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THE SITUATION ROOM
More States Reopening As Death Toll Tops 70,000; Pence: WH May Disband Coronavirus Task Force Around End Of May; Fauci On Reopening: How Much Suffering Are You Willing To Accept; Ousted Vaccine Chief Files Complaint, Alleges Warnings Ignored; Death Toll In Britain Surpasses Italy, Highest In Europe; French Doctors Find Coronavirus Case From December; Italy Allows Restaurant Takeout In Phased Reopening. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 5, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news.
The coronavirus pandemic is now claiming more than 70,000, 70,000 American lives. That number is certain decline as more states move to reopen. But Vice President Pence now says the White House have made dishpan its Coronavirus Task Force, the group charged with managing this crisis around the end of this month.
Right now, President Trump is visiting Arizona and Honeywell factory making N95. Mass. Meanwhile, the ouster Director of the Office involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine has filed a whistleblower complaint just now. Dr. Rick Bright alleges his early warnings about the coronavirus were ignored and that is questions about a treatment favored by President Trump lead to his removal.
And we've also just learned to he'll testify before a House Of Representatives Subcommittee next week.
Let's begin this hour over at the White House. Our White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us. Kaitlan, you're learning more about the White House plan to disband the Coronavirus Task Force, even as thousands of Americans continue to die each week.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Despite those numbers and the concerns over whether or not mitigation is working, the Vice President is confirming that they are considering disbanding the task force. He says that could come as soon as Memorial Day by the end of the month.
And then if they did do that, it would mean that those agencies typically, HHS, DHS, others would retake control over their aspects of managing the coronavirus outbreak instead of it coming from the Coronavirus Task Force that he was put in charge of several months ago. And that comes following CNN reporting that they'd substantially cut down on the meetings that they were having in person with the task force, Wolf.
And of course it comes over those concerns about what the numbers are looking like. And now that a top official tonight has filed a complaint, saying that he was pushed out of his job because he was voicing concerns about how the administration was responding to the outbreak.
COLLINS (voice-over): The vaccine chief who was ousted from his job in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic says his early warnings about the outbreak were ignored. Dr. Rick Bright led the government vaccine agency BARDA until a few weeks ago and did a new whistleblower complaint filed today. He alleges his early warnings about the outbreak were ignored and his caution about a treatment pushed by President Trump led to his removal.
Bright says he raised concerns about U.S. preparedness for Coronavirus as far back as January, but he was met with indifference which then developed into hostility. HHS hasn't commented on his complaint and President Trump has refused to answer questions about Bright.
(on-camera): He says he was retaliated against and that's why he was removed from this job.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: OK, next question.
COLLINS (voice-over): The complaint was filed hours after President Trump left Washington today for his first cross country trip in months.
TRUMP: So I'm leaving for Arizona.
COLLINS (voice-over): Facing criticism over the federal government's response. Trump is visiting a Honeywell facility in Arizona that produces N95 mask. He opted for a stop in the battleground state instead of a closer Honeywell factory in nearby Rhode Island.
TRUMP: Everybody traveling has been tested. We have great testing, and literally they've been tested over the last hour.
COLLINS (voice-over): As he left Washington, Trump downplayed predictions about a steep rise in cases and deaths from coronavirus.
TRUMP: But that report is a no mitigation report and we are mitigating.
COLLINS (voice-over): An influential model often cited by the White House now forecast that 134,000 people could die of coronavirus in the U.S. But Vice President Mike Pence has confirmed today the White House will start to wind down the Coronavirus Task Force in the coming weeks after scaling back its meetings. Trump also confirmed today he won't let Dr. Anthony Fauci testify before the house next week, though aide said it was because Fauci was too busy. Trump made clear that the underlying reasons are political. TRUMP: Because the House is a set up, the House is a bunch of Trump voters. They frankly want our situation to be unsuccessful, which means death.
COLLINS (voice-over): The President's Arizona trip came as his intelligence chief nominee was undergoing his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, where John Ratcliffe assured senators that the pandemic would be his first priority.
REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE NOMINEE: I believe the immediate focus of the IC must be directed to the geopolitical and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as its origins. The American people deserve answers. And if confirmed, my pledge that the IC will remain laser focused on providing them.
