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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

President Trump Attacks Media; Governors On East And West Coasts Band Together By Region To Decide When To Reopen States; Trump Claims "Total Authority" After Governors Band Together To Determine Opening Of Economy; Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) Is Interviewed About The Coronavirus Pandemic. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 13, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And what we did last time is unprecedented. We literally rebuilt tests. We rebuilt the whole industry, because we inherited nothing. What we inherited from the previous administration was totally broken, which somebody should eventually say, not only were the cupboards bare, as I say, but we inherited broken testing. Now we have great testing.

I just left the top executives at Abbott, who would have thought that would have happened where they have such a great test. And in fact what I'll do, I think, unless you have any further questions for the Secretary of Treasury, do you have anybody for - Steve, anybody? Is that for the Secretary of the Treasury or for me? Because if it's for me, we can wait.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the Secretary Mnuchin.

TRUMP: We have to get him back to work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.

TRUMP: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. For Secretary Mnuchin, a question from one of my colleagues who's not able to be in the room. They're curious about the SBA rule that prevents small casinos from getting some of this relief. Is that something that you're taking a look at? Is there going to be a change.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: Not small casinos, but there are such things as small taverns and restaurants that have literally small gaming things and we are coming out with some additional guidance on that. But I want to be clear, it's not small casinos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary Mnuchin.

MNUCHIN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary, there was a letter that some House Republicans sent this weekend about liquidity for mortgage servicers. MNUCHIN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you explain what you're looking at on that front?

MNUCHIN: Sure. So I think I commented on this a week or so ago. We had a subcommittee taskforce at FSOC that specifically studied this issue. We have all of the appropriate people on it. Ginnie Mae has automatically taken some action.

We've had conversations with the FHFA as to what they're going to do for Fannie and Freddie. And we've said that to the extent they need certain authorities from the Treasury. We will accommodate that, so we're very aware of the issue.

Quite frankly, we've been studying this issue way before COVID and had concerned about some of these non-bank servicers not being well- capitalized. But we're going to make sure that the market functions properly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir. We have seen in a number of these relief bills that Democrats and Republicans have been able to push forward, different from non-coronavirus specific funding priorities. Are you trying to keep funding specific to coronavirus? And then if there are going to be other additions, for instance, a change to labor roles or something that many on the left wanted, someone on the right are wondering if you should also be pushing for their preferred add- ons?

MNUCHIN: Well, I think our expectation has always been this is COVID- related. Some people have a rather broad view of what COVID related is because it has impacted almost every single business. I mean, I think the President has talked about the Kennedy Center, which is a good institution.

Obviously, that was not the major priority of the bill, but they were hit with COVID-related. But no, the President has instructed we want to be very specific in the next bill, it's COVID-related items.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been reported --

TRUMP: Well, we didn't want to do the Kennedy Center, just so you understand that that was done, the Democrats wanted it in. We didn't want that. But they wanted it in and we had to agree in order to get something done for the workers. But we want this to be for the workers and for companies that employ the workers. That's what we're looking for. We're not looking for extraneous nonsense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been reported that you argued at the time that the China ban has been discussed that that was too disruptive to the global economy. Is that accurate?

MNUCHIN: Let me be clear, I had nothing to do with the China ban. I wasn't on the task force at the time. I'm not even sure I was. I think I was traveling at the time, but I was not part. I did become very active after the China ban, but that report in The New York Times was not accurate. I was not part of the task force at that time and I was not involved. A matter of fact I think I may have been traveling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a proposal by Senator Hawley to get direct payments to employers to pay people who've been laid off and to keep people on payroll. Does the administration support that (inaudible) --

MNUCHIN: That is the PPP. The PPP is basically sending money to small business 50 percent of American workers to keep those people paid and it's the most efficient way. Every dollar, as I said, we do through that. It's one last dollar of unemployment and more importantly, we want those people to be associated with the business.

So as soon as the President is ready to open up the economy, those businesses are together. We don't want those businesses to fall apart. That's why this is such a successful program that we want Congress (inaudible) --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But are you talking about unemployment?

TRUMP: We're talking about the unemployment. Sending it indirectly to the states. We would prefer that it was sent directly to the people. The Democrats wanted it to be sent through the unemployment system and I've talked to you about it. We have 40-year-old equipment in many of those systems and run by the state, but I'm hearing they're getting the money out anyway.

MNUCHIN: Some of them are and some of the states aren't and we're working with the states to try to update their computers, but it's a long haul.

[19:05:06]

TRUMP: OK. Thank you.

MNUCHIN: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Phase four, Steve. Phase four. Come on, Steve.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A quick question about something you just said. You said when someone is President of the United States, their authority is total. That is not true, who told you that?

TRUMP: OK. You know what we're going to do? We're going to write up papers on this. It's not going to be necessary, because the governors need us one way or the other, because ultimately it comes with a federal government. That being said, we're getting along very well with the governors and I feel very certain that there won't be a problem. Yes, please go ahead.

COLLINS: Has any governor agreed that you have the authority to decide when their states opens back up?

TRUMP: I haven't asked anybody.

COLLINS: Then no one has said that.

TRUMP: You know why? Because I don't have to. Go ahead, please.

COLLINS: But who told you that president has the total authority?

TRUMP: Enough, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mentioned the Vice President's called the governors today. Gov. Hogan of Maryland has urged your administration to ask Congress for $500 billion to help stabilize budgetary shortfalls created by coronavirus.

TRUMP: It's nice to have Gov. Hogan very much. We appreciate Gov. Hogan's statement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gov. Cuomo said the CARES Act ignored state government of any shortfalls.

TRUMP: Cuomo?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you support that request and (inaudible) --

TRUMP: Which one? What did he say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said the CARES Act ignored the budgetary shortfalls.

TRUMP: Well, they're looking at things in phase four where they talk about states and they're also talking about hospitals. They're talking about states who have been battered and they're also talking about hospitals and we're certainly willing to look at that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you urge Congress on their behalf?

