Return to Transcripts main page


NY Gov. Cuomo Holds Coronavirus Briefing; Gov. Cuomo: Testing Is Critical To Reopening Economy; Gov. Cuomo: Testing Is Single Most Important Factor To Consider. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired April 18, 2020 - 12:00   ET




GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I can speak to my relationship. What I'm doing in this state. How I'm working with other officials for myself and how I'm trying to work with the federal government. I think the President's point of - there are different states in different positions and once you say, it's up to the governors which is what he said, you're going to get potentially 50 different paths forward.

And that's what he said. That is his model. He did not say this is a nationwide program that he's asking governors to buy into. He said it's up to the governors. So what I do here in New York may very well be different than what the Florida governor decides to do and your point is well taken.

Well, can they drive to New York or Florida or Florida to New York? Yes, they can and is that a downside of a 50 state strategy? You could argue that's a downside. There's no perfect way to do this. I'm trying to do it as a region, right?

Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, et cetera. I'm trying to do it as a region because I think that's better. But yes, when you do individual strategies, the tension with that and I think the rationale for the president is you have different problems in different states.

And I think the President leaving it to the states was not just right and legal and constitutional. I think he's right that it's different in different places. Look, when we look at this state and we talk about reopening, we're going to talk about different strategies in different parts of the state because the numbers dictate the strategy.

And you have different numbers in different parts of the state. You raised the countervailing point which is that well, yes, but then somebody could drive from place to place. Yes, I understand that and that's what we're trying to balance with the regional approach.

I don't want people going to New Jersey or Connecticut versus New York and how do we coordinate that. But you do have different situations based on numbers.

REPORTER: On that issue of upstate/downstate, there's a lot of price from people upstate saying look, we don't have a high rate of infection. How soon could you consider kind of that sort of regional approach where let's say the Albany district or - or even farther flung places might have different policies. Schools might open, etcetera.

CUOMO: That's - that will be a factor for sure. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. We are barely, in this part of the world, barely stabilizing our public health system now. You're not seeing a total overload of the emergency rooms. That doesn't mean Happy Days are here again, right?

And the first priority is life and death and public health. So we're not at a point where we're going to be reopening anything immediately but we are planning and in the planning phase, yes, different numbers would suggest a different strategy, balanced by your point, people are mobile.

And not only are people mobile, you could create you know, unintended consequences. You open one area but you don't open another area and now I can drive to that area and I can go to a restaurant. I can go to a bar. I can go, do whatever I want in that area. Yes, you could now create an unintended consequence of when you have a flood of people there, right?

They opened the beach in Jacksonville, I think it was or some beach in Florida and like the whole beach was filled. Yes, because you have all this pent up demand. You open a beach. People will drive from everywhere to go to a beach, right?

If it's a little closer, I might drive to the beach so you know, you have to factor all of this in and that's why it's a very complicated equation.

REPORTER: Governor, a number of state legislators and including speaker Carl Heastie have said recently that they can and should remotely continue to do legislative sessions. Some tax payers are saying, hey, it's their job. Do you agree that they can and if so, does that mean there's scope for recreational marijuana at a time the state really needs it right now?

CUOMO: Look, I think - first of all, it's totally up to them. Different branches of government. Legislative - executive. I spoke with the speaker yesterday. I speak with the speaker often and he's working, I can tell you that. From the taxpayers point of view, if they think their assembly person or senator isn't working because they're not here, they have to think again.

They're working. They're working probably harder than they normally work. We have all those constituents in that area with all these issues, calling them and their phone is ringing off the hook and they're calling me so I can tell from how much I'm talking to them.


I'm talking to the more - much, much more than usual so they're working. In terms of passing legislation remotely, they can do that. That's up to them. As far as getting into a very complex issue that requires real analysis and real data and trying to do that on Zoom, you know conferences, I don't know that that's the best way to do it.

But that's up to them also.

REPORTER: Governor, marriage bureaus are closed right now. The state - marriage certificates.

CUOMO: Marriage bureaus?


CUOMO: I think the divorce rate is going up. Marriage rate is going down. Divorce rate is going up. What are we doing about marriage bureaus? Why didn't somebody think about that? How -

MELISSA DEROSA, SECRETARY TO GOV. CUOMO: We actually have thought about it. We are today signing an executive order, allowing people to get their marriage licenses remotely and also allowing clerks to perform ceremonies over video. So if that's an avenue people want to go down, it will be available to them.

