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States Working Together?; Does Trump Have Any Power Over When States Reopen For Business?. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 13, 2020 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And just in the last few minutes, we heard that the governors of Washington state, California, and Oregon are announcing a Western states pact on another shared approach, governors taking the lead.


Earlier today, President Trump tweeted that it is his decision to make, writing in part -- quote -- "A decision by me, in conjunction with the governors and input from others, will be made shortly about reopening the country."

It is worth noting that President Trump never himself made any national order on shutting down the country. He has refused to accept any responsibility for the many ways the U.S. was unprepared for this crisis, although now he appears to be claiming that reopening the U.S. is his decision.

It's unclear what the path is out of this for the United States in general. The president has yet to offer any specific road map.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci told me yesterday that there is a huge risk with any notion of reopening the country all at once.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: If you just say, OK, it's whatever, May 1, click, turn -- turn the switch on, obviously, if you do it in an all-or-none way, there's an extraordinary risk of there being a rebound.


TAPPER: Rebound for the coronavirus, we should underline.

And there is a new example of how that could happen in one part of the country, a model presented by Los Angeles County officials predicting that up to 95 percent of Los Angeles residents will be infected with coronavirus if the stay-at-home order would be lifted right now, though no one is talking about doing that.

If the current measures are maintained, that number of infections will hover around 30 percent, according to the projection of that model.

In the virus epicenter of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said today that he believes the worst may be over, but he cautioned restrictions must stay in place, as CNN's Jason Carroll now reports.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the first time in history, every state is under a disaster declaration at the same time.

The national death toll numbers are staggering. And yet, in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic, there are indications the number of infected is leveling off.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Here's the good news. The curve continues to flatten.

CARROLL: Across the country, the number of hospitalizations is down. The U.S. surgeon general says it appears the nation's hot spots, places such as New York, New Jersey, Detroit, and New Orleans, are all showing some signs of improvement.

Dr. Jerome Adams tweeting this morning: "In the midst of tragedy, there is hope. Social distancing and mitigation is working. There is a light at the end of this dark tunnel."

And, today, governors from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Pennsylvania announced they're forming one working group between them to come up with a coordinated plan to reopen.

CUOMO: We should start looking forward to "reopening" -- quote, unquote -- but reopening with a plan, and a smart plan, because, if you do it wrong, it can backfire. And we have seen that in other places on the globe. So everyone is very anxious to get out of the house, get back to work, get the economy moving. Everyone agrees with that.

CARROLL: Even as President Trump says he will be the one to decide when the country reopens, despite never issuing a nationwide lockdown and leaving that up to the states.

Health officials say that reopening the country will likely have to happen section by section.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: This pandemic has affected different parts of the country differently. We're looking at the data very carefully, county by county by county, and we will be assessing that.

CARROLL: Still, this morning, Los Angeles County health officials reported seeing its highest number of COVID deaths in a 48-hour period; 31 people died.

The U.S. military says a sailor on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt has died from COVID-19. To date, more than 2,900 service members have tested positive for the virus. And the economic impact continues to take a toll. Disney announced it will furlough 43,000 Walt Disney World employees

starting April 19. And part of the nation's food supply in jeopardy, as one of the nation's largest pork processing plants now closed until further notice; 238 employees at Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, tested positive for coronavirus.

That number of infected accounts for more than half of the state's total.


CARROLL: So, again, Jake, not only do you have Northeastern governors banding together to come up with a reopening plan.

You now have governors on the West Coast in California and Washington and Oregon doing the same. Governor Cuomo saying, for his part, when the state does reopen, it's not going to be just like flicking a switch. He says it's not going to be instant in terms of getting back to normal -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jason Carroll, thank you so much.

Joining me now, as always, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


Sanjay, good to see you.

Tell me how significant you think it is that these governors, the Northeast governors, or -- not including New England itself, but many of the Northeast governors, Cuomo, Murphy of New Jersey, et cetera, and the governors of the West Coast, Washington state, Oregon, California, are creating these regional pacts, working groups to establish protocols on reopening, while still fighting this virus.

