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NYT: FDA Expected To Issue Emergency Authorization For Remdesivir; Fauci: Early Studies Show Remdesivir Can Block Coronavirus Effects; U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 60,000; Trump On Testing: I Don't Know That All Of That's Even Necessary; Florida Governor Announces Plan To Reopen Businesses; States Reopening Despite Not Meeting 14 Days Of Declining Cases". Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 29, 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]

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

"The New York Times" just reporting that the Food and Drug Administration plans to announce an emergency use authorization for the drug, Remdesivir to treat coronavirus, that comes just hours after the nation's top infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci said Remdesivir has what he described as a clear cut significant positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery, direct quote.

Right now about half of U.S. states are moving meanwhile to reopening even though it doesn't appear that any state meets the vague White House guidelines that call for a 14 day downward trajectory of documented cases before any reopening. We're expecting to learn new details about Florida's reopening this hour from the Governor Rick DeSantis.

Also tonight the U.S. Coronavirus death toll has now topped 60,000 with more than 1 million confirmed cases. Globally. There are more than 3 million cases and more than 225,000 confirmed deaths.

Let's go to our national correspondent Erica Hill. She's joining us from New York. Erica, grim new numbers coming up, but also a glimmer of hope tonight.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. You mentioned that glimmer of hope Dr. Anthony Fauci talking about that earlier today from the White House and there is a lot of focus on what Dr. Fauci had to say as we're seeing more states make decisions about what's coming next for their residents.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: A drug can block this virus.

HILL (voice-over): And optimistic Dr. Anthony Fauci on new findings about a potential coronavirus treatment. FAUCI Remdesivir has a clear cut significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery.

HILL (voice-over): Offering hope as more states enter a new phase. haircuts in Georgia, one of the first signs of that state's reopening. While in California, any professional trims are still months away. A striking example of just how different the next steps will be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have significantly less cases than we had two weeks ago than we had three weeks ago. But it's time to enter a more sustainable phase.

HILL (voice-over): More than half the states in the country announcing plans to ease restrictions, despite none appearing to meet White House guidelines for a 14-day decline in positive cases. The next big retail experiment comes on Friday, when three dozen Simon owned malls and shopping centers will reopen in eight states. Restaurants in Georgia and Tennessee, welcoming diners yet it's not clear Americans are ready for these changes.

New polling shows eight in 10 think opening restaurants for on site dining is a bad idea. Nearly two-thirds say the same about returning to work without further testing. 85% say students shouldn't go back to school without more testing. When they do return, it's likely to look much different.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): It's not back to normal. It's modified. That means potentially staggering. School times for different cohorts of kids, it means the recess period being radically modified. It means the cafeteria being shut down, and people getting food around their desk deep sanitation, ventilation strategy. So it's very difficult. But we've got to do that.

HILL (voice-over): Florida's governor who resisted early calls for statewide measures now touting progress. As the Tampa Bay Times reports the state's death toll may be incomplete. Noting Florida officials have not released information on coronavirus deaths in more than a week. An earlier report in the paper found the number from County Medical Examiner's was 10% higher than the state's official count, which now stands at 1,218.

In Brooklyn, a clash overnight at a rabbi's funeral procession. The NYPD estimates 2,500 people were in attendance, violating a statewide ban on large gatherings. The mayor taking heat for his initial response, singling out the entire Jewish community.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: I spoke out of real distress that people's lives were in danger before my eyes and I was not going to tolerate it.

HILL (voice-over): The rabbi's synagogues saying they regret that the funeral ended in chaos and controversy, and they understand the mayor's frustration.

DE BLASIO: I regret if the way I said it in any way gave people a feeling of being treated the wrong way. It was not my intention, it was said with love, but it was tough love.

HILL (voice-over): The economy continuing to take a hit first quarter GDP down nearly 5%. The President using the Defense Production Act to keep the country's meat processing plants open. More than 20 facilities have closed over the past two months because of positive cases. At least 20 workers have died according to the union representing many of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're absolutely critical and essential to the food supply chain, but you have to protect them.

