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States Reopening; Early Coronavirus Warnings Ignored?; Interview With Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA); New York City Subway To Close For First Time Ever For Cleaning; Atlanta Mayor's Warning As Georgia Reopens: The Only Thing That's Changed About COVID-19 Is Your Chance Of Catching It; Sources Say, Intel Shared Among U.S Allies Indicates It's Highly Unlikely Virus Came From Wuhan Lab; Trump: We Have To Get Our Country Open Even Though Some People Will Be Affected Badly. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 5, 2020 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: 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 restrictions should be eased, even though he says some people will be affected very badly.

Also breaking right now, an ousted vaccine director in the administration is formally accusing the administration of ignoring his early warnings about the coronavirus. He's now scheduled to testify before Congress next week after filing a formal whistle-blower complaint today.

Let's get some more from our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, right now.

Kaitlan, the president spoke just a little while ago about his plans to actually start to phase out the Coronavirus Task Force.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, we noticed in recent weeks the task force had not been meeting on a daily basis or anywhere near close to it, like it done at the beginning of the administration, responding to this outbreak.

And now the president is confirming that they are expecting to start winding it down. And the vice president says that could happen as soon as the end of this month, even though health experts are raising the question about whether we have even seen the peak of cases and deaths here in the United States.

And, Wolf, this all comes on top of that former vaccine chief now filing an official complaint, saying that he was retaliated against, he believes, because he voiced concerns about how the administration was responding to the outbreak here in the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 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 in a new whistle-blower 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 his job.


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: Facing criticism over the federal government's response, Trump is visiting a Honeywell facility in Arizona that produces N95 masks. 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 have been tested over the last hour.

COLLINS: 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: An influential model often cited by the White House now forecasts that 134,000 people could die of coronavirus in the U.S. Despite those numbers, President Trump confirmed reports today that the White House is considering winding down the Coronavirus Task Force.

TRUMP: 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 is safety and opening. And we will -- we will have a different group probably set up for that.

QUESTION: Are you saying mission accomplished?

TRUMP: No, no, not at all. The mission accomplished is when it's over.

COLLINS: Trump also confirmed today he won't let Dr. Anthony Fauci testify before the House next week. Though aides said it was because Fauci was too busy, Trump made clear that the underlying reasons are political.

TRUMP: Because the House is a setup. That House is a bunch of Trump haters. They, frankly, want our situation to be unsuccessful, which means death.

COLLINS: 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 (R-TX): I believe the immediate focus of the I.C. 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 I.C. will remain laser-focused on providing them.

COLLINS: If confirmed, Ratcliffe will be thrust into the middle of a battle over where the coronavirus originated.

President Trump and Secretary of State Pompeo have 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, while the president was in Arizona, he did an interview with ABC News where he did acknowledge that there could be more deaths because of the country reopening, though he said he believed the alternative would result in deaths as well, with people staying at home.


That could lead to suicides or drug use, the president told ABC News. And as far as it goes with the president wearing a mask today, you noticed he was not as he was touring that Honeywell facility. A White House official tells reporters that were traveling with the president today that Honeywell told him that they did not need to wear masks while they were inside the facility.

But, of course, Wolf, we have to note that this comes as the vice president himself faced a slew of criticism last week for initially not wearing a mask in the Mayo Clinic, then later wearing one as he toured a GM facility in Indiana.

BLITZER: That's what happened the other day with the vice president. The president was at this factory there. They're making masks, but, apparently, they decided no one's going to be wearing masks.

That was interesting. All right, Kaitlan, thank you very much for that.

Let's get the latest now on which states are easy restrictions, which states are not.

Our National Correspondent, Athena Jones, is in New York for us.

Athena, it's a confusing patchwork, a patchwork of guidelines across the country right now.


More states are opening up with each passing day, with some limitations. Delaware just announced it will allow sporting goods stores, bookstores and department stores to be open for curbside pickup starting Friday, as long as social distancing is maintained, one more state taking steps to return to some semblance of normal life.


JONES (voice-over): As states across the country lift restrictions put in place to fight COVID-19, some are moving more cautiously than others.

