Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

U.S. Death Toll Tops 66,000 As Majority Of States Ease Restrictions; De Blasio: New Yorkers "Pretty Amazing" In Following Rules; Southeast Florida Beaches Still Closed Amid Hotspot Status; WH Blocks Dr. Fauci From Testifying Before House Next Week; Cities Weigh Layoffs & Service Cuts Amid Financial Crisis; Thirty Million Americans Filed Jobless Claims In The Past Six Weeks; U.S. Official: Analysis Finds Kim Jong-un Images Appear Legitimate; Japan's COVID-19 Refugees Barely Scraping By In Changed World. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 2, 2020 - 21:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:00:55]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now across the United States, the number of people infected with the coronavirus is more than 1.1 million people. And in just nine weeks we've watched the U.S. death toll rocket from zero to more than 66,000 Americans. Despite that disturbingly high and rising death toll more than half of the country is now moving towards restarting businesses and services. The government of 32 states now easing pandemic restrictions at least to some degree. Malls, museums, restaurants are now open for example in Texas with distancing rules in place. And New Jersey opened state parks and golf courses this weekend.

This very surreal scene, take a look at this just a few minutes ago, sunset on the beach in Hollywood, Florida, on a beautiful springtime Saturday night, desserted. Public beaches in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach County, Broward County in south Florida are not open this weekend. The lifeguards are still working, but instead of keeping an eye on swimmers, they're patrolling the beaches to keep people away.

And in other places around the country where stay-at-home orders are still in effect, signs of quarantine fatigue. Protesters gathering at Laguna Beach, California after the governor in California closed all the beaches in Orange County. And this was the National Mall here in Washington D.C. this afternoon during a flyover by the Blue Angels and Thunder Birds to honor health care workers and first responders. The mall was crowded despite officials asking people not to cluster.

And New York City Central Park also very busy today despite the stay- at-home order. NYPD officers were out reminding people to keep a safe distance from each other. New York's Bill de Blasio told our CNN Ana Cabrera just a little while ago that for the most part people in New York are following the rules.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: But families have been doing that the right way and people are overwhelmingly abiding by that social distancing. More and more people putting on the face coverings, we're giving them out for free today all over the city to make it easier for people. So New Yorkers have been pretty amazing in following rules in a place where it's tough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Certainly is. A true line in the sand on the beaches of southern California. a third city in Orange County is going to war in the courts against the Governor Gavin Newsom after he ordered all of the county's beaches, Orange County beaches to close.

Paul Vercammen has been at Huntington Beach for us throughout the day. Paul, show us what it's like this evening where you are right now?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a surreal astonishing scene, look behind me, Huntington Beach, Surf City, USA completely empty. The lifeguards, the police telling people they need to get off the beach under the governor's order. You alluded to that pitched legal battle.

They slugged it out in court and in the end a judge denied the temporary restraining order request and allowed the governor's ban on going to the beach in Orange County to stand. And here in Orange County they are fuming they feel like this county, the only one in California under the governor's ban was singled out. Let's listen to the city attorney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL GATES, CITY ATTORNEY, HUNTINGTON BEACH CA: Huntington Beach has done an absolute remarkable job. And not withstanding, the governor issues this order shutting our beaches. We feel targeted, I think it's punitive and if he -- if it was really a matter of statewide concern which is his purview, he would have close all the beaches up and down the state, but he didn't.

He's picking on Orange County, he's picking on Huntington Beach. And the empirical data, the data about spread and cases and deaths here in Huntington Beach Orange County absolutely do not support the beach closure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: And with that (INAUDIBLE) was alluding to is there's 3 million people in Orange County, they've had 50 deaths here. Now, on the flip side, the governor's deputy attorney general arguing this point, this is all about a pandemic, the need for social distancing and the middle of the COVID-19 crisis.

[21:05:12] So, Wolf, this is a battle that's not over. They could go back to court or, as the judge sort of ordered both of them, both sides could get together and work this out. Reporting from Huntington Beach, Paul Vercammen, back to you.

