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States vs. Trump; Interview with Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA); Trump Says, USDA Will Implement $19 Billion In Relief For Farmers; Coverage of White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 17, 2020 - 18:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're standing by for the Coronavirus Task Force briefing over at the White House. We will be monitoring that, as President Trump is now attacking some of the governors leading the fight against the pandemic.

I will get reaction from Washington State Governor Jay Inslee in just a moment.

But, first, I want to go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, what, only about 24 hours ago, the president said the governors would be calling the shots. Now he's taking some potshots at some of them.

What's going on?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it sounds like the president wants to start his own resistance movement.

It was just 24 hours ago when the president told governors around the U.S. they were taking the lead in opening up their states, saying they would call the shots, adding that the country would not open up all at once, but -- quote -- "one step -- careful step at a time."

Now Mr. Trump is stirring up his supporters, who have organized Tea Party-like protests around the country to lash out against some of these social distancing measures just minutes. After a FOX News report on the demonstrations, earlier today, the president began tweeting.

We can show you some of these tweets. They read: "Liberate Minnesota, liberate Michigan and liberate Virginia."

No surprise these are states with Democratic governors. Now, the president was echoing some of the sympathy he was showing to the protesters just yesterday during that briefing, when he said social distancing has been a tough process for some people. The president has also been spending part of the day tweeting at New

York's Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, telling him he should spend more time doing and less time complaining. "Get out there," the president says in this one tweet," and get the job done. Stop talking."

Governor Cuomo, by the way, was holding a press conference and responded to the president moments after that tweet. Here's what he had to say.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): First of all, if he's sitting home watching TV, maybe he should get up and go to work, right?

Second, the -- let's keep emotion and politics out of this and personal ego, if we can, because this is about the people, and it's about our job.

I don't know. What am I supposed to do, send a bouquet of flowers?


ACOSTA: Now, we should point out, the president's tweets also point to his own shortcomings in responding to the coronavirus.

The president is now insisting the states have to step up their testing. He tweeted that earlier today, but, last month, he was claiming Americans who needed a test could get one for the coronavirus, a promise his administration failed to keep.

It was back in early March, you will recall, the president said -- quote -- "Anybody that wants to test can get a test."

Now, Governor Cuomo is just voicing the same frustration expressed by lawmakers across the country. There is simply not enough testing to get Americans back to work. Wolf, we're hearing that from conference calls that occurred yesterday with the governors, conference calls again with senators who were talking with the vice president, Mike Pence, and expressing to him that there just simply isn't enough testing to get the country back to work at this point -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta over at the White House, thank you very much.

Joining us now, the Washington state governor, Jay Inslee.

Governor, thanks so much joining us.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA): You bet.

BLITZER: You have been one of the leaders in this battle. The early cases here in the United States were in Washington state.

You say the president's tweets today -- and we have read them all -- calling for the people, in his word, to liberate various states, you say these tweets are unhinged and dangerous. Explain why you believe, first of all, they're dangerous.

INSLEE: Well, listen, I have learned to ignore a lot of the noise coming out of the White House, because we need to do our jobs. Republicans and Democrats, we need to work together.

I have had good communication with Mike Pence, for instance. But this is just grossly irresponsible. And it is dangerously bombastic, because it inspires people to do dangerous things. And it is a dangerous thing today to go out and congregate.

It is a dangerous thing to ignore the orders that, yesterday, Donald Trump put out guidelines that we now need to follow. And, today, he came out and basically said, people should not follow his own guidelines.

Let me give you an example of this. So he put out guidelines yesterday that would suggest that the three states that he now wants -- quote -- "liberated" can't remove their social distancing because we still have too much infection in those states, as they do -- as we do in our state.

And yet, today, he comes out with this ludicrous position that we should turn around and ignore the guidelines that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx and the whole federal government and Republicans and Democrats know is good policy to save lives in this state.

So, yes, it is dangerous. And we can countenance a lot of foolishness coming out of this White House, but not this. It is too dangerous to the health. And I have lost over 500 citizens already in my state. We cannot allow this to stand.

BLITZER: So, how do you reconcile the president's tone yesterday, when he said you and your fellow governors should call the shots, even though, a few days earlier, he was saying he had total authority to make all decisions?

How do you reconcile the tone from yesterday and these tweets today?


INSLEE: I'm not a psychologist, so I can't reconcile them.

A few days ago, he said that he had total control of the United States, that whatever the president did, he essentially had, the president, right to do, and he was going to order us what to do in our states.

Both Republican governors and Democrats pointed to a document called the Constitution. And he essentially backed off the next day and said, no, the governors will call the shots.

