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White House Task Force Says, Baltimore, Philly And D.C. Next Coronavirus Hot Spots; Chicago Jail Reports 400+ Confirmed Virus Cases; Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 16,000 In U.S.; Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 16,000 in U.S.; Surviving Coronavirus; 6.6. Million Americans File For Unemployment. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 9, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as we're looking at how this virus is evolving in New York state, we have talked a lot about hospital beds and the need.

I'm here at the Javits Center, where a number of these 2,500 beds are not being used right now. That's because the hospitals, we're learning, are able to handle the workload, but they're having a hard time with the staff, who are exhausted, who are overworked, some of them getting sick.

And so we learned this morning from the deputy secretary of defense that hundreds of the military who are deployed here will actually now be heading out to help in New York City's hospitals.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (voice-over): Empty streets, shuttered businesses, lives on hold, signs of a long road ahead.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The flattening of the curve last night happened because of what we did yesterday. If we stop acting the way we're acting, you will see those numbers go up.

HILL: California's early efforts gaining praise for slowing the spread, as one northern county says sports are likely on hold through Thanksgiving.

In Chicago, more than 400 cases are linked to the Cook County Jail, making it one of the country's largest sources of infection, as the city opens up a 66,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse to ease overcrowding at morgues.

Positive cases now confirmed aboard three aircraft carriers, and the National Guard deployed to two New Jersey veterans homes, with dozens of positive cases and at least 12 deaths.

Meantime, the city of Philadelphia pushing back on claims it's a potential new hot spot.

DR. THOMAS FARLEY, PHILADELPHIA HEALTH COMMISSIONER: We're not out of the woods by any means. But I'm hopeful that the social distancing steps we put in place a few weeks ago are showing some signs of working.

HILL: New Jersey tightening statewide measures, face coverings for all customers and employees at essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies, strict limits on capacity and gatherings.

Nevada limiting the size of religious gatherings, as Louisiana doubles down.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): There was no Easter exemption from the stay-at-home order. There was no Easter exemption from the 10-person limit.

HILL: The Kansas governor tried to do the same by executive order, only to be overruled by the state's Legislative Coordinating Council, which claimed it went too far by -- quote -- "singling out one entity" and limiting the free exercise of religion.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're calling on every American in every state first to listen to your state and local authorities, but, right after that, to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and know that, in so doing, we will hasten the day, we will hasten the day that we put the coronavirus in the past and we reopen our country.

HILL: The White House task force already working on a plan for that reopening, possibly in a matter of weeks, as experts and those on the front lines urge caution.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, DEPARTMENT OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE CHAIRMAN, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: I'm concerned that we're setting dates and not listening to the virus. The virus is going to tell us when it's safe to open up again.

SIMONE HANNAH-CLARK, ICU NURSE, MOUNT SINAI HOSPITAL: Everyone has to stay home and treat themselves like they are positive for COVID-19.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: Wolf, as people around the country are trying to figure out what's next, Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked this morning, what about summer vacations?

He said, that could be in the cards, but -- and there's a big but here -- all the necessary steps have to be taken leading up to that point to make sure that the country is in a place where there would not be some big resurgence of this virus.

Wolf, he was also asked about his summer vacation plans, and he said, perhaps not surprisingly, he doesn't really take vacations.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yes, he's a hardworking guy.

All right, we're all grateful to him.

Erica, thank you very much.

As new jobless claims skyrocket once again, President Trump is looking to appoint a second coronavirus task force focusing in on the reopening of the U.S. economy.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, you, you have got new details. Tell our viewers what you're learning.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

First of all, we should point out that we were just told in the last few minutes that the Coronavirus Task Force briefing has been delayed until 630.

But, in the meantime, White House officials are telling us that they are working on plans to set up a new task force aimed at reopening the U.S. economy. But the big obstacle that stands in the way is that the administration has yet to put in place a nationwide testing system to make sure Americans are safe to go back to work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With one task force battling the coronavirus, aides to the president are preparing to stand up a second team of officials and business leaders to revive the pandemic-ravaged U.S. economy.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're also fighting an economic war to ensure we can quickly turn to full financial strength. We have to get our country back. We have to get going. Everybody wants to get going.

ACOSTA: That second economic task force will face a colossal challenge, with 6.6 million Americans filing unemployment claims last week, bringing the number over the last four weeks to nearly 17 million, a staggering figure.

