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New York Plans to 40,000 Testing Average from 20,000; WHO Warns No Evidence Yet of COVID-19 Immunity; Kim Jong-un Allegedly in Grave Danger After Surgery. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 25, 2020 - 20:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Around the world right now more than 2.8 million people are known to be infected with the coronavirus. The global death toll has now topped 200,000. Here in the United States more than 53,000 have now died.

The World Health Organization issued a warning today for those who have already been infected. Scientists say that there is -- at least not yet there is no evidence yet to support the possibility that they are immune from being infected again. That point underscored by Britain's chief medical officer who's warning this could make the chance of a vaccine, in his words, much less likely.


DR. CHRISTOPHER WHITTY, CHIEF UK MEDICAL OFFICER: We need to be careful. We don't assume that we'll have a vaccine for this disease as we have for, let's say, measles, which once you have it, you're protected for life. We may or may not, but we need to be absolutely clear about that.


BLITZER: But even in the fact of that very grim possibility, some cautious optimism today from the governors of several U.S. states who now say their infection curve is now flattening.

Just in the last hour CNN has learned the USNS Comfort in New York has only one patient remaining on board. The ship is expected to leave port in New York City tomorrow. 182 people, by the way, were brought to the Comfort, which arrived late last month. The ship is expected, as I said, to leave very soon.

New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo is saying he wants to ramp up both diagnostic and antibody testing, especially for the state's health care workers and first responders.

Let's go to CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro. He's in New York City. Evan, the governor says New York is now on what he calls the downside

of the mountain. But he also emphasized these last several weeks have not been easy at all for New Yorkers. What more are you learning?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're nearing the end of week five of this extraordinary New York pause. The stay- at-home order that has just wreaked havoc on the economy and wreaked havoc on so many people's lives. But what we're learning is, this has actually maybe worked. Governor Cuomo is saying today in his press conference that hospitalizations are now down to the same number that they were related to COVID on April 4th.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We are back where we were 21 days ago. 21 days of hell. But we're back to where we were. What we need to find out is when we will back -- be back to the point where only several hundred people showed up at the hospitals every day with the COVID infection. That's what we want to see. We want to know how fast that decline continues and how low the decline gets.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Now, Wolf, that number of hospitalizations is still high. The governor hoping that it comes down even more. But it just shows that, you know, things are starting to decline here in a good way. But they're trying to increase in a good way, which are -- is the testing capacity. You mentioned at the top of the piece the governor mentioning today that there's going to be a new program that turns drugstores into diagnostic testing centers for essential workers.

And what that means is that prior to this point it was very difficult to get a test. There were a lot of rules around it. Now those rules are going to be loosened because there's more testing capacity. So those essential workers can get tests through their drugstores when that program comes online. And also an increase in the testing of the antibodies. And that's the other very important test. And that's going to roll out starting today at hospitals that have been most affected by this pandemic here in New York.

Health care workers there will get the testing. So, while the governor is talking about how hard this has been and how tough this continues to be for people, there are signs that all this work people are doing to try to make this thing a little bit more manageable may actually be working -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Evan. Thank you. Evan McMorris-Santoro in New York City for us.

In that new scientific brief, the World Health Organization says the following. It's a direct quote, "There is no evidence yet that people who have had COVID-19 will not get a second infection," end quote. It's a rather chilling reminder that there is still so much we don't know about coronavirus.

[20:05:02] Let's discuss with our medical experts right now. Dr. Seema Yasmin is a CNN medical analyst, a former CDC disease detective, Michael Osterholm is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Seema, if people don't necessarily have immunity -- we don't know if this is going to be true or not after all the investigations. But if they don't necessarily have immunity after getting over the virus, what does that mean potentially for reopening the country?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It really means that we can't rush to reopen, Wolf. We do not want to repeat our mistakes from 100 years ago where during that pandemic we loosened containment measures too quickly after the first wave of that flu pandemic and reopened the floodgates for the virus and had a second wave that was far deadlier than the first.

