Return to Transcripts main page


Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield & Dr. Stephen Hahn Quarantine After Virus Exposure; Dr. Anthony Fauci Starting A "Modified Quarantine" After Virus Exposure; Pools & Beaches In Arkansas To Open With Restrictions On May 22; No Masks Worn As The President Gathered With His Top Military Officials In White House Cabinet Room; Americans Suffering From Public Health, Economic Catastrophes. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired May 9, 2020 - 21:00   ET




WOLF BLIZTER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news.

The three heads of the country's major public health organizations now taking drastic measures to protect themselves and others after at least two White House staff members test positive for the coronavirus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a very familiar face over at the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings often at the President's side, Dr. Fauci now telling CNN's Jake Tapper he will begin what he calls a modified self-quarantine for two weeks. That means he'll mostly stay at his home. He'll continually, he says, wear a mask.

Also putting himself into quarantine this weekend for 14 days, once again the Head of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, he, Dr. Fauci and the Head of the FDA the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Steven Hahn, all self isolating to self degree after possibly coming into contact with people at the White House who learned this past week that they have in fact tested positive for the Coronavirus.

Despite this urgent new development that the potentially deadly virus is now detected inside the White House, take a look at this. The President gathered with his top military officials today for a meeting inside the White House Cabinet room.

A bit more than normal distancing around the table, but no mask worn by any of them, not on the President or any of the generals or admirals. Let's go straight to the White House right now where White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond is with us.

Jeremy, three very important public health officials, their organizations, the top officials in some form quarantining now for 14 days starting immediately. There's a sense of urgency I assume inside the White House tonight, or is it simply being done out of an abundance of caution in? JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that remains to be determined. So far what we know is that these are three top doctors on the Coronavirus Task Force who for the next two weeks will be working from home and practicing some form of quarantine.

Dr. Robert Redfield the Head of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Stephen Hahn, the Head of the Food & Drug Administration and the latest of the three is Dr. Anthony Fauci the Head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease.

He telling our CNN colleague, Jake Tapper this evening that he was at low risk regarding contact with a White House staffer who tested positive for Coronavirus but will, nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution be undergoing a "Modified quarantine", meaning that he will be wearing a mask at all times for the next two weeks, largely working from home, perhaps going into his offices at the National Institutes of Health where he will largely be alone.

And he does say that if he is called to the White House or Capitol Hill, he will go but he'll take every precaution necessary. Dr. Redfield offering a similar version in terms of his plans for self quarantine over the next weeks, saying that he would wear a mask if he did need to go to the White House for example.

All of this Wolf, coming in a last 24 hours after Katie Miller, Vice President Mike Pence's spokeswoman she tested positive for the Coronavirus. The White House hasn't yet confirmed that she is the individual who was in contact with these three doctors who are now going into self quarantine but we do know that she's frequently in contact with these officials often attending those Coronavirus Task Force meetings as one of the leading spokesperson for that task force.

Wolf so far we know that none of these officials are experiencing symptoms. They've all tested negative for the virus in addition. Steven miller, one of the President's top aides, who is married to Katie Miller, he has also tested negative and he is not showing any symptoms so far.

But Wolf what we're seeing here appears to be more of a piecemeal approach. The White House hasn't yet said whether there was a kind of uniform policy for any official who has come in contact with Katie Miller or with that military valet to the President who tested positive a few days earlier this week.

What we do know Wolf, is after that valet tested positive the White House began instituting daily Coronavirus tests for any individuals or officials coming into contact with the President. It's likely because of that policy Wolf that they were able to learn yesterday that Katie Miller tested positive for the virus. The day before she also had a test and she had tested negative.

BLITZER: All right Jeremy, thanks very much. Jeremy Diamond is going to be at the White House if more members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force decide they, too, are going to self-quarantine, get that news for us we'll of course report that as well. We're following all these developments very, very closely, significant developments indeed joining us now on the phone our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


BLITZER: Sanjay, first of all, give us your reaction to the news that Dr. Fauci is now entering for 14 days what he calls modified isolation.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, modified quarantine. This is in being consistent with the CDC guidelines, which is that if you've had this exposure to someone with known COVID, with the known infection, that you then based on the level of your contact, and I think they're calling these low risk but enough of an interaction for these three doctors that they should go into quarantine.