COLLINS (voice-over): If confirmed Ratcliffe will be thrust into the middle of a battle over where the coronavirus originated. President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo had tied it to a research lab in Wuhan, China. Though, the U.S. intelligence community has not reached a conclusion.
RATCLIFFE: Regardless of what anyone wants our intelligence to reflect the intelligence I will provide, if confirmed, will not be impacted or altered as a result of outside influence.
COLLINS: Now Wolf, on Rick Bright, the ousted vaccine chief we should note that he right now is scheduled to testify according to his attorneys next Thursday, before a House Subcommittee on Health on Capitol Hill. So we'll be watching that. But just moments ago, the President was pressed by my colleague Jim Acosta about whether or not they are going to be winding down this task force. Listen to how the President responded to those questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So I think that as far as the task force, Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job, but we're now looking at a little bit of a different form, and that form of safety and opening, and we'll, we'll have a different group probably set up for that.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): Are you saying mission accomplished?
TRUMP: No, no, not at all. The mission accomplished is when it's over. When it's over, Jim mission accomplished, no I wouldn't say that a no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So, Wolf, you saw there, he didn't want to go as far as to say mission accomplished, of course, a term that a former president use that you later came back to really haunt him. But the President did seem to be implying that yes, they are considering winding down this task force.
And while he laid out the possibility of a second task force being formed, that is not something that has really been having any substantive discussions underway in the White House. And of course, we should note that this also came as a surprise to some members of the task force that they are learning that it may now wind down by the end of the month, pretty soon.
BLITZER: Very soon, indeed. All right, Kaitlan Collins reporting from the White House. Lots of news there.
Meanwhile, the U.S. death toll now stands at more than 70,000 that's basically over the past two months. CNN's Nick Watt has the latest now in the pandemics impact across the country. Nick health experts agree that cities and states are reopening now that will lead to even more deaths.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely Wolf. Chilling to hear but we are hearing it. Listen, we all know why we have to reopen. Here are some numbers we've gotten just within the past hour, Disney profits for the first quarter down 91 percent, Minnesota now projecting a $2.4 billion budget deficit. So that's the reason why we have to reopen. We always knew it was going to be messy, piecemeal, confusing. And now as you say, Wolf, we are being told that for some of us, it will also be deadly.
ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: How many deaths and how much suffering are you willing to accept, to get back to where you want to be some form of normality?
WATT (voice-over): At least 42 states have now taken steps towards that some form of normality. Today in Washington State you can fish, hunt and play golf again. In Arizona barbers can open this weekend. Restaurants with distancing can open their doors Monday.
KATE GALLEGO (D), MAYOR OF PHOENIX: You very shortly will be able to get your nails done here in Arizona. That's not something I would do. I would encourage people, if you can still stay home, please do so.
WATT (voice-over): In California, three counties are defying the governor. Governor Gavin Newsom says some retail can finally reopen Friday after 50 days, but the state's two biggest cities say they might take it slower.
ERICA GARCETTI (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: Our timing on opening may vary from other parts of the state.
WATT (voice-over): One national model has now near doubled our number of projected deaths to nearly 135,000.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D-NY): because now they're factoring in the reopening plans, the faster we reopen, the lower the economic cost, but the higher the human cost.
WATT (voice-over): And we're still waiting on some much needed tools.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMAN, (D-MI): We can't resume normal life until we have a vaccine.
WATT (voice-over): Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech just began human trials here in the U.S. of a potential vaccine. But a safe working vaccine is best case still many months away. And some researchers say we'll also need 100,000 contact tracers as we reopen, to keep track of the virus.
CRYSTAL WATSON, SENIOR SCHOLAR, JOHN HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: We don't do this I believe what we're going to see is large surges and cases large epidemics that may send us back under social distancing measures.
WATT (voice-over): Now, new case counts are dropping in New York.
CUOMO: There's no doubt that we're coming down the mountain.
WATT (voice-over): But they're still putting new precautions in place. 1:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, the City Subway will stop, the first suspension of 24 hours service in 115 years.
CUOMO: Why? Because they have to be disinfected.