The following day, he went out and put on guidelines that were fairly realistic. And we appreciate Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx and we appreciate those guidelines. They're fairly consistent with what we think needs to happen, which is that, when we have driven down these infection rates far enough, and when we get enough testing, we can reopen our economy.

We're looking forward to that. But the following day, today, he goes out and basically attacks the governors who are implementing his own guidelines that he gave an imprimatur to yesterday.

So, there are some things you cannot reconcile. You have to stand against them. And, as I have said, we have had a good working relationship with a lot of people in the administration, Admiral Polowczyk trying to get us more test kits. We appreciate that work.

But when all that good work of federal employees then gets stepped on by the president, which is essentially trying to pull the rope backwards, that, we cannot abide.

And this is a very unfortunate replay of what happened in the first weeks of this, when the president, for his own purposes, tried to downplay the seriousness of this disease. That cost us. It cost us probably a month in our national preparation.

As we're coming out of this, we can't have that happen again.

BLITZER: The Virginia governor, Ralph Northam, whose state was the subject of one of the president's angry tweets today, had this to say. Listen to this.


GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D-VA): I would just simply say that, as the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I, along with this staff, is fighting a biological war.

I do not have time to involve myself in Twitter wars. I will continue to make sure that I do everything that I can to keep Virginians safe and to save lives.


BLITZER: You believe on the president's priorities are the same?

INSLEE: I have no idea what goes on in that space.

All I know is, it's injurious to the health of my citizens and citizens across the state. And it is not just Democratic governors who are injured by this.

You look at Mike DeWine, Republican governor of Ohio. He's been an absolute hero on this. He's done some really courageous things to try to help save his state from this effort. Larry Hogan has done good things in his state.

Their efforts are demeaned when the president essentially is trying to tell people that we should just all go back and party like it's 2015. And that's just too dangerous right now. And it also stands in the face of his own experts and his own plan.

So, that's why we need to band together, Republicans and Democrats, and do the right thing here.

BLITZER: In the last hour, I spoke to one of the scientists behind the new leading coronavirus model. And he cited your state's early action as why Washington, Washington state, will be one of the states that can potentially open up sooner than most.

What will that process of reopening Washington state look like for you?

INSLEE: Well, we are looking forward to when we achieve two achievements, number one, that we drive the infection numbers down low enough that we are confident they won't just spring back.

Now, we have not -- we have driven the curve down, but we still are not on the downslope of any significant amount. We're sort of plateaued. So, we are eagerly awaiting the day when we really start to drive the daily fatalities and infections down to a manageable level.

But the second thing we have to have in place when that happens is a very robust screening program, a testing protocol, and a contact tracing army. We need to make it sort of like the fire brigades. If there's a fire in your house, you call the fire department, and they come right away and take care of you.

We need the same type of system to make sure that, when we get little pockets of infection, we can jump on them right away and prevent them from spreading in the weeks and months to come.

So, we need those two conditions to exist. We're working diligently to try to get the test kits that are still in extremely short supply. And that's one of the reasons why we have encouraged the federal government to be more proactive trying to manufacture these test kits, so we can get enough tests.

We still are in short supply across the United States. Republican and Democratic governors will tell you that.

BLITZER: Well, on that issue, we have learned today that the vice president, Mike Pence, offered no clear answers on testing during rather angry phone conversations he had with a bunch of Senate Democrats.


Maine's independent Senator Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats, he said this -- and I'm quoting him -- he said: "I have never been so mad about a phone call in my life."

How concerned are you, Governor, that the administration doesn't have a clear plan in place right now to get all the testing around the country that you and your fellow governors and everyone seems to need so badly?

INSLEE: I am extremely concerned, because I will give you an example.

We have dozens of long-term care facilities and, until just the last couple of days, have had difficulty having enough test kits to actually test people where they need to be tested. And, as we're going forward, we know we're actually going to have an increased number of demands for a test, not just decreased, as people go back into these more exposed environments.

And we have been just struggling. Every governor is searching the world, if you can imagine this, for swabs, the right kind of swab, for the viral transmission fluid for the vials that are necessary to get the test to the labs.

And we're searching the world to get additional analytical capability. I was on the call this morning with the CEO of Roche company that makes these analyzer companies in Switzerland to see if we get additional opportunities for testing.

So, I think that there is a start by the federal government down this path. As I mentioned, Admiral Polowczyk, I think, is helping in this regard. But we have a long, long ways to go. And we need the federal government to pull on the rope. And I hope that will happen.

I'm sorry they had a negative conversation with the vice president. I have had a number of positive conversations about -- with him, but he has not been successful really getting the federal government to lead on this test kit manufacturing effort yet.

BLITZER: I know almost all of your colleagues, the other governors, have said they have had positive conversations with the vice president as well.


