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Coronavirus: Experts Who Predicted Pandemic Sound New Alarms; U.S. Hits Highest Unemployment Rate Since Great Depression; Vice President Pence's Press Secretary Tests Positive For Coronavirus; Interview With Detroit, Michigan, Mayor Mike Duggan; 20.5 Million Jobs Lost In April, Worst In U.S History; Hari Salons Open For Business In Texas. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 8, 2020 - 18:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

Tonight, we're learning of yet another coronavirus case inside the West Wing of the White House. The press secretary to the Vice President Mike Pence is the latest West Wing staffer to test positive. Just yesterday, the White House revealed a personal valet who works with the president, he also had been infected.

And all of that is raising deep concerns about testing protocols, mask-wearing protocols among the president's inner circle.

Also, tonight, dire new job numbers confirm what many have feared. A record number of Americans are now out of work. And the unemployment rate soared to more than 14 percent last month alone, the worst since the Great Depression.

President Trump claims the jobs will be coming back, in his words, very soon. But one of his top economic advisers warns the worst is yet to come. The dismal job market is putting enormous pressure on states to reopen their economies. At least 47 states have plans to partially reopen by this Sunday, despite concerns that loosening restrictions may fuel a second wave of infection.

More than 76,000 Americans have now died during the pandemic.

Let's go to CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's got more in the late-breaking developments inside the White House.

Jim, as you know, this is the second positive test this week.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, and given the news today, wearing a mask for this report.

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 hot spot 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 the president is reacting to devastating new unemployment numbers, the worst since the Great Depression.


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 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: But the potential that the West Wing has become a hot spot 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, a good person, but I have had very little contact. Mike has had very little contact with him.

ACOSTA: 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, I would be very surprised. It could have reached me too. You didn't worry about me. You only worried about them. And that's OK.

ACOSTA: Neither were Republican members of Congress meeting with the president, though one lawmaker noted they were tested for the virus before the event.

The virus is hitting home at the White House as 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, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: 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.

ACOSTA: But another economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, said more devastating numbers are on the way. KEVIN HASSETT, CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: I just 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 this ditch?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, this president is the jobs president. This president got us to a place where we had the lowest employment rate in the history of this country.

ACOSTA: What's the plan?

MCENANY: Well, 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 for raising questions about the White House response to the virus.

Bright's lawyer say they have 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: 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: And one sign of how the White House is now taking this threat more seriously, there are members of the press lined up as we speak for coronavirus tests inside the White House.


The White House is making the test available to any member of the press who wants one, after that revelation at the vice president's press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive.

And, Wolf, we want to show you a picture right now of what we're talking about. This is Katie Miller yesterday in this photograph from Reuters interacting with members of the press in Alexandria during a visit the vice president had just outside of Washington, D.C.

You can see members of the press in close proximity to Katie Miller, including journalists from CNN. Now, these same tests, we should point out, that they're giving to us over here at the White House today, these are the same tests that many Americans are having difficulty finding.

Earlier today, the president questioned the usefulness of these tests, as they sometimes can find false negatives. But we should point out the White House is ramping up the use of those tests, members of the press and the staff this evening -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you very much.

Let's bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the former FDA Commissioner Dr. Mark McClellan.

Sanjay, there are now two cases inside the West Wing of the White House. If you're the president or the vice president, for that matter, how concerned should you be tonight?


I just want take one second, if I can, and wish you congratulations on 30 years with the company, Wolf. May 8, 1990, is when you started. You are CNN, Wolf. I'm honored to work with you.


GUPTA: I just wanted to say that.

BLITZER: Time flies.

GUPTA: I think that there is a level of concern.

I mean, we know that this is a contagious virus. And now there's a couple of people who are in close proximity to other people in the White House. I know Katie, and I hope that she's doing well, that she doesn't have symptoms.

But this is obviously a concern. And I spoke to Ambassador Birx about this last night, and said, what are all the things that are in place to try and protect people here? You think about this almost like, how does the Secret Service protect the principals in the White House?

