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Fauci: Wearing Mask A Symbol Of What "You Should Be Doing"; Report: W.H. Press Secretary Voted By Mail 11 Times In 10 Years; U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Approaching 100,000; Historic NASA/SpaceX Launch Scrubbed Due To Weather; Disney World To Reopen July 11, SeaWorld On June 11; Russian Doctors Under Assault As They Battle Coronavirus. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 27, 2020 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:10]

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. As the U.S. now approaches a very sad and sobering milestone in the worst pandemic the country has seen in a century.

Look at this, we are now at 99,983 Americans who have lost their lives to the coronavirus. 352,000 people have died worldwide. This as the nation's top infectious disease specialty, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is openly disagreeing on several fronts with President Trump today, including on wearing a face mask, which the President has refused to do in public.

In an interview with CNN, Fauci said he wears a face mask as a symbol of what people should be doing. He also says, and I'm quoting him now, it's quite evident that hydroxychloroquine is not, in his words, is not an effective treatment for coronavirus. President Trump touts it and says he has taken it himself. Significant differences there and on other sensitive issues as well.

Let's go straight to the White House first. Our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta is standing by. Jim, the President is now in Florida, coming back to D.C. The first manned U.S. space launch in almost a decade has just been scrubbed.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump is on his way back from Florida as he was scheduled to watch the space launch. That launch was just scrubbed due to the weather. Prior to his trip to the Kennedy Space Center, the President was spreading misinformation as the U.S. is on the verge of hitting 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

The President is still misleading the public about mail-in voting despite being smacked down and fact checked by twitter, and his press secretary admitted she's been voting by mail for years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Unmasked and unmoved by health experts, President Trump is playing the distractor-in-chief picking fights and spreading misinformation as the number of dead in the U.S. from the coronavirus hovered at the heartbreaking milestone of 100,000 lives lost. Stoking a cultural war over wearing masks --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Can you take it up because I cannot hear you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll just speak louder, sir.

TRUMP: OK, good. You want to be politically correct. Go ahead.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The President has been contradicted by a familiar face, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I mean, I do it when I'm in the public for the reasons that, a, I want to protect myself and protect others. And also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that's the kind of thing you should be doing.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But even fellow Republicans aren't following the President's lead.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: This is not about politics. This is not about liberal or conservative. This is not a liberal or conservative issue. This is a issue of how do I protect my neighbor, how do I protect people that I love, how do I protect people I don't even know.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The President leveled more false attacks on MSNBC's Joe Scarborough drawing a rebuked from Senator Mitt Romney who tweeted, "I know Joe Scarborough. Joe is a friend of mine. Enough already". Twitter has had enough too on Mr. Trump's bogus complaints that mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud. Twitter flagged his followers to get the facts.

The President threatened to shut down Twitter on Twitter, warning, "We will strongly regulate or close them down before we can ever allow this to happen". As it turns out, the President and White House Press Secretary Kelly McEnany have voted by mail in Florida. McEnany told CNN, "Absentee voting has the word absent in it for a reason.

It means you're absent from the jurisdiction or unable to vote in person. President Trump is against the Democrat plan to politicize the coronavirus and expand mass mail-in voting without a reason, which has a high propensity for voter fraud".

But that's not quite the case. The Florida division of election says, except on Election Day, no excuses needed to vote a vote by mail ballot, effect last on the President.

TRUMP: Absentee is OK. You're sick, your way as an example. I have to do an absentee because I'm voting in Florida and I happen to be President.

ACOSTA (voice-over): As for the President's fixation on hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus, France just announced its banning the use of the drug for COVID-19. Fauci told CNN hydroxychloroquine just hasn't panned out as a treatment.

FAUCI: I'm not so sure it should be banned, but clearly the scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy for it.

ACOSTA (voice-over): President's litany of distractions during the pandemic stands in stark contrast with a different president. John F. Kennedy and his message during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, 35TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many months of sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead, months in which both our patients and our will will be tested. Months in which many threats and denunciations will keep us aware of our dangers. But the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The President met with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo here at the White House earlier today. The President hasn't commented on that meeting but Cuomo says both men talk about ways to energize the struggling U.S. economy, especially in the New York area which was devastated by the virus.

[17:05:05]

And as for the scrub launch down in Florida, we have some pictures to show you of what's happening down to Cape Canaveral. Not much at the moment. The President and much of his family were on hand. We saw the President as well as the First Lady and many of the President's children but no word yet at this moment from the White House as to whether the President will try to be in attendance for the rescheduled launch, now set for Saturday. Wolf?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: We'll see what happens on that front. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you.

