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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Administration Downplays Need For A Vaccine; Trump Attacks Obama As Grossly Incompetent In Escalating Feud; Miami Beach Begins Phased Approach To Reopening; Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Economic Chaos; Interview With Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) On Georgia Reopening Process; Dozens Of Surrogacy Babies Stranded In Ukraine. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 17, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.
At this hour, nearly 90,000 American lives have been claimed by coronavirus, accounting for nearly one-third of the confirmed global death toll, now above 314,000 people. That's as scientists are racing now to develop a vaccine that could put an end to the national crisis.
The nation faces an economic crisis as well with 36 million Americans finding themselves now out of a job. While this national emergency rages on, the president is taking aim at his predecessor, President Barack Obama, calling him grossly incompetent, this after Obama's veiled criticism yesterday over how the White House has handled the pandemic.
But President Obama is not the only one in the White House's crosshairs this evening. The administration is again slamming the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here's the president's top trade adviser.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: Early on in this crisis, the CDC, which really had the most trusted brand around the world in this space, really let the country down with the testing. Because not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test. And that did set us back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's go to our White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy, this is not the first time in recent days the White House has singled out the CDC for what they portray as major shortcomings.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it certainly is remarkable to hear a senior White House official going after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the middle of a global pandemic, but that is exactly what we heard Peter Navarro do there, as he singled out the CDC for some early failures on the testing front.
Now, to be sure, Wolf, those failures on the testing front certainly did happen at the CDC. Contaminated manufacturing process led to weeks of delays in getting a coronavirus test kit out to broadly -- to broad use across the country.
Of course, there have been other failures inside the administration that other officials have identified, including the HHS whistleblower Rick Bright, who talked about a failure to adequately prepare for a pandemic by getting some of those crucial personal protective equipment supplies and other crucial medical supplies.
But Navarro's decision to single out the CDC here, Wolf, it comes at a time of rising tensions between the White House and the CDC. Part of it, we are told, according to several administration officials, is over the way that the CDC gathers and tracks data on this virus.
Another part of it, Wolf, of course, is the fact that the CDC had, you know, developed these detailed 68-page guidelines offering some support to businesses and states on how they could begin to reopen. And the White House, of course, just a few days ago, Wolf, released just a six-page document offering very little of the detail that CDC officials had worked to try and provide to those states and businesses.
BLITZER: Yes. The president, Jeremy, was asked earlier today to respond to former President Obama's criticism yesterday and a few days earlier over how he's handled the pandemic. What did the president say?
DIAMOND: Yes. Well, we have heard now President Obama criticize President Trump's response to this coronavirus several times. Last week, it was in those remarks on a private phone call with the Obama administration alumni, in which he called the response anemic and spotty, called it an absolute chaotic disaster. We heard some more veiled criticism from former President Obama yesterday in an address to graduates of historically black colleges and universities.
This morning, President Trump was asked to respond and he fired back, calling President Obama grossly incompetent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, he was an incompetent president. That's all I can say, grossly incompetent. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAMOND: Of course, at the same time, Wolf, as we are hearing President Trump say that, again, he's not responding directly to the criticism there, but what we've also heard him do is level a ton of false allegations against President Obama, including accusing him of a conspiracy to try and undermine his presidency. Of course, President Trump has offered no evidence for that claim. Wolf?
BLITZER: And he also tweeted earlier in the day -- this is President Trump -- the Obama administration is turning out to be one of the most corrupt and incompetent in U.S. history. Remember, he and Sleepy Joe are the reasons I am in the White House.
So, there's absolutely, Jeremy, no letting up on the part of President Trump going after his predecessor.
DIAMOND: No, there certainly is not. And this is, again, a familiar playbook that we have seen from the president at times when he is facing, you know, uncertain prospects in his political life, particularly as it relates to his re-election now. President Trump goes after his predecessor. We have heard him on the coronavirus response accusing President Obama of leaving the cupboards bare in the National Stockpile.
Of course, we know, Wolf, that that is not true. While certain items were perhaps not restocked, the stockpile was certainly by no means depleted in the way that the White House has suggested. And of course, President Trump had three years before this pandemic arrived to try and better prepare for this kind of a scenario.