Now to be clear, the World Health Organization isn't saying that there's no chance of immunity after infection. They're just saying that we don't know which means that we can't let people presume, well, I've had the virus once, I got sick once, I'm OK now, and I won't get re-infected. Nope. We don't know that for sure. And we're hoping that this coronavirus follows the tracks much more of the original SARS and MERS where infection once means you have immunity for a few years.

But that may not be the case and it may be that it follow suit with the other more common cold coronaviruses where we lose immunity after a few months, which is why we get the common colds so frequently. So this just is very sobering. A reminder that as much as we are rushing the science understandably, we do need to wait for that data to understand once someone's had the infection, how long are they immune for. Even if they have those antibodies for a long time, how protected are they?

BLITZER: You know, Michael, that's an important point. You previously suggested that maybe 60 percent to 70 percent of the population actually needs be immune in order to beat this virus. So what do you make of this news from the World Health Organization?

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Well, again, I think the statement they made was we just don't have the data yet. I would actually suggest there are some data that are very important. They've been at least two different studies conducted in China using monkeys. One where they infected monkeys and then went into see a month later if they re-tried to re-infect them, could they? And they were all immune.

Then more recently they did a vaccine study where they actually gave vaccine to two different groups of monkeys. One a higher dose, one a lower dose, and again they were protected unchallenged at later time. So I think that there are surely some evidence there. Just not in humans, which I would agree. But I'm more optimistic we're going to have at least short-term immunity.

But as you've pointed out, that's critical. This virus will keep circulating widely in our population until we get 60 percent to 70 percent of the population immune through either natural disease or through vaccine. And we all know vaccine, even if we get one, is a ways off.

BLITZER: Yes. There's a lot more research. So much we simply don't know. The experts simply don't know.

You know, Seema, will antibody tests still have a major role to play in the country reopening right now given the fact we don't know the impact of all of this?

YASMIN: Well, that's one of the questions, Wolf, right? That it's great that we're see development of these antibody tests. There's still issues that some of the tests are being approved under the emergency use authorization but may not be as good as we need them to be. But what does that mean in the context of not understanding what a positive antibody test means. So it comes back to this idea that you might test somebody and say, oh, great, you've got antibodies, but how does that translate into real life?

Does that mean that that person won't get infected now? Does it mean that they'll be protected for the next six months or the next year? We still don't know. And that's why I'm so weary about promising folks an antibody test will be the panacea that we need and we'll reopen the economy because we still need the science to show us how long immunity lasts for.

BLITZER: There's been some talk out there, Michael, about what's called -- I've never heard of this so-called challenge trials where people are actually infected with the virus while testing vaccines. Is this something we should be looking at all? So many people already have coronavirus. I don't know why people have to be infected with it.

OSTERHOLM: Well, actually, Wolf, what we're talking about here is a special kind of study to fast forward the vaccine work, and given the seriousness of this pandemic, I would say throw the kitchen sink at it if in fact doesn't seriously harm people. And so what this kind of a study is vaccinate people and then instead of waiting for them to get potentially infected by Mother Nature, you intentionally try to infect them.

Just like the study I just finished with the animals. Clearly, it would take volunteers who are willing to be infected, trying to help all of human kind deal with this issue. And if we could get data from these studies it would surely fast forward, does that vaccine work or not by actually doing that.

BLITZER: What do you think about, Seema? What's your take on these so- called challenge trials?

YASMIN: So I know if people watching it might sound so wild that we're talking about intentionally infecting people with a virus that we know can even cause a death. But here's the thing. Then this isn't new science. We've been doing challenge trials for flu vaccines, for malaria, for typhoid, and cholera. And it's not the same, Wolf, as letting somebody get infected by being coughed on at the grocery store.


This is much more controlled. So in a challenge trial, you're starting off with volunteers who are very healthy to begin with. Usually younger, the least likely to get very severely sick, and then you intentionally are infecting them with a known amount of virus, and then you're following them very, very closely. So the first hint of a fever, the first hint of cough, you're picking up on that.

And you're really doing this to condense and squish the vaccine development timeline in the hopes of speeding this up and allowing a vaccine that's safe and efficacious to be available to everyone.

BLITZER: And very quickly, Michael, a year, year and a half until there's a real vaccine, is that what your assessment is?