[17:05:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It may slow -- may slow the line down a bit. It may require them to expend some resources for protective equipment and for other safety measures, but at the end of the day this is essential work for the country and these are essential workers and they deserve adequate protection in some states employees.

HILL (voice-over): In some states employees who choose not to return may lose government benefits.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a voluntary quit and so therefore they would not be eligible for the unemployment, the employment many.

HILL (voice-over): Meantime, farmers unable to process their livestock are also struggling, even as demand for their products increases with more Americans at home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It affects a lot more people than just the local farmer goes trickles down line, that comes from moss, it comes from the feed guy goes all the way through. So it affects everybody.

HILL (voice-over): And yet in communities large and small, the need for food assistance is skyrocketing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're alone, you know, even my neighbor, yes, she's alone too. So that's why we appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is unexperienced is, you know, the case is hard for them.

HILL (voice-over): Lines stretching for miles, many Americans turning to food banks for the first time in their lives.

In Little Rock, a plant for our food distribution ran out in just an hour, each box offering families the equivalent of 40 meals.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: In many ways Wolf, a reminder that we are just at the beginning of this as a country. A couple of notes, I want to share with you that we're just learning within the last few minutes or so, in Michigan, Governor Whitmer, announcing a program for frontline workers for tuition free education moving forward. We also heard from the University of Alabama, which says, Wolf, it does plan to have teachers and students on campus for the fall semester.

BLITZER: Erica Hill, in New York with all the latest developments. Thank you.

Let's go to the White House right now. Our Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is on the scene for us. Jim, the President and his team seem very eager to declare victory over this pandemic, even as more and more Americans are dying every day.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is true Wolf. And we should point out a senior administration official is confirming to CNN the Trump administration is launching what's being called Operation Warp Speed to accelerate development of a coronavirus vaccine. The operations goal, according to this official is to have hundreds of billions of doses available to Americans by the end of the year.

But we should note, medical experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci have cautioned that it may not be able to meet that kind of schedule that experts may not be able to beat that kind of schedule. In the meantime, though, even as the U.S. has reached 1 million cases of the coronavirus and almost 60,000 deaths, President Trump says he's ready to start fading out social distancing measures and the President's son-in-law Jared Kushner is calling the administration's response to the pandemic a quote, great success story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Where do you go first --

ACOSTA (voice-over): Even as the number of debt in the U.S. from the coronavirus is surpassing recent White House estimates. President Trump is cheering on states that are rolling back their social distancing measures.

TRUMP: I think a way of saying it will -- there'll be fading out because now the governors are doing it. I am very much in favor of what they're doing. They getting it going.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The President son-in-law went further than that, double the administration's response, a big success.

JARED KUSHNER, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SENIOR ADVISER: The government federal government rose to the challenge and this is a great success story. And I think that that's really, you know, what needs to be told

ACOSTA (voice-over): The President is sending signals to the governor's to reopen just one week after he blasted Georgia for flouting the administration social distancing guidelines.

TRUMP: I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities, which are in violation of the phase one guidelines for --

ACOSTA (voice-over): Mr. Trump continues to tout his performance on the virus even as the number of cases raised past the 1 million mark and approach 60,000 deaths. President predicted in February, the U.S. would be down to zero cases.

(on-camera): How did we get from your prediction of zero to 1 million?

TRUMP: 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. So we could go to some of these other countries, you know, as an example, China, if you test, you're going to show many more cases. So we're testing, we're doing more testing than any other country in the world by far.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But hold on, as the President keeps saying the U.S. is outperforming other countries in testing. Look at the numbers from this week, the U.S. has conducted between 16 and 17 tests per 1,000 people. That's fewer than Spain, Italy and well behind Iceland.

TRUMP: So we reached a million cases and that's a tremendous amount. And the reason is because the testing, because other countries don't test so you, if you don't test, you're not going to find cases.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The President told reporters, he thinks the U.S. will be able to test 5 million people per day.

TRUMP: Oh, well, we're going to be there very soon. If you look at the numbers, it could be that we're getting very close. I mean, I don't have the exact numbers.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the U.S. has only conducted about 6 million tests so far. A top administration official told "Time" magazine, there is absolutely no way on earth on this planet or any other planet that we can do 20 million test a day or even 5 million tests a day.

