Return to Transcripts main page


Coronavirus Hits West Wing; 20.5 Million Jobs Lost in April, Worst in U.S. History; U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 76,000; California the First State Borrowing from Federal Government to Pay Unemployment Benefits; Federal Agency says Removal of Vaccine Chief may have been Retaliation; Study: Travel to Georgia Spiked after Reopening; Some Meat Plants Reopening Despite Outbreaks; Key Model Forecasts 134,000 U.S. Deaths By Early August; Government Has Few Answers On How Hospitals Will Get Remdesivir. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 8, 2020 - 17:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And 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.

There's escalating concern tonight about the coronavirus spreading in the West Wing of the White House after President Trump said that Katie Miller, the press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence, has tested positive. She's the wife of the president's senior adviser Stephen Miller. The news comes one day after we learned one of the president's military valets has also tested positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, the economic toll has hit historic levels. The government's newest unemployment report shows more than 20 million jobs lost last month. And that sent the jobless rate soaring to 14.7 percent, that's the highest since the great depression. Still, some Americans are going back to work as at least 47 states move to partially reopen despite more than two dozen of them showing an increasing rate of new infections. As of this hour, the pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 76,000 Americans and it has infected at least 1.2 million.

We'll go straight to the White House. Our Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us. Jim, two coronavirus cases reported inside the West Wing of the White House in just two days.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And taking an extra precaution today because of the day's news, the White House medical staff is now testing aides to the president and vice president as well as members of the press in what's become a scramble to respond to a potential hotspot on the White House grounds. It was the president who revealed that today.

A senior member of the vice president's staff, his press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for the coronavirus. All on the same day that the president is responding to devastating new unemployment numbers, the worst since the great depression. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): For the second straight day, the White House is confirming a staffer has contracted the coronavirus. This time, a senior official. Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary, Katie Miller.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She's a wonderful young woman. Katie, she tested, uh, very good for a long period of time and then all of a sudden today she tested positive. She hasn't come into contact with me.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the potential that the West Wing has become a hotspot for the virus is now real. Miller is married to one of the president's top aides, speechwriter and domestic policy adviser Stephen Miller. Word of Katie Miller's test results comes one day after the president acknowledged one of his military valets came up positive too.

TRUMP: Know who he is, good person, but I've had very little contact, Mike has had very little contact with him.

ACOSTA (voice-over): And yet the White House appears to be stubbornly avoiding some precautions like masks. The president greeted World War II veterans on the National Mall without wearing one.

TRUMP: We were very far away. You saw. Plus, the wind was blowing so hard, in such a direction that if the plague ever reached them might be very surprising. It could have reached me too. You didn't worry about me. You only worried about them and that's OK.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Neither were Republican members of Congress meeting with the president. The one lawmaker noted they were tested for the virus before the event.

The virus is hitting home at the White House, says the president is grappling with a staggering new unemployment rate, 14.7 percent. The highest on record since the great depression.

White House Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow noted Wall Street doesn't seem to be too worried.

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: If you had told me that I would go on the air on a day when we lost 20 million jobs, and the stock market would go up 400 points, that would have been very interesting.

But another economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, said more devastating numbers are on the way.

KEVIN HASSETT, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ECONOMIC ADVISER: I want to say how heartbreaking it is to see a report like this. Probably the next number will be a little bit higher than this.

ACOSTA (on camera): What is the president's plan to get this country out of the ditch? KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, you know, this president is the jobs president. This president got us to a place where we had the lowest unemployment rate in the history of this country.

ACOSTA (on camera): What's the plan?

MCENANY: There are a lot of proposals being entertained. I don't want to get ahead of the president.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The administration has another big problem on its hands as a federal investigative office has found that a top vaccine official, Dr. Rick Bright, may have been retaliated against, raising questions about the White House's response to the virus.

Bright's lawyer say they've been informed that the Department of Health and Human Services "violated the Whistleblower Protection Act by removing Dr. Bright from his position because he made protected disclosures in the best interest of the American public." The president brushed off the bright case.

TRUMP: To me he looks like a disgruntled employee.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the president is not trying to deny what's become painfully obvious. That the number of dead in the U.S. from the virus will keep climbing, perhaps by the tens of thousands.