The Federal Reserve just launched a $2.3 trillion loan program to households and businesses to try to stop the bleeding.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I think as soon as the president feels comfortable with the medical issues, we are making everything necessary that American companies and American workers can be open for business.

[18:05:07]

ACOSTA: Top administration officials are making it no secret they're eager to wind down the nation's social distancing guidelines.

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think we have to be very careful to make sure this is -- that the draconian measures that are being adopted are fully justified, and there are not alternative ways of protecting people. I think we have to allow people to adapt more than we have, and not

just tell people to go home and hide under the bed.

ACOSTA: One big obstacle to reopening the economy, the administration has yet to figure out how to expand testing for the coronavirus nationwide.

CUOMO: Rapid testing and testing is going to be the bridge to the new economy and getting to work and restarting, right? Well, how do who can go back to work? Test them. You have rapid testing capacity. We have to bring it to scale. We have to bring it to scale quickly.

ACOSTA: Despite what he told Americans earlier this year, the president may not be getting any help from the warming spring weather. Government scientists just sent their latest coronavirus study to the White House that concludes: "Changes in weather alone will not necessarily lead to declines in cases, without extensive public health interventions," a reminder Mr. Trump had predicted the virus would disappear by April.

TRUMP: Looks like, by April, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away. I hope that's true. But we're doing great in our country.

ACOSTA: Going back to work may not be the same for a while. The first lady is encouraging Americans to listen to government guidelines and wear face masks when heading outside, even though the president said he won't be following that advice.

TRUMP: I don't know. I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know. Somehow, I don't see it for myself.

ACOSTA: And Dr. Anthony Fauci is urging people to give up on shaking hands.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Just forget about shaking hands. We don't need to shake hands. We got to break -- we have got to break that custom, because, as a matter of fact, that is really one of the major ways that you can transmit a respiratory-borne illness.

ACOSTA: Fauci is also trying to shake off conspiracy theories from conservative commentators, who say the government is somehow inflating the number of dead from the pandemic.

FAUCI: There is absolutely no evidence that that's the case at all. And I think it falls into the category of something that's very unfortunate, these conspiracy theories that we hear about.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And it's a new day in the White House Briefing Room.

Earlier this afternoon, the White House doctor's office asked that all correspondents and technicians who work with the various networks, reporters who work for various news outlets undergo the coronavirus test. They did this earlier this afternoon.

Wolf, we have not gotten the results back yet, but we were told no news is good news, meaning that if we're testing positive for the coronavirus, then we will be notified.

And while we're grateful to get this coronavirus test, Wolf, it makes you think about all of those Americans out there who would like to get the coronavirus test but can't get one -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What was the test that you got? What was it like, Jim?

ACOSTA: Essentially, Wolf they -- it's sort of what we have been hearing about from a lot of other people. They inserted a couple of swabs into both of my nostrils. And it was a little bit uncomfortable. I won't lie to you, but it was over in seconds.

And we're told that the results should have come back within 15 minutes to half-an-hour. And at this point, we just haven't heard whether or not they have cycled through all the test results for all the people who are going to be in the Briefing Room this evening.

We assume that's part of the reason why things are being held up. We know the president is also on the phone this afternoon with Russian President Vladimir Putin, King Salman of Saudi Arabia. We're told that's another reason why things have been delayed.

But no question about it, it's an uneasy feeling to undergo a medical test at the White House just to cover a briefing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And over the last several days, they were just taking your temperature to make sure you didn't have a fever or anything, but now they're giving you a full-scale coronavirus test.

Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

We will have coverage of that briefing. We will watch it closely, together with you.

Let's get some more analysis now from our political and medical experts, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, of course, among them.

Sanjay, the White House Coronavirus Task Force has identified what they call new potential hot spots, including Philadelphia, Baltimore, here where I am, in Washington, D.C. What does that tell you about how this virus is spreading?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's been some concern for some time that cities that have significant density of population and mass transport are going to be cities of concern.

And I think that that's part of the reason there's attention on this. we have been following the numbers and looking at these numbers. I do very closely every day.

Philadelphia, I think, may not -- doesn't seem to have as much a concern. I know the city health commissioner has also said that they seem to be doing OK.

But this corridor, the Baltimore-D.C. corridor, is of higher concern. It's early days. I think the first patient was diagnosed about a month ago in Washington, D.C., Wolf. And they're sort of following the curve.

