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U.S. Coronavirus Cases Top 1.4M; Death Toll Surpasses 85,000; New CDC Recommendations Appear to be Watered Down; Ousted Vaccine Chief Tells Lawmakers There's No "Master Plan"; CDC Issues Nationwide Alert Warning About New Inflammatory Syndrome in Children Related to Virus; Trump Says Kids "Are Very Little Affected" by Virus as Doctors Treat 150+ Cases of Inflammatory Syndrome. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 14, 2020 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And OUTFRONT next breaking news, after weeks of delay, the CDC releasing new guidelines on reopening schools, business and restaurants, but are key guidelines missing?

Plus, a new alert to doctors about a mysterious illness in school-aged children which may be linked to coronavirus. Why are we seeing these cases pop up now?

And an OUTFRONT exclusive, we're going to take you inside Caesars Palace to see what the famed casino is going to look like when it reopens.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, the CDC just releasing new guidelines to reopening the economy after weeks of waiting for any sort of guidance and here they are. There are six. One page decision trees on reopening. Therefore workplaces, restaurants, mass transit, childcare, camps and schools. And for the most part, these are extremely basic. Things like promote healthy hygiene processes, encourage social distancing, one of them develop a plan for if an employee gets sick.

So it's pretty basic I wonder why we had to wait this long for them. There is an additional one thing that we noticed, though, that has been added to these decision trees, something that was missing in the guidelines, which were originally drafted from the CDC before all of this delay and their release. Those guidelines, of course, were for a while shelved by the Trump administration.

Just take a look at the decision tree for schools. It says, "Prompt employees wearing a cloth face covering as feasible." And as feasible is really important, first of all, it's all over these decision trees, pretty much everything as the caveat.

And in the draft guidelines by the CDC, talking on this issue, there is no as feasible. It clearly says, "Encourage employees to use face coverings when around others." And as I said as feasible can be found on these other charts as well.

It's an important point here because there is a real question. Why would you not say face coverings be worn at all times when the guidance on your own website tonight says, "Everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public." That's what they say on their website, so they're sort of backing off that. This is unclear.

Well, here's President Trump today at a medical equipment distribution company in Pennsylvania. He was not wearing a face mask. These new guidelines come as the administration's former top vaccine expert testified that there is no master plan to combat coronavirus.

Dr. Rick Bright in testimony today warning more lives could be lost because there is a lack of leadership at the top.


RICK BRIGHT, FORMER DIRECTOR, DHS' BIOMEDICAL ADVANCED RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT AUTH.: We don't have a single point of leadership right now for this response and we don't have a master plan for this response. So those two things are absolutely critical.


BURNETT: Dr. Bright continuing to say that he had tried to recommend desperately everything he could do to get PPE for hospitals, says he was turned down at the highest levels and says he believes that that cost lives. It's damning testimony which prompted the President to respond, calling Dr. Bright a disgruntled employee.

Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT live outside the White House tonight. Kaitlan, look, the testimony was searing from Dr. Rick Bright and the President is now responding.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And he's calling him a disgruntled employee, but before he even testified this morning, the President said he's someone that he believes shouldn't even work in the federal government anymore. And that's really notable because after Rick Bright finished testifying today, his attorneys put out a statement saying that he does intend to start that job next week.

That's the job he was given working on Operation Warp Speed. This vaccine operation that they've come up with after he was removed from his other job as the head of that vaccine developing agencies.

So that'll be really notable to see exactly what happens next week because we do know he's trying to get his job back and especially after that criticism today that was just blistering of the administration where he was not only saying that they do not have a master plan, Erin, and he was also disputing several things that the President himself has said, including last week and this week when he said everyone who wants to test can get a test, Rick Bright said that is just simply not the case.

And today, the President said once again that he believes there could be a vaccine by the end of the year and Rick Bright said that that is just not realistic based on his knowledge of vaccines and what he's worked on for the last decade or so. He said a 12 to 18-month timeline is incredibly optimistic and he said that's if everything goes right. And, Erin, he said things rarely have it where it all goes right.

BURNETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much. I should note the President there when he refers to that vaccine he's talking about a Pfizer vaccine. The lead researcher on that clinical trial has been on this program and been very clear that if everything goes as they think if everything goes well, we are looking at next spring before you would have that, certainly not matching what the President says from a lead researcher at Pfizer either.

And despite Dr. Bright's warnings, some states though are under pressure from residents to open even faster. Nick Watt is OUTFRONT.



BRIGHT: Without better planning 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT(voice over): Wow. Warnings today in Washington.


BRIGHT: People are getting restless to leave their homes and we have to make critical decisions on how to balance the economy and science.


WATT (voice over): Meanwhile in Michigan, protesters who just won't stay home anymore.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to be bullied, browbeaten or intimidated and we're not going away.


WATT (voice over): Pennsylvania's Governor under pressure to accelerate reopening in harder hit counties.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically living in fear, they're living under threats from the Governor to revoke their license, their way that they feed their families.


WATT (voice over): In Wisconsin, some bars opened almost immediately after the state Supreme Court struck down their stay-at-home order as unlawful.


KATHY GOEDDE, OWNER, LIMANSKI'S PUB, MILWAUKEE: I don't think that the risk presents any higher than me going to a grocery store.


WATT (voice over): But is this dangerous? Well, Georgia started gradually reopening nearly three weeks ago and since then the average number of new COVID cases every day has actually fallen, down 12 percent.

In Florida, Miami-Dade and Broward counties, home to nearly half of that states confirmed cases will now start reopening Monday. And on Sunday, four of golf's big guns will tee off in Florida for charity and TV cameras. The Governor is now opening his doors to old pro sports.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R) FLORIDA: If you have a team in an area where they just won't let them operate, we'll find a place for you here in the State of Florida.


WATT (voice over): The Jersey shore will now be open in time for Memorial Day. Midwest, the Mall of America reopens June 1st. Out west, Yellowstone will reopen a little on Monday. And other national parks could follow.

Case counts are now slowing in nearly half our states. There could be a rebound in the fall.


BRIGHT: Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to improve our response now, based on science, I fear the pandemic will get worse and be prolonged.


WATT (voice over): Still tomorrow in Louisiana gyms, barbers, casinos, zoos and more can reopen at quarter capacity.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there is a risk of reopening. There is a greater risk of not reopening. So we have to use our data to figure out how to thread that needle.


WATT (voice over): Today, some good data from New York City, hospital admissions, numbers in the ICU and the percentage of positive tests are all falling.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY) NEW YORK CITY: My friends, today is a very good day and you deserve the credit.


WATT (voice over): The city will likely wait until early June, but tomorrow parts of New York State which has suffered more confirmed cases than any country on Earth will slowly start on the road back to some sort of normal.


WATT: So all 10 million of us in Los Angeles County have now been told we must wear masks when we leave the house. I'll just take mine off so you can hear me. Gov. Cuomo summed up the situation right now today in one line. "Phase reopening does not mean the problem has gone away."

And he's right, COVID-19 has now killed more than 300,000 people worldwide and, Erin, it's not done yet.

BURNETT: No, it isn't. Thank you very much, Nick Watt. And, of course, as Nick points out, even the forecast in this country and that dynamic model are still pointing to close to 150,000 deaths in the United States by August. Nick, thank you very much.

And out by now, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Howard Coe, former Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary under President Obama. So I appreciate both of your time.

Sanjay, I want to start with the CDC release. So this has been all delayed and the sort of argument going on in the White House about what to put out. We got the six decision trees for schools, workplaces, camps, childcare, mass transit, bars and restaurants. You don't have anything here about churches. Most of it is very basic; cleaning, ventilation.

Let's take a look at the one for schools though. Here, one for workplaces and they're all pretty similar and generic. Is this helpful? Is this going to give people the detail they need?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, Erin. I mean, I hate to say it, but because the CDC guidelines are something that we've been anticipating for a while and these are the world's best epidemiologists who look at the virus in real world situations and give guidance on that. And it lacks a certain seriousness and it lacks a specificity. There's not a lot of specifics here and some of it seems very ad hoc,

sort of do it if you can, if you can't, it's OK. I was surprised by this. I have a lot of colleagues people that I know that work at the CDC, I know that the type of data, the type of guidelines they typically provide are going to be much more specific, they're going to have a certain gravity to them. This surprise me, Erin. This is not that.


