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Interview with Newspaper Photographers on Documenting Coronavirus; Wuhan Lifts Lockdown Today; American Automakers Turn to Personal Protective Equipment. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 8, 2020 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Capturing a pandemic as 97 percent of the country stays at home, our next guests are out: They are in the field, they are photographers, they are photojournalists getting a firsthand look at how America is living and suffering and dying through this crisis.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, photographers get really close to this and bring images that can be really powerful and educational. Two photographers -- Kimberly Mitchell, she's with the "Detroit Free Press;" and Max Becherer, he's with "The Times-Picayune" and "The New Orleans Advocate."

Thanks to all of you this morning. I wonder if we could begin with the front page of a newspaper today, Max. Tell us about this photo and what it means to you and what it captures here.

MAX BECHERER, PHOTO EDITOR, THE TIMES-PICAYUNE, NOLA.COM, NEW ORLEANS ADVOCATE: Good morning. Yes, that was yesterday's front page and it was an important milestone, I felt, for us in our reporting. One of the things that happened on the news, breaking, was that the African- American population, we found out that they have been suffering the brunt of the death toll.

And at the same time, we've been trying to put a human face on -- people had to say goodbye to their loved ones. And so on the bottom, there's a photo of Connie Richard who lost her husband. He had surgery and then he came down with a fever and then passed away from COVID-19.

And the nurses called him -- nurses used FaceTime to call Connie, and she was able to say goodbye but through FaceTime. And so after reporting weeks of these difficult stories, we felt like the main image needed to be a hug for the city.

And the -- Melanie Pichon, she works a daycare for essential personnel, so she's hugging a child. She says she feels like she's really the boots on the ground for the first responders. She has people who are 911 callers, EMS, doctors and nurses in (ph) her daycare. HARLOW: They really are, they really are. I mean, those daycare

workers, taking care of the children so that their parents can save lives, really, really are. It's a beautiful picture.

Kimberly, if I could go to you, you've got Easter on Sunday, Passover starts tonight, Ramadan very closely coming. And those traditions of spending time with loved ones -- big groups, going to church, et cetera -- are all different now. How are you capturing that?

KIMBERLY MITCHELL, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER, DETROIT FREE PRESS: Well, it's been really difficult for some people. I photographed a young man that was in southwest Detroit -- I mean, I'm sorry, he lives in Hamtramck. And he basically gave me insight.

During the Ramadan period, a lot of it is very communal, people come together and they have to fast. And coming together really helps them get past that moment of the hardness of having to fast, but you're remembering why you're doing it, you know, the dead in the community and remembering those that don't have.

And he won't be able to spend it with his family. He'll be isolated in his small apartment in Hamtramck. And the funny thing about that neighborhood is that the houses are really close together, but you still are so far away and you're so isolated in your (ph) own (ph) home (ph).

But he says everyone there --

SCIUTTO: So, Max --

Sorry, go ahead. We missed you, the last comment.

MITCHELL: Oh, no, that's OK. I was just going to say that from what I viewed in that neighborhood of Hamtramck, it's a very special neighborhood in Detroit or outside of Detroit. And it has a very communal feel, and it's a lot of -- a very large immigrant community, all types of immigrants live there. And they still feel like (INAUDIBLE), there's no hoarding, anything like that.

SCIUTTO: Communities have been coming together.

Max, Louisiana, really one of the hardest hit -- I mean, just the numbers today, 16,000 and more, really, cases there, nearly 600 deaths. Missed warning signs though, a key concern there. You took this next photo in the midst of Mardi Gras, February 25th, when folks really just weren't hearing the warnings.

BECHERER: Well, citywide and statewide there was no official warning or guidance to stay sequestered or anything regarding COVID-19. Mardi Gras for example, there was a severe storm that happened and one of the parades was cancelled.

So city officials, I feel like, would've for sure closed or cancelled the parade or curtailed the festivities if such a warning had gone out through the CDC or if they were directed to do so. We had heard stories that they were bubbling up from China, but so far

there was no guidance publicly that we needed to do anything to curtail our behavior.

HARLOW: Yes, yes.

