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THE SITUATION ROOM

More than 41,000 Coronavirus Deaths Reported in the U.S.; Contact Tracing Critical for Safe Reopening of the U.S. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 19, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Globally right now more than 2.3 million people are infected with coronavirus and more than 165,000 people have lost their lives. Here in the United States the death toll topped to 40,000 mark today and it's continuing to rise, that's double by the way the number of fatalities from just one week ago. And nearly 750,000 Americans are infected.

The country continues to face major setbacks on testing. Right now about 12,000 virus testing kits in Washington state can't be used at all and are being recalled. State health officials say they are possibly contaminated.

In the meantime, frustration with social distancing rules is growing across the country. Protests popping up in places like California, Texas, Maryland and Wisconsin. Officials warning these demonstrations could lead to a spike in infections and force social distancing rules to stay in place.

But there is a glimmer of hope in New York. That's the epicenter of this crisis in the United States. Governor Cuomo today reporting the total hospitalizations are down, although the battle hasn't been won yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: If the data holds and if this trend holds, we are past the high point and all indications at this point are we -- that we are on the descent. Whether or not the descent continues depends on what we do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Joining us now the emergency room physician room at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School and instructor, Dr. Jeremy Faust.

Dr. Faust, thanks for joining us.

Also with us, Dr. Ester Choo. She is the associate professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University. Dr. Choo, the president now says he'll use what's called the Defense

Production Act to produce those testing swabs which are so critical in all of these tests. What do you make of that step?

DR. ESTHER CHOO, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, OREGON HEALTH AND SCIENCE UNIVERSITY: Yes. I really am glad to hear that. We are so overdue for this. I mean, really it's been kind of grassroots voices and efforts that have been driving that demand. In some ways I can't believe we are just getting started with that.

I mean, Dr. Faust, who I have the pleasure of being on with today, wrote an op-ed for the "Washington Post" in early March, talking about how we needed widespread and routine testing in order to not be flying in the dark with regards to this disease. We cannot emerge from this unless we have that kind of testing. So certainly glad to hear it, can't wait to see it.

BLITZER: Why is it so complicated, Dr. Faust, to get all the right equipment for these tests like these swabs, for example? You'd think that would be relatively easy to produce.

DR. JEREMY FAUST, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: You would think so. But the one thing you need is lead time. And we've been caught flat footed over and over again. So it's good that we're finally (INAUDIBLE) wake up to this. But it's way too late. We need to have testing. I'm very worried about people coughing up opening up the economy without adequate testing. That's just a -- that's a situation that's going to what's called a second peak or a second spike. It could be absolutely devastating for lives and the economy.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Dr. Choo?

CHOO: Yes. There is a real danger here. I mean, when you're making decisions in the absence of testing, you're making the decisions based on, you know, kind of incomplete data. So I really worry that without testing in place we start making decisions about opening up and then we're not tracing the consequences of opening up because we have inadequate testing. So it becomes a little bit circular that we are really at risk for getting a little overexcited and ending up not just back in March but really we're soft than where we were before.

BLITZER: Dr. Choo, you started the online movement with the #getmeppe. Has the situation improved at all based on what you're seeing?

CHOO: Well, we're certainly trying. I mean, certainly there are a lot of efforts both from industry and from individuals to coordinate online, try to figure out who needs the equipment, those personal protective equipment, the most and to connect them with potential manufactures. I mean, we really see how difficult it is to tap into a supply chain. There are a lot of profiteers here getting in and really just try to make lots of money out of it.

There's lots of complexity to this and the unfortunate thing is even though a lot of people are stepping up there hasn't been a coordinated central effort to do this. So really lots of missed opportunity to make distribution of supply equitable and like Dr. Faust said to really stay on top of needs rather than constantly playing catch up.

BLITZER: Dr. Faust, Mayor de Blasio of New York says admissions for possible coronavirus cases are up across the city, New York City. Governor Cuomo says that maybe the worst is behind us, his words.

[19:05:05]

What could be the reason for this rise in hospitalizations that we are seeing at least right now?

FAUST: Well, one of the things that we're learning about this virus is that there is a long kind of lag time between infection and symptoms, and then worsening to critical care. So even if we see levels of new cases leveling off, we're actually expecting a week or maybe two weeks later to see an uptick on hospitalizations when patients who'd try to go home get sick.

And then what happens is you have an influx in the hospital two weeks later when you thought you're in the clear and then, as Dr. Choo predicted, you have a PPE problem. The White House task force is finally getting onto this. But we need people like Dr. Choo in the room to say, hey, this is coming down the pipe in a week or two, not tomorrow. If we do it that way, then we're more anticipatory, we're more nimble, and that's how you get ahead of things. It's not waiting for the problem to become real is to see it coming down the pipe.

BLITZER: Dr. Choo, at the same time some states are actually looking to reopen their economies as soon as early May, some have already, by the way, eased restrictions on public movement. Do you worry about that? Could that lead potentially to a spike in cases?

CHOO: I mean, this is really terrifying and it's what's keeping everybody on the health care side awake at night. I mean, the serious thing about this disease, there is this little delay between when we are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic and we're running around and passing it to each other, and then illnesses and deaths come a little bit later. And so it could feel good for a short time and it can be validated to go out there and go back to business as well. And then we'll see this delayed wave and we'll really pay for it later.

I mean, all of us want to go out. I am going wild inside with my kids. There's four of them. And I would like nothing more than for things to open back up. But the reason that we're not doing this and we're advising against it because science is dictating that if we do that it could really mean loss of lives here.

BLITZER: Can life, Dr. Faust, really return to some sanguine of normality here in the United States without a vaccine?

