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FDA Authorizes Emergency Use of Remdesivir to Treat Coronavirus; U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 64,000; NYC Mayor Apologizes for Singling Out Jewish Community after Crowded Funeral; Interview with Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-NY); More Than 30 States Ease Restrictions As Death Toll Climbs; Study: Virus To Keep Spreading For Up To Two Years Until 60 Percent To 70 Percent Of Population Has Been Infected; U.S. And China Play The Blame Game Over Coronavirus Outbreak. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 1, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:25]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

The food and drug administration has just now authorized emergency use of the drug remdesivir to treat severe cases of coronavirus after early research showed it might help patients recover more quickly.

Also, a new CDC report looking at the spread of the virus says limited testing, continued travel, and attendance at professional and social events fueled early transmission in the United States.

Also, tonight, more than 30 states are now easing their stay-at-home restrictions even though most don't meet White House guidelines calling for a 14-day downward trajectory of documented cases before any opening. As of this hour, by the way, the U.S. death toll topped 64,000 with more than 1 million confirmed cases. Worldwide, there are 3.3 million cases and 237,000 deaths.

Let's get some more on the breaking news right now. Our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta has details. Jim, doctors are now clearing the use of this antiviral drug to treat their sickest patients.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This could be the positive news that most people have been hoping for in the struggle to contain the coronavirus. President Trump just announced here at the White House, the Food and Drug Administration has given emergency use authorization for the drug remdesivir to be used for patients who have COVID-19 and vials of the drug are being deployed as we speak.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): It could be a major breakthrough in the battle against the coronavirus as the Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency authorization for the use of the drug remdesivir to treat COVID-19. Gilead, the company that produces remdesivir, said it will be donating more than 1 million vials of the drug with more on the way.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: An important treatment for hospitalized coronavirus patients. And it's something, I spoke with Dr. Hahn and Dr. Fauci. I spoke with Deborah about it, and it's really a very promising situation.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Holding the first traditional White House briefing in more than 400 days, new press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted that there is no distance between President Trump and his own Intelligence Community on whether the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's statement is consistent with the other intelligence assessments.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But that's not quite the case. The president told reporters he has confidence that the virus came out of a lab in China, while not offering any proof.

TRUMP: Yes, I have. I can't tell you that. I'm not allowed to tell you that.

ACOSTA (voice-over): That was a clear departure from a statement of the director of National Intelligence, saying "The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan."

The World Health Organization appeared to push back on the lab theory.

DR. MIKE RYAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WHO HEALTH EMERGENCIES: With regards to the origin of the virus in Wuhan, we've listened again and again to numerous scientists who looked at the sequences and looked at this virus and we are assured that this virus is natural in origin.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The new Centers for Disease Control report looking at the spread of the coronavirus says notes there were major factors behind the early days of the outbreak in the U.S., including "importation of the virus by travelers infected elsewhere," "attendance at professional and social events," introduction of the virus at places like nursing homes and problems detecting the virus, namely testing.

The White House was also pressed on the protests against stay-at-home orders including demonstrations in Michigan where some participants brought weapons with them.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): Politics has no business when we're talking about saving lives. Every person in this state matters to me. Whether you agree with this order or not.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president tweeted, "The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal."

MCENANY: We encourage everyone to protest lawfully and also to engage on our social distancing guidelines which we think all Americans should engage in.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Top administration Dr. Anthony Fauci warns governors who are racing ahead with reopening may be putting Americans in danger.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: So, the concern that I have is that there are some states, some cities, or what have you, who are looking at that and kind of leapfrogging over the first checkpoint. And I mean, obviously you could get away with that. But you're making a really significant risk.

ACOSTA (voice-over): As for McEnany, she promised to be straight with reporters at her briefings.

[17:05:01]

MCENANY: I will never lie to you. You have my word on that.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Something her predecessors failed to do, from Sean Spicer --

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period.

ACOSTA (voice-over): To Sarah Sanders who once admitted to federal investigators she misled the press.

SARAH SANDERS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I mean, I've heard from a large number of individuals that work at the FBI that said that they were very happy with the president's decision.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Senior administration officials said a majority of the U.S. Intelligence Community now believes the coronavirus somehow originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, likely due to a mishap or mistake at the facility. The officials sought to clarify the president's comments that seemed to differ from a statement made by the director of National Intelligence when Mr. Trump expressed confidence that the outbreak started at the Wuhan lab. But the official caution, Wolf, that there are areas of the Intelligence Community that have not reached this lab conclusion, noting there are still the real possibility that the virus originated through human contact with infected animals and the investigation continues of course. Wolf?