OSTERHOLM: I think that would be the earliest and then we have to make sure we can manufacture, distribute to, what, eight billion people who all want it. It's not going to happen overnight but I think we're still making progress in a really timely way and that's what we need.

BLITZER: Michael Osterholm and Seema Yasmin, as usual, guys, we always appreciate your joining us. Thank you so much.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. Take a look at this. We got some live pictures coming in from Newport Beach out in California where people are flocking to the beach despite serious warnings to simply stay home amid a heat wave. We'll go there live. Stay with us.



BLITZER: A record heat wave this weekend is drawing thousands of people to Southern California's newly reopened beaches. Also there are police patrols making sure people observe social distancing.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is joining us now from Newport Beach.

Paul, what are you seeing there? Are people keeping their distance?

Unfortunately, I think we've lost our connection with Paul Vercammen. We'll check back with him. Take a quick break. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Welcome back. We're going to have a lot more of our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. There are new developments unfolding. Stand by for that. But first I want to get to another developing story we're following. The U.S. is closely monitoring intelligence reports suggesting that

the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is in grave danger after surgery. That according to a U.S. official with direct knowledge. Another U.S. official tells CNN that the concerns about Kim's health are credible. But the severity, at least right now, hard to assess.

CNN's Will Ripley is joining us from Tokyo right now.

Will, you've been to North Korea several times. We don't know much right now. But what more are you learning, first of all, about the North Korean leader's condition?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's very clear, Wolf, because there's been radio silence in North Korean state media with barely a mention or a significant mention of Kim Jong-un since Jim first broke the story that the U.S. was monitoring intelligence he might be in grave condition after a surgical procedure. Well, obviously all eyes are now on the country and because it is so secretive, particularly concerning matters of their leader's health, we have to rely on things like these satellite images.

And we're now seeing new satellite images posted by 38 North, which is a think tank, showing what appears to be Kim Jong-un's train near his compound in Wonsan, in the space that is reserved for the supreme leadership when they travel through the country by train. Now there -- obviously this doesn't prove or disprove anything about Kim Jong-un's health. But for context, when I've been to Wonsan, Kim Jong-un usually prefers to fly there.

He often flies his own plane there. It's a more convenient way for him to travel. However, if he has had a surgical procedure, it's possible that he would be unable to fly. And if he needs to make a trip, for example back to Pyongyang, the train might be one way to do that. Of course they could also get him there probably a little bit faster by car if they needed to.

Trains are also used in North Korea for very significant formal processions and events. Kim Jong-un travelled by train when he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He traveled by train to Hanoi for that summit with President Trump. And, you know, for context, Kim Jong-un's father, the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, reportedly died on this train and was brought back in a very formal way on the train as well.

We know that Kim Jong-un loves to spend a lot of time in Wonsan. He spent his summers there as a child. It's a very luxurious beachfront compound. Is there recovering? Is there something else more serious going on? Those are simply the questions that we won't have answers to, Wolf, until we hear some sort of official news from North Korean state media. And as of now, until there's a big announcement, it appears to be business as usual. That's what they're projecting anyway.

BLITZER: Yes. We want to thank Jim Sciutto for breaking this story several days ago.

All right. Thanks very much, Will Ripley. We'll get back to you in the next hour or so.

I want to bring in right the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Bill Richardson. He's known, of course, for his extensive diplomatic work on behalf of the United States in North Korea, including helping to secure the release of hostages, political prisoners.

Ambassador, thanks so much for joining us. What's your read? You follow events in North Korea very closely. What's your read on these latest developments involving Kim Jong-un?

BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. UNDER PRESIDENT CLINTON, FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: My read is that he's had a serious heart procedure. That something has gone wrong. Is he seriously ill to the point of death? I don't think so. But I think he is very seriously disabled. The North Korean media is not going to say anything until they have something definitive.

One of the things that worries me is that before this procedure on the nuclear talks, there seemed to be a power struggle between the party, the military, the intelligence people as to who would get Kim Jong- un's ear when it comes to negotiating with the United States. So, we have to be very careful. I think we have to be calibrated.

But my sense is that something is wrong with his health. He has a serious heart procedure. He's a bit overweight, he's a workaholic. Something is wrong and it affects our national security.

