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THE SITUATION ROOM

Awaiting The White House Coronavirus Briefing As Number Of U.S. Coronavirus Cases Nears One Million; More States Move To Reopen Despite Lack Of Testing And Tracing; Gloria Borger Argues That Doctors And Medical Experts Are Filling A Leadership Vacuum Left By The President; Birx: U.S. Needs A COVID-19 Testing "Breakthrough;" GA Restaurants & Theaters Reopen Today, Despite Warnings. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 27, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they took my sister off the vent, my nephew and I were able to be in the room with her. Her eyes opened just a little bit. A tear ran down her face and it looked like she was trying to say goodbye or I love you or something. My nephew and I both had to tell her it was OK.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: May her memory be a blessing. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): 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 THE SITUATION ROOM and we're following breaking news. We're standing by for remarks by President Trump in the White House Rose Garden. The White House says this is a news conference that's about to begin.

A source tells CNN that the White House will release two documents on coronavirus testing today, one a blueprint providing guidance for increasing testing as states begin to reopen, the other document an overview of testing so far. We'll monitor that.

Also breaking right now, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has just announced he'll let his stay-at-home order expire on Thursday, allowing businesses like retail stores, malls, restaurants, theaters to reopen with limited occupancy. Georgia and Tennessee were among the states allowing some businesses including restaurants to reopen today.

That comes as the U.S. death toll now surpasses 55,000 with almost one million -- one million confirmed cases. Worldwide, there have been more than 200,000 deaths and three million cases, probably a whole lot more than that.

First, let's go straight to the White House. Our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is monitoring these developments. Jim, first of all, you're getting new information from your sources. What do you learn?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump is holding a news conference to talk about a new testing strategy in just a few moments for the coronavirus. But the strategy appears to include more burden-shifting to the states. White House documents on this new testing strategy describe the federal government as "the supplier of last resort," according to these documents we just looked at.

The White House, in the meantime, had been going back and forth over the last 24 hours over whether there would even be a news conference this evening. The choppy messaging comes just days after the president suggested that people can inject themselves with disinfectants as a cure for the virus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Still reeling from President Trump's suggestion that Americans inject themselves with disinfectants to kill the coronavirus, White House officials are struggling to get their message back on track, scheduling a news conference for Monday, then cancelling it.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're not tracking a briefing for today because there will be a press avail at 4:00 p.m. with the president and retail CEOs --

ACOSTA (voice-over): Then roughly three hours later, the news conference was back, all after a weekend when the president and the Coronavirus Task Force took a break from their daily briefings as aides batted around new ideas for his press conferences after Mr. Trump's jaw-dropping comments last week.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then I said supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you're going to test that, too. It sounds interesting. And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning, because you see it gets in the lungs.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Top doctors on the task force have grown weary of the topic.

DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: It bothers me that this is still in the news cycle because I think we're missing the bigger pieces of what we need to be doing as an American people to continue to protect one another.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Hoping to change the subject, the president is rage-tweeting his grievances, insisting the people that know me and know the history of our country say that I'm the hardest working president in history. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows praised his boss to The New York Post. "I can tell you that the biggest concern I have as a new chief of staff is making sure he gets some time to get a quick bite to eat."

Still, the president has time to tweet. "When will all the reporters who have received Noble Prizes for their work on Russia, Russia, Russia be turning back their cherished "Nobles?" Realizing he had misspelled the word "Nobel," Mr. Trump tweeted, "Does anybody get the meaning of what a so-called Noble (not Nobel) Prize is, especially as it pertains to reporters and journalists? Does sarcasm ever work?" The same sarcasm excuse he used about injecting disinfectants.

D. TRUMP: But I was asking a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is nursing his grudges as Dr. Birx acknowledged testing for the coronavirus in the U.S. is still lacking.

BIRX: But at the same time, we have to realize that we have to have a breakthrough innovation in testing. We have to be able to detect antigen rather than constantly trying to detect the actual live virus or the viral particles itself and to really move into antigen testing.

[17:05:00]

ACOSTA (voice-over): The outlook for the economy is also dire, with one White House adviser warning jobless numbers may hearken back to the Great Depression.

KEVIN HASSETT, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: The drop-off which we're about to see, you know, in the next few weeks, we'll see major signs of it, is going to look like a drop that's as big as anything we've seen since the Great Depression. That does not mean in any way that we're going to have a great depression.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Though other White House aides are pushing back on that.

PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: Good morning. My brother Hassett is all gloom and doom.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: One indication the White House is ready to move on, I'm told the president's disinfectant comments did not come up at a meeting held by the Coronavirus Task Force on Saturday. White House officials had said they wanted to scale back on these news conferences but a Trump adviser put it this way. He said the president likely won't want to give up on the huge audiences that are drawn to these news conferences. We know he likes to tweet about the ratings.

