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THE SITUATION ROOM

Fauci Says, U.S Could Have Saved Lives If Social Distancing Enforced Earlier; Total Number Of Cases In New York City Now Over 100,000; IRS Says, First Stimulus Payments Deposited This Weekend; Small Businesses Wait For Cash After Chaotic Loan Program Start; Nearly 17 Million Americans File Jobless Claims In Just Three Weeks; Interview With Mayor Jenny Durkan (D), Seattle, About How Seattle Seems To Have Flattened The Curve; Interview With Governor Chris Sununu (R-NH) On When To Reopen New Hampshire. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 12, 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]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin this hour with a stunning admission from the nation's top infectious disease expert and a shocking number out of New York right now, the city's total number of cases now over 100,000. That news coming as Dr. Anthony Fauci tells CNN more lives could have been saved if the administration had followed the advice of health experts and issued social distancing recommendations earlier. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: There certainly was. And the possible effects of that pushback are in the numbers you're seeing on your screen, more than 550,000 confirmed cases here in the United States and a death toll nearing 22,000. Of course, no one can say how much lower the numbers would have been if the White House had taken action sooner.

Meantime, the president is spending this Easter Sunday weighing what he calls the biggest decision of his presidency, when to reopen the country. Dr. Fauci explained to my colleague, Jake Tapper, what any sort of moves to open up the country might look like in the coming months. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: It is not going to be a light switch that we say, okay, 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 be having to look at the situation in different parts of the country.

I think it could probably start at least in some ways, maybe next month. And, again, Jake, it's so difficult to make those kinds of predictions because they always get thrown back at you if it doesn't happen, not by you, but, you know, by any number of people.

We are hoping that at the end of the month, we can look around and say, okay, is there any element here that we can safely and cautiously start pulling back on? If so, do it. If not, then just continue to hunker down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: By the way, we won't be hearing directly from the White House today. We've been told no coronavirus task force briefing. So, if the president has made what he calls the biggest decision of his presidency, we certainly don't know that decision yet.

Let's go to our White House Correspondent, Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy, those words we just heard from Dr. Fauci, he says maybe next month for some possible relaxation of the public health guidelines, does that line up with what you're hearing from inside the White House today?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in listening to Dr. Fauci there, you can get a little bit of a feel for how those discussions inside the White House are going and what the factors are that they are considering. We've heard Dr. Fauci in the past, and other officials, talk about the need to have widely available testing in order to actually move forward here with relaxing some of those guidelines. And we know that the president is now in the process of beginning to think through when he could reopen the country.

As he is doing that, he is hearing from a wide range of voices, both inside and outside the White House. We know that outside the White House, the president is hearing from his political advisers as well as some in the finance world who are urging the president to get a date on the calendar by which the economy can begin to reopen. And some inside the administration are pushing for May 1st to be that date.

But as you heard from Dr. Fauci, the public health experts don't believe that this should be all at once kind of reopening nationwide. Instead, they'd like to see a phased rollout of this. We know that some of the factors that administration officials are looking at, some of the potential ways to open the country, one by geography, another by age, and also looking at specific industries that could begin to open up. And again, those social distancing guidelines that the president extended for a month, they expire in about a month. Now, as I mentioned, testing is going to be crucial here in order to actually, for the president and for his officials, to know which parts of the country can begin to open up again. And what we're hearing from the president on Twitter just a few moments ago is this, Wolf. Governors, get your states' testing programs and apparatus perfected. Be ready. Big things are happening. No excuses. Federal government is there to help. We are testing more than any other country in the world. Also, gear up with face masks.

Wolf, this is the latest that we are seeing in the president's attempts to shift blame and to shift the responsibility onto the shoulders of the states.

[18:05:01]

Testing has been a huge issue from the federal government, and it is the federal government's responsibility to get those testing -- that testing capacity rolled out across the country.

