner says, she too has experienced symptoms and is recovering.

Bianca Nobilo has more from London. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRRESPONDENT: Hi, I'm Bianca Nobilo in London. On Saturday, the Prime Minister's fiancee, Carrie Symonds, announced on Twitter that she had been suffering from coronavirus symptoms for the past week.


NOBILO: She said that she hadn't been tested because she didn't need to be and was feeling stronger and on the mend.

Adding to the anxiety is the fact that the Prime Minister and Carrie Symonds are expecting a baby in the early summer.

This news hit as Britain had its deadliest day yet in the outbreak, 708 people reported to have died from the virus in the last 24 hours.

The Prime Minister, the Health Secretary and the Mayor of London have all cautioned that Brits must stay inside as anecdotal evidence and a spike in motor traffic suggests that not enough people in the country are abiding by the social distancing rules.


BLITZER: Thank you, Bianca. The U.S. today by the way marked a record for the most coronavirus deaths in the United States in a single day. There was 1,224 and the President says the worst is yet to come.

We're standing by live at the White House. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.