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CDC Director: U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Could Be "Much Lower" Than 200,000-Plus Predicted By Some Models; Trump Removes Independent Watchdog Overseeing Coronavirus Emergency Funds; Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 12,000 In U.S.; Acting Navy Secretary Resigns After Calling Ousted Aircraft Carrier Captain "Stupid"; Surgeon General: African- Americans Face "Higher Risk" Of Coronavirus; Ninety-Seven Percent Of Americans Under Stay-At-Home Orders; British PM Boris Johnson "Stable" In ICU. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 7, 2020 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, David Culver, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room". We're following breaking news. We're standing by for a briefing from the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

We're looking at live pictures coming in from the White House briefing room as the U.S. death toll from the pandemic now surpasses 12,000 with almost 400,000 confirmed cases. Worldwide, there are more than 1.4 million cases reported and more than 80,000 deaths.

But tonight, there is some hope that social distancing, other measures out here in the United States may actually help reduce the number of lives lost. The CDC Director says the number of American fatalities could be in his words much lower than the 200,000 predicted by some models. Thanks to people staying home.

Let's begin our coverage this hour with our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, there were some very intriguing comments today from the CDC Director Robert Redfield about his prediction involving the death toll here in the United States.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The White House has yet to offer many details about how the Coronavirus Task Force arrived at that estimate that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus.

But public health officials are cautioning that the eventual number of dead could fall well under that figure as Americans are practicing social distancing. We're learning that a key factor driving the large estimate was a crucial assumption discussed internally by taskforce officials that only 50 percent of Americans would observe the government stringent social distancing guidelines.

In reality, a much larger number 90 percent are observing those guidelines. The Director of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Robert Redfield discuss that possibility that the number of dead could fall well below estimates during an interview with an Arizona radio station. And here's what he had to say.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: Even those models that were done, they assumed that only about 50 percent of the American public would pay attention to the recommendations. In fact, it would seem is, a large majority of American public are taking the social distancing recommendations to heart and I think that's the direct consequence while you're seeing the numbers are going to be much, much, much, much lower than would have been predicted by the models.


ACOSTA: Now, in addition to that, a source close to the Coronavirus Task Force tell me that the number -- Task Force told me that the number of dead could fall well below way under in the words of this source, the number of deaths that were projected by the Director of the Coronavirus Task Force Dr. Deborah Birx. A White House official told us that Dr. Birx's team with the Coronavirus Task Force was basing its estimates on a combination of models.

And we should note other experts have told our CNN health unit that Dr. Birx's estimate is within the range of what they are projecting as well. But the key point here is that some administration officials are suggesting that the final number of dead could be lower than what's been estimated. At the same time, public health officials are cautioning and this is very important, this is not the time to stop social distancing.

In the meantime, Wolf, we are waiting on President Trump to comment on an early warning about the coronavirus that came from his trade adviser Peter Navarro who wrote two memos. One in late January and one in late February that a pandemic could cause serious problems for the U.S.

And a memo dated January 29th, Navarro wrote and we can put this up on screen. "The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil. This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperilling the lives of billions of Americans."

As we know, the President still went on to tell Americans that the virus would go away in April. The President was just asked about this memo. He said he did know all about it, as he put it, but he would wait until the press conference coming up here in a few minutes to talk about this more, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. He'll still answer questions at the briefing, White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing that's coming up.

The President, as you know, has now removed the official overseeing the $2 trillion in emergency coronavirus funding. Tell us about that. It's a pretty stunning development.

ACOSTA: It is, Wolf. That's one other item that we're waiting to see the President address to see whether or not he wants to talk about this and that is his decision to remove the Defense Department's Acting Inspector General Glenn Fine, who was going to oversee the $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at revitalizing the U.S. economy. This is just the latest action as you know that Mr. Trump has taken against government watchdogs in recent weeks. Critics, of course, say he is just trying to avoid any accountability.


But just yesterday, Wolf, we should point out he was blasting the Health and Human Services inspector general who had issued a report on medical supply shortages at hospitals across the country. The President was wondering whether or not that inspector general was a Democrat. And in fact, she had been working for the federal government going all the way back to 1999, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, sort of Democratic presidents, Republican presidents, a career, a civil servant, a very respected, highly respected civil servant. The President attacked her without even knowing who she was and precisely what she had written. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Let's go to New York right now which is still reeling from the outbreak tonight. Our National Correspondent Erica Hill is on the scene for us as she has been day after day. Erica, the police department is really feeling the impact of this coronavirus pandemic.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And just to put that in numbers for you, which I really think helps to paint that picture, Wolf, nearly 20 percent of the NYPD calling out sick today. That it accounting 7,600 uniformed members.

