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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Looking to Punish China?; States Start Reopening; Interview With San Diego, California, Mayor Kevin Faulconer; Texas Tech Announces "Phased" Reopening of Campus for Fall Term; Louisiana Governor Extends Stay-At-Home Order To May 15, But Eases Some Restrictions; Remdesivir Trial Shows Drug Might Help Patients Recover Sooner. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 30, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM at a critical moment of the coronavirus pandemic.

Just hours from now, stay-at-home orders will end in seven states, much of the country now moving to reopen, despite the still rising death toll in the United States, now nearing 62,000 people.

CNN has obtained a draft of new guidelines for reopening from the CDC, and it advises businesses, schools, other organizations to make significant changes to limit crowds and keep people at safe distances.

Tonight, health officials are expressing new optimism and urgency about developing a coronavirus treatment and potentially down the road a vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci says the Food and Drug Administration is moving really quickly to approve the antiviral drug remdesivir for emergency use.

And he says the U.S. is aiming to manufacture a vaccine by January.

Let's get more from our national correspondent, Erica Hill. She's joining us from New York.

Erica, we have breaking news on the opposite coast. California's governor just ordered beaches in Orange County to close.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He did.

He's calling this a temporary pause, Wolf. And he says they just basically need to make sure that everybody can behave themselves, if we're reading between the lines there. But already there's some pushback.

There was initially concern he could go farther and close all the beaches in the state. He did not do that. But we're already hearing from officials, one saying this is a, in their words, clear example of unnecessary government overreach, another urging the governor just simply trust the locals.

Many states are asking locals to police themselves, as we see all the changes popping up across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (voice-over): For many Americans, the first step towards a few normal begins tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it seemed like forever.

HILL: By the end of the week, 31 states will be partially open, despite none of them appearing to meet the vague White House guidelines that call for a downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period before any opening, many resuming elective surgeries, opening parks and golf courses, restaurants and stores, adopting new safety measures.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think our customers are going to feel comfortable shopping in our store.

HILL: As CNN learns the White House is reviewing a draft of reopening guidance from the CDC, recommending schools place desks at least six feet apart, move lunch to the classroom, and avoid assemblies.

Faith-based organizations should also limit large gatherings. Restaurants should avoid salad bars and buffets and also use disposable plates, utensils and menus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to make anything here. It's just for the staff to be able to keep providing for the families on a day to day.

HILL: In New York, the state health department now investigating the discovery of dozens of bodies in unrefrigerated trucks outside a Brooklyn funeral home.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): Well, let's be clear about this. Funeral homes are private organizations, private businesses. They have an obligation to the people they serve to treat them with dignity. I have no idea in the world how any funeral home could let this happen.

HILL: While, in California, a busy weekend on Orange County beaches prompting Governor Gavin Newsom to close them.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We're going to do a hard close in that part of the state just in the Orange County area.

HILL: In Los Angeles, the mayor says his city can now test all 10 million residents across L.A. county for free, regardless of symptoms.

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-CA), LOS ANGELES: We all know this is a silent killer. It moves quietly through the population. And why it's so important for people who don't show symptoms to get tested is because, oftentimes, they're the super spreaders.

HILL: Health care workers will have priority at the city's 34 testing sites, which the mayor says can process 18,000 people a day.

Remdesivir, a potential coronavirus treatment, could receive emergency use approval from the FDA as soon as today, as experts warn this is only one piece of the puzzle.

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: We still have to focus on those core public health measures of testing, tracing, building the public health infrastructure. The idea of remdesivir does not replace those elements, but it does offer some hope.

HILL: The nation's top infectious disease experts says, if the next phase of trials is successful, a vaccine could arrive by January.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We're going to safely and carefully, but as quickly as we possibly can, try and get an answer as to whether it works and is safe. And if so, we're going to start ramping up production with the companies involved.

HILL: Some colleges say they will bring students and staff back to campus, including the universities of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Vermont, and Texas Tech.

[18:05:08]

And in New York City, a grateful send-off from the NYPD and FDNY for the USNS Comfort, as the hospital ship heads home to Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: Wolf, also here in New York City, an unprecedented move.

Starting next week, the subways here will be shut down from 1:00 to 5:00 a.m. for a deep cleaning each night. That is to allay fears of some 11,000 people who, according to the governor, ride the subway during those hours, many of them essential workers.