BLITZER: He certainly does. We'll stand by for his remarks in the Rose Garden. That is coming up we're told very soon. Let's get some more though right now in the Texas reopening. Our national correspondent Erica Hill is joining us. Erica, the state's stay-at-home order in Texas will expire on Thursday. Update our viewers.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's right. Governor Greg Abbott announced just a short time ago he will allow the stay-at-home order to expire on Thursday. That means that on Friday, May 1st, businesses will be allowed to reopen. We're talking retail stores, malls, restaurants with dining in, and theaters. Now, they will be limited to 25 percent capacity. But this is a pretty broad measure to allow all of these businesses to reopen at once. One thing that's notable, Wolf, is the governor said things like barbershops, hair salons, and gyms. He does want to bring those back but likely not before mid-May.

Seeing what's happening in Texas and comparing that with what is happening here in New York where it will be some time before you will see those restrictions lifted is another reminder of just how different the response is depending on where you are in the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome.

HILL (voice-over): Change is coming. What it looks like depends on where you live.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We decided we wanted to play our part in helping get things started again.

HILL (voice-over): In Montana, churches resuming Sunday services although with strict physical distancing and limited capacity. Restaurants in Georgia and neighboring Tennessee can reopen today with new safety measures.

NJERI BOSS, WAFFLE HOUSE: They're going to get the welcome to Waffle House, the greeting that we're all excited to be able to give them. But when they come in, it will be very clear where they can and cannot sit.

HILL (voice-over): Tennessee's governor wants a majority of businesses open by Friday. The largest counties, which include Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville, will set their own timeline. More than a dozen states have started easing restrictions as business leaders and health officials warn more testing is still needed.

PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR, DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: What we're seeing now are governors increasingly putting together economic recovery teams but it's completely delinked to the public health component.

HILL (voice-over): Denver's mayor choosing to delay reopening as his state moves forward.

MAYOR MICHAEL HANCOCK, DENVER, COLORADO: We didn't feel like we are ready. We felt like more needed to be done before we begin to ease ourselves out of this. This virus is not going away. It is going to remain with us for a while. We need to make sure we're building an infrastructure for the long haul.

HILL (voice-over): Mississippi still urging residents to stay home, maintaining its ban on gatherings of more than ten people, allowing retail stores to open today with restrictions. In Florida, more beaches poised to welcome residents as the governor once pushing to reopen adopts a cautious tone.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I'm less concerned about a specific date than I am about getting it right.

HILL (voice-over): Ohio, one of the first states to take aggressive measures, announcing today its stay-at-home orders will remain in place although a phased reopening will begin Friday. Retail, however, won't resume for another two weeks. In New York, expect some areas, including hard-hit New York City, to open much later.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): In some parts of the state, some regions, you could make the case that we should un-pause on May 15. But you have to be smart about it. There is no light switch where you flick a switch and everybody goes back to doing what they're doing.

HILL (voice-over): Tyson's chicken processing facility in Shelbyville, Tennessee, linked to more than 120 coronavirus cases, closed for deep cleaning amid new questions about the country's food supply. The company's largest pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa, still shuttered as the company's chairman warns the nation's food supply chain is breaking. Hog farmers in Minnesota are considering euthanizing animals if they can't be processed.

DAVID PREISLER, CEO, MINNESOTA PORK PRODUCERS ASSOCIATION: It's actually tragic to have that conversation because it just becomes a waste of food.

HILL (voice-over): Experts note there is in a food that consumers may not see the variety they're used to, while across the country, the need for help and the strain on local food banks continues to grow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[17:10:00]

HILL: Just one more example of that disparity, we learned from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today that there were dairy farmers in upstate New York who have to pour out some of their products because the supply chain they were used to is not operating in the same way.

He said there has been an initiative started here in New York State that will bring some of those products, milk, yogurt, and other dairy products to food banks downstate, here in the lower part of the state, where the need is increasing.

BLITZER: Erica Hill reporting. Thanks very much, Erica, for that. Joining us now is the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us in this incredibly busy time. We are grateful to you. As you know, the president is expected to release some new information about federal efforts to ramp up testing in a few minutes. Has the federal government from your perspective as mayor of Los Angeles done enough right now?

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D), LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Well, they've been very helpful in certain areas. Certainly some of the direct aid that we've just gotten from the CARES Act, getting the United States naval ship "Mercy." We could use more help with is of course on testing. We've had to stand this up alone, figure out with firefighters how to do it. We need probably double the amount of testing before we can start to reopen.

I love what folks have been saying, you can't just reopen without the capacity to test. You can't think about this just as an economic question. Health and economy are linked together. That's certainly how we're looking at it.

So I hope that we can hear some more help, direct help, maybe in the sense of assistance with laboratories and lab kits, and certainly with swabs and reagents. That to us is the backlog, even though L.A. is now probably second only to New York in tests per capita of a big city.

BLITZER: Should the federal government, mayor, act as what this new document that the White House is releasing, as a "supplier of last resort," or should they take the lead on testing?

GARCETTI: I don't know. I read it literally. It's the United States of America. And I'm a big believer in federalism. We can do things here in California that are different than in Indiana or Alabama. But when it comes to these national needs, whether it is defense, our foreign policy, international trade or a pandemic, I do believe that a strong national government should be the ones procuring things so we're not competing against each other.