WATT (voice-over): Meatpacking plants across the country have also closed for cleaning after outbreaks. Nearly 800 employees were second at Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, it's now reopening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what these plants are having to try and figure out is where do they get to a point where they can say to their employees with confidence? Yes, it is safe for you to return to work.
WATT (voice-over): The President has ordered plants open the supply chain is suffering Costco and other retailers now essentially, rationing meat. And according to one analyst, one in five Wendy's is now out of fresh beef, no longer serving burgers.
WATT: Now the question on many parents minds, when will schools reopen? Well, some small schools might actually reopen in Montana this week. But don't get your hopes up, in 46 states the recommendation is not until the fall and we just don't know what school will even look like in the fall.
Interestingly, this morning, Governor Cuomo in New York announced an initiative with the Gates Foundation to as he puts it, try and reimagine education, move beyond the old model, use this as an opportunity to integrate technology and improve it. As the governor said, it's about time. Wolf?
BLITZER: Sort of a form of home schooling, if you will. All right, Nick Watt, thanks very much for that report. Joining us now, the Governor of Connecticut, Ned Lamont.
Governor, thanks so much for joining us.
I know you've been in close touch with the Vice President Mike Pence, the rest of the Coronavirus Task Force throughout this crisis. Should the White House be talking now about actually shutting down the task force by the end of this month? Clearly deaths are still climbing?
GOV. NED LAMONT, (D-CT): Well, it seems a little weird that just a couple of days ago the President was at the Lincoln Memorial, doubling the estimates for the number of people who we're going to die given the COVID crisis. And then a day later says, we may wind down the Pence Task Force.
It doesn't make any sense to me. I think we need more federal direction. I think we need federal direction in terms of not only getting the gear we need, but also direction in terms of all the different protocols for different businesses as they reopen. I think Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx can be very helpful there. I don't want to see him go.
BLITZER: Are you concerned that shutting down the task force Governor could send the wrong message to the American people at this critical moment that the fight perhaps against the pandemic is over? We're getting close to being over?
LAMONT: I think it totally sends the wrong message. And why would you say close it down and we'll reconstituted do something new. We're trying to have the federal government, the state government, the local government all speak with one voice that we are going to methodically reopen, provided you keep to the social distancing. We see spikes going on in different parts of the state, different part of this country, and we don't want that to happen.
BLITZER: I want to play for you something the President just said about reopening the economy. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, now it's time to open it up. And you know what the people of our country have warriors, and I'm looking at it. I'm not saying anything is perfect. And yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Well, some people will be affected badly. Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get an open soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: At the same time, I want to read to you something that Dr. Anthony Fauci had to say about this matter last night, he said, how many deaths and how much suffering Are you willing to accept to get back to what you want to be some form of normality sooner rather than later?
How are you taking all that into account as you look ahead to loosening restrictions in your state? LAMONT: I can tell you that people of Connecticut, listen to Dr. Fauci and you want to make sure that the consumer feels comfortable and confident that they can go into the restaurant, they can go into that barber shop when it's safe, that they're following all the responsible protocols. Nobody here wants to just open up the doors and let it rip. And I think the consumers are voting with their feet say not right now. We want to do it safely.
BLITZER: They'd rather be careful, very cautious. Some states, as you know, are tracking cell phone mobility data in order to get a sense of are strictly their residents are actually social distancing. Are you tracking that kind of data in Connecticut? And if so, have you seen any evidence that social distancing right now is beginning to sort of go away to falter?
LAMONT: We're not tracking it electronically, but I can tell you that, our parks, our beaches were packed this past weekend was pretty warm weather. We had to close it down at a certain point when there were too many cars there. We're tracking how much traffic there is on the roads. It's picking up a little bit right now. But I think the people in Connecticut are by and large, pretty careful.
BLITZER: That's good to hear. The President tweeted this also today I'll read it to you. Well run states should not be bailing out poorly run states using coronavirus as the excuse, the elimination or sanctuary cities, payroll taxes, and perhaps capital gains taxes must be put on the table. Also lawsuit, indemnification and business deductions for restaurants and entertainment.
Do you worry, Governor that the President is going to let states that were hit very hard by the virus? And I assume Connecticut has been hit very hard fall into serious financial trouble?