And there's been still far below cities like New York and Detroit and New Orleans, but there's been a steady increase of cases in those areas. So, the concern is that, when you start to see a steady increase like that, you might suddenly have an exponential change in where you are on the curve.

[18:10:15]

So we can't say that that's happening. We do know from the mayor as well of D.C. that the peak over there, I think, in D.C. is expected to be much later than other cities as well. So it's a delayed curve. We hope it's not going to be a significant curve as other cities.

But that's the big concern right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is. Sanjay, stand by.

Kaitlan Collins is with us.

Dr. Fauci says, Kaitlan, that Americans may be able to look forward, in his words, to summer vacations, if we do the things that we need to do. That's clearly a far cry from the president's initial goal to try to open up the country by Easter Sunday.

What are you hearing behind the scenes?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, the president had to abandon that goal.

And that's why he's been so hesitant to really set a date right now. He wouldn't do so yesterday, though, of course, the obvious question is, what happens on May 1, after these guidelines that they extended through the end of April are up?

And that's why the president is expected to announce this second task force that's solely focused on reopening the economy. But, Wolf, that task force, while it's going to be separate, and it's going to focus on how exactly that's going to work across the nation, when we have seen so many people put out of work and so many companies shuttered, is they're going to have to work in hand with the health task force.

And the questions are going to be focused on whether or not they have had enough testing to get people to go back to work, whether they have been successful with that contact tracing that they have got to look at. So those are the things that are going to have to complement each other, if it's going to be rolled out properly.

And, of course, we know that a lot of that is going to depend on what businesses and state governors want to do for their areas and their states, because they're really going to be the ones that make the decisions about when it is that life starts returning to normal for people across the nation.

BLITZER: Yes, that's important, indeed.

Gloria Borger is with us as well.

Gloria, what are the conflicting pressures right now on the president, given the worsening shape of the economy -- and it's really deteriorating quickly -- and the public health crisis?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, this is a president who's got unemployment that's going to be at an all-time high, over 14 million people joining the unemployment rolls.

The calling card for this president going into the next election was, of course, the economy. People were giving him great grades on the economy. And now he's underwater even on that. Six out of 10 Americans say that the economy is in poor shape, Wolf.

And that is up just 30 points in a month. So he's looking at these numbers. Eighty percent of the American public thinks things are going to get worse in the future. They're giving Joe Biden better grades on how he would handle a pandemic than Donald Trump.

So, he wants -- as he says, he wants to open up this economy. He's desperate to do it. On the other hand, he has the scientists saying to him, wait a minute, this is no time to stop on social distancing, that if you really want to kill this thing, you have got to stick with what you're doing.

And so you can see that the president is conflicted. We watch it every night at his press conferences, and he goes back and forth and back and forth. And, as a result, his messaging is not very strong on this.

And one other thing he needs to be looking at in terms of the economy and how the country is doing is that, overwhelmingly, the public is giving their governors, Democrat and Republican, giving their governors better grades than they're giving the president of the United States in handling this.

BLITZER: That's very important, indeed.

Daniel Dale is with us as well, our CNN fact-checker.

Daniel, there are studies now out that show that the outbreak of the coronavirus in New York work came from Europe and parts of the United States, not necessarily from China or elsewhere in Asia.

The president likes to say he cut off travel from Europe. That's not necessarily accurate, is it?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: That's not accurate, Wolf.

So, the president's March travel restrictions exempted a whole bunch of countries and a whole bunch of people. On the countries, what he did was restrict travel from the 26 countries that are part of what's called the Schengen area, which is a free travel zone in Europe, and that exempted the U.K., Ireland, Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, et cetera, et cetera.

Now, he later added the U.K. and Ireland, but still exempted the rest of those countries. In addition, even the countries that were covered had a whole bunch of exempted categories. So, U.S. citizens could still fly back from Europe. Permanent residents could still fly back.

Many of their family members, spouses, et cetera, et cetera, could fly back. And then there were a bunch of other exempted groups. And so a bunch of countries still allowed, a bunch of people still allowed.

He did restrict travel from Europe, but this was not the complete shutdown he keeps touting.

[18:15:00]

BLITZER: That's an important point as well.

Kaitlan, the president has also frequently pointed to warmer weather as a potential saving grace. Once the weather gets warmer, then the coronavirus will go away.

He said that on several occasions, but there's new information now.

