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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview With Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Business Leaders Warn Trump About Reopening Country Without Testing. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 15, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Breaking this afternoon, in a call with President Trump today, business leaders said that testing needs to be dramatically increased across the country in order to boost public confidence, before relaxing any restrictions and attempting to open up the economy, according to a source.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, of course, has warned that without increased capacity for testing, so as to be able to isolate the virus, May 1, which is the president has set as a possible deadline, is overly optimistic to reopen the country and could, in fact, cause a resurgence of the disease.

The head of the CDC today cautioned the same thing, saying that more testing and contact tracing is necessary before any American goes back to work.

It's a sentiment that was echoed by New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The more testing, the more open the economy. We need the federal government to be part of this. Testing capacity to me is like what ventilators were over the past month.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Let's start with that warning from business leaders to President Trump today that testing needs to be ramped up significantly, it needs to be far more widespread before any discussions of bringing people back to work.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House and is bringing us the story.

Kaitlan, this was the first meeting, a phone meeting, I guess, of the president's new business council. Are there any indications that the business leaders were able to convince the president?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the question we're going to have for him this afternoon at the press briefing, because this is the first of a series of calls he had today with these business executives that he's invited to give him advice, as they are weighing reopening the country and when exactly they're going to do that and really what that's going to look like.

And the first message from these executives on this first call, which was banking executives, financial executives, those from retail, hospitality, restaurants, of that nature, was that you're going to have to ramp up testing if we're going to open up our businesses and people are going to feel safe coming in.

They made sure to tell the president that was a priority for them, and essentially saying that they do not feel that they're at the level of that right now, because a lot of these companies were basically telling the president, if these consumers don't feel comfortable coming in, then we're not going to be opening up until this testing has ramped up further.

Now, we are told there was a lot of praise for the president on this call and what his administration has done so far. But, Jake, this could be kind of a reality check for the president, because, for the last two weeks, we have seen him insisting that testing in the U.S. is fine.

He said he has not heard a lot of concerns about the testing so far anymore from state officials, though we know state officials have been talking about this as well. And it comes, of course, as the president and his economic advisers are pushing to have at least some kind of opening on May 1, when those deadlines expire.

TAPPER: Every single state official I have heard talk about this has said he or she needs much more ramped-up testing across the state and across the country.

Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

As testing remains the central issue around reopening the country, there is more tension between the president and the nation's governors, including this question: How much is President Trump going to push them to do what health officials are currently advising them to not do?

As Erica Hill reports, Governor Cuomo said today that, though New York appears to be on the downslope of the virus, they are not out of the woods yet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More masks, more time apart, more testing, and more realistic expectations.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: If we move too quick, we put 50,000 people in Yankee Stadium, and that's part of why you see a resurgence of the disease, that would be the worst of all worlds. So you got one chance.

HILL: As the president continues to push for a symbolic May 1 reopening, officials around the country are focused on their communities, following the lead of California Governor Gavin Newsom, confirming this new normal is here to stay. In New Orleans, the mayor suggesting major events like Jazz Fest won't

be back until 2021. Mississippi the latest state to close schools for the remainder of the academic year, as experts predict the virus will return.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We're going to have another battle with it, up front aggressively next winter. This is why it's so important that we take the time now to really improve our testing capacity, expand our public health, capacity to do early case recognition, contact tracing and isolation. I call it block and tackle, block and tackle.

HILL: Los Angeles now offering same- or next-day testing to its 10 million residents. Anyone with COVID symptoms is eligible.

The nation's first saliva testing site is now open in New Jersey, Major League Baseball pitching in for antibody testing, players, their families, concession workers, some 10,000 volunteers in total part of a nationwide study to better understand the infection and its spread, knowledge that is essential to any reopening.

CUOMO: It is very hard to bring this to scale quickly. And we need the federal government to be part of this.

[16:05:00]

HILL: New York today announcing mandatory face coverings in public, when social distancing can't be maintained, as the state cautiously embraces a plateau.

Meantime, Georgia prepares for a potential surge, and Midwestern states discuss a coordinated regional plan to reopen, similar to efforts in the Northeast and on the West Coast.

GOV. KATE BROWN (D-OR): This is not a light switch going on or off. This is going to be making a change, testing it, modeling it, and then seeing whether it works. And then, if it does, you can make another change.

HILL: Also key to any lasting change, a vaccine.

KIZZMEKIA CORBETT, NIH: We're targeting fall for the emergency use. So that would be for health care workers and people who might be in constant contact and in risk of being exposed over and over.

HILL: For the rest of America, that vaccine is likely at least a year away.