Now it's important to point out, these are not all people who have tested positive for coronavirus, but that is still 7,600 members of the NYPD. And we're seeing those numbers as we also learned today, Wolf, of a 13th death due to coronavirus at the NYPD.


HILL (voice-over): On Monday, New York logging the state's largest single day death toll. One overwhelmed funeral home doing its best to meet the need.

OMAR RODRIGUEZ, NEUFELD FUNERAL HOME: We're no longer embalming them.

HILL (on-camera): Why is that?

RODRIGUEZ: Just because we don't have time to have visitations. We're simply either bearing directly or direct cremation.

HILL (voice-over): As the virus spreads, a disturbing reality exposed.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA: Right now, slightly more than 70 percent of all of our deaths are among African-Americans who make up about 32 percent or so of the overall population of our state. So obviously, this is a big disparity.

TYRONE CARTER (D), MICHIGAN STATE HOUSE: Access to health care, environmental issues in certain communities, air quality, water quality. What this has done is magnified those issues to show that there's still a huge gap between races when it comes to healthcare.

HILL (voice-over): Jobless claims skyrocketing. This line and Florida, Tuesday, just to get the necessary forms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody out here is risking their lives to get this application.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've given out hundreds and hundreds of applications.

HILL (voice-over): In Connecticut, unemployment applications are about 20 times higher than anything the state seen during a recession. Health care workers continuing to sound the alarm about personal protective equipment. In Maryland, one nurse practitioner tried making a face shield out of a page protector and a headband.

MARJORIE SIMPSON, NURSE PRACTITIONER: I put it on and I started crying. And I thought I can't imagine anybody working, wearing something like that.

HILL (voice-over): Staff, also a major concern, retired nurses and doctors answering the call to help relieve those on the front lines.

JULIANA MORAWSKI, RETIRED ER NURSE: I've never seen emergency departments or nursing or any of the services actually, in general, under so much threat. And, you know, it's a family. So when families threatened us, you try to step up as much as you can.

HILL (voice-over): On board the Comfort, which will now be dedicated to COVID patients, the number of beds cut in half to 500 for safety. One crew member has tested positive. One of the nation's largest grocery chains announcing new restrictions on capacity amid growing concerns about how and where the virus is spreading.

In Miami Beach, face coverings now required for all customers and employees at grocery stores, pharmacies and restaurants, including those making deliveries. Officials across the country stressing that while social distancing is working, now is not the time to relax those measures.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: What we do affects the number of cases, our behavior affects the number of cases. We're generating the cases. They're not descending on us from heaven, right? It's our behavior.


HILL: You know, Governor Cuomo today, Wolf, also talked about reopening the economy noting you can't just flip a switch, it needs to be a coordinated effort. And he says testing will be a key part of that, talking about antibody testing that has been approved, but it's not available on a large scale at this point, that would allow you to test a person to figure out if they have had the corona virus and how they -- and then ultimately, if they had had it and beat it to you would know who had some potential immunity as you bring the workforce back, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that would be so, so important. Erica Hill in New York for us. Thanks for all the excellent reporting.

Meanwhile, the acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is resigning one day after recording leaked of him calling the ousted commander of the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt's stupid in an address to the ship's crew.


Let's go to our National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto, he broke the story for all of us. So, Jim, so tell our viewers what you're learning about this resignation.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this has been a chain of events, a quick chain of events that really no one involved is proud of here. The Acting Secretary of the Navy, submitting his resignation this morning, that being accepted by the Defense Secretary Mark Esper. But it's safe to say that it was clear to Modly that he was losing support to keep his position.

As you mentioned, this followed him taking an 8,000-mile trip all the way to Guam, to address the crew of the Theodore Roosevelt after their captain had been removed. And using language that no one in the Pentagon was happy with in disparaging the outgoing commander of that ship. Have a listen to those comments here.


THOMAS MODLY, ACTING NAVY SECRETARY: If he didn't think any information was going to get out into the public in this information age that we live in, then he was 'A' too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a shift like this.


SCIUTTO: Yes. Too naive, too stupid. Of course, Modly not aware that his own comments would get public too. Initially, he said he stood by every word. Then under pressure, he reversed himself and he released a statement saying the following here, let me be clear, I do not think the Captain Brett Crozier, the outgoing commander of USS Theodore Roosevelt, is naive nor stupid.