And another inaccuracy, we should point out, in the tweet, the president here saying that we are testing more than any country in the world. Wolf, as you know, the United States has lagged many other countries in terms of per-capita testing. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, good point, indeed. All right, Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thanks very much.

With more on the sobering admission that we heard earlier today, Dr. Fauci right here on CNN, I want to bring in Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency room physician and instructor at the Harvard Medical School. Also joining us, Dr. Ivan Walks, the former chief health officer for Washington, D.C.

Dr. Walks, why do you think the alarms were basically ignored in mid- February, even late February, by the administration, that they've got to start taking some action? It wasn't until mid-March that things began to happen.

DR. IVAN WALKS, FORMER CHIEF HEALTH OFFICER, WASHINGTON, D.C.: Thank you for having me. Wolf, I don't know why the alarms were ignored. I know that the alarms were sounded.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

I think we lost Dr. Walks. We'll try to reconnect with him.

Dr. Faust, what do you think?

DR. JEREMY FAUST, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: Well, I think that what we had here was a little bit of a failure of imagination. We didn't think this could happen to us. If you look at all the past crises that have occurred around the world, SARS, MERS, Ebola, somehow, it never reached us. So I think that we had a sense of immunity and an overconfidence and even arrogance.

And so, what we can do now is to do the things that we should have done initially, which is to ramp up the test capacity and to really set up a public health system that we really can do and that really has been successful around the world in places like South Korea and Germany, where they were able to get ahead of this.

So, I think the major problem is, we kind of thought this couldn't happen to us, and those who did think it could, they weren't being listened to.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Dr. Faust, the president certainly voiced his desire to reopen the country by May 1st. All of us would be thrilled if the country could reopen by May 1st. And he just tweeted that governors should get their testing programs ready. He said, be ready, big things are happening. But there are dangers if the country reopens too early. Talk about that.

FAUST: That's absolutely right. And the thing is that opening up the economy is not a plan. It's actually the goal. And in order to achieve that goal, in my opinion, you have to have certain conditions on the ground. Doctors like me and public health experts, we are looking for certain things. And we're looking for a sustained, very low level of cases, not just a little leveling off, but a real decrease that's sustainable and measurable.

And on top of that, we need to be able to detect cases if they recur. A second wave could occur if we open too soon. And kind of like a concussion, the second hit could be much more dangerous, both in terms of lives and the economic effect. So what I'm looking for is that we open up when it's safe to do so.

BLITZER: I think we've fixed the technical problems with Dr. Walks. Dr. Walks is joining us once again. I want you to listen, Dr. Walks, to what Dr. Fauci said on the risks of the virus, this coronavirus, in some form, potentially, re-emerging in the fall. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: I don't want to be the pessimistic person. There is always the possibility as we get into next fall and the beginning of early winter, that we could see a rebound.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think about that, Dr. Walks?

WALKS: Well, Wolf, having worked with Dr. Fauci in the past, I absolutely listen to what he says. And in public health, you want to be a realist, and you want to tell the truth, and you want people to understand what you care about what's going on and you're going to give it to them the way they need to understand it, that clear talk is very important.

So, yes, there is concern that we can see a resurgence if we reopen too early. As things cycle around again in the fall, there are a lot of things that aren't known and aren't set in stone, and that's why that strong, steady voice of Dr. Fauci is so useful at a time like this. BLITZER: Yes, I've often said he's a national treasure, indeed. I've known him for many, many years.

What have you learned, Dr. Walks, in the emergency room over the last, let's say, two months or so that will help the medical community respond for effectively if we do see -- and we hope we don't -- some sort of resurgence of cases?

WALKS: What have I seen that will --

BLITZER: Yes.

WALKS: -- that will help us? I think several things that I've seen. I've seen medical personnel and also the folks who work around the hospitals, the people who clean the floors, the people who do security, be very afraid because they're not sure that they are being protected. We have a chance to prepare better for that with the PPE and with better planning.