You know, whether it's 79 cents per mask or $7 per mask, it's an embarrassment that we all have to find our own kits and our own processing facilities and laboratories. I hope we can also stand up CARES corps federal money to help us get those public health professionals, help people apply for those small business loans. It would be a marvellous way for the federal government to help fund testing, track and tracing and economic assistance local governments to get that done.

BLITZER: A lot of mayors around the country will agree with you on that. According to The New York Times, President Trump has suggested on a call with governors today that some schools should reopen before the end of this academic year, the end of June, let's say. The president said, and I'm quoting, the young children have done very well in this disaster that we've all gone through, so a lot of people are thinking about the school openings.

Schools all across California are closed until the next academic year, I take it in September. Do you see any reason to reverse that decision?

GARCETTI: No. Wolf, we don't. And there's been a huge adjustment. It's been very tough on kids. I say this as a father of an 8-year-old. Learning how to learn online, a lot of families and communities that don't have internet access or don't have computers, teachers learning how to do that.

It's good that we're learning these skills and building this capacity because I think that this is going to be a series of expansions and contractions. As cases go back up in the country in later months, we'll probably go back home for schooling, for work. So it's good that we're building this up.

But there certainly been a huge slip. I'm worried about the kids right now that have fallen behind. I think it is way too early. Look, you get a lot of credit for moving quickly at the beginning of this and taking action as we did out here in California. You don't get a lot of credit for moving too quickly to reopen. In fact, it's the greatest risk.

So I hope that everybody will stop pretending that some places are reopening and some places are closed. Everybody is going to take baby steps whether that is in the days or weeks from now. Ninety-five percent closed is still pretty close. And then we have to assess and decide whether you can take another step forward or whether you halt or whether you need to go backwards.

That is the framework we should be talking about instead of making this a partisan, hey, these people are reopening and these people are keeping things closed. Listen to the health professionals. It is about steps and assessing, seeing where you are, and then deciding whether you can take another one.

BLITZER: States and communities, as you know, all across the country are beginning to reopen businesses. Can you give us an update on when Los Angeles will begin to ease restrictions?

GARCETTI: Yeah. So our order runs through May 15th. We're talking with our public health professionals. I think there are some spaces and some places that probably after that we'll look at safely reopening. But I say to everybody here in Los Angeles and across the country, you need to look at three things.

[17:15:02]

GARCETTI: How great is the need for that thing, either psychologically or economically. Second, how great is the risk of reopening that thing. And third, what do you have to make it safe. And if you look at those things through need, risk, and safety, I think you can make the right decisions not out of your emotions, like, hey, I would love to go to the beach, but look at what's the greatest need, where can we get people back to work safely.

For instance, we've had construction workers safely inspected with PPE working throughout this in Southern California and there hasn't been a cluster. It's a great example of how you can do this safely. At the same time, I wouldn't open up my parks tomorrow and have, you know, thousands of people side by side at them. So you have to be very measured, you have to be very strong, and you have to listen to the medical doctors.

BLITZER: Los Angeles has kept its beaches closed during a heat wave this weekend. But some of your neighboring counties in Southern California, they opened their beaches despite the statewide stay-at- home order. Are you concerned about residents of your city driving just across to another county and going to the beach and then heading back?

GARCETTI: Absolutely. I think regions got to work together on this. I haven't heard any health professionals who are recommending here in Southern California to open the beaches yet. But all it takes is one to open and people go there.

And the thing is, you won't know, Wolf, for two or three weeks, what was the impact of that decision. Was it rash? You'll again never be punished for waiting a little bit longer but you could see a huge, you know, punishment that comes from folks beginning to spread this and seeing that tick up again.

The more disciplined we are today, the quicker the end will come and the more prosperous we'll be. The more slippage we have today, the longer this wait will be, the more people will die, and the economy will be hurt more.

BLITZER: Mayor Garcetti, good luck to you, good luck to everybody in L.A. We'll watch it closely. We're hoping, of course, for the best. Thank you very much for joining us.

GARCETTI: Thank you. Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you. Stay with us. Once again, we're awaiting the president's coronavirus news conference at the White House. We'll have coverage. We'll also take a closer look at the president's erratic behavior in recent days as he takes to Twitter to lash out and complain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D. TRUMP: -- testing and capacity. Within 48 hours, the number --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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[17:20:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Once again, we're awaiting President Trump's coronavirus news conference. He's getting ready to leave the Oval Office and walk into the Rose Garden. We'll have coverage, of course, of that. He's about to make two announcements, we're told, on the coronavirus testing issue.

In the meantime, let's bring in our chief political analyst Gloria Borger. Gloria, the brand new column, a very strong column you have written for CNN.com, you argue that doctors and medical experts are filling a leadership vacuum left by the president. And you write this. Let me quote from your article. "Doctors around the country are being heard. They have all taken the same oath: Do no harm. Now there's a corollary: don't let the president do any, either."

