Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on May 24, 2020

5/24: Face The Nation
5/24: Face The Nation 47:09

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

  • Robert O'BrienNational Security Adviser
  • Michael Chertoff, Former Homeland Security Secretary
  • Eric Rosengren, President & CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Former FDA Commissioner
  • Geoffrey BallottiPresident & CEO, Wyndham Hotels Group

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington. This week on FACE THE NATION, the country approaches a grim milestone of one hundred thousand coronavirus deaths, as all fifty states begin to ease restrictions. Americans with quarantine fatigue head outside on this Memorial Day weekend, and the President calls for return to normal. For the first time since early March, President Trump returned to his normal, playing golf on the weekend, a signal to the country it's safe to leave home and America is back in business.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This is a country that's meant to be open, not closed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Earlier in the week, the President and vice president hit the road trying to sell that message to the country.

MIKE PENCE: All fifty states have begun to reopen their economies.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In Washington, the President said he's planning to host a summit of world leaders at the White House in just two weeks, even as the administration described the region as one of the worst in the country for positive COVID-19 tests. And he revealed he's taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug the FDA warns can cause heart problems. It's also linked to an increase risk of death.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I had a two-week regimen of hydroxychloroquine. And I'm taking it-- I think just about two weeks. I think it's another day, so. And I'm still here. I tested positively toward negative, right? So-- no, I tested perfectly this morning, meaning-- meaning I tested negative.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The conflicting messages continue. Our guests, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, and former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. As more Americans lose their jobs, the administration signals another round of relief money is likely. We'll ask Boston Federal Reserve president Eric Rosengren how quickly Congress needs to act. And as the summer travel season kicks off, should Americans feel safe in hotels? The CEO of the world's biggest hotel conglomerate Geoff Ballotti weighs in. Plus, on this Memorial Day weekend, a look at COVID-19 and the military.

All that and more, just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning. And welcome to FACE THE NATION. On this Sunday before Memorial Day, we honor the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our country. We also remember the thousands of our fellow Americans who have died in this terrible pandemic. This morning, the New York Times filled its entire front page with the names of victims, a statement that is even more powerful when you realize this is just one percent of all U.S. lives lost. As of today, more than ninety-six thousand Americans have died from the virus, 1.6 million have been infected, and nearly forty million people have filed for unemployment in the past two months. We begin in the nation's capital with CBS News national correspondent Chip Reid.

CHIP REID (CBS News National Correspondent): Good morning, Margaret. Across the country, people are taking at least some steps to get back to normal. But with infections still increasing in fourteen states, public health experts are worried that this weekend Americans might be getting too much of a good thing.

(Begin VT)

CHIP REID: From a lake party in Missouri, to the crowded boardwalk in Maryland, Americans were ready to hit the beach, and the feeling echoed across the nation. As forty-two states are now allowing costumers back into stores in a limited capacity, thirty-eight have now reopened restaurants to safe distance dining, and twenty-six have fully or partially opened their beaches. But with scenes like this in California this weekend, public health experts are urging people to follow the basic rules.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX: It's very important to maintain that six feet distance and very important to have your mask with you.

CHIP REID: White House health adviser Doctor Deborah Birx is also concerned about several emerging COVID hotspots.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX: But you can see the top three states are Maryland, the district, and Virginia.

CHIP REID: She also mentioned Nebraska, Illinois, and Minnesota. On this Sunday, public health experts are hoping, and perhaps praying, that houses of worship will practice social distancing after President Trump said this on Friday.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It's not right. So, I'm correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.

CHIP REID: But not everyone is ready to venture out. Traffic on roads and at airports is down dramatically from previous Memorial Day weekends, and that's good news to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

ANDREW CUOMO: I know people have been cooped up. I know there's tremendous energy to get out. You have to remain vi-- vigilant.

(End VT)

CHIP REID: That advice to remain vigilant is especially important right here in Washington, DC, where churches like this one are closed, and for the most part the rest of the city is still on lockdown. Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Chip Reid, thank you.

We go now to London and CBS News senior foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.

ELIZABETH PALMER (CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent/@elizapalmer): Margaret, this pandemic is not winding down. The World Health Organization said that Wednesday marked the largest single-day increase in the number of new cases, a hundred and six thousand of them, most in poor countries with the epicenter in Latin America.