BLITZER: Lastly, Governor, I asked your fellow Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island this question in the last hour.

But in light of the tweets today, I asked her -- and I'm going to ask you the same question -- if the president is watching us right now, what's your message to him?

INSLEE: Help us out. I mean, get on the team, and stop trying to delay the progress we're making.

Look, Republicans and Democratic governors are working together to solve these bottlenecks in the supply chain. And we're trying to get our citizens to band together to do the work that they are doing.

I'm very proud of our state, because we have bent the curve down, because Washingtonians are coming to the fore. They're being heroes in their homes trying to stay home, even when that's difficult.

And we just don't need a president going the opposite direction right now. We need a unified country. And that could be very helpful.

BLITZER: All right, Governor, thank you so much. Good luck to everybody in Washington state.

INSLEE: You bet. BLITZER: I know you guys have been working really hard on all of this. And we appreciate what you're doing.

INSLEE: Everybody is.

BLITZER: Thank you so much.

INSLEE: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, we're going to get the inside story on the vice president's phone conversation that left several Senate Democrats fuming.

And we will get more reaction to the president's Twitter tirade against Democrats leading the fight against the pandemic.

I will speak to the San Francisco mayor, London Breed.



BLITZER: We're standing by for the Coronavirus Task Force briefing. We will monitor it once it begins.

But, right now, I want to bring in some of our experts.

And our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, once again is joining us.

So, Jim, one day after telling the governors they would call the shots, the president, as we have been reporting, is actually encouraging frustrated citizens to buck social distancing guidelines, tweeting, "Liberate."

He did this to a bunch of states out there.

Explain the stunning shift. What's going on?

ACOSTA: It is stunning. And it's confusing, Wolf, because you will recall, yesterday, the president was abandoning this posture that he had earlier in the week that he had total authority over the situation in terms of running this reopening of the country.

He was telling the governors just yesterday, you're calling the shots. it's going to be a beautiful puzzle, one state at a time, that they're going to be taking these steps carefully. And he seemed to abandon all of that.

It is worth noting, Wolf, when the president started to tweet, liberate Michigan, liberate Minnesota, liberate Virginia, those tweets started just a couple of minutes after there was a segment about these protests on FOX News, a station we know the president watches an awful lot, in addition to this one.

But, Wolf, I will tell you, talking to my sources, there is an acknowledgment among some sources close to the White House that the president is essentially trying to distract the American people, that he knows that the heat is on.

There's a lot of criticism right now about his response, about what the administration has been doing about these questions about testing, and he is dangling a bright, shiny object and chumming the waters for his base to distract people away from many administration failures when it comes to responding to this virus.

BLITZER: And Dana Bash is with us too.

Dana, this comes as a phone conversation between the vice president, Mike Pence, and Senate Democrats became contentious, as the administration failed to provide specific answers to the senators about testing.

What are you learning about that conversation?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That, for the most part, it was a good back and forth. These senators know Mike Pence quite well now, just like the governors you have been talking to in the show.


But when it comes to the issue of testing, which I'm told was the issue during this entire phone call that the vice president had with senators, that's where it got contentious, and , have to say, got contentious with a senator who doesn't get contentious, Angus King of Maine, who is an independent.

He caucuses with the Democrats. The fact that he got riled up really tells you something. And he afterwards sent to me in a text that he was really angry about the fact that it is the federal government's responsibility to coordinate this testing, that the states certainly can have a say in it and can have a role in it, but the states can't do what the federal government can do in terms of a bird's-eye view and the ability to get all of the resources needed across the country.

And he, just like some other senators on that call, were speaking as former governors. So that is one of the big things that he heard.

I can tell you, we're also told that he got some pushback on those very tweets that Jim was just talking about from Tim Kaine of Virginia, ironically, the man who, if Hillary Clinton would have won, he would have been vice president, not Mike Pence.

BLITZER: Yes, that's interesting as well.

Sanjay, the White House is also clearly pushing states to begin to reopen their economies. But in order to relax social distancing policies, it's widely accepted that robust testing practices must be in place.

I assume you agree, but, apparently, they're not.


That has been the issue. That is the issue. That will continue to be the issue, is this testing, and the testing for the virus specifically, because there's two -- two types of tests people have been talking about, the virus testing and the antibody testing.

The virus testing, to actually test for the presence of the virus, is important.

To just build a little bit on what Dana was saying as well, a way to think of it, like this. Testing, people think you get a test and you get your results back. But in order for that to happen, you have to have the labs, and the labs have to have capacity.

