Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

U.S. Coronavirus Cases Surpass One Million, 57,000-Plus Deaths; New Models Project Thousands More May Die If States Open Too Early; Trump Ordering Meat Processing Plants To Stay Open; Texas To Allow Restaurants, Retail Stores And Malls To Reopen Friday With 25 Percent Capacity Limit; About 60 Million Americans Still Waiting For Stimulus Checks; V.P. Pence Tours Mayo Clinic Without A Mask Despite Policy Requiring Visitors To Wear Them. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 28, 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]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news.

The number of known coronavirus cases here in the United States, now topping 1 million, accounting for one-third of all confirmed cases worldwide, more than 57,000 Americans have now lost their lives in this pandemic over the past two months. Close to as many as lost their lives in the Vietnam War over many years. And the influential model often cited by the White House is now increasing estimates of how many more people could die by early August.

Earlier this month, that projection was about 60,000. But that's now been increased to 74,000. There's more states move to reopen before health experts consider it completely safe.

Also breaking this hour California Governor Gavin Newsom has just outlined a phase reopening plan for his state, with retail, businesses and schools, possibly being just weeks away from once again, opening their doors.

Let's begin our coverage this hour over at the White House. Our Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta standing by. Jim, we just heard from the President a little while ago.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right Wolf. And President Trump talked about how he is expected to sign this executive order, using the Defense Production Act to instruct meat processing plants to remain open, the move comes amid worries that the pandemic could result in food shortages across the U.S. As the U.S. has hit one million cases of the coronavirus. The President is pointing the finger at others when asked why he wants predicted that number would be down to zero by now. And the President is also saying the worst of the pandemic is behind the U.S. when that's not a sure thing. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With the U.S. hitting 1 million cases of the coronavirus, President Trump is refusing to admit he got it wrong. Despite predicting back in February the number would be down to zero.

(on-camera): You predicted that the number of cases would go down to zero? How did we get from your prediction of zero to 1 million?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Well, it will go down to zero ultimately, and you have to understand when it comes to cases, we do much more testing than anybody else. The experts got it wrong. A lot of people got it wrong and a lot of people did you get it wrong.

ACOSTA (on-camera): Did you get it wrong?

(voice-over): President is insisting the U.S. has a handle on testing.

TRUMP: The only problem is the press doesn't give credit for that. Because, you know, no matter what test you do, they'll say, oh, you should have done this. You should have tested 325 million people 37 times. Now the testing is going very well.

ACOSTA (voice-over): President is complaining about media coverage of the administration's testing was even though he made this promise to Americans back in March.

TRUMP: Anybody that needs a test, get to test.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House is training to ramp up testing as do modeling shows a rising estimate for coronavirus deaths in the U.S. approximately 74,000 by August from 67,000 projected last week. Even the President appears to be embracing the new estimate.

TRUMP: Yes, we've lost a lot of people. But if you look at what original projections were 2.2 million, we're probably heading to 60,000, 70,000. It's far too many one person is too many for this, then I think we've made a lot of really good decisions.

ACOTSA (voice-over): Coronavirus Taskforce Dr. Anthony Fauci said the virus has become a global nightmare.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: What keeps me up at night is the emergence of a brand new infection likely jumping species from an animal, that's respiratory born, highly transmissible with a high degree of morbidity and mortality. And lo and behold, that's where we are right now. And the reason it's so unprecedented, it exploded upon us.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Still, the White House's making more missteps. The Vice President Mike Pence touring the renowned Mayo Clinic in Minnesota without wearing a mask. That's despite the clinic's policy that visitors wear masks.

Ahead the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Steven Hahn wear mask but Pence didn't. MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Since I don't have the coronavirus I thought it'd be a good opportunity for me to be here, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible healthcare personnel. And look them in the eye and say thank you.

ACOSTA (voice-over): When the President was pressed on some of the early warnings he received on the potential for a pandemic.

TRUMP: I would have to check, I want to look as to the exact dates of warnings.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Mr. Trump tried to point the finger at Fauci calling him, Anthony.

TRUMP: You will go back and you take a look at even professionals like Anthony was saying, this is no problem. This is late in February, this is no problem. This is going to blow. This is going to blow over and they're professionals and they're good professionals. Most people thought this was going to blow over.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But hold on, back in late February, Fauci did say it wasn't necessary yet for people to change their behavior. But he warned the outbreak could be serious.

