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States Reopening; When Did Coronavirus Begin In United States?; Interview With Mayor Sylvester Turner (D), Houston, TX; At Least 43 States Partially Reopening As U.S Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 72,000; Study Shows 90 Percent Of Those Who Tested Positive For Virus Reported Being Unable To Work From Home; Nation's Stockpile Proves To Be No Match For A Pandemic. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 6, 2020 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: President Trump is cheering the move to reopen and telling the American people they have to be warriors -- his word, warriors -- despite the possibility that loosening restrictions will lead to even more deaths.

The president is also backing away from his plan to disband the Coronavirus Task Force. The president says he didn't realize how popular the group had become and now plans to keep it working indefinitely, he says, with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx holding on to their key roles.

Let's check in with CNN's Nick Watt. He's joining us now with late- breaking developments.

Nick, you're out in California. It's been a busy day across the United States.


And it's been a day of good news for the 10 million people here in Los Angeles County. We have just been told that the county will start opening Friday, in line with the state guidelines. We're going to see Friday some trails open, golf courses, car dealerships, some florists, some other retail, but no beaches, not yet.

And we are being warned that this process, Wolf, will be slow.


WATT (voice-over): The New York City subway closed overnight, first time in over 100 years, to clean the cars.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We have turned the corner, and we're on the decline. You take New York out of the national numbers, the numbers for the rest of the nation are going up. What we're doing here shows results.

WATT: Across the country as a whole, the new case count is not falling, hovering somewhere over 20,000 every single day. DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: I think that we need to

understand, this may be the new normal. We may not be able to get transmission down much more. I hope we can.

WATT: But many places reopening anyway. Hot spots now growing in cities like Dallas, some rural flare-ups too, like those in Nebraska and Minnesota, but better testing might just play into all this.

DAVE KLEIS (R), MAYOR OF ST. CLOUD, MINNESOTA: I don't think there's anyone that didn't know that there were more cases out there. They just weren't known because the testing was so low.

WATT: A former CDC director told lawmakers today that the U.S. death toll will exceed 100,000.


WATT: All but these seven states are now taking steps to get back in business. On Monday, restaurants could open in Florida. On Tuesday, cops in Jacksonville had to break up a tailgate party at a taco stand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The risk of the coronavirus is a scam.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Right now, what I fear is, there's a rush to reopen, in some places, at least, that's going to end up with people losing their lives who didn't have to lose their lives.

WATT: One company working on creating therapeutics using blood from the recovered now says it might have something on the market by the end of the summer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can clone out the best of antibodies from recovered humans. We have selected the best ones to create an antibody cocktail, as we call it.

WATT: And who is this coronavirus infecting? Well, around 90 percent of positives in San Francisco's Mission District are people unable to work from home, according to a new study, 95 percent of them Latinx.

Another new study finds that black Americans are 13.4 percent of the population, but counties with higher black populations are home to nearly 60 percent of all COVID-19 deaths.

LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: We're still seeing a disproportionate number of black Chicago as people who are dying as a result of COVID-19.

WATT: Airlines now hoping we will get back in the air. Average passengers per plane is up to 23, from just 17 last week.

I think people are going to have to make their own judgments about, you know, their health. But we're doing everything we can.

Meanwhile, we hear the city of Houston might now furlough all its employees this summer, except fire and police. Wendy's just announced its fresh beef shortage will likely last a few more weeks, and more long lines at food banks here in America. Today, it's Pittsburgh.


WATT: Now, businesses can reopen again, but will customers feel confident to get out there again?

We have heard today from Marriott Hotels and Southwest Airlines they are both now using what they call electrostatic misting. That adds a charge to the disinfectant that is being pumped out.

It's life, Wolf, but not as we knew it.

BLITZER: Nick Watt reporting for us out in California, thank you, Nick.

Let's get some more from our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president now says he wants to keep his Coronavirus Task force together indefinitely. And he wants to keep two key experts on the job as well. So what else are you hearing? What's going on?



President Trump is backing away from plans to shut down the Coronavirus Task Force. The about-face comes after Mr. Trump hinted at winding down the task force in the middle of this pandemic.

An administration official tell CNN the back-and-forth has left some members of the task force confused about its future. But the president just told reporters earlier this afternoon that two high-profile members of the task force, Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, are staying on the team.