[17:10:11]

Still, there is one glimmer of hope, as Dr. Anthony Fauci said the drug Remdesivir has now shown promise as a treatment for the virus.

FAUCI: The data shows that Remdesivir has a clear cut significant positive effect, in diminishing the time to recovery.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the White House is still sending mixed messages with Vice President Mike Pence refusing to wear a mask as he toured the renowned Mayo Clinic, that's despite the clinic's policy that visitors were a mask. Reflection of the administration's recommendations to Americans, thought the President has said masks aren't for him.

TRUMP: I think wearing a face mask, as agreed, presidents prime ministers, dictators, Kings, Queens, I don't know somehow, I don't see it for myself.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now as for Fauci, his comments on Remdesivir, it's important to note the doctor was never this positive about hydroxychloroquine, a drug that was being pushed by the President and his allies in conservative media for weeks. And as for the President, we should point out my colleague Jeremy Diamond is reporting Mr. Trump, late into his campaign manager Brad Parscale over a sagging poll numbers last Friday. It's a sign that the President is well aware of this backlash he's receiving in response to his handling of the pandemic, Wolf.

BLITZER: Really fascinating material. All right, Jim Acosta at the White House. Thanks very much.

I want to get some more now on Dr. Fauci surprise announcement about this drug Remdesivir which is showing some promise as a potential treatment for coronavirus. Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us.

So Elizabeth how significant are these initial results?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They're very, they're very significant. I mean, hopefully this drug will make a difference not only in and of itself, but it is a proof of concept, allowing doctors to find other drugs that might work similarly.

First, let's take a step back because Remdesivir is not exactly a household name. It's a drug that was invented for Ebola many years ago and what they found was that it didn't actually work for Ebola. And it's actually never been on the market for anything. So this is still an experimental drug you can't, you know, go to a pharmacy and find it.

Let's take a look at the study that Dr. Fauci was talking about. It was 1,090 study subjects in the U.S. and several other countries. Half of the people took Remdesivir and a half took a placebo. The people who took a placebo it took them 15 days to recover. When people took Remdesivir, they had only 11 days to recover from COVID-19. Now, you might look at that and think it's only four days, you know, what's the big difference here?

Well, doctors tell us that four days is a big difference that that means that the drug is working, so you can try to pursue other drugs that might be similar. In addition, we're talking about severely ill patients here. So for fewer days on a ventilator, for fewer days getting certain medical treatments that can that could potentially hurt you. That is a big deal. Wolf?

BLITZER: Are there any concerns Elizabeth with taking the drug? Is it safe?

COHEN: So the drug has been used, as I said experimentally with COVID and also with Ebola. And they have seen that sometimes patients liver enzymes go up. They don't seem terribly concerned about this. And they're not even actually sure if it's a result of the drug or not. They have to sort it out. Maybe it's a result of the illness. They're not sure, but it will be something that they're keeping an eye on.

BLITZER: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, reporting for us. Elizabeth, thank you very much.

Joining us now, two doctors Dr. Boris Lushniak who was the Acting U.S. Surgeon General during the Obama administration. And Dr. Luciana Borio, the former director of the National Security Council's Medical and Biodefense Preparedness.

Dr. Lushniak, "The New York Times" as you're heard, is reporting that the FDA plans to announce what they call an emergency use authorization for Remdesivir, this drug. Do you think enough promise has been shown to justify this?

BORIS LUSHNIAK, ACTING U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: You know, it's interesting, both Luciana and I worked at the FDA at one time, and we're intimately involved in burns use authorization and there really is a powerful mechanism to get medications out, to get therapeutics out, to get diagnostics out, even personal protective equipment out in the time of emergency prior to all the data being in. What we always do with the emergency use authorization, we look at it from a perspective is, is it safe? And is there enough data be able to say that it may work under these circumstances?

So, emergency use authorization is a way that we get products out there in time of emergency. It'll be interesting to see what the FDA does, because it still is data driven. FDA has to be able to be convinced that this stuff will work. And Remdesivir certainly, as Tony Fauci said it's a proof of concept. So far, this is good news. But is the data really there yet?