FAUCI: It depends on the nature of the outbreak. I mean, this could be a major outbreak. I hope not.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Similar to warnings from other public health officials.

[17:05:04]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more question of exactly when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illness.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Actually, at that time, it was the President who was saying coronavirus cases would vanish.

TRUMP: When you have 15 people and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now the President said the administration is looking to test passengers on international flights headed for the U.S. for the coronavirus specifically targeting flights coming out of areas. President said that are heavily infected though no final decisions have been made.

And as the President was wrapping up his remarks in the East Room, Wolf, he said he would not have a news conference later this evening that has a break from the practice of having those nightly briefings from the White House on the pandemic. We won't be seeing the President holding one tonight. Wolf. BLITZER: Yes, he did answer those several questions at that event earlier in the day, including one from you as well. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

Let's go to California right now. CNN's Nick Watt is on the scene for us. Nick, Governor Gavin Newsom just gave some new details on his state's reopening plan. What are we learning?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He did. It was very interesting. He says that this is going to be weeks and not months. He says it's going to be based on facts, not ideology. And we will not be going back to the old normal until there is a vaccine. Restrictions will gradually be lifted, but some will stay in place. Most interestingly, on schools, the governor said that perhaps we could open schools start the next school year early, perhaps in late July, or maybe early August.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): As more states open up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're ready to go. And that was enough.

WATT (voice-over): The number of Americans projected to die also goes up. One key model now suggests more than 74,000 of us will be killed by COVID-19 by early August. That's up from a projection in early April of just over 60,000.

FAUCI: If we are unsuccessful, or prematurely try to open up and we have additional outbreaks that are out of control. It could be much more than that, it could be a rebound.

WATT (voice-over): Yesterday, Georgia allowed indoor seating and restaurants and assuming social distancing is relaxed Friday, one model projects the state's daily death toll could nearly double. These are early models. They differ and can ultimately be wrong.

KATHLEEN TOOMEY, GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: We didn't meet the full gating criteria that we met several of them and we are approaching a plateauing, which made us feel that it would be safe to move forward.

WATT (voice-over): Hardest hit New York State and Massachusetts today created reopening advisory boards.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D-NY): With businesses, they have to have social distancing, continue testing, ongoing monitoring protocols.

WATT (voice-over): Massachusetts also extended, non-essential business closures.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER (R-MA): For all workers, customers and the public until May 18. And the stay at home advisory also remains in place during this time.

WATT (voice-over): Today, Florida's governor was in Washington.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I've worked with the White House on kind of going to phase one. I'm going to make an announcement tomorrow.

WATT (voice-over): Meanwhile, in Alabama.

GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): It's now time that we also focus on economic health.

WATT (voice-over): Starting Thursday, all stores, beaches and employers can open up but with some social distancing, but 31 states including Florida and Alabama, are just not testing enough to reopen according to Harvard researchers.

BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH, HHS: So tests are absolutely important. They're critical, they will be expanded dramatically as we will reopen. But it's not the only tool we have in the toolbox.

WATT (voice-over): Confirmed cases continue to rise, but the economy is crumbling.

KEVIN HASSETT, SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think that we're looking at numbers between 16 and 20%. The unemployment rate at that point will be something that's about as high as something that we haven't seen since, you know, the 1930s.

WATT (voice-over): This past weekend, the TSA did report a slight uptick in air passengers some social media posting fuller flights with many not masked.

SARA NELSON, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: From the photo that I tweeted that about half the people are wearing masks and that's just not acceptable.

WATT (voice-over): American airline says they are limiting passenger numbers and JetBlue, the first airline to say all passengers must now wear masks. Some experts say we should all continue to wear them as we begin to gather again.

DEBORAH BIRX, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS COORDINATOR: If there's virus in the community or you're gathering people from different areas of estate where there may be still residual virus and no virus. If everybody wears a facemask, then you're protecting the other person.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Now here in Newport Beach, California, the City Council is going to meet within the hour to decide what to do with the beaches. This past weekend, it was hot around here. Beaches in San Diego were closed, beaches in LA were closed. But they were open in Orange County. And Wolf, they were packed.

