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Some U.S. States Plan To Partially Reopen In The Coming Weeks; Mike Pence Claims Enough Tests For "Phase One" Reopening; Donald Trump Urges Followers To "Liberate" Three Democratic-led States; U.S. Tops 706,000 Cases As States Weigh Reopening; Small Businesses Begin To Scramble As Government Small Business Loan Program Runs Out Of Funds; Ten Coronavirus-Unit Nurses Suspended In California For Refusing To Work Without N95 Masks; Officials In Wuhan, China Revise City's Death Toll Up By 50 Percent. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired April 18, 2020 - 06:00   ET




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to get rid of the virus. We've got to open up our country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The fact of the matter is it's better be six feet apart right now than six feet under.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are heading towards reopening. It's coming soon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't keep healthy people locked in their houses and watch the economy just go down.

ANDREW CUOMO, GOVERNOR, NEW YORK: You have to develop a testing capacity that does not now exist. We cannot do it without federal help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each state is different. Governors and people advising governors are going to have to kind of chart your own course and we're going to -- we're going to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not going to be a simple up-and-down curve. This is going to be almost like a roller coaster that may go on for a year or two.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour now. Welcome to your NEW DAY. I'm Victor Blackwell.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christi Paul. So glad to have you with us this morning.

BLACKWELL: We're starting this morning with the question of when, also how, to start reopening the country. Coronavirus deaths now in the U.S., more than 37,000. PAUL: Now, yesterday the president unveiled new guidelines to help states loosen restrictions and pointed out it's the governor's decision on when and how to reopen.

BLACKWELL: On Friday, there was an increase in those anti-shutdown protests across a few states and more planned for the next few days. President Trump has called those protesters very responsible people. He tweeted out his support to liberate some states led by Democratic governors.

PAUL: And scientists say at least four states may be able to loosen social distancing measures next month. There's an influential model tracking the pandemic that shows Vermont, West Virginia, Montana and Hawaii, all states with fewer than 800 cases, could open in just couple of weeks. Others, however, may need to wait until late June or early July.


CHRIS MURRAY, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR, GLOBAL HEALTH: Even the earliest states, let's say Hawaii which has had a very small epidemic, doesn't seem to be taking off, that's probably the first week of May they could be thinking about it and then we're seeing states where they really shouldn't be thinking about relaxing social distancing right out into mid-June.


BLACKWELL: All right. Let's start with all the angles this morning with the White House. Vice President Mike Pence says that there are enough coronavirus tests to reopen states under the White House guidelines, but some governors, some of them Republicans, are skeptical.

PAUL: CNN's Kristen Holmes is with us now from the White House. Kristen, how is the White House or this administration trying to help us reconcile that gap between what the vice president is saying and what some of these governors are saying?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi. Well, look, this is just the latest in this ongoing battle between governors and President Trump that we've seen play out during this coronavirus response. As you said, there was this unveiling of the suggested guidelines to reopening the economy. I immediately started getting calls from both Democrats and Republican state officials who said the exact same thing.

On one hand, big pro. It was much more conservative than they thought it was going to be. It was very deferential to the states. They were very pleased with they saw. The other side, again, Democrats and Republicans saying the same thing as the con, where is all the testing? We have heard from state officials, we have heard from medical experts that the most important thing that these communities need to reopen their economy is rapid testing.

Now, yesterday, we heard from the president, the vice president, from series of medical experts who tried to rectify this. They went into a long, lengthy briefing all about testing. As you said, Pence said there was enough tests for the entire country, but my officials in these different states had something else to say.

They said where is the addressing of what's needed in terms of the chemicals, of the swabs, all of these supplies that actually are used to take the test and are in short supply? Now take a listen to what President Trump said about that yesterday.


TRUMP: The governors are responsible for testing and I hope they're going to be able to use this tremendous amount of available capacity that we have. It's up to 1 million additional tests per week. When you think of that, in the next few weeks, we'll be sending out 5.5 million testing swabs to the state.


HOLMES: Now, I do want to note one thing. A Republican state official said this to me about those comments. He said, well, that's nice to hear, but they've been promising this now for months.

BLACKWELL: Yes. So many questions about the testing. Kristen, let me ask you also about the president's tweets, "Liberate Virginia," "Liberate Minnesota," "Liberate Michigan." He went on to defend those. What did he say?


