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Trump Says Decision Coming "Fairly Soon" on Reopening U.S. Economy; Hospitalizations Down in New York But Death Rate Still High; UK PM Boris Johnson Released from Hospital. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired April 12, 2020 - 13:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone, and thank you so much for joining me this Easter Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Today a candid assessment from the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, telling CNN's Jake Tapper that earlier coronavirus mitigation efforts would have saved more American lives, but there was initially pushback to shut down the country.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I mean, obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that. But what goes into those kind of decisions is complicated. But you're right. I mean, obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Kristen Holmes is at the White House for us.

So, Kristen, first, Happy Easter. The president also has an Easter message for everyone via Twitter. Meantime, he says he will make a decision fairly soon on when to reopen the country. Are you hearing anything more specific from the White House?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Happy Easter, Fred. Well, when it comes to details about reopening the government or this decision, President Trump hasn't given a specific date, but we do know there has been behind-the-scenes conversations with administration officials talking about May 1st. Now President Trump has said he's going to convene an Opening Our Country Council this week that will have doctors, medical experts, business leaders, to talk about this.

But there's two things to note here when we're talking about President Trump's decision. One is that it's not President Trump's decision to make. President Trump himself did not issue any sort of national stay- at-home order, any sort of national lockdown. In fact, he said that was the job of the governors. Therefore, there is no national opening to be had here, nothing for President Trump to do.

Now that being said, we know that some of these Republican governors will likely be influenced if President Trump gets out there and starts rattling the saber to reopen the economy. However, again, not President Trump's decision to make.

Now the other important point to look at here is what exactly would this look like? Is there a scenario in which we just pick a day and the entire economy reopens? Now medical experts, they're saying it's not going to look like that. Take a listen to Dr. Fauci when he was talking to our Jake Tapper earlier.


FAUCI: it is not going to be a light switch that we say, OK, it is now June, July, or whatever, click, the light switch goes back on. It's going to be depending where you are in the country, the nature of the outbreak that you've already experienced, and the threat of an outbreak that you may not have experienced. So it's going to having to look at the situation in different parts of the country. I think it's going to have to be something that is not one-size-fits-all.


HOLMES: Now, Fauci said he had talked to a lot of governors throughout the week. He thinks that they're all going to do what's best for their state. We have already been hearing from governors on CNN's air today saying that they're going to do what's best for them. They are not looking at some sort of federal mandate. They think this is their decision, looking at the models, talking to their health experts -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kristen Holmes, thanks so much, at the White House. We'll check back with you.

On to New York now, Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke this morning saying that new hospitalizations are down and the curve is flattening, but the death rate is still terribly high.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Let's start with the good news because we deserve some good news, Lord knows. Change in total number of hospitalizations is down again. This is the number that we have been watching because the great fear for us was always overwhelming the hospital system, the capacity of the hospital system.

You're not seeing a great decline in the numbers. But you're seeing a flattening. And you're also seeing a recurrence of the terrible news, which is the number of lives lost, which is 758.


WHITFIELD: CNN's Jason Carroll joins us me right now.

So, Jason, Cuomo also announced today that he is working on a reopening plan to be implemented when the time is right. And he says one of the keys needed to unlocking the state is more testing. So what else did Governor Cuomo have to say about when New York might decide to reopen?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, he knows that's the key question on the minds of so many people here in the state, when things can reopen here. And he says, look, if you look at numbers, he wanted to point out that the numbers appear to show that the social distancing is working. The closures, that is working as well.


He's also said in the past, Fredricka, that he doesn't want New York state to make the same mistakes that other places have made when they try to reopen too soon. So a lot of things have to happen in terms of coordination, looking what's happening at the local level, looking at what's happening at the state level, looking at what's happening with businesses. But again, he says before anything can happen, the key is going to be testing as many people as soon as possible.


CUOMO: We want to reopen as soon as possible. The caveat is, we need to be smart in the way we reopen. What does smart mean? It means a coordinated approach, a regional approach and a safe approach. Nobody wants to pick between a public health strategy and an economic strategy. And as governor of this state, I'm not going pick one over the other.

We're going to need testing, more testing, faster testing than we now have. When you start to move people back to work, and we're going to need federal help. There is no doubt about that.


CARROLL: And New York's governor and New York's mayor who have disagreed on a key issue about school closures, do agree on that one point that the governor just mentioned there, and that has to do with federal help in terms of getting the testing that the state needs. They say that the federal government hasn't given them what they need so far, so there's going to be a real push to see if that happens -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jason Carroll, thank you so much. We'll check back with you.