And so other arrangements are being made to get those folks to their jobs. But, again, this comes after there's been a lot of back-and- forth and concern here in the city about the cleanliness of public transportation.

BLITZER: It's a really serious issue, indeed.

All right, Erica Hill in New York for us, thank you.

Let's go to the White House right now, where we just heard from President Trump as he doubles down on efforts to blame China for the coronavirus.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us.

You were there in the room at the White House. What exactly did you hear from the president, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, President Trump just told reporters that he has confidence that the coronavirus originated in a lab in China.

The president did not offer any details to back that up. He declined to offer any details to back up that assertion. But earlier in the day, we should point out the director of national intelligence released a statement saying, the U.S. is now working to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was a result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

The president, we should point out, has previously praised China's handling of the coronavirus, something I pressed him on during that press conference a few moments ago.

That was when the president seemed to suggest that he was complimenting China over the last couple of months as he was in the middle of trade talks with Beijing.

Now, in the meantime, the White House is grappling with some devastating news on the economy, as some of his advisers are warning that the unemployment numbers that we're facing right now are straight out of the Great Depression.

When we asked the president about that earlier in the day, he said -- quote -- "It is what it is."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: OK, thank you very much.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Staring at what is shaping up to be the worst U.S. economy since the Great Depression, President Trump said he has a feel for what Americans are going through.

TRUMP: I feel it. I think sometimes what I feel is better than what I think. I view what we have now as obviously a period of, here we are, because it is what it is. It's just a very tough situation for the people of our country, all the loss, the debt.

ACOSTA: Nearly four million Americans filed unemployment claims last week, making for a staggering 30 million over the last six weeks.

White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said the numbers haven't been this bad since the Great Depression.

KEVIN HASSETT, CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: The fact is that, right now, 30 million people have filed for unemployment insurance. The unemployment rate is probably up around 19 percent. And those numbers are as startling as anything we've seen since the Great Depression,

ACOSTA: The president, who has been lashing out at aides in recent days over polls showing voters may punish him in the fall for his handling of the coronavirus, is offering only rosy assessments of his team.

(on camera): Is it fair for the voters to take into consideration your handling of the pandemic when they assess whether to reelect you in the fall?

TRUMP: Sure. I think they do. I think they have to do a number of things. I think we have done a really great job. I think we did a spectacular job.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Mr. Trump is also trying to rewrite history, insisting that he inherited what he calls broken tests for the coronavirus from the Obama administration. But that's not true. COVID- 19 didn't exist until just months ago.

TRUMP: We started off with bad, broken tests and obsolete tests.

ACOSTA (on camera): You say broken tests. It's a new virus, so how could the test be broken, when you needed a new test?

TRUMP: Jim, we had broken tests. We had tests that were obsolete. We had tests that didn't take care of people.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The Centers for Disease Control has drafted new guidelines for reopening the U.S., with recommendations that school space desks six feet apart, houses of worship limit large gatherings, and restaurants switch to disposable menus and plates.

The president said he will be overseeing a new effort to fast-track millions of doses of a vaccine for the virus.

TRUMP: We have -- you know who is charge of it, honestly? I am. I will tell you, I'm really in charge of it.

ACOSTA: The administration is hoping to have that vaccine ready by the end of the year, a timeline Dr. Anthony Fauci said may be possible.

FAUCI: We want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it's safe and it's effective. I think that is doable if things fall in the right place.

ACOSTA: With the pandemic still raging, President Trump is looking to punish China for its handling of the virus, including the possibility of imposing sanctions on Beijing.

The president, who has praised China's transparency on the pandemic, has changed his tune, as critics say he's trying to shift the blame.

TRUMP: We just got hit by a vicious virus that should have never been allowed to escape China. They should have stopped it at the source. They didn't do that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, there's an update to the controversy over Vice President Mike Pence's decision to forego wearing a mask at the Mayo Clinic earlier this week.

Take look at some of this video that we have for you. Pence was touring a factory in Indiana earlier today. This time, he wore a mask. There was a sign outside the facility asking visitors to wear a mask before coming onto the factory floor. So, he did.

[18:10:13]

Now, as for the president, we're told he will be traveling to Arizona next week. Wolf, he held out the possibility that he may wear a mask when he makes that trip. That is something we really haven't seen the president do up until this point. He doesn't wear masks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, he said he doesn't plan on wearing one, but, today, he changed his mind, said he might wear one when he goes out to Arizona next week.

