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Trump Angrily Defends His Response to the Outbreak; Governors Slam Trump for Claiming Total Authority; Around 300,000 Workers in Spain Return to Jobs; No End to Lockdown in Sight for the U.K.; One Third of NHS, Other Key Workers Tested in U.K. have Coronavirus; France Extends Emergency Measures Until May 11. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired April 14, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead -- Donald Trump gets testy and defensive at the White House briefing as he faces criticism over his administration's slow reaction to the coronavirus pandemic. Meantime, governors frustrated with the federal response are stepping up on their own coordinating plans to restart their economies.

Plus, from processing plants to grocery stores, how the pandemic is impacting the U.S. food supply chain.

Well, in the United States all 50 states are now reporting at least one death from the coronavirus pandemic. According to John Hopkins University, America's death toll is quickly approaching 2,400 fatalities. But despite the sobering developments, U.S. President Donald Trump insists he has everything under control. And at his daily news conference in Washington, the President went on the offensive lashing out at the media and denying reports that he responded too slowly to the outbreak.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On January 11th, no deaths and no cases. On January 17th, no cases. No cases. No deaths. I'm supposed to close up the United States of America when I have no cases --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the middle of March. Should you have closed it down earlier?

TRUMP: I closed down from China. Excuse me, I closed it down from China. And by the way, some people think I should have waited longer and maybe ridden it out. I disagree with them, OK. But it was thought of. I mean, that was an alternative. So we did the right thing and our timing was very good.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: Mr. Trump also insisted that as President he has the ultimate authority to re-open the country, but governors in these ten states disagree with that assertion. They are now discussing plans to restore the economy and lift travel restrictions without the President's help. Well, Kaitlyn Collins has more now on President Trump's contentious and often misleading White House briefing Monday.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was really extraordinary briefing in the White House where the President came out, he played this campaign style video of media clips where he said that media figures and Democrats were downplaying the coronavirus, as he sought to defend his response after "The New York Times" published that extensive documentation of just how slow the president was to respond to the coronavirus outbreak here in the United States, and how he resisted calls from senior officials to take more aggressive measures sooner.

The President denied that report but not specifically anything included in the report, included about how his HHS secretary came to him in January warning of a possible pandemic. But instead the President focused on the other's response to the coronavirus outbreak, including in the media and with Democrats as he defended his moves in that. And, of course, this comes as now the President is weighing when to reopen the country. And we know that inside the White House there had been discussions about May when those guidelines that the president has put in place until the end of April expired, and what he's going to do then.

And the President made an argument in the briefing room that he believes he has total authority over when that happens. Governor say that is not the case, the President does not have the decision, the final decision on when it comes that they will reopen restaurants, stores and whatnot, and they say they are going to do that on the state by state basis. Judging on the data that they are seeing. But the President falsely insisted that he has total authorities as President of the United States to make that case. Though, of course, we know the Constitution would say otherwise

And when I ask the President who it was that told him and told him wrong that he actually had that authority, he did not answer and instead moved on to other questions. As we wait to see what exactly the final decision is going to be about when the President says it's time for the country to reopen.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: Well, Mr. Trump's claim that he has total authority certainly raised eyebrows and it sparked a response from several governors who slammed the President's remark. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: The President of the United States calls the shots. When somebody's the President of the United States, the authority is total, and that's the way it's got to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Total? The authority is total?


TRUMP: Total. It's total. The governors know that. The governors know that. Now you have a couple of bans -- excuse me. Excuse me.



ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK GOVERNOR: 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 shadow of governments are reserved to the states.



NED LAMONT, CONNECTICUT GOVERNOR: I'll tell you what I saw when I heard that, this is a President that loves to throw verbal hand grenades. Look, he's got the bully pulpit but we're the ones that have to enforce it. Everyone knows that it's the governors where the rubber meets the road. I think every governor knows what it takes to get it done. That's what we had nine governors today say, we're going to open it up and do it on a thoughtful basis. I'm not going to send hundreds of typhoid Marys out in the community and have another all rammed debris infection. Talk about taking the confidence out of this economy. Talking about taking people -- and let that happen. Shame on us. Not one governor will let that happen.


