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THE SITUATION ROOM

Every State Under Disaster Declaration For The First Time In U.S. History; The New York Times Article Painting A Damning Portrait Of White House Response; New York Mayor & New York Governor Disagree Over Who Have The Authority To Cancel New York City Public Schools; President Donald Trump: Reopening Country Will Be "Biggest Decision" He's Ever Made; President Donald Trump: Testing All Americans Is Not Going To Happen. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 11, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of "The Situation Room". The Coronavirus pandemic has now taken more than 20,000 American lives. There are more than 524,000 confirmed Coronavirus cases in this country. Worldwide, Coronavirus cases have passed 1.7 million with more than 108,000 deaths.

We're one day removed from the deadliest day yet here in the United States. On Friday, more than 2,000 Americans died from Coronavirus. And as the numbers keep ticking up, Americans are adjusting to the new normal for the first time in this country's history every single state is now under a disaster declaration at the same time.

Along with those declarations, some areas are simply implementing stricter measures. In Michigan, for example, the stay-at-home orders have been given. Residents are now banned from traveling to another home or property, risking a $1,000 fine or jail time.

In Kentucky, the Governor declares anyone attending Easter services will face a misdemeanor violation and 14 day quarantine. State police will record the license plates of anyone attending Easter services tomorrow.

In Los Angeles it is now mandatory for employees and customers of essential businesses to wear masks. The country's epicenter remains New York. The state accounts for 181,000 cases. That's more than any single country outside the U.S.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio meanwhile they're sparring over whether the city schools will be closed for the remainder of the academic year. This as Governor Cuomo today highlighted the state's staggering daily death toll.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D-NY): Terrible news is the number of lives lost 783 yesterday. That is not an all time high. And you can see that the number is somewhat stabilizing, but it is stabilizing at a horrific rate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Meanwhile, President Trump is spending his Easter weekend mulling over a way forward for the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm going to have to make a decision and I only hope to God that it's the right decision. But I would say without question, it's the biggest decision I've ever had to make.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now the administration stalled response in the early stages of the outbreak are back under the micro scope. According to "The New York Times" report back on February 21st, the White House Coronavirus Task Force concluded that parts of the country would need to be shut down to stop the spread of Coronavirus.

More than three weeks later, the President issued social distancing guidelines. And those came on March 16th. During that gap, the nation's Coronavirus cases ballooned from under 20 to over 4,000.

CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond is joining us from the White House right now. Jeremy, so what happened in the White House during that nearly one month gap between the task force's initial recommendation on shutting down areas and the President's finally issuing distancing guidelines?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, according to "The New York Times", it was the third week in February by the time which top public health experts inside the government had concluded that aggressive social distancing was going to be necessary to stop the spread of this evolving pandemic across the world.

They plan to urge the President to implement those social distancing guidelines, but the President at the time was traveling in India, so they had scheduled a briefing with the President for the day that he returned.

But on that flight returning from India Wolf, a lot changed. The Doctor Nancy Messonnier, one of the government's top public health experts warned that there could be serious and severe impacts to daily life.

The stock market was also crashing at the time and the President grew furious. Instead of that briefing that he was expected to receive where those public health experts were going to urge him to implement these social distancing guidelines, the President instead had a news conference where he put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the Coronavirus response. And from then on, Wolf, the response inside the White House really began to shift. And they began to focus a lot more on messaging, on assuring the American people that they had this epidemic under control.

Of course Wolf, we now know that that was the - far from the truth at the time. It's not clear exactly when Wolf the President was first briefed again on those social distancing guidelines and implementing them.

[19:05:00]

DIAMOND: But it was more than three weeks between the time when those officials concluded that those measures should be put in place, and when the President ultimately decided to do so. Of course Wolf that was precious time lost.

But what we also know is that beyond those three weeks of time, we know that in January and in February, top government health experts and other administration officials national security officials intelligence officials were warning about the scale of this potential pandemic, those warnings of course Wolf, the President was ignoring at the time.

We know publicly that the President in January and in February repeatedly downplayed the threat of this violence.

BLITZER: Yes. Suggesting it was completely under control. Jeremy the President is now saying he will listen to the medical experts before "Opening up the country once again". But CNN reported these consulting with Wall Street friends who are strongly urging him to open up the economy as soon as possible. What can you tell us about that?