With each new day, new victims put a face on this battle.

Gregory Hodge, an EMT, was a 24-year veteran of the FDNY. He helped at the World Trade Center after 9/11. The department announcing his death due to COVID-19. Gregory Hodge was 59 years old.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: Jake, we're also learning more about efforts in different cities.

San Francisco today saying that they are launching a partnership for contact testing. And, in Los Angeles, the mayor, Eric Garcetti, last night in his press conference talked about something he labeled CARES Corps, a proposal he's working on with the mayor of Oklahoma City that would put people to work doing contact tracing and other important jobs in local areas.

He says he should have some more details on that today and also said, Jake, that he believes that should be funded by the federal government.

TAPPER: All right, Erica Hill in New York, thank you so much, and stay safe.

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

Sanjay, this does seem significant that business leaders, in addition to top health officials, are urging President Trump to get up to speed much more testing before allowing or pushing individuals to go back to work to reopen the economy.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No question.

I mean, testing has been the priority, will continue to be the priority, as we try and reopen the economy. There's no question about it. And now we know that there are people who can even shed this virus, Jake, spread the virus, even before they develop symptoms.

We know that people in the past who are asymptomatic, never develop any symptoms, can spread it, and now we know the most vulnerable time for people who do develop symptoms is before they even get sick.

They need to be tested. They have no idea. Right now, I think the question that should be asked, I think there's plenty of -- it sounds like there's more and more tests out there, that the labs are doing fewer tests and more people want to get tested. So what's what's going on here?

People want the test, the testing is available, there's no backlog. What's going on there? Something in between is broken. Everyone in the country should be able to answer this question. Right now, if you wanted to get tested, would you know exactly what to do? Could you get the results back in a day?

Everyone in the country should be able to answer yes to that question before we can really reopen the country.

TAPPER: Let's dive into some of the points you just made. The first one, you referred to, you alluded to a study published today in the journal "Nature Medicine," finding that people actually might be most infectious, meaning most able to infect other people with the coronavirus, before they actually show any symptoms, which adds to this growing body of evidence that seemingly healthy people are really spreading the virus to a large degree. GUPTA: Yes.

TAPPER: What should people watching at home do, if anything, with this information?

GUPTA: You know what they should do, Jake? It's probably the thing that you and I talked about, I think, six weeks ago now, I remember, still on your program, and we said people need to behave like they have the virus.

That's been the point. That was the point then. It's still the point. You may not know you have it. You may never develop symptoms or you may not have yet developed symptoms, but not only could you be infectious. You could even be more so than when you get sick.

And this also speaks to contact tracing. Think about, like, everybody that you may have come in contact with after you were sick, maybe a smaller number, because hopefully you stayed home.

But do you know everyone you came in contact with for the three days before you started to develop symptoms? It's going to make this process really challenging. But, again, that needs to be in place before we can start opening the country again.

TAPPER: Also really shows the importance of testing, if you're most infectious when you don't have any symptoms at all.

Eliminating the social distancing restrictions or physical distancing restrictions would obviously rely to a large degree on there being some sort of vaccine. The lead NIH scientist on the vaccine, Dr. Corbett, said yesterday that NIH hopes to have something ready for front-line workers, meaning health care workers, and EMTs and police and the like, by the fall, with a larger public rollout next spring.

[16:10:01]

Is that timeline realistic? That seems kind of like good news.

GUPTA: Yes, it does seem like good news.

I mean, I was part of that interview with her. I mean, she seemed confident. But there's a lot of caveats, Jake. I mean, the vaccine has got to still be proven to be safe and proven to be effective.

But I got the sense, Jake, there's three phases. There's phase one, which is safety, phase two, which is effectiveness, and phase three, where you do the really large trials of lots of people to make sure it holds up.

My sense was that, maybe after phase two, as part of an emergency use, they may allow this to start being used in health care workers, maybe still as part of a trial. But she seemed pretty confident, by next spring, it should be available for the general public, which would be good news.

I mean, vaccines can take up to 10 years to make, Jake, so this is a pretty rapid schedule.

TAPPER: Very rapid.

And, Sanjay, you also referred to this. The daily number of COVID-19 tests performed by commercial labs has declined in the past week, even though demand is only increasing. Do we have any idea why this is?

GUPTA: I think there may still be too strict a criteria for who can get tested. I mean, we know the criteria have been all over the place. But now it's saying people who only have symptoms should get tested.

As we were just talking about, obviously, a lot of people may not have any symptoms or may not yet have symptoms, and they need to be tested.