ACOSTA (voice-over): In a swift reversal, President Trump now says he's not pulling the plug on the Coronavirus Task Force, noting it's too popular.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought we could wind it down sooner. But I had no idea how popular the task force is.

But I had no idea how popular the task force is, until actually yesterday. When I started talking about winding it down, I would get calls from very respected people, saying, I think it would be better to keep it going.

ACOSTA: The president tweeted: "The task force will continue on indefinitely, with its focus on safety and opening up our country again. We may add or subtract people," less than one day after he hinted to reporters he may shut it down, a move that could have sideline trusted public health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci.

(on camera): Is that a good idea during a pandemic?

TRUMP: Well, I think we're looking at phase two and we're looking at other phases. The country is starting to open up.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president also appeared to be doing some damage control on his decision to forego wearing a mask while touring a factory where workers were constructing the face coverings in Arizona.

The plant even had a sign urging people to wear masks. Workers wore them. Now Mr. Trump claims he did too, but backstage.

TRUMP: I can't help it if you didn't see me. I had it on. I had it on back -- backstage. But they said you didn't need it. So I didn't need it. And, by the way, if you notice, nobody else had it on that was in the group.

ACOSTA: The president also got testy with a nurse who talked about difficulties for medical workers in obtaining personal protective equipment.


TRUMP: Sporadic for you, but not sporadic for a lot of other people.

ACOSTA: The president also acknowledged lives may be lost as the country reopens.

QUESTION: Will the nation just have to accept the idea that, by reopening, there will be more cases, there will be more deaths?

TRUMP: Well, I call these people warriors. And I'm actually calling now, as you know, John, the nation warriors. We have to be warriors. We can't keep our country closed down for years. And we have to do something.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump likened the pandemic to a sneak attack on the U.S.

TRUMP: This is worse than Pearl Harbor. This is worse than the World Trade Center. There's never been an attack like this.

ACOSTA: Even though the president downplayed the threat for weeks.

TRUMP: And, again, when you have 15 people, and the 15, within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done.

ACOSTA: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got snippy with a reporter when he seemed to back away from his own assessment that the virus originated in a lab in China.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We don't have certainty. And there is significant evidence that this came from the laboratory. Those statements can both be true.

Your efforts to try and find -- just to spend your whole life trying to drive a little wedge between senior American officials, it's just -- it's just -- it's just false.

ACOSTA: But here's what Pompeo said:

POMPEO: There's enormous evidence that that's where this began. We have said from the beginning that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China.

ACOSTA: As for the search for a vaccine, a senior administration official tells CNN the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will be engaged in the effort, though the president doesn't sound certain researchers can come up with a vaccine.

TRUMP: They're doing really great. Am I convinced? I can't be convinced of anything. But I think that we have a really good shot of having something very, very substantial.


ACOSTA: Now, the president also weighed in on the allegations made by a former top vaccine official, Rick Bright, who says he was pushed out for raising questions about the administration's response to the pandemic.

Mr. Trump described Bright earlier today as disgruntled, a preview of how the White House will be going after Bright when he testifies before the House next week.

Here's more of what the president had to say:


TRUMP: Like, I had seen this Dr. Bright. I never met Dr. Bright. I don't know who he is. I didn't hear good things about him.

I did not hear good things about him at all. And, to me, he seems like a disgruntled employee that's trying to help the Democrats win an election by getting out.


ACOSTA: Now, as for other top officials testifying, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, pushed back on the notion that Dr. Anthony Fauci was being blocked from testifying before the House next week.

But the president said yesterday he did not want Fauci talking to what he called Trump haters in the House -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta over at the White House, thank you.

Once again, the hour's breaking news, Los Angeles becoming the latest city to announce plans to begin reopening. The process begins this Friday.

Let's check in on another major city in the United States right now.

The Houston mayor, Sylvester Turner, is joining us for more on today's developments.

Mayor Turner, thank you, as usual, for joining us.

As you know, the stay-at-home order in Texas ended on April 30. Some businesses began opening, with restrictions, on May 1. Texas is seeing an upswing right now in cases.



BLITZER: Are you concerned what the next few days may hold, as we see the full effects of this reopening in your state?

TURNER: And the answer is yes, Wolf. I'm concerned.

