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THE SITUATION ROOM
Colorado Begins to Lift Coronavirus Restrictions and Reopen; Interview with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R) on Reopening Florida; Trump Denies Plans to Fire HHS Secretary Alex Azar; Experts Raise Concerns About Using UV Light to Sanitize Workplace. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired April 26, 2020 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Beef dogs and everything done.
SAGE ALI, OWNER: We've always had a motto in the family that U Street never closes. We're struggling. We're not the big corporation with deep pockets. We are a little family business. We're just kind of taking care of the people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we get a -- two baskets of chips, please?
ALI: There's always talk coming out about the loan not coming through for us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just glad that people are aware that the business is struggling.
ALI: And all of a sudden we've received a beautiful outpouring of support that's really heartwarming for us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no way Ben's Chili Bowl should be closing because of COVID-19.
ALI: We pray, we believe that things will be OK, and, you know, now the second round has been announced and we're optimistic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks for the support. Have a wonderful day, OK? Take care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN's 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 nearly three million people have been infected by the coronavirus and more than 206,000 people have died. More than a quarter of those deaths happened right here in the United States. The number of Americans dead from this virus is now more than 54,000. These are not statistics. These are people. All those thousands of American families in shock and mourning right now.
It's hard to believe but it was just one month ago, one month ago that the U.S. coronavirus death toll in the United States was 1,000. 1,000 to now more than 54,000 American deaths in just four weeks.
At the same time more states are preparing to crack open the doors to their economies. Doors that were slammed shut weeks ago when the pandemic hit. Stay-at-homes orders expired tomorrow morning in a few states where restaurants and some stores will be allowed to open under strict safety rules. But officials at the White House tell CNN that social distancing directives are not going away any time soon.
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DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another as we move through these phases.
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BLITZER: This is public health crisis is not the only unprecedented catastrophe looming over the United States right now. The U.S. economy is enduring week after week of staggering losses. And Americans are out of work in numbers not seen in decades. One of President Trump's economic advisers is now projecting an extremely grim picture.
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KEVIN HASSETT, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: This is the biggest negative shot that our economy I think has ever seen. We're going to be looking at unemployment rate that approaches rates that we saw during the Great Depression. During the Great Recession, remember that was a financial crisis around 2008 that we lost 8.7 million jobs in the whole thing. Right now we're losing that many jobs about 10 days.
The next couple of months are going to look terrible. You're going to see numbers that are as bad as anything that we've ever seen. I think the unemployment rate is going to jump to a level probably around 16 percent or even higher in the next jobs report.
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BLITZER: And again, in the past five weeks alone, more than 26 million Americans have lost their jobs and they've gone on unemployment.
Amid these truly dire economic warnings, some states are beginning to reopen. One of those is Colorado where stay-at-home orders expired tonight and officials are about to test drive a gradual lifting of restrictions. Colorado's Democratic Governor Jared Polis today telling CNN's Jake Tapper that he's still urging people to stay home as much as possible even as he's allowing some businesses to reopen. Listen to this.
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GOV. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO: Aggressive intervention which is the stay-at-home has been effective in leveling and plateauing the curve which is absolutely critical if we're going to any way to sustain the social distancing for not just weeks but likely months, Jake. I mean, probably May, June, I mean, we don't even have an end date in sight until there's a vaccine and a cure.
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BLITZER: I want to bring in CNN's Gary Tuchman right now. He's in Greeley, Colorado.
Gary, what are you hearing? What are you seeing specifically from business owners there?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Greeley is in Weld County, Colorado, in the north portion of the state, and this is sort of a rebel county because the county commissioners here in Weld County want to open more than the governor wants to see opened tomorrow.
Now tomorrow all that's going to change is that retail businesses that are nonessential businesses that follow the proper safety protocols will be allowed to open but customers will have to pick up their goods on the curbside. And Friday, if they're still following those safety protocols, those retail businesses can then have customers inside.
