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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump Valet Tests Positive For Coronavirus; U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Passes 75,000. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 07, 2020 - 16:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Of course we do. And...

ERNIE JOHNSON, CO-HOST, "INSIDE THE NBA ON TNT": But we also know that we...


BALDWIN: I need to jump in.

JOHNSON: We have to be so -- we have to be so careful .


The hashtag, it's #NBAtogether, if you want to join the conversation.

Ernie Johnson, thank you,

Thank you all for being here. "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

One month ago, at this time, the number of lives that had been lost to coronavirus was just over 12,000. Right now, we just hit another grim milestone, passing 75,000, the death toll officially standing at 75,054.

Just for some perspective on that, take a look at this photo. This is Michigan State's Spartan Stadium. It holds just over 75,000 people, meaning there are more people that have died from coronavirus in this country than you see in this photo in just a few short months.

Weeks ago. Dr. Deborah Birx, who heads the White House Coronavirus Task Force, asked the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for specific guidelines for how businesses, schools, restaurants and such can responsibly reopen.

The CDC drafted a document. And CNN has learned the Trump administration has rejected that guidance. It's something of a theme here, the politicians pushing back against medical and scientific expertise.

Governors around the country are taking steps to reopen without having reached the benchmarks in the White House's guidelines. And while experts say widespread testing is key to saving lives and responsibly reopening, President Trump does not seem to grasp the concept, saying in the Oval Office yesterday -- quote -- "In a way, by doing all this testing, we make ourselves look bad."

We should clarify, that's testing for you that he's talking about. The White House tests its officials and visitors regularly.

In fact, a White House official confirms that a member of the U.S. Navy who serves as one of President Trump's personal assistants has tested positive for coronavirus. And this surveillance testing has allowed the White House to identify and now isolate that infected individual, keeping White House officials safer.

And good. They should. That's exactly what health experts want to do on a widespread basis, so it's not just White House officials and President Trump who can go to work and feel safe.

And, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, even though president just said he had very little contact with this Navy officer, the president will be tested daily now to make sure he is free of the virus that has infected more than 1.2 million Americans.



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, there is the first known case of coronavirus inside the West Wing.

TRUMP: Yes, it's a little bit strange.

COLLINS: A member of the U.S. Navy who serves as one of President Trump's personal valets has tested positive, upsetting President Trump when he found out and raising concerns about his own possible exposure.

The valets are members of an elite military unit assigned to the White House who work incredibly close to the president and the first family.

TRUMP: I have had very little contact, personal contact, with this gentleman, know who he is, good person, but I have had very little contact. Mike has had very little contact with him.

COLLINS: Sources tell CNN the unidentified male exhibited symptoms while on White House grounds this week, though it's unclear when he was last in the Oval Office.

In a statement, a White House spokesman told CNN: "The president and vice president have since tested negative for the virus, and they remain in great health."

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: The president is doing fantastically today, as is the vice president. COLLINS: Despite CDC guidance issued by his own administration, President Trump has resisted wearing a mask so far by citing how often he and his senior staff are tested.

As he hosted medical professionals at the White House yesterday, a reporter pointed out that no one was social distancing or covering their face.

TRUMP: Look, I'm trying to be nice. I'm signing a bill, and you criticize us.

COLLINS: The White House hasn't said whether today's news will change the president's behavior going forward, as one of his top aides deflected.

CONWAY: I think if anybody should start wearing masks and showing more respect, it should be the media.

COLLINS: According to the Associated Press, Trump has told advisers that wearing a mask would send the wrong message, as he focuses on reopening the country.

He says he wore one briefly in Arizona this week, before later removing it.

TRUMP: I had it on back -- backstage. But they said, you didn't need it.

COLLINS: CNN has also learned today that the CDC prepared detailed guidelines for reopening the country, but the White House rejected them and asked for changes. The guidelines put together by health experts offered more details about reopening schools, churches and restaurants.

But an administration official told CNN, the White House felt they were overly prescriptive because guidance in rural Tennessee shouldn't be the same as guidance for urban New York City.

The press secretary reiterated this week that the White House wants governors to implement their own guidelines.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have this beautiful concept called federalism, which means that the states lead on this.