CUOMO: Video marriage ceremonies. There's now no excuse when the question comes up for marriage. No excuse. You can do it by Zoom, yes or no.

REPORTER: Governor, your administration announced recently that they may process - going to release older prisoners who are nearing the end of their sentence for certain crimes. Can you speak to how many prisoners that's actually going to release from the state prison system?

CUOMO: Do you have those numbers, a range?

DEROSA: Yes, so - earlier in the week, docs made the determination, consultation with the second floor that prisoners over 55 years old, who had 90 days or less on their sentences, who were not found guilty of a violent felony or sexual assault offense would begin the process of getting let out of prison.

These are people who were going to be let out in the next 90 days. Anyway they've served the entirety of their - their term and they were not a threat to public safety. I think that that number is a little over 200 but I can get you the precise number.

REPORTER: Will this be a rolling release whereby people when they reach the age of 55, they will be eligible for release or is this a one time?

DEROSA: If they fit that criteria, then yes. They roll forward throughout - throughout this current emergency.

REPORTER: And Governor, can you please speak to why - how many tests are being performed on state prisoners? It seems like there aren't as many tests being given to state prisoners. Can you kind of speak to that? CUOMO: Yes, there are not enough tests being performed on any group, anywhere in the state, OK? There are not enough tests being performed in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, North Country, Long Island, Westchester. Not for prisoners, not for the black and brown population, not for healthcare workers, not for police officers.

That's true across the board. That's why we have to bring testing to scale across the board because it's true for everyone.

REPORTER: - in the prison system are just so low and you know with the way that disease you know, spread so quickly through the prison system. Is that a concern that you that the numbers?

CUOMO: Any congregate setting is a concern. Greatest concern are the nursing homes. That is the number one congregate concern. Prisons are also a concern but nursing homes by far and away are the number one long term, really devastating consequence of this disease.

So to the extent you want to argue prioritization, you have the congregate care, nursing homes, prisons, obviously hospitals. Number one at the top of the list is nursing homes. Just take two more questions.

REPORTER: Can you just address going off of what you just said, the communication yesterday was about residents in nursing homes who've been diagnosed with Covid or suffered a loss-related. What is the expectation for communication to loved ones with residents in nursing homes if staffers test positive because people are telling us that they're not getting any communication still?

Even after everything that you guys said yesterday.

CUOMO: Yes, let's remember, nursing homes are privately run facilities for the most part. A nursing home will have rules of operation when a person went into that nursing home. We have basic regulations of nursing homes. We don't get into the fine details of what a nursing home does in their policy of communication with family members and what family members they communicate with and they talk to only the immediate family, etcetera

We release, I don't know that - I think we release probably more than any other state in terms of nursing home data. I don't know anyone else who is doing - there maybe, I'm not a nursing home data expert but I don't know what else we could release beyond number of deaths per nursing home that doesn't violate healthcare privacy.


If there is a compliant that a nursing home is non-responsive, then we will talk to that nursing home and follow up but I don't know that if we have any state regulations on this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not a regulation but we do work on the issues of communication between the nursing homes and the residents and their families. REPORTER: OK, essentially are you finding that nursing homes are not

reporting fully or underreporting or you know, keeping information because they're afraid of the stigma that's associated with -

CUOMO: I hear you. I don't know if that's what it is because the number is going to come out. Any nursing home that thinks they're going to sit there and - and people are not going to figure out how many people passed away in that nursing home, they're kidding themselves.

I've spoken to a number of nursing homes, I think more than anything it's they're overwhelmed. They're overwhelmed, they have staff shortages, people - staff are getting sick. The residents of the nursing home are under tremendous pressure. They haven't seen a loved one. They haven't had any visitors. And you have - everyone's under emotional distress because you have a large number of people dying and you're in a nursing home and everybody knows everyone and people are dying.

So and then you have the state coming and saying you must report this, you must report this. I want this report by 5:00 and they're saying to me with all due respect, governor, I'm taking care of people's lives and you're saying do paperwork.

And I'm saying it's not really doing paperwork, it's important that people know and people are concerned but you have to see the dynamic of the situation. I don't think there's anything nefarious. I think it's just a dynamic.

Last question.