That has been improved a lot in hospital labs, in private labs, in public labs. All that's improved a lot. But all the various components of testing, that you need a swab, for example, for certain tests, you need a way of transporting the swab to the lab, and once it gets to the lab, you need other chemicals that actually can take the DNA off the swab.

All these things are various components that are in short supply in some places. And everybody in the world wants these supplies because the supply chain has been disrupted. A lot of these supplies come from China. That's, I think, what the issue that I'm hearing from public health officials in various states: Look, maybe we have more capacity in our states, but we're not able to affect the supply chain and get these things from other countries, like the federal government can.

That's what I think their concern is. Yes, there are certain parts of testing that have improved, but you need all of it to work in order to actually satisfy the needs of the state.

So, without that, Wolf, it's very hard to reopen, because you can't find who's infected. You can't isolate them. You can't do all the things you need to do.

BLITZER: And that's so critically important.

Sanjay, as you also know, a new model just released frequently cited by the White House finds that only four states could start reopening in early May, while others need to wait until late June or July, even later.

How is the administration, you think, going to respond to this new model, which also projects by early August there could be more than 60,000 deaths from coronavirus here in the United States? Right now, there are 36 -- more than 36,000 confirmed deaths in the United States.

GUPTA: Well, these are always difficult numbers to hear, Wolf. I mean, every time I hear it, I can't believe that we're talking about tens of thousands of people who are dying and are going to die likely from this.

I do want to point out -- and I have talked to the authors of this model quite a bit -- there's a lot of variability in these models. Even now, they say that the -- you give the number of 60,000. The range on that is anywhere from 34,000 to 140,000, Wolf.

I mean, we always dive in on the single number that is a number that is in the middle of that range, but it's a wide range. The thing that I think is important to point out is that the modelers say, up until the day before a state could potentially reopen, they may still adjust the model.

So they're constantly going to be adjusting these models. And they're -- they're just models. The other thing I will say is that we heard about wanting to see a 14-day trend downward, for example, in the number of people who are confirmed to have this infection.

The modelers here actually put a number on it, which I thought was interesting. They say they want to see less than one person in a million in any of these particular communities or states being diagnosed with the infection in order for them to think that it's come down to an acceptable level to possibly reopen.


Lots of other things, again, Wolf, the testing, the tracing, all that needs to be in place. Hospital capacity needs to be there. But I thought it was interesting that these modelers put a specific number, about one in a million, one person out of a million new infections, that might be acceptable to start thinking about reopening.

BLITZER: Interesting.

Dana, the president, clearly, he's been in contact with business leaders, congressional allies. From all of your reporting, what are they telling him about the efforts to get people back to work, the importance of testing right now?

BASH: There seems to be a universal message, which is what we just talked about, which is that businesses, lawmakers, everybody wants to -- they want to get this country reopened. They want to get businesses reopened. They want to get people back to school, back to work out, in the world, and society to be as it once was.

But you can't do it without testing. You can't do it without the intricacies that go along with it that Sanjay was just describing. And so, yes, the president it is still getting pressure from people he talks to on Wall Street, hedge fund people, others in the financial world who are champing at the bit, really want the economy to get back open.

But even they understand that, if it's not done safely, then this country and their businesses will be right back where they were, maybe even in a worse position. So there's that.

But the other thing that Jim was talking about that you cannot discount is that the president is listening to, as he has done since day one, conservative media. And there is more and more of an uprising in conservative media about the notion of reopening and the question of whether or not the government has gone too far.

It's not a question. It's a statement from their point of view. And it does fly in the face of a lot of the polling that we have seen publicly and that others have even seen privately within the parties. But the president, when he has an impulse, he goes for it. And, unfortunately, that confuses a lot of people in a time where they just need leadership and there's already enough confusion to go around.

BLITZER: Yes, that's true, indeed.

Jim Acosta, how's the administration reacting to this new study that has just been released that shows that, by August 4, they now estimate, given what's going on, the social distancing all of that, they're estimating 60,308 deaths across the United States?

That's down from a week ago. They were estimating 68,841. What's the administration saying about this?

ACOSTA: Wolf, I can tell you, privately, there are several officials who I have speaking with about this, about these models being adjusted.

And they are happy about that prospect. I mean, they're not happy about the fact that tens of thousands of people are dying, no question about it, but they are feeling a bit more optimistic about what the data is showing them at this point.

And that is driving a lot of this. The president is obviously seeing this data. There are officials inside the White House who are of similar mind-sets as to what Dana was just talking about a few moments ago, when she was talking about what people are saying in conservative media.

There are people inside the White House who advise the president who are consuming that information as well, and feel strongly the same way, that perhaps things were overdone in terms of shutting the country down.