BLITZER: All right Paul, thank you very.

Meantime on the east coast, the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis is moving to reopen much of the sunshine state. That means some Florida's beautiful beaches including those in the Tampa Bay area for example are open. But DeSantis is leaving beaches in three counties Miami- Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County closed for now, those are the three largest counties in Florida. That includes of course the iconic Miami Beach. Here's the issue like many urban areas, southeast Florida is a patchwork of city and county governments. There's active disagreement among some local leaders.

The Miami Beach Mayor, Dan Gelber is joining us now.

Mayor Gelber, thanks so much for taking a few moments to join us.

As you know statistics show that even though southeast Florida only accounts for what 30 percent of the states population, the area has more than 50% of the confirmed cases and COVID-19 deaths. So I assume you agree with the governor on this, at least for now keep Miami Beach, in fact, closed.

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D), MIAMI BEACH, FL: Absolutely. You know, we're -- my county is 10 percent maybe of the state. We have a third of all the deaths. We have 373 people that have succumb to the disease. So it's very prevalent here, it's a hot spot. And we know what will happen if we open our beaches. Tens of thousands of people will come. It will probably look just like spring break at the beginning of March, which was obviously terrible. So we're not going to rush into an exit of this pandemic.

BLITZER: As you know, some local leaders are calling to open Miami Beach, where the south beach moving up towards the Fountain Blue Hotel all the way up to Broward County. The county commission voted it down. Is there a fear though that people just won't be able to do the social distancing safely if in fact the beaches reopen?

GELBER: Yes. And what we've tried to do recently was open up our parks for passive movement to give people more places to socially distance. The problem is we're a lot like other places that are hospitality cities. We get 16 million visitors, 4, 5 million from all over the world, it's very hard for us, we're not built for social distancing.

So at the end of day, you know, if we open up, it's not like we can control it. And we don't have like -- it's not like Disney World or Universal where you can control who is coming in. And your beaches are open, you can't make your beaches just for your residents in Florida, it's for anyone.

So of course, we're really concerned about that, and we don't want to create a situation we cannot manage. And that's really the biggest concern.

BLITZER: You did reopen, Mayor, some parks on Wednesday.

GELBER: Yes.

BLITZER: You've had to issue hundreds of warnings to people who aren't wearing a face mask and keeping a safe distance. And people have defied the official park hours. So what's your message to those folks?

GELBER: Listen, you know, we've saved I think probably thousands of lives, you know, just in our state and probably in our county through these actions. These social distancing rules really have changed the trajectory of everything that's been going on. We have to stay with them. We opened up the parks not to loosen, but to give more opportunities for people to be able to get through this hunkering down. But we're not ready yet.

First thing, we'll probably do is look at retail and restaurants and try to do that partially to see if we can move, but only if we can manage the virus and that's the trick. We got to be able to do the contact tracing, the surveillance testing and just have really the bulk of tests that are effective and available, so that we can see what's going on and take the appropriate countermeasures.

BLITZER: What benchmarks, Mayor, are you going to be looking for to go ahead and reopen those beautiful beaches that Miami Beach has?

GELBER: There's really two things that are going to happen. First of all, the first benchmark is that the trajectory going downward is sufficient so that there's manageable amount of disease, you know, in the community, that we can control it. If there's too much, it's too hard to control because this is a silent spreader.

But I think more importantly is to have that army of contact tracers that people are talking about, so that you can cabin this virus if it comes up. and especially when you have this many restaurants and hotels as we have, you know, we've got to be able to control when it comes up, have people making phone calls, trying to track down where it is testing in the area, testing the entire community to see if it's growing.

The problem with this was, Wolf, that, you know, we were the first to shelter in the state and one of the first in the country to require people to have masks all over the place, but we were still late. Everybody was late because this disease spreads silently. And if you don't have adequate testing and the ability to respond, you're flying blind. You really can't fight it because you don't know what you're fighting.