[17:10:14]

In fact, California's governor called them an example of what not to do. So the city council needs to decide whether maybe they limit access, close some roads or frankly backpedal and just close the beaches down again, for the weekend. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. We got to make some very, very important decisions. Nick Watt on the scene for us in California. Thank you.

Joining us now, the Governor of Connecticut, Ned Lamont.

Governor, thank you so much for joining us.

So you just heard the California Governor Gavin Newsom, your colleague laying up a very gradual reopening plan for his state. Is that what you envision for Connecticut as well?

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): Yes, we're going to have a phased reopening, Wolf. I mean, of course, we never closed manufacturing. We never closed finance. And we're the insurance capital of the world. We never closed the digital media. So two-thirds of our economy kept going through, we did close those things where it's tough to socially distance. And we're going to phase that in over a period of time based upon testing, based upon having more mask available. And we're getting more of that every day.

BLITZER: In California, the governor, Gavin Newsom also floated the idea of perhaps reopening schools, maybe late July, or very early in August. For the new school year, would you consider something similar to that?

LAMONT: Well, I was talking to some of the teachers about ways we can get these kids or bridge back to, you know, getting back to school in the fall. Of course, they're all doing distance learning, online learning now. We're talking about maybe having parent-teacher meetings in June just to complete the school year. Ways we can make that transition work.

BLITZER: But our schools in Connecticut close for the school year through, let's say now and meter (ph) at the end of June?

LAMONT: Not yet. We said we'd make that determination before May 20th. But I think going to tell you all of our neighboring states have closed their schools and nothing I'd rather do than keep them open. We'll make up a mind on that in about 10 days.

BLITZER: Where which -- why not keep reopening the schools in July as a result -- these kids are they're not learning at the same level now with the, you know, with learning at home, on the computer, whatever. They're not learning at the level they could be if they were in an actual classroom with teachers.

LAMONT: Yes, well, there are summer schools, there are summer camps. Many of the teachers maybe have other things arranged. So I have to sit down and, you know, discuss that with folks. But I definitely like to have some sort of a transition before they go back to school in the fall. Absolutely.

BLITZER: Yes, in some countries, as you know, like Japan, for example, kids are going to school all year round, and they're learning a lot. They don't have two or three months vacation to go to summer camp, which is important, which is very good, but you want these kids to get a good education. Of course, that's priority number one.

Let me get your reaction governor --

LAMONT: It starts (ph) this year.

BLITZER: -- Anthony Fauci what he just told our Jake Tapper, about the shortages of the coronavirus testing program, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAUCI: And one of the problems has been is the test getting to the people who need them, or the test out there, we're not connecting the dots. And what we're trying to do. And I believe that was really pretty well articulated to the governors, was if that's not happening, if we're not connecting those dots, we need to help them to do that we, we can't just leave them on their own, on the one hand, and the federal government can't do it by itself, on the other hand. So we really, we've really got to be having a productive partnership.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So Governor, in your experience, have you seen that so called productive partnership with the federal government?

LAMONT: Well, I think Dr. Fauci has been a hero throughout this entire process. And he's absolutely right. I mean, you can talk about all the lab space you've got but that doesn't do any good, if you can't take -- if you don't have the swabs and you can't take the samples. There's a whole supply chain. And to be blunt, yes, the federal government could have been a lot more helpful in making that supply chain work, but we're doing it a local basis. I'm working with CVS, I'm working with Quest Labs. I'm working with corporate partners to see if we can ramp up our testing, because there's no way I can safely reopen this state unless we have more testing.

BLITZER: Now I agree with you by Dr. Fauci is a national treasure. He also is warning Governor that opening up too soon could lead to a resurgence of infections and the updated coronavirus model frequently cited by the White House now estimates in your state Connecticut may not be able to safely lift the restrictions until mid-June at the earliest. Is that a realistic timeline based on what everything you're hearing?

LAMONT: Well, it depends what restrictions you're talking about Wolf, I mean, we're going to be doing social distancing for quite some time. Seniors in the most vulnerable population are going to be social distancing for quite some time.

[17:15:05]

You know, whether that's small retails store on Main Street and Tory didn't open up as if people have mass. I think that will come sooner rather than later.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point too. As you just Governor, the Vice President Mike Pence, he visited the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota today, despite the clinic's policy requiring everyone who walks into that clinic, the compound there, everyone must wear a face mask, but the Vice President chose not to do so.