It should be quarantine, I know Dr. Fauci is talking about the fact that he may go into his office if no one else is there, wear a mask all the time. The reality is if you look at the guidelines and you understand the thinking behind it, it's at this point for the next 14 days, that's sort of the incubation period, the time between someone might be exposed and the time when they're going to develop symptoms.

If they do develop symptoms, it's around that time is sort of the time frame that they sort of have set we know it can happen in a shorter number of days than that as well. But that sort of fits, so I'm glad that they are sort of abiding by the guidelines that these organizations themselves have sat out.

This is part of the contact tracing quarantining and, as you heard, they're going to get testing periodically as well.

BLITZER: And on Thursday we learned that a U.S. Navy valet who works for the President in the west wing of the White House he tested positive for the Coronavirus and on Friday we heard that Katie Miller, the Press Secretary to the Vice President Mike Pence, she tested positive as well.

Everybody else is getting tested but Sanjay, you've been doing a lot of reporting on these tests, these quick tests, the 15-minute quick tests and you've noted that there are false negatives all the time, right?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean that's one of the concerns. People may ask immediately they hear this, what's unfolding and I feel if you're getting tested all the time then what is the necessity for quarantine?

And there are two issues here. One is that you're right Wolf, one of these tests, the rapid diagnostic test sometimes some of these studies have shown it can have a false negative rate 15 percent of the time, which means out of 100 people who are carrying the infection if they all got tested, 15 of them would be told they don't have it when in fact they do. So you know the tests are - they're good tests but they're into the perfect tests. That's part of the issue and that's why the quarantine is still important. Also Wolf as you know, we've talked about this when you get tested for the virus and if you get a negative result that means at that snapshot in time, you are negative.

It is possible that you get tested the next day and you are positive. That doesn't necessarily mean in between the two tests you became exposed and tested positive. You still could have been exposed many days earlier and just now the test is turning positive.

When you get exposed, the virus starts to build up in your body, it's replicating and when it gets to a detectable level that's when the test is going to pick it up. That could take several days, so that should explain why people could be getting tested and still be in quarantine?

They've had a known exposure now to someone with the Coronavirus. This 14-day period is a bit arbitrary but that's the incubation period they're talking about and that's why for 14-days they're going to be in this state of quarantine.

BLITZER: That's really an important point, Sanjay, because Katie Miller the Press Secretary to the Vice President who is in charge of the Coronavirus Task Force on Thursday she tested negative. On Friday she tested positive, but she could have been contagious, she could have potentially passed on the virus even before Thursday. Is that right?

GUPTA: That's right. That is absolutely true. In fact, I don't think she has symptoms, I think that she just got tested routinely. But what we also know Wolf is that people can be contagious without symptoms. In fact, people a little bit strangely in this case people tend to be the most contagious before they develop symptoms, if they're going to develop symptoms.

They call that the pre-symptomatic period. So people tend to have more viruses at that point seemingly in their nose and in their mouth this is even before they get sick and they could be shedding that virus into the environment. So for 14 days they may have had contact with whoever the person is.

It's probably Katie Miller because she's with the Coronavirus Task Force and all these people are with that same task force. That's probably what they're talking about. But they would go back and contact trace and say when the last time you had contact was? How long was the contact? What was your distance away from the person?

Sometimes it's hard to remember all that Wolf. But in the case of Dr. Fauci as they deemed it a low-risk contact but significant enough that they say Wolf based on this for 14 days, quarantine is the recommendation that way you don't inadvertently spread it to someone else at this point.


GUPTA: That's obviously what they're trying to avoid.

BLITZER: You know what's disturbing to me Sanjay; I want to get your reaction to two things. The first President just of an hour or so ago met with the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the cabinet room. Nobody was wearing masks during that meeting as they were sitting around that table.

What was also disturbing to me on - he went over to the World War II Memorial on Friday to honor U.S. veterans from World War II and he walked around with these very distinguished veterans, heroes in fighting during World War II, the President is there with the First Lady.

