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U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 46,000; Doctor Says He Was Removed From Federal Post After Questioning Drug Trump Praised; Key Model Shows GA And 11 Other States Should Wait Until At Least June 8 To Reopen; Key Model: States Are Reopening Weeks Before It's Safe; CA Becomes First State To Recommend Testing Without Symptoms; NY Gov On Reopening: "No Time To Act Stupidly;" Las Vegas Mayor Calls Nevada's Shutdown "Total Insanity." Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 22, 2020 - 17:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The Road To Change: Americas Climate Crisis, Saturday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing starts in just minutes get ready for Dr. Bright to be attacked. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room".

We're following breaking news. We're standing by this hour to monitor the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing as the doctor who led the federal agency involved in developing a vaccine now says he was removed, removed from his post after questioning and unproven coronavirus treatment pushed by President Trump.

Also tonight a key model often cited by the Trump administration shows Georgia and other states planning to reopen in the coming days should wait until at least early June in order to prevent an onslaught of new infections. As of this hour the U.S. death toll is now more than 46,000 people with more than 800,000 confirmed cases. Worldwide, there are more than 2.6 million cases and 182,000 confirmed deaths. Probably a lot more than that.

Let's go straight to the White House first. Our Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us. First of all, Jim, what are you learning about this doctor who says he was removed from this key position, because he was questioning some treatments that the President is pushing?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right Wolf, this leading government official working on vaccine development for the coronavirus, Dr. Rick Bright says in his statement that he is asking for an inspector general to investigate his removal from his position. Bright is filing a whistleblower complaint accusing administration officials of retaliating against him for speaking out against what he characterizes as excessively political recommendations of questionable treatments for the coronavirus like hydroxychloroquine, that that drug that has been repeatedly touted by President Trump.

Now Bright says in his scathing statement and we can put this up on screen it is scathing. He says, I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit. I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus science, not politics or cronyism, he says, has to lead the way.

In the meantime, the White House is jumping into cleanup mode trying to downplay a warning from the director of the CDC that a second wave of the coronavirus could clobber the U.S. later this year but a source close to the Coronavirus Task Force tell CNN, a second wave of the virus combined with a flu outbreak could quote, completely overwhelm the U.S. health system.


ACOSTA (voice-over): As President Trump is giving the green light to states to accelerate their plans to reopening businesses.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We're opening again, Mike. It's starting to move. A lot of states here in great shape and they're starting to move it along.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House is doing damage control, tamping down concerns expressed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Robert Redfield, who told "The Washington Post" that a second wave of the coronavirus combined with a flu outbreak later this year, could be costly for the U.S. saying, there's a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through.

In our first gaggle with reporters as press secretary Kayleigh Mcenany accused the media of taking Redfield out of context.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The CDC director, I spoke with him just before coming out here. He was very clear and saying, look, we might have flu reemerged in the fall, all Americans need to go out and get their flu shots. That was the thrust of his comments, but, you know, leave it to the media to really take those out of context.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But it's McEnany who has credibility issues on the virus after once telling Fox, COVID-19 didn't pose a threat to Americans.

MCENANY: Absolutely, this President will always put America first. He will always protect American citizens. We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here.

ACOSTA (voice-over): A source close to the Coronavirus Task Force warns the public health risks looming later this year are real, telling CNN, influenza and COVID simultaneously could completely overwhelm the healthcare system. So the President is encouraging states like Georgia to continue with plans to reopen businesses in the coming days.

Georgia governor Brian Kemp proposal to open up gyms, nail salons and other shops starting on Friday has Mr. Trump's support. Even though new modeling from public health experts at the University of Washington shows Georgia should wait until mid-June.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP, (R-GA): This is just not handing them the keys back to go back to where we were. This is a measured approach with a lot of different requirements and guidance that we're going to be putting out.


ACOSTA (voice-over): The CDC director also criticized the pro-Trump protesters demonstrating against stay at home orders and states across the U.S., saying it's not helpful. President claim that the demonstrators are practicing social distancing.

TRUMP: It's not a question of helpful enough. People want to get back to work. And I've watched some of the protests, not in great detail, but I've seen that and they're separated. They're a lot of space in between, I mean they're watching, believe it or not. Social -- they're doing social distancing, if you can believe it,

ACOSTA (voice-over): With new studies showing the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, once touted by the President, as a game changer is not really effective against the coronavirus.

