Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's Messaging to Governors is Inconsistent; Interview with Member of Infectious Diseases Society of America John Lynch; Interview with Wolfgang Puck. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 17, 2020 - 14:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hey, I'm Anderson Cooper. Despite America enduring one of the deadliest days of the pandemic so far, there's confusion and contradiction form the president as the country enters a new phase of the crisis.

In a Twitter spree, the president is lashing out at governors, one day after declaring the obvious, that those governors will call the shots on when to reopen their states. And he also called, yesterday, to not have this be about politics.

He just tweeted that "The States have to step up their TESTING!" -- his words -- when just days ago, he said that large-scale testing was not necessary.

TEXT: Governor Cuomo should spend more time "doing" and less time "complaining," Get out there and get the job done. Stop talking! We built you thousands of hospital beds that you didn't need or use, gave large numbers of Ventilators that you should have had, and helped you with...

COOPER: What's more, he is targeting New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, telling him to stop talking, to stop complaining. The governor just fired back.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: They need help from the federal government. Two things. Help on testing -- because states can't do that, and I don't want to redo the mayhem of the PPE debacle -- second point, we need funding to do it. And he way you love talking about how you funded everything, big businesses are all getting bailed out, airlines are getting bailed out -- bailout, bailout, bailout, all the taxpayers' money.

State governments, which are the only ones who are doing this whole reopening, they're going to need funding, right? And, well, show gratitude. How many times do you want me to say thank you? But I'm saying thank you for doing your job. This was your role as president.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Going to go now to CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House. So, Kaitlan, the president's also responding, these protests that we've seen in favor of reopening in some states.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He's embracing the protestors in several of these states, after yesterday, Anderson, he dodged questions about them because many of these people, these protestors that we've seen are the president's supporters. They're wearing his T-shirts, waving the Make America Great Again flags.

And that's why those questions were posed to the president yesterday. He didn't really answer those questions about whether or not he wanted to advise them -- to advise by these social distancing measures that they're now rallying against in several states.

And instead, the president is tweeting that Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia should be liberated -- these three separate tweets we got from the president today. And of course, you have to note that all for those governors are Democrats. A lot of those are battleground states in the election this November.

And this comes as the president had, just yesterday, said it's going to be up to governors, when they decide to loosen those restrictions. And his guidance was simply that, guidance for when these states felt like they were at those stages, when they could start moving into those phases that the president laid out yesterday. But now, he is siding with those protestors who are going against what their governors have advised.

Now, of course, this fight that is happening, that we're seeing play out with the New York governor came as Governor Cuomo was still speaking at his daily press conference earlier. And Anderson, as you know, the president has been watching these incredibly closely. And really, what he was criticizing was what a lot of people thought was missing in that plan that Trump rolled out yesterday, which was a national testing strategy.

COOPER: And what -- the president has not offered any actual deployment of funds for increased testing in these states. I mean, he's saying this is up to the governors essentially, and that they'll -- you know, that they'll back the states. But he's not, you know, trying to mobilize and make happen greater testing.

Do we know why? I mean, what is the reason the president of the United States would not want massive testing nationwide? Because the only thing I can think of is that he views, if there's more numbers of cases, he believes that will be used to criticize him, and he wants to avoid that. I mean, that's -- maybe that's a cynical view, but I can't understand why he would not want more widespread testing, and be calling for it and pushing for it and doing everything he can for it.


COLLINS: Well, it might a cynical view, but it's also one that some people inside the White House and Trump allies outside the White House share. They think the reason the president is putting this back on states -- as we've seen him do repeatedly, even as he's claimed he's got total authority -- they say it's because then the president can avoid criticism if things don't go well here. And then he can say, well, this state was in charge of this and they failed to provide on this.

Though I'm not really sure if that is going to be the outcome that the president is going to get. Because you're listening to these governors -- governors like Cuomo, who have praised the president throughout this, saying that they just cannot expand testing without that federal assistance that they're going to need.

And one idea that people have raised, is the president could use the Defense Production Act, order all of these tests, pay for all of these tests, have them sent out. And they say they're just not seeing that yet.

Now, whether the president comes to realize that is another question. Because, Anderson, the one thing that's not lacking is people telling him they need more testing before they can reopen. He heard it from business executives this week, he heard it from governors, and he heard it from a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including some of his own allies like Lindsey Graham.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, there are a lot of countries who could have potentially had the same kind of levels of virus -- Germany, Taiwan -- and they have, you know, they have avoided what we have gone through and what many in Europe have gone through.