FAUST: Without a vaccine, that's really -- that's a million-dollar question and unfortunately we're going to have to see how it works out before we have that vaccine. I share the concern that opening up now is really great news if you're the virus that causes this disease and terrible news if you're a human being trying to survive this pandemic.

We know that this disease can be spread by asymptomatic people. And right now about one out of 400 or 50 Americans has this virus. Sounds like a lot. Most people only know that number of people so it may not feel real to those individuals outside of hot zones, so I'm worried that that -- they feel like, OK, it's time to get out, it feels good, like Dr. Choo said, but then you go out and you do interact with several hundred people, maybe not in the first minute, but over your day, and then the virus comes to you. You might be fine but you may give it to someone who won't be. And that's why you get very worried.

It's not about federal government versus the states. It's not about governors versus people. It's about humans versus the virus. That's the line in the sand. Which side are you on?

BLITZER: What about that, Dr. Choo? You know, if there's going to be a vaccine, let's say a year from now, maybe even a year and a half from now, that's a long time from now, but potentially there could be some treatments to deal with the coronavirus in the short term, maybe even a month or two months or three months down the road. Is that right?

CHOO: Yes. We are doing science faster than you would imagine. I am mostly actually on the research side, although I do still practice clinically. And you do not believe how quickly we are getting these clinical trials and observational studies up and running. And it is with breathtaking speed. And we are knocking down all the usual barriers for doing research quickly.

And so the information will be in front of us soon. And again it's so hard to ask people to wait and to hold on when they want answers and treatments now, but over the next few months we will have answers and we'll figure out if we have effective treatments, what they are, hopefully even in what doses we should be giving them and what stage in the disease. So there may be a little bridge between now that we have virtually nothing except for supportive care, and this fall or next spring we're going to be able to roll out the first vaccines.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stand by, Dr. Faust and Dr. Shoo. We have a lot more to discuss. We'll take a quick break. Much more of our special coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:13:41]

BLITZER: New developments unfolding right now in the coronavirus pandemic. The White House has announced a major part of the reopening strategy, will rely on what's called contact tracing. That's a way for officials to investigate where coronavirus patients have traveled and to determine who may have been exposed.

CNN's Sara Sidner reports health experts are now saying this tracing is totally critical to avoid a resurgence in cases.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMY DRISCOLL, SURVIVED CORONAVIRUS: This was painful.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amy Driscoll says coronavirus had her in a vice grip that wouldn't let go for weeks.

DRISCOLL: Every breath, every movement, every, you know, raising your arms, rolling over in bed, every single thing is painful.

SIDNER: Less than two hours after arriving home from the hospital, her phone rang. It was the county health department, asking lots of questions.

DRISCOLL: Who have I seen in the last two weeks, where was I in the last two weeks, who was I in contact with, where do I work.

SIDNER: The Health Department was doing what is called contact tracing.

CUOMO: You have to trace every person who comes up positive. Trace means investigate. Investigate all those prior contacts.

SIDNER: Driscoll traced her steps. She'd gone to work. Her boss and staff had to be contacted. She went to a restaurant for lunch. She went to her hair salon. They had to be contacted.

[19:15:01]

She went to a Cleveland Cavaliers game. All her family members who sat with her were contacted. This kind of contact tracing is happening across the country and the world. And those suffering through the deadly COVID-19 outbreak in New York to those connected to the first major U.S. outbreak in Washington State, to California, the first place where a statewide stay-at-home order was announced.

Experts say without contract tracing and enough testing, America and the world cannot reopen safely.

JOSHUA MICHAUD, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR GLOBAL HEALTH POLICY, KAISER FAMILY FOUNDATION: We're going to be at risk of resurgence of this disease, not just in the fall, but going into next year.

SIDNER (on camera): So you're saying without contact tracing, a massive amount, without testing a massive amount, we could find ourselves right back where we started?

MICHAUD: I think we could find ourselves very much at risk of another resurgence.

SIDNER (voice-over): But the U.S. does not have enough people to do the tracing. State health officials estimate there are about 2,000 people doing this work now, but Johns Hopkins University warns we need at least 100,000.

(On camera): For now, contact tracing is only as good as your memory. This is hard. I mean, before stay-at-home orders, can you remember all the people you had close contact with over a two-week period, say, at the coffee shop? Or at the grocery store? Or at a restaurant? Or at your child's school?

(Voice-over): And that's where big tech like Google and Apple are jumping in. They will soon have an app you can voluntarily download built with health departments so they can see detailed location data from your cellphone. But the public may be skittish about it due to privacy concerns. Still, contact tracing --

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right. We're going to interrupt Sara's report. This is Dr. Seema Verma, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the Coronavirus Task Force briefing.

SEEMA VERMA, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: To handle any surge. And our healthcare system did a fantastic job. They very quickly stood up telehealth services under the president's leadership, we started paying for these services under the Medicare program. But the reality is not everything can be addressed by telehealth. There may be a woman that needs surgery for breast cancer, somebody who has cataracts in their eyes that need to be able to see better. And sometimes the doctor just needs to be able to listen to their patient's heart.

We've heard across the country that doctors' offices have closed and many healthcare systems are furloughing their staff, nurses and doctors. Under the president's leadership we've put out over $90 billion in accelerated payments under the Medicare program, provided $30 billion of grants with more dollars on the way.

But thanks to the American people, we are in a much different place. You heard from the vice president that there are many places around the country where they are seeing a decline in cases. And hospitals are reporting that they have unused capacity. And so as part of our opening up America, we are issuing guidelines today about how we can reopen the healthcare systems. These are recommendations around phase one.

Now every state and local official has to assess the situation on the ground. They need to make sure that they can still address surges. They need to make sure that they have adequate supplies and a plan for conserving supplies. They need to be able to screen patients and healthcare workers for COVID virus. And they need to make sure that patients feel safe when they come in to seek healthcare services by assuring that they have the appropriate cleaning in place and that they observe social distancing inside the healthcare facilities.