REPORTER: What the status of the antibody testing? Have we gotten federal approval to scale that up. What - how much progress have we made on that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we are - we are working with the - both private sector as well as our home lab where we're working on antibody testing. We're getting information - I had sent a letter down to the FDA about one of the companies and - and we'll see where that comes. They're reviewing that at that point.

That will help us scale up once we find out about that.

CUOMO: Last question.

REPORTER: AT this point, how many nursing home residents have actually been tested? Yesterday you mentioned that they were going to increase testing at nursing homes. How would that happen? How will we do that?

CUOMO: Well, I don't know that we would know. You know nursing homes conduct their own tests. Again they're private facilities, they're private run facilities. We would have to do a survey of nursing homes and ask the nursing homes, how many tests have you performed. How often have you performed them? But it's not a question that we would normally ask. We don't perform testing by and large in nursing homes. If there's a

problem, we do. But there are about 600 nursing homes and they do their own testing which is another complication on this testing world. They also contract for tests, right?

Nursing homes are contracting for tests, hospitals are contracting for tests, private corporations are contracting for tests. You know. The Acme Corporation, I want to go back to work, they are calling labs saying I want to buy testing because I want to test my employees.

So you have all these sources coming into these testing site. I have to go to work.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Right, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo there with some sobering details, mixed with a little bit of encouraging news as well as he underscored 540 people died yesterday, not a plateau but you know still not in a good position, given the average in recent weeks has been in the 700s.

And he also says that you know that being said, that he is not ready to reopen New York anytime soon but of course the planning stages are underway and it will also come with more federal government partnership because he says bottom line is testing is really important. Testing everywhere, from prisons to nursing homes.

Let me bring back my medical team here with me now. Doctors Gigi El- Bayoumi and Lakshman Swamy. Good to see you both. Also CNN correspondent Cristina Alesci. Cristina, let me begin with you because the governor you know, trying to be matter of fact testing is still really important.

But he says they are far from being able to test everyone and it's important especially in the component of tracing as well.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLTICS AND BUSINESS REPORTER: That's right and essentially what we've heard and reporting this story what I've heard from the governor consistently is this tenuous situation where we see some glimmer of hope in some pieces of data like hospitalization.

But the fact of the matter is New York is still seeing 2000 people walk into hospitals in this state that have Covid.


That is what the governor described as barely keeping up so we - so basically the state has just enough resources to keep up with what is happening here still. And the number of death is still high. He said over 500 people. That rate, he definitely wants to see come down. Now two points on testing, I really want to emphasize.

One, is he laid out the case as to why testing is important. He said if you look at the infection rate in New York, that's how many people one person infects. It is now below one and that's where it needs to stay in order for him to feel comfortable in order to reopen the economy.

That's why testing is important because it helps you determine what that rate is so that is essential. He also laid out the case as to why the federal government needs to be involved in the supply chain and securing some of the components that are - that are necessary for these tests including reagents, the chemicals that go in to the testing.

Also what I've been reporting all morning and what is going to be the next leg of this story, funding is going to be crucial to these states as they try to ramp up the testing and - and trace and - and what he described was an army of basically people who contact trace once they've identified someone who's infected.

All of that takes money so the states are going to need money and I know viewers at home are thinking well, Congress already proved to $2 trillion of stimulus. Yes but that didn't go - the majority of that did not go to the states. It went to small businesses. It went to rescue the airlines and unemployment benefits.

So the states need to be funded well enough. Cities like New York are going to need a lot of help. We heard the Mayor here say essentially, we are going to be forced to onto a wartime like budget. Services will be cut and if you want a successful economic reopening, you're going to need those services fully operational so that people have them to go back to work, to get back to school.

And that has to be there. Public transportation has to be there. Public sanitation has to be available so all of these things are going to be the next leg of the story, once we truly stabilize on the healthcare side which again, the governor saying is a very tenuous situation. Fred.

WHITFIELD: Right and lets tackle some of these point that the governor made particularly from the - excuse me- medical standpoint, Dr. Swamy, help people understand the testing kits. When the governor says you know you need reagents, there are components that are missing in order to carry out as many tests as needed. Help people understand what that means.

DR. LAKSHMAN SWAMY, ICU DOCTOR AND PULMONOLOGIST, BOSTON MEDICAL CENTER: So you know as a doctor, we don't run these tests ourselves but many of us have done this kind of work in medical school and before so there's a lot of different reagents, really ingredients that go into preparing the tests and running it every single time.

