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THE SITUATION ROOM
President Trump Holds Coronavirus Briefing; California Tops 400,000 Total Cases with 7,700-Plus Deaths; Trump: Pandemic Will Probably Get Worse Before It Gets Better; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Is Interviewed To React On President Trump's First Coronavirus Media Briefing Since April. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 21, 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: We are following breaking news on President Trump's first coronavirus briefing since April, largely scripted remarks that ended a short while ago with some questions and answers.
He warned, the pandemic will probably get worse before it gets better, even as he's been that downplaying the crisis for months. And he said masks are effective, yes, are effective, in stopping the spread of the virus. But he himself clearly wasn't wearing a mask.
At this hour, the nation is nearing four million confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 141,000 deaths. While the spread and the scope of the pandemic remains alarming, there is -- there is a potentially encouraging sign tonight. The rate of new cases is holding steady or falling in about 25 states, just as many states as where infections are still rising.
But let's not forget, hundreds, hundreds of Americans are dying every single day.
Let's begin this hour with CNN's Nick Watt, who's in Los Angeles for us.
Nick, the U.S. is nearing, as I said, four million confirmed coronavirus cases tonight. But that number, we're now told by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that number may actually be a lot higher.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A lot higher, Wolf.
Just we have long known that the actual number of COVID cases out there is way higher than the official count, and the CDC has tried to really put some numbers to that. They have released this study. And they say now that they think that, in Philadelphia, for example, the actual number of cases could be seven times the official count, inside Florida, 11 times, in Missouri, 24 times.
And, nationally, they estimate maybe 10 times. So, as you said, we're officially approaching four million. We might actually be approaching 40 million. And right now, Wolf, we have got some serious situations in different parts of this country. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
WATT (voice-over): Down on the border, one Texas county just ordered everyone to stay home again, after 34 deaths in just 24 hours.
DR. IVAN MELENDEZ, HIDALGO COUNTY HEALTH AUTHORITY: We're a hot spot in a hot spot of a hot spot. The United States is a hot spot. Texas is a hot spot. And we're a hot spot of Texas.
WATT: In nearby Cameron County, they say the death toll is higher than their official count because they just can't keep up with this virus.
JUDGE EDDIE TREVINO JR., CAMERON COUNTY, TEXAS: It's not slowing down because there's a presidential election at the end of the year. The virus doesn't care. Do you? Do you care?
WATT: Similar story in Florida, right now averaging over 10,000 new cases a day, 54 hospitals and 27 counties now completely out of ICU beds. But the governor will not change course.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We're going to get through it. I think we are on the right course.
WATT: But Miami is closing all cities summer camps after several kids tested positive. So, schools?
DR. JEROME ADAMS, SURGEON GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: The biggest determinant of whether or not we can go back to school actually has little to nothing to do with the actual schools. It's your background transmission rate.
WATT: Missouri now seeing, on average, four times the new cases every day compared to late May. But the governor wants schools open. And the kids?
GOV. MIKE PARSON (R-MO): And if they do get COVID-19, which they will, and they will when they go to school, they're not going to the hospitals. They're not going to have to sit in doctor's offices. They're going to go home. And they're going to get over it.
WATT: Not necessarily. And who are they spreading it to at home?
Meanwhile, still long lines for tests in too many places. One leading lab says some results are taking up to two weeks.
JUDGE CLAY JENKINS (D), DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS: We have never had enough testing. The federal testing is way too slow. That's why we had to get rid of it.
WATT: But there are some early signs that what the American people are doing, masks, et cetera, is helping. First time in a week the U.S. dropped below 60,000 new cases in a day, but it's all relative. Hundreds are still dying every day. And it's regional, Idaho largely spared in the spring, been climbing alarmingly midsummer.
Today or tomorrow, California will probably surpass New York as the state with the most confirmed cases.
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We have to minimize our mixing. We have to minimize the transmission of this disease, be as vigilant as possible, to work through the next few critical weeks.
WATT: And nationwide probably for many months to come.
DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH: We're still at the beginning of this pandemic. That's what I find so difficult.
Most people are already done with it. They're over. They have decided they are not going to do anymore. Well, they don't get to choose. The virus chooses.
WATT: Now, Wolf, an interesting study just out of the Netherlands suggesting that if 90 percent of us wore masks, social distanced, wash our hands, then we could pretty much see the back of this pandemic, without a vaccine, without therapeutics.