I'm glad the vice president decided to wear a mask today.

Thanks very much, Jim Acosta, for that report.

Let's talk a little bit more about the breaking news out of California, where the governor, Gavin Newsom, has ordered beaches in Orange County to close.

We're joined now by the mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer.

Mayor, thanks so much for joining us.

After a memo indicated that Governor Newsom was going to close beaches statewide, you said that decision sent the wrong message. Now the governor has decided to close beaches in Orange County only. What's your reaction to that decision?

MAYOR KEVIN FAULCONER (R-CA), SAN DIEGO: Well, look, a one-size-fits- all policy wouldn't have worked, Wolf.

And I was actually glad that the governor today said San Diego's doing an outstanding job on the beaches. I agree with that. We have put in a plan here in San Diego that's been working. It was a plan that was developed by our lifeguards and our public safety folks here, approved by our county public health officials.

And something that was very important to me, Wolf, it was a plan that would be consistent across all cities on the beach across San Diego County. So, gathered all of the coastal mayors to agree with the plan. So we had one consistent set of guidelines. We put that in starting Monday.

And San Diegans are doing the right thing. We have a plan that says it's in phases. So, right now in San Diego, you can go in the water, you can be out on the sand, but you have to keep moving. You can run, you can exercise, but we don't allow folks to sit down.

Our boardwalks and our piers are still closed. I think it's important, because we want to ensure that physical distancing. We want to ensure we're doing it in the right way. And, as I said, this is a plan that has been working in San Diego.

And so that was important for me to get that across.

BLITZER: Because we did see, as -- and all of us saw those crowded beaches in Orange County over the weekend.

Do you worry the piecemeal closure system in California could lead to additional crowding at beaches in nearby counties, including yours, for example, in San Diego?

FAULCONER: Yes, we have a plan that I'm pretty confident in is working.

And it's -- we have a police department that it's out there, our law enforcement officers, our lifeguards. And I -- that's why it was so important for us to have all of the cities in San Diego agree to that.

This is a plan that we have shared with other cities up and down the coast of California. I think that phased approach, Wolf, is what we need, because, look, we have one goal. We want to keep people safe. We want to get through this together.

And while people are outside exercising, we want them to make sure they're doing that physical distancing, because we want to get to phase two in San Diego. We want to eventually get back to the point where everybody can enjoy everything that the beach has to offer.

We're not there yet. And so my very consistent message, as I'm going to be out there again this afternoon, is, let's do the right thing. Let's keep it up. And that's how we move through this together.

BLITZER: All right, let's hope it works out.

Governor Faulconer, thank you so much for joining -- Mayor Faulconer, I should say.

Thank you very much for joining us. Maybe one day you will be governor. Who knows?

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: But thank you very much, Mayor, for joining us.

FAULCONER: Thank you, Wolf.

All right, so let's get another perspective right now. We're joined by the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Dr. Barbara Ferrer.

Dr. Ferrer, thanks so much for joining us.

So, you just heard the San Diego mayor say he wants to keep the beaches open, with restrictions, as you heard. Your county, Los Angeles County, has already closed its beaches, kept them closed.

You disagree -- I assume you disagree with the mayor?

DR. BARBARA FERRER, DIRECTOR, LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Oh, no, I actually don't disagree with the mayor.

I mean, in their area, they made a sensible plan. They all worked together on that plan. That plan won't work right now in L.A. County. In the month of April, when we started this month, we had about 80 deaths on April 1. Today, unfortunately, I announced that we're now up to over 1,100 people have died from COVID-19.

The beginning of the month, we had about 900 people in our hospitals with a diagnosis related to COVID-19. Today, we have 1,900 people in the hospital. I want to thank all of our residents who have stayed away from our beaches. I think we all understand that, at this point, we need to continue to keep our distance.

But when we do open and when we do start relaxing, I really appreciate the strategies that were used in San Diego and across that county, have consensus, do it in a sensible way, open in phases, really make sure that everything you're doing is allowing people to keep physically distant.

Our issue is there too. 10 million people that live in our county. On a good day in the summer, a hot day in the summer, one million people can flock to our beaches.

[18:15:08]

And that would not allow us to do the kind of distancing that we still need to do here, so that we can continue to flatten the curve and actually start to make some progress on decreasing hospitalizations and mortality.

But I don't disagree with an approach that brings people together, that works closely with public health officials, that makes sure that the science is helping to guide the decisions. We're just not in that place.