And this isn't going to be like a light switch. It's more like a sun rise where it's going to be a gradual process, and healthcare officials across the country and healthcare systems need to decide what services should be made available. And ultimately doctors and patients need to make decisions about their healthcare services. And we want to make sure that systems are reopening so that they can stay open and doing that in a very measured way.

And I want to thank all the healthcare workers on the frontlines. They've done a fantastic job in providing care and comfort, serving as a liaison between family members. They've done a fantastic job and we owe a debt of gratitude to them. And to all those providers that did adhere to our guidelines, they did the right thing and has made an extraordinary difference. Also, I want to take a couple of seconds here to talk about our

nursing homes. Our hearts and minds are with the patients and the families of those living in nursing homes. This is an extraordinarily difficult situation. People living in nursing homes are of the most vulnerable patients. They're elderly, many of them have underlying health conditions. And this has been a very hard situation.

[19:20:01]

And I really appreciate the strong efforts of governors and local communities that have shown great leadership from supporting nursing homes across the country particularly Governor Baker and Governor Hogan that have had special efforts around supporting nursing homes.

FEMA is also working on a plan to make sure that nursing homes have the supplies that they need. And just last week we increased the reimbursement in the Medicare program for High-Throughput test and we are also paying for labs to go out to nursing homes to collect samples. And that's going to really support efforts on nursing homes in order to isolate patients.

Today we are also announcing under the president's leadership an effort around nursing home transparency. It's important that patients and their families have the information that they need and they need to understand what's going on in the nursing home. And so today we are announcing that we are requiring nursing homes to report to patients and their families if there are cases of COVID virus inside the nursing home.

We are also requiring nursing homes to report directly to the CDC when they have cases of COVID virus. And this is very important, as you've heard Dr. Birx talk about as we reopen the United States, our surveillance effort around the COVID virus will also begin in nursing homes. And so by having this reporting system, this will support CDC's efforts to have surveillance around the country and to support efforts around contact tracing so that we can mitigate the spread of the virus in those communities that show spread starting in the nursing homes.

So again I want to thank all of the local officials that have done an amazing job in supporting the nursing homes, and want to urge all state and local leaders to follow their lead and do everything that we can to keep nursing home residents safe. Thank you.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. And Dr. Hahn is here. He'll tell you a little bit later -- I don't know if you want this, but I can tell you that very simply the level of approving things, tests and being on top of the people that are doing the testing for therapies and for vaccines has never -- they've never seen anything like this. So I want to thank you very much. And stick around, maybe they'll have some questions, OK?

Please go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, thank you very much. There are groups of people planning to protest tomorrow against the government shutdown. What would be your advice? TRUMP: Against the shutdown?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes. They want the shutdown lifted. Should they --

TRUMP: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: We prefer that. You're allowed to protest. I mean, they feel -- I watched the protest and they're all six-feet apart. I mean, it is a very orderly group of people. But, you know, some have gone too far. Some governors have gone too far. Some of the things that happened maybe not so appropriate. And I think in the end it's not going to matter because we are starting to open up our states. And I think they're going to open very well.

We're going to be watching it. We're going to be watching it very closely. We're working with them on testing. We're working with them on whatever they need. I don't think they need ventilators anymore. I believe the term the governor used was phenomenal. We've done a phenomenal job. That was a term that -- that was the only sentence they left out which was OK. But I appreciate that that's what Governor Cuomo said.

But yes, they've done a phenomenal -- these people have done a phenomenal job. As far as protesters, you know I see protesters for all sorts of things. I'm with everybody. I'm with everybody. Please in the back. Go ahead. In the back. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes. Yes. Thank you, Mr. President. Yesterday you pointed out that Iran was likely not truthful in their reporting of the virus. Meanwhile, Senator Dianne Feinstein and other Democrats are looking for $5 billion in aids to Iran. Are you considering giving any aids to Iran?

TRUMP: If Iran needed aid on this, I would be willing to do something if they want it, if they ask for it. I would -- they were hit very hard. Obviously those numbers weren't correct numbers that they reported. But if they needed help, if they needed aid, if they needed ventilators, we have thousands of ventilators currently on hand, and ventilators under construction, under -- that are under construction. That's a mosquito, I don't like mosquitoes. I don't like mosquitoes at all.

But if they -- yes, we would certainly be willing to help. What they should do and be smart and make a deal. It's only because of -- you know, you look at what happens. It's John Kerry, I guess, just doesn't want them to make a deal. And they're probably figuring they can wait. And maybe it will be Biden and a lot of America are buying this. And they know with me, it doesn't work that way. It doesn't work that way.

[19:25:02]

If Joe Biden got in, they'd own America. Between them, China, Japan, Mexico, Canada. They'd own America. You wouldn't have a country left if he got in. Go ahead, please.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, first of all, you actually see some governors, I think you said yesterday some governors you think have gone too far. Which governors are you referring to, sir? Which states?

TRUMP: I don't want to mention -- I don't want to mention names specifically. But obviously one we can mention this but really much beyond this is Virginia with what they've done on guns. He is playing with your Second Amendment, we can't allow that to happen. And that is indirectly related to this because you know it's happened with guns. People are buying guns at a level that you haven't seen before because of this surge of plague.