BURNETT: No, it certainly isn't. I mean, Dr. Koh, the reopening, we haven't gotten all the details, these decision trees when they came out, the general decision trees, they've been released after nearly every state has already started reopening. So what does this do?

DR. HOWARD KOH, FORMER HHS ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH UNDER OBAMA: Well, the decision trees are a start but we've all seen the interim guidance from previous weeks that were much more detailed. And at this point in time, every business, every school, every house of worship is looking for detailed guidance to reopen.

But we can't reopen society unless people have the confidence that they're going back to a place that's healthy, safe and secure. So we need that guidance to be detailed and upgraded going forward.

The CDC has always been the premier public health agency that Americans turn to in a time of crisis. So I'm hoping that much more information will be forthcoming.

BURNETT: So Sanjay, in addition, there's a lot of as feasible suggestions in here. They sort of put the - it's the caveat to be sure, to be sure. They put as feasible on pretty much every single one of these. One of them says promote the wearing of masks as feasible. And, of course, if you go on the website right now for the CDC, there's no as feasible. They're actually telling you to wear a face mask.

So they seem to be a little bit less stringent in their requirements here, of course, coming on the same day where again, President Trump was the only one not wearing a face mask when he toured a medical supply distributor today. The only one again.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, I don't know what happened here. I mean, I don't know, as Dr. Koh, said if there's other things that are forthcoming. This is not the detailed 17-page plan that we've been hearing about that we asked Dr. Birx about who said she was still editing it and it would come out. This is not that. It seems to have been stripped away even, again, as Dr. Koh mentioned, from previous guidance.

There was previous guidance for employees and employers as they go to return to work. This seems to have been watered down even from what was previously put up. There's really nothing about testing either which, a national testing strategy is what everyone is sort of talking about, what's it going to look like, how often do people get tested, where are those tests going to be. All of the stuff we've been talking about for months, this is what we

get now, in the middle of May. I mean, most Americans know more than this is in this decision tree already. It's helpful to have it laid out, Erin, but I think the actual content is nothing that most people don't already know.

BURNETT: I know. I mean, yes, encourage anyone who is sick to stay home, but that that's not something that's going to move the needle or help anybody at this point. And I don't mean to say with an eye roll, it's true, but it's sort of ridiculous in a certain sense as well.

So Dr. Koh, I want to ask about this in the context of Dr. Rick Bright's testimony today. He criticized the Trump administration for failing to implement a standard and centralized coordinated plans. Those are his words. The President says right is just a really unhappy, disgruntled person.

We should note Bright, of course, was in charge of a vaccine for the administration. The timeline he gave today contradicts that of the President, but it does match what the lead researcher on the coronavirus trial for Pfizer, which is the same vaccine Trump is referring to is saying. So how seriously do you take Rick Bright's accusations?

KOH: Well, what we need now in the face of a national emergency is a national response. And what all Americans want for the United States is a united response. Right now we're seeing 50 states going in 50 different directions, but we need to look more proactively to have a national strategy for testing as Sanjay has mentioned, not just symptomatic people but also asymptomatic people in high risk sites like nursing homes and long term care and prisons and also reaching out to communities of color that have absorbed a great burden of the suffering and death so far.

We need a national plan for contact tracing and building community health worker capacity so we can reach people and contain the disease going forward.

And then as the fall is coming, we are all concerned about a possible second wave along with the seasonal flu. So we need to coordinate now naturally to have PPE ready onsite and not go through all of the challenges that we've had in the past number of months.

BURNETT: Quick final word, Sanjay.

GUPTA: I think it's a remarkable. Obviously, you see what's happening at the White House in terms of the amount of testing. They have major league baseball not talking about testing players several times a week in order to get MLB, maybe not in front of fans, but get the season maybe kicked off again. When are you going to see that same stuff for the highest risk populations in the country? We still don't have that five months into this.

BURNETT: Yes. Thank you both very much. Not even I was talking to a doctor at a hospital here in New York, one of the main hospitals treating coronavirus patients still hasn't been tested. [19:15:01]

There's not even daily testing in those medical facilities.