But, as you know, it's a big if. Will enough people actually put these on?
BLITZER: You have just got to do. It's not that hard. Just wear a mask.
Nick Watt, thank you very much.
Now to the president's first coronavirus media briefing in months.
Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, the president is trying to show more of a leadership role right now when it comes to the pandemic. He did so -- send some mixed messages, though. So, first of all, what is he saying about masks?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
This was a more restrained President Trump at times. He was more scripted. He was reading off of notes during this 27-minute press conference in the White House Briefing Room, but he also veered off of script in ways that were probably maddening for White House officials and also for fact-checkers.
First, on the issue of masks, the president was sticking to some of the advice coming in from public health experts that people around this country -- and they have been saying this for weeks and weeks and weeks now, unlike the president -- that people should wear masks when they go outside with this deadly virus wreaking havoc.
And so the president at one point was passing on that advice to the American people, telling people that they should steer clear of crowded bars as well. And here's what he had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're instead asking Americans to use masks, socially distance and employee vigorous hygiene. Wash your hands every chance you get, while sheltering high- risk populations.
We are imploring young Americans to avoid packed bars and other crowded indoor gatherings. Be safe and be smart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: A couple of things about that comment from the president, Wolf.
One thing we should point out, while the president is telling people to stay away from crowded bars, he's been inviting people to come, thousands of people to come, to crowded rallies, like the one he had in Tulsa, Oklahoma, earlier this year.
And as for wearing masks, he's only recently embraced this idea. As we know, for many, many weeks, he had been scoffing, almost scoffing at the idea of wearing masks, making fun of former Vice President Joe Biden for wearing masks when he goes and holds campaign events.
But the president at times was offering a more sobering analysis of where things stand right now with COVID-19, saying that he thinks and that the experts are telling him that it's going to get worse before it gets better in this country. And here's what he had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Some areas of our country are doing very well. Others are doing less well. It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better, something I don't like saying about things. But that's the way it is. It's the way -- it's what we have. You look over the world, it's all over the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: But, at the same time, Wolf, there are other points during this press conference where he was off-script and he was saying things, going back to his talking points, that the virus is just going to disappear, when health experts say that is just not the case, and also making the comment early on in this press conference that the U.S. has done much better than the rest of the world or most other countries around the world, when that is just not the case, when you look at what's happening with comparable countries in Western Europe and over in Asia. At the same time, Wolf, we should know there were some big inconsistencies during this press conference. Earlier in the day, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, at one point said that the president is sometimes tested multiple times a day for the coronavirus.
The president said during this press conference that is not the case. And one other thing we should point out, Wolf, the president was there solo at this press conference. He didn't have Dr. Deborah Birx. He didn't have Dr. Anthony Fauci. Fauci told our Jake Tapper earlier today that he wasn't planning on being at the press conference, that he wasn't invited to this press conference.
And Dr. Deborah Birx was actually at the White House. And at one point, the president acknowledged to a reporter in the room that she was waiting outside of the Briefing Room. The president did not, obviously, want to have her in that Briefing Room and share the stage with her, somebody who is a public health expert and could pass on reliable information to the American people.
One final thing, Wolf, the president, obviously, when he goes off- script, he sometimes can't help himself. And we saw that towards the end of that press briefing when he was asked about the case of Ghislaine Maxwell, the accomplice, alleged accomplice, of the dead financier Jeffrey Epstein in sex trafficking cases around the country.
At one point, the president said in response to a question about that case that he wishes Maxwell well.
Wolf, you can almost hear White House officials behind the scene, campaign officials across town tearing their hair out when they hear the president make that kind of comment -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure they were.
All right. Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
So let's break down all the latest coronavirus developments.
Dr. Ashish Jha is joining us, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.
Dr. Jha, thank you so much for joining us.
So, in the president's briefing, this first briefing in, what, about three months, he acknowledged that things will get worse before they get better, but he still seemed to be in denial about the reality of the challenges the country is still facing.
What stood out to you?
DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes, Wolf, thanks for having me on.
It was good to have the president address the pandemic and the crisis that we are all in. I thought there were some parts that were highlights. I like the fact that he acknowledged the importance of wearing masks. I like the fact that he acknowledged that things are likely to get worse.