So I think, ultimately, if we say testing is widely available, for the individual out there, it's got to mean, as they watch this, they know exactly who to call or where to go, or have someone come to their house even, or have an in-home test, or something that they can get tested.

Everyone in the country should be able to answer the question, would you know how to get tested right now if you had to? And I think the majority of people still don't know that.

I still get calls from health care workers in some places, Jake, where they still have a hard time getting tested. So numbers have gone up, but it's not widely sort of distributed or applied around the country.

TAPPER: The FDA has now approved at least three different tests for antibodies, which theoretically detect whether or not somebody has been exposed to the virus and recovered from it.

If you have had the virus -- we talked about this yesterday, but just to reiterate, if you have had the virus, if you test positive for antibodies in your system, we don't necessarily know, because this virus is -- this coronavirus is so new, so novel, we don't necessarily know that it means that you're then free and clear, and you can never get it again.

But that's the hope. Am I right?

GUPTA: Yes, I think that's the hope.

And I think if you talk to most infectious disease doctors, they will say, presumably, that's the case. You should have some immunity against this, because that is how other viruses and even similar viruses have behaved.

We don't know how strong that immunity will be. We don't know how long.

By the way, I just got to say. You brought up Dr. Corbett earlier, who's spearheading the vaccine. I said, well, how do we know the vaccine will work then, because of this -- we don't know if the antibodies are protective? And she said, the vaccine is going to be totally different. Because it'll have been tested, it will give you the longer and stronger protection than the antibodies you get from becoming infected. So she was drawing a distinction between the vaccine that hopefully will be available by this time next year vs. just getting infected, because a lot of people say, why don't I just get infected? I will be protected that way.

The vaccine is a much better approach.

TAPPER: Yes. I mean, also, you might get killed by the coronavirus.

As we have seen, it's deadlier than the regular influenza.

GUPTA: And you can get really sick, exactly, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Yes. Right. And even if you don't die from it, you can get very, very sick.

There are a lot of accounts of people who have survived it who are still really, really hurting.

California Governor Gavin Newsom laid out what the new normal could look like, California and -- in California and across the country, as social distancing is eased, temperature checks at restaurants, waiters wear gloves at restaurants, tables are set up six feet apart, limited large gatherings.

Is this what Americans should prepare for when we talk about the new normal, that we're not really, at least in the next year or so, going to go back to what things were like?

GUPTA: I think there's going to be incremental changes in society. I don't think it's going to go back to normal right away, by any means.

I think it ultimately will, though, Jake. I mean, that's one thing. There will be some things that maybe are going to be forever different. But I think, for the most part, at some point, I think it will go back to normal.

Two reasons. One is, I think the vaccine will make a big difference. And two is that we -- we -- Jake, you have covered news for a long time. We do have incredibly short memories. As powerful and indelible, seemingly, this experience is right now, people do forget and move on at some point, Jake.

TAPPER: Well, maybe. I mean, we're still taking your shoes off at airports.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Be sure to tune in for a CNN global town hall, "Coronavirus: Facts and Fears," hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper. That's tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

Also, don't forget to check out Sanjay's podcast.

The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, will join me live next to talk about the push for testing, President Trump defunding or putting a pause on funding for the World Health Organization, and whether or not the - there will be another stimulus package.

[16:15:07]

Plus, President Trump loves to put his name on buildings even if he doesn't actually own the buildings. Now, his name could be possibly causing a delay for stimulus checks that millions of Americans are waiting to be cut and sent to them.

Stay with us.

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TAPPER: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent a scathing letter to her Democratic colleagues tearing apart President Trump's response to the coronavirus crisis and calling him incompetent.

We're joined now by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Speaker Pelosi, thanks so much for joining us. We're glad that you're -- you're well and safe.

Let me start with some of the breaking news here. The White House is working on suggesting that some parts of the country can begin relaxing guidelines so people can get back to work on May 1st.

[16:20:10]

"Politico" is reporting that in a phone call with Democrats, you called that, quote, almost sinful. Is that true? And why?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I do believe that any return to opening up everything has to be based on health care, the good health of the American people.

Let me first say, though, what a sad time for all of us just to hear the story of the NYPD officer who helped save people or responded to 9/11, losing his life to the coronavirus. It just drives home every single story. The numbers are staggering but each individual story is just heartbreaking to hear.

So, as we have discussions about how we open up our economy, this or that, we understand that this is an assault on the lives and the livelihoods -- livelihoods of the American people, and that the -- any decision to open up would be one that should be science-based and healthcare-based, and what it means.

