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THE SITUATION ROOM
Global Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 300,000; Ousted Vaccine Chief Warns Of "Darkest Winter" Without Planning; More Than 36 Million Americans Filed New Jobless Claims In Past 2 Months; Trump: Ousted Vaccine Chief Is A "Disgruntled Employee"; Wisconsin Court Strikes Down Stay-At-Home Order; WI Gov.: "Wild West" After State's Stay-At- Home Order Struck Down; Russia Second To U.S. In Total Coronavirus Cases; Study: Young Children Not Getting Enough To Eat In Nearly 20 Percent Of American Households. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 14, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much for that piece. We appreciate it. Our coverage on CNN continues right now, stay healthy.
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". We're following breaking news on the coronavirus pandemic, which has now killed more than 85,000 people here in the United States. The global death toll also passing a horrific milestone tonight, at least 300,000 people around the world have died from the virus.
Here in Washington, explosive testimony today from a top vaccine expert that turned whistleblower. Rick Bright, who was ousted from his position this year told lawmakers time is running out to respond to the pandemic and warn that the virus is, in his word, everywhere. Right now the overall trend in the United States is showing some signs of improvement as states begin to reopen with new cases and new deaths declining from their peak.
Let's go to CNN's Nick Watt in Los Angeles for us. Nick, the mayor of L.A. now says all residents are required to wear a mask when they leave their house. Give us the latest developments.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And so I am doing what I'm told, but I will just slip it off so I can talk to you. Wolf, this comes as we've just heard the results of another study related to mosques. Apparently, if you talk loudly as I am now for about a minute, you could release up to 1,000 COVID carrying droplets into the air. And if you were in a confined space, they could float around for about eight minutes and infect others. There is still so much that we are learning about this virus
RICK BRIGHT, FORMER DIRECTOR, DHS BIOMEDICAL ADVANCED RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: Without better planning 2020 who would be the darkest winter in modern history. WATT (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. 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, the 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-home order as unlawful.
KATHY GOEDDE, OWNER, LIMANSKI'S PUB: 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 state's 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 all pro sports.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): 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 state's. 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): Also a very rare, severe and sometimes fatal condition now being seen in children that might be COVID-related. Doctors in 18 states and D.C. now investigating cases.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), NEW YORK CITY: We're going to throw everything we've got at it. The number of children affected continues to grow.
WATT (voice-over): Still tomorrow in Louisiana, gyms, barbers, casinos, zoos and more can reopen at quarter capacity.
SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): 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.
DE BLASIO: 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 norm.
WATT: And we have just heard that the President's own Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida will partially reopen this weekend. In an e-mail to members, they are told that social distancing will be enforced that loungers and tables will be 6 feet apart on the pool deck, and that restrooms will be sanitized hourly. No word yet on when or if the boss might visit. Wolf?
BLITZER: Interesting. We'll see what happens on that front. Nick Watt, thanks very much.
Let's get an update from our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, the President, once again, is at odds with the medical experts inside his own administration. What's the latest there?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly is, Wolf. The White House says the President continues to have confidence in Dr. Anthony Fauci, even as Mr. Trump is criticizing his medical expert. The President appears to be setting up a choice for Americans to either trust his advice reopening the country or the recommendations from top medical experts.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Even as he declined to wear a mask during another factory tour this time in Pennsylvania, President Trump is trying to send the message that he knows best when it comes to the safety of the American people during the coronavirus pandemic.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look at you people all spread 6 feet. That's pretty impressive. But we like it the old way, a little bit better, don't we?
ACOSTA (voice-over): President's appeal to be the nation's medical expert and chief now includes overt criticism of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was urged caution and reopening states in schools. TRUMP: I totally disagree with him on schools. And we will have, I call him embers, I call him spikes and he called, I notice he used the word "spike". Well, you might have that and we'll put it out.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House claims Mr. Trump still wants Fauci on his team.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, he does. He takes into consultation, the advice of Dr. Fauci. There's a lot of voices and as Dr. Fauci noted, he is one among many.
ACOSTA (voice-over): That cannot be said of Dr. Rick Bright, an administration vaccine expert who's been forced out of his job and become a Trump critic on testing
BRIGHT: We need a national testing strategy. The virus is here. It's everywhere. We need to be able to find it, isolate it and stop it. There still are not enough tests.
REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: Anybody who wants a test can have a test. Is that true in the United States of America?
ACOSTA (voice-over): And the lack of personal protective equipment for frontline medical workers.
