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A Restaurant Owner Talks about Unemployment; Federal Reserve offers Support; Olympics could be Delayed; Navy Ship Reports Coronavirus Amongst Sailors; Italy Requests U.S. Military Support; Former Astronaut on Coping with Isolation. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired March 23, 2020 - 09:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A number of elements in there. You have the Fed now acting to make loans more available to small businesses and so on.

But let's talk about The Hill in particular. What particular help is important to your -- not just to your business, to you, but also to your -- to your workers? What do they need the most from the government right now?

CAMERON MITCHELL, OWNER, CAMERON MITCHELL RESTAURANTS: Well, I think we're doing our part with our people. We have taken care of their health insurance at least through April. I think we can do it through May also.

We are doing associate relief fund. We're selling gift certificates to our guests who want to call and support us and we think we can raise over $1 million for that to help put some food on the table for our people. The government assistance checks that are coming out, that -- the unemployment, all those things are helping bridge the gap. And so we're excited about that and we're doing our part.

And then we're looking forward to trying to get back open. And you know, it's expensive to open a restaurant that's a full service restaurant that's been shuddered. And all restaurants, large companies, mid-sized companies, small companies are in the same boat in this regard.


MITCHELL: It takes about 30 days to start reopening a restaurant from scratch and tens -- and tens of thousands of dollars. And we need some assistance, whether it be in the form of grants or loans from the government to help us get back up and running. And while we're sitting in quarantine at home, that's what we want to know is restauranteurs and all of our associates want to know that we're going to have the opportunity to get back.

SCIUTTO: OK, so you mentioned one thing there, unemployment insurance to help workers bridge the gap, in effect. And then you mentioned low interest loans or perhaps no interest loans, key to small businesses. I've heard that from other small business owners.

In the meantime, for folks who can, and not a lot of -- not a lot of folks can, because everybody's counting pennies now, but if they -- if they want to help these workers, what's the best thing they can do?

MITCHELL: Well, I think in the case of our company is to, you know, purchase our gift certificates. So 100 percent of those proceeds are going to our associate relief fund. And other restaurant companies have similar programs. And out there we've got lots of guests that are trying to help our people directly, and so forth.

SCIUTTO: Well, Cameron Mitchell, we wish you the best of luck. We know you're going through some times here but please pass on our thoughts to those workers and know that we look forward to seeing them back at work as soon as possible.

Thanks to you.

MITCHELL: We will, Jim. They're our CMR family and we look forward to being back with them too as soon as we possibly can.

SCIUTTO: Best of luck.

Other story, of course, we're watching this morning, the markets. Trading is underway. Stocks mixed this morning. This as investors find some faith in the Federal Reserve. The futures had been up a bit, indicating an increase at the open, but now it's down, this even as the Fed announced what is really a remarkable plan to make money via loans and so on, more available to individuals and businesses.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans, she is following the news.

So, Christine, tell us exactly what the Fed is doing. I mean the words you used at the top of this hour really struck me and I saw on social media a lot of people as well, that the Fed is trying to avoid a depression here.


SCIUTTO: That's quite a strong word. What does that tell us about the warning signs but also tell us what a difference these steps are going to make.

ROMANS: So the Fed -- you, you know, lowered interest rates to near zero and a lot of people said the Fed was just running out of ammunition. This is the Fed saying, oh, no, I have a very big gun and I can fire it to keep this economy from slipping into a depression. And so what the Fed is going to do, it's going to do basically quantitative easing to infinity. Basically it will buy up any Treasury security, mortgage-backed security, anything that can't find a buyer, it will buy. It will be the borrow of last resort and the lender of last resort.


ROMANS: So that's showing a remarkable position from the Fed saying that it's not going to let the economy fail, Jim.

SCIUTTO: OK. Just for folks who don't follow the markets regularly like you do, if I'm at home, I've got a small business. To keep it open, I need -- I need to borrow money at a low rate or perhaps at zero rate or mortgage rates, for instance.


SCIUTTO: For average folks at home, what does it mean what the Fed's doing here? Is it going to be zero interest loans for businesses? Is it -- does it mean mortgage rates will fall more? Tell us what it means to average means Americans.

ROMANS: It means -- it means low mortgage rates and available mortgages. It means that the credit system doesn't get junked up and unable to work. It means credit is flowing freely and that is incredibly important because we had seen some strains in the credit system.

One thing the Fed announced that's really getting a lot of attention, it announced a main street business lending program to support lending directly to small and medium-sized businesses. Usually what the Fed does is the Fed keeps the oxygen flowing in the financial system and it's the banks that do the lending, right?


It keeps the -- it keeps that system operating well.


ROMANS: This is a new kind of program that will be interesting to watch here.

But, Jim, as we watch the markets, I just -- this is a very important week for small businesses. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, is pleading with small business owners today, do not fire your workers. If they get this stimulus passed in Washington, there will be help immediately to pay your bills. So watch this space.