Unfortunately, there was also a certain amount of misinformation about how great America is doing, for instance, and how, for other people -- for many people, it's not a big deal at all.
I think, so it's just an inconsistent messaging that's a challenge here. But I did think, overall, it was a step forward to start putting some more federal attention on this national crisis.
BLITZER: How effective, Dr. Jha, can these news briefings really be if the public health experts aren't included?
JHA: You know, I think back to other presidents and other outbreaks that we have had, obviously nothing like this, but they have -- while the presidents might have come out in the past, like President Bush or President Obama, and said a few words, they have been led by public health leaders, like CDC directors or Dr. Fauci.
That is really important. If I could do one thing to deal with this pandemic in our country, it would be to have a consistent public health message. And it's very hard when it's coming from this president.
BLITZER: The president did encourage, as you pointed out correctly, to wear masks. He said, whether you like the masks or not, they do have an impact -- his words.
Is that a step -- that is an important step in the right direction, because all of the studies have shown that if 90-95 percent of the people when they went outside, when they were with other people, wore a mask, that would save thousands of American lives.
JHA: Yes, wearing masks is one of the, like, cheap and easy things that can really make a big difference.
I mean, we have been struggling with getting our testing infrastructure going. We have got all these other issues. Wearing masks, relatively inexpensive, relatively easy for people to do. And if everybody did it, it would make a very large difference.
And so that's been one of the most maddening things is, we have not had consistent messaging on something that is so effective and so easy to pull off.
BLITZER: And he said -- and I'm quoting him now -- he said: "We did a lot of things, right" -- his words. "We did a lot of things right in responding to this crisis."
He repeated his line that the virus eventually is going to disappear. Does it sound like he's really grasping how much longer all of us in this country, indeed, people all over the world, are going to have to fight this virus? JHA: Yes, I know it's going to be painful for people to hear this, but we are still early in the pandemic. We're nowhere near the halfway mark, in my mind.
We still have a long way to go. And it's good to hear at least a sense from the president that the pandemic is not behind us. And if he can back that up with consistent messaging about how to get through it, I think we will all be better off for it.
BLITZER: The country is approaching four million confirmed cases of the virus, although there will be many more that have not necessarily been confirmed, people who are asymptomatic, for example.
But we did see the daily number of confirmed cases dip yesterday below 60,000. That would be a small sign that maybe we're making some progress. Is that right?
JHA: Yes, look, I'm hopeful that might be right.
And there are two ways that I'm looking at it. When I look at the data, I'm also seeing real constraints in our testing. And our testing is hitting a wall. And that may be some of the reasons we're maybe not picking up all the cases.
But the second thing is, there's pretty good evidence that people are starting to pull back. So people are going out to restaurants less in these hot zones. They are going out to other kinds of -- they're doing less other stuff.
And that may be also helping. And, of course, people are wearing masks. So, all three of those things may be part of the reason. But it's a small blip. We're going to have to watch this over the next few days to see if it really holds up.
BLITZER: You're absolutely right.
Dr. Jha, as usual, thank you so much for joining us.
JHA: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, just ahead, we will have more on the president's sudden appeal for Americans to start wearing masks, as he again fails to wear one himself at a little event at his hotel in D.C. last night. You see a crowd there. He wasn't wearing a mask.
And I will get the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's reaction to the president's remarks and get the latest on negotiations for another coronavirus aid package that is so critical.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're back with all the breaking news on President Trump's first coronavirus media briefing since April, as the U.S. nears now four million confirmed coronavirus infections.
We're joined by our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.
Dana, it was good to hear the president certainly encourage people to go out and wear masks and urge young people especially not to gather in crowded indoor bars and other places. But this advice certainly runs contrary to so much of what we heard -- we have heard from the president himself over these months, and so much different than what he has actually done over these past few months.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and did or didn't do it last night at his own fund-raiser.
Look, I think you're exactly right. And we should underscore that what everybody who have -- we have been talking about the interest of public health -- has been begging for is leadership on the question of masks. And the president gave what everybody has been asking for, including and especially people like Dr. Gupta here, who has been arguing that this really does help mitigate the virus.
What you -- one has to ask is what this would have looked like had the president gone along with his own federal guidelines from the CDC, which they put out three months ago, in April, saying what he said today?
