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Interview with Rural Physician Brent Russell; Popular Sites Fill with Crowds as China Eases Restrictions; Interview with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 6, 2020 - 10:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: ... and now the inspector general, out?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And I think it's important, Jim, that we be clear about this. This is not a situation where both sides have a point. It is plain as day that the president is wrong and Michael Atkinson is right. We had Atkinson being vouched for by the DOJ inspector general, Michael Horowitz; Republican senators, saying that his removal was unjustified.

And here's how you know that Atkinson was right. What he did was pass along a whistleblower's complaint that there was an improper quid pro quo imposed by the president to benefit himself politically in return for aid to go to Ukraine. That was the allegation. He didn't create the allegation, he passed it on to Congress.

By the end of the impeachment process, Republican senators -- Ted Cruz -- acknowledged that 100 out of 100 senators believed in fact there was a quid pro quo. That's how you know that Atkinson was right.

And so when the president says that Michael Atkinson was doing a terrible job, what he is actually saying is, I got caught, he didn't bury the allegation, and I want somebody in that job who will.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well -- and, John, just before you go, on top of it, over the weekend, we heard Defense Secretary Mark Esper defend -- try to defend the -- relieving Navy Captain Brett Crozier, who of course led the USS Theodore Roosevelt, of duty. He sounded the alarm, he wrote this letter about getting these sailors off this ship. We know now, over 155 of them have contracted coronavirus.

You know, before -- even as Jake Tapper pointed out to him (ph) -- before even an investigation into this had been concluded, he was out of the job.

HARWOOD: That's right. Now, this to me is a somewhat more ambiguous situation in the sense that as somebody who has not served in the military myself, I don't know where the -- the culture of the military, how it assesses a situation where a commander sends an e- mail widely circulated to call attention.

As a layman, I think -- and I think a lot of the reaction has been -- oh my God, he was trying to protect his sailors and therefore he was justified in doing what he did. The argument is being made by the -- his immediate commanding officer, was that he breached normal procedure by sending it out so broadly, and the message that he sent in the e-mail was somewhat different than what he had told his commanders.

It's hard to judge that, but certainly anyone looking from the outside would say, so many people sick on that ship, an urgent situation, he himself has coronavirus, that it was not the right thing to do. And when you saw him walking down the gangway from that ship, getting applauded by his sailors, that reinforces the idea that he was trying to protect his men.

SCIUTTO: Yes, true. I guess the question you heard was -- well, questions about operational security as well. By making it public, did it put information out there that was of concern. John Harwood, thanks very much.



SCIUTTO: After the break, we're going to speak with an E.R. doctor from a small Idaho community that is right now reeling from the coronavirus. He tested positive himself, now he has a message for rural communities like his around the country.


HARLOW: Well, smaller rural hospitals are being overwhelmed, some of them, by this pandemic.

SCIUTTO: Here's an example. Idaho's Wood River Valley -- it's a ski resort community -- now dealing with its own outbreak. Dr. Brent Russell is an emergency physician at Wood River Valley and, we should note, he recently contracted coronavirus himself.

Doctor, thanks so much for taking the time here. Now, Ketchum has particular circumstances including ties to Seattle, right? One of the first areas where there was an outbreak. But when you describe your community as -- the outbreak as tearing through your community like a wildfire, do you see yourself as a warning to other rural communities around the country who might say, hey, this is a big city problem, not our problem?

BRENT RUSSELL, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, ST. LUKE'S WOOD RIVER MEDICAL CENTER: Yes, for sure. You know, there's things about this community that make it higher risk. Skiing itself is very social and people spend all day around other people, typically. So that made it, you know, higher risk than other places.

But it's going to go to all of rural America, and people need to be prepared. This same thing can happen there.

HARLOW: Well, and the issue that we've been talking to other doctors about is the fact that you do have a lot of towns in small-town America that don't have intensive care units --


HARLOW: -- or that might have one isolation room, or just a handful of ventilators. What is your advice as someone who's experiencing this? And I think -- I'm sorry, I should first ask you how are you feeling and how are you coping in all of this, having COVID, and then what's your advice to other small towns?

RUSSELL: Well, I'm feeling much better. I'm -- I would say I'm 95 percent recovered. I'm back at work, but it was a -- really, a long, long road. I was sicker than I've ever been, and I would not wish this on anybody.

And, you know, my advice to small towns is, you know, in small towns, we have a sense of community, we care about each other, we want to be around each other. But right now, the best way you can care for your other community members is by, you know, not -- is by not getting this illness.


SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes, that's the thing we always talk about, is social distancing, it's about protecting yourself from others, right? But it's also making you not a threat to others so you don't become a vessel for transmitting it more broadly.

There's been a lot of focus -- and understandably because most of the cases have been in more urban areas, and therefore most of the need has been in those places for critical equipment -- I wonder, is a community like yours overlooked as there's been a fight, really, to get the ventilators you need, et cetera, the protective equipment including from the federal stockpile?

RUSSELL: Well, our community was hit -- you know, our rate is higher than any other county in the nation. And --


RUSSELL: -- we a community of 20,000 people in a state of 2 million. And so we were able to transfer all our patients out. If we -- if the rest of Idaho was hit like our county has been, we would already be turning away people that are sick and need hospitalization. We would already be completely overwhelmed.

But what has saved us is that we're able to transfer people to other towns that have not been hit hard. But that's not necessarily going to be the case in other small towns. You know, when it comes to, you know, name your state, it could blanket all the small towns and the cities at the same time.

So the more they can be prepared to handle things themselves at their hospital, you know, the better. But the main thing is for the towns to prevent spread through the town.

HARLOW: Yes. Well, look, there are right governors right now who have yet to issue stay-at-home orders. And some of those states have tens of thousands of cases. Do you have a message for them, from what you went through and what you're living through?

RUSSELL: Yes. You know, like most crises, like the 9/11 terrorist attacks, your average person is a bystander, an observer. But in this situation, we're all soldiers in this war. And we need to -- it needs to be, you know, fought on all fronts. And right now, extreme social distancing is what we have to do, at least until we get a grip on what's going on here. And so I would say, you know, everyone should stay home all the time right now.

HARLOW: We hear you, Dr. Russell. We're glad you're better --


HARLOW: -- sorry you went through that and we're thankful for what you're doing. Appreciate it.

RUSSELL: Thank you.

HARLOW: There is a lot happening today. Here's what else is in the news.

TEXT: What to Watch... Now: D.C. mayor holds virus briefing; 12:00 p.m. Eastern, N.Y. Gov. Cuomo gives coronavirus update; 5:00 p.m. Eastern, Coronavirus Task Force briefing



HARLOW: Thousands flood popular tourist destinations in China. This, over the weekend, as the country emerges from its lockdown. Look at that, unbelievable. Health experts, obviously, concerned about this.


SCIUTTO: China, of course, is where the outbreak began. And after months of social distancing and other restrictions, people are starting to come out of lockdown. They're even flocking to tourist destinations. Look at this scene, it's at a mountain park where thousands are crammed together. It's a big change there, you've got to wonder about the risks.

HARLOW: Yes. I mean, they still -- many of them have masks on. Let's get this reporting from our international correspondent David Culver.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Photos taken over the weekend at this popular mountain hiking trail in eastern China show crowds of tourists standing barely six inches apart -- forget six feet -- most, wearing face masks as they venture out of lockdowns and into nature, enjoying the three-day Qingming holiday weekend, seemingly comforted that the government's gotten the novel coronavirus outbreak under control, despite warnings from health officials that the risks still linger.

When we arrived in Shanghai in mid-February, this is what the popular Bund looked like: only a few locals strolling the river walk. Today, we walked that same stretch, and we were not alone. Standing in the same spots, you'd struggle to think this metropolis of 24-plus million was essentially shut down at the beginning of the year. And now, it is bustling once again.

A couple of months ago, we walked Nanjing Road in the midst of the outbreak, stores open but empty. Here was my observation at the time -- notice the lack of crowds behind me.

CULVER: -- holiday mode. Sure, you've got a few folks who are out and about, but the vast majority of people still don't feel like as though they're coming onto the streets.

But that was two months ago. Look at the difference now, you can see the crowd building up behind me, people less and less fearful of venturing out and resuming life in this new normal.

CULVER (voice-over): We went back to the same shops, the employees, no longer desperate for customers. And while there is comfort to see restaurants filling up again or families having a picnic at local parks or kids being kids, playing with friends, you've got to wonder, is it all happening too fast? Will this continue or might another wave of the outbreak send life here back inside?


CULVER: To be quite honest, Jim, it was a bit overwhelming, to be seeing these crowds starting to build once again, first time that we've seen them here since the outbreak, since before the Lunar New Year back in January.


One thing that we should also point out is that the government here, when they start to see any sort of flare-up, they can respond pretty quickly and swiftly, and we've seen them do that. But you've got to wonder if they're going to come down hard when you start to see the large gatherings that we've seen -- and you know, they've revoked things like easing of cinemas or tourist attractions in the past, so they may have to do that if the crowds get out of control.

