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Jerry Falwell, Jr. is Interviewed about Liberty University; Agreement on Stimulus Package; CNN Answers Coronavirus Questions. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 25, 2020 - 08:30   ET



JERRY FALWELL, JR., PRESIDENT, LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: And I think it's the only way to do it safely.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Understood. Yes, I mean, obviously, so many of our kids are now doing e-learning because of all this. But I just want to be clear, so, quickly you're your library open?

FALWELL: The academic buildings are open, but there are signs on every other chair, do not sit here. Keep distance between you, the person next to you. In the computer labs, only every third computer works so they don't sit next to each other.

So we've -- we've -- the department -- the Virginia Department of Health did an inspection and the boss sent a message. He said he wanted to talk to someone about the fantastic infection prevention practices our health inspectors observed while on your campus today. We got that message yesterday. So we -- we spent all last week and hours and hours and hours of meetings with my whole staff making sure that the few that did come back to campus, and it looks like a ghost town. It looks like a ghost town. The reason some of them are leaving now to go back and study at home is because none of their friends are here.

CAMEROTA: Understood. A lot of --

FALWELL: So it's a --

CAMEROTA: A lot of places look like a ghost town.

But I just want to be clear on your message because I don't know that it's getting out to your professors, or at least some of them, as well as the mayor. So as you probably know, one of your English professors, Mary Beth Badgett, says that she believes that you're still putting faculty, herself included, and students in danger because she says that you still are asking them to hold office hours. Is that true?

FALWELL: No. She and her husband are good friends. They're both faculty members. I've been in contact with them the last couple days. She wrote that op-ed last week before she knew what all the practices. Everybody was on spring break when she wrote that. So she had no idea what the final decisions were going to be. Those decisions were made yesterday. All faculty are teaching from

home with something called Microsoft Teams, where they can put every student on a little square box on a TV screen on their computer, every student can talk to each other, have discussions, and the office hours that were required before spring break are now optional for professors, they can do all their conferences with students by phone. And that decision was just made yesterday.

CAMEROTA: OK, good to know.

FALWELL: So everybody -- everything -- everything was in a fluid situation all week. The governor's orders were changing. And so we didn't -- we were not able to get all the messaging out until -- towards the end of the weekend. So she didn't' do anything wrong, she just didn't have information.


FALWELL: And the mayor -- the mayor and I -- the mayor and I --

CAMEROTA: OK, yes, let's talk about the mayor, because the mayor tweeting, just so that I -- I'm clear, because she put out a statement just yesterday who said, I was very surprised and disappointed to learn of the decision -- of President Falwell's decision to allow students back on campus. We're in the middle of a public health crisis. I'm concerned for the students and employees.

So what's your message to her?

FALWELL: Yes, and she also -- and she -- and she also said in that message that when she and I spoke early last week, that I told her the dorms would be open because we have so many international students. I never told her it would be closed to anyone else.

We didn't have many show up and we're -- you know, that's their choice. The students decide whether they want to be here or study at home. And so she's -- she's wishing they weren't here, but we really, you know, who knows how many came back to live in their apartments off campus. We really don't have control over it. But what we can do is make sure that they're safe when they're here. And that's what we're -- that's what we've done.

But she and I are friends. We just -- she -- she -- I think the city manager made a statement yesterday that, yes, I told her we were going all online. They were thrilled. They issued a statement thanking Liberty for doing that early last week.


FALWELL: But she said, you made us think the dorms were going to be closed. But I said, no, because I told you about the international students.


FALWELL: So, misunderstanding between people who are good friends. CAMEROTA: OK.

FALWELL: So I have the greatest respect for both the city manager and the mayor.

CAMEROTA: Good to know. We appreciate that clarification.

Now to churches. Are you encouraging people to still go to church and fill churches during this time? You know, I'm sure you heard the president yesterday say that he's hoping at Easter churches are packed.

FALWELL: You know, I'm not a pastor. My brother is. And he's doing all his services online. He sent out a message this weekend asking families to gather around their computers and watch the service. And I think that's what most churches are doing.