This is a virus. What are all the things being done to protect the people working in the White House? Wearing masks, so that you're not putting the virus out into the environment, is a big one. I get that it's culturally not something that we're used to in this country, but we need to do everything we can to slow down the spread, and that's part of it.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. McClellan, this isn't just any staffer who caught the virus. Katie Miller handles communication for the Coronavirus Task Force. We certainly hope she's going to be just fine.

We know that there's a Navy valet also who came down positive. What does it say that this White House, the task force handling this crisis, that they couldn't stay safe inside the West Wing? DR. MARK MCCLELLAN, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: Well, I'm glad she's not

having symptoms and seems to be doing OK. And I'm also glad that she was tested yesterday, apparently, and was negative. So that's another good sign that there may not be that much further transmission.

But I think two points for the White House and for all of us as we deal with the pandemic going forward. Number one, testing can be really useful in identifying outbreaks early and helping to contain them. And this kind of testing will be very helpful to have more widely available as we go about reopening.

And, second, it's just a reminder of how important other steps, besides testing, are to contain the spread of the pandemic, when so many people can have transmission without being symptomatic.

So, distancing at work or when you go out, using a mask, which helps prevent you from spreading to other people, and taking other steps, like frequent handwashing, hand sanitizing, not touching surfaces, et cetera, all those are really important for every workplace as people get out more in the community now.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Sanjay, because the president has publicly questioned the need for all this testing throughout the country, but now they will be doing daily tests at the White House, I assume, for everyone.

Is that enough? Or do you think they need to rethink some of their other safety protocols?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, testing every day may, in fact, be too frequent. I mean, I don't think anyone is suggesting that as soon as you may potentially get exposed, you're immediately going to test positive.

But, regardless, I think that the testing is still -- as Dr. McClellan was saying, is sort of -- it's important, because now someone like Katie can be isolated. Hopefully, her contacts can be traced, and they can be monitored, all of that. That's how you start to contain this.

But the real goal is to not get infected in the first place. So I think all those things need to be done. And I think how exactly you create a safer environment in a place where people have a hard time physically distancing, it's hard within the White House.

You even see those briefings. People are standing close to each other. Same sort of issue in hospitals, by the way. We have these conversations in hospitals. It's hard to maintain physical distance when you're taking care of patients in an ICU or even with your colleagues in those settings, making rounds and things like that.

But you got to do everything you can to decrease the amount of virus that's being put out into the environment. Obviously, wash your hands. Obviously, disinfect.


But coming back to the masks, I know, again, it seems like something that some will say is premature, not necessary. I think, in a few weeks, it's going to be obvious that needs to happen.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point.

Dr. McClellan, would you advise the president and the vice president to physically separate more and wind down their schedules until they have a better sense of the real situation inside the White House right now?

MCCLELLAN: Well, Wolf, they're, I'm sure, getting plenty of advice about how to manage the spread of the -- spread within the White House.

And I think it's very important to know, though, that people around the country are looking at what happens in the White House, how people are behaving, whether they're wearing masks, what kinds of supports they're getting to prevent spread.

And I hope the examples that they set will be ones that will help all of us protect and contain the pandemic going forward.

BLITZER: Dr. McClellan, thanks so much for your expertise.

Sanjay, don't go too far away. We have questions for you coming up.

Let's get some more right now on today's coronavirus late-breaking developments.

CNN's Nick Watt is standing by in Los Angeles, where, Nick, California is slowly beginning to reopen at least parts of the state, large parts of the state. Tell us the latest.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the governor claims that, today, 70 percent of the California economy can reopen. It is going to be slow, though.

First wave today was retail, stores like toy stores allowed to open, but no one allowed inside the store. The governor says we're going to get an update Tuesday on what happens next. But, in the meantime, you have a situation like this, where a toy store is allowed to open one side of the courtyard, a barbershop is not.

We're told that that could be just about a month away, but right now, Wolf, just millions of Americans desperate to get back to work.


ARMAN SARIAN, BUSINESS OWNER: I have two teenagers to raise up. We have to keep up the good spirit, but we're all scared.

WATT (voice-over): More than $20 million American jobs vanished in April alone, the worst jobs report in American history.