All right. Dr. James Phillips is a physician and an assistant professor at George Washington University Hospital and a CNN medical analyst.

Good to see you and Happy Easter, Dr. Phillips.


saying, you know, more testing is needed, testing of as many people as possible? But the newest message from the president is that not everyone can be tested.

PHILLIPS: Well, I think that Governor Cuomo is right. It's great to see what's probably happening in New York right now which is where, if you look at the data, which is critical, we do see sort of a plateau in that curve which is most -- most especially secondary to social distancing that people should be proud of that they've been doing.

The death rate does continue to go up, as you see a sort to seven to 10-day lag behind that curve. And sort of the curve behind the curve. Where new cases diagnosed will start to plateau, but where the really sick folks and those who passed away from this are going to lag that by seven to 10 days or maybe even more. And testing is going to be critical for certain as we go forward. There's a lot of planning that needs to take place there.

WHITFIELD: Do you feel like there's reason to be encouraged right now?

PHILLIPS: I do. I do. But I don't want to be too optimistic too early. I think that Americans should be extremely proud of themselves. The governors who have been aggressive about this should be extremely proud of the work they have done in shutting down large-scale mass gatherings, because that social distancing really does matters.

The message has gotten out to the vast majority of the country, 98 percent of whom are under some sort of governmental doctrine to keep them separated. And that seems to be making a big difference.

Now that doesn't apply to the whole country. I'm in Washington, D.C., and we're starting to see an uptick in our cases, but it is favorable to see what's happening in New York that they seem to be plateauing.

WHITFIELD: Dr. Fauci admitted on CNN today that some lives would have been saved if mitigation efforts to control the coronavirus have been put in place earlier. Do you think that the federal government and states were slow to react to this outbreak?

PHILLIPS: Time will tell. I think that there's a lot of factors that go in to making big decisions like that. I think that the WHO was certainly behind on calling this a public health emergency of international concern. I also think that they were behind on labeling this a pandemic. I was -- I was quick to use that term and even CNN was quick to use the term pandemic prior to the WHO. So I think that had those terms been used more widespread, that perhaps some decisions would have been made earlier.

But then again, we're also seeing information that those at the highest levels of government were getting advice but still chose not to take it. So it's sort of that difficulty in separating politics and medicine. All we can do as physicians and scientists is try to make our voice heard the best we can.

WHITFIELD: You're there in Washington, D.C., many leaders in Washington, D.C. are making a forecast, a dire forecast that the numbers might increase there in the nation's capital, and it could be in June. How are you bracing for that?

PHILLIPS: Well, it's interesting. I knew that there was a model that showed our peak was supposed to be sometime last week but there's also those saying even in June. For us, we've been preparing for this for decades and more importantly for the last few years since Ebola, really brought back the idea of pandemic to the forefront.


But here in Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, you know, my hospital is six blocks from the White House. We take disaster preparation extremely seriously. And we're fortunate. But the rest of the country may not be as prepared as we were going into this. We are seeing an uptick in the number of new cases and the number of deaths here and that sort of Baltimore to Washington, D.C. corridor. Yesterday I saw certainly an increased number of patients when I was in the emergency department. And when I go in there in an hour and a half from now, I expect to see more patients today.

WHITFIELD: Dr. David Nabarro, the World Health Organization's special envoy on coronavirus, had an ominous warning earlier today. Take a listen.


DR. DAVID NABARRO, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION'S SPECIAL ENVOY ON CORONAVIRUS: We're not so sure that it will come in waves in the way that influenza does. We think it's going to be a virus that stalks the human race for quite a long time to come until we can all have a vaccine that will protect us and that there will be small outbreaks that will emerge sporadically and they will break through our defenses, so the key for this particular virus is that every community has a kind of defensive shield, can pick up cases as soon as they appear, isolate them and stop outbreaks from developing.


WHITFIELD: So he's also underscoring that this is not believed to be a seasonal, you know, virus which leads to a disease. How concerned are you that until there is a vaccine available that there really may not be a return to normal any time soon?

PHILLIPS: Well, I think he's right that this virus is not going to be seasonal to start. We have decades of epidemiology and virology that have been looking at different types of viruses and how they behave. There's 68 different diseases that display some sort of seasonality. And they don't all do it at the same time. Not every disease is popular in the winter versus coming in the summer. But we've seen that everything from smallpox to the influenza virus, measles, chicken pox, they're all seasonal.