BLITZER: They still have a ways to go. Dr. Borio, in light of the unprecedented situation all of us are facing right now. Do you think this is worth trying out? Do you think that it would require more questions being answered first, or is this the way to go at least now?

[17:15:11]

LUCIANA BORIO, FMR DIRECTOR, NSC MEDICAL AND BIODEFENSE PREPAREDNESS: Oh, Wolf, I think we need to take a moment and celebrate the good news of the day. Right? This is the first treatment that's been shown to offer patients some benefits in a scientifically rigorously conducted a randomized clinical trial. And although, you know, it's not a blockbuster that we all hope for, it offers some significant clinical benefit to patients with advanced disease.

So it's, you know, time to celebrate that is not the end of the world, we need to continue to, to not the -- end of the road and we need to continue to explore new treatments for these patients.

Now, a whether the FDA issue Anyway, you know, when we have a drug like this that offers benefits, there's an ethical imperative to facilitate its access to patients in need, and there's no real alternative today to invest severe. So I think the FDA will work very carefully to do everything he can to make sure that it maximizes access and the leeway certainly a very powerful way to do that.

BLITZER: And they don't make these decisions easily there, these are very complicated and tough decisions they have to make.

Dr. Lushniak what will it mean potentially for everyone's daily lives, if a real proven treatment we're not talking about a vaccine right now, but a treatment for coronavirus is discovered?

LUSHNIAK: Well, well, certainly we're looking for something right. Right now we don't have a treatment that works. And we're -- we don't have a vaccine, obviously, that prevents COVID-19. You have to realize, though, that as already stated that this is for hospitalized people, right. These are people who are already severe enough, have breathing difficulties, have enough of a problem with COVID-19 that are being hospitalized.

So this isn't something that's going to be used at this point in time for the general public. It's going to be used mostly for severe people. It isn't done through the through the vein of intravenous. So this is not a pill that you take at this point. But much like we've already talked about this is a great proof of concept. And I share the enthusiasm about the idea that we have something of potential and this may then lead to investigations of other similar type drugs.

BLITZER: Yes, you got to be in the hospital to get this drug, you can just as you say, go out and get a pill.

Dr. Borio, the administration is launching a Manhattan Project type effort to fast track development of a vaccine, the goal is to have hundreds of millions of doses of a vaccine available by the end of this year. Do you believe that is scientifically possible?

BORIO: You know, it's very difficult to know for sure, Wolf, but I think that is a I know an important goal, because we do desperately need an effective vaccine. And, you know, if the science is there, we and we can manufacture sufficient doses, which we should based on available science, then I think it's a reasonable goal to have. I think we need to be very ambitious.

Now we have to also realize that there are significant uncertainties. And a vaccine that is going to be distributed broadly to a lot of people need to be very carefully tested. Again, I think that doing pragmatic large run them as controlled clinical studies is a great way to be able to feel vaccines early to risk individuals, but also collecting the data, the safety and efficacy data that are critical to be able to allow for broad use.

So again, very ambitious, but I'm optimistic that it could be done if everything is managed, very careful.

BLITZER: And as you're saying a little bit of good news right now with Remdesivir. let's hope it actually develops into a serious, serious treatment.

Dr. Borio, thanks so much for joining us, Dr. Lushniak, thanks to you, as well. Well of course welcome you back down the road.

We're standing by to hear from the Florida Governor Ron De Santis says he announces new details of his state's reopening.

And later they ranked first and third is the most populous states. So why are California and Florida in such a very different path to reopening businesses and getting back to some form of normality? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:23:34]

BLITZER: Breaking news tonight "The New York Times" just reporting the Food and Drug Administration plans to announce an emergency use authorization for the drug Remdesivir to treat the coronavirus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says, it has already shown some significant positive effects in early trials.

Let's talk about that and more with the governor of Delaware. John Carney.

Governor, thank you so much for joining us. Let me get your quick reaction to this news about this drug Remdesivir the trials showing some initial promising results. How much could an effective treatment if it works out that way change your state's path to reopening for example?

