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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Spanish Prime Minister Says Spain Is Now Epicenter of European Outbreak as Death Toll Is Above 4,000; German Death Rate Far Lower Than European Nations Due to Early Testing; MLB and Fanatics Using Jersey Materials to Make Hospital Gear. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 26, 2020 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00]

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- complain about a lack of protective equipment. They are also complaining about a lack of ventilators which could save lives. Some doctors have even resorted to using a full-face snorkeling mask as sort of a makeshift jerry-rigged respirator. And the use of this is not widespread but it has caught on enough that one sporting goods chain in Spain has actually stopped selling them. They plan to donate the stock that they do have.

TAPPER: And Scott's Spain's Health Minister said today that even though the death toll is rising in Spain, he believes that the rate of infection, confirmed cases is stabilizing.

MCLEAN: Sure. There's two different numbers. So, the number of deaths has now topped 4,000. But the number, the increase in the number of deaths is less today than it was yesterday. That's the good news.

The bad news is the number of confirmed cases, the highest number of confirmed cases was actually recorded just in the last 24 hours. And keep in mind that the actual number of infections in this country is likely much, much higher and that is because they have really struggled to get widespread testing.

They have a test that can return results in just 15 minutes. But they haven't been able to rule it out in any sort of widespread way. They are still doing about 15,000, 20,000. They want to multiple that by about five.

They actually just got in a couple weeks ago some tests that were imported from China. They didn't work. So now they have to send them back. So that's just one of the struggles that they're dealing with.

TAPPER: All right, Scott, thanks you so much. Stay safe.

Let's go to Germany now where health officials are conducting more than half a million tests a week. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Berlin, and Fred, how has Germany been able to test so many people so quickly?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well the reason, Jake, is because they say they got on it very, very quickly, very early, and very strongly right from the beginning. It was actually a German lab that developed the first real test for COVID-19 and they immediately made that formula available around the world and gave to it all the testing labs in Germany.

This country has a lot of smaller labs and clinics that can conduct these tests and that's why they can conduct so many tests right now. And they say it was political decision that was made to do that at an extremely early stage.

The Germans came out today, Jake, and they said, them being able to test so many people is the single biggest reason why Germany still has fairly low death toll. If you look at the numbers, Germany has around 40,000 confirmed cases but only a little over 200 people who have died so far of coronavirus and they say the reason for that is they are detecting a lot of milder cases. They are being able to isolate those people and therefore keeping a lot of pressure off the health care system here in this country -- Jake,

TAPPER: All right a federal government that got active quickly and strongly in Germany. Thanks so much, Fred Pleitgen, we appreciate it.

Coming up, it's not just cleaning supplies there are some new products that are becoming hard to find. A plan to keep up next.

[15:35:00]

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TAPPER: Welcome back. Fear and the unknown timeline of this pandemic have had people hoarding groceries, irrationally stocking up on toilet paper or sanitizer, canned goods. We've already seen stores full of empty shelves as well as a huge demand for specific items.

CNN's Clare Sebastian joins me now to discuss. Claire, what products are seeing a boom right now?

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. So, the obvious ones as you mentioned toilet paper, hand sanitizer. The latest data that we've got from Nielsen shows that for the week ending March 14th they were still going more than 200 percent compared to the previous year.

But I want to take a look at food in particular because it's interesting, people aren't just buying more they're buying different things. We're seeing notable increase in things like dried beans for that week ending March 14th, up 230 percent, canned meat up 187 percent, eggs up 44 percent. Those indulgent snacks that are growing in popularity, popcorn up more than 40 percent as well. And oatmeal is an interesting one. That was up more than 470 percent. That has been growing in popularity anyway, this is exaggerated that it lasts longer than dairy. So, people are looking for sort of shelf stable items.

But it's worth point out this isn't just irrational buying. People are at home all day. They are having to account for all their meals, all of their snacks for them and their kids. So, people are needing to buy more food as well. So, I think we're seeing a combination of both rational and irrational behavior when it comes to these numbers.

TAPPER: Right. I just meant the toilet paper part of it was irrational. Are manufacturers able to keep up with all this high demand?

SEBASTIAN: So, if you're talking hand sanitizers, then no, I think is the answer to that. We're seeing companies are retooling. We're seeing prisoners in New York making it.

But when it comes to food it's a different story. What the industry groups and manufacturers I've been speaking to have been telling me is that yes, there is enough food out there. They are producing at capacity, they are ramping up. That there is enough food there.

The CEO of the American Pulse Association, for example, tell me their producers are, their processors are adding shifts, they're now working 24/7. But they have a lot of product in stockpile and they do believe that there is enough.