BRIGHT: I push those warnings to our critical infrastructure protection team. I push those warnings to our Strategic National Stockpile team who has the responsibility of procuring those medical supplies for our stockpile. And each of those, I was met with indifference.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar who was once on thin ice with the President over his warnings about the pandemic is now slamming Bright.
ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Dr. Bright is up there testifying today. Everything he's complaining about was achieved. Everything he talked about was done.
TRUMP: What do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it.
ACOSTA (voice-over): As for the drug hydroxychloroquine pushed repeatedly by the President, Bright says he raised questions about that too.
BRIGHT: There were some attempts to bypass that rigorous vetting process that caused me great concern. Without that scientific vetting, that does increase the risk of a drug being evaluated or supported that could have safety concerns.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Even though a National Institutes of Health panel recommended against using hydroxychloroquine along with azithromycin and said there was insufficient data for hydroxychloroquine on COVID- 19 patients, Mr. Trump is still touting it.
TRUMP: This guy is fighting it. No reason to fight it. There's no reason. But more importantly than that, we've had tremendous response to hydroxychloroquine. To me it's nothing more than a really disgruntled, unhappy person.
ACOSTA (voice-over): White House officials are claiming the President all along has had a playbook for beating the virus.
MCENANY: In other words, the Obama-Biden paper packet was superseded by President Trump's style, pandemic preparedness response.
ACOSTA (voice-over): That's despite his record of downplaying the pandemic for weeks, and his questionable treatment ideas.
TRUMP: And then I see the disinfectant but not to that in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that? By injection inside or almost the cleaning because you see it gets in the lungs.
ACOSTA: The President today also weighed in on GOP Senator Richard Burr who stepped down as chairman of the Intelligence Committee as the FBI investigate some of the North Carolina Republican stock sales. And there was more dire news on the economy. Get a load of this as the latest jobless figures were released showing another 3 million Americans, over 3 million Americans filed unemployment claims last week, bringing that total to more than 36 million since mid-March, Wolf. This pandemic is absolutely devastating this economy right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly is. And Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve Chairman said yesterday that 40 percent of those who make $40,000 a year or less, 40 percent of those individuals here in the United States are now unemployed as a result of this pandemic.
All right, thanks very much. Jim Acosta, reporting for us.
The Delaware Governor John Carney is joining us right now. Governor, thank you so much for joining us. Lots to discuss. Delaware, of course, is one of the few states right now still seeing some upward trend in new reported daily cases. How do you explain that?
GOV. JOHN CARNEY (D-DE): Yes, we are seeing a little bit of an uptick. That is the result of an outbreak that we've had among poultry workers in the lower part of our state. You and I have talked about that, Wolf. But actually, with respect to the percent positive of the tests that we're doing, since we're doing so much more tests, that trend continues to decline.
And most importantly, I think for us, as we move and look towards reopening, the hospitalization rate continues to go down certainly stable. And that is a measure of the severity of the disease across our state. So we're using a series of indicators to move to the next step and gradually reopen parts of our economy.
Your report was did a really good job of framing the issue and striking the balance between the economy and the health of the community. It's not an either/or proposition. We have to have both and that's what we're working on here in Delaware.
BLITZER: Where does that poultry plant issue stand right now?
CARNEY: Yes. So we are in the process of testing every poultry plant worker. The percent positive of those is lower than we expected, although we don't have all the data and that's really good news. We have also been testing in the communities where the poultry workers live and they live in very densely-populated areas. We're talking mostly about Latinos and Haitian Creole speakers as well as Caucasians and African-Americans.
And so what we've found is the testing that we've been doing in the plant has given the workers more confidence actually to go back to work those who were not showing up because they know that people who were positive were sent home, told to isolate at home. And they had more confidence with the testing that was happening in the communities. And we just had an incredible effort by the local hospitals, community workers and the plants in getting that done.
BLITZER: Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted vaccine chief, testified today before the House of Representatives, and he suggested the window of opportunity to fight this pandemic, in his words, is closing right now. He wants to see a coherent national strategy on testing, critical supplies, vaccinations. Do you see the Trump administration taking those steps?
CARNEY: No, I haven't seen that from the Trump administration. In fact, as we heard in your report, you see him backing away from some of those things in terms of national policy and kind of being in denial about what's actually happening on the ground, having arguments with the scientists, that's not really helpful. We do need a national ongoing plan. All the states and all the governors are leading our individual states into a new phase. And we have to balance the needs of the economy and unemployment, the reports that you had earlier in this segment with the health of the community.
