Return to Transcripts main page


Seventy-Five Million Americans Told To Stay Home Amid Coronavirus Pandemic; President Trump Under Pressure To Use Defense Production Act; U.S. Intel Warned Of Possible Pandemic As Trump Publicly Downplayed The Threat In January And February; Staffer In Mike Pence's Office Tests Positive For Coronavirus; Italian Military Enforces Lockdown As Hundreds Die In 24 Hours, Bringing The Death Toll In Italy To Over 4,000; Medical Workers Plead For Equipment And Support; NYC Food Banks Scramble Amid COVID-19 Stay-At-Home Order; China Goes Three Days With No New Local Infections. Aired 6-7a ET

Aired March 21, 2020 - 06:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Morning. I'm Victor Blackwell.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christi Paul. So glad to have you with us as we look at American lives that are turning upside down this morning. The nation's health care system at a tipping point now as critical supplies are running dangerously low.

BLACKWELL: And now three more states, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, join California, ordering people to stay home. Seventy-five million people across the country on lockdown. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has surged to more than 18,000 now, 249 people have died.

PAUL: Medical professionals across the country are really sounding the alarm here. They're warning hospitals are running out of masks, out of ventilators and other crucial equipment. Now, President Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act so he can direct manufacturers to start making key medical supplies.

BLACKWELL: And so far the president says that he has not asked any of those companies to get started. Expect the president to be asked about that decision today at his briefing with media as supplies start to run out for some people.

PAUL: Want to get to CNN's at Natasha Chen who's here in Atlanta.

BLACKWELL: Natasha, good morning to you. More people are now being told stay where you are unless absolutely necessary, just don't leave the house.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. You mentioned some of those states, California especially, the most populous state, telling people to stay home unless it's essential business and that those other states doing similar guidance like New York. They're talking about people staying home unless their business is critical. Now, those critical businesses include groceries, pharmacies, gas stations. New York said that they were still going to run their public transit.

So there are exceptions to this, but the idea is to flatten that curve, to pull back on the number of people spreading this in the community and so for the most part, people are hunkering down.

Now, we also know that there has been issue -- there have been issues with testing. Dr. Deborah Birx, part of the White House coronavirus task force, has said to us that about 9 to 11 percent of the people tested right now have tested positive and of course the Association of Public Health Laboratories says with a supply shortage, we should consider really just limiting testing to the high-risk people. The CDC recommends testing for hospitalized patients with symptoms, older individuals, people who are immune-compromised, but the WHO wants to caution that we should not be falsely secure that young people would not be affected by this.

Let's show you what they said about young people making sure that they know you are not invincible. This coronavirus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you. Even if you don't get sick, you know, the choices you make about where you could -- where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else, especially those elderly people, pregnant women, people who are immune- compromised who are all around you.

So that message was really just to make sure that just because you are under age 60 and healthy, doesn't mean that you are invincible from this pandemic and so right now of course we are also taking a look at the hospitals across the country who are really talking about a shortage of personal protective gear. New York City says they're expected to run out of medical supplies in two to three weeks. So Christi and Victor, this is a very dangerous situation for all the hospitals really trying to keep their head above water here.

BLACKWELL: It certainly is and people who think they're invincible, no one is not only not invincible, but invulnerable as well. Natasha Chen, thank you so much.

CHEN: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: In just a few hours, Senate negotiators on Capitol Hill will continue to hammer out the details on a massive economic stimulus package. This is response three. Talks went late into the night, but sources tell CNN they're moving in a positive direction.

PAUL: And in just a few hours, President Trump and the coronavirus task force expected to give an update from the White House. CNN's Kristen Holmes is with us from the White House this morning. Kristen, good morning to you. What do you expect we're going to hear this morning?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, expect a lot more questions. Despite the fact that there has been a daily briefing every day, there are still so many unanswered questions, particularly around how did the U.S. get here and what is the government doing to fix it? So overnight, new reports in "The Washington Post" saying that U.S. intelligence officials were giving classified warnings as early as January and February that this was a serious global threat, that the coronavirus was something that people should take seriously within the administration.