TRUMP: We'll see what we will come back with, but they are talking about states and they're talking about hospitals. (Inaudible) --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. President. The Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer has on Thursday signed an executive order banning the sale of non-essential goods. If other states --

TRUMP: The sale of what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- non-essential goods. She has banned the sale of non-essential goods. Many are calling this draconian, unconstitutional. As president, do you think that if other states were to follow her example in the coming weeks that the federal government should intervene?

TRUMP: Well, I don't think that's going to happen. I think it's very extreme, but she's doing it and I think it's going to be over a long way before we have to start thinking about it too much. It is strong. It's a very strong position to take. But they're making a lot of progress in Michigan, so let's see how it all works.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the status of your funding for the World Health Organization? TRUMP: We're going to be talking about that very soon. I'm getting a

full report. I'm not happy with the World Health Organization. I'm not happy with the World Trade Organization either. We've been ripped off by everybody and we have this country for so many years has been ripped off by everybody, whether it's a world health or world trade.

They're like, I call them Bobbsey Twins. They look at our country for years and years. We had people that did nothing about it. We're doing a lot about it. So we'll have a report and we're also talking about the World Trade Organization. But we've made a lot of progress there. We're now winning cases for the first time because they know I'll leave if we don't get treated fairly.

This country, our country, was at a point where we rarely, if ever, won the lawsuits within the World Trade Organization. But now we're winning a lot of them, because they know I'm not playing games. We will pull out if we have to. We just won a $7 billion lawsuit, which was very nice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you expect a decision this week on cutting funding for the WHO?

TRUMP: Yes. I would say by the end of the week, I'm going to make a decision on that. Yes. Right now there's a lot of things happening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On China, why are there no consequences for China, for the misinformation that they shared?

TRUMP: How do you know there are no consequences?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) --

TRUMP: How do you know that are no consequences?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are the consequences, Mr. President, of the misinformation?

TRUMP: I wouldn't tell you. China will find out. Why would I tell you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But people are concerned that they stonewall (inaudible) misinformation.

TRUMP: No, you started off by saying why are there no consequences?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have this a few times (inaudible) why are there no consequences for China (inaudible) --

TRUMP: How do you know there are no consequences?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because in that statement you said (inaudible) --

TRUMP: You're going to find out. I wouldn't tell you. You'd probably be the last person on earth, I'd tell. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you're saying there will be consequences?

TRUMP: Yes, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, actually this is a question for Mr. Vice President. Do you agree with the President's statement in his understanding of federalism that his power is total and the way he described it? Is there anything you'd like to add or in context you'd like to add to the way he was discussing that?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I support the President's leadership under the national emergency declaration that he signed. We're standing before you today, it's first time in American history, when all 50 states have issued emergency declarations and the territories.

This is an unprecedented time in the life of the nation. Unfortunately, as President's reflected and our health experts will continue to reflect, because the American people have heeded the President's coronavirus guidelines for America, because state governors have taken those and implemented them even in states where there was not a significant outbreak and implemented additional measures as we provided them with data about cases and best practices.

[19:10:07]

We're making real progress as country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) --

PENCE: But make no mistake about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- (inaudible) --

PENCE: Well, make no mistake about it. In the long history of this country, the authority of the President of the United States during national emergencies is unquestionably plenary. And you can look back through times of war and other national emergencies.

And as the President said, we'll happily brief that, but in the days ahead, what the President has charged us to do is to work with our health experts. We're going to bring together an extraordinary group of American business leaders to counsel the president.

And then working with the CDC, we're going to produce new guidelines based upon the data for every state and territory in this nation. We're going to give them guidance and as President's indicated, we'll continue to respect the leadership and partnership that we forge with every governor in America, but this is an unprecedented time.

But I have to tell you, when you look at the fact, despite the heartbreaking loss of more than 22,000 Americans, when you look at the fact of what the health experts told us this could be, I only feel a sense of gratitude to the American people. Gratitude to the extraordinary team that has counseled this president, the steps that President Trump has taken, the policies that governors have implemented all across America.

I mean, we were discussing today at the task force that when you look at the European Union as a whole, they have nearly three times the mortality rate that the United States of America has today. And that is a tribute to our extraordinary health care workers, their dedication, their tireless work. But it's also a tribute to the fact that the American people put into practice the mitigation efforts that the President counseled the nation to do on the advice of our best scientists now more than a month ago.

And our hospitals were not overwhelmed and are not overwhelmed at this hour. And I have to tell you, standing here today, I couldn't be more proud to stand alongside this president and to be a part of this team that has served the American people during this challenging hour.

And I just say to you, to every American looking on, as we see the numbers leveling and maybe even beginning to go down, I just encourage you to keep doing what you're doing. Because of the sacrifices that Americans and American families have made through these mitigation efforts, you're saving lives and you're seeing our nation through this time.

TRUMP: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, did the states tell you - you've been talking governors quite a bit, did those coalitions of states on the West Coast and the Northeast, did they tell you what they are going to be announcing before they announced it?

PENCE: As Gov. Phil Murphy and the Governor of Connecticut expressed today that they were going to be speaking and discussing on a regional basis what their recommendations would be. And we assure them today on our conference call with, I think, 48 governors that were with us today for the better part of an hour and a half, we told them that what the President would be producing is directly to be produced or additional guidelines for the states certified by the CDC that would inform those governors and local communities and mayors about the best way forward based on the unique circumstances that those states in those communities are facing.

I think what's clear is the American people have seen the experience in Washington state where this really all began for us and in California. And now the extraordinary challenges in the Greater New York City area, including New Jersey and Connecticut. The challenges in New Orleans, and Louisiana, and Detroit, still Chicago, parts of Houston, but they're also seeing that in each one of those cases that the mitigation efforts are truly working.

And so we'll work with those states and in some cases, it will make perfect sense for them to work together on a regional basis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) to know ahead of time what they're planning?

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: The President will be - I'm sorry, I didn't hear your question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us? Did they let you know? TRUMP: (Inaudible) --

PENCE: I didn't hear (inaudible) --

TRUMP: And it look like they have their cooperation and we are going to have their cooperation. They will cooperate perfectly, watch.

PENCE: And let me just affirm what the President said, we heard it again today in what I think was our ninth conference call with governors.