Look, we all want things to reopen. It's just important that we do it in a measured way, that we do it very smart. Right now, we have opened up our restaurants, our malls, movie theaters. Barbershops and salons will open up this coming Friday. Gyms will open up somewhere around the (AUDIO GAP).

So, yes, I am concerned. I mean, we will know in the next -- in the next three to four weeks whether or not we will have even more of a surge than what we have now.

But we're treating the virus in large part as if it's yesterday's news, as if it is behind us. The conversation now is primarily about reopening. And I get it. There are a lot of people, a lot of businesses that have been adversely affected. It's affecting our economy. It's affecting the city of Houston in terms of our governance and our -- and what we need to operate this city.

So, I certainly understand that.

But I do think it's important for us to do it safely, to make these decisions backed -- based on the data and the medical advice that we are giving. We need to know -- it needs to be tied to the metrics, and not just saying, we want to open, so let's just do it.

And I just think, for me, we're going a bit too fast. And the worst thing that could happen is that, three to four weeks from now, we see that the numbers are really going up, and then we have to decide whether or not we're going to reverse course and ask people to stay home even more.

You don't want to go through this again. And then, lastly, what I would say, Wolf, in the city of Houston, our numbers have been very modest. I mean, 82 people in the city of Houston, the fourth largest city, that have died, that's a -- relatively speaking, that is a very good number. I don't want us to erase what we have already done.

BLITZER: Well, let's hope those numbers go down at the same time.

As you know, Governor Abbott's decision to reopen the entire state superseded local orders, including your orders in Houston. What are you advising residents in your beautiful city to do to keep themselves safe under these new conditions?

TURNER: And the advice that I give to the people in this city is, I say, look, look at what we have done together. We have stayed at home. We have engaged in social distancing. We have put on the face covering. And look at our numbers.

The numbers reflect that we -- what we have done has worked. And let's not ignore that. Just because somebody says that things are open doesn't necessarily mean you have to walk into the door. Just because certain businesses are open doesn't mean that you have to go in.

Just because you are allowed to do something, you don't necessarily have to do it. Think about -- think about your family members, your friends, your grandmother, your grandfather, the very fact that you can be -- you can look well, you could feel great, but 25 to 30 percent of the people who feel great are still infectious.

And so this is a time when people have to exercise common sense. Information is empowering. And the more people know, the better they are in a position to make informed decisions. And that's what we are doing.

We trying to provide people with the education and then saying, even though the government may have opened things up, you decide whether or not this is the time and the place for you to enter that environment.

BLITZER: Well, good luck, Mayor Turner. We obviously appreciate your joining us.

Good luck to everyone in Houston. Good luck to everyone around the country as well. Thanks for joining us.

TURNER: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me again.

BLITZER: And just ahead: Was the coronavirus killing Americans as early as last year? Authorities now in Illinois are probing deaths from November that may have been linked.

And I will speak with a mayor who calls the decision to reopen meatpacking plants in his town -- and I'm quoting him now -- "a huge step backwards."



BLITZER: Medical authorities in Chicago, in the Chicago area, have started reexamining deaths as far back as November for potential links to the coronavirus.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is joining us. He's got details.

Omar, what kind of deaths are they looking into?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they will be looking at a few things here, with the main goal of trying to figure out if this virus was here before we knew it was.

Now, specifically -- specifically, they will be looking at deaths as early as November, looking at ones that are tied to viral pneumonia and heart attacks that were not brought on by heart failure.

And let's just say they find a coronavirus-positive case from November. Officials here to tell me that would prompt them to look back even further. Now, to give you an idea of the timeline that we're currently on at this point, it was back on January 24 we saw the first confirmed coronavirus case here in Chicago, the second in the country at the time.

Then, a few days later, on January 30, we saw the first U.S. person- to-person transmission here in Chicago, which was the first in the country at the time. And you fast forward a month-and-a-half to where we are right now, we have seen cases, confirmed ones, rise by the tens of thousands.

And the death toll in this county that includes Chicago just eclipsed 2,000 at this point. Now, I am told this is only going to be a handful of cases that they're going to be looking at, and that they could go through this entire process, and very well find that the first case was exactly when they thought it was.

But the potential implications of that not being the case could change the entire way they have viewed and studied this virus so far, at least here in Chicago, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point.

Omar, thanks very much.

Let's bring in our experts for more analysis.


We're joined once again by our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, Dr. Ashish Jha.