After the president got so much blowback for his remarks about potentially injecting disinfectants into the body, the question is, is he finally willing to step back, Gloria, and let the doctors, the scientists take center stage?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we're going to see in a few minutes, Wolf, because the president having said he wasn't going to meet with the press suddenly decides, yes, he is going to meet with the press, and we know that they're putting out some guidelines for testing as the states move forward.

But the point that I was really making is that the president has not been leading in the way he should, and that he's been giving people bad information and making the scientists do contortions in looking at the floor and anywhere else rather than look directly at the president as he suggested that perhaps hydroxychloroquine could be an easy fix or suggesting that you perhaps should inject your body with disinfectant.

I think that was the moment where the president's friends, Republicans, and even some people in the White House understood that they had to fix something and not let the president keep doing this both to himself as well as to the American public.

And so I do think we're going to see a shift. And what I hope is that the president's science advisers will give him their unvarnished opinions, information, facts, details in private so that they can then come out and talk to the American public about it.

BLITZER: Is there's a real understanding, Gloria, within the White House about why it's so important for the experts to be front and center right now?

BORGER: I think there is. And don't forget how this started, Wolf. It started with Mike Pence, who is leading the Coronavirus Task Force, coming out with the experts, and briefing the American public. And the experts were the ones who were really by and large answering the questions, as was Mike Pence. Then the president decided that he needed to come out there and be the person who was center stage.

As we all know, the president does not like to share the stage with anyone. And he saw this as an opportunity to talk to the American public directly about himself and how well he was doing and how quickly this would all dissipate.

Instead, it became a real problem for him. And I think the president reads polls very directly and sees that he was not doing himself any good, that in fact if you look at the numbers, the American public trusts Dr. Tony Fauci by nearly two to one over the president of the United States.

[17:25:07]

BLITZER: Gloria, stand by for a moment. I want to bring in our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

BORGER: Mm-hmm. BLITZER: Sanjay, we expect moments from now the president to announce new testing guidance at this White House news conference in the Rose Garden. We're looking at live pictures right now. He is about to leave the Oval Office and walk down those stairs.

Just yesterday, the Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, said the United States needed, in her words, a breakthrough innovation in testing. What kind of technological breakthroughs are needed in order for the U.S. to meet this critical testing need?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, right. Well, you know, the goal ultimately, Wolf, is to be able to have enough widespread testing available that people can have confidence when they're starting to reopen and people are going into the public and starting to be in situations where they still maintain physical distance as much as possible but may not always be able to do that.

There are a few different tests. I think we have a graphic of this if we can show it that we have been talking about. There's this test that actually tests for the virus itself. That's known as a PCR test. You're actually just looking in that case for a piece of genetic material, and then you get to basically amplify that material so you can test for it.

It is a complicated test in the sense that you need lots of different pieces. You need the swabs, Wolf, we've been talking about. You need the medium to transport the swab. You need these reagents. The point is that you need all these different things. And if you're missing one of them, those tests are hard to perform even if you can become faster at them.

There's the antibody test, Wolf, we've talked about that can tell you whether or not you've had the infection in the past and you're likely to have some protection if you have the antibody. They're still researching that. It's the bottom one, Wolf, the antigen test that Dr. Deborah Birx was talking about. This is just basically looking for a piece of the virus, a protein that is on the surface of the virus.

It can be easier to test for. You don't need as much of the other stuff like the reagents. Wolf, I don't know if you know anybody who has ever had a rapid strep test. Kids often get this to check for strep throat or something. It can be a very rapid test, oftentimes done in the doctor's office, get a result back quickly.

Even the flu test, you know, you can get this sort of rapid antigen flu tests done. That can be really helpful if people can get it done, get a result back, and then say I have the confidence now to walk into whichever place, you know, a place of work that is where it's difficult to physically distance or some other event.

Until people have that confidence, I think what Ambassador Birx was saying, it's going to be hard to reopen the economy. Sure, you can open things, but if people don't have confidence that I am not harbouring the virus inside my body and thus spreading it and the people around me don't have the virus in their body, that's what you really need to get to. Now, the challenge, the breakthrough part of it is these tests aren't always that reliable, as has been the case with some other tests. Some of those rapid antigen tests can have a high false negative rate which obviously would defeat the purpose.

So the breakthrough is to be able to create a really reliable, fast test that is not dependent on lots of different stuff, lot of different, you know, things that are in the supply chain. That would be the holy grail and that would be, you know, something that could be put in all these different places around the country so people would have really access to them, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm going to have Sanjay and Gloria stand by. We're going to have a lot more with them. Sanjay also is going to be coming back later to answer your coronavirus questions. We're standing by for this news conference in the Rose Garden to begin. We'll have live coverage when we come back.

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[17:33:33]

BLITZER,: Looking at live pictures coming in from the Rose Garden at the White House, you see some of the reporters seated already. Fairly soon, we're told the President will walk down those stairs and make a statement. And then we're told, answer reporters' questions. We'll have coverage, of course.