(Begin VT)

ELIZABETH PALMER: Once again, Brazil tops the list. It's second only to the U.S. in total deaths. And now the virus has traveled into the remote communities of the Amazon, where health care and people's health is already fragile. In Mexico, too, the death rate just keeps climbing. But, ominously, for every victim that dies, eight more fall sick. Hospitals in some areas can't cope. By contrast, in China, where it all started, there were zero new cases yesterday. Earlier in the week President Xi told the World Health Organization that China would donate two billion dollars along with medical gear and personnel to help fight COVID in Africa. A smoke screen accused U.S. officials. In a furious letter, President Trump wrote that the WHO was so dependent on China that it wouldn't back an investigation into the origins of the virus. Closer to home, China is dealing with even more anger on the streets of Hong Kong, where pro-democracy demonstrators are back protesting after Beijing announced a new law to stifle political dissent. Around the world today, two billion Muslims are celebrating Eid, the biggest holiday in the Islamic calendar. But this year thanks to COVID, it will be a subdued, and, in many places, even lonely affair. Meanwhile, in parts of the world where COVID is in retreat, the new normal is social distancing--using reminders that range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

(End VT)

ELIZABETH PALMER: And finally, Margaret, just a short time ago, the Chinese foreign minister said that political forces in the U.S. were pushing American-Chinese relations towards what he called a new cold war.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Elizabeth Palmer in London. Thanks.

We go now to the White House and President Trump's National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien. Good morning to you, Ambassador.

ROBERT O'BRIEN (National Security Adviser): Good morning, Margaret. Great to be here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: On Friday Doctor Deborah Birx, your colleague, said that DC is the metro area with the highest positivity rate in the country. There's significant virus swirling here. Have all the G-7 leaders agreed to come to Washington and is it advisable to do that?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, the G-7 summit, if it happens in person and we think it will, will take place at the end of June. So we're-- I think we're getting very close to the peak, if we're not at the peak already in Washington and if the-- the situation permits it and we think it will, we'd love to have the G-7 in-- in person. I think the G-7 leaders would love to meet in person and-- and not do a video conference. So the President extended the invitation and so far we've got a great response. The logistics--we'll make sure everybody is tested. We'll make sure that it's a safe environment if the leaders can come here. But we'd love to host them in Washington.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So end of June, no longer June 10th for the G-7?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: No, I think we would be looking at the end of June at this point, just because the logistics of bringing in so many world leaders with their-- their security details and-- and planning for the event. So I think it would be later in June. But, again, it's a chance for the leaders of the democracies of the-- of the free enterprise countries to get together and decide how to get their economies reopened and how we can work together to make sure that we all come out of this COVID crisis and bring back health and-- and peace and prosperity for our peoples.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We learned this week, because the President shared it, that he's been taking hydroxychloroquine along with zinc. He also mentioned he's been taking azithromy-- azithromycin. Is there a national security risk for the Commander-in-Chief to be taking a medication that the FDA warns the public there is risk of having heart problems? And are there other drugs that the President is taking?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, I'm not aware of the-- of any other drugs that the President's taking, but he's in close consultation with his physician, Commander Sean Conley, a Navy physician, who's an outstanding doctor, and I'm sure they are doing the right regimen for President Trump. I can tell you with the antimalarial drugs I've spent a lot of time in Africa over the-- over the years, and I have taken antimalarial drugs with-- with no side effects and no problems during that time. And so I think the-- the President's under great medical care with Walter Reed and with Doctor Conley here at the White House. And I think he's doing the right thing for-- that he and his physician believe is good for the President. So I'm not concerned about his health. The guy's got more energy than anyone I've ever seen. He works sixteen, eighteen hours a day. So I don't see any-- any change in his strong performance as a result of whatever health regimen he is under undergoing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If you look around the world right now, Brazil has a spiking rate of infection from COVID-19. Southern Hemisphere is an area we know Doctor Fauci said he's very worried about. Are you going to cut off travel from the Southern Hemisphere?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: You know we're concerned about the-- the people of the Southern Hemisphere and, certainly, the people of Brazil. They're having a rough go of it. We've had a rough go of it. And one of things I want to say, and just-- just as I preface to responding to that question, which is a great question, I want the American people to know how much the President cares about them and-- and the ninety to-- to, you know, ninety-one thousand people that have been lost, parents, grandparents, friends, first line-- first responders, frontline workers in the healthcare industry. We mourn their loss. And-- and as far as travel to Brazil goes, and I'm sorry for the-- the long intro to that, I think that we'll have a 212(f) decision today with respect to Brazil and just like we did with the U.K. and-- and Europe and China--and we hope that'll be temporary. But because of the situation in Brazil, we're going to take every step necessary to protect the American people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that sounds like you are looking to cut off travel from Brazil and the Southern Hemisphere. Do you--