HOLMES: Well, look, so the biggest thing that he was doing here was attacking Democratic governors in states that had strict social distancing and we were seeing protests. We saw dozens of people cloming together, heading to the Capitol there in states like Michigan and Minnesota saying that they didn't want these strict social distancing guidelines and many of them were Trump supporters, a lot of them waving Trump flags, wearing these red MAGA and he actually went a bit further when he was talking about Virginia. I want to read you that tweet.

He says, "Liberate Virginia and save your great Second Amendment. It's under siege." And here it appears that he is talking about Governor Northam signing, last week, a protective order that essentially 19 other states have done in the United States that says that you can temporarily take some firearms from people who are viewed as a hazard to themselves or to others, but he clearly took it a step further there.

Now, I want you to hear what both President Trump said about this yesterday and what the governor of Virginia had to say.


TRUMP: If you take a look at what's going on in Virginia, they want to take away Second Amendment rights and that's what they want to do. So when you talk about liberate or if you talk about a liberation, you could certainly look at Virginia as one.

GOV. RALPH NORTHAM, (D) VIRGINIA: 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.


HOLMES: OK. So just to be clear here, the Second Amendment isn't under siege. Yes, this is a step towards this idea of extreme risk protective order, taking away from people who are viewed as a harm to themselves or others. So it's not the Second Amendment under siege here, but President Trump clearly harping on that, but again, this is an attack on these Democratic governors at a time in which the country is trying to come together and trying to find a solution to reopen the economy.

Keep in mind it's not just Republican governors, not just Republicans who want to reopen the economy, it's Democrats as well. They all have constituents across the country who are suffering and out of work.

PAUL: Yes. Good point. Kristen Holmes, we so appreciate you running us through all of it. Thank you. Now, there are some states that are close to being able to reopen, but there are others, such as New York, that are not. Dr. Christopher Murray, the director for the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, makes an influential model and he says, based on that model, the outbreak in some states is still, quote, "unfolding."

BLACKWELL: Let's go now to CNN's Cristina Alesci. She is in New York. Cristina, it seems like in every one these news conferences from Governor Cuomo, he highlights a few lines of optimism, but still there are some pretty challenging weeks ahead for New York State.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS & BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. The way that Andrew Cuomo, the New York governor, frames this is that New York can control the beast because hospitalization we've seen stabilize, ICU admissions are stabilizing as well and intubations, but just to put some perspective around this, 2,000 people in New York State are still walking into hospitals around the state every day and the death -- the number of deaths still refuses to come down. So it does feel very premature in New York to start thinking about reopening.

That said, New York, like every other governor, like every other state across the country, is trying to -- is trying to balance the need for public health response and making that mission-critical number one and also getting the economy back up and running and on that front, states really need two things -- testing and money.

Now, former CDC director Tom Frieden told Sanjay Gupta on the testing front that it is the federal government's responsibility to ensure the supply chain to make sure that the states have the materials they need, the swabs, the chemicals in order to perform those tests. Now, Trump is trying to put that responsibility onto the states and at the same time fermenting division in Democratic states and making harder for those governors by calling on those states to liberate, suggesting that some of the restrictions should be lifted.

In terms of money, the states are asking for $500 billion to cover the shortfalls which are just staggering. People are out of work, there needs to be so much infrastructure investment not just in healthcare, but across the board and let's listen to what Andrew Cuomo had to say about that.


CUOMO: Don't ask the states to do this. It's up to the governors, up to the governors, up to the governors. OK.


Is there any funding so I can do these things that you want us to do? No. That is passing the buck without passing the bucks. Passing the buck, which is the opposite of the buck stops here. The buck doesn't stop here. I'm passing the buck and I'm not passing the bucks. I'm not giving the financial assistance to actually perform the responsibility.


ALESCI: Now, whether or not Trump likes it, whether or not Republicans like it, the states are going to need more money and that is a fight that is going to unfold in the next couple of weeks.

PAUL: Yes. It's a -- it's the one consistent theme that we've heard, I think, from everybody up to this point, that you cannot have a reopening until you have these tests. Cristina Alesci, we appreciate it so much. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Cristina. Now, a few states are already easing restrictions, announcing plans to do more. That's despite the warnings from health officials that some of the plans are premature. Let's bring in Dr. Saju Mathew, primary care physician, public health specialist and CNN medical analyst.