TRUMP: What do you have to lose? It's been out there for a long time, and I hope they use it. I may take it. And I have to ask my doctors about that.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Public health experts are clamoring for more data so administration officials can make informed recommendations.

ASHISHA JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: We're all desperate for therapies that work. I mean, I've always been puzzled by why we've made such a big deal of hydroxychloroquine. The data supporting it was really weak and anecdotal.


ACOSTA: Now one of the other big questions going into this evenings briefing is where as Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the most popular government officials, he's trusted whole show on the coronavirus, Fauci was last at the briefing on Friday. We are told the doctor is spending most of his days at his office working with his vaccine team and with other officials battling the pandemic. Fauci, I'm told waits on the White House to calm down for the briefing, we'll be seeing here in just a few minutes whether or not Dr. Fauci will be in attendance at today's briefing.

But Wolf, of course, the other doctor, that will be on the minds of everybody, as this briefing gets started is Dr. Rick Bright who says he was retaliated against and removed from his position because he did not go along with the President, other administration officials who were pushing hydroxychloroquine. Wolf.

BLITZER: I mean he's calling for an investigation himself as a result of that. Our Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks. I will stand by for the briefing. We'll monitor that.

Let's get some more. First of all on the breaking news, "New York Times", White House Correspondent and CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman is joining us.

Maggie, thanks for joining us. You broke the story in the "New York Times", as you know, and you reported it, Dr. Bright says he resisted efforts to fund when he called potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections. Does he feel this was retribution for crossing the President?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: His lawyers say very clearly that it was retaliation for not going along. And it's not specific to the President his statement, it's actually about the administration. This is a drug that was clearly embraced by the President. The President wanted this treatment to go ahead. And I think that's why officials at HHS and other places in the administration moved as they did.

What Dr. Bright talked about was not that he was against chloroquines, but that he wanted it to go through and this was all on his statement. And it's an extraordinary statement on the record, as you know Wolf, because he talks in detail about how he wanted there to be a scientific process. It's not that he was objecting to this as a concept. It's that he wanted it to be done rigorously.

So he says in the statement that he got it so that it would be only describe to people who are confirmed COVID cases in hospitals under a doctor's care that is different than how it was, he says initially being discussed. And he believes, according to his lawyers that this was retaliation for pushing back on that, as we have seen in studies in the last two days. There are real questions about the use of chloroquines and whether it does anything for patients who are suffering the coronavirus.

The President is going to get asked I suspect a lot of questions about this. But again, I can't stress this enough. We've had so many people leave this administration and speak on background or speak through lawyers. Dr. Bright spoke directly himself and that is very unusual.

BLITZER: Yes, in the state, but he specifically says I also resisted efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections. Just watch Maggie how invested, President Trump had been in promoting this specific drug. Listen to this.


TRUMP: The FDA also gave emergency authorization for hydroxychloroquine, we're having some very good things happening with it.

They've shown very encouraging. Very, very encouraging early results. There are some good signs, you've read the signs, I've read the signs,.

And I say it what do you have to lose? I'll say to get what do you have to lose? Take it.

If things don't go as planned, it's not going to kill anybody.

It will be wonderful. It'll be so beautiful. It'll be a gift from heaven. And it works.

You know, if some other person put it forward and say, oh, let's go with it. You know, what do you have to lose?

Try it if you'd like. I've seen things that I sort of like so what do I know? I'm not a doctor. I'm not a doctor, but I have common sense.



BLITZER: Still a study as you know, Maggie on hydroxychloroquine, done by the Veterans Affairs Department found a higher death rate in patients who actually took this drug, so is the president now starting to change his tune,

HABERMAN: Look, we haven't seen him talking about this Wolf, the same way in the last week at all. And one has to assume that there is a reason why that is the case. And it's likely while there are still some people in the administration who are pushing this, and they're citing anecdotal evidence that there have been medical studies, that suggests that they're in more evidence suggesting that there is a problem with it.

Look, I don't think people can fault the President for wanting to come up with a quick fix. I -- it's understandable why, you know, I don't think anybody doesn't want therapeutics to work. The questions that Dr. Bright was raising in his statement, were, how it was done, how it was pushed through and whether it was pushed through devoid of science. And that's the real issue.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Excellent reporting as usual for Maggie Haberman, thanks very much for joining us.