COLLINS: Yes, that that is not apparently the case. They actually don't think that that's going to be the reason why you start to see the curve potentially flattened or, if you see the peak happening, and then it starts to go downward, something we're still waiting for in a lot of areas.

We are now being told by experts that, if that does happen, it's because of these social distancing guidelines that you're seeing carried out in many states, of course, the federal guidelines that the president and the vice president have put out.

They say that that is going to be the reason you see this start to go away, if it does, and if that's the pattern that emerges.

And, of course, there are still a lot of unknowns, Wolf. And that's why you have not seen the president's health experts go as far as to sound as confident about the economy being reopened.

You heard people like Dr. Fauci saying it could return somewhat to normal over the summer. But then there are people like the Treasury secretary who sound really optimistic. And they're talking about hopefully having businesses open by May. Of course, that's just a few weeks away from now.

And, really, it's all going to come down to timing and the decisions they make when it comes to it, because we got pretty close to the president's Easter date, of course, that's just this weekend, before he announced that actually, no, he was going to blow past that deadline, it was going to go on for a little bit longer.

So that definitely is a concern that you're seeing playing out. And so the question is, are the economic teams and the health teams going to clash on this, on what their advice to the president is? Because he said he would rely on the health advisers, though, of course, we know what the president wants here. We know a lot of people are telling him it's just not realistic to keep the economy closed the way it is right now.

So it really is going to depend on what the decision he makes when this is all up.

BLITZER: All right, everybody, stand by.

Once again, we're waiting for the Coronavirus Task Force briefing to begin.

When we come back, I will also speak with a doctor who recovered from coronavirus and then returned to work, a fascinating, important story.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:21:23]

BLITZER: The coronavirus outbreak here in the United States has now killed at least 16,000 people.

In New York, the nation's epicenter, Governor Andrew Cuomo says deaths are surging, but hospitalizations are beginning, beginning to decline.

We're learning more about people who got sick from the virus and then recovered.

CNN's Brian Todd has been asking experts about the survivors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHAREKA WILLIAMS, CORONAVIRUS SURVIVOR: It hurts like hell.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shareka Williams' horrible ordeal is just about over. The nurse, who cares for the elderly at a nursing home in Tennessee, says, when she was in the deepest throes of coronavirus, she had to fight off thoughts of planning her own funeral.

WILLIAMS: You can barely eat. You can barely walk. You can't breathe because it hurts so bad.

TODD: With tens of thousands of Americans being diagnosed with coronavirus daily and hundreds each day dying, there's also a growing number of people recovering from COVID-19. And what they're going through can serve as a guide to millions.

How do when you're coming out of it?

DR. MICHAEL MINA, HARVARD CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: The most important things to look for are better are improvements in your breathing. TODD: Dr. Michael Mina from Harvard also says, if you're coming out of

the virus, your dry coughs might start to lift, your fevers might come down. But he warns you might also have false signals of recovery. Don't be fooled by one good day.

MINA: To really be sure that you're really kicking this virus and putting it behind you, it usually takes multiple days, three or four or five days of continuously feeling better and better, improving your energy, improving your breathing.

TODD: Then there's what one recovering patient calls the Rip Van Winkle.

David Lat spent 17 days in the hospital and was on a ventilator for six days without even knowing it.

DAVID LAT, CORONAVIRUS SURVIVOR: I came back from off the ventilator. I kind of just went back to what I was talking and thinking about right before I went on the ventilator, even though it'd been a week ago.

I had asked my husband to bring some books to the hospital. And so I asked, Mo (ph), did you bring those books? I just -- it didn't really dawn on me yet.

TODD: Experts say amnesia or delirium in recovering coronavirus patients usually goes away. But caregivers have to watch out for long- term effects in those who've had acute cases of the virus.

MINA: The inflammatory response to the body can sometimes really do sometimes permanent damage to people, and whether that's damage to your lungs from the virus and the immune system's respond to that virus or whether to brain tissue, both -- all sorts of things can go wrong when you're in the intensive care unit.

TODD: Patients can also come out the other side stronger with antibodies, your immune system's memory of the virus that could help fight it off again.

Survivor Diana Berrent is donating her plasma, so others can benefit from her antibodies.

DIANA BERRENT, CORONAVIRUS SURVIVOR: I like to think of it as a superhero. Me and all of the other survivors, we have these internally built hazmat suits.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us -- Brian, thank you.