DIAMOND: That's right, Wolf. A person familiar with the conversation tells CNN that the President is hearing from friends in the finance industry and in the business world, some of whom are urging the President to put a date on the calendar to decide when to reopen the country.

That is of course a debate that is brewing inside this administration as well. And that really is the story of the President's response to this pandemic. The President getting an earful from advisers on the outside of the White House, advisers inside the White House and on both counts Wolf, the President is often getting conflicting advice as well.

We do know that, that is the topic that is on the President's mind this weekend though. He is looking at when he can potentially begin to reopen the country. But just yesterday Wolf we heard that warning from Dr. Anthony Fauci saying we need to have testing in place before anything can move on that front, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very important point indeed. All right Jeremy, thank you very much, Jeremy Diamond at the White House. We'll get back to you. Meanwhile, a sharp focus on New York State and New York City, where a combined more people are sick and have died from the virus than anywhere else in the United States.

A hint of some possible good news today, according to the State's Governor Andrew Cuomo this morning saying New York's curve is continuing to flatten. His words, given cautious hope that the number of people who need to be hospitalized is tapering off, nobody's celebrating, of course, but the Governor says the number of people becoming infected is lower.

On the other hand, the New York City Fire Department is reporting more than 700 firefighters and emergency medical service professionals have tested positive for the virus. In all, more than 2500 fire department members are out sick or hurt, including those who are dealing with the Coronavirus.

Let's go to CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro. Who is joining us from New York? Evan, there is sick outs in the fire department clearly one of the major concerns in New York, and the potential impact on the city's readiness, but also today, some confusion about public schools in New York City whether or not they will remain open or remain closed for the academic year. What's going on?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, let's start with what everyone agrees on, which is that schools in all of New York State have been closed for several weeks and they will remain closed through April 29th, which is the end of the pause period, the current end of the pause period, that's the stay-at-home order from the Governor called pause here in New York.

The question is what happens after that? This morning, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio held a press conference where he said, look, you look at the numbers, you look at what's going on and said, okay, the schools in the city, the largest school system in the United States a million students will remain closed through the scheduled end of the academic year on June 26th, no one's going back to school, it's all shut down.

Teachers were alerted, parents were alerted. It went up on the school's website it was out there. Only a couple hours later though, Governor Cuomo held his press conference where he said, actually it's his call if the schools close or remain open in the entire state, including New York City, and that he hasn't determined what he's going to do yet.

He called Bill De Blasio, the Mayor's announcement and opinion and said that he's going to try to coordinate with other Governors, states in the surrounding area, and other school systems to determine just what to do about the schools.

But really an open question now is to what's going to happen because there are former order went out from the Mayor, and the Governor then immediately counter amended it.

BLITZER: It's a huge, huge development. This is the largest school district New York City in the country. But widen the view, Evan for us, a little bit. How many states have already closed their schools for the remainder of the academic year? What's the plan to help kids? A lot of kids depend on school meals every day, especially in the urban areas, the poorer areas. Will they be getting those meals?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, the sure answer to that question is yes, they will as much as they possibly can. One of the more interesting things about this period of time is we've learned a lot more about the roles that schools play outside of academics, and you see here in New York City, for example there are 400 meal delivery - meal availability sites set up by the school system.

[19:10:00]

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: And it is not just for students who would usually get meals, but for any New Yorker who wants them, can get three meals a day. That's what's going on across the country where you're dealing with the future of school closures. Right now 21 states and 3 U.S. Territories have said schools will remain closed until the end of the year and meals and those things will continue as long as they can through that time. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right Evan, thank you Evan McMorris-Santoro in New York City for us. As of this morning, Michigan is now under one of the country's most aggressive stay-at-home orders, the new order bans residents from traveling to a vacation home or from example or from visiting the home of a neighbor or a relative.

Michigan's Governor cites these numbers to justify the new harsher travel restrictions. More than 23,000 confirmed Coronavirus cases in Michigan, more than 1300 dead. CNN's Ryan Young joins us from Detroit right now. Ryan, the Detroit certainly one of this country's hotspots for the virus right now. What's the latest where you are?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well absolutely Wolf, we were talking to people today, and they absolutely said well how could anyone enforce this? This is supposed to stop people from going over to their neighbor's house to even watch TV. Who's going to know?