The fact that we're, like, having states desperately trying to find swabs to do testing, let alone the tests themselves or the ability to actually get the results of the test. But, you know, a shortage of swabs? It's just -- it seems nuts to me. I don't understand why this isn't front and center in the White House plan. Because we really heard nothing about it yesterday.

COLLINS: Well, and on the swabs, I do want to note, we've been speaking with the White House about this. Because yesterday, this was a concern that governors brought up with the president on the call, these swabs. They say they need more of them to actually be able to conduct the test.

The president assured them that more shipments were going out. We asked the White House about that, they said that shipments are going out throughout this week, but they didn't tell us how many swabs they're sending out and to which states they are going to. And we know that this is going as the FDA is trying to approve alternatives for these swabs so they can essentially expand it and there can be more, they won't have a shortage of one particular kind of swab. And we heard Dr. Birx address that.

But the question is, you know, it's not just the swabs, it's these reagents they need. It's also for those Abbott Labs tests that they're sending out. Governors say they don't have enough cartridges to conduct those tests. So it's not just one simple factor for testing. There's a lot of factors that go into this, and that's why you're seeing governors call for a nationwide system to help this move along more efficiently.

COOPER: Yes. Kaitlan Collins from the White House, thanks very much, Kaitlan. Appreciate it.

Two big red states are refuting (ph) the president's push to reopen soon as Mississippi extends stay-at-home orders and Texas looks beyond the first of May. Ed Lavandera joins me now.

So, Ed, what's the governor of Texas saying?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the governor of Texas, making four big announcements, essentially here today. Essentially, Texas schools will be closed for the remainder of this academic school year. Online schooling will continue, but classrooms close for the rest of the school year.

Secondly, starting next Friday, a week from today, the governor says that businesses -- essentially something called Retail to Go, that retail stores will be allowed to open and serve customers as they walk up and then walk away, not allowed into the stores.

The third thing is, state parks will reopen and there will also be restrictions on surgeries in hospitals that will begin to be loosened up here starting next week, on April 22nd.

And then they're looking ahead toward April 27th, to even loosening up even more restrictions on elective surgeries and more business expansion and that sort of thing.

Anderson, the stay-at-home order that the governor has issued is still in place through the end of this month, until May 1st. The governor says that if things continue to go as they're going here in Texas, he believes that they will re-evaluate that stay-at-home order then.

But the big question here, Anderson, remains -- and I think it's something that clouds this entire operation here in Texas, is that in a state of 29 million people, less than one percent of this population has been tested for the coronavirus. It is dismal levels of testing that we have seen so far.

The governor says that, quote, "Massive amounts of testing" will be brought online here by the end of this month or early May. The governor did not get into any specifics as to how many tests exactly, how that -- he said that would be administered through the private sector, but there is no real guideline on just how many of these tests will be available or what those benchmarks will be.

So, again, for -- I think for a lot of the local communities that have been so involved in this, this question of testing will remain a huge question mark here over the next couple of weeks -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, it is infuriating that, you know, we're getting a lot -- and this has been going on for, now, weeks and months -- a lot of, oh, you know, there's stuff coming, or this company is sending X number of tests, we got this group to send a bunch of tests.


There's no organized thing you can, you know, on a daily basis, see where things are going, what the need is and how much stuff is actually in the pipeline and when it's going to be arriving. It's all just kind of, you know, anecdotal, Oh, this group -- it's -- there's no way to tell what's -- you know, what the need is and how -- and when it's going to be met by. It's infuriating. Ed Lavandera, I appreciate it -- from Texas.

With me now is Dr. John Lynch, board member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He's also an associate professor of medicine in the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Thanks for being with us. You've called social distancing a life- saver. We're now looking at the possibility of multiple states loosening restrictions. The president, telling governors and mayors testing's up to them. What are your concerns right now?

JOHN LYNCH, BOARD MEMBER, INFECTIOUS DISEASES SOCIETY OF AMERICA: Yes. So I think it's a great point, Anderson, is that the way I sort of frame it is that the social distancing, the physical distancing measures that have been put in place by, you know, really our state governors and our local leaders and our public health leaders have been extremely effective in at least flattening some of these curves, flattening off the number of patients who are coming into our hospitals. In some places, actually seeing decreased number of people with positive tests.

The key thing is, is as we start rolling back on that, we need to have other tools in place. and I'd say the two biggest parts of that are widespread testing. We need, you know, basically payer (ph) or insurance (ph) agnostic testing, minimal thresholds to people getting tested for a variety of reasons. And we need to have public health being able to do contact tracing.