Is this something that you think is happening because no one else is doing it on a federal level?


I mean, I think there's this acknowledgment that we know the house -- as Governor Murphy put it, the house is still on fire. But this is all about trying to plan ahead. And we -- and there should have been planning ahead all along. But we certainly need to be doing it now.

We don't want to send the message that it's time to sort of loosen up stay-at-home restrictions and things like that at all, but we need to do these things, and we need to be thinking in creative ways.

I listened to the entire press conference, Jake. I mean, everything from people may need to be screened, even tested before coming into a workplace, people may be taking their own temperature at home and when they arrive at a workplace some, masks for certain essential workers, things like that. But, also, how are we going to invest in touchless technologies to try and reduce the likelihood of continuing to transmit this virus? These are all things that they need to think about, acknowledging that -- as someone once said to me, Jake, an infection anywhere is an infection everywhere, so instead of looking at this by a state-by-state basis, starting to look at this by regions, because a virus doesn't respect state borders.

So it does -- it does make a lot of sense, Jake, to be doing this, but it doesn't mean it's going to be happening any time soon, though.

TAPPER: Right. Of course.

The death rate has more than doubled in the last week. And that's with most people, particularly in places hit hard by the virus, adhering to these stay-at-home orders and social and physical distance guidelines.

One can only imagine what the death toll would be like if we were doing nothing. I mean, 22,000 is a horrific number, but if we were doing nothing, it would be much, much higher.

GUPTA: It could be doubling every few days, Jake.

And you -- this is something we all learn in terms of math from looking at logarithmic sort of growth. It's significant. I was having these conversations over the weekend, Jake. And someone said to me, it's striking to me that the risk to any individual American right now is low, again, of getting sick from this virus.

And I said, yes, that's true, but the reason that's true is because what's happening in America today is something that we have never seen before. These stay-at-home orders, they are having an impact. But in order to get to that lower risk, as has been described, which is true, it's because we're doing these things.

And I guess that's maybe not a point lost on a lot of people. But if we weren't doing these things, nothing about the pathophysiology of the virus has changed. It is a highly contagious, pretty lethal virus. That part is still true.

The reason the numbers are as low -- and they're sad numbers, as you point out, Jake, but the reason they're as low as they are is because of what we're doing. Again, I think that that's a fundamental point maybe most people get, but I think it's worth reiterating.

TAPPER: I mean, you think most people get it, but you see talking heads on FOX and other places continuing to equate the coronavirus with the regular flu, and acting as though it will be outrageous if the death toll for this coronavirus is less than the seasonal flu, and still not getting it, still not understanding that, if we acted with the coronavirus the way we act with the flu, which is just basically flu shots and washing your hands, that we would be in the hundreds of thousands.

GUPTA: There is no vaccine for this week. We know -- as a basic starting point, we don't know what the exact

fatality rate of this virus is. It probably is different in different places, because it's highly dependent on how the medical systems respond to this virus.

But it's a bad -- it's a bad virus, and we have no vaccine to it. There is no native immunity to it. Even with the flu, even if you were someone who didn't get the flu shot, you still have some protection. Why? Because you have been exposed to a variation of that flu shot in years past.

If you have lived on this planet, you probably have some natural immunity to it. You should get the flu shot, but you would still have some protection. With this, we just have no protection. It's -- that's the significance when public health experts keep calling it a novel coronavirus.

It's a new thing.

TAPPER: Right.

The Trump administration is looking at a -- for the president to potentially call for a partial reopening in different parts of the country. Ultimately, it will be left up to governors and mayors.

They're talking about potentially a May 1 date. But according to the model that the White House uses -- I think it's from the University of Washington -- 1,000 deaths are predicted just on May 1.


I don't understand the May 1 time frame. Do you?

GUPTA: No, I don't understand it.

And if they are abiding by that model, they should be looking at all parts of it, because what that model goes on to say is two very important things.

One -- and they put a number on this, Jake. Chris Murray and his team over at University of Washington say that it has to get below 0.03 percent. Now, I do the math on that. That's about 90 people per day or so. Fewer than that would be dying in the country on any given day, 90.