I think and always believed him to be the opposite. I believe precisely because he is not naive and stupid, that he sent this his alarming e-mail with the intention of getting it into the public domain in an effort to draw public attention to the situation on the ship. I apologize for any confusion. This choice of words may have caused. You could see him there, in that statement, Wolf, sticking by in effect his allegation that he meant this to get out there in the public. Regardless, if you have your acting Navy secretary first calling a outgoing commander of a carrier naive or stupid and then having to say I don't believe he's naive or stupid, I mean, that's really not a position anybody wanted to be in here, and certainly not the Defense Secretary.

BLITZER: Especially as, you know, Jim, the captain was so widely respected. He had a truly distinguished career. The crew loved him aboard the Theodore Roosevelt. Are there any second thoughts as far as your hearing on perhaps a decision to relieve him of his command? Any second thoughts on that?

SCIUTTO: Well, in short, really no. Wolf, I've talked to a lot of people in the military in the last several days about this situation wide respect for Crozier, no question. Wide respect for his motivation here in protecting his crew.

The concern was not protecting that communication both within the chain of command, but also with operational security concerns, because if it comes public internationally about, you know, operational capability on board of carrier. That was really the concern I heard from a lot of folks in the Pentagon.

There was a note in Defense Secretary Mark Esper's letter released just a short time ago explaining all of this saying an investigation is still underway into Crozier and only when that is done will they decide if you will face any further penalties or results from this. But all in all, an ugly episode all around.

BLITZER: Truly very, very embarrassing for the U.S. Navy indeed. Our Jim Sciutto, excellent reporting on your part as well. Thank you.

Connecticut, meanwhile, is reporting more than 7,000 coronavirus cases and 277 deaths. Seventy-one of them just today. The Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont is joining us right now. Governor, thanks so much for joining us. I know you got a lot going on.

The Director of the Centers for Disease Control now says the U.S. death toll could be, in his words, much lower than model's previously projected because the majority of Americans are taking those social distancing guidelines very seriously. How concerned are you though, that this potential good news could lead people to stop following those guidelines?

GOV. NED LAMONT (D), CONNECTICUT: That potential good news reminds people why you've got to follow those guidelines. The social distancing maybe is flattening the curve a little bit. This is what we meant to do. The most important metric that I look at, Wolf, is hospitalizations. And our hospitalizations are beginning to flatten out in terms of the rate of increase. And that's invaluable to protect the capacity in our hospitals.

So this is no time to sing, "Happy Days Are Here Again". Now is the time to double down on your social distancing. BLITZER: Because your neighboring Governor, the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also says his state is starting to see, starting to see a possible flattening of the curve and hospitalizations. Are there any other positive signs you're seeing in Connecticut right now?

LAMONT: I think when I talked to Andrew about today was what we do is the curve starts to flatten as we start thinking about what goes on next. I mean, he and I worked together when it came to shutting down parts of our economy like bars and restaurants. And I hope we work together when it comes to getting our workforce tested, protected, and back to work.


BLITZER: Because you are teaming up not just with the New York Governor but the New Jersey Governor as well to increase access to that rapid testing by working with private companies. Is that because the federal government isn't necessarily giving you all the help that you so desperately need?

LAMONT: Look, if I was the federal government, I think they should have a testing protocol. I think they should roll that and offer guidance to the governors. But short of that, working with Governor Murphy, working with Governor Cuomo and ourselves, look, you have a tri-state workforce. It makes all the sense in the world that we do the really important antibody testing to see who can get back to work safely first.

BLITZER: Yes, because unfortunately, even if the numbers might be going down than originally projected, they projected maybe 100,000, 220,000, 240,000, but still, those numbers are going to be very, very painful as we all know. Governor Lamont --

LAMONT: I got to tell you, Wolf --

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.

LAMONT: Wolf, what -- I was just going to say what really worries me is we take our eye off the ball and there could be a second wave of this. It's really important we work together in terms of making sure we're not just at the cliff, but we bring it down, and we only get people back to work safely. If we jump back into the game again, we could go through all this again in the fall.


LAMONT: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you so much.

Remember, early in March, there were 11 confirmed deaths here in the United States. Now more than 12,000 a month later confirmed deaths in the United States. So sad. Mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.