In only 15 states are new case counts consistently falling, but still 47 states are at least now partially reopening through the weekend. Some restrictions remain, which not everyone likes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a right to buy groceries without being forced to participate in your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) terrorism!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excuse me. Excuse me. You need to wear a mask, do you understand that, to come in the store?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're violating my constitutional rights!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Well, this is private property.

WATT: Today in California, some nonessential retail reopening, curbside pickup and delivery only.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we're all trying to understand what curbside actually means.

WATT: Here at the Brentwood Country Mart, it means they have hired runners to bring merchandise to you in your car. But reopening places like this isn't just about retail. It's about life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a community hangout. It's your local that you hit before you go home and put your family to bed.

JOHN EVANS, CO-OWNER, DIESEL BOOKSTORE: One question is, how long are we going to be wearing masks? And I think for a very long time, right? I'm not wearing one right now because I'm talking with you.

(on camera): Have you managed to survive?

EVANS: Well, that's yet to be seen, whether we survive.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Roughly 70 percent of the economy in the state of California can open with modifications into this next phase. I know 70 percent is not 100 percent. It's so important that we provide supports.

WATT (voice-over): Tomorrow, restaurants can open in Nevada and campgrounds in North Dakota, in Texas, hair salons now a go.

MAYOR STEVE ADLER (D-TX), AUSTIN: What's concerning here is that this is an experiment. No one knows what's going to happen.

WATT: There is a potential problem with such uneven openings. A new study of cell phone data found that after Georgia started opening earlier than surrounding states, more than half-a-million people traveled into Georgia every day, a 13 percent spike.

There's spread potential. As this Tyson meat processing plant reopens in Waterloo, Iowa, the number of confirmed cases among workers more than doubled to over 1,000. One worker reluctantly returning today told CNN he has no choice: "I can't beat Donald Trump and Tyson. Both of them are billionaires. I'm not a billionaire. I'm broke."

Good news? The NFL just laid out a full schedule for the fall. Unclear if there will be fans in the stands.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Spectator-less sports, we can add that term to the lexicon with that flattening the curve, social distancing.

WATT: Social distancing enforcement, by the way, clearly a work in progress. This arrest in New York City has sparked an internal investigation.

And Brooklyn's DA tells CNN that, of the 40 people arrested for not social distancing through Monday, 35 were black, four Hispanic, just one white person.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): When we see disparity, we're going to address it.

WATT: Still no vaccine, of course, and remdesivir, that drug found to shorten COVID hospital stays by about four days, well, there are only about 200,000 courses available right now.


DR. PETER CHIN-HONG, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN FRANCISCO: I think there was that excitement, and then there was sadness and disappointment. Every day you don't get a drug, it means that more patients are potentially going to do badly.


WATT: And, Wolf, one more major headline from out here. California just announced that every single registered voter in the state will get a mail-in ballot for the November election. In person will still happen. But everybody will get a mail-in, in case they want it.

As the secretary of state said, this might be the most consequential election of our lifetime -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting, indeed.

All right, Nick Watt reporting, thank you.

Just ahead, I will speak live with the mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan, about his plans and plans throughout the state to start -- restart manufacturing plants in the state of Michigan.

Plus, we will have more on today's devastating new unemployment number. Is the worst yet to come?

We will be right back.



BLITZER: So, 47 states are now on track to at least partially reopen their economies on Sunday, but many of those states are not seeing a consistent decline in new cases, a trend that could fuel potentially -- we hope not -- a second wave of infections.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is joining us right now. And, Mayor Duggan, thank you so much for taking a few moments to be with us.

Michigan's manufacturing workers can return to work, we're told, on Monday. That includes the Big Three auto companies, GM, Ford, Fiat Chrysler.


BLITZER: What will the process look like? And is your city of Detroit prepared to safely support the reopening of these plants?

DUGGAN: Well, of course, Governor Whitmer has done a great job here, but we have gone from losing 40 or 50 of our residents a day three weeks ago to now we are losing four or five, which is still enormously painful.

But it is remarkable how fast the infection rate has dropped here in the city. The people of the city have embraced the testing. They have embraced the social distancing without a lot of the protests you have seen in other places.

And so the construction industry opened this week. And we have got a lot of our construction projects going. And it's done with complete safety. Your -- people are being tested to make sure they're negative before they're on the site. Their temperatures are being checked every day and they're asked about symptoms.