Doctor, welcome back.


BLACKWELL: So let's start here. You know, we're talking about testing, we heard from Cristina Alesci. There was this really contentious call between senators and the vice president. I want you to listen to what Dr. Fauci said about the role of testing in the plans to start opening up some of these states.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Testing is a part, an important part, of a multi-faceted way that we are going to control and ultimately end this outbreak. 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. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: So he was clear to say that he's not downplaying the role of testing, but how much testing is necessary to make sure that the mitigation is targeted and tailored and effective state to state?

MATHEW: Look, Victor, you know, the bottom line again is we talk about testing all the time and it is extremely important. How do you know how many people have the disease unless you test? How can we even begin to talk about opening up states unless we know that denominator?

So testing is crucial and, you know, technically speaking, in my opinion as a public health specialist, every American should be able to walk to a CVS, your doctor's office, get a test and have the results back in a timely fashion. It absolutely has to be that easy before we can even begin about opening up states or talking about opening up states.

BLACKWELL: Yes. We're a long way from that, where people can just walk up to a CVS, at least from what we're hearing from governors and mayors. Let me ask you about this new model that says at least four states can start to reopen as early as May 4th, Vermont, West Virginia, Montana, Hawaii. We know what the guidelines, according to the CDC, the administration, are for those states, but what does it mean for the states nearby?

I mean, Vermont borders New York with huge problems. West Virginia shares a border with Maryland with some struggles ahead. I mean, how does this change the relationships between these states if next door I can go to a restaurant sooner than I can in New York? Are we setting ourselves up for some troubles?

MATHEW: Of course. You know, Victor, what happens in one county affects the next county. What happens in one state can affect two states over. We always talk about this in public health. An infection somewhere is an infection everywhere.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you also about what we saw in Florida starting just yesterday. I think we've got the video here. The Jacksonville mayor has allowed beaches to reopen, Jacksonville Beach there, for limited hours, not a lot of social distancing going on here. From a public health perspective, especially in Florida, is this too soon?

MATHEW: It's too soon. It's very soon, Victor. How can you socially distance yourself on a beach? If you look at the precautions they mentioned, it's no sunbathing. As early as yesterday, people are out on the beach. They're sunbathing. People are saying I want to go out there, I don't want these restrictions.

You know, Florida has not hit its peak yet. They're expecting the peak to be sometime first week of May, expecting a lot more deaths in the near future. Some hospitals in Florida, in North Florida, are gearing up for almost 200 to 300 percent of a surge. So opening up a beach goes exactly against what a public health measure should be to try to contain this virus.


This virus is dangerous. It's out there. Even one or two cases will multiply exponentially.

BLACKWELL: All right. Dr. Saju Mathew, always good to have you and I want you to stay with us because of course, as we do every weekend, there are a lot of questions, there are a lot of people who may not be following every headline throughout the week and come here to get some answers.

So we're going to pass their questions, Doctor on to you. So if you, you're watching, you have a question about COVID-19, about the antibody test, the potential vaccine, anything related to coronavirus, tweet us. I'm @VictorBlackwell. Christi is @Christi_Paul. We're also on Instagram and we'll get some of those questions to Dr. Mathew.

PAUL: Now, obviously all of our lives have been impacted by this. We are with you here, you know, working through the coronavirus, working at home, kids are out of school, we're wearing face masks in public. I want to show you some of our team here. Most of us are working from home with pets and children, adapting to this new normal that you're experiencing as well. We want to hear about your experiences.

How has this changed your life, your routine? Is this -- I call it the reset. Maybe it helps us kind of get introspective and think what are my priorities? Am I happy with what I have been doing and do I need to make some changes? Tweet us and use the hashtag #TheReset.

You can actually do it on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram. I'm there. I've posted this for quite a while here, but Crystal says, for instance, she says, "I'm practicing extreme self-care and becoming more aware of what I need and don't need in my life. Less is more."

BLACKWELL: Yes. I asked on Twitter this morning how will this period change how you live moving forward and this is from Liz, "Doing more with less. I'm going to continue staying home, enjoying my quiet time, new books and tuning out the noise." That's a good one.