All right. We're watching all of this very, very closely. To our viewers, stay with us. Once again, we're waiting to hear from the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. You're looking at live pictures coming in from the White House. The reporters aren't there. The President's not there and neither is the Vice President. They'll be there soon.

Meanwhile, there's some disturbing new questions emerging right now, as the numbers indicate coronavirus infections are much more widespread in African-American communities around the United States.



BLITZER: We're standing by to hear from the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. We're looking at live pictures, standby for that, coming up we're told fairly soon.

We're also taking a closer look at what Louisiana's Governor's now calling the big disparity in the racial breakdown of coronavirus infections. The U.S. Surgeon General flatly says African-Americans face, in his words, a higher risk of the coronavirus.

Let's go to CNN's Ed Lavandera who's joining us from New Orleans right now. And early numbers show the virus is hitting black communities across the nation disproportionately hard.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's what these statistics are starting to reveal. And this comes on a day that Louisiana has announced its largest increase in the number of deaths reported in a 24-hour period, more than 70 people added to the rolls of people who have died because of coronavirus here in Louisiana.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Ronald Lewis embodied the soulful spirit of New Orleans. He led the Big 9 Social club which hosts epic second line parades around his Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood. Hurricane Katrina took his home. But friends say he came back and became like a godfather of New Orleans culture.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He love New Orleans. He understood the complexity of New Orleans. He brought out the best in us in our ability to come together.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): On March 18th, Lewis was rushed to the hospital. Two days later, he died. It wasn't until the day of his funeral that his family says they learned he was infected with the coronavirus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was shocking, you know, he had just gone into the hospital, and I still really haven't wrapped my mind around it all the way.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Ronald Lewis's family said the 68-year old suffered from diabetes and was recovering from a mild heart attack last year, but they never thought the COVID-19 infection would take his life. The mortality statistics across the country aren't jarring. In Louisiana, African-Americans make up 32 percent of the population, but make up slightly more than 70 percent of coronavirus deaths. In Michigan and Illinois, African-Americans make up about 15 percent of the overall population, yet account for about 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths.

DR. CHRIS HEBERT, NEW ORLEANS PHYSICIAN: This is an abomination, but it's not unexpected. And I want everyone to understand that New Orleans is a microcosm of every urban center in America.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Dr. Cory (ph) Hebert has worked as a physician in New Orleans for 25 years. He broke down the factors contributing to the high death rate among African-Americans. There's underlying health issues like heart disease and diabetes. And if you drive around New Orleans, it's easy to find poor neighborhoods where people don't have access to health care.

Many of these neighborhoods are food deserts where the best grocery store might be a corner store. It's a recipe for disaster says Dr. Hebert.

HEBERT: When you are chronically oppressed, when you are chronically trying to get the scraps in the crumbs, that actually decreases your ability to have a good immune system because you're constantly in a fight or flight syndrome, constantly with cortisol levels and epinephrine levels because you don't know where your next meal is going to come from.

The odds of you saying I'm going to get some broccoli for that next meal versus, you know, a hamburger. That hamburger cost 99 cents and the broccoli is 399 a bunch. You know, that's a life or death situation for you and some people just really don't understand it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we're not worried about it at all?


LAVANDERA (voice-over): But as the coronavirus started to spread around the world, social media conspiracy theories were also spreading even faster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Minorities can't catch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Minorities can't catch coronavirus.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Clips like these went viral. Medical experts worry this misinformation has kept and can keep many African-Americans from getting life-saving information.


Actor Idris Elba who announced in March he was sickened by the coronavirus, took to social media to fight back at the disinformation. IDRIS ELBA, ACTOR: Please stopped sending the conspiracy theory, nonsense about black people not being able to get coronavirus or COVID-19. It's dumb. It's silly. It's very dangerous. People need to know facts, need to understand the truth, so that they can protect themselves. Stop sending this stuff out. It's very dangerous for all.


LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, the health experts we're hearing from throughout the day say like this coronavirus pandemic has only brought this to the surface made it that much more evident that once this pandemic goes away, it doesn't really change the underlying factors that exist in many cities across the country. Wolf?

BLITZER: It's so disturbing. Ed Lavandera in New Orleans for us. Ed, thank you very much.

Joining us now, the Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Mayor Bowser, thank you so much for joining us.


BLITZER: I want to discuss all of this with you especially the problem is here in the nation's capital, Washington D.C., has had 22 deaths so far. But are you expecting similar disparities to emerge here in Washington? What's behind the disparities we're seeing from your perspective of the various hotspots around the country?

