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Georgia's Rush to Reopen Economy; Kim Jong-un Absent from Public View; Trump Halts Immigration to United States; What Reopening Looks Like Across the U.S.; WHO Leader Calls for Unity as Trump Withholds Funds; U.S. Monitoring Intel that North Korean Leader is in Grave Danger after Surgery; U.S. Crude Plummets to Negative Pricing for First Time. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 21, 2020 - 00:00   ET




JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John Vause.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, from Jordan to India to the U.S., around the world, lockdowns are being lifted or eased but the warning is the same: get it wrong and brace for a surge in the coronavirus.

Has anyone seen North Korea's Kim Jong-un?

After missing a major public celebration, now comes new intelligence suggesting his health is failing.

And Donald Trump says he will step up the fight against the coronavirus with an executive order to suspend all immigration to the U.S.


VAUSE: Just like almost everything in the United States these days, the decision by governors when to reopen their states and how quickly seems to come down to partisan politics.

The first state to reopen was one of the last to impose a stay at home order. The Republican governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, says hair and nail salons, gyms, tattoo parlors and other businesses can reopen as soon as Friday, well ahead of the president's deadline of May 1st.

Restaurants and theaters could be back in business by Monday. Meantime, in states controlled by Democrats, protesters have been demanding an end to social distancing and lockdowns and they've been encouraged by words from the president.

It would be easy to forget that, despite all of this, the number of the people in the U.S. dying from COVID-19 has nearly doubled to 42,000 in just the past week. America's leading infectious disease expert says reopening too soon without widespread testing would be a big mistake.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What you do, if you jump the gun and go into a situation, where you have a big spike, you will set yourself back. So as painful as it is to go by the careful guidelines of gradually phasing into a reopening, it is going to backfire.


VAUSE: The latest opinion polls show most Americans agree, according to an NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" survey; 58 percent are concerned about restrictions being lifted too quickly and that could mean lives would be lost.

The Pew Research Center polls puts that number much higher at 66 percent. For the past week, there has been palpable relief in the White House that projections have predicted a much lower death toll than first anticipated, around 60,000 from the coronavirus.

But a source close to the task force in the White House warns that if states move too quickly, the most recent modeling predicts a surge in the number of lives lost. More now from Nick Watt.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Reopening this Friday in Georgia, gyms, bowling alleys, barbershops and some other businesses that can't do works from home.


GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): This measure will apply statewide and will be the operational standard in all jurisdictions.


WATT: Monday, restaurants will also reopen. Kemp says all businesses that are reopening must screen employees for illness and practice social distancing.


KEMP: By taking this measured action, we will get Georgians back to work safely.


WATT: South Carolina expected to open stores and beaches Tuesday with were open all weekend. In Jacksonville, Florida with social distancing rules flagrantly flouted.


REP. DONNA SHALALA (D-FL): I think that decision was reckless. It shows you how undisciplined the leadership of this country has been because we do not have a consistent message.


WATT: And there are still hotspots. Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia. One more pork plant just closed indefinitely in Minnesota after an outbreak, nearly 10 percent of U.S. pork production is now shut down.

And cases continue cropping up at nursing homes. The CDC now mandating that residents and their families are informed about outbreaks, along with the CDC.


SEEMA VERMA, MEMBER, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: And we are also paying for labs to go out to nursing homes to collect samples.


WATT: Meanwhile, our leaders struggle to balance the pain of the virus...



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had the sense that I was drowning at a certain point. I wasn't able to even stand.


WATT: -- with the pain of the shutdown.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): You don't need protests to convince anybody in this country that we have to get back to work and we have to get the economy going and we have to get out of our homes. Nobody. The question is going to become, how, when, how fast?


WATT: One influential model suggests just these four states can safely open first on May 4th. Still, two weeks from today.


ALI MOKDAD, HEALTH METRICS SCIENCES PROFESSOR, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION: What we are reporting is a level that a state can comfortably move to a containment stage.