TRUMP: We may be talking about 95,000 people ultimately. We may be talking about something more than that.


ACOSTA: One sign of how the White House is now taking the virus more seriously, there are members of the press lined up as we speak for coronavirus tests. I just had one a few moments ago. The White House is making the test available to any member of the press who wants one after the revelation that the vice president's press secretary tested positive. The same test that many Americans are having trouble finding.

In the meantime, we should note the president questioned the usefulness of these tests earlier in the day as they can sometimes reveal false negatives. But the White House for now is ramping up this testing. Wolf?

BLITZER: When are you going to get the results of your test, Jim?

ACOSTA: Well, we were told, Wolf, if we test positive, we will get results, if we test negative, we won't, so no news is good news, essentially at this point.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by, I want to bring on our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta as well.

Sanjay, there have been now two coronavirus cases close to the president in the West Wing of the White House in two days. Does that mean, potentially -- we hope it's not the case -- there could be a cluster over there or an outbreak over there?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is always the concern. You know, if you start to get people who are testing positive in a particular area, are they testing positive because of the same source? You know, has everyone that's potentially been infected, have they been found? I mean, they're obviously doing a lot of testing there. As you point out, I know Katie as well, and everyone I'm sure wishes that, hopes that she's OK.

The point of testing, though, is now someone like Katie and the valet need to be isolated. Their contacts need to be traced. And that's how you start to actually box this in. So, that's how you prevent a cluster from happening. That's sort of the point of testing in this way. If people are symptomatic, they should obviously stay home but people who are getting test like Jim, like others are not symptomatic but still wondering if they're carrying the virus. That's the whole point.

BLITZER: Yes. We, of course, hope she's going to be just fine and we hope that maybe - that's steward - that valet is going to be just fine as well.

Jim, Katie Miller isn't just any staffer. Beyond being the vice president's press secretary, she also heads communications for the coronavirus task force, in charge of getting the message out to Americans, how they can avoid being infected, is that right?

ACOSTA: That's right. And she was taking the lead on communications for the task force for several weeks, as we saw. The president then took over those briefings. And then they ended those briefings. And so, they've kind of gone back to normal operating procedures over here in terms of how they message the coronavirus.

But in the meantime, we should note, the vice president, Mike Pence, he has been traveling considerably in recent days. And trying to get the message out to the country that you know they can start opening up again. And Katie Miller has been on those trips from time to time.

We should also note yesterday, the vice president traveled to Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., to drop off some personal protective equipment, and Katie Miller, the press secretary, was on that trip and interacted with some members of the press including staffers at CNN. And so ,the potential is there, as Sanjay was saying, as these senior members of the White House move around the grounds, move around the portions of the White House where they are on a regular basis to other areas where the press may be and others, that you do have the potential there for this virus to spread around, no question about it.

BLITZER: Sanjay, is this just another indication that the White House should be following the Trump administration's own guidelines as far as wearing masks?

GUPTA: Yes, I think so. I mean, I know this is strange, and you know culturally we're not really used to masks in this country. I mean, obviously, a lot of other countries wear masks more regularly. You know, the issue is that it's very hard to maintain physical distance. You know, the same is true in hospitals as well, by the way. When you go to the hospital, you know just maintaining six feet apart from people is very challenging. People all wear masks, even people who are obviously asymptomatic. If you are symptomatic, you shouldn't go to work, everyone should realize that by now.

But I think the same is true in the White House. I mean you see how closely people are next to each other and it's just very hard to maintain that physical distance. And I was talking to Ambassador Birx yesterday for the town hall. I was asking, you know you sort of think about this like Secret Service. You know with the principals, for example, they are there to protect the president and the vice president. Now the principals -

This is -- you know this is a threat to this virus. And so, you've got to do everything you can to keep people safe. It's not forever. But for this period of time, we've got a contagious virus out there. Now we know it's in the White House. People should do everything they can to diminish the spread.

BLITZER: You know, Jim, Katie Miller, as we noted, is married to the senior adviser to the president Stephen Miller who works very closely with the president on a day-to-day basis. I assume he's been tested already, right?

