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Small Business Owners Worry Stimulus Funds Not Enough; Czech Republic Makes Masks Mandatory n Public Spaces. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired March 31, 2020 - 04:30   ET

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


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[04:31:32]

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: In the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, hundreds of cars formed a mile-long line to get free food. A local food bank organized this event for anyone in need of a meal during the coronavirus pandemic. Each car that pulled up was given two boxes of food weighing about 50 pounds or 22 kilograms.

We're seeing more and more of all of this.

Well, the massive U.S. stimulus package President Trump signed last week includes hundreds of billions of dollars for small business loans, but business owners have bills to pay very soon and they're not sure the stimulus money, when it does come, will last as long as they need.

Kyung Lah reports.

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KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Behind the forced closure of each door on one short block of stores is a story, about the small businesses that employ half of America's private workforce.

JEN YATES, CO-OWNER, STUDIO METAMORPHOSIS: I mean, when you put everything into watching something grow and then it stops suddenly -- I was sitting on the floor just sobbing.

LAH: Jen Yates and Alex Hartunian own fitness center studio Metamorphosis.

YATES: Scrounge every single dollar, every penny to open, and we did it.

ALEX HARTUNIAN, CO-OWNER, STUDIO METAMORPHOSIS: How are we going to survive with -- we're going to wake up the next morning and have zero income. Like how does that work, you know?

LAH: Small businesses like Studio Metamorphosis are due to receive close to the $400 billion earmarked and the $2 trillion government stimulus plan. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good, excellent form.

LAH: But as business owners wait for that financial relief --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good job, Pam. She's doing it, it sounds great.

LAH: They're trying to stay connected to customers. Yates holding free virtual workout classes, making no money.

MICHELLE HELSETH, OWNER, NATIVE BOUTIQUE: I'm sorry.

LAH: While at Michelle Helseth's store, Native boutique --

HELSETH: I overdrew my account. I had payroll today.

LAH: -- speed for this aid is key to her survival.

HELSETH: I'm concerned of getting dug deeper into a hole, more debt. It's like, oh, I have a great opportunity to stay open, to be in more debt. We need grants, not just loans.

LAH: Emergency grants and loan forgiveness are a part of the stimulus package, so is a payroll tax credit, and a pause on existing small business loans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello again. Earth angel, won't you be mine --

LAH: Welcome news to Bloom School of Music and Dance. That's moved to all virtual lessons, proven to be successful so far.

But with the large payroll and high rent, owner Laura Porter worries how long this package will sustain mainstream with weeks or months ahead of fighting the outbreak, and what this block will look like at the end.

LAURA PORTER, OWNER, BLOOM SCHOOL OF MUSIC AND DANCE: It's so frightening because it's a day-by-day thing. You know, I can't even look at September.

LAH (on camera): What is it that you would like your leaders and this country to hear from you?

PORTER: They have to listen to the average American out of work, you know, and small businesses are a big part of that.

LAH: We may be talking about this one block, but this is a tale of main streets in towns across America.

[04:35:04]

There are 30 million small businesses in this country, 60 million Americans employed privately by these small businesses. That's a lot of people. A lot of families. A lot of communities fighting.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.

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CHURCH: New York's attorney general is slamming Amazon for firing an employee who organized a workout to protest the company's response to the coronavirus. She calls it disgraceful and wants a national labor board to investigate.

On Monday, Christian Smalls led a team of workers protesting the decision to keep the Staten Island warehouse open despite news of multiple coronavirus cases there. Amazon says it fired Smalls because he was supposed to be underpaid quarantine after coming in close contact with an infected person. The company says he came to the company's warehouse on Monday and put others at risk. Amazon also said ensuring the safety of its employees is its primary concern.

And CNN's Christine Romans joins us now from New York.

Always good to see you, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rosemary.

CHURCH: The story from that Amazon facility highlights the fears of so many people right now, concern about going to work during a pandemic --

ROMANS: Yes.

CHURCH: -- versus fear of losing ones job. In the meantime, bills keep coming, and Americans want to know when that promised government check will arrive and what other help might be available.

What would you say to them?

ROMANS: I would say -- look, I understand the anxiety. And a lot of these companies understand the anxiety as well. Amazon told us that if anybody there, anybody at one of its facilities feels unsafe or frightened, they may go home unpaid in the meantime until -- you know, until -- to assuage their fears. Amazon is also saying that that facility is cleaned regularly.

So, that just -- I think that story highlights the fear people have. Some of these essential workers, hundreds of thousands of them, they are working, getting a paycheck and affected so much by the coronavirus, especially those people who are in the transportation and delivery industries.

And, look, today is the end of the quarter. Tomorrow, that's a big bill day for businesses, small businesses, too. Tomorrow is April 1st when the rent is due.