And so that is part of the push behind the scenes to accelerate this process. I think one of the things that the president is running up against at this point, though, Wolf, is that, if you look at public opinion polls just in the last week, in just the last couple of days, they are showing a sharp downturn for this president.

By and large, Americans are feeling less positive about the way the president has handled this. He's gone down six points in the last month, according to the latest Gallup poll, in terms of his job approval in handling the coronavirus.

But inside the White House, they want to move things as quickly as possible. And every time they see one of these models, they say, aha, there's more justification as to why we need to get things moving more quickly.

But, Wolf, when you hear from these governors, you hear from these senators, the, I think, growing chorus is, they want to slow down. They don't want to go as fast as the president right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim, the -- we're told the president has now authorized a $19 billion relief package for farmers across the United States, who are clearly suffering, like everyone is suffering, right now from this coronavirus.

But he's very sensitive to farmers out there. Another $19 billion will go to them.

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf.

And part of the problem -- and this is an interesting development in all of this, because the farmers have been hit hard because of the president's trade war with China. There has been a relief package. Billions of dollars have been authorized by the Congress, signed by the president to get out to farmers, because they have been hurting as a result of the president's trade war with China.


ACOSTA: And I think it's fascinating that this is happening, you know, in just last several minutes the president announcing that the Department of Agriculture will send another $19 billion out to these farmers.

One of the things that I think we're going to have to watch for in the coming days, Wolf, is how does relationship between the president and China could affect some of the trade talks that they have been having recently. The president has been it touting the fact that he feels he has this trade agreement with President Xi of China. And part of that, Wolf, of course, bring some relief to these farmers who have been hard hit in that trade battle.

But, Wolf, one of the things that experts have been looking at in terms of this trade agreement between the president and the Chinese is whether an act of God, whether a pandemic like this one, could somehow essentially throw a monkey wrench into all of this and allow the Chinese to back out of the agreement. If that were occur that could mean many more months of hardship for these farmers. And so it's no surprise that the president is trying to get more money out to these farmers. That is a key part of his constituency, Wolf, no question about it.

BLITZER: It certainly is. And, Sanjay, there's also a new study that just came out that shows coronavirus has infected more people than previously thought. First of all, what are you learning about this new study? Does it lead you to believe that rolling back social distancing guidelines too soon potentially could be a huge, deadly mistake?

GUPTA: This is a very interesting study. I'll mention, it's irrelevant to social distancing, but this was out of Santa Clara, California. Stanford researchers are focusing on this, and really interesting, Wolf.

So using antibody testing, that's the type of testing that tells you if you've been exposed to the virus, they found that in fact 50 to 85 times more people have likely contracted that infection in that area versus what was previously confirmed. So about a thousand people roughly were confirmed to have the infection and they think the number could be as high as 80,000 people looking at these antibody test.

So within that, Wolf, you start to get a sense a little bit more of just how widespread this infection may have been. A lot of people out there, maybe a lot of people watching, who are saying, you know, I had some symptoms, you know, a month or few weeks ago, could that have been coronavirus? I don't know. Maybe it was. Well, it turns out, at least in Santa Clara county, the numbers are 50 to 85 times higher. So that's significant, much more widespread at least in that area than I think people realize.

Now, that's bad news obviously that spreading like that. But the good news in that, Wolf, as well is that, if you have many more people who were infected but actually we're surprised to learn that they were infected, they weren't that sick or they had just minimal symptoms, that does bring down the fatality rate as well.

So just how fatal is this? The way you figure that out is the number of people who have died over the number of people who been infected. If the number of people who have been infected has gone way up here, that brings down the ratio.

So, it's -- as with most things, over the good news over the bad news as you look at data like that, it does give a sense of just how contagious this is, Wolf, to your question. And I think makes the point that the virus is out there, it's contagious. If we roll back things too quickly in the midst of a very contagious virus -- the virus is the one constant here, Wolf. It's been there, out there. It's contagious virus. If we roll back things too early, we do run the risk of many more people getting infected.

I think there is probably no way to say for sure, Wolf. Once we start to roll back things, I think at some point there will be people who become infected, that otherwise, would not have become infected. I think that's just a fact and I think that's something that is going to have to inform all of these policies, all of these proposals in terms of what we are willing to accept.

We don't want people unnecessarily to get infected. We don't want them to unnecessarily have to be hospitalized, or to sadly, tragically die. That's going to be the balance. And this study gives us a little bit more insight into just how widespread this is.

BLITZER: You know, because that's -- it's significant, the huge number, Sanjay, of people who probably were infected, had no symptoms, whatsoever. They could go pass on the virus to other people without even knowing it. But those who are infected and are totally asymptomatic, have no symptoms, are they younger people, middle-aged people, elderly people. Is age a factor in whether or not there are symptoms?