BLITZER: Yes.

FERRER: So, we're a really large county, so it wouldn't make sense for us now.

And I feel blessed them in a community where our residents agree. They agree that it's -- we still need to keep our distance for a little while longer. We have got plans on reopening as well. And I like the examples that we're seeing in other parts of the country about how to do this sensibly.

BLITZER: Are beaches, Dr. Ferrer, any more dangerous, do you believe, than public parks, for example, or even sidewalks that remain open for recreation?

FERRER: I think the issue for our beaches is that they get very, very crowded.

So this is a disease that is spread by respiratory droplets. The more time you're with folks and you're near them and close to them and breathing on them and sneezing on them or coughing, the easier it is for spread.

And we have actually seen a lot of examples where, when people are in crowds, that there can be a significant amount of spread. This is further complicated by the fact that we're realizing that there are so many people that are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, they're positive for COVID-19, and it turns out they're shedding virus.

So we have to put all of our systems in place, so that we can actually phase in a recovery that isn't going to cause that horrible spike that overwhelms our health care system.

BLITZER: As you know, the city of Los Angeles is now offering free testing to anyone who wants one, whether or not they currently have symptoms.

As far as we can tell, that only applies, though, to residents of the city, not necessarily residents of all of Los Angeles County. Is that right?

FERRER: I think anybody who's in the county and wants to go to one of the city testing sites could in fact sign up and get an appointment and go to one of the city sites.

At the county, we -- the city has about four million people. There's another six million people across the county. We still don't have a supply chain across the rest of the county that's secure enough to open up to all of our asymptomatic people.

Right now, we have an outbreak situation in our skilled nursing facilities. Almost 50 percent of our deaths are, unfortunately, among people who reside in these facilities. Our main priority this week is to get testing out to those skilled nursing facilities.

Now that we know that asymptomatic people are in fact able to spread, particularly in institutional settings, we have got to test every single person. And we have 380 skilled nursing facilities in the county.

So we're making a really concerted effort to make sure we have got the supply chain to do that. And we also -- again, as the city does, our testing sites are open for everybody who's an essential worker, and, of course, for people who are symptomatic, and in those higher-risk groups.

So there's a robust plan, and we appreciate the city's capacity to offer this testing for others. And the county will get there as well. But right now, we have got to take care of our most vulnerable residents. And that means a huge effort in our skilled nursing facilities.

BLITZER: Well, good luck to you, Dr. Ferrer. Good luck to everybody out in Los Angeles County. We're grateful for everything you're doing, saving lives in the process.

Appreciate it very, very much.

Just ahead: an ambitious goal for the United States to have a coronavirus vaccine by January.

Plus, President Trump just implied that China perhaps knowingly let coronavirus spread around the world. Is he planning to punish Beijing?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:23:24]

BLITZER: Tonight, President Trump is going even further in his efforts to blame China for the coronavirus.

He's now implying that China perhaps may have intentionally allowed the virus to spread around the world. Listen to what he said at the White House just a little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: They could've done it. And I'm just saying, well, one of two things happened. They either didn't do it and they couldn't do it from a competence standpoint or they let it spread.

And I would say, probably, it was -- it got out of control. But there's another case that, how come they stopped all the planes and all of the traffic from going into China, but they didn't stop the planes and the traffic from coming into the United States and from coming into all over Europe?

I mean, look at Italy. Look what happened to Italy. And it's very lucky. This country is very lucky, and I'm very lucky that I put the ban on China.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and "The New York Times" White House correspondent, Maggie Haberman. She's also a CNN political analyst.

So, Maggie, is the president gearing up, do you believe, to go ahead and punish China for this?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he's certainly gearing up to float some ideas on ways to punish China.

And I think that he is gearing up to try to tie China to Joe Biden, his Democratic opponent at the moment. I don't think that there are a number of measures that he is willing to take yet, because, remember, Wolf, he really wants this trade deal that he forged with China to hold.

And it held through the early days of his virus in January. It held through February. It has held so far. I don't think he wants to imperil that. But I think that he's gotten a lot of pressure from Republicans.

[18:25:00]

And his own campaign had been planning to try to deflect attention on failures by the Trump administration in responding to this virus early on, to deflect it to China. So I think you're going to see the president ratcheting up his

rhetoric more and more. Whether there are actual actions that follow remains to be seen.