SCIUTTO: Yes, for sure. I mean, we talked about the kind of slow ratcheting down of these restrictions. I mean, that's a pretty rapid ramping-up.


SCIUTTO: David Culver in China there, thanks very much.

Well, millions of people of course -- we don't have to tell you this -- they're out of work now due to the coronavirus outbreak. Coming up, we'll be speaking with former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on how he's helping food service workers in the Seattle area.



HARLOW: Well, more than three million restaurant workers in this country are out of work, and that means no paycheck, running out of options to make the rent, to feed their families.

And Seattle, of course, one of the first cities ravaged by this outbreak, there's a little bit more help on the way this morning. Joining me now is one of the founders of what they're calling The Plate Fund. Howard Schultz, former chairman and CEO of Starbucks, joins me now.

Howard, thank you to you and the team and everyone that's putting this together. What are you guys doing? Because you've got about 100,000 food services workers, just in and around Seattle, totally out of work.

HOWARD SCHULTZ, FORMER CEO AND CHAIRMAN, STARBUCKS: Well, Poppy, thank you for the opportunity to talk about The Plate Fund. You are exactly right, there are people all over the country really struggling, but perhaps no more so than restaurants workers of restaurants that have closed.

In Seattle, because we were so early with the epidemic, restaurants have now been closed almost three weeks. That means three weeks without a paycheck for almost 100,000 people in Seattle. It's going to be a while before they get a stimulus in assistance, and so we have stepped in and with a very innovative program, said, what can we do to create $500 of cash, hopefully within 48 hours of people applying for it?

But, you know, as we look at the situation, it's clear that Seattle was ahead of everyone in the country and we have begun to flatten the health curve here in terms of the virus. But I think what's really important to understand, that in Seattle and the rest of the country we have to also begin to flatten the economic despair that people are experiencing.

We can't wait for assistance. The stories I'm hearing are so heartbreaking --


SCHULTZ: -- this is not a time for politics or for blame. It is a time for shared humanity, where we all must recognize that there are people really hurting. Let's walk in their shoes and do everything we can to help those who can't help themselves, and we're doing everything we can in greater Seattle (ph). Restaurant workers, also many of them are undocumented. And those people can't get any assistance at all.

HARLOW: But they can get this money that you're saying, if you apply online, you can get this cash assistance within 48 hours? Even undocumented workers?

SCHULTZ: Yes, they can. So we're working with restaurant owners to ensure privacy and to do everything we can so that undocumented workers --


SCHULTZ: -- will be treated (ph) same (ph) way, first come, first serve.

HARLOW: Let me ask you about this, and for people who don't know, you became a billionaire by building Starbucks. But you grew up in public housing and you grew up very poor. I've been thinking a lot about income inequality and the poor getting even more adversely affected in the long run by this. Are you confident our government is prepared for the long haul in terms of what this is going to mean in disparity?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think you're bringing up a very important point. I think the gap between the haves and have-nots could be significantly widened as a result of what we are dealing with in terms of the economic carnage of small business, restaurants and workers across the country with over 10 million people now applying for unemployment.

Your question is a very good one, and I would be hopeful that the leaders in Washington recognize that for us to come through this in a healthy way -- not only getting through the health crisis -- that there must be the kind of stimulus package that goes very, very deep into the country for those people who are really going to suffer, who have suffered before --


SCHULTZ: -- and are (ph) going to suffer more.


SCHULTZ: But it can't only be for the government. I mean, entrepreneurs, people who have the means to give back to their community, this has to be a joint effort between many, many constituencies to do everything we can to lift up the most poor among us.

HARLOW: Yes, no question. We've seen a lot of amazing stories of people, wealthy and not wealthy, stepping up. Before you go, 30 seconds left. Obviously, you seriously considered a bid for the presidency. We had you on a CNN town hall, we talked a lot about big issues.

When you look at a moment of crisis like this, Howard, do you think, maybe I'll run for some sort of office again?

SCHULTZ: You know, Poppy, I'm here to talk about The Plate Fund, the need for shared humanity and for us to come together as a country to do everything we can for people who can't help themselves in this moment. And I think this is an opportunity for compassionate servant leadership for all of us, whether you're running for office, whether you're in politics, whether you're a citizen, let's all do what we can for those people who can't help themselves --



SCHULTZ: -- and restaurants (ph) need our help.

HARLOW: Yes, they do.


HARLOW: Yes, they do. We'll push them --