But what that requires is a few things. It requires to a degree heard immunity, that a significant, if not a majority proportion of the population has to be immune to the virus, either through immunization or through having contracted it and convalesced. And we're nowhere close to that. So without that type of herd immunity, there's no reason to believe that we're going to go seasonal.

And in addition, we're seeing spread through warm and some tropical areas. So the absolute humidity, which is typically a very important factor in viral spread, doesn't seem to be that important in this particular virus right now.

WHITFIELD: And then how hopeful are you about this coronavirus antibody testing?

PHILLIPS: That's a good one, right? So what I hope is that this IGM and IGG test which is, you know, scientific terminology for the type of antibodies that detects in your blood, we hope that they are accurate and we hope more importantly that the presence of those antibodies in your blood actually means that you're immune to the virus. That's important. And we know that you can't be re-infected. And we're still waiting on that data to show us that.

If it does prove to be the case, then what we can do is try to use that testing to screen members of the population before they return to work and hopefully that means that they will remain immune. That's important for not only businesses but also schools if we hope to return some time in the fall.

What's important for people out there right now to know is that the FDA is still working on actually approving these tests and there's a lot of counterfeit tests out there. I have people contacting me all the time saying hey, I've got 25,000 tests I'm going to purchase from China. But we know that a lot of those are counterfeits. So I caution people about that testing. And to urge the FDA -- they don't need it. They're working on it. But I hope that they can quickly find a test that is accurate and that it can be used because it proves immunity.

WHITFIELD: All right. Many reasons to remain hopeful this Easter Sunday.

Dr. James Phillips, thank you so much.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is out of the hospital today and has a message for his caregivers and the UK.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It's hard to find words to express my debt. But before I come to that, I want to thank everyone in the entire UK for the effort and the sacrifice you have made and are making.




WHITFIELD: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now out of the hospital just days after being released from intensive care. Johnson contracted the coronavirus and was later admitted to a hospital when his symptoms suddenly worsened. For the first time today the world heard from Johnson in a video statement where he admitted it could have gone either way for him.


JOHNSON: Good afternoon. I today left the hospital after a week in which the NHS has saved my life. No question. It's hard to find words to express my debt. But before I come to that, I want to thank everyone in the entire UK for the effort and the sacrifice you have made and are making.

When the sun is out and the kids are at home, when the whole natural world seems at its loveliest and the outdoors is so inviting, I can only imagine how tough it has been to follow the rules on social distancing.


I thank you because so many millions and millions of people across this country have been doing the right thing. Millions going through the hardship of self-isolation, faithfully, patiently, and with thought and care for others as well as for themselves.

I want you to know that this Easter Sunday I do believe that your efforts are worth it and are daily proving their worth, because, although we mourn every day those who are taken from us in such numbers, and then the struggle is by no means over, we are now making progress in this incredible national battle against coronavirus. A fight we never picked against an enemy we still don't entirely understand.

We're making progress in this national battle because the British public formed a human shield around this country's greatest national asset -- our National Health Service. We understood and we decided that if together we could keep our NHS safe, if we could stop our NHS from being overwhelmed, then we could not beaten and this country would rise together and overcome this challenge as we have overcome so many challenges in the past.

In the last seven days, I have of course seen the pressure that the NHS is under. I've seen the personal courage not just of the doctors, the nurses but of everyone, the cleaners, the cooks, the healthcare workers of every description, physios, radiographers, pharmacists, who kept coming to work, kept putting themselves in harm's way. Kept risking this deadly virus.

It is thanks to that courage, that devotion, that duty, and that love that our NHS has been unbeatable.

I want to pay my own thanks to the utterly brilliant doctors, leaders in their fields, men and women, but several of them for some reason called Nick, who took some crucial decisions a few days ago for which I will be grateful for the rest of my life.

I want to thank the many nurses, men and women, whose care has been so astonishing. I'm going to forget some names so please forgive me, but I want to thank Po Ling and Shannon and Emily and Angel and Connie and Becky and Rachael and Nicky and Ann. And I hope they won't mind if I mentioned in particular two nurses who stood by my bedside for 48 hours when things could have gone either way.

They're Jenny from New Zealand, Invercargill on the South Island to be exact, and Luis from Portugal, near Porto. And the reason in the end, my body did start to get enough oxygen was because for every second of the night they were watching and they were thinking and they were caring and making the interventions I needed.

