Return to Transcripts main page


White House Pushing The Pause Button On Aid; Key Member Of White House Coronavirus Task Force Encouraged By Early Results Of Experimental Drug; Fed Guidelines Call For 14-Day Drop Before States Can Reopen. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired May 3, 2020 - 15:00   ET


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Finally, let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat.

In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable, and equally wonderful in the sight of God.

We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise. God bless you all.



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, and thank you so much for joining me this Sunday, I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

All right, we begin with the White House pushing the pause button on aid as millions of Americans struggle with the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus.

This morning, the administration announced that more than half of the money set aside for the second Paycheck Protection Program has already been given out, more than $175 billion.

And according to President Trump's National Chief Economic adviser, it could be a while for any more aid is distributed.


LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: There's kind of a pause period right now. You know, we put up $3 trillion of direct Federal budget assistance in one way or another. The Federal Reserve has actually put in as much as $4 trillion to $6 trillion.

So, it's a huge, huge package. Let's see how it is doing as we gradually reopen the economy.


WHITFIELD: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he is advancing his plans for a seven-state consortium to get the East Coast economy back on track and coordinate the buying of medical supplies to fight the pandemic.

By tomorrow morning, over 30 states will have partially reopened their economies despite warnings from medical experts.

Let's start with CNN's Jeremy Diamond at the White House. So Jeremy, today Kudlow also said that he wanted to see the results from the latest stimulus package before working out the next deal. Where does the White House stand?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. Larry Kudlow suggested this morning to our colleague Jake Tapper that the White House is going to be taking the next couple of weeks to assess not only the impact of those last two economic relief packages passed by Congress and signed by the President, but also to look at how the economy begins to rebound as some of these states across the country begin to reopen their economies.

But what we do know is that some are already calling for additional stimulus. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling for a trillion dollars in economic aid to state and local governments. That is something that we have heard President Trump already suggest that there could be strings attached, suggesting that any aid for state and local governments would be tied to ending sanctuary city policies and this morning, Larry Kudlow suggested much the same.


KUDLOW: I want to say this that regarding the states, as you know, the President has from time to time spoken about linking that to sanctuary cities.

I don't think anything has been decided yet regarding healthcare; and all manner of medical equipment, we have poured hundreds of billions into the states, perhaps there'll be more of that, we'll wait and see.

From our perspective, too, Jake, look, we know the economy is still in terrible contractionary phase, tremendous hardships everywhere. That's why we've put up several rescue packages led by President Trump and with the bipartisan support in Congress.


DIAMOND: So first of all, Fred on that issue of so-called sanctuary cities, that would be a nonstarter, of course, for Democrats on Capitol Hill who would oppose that, but we're also hearing from others, including the Republican Governor Larry Hogan, suggesting that the state and local governments do need support from the Federal government and that there shouldn't be any strings attached even though his state for example, does not have those kinds of sanctuary policies in which state governments do not support Federal policies against undocumented immigrants.

What is clear, though, Fred, is that while the administration tries to figure out what kind of economic aid they'd be willing to support going forward, we are already hearing from economists as well as the Federal Reserve, Chairman Jerome Powell saying that Congress and the President should pass and sign into law, additional direct Federal stimulus, right now -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jeremy Diamond at the White House. Thank you so much.

All right, today, a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force says she is encouraged by the early results of the experimental drug, remdesivir for helping patients recover.

The drug was found to shorten the duration of illness in severely affected patients, but it's had no statistically significant effect on mortality.

Dr. Deborah Birx was asked today whether it's a silver bullet.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR So, it's a first step forward. In parallel, we have a whole series of therapeutics including plasma and also monoclonal antibodies being worked through.

We are -- we are concentrating on vaccines, as well as therapeutic bridges to ensure that the American people can do well with this virus eventually. We really want to ensure there's both therapeutics available and vaccines available rapidly.


WHITFIELD: Dr. Khalilah Gates is a Pulmonary and Critical Care specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Good to see you, Doctor.


WHITFIELD: All right. So, how big of a role do you believe remdesivir will likely have?

GATES: I think we're very excited about the results from the remdesivir trial right now. We have a significant shortening of days and I liken it to Tamiflu for influenza where we don't necessarily see a mortality benefit, but shortening the days and the viral load is key and it's one of the first things we have that we know is working. So, we're excited about the result so far.