Meanwhile, restaurants and theaters are cleared to open today in Georgia as the state remains in the forefront of letting businesses try to get back to some sort of normal. Let's go to CNN's Martin Savidge. Martin, what are you seeing first of all?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let me show you. I mean, here we are. This is one of those places that has opened up its dining room, is empty. The only people in here are staff. And it has been very empty throughout the day.

You can see what they've done, is they've got tables that are essentially marked close. This is the way that they do the social distancing here, reorganizing the dining room area, and they have to the need state requirement, they can only have 10 people for every 500 square feet. So that's a severe limitation.

That's easily done. It's the kitchen in many restaurants. That's the problem. They're often tight quarters. But the story overall is that many restaurants did not open today. They're having all sorts of issues, whether it's fear of the virus or whether it's just sheer logistics of getting the safety equipment they need for their staff. Or it could be that they just feel now it's not the right time.

And those restaurants that did open, and this is the second one we've seen today, very limited numbers of people. Most people aren't comfortable coming back and dining in a restaurant. Now, Wolf, they still carry out. That may improve as the days go on, hopefully.

[17:35:03]

BLITZER: Yes, you can't blame them. A lot of nervousness going on right now for very good reason. Martin Savidge in Atlanta for us. Thanks, Martin very much.

Joining us now the Mayor of Albany, Georgia, Bo Dorough, Bo Dorough.

Mr. Mayor, thank you very much. I should say Dorough, correct pronunciation of your last name. Your town of Albany is one of the hardest hit areas in the state. Your county also seemed more deaths from coronavirus than any other county in Georgia. Do business owners, where you are, feel they can safely reopen their doors right now?

MAYOR BO DOROUGH, ALBANY, GEORGIA: Well, Wolf, I don't know where Mr. Savidge's report was from, but here in Albany, the situation's exaggerated. I mean, we have had -- we're still having deaths as we speak. Our rates are declining. But I don't think the people who've all been in Dougherty County are quite ready to go back to business as usual.

And certainly, our people are apprehensive about going into public places such as restaurants. And unfortunately, I think the few restaurants in town which they've opened are not going to have much in the way of revenue in the next few weeks.

BLITZER: Yes. And you can't blame, as I said. Martin Savidge was in Atlanta for us, the State Capitol, the largest city, obviously, in Georgia and people are nervous there as well. They certainly have a good reason to be nervous in Albany where you are.

The Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, he continued the reopening decision, even after President Trump said he strongly, his word, strongly disagrees. Do you worry the Governor has put the lives potentially of Albany residents, others in Georgia at risk by reopening despite these warnings?

DOROUGH: No, I hope not. But I hope I'm wrong. But my concern, what am -- my concern is for my fellow Georgians, Wolf, but more than that, the Governor should have carved out an exception to places like Albany where the infection rates continue to be exceedingly high. I mean, for instance, this state by state approach has some flaws and one of which -- let's take Pennsylvania, if the rates were coming down in Pennsylvania, but Pittsburgh retained remained a hotspot, well, then exceptions should be carved out for Pittsburgh, obviously, so that the citizens of that locale could be protected.

BLITZER: Did the Governor call you and consult with you before making this decision? I've spoken to several of other mayors in Georgia, they say they never heard from him.

DOROUGH: Well, I think that sort of unfair. The Governor had a decision to make, and I believe he knows what our position was. We made our position known. And we have requested since the Governor expressed his intention to reopen the state to make -- we asked for an exception to Albany, we were advised that the governor felt that it was absolutely essential to have universal regulations throughout the state. And the Governor's office did commit to the people of Albanian elsewhere that if we see infection rates increase --

BLITZER: Mayor, I apologize, I'm going to interrupt for a moment. I want to go to the Rose Garden in the White House. Mayor, we'll continue this down the road. Thank you.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today I'd like to provide you with an update in our war against the coronavirus. Thanks to our comprehensive strategy and extraordinary devotion to our citizens. We've had such tremendous support all over.

We continue to see encouraging signs of progress. Cases in New York area, New Orleans, Detroit, Boston, and Houston are declining. Denver, Seattle, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Nashville, Indianapolis, and St Louis are all stable and declining.

All parts of the country are either in good shape, getting better, in all cases, getting better, and we're seeing very little that we're going to look at as a superseding hotspot. Things are moving along really a horrible situation that we've been confronted with, but they're moving along.

As we express our gratitude for these hard-fought gains however, we continue to mourn with thousands of families across the country whose loved ones have been stolen from us by the invisible enemy.

We grieve by their side as one family, this great American family, and we do grieve. We also stand in solidarity with the thousands of Americans who are ill and waging a brave fight against the virus. We're doing everything in our power to heal the sick and to gradually reopen our nation and to safely get our people back to work. They want to get back to work and they want to get back to work soon.

There's a hunger for getting our country back and it's happening, and it's happening faster than people would think.

[17:40:07]

Ensuring the health of our economy is vital to ensuring the health of our nation. These goals work in tandem. They work side by side. It's clear that our aggressive strategy to slow the spread has been working and is saving countless lives. For those who are infected. We've taken unprecedented action to ensure they have the highest level of care anywhere in the world.