But one other thing that does stand out about this if you has a sick relative, you can visit them, but you can't buy paint from a store. So there is sort of a big conversation about what should people do and what they shouldn't do?

But one thing I this is more about people than it is about numbers. We actually talked to one family that had to make the difficult decision to figure out exactly who could attend a funeral?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn't want to go away like this. And he did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just know this, we done the best that we could.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: These short cell phone videos of her husband's funeral were the only way Marie Smith could see it from quarantine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARIE SMITH: Well, his name is Rayshon Smith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: She hasn't left her house since testing positive for the same virus that killed him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMITH: I didn't want him to be here alone. But I just felt like he was there for everybody and actually like he was alone, like no one was able to be there for him. I had to make an executive decision to keep myself and my daughter home. We don't want to go to another funeral.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: In the last three weeks, Marie says she, her father and brother have all tested positive for COVID-19.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMITH: People in the family started displaying flu-like symptoms, no idea it was Corona nothing like just. Hey, I don't feel so good. My husband, his symptom was a high fever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: With strict social distancing rules in place their trip to the hospital March 16th, would be the last time she saw him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMNITH: That was like you can't be here, you can't be here. They sent my daughter and me out. We were waiting in the car seat waiting to hear from him. He said baby, they're going to admit me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: Their next conversation a last minute gesture from a worried nurse.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMITH: The nurse felt so bad for my daughter and me. She used her personal phone and face timed us which I thought was really, really nice. So she let us speak with him. I just told him, I'm really scared. He says, yes my husband - he's not afraid of anything. But he was very, very scared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: Just seven days after arriving at the hospital, he was gone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMITH: He went in the hospital on a Monday, and he passed away on a Monday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: The speed of the deadly and contagious Coronavirus is leaving families like the Smith's holding unexpected and under attended funerals at a frightening pace.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very, very challenging.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: At Major Clora funeral home in Detroit no more than ten immediate family members can pay their respects in person.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAJOR CLORA, FUNERAL DIRECTOR: Just receiving so many death calls at once. This week has been one of the most overwhelming weeks that I've ever had in my career.

UNIDENITIFIED FEMALE: I'm doing everything I can to safeguard myself and my family.

(END VIEO CLIP)

YOUNG: As for those still waiting to say their last good-byes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I promised her, when this is all over, we're going somewhere, we're going to scream and cry and hold each other. And we're going to go visit her dad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: Wolf, we talked to many families across this area who is dealing with these difficult times. And I also tell you that look Easter is a time where people like to come together. You can remember for yourself, families getting together, gathering and saying a prayer, that's all being broken up right now.

And I can tell you officials are hoping that tomorrow people will stay inside and avoid each other. Talking to a funeral home director, he says he's getting multiple families with multiple family members losing their lives to this virus.

BLITZER: Yes. So heart breaking. Ryan Young thanks for that report, Ryan Young in Detroit. Meanwhile in the midst of a Coronavirus pandemic that has cost more than 20,000 American already, the President and some allies are focusing in on reopening the economy.

[19:15:00]

BLITZER: Just a couple weeks ago, the President said this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. We have to open our country because that causes problems that in my opinion could be far bigger problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: But when exactly is the right time to reopen the country? I'll ask the Former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: During a Coronavirus Task Force briefing yesterday, President Trump said he will have to make the biggest decision of his Presidency, talking about when the U.S. economy will reopen and when Americans can go back to work? Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm going to have to make a decision. And I only hope to God that it's the right decision. But I would say without question, it's the biggest I've ever had to make.

[19:20:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What metrics you will use to make that decision?

TRUMP: The metrics are right here, that's my metrics. That's all I can do, I can listen to 35 people. At the end I got to make a decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Joining us now the Former Surgeon General of the United States under President Obama Dr. Vivek Murthy. Dr. Murthy is also the author of "Together: The healing power of human connection in a sometimes lonely world"

Doctor thanks so much for joining us, though. The President has hesitated to publicly offer a specific date to reopen the country after he was forced to back off his original Easter Sunday timetable. Internally, we're learning officials are pushing to do so by next month may be as early as May 1st. Do you think America is ready for that?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, I think everybody wants the country to reopen as quickly as possible. But it's got to be safe. And I think it's very unlikely that by May 1st, we'll be able to open up the entire country.