WATT: That level is one new case per day per one million people. So, for example, New York State would need fewer than 20 cases per day. Right now, they are still seeing more than 5,000. All large events in the city, concerts, parades, were just canceled through June. The governor now wants a bump in pay for essential workers.


CUOMO: When you are home with your doors locked dealing with cabin fever, they were out there dealing with the coronavirus. I would say, hazard pay, give them a 50 percent bonus and I would do that now.


WATT: Apparently, one new case per million per day, the state will have the capacity to care for that patient and also trace and test their contacts. Bottom line?


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically, is not going to happen.


WATT: Wherever and whenever we re-open, we will see a rise in cases in those places. Now, the governor of Georgia can see that. He knows that cases will go up but he says that they have the capacity and he is confident that they will stay on top of it -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


VAUSE: We should note, not everyone in the state of Georgia supports the governor's decision for a Friday opening. The mayor of historic Savannah, Van Johnson, says he is beyond disturbed, says it's a reckless action. We also heard from Atlanta's mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, talking earlier on CNN.


MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D-GA), ATLANTA: Our metro area has about 6 million people, more than half the population in the entire United States, but we have less than half of the people who have tested positive.

Where are our hot spots?

Our hot spots are in areas like Bibb County around Macon that didn't shut down. When we open up houses of worship, we have to think of Albany, Georgia, with one of the worst outbreaks in the country. That by and large came from two funerals.

And so, I'm perplexed that we have opened up in this way. And again, I can't stress it enough, I work very well with our governor and I look forward to having a better understanding of what his reasoning is, but as I look at the data and as I talk with our public health officials, I don't see that it's based on anything that's logical.

(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: You can see the entire interview with Atlanta's mayor next hour on "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

CNN medical analyst Dr. Kent Sepkowitz is with us now for more on all of this.

Good to see you again.


VAUSE: The U.S. state of Georgia is set to be the first to emerge from a lockdown, keeping in mind, this is the same governor who was one of the last to order a stay in place order, that was back on April 2nd, when he made this public declaration.


GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Those individuals could've been infecting people before they ever felt bad. But we did not know that until the last 24 hours.


VAUSE: That was at the time when he made the decision to order that shelter in place and, of course, that information had been out there for weeks, if not months. So I raise that because it does not seem that the governor is particularly well informed, because the businesses that are allowed to be opened are hair salons, gyms, nail salons.

If you look at the timing, it could come at the peak of the cases for Georgia. It seems to be the worst possible time and the worst possible businesses to be opening.

SEPKOWITZ: Yes, it defies logic. But I think a lot of what this particular governor and other people in the country have done is to defy any rational approach to this. I do want to say that Georgia had a terrible outbreak in the town of Albany, Georgia, in the southwest, a couple hundred thousand people.

An enormous, devastating outbreak that arose from people going to a funeral. So he should know how this infection can spread quickly. Why he is doing that is up for grabs. But it is not reasonable to do.


VAUSE: And, potentially, if one state opens too early and we see a situation where the virus comes surging back, is that a problem just for that state?

Or does it translate into a much wider national problem?

SEPKOWITZ: Yes, the virus is not respecting zip codes or state lines, clearly. So, sure, if I were in a surrounding area or if I was someone who wanted to use the Atlanta airport, I would certainly think twice, three times and four times. I would not go near the place. It's ridiculous in so many ways that it is hard to calm down to start

to articulate this. It's just bad policy, very bad governance but that may well be the point, is to show how useless government is.

VAUSE: We've heard from a lot of state governors, the more rational ones who listen to science and fact, and they are saying, if this reopening is to happen with minimal risk and to be successful, then there is one key element that they say is missing and continues to be missing, despite their pleas. Here it is, what they say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More help is needed from the federal government on testing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We simply have not had enough test kits.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We governors are trying to do the best we can with what we have got.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The president does not want to help on testing.


VAUSE: The White House says the states have the capacity for testing. It seems like a weasel word.

What's the difference between capacity and real world capability?

SEPKOWITZ: No one knows. I think they don't have the capacity because they do not have the supplies. The supplies can be procured at a federal level much more readily than states arm wrestling each other over limited supplies.