BLITZER: All right. Jeremy Diamond at the White House for us, we'll get back to you.
Meanwhile, most states across the nation are forging ahead with phased re-openings. By midnight tonight, 48 states will have eased at least some restrictions. This comes as 11 states are actually seeing a rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.
State of Texas on Saturday reporting its highest one-day spike since the pandemic began with 1,800 new cases. A growing outbreak in the Texas Panhandle is a major factor. And yet, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is allowing more businesses to reopen on Monday, including some gyms and offices.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us from Dallas right now. So, Ed, what's driving this new spike in Texas cases?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you alluded to it there for a moment there, Wolf, 1,800 cases reported here in the State of Texas on Saturday. State health officials say that more than 730 of those cases originate from the Texas Panhandle area around the city of Amarillo, where there are a number of meatpacking companies working there.
State health officials have dispatched teams to do testing in that area, and they say that's where the bulk of the coronavirus positive tests came from, the workers there working in those meatpacking plants. But it's also important to point out, 1,800 cases reported on Saturday, with more than about 32,000 tests. That's one of the highest numbers we've seen since this pandemic started.
Just a short while ago, the latest numbers have come out as well, and it kind of gives you a sense of how difficult it is to track all this. On the surface, 785 new coronavirus cases have been reported today. But when you look deeper at those numbers, the testing dropped dramatically, just a little more than 14,000 tests. So if you look at the percentage, there's about the same percentage there.
And if you look at a lot of other medical data indicators, really, everything has seemed to have plateaued over the course of the last two weeks since this experiment of reopening has started in Texas, and the mayor of Austin says that's reason to be nervous about what's happening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR STEVE ALDER (D), AUSTIN, TEXAS: It makes me take pause. It makes everyone I know take pause. I think because everyone is watching this to see what this grand experiment is going to result in. But we know for an absolute certainty that as you increase physical interactions between people, you are going to increase the number of new cases. It just happens. That's why everybody's staying at home. Shut this thing down.
The question is, are those new cases going to come at such a rate and such a pace that we're put on a path to overload our hospitals? That's what we can't let happen, and that's why we have to watch these numbers daily.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, the good news here in Texas, as far as every indication we have, there is plenty of hospital bed and ICU bed space. The governor of Texas is also scheduling a press conference tomorrow where he's expected to announce even more openings of the economy. So jarring any really dramatic jarring differences in the medical data, this push to reopen the economy is expected to continue strongly here in Texas.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Ed Lavandera in Dallas for us, thank you.
As the State of Florida is reopening, there are some areas that are still looking at very much baby steps, including a very popular resort areas of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach. The Miami Beach mayor, Dan Gelber, is joining us right now with his plans for Miami Beach, one of my favorite areas.
So, welcome, Mayor Gelber. You're talking about gingerly reopening Miami Beach. Tell us about your phase plans. Where do things stand right now?
MAYOR DAN GELBER (D), MIAMI BEACH, FL: Well, you know, there's Florida and then there's South Florida and then there's Dade County. And Dade County has about a third of the deaths and about a third of the COVID cases out of 67 counties, so we're really the hot center of it.
We're going to go slower than even other parts of the county, and certainly, every other part of the state, in large part because there's so much disease here. But more than that, I don't think anybody really has a playbook or a manual for this.
There's not a whole lot of direction coming from Washington, and there's an incredible amount of desire and frustration, so you've got to really try to make sure that you don't rush into this thing, because I think the worst thing to do, given the fact that I think we're flying a little bit blind right now.
BLITZER: So, what's your thinking, Mayor, behind let's say opening up museums or hair and nail salons, eventually restaurants, and those beautiful hotels along Miami Beach? What's the latest on that, and what's the latest as far as beaches are concerned as well?
GELBER: So, the county, the county mayor and the governor opened up almost everything, other than hotels and beaches, starting Monday. We're going to go a little bit slower. We're going to do non-essential businesses on Wednesday. And then a week later, we're going to do restaurants. Museums will also be opened up in that time but everything will be at incredibly reduced capacity. People will have masks. We're opening up outdoor streets so that people can dine outside rather than inside.
