COVID-19 Task Force briefing TRANSCRIPT: 4/15/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: William Haseltine

  DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And it`s just a concerted effort to make life difficult.

An example is Michael Pack. He`s my nominee for the CEO of the Broadcasting -- Broadcasting Board of Governors, has been stuck in committee for two years, preventing us from managing the Voice of America. Very important.

And if you heard what`s coming out of the Voice of America, it`s disgusting, where things they say are disgusting toward our country.

And Michael Pack would get in. He would do a great job. But he`s been waiting now for two years. Can`t get him approved.

The Senate has left Washington until at least May 4. The Constitution provides a mechanism for the president to fill positions in such circumstances. The recess appointment, it`s called.

The Senate`s practice of gaveling into so-called pro forma sessions, where no one is even there, has prevented me from using the constitutional authority that we are giving -- that we are given under the recess provisions.

The Senate should either fulfill its duty and vote on my nominees, or it should formally adjourn, so that I can make recess appointments. We have a tremendous number of people that have to come into government, and now more so than ever before, because of the virus and the problem.

We have to do it. And we have to do whatever we have to do. They have made it very, very difficult to run government. I don`t think any administration has done anywhere near what we have done in three-and-a-half years.

But every block -- every week, they put up roadblocks. Whether it`s Russia, Russia, Russia, or impeachment hoax, or whatever it may be, it`s always roadblocks and a waste of time. If the House will not agree to that adjournment, I will exercise my constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress.

The current practice of leaving town while conducting phony pro forma sessions is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis. It is a scam, what they do. It`s a scam. And everybody knows it. And it`s been that way for a long time.

And perhaps it`s never done before -- it`s never been done before. Nobody is even sure if it has. But we are going to do it. We need these people here. We need people for this crisis. And we don`t want to play any more political games. I have been waiting for two-and-a-half years, three years for some of these people.

And they`re great people. They left law firms. They left jobs. They gave up everything to do it. And they have been waiting for three years, two-and-a- half years, two years, one year to get approved. It`s ridiculous. And everyone knows they`re going to be approved. But there`s only so many hours in the day, when you go through judges and you go through lengthy hearings on judges that they know should be approved immediately.

And they could do it in one session, one -- and they could do it in one hour. And, instead, it takes them many days.

In order to advance the health and security of our nation and all nations, as we announced yesterday, the U.S. government has put a hold on funding to the WHO, World Health Organization, pending a review of the organization`s cover-up and mismanagement of the coronavirus outbreak.

Over the objections of the WHO, we took decisive action, and early lifesaving action to suspend travel from China. They didn`t want to do it. They were angry that we did it. It was early on. They were angry that we did it. Took them a long time to realize what was going. But I have a feeling they knew exactly what was going on.

Tragically, other nations put their trust in the WHO, and they didn`t do any form of ban. And you see what happened to Italy. You see what happened to Spain. You see what happened to France. WHO`s guidance had failed to control their borders at a very crucial phase, quickly unleashing the contagion around the world.

That was a horrible, tragic mistake, or perhaps they knew. I`m sure they didn`t know the gravity of it, but perhaps...

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: I want to jump in here, bring in Kristen Welker, our White House correspondent.

The president out of nowhere starting to talk about recess appointments, people that he`s appointed that he says hasn`t been confirmed.

Kristen, what is the motivation for this? Where is this coming from? Is there somebody that he is trying to get into a position that he can`t?

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This was an unexpected twist to this briefing, Chuck.

Typically, we hear the politics a little bit later on in the briefing. So, it`s not clear exactly what prompted this.

We know that he has been frustrated, not only by what he perceives as Democrats blocking some of his nominees, but their threat of oversight of his handling of the virus response.

And so it`s possible that that is part of why we`re seeing him lash out in this way. But I will just underscore this point that I have heard from a number of his allies, which is that they think it`s critical that, when he holds these briefings, these press conference, that he stays on message.