GOV. JOHN CARNEY (D-DE): Well, first of all, it's really good news. And during a period where we haven't got much good news on a day to day basis to have some good news like that is important. And it is something that we'd have to factor into the risk management calculation about risk as we start to gradually reopen our economy if we know that we have treatment for folks that are hospitalized. That's a whole different ballgame with respect to the risks that we're currently taking.

You know, right now we've got the blunt instrument of a stay at home order, social distancing, broadly across our economy. As a result, we're really devastating sectors of our economy and people are -- that's working here in Delaware, we're seeing a flattening of the curve, if you will, but people are getting tired of it and we're going to have to start to hopefully get to the place where we have declining positive COVID-19 cases on a day to day basis.

[17:25:04]

Our hospitalizations have been pretty steady and so that gives us some level of confidence. If we know that we can treat the people in the hospital, that's, that's a factor that we don't have on the table right now and will be -- a really important part of that risk analysis.

BLITZER: Yes, that is important and as you know, along the same lines, the Trump administration is launching a vaccine development effort called Operation Warp Speed, with the goal of having hundreds of millions of doses available to Americans before the end of this year, that got-- they first got to come up with a vaccine, then they got to make sure they can develop it in those kinds of quantities, with a widely available vaccine allow you to completely reopen your state's economy?

CARNEY: Yes, I don't know we'd have to rely on the science as we have all along with the recommendation from CDC. We heard Dr. Fauci talk about that new drug and coming from him. That's something that we can, we can certainly count on and believe, but we're certainly we're months away from a vaccine and so we have to make this decisions, I have to make decisions, the other governors across our country have to make decisions on a day to day basis to protect our workers, to protect every family, and particularly to protect our senior citizens and nursing homes.

And so, those decisions are need to be made based on what we have today. And not what we might have a month from now or six months from now. And so these decisions that we have to make really in 14 day increments, those are the triggers, to get to reopening the starting point for reopening is are important.

And we need to know also that we can do the testing that's necessary, that we can do that contact tracing that's necessary, because as we open up and expose more people to one another, we know that the virus is still out there. There isn't a vaccine right at the moment. There might be treatment, which changes the calculus, but we have to protect our people and protect the economy and it's not a choice one or the other. We have to do both.

BLITZER: The President's son-in-law senior advisor Jared Kushner said this morning that the Trump administration's response to the pandemic has been, in his words, a great success story. Do you agree has the Trump administration's response been a great success story?

CARNEY: Yes, I certainly wouldn't characterize it that way, particularly here in Delaware. I know the governor's in each of our states, particularly here in our region, are continuing to respond to the pandemic that we have, trying to reduce the spread, trying to protect lives, trying to respond with our hospitals, some of the hospitals in the region, not here in Delaware but have been overwhelmed.

The federal government has helped Governor Wolf, Governor Murphy, Governor Cuomo in the metro New York area with some of their hospital needs. They've helped us to a degree with PPE, personal protective equipment and with what we need testing right now.

And every state in the country frankly needs testing to be able to double or more than double the testing that we're currently doing to protect people as we reopened our economy in a phase kind of way to protect all our workers and all folks going back into public activity.

BLITZER: The President right now has been backing away from his earlier prediction that the U.S. could soon reach some 5 billion tests per day. Some of his administration don't even think that that level of testing would ever really be possible. How many tests does Delaware need to conduct per day to safely reopen the economy? When do you think you'll get there?

CARNEY: Yes, so that's the big question. First, we're by the end of the week, I think we'll have a comprehensive testing plan that will more that will require more than double the number of tests that we have now. So an important part of that plan has to be where are you going to source all the tests? What kind of tests are you going to use? Are you going to use the

antibody tests, which have limitations? So you're going to use the diagnostic test the PC -- so-called PCR test. We'll probably do some combination of the two, and some in combination with surveillance testing to try to get a handle on how much of the virus is spread across our state.

And again, all this testing is geared towards protecting people as we allow them to go back to work and interact with one another. Right now, we're using a very blunt instrument of total shutdown, preventing people from interacting with one another in public, shutting down busy businesses. And it's taking a terrible toll on individuals and our economy.

So we really got to really lean into this effort to get that testing program in place, get our contact tracing program in place, get to the point where we can start reopening things. And hopefully get on with business here in the state of Delaware.