BLITZER: The investigation continues. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you.

Let's get some more on the pandemic's impact across the United States. Right now, our national correspondent Erica Hill is joining us from New York. Erica, we're learning more about how the virus was spreading in the very early part of the year.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We are, and it's confirming what a lot of people had suspected, that large gatherings really helped to fuel this, as well as travel from hotspots around the world. It is also interesting timing, giving that more than 30 states today are relaxing measures that they had put in place to stop the spread of this virus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (voice-over): Mardi Gras, a medical conference in Boston, and a large funeral in Albany, Georgia. All three February events likely helped fuel the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. Those new findings from the CDC confirming what many have suspected. Researchers also singling out the role of international travel and certain workplaces like meat packing plants, nursing homes, and dense urban areas like New York City. A lack of testing also contributed to the spread. The findings come at 32 states move to reopen by the weekend though none appear to have met the White House guidelines for a 14-day decline in cases.

MAYOR DAVID HOLT (R-OK), OKLAHOMA CITY: We still have a virus in this community. That virus does not care that it is May 1st. And you still have to take extreme precautions for your safety and the safety of those you love.

HILL (voice-over): Diners in Texas reclaiming a morning routine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was ready, believe me.

HILL (voice-over): It's not just restaurants and retail coming back online today. Beaches, malls, even movie theaters, though at reduced capacity.

JASON GOULD, EXECUTIVE CHEF, COMMON BOND: We really had to think about it and decide. Are we ready? Do we want to do this?

HILL (voice-over): Ohio, Louisiana, and Michigan extending stay-at- home orders.

Armed protesters convening in Lansing, calling for the state to reopen.

DAYNA POLEHANKI (D), MICHIGAN STATE SENATE: I am no wimp. But what I saw at work yesterday at the Michigan State Capitol, which was a bunch of men in the balcony of this chamber carrying rifles. I'm not embarrassed to say that I was afraid.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): -- many days not weeks.

HILL (voice-over): In California, the governor now saying the state is days, not weeks away from being able to reopen shops and restaurants though with restrictions in place. New concerns, Friday, about the safety of meat processing plants and the nation's food supply. Shoppers at military commissaries now limited to purchasing two meat items per visit in anticipation of possible shortages. A new report predicts the virus could be with us for at least another 18 months, until 60 to 70 percent of the population has been infected.

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, BOARD CERTIFIED INTERNIST: I think people need to wrap their head around the fact that this is here to stay for a protracted period of time.

HILL (voice-over): Meantime, work continues on a virus. The warning.

FAUCI: Just say I have a vaccine and throwing it to people, what people don't appreciate, because they're so intent to getting a vaccine quickly, is that there could be a deleterious negative effect of enhancement of infection.

HILL (voice-over): As Americans wait, they're also honoring those we've lost.

In Connecticut, thousands of white flags, one for each person in the state who has died as a result of the virus. Pastor Patrick Collins calling the memorial a somber reminder that we are in this together.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: And Wolf, here in New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing today that there would be waivers for mental health services for frontline workers, which is of course a major concern as we move forward, also partnering with Kate Spade and Crisis Text Line to offer services for mental health, which also point out, the governor also announcing today all K-12 schools and college facilities are closed now through the end of this academic year and the district should start to think about what things could look like in the fall and come up with some new planning. Wolf?

[17:10:05]

BLITZER: Erica Hill in New York for us. Erica, thanks for that report.

We'll stay in New York. The mayor, Bill de Blasio, is joining us right now. Mayor de Blasio, thank you so much for joining us. I know you guys are incredibly busy right now.

Does the emergency use authorization for this drug remdesivir give you some hope that effective treatments -- it's not a vaccine -- treatments could potentially manage future outbreaks to the virus and potentially allow you to loosen some of your restrictions?