And I think -- I just don't think we can take this thing too seriously. It's -- it's something we don't understand. It's something -- you know, the H1N1 virus back in 2009 had 300,000 Americans in the hospital, 60 million had contracted the virus, 17,000 died, but we didn't see the response back then that we've seen from President Trump and from the media.


And so I think we're taking -- I think we're taking this one a lot more seriously. I'm glad we are.

CAMEROTA: You're glad we're taking this one seriously. You don't think we're taking it too seriously?

FALWELL: I'm glad we're taking it a lot more seriously than we did H1N1, because that one was arguably in the same ballpark as far as how severe it was. A lot more deaths, but I don't know -- I don't know where this one's going to end up.

CAMEROTA: No one does. No one does.


CAMEROTA: It's impossible to know where this one's going to end up. And I do remember, I mean from my recollection, the media and the government taking H1N1 seriously, so I'm not sure of that comparison.

But just in terms of, you know, President Trump was sort of engaged in some -- what some medical experts think was wishful thinking about Easter. But are you saying that he's getting ahead of himself and we should wait to see what happens?

FALWELL: Well, all last week we consulted with medical experts in New York City, and locally here, and I'm, you know, he's a CEO. He's treating this -- he's running this whole pandemic like you would hope a CEO would. And so he -- it's his job to be upbeat, to get people thinking about getting back into their normal course of life because we can't afford to be shut down more than a month or two. I don't know what it would -- it might do irreparable harm to our country. So he has no choice but to push hard to get this behind us. And I'm glad he's doing that.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, obviously, we need real information as well and it would hurt our country if there were, you know, tens of thousands or more people dead as well. But, either way, President Jerry Falwell, Jr., we really appreciate you coming in and clarifying what you're doing at Liberty. Thanks so much for taking the time.

FALWELL: Thank you so much.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So I just want to mark one moment so that everyone out there knows what's going on.

Mitt Romney, senator from Utah, has been in isolation because Rand Paul tested positive for coronavirus and Mitt Romney was concerned about his own health. His wife Anne has MS. So Mitt Romney very concerned about possibly spreading it. He tested negative. He does not have it.

Moments ago, the president reacted to this news writing, this is really great news, exclamation point, I'm so happy I can barely speak. He went on to say he may have been a terrible presidential candidate and an even worse U.S. senator, but he's a rhino and I like him a lot.

That is how the president is joking or making fun or being sarcastic in this time of national crisis. Jokes about people's health at a time when 7790 -- 709 Americans have died so far, 53,000 Americans are invested -- infected with this virus right now and the president is joking about it. That's not leadership.

So, senators struck a late night deal on this coronavirus rescue package. We just learned some details of what is in it. We will talk about whether it's enough, next.



CAMEROTA: OK, we just heard from Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer. He said to you, John, big help, quick help is on the way. And those words, of course, come after his colleagues in the White House finally agreed to this $2 trillion stimulus package at 1:00 a.m. last night. So what does that mean for Americans who are waiting for money?

Let's bring back in Christine Romans and Julia Chatterley.

Great to see both of you.


CAMEROTA: So, Julia, let me start with you in terms of the timing. I think that Senator Schumer told John that people could be getting checks on April 6th. Does that comport with the reporting you have? JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: They're going to try

and send them out as soon as they can, Alisyn, certainly. But what we've seen in the past is that often the average time it takes is to get a check is around two months. Remember, they've also got, if you filled in a tax form, they've got your direct deposit information. If you also get Social Security benefits, they have your information there. So the hope, I think, is they'll perhaps be a little bit more inventive rather than just posting out checks to everybody who needs it. Remember, it's those that earn below $75,012.

The other thing I'll mention here very quickly, Alisyn, is that the average weekly earnings for individuals according to the Labor Department data is around $930. So it's more than that. But, clearly, it's not enough. So if people have other outgoings, it's not clear on a national level what happens with utilities, rent, mortgages. Speak to your providers, speak to your banks, because they have been instructed to help people along throughout this crisis.