And the way to achieve that -- and this is coming right from CDC, Dr. Fauci and his colleagues -- is to more intensely test, isolate, do social or contact tracing tests and isolate those and deal with the spread of the virus through that kind of a program instead of the blunt instrument of a massive shutdown of the economy with the really negative effects it has on workers and businesses both.
BLITZER: I assume you've been thinking about this, Governor. Delaware has already started a limited reopening. But if cases continue to go up, will you need to slow down that process?
CARNEY: We will. We'll have to assess the situation on the ground as we reopen. And we really have to lean into standing up an increased testing program. We have been able to identify several hundred thousand new tests that are easy to administer, turn the test results around. We had a dry run in the lower part of our state, one in the small communities. And in a couple hours, they were able to test 500 people which is a big number in our state in a small community like that.
So we're optimistic we can do that. We're going to call on the National Guard to help us with the contact tracing to stand up that operation and really manage the risk.
And in addition, where most of the deaths in Delaware have come from is those nursing homes and our senior population, test all the residents of our seniors, our nursing homes, test the workers regularly as recommended by Dr. Birx in our White House Task Force conference call this week, and really protect those senior citizens who are most at risk.
BLITZER: The beaches in your neighboring states, New Jersey and Maryland, they're going to be reopening certainly by Memorial Day at the end of this month. What about the residents in Delaware who want to get out to the beach?
CARNEY: Yes. So, we've discussed before, we haven't closed them down completely over the last several weeks. We've opened them just for individuals and spouses walking on the beach or exercising. I did announce today that over Memorial Day weekend, we will open the beaches with fewer restrictions for Delawareans keeping in place our 14-day quarantine for out of state travelers and the limitation or the restriction on short-term rentals.
And again, the idea is to slowly allow people to come back to the beaches. Get the beach towns prepared for limiting the number on the beaches at any given time by parking restrictions. We do not like New Jersey have a beach tag system. As you know, Wolf, I know you like to enjoy our beaches here. So it makes it a little harder for us. This will be a real interesting exercise this next weekend, Memorial Day weekend, as we attempt to allow people to come back to the beaches, which are such an important part of the state of Delaware in the southern part and do it in a way that's safe for everybody that comes.
BLITZER: Because as you know, and as I've said to you before, a lot of people that live here in the greater D.C. metropolitan area, they love to go to the beaches in Delaware, in Maryland. And let's hope we can all do that, but we want to make sure it's safe in the process.
Governor Carney, good luck to you. Good luck to all the folks in Delaware. Thanks so much for joining us.
CARNEY: Thank you very much, Wolf, and we hope to be able to welcome you back to our beaches soon.
BLITZER: All right, thank you very much. Let's hope.
Up next, the Wisconsin residents crowded into bars to celebrate a court ruling overturning the governor's stay-at-home order. Was it really unlawful or unenforceable? And we're also taking a closer look at the mysterious and sometimes deadly syndrome now affecting children here in the United States, and is thought to be related to the coronavirus.
BLITZER: Very dire testimony up on Capitol Hill earlier today. The ousted head of the administration's vaccine program warned that without better coronavirus response planning, we face, and I'm quoting him now, the darkest winner in modern history.
Let's bring in our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, along with our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger. Sanjay, Dr. Bright issued this dire warning the time is running out for the United States to respond to this pandemic. What did he argue during his four hours of testimony that needs to happen in the immediate future?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of the time was spent talking about some of the missteps that he described early on in the response. But I'm glad you asked about the future because, you know, what needs to happen going forward, I think is the critical thing. And, you know, he talked about things like increasing production of essential equipment, establishing a national testing strategy and establishing a national vaccine strategy. Now, those are obviously, you know, things that have been brought up and discussed, you know, quite a bit by the Coronavirus Task Force.
I don't know if there were more specifics. I think one of the things he was arguing with with the vaccine was that he thought that the timelines that were being proposed were just way too ambitious and not realistic. But that manufacturing and distribution of the vaccine had to start in earnest, even before a vaccine was necessarily, you know, finalized in terms of approvals and stuff. So some of the same stuff Dr. Anthony Fauci has been talking about, but those are the areas he's sort of focused on, I think, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, the President is very optimistic about a vaccine. He tweeted today, vaccine work is looking very, all caps, very promising before end of year, we can only hope. You know, Gloria, the President dismissed Bright as a disgruntled employee, a few times now. As this pandemic wages on, is the President becoming less tolerant of this kind of expert advice from these scientists?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think he is, Wolf. He's already made his decision about which way he wants to go clearly, and that is towards reopening. No holds barred. And what he's hearing from the scientists -- and by the way, Rick Bright said, pleaded with Americans today to please pay attention to the scientists. What the scientists are saying is, wait a minute, not so fast.