They think that it`s important in terms of getting information out, but also important for him to show that he is taking a leadership role in this instance, that he stays on the topic of how they`re going to deal with this crisis, how they`re going prevent more deaths, and how they`re going to get people back to work.

And so you would have the imagine that a number of his own allies are watching this scratching their heads and wondering what the actual announcement is here.

Worth noting he did say that, tomorrow, he would hold a news conference and roll out guidelines that the states might follow as they move to start to reopen their individual economies.

And, again, just to recap, he is saying that that is up to the governors, Chuck. So that was the one announcement that we heard at the top.

But, certainly, this is one of the few briefings where he comes out and starts with the politics right off the top of one of these briefings, Chuck.

TODD: And in case folks are wondering, the president does have the power to adjourn Congress.

And what the president was kind of hinting at, this is -- this goes back, I believe, at least to the -- I want to say it was the tail end of the Bush, all throughout the Obama administration, I think, and certainly at times, where, essentially, both parties, they -- we no longer adjourn the Senate and essentially to -- between -- because whenever the party that is out of party is trying to eliminate the possibility of recess appointments, it has been sort of a pro forma thing.

It`s been a constant thing, and both parties have been doing it for decades, plural, now on that front.

Now, the president, can he adjourn Congress? He can. But there has to be a disagreement about adjourning. But you got to ask yourself this. Is this the time for a constitutional crisis, a question of Article 2 vs. Article 1, and of who gets to do this in the middle of a pandemic?

I think that`s going to be a question that a lot of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle don`t think is one that needs to be answered right now, Kristen Welker.

Let`s go back into the briefing.

TRUMP: Again, not all states are the same. They`re very different. Some are having very little problems. Some have done such a good job that they have very little problem, and they`re ready to go.

So, Vice President Pence and I will be speaking with the governors tomorrow. We will be discussing procedures.

Today, I spoke with the leaders of many of our nation`s most renowned companies and organizations on how to achieve the full resurgence of the American economy.

My discussions included top leaders in health and health care, transportation, technology, financial services, food, beverages, hospitality, real estate, retail, agriculture, construction, energy, labor, manufacturing, and sports industries.

We want to get our country open again. We want to have our sports leagues open. You want to watch sports. It`s important. We miss sports. We miss everything. We want to get back.

These experts and innovators provided extremely productive feedback on how to safely reboot our economy. They gave us a lot of great ideas. We spoke to a lot of very, very smart people, the highest of the high tech.

The level of I.Q. on some of those calls was about the highest you have ever seen on a phone call. That, I can tell you. But we have a lot of great thought went into those calls. And a lot of questions came out and also statements, very strong statements, as to what they recommend.

It was -- I think it was a great day. We did a lot of -- a lot of calling with a lot of very prominent people, but, more importantly, very smart people and people that love our country.

They talked about the vital importance of our wide array of relief measures to address the present crisis, and they provided valuable insights on how to move forward, including on the role of protective gear, where we have tremendous amounts of protective gear coming in, robust testing, and the future use of therapies and treatments.

They also underscored the crucial importance of strong supply chains and communications infrastructure. We`re talking about infrastructure for the middle of our country. We`re talking about broadband and things that they, frankly, don`t have and haven`t had for a long time, because a lot of politicians forgot about them. Can`t forget about them.

They`re really the heart and soul. Can`t forget about them.

And we`re talking about the telemedical. It`s a new thing. And it`s incredible, what they have been able to do. This is an industry that`s just growing, but it`s take -- it`s grown by leaps and bounds over the last five weeks.

People are learning so much. Without the ability to see a doctor, they`re learning so much, and a lot of good things are happening. That`s something that`s really, going forward, I think, going to be very important for our country.

As we have seen throughout our proud history, America is never greater than when our people are working in unison toward a common goal. That`s what`s happening right now. We will go ahead. We will forge an even brighter future today than we had.

And we will be, along with other nations, hopefully -- we`re working with other nations. We will be the comeback kids, all of us, all of us. It`s incredible, what`s going on. I`m very proud of the people of this country. I`m very proud of the people I spoke to today.