[17:30:06]

BLITZER: Just a little while ago, Governor, the President seemingly downplay the need for testing saying, and I'm quoting now, I don't know that all of that is even necessary. What's your reaction when you hear that?

CARNEY: Yes. Well, that's certainly not the recommendation of the White House Task Force that -- and the guidelines that CDC provided to all of us. There were several conditions that are in those guidelines that have to be present. First of all, you have to have a declining number of positive cases over a 14-day period of time to get to the starting line. And then another 14-day period of time of declining cases so that you can start to reopen things.

You have to be able to protect all your frontline healthcare workers. You have to be able to assure yourself that you have surge capacity in your hospitals. You have to have a robust testing system so that you can identify a COVID-19 positive cases. You can isolate those individuals. Do contact tracing on people they've come in contact with, test them, isolate the positive ones there and continue to do that, incrementally, protecting the spread as opposed to a total shutdown that we have now.

So there, one of the fundamental requirements of reopening the economy by their own guidelines is to have that robust testing system in place, and to have the declining number of positive cases on a day-to- day basis.

BLITZER: Governor Carney, thank you so much for joining us. You and I will continue these conversations down the road. I appreciate it very much.

CARNEY: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, to the most populous states in the nation taking very different paths toward reopening. Why are the plans and timelines in California and Florida so different?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:36:50]

BLITZER: We're following a breaking news in Florida right now where the governor Ron DeSantis is announcing his new plan to reopen businesses. Let's go to CNN's Randi Kaye, she's joining us from West Palm Beach. So Randi, what have you learned, what's the latest?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here's an update for you, Wolf. He's calling it -- the Governor is calling it a safe smart step-by-step plan. It will all go into effect on May 4th. And I should point out that it does not include, does not include Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties here in South Florida, which were some of the hardest hit.

Here's what we know. The Governor says that he has consulted with the President's team and they are all on board with this phase 1 of reopening. Here's what it will include. As far as we can tell so far, the Governor is still speaking but what we know now is it will include elective surgeries, those can resume statewide. Movie theaters will stay closed even though he did have the option of opening those in phase 1. Restaurants will allow outdoor seating as long as they're social distancing of 6 feet. Indoor capacity will be kept to about 25 percent.

He says that this is OK because they've seen a drop in influenza like cases coming into the hospitals. There is no shortage of hospital beds. And there has been a very low positivity right here in the state of Florida. The Governor says a couple of things that have reopened already today, Wolf, though in some of these South Florida counties include the parks, the boat ramps, the golf courses. You can play single play, you have to ride in your own cart.

Community pools, also masks are recommended, social distancing is required. Some things that do are still closed, dog parks, campgrounds, skate parks, things like that. I'm sure you can see the beach here behind me, Wolf, those are still closed. Those were closed when the Governor put the stay-at-home order in place here in the state of Florida, April 1st, and those, Wolf, do remain closed for now.

BLITZER: You know, Randi, there's also a new report in Florida raising serious concern that the death toll in Florida is higher than what has been officially reported by the state. What are you learning about that?

KAYE: This is a report coming from the "Tampa Bay Times" and they have been reporting that state health officials have asked the medical examiners in the counties to withhold data. And ever since State Health Department officials intervene, the medical examiners have not been reporting the number of deaths. They've actually been withholding that data. The state apparently, according to the "Tampa Bay Times" wants to review the cases. They may even get rid of some of the cases and drop some of the descriptions. So, Wolf, I guess you call this fuzzy math because if they do that, we won't really have a real count on how many coronavirus cases there were, what these people died of, maybe they would just be listed as pneumonia or maybe those names would be taken off the list completely. So the State Health Department has had the list now for nine days while the medical examiners are waiting to know what they can do and if they can report those cases, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, very interesting. Thanks very much.

You know, what I want to do, Randi, I want to listen to Governor DeSantis right now making some more announcements. Let's listen in.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): That we are going to look at and that is going to be something that we're obviously going to have to take into account. So long as there's continued availability, so long as we're not seeing a flood of people into the hospital, that obviously is going to be good progress.