And that's why it's so important to come back to those three words -- testing, testing, testing. On March 4th, we passed a bill that we prepared in February, brought to the floor and passed on March 4th, which was called "Testing, Testing, Testing." Here we are nearly a month and a half later, and we still do not have

the appropriate, adequate testing for us to identify and take inventory of the challenge that we face, to have the racial data to show where -- how this is happening and where. So, really, we have been delinquent. We have to have a change in that.

It's one thing to say, well, we didn't -- it wasn't done right. But there's no excuse for us to not do it right as we go forward. It's so obvious. Almost sinful.

TAPPER: What's your take on President -- what's your take on President Trump's name appearing on these stimulus checks?

PELOSI: Shameful. Just as -- you know, in other words, people are really desperate to get a check.

Let me put it in perspective. The three things that really anger the American people, there are others, but three of them are: one, that our first responders, our health care workers, our police and fire, our EMS, all the people in food and other essential workers do not have the equipment that they need to keep themselves safe as they manage to attend to the needs of others, that they do not have the ventilators and other equipment to save lives that are in their charge. That's one.

The second is, they want their checks. They want their unemployment check. They want their direct payment check that you're talking about here. They want PPP, the Paycheck Protection Program, checks to come forward, and that they're not seeing that.

And the third thing they want is for us not to have any of the billions of dollars that have gone to big business, to help keep people employed, they don't want any of that to be used to enrich shareholders, buybacks, bonuses, dividends, CEO pay and the rest of that.

So if you put those three things there, that's what we do in the CARES Act, is to make all of this something that would happen. But again, the entree, the door opening, the threshold to cross into opening up our economy, is through testing, testing, testing.

TAPPER: So, Speaker Pelosi, let me ask you about the PPP, the Paycheck Protection Plan. Specifically, the Small Business Administration is saying that they're going to run out of money for these emergency loans to small businesses. Democrats in the Senate have been holding up an infusion of $250 billion into the program. They want more guarantees that the money will go to smaller businesses, not just bigger businesses. They also want more funding going to states and hospitals and the like.

What do you make of this? I mean, if the SBA is really going to run out of money today, it sounds pretty dire. What's your response?

PELOSI: Well, the response is that a week -- last Tuesday, a week ago from yesterday, the secretary of the treasury called me and said, I need a quarter trillion dollars in 48 hours for the PPP. And we support the PPP. It was part of our putting together CARES 1.

We were successful, the Democrats in the House and Senate, in turning -- flipping it from a corporate triple down bill to a workers-first bubble up bill. And part of it was that Paycheck Protection Program.

But we want it to work for everyone. What we were finding out, in just even the first hours of it, was that the initiative -- it was not working for the, shall we say, underbanked.

[16:25:07]

So we said, just give us 10 percent of the money for those who may not have a sophisticated banking relationship, who are getting cut out of this. First come, first served, usually to the friends of the bank.

We don't want to make the banks the villains in this. They're doing a job. It's covered, they have no exposure. It's covered by the Small Business Administration, have no -- anything to do with their balance sheet because it's off -- these loans are off the books.

And if people comply with what the criteria are, these loans can be forgiven. Very good.

However, they must reach of those -- everyone. And we had a plan, $60 billion. We still have it. It's still something we want to negotiate with them.

Sixty billion dollars for what is called Community Development Financial Institutions. And those are those, like even credit unions, community banks, this or that, that know the neighborhood, know the businesses, know the people, know the culture, and can make these loans -- facilitate, expedite these loans going to people, where the local barbershop or some businesses that, again, don't have a banking relationship.

Why would they want to cut that whole layer of people, mostly women, minority-owned businesses, Native American, rural America, veterans, all participating in those initiatives?

And so, we're just saying, this cannot -- we cannot allow the billions, hundreds of billions of dollars being spent to fight the horror of the coronavirus and the impact on our economy to further harden the disparity, the lack of access to credit for so many in the small business community. So, let's have that discussion.

State and local governments are desperate for resources, hospitals desperate for resources. That's what we're saying we need. Small businesses, state and local governments and hospitals, that is what the Senate put on the floor last week. We're very proud of them for doing that, and that is something that needs to be done.

Instead, the Republicans -- we want to see how the money we're spending on state and local hospitals works before we do any more. But they're not putting the PPP to any test of that. And, frankly, we're getting many complaints that people are not getting the response that you get. Let's have that be scientific, let's document that so that it works as

intended. We all want it to work. We all want to facilitate that. But we cannot do it by ossifying (ph) the lack of access to credit for small businesses in our country.

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