Kimberly, there's this photo. Let's pull it up for everyone, it's of the McDonald (ph) family, really worried about their friends and family members who are essential workers.

MITCHELL: Yes. So they feel like they were hit the hardest because they have so many family members that are nurses, work in hospitals. And they have neighbors that live right next door to them that are going out as essential workers and that are trying to save lives and are trying to fight for people to survive and live through this pandemic. And they just wanted, I think, to tell them how much they loved them and how much they support them through this hard time and -- without being able to see them.

So I guess in a way also, these families are stuck at home, you know, they're homeschooling, they're working from home, they're trying to have some kind of normalcy and it's very uncertain time. And that uncertainty can create fear, so I think that helped them visualize the love that they have and maybe helped, you know, people in the community as well. Because, you know, a lot of people are out, walking and doing whatever they can to just get by.

SCIUTTO: Max, before we go, you wrote about how you had to use a lens you normally use to photograph football games. Tell us why and give us an example.

BECHERER: Yes, it's very difficult. Those two front-page pictures, for example, that we looked at. The hardest part of this is, this is a city of enjoying ourselves out in second lines and celebrating life as much as possible. You saw a picture from Mardi Gras Day, we make fun and put tongue in cheek to anything we see.

And so this order has kind of changed how we have to express ourselves, and I think as a newspaper, we've really pushed to try to find a way to still be intimate. For the daycare picture, I didn't want to infect anybody there as well, so I had a mask and we -- they have a six-foot wall around the childcare center, the outside play area.

I'm 6'3", so I was able to stand over the wall and with a long lens, make that picture. So I didn't have to enter the daycare facility, I didn't have to put any of the children at risk, I didn't have to come close to any of the children.

For the photograph with Connie, I had a 400-milimeter 2.8 lens, I usually use for shooting the Saints. And Connie, you know, the widow of the gentleman, the detective who died from COVID, she had self- quarantined herself so there was added danger that perhaps she was affected.

And so as I was having this conversation, introducing myself, it was over her front yard. And we were shouting these intimate things about how difficult these moments were for her. And then I tried to use the lens to get as close as possible to her to try to help people understand her pain and difficulty.

HARLOW: Wow, making it work. Those images are so important. Thank you both for doing this right now especially. Kimberly Mitchell and Max Becherer, thanks.

BECHERER: Thank you so much.


HARLOW: OK, so in Wuhan, China, where this began, life is -- look at that, somewhat returning to normal. It was just months ago, the epicenter of this crisis. People there, now allowed to step outside of their homes for the first time in 76 days.


SCIUTTO: Well, people in Wuhan, China, the original coronavirus epicenter, are leaving their homes now -- today -- for the first time in 76 days, two and a half months.

HARLOW: Yes, it's amazing to see this footage of them. The strict lockdown was lifted this morning, and thousands rushed to board outbound flights and trains but only those who are healthy are allowed to travel. Our David Culver joins us from Shanghai.

I mean, David, you have truly been covering this from the beginning. What a moment for the people in Wuhan.

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's been a long stretch, Poppy and Jim, 76 days. And for the people of Wuhan, even more to endure as many of them were sealed inside their homes for much of that period.

But here's the reality. You've got images like we can show you here, coming from state media, and they are showing a celebratory mood. you see the skyline there in Wuhan -- a city, by the way, that is massive, it's larger than New York City -- and they're paying tribute to those frontline workers, the health care workers, and many of whom got infected and many who lost their lives.

But there's another reality in all of this. So that's what the government's portraying, is Wuhan springing back to life. But there's also the aspect that the folks on the ground tell us, and that is that even though they may have some freedoms to leave their homes -- and that's even restricted, depending on where you live -- some communities, imagine your HOA or condo association dictate how many hours a day you can now step outside, and that's still in place.


But those who can walk out freely are hesitant. I mean, they feel uneasy in kind of just resuming life as it was. One person likened it to PTSD. After all they've been through, they can't just push that aside and step back into society.

And I think, honestly, the government looks at that as something that they're relying on in trying to keep the numbers down as people start to move around again.