We know this is at the exact same time that President Trump and lawmakers were really downplaying the virus and we've learned that inside the White House, advisors were struggling to get it clear to President Trump that this was something he needed to take seriously. So obviously questions about that, if this slowed down the response of the United States in any way.


Now the other big question here is the Defense Production Act. You mentioned that, Christi, that overall War Powers sweeping broad authority that would give President Trump the ability to essentially control the supply chain. We have no idea what exactly is going on with that. President Trump invoked that on Wednesday, then he got pushback from business leaders who said it wasn't necessary, then he tweeted out and said well, I did invoke it, I didn't actually mean to put it into effect.

So a lot of questions here around what exactly he's going to do. Yesterday, he said he was putting it into effect. We definitely want to follow up with that because as you heard Natasha say, there are a lot of people who are struggling and a lot of shortages that people need to get access to those supplies.

BLACKWELL: Yes (ph). Kristen, one more before we let you go. We've learned that a staffer in Vice President Pence's office has tested positive for the virus. Do we know anything about the contact between this staffer and the vice president?

HOLMES: Well, according to the White House, this staffer did not have any close contact with President Trump or Vice President Pence, but this is the first White House staffer that we know of who has tested positive for coronavirus and it's raising a lot of questions. Vice President Pence has been in a lot of situations here, as has President Trump, with people who have ended up being positive for coronavirus. People are getting access to our top officials and then testing positive.

So a lot circulating around here. We know Vice President Pence has been in contact with the White House physician. The physician told him after CPAC that he didn't need to get tested. As of earlier this week, he hasn't been tested, but certainly more questions around that well, particularly as we see more and more cases here in the U.S..

PAUL: All righty. Kristen Holmes, we appreciate it so much. Thank you. And, you know, I know that this is heavy news and I know that it's hard to wake up to it first thing in the morning a lot of times. So we want to make sure that you also know the good that's being put out there in the world.

There's this teenager in California right now who is trying to help the people in need during this outbreak. Shaivi Shah recruited her fellow Honor Society members at her Orange County High School to assemble sanitation kits for people who are homeless. These kits include hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, lotion, reusable masks. So far, these 15-year-old -- the 15-year-old and her classmates have delivered more than 150 kits to three Los Angeles shelters and that is something that obviously anybody could start to do in their community.

So we want to make sure that amidst all of some of the anxious news we're talking about, you also see that there's good out there and that we can do that together. So we want to hear from you. How has the coronavirus outbreak affected your life? We really want to hear your stories. Go ahead and tweet us @VictorBlackwell and @Christi_Paul. Those are our handles. If you have any questions as well for the doctors who are going to be joining us later in the show, please send them to us. We'll be sure to get those asked for you.

BLACKWELL: So we're learning more now about the threat that's been downplayed and dismissed by the White House. There's a new report on missed and sometimes ignored warning signs dating back to January of the coronavirus threat. Could the U.S. have started its response sooner?

PAUL: Also, Italy calls up its military to make sure citizens are staying in lockdown after hundreds of people, hundreds of people, die in just 24 hours.




PAUL: Twelve minutes past the hour right now. So grateful to have you with us. So the United States, of course, is stepping up its response to the coronavirus, but "The Washington Post" reporting this morning the federal government may have missed a chance to take on this threat much sooner.

BLACKWELL: So U.S. officials that tell "The Post" that U.S. intelligence agencies warned, starting in January, about the spread of the virus in China and later other countries, but the president and lawmakers downplayed the threat and did not take action then that might have slowed the spread of the virus.

According to a U.S. official, Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were that just couldn't get him to do anything about it. The system was blinking red. Let's talk now with Juliette Kayyem, CNN national security analyst, former assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Juliette, welcome back.


BLACKWELL: So let's offer some context here. I want to play, you know, about the time that a lot of this story from "The Washington Post" covers what the president was telling the American people --

KAYYEM: Yes. BLACKWELL: -- about the threat. Let's watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there words about a pandemic at this point?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, we're not at all and we have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China and we have it under control. It's going to be just fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You trust that we're going to know everything we need to know from China?