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): Wolf, look, we all have to hope and pray that's true. Now, the way we're going to find out is through real evidence. You know, an emergency use authorization means something was put into play quickly because of an urgent situation. Now we have to find out, and we'll certainly use it in our public hospitals, for example, to see what impact really happens. If it's a game changer, thank God. If not, we're going to continue on with all the strategies we have now. But I think this one has to be a kind of, you know, trust but verify situation. We don't know what it fully means yet unless we see it in real life.

BLITZER: Yes, it still needs some more testing, obviously. A new report from the CDC, Mayor, says international travel, the lack of testing capacity, allowed the coronavirus to take hold early here in the United States. Do you believe those were the major factors that allowed the virus to spread, for example, so rapidly in New York City?

DE BLASIO: Yes, Wolf, we don't have all the facts. But I think what we've seen is that we got hit from two directions in terms of the travel dynamic from both Asia and Europe. And obviously we're an international hub. But I think the testing is the central issue here. January 24th was the first day I called for the federal government to set up testing in New York City. They didn't do it for, obviously, quite a long time and it's still not sufficient.

So, I think, the fact is we had the testing when we needed it, and we had months, obviously, this nation got months of warning from what was going on in China. We would have been in a position to stop it and contain it. And that's what we're trying to get back to now, ironically, Wolf, we're trying to get back to the point where we knock this disease down enough to then test everyone who needs a test and find out everyone they've had close contact with, trace them, quarantine them. That's what we were actually doing in the beginning. But it turns out that by the time we got the test, it was already weeks and weeks too late. But I'm hoping and praying that the federal government now recognizes that they actually could master the testing situation. That is actually a really verifiable way for us to get out of this because we've seen it work in other countries.

BLITZER: There is some dire word from this new study, I don't know if you've seen it, Mayor, from the University of Minnesota, saying that the coronavirus pandemic could actually last up to two years here in the United States. Are you taking that possibility into consideration as you plan to gradually reopen the city?

DE BLASIO: Absolutely, Wolf. We need to think about the long-term reality. We have to play the long game here. We know right now we're not out of the woods in New York City. Thousands of cases new in the last 24 hours, almost 300 deaths. I mean it's still very much a raging battle. But we also see real progress happening. But we've got to be smart and careful about how we open up, just to make sure, to begin with, this disease doesn't boomerang back on us, which has happened in other parts of the world, which I fear may happen in other states in the country.

We got to be smart now, but we also have to recognize until it's fully defeated with a vaccine and/or a cure, it's out there. And in fact, we're anticipating next year, the coronavirus still being around and potentially a very heavy flu season at the same time. That's a big one-two punch we have to get ahead of and make sure people get their flu shots, among other things. So yes, we're playing the long game here. But I'll tell you, Wolf, my concern is we need the testing from the federal government, and we need direct support through the stimulus, or we are not going to be in a position to even think about getting back on our feet. I mean the two big missing links from Washington are still missing. The testing and the financial support to get back on our feet and restart our economy.

BLITZER: Speaking of that stimulus, Mayor, how much money does New York City need right now to avoid, shall we say, bankruptcy?

DE BLASIO: Right now, I have a gap of $7.4 billion in my budget, as we speak. That number inevitably will get worse as we lose more revenue. And I have to be honest, Wolf, mayors all over the country are coming to grips with this. We have to start thinking, if we don't get the help from Washington we need in the next few weeks, a lot of mayors, Republican and Democrat both, are thinking unfortunately about furloughing public employees or even layoffs. And I'm talking about first responders, police, fire, sanitation, healthcare workers, educators. This is the backbone of our cities and our country. All of that is on the line right now, all over the country.

[17:15:07]

And so, when you think about right now, I'm in the hole $7.4 billion, if my state doesn't get help, they're going to have to start cutting aid to localities by billions more. So, it's a very slippery slope. I am hoping and praying that folks in the House and Senate realize, if they don't get aid to the frontline quickly, cities really will be facing horrible choices, horrible furloughs and layoffs, and some literal bankruptcy.

BLITZER: The rising death toll from the coronavirus is clearly putting a serious strain on New York's ability to safely and respectfully handle dead bodies. On Wednesday, there were these awful pictures. Authorities found, Mayor, dozens of decomposing bodies toward inside two trucks next to a Brooklyn funeral home. What steps are you taking to prevent this from happening again?