Let's go right now to our national correspondent Erica Hill. She's covering other major developments in the pandemic. She's in New York for us.

Erica, deep new concerns tonight about Georgia, other states that are beginning In the coming days to try to reopen.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're hearing from so many state leaders and governors talking about their plans for reopening. And as that is happening, we do have this upgraded revised model, which is often cited by the White House that now says, a dozen states, among them Georgia should wait until at least early June before relaxing social distancing measures.

And what's important to point out, Wolf is that even with these revised dates, which would recommend some states wait longer, that also assumes that each one of those states has in place aggressive testing, contact tracing and isolation to prevent a resurgence of a virus.


HILL (voice-over): Despite its push to reopen, Georgia is nowhere near ready to lift social distancing measures, according to an updated model, often cited by the White House, the revised target date, June 19.

MAYOR JOHN ERNST (R), BROOKHAVEN GEORGIA: The scientist saying you need to wait the President's guidelines saying need to wait. And then all sudden you are we're told no, it's good we should go ahead. And it just brings so much mixed messages which confuses both the public by citizenry and my -- business owners.

HILL (voice-over): Georgia is one of a dozen states that should wait until at least June to relax current measures. Meantime, new information shows the earliest COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. happened in California in February, up to three weeks before what was believed to be the first related death in Washington State.

JHA: The things we put into place in late January like the travel man, the virus was already here by then and probably circulating quite widely. And so there's a lot of kind of recalibrating, we have to do about what this tells us, but also reminds us that we really have to look forward and have be much more aggressive about testing going ahead.

HILL (voice-over): North of San Francisco, researchers are focused on the town of Bolinas, testing as many of its nearly 2000 residents as possible.

MARC SANCHEZ-COREA, BOLINAS RESIDENT: Fifty percent of us are over 60 they're all feeling very vulnerable. And I think this is a good idea to scrolls (ph) give everybody a little bit of hope.

HILL (voice-over): They'll begin testing people in San Francisco's densely packed Mission District this weekend for comparison.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, very little about how the virus moves through a community and behaves in a community setting. So that's, that's really our motivation for doing this.

HILL (voice-over): New York City is launching its own test and trace initiative.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D-NY): This is how we ultimately defeat this disease. HILL (voice-over): Well, the state is joining forces with Connecticut and New Jersey for a contact tracing program in partnership with Michael Bloomberg, and Johns Hopkins University.

In Waterloo, Iowa, all employees from a pork processing plant will now be tested, 90% of the cases in that county linked to the Tyson facility, which has now closed. A move the mayor says came too late.

MAYOR QUENTIN HART (D), WATERLOO IOWA: I understand the impact that this has on our national food chain. But in order to be able to stop the spread, this was the best course of action --


HART: -- to support workers that prepare food.

HILL (voice-over): As the virus continues to spread new warnings about a resurgence.

STEPHEN HAHN, FDA COMMISSIONER: The whole test for a set of doctors is concerned about the second wave.

HILL (voice-over): And officials weigh reopening with vastly different plans and messaging.

MAYOR CAROLYN GOODMAN (I), LAS VEGAS, NV: I want everything back. We've never closed down the United States. We've never closed down Nevada. We've never closed down Las Vegas because that's our job. We have so many probably close 900,000 that are out of work, because this wonderful city's been shut down.

CUOMO: This is no time to act stupidly period. I get the pressure. I get the politics. We can't make a bad decision. And we can't be stupid about it. This is not going to be over anytime soon. More people will die if we are not smart.



HILL: And as we know the messages really do differ depending on which states you're talking about. Obviously, part of that is because they're experiencing the virus differently. We should point out that in terms of that updated model, there are certain states to which now have recommendations that they could open earlier among them will Alaska, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: Erica Hill in New York for us with that report. Thanks very much.

Joining us now the governor of Delaware, John Carney. Governor, thanks so much for spending a few moments with us. Let me get your reaction to the breaking news that we've been covering this hour, the assertion from the top doctor who was leading the administration, the federal government's effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine, that it was politics, not science, leading to the administration's response and his removal from that position.