Stay-at-home orders remain in place in Washington until May 31. But starting today, fishing, hunting golf courses and state parks are open. In Arizona, retailers are now open for curbside pickup or delivery and restaurants will be allowed to resume dine-in service with physical distancing on Monday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all want to be safe, and we all want to make sure that we're going at the right pace, but I think we're all ready to support the economy.

JONES: In California, some Orange County beaches reopened today with some limitations, and retail shops, including clothing stores, florists, and book shops, can begin to reopen Friday.

And in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott announced barbershops, hair and nail salons can open this Friday, earlier than he had previously suggested, despite a mixed bag of coronavirus statistics in the state.

Meanwhile, two grim new predictions foretelling a summer marked by more death and suffering, both estimates now predicting thousands more U.S. deaths from COVID-19 than they were just days ago, about doubling previous projections.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: It's the balance of something that's a very difficult choice. Like, 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?

JONES: New York, for one, is taking a more cautious approach, announcing that, at 1:00 a.m. Wednesday, it is shutting down subways, buses and trains in the city hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic to allow for deep cleaning.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Tonight, we're going to shut down the subways for the first time in history. Why? Because they have to be disinfected.

JONES: Meanwhile, there could soon be moral progress on the vaccine front. U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer today announcing that, with its partner, German company BioNTech, it has begun testing a new vaccine in humans in the U.S. They say it could be ready for emergency use in the fall if it works.

But there is bad news for consumers, a meat shortage at Wendy's, following the shutdown in meatpacking plants in several states. One analyst estimating nearly one in five of the fast food chains restaurants is not serving hamburgers or other beef-based items.

Grocery chains are now limiting meat purchases, Costco saying members will be limited to three items of beef, pork and poultry products, and Publix setting a limit of two packages for chicken.


JONES: And one thing we know from the data we have so far is that who is most at risk as states reopen is unlikely to change, among them, the elderly and infirm, people who live or work in dense conditions, where they're less able to socially distance, and also blacks and Hispanics, who the data show -- suggests are more likely to die of the disease if they contract that virus -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Athena Jones in New York for us.

Athena, thank you.

Let's bring in the governor of Louisiana right now, John Bel Edwards.

Governor, thanks so much for spending a few moments with us.

As you know, the national death toll is climbing.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Now past 70,000 people over the past two months or so. Is now the right time, do you believe, Governor, for the White House to begin talking about winding down the Coronavirus Task Force, even as early as the end of this month?

EDWARDS: Well, I suspect, even if they do that, we're going to continue to work with the federal agencies, especially FEMA and HHS and others, in order to continue to prosecute this war on the coronavirus here in Louisiana and around the country.

And so I heard that for the first time as I was waiting for this interview to start. And so I don't really have a lot of comment on it, other than to tell you, we're going to continue with the state of emergency here in Louisiana, until such time as it doesn't exist.


And I do expect our federal partners to remain our federal partners. And we have had pretty good communication with them. And they have provided an awful lot of resources for us here in Louisiana. So, we expect that to continue, whether or not they shift out of the task force at the White House.

BLITZER: I know you have extended Louisiana's stay-at-home order until May 15.

I want you to listen to what the president said about reopening just a little while ago. Listen to this.


TRUMP: Well, now it's time to open it up. And you know what? The people of our country are warriors.

And I'm looking at it. I'm not saying anything is perfect. And, yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open. And we have to get it open soon.


BLITZER: And on the topic of reopening, Governor, Dr. Anthony Fauci says -- and I'm quoting him now -- "How many deaths and how much suffering are you willing to accept?"

As you weigh options in Louisiana of reopening, what's your answer?

EDWARDS: Well, first of all, I think it goes without saying that not every state in the country is in the same place.

And the president has long talked about some states having hot spots, other states being relatively unaffected in terms of the case count and the number of deaths and so forth.

So, we're not all in the same place. And he's always said that he believed that certain hot spots would take longer to move into phase one. I, for one, accept the phased reopening approach that the White House put out that was vetted by the CDC. It has been vetted here in Louisiana by our Department of Health.