So that is how I also know that across this country, 24 hours a day, for every second of every hour, there are hundreds of thousands of NHS staff who are acting with the same care and thought and precision as Jenny and Luis. That is why we will defeat this coronavirus and defeat it together.

We will win because our NHS is the beating heart of this country. It is the best of this country. It is unconquerable. It is powered by love.

So, thank you from me, from all of us, to the NHS. Let's remember to follow the rules on social distancing. Stay at home. Protect our NHS. And save lives.

Thank you and Happy Easter.


WHITFIELD: All right, that message from the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson now out of hospital.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo is in London.

So, Bianca, you know, that seems a pretty stunning admission from the prime minister that it could have gone either way for him.

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's startling to hear that, Fred, that the prime minister, the leader of the United Kingdom, says it was touch and go for him last week.


That's what we'd heard from those close to him as well. His fiancee who's pregnant with their child said on Twitter today that it had been very dark days understandably for her and that she felt she could never repay the debt to Britain's National Health Service.

What we heard from the prime minister in that video which he released this morning, recording after he got out of hospital, was moving. It's a powerful tribute to those who work in the health care service. He named them. It's unusually emotional to see that display but appropriate in these circumstances. But, Fred, what I really want to draw viewers' attention to is how

important it is that actions follow up those words. That's something that I have been hearing from members of the health service and those on the front lines that I've been speaking to, obviously it's wonderful to hear the prime minister name those members of the health service, who've come from all around the world, that nursed him back to health.

But there's still problems with PPE all over the country. There's an uneven distribution. There are certain aspects of the kit that people don't have enough of. And Britain is still well behind in testing. Also this message comes on the day that Britain has hit some of the milestone as the health secretary called it, over 10,000 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in the country, 737 recorded in the last 24 hours alone.

And that's just hospital deaths, Fred. That's not those who have died in care homes, in prisons or in their own homes. So it's so important that while we have this sensational and important story about the prime minister's health, never, ever to lose sight of what is happening in the country at large.

WHITFIELD: So with that said, are the expectations high that given his personal experience that some of those things might be addressed?

NOBILO: That is the hope. And that was the question that was being put on the health secretary in the conference today. He was being asked questions about the personal protective equipment that still isn't coming into the hands of those who need it.

The prime minister has clearly expressed his gratitude for the health service and I'm sure we'll have an even more renewed dedication to providing it for them. But that is where the focus needs to be now and I'm sure it will be in the coming weeks. But he is going to be recovering at Chequers which is the prime minister's estate tucked away in the country in Buckinghamshire, a 16th century manor house.

So he won't be leading in the same way as he was a couple of weeks ago. We don't know for yet how long he's going to be there. Dominic Raab is still technically leading the country and deputizing for the prime minister.

But, Fred, all of the attention now is going to be making sure that those medics get what they need.

WHITFIELD: Looking for that follow-up. All right, Bianca Nobilo, thank you so much in London.

All right. Still ahead, the Kansas Supreme Court sides with the state governor restricting religious gatherings to just 10 people. So why are churches still open? We're live in Kansas City, next.


[13:32:32] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: With more than 1200 coronavirus cases overnight, the Kansas state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the governor to temporarily ban mass gatherings, but that doesn't seem to be stopping at least one church that is remaining open on this Easter Sunday despite the court's ruling.

CNN's Gary Tuchman joins us now from Kansas City.

So, Gary, how is it that this church is getting around the state's ban on mass gatherings?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, there is an interesting story behind it. First of all, I'll tell you, it's a very stormy and rainy Easter here in Kansas and many people have been calling this the war over Easter. That's been the quote from a lot of people. That's because the Democratic governor of this state signed a law that said that people could not go to church if there were more than 10 people inside the church.

That's what she signed. But then it was overturned by a state committee of legislators, five Republicans and two Democrats, voted by party line, overturned that, but then last night the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the governor.

So as we speak it is against the law to have more than 10 people in a church on Easter Sunday. The reason the governor said she signed that is because three clusters of coronavirus cases came from religious gatherings.

But here at this church, the Risen Savior Lutheran Church, outside of Kansas City, just to the west of it, there were 25 cars in the parking lot an hour and a half ago. In those 25 cars, we counted about 40 people who went inside. The pastor told us, though, there were 55 people inside. We were not allowed inside. But what the pastor is telling us is this. He says they practiced social distancing inside, that people were not sitting near each other.