These are truly great, brilliant people. And we have gained tremendous insight.

So, tomorrow is going to be a very big day. We`re going to be speaking with the governors. We will have some information some openings. And, again, we will have some openings that will be -- will exceed our expectations, and they will be safe. They will be strong, but we want to get our country back.

We want to get our country back. And we`re going to do it. And we`re going to do it soon.

With that, I`d like to ask Dr. Birx to come up and say a few words, and then Secretary Sonny Perdue, and then Vice President Pence.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

Thank you.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Thank you, Mr. President.

And thank you for summarizing the states and what we`re seeing.

So, over the last five to six days, we have seen declines in cases across the country. And this has been very in -- reassuring for us. At the same time, we know that mortality and the fatalities that we`re facing across the United States continue.

We know the number of people who are still in the hospitals, in the ICUs. And we want to continue to recognize the health care workers who are on the front lines, and really recognize how low the United States case fatality rates are compared to other countries.

And this is really due not only to our technology, but how that technology is utilized to save lives.

At the same time, I`m inspired by the American people, who continue social distancing. These cases continue to decline because of the strong work of the American people.

I also wanted to let you know that we do have nine states that have less than 1,000 cases and less than 30 new cases per day. So, we`re looking at states and metro areas as individual -- individual areas.

We talked before how each of these curves are different. Each of the cases, experiences are different. We have some states like California and Washington state, Oregon, that never really had a peak because of so much work that their populations did to decrease and keep the new cases down.

So, each of these individual states and individual metros are being studied very specifically.

I do want to highlight, and we are remaining concerned, and we have been having discussions with Rhode Island. Rhode Island and Providence are in a unique situation. First, they had increasing cases from the New York City area, and now they have new -- new increasing cases from the Boston area. They`re caught between two incredible hot spots in the country.

They`re doing an extraordinary job. They`re caring for the individuals on the front lines, but Providence continues to have new cases.

And we do continue to work with specific states that have specific outbreaks related to individual occurrences.

I will just remind the American people again, this is a highly contagious virus. Social gatherings, coming together, there is always a chance that an asymptomatic person can spread the virus unknowingly. No one is intending to spread the virus.

We know, if you`re sick, you will stay home. But to all of you that are out there that would like to join together and just have that dinner party for 20, don`t do it yet. Continue to follow the presidential guidelines.

We really appreciate the work of the American people. We see, as a country, we`re improving. We see, as metro areas we`re improving. We see, as communities, as counties, and as states, we`re improving. But that also still requires everyone to continue to social distance.

And, in the end, we do have states that have very few cases and very few new cases. And so these are the ones the president is referring to that have been silent, relatively silent, throughout this epidemic and pandemic that many of us have faced.

And so these are the groups we are working with very specifically. And each of these governors and each of these mayors will have to make decisions after generalized guidelines are put out, so that they can do what`s best for their communities. They are at the front line.

And I wanted to conclude by really thanking my PEPFAR teams around the world, who have been working tirelessly throughout the world to ensure that Africa and Asia doesn`t experience this level of infections that we have seen here.

They have turned over their capacities from their embassies. Our U.S. hires throughout the world, our ambassadors are still on the front line with our local staff, working with ministries, of how to confront this virus around the globe.

And I assure you that they are continuing to invest in the health structures, the laboratory and the front-line care to ensure that all of the work that we have done against T.B., HIV and malaria continues, but that we use our capacity, our laboratories, our clinics, our hospitals that have been built by the American people and the generosity of the American people to really combat this COVID-19 around the globe.

Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you, Doctor.

Sonny, please.

SONNY PERDUE, U.S. AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity to be here with you today and to -- I want you to know it`s an honor to represent you in leading the Department of Agriculture and represent the constituency who are crucial in maintaining our nation`s food security, enabling us to keep food on the table of our American families, not only just food, but wholesome and safe food as well.