Nobody was wearing a mask there either. That was disturbing. And then later the President was asked why he wasn't wearing a mask? These gentlemen were what 95 years-old, some were 100 years-old, obviously potentially significant. Listen to what the President said in explaining Sanjay why he decided not to wear a mask?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The wind was blowing so hard in such a direction that if the plague ever reached them, I'd be very surprised. It could have reached me, too. You didn't worry about me, you only worried about them and that's okay.


BLITZER: We were worried about everybody. What do you think about that explanation? Should the President - should others attending that ceremony marking the end of World War II, should all of them have been wearing a mask?

GUPTA: Yes, I think that if you look at the specific guidance and admittedly, Wolf, we are learning all along a bit here. This is clearly a contagious virus, it is very contagious virus. I think everyone sort of understands that now. It does appear to be something that is primarily spread through these respiratory droplets which is where the six feet sort of come into play here.

Why six feet? Well, that is typically how far respiratory droplets will spread? They can spread further obviously if someone is coughing and sneezing but people who are coughing and sneezing they absolutely shouldn't be out in public. You know anybody who has any symptoms.

I couldn't tell how far Wolf he was away from people at the World War II veterans event? I just couldn't tell from that angle the shot, if he was far enough away, it would probably be less problematic. Being outside is helpful because it's a larger space for the virus to potentially diffuse.

Inside is going to be more of a concern. So when you talk about the meetings with the generals in the cabinet room no one wearing a mask, that's concerning. It's concerning we know at this point the virus is in the White House. It's a contagious virus. People are in vulnerable age groups. They should be wearing a mask. I think it's really good that these three doctors are quarantining themselves.

I think it sets a good example and it reminds people what you have to do and what you know significant number of people will have to do as we start to do significant contact tracing? I think that these conversations about masks, no mask and the testing, I think some of this is going to seem in a few weeks, Wolf, trivial.

Kind of like when we first started talking about people should be physically distancing outside, people were reluctant and then a couple of weeks later it became obviously the norm and people understood it. You wear a mask so as to not spread the virus, to decrease the likelihood you would spread the virus.

We know that the virus is in the White House now. People need to wear mask. It is not perfect by any means, but we don't have a vaccine. We don't have a very effective therapeutics at this point so we've got to do what we know how to do as best as we can do it?

And wearing a mask is part of that. And again we're going to - we'll look back on this conversation Wolf I think in a few weeks and say I can't even believe we had to have that conversation. It's obvious now. It should be obvious I think certainly at the White House and everywhere else where the virus could be spreading.

BLITZER: Forget it, it's not just Katie Miller, the Press Secretary to the Vice President who now has Coronavirus. Fortunately we're told that a major case but she does have Coronavirus. A U.S. Navy valet on Thursday confirmed that that Navy valet who served drinks to the people in White House including the President has the Coronavirus as well.

I wonder if Dr. Deborah Birx at some point will do self quarantining, if Alex Azar the Secretary of Health and Human Services they were in contact with these individuals I assume as well. One more thing, Sanjay the President earlier tonight met with members of the Joint Chiefs in the cabinet room over at the White House.

There you can see all of them sitting around a table. The Secretary was there, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary was sitting across from the President. Out of an abundance of caution, should they have been wearing masks in the west wing of the White House tonight as well?

GUPTA: Yes, I think so, Wolf. I appreciate the fact that they're trying to keep physical distance, you know, and you remember, Wolf, at the beginning when the White House Coronavirus Tasks Force briefing began, no one even kept physical distance at that point.


GUPTA: Everyone was right next to each other. And then over time you saw this gradual sort of abiding by the recommendations. I think we're seeing the same thing here. I think right now there is still a reluctance to wear masks and they're necessary.

I think we're going to gradually - it should happen now. This should not be a gradual thing to be clear. But I think gradually we're going to see that. People who are around the President, the Vice President, everyone in the White House should be wearing masks so as to decrease the president.

I asked Dr. Birx about this Wolf, on the Town Hall this past Thursday, isn't this kind of almost like you think about the secret service protecting the principals in the White House? I mean, the secret service, it's sort of obvious what they have to do to protect people?

This is something that people need to be protected from as well, as best we can. There's not a perfect protection because we're dealing with a tiny microbe here, but we have to do the best we can and that involves for the time being wearing a mask.