CHURCH: So let's talk about this with Jeffrey Sachs. He is the director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University and joins me from New York. Good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So more than 23,000 people have died so far in the United States during this COVID-19 pandemic, more than any other nation in the world. And yet President Trump insists he did everything right. What's your assessment of how he has handled this health crisis so far?

SACHS: It's a tragedy what's happening in the United States. Certainly when the alarm bells were ringing in January Trump wasn't hearing them at all. When the whole world was reacting in February, Trump was saying everything is under control. It's been horrible. And we haven't had to this moment anything that resembles competent leadership. It's absolutely awful.

CHURCH: And during President Trump's extraordinary daily briefing Monday he aired a propaganda video in an effort to push back on criticism in a "New York Times" article over the weekend documenting how he had failed to listen to warnings from medical experts and senior aides about this virus. And his video showed what he did in late January with the travel ban and what he said and did in March but nothing in February. And a CBS reporter pressed him on that. Let's just bring that up and listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you do with the time that you that you balked? The month of February.

TRUMP: What do you do when you have no case in the whole United States.


TRUMP: Excuse me, you reported it. Zero cases. Zero deaths on January 17th. January.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a complete gap --

TRUMP: On January 30 --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did your administration do in February from the time that your travel ban --

TRUMP: A lot and in fact we'll give you a list. In fact, part of it was up there. We did a lot. Look, look, you know you're a fake. You know that? Your whole network the way you cover it is fake and most of you -- and not all of you. But the people are wise to you, that's why you have a lower approval rating than you've ever had before times probably three.


CHURCH: So in the middle of a health crisis the reporter rightly points out there's a gap in February, exactly when action should and could have been taken but wasn't, and Mr. Trump didn't have an answer for the reporter. Instead, he insulted her. What's your reaction to that exchange and to the inaction on the part of the President during the critical month of February?

SACHS: Well, it makes you want to cry because Trump spent January and February saying it's all under control. It's the flu. Whatever he said. Such nonsense when we should have been testing, tracking, isolating cases with a sense of urgency that was actually exercised in many, many countries that kept the virus under control. This is a tough virus, no doubt about it. If you take your eye off of the epidemic it grows at phenomenal, terrifying rate, and that's why you need systematic public health coverage to contain the virus. We had nothing like that.

CHURCH: And President Trump wants to open up the country for business even insisting he has total authority over all of the states to make that decision. That is not the case.


What will likely happen if Mr. Trump sends Americans back to work on May 1st or sometime within that month with the current level of COVID- 19 testing in this country?

SACHS: The only way to open an economy safely and prudently is if you have a public health system that is catching every case, every cluster early, isolating people, quarantining people where that is necessary. It requires systems because if you don't have that in place and you open up, even a low level of transmission becomes a full-scale epidemic once again.

And so it's so basic, but Trump is so ignorant that he can't hear it. We don't have any of the proper messaging at the national level so it's left to the mayors and the governors. And when the mayors and the governors say we are going to have a public health approach, then Trump in his bluster says, no, no, I'm the one in charge.

CHURCH: How is it possible that the superpower is incapable apparently of having COVID-19 testing extensively across this country as well as contact tracing, as well as antibody testing because really until those three specific mechanisms are in place extensively, this country surely can't open up, can it?

SACHS: We've never seen a collapse of governance in the United States as we have under Trump. It is absolutely known in powerful circles that the man is utterly incompetent. But until this epidemic, that well-known secret was absolutely tolerated by the business elites, the corporate elites and others, because Trump delivered a tax cut for them and he delivered deregulation. And as long as the stock market was high, they said what difference really could it make if the man is completely incompetent, we're rolling in dough. And that's what's happened in the United States.

We have known on this particular case -- China called the United States on January 3rd to say there is a real crisis. The Chinese Centers for Disease Control called the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to say this. The intelligence agencies were writing reports with the alarm bells going off. Trump's own staff in the White House writing memos with alarm. None of it has mattered. It basically doesn't matter until today because all the man wants is to stand at that press briefing and boast. That's what he thinks his job is.