So what we did was totally inappropriate. I think that I'm not going to mention governors, but I have a list, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) you mentioned at the top that you hope to get a deal tomorrow on (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: I hope so.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Steve Mnuchin (INAUDIBLE) this is ready to go, any second now --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Every time we say it's ready to go, then they say, oh, we have a good negotiating position now because he just said it's ready to go so now let's see what happens. But we want to out -- we want to take care of our workers. We want to take care of our small businesses. They're really the engine of this country. We have to -- when we open, we want to have those small businesses ready to go. We don't want those businesses abandoned because they couldn't afford their employees. They couldn't take care and I want to take care of those employees.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's the holdup? (INAUDIBLE). Is this is supposed --

TRUMP: I can't tell you that. I can just tell you that we're negotiating with the Democrats. And, you know, negotiate for things that we can't do, that we don't think they're in the best interest of the people of this country. We are very close to a deal. I can't tell you whether or not we're going to get the deal or not. Who would say that? You want me to say we're going to have a deal before we have a deal?

We have a good chance of getting a deal. A lot of good discussions were had today. We have a good chance of getting the deal. We want the deal. We want to take care of our workers. We want to take care of our small companies.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Go ahead, please.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. I have a question for you and also for Dr. Hahn. (INAUDIBLE). In your remarks that you made just a few moments ago in regards to reopening the U.S. economy, you said, I wanted to be safe. And that's a sentiment obviously shared --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Tens of millions of Americans.

TRUMP: I want it to be safe.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And it seems at odds, Mr. President, with the tweet that you had on Friday about liberating those three particular states, Virginia, Minnesota and Michigan, because none of those states, Mr. President, have met the requirements that the vice president and others on the task force have talked about in terms of reopening the economy. Do you see those two --

TRUMP: No. If you take -- if you take Michigan, there are things in Michigan that I don't think that were necessarily appropriate. I think everyone knows that. I know the governor of Michigan, we're getting along very well. But I think the governor of Michigan probably knows that. I think she probably wished she didn't put some of them in. You can't buy paint. You can't buy seeds. I mean, where did this stuff come from?

You know, we're going to be safe. We have to be safe. We don't want to close anything. We're not going to be closing. But we're going to be doing it beautifully, systematically, we're working very well with the governors. I mean, I would say pretty much almost all of them. A couple of them, no matter what you do, you'll never satisfy them. You could find a cure tomorrow and they wouldn't be satisfied. They'll find a reason to complain for us, guys.

But for the most part, we're working very well with the governors. We have a great relationship with the governors. I can tell you, I've been on numerous calls with governors and during those calls, I mean, without exception, they were friendly, and that's going back even a month, a month from today. So I think that we're going to do a terrific job. I think the governors are going to do a terrific job. And we're starting to open our country and you know, as you know, some -- I just spoke with Greg Abbott today from Texas. He's fantastic, he's a fantastic governor. And he's going to be opening up parts of Texas and he's going to be opening up parts of other country.

You know -- other states. And you know what that is. But no other countries are at a point where they're starting. I see Germany started to open up little sections. So there are a lot of great things happening. And we're going to start to open our country. And we're going to do it. It's like, as I say, it's like a beautiful puzzle. A state, might even be a portion of the state. You know, there are states very big states. And you can have portions of states, Mike. You have a portion, you have a county which is perfect and you have another county that's still pretty far away, even if it's within the same state. And it's not doing so well. But they may open the parts. So we're going to do it very, very carefully and I think that's going to be very successful. But when you say safe, I want it to be very safe.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.

TRUMP: Let him just do this one. But go ahead, please.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you very much. Dr. Hahn --

[19:30:05]

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Dr. Hahn. There is a question that I don't know the answer to, but I was hoping you could provide the answer to. There is an epidemiologist at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, there's actually a COVID-19 survivor, and his name is Michael Saag.

His question is this -- why would the virus suddenly be different? Why would people's susceptibility be any different on May the 1st or on June the 1st or on July the 1st, and this all relates to reopening the economy.

Can you explain or give an answer to that particular question?

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, COMMISSIONER, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: I don't think we have evidence that one would be more susceptible or less, but what I think we can say is that the mitigation efforts have really helped with respect to this and that what we've seen is the number of cases have gone down.

And if we follow the gating criteria for the opening, we're then able to institute Phase 1 and have appropriate measures in place to actually reduce any chance of flare-up of the cases.

QUESTION: Is there a chance of -- a sort of rebounding if you reopen too soon without the type of mitigation efforts that we've had still in place?

HAHN: Yes, there's a chance and I think Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx talked about this at the podium and the key here is the surveillance that is being put in place with the C.D.C. I think that'll be a really great help in terms of trying to reduce that risk. Thank you.

TRUMP: And I think they have the rest of that clip. I just thought it was a very good clip. I think, it's a tribute to New York. I think it's a tribute to the Federal government and I thought it was nice.

So, I think they have that now, they can try it. Go ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Have we saved everyone? No. But have we lost anyone because we didn't have a bed or we didn't have a ventilator or we didn't have healthcare staff? No. The people we lost are the people we couldn't save, not for lack of

trying and not for lack of doing everything that we could do as a society, not only is a government, but as a healthcare system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Okay. Yes.

QUESTION: I appreciate it. Since you shared with us something else that you saw on TV today, I have a question about something you said on Thursday which is that you were angry because the information about the virus should have been told to us earlier and a lot sooner.

People knew it was happening and people did not want to talk about it. Many Americans are saying the exact same thing about you -- that you should have warned them the virus was spreading like wildfire through the month of February instead of holding rallies with thousands of people.

Why did you wait so long to warn them?

TRUMP: Now, who are you with? Who are you with?

QUESTION: And why did you not have social distancing until March 16th?

TRUMP: Who are you with?

QUESTION: I'm Weijia Jiang with CBS News.

TRUMP: So, if you look at what I did in terms of cutting off or banning China from coming in --

QUESTION: Chinese nationals, but by the way, not Americans who were also coming from China.

TRUMP: Nice and easy. Nice and easy. Just relax. We cut it off. People were amazed. These gentlemen -- everybody was amazed that I did it.