Thank you both so very much. And I want everyone to know Sanjay I'll be back with our GLOBAL TOWN HALL on Coronavirus starting at 8. You'll see him then.

And next, Rhode Island will open summer camps. Ohio about to reopen child care centers. This is a new warning tonight about a syndrome affecting a growing number of children.

Plus, President Trump stepping up his attacks on Dr. Anthony Fauci.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've disagreed with him. When I closed the border to China, I totally disagree with him on schools.


BURNETT: Disagree. Disagree. Disagree. Why say it now?

And the numbers are shocking, 36.5 million people have now filed for unemployment benefits since the shutdown began. I'm going to talk to Gary Cohn, the former Director of Trump's Economic Council. Says he's not surprised at all.



BURNETT: New tonight, the CDC issuing a warning to doctors across the U.S. to look out for a new inflammatory syndrome in children which may be tried to coronavirus. The advisory telling doctors it resembles another childhood condition known as Kawasaki disease.

Symptoms including persistent fever and poor function in multiple organs. Doctors are now looking at more than 150 cases impacting children in 18 states across the United States with most in New York and there have been fatalities.

OUTFRONT now Dr. Michael Portman, Director of the Kawasaki Disease Clinic at Seattle Children's Hospital. So Dr. Portman, this is something you've spent your career studying here in terms of the Kawasaki disease, which this seems to look like or mimic.


And now we've got that CDC warning tonight saying there's very limited information about this syndrome. They want suspected cases reported. So I guess the key question for you right now is why do you think that this is happening in children weeks more than a month after they may have had the coronavirus itself? DR. MICHAEL PORTMAN, DIRECTOR OF THE KAWASAKI DISEASE CLINIC AT

SEATTLE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Well, this does relate to Kawasaki disease as far as the potential etiology. Kawasaki disease is an inflammatory syndrome and the hypothesis I'm going has been that there's been some sort of virus or viral antigen that causes an immune reaction, a hyper inflammatory reaction, two to four weeks after initial exposure to the virus.

So now we have this virus which is very effective and very aggressive, which in itself initiate this very strong immune response. So this does resemble the pathology and the mechanism of Kawasaki disease.

BURNETT: So in Italy, researchers found a 30 times increase in the number of cases of this syndrome in just one town after the pandemic began spreading. In the U.K., they're investigating now cases up to hundred. We're seeing this in the U.S. and Europe right now, but it does not appear, at least from the numbers that we have, it just hasn't shown up really in Asia. Why would that be?

PORTMAN: I have been in contact with Asian specialists in Kawasaki disease and it's true that they have not been seeing this phenomenon. It's interesting that the phenomenon started in Italy spread throughout Europe, and it's now hitting the East Coast and spreading out throughout the United States.

There probably several reasons for it. One could be related to genetics, that's something that we've been studying with relationship to Kawasaki disease for years. And the Asian population, the genetic susceptibility may be totally different than it is in other races.

The other possibility is there's a change in the virus. We know that the virus has had some mutations as it travels from China to Europe and then Europe sort of reached the eastern coast of the United States, while mostly on the West Coast, where we still have not quite seen so many numbers as on the east coast, we got direct transmission of the virus from China.

BURNETT: So, yes, and I guess that is the big question people have. Genetics versus a change in the virus and that those are, look, that answer is going to be crucial for a lot of things here. It's hard to understate to overstate the importance of it. What is your message to parents who

are worried about their children getting this?

PORTMAN: Well, they did show these alarming numbers from Italy, but in context we still have to remember that this is a pretty rare disease. The new syndrome, which we're calling pediatric multi-inflammatory syndrome is fairly rare in context of the number of adult patients we've seen that have had COVID infection and needed hospitalization.

We are seeing a upsurge of Kawasaki disease now on the West Coast, both the L.A. and Seattle Children's, I think, are seeing that. But the messages is this is still a rare phenomenon and parents should be aware of the symptoms and certainly for Kawasaki disease, we would see four or five days of persistent fever and other clinical signs such as rash, lymphadenopathy, conjunctivitis, which is red eyes, swelling of the hands and feet, changes around the mouth.