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, as of now, I'd say Brazil. And we'll take a look at-- at the other countries on a country by country basis for sure, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know travel from Europe to this country wasn't restricted until mid-March, China earlier. National Security Council has been reportedly pushing for travel from Europe to be cut off earlier than it was. Do you regret not being more aggressive in that?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, one of the things we did and I think one-- again a story that has not been focused on enough is-- is when we raised this issue really for the first time and really vehemently with President Trump on January 28th with respect to the China travel ban, within two days, even though, many of his advisers urged against it, the President made a hard decision and cut off travel from China within two days of-- of learning that this was a serious, serious outbreak. And that saved countless lives. What we-- what we didn't know at the time, and I, by the way, after cutting off travel from China, I called my counterparts, the other national security advisers in Europe and urged them to take similar action. What we didn't realize is that the Chinese would continue to allow folks to travel from Wuhan. Even though they'd cut off travel within China—

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: --they allowed those folks to travel from China to Europe and to seed the disease in Europe and then have it come through a backdoor into the United States. So, look, in hindsight, perfect hindsight, when we realized the Europeans hadn't cut off travel and when we really, you know-- we didn't know at the time, but we later learned that the Chinese allowed folks to continue to travel from Wuhan to-- to Europe, it sure would have been better to cut it off early. But what I want to focus on are literally the hundreds of thousands or millions of lives that were saved because President Trump made a decision that was entirely courageous at a time when the IC and others did not believe that this was a serious health risk or even a global pandemic.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President has said that he wouldn't shut down the country again if there's a second wave of this virus. The two could overlap: a resurgence and the elections. What planning are you doing? Are you setting up infrastructure for mail-in ballots?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, we have a very strong infrastructure at the NSC on elections, both for election interference, which is the physical attack on the infrastructure, whether it's-- and working with DHS and working with all the agencies, FBI, the IC, the physical attacks on the on the sanctity of the-- the election day, the ballots, the voting machines, the secretary of state websites. And we're also looking at and have a group that's focused on election interference. We'll have to see what happens with the virus. But we want to make sure that-- that we have a free and a fair election. That election's going to take place on Election Day, there's no question about it. And we want to make sure that Americans can go to the polls safely and we'll do everything we can to make sure that happens. At the same time, we want to avoid voter fraud and-- and misapprehension about-- about the safety of the election among the American people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, mail-in ballots may be a necessity in terms of where we are health-wise in this country. What planning are you doing now to prepare us for the fall? Have you stockpiled protective gear? Are you considering stockpiling drugs like remdesivir?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, we're-- we're working to produce as much remdesivir as possible and-- and the company Gilead that's behind it has been doing a great job. It's an American success story. We're going to have a stockpile, excuse me, of over a hundred thousand ventilators that are available and we're stockpiling PPE. We're making masks. The President's been to several companies that are now domestically producing masks so we're not dependent on the Chinese Communist Party for our PPE. So we're moving out smartly on all those fronts, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If China develops a vaccine before the U.S. does, would it be made available to the American public?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, listen, I think we're going to develop a vaccine first. Now, there's a chance, and it's been reported, that the Chinese have been engaged in espionage to try and find the research and-- and the technologies that we're working on both for a vaccine and a therapy. So, look, they've got a many-, many-year history of stealing American intellectual property and-- and knocking off American technology. And-- and I wouldn't be surprised if they did that with the vaccines. But I think we're moving out very quickly on both therapies and a vaccine. We're going to make it available to the American people, and one of the things that the President said is if we have a vaccine, we're going to share it with the whole world. Look, this was a virus that was unleashed by China. There was a cover up that someday they're going to do an HBO show like they did with Chernobyl on-- on this virus. But we're going to be part of the solution not to the virus--