And many of these ingredients, reagents are used up so we need a robust supply of those - of that of that tool kit, right? And I can say for example in my hospital, we're very lucky and proud that in our pulmonary section we were able to develop an in-house test, right?

But that's not an easy thing. It's not an easy thing to get it and get it approved as they did so quickly. It also takes so many of these reagents and a lot of people are donating that from other labs. That's not sustainable. We need really strong supply chain bringing that stuff into everyone. WHITFIELD: Dr. El-Bayoumi, are you encouraged at all when the governor

underscores that while the death rate has gone down, as Cristina was just saying, still people admitting themselves, going to hospitals, needing treatment is still sustained at a very high number.

DR. GIGI EL-BAYOUMI, PROF OF MEDICINE, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIV SCHOOL OF MEDICINE & HEALTH SERVICES: Yes, well, I wouldn't say encouraged and especially I'm in Washington DC, where our numbers are really starting to go up and what concerns me is that poor people, black people, communities of color that have been under resourced, where the baseline health status is poor are really being disproportionately impacted.

So I hear what he's saying and when you're in the tsunami and facing all the water, you are just you know, looking at that but the reality is, is that we have to look at the waves that are also coming and figure out a way to really decrease those numbers.

So it's perspective and we look at ultra-short term, short term medium and long term. I in Washington DC, I'm not so optimistic.

WHITFIELD: And Dr. El-Bayoumi, while right now there may be greater enlightenment among some people about the disparities, many of the black community will say you know this is no surprise to us because either people have been uninsured, underinsured.


They've been working on the front lines et cetera but now that it seems that so many are on the same page about this recognition, do you see that there might be more resources that are pouring into black and brown communities as a result of now, what seems to be a revelation among many in this country?

EL-BAYOUMI: Well, you're absolutely right. This is just the latest example and I'll tell you the statistics here in Washington DC where we're a stone's throw away from the capital. We have number one per capita HIV, cancer mortality and stage kidney disease.

And right now in the east end of the city which has about 180,000 residents, there are no hospitals where they deliver babies. That's just baseline, OK? So while I'm glad, particularly appreciated what the governor said about why is that the black and brown communities are always the ones that are paying the price, we need to do research et cetera.

We've got more than enough research, that's been there, done that. We have to move into the action so let me tell you what we're doing at the Rodham Institute. We're focusing on three things. Food, food, food. We know that food is a strong social determinant of mental health. Our under resourced community, there's only one grocery store that serves 80,000 people.

Number 2, mental health services. Number 3 education. So we're doing webinars with our anchor institutions to really get the word out about how to reduce Covid infection. What to eat. We've done one on domestic violence which as you know, has gone up significantly.

WHITFIELD: And a lot of that will be magnified this evening in CNN special, The Color of Covid. We really appreciate all of your input on this today, thank you so much. Still to come. As China revises its death toll, there are new concerns about how truthful the country has been about the spread of the virus.

The former U.S. Ambassador to China joining me live.



WHITFIELD: All right, live pictures right now into CNN. Vice President Mike Pence arriving for today's commencement ceremony for the U.S. Airforce academy in Colorado Springs. You see some wearing masks but not the Vice President who's leading the task force.

CNN's Sarah Westwood is following all of this so Sarah, help folks understand why the Vice President is you know, is defending his attendance at this commencement when most other Americans are being asked to stay home.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well Fred, this is the first time that we've seen the President, the Vice President travel anywhere in the past few weeks. They've been grounded here in Washington as federal health officials have recommended that all Americans avoid all kinds of travel to mitigate concerns about coronavirus.

But the Vice President's office told me that the decision was made to have Pence, go ahead and attended the Airforce academy commencement this year after they learned that the Airforce academy was forging ahead with an in-person event.

Now keep in mind that universities, colleges, even high schools across the country are either delaying significantly their graduation ceremonies or they're doing them virtually. The Airforce academy says that they have confidence that they can do this safely because these cadets have been in a closed environment for the past 6 weeks. They've had no coronavirus cases and this ceremony is not going to look like it has in the past and they're taking a number precautions such as having these cadets marching six feet apart. They're going to sit eight feet apart during the ceremony and on the stage where Pence is going to sit.

The distinguished guests, they will also be eight feet apart but again, this is one of the first times that we are seeing the Vice President venture away from Washington, take a trip anywhere over the past few weeks since he's been focused on this coronavirus response.