LAMONT: I think that'd be a terrible mistake would make it much tougher. Not for Connecticut but for the country to dig out from this, you know, economic hole we're in. And stop talking about blue states and red states.
Look at Kentucky. Look at those energy states like Wyoming, like North Dakota, they've been hit badly. Does he really want them they have to dig out as well? I think that's the wrong prescription for our economy.
BLITZER: The U.S. provides a lot of foreign aid in the billions and billions there are a lot of countries around the world and the U.S. now may have to do the same to a lot of states right now that are in deep financial trouble.
Governor Lamont, thanks so much for joining us.
LAMONT: Nice to see you Wolf, thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you. Good luck over there in Connecticut. Up next, I get more of the administration's talk today about perhaps starting to wind down the White House Coronavirus Task Force by the end of this month is that too soon?
Plus, a doctor ousted from his position in the Trump administration follows through on his promise to file a formal whistleblower complaints. In a moment I'll speak with a doctor who worked with him.
BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM including a doctor ousted from a top post in the Trump administration, following through on his promise to file a whistleblower complaint, alleging his early coronavirus warnings were ignored.
Joining us now, the former city health commissioner of Baltimore, Dr. Leana Wen and Dr. Nicole Luria, former Department of Health and Human Services, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.
Thanks to both of you for joining us.
Dr. Lurie, I know you've known Dr. Rick Bright. What for about a decade or so he's now set to testify before a House Subcommittee next week. How important do you believe his testimony could be?
NICOLE LURIE, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, HHS: Well, I think it's terribly important. I hired Dr. Bright, because he was a terrific scientist. He was a man of integrity and because if a pandemic were to occur, he would know what to do. Looking initially at the complaint, it looks like he outlined all of the steps that needed to happen at the beginning of the outbreak, and they didn't happen. So I look forward to hearing his testimony. And the public will be able to judge for themselves.
BLITZER: Well, let me press you on that. Dr. Lurie, if the administration tries somehow to discredit him? I mean clearly you obviously you've known him for a long time, what kind of man -- give us a little bit more detail? What kind of civil servant what kind of medical expert he really is?
LURIE: Well, he's a long term scientists. He knows the subject matter inside and out. He gets along well with people. He's collaborative. He's strategic, and he's a man of integrity. You know, the very last question I asked him before I decided to hire him was whether he thought he was tough enough to stand up to people who pushed him to spend money in the wrong ways, or to do things that he felt were wrong. And he told me, yes, I think the events as they've unfolded suggests that in fact, that was the case.
But I also want to say, right now, that's some stuff that's happened a little bit in the past. We desperately need continued leadership going forward. And people who will stand up, say, tell us the truth and do the right thing. BLITZER: Well, on that note, Dr. Wen, do you fear shutting down? The task force, the Coronavirus Task Force by the end of this month sends the wrong message to the American public could end up perhaps causing Americans to take the threat of this virus a lot less seriously?
LEANA WEN, FMR COMMISSIONER, BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH: Absolutely, I mean, it's mind blowing Wolf that we're even considering this, because we are seeing cases of the number of infections going in exactly the wrong direction. They're increasing.
And we don't have the capabilities that we need the testing the tracing all these efforts that require a national coordinated presence. We don't have that in place. And the last thing that we want is to give the American people the idea that we have the virus under control, when actually nothing about the virus has changed.
We still don't have a vaccine, we still don't have a cure. The only thing that's working is to keep social distancing, and if we let down our guard too soon, we will see a rising number of infections. So everybody must keep up their guard stay socially distance as much as we can. Remember that social distancing is the privilege that not everyone has.
BLITZER: Dr. Lurie, you agree?
LURIE: I totally agree. But I also want to say that we desperately need federal leadership and federal coordination. I'm not sure we've really gotten it out of the task force as it is right now. So however, it is that we move forward, we need a whole of government response. It needs to be coordinated.
It needs a leader who can coordinate all the moving parts. And we need to be able to hear from the nation scientists on a regular basis about whether things are getting better or worse, how people should protect themselves, provide guidances, about how schools and businesses open.
All of those sorts of things that are going to be needed to run an effective response and hopefully eventually an effective vaccine campaign.