MARGARET BRENNAN: A cover up of what?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Oh, they got cover up of the virus. I mean, the-- the Chinese knew this was happening in November, December, January and were giving false information to the WHO--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Local authorities or are you accusing Beijing?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well, look, we-- we don't know it because they won't-- they kicked out all the reporters and they wouldn't let CDC investigators come in and they're still stonewalling an investigation. So we don't know who in the Chinese government did it, but it doesn't matter if it was a local Chinese government or the Communist Party of China. This is a real problem and it cost many, many thousands of lives in America and around the world because the real information was not allowed to get out. And it was a cover-up. And-- and we'll get to the bottom of it eventually. But it's hard to do in a closed-- in a communist closed society. It's hard to get to the bottom of what happened.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ambassador O'Brien, thank you for your time this morning.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute with former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Westport, Connecticut, and former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb. Good to have you back with us.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Thanks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President just tweeted that cases, numbers, and deaths are down across the country. What are you seeing?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, this isn't contained, yet. That doesn't mean we can't go out and start doing things, get back to some semblance of a normal life. But we need to do things differently. We need to define a new normal. So when we get back to work, we need to get back to work differently. When you look across the country, you see hospitalizations going up in many states: Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Arizona. You saw hospitalizations coming down about three weeks ago over a two-week period. And then in the last week you're starting to see them tick up. Now, that shouldn't be surprising. We expected cases to go up and hospitalizations to bump up as we reopened. But we need to understand this isn't contained, and it's still continuing to spread. And we might not be able to fully contain this until we get to a vaccine or better therapeutics.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you said if people are careful, they can kind of take a little bit of a breather. What does that actually mean? What can you do now that you couldn't do a few weeks ago?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, we-- we think there is going to be a seasonal effect here. We don't know how strong that's going to be, meaning when we get into the summer, particularly July and August, we should see cases start to come down. And so people can start to go out again, I think, and start to enjoy some semblance of the lives that they want to enjoy over the course of the summer. But we should still be careful. We should still try to social distance. You know, narrow your circle of friends that you interact with. Try to go shopping a little less, try to group your shopping to maybe one time a week or two times a week instead of going out every day. Practice good hygiene with your hands. So all the things that we told people to do, if we do that on a broad basis across our whole population, it could have a big impact on spread. But the virus is likely to continue to circulate. We're likely to have this slow burn through the summer and then face renewed risk in the fall that we're going to have bigger outbreaks and potentially epidemics in certain states and cities. That's what we need to be focused on right now, getting the tools in place to prevent that in the fall.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know the President went golfing yesterday in a part of Virginia that's still, technically, under a stay-at-home order. He's not publicly wearing masks at least. The vice president went to-- to Georgia this week, a state that they initially objected to having relaxed restrictions too soon. Do you see this public messaging as dangerous because it's not signaling the caution you are saying is making it look like things are back to normal?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I think governors, elected leaders should be setting a strong example on what kind of behavior we should engage in. Because if-- if we do engage in that careful behavior, if we're more careful in what we do, I think that's actually going to facilitate a successful reopening and getting back to the important things, getting back to the economic activity. And so if we, you know, cut down a little bit on the social interaction and the social activity, things we don't necessarily need to-- need to be doing, we could focus more on doing more of the things we should be doing to try to restart the economy. And that's where I'd be focused. That's what I would be messaging, trying to put in place good practices so that we don't see an upswing in cases. We're going to see a bump in cases, and we're seeing it right now. The question is, how much and are we then going to have to reimplement some of these mitigation steps? I hope not. I think that as we get into the summer, that's going to be a backstop against spread and maybe it will balance it-- balance out. But then we face a fall where we've had this slow burn of infection through the summer. It never really went away. It was never contained. And we face risks as we get back to school, get back to college campuses, get back to work more fully in the fall.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So all fifty states are opening partially. Can they stay open in the fall if there's a resurgence? The President says he won't shut the country down again.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: I think what we need to have in the fall, what we need to have in place, is really good data to track where the outbreaks are and where the virus is spreading at a local level. And we'd put up a tool today on the American Enterprise Institute website that tries to do that. It's just one tool. I think we need to develop better tools like this. And I know many people in the White House are working on this. Kevin Hassett, my friend in the White House, has been working on trying to get more data feeds and to build a tool that can help identify where the hotspots are early so that we can target measures so that we don't have to close down the whole economy and maybe don't even have to close down an entire state if there's an outbreak in a state, but can focus on the counties, getting testing to at-risk people and at-risk communities, trying to take local mitigation steps. So what you might see is local school districts closed down as there are-- are outbreaks, but not an entire state. That's the goal. The goal is to get good information, more real time, so we can target the interventions so we don't have to do this national shutdown or even statewide shutdowns. But that's going to be dependent upon good screening, good case-based interventions, the ability to go in and actually target people, isolate people who have the infection and actually look at a local level and know where there are outbreaks, whether it's in a local factory or a shop warehouse or a local community.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you agree with the national security adviser that the U.S. will get a vaccine before China does and share it with the whole world as he said?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: I think we will. I mean the-- the Chinese have four vaccines in clinical development right now. One is based on a novel platform, an adenoviral vector platform. The data came out last week in The Lancet on that. It didn't look overwhelmingly strong. It was positive. It provided some immunity. It's probably going to work. They have three other vaccines in development based on old technology, inactivated virus. Those vaccines, if they do work, probably are going to provide lower levels of immunity than the platforms that the U.S. and Europeans are working with. So I think we're going to have a better vaccine, and I think we're probably going to have it sooner based on where we are in clinical development, some of the early progress that we've shown.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Health and Human Services secretary was with us last weekend and said they're whittling it down from fourteen to about a handful of candidates. Do you know which vaccines are most promising at this point?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, the two that are perceived to be the furthest along in terms of where they are in clinical development, that have shown some preliminary evidence of benefit, are the one by Oxford that was now partnered with AstraZeneca and the vaccine with Moderna where they're partnered with Lonza on their manufacturing. There's a number of manufacturers that are either equidistant to them or not far behind. I'm on the board of Pfizer. They have a vaccine in clinical development right now in clinical trials, phase one, phase two trials. J&J has a vaccine. Merck has a vaccine. Sanofi has a vaccine. All look--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB:  --promising based on public statements they made and some of the preliminary evidence that they put out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we hope to see that information about progress soon. Doctor Gottlieb, thank you very much, as always, for your analysis.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Thanks a lot.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. So, stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to make sure you don't miss another significant development from this week. A gunman opened fire at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, wounding one member of base security earlier this week. The FBI declared it was terrorism related. Now that news came just days after they confirmed that the shooter in another naval base attack six months ago in Pensacola had been in contact with al-Qaeda in Yemen. Now, the U.S. remains a top target for terrorist organizations all around the world.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the president of Wyndham Hotels Group. All ahead on FACE THE NATION.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We learned this week that nearly forty million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits over the past two months. And while Congress has passed a number of historically large aid packages, the chairman of the Federal Reserve has warned more help may be needed. Eric Rosengren is head of the Boston Federal Reserve, one of the twelve banks that make up that system. Good morning to you.