ACOSTA: I think that's a safe assumption, Wolf. I mean, what they told us yesterday and what they again told us today is that aides who are working closely with the president and vice president are being tested on a regular basis. There are a few members of the staff who are closer to the president than Stephen Miller, it's been that way for some time going all the way back to the campaign. And it stands a reason that this would be a concern. After all, Katie Miller and Stephen Miller are married to one another and we know how this virus can be transmitted is highly contagious. And so, there's obviously concern inside the building that Stephen Miller or other members of the president or vice president's staff might be infected.


We should note when the vice president was leaving for Iowa today, there were members of that team, the vice president's team, who were pulled off of the plane because of the possibility that they interacted with Katie Miller. And so, it does seem that the White House is coming to grips with just how serious this is. They've been kind of blase about it.

I mean, let's be frank about it. They've been pretty casual about all of this for several weeks now. But it but it is hitting home. No question about it tonight, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jim and Sanjay, both of you are going to be back, so stand by. But right now, we want to get some more on the moves by most states to reopen even as the number of cases continues to rise in more than two dozen states.

Let's go to our national correspondent Athena Jones. She's joining us right now. Athena, California is partially reopening today and will soon issue new guidelines for the next phase of the reopening.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's right. California is slowly reopening. But some are pushing Gov. Gavin Newsom to go further. Leaders from more than two dozen counties have reached out to his office to talk about lifting even more restrictions. The governor says he will begin making more reopening announcements on a consistent basis starting Tuesday. One thing he and other leaders will be watching as this first phase gets underway is what happens to the rate of new infections.


JONES (voice-over): California today beginning a phased reopening, even though it is one of 28 states where new cases are still on the rise. The first state to issue a stay-at-home order will now allow stores that sell clothing and books, among others, to open for curbside pickup. Also allowed to reopen, manufacturers, construction, and car dealerships with proper social distancing and sanitation protocols. San Francisco, holding off for now. Los Angeles' mayor, hopeful.

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-CA), LOS ANGELES: I know this is going to be a big weekend for us. It's a big test and an exciting weekend. It's a threshold through which we take our first baby steps.

JONES (voice-over): Not reopening today, malls, gyms, and nail salons.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): This whole thing started in the state of California, the first community spread in a nail salon. I just want to remind you and remind everybody of that. I'm very worried about that.

JONES (voice-over): By Sunday, 48 states will have begun lifting restrictions. A new study from the University of Maryland based on cellphone data showing more people from surrounding states rushing to Georgia as it began to reopen. States eager to get moving again as the Labor Department reported April unemployment at 14.7 percent, a record 20.5 million jobs lost during the month. Latino workers hit hardest.

This, as a new report from a public health group estimates COVID-19 could kill 75,000 people through what it calls "deaths of despair." Attributed to drug or alcohol misuse, and suicide.

Meanwhile, as meatpacking plants begin to reopen, local officials reporting Tyson's Waterloo Iowa plant has more than 1,000 employees testing positive for the virus.

Next door in Nebraska, the governor says they'll stop reporting cases at specific plants unless they have the company's permission and can verify the person's employment status.

GOV. PETE RICKETS (R-NE): We at the state, we've got a policy. We're not disclosing that on a company by company basis.

JONES (voice-over): And states across the country continue grapple what the high toll the virus has had on nursing homes.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): Just about half the fatalities in our state are related to long-term care facilities.

JONES (voice-over): States that haven't yet begun to reopen lay out plans they hope will allow them to do so safely.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We haven't killed the beast. But we are -- we're ahead of it.

JONES (voice-over): New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing the city will form a test and trace corps.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): By early June we'll have 2,500 public health foot soldiers in this corps. So, it take -- an entity that didn't even exist, and in the course of just weeks, it will be ramped up to 2,500 people to begin. A big number but a necessary number to be able to build what we need to build. That number will grow.

JONES (voice-over): And there's more evidence of unequal policing of social distancing rules. The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office confirming 35 out of the 40 people arrested for violating guidelines were black.

De Blasio tweeting, "the disparate in the numbers does not reflect our values. We have to do better and we will."