The truth is that we need to see several critical things in place before we make a decision to relax the physical distancing measures we've asked people to take. So in addition to seeing the number of new infections dramatic decrease each day there are that three Ts as think of them, testing, tracing and treatment that we need to ensure that we have in place.

And you think about those three right now we are testing less than 150,000 people a day. We need to be doing at least four or five times that amount if not more. In terms of tracing, we still don't have a clear plan that's been articulated yet for how we're going to ensure that if an infection crops up in any state that we have the ability to trace contacts and also quarantine people effective effectively.

Some states are feeling quite comfortable doing that, but others are not. We know an infection that spreads one place could spread everywhere. And finally we have treatment, we have to be prepared hat there could be a second surge, which means that we need to ensure that our hospitals have the materials and supplies that they need to be able to handle a new surge of patients.

Until we have those three elements met testing, tracing and treating, it's not safe to open the country back up.

BLITZER: Well, how do you make sure that there isn't going to be a second wave of infections?

DR. MURTHY: Well we may not be able to entirely prevent a second wave Wolf. But what we can do is try to tamp down how big that wave will be? And how long it will last? And that's where the preparation really comes in.

And right now, when I talk to health care workers around the country and hear from them about their ongoing struggles with protective equipment and masks and their ongoing trouble getting testing done in an efficient manner, they're starting to lose faith that we're going to be able to get a handle on this.

And I think one suggestion I would have for the Federal Government is, if we really want to restore people's faith and ensure that people feel confident that we're going to get through this. They need to lay out a clear pathway for how we're going to achieve our goals on testing, tracing and treatment capacity?

Right now what we're hearing is that we've shipped millions of masks. We're hearing that testing is ramping up and those are good. But we're not hearing where we need to go? How many masks do we need for the whole country? What testing capacity should we be at? Are all 50 states in a place where they can test and quarantine appropriately?

Until we get more concrete and more transparent on that plan and the implementation, I don't think people are going to feel comfortable that we're ready.

BLITZER: Well, let's talk about testing for a moment. I want to get your reaction Dr. Murthy to something else the President said this week about testing. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We want to have it, and we're going to see if we have it, do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes, we're talking about 325 million people, and that's not going to happen as you can imagine. And it would never happen with anyone else either, other countries does it but they do it in a limited form, we'll probably be the leader of the pack, please.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, so the President conceded that mass testing is not going to happen but how important is testing when it comes to reopening the country hopefully as you point out? We all wanted to reopen sooner rather than later, but it's got to be safe.

DR. MURTHY: That's right Wolf, testing it turns out is an essential part of the strategy, and the reason is that you - think about testing capacity like our eyes. It's what allows us to see what's happening. And if we don't have the ability to test, then we will encounter what we did a month and change ago, which is the disease will be potentially spreading again under our noses but we won't know it until it's already spread quite far.

So that's why we need testing, to be able to detect new disease if it crops up, and then we have to be able to jump on it and contain it that's where the tracing and quarantine come in. The other utility of testing is here is also depending on how extensively we're able to develop and study and scale antibody testing?

[19:25:00]

DR. MURTHY: We may be able to develop tools that help us "Clear People" to be safer to come to work or to care for the elderly. So it turns out testing capacity is the essential. When you look at other countries that have started to open up at the heart of their strategy has been rapidly scaling up testing.

Until we do that, it will not be safe and we're going to be putting ourselves at risk for another resurgence of COVID-19 infections.

BLITZER: And we of course know how quickly this Coronavirus has spread. You look at the numbers on the side of the screen halfway million total cases here in the United States. Right now confirmed Coronavirus cases more than 20,000 confirmed Coronavirus deaths in the United States.

We did some checking a month ago on March 12th there were 1274 and 38 deaths in the United States. You see how it's exploded within a month alone? Dr. Murthy, thank you so much for joining us as usual.

DR. MURTHY: Thank you so much Wolf.