BLITZER: As you know, Maggie, the president also says he's done, in his words, a spectacular job responding to this crisis, while his son- in-law, senior adviser Jared Kushner, has been calling all this, in his words, a great success story.

But as this virus claims more and more lives, more than 61,000 American lives right now, a million infected, 30 million in the last six weeks alone, Americans, having lost their jobs and now on unemployment, how is the administration justifying what so many are seeing them doing, trying to take a victory lap?

HABERMAN: They're not.

I mean, look, I think it's not a surprise. I think that the president tends to conflate either legal issues or health issues or policy issues with P.R. issues. And I think that's what you're seeing him do right now, because he knows that his reelection effort is going to hinge in large part on how he's seen as handling this.

And so he's putting a positive spin on it. Look, the administration has legitimate complaints about information China wasn't sharing, about China not letting officials, health officials from the U.S., visit China, not adequately sharing information in a timely fashion.

Those are all real complaints that should be looked at. But at the end of the day, the president is on video over and over in February playing down the criticisms of how he was handling this virus as efforts to tarnish him.

And to your point, more than 60,000 people have died. That is a horrific number. He is talking more about those who passed away. But I still think you are going to continue to hear about what went wrong in the earliest stages of this administration's handling of this.

BLITZER: Yes, 60,000 people have died nearly two months.

Sanjay, Dr. Fauci now says the U.S. is proactively ramping up production of a potential coronavirus vaccine, so it can be ready by January. But do we know for certain if this vaccine that is in the works maybe is safe, effective?

It's hat's pretty early right now, right?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. No, it's very early, Wolf.

We don't know the answers to those basic questions as of yet. Those are the trials that are ongoing, and some of them have started, actually, in human beings, testing for safety. So it's already moving along very quickly.

I think the big -- the big difference here, and what Dr. Fauci was sort of referring to is that, typically, you would go through three phases of clinical trials. And then after getting those results back, you would start production of the vaccine.

I think what he is saying -- and he has said this before -- is that we're going to have to start earlier than that, even before we know for certain that this -- the vaccine is passing successfully through all these trials, because, if you don't do that, you're going to be even further behind.

So that's really what this is about. It's a gamble, Wolf. If you get it right, and you see these what are called efficacy signals, little evidence that it's working, not conclusively, but you see enough evidence to go ahead and start production , and you get it right, obviously, that really accelerates the clock.

If you get it wrong, you could have a bad vaccine that you spent a lot of money on, and you're -- and you could be put behind. So it's a gamble, but that's what they're talking about, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sanjay, I want you to stand by. I know you're coming back to answer viewers' questions on the coronavirus.

Maggie, thanks, as usual, for joining us. We always love having you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Just ahead, I will speak with the mayor of New Orleans, a hot spot for the coronavirus, where the governor just announced he's easing restrictions on restaurants and churches.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: There is breaking news in Louisiana tonight. The governor, John Bel Edwards, has extended a statewide stay at home order but he has eased some restrictions. Among other things, he will now allow restaurants and churches to operate outdoors with certain restrictions.

Joining us now, the Mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell. Mayor Cantrell, thank you so much for joining us. And as you know, as more states begin to reopen, the governor extended Louisiana's stay-at-home order until, as I just said, May 15th. Do you support that move?

MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL (D-LA), NEW ORLEANS: Well, the governor of Louisiana moved to the date that the city of New Orleans has already declared as a focal point for my proclamation. So the governor made sure that it aligned with the City of New Orleans, so I do support that.

BLITZER: All right, good. The governor also says, as you heard restaurants, will be able to open up for outdoor dining. Churches will be able to have services if they're held outdoors, tented services, for example. Is New Orleans ready for that step as well?

CANTRELL: No. New Orleans is not going to do that. Those are not something that we're supporting at this time nor mandated to do. So we're going to stick to the proclamation that is in place. Looking at May 15th, making sure that the data drives our decision-making process. We are pivoting to a phased reopening strategy and approach. So when the time comes, we are ready and we're prepared to ensure public safety, which is public health for our residents as well as our visitors.

[18:35:01]

BLITZER: That's good to hear. The governor also says the administration, the Trump administration's agreement to supply you state with enough materials to test 200,000 residents per month will be sufficient Louisiana to reopen. Are you confident, Mayor, that that level of testing will give you, the folks of New Orleans, the information you need to protect your residents and safely reopen?