President Trump traveled last year to Colorado Springs to deliver the commencement address and yesterday, he said he thought it was great that Pence was attending this commencement and he announced that next month Trump, he will be giving the commencement address at the West Point graduation. So this is all coming again Fred, as the White House's messages that

they're encouraging states to start thinking about reopening in the weeks ahead once they hit that May 1 target date and perhaps signaling that they want to be OK for colleges to start having graduations, for things to start getting back to normal in the months ahead.

WHITFIELD: OK, and then Sarah, do we have an understanding of who is you know with the Vice President on this you know, trip. It almost appeared as though that was well, I better not guess but you know it looks like his contingent is very small but do we have any idea who's with him?

WESTWOOD: Well, obviously they've been limiting the number of people around the President, the Vice President and people who go in close proximity to the President and the Vice President have been getting rapid Covid-19 tests, even the press members of the media who go into the White House.

They've been getting temperature checks so they are very careful about who the Vice President and the President are getting exposed to it and again on stage when the Vice President arrives at the ceremony, he's going to be sitting eight feet apart from all the people who are with them and they will also be no spectators at this event.

So nothing like a regular commencement address. Obviously a lot of precautions Fred, being taken to try to keep the Vice President safe on this first trip away from the White House since the coronavirus has really spread across this country.

WHITFIELD: All right, first images there of the Vice President arriving here in Colorado Springs to deliver the commencement. Thanks so much. Appreciate it, Sarah.

All right, now to the White House where new guidelines are allowing some states to reopen despite warnings from medical experts. CNN's Kristen Holmes


joining us now. So Kristen, the White House is being, you know, pressed about the number of tests available, even as it tries to encourage, you know, a reopening of the economy. And then, you know, reminding states that it's up to them, but they already knew that when they wanted to open things up, again.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. This ongoing saga about whether there are not any enough tests, you know, really continues on. Pence, yesterday is saying that there were enough tests to reopen parts of the economy. But I've spoken to governors on both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats who say that is simply not true.

And they're very skeptical about this number that Pence touted. And they're skeptical with reason. It was more than a month ago that President Trump stood up and said, as of tomorrow, everybody who needs a test will get a test. Well, we know that wasn't true then and it still isn't true now.

And I want to go to breakdown what exactly the big issues are. So on this call on Thursday, the administration pointed to state labs and private labs, telling these governors that there was still capacity in these labs. And I want to keep that in mind for our viewers, because we're going to come back to that.

So what is the issue here if there's still capacity? Well, one Republican official tells me, one of the problems with those labs is they still don't have a rapid test. It is too long of a wait period. You're looking at four to five days at some of those labs. So what is the point of reopening the economy if then you have to take people out of the workforce for four or five days while they wait for their test results.

Now, the other side of this is the supplies. Going back to those labs that have capacity, you heard Governor Cuomo just moments ago talking about this. He said he called all of the top 50 performing labs in New York and asked if they had capacity. These labs said, yes, but there was one caveat. They did not have the actual supplies to conduct the test. And it all goes down to those reagents.

And I know, you explain that just moments ago. These are the chemicals that are used to really process and prepare these tests. And Cuomo outlined what it was that they needed from the Federal Government. One part of it was that they needed the Federal Government to step in and take control of the supply chain. These labs were saying they couldn't get the reagents from the manufacturers.

And the other thing, they said they needed more funding to keep working on these tests, to keep putting them forward. And I want to be very clear. Cuomo has said what we've heard from both sides of the aisles, that testing is imperative. It go hand in hand with reopening the economy.

WHITFIELD: All right, Kristen Holmes at the White House. Thanks so much.

All right, CNN viewers and readers from around the world have asked more than 90,000 questions about coronavirus on At 2:30 Eastern today, right here on CNN, a panel of experts will join me to answer some of your questions. It's become really popular over the last couple of weeks. We wanted to do it again for you. So go to to submit your questions on health, family, life, and your money. Again, that's at 2:30 Eastern right here on CNN.



WHITFIELD: All right this just into CNN, Canada is announcing its border with the U.S. will remain closed until at least May 19th. Earlier this week, President Trump indicated that Canada border would be one of the earliest to open.

At a press conference today Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, the decision to delay the opening for 30 days will keep people on both sides of the border safe. Trudeau says the existing terms of the border deal remain in place which means all essential goods and services will continue to cross including medical workers and supplies.