We had 21 people in a room, everybody was against it, but me. Dr. Fauci said had I not done that, perhaps tens of thousands and maybe much more than that, people would have died.

I was very early. Very, very early and we just saw -- you saw Bret Baier making a statement. They had a debate well into February and not even mentioned -- it wasn't even mentioned -- the Democrats, we were very early on. I'm the President --

QUESTION: You could have warned people --

TRUMP: And you know what I just did? And you know what I just --

QUESTION: And by the way, when you issued the ban, the virus was already here. TRUMP: Okay, and you know how many people when I issued the ban --

how many cases of virus were in the United States when I issued the ban? Do you know the number?

QUESTION: There was --

TRUMP: No, no. How many cases -- remember, I said one person? How many cases were here when I issued the ban? Tell me.

QUESTION: Did you know it was going to spread?

TRUMP: No, no, do. You have to be a researcher.

QUESTION: And become a pandemic?

TRUMP: How many --

QUESTION: I did my research. On the 23rd of March, you said you knew this was going to be a pandemic.

TRUMP: Can I tell you what? I did know it.

QUESTION: Well before you --

TRUMP: I did know it. All I have to do is look.

QUESTION: So you knew it was --

TRUMP: Look, anybody knew it. Just -- are you ready? How many cases were in the United States when I did my ban? How many people had died in the United States?

QUESTION: So do you acknowledge that you didn't think it was going to spread?

TRUMP: Keep your voice down, please. Keep your voice down.

QUESTION: Did you not --

TRUMP: How many -- how many -- how many -- how many cases were in the United States? I did a ban where I'm closing up the entire country, how many people died?

QUESTION: And that's a fair point.

TRUMP: How many people died in the United States and yet I closed up the country and I believe there were no deaths -- zero deaths -- at the time I closed up the country. Nobody was there, and you should say thank you very much for good judgment. Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: You just mentioned Germany. Germany is allowing the small stores to open.

TRUMP: Yes, they are. I just spoke to them.

QUESTION: Does this give you confidence that some European countries are on the mend or recovering?

[19:35:28]

TRUMP: Oh, I hope so. I mean, we hope it works out. I spoke with -- I spoke with Angela and they are going to start a process of opening very much like we are. We are, too.

I spoke with numerous governors, they're doing it also. Areas that have been that within -- number one, they've done a good job and they don't have much of a problem.

Germany is starting the process also, yes, and I'm very happy about that. Some places in Europe, as you know can't start the process for a while.

QUESTION: Mr. President.

TRUMP: Yes, ma'am, go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. I have two questions. First one, the mayor of Las Vegas thinks it's total insanity for business to be shut down in Nevada which the Governor Sisolak ordered. Who is right?

TRUMP: Well, they shut one of my hotels down, too. Okay, so you know, I'm not involved in that. I could be if I wanted to. I just chose not to be.

By the way just, so you know, I could be if I wanted to, but I chose not, but they closed a very big hotel that I have in Nevada down in Las Vegas. It's a very severe step he took.

I'm okay with it. I'm okay with it. But you know, you could call that one either way. I know the mayor is very upset with it. Some owners are very upset with it. Some of the developers out there are very upset.

Others, they say hey, we've got to get rid of it. I can -- I can see both sides of that.

QUESTION: ... with one other question. I asked you recently about an SBA rule that said that Paycheck Protection money could not go to small casinos. You said you'd look into it and clearly something happened.

TRUMP: They are looking into it right now, because they do have -- you know, they have small casinos that don't have too many people and they are looking and they're going to make a ruling, I understand next week.

QUESTION: They already did make a ruling and they changed it from small casinos that make more than a third of their income could be qualified to have.

TRUMP: I know, but they're looking at that. They're continuing to look at that. It's a big -- it's a big topic because a lot of people are involved. Let's give it a shot.

QUESTION: Thank you. And you know, Governor Cuomo as you played in that clip has indeed praised a lot of what the Federal government has done, but he --

TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. He didn't say a lot. He said we did a phenomenal job. He didn't say a lot. He didn't say, you did a good job on ventilators, but nothing else. No, he said, we did a phenomenal job.

So, report accurately because you are one of the most inaccurate reporters. Go ahead.

QUESTION: What he said is that -- and along with a bunch of Republican governors who have said what they need though is a national strategy when it comes to testing because on supplies, they say they're competing against one another. Why not --

TRUMP: They said the same thing with ventilators and now, we have so many that we're going to be able to send them and help other countries that are in need.

We're doing great on testing, and we are actually using the Act as you know on a certain company.

QUESTION: Yes. But what about on the reagents. They say that that that's something that they can't get a hold of.

TRUMP: We're in great shape. It's so easy to get that. Reagents and swabs are so easy to get. When you have to build a very expensive piece of machinery controlled by computers, that's a different thing.

And no, we'll have -- everything is going to be in very good shape very soon. We're going to be in very good shape very soon. Yes, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President, just the latest stimulus package, WILLIAMS: that have funding for states and local governments?

TRUMP: Well, I don't want to comment on it, but we will be saving that for another time.

QUESTION: Will you be willing to --

TRUMP: And by the way, so the states and local governments need it. I'm the first one to admit that we're going to be saving that for another little bit of a later date. It will probably be our next negotiation, but they do -- I'm in favor of it. I will say.

And I told the Republicans today, I had, I think a great talk with Republican senators today and all of them, I think, just about all of them and conference call and we are going to be -- that'll be a very big topic over the next couple of weeks. It's very important.

QUESTION: And what is the administration doing to make sure that you know, the hotel chains and hedge funds will have access of --

TRUMP: Well, that's another one. Yes. You have hotels that are big massive buildings that are under levered, but if you have no income at all coming out -- no income at all -- these hotels are -- they go from under leveraged, they have to be closed down. It's a terrible thing.