Also on Friday, barbershops, beauty salons, other personal care businesses will also be allowed to open. But what's confusing here in the state of Colorado is all 64 counties in the state have some prerogative to make their own decisions. For example, Denver City in Denver County don't want everything to open right away. They don't want anything to happen tomorrow, they're allowed to do that.
Other counties want more to open like Weld County but you have to ask the governor according to the state for a waiver if you want to open more. As of now, this county hasn't asked for a waiver but has told business leaders here that they can open their businesses tomorrow. So this place right here, this is called the Barber Shop. That's literally the name of this barbershop inside. Two hours ago a cleaning crew came here, you can see the sticker they put on here, 4/26/20. They were inside.
They came here and put on outfits that looked like they were going to the outer space, but obviously to be careful. They sprayed this place down and this place according to the owner is ready to open tomorrow. And they say they actually have a book full of reservations between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
This gentleman right here is one of the barbers. This is Ty Salzman. What's interesting, we were in here a while ago. They got a call from the governor's office after one of our reports that they should not be opening tomorrow, that they don't have the authorization to open. And they said, you and your owner said, the county said you could open, correct? So are you staying open?
TY SALZMAN, BARBER: Yes, sir. Yes. We plan to be open tomorrow at 9:00.
TUCHMAN: OK. We're going to stay a little distance from you to be safe. That's the way that we should play it. But here's what I need to ask you. Are you confident that you're going to be safe and your customers are going to be safe?
SALZMAN: Oh, 110 percent. We practice safe practices 24/7, 365 continually.
TUCHMAN: Right. For tomorrow, what are you going to do that's different?
SALZMAN: So tomorrow what we plan on doing is we ask that customers if they have masks or would like to wear masks, bring those in with them. We'll be offering gloves and hand sanitizers, I mean, all sorts of precautions to our customers, but then also we as well will be doing that, us personally.
TUCHMAN: If the county asked you tomorrow, if they changed their mind, the commissioner has said you should not be open, would you close?
SALZMAN: Absolutely. No, I mean, we have to follow whatever guidelines are put in place, and we have to listen to whatever we're being told. We're just trying to make sure that the clients and the customers' safety comes first.
TUCHMAN: Ty, thanks for talking to us.
SALZMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.
TUCHMAN: Well, we do want to tell you this is a really nice salon. They put a lot of spacing between the chairs. They also have a bar that will not be open, a pool table that's usually here they've taken out to create more space. But restaurants and bars, there's no plan right now to reopen them at least for now in the state of Colorado -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's hope it works out. We'll watch it closely, Gary, together with you. Thank you very much.
But as some states are reopening, Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis is still not giving a date for reopening his state.
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GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: So we're going to do everything in a very smart and methodical safe way. I'm less concerned about a specific date than I am about getting it right.
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BLITZER: This as neighboring Georgia has relaxed many of their state- wide restrictions. The Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is joining us live right now.
Mayor, thanks for joining us. So Governor DeSantis faced criticism for his initial delay in enacting a stay-at-home order. Do you think he's now aware of the potential dangers of reopening the state too soon?
MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI: I think he clearly is, and I'm glad that he is taking that position. I know that he's been very supportive of local governments like cities taking their own, you know, deliberative approach. We were very proactive on the front end, cancelling large events, one of first city's stay-at-home orders, a curfew, and issue orders that people in grocery stores wear masks and banks and construction sites.
So we want to be very deliberative on the backend of this. Understanding that in my case, I was patient number two in all of Miami-Dade County. We now have 10,000 COVID-19 positive people in our county. So we want to be extremely careful. We realized how quickly this virus can spread its spread from two to 10,000 in a little over a month. And so we know that if we're not cautious on the backend we could have another wave which is something that would disastrous for our residents and for our economy as well.
BLITZER: It certainly would be. As you know, the county, Miami-Dade County, is looking to hire people to enforce the social distancing rules. Is that something you're looking into as well for Miami, specifically for Miami?
SUAREZ: We are. And they're looking at opening up some things that we're not quite ready to open up just yet. Marinas and parks, they're -- the indications that we have or they're looking to open them up some point next week. Obviously they have talked about hiring hundreds of different employees from different parts of the county and borrowing some employees from sports franchises to enforce social distancing which I think is smart.