[17:40:07]

We are also going to continue to look at the rate of positivity for our tests. What's going to happen is you saw all the expanded capacity that we're going to have. We think we'll be able to do 30,000 to 40,000 tests a day. I don't know if the demands there for that, but we think we have the capacity to do that on day one when we get into next week.

What will happen if you do 40,000 tests, you probably are going to find people who are asymptomatic and who are positive, who aren't going to need to be hospitalized certainly are not at risk for fatality. But you're going to find those folks. So you may see the total number of cases go up. You may see at a 40,000, you may see 2,000. We've never had 2,000 new Florida cases.

You may see that people will probably write that cases are quote, spiking. That's not a good way to look at it. I mean, these are cases that are there, we're identifying it with aggressive testing. The rate would still be 5 percent if you were doing it, if you were looking at that.

So we're looking at the positivity rate, more so than just the raw number of cases, because the raw number of cases does have a relationship to how much you're testing. I mean, we had 530 new cases yesterday, but we only had 8,000 or 9000 test results. Whereas we've had other days where we had 800 new cases, we had like 15,000 test results. And so, looking at it that way, is something that is going to be very, very important.

And so those are going to be the type of metrics that we're looking at. We're also going to be looking at some of the syndromatic symptoms, in terms of if you see certain things with hospitalizations, people going to the E.R. visit for things like cough or fever. That's something that we're going to be looking at for sure.

So we're going to be safe, smart, and we're going to do this step by step. We are trying to build a foundation for the future of the state of Florida. We did not ask to be put into this situation, this was thrust upon us, largely because of the malfeasance of the Chinese Communist Party. We are where we are, but I think that we can get through it. I think we can build the foundation.

And I'm reminded of an old story, an anecdote from the middle ages where you had three stone masons, they were building, they were working stone in Germany, they were just hard at work. Yet an observer there that asked the first mason what he was doing. First, mason said, sir, I am shaping stone. He then asked the same question to the second mason. Second mason said, sir, I'm making a wall.

Well, he finally got around to asking the third mason, and the third mason was very excited and proud to proclaim, I am creating a cathedral. The cathedral that we are building today is a state that is healthy, safe, prosperous, and free. We can do it. God bless you all. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You listed a couple benchmarks there, hospital admissions, test results --

BLITZER: DeSantis announcing some new steps to reopen the state of Florida, the third largest state in the United States. He's got new ideas from all of the state except some restrictions still remain for Miami-Dade County, Broward County, which is Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach County, which is West Palm Beach. Those are three -- among the three biggest counties in the state of Florida. That's where most of the cases have been.

Randi Kaye, if you could explain to us his explanation why those three counties, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties aren't going to be exempt from some of these reopening statutes that he's putting in place. What was his explanation for that?

KAYE: Well, they have been certainly these three counties. Here I am in West Palm Beach in Palm Beach County, but those three counties here in South Florida have been some of the hardest hit. They've seen some of the worst cases. He did happen to mention that, you know, a lot of New Yorkers go back and forth to Miami, go back and forth to South Florida. There were certainly a big spring break contingent coming to the Miami strip in that area.

So he was -- he didn't go into a whole lot of detail, but these are certainly counties that are very popular, and certainly a large number of cases here. But he went on to point out that he does think the reopening in the other areas is certainly legitimate because of the hospital bed situation. He says there's plenty of them. There's plenty of ventilators. But there was still deep concern for these three Florida counties, which are very large counties here in South Florida, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just to be precise, so the beaches in those three counties, the hotels, the restaurants, the shops, they will still stay the same as they've been basically closed?

KAYE: Correct. The state order for stay-at-home we need to place -- the statewide order I should say, as of April 1st.

[17:45:06]

A lot of those counties including Miami took action before that, 10 days before that. In fact, before the Governor put out the statewide order. But those beaches here, the ones behind me here in Palm Beach County, those will remain close. Certainly the beaches in Miami and Broward County, the restaurants, those in other counties will be able to have outdoor seating and limited capacity inside. But again, these three counties they will still be under a stay-at-home order from the Governor and nothing will be lifted in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade.

BLITZER: Yes, those are, as I said, the three biggest counties in the state of Florida by 30 percent of the population in the state of Florida in those three counties alone. So we'll see what happens on that front.