The pace of reopening is picking up across the United States despite the mounting death. CNN's Nick Watt has the latest now from Los Angeles. Nick, there are new reopening announcements from coast to coast.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are, Wolf. But as you mentioned, we are right now just 17 deaths away from that horrific 100,000 mark. And just to put that in some context, 100,000 that is more Americans than were killed in the Vietnam War, the Korean War and Operation Iraqi Freedom combined. Also, some people have tried to compare this to the seasonal flu.

Well, we are also now approaching triple the average death toll for seasonal flu. And this virus is nowhere near done yet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): In L.A. today, you can walk into any store again after nearly 10 weeks, but now with a mask.

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D), LOS ANGELES: We're not moving beyond COVID- 19, but we're learning to live with it.

WATT (voice-over): Long Island also reopening today, just 74 deaths reported in New York State today, down from over 800 a day in early April.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: When you've gone through what we have gone through. It's a sign that we're headed in the right direction.

WATT (voice-over): New York City still a few weeks away and expect more of this sidewalk dining this summer.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: I think it is a very, very encouraging possibility to lean to the outdoors. But even with that, we got a lot to figure out in terms of social distancing, face coverings, protocols.

WATT (voice-over): The projected U.S. death toll was just dropped about 11,000 by those well-known University of Washington modelers. They say, because many of us are wearing masks. Many, but not all.

FAUCI: Or do you have situations in which you see that type of crowding with no masks and people interacting. That's not prudent and that's inviting a situation that could get out of control.

WATT (voice-over): Caesars in Vegas will open next week, visitors strongly encouraged to mask up. SeaWorld Orlando now hopes to open in two weeks. Anyone over two must be masked. Disney World now planning to open about a month later, mid July at reduced capacity, and none of those crowd magnet parades or fireworks.

FAUCI: The best news of public health is that we are seeing in certain areas, a significant plateauing and diminution. That's sort of sobered by the fact that in other areas, unfortunately, we are seeing some uptick. So in the areas that are going down, it means when you do the mitigation, it works.

WATT (voice-over): New case counts are now falling in the likes of Texas, Michigan and those hard-hit Northeastern states but steeply up in Alabama, Arkansas and West Virginia. Also still creeping up in California. Where L.A. County just unveiled a possible plan for schools come the fall, staggered start times, everyone masked and teachers, not students moving between classrooms.

GARCETTI: I know this isn't easy. I know living in between is not where anybody wants to be. But it's better than living completely in the shadows or running too fast, simply to the light.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Now, we just don't know yet what the impact of all this opening will be. But we just heard a pretty startling statistic from the County Health Department here in Los Angeles. They say that right now they estimate there are maybe two million more people moving around going to offices, stores, houses of worship.

And let's say that just two percent of them are infected. That is another 40,000 people moving around this city, potentially infecting other people. And that's why mosques and the distance are so, so crucial. Wolf?

BLITZER: Indeed they are. All right, Nick Watt in L.A. for us, thank you.

Joining us now the Governor of Colorado, Jared Polis. Governor, thank you so much for joining us. And as the country now approaches 100,000 deaths from this pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University right now, I'm looking at the screen, 99,983. What message is being sent by this awful, awful number to all those families who are grieving right now?

GOV. JARED POLIS (D), COLORADO: Well, it's especially hard for many families, Wolf, who weren't able to spend the last days or weeks of the life of their loved one with them because they were isolated in the COVID ward, often on ventilators, unable to be visited, not able to say goodbye.

[17:10:10]

It's a terrible way to go. We're all going to go someday, Wolf. COVID- 19 is a terrible way to go, painful for the families, painful for the person who passes away. And just that reflection that we've already lost more people just in three short months than we lost in almost two decades of wars, Vietnam, Korea, desert storm. Just such a tragedy.

BLITZER: Yes. And March 5th, there were 11 confirmed deaths here in the United States and now we're approaching 100,000 in less than three months. It's hard to really grasp the awful nature of what has happened. Your state, Colorado, is one of the first to ease into reopening. Your cases are indeed trending downward right now. But what do you make of the warning today from Dr. Fauci that it could take two, three, maybe four weeks or more to see the impact of the reopening?