Obviously we need to do everything we can if we are going to open up those things, which I don't think in the city we're quite ready to do. We're somewhat fearful that people may not respect social distancing rules and that it's going to be very, very hard to enforce. But if we are going to open them up, then they have to be very, very intensely policed, and very intensely monitored to avoid, you know, people not following the rules.
BLITZER: Yes, I know you were one of the first to be confirmed that you had coronavirus, Mayor. First of all, how are you doing? Any lingering effects? What's happening? We hope you're OK.
SUAREZ: I'm doing well, thanks, Wolf. You know, I'm feeling well, I'm feeling strong. I have not thankfully had any sort of a relapse, no lingering symptoms. I'm still practicing social distancing, wearing a masks and gloves when I go outside, and, you know, acting as if I don't have any immunity potentially to the COVID-19, which I think that there's all kinds of conflicting scientific evidence as to whether someone who has survived COVID-19 has immunity, but I've been urging people to donate plasma.
I did it myself, and I know of at least two patients that have come out of a convalescent state after having received plasma infusion. So I'm really urging people to do that if they defeated COVID-19 in their bodies.
BLITZER: Let's hope for the best. Thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone down in Miami. Appreciate it very much.
Mayor Francis Suarez, joining us.
So in the middle of a global pandemic a source now says the head of the department tasked with protecting Americans' health might be on its way out. Former HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius is standing by live. We'll discuss this and more when we come back.
BLITZER: President Trump has now gone on Twitter to deny reports of ongoing discussions within the White House to fire a critical number of his Cabinet, the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. That's following a state of criticism over the administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Our national correspondent Kristen Holmes is joining us from the White House right now.
Kristen, what do we know about these discussions? What's the latest information you and our colleagues are picking up?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, there have been a lot of speculations among White House staffers for quite some time that Azar's head was on the chopping block. You have to remember that President Trump named Vice President Pence to be the head of the task force over Azar. We also know that Azar was butting heads with Seema Verma who is not only another member of the task force but most importantly a very close ally of Vice President Pence.
And to note we have not seen Azar in any of these public briefings for weeks now. So this had been a conversation that had been going on. It was confirmed to us last night by a senior official that these White House officials were talking about how to replace Azar. But there's something here I really want to note and that is the timing of all of this.
Take this into consideration. We know, as we just said, that the administration has gotten criticism about the handling of the pandemic since the beginning. But really these last few weeks have been arguably some of the worse. We are weeks and weeks into this pandemic and you are still hearing from not only Democratic governors but Republican governors who are begging the administration to get involved so they can get the testing that they need in order to reopen the economy.
We know that President Trump called Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia and supported his decision to reopen the economy despite the fact that he did not meet his own task force criteria to actually open the state. And he received so much backlash from that that he actually then had to backtrack with the governor. And of course on Thursday now these comments about injecting or ingesting some sort of disinfectant to clean your body out of coronavirus.
There is a lot of blame shifting and finger-pointing going on at the White House right now. And a lot of tension over this coverage. We know President Trump has been watching it non-stop and has been stewing, he's frustrated at what he is saying. He believes that he deserves better rewards, better coverage for his covering of all of this.
So that's one thing to know, but it does appear that based on President Trump's tweet that as of tonight and pretty much I would say tonight for sure that Alex Azar is safe, he won't fall victim to that blame shifting or that finger-pointing, I will note that several sources told us overall there wasn't a huge appetite for some sort of massive shakeup during this pandemic response.
BLITZER: And it's also interesting, no White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing today and none yesterday, and a very short one, 22 minutes only, on Friday. And the president walked out with the others without answering questions at that briefing in the White House briefing room.
Kristen Holmes, thanks very much for that report.
Joining us now, one of Secretary Azar's predecessors, the former Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius.
Madame Secretary, thanks so much for joining us. As someone who has held this critically important position knows its challenges, what's your reaction to this reporting back and forth that Secretary Azar could soon be replaced even though the president just tweeted he's doing an excellent job?