[21:10:13]

BLITZER: Yes. And as so many people have pointed out, so many New Yorkers, what they call snow birds, they go down to Miami Beach and that was one of the problems, they were bringing apparently coronavirus with them at the time. And that's one of the reasons you guys are suffering right now. Mayor Dan Gelber, thanks everything your doing, we're grateful to you. I can't wait myself personally to get back to Miami Beach, hopefully sooner rather than later. I've been going there since I was a little boy. Thanks very much for joining us.

GELBER: OK, thank you.

BLITZER: A battle is brewing over Dr. Anthony Fauci. President Trump accusing Democrats of quote, looking for trouble by asking for Dr. Fauci's testimony before the House of Representatives. We have live pictures coming out of the White House right now.

Up next, we'll have a live report on the latest developments. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:15:07]

BLITZER: The White House is now blocking Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, from testifying before a House of Representatives Committee next week about the administration's coronavirus response. We have learn, however that as of now at least the President will allow Dr. Fauci to testify before a Senate Committee on May 12th.

Let's go to our White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond. He's joining us now. Jeremy, why allow Dr. Fauci to testify before a Senate Committee in a couple of weeks but not allow him to testify before a House Committee next week?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the White House has offered shifting explanations for why they are not allowing Dr. Fauci to testify before this House Appropriation Subcommittee. Yesterday, the White House said that it would be counterproductive to have Dr. Fauci testify on Capitol Hill, while he's in the middle of fighting the coronavirus.

But today Wolf, we heard from the White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and she focus on a different explanation, suggesting that the House Appropriations Committee hadn't provided the White House with enough details about the subject matter that they'd like Dr. Fauci to focus on in this testimony. And Wolf, she also called the request a publicity stunt.

BLITZER: All right, that's really important. We'll see what happens on that front as well. Thank you so much for that report, Jeremy Diamond at the White House.

Joining us now our CNN Medical Analyst, the former CDC Disease Detective Dr. Seema Yasmin and Professor of Medicine at George Washington School of Medicine, Dr. Gigi El-Bayoumi.

Dr. Yasmin, how important is it for the American people to hear from Dr. Fauci during this crisis? SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICIAL ANALYST: He's really become one of the central trustworthy figures in this global health crisis of our generation, Wolf, someone who speaks with integrity, with a decade of experience of working with multiple administrations on so many different epidemics. And really hearing him and his voice being stifled feels like science as a whole being stifled. And a pushing of political agendas ahead of evidence.

And we really need somebody like him at the pulpit. And you would have seen the public appetite for him and the love for him, because even on days when he wasn't behind the podium at White House press conferences, #whereisFauci was trending on Twitter. And with so much misinformation even from political leaders, the President himself, Dr. Fauci's become a really crucial, pivotal and trustworthy voice who people are looking to for guidance and for reassurance.

BLITZER: Yes, I call him a national treasure and a lot of others do as well.

Dr. El-Bouyami we keep hearing the testing is still the key in stopping this coronavirus. Dr. Fauci says there simply isn't enough testing to support many of these states trying to reopen right now. How far do you believe we are from widespread testing, enough testing around the country?

GIGI EL-BAYOUMI, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, GW UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, I think we're talking about two types of testing, Wolf. There is the testing for the actual virus and the quality of the test has improved significantly. There are still is, as you know, some people, my brother just tested negative but he's got the typical symptoms, so that's one. And we're woefully short there.

The other test which perhaps is going to really make a difference in allowing us to return to our normal lives, reopen in our various cities, is the antibody test. And as I'm sure you've heard before, we don't really have a reliable one. There are some people out there that are getting tested and saying, oh I'm antibody positive but the false positive as well as the false negative rates are pretty high. So we are far behind.

BLITZER: Yes, those antibody test are pretty unreliable right now, false negatives, false positives, but you going to get -- we -- they got to work and get a better one.