And new questions are being raised over just when China knew about the severity of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and how long the country's leaders sat on critical information that might have helped stave off a global pandemic.

CNN's David Culver has the story.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On December 31st, as the world ring in the New Year, Chinese authorities in Wuhan were treating dozens of cases of a severe pneumonia of unknown origin.

At the time, there was still no evidence of human to human spread in Wuhan, Dr. Li Wenliang warned friends about the threat of a new virus. At the time, police reprimanded him for spreading rumors. Less than a week later, Chinese authorities confirmed they had identified the virus as a novel coronavirus.

On January 11th, Wuhan's Health Commission reported the first known death. Chinese officials had evidence of clusters suggesting human to human transmission as early as January 14th. According to a new associated press report based on leaked internal documents.

On January 16th, as the impeachment trial of President Trump began in the Senate, Japanese authorities confirmed a man who had traveled to Wuhan was infected with the virus.

Wuhan health officials continue to downplay the danger of how quickly the virus could spread. The contagion of the novel coronavirus is not high. The risk of sustained human to human transmission is low with the implement of our prevent and control measures, the epidemic is preventable and controllable.

By January 20th, China had reported 139 new cases and three deaths. And Beijing acknowledged the virus was spreading from person to person. The very next day, the U.S. saw its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in a Washington State man who had recently returned home from a trip to Wuhan, China.

On January 23rd, Chinese authorities closed the City of Wuhan with its population of more than 11 million people to the outside world. By the end of January, six days later, President Trump announced the creation of a task force to monitor and contain the spread of the virus.


The United States saw its first confirmed case of person to person transmission on January 30th. And the World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And now we're working very strongly with China on the coronavirus, that's a new thing that a lot of people are talking about. Hopefully it won't be as bad as some people think it could be.

(voice-over): A day later, the Trump administration announced the U.S. would deny entry to foreign nationals who had traveled to China in the last 14 days.

CNN spoke by phone with whistleblower, Dr. Li Wenliang. He had contracted the virus after being silenced by authorities and returning to work.

On February 3rd, as the Iowa caucuses pause the first big test for the Democratic presidential candidates, the war of words between China and the U.S. began. China's foreign ministry accused the U.S. government of inappropriately reacting to the outbreak saying, quote, that the U.S. is turning from overconfidence to fear and overreaction.

On February 7th, Dr. Li Wenliang, died of the coronavirus. After that news broke, topics like Wuhan government owes Dr. Li Wenliang an apology and we want freedom of speech, trended on China's highly centered Twitter like platform Weibo, before disappearing.

That same day, President Trump said his relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping was in great shape.

TRUMP: You know, we're working on the problem, the virus. It's a very tough situation. But I think he's going to handle it. I think he's handled it really well. We're helping wherever we can. But we have a great relationship. It's incredible.

(voice-over): On February 10th, President Trump claimed that as the weather started to warm up, the virus would go away.

TRUMP: The virus, they're working hard. It looks like by April, you know, in theory when it gets a little warmer it miraculously goes away. I hope that's true. But we're doing great in our country. China, I spoke with President Xi and they're working very, very hard. And I think it's going to all work out fine.

(voice-over): As Democratic voters in New Hampshire, we're casting their ballots in the presidential primary, the World Health Organization named the disease caused by the virus COVID-19.

Throughout the month of February news of increased cases porting around the globe and the U.S. saw its first case of community spread transmission. On February 28th at a rally in South Carolina, the President lashed out at Democrats.

TRUMP: Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. They tried the impeachment hoax that was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything. They tried it over and over. And this is their new hoax.

(voice-over): And that very same day. TRUMP: We did something very fortunate. We closed up to certain areas of the world very, very early, far earlier than we were supposed to. And we only have 15 people and they're getting better and hopefully they're all better soon.

(voice-over): March 11th, marked a turning point for the U.S. Actor Tom Hanks announced he and his wife had contracted COVID-19 in Australia. Hours later, the NBA suspended its season after a player tested positive moments before a game. And the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic.

At this point, leagues, companies, and states, began the process of telling Americans to stay home. The economy and stock market began a fast track to historic losses.

After President Trump repeatedly praised China's response to the coronavirus, on March 19th, Chinese officials reported no new locally transmitted coronavirus cases for the first time since the pandemic began, touting success in controlling the outbreak despite widespread skepticism over the transparency of their reporting.

And on that very same day, as the number of cases and the death toll continued to rise in the U.S., President Trump suggested China should have been more transparent.