This to me is a critical week, Rosemary. This is probably going to be the worst week we see in the economy in our lifetime and here's why. The bills are due. The jobs are being shed at just a record rate and the stimulus money hasn't come yet. It is coming and we're told the government wants to get it out there as quickly as possible.

Maybe by Friday, small businesses can start applying for some of those loans. In a few weeks you'll get a stimulus check in the mail. But the money hasn't come yet, the rescue hasn't come yet, but the bills are due.

CHURCH: Yes, that's the problem. Some other countries are hitting the pause button for those bills, the mortgages, utility bills. We'll see what happens here in the United States.

But I also wanted to ask you about those small businesses trying to stay afloat at this time. When can they get some help and how difficult will it be for them to apply for these financial support because there appears to be significant confusion, doesn't it, about just how this is all going to work.

ROMANS: So, we need to see, look, the promise has been made. The White House has signed the bill. There's a big pot of money, $350 billion just for small businesses.

Rosemary, that is a lot of ammunition to help people. But, you know, I've been calling a life preserver. That's what it is. It is meant to keep these small businesses afloat for the next two months.

The government is going to essentially pay them to hire back their workers, keep their workers, to get through this period. Friday is the day that Larry Kudlow, the president's chief economic adviser said that banks, main street banks are going to be able to take these loans applications. We're closely monitoring the Small Business Association, and other administration and others, just to see how quickly -- they're promising a very aggressive timeline here. We'll be watching because I'm telling you, these small businesses need the money last week and Friday is the day I think they can start making applications.

CHURCH: Absolutely. I mean, this is such a trying time for everybody.

ROMANS: Really is.

CHURCH: On so many different levels. It is a big concern.

Christine Romans joining us live from New York. Many thanks as always.

And you are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Still to come, should we be wearing facemasks every time we go out? Some countries think absolutely, but the WHO disagrees. Why the difference. We will explore that, next.

But before the break, here's some good news for you at last. "The Office" stars John Krasinski and Steve Carell came together for a new show on YouTube. The two talked about their days on that hit comedy show and Krasinski shared other stories on social media as a way to de-stress from talk of the actors also shared a laugh over their business casual outfits.

[04:40:05]

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STEVE CARELL, ACTOR: I guarantee you that the bottom half of what you have on does not match the top.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHN KRASINSKI, ACTOR: I am definitely wearing jams if anybody remembers what those are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

Well, Americans may soon be asked to wear masks during this pandemic. A source close to the coronavirus task force says the idea is likely under serious discussion, but there's a problem -- current supply would not meet the demand. There's also a concern that it might create a shortage for health care workers.

The president is considering the move.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll take a look at it for a period of time. Not forever. I mean, you know, we want our country back. We're not going to be wearing masks forever, but it could be for a short period of time.

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CHURCH: And while the U.S. ponders whether to cover or not cover, other countries are already making it mandatory. Austria is requiring facemasks be worn in all supermarkets. The Czech Republic says if you leave your home, you must wear a mask.

It put out a promotional video to help convince people.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone who has to leave their house has to wear a facemask. Everyone. I know, they maybe told you that masks wouldn't protect you, but there are studies proving that a homemade mask can be partially protective, partially. Any protection is essential today.

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CHURCH: So there's that message.

And we want to bring in Dr. Vladimir Zdimal.

[04:45:01]

He's with the Czech Academy of Sciences and joins us now live from Prague.

Good to have you with us. DR. VLADIMIR ZDIMAL, CZECH ACADEMY OF SCIENCES: Hello. Hello.

CHURCH: So, sir, until Monday, Americans have been told it was not necessary to wear masks. Now it appears that guidance was motivated purely by the fact that there just aren't enough masks available in the United States for our medical professionals, never mind the general public. So tell us how wearing masks has made a difference to the spread of the coronavirus in the Czech Republic.

ZDIMAL: We've been observing substantial decrease in the growth sector of the coronavirus spread in the Czech Republic after we have taken this, among other measures. So -- but it is difficult to say whether just the mask would help. If you combine it with all other measures, it's going to help to protect other people around you. It is not if you are protecting yourself but it is to protect other people in case you are already infected but you don't know about it yet.

CHURCH: Right. And, of course, you're saying it is important that we wear these facemasks if you're sick or if you're healthy, indeed, and that they will make a difference along with other things, of course social distancing, but this is what the WHO says about that. Let's just take a listen.

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DR. MICHAEL RYAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WHO HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAMME: WHO recommends that the wearing of a mask by a member of the public is to prevent that individual giving the disease to somebody else. We don't generally recommend the wearing of masks in public by otherwise well individuals.