COLLINS: Now, we should note that these valets to the president have not been wearing masks for the next -- for the last several weeks.

The question is whether or not today's news changes that. We do know what will be changing is, the president and the vice president are going from being tested weekly to now being tested daily. He said today, though, Jake, he did not answer questions about whether or not the West Wing is being deep-cleaned or whether or not he is going to quarantine for two weeks, as we know that health experts have recommended for people who come in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks so much.

Joining us now, Dr. Richard Besser. He's the former acting director of the CDC under the Obama administration, during the H1N1 crisis, we should note.

Dr. Besser, I want to tick through the CDC's six categories that they were issuing recommendations for. They were for child care programs, schools and day camps, communities of faith, employers with vulnerable workers, restaurants and bars, and mass transit administrators.

You have seen this guidance that the White House rejected. What did you make of it? Was it good advice?


As we're moving to reopen aspects of the economy, you want to do it slowly, carefully, and based on the best public health science and advice.

And what CDC pulled together here is really a terrific document that lays out for each of those settings what you should do during different phases, so when the cases are just going down, and then after a couple weeks, if they continue to go down, and so on.

This is the kind of guidance that states could use and adapt locally, based on the conditions that they're having in their states.

TAPPER: So, a Trump administration official told CNN that the guidelines were rejected because they were too prescriptive. And they also said -- quote -- "Guidance in rural Tennessee shouldn't be the same guidance for urban New York City."

Now, I guess that's true when it comes to if you're standing in the middle of a field vs. standing in Times Square. But should a restaurant in rural Tennessee, where there are fewer cases per capita than in New York, should that restaurant not adhere to these CDC recommendations that, for instance, the restaurant only operate at limited capacity?

BESSER: Well, CDC puts out recommendations, and it's up to states to then adopt those and decide whether to go forward with them.

But you would think that a restaurant that holds the same number of people in Tennessee that's in the same phase of the pandemic should do the same thing as a restaurant in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, where I am.

Jake, if we move forward with opening the economy without these kind of measures, if these are purely voluntary, if workplaces can decide for themselves what they're going to do, we're going to see the same burden put on the same populations, black Americans, Latinos, front- line workers, who have just been getting slammed during this pandemic.

They're going to be at risk if these kind of standards aren't adhered to.

TAPPER: Health care experts say, including you, that frequent and repeated testing is the key to reopening the economy. That way, the virus can be identified and isolated and that individual kept away, and it doesn't spread.

Yesterday, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said that the notion that everyone needs to be tested is simply nonsensical, because they will just need to be tested an hour later.

But the White House is deploying rapid-results testing for their own staff. President Trump is now going to be tested every single day.

So, I'm confused. There seem to be two different messages here. There's the testing that goes on at the White House, and then they don't think that the rest of us should be entitled to that same kind of protection.

And, look, obviously, the White House is not the same as your local office. But isn't that kind of testing what will enable us to get to a reopening of the economy?

BESSER: You know, there are different models in terms of how much testing should be scaled up.

And not everyone agrees that you should test everybody every day. I don't think that's the way to go. But you have to get to a point where you're able to test people even with the mildest of symptoms. And right now, we're -- in most places, the people who are being tested are people who are quite sick to determine, do they have COVID? Do they need to be hospitalized?

You want to be able to pick up people who have mild disease, because they -- they're going to do well. And, thankfully, most people who get COVID will do well. But those people can spread it to other people who may be at high risk.

So you want to be able to identify all those people, track the people they have had contact with and then, very importantly, provide safe places so that everybody can isolate or quarantine, and one new case doesn't lead to another little local outbreak.

TAPPER: But, Dr. Besser, how does that square with the fact that so many asymptomatic people are contagious? And, in fact, I have heard that it's possible people are most contagious when they're asymptomatic.


I don't know if President Trump's valet had any symptoms when he was tested and tested positive for coronavirus, but I have been told by other health officials that this kind of surveillance testing is what will enable us to isolate the virus.

Obviously, I don't -- as you noted, no one is saying every single person should be tested every single day. That's a straw man from the White House press secretary.

BESSER: Right.

TAPPER: But doesn't there need to be such widespread testing that people know, they can be confident that it's OK, it's safe to go to school, it's safe to go to work, it's safe to send your kids to camp?, because there has been testing and there's at least that kind of precaution?