And as you can see, he was the only one in this video not wearing a mask. His explanation is he gets tested every week. He doesn't have coronavirus. He wanted to look people right in the eye as a result, he didn't wear the mask. What did you think of that decision by him? Was he setting the right example?

LAMONT: Well, I can tell you I try and set an example. When I'm can't stay more than six feet apart from people I wear a mask. I think that's probably would be a good example for everybody to set in Washington.

BLITZER: Yes, I agree with you on that as well. Governor Ned Lamont, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone. Connecticut, I know you're going through some really, really awful decision making processes right now. We'll stay in close touch. Thank you so much.

LAMONT: Let's see, Wolf. Thanks.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Up next, that influential model is updated and now predicts thousands more Coronavirus deaths in the United States over the next couple of months. We'll talk to the doctor behind that model and ask him to explain what has changed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:21:00]

BLITZER: An influential model just raised its prediction of coronavirus deaths here in the United States, the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now forecast 74,000 deaths in the United States by August 4th up from 67,000. In a previous estimate, the Institute's director, Dr. Christopher Murray is joining us now.

Dr. Murray, thanks very much for joining us, thanks to your whole team for what you guys are doing.

Tell us why the new model, the revised version of the death projections going upward by nearly 7,000 to a total of more than 74,000 people in the U.S. by early August. Why the increase?

CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION: Well, is there two things that are driving the increase and then there's a third that we need to talk about, which is the relaxing social distancing, but the two that are there in the model now are we're seeing case numbers go up. Obviously, testing has shot up in the last five, six days, more cases are being picked up. We're trying to make sense of that, but rising case numbers in a number of states.

And then we're seeing that the peak of deaths in a number of places is just lasting longer than anyone expected. If you look at other places that implemented social distancing, some of them in Europe hit a peak and came down pretty quickly. And then there's a few that did not. But we're seeing more of these protracted long periods of slow decline. And that's naturally leading to an increased number of deaths.

The third factor that's gone into this is a number of states have revised their death numbers. So even going back in the past, we've got people that never got a test, they -- but they're a presumptive, COVID death. And that's pushing the numbers up as well. So those are all feeding into what we're seeing in this is increased forecasts.

BLITZER: I understand that your model assumes that states won't remove social distancing restrictions until infections drop below, one per 1 million but many states are already going ahead with reopening. How's that going to impact your projections? I know you revise them all the time.

MURRAY: Well, we're going -- we're working behind the scenes pretty intensely to be able to both exactly understand what are the changes that are coming in which states, and then we're using mobility data from the past, you know, from cell phone mobility apps to understand what's likely to happen in those states.

And then we will come out with a major update that will inevitably for the states that are relaxing social distancing, push our numbers up, because the risk of resurgence in some of those states will be great. It's a trade off between testing capacity and the increase in mobility and the decline in social distancing. And so we have to figure that out in the modeling framework.

BLITZER: What's your message, Dr. Murray, to governors out there who are already easing the restrictions?

MURRAY: Well, I think in our assessment, now is too soon to be easing in any state. You know, of course we understand there's economic pressures to ease restrictions, but from a, you know, protecting the public's health perspective, it is increasing the risk of resurgence. And we will inevitably see that show up both in people getting sick and some of them dying, as well as showing up in our, you know, best assessment of what's likely to happen in the coming months.

BLITZER: Your model only attempts to project the current wave of infection as I understand it, but Dr. Anthony Fauci says he's almost certain that the virus will return, will actually remain here in the United States, even in the fall and winter. Are you working on a model that can forecast multiple waves of the pandemic years goes through August 4th right now, but I assume if you look ahead, beyond August, September, October, November, what do you see?

[17:25:05]

MURRAY: Well, we're certainly trying to work on that and eventually we will come out with longer range forecasts. The key sort of difficult things to understand about that is how much of a seasonal effect will there be? Will there be any will there'll be some, there's some suggestion that

we'll see fewer cases in the summer because there's a small but not large relationship to temperature that we're seeing already in the data. Meaning that there's a real risk of resurgence in the fall, the vast majority of Americans will be susceptible. Even in New York, as you probably saw, you know, 78% of in New York City, and you know, 85% of the whole state are still susceptible.