There's a bipartisan statement, called the Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience, that was put out today. They are calling for 5 million tests, at least, a day. We have been at about 150,000 every day for the best part of April. We jumped out to a little bit. We are so far behind where we need to get to in order to safely start to reopen.

Everyone is pro reopen. I thought no one was pro COVID-19. And this just strikes me as completely, completely irrational.

VAUSE: Thank you, Dr. Kent Sepkowitz. Thank you.

SEPKOWITZ: Thank you.


VAUSE: Breaking news this hour from North Korea about the well-being of leader Kim Jong-un. Both the U.S. and South Korea have recently received intelligence describing Kim as being in poor health. One U.S. official speaking to CNN's Jim Sciutto, describing his condition as grave after recent surgery. Last week, there was no sign of the young dictator during celebrations

for North Korea's most important national holiday. And as Jim Sciutto reports, that very obvious absence could have been the first public indication that something was up.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Five days ago, Kim was noticeably absent from a ceremony marking, honoring his grandfather, Kim Il-sung. This is the kind of public ceremony like the one you are seeing here on the screen, that Kim Jong-un traditionally takes part in.

He was absent from that ceremony five days ago. It was four days before when he was last seen in public, at a Politburo meeting. So during those intervening days, there were questions why is he absent.

And it's more recently that the U.S. has been monitoring intelligence that he had a surgery. The aftermath of that surgery, there were complications and his health is now in grave danger.


VAUSE: CNN's Paula Hancocks is standing by for us in Seoul, South Korea. Also Will Ripley, who has reported from North Korea 19 times in the past six years.

And Will, let's start with you, because the problem we have now, not only is there not enough information but the information we have is conflicting. The U.S. saying his condition is grave. The South Koreans and Chinese saying he is not critically ill.

What are your sources telling you?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When I reached out to two highly placed sources about Jim's reporting, they were startled, John. And it's not surprising, because any information about Kim Jong-un's health or his movements would be kept incredibly close to the chest by only a very small group of people inside of North Korea.

I have been in the country where he is rumored to be attending an event and his secret service surrounds the building and everyone waits for hours and then he does not appear. They do that deliberately because they don't want too many people knowing even Kim Jong-un's whereabouts.

Certainly information about his medical condition would be kept even more heavily guarded and so the reality is, frankly, we don't know whether what the United States is hearing or what they're hearing in South Korea or China is accurate. And we might not know, frankly, until there is some sort of an official announcement by the North Koreans.


RIPLEY: If you think back to 2011, when Kim Jong-il passed away, his death was not announced for days by the North Koreans. This is something that is extremely sensitive, the most sensitive topic inside of North Korea.

So we may continue to hear lots of conflicting stories and rumors until we get the facts from the North Koreans themselves or at least their version of the facts.

VAUSE: Will, stay with us. Let's go to Paula.

But one indication that there could be trouble or uncertainty within North Korea, some kind of mobilization of the military, are we seeing that at this point or anything that is raising concerns?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At this point, John, no, we haven't seen anything like that but it's right; this is one of the first things that the South Korean officials look for.

And although the ministry doesn't have a comment at this point but the Blue House, the presidential office here in Seoul, says that they have seen no abnormal activity within North Korea at this point. Could be referring to military and as well.

But they say they have nothing to comment on when it comes to this reporting. But when it comes to the military, it is interesting that we have seen Kim Jong-un quite present in recent weeks, up until the middle of April.

Daily NK, an online publication, did report that he did have surgery and it was on April the 12th. And we did see a military drill on April 14th. That's when there were short range cruise missiles fired.

And it is the kind of thing that he would usually be present at. Afterwards, you wait a day or two to get the footage from North Korea itself but there has been no images or footage, very little reporting of that beyond the fact itself.

Of course that is not proof of anything substantial but it is another interesting point when it comes to the military. It is something he would usually be present at.