SCIUTTO: Yes, no question. That's the key. So we're going to bring you that news as it happens on The Hill.

Christine Romans, great to always have you translate this economic news --

ROMANS: Trying to.

SCIUTTO: Into terms that folks at home can understand.

Coming up next this hour, the International Olympic Committee has now set a deadline to decide whether they will postpone this year's Olympic games, but two countries, they've already made their decision about their own participation. They're pulling out.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

The pressure is growing to delay this year's summer Olympic games. Canada says it will not send its athletes to Tokyo amid the coronavirus crisis. Australia says that its athletes are preparing for the Tokyo games, but next year in 2021. The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, had said the games should go on, on schedule, but now says a postponement is possible. So does the International Olympic Committee.

CNN's Will Ripley, he has the latest from Tokyo.

And so many years of planning, lots of money goes into this, but it appears that the health crisis may be catching up?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are almost certain to be the latest casualty or the next casualty of the coronavirus outbreak, Jim. I mean Shinzo Abe's message is not even say that a postponement is possible.

Let me read you what he told Japanese upper house earlier this evening here. He said, quote, if I'm asked whether we can hold the Olympics at this point in time, I would have to say that the world is not in such a condition. That is a very Japanese way of saying that the games are going to be postponed.

But they need time. Their -- you know, they need time to sort out the logistical nightmare. They're -- you know, we talked to an economist today who thinks it could cost Japan upwards of $5.5 billion to move the Olympics to a different date.

When you're thinking about all of the venues, the cancellation fees, the fact that the Olympic athletes village has already been largely sold off. People are supposed to be moved in by next summer. So what happens with them? What happens to the people who spent thousands of dollars on tickets?

And, you know, that's not to mention the fact that Japan still might not have a full grasp of the coronavirus situation here in the country because they're just testing a tiny fraction of people, the bars and restaurants are crowded here, people are crowding the parks to view the cherry blossoms, people are going into the office, they're crowding onto public transportation.

So there are real legitimate safety concerns, not to mention the fact that you had the all-powerful USA Track and Field and USA Swimming sounding the alarm that their athletes, even if it was safe, they're not going to have time to train for these games.

But it's going to be probably a matter of weeks before we find out what the plan is because there are so many different stakeholders involved that they have to discuss it with, Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. And all those years of preparation but, of course, health first.

Will Ripley in Tokyo, thanks very much.

You've heard of the issues on cruise ships, how about a U.S. Navy ship. For the first time, the U.S. Navy is reporting multiple cases of the coronavirus on board one ship in San Diego. The Pentagon confirms that seven sailors on the same ship have now tested positive for the virus.

Let's go to CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

You know, cramped quarters, you know, shared facilities, bathrooms, dining facilities, et cetera, I mean it has all the ingredients to make something like this thrive.

What do we know and what's the Navy doing about it?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's very little information, actually, available just yet, other than two officials are telling me it is being defined for the first time as a cluster. It is on board a Navy ship. The ship is not being identified that's in port in San Diego. Now, that may be a bit of good news because the crew can be taken off the ship. The people, the seven crew members that have tested positive clearly getting the medical attention that they may need.

But it is highlighting the real challenge for the Navy as this situation grows. What happens if this was a cluster that emerged while a ship or a submarine was at sea deployed and could not readily make it back to a port, a port in the United States for example? So this is the scenario that the Navy is struggling to prepare for.

They've had a couple of one and two cases of ships overseas but they are isolating those people on board as best they can. When they get a large number, it's going to be something that's going to be increasingly difficult to do. The military very much beginning to understanding that they could be facing a readiness problem with some of these ships if they get a big cluster sweeping through one of the crews.


SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean you hit right at the point there, how does this affect Navy obligations around the world? You know, their ships have to be at sea, keep the country safe, et cetera.

Barbara Starr, great to have you there at the Pentagon, at always.

Italy, of course, a focal point of the outbreak in the world. It is now asking the United States for the help of his military in combating the coronavirus. They say they need critical medical equipment, such as masks and ventilators. Sound familiar to you. That's the real challenge in so many communities. And they need help from U.S. forces, who, of course, are stationed in Italy. The country reported more than 600 deaths from the virus in the 24-hour period that ended yesterday.

CNN's Delia Gallagher, she is in Rome.

Delia, tell us what the progress of the outbreak is there. You know, for Americans watching at home, one reason is because the U.S. numbers, at least early on, seemed to be tracking the Italy growth rate.


What's happening in Italy today?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Jim, what's happening is that we're up to about 600,000 total cases. What is important to note are yesterday's numbers, that is that with respect to Saturday, they showed a slight decrease in total number of cases, down about 800 total cases, and about 150 deaths.