But you may be wondering, why is he willing to break the law to have more than 10 people inside. And he said, it's a novel situation he says, and there is a loophole possibly in this law -- this order that was signed by the governor and that loophole is this. That you're allowed to have people who work for the church, members of the choir and musical performers that don't count as part of the 10.

He said everyone who was inside the church is a musical performer because they all sang and they put a video on YouTube after the church service. It's a very novel explanation. Would a judge agree with that? I have no idea at all, Fred. But there were about 55 people inside this church for the 10:00 a.m. Central Time service. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Fascinating. All right. Gary Tuchman in Kansas City, appreciate it.

All right, and in the rest of the country people are finding ways to celebrate Easter while facing unprecedented social restrictions.


CNN's Natasha Chen is following that story for us.

So how are people celebrating, expressing their faith today?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, thank goodness for technology, right? We've already seen people gathering online this week for virtual seders. We've seen people give mass live stream for weeks, in some cases drive-thru benedictions.

Easter mass, today, was given in an empty St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. Cardinal Timothy Dolan there giving his service online. But something we're seeing in a lot of places including in Washington, D.C. The National Cathedral where they had people individually submit their singing to create an online choir, and at one point they had 448 singers put together. A really powerful moment.

In Detroit the archbishop described this experience of figuring out technology in live-streaming as one of the strangest things he's ever experienced. Here's what he said.


ARCHBISHOP ALLEN VIGNERON, ARCHDIOCESE OF DETROIT: Way up at the top. Right at the top. Because it's about trying to help people respond and it's about thinking everything from the bottom up. You're sort of reinventing it as you go along.


CHEN: Of course, many states have limited gatherings to 10 people or fewer. And some states are exempting churches. In Arkansas, the governor says he will not cite or arrest faith leaders for holding in- person gatherings today but hope that churches will work with authorities to make sure everyone is social distancing.

On the other end of the spectrum, Kentucky has state troopers actually marking down license plates of people gathering today and turning those over to the health department who will then ask those people to self-quarantine for 14 days. The Kentucky governor says people who disagree with him are not the ones who have to read out the death count every day.

So it isn't without controversy but whether services are held online or in person, we're noticing that many people today, Fred, are praying for hospital workers, first responders, people on the front lines who are going to work at risk themselves in order to help others.

WHITFIELD: Mm-hmm. So many people counting their blessings on this Easter Sunday. And it is nice to see the many ways in which people are connecting even if there are blocks if not miles between them.

Natasha Chen, thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, Dr. Anthony Fauci on why reopening the country will not happen quickly. His one-on-one interview with Jake Tapper, next.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It is not going to be a light switch that we say, OK, it is now June, July, or whatever, click, the light switch goes back on.




WHITFIELD: Dr. Anthony Fauci, our nation's top infectious disease expert, acknowledges that lives could have been saved if social distancing guidelines were implemented sooner but the key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force says early mitigation efforts were largely opposed. Listen to what Dr. Fauci told CNN's Jake Tapper on the "STATE OF THE UNION" this morning.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: If you take a look at where we are right now in the U.S., the U.S. now has 50 times more cases, and almost 100 times more fatalities than South Korea. Meanwhile, while the U.S. makes up only about 4.25 percent of the world's population, the U.S. has 30 percent of the world's reported coronavirus cases and almost 20 percent of the reported coronavirus deaths.

Sanjay Gupta said that's -- this is all because we got started too late in the U.S. Is that right? Do you agree?

FAUCI: You know, it isn't as simple as that, Jake, I'm sorry. I mean, to just say this is all happening because we got started too late. Obviously, if you look, could you have done something earlier would it have had an impact? Obviously. But where we are right now is the result of a number of factors. The size of the country, the heterogeneity of the country. It's -- I think it's a little bit unfair to compare us to South Korea, where they had an outbreak in Daegu, and they had the capability of immediately, essentially, shutting it off completely in a way that we may not have been able to do in this country.

So, obviously, it would have been nice if we had a better head start, but I don't think you could say that we are where we are right now because of one factor. It's very complicated, Jake.

TAPPER: "The New York Times" reported yesterday that you and other top officials wanted to recommend social and physical distancing guidelines to President Trump as far back as the third week of February, but the administration didn't announce such guidelines to the American public until March 16th, almost a month later. Why?

FAUCI: You know, Jake, as I have said many times, we look at it from a pure health standpoint. We make a recommendation. Often the recommendation is taken. Sometimes it's not. But we -- it is what it is. We are where we are right now.

TAPPER: Do you think lives could have been saved if social distancing, physical distancing, stay-at-home measures had started third week of February, instead of mid-March?