And if they see any of those, then they need to contact their healthcare provider or go to the emergency room. During this pandemic in the past, people have been worn away from the emergency room. But in this case, I think that if a child appears sick, then they need to get them attention.

As far as the new syndrome, it's been highly variable. There's some patients with one or two days of fever, some with three or four and the symptoms are overlapping but not exactly identical to Kawasaki syndrome. We're getting reports of patients with confusion and abdominal pain.

BURNETT: All right. Dr. Portman, I appreciate your time. This information is really important to people and I thank you for that.

And I want to go to our Medical Analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, who advised the White House medical team under President George W. Bush and is currently the Director of the Cardiac Cath Lab at GW.

So Dr. Reiner, a couple things from that conversation. I guess one key thing is what Dr. Portman said. It could be genetic and there's a lot of studies being done.


But it could be open to there being a change in the virus, which I think goes to prove how little perhaps we know about if it's changing and how it's changing and what the implications of that might be.

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes. We're getting to see, the public is getting to see the discovery of a new disease in real time. And I think this is one of the first time in almost anyone's life that we've seen this play out with such spectacular velocity.

Now, I think the last time we saw in such a public way the discovery of a new disease was HIV/AIDS. It seems like almost every day there are new discoveries, new therapeutics and this is evolving very rapidly. And this disease in children or the manifestation of a prior COVID disease later on in children is just another example of how much we're learning and how new this whole disease is.

BURNETT: So Despite cases of the inflammatory syndrome, we know it's rare, but we also know that they're going up and it's sort of a newly observed thing. President Trump said this today.


TRUMP: I think that we have to open our schools. Young people are very little affected by this.


BURNETT: Obviously, the syndrome itself is rare. But there are concerns about sending kids back to school. Where do you stand on this, now there's this whole question of when? REINER: Well, the President is wrong about this. He's been wrong about

a lot of the medicine in this pandemic. He was wrong about the virus going away when it gets warmer. He was wrong about hydroxychloroquine. He was wrong about bleach. He was wrong about masks and he's wrong to downplay this.

This is a serious illness in children and even though this is rare, this really resonates with parents. And it really matters when a parent decides whether to send a child to school. They're going to be thinking about this. The president should not downplay it. He should understand how serious this is for the parents of young children.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much Dr. Reiner.

REINER: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Trump taking on Dr. Anthony Fauci again today.

Plus, a new report found nearly 40 percent of low income workers lost a job in March. So what needs to be done now, right now to help? I'm going to ask Gary Cohn, former Director of Trump's Economic Council and CEO of Goldman Sachs.



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tonight, President Trump's latest target, Dr. Fauci. The president resuming his criticism of his open top infectious disease expert after he cautioned reopening schools too quickly could lead to a resurgence of coronavirus cases and put kids at risk.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anthony is a good person. Very good person. I've disagreed with him. When I closed the border to China, he disagreed with that and ultimately he agreed.

I totally disagree with him on schools. We have to open our country. We have no choice.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger and Dr. Eric Goosby. He's a friend of Dr. Fauci and was a U.S. global AIDS coordinator from 2009 to 2013, succeeded in that position by Dr. Deborah Birx.

So, Gloria, why do you think we're seeing this now by President Trump?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, because Tony Fauci has been very outspoken and he's made it clear that he's not part of the program. And the president's program is very clear, which is, he's all about reopening now and what Fauci has said is be careful, not so fast. And when the president hears that, he has to push back. Because now his entire campaign is based on the fact that you need to get the country going again. And, of course, everybody wants to get the country going again.

But if you heard him today in Pennsylvania, it was very interesting to me. What he said was, this is a matter of your freedom and he was talking to people in the state, because the state has been reopening slowly. And he said, you know, you better get your governor going. And the president is criticizing those Democratic governors who have moved more slowly on reopening. It's part of his campaign. Fauci is not onboard, so he has to take him on.

BURNETT: So, Dr. Goosby, you obviously know Dr. Fauci well. You spoke to him a couple of days ago. Look, he's trying to do his job, but how does he handle the president now directly criticizing him, contradicting him, making a point of doing it in these public things. I disagree here, I disagree there. He's wrong.

How does he handle that?

