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Interview with Food Industry Association Vice President Doug Baker; Interview with President of National Nurses United Union Jean Ross; Coronavirus Prompts Some to Increase Civic Minded Actions. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 18, 2020 - 10:30   ET



JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: -- sometimes we've got to plan for what can become the immediate. I'm in complete agreement with Ron. Action, action, action; confidence at all levels, bipartisanship. Together, we will get through this.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: It's the only way. And you're right, he wrote about it, he's coming on the show next week to talk to us about exactly that.

Thank you both; we'll be right back.



HARLOW: Only buy enough food for the week: That is the message from the FDA this morning as grocery stores across the country are grappling with -- and you, going there and looking at empty shelves, some of them. But officials say the overbuying and the panic has to stop. They say the supply is there.

Doug Baker is with me. He's vice president of industry relations at FMI, the Food Industry Association. Doug, I'm so glad you're here because I think about this when I go to the grocery store and I see the empty shelves and I wonder, do I need to overstock? And I haven't so far. Let's just begin with the simple question, is there enough food? Is the supply chain solid?

DOUG BAKER, VP OF INDUSTRY RELATIONS AT FMI, THE FOOD INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION: Yes, it is. The supply chain is very resilient, nimble and adapting as consumer demand continues to adapt itself.

HARLOW: So what does that mean as we see cities like San Francisco with a shelter-in-place or a possible shelter-in-place order being considered here in New York City? I mean, what is the effect going to be, do you believe, on farmers, on food plants, et cetera that make what eventually gets to our shelves?

BAKER: Well, I think the long-term impact is we'll start to see maybe some transition from brick-and-mortar shopping to more online shopping as sheltering in place is put into place across the country. And I think people that are already voluntarily doing that should feel very comfortable to be able to use those other means of purchasing those goods.

I think what's really important to get out as a message is that we're working really closely with state and federal government. And they're -- they've made commitment that this is going to be a viable supply chain, they're going to keep it open and we're going to make sure that (INAUDIBLE) helps (ph).

HARLOW: What about keeping everyone healthy? Because I'm certainly thinking about the people stocking the shelves at the grocery store, the people that are delivering all of the food and unpacking those boxes around the clock, the people who are in touch with so many consumers at the -- you know, at the checkout counter. Are extra precautions being taken to keep them healthy?

BAKER: There is. And working with CDC, we have put together a best practices for retailers on sanitation and person-to-person contact. We've been having calls almost daily with our industry and the different stakeholders within the industry that can help administer those best practices. So that communication is going out.

But then additionally, they're also looking at contingency plans. So we've seen other sectors that are impacted by this and there are some folks out there that are currently looking -- they don't have a restaurant to go to work to, or their sector has been closed down. Retailers are hiring right now, and it's both to deal with the demand but it's also to deal with the potential --


HARLOW: Who -- who is --

BAKER: -- that they --

HARLOW: -- who is hiring? I mean, we know Amazon is hiring 100,000 workers, but with so many people being laid off, they want to know where they can go for a job.

BAKER: Absolutely. So Amazon, Kroger has put out a message throughout their loyalty app, Price (ph) Rite (ph) in New York through Wakefern has put out a message to the community that they're hiring as well.


BAKER: I know Randalls in Houston, Texas is hiring, so -- Target's hiring, so everybody's looking for that additional help right now.

HARLOW: OK. Well, that's some good news. Doug Baker, thank you. Good luck to you. I know you're on this front and your wife is an emergency room nurse, so she's on the frontlines of this too. Good luck to you guys. Thanks so much.

BAKER: Thank you -- thank you very much.

HARLOW: Of course.


Let's talk more about what it's like for these health care workers on the front lines. Ahead, one of them, a registered nurse, is with me.


HARLOW: This morning, hospitals across the country are facing critical supply shortages. Let's check in now with a nurse who is on the front line of this crisis. Jean Ross is a registered nurse, she's also the president of the National Nurses United Union, and she joins me from Minneapolis. Jean, thank you so much for being here and for what you and all your fellow nurses are doing every day.


HARLOW: Can you talk to me about what they're going through, what you're going through?

ROSS: Well, we are hearing from our nurses many times a day, every day, about how anxious they are for their patients and for themselves. We are not at all afraid to take care of the COVID-19 patients, it's what we do. But we know what we need to protect ourselves. And unfortunately, the employers right now and our government is not hearing us: our complaints, our requests, our begging for proper protective equipment is going on deaf ears.

HARLOW: You know, the numbers that we have show -- and the experts say there's just not enough. For example, the N95 masks, those surgical masks that are used in hospitals that are more than just, you know, the average masks that people see, there's just not enough to meet the demand. Do nurses feel unsafe -- that you represent -- unsafe on the frontlines of this?

ROSS: We feel terribly unsafe. And if you lose us, look what happens to the patients and the health of the community. We've been told in instances before -- this isn't our first rodeo, so to speak -- about illnesses that come that are newer, that we hadn't seen before. As I said, we are prepared to care for patients when we are prepared to protect ourselves.