The federal government has built more than 11,000 extra beds, shipped or delivered hundreds of millions of pieces of personal protective equipment. As you know, in fact, some of the people here are going to be talking about it.

Some of our greatest executives, some of the greatest anywhere in the world, and distributed over 10,000 ventilators and we now have, in a very short period of time, many have been delivered and hundreds of thousands are being built and frankly, every governor has more ventilators right now than they know what to do with.

They're actually shipping them to different locations and we're shipping some to our allies and others throughout the world because we have ventilators like the job that they've done and getting this very complex piece of equipment built is actually incredible. You don't hear about ventilators anymore except in a positive way. We've launched the most ambitious testing effort, likewise on earth.

The United States has now conducted more than 5.4 million tests, nearly double the number tested in any other country, more than twice as much as any other country. Think of that. Moments ago, I came from a meeting with some of our nation's largest retailers, including Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, and Kroger.

We're joined by the leaders of those great companies and we also have with us the leaders from the world's top medical diagnostics companies and suppliers, Thermo Fisher, LabCorp, Quest, U.S. Carlton (ph) and the American Clinical Laboratory Association.

These are great, great companies. These private sector leaders along with others such as Roche, Abbott, Becton Dickinson, Hologic and Cepheid have been exceptional partners in an unprecedented drive to expand the state's capabilities and our country's capabilities. The job they've done has been incredible. The testing that's been developed and being developed right now has been truly an amazing thing.

I want to thank Abbott Laboratories for the job they've done. I want to thank Roche and in particular those two have really stepped forward Abbott with a five minute test that people can take and in five minutes they know what the answer is. I'd like to ask if I could, the executives of these great companies and are -- they have really helped us a lot over the last 45-day period.

We're talking about a 45-day period when many of us met and since then what Walmart and the others have done has been nothing short of amazing. So I just want to ask them to come forward and say a few words about their company plus they're going to make a big contribution to our country. Please, come forward please. Thank you.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue to monitor that event over there in the Rose Garden. Once the questions from the reporter start, we'll go back to it. We'll keep you up to speed on what's going on. The President voicing some encouraging words that things are moving along and suggesting 5.4 million tests have already been done here in the United States more than anywhere else.

Kaitlan Collins, our White House Correspondent. We had been told he was going to makes two major announcements on testing. I didn't hear any major announcements, specific announcements, at least not yet. Did you?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No. So far it looks like he's just inviting these CEOs up on stage are waiting to hear what he lays out about these documents. These are two documents the President discussed on a call -- that the White House discussed on a call with governors earlier. Basically, one lays out what the administration says they've done so far on testing, so there aren't any updates in that. The second is a blueprint for basically how they envision things going forward as we start to see these states open up because, Wolf, you know, as well as I do that, that has been the number one concern for states as they are looking at how to start reopening their communities that they say they want to reopen, but they just aren't sure if they're there yet on testing.

And we've heard those concerns echoed by some of the doctors on the President's own Coronavirus Task Force team. So we're waiting to see what updates we actually get from the President on what's going to be different about this testing because what it looks like in the blueprint document that we obtained from someone who was on that call of the White House earlier is that they still believe it is going to be up to the states to handle the majority of this and for local governments to execute the actual test.

[17:45:08]

And they say the federal government is going to be a supplier as a last resort basically, which is something that the President and his other aides including Jared Kushner have been saying for some time now. So the question is really going to be what are they saying that's going to satisfy these questions we've seen from states over the last few days as they are moving forward with testing.

And, Wolf, we're looking at this Rose Garden event, the President's got the CEOs that were meeting with him earlier today, and they're including Walmart, target several other stores. Remember, those are the same CEOs that were with the President in the Rose Garden in March when they unveiled several announcements, though the President was touting including that public-private partnership, where they were going to be doing testing and parking lots, the President said. And actually that was an effort that floundered for several weeks.

We reported here at CNN and is just now starting to pick up more steam with several of these companies starting to basically implement that drive through testing, which is not happening in a lot of their parking lots. So the question really is going to be coming out of this, you know, what are the updates?

Because you've also got to remember they weren't going to have this briefing today, this news conference at the White House has announced. And we're still waiting to see if he takes questions, because the President got so much backlash for that briefing that he had on Thursday with the remarks that he made, of course.

BLITZER: And then on Friday, there was a very short, little briefing in the briefing room 22 minutes. And the President didn't answer any questions on Friday. There was no briefing Saturday, no briefing yesterday. Let's see if the President answers questions in the Rose Garden after all these executives make some remarks.

You know, Dana Bash is with us as well. Dana, it's unfolding right now. This event in the Rose Garden, as there's a lot of concern at the White House, were told about the format how to go forward with these Coronavirus Task Force briefings and what the role of the President as opposed to the doctors and the scientists should be.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, which is why as Kaitlan was just reporting it was a late add that he had this rose garden event in the first place. The White House Press Secretary said there would be no briefing today and there weren't briefings Saturday and Sunday, which was different from what we have seen. As you know, Wolf, you've been working every day. So you know what happens on the weekends.