[19:15:02]

I think every American would be proud to see the partnership that this President has forged with governors across the country. I mean, it is an extraordinary statement and you'll see some data when Admiral Polowczyk gets up in just a few moments.

But the flow of resources from around the world that we've moved into areas that have faced challenges, I mean, this President has directed us to ensure that every state has what they need when they need it. And the spirit that I heard, again, from Republicans and Democrat governors today was reflective of that partnership.

And as we move forward to the President's goal of reopening America, we expect the same kind of partnership in the interests of the nation.

TRUMP: All right. Go ahead with the face mask. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, if you can hear me through the mask --

TRUMP: Barely. I hear you well, actually.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the District of Columbia argues that they were shortchanged in the most recent funding bill because they were treated as a territory instead of as a state. Will that be made right in phase four?

TRUMP: Well, we're looking at that, certainly. I heard that complaint, but the mayor seems to be very happy with everything we've done and she was on today saying very good things. OK, yes, go ahead in the back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, you talked about this being the most difficult decision that you are going to have to take about whether to reopen the economy. I wonder how much it weighs on your mind the thought that if there is a second way, you reopen the economy and you might have to shut things down again.

TRUMP: It does and I hope that won't happen. I certainly hope that won't happen, but it does weigh on my mind. OK, on the back, go ahead. Yes. Go ahead. Go ahead, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. A question for one of my colleagues who wasn't able to be here. China deployed an aircraft carrier into the South China Sea this weekend amid claims by Chinese state media that COVID has reduced U.S. military readiness in the region. What kind of responses are you thinking of? Will you have a response to this action?

TRUMP: China has their own difficulties. We have a relationship with China that we're not happy with certain things that happened over the last period of time, as you know, and I've been very explicit on that. But we know all about that. And no, China is - we've seen what they did. We've seen many other things that they've done both pro and con and we'll be just fine.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) things earlier where you've said that you're putting together the economic task force and that you thought that the recommendations were happening earlier than expected, do you mean to suggest that it could be before May 1st that you start recommending (inaudible) --

TRUMP: I don't want to say that, but we're going to be putting out guidelines and recommendations fairly quickly in a few days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Inaudible) rolling out that it would be before (inaudible) --

TRUMP: I'm not going to say but, look, certain states are doing very well. Big parts of the country are doing very well. They're doing really very well and so we're going to be putting out recommendations and guidelines very soon, Steve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your guidelines (inaudible) would they fit each area or are they uniform set of guidelines?

TRUMP: See, I don't want to tell you now, but right now we have a very strong indication that we know pretty much, we have some good ideas. I also do want to get - we'll have video conference or at least a conference call with a lot of very good people having to do with certain fields, whether it's energy or whether it's entertainment and restaurants, et cetera, et cetera.

We have to get people back into restaurants. We have to do what we have to do whether it's deductibility or not, we'll see. But it should be deductibility. You'll get them back so fast.

I mean, they used to have deductibility. The restaurant business, it was one of the hot businesses and then they ended it a long time ago, many years ago, but we may need that to get people back into the restaurants, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Michelle Obama today (inaudible) mail-in voting nationwide --

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: -- briefing. Of course, the President taking questions. Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. That was President Trump giving the

latest update on the pandemic. The President was very angry, if you were watching that over the past hour and a half or so, trying to rewrite history regarding his response to coronavirus.

Coronavirus as of today has killed more than 23,000 Americans. I want to get straight to our panel who has been standing by as we all have been watching this.

John King, let me start with you. The President was extremely angry and lashing out, frankly, multiple times at various reporters.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, the briefing was breathtaking from beginning to when we dropped out and at times it bordered on dangerous. The President began with a propaganda video. He played it in the room.

They've cherry picked moments. This was a Trump is awesome video at taxpayers' expense played in the White House briefing room. They left out all of these statements, look, the President has done some things right. We need context. We need new answer as we go through these things. But the President bristles at the suggestion he's done anything wrong like say they will not be a pandemic. Anyone who needs a test can get a test. This is going to go away in April when it gets warm, I could go on.

[19:20:06]

All of that was left out. We got a Trump is awesome propaganda video. And then in the conversation about reopening, this is where it gets dangerous. The president needs to read the Constitution of the United States of America. Even in a national emergency, the President's power is not as he said total.

He said the President's authority is total. The President calls the shots. The President will tell the governors what to do and he seemed to almost try to intimidate them by saying they need things from us. When I tell them to reopen the economy, they will do it.

The governors don't see it that way. They want to work with the administration. They hope in two weeks when the guidelines currently in place or up, things look a lot better and they can work this out. The Vice President had a more nuanced approach. Some states are different. We'll work it out.

But to have a President of the United States after he runs a propaganda video in the White House briefing room say my authority is total. The Constitution says otherwise.

BURNETT: All right. It's my authority is total. The President of the United States calls the shots. He said it angrily. He said it curtly, Jim Acosta. And it does come right as he was - put the question came to him.

Look, you've got groups of governors in the west, groups of governors in the northeast, governors that represent 60 percent of the people in this country who have been known to be infected, more than 60 percent of the people who have known to have died of this virus, so the President is obviously angry at that.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin, and I have to tell you, that is the biggest meltdown I've ever seen from a President of the United States in my career. I don't think a reasonable person could watch what we just saw over the last hour and conclude that the President is in control. He sounds like he is out of control and he was ranting and raving for the better part of the last hour during that news conference.

As John King was just saying, he's claiming that he has authorities that he doesn't have. The Constitution does not give the President of the United States total authority and I thought it was very illuminating that Vice President Mike Pence got up there at the podium and described the President's authority as plenary or absolute. That is not the case. That is a fact check false.

But getting to your question, Erin, I mean, I do think to some extent, the President is realizing that the walls are closing in on him when it comes to managing this crisis. He ignored the severity of this crisis for a couple of months and now he is trying to seize control over the situation as governors are going off on their own and coming up with their own plans.

And one very important thing to keep in mind, Erin, throughout all of this and that is the one of the most trusted people in America right now, Dr. Anthony Fauci, despite the fact that he had to fall on his sword a little bit during that press briefing. He is talking to these governors individually, he is getting on the phone with these governors periodically from time to time and helping them formulate these reopening plans of their own.