WHITFIELD: And explain to people why you believe that's key, you know, shortening the days in the hospital or recovery.

GATES: So shortening the days in the hospital, if we can reduce the viral load, then we can potentially minimize the significant downstream effects -- prolonged intubation and all of the other outcomes that come with being intubated in the ICU for prolonged periods of time.

And so, we're excited that there's something that can potentially shorten that to minimize the downstream effects. WHITFIELD: OK. Dr. Deborah Birx also talked about the race for a

vaccine and, and says in her view, it's possible to actually have one by January. Listen to what she said.


BIRX: The way that is possible is if you bring forward five or six different classes of candidates, which the Operation Warp Speed has done.

And so, it's not relying on a single vaccine platform. It is relying on several different candidates that are made differently and act differently.

And then it's about doing compressed Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3 trials in an overlapping way moving forward when you have a good safety and immunogenicity data, but not with the level of pauses that are often present in vaccine development.

And so on paper, it's possible. It's whether we can execute and execute around the globe, because you also, for Phase 3 have to have active viral transmission in a community in order to study its efficacy.


WHITFIELD: So, do you have any concerns about a rush or do you believe that should be the instinct when you're dealing with a global pandemic?

GATES: So, my feeling is that as she stated, this is theoretical on paper. I think that we know from past experience, what effective development of vaccines is, and I think in the middle of a pandemic, we're all very excited about doing things differently.

And I think partly, we need to stick to what we know works. If we can manage to get a vaccine sooner that is safe for the public, then that's great.

But I think we need to let the process play itself out and not necessarily be overly excited about what looks possible on paper.

WHITFIELD: All right, Dr. Khalilah Gates, thank you so much. All the best and continue to be well.

GATES: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, governors across the country are under growing pressure to ease restrictions, but under the White House guidelines, states are supposed to see a 14-day drop in positive cases before reopening.

So, which states meet those requirements and which still have a long way to go? Here is CNN's John King.


states here on the map highlighted in green, they have daily new case track going down for the past 14 days. That's one of the key requirements the White House says you should have, governors, before you reopen.

You see these states in green heading down. They include Florida. The reopening there underway heading down, but you see some bumps as you go through the five-day moving average. Certainly from here, Florida is coming down.

But you see this in a number of states, still some spikes up and down that we watch in the days ahead.

These states here, highlighted in yellow or gold for you at home, these states are about the same. Little dips, little rises, little dip -- these states essentially in the status quo as they fight the coronavirus. Among them, the state that is being very aggressive in reopening, the State of Texas.

If you look right here, it is hard to say that this is Texas going down. It's relatively flat. If you look at the five day moving average, that's the red line there, but you see the spike in the cases here that's why some people in Texas are worried perhaps, the governor, went a bit too soon. More on that in a moment.

These states here, pink, still going up. The case count still going up. The rate of case from day-to-day still heading up new cases for the past 14 days.

Some of them are beginning to reopen at least slowly. Others are saying we're going to wait at least until the middle of May. Colorado, one of the examples here, one of the many states that has the problems in the meatpacking plants and you see here, a spike back here then it comes down a little bit.

You could argue that flat, but if you're the Governor of Colorado, you probably want to see a little bit more data. Here's the issue.


KING: As America goes through this 50-state experiment, you just look at this. Where's your neighboring state? What is your state doing? What's your neighboring state doing? Eighteen states still have the case rate going up. Fifteen, the yellow, it's about the same; 17 going down.

So, if you live on the border of a state, your state might be doing great. The next state maybe not so well. This is the big challenge.


WHITFIELD: All right, John King, thank you so much for that. All right, tensions are over how to handle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in California and right now, the state has more than 53,000 confirmed cases and 2,194 deaths and a battle is brewing over Governor Gavin Newsom's decision to close down Orange County beaches after residents live on the shores last weekend.

Some cities in the county are suing the governor saying they had their own measured plan for reopening and his power doesn't outrank local jurisdiction.

Newsom's order to close those beaches also sparked large protests this weekend.