POLIS: Well, it's just amazing to see I think one of the studies you cited earlier, if people wear wet masks more, it saves 11,000 lives. I mean, that simple act, that simple act wearing a mask, wearing it in public as I do is what we're encouraging all Coloradoans to do.

Not only saves tens of thousands of lives but helps get our economy open sooner, helps people return to work sooner, helps the economic recovery. Masks really are our passport to health, our passport to freedom as well as continuing the social distancing, being 6 feet from others when we can.

BLITZER: And Dr. Fauci also told our Jim Sciutto today in the CNN interview that wearing a mask is an important symbol to others. It can protect you, it can protect other people, but it's also an important symbol especially from leaders to send out that message. The President, though, he is still resisting wearing a mask publicly. He was down at the Kennedy Space Center today, he wasn't wearing a mask in public, even though he was milling around with a whole bunch of people over there.

Why, after nearly 100,000 Americans have lost their lives, are we still not getting a unified message from the administration?

POLIS: Well, we've had responsible Republican and Democratic governors say this is not a political issue. You know what, if you wear a mask, if you're a follower of Donald Trump, you can put his face on it. You can put Make America whatever on it, whatever you want on it. Wear the mask.

It's important to save your life, your friends' life, your parents' life and your fellow Americans' lives. It's really a civic responsibility to wear a mask when we're in public. And I think the political leaders across the board should model that behavior.

BLITZER: New research published today, Governor, shows that your stay- at-home order kept coronavirus hospitalizations down significantly. How does that impact your thinking now on the next reopening steps?

POLIS: Well, we finally dipped under 400 hospitalizations, a milestone for us. Just over a thousand deaths in Colorado. Nothing to celebrate, Wolf. You never celebrate that 400 people are sick in the hospital or that a thousand have died.

At the same time, you know, it's a moment of reflection that it would have been a lot worse had not Americans and Coloradoans made the extraordinary efforts to stay at home, to avoid going out except when they needed to. And because of that success, because of wearing masks, because of staying 6 feet apart from others, we're able to get back to something a lot closer to normal, sooner rather than later.

BLITZER: Well good luck out there in Colorado, governor. We appreciate you joining us. Jared Polis, the Governor of Colorado, thanks as usual.

POLIS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, the U.S. right now on the verge of 100,000 coronavirus deaths. Why is the loss of life here in the United States so much higher than in other countries?

Plus, Disney World and SeaWorld now planning to reopen in some form in the coming weeks. How can they ensure that families who come and visit will be safe?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:18:18]

BLITZER: The breaking news, the U.S. coronavirus death count is just about to pass 100,000. Right now, 99,983. It will be a social, medical, and political milestone, a very unfortunate one in U.S. History. Over three months, 100,000 Americans have passed away from the coronavirus.

Let's get the perspective of our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger along with former Acting CDC Director Dr. Richard Besser and our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. So, about to pass 100,000, Gloria, typically this would be a time, a moment when Americans turn to the President of the United States for guidance. But that's not necessarily a role we're seeing from the President right now.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No. This would be a moment under normal circumstances when you want the President to be the pastor-in-chief of the country, and to make people feel as if those they've lost are important. And it's when you want a president to talk to Americans and say, look at what we have been through, and being hopeful about where we're going to come out of this.

And instead, sad to say, I think we have a President who wants to divert from the number 100,000, which is very hard to divert from. We've seen it all over the front pages of newspapers, for example. And he's trying to change the subject. When he talks about 100,000, he says, well, it could have been a million, it could have been 2 million. And instead of talking about that number and talking to the American people about how he knows how difficult this has been for everyone and acknowledging the suffering, this is a President who is trying to change the subject.

[17:20:07]

And so he's tweeting conspiracy theories. He's tweeting about twitter. And everything else under the sun. And tweeting about his enemies, tweeting about the media, instead of offering some solace to the American people. And that's sorely lacking here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Lack of empathy, that's what we're seeing in part. You know, Sanjay --

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: -- look at these numbers. The United States, compared to some other countries, you can see the U.S. now approaching 100,000. Germany has had 8,428. Japan, only 846. South Korea, 269. Japan and South Korea, they were hit very early as well, end of February, early March. They managed to keep it down. What did they do differently than what we do?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, South Korea, the first patient that was confirmed to have COVID in South Korea was on the same day the first patient was confirmed in the united states, just to give you a sense of the timeline. And obviously South Korea is I think one-sixth maybe the size of the United States, one-seventh the size. But to, you know, fewer than 300 deaths, not fewer than 3,000 or 30,000, fewer than 300 deaths.