DR. ERIC GOOSBY, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, UCSF: Well, I think that Dr. Fauci is in a familiar position as a scientist and as a public health administrator, he has been over programs in the last 30 years where he has positioned himself where he is charged with being the position to bring the science into the policy discussion, so the principle he's supporting in that decision will have the science that's relevant to the issue and allow for that political decision to be made in the context of the scientific ramifications.

That's a delicate position to be in. It's difficult to be constantly putting the hard fact realities into what often is an attempt to appease a political pressure point. So, Tony Fauci has been in that position his entire career.

BURNETT: So you think he just lets this roll off his back. Obviously, he tries to. But he's not going to get it let to him, as the president tries to go after him.

GOOSBY: You know, I think that there's no question when you're dealing at that level of discussion, the president of the United States' reaction to what you're bringing into the discussion is critical. You have to learn to find ways to maintain your credibility so you can continue to deliver the science to the conversation, so that decision is informed by the scientific principles or issues that are pertinent.



GOOSBY: I think that he -- yeah, excuse me.

BURNETT: I'm sorry. I was just saying, of course, the issue here is you have Dr. Fauci cautioning, Gloria, and you have the president saying the opposite, right? So he's -- you know, continuing to try to say what he thinks. If you're Dr. Fauci, the president is continuing to do the opposite, speak the opposite. And it's not the first time -- this issue of schools, it's not the

first time. Here are a few others.



TRUMP: This is going to go away a vaccine.

FAUCI: We absolutely need to significantly ramp up not only the number of tests, but the capacity to actually perform them.

TRUMP: I don't agree with that. No, I think we're doing a great job on testing.

FAUCI: I think we ought to be careful if we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune of the deleterious effects.

TRUMP: Young people are very little affected by this. I totally disagree with him on schools.


BURNETT: It's a smart road for Trump to go down, Gloria? Certainly, when it comes to -- it comes to Americans, 67 percent of them trust Dr. Fauci's information on coronavirus versus 36 percent for the president.

BORGER: Tony Fauci is very trusted and he's not a very adversarial person. He is somebody who is grounded in the science. But what the president has now is a chorus of supporters on Fox News and elsewhere trying to take on Tony Fauci and kind of saying, wait a minute, who elected you? Nobody elected you. We elected Donald Trump.

And I think the president is pushing with these people at his back. And so I think he feels a little more emboldened now to be able to take on Fauci. And of course, the one thing he can do is he could not listen to him, if he doesn't want to, right? And the other thing he can do is kind of cut him out of the inner circle, if that's what he wants to do. That's up to the president, but I don't think that Fauci will stop speaking out when he feels like he has to.

BURNETT: That's certainly sounds Dr. Fauci said he won't stop speaking out and he's going to continue to be consistent on that basis.

I thank both of you very much for your time tonight.

And OUTFRONT next, 36.5 million people have filed for unemployment benefits since the shutdown began. The former Goldman Sachs CEO Gary Cohn is not surprised.

And a CNN exclusive, slots disabled, chairs are gone. We're going to take you inside Caesar's Palace so you can see exactly how that Las Vegas Casino, the iconic Caesar's, is preparing to reopen.



BURNETT: Tonight, 36.5 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in the United States since the shutdown began.

Now, this accounts for more than 22 percent of the workforce. I mean, this is a stunning thing. You're talking about a quarter of the workforce in this country. And it comes as a new Fed report shows that nearly 40 percent of the people with household incomes below $40,000 reported a job loss in March.

This is stunning. These are people who, you know, their livelihood, food insecurity, it's a frightening situation.

And OUTFRONT now is Gary Cohn, former director of the National Economic Council under President Trump and former Goldman Sachs president and COO.

Thank you very much, Gary. Appreciate your time.

So these jobless claims, when they came out today, you know, still shocking many. But not you. Why?


So, look, first, let me give you the good news. The trend week over week on jobless claims has gone every week since we've started this pandemic. So that's the good news. I'm not shocked, because, remember, the federal government asked us to stay at home. They literally asked every American that could possibly stay at home to stay at home.

What that meant is most of the service businesses in this country had to shut down. The service businesses are literally small businesses, family run, very thinly capitalized. They, in essence, had to lay off their workers or temporarily furlough them. And those people were put on unemployment.