TRUMP: I do. I do. I have a great relationship with President Xi.


BLACKWELL: Happy talk that the administration still engages in, obviously an error. Is this the error of just the president or something more systematic?

KAYYEM: Well, clearly there was something systematic in the sense that you had agencies and operations saying this thing is coming and we're not ready, we're not ready with the test kits, we haven't prepared the first responders, we haven't protected the states and localities. So there -- and so the White House was unresponsive, Trump in particular.

What I thought was interesting about "The Washington Post" piece is, you know, we're thinking about this 9/11 analogy where the lights are blinking red and President Bush doesn't seem to sort of be able to, you know, sort of recognize that there's going to likely be a terror attack. I think this is worse because the lights are blinking red and Donald Trump actually says the opposite to the American public.

I mean, in other words, Bush was just silent. I think this is affirmatively worse because it's not nonfeasance, it's actually malfeasance. It's actually affirmatively lying to the American public and that's so important because in a pandemic, as we're all experiencing right now, it's not just about the first responders and the doctors and the nurses and the testing kits.

[06:15:06] It's about us --


KAYYEM: -- and what we're going to be required to do and I think to the extent that, you know, much of the public is in shock right now, it was because the president wasn't preparing us for this. He was affirmatively lying about it.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And I want to look ahead here to the foreign service officers overseas. CNN has done some reporting on what is happening at the embassies around the world and this is what one foreign service officer told CNN. "Every embassy is just making it up as we go along. There's no F-ing uniformed guidance to the field." Goes on to say, "There's no uniformity -- KAYYEM: Yes.

BLACKWELL: -- "which leads to interpretation and tensions." Ambiguity and improvisation here can be life-threatening. What should be happening.

KAYYEM: So we're just like four weeks behind on everything. So we have this period when we know it's coming and the -- and the federal government is not getting the states and localities ready with testing kits, guidance to protect first responders. Remember, some of the first people who were infected were the firefighters who went into that nursing home, right? So we're not protecting the people who are our protectors.

So you could have had guidance preparing us up to this moment and then of course now, which I've been, you know, screaming from the hilltops this is just unsustainable. You have, you know, big states like California and New York going in one direction, you have other states like Texas who are barely ready to announce social distancing. This is a 50-state disaster. We need a united approach, otherwise -- and because it's a pandemic, it's going to cross state borders easily.

And it's that silence, it's that inability for President Trump to sit at the -- at those press conferences and say we're having affirmative, you know, sheltering in place, social distancing across this country for the next couple weeks that has led to not only, I think, this hodgepodge of reactions, but is actually more dangerous. If we're going to flatten the curve --


KAYYEM: -- we have to do it together. You can't do it in California and ignore it here in Massachusetts.

BLACKWELL: There's also the vacillation, especially on the Defense Production Act --

KAYYEM: Oh, yes.

BLACKWELL: -- which we heard yesterday. I want to give people an idea of the varied answers that we heard from the president and then get your reaction.

KAYYEM: Great.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You had a call with Senator Schumer. He says you've now agreed to invoke the Defense Production Act to actually make those medical supplies that hospitals say are in severe shortage. So two questions. Is that what you're doing now?

TRUMP: It is. I did it yesterday. We invoked it I think the day before we signed it, the evening of the day before and invoked it yesterday. We have a lot of people working very hard to do ventilators and various other things, yes. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you're using it now to tell businesses --

TRUMP: We are using it. We are. We are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- they need to make ventilators, masks, respirators?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to be clear. Are you saying that the administration is requiring these industries to create these products or just asking?

TRUMP: You know, so far we haven't had to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the issue of ventilators, Mr. Vice President --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to get a clarification because you've just said that you haven't had to require companies to up their production of medical supply, but you've said last night you invoked the DPA --

TRUMP: But I didn't say that (ph).