DE BLASIO: Wolf, such a sad situation and so disrespectful to the families. I have to say, I've come down very hard on that funeral home. That was an avoidable situation. We in the city, NYPD, there was lots of ways that the funeral home could have turned to us for help and of course we would have helped them. But they stayed silent. That's a rarity. Overwhelmingly, even with the horrible strain, and the emotional strain, the funeral homes have really stood by the families of this city and served them. We've been working with them. I don't want to ever see something like that happen again. I feel horrible for those families, that just should not have happened.

But look, the way that not have it happen also is to keep beating back this disease. And that means people continuing to stick with the social distancing, staying home to the maximum extent possible, and then, again, with that testing. If we can get that testing, Wolf, I know we can beat it back because you start squeezing the disease more and more with that testing and finding the people who need quarantine, and then knocking it down more and more. That's where we have to get to so we never have to have horrible situations like that again.

BLITZER: On April 11th, I think, Mayor, you suggested that the schools of New York City, it's the largest school district in the country, should be closed at least for the rest of this academic year. The governor, Andrew Cuomo, he announced today that initially he was saying that was his decision, today he made a decision, he agrees with you, schools are going to be closed through the rest of this academic year. When do you think kids in New York will be able to go back to school? Will there be summer school? Are they going to have to wait until the fall?

DE BLASIO: Wolf, the plan is September. And again, we're being careful and cautious here because we're not going to let this disease boomerang. We're just not going to let that happen. So, the plan is to make sure we start strong in September. We're going to need to have an extraordinary school year, probably the strongest school year we've ever had to bring kids back up to speed. We're going to be -- deal with a lot of kids in school, communities are going through a lot of pain and trauma after what's happened here. So, September, with the understanding that over the summer we're going to still keep that distance learning, that online learning going very intensely to give kids a running start into the year.

Look, if the situation gets suddenly better, we'll consider other options, but I think this one is a sort of slow and steady approach to make sure we get to what we really need which is that new school year to start on time and start safely.

BLITZER: Before I let you go, I just want to give you a chance to respond to the criticism, Mayor, you received for tweeting that message singling out New York's Jewish community this week for that huge crowd of Hasidic men who showed up at a funeral of a rabbi. I want you to explain what you were thinking at the time. You were clearly angry that all of these people were there. They were violating the social distancing regulations. What has gone on since then? Because there are still, as you know, Jewish leaders who say it was unfair to single out all the Jews when it was just this one group of Hasidic Jews that were violating the rules.

DE BLASIO: Yes, Wolf. I've made it very clear, very publicly. I did not mean in any way to single out a whole community. I have a very close, deep relationship in the Jewish community. I've tried to protect the community, defend it against so many challenges but in the Hasidic community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn this was the latest of a series of really bad situations where social distancing was being violated to the tune of hundreds or even thousands of people gathered at once. It was endangering lives of people in that community and beyond. It was endangering the lives of our police officers who went there to try and deal with it. And it made me very angry and very frustrated because we had warned people so many times.

And I had said very clearly, we're not going to allow this anymore. We're not going to tolerate it. I did not mean in any way to be disrespectful. And I've said that it really was a bad choice of words. But it was out of actually love and passion, love for the community and frustration and passion that we could not let things like this happen.

Wolf, I saw with my own eyes thousands of people gathered close together, many of them without face coverings.

[17:20:03]

I mean, it was horrifying to think about the fact that people will ultimately die because that gathering happened, a gathering to honor a fallen rabbi. And I understand the power of mourning, but that rabbi, I'm sure, would never have wanted to see more people die because of trying to honor him.

So I was very frustrated. But no, I have a deep appreciation for the Jewish community and we're all in this together. But we must, we must observe social distancing and we will not tolerate, the NYPD will not tolerate --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Will that Hasidic community in Brooklyn going to listen to everyone and stop doing what they were doing?

DE BLASIO: I think there's evidence in the last 48 hours, a number of community leaders have come forward, some even who were involved on Tuesday night have apologized, and made very clear, including some of the highest religious authorities, they are telling their community never let that happen again. And they understand the NYPD will very aggressively enforce. I hope it doesn't come to that but we're ready to if needed.

BLITZER: And I think you're right. I think the rabbi who had just died would not have wanted people to be risking their lives to pay their respects to the rabbi in that kind of way. Mayor de Blasio, thank you so much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation down the road. Good luck to everybody in New York.