And so to some extent, top public health officials and governors are working around the President for precisely the reason that we just saw unfold in front of our very eyes over the last hour and that is the President doesn't sound like he's in control on multiple levels, Erin.

BURNETT: And, of course, as you point out, Dr. Fauci did sort of fall on the sword. Obviously, he'd said yesterday to Jake Tapper that had they started mitigation earlier, yes, it bears the fact that lives would have been saved. He made it clear today that when he and Dr. Birx first recommended to President Trump that he start these mitigation factors that he listened and went ahead with it.

So he made it clear, I believe, that if there is a blame to be put, he share some of that blame. It seemed that he was saying that.

Brian Stelter, the President, though, there was one exchange he had with - or a multiple, but one particularly stood out to me with a CBS News reporter, where it was just denigrating and incredibly personal and frankly shocking even for a president who often does go after people asking questions.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He still seems to prefer these small fights with the press, instead of focusing on the virus and that anti media propaganda video is an example. He started this briefing with that anti media propaganda video, which is nothing short of disgraceful. But it also shows us where he's coming from.

He's focused on the past. He wasn't talking as much about the present or the future. Finally, later in the briefing he eventually got around to talking about the government's response to the virus and what's happening now. But he was so focused on the past, Erin, and I found myself thinking about the people in hospital wards, they don't want to talk about the past. They want to talk about right now. They need help right now.

But the President is not showing empathy for those people. He is not showing compassion for the families that have lost loved ones. Instead, he's trying to play small ball. He's trying to fight against the media because that works for him.

Culture war fights work for him. He knows how to do those. He's really good at those. But I think we have to keep focusing on the questions he's not answering about the lack of testing, the lack of a plan to get us out of this mess.

[19:25:04]

That's what he doesn't want to talk about and so he attacks the media instead. And I hope most people can see through it.

It's been one month, Erin, since he said, I don't take any responsibility at all. And this was sort of a repeat of that.

BURNETT: Yes. Daniel Dale, you've been going through and looking at the facts. What stands out to you? I know, of course, his claim of absolute authority in a federalist country where governors have constitutional rights to control their states. It's got to be near the top of the list.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: That's number one for me. I mean, in addition to the obvious inaccuracy of any presidential claim to total authority, states in this area, in the area of public health have a long established power to deal with emergencies in their states. The federal government does have some power, as well, but it's simply not true that when it comes to emergencies, this is the President's deal alone.

The President also repeated his claim that he banned travel from Europe and from China. Neither of those restriction policies are actual bans, both contain many exemptions. In the case of Europe, Trump exempted in Higher European countries, in addition to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, many other family members, so that's not true.

The President also claimed that you're not even hearing about ventilators anymore because everyone is so happy. Well, Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan was on ABC yesterday and said that's not accurate. And he said, "Everybody still has tremendous needs on personal protective equipment and ventilators and all of those things you keep hearing about." So it's not true that issue has gone away. And then fourth, Erin, the president claimed that Joe Biden apologized

for having called him xenophobic in the past. Biden has simply not issued any apology that's imaginary.

BURNETT: No, it certainly has not. So you bring up the China ban, I want to ask you about this, John King, when the President recommended as best as he could, when he wanted to stop flights from China, that order came on January 31st. It was to take effect on February 2nd. And I want to make two points with that.

First, is that we didn't then have mitigation efforts until mid March. So that would mean that if the President, like he was saying, saw this when no one else saw it, when Dr. Fauci wasn't recommending those moves and the WHO wasn't recommending those moves, but he alone saw what a disaster this was going to be, so he ordered that flight ban.

If that was the case, he would have not only done the mitigation efforts sooner presumably, right, but one would presume tests would have been fired up and PPE would have been ordered and check-ins with the governors on what they needed and ventilators, but none of that happened. Meaning, his claim that this ban on China flights that he suggested indicated his clairvoyance on this. It just doesn't add up.

KING: The other pieces don't add up. Again, the President was roundly criticized. One of the reasons he was so angry today is because he believes he did the right thing with the China ban and it wasn't a total ban. Daniel has laid this out there

But it was severe restrictions on travel from China and the President believes and the public health experts now agree that it helped, that it likely helped the spread of the disease here in the United States. And he bristles that I did that, give me credit for that, stop analyzing everything else I did. You make an incredibly key point.

Look, Dr. Fauci got up and as he fell on the sword, as Jim put it rightly so, tried to say, look, there was a debate among the public health professionals about mitigation, do you take such a dramatic step when the case numbers were so low. So that was a debate. We'll see how it plays out.

The President did, though, at that moment as that debate was starting to boil, put the Vice President in charge, shake up the task force with the Vice President in charge, silenced the people he viewed as alarmist who are out there saying this is going to spread and it's going to spread fast and consolidated the messaging of the group. That is a simple fact.

But to your other point, which is more critical, at the end of the Obama administration, let's say the shelves were empty. Let's say the shelves were empty, OK. The Obama administration officials dispute that. They do say they had some disasters late in their tenure and they also had to sequester the Budget Act that prevented them refilling it.

But just assume for the sake of argument they were empty. He's been President for 38 months at that point, number one. Number two, he always says Obama didn't leave him a good test.

The novel coronavirus popped up in China in 2019. President Obama was gone, long gone. There was no way the Obama administration could have had a test for the novel Coronavirus that came up in the Trump administration and the administration, their first test was bad, and they've just simply had a lot of problems here.

Now, we would give them some grace, if they would say we're having a lot of problems here. This is new. We're trying to ramp up and it's difficult. The President keeps saying we have all of the testing we need. They just today announced the deal to get 750,000 more from South Korea. If we had all the testing we need, why are we buying them for another country?

BURNETT: These are crucial points. And then, Jim Acosta, as you've been in so many of these briefings, you also, again, to this key point the President is making, in his whole propaganda video which is I banned these flights from China, so I saw what no one else saw. I was right. I got it right.

Not only, of course, does his actions after that show that to be untrue, but his words after that show that to be untrue. I mean, here he is on February 10th.

ACOSTA: Totally.