BESSER: Yes, I mean, the issue of asymptomatic people is a really challenging one, Jake, because, at this point, we don't know what percentage that is, but there is evidence they can transmit.

For high-risk groups, so, in a nursing home, that would be a setting where I would say, yes, it makes a lot of sense to test people who are asymptomatic.

I think we're so far from even being able to test people with mild symptoms that discussing whether everyone -- everyone needs to be tested is not really very worthwhile.

But if we can get to the point of testing mild people, and do that contact tracing, which means building up that public health work force and isolating people, we will be able to knock this down to something that's manageable.

And that's the goal here. No one thinks that any of these measures are going to get rid of coronavirus, but if we can get it to a manageable level, so our health care system can take care of not just people who have coronavirus, but all of the people with medical conditions that haven't been treated because of all the effort around coronavirus, if we can get to that point, our economy can get back to work, not as it was three months ago, but to a level where more people have jobs, the economy is generating money, so that people can take care of their basic needs.

TAPPER: And we have seen this chart. It's a graph that shows everywhere in the country except for New York, and the numbers of coronavirus cases are going up. New York, it's going down, although that was the most severely hit place.

And yet most of these states are reopening, even though they have not met the White House guidelines for 14 straight days of the chart going down, of the number of new cases going down. That must concern you.

BESSER: Well, the guidance when it came out in terms of trends and downward trends was a really good sign, because that's really what you need to see. You need to see that ongoing trend.

You need to see that there's excess capacity in your health care system to take care of people, that everyone has personal protective equipment. There's a number of factors you need to look at. But you're right. If you look at the trends around the nation, and you

look at a number of the states that are -- that are opening up their economy, it's a really risky proposition. And I worry that we're going to see very significant outbreaks in many of those places.

TAPPER: Dr. Richard Besser, always a pleasure and honor to have you on the show. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

BESSER: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: The number of Americans out of work since the pandemic began now more than the entire population of Texas. The devastating new unemployment figures, that's next.

Plus, food processing plants, the epicenter of many recent outbreaks -- coming up, the stunning comments blaming infected employees for the surge.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Today, a new battle scar on the U.S. economy from coronavirus; 3.2 million Americans filed for unemployment for the first time just last week.

Before the pandemic, unemployment claims barely cracked 200,000. Since the shutdown started in mid-March, 33 million people in the U.S., or one in five American workers, have filed for weekly unemployment benefits.

And, sadly, that's only a snapshot of the economic pain, and does not measure factors such as furloughs or pay cuts or layoffs.

I want to bring in CNN business anchor Julia Chatterley.

Julia, we have had these staggering figures for almost two months now. It might get repetitive, but I -- we just can't overstate how unprecedented and disastrous this is.


We are in uncharted waters in every way. And the virus moves just like a tidal wave. And you're absolutely right. We're not capturing how bad the damage was.

If you add in every worker that's lost a job, lost hours or lost pay, we're probably talking about half of the entire work force, Jake. These have been heartbreaking, damaging weeks.

TAPPER: The White House predicts that tomorrow's unemployment numbers for April will hit 20 percent. That's Great Depression level. And it's obviously a far cry from where we were three months ago, when the economy was pretty strong. CHATTERLEY: We have gone from 50-year lows in unemployment to

approaching 80-year highs.

This is the definition of a jobs depression. The question now for policy-makers is, how do you bring those jobs back, and, more importantly, I think, how do you do it safely?

I have spoken to two economists this week that say we will still have a 10 percent unemployment rate at the end of this year. So, that's millions of jobs lost in the last three months. But it's also millions of jobs gained from where we are today. And that's the reality and also the crazy of COVID-19.

TAPPER: Earlier this week, you and I discussed J. Crew as the first retailer to file bankruptcy in this crisis.


TAPPER: Now Neiman Marcus.

You think Neiman Micus -- Marcus, rather, might hit harder. Why?

CHATTERLEY: I think we're marking the end of an era for these big, iconic store brands in the shopping mall or how it's looked.

It follows the collapse of Barneys New York last year. The problem is exiting bankrupt during a pandemic, when stores are shut and consumer spending is so dramatically reduced, is a real challenge here.