You heard Tony Fauci, for example, say I'm not so sure about schools reopening in the fall. And you saw the President push back on that. You saw Rick Bright today, as Sanjay was saying, wait a minute, in order for a vaccine to get done that quickly, everything has to work perfectly, and nothing ever works perfectly. And he was very worried about the distribution of vaccines, and how you can do that equitably, because there is no master plan, as he put it.
So the President is used to people around him who agree with him, and the scientists are pushing back quite publicly. And that is not something we see very often from inside the President's inner circle. So what is he done? He's pushed them out of the inner circle for the most part.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Sanjay, because Rick Bright testified that when he called the 12 to 18 month timeline for a vaccine is an aggressive schedule.
I spoke to a leading researcher from Oxford University earlier in the week who predicted their vaccine could be ready for emergency use, maybe even as early as September. What should the American people expect of vaccine? When should they expect the vaccine realistically, a safe vaccine to be ready?
GUPTA: Well, I think, you know, the emergency use provisions may be different than when the general public might be able to use it. I know the -- for emergency use, they talked about very high risk healthcare workers, for example, who may get that vaccine earlier. And I've heard the same thing, Wolf, possibly even by the end of this year. But it's still got to go through the process of being, you know, shown to be effective in larger populations of people. And that just takes time. I mean, that's what -- that's why the timetable is as long as it is.
I will say this, some of the vaccine platforms that they're looking at, are totally new. They've never done this before. And we don't have any vaccines that are made the way some of these are now being trialed using the genetic blueprint of a part of the vaccine -- part of the virus, as opposed to the virus itself.
If it works, it could speed up the process significantly. And keep in mind, typically vaccines can take a decade to make. So speeding up to two years even would be a significant speed. But if one of these new platforms works, it could change how we accelerate vaccine production for now and in the future. The problem is we just don't know if it's going to work yet.
BLITZER: Gloria, has the President's message shifting as the country slowly is starting to reopen?
BORGER: Well, the President is saying as he has done for quite some time, Wolf, that we're in the phase of reopening, but he is casting it in a political way. He is saying that people want their freedom back. So tell your Democratic governors to get with the program here. And in Pennsylvania today, he had that message, which is, it's a matter of freedom versus those who want to hold you back. And the governors who want to hold you back are in blue states.
And, you know, Pennsylvania is the state, of course that the President really needs to win to win this election. So it's not surprising that he took that message there today. He's on your side. You all want to get back to work? He's going to get you there. BLITZER: All right, Gloria, Sanjay, guys, thank you very, very much. An important note to our viewers, be sure to tune in later tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern for a live CNN Global Town Hall Coronavirus Facts and Fears. Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta are joined by special guests including the Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, the former Acting CDC Director Richard Besser, Kathleen Sebelius, who served as Health and Human Services Secretary during the Obama administration and the activists Greta Thunberg. That's later tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.
Coming up, people crowd bars in Wisconsin to celebrate a court ruling overturning the governor stay-at-home order. Has safety taken a backseat to politics? I'll be -- I'll ask the mayor of Wisconsin's capital city when we come back.
BLITZER: Some breaking news, the New York Stock Exchange is now set to at least partially reopen to traders later this month. But it will look different from the iconic images we're all used to over the years. Traders will return in smaller numbers. They will have to wear protective masks and they also have to follow what are being described as strict social distancing requirements. The battle over reopening businesses, meanwhile, is taking a sharp political turn in Wisconsin, where Republicans won a case to overturn the Democratic governors' extension of a stay-at-home order.
I want to go to CNN's Omar Jimenez, who's in Wisconsin for us. Omar, what are you hearing from business owners where you are?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, at its core, the state Supreme Court ordered -- basically declares a statewide stay-at-home or unlawful and unenforceable, which basically left a lot of these local and city jurisdictions, in some cases scrambling to try and put in place an order that lines up with how they wanted to proceed. So we saw in Milwaukee, for example, the city had to remind people there of their city stay-at-home order that was still in place, despite the statewide one being shut down. But then in counties that include Green Bay and the city of the state capitol of Madison, for example, they didn't put in place new safe stay-at-home orders, again, despite the statewide one being shut down.