BLACKWELL: No clear answer after --


BLACKWELL: -- nearly 90 minutes.

KAYYEM: Right. So no clear answer is the answer is no and so a lot -- you know, the Defense Production Act allows the President to either take supplies and get them to the frontlines or prioritize manufacturing for these companies to get the respirators, the masks, everything we know -- everything we knew, I should say in the past tense, that we would need, manufacturing takes a while, so we should have done this weeks ago. The president is clearly trying to fool the American public.

He has invoked the Defense Production Act --Manufacturing Act. There's no question about that, but it's not self-executing. There's a second part which is you tell company X, you start making respirators, you tell company Y, you start making masks. He has not done that yet. We are fighting a 50-state war on charity, on the charity of these CEOs maybe willing to give us certain things. You have Governor Cuomo tweeting last night asking for masks. You don't fight a war through charity and tweets.


KAYYEM: You command it and the president's unwillingness to do this is just a series of -- I just keep saying it's just so passive. I mean, it's like he can't quite conceive that this is his job, right? It's just so passive and then meanwhile, you know, we're not getting that production line moving.


KAYYEM: I should say to everyone this is the easy part, this is just about logistics. We're not trying to make a vaccine, we're not going to the moon. This is just getting stuff from point A to point B. This is the easy stuff, we know how to do this and the president can't. He just --


KAYYEM: -- doesn't know how to do it.

BLACKWELL: It's remarkable, the framework there, of fighting a 50- state war on charity.



BLACKWELL: Juliette Kayyem, thanks so much.

KAYYEM: Thank you so much. Good morning.

PAUL: There is a new protocol in Italy this morning. They've enlisted their military to deploy to enforce the coronavirus lockdown here. More than 600 people died in just 24 hours. We're going to take you there live. Stay close.


PAUL: Twenty-four minutes past the hour right now. So glad to have you with us this Saturday morning. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell.

PAUL: There are some cities in the U.S. that are preparing for lockdown over the coronavirus. Now, this, though, is really a worldwide pandemic. Six-hundred-twenty-seven people, think about that number, 627 died in Italy from the coronavirus in just the last 24 hours.


BLACKWELL: And that's the largest, single-day death toll in the world since the pandemic began. The military has been called in to enforce a lockdown there and one nurse said they're not even counting the dead anymore because there are just too many.

PAUL: Starting today in the U.K., all pubs restaurants shut down to the public, but the government there is stepping in to keep workers paid. The British finance minister says the government will cover 80 percent of their salaries for at least three months.

BLACKWELL: Now to China. There are signs of hope. There have been no reports of locally transmitted cases in the last three days. Recovering all angles of this from around the world, Delia Gallagher is in Rome and let's start there with how Italy is dealing with this latest influx of cases, Delia.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Christi, as you mentioned really devastating news, 4,032 people have died as of yesterday total on account of this coronavirus disease. Of those numbers, we have an initial report from the Italian Health Ministry which suggests that it is the elderly that are dying of the disease. They say the average median age is 80 years old and that 98 percent of the patients that have died have had one or more underlying condition.

So that gives us a kind of initial picture. Of course Italy has a very large elderly population, so authorities are saying that that is probably playing a factor in this high number of deaths. Of course all the focus this weekend is on getting doctors to the north. There is an emergency situation there in the hospitals. Doctors are exhausted, 17 doctors have died, some 2,500 health workers have also been infected. So they are bringing in 300 doctors from around the country to the north to help out there.

Fifty-three doctors from Cuba that worked with the Ebola virus in Africa are going to bring their expertise in and they're also releasing 10,000 medical students. They're not going to take their final exams. They're going to go straight out into the field.

On the lockdown, yes, the measures have gotten stricter from yesterday. Basically you can jog around your block and take your dog out for a walk around your block, but you can't move much further than that. The army is helping in the north with checkpoints. It's not like they're bringing in tanks rolling them down the street, but they are helping the police with the checkpoints. The government says they have so far checked 1,400,000 people and issued 62,000 violations, Christi, Victor.