I would like to start my remarks today by echoing what my colleagues at the CDC have been saying regarding the health and safety of our essentially employees across the United States.

CDC has provided strategies there that aim at helping our most critical workers, both in health care and in food processing, to quickly and safely return to work after potential exposure to COVID-19, provided those workers are symptom-free.

And this guidance will help these critical industries in the food sector provide -- to protect the health and safety of essential workers, while keeping critical functions working throughout the COVID-19 response.

As we know, any employee who develops symptoms while on the job should go home immediately. And the interim guidance is in line with CDC`s recommendations for health care workers caring for those sick with COVID- 19.

So, we appreciate the dedication and commitment of all the brave men and working -- women working to keep their communities fed. And we will continue to work with the CDC to keep those individuals as safe as possible during these challenging times.

In that vein, there`s been a lot happening this week. It`s -- COVID-19 is impacting food processing facilities, as you know. For Americans who may be worried about access to good food because of this, I want to assure you, the American food supply is strong, resilient, and safe.

And, in fact, our food supply chain has shown tremendous agility in shifting production and logistics so suddenly, from restaurant and institutional settings to retail settings.

To all the employers out there in the sector, it`s critical that you follow CDC guidelines and guidance and best practices to keep all of your employees and people safe and healthy.

To employees and local public health officials advising them, the CDC has issued guidelines on how to mitigate a situation if you have a positive case in one of your facilities.

We need our local health authorities and our state health authorities to do everything they can to balance the demand of keeping our facilities operational and our critical industries going, while at the same time keeping the health and safety of employees as a top priority, as well as our communities.

So, I want to also take this time to thank all of our critical essential food supply chain workers. The entire country is counting on these patriotic individuals by doing the work in our food supply chain.

These dedicated workers include, obviously, farmers and producers, but also processors, truckers, and grocery store workers, as you know.

America is depending on, will you have the food we need to feed our families? And you`re the ones who are making that happen. Thank you.

As an entire nation, we`re truly thankful for the work you`re doing. And we recognize that you are the true patriotic heroes during this national emergency, along with our health care workers.

So, before I sign off here, Mr. President, I want to remind you and all of us of one more thing. In the United States, we have plenty of food for all of our citizens. I want to be clear.

The bare store shelves that you may see in some cities in the country are a demand issue, not a supply issue. The way food is prepared and packaged to be sold in a restaurant or a school is significantly different than the way it`s packaged for you to buy in the grocery store.

Our supply chain is sophisticated, efficient, integrated, and synchronized. And it`s taken us a few days to relocate the misalignment between institutional settings and grocery settings.

But that does not mean that we don`t have enough food in this country to feed the American people. You might think of it as an interstate. When it`s little flowing along well and you have a crash in one place, it backs up. And that`s what`s happened in the food supply chain. But we`re working through that.

Yet all this -- through all this, our food supply chain has proven to be very resilient, just like American people. To the extent we have challenges, we have and continue to need to work through it all together.

And we can and we will get through this with a whole-of-American approach, Mr. President, and the critical partnership between state and local health officials, management of companies and the employees. And we will meet any challenges we face by working together.

Thank you, sir, for the opportunity.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

And before the vice president comes up, I just wanted to say, speaking of Sonny, China has paid us billions of dollars, many, many billions of dollars in tariffs, which we have distributed, some to the farmers, because they were targeted.

We have many billions of dollars being held by Sonny. And I have told him to distribute much of that money to the farmers. Our farmers were targeted, and now they`re benefiting by the amount that they were targeted. And we are very honored to do that.

And, Sonny, you`re going to start that process very soon. You will let the farmers know. Nobody can take advantage of our farmers. So, we have a lot of money that we have taken in from China. We`re going to be distributing that money from Sonny to the farmers.

And there is tremendous money over and above that. That money was paid directly into the Treasury of the United States. This has never happened to China before. They never gave us 10 cents. Now they`re paying us billions of dollars. And we appreciate it.

So, thank you very much, Sonny. Great job.