BLITZER: How long do you think we should expect North Korea, Ambassador, to remain silent about his condition? This has been going on for several days.

RICHARDSON: Well, I don't think they're going to be coming out soon unless there's something definitive. I think Kim Jong-un has already some kind of a succession plan, and that is his family, his sister Kim Yo-jong. He wants to keep the power in the family. That's probably going to happen. But, you know, the worry is that there are 40 nuclear weapons out there. There's the concern by the Chinese over refugee crisis.

So the whole peninsula, the stability of the peninsula, is dependent on the situation on Kim Jong-un. So we have to watch it very carefully.


BLITZER: We certainly will and we'll be in close touch with you. I know you've been there many, many times in North Korea.

I want to turn to the latest developments, Ambassador, on coronavirus. The president's attempt to shift blame to the World Health Organization. The "Washington Post" now reporting this goes beyond cutting funding to the World Health Organization. The State Department is apparently stripping out mentions of the organizations in various fact sheets. The White House is pushing the claim that the WHO employees routinely go on luxury travel.

What's the impact of that in the middle of this global pandemic?

RICHARDSON: Well, we need China, when it comes to North Korea to keep the sanctions on. 90 percent of the trade in the North Korea goes through China. I would be careful about alienating China too much. We're already blaming them for the virus. No. The World Health Organization, we're cutting it off 25 percent of the funding comes from the U.S. That's going to hurt the World Health Organization. And it seems for the president's political agenda, he wants to blame China for this virus.

I would be very careful. First of all, the World Health Organization is doing a good job. Yes, they are too close to China. Just maybe they should have come out sooner. But, you know, this is the whole world that is going to be suffering this pandemic crisis, possibly the next one. And I think on the whole it's counterproductive to blame China, to cut them off, to cut off the World Health Organization. Especially with this North Korean crisis brewing, we need China on North Korea.

BLITZER: On North Korea, but, as you know there are a lot of concerns in the Trump administration that China initially wasn't honest, wasn't transparent, waited too long to inform the world about what was going on in Wuhan. And as a result, we got this worldwide pandemic right now. Is that criticism of China fair?

RICHARDSON: Yes, the criticism is fair. It is a bit China centered. There are too many Chinese officials in the World Health Organization. Nonetheless, you don't cut them off by 25 percent. That's going to impact the whole world. You don't fine sanctions in response to what China has done. Yes, criticize it, but don't blame them for everything. There are too many issues affecting the geopolitical world like North Korea where we have to get along in a sense with China.

Not have a war of words, not blame them for everything. And especially with this North Korean crisis, I mean, we need them to keep the sanctions on, to keep the pressures so that North Korea does not build up their nuclear arsenal, which is what they're doing.

BLITZER: Ambassador Bill Richardson, thanks so much for joining us. We'll stay in close touch with you. We'll watch the North Korea story very closely. Lots at stake. The ramifications could be very, very significant. Thank you so much for joining us.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: So, the -- a very large part of the president's response to the coronavirus pandemic has unfolded in public at the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. His Republican allies, at least some of them, have increasingly believed those briefings are not helpful, they're actually harmful to the president politically -- as politically speaking. And that may have been -- this week there may have been a breaking point.

We'll have details when we come back.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So, are the White House press briefings putting President Trump's reelection charities in jeopardy? That's what some Republicans now fear, according to a new article in The New York Times. Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin are reporting, and I'm quoting now from the article, "President Trump's erratic handling of the coronavirus outbreak, the worsening economy at a cascade of ominous public and private polling have Republicans increasingly nervous that they are at risk of losing the presidency and the Senate if Mr. Trump does not put the nation on a radically improved course."

Jonathan Martin is joining us right now. He's a CNN political analyst, national political correspondent for The New York Times. Jonathan, thanks so much for joining us.

So what are you and Maggie learning? What are the Republicans saying behind the scenes?