And we're going to move forward as soon as we are able. It remains my hope and expectation that we can move into phase one at the end of this current stay-home order, which is right now through May the 15th. But we're going to look at those three criteria.

We can tell you this. Our testing capacity has greatly increased over the last couple of weeks. And our ability to do contract tracing is greatly increased. And that will allow us to resume a bigger part of our economy, get more people back to work, get more businesses open, but do so in a way that allows us to monitor the situation, and hopefully keep a lid on the cases.

We think that's the prudent path forward. And that's what we're going to engage in here in Louisiana, as we are able to do so.

BLITZER: I know that we have looked at the numbers. Louisiana has had almost 30,000 confirmed cases, more than 2,000 confirmed deaths.


BLITZER: While the numbers of cases and deaths in Louisiana, they still continue to climb, there's a bit of good news in your state tonight. Your Health Department is reporting its lowest number of coronavirus patients on ventilators in almost six weeks.

We're talking about, what, 194 patients. So, what helped bring down that number?

EDWARDS: Well, really, it was the testing.

It was making sure that we were identifying those individuals with the virus and making sure that they were being isolated.

I will tell you, we have done a remarkable job here in Louisiana. About six weeks ago, we had the highest growth in cases anywhere in the world, according to Johns Hopkins' data.

A month ago, over three days, we had 4,500 new cases, over the last three days, less than a third of that. So we're moving in the right direction. We're in a much, much better place today than we were.

We still have a ways to go. And we acknowledge that. But I will tell you, we have been able to do a lot of good work here with our federal partners, but with a lot of great, heroic efforts in our hospitals and among first responders, with all of those medical providers just doing a tremendous job here in Louisiana.

BLITZER: Yes, we are so grateful to all of them. They're risking their lives to save lives, and not just in Louisiana, but all over the country. And they are the real heroes.

Governor John Bel Edwards, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck.

EDWARDS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we will talk about the White House plans to disband the Coronavirus Task Force with our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Plus, we're getting new details of new intelligence contradicting the Trump administration's charge that the pandemic started within a lab, a lab accident in China. Stand by for new information.



BLITZER: Tonight, as President Trump looks to move past the coronavirus pandemic, he's acknowledging that the White House task force is winding down. The Vice President, Mike Pence, says the group May disband around

Memorial Day at the end of this month.

Let's bring back our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, along with our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

Sanjay, if you look at this chart detailing the number of coronavirus cases around the country, it's clear that the pandemic is by no means behind us. Does the task force winding down in less than a month concern you?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think it's very hard to justify this, Wolf.

I mean, when you when you think about when the pause started, that first pause back on March 16, we had about 4,500, roughly, patients who had been confirmed with this infection and around 70 or 80 people who had died. And that was enough at that point to trigger the pause and trigger these pretty regular coronavirus briefings.

And so now you see the numbers. Some 70,000 people, sadly, have died. And you see the number of people who've been infected. And now we're thinking about shutting things down.

I mean, to be fair, I think that the work will probably still continue. But the communication of what's happening, the gravity, the seriousness that's being conveyed by having these briefings, I think, will be missing.

We're hearing about the task force going away. We're hearing about states reopening. I think it's giving this false impression that things are over. And they're not well, by any means. And I don't enjoy saying that, but that's the truth.


BLITZER: Yes, it is.

Kaitlan, I know you're doing a lot of reporting on this. What more are you learning about the internal discussions under way?

COLLINS: Well, Wolf, it's notable that they're saying this could all happen by the end of the month, because some members of the task force seem surprised by this notion that they could start winding down.

It doesn't appear that they think that their work here is done yet, though we should note that, in recent weeks, they actually have cut back on the number of meetings they were having anyway. They weren't meeting on a daily basis, like you had seen them doing for hours on end at the beginning of this, where they rarely even went a weekend without having a Coronavirus Task Force meeting.

And we also should note that the president rarely attends these meetings anyway. He only goes to about one every seven or so -- every week, every seven days or so, every week or so. Instead, it's the vice president who often leads them. But what you're seeing, this shift come, as you're seeing people like the vice president to travel on the road more, where, last week, I think they only had about three Coronavirus Task Force meetings, because two days of the week the vice president was on the road.