So there's plenty of people who can get infected virus comes back in or even stays within the community over the summer. There's a very real risk of resurgence later in the year. And so we'll try to get a handle on that and eventually provide the public and hospital planners and others with some assessment of what that risk looks like in the longer term.

BLITZER: And I know the White House Coronavirus Task Force members Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, they're relying on your information. They, they believe you guys have a very good track record.

And unfortunately 58,000 Americans have already died over the past couple months, you're projecting in regard to 74,000 by August 4th thousands. These aren't just numbers as you and I and everyone knows these are mothers and fathers sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. This horrific situation, unfortunately is going to continue for a while.

Dr. Murray, thanks to you and your colleagues. Thanks to everything you're doing.

MURRAY: Thank you Wolf. Thanks very much.

BLITZER: And coming up. We're going to take you to Texas, which is now getting ready to join the list of states allowing businesses like restaurants, retail stores, shopping malls to reopen under certain conditions. Is it though too soon?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:31:54]

BLITZER: In Texas right now, a stay-at-home order issued by the state's governor will expire this Thursday. And Friday, retail stores, malls, restaurants, they all will be allowed to reopen with limited occupancy despite the misgivings of some health and city officials.

Let's go to CNN's Ed Lavandera, he's joining us from Dallas right now. So what's the reaction there, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it depends on who you talk to, Wolf. But there is a great deal of trepidation as to exactly how all of this is going to unfold. But first, let's take a closer look at what this means for Texas on Friday. According to the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, retail stores, malls, movie theaters, restaurants will be allowed to reopen but they can only operate at a 25 percent capacity. The Governor went out of his way to say that barber shops, hair salons, nail salons, gyms, bars will not be allowed to reopen perhaps in the next phase which would be in mid May. But having said that, there is a county judge in Montgomery County, Texas, which is just north of Houston who says that he considers these orders too vague and unclear.

So he says that nail salons and hair salons and gyms can reopen on Friday. And this, when you take a closer look at cities like Houston and Dallas where city leaders there have been saying and where the number of coronavirus cases continues to go up that there is a -- there's a lot of concern about how all of these is going to unfold.

And Wolf, we're standing here in the parking lot of a, you know, popular movie chain here in Texas, Alamo Drafthouse. They're saying they're not going to reopen that it's just too much of a risk. So there's really this idea here that you're seeing that, perhaps even though businesses can reopen to question of, will they. And when you listen to city leaders in places like Dallas and Houston, San Antonio and Austin, they talk about how we should follow the science, the governors using the same arguments as well.

So that's leaving I think a lot of small business owners kind of confused as to exactly what to do and perhaps a lot of them will side on the side of -- the caution on the side of not reopening. So we'll see how things play out here later this week, Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Ed Lavandera in Dallas for us, thank you.

Joining us now from Houston, the Mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner. Mayor, thank you so much for joining. I just want to clarify, do you, as mayor of Houston, do you have any authority to put stricter measures in place in your city?

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON, TX: We do not, we do not, Wolf. We cannot put forth any orders that would be more restrictive than what the Governor has imposed that he stated that yesterday himself. And I agree, I mean, he pretty much sets the ceiling. Like at the very beginning, when we started putting in measures, we would not preclude it. And cities and counties took the initiative and put in the stay home safe, work Safe orders and closing down restaurants, the dining facilities, bars and clubs. We have the discretion and we move forward.

But at this point on the back end, the Governor is pretty much setting the stages of when things will open. And we the local government, the local leaders cannot be more restrictive.

[17:35:00]

Now, that doesn't mean we can put forth recommendations, and it doesn't mean that we won't be doing a lot of monitoring and testing ourselves. But we cannot put forth an order that's going to be more restrictive than the one he's put forward.

BLITZER: Well, let me -- hypothetically, if you could have done so, would you have done so, put some more restrictive measures in place?

TURNER: Well, from my vantage point for the Governor's order for me was more than what I would have done too soon, too fast for me. I agree with the -- with what he put in initially phase 1 when he opened up the state parks, when he closed our schools for the rest of the academic year. Those sort of measures, the curbside for retail, I agree with all of that. I thought that was fine and that was proven.