BOWSER: Well, I think I would agree with the earlier report, and I think the data in our city is very early and not complete. And I think we're seeing that around the nation that we don't always have race data for everybody tested, especially from the public health labs.

We do know that of those 22 lost lives in Washington D.C. that 59 percent of them were African-Americans. And it does appear on like the earlier report said that this virus is viciously attacking the underlying conditions like hypertension and high blood pressure, and heart disease. And we know that African-Americans suffer from these ailments in higher proportions than our fellow Americans.

BLITZER: The White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, as you know, has flagged the uptick in cases here in Washington D.C. Is D.C., Mayor, heading in the direction of New York?

BOWSER: Well, actually, Wolf, we have been flagging for the White House for over a week that we wanted the White House's attention, especially with regard to supply support and people support as we gear up to up our hospital capacity. We think that very strong social distancing measures that we've implemented in Washington for several weeks, starting with closing our schools, closing down essential businesses, closing our parks and Washingtonians adhering to those guidelines will help us bend the curve.

So we have been raising the alarm for the last week that we could be in the next tier of cities and states that see peaks. And we have had several weeks and we'll have a couple of more weeks to prepare for those surges.

BLITZER: You mentioned all the social distancing but as, you know, over the weekend, you had to shut down Washington D.C.'s very popular fish market area after images of very big crowds took off on social media. What more do you need to do, Mayor, to make sure that everyone's following your orders to stay safe and stay at home?

BOWSER: Well, we were very pleased when one of the groups who looks at people's cell phone data saw Washingtonians movements staying close to home and they gave us an "A" minus. But every day when I'm out in the city, and I have to be out, I'm an essential worker, we have thousands of essential workers that have to be out. We have nurses and doctors that have to be out. So we continue to remind everybody who doesn't have to be out to go to the grocery, go get your medicine, do exercise in your neighborhood, but other activities have to see.

So we tried to keep our fresh food markets and our fish market open and required -- they are essential businesses because they supply food, but they have to follow the rules too. So our fish market is shut down until they can demonstrate that they can serve people in a safe way.

BLITZER: And if you do have to go to the grocery store, to the drugstore, put on a face covering or some sort of mask, wear gloves, that would be critically important not just for you, but for all the other people who you might encounter. Good luck, Mayor. Thanks so much for joining us.

BOWSER: Thank you, Wolf. Have a great one.


BLITZER: Thank you. Coming up, what's it like for people who were infected with the coronavirus and sometimes get very sick from it but still survive. And once again, we're waiting to hear from the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. We'll have coverage.



BLITZER: Once again, we're standing by to hear from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. You're looking at live pictures coming in from the White House briefing room. Clearly the briefing hasn't started yet. As we await the briefing, let's remember that the head of the Centers for Disease Control now says U.S. coronavirus death could be, in his words, much lower than the 100,000 or 240,000 predicted by some earlier models.

Let's discuss all of that and more with Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician at Lifespan/Brown University. Also Dr. Harvey Fineberg, who is chair of the National Academies Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Disease Threats. Dr. Feinberg, you're the head of the committee formed to give the White House some truly expert advice on coronavirus. What do you make of this news from the CDC director? How much lower than that original model number do you think is real realistic?

DR. HARVEY FINEBERG, CHAIR, NATIONAL ACADEMIES STANDING COMMITTEE: You know, Wolf, every model is only as good as the assumptions that go into it and the way in which those assumptions are -- originally, the assumptions were that fewer Americans would keep their distance. Now that more of us are observing that physical distance of 6 feet or more, it certainly is appearing to help keep down the number of new cases. And when you keep out the number of new cases, you will reduce the number of deaths.

BLITZER: That's a really important point. I hope everybody pays attention. What does it tell you Dr. Fineberg about the challenges of using these models to predict fatalities?

FINEBERG: First, we should not be relying on just a single model, we should be bringing the various models together to get a best overall estimate. Secondly, models have to be updated as the assumptions change. We learn new facts feed into the models and make more accurate predictions.

Weather forecasting over the last decade has gotten so much better because we fed in more information and understood better how all the factors contribute to whether it rains or not. Here, it's a similar process whether or not someone contracts an infection.