Joining me right now from Huntington Beach is CNN's Paul Vercammen. All right, so Paul, what more are you hearing from people about the next steps, how they're airing their grievances and what they're doing?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right here, Fred, in Huntington Beach. They are angry. As you pointed out, the city is suing the governor along with other cities, and as we look right now, after this hard shutdown hit this weekend, the Huntington Beach Pier was always closed, but remarkable, remarkable scene.

Huntington Beach - Surf City USA is closed. We saw some surfers walking out of the water after repeated warnings on a bullhorn for them to exit the water, and as I said, Fred, they are frustrated.


JASON MOLLER, CALIFORNIA RESIDENT: Our Governor wasting all of these resources on putting cones up, putting caution tape up and driving down the coast and seeing a cop at every light is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen.


VERCAMMEN: So, we'll look at a map of Southern California. Let me explain that the Governor has said that just too many people clustered in Orange County for his liking. He didn't feel that they socially distanced and he stressed time and time again, that's how to stop the spread of COVID-19.

So, Orange County - closed. Los Angeles County - closed. Ventura County - open. San Diego County - open.

And here in Huntington Beach in Orange County, they say just let us know what the rules are and those other counties will abide by them. We just want to reopen.

And if you look behind me, another thing they want to point out here in Huntington Beach is look at the sand. This is not a narrow strip of it. It's about 250 yards from where I'm standing about all the way to the shoreline, so it's not a tiny beach by any measure -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Pretty significant. All right, Paul Vercammen. Appreciate it.

All right, coming up, the power of a cough. We go inside a lab that is studying how far and how long germs linger in the air. Why researchers say social distancing guidelines don't go far enough. Also, ahead, students heading back to class in one part of the world.

We're live with what's being done to keep children safe.



WHITFIELD: Some businesses in all three but Florida counties will be able to reopen starting tomorrow. The state is now reporting over 36,000 cases. Governor Ron deSantis says he is working to get things moving in the right direction while still being mindful of the most vulnerable populations.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Being safe, smart and step by step is the appropriate way to consider that and I think we're going to respond well, and I think we're going to be able to continue to take some good steps.

But tomorrow is just one step. It's certainly not the Florida that we had in February, but I think that we obviously want to get to where we're back in the saddle doing a lot of great things.


WHITFIELD: CNN is Randi Kaye joins me now from West Palm Beach. So Randi, what are you learning?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, people are certainly excited to get outside and with much of the State of Florida opening tomorrow, people will once again be able to visit beaches and state parks and restaurants to some capacity.

The question is, will they be social distancing? Will they be wearing masks? Will they obey these new restrictions? So, we were wondering what if somebody coughed in these places where now people are going to be visiting? How far does a cough really travel? We found our answer, Fred, inside a Florida lab.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heavy cough -- three, two, one.


KAYE (voice over): Inside this lab at Florida Atlantic University, two Engineering Professors are measuring the power of a cough.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one.


KAYE (voice over): Using a dummy, they fill its mouth with a mix of glycerin and water, then with a pump, force the dummy to cough. Then wait to see how far the droplets travel. They fill the air, visible with the green laser light simulating what happens when we cough.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It generates particles on the order of 10 to 20 microns, which is roughly close to what the smallest droplet sizes are when we cough.


KAYE (voice over): Take note how quickly the simulated respiratory droplets spread.

The droplets expelled traveled a distance of three feet almost immediately. Within five seconds, the droplets were at six feet then nine feet in just about ten seconds.

Remember, nine feet is three feet beyond the recommended social distancing guidelines.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is already reaching roughly nine feet now. It's still moving further, slowly.



KAYE (voice over): The fog of droplets lingered in the air, but kept moving forward, taking just another 30 to 40 seconds to float another three feet.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's getting closer to 12 feet now.


KAYE (voice over): Yes, he said 12 feet.

Over and over again, the simulated droplets blew past the six-foot mark, often doubling that distance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. It has passed three feet already, approaching six feet. And it looks like it has crossed six feet. And now it has slowed down.

KAYE (on camera): How long might they linger at nine feet and 12 feet?

MANHAR DHANAK, CHAIRMAN, FAU ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT: So at nine feet, they could linger for -- provided still air -- two to three minutes, okay? But the concentration is less than what it would be at, say, six feet

by a factor of eight.