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they're very concerned at these daily briefings. They believe, Wolf, that the President's using these press briefings to lash out at the press and his critics and the ranks of the nation's governors at basically all commerce is imperil, not just his reelection prospects, Wolf, but it's also starting to undercut some of those key lift of his own party running for the House and Senate. And the bottom line is, if he keeps doing these, in the minds of a lot of folks in his own party, that he's going to create real political peril going into the fall for the GOP.

BLITZER: There was no briefing at the White House today. There was a meeting of the task force but no press briefing. You write, perhaps, most simple definitively that the President's single best advantage as an incumbent has been as access to the bully pulpit. His -- has -- he's effectively become a platform you write now for self-sabotage, as you and Maggie call it as it sounds like the president is actually coming around to the idea that he might actually be better served without regular appearances by him at those briefings.

MARTIN: Well, Maggie and I did a story about two weeks ago with a lot of folks in the party urging him to cut back on these briefings, he rejected that at the time and said that it was the only way for him to reach the American people.

Now, you talk privately to folks in his party and they say he's actually more interested in these because it puts him in the spotlight for a couple of hours every night. He relishes the attention. He loves watching the coverage afterwards.

But it is notable, Wolf, that today that there was no briefing. And last night, there was a very fast briefing with no questions at the end.


And if you saw the President's, you know, Twitter feed today, he references not doing the briefings anymore. So it does seem like he may cut back on these. I will, though, famous last words, I'm not sure he's going to be fully able to resist the temptation of doing these briefings at least a couple of times a week, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. I think you're right. Let me read that tweet he posted a little while ago, "What is the purpose of having White House news conferences when the lamestream media ask nothing but hostile questions, and then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately? They get record ratings and the American people get nothing but fake news not worth the time and effort."

That would suggest -- that would suggest that he's losing interest in going out and answering reporter's questions at those briefings. Where do Republicans think the President might be most vulnerable? For example, which states are they so closely watching control of the Senate is very much at stake right now?

MARTIN: Well, two big states. They have both Senate races that are very competitive. And that could be crucial in the presidential race, Wolf, North Carolina and Arizona. In surveys in both states have the Democrat candidate for the Senate winning right now. And now President Trump, narrowly, losing.

And why that's so important? The President has got a window states, or at least -- at least lose very narrowly for his candidate for the Senate to actually win because those races, as you know, are so closely tied to the top of the ticket. So those two states are important for the Senate and for the presidential.

I think more broadly, Wolf, three big 10 states, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan are going to be critical this fall. And a lot of folks noticed this week, multiple surveys came out in Michigan and Pennsylvania, in both states, Joe Biden was ahead outside the margin of error over Donald Trump.

And I think those surveys are really starting to get picked up because if the president can't carry Michigan and Pennsylvania, Wolf, he can still win, but the path becomes very, very narrow.

BLITZER: And even Florida could be at stake for the president or right now as well.

All right. Jonathan Martin, excellent reporting from you and Maggie Haberman in the New York Times, as usual. Thanks very, very much.

We're going to have more on the coronavirus pandemic coming up. And I want to turn to the 2020 presidential campaign in my video from 1993 as part of today's political discussion.

Our political correspondent M.J. Lee is joining us now. M.J., first of all, tell us how this video could relate to a sexual assault allegation made against Joe Biden dating to that time when he was a U.S. senator. Can you bring us up to speed on the allegation, first of all, itself?

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a woman named Tara Reade. She was the aide and then-Senator Joe Biden's office in the early 1990s. She recently came out publicly with an allegation of sexual assault against Joe Biden. CNN interviewed Reade for the first time last night on the phone. We had previously reached out to her multiple times. And last night was the first time that she agreed to be interviewed on the record.

And what she says is that sometime in 1993, she was asked to deliver a duffel bag two then-Senator Biden, and that's somewhere in a corridor on the Capitol Hill complex, that Joe Biden had her up against the wall, used his knee to spread her legs and put his fingers inside of her, that is what she is alleging.

Now, the Biden campaign denies this allegation. And we can talk in a few minutes about sort of the full response to all of this. But one important piece of context is that this woman, Tara Reade, last year, also publicly accused Joe Biden of inappropriately touching her in ways that had made her feel uncomfortable, like touching her neck, touching her hair.

So this allegation that she is making publicly now is obviously a lot more serious than what she had said last year.