BURNETT: February 25th and February 26th. So again, these are all weeks and then up to a month after this ban on China flights which he said was a sign of his clairvoyance.

[19:30:01]

Here's what he was saying about the coronavirus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[19:30:05]

TRUMP: It looks like by April, you know, in theory when it gets a little warmer it miraculously goes away.

You may ask about the coronavirus, is very well under control in our country.

We have it so well under control. I mean, we really have done a very good job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So that's what he was saying day after day after day, week after week after week.

ACOSTA: That's right. That's right, Erin.

And, you know, the president was trying to argue his way out of the Fauci controversy by saying, well, you know, when Dr. Fauci was telling us to start social mitigation, that's when we started it. But that totally avoids the point you're making, Erin. And that is for the better part of a month, a month and a half, the president was down- playing the severity of this virus. He was describing it as something like the seasonal flu, when it's not.

He was saying it would go away like a miracle. It has not gone away. He was saying it would go away in April when it got warmer outside. That has not been the case as well.

He's also said his administration has everything under control. As John King was saying a few months ago, he's -- few moments ago, he's been in office for 38 months now. He's had plenty of time to restock the shelves. And we should point out, numerous fact-checking organizations have pointed out that is just false.

When the president says I inherited an empty shelf, empty cupboards, that is false. There were supplies in the national stockpile when the Trump administration came into office. That's just a flat out lie he repeats over and over again, and it goes to the problem he's having.

He's trying to talk his way out of a mess that he created himself over the past 45 to 60 days, both me and members of the conservative media were in this echo chamber saying to one another that the public did not have to worry about this when clearly his own administration should have been preparing for the pandemic that unfolded, perhaps not to the severity that we're seeing right now, but obviously they had time to get ready, the president had time to get the public ready.

Remember there were red states very late to issue their own stay at home orders, their own stay at home guidance. That's because in part they were listening to the president, they were listening to the man they put above almost everything else in politics these days, arguably above everything else in politics these days, and it cost the American people precious time. And I just don't think there's any way to avoid that.

The president is trying to delete days and days of footage that just are never going to go away. And the public is going to be reminded of this from here until the end of the year.

Erin, part of the problem I think is the president has a temperament issue, and you and I have seen this since the 2016 campaign. Jeb Bush described him as the chaos candidate. He became the chaos president, but what the American people want right now and they're not getting is a coronavirus president, and a chaos president just isn't fitting the bill.

BURNETT: All right, thank you all very much.

We do now have calling in on the phone here the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo.

And I wanted to give you a chance, Governor, to respond. I saw your press conference today with several other governors as you're trying to coordinate your plan for reopening and dealing with the coronavirus. You know, don't know if you just heard everything the president said, but there were a couple of moments he took this on. He specifically said the president of the United States calls the shots, and he has total authority to decide to open New York or any other state.

Do you agree?

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY) (via telephone): Well, I don't agree, Erin. Thank you for having me, by the way.

I don't agree with the president's legal analysis.

The president doesn't have total authority. We have a Constitution. We don't have a king. We have an elected president. That's what our Founding Fathers did when they wrote the constitution.

And the Constitution clearly says the powers that are not specifically listed for the federal government are reserved to the states. And the balance between federal and state authority was central to the Constitution, it's one of the great balances of power. And the Constitution has served his nation very well for a long time.

And again, they didn't want a king. Otherwise, we would have had King George Washington. We didn't. We had President George Washington elected by the people.

Having said that, the president also said that the CDC was going to issue guidelines. Now, guidelines are not mandates. Guidelines are what they did on closing down the economy.

Remember the federal government did not close down the economy. The president's right. He did a travel ban with China. That was not closing down the economy. Closing down the economy is what the states did at different times in different ways.

The CDC issued guidelines, most states went well beyond the CDC guidelines, and guidelines are just guidelines. Guidelines are, do this if you like. But it's not a coordinated, national approach and it's clearly not the federal government enacting it.

[19:35:05]

So, the two (ph) we're in, either you're doing a federal takeover or you're doing guidelines which the states can follow if they want to follow. He seems to be saying both, so I don't really know --

BURNETT: So when the vice president said -- because they asked him do you believe this holds up constitutionally, right? The president's point that only he -- he and only he can call the shots for the states, Pence said that, yes, he believes that's true because of this national emergency declaration situation that we're under.

Does that hold any water with you, Governor Cuomo?

CUOMO: Legally, no. You don't become king because there's a national emergency. Now, you could argue that a federal government has enhanced power because of a federal emergency. But again, Erin, that's not what they did. The tough decisions were the closing down of the economy, the sort of reopening is an artful science based process.

But the closing down, which is where the president could have exercised this theory of total control, he didn't do it. He left it all to the states, and we have this whole hodgepodge of actions over a period of time. I think, frankly, if we had a clear national direction earlier on, we probably would have had a more orderly shutdown.

But, no, even in a federal emergency, it doesn't -- it doesn't aggregate the Constitution, and that's what you'd have to say here. The Constitution of the United States goes out the window because we have a federal emergency.

And that is not -- it's not the law of the land, period.

BURNETT: So what are you prepared to do if he comes out with, and, you know, he refused to give a date, but a much more aggressive, opening? I know today at your press conference, you laid out, for example, how you wanted to work with nearby states on, when one wants to open the bars, and the other one doesn't, you were going to work together.

But if the president comes out and lays out a plan that you think is not responsible and not right for New York, would you tell New Yorkers to ignore what he is saying and overrule it and say, no, listen to me as a governor, this is what we will do?

CUOMO: Oh, look, if they came out with a -- if -- hypothetical, if the president came out with a plan that I believed was irresponsible, and could jeopardize the public health of the people of the state of New York, I would oppose it legally, period. The coalition we put together is not all Democrats, even though the Washington way is to quite --

BURNETT: Yes, he just said that, yes.

CUOMO: Yes, that's not true. The state of Massachusetts, last time I checked, they have a great governor in Massachusetts, Governor Baker, who happens to be a Republican.

So, it's not partisan. It's not politics. We've all stayed away from that. The president should stay away from that.

Don't start that divisiveness with the partisanship, that would do themselves a disservice, right?