I'm joined now by Dr. Dara Kass, an emergency room doctor who contracted coronavirus and recovered. She's an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Columbia Medical Center as well.

Dr. Kass, thank you so much for joining us.

You were diagnosed with coronavirus on March 19. You returned to the emergency room in your capacity as a doctor on Sunday.

First of all, how are you feeling? And what toll did this virus take on you?

DR. DARA KASS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: So, I'm feeling great, actually energized and ready to get back to work.

I think that what Diana just said in the piece about feeling like you have these little hazmat suits in your body, when you feel like -- when you're immune and know that you have antibodies, is definitely true.

[18:25:02]

I had a mild course of disease. And so I was able to recover at home. A lot of my friends who have this also have mild course of disease, and some have to go to the hospital and have supplemental oxygen.

BLITZER: Due to a lack of access to testing, for example, Dr. Kass, have not actually tested negative, I understand, for the virus, but you have returned to work. You're still living in a hotel, I understand, also.

How serious is the lack of widespread testing, from your medical perspective?

KASS: So, the lack of widespread testing is probably the single biggest issue regarding us getting back to any sort of normalcy, because we don't actually know who's infected. We don't know anything about our asymptomatic carriers, and we don't know who's not infectious anymore.

So, for example, I have been symptom-free for somewhere around two- and-a-half weeks, and I should be able to consider myself non- infectious, but I can't get tested again, which is why I'm still in a hotel, because I can't go back to my transplant child, not knowing for sure if I'm no longer contagious.

And we know, based on the CDC guidelines, that nonessential workers are being told to go back to work with a mask on after a duration of being symptom-free, but they're not being tested in New York and around the country and a lot of places negative before they're going back to work.

BLITZER: Because tests have shown that -- and correct me if I'm wrong, you're the doctor -- that you're immune to this virus.

But do we know for sure? Do we know enough about this coronavirus that you feel confident in your long-term immunity?

KASS: No, definitely not.

I think that we know that, right now, I know for sure that I have antibodies, and I have antibodies enough to donate plasma, which is so encouraging and very exciting. But we don't know what those antibodies confer as far as either short-term immunity or long-term immunity. And this is another one of the pieces that we have to know before we

expect to get back to any sort of normalcy. When you have the virus and you recover, if you have antibodies, are you immune, for how long, and what does that mean for reengaging back into society?

BLITZER: Do you plan to donate your plasma to help others who are trying to fight this virus?

KASS: Absolutely. I think that that's absolutely one of the best ways that I can give back, even being a doctor. It's a way that anybody can give back.

If you have been lucky enough to survive having the virus, and your body mounts a response, it's a great way to help other people survive as well.

BLITZER: I understand, Dr. Kass, now, you know just as many people who have coronavirus as those who do not.

For many Americans being confronted with that level of infection is even hard to imagine. Can you describe what it's like to watch this virus cripple the community where you live?

KASS: So I think that there's a lot of pieces of this virus.

First, when you find out you have it, I think there's a sense of relief, knowing that you at least got tested and that you have -- you have an answer to why you're feeling so bad, right? We have seen both as my work in telemedicine -- I have seen a lot of people be able to recover at home and not have to go to the hospital.

We see about 15 percent of the patients have to go to the hospital for supplemental oxygen, further testing, with pneumonia, all sorts of complications with all their different organs.

And then, unfortunately, a number of them have to go to the ICU. So I think that, if you're a health care worker who's infected, you immediately, -- as soon as you find out that you're positive, you start thinking about all the patients, the ones that have done well, and the ones that haven't done well.

And you have no guarantee, even if you're a normal, healthy, 42-year- old female, with no previous medical problems, that you're going to be one of the ones that's going to do OK. And that's an additional level of anxiety from -- based on experiences we're having on the front lines.

BLITZER: I can only imagine what you have been going through. Fortunately, you're OK right now.

Why is it so important, Dr. Kass, at this stage in this pandemic, to remain vigilant about social distancing? Because, as you know, a lot of people who are watching right now, they want to go out and try to get back to normal.

KASS: We all want to go back and get back to normal. And the best way to do that -- and I think one of the guests you had earlier basically called this out -- is that the economy is deeply tied to the infection right now.

And until we understand the surveillance and the immunology, we're not going to be able to get back to normal. We're seeing evidence of our social distancing working in New York. And it's a real calling card for the rest of the cities in America to say, if you stay home, maybe you won't have as many cases as we had, maybe you won't see as many people pass away.