And the federal government did exactly what they should do. They made going on unemployment fairly enticing by that. They not only gave you the state benefits for unemployment, the federal government topped those off with additional benefits to be on unemployment, because we wanted you to be out of the workforce.

We may not have wanted you to be unemployed, but we needed to get you out of the workforce, so we needed it to be economically feasible or economically plausible for you to stay at home and allow us to flatten the curve.

So I'm not at all surprised that we continue to have unemployment claims. What I'm a bit surprised at is that we're not seeing them come down faster, week after week, because not only has the federal government increased unemployment benefits, they've also thrown an enormous amount of money at a variety of projects or a variety of situations, where they're enticing companies by giving them money and forgiven loans or very cheap loans to really hire back their workforce.

And that does not seem to be coming through the workforce or the labor force yet. And that is a bit surprising to me.

BURNETT: And I guess part of the issue here then is that you still have people being paid with the purpose of having them stay home. And as some jobs start to come back or these businesses start to hire people, they're not paying anywhere near as much as the federal government.

So what does this mean as you have a new thing coming through Washington? Are they literally supposed to cut those payments and how do you figure out how to do that and to whom?

COHN: Well, look, this is a very good interesting equation. Look, initially, we wanted to make sure that unemployment benefits were high enough to make sure that people who were unemployed could feed their family and they were actually incentivized to stay home and not go out and seek employment, because we did not want them to go out and seek employment.

Now we're getting to more of an inflection point where we need some people to reenter the workforce and reenter the working population.


And so to the extent that unemployment benefits are higher than wages they can receive in the workforce, people will not want to rejoin the workforce. So, there are a lot of companies right now that are actually trying to hire people back. There's people that got the paycheck protection plan money that are trying to hire people back, and workers are not wanting to come back because the unemployment benefits are high.

Now, look, understand, there are many people that cannot come back because they have children at home and there's no day care or no school so some people don't have the luxury or the option to reenter the workforce, but there are many people that are literally evaluating unemployment benefits versus what I can earn working --


BURNETT: So this is obviously a crucial thing for policy. There's been some talk in terms of the broader plan here, which would include an adjustment possibly to unemployment benefits. Also, Republicans and the president have been talking about an infrastructure package.

And this keeps coming up again and again. But I guess the question for you is, why do you think now is the moment. I know you do think now is the moment perhaps for something specific. Why?

COHN: Well, look, as I evaluate the workforce, and you have to say, not all of these jobs that existed pre-crisis are going to come back. Even if restaurants are lucky enough to open, they can't open quickly enough, and they're going to be in a position where they're at 30 percent capacity, so the amount of employees they have is going to be less and diminished.

So the federal government could step in and say, hey, we can people to work. We can allow people to work. We can get them jobs. And the federal government is very good at this.

So, look, we're not in an ordinary environment. We're not in normal times. We need to think way outside of the box. So by that, think of what we did in the past.

In 1935, we came up with the WPA. We came up with a system where the federal government hired people and put them to work. Infrastructure, a high-speed rail system in this country would solve so many of our problems that I think it would be time right now for the federal government to not build the systems, to just give the approvals out and the private system, the private world would go out and build a high-speed rail system in the United States.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. I appreciate it, Gary Cohn.

COHN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, a CNN exclusive. We're going to go inside Caesar's Palace to see how they plan to keep gamblers safe once the Las Vegas Strip opens.



BURNETT: Tonight, Las Vegas casinos betting on reopening in just a few weeks. But the casino floor will look much different.

Kyung Lah has this exclusive look inside.


TONY RODIO, CEO, CAESARS ENTERTAINMENT: It's very eerie and said, and this place normally would have so much energy and so much excitement going on.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Caesars Palace in the dark because of the coronavirus.

(on camera): You can hear our voices echoing through the lobby.

RODIO: Yes, you don't hear that echo because it's muffled because of all the bodies and all the sound and activity.

LAH (voice-over): There is not a soul here, something the iconic casino has never experienced in its 54 year history says Tony Rodio, CEO of Caesars Entertainment.

(on camera): You're talking about every single day it was operational.