He likes to say, I worked with bipartisan, that would do himself a disservice, right? He likes to say, I work with Democratic governors, Republican governors, even his own video which said, bipartisan, Democrat, Republican -- well, yes, keep it there, and don't get partisan.

And, look, the governors would like nothing more than an engaged federal government where we know what the federal government does and what the states do. And then, by the way, the federal government has to do its role, too. And on this issue of testing, I'm telling you that's going to become a major issue. The states do not have the capacity to do large scale tests.

You can't get large scale diagnostic tests, and that's going to be key to any reopening plan.

BURNETT: So, he also said, you know, that he sent the ship to New York harbor and he said that he did everything with the Javits Center. But the reason that he was bringing those things up was to show that he worked with you, giving you what you wanted, but you didn't it. His words I believe were the Javits Center is empty. Now, that's not obviously quite true.

But what's your response to him on that, that you -- it's pretty clear he's saying, ask for things that he believes you do not need.

CUOMO: Yes. Look, facts matter, OK? I don't even think the president should be defensive on this. The truth is the CDC's original estimate had -- was in the millions of people infected, the CDC. That's him.

The White House coronavirus task force said in the millions of people. That's him. That did not come to be.

But as a governor, you prepare for the worst, hope for the best. If you read the CDC guidelines, if you read the White House coronavirus task force in the state of New York, you could need over 100,000 beds. Those were also the projections of the organization funded by Gates and Cornell University and Columbia University and McKinsey.

[19:40:08]

They were all projecting in the state of New York up to 140,000 beds needed. We only have 50,000 beds. So, yes, to prepare for the numbers that both the federal government and the experts said it could be, we needed additional beds.

And the president is also right that the Army Corps of Engineers did a great job in building emergency facilities. And I did call him and ask him for expedited assistance with the Army Corps of Engineers, and he did provide it. He shouldn't be defensive about that.

And the government initiatives and policies did reduce the number of people infected, caveat, so far. We just have to make sure we don't go backwards.

BURNETT: Right.

CUOMO: So he's right there, and he did work cooperatively with this state and other states, and that's why I don't understand why you would pivot at this point to this aggressive, hostile suggestion of a total authority of the federal government and abandon the partnership cooperation that he started by praising.

BURNETT: All right. Governor Cuomo, I appreciate your time. Good to talk to you again. Thank you.

CUOMO: Thank you for having me. Thank you for having me, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, thank you, Governor.

And I want to go now straight to Dr. Sanjay Gupta. So, Sanjay, when you hear all this I guess let's start with the

president says he was right on everything, right? He always points to that China ban which, of course, he did do but obviously he followed up with nothing that would indicate that he did that because he was worried about a pandemic killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. Nothing he did in a month and a half after that seemed to back that up at all.

So, when he says he was early on anything ahead of, you know, the health officials, do you agree?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, no. I think -- I think the buying of time -- I think one of the reporters asked that question. I think the idea of the travel ban I think made a lot of sense. And I think it was probably a tough decision at that time.

The idea was never this virus was not going to come to the United States. We knew it was going to come. I mean, it's a virus. It's going to travel across borders, and we knew that was going to happen.

The question was as Governor Cuomo was saying, there were projections at that point how many hospital beds, how many ventilators, how many ICU beds, all that would be necessary.

Let me show you a timeline I put together over the weekend to make this point. And as you look at this time line one thing to keep in mind is that, as more information is gathered about this virus in terms of how it's behaving, it does continue to raise additional levels of concerns.

So, on January 7th, they confirm there's a novel coronavirus. That's a concern because this is a virus that hasn't been seen in human beings. We don't know how it's going to behave. If you sort of go through that calendar, you realize that on January 31st, you know, you go to the end of that month, and what you realize is that we now have evidence of human to human transmission in the United States.

That's a significant point there. If you have human to human transmission, that's a significant -- that has raised the level of concern, right? And if you go a couple of weeks after that, Erin, you find you have evidence for sure of asymptomatic spread in the United States.

Now, why do I present it like that? Because it's not to say from the very beginning, it was the same level of concern from a week later, two weeks later. As you got information the level of concern went up.

Keep in mind, Erin, that SARS was also a novel coronavirus at that time, 2003. And I think a lot of people were asking, is this going to be more like SARS which ultimately 8,000 people in the entire world and 800 people died in the entire world, right? Was it going to be like H1N1, which infected 60 million people in the United States but had a very low fatality rate? We didn't know is the point.

But once you got -- once you found that there was human to human transmission, once you found there was asymptomatic transmission I think what surprised me is that things were done more aggressively at that point. Maybe not at the beginning of January, because we're still trying to figure it out. How's this -- how's this new virus really going to behave.

But as more information came in, I think as we've talked about, Erin, for a couple of months now on this program, I've been surprised all along, why are we talking about ventilators now, why aren't we talking about ICU beds, not in the middle of March but middle of February, or even beginning in February?

BURNETT: So, you know, in the context of this and obviously now this big debate between the president and governors, right? The governors obviously taking charge today, groups on the West Coast, groups on the East Coast and the Northeast on terms of what they're going to do, how they're going to respond and when they're going to reopen.

There was a model that came out, and I know we made the point, Sanjay, again and again, that models are only as good as the data that goes into them. But the Los Angeles County has put out a new model, their calculations are if you lift the stay at home order right now, 95 percent of the county will get infected. And we can all imagine how gruesome and horrific that would be.

But this is the crucial follow point, if the guidelines stay in effect, still 30 percent of people will be affected. Stronger measures could drop that number to 5 percent. The reason I raise this is want to get your point of view on it is that the number that we've seen worldwide in terms of how many people they believe have been exposed are all really below 5 except in Spain and Italy, where maybe 10, maybe 15. That is with the mitigation we've been doing so far.

GUPTA: That's right.

BURNETT: So, they're saying if we continue to do the mitigation we've been doing so far, and they only could put and end point on it, that you could still end up with 30 percent of the people infected just by the amount of commerce and interaction that's happening right now. That is pretty stunning and frankly incredibly frightening.