And then the next day, April 15th, was the birthday of the founding father and his grandfather, Kim Il-sung. He was not present at that. But at this point South Korean officials are not commenting directly on this. They are aware of the reports but nothing abnormal is being witnessed within North Korea at this point.

VAUSE: Will, back to you very quickly, in a country where malnutrition is chronic and food often in short supply, Kim does stand out as somebody who rarely misses a meal, what is known about his overall health?

RIPLEY: I can tell you just from observing him over the last five or so years inside the country, he has noticeably gained weight, he is regularly seen in public with a cigarette in his hand, so it's no secret he's a heavy smoker and those are certainly risk factors when you're talking about somebody's health.

But he's also young, he is in his mid- to late 30s, so he was born at some point in the early 1980s, we're not quite sure how old he is.

But you know his health is a concern for people who observe him from afar. Now also, we should point out that, in North Korea, he is going to have access to the best medical care, the best doctors they have to offer. But it is still not out at the level of that he could receive in other places, because we know North Korea has severe limitations in that area.

VAUSE: OK, Will, thank you, live in Tokyo. Also Paula Hancocks, live for us in Seoul.

Well, with his back to the wall on the pandemic and his eye on the upcoming election, Donald Trump is playing the immigration card. A closer look as to why when we come back.





VAUSE: At 21 past the hour, welcome back everyone.

From the administration which first brought us the Muslim travel ban and then restrictions on visitors from China, Europe, Canada and Mexico in response to the pandemic, now comes the ultimate play by Donald Trump, a total ban on all immigration to the U.S.

In the past few hours he tweeted, "In light of the attack from the invisible enemy as well as a need to protect the jobs of our great American citizens, I will be signing an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States."

For more on this, let's go to our senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, with us in Los Angeles.

So, Ron, do we even know what this ban will look like?

Has the executive order been written?

How long will it be in place?

What does temporary mean and is it legal?

How will it work?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, we don't know many of the details yet but we do know from the president, the Muslim ban, it took several tries before they ultimately got one that would stick with the courts.

I think this is going to go to court right away but it is highly likely, given the pattern of rulings that the five Republican- appointed justices on the Supreme Court, will ultimately give the president a lot of leeway here.

The question, of course, is what will the details be, but you have to say based on the precedents that they've established already, they've shown there's a lot of deference among those five Republican members to this president on issues of immigration.

VAUSE: There is also the question of, will this work?

They restricted travel from China, 40,000 people, American nationals, who had been in China, were allowed in.


BROWNSTEIN: The other question is how relevant it is at this point. Certainly at this point we are dealing with extensive community spread in the United States. And the president talks, as you noted, always about the ban on China travel, it was very porous, a lot of people continued to come in; there are other countries around the world that are eliminating immigration at this time, he would not be alone in that.

But you have to have the sense that this is kind of a return to a familiar playbook for him and it is something that, you know, the hardliners in the immigration community have been hoping he would do at various points as president.

He will forget he had a speech in September 2016 in Arizona, when he was running for president, saying that we should limit immigration so that the share of the foreign born in the U.S. never rises above a certain percent of the population.

Something that has never been done in American history, limiting all forms of immigration, not only undocumented immigration, it has always been a central part of his appeal to his audience.

And I think, as they say, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Sooner or later it's inevitable that he would get here in this crisis.

VAUSE: It's interesting you say that because what would often happen, is there might be a tweet, you know, this is something I'm thinking of doing, he might say it again in the Briefing Room and then finally move to making an announcement.

But this has gone straight to an announcement. So it came out of nowhere, it seems.


BROWNSTEIN: But, look, I think the president, when ever he is under political pressure, returns to his core message and his core message is that, to his audience, you, the real America, the real Americans, are under siege from forces in effect above and below. You're under siege from contemptuous elites that want to run your life and we've seen that type of attack on Democratic governors, from his supporters even on the medical experts, on his -- you know, the fire Fauci chants in Texas last weekend in the rally.

And the other part of the message is that you are under siege from immigrants and minorities, who want to commit crimes against you or take your jobs. And whenever he is under pressure, the president really only has one play: he turns to some version, one prong of that two-pronged message. And it's about activating his base.