But one thing that is going to be interesting is whether or not the President does talk about those two documents that Kaitlan mentioned. The two documents that were presented to the governors on this call today, because it is something that is giving some governors a little ray of hope.

I spoke to one of the governors who was on that call today, who said that they have spent -- that the White House has spent three days making calls to individual governors, the administration, I should say, members of the task force saying what do you need. Tell us exactly what your asks are when it comes to testing, swabs, everything that go reagents, everything that goes into doing a proper test.

And so the governor's gave that information. And what the call today was just kind of touching base with the governor saying we hear you. We're going to try to get you what you need and we're going to tell you what we can get you in the next couple of days. And this governor I spoke to said, they hope it's going to be concrete. But when they actually give a timeline and a commitment, they'll see. This governor said this was at least a commitment to give us a commitment, which is way more than they have gotten on a broad and a very clear strategic scale today.

BASH: You know, Sanjay, Sanjay -- Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us still. You know, Sanjay, when the President says more than 5.4 million tests here in the United States have already been done. We all know, and you've been making this a very, very strong point, Dr. Fauci has made it a strong point. A lot more needs to be done to deal with this crisis.

GUPTA: Yes, Wolf. I mean, I think, you know, people have different ways of sort of approaching these numbers. I think looking at the absolute number is probably not the really critical point or even comparing this to other countries is not the critical point. I think that the better way to sort of look at this and say, are we getting to the point of testing where we're actually starting to feel like we're doing surveillance, like we're getting an idea of what's going on in the communities.

And one way to think about that is that when your test results -- when you're starting to get 10 percent of the results coming back positive. So the majority are coming back negative, but 10 percent are coming back positive, that's sort of an indication that you're, you're testing enough. So that has nothing to do with the absolute tests.

In some places, you may not need to test as much to get a 10 percent positive, some places you can have to test a lot more, that may be a better way to sort of look at it. If you sort of look at that backwards, then what does that mean? Probably one million to two million tests a day, you know, is likely what it means to be done around the country. And again, that's not the same in all places around the country, not uniformly distributed. It sort of depends on where you are and how the virus is circulating in those areas.

[17:50:03]

But I think that's the important point is like we talked about widely available tests. It's enough test to really feel confident now, you're starting to actually find the people who have the virus in their body. And the way that you know that is you're testing enough people out there where you're getting a lot of negatives back, that's a good thing. That means you're testing enough people.

So, we're not there yet still, Wolf. And in these places that are starting to open, I've been looking at these numbers very carefully. And the positive rates are closer to 20 percent, even 30 percent in some of these places. So until they can get below 10 percent or below, and they feel like they have enough tests to keep doing that for a period of time because people may need to be tested more than once, Wolf, as you know, until we get to that point, it's going to be hard to get the confidence in people that they can go out and feel comfortable, that they're not going to infect somebody else and that they themselves will not get infected, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, and we're seeing in Georgia right now, people -- the restaurants may be open. I'll be it with some social distancing inside the restaurants where people are scared to go to those restaurants at least in the reports that we've just seen right now.

And the other point you've mentioned earlier, Sanjay, just jumps out at me. False positives, false negatives. How reliable are all these tests? Because there are a whole bunch of different tests, and some are more reliable than others.

GUPTA: Yes, this is a huge point, Wolf, because I think they're, in some ways, understandably, was a rush to start putting these tests out there. People want to get tested for the virus, people want to get tested for the antibodies, and there was lots of tests that went out that didn't go -- necessarily go through validation. Meaning, you take that test and then you validate it against a gold standard test and see does it match up. Some did, but there were many that didn't.

And so as a result, people out there may not know is the test that they're taking right now, is that a validated test, how much can I trust the results. And some of these tests, even the Abbott test, Wolf, which is there's now an antibody Abbott test, which just got approved, but their virus test, you know, some of the studies showed that the false negative rate was as high as 15 percent. So 15 percent false negative rate. I mean, think about that. That means 15 people out of 100 had the virus, but were told that they didn't.

You know, you could see the problem there, Wolf. I mean, part of the reason you do these tests is to isolate people who have the virus. But I think also, you know, psychologically, it's a start building some confidence that I can know. Do I have this virus? Do I not? Am I going to possibly infect somebody else or take this back to my home and possibly infect my family? Or will I not?

And we got to be able to say that with confidence, and I'm not -- it's not an easy task. I mean, these are challenging tests to make, and a lot of people are working on them. But we got to get to that point where it's a reliable test and it can be done quickly, it can be done where the person is. They know how to get the test, they know how to get the results quickly, all of that. And we'll get to that point. We're just not there yet, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's really interesting because if, you know, you get a test result, and they say, you have nothing to worry about, but you really do and you only find out later that you really do, it could cause some major problems. And if you're also given the opposite information, cause some major problems as well. They need these tests to be a lot better. That's one of the major issues right now. Stand by for a moment.