They have got masks. They have got gloves. They have got social distancing. City inspectors are coming out to do that. We made a commitment that we were going to open this in the safest way possible.

And when the manufacturing opens in another week, it's the same process. They're already in the auto plants deeply cleaning all of the equipment. And the UAW and the auto companies have come to the same kind of agreement on a process.

But we know it can be done. We had 600 police officers under quarantine four weeks ago. We put these kinds of practices in place. And now we're getting basically one a day getting quarantined.

BLITZER: Well, that's encouraging.

DUGGAN: So, it is possible to return people to work safely.

BLITZER: You know, and you know that Governor Whitmer has extended your state's stay-at-home order until May 28.

Detroit, as you have correctly point out, is seeing some encouraging numbers right now as you fight this pandemic. But why is it still so important for your residents to stay home?

DUGGAN: Well, I don't have any trouble convincing Detroit residents.

You have seen the numbers nationally. If you're African American and you get the coronavirus, you're two to three times as likely to die as a Caucasian. And so, if you go around the city today, our residents are overwhelmingly wearing masks on the street. We haven't had to close the parks. We haven't had to do curfews.

People -- and we have had, I think, virtually no arrests. The people of this city, sometimes, they gather. When the police come up, they break up in a very cooperative way. And I think people can feel the difference.

And we celebrated yesterday when the 1,000-bed temporary field hospital completely closed down because there was no need for it. I think people in this city understood what we had to do and, like Detroiters, they just pitched it and did it.

BLITZER: So, what are you doing in Detroit, Mayor? You raised the issue of the African American community being hit disproportionately hard.

What are you trying to do to fix that?

DUGGAN: Oh, well, at this point, we are testing more than 1,500 people a day in our fairgrounds. You don't need a prescription. We're bringing in huge numbers of folks. That's helped a lot.

A quarter of our residents we have lost have been in nursing homes. And so, about three weeks ago, we went in and with the Abbott 15- minute test tested every one of the 2,000 nursing home residents. We found a quarter of those without symptoms were infectious.

And the nursing homes just didn't know how to separate them, because they couldn't tell. Once we went in and did that, they have been separated. We've dramatically brought down the infection rates in the nursing homes.

Now we're going through every senior citizen apartment in the city. And I think, if you do this kind of thing, if you test aggressively, and you honor social distancing -- I wear a mask to work every day, have for the last three weeks, as everybody else has in City Hall.

It's become second nature. I'm going to be wearing a mask to work every day in September and probably in December and January. It's just something that we're going to have to get used to if we're going to bring this economy back without being a risk to each other.

BLITZER: Yes, I think you're absolutely right.

Mayor Duggan, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck to everyone in Detroit as well. Appreciate it.

DUGGAN: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: And just ahead: More than 20 million Americans lost their jobs last month alone. More than 33 million have lost their jobs over the past seven weeks.


More people are out of work right now than ever before here in the United States.

I will speak with the author of a new study predicting the awful job market and pandemic will cause a surge in suicides, in substance abuse, among other problems, killing tens of thousands, potentially, of additional Americans.



BLITZER: Very dismal new job numbers confirm what most of us have feared the coronavirus pandemic is taking a devastating toll on the U.S. economy. Let's discuss with the Chief Economist over at Moody's Analytics, Mark Zandi. Mark, thanks for joining us.

And as you know, the U.S. economy lost a record 20.5 million jobs in April alone, more than 33 million jobs over the past seven weeks. The unemployment rate rose in April to 14.7 percent. These numbers are truly horrific, but do they fully capture the gravity of this crisis?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: No, Wolf. I mean, they are incredibly disconcerting. The breadth of the job lost is just this stunning. And the Bureau of Labor Statistic, the government agency that puts this data together has a table -- that shows a table of employment change of industry, there must be hundreds industries that they show.

And there were only three that had any kind of job gain. One was the couriers, second was the postal service and the third was computer equipment manufacturing. Outside of that it was just lot of negative numbers.