PAUL: Delia Gallagher live from Rome for us. Delia, we appreciate the report. Thank you so much. Now, when she talked about the medical profession, here in the U.S., there are nurses and doctors across the country that are pleading for help and we have to remember these people because, I mean, they're the reasons that anyone even gets well.

BLACKWELL: Yes. These hospitals are facing supply shortages. We're talking about masks, the face shields and the other protective equipment they need. Some nurses say the system just was not prepared for this. CNN's Sara Sidner has their stories.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nurses and doctors from coast to coast are afraid and concerned.

CONSUELO VARGAS, ILLINOIS NURSE AND UNION MEMBER: I've been a registered nurse for over a decade. My hospital is in complete chaos and confusion in regards to COVID-19.

SIDNER: Do you feel like they were ready for this when it got to the United States?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Absolutely not. They're still scrambling. We just don't have what we need.

SIDNER: Are you afraid for yourself and your patients?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's the first time in my entire career that I've ever been afraid and I've heard other physicians say that they're afraid.

SIDNER: They are worried about how their hospitals and government are falling short as the coronavirus sweeps the nation. Experts warn we're not even experiencing the worst of the pandemic yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of hospitals are asking us to keep our mouths quiet.

SIDNER: This physician asked us to obscure her face and alter her voice because she says she believes she'll be fired for speaking out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't have enough staff, we don't have enough protective equipment and we have too many patients.

SIDNER: She works in Georgia. U.S. health officials are now asking doctors and nurses to do things they haven't had to do before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're asked to reuse things. You know, things that are used for one-time use only we're asked to use for the entire day and then re-save for the next day.

SIDNER: If you're being asked to reuse something over and over going to different patients, aren't you putting patients and yourself at risk?


SIDNER: In Roseville, California, Catherine Kennedy has been a registered nurse for 40 years.

CATHERINE KENNEDY, NURSE, VP NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: We are the frontline and if we go down, you know, we're furloughed home, who's going to take care of these patients?

SIDNER: They've never talked, but both agree their hospitals and government didn't properly prepare for a pandemic. Some of the hospital's will say, look, we didn't know what this was either, this is new to us, you know, how can you expect us to know what to do, how to prepare? What do you say to that?

KENNEDY: Well, we were here before with Ebola. We had a protocol and, you know, various hospitals were ready to utilize that same protocol that they did for Ebola.


But the hospital said no. They didn't want to do that. And so then at the last minute, they starting scrambling.

SIDNER (voice-over): But Kaiser Permanente, the hospital system Kennedy works for said the procedure it's using to screen, test and care for healthcare workers and patients suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 are aligned with the latest science and guidance from public health authorities.

These protocols and personal protective equipment have been reviewed and approved by their infectious disease experts and are in use by the major hospital systems. They said they're committed to ensuring healthcare workers have the right level of protective equipment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think these guidelines are irresponsible, and I think that they're playing with human lives knowingly.

SIDNER: You don't believe that it's now OK to use different masks?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I mean, the pandemic is not made for, you know, particles of the virus. It's just a decorative item. And it may need to kind of keep pollution out a little bit. But it's not meant to protect from potentially lethal disease.

SIDNER: And then, there are the fights over testing at some hospitals. Consuelo Vargas is a registered nurse in a Chicago emergency room. She says she and other nurses were exposed to a potential COVID-19 patient at work, but days later, they have not been tested. And they've not been told if the patient has tested positive.

CONSUELO VARGAS, ILLINOIS NURSE & UNION MEMBER: So, I'm supposed to return to work tomorrow. I don't know if I need to go get swabbed. I don't know if I need to be off until we get the patient's test result back. I am left wondering what to do.

SIDNER: Sara Sidner, CNN, Seattle, Washington.


PAUL: And our thanks to Sara Sidner there. Now, the state of New York has issued a stay-at-home order for non-essential workers. Food banks across the city are adjusting now to these new rules as they provide for people who are really in need. Well, the COO of the Food Bank of New York has a lot to say about this. She's with us next. Stay close.