ERIC ROSENGREN (President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now you are about to launch another program, the Main Street Lending Program, within days. Now, this is about six hundred billion dollars worth of four-year loans for mid-sized companies so they can get credit. When do you expect that money to start going out the door?

ERIC ROSENGREN: I think money will go out over the next two weeks. As you highlight, this is a program that's just starting up. So, we're expecting to have the loan documents up this week. We then have to register the banks, and then we're going to be ready to start issuing the loans.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, do you expect this to be up and functioning, you said, within the week, but to-- to be perhaps a little less rocky than the PPP program, that Paycheck Protection Plan that Congress had rolled out?

ERIC ROSENGREN: It's a very different program than the PPP program. The PPP program was for-- was primarily a grant program. This is a loan program. We've been working on it very hard over the last several months. I expect it will be a relatively smooth opening.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have any indication yet what kind of industries or companies will come to you to ask for this money?

ERIC ROSENGREN: So, the way the program's designed is businesses that have no problems will probably find it more cost effective to go directly to banks. Firms that are having great difficulty, banks have to co-invest with us, and the banks may not be willing to do that. What we're really looking for is firms that we're doing fine going into the end of last year, but because of the pandemic have now been significantly disrupted. So the kinds of firms that we're expecting to see would be the firms that have been affected by the pandemic. That includes hotels, restaurants, but it also includes many manufacturing firms that had to shut down either because of state mandates or because of concern for their workers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And is the aim to avoid large-scale bankruptcies?

ERIC ROSENGREN: The goal is to make sure that many of these businesses are able to make it to the point where we no longer have community spread and where individuals once again feel comfortable buying goods, going out in public.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All of us want to know exactly when that might be at. As for the jobless rate in this country, the White House has said they expect double-digit unemployment through November. What are you looking at? Is it really going to be double-digit unemployment until there's a vaccine?

ERIC ROSENGREN: Unfortunately, I think it's likely to be double-digit unemployment through the end of this year, and full employment, getting back down to the low levels of unemployment we saw at the end of February, probably takes either a vaccine or other medical innovations that make it much less risky to go out. The principal reason for that is that industries that have been affected, like retail, hotels, transport, are all industries that consumers have to be comfortable. So it's not just that you have to open up the businesses. Consumers have to be comfortable going back and shopping and going out on planes and into hotels.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah, absolutely. There's a debate right now in Congress about whether to extend the enhanced unemployment benefits that, if people can get their claims processed, have been receiving. Those would expire in July. From where you sit, do you believe that kind of extra money is needed and should be extended?

ERIC ROSENGREN: I think we need a continued fiscal and monetary policy because double-digit un-- unemployment risks actually causing a much more severe outcome in labor markets over time. The exact nature of that has to be up to Congress. But I do think that we are going to need additional fiscal policy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So an extra six hundred dollars, which is what it is, does that make a significant difference?