Now here in Waukesha County, the county decided, well, we're going to let businesses reopen and we're going to put the responsibility of doing it safely on the business owners which is what we are seeing here at this bar where I'm standing in the parking lot of right now. We have seen that just open 30 minutes ago and people are still filing in like it's any normal happy hour. And we spoke to the bar owner just a few moments ago about how he's going to try and keep this in operation safely.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[17:35:01] TIM COONEY, CLUB MANAGER AND SECRETARY, WAUKESHA EAGLES CLUB: We're open a few hours last night and word got around town like lightning. We're doing everything that's physically possible to do. If they're uncomfortable, don't come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIMENEZ: Now, he also went on to say, you know, he's going to try and put tables 6 feet apart and stools 6 feet apart but also says he can't please everything that people are doing once they are inside there. He is relying on the people to act responsibly. Now as far as the state policy level, what we are looking at moving forward, it's going to come down to the Democratic Governor Tony Evers and the Republican legislature working together. But based on their working relationship so far, it may be difficult to come to a solution anytime soon, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Omar Jimenez in Wisconsin for us, thanks very much.
Joining us now, the Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, the state capital, Satya Rhodes-Conway. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. I know you're still going to be enforcing the state order in your city. But first, what's your reaction to this court ruling?
MAYOR SATYA-RHODES CONWAY, MADISON, WISCONSIN: Thank you, Wolf. You know, I really think that this -- the Supreme Court's ruling is perplexing and irresponsible, to strike down a safer at home order that has been working both here in Madison and across the state, just doesn't make any sense at all. These are powers that the legislature granted to the Department of Health Services and for the court to overturn that. Again, it's just really perplexing to me.
BLITZER: One of the Supreme Court justices even compared the stay-at- home order to Japanese internment camps during World War II. How concerned are you about the politics at play in this ruling?
CONWAY: I'm very concerned. You know, I think what the court has done is put people's health and safety on the line in favor of their political persuasion. And it's really it's really disturbing because while we here in Madison do, are continuing our safer at home order. What the court has done is left people sort of up to their own to figure out how to stay safe in a pandemic. And, you know, as you have seen, businesses are starting to open around the state, even in places where we have hotspots of infection. And I'm really worried about the long-term consequences of the Supreme Court's ruling.
BLITZER: As you know, many Wisconsin cities and counties including Arizona have issued their own orders essentially replicating the governor's order. But in other areas of the state, people are flocking to the bars, the restaurants, you've seen the video, are you worried that this patchwork of different rules across the state will lead to confusion and possibly a jump-in cases?
CONWAY: Absolutely. I think that it's inevitable that it will lead to a jump-in cases. But, Wolf, you have to remember, this is the Supreme Court that thought it was safe for us to hold an election in person during a pandemic and dozens and dozens of people got sick as a result of that. Apparently, the court did not learn, because here we are again. I guess it's what happens, you know, when you insert politics into pandemic response.
BLITZER: If a restaurant in your city of Madison wants to follow the state guidelines and open up, what will you do?
CONWAY: What we'll do -- what we've been doing all along which is work to educate them on why they need to obey the county safer at home orders, and how they can do that. But if they persist, we will be following up and we will issue citations if we need to.
BLITZER: All right, Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in Madison. We'll stay in close touch with you as well.
CONWAY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Appreciate it very much. And coming up, as global coronavirus deaths now surpassed 300,000, is Russia hiding its true death toll? And later, a very disturbing new study shows one out of every five U.S. households in one of -- out every five young children aren't getting enough to eat right now because of the unemployment crisis. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: The worldwide coronavirus death toll is now past 300,000. Russia now ranks second to the United States in total confirmed cases but has a remarkably low death count. CNN's Matthew Chance is in London for us. Are the Russian numbers accurate, Matthew?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, Russia is defending the way it counts its coronavirus debts. Moscow authorities admitting as many as 60 percent of suspected fatalities in the city are being put down to other causes. Russia has the highest number of confirmed infections after the United States. But a fraction of the death toll just over 2,300 confirmed fatalities, one of the world's lowest mortality rates.
Critics accuse the Kremlin of deliberately hiding the real death toll, wrongly blaming other conditions for coronavirus deaths, but officials deny manipulating the numbers. The Moscow Department of Health says it is absolutely open about the figures and that they are exceptionally precise as unlike other countries. They only register cases where an autopsy concludes that was caused directly by coronavirus, Wolf.