PAUL: Yes. That is a good one. It's something we all are, I think, trying to find that balance with. Listen, still to come, have you got your hands on that stimulus money? Well, so are scammers. We're going to tell you about the frauds to watch out for during this pandemic because there are some people out there trying to take advantage of it.




PAUL: This is a tough headline to read and to reconcile -- the government ran out of money for small businesses this week. These businesses that are struggling because of the shutdowns due to COVID- 19 pandemic. Well, the Paycheck Protection Program is supposed to ease some of the financial burden for these small businesses, but tens of thousands of companies didn't get access to the loan program before those funds ran out and now so many of them are on the brink of permanently shutting down.

Now, lawmakers are trying to reach an agreement to increase funding for the program. Financial expert Ted Jenkin has been looking at this very closely this week. Ted, it's good to see you this morning. Thank you. So help us understand first of all --


PAUL: Good morning -- what's happening with the PPP and how businesses can stay financially afloat.

JENKIN: Well, look, there were $350 billion for the PPP and it is now gone. So businesses are going to have to scramble, Christi. There's something called the employee retention tax credit. This will allow people to get a refundable tax credit against their payroll taxes.

That may help them get some cash in their business today. They can also defer their payroll taxes and pay half in 2021 and half in 2022. That may be a good idea, but businesses are going to have to pivot and come up with creative ideas right now, Christi.

I saw a restaurant here in Atlanta, they did something called dining bonds. Customers gave them $100 right now in lieu of getting $150 of credit six months down the road and they've raised $50,000, Christi. So that's going to help them keep their business afloat, but businesses are going to have to get creative.

PAUL: OK. Well, whoever that was just gave a lot of other businesses a pretty good idea. That was pretty brilliant.

JENKIN: It's a good one.

PAUL: That was a good one. Yes. So I know that you say we need to be really wary of people who are calling from the IRS because we are also in a -- in a point here where there's so much of vulnerability, we all feel it, but particularly in the area of scams.

JENKIN: That's absolutely true, Christi. Look, be wary of spoofing. These are calls that may look like they're coming from the IRS or your bank, but the IRS, Christi, will never ever call you. They're not going to call you about your stimulus check, they're not going to call you to verify the check or verify your address.

They will never ever do that, so it's fake. Watch out for texting now. You may get a text that says your relief check is in, confirm here with a click, but when you click, it will download a nasty virus on your phone, Christi, or somebody might try to steal your personal information.

But one thing I'm really worried about, Christi, are romance scams. Yes, romance scams where people will go online and set up fake profiles on Facebook or Instagram or dating sites. They will pose as a member of the military and they'll pull your heartstrings. People are lonely and isolated now and they'll say give me your

stimulus check now. When I return to the United States then I can help you out and give you double or triple what your stimulus check is today. So be very careful about that right now.

PAUL: OK. So where do we go? Who do we contact if we believe there's been fraud?

JENKIN: Well, the biggest thing is the Federal Disaster Fraud hotline. There should be a number that you can see on the screen or if you get a fake e-mail, go to It's not this kind of fishing, it's the P-H kind of phishing and that's the best place to start, Christi, because you've got to notify someone if this happens to you.

PAUL: Yes. And that number on the screen, 866-720-5721. Ted Jenkin, thank you so much for walking us through this. I know there's a lot to go through. We appreciate you breaking it down for us.

JENKIN: Thanks, Christi.

BLACKWELL: Quick break. We'll be right back.




PAUL: So I know we have so many questions about what to do and how to live through this virus that has no cure at this point. What are some of the long-term effects of the diagnosis? We know that you have questions. You've been sending them to us and we thank you for it.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Let's bring back Dr. Saju Mathew, primary care physician, public health specialist, CNN medical analyst. Let's start with the questions that have come in through Twitter and from Instagram. One of them here is that are there any medications that I should avoid taking if I know I have coronavirus?

MATHEW: The most important medication that you should avoid taking would be Advil, Motrin, Ibuprofen. These are blood thinners. Few studies have shown that patients who have COVID-19 can actually -- their infection can actually worsen if they're on Advil, Motrin, Ibuprofen. So what you would take for fevers is just Tylenol.

PAUL: So Bill said on Twitter to me, he said, "My family's following the rules, but starting to get serious cabin fever." I think he speaks for a lot of people.


He said it used to be OK to hike on remote trails when this started. Is this still the case?