BLITZER: Dr. Ranney, at the same time, we do know that the official death toll is potentially missing. A lot of people who haven't officially been confirmed that they had corona virus. What are you seeing in the emergency room that might explain what is being described as this under counting of the real number?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, LIFESPAN/BROWN UNIVERSITY: Wolf, we're seeing in the emergency department a few really interesting trends. The first is, is that we have a lot of people that are honestly staying away from the emergency department that we normally see the normal strokes, heart attacks, and other acute emergencies that usually fill our departments simply aren't showing up more. I'm worrying that they're dying at home or that they're having severe illness that we could attribute to COVID-19.

The other part is that because we haven't been testing adequately, we do know that there have been a lot of deaths at home as well as a lot of people who've been admitted to the emergency department over the past few months. We've had trouble testing not in my own state of Rhode Island, but elsewhere across the country.

Finally, as has been covered elsewhere on the show, there is this racial disparity and deaths that we are starting to observe. And we wonder how much of that preceded the reports of this past week. How many deaths were attributed to heart attacks, hypertension, diabetes that were actually exacerbated by COVID-19?

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point. Dr. Fineberg, you run an important op-ed in the New York Times arguing that to bend the curve of this virus down significantly, we all need what you're calling a smart quarantine that goes beyond the stay-at-home order. What exactly does this entail?

FINEBERG: Dr. Ranney made a really important point about testing, Wolf, because the first element is to test. When you find someone who is infected by symptoms and confirmed by test or because of their symptoms and signs being so persuasive, you need to isolate. Then you need to trace the contacts of the people who are found to be positive, and then you need to quarantine those individuals so that they don't affect others.

In other parts of the world, oftentimes, those who are most readily infected are the ones who live closest to us. It's not a surprise, members of our own family. So part of the idea is to be sure to establish locations for safe quarantine, for example, our empty hotels in every city, where you could isolate the patients who are mildly sick and quarantine those who are exposed to protect their families and those who are closest to them. In this way, if we can stop the spread of this virus at the beginning, we can stop the parade of caskets at the end.


BLITZER: And save some lives obviously. All right, Dr. Fineberg, Dr. Ranney, to both of you, thanks to both of you for what you're doing. We are so grateful.

And to our viewers, stay with us. We're waiting once again to hear from the experts over at the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. We're told the President, the Vice President, the experts will be walking through that door shortly. We'll have live coverage. Also coronavirus survivors tell their stories of what it was like to contract the disease and recover from.


BLITZER: All right. Let's go to the White House briefing.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today we continue to send our love to the great people of New York in New Jersey. We support them fully. We grieve alongside every family who has lost a precious loved one. New Yorkers are tough and strong and brave. New Jerseyites are tough and strong and brave, and they're being hit very hard right now.

And for the next week, hopefully not much longer than that, it's going to start to go in the other direction. Our country is being hit hard, but some areas have done so incredibly well. We're so proud of them. They will beat this virus. We're going to beat it with the grit and the heart for which they're known and for which our country is known. And we appreciate everything that everybody is doing.

We also, we pray for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He's become a great friend of ours. He loves this country. He loves his country, but he loves the USA. And he's always been very good to us. Whenever we had difficulty, he was with us and we appreciate it. So we pray for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He's going through a lot. As we intensify our military campaign against the virus, I think that it must be brought out that we have to thank the American people for continuing to follow our guidelines on slowing the spread and expression that more and more people are thinking about. Nobody ever heard of it two months ago and now everybody's talking about slowing the spread, stopping the spread.

Even during this painful week, we see glimmers of very, very strong hope, and this will be a very painful week. And next week, at least part of next week, but probably all of it.


Look, if one person dies, it's a painful week. And we know that's going to unfortunately happen. This is a monster we're fighting, but signs are that our strategy is totally working. Every American has a role to play in winning this war, and we're going to be winning it. We're going to be winning it powerfully, and we'll be prepared for the next one should it happen but hopefully it won't.

Our massive airlift operation for critical supplies, it's called Project Airbridge, continued today as five massive planes, flights landed in the United States, packed with personal protective equipment. And our nation's heroic healthcare workers will be the beneficiaries of that. Twenty-seven more flights are scheduled in the near future over the next couple of weeks. The Army Corps of Engineers is constructing facilities that will support more than 15,000 hospital beds to treat in need.

So they're building now approximately 15,000. They just completed the big one in New York. They just completed and are in the process of continuing in Chicago and many other places. They're incredible. The Army Corps of Engineers, we owe them a lot. What they were able to do in such a short period of time, they'll build these massive facilities, 2,000 beds in four days. So it's really something very special. I know I was in the construction industry and you don't see that happen very often.