Please. Mike, please.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force met today. It was reported to us that we have conducted and completed 3,324,000 tests across the nation. More than 619,000 Americans have tested positive.

But, as you reflected yesterday, when we welcomed coronavirus survivors here to the White House from across the country, some more than 45,000 Americans have fully recovered.

Sadly, we mourn the loss of more than 27,000 of our -- our countrymen. Our hearts are with their families and with the families of all of those that continue to struggle with the serious consequences of this illness.

But, as Dr. Birx just reflected, despite the heartbreaking losses, we`re getting there, America. Because of the efforts of people all across this country to put into practice the president`s coronavirus guidelines, because of their adherence to the direction of state and local authorities, as Dr. Birx just reflected, we see great signs of progress from the West Coast to the East Coast.

President Trump has directed our team to develop new guidelines that will be presented tomorrow to our nation`s governors and released to the American people thereafter.

The American people will be encouraged to know that, as we stand here today, 24 percent of the counties of this country have no reported coronavirus cases. In fact, half of the states in America have less than 2,500 cases per state.

This is a great tribute to the efforts by the people of those communities. But, as the president suggested, when we unveil the guidelines that the team has been working to present tomorrow to our nation`s governors, we`re going to reflect on the fact that, as the president said, there will be areas of the country that will require continued mitigation and strong efforts, and there will be other areas of the country that will be -- be given guidance for greater flexibility.

And the president has so directed our team.

When we think of more than 619,000 Americans having tested positive, more than 45,000 having recovered, we wanted to announce today that the FDA recently announced efforts to facilitate the development and access to convalescent plasma.

Mr. President, you have spoken about this.

People who have recovered from the coronavirus have antibodies in your bloodstream that can attack the virus. The Mayo Clinic today is working with the Red Cross to make sure that coronavirus patients have access to the convalescent plasma treatments. And over 1,000 institutions across America have already joined this program.

And we want to urge every American who has recovered from the coronavirus for at least two and preferably four weeks to contact your local blood or plasma donation center and arrange to donate.

It`s one more way that the American people can do their part and step forward. And thousands have already done so. And we know that tens of thousands will join them.

On the subject of supplies, Mr. President, I will be very brief, because you detailed a great amount.

As the president mentioned, the air bridge has completed 44 flights; 56 more are scheduled.

But on the subject of facial masks, which are so important for the protection of critical infrastructure, I`m pleased to report that the average daily delivery through the commercial network, through our air bridge, is 22 million facial masks coming into the marketplace.

The average inventory in the network over a seven-day period is 80 million masks. And FEMA is actually working as we speak to move facial masks to priority infrastructure, food supply, first responders. There will be 6.5 million masks that go out before the end of this week, an additional 20 million before April the 20th. And then we will be adding 6.5 million each and every week.

At the president`s direction, we`re going to ensure that all of those that work in food supply, all of those first responders have access to masks. And we`re increasing those every day.

Finally, I know I speak for the president when I say how proud we are of all of our health care workers across the country, and how proud we are of the men and women in uniform, our medical professionals, who have been deployed across the nation, literally by the thousands.

In fact, as we stand here today, 576 doctors, nurses and other military medical professionals have been deployed to 13 hospitals across the nation, 10 in New York and one in Connecticut, Texas and Louisiana each.

And as the president reflected a few days ago, because we did not have the -- happily did not have the demand on the Javits Center and on the Comfort in New York City, at the president`s direction, we have deployed doctors and nurses from those two facilities to hospitals.

In fact, the president and I were just speaking to Mayor de Blasio just before we came out. And he expressed his great admiration and appreciation for the relief that these medical military personnel have provided to incredibly dedicated people in our hospitals; 258 medical personnel just yesterday were deployed off the ship and out of the Javits Center into New York.

With that, Mr. President, I will step aside.

But it`s remarkable to think of all that we have accomplished over the last month, since you first issued the presidential guidelines for America.