KAYE (voice over): The Professors say the droplets become less dense the further they travel, but they still hang in the air, still with the ability to carry disease.

And watch this, even when we put a simple mask on the dummy, particles still disperse from the sides of the mask though they didn't travel far.

KAYE (on camera): Certainly if you are not wearing a mask, you are supposed to cough into your elbow. But if you cough into your hand, this is what happens. Let's turn out the lights. I'll put my hand up against the mouth of this dummy and simulate a cough.

You can see the droplets spray in all directions. They may not travel as far, maybe about three feet or so, but they spray everywhere. And they can linger in the air possibly for as long as three minutes.

KAYE (voice over): Intensity of the cough matters. So, we tested a gentle cough too. The lighter cough didn't go very far at all, about three feet. But the question remains, how close is too close?


KAYE (on camera): Do you think based on what you've seen in your own lab that six feet is enough for social distancing?

DHANAK: Six feet is the minimum distance that you should keep.

It seems that --

KAYE: But further is better?

DHANAK: Further is better.


KAYE: So, we shot that story inside in a small lab, certainly, Fred, outside, it's a different story even with a slight breeze like I'm feeling today. Those droplets wouldn't travel as far probably about three or four feet.

The Professors say they also would travel upward and disperse to the side. So, that's why social distancing is key. You have to keep your distance.

But what amazed me, Fred, was how long those droplets linger in the air. They said that it could be several minutes, so if you got into an elevator, if you walked into a restaurant after somebody had coughed and you didn't know it, those droplets are still hanging in the air and could be carrying that virus.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Graphic. Really important information. Now, we all know and can visualize it. It kind of gives you the creeps, too.

All right, Randi Kaye, thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, seven states in the northeast are joining forces to help save lives and money. Plus Governor Cuomo showed off a mural of donated masks last week and now, he is calling out the people who are not wearing them.

And a sign of hope at the Javits Center, patient number 1,095, now on the road to recovery.



WHITFIELD: In response to the pandemic, governors in seven northeastern states are forming a pact to purchase medical supplies and they're hoping to do it without having to rely on the Federal government.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement earlier today with the help of governors from neighboring states.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We're going to form a consortium with our seven northeast partner states, which would buy about $5 billion worth of equipment and supplies. That will then increase our market power when we're buying.

And we will buy as a consortium, prices of consortium for PPE equipment, ventilators, medical equipment, whatever we need to buy when you put all of those hospitals together.


WHITFIELD: Polo Sandoval is in New York for us. So, Polo, the governor spoke a lot about, you know, lessons learned and what the state is planning to do going forward.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And in that press conference, Fred, the Governor also saying that the number of hospitalizations and intubations has actually gone down for the first time in a while.

Those are promising figures and the Governor also making it clear that part of the reason for that is because of those precautions that people are taking, the social distancing, for example, and as we heard from the governor today, saying that that is key.

And if social distancing is simply not possible, then that is why the mask is certainly so important.

I promise you, this is going right back on as soon as we finish our conversation. But I think what we're hearing right now from the Governor is that taking those measures, remaining socially distant, and also using those face coverings is not only the responsible thing to do, according to the Governor, but also the respectful thing to do as well.


CUOMO: You wear the mask, not for yourself. You wear the mask for me. It's a sign of respect to other people. And you make me sick, that's disrespectful.

I have to go into the hospital. I have to call an ambulance. That's an ambulance driver. I have to go into an emergency room. That's a nurse, that's a doctor who has to put on PPE that somebody has to buy and pay for. They have to risk being exposed to the virus, because you wouldn't wear a mask. Because you wouldn't wear a mask.

You put so many people risk because you didn't want to wear a mask.



SANDOVAL: Governor Cuomo also made it clear that it's quite obvious that there are many people that are leaving their homes, especially this weekend. The weather is beautiful in New York for the first time in a while, so many New Yorkers who have been cooped up for such a long time certainly have that need to go out and get a breath of fresh air.

The Governor and Mayor Bill de Blasio recognizing that that is completely understandable. However, the both the Governor and the Mayor saying that it's possible to also do it in a responsible way.

WHITFIELD: And then Polo, let's also talk about what's happening at the Javits Center. It had become a makeshift hospital. What's its status now?