Which means we need to empower them and to resource that group to be able to do that work, going out and finding people who are positive, finding out who they know, testing them if needed and helping them remain isolated. Unless we have those pieces in place, all the work that we've done with social distancing over the last month or so is going to disappear and this virus will come roaring back.

COOPER: In terms of contact tracing, I've heard some people say they -- 100,000 people will be needed to do real serious contact tracing nationwide. Is that -- I mean, I don't -- is that a number that seems reasonable to you? I mean, it's obviously a huge number of people.

Because when you tell -- say that to people, basically in the White House, even the head of the CDC, you know, we talked to him about this -- they're not throwing that number around, they're sort of -- you know, the -- what we heard from Dr. Birx yesterday at the presentation was, well, the CDC will, you know, send liaisons to different public health departments to help them out. But they're just talking, I think, about you know, seems like a small number of CDC people to each state. LYNCH: Yes, I think you're right. I don't know what the absolute

number is, I haven't heard the million but I can tell you it's a very large number. You have to think that, as we go forward, as we -- especially as we relax those social distancing measures, that as we move past that, someone who gets a positive test needs a phone call within that day or the next day, by someone who can then talk to whoever they are in contact with, right? Family members, coworkers, what have you.

That's going to take a lot of people. And you have to remember that over the last decade-plus, in the United States, we've really starved our public health departments. And this is really the result of that.

We're going to have to quickly find ways to resource not only in terms of funding, but in terms of boots on the ground. How do we help our public health colleagues do the work that they know how to do, and to get them the people resources to do this really, really person- intensive contact tracing.

COOPER: Yes. I meant to say 100,000 -- I don't know if I said a million, I didn't mean that. It was -- the figure I've heard was 100,000 --

LYNCH: A million would be good. Yes.

COOPER: Well, yes. That's even more like -- and just very quickly, you know, the president yesterday was saying, you know, there are states that don't have a problem, that, you know, virtually have no cases and therefore, you know, there -- soon there could be baseball games with 100,000 people in stadiums there. Does that make any sense to you? I mean, doesn't testing need to take place even where people don't -- you know, there's not known on record a lot of positive cases?

LYNCH: No, absolutely. So, you know, I'm here in Seattle, and I guarantee you that we had people sick with this infectious disease and who died from it before we knew it was even here in western Washington. Where you don't have testing, you have no idea what's truly going on.

And this is part of the major thing. We need testing not only where the outbreaks, where we know they're happening, in order to deal with it and to respond to it, we need widespread testing to get out ahead of this, both at a regional level and at a national level. Rural areas, tribal nations, reservations at the big national level, getting lots and lots of tests out to where we don't know where it's happening, is going to be critical.


LYNCH: And at the local level, making sure there's lots of tests in our -- you know, limiting those for (INAUDIBLE) communities, jails, homeless and our skilled (ph) nursing facilities, it's going to be absolutely essential to make this work.

[14:15:06] COOPER: Dr. Lynch, I appreciate your expertise. Thank you very much. Thanks.

President Trump has made it clear he wants the economy reopened soon. Again, how big a risk is opening too soon? We'll talk to a chef, Wolfgang Puck, who's advising -- who's part of the team, helping the president try to make decisions. A panel of about 200 people, I believe, on the council that he's on.

Plus, in just a few hours, one of Florida's biggest cities will reopen its beaches for what leaders call essential activities. And two of the country's most well-known doctors, under fire for what they have been saying -- TV doctors -- about coronavirus on "Fox News."



COOPER: While there's certainly conflict between the local governments and the White House over when and how to reopen the country. The president's economic advisory council, made up of business leaders and CEOs, is trying to provide the president with advice on the best ways to do that.

Restaurants are one of the industries hardest-hit by this pandemic. Chef Wolfgang Puck was invited to joint hat council. He is with me now.

Wolfgang, thanks for being with us. Just in terms of getting back to business, for restaurants, how do you see that happening? Because obviously, you know, people are close together at tables, interacting with servers --


COOPER: -- and personnel. I mean, what are the complications you're facing?

PUCK: Well, I think it's a very complicated way to get back into the business. Because safety for employees, safety for our guests comes first. How are we going to reassure them that you're going to come to our restaurant, you know, and be safe?

So there has to be more testing. And I don't understand. We have the smartest people in this country. We have the best doctors, we have so many people. I think we really have to look into that and get somehow some testing going sooner than later.

Because I know -- I talk to a lot of our guests on the phone, and they said, well, I don't know if I'm going to go to your restaurant if I don't feel safe. How can you assure me? How can we assure the people?