Randi Kaye, thank you very much. Randi Kaye joining us from West Palm Beach.

Much more on all the breaking news. Our special coverage of the coronavirus pandemic continues right after this.

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[17:50:30]

BLITZER: Tonight, about half of the U.S. states are moving to reopen even though it doesn't appear that any of them meet the vague White House guidelines that call first for a 14-day downward to directory of documented coronavirus cases. Brian Todd is joining us right now. He's got a closer look at some of the steps businesses in those states are taking to try to reopen a little bit more safely. Brian, give us a checklist. What do you see?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot of checklists going on, Wolf. You know tonight as businesses and offices across the country continue that painstaking journey toward reopening, we're getting new guidance from public health experts on the measures they're going to have to take from the creative to the downright bizarre.

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TODD (voice-over): At a waffle house in Atlanta, they've got red tape across some booths where it's no go. Some of the stools are marked off limits and the cooks and servers are all wearing masks. An x on the floor marks a space waiting area. At the Federal American Grill in Houston, the owners ticking through a similar checklist.

MATT BRICE, OWNER-OPERATOR, FEDERAL AMERICAN GRILL, HOUSTON: Disposable menus, masks, gloves, we have different color, eight linens on our table. So if it has a black linen on it right now, they we're not sitting it, and then if it has a white linen on it, we're sitting it. TODD (voice-over): Across the U.S., thousands of businesses are drawing up and ticking through extensive, sometimes exhaustive checklists for reopening. Some have done it on their own. Others are being told by local officials, if you want to reopen, these are the things you'll have to do every day.

MAYOR MIKE DUGGAN (D), DETROIT: You'll test your employees first, make sure they're negative. You will do temperature checks every day as they come into work. You will wear masks in the workplace. That's the way it's going to be for a while.

TODD (voice-over): At airports where concourses are empty, planes are parked idle, and pilots get packets with wipes and masks. Some airlines will now leave all middle seats unoccupied, and offer masks for every passenger. JetBlue is making masks mandatory for all passengers. Restaurants presents multifaceted challenges.

DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: There's certainly going to be some spacing out between the tables and reduced occupancy within the restaurants, as well as shielding of the workers from the food. There may be requirements that you washed your hands immediately upon entering the restaurant.

TODD (voice-over): And possibly, hand sanitizer at every table. Plexiglass barriers for cashiers, already seen at many stores could be part of each manager's checklist for reopening, or even plexiglass between people at tables. Look for more businesses to go cashless. For offices, items on the checklist include more spacing between employees, staggered shifts when possible.

Managers in the U.S. could tap into the creativity shown in other countries. Vending machines and subways in Germany and streets in France sell masks. Police in China are even testing helmets with built-in temperature scanners. And one public health expert says, restaurants in Hong Kong he went to in January, even had how-to sessions for customers.

GAVIN MACGREGOR-SKINNER, DIRECTOR OF TRAINING, GLOBAL BIORISK ADVISORY COUNCIL: Every time I went into a restaurant, they would take my temperature for me. When I sat down, they would explain, here's the knife, fork and spoon that's used to pick up the food. This is the separate knife, fork and spoon that's going to be used to put the food in your mouth.

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TODD: Experts say businesses and local governments have to factor in another significant potential problem when they start to plan how to do some of these measures already things like hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, thermometers and masks are very tough to get. If businesses have to do things like put hand sanitizer on every table in every station, that's going to create a huge crush in the supply chains of businesses and local governments are going to have to coordinate, Wolf, to figure some of that out.

BLITZER: Yes, they got a lot of figuring out to do. All right, Brian Todd, reporting for us. Thank you.

The breaking news coming up next, the FDA reportedly planning to authorize the drug Remdesivir for emergency use to treat the coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci says it has already showed some positive effects in early trials.

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[17:59:30]

BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room". We're following breaking news on progress toward a coronavirus treatment. Tonight, the New York Times is reporting that the Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue an emergency authorization for Remdesivir based on the results of new studies.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says those initial trials show the antiviral drug has a significant and clear cut effect, reducing the recovery time of coronavirus patients and lowering the mortality rate.