ERIC ROSENGREN: Well, that certainly makes a significant difference for low- and moderate-income in-- individuals, most of whom are on hourly sal-- salaries. So I think that that is certainly one of the ways that you can provide additional support to low- and moderate-income individuals.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Blacks, Hispanics, women have been disproportionately hit by the economic fallout related to-- to COVID-19. How much is what's happening now widening the income inequality that pre-existed this?

ERIC ROSENGREN: So as your question highlights, this is a serious problem. First of all, low- and moderate-income individuals are more-- more likely to be put into unsafe situations. The reason is they're more likely to be in dense living. They're more likely to be taking subways, buses, trains for mass transit. And they're more likely to be hourly workers in industries that require contact with other people. So, for that reason, the health outcomes are-- are much more at risk. And also the economic outcomes are much more at risk. So, in many businesses, you can work at home. Those tend to be high-income workers. For many low-income workers, they have to go into their job in order to be able to do the job. And those jobs are being disrupted by the fact that consumers are worried about face-to-face contact. So, again, retail, hotels, restaurants are all being impacted. And until everybody is comfortable going into those restaurants and hotels, it's going to just take a little bit longer to get back to full employment than we otherwise would like to see.

MARGARET BRENNAN: New England, where you are, is one of the hardest-hit regions of the country. Eighteen percent of New England homeowners, thirty-six percent of renters are at risk of missing their monthly mortgage and rent payments, according to the Boston Federal Reserve. How do you avoid spiraling into a financial crisis?

ERIC ROSENGREN: So I think at least for the mortgages, banks are well positioned to in terms of having plenty of capital, being well diversified. I think the actions the Federal Reserve has taken to date actually are designed to avoid those kind of financial spillovers. So we lowered interest rates to zero. We bought lots of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury securities, and all these facilities are designed to make sure that there continues to be a flow of funds to households and businesses at reasonable rates.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are we-- are we nearing a point, though, where-- where Congress, where the Fed, will stop having to throw money at-- at this problem?

ERIC ROSENGREN: So I can't speak for Congress, but I will say that the Federal Reserve is going to continue to do what it needs to try to get-- get us back to full employment as quickly as possible.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we will have to watch and see what Congress ends up doing. As we know, in the months ahead there will be more debate over more aid. Thank you very much. We will watch for the program you will be launching.

Stay with us on FACE THE NATION.

We want to go now to Geoffrey Ballotti, the president and CEO of Wyndham Hotels Group, which is the world's largest hotel franchisee. Their hotels include Days Inn, Ramada, Super 8, Howard Johnson and La Quinta. Thanks for joining us.

GEOFFREY BALLOTTI (President and CEO, Wyndham Hotels Group): Thanks for having us on, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is sort of the unofficial start to the holiday travel season for the summer. But AAA is out saying they expect the lowest amount of traffic on planes, trains, and automobiles in modern history. What are you seeing in your hotels?

GEOFFREY BALLOTTI: We are remarkably open and we have been throughout this pandemic. We're the world's, as you said, largest hotel franchise company. And our six thousand three hundred hotels have, essentially, all remained open. Ninety percent of our hotels have remained open through this pandemic serving essential workers, the front-line workers, and our-- our hotels are continuing to pick up. It's been five consecutive weeks of increasing demand. We're the world's leader in the economy, the midscale, the select-service space. Our-- our midscale hotels are operating now at occupancy levels of close to fifty percent. And they-- they continue to see-- see increased demand.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But how do you keep customers safe, given that there are reception areas and hotels? There are people coming in and out. There are cleaning crews. Is it safe?

GEOFFREY BALLOTTI: Well, Margaret, we believe that the most important thing anyone can do is follow the guidelines of the CDC, the WHO and-- and the states, and that's what we've been doing all along. And, yes, our hotels have been safe at reduced occupancy levels that are beginning to-- to pick up, but our hotels have been cleaner than they have ever been. And we are cleaning in ways that guests are-- are looking for those visual cues the moment they walk in, from the social distancing throughout our lobbies and-- and our public areas to all of the-- the-- the increased cleanliness levels that we're introducing with hospital-grade disinfectants and-- and EPA-certified cleaning supplies.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And everyone has to wear a mask? Is that what you mean by visual cue?

GEOFFREY BALLOTTI: Visual cues, certainly from our employees, yes. Our employees, you will-- you will see our team members with masks. And you'll see, based on-- on the guidelines, guests being asked to-- to wear masks as-- as they check into the hotel.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You, as we mentioned, have franchises. And so other business owners hold on to the properties themselves. Is the emergency support that Congress and the Fed have made available, is it enough to avoid bankruptcies?