DE BLASIO: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And stay with us, we have more on the breaking news, the FDA just now authorizing the use of the experimental drug remdesivir to treat symptoms of the coronavirus disease.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:25:45]

BLITZER: This afternoon's breaking news. The Food and Drug Administration issuing an emergency use authorization for the antiviral drug remdesivir for treating patients with severe coronavirus. Let's get an update first from CNN's Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, how significant potentially is this decision for emergency approval of this drug by the FDA?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know this is significant. But we do want to keep it in context. So, this emergency use authorization was given so that patients -- all patients, can take remdesivir, all patients whose doctors want to prescribe it can take remdesivir, because before you had to be in a clinical trial. Let's look at why the FDA gave this authorization. It was based on the study of just over a thousand COVID patients where they found that those who took a placebo had 15 days until recovery. And those who took remdesivir had 11 days to recovery. They did not show that remdesivir saved lives. And to be clear, there were patients on remdesivir who did pass away. This is not a blockbuster. This is not a knockout. But it is important, it's better to be sick for 11 days than for 15 days for sure.

Also, as Dr. Fauci pointed out, it's a proof of concept. If this drug seems to be attacking the virus in some way, they can then build on that knowledge and come up with other drugs that might work in similar ways, perhaps even better.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. I want to get another voice right now, joining us -- Elizabeth, stand by, don't go too far away. Columbia University professor and epidemiologist, Jeffrey Shaman. Dr. Shaman, did the FDA make the right call today by approving the emergency use of remdesivir.

JEFFREY SHAMAN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: I think they did. I think what we have in place is exactly what Elizabeth said, and its cause for very cautious optimism. It isn't a game changer. It's not going to be the type of days mocking up. There's big change that allows us to essentially emerge from our homes and get back to a normal economy. But it is something that not only will perhaps improve the treatment and shorten the duration of illness for people who are critically ill, but it will provide pathways for further study to try to develop better therapeutics.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. Shaman, how would an effective treatment, let's say like remdesivir even if it's not a total cure by any means, change the game, let's say for governors who are trying to reopen parts of their states and the economy?

SHAMAN: I don't think this is something that can actually change that. And I think it's a real question of whether or not this is the right time to actually be reopening the economy. A lot of these governors, as you pointed out yourself on your program, haven't yet seen in their states the 14-day decline in cases that the White House wanted to mandate prior to reopening. I think in some instances here we're seeing them jump the gun a bit. And from my own group's work on modeling this, I'm very concerned that there are going to be rebound increases in cases in these states within a few weeks.

BLITZER: And Elizabeth, you've been doing a lot of reporting on this. The emergency use authorization, that means remdesivir has not necessarily undergone the standard amount of FDA review. Is there a potential risk in taking this drug, Elizabeth, based on everything you're hearing?

COHEN: Pre-pandemic, drugs would have to go through a much more extensive review than what this drug has gone through. But that makes sense, during a crisis you want to get things out there. It's the only treatment right now specifically for this. Now, the folks who dealt with this drug, and was used experimentally for Ebola as well, have said that it's very safe. One thing that they noticed with Ebola was elevated liver enzymes, but that's reversible. That can change.

So, the doctors who have used this, say they feel that it's very safe. Hopefully as they use it on potentially many, many, many tens of thousands of people or even more of that, they will keep track of these side effects. Hopefully, they're not just unleashing it, they will systematically keep track of what side effects might pop up when you start using it in such a large group of people.

BLITZER: And Professor Shaman, there is some suggestion maybe remdesivir with another drug, a combination, may even work better. I'm sure you've heard that as well.

SHAMAN: I have heard that, and I've heard it for a number of other drugs. It maybe something down the line that we're going to see cocktails of drugs given to people, because it's shown that for some individuals one works better for others and other, and they want to provide both so they still actually try to really knock the virus out and improve patient outcomes.

[17:30:00]

BLITZER: A lot of work still needs to be done. But let's hope for the best. Dr. Shaman, thanks for joining us. Elizabeth, thanks to you as well.

Coming up, as more and more governors announce plans to open up businesses, restart their economies, they're getting some pushback from some of the mayors in those states. Up next, I'll speak live with the mayor of Chicago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:35:20]

BLITZER: While the governors of more than 30 states now have announced plans to restart their economies, open up the state's, let some businesses reopen now, they're getting some serious pushback from at least some mayors in those states. The Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is joining us right now. Mayor Lightfoot, thanks so much for joining us. What's going on in Chicago, as opposed to the state of Illinois? Are you guys with the governor all on the same page or disagreeing?