CHURCH: Jeffrey Sachs, thank you so much for talking with us. We do appreciate it.

SACHS: Thank you.

CHURCH: Meantime, in Italy coronavirus deaths now top 20,000. The world's second highest total behind the United States. The government is letting some non-essential businesses reopen Tuesday on a trial basis, even as is it extends its lockdown.

And in Spain, about 300,000 workers returned to their jobs Monday as the country began lifting its coronavirus restrictions. Those in construction and manufacturing were allowed back but shops, bars, and restaurants are staying closed for now. Some worker's groups and politicians are concerned the lockdown is being lifted too quickly. And if you look at the countries with the most deaths per capita, Spain tops the list with 363 deaths for every 1 million.

Well, journalist Al Goodman joins us now from Madrid. So, Al, 300,000 workers across the country returned to their jobs Monday. How did that go? And how's it looking now?

AL GOODMAN, JOURNALIST: Hi, Rosemary. That 300,000 was pretty much right here in the Madrid region. But this day because about half of the country was still on vacation on the Monday after Easter, yesterday. So today everybody, all these category of workers, the construction workers, factory workers, principally go back. It could be well over a million, a couple million according to some estimates.

Now these workers -- the lockdown still continues. It's six weeks long. It goes almost 2 the end of April. And these workers were able to work at the beginning of that. But then for the last few weeks they were told to stay at home. Because at hospitals like this one behind me and across the country, health officials wanted to get down the new infection rates pouring into the hospital, ease the pressure on the intensive care beds.


That has been achieved according to the statistics, officials say. So these workers were allowed to go back. We talked to some of them as they were going back on Monday. Here's what they had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): In my situation I want to work because I have no money left. And to pay the rent, bills, I have my child at home, so I really want to go back to work. Let's hope these measures don't make things worse because we are already asphyxiated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm not worried. I'm an essential worker so I was already working even during the quarantine.


GOODMAN: So you were hearing the balance that the Spanish officials and that officials in so many other countries are having to make between the health issue -- obviously, no one wants to have a second wave and hospitals overwhelmed again. But you also have the economic issue. So these workers who are allowed back, Rosemary, there's a test going on for them as they ramp up the testing around the country to see who may have the virus and we don't know about it. They're also testing these workers. Will they wear masks? Will they keep the social distancing? Will they

wash their hands? Will they agree not to share equipment at jobs at factories and on construction sites? So this is really what's going on before the government. The Prime Minister and others have said before they might even open up a little bit more in some other sectors. They have to see how this first limited part of the work force is behaving as they go back to work -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Absolutely. And as they do that, of course, the rest of the world is watching to see how this goes. Because each country is taking this in a different way and they've got a different approach. So we will watch very carefully. Al Goodman bringing us the latest from Spain, appreciate that.

Well, the U.K. will remain on lockdown for at least another week and most likely even longer. The grim news from British officials. We will go live to London for the very latest.



CHURCH: There's no end in sight for the U.K.'s coronavirus lockdown. While some European countries are starting to relax their restrictions, British leaders are warning the country is still not past its peak. It's also been revealed that care homes for the elderly have been hit hard with one in seven homes having at least one positive coronavirus test.

The U.K.'s chief scientific advisor says Britain will likely see an increase in COVID-19 deaths this week. The country has been under a stay-at-home order for three weeks. The death toll there has topped 11,000.

So let's go live to London with CNN's Nick Paton Walsh. Nick, it is a grim outlook right now for the United Kingdom, and I understand you have some troubling new numbers about NHS workers. What's happening?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, I mean, day by day small numbers kind of peek through the general veneer of cautious optimism we get from the government that show that there are some underlying problems here.

One of the more recent ones has emerged from the briefings given yesterday and that's about the number of NHS workers, that's those who work for the free U.K. front line health service and also other key social care workers, too, that have so far been tested for coronavirus. Now an incredibly small proportion of the population and indeed of those frontline health care workers have been tested so far. Some of them have to it's thought, show numbers before they get a test. Of those that have been tested -- and that's just shy of 17,000 -- a third of them have come out positive.