The truth is, because of what the American people have done over the last 30 days, we are slowing the spread. We are ensuring that every American family would have access to the health care that we`d want any member of our family to have with the greatest health care professionals in the world.

We`re saving lives. And we`re healing our land. And so we want to thank the American people for all you have done.

And, tomorrow, we will be presenting new guidance to the governors of this country about how we build on our progress and reopen America in a safe and responsible way.

Thank you, Mr. President.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Thank you, Mike.

QUESTION: On the recess appointments, Mr. President, if I could. Mr. President...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Steve, please.

QUESTION: You have mentioned the possibility of adjourning both chambers of Congress. Could you explain what you meant by that, sir?

TRUMP: Very simple.

If they don`t act on getting these people approved that we need, because of the -- we need them anyway. But we especially need now because of the pandemic.

We are going to do something that will be something I`d prefer not doing, but which I should do and I will do, if I have to.

Kaitlan, go ahead.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) questions for you.

One, on a call with business leaders today, they said testing has got to be ramped up significantly before the country -- before they feel comfortable reopening their stores, their restaurants, and whatnot.

TRUMP: Sure.

QUESTION: Isn`t that what health officials and state governors have been...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: It`s what I want, too.

And we have great tests. And we want the states to administer these tests, for the most part. But we`re standing behind them. We have great tests. We have done more testing now than any country, as you know, in the world, by far.

We have the best tests of any country in the world. Nobody has the quality of tests, the -- if you look at Abbott, what they have come up with in a short period of time, they have been incredible. Roche has been incredible. And we don`t want to be the suckers anymore.

So, it`s cold out. We will talk to you tomorrow, big day tomorrow, very big day.

Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: If Dr. Tedros is removed, would you change your mind?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s a good question.

TODD: A very combative press conference. Had a little -- had a few sort of rally-like rejoinders, I guess, if you will, going after Nancy Pelosi by name.

With me now, I have got NBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker, critical care doctor and MSNBC medical contributor Dr. Vin Gupta, and infectious disease expert Dr. William Haseltine.

But, Kristen, I can`t ignore the tone of this briefing today. The president seemed to go off. At a time when we`re all focused on the same issue, trying to reopen the economy, the testing debacle, we have got the food supply issue, and they have touched on those things, but the president led with judges and Voice of America?

Is he trying to create a constitutional crisis over Voice of America?

WELKER: Right.

Michael Pack, he wants to see him confirmed, Chuck, you`re absolutely right, someone described as a right-wing filmmaker. He also talked about wanting wanted his judges confirmed, DNI, as well as several members of the Federal Reserve Board.

So, President Trump taking this very defiant stance, Chuck. And you`re right. It does have tones of a campaign rally, going after Democrats.

And our colleague Hans Nichols asked him, I think, what was the salient question about all of this, which is that, A, you said that now is not the time for partisanship, and, B, couldn`t you potentially be undercutting yourself if you try to adjourn Congress?

The president fired back by saying, look, this has been a partisan process for a long time. But the bottom line is, Chuck, how is he going to get things done in Congress if he essentially doesn`t have Congress there to pass things like the fourth tranche of the stimulus, something that he needs, that a number of Americans need in order to sort of deal with this lapse of paychecks and lapse of going to work?

And so that is a big question looming over all of this, but the president again quite defiant and really making that in some ways the centerpiece of what he had to say today.

Now, the other part of it, the president, the vice president and Dr. Birx saying that there has been progress, so that`s certainly very significant, and Mr. Trump saying that, tomorrow, he`s going to talk to the governors and roll out guidelines for the various states for how the administration will suggest they should start to reopen.

But our question, and based on our reporting, is, there`s a lot of questions about how specific those guidelines are going to be, how detailed? Will they match the same level of detail that we`re seeing coming out of some of the states so far? We know there`s going to have to be a testing component to this.

We know that there`s going to have to be a component that deals with equipment. But how detailed will these guidelines be, Chuck? That`s going to be the big question.

TODD: Yes.