That is not an early -- I don't want to see people get false security that somehow we're done with this. This is the first wave of an ocean, and many other cities are still not even hit with their tidal wave.

So, I really think that we need a vigilant.

BLITZER: Very quickly, before I let you go, getting back to the issue of testing, when you say you want to get a test, and they say you can't get a test, what's their explanation?

KASS: The explanation is that, we only have so many tests and we have to test the sickest patients.

Right now, we're testing all the patients that get admitted to the hospital, because so many asymptomatic patients that are -- have COVID, they come in for another complaint.

And the reality is, we were told months ago -- or I guess weeks ago, but it feels like months ago -- that we would have an unlimited capacity to test in America. And we don't.

[18:30:01]

So, we need to increase that, because health care workers who are feeling sick are still not getting tested. And, definitely, people are not getting tested to figure out if they're no longer infectious.

BLITZER: That's clearly outrageous indeed. Well, good luck, Dr. Kass. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with our viewers.

KASS: Thank you so much for having me.

BLITZER: And just ahead, public health experts say California's early and aggressive preparation for coronavirus are paying off. So what can other states learn?

Plus, major concerns in Chicago right now by a huge coronavirus outbreak inside a county jail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:35:00]

BLITZER: In Chicago right now, more than 400 people are linked to one jail have now testing positive for the virus, making the facility the largest known source of infections in the United States, outside of medical facilities.

CNN's Omar Jimenez, joining us from Chicago right now. Omar, what are you learning, first of all, about the outbreak at the jail?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is an outbreak that progressed extremely rapidly. It was just over two weeks that we were reporting the first two confirmed cases of coronavirus at this jail. And here we are weeks later, that number over 400, more than 250 jail detainees, 22 of them hospitalized and 150 staff members.

And you mentioned the major accolade here that it's a grim accolade and one that I'm sure the jail did not want to have. Because of those numbers, this is now the largest known source for coronavirus cases in the country entire outside of medical facilities, Wolf.

BLITZER: Will the inmates there that are most vulnerable to serious complications, Omar, be released early?

JIMENEZ: Well, that was the thought and that was a thought when a lawsuit was filed last Friday on behalf of two detainees pushing for the release of -- or transfer of those that were elderly or medically compromised. But that order was denied today by a federal judge this afternoon, saying, there wasn't enough evidence provided that what's being done right now was insufficient and the judge did put in an order that detainees need to have facemasks by April 12 that are showing symptoms.

BLITZER: All right. Omar, thank you very much. Omar Jimenez, joining us from Chicago.

Detroit also has been one of the nation's hot spots for the virus. Let's go to CNNs Ryan Young. He is on the scene for.

Ryan, Michigan's governor briefed reporters earlier today. What did you learn?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes she did. In fact, she extended the stay-at-home order for the rest of the month. And when you look at the numbers here, Wolf, they are still growing. Today, we reached that grim number of over a thousand deaths with COVID 19.

And just in the Detroit area, to give you an idea, 1,400 ventilators are being used in Michigan. 1,200 are being used in Detroit. And as we talk to more and more people, you can see there are families that are being hit with this virus all at once. I talk to a funeral home director who said three and four people are dying inside homes.

So you can understand how painful this is, at Sinai-Grace hospital, in fact, their workers there who at are telling us there are patients all along the hallways and they even lost patients in the hallways because they weren't able to care for them because it was so busy.

The hospital is pushing back and saying they are trying to surge more staff workers into the area to make sure there is adequate staffing. But as you talk to more people, they're concerned about the overflow. We know tomorrow at the TCF Center, which is an arena, they're going to have 25 COVID beds come to be operable. There's going to be 970 other beds. But they're going to scale this up slowly as they get more staff. We are seeing more National Guard showing up in the city to help out. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Ryan, thank you. Ryan Young in Detroit for us.

Just ahead California's early efforts are gaining praise for slowing the spread. So what is that state doing that's right?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: Once again, we are waiting for the experts over at the coronavirus task force briefing, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield, Dr. Birx, to start answering question. But listen to this exchange that our Jim Acosta just had with the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: -- discuss the possibility of reopening the country when the administration does not have an adequate nationwide testing system for this virus. Don't you need a nationwide testing system for the virus before you reopen it?