BERMAN: So, Romans, you point out, we maybe shouldn't even be calling this a stimulus package.


BERMAN: It's a rescue package, right? We're trying to bail this economy out, or at least jumpstart it once again. And one of the ways that they're doing that now, and Senator Schumer was talking about this, is the extended unemployment benefits.


BERMAN: Which might make people close -- some people close to whole for a long period -- a longer period of time.

ROMANS: Yes. And this is a really important part of this rescue, as I'm calling it, right, because they don't necessarily want you to run out and spend all that money to stimulate the economy. They want you to stay afloat. That's what this is for.

And you're probably going to see more than 3 million people in the last week have been laid off. Three million for the very first time jobless claims people have filed and they need those benefits. And more than just a one off check for $1,200, those jobless benefits, especially for furloughed workers, we've now confirmed through Senator Schumer, for furloughed workers, they're going to be able to keep their healthcare, they're going to get 100 percent of their pay for most of those workers, paid by the government, and it's going to last almost four years. So that's money that will be going in the economy all the time, not just one check, but something to sustain a family, John.

CAMEROTA: That is so helpful to know.

And so, Julia, in terms of the actual numbers, $1,200 per person, that's this cash infusion that we're talking about. If you make under $75,000. And then an additional $500 per child, per family, that will be really helpful to people. [08:45:06]

CAMEROTA: Do they do timeline calculations in terms of when they come up with these numbers of how long this is supposed to help and last?

CHATTERLEY: This is such a great question. You know, I go back to the point I just made about the median weekly earnings here is what $930. So it's something. But in comparison to the time horizon that we're talking about for this economic sleep, it's kind of a drop in the ocean, which is why, as Christine said, the added kicker here of unemployment benefits, the insurance that that provides is also critical here too.

But, of course, there's other lending as well that's important. A lot of people out there are self-employed, they're contractors, they work in what we call the gig economy. They're also included in this, which is also crucial. So for people watching this, they're encapsulated in some of this money too, and that is vital.

BERMAN: We don't know a lot of what is in here.


BERMAN: And there are people who have raised concerns, Romans, about there could be pork projects or special projects in there.


BERMAN: We just don't know at this point. And I'm not sure that specifically matters to you at home right now or doesn't matter as much as when you were getting money in your pocket, or if you're a small business owner who is trying to keep things afloat.

So, Romans, talk about the small business provisions for a second.


BERMAN: Because I do understand there are some incentives in that --


BERMAN: For business owners to continue to pay people as long as they possibly can.

ROMANS: Yes. I mean think about loans and then loan relief. If you keep your employees on, right? So you are basically having the government tell you, keep those employees on, we're going to get money to you, but don't fire anybody. So real retention incentives for these small business owners so they can try to get back on their feet right now and keep their workers. And that's what they really want to do.

They -- we're going to have so many layoffs. I mean this is -- every single one of these numbers is a layoff and it's a family that's, you know, start -- trying to start over here. So it's really a critical moment we're in right now. People talk about the stock market, they talk about, you know, record stimulus or record rescue from -- from -- from the Fed or from the -- from Congress. But for families right now, we are just beginning to feel the pain.

CAMEROTA: Christine Romans, Julia -- yes, quickly, Julia, a few seconds.

CHATTERLEY: And could I -- I was just going to say, I spoke to the National Retail Federation yesterday. They represent 52 employees in this country, one in four people that are employed work in retail. He said he's got many small and medium sized companies, they have no money now. So what the government needs to do is make sure these loans or grants get to people as soon as possible. Every day counts.


CHATTERLEY: A week here is vital between a business failing, workers losing their jobs and not.

CAMEROTA: Great points. Julia Chatterley, Christine Romans, thank you both very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, coming up, we're going to have Sanjay Gupta answer questions from our viewers. These are so helpful every day. Stick around.



BERMAN: We've been asking you to send us your questions about coronavirus so we can put them to someone with answers, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay is back with us.