Sanjay, why is it so important to learn when coronavirus was first circulating here in the United States?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't know that it's going to make a big difference going forward, Wolf.

I mean, it's very interesting, and not surprising in some ways. I don't think we thought when these first patients were diagnosed here that we definitely caught the very first patients.

But this is obviously backing the timeline quite a bit. So it may affect the models of how we look at this a bit. We may get a better insight into just how lethal, or maybe it might be less lethal, if there's a lot of people out there who were carrying the virus, but either not getting very sick or certainly not dying.

But I think going forward in terms of when the peaks have occurred in various places, and what needs to be done, I think that still pretty much stays the same.

BLITZER: Interesting.

Dr. Jha, Laurie Garrett, a journalist who has been warning about a pandemic like this for years, says she believes that the -- in her words -- the best-case scenario is that this virus will be with us for three years, best-case scenario, three years.

Do you agree with that?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: So, it's always risky to not agree with Laurie, who is about as good as they get. But I will tell you that I'm a bit more optimistic, that I'm more optimistic we're going to have a vaccine and we're going to have a vaccine in 2021.

Of course, she'd still be right that, if we have a vaccine, doesn't mean the virus goes away. But it does mean that most people can get protected from the virus. So the virus may be with us for a while, but I'm hoping that, by next year, we will be in a position where most people will not get sick because they will have a vaccine that is effective and safe.

BLITZER: And some treatments as well.

Sanjay, we're getting some positive news. Doctors in New York's Mount Sinai Hospital have found some success giving coronavirus patients blood thinners. How significant would that be?

GUPTA: Well, if you looked at that study, I mean, it was quite significant in terms of how patients did who were getting the blood thinners vs. those who weren't getting the blood thinners, or at least not getting the same dose of blood thinners.

I think one of the things that we're starting to learn about this -- and there's a lot that we're still learning about this virus -- but patients who get this infection, there's a certain group of them that do seem to be more likely to develop blood clots.

I think, first, we heard about patients who were developing these pulmonary embolisms. People have heard the term P.E., where a clot travels from the deep veins into the lungs. There were some patients also reported at Sinai that had strokes, so clots that were going into the blood vessels of the brain.

And then the idea that you're giving these blood thinners -- patients who are in the ICU often do get some low doses of blood thinners just to prevent these clots. But now they have talked about increasing the dosing a bit. And it seems to have made a difference.

I mean, patients who were going on the ventilator -- it was about a 3,000-patients study, I believe -- patients who were going to the ventilator, they were having 60 to 70 percent chance of dying. Patients who got the blood thinners, it was closer to a 20 to 30 percent chance, so significant improvement.

We have got to see if that still happens in larger populations of people, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, but that's potentially very significant.

Dr. Jha, the company that makes remdesivir is also going to allow other companies to make that drug. And another accompany, Regeneron, is moving to study an antibody treatment in humans.

Are you optimistic that, all of us, that we're making progress in terms of treatments and therapies that could really help people?

JHA: You know, Wolf, I really am.

I'm pretty optimistic about remdesivir. Again, I know that the data is not all -- there's some studies that haven't found big effects, but the great the study by the NIH really did find a pretty large effect. And if the mortality findings end up holding up, that's a good, solid finding.

But it's not the only one, there are probably a half-a-dozen or a dozen therapies that were -- that are being tested, including antibody therapy, that I think have a lot of potential.

So we don't need all of them to work out. But if a couple of them do, it will really make a big difference in terms of making this disease less deadly.

BLITZER: Let's hope that happens.

Sanjay, at the same time, people may be lulled into what is clearly a false sense of security, with so many states moving to reopen. We're seeing new hot spots at the same time emerging.

So, what has changed and what hasn't changed since we started all these social distancing measures?

GUPTA: Well, what hasn't changed is predominantly the virus.

Wolf, we do know that this is a contagious virus. It's very contagious. We know that it can cause death in certain people. So, that part is still the same. We know that physical distancing, through these stay-at-home order, seems to have made a difference.

We're still not certain just how big a difference it is, although it's pretty clear that it was fairly significant. And we know that, if we start to lift those orders, the numbers of people who get infected that otherwise wouldn't have will go up.


The people -- the number of people who get hospitalized that otherwise wouldn't have will go up. And, sadly, the number of people who die will go up as well.