Farmers are an essential worker by the way. They are still farming. So, the message from all these groups is don't worry, the food is there. This is just a supply chain issue they just have to catch up. So, there may be spot shortages, there may be delays but the food is available.

TAPPER: All right. Well, that's some good news. Claire Sebastian, thanks so much.

Today was supposed to be opening day for baseball. I'm going to talk with the Commissioner of Major League Baseball and co-owner of Philadelphia 76ers about the future of sports, of sports employees and an announcement that they're going to make. That's next. Stay with us.

[15:40:00]

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TAPPER: Today would have been opening day for Major League Baseball. The "Los Angeles Times" noting it is a beautiful day for baseball with a picture of the empty Dodger stadium.

Instead of new season, of course, the League is announcing something else. A new partnership to try to help those on the front lines fighting coronavirus. Major League Baseball and the sportswear company Fanatics have stopped producing baseball jerseys and are now using that fabric to make masks and hospital gowns.

[15:45:02]

Joining me now for an exclusive interview is Rob Manfred, he's the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Also with us Michael Rubin, the founder and executive chairman of Fanatics and he also happens to be co-owner of the great Philadelphia 76ers basketball team as well as across the river the New Jersey Devils.

Michael, let me start with you. What happens to the masks and gowns that you produce?

MICHAEL RUBIN, CO-OWNER OF THE PHILADELPHIA 76ERS, NEW JERSEY DEVILS (via Cisco Webex): Well, what happens is we, as you said, we recognize that we had this incredible manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania that had the ability to take the baseball fabrics and turn them into masks and uniforms. So, we started to produce them a few days ago. We've got a goal to make a million and donate those to people who need them over the next several weeks and months, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

TAPPER: That's fantastic. Commissioner, no baseball today. Obviously means a lot of disappointed people. There are so few joys left now, obviously, nothing compared to the death and destruction we're seeing.

But for no baseball more concretely means no work for ballpark employees, people who don't make all that much money, to be frank -- food vendors, ticket takers, security guards, parking lot attendants. Now I know MLB, Major League Baseball committed $30 million to support those employees. Can you break that down for us? How many people will get access to the money? How much will they get? How long will it last?

ROB MANFRED, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL COMMISSIONER (via Cisco Webex): Well, the pledge was a million dollars per club. The number of employees at each club varies greatly. And you know exactly how much each employee will get will vary club by club. Each club will use their million dollars in a way that's the most efficient and effective in order to provide assistance to the type of seasonal employees that you're talking about.

It was really a major commitment, the first League wide commitment of its type and one that we're proud of and that I think represents kind of the spirit of our ownership group.

TAPPER: And Michael, I want to ask you, you're a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers. And there was some criticism out there after the "Times" reported that the Sixers planned to cut some employee salaries by up 20 percent during the crisis. The organization has now backed off those plans. Tell me about that.

RUBIN: Well. look, I think if you don't get the thing right, the most important thing is to get it right in the end and I think the organization made that decision and I think we very quickly thought that, you know, based on how much we care about our associates and employees that we want to do the right thing.

And you know I commend our organization for getting it right in the end and all of our employees are going be compensated during this difficult period of time. People worried about their families and being safe. We're certainly really excited for baseball and Fanatics to come together and take this incredible factory and manufacture up to a million masks over the next couple months

I think we can make a huge difference on really keeping people safe. The heroes are really here, are people that worked in the medical professionals, and you know when I watch CNN what I keep hearing about is all these people that are in need of medical equipment. Whether it's ventilators, whether it's masks, whether it's more testing. I think you know that should take these fabrics we had available, the uniforms and use that same fabric to masks of something that we think you know hopefully can make a small difference in a really big fight.

TAPPER: No question, it's fantastic. And let me ask you, Commissioner, how are you guys going to decide who gets the masks because obviously there are real needs right now. There are needs all over the country, to be honest. Although it's most dire in New York right now.

MANFRED: Well. we're going to start in Pennsylvania. The Fanatics factory that Michael referred to is in Pennsylvania. And we're hopeful that the production will be sufficient that we'll be able to expand beyond Pennsylvania to New York and New Jersey. Obviously, New York would be very important, given the situation there and given that it's home to major league baseball.

TAPPER: And Michael, let me ask you about the Sixers because look, obviously, we all want the world to go back normal. We all want Sixers games and Phillies games and I think are some other teams out there is those leagues, and I'm wondering how are you going to take your lead on deciding whether or not you vote or the Sixers vote for the NBA to go back to playing games and Commissioner I'll come to you on this too.