BLACKWELL: More now on the signs of hope in China. For the first time since COVID-19 was identified, there have been no reports of locally transmitted cases. That's over the last three days.

PAUL: Yes, Will Ripley is with us live from Tokyo right now. Will, it's so good to see you. I know, a lot of people want to know if the Olympics are still a go at this point. What are you hearing about that?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a lot of people have questions about whether the Olympics can go forward, and if you talk to Tokyo 2020 organizers, they do say that at this stage, they're still planning on a July 24th start. But with each passing day, despite the good news out of China, people are well aware of the chaotic situation in Europe and the United States right now, and even a member of Japan's Olympic Committee, a 1988 bronze medalist, Kaori Yamaguchi, she says publicly that the games should be postponed because athletes in the U.S., in Europe and elsewhere just aren't going to have adequate time to train.

And that is a call that is echoed by the CEO of USA swimming who spoke out this week as well. At this point, the Japanese organizers and the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are in a really top spot. They're on track to spend $20 billion on the Olympics. The Olympic torch just landed in Japan yesterday. And that it's making its way now, starting in devastated Fukushima prefecture and heading towards Tokyo.

There is so much that this country has invested in the Olympics both financially, but also emotionally. This is supposed to be Japan's come back, Japan's revival after the devastating earthquake tsunami and nuclear meltdown nine years ago this month.

But it does seem almost tone deaf at this stage for organizers to continue to insist that the Olympics can go forward as scheduled, given what's happening around the world, and serious questions about whether it will be safe for people from 200-plus countries to come here in Tokyo and spend weeks together in relatively close proximity in just over four months.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it seems increasingly unlikely. Will Ripley for us there live, Will, thank you so much. Back here stateside, New York City, one of the hardest hit areas in the country. The city has now seen 5,683 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 43 deaths.

PAUL: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an order that all non- essential workers across the state are required to stay home now, which means food banks which rely heavily on volunteers in their food pantries, their soup kitchens, their shelters across the city, they're scrambling to adjust to the new rule.

BLACKWELL: In California, the National Guard has been deployed to help distribute food at food banks and serve the most vulnerable.

PAUL: Chief operating officer of the Food Bank for New York City, Lisa Hines-Johnson with us now. Lisa, we so appreciate you taking time to be with us. So, I want to talk to you about that. First of all, also making the point that your organization is an essential service, so you are continuing to operate. But how do you plan to -- I guess, what is your plan B if volunteers who are such an integral part of how you organize and how you operate, what is your plan B without them?

LISA HINES-JOHNSON, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, FOOD BANK FOR NEW YORK CITY: Well, thank you for having me this morning. So Food Bank for New York City and all food banks including our soup kitchens and food pantries who are on the front lines of serving community are exempt from this mandate. And we also have an understanding that so are the volunteers who are critical components of supporting us.

[06:40:00] We are doing everything in our power to ensure that we are following CDC guidance, following the guidance and protocols of state and local health officials to welcome volunteers even during these times, practicing social distancing, whatever is needed. And hoping that more people will feel secure and come out and support as best they can.

BLACKWELL: Lisa, I understand you have enough food right now for everyone who comes to you. But how long will that last? At what point do you expect that you'll run out

HINES-JOHNSON: Well, right now, we're already seeing an increasing amounts of need. Nearly half of the soup kitchens and food pantries that we've heard from are saying they're seeing an increase in need. And so, we're working diligently with our partners across the city to ensure that we continue to have enough for as long as possible to serve.

PAUL: So compare for us, just so we have a better understanding of what you're under right now. Compare for us what you normally would be dealing with and opposed to what you're dealing with right now in term of the needs that are out there and how to fill that.

HINES-JOHNSON: Sure, so right now, many of our soup kitchens and food pantries are open and serving, although some of them have made some changes to their operation and on their hours. But we're seeing an increasing number of those same partners shutting down. As you can imagine, a great number of our soup kitchens and food pantries are run by seniors who are the most vulnerable right now being asked to stay home.