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CHURCH: And the WHO went -- he went on to say, the representative, that there's no evidence to suggest masks could offer help to the person or expose them to the virus if that person doesn't use the mask correctly.

What do you say about that?

ZDIMAL: Well, I'm not a virologist neither an epidemiologist. So, what I've heard is that the disease, you can be contagious, several days, maybe even more than a week without knowing that you are contagious. So by wearing a mask, you are precautious in not infecting your neighborhood, the people around, your family members, your colleagues at work, people that you meet at the supermarket, where you can buy grocery or whatever, food for your family.

So, the principle, we don't expect the mask to protect you from the viral infection that is airborne, but we expect that the handmade mask, if it is properly sealed and fitted on your face can substantially reduce the transfer of infection to people around you because it will be likely stop at your homemade mask.

CHURCH: Very interesting. I do -- before you go, I want to point out that John Hopkins university says the Czech Republic has 3,001 cases of coronavirus and 23 deaths. So certainly you're doing something right there in the Czech Republic, and Dr. Vladimir Zdimal, thank you so much for joining us. We do appreciate it.

ZDIMAL: Thank you very much.

CHURCH: Well, the governor of Illinois says the U.S. government sent the state the wrong protective equipment to use in fighting coronavirus. He says the White House agreed to send 300,000 N95 masks, but instead they received surgical masks.

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GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D), ILLINOIS: My team is sorting through the shipment of 300,000 N95 masks the White House personally told me would be sent to our state. While we do not have a final count on this yet, I can say with certainty that what they sent were not the N95 masks that were promised but instead were surgical masks, which is not what we asked for.

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CHURCH: And N-95 masks are what doctors are supposed to wear when treating patients with a virus. Regular surgical masks do not fully protect someone from being imposed to the coronavirus.

The government says the state has only received a small fraction of the supplies it's asked for.

And you're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

Still to come, saying good-bye over FaceTime. The heartbreaking new reality for those losing loved ones to the coronavirus. We hear one family's story. That's next.

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[04:43:49]

CHURCH: You're look being there at the empire state building in New York, of course lit up to honor emergency medical workers. The building's signature white mast glowing with a red siren light.

And, you know, one of the most heartbreaking parts of this pandemic, the many people who are dying alone without loved ones by their side because the virus is just too contagious for hospitals to allow any visitors.

Michelle Bennett lost her 75-year-old mother Carol Ann last week to the coronavirus. Michelle couldn't be in the room so nurses at the hospital made sure she and her siblings were able to say a proper good-bye on FaceTime.

CNN's Brooke Baldwin spoke to Michelle about her family's painful ordeal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHELLE BENNETT, LOST HER MOTHER TO COVID-19: So the nursing staff and the health care professionals were amazing. They knew we couldn't be with her. I could tell the emotion in both their and the doctor's voices of their frustration knowing we couldn't be there and risk the infection.

So the nurse Tatiana at the end, she called me about 10:00 at night and said, you know, your mother's breathing is changing.

[04:55:02]

You know, we can see that it probably won't be much longer. I'm going to take my cell phone, it was her personal cell phone and I'm going to go and get dressed in all the protective gear I have to be in and then I'm going to put the phone up to her face so that you can tell her you love her and say your good-byes.

And so, it was so touching just to know that I couldn't be there. And I said to the nurse, I said, can you please hold her hand? Can you rub her head? Can you pretend we're there with her?

She said, she will not be alone. We will stay with her to the end. And so ten minutes later we get the phone call for FaceTime. She put it right up to my mother's face and, you know, I could tell my mom I loved her and how much I was going to miss her.

And as I was finishing saying good-bye, the nurse took the phone back up I could see the nurses just crying, like tears just coming out of her eyes, through the mask I could see it. I know how difficult this is for them. I can't even imagine being on the front lines of that and having to go home every day and risk infection themselves but then have the compassion and empathy to be right there in that moment as if it was their own mother. And that was one of the most amazing things I've experienced.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Do you feel that your mother at least passed in peace?

BENNETT: I hope so. I know she wasn't alone. That was the biggest thing for me, was her not to die alone, and the hope that was given by those nurses, holding her hand staying with her until the end. You know, my mom was a nurse for 38 years, probably doing the same thing for other people. So it's amazing to me that these nurses were able to give back to her in that way.

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CHURCH: Incredible story because this is the situation for so many people all across the globe, loved ones dying and in most situations dying alone. Nurses there helping to change that just a little bit.

And just hearing now that Italy will hold a moment of silence in just a few hours from now for all of the coronavirus victims. Italian authorities have reported more than 100,000 confirmed cases and well over 11,000 fatalities. Those numbers just simply shocking.

I want to thank you for your company this hour. Do stay home and stay safe. I'm Rosemary Church.

You're watching CNN. Do stay with us.

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