That's what these models show. But it sort of reflects -- the good news is that there are some strategies that we have put in place that have had an effect. That's the good news. The bad news is, if we start to abandon some of those strategies, the numbers are going to go up.

I agree with Ashish. I mean, obviously, we're going to hopefully have some good therapeutics at some point. But, right now, the best we have is physical distancing, staying at home, washing your hands, and trying to break the cycle of transmission.

BLITZER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Ashish Jha, guys, thank you very much, important discussion.

Just ahead, I will speak to the mayor of an Iowa city where a major meat plant that saw hundreds of coronavirus cases is slated to reopen tomorrow. The mayor says that's a huge step backwards.

Plus, as millions of Americans adjust to working from home, a new study now says 90 percent of those who test positive for the virus don't have that luxury. What's behind the disparity? We will tell you.



BLITZER: We have breaking news tonight. Los Angeles officials announcing they will join the rest of California and allow the city and county to begin reopening with restrictions starting this Friday.

Also, Tyson is now planning to reopen its pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa, tomorrow where at least 444 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Let's get some more with the Waterloo Mayor, Quentin Hart.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. I'm anxious to get your reaction, Mayor, to the president's order to reopen meat plants around the country as Tyson prepares to reopen its pork plant in your city. What are your concerns? I assume you must have some.

MAYOR QUENTIN HART, WATERLOO, IOWA: Hi, Wolf. Thank you so much for having me. Probably on April 9th, we started hearing some concern about positive cases at the plant. April 10th, our Black Hawk County public health officials and our sheriff did a walkthrough and cited some concerns. We reached out as much as we can to try to see what we can to do to get them to close down and test, and they did that on the 21st.

So we met May 1st, and we listened to a presentation from company officials about all the changes that we're making and how they're planning to move in the future. We had a meeting and conversation again yesterday about those guidelines and a process for opening. So we are -- we will be anxiously awaiting. They made a lot of changes, and we're grateful for that. They serve an important role, but our workers are who we're concerned about.

So they have a number of measures put in place on site, testing, screening, about everything that you can do to try to ensure workers safety.

BLITZER: if the reopening though does lead, mayor, to a surge in cases at that pork plant, is your city right now prepared to respond and control the outbreak?

HART: Well, you know, right now, frontline workers and people are overwhelmed and trying to deal with the impact of potential cases there but also throughout the community. So I will never be in a position to say not being a healthcare provider to say what we can or can't handle.

But what we can handle is, you know, our companies, whether Tysons, whether any other companies that are not following closely CDC guidelines or Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines. And there's a push to open companies up that are essential, but I also want to see from our federal government and our state government the push to make sure that all companies are using these guidelines, these best practices from the CDC and our Iowa Department of Public Health. That's the push we need to see as well.

BLITZER: We know that 444 workers at that one pork plant came down with coronavirus. How many workers are there to begin with?

HART: There's close to about 2,700 workers. They are a very diverse group of phenomenal people that want to do a good job. But we definitely have to make sure that we protect them as much as possible, which has been my message.

And, Wolf, one of the things I've always been talking about, you know, and Iowa is a strong agricultural base. You need a healthy workforce that has an impact to production flow and that has impacts nationally and on our local economies as well.

BLITZER: Do they have any choice -- let's say they're scared to go back and work there. Can they stay home?

HART: According to company officials in our conversations, they have loosened or relaxed some of their overall policies with regards to worker safety, comfort levels. There is screening when people first get there and a checklist of questions that needs to be answered about overall health. I have seen several different measures that are put in place and on site medical -- mobile medical facility as well that are testing, talking to people, educating.


And so what I've been told, they had loosened up policies on coming to work and supporting workers.

BLITZER: And are you confident, Mayor, that they have access to the appropriate personal protective equipment that they'll need working in an environment like that?

HART: Well, I had an opportunity after we had about an hour-and-a-half meeting talking about protocol to actually tour the facility. So, Wolf, I'm telling everybody I'm not a CDC director or a public health official. I am just a mayor that's trying to make sure that the workforce is protected. I have seen those things. I have seen PPE. I'm going to hold the company at its word at this point.

We will be looking -- we will be supporting our residents. We will be supporting as a county, so I am optimistic that they're going to follow through on their promises.