And so that's a big issue for us. But we're quickly trying to work with the city, with our sister food banks across the state, to ensure that we do whatever is possible, as safely as possible to support communities.

BLACKWELL: Lisa, for those who want to support, is it better that they offer any specific items or is it more effective, more efficient to donate financially?

HINES-JOHNSON: More effective and more efficient to donate, and just so everyone knows for our food banks for New York City, every dollar is equivalent to five meals. And we have the capacity and the purchasing power to ensure that we get the items that are so needed during this time. So donations, monetary donations and volunteering your time critical need right now.

PAUL: Are you -- are you dependent on people coming to you for the food or do you have options for delivering food to certain areas?

HINES-JOHNSON: We -- food banks for New York City have our trucks on the road every day that distribute through soup kitchens and food pantries. But we are currently working with community partners across the city to figure out new distribution channels. Given the new mandate -- given the fact that some people are not coming out. But we expect -- fully expect that they'll be able to come out to get the food that they need and then return back to their home safely. And so we're looking at all the ways that we can get through this and be supportive as possible.

BLACKWELL: All right, Lisa Hines-Johnson, thank you so much for being with us and, of course, if you can, I know that there are people who are going out and buying a lot of supplies for their families, but think of those who cannot get out, who cannot afford to buy food and donate to your local food bank. We need to rely on one another at times like this. Lisa, again, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thank you, Lisa.


BLACKWELL: Well, as the sports world shuts down amid this pandemic, athletes are teaming up. Find out how they're trying to make a difference and how you can help.



PAUL: We just heard from Will Ripley saying that the Olympics are scheduled to go on as planned, but the head of USA swimming is calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be postponed now.

BLACKWELL: Let's go to Carolyn Manno, she's in New York this morning. Carolyn, this is one of team USA's most dominant programs. How much weight does this carry?

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS REPORTER: Well, good morning, Christi and Victor, ultimately, this decision is going to be made by the global governing body, the International Olympic Committee. But it certainly is a very public criticism that really underscores the desire for a decision to be made about whether these games are going to, in fact, proceed four months from now.

In a letter to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympics Committee, U.S. Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey called for a postponing the games until next year. He called it the right and responsible thing to do. In order to ensure everyone's health and safety, many of the training facilities that Olympic athletes use are also now shutdown across the country.

That has been raising serious questions about adequate and fair preparation time. In response to this, the U.S. Committee says that it will continue to rely on the guidance coming from the international governing bodies which up to this point says that a decision right now is premature. The IOC has a meeting scheduled for next week. Right now, the Olympics are set to begin on July 24th, but that is growing grimmer by the day.

At least, 10 NBA players on four different teams have tested positive for COVID-19. That includes Boston's Marcus Smart; the veteran guard is in self-quarantine, that is something that he was doing before learning of his diagnosis on Thursday night. And during Friday's "CUOMO PRIME TIME", Smart did underscore the importance of social distancing right now.


MARCUS SMART, GUARD, BOSTON CELTICS: That's the biggest key because you can't tell just by looking at somebody whether they have it or not, because they can still look healthy and normal and still have it and spread it, and then that's where we get the problem where we have. I advise especially, you know, around my generation, I'm 26, be alert to what's going on and take the precautions to finally protect yourself. By protecting yourself, you protect others.


MANNO: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said earlier this week that he has no idea when play is going to resume, and that is a reality that every sport is facing right now. But with leagues shutdown, there are a lot of athletes who are continuing to do what they can and give back. Athletes for COVID-19 relief is an effort organized through the sports agency, Octagon, and also the Center for Disaster, Philanthropy, difference makers like Simone Biles, David Ortiz, Steph Curry, so many more among those that are offering up signed memorabilia to help those who are being affected.


Right now, a 100 percent of the proceeds are going to go to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy COVID-19 response fund. David Schwab of Octagon Sports spoke to CNN about why athletes' visibility is essential right now.