How would things look different today? Probably pretty different, if he would have done that, as opposed to mocking people like Joe Biden for wearing a mask, telling the press corps when they asked about the mask that he wouldn't give them the satisfaction of wearing a mask, and turning it into a culture war issue that he really, really dove into.
We don't know the answer that. We can just say we're glad that he changed his mind. Better late than never.
BLITZER: I think it's fair to say, Sanjay, that if the president three months ago would have said, wear a mask, everyone must wear a mask, you see, I'm wearing a mask, if he would have done that, set an example, I think it's fair to say a lot of Americans would be alive today, as opposed to being dead.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question, Wolf, I think.
And that's obviously the toughest part of it. I mean, we will look back on these numbers and say, sadly, how many of these deaths were preventable deaths, Wolf? I mean, I don't think we would have had to come back to having these task force briefings anymore, because we'd be in a much different place in the United States.
It's worth pointing out -- and we always be careful when we're comparing to other countries, because every country is different. But there's no country around the world that had things that we didn't have, potentially, in terms of testing, in terms of masks. And so many countries have done really well, really brought their curves down to near zero.
We could have been in a much different place in this country. There's still work to do. So, hopefully -- hopefully, the masks will change. But what about the testing? Testing is still a huge problem in this country. And if we don't acknowledge that problem, I think it's going to be hard to get ahead there.
One thing that's sort of really striking out about testing is, now it's mainly being used as a way to flag the hottest spots in the country. That's what we're using it for. Here's a hot spot, here's a hot spot, here's a fire, here's a fire. That wasn't the point.
The point was, you should be able to use testing to bring the numbers down, to isolate people who are positive and quarantine their contacts. That was it. And, again, that's what other countries did, and it worked really successfully.
BLITZER: And if it takes a week or 10 to get results, that's almost useless in terms of any contact tracing that might eventually take place.
Dana, we know the president's pretty bad poll numbers in all the major recent polls played a role, probably a big role, in his decision to resume these kinds of news briefings.
But how much will it change if he just does a short appearance like this one, what, 27, 28 minutes, whatever it was, without putting out a real national plan to fight this virus?
BASH: It's a great question. The people around him argue it's better than nothing. But, at the end of the day, what everybody who is dealing with this -- and that is everybody that is not in states like Vermont, for example, which has been insulated in large part from this -- what they want to know is, when can they get back to normal, when can their kids go back to school, when can the economy pick back up?
All of the things that are so intertwined with the federal government's lack of a plan. That's what people want to know. So, the president politically coming out, engaging, certainly helps. It certainly is what his advisers, both inside and outside the White House, have been begging him to do.
But to talk without actually having some substance on what he plans to leave the country to do and to make changes, I'm not so sure how far that goes.
BLITZER: Yes, you're absolutely right.
All right, guys, stand by.
There's a lot more we're following. We're going to be getting a report on the crisis in Florida right now, where the coronavirus hospitalizations are rising, and they're rising sharply. Plus, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is standing by to join us live
to discuss the president's briefing and all the late-breaking developments in the pandemic.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: Right now, we have some new data coming into THE SITUATION ROOM showing the worsening crisis in the state of Florida.
Hospitalizations in Florida have risen 37 percent over the last 12 days, and 54 hospitals in that state now say they have reached ICU capacity.
CNN's Randi Kaye is following all these developments. She's joining us from West Palm Beach.
Randi, Florida is seeing a very sharp rise in hospitalizations, and ICUs us are overflowing across the state. Update our viewers on the latest.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, it took the state weeks of reporters pressing them to try and release this hospitalization data.
We finally did get it. They first started to release it on July 10. And in the 12 days since, we have now learned that hospitalizations have jumped more than one-third. So, on July 10, the number was 6,974. That's how many people were hospitalized here in the state of Florida, today, 9,520.
And ICU beds are certainly running low. In Miami-Dade, as you know, they are at capacity. They are well above capacity. They're turning regular beds into ICU beds.
The governor still saying, though, that we are on the right course. But we're also getting new information, Wolf, here in Palm Beach County of a huge gathering that will certainly knock us off course, if we're not there already, more than 600 people gathering in an area called Belle Glade, one of the hardest-hit areas of Palm Beach County, just a few days ago. It started as a block party.