GUPTA: Well, this study didn't really break it down by the demographic data. We do know that elderly people are more likely to develop symptoms and more likely to develop severe symptoms. But when it came to this overall sort of very large in terms of population of asymptomatic people, again, just to give you the numbers, 1,000 confirmed cases roughly in this area of the country. And now, according to the study, they think that maybe up to 80,000 people, in fact, had been infected, so 80-fold difference there.


We don't know, you know, who these other 79,000 people are, what their demographic is, but we do know that, as you point out, and this is the challenge, I think, many of those people may have had no symptoms or such minor symptoms, they didn't even think that they needed to get checked out. Those people -- that's good for them, obviously. We don't want people to get sick.

But as you point out, Wolf, if they come in contact with people who are more vulnerable, more likely to get sick if they get infected, therein lies the problem, and we are all in this together. So even if you somebody who says, hey, this is good news, there are so many people out there who are not getting sick despite getting the infection of COVID, of coronavirus, keep in mind that any of us can be carriers, we all have to behave like we have the virus, and you could spread it to somebody who could be devastated by this. So therein lies the challenge, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's why wearing those masks, gloves are so important right now that everyone is recommending.

GUPTA: For everybody.

BLITZER: You know, Dana, I want to get back to the president teas tweets earlier in the day. He not only tweeted, liberate Virginia, liberate Michigan, liberate Minnesota, when he said, liberate Virginia and save your rate second amendment is at under siege. He also specifically tweeted, went after Governor Cuomo of New York. He said that Cuomo, should spend more time doing, less time complaining. Get out there and get the job done. What do you think sparked that angry tweet against Governor Cuomo and, of course, Governor Cuomo subsequently responded?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He was watching T.V. He was doing exactly what Governor Cuomo suspected that he was doing when he did that almost real-time response during the press conference. And the message that clearly irritated the president is one that, we have been talking about this entire time, this entire hour, we've been talking about for days and weeks in the context of reopening the country, and that is testing, testing, testing.

But in the last 24 to 36 hours, it's been hearing from the governors, and you've had several of them on the program tonight, saying, we would love to execute it but we need the federal government to help us.

And so the president had his back up all those weeks ago when the governor of New York was saying that he needed ventilators and that it was up to the federal government to do it. The president didn't like that. He said, many, many times, it's not up to me. It's up to the states. So this has been a back and forth between the president and governors for some time.

The thing that's so confusing for people, and for people not just at home consuming this or trying to consume this, but more importantly, for the people who are trying to make this happen in order to fix this problem is that, in any given day, any given 24 hours, in any given hour maybe, the president himself changes his tune. He says, it's up to me. I have absolute power. And at the same time he says, no, the governors are going to do it. So which is it, Mr. President? That is the question and that clearly was what Governor Cuomo was trying to get at that irritated him.

Also let's be honest, Andrew Cuomo is getting a lot of good press right now and that is the pinnacle for Donald Trump in any situation, good press.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure he is watches those Governor Cuomo's briefings, which are carried live, by and large.

You know, it's also interesting, Dana, the president, in the midst of all of this, thousands of Americans are dying from coronavirus, others are going through horrendous, horrendous recovery right now. The president didn't only start tweeting against governors, he tweeted against Biden and Obama. He says they were disaster in handling the H1N1, swine flu. And then he's going after the Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate. Today people are starting losing their jobs because of crazy Nancy Pelosi, crying Chuck Schumer and the radical left do-nothing Democrats. He's spending a lot of time on these political issues, attacking the Democrat, not just governors.

BASH: It's whatever impulse -- he find himself feeling at that moment, that causes him to send the tweet. That has been a hallmark of Donald Trump since he was a candidate and now that he is president. And it is unfortunate that he continues to do that at a time when people are looking for Washington to come together. It has happened. There have been bursts of bipartisanship over the past month or two.

But right now, he's obviously angry because they are at bypass -- an impasse rather, the White House and Republicans, the other side of that is Democrat and Congress over the next tranche of money. The Democrat are insisting it must go to the local level, it must go to those who need it the most. And there's a lot of push back from Republicans. And Republican are hearing it from their base that it's -- that's just too much spending but it's too much spending not in the right direction when it comes to businesses.


And this is a fundamental, historical, philosophical difference between the two parties. It's just coming up right now at a time when there is not a lot of time to have a philosophical fight. People really need this money and they need it now. And that's probably where that came from, is that he probably got a read or watched somebody on television or read something about how angry the Democrats are that there is this impasse about the next tranche of money.

BLITZER: Yes, there is a lot of money that's going out, but there's a lot more that is needed.