Dr. Yasmin, experts say that the virus potentially, these were some of the experts suggesting, could continue to spread with up to 60 to 70% of the population eventually infected. Do people need to mentally prepare for this virus to be with us not just for a few weeks or months but maybe a couple years?

YASMIN: Unfortunately, yes. We really need to make sure that we are preparing for the worst and then hoping for the best, hoping that a vaccine becomes available and allows us to resume normality soon or have been later. My fear is that we all get shut down fatigue and that's why folks are flooding to beaches and to malls and to the National Mall in D.C., while we're still actually in the first wave of this pandemic, not to mention that the second and third, even later waves can be far more deadly than the first.

So we need to have this mentality, that this is much more of a marathon rather than a sprint that we need to wait for a vaccine. Hopefully one becomes available in the next year, next 18 months, but because we still don't understand so much about immunity, how long you might be protected for after infection, if at all, we cannot get comfortable and assume that because so many have been infected, that safe from reinfection, we don't know that and that's why we have to prepare for worst case scenario.

[21:20:11]

BLITZER: That's a really important. Dr. El-Bayoumi, Dr. Fauci also says, he's certain that all of us we'll see what they call a second wave of the coronavirus this fall. But as far as we know, is the virus actually going away? Will the situation just be worse until there is a real vaccine or legitimate treatment?

EL-BAYOUMI: Well, you know, I'd like to talk about the second, third and fourth wave, because right now in Washington, D.C., we've had a 20% excess mortality from non-COVID related deaths. The other thing we're forgetting about is we can really reduce the death rate if people who have diabetes, high blood pressure, which the vast unfortunately the numbers are much higher in our underserved populations are controlled.

The third wave, or second or third wave that I'm seeing, I just diagnosed a patient this week with breast cancer and likely will diagnose another person. So I think while focusing on the COVID is exceedingly important, let's not forget the continuing diseases that are present. I don't know whether there's going to be another wave of COVID that's coming up. You know, we'll see. I don't think that anybody knows.

But, I do think that we have to look at things right now, like getting mobile clinics, mobile mammovan units, which are some of the goals that the (INAUDIBLE) institute is trying to get those things where people are. Because at this point, women that are in under resourced areas, instead of having to take the usual three buses are now taking four buses. So we're in a crisis right now both COVID and non-COVID related.

BLITZER: Yes. And non-COVID related people are simply afraid to go to the hospital right now and get some treatment, they need barely goes coronavirus is so contagious. So people aren't getting that and they're potentially going to get even sicker.

Dr. El-Bayoumi, thanks so much for joining us, Dr. Yasmin, thanks to you as well. Appreciate what both you are doing.

And we're only beginning to see the devastating impact this pandemic is having on the U.S. economy. State and local governments are pleading for more federal aid and hard-hit cities are facing difficult decisions amid budget shortfalls. We have details and a lot more of our special coverage right here in "The Situation Room".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:26:55]

BLITZER: Congress has dispersed trillions in an unprecedented relief package during the coronavirus pandemic, but cities across the country have still had to trim their workforces with furloughs and layoffs. It's very, very serious. As Congress weighs yet another stimulus package aim at state and local government, one White House economic adviser today said the package might not be necessary.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is joining us from Fredericksburg, Virginia right now. So Leyla, what are you hearing, what are you seeing on the ground?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well listen, let's start here in Fredericksburg, Virginia where the mayor announced 40 furloughs beginning today and you salary deduction are also in the works. She calls this drastic but necessary measures and you could tell for leaders -- local leaders across the country, these are hard, tough decisions, tough announcements to make and they are forcing families to make tough decisions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Like any mother, Jennifer Simmons just wants to make sure her little boy and family are safe and healthy. The security she once felt is now slipping away. She was furloughed as an employee from the mayor's office in Livonia, Michigan. She'll get her last paycheck this week.