BLITZER: Let's hope. Mayor Quentin Hart of Waterloo, Iowa, good luck to everyone over there. We'll be watching it closely. Let's hope all those protective measures will actually work out. Thanks so much for joining us.

HART: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, more evidence that the coronavirus is taking a very heavy toll on Americans who don't have the option from working from home. I'll speak with the lead researcher on an important new study.

Plus, what went wrong with the U.S. stockpile of protective medical equipment? We're going to bring you our very troubling new CNN investigation. Stay with us.



BLITZER: A study in one San Francisco neighborhood is adding to the growing evidence that the coronavirus pandemic is taking a much heavier toll on lower income and working class Americans.

Let's dig deeper into the findings with the principal investigator of the study, Dr. Diane Havlir. Dr. Havlir, thanks so much for joining us.

I know your study looked at one neighborhood in San Francisco, the Mission District. And of the people who tested positive for coronavirus, you discovered that 95 percent of them were Latino and 90 percent were simply unable to work from home. So what does that tell us?

DR. DIANE HAVLIR, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN FRANCISCO: I think that the big message from the study is that low wage essential workers are bearing the highest burden of disease in the epidemic. I think we've seen from hospitalizations that many of these groups are persons of color and we definitely saw the community level that was true, where, as you mentioned, 95 percent of these individuals who were PCR positive with active disease were the Latin X community.

BLITZER: San Francisco, as you know, took action very early on and it was one of the first cities to enact a shelter-in-place order. Almost two months in, what can you gather about how this virus is spreading?

HAVLIR: I think what it tells us is that it's very heterogeneous where the public health measures we have are working. As you mentioned, Mayor Breed was really very early on implementing these public health measures. But we can see that some of the people who were keeping the rest of the population going are really suffering the consequences.

And I think the important thing from this is that we need to think about and new legislations being introduced in San Francisco are programed to support people during this time of isolation and quarantine, which is the public health response when someone is infected. And this is not easy for some of the populations who are being most disproportionately affected.

BLITZER: So what needs to be done, Dr. Havlir, to support these vulnerable essential workers and people in communities like this one?

HAVLIR: I think what we need to do is we need to ramp up testing, we need to have people know their status and we need to provide the support and resources so that people are supported through isolation and quarantine, which is what we have now for the response versus feeling penalized.

BLITZER: Based on your findings, do you have any advice for other parts of the country as they start and so many other parts of the country are starting right now to reopen?

HAVLIR: I think I would say testing, testing, testing. And when we find people who are positive that we ensure that the workers who are testing positive are supporting through this time period, and also I think it's super important as communities open up that the community views in how they think that testing is most accessible is really put front and center.

BLITZER: Dr. Havlir, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all the important work you're doing as well. I appreciate it very much.

HAVLIR: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, CNN investigates what went wrong with America's National Stockpile of personal protective equipment as the coronavirus outbreak spread.



BLITZER: A troubling new report from "The New York Times" paints a chaotic picture of the White House effort to secure medical supplies for front line health care workers.

According to documents and interviews, the supply chain task force headed by Jared Kushner has been plagued by inexperience, confusion and political favoritism.

Our own Sara Murray has been doing into what went wrong with America's national stockpile for protective equipment.

Sarah, tell us what you found out.


We found a president who was slow to act to ramp up production, states that were desperate for supplies and a stockpile that was woefully understocked for a crisis like this.


MURRAY (voice-over): As governors, doctors and nurses desperately pleaded for supplies from the federal stockpile to protect against the deadly coronavirus virus --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're running low on masks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't have the proper equipment. They go into the rooms with fear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need these resources now.

MURRAY: Suddenly, a little known division of Health and Human Services, the Strategic National Stockpile, was front and center.


But there wasn't enough in store to arm the entire nation to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many of the states were totally unprepared for this. We're not an ordering clerk.

MURRAY: Trump was slow to the Defense Production Act to get the private sector to ramp up production and states wound up in an international bidding war for medical supplies.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D, MICHIGAN: We're all competing against one another. It shouldn't be states having a Wild West fight over this.

MURRAY: When they turned to the stockpile for quick relief, it was understocked, its federal stewards in disarray.

GOV. JB PRITZKER (D), ILLINOIS: Here in Illinois, we've maybe received maybe 10 percent of what we've needed. So they've turned it back to the state and said, well, you guys are on your own.