BLITZER: Your -- Dr. Wen, you've warned that as the states begin to reopen and they're clearly doing so, right now there could be a surge -- you write this, without a vaccine or cure, the only thing keeping the disease in check has been keeping people separated from one another. Once social distancing is relaxed, COVID-19 will again spread with explosive speed.
You've seen all the numbers out there, more than 70,000 Americans have died from coronavirus over the past two months or so alone, and thousands more in the next few months are projected, almost certain to die as well.
WEN: That's right. And we know that the numbers are decreasing in New York, but they're increasing in other parts of the country. And what we will see not what we may see, but what we will see is an increase of the number of cases in communities that don't have much healthcare infrastructure, and that will really unfortunately lead to many more infections much more suffering and death all around the country.
BLITZER: Dr. Lurie, do you see signs of hope as far as a treatment is concerned rainy optimism as a search for a vaccine continues?
LURIE: Well, one of the signs of hope that I saw is that yesterday, around the world 34 nations came together with the European Commission, and many global stakeholders to pledge money and to put all of our efforts into creating a vaccine, creating therapeutics and diagnostics, and to work together toward that end. That, for me, is a really hopeful sign exactly when we'll have vaccine. We're not exactly sure. But it's clear that the world is working very hard and in solidarity to do that.
BLITZER: They certainly are. Dr. Lurie, thank you so much. Thanks for everything you've done. Dr. Wen, thanks to you as well.
Coming up, despite dire predictions, more and more states are allowing businesses to reopen for now. Washington D.C. mayor is holding off. I'll speak with her. There she is, when we come back.
BLITZER: The coronavirus death toll here in the United States past 70,000. Today, more and more states are letting businesses reopened. Joining us now, the Mayor of Washington, D.C., Muriel Bowser. Mayor Bowser, thanks so much for joining us. Specifically, more than 40 states have announced plans to start lifting restrictions. You're not among them here in the District of Columbia. What's your timeline for reopening this city?
MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Well, Wolf, we're certainly following our cases in Washington, D.C. and we've been very closely tracking with the guidelines that have been established to show two weeks of decreasing positive cases. And we're working very, very hard to get there. But until then, we have our state-in-place order in place in Washington D.C. And we are and our residents have been carefully following our guidelines and saving lives.
BLITZER: So what's the overall trajectory when you look at not just D.C. but the suburbs Maryland, Virginia, the whole area, D.C., Maryland, Virginia as a whole, because Governor Northam of Virginia says they could start reopening maybe as early as next week?
BOWSER: Well, I think that we've always in the National Capital Region with Washington D.C. being in the center knew that our cases would peak during the month of May and the peak and hospitalizations will follow. So we're tracking the way we expected that we would be tracking.
And we're very focused in the district on people strictly adhering to essential activities, essential work, only going out for food and groceries, and exercise close to their home. So that's the way we've been able to blunt the curve and that is our expectation for D.C. residents and D.C. government employees.
BLITZER: But if Virginia and Maryland begin to reopen, D.C. remains shut that could have a huge impact on the residents of D.C. as well. This whole area is just one big area. We did see --
BOWSER: Well -- and --
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.
BOWSER: I was saying I don't know where Virginia is going to land next week. I know that the governor is also looking at their numbers, and looking at what type of activity can be turned on. And Virginia is a large state with different regions. And what's important to us in Washington, D.C. is the National Capital Region. It would not be good for Virginia nor the entire region if all of D.C. residents and Marylanders flocked to Virginia.
We could see our cases spike and wouldn't really see the regional economy recover. But we were very focused in our city, on our stay-in- place being in order until our medical professionals give us the go ahead.
BLITZER: We did see some huge crowds over the weekend gather on the National Mall to Washington flyover. That keeps happening, by the way, across the country. It happened with the cherry blossoms also here in D.C. How do you prevent people from gathering as the weather clearly gets nicer?
BOWSER: Well people are getting antsy, they've been strictly social distancing for a number of weeks and we get it that they want to get out especially as the weather gets
While people are getting antsy, they've been strictly social distancing for a number of weeks and we get it that they want to get out especially as the weather gets warm. And one piece of advice we've provided is if you stick to green spaces and parks and trails close to your home, you have a better ability to know that you can social distance from others. When you go to a big wide open space, you never know how many people could gathered there.