I don't know that they're working on that specific problem, but it's a problem they should be talking about. I mean you have people that own a hotel where they go from having a very successful hotel with, you know, many employees thousands of people to all of a sudden closing it down.

I read where my wonderful place in Florida, in Miami, Doral they had to let a lot of the employees go because it's essentially closed. You can't use it. You don't -- you can't have the restaurants. You can't have the -- so you know, you have to close it down.

That's an example of many, many hotels that are closing down throughout the country and hopefully they're going to be able to open up relatively quickly.

[19:40:10]

QUESTION: Well, the funds were specifically for small businesses. Would the administration --

TRUMP: Well, it depends how the hotel is considered. You know is it owned by a big chain? But even if it's owned by a big chain that's devastating. If they have 200 hotels in the country and they're closed and it's not only in the country. Remember this, this is all over the world.

You know, they have -- they could have 2,000 hotels that are in other countries. They're also closing. We're in better shape than most when you think about it.

So, I think we're going to be looking at it. I think it's a very big problem and it's a lot of people employed. Yes, here we go.

QUESTION: Mr. President, 22 -- more than 22 million Americans are currently unemployed as a result of this. Today, we hit the grim milestone of more than 40,000 Americans now having died from the coronavirus. Can you explain then why you come out here and you are reading clips and showing clips of praise for your administration? Is this really the time for self-congratulations?

TRUMP: Well, I will tell you this. What I'm doing is I'm standing up for the men and women that have done such an incredible job, not for me, for the men and women -- Admirals, Vice President, if I might -- but all of the men and women thousands, tens of thousands of them that built hospitals in New York and New Jersey and all over this country in record time. They threw up a thousand beds in four days.

I'm sticking up for those people. Those people have been incredible. I'm also sticking up for doctors and nurses and military doctors and nurses -- QUESTION: The clips that you played and what you read earlier was

praising you and your administration.

TRUMP: All I played today was Governor Cuomo --

QUESTION: ... to do that, sir.

TRUMP: Saying very positive things about the job that the Federal government has done and those people --

QUESTION: And more than 40,000 Americans now died.

TRUMP: Those people have been just absolutely excoriated by some of the fake news like you, you're CNN. You're fake news.

And let me just tell you, they were excoriated by people like you that don't know any better because you don't have the brains you were born with. You should be praising the people that have done a good job not doing what you do -- even that question.

So, just so you understand, if we didn't do a job --

QUESTION: The question is why now, not why are you doing it? By why now?

TRUMP: I'll tell you why now. Are you ready? Because these people are right now in hospitals, it's dangerous. It's going to a battlefield and I want these people -- I want you -- I want you -- it's all about that. It's not about me.

QUESTION: It's about you and your administration.

TRUMP: Nothing is about me. Look, you're never going to treat me fairly, many of you, and I understand that. I don't even know, I got here with the worst, most unfair press treatment they say in the history of the United States for a President.

They did say Abraham Lincoln had very bad treatment -- let me just tell you.

QUESTION: ... has your name in it. It talks about Trump remaking the playbook.

TRUMP: Oh, that's a positive thing because that's an exercise in how to do it and what to do and that's good for the future. People can learn from that, but I want the men and women of this country that are in danger, the Admirals and the generals that have done a job like they've never done before. They're in war.

We're in war. You know, I call it the invisible enemy. That's the war and it's a dangerous war.

We're also at a level when you said 40,000 people and you're right, almost 40,000 people and what -- oh more than, okay. Good, correct me. Correct me. Well, I'm really glad you corrected me, CNN. But here's a story, let

me just tell you something. If we didn't do what we did, the 40,000 right now could be a million people. It could be a million people, not 40,000. It could be a million.

We're tracking at much less than the lowest possible estimate and that's a great tribute to a number of people and a number of things. One of the things that it is attributed to is what's taking place in this country with the American people because they've gone inside, they've done it.

They've done a job that nobody thought was possible and in fact when they did the models as they call them, nobody thought it was possible. They did models not based on this kind of success.

I've seen New York streets and I see it in the morning. I've watched all my life, New York streets, and you can't even see the pavement. There's so many people.

And you take a look this morning. You take a look even on Friday morning, I looked at it. I saw it through a camera, there wasn't a person on Fifth Avenue. There wasn't a person on Madison Avenue. I've never seen anything like it because people have really listened to instructions and they've listened to what we've had to say and the professionals they've listened.

And those people -- people should really give them a lot of credit including people like you, because you just don't have the sense to understand what's going on.

All right, yes, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President --

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, we're going to continue to monitor the Q&A at this news conference. The President over in the White House Briefing Room, very upbeat assessment on the part of the President, he keeps saying making terrific progress, testing is expanding very rapidly, we're doing a great job in all these things, he says.

[19:45:09]

BLITZER: He was also pretty supportive of the protests that's going on. Actually, I am told we are going right back into the Q&A. Let's listen in.

TRUMP: The places that you mentioned, and so yes, I would say that's important, actually, that's like a restaurant. Go ahead, please.

QUESTION: You referred to these protesters earlier. Some of them are getting pretty intense, and we are now getting some death threats and some governors who are reluctant --

TRUMP: You are in the media?

QUESTION: No, the governors are getting death threats. The governors of Kentucky, Michigan and Virginia. They are getting increased levels of death threats, and are you concerned that if you talk about liberation and the Second Amendment and all of that -- are you inciting violence among the few people who are on the --

TRUMP: I've seen the people. I've seen the interviews of the people. These are great people.

Look, they want to get -- they call it cabin fever, you've heard the term? They've got cabin fever. They want to get back. They want their lives back. Their life was taken away from them.