RODIO: Every single day, every single second. There weren't locks to lock the front door. It was really tough in the beginning and there was so much uncertainty and how long this was going to last. And we're starting to see some movement.

LAH (voice-over): As Nevada moves to reopen parts of its economy, Caesars is making changes across the casino floor.

RODIO: This is the typical configuration for black jack style games. Normally, there are six seats. In the new world, there will only be three chairs and nobody will be able to be within six feet of any of the three customers that are playing.

LAH (on camera): This looks like it's a little less than six feet. I mean, are you -- is that the goal?

RODIO: I think that you're real -- if not at 6 feet, you're close to 6 feet. You're certainly not face to face.

LAH: This is a craps table.

RODIO: Correct. In the new world with social distancing, we're going to limit it to three on a side.

LAH: A bunch of people come because it's an exciting game. What do you --

RODIO: Between the dealers, supervisors, security, we're going to limit it to three on each side and they have to be -- anybody else has to be 6 feet away. We will be deactivating every other slot machine and removing the stool from the game.

A customer can't even stand here and play this game because the game is not even active. So we will do that throughout the whole floor.

LAH (voice-over): In addition, a video released to Caesars workers the public will use electronic sprayer. They'll disinfect dice and elevator games. Workers will be required to wear masks and have their temperatures taken. But guests, while encouraged to wear masks, are not.

Casino workers have already raised concerns about returning to the Vegas Strip.

(on camera): For people who say, can I be 100 percent sure I won't get sick coming in here, is that something you can say to your customers?

RODIO: I don't know anybody in the country that could say that to anybody under any circumstance, and I'm a casino operator. So I don't pretend to know everything about an infectious disease, especially one as contagious as this. So, all I can do and ask of my team is to listen to the experts.

LAH: Are you ready for people to come in?

RODIO: Oh, my gosh, yes. I'm ready. Our staff's ready, our team's ready. Our customers are ready.


LAH: And this is what it looks like outside Caesars Palace. This is where people will check in, you normally see taxis lining this area, Ubers, limos. You can see, it is just absolutely empty. What this has meant, Erin, for jobs, of the 60,000 worldwide employees for Caesars Entertainment, they've had to furlough 90 percent of their employees -- Erin.


BURNETT: Wow, it is amazing. I was there just in February, end of February, and like you said, the cab lines all hours of the day. It's amazing what you said. They've never had to lock the doors.

Thank you very much, Kyung.

And next, Jeanne on a girl with a way to safely hug her grandparents.


BURNETT: Here's Jeanne.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Excitement builds.


MOOS: But her great grandchildren never saw nana quite like this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put your arms through the slots.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right! Oh, my goodness.

MOOS: After two months --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I love you, I love you.

MOOS: -- of no hugs, 85-year-old Rose Gagnon finally got to wrap her arms around her kiddies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to cry because I couldn't believe that this was happening.

MOOS: And the kids, too.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: We wanted to hug nana.

MOOS: So, Rose's adult granddaughter, Carly Marinaro of Rockford, Illinois, got to work.

CARLY MARINARO, CREATED "HUG TIME": I just thought, how can I do this? Not putting bags over my kids or her. MOOS: For under 50 bucks, she built "Hug Time" using PVC piping,

plastic and tape.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a group hug, oh, yes.

MOOS: It's very similar to what an elementary school teacher constructed in her doorway so she could give quarantined hugs to students. The rules say disinfect all surfaces before and after each hug. Since the students are unrelated.

Emergency room Dr. Leana Wen wasn't crazy about the idea of kids doing the disinfecting and said the family would be better off --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have seconds here, I have seconds here.

MOOS: Quarantining separately for two weeks, and then hugging the old-fashioned way minus the plastic. But even a plastic-encased hug tugged at grandma's heart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heart was going to burst.

MARINARO: We're not meant to be apart like this or be separated.

MOOS: Carly had a trick up her sleeves.

MARINARO: You know what kind of gloves you have on your arms?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, what is this?

MOOS: Those are livestock gloves used for examining livestock. The kids were eager to examine their nana.


MOOS: Their fingers may not fill the gloves, but their arms fit great with their great grandma's.

Jeanne Moos, CNN.


MOOS: New York.



BURNETT: And CNN's coronavirus town hall starts now.