Sanjay, first question has to do with a bit of news today. It is, what does it mean that the virus, coronavirus, is not mutating?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think this is -- this is good news. I mean most people ask the question, and they say, look, is this virus going to mutate into something more deadly. Thankfully that doesn't typically happen.

But the fact that the virus is staying relatively stable now, they have been following this, means that the vaccines that they're working on right now, that they're developing, are likely to be much more effective. They've got to sort of anticipate what this virus is going to look like several months, even a year from now. If it stays stable, that's going to be better news for vaccine makers.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, here's a question that we get from a lot of people, no one viewer in particular. If you have a negative test, does it mean you're free and clear? What if you're having symptoms, you get a test, it's negative, then -- then you're fine to go about your business?

GUPTA: Yes, this is a really important point, Alisyn. Here's the way to think about it, I think. If you have a positive test, then you for sure know that you -- you have the infection. That you've been exposed somehow. That you may or may not have symptoms but you have it and hopefully you may develop some immunity to it as a result of having it.

If you have a negative test, it basically means, at that point in time, you're negative. It doesn't mean that, you know, a week or two weeks or whatever down the line you couldn't then have a positive test. So you've got to sort of consider it. A single negative test doesn't necessarily mean you're free and clear forever, it means you're free and clear at that moment. And, you know, I mean people can develop a positive test, even, you know, at some point in the future.

BERMAN: So, Lisa from Los Angeles wants you to get in the middle of a marital squabble here. She writes, my husband thinks it's safer when going to the grocery store to go more often and stay less time. I think it's safer to do an extensive shop and avoid going back for at least ten days. What's your advice on this, Sanjay?

GUPTA: I find these marital disputes very interesting that have popped up in the midst of all this.

Lisa, I'm going to -- it's a little bit of a tie. But, Lisa, I'm going to error on your side on this. I think there's a couple things to keep in mind --

BERMAN: Now, see, even -- I didn't even go to med school and I know Lisa must be right, right?

GUPTA: Right.

BERMAN: That's not a medical answer, that's a marriage answer.

GUPTA: Conventional wisdom here. Right. Exactly.

CAMEROTA: I didn't know you were dolling out -- yes, Sanjay's available for marital advice as well as medical advice, which is great to know.

GUPTA: That's right. Go to the next store (ph).

CAMEROTA: And so --

GUPTA: Do -- but let me just explain really quickly, if I can on that, because I do want to -- in case Lisa's husband is watching to understand this is that, first of all, one thing to keep in mind is that going in the morning probably is a better deal. A lot of these stores are cleaning and sterilizing overnight. So morning is going to be a little bit safer.

Keep your social distance from people, no matter what time of day you go to these stores. And keep in mind, things may change. So you may have a situation where stores do close for a period of time, so going for longer shopping and making sure you're stocked up probably a better bet. (INAUDIBLE).


CAMEROTA: OK, I want to get to this question. This is from Cindy in Elkton, Virginia, and it's about asthma. And I've heard people ask me this as well. What do they know about how people with asthma react to Covid-19 and do the inhalers that people sometimes have at home, can they help if you're having, you know, a coughing experience?

GUPTA: Yes, so with regard to the second part of that question, absolutely, your conventional treatments, you know, don't dismiss those, still use those if you're having an asthma attack.

We've been looking into asthma quite a bit because, again, and we want to be humble here because we're learning a lot as we go along, yes, people who have asthma are at more -- greater risk of developing symptoms if they in fact get the infection. So it's a respiratory infection. This shouldn't be that surprising. But the conventional wisdom is to continue to treat it the way you normally do.

CAMEROTA: Great to know, Sanjay, thank you very much for all of the answers as always.


BERMAN: Thanks, Sanjay.

And just so everyone knows, whenever there's an issue, Alisyn is always right.

CAMEROTA: As it should be.

BERMAN: Major development -- as it should be.

Major developments on this rescue plan, $2 trillion.

Also the breaking news that Prince Charles has tested positive for coronavirus. Our coverage continues right after this.