GOV. JOHN CARNEY (D-DE): Yes, it's very disappointing that science wasn't the guy there that it was more about politics and relieving that scientist from his position. Here in Delaware, as governor and I know governors across the country are trying to use science and data to make very difficult decisions to reopen our economies.

It's going to be more like using a dimmer switch to turn the lights back on than a switch that turns from off to on directly, but very difficult decisions that we have in front of us. As I heard, some of the commentators talking about.

BLITZER: As several states are preparing especially in the south to reopen their economies in the coming days, despite a new model finding it's not yet safe to do so, you're reiterating that in Delaware, you need to see 28 days of declining cases before your or reconsider reopening. Tell us why you're taking this approach.

CARNEY: Yes, well, that's the guidance from CDC and the White House Task Force ironically. Very logical, I think science based approach to it a phased approach three phases but before you can even get to phase one, you have to have declining number of positive cases in your state for 14 days straight and then you can get to phase one.

But you also have to have in place sophisticated, more sophisticated testing program, which we are working on here in Delaware. And you also have to have a contact tracing, a program that no one that I know is near ready for across our country. Some of the states in the Northeast region are getting closer to that, the Massachusetts we had a -- an NGA governors only call this afternoon.

And what I heard mostly for most governors was that they're not ready from the testing program, a point of view from the isolation point of view, and from the point of view of the contact tracing, we have a lot of work to do. We're eager to do it.

So we'd like to turn the lights back on slowly, carefully, protecting the health of the people of our state and also cognizant of the need to get the economy going again. But the worst thing I think, is to start to turn the lights back on and then have to turn them off because we have a rebound or resurgence of the virus, the whole talk of the combination of a resurgence of the virus with the flu in the fall is just it's just terrible to think about.

BLITZER: Yes, you'd be so many lives at stake. You got to err on the side of caution. Right now you're calling the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says, now is not the time in his words to act stupidly. Do you worry that some of the relax guidelines in other states could end up having a negative impact, for example, on Delaware?

CARNEY: Well, I have some level of confidence because I have joined the coalition put together by Governor Cuomo of the states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

And I work very closely with Governor Hogan on our western boundary. In fact, we have big issues coming up with respect to opening our beaches there along the Atlantic coast for this summer. So we're talking already our chiefs of staff's, our directors of public health and health and social services are working on that coalition. I know they've had conference calls already.

So we're going to try to do things in a coordinated way. Because what Governor Wolf does in Pennsylvania really affects the northern part of my state, we have thousands of Pennsylvanians who work in the northern part of Delaware and, and vice versa. We have thousands of Delawarians who go to Philadelphia to work and our connections with New Jersey are similar and, and certainly with Maryland.

So one of the areas where I do feel confident is the communication we have among governors in our region and the commitment that we each have to work together to reopen our economies in a coordinated way. So we don't create problems for one another.

BLITZER: You got a lot of people here in the Greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area who loved coming to the beaches in Delaware. You got some great beaches there as we all know. Governor Carney thanks so much for joining us. Good luck.

CARNEY: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: And stay safe at the same time. And to our viewers, stay with us. We're waiting today's Whitehouse Coronavirus Task Force briefing. We'll be monitoring that.


We also have more on the abrupt removal of a doctor working on the federal effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine and who says he was removed for simply questioning an unproven drug got touted by the President. I'll speak with a former top official at the CDC.


BLITZER: It's always breaking news. The doctor who was ousted from a key federal agency involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine now says he was removed after a push for rigorous testing of a drug touted by President Trump.

But let's discuss with the former Acting Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Richard Besser. Dr. Besser, thanks for joining us.


This career official Dr. Rick Bright I don't know if you know him, or you don't know him. He was certainly the leading -- leading the administration's push for coronavirus vaccine, he was pushed out for a limiting use of the hydroxychloroquine drug, the drug the President has promoted, at least until recently as a potential miracle cure. How concerning is all of this to you?

RICHARD BESSER, FMR CDC ACTING DIRECTOR: Well Wolf, you know, it's very important that the decisions that are made on what drugs to move forward on are based on the best available science. You know, for four years when I was at the CDC, I was responsible for the Strategic National Stockpile. And one of the things that the barter process, the development processes is designed to do is to create products for the stockpile. And it's important that the decisions on what goes into that stockpile be based not on politics or connections, but what on what the nation needs most.