BLITZER: The question in everyone's mind right now so what's next? The Former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary who oversaw the Obama Administration's response to the Swine Flu pandemic joins us live to discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:30:44] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, here are some good news today for

our country from the Internal Revenue Service. The I.R.S. now says it has started sending out the first stimulus payments to taxpayers' bank accounts today.

The agency says it will continue issuing the payments direct deposit as fast as possible. The payments are part of the stimulus package passed in March, sending checks, mailing checks that's going to take a bit longer according to the I.R.S.

Meanwhile, in April of 2009, when the Obama administration was barely four months old, the World Health Organization then declared a public health emergency of international concern H1N1, swine flu had emerged in the U.S. and was spreading quickly.

It ultimately infected an estimated 61 million people in the United States. Kathleen Sebelius was then the Secretary of Health and Human Services. That's when the pandemic broke out. She's joining us now, Secretary Sebelius, thanks so much for joining us. So what are some of the lessons you would apply from that pandemic to what we're all facing now?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, FORMER SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Well, Wolf, it's good to be with you, 61 million people were infected ultimately, with H1N1. We didn't have a vaccine, same situation we're facing now, and people were really scared and in the same situation.

So our President at that time said, we have to follow the science. But the science tells us is the guidance we will follow about closing schools, about people shutting down workplaces, tell people what you know, and what you don't know and tell them over and over again and speak with one voice.

President Obama felt that the Federal government had unique authorities and powers and be mobilized those powers to put out clear information, clear directives.

We worked hard on a vaccine. We were lucky because it was a strain of the flu. So we could get a vaccine more quickly, but we had to convince people first to get a flu shot and then to get the additional vaccine for the H1N1 on top of that, and it ended up being a very successful program.

We lost unfortunately, about 12,500 people, most of whom were older and had underlying health conditions, but it was a mortality rate lower than the average flu season, but still, way too many lives were lost.

But the Federal government has to have a role and a critical role in supplies, in guidance, in following the science in bringing the whole country along. And then having some extraordinary outreach and compassion for the thousands of Americans who not only have lost their livelihood, but thousands more who have lost their lives. We are in a very difficult situation.

BLITZER: Indeed, and I know you've been very critical of the mixed messaging coming out of the Trump administration. What impact does that have?

SEBELIUS: Well, I think it's very difficult. I'm here in a state right in the heartland, I'm in Kansas, and I thank God every day we have a governor who took early steps shutting down schools, the first in the country, making it very clear with her very competent Secretary of Health what the guidelines would be, what the rules would be.

But we're seeing politics played as some of the Republican legislators try to curry favor with the White House, where they're trying to suggest that maybe this is overreach. It's a nanny state. We don't need to follow these guidelines.

In fact, we have a Supreme Court who had an extraordinary hearing this morning to deal with whether or not the Executive Order on no more than 10 people gathering at a time should deal with church services. That's a real political football.

But hopefully Kansans are wise enough and smart enough to follow the governor and follow the Health and Human Services Secretary, an Army surgeon who is giving very clear guidelines.

I think it's very difficult when the President gives very mixed messages, you know, full churches on Easter Sunday. We're pulling back from that.

[19:35:07]

SEBELIUS: The C.D.C. says everybody should wear a mask when you're in a public space and can't be more than six feet apart. The President says from the podium, I don't intend to wear a mask.

So, again, we're surrounded by states who have chosen not to have a stay-at-home order and distance in place, and that puts everybody at risk.

BLITZER: And you speak with special authority because you're also the former governor of Kansas. Kathleen Sebelius, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it very much.

SEBELIUS: Wolf, good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you. As countries around the world take extraordinary measures to protect their citizens and try to stop the spread of the coronavirus, one world leader is seizing on the moment and making a power grab. We'll update you on that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: With countries around the world in virtual lockdowns as a result of the coronavirus, many officials are taking extreme measures right now to ensure citizens follow orders to stay at home and stop the spread of the virus.

[19:40:10]

BLITZER: But the leader of one European country is now using the moment to seize more power and to simply crush dissent. Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VIKTOR ORBAN, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We have made the following decisions. We are prolonging the duration of the lockdown and definitely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): On Thursday, Hungary's Prime Minister claiming success slowing coronavirus, announced the current lockdown to last indefinitely.