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT, CHICAGO: We're not disagreeing but we are definitely staying the course. You know, the governor obviously has to account for the whole state. But here in our region, we're still seeing a steady uptick in a number of cases. And what that tells me is we need to stay the course.

People are getting anxious and I get that. Spring fever is definitely in the air. But the reason why we have any degree of optimism is because people have held firm and stayed home. And it's too late for us to come out of that right now. BLITZER: As you probably heard this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested that there may be some what he called wiggle room for loosening up restrictions in various parts of the countries but he's also warning don't wiggle too much. How much wiggle room do you guys have in Chicago?

LIGHTFOOT: Look, I think it's way too soon for us even be thinking about loosening up the restrictions that we've been living under since mid March. And the reason for it is because our ICU beds are continuing to rise. Hospitals are inching up towards capacity, and we're still seeing the number of deaths go up every day. We're going to soon pass 1,000 deaths in Chicago alone. That's a stunning number, when you think about it.

I was saying earlier to some of my team, you know, we're out thinking about the census. And we're trying to make sure that everybody is counted at a time when we're losing life every single day.

BLITZER: So when do you, Mayor, you'll be able to start opening up a little bit, two weeks, a month, two months? What does it look like right now?

LIGHTFOOT: Look, I hope that we're going to be in a much better position by the end of May, and be able to start thinking about loosening restrictions. But as always, it's got to be guided by the data and the science. As long as we don't -- we continue to see an uptick in cases, we haven't plateaued yet. We need to see those cases go down and be sustained down for at least a couple of weeks before we can start thinking about loosening restrictions.

BLITZER: I assume you saw --

LIGHTFOOT: It's too dangerous --

BLITZER: Yes, I was going to say, Mayor, I assume you saw that very disturbing University of Minnesota report that just came out today suggesting the pandemic could actually last two years, two more years. Is Chicago prepared to handle a pandemic that long.

LIGHTFOOT: Well, God willing, it's not going to be that long. But we certainly have looked at modeling about what -- how long it will take us to get back down to something close to normal. And it all depends on how quickly we come out and how much of those a spike. Every model that I've seen, and it's certainly borne true in countries across the world, whether it's Japan, Singapore, or more recently, Germany. If you come out too quickly, you will absolutely see a spike in new cases. That's what we want to avoid.

BLITZER: Mayor Lightfoot, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck to everyone in Chicago. We'll stay in very close touch with you as well. Always good to hear your perspective.

And coming up, the deepening and very dangerous war of words provoked by President Trump's blaming China for the coronavirus troubles here in the United States. Up next, we're going to China, we'll get China's angry response today. And later, our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's standing by to join us to answer your questions about the coronavirus. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:43:45]

BLITZER: So we're following multiple breaking stories here in "The Situation Room" including a source now telling CNN that President Trump was told the majority of the U.S. intelligence community believes that coronavirus came out of a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan. President's criticism of China has sparked an increasingly angry war of words between U.S. and Chinese officials.

Let's go to CNN's David Culver, he's just back from Wuhan. He's now in Shanghai for us. So, David, how are the Chinese responding to all of this?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's not going over well here, Wolf. And they are very strategic in their criticisms, much like President Trump has been and not going directly after President Xi Jinping, instead calling out China as a whole. For China's part through its state media, it is going not after President Trump, but after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CULVER (voice-over): China's state run media now ramping up its propaganda against the United States taking direct aim at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. This week, a near daily CCTV commentary attacks Pompeo for calling out China's mishandling of the coronavirus. One saying he is turning himself to be the enemy of humankind by spreading a political virus.

On Thursday that "People's Daily", the official newspaper for China's Communist Party, ran an editorial saying Pompeo's rhetoric makes the U.S. look like it's dealing with a colossal moral deficit.

[17:45:09]

Government controlled Xinhua tweeted an animation further mocking the U.S. is blaming of China portraying it as hypocritical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you listening to yourselves?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are always correct. Even though we contradict ourselves.