And, clearly, the president's trip to Arizona today is like dipping his toe in the water. He is eager to get on the road as well. So that could be the reason, though Dr. Sanjay does raise a good question. What is this going to look like?

Because it's not like these officials are going to stop working on this. Dr. Birx has an office inside the West Wing. But the question is whether or not they're all getting together going through the data of what they have, because that's typically what those task force briefing -- those task force meetings will look like.

BLITZER: And, as you know, Kaitlan, the president is stonewalling Democrats by barring one key task force member, Dr. Fauci, from testifying before the House next week.

But they will be hearing from a new whistle-blower who will testify before the House. What do we expect he will reveal?

COLLINS: Well, Rick Bright laid out a pretty extensive list of allegations in his briefing today.

And now we know we are going to hear from him in person next week, when his attorneys say he's going to testify on Thursday on Capitol Hill.

And if you look at this complaint, Wolf, it not only starts with the coronavirus epidemic -- pandemic. It's also starting back to clashes he had with HHS leadership. But what he is saying in here and what could be the most notable for Democrats who are going to be questioning him is, he talks about these ignored warning signs that he was trying to telegraph to the HHS secretary, Alex Azar, his direct superior, Dr. Robert Kadlec, who is the one that Dr. Bright was reporting to.

He talks about how he was warning them about the fact that coronavirus could already be in the United States, when he says they were not taking it seriously, and that they responded to his concerns about what this could look like and what the U.S. needed to do to prepare for it with skepticism.

So I think that would be number one on the Democrats' list that they want to hear from Rick Bright about.

BLITZER: You know, Sanjay, the nation and the world, of course, they're all racing toward a vaccine.

A new candidate is actually being tested involving Americans starting today. What's the latest you're learning about this?

GUPTA: Yes, this is a pretty anticipated vaccine trial from Pfizer. It's one of eight now vaccine trials that are under way, Wolf. This involves a -- basically, what's called an mRNA vaccine. So they're basically, instead of giving a little piece of a virus or an inactivated piece of the virus, they're using a blueprint for part of the virus, giving that to people, and seeing if the body essentially becomes a vaccine factory on its own.

It's never been done before. It's never -- we have never had a successful mRNA vaccine like this before. So, if it works, it would be the first, but it could make things that much easier. It's a potentially easier vaccine to manufacture.

And so there's a few trials that are that have started. As you mentioned, this one, they started human trials in Germany, I believe, last week, and now in the United States, they want to get up to several hundred people.

They're sort of doing phase one and phase two at the same time, so testing for safety, also starting to look for what they call efficacy signals, are there any signals that this is working, and even trying to figure out the proper dosing all within these -- this shorter, more compressed period of time.

If it works, it'd be great. I mean, that would be a significant move forward. If it doesn't, then there's other vaccine trials that they will probably pivot to.

BLITZER: Yes, let's hope it works, at least one of these works. We need that vaccine.

Sanjay, thank you. Kaitlan, thanks to you as well.

Just ahead: more on New York's unprecedented step to slow the coronavirus that will bring subway trains in New York City to a screeching halt.

And I will speak with the Atlanta mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, about Georgia's reopening and her fears the state is on a reckless path.

There she is. We will speak live right after this.



BLITZER: In New York tonight, an unprecedented new step to contain the coronavirus.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is in New York. He's got details for us.

Shimon, first of all, tell us what you're learning about plans to shut down the New York subway.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, as you said, this is unprecedented for the city, for the state. They're going to start shutting down the subway system and bus service

all across the five boroughs of New York City starting at 1:00 a.m. And they're really going to be disinfecting every car. They're going to be disinfecting train stations, and really getting deep into some of the areas of the subway.


And the police, the NYPD is going to be there, about a thousand officers. We just learn, they're going to be assisting the transit authority.