MATHEW: Yes, hi, Christi. You know, it's -- everything changes pretty much every hour, every day with the virus. A couple of weeks ago, it was OK to go out and to a park as long as you're socially distancing yourself. Now we know that with this virus, it's not just talking, it could it be breathing. A runner jogging past you, if they breathe hard -- and we know that if you run fast that can happen.

You can technically be exposed to the virus. So my recommendation would be, if you're just out in the wide, you know, and it's no one in front of you and behind you, technically speaking, you should be able to do it. The problem is, you know, when you're hiking, there are people constantly around you even if you think you might be the only person there. So I would say, just be careful about making sure you can distance yourself, and that there are not too many people on the trail.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the tragic reality is that there will be tens of thousands of funerals for people who have died from COVID-19. And one question comes in, "am I at risk if I go to a funeral or visitation service for someone who died from the virus"?

MATHEW: Yes, really tough situation, Victor now for so many funeral homes all over the U.S. The big question I would ask is to make a call to the funeral home and find out exactly how the funeral is going to be conducted. A lot of funeral homes in New York where they have been hit hard will almost have a drive-by, I know it sounds awful to talk about it this way, so sad.

But the drive-by really does protect you, and a lot of funeral homes are being really particular about cleaning between funerals. So, really, you should just call and find out their plan, their specific plan for that funeral home.

BLACKWELL: So the concern here is more about the other people, the other attendees than the deceased.

MATHEW: That's right.


MATHEW: That's exactly right. I mean, obviously with the deceased as well, the funeral homes need to make sure that they are embalmed in the right way and definitely follow all the precautions for patients with COVID-19. But a lot of people's concerns would be that people attending the funeral --


MATHEW: What are their risks and exposure from being in that facility?


PAUL: Yes, we have an article on from Dr. Judith Becko Sanchez(ph) who says despite the doctors' offices taking, you know, real measures to make sure that people are separated, particularly for children, she is seeing something that's alarming to her that parents are saying, you know what?

My kid might be sick, but I'm not going to bring him in because I don't want to risk that. What do you say to parents who are really concerned about their children getting something even though they may already be sick with something else or they may have been in some sort of accident and they don't want to take them in for fear of being exposed?

MATHEW: Tough question, Christi. You know, ultimately, if you think about it right, we're focusing on COVID. But you know what? Our lives continue. There are kids that need vaccinations. Kids are breaking their bones, they're -- things are happening to people. Adults are having heart attacks. What are happening or what is happening to all these people? Well, every hospital and every office is taking precautions to make sure that you're screened at the door, if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, you are directed to another place.

The waiting rooms are definitely disinfected. People are staying six feet apart. So, my recommendation to parents who are concerned, again is to call your pediatrician's office and specifically ask them what exactly are your plans. If a kid needs a vaccination, it could be a very quick visit where the nurse can come in to the room very quickly, take care of the kid and the parent, they can leave. So, ultimately, it depends on your pediatrician and your family physician's office and exactly what they're doing to take care of you.

PAUL: Good advice.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about remdesivir. Gilead, which is this biopharmaceutical company is funding a study, trials of this drug and the impact on COVID-19 patients. It's an antiviral. It's a leaked conversation between scientists at the University of Chicago, and it suggests that they are very optimistic about the impact. You cautioned us against rushing to a conclusion on hydroxychloroquine.

What do you know about this study? What do you know about potential help from remdesivir as a therapy?

MATHEW: Yes, so, Victor, remdesivir was studied early on during the Ebola outbreak. It did not seem to work for Ebola. Later on, it was studied for SARS and MERS which are cousins of COVID-19, and it show some benefit. And now, we're talking about specifically looking at this antiviral for COVID-19.


University of Chicago has some early promising results. I'm cautiously optimistic because it's not really a case controlled study, Victor, which means you're not necessarily studying only patients that are getting the medication. What about patients who are just as sick that are not getting the medicine, that's the plausible side of the study that's not been looked into.

But it is promising. They're talking about how this antiviral is actually decreasing respiratory symptoms, fever and shortness of breath, and a good number of the patients on ventilators were able to come off the ventilators. But once again, as a physician, and a public health specialist, Victor, I know I say this a lot on air, I am cautiously optimistic. We just need to see what happens at the end of April when the University of Chicago will release more results.

PAUL: All right, Dr. Saju Mathew, we so appreciate your expertise, thank you for getting up early for us and for our viewers.