GUPTA: It is -- it is frightening, and it's a reminder, Erin, that no matter what, this is still a very contagious virus. The physiology, the pathology of the virus, that doesn't change based on these social distancing stay at home measures.

The stay at home measures influence how easily the virus can spread from person to person because we're simply not in close proximity. But it's still a very contagious virus. And I think that -- somebody said to me over the weekend, Erin, it looks like the risk now to any given individual in the United States is pretty low of contracting this and getting sick from it. That's true because we have these measures in place, Erin. So, I think that that's really important point.

And if we -- once we relax these measures, and I don't say this in any way, you know, to frighten people, but once we relax these measures, there will be people who become infected who otherwise would not have become infected. There will be people who get very sick who otherwise would not have become sick. That is true, because that is the nature of the virus.

Until we have a vaccine, we can't -- we can't promise that people aren't going to get sick. So, there's going to be a -- at some point, there's going to be this inflection point. OK, we are willing to tolerate a certain number of illnesses and infections in order to reopen the economy.

If you ask the University of Washington their models they would say that's 0.03 percent. It's a bit of a made-up number, but that means 90 people a day will still be dying of this virus at the time that the economy -- as the nation would start to reopen.

This is -- this is -- I mean, this is sort of the situation that we're in. And as you mentioned at the beginning, there's still models. All models are wrong. But some are useful and, you know, and some are instructive like this one.

BURNETT: Right. Thank you very much, and it certainly makes us all think long and hard what life will be like here over -- perhaps a very extended period of time, you know, when we talk about normal and what normal means.

GUPTA: That's right.

All right. Sanjay, thank you very much.

And also in tonight's briefing, you know, we mentioned Dr. Anthony Fauci was there, and he did walk back remarks he made here on CNN. So, what he said is more could have been done in February to prevent the spread of coronavirus. And what he told our Jake Tapper, quote, there was a lot of push back at the time.

Now, some people implied that pushback to perhaps have come from the president as Fauci admitted had they put these mitigation efforts into effect weeks earlier, many lives would have been saved. Well, tonight at the briefing with the president, Fauci clarified his remarks. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: That was the wrong choice of words. When you know what it was when people discuss not necessarily in front of the president, people discuss, they say, well, you know, this is going to have maybe a harmful effect on this or that, so it was a poor choice of words. It wasn't anybody saying, no, you shouldn't do that.

REPORTER: Are you doing this voluntarily or did the president --

FAUCI: Everything I do is voluntarily, please. Don't even imply that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Dr. Jonathan Reiner. He's advised the George W. Bush White House medical team for eight years, and he's currently the director of the cardiac catheterization program at George Washington University Hospital.

Dr. Reiner, what's your reaction to Dr. Fauci, you know, walking back, clarifying those remarks. I interpret it as him saying, yes, there were obviously mistakes made. They wish they'd done it earlier, but he made it clear that finger should be pointed at multiple people. He didn't it point it at the president directly.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, DIRECTOR OF CARDIAC CATHETERIZATION PROGRAM, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, Dr. Fauci yesterday spoke the truth. He when asked whether earlier mitigation efforts would have resulted in more lives saved, he responded the only way he could which was to say, sure, you know, if we had closed down elements of our economy and got people to social distance sooner, the virus would have not spread as widely, so that's absolutely true.

But the broader truth is that multiple mistakes were made very early on, and I put them really into three categories. Number one, whatever time we gained from the China ban was wasted in our very, very slow efforts to widely test. From the first patient until the 20th -- the 20,000th test took almost two months.

[19:50:02]

So it took too long to test.

Number two, we didn't have any nearly the kind of equipment we needed to protect our medical teams and our hospitals. And number three, we didn't have any kind of plan to protect the public, in terms of to really sit people at home, or to get them to wear masks when they're out in public.

So, there were multiple mistakes made all along the way. And the overwhelming effect is now 23,000 deaths in the United States.

BURNETT: So, after Dr. Fauci made that comment on CNN yesterday, President Trump then retweeted a post. And in the post that he retweeted, you can see the #firefauci. The president was asked about that tonight, Dr. Reiner. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I retweeted somebody. I don't know. They said fire -- it doesn't matter.

REPORTER: Did you notice that?

TRUMP: I notice everything.

REPORTER: You retweeted it even though it said time to fire Fauci.

TRUMP: No, no, that's somebody's opinion. All that is an opinion.

REPORTER: And you all elevated --

TRUMP: No --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Look, you know, the fact he would retweet something like that, this is supposed to be the person running his entire response is appalling, but many of his allies, even a Republican congressman, have begun attacking Fauci. How dangerous is it that the president has opened the door to allow people to doubt Fauci, which he knew perfectly well he was doing something when he retweeted something that said "fire Fauci"?

REINER: It's super dangerous. Look, Erin, the president needs advisers who are willing to tell him what he does not want to hear. And Tony Fauci is that person. He's willing to tell the president what he doesn't want to hear. That's what every leaders should get, someone who's willing to speak truth to power.

BURNETT: So, we hear, you know, the White House tells us Trump has calling his friends and say why isn't Fauci saying nice things about me? You've been in this position before, because obviously you were advising a White House for many years, but we've also seen how this president works, right?

Things start like this, and then he says the person is fine, and the person's position becoming tenuous, insecure and the person ends up getting kicked out.

You also heard how Fauci said I wasn't put this up by somebody, right? Nobody can make me say anything I don't actually mean. He did seem genuinely angry about that.

How hard is his position right now?

REINER: It's really hard. You know, the best thing that an adviser like Dr. Fauci or anyone else that's trying to give particularly medical advice to the president can do is to give unvarnished advice, not to tell them what they want to hear. Years ago, I told the vice president at the time that if I ever thought he was somehow unfit or incapable of performing his duties, he wouldn't have to ask me, I would tell him.

The president should want people around him who are willing to do that, who are willing to tell them what they might not want to hear.

BURNETT: All right. Dr. Reiner, thank you very much, sir.

REINER: My pleasure.

BURNETT: All right. And I want to go now to Boston, where cases of coronavirus have doubled in just the past week, and that is according to the city's mayor who has been slamming the president's talk of reopening the country on May 1st. It's, quote, completely irresponsible.