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, FORMER HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Well, I find most of what's going on in the White House these days, at a minimum, baffling and, you know, the worst case scenario is terrifying. We know Dr. Rick Bright who was in a critical position as the head of BARDA which is our medical countermeasure department within HHS was removed from his job, leading that very critical agency at a time when we're trying to get to a medical cure and certainly get to a vaccine.
BARDA is essential and he was just moved out of the way supposed for this feuding that president's allegations that people should be taking -- I'm sorry. Chloroquine --
BLITZER: Hydroxy -- hydroxychloroquine.
SEBELIUS: Which has not been proven at all to be a successful medication so he's gone. We don't have any idea what's going on with Alex Azar. But what we know is Alex Azar is not the one who stood at the podium and told people that it was probably a good idea that he'd have some medical doctors look at disinfectant inside the body. So that the head of Lysol had to come out and beg people not to ingest Lysol. BLITZER: Yes.
SEBELIUS: A lot of this is the president's doing. He insists on being the chief spokesperson at these briefings.
He's taken up about 60 percent of the airtime, according to a "Washington Post" article since the briefings began. And I think if somebody gets fired it's really just an attempt to shift the blame at somebody else's fault. It's always somebody else's fault.
BLITZER: Today Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response coordinator was given the opportunity to provide very detailed, accurate medical information on some of the president's claims. Instead, though, she defended the president.
Do these public health experts risk losing their credibility with the public if they are avoiding, if they're trying to be overly cautious and perhaps disagreeing or being at all critical of what the president is saying?
SEBELIUS: Absolutely. I think the American public has gotten to the point where they want to hear from the scientific experts and they want to hear the truth. They don't want a glossy coverup. The president has said from the beginning the testing is perfect, everybody can get a test if they want a test.
The public knows that's absolutely not true. Every governor in the country knows that's absolutely not true. Same with protective equipment. We still do not have enough, and now we're in a situation where most governors are feeling themselves in this position to try and to act on their own.
The White House put out guidelines for what were the safe steps to reopen. Benchmarks, 14 days of disease declined, looking at appropriate testing, making sure you have surge capacity, and then immediately flipped around and began to tweet about states that should be liberating their population.
There is no national strategy. There is no national framework and I think the American public knows very clearly. They believe in governors, they believe that the health experts need to speak up. They want to hear from Tony Fauci about what's happening. And I'm afraid if some of the experts who had brilliant careers begin to be too differential to White House's spin, they will lose all credibility.
BLITZER: If you were the secretary of Health and Human Services right now, and you were not really being seen at the briefings, you were not doing media interviews, it was being left to a whole bunch of others, but you were basically invisible, and you're the secretary of Health and Human Services, what would you do?
SEBELIUS: Well, I have not been in that situation. I don't even want to speculate how difficult it must be to be in that situation. I think you work at the pleasure of the president of the United States if you are any Cabinet official. How exactly anybody in this administration works at the pleasure of this president who seems to change his mind on an hourly basis and continue to push missed information to the American public, I don't understand how you could keep a job like that or how you would want to keep a job like that because it's right now risking people's lives.
If we don't have a framework, if people don't have enough testing to understand when the disease begins to spread if social distancing comes to an end then we are really in serious trouble. In most states like mine, we are very far away from adequate testing. Our caseload is still on the uptick. We are still seeing big outbreaks in meat packing plants, in prisons, and home care centers. So we know we need more testing. We know we need more protective equipment and we want to follow the science and the data, but we need federal government help to do that.
BLITZER: Kathleen Sebelius, not only a former secretary of Health and Human Services, also a former governor of Kansas, we're grateful to you. Thanks so much for joining us.
SEBELIUS: Sure. Good to be with you.
BLITZER: Up next, one businessman is facing controversy by marketing UV scanners as a tool businesses could use when employees return to work. Is it safe? We have more information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: So as government officials weigh options for reopening businesses in their states and cities, employers are considering workplace measures to keep their employees safe. Some measures like face masks, hand sanitizers, they're already part of the new normal here in the United States, indeed around the world.