DAVID SCHWAB, OCTAGAON SPORTS: The amount of money and time and resources they spend and contribute in the local communities is incredible. Much of which people never even know. Just in a few days, we have athletes from 20 sports and five countries. And more athletes equal more items which equals more share, more donations and more relief. That's our primary and singular goal of this effort.


MANNO: And Christi and Victor, everybody can learn more on if they want. If they want to donate, that's certainly up to them. We are seeing a lot of athletes use social media platforms right now to connect with fans and people more than ever before, so that's good to see. They're in the same boat as us, many of them are quarantined and they're trying to do what they can.

BLACKWELL: Certainly are, Carolyn, thank you. I mean, as we're waiting for this decision on the future of the Olympics, it's hard to imagine how competitors would move forward on sports like wrestling and judo where you have this person-to-person, karate, boxing, person-to-person interaction when we're told to stay 6 feet apart.

MANNO: There's a lot of layers to this, Christi and Victor. They're certainly the physical contact issue, which is such a part of sports and the global coming together which is going to be a very big deal moving forward. But the athletes that I've spoken to, some are really hoping for this. They've put their entire lives on hold. They have not had children. They have given up everything for an opportunity that comes around every four years.

And then there's other athletes who'd say, hey, this isn't fair, we're going to be in close contact with each other, we haven't been able to train swimmers. My pool is being closed, I don't have an Olympic training facility. So athletes are just processing this like the rest of us, and it's a billion-dollar decision for the decision makers at the top. I certainly don't envy that decision though, it has to come sooner rather than later.

PAUL: Yes, all right, Carolyn, we appreciate it so much, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Right, coming up later this morning -- actually early afternoon, President Trump and the coronavirus task force, they are expected to be in front of the cameras again at the White House. We'll get an update on hopefully the testing situation here in the U.S. The -- any progress that the White House is making with congressional negotiators on this next chapter of relief as well.

And if the president is now going to ask manufacturers to start to get to work, to order them, in fact, to make the masks and the gowns and the personal protective equipment that medical professionals say they need to protect themselves and you. That's at noon today, of course, we'll bring that to you live.



BLACKWELL: Americans across the country are feeling the impact of COVID-19 in a lot of ways. Some people are working from home, caring for their kids, Some are out of work completely. Businesses shutting down, the market has been spiraling out of control.

PAUL: Yes, some economists are warning the pandemic could lead to a global economic recession. We have central banks and governments that have unleashed interest rate cuts, loan guarantees and new spending just to reassure investors.

BLACKWELL: Right now, Congress is under extreme pressure to approve a $1 trillion stimulus bill that would provide direct relieve to Americans and businesses, and as of last night, no deal was made yet, but lawmakers have said they're making significant progress. Senate negotiations will continue today.

PAUL: Now, we're hearing from a lot of you about COVID-19 and we're grateful for that. One woman wrote, "wish us well at my hospital and every other hospital, we're facing the most challenging times I've experienced as a nurse, and I've seen a lot in 38 years at bed-side pediatric nursing." Thank you, also, I want to point out to all of you, nurses and doctors and anyone in the medical profession who is doing everything they can for people.

Do share your story with us because we would love to hear it. You can tag us @victorblackwell and @christi-underscore-paul, that's on Twitter, we're also on Instagram and we really do value your opinions and your stories and what you're going through right now.

BLACKWELL: We certainly do, and if you have questions for medical professionals, we'll have those throughout the morning, we'll get those answers for you. We've got a lot more on how COVID-19 is impacting this country, this world and the response. In the next hour of your NEW DAY.

PAUL: First though, I have to give you some sad news this morning. There's the loss of country music icon Kenny Rogers now. His family said he died in his home yesterday from natural causes. But due to the coronavirus outbreak, his family is planning a small private service.

But Roger's career spanned more than six decades with chart-topping hits like "The Gambler", his duet with Dolly Parton, "Islands in the Stream", that became a pop and country music hit. Kenny Rogers was 81 years old, and sending thoughts and prayers certainly to his family and all of you who love him so much.

Good morning, so grateful to have you with us on this Saturday, I'm Christi Paul.