What's interesting, John, is that under his presidency, in Gallup polling, support for immigration and the belief that immigrants are a positive force in the society, has actually been rising to some of the highest levels in years.

So this is like many things that he does, it has the potential to galvanize the FOX audience, talk radio audience, a big portion of his base there. But it carries the risk of further isolating him and making it harder for him to reach beyond that.

VAUSE: Ron, thank you for being with us, we appreciate the insight and the analysis. Good to see you.

BROWNSTEIN: John, thanks.

VAUSE: We will take a short break. When we come back, as we've been reporting, some U.S. states are about to reopen for business but is it too soon to return to the beaches, head back to the parks, even head to the gym or maybe get a haircut?

More on that in a moment.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Just past half past the hour. Welcome back, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


Come Friday, entire business sectors shut down by the coronavirus will reopen in Georgia, while other sites -- states will be opening parks and beaches, as well. So what is the Goldilocks approach here? Not too soon, and not too late? CNN's Brian Todd has details.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Jacksonville, the city's mayor reopens the beach and some parks with limited hours and some strict rules. People are allowed to run, walk, and swim, but not to sunbathe. No chairs, towels, or colors allowed.

Despite distancing requirements, many people were initially seen in close proximity to each other after the beach first opened.

IAN CHERRY, JACKSONVILLE BEACH RESIDENT: There are so many people standing around. Everyone is so close together. I don't know whether it's a good thing or a bad thing.

TODD: But since Friday, city officials say, beach crowds have thinned, and people seem to be taking distancing more seriously.

In North Carolina, Wrightsville Beach opened, again, for exercise only. The governor of South Carolina announced the state is not only allowing its beaches to open if local officials want to, but is also making plans to allow retail businesses like clothing, furniture, and sporting goods stores to open if customers are limited to a few at a time.

GOV. HENRY MCMASTER (R-SC): But if you can imagine a race, we want to be able to slingshot around the competition and get back up to full speed as soon as we can.

TODD: Despite stay-at-home recommendations still in effect, some governors and mayors tonight are allowing their residents to take those baby steps toward reopening and trusting people to be responsible. Texas opened state parks on Monday, but people have to socially distance, wear masks, and make reservations to go to parks.

MONICA ADAMS, VISITING SHELDON LAKE STATE PARK, TEXAS: I felt like it was a way to feel like we're on the track to being back to normal, to being able to just see that things are going in the right direction.

TODD: In addition to opening state parks, Texas Governor Greg Abbott says restrictions for some nonessential surgeries will be loosened on Wednesday.

On Friday, retail stores can operate to-go services, but customers still can't go inside. And next Monday, Texas officials will let people know about the next steps of reopening.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): They will consider the possibility of opening more venues. Venues like restaurants, movie theaters and other gathering places that can provide safe-distancing practices.

TODD: The governor of Georgia has announced places like gyms and hair and nail salons can open this Friday. And some restaurants and theaters can open next Monday, but with restrictions.

But health experts have a warning about opening venues, even to a slow trickle.

CAITLIN RIVERS, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGIST: What we don't want to do is recreate the conditions that led to us all having to stay home in the first place and having our healthcare systems be overwhelmed. And so that's why it's so important that we move cautiously and thoughtfully about how and when to reopen.

TODD: Some states and cities moving more cautiously. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says temperature checks in the workplace could play a key role in reopening some places.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: The temperature checks are a great way to see if someone might be starting to show symptoms.

TODD (on camera): But Mayor de Blasio says, right now, the city doesn't have enough thermometers for effective temperature checks. And groups representing manned medical manufacturers and food production companies are sounding similar warnings, saying, that if all these re- openings happen too quickly and in too many places, there could be a Wild-West-like run on things like face masks and thermometers, and those items would be in desperately short supply.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


VAUSE: A handful of states and territories in India with few or no cases of the coronavirus are starting to relax their restrictions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is allowing that to happen under certain conditions, but the rest of the country will remain under lockdown until May 3.