But at least one businessman is now trying to market UV scanners as a tool for use when employees return. The device resembling metal detectors works as a body scanning sanitation method to supposedly detect and kill viruses.
This comes as President Trump has courted controversy this week when he suggested, suggested that perhaps people could use sunlight to treat coronavirus.
Joining us now Dr. Jeremy Faust, an ER physician, an instructor at the Harvard Medical School. Also with us, Dr. Esther Choo, associate professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University.
Dr. Choo, the creator of the scanners we saw, he says they safely use UV rays to kill viruses and bacteria on clothing. Is it an effective or will it give employees simply a false sense of security?
DR. ESTHER CHOO, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, OREGON HEALTH AND SCIENCE UNIVERSITY: Well, it's not just a false sense of security. You know, we use UVC lights as germicidal light to disinfect a number of things already in practice, so UVC lights are used for things like disinfecting water and air in close distance where there is no human contact. There is also some research that suggests that it can be used as -- through filters with a lower dose in public spaces to potentially reduce amount of virus in the air - aerosolized virus.
But when you're talking about bringing it closer to the human body, we then really need to think about safety issues. So anytime you are talking about UV light and contact with humans. You start to worry about carcinogenetic potential when it comes against skin. And it can also be damaging to the sensitive tissues of the eye - causing damage to the cornea and to the retina.
And so we just need to keep in mind that anything that is germicidal can also be damaging to human tissue. And be on - really be on the look out for data that confirms safety before we start exposing large numbers of people to that therapy.
BLITZER: Thank you. That's really important what you just said. Thank you. Dr. Faust a lot of people out there seem to be desperate to protect themselves so how worried are you about the president's comments for example - amplifying and approving even some dangerous treatment theories out there. Ingesting disinfectants, for example. Is that - as he said the other day.
DR. JEREMY FAUST, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, BRIGHAM & WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: I am very concerned about that. But more importantly, yes, there will be an uptick calls to poison control centers because of that. And we see an uptick there.
But I'm also really concerned with that is it distracts us from the real problem at hand. Which is that everyday thousands of people are dying and we're not doing the things that we can do that we know work in order to get that number down.
Social distancing or maybe even using even the office of the White House to get more drugs coming down the pipeline. Right now, the distractions are really abundant. As an ER doctor, I'm used to that. I'm used to seeing a distraction, hearing noise, this and that, and keeping our eye on the prize of the patient in front of us.
Right now, the patient is the whole country. And we need to make sure that people aren't doing things that are unsafe based on some idea thrown out there at a press conference. But more importantly, we need to focus in on actually saving lives and I'm worried we lose sight of that.
BLITZER: Dr. Choo, some states are beginning to re-open albeit slowly. Are you worried that people in those states - that are still restricted and other states I should say will see that as a justification to ignore local guidelines and go forth and forget about a lot of the social distancing that we've all learned to accept.
CHOO: Yes, for sure. I'm worried about collateral damage of all kinds. I mean, first of all, state's borders are not strict. They're porous. So as one state opens up liberally without all the things that we need in place like testing, state identification, contact tracing, all of those things.
And their case numbers rise within two to three weeks. We will start to see that effect bleed out to states next to it. But of course also there is that psychological effect of seeing people out and about with - getting to have fun, getting to go back to work.
Things that we all want so badly and particularly because there can be a little bit of a delay in going back to those things and seeing case numbers and fatalities rise. It's hard to stay put and wait for the data like that to inform what decisions your state makes.
It's going to be incredibly challenging to tuck in and stay put. Especially as the weather turns so nice out.
BLITZER: Yes, that's a good point. Dr. Faust what about the upside to the equation? What would you say to employees who are being called back to work who may still be afraid?
FAUST: Well in certain situations I could understand that fear because we really don't know where we are in this crisis. We just do not know. And one way that we can begin to maybe get a sense of where we are is a concept that I've been working on with a few experts.
