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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Unveils Guidelines to Reopen U.S. Economy; Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor, John Fetterman, Discusses Governor Wolf Having No Plans Yet to Extend Stay-at-Home Order; Small Business Loan Program Runs Out of Money and No Deal to Fund It in Sight; Dr. Aaron Milstone Discusses South Won't Be as Hard Hit by Virus as Earlier Projections Suggested; Coronavirus and Food Security. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 17, 2020 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I know. They saw the news up there and knew what they were coming back to earth literally for, but now they see it.

The group landed safely this morning on an already significant day for NASA. And 50 years ago today, Apollo 13 returned after a crisis in space.

Now the crisis is happening on earth, the crisis we will get through together.

Thanks for being with us all week long. We'll see you back here Monday morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. We wish you all the best.

"NEWSROOM" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King, in Washington. This is CNN's continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

The start of a global unwinding today of coronavirus restrictions. Austria already started reopening. Denmark giving permission to courts, driving schools and hair salons to resume business. Germany set to reopen some essential businesses starting Monday.

Here in the United States, the test is to match state-by-state coronavirus numbers and trends up against President Trump's new benchmarks. When you do that, it is clear undoing the great American shutdown is going to take months, especially in urban areas and the country's industrial heartland.

A top medical group warning there still needs to be a giant leap in testing capacity before America reopens.

The president consistently exaggerates the gains in testing. And, in any event, he insists some states are ready to go now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're talking about those states that are in great shape already?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes.

TRUMP: They will be able to go literally tomorrow, yes, because they met all the guidelines, if you go back. You're going back 14 days. You're going back even a month.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But facts should matter. And as of right now, there are zero states right now on a statewide basis that currently meet the 14-day criteria. Zero.

Today the U.S. surgeon general got a very specific question about which states can reopen today, as the president said. The answer? Very unspecific.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: The president was clear yesterday on the phone call with governors -- and I was on this call -- that we are not going to tell these states -- just to be honest with you, I don't want to say a state is ready because I don't want to put them on the spot, and I don't want to say a number of states are ready.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The surgeon general is right about this being up to governors.

With the new guidelines came a presidential about-face about who calls the shots.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total. And that's the way it's got to be.

It's going to be up to the governors. We're going to work with them, we're going to help them, but it's going to be up to the governors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's take Arkansas as an example of the challenge ahead. This look here does show us three consecutive daily drops. Now let's pull back. This is a look at the last two weeks. You see some ups and downs.

The guidelines require a downward trajectory of documented cases over a 14-day period and a downward trajectory of positive coronavirus tests.

But there are other factors, too, including a stable hospital system and a robust testing program.

Hawaii's governor says his state is, quote, "fortunate," the curve there flattening. But reopen day is not today, Hawaii's governor says, and probably not next week.

This is a look at Michigan's five-day average in new cases. You do see a decline over the past week to 10 days.

Michigan's governor is optimistic but she wants more data. In any case, is waiting at least two weeks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): I do hope to see some softening on May 1st, but it's two weeks away. And the information and the data and our ability to test is changing so rapidly it's hard to say precisely where we'll be a week from now, much less two. But we are looking very carefully at making sure that each decision we make is supported by the science.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN's John Harwood is with us covering the White House.

John, one of the interesting things as you can go state-by-state, county by county, there will be, in the days ahead, in some places, a modest reopening. But when you look more largely at the scope, this great American reopening the president wanted to do like that is going to take months.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And when you look at the full range of gating criteria that you were outlining before, testing, hospital capacity, as well as a 14-day decline, it's not clear that any state meets that criteria right now.

And so for all the attention to May 1st and the president's desire to go to my 1st, the actual details of what he has put out -- and it's not long on detail but, directionally -- suggest that it is going to be very much a phased and data-driven reopening, and that's what public health authorities, that's what governors have said that they wanted.

KING: I want to put some of this up, John, so people can see it. Let's talk through it a little bit.

Phase one is what you want to focus on most right now because that's the beginning of the reopening. Groups 10 or less, telework if possible. Schools are still closed, nonessential travel is minimal, strict physical distancing. Even when we get to the first reopening, we are staying in many ways where we are today.