TRUMP: No. We have great testing system. We have the best, right now, the best testing system in the world. But there are certain sections in the country that are in phenomenal shape already. Other sections are coming online. Other sections are going down.

And we, in addition to that, are giving out millions of tests, and every day, we're doing it exponentially. We're picking up. And what we will be doing in the very near future is going to certain areas of our country and do massive testing. It's not necessary but it would be a good thing to have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's go to Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, the president defending the testing, although we just heard from one doctor at Columbia Hospital in New York say she had it. She is now showing those symptoms but she can't get a test herself even though she is an emergency room physician.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. The president claimed that the U.S. is the best testing system in the world right now. That is far from the truth. And I'm not even sure anyone else in the coronavirus task force or inside the White House would make that statement because they know that testing has been one of the biggest struggles they have had in dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. They have been very upfront about. You have heard several officials talk about it, including Dr. Fauci, who said it was a failing of their response to this and it's something they were going to have to look at in the time to come after this outbreak when they are evaluating how they did. But also the president's claim that where he seemed to say, no, he does not think that we need a nationwide testing system to return people back to work seems to go against a lot of the expert opinion we have heard that talking about reopening the economy, which we know is number one on the president's list, would require a really expansive system to test people because in order to send people back to work, you need to know if they have it, you need to know how to be able to contact tracing.

[18:45:10]

Those are the things we've heard -- been talking about constantly when talking about the president's plans to reopen the country. But he seems to be suggesting he does not think that is necessary. So, the question is, how are health experts going to respond to that, including the president's own Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, who I believe are -- they are in the briefing room with the president? And, of course, how are state officials going to respond to this.

But, Wolf, as it stands right now, we do not have the best testing system and that was even evident on a call today that Dr. Fauci had with senators where they expressed widespread concern about the fact that there are still not adequate testing in a lot of areas. Yes, it has ramped up, yes, it has improved from where it was, but it is certainly not at the place where most people believe it should be. And like you just said there, we are hearing stories all day long from people who are still struggling to get tests.

So, it's just pretty stunning that the president will try to make the argument that the U.S. has the best testing system in the world, when pretty much no one else has said that that we know of lately.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point indeed.

Daniel Dale does fact checking for us.

So, what do you think, Daniel?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Well, the president was asked about the need for a nationwide testing system. And he seemed to interpret that as the reporters suggesting that we need to test each and every person. As Kaitlan said, that's not what the experts are saying. What the experts are saying is that in order to reopen the economy, we need the capacity to test people who may be showing symptoms, who we need to know are able to go back to work without infecting others and forcing a re-shutdown. No one is suggesting that we need to test all, you know, 330 million people.

And Trump also said that we have distributed millions of tests. As of his own update this week, the number of tests actually conducted was less than 2 million. So, whether those tests are being distributed or not, the capacity to actually conduct the test, process the test, get them through the labs has not matched the rhetoric that we've heard from Vice President Pence and President Trump himself.

BLITZER: That's an important point as well. You know, Gloria, you know, the president, he answers these questions, he never acknowledges that he may have misspoken, or was wrong in the past.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No, no. No, no, no, no. Well, Donald Trump would never do that. And even what it comes to the pandemic, he would never acknowledge that he had misspoken and we can go through chapters and verses as we do all the time, starting with, this is just like flu, or it will go away in a warm weather, or we have 15 cases then it will go down to zero.

But what this is about with his answer on the testing is he does not want anything to slow down what he wants to do. And we talked earlier about the disagreement that it will inevitably come between the scientists and the president's need -- and, you know, he wants to open up the economy. We all understand that. Everyone would like to open up the economy.

But he doesn't want anything to get in the way. So, when Jim asked the question about the testing, I am looking at my notes there, the president said, oh, it's not necessary. It would be a good thing to have.

We want to have it. Sure. Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do, the president said. Yes.

But it's more than a nice thing to do, because how are you going to get people back to work, and make sure that this curve doesn't start climbing that mountain again? And one way to do it is antibody tests, and make sure that people who go back to work are not going to infect anybody, or are not in danger of getting infected themselves. So, this is something that it has been argued about, it will continue to be argued about.

And it's very clear where the president seems to be coming down on this right now, which is, don't slow down this train. And we can't test everybody, so we're just going to have to figure out a way to do it without doing that. And the question is, the question that I have is, will the governors agree?