And you know, they learned a lot during this period. They learned to do things differently than they have in the past, and you know, they will do it hopefully until the virus has passed.

And when the virus passes, I hope we are going to be sitting next to each other in baseball games, football games, basketball games, ice hockey games. I hope we're going to be sitting next to each other.

I hope you have golf -- the Masters is going to have a hundred thousand people and not 25 people watching at the course.

QUESTION: Are you afraid of the violence though? I mean some --

TRUMP: I am not. No, I am not. I think these people are -- I've never seen so many American flags. I mean, I am seeing the same thing that you are seeing. I don't see anything differently.

QUESTION: They are too.

TRUMP: The who?

QUESTION: Nazis.

TRUMP: Well, that, I totally I would say, no way. But I've seen -- I didn't see that. I see all -- of course, I am sure the news plays it up. I have seen American flags all over the place. I have never seen so many American flags at a rally as I have at these rallies. These people love our country and they want to get back to work. Please, go ahead.

BLITZER: All right, once again let's do some analysis right now. John Harwood, you were listening very closely. The President strongly defending the protesters out there. At one point, he is saying, they are all standing six feet apart and some governors he says, he didn't want to mention too many names are -- have simply gone too far. They've got to start opening up their states. What did you think?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, Wolf, those are contradictory stances. He on the one hand is praising the American people for responding to the stay-at-home orders, the mitigation efforts to slow the spread of the pandemic.

And at the same time, he is chipping away and criticizing the governors saying some of them have gone too far, encouraging the protesters to go speak out especially in Virginia where they passed some unrelated gun control measures.

But the striking thing about this performance tonight, Wolf, was that on a day when you have three-quarter of a million people who have confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, more than 40,000 dead as our colleague, Jeremy Diamond just pointed out, you have a President who is focused more on his own needs.

The needs of his ego. The needs of his reelection campaign than on the needs of the American people suffering under this coronavirus.

He has seen polling in the last few days, Pew Research showing two- thirds of the American thinking he was too slow on coronavirus. Only in "The Wall Street Journal" today, only 36 percent of the American people believe and trust the President on coronavirus, and he is having trouble coping that harsh judgement.

So he came out, started reading newspaper articles with praise of him, playing clips -- video clips of Andrew Cuomo saying good things about the Federal government desperately trying to persuade the American people.

No, no. You've got it wrong. Don't believe what you've heard from the media. I've really done a good job. Striking display of a needy President trying to make himself feel better and make the country feel better about him.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point. You know, Dana Bash, you were watching very closely as well, and at almost every area he says we are doing a great job. When it comes to testing, we are in great shape. Right now, the swabs, they're so easy to get, so easy to make up what you hear, not just Democratic governors complaining that testing is weak right now. They need a whole lot more.

But you hear Republican governors saying they need more help from the Federal government.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. The whole point of him, at least what he said, the point of him playing the praise from Andrew Cuomo was to show that there is bipartisan support for the Federal response.

That's what we saw all day today on CNN. Jake Tapper, his interviews with Republican and Democratic governors, all across the airwaves. The bipartisan response was that the President and the Vice President are dead wrong when they say that they have given enough testing to the states.

They are dead wrong when they say it is up to the state to scrounge around for the testing. They say that it is the Federal government that needs to take control of that.

So that is the reality, not what he played from Andrew Cuomo because he wanted to sort of feel that praise.

[19:50:11]

BASH: But there is something else I wanted to say which I just think is important not to tiptoe around, Wolf.

I sat in that Briefing Room as a White House reporter during the George W. Bush administration, and as a woman who covered the White House, a as a woman who covers politics and policy in Washington, we have to just say, the way he treats the female reporters is different.

When he said to CBS News, Weijia Jiang and said that she should relax and that she should keep her voice down. I mean, come on. She was asking completely legitimate questions, just like our Jeremy Diamond was, but in terms of this female reporter, she was asking great questions, just like Yamiche from PBS, our colleague, Kaitlan Collins.

And so, you know, I think it's important to call it out that there is a difference in the way he reacts when he is getting the tough questions.

Not that he liked Jeremy Diamond's questions or other male reporters' questions, when they are tossed, but the way he reacts is different and I think it's time to say so.

BLITZER: And he went pretty far, Dana, in really attacking the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, the former Vice President Joe Biden.

He says, if Biden were to win, he says China, Japan, Mexico, and Canada, Iran, they would all own America. You wouldn't have a country left. That's a direct quote. You wouldn't have a country left if Joe Biden wins the presidency.

That's -- I mean, he has gone after Biden many times despite their phone conversation recently, but that was the sharpest I have heard him attack the former Vice President.

BASH: That's right. This was -- I mean, so many of these press conferences have turned into campaign rallies in the White House Briefing Room. But that was a prime example that part of it.

Because we know that internal Trump polling shows that China is -- blaming China is the number one asset politically right now and he is trying to tie Joe Biden to it and that is playing out in everything that he does in official business and also in campaign business.

And it doesn't make it true. It doesn't make it right, us but it's a reminder that he has the campaign on his mind, and he also is getting some criticism from fellow Republicans who really do want him to win.

Chris Christie was on another network today saying this whole idea of attacking Joe Biden on China is wrong to do right now because he needs to focus on the policy and on getting people healthy and getting the economy back up and running.

BLITZER: Let's bring in our fact checker, Daniel Dale who was listening closely as he always does. What did you think, Daniel? What struck you?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Wolf, I thought there was a critical false claim on the subject of reagents for testing. The President brushed aside the question about challenges the governors are having in obtaining reagent and he said it's so easy to get. We're in great shape.

That's just not what we're hearing, not only from Democratic governors, but also from red states, from Republicans. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican was said last week, he said, if we had an unlimited amount of reagent, it wouldn't solve every problem, but it certainly would allow our institutions to really ramp up.