The goal is to reopen the agricultural sector, a lifeline for thousands of farmers and fishermen. India has more than 18,000 cases and nearly 600 deaths so far, according to Johns Hopkins University.


Right now, as many countries begin to ease restrictions on lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, it might seem the worst will soon be in the rearview mirror. Not only is that wrong, it's dangerously wrong. And officials are warning this moment is not even the end of the beginning, especially since this pandemic is yet to take hold in many developing countries in the southern hemisphere.

And on Monday, the director-general of the World Health Organization made an emotional plea for global unity in the face of this ongoing global crisis.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Let's stop tragedy. Hundreds of thousands are now dying. It's serious. Even one life is precious.


VAUSE: Joining me now, Dennis Carroll, an infectious diseases expert, the former director of USAID's emerging threats division.

So, Dennis, good to see you once again. Thanks for being with us.


VAUSE: OK. You hear this emotional appeal from the director-general, and it seems a lot of his concern is what happens when this virus takes hold in developing nations in the Southern Hemisphere, as they head into winter.

Here's how the National Geographic described the looming disaster "as the highly-contagious virus begins spreading through the poorest societies of the planet. There, threadbare healthcare services, the impossibility of social distancing in packed slum communities, and an absence of economic safety nets are incubating a human tragedy of potentially cataclysmic scale."

And if the WHO is sort of dealing with this crisis on this scale, almost alone, not just absent U.S. leadership, but potentially absent hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, put all of this together, and it seems almost like a perfect storm.

POWELL: Well, it's an extraordinarily bad gesture on the part of the United States, and certainly President Trump. The resources that the U.S. puts into WHO is for a broad range of global health issues.

And the very fact that he would put at jeopardy the ability of WHO not only to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, but the long-standing challenges of polio, tuberculosis, HIV, AIDS, malaria. WHO is our bulwark against these global health issues, and it's unconscionable for the United States president to, in some way, hold these resources political hostage in the midst of a global pandemic.

So it's -- I would hope other nations stand beside the WHO and reassert their commitment to the leadership role that the WHO has in the world today.

VAUSE: There's not a lot of empathy in this current administration in Washington when it comes to the fate of other nations, especially when the leader of that country may not be on friendly terms with Donald Trump.

But there is no shortage of self interest in the White House, so wouldn't that be enough motivation for the United States, as well as other nations, to step up and assist these developing countries to minimize the impact there, so it minimizes the impact here later?

CARROLL: Well, let's remember, first and foremost, the -- COVID-19 is a global event, and any place on the planet earth that is threatened by COVID-19 also represents a threat everywhere on the planet. And if we are not able to work as a global community to bring this virus under control everywhere, not just within our own borders, then no country is going to be safe.

So it's imperative that nations provide the kind of leadership that will unify their global community to take on what is inherently a global threat. It's not a threat specific to the United States. It's not a threat specific to China. It is a threat that is impacting on every community, every household in the world today.

VAUSE: And the reason --

CARROLL: And it requires a global response.

VAUSE: And the reason why this funding has been at least put on hold, the president says that the WHO was too trusting of the information coming from Beijing, you know, participated in a cover-up. And the WHO is not without problems. Back in January 14, they were quoting officials in Beijing, saying there was no clear evidence of human-to- human transfer. Just over a week later came an official statement saying yes, human-to-human transfer was, in fact, possible. That came with a warning for all countries to prepare for containment, as well as early detection.

And then, on Monday, the director-general made it clear that the White House was informed of all of this, the good and the bad information every step of the way. Here he is.


GHEBREYESUS: Having CDC staff means that there is nothing hidden from the U.S. from day one. Because these are Americans who are working with us, and it just comes naturally, and they just tell what they are doing. And for WHO, it's open. We don't hide anything. It's open.



BERMAN: Just from your experience how these things work, does that just ring true, that's how the process is?

CARROLL: Well, I think, first off, the WHO is not without criticism. They're -- they are not a flawless organization. They've performed well in many regards with respect to COVID-19.