We're trying to go as slow and as careful as possible, because we recognize that in a hospitality town like ours, you know, we're a crowd-based economy, we typically want people to gather in large groups, but we really can't have that right now, so we have to go slow.
BLITZER: Because so much of Miami Beach relies on tourism. And right now that's not happening. Are you willing, Mayor, to shut things down again if you see an uptick?
GELBER: Yes. Listen, to me -- well, the problem is nobody has given us the metrics we need to look at with regard to an uptick. They told us 14 days in a downward trajectory, we should start to loosen everything up, but it feels like they've gone radio silent as to what we should do in the other direction, which I think is a real problem, because all of these decisions have been pushed down to local government, mayors and commissions like in my town.
We don't have the bandwidth of healthcare advisers that the federal government has or even the state government has. So we're trying to make these decisions by feel, which is not particularly reassuring.
So, if there's a spike and the tracing centers aren't able to deal with it, we will have to close things down or moderate the opening.
BLITZER: Well, what are you hearing from your constituents there in Miami Beach? What are the folks saying to you? I'm sure they're anxious to see some return to even a new normal. Forget about the old normal.
GELBER: Well, I have a sense as to why these decisions were pushed down to local government, because you really -- it's not just not pleasing the people. It's not pleasing anyone at this point. Every time we do anything, a huge group of people say the porridge is too cold, another group say it's too hot, and a few say it's just right. But there's huge amounts of unrest and people upset.
Fortunately, most people are at least dealing with what they're told to do in a thoughtful way, but there are, of course, a cohort that no matter what you do, they're upset. We're not going to look at beaches until, really June, and hotels probably I think around that time.
We want to see what happens as we open this slowly. If we can open it up without mobs and throngs of people, if people are following the rules, then we'll do more and more, because then we'll know that we're not lurching into -- you know, into something that we can't jump back from.
BLITZER: Mayor Gelber, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in Miami Beach. I know you guys are anxious to get back to business over there, but you've got to really almost always err on the side of caution. I appreciate it very much.
GELBER: Right. Thank you.
BLITZER: Thanks for joining us.
Meanwhile, President Trump has repeatedly touted that a coronavirus vaccine would arrive by the end of the year, but now his administration is wavering on how effective it could be. We'll discuss that and a lot more when we come back.
BLITZER: The Trump administration is downplaying the need for a coronavirus vaccine, this after President Trump's recent comments that the U.S. will return to normal with or without one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: What the president was making the point on is everything does not depend on a vaccine. We're committed to delivering a vaccine. We're going to put the full power of the U.S. government and our private sector towards getting to a vaccine, but that's one part of a multifactorial response program.
First is the testing that we talked about before, test symptomatic people, broad surveillance to find cases, surge in to contain. Also, therapeutics, you know, we're driving forward on convalescent plasma to be able to treat people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Joining us now, Dr. Megan Ranney is an Emergency Physician at Brown University and Dr. Patrice Harris, she is the President of the American Medical Association.
Dr. Harris, can the U.S. ever really return to normal without a vaccine?
DR. PATRICE HARRIS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: Good to be back with you. We certainly need to have an all-hands on deck approach to a vaccine. But certainly, a vaccine is not a panacea. Once a vaccine is developed, we will have to work on making sure that it's equitably distributed.
And so, certainly, that will be an important tool in the toolbox, a tool to prevent COVID-19. We'll have to wait to see how effective it is. But it can't be the only thing that we do, and it's going to be a while before we get a vaccine.
So, in the meantime, we have to continue to make sure we are wearing our mask, and the physical distancing, and not gathering in large crowds and have a robust testing capacity and strategy until we get a vaccine. But a vaccine certainly won't be a panacea, even when one is developed.
BLITZER: Unless it's available to everyone in terms of, you know, literally hundreds of millions of doses immediately, or at least fairly soon available, right?
HARRIS: That is correct. We have to make sure that a vaccine is equitably distributed once it's developed. And, of course, that will depend on the data and the science and the research once we develop that vaccine. So we have to appreciate all of these issues in context, in a public health context as we move forward. But it's about layers of protection.