So, a lot of it had to do with just the pace at which they acted, Wolf. I mean, it wasn't like they had some sort of magic therapeutic or a vaccine or something else that we didn't have access to. I think it was that very quickly, they acted. They tested very early, they used the World Health Organization test, which was been made widely available at that time. That's a test that we decided not to use in this country.

CDC was creating their own test which ultimately had some flaws. That release set things back, Wolf. I mean, it's not just a question of the action, it's a question of when that action was performed. And the earlier -- those actions are performed, testing and staying at home orders, things like that, the payoff in terms of saving lives and reducing infections would have been significant. Hopefully we've learned this lesson because there's an important lesson in here, and maybe one that we have to apply again soon.

BLITZER: Yes. Japan, I remember, very, very early, shut down all their schools, not just in Tokyo but throughout the whole country. And everybody was wondering, why are they going that far? But they obviously knew what they were doing.

Dr. Besser, you're the former Acting Director of the CDC. When you see how the United States compares to these other countries, when you watch the death toll now almost at 100,000, what goes through your mind?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: Well, you know, there's another piece to it. You know, Sanjay hit the testing component which is so critically important. But there's another thing that these countries did that we still haven't done, and that's ensuring that everyone who's identified has a case or everyone who's had contact with a case is provided with a safe place to isolate or quarantine.

You know, if all you're doing is testing and contact tracing, what you're; going to do is identify the people who are spreading disease. But you're not going to be able to prevent it. What we've done is we identified people who were positive through testing, and we send them home.

And if you're lucky enough to live in a place where you can be separate from the rest of your family, then yes, maybe the disease won't spread. But for millions of people, and particularly people of color, low-income people, we've sent people home to spread this disease. And that just shouldn't be.

You know, these countries have taken a national approach. So if someone is positive, there's a central national body that is providing a place for people to quarantine, with the economic support and the food support, so that everyone can do that.

BLITZER: And very quickly, Dr. Besser, a lot of these countries, whether Japan or Singapore or Taiwan, South Korea, there's a history of wearing face masks, and they started wearing face masks right away, didn't they?

BESSER: Yes. You know, and face masks are definitely a part of this. We've learned a lot, especially because of the percentage of people who may spread this before they have any symptoms, whatsoever. If someone is symptomatic and stays home, and that was the only way it was spreading, face masks wouldn't have such a big role.

But what Dr. Fauci is saying in terms of the importance of face masks, both in terms of prevention but also symbolism, saying I want to do everything so that 100,000, we don't hit that again. This should be a solemn moment of recommittal to doing everything in our power to ensure that we limit the disease progression and limit the number of future deaths.

BLITZER: Yes. Whatever we can do. All right, Dr. Besser, thank you so much. Gloria, Sanjay, stand by, we've got more coming up.

Also coming up, another breaking story we're following. Bad weather forced NASA to scrub this afternoon's historic launch of a SpaceX capsule carrying U.S. astronauts. We'll get a live update.

And later, a troubling report about the suspicion, disrespect, and hostility toward of all people.

[17:25:01]

Doctors who are trying to treat coronavirus patients. It's happening every day in Russia.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:30:02]

BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The U.S. coronavirus death count is approaching 100,000, right now 99,983. We're going to have more on that in a few moments.

But there's other breaking news we want to tell you. About just a little while ago, bat weather forced a delay in the first manned launch from U.S. soil in nine years. Let's go to CNN's Rachel Crane. She's over at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Rachel, a very disappointing day for NASA.

RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, but also pretty typical for these crewed launches. They are often scrubbed due the weather because so many things have to go just right in order to get these guys off the ground because of course safety is of the utmost importance. It's not just here at Kennedy Space Center where they monitor the weather, it's all across the ascent path, just in case a rescue operation has to be deployed.

But today, it was the weather at the Kennedy Space Center that did, in fact, scrubbed the launch, 16 minutes and 54 seconds from countdown. Now, this was an instantaneous launch window, meaning it had to happen right on time in order for it to take off. So the crew dragon could rendezvous with the international space station, 250 miles above earth, 19 hours after lift-off.