JENNIFER SIMMONS, FURLOUGHED EMPLOYEE IN MICHIGAN: We live paycheck to paycheck which I think a lot of Americans do. I'm just not going to pay any bills, because I need to make sure that we have money for food.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): Simmons is one of the 234 government employees furloughed here, that's nearly 40% of the city's workforce is mostly in public works. Across the U.S., cities are dealing with more than a health crisis. Loss of revenue at the hands of COVID-19 has led many to a financial crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now they've been hit with a one-two punch. I mean lost revenues and increased tax (INAUDIBLE) because they got to be able to respond to this pandemic.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): In Portland, Oregon, the city furloughed about 30% of non-union employees, that's about 1,700 staffers. In Dayton, Ohio, the city furloughed 470 employees, and that's about a quarter of the city's government's workforce. And in El Paso's 450 employees furloughed or laid-off. El Paso mayor, Dee Margo, isn't shying away on the impact this will have on services for his citizens.

(on-camera): Do you worry about the next step? I mean is the next step furloughs of first responders?

DEE MARGO, MAYOR (R) EL PASO: No, we're not going to deal with that at all. We're not going to open new swimming pools and things of that nature. We stopped all construction. We'll continue some design work but that's it. We're not going to do any construction, we're cutting everywhere we can.

SANTIAGO (voice-over): And the pain is widespread. In cities like San Antonio, officials suspended some street maintenance. Detroit scaled back bus services, in Knoxville, Tennessee, libraries closed, only digital access.

Congress is providing some aid to cities through the CARES Act, but Mayor Margo says he needs more flexibility on how money can be spend,

MARGO: We're not asking for money. We can live with what we've got. We just need to be able to spend it where we need to spend it.

[21:30:05]

SANTIAGO: A coalition of local governments is pushing Congress for another $250 billion to help municipalities this year.

ANTHONY: We will have to cut to the bone in order to provide the basic services. We'll have to make hard choices on health and public service needs.

SANTIAGO: Further pushing families like Simmons to the brink with one more paycheck on the way and a few hundred bucks in savings.

JENNIFER SIMMONS, FURLOUGHED EMPLOYEE IN MICHIGAN: A $1,200 stimulus payment is great. It helps. But it's not going to keep us afloat. It's not going to save our families from ruin.

SANTIAGO: So where do you see your family in a month?

SIMMONS: I don't know. A lot of -- like I said, a lot of it -- I think everybody is just kind of going day by day right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANTIAGO: Day by day, Wolf, a lot of uncertainty. And you know, I spoke to the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and they tell me that Jennifer's story is actually quite common, even shared another story of an employee now having to choose between putting food on the table for her family or paying for a medical operation that's needed.

So, very hard decisions, not only for local governments, but the families, the everyday people that they impact.

BLITZER: You know, Leyla, some other states over the years have actually made it harder to get jobless benefits or they've trimmed those benefits. What are you hearing from people on the ground?

SANTIAGO: Well, let's take Jennifer Simmons for an example, right? You got to know her a little bit in that story. When I asked her, what went through your mind when you saw that you were one of the employees in Livonia, Michigan, furloughed? She said one of the first things she thought about was having to file for unemployment and not wanting to go through that process that so many have shared nightmares about, you know, it taking so long, having so many technical difficulties.

So certainly that's something that is on the minds of folks that don't want to deal with that. Luckily for her, she says that she knows that she will be doing that whatever it takes. But she also knows that she can count on friends and family for help. Wolf, not everybody has that.

BLITZER: Yes. That's absolutely true. Leyla Santiago with an excellent report, as usual. Thank you very much.

So what can be done to prevent this economic crisis from getting even worse? I'll speak live with a former U.S. labor secretary about possible solutions. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:36:36]

BLITZER: Some words of hope, but tonight from Warren Buffett, the billionaire businessman who has long been optimistic about the U.S. economy and the stock market. Buffett saying today at Berkshire Hathaway's first virtual annual shareholder meeting he's convinced America will recover from this pandemic, has its face great problems in the past.