That is significant, Jim, because we have reached the two-week peak for lockdown. Sunday was two weeks from the lockdown in the north, Wednesday will be two weeks from the total country-wide lockdown and this is what they're saying is the crucial week for Italy, that they want to see those numbers start to decline. So even though that's a very minor decline there reported on Sunday, we're watching those numbers to see if that trend continues, that's what experts are hoping to see.

As you mentioned, Jim, the U.S. Department of Defense is saying that Italy has reached out for help from them. I can tell you also that Russia and Cuba have given help, they arrived yesterday, 52 Cuban doctors and a Russian military plane with doctors and equipment on board.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I heard that there was applause in the airport when some of the doctors arrived there.

Delia, we know we'll continue to watch it. We hope that is a hopeful sign from Italy, but it is early.

Still to come this hour, among the news we're following, so many of Americans here in the country stuck indoors, hunkering down to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. I don't have to tell you, it can get boring. It can get lonely. So I'm going to speak to a man who spent nearly a year in outer space. He shares his tips for how to cope. It's really worth watching. He's got some great ideas that I think could make a difference for all of us.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

Right now millions of Americans, many of you, are stuck at home, adhering to social distancing, forced into a new and unfamiliar reality. Our next guest knows a thing or two about living in tight quarters for over extended periods of time. In fact, he spent nearly a year in a place few will ever live and work, in space, in the International Space Station.

Joining me now, former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. He's written some tips on surviving isolation for "The New York Times." It's really worth a read.

Commander Kelly, so good to have you on this morning.

You start your piece telling people how important it can be to follow a schedule but also pace yourself. Practically, for folks who are watching now, how should they take that? What does that mean for them?

SCOTT KELLY, FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, when I launched to the Space Station in March of 2015, I knew I was going to come home around the following March. So, in some ways it's a little bit different of a situation.

But because I couldn't see the end of that mission from the beginning, because it was so far away, I tried to, you know, frame my mind to, this is now my reality. I live here. I'm going to be here for a long time. I'm not sure how long, but someday this will be over. And I think having the right expectations are going to be really important for helping people get through this.

SCIUTTO: Right. And we know from the experience of countries like China, South Korea and elsewhere that there is an end. We don't know where it is, but we know there is an end.

You were great about other things like -- well, certainly, diversion is important. You talked about how you binge-watched "Game of Thrones," not once, but twice. That takes some time. But also about the importance of a hobby, activities, and regular activities. Tell us what a difference that made for you and what a difference that could make for people who are going through this now.

KELLY: Well, first of all, you mentioned the schedule. And I thought -- I think a balanced schedule is important. You need to take care of yourself. You need to do your work, if you're able to do that. You need to take time to take care of your environment. When I was in space, the Space Station here will be your apartment, your home.

But then you also need those kind of outlets. You know, stuff that you can do that is entertaining, that detaches yourself from, you know, what's going on, detaches yourself from the news.


KELLY: In my case, in the Space Station, I tried to write, other people, you know, played music. People do art. These things are all very important for mental health. And, you know, our mental health is very important for our physical health.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes, in the last week, with my kids, we were doing things like jobs, cleaning up the tool bench, you know, things like that, but even playing soccer, right, you know, outside, that helps.

I remember watching clips of you skyping with your daughter from space. Tell us about the importance of that kind of connection. I think -- feel like Zoom is one of the heroes, right, of social distancing, right, because people are coming together but virtually.

KELLY: Yes. Well, staying connected is very, very important. We had e- mail, we had a phone, we had the ability to do, you know, limited video conferencing calls. And I think, in this environment, you know, my wife and I, the last few nights, we reconnected with some friends that we had not seen in a long time. And I think, you know, if people use technology right, coming out of this they will find that they, you know, strengthened their relationships with their family members --


KELLY: Even though they couldn't see them physically, renewed friendships. So, you know, in anything that's bad and challenging, if you look hard enough, I think you can always find some good in it.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I'll tell you, I've spoken to a lot of folks in the last couple of weeks that hadn't checked in with in a long time and I would recommend that.


Final -- final bit of advice you had in your column, listen to the experts. Because I think people are deluged with information, some of it not true, right, some of it misleading, some of it perhaps emphasizing the negative or the positive. What's the importance of listening to the experts?

KELLY: You know, for my 20 years at NASA, at least towards the end of my time there, when I had some -- you know, some experience, I realized, you know, this isn't all rocket science, right? But when it is, you need to find a rocket scientist.

So what I mean is, find the experts, the CDC, the World Health Organization, the INH, universities, not your FaceBook friends. They are not the experts on this. Trust the experts.

SCIUTTO: Yes. That's good advice.

Scott Kelly, thanks so much for the service you did to all of us in space and for simple tips like this that can make a real difference. We appreciate it.

KELLY: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, negotiations are underway right now on Capitol Hill. Can the Senate reach a deal on a massive stimulus package? We're going to bring you all the latest.

Stay with us.