TRUMP: Well, we were much better if we had known about this a number of months earlier. It could have been contained to that one area in China where it started. And certainly the world is paying a big price for what they did. And the world is paying a very big price for not letting them come out. Everybody knows that. We all know that.

(voice-over): Throughout the month of March, the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise in the United States. And on March 30th, the President said this.

TRUMP: Nobody could have predicted something like this.

(voice-over): But the White House economic adviser did warn the President about the threat of the virus back in January. By April 2nd, the pandemic had infected more than 1 million people in 180 countries and regions, killing more than 51,000.

And on April 8th, just over a week ago, China lifted the 76-day lockdown in Wuhan.

(on camera): Meantime, as the distress between the U.S. and China grows, so too as the skepticism of China's transparency or lack thereof in reporting cases and deaths.


To that point, city officials within Wuhan on Friday, revised their death toll adding another nearly 1,300. That's essentially 50 percent more than they had initially published.

David Culver, CNN, Shanghai. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: I want to bring in now Max Baucus. He is a former U.S. ambassador to China and was a Democratic senator from Montana. Good to see you.

When I get to the point David Culver just made there, Chinese officials have revised its death toll higher, but do you trust their numbers?

MAX BAUCUS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: China has never been a transparent country or very closed system. It culture keeps it close. The Communist Party very much wants to keep the lid on information that's not helpful to them.

As China when I was serving over there, it was the biggest problem I had that is trying to figure out what the government is and is not doing. It's not a transparent system. So I'm not at all surprised that China frankly, the officials at Wuhan were reluctant to broadcast information that they had.

It's also a repressive system that is people who work in China for the government are fearful of doing something that the government knows about them as various don't like a watch is something we have to understand to deal with. It's a problem.

WHITFIELD: Right. So China now has also banned the eating of wild animals, but hasn't banned the so called wet markets, which is where meat, you know, and seafood and there had been links being made to, you know, between bats and other forms of animals eaten by Chinese and coronavirus. So, in your view, is there going to be potentially a major social reform that will have to happen, pause this coronavirus?

BAUCUS: To be fair, there are many other countries that have open markets but markets not just in China or any other Asian countries do to.

WHITFIELD: Of course.

BAUCUS: Its China reacts that has to reacts positively when there's public pressure to do so. That's why they banned transport of wild animals from the wet markets. We're going to have to keep putting pressure on China, if we're going to make progress with them.

It's kind of corny but when I was surveying over there, I came up with by three P's with the Chinese, we have to be patient, we have to be positive, we have to be persistent. We're stick with it, stick with it, stick with it. And then positive, upbeat, and finally, making go ahead.

WHITFIELD: And then on the issue of the economy, China, you know, has just reported that it has seen, you know, its economy shrink near 7 percent just in the first quarter, as a consequence of this outbreak. Do you believe those numbers? And if so, you know, what do you believe that the potential consequences might be? BAUCUS: Well, I think the numbers are fairly accurate. I mean, it's a huge contraction. Greatest inside, basically since the 1992, it's very managing with China.

But remember too, though, that the Chinese are very tough. Chinese people, many of them went through the Cultural Revolution, the Great Leap Forward, 10th, the Chinese 30, 40 years ago died of starvation. They're tough. And there's expression in China, it's eat bitter. Step up. Suck it up. Just do what you got to do.

I have full confidence that even though the Chinese economy is suffering, and the supply chain too, the U.S. companies rely on -- are suffering too, because manufacturing in China has cut back so much. But China will persevere. They'll find a way. They're very proud people too.

Don't forget the world revolved around China, a couple centuries, many centuries, and the only recent, the last couple hundred years is China falling behind it. But now they think they're coming back. They're very proud people. We just have to, frankly, find a way to manage the relationship. But China is not going away. China is there.

And U.S. as an established power facing China, rising power just has to figure out a positive way to deal with China in a way that's self respectful. We can work together on global issues on let's say, climate change. We can work together on pandemics like this one, while we're also competing.

We just have to respect China. Don't be tough with China. But we have to work with China. It's just -- there's just no getting around it. We have to be wide-eyed, clear-eyed when we do it.

WHITFIELD: All right, Max, Max Baucus, former U.S. ambassador to China and also formerly the longest serving senator in Montana history, a great distinction. Congratulations on that. And thank you so much for being with us.