BLACKWELL: Always good to have you.

MATHEW: Thank you, Christi, thank you, Victor.

PAUL: Thank you --

BLACKWELL: All right, so hospitals facing these staffing and supply shortages around the country. There's one hospital in California that is suspending 10 coronavirus unit nurses who say they refused to enter COVID-patient rooms without N95 masks. We've got this photo, it was taken after nurses took that stand inside the Santa Monica facility. Seven nurses, you see them there, they were raising their fists.

PAUL: But the hospital said there were no N95 masks for them, so they insisted the nurses wear surgical masks instead. Two of those nurses now say they could be suspended with pay for weeks while the hospital investigates.

Now, the hospital released a statement saying in part, quote, "every one of our nurses caring for COVID-19 positive patients and patients under investigation was provided appropriate PPE per CDC. W.H.O and state guidelines. These same guidelines are followed by most hospitals across the United States.

BLACKWELL: Still ahead, how the social media page of a Chinese doctor who tried to warn about the growing coronavirus threat months ago is now becoming a virtual place of mourning. Also, the Chinese government is facing new accusations of not doing enough to warn the world about the spread of the virus.




BLACKWELL: Just beautiful music from the Italian city of violins. This violinist performing here from the roof of a hospital in the province of Cremona in Italy this week. Cremona was an early epicenter for the virus with more than 5,000 cases. The hospital hopes the roof-top concert will lift spirits but also raise money for local charities.

PAUL: So inspired by just the creativity people are giving each other. It's pretty fascinating.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's amazing --

PAUL: Look at those doctors are just -- they're just standing there watching and the patients are as well.

BLACKWELL: And sometimes just a couple of minutes is all the respite that some people need just to hear or see that there's something beyond the moment in which we find ourselves. And that music for the people who are watching and listening just it might have been that.

PAUL: Look, I mean, look at all of those people just stopping and listening. Because -- and you're right, that's what we need. Sometimes we just need that moment --


PAUL: To get away and get out of what we're in that time. Listen, I want to tell you too that we're hearing denials from China now, regarding claims that it has tried to cover up the scope or severity of coronavirus. We've heard this before, but the latest defense is happening as health officials had to add more than 1,200 cases of people who died in the city of Wuhan. And that revised figure by the way is a 50 percent increase in the number of deaths in that city. Now, President Trump struck pretty harsh tone with China yesterday. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So today, I saw they announced that essentially they're doubling up on the numbers. And that's only in Wuhan. They're not talking about outside of Wuhan. And this could have been shut down a long time ago. They knew it, and we couldn't get in. And in all fairness, World Health couldn't get in. And that's why I wish they took a different stand, so we took a very pathetic stance and a very weak stance.

But they say they couldn't get in. But ultimately they got in. They got in much sooner than anybody but they didn't report what was happening. They didn't report what was happening inside of China -- no, I'm not happy with China.


BLACKWELL: CNN international anchor and correspondent Kristie Lu Stout is following this. And we've seen this dramatic vacillation, I should say, from full confidence from the president in President Xi in China in January to now full skepticism.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, full skepticism because of this 50 percent increase, a very significant revision in the death toll from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province. That of course is where the pandemic began. Now, according to Chinese officials, they say the reason behind this revision is two-fold.

Number one, they say that a lot of the deaths took place in people's homes, and number two, the medics at the time were overwhelmed, they were too busy trying to treat the infected they couldn't count the dead.


Now, a lot of questions being raised about the transparency, but this is something that's happened before. China has changed its numbers before, at least three times because of the way it counts the cases. It happened in January, it happened in February. But there was one place where there has been transparency in regards

to being able to talk about the pandemic, and that taking place on the website senior Weibo, on the last comment posted by the whistleblower doctor, Dr. Li Wenliang.

As you may remember, he was the doctor who sounded the alarm in late December who posted that message. That went viral saying that there was an existence of a new SARS-like disease out there. It went viral. He was silenced when he was accused of rumor-mongering. Dr. Li himself became infected with COVID-19, and sadly, he passed away in early February.

And since then for the last two months, people all over China has been gathering to the last post that he put on this senior Weibo social media site. In fact, as of today, 894,000 comments have been posted. There are messages like Dr. Li, good morning. How are you doing? Thinking of you. People posting pictures of candles, a flame, even of chicken drumsticks because that was Dr. Li's favorite snack.