Now we have assisted - our local police department have assisted the park police who are responsible for the National Mall, for the cherry blossoms and we can again for future events. But it's best not to have these great events and we all want to get back to them that could attract crowds.
BLITZER: And you want everybody in D.C. when they're outside to be wearing a face mask, right?
BOWSER: Absolutely. We know that if people are going out -- no, it's no replacement for social distancing -- but if people are going out to the grocery store for essential errands to get supplies, we have required by mayor's order that they wear a mask going into those establishments. We want to protect our grocery workers so that they can stay healthy and continue to make sure we have a supply of food that's coming into our city.
And what's important to note, Wolf, that until we have a cure or a vaccine, any amount of reopening across in any state in Washington, D.C., we are taking some risk. And our jurisdictions have to be prepared for those risks and how we can limit those risks and make sure our hospital systems can affect people who are going to get sick in focus and protect vulnerable populations in our community.
BLITZER: Do you have any --
BOWSER: So that's the discussion that we have to have around reopening.
BLITZER: Do you have any idea when public schools in D.C. are going to reopen?
BOWSER: We expect to start talking to our advisory committee. We're just interviewing Dr. Laurie (ph) who is a member of the reopened D.C. Advisory Committee who's helping us make medical decisions about how we reopen. So we are very anxious to get our kids back in school. We're trying to see what we'll be able to do this summer, in terms of camps in summer school, and also early open for our public schools earlier in August.
So all of those things are on the table and being considered as part of our phase reopening. So we can get back to our daily lives, but get back in a safe way. The last thing any of us wants is a rebound that will take us back to square one and cost us a lot of lives.
BLITZER: Yes, absolutely right. Mayor Bowser, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone here in D.C. Appreciate it very much. Thanks for joining us.
BOWSER: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. And stay with us, our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's standing by, he's getting ready to answer your questions about the coronavirus. And we're also going to go oversea where Britain now has passed Italy for the most coronavirus deaths in Europe.
BLITZER: We're now approaching some 4 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide with over a quarter of a million deaths. Britain just surpassed Italy for the most deaths in Europe. Let's get the latest from CNN's Bianca Nobilo in London.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.K. now has the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe. The biggest standard over 32,000 deaths in Britain of people with coronavirus. And while the government here cautions against making international comparisons at this stage, what's beyond any doubt is how hard hit Britain has been by this virus, especially in comparison to other countries.
These sobering numbers and the deepening grief here will likely inform what the government does next to make them more cautious in how they unwind the lockdown, especially as their decisions being made in the early stage of the virus outbreak under increasing scrutiny, like a lockdown too late, testing too late and inadequate PPE.
As these early decisions are being examined, the Chief Science Officer Patrick Vallance has said that while all the focus was on contact tracing from China in the early stages, it now seems that a lot of the early cases in the U.K. were from Europe, not from China. And he also admitted an earlier lockdown may well have made a difference, Wolf.
BLITZER: Bianca, thank you very much. I mean, all doctors in Paris have found evidence of what may have been one of the earliest coronavirus cases outside China from last December. CNN's Melissa Bell has the details.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if it was back in late February as the world looked on that the coronavirus outbreak appeared to hit Europe as it took hold in northern Italy. What we're now learning, thanks to doctors here in Paris, is that COVID-19 appears to have been found in patients who retreated in a Parisian hospital back in December. It wasn't that it wasn't already here. It's simply that COVID-19 was not being looked for.
In December in January, we reached out to the World Health Organization to get a response on that news. And while they said that it was interesting that we were now learning more about the origins of the European outbreak, it was too early to say whether this particular patient was really patient zero of that outbreak given all we have yet to learn and because other samples elsewhere could continue to be tested. Essentially we're still learning so much about the origins of an outbreak that is now paralyzed the world. Wolf.
BLITZER: Melissa, thank you. Italy now is allowing restaurants to reopen for takeout orders as part of the country's second phase of reopening. CNN's Ben Wedeman has the latest
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Naples where we are, one of the most obvious changes is that the city's famous pizzerias are open again but only for takeaway and delivery.