JONES: And more reopening news from South Florida where the three hardest-hit counties, also the most populous, could begin to reopen by mid-May, that's according to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez who said he will be meeting with medical experts and state officials in the coming days to finalize a draft for phase one reopening plans. Wolf?

BLITZER: Athena Jones in New York City for us. Athena, thank you.

Up next, as California begins allowing businesses to open their doors, we're going to speak with two mayors who are taking different approaches to reopening.

Also, more on the disturbing news out of the White House today where we've now heard of two, not one, but two coronavirus cases reported in two days.



BLITZER: California is one of at least 47 states moving to at least partially reopen. The nation's most populous state started today and will issue further guidance for the next phase of the reopening on Tuesday.

Joining us now, the mayors of two major cities in California. Kevin Faulconer is the mayor of San Diego. Libby Schaaf is the mayor of Oakland. Mayor Schaaf, so as California moves into this next phase of reopening, your city, Oakland, along with the wider bay area, is not necessarily going along with all of this. You're keeping stricter restrictions in place. Tell us why.

MAYOR LIBBY SCHAAF (D-CA), OAKLAND: Well, the bay area was the very first region in the whole country to impose shelter in place.


And look, we know that that early caution has saved thousands of lives. And so, our continued vigilance will save even more. And the governor has said that if counties want to be more cautious, he supports that. That is what rules the day. And we have got to save lives in this moment. We know it's so hard. People are making tremendous sacrifices. But we have to listen to science and data and not fear.

BLITZER: That's important. Mayor Faulconer, you're reopening San Diego. But when you look at the state trends, it's not necessarily all that clear that the state as a whole is past the worst of all of this. Are you prepared for the possibility that reopening San Diego could lead to an uptick in new cases?

MAYOR KEVIN FAULCONER (R-CA), SAN DIEGO: Wolf, we've done a lot of work on being prepared. We had a beach plan last week that opened up very well, based on data, based on science, and the lifeguards. And we're taking that same approach for businesses. We have had an economic recovery task force that's met, again, based on science, based on data, and all the precautions to keep customers safe and employees safe. So, we spent a lot of time with our county Public Health. San Diego is going to be ready to go. But to do so safely and to do so in a manner that really gets our businesses open, not just for the short term, but for the long term.

BLITZER: You know, Mayor Schaaf, after Georgia reopened, cellphone data showed a jump in people coming in from other states to take advantage of some of those new open businesses. How do you make sure you're not incentivizing your residents in Oakland, for example, to travel elsewhere in California?

SCHAAF: Well, cellphone data has shown that people have complied with shelter in place in the bay area. So, the information campaign is working. And like Mayor Faulconer, I am excited about allowing people to return to some semblance of normalcy. And in the city, we're working to help businesses find ways to reopen responsibly and safely.

We're looking at closing more streets off like our successful slow streets program. But to allow businesses to spread out so we can socially distance. We're really pushing the use of masks, cloth covers, when you're out in public. And we are seeing high levels of compliance. We're also really putting out a lot more testing. That is going to be a key component to reopening safely and to ensuring that our activities are not making us back backslide on the gains that we've made in controlling this virus and flattening that curve.

BLITZER: Mayor Faulconer, you've said that nail salons in your beautiful city of San Diego can use your strategies to reopen. Governor Newsom has revealed that what's believed to be California's first case of community spread actually came from a nail salon. Is there really a safe way, for example, for nail salons, hair salons to reopen?

FAULCONER: One of the things that we've got our business group together, Wolf, was to come up with policies that make sense, you know, across the spectrum for our businesses and then also industry specifics. So, restaurants and others have very detailed plans, because, again, we have to have that consumer confidence that when you come in, that business is going to be safe, not just for the customers, but for our employees. And again, we did it, we developed a plan by businesses who are very concerned about having clear rules of the road and with our county public health officials.

And so, what we've really tried to do to lay out is a plan that makes sense. It's based on data, and it says that it's not a one-size-fits- all policy. I think that's one of the things we're going to be looking at California. These counties said - have different circumstances, that are ready to reopen and do it safely, have put these plans in place.

That I think is the objective, and that's one of the things that we're really looking at in terms of the city of San Diego, the county of San Diego, moving forward together just like we did on the beach openings a week and a half ago. Let's do that for our businesses and our small businesses, to have very clear rules of the road, plans that keep people safe, and plans that get Californians back to work.