BLITZER: Is there corroboration of a Reade story?

LEE: So what's important is that other media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, they have extensively reported on this allegation and story. And the New York Times spoke with a friend of Reade's, who says that Reed told her about the alleged assault at the time when it happened. They also spoke with a second friend who said that Reed told her about inappropriate touching in 2008, that this conversation happened in 2008.

And the Washington Post's also spoke with Reade's brother, and he said, quote, "I heard that there was a gym bag incident and that he was inappropriate. I remember her telling me he said she was nothing to him"

And the Post also said that several days after that conversation, Reade's brother also said that Biden had put his hand under her clothes that that was his recollection.


Now, the New York Times also spoke with some two dozen people who spoke, who worked rather with Biden in the early 1990s. And none of them corroborated Reade's allegation. The Times also spoke with other women who previously said that Biden had interacted with them physically in ways that made them uncomfortable that we should be very clear that none of them accused Biden of sexual assault. And all of those women told the New York Times that they didn't have new things they wanted to add about their experiences with Biden, and that several of them though, they believe Reade's assault allegation.

BLITZER: So M.J., how does Reade's late mother factor into all of this? LEE: Well, her mother is a key part to this story because she is the one other person that Reade says she told about the alleged assault at the time. Now, she died a few years ago. So she obviously is not somebody that can help corroborate the story right now.

But what surfaced last night is a clip from CNN's Larry King Live from 1993 that appears to feature reads mother's voice. So let's take a look and then we can talk about it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, hello. I'm wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington. My daughter has just left there after working for a prominent senator and could not get through with her problems at all. And the only thing she could have done was go to the press and she chose not to do it out of respect for you.

LARRY KING, AMERICAN TELEVISION HOST: She had a story to tell, but out of respect for the person she worked for, she didn't tell it.



BLITZER: So, M.J., what is -- go ahead. Finish your thought.

LEE: Yes. I was going to say what Reade told CNN last night was that this is definitely her mother's voice. And that at the time, sometime after the alleged assault, she remembers that her mother told her that she had called into Larry King show, and that Reade's reaction at the time was to be upset about it, because this is not the kind of thing that she wanted her mother to be doing at the time.

Now, to be clear what this woman's voice in that clip is saying, you know, she refers to problems that her daughter was having. She mentions a prominent senator, but she doesn't name names. She certainly doesn't mention any details like sexual harassment or sexual assault. So we just want to be very clear about what the clip is showing and what it isn't showing.

But what it does appear to suggest is that if this is her mother, then Reade did share something with her mother at the very least, that she found troubling or problematic about the experience she had working with this senator.

BLITZER: M.J., what is the Biden campaign saying about all of this?

LEE: Well, the Biden campaign isn't commenting on this Larry King Live clip, but they did previously share statements about the sexual assault allegation. I want to read a statement from deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield. She says, quote, "Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women. He authored and fought for the passage and reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard and heard respectfully. Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim, it is untrue. This absolutely did not happen."

We also got a statement through the Biden campaign from Marianne Baker. She was Biden's executive assistant in the 1980's, 1990s. And Reade had told The New York Times that she was one of the people that she had come claim to in the Senate office in addition to other aides. So this is what Baker says in her statement. She says, "In all my years working for Senator Biden, I never once witnessed or heard of, or received any reports of inappropriate conduct period. Not from Miss Reade, not from anyone. I have absolutely no knowledge or memory of Miss Reade's accounting of events, which would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional and as a manager. These clearly false allegations are in complete contradiction to both the inner workings of our Senate office and to the man I know and worked so closely with for almost two decades." Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. M.J. Lee, reporting for us. Thank you very, very much.

Take a look at this. We got some live pictures now. Once again, coming in from Newport Beach out in California, where people have flocked to the beach amid a heatwave despite warnings to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic. We'll go there live.



BLITZER: So a record heat wave this week and it's drawing thousands of people in Southern California's beaches right now. There's also some police patrols. They are making sure people observe social distancing.