Jim Acosta is still with us. You're getting some more information, I understand, Jim, about the president announcing that $19 billion of Department of Agriculture funding is going to immediately go out to help farmers who are struggling right now. What else are you learning?

ACOSTA: That's right. Wolf, I think this highlights a critical problem right now and that is the integrity of the nation's food supply. One of the things that the Department of Agriculture is saying in terms of where this money is going to go, it's going to go to farmers to make sure that the nation's food supply stays in decent shape. You can't have farmers going under in this country. Remember, these farmers are not selling as much food to restaurants, to other establishments. And so that money is critically needed right now to make sure people are still getting food in this country as the economy is really reeling, as you know, right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: And those farmers, a lot of them in states, the president's base. He wants to try to make sure that they're satisfied with what's going on, not suffering too much.

All right, let's take a quick break, resume our special coverage right after this.



BLITZER: Vice President Mike Pence is now at the briefing.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We unveiled the president's guidelines for opening up America again.

There were two parts at the beginning of those guidelines. First, the criteria that we hope will guide governors in their decisions about reopening their states on either a statewide level or a county level. And then also we outlined what we believe would be the most important state responsibilities to have in place before moving into a reopening plan.

For phase one, the president's guidelines, you'll recall, advised that states that have a downward trajectory in cases over a 14-day period of time and ensure that they have proper capacity in their health care facilities could move to phase one, with the easing of some of the social distancing and the criteria that had been in place.

But for states that meet the criteria, we outline specific responsibilities, protecting workers in critical industries, particularly protecting the most vulnerable, those who live and work in senior care facilities, and we also encourage states to have a plan for testing symptomatic individuals and ensuring testing to our most vulnerable populations.

As the president has made clear, governors will decide the time and manner that their states reopen. And we will look to support them in that effort. But as we assured the American people yesterday, at the president's direction, our administration will continue to work with governors across the country to ensure that they have the equipment and the supplies and the testing resources to reopen safely and responsibly.

On the subject of supplies, today, we issued a letter to our nation's governors summarizing all the medical equipment and supplies that have been distributed to their states from FEMA between the first of this month and April 14th, through Project Airbridge and through the commercial supply network. We'll be speaking with our nation's governors on Monday and detailing that information at that time.

As of April 16th, as the president reflected briefly, FEMA has coordinated and delivered millions of pieces of medical equipment, including 44 million N95 respirators, 63 million surgical masks, more than 10,000 ventilators and, of course, deployed more than 8,600 federal medical station beds.

On the subject of testing resources, we are going to take time to speak about our administration's approach in partnership with states to continue to expand testing across the country at this briefing.

But from the very outset of this epidemic, President Trump made efforts to essentially reinvent testing in America. The traditional testing that takes place at CDC or at state labs was designed for basically the kind of diagnostic testing that is routinely required. But the president early on in this effort brought together the leading commercial labs in America, we forged a public and private partnership.

And six weeks ago, we had performed some 25,000 tests and at this day we performed 3.7 million tests.

We believe that labs and hospitals are now performing more than 120,000 tests a day, and we've actually stood up a team from Walter Reed under the direction of Dr. Deborah Birx that is working around the clock to identify additional testing capacity across the country.


We believe that states could actually more than double the amount of daily testing that is happening today by simply activating all of the labs and Dr. Birx will detail some of those resources today and we'll be going over those very specifically with governors on Monday. We've also been promoting the development of the new and innovative tests. We all know about the 15-minute Abbott tests.

But the FDA is currently working on an antibody test that literally could add 20 million new tests to our supply even before the end of April. I want to ensure the American people that we're going to continue to work with your governors and with your state health officials to scale testing in the days ahead. But as you'll hear from all of our experts tonight, our best scientists and health experts assess that states today have enough tests to implement the criteria of phase one if they choose to do so.

Let me say that again. The -- given the -- given the guidance in the president's new guidelines for opening up America again, states that meet the criteria for going into phase one and then are preparing the testing that is contemplated by going to phase one, our best scientists and health experts assess that today, we have a sufficient amount of testing to meet the requirements of phase one reopening if state governors should choose to do that. And you'll hear more detail on that in just a moment.

At the president's direction, we're going to be presenting an outline of our approach to testing in partnership with states during this briefing. Our approach will continue to be locally executed, state- managed and federally supported.

Dr. Fauci will give us a brief introduction to the overall approach to testing that is contemplated to deal with the coronavirus.

Dr. Redfield and CDC will describe our plan to mobilize CDC officials in all 50 states to specifically monitor coronavirus -- coronavirus incidents that occur in every state in the Union.

Of course, Dr. Deborah Birx will describe not only our tests but also the current capability and the capability that we could expand to very readily.