BLITZER: You know, Mayor Schaaf, I want to take a bigger picture right now of the economic front. California is now the first state borrowing from the federal government to pay out unemployment benefits. Do you worry a slower reopening in your city, for example, could make things even worse for families who are clearly struggling right now?

SCHAAF: Well, I believe the federal government needs to invest in its people and in its cities. And we, unfortunately, are one of those cities that just missed direct federal aid.


But this is the moment for government to step forward, because we cannot know what we know and allow people to go back into conditions where they are highly likely to contract this deadly virus. We have to put people above profits. And I believe that we can do that with the right government assistance. To get us through this moment. And then to allow us to come back stronger than ever, and with our values still intact.

BLITZER: Two California cities with two different approaches. Let's hope they work, and they work well. Mayor Schaaf, thank you so much for joining us.

Mayor Faulconer, thanks -

SCHAAF: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: -- very much for joining us, good luck to both -

FAULCONER: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: -- of you and everyone in your beautiful cities as well. Thank you very much.

SCHAAF: Thank you, Wolf, be well.

BLITZER: And coming up -

Thank you.

President Trump makes a new message pandemic projection, now saying the virus potentially could kill 95,000 Americans or more.

Plus, how will coronavirus patients get the experimental drug that may ease symptoms and shorten recovery times? We'll speak to an expert.



BLITZER: At least 47 states will be in the process of reopening by Sunday despite many of them still seeing upward trends in coronavirus cases. Joining us now in "THE SITUATION ROOM" is a doctor behind an influential model that now is projecting perhaps 134,000 deaths by early August. Dr. Christopher Murray is the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington Medical School. Thanks so much, Dr. Murray for joining us. Do you fear you will need -- and we hope you don't need to -- but do you fear you'll need to raise your projection again given all these reopens that are underway?

DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION: That's exactly what we're working on right now, Wolf, and I fear that we will. We're seeing in the data even after the lifting of the mandates, big surges in mobility, in the cell phone data and then these extra changes in the mandates that are unfolding will only add to that increased risk of transmission.

BLITZER: When you're going to do another evaluation or another projection?

MURRAY: Either tonight or tomorrow, we'll have our new set of numbers out. We're just trying to incorporate all this new data that's come in and, you know, try to get on board all the new changes in the mandates.

BLITZER: As you watch the states, Dr. Murray, begin to reopen, and you see data showing Americans are increasingly venturing outside the home. What is your greatest fear right now?

MURRAY: You know, the greatest fear is that people will not only venture outside the home, but they may be less vigilant about avoiding social interaction, you know, or close physical interaction that they won't wear a mask. They'll come within 6 feet and then we're just going to have a lot more transmission. And those states that are either, you know, sort of flat or even trending up slightly, we'll see a big uptick in infections. BLITZER: You point to increase the testing and contact tracing practices as really important factors that potentially could slow down the spread of the virus. Will any amount of testing or contact tracing for that matter, reverse the negative effects of states prematurely reopening?

MURRAY: It can, you know, it depends on how much testing is done. And it depends on how much contact tracing. And do people who are traced and found to be positive, will they self-isolate? So, yes, we can win this balance. We can actually counteract the increasing mobility if people are cautious and we scale up testing and contact tracing, but we're really going to have to see, that we have to see the testing and contact tracing go up. And we have to make -- see whether people are going to be much more cautious, wear masks, avoid, you know, close physical contact.

BLITZER: As, you know, Dr. Murray, the White House Coronavirus Task Force often cites your models. But the President push back on this latest revision 134,000 by early August, saying in his words, it assumes no mitigation. Is that an accurate characterization of your modeling?

MURRAY: No, it's not. And I, you know, understandably, I think there's a lot of models out there, there was a lot of discussion that day about the Johns Hopkins model with, you know, 3,000 deaths a day on June 1st. And that was a no mitigation scenario from that model. But in our case, we're assuming that, you know, contact tracing and testings going to scale up, that all the mandates that are not scheduled to come off stay in place. So that's quite a lot.