As you mentioned May 1, I think it's 1,000, if that's what the numbers show. So it's nowhere close.

But, also not to belabor this point that, Jake, you and I have been talking about for three months, testing has been important, is currently important, and will continue to be important. And I'm talking about testing for the virus. Antibody testing is important as well. But the viral testing, the swab testing, is always going to be important, because as we start to think about reopening, you still got to find people who are infected. You still have to be able to isolate them. You still have to be able to trace their contacts. It's a laborious task, but it's important to get to that point where we can reopen the country. Without it, first of all, you can't find those people. Second of all, I think there's going to be a little bit of a crisis of confidence, because you don't know, is the person next to you possibly infected or not?

So there's still going to be that worry, Jake. I have read some reports that say, in order to be able to contact trace alone, find the contacts of people who are infected, it could take hundreds of thousands of people, Jake.

We don't have that infrastructure in place right now.

TAPPER: Yes, still way behind in testing, per capita.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

GUPTA: You got it.

TAPPER: Be sure to tune into Sanjay's podcast, "Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction."

It's on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Coming up: fretting about Dr. Fauci -- new reporting about what President Trump has been telling friends about the infectious diseases expert leading the pandemic response.

Plus, Boris Johnson says, "I owe them my life" -- the prime minister's new statements leading many to wonder if his condition was in fact much more dire than the government admitted at the time.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: The White House issuing a statement today saying President Trump has no intention of firing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious diseases expert and member of his coronavirus task force. That statement was in response to questions from the media about Fauci's future which came after President Trump shared a tweet that called for Fauci's firing and spent the weekend calling his friends to discuss the doctor, according to sources.

As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports for us now, Fauci's latest offense in the eyes of Trump's most ardent supporters is that in an interview with me on CNN yesterday, he told the truth. He acknowledged that lives may have been saved if the government had been quicker to put social distancing and stay at home measures in place.



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is now denying that Dr. Anthony Fauci's job is in danger after President Trump elevated a Twitter post calling for him to be fired.

In a statement today, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley called the media chatter "ridiculous" and said President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci.

But it was the president, not the media, who started the speculation. Yesterday, Trump retweeted this post from a former Republican congressional candidate that ended with these four words: time to fire Fauci.

Hours earlier, the nation's top disease specialist had acknowledged to CNN's Jake Tapper that shutting down the country earlier would have saved lives.

FAUCI: 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.

COLLINS: The president has continued to lash out, following an extensive report in "The New York Times" that documented his slow response to the coronavirus. While Trump has publicly praised Fauci, he has privately complaint that he often contradicts him and at times he's refused to let him answer questions.

Fauci has faced criticism from some Trump allies for initially being skeptical of the proposed travel restrictions before endorsing them in late January. A "New York Times" investigation found Trump squandered the time those restrictions bought him to take tougher measures in the U.S.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Banning dangerous foreign travel that threatens the health of our people and we did that early far earlier than anyone would have thought.

COLLINS: "The New York Times" says senior officials urged Trump to impose social distancing measures long before he did, a detail Fauci confirmed on "STATE OF THE UNION."

FAUCI: 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.

COLLINS: Trump's pushback on his top public health officials comes as he's weighing when to reopen the country, a decision he wrongly claimed today is up to him, not the nation's governors.

He tweeted: Some in the fake news media are saying that it is the governors' decision to open the states, not that of the president of the United States and the federal government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect.

But that's not what the president said when it came to shutting the states down.

TRUMP: I would leave it to the governors. I like -- I like that from the standpoint of governing and I like that from the standpoint of even our Constitution.


COLLINS: Jake, more of the president's allies are also now continuing this afternoon to criticize Dr. Fauci, including Andy Biggs who is now the chair of the House Freedom Caucus.