MURRAY: Other states say they received vital supplies that were expired, deteriorating or malfunctioning. A spokesperson for HHS said states should inspect things as they arrived and acknowledged that states receive less than they hope for. But each state, quote, received its fair share. Overall, the federal response appeared erratic. Jared Kushner, the

president's son-in-law and senior adviser, was brought in to help manage supply chain challenges but another controversy was created when he claimed the stockpile was meant for the federal government, not for states, in direct contradiction to the website about the stockpile.

JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: The motion of a federal stockpile, it was supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be state's stockpiles.

MURRAY: The day after Kushner made those remarks, the government website was change from a long mission statement saying, it steps in for a public health emergency, severe enough to cause local supplies to run out to a shorter statement that says, supplies can be used as a short term stopgap buffer.

DEBRA KATZ, ATTORNEY FOR DR. RICK BRIGHT: There was no sense of urgency.

MURRAY: The pictures made more complicated a whistleblower alleged the stockpile system had been corrupted by outside lobbyists. Dr. Rick Bright was recently asked from a top position at HHS. He says when he began pressing his bosses to increase mask production months ago, the cries fell on deaf ears.

KATZ: We didn't increase mask production. There was no effort to do that, what should have happened, as soon as this pandemic hit.

MURRAY: Created in 1999, the stockpile includes about $8 billion worth of supplies for the U.S. to deploy in natural disasters, terrorist attacks and pandemics. It shielded in secrecy, exactly what is in stockpile and where it's housed are classified.

TRUMP: When I took this over it was an empty box.

MURRAY: Trump has blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for failing to replenish supplies after a 2009 swine flu outbreak, which the Obama administration failed to do partly because Congress wouldn't approve funding increases for the stockpile. A coronavirus relief package that passed recently included $16 billion for replenishing the stockpile.

TRUMP: We're building up our stockpile again like crazy.

MURRAY: But experts say, it will take more changes like increasing domestic manufacturing for medical gear for the U.S. to be prepared for the next pandemic.


MURRAY: Now, a FEMA spokesperson said that they are not actually replenishing the stockpile right now despite the money to Congress that is allocated right now. They are focused on replenishing state that supplies need, sending out those critical supplies. It's also working on the inspector general for HHS is investigating how the stockpile performed in the coronavirus crisis and whether it was used effectively, Wolf.

BLITZER: The president, you know, Sara, is replacing the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services. Tell us what that could mean.

MURRAY: That's right. He's now nominated a permanent health inspector general, so would be interesting to see, particularly, as this man goes to the confirmation process whether there are questions about how this investigation will proceed. Right now, according to the HHS IG, this report is due in 2021, but it's an open question whether the plans to investigate or other ongoing investigations could change when a new inspector general comes in, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And Jared Kushner's role behind the scenes, what are you learning about that?

MURRAY: That's right. You know, this is really interesting because we've seen Jared Kushner jump in in various different parts of this crisis and he was brought in by the president to get involved in the supply chain issue and initially that was a big relief to a lot of these sources at government agency. There was a lot of confusion because HHS runs the stockpile but then FEMA was enabled and distributing it.

It seemed good to have a point person, obviously with a direct lying to the White House, involved in this but we saw how this continue to play out. You know, we saw his appearance in the briefing room where Jared Kushner muttered the matter who the stockpile actually belongs to, and so, in the end, I think there were some folks who are disappointed who involved in this.

BLITZER: All right. Sara, thanks very much. Sara Murray doing excellent reporting for us as she always does.

Much more news right after this.



BLITZER: What a difference only two months makes. On March 5th, there were only 11 confirmed deaths from coronavirus here in the United States, 11 deaths. Right now, there are 73,039 confirmed deaths here United States. What a difference two months makes, and these were all wonderful people.

I want to share with you some more personal stories of Americans who have died from this coronavirus. Anthony Velez, he was only 32 years old from Queens, New York, his father say he was a gentle soul that brought joy to everyone. Despite the challenges of living with cerebral palsy, Anthony savored life's simple pleasures, from food to travel to music.

Robert and Gwendolyn Francis of Bogalusa, Louisiana, they were married 54 years and died four days apart. He was 76, she was 74. Their daughter tells us she is so grateful for the compassion of medical staff, including the nurses who are there, with their parents in their final moments, when she couldn't be.

To those families, all the families mourning tonight, may your loved ones rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.