There's one thing that really made nervous, was there were almost a million lost jobs at state and local government. And as you know, those are middle-paying jobs, those are teachers, they're police, they're fire, they're emergency responders, they're social service, those are the kind of jobs that we need in this time of crisis. So, incredibly disconcerting and it's touching all of us, touching every American.

BLITZER: Some of these losses, the job losses are considered technically temporary. People have been furloughed, they say, as supposed to being fired completely. But a lot of these folks who are furloughed, that could become permanently as well.

ZANDI: Yes, and that's -- we can take some solace in effect. I think BLAS found -- the Bureau of Labor and Statistics has found that a little over three-fourths of the folks that lost their jobs say they are temporarily losing their job, their on furloughed, they're not permanently losing those jobs. But I don't know how long we can take solace in that. Because given the business failures that are coming, particularly among smaller companies, micro-businesses, I think a lot of those furloughed workers are going to find out that aren't permanent job losses. It's not going to be that easy to get back to work. BLITZER: This is a truly, truly dire situation. These aren't just numbers. These are real people who are struggling right now to put food on the table. All right, Mark, thank you very, very much.

A disturbing new analysis predicts the dismal economy could fuel a surge in so-called deaths of despair. We're joined now by one of the offices that study, Benjamin Miller. He's the Chief Strategy Officer and Well Being Trust. Benjamin thanks so much for joining us.

And I went through your study. It's warning, what, as many as 75,000 Americans could die as a result of this pandemic because of what you call deaths of despair. Explain what you found.

BENJAMIN MILLER, PSYCHOLOGIST: That's right, Wolf, and that's actually conservative for us (ph). And for the viewers that aren't familiar with the term, death of despair, these are deaths due to drug, alcohol and suicide. And we're actually coined (ph) in 2008, at the last recession, where we noticed an uptick in individuals that are dying prematurely.

So what we wanted to do is see how COVID is going to impact on these deaths of despair. And like anything, you are surprised by numbers, we found that the epidemic that was happening before COVID is only going to be worse after COVID. So, we call it the epidemic within the pandemic because we're afraid that these deaths could get worse.

BLITZER: Are there enough mental health resources in place right now to address a crisis like this?

MILLER: That's a $150 billion question right there, Wolf. The answer is no. We as a nation have not invested properly in the mental health system that we have. And, frankly, if we don't do something now, meaning today, we could have a much bigger problem on our hands after COVID. We call it the second wave, individual is facing despair, individuals looking for mental health treatment. And if the resources are not there, there will not be a system for them to go to. So it's time for our nation to frankly invest in the thing that it hasn't invested in before.

BLITZER: It is so important. These people are struggling right now. So what's your message, Benjamin, to anyone at home right now who might be facing really serious mental health challenges as a result of this pandemic?

MILLER: First of all, have hope. Hang in there. This is a tough goal for all of us right now. And like many other issues that our nation has faced, it's going to require each of us leaning into each other, to support each other. We are inherently social creatures, and the isolation has not made our ability to cope with this any easier.

So my message to you is that we have to reach out. You have to lean into those around you. Pick up the phone and call someone, send a letter, send a note. Know that there are people out there that love you and if you can't do situation that's dire, take a moment, pick up the phone and dial the Crisis Text Line, or one of the suicide hotline numbers. There are people available that can provide help today. BLITZER: All right, Benjamin, thank you so much. It's a really dire situation. Benjamin Dire helping us -- actually, Benjamin Miller helping us deal with this dire situation.


Thank you very much for joining us, thanks for everything that you're doing as well.

MILLER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: So if you love or if you were someone you love is really struggling with suicidal thoughts right now, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can reach it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I'll read the number for you, 1-800-273-8255.

Just ahead, you can now get your haircut at salons in Texas and more shops will be allowed to reopen for businesses this weekend as well. But is it too soon?

And similar plans are under way in to Florida right now. I will speak to the mayor of Orange County about the risks and rewards of reopening.



BLITZER: Hair salons in Texas are now open for business. Let's get an update from CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's joining us from Dallas. Ed, what are you seeing over there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a quarantine fatigue seems to have really set in strongly. We're seeing more and more people out than we have in recent days and over the course of the last few weeks. And it's made even more pronounced by today because hair salons, nail salons, barber shops can reopen.