And Admiral Giroir of the U.S. Public Health Service will summarize our approach.

But I want to assure the American people that at the president's direction, we are going to continue to work every single day to make sure that our states and communities have the testing they need to reopen at the time and manner of their choosing and we're going to work every day to make sure our states have the resources and the supplies to reopen their states and reopen America in a safe and responsible way.

With that, Dr. Fauci.


So, as the vice president said, I'm going to give you a brief introduction to kind of answer the question that we've been asked a lot. In fact, we had a very productive teleconference with the Senate Democratic Caucus just a few hours ago, and they asked a number of questions which were really reasonable questions, questions that are on the mind of a lot of different people.

And one of them was the question that was just posed a moment ago is, are there enough tests to allow us to be able to go through this first phase in a way that is protective of the health and the safety of the American people?

So I just want to spend a couple of minutes clarifying a few things and maybe providing some information on a broad 40,000-foot which you'll hear some of the more granular details from my colleagues who will be following me. I think they -- they asked me to give the 40,000-foot one because I'm not a testing person. I didn't run a testing lab. But I'm part of a team that is looking at this of how we can best make sure this happens in the right way.

So, first of all, let me say something that we said before and I apologize if I'm repeating things that you already know but I think in some respects, it's important to do that so that people have clarity in what we're talking about.

There are two general types of tests even though within each general type, there are different subgroups. One of them is to actually test for the infection. Is a person infected?

The other and I'll get back to that in a second. The other is to test as we just mentioned if someone has been infected. Usually, someone has been infected who is recovered and as I'll get to in a moment that you can assume although we need to do some more work on that, that that person is actually protected against subsequent exposure and infection with an identical organism.


So what are some of the pluses and minuses of each because the pluses and minuses are really going to impact how we best use the test and how the test actually should be used? So let's take the test of whether or not you're infected.

The test of whether or not you're infected is a test that right now is called a nucleic acid test. It's not an easy test to do. There are some that are more rapid. There are some that have a high throughput. There are different groups within that.

The good news about that is that it's a sensitive and specific test. So that if you're infected, you know you're infected, so that as I'll get to in a moment if you need to do something with that, get that person, put him in care and take care of them, get them out of circulation, that's important.

The part about that that I think is often misunderstood is that if you get a test today like I did, today, it's negative, if you get a test today, that does not mean that tomorrow or the next day or the next day or the next day, as you get exposed perhaps from someone who may not even know they're infected, that that means that I'm negative, which means if you take that to its extreme in order to be really sure, you would almost have to test somebody either every day or every other day or every week or what it is to be absolutely certain. That's an issue.

Now, the problem that I -- I talk about when I try and compare this to other situations with what testing means to you, I'm as -- I think as most people know have been involved in HIV/AIDS for 38 years -- 39 years from the very first week of HIV. So that's what I do.

If you get a test for HIV and you are negative, and you do not practice any risk behaviors, you can be guaranteed that next month, six months, one year from now, you will be negative if you don't have a risk behavior. So there's a big difference there about what testing actually means. So the point I think you're getting is that although there is clearly

a place for needing to test somebody for a given reason, a test means you're negative now.

Now, the other test is an antibody test, a test that tells you in fact that you have been infected. That's really good. You'll hear about that from my colleagues in a moment, because that will give you a broader view of two things. One, what the penetrance of the infection had been, and number two, you can make an assumption that we still need to prove that.

I mean, we are assuming that if you're infected and you have antibody you're protected, and I think that's a reasonable assumption based on our experience with other viruses, but what we want to make sure we know and these are some of the challenges, what is the titer that is protective? How long is the protection? Is it one month, three months, is it six months, it's a year?

So we need to be humble and modest that we don't know everything about it. But it really is an important test.

The other thing is the difference between testing and monitoring out there, what's out there, the difference between what we really needed for for phase one is to be able to identify, isolate, contact trace. A very important part of when you're putting -- pulling back gradually and slowly on mitigation and you have people who might be infected, you want to know they're infected. You want to put them in care.

That is something that we absolutely need to do, but there are other ways. I want to make sure that not to underestimate the importance of testing. Testing is a part, an important part of a multifaceted way that we are going to control and ultimately end this outbreak. So please don't anyone interpret it that I'm down on testing.

But the emphasis that we've been hearing is essentially testing is everything and it isn't. It's the kinds of things that we've been doing, the mitigation strategies that are an important part of that.

Now, just a couple of things before I hand it over to my colleagues. No doubt, no doubt, that early on, we had a problem. I had publicly said that we had a problem early on.

There was a problem that had to be corrected and it was corrected. It was a problem that was a technical problem from within, that was corrected.