Buffett, who's lived through the Cuban missile crisis, the Cold War, 9/11, the 2008 Great Recession, says that in every one of those cases, it seemed like times were bleak. But the nation recovered eventually. I agree with him completely.

The man known as the Oracle of Omaha, by the way, says the American magic has always prevailed. It will do so again. Certainly seems like times are rather bleak right now. But we've once again, we've bounced back before. Seth Harris is joining us. He understands what's going on. He's a former acting labor secretary under President Obama. He served during the depths of the financial crisis. He's joining us tonight right now once again.

Seth, give us a sense of the scale of what we're going through right now. Have we ever seen, for example, 30 million plus Americans lose their jobs going unemployment in only six weeks?

SETH HARRIS, FORMER ACTING LABOR SECRETARY UNDER OBAMA: No, Wolf. We've never seen that before. We've not seen these kinds of numbers since the Great Depression and even those unemployment claims numbers, I don't think really capture what's happening with the labor market.

I think the numbers are, in reality much, much higher. And but we've never seen it with this kind of speed. And we've certainly never seen it where the economy is essentially voluntarily shutting down. Your governors and mayors are ordering shutdowns. People are staying at home. Businesses are shutting down because they have to or because they choose to. And so we've never seen anything like this. So it's a big question. And we have to be humble about this. We don't really know how we're going to get back and how quickly we're going to get back to where we were before the pandemic struck.

BLITZER: You know, according to the Economic Policy Institute, Mr. Secretary, many more than the 30 million Americans are actually out of work. Break it down for our viewers. We know 30.3 million Americans lost their jobs, have filed for unemployment in the last six weeks. But according to this report, there's a lot more Americans who actually are out of work.

HARRIS: I think the EPI got it exactly right. So there were 7 million Americans who we know were unemployed by the middle of March. That was the unemployment report that we got just a few weeks ago.

The unemployment claims numbers got us over 30 million. And that doesn't include the past week. And there are probably 2 or 3 million more there. So that's probably in the vicinity of 40 million workers who we know to be unemployed.

But what EPI was saying was, there's a very large number of workers, somewhere between 9 and 14 million additional workers who either have tried to file unemployment claims and couldn't or simply gave up. Some number of workers just left the labor market. Some number of workers are unemployed and just didn't bother to file because they knew websites were crashing, phone lines were blocked. And so they just sort of threw their hands up in the air.

So the numbers are significantly higher. We think we'll get a somewhat better measure when we get the unemployment numbers at the end of this week. But even there, there's going to be a lot of fudge factor in those numbers. But I think we can simply say the labor market is terrible. We knew it was going to be because large sectors of the economy had been shut down. A lot of workers are depending upon the government to provide them with the support they need to get through this crisis.

[21:40:13]

BLITZER: Yes. We hear those numbers, 30 million, 40 million, those not -- aren't just numbers, those are real people. Most of them have to put, you know, bread on the table and have to work in order to survive. And it's so heartbreaking to hear those kinds of huge numbers.

So Mr. Secretary, how do we prevent right now an even bigger catastrophe is more relief for cities and states a key piece of that?

HARRIS: Absolutely. It's critical, Wolf. And we learned this lesson from the Great Recession, where we did not provide enough funding to the public sector, to state and local governments. And they ended up cutting employment by up to 500,000 workers. So that would extend the economic recession if we did not provide support.

And in addition, the frontline work of this crisis is being done by state and local governments, in city hospitals, by county EMTs, by cops and firefighters, by teachers and other providers. Those are the folks who are doing the work that are keeping us going right now. They need support. They're working really hard. They're working overtime. We need to pay for that.

But that's only a piece of what we need to do, Wolf. We need to invest more in the American people. We need to make sure that unemployment benefits are extended as long as they need to be. We need to help the Americans -- help Americans with health insurance.