Because health officials are saying one thing. President Trump has this aspirational goal of maybe like re-opening the country in a few weeks, by April. Who are you going take your lead from? Who are you going to take your cue from? I'll start with you Michael.

RUBIN: Look I believe we have incredible commissioners, whether it's Rob for Baseball, whether and MBA, it's Adam, I think.

[15:50:00]

Both organizations are doing tremendous work to make sure that we get back to live sports as quickly as you can do it while keeping the players healthy and safe. So, I think there's you know organizations that are incredibly focused in each of the leagues that you know have a goal of getting there as quickly as you can do it. But you've got to keep your players and your teams healthy and safe and I think that's number one priority.

TAPPER: And Mr. Commissioner, I mean it's obviously different for basketball and baseball in some ways, because basketball is much more of a contact sport, a physical sport, whereas baseball, not as much necessarily.

You've said you're optimistic about baseball ramping back up in May, that's aspirational I assume. Is that based on any sort of projection? Have you considered the possibility that there might not be a Major League Baseball season this year?

MANFRED: Yes, the comment I made about May, I think you characterized it well. It is aspirational. And I was really talking about getting back, getting players ready to play at least during the month of May.

I think Michael said it well, you have to take the lead from the public health situation. We're going to resume playing when it's safe for our fans, our players and the public for us to resume playing. We're fortunate we have a great panel of infectious disease experts

that we rely on to help sort through the various pronouncements from different government agencies and politicians.

And you know we will make a decision to resume only when we're comfortable that the public health situation supports that decision.

TAPPER: And Michael, let me just ask you, because, Commissioner, I'm going to come to you on this one, too, I mean you guys are executives, but you are also sports nuts. And you're missing this, these pastimes, whether it's basketball, hockey or baseball, how are you dealing? How are you coping? And more importantly, is everyone in your life OK? Is everyone you know OK? I'll start with you, Michael?

RUBIN: Yes, so, first, I think America really does miss sports and I think it's going to be amazing as soon as we can get sports back in a healthy and safe way. And certainly, as Fanatics was a 300 billion plus company selling licensed sports merchandise everywhere in the world. You know both from the business end and as a fan, I'm as excited as possible for it to come back.

But you've got to do it in a way that's healthy for your players, your fans, your associates that do it. So, you know I'm confident we're going to get to the right place as soon as you can do it you know really the right way.

TAPPER: Commissioner.

MANFRED: You know, I think that today was a particularly difficult day. You know I think opening day for baseball fans marks the beginning of you know a daily engagement with a sport that is really deeply embedded in American culture.

Today we had a promotion that we call opening day at home. We used old opening days, world series, great games, all of our broadcast partners, participated, ESPN, Fox, Turner, as well as all of our social media partners. And we're trying to fill that really big void that exists in people's lives as a result of the absence of sports.

And you know, sports not being played is secondary to the public health situation, but it is something that people really miss and we're working very hard to make sure that we're as well positioned as possible to resume play when it's safe to do so.

TAPPER: Well, I want to thank you. You're right. Michael, go ahead, what were you going to say?

RUBIN: Jake, I was just going to say, the one that I will say is one of the positives about not having sports in this particular moment is you have so many people thinking about how do you help fix the problem? And I can tell you, that if we have sports happening last week, you know, I would have woken up in the middle of night thinking about how do we turn the baseball manufacturing jersey facility and take that same fabric and turn it into mass production facility?

I can tell you on behalf of our 7,000 associates at Fanatics, people are so excited to be able to help in the smallest of ways to help fight, you know, this disease. So, I think you do have a lot of smart minds working incredibly hard to take both you know the government resources, but also business resources, and entrepreneurs, behind how do you help to make a small difference in really fighting it and beating this disease.

TAPPER: Yes, well, millions of masks is certainly a great way to do it. And we really appreciate your time, Commissioner Rob Manfred and Michael Rubin teaming up for the MLB and Fanatics partnership to get masks to first responders.

Thank you both for what you are doing. I appreciate it. I hope to catch game with both of you guys at some future date.

MANFRED: Thanks. Jake, it was great chatting with you.

TAPPER: Thanks so much.

[15:55:00]

Coming up, a doctor in one hospital telling "The New York Times" they are facing, quote, the first wave of a tsunami. We're going to check in with Dr. Sanjay Gupta next. Stay with us.

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ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Right now, the Dow is about to close up as jobless claims soar to a record high. 3.3 million Americans filing for unemployment just this week, that's four times the previous record set in 1982. But as you can see the stock is closing up about 1,300 points. The $2 trillion --

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