OUTFRONT now, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

Of course, Mayor, tonight the president demured when asked if he was standing by that specific date. Obviously you have spoke out with strong words on this.

Why do you think it's completely irresponsible to even begin talking about opening the economy in just a couple weeks?

MAYOR MARTY WALSH (D), BOSTON: Well, because the numbers don't reflect that. If we look at -- some of your early guests were talking about, if we shut the country down in February, we're probably in a very different situation today. And now, we're talking about getting the country back running, which we all know has to go up and we have to do that, but if you do that, there's also a potential second surge and second curve that we have to worry about.

And I get very concerned about that we're taking our attention off on what's in front of us right now, and we have a surge happening in the United States of America and the northeast part of the country and over in the West Coast, and in the middle of the country so far, they haven't seen that direct. But it's a very dangerous conversation to we having right now when we don't even have medical equipment, ventilators, gowns, masks, all that we need to really give to our first responders and doctors and nurses, and our nursing homes throughout the country.

BURNETT: So, you know, when you hear that study out of Los Angeles County, when they say if we continue doing what we're doing right now, and, obviously, they are under a similar order and stay at home there in California Los Angeles, as you have in Boston, that you could still have 30 percent of the population exposed. Any reasonable comparison to other countries would indicate that that number in the United States is a fraction of that, perhaps overall 1 percent, 5 percent, much, much way below that. That would imply a long period of time under these sorts of measures, and it would imply a lot of death.

[19:55:05]

Have -- what have you seen, in terms of what you're looking at for how long these mitigation efforts need to stay in effect to minimize the death, and the potential as you say for a second surge?

WALSH: I mean, I think once we hit the curve, and the surge now obviously is getting us to curve and we start to see the curve going down a bit, then we can make decisions on what part of society do we bring back our economy gradually. I think that's important. I think we have -- workers over the age of 60 years old that are more vulnerable to the virus, and to death in the virus, and we have to think about, how do we bring those folks back?

I think there is an opportunity at some point to have these conversations. But I don't want to give -- necessarily in Boston, I speak from Boston, I don't want to give anyone in Boston false expectations, false hope, that we're going to be up and running in mid May or even (AUDIO GAP) maybe June.

I think we have to be very careful in making sure everything we can to keep people safe, to keep people alive, and to people that don't get exposed to the coronavirus. And that has to be first and foremost. And a friend of mine just texted me and he was talking about how the economy needs to be starts soon (ph) because we weren't built that way to be shut down so long, and I don't disagree with him. But my question is, are we choosing life over the economy?

And I think if we stay ahead of it, and we are able to put the procedures in place, maybe we can have this conversation in few weeks. But right now, the president, the governors and the rest of the country the mayors of country, should be focused on making sure we do everything to keep people safe and keep people alive.

BURNETT: You obviously have a Republican governor in your state, and the president, you know, referenced this group of states in the Northeast, you know, and on the West Coast, as a bunch of Democrats, which, of course, was inaccurate, obviously, as a Republican governor on your state.

But are you completely in lockstep with your -- with your governor?

WALSH: We are almost thing. Publicly, we are in lockstep with everything, we might have some disagreements on the scenes of how to do it, but that's not -- it's not a fight, it's just -- not disagreements. It's just a conversation about how to handle -- how to handle the situation.

We have to be in lockstep here. You can't have air between you, you can't have space between you, because everyone's life is at stake here when it comes to people who are getting the coronavirus. So, I mean, again, I would say we've had major disagreements at all, we haven't had, that I think it's important that we support one another. And certainly, I'm going to support the state, and the support -- the state should support us as well.

BURNETT: All right. Mayor Walsh, thank you very much. I appreciate your time. It's good to talk to you again, sir.

WALSH: Thank you.

BURNETT: Also tonight, the world's biggest pork processor working of severe, perhaps disastrous repercussions after it closed a plant which produces nearly 130 million servings of food per week. That's closure is due to a coronavirus outbreak.

Dianne Gallagher is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roughly 5 percent of all U.S. pork production happens here at the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. That is until this week, the plant is closed indefinitely.

The state's governor recommended it shut down this weekend after nearly 250 of its workers tested positive for the virus. In a sobering statement, the company CEO pointing out that large plants shutting down are, quote, pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply. It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. Now, experts caution there's not an emergency yet, but --

TOM VILSACK, FORMER AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: The question is whether or not you'll have more and more plants with sick workers and basically the decision to shut down those production facilities.

GALLAGHER: Still, it's not just South Dakota. There's a possible cluster in Tennessee, and in Colorado a plant in Greeley is temporarily closed after two workers died from the virus, and at least 50 tested positive for coronavirus, according to the union.

In Iowa, and in Pennsylvania, where multiple meat packing plants have shut down due to the pandemic.

WENDELL YOUNG IV, PRESIDENT, UFCW LOCAL 1776 KEYSTONE STATE: Our members are right there on those front lines in ways that they never imagined and they never signed up for.

GALLAGHER: Wendell Young, whose union represents more than 8,000 food processing workers in Pennsylvania and Ohio says keeping the food chain going is important, but the people actually doing it need protection, that there was a difference between being essential and sacrificial.

YOUNG: If they have the right to open, they have a right to run them responsibly. They have the right to make sure the people in those buildings are safe, so when they go home to their families, they keep the community safe.

GALLAGHER: Young says plants have to mandate social distancing, and make sure protective equipment is available for every employee. Now, medical experts say that while the increasing plant workers disrupts the food supply chain and add to community spread, it isn't making the food you eat unsafe.

DR. MARK RUPP, PROFESSOR & CHIEF OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER: You are not going to catch this from your products. Again, putting food, washing them is going to minimize that risk, dramatically.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GALLAGHER: And, look, this is scary to hear, there could be an interruption in the food supply chain, but the key, according to every expert, is not to panic when it comes to consumers.

Don't go to the grocery store and buy of all the meat and hoard in your freezer. All that will do is accelerate the potential problem. Erin, right now, the experts are saying they're simply trying to sound the alarm before it's too late.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Dianne.

And thanks for all of you for joining us.

ANDERSON continues our coverage now.