I am concerned that the phasing in on May 1 with regards to let's say, restaurants, retail, movie theaters, malls, I am concerned that that may be going quicker than I would have liked. I would have preferred more like a mid May, you know, June 1st deadline. But having said that, I hope it works.

I hope we don't see a research of cases three to four weeks down the road. And I still think even though people are allowed to open a restaurant and others are allowed to open, I think people are going to be very careful before they step out. Just because you're allowed to open don't necessarily mean the customers will come.

BLITZER: Yes, we're seeing that in Atlanta, in Georgia right now. They're opening up a whole bunch of things but people are reluctant to go to a restaurant, go and deal with these kinds of issues. Right now, they're scared for good reason.

And I asked that question -- go ahead, Mayor.

TURNER: Well, I think that there's some reasons for that. We went four days without reporting any deaths last week. And then, Wolf, in the last four days, I've reported four deaths each day, a total of 12. And then just today, reported 61 new cases, yesterday was 74 new cases. And then in our local newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, for example, ran a front page story of where are these cases are in terms of our at-risk vulnerable community. So that was on the front page.

So I think, you know, people don't really know -- no one really knows where the virus is. You really don't know how prevalent is in the community until you do much more extensive testing. So in the absence of not knowing, and when people realize and that 25 percent to 30 percent, for example, of people can be asymptomatic and still infectious, people are rightfully concerned.

So they're going to move cautious. We want things to open up, we want the economy to come back, we want businesses to get back because that's affecting people's lives directly. But at the same time, people don't want to sacrifice their health for a paycheck and ended up being in the hospital.

BLITZER: We know how fast the numbers can explode. On March 5th, in the United States, there were 11, 11 confirmed deaths in the United States. On March 5th, 11 confirmed deaths. Right now, you can see on the screen 58,000 plus confirmed deaths in the United States. So these numbers, they can explode within a matter of weeks, and only a few months, so you got to be really, really cautious.

Mayor Turner, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to everyone in Houston.

TURNER: Thanks, Wolf. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: Thank you. Coming up, why are millions of Americans still waiting for their federal stimulus checks? They simply haven't arrived. Not yet. We'll update you on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:43:05]

BLITZER: Very rough start for round two of the Paycheck Protection Program. The website was overwhelmed by small business owners seeking loans to pay their employees, and it crashed within minutes of the relaunch. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are still waiting for their stimulus, federal stimulus checks that simply haven't arrived, at least not yet.

Brian Todd has the very latest on who's getting what and when. What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're told that the IRS itself has been affected by this pandemic. Many of its staffers who are working to get these payments out have had to do that from home and they have other constraints. That's one of many snags that have caused delays with these payments.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): For Kimberly Horton, the stimulus payments she just got from the government for $1,700 didn't come a second too soon.

KIMBERLY HORTON, RECEIVED STIMULUS PAYMENT: My daughter, who's still away at college, she works retail. So, of course, with all the stores and everything being closed, having that extra money to help her pay, you know, her obligations, of course, was a lifesaver for me.

TODD (voice-over): Horton is one of more than 80 million Americans who've received their stimulus payments to help deal with hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Many recipients also get a signed letter from President Trump explaining why and telling them how much they'll get. The checks themselves also have the President's name on them. But roughly 60 million Americans are still waiting for either one.

CHYE-CHING HUANG, CENTER ON BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES: The hardship is really real and it's pressing for families, unless the sort of amount of money that is available to the lowest income people in the country is really going to make a difference for them.

TODD (voice-over): So who's eligible and how much do they get? If you're single and your adjusted gross income is $75,000 a year or less, you get a full $1,200. But the more you earn, the less you get. If you make $99,000 a year or more, you get nothing. Married couples earning $150,000 a year or less receive the maximum $2,400.

[17:45:02]

Couples earning $198,000 a year or more, get nothing. And parents with children who are 16 years old and younger, get $500 for each child, although that also phases out. But there have been delays and snags in getting all of these payments out.

MICHELLE SINGLETARY, PERSONAL FINANCE COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: You have to be patient. The IRS employees are, you know, trying to get out payments to people as quickly as possible.

TODD (voice-over): The reasons for the delays according to experts, the sheer volume of Americans who are eligible, some 150 million. For people who didn't file electronic tax returns and don't have direct deposit arrangements with the IRS, it's taking longer to get them their payments via snail mail. Also, some people told CNN, their payments were sent to old bank accounts that have since been closed. And millions of low income people who are not required to file tax returns are harder to locate. How long could some people have to wait?