[11:05:08]

Then you get to phase two, you can see groups of 50 or less, moderate social distancing, schools can open. That's the question about the fall. We're talking about the fall there. The president, in the end, John, says, I'm in charge. He yielded to

the governors here. He wanted a quick reopen. He seems to, again, although having public tension with them, in the end, saying, the scientists are right. I'm going to take a methodical, cautious approach, even though it's not what I want.

HARWOOD: One of the things we need to remember and remind ourselves over and over about President Trump is his words have a half-life of a few seconds after he says them. It's kind of like a sandcastle on the beach. The waves come over and wipe it out.

The statement of, "I have total authority," that's not grounded by any legal analysis. That's not in the Constitution. That's something he said at the moment because it makes him sound powerful.

It is encouraging that Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci, along with the governors, Andrew Cuomo, Gavin Newsome and a range of other, Larry Hogan, the head of the NGA, have been making a case, and the president's guidelines have yielded to that case.

We're hoping later today to get a little bit more detail on something the president has also given short shrift to, and that's the need for federal assistance on testing. It is plain that the states cannot get this testing up and running any time soon on their own. The federal government is going to have to help.

And I think we expect later today when we get to that briefing the president or the administration is going to lay out some of the details of how the feds help them get there.

And also what exactly the 14-day drop that we're talking about actually means. You know, to say that it's declining, that's simply a directional statement. But how far does it have to drop?

We're going to get some more numbers, some more science-driven criteria later today.

KING: The details are important, particularly on the testing issue. The crisis changes every day. The developments change every day. The one constant is states, public health professionals saying we need more help with testing and we need it yesterday.

John Harwood, covering the White House for us. John, appreciate that very much. We'll look for more details today.

Pennsylvania is another case study in the complexity of this reopening debate. The commonwealth now counts more than 28,000 infections. That's the fifth-highest number in the country. Nearly 850 Pennsylvanians have died of coronavirus.

Governor Tom Wolf says he's not ready to extend the state's stay-at- home order past November 30th. The governor wants to watch the next two weeks.

And if you look h ere, you see the average of new cases is starting to head down. With us now is Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor, John Fetterman.

Lieutenant Governor, thank you so much for being with us.

Your governor is being cautious, which is probably a nice place to be in this situation, saying April 30th is still two weeks away, I'm going to wait.

When you see the new presidential guidelines, and you see, and let's hope it continues, your trend line going down, do you believe, does your governor believe that, two weeks from now, on May 1st, you will be able to have at least a step toward reopening?

LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): Well, I'd like to point out that the governor follows experts and scientists, as we all should. The virus doesn't have a calendar. The virus isn't saying, I have to wrap this up by May 1st. The virus is going to direct us.

Our number for today that will be released in a few hours is actually going to show an uptick of a couple hundred cases. So clearly, Pennsylvania does not meet the criteria that the president issued yesterday with respect to the 14 consecutive days.

We are what appears to be on a plateau, but we have not seen a decline, certainly, not over the span of 14 days.

KING: So you have one of the larger states land-wise in the country, so you're going to have a debate. If it's done respectfully it's the right debate.

When you have your issues greater in the Philadelphia area, urban area in Pittsburgh, a lot of rural area in the middle.

Your Republican Senator Pat Toomey says, "Younger and healthier people with some reasonable precautions really could go back to work quite safely. And that's not absolutely necessary. We're not in a sustainable place right now where the government is attempting to be a substitute for an economy."

That is part of the understandable agitation. Let's try to get at least some people back to work."

Do you see any possibility of a regional approach in Pennsylvania, or is it the administration's view, we have to do this statewide because we just can't worry about people crossing back and forth?

FETTERMAN: The bottom line of this is that everybody agrees on one thing in Pennsylvania, and I suspect nationally, that we all want to open up and get back to normal as quickly as possible. Right now the science doesn't support that.

Now, the governor has consistently maintained an evolving set of conditions here in Pennsylvania. He responds to the circumstances on the ground, to his credit.

And our hospital system has not been anywhere near overwhelmed. Our available ventilator capacity remains steady at 70 percent. So it's working, what we're doing in Pennsylvania.

[11:10:06]

How and what we reopen is going to be careful consideration. And it's going to be directed by science and the experts, quite frankly.

The governor isn't convinced, from what he said, that we are on a firm downward trajectory. That's the hope.

And whatever refinements and openings that make sense, from a public safety standpoint and economically speaking, particularly in areas where it's not a hard hit. But remember, all of this started with one case.