Last week, he wants sweeping powers to rule by decree without a time limit. It struck fear into the hearts of many in Hungary, where his increasingly autocratic leadership can effectively lock up journalists and threaten the rights of minorities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATALIN CSEH, HUNGARIAN MEMBER OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: Nobody should exert unlimited power for unlimited time. Power always has to have its balance. There is -- the checks and balances has to persist even in the most difficult situations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dictator is coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON (voice over): Orban's history with the European Union is troubled. He doesn't share their democratic values. Yet, their official response to his power grab has been only verbal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIAN WIGAND, EUROPEAN COMMISSION SPOKESPERSON FOR JUSTICE, EQUALITY AND RULE OF LAW: Emergency measures cannot come at the expense of our fundamental principles and values as set out in the treaties.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON (voice over): Hungary's answer, we're doing nothing wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER SZIJJARTO, HUNGARIAN FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: The law says very clearly that we can make decrees only in accordance with protecting the country, the people and the economy from the challenges related to the virus.

And we definitely have to make such kind of decisions, but we are not the only one. All countries in the world, I guess, make that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTSON (voice over): The E.U. could up their game, trigger Article

7.1, claim that Hungary is in serious breach of E.U. values. It's an action that could result in the suspension of some of Hungary's membership rights.

But for now, the E.U.'s bigger challenge is keeping unity under the economic pressures of the pandemic.

Orban needs E.U. funding. His critics say the E.U. needs to get tough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CSEH: Be very vigilant about what happens with those who are in power. When democratic backsliding starts, it's very hard to stop it. The road is very slippery and we Hungarians are going in the wrong direction as of now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON (on camera): Hungry isn't the only country where democracy risk being a victim of the pandemic. In Poland, the ruling Nationalist Party is pushing through presidential elections next month in the hope of getting their candidate a win. Europe and its values are being tested, just as its cohesion is at its weakest.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Nic, thank you. As the Coronavirus pandemic has swept across the nation, the Federal government has faltered in its response. A former governor and a retired U.S. Army General both say it's now up to local governments to find a solution to the problems they're facing. They'll both join me when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:47:56]

BLITZER: The battle is clearly on against the coronavirus and my next two guests agree we can't simply depend on the Federal government, we need leaders and state and local governments to cooperate to give us the best chance of fighting and winning.

In an op-ed from cnn.com, the former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and retired U.S. Army, General Stanley McChrystal write this, "Federal level solutions are not going to come out of nowhere to save us. The right solution won't look the same in every state and every city. The war will be won by winning each local battle, but local battles don't have to be won alone."

Joining us now Governor McAuliffe, and General Stanley McChrystal. Guys, thanks very much for joining us. General McChrystal, you say there are lessons from your fight against al Qaeda in Iraq that apply here as well. Explain what you mean. GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL (RET), U.S. COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN: Well,

there are, Wolf. In 2003 when al Qaeda in Iraq emerged, they were different than anything we'd seen before. They were fast moving. They were viral. They were lethal. In reality, very much like COVID-19.

We had to take a different approach where we distributed are forced, but we synchronized our effort every day.

BLITZER: And that was an obviously successful operation at that time. Governor, you say your experience during the Ebola outbreak taught you the value of communications, how significant it is, how critical it is. Explain how.

TERRY MCAULLIFFE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well let me just say when I dealt with the Ebola crisis, the Obama White House and the C.D.C. immediately contacted us when they thought that this pandemic could come to the United States of America, and immediately we got on the phone with the White House and the C.D.C. and I've got to say, they were very helpful.

I immediately set up an incident command. I brought all my health professionals, all of us together and said, we're going to deal with this we're going to tackle this together.

I went and took over two hospitals to build Ebola Centers so that people could be designated, made sure we have all of the equipment, and then most importantly, I work with then Governor O'Malley and Mayor Gray of D.C. and every statement we made, every coordination we did, we did is one unit, but we worked very closely, Wolf, with the Federal government. I can't tell you how important that was.