SINGLETARY: For some, two weeks from now. For others, it could be several weeks or maybe even the end of the summer.

TODD (voice-over): Then there's the separate set of payments to help small businesses hit-hard by the pandemic. The first program to do that, ran out of money. The second launched on Monday has been hampered by technical glitches partly because there's a massive list of businesses which have applied for it.

SINGLETARY: Small businesses 500 or less, or sole proprietorship, they just want people who had employees who maybe had to lay them off or furlough to get those people back to work or at least on the paycheck.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: That first round of payments set aside for small businesses ran out of money in 13 days. Experts say this time around, it could run out of money in less than a week. And now, Wolf, with some delays with Congress getting back in session, there are questions as to whether there may or may not even be a third round of payments to small businesses, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, a lot of people need that money and they need it now. All right, Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Coming up, our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta getting ready to answer your questions about coronavirus. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:51:56]

BLITZER: The Vice President Mike Pence are raising concern as he visited the famed Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and was the only person seen not, repeat, not wearing a mask even when he tour the coronavirus testing lab. Let's get some more on this. Our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joining us. Sanjay, we got questions for you from our viewers, but what are the risks that the Vice President is taking showing up, everyone is wearing a mask at the Mayo Clinic except him?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he should have worn a mask. You know, Wolf, that's the policy over there. I think his rationale was that he gets tested periodically, which is good that he gets tested. But the issue is that, you know, after you get a test, I mean, it tells you that you don't have the virus at that time. I mean, you can contract the virus, be exposed to it.

As we know, you can still spread it a symptomatically. After that, even if you're not having any symptoms feel fine. It's in a hospital, Wolf. I mean, there's people who are sick there. Obviously, you want to take even greater precautions at that point.

So, yes, he should have worn a mask. I'm not really sure what the thinking was there. The FDA Commissioner was there with him. All the doctors there. They get tested regularly as well. I know I've been tested. Still wear a mask. So he should have done it.

BLITZER: Yes, everybody else was wearing a mask and it doesn't set a good example. Let's get to the questions from our viewers, Sanjay. Here's a question. "My state is reopening restaurants, what precautions should I take when I eat out?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, this is a common question that we're getting and, you know, there are restaurants that are opening in a few states including where I live. Yes, I think this is a -- this is one of those things where you have to evaluate your risk tolerance here. It is still a risk to go out.

You know, there's many states with a -- obviously, we know that the virus is still out there, it's still circulating and you increase your risk by going out. If you do have to go out for some reason, you do want to maintain as much of a social, you know, physical distance as possible, as we've talked about for months.

But you got to keep in mind is every surface that you're about to touch, if they've been disinfected, you know, if you use the restroom or something that's one area that many people will use, the same people will use that same space, have they been disinfected?

And also, you know, it's one thing the 6 feet, but also we see from the studies around the world, that prolonged contact with people can be a problem as well. So if you're sitting at a restaurant, you may be having prolonged contact with people who are 6 feet away or so but for longer periods of time, so that's a concern. This is a -- everyone's going to have to evaluate their own risk tolerance here, I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't go out and eat at a restaurant right now.

BLITZER: And you can't exactly eat with a mask on either. Here's another question.

GUPTA: Right. BLITZER: I've got a variation to this a lot. Should I -- this was, as far as money is concerned, "I'm reopening y business. Is it safe to accept cash as payment?"

GUPTA: Remember how the virus sort of spreads. You know, if you're not getting it from your hands precisely, but if you touch cash, which can harbor the virus, and then you touch your eyes, nose, your mouth, you could potentially contaminate yourself that way.

[17:55:03]

So wash your hands, I mean, that's the point. You touch something that might be contaminated, wash your hands after that. It can live on the surface for a little bit of time. But the key is to make sure you're not touching your face with the virus on your hand.

BLITZER: Yes, that's very important. All right, Sanjay, we got more that's coming up. Stick around, don't go too far away. There's breaking news. We're also following next, President Trump ordering meat processing plants to stay open as concerned grows about the U.S. food supply chain. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- test. You're going to show many more cases. So we are testing with --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.