And there will be a new normal. There may be things that we don't go back to doing, even with a vaccine.
So, we have to appreciate the full context of mitigating and risk factors in this infectious disease, and really, any future infectious outbreak.
BLITZER: And, again, make sure that vaccine really works and is safe.
Dr. Ranney, the U.K. business secretary today actually warned we may never, in his word, never find a successful coronavirus vaccine. How likely do you believe that possibility is? What would that mean?
DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY: So, on average, Wolf, creating a vaccine takes on the order of years, four years, ten years. Right now, we have every scientist, every virologist in the world working on creating a vaccine. We're hopeful with new science, we're going to have a period of 12 to
18 months. But as Dr. Harris says, that involves not just proving that it works in a test tube and in an animal, but also making sure it's safe in humans and that it's actually effective, right?
It is also entirely possible that we may not ever have a vaccine that works. There are a lot of viruses out there for which we don't have vaccines, things like herpes or AIDS. And we have to just change the way that we live in order to protect ourselves from transmission.
So, like Dr. Harris says, in the meantime, until we have an effective vaccine, and if we don't have an effective vaccine, we have to follow those basic public health techniques, like mask-wearing, handwashing, physical distancing, to protect from getting infected, and we need to use the vaccines that we already have, things like flu vaccine, measles, mumps, and rubella, whooping cough vaccine.
Those are tremendously effective and can protect us from getting sick in a way that weakens our immune system and puts us at higher risk of COVID-19.
BLITZER: Yes. I know there are so many people now working on that vaccine and there's a lot of hope and a lot of optimism that maybe by the end of the year, something might be available that's effective and safe, but there's certainly no guarantee of that at all.
Dr. Harris, there is a lot of hope though that there might be some new therapy, some new therapeutic developments that could at least prevent people from getting extremely sick or dying, right?
HARRIS: Yes, there are. There are clinical trials, Wolf, as you know, ongoing at this very moment. People are looking at convalescent plasma. People are looking at remdesivir and other compounds that are certainly not in the news lately, and that is a good thing.
And, again, another opportunity where we are having an all-hands on deck moment to search for a treatment, another tool in our toolbox, and we can always remain hopeful. But, again, until then, we have to continue with the strategies that we know work.
BLITZER: And what works right now, you know, Dr. Ranney, because you're on the frontlines of the emergency room right there? When somebody comes in who's pretty sick, what works, if anything, effectively to save that person's life, to prevent someone from dying?
RANNEY: So, we don't have a lot of really effective treatments for the very, very sick people right now. If someone comes in to my emergency department or any E.R. across the country, really sick, with low oxygen level, low blood pressure, some of those worst complications of COVID, like strokes, we do the standard life-saving measures that we would use for almost any disease. We give people I.V. fluids and oxygen.
One of the new things that we're trying for COVID is actually putting people on their bellies, almost like tummy time for babies, but it's working really well to avoid having to put a breathing tube down and put people into a medical coma.
Unfortunately, once they get into that really ill state, other than remdesivir, which is now available under an emergency use authorization, there just isn't a lot of specific treatment for this disease right now, Wolf, which is one of the really frustrating and scary things about it.
BLITZER: It certainly is.
And, Dr. Harris, let me ask you, and also Dr. Ranney, earlier today, the Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar, suggested the poor health of Americans is partly to blame for the country's coronavirus death rate. I want you to listen precisely to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AZAR: It's about simple epidemiology and stating that if we have hypertension, if we have diabetes, we present with greater risk of severe complications from this coronavirus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, Dr. Harris, what do you make of that?
HARRIS: Well, Wolf, from a physician's standpoint, we just do not blame our patients for their current illnesses. We certainly understand that there are risk factors for worse outcomes with COVID- 19, yes, hypertension and diabetes. However, if we really want to appreciate and understand risk factors, we have to look at the causes of those, the root causes of those health inequities.
And so, what is the reason that more African-Americans have high blood pressure and diabetes and more folks who have a lower economic status have some of these illnesses?