[18:10:02]

So, that's something that's concerned me.

I see that certain neighborhoods and certain communities are being impacted more by the coronavirus. We love to say the virus hits everyone the same. It doesn't matter. No, it really doesn't, because we're not resourced the same, our health status is not the same. And so what we see now is another, yet another opportunity to look at our communities and look at them relevant to how they are different and prepare for that.

I've also seen that we need to make sure that our people that are out there on the frontlines, that they get rest. It is so hard to watch so many people who are tired. And because of their commitment, they continue to go to work. We know that when people are tired, they may not be quite as sharp, and we want everyone to be as sharp when they're protecting themselves and when they're caring for us.

So, there are a lot of lessons learned. If we get a little bit of a breath before we have another resurgence, there are a lot of lessons for us to pay attention to.

BLITZER: That's really important. And, you know, let me bring back Dr. Faust. Do you believe that reopening the country, whether the schools, the businesses, everything else, should that be a decision made on a state-by-state basis or on a national level?

FAUST: That's a great question that experts are really going through right now. And I think that it will depend on, as I said before, the testing capabilities. I'm very concerned that we won't be able to know where the ball is, and therefore, we might have to kind of go back to a very widespread shutdown.

And the thing that really worries me the most though, is that people are starting to say that, oh, the numbers are being revised to be lower, as if that's a sign that we are overreacting. And, in fact, it's a sign that probably what we're doing is working.

The analogy I would like to use is, if you had a fire alarm go off and you evacuated and the fire department comes over and puts the fire out, people outside afterwards aren't going to say, oh, well, no one died, why did we evacuate? Same things here. We're trying to do the right thing. And when we see any sign of benefit, it doesn't auger well that some people will say, well, we didn't need to do that, because, in fact, we know what works.

BLITZER: We certainly do. All right, Dr. Jeremy Faust, Dr. Ivan Walks, thank you so much. We really appreciate the time. We'll certainly want you back here to discuss these important issues. I appreciate it very much.

Coming up, we're going to have a live report from New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in the United States. The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City now over 100,000. We'll go to our reporter in New York, next.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:15:00]

BLITZER: Updating you on our very disturbing breaking news just coming in. New York City is now reporting an additional 3,700 new cases of coronavirus, and that brings the citywide total -- this is New York City -- to over 100,000 confirmed cases.

CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is joining us live from New York right now. Evan, this update comes as the governor and the mayor of New York, they're locked in sort of a battle over whether the schools in New York City should be closed for the rest of the academic year and not reopen until September.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Today, once again, Governor Andrew Cuomo in his daily press conference said that it's his call when schools in this state and this city reopen, that just a day after the mayor of the city, Bill de Blasio, was very strong and firm in a formal announcement that schools are going to remain closed here in the city for the rest of the academic year.

So, look, if you're in New York, it's an open question as to whether or not the schools will reopen before they are officially set to end in June. But that's not true across a lot of the country. Many states have already decided to keep their classrooms shut for the academic year, which means that there's been a shift to online learning. And it's been going on for a couple weeks now, which gives us a chance to take a look at how the process is going.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AUSTIN BEUTNER, LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT: To put it in some context, it's the moonshot. I mean, it's the kid landing a man on the moon. MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Actually, school during a pandemic might even be harder than that.

LILY ESKELSEN GARCIA, PRESIDENT, THE NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION: This is our Apollo 13 moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston, we have a problem.

GARCIA: We're mission control. We are Houston. And now our moonshot might not be landing them on the moon. It's getting them home safe.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Anyone who has a student in their house knows how important teachers have been in this crisis.

GARCIA: We have never been more relevant. We have never been more foundationally essential to the community, to the economy, to a family.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Their job has evolved.

HALLIE EICHEN, WOODROW WILSON H.S. HONORS CHEMISTRY TEACHER: Wow. I am still doing the explosions, but I'm doing the explosions at home.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: People like Washington, D.C., public high school chemistry teacher Hallie Eichen are doing their best.