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MCAULIFFE: All of our states are unique, but they truly were our partner. And today, unfortunately, here many different guidelines coming out of the C.D.C. The same health professionals that I worked with the bill, the incident response for Ebola, they're now saying today that they're not getting the directions, they are getting a lot of information out from the cable news.

BLITZER: You know, General McChrystal, there are clearly some obvious times where the goals of the politicians and the Pentagon for example, do not match and governors may be experiencing back pressure that you obviously, a retired four-star general know all too well as the White House pushes to reopen the country maybe some -- before some of the states are really ready to do that. What's your advice to governors caught in this crossfire right now?

MCCHRYSTAL: I think the first thing is they need to be connected to each other. They need to pass information, pass lessons learned, strengthen each other a little bit. Sometimes you can feel pretty isolated even as a leader of a large state or organization.

Build a community and I believe that they have the friendships there, but build that so that they can go back to the Federal government, make a case that as Governor McAuliffe says, needs to be customized for each location, but needs to be informed by all locations and needs to be coordinated so at the end of the day, it is a complete response to the threat.

BLITZER: Yes, that's so significant. Governor McAuliffe, you say, we can't win this fight with governors, for example, bidding against each other for critically needed supplies. Instead, you say we need a network that connects them to make informed cross border decisions. Does that kind of network exist?

MCAULIFFE: Well, it certainly should exist, as Stan and I recommended in the op-ed, F.E.M.A., with the N.G.A., one entity should have taken over total control of buying the ventilators, buying the personal protective gear, getting the masks, one entity, Federal government with the states so we don't have issues, see people are scalping prices today, states are competing.

You just read in Colorado, the governor went out and got 500 ventilators. The F.E.M.A. came in and took the 500 from Colorado, and then the President tweets out that I'm giving you a hundred back on the advice of Cory Gardner, the senator who is running for reelection. This isn't a political pandemic. Unfortunately, the President's bringing politics and personal issues into it.

But we need a coordination. We can't have states competing against one another. It bids the price up. And we're in a very serious situation today. I mean, today the President is tweeting out that he's mad at Fox TV.

Well, why is he sitting around watching cable? I spent my day talking to people who don't have masks. I talked to Lee Saunders today, the head of AFSCME, one of the people of his union members called him today, 35-year-old man who is using Scotch tape to hold masks together. People's lives are in jeopardy.

This is the greatest nation on Earth. We need to coordinate, all of us need to come together, and we need to deal with this like this truly is the war that we're fighting.

BLITZER: You know, General McChrystal, you know, obviously there were mistakes -- serious mistakes made in January, February, March. But let's look ahead. What needs to be done now, if the President were to call you and say, what do you think we need to do right away? What would you say?

MCCHRYSTAL: Well, I think the first thing is to establish the kind of network that Governor McAuliffe and I recommended, something that is alive that passes information in real time that allows you to understand the situation because the virus is a fast moving, developing enemy.

It goes for gaps and seams, because it's by definition, opportunistic. So get an accurate picture, be able to allocate resources, move expertise, apply lessons learned in a real time basis.

BLITZER: You think Governor McAuliffe that important lessons are being learned right now if there is a second wave, for example of the coronavirus pandemic in August or September, or God forbid, there's a new virus that comes along down the road, are we learning important lessons?

MCAULIFFE: I certainly hope we are and the next time this occurs, the Federal government needs to get more active, we need to get information immediately. We wasted seven, eight, nine weeks where states could have been preparing.

But the thing that's clear today, when you talk to people around the country, today, testing is insufficient. So we cannot open up this country until people are being adequately tested and testing is -- it's very insufficient around the country.

I can tell you here in Virginia, people today don't know how to get a test, and until we deal with that, so I hope we're learning lessons, but we've got a long way to go. We can do this, but we've got to coordinate. We need to work together.

The governors need to work with the Federal government, not competing, not playing politics, working together for the good of our citizens, and we've got to put the politics, get it out of it. The President needs to lead on this with the 50 governors to come in together and say we're going to act as one unit. We're going to beat this pandemic.

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BLITZER: All right, Governor McAuliffe, General McChrystal, guys, thanks very much. Thanks for writing that op-ed as well.

Coming up. We're going to take you inside one of the so-called surge hospitals being built across California right now to only care for patients with coronavirus. Much more of our special coverage right after this.

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