So, we really cannot stop at just looking at risk factors. We have to ask the hard and sometimes difficult question, why. Actually, the question is not hard. The solutions are harder, but we really have to do that.
And so, certainly, that is not how we as physicians go about talking with our patients about their issues. And so, it is my hope, and I think the hope of everyone, that we not blame anyone for their health status but that we work together to work on the root causes of poor health status and poor health outcomes.
BLITZER: And Dr. Ranney, very quickly, give me your thought.
RANNEY: So, very quickly, we in the United States excel at super high specialty experimental treatments, but we have a very low-quality preventive healthcare system because it has been consistently underfunded. And that's what's showing its signs right now with COVID- 19. It's not about blaming the patients. It's about fixing the system so that we have a public health system that's adequately funded and that works.
BLITZER: Good point. All right, Dr. Ranney, Dr. Harris, thanks to both for joining us. We'll, of course, stay in close touch with both of you. Thank you.
A dire prediction from the Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, warning that the U.S. economy may not necessarily recover until the end of next year. Up next, I'll discuss that and more with the former labor secretary, Robert Reich.
BLITZER: It's been one economic blow after another this week after 3 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims last week, bringing the total since mid-March, eight weeks, I should say, to 36.5 million Americans. They have lost their jobs and formally filed jobless claims.
JCPenney filed for bankruptcy. The 118-year-old retail giant had been struggling for a decade, but the coronavirus pandemic was the final blow.
And as millions lose their jobs here in the United States, the cost of putting food on your table is more expensive. In April alone, grocery prices overall were up 2.6 percent.
The House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion relief package on Friday, but the White House trade adviser Peter Navarro says the focus should be on the current stimulus package. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: What we have to do, George, is basically go with the fiscal and monetary stimulus that we've been going through. We've got a lot coursing through the system now. We may need more. I'm going to let others above my pay grade negotiate that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining us now, the former secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration, Robert Reich. He's also the author of the book "The System: Who Rigged It? How We Fix It." There you see the book cover.
Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us. Do you agree with Peter Navarro? Should the focus be on what's already passed, the current stimulus packages, or is it another one, another huge one needed right now?
ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, it's not nearly enough, what we've done so far, because the degree and scope of this unemployment crisis, this economic crisis, and the pandemic all together, Wolf, are much, much larger than anybody anticipated, obviously. Anything that we have actually experienced in the entire post-war era. And so for a -- what had been a $20 trillion economy, we have got to
do much, much more than we're doing right now.
BLITZER: How would you rate the effectiveness of what already has passed the House and the Senate, signed into law by the president, the stimulus package, it's, what, about $3 trillion? Is the money going to the right people?
REICH: By and large, yes, but the problem is a lot of banks and a lot of big corporations are raking off too much of that money. The money ought to be going directly to people who need it, to the working class, the middle class, the poor. Those are the people who are actually going to spend the money. And what we need to get the economy going is people spending.
BLITZER: But if some of those big corporations don't have funding, they're not going to reopen. And those who have lost their jobs won't be able to come back to those jobs, right?
REICH: Well, some of the big corporations, you know, they can easily reorganize their debts under bankruptcy or in the shadow bankruptcy. They're already doing that. Many of the airlines, the cruise ships, the big hotels, many other corporations, if they have any future at all, and if they have any assets at all, collateral, they are in the process already of reorganizing under bankruptcy, and their creditors don't want them to go under.
The big, big problem is really with tens of millions of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, or almost paycheck to paycheck, and frankly, a lot of people don't know what to do right now. They simply are running out of money. And the federal government's obligation -- first obligation, not only as a humanitarian matter, but also in terms of the economy, is getting money into their pockets.
BLITZER: The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, says it could take until the end of not this year but the end of next year, 2021, for the U.S. economy to recover. Does that timeline seem right to you?
REICH: Unfortunately, it does, Wolf, because the economy is not like a hose that can just simply be turned on or off. You've got very, very complicated system. And part of that system is based on supply chains that come from abroad.