So you can decrease the likelihood that you're going to spread it. It may give you some protection as well from getting it but mostly you wear the cloth masks to decrease your own spread.

BLIZTER: I mean you don't want to do anything at all to endanger the President of the United States or the Vice President for that matter or members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the top generals and admirals in the U.S. military.

Sanjay, standby, we're going to continue to follow the breaking news this hour. Once again, three top officials on the White House Coronavirus Task Force self-quarantining tonight for 14 days after possible exposure to the Coronavirus. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: The breaking news this Saturday night here in the United States, three key players in the Trump Administration's battle against the Coronavirus are right now in some form of quarantine for 14 days as a safety measure after infections among at least two members of the White House staff.

Dr. Anthony Fauci tells CNN, he's starting what he calls a modified quarantine. Right now let's discuss with CNN National Security Analyst Samantha Vinograd to a Former Senior Adviser to President Obama. So what do you think, Samantha?

You know the west wing of the White House well; you worked there for a long time. What do you think of the fact that the President was meeting with the top military brass in the cabinet room, no one, for example, was wearing a mask?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, put quite simply, I think it's gross negligence. The President is failing to take into account the basic guidelines that the CDC is advising that Americans take. And this stakes here are just so high, Wolf.

As you know, White House personnel are deemed essential personnel. That applies as well to members of the Joint Staff and other cabinet officials. That means their ability to do their jobs, which rests on them staying healthy, is paramount otherwise the functioning of our government is put under stress when we expose our self to more risk.

And so you just really have to ask yourself why the President and his team wouldn't take every precaution possible to prioritize the health of themselves as well as the people around them? And having worked in the White House Wolf, I really fear that this is the tip of the spear in terms of learning about more official that has to engage in some kind of quarantine?

If the President and Vice President were themselves exposed to the virus based on the closed quarters in the White House - I worked in a converted closet a feet away from my closest colleague for years just based up on how the White house works. It is more than likely that several other officials will likely have to engage in some form of self quarantine.

BLITZER: All right, Samantha stand by. I want to bring in other members, Medical and Political Experts to discuss what's going on the breaking news. Our Senior Political Commentator David Axelrod is with us, our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger is with us, the Public Health Expert Dr. Abdul El-Sayed he is an Epidemiologist and the Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Amesh Adalja.

Dr. Adalja, what do you think about what's going on right now? So you've got Dr. Redfield, Dr. Dr. Hahn and now Dr. Fauci in some forms of self-quarantine now for 14 days because they may have been in contact with two White House officials, Katie Miller as well as the U.S. Navy valet who have now been confirmed they have Coronavirus?

DR. AMESH ADALJA, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY CENTER DOR HEALTH SECURITY: This just really illustrates how common this virus is becoming and how it is out there in our communities and really everyone is at risk of being exposed to this virus because it is so contagious and it's so highly prevalent in parts of the country?

What I want to know really now is what the exposure was of these individuals, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield and Dr. Hahn? How much close contact did they have with this person because usually when we're trying to recommend the highest level of quarantine? And it sounds like Dr. Fauci has a modified version of quarantine.

You'd had to been in contact less than six feet for a period of like 10 to 30 minutes or be a household member or somebody like that. So I would like to know what the contact was because there may be other individuals who might have had that contact as well and like your prior guests said there could be more people that might have to go through this quarantine if there were significant exposures.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect that Dr. Deborah Birx and Secretary Alex Azar may have to do the same. What do you think, Doctor El-Sayed? You think more out of abundance of caution more members of the Coronavirus Task Force should go into some form of self-quarantine from a medical perspective?

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, EPIDEMIOLOGIST & PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERT: Well, it's unclear how many people were and what kind of contact? And we hope that in the White House Task Force, the Task Force that is charged with helping to make federal policy around, that they'd be making the right decisions.

And I do think when you look at people like Dr. Redfield, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Hahn and they're doing what they're doing out of an abundance of caution. But the big picture of question here is that presumably the person who exposed all of them is the Vice President's Press Secretary.


EL-SAYED: And you have to ask, well, if that's the case, then why aren't we hearing about what kind of quarantine the Vice President and potentially other people and that staff are in? So this is a question that's concerning to me.