We're outside of Bonafide Barber Shop here in Dallas and we can take you inside and going to show you some of the things that these businesses are doing. Omar Longoria (ph) is the owner, he's down there at end. He tells me that they have taken out a number of chairs where they normally seat customers to space people out. It's about nine feet or so. As you see, customers and the barbers each have masks on. They take people's temperatures as they come in. They have anybody waiting for an appointment waiting outside and then they call them to come in here.

But there is a great deal of concern here in Texas about whether or not this is too much too soon despite all of the precautions that business owners like Omar are taking, and that is the skepticism of all of these things. The concern is that the coronavirus will continue to spread as we open the economy here in Texas. More than 1,200 new coronavirus cases were announced today. And that is what we've seen over and over the course of the last ten days. More than a thousand cases, no real sign that this is letting up. But the governor says he has a great plan in place and that he's looking at other medical data to make these decisions about opening up the economy here. Wolf?

BLITZER: That's open works, Ed Lavandera in Dallas for us, thank you.

Florida is also working through some new plans to reopen parts of the economy. Let's get some more now, with the Mayor of Orange County, Jerry Demings. Mayor Demings, thanks for joining us.

You're Governor, Ron DeSantis, says barber shop, hair salons, nail salons they can open up on Monday. That's something you been pushing for as well. But why why do you feel comfortable with that when these are all businesses that, as you can see, bring people so close together in such close contact?

MAYOR JERRY DEMINGS (D-FL), ORANCE COUNTY: First, let me say, good evening to all of you. Thank you for having me on the show. I'm really excited about having the opportunity to open up some of our businesses.

And I was an advocate to the governor to get the barber shops and hair salons and nail salons open here because I really believe that they are able to open with the right security and safety precautions in place to protect their patrons.

And they reassured at me that they're going to do things like take appointments, exercise social distancing as well as really taking into consideration all of the sanitary measures that we all want to see in a barber shop or a hair salon.

And so I supported them because they will have the social distancing, they are doing things like changing out the capes, if you will, they're going to disposable capes as opposed to reusing them. And so I believe it is the right look at the right time.

Coupled with the fact from a health data perspective, the numbers here in the metropolitan Orlando area have remained really low. In fact, our positive rate of new cases is less than 1 percent each day. In fact, within the last 24 hours, we have four new cases here within the county itself, which is about 1,000 square mile county. We have under 1,500 cases and we have only four cases, new cases within that 24-hour period of time.

So it's the right time. But this is a measured of approach. I don't support opening up all businesses, but I believe that this whole pandemic is about hygiene, personal hygiene and sanitary measures being put in place. And so I think that it's time for us. It has been a couple of months here within our community. So I advocated to the governor and he listened to that.

BLITZER: Yes, let's hope it works. I know elsewhere in the state of Florida, the numbers seem to be going up right now. But let's hope they don't there.

Orlando, of course, is home to Disney World. You previously suggested that June might be a realistic timeline for reopening Disney World. Do you have any update on a possible reopening? How is that being coordinated to ensure a safety? DEMINGS: Just yesterday, Disney announced that reopening of Disney Springs, which formerly was downtown Disney. And it is a community where they really have third party vendors. They work in a retail-type of a shopping area. And they are not opening up all of the businesses within that area, but some of them.

So I believe that what we can expect from Disney is a phased-in reopening where they will start with the small business units and then perhaps they will go to their hotels and resorts, and then the theme parks will come online last.


It likely will be June before we would see any theme parks reopen. But here in Florida, it's critical to hurricane season to have the availability of hotels because hotels double as shelters. And so, we really do have to prepare for the weather phenomena as we approach the summer months.

BLITZER: Good luck in the greater Orlando area, in Orange County, Florida. You guys have a lot going on, let's hope for the best.

Thank you so much, Mayor Demings, for joining us.

DEMINGS: Glad to be on the show tonight. Thank you and be safe and be well.

BLITZER: You too. Thank you very much.

And just ahead, we are getting new warnings that we may not necessarily be prepared to handle the long-term fallout from the coronavirus. We have a closer look. We have some new information. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Seventy-seven thousand one hundred and twenty-six now confirmed deaths here in the United States just a few moments ago. We got that new number.