SANDOVAL: At least, it was operating as a field hospital, but now obviously, that's possible with the Federal draw down. It is closing.

I want you -- instead of telling you about a very poignant moment that took place on Friday, I want you to see it and hear what it was like when one of the last patients was released and discharged from the Javits Center -- Convention Center.


SANDOVAL: Boy, those moments that we have seen, not just at that field hospital, but really at medical facilities across the state and really throughout the country, as hospital staff bid farewell to some of these patients that have successfully completed treatment, or at least are on that right path.

But we are still getting a sense from officials, Fred, that it is extremely important that people continue with that assumption that we are still not out of the woods, that right now is still not the time to relax.

The reason why these numbers are on the decline for many communities across the country, is because people are exercising those caution -- that caution and being -- not only taking care of themselves, but also their loved ones as well.

WHITFIELD: Yes, well, congratulations to that patient, 1095. It indeed took a team effort and congrats to all of them. Job well done.

Thank you, Polo Sandoval.

All right, straight ahead, 30 million Americans have filed for initial unemployment since mid-March. So, how will the U.S. economy recover?



WHITFIELD: Welcome back. The White House may be pushing the pause button on relief aid as millions of Americans struggle with the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus.

The administration announced that more than half of the money set aside for the second Paycheck Protection Program has already been given out, more than $175 billion, and according to President Trump's White House Economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, it could be a while before aid is handed out.


KUDLOW: There's kind of a pause period right now. You know, we put up $3 trillion of direct Federal budget assistance in one way or another. The Federal Reserve has actually put in as much as $4 trillion to $6 trillion. So, it's a huge, huge package. Let's see how it's doing as we gradually reopen the economy.


WHITFIELD: Diane Swonk is joining me from Chicago. She is the Chief Economist at Grant Thornton Audit Tax and Advisory Services. Good to see you.

So, you heard Larry Kudlow there.


WHITFIELD: You know, say that, you know, there could be a time to push that pause button. Is that a good idea?

SWONK: No, it's not, and I'm disappointed because one of the few things this crisis has given us is foresight. We know from other countries that have begun to open that there's easily setbacks that come. Consumers are afraid. They don't show up at public places and social distancing will be with us through the end of the year or even until we have a vaccine.

So, that makes it hard for public places, anything from entertainment, to the arts, to sports, to actually get back up and running again. So, we know we're going to need more aid out there. We know that the aid we have is going to run out at the very moment that we're going to need it most as we're trying to reopen over the summer.

Many of the unemployment benefits that people are currently drawing upon now, millions of which who have not been able to get access to those benefits that actually expires in July at the very moment that those Payroll Protection Plans that Larry was referring to are actually going to expire.

So, all of a sudden, any firms out there that don't have enough cash flow to support their workers will be doing another round of layoffs in July.

And again, July 1st is what we've talked about before when state and local governments start doing their fiscal year budgets, and we're going to see draconian cuts.

We're talking about essential workers and first responders.

WHITFIELD: So, the administration says the average size of a loan made under that second round of the program was $79,000.00. So, does that tell you that more of this money is going to small businesses, you know, instead of what it was intended for?

SWONK: Well, I think we get -- we are seeing more of the small businesses. That's good. It's still not enough. In fact, I do know many small businesses that I happen to know and have been talking to that actually got in the second round of the PPP loans, and that's great.

The other side of it, though, is that it's still not enough. If this had been a large enough program in the first place, like what Germany has done, no one would have even cared who got the money. There would have been a fight about it.

You wouldn't have worried about big firms or large firms, you just would have worried about people bringing people back.

The idea though, that you would structure a grant program to rehire people while the economy is still shutdown is a little bit perplexing. I don't think they thought it all out and that's where you could course correct and provide more direct grants to the small business to keep afloat and then ramp up when it's a little safer and more solvent for them.


WHITFIELD: So, now you've got this push by a lot of states, you know, to reopen their economies more than 30, you know, states have eased their restrictions, encouraging businesses to open up.

But if you have a number of these businesses that open up whether it be you know, with real, you know, skeletal staff where they are only allowed to let so many people in, they're not really able to make a whole lot of money. What is this doing for that small business? Is this assisting them? Is this helping them? Or is this putting them in a position where, you know, they're spending more and receiving less in profit?