BLITZER: It's concerning to - I suspect a lot of people. Gloria, what's your reaction to the news, specifically about Dr. Fauci, who has been the voice for so many weeks now this Coronavirus Task Force, that at least a modified quarantine on his behalf that he is going through for 14 days?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well look, I think Dr. Fauci and the others who are doing what they have to do to keep themselves safe and to keep others who might be around them safe. So I think you have to trust their judgment on this.

But what this does do is show you that no one is immune and no environment is immune. Here you are in the White House and you've been talking for the past hour about how there's hardly anyone wearing a mask around the President of the United States. The President isn't wearing a mask.

I think this is a time in which the President is really trying to make the country feel comfortable with going back to work. He wants to turn the page and talk about going back to work. And now you have this occurring at the White House and real questions are being raised.

Has the President been exposed in this way and we know that he's tested every day. What will the test tomorrow show? Has the Vice President been exposed? Should they have been wearing masks? They are telling people in this country when you go out wear a mask.

If you live in a very exposed area follow the CDC guidelines and we see that that has not been followed and we see what follows instead is a kind of chaos inside the White House with staffers unfortunately not knowing whether they should be in work on Monday or whether they should stay at home or what the protocol should be really Wolf?

BLITZER: That's a critically important point, too. David Axelrod, you were Senior Adviser to President Obama. You spent a lot of time in the west wing. People here at the west wing in the White House they think it must be some huge place. This is a pretty small area we're dealing with right now, especially when you're talking about infections. It's potentially hope it doesn't happen very, very problematic?

DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: You're quite right, Wolf. People really don't realize just how small it is. There was that show "The West Wing" and you have this sense that it's was this large west wing space. It is a tiny space, I mean; the battle for real estate in the White House is an old story.

You know people just to get an office in there is hard because there's such little space and you're constantly brushing past people. So I mean, it is concerning you know this whole issue of wearing a mask, the President reportedly told his aides he didn't want to wear a mask because he thought he'd look ridiculous.

How ridiculous would it be if by refusing to wear masks some of the most important decision makers in our government were exposed to this virus and were taken out of the picture? I admire Dr. Fauci and others doctors for practicing what they preach and showing people what you need to do?

But what this really underscores Wolf is what the rest of the country is going to face as we open up? You know the White House is a very rigorous environment these people are being tested on a daily basis. There is great caution applied, masks not withstanding and yet they're faced with this situation.

What about the average business trying to reopen now? So there are a lot of lessons in this episode.

BLITZER: And another issue, Doctor Adalja, is the President of the United States, he's 73 years old, Dr. Fauci is 79 years old. So you hear people who are in their 70s right now, potentially they're at greater danger than people in their 20s or 30s, right?

ADALJA: Right. This is certainly exposures in that age group are something that we take very seriously that we want to really monitor those individuals for the development of symptoms and have a very low threshold to act aggressively because that's where you're seeing the individuals get hospitalized.

Where you're seeing people end up in the ICU. That's the group that we're really worried about. These are the group we're trying to cocoon. It's really important that those individuals, even when we get further into this pandemic stage and things are open that they continue to social distance and be very mindful of contact because they have a very low threshold to deal with this virus and they could get in trouble very quickly.

BLITZER: Very important point. Everybody stand by. We're following all the breaking news, very dramatic breaking news that's unfolding right now. We'll be back much more right after this.



BLITZER: We're going to get back to the breaking news tonight in just a moment. Three members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force now going into various forms of self-quarantine for 14 days after potentially coming into contact with at least one maybe two officials in the White House who have now tested positive to the Coronavirus, including Dr. Anthony Fauci the Nation's top Infectious Disease Specialist.

But right now I want to go to Arkansas, one of the few states that did not implement a formal stay-at-home order. The Governor Asa Hutchinson is joining us now. He has been ordering reopening measures for a week now. He announced yesterday the pools, beaches, water parks will reopen with certain restrictions, all that on May 22nd.

On Monday restaurants will reopen with limited capacity. The Governor is joining us right now. Governor thanks so much for joining us. I want to get to your experience what's going on in Arkansas. What's your reaction to the breaking news tonight that these top Coronavirus Experts from Task Force are now in self quarantine for 14 days?


GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: I was going to be with you Wolf and what we learn from what's happened in the White House is that they should not be considered a surprise. We recognize from day one here in my office that if there was a positive test, we could have to self quarantine.

We'll have to take the measures that are necessary to follow CDC guidelines and with the busyness of the White House with the exposure of people they can't be considered surprising. And it's an opportunity for America to see that you can continue to do business and take their proper safety precautions.

This is whether you're talking about a meat processing plant or whether you're talking about any business or a school or the White House or the Governor's office this can happen and we can't shut down government, we can't shut down business.

And so this is a teaching moment and something I'm sure that White House is planned for because it can't be considered a surprise. I think Doctor Fauci, I trust their judgment. I think they're doing the right thing. And I think that you'll see business to continue whether it's remotely whether it's by video camera or whether it's in person with the right protective measures in place.

BLITZER Well, having said that Governor and you know I've known each other for a long time wouldn't it be prudent at least to err on the side of caution and the President meets with members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as he did a couple hours ago in the cabinet room at the White House for all of them just out of an abundance of caution to be wearing a mask and sending that message to the American public? You know it's better to be safe than sorry.

HUTCHINSON: Well, they have to make their judge. I do think it's important and we tried to set an example by my leadership. And if you can't socially distance to wear a mask, the President's emphasizes show social distancing part. But I've made it clear that I'll wear a mask when I'm out in public.

I've done that, I've had my photograph. I cross that bridge a long time ago. So I've been on the front page of the paper with a mask on, so you get over it. And it's important for Arkansans to see their leader taking this seriously. And you know the President obviously is taking it seriously.

I think that you'll see continued social distancing in the White House and I suspect they'll be a lot more mask wearing going on in the future.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect you're absolutely right. And as I say better to err on the side of caution and send a message to the American people. It's a smart thing to do. You don't take any chances with a contagious virus like this.

So let's talk about Arkansas while I have you. What's going on right now? The White House says the benchmark was 14 days of declining cases, polling nationwide shows majority of Americans are still nervous they're afraid of that state's maybe re opening too soon? What are your fellow Arkansans think about the restaurants, the water parks all of them beginning in some form to reopen?

HUTCHINSON: Well, just like anywhere there's a divided opinion. But let me emphasize that we met the criteria for phase one. We had 14 days - we've had 14 days of declining cases but also of declining positivity in our cases. We have adequate hospital space.

Our hospitalizations have gone down. So we met the criteria for phase one. Now we're trying to get to phase two which you know there's you know I've told very beginning there's going to be ups and downs. There are going to be some spikes.

You work through those and right now we've got concern in our prisons. We've had the spread of COVID-19 in both the federal prisoners and the state prison. But you manage through it you emphasize the contact tracing that were becoming more capable. And this month we're going to do 60,000 tests in Arkansas which is 2 percent of our population in one month.

And so we're going to open up gradually and do business. Just like you mentioned but we're doing it May 22nd for some of our swimming pools. We're doing our restaurants, all gradually done with restrictions so we can measure and make sure that as we open more we can also keep safe.

And I'm proud of Arkansas for their following the social distancing guidelines with a few exceptions but they need to do this. They're embracing it as well as the wearing of masks. And I think we're going the right direction Arkansas but there are going to be some ups and downs in the coming weeks we just got to work through.

BLITZER: Yes, you got to be careful but you got to be prudent. You have got a great state. I love Arkansas; I spend a lot of quality time there. Good luck to you Governor. Good luck to all the Arkansans. These are sensitive moments as we all know.


BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us.

HUTCHINSON: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you. BLITZER: All right. We're going to get back to the stunning news out of Washington, a possible exposure to the Coronavirus for three of the top officials involved in the fight against the virus much more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Three of the nation's top Coronavirus officials now quarantining because of concerns the virus is spreading throughout the west wing of the White House. Tonight top Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Anthony Fauci telling CNN's Jake Tapper he'll do a "Modified Quarantine" for 14 days.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield will enter self quarantine also for 14 days and the FDA Commissioner Dr. Steven Hahn; he began isolating also for 14 days yesterday all three because of potential exposure to a staffer at the White House who tested positive for COVID-19.