I want to remind governors and emergency managers that sharing real time data with us about equipment and their needs is very important. All of their supplies, hospital occupancy is critical. A lot of the occupancy is really getting a little bit lower than anticipated and that's good. We sort of thought that was going to happen, and we getting along very well with the governors. This whole situation with respect to talking to us about equipment and equipment needs, giving us a little bit of lead time, so important.

All the supplies, we're getting it to everybody like they never thought possible. But we'll ensure that we can rapidly deploy federal assets where and when they're needed, especially on ventilators. We're actually getting some ventilators back. As you know, the state of California was great. They sent some back, which they won't need. And Washington state likewise. And we have some others coming back, so we're using them in areas we need them.

We are pressing forward aggressively on the scientific frontier of the medical war. The companies I've spoke to the four leading, I call them the genius companies. They're doing incredibly well with respect to cures and also with respect to a vaccine that's going to protect us, totally protect us. And they have some great potential. It's going to take a little while yet, but they have some great potential, some great early results.

And the governors been working hard, and we are working hard with the governors has been great coordination, especially over the last little while. We've given them a lot of equipment, a lot of ventilators, but a lot of equipment of all types. And I will protect you if your governor fails. If you have a governor that's failing, we're going to protect you. But the governors are working well with us over the last period of time.

Today, in our stockpile of ventilators, and again we need the stockpile so we can immediately move them from place to place wherever the monster hits. It's a monster. We have 8,675 ventilators right now in stock ready to move, and we have all sorts of incredible soldiers. Our military is going to move them should they be needed in as an example, if we need additional in New York or the New York City area.

You have state, you have city. And spoke to Mayor De Blasio, and we've really have a great well-coordinated campaign with Mayor De Blasio. It's been really good. Spoke to Governor Cuomo, it's been great coordination. So if they need something, we have it. If Louisiana needs something, we have it. Same thing with Michigan, same thing with Illinois. There are certain spots that are very hot, and we'll see what happens. But we'll know pretty much -- we'll have time, and we'll be able to move it.

In addition to the 8,675 ventilators, we have 2,200 arriving on April 13th. We have 5,500 arriving on May 4th. These are ones that we're building for the most part and we have, as you know, great companies building them, Ford, General Motors, G.E. We have really some great companies that are doing it.


On May 18th, we have 12,000. On June 1st, we have 20,000. On June 29th, we have 60,000 ventilators coming, 60, 60. So we have a total of 110,000 ventilators coming over a short period of time. I don't think we'll need them. Hopefully we won't need them. I don't think we'll need anywhere near that, but we'll have them for the future and we'll also be able to help other countries who are desperate for ventilators.

The U.K. called today and they wanted to know would it be possible to get 200, and we're going to work it out. We got to work it out. They've been great partners, United Kingdom. And we're going to work it out for them. So they wanted 200. They needed them desperately.

We now have 10 drugs in active trials with 15 more soon to follow, as well as two vaccine candidates, inactive clinical trials. We'll do whatever it takes to secure needed medical supplies and bring more production of essential medicines back to our shores. We're doing that. We're bringing them back to our shores. A lot of these companies, they went a little bit haywire. They went away from this great country, and they had them produced elsewhere. So we're going to start bringing it back. I've been talking about that for a long time, not only with medical but lots of other things.

America continues to perform more tests than any other nation in the world, and I think that's probably why we have more cases. Because when you look at some of these very large countries, I know for a fact that they have far more cases than we do but they don't report them. We've performed 1.87 million tests today. So that's 1,870,000 tests. Think of that 1,870,000 tests to date. And now we're performing them at a level that nobody's ever seen before.

As we announced yesterday, CVS testing sites in Georgia and Rhode Island will be using Abbott Labs, rapid five-minute tests. We're down to now five minutes. It's a five minute test so that people can get the results back very quickly.

And we're actively engaging on the problem of increased impacts. This is a real problem and it's showing up very strongly in our data on the African-American community, and we're doing everything in our power to address this challenge. It's a tremendous challenge. It's terrible. And provide support to African-American citizens of this country who are going through a lot. But it's been disproportional. They're getting hit very, very hard.

In fact, while we have Tony here, I'd like to maybe have you come up and address that one and then I'll continue. But if you could address that, it would be great. Tony, please.