And Bob and Doug were already strapped into the capsule. The hatch was closed. They were, you know, loading over a million pounds of propellant into the rocket when this launch was scrubbed. So, you know, everybody all across the globe very excited for the next launch window, which will be on Saturday at 3:22 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. And if, once again, Mother Nature is not on our side then, there is a backup to the backup, Wolf, that will be on Sunday. Back you to.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Thanks very much. Rachel Crane on the scene for us. Meanwhile also in Florida, not very far away, some of the largest tourist attractions are planning to reopen in the coming weeks. The mayor of Orange County, Jerry Demings is joining us right now. Mayor, thank you for joining us.

Let's discuss what's happening in Orange County. You have endorsed the plans to put forth by Disney World to open up on July 11th. July 11th, not very far down the road. How can you ensure that the families who will visit will be safe?

MAYOR JERRY DEMINGS (D), ORANGE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Well, first, let me say thank you for having me on the show. We're excited to have our major theme parks reopening here in the area. Of course, we have sat with the Disney executives and they walked us through really the different screenings and sanitation protocols that they have put in place to guarantee that the guests who will patronize the facilities will be safe.

Here in our community, we have a very, very low positivity rate. We have tested some 67,000 people in our community and 1,877 of them have tested positive which means that we have a positivity rate of 2.8 percent. So when we put that in perspective and compare ourselves to other metropolitan areas around the country is very low.

Our goal is to keep it low, but we want to also reopen our economy to the extent that we can. And so we are excited about Walt Disney World reopening and the sanitation managers will allow that to be a safe process.

BLITZER: All right. So let's talk a little bit about trying to keep it safe. There are going to be certain restrictions, it's not going to be business as usual. When -- and Disney World open, SeaWorld is supposed to open in mid June, right. Let's talk a little bit about those restrictions.

We puts up some up on the screen, reduced capacity, face mask for employees and all guests. Temperature checks for anyone walking and no parades or fireworks up. This is going to be very, very different.

DEMINGS: It is going to look different than what you will customarily see at any of those theme parks. But it's something that will still allow the guests to have a good experience. And so I believe that with the touch list, the cash list types of systems that they will be putting in place, it should preclude the virus from being able to easily spread between human beings.

BLITZER: But do you worry, Mayor, that a huge number of tourists showing up in your county could possibly bring in from outside a whole bunch of new cases?

DEMINGS: That certainly is a concern of ours. However, throughout our community, we have tried to ensure that we have a mask and the availability of hand sanitizers and other things in place here within our community. So if you visit here, you will see the majority of the people who will be using the personal protective equipment. And so because of that, I believe that we're able to control it to a large extent.

And I will have to say this. Back in mid March when Walt Disney World made the decision to close its parks, it was monumental because that is the largest single site employer in North America with 77,000 employees at one site.

[17:35:12]

When they made the decision to close their doors, the other theme parks followed suit. And that helped us to really stop the spread of the virus in its tracks. And we continue to certainly have it within our community, but at 2.8 percent positivity rate, we have seen the majority of individuals who have tested positive for the virus recovering in our community.

84 percent to 85 percent of the people who have tested positive have not recovered from the virus. So we still have -- that means that we have somewhere around 300 people in our community who still have active symptoms from the virus itself.

BLITZER: Even if you recover sometimes they're going to be long term impact, a long term impact on your health because of this coronavirus, there's so much of it we still don't fully understand. Hotels, restaurants are they now getting ready to fully reopen as well?

DEMINGS: Our restaurants open at a reduced capacity. They're at 50 percent of what the total occupancy levels were allowed under the current state of emergency here within the area. So we're gradually seeing people feel comfortable re-engaging within the community and feeling comfortable go out. We have a number of them who enjoy the outdoor seating or dining at our restaurants.

In terms of the hotels, many of them are remain close at this point, but they are looking to reengage as people will travel here to hopefully participate in some of the adventures and theme attractions that we have here. We should see the numbers began to increase.

Again, it is certainly our desire to stop the spread of the virus within our community. So we can't do that without an abundance of support from the people who live here. And by and large, because of peer pressure, we're getting the cooperation to wear the mask and do all those things that we need to keep everybody safe.

BLITZER: Mayor Jerry Demings in Orlando, Florida, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck to everyone over there. Let's hope it works out. We'll be watching very closely. Thanks as usual.

DEMINGS: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Coming up, they're risking their lives battling the coronavirus often without adequate protective gear. So why are some doctors -- we're talking about doctors in Russia complaining they're being treated like traders and villains.