One of the issues on the subways has been the homeless. So they need to get them off the subways. A lot of them have been spending their nights underground, in the subway cars. So they're going to use homeless outreach units to try and get them into shelters, to try and get them off the streets and to places where they can stay.

This, of course, is all part of the bigger process for the city of reopening. The governor talking about the last few days, the different phases of which he's going to follow. According to the CDC, that first phase through fourth phase, the key really is a human lives and saving people's lives and making sure there aren't new infections. And he talked about that today, asking about what is the price, how much do you price, what is the price you pay for a human life. And here's what the governor said.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): How much is a human life worth? That's the real discussion that no one is admitting openly or freely. But we should. To me, I say the cost of a human life, a human life is priceless, period.

Our reopening plan doesn't have a tradeoff. Our reopening plan says you monitor the data, you monitor the transmission rate, you monitor the hospitalization rate, you monitor the death rate. If it goes up, you have a, quote, unquote, circuit breaker, you stop, you close the valve on reopening.


PROKUPECZ: And all of the rates, Wolf, that the governor is talking about, that is all coming down. He said, we are now coming down the mountain. And those are going to be the key rates, the metrics, by which the governor ultimately decides whether or not to open up the city. Of course, the big question is, when does New York city open up, the five boroughs of New York city, and that still a big question.

The governor really not willing to put a timetable on that. He wants to see the city continue to do what it's doing, he wants to see New Yorkers continue to socially distance and those numbers, the hospitalizations and the rates of infections need to keep coming down and then he will decide, Wolf, on when to open the city.

BLITZER: Yes, just taking a look at what's going on. All right, thanks very much, Shimon Prokupecz, in New York. Thank you.

Let's go from New York to Georgia, where the Atlanta mayor is pushing back against the governor's move in that state, to reopen. We are joined by the Atlanta mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms. Mayor Bottoms, thank you so much for joining us.

As Georgia reopens under Governor Kemp's orders, you've remained steadfast in your assistance that Atlanta, the largest city there, is not ready to ease restrictions. So what is your argument for continuing to urge your residents to stay at home?

MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D) ATLANTA, GA: Thank you for having me, Wolf. My argument is simple. Nothing has changed about COVID-19. This is still a highly contagious virus and it is hitting our community extremely hard, especially communities of color.

We've talked about the numbers in Georgia, and we've talk about the underlying health conditions that make this virus even worse. And all of those conditions are present in our state.

And what it really feels like to me anyway is that there is this testing of the orders and willingness to sacrifice people for the sake of our economy. And I'm not willing to sacrifice my mother, who is a senior, and certainly not my children all of whom are asthmatic.

And I think that's the way that we have to look at across the board. Who would you be willing to sacrifice for the state of the economy, and I don't think any of us would be willing to do that, which is more reason for us to continue to stay home.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a fair point. After you saw residents gathering in crowds in Atlanta over the weekend, you tweeted this warning, quote, the only thing that's changed about COVID-19 is your chance of carrying it. Are Atlantans at greater risk now, because of the state's policy?

BOTTOMS: I really think so, Wolf. I mean, it's springtime in Atlanta. The weather is beautiful. People are tired of being in the house. And for some people, it is an economic consideration that they have bills to pay and they need to get back to work.

But for those who don't have those concerns and can continue to stay home, they should, and at least be considerate when they go out. And I saw so many people over the weekend who just had no consideration for putting others and themselves at risk.

BLITZER: As you know, a CDC study of eight Georgia hospitals, most of them in your city, Atlanta, found that more than 80 percent of the patients hospitalized with coronavirus were African-Americans.


How much of a glaring racial disparity are you seeing there and what, if anything, can you do to fight back?

BOTTOMS: Well, that's not a surprise to me again, Wolf. Because when you look at our underlying conditions that are prevalent throughout the south, they are above the national average. And then you layer on that, the African-American community, our numbers are even higher.

So what we are continuing to do is to, one, ask people to stay home, but especially for our vulnerable populations, our senior communities, we are taking food to their doorstep so they don't have to come out. We are continuing to provide resources to people through our small business loan funds and our other assistance funds that we have created throughout the city.