All right, these stunning images now from across the country this week revealing the growing number of Americans who cannot put food on the table. Just look, those cars representing individuals and families. And now how states are helping to make sure families do get enough to eat.


WHITFIELD: Another 5.2 million workers filing for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the number of workers who have filed for benefits to a staggering 22 million people since mid March.

The sudden loss of jobs has also meant thousands of people are turning to food banks to feed themselves and their families. Just take a look at these images out of Hampton, Georgia this week where hundreds of cars lined up at the Atlanta Motor Speedway for a box of free food. Look at that right there, people on foot, people in cars. Our Natasha Chen is following the story. And Natasha, that image being seen, you know, multiple times, many times over in cities across this country. It's getting pretty bad.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And Fred, we're seeing that the people in these cars may have lost their jobs. They may have filed for unemployment. And depending on what state they're in, they could still be waiting for that to come through.

And that startling image of people waiting for food essentially breadlines, is a phenomenon. We haven't since the great depression.



CHEN (voice-over): This bumper to bumper traffic wasn't caused by any car accident nor is it any rush hour commute. For many of the people in these cars, there is no more commute because there's no longer a job, no longer a paycheck. And because of that, with increasing alarm, there is no more food.

DR. VALERIE HAWTHORNE, NORTH TEXAS FOOD BANK: As people are getting furloughed and losing their jobs, they need to get access to food.

(voice-over): Across America, from coast to coast in red states and blue, in big cities and small towns are scenes like these. People who can no longer afford to go to the grocery store, people who don't know where their next meal will come from, or how they'll pay for it. They're lining up in many cases for miles for donations of food banks.

HAWTHORNE: We're seeing a lot of folks out here that have never had to seek food assistance before. So we're very sensitive to that.

DALAI PATINO, OUT OF WORK MOTHER: It's really going to help us a lot because we don't have no income at all.

(voice-over): No income?

PATINO: No. None of us is working and we have kids and they don't know that we don't have money to support them.

(voice-over): At a time when the word unprecedented is used frequently to describe the pandemic's havoc, these unsettling images do have a precedent and it's a sobering one.

The New York Times Editorial Board called it the contemporary equivalent of the old black and white images of Americans standing in breadlines during the Great Depression.

In some states, the demand has been so great the National Guard has been called in to help food banks with coordination and distribution.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): Thirteen hundred ninety-six, Louisiana National Guardsmen who are working on COVID missions. They've helped package 1.1 million pounds of food at food banks across the state. (voice-over): Meanwhile, some farmers across the country have been left with no choice but to dump the crops that are typically sold to restaurants that are now closed. Some have tried to donate like this Wisconsin Creamery leaving milk for people to take.

But delivering mass quantities of fresh produce in a small window of time before it goes bad is a challenge. The American Farm Bureau along with the nationwide network of food banks, Feeding America, have asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to streamline a system that connects farms and food banks. But until that happens --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have a buffer that there's no safety net for these folks. There's no savings.

(voice-over): We're likely to see more food going unused and more lines of people that could certainly have used it.


CHEN: And Feeding America that network of 200 food banks surveyed its members in early April, nearly all of them reported seeing higher demand. And yet, nearly 60 percent said they did not have enough inventory, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Wow. I mean, that is extraordinary and heartbreaking. All in one, all right. Natasha Chen, thank you so much.

All right, tonight a look at coronavirus in communities of color joined Don Lemon and Van Jones for a special conversation and messages of hope from celebrities. Here's one message from Constance Marie and George Lopez.


GEORGE LOPEZ, ACTOR & COMEDIAN: We'd like to send a huge braso to the Latino community which is our community.

CONSTANCE MARIE, ACTRESS: And especially thank you to all our essential workers in our community because you guys are on the frontlines, who are pushing through, and you guys are heroes. We know you're working long hours away from your family to basically help everyone.

LOPEZ: Thank you for staying home as well. And thank you for the people that have always supported my foundation at George Lopez Foundation, raises awareness of kidney disease and it also helps kids who have kidney disease. It is very difficult time right now when a lot of their immune systems are compromised. So we have to keep practicing self quarantining.

MARIE: Yes, and social distancing. Stay six feet away from everyone.

LOPEZ: Everyone, including yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: Tune in tonight for much more from Sean Diddy Combs, America Ferrara, Charles Barkley, and many more, The Color of COVID live tonight at 10:00 Eastern.