BLITZER: So what do you think of this decision to remove him from his position he was highly respected, still as (ph).

BESSER: Well, you know, I don't know enough about that, about that decision. I know that, you know, in the past CDC it had a role in determining what drugs went into the Strategic National Stockpile. And a few years ago, the stockpile was taken from under CDCs authority, and was moved up to the department itself. So I think that there's less connection between the Public Health Science at CDC and BARDA in the stockpile than there used to be,

BLITZER: But now that we've seen a bigger not necessarily conclusive by any means, but a bigger study of this drug hydroxychloroquine. It sounds like Dr. Bright was right to be wary of this drug to begin with, right?

BESSER: Well, you know, one of the things you have to be careful with whenever there's a newly emerging infection is miracle cures, you'll see a lot on the internet, you'll see a lot of people touting them. It's so critically important that drugs that are considered for therapy when there's a new infection, go through clinical trials.

And you know, as much as people want to have a drug right away when their loved one is sick, all drugs have side effects. And if you don't study them critically, you may give people something that worsens their care, worsens their outcome, even though you're trying to do best by them.

So, you know, it's good to see that, that that drug is going through trials that other drugs are going through trials. And unfortunately, it takes time to do those studies to show what truly works.

BLITZER: In a statement, Dr. Bright made this point, let me read it to you and to our viewers, sidelining me in the middle of this pandemic and placing politics and cronyism, a head of science puts lives at risk and stunts national efforts to safely and effectively address the urgent public health crisis.

That's a statement. The administration believes they potentially could have a vaccine within a year, maybe a year and a half after Dr. Fauci keeps saying quick steps like these though, delay that process.

BESSER: Well, you know, I I'm always cautious and I think it's better to under promise and over deliver. When it comes to a vaccine, the hope is that there'll be a vaccine in a year or two year and a half. But there's no guarantee that there will be a vaccine. If you think about the number of viral infections that science has been working on vaccines for that haven't come through, there's no HIV vaccine that's effective. There's no vaccine against Dengue fever.

And so, you know, there's incredible effort going on and that's terrific. There's a number of pharmaceutical companies that are working on this. But some of the announcements about vaccines that are just so over the top hopeful, I think do a disservice and don't let people understand why it's so critically important to test them for safety, for effectiveness as we go forward. So we have to have strategies that think about vaccines, but also ones that could work if there is no vaccine. And some of the things out today are approaches that don't require a vaccine.

That's why it's so critically important to work on treatments right now, vaccines, yes, really important, but treatments that to lower the impact of this disease, and maybe cure the disease with some significant new treatments. That's so critically important.

Dr. Besser, we always appreciate hearing from you. Thank you so much for joining us.

BESSER: It's a pleasure.

BLITZER: Coming up as states ease restrictions and allow businesses to reopen a new and influential model sends a very clear, powerful message. That message is this, not so fast.



BLITZER: It's now been a month since the Las Vegas Strip shut down and Nevada's Governor says now is not, repeat, not the time to let up on social distancing and other measures. However, the Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, calls the shutdown total insanity. Earlier this afternoon, our own Anderson Cooper asked her why she wants to open up the casinos right now.


MAYOR CAROLYN GOODMAN (I), LAS VEGAS: We offered to be a control group. Anybody knows anything about statistics knows that, for instance, you have a vaccine --

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: You're offering the citizens of Las Vegas to be a control group to see if your theory on social distancing works or it doesn't work.


GOODMAN: No, no, no, no, wrong. Absolutely wrong. Don't put words in my mouth.

COOPER: You just said we'll be a control group.

GOODMAN: Excuse me. What I said was, I offered to be a control group.

COOPER: If you can't figure out how to do this safely, why as mayor of a city that you are responsible for the people's safety, are you calling for something that you have no plan for how it would be done safely?

GOODMAN: I am not a private owner. That's the competition in this country. The free, you know, the free enterprise and to be able to make sure that what you offer the public meets the needs of the public. Right now we're in a crisis health wise. And so for a restaurant to be open or a small boutique to be open, they better figure it out. That's their job. That's not the mayor's job.