Let's go to Paul Vercammen. He's on the beach over there north -- in Newport Beach. What are you seeing there? Are people keeping their distance?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the authorities are praising the people for keeping their distance. You can see a lot of white sand behind me as the fog rolls in. This the first major test, weather test since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Eighteen million Southern Californians under a heat advisory and a checkerboard of closed beaches. You've got L.A. County, massive L.A. County, all beaches closed.


But here in Newport Beach and in parts of Orange County, open, so people from other counties poured into here. We talked to one surfer. Surfers can be territorial, by the way. And he said he'd rather not so many people show up in his waters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like how people are coming out of the county, like stay in your own county, stay at home, stay safe, you know. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do your best to stay away from people, but you're always going to be too close to them, I guess. I mean, I don't know. They say six feet. Maybe people are six feet. I don't know it's here and there. But it's probably better than being at a grocery store.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody got really upset about the beaches being opened in Florida and then when I came down here, and I'll start over kind of separated from each other, so I think it's pretty safe.


VERCAMMEN: So Ventura County beach is also open, then San Diego County beaches will open on Monday, as we're seeing an easing of these social distancing restrictions here in Southern California.

Reporting from Newport Beach, I'm Paul Vercammen. Back to you now, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Paul. Thank you very much.

The coronavirus pandemic has certainly changed life as we know it and the environment is responding to weeks of global lockdown. Air pollution is falling by unprecedented levels in major cities worldwide.

In Los Angeles, the downtown skyline is fully visible for the first time in years. The EPA says this is the longest stretch of good air quality in L.A. in at least 25 years.

And look at this in Venice, Italy. The canals are also so clear, you could see the bottom and you could actually see jellyfish.

This week's mark -- this week marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. And tonight, CNN brings you a special report, "The Road to Change America's Climate Crisis." That will air at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

I want to bring in CNN's Bill Weir. Bill, you traveled around America gathering reporting for tonight's special report. First of all, what did you learn about American's perspectives right now on climate change?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's interesting, Wolf. The parallels between climate and coronavirus, if you had gone out to dinner with a virologist or five of them a year ago, you would have come away probably knowing, gosh, we're not prepared for worst- case pandemics.

Well, I've spent a lot of time with climatologist. We're trying to sound the same alarm when it comes to the climate crisis. So, yes, I went around to try to understand deniers and believers and scientists and farmers and fishermen and firefighters from the Florida Keys up to the Alaskan glaciers. And I came back shaken really because the conversation does not match the reality that's already unfolding in so many communities.

But we're trying to give you some perspective tonight. Here's a little sample of the feature length year in the making work that is "The Road to Change."


WEIR: In ways subtle and staggering, this trip shows how the climate crisis is already affecting countless lives. But the best science warns that this journey into change has only just begun.

Since the Industrial Revolution began, Earth has warmed about two degrees Fahrenheit. The Paris Accord set the ambitious limit of 2.7 degrees, but it is getting hotter faster.

To hold that limit, scientists of the IPCC say we may only have about 500 gigatons of carbon left to burn, period. But Bernstein Research found there are 2,900 gigatons already on the books of fossil fuel corporations and burning it all would blow past 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. A road to hell.

All within the lifetime of this little guy. William River Weir, my unborn son.


BLITZER: Congratulate you on the...

WEIR: Well, he's no longer unborn, Wolf. Thank you. He came a couple weeks early. So I now have William River Weir as part of my life and it is of such perspective, you know, in lockdown looking in his little face and realizing, as we live in uncertain days that he's in for an uncertain lifetime, but I really think there's plenty of hope to be found when it comes to the idea that knowledge is power and this next generation needs to understand as much as well and protect them. We have to prepare them for a new reality.


BLITZER: Beautiful, beautiful little baby. Congratulations to you. I really am looking forward to tonight's documentary as well. Bill Weir reporting. Thank you.

WEIR: To our viewers, don't miss tonight's special, "The Road to Change: America's Climate Crisis." Once again tonight 10:00 p.m. Eastern, right after "THE SITUATION ROOM." Our special SITUATION ROOM only here on CNN.

And coming up next hour, there's breaking news, the White House, get this. The White House now considering a major change at a critical job in the fight against the coronavirus. We have news that's just ahead of THE SITUATION ROOM.