There's a warning alarm going off here for other brands like Lord & Taylor, J.C. Penney, Sears, too. They are now the ones to watch.

TAPPER: Also a huge reversal by Frontier Airlines. That low-cost carrier tried to make money having customers pay to keep the middle seats empty. That didn't go over pretty well.

CHATTERLEY: It absolutely didn't. Some might call this pandemic profiteering, Jake. You pay for everything extra on a budget airline, but it seems we stop short of paying extra for safety under the guise of -- quote -- "more room."

Some might also call this situational survival for a budget airline that says ripping out a third of those seats is going to raise seat prices or ticket prices by 50 percent. And this is the key: Do those costs then passed on?

Because, for all the outrage, the risk here is that flyers pay a higher price either way.

TAPPER: All right, Julia Chatterley, CNN business anchor, thank you so much, as always.

Coming up next: anger over face mask requirements.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Direct violation of my constitutional and civil rights!


TAPPER: Sparking some hostile confrontations, as the nation tries to adjust to this new normal.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Drugmaker Moderna said today that its coronavirus vaccine has been approved for phase two of development, with the hopes that it could ramp up production by the summer or the fall.

But without a vaccine and a huge number of cases coming from asymptomatic people, it is hard to see how the 40-plus states beginning to reopen will not see even more infections spiking in a few weeks.

And, as CNN's Athena Jones reports, several states are already reopening, despite already seeing a spike in new cases.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New developments today on the vaccine front, biotech company Moderna announcing the FDA has approved phase two trials of their vaccine, bringing the company one step closer to the final phase, large-scale clinical trials.

The company has never gotten a product to market, but hopes for approval next year. But there is bad news on the testing front, the director of the National Institutes of Health saying today the Abbott ID NOW machine, used for rapid coronavirus tests, has about a 15 percent false negative rate.

The president touted the test last month.

TRUMP: Abbott, it's a brand-new technology, brand-new test. It's great. Five minutes. Boom. You put it in.

JONES: New infections continue to climb and at least 19 states, including Minnesota, where some businesses have been allowed to reopen.

And while the rate of new cases, new hospitalizations and deaths continue to decline in New York stat, New York City is now operating a long-term disaster morgue in Brooklyn, where bodies will be stored inside refrigerated trucks.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): You can see how long it takes to slow it down and reduce the number of deaths. And they're coming down at a painful slow level of decline.

JONES: States and localities across the country taking different approaches. While Florida has begun to reopen, restrictions remain in place IN its three hardest-hit counties.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We will hopefully be able to go forward soon in Southern Florida.

JONES: Miami Beach extending it's safer-at-home order for another week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no pandemic!

JONES: Meanwhile, outrage at a South Florida supermarket from a customer who wasn't allowed inside because he wasn't wearing a mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am filing a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) lawsuit! I have a right to buy groceries!

JONES: And in a letter to the community, elected officials in Utah County, Utah, said, after two companies refused to follow quarantine guidelines, 68 of their employees tested positive.

DR. ANGELA DUNN, UTAH STATE EPIDEMIOLOGIST: We need to take these recommendations seriously.

JONES: Claiming they have made changes, the three largest port plants shut down due to the pandemic all resuming operations today.

And professional sports taking tentative steps toward a return. The NBA announcing players can return to practice facilities tomorrow. Major League soccer players already training again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm happy to be back.

JONES: While the NFL is set to release its season schedule tonight.


JONES: And there is more news out of California.

The state will begin reopening tomorrow, but health officials warn it is not a return to normal. There will be modifications. For instance, they're encouraging stores not to have cash payment at a register, but to use click and swipe methods.

Also, the governor announcing -- or confirming, I should say, that California's first case of coronavirus originated in a nail salon, Governor Gavin Newsom saying the whole thing started in the state of California, the first known case of community spread, in a nail salon.

He was explaining why salons are not part of the reopening phase. They're going to need higher levels of protection and that sort of thing before they're going to be allowed to reopen, but pretty interesting news out of California -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Athena Jones, thank you so much.

And joining me now, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, great to see you, as always.

The Moderna vaccine goes into phase two, then potentially phase three. Tell us more. What does that look like?


I mean, you typically -- to get to this point already is a couple, three years.