Nobody was wearing face masks. Nobody was social distancing. There is a face mask mandate here in Palm Beach County, if you can't social distance. There also -- there's also a rule that says you can't gather more than ten people. This was 600 people, Wolf, in one block party.
And now, the county administrator is saying that she's not going to take a county curfew off the table for that area that this was a dangerous gathering that block parties are really breeding grounds for the coronavirus, so, certainly, a lot of concern. And it's hard to believe this is still going on when you look at the numbers here in Florida.
BLITZER: Yes, it's amazing. It's really hard to believe. All right, Randi, thank you very much, from Florida.
Let's head out to California, which just crossed another very grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic with a total of more than 400,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in California.
CNN's Stephanie Elam is joining us from Los Angeles. Stephanie, in just a few days, California is expected to actually top New York State for the most cases in the country over these past five months. So what's the latest?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, exactly. And when you'd look at the numbers overall here, we are holding steady but not at a place where you want to hold steady. It's still too high when you look at those numbers, the fact that we have surpassed this 400,000 level here in California.
Also, looking at the positive rate here in California, it's creeping up 7.5 percent over the last 14 days, also seeing a rise in hospitalization, saying same thing for the number of patients who are using ICU beds, those numbers creeping up as well.
What is also worth noting is I hear in Los Angeles County, which is the epicenter of the outbreak in the state, that we have had six days in a row where the new numbers coming out for hospitalizations have been above 2,100. There were more than 3,000 cases that were announced in the last bit of data that came out of here. But, again, this record number of hospitalizations for the fourth time in one week obviously is showing that this is where a big part of it is.
To bring this number down, they are really asking people to stay home, social distance, wear a mask, so much so in some of the municipalities around here. They are telling people they are patrolling and finding them if they don't have their masks on. This is all going back to what we've heard from Mayor Eric Garcetti, saying that we are the brink of another shutdown if people do not start doing their part. Wolf?
BLITZER: California, Florida, Texas, these are in deep, deep trouble right now with this coronavirus. Stephanie Elam, thank you very much.
Just ahead, I'll speak with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. I'll get her take on what we just heard from the president of the United States. We'll also get her take on Republican divisions emerging right now as far as a new stimulus package is concerned.
And will Americans get a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available? We'll take a look at some growing concerns that many Americans simply won't do it.
We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:35:00]
BLITZER: Tonight, Dr. Anthony Fauci is urging Americans to get a coronavirus vaccine once it becomes available even if it's not necessarily 100 percent effective. He says some protection is better than none. But many Americans are very skeptical. Brian Todd has more.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's what millions of us have been hanging our hopes on to get past this crushing pandemic, to return to work, to school, to go back to our favorite restaurants and bars, to work out at the gym, a deployable vaccine for coronavirus, which experts say could arrive late this year or early next.
But experts are now worried that when it comes, many Americans will reject the vaccine.
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Already, surveys are showing us that nearly half of the people are not inclined to take a COVID-19 vaccine even if it was available today. That's a shocking and it's deeply concerning.
TODD: In May, one poll from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed only about half of Americans said they'd get the vaccine. 20 percent said they wouldn't. 31 percent weren't sure. Other polls from CNN and The Washington Post and ABC News showed about two-thirds of Americans said they would get the vaccine.
Still, experts are worried tonight about any significant number of people rejecting the vaccine.
DR. PAUL OFFIT, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: If a large percentage chose not to get vaccine, then we would never get herd immunity.
TODD: Experts say there are several reasons that people don't trust a potential coronavirus vaccine.
ED YONG, SCIENCE WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: A lot of people are going to resist the very idea of getting it because they have been told for months, years now not to trust experts.
TODD: Until recently, President Trump went against the advice of his own task force experts and rejected mask-wearing. And during the pandemic, he's questioned the guidance of America's top scientists on reopening the country.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Dr. Fauci has made some mistakes and a little bit of an alarmist.
TODD: But the mistrust of a vaccine cannot just be placed only at the president's feet. Experts say the very name of the project to push the vaccine through fuels skepticism. OFFIT: I think when people hear the term, Warp Speed, they assume that steps are being skipped. They assume that there are corners that are being cut and therefore, this may be a vaccine, because it's being made so quickly, it's less than (INAUDIBLE). We have poor safety qualities report (INAUDIBLE).