But school systems are discovering that virtual learning can't replicate classroom instruction. So across the country, policymakers are dropping the focus on academic performance.

BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Students may not be able to take federally mandated standardized tests this spring.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos dropped testing requirements this year. She says it's wrong to expect students to perform at their best right now. School systems in New York and New Jersey have canceled statewide testing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our chancellor has said that their grades can't be hurt in any way.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Coronavirus policies vary across the country. At least 15 states have canceled classroom education for the rest of the year. In Chicago, students' grades cannot be lowered by distance learning. They can only stay the same or be improved.

In Michigan, students who were on track to advance on March 11th, the day schools closed, will remain on track and be promoted to the next grade.

[18:20:01]

In Florida, the governor is taking it all one step further.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Parents may, at their discretion, choose to keep their child in the same grade for the '20-'21 school year. MCMORRIS-SANTORO: One of the largest school systems in the country is the Los Angeles Unified School District. Administrators are still deciding what to do about grades.

BEUTNER: The part that we're trying to have educators emphasize is engaging with the student. They're engaging the learning. We'll get to the grades later.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Many colleges have switched to pass-fail grading, so have a lot of private high schools.

BEUTNER: In this wireless world, we're not all connected, so the first thing we've got to the do is connect everybody.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: The biggest challenge a pandemic school is universal.

GARCIA: We've been begging school boards, state legislatures that fund our schools, the federal government, look, a tablet, a laptop, Wi-Fi, it's not a luxury.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: There are nearly 51 million public school students in the United States. According to the U.S. Senate, 12 million of them don't have broadband internet at home. And even those that do are stressed out and sometimes aren't logging on. Many teachers say attendance has been a problem during virtual school.

JANIN SPOOR, CANOGA PARK HIGH SCHOOL THEATHER TEACHER: We do everything we can. We send emails and make phone calls.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: In the age of coronavirus, school is about a lot more than a report card.

BEUTNER: The part of the structure of a student and family's life, schools are at the center of every community. What happens every day in a school is read and write, arithmetic and support for that child.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, Wolf, here is the bottom line, according to teachers that I spoke to. Students who started out this process behind are just getting further and further academically behind as this goes on. And that's one of the reasons why this debate in New York about reopening schools is such an important one.

Because what Mayor de Blasio said is, if he's going to keep his schools closed through June 26th, their scheduled closing day, he needs to get active in building a new system to give people more internet access, give them more devices, and try to close that academic gap that virtual school and this coronavirus pandemic is really playing out across the entire country. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, this is really a serious, serious situation. All right, Evan, thank you for that report.

Coming up, we'll have more on the coronavirus and the huge impact it's having on the nation's economy. Big business -- businesses, big and small, I should say, they have been forced to shut down, leaving many employees simply without any pay, and there are signs it could be getting a whole lot worse.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:25:00]

BLITZER: All right, there's breaking news. We're getting word that a very large, very destructive tornado is on the ground right now in Southern Mississippi. The National Weather Service is reporting that the tornado has a potential wind speed of up to 205, 205 miles per hour, and is possibly a 4 to EF-5. There have been more than a dozen tornado reports across the southern U.S. today. More severe weather is expected through the evening. We'll stay on top of that.

Meanwhile, many Americans this weekend are getting a direct deposit of some $1,200 from the federal government, the first wave of a stimulus program aimed at reviving the U.S. economy hammered by the coronavirus pandemic. Across the nation, small business owners, meanwhile, do not know when they'll be able to pay staffers or their own bills, for that matter.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher spoke to a pair of Atlanta restaurant owners who say if that promised government aid doesn't arrive and doesn't arrive soon, they will simply lose their business.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LISA SPOONER, OWNER, HOME GROWN RESTAURANT: It just feels really scary because it's so unknown, you know?