And so there's quite a lot of mitigation built into that 134,000 number. You know, the only wildcard that could really change the story a lot is maybe the effect of higher temperatures will turn out to be larger than what we currently see. But it's unlikely that that's going to be the dominant determinant, you know, between now and, you know, at least the end of the month.


BLITZER: We'll look forward to getting your new numbers when they come out. We'll check back with you tomorrow. Dr. Murray, thanks to you, thanks to your whole team for what you're doing. We appreciate it very much.

MURRAY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And tonight there's also growing concern about how coronavirus patients will get remdesivir, that's the experimental drug showing some serious hope of treating at least some of the symptoms and shortening recovery times.

Joining us now Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, she's the chief clinical officer of the Providence Health System which delivers health services across seven states. Dr. Compton-Phillips, you have raised concerns about the Trump administration's distribution of this drug, remdesivir. Is the federal government giving health care providers' adequate information about how potentially, potentially life-saving treatment is being allocated?

DR. AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER, PROVIDENCE HEALTH SYSTEM: Well, Wolf, you actually bring up a really important point. Our organization has treated several 100 patients now with remdesivir as part of clinical trials. We actually have article in being peer reviewed even as we speak at the New England Journal of Medicine, that we really do think that remdesivir is at the moment, one of our best hope medications for really changing the outcomes for patients with COVID.

And just yesterday, the government decided to nationalize the supply of remdesivir. And without any transparent rules, without any guidance, have choked off the supply so that it's going to be taken away from people who've been doing studies and been using it under compassionate use and redistributed to -- it's really unclear to whom. But it really does feel like a random act of redistribution instead of something done with a really planful way to get the medication towards needed the most.

BLITZER: Given the difficulty in finding a therapeutic that is effective against this virus, just how critical is remdesivir to your ability to treat the most severe coronavirus cases.

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: It is absolutely essential. It's the one drug so far, you know, no matter what hype is on other medications, it's the one drug so far that is actually been proven in a study to be able to make a difference in outcomes. And there is ongoing science with it. And that's part of the thing that's giving us major heartburn that, you know, right now we -- there's open trials to say does it work better at 10 days or at five? Well, if it works at five days, you can use it on twice as many people, right?


COMPTON-PHILLIPS: Because you have -- takes half as much so you can do twice as many, right? Or who are the people that it benefits the most. At what point do you start (ph) it. So we still are working on the science behind this drug. We need to be able to continue to do clinical trials.

We can't stop halfway there. We really need to show like, who and how do we use this drug the best way possible and to get the most benefit in the most people. And so having it taken away and sent elsewhere, does feel capricious.

BLITZER: Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, good luck. Thanks so much for your expertise. We appreciate it very much.

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, a closer look at today's horrifying jobs report as the unemployment rate soars the numbers we haven't seen since the Great Depression. Will those jobs come back. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Today brought on a new measure of the economic disaster brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. In numbers, the United States hasn't seen since the Great Depression, the April unemployment rates soared to nearly 15 percent.

Let's bring in CNN's Richard Quest who monitors all this stuff for us. Richard, 20 million jobs vanished in the four weeks of the month of April alone. 33.5 million jobs have been lost over the past seven weeks. These numbers, they are so disturbing, they are devastating. I don't think there's any other way to describe them.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN EDITOR AT LARGE: And as we talk about it in economic terms, Wolf, I'm constantly reminded behind every one of those numbers, there is a life, a family, a home or rent to be paid, food to be put on the table and it is truly disastrous. And that's why one of the good things the administration did was not only increase the length of time that unemployment benefit would be paid, but also the amount, of course, that will be paid is greater. And it will need to be paid for longer.

But look underneath these numbers and you'll see that not everybody is being hit equally, Wolf. If you look at certain sectors of America, you'll find, for example, the African-American population, they started higher in terms of number of people unemployed, and they are higher again, x number of weeks, and the Black population 5.8 percent in February, when the number was 3.5 elsewhere, and 16.7. Now even worse than Hispanic community, 4.4 at the start, and 18.9 now.

And, Wolf, the worrying part as well is that many of those 47 percent of those people who have been laid off who are in those numbers for April -- in the hospitality industry. They come from services, restaurants, bars, clubs, tours, you name it.