You know, Kaitlan, I don't think there was a formal White House coronavirus meeting in the White House situation room today. I don't think there was one yesterday, either. Just give us a little perspective on that.

COLLINS: Yes, there was no briefing today. There wasn't one scheduled and they didn't meet yesterday but they did meet on Saturday. But, Wolf, for them not to meet two days in a row is actually pretty notable because they basically met every single day since they were first assembled at the end of February. Of course, the President then put the Vice President Mike Pence in charge and they really met almost every single day.

And typically, these meetings can be really long because they're going over the latest data and numbers before they come out to brief the press something that also happened basically almost every day except for the Easter weekend, which we also saw that they did not do this weekend. There was not a press briefing on Saturday and there wasn't one on Sunday. And on Friday, of course, there was only one question answered by the FDA Commissioner, and no other questions were taken that day.

And it does seem like maybe they are trying to change this in the White House. Some aides certainly hoped that they could scale back the briefings. They don't think that they're helpful to the President.

They don't think that he should be coming out as much unless he's providing updates about coronavirus, specifically because then they believe that these Q&A sessions often can go off script and it results in things like you saw on Thursday where the President had been briefed just shortly before that briefing on Thursday about that DHS study showing about the light and what disinfectants can do to coronavirus on hard surfaces.

And that's when the President took another turn at it suggesting that it could potentially be used inside the human body, which of course resulted in so much backlash. So basically aids are trying to really safeguard the President from having something like that happening again.

[17:55:05]

And so that's what's really so notable about what is happening in the Rose Garden right now is because this was not on the schedule as of this morning. They had a briefing and they canceled it. They said it really was a mistake. They didn't actually mean to put it on the schedule and then here they are having this news conference now. The question is whether it's a presidential statement or if he does take questions from reporters. But it really does show how the White House is trying to adjust to this.

And Wolf, the question going forward is whether or not they continue to hold daily briefings. We do have sources telling us they're trying to scale those back, but we're also hearing they may scale the Coronavirus Task Force meetings back as well. So the question really is does that actually happen?

BLITZER: All right.

COLLINS: There are times this White House would certainly do something they don't actually carry through with it.

BLITZER: Stand by for a moment, the President is now back at the microphone in the Rose Garden.

TRUMP: -- with the governors today. And I would say that they are as thrilled as they can be, considering that the fact is that there has been so much unnecessary death in this country. It could have been stopped and it could have been stopped short.

But somebody a long time ago, it seems decided not to do it that way and the whole world is suffering because of it. 184 countries at least, but I want to thank all of these great businessmen and women for the job they've done. They've been fantastic with us, working with us and as you know, for several weeks my administration has encouraged the governors to leverage unused testing capacity in States.

Very few understood that we have tremendous capacity. Then one week ago we provided each governor with a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers of the labs where they could find additional testing capacity in their state. Within 48 hours, the number of tests performed across the country began to absolutely skyrocket.

On Saturday alone, more than 200,000 test results were reported, which is a gigantic number, bigger than any country, anywhere in the world for a much longer period of time. A number that is an increase earlier in the month when we tested roughly less than 100,000 a day. So we much more than doubled it and that will be doubling again very shortly.

We are continuing to rapidly expand our capacity and confident that we have enough testing to begin reopening and the reopening process. We want to get our country open and the testing is not going to be a problem at all. In fact, it's going to be one of the great assets that we have. Today we're releasing additional guidance on testing to inform the states as they develop their plans for a phased and very safe reopening. Our blueprint describes how states should unlock their full capacity, expand the number of testing platforms, establish monitoring systems to detect local outbreaks and conduct contact tracing. We have it all. Other countries that calling to find out what are we doing and how do you do it and we're helping them. We're dealing with a lot of countries, helping them on testing just like we did on the ventilators.

I directed our Medicare program to make it easier for seniors to get the testing that they need and the pharmacies. As you know, we are allowing pharmacies now to do testing and we have other testing locations that we're going to be allowing also. But having pharmacies get involved in testing is a very big deal. We're also asking governors to do the same in their Medicaid program, so they are going to be able and authorized to do the same in Medicaid. So it's a big -- that's a big deal.

So we're deploying the full power and strength of the federal government to help states, cities, to help local government get this horrible plague over with and over with fast. There's tremendous energy in our country right now. There's energy like people haven't seen in a long time, a spirit that they have not seen.

And we're doing very well, very well considering what happened to us and considering if you look at what happened to others, this is something that the world has not seen for a long, long time. You can probably go back to 1917 where it was a terrible period of time. You all know what happened in 1917, that's over 100 years ago.

With that, I'd like to introduce if I might, Dr Birx, if you could come up and then Admiral you'll come up and between the two of you, you'll explain the entire process and how much progress we've made and where we're going. Thank you very much.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Thank you, Mr. President. So the blueprint lays out the roles and responsibilities to enhance our partnership between the private sector and the public sector, bringing together state and local governments with the federal government to ensure that we can accomplish and achieve our core principles and objectives.

We can have the first slide. The core elements of the testing plan include both three elements, robust --