CANTRELL: Well, the City of New Orleans has been testing at upward of at 6 percent, over 24,000 residents tested, even going into hotspot areas. So we have been consistent with our testing capacity.

The additional 200,000 kits coming from the federal government will be well received, will be baked into our reopening strategy. And so it's very important. We're grateful for the increased testing because we know that it is a priority as it relates to being able to reopen and to sustain progress in the City of New Orleans.

BLITZER: That's encouraging as well. You've also said, Mayor, that you may, I repeat, may, after start thinking about canceling Mardi Gras in 2021. Explain what you mean? What factors, for example, will play into that critically important decision for your beautiful city?

CANTRELL: Well, the bottom line is, as we look into reopening the City of New Orleans and host visitors in our city for any event, we're wanting to make sure that the City of New Orleans is the safest place in the country to visit. And so we are going to continue to let the data again drive our decision-making as it relates to a phased reopening approach and also hosting large scale events.

I'm looking forward to Mardi Gras 2021 and the data, again, will dictate any changes that may have to come.

BLITZER: When do you have to make a final decision on that?

CANTRELL: Well, Mardi Gras 2021 is February the 16th. And so, you know, again, as we move to recovery and a phased approach to reopening the city, even getting into the fall, there has been some talk from the health experts about a second wave or round of COVID-19. So we're not wanting to regress at all.

So what we do today will ultimately determine where we end up being in 2021. If we stay on the track, as I've told my people, that we're going to be okay, but we do not want to regress and it will not be the City of New Orleans taking the State of Louisiana back, because it has been the City of New Orleans that's been driving the progress.

BLITZER: Mayor Cantrell, good luck to you. Good luck to all of folks in New Orleans. You got a great city in as we all know. Thanks very much for joining us.

CANTRELL: Thank you, man, we love you.

BLITZER: We love you too.

Just ahead, as many colleges announce they intend to reopen they're campuses in fall, I'll speak with the university president about his plans to keep students and faculty safe.

And our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's standing by, he will be back to answer your questions about the coronavirus.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: We're tracking all the latest developments in the coronavirus pandemic. I want to bring back our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's back to answer some of your questions about the virus. We're getting a lot of them. We got this one from a viewer, Sanjay. I have coronavirus. Should I ask my doctor about taking the drug, remdesivir, now that it's showing positive signs?

GUPTA: Yes, I think pretty soon, we're going to be at that point. This data on this drug, which was pretty encouraging, have just come out. It's going get likely come out under an emergency use authorization. And then, as Dr. Fauci said, it will be, at least for the time being, standard of care.

Wolf, let me just show you quickly, some people may have seen the data that has catching people's attention. The big thing is the data on the left. This medication seemed to reduce the duration of illness from 15 days to 11 days, which is about 31 percent. And when you look at the actual numbers. So that's significant. The mortality rate, it also had an impact. Although when you actually looked at the study itself, that was not a significant finding because it was hard to actually attribute the decrease in mortality to medication.

But, Wolf, I think the biggest thing is this medication seems to have an impact on the virus. It has proof concept of that, and therefore I think that's got a lot of attention. And if you were me and I was somebody who was becoming progressively ill, I think it's a medication that I would talk to my doctor about.

BLITZER: That's encouraging to hear. Here is another question from a viewer. I have read the coronavirus could cause blood clots. What are the signs of the clot?

GUPTA: It can be hard to know that you have a blood clot. Sometimes people will have -- feel that their limb or leg, for example, may start to get a little numb or feel a little redness, but it can be hard to know. The concern about blood clots, and this is something we were doing some reporting on today, Wolf, this can occur as a result of this COVID infection.

And sometimes it can be the first symptom even before people develop any troubles with cough or breathing or anything like that is a blood clot. And the concern is that blood clot could travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, in rare cases maybe even a stroke. It's rare, Wolf, it's definitely rare. But if someone is having sudden onset of difficulties, especially with breathing, you have to think about a clot and wonder if it's related to this virus.

[18:45:05]

BLITZER: Very quickly, somebody asked, should I put a mask on my baby or young child?

GUPTA: Not if they're under the age of two, and that's a bit arbitrary, Wolf. But, you know, the concern is pretty simple. For children under the age of 2, people who may not be able to remove the mask themselves because of some disability or somebody is having difficulty breathing, you don't want to put a mask on them because that could worsen the situation.

As for everybody else, Wolf, it's an important point. You should stay home as much as possible, but if you do go out and you're going to be in a situation where you think you can't maintain social distance, that's when it's important to wear a mask.