But any response of this type is subject to legitimate concerns and legitimate criticism. That said, this is not the time, in the midst of a global pandemic, to take the kind of actions that undercut the world's leading authority and voice on global health. To undercut their ability to continue to lead is, quite frankly, it's -- the consequences are -- reach far beyond, you know, the singular criticisms that might be brought against WHO.

It's bad timing. Every event provides an after-action moment where you can critically evaluate, review, and understand the evidence for what the performance looked like. That is the time to have these discussions, not in the midst of a global pandemic.

VAUSE: Just to pick up on that, though, especially when it seems that the reason given by the president of the United States, that you know, the U.S. was not informed of everything that the WHO knew, just doesn't seem to hold up. So even the reason behind the funding, the timing is off, and the reason doesn't make sense.

CARROLL: No. There's been nothing about what WHO has said that suggests that there's been any restriction on information flow.

But, also, I mean, I think we need to be very frank. The president of the United States did not really begin taking this issue about COVID- 19 pandemic serious -- seriously well into March, a month and a half after it was declared a pandemic.

Whatever delays might have been in terms of information sharing, they were not ones that, in any way, derailed the president of the United States from making early decisions. He was late to the party, and he's late to the action. And he is, quite frankly, I think, trying to turn attention away from his own failure to provide early intervention, and bring it back to WHO. It's a long tradition, I think, within his own political practices.

VAUSE: Yes, there's a lot of people to blame, it seems. No one taking responsibility in the White House at this point.

Dennis, good to see you. Dennis Carroll there, in D.C. Appreciate you. Thank you.

More now on the breaking news from North Korea. According to recent U.S. intelligence, Kim Jong-un underwent a surgery last week and has since been in a life-threatening, grave condition.

He was notably absent last Wednesday during celebrations for the birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, one of the founding fathers of North Korea.

CNN's global affairs analyst Joseph Yun is with us from Portland in Oregon. He's the former U.S. special representative for North Korea policy.

Joseph, thank you for taking the time. The reporting we have right now on Kim's condition. It can vary from anywhere from brain dead on one extreme to nothing at all to see here, all OK. How do you assess what's happening?

JOSEPH YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think, you know, it is very, very difficult to know what is going on but, certainly, there are indications that he has been sick, he's had a heart surgery and that, whether the heart surgery went well or not, we don't know.

As you mentioned, the most telling sign is that he missed the April 15 commemoration of his grandfather's death, the founder of North Korea, and that is very unusual.

And also, of course, we know he's had a number of health issues. He's quite overweight. He smokes, by all accounts, about four or five packs a day. And a few years ago, he missed about a month or so because of gout issues.

So you know, certainly, when I was in the government, it was a pastime for us, to speculate how good is his health, and whether he would last.

And his family, as you know, his father and his grandfather, both died quite young.

So to me, we don't know yet. We need to have further information. If the past is any guide, when Kim Jong-un, his father, got a stroke, we only found out about it months later.



YUN: So it may not be a while.

VAUSE: And I think Kim Jong-un [SIC] was in his sixties when he had that stroke, so relatively young, I guess.

All this does raise the question if -- we should stress, if -- if Kim is incapacitated, then what's the chain of command here? Who takes over? Do we know?

YUN: Well, because he's so young, there is no succession prepared. At least when his father was sick, he had anointed his son Kim Jong-un to be the successor.

Right now, my best guess is that his sister, Kim Yo-Jung, who is always around him, kind of acts as his chief of staff, and was recently promoted, I would say she could become a good figure. Good, you know, smart money bet on that. But then, there are others.

I think it is clear, at least if the past is any guide, you've got to have the blood of what they call Paektu Mountain, where this family is supposed to come from. That is, descendants of Kim Il-Sung. But there are quite a few of them around, John.

VAUSE: There, of course, could be a power struggle, too. One of the military leaders could decide it's time for a new regime, a new family, a new blood line. Who knows? All this is speculation at this point.

But I guess so far, one thing we do know, at least according to the South Koreans, no unusual military activity, no unusual activity, period, within North Korea. From your experience, what would you be looking for as the first sign that there has been some kind of upheaval?