Some of the very same experts warned years ago that the United States was unprepared for a pandemic are now sounding new alarms.

Brian Todd has been looking into that for us.

So, Brian, what are these experts telling us?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these are some of America's most renowned experts on pandemics and some are warning that despite everything we've been through, we're still not prepared well enough for the next stages. Considering how accurate their predictions were from more than a decade ago, that's chilling.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): The prediction was daunting. Quote, this is a critical point in history. Time is running out to prepare for the next pandemic. We must act now, with decisiveness and purpose. That was in 2005, and the author was Dr. Michael Osterholm, one of America's top epidemiologists, who issued those warnings in an article in "Foreign Affairs" magazine.

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: I think everyone has ignored them. The media ignored them. The government ignored them. Private sectors ignored him, because they didn't believe an infectious agent could do to us what this one is doing.

TODD: Dr. Osterholm wasn't alone. Listen to what Dr. Larry Brilliant, another preeminent expert on diseases, said in a TED Talk in 2006 about what a similar pandemic could do.

DR. LARRY BRILLIANT, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: The world as we know it will stop. There will be no airplanes flying. Would you get in an airplane with 250 people you didn't know, coughing and sneezing, when you knew that some of them might carry a disease that could kill you?

TODD: Dr. Brilliant painted such a vivid picture of the danger he was tapped as a consultant for the thriller "Contagion."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joy, don't touch anything.

TODD: Brilliant and Osterholm both say that the time and for a few years, America was better prepared than it was for this coronavirus pandemic. What happened?

BRILLIANT: I think we dropped the ball in forgetting about science. Anyone who looked at that cadence, those outbreaks coming would never have reduced our pandemic preparedness the way we have done in the United States.

TODD: Other crises in America seemed to have taken priority, but for years, the warnings kept coming from America's top scientific minds, warnings chronicled in a recent "Vanity Fair" article.

In 2015, Microsoft founder Bill Gates wrote in "The New York Times": Our preparedness for a pandemic was like taking a knife to a bazooka fight. We know the cost of failing to act.

This past January, as the threat was barely registering in the U.S., infectious disease expert Luciana Borio wrote in "The Wall Street Journal," if public health authorities don't interrupt the spread soon, the virus could infect many thousands more around the globe.

DR. LUCIANA BORIO, FORMER DIRECTOR, NSC MEDICAL AND BIODEFENSE PREPAREDNESS: We felt it was inevitable at that point but there were steps we could take to contain it if we took measures early.

TODD: It didn't happen. And tonight, Osterholm says he's still in the same position, now worried that Americans and their leaders are not taking the next stages of coronavirus seriously enough. OSTERHOLM: Many people think that all we have to do is get over this

hump right now going into the summer and this pandemic is gone. We're in the earliest stages of this pandemic.

TODD: Larry Brilliant worries about how we'll handle the vaccine when it arrives.

BRILLIANT: I worry that when we get that vaccination program, it won't go fast enough. There won't be enough funding for it, and it will last many, many years and the virus will have a chance to hide some place and then ping pong back into New York or into Chicago.


TODD: Dr. Brilliant, Dr. Osterholm and others are also worried about how America's leadership will handle future pandemics and how they're going to handle the rest of this one. Dr. Osterholm believes it's time for something like Dr. Franklin Roosevelt's fireside chats during the depression in World War II, a leader with consistent, unvarnished, clear guidance for the nation, telling us exactly what it's going to take to get through this pandemic for the next 12 to 18 months -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's also scary, also awful. Brian Todd, thanks for that report.

Much more news right after this.



BLITZER: Once again tonight, we want to take a moment to remember some of the lives lost in the coronavirus pandemic.

Michael Ortiz of Kenilworth, New Jersey, was 48 years old. He had been battling cancer since 2012, but his wife tells us, he never let his disease get in the way of making other people happy and said he always found a positive in every situation.

Michelle Lee Carter of Round Rock, Texas, was 53. Michelle loved baking for her friends and family. Her daughter says she lit up every room she was in and that she had just landed her dream job, mentoring teenagers.

May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.

Thanks very much for watching. I'll have a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.