BLITZER: Yes.

GUPTA: You don't need to be wearing them all of the time.

BLITZER: And I'm glad the Vice President Mike Pence was wearing a mask today --

GUPTA: Yes.

BLITZER: -- as opposed to yesterday.

Sanjay, thanks as usual for all the great work you do.

GUPTA: Yes.

BLITZER: And be sure to tune in later tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, for a live CNN global town hall, "CORONAVIRUS: FACTS AND FEARS". Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta, they're joined by special guests including Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, along with Microsoft founder Bill Gates. That's later tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Just ahead, I'll speak with the president of Texas Tech University about his plans to reopen the campus to students and faculty this fall. We'll be right back.

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[18:50:58]

BLITZER: In Texas, the state's stay-at-home order expires tonight, allowing businesses to reopen tomorrow, despite a recent surge in virus deaths. Schools in the state remain closed, but plans are now underway to reopen those, as well. Texas Tech University, for example, announced what it's calling a phased reopening of its campus for the fall term.

Joining us now, the president of Texas Tech University, Lawrence Schovanec.

Mr. President, thank you so much for joining us.

Last fall, what, more than 38,000 students were enrolled at your great university. How do you plan to safely reopen your campus for the students, the faculty, the others. How will this semester, this upcoming semester differ from previous semesters?

LAWRENCE SCHOVANEC, TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: Well, first, Wolf, thank you for having me.

You referred to the fact that we have 38,000 some students on the campus last fall. When we talk about a staged reopening, the campus next fall won't look exactly like the campus the students experienced this year. We're going to have to control the population of the students to make sure we're respecting social distancing.

We're going to have to adjust the manner in which we deliver courses. Some courses will be face to face, smaller classes. There will be some online, and there will be some hybrid courses, where students have a mixture of face to face and online.

We're also exploring the possibility of semesters within semesters, to give students, as well as staff and faculty some flexibility in when they would come back to campus.

BLITZER: If a member of your university community does contract coronavirus, let's say, in the fall, and we hope that doesn't happen, obviously, but you have a plan in place to trace their contacts, to stop the virus from spreading through your campus?

SCHOVANEC: Yes, so we have already begun to plan as to how we would control the population in the dormitories. They won't be filled to capacity. We have to have space dedicated to where we could provide students the opportunity to quarantine or be isolated.

One of the advantages we have is Texas Tech has a BSL-3 CDC sentinel lab. That laboratory has conducted more than 7,500 tests recently. We're also looking into the possibility of requiring antibody testing and, of course, we'll use the advice of public health officials to do contact tracing. All of those will be tools that we would use to make sure that if there is an occurrence, we can deal with it in the safest possible way.

BLITZER: You have a great university, as we all know. But also, off fabulous sports program. Will fall sports proceed as planned?

SCHOVANEC: Wolf, that's an issue. I have discussed extensively with our athletic director, but also the Big 12 presidents get together every two weeks, and this is an important issue. The decision of what football may look like won't be decided by one university in isolation. It will be a conference decision, the commissioners among the various conferences will have to communicate, the NCAA will have a voice in that, but also it's going to depend on what the governors in various states allow.

So, there will be many voices in this, but, you know, the importance of football to the overall health of athletic programs. The revenue is important, but the safety of students is even more important.

BLITZER: Right, well said.

President Schovanec, thank you so much. Good luck to you, good luck to Texas Tech University. We'll stay in close touch.

And we'll have much more news right after this.

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[18:59:10]

BLITZER: Finally, tonight, we want to share with you more personal stories of Americans who have died from coronavirus, the real people behind those steadily climbing and very grim numbers.

David Michael Domina was 73 years old from Frankfort, New York. He was a devoted father of two daughters. They tell us David loved nothing more than to cheer on the sidelines of sporting events when any of his grandsons were playing. He was a man of faith who enjoyed nature, walks, and reading the Bible.

Doris Granderson was 70 years old from Picayune, Mississippi. She was a school bus driver for 35 years who bought each student onboard a gift every holiday. She was beloved by her three children, five grandchildren, and two great granddaughters.

Daughter, Sonia, describes her mother's remarkable spirit.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was always the life of the party, when she walked in, she would light up the room. She was just a joy to be around.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Those families and all of the families in mourning tonight, we offer our condolences, may your loved ones rest in peace. May their memories be a blessing.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.