TODD: Doctors acknowledge the vaccine likely won't be a magic bullet for coronavirus, that even after it comes out, it could be several months before we know how effective it is. But they have a simple stark message tonight for those who are rejecting it.
OFFIT: The choice not to get a vaccine is the choice of taking the real and very serious risk of being infected by this virus and being asked to suffer or be hospitalized or die from this virus.
TODD: But Dr. Paul Offit says a crucial part of this vaccine program is for the president, the task force, any leader involved in this to be as transparent as possible with the public about the vaccine even before it rolls out. And that means being honest with the American public about what our leaders know and don't know about the vaccine every step of the way. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian Todd, reporting, thanks very much.
Coming up, I will speak live with the speaker of the Souse, Nancy Pelosi, various here (ph). We have lots to discuss, including getting her reaction to what we just heard from the president
Also Republican divisions emerging at a new stimulus package. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We are following the breaking news on President Trump's first coronavirus media briefing since April.
Let's get reaction from the top Democrat in Congress. We're joined by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.
Speaker Pelosi, thank you so much for joining us.
We have lots to discuss. But let me start with the president's news conference he just had on the pandemic. He encouraged people to go ahead and wear a mask. He admitted things will get worse before they get better. He said, eventually, it's going to disappear.
How far do you think all that goes in addressing this crisis that's still killing hundreds of Americans every single day?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I think with the president's comments today, he recognized the mistakes that he has made by now embracing mask-wearing and the recognition this is not a hoax, it is a pandemic that has gotten worse before it will get better because of his inaction, and, in fact, clearly, it is the Trump virus.
BLITZER: Well, what do you mean when you say the Trump virus?
PELOSI: It's like (ph) virus. If they -- if he had said months ago, let's wear masks, let's not -- let's socially distance, instead of having rallies and political, whatever they were, then more people would have followed his lead. He's the president of the United States. Instead of being a bad example, making it like a manhood thing, not to wear a mask.
So, in any event, it was weird because a briefing on the coronavirus should be about science and that is something the president has ignored. It should be about governance, and now, he's finally embracing and saying, OK, it's OK to wear a mask. So, I think a good deal of what we have suffered is clearly the Trump virus.
BLITZER: So, what you're saying is that thousands of Americans have died because of what the president has done or not done. Is that what you're saying?
PELOSI: Yes. Yes, that's what I am saying. I think it's clearly evident. We're approaching 4 million, approaching 4 million infect -- people affected by this, infected by it. And a large number, you know, like 140,000 who have passed away.
If it's important to wear masks now, it would have been important to wear it in March, instead of telling us that by April, we'd all be going to church together. I wish that were the case.
PELOSI: But he had no scientific basis for that.
And so, if they don't return to science and governance, and that's the way that we can overcome this. We've hoped and prayed for a vaccine, God willing that will be soon, but when it comes -- it's still months away and people will die.
PELOSI: So, let's hope that the president comes closer to embracing the reality of this pandemic.
BLITZER: Let's look ahead --
PELOSI: This Trump virus.
BLITZER: Because I know you had a chance to meet today with the White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. You met with the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. You're discussing the next coronavirus-related stimulus package to help the American people.
First of all, what can you tell us about this meeting? Where do the negotiations stand now?
PELOSI: Well, I wouldn't call them negotiations. We, two months ago and one week, we passed the HEROES Act, which was a very -- it's a robust but necessary package to do -- honor our heroes by state and lo -- funding state and local governments for their costs of the coronavirus. Secondly, by opening our economy -- testing, testing, testing. Third, by putting money into the pockets of American people, unemployment insurance direct payments, et cetera, and then some other things.
Two months and one week ago, we worked a while on that legislation. Apparently, Republicans weren't doing much except taking a pause. So, what we said today, Leader Schumer and I said today, we have our offer on the table. It's called the HEROES Act. We need to see your bill to be put on the table.
We had -- we have a great piece of legislation. They seem to be in disarray. I don't know when they will get their act together, but they've had plenty of time to be thinking about this and this delay is unnecessary, because by the end of July, unemployment benefits will expire -- a number of moratoria on evictions will expire, many things will expire that are addressed in our legislation.
So, let's see what they have to offer.
BLITZER: I --
PELOSI: Then we can negotiate.
BLITZER: I know your bill, the price tag, you what, what, another $3 trillion or so bill.