I just want to read a couple of the comments to you because you know, just so poignant the way people in China are gently mourning the late doctor, saying quote, "the day will come when the people can rewrite the investigation report of your case." Another comment saying, "the outbreak is very serious abroad. I hope they can -- and one more comment going like this. "Dr. Li, can you tell me the real situation of the outbreak now?" Christi and Victor, back to you.

PAUL: That is something. Kristie Lu Stout, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: So, turning to sports now, and some hoop dreams, life-long dreams that came true at the WNBA draft last night. But you know, one of the best moments was how they decided to honor three young players who will not get the chance to realize some of their dreams including Kobe Bryant's daughter, Gigi.



BLACKWELL: A new tribute now to Kobe Bryant's work to elevate women sports and his daughter, Gianna's dreams, they're recognized too.

PAUL: Yes, the WNBA draft was last night. Coy is with us here because we know the league used that moment to honor Kobe, Gigi, her two teammates who also died in that helicopter crash. Talk to us about what that was like.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS REPORTER: Yes, they're powerful moment really to start this all off. Good morning to you, Christi and Victor. But in this event that is celebrating the future of the WNBA, the league using this moment to celebrate futures unfulfilled, making Gigi Bryant along with her teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester honorary draft picks.

The league also unveiling that Kobe and Gigi advocacy award was to honor those who helped grow women's basketball. Now just minutes after this, Oregon superstar Sabrina Ionescu; one of the most dominant players in college hoop's history drafted number one overall by the New York Liberty. Well, Kobe was a mentor whose legacy she wants to carry on.


SABRINA IONESCU, FIRST PICK IN WNBA DRAFT: He would be happy and proud, and he's looking down smiling on me and all of us right now. And so, just super proud and happy to be able to be a professional. And it's something that, you know, we trained for and talked about for a really long time. And so, I'm just happy to take on that Mamba mentality into the next phase of my life.


WIRE: Now, Vanessa posting on Instagram photos of Sabrina, Gigi and Kobe, congratulating Ionescu on her dreams becoming a reality. Now, the NBA playoffs, they were supposed to start today, instead Commissioner Adam Silver admitting some frustration after the league's board of governors meeting yesterday. Not able to say when or even if the season may restart. He says that the safety of players and fans, that's paramount. Listen.


ADAM SILVER, COMMISSIONER, NBA: Everything is on the table. I mean it's clear that if we resume play, we're looking at going significantly later than June, which is historically when our season and draft would have been completed.


WIRE: Now, Victor and Christi, with no foreseeable restart to this season in sight. NBA players agreed yesterday to take a 25 percent pay cut for all missed regular season games once that date hits.

PAUL: All right, Coy Wire, always good to see you, thank you.

WIRE: Me too, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thanks Coy. So, consider this, Thursday night, the White House laid out their plan to get states to re-open, specifically the benchmarks to re-open. Then Friday morning, the president started tweeting that states that have not met those benchmarks should be liberated. Some governors say it's too soon. We'll have that discussion coming up at the top of the hour.



BLACKWELL: Tonight on CNN, join Don Lemon and Van Jones for a special conversation about how the coronavirus is affecting communities of color. Actress Taraji P. Henson will join them, and she'll be sharing a message of hope.


TARAJI HENSON, ACTRESS: Hi, I'm Taraji P. Henson and I'm reaching out to those of you in communities of color who may be feeling lost, heartbroken and alone during this time of uncertainty. I want you to know that what you feel is real. I see you and I am with you. This moment in time has shaken us all to the bone, but I want to remind you of who you are. Who we are.

And we've always been able to link our arms and make it through the storm, and we'll do it again together. It's not easy, I know, and it's OK to not be OK. Look, whatever you're feeling, it's OK. Just please don't stop feeling, don't stop connecting to life, to love, to God because He's got you. He's got all of us.

My organization, the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation has been working to eradicate the stigma around mental health. We're raising money to provide free virtual therapy to those in underserved communities who may need someone to talk to, to help begin the healing process. Which we know will take some time. So visit our website, to sign up.

And if your heart is so moved, please donate by texting no stigma to 707070, and help us, help us because we're all we got, and we're in this together. Love you. Stay safe.