BLITZER: Matthew Chance reporting for us, thank you. China, meanwhile, is beginning an extraordinary effort to keep the coronavirus from spreading again. CNN's Ivan Watson is in Hong Kong. Ivan, what are authorities doing?
[17:45:06] IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Chinese health authorities are calling for increased testing and screening of the coronavirus after several relatively small outbreaks in different parts of the country. The most dramatic reaction has been in the city of Wuhan and that is where the coronavirus was first detected back in December.
The city government is announcing that it is planning to test all 11 million residents of that city for the coronavirus in a 10-day period starting on Wednesday. That's an enormous logistical challenge. We don't know if they'll actually be able to pull that off. But clearly the Chinese government is worried about the virus spiraling out of control again and seeing a repeat of the tens of thousands of cases and thousands of deaths that China saw last winter. Wolf?
BLITZER: Ivan Watson reporting, thank you.
Coming up, a very troubling new survey finds a sharp rise in the number of children going hungry here in the United States. I'll speak with the author of that study about the pandemics devastating impact on American families who are now struggling to put food on the table.
WOLF: The economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic is making it extremely difficult for many American families to even afford food. A disturbing new study finds that in nearly 20 percent of U.S. households right now, young children are not getting enough to eat.
Joining us now is the author of that study, Lauren Bauer, she's a fellow at the Brookings Institution here in Washington. Laura, thanks so much for the study. Thanks for joining us. Can you give us a sense of just how widespread food insecurity is in the United States of America right now, especially for families with young kids?
LAUREN BAUER, BROOKINGS FELLOW: That's right. One in three households with children right now are suffering from food insecurity. And 17 percent of mothers with young children are saying that their kids are not eating enough because they can't have afford enough food. That's an almost fivefold increase from 2018.
BLITZER: It's really hard to believe this is going on here in the United States. When we look back over the past 20 years, you're right, and I'm quoting you now, it is clear that young children are experiencing food insecurity to an extent unprecedented in modern times. First of all, what are the effects of this kind of severe hunger on children who are growing up?
BAUER: So one of the reasons that we want to be focusing on improving nutrition assistance right now, is because persistent food insecurity has devastating long-term effects on children's development. They're stunting, there can be effects on their emotional and behavioral health. There can be effects on their physical health and well-being, their school performance, well into adulthood. And so it's very important now that we know the extent of this crisis that we start moving towards solving it.
BLITZER: How much of this is the increase in food insecurity a result of children missing schools? Because a lot of times these kids, the only healthy meals they really get maybe breakfast or lunch at a school.
BAUER: That's right. And I think one of the things that makes what's happening right now different than say the great recession is that we've lost that frontline program that prevents, you know, mass nutritional problems with children, the school meals programs. And the replacement for grab and go meals just hasn't been reaching enough eligible children, which is why this Pandemic EBT program which provides grocery vouchers to all students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunch is a really wonderful new addition to the program and needs to be expanded and extended.
BLITZER: In the last two months now, it's official, 36.5 million Americans have lost their jobs. They filed for unemployment. And the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell says 40 percent of those individuals who make $40,000 a year or less, 40 percent they are now unemployed and they got to get kids some food. You see these long lines of people in their cars lining up at these food banks around the country trying to get some food for their kids. And it's so heart- breaking to see what's going on in our country.
BAUER: Absolutely. I think one thing that's important to know is that while many people are taking heroic efforts, especially in the charitable fruit programs, for every meal that is provided through a food bank, snap provides nine meals, which is why it's very important, particularly as we're seeing rising food prices that we see benefit increases there to start solving this issue.
BLITZER: Such a heart-breaking issue indeed. Lauren Bauer of Brookings, thank you so much for what you're doing. Thanks so much for joining us.
BAUER: Thank you. It was a pleasure.
BLITZER: All right, coming up, the CDC has just released some broad new guidelines designed to help businesses and other institutions reopen here in the United States. Stay with us, we have the late breaking developments.
BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room" with breaking news out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It just issued a new warning about the mysterious illness in children linked to coronavirus. And the CDC also posted some new broad guidelines aimed at helping communities to reopen including businesses, schools, day care centers, mass transit and many more. Standby, we have the details.
Also tonight, as the U.S. coronavirus death toll rises to an alarming new high, exceeding 85,000, we're also now seeing a downward trend in the rate of new deaths and cases nationwide.