And they will be amongst the last to be taken on again, Wolf, once things get reopened because of social distance.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point. And what about, Richard, all the workers out there have been forced to take pay cuts, or have seen their hours reduced? They are not accounted for in the 14 percent unemployment.

QUEST: And that's why that number is so suspect, not only have you got underemployed but you've also got people who aren't looking for work. And you've got people who may be at grave risk of losing their job, for example, those who are on PPP and who may lose their jobs if those small businesses don't reopen. Look at the comparison for the Great Depression and today and you start to get an idea of where we are. It's -- you can't really compare to the Great Depression. It went on a lot longer and it took unemployment up to nearly 30 percent.

The good - I want to leave you with a silver lining here, Wolf. Of the 20 million people who are unemployed as a result in April, it's estimated up to 17.5 million of them are temporarily unemployed, and will go back to their employers when their companies reopen, and start taking all the people again.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, some of those companies won't be able to reopen. They're just going to go bust and that's a serious problem as well. Richard Quest reporting for us. Thank you very much.

Coming up, coronavirus cases spiking in Russia right now. We'll take a closer look at what that country is doing to try to slow the spread of the virus. Plus, the breaking news we're following, the coronavirus hits the West Wing of the White House. Two people have now tested positive.



BLITZER: Across Europe right now, the coronavirus pandemic clearly overshadow today's 75th anniversary of V.E. Day. Russia which set a record for new cases this week, canceled a major parade. CNN's Matthew Chance is monitoring the situation for us from London. Matthew, what's the latest?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight in Russia, events about the end of the World War II, including a big annual military parade have been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The country's just reported another dramatic increase in infections. More than 10,500 in 24 hours bringing the total number of official cases to 188,000 nationally.

But there's mounting skepticism about even those grim numbers. The mayor of Moscow, the epicenter of the pandemic in Russia says the actual figures are far higher. Screening studies, he said, suggests as many as 300,000 people in the city alone, may have the virus. That's triple the official counts. Now the lockdown in Moscow has been extended until May the 31st. And residents have been told to wear face masks and gloves at work on public transport and in shops, Wolf.

BLITZER: Matthew Chance, thank you very much. The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson declare the coronavirus crisis demands the same spirit of national endeavor as World War II. Meanwhile, his government may be rethinking plans to ease restrictions.

Let's go to CNN's Max Foster. Max, tell us about the debate over messaging.

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, earlier in the week, Tsuneishi (ph) Sources re-briefing British newspapers saying that lockdown could potentially be lifted as early as Monday at least the first stages of it. But now they're very much pulling back from that with one minister saying we shouldn't expect any dramatic change. Having said that, Boris Johnson will come out on Sunday we're told and outline a roadmap to lifting the lockdown when the time is right.

Meanwhile, medics are trying to make sense of new data which tells us that Black people are twice as likely to die from the virus as white people. Where you break it down to men, it's four times more likely. Data coming in all the time on the virus and it's actually data that ministers need to make decisions on the lockdown, Wolf.

BLITZER: Max Foster reporting, thank you

In Mexico, meanwhile, questions are now emerging about the accuracy of the government's death count. Let's go to CNN's Matt Rivers. Matt, what are you hearing from Mexican officials?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf as compared to other places, the outbreak here in Mexico might not seem to be as bad. Less than 30,000 confirmed cases, less than 3,000 confirmed dead. And the government said this week the peak of this outbreak might occur as early as today. But critics say the full scale of this outbreak simply isn't known.

Mexico is only testing roughly 0.04 out of every 100,000 people in this country, comparably, the United States is testing at a level roughly 40 times higher than that. The government has said that its testing strategy is deliberate, and that the actual case count could be tens if not hundreds of thousands of cases higher. But because of that relative low number of confirmed cases, there is a fear that for some here in Mexico that has created a false sense, that this outbreak isn't as bad as it actually is. Wolf?


BLITZER: Matt Rivers reporting for us, thank you.

There's breaking news coming up next. The Press Secretary to the Vice President Mike Pence now test positive for the coronavirus raising serious concerns about it possibly spreading throughout the West Wing.


BLITZER: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world, I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.