You know, if you lose your job in America, the odds are you also lose your health insurance. We need to fund what's called the COBRA program, which allows you to keep your employer provided health insurance even after you lose your job. We need to pay for COVID treatment for everybody who goes into some kind of health care facility.

Health insurance is one of the leading causes of family bankruptcies in the United States. We eventually need to get to universal health care. But right now, in a crisis, we should open up the Obamacare exchanges. Extend COBRA to every family that's lost health insurance because of job loss and also to pay for those COVID treatments.

BLITZER: Yes. That's so, so important. You're absolutely right Mr. Secretary. Regarding the proposed next phase of the stimulus package for localities, for states, here's what the top White House economic adviser, Kevin Hassett said today. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN HASSETT, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: Right. Well, the President has said that he categorically rejects the idea of a bailout for states that have been irresponsible for a long time. But to the extent that the costs of COVID on states, you know, blue and red, you know, and all of them are high enough that maybe they need financial support, then he's willing to negotiate about that should there be a phase four deal.

I think right now, because there's been good news, really, that the opening up is starting to happen, you know, faster than we expected. It appears to be doing so safely. Then there is a chance that we won't really need a phase four.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Well, what do you think about that? The New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, on CNN earlier today, he called that remark outrageous. What's your reaction?

HARRIS: We definitely need a phase four bill. I think that Chairman Hassett is wrong about that. I agree with Mayor de Blasio. We're already in a big hole, a big financial hole. The only entity in our society that can borrow money essentially free and without limitation is the United States government.

They can also tax in order to raise that money. States and local governments absolutely have to balance their budgets. And so they are in a gigantic hole already, even if we were to open up the entire country tomorrow. They've lost a lot of sales tax revenue, income tax revenue. They need help. They've had added expenses from COVID.

So I think this irresponsible talk of bailout and even the more irresponsible talk by Senate Majority Leader McConnell that states should declare bankruptcy, which would crash the American economy in a way that would make the Great Depression look like it was a Tea Party.

I think that we need to immediately fund the states. We need to fund working families. We need to fund health insurance. We need to make sure that the workers who are out there on the frontlines today get the personal protective equipment that they need.

And we need to begin talking about how we're going to train dislocated workers to change careers or change jobs if their businesses don't survive this COVID pandemic. That's going to be an issue that I think is going to emerge in the coming weeks.

BLITZER: Seth Harris, thanks so much for joining us. Really appreciate it. We'll continue this conversation, as I like to say, down the road. Appreciate it very much.

HARRIS: Thank you, Wolf.

[21:44:49]

BLITZER: So Kim Jong-un reappears after weeks out of the spotlight. Now U.S. officials are weighing in on the new photos, the new video released yesterday. Are they real? We'll have an update on what's going on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We'll get back to our special coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in just a few moments. But first, we have some breaking news. A U.S. official telling CNN that an early analysis of the photos, the video put out late yesterday by North Korea of Kim Jong-un do in fact appeared to be legitimate. The news comes after weeks of speculation about Kim Jong-un's health.

Let's go to our correspondent, Will Ripley, who's been to North Korea 19 times over the past few years. He's joining us live from Tokyo right now. So what do you make? What's the latest you're seeing? What's the latest you're hearing about these new images?

[21:50:02]

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they do offer some clues as to the situation inside North Korea, Wolf, although they don't offer much in terms of information about what actually happened to Kim Jong-un and caused him to vanish from public view for three weeks.

Of course, Jim Sciutto reported U.S. intelligence that his health was in danger after a surgical procedure. The video doesn't really answer that unanswered question. And, of course, North Korea is not saying anything because Kim Jong-un's health is a carefully guarded secret.

But in the video, you can see things like people in the crowd wearing facemasks. Also, members of Kim Jong-un's security detail, his equivalent of the Secret Service wearing facemasks. That is a very interesting detail, given the North Korea has denied having a single coronavirus case inside the country, even though many are skeptical of that claim.