Now, saying there's a shortage, OK, I'm not saying that we totally disbelieve it. But we know there are stockpiles. There have been for some time, way before -- well, I guess maybe with SARS, with that epidemic.


ROSS: So here we go along, hoping that we are prepared throughout the country for these stockpiles to be released, and we can't even be told where they all are now. We know some a federal, we know some are state. They need to release them immediately. HARLOW: With so many nurses being parents -- I know, you know, 90

percent -- according to the Department of Labor -- of registered nurses are women. Many of them are mothers. I know you're a grandmother. Your grandkids aren't coming over right now because of all of this.

What have you seen in terms of child care options for nurses? Because they have to go to work, they have no option. Are they getting what they need from the federal, state and local governments in terms of child care support?

ROSS: I would say that maybe depends upon where you live. Right here, I know that so many things in Minnesota have been shut down but there is daycare available for nurses and health care workers because they have to get in obviously, and there's transportation still, there's busing to get them to work. But yet it is -- it is a huge worry.

To say nothing of the fact that you are working amongst this -- you know, disease-laden group, and then you come and you bring it home to your family, you could. And that's another reason why we want to be so certain that we are protected so we don't give it to others.

HARLOW: Absolutely. The possibility of retired nurses being called back into action, what are your thoughts on that?

ROSS: Well, you know, we are all for nurses doing what they want to voluntarily. Sometimes our registered nurses just barely make it through a nursing career because it is so very hard on your body. So I wouldn't want anyone to say they have to come back in.

And I think this is just another thing that happens when we've been so short-sighted about the health care system in this country. It's profit-driven, they operate on a just-in-time set of supplies and budgets. Meaning, we don't want to keep a lot of stock on hand. And that would be PPE -- protective equipment -- that would be linens, that would be everything.

HARLOW: Right, right. Yes. And --

ROSS: When you --

HARLOW: -- and --

ROSS: -- do that to save money -- yes, when you do that to save money, then we end up in the situation we're in. We're not the automotive industry, we're a health care system -- supposedly.

HARLOW: It's a very good point. Jean Ross, thank you again for what you and all the nurses you represent are doing. I'm glad you could be with us today.

ROSS: Me, too. Thanks for having us.

HARLOW: Well, how about something to smile about, right? I think we could all use that. Kindness amid crisis: Up next, we'll show you how some young people are showing the best of humanity during the worst of times.



HARLOW: Well, we're all feeling it. Life as we know it has changed dramatically during this coronavirus pandemic. And amid the darkness, though, we have to remember to smile here and there when we can. There are rays of light, and our Martin Savidge has them for us this morning.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These may feel like dark days with headlines of contagion, fear and hoarding. But human sunshine still exists. Random acts of corona-kindness are everywhere.

Like a front porch in Columbus, Ohio, where a young brother and sister put on a concert for a 78-year-old neighbor who had shut herself off from the virus and the world. Dressed in their best, the six- and nine-year-old delighted their audience of one.


SAVIDGE (voice-over): In Italy, where so many had died and so many more are isolated, they sing to each other from balconies. At night, voices echo through the streets with canine accompaniment.

In Spain, where they're also suffering, to say thank you to doctors and nurses battling to save lives, people step outside and applaud everywhere.

In Houston at Irma's Southwest Restaurant -- now ordered closed -- a couple left something behind: a $9,400 tip "to pay your guys over the next few weeks," the anonymous note said.

JANET MONTEZ, ASSISTANT GENERAL MANAGER, IRMA'S SOUTHWEST: This is beyond. I mean, I don't even have words for it. I just really don't.

LOUIS GALVAN, OWNER, IRMA'S SOUTHWEST: We have to let our staff know that we may be off of work for 15 to 30 days depending on how long that is. But the gift we got today should help soften the blow.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): At a Cleveland watering hole -- also closing -- a customer added a little something extra to his less than $30 bill: $2,500 for the staff.

When the NBA stopped the games, Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star Kevin Love started thinking about the arena's staff without work. He donated $100,000 from his foundation to them, hoping others would follow his lead in their towns. They did.

Teachers may not be rich like athletes, but they have a wealth of knowledge and on Facebook, many are sharing it to answer questions and help others learn. Elsewhere, the elderly are on the minds of many. People offer to

grocery shop for those who cannot or may not want to leave their homes. Stores have begun allowing older customers their own exclusive shopping hours to limit exposure to crowds.


And when coronavirus concerns prevented her from going into a North Carolina nursing home to show her grandfather something, a young women stood at his window, simply pointing to the engagement ring.

The virus, forcing us apart, seems also to be bringing us together, closer than we've been in a long while. Martin Savidge, CNN.


HARLOW: Thanks for that, Marty.

In minutes, we will hear from the coronavirus task force at the White House. You'll see it live, right here.