DIANNA GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lisa Spooner and Kevin Clark have been serving homegrown comfort food for ten years in Atlanta. The husband-and-wife team building up quite a following, counting even the late Anthony Bourdain as a fan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you need a whole breakfast though, old-school, full on, then Home Grown in Reynolds Town might be what you need.

GALLAGHER: But across the country, the coronavirus has crippled the restaurant industry. About two weeks ago, Home Grown had to temporarily lay off all 40 employees.

KEVIN CLARK, OWNER, HOME GROWN RESTAURANT: The two hardest calls we've ever made were letting our employees go and locking the doors.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: America's small businesses are the backbone of our communities.

GALLAGHER: The Trump administration has touted the new paycheck protection program or PPP loan as a quick fix for businesses like Home Grown to weather the pandemic. The $350 billion government-backed, low-interest loan program is meant to cover rent, utilities and payroll. If they stick with the program, the loan becomes a grant, leaving only the interest to pay back. It's a sweet deal, if you can get it.

CLARK: We haven't really heard anything, other than, it's working, the money is getting out there, but who? I would like to talk to a business owner who's actually received some funds and how they got it and how their application -- what time they put their application in.

GALLAGHER: After filling out multiple applications dealing with website crashes and a lack of feedback, Clark and Spooner got disappointing news.

Wells Fargo, the bank they had done business with for the past decade, announced Sunday it had reached its $10 billion limit. There's no guarantee they'll ever get to Home Grown's application. Wells Fargo suggested trying a local community bank instead.

[18:30:00]

Clark says they are on the waiting list with a rural Georgia bank now, but they don't know when or if they'll get the loan.

CLARK: We may lose our business. I mean, that's the worst part, but -- I mean, we could.

GALLAGHER: As business owners battle one another for the first come- first served loan, in a world where any kind of delay could be the difference between surviving the next few weeks or going under for good, there have been plenty of problems for everyone.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I want to assure all small businesses out there, we will not run out of money.

GALLAGHER: On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin noted there are now 3500 lenders in the system and says that more are signing up each day. The administration has said that it hopes Congress will allocate additional funding this week. But for Home Grown, will it be in time?

CLARK: Money is our only saving grace. We cannot make it on our hopes and dreams anymore.

GALLAGHER (on camera): On Wednesday, Wells Fargo announced that it had received permission to increase its lending limit. So, that should allow for expanded access with some of those applications. Now, the federal government has focused a lot on getting more funding. So, if the administration gets that -- and that's a big if -- it will undoubtably help, but a lot of the problems with the rollout are actually between the government and the lenders.

All these changing guidelines and uncertainty have made it tough for banks to really know what they're signing up for, let alone walk the small business owners through the process. Now, a bit of good news here, Kevin Clark tells me that that small bank in Southern Georgia contacted him, and they have begun the process of filing his PPP application.

Dianne Gallagher, CNN, Atlanta. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Dianne.

The questions are simple and they are terrifying. Is my business going to survive? Will I have money to pay my bills? Am I going to lose my job? We learned this week that 6.6 million people here in the United States are filing for unemployment claims. That's in addition to the 6.8 million and 3.3 million filing jobless claims in the last two weeks of March, during the week ending March 28th.

Joining us now, the former secretary of Labor, Robert Reich. He served under President Clinton and is the author of a new book, by the way, entitled "The System: Who Rigged It and How to Fix It."

Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us. What, nearly 17 million people now filing unemployment claims. This many people can't simply be out of a job, losing their businesses, potentially their homes. What do you think? How does this get solved?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Well, it's not an easy problem to solve, obviously, Wolf. This is not a typical recession. It's not even a depression. This is a public health crisis, and people are losing their jobs. Some of them are sheltering at home because they have to or they want to. It's necessary that people be home. In fact, it's necessary that a big and significant part of the economy be shut down.