BLITZER: So, Secretary Mnuchin is starting at $1 trillion. How do you bridge that $2 trillion difference and reach some sort of compromise?
PELOSI: We will. We will. But it will take about a trillion dollars to do state and local. It will take several hundred billion dollars to open up the economy by testing, testing, testing. And it's over a trillion dollars to do unemployment insurance and the direct payments, which they know that we have to do.
I think that they've been talking more about -- not in this meeting. I don't want you to get that impression. But others have said something closer to $2 trillion. So they're getting warmer.
BLITZER: When it comes to more money for testing which is so critical, so crucial, the president just said at his news conference, he said he's okay with it if that's what the doctors and professionals feel is needed. Is what that you also heard during your meeting today, that there will be a lot more money for testing?
PELOSI: Well, let me just say this. Our first bill, March 4th, was about testing, testing, testing. We've had it in other bills since then. They have not implemented it properly. We're so long overdue.
We talk about not wearing masks all spring, but we haven't been testing to the level that we should have been to really address and defeat this virus.
So, it's not just about putting more money there. It's about getting the job done. And to do that, we need equipment. We need equipment to test, people waiting because there's not enough equipment to get around to everyone who wants a test. Secondly, you have to have equipment to analyze the test. It's not just taking a test and then find out a week later or longer whether you are positive or negative.
It's obsolete already. Let's do it in 24 hours, 48 at the most. You need equipment to do that.
And to do all of it, including opening our schools, administering to the needs of people who are sick, we need PPE, personal protective equipment. So, equipment to test, equipment to measure the test and equipment to take care of meeting the needs of people.
This is -- we just don't have enough, and that's why -- that's one of the reasons why we're so far behind in testing no matter what the president says.
On this subject, he really distorts the number. He doesn't know, doesn't care or just decides to make up a number.
But we do need the Defense Production Act to be implemented by the president of the United States to say we need the equipment that we need to open our schools, to open our economy, to fight this virus.
BLITZER: Madam Speaker --
PELOSI: The Trump virus.
BLITZER: -- what do you tell the, what, 20 million or 25 million Americans who are about to lose that $600 weekly unemployment benefit? It goes away at the end of the week. The president just said they're thinking of doing, what, 70 percent of that amount?
Is 70 percent of that acceptable to you?
PELOSI: I don't know that the president said that. I mean, I don't know what he said about that. I think they were talking about 70 percent of income to be -- I just -- I don't -- well, we see -- as I said, it's no use having a conversation about something.
Seventy percent of what? Of the $600? Or 70 percent of their income?
That's why we have to see -- we have to see the bill. We have to see the proposal in writing. What does it mean?
But let me just say this: $600 -- that $600 means a great deal to the families who are receiving it. To some families, it's really a survival. It's a survival amount of money. Some people say, oh, $600, people aren't going to go to work if they get $600. Well, we have an expression as an appropriator, which I long (ph) was,
plural of anecdote is not data. You may know somebody who might not do that. But overall, this $600 means a lot to the families, America's working families.
And it cracks me up that they make a fuss over $600 when they were willing to spend nearly $2 trillion to add to the deficit to give tax breaks to the richest people in America, 83 percent of the benefits of that going to the top 1 percent.
So, you know, they're bolstering the stock market. OK. There's a floor to the stock market. Everybody knows it's not going below a certain price. That's OK.
Let's have a floor for America's working families.
BLITZER: All right.
PELOSI: And that's good for the economy.
BLITZER: Speaker Pelosi, as usual, thank you so much for joining us. I know you've got a lot going on.
PELOSI: My pleasure.
BLITZER: I appreciate it very much.
PELOSI: Thank you. Glad to be with you.
BLITZER: Thank you --
PELOSI: Thank you for what you're doing. Reveal the truth. Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you very much.
We're going to have more news just ahead.
BLITZER: Finally, our nightly tribute to some of the victims of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gloria Ann Hawkins of Mississippi was 64 years old. She travelled extensively with her husband of nearly 64 years as he served in the military and then as a minister. Devoted to their church and their family, she was affectionately called mom or nana by members of the congregation.
Michael Kaminski of New York also was 64. Born with Down syndrome, he competed in the special Olympics for swimming, loved music and dancing. His niece says he didn't have an easy life but he taught their family about the need for selfless love and kindness for all living things.
May they rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.