SWONK: Well, what we're going to see is you know, giving them a little bit of a lifeboat, but they're not going to be ramped up enough. I think you are going to see another round of layoffs from firms that do get those loans and many small businesses have decided they can't even ramp up because it's not worth the cost of the wait staff to only have 25 percent of a restaurant full.

Restaurants are built on a model of having a busy Thursday through Saturday night and having big bar tabs. That can't happen in this environment, which means many of those small businesses are going to go under.

And you're going to see a lot of consolidation out there, where you have larger companies gobbling up smaller companies all over the course of the next year, and part of that could be avoided if we did this more thoughtfully and more slowly.

The idea that we'd open back up against the White House's own guidelines that, you know, we need to see a drop in actual COVID cases, only New York has seen a drop in COVID cases, and then wait 14 days after that to actually open to diminish and then socially distance to diminish the risk of reinfection.

This really sets up the situation for a case of rolling outbreaks all summer long and into the fall when we get the flu outbreak as well.

WHITFIELD: And how worried are you about, you know, the near term? Thirty million people who are jobless and this is only in about a month, a month and a half.

SWONK: You know, it's going to look worse than that next Friday. Next Friday, we see the April employment report and those unemployment claims that we've seen understate the actual loss in jobs.

I think it's going to cost 35 million in job losses. It's really going to be stunning. We've never seen anything like this, and what's going to be so stunning about it as well is how much across the board. It's not just leisure and hospitality or the food services industry.

It's hitting healthcare, dental offices, doctors, every person out there is affected in one way or another, and I think, you know, we're also going to see a lot of hours rolled back.

A lot of people who are working full time have gotten a cut in pay. They're still working from home, but they don't have the demand for the services even though they can work from home if they once did.

WHITFIELD: All right, Diane Swonk, thank you so much. Always good to see you. Appreciate it.

All right, more news in a moment, but first, a spectacular sight from a different point of view. Today we're getting a look from inside the cockpit of a Blue Angels and Thunderbird jet there as they flew across D.C., Baltimore, Atlanta yesterday. Their special flight was to honor healthcare workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


WHITFIELD: "The Pandemic and the President" a new CNN special report airing tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. It looks at the global spread of COVID-19 and examines how President Trump reacted to the unfolding crisis. Here is CNN's Jake Tapper.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): February began with a ban.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not one person has died, and I issued a travel restriction from China.


TAPPER (voice over): The restriction stopped most Chinese residents and foreign nationals who had recently been in China from traveling to the U.S.

The restrictions also started a clock.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: When you talk to public health experts, they really look with despair at those couple of weeks because they say, whatever your feelings were on the travel ban at the time, it was a perfectly fine and reasonable step to take and he bought himself a little bit of time and then he just squandered it.


TAPPER (voice over): There were only nine known cases of the novel coronavirus inside the U.S. The first step to keeping that number low, according to the experts, was a working test for the virus.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT Testing was, is and always will be the cornerstone of trying to stem a pandemic. You've got to identify the people who are infected. You've got to be able to isolate those folks, and you've got to be able to treat them. It all begins with testing.

MURRAY: February 6th is when the C.D.C. starts sending these test kits out to public health departments.


TAPPER (voice over): But the tests, the only tests approved for use in the United States were not working.


MURRAY: Their hearts just think when they're trying to use this test and it's malfunctioning.


WHITFIELD: All right, the host for this CNN special joins me right now. Jake Tapper is the anchor for "The Lead" and "State of the Union." So Jake, you know, how damaging was it that they had these malfunctioning tests?

TAPPER: Very damaging because it all depends, as Sanjay says in that clip, the ability of the government whether state government or Federal government to isolate this virus depends on testing because we know now that asymptomatic people not only carry it, but it's even possible that they are the most contagious before they demonstrate any symptoms.

And I have to say I am concerned after having talked to health experts like Sanjay and others that the United States, individual states are making the same mistake that was made when we did not have effective testing, which is not taking the idea of testing seriously enough.


TAPPER: If individuals are opening businesses up, opening restaurants, opening events and parks and such, and we still are not fully making sure that we know who has the virus, and that those individuals are isolated from everybody else. We are headed for another peak when it comes to infection.