So, the big question is, how to get money out as quickly as possible to people who don't have money? You know, by some estimates, 80 percent of the American workforce is living paycheck to paycheck, and if there are no paychecks, that means that they are not being able to pay the rent or buy food. So, this is -- timing is of the absolute essence here.

BLITZER: Predictions, Mr. Secretary, that this could get a whole lot worse. And I'm just looking. The National Association for Business Economics released a study this week saying the U.S. is already in a recession, predicting 12 percent unemployment, an unemployment rate by midyear. And McKinsey, there's a McKinsey report that's out that up to one-third of U.S. jobs may be vulnerable. 80 percent of those are considered to be low-income jobs.

What do you think the worst of this crisis is going to look like?

REICH: Well, look it, there are a range of estimates. The Federal Reserve Board of St. Louis just put out a study estimating that 47 million jobs will be lost in between April and June of this year. That would put the unemployment rate up to about 32 percent, which is higher than we have had ever in this country, much higher than during even the Great Depression.

So, Wolf, the scale of this problem, the scale of this challenge is huge. Congress does need to act again, because what it's done, although it's done some significant things, the money is not getting out and it's not nearly enough. BLITZER: The president says he'll consider reopening the nation, in

his words, for business on May 1st. What does that even look like on a federal level, considering it's the governors and the mayors who have handled all of the shutdowns?

REICH: Well, it's not even clear that a president of the United States can order a nation to be open. You're right, governors and mayors have taken most of the responsibility. And under the laws, they do have most responsibility.

[18:35:01]

But even if all the governors and mayors said, OK, everybody, it's free, you can go back to work, many Americans would still be reluctant to go back if they felt that it was dangerous to them and their families to go back to work. So, this is not simply a matter of an all-clear signal being issued. It's a matter of the public health crisis being subdued, the rate of growth of new cases and deaths dramatically declining, and people psychologically feeling able to go back to work.

You know, we talk a lot in economic terms about consumer confidence. What we're really talking here is about public confidence in the safety of our entire public health. And that's not going to come back easily. It's not going to come back suddenly. It could come back quite slowly.

BLITZER: It's a real economic disaster that's unfolding right now. Let's hope it can recover relatively quickly, because people are in desperate situation right now all across the country.

The former Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

REICH: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, just weeks ago, Seattle was certainly a hotspot for the coronavirus here in the United States, but now the city seems to have turned a corner. I'll ask Seattle's mayor about what lessons can be learned, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:27]

BLITZER: Washington state had the first known case of coronavirus here in the United States. That was back on January 21st. Since then, the state has counted nearly 10,000 confirmed cases and nearly 500 deaths. The Seattle area has been especially hard hit during this outbreak.

The Seattle Mayor, Jenny Durkan, is joining us right now.

Mayor, thanks so much for spending a few moments with us. Does Seattle seem -- your city -- does it seem to have reached its peak? Do you feel the worst is in the past? MAYOR JENNY DURKAN (D), SEATTLE: We're hoping so, Wolf. You know, it

was a really difficult decision with Governor Inslee and our county executive, Gail Constantine, to make the decision to shut down businesses and the like. And we heard from your last guests how painful that has been for people all across America, but we've also seen it's working here in Seattle and that we have bent the curve.

The unfortunate thing is, people think -- some people think that means we're out of the woods, and we're far from out of the woods. Our modeling from our scientists showed that if we don't keep our mitigation and restrictions in place, we could have a spike that could be more severe than the peak was.

So, we're still at it. We're going to keep at it for a period of time, trying to protect our frontline health care workers, our first responders, and the people who are most vulnerable in our community.

BLITZER: So, what are the biggest lessons, Mayor, that you've learned, that you're trying to pass on to other cities?

DURKAN: So, number one, for those cities who haven't had a significant outbreak, you will have an outbreak if you don't take some steps as soon as you can take them. I've been talking to mayors all over this country who are in various stages of this virus, and we've seen the horror that's happened in New York. And so, acting early is the critical thing you can do.