And later, the medical and political hurdles facing planners for both the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions in August. Should they be held at all?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:42:33]

BLITZER: Here in the United States, doctors and frontline medical workers are regarded as heroes because of all the risks they face as they battle the coronavirus pandemic. But shockingly, it's a completely different story right now in Russia. CNN's Matthew Chance is watching these developments stuff from London for us. And Matthew, why are Russian doctors having such a hard time?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a good question and look, you know, Russia still has one of the highest numbers of coronavirus infections in the world. Latest official figures say it's more than 370,000. As we've been saying, that places an enormous pressure on the country's medical services. Tonight, we spoke directly to Russian doctors about the challenges that they face.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE (voice-over): They're under pressure like never before, but instead of being applauded, like in the West, doctors in Russia say they're facing mistrust, even open hostility as they battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Doctors like Tatyana Revva, an intensive care specialist reported to the police after this video about equipment shortages was posted on social media. Now she tells CNN she fears being fired, even prosecuted after investigators gave her hospital the all clear.

DR. TATYANA REVVA, RUSSIAN DOCTOR: Because of my video, they decided to check the availability of PPE and ventilators. But the check was carried out a month after I flagged the problems. You can imagine how much had been purchased and a month after the buzz the video made.

CHANCE (voice-over): The desperation of Russian doctors and the overwhelming pressure on them has emerged as a grim theme in this country's pandemic. One of these stressed out medics was questioned by police for spreading false information after complaining about shortages in his hospital. The other on the left sustained severe head injuries, falling out of a window. Two other doctors infamously died in similar circumstances.

Public disdain may be one factor driving them to despair, not helped by rampant coronavirus conspiracy theories, some propagated on Russian state television. And let's say a significant proportion of Russians believe the virus has been invented by doctors to control society. Others, that doctors are hiding the true extent of casualties from the public. Either way, this information is corroding public trust in Russia's medical profession.

[17:45:03]

ALEXANDRA ARKHIPOVA, ANTHROPOLOGIST, RANEPA: Many people of course see doctors as heroes but from many of Russian society, doctors are traitors or villains because they are participating in this hidden plants for controlling people. People don't believe in state medicine. They only believe in doctors who they know personally.

CHANCE (voice-over): But it's the coronavirus itself that's killing Russian doctors on mass. Official figures put the number at just over 100 so far, but health care workers have compiled a list of more than 300. Even the government admits nearly 10,000 medical staff are now infected. Including Dr. Stella Korchinskaya, an X-ray specialists who says she was given practically no means of protection at her hospital and had to abort appealed to an opposition back to Doctors Union for equipment. It didn't go down well with the hospital administrators who deny any shortcomings.

DR. STELLA KORCHINSKAYA, RUSSIAN DOCTOR: They recorded me on video while the deputy head doctor started asking, where was that PPE? At the moment, the PPE was being sneaked into the hospital, but I told them it was at my home so they wouldn't find it. We gave it out later that night. Then I got sick so they didn't have time to discipline me.

CHANCE (voice-over): You know it's bad when infection with coronavirus feels like a lucky escape.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: Wolf, all these horror stories about the treatment of doctors is contributing to a general sense that the authorities just haven't handled the pandemic in Russia very well. It's having an impact on popularity ratings. Vladimir Putin, the Russian President now seeing popularity ratings of 59 percent, the lowest they've ever been.

BLITZER: Awful situation indeed. Matthew Chance, thanks for that report.

Coming up, very serious questions about the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions this summer. Can they really be held safely right in the middle of a pandemic?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:52:04]

BLITZER: Very sad breaking news. We can report right now very, very sad. An important and very grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic. The United States has just surpassed 100,000 confirmed deaths because of the coronavirus, 100,047 right now, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Let's bring in our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger. Sanjay, these are not just numbers, these are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. Now more than 100,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus in less than three months. It's hard to grasp on to that, but it's such an awful, awful number.

GUPTA: Yes, Wolf. I mean, I think that we've sort of seen this coming now for some time these projections. But when it happens, it makes it no less painful, no less tragic.

Wolf, you've been talking about some of these people on your program at the end of every show and, you know, I've known people who have died from this disease, seen a lot of patients who've gotten sick and it's very real for people out there. I think, sometimes if you're watching this on television, you forget that part of it. They say one in seven people will likely know someone who has died from this COVID disease.