BLITZER: And it went on and on and on. Anderson did an excellent job in that interview. Joining us now the Mayor of Savannah, Georgia, Van Johnson. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. I've got a bunch of questions about your state of Georgia. What's your reaction as a mayor to what you just heard her response to Anderson's question?

MAYOR VAN JOHNSON (D), SAVANNAH, GEORGIA: Wow. You know, I'm not in a position to be able to criticize anyone. That mayor has to do what she feels is best for her city. I'm concerned about Savannahians, you know, and the welfare of Savannahians. I know from our science and data, we have the 14th highest infection rate in the United States, we have the seventh lowest testing rate in the United States. So then it's not prepared to reopen.

BLITZER: Because she says it's not up to her to give the businesses some social distancing guidelines, even though she's obviously pushing for reopening all those businesses. She says, and I'm quoting her now, they better figure it out, that's their job. Do you see it as part of your job to help businesses navigate this pandemic and do what they want to do as opposed to getting guidelines from the mayor, the governor, even the President of the United States?

JOHNSON: Well, Savannah is blessed with a multiplicity of businesses. I think it's my responsibility to do both. I think I have a responsibility to businesses to make sure we create the conditions that they're able to be successful. But I also have a major responsibility to make sure that people are safe. And it's very important to me that, you know, people comprise businesses.

So if you have people that are not safe, that businesses can be open all day long, people won't come. Here in Savannah, we have over 15 million visitors that come and enjoy Savannah every single year. If people in Savannah who live here don't feel safe, doesn't make a difference if those businesses are open, people are not going to come.

BLITZER: Your Governor in Georgia announced that businesses will reopen in less than 48 hours despite a new model that shows the state should wait at least until June 19th to relax the social distancing measures. You said you're disturbed by what you've described as this reckless decision. What's your message to the Governor right now if he's watching, if he's listening?

JOHNSON: Governor Kemp, I would love to talk to you. I mean, I know that you care about Georgians and you care about businesses and you care about people, and I do too. I think we have to be able to find a way to be able to balance it. Obviously, we have a opening, we have a mandatory order to April the 30th. However, this opening occurs on April 24th and April 27th.

There are things I want to see open, I want to see the Department of Labor open so that our citizens can get their unemployment claims. I would like to see the Department of Family and Children's Services open so people can get aid and our children can be protected during this time. I think that there are -- there is fair middle ground, I'm just open and willing to get to that point.

BLITZER: Mayor Johnson, good luck to you, good luck to everybody in Savannah. Good luck to everybody in Georgia right now because critical decisions are being made. The state will reopen presumably in two days. We'll see what happens. Let's hope for the best. Thanks so much for joining us.

JOHNSON: And we welcome you to come back to Savannah when you want to feel -- when it's safe to do so.

BLITZER: When it's safe to do so. All of us be anxious to get to Savannah, other parts of Georgia as well. Thank you very much --

JOHNSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: -- for joining us. Coming up the two-word term that's key to easing restrictions. We're talking about contact tracing, how it's a major challenge. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Today, the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his state will work with New Jersey and Connecticut to launch a contact tracing program. Something he predicts will be a massive undertaking. Critically important as well, experts say contact tracing will be a key element as states and businesses go ahead and try to reopen.

CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into why this is so, so important. Tell us why Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's important because it's going to help public officials track down and isolate people who've been recently infected or those who might be and it's a huge challenge, especially getting enough people to do all that investigative work.


TODD (voice-over): The mission, build an instant army.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: I have to put together an army of tracers, that's thousands of people. It's never been done before.

TODD (voice-over): Contact tracers who track down the people who have coronavirus infected person has had contact with to monitor them for infection. Public health officials say it's a crucial component to being able to reopen the economy, so new cases can be contained.


A Johns Hopkins study says an army of about 100,000 contact tracers may be needed to track the number of cases in the U.S. Other experts suggest two or three times that many. But tonight, a crisis within this crisis could be brewing. According to various reports, the U.S. has nowhere near the number of contact tracers needed. By some estimates, only a couple thousand people had been doing it before the outbreak started.

ERIC FEIGL-DING, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: Health departments are completely overwhelmed. Health departments are not designed to send out field armies of people to trace every single case that pops up in their community. Some communities have hundreds of cases in a single day.

TODD (voice-over): States are rushing to ramp up.