Because the president has stepped back, he has said this is not a federal issue. He always says I believe in the Constitution, and for some reason that is what keeps him from telling governors what to do. So, if he is taking a back seat and continues to take a backseat, if he says, OK, it's OK for a certain part of the country to go back to work. What will a governor in that part of the country say to the president of the United States?

Would a governor, for example, say, you know what, we're not going to do that until we get the tests?

BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. There's a lot more we are covering right now.

Just ahead, as life in China slowly returns to normal, some are concerned about a potential second wave of virus infections. We'll update you on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:54:35]

BLITZER: Life in China right now is beginning, beginning to return to normal as the country emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

CNN's David Culver is joining us live from Shanghai.

David, so, what are you seeing on the ground as things begin to reopen?

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, beginning in parts like here in Shanghai, Wolf. We're starting to see it returned to normalcy and it's a return to complacency, too. And that's something that officials are trying to push back against.

[18:55:02]

When we've seen large crowds coming together, people returning to shopping, and restaurants, and even some tourist sites just packed with crowds. And that's making some uneasy.

However, you go to places like Wuhan, and even though they have eased the restrictions in the past few days, there's a hesitation amongst a lot of the folks who live there to step out of their homes. And more than that, there are still restrictions put in place by local communities, telling people essentially if they are the HOA or condo association equivalent, they can only leave their home for two hours a day still and can only have one person per family do so.

And go further to the north of China, northeast, and along the border with Russia, real concerns there, Wolf. I mean as some places are coming out of lockdown, we're hearing about a new --

BLITZER: All right, David. Hold on for a moment. I want to listen to the vice president.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- with mental disorders or struggle with addiction, and the president brought some incredibly dedicated people together to make sure that they know we're with them. Early on, the president expanded access to telemedicine. And we've also issued guidance for using technology to remain connected to social support groups.

And we just urge everyone, everyone who may be feeling a -- an emotional burden or a vulnerability during this time to -- to reach out to the many resources that are there and to know that you're not alone and that we're with you and we'll get through this and we'll get through this together.

So, despite heart breaking losses that have continued this week in communities from New York to New Jersey to Louisiana, there are signs of progress and hope abounds. The reality is that we see new projections from the experts. And if the projections are right, it's because it's working, America. It's because the American people are putting into practice the social distancing, caring for their neighbors and their loved ones and their family members, and putting their health first.

And we just want to urge every American to continue to put those principles and guidelines into practice every day.

With that, I'm going to invite Dr. Deborah Birx up for an update and Dr. Fauci. We'll hear from the secretary of labor, and we'll take a few questions.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

So, I wanted to cover today not only what we're seeing across the United States but some of the testing data to assure from the prior question if we're testing, I'm sure you're following our numbers every day and the amount we're going up about 118,000 to 120,000 per day are being tested. So, we're way over the 750,000 per week currently.

We have some statistics. Now, remember we required this, thanks to Congress, to be reported. We have about 75 percent of that test data in now. About 1.5 million of those tests have been reported in.

I just wanted to give you some ideas because sometimes we think that we're only testing in the hospitals, that this should give you an idea of the quantity and the types of tests that have occurred.

So we've tested over 200,000 young people up to age 25. They have about 11 percent positivity rate. Over half a million people between 25 and 45, they have a 17 percent positivity rate.

Now, remember, in order to get tested, you have to have symptoms. So, this gives you an idea of the number of people who have symptoms that are not infected with coronavirus.

Another, nearly 500,000 people between 45 and 65, their positivity rate is 21 percent. Another, nearly 200,000 between 65 and 85, 22 percent positive. And a small group of about 30,000-plus individuals over 85, and they have a 24 percent positivity rate.

So, this gives you an idea of (ph) we're testing throughout all age categories.

I see a lot of men in the audience today. I just want to remind them about the importance of health care. Of the male/female ratio, 56 percent of the people who are tested are female, 16 percent positive; 44 percent male, 23 percent positive.

So, again, it gives you an idea about how men often don't present in the health care delivery system until they have greater symptomatology. This is to all of our men out there no matter what age group. If you have symptoms, you should be tested and make sure that you are tested.

We appreciate you engaging in that, and also really recognizing the issues about comorbidities and making sure that we're addressing those.

I had a series of great calls with about 17 states that are in our more rural areas, specifically around our indigenous people in tribal nations. It's a very reassuring call. And, you know, we are testing across the country.