Which you hear some about but not a lot and that's what's called excess mortality. And what that is - here in my city or a county -- every week we know that 150 people die at baseline heart attack, strokes, old age.
But right now for the first time in really in American history, we are seeing many places where there are double, triple the number of deaths from any cause that we know most of that is from corona virus.
But we can't say 100 percent. But what I'm looking for - to make people feel more reassured - is that we are getting back towards a normal rate of our usual numbers.
But right now, it's not a 20 percent uptick like you might see in a very unusual flu season. It's 200 - 300 percent. We've got to see that number come down before I would feel comfortable. So, I get it. People should be very concerned.
BLITZER: They should be concerned. As you know Dr. Choo, the vice president, Mike Pence, says that he thinks the pandemic will largely be behind us by Memorial Day Weekend. That's only - what a month away or so. Is that plausible based on what you are seeing in the ER for example?
CHOO: Well I'm -- vary different state to state. When - but we know this is a wave and that it's not going to be a uniform answer for the entire country. And so what we really need to do is look at the data for our state and see what the actual case numbers and what the hospitalization numbers and fatality numbers are.
[19:35:00] And also, make sure that we have enough testing that we are actually measuring so we can say those things with confidence.
And so right now, we are just so far behind on testing to say with certainty that there is a date that will be good for everybody. It's just hard to know where that confidence comes from. And also, the important thing to know is that it's not going to be like a light switch of course.
We re-open cautiously. We see what happens with case rates. And if indeed they continue to go down, and we can feel comfortable that we're passed the curve. And that we are continuing to progress to go in that direction then we can feel comfortable.
But I don't feel comfortable with a blanket statement that May 31st or any other date is when we'll have it definitively behind us. Particularly with our current state of testing.
BLITZER: Yes, that's a good point. Dr. Choo -- Dr. Faust, guys, thanks very much. Thanks for everything you're doing as well as we are grateful. We have a lot more coming up on the corona virus pandemic.
There's more information coming in. But also there's another major story we are following right now. For days, speculation has been swirling about the health of Korean leader Kim Jong Un. We are going to bring you the very latest on what we know right now. Stay with us. You're in the situation room.
BLITZER: We are going to return to our special coverage of the corona virus pandemic in just a moment. But first, there's another major story we're been following that's been developing. We've been closely following it all weekend. After days of speculations on the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
South Korea is now publicly downplaying rumors that he's seriously ill. With the country's top foreign policy advisor telling CNN that Kim is quote alive and well. CNN's Will Ripley is joining us now. He's got the latest.
He's joining us from Tokyo. Will, there has been a lot of concerns about Kim Jong Un's health ever since he missed the celebration of his grandfather's birthday back in April 15th. He hasn't been seen in public since April 11th.
What more do we know right now. I know you're really well plugged in. You've been to North Korea - what -- almost 20 times over the past few years. What do we know? Why would South Korea be weighing in like this?
WILL RIPLEY, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It's a very definitive statement Wolf. That they say they are basing on the fact that they are not observing any unusual movements in Wonsan where Kim Jong Un is believed to be right now. Where satellite images show what looks like his train at the spot where the supreme leadership's train is parked.
Next to his luxurious beach front compound - a place where he spent many summers as a child. He goes there quite often. He usually flies there and we don't know if he flew in. And now the train is there for a different reason.
But look, South Korea has an optimistic spin on a lot of things. They were optimistic throughout the entire falling apart of diplomatic process with the US saying that there were hopes that the talks could be revived. And of course, they haven't as of yet. Even though Kim Jong Un and President Trump reportedly still have some sort of warm relationship.
Although North Korea did deny Trump's plane last week, that he received a letter from Kim recently. What's interesting is the North Koreans flat out denied that immediately and yet they are not flat out denying these reports that are circulating around the world.
CNN's Jim Sciutto broke the story but many other news agency have come out with a whole spectrum of reports either that Kim Jong Un is recovering well or that he's on death's door. I take a lot of this with a grain of salt.