WHITFIELD: But, you know, the President has been encouraging those states to, you know, get things back to normal, you know, many of them are following his lead, and that is also in step with a President who continually downplayed the seriousness of this virus, going back to you know, February and March, even suggesting that, you know, it would probably just go down to zero or even just disappear. How do you capture that sentiment and the power of that messaging?

TAPPER: Well, when you look at where President Trump ended up, he ended up in a place at the end of March where he was telling the American people this was very serious and the death toll was going to be very high if the public didn't take it seriously.

But health experts in the administration had been trying to get those social distancing, physical distancing, stay-at-home measures announced for weeks and weeks and weeks.

And one can only wonder how many lives might have been saved as Dr. Fauci acknowledged to me a few weeks ago on "State of the Union," and we have that issue going on right now.

I understand. I feel the same way as everyone else. I want life to go back to normal. I want my kids to be able to go back to school. I want people who don't have jobs to be able to get employed, et cetera. But the question is, if we are still not up to testing capacity, if

we're still not able, as a government, as a society, to isolate those who have the virus so that it doesn't continue to spread, are we going back to business as usual? Or are we just opening up for a few weeks, and then we're going to have to clamp down for even longer?

I guess that's a gamble that governors are taking and we'll see what happens.

WHITFIELD: All right, well add to your litany of questions that I think we all share is, yes, I also want to live. So, you know, everybody is hoping the right kind of measures are being taken.

TAPPER: Right.

WHITFIELD: So, has there been any kind of reaction from the White House about your reporting this evening?

TAPPER: No, we reached out to them to try to get them to participate in the documentary and they declined. But the truth of the matter is, is you know, we have been as a network and also, me on "State of the Union" and me on "The Lead," we've been interviewing administration officials for our day-to-day programming the whole time.

So, we've been able to -- even though they didn't participate in the documentary, there are a lot of administration voices in the documentary and of course, President Trump, who has spoken quite often publicly about the pandemic.

WHITFIELD: Jake Tapper, we look forward to it. Thank you so much. Good to see you.

TAPPER: Thanks, Frederick. Appreciate it. Stay healthy.

WHITFIELD: Of course. Absolutely. You, too. Be well.

And you can watch "The Pandemic and the President," tonight at 10 o'clock right here on CNN. And we'll be right back.



WHITFIELD: Israel has made a controversial decision to partially reopen schools as cases of coronavirus in that country decline. Kids and parents showed up for class today with their school bags and facemasks.

CNN's Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem for us, so how much support is there for this move?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a very gradual reopening and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government were key on emphasizing a gradual reopening.

First, it was only grades one, two and three, eleven and twelve. And second, of course, it was under strict guidelines. Everyone had to wear a mask, there had to be social distancing, classes could have a maximum size of 15, and that may necessitate shifts for classes to make sure there aren't too many students in a class at a time.

But even under those restrictions and conditions, not all schools reopened. Some of the largest cities in the country such as Tel Aviv and Haifa, basically said, look, this was too quick. You only said on Friday you wanted us to reopen today and that's not enough time. So, they will reopen schools later on this week.

Meanwhile, of the schools that did reopen, the Ministry of Education says attendance was at about 60 percent. So, a high number, but not all that high, indicating that there are still a lot of parents out there who are still very hesitant about sending their kids back to school.

Why did Israel take this decision and why is it doing it gradually? Well, Israel's numbers when it comes to coronavirus are relatively good compared to, for example, the U.S. or Europe.

There are just over 16,000 confirmed cases as of this morning, and 230 confirmed deaths from coronavirus, but crucially, the number of recoveries has outstripped at this point the number of new infections and it's under those conditions that Israel decided to begin a gradual reopening.

Crucial to note that schools in the Arab sector and in the ultraorthodox sector will wait a little longer to reopen perhaps out of an abundance of caution there.

Meanwhile, the government says if all goes well, that remains a big if, Fredricka, the rest of the students should be back in class by the beginning of June.

WHITFIELD: All right, Oren Liebermann in Jerusalem, thank you so much.

And thank you so much for joining me this weekend. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The NEWSROOM continues with Ana Cabrera right after this.