He said in a radio interview today that he believes Dr. Fauci has emasculated the economy and taken a meat cleaver to it and said, quote, I think it's time for him to move along.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

A partisan fight is stopping more money from flowing to small businesses in the United States. Republicans warn that funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, an emergency small business loan program, could run out this week, and the Republican solution is to pass a bill focused solely on providing more money for that program.

Senate Democrats argue that any new bill should also include more money for states and for hospitals, for food stamps, and to fund widespread testing for coronavirus.

Joining me is CNN business anchor Julia Chatterley.

Julia, let's start with a question, I don't know if the answer even exists. The program, the original Paycheck Protection Program, was $350 billion. How much of that have money has gone out the door to these businessmen and businesswomen who need it so desperately?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: It's such a great question. From what I hear, just 1 percent of all the cash promised is now in the hands of small to medium sized businesses. It's a shockingly small sum.

From what I'm understanding, if you look at it, and it's the same situation ongoing, it's far more easy to get the money promised by the banks than it is to get approval from the Small Business Administration. That remains the choke point here, and that's going to continue to be an issue. It doesn't negate the need for more cash, however.

TAPPER: Of course, but I'm just talking about, if Republicans are talking about it's going to run out this week, and only $3 billion of $350 billion has been disbursed, it certainly makes me question that claim.

What happens if Republicans and Democrats are not able to reach a deal and the small business program hypothetically were to run out of money, this week or next? How severe would the consequences be? CHATTERLEY: This is beyond severe. I spoke to a former chief of the

Small Business Administration this week, Karen Mills. She said to me, even in a best case scenario, 20 percent of small businesses here could fail. We're talking 6 million small businesses. Imagine the job losses we're talking about. This is unimaginable. More cash is required, Jake.

TAPPER: When the program launched, small businesses had to get the emergency money from banks, but as of last weekend, I'm told, they now can get the same emergency loans from other companies, including PayPal and companies like that. That seems like it could make something of a difference.

CHATTERLEY: I think this could be key. These fintech players, as they're called, are more agile. They tend to lend to far smaller businesses, those with less than five employees. So in terms of getting cash to the lifeblood of the economy, this could be a real game changer. That's the good news.

The bad news is, these guys still have to get approval from the Small Business Administration as well. So again, we've got the same choke point here, getting cash out there. I think we should be talking about a solution that bypasses the small business administration at this stage. I hear those talks are beginning.

TAPPER: Hmm, interesting.

All right. CNN business anchor Julia Chatterley, thank you so much.

CHATTERLEY: Thank you.

TAPPER: We have this breaking news for you now. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has officially endorsed his former rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, for president.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: So today, I am asking all Americans, I'm asking every Democrat, I'm asking every independent, I'm asking a lot of Republicans, to come together in this campaign to support your candidacy, which I endorse.


TAPPER: CNN's Jessica Dean is live for us now.

Jessica, this endorsement came a few months before the endorsement that he, Sanders, did for Hillary Clinton four years ago. This could be significant for Joe Biden.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Jake. This just coming five days after he announced that he's suspending his campaign. And you saw it right there, that visual of Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, together on that live stream. Two men who represent these two wings of the Democratic Party coming together and really trying to highlight all of the places where they can find common ground.

And to that end, they announced today they'll be forming six different task forces to focus on different areas of policy, including climate change, criminal justice. The idea that they're going to bring together people from both their campaigns to really look at these big issues to try to find common ground that will appeal to all Democrats.

But, again, Jake, big news for the Biden campaign today, and this coming, as you mentioned, much earlier in the process than it did in 2016.

TAPPER: All right. Jessica Dean, thank you so much.

Up next, I'm going to talk to one top doctor at a hospital that has had to convert its cafeteria into a room for patients in order to be able to fit more in.


Stay with us.


TAPPER: New Jersey getting hammered by coronavirus outbreaks with the second highest number of confirmed cases in the country, behind only New York. In just 24 hours, the Garden State saw 2,200 confirmed cases. One New Jersey hospital even is converting its cafeteria into a space to hold the onslaught of patients.

And joining me now to discuss this is the chief physician executive at that hospital, Hackensack Meridian Health, Dr. Daniel Varga.