So this idea that just because there's not an outbreak there right now doesn't mean that can't change. We have to be guided by science in all of this.

We cannot afford to politicize this virus. It doesn't check your party affiliation before it infects you. It wants to spread.

And what we've done in Pennsylvania, with the governor's aggressive stay-at-home orders, has really stopped that. And I believe we've plateaued. But we are weeks away from any kind of major announcement opening, if at all.

KING: If at all, important perspective.

Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, I appreciate your insights today. Good luck in the days and weeks ago, particularly with the big study you are in charge of there on disparities we see in how that virus is hitting certain communities.

Very much appreciate your perspective today. We'll keep in touch.

(CROSSTALK)

FETTERMAN: Thank you.

KING: Thank you, sir.

Up next, the federal government loan program to help small businesses is now out of money. No deal to fund it in sight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:15:49]

KING: A partisan impasse here in Washington is putting small businesses at peril. The money in the emergency coronavirus package ran out because of high demand. And the White House and congressional Democrats, so far, are unable to reach a deal to add some $250 billion in additional money to the program.

The president, not happy about this impasse, tweeted this morning saying, "Today people started losing their jobs because of Crazy Nancy Pelosi, Crying Chuck Schumer and the radical left do-nothing Democrats, who should immediately come back to Washington and approve legislation to help families in America. End your endless vacation," the president goes on to say.

Not exactly factual there about Congress being home.

But out CNN congressional correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is here to walk us through this.

Phil, the president venting his anger, understandable anger. We could fact check parts of the tweet there or take the critical nicknames out, but he's mad. The Democrats say they want to get this done, but.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, I think this has been an impasse that has now lasted a week. I think there's surprise the impasse has lasted as long as it has.

The reason why is because the program the Republicans are trying to move, a clean funding bill through, $250 billion, their request from the White House, is a bipartisan program.

Both sides agreed to this program. They thought it was a well- constructed program to basically lend out money to small businesses to be able to maintain their payrolls, even if their doors were shuttered, and those loans, if they were used for payroll, would then be forgiven. It seemed like a good program. And $350 billion seemed like a lot of money at the time.

Here's the rub on this. One, the money is gone. The program is shuttered. There are more than a hundred -- I'm told hundreds of thousands of applications that are in limbo right now, people that couldn't get their applications through in time.

Democrats have made it clear that if they move any kind of small business funding, which they agree with, they want to also deal with issues that they say are urgent, like more money for hospitals, more money for states and local governments as well, also more money for testing. That's where the impasse basically lies.

Here's the dynamics of things as it currently stands. Democratic staff, Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, are continuing negotiations with Treasury Secretary with Steve Mnuchin and his staff as well. They'll continue those through the weekend with some hopes of trying to lock in some kind of agreement going forward.

The issue here, and this has always been the case, congressional Republicans leaders have been steadfast. They have not moved on the idea that this is something that needs to happen now, it needs to be clean, and nothing can be added to it.

The wild card, John, that you know well, everything has to be done unanimously if they want something to pass in the United States Congress.

All these different dynamics are at play, and I think the problem with all those different dynamics at play here, even if it seems typical Washington, small business owners really need this money. People are really having issues right now. The disruption to the economy is something like we've never seen before.

They need to figure this out and they need to figure it out fast.

KING: Figure it out fact but it sounds, from your perspective, there's zero chance they'll figure it out today, which means it will carry into next week as small businesses across the country are bleeding. We'll see if they can figure this out.

Phil Mattingly, thank you for the update there. We'll keep an eye on those important negotiations.

Southern states are one place to look as this reopening phase begins. The lead scientist on one often-cited coronavirus model says his new numbers indicate the south will not be as hard hit as earlier projections suggested.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. CHRIS MURRAY, CHAIR, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON HEALTH METRIC SCIENCES: There's being more social distancing across the country than I think we expected, even in some of the states that haven't had as hard as strong mandates.

That's going to factor into our new estimates we'll come out with tomorrow. It looks like a number of states in the south, for example, will have smaller epidemics than we were expecting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Tennessee's effort to move toward reopening includes offering free testing beginning this weekend.

Joining me now, Dr. Aaron Milstone. He's a pulmonologist at Williamson Medical Center in Franklin.

Doctor, it's good to see you again.