I would love to open again, and I would love to have the people work again. But, you know, until we get to a point, I think it would be very difficult to get traction, to get some business. Yes, some people will come to the restaurant. But, you know, if I only have 25 percent occupancy, then we'll lose a lot of money. I will have to lay off 50 percent of the staff because my overhead and everything is the same.

COOPER: Are you -- I mean, I have a couple friends who have very small restaurants. And I know you obviously have a whole empire, a whole chain. But, you know, they're having trouble, you know -- they can't pay the rent on their places --

PUCK: Yes.

COOPER: -- their bars, their restaurants. And they -- you know, trying to figure out how many employees can they hold onto, how long -- I mean, there's no way to know how long this is going to go on. Are you -- do you still, I mean, have to pay rent on all your places? I mean, how is this even feasible to hold on?

PUCK: And it's an -- you know, I am here, really, not just for myself, but for everybody out there. I know at one point, I had one little restaurant called Spago with 26 employees. (INAUDIBLE) even less.

So today, though, we have a few more restaurants. You know, we are nothing in comparison to anybody like Alandres (ph) or any of these big companies or (INAUDIBLE), or whatever you call them, you know?

COOPER: Right.

PUCK: And I think I'm really very, very concerned about all these small restaurants. And I have a lot of young chefs who just opened their restaurant. They don't have access to lawyers, to accountants to file the report, to get their PPP, you know --

COOPER: Right.

PUCK: -- the Payroll Program --


COOPER: And a lot of them don't have business --

PUCK: -- Protection.

COOPER: And a lot of them don't have business relationships with a bank -- you know, it's not like a real estate company that's always working with lenders. So -- and --

PUCK: Exactly.

COOPER: -- if you don't have a relationship with a bank, it's hard to get the relief.

PUCK: Well, the National Restaurant Association already predicts that in the next few weeks, 15 percent of the small restaurants will close down because they don't have access to money.

And I just read in the paper, that 25 percent of the part, the total PPP (ph), went to real estate companies, construction companies -- construction companies are still in business. I look at our stadium here in Los Angeles, and I hope they build it sooner than later, but there are a lot of people working there. Restaurants, we are all shut down --


PUCK: -- but they got the money first, so there are a lot of people out there who didn't have access to money --


PUCK: -- 25 percent of the available money went to construction, went to real estate people. Only 11 percent of the PPP (ph) went to restaurants. Yet we employ the most people in the country next to the government.


PUCK: And we are the backbone of America.

You know, with all these small businesses, these mom-and-pop operations, where 10, 12, 15 people or even less work, they are the ones I'm the most worried about because they don't -- they are not able to last for six months or four months --


PUCK: -- to have business, go back to a certain sense (ph).

COOPER: Yes. Wolfgang Puck, I'm sorry for what you and all the restaurant industry and all the folks who work in it. I mean, a huge employer and, you know, there's a lot of folks who --

PUCK: Yes.

COOPER: -- it's just devastating. I hope things rebound soon.

PUCK: Thank you.

COOPER: We'll continue to check in with you. Wolfgang Puck, as always, thank you.


PUCK: You know -- you know --


PUCK: -- one more thing, Anderson. I hope that the administration will continue the Payroll Protection Plan for another three months. It's running out the 30th of June. You know, we don't even know if we're going to be open. How are we going to pay the people? How are we going to open up?


PUCK: It's really going to be difficult. And hopefully, the insurance companies will get involved too because we have business interruption insurance (ph), most of the restaurants have it. So why are -- why are they not saying, OK, the government shut us down, not really the virus?

The government told us, you cannot open but we don't have any response from the insurance company. They said, you know what, you are not -- we are not insured against a virus. But --


PUCK: -- we are insured for business interruption.

COOPER: Yes. I know, I have a friend, again, who owned bars, it's the exact same thing. They're told by their insurance company that they've been paying for years, oh no, there's a clause in your contract --

PUCK: Yes.

COOPER: -- and your insurance that -- for a virus, you don't get insurance. Wolfgang Puck --

PUCK: Yes.

COOPER: -- thank you. Appreciate it.

PUCK: Thank you, thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Keep going.

PUCK: Thank you.

COOPER: Coronavirus has also had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, of course. And that's the focus of a special conversation, tomorrow night on CNN. Join Don Lemon and Van Jones, special guest Sean "Diddy" Combs, America Ferrara, Charles Barkley, many more. Don't miss "THE COLOR OF COVID," live tomorrow night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, several doctors we were all very familiar with before the pandemic, Dr. Oz and TV Dr. Phil, now coming under serious fire for their controversial comments about the coronavirus on "Fox." We'll be right back.