YUN: I think upheavals are very difficult to know. You interest -- you mentioned the border area. Certainly Chinese, of course, have a lot of troops there. If there is any changes in their readiness, that's a sign.

Now for me, of course when I was in the government, we used to hear a lot of these rumors. Each time this happened, we would, of course, be on alert ourselves, watch for any signs.

So again, we should look for any signs coming from U.S. forces in Korea, what kind of informations have been shared, between Americans and South Koreans. All those will kind of give us a sign that there is some movement going on.

But so far as you mentioned, certainly, I have not heard any true movements or unusual movements on the border.

VAUSE: OK, wand that's a very good tip. The -- the troops on the Chinese side, when they change their posture, you know something is up.

Joseph Yun, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

YUN: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, a history-making sell-off in U.S. oil futures. The price of a barrel of U.S. crude, negative territory. We'll have the impacts on the market in a moment.



VAUSE: For the first time ever, U.S. crude futures plummeted into negative pricing on Monday. In other words, they couldn't give the stuff away. Storage space is reaching its limit, and a supply glut pushed traders to essentially pay others to take it off their hands. Just hold it for a while.

For more on this, CNN's John Defterios, live in Abu Dhabi.

So OK, the negative pricing on futures, it seems like it was a bit of an aberration in a way, but even that says a lot about where the oil industry is right now and the impact the coronavirus is having.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: It's a perfect way to say it, John, because this is a perfect storm. I know that sounds cliche, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime crash, if you will, based on a contract that is expiring today for the month of May, and all the forces came together.

So if you take a look at the prices, we were down negative $38. We've climbed back and gone back into positive territory but not by much, right? We were trading at $20 a barrel when we had this conversation the day before.

And there's three forces that have come together at the same time. There's a lack of storage, as you're suggesting, particularly in Cushing, Oklahoma. They think that there will be no vacancies for this oil in three to four weeks. So that a crisis, because where do you put it? And that's why people are willing to pay people to take it.

No. 2, we know that coronavirus has wiped out demand by nearly 30 percent this month, but what happens in May and June? It's a key question.

And during this period of time in the financial crisis, due to the virus, we see the dollar rising, putting pressure on the petrol states, like Russia to Venezuela, Angola. They're all suffering in this process.

So this is a crucial window. It happened once in a lifetime, but if you have a price at $1 a barrel, you'll have an absolute collapse in the U.S. industry.

But if you look at the June contract, John, we're around $20 a barrel, and Brent's trading about $25. The international benchmark is more normal, but again, an industry can't survive on 20. The break-even price in the United States is about $35 a barrel. So it is a crisis.

VAUSE: Very quickly, John, back in the day, record low oil meant really cheap gas, extra money in your pocket to spend. It would kind of -- it would translate into an economic stimulus. I mean, it kind of still means you've got cheap gas, but these days, when you talk about these record low oil prices, it signals a whole lot of concern.

DEFTERIOS: A lot of concern, John, that you won't see because of taxes at the pump, and an immediate reaction, particularly outside the United States.

No. 2, we have about 10 million jobs linked to the oil industry and all the different energy bases, about 10 states, as a matter of fact. So if you don't have a reasonable break-even price, and we did get our ahead of ourselves at 13 million barrels, we're probably going to wipe out four to five million barrels a day.

And we see surveys that show we'll have maybe 500 bankruptcies between this year and next, as a result. So we have this OPEC cut. The U.S. said it was cutting over time. Then we saw the IEA suggesting that the G-20 countries would buy oil. None of that is happening quick enough. And that's why you saw this amazing crash, for once in a lifetime, and we don't have the full stability back into the market yet.


VAUSE: Too much of a good thing, I guess, at the end of the day. John, thank you. John Defterios live for us in Abu Dhabi. Thank you.

And thank you for watching. I'm John Vause. Stay with us. More CNN NEWSROOM about an hour from now. But up next, "CUOMO PRIME TIME." You're watching CNN.