When Kim Jong Il died back in 2011, for two days it was business as usual. There was certainly no suspicious or unusual movements observed. And then North Korea shocked the world with the announcement that Kim Jong Il had died very suddenly of a heart attack on his train they claimed.
And so this time around I'm waiting until we hear the facts from the North Koreans. And I think it's definitely noteworthy in telling that some of my very well placed (ph) sources, Wolf.
A well week or so into this have absolutely no idea what's going on with Kim Jong Un's health. This kind of total information black out is very telling. The silence is very telling.
Until we hear something, a confirmation, adenial, something from North Korea. This kind of speculation is going to continue. And I don't hold a whole lot of stock into any of these theories until we hear it from the North Koreans or from Kim himself - if he is able to speak.
BLITZER: Yes because there are a lot of different possibilities out there. Isn't the first time Kim Jong Un has actually just disappeared from public view? As you know Will, he vanished from public for about 40 days back in 2014 only to re-emerge with a cane after surgery. Possibly that could happen again, right?
RIPLEY: It certainly is possible, but I will say that very well plugged in sources point out a key difference between then and now. Yes there were some on off death rumors swirling around at that time but nothing like this. The intelligence that was coming in from China, from the US, from South Korea was not as explicit as this. This is why I think people are taking this more seriously right now Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Will Ripley in Tokyo monitoring this. If you get some more information on this you'll immediately of course let us know. Thanks very much for that report. Up next, take a look at this.
This was the scene court side - watch this - six weeks ago with the Dallas Maverick's owner Mark Cuban learned the NBA would be suspending its season. The world has certainly changed in unimaginable ways since then but now there are reports that may represent at least a tiny glimmer of hope of a return to basketball.
The Dallas Maverick's owner Mark Cuban, he's standing by live. We will discuss the very latest right when we come back. We will be right back.
BLITZER: This weekend NFL Draft -- the NFL Draft gave sports fans a little bit of taste of what they've been missing but it certainly wasn't a good as the actual game.
So fans like me were intrigued by a report earlier today by ESPN that the NBA is actually looking to reopen team training facilities in various states that are now loosening stay at home orders. Could this be a first step toward the NBA playing games again for the first time since March 11th.
Joining us now to discuss is Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Mark, thanks so much for joining us. I know you got a lot going on right now. Can you first of all, confirm this ESPN report that you're looking to reopen the Maverick's training facilities, for example?
MARK CUBAN, OWNER DALLAS, MAVERICKS: They're -- yes, we've gotten no guidance from the NBA at this point, Wolf. I think that was a little bit premature. With that said, honestly the minute it's safe we want to try to get back and get the guys practicing and getting ready for games but we're not there yet.
BLITZER: About a month a go you said, and I'm quoting now, you said hopefully by the middle of May we're starting to get back to normal and the NBA is playing games. Are you still confident that that timetable might actually work?
CUBAN: Mid-May? No, at this point. Again, I don't want to give any specifics that would be a mistake. But I can tell you that we're a little bit more confident that the technology and the medicine's going to be there.
But we're not ready to make any commitments. And that's why when this report came out earlier today I was caught off guard. I read it on Twitter like everybody else. There's no new news that I'm aware of.
BLITZER: If we do get games this season, I'm a big MBA fan, as you know, will there be fans in the stadiums, in the arenas. Will there be people in the seats or will they just play the game for television and nobody in the stands. CUBAN: I think it will be a made for television event. I seriously do. I don't see how between now and starting games, whenever that may be, there'll be protocols in place that we can have confidence in.
And the last thing we want to do is not only put our players and important personnel in jeopardy but obviously the fans. And so we're not going to do anything until it's absolutely positively safe.
BLITZER: Well, does it make sense though from -- you're an owner -- from the owner's perspective, from the NBA, for Adam Silver, the commissioner, does it make sense to let the games -- I mean we'd love to sit back on a Sunday or any time during the week, watch a game on television even it if there's nobody in the stands. Does that make any sense from your perspective as an owner?