BLITZER: Back with us for more analysis our Senior Political Commentator David Axelrod and our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger. So when you see the President holding a meeting today without mask, without a lot of social distancing after two members of the White House staff tested positive, David what does that tell you about how seriously the White House is taking all of this?

AXELROD: What it tells me is that the President wants to sell the country on the idea that we are getting through this that were in the next phase of this. You know I was same to Gloria in the break, sometimes I have the feeling that the President wanted to quarantine Doctor Fauci and the other scientists because they've been bothersome to him lately.

He - they have been honest with the country about what this virus in tales that it's still out there that we have to be very careful about how we open up? As you know there was the CDC guidelines have been held up by the White House to state and local governments. So you know I think the President has made a decision that he wants to will this to be over and to signal to the country that you know we're moving into a different phase.

I think that's dangerous and - you know the best politics here is to follow the scientists and their advice because if you don't we can get into deep water again.

BLITZER: Yes, we certainly can. And Gloria, I know you've done a lot of reporting on this as well. What's wrong with going out there and showing the American public it's important to wear a facemask during sensitive times like this? Why does the President do that?

BORGER: Nothing. I mean there has been a lot of reporting which shows that the President feels that he would look silly and that he doesn't want to do that. Remember at the beginning of the outbreak he was asked would you wear a mask and he said no because I'm going to meet with world leaders at cetera. Of course he's not because nobody's coming to the White House. There have been a few people inside the White House small number wearing masks. But you know the example is set from the top Wolf, at every organization including the White House.

If the President were to walk in wearing a mask, I guarantee you that the people around him would be wearing a mask. And this is a President as David is saying who wants to kind of say okay, we're on to chapter two now. We're done with phase one. We're done with all the tough stuff and now we're going to get back to work and the country's going to go back to normal wearing a face mask kind of doesn't fit that narrative for him. So he just doesn't want to do it.

BLITZER: David, the President - Former President Barack Obama had a private phone conversation with a lot of his former aides last night. Tape was leaked to Yahoo news among other things President Obama said the Trump Administration's handling of the Coronavirus was an absolute chaotic disaster. So he's speaking out there a few hundred people on the call. I assume we believe those words would get out?

AXELROD: Yes, actually there were 3,000 people on the call and you know this wasn't his first rodeo. I'm sure he knew that with 3,000 people on the call those words would get out. And he expressed what I think many people have expressed in terms of concern about how this has been handled?

I just want to say parenthetically before we get back to President Obama. You know everybody shares the goal, the aspiration to get people back to work. This is incredibly painful to see 33 million Americans out of work but the reality is that if we do it wrong it's only going to prolong the misery, prolong the agony.

And that's the message really that our leaders need to send. In terms a President Obama, there's no doubt that he expressed what he believes and he knew that it would get out on this and other subjects he was trying to.

This was a call of his former staffers and administration people and he was really - it was a call to arms essentially to tell them get into this campaign support Vice President Biden and he was exhorting them. And he was using examples as to why this election was so important? I suspect we'll be hearing a lot more of that as the election approaches.

BLITZER: Yes, sure we will. David and Gloria guys, we'll continue this conversation down the road to be sure we got to take a quick break. Right now let's continue THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.



BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back tomorrow at 5:00 pm Eastern for another special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. But before I go I want to mark what happened Friday morning? Another terrible sign post in the crisis of our time, April's jobless numbers. The statistics are beyond staggering. The U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April alone the worst single month loss in the United States ever. Over the past 7 weeks by the way more than 33 million Americans have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment.

Even potentially more alarming the unemployment rate of 14.7 percent may be low as it may be undercounting millions of Americans laid off workers who are under stay at home order and were not looking for new jobs in April.

We have spent weeks talking about the public health crisis, which is truly horrendous, there are now more than 78,000 deaths confirmed here in the United States, but the economic crisis here is also awful and sadly the fallout will continue.


BLITZER: There are increasing cases of drug addiction, depression, suicide, and homelessness. Many people are having trouble putting food on their tables as you can see the very long lines of people waiting at food banks across the country. Our government leaders, indeed, all of us, we need to address these issues and help these people as well. Good night and stay safe.