Many of those supply chains have been really broken. But you also have a lot of Americans who are reluctant to go to the malls and go shopping. They've got to feel much safer, and that safety has a lot to do with where the virus is and how and what degree it's spreading. Also, simultaneously, you've got a lot of people who don't have any money. And because they don't have any money, they don't have the wherewithal to spend.
And all along, and even in addition to all of that, you've got workers across America who don't know where the future lies. I mean, there's a very big problem with consumer confidence. And when you consider that two-thirds of this economy depends on consumer spending, that lack of confidence about the future, that anxiety about the future also is a major drag on the economy.
BLITZER: Robert Reich, the former Labor secretary, thanks so much for joining us.
REICH: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: So when Georgia announced it would be the first state to reopen, health experts warned there could be some very dire consequences, but so far, at least, there hasn't been a spike. Instead, numbers are actually on the decline.
Up next, I'll speak with the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, there you see her, she's right there. She's been critical of the Georgia governor's plans. Where does she stand now? We'll discuss when we come back.
BLITZER: In Georgia, many gyms, hair salons, other close-contact businesses, they are open with strict safety measures in place. It was last month that Georgia's governor, Brian Kemp, announced the nation's first significant reopening of fitness centers and restaurants, even though many chose to stay closed.
Since starting that phased reopening weeks ago, Georgia so far, so far, has not seen any dramatic spikes in new cases. The Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on CNN earlier this morning, and said he credits several factors for that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We look for early indicators, and then we use the traditional public health tools to surge in there. We would test everybody there. We would do contact tracing and isolation. And that's where places like Georgia and Colorado, as they reopen, it's these tools that allow us to be reopened, but do so in a safe way that lets the economy function.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And joining us now, the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Mayor Bottoms, thank you so much for joining us. You were extremely critical of Governor Kemp's plan to reopen so quickly so soon. Do you have less reason to be concerned right now or are you still worried?
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA, GA: So, Wolf, you know, when I was with you a couple of weeks ago, I said that I look forward to coming on and being able to say that I was wrong and the governor was right. And I think right now we're somewhere in the middle. Whereas we were seeing spikes in the number of people testing positive
going up between 25 percent and 30 percent as well as our deaths over a seven-day period, right now we are seeing rates somewhere around 15 percent, so the numbers are better, but they are still going up.
We have not hit that 14-day decline yet, but it is my hope that we will continue to trend downward and that people will continue to be aware that this is still a very dangerous virus, and we have to take precautions.
I can say also that we have expanded testing throughout the state and throughout the city of Atlanta, and I think that has been very helpful, that people can easily get tested. But we are still far from out of the woods with this.
BLITZER: Do you feel, Mayor, like you're getting the accurate data you need to make a truly informed decision about reopening completely the city of Atlanta?
BOTTOMS: Well, you know, there have been some challenges with the data in Georgia because there is a lag between testing and uploading that data, and I know that the state at some point was tweaking their Web site, and that has caused a bit of confusion. But what we did in the city of Atlanta was to create an advisory council to help reopen our city.
There were a cross sector of people represented -- corporations, small businesses, faith-based community, the philanthropic community -- and we are going to present recommendations to people in Atlanta and to our businesses. We're home to 26 Fortune 500 companies on our phased approach to reopening. And so, it's data-based, and we'll take whatever information we can get from the state and try and make sense of it.
But just because the state is open and it's business as usual, we know that people -- many people have the option not to go about their daily lives as business as usual, and we hope that those recommendations will be followed from our advisory council.
BLITZER: So, what should we expect, let's say, in the next two, three, four weeks, the next steps as people see this reopening process continue?
BOTTOMS: Well, we are taking a phased approach, and so we are looking at the recommendations that were put forth by the CDC, looking at a 14-day decline, which we are not there yet. There are three phases. We were able to meet virtually over five weeks, and this is led by Bloomberg Associates, so there's a lot of data and metrics involved in what we are looking at.
We were able to see what's worked well in some cities across the country and the globe, and what challenges they've had and really taken a phased approach. After we begin to see that 14-day decline, then the recommendations to open up more businesses, and after another 14 days, then more businesses, with the last being our clubs and bars, et cetera.