CUBAN: Yes, absolutely 100 percent. If we can play with no fans, I'm certainly going to push for it and I think the league will do it. I think we have a moral obligation to do it, Wolf. I mean we're dying for content, we're dying for teams to root for, we're dying to get excited about games, and just dying -- just ready to go and cheer as a community.
And so yes, I really think that if we're able to pull it off without fans, we're certainly going to do it. And like I said, we have a moral obligation to do it.
BLITZER: Well, what about the players themselves because they're obviously -- you know you watch basketball, they're in close contact with each other. Are they ready to risk that do you think? Have you spoken to the players?
CUBAN: Yes, I mean I've spoken -- I spoke to some today and they're dying to play again. Obviously there'll be some things that change just like when Magic Johnson declared he had HIV.
You know there were some adjustments and guys went through a learning process. But I think that our -- our players are ready to play. And of course, we'll have all the precautions in place.
And plus we'll go through kind of training camp or something similar before we actually start playing where we'll learn all the adjustments that'll have to be made.
BLITZER: You -- you've donated and I've read this, what, half a million dollars to two hospitals along with two of your players, the Maverick's Foundation, what do you think because a lot of the owners, your colleagues out there, they're doing something similar right now to help the communities, especially the heroes who are on the front lines.
CUBAN: Yes, I'm proud of my peers because I think we've all stepped, particularly in the NBA to really take a stand that we don't get to do what we do unless the heroes on the front line in healthcare and not just in healthcare, I mean just funeral parlors just talking to people. You know it's so hard right now that if there's a death in the family, I think we all in urban communities know somebody who's passed away from COVID, you're not able to have family there and the death care workers have really been the unsung heroes. So we've tried -- I've tried to do some things there as well because they're the last sort -- you know line of compassion when you can't have family there.
So we're just trying to help out all those who really have gone above and beyond the line of duty to help us.
BLITZER: Well, thank you to everything you're doing, Mark Cuban, appreciate it very much. We will stay in close touch with you and I'd love to see an NBA game sooner rather than later. But everybody's got to be -- air on the side of caution. We've got to be safe as we all know. Thanks so much for joining us.
CUBAN: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me. Stay safe.
BLITZER: Thank you. And as everybody knows, this is a really confusing and scary time for all of us but especially for kids. CNN hosted a town hall with Sesame Street this weekend, the ABC's of COVID-19 to answer some of their questions.
It featured, of course; Big Bird, Grover, the Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, and of course Elmo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELMO, SESAME STREET: Elmo has a question for Dr. Sanjay.
SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT CNN: Sure.
ELMO: Elmo's seen lots of people wearing masks outside but it's not Halloween so why are people wearing costumes?
GUPTA: Well, those aren't costumes, Elmo. You know just like doctors wear masks in hospitals when they take care of people, you're going to see people now wearing masks outside as well.
And the reason they're wearing masks like this is to protect people in public from their germs and things like that. They don't want to spread your germs and these masks can help with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I loved -- I loved seeing the Sesame Street characters with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Erica Hill, it was really a terrific, terrific program and the kids I'm sure loved it as well. By the way, we here in the situation room, we also make sure that we reach out to kids back in 2011, watch this, I had the great honor of interviewing Kermit the Frog.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
You know it's very exciting for me. You know what my first name is.
KERMIT THE FROG, MUPPET CHARACTER: I -- I do. I do. The first time I ever heard it I thought you were an actual wolf.
BLITZER: That's what I mean. It's exciting for this wolf to meet this frog.
KERMIT: You should have your own news network, it should be Wolf News.
BLITZER: You think.
KERMIT: I think so.
BLITZER: What about Frog News.
KERMIT: Well, maybe we could join up.
BLITZER: Wolf and Frog.
KERMIT: Wolf -- I'll let you have top billing (ph). Wolf and Frog.
BLITZER: Frog and Wolf.
KERMIT: Works for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I loved -- I love that. That was one of the highlights of my career. To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I am Wolf Blitzer. This has been a special addition of the situation room. I'll be back, of course tomorrow, 5 PM Eastern in the Situation Room. CNN tonight with Don Lemon is next after a quick break. Have a good night and stay safe.