I'd also say, you know, you have to listen to the public health experts and the scientists. Here, we were really fortunate to have some of the renowned researchers in health care who told us that we had many more cases of virus in the community than we thought we had, which led us to take the actions that we did so that we could slow that spike, but we're going to listen to them, too, when we talk about reopening the economy.

You know, it's not going to be like switching a light switch. We're going to need significant testing capabilities, both diagnostic to see if people have the virus, and antibody testing. That does not exist anywhere in America right now. We need significant increases in testing capability, and I'm hoping the federal government will activate the Defense Procurement Act in order to take control of supply chain so we can actually get more testing capability.

We have had our hospitals do private purchases of swabs from China. And you know, we are -- now when the bidding before was for personal protection equipment, the bidding today, city against city, state against state, scouring the world, is for test kits and mediums. So, we need significant testing capability if we really want to come out of this as a region or a country.

BLITZER: It's interesting, because if President Trump had implemented the guidance he was getting from his top public health experts back in February, instead of waiting until mid-March, how different would the situation have been? It would have been very different. What would the difference have been in Seattle from your perspective? DURKAN: You know, I think that if we had had ample testing at the

outset and been able to detect community spread and contain it like you usually would, we wouldn't have had to take the drastic steps. But we took the only steps we thought were the appropriate ones. It looks like it's working, but it has had devastating consequences on workers, on small businesspeople, on families.

And so, we know we've got to stay the course. It's really hard, but I think it would be even more devastating to Seattle and to the country if we reopened and then have to go through this again. We have to be as smart about reopening as we were not smart about preventing this in the first place.

BLITZER: That's an important point. Well, good luck to everyone in Seattle. Good luck to everybody in Washington state.

Mayor Durkan, thank you so much for joining us.

DURKAN: Thanks, Wolf. Take care.

BLITZER: You, too.

And so who has the power to really reopen the United States? The decision to end the lockdown could end in a power struggle between the president and the governors. The governor of New Hampshire standing by live. We'll discuss when we come back.

[18:45:00]

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BLITZER: As President Trump continues to push to reopen the country as soon as possible, potential -- potential -- stand-offs may be brewing between the president and some of the state governors who may want to continue or extend stay-at-home orders. For example, President Trump originally said those decisions were up to the governors. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Should every state in this country have the kind of stay-at-home orders that we now see in places like Washington?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I leave that up to the governors.

[18:50:01]

The governors know what they're doing, they've been doing a great job. I guess we're close to 90 percent anyway. And states that we're talking about are not in jeopardy. No, I would leave it to the governors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It was he said April 3rd. Here's what the president said on Friday. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Because states can do things if they want. I can override it if I want. 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: All right, joining us now the New Hampshire governor, Chris Sununu.

Governor, thanks so much for joining us. I know you've got a lot going on in New Hampshire as well. Your stay-at-home order, I understand, last until May 4th. What will you do if the president, for example, wants to reopen the country May 1st before you think it's safe for your state?

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): Well, I can tell you, here in New Hampshire when we make decisions we make them for New Hampshire. And so we appreciate the support that Washington has offered, the financial support and all of that, but at the end of the day we have to make the decision for this state. And that's where we'll stand. And we've maintained a very good relationship with the president.

I think the president, and having the vice president as a former governor, has been very helpful in allowing the administration and everyone in Washington really to understand how governors operationalize the opportunities that Washington can create. In other words, we're the ones that are on the frontlines of the business, with the families.

We understand the pros and cons and how the unemployment insurance is working, how the SBA programs are working. So it really has to be led up to the governors. I have full faith that the administration appreciate that.

BLITZER: Yes. And I've spoken to a lot of governors over these past few weeks and so many of them totally agree with what you just said.