FAUCI: We have a particularly difficult problem of exacerbation of a health disparity. We've known literally forever that diseases like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and asthma are disproportionately afflicting the minority populations, particularly the African- Americans. Unfortunately, when you look at the predisposing conditions that lead to a bad outcome with coronavirus, the things that get people into ICUs that require intubation and often lead to death, they are just those very comorbidities that are unfortunately disproportionately prevalent in the African-American population.

So we're very concerned about that. It's very sad. It's nothing we can do about it right now except to try and give them the best possible care to avoid those complications.

Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. And Tony, I think you're going to have some pretty accurate numbers over the next few days, right? But they are very nasty numbers. Terrible numbers.

In total, 1,200 Abbott machines, Abbott Laboratories have been fantastic, have been shipped now nationwide. Up to 500 more are being produced every week and 50,000 testing cartridges are being manufactured per day. That means a lot of very fast tests. No nation in the world has developed a more diverse and robust testing capacity than the United States.

We're dealing with other nations, helping them out because the testing is very tough for them and our tests are very accurate. A lot of tests are out there, and they're not accurate at all. In fact, some of the tests you don't have a clue what's going on. So we're working with other nations trying to get them help also.


At a time when many Americans are experiencing increased stress, anxiety, and personal loss, we must also ensure that our country can meet the mental health needs of those struggling in this crisis. There are people struggling. They're struggling. And some people are getting to know each other frankly. Some families are getting to know each other on a positive note, but there are a lot of people struggling.

On Thursday, I'll be speaking to leaders and advocates from the mental health organizations all across our country, and we are going to be talking about resources and tools that we'll make available to them. They need help, and it's a big problem. When you take something where it was the most successful country in the world, still is, the whole world has shut down.

Think of it. We're down to numbers that are incredible. As I said yesterday, I think it's 182 countries right now. One hundred and eighty-two countries are under attack by the scourge, by this virus.

But as we wage medical war on the virus, we're also speeding economic relief to our people. It's incredible. We just had a meeting that was absolutely incredible with the banks. I spoke with leaders in the banking and finance industry about our efforts to help American workers and employers.

As of today, small business has processed more than $70 billion in guaranteed loans and will provide much needed relief for nearly a quarter of a million businesses already. So we are going to be providing tremendous amounts of money to the small businesses of our country who had been absolutely clobbered, and they'll be keeping open. And they'll be paying their employees, and they'll be all set to go. We're going to have a rocket upward.

I want to thank David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, Brian Monynihan, CEO of Bank of America, Gordon Smith, co-president, COO of JP Morgan Chase, Charles Scharf, CEO of Wells Fargo, Michael Corbat, CEO of Citigroup, Al Kelly, CEO of Visa, Michael Miebach, CEO of MasterCard, Noah Wilcox, CEO, chairman of Grand Rapids State Bank, and we had numerous others also on the call. And I just appreciate them. They are -- we're way ahead of schedule, by the way. We're way ahead of schedule.

The paycheck protection program has been incredible. So based on the incredible success of the program, I'm announcing that I'll be asking Congress to provide an additional $250 billion for the paycheck protection, which will help keep Americans employed to facilitate a quick and full recovery. We're doing very well. We're looking very bipartisan.

A lot of people want to do it, and the plan is amazing. You know, they're processing hundreds of thousands of loans and this is the big banks that are doing it, the community banks. But the biggest banks right now in our country are doing it and they're doing it for a lot of reasons. One of them is they want to help people.

The WHO, that's World Health Organization, receives vast amounts of money from the United States, and we pay for a majority or biggest portion of their money. And they actually criticized and disagreed with my travel ban at the time I did it, and they were wrong. They've been wrong about a lot of things. And they had a lot of information early and they didn't want to -- they're very -- they seemed to be very China centric, and we have to look into that. So we're going to look into it.

We pay for -- we give a majority of the money that they get, and it's much more than the $58, $58 million is a small portion of what they've gotten over the years. Sometimes they get much more than that. Sometimes it's for programs that they're doing, and it's much bigger numbers. And if the programs are good, that's great as far as we're concerned. But we want to look into it, World Health Organization, because they really are -- they called it wrong. They called it wrong.

They really -- they missed the call. They could've called it months earlier. They would have known, and they should've known. And they probably did know. So we'll be looking into that very carefully, and we're going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We're going to put a very powerful hold on it, and we're going to see. It's a great thing if it works. But when they call every shot wrong, that's no good.

We're in the midst of the great national struggle, one that requires the shared sacrifice of all Americans.