But so much of it really is about education, education, education. And that specially for our young people, reminding them that although they may not have any of these underlying conditions, which, by the way, they may because we have such high asthma rates in Atlanta, but even that they don't, that they can take them home to their parents and to their grandparents and it could be deadly.

BLITZER: It's a really, really disturbing development. All right, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to all the folks in your beautiful city. Thanks so much for joining us.

BOTTOMS: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right Just ahead, we're learning about U.S intelligence that apparently contradicts the Trump's administration theory that the coronavirus started in a Chinese lab.

How much suffering are Americans willing to accept as the nation reopens? We'll take a deeper diver into that question posed by our own, Dr. Anthony -- posed by Dr. Anthony Fauci. Stay with us.



BLITZER: Tonight, there is new intelligence that contradicts the theory being pushed by some members of the Trump administration that coronavirus got its start in a Chinese lab. Let's bring in our Senior National Security Correspondent, Alex Marquardt. Alex, first of all, what are you learning?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this new assessment comes from some of the U.S.'s closest intelligence sharing partners and it does refute this line that the Trump administration is pushing that this virus escaped from a lab. Instead, they are saying that it evolved naturally, that it jumped from an animal to a human in nature.

And this is coming from -- this is the growing assessment, we're told, from a number of officials among the five eyes country. Wolf, as you know five eyes, is that the intelligent sharing coalition that the U.S. is a part of alongside Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia.

According to one Western official I spoke with who has seen intelligence, it is highly unlikely, this official said, that the virus escaped from the lab as an accident, highly likely instead, this official said, that it did came from this market. And that was confirmed by another official.

And it's not just official speaking to us behind the scenes, Wolf. You have the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, saying, there is nothing to indicate right now, that this lab -- that this virus escaped from the lab. The WHO is saying the same thing, that there's no evidence of this.

But everybody cautions, Wolf, that this is an assessment, this is what they believe for now and that you're not going to have any sort of certainty, you're not going to have a 100 percent confirmation unless the Chinese allow an independent investigation, unless they allow more cooperation and more transparency, Wolf.

BLITZER: What's the U.S. military assessment, Alex?

MARQUARDT: Well, the U.S. military and the U.S. intelligence community are -- they do diverge from the White House. The military and the intelligence community are pretty much on the same page, saying essentially, we are still weighing these two scenarios, we are still looking into both theories, the theory that the virus came from the market or that it came from the lab.

Take a listen to what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, said earlier today.


GEN. MARK MILLEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Did it come out of the virology lab in Wuhan? Did it occur in the wet market there in Wuhan, did it occur somewhere else? And the answer to that is we don't know.

And as mentioned by many people, various agencies, both civilian and U.S. government are looking at that.


MARQUARDT: Wolf, Milley also is saying today that the release of the virus probably was not intentional.

Now, the intelligence community has said very forcefully, a senior official to me saying, that this virus was not released purposefully. And, in fact, the Office of the National Director of Intelligence is saying that they have evidence for both theories, but so far, Wolf, no official assessment from the U.S. intelligence committee or the military.

BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. Alex Marquardt, reporting for us. Thank you.

As the Trump administration tries to blame China for the coronavirus, tensions between the two countries are dramatically escalating tonight. CNN's David Culver is joining us live from Shanghai right now. David, how is the blame game fueling U.S./China tensions?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is no question that state media is seizing upon this moment to attack the U.S. and to go after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, calling him everything, from evil to questioning his Christian, saying that he's despicable from the perspective of religion.

And I think the biggest concern here for the U.S., in particular, in making the claim that this started from a lab is that you now start to see, as Alex pointed out, losing support from U.S. allies in particular, at least saying that perhaps it's not from a lab.


It's highly likely even.

And the concern going forward is that the U.S. had at least over the past several weeks legitimate claims to question the origin of this, to investigate that, to question the mishandling, the cover-up, the silencing of whistleblowers, all things that we have highlighted in our reporting over the past several months really.

And so, going forward, it seems that the U.S. has given the Chinese at least in this moment some credit in the global community to push forward and push back really against the claim that this started in a lab.