DR. JONEIGH KHALDUN, CHIEF MEDICAL EXECUTIVE, MICHIGAN: We're already training hundreds if not thousands of contact tracers.

TODD (voice-over): But among the concerns tonight, how quickly states can build armies big enough to call dozens of people for each new person infected and who's going to pay for them. As for the type of person needed --

CUOMO: It's a detective investigator in the public health space.

TODD (voice-over): For example, this Massachusetts job posting seeks people who can make calls, follow a script and give instructions or referrals. Quote, a headset is preferred. They have to interview an infected person. Get them to help identify anyone they've been in close contact with over the past two weeks.

FEIGL-DING: It could define it as anyone within 6 feet for more than one minute, or it can be anyone within 6 feet for more than 10 minutes.

TODD (voice-over): And contact tracers have to race against the clock. Experts we spoke to say they have on average less than three days to find someone who an infected persons been in contact with and get that person to isolate. At this contact tracing center in Arizona now working virtually, a team leader tells us it's time intensive, emotionally taxing work.

KRISTEN POGREBA-BROWN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA: Our biggest challenge honestly is just getting people on the phone initially and talking to them and then getting them to open up once you get ahold of them.

TODD (voice-over): And there are more obstacles tonight. Health professionals say the decision by some governors to reopen businesses so quickly, like Georgia's governor throwing open gyms and hair and nail salons this week, will make accurate contact tracing harder. FEIGL-DING: If you reopen businesses, now you infinitely increase the number of people that people have been in contact with. It makes contact tracing so much more difficult than if we have a lockdown or shelter in place.


TODD: Experts say another big challenge with contact tracing is that it's a lot like a police officer trying to get a witness account of a crime. People's memories of their encounters with others are often shady and unreliable. Apple and Google may soon have apps to actually people track -- help people track that data and share it with their health departments. Wolf?

BLITZER: So important indeed. All right, Brian Todd, thanks very much for that report.

Coming up, our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's standing by. He will answer your questions about coronavirus. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We continue, of course, to get lots of questions about the coronavirus and the pandemic. No one better to answer those questions than our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, first question from a viewer. Can coronavirus cause a stroke?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, this is an unusual thing. And we're hearing about obviously this respiratory virus, causing all sorts of different issues in the body. But in rare cases -- and it's rare -- I don't want to unnecessarily frighten people, but the neurosurgeons out of Mount Sinai, they found that people actually in their 30s and 40s were developing these sudden strokes and part of the reason was it seemed that as a result of the infection, people were developing unusual blood clots, and it was actually these blood clots that were causing the stroke.

That can happen when people get very sick, their body can start to actually form these clots. And in this case, it led to stroke. But again, Wolf, that's unusual can happen but, you know, it's not the top of the list of concerns.

BLITZER: Here's another question, is pneumonia caused by coronavirus, different than typical pneumonia?

GUPTA: Yes. So a viral -- this is a virus, so a viral pneumonia is considered an atypical pneumonia. So not typical pneumonia. If you do develop a pneumonia as a result of this infection, oftentimes it involves both lungs, it can be a little bit more extensive as well.

Sometimes -- and, you know, on these chest X-rays, these patients with the coronavirus infection may have a relatively normal looking chest X-ray as well. Sometimes they'll have abnormal CAT scans. X-rays just a plain X-ray, the CAT scan, obviously, the CT scan is more extensive. Those often show the abnormalities earlier, Wolf.

BLITZER: Here's another question. Should I buy a pulse oximeter?

GUPTA: Yes. You know, getting a lot of questions about this. And the reason being that one of the things that we've seen with patients who develop this infection is that sometimes they will develop a low blood oxygenation situation. So typically, you want your blood oxygenation to be in the high 90s, 100 percent.


They will have low oxygenation and yet not be gasping for breath. Not really feeling like a shortness of breath. So sometimes a pulse oximeter as long as the good one, high quality one that actually is going to be good reading might be a good way to just monitor yourself. I'm not suggesting people need to have this at home. But if you're worried about it, it's not a bad thing to have.

BLITZER: All right, good advice as usual. Sanjay, standby. We're going to have more news coming up. We need to give us your assessment of what's going on. We're following major breaking news right now. The head of a critical vaccine agency in the federal government removed from his post. We'll be right back.