The president just tweeted this. And I want to get your analysis of what he means by this. He said this in his tweet. "Governors, get your state's testing program and apparatus perfected. Be ready, big things are happening. No excuses. The federal government is there to help. We are testing more than any other country -- any country in the world. Also, gear up with face masks."

How do you interpret that?

SUNUNU: Well, on the testing side, the vast majority of the testing really is coming -- a lot of it comes out of the commercial market, but as you know we were essentially competing with the federal government. I expressed a lot of frustration this past week. The new Abbott rapid COVID test. It's a great device. Every state got 15 of them. And I was one of the first ones out of the gate to say look, we got 15 devices but we only got about 100 actual tests, 100 actual cartridges.

Now we've heard in the coming weeks we're going to get hundreds and hundreds more. It's going to be coming in. That's good. That wasn't the story we heard last week. So there are clearly some positive movement. But in that test, for example, it all has to come through FEMA and the federal government so -- and the CDC. So we're really beholden to them on that.

On the commercial side of testing, you have about one to two-week backlog and a lot of the commercial labs out there. They're doing an amazing job, I think, given the pressures that are on them. We have our labs here in New Hampshire that we rely onto. So we're OK where we are with testing now. Obviously we'd love to see it ramped up.

And as new tests come on board, maybe it's the new (INAUDIBLE) test, maybe -- I'm sorry, the antibody tests or some of the other ones that might come online soon, we just want to have access to them and make sure that we're not going to be competing essentially.

On the PPE side, FEMA has gotten us three shipments already. That was fine. We know we have to go to the commercial market today in New Hampshire. We were blessed with a great Easter day gift. We had over six million masks arrived in New Hampshire. A kind of a public-private partnership, facilitated with Dean Cayman (ph), our local entrepreneur here, FedEx, some folks at FEMA and obviously the state.

So again, we're kind of scrounging it and competing against the rest of the world for this PPE but we are getting it done. And you're seeing some of that all over the country. We've been very fortunate here in New Hampshire. But there's still a long way to go. We're not getting out of this in a couple of weeks or probably even in a couple of months.

BLITZER: Yes.

SUNUNU: So we got to keep this momentum going.

BLITZER: Well, well-said, I think you're right. I think it's going to go on. Even if we like the idea of May 1st, it's probably going to go on for a while longer. And then it could come back, God forbid, in August, September and November. Who knows? It's one of the problems that everyone is bracing for.

Dr. Fauci said earlier today here on CNN that mitigation efforts could have saved lives if they had been announced earlier. You announced the stay-at-home order in your state on March 24th. What would an earlier warning from the federal government to you have meant for your state if you had known, for example, in mid-February that there were these dire projections, warnings coming from top health officials inside the administration?

SUNUNU: To be honest, we didn't make our decision on the stay-at-home order or closing of businesses, closing schools so much on what the federal government was doing. The one area where we looked to the federal government was the large group gatherings of 50 or 10 people. Those CDC recommendations and then based on that, we're able to discern well, if you have large groups in a business or in some of these other facilities, we had to pull back.

[18:55:02]

Our decisions were more based on the numbers we were seeing here in the state and also given that we're in New England, we're very close to our partners, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, what they were seeing. Boston had a very big flare up. New York obviously in quite a crisis down there.

We've very close. So we have a lot of businesses that do -- that interact across those borders. So what our neighbors were doing obviously was a big variable in our decision-making. And that's why most of the states in New England kind of took a lot of these stances and these tough big decisions. We did them all about the same time because there's just so much connection.

BLITZER: Well, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in your own wonderful state.

Governor Sununu, we really appreciate you joining us.

SUNUNU: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. A truly stunning admission earlier today from Dr. Fauci now admitting that had the White House taken action to stop the coronavirus earlier, lives potentially could have been saved. You're going to hear his reaction to reports the president is now mulling reopening the country perhaps by May 1st.

We're also tracking a very dangerous line of storms across the southeast. There are initial reports of injuries, a very destructive tornado. All that right ahead.

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