BLITZER: How bad, David, could this get between the U.S. and China?

CULVER: I mean, you've got the war of words, the heated rhetoric, that's one thing. The concern is does this turn into action.

And there are some interesting reporting out that suggesting that internal documents that went all of the way to the top here, to President Xi Jinping, have warned of the anti-China sentiment that is growing globally and they say it's as bad as it was going back to the 1989 in the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The concern here as the Chinese are portraying it at least internally, according to these documents, is that this could lead to a worst case scenario and they portray that, Wolf, to be armed conflict.

BLITZER: Yes, the stakes clearly right now are enormous.

David Culver in Shanghai, doing excellent reporting for us, thank you very much.

Just ahead, more than 40 states are starting to reopen, but at what cost? We'll take a closer look at the life and death gamble some elected officials are now taking.


[18:51:17] BLITZER: Tonight, President Trump is making it clear he's willing to accept potentially dire consequences for getting the country reopen. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us.

Brian, as more states are easing restrictions, elected officials are now making life-and-death choices.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Wolf, and there's a potentially chilling divide opening up now between America's top doctors and our political leaders, who are clamoring to reopen quickly.


TODD (voice-over): The images make it clear, people want to get out.

CROWD: Open Texas now!

TODD: And millions are desperate to get back on the job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Constitution says we have a right to life and liberty. I have a right to work.

TODD: But the rush to get back to normal brings a stark warning from America's top infectious disease expert.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: 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?

TODD: The jarring choice offered by Dr. Anthony Fauci comes as new models project a possible sharp increase in coronavirus-related deaths in America through August. Those models tied to recent reopenings of businesses and public spaces across the U.S. and relaxed social distancing.

But the president was adamant again today that people have to be allowed back to their jobs, and he believes keeping them away could kill them too.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If they held people any longer with the shut-downs, and you're going to lose people that way too. And you already have I'm sure. But between drug abuse and -- I mean, they say suicide, a lot of different things.

TODD: Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose state has been hit harder than most, told our Dana Bash, as many lives as possible should be saved. But he asked if Americans could come to an acceptance of certain levels of death in order to get the economy moving again.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: We've got to let some of these folks get back to work because if we don't, we're going to destroy the American way of life and these families. DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But will people be able

to swallow the notion if these projections are right of nearly 3,000 deaths a day?

CHRISTIE: They're going to have to.


DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Some of this language from Chris Christie and other politicians just lacks basic humanity, I think. In the long run, we will be able to replace some jobs. We're not going to be able to replace the lives that are lost.

TODD: Tonight, that debate between America's political leaders and its top doctors over the human costs of reopening, over the kind of carnage Americans could be willing to accept, is intensifying.

YASMIN: You can't have a strong economy when people are dying or are dead. How will you reopen offices and factories and schools if people have died?

TODD: But one public health expert says Chris Christie's message is an important one, that Americans need the unvarnished truth, that reopening whenever it happens will come with a human cost.

DR. AMESH ADALJA, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: The fact that you're now admitting that there are going to be increased deaths I think is a step to actually being honest with the American public. That's what the stakes are here. That's what -- that's what the trade-off is going to be. The costs of having the economy functioning are going to be increased cases and increased deaths.


TODD: And despite the projection for increase in deaths tied to early reopenings, two Trump administration officials have told CNN those numbers are not expected to affect the White House's plans for reopening the country. Wolf, this could be an excruciating drawn-out debate between our political leaders and our top doctors, which could extend maybe into next year.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thank you.

We'll have more news just ahead.



BLITZER: Finally, tonight, we're thrilled to share with you another celebration of new life within our CNN family. Our political director David Chalian and his husband Justin Bernstein welcomed Olivia Bernstein Chalian into the world yesterday. She's a healthy nine pounds and 20 inches long. And we're told she has a full head of hair. David and Justin say they're head over heels in love with her and

they're so grateful to their surrogate Michelle and her entire family for giving them the greatest gift possible.

We send our love to all of them, and we wish them nothing but health and happiness in the days and years ahead. As we say, mazel tov.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thanks very much for watching. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.