Now that is a startling headline figure. It comes with those caveats certainly because if they're put in the broad proportion of the NHS workforce there probably significantly smaller than a third, those that test positive. But it's one of a number of numbers that come forward in the last 48 hours. That has suggested that as the U.K. moves into the peak or possibly the plateau here, government officials reluctant to be too specific about when we hit the peak or if we have yet in the recent days. We are beginning to see the scope of what's happened in the United Kingdom.

Another number that emerged during the briefing yesterday, that 13.5 percent, that's 1 in 7 of care homes for the elderly have a coronavirus positive patient in them. Now that is obviously of some concern because there are many questions about exactly how accurate or fair to say encompassing the daily death toll, we're given by the U.K. government actually is.

Now to be part of that death toll, people have to -- patients sadly have to have been tested positive for coronavirus in hospital and then died. So it excludes people who have died in care homes or elsewhere in the community. Specific figures for that are released weekly. New ones coming out today. But one period seems to suggest a significant underreporting, perhaps as much as by a half. Not mathematically sound there but it's there. And so, when you hear the number of care homes that may be impacted, too, that begins to give a broader sense of the picture of what's happening here in the United Kingdom -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Just unbelievable. Isn't it? Nick Paton Walsh bringing us the latest on what's going on across Britain, live from London there. Many thanks.

Well meanwhile, in France the government is extending its emergency measures until May 11th. Nearly 15,000 coronavirus deaths are confirmed in France though the health ministry says they appear to be plateauing. And CNN's Cyril Vanier is the anchor of "YOUR WORLD TODAY." He has been following the lockdown from Normandy, France for more than three weeks now. And he joins us live. So, Cyril, despite France's shocking death toll, there are signs the curve is flattening. But the country's President has extended the lockdown. What all did he say about France's future and what the plans are?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR, YOUR WORLD TODAY: Rosemary, you're right to highlight that it's a shocking death toll. And even though the number of deaths here and the spread of the virus, the number of deaths is plateauing, the spread of the virus is slowing, it is still a dire situation.


And the health ministry reminds us every day that there are hundreds of new daily deaths. And we can't lose sight of that.

That said, the government gave clear guidelines for the way forward yesterday. And that's that the national stay at home order, which has been in place for a month, needs to continue for another month to give the virus a chance to slow down its spread and to give the French health care system a chance to rebuild its capacity, right, to welcome patients and to treat patients who need intensive care. Listen to the French President.


EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): The epidemic has not yet been mastered. We must continue our efforts and continue to apply the rules. The more they are respected, the more lives you will save. So it's for that reason that the lockdown -- the most restrictive lockdown must be continued until Monday 11th of May.


VANIER: So May 11th, that's the pivotal date and that's when things will start changing in France, as you said. What happens on that day? Well, it's not the same thing for everybody. But schools and high schools all the way up to university -- that excludes universities, I beg your pardon -- will reopen May 11th and people who can't go work from home will be allowed to go back to work.

Now everybody will not benefit from the lifting of this stay-at-home order. Because the elderly and those who have weak immune systems will have to stay home indefinitely. We don't have a date for that section of the population.

What happens to the people who can resume some semblance of normal life. Well, in schools, teachers and students will have to be protected. As for the general population, everybody who shows symptoms will be able to be tested. That is a guarantee given last night by the French President.

So test everybody who has symptoms. Everybody who tests positive will then be isolated, guaranteed for two weeks as we've seeing in parts of Asia that are ahead of Europe on this curve.

So that's what things look like. That's the roadmap for the next few weeks in France. That said, life will not be going fully back to normal on May 11th, but not only because, as I said, part of the population will be still be under this stay-at-home order, but also bars, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, museums, festivals, any place where large numbers of people gather will be shut until at least mid-July -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Indeed, we're all facing the new normal, aren't we? Cyril Vanier, many thanks to you bringing us the latest from France live there with that report, appreciate it.

And you are watching the CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, with the coronavirus taking a heavy toll on the U.S. economy, some governors are now making plans to restart the country. Details on what they're trying to do. That's next.