GEOFFREY BALLOTTI: It is incredibly helpful and-- and we applaud the administration, we applaud Congress, we applaud all of the efforts that have been offered to our franchisees. Our franchisees look at this support as a lifeline. And it-- it-- ninety percent of our small business owners have applied for a PPP. And we believe eighty percent of those have either received a PPP or an EIDL loan. And it is-- it-- it is enough to allow them to avoid bankruptcy. They-- they view this as-- as a lifeline, an anchor at a time when-- when they needed it most. One-- one of my franchisees I was talking to yesterday, Kitty Singh, felt like she was in the deep end of the pool, about to sink with her three La Quinta hotels in Odessa, Texas, until that lifeline was-- was thrown to her. But it has allowed them to go on, bring their employees back, pay their utilities. And what Congress, what the administration is working on now, what we're advocating on behalf of is, is more flexibility and-- and more continued support. And we think it's-- it's coming. We think we're-- we're getting it from and from-- from an administration that's listening to us right now.

MARGARET BREANNAN: So, what are you asking the administration to do? What do you mean more flexibility?

GEOFFREY BALLOTTI: More flexibility in-- in the PPP program, the Paycheck Protection Program, in terms of how those funds will-- will-- will stretch out from-- from four weeks to twenty-six weeks, the-- the repayment from two years to five years and-- and the ability to be more flexible on the seventy-five/twenty-five-percent rule. Right now seventy-five percent of that loan must be used to pay for employees' salaries, but our franchisees have other operating costs, like utilities, like taxes, and like-- like-- like their mortgage. And they are receiving a lot of support from their-- from their local-lending institutions. I mean, again, these are-- these are small mom-and-pop shops--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

GEOFFREY BALLOTTI: --and we have not seen any bankruptcies, yet. And we do think they're able to-- they're able to operate at reduced occupancy levels and maintain that breakeven because of this support.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we know all of that is going to be up for debate before Congress. And thank you for your time this morning.

GEOFFREY BALLOTTI: Thank you for having us on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Michael Chertoff. He is a former secretary of Homeland Security and is co-chairing the task force focused on reopening the District of Columbia. He joins us this morning from Washington, DC. Good to have you with us.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF (Former Secretary of Homeland Security): Good to be on, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Washington, DC, metro area has the highest positivity rate of COVID in the country, according to the White House. There's still significant virus circulating here, according to Doctor Birx. Is it safe to open the capital?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF: Well, of course, the paramount concern has been safety, and the good news, at least in the district, is it looks like over the past eleven, twelve days, we have had a steady decrease in new cases, and our transmission rate is now somewhat less than one transmission per person. So as long as that continues, we should be in a position to begin the process of reopening in about a week. But we're doing this in a very deliberate way. The mayor has set forth a series of stages, which we've recommended, and the idea is to simply take it a step at a time and make sure while we're doing this, we're doing it in a way that maximizes safety.