FAUCI: You know, Jake, again, it's the what would have, what could have. It's -- it's very difficult to go back and say that. I mean, obviously, you could logically say, that if you had a process that was ongoing, and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives. Obviously, no one is going to deny that.

But what goes into those kinds of decisions is complicated. But you're right. I mean, obviously, if we had, right from the very beginning, shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.

TAPPER: Do you think it will be safe in November for voters to physically go to vote at the polls?


FAUCI: I hope so, Jake. However, and I don't want to be the pessimistic person, there is always the possibility, as that as we get into next fall, and the beginning of early winter, that we could see a rebound. And, hopefully, hopefully, what we have gone through now, and the capability that we have for much, much better testing capability, much, much better sera surveillance capability, and the ability to respond with countermeasures, with drugs that work, that it will be an entirely different ball game.

So, number one, I hope we don't have a rebound that would make this very difficult as we get into November. But if we do. and there certainly is a possibility, I'm a realist, it certainly is a possibility, hopefully, we'll be able to respond to that rebound in a much more effective way than what we have seen now in January, February, March.

WHITFIELD: Dr. Anthony Fauci.

All right, still ahead, President Trump celebrates Easter, live- streaming the service of a controversial pastor who once referred to Mormonism as a cult. The backlash, next.



WHITFIELD: President Trump got a special shout-out this morning after he said he planned to watch a controversial pastor's online Easter service.


REV. ROBERT JEFFRESS, SENIOR PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF DALLAS: Today I'd like to say welcome to a very special visitor. A great friend of mine, our great president, Donald Trump. Mr. President, we're so honored that you would choose to worship with

us today, and I know there are millions and millions of Christians all over this country who are not only grateful for you, but they are praying for you regularly for that continued wisdom that comes from God as you navigate us through this crisis we're in.

We are going to get through this. We will make it to the other side, but we want you to know we're praying for you.


WHITFIELD: Pastor Robert Jeffress is a strong supporter of the president but he has a long history of saying controversial things about other religions.

CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood joining me now.

So, Sarah, what's behind this?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, Pastor Jeffress is not just one of the favored pastors of President Trump, not just someone he tuned into just for Easter services, but he's actually an adviser to President Trump and has been since the days of the campaign where he accompanied the president on the campaign trail. He also sits on the president's Evangelical Advisory Board.

But as you mentioned, Jeffress does have a controversial past, a history of saying inflammatory things. He's gone after Mormons, Catholics, gay people in the past. He describes other religions often in fiery terms. He used to describe Mormonism, for example, as a cult, and he's gone after the beliefs of former GOP nominee now senator, Mitt Romney. That cost Romney back in 2018 to describe Jeffress as a religious bigot when Jeffress was invited to pray at the opening ceremony of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

And Jeffress also has gone after gay people in the past, saying inflammatory things, like saying that gay people live miserable and filthy lifestyles. But today in his sermon today, Jeffress also gave another shoutout to President Trump saying that he supports President Trump because of all the things that Trump has done for the evangelical community.

And that's really how a lot of evangelicals who support President Trump had described and defended their support of a president who has faced accusations in the past of things like infidelity, saying that what President Trump has done for Christians, done for the evangelical community has gone beyond what any president, Republican or Democrat, has done before in their eyes -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Sarah Westwood, thank you so much, in Washington. Appreciate that.

All right. Straight ahead, living through the horrors of coronavirus. Next, the lessons learned by those who have recovered from the virus.


WHITFIELD: While there are more than a half a million coronavirus cases in the U.S. it's important to note that the majority of individuals who contract the virus will recover. So what does recovery then look like?

Our Brian Todd investigates.



BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shareka Williams's 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 is 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 you know when you're coming out of it?

DR. MICHAEL MINA, IMMUNOLOGIST, HARVARD CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: The most important things to look for 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 -- 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 and improving your energy, improving your breathing.

TODD: Then, there's what one recovering patient calls the Rip Van Winkle effect. David Lat spent 17 days in the hospital and was on a ventilator for six days without even knowing it.

DAVID LAT, CORONAVIRUS SURVIVOR: When 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 had been a week ago. I asked my husband to bring some -- some books to the hospital, and so I asked, "Did you bring those books?" I just -- it really didn't 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: 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 response 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 Barrent (PH) is donating her plasma so others can other benefit from her antibodies.

DIANA BARRENT (PH), CORONAVIRUS SURVIVOR: I like to think of it as a superhero.