And then his Health Director said, this is one of the most frustrating issues we deal with. It is being rationed. The rationing is happening federally. We don't know the answer to how soon we will have more of it.

We had similar quotes from a public health laboratory in Nebraska. We have heard this from around the country, so it's just not true that at least, when it comes to the people doing the testing that this stuff is easy to get.

The President also repeated his false claim that he closed the entire country to China and Europe, as we have talked about, his restrictions were rife with exemptions that allowed people to continue to travel.

And on the general subject of testing, the President just keeps asserting that things are honky-dory. Everything is fine. We are great. We are beating everyone else.

Again, this is the not what we're hearing even from members of the President's own party.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point. Even some of the Republican governors are complaining, they simply don't have enough testing.

I want to bring in the doctors, Dr. Faust and Dr. Choo into this. Dr. Faust, when the President defends the protesters right now who are out there on the streets protesting against all of the social distancing restrictions, keeping various areas closed off, the President says they have every right to do so. What's so bad about a protest? What do you think?

DR. JEREMY FAUST, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: Well, I think he is right that they have a right to protest. But I think what is being missed is that this reflects a misunderstanding between theory and reality.

This morning when I was in my ER, I intubated a patient who was within a minute of his life. And I know that I saved his life and gave him a chance and I'm hoping he will pull through. We're seeing that across the country.

So if you listened to the President speak today, you would get the feeling that everything is going great and we're through the worst of it, but that's not the reality that people like me are seeing. That's concerning.

[19:55:03]

FAUST: Reagent-wise, for example, on the testing, the F.D.A. just announced that you can use basically Q-tips now to do tests because they ran out of -- in some areas tests.

Now, I applaud the F.D.A. for that kind of innovation, but that hasn't been looked at in terms of the science.

So the reality between the reason people protest is they don't get it, and that's what I am worried about. He said there could be a million cases and he is right, there could be. I'm really worried that's what we're looking at if we don't do the right thing.

BLITZER: Well, what about that, Dr. Choo because as far as the national strategy for testing, which doesn't exist apparently right now. He said, and I am quoting him once again, "We're doing a great job on testing. We're in great shape." And then he said, "Swabs -- they are so easy to make, so easy to get."

So, why are so many governors and mayors all over the country complaining?

DR. ESTHER CHOO, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, OREGON HEALTH AND SCIENCE UNIVERSITY: Yes, I mean, first of all, I worry a lot about this premature celebration. I mean, it is really chilling to Dr. Faust and I to hear that kind of celebration when the reality on the ground is so different.

And the concern is that it signals that people should be optimistic and should no longer need to be careful going outside.

But with regards to testing, we are simply not seeing that reality. I mean, in the State of Oregon, we're still limited largely to testing people who are symptomatic, which we now know is just the tip of the iceberg.

So that's not being reflected to those of us who are on the frontlines. And the other thing I want to say is that, it is not just about the tests and the test kits. I mean, we talk a lot about the material need we have here.

But consider every time you have a test, somebody needs to perform that test. Somebody needs to receive those test results. We need this huge workforce that this is going to contact people with positive tests and do all the contact tracing.

And we know that takes a lot of man hours, so any coherent widespread testing strategy needs to come with all of these other pieces in place and an explanation of how we are actually going to mobilize that testing effort.

None of that is outlined on the C.D.C.-White House website. I checked right before we went on to see if there are any updates I was not aware about -- aware of.

And then we also need to know what parameters we're looking for. What are the numbers? Once we do these tests with a coherent strategy, what are the numbers that we're looking for so that we can continue in this overall plan for a graded reopening?

So a lot of critical elements missing, even as we focus down on some of these micro issues of reagent and Q-tips.

BLITZER: You know, John Harwood, the President did say he would like to see a new deal with the House and the Senate, The Democrats and the Republicans. He said we want a deal. We want a good deal. The U.S. economy, he wants it to rebound. He believes that once this crisis is over, it will rebound and the economy will go back and would be just fabulous. What did you think about that?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I do think there were two pieces of news that did move the testing conversation forward today. One is the one you just mentioned, being on the brink of a deal between the administration and Speaker Pelosi on extending that PPP loan program for small businesses because democrats have got money in that bill.

It appears that they will for both hospitals and for testing. That's critical because states and localities say they need money for testing.

The second thing is the President did indicate tonight that he will use the Defense Production Act to ramp up, force the ramp up of production of swabs.

Now, he did this under pressure. He's been getting criticism over the last few days. He had indicated he wasn't going to use the DPA, but many of the people who are trying to get the testing capacity up to where we can get into the Phase 1 partial reopening have said, the Defense Production Act is the quickest way for the country to get a supply chain organized so we can do that.

This was at least a step in that direction and it's possible there will be further steps as there's more pressure as we get to the end of April.

BLITZER: Yes, they may get another $300 billion of this so-called Paycheck Protection Program, the PPP that you're talking about.

I want to play a clip. This is an exchange that our Jeremy Diamond, our White House correspondent just had with the President. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, on President Xi, you now talk about the missteps that China made early on in this crisis and how you put the United States behind on --

TRUMP: Well, based on an investigation, we're going to find out. Yes. Yes, true.

DIAMOND: So when you repeatedly praised Xi in January and February, you said he will solve the problem. You said he was doing a great job. Were you duped by President Xi?

TRUMP: No, no, no. I made a deal that's phenomenal for the United States. Now, you know who was duped? You, you and the Obama administration were duped for years because China was ripping off this country like the history of any country, nobody has been ripped off like the United States by China and many other countries.

And we stopped it, and we've done a deal where they are paying up $250 -- they are buying $250 -- they didn't do anything for us.

You know, we didn't even have a deal. It was so bad.