MARGARET BRENNAN: DC is, you know, the nerve center for the federal government. It is where members of Congress fly in and out of. There's just a unique set of risk factors here. Why do you think that there still is this level of virus circulating and-- and does that concern you at this point?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF: Well, obviously, we're concerned that you have virus at any level. We may have started a little bit later, for example, than New York and California, and, therefore, their peak may have been earlier. But, as I say, we are in the process now, at least of beginning to see a decline. But, as you point out, Margaret, we do get a lot of visitors and people coming in to work who originate from other parts of the country. And that means we get more vectors coming in with infection than might be the case, for example, in a city where you don't get a lot of people from out of state. So that presents a unique set of challenges. And we're trying to work with our neighboring counties in Virginia and in Maryland, again, to mitigate the risk as we move forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now, one of the recommendations that you put forward, whether or not the mayor takes it, is not to fully reopen schools for in-person learning until there is a vaccine. How would that work? What do you mean by that?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF: Well, the idea is, at least in stage one, to have distance learning, have it be done remotely. But then over the next two stages, which mean that we would have basically reduce the outbreak to isolated outbreaks, during the next period of time, we would slowly begin to bring students in. Those entering transitional grades or needing extra instruction would come in first. We'd make sure to maintain distancing in classrooms to keep the collection of people in a particular classroom below a certain number, like ten; to make sure the same youngsters were together throughout the day so you don't have a lot of people mixing with other groups; and then to have present on staff people with health background and experience in case someone displays symptoms or some issue arises. And the idea would be eventually during the course of this time, to basically reopen, but in a very measured and deliberate way.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now, you, as we mentioned, ran Homeland Security at one point during the Bush administration. You sim-- simulated how to respond to a pandemic. Is the current administration running your playbook?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF: Well, I mean, our playbook, of course, was something that was built about fifteen years ago. Some of the elements of the playbook I think we see running now. I know, for example, Doctor Anthony Fauci worked closely with us twenty years ago on this, and he is still very much involved and engaged. I think some areas where there's been perhaps a shortfall has been in the stockpiling of medical equipment and protective gear, which was not present in sufficient quantities when this began. And there was a bit of a delay, perhaps, in recognizing that we needed to deal with traveling from Europe, which turned out to be one of the major vectors for bringing the infection into the United States from other parts of the globe.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF: But I-- I always hasten to say that no crisis or emergency ever plays out exactly the way you've planned. What the planning should allow you to do is equip yourself and train yourself to adapt. And, fortunately, we have professionals in the health field and in Homeland Security who do understand how this works.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now, one thing in terms of planning we're looking at is the fall and the possible resurgence, that could overlap with the election. I know you look at election security. I want to read for you something the President tweeted this morning. He said, "The [U.S.] cannot have all Mail In Ballots. It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history. People will grab them from mailboxes, print thousands of forgeries and 'force' people to sign. Forge names. Some absentee ballots may be okay, when necessary. But this is trying to use Covid for this Scam." What should national security professionals be planning for the election? And should it include mail-in ballots?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF: I believe it should definitely include mail-in ballots. There's never been a demonstration of widespread fraud or misbehavior in mail-in ba-- ballots. Actually, many years ago, I prosecuted somebody who committed an election fraud, but it just was a handful of ballots for people who were incapacitated. The-- the positive side of mail-in ballots is it allows people to vote without putting themselves at risk for long lines in an actual physical election voting sites. The other thing we can do in addition to mail-in is to have many more sites for curbside voting where you drive up--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF: --and you can deposit your ballot right on the site and it's in lockdown. So having the most options possible is the best way to make sure people get to exercise their very important franchise as voters.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Secretary Chertoff, thank you for joining us.

We'll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: This Memorial Day, we honor the fallen who have served our country, especially the thirty-two Defense Department personnel who have recently died of the coronavirus. During these difficult times, our military is out in full force. Here's our national security correspondent David Martin.

(Begin VT)

DAVID MARTIN: Flyovers to honor health care workers across the country, hospital ships steaming in to New York and Los Angeles. The Army Corps of Engineers setting up emergency hospitals and convention centers. National Guard troops manning coronavirus testing stations. A general you probably never heard of, the Army's Gus Perna, named chief operating officer of the race for a vaccine. The public has seen more of its military in this time of lockdown than it would have if the virus had never reached the United States. Even though the armed forces have been observing their own lockdown.

KAVON HAKIMZADEH: We haven't had really any interactions with-- with any hu-- other humans, other than each other, since the beginning of March.

DAVID MARTIN: Captain Kavon Hakimzadeh is the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier Truman, which last saw port nearly three months ago.

KAVON HAKIMZADEH: Right now we're doing it underway to keep the ship COVID free.

DAVID MARTIN: So is that your main mission out-- to stay out there and remain COVID free?

KAVON HAKIMZADEH: Based on, you know, what's going on with some other big assets in the Navy, the smartest thing to do was to keep the crew away from the shore, and to not have anybody else come out to us.

DAVID MARTIN: We spoke with the captain as the Truman steamed up and down the East Coast, operating like no other warship ever has.

VICTORIA BIGORNIA (ph): A call goes out overhead, it's disinfectors, disinfectors, all hands man your spray bottles, kill all viruses on handrails and surfaces.

DAVID MARTIN: The Truman's medical officer Victoria Bigornia says the ship is wiped down twice a day. And whenever a supply flight comes out from shore, the packages are immediately sprayed with disinfectant. Remaining COVID free is the mission but not exactly the glory the Truman had in mind.

KAVON HAKIMZADEH: We're used to being on the front lines, we're used to be in the ones out there taking the risks. And roles have been reversed. Now we're here relatively safe, you know, COVID free, not concerned about the environment that we're living in, and our families are on the front line.

DAVID MARTIN: On the other side of the world, the Theodore Roosevelt finally got underway from Guam after becoming the military's most notorious outbreak of coronavirus. We spoke to Captain Carlos Sardiello shortly before he left port.

Do you think this virus has changed the Navy forever?

CARLOS SARDIELLO: I'm not going to speak on behalf of the entire Navy, but I'll speak on behalf of Theodore Roosevelt. It has certainly changed us forever and opened our eyes to another potential threat to our health and our ability to do our mission.

DAVID MARTIN: Changed forever, including face masks at Arlington National Cemetery. But there are some things about the American military, and what it means to this country, that will never change.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thank you all for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.