Dr. Gupta, we have been talking earlier on the testing issue, and that was, again, the president seemed to be hinting that testing -- first of all, he said -- he`s technically accurate. We have conducted more tests than anyone around the world. That is true.

We still are only, I think, today reached 1 percent of our population. So, we are not leading the world in per capita testing.

But that seemed to be -- he seems to believe that the governors should be able to handle this. All day today, we had leading governors, including Governor Cuomo, saying, no, we can`t.

DR. VIN GUPTA, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, there`s a lot of cognitive dissonance with the attacks on WHO, even though WHO provided guidance back in January, which, if we followed the way South Korea did, we would have started testing six weeks earlier.

And then, Chuck, to address your point, we`d be doing pretty well on per capita testing. So, blaming governors for not instituting testing, when the FDA has to clear, the FDA has to clear and provide regulations under the executive branch, so governors will have guidance, that requires presidential leadership, messaging that`s consistent.

The CDC needs to say it`s OK to screen asymptomatic individuals, which is a key piece of a return-to-work strategy.

And so this needs federal leadership. Laying this on the feet of the governors or on the WHO just doesn`t square with reality.

TODD: Dr. Haseltine, there was a question there. And it`s -- there was a report yesterday in "The Washington Post" about the idea that this might have been a lab accident out of China, while naturally occurring, that it took place there, not at a meat market.

Does that matter at this point if the source was an accident out of a lab vs. an open-air meat market?

DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: Well, a lot of the things that we heard today aren`t to the point.

We`re in the middle of a deadly epidemic. It`s killing people all around me personally, people I know, and in my neighborhood. And we need a lot of concerted action.

Let me address your question very directly. There was a deep study published on the sequence of this viral genome as compared to all those we know. And the conclusion was, it is virtually inconceivable that this virus was made in a laboratory.

That`s different from saying it escaped from a laboratory. Some people say it was made deliberately. Other people say it was escaped. Maybe it did escape, but that is far different from the point of what we are going to do about it today.

And what`s on our plate today is, are we going to reopen? And are we prepared to reopen without reigniting another epidemic? It`s been very clear from every public health official that we need a rigorous testing regime. We need a rigorous contact tracing regime, and we need an effective way to quarantine those who have been exposed to people who are infected.

We don`t have any of those three components that are reliable in any part of our country today. And that is what we should be focusing on.

TODD: You know, it`s interesting you...

HASELTINE: What do we need to do to bring those things up to speed?

TODD: It`s interesting you bring up the issue of quarantine.

Dr. Gupta, there`s been a bunch of -- essentially, the private sector, sort of a economist and health care sector collectively agree on what it takes to do this.

And one of the big things is going to be using unused hotel space for quarantining, if we reopen the economy, that that is going to have to be part of this, because if you`re part of a contact tracing issue, then you quarantine in the hotel.

GUPTA: Well, and -- I mean, this is all related. Everything Dr. Haseltine just said is related to us building up capabilities to contact trace.

And just so we`re all level set here, contact tracing means, you have a confirmed COVID case, in a world in which we`re back to social -- not being socially distant, that you can accurately identify people that that person, he or she may, have been exposed to and test them.

It`s complicated. It sounds easy. We say, oh, we need mass testing, oh, we need contact tracing. It`s easy to say it. What are the specifics of how to achieve it? That`s where private sector innovation is going to be really key.

And we need to be humble and follow lessons of other countries that are already innovating in this space.

TODD: All right, I`m going to have to leave it there, Dr. Gupta, Dr. Haseltine, Kristen Welker.

I think one other point that was important there, it was interesting that the agriculture secretary was addressing that, look, just because there are bare shelves, the food supply is fine. There might be some traffic jams.

What he`s really implying is that these -- these issues at these meatpacking plants may cause some disruptions, but he was trying to assure the country that food will be there. It just might be delayed.

That does it for me for these two hours.

Joy Reid is up next here on MSNBC. Don`t miss it, right after this break.

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