CULVER (voice-over): In the shadows of the coronavirus outbreak, the war of words is creating a deepening rift between the U.S. and China.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: China is a very sophisticated country and they could have contained it. They were either unable to or they chose not to. And the world has suffered greatly.

CULVER (voice-over): It is a change from President Donald Trump's more sympathetic tone expressed repeatedly over the past few months. TRUMP: Look, I know this President Xi loves the people of China. He loves his country, and he's doing a very good job with a very, very tough situation.

CULVER (voice-over): While still not directly criticizing President Xi Jinping, President Trump is increasingly criticizing China for the viruses devastating and deadly spread. Echoing Secretary of State Pompeo's hardline stance?

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, we know that started in Wuhan, China. We don't yet know from where it started. And in spite of our best efforts to get experts on the ground, that continue to try and hide and obfuscate. That's wrong. It continues to pose a threat to the world. This is classic communist disinformation. This is what communists do.

CULVER (voice-over): The White House now further pushing the origin theory that the virus started in a Wuhan laboratory. Last week, CNN returned to Wuhan post-lockdown. We traveled to the lab in question, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. We captured a few images from the exterior of the gated campus. Chinese officials dismiss allegations that it started here.

And a statement Thursday from the U.S. office of the acting director of National Intelligence said it concluded that the coronavirus was not manmade or genetically modified. But noted it was still evaluating theories linking the outbreak to the lab.

CNN's early reporting of this revealed China's covering up and silencing of whistleblowers. Our reports also put into question China's official number of cases, which has been revised repeatedly and is widely believed to be vastly under reported.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CULVER: However, China believes, Wolf, that the U.S. is simply using this increased war of words, this heated rhetoric as a way to deflect from its lack of preparedness for the onslaught of this virus in the United States. It's only expected to really intensify here, and it pushes past any hope for any international collaboration, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, the stakes are really enormous right now in U.S.-Chinese relations, David Culver in Shanghai, thanks for the terrific reporting.

Coming up, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's ready to answer your questions about the coronavirus.

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[17:52:52]

BLITZER: Time now for your questions about the coronavirus pandemic. Our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us as he always is. Here's one question from a viewer, Sanjay. "Once a vaccine is discovered, how quickly will the public have access to it? Will the most vulnerable be prioritized?"

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, that's a good question. And the vulnerable and people who are on the front line will probably be prioritized that, you know, healthcare workers are going to probably need this. The first are going to need this more quickly.

But also, you know, places around the world, Wolf, where they have healthcare systems that don't function as well, where the viruses and more risk of spreading are also likely going to be prioritized. One of the keys, Wolf, is they're probably going to start manufacturing this virus before it even goes through all the various phases of trial. It's a gamble, but that's one way to make sure that you can have enough at least if this thing does get approved and shown to be safe and effective.

BLITZER: That would be so important. Here's another question. "Is it safe to go to the beach this summer?"

GUPTA: Everybody wants to go to the beach. I want to go to the beach too. It can be safe. It's -- first of all, it's OK to be outside. Some suggested it might even be better to be outside. You have obviously larger areas, and as long as you can maintain a physical distance from people. So if you can maintain that physical distance not congregate in certain areas, not share public spaces, you know, restrooms or entryways into the beach, it can be fine.

You just got to be really careful about that, you got to be mindful that the virus is still continuing to spread out there. So go ahead, be outside, keep that distance and don't share those public spaces.

BLITZER: Good advice. Here's another question from a viewer. "I'm scared to go to the hospital because of the coronavirus, but what situations warrant taking the risk?"

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, this is a really important point because there are people who may be not getting the care that they need right now. You know, the obvious things and shortness of breath, if you have a bluish tinge in your lips, if you having any kind of chest pain or tightness, those sorts of things. If your symptoms continue to get progressively worse, call the doctor. Go to the hospital, call ahead if you can, so that you can be isolated when you get there. But there are certainly critical situations, Wolf, where you need to go to the hospital.

[17:55:05]

BLITZER: Certainly. All right, we're going to continue this in the next hour, Sanjay, so don't go too far away.

There's breaking news we're following next. The FDA authorizing emergency use of the drug Remdesivir to treat severe cases of the coronavirus.

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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 an advanced in coronavirus treatment. The Food and Drug Administration here in Washington has just authorized Remdesivir for emergency use on patients hospitalized with severe cases.