You also see Kim sitting down, smoking heavily, just like he has been seen doing in public many times before. Of course, his smoking along with his obesity and, you know, a history of heart problems in his family are considered to be major health risks. And that is something that U.S. national security certainly looks at very closely in terms of making sure he's going to stay in power. If he has a problem -- or, you know, if he's at risk of a health condition, that could be problematic.

BLITZER: Yes. We're going to follow this very, very closely. Will, together with you right now, I want to turn back to the coronavirus pandemic. You're reporting live from Tokyo right now. So where are things, things I take it, are becoming increasingly desperate in Japan right now. Tell us what you're seeing.

RIPLEY: It really is heartbreaking, Wolf, because there is a whole new generation of people who've never been homeless, people living paycheck to paycheck, suddenly finding themselves out on the streets.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIPLEY (voice-over): The lines have never been longer for the weekend food handout in Tokyo Shinjuku Ward. Takahashi doesn't want to give his last name to avoid shaming his family.

(on camera): This is your first time ever receiving food like this. Did you ever think that you'd be here?

TAKAHASHI, CORONAVIRUS REFUGEE: (Speaking in Foreign Language).

(voice-over): I didn't think something like this could happen to me, he says.

This line is full of first timers like Takahashi, reluctant members of a growing group of coronavirus refugees. The pandemic putting companies out of business, people out of work.

TAKAHASHI: (Speaking in Foreign Language).

(voice-over): I was forced out of the place I was staying, he says. Takahashi was evicted from his apartment, sleeping in a 24-hour Internet cafe. For thousands in Tokyo, a city known for sky high rent, these relics from the 1990s are the only housing they can afford.

When I visited one five years ago, I saw people eating from vending machines, sharing a common toilet and shower, sleeping in cubicles, packed together like a petri dish. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government ordered Internet cafes to close when a state of emergency was declared three weeks ago. The risk of spreading the virus in such close quarters just too high.

(on camera): You don't see people smiling here. It's a pretty depressing place, actually.

(voice-over): Takahashi's new sleeping spot at the bus terminal is even more depressing. He's down to his last 1,000 yen, around $9. He can't find a job because nobody's hiring right now.

TAKAHASHI: (Speaking in Foreign Language).

(voice-over): It gets really cold after dark, he says.

(on camera): What do you think about a night when you're sleeping here at the bus station?

TAKAHASHI: (Speaking in Foreign Language).

(voice-over): I try to suck it up. But to be honest, I'm really disappointed I ended up like this.

(on camera): This area here in Shinjuku is where a lot of the city's homeless live. Ironically, they're sleeping directly underneath the headquarters of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

(voice-over): Several stories above, aid workers are putting in overtime.

(on camera): Is Japan and Tokyo prepared for this?

TOMOO ODA, HOMELESS AIDE OFFICIAL: (Speaking in Foreign Language).

(voice-over): We're really concerned says Tomoo Oda. I'm scared to think about it every day, more people need help finding a place to sleep.

Tokyo is preparing up to 2,000 rooms. Homeless advocates say it won't be nearly enough.

(on camera): You have a whole new group of people who've never been out on the streets before.

REN ONISHI, HOMELESS ADVOCATE: (Speaking in Foreign Language).

(voice-over): So many people are living off with little money they have says Ren Onishi. In the next few weeks, they'll end up on the streets. The number of coronavirus refugees is growing by the day, just like the lines of people desperate for their next meal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Heartbreaking story, Will Ripley reporting from Tokyo. Will, thank you very much. And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching tonight. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll be back tomorrow night with another special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

But before we go tonight, I want to take a moment to remember those who have lost their lives to the coronavirus. On April 1st, 3,834 people here in the United States have lost their battle with the virus. By the end of the month, that number was just over 66,000. That's a staggering, one American dead every 44 seconds during the month of April, a terrible toll from this tragedy.

[21:55:05]

We want to close tonight with 44 seconds of silence, remembering the victims. Good night. And stay safe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)