Take us to your state. The last time we talked, Tennessee was spiking up. Tennessee does appear -- we can show you some southern states. I'll put this up on the screen here, Tennessee among them. You see the blue line in Tennessee as we put this graphic up there. It seems relatively flat, and thankfully, so far -- any case is horrible -- but the count seems lower than many other states.

Are you encouraged in Tennessee, and if there's been success, what's the reason?

[11:20:09]

MILSTONE: Well, John, I think we are encouraged. And first, I just want to take a moment and thank the thousands of Tennesseans who have been supporting literally thousands of health care workers who are speaking up for the well-being of their patients, their colleagues, their neighbors. The IMHE report you just mentioned shows that the stay-at-home order

we fought for is working. It's clear that physical separation mitigates the strain on our Tennessee hospitals, on health care workers, and that we are saving lives in communities.

But you have to keep in mind that these models are based on what we're doing today, physical separation, stay-at-home orders. If we change what we're doing today, then the model we predict also changes.

In fact, the Vanderbilt Medical Center just last week released a model that shows if you ease up on our stay-at-home mandate that you could predict thousands of hospitalizations in the month of May.

So the bottom line is we have to keep what we're doing in place, and we have to reopen judiciously and methodically.

KING: That's is going to be the debate in the weeks ahead, especially in states that we have governors who are following the president's lead and saying, let's open as quickly as possible.

Even the governor -- I want you to listen here -- the governor of Tennessee, the governor of Louisiana says, before we do anything else, as we think about anything else, we need to have more testing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. TOM WOLF (D-TN): I've directed our unified command group to rapidly expand our COVID-19 testing capacity all across Tennessee. Our clinical understanding of COVID-19 is changing rapidly.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): We need to ramp up this capacity as quickly as possible, have more testing so we can find out sooner when someone has COVID-19. Then do the contact tracing necessary to isolate those individuals that they've come into contact with. And that's really how you can reopen the economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This has been, Dr. Milstone, one of the giant questions: Do you actually understand the scope of the infection in your state, or are you blind because of the lack of testing? Are you in a better place now?

MILSTONE: I think that both governors are correct, that we really can only reopen the economy in these southern states when there's both acute testing, doing nasal pharyngeal swabs, but doing antibody testing for everyone to help us determine who is protected, who is not, who is actively infected, who is not actively infected. And until we have that wide field of testing, we are a little on the blindside.

The problem with testing this weekend and doing free testing over a weekend is that I may be negative today if I test today. But if I get sick tomorrow or on Saturday or Sunday, then, unfortunately, I may not know if I'm infected.

And I think we also need to really work hard to protect our health care workers going forward. You saw the CDC report just a few days ago that showed over 9,000 health care workers have been infected with COVID-19 and almost 30 have died. So we've got to do better than we are today.

KING: Dr. Milstone, again, appreciate your perspective. More importantly, appreciate the work of you and all your colleagues across the state and across the country helping keep us both informed and safe. It's critically important. Thank you.

MILSTONE: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you, sir.

Tomorrow night, CNN takes a look at coronavirus in communities of color. Join Don Lemon and Van Jones for a special conversation and messages of hope from Sean "Diddy" Combs, America Ferrera, Charles Barkley and many more. That's "THE COLOR OF COVID," live tomorrow night, 10:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

[11:23:47]

Up next, growing concerns over the nation's food supply.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:28:48]

KING: New evidence today that the coronavirus disruption includes a threat to America's food supply. As many as four more deaths now reported among workers at a Tyson's beef plant in Washington State and another one in Idaho. This follows a cluster of cases at a pork processing plant in South Dakota.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher joins me now.

Dianne, you're trying to track the impact of this. How widespread are these outbreaks at food processing plants?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, I think what's kind of brought this to life for so many people across the country is that outbreak in South Dakota. At least 773 people associated with that plant are infected, one person has died.

But the governor is really insistent upon getting it back up and running again as soon as the CDC, which inspected the plant yesterday, allows.

Take a listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): I've been working with the vice president and the United States secretary of agriculture and Smithfield to make a plan to reopen.

[11:29:47] Once we have the protective equipment for employees in place and sanitizing stations, we have those protective measures in place, and we also have given the employees a time to heal and be ready to come back to work, that plant will be up and running.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: Yes, but a lot of the unions around the country aren't so sure they're going to be able to make facilities like this safe during the age of the coronavirus.