And so, these are recommendations that have been put together by people who will need to follow the recommendations, by the people who operate the businesses in our city. And so, we hope that that will continue to help us with where we are with COVID-19.
BOTTOMS: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, good luck to you. Good luck to all the folks in Atlanta and Georgia. We'll stay on top of this together with you. Appreciate your joining us.
BOTTOMS: Thank you for having me.
BLITZER: So, as travel around the world has all but shut down, Ukraine's once booming surrogate business has left dozens of babies stranded right now with parents no longer able to retrieve them. We're going to hear some of their stories when we come back.
BLITZER: The pandemic is causing problems when it comes to surrogacy. Hopeful parents around the world are unable to retrieve their newborns due to travel restrictions. In Ukraine, it's left dozens of children effectively stranded right now.
Here's CNN's Senior International Correspondent, Matthew Chance.
JOEL LEINEKE, FATHER: So this is my daughter, Ember Rain Leineke. She's a little tired at the moment.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid this lock down a family united. One American dad getting into Ukraine just to hold his newborn daughter. She is a very lucky girl indeed.
LEINEKE: Thank you. I'm a lucky father.
CHANCE (on camera): When you saw her for the first time, what was going through your mind? What were your feelings?
LEINEKE: At the same I was elated to see her, I was also just -- my heart was broken, right, that I was the only one there by myself. And that my wife was never could not be in the delivery room and just -- so it was both. It was really mixed.
CHANCE (voice-over): Mixed but relieved because dozens just like Ember Rain born amid the pandemic in Ukraine to surrogate mothers remain stranded, marooned, in a screaming lockdown.
CNN gained access to just one facility in Kiev where tight coronavirus restrictions mean more than 50 babies here can't be collected by their legal parents. Mostly lockdown themselves in Europe and the United States. Some parents have waited 15 years for this dream to come true, the
owner tells CNN. One couple are both 55 years old, another has tried 36 times for a baby, he says. They can't wait any longer.
Ukrainian officials say they're trying to speed up access to foreign parents, but the pandemic means the country's borders are sealed. Special permits are a bureaucratic nightmare.
For Ember Rain's mom, Michelle, watching all this remotely with her two other kids in California even the thought of being unable to reach a child in another country is agonizing.
(On camera): What must their parents be going through now? Parents who can't get to their children?
MICHELLE LEINEKE, MOTHER: I can't even imagine. Honestly. I can't imagine not being able to be there. We had the same thought before we were able to get there. And so for me it was mind numbing to know that somebody that we don't even know would be taking care of our daughter.
Well, luckily we were able to find a way, but other people, because their countries aren't allowing them to travel into another country are not being allowed in. So we found a way and we were lucky, but others aren't so lucky and I'm sure they're just devastated.
CHANCE (voice-over): At the moment Ukrainian officials say around 100 babies born to surrogates are stuck in clinics like this one around the country. But pregnancies are in progress and they say numbers could soon rise to 1,000 if borders stay closed.
The longer the lockdown, the more Ember Rains with nowhere to go.
BLITZER: Matthew Chance is joining us now from London.
And Matthew, surrogacy is a significant industry in Ukraine and elsewhere for that matter as well. Could we see some systematic reform come out of this? Are there going to be major changes?
CHANCE: I think we could because these pictures that have been broadcast all over the word of all of these dozens of babies in this, you know, hotel on the outskirts of Kiev that can't be kept -- can't be picked up by their parents has caused outrage in Ukraine. And the human rights ombudsman of that country has called the problem a systemic and widespread one, said it could be curbed in the future.
But I think for the moment during this crisis the focus is very much on getting the babies that have already been born, you know, with their sort of legal parents. That's the focus of the authorities and the human rights activists at this point.
BLITZER: All right, Matthew, thanks for that report.
Matthew Chance reporting to us.
Coming up, despite the death toll from the coronavirus nearing 90,000 here in the United States and more than 36 million people out of work here in the United States, President Trump is focusing in on a feud with his predecessor responding to criticism from former president Obama. We'll go live to the White House for all the late, breaking developments when we come back.