So it's tough, and there's -- it's a bad virus, it's a contagious lethal virus. We know this it leads to terrible news like this. But I can tell you as well, Wolf, there are some lessons to be learned, because there's other countries where the death toll was not as significant. And that's not a criticism comparison at this point. It is the clarion call to say that we must learn these lessons now because we may have to apply these lessons soon.

Again, Wolf, what worked in other places, what can we learn? How do we keep these numbers from continuing to go up?

BLITZER: Because it's clear, Sanjay that 100,000 is awful. But the numbers are going to continue to increase that University of Washington Medical School model that estimate, they're projecting by August 4th, it could go up to more than 140,000. And we've spoken several times to Dr. Christopher Murray, who is in charge of that projection and he says, that won't be the end of it. Either in early August, it's still going to continue to go up.

GUPTA: Yes, I think that's right. And, you know, Chris Murray has made this point and his projections go until the beginning of August, but it's clear that the virus is out there, and it's a contagious virus. And in certain situations, can be a deadly virus.

So you know, we know this and there's certainly things that can be done to greatly reduce the growth of that. And we know the numbers are going to go up and how fast they go up, the pace of that growth is something that can be addressed. Again, you know, these critical comparisons, there's going to be time to look back. I think now we have to be looking forward.

[17:55:02]

But South Korea, a country that's about one-sixth, one-seventh the size of our country, they have fewer than 300 people who have died. Their first patient was diagnosed on the same day the first patient was diagnosed in the United States.

And again, that's going to come off -- as a doctor, I'm not trying to draw those comparisons for the sake of criticism, but rather than what did they do? If there is a second wave, what can we learn? Because it looks like there may be a second wave of this disease.

And I think it goes without saying at this point, Wolf, we can do a lot better even short of having a new medication or a vaccine. There are things that we could clearly do better. How do you explain fewer than 300 deaths in a country of 50 million to 60 million people? We should learn.

BLITZER: Yes. And Gloria, let's put those numbers back on the screen right now. You can see the United States now over 100,000 confirmed deaths here in the United States, 100,047 to be precise. Japan had the first -- its first test around the same time as the U.S. did at the end of February, early March. They have 846 confirmed deaths nearly three months later. South Korea, Sanjay points out, 269 confirmed deaths. And you have to say to yourself, what did they do differently as opposed to the United States?

BORGER: Well, I think that's a question that's going to continue to be asked, Wolf, because we have the highest number of deaths. We are a large country. And we're -- as the doctors are going to do and Sanjay was just talking about this, you have to talk about what this country did right and what this country did wrong.

But I think this is a moment to sort of stop and pause and think about the people that we've lost in this country. And what that means to us and how we deal with that. And this is where national leadership comes in. And this is where our leaders have to help us get through this and help us mourn. And then help us figure out how we don't have to go through this again, and how we come out of the other end of this hole.

And I think obviously, that's going to be part of the presidential debate. But right now, I think people are having a hard time. I know I I'm, Wolf, trying to get your arms around the notion of 100,000 Americans dead.

BLITZER: And the numbers, Sanjay, are going to continue to increase. And as Dr. Fauci pointed out on CNN earlier today, even as we reopen significant parts of the country, all 50 states are now going through at least some initial stages of reopening. He says we're not going to know for two weeks, three weeks, maybe four weeks, what the impact of that is going to be in terms of new cases.

GUPTA: When people get exposed now, it may be some time before they develop any symptoms, if they're going to develop symptoms. And sometime after that, typically when they can get tested, if they can get tested. So that's really where that lag period comes in. And when you're looking at the number of infections at any given time, you have to sort of think about that as being a snapshot from two to three weeks ago by the same rationale.

And so I think, you know, it's really becomes a question. When you look at the curve, are we behind it, are we in front of it? Do we feel like we can control things if patients start to become infected? Do we have -- I mean, we've been beating the drum on testing everyone has for a long time. There's a reason.

If you start to reopen, and you can rapidly test people, figure out who has the infection, isolate them, trace contacts appropriately, that's how you prevent what will undoubtedly be a few infections I think will occur no matter what when you start to reopen. That's how you prevent it from going into exponential growth.

BLITZER: Yes, that's what they did in South Korea. GUPTA: Because if one person starts to spread --

BLITZER: Yes.

GUPTA: -- it can -- thousands of people could be affected.

BLITZER: What they did in South Korea and in Japan, a lot of testing, a lot of, you know, contact tracing.

All right, everybody standby, we're going to sneak in a one-minute commercial break. Our breaking news coverage continues right after this.

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