They were closed in mid-March on orders of the local governor, who was worried that if there was a massive outbreak of coronavirus in this relatively poorer part of the country, the local health facilities would have been overwhelmed. Fortunately, that didn't happen. Most of the cases of coronavirus are in the wealthier northern part of the country.
Nonetheless, the economy here has also taken a massive hit. If you walk around you see many of the stores are still closed. What is blaringly apparent is that the road to recovery here is going to be a long one. Ben Wedeman, CNN, Naples. BLITZER: Thank you, Ben.
Coming up, our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's getting ready to answer your questions about the coronavirus. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: All right, time now for your questions about the coronavirus and the pandemic. Our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joining us. He's got the answers. One viewer writes this, Sanjay, "My state has opened up places like restaurants and retail shops, but I'm not sure it's safe to go to public spaces. What would you do?"
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I agree with the question, or in this case. I think it's hard to say that it's safe enough at this point. I mean, we know that the virus is still circulating out there. And, you know, you go to these public spaces, you know, you -- let's say you're good about maintaining physical distance, you wear a mask if you think you can't maintain physical distance.
What about all the shared surfaces that people might touch? How do you know that they've been disinfected? How do you know a person who may be close by has been tested for the coronavirus and doesn't carry it in their body?
It's a lot to process is my point. So I think for essential things, sure. I mean, you know, there's things that we have to do. But I think everything that you do at this point is a risk reward sort of proposition. It's not always going to be that way.
We're going to get to the point where we can test more robustly and have some confidence that people around you aren't carrying the virus, and hopefully, at some point, even have treatments and a vaccine. But we're not there yet. So, you know, I think you just got to be cautious right now.
BLITZER: Yes, good advice. Here's another question from a viewer. "There's new information about coronavirus in kids, what symptoms should I be monitoring my children for?"
GUPTA: Yes, we've been following this for some time. There was an alert that went out a couple of weeks ago in the United Kingdom to hospitals over there saying be on alert for kids who are coming in with a syndrome known as Kawasaki syndrome. And basically that's an inflammatory syndrome.
Kids oftentimes develop rashes that are unusual, develop fever. They develop redness in the eyes, they have this certain type of appearance of their tongue, they call it a strawberry tongue, because the tongue really does look like a strawberry.
There's different things that people look for but this may have a relationship with the coronavirus. We're not sure yet, it's pretty rare so far, but there were 15 kids that were sort of evaluated in this one hospital system. And four of them tested positive for the coronavirus, but six subsequently tested positive for antibodies related to that. So they may have been exposed to it at some time.
We're still learning a lot about the impact of coronavirus on kids. I think we can still reasonably say, Wolf, that it's rare. Kids are less likely to get very sick from this, but it can happen. And these are at least some of the things to look out for.
BLITZER: Here's another question, "Does your blood type put you more at risk for severe symptoms?"
GUPTA: Yes, this is a really interesting question, and this was an observation that was made out of China. You know, during the initial day saying that type A blood type made you more at risk for this. You know, there's type A, there's type B, there's type O, and there's type AB, and it has to do with these proteins that are on the surface of the red blood cells.
For some reason with type A, it may make it easier for the virus to enter blood cells, at least that's the hypothesis. They don't know for sure. But this is just an observation that people with certain blood types tend to be more at risk of getting the infection and getting sick from the infection.
Not much you can do about that, except know your blood type. But, you know, I think as we have more and more data around this, we will either be able to confirm that this is actually true or it's just sort of an observational thing.
BLITZER: All right, Sanjay, standby. We got more reporting, more questions for you coming up in the next hour.
Also coming up, President Trump talks about White House plans to wind down the Coronavirus Task Force even as the U.S. death toll now tops 70,000 people.
BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM with breaking news on the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus as the U.S. death toll rises above 70,000.
Tonight, President Trump is acknowledging that the White House Coronavirus Task Force is winding down and will likely disband soon. The Vice President Mike Pence says it could happen by the end of this month.
The President is in Arizona right now. He's traveling for the first time in weeks as he pushes for the country to reopen despite new models, projecting a very dire surge in deaths. Mr. Trump reaffirming once again tonight that --