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, we're showing the pictures as you speak there, David. Folks are not exactly back to normal, when you look at the precautions they're still taking: masks, even body covers. The data shows concerns about additional waves of this in whatever country has been affected. Are officials in China concerned about another wave coming, even as they relax these social distancing measures?

CULVER: I think they are concerned. And I think it depends where you look. So for example, in Wuhan, I'd say they're relying on the hesitancy of some of the folks there, the hesitation to walk outside, and they're hoping that people don't gather in big groups, one person telling me they actually get text messages every day, saying, don't get complacent, don't, you know, assume that you've got this beat.

And then you have placed like here in Shanghai, where we are starting to see shoulder-to-shoulder -- I mean, forget six feet apart, people are just kind of going right back into the way things were. And that is making officials uneasy, to the point that we may start to see some of the freedoms restricted again.

I mean, we've seen that with movie theaters, you've seen that with certain bars and cinemas, that they've been essentially allowing people to do things and then they shut them back down -- Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And that could be a message to all of us. David Culver in Shanghai, thanks very much.

Well, there is a lot happening in the news today. Here's "What to Watch."

TEXT: What to Watch... 11:30 a.m. Eastern, N.Y. Gov. Cuomo gives coronavirus update; 1:00 p.m. Eastern, Pence holds call with House Dems on virus; 5:00 p.m. Eastern, Coronavirus Task Force briefing


HARLOW: Well, the Department of Health and Human Services just announced a contract with General Motors aimed at putting thousands of ventilators into the national stockpile. We'll get a live update from Detroit, ahead.



HARLOW: The Department of Health and Human Services has just announced a $489 million contract with General Motors. The goal here is to produce 30,000 ventilators. This of course falls under the Defense Production Act, Jim, which the president has enacted. SCIUTTO: The ventilators are set to be delivered to the national

stockpile by the end of August; 6,000 of those will be ready by June 1st, that's good news. Of course, the peak, expected to be this month --


SCIUTTO: -- in terms of cases and hospitalizations.

CNN correspondent Ryan Young has more from Detroit.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With many states desperate for life-saving equipment --

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): We are running dangerously low on PPE.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): the whole system is over capacity.

YOUNG (voice-over): -- and the projected peak of the coronavirus crisis is still looming ahead --



PRICE: That's another box of face shields produced.

YOUNG (voice-over): Automakers are shifting gears --

PRICE: OK, there's another box we've produced.

YOUNG (voice-over): -- to help hospitals fight an uphill battle.

PRICE: Only about 10 days ago, we started doing this. And now we've wrapped up to the point where we've already shipped the 1.1 million face shields.

YOUNG (voice-over): Ford Motor Company in Detroit, turning its former vehicle production line into a PPE powerhouse, shipping box after box to frontline workers.

PRICE: Two hundred and fifty go in a box.

YOUNG (voice-over): But while hundreds of thousands of simple face coverings are already being distributed, mass production of complex ventilators is a bigger challenge.

General Motors, Toyota and Tesla are all hoping to transform what they have into what doctors so desperately need.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a model three center (ph) display --

YOUNG (voice-over): Ford says it's still two weeks away from producing hospital-quality ventilators. G.M. is on a similar timeline, partnering with medical manufacturer Aventec to train its Indiana staff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- maintain six feet between individuals --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The final touch, the (INAUDIBLE) --

YOUNG (voice-over): Auto makers are revamping their production at a level not seen since World War II. This, as President Trump has invoked the war-era Defense Production Act to ensure companies do their part. But workers here say they don't need to be asked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Numbers of the people here, you know, are fighting for their own families.

YOUNG (voice-over): Rod Kreimes' son Justin is a member of the Chicago Fire Department.

JUSTIN KREIMES, ENGINEER, CHICAGO FIRE DEPARTMENT: We could potentially have firsthand contact with a COVID patient.

YOUNG (voice-over): When he told his dad his team needed protective gear, Rod was happy to help.

ROD KREIMES, BUILT FORD FACE SHIELDS: I'm proud. I mean, I'm very proud of everything we're doing and I'm more proud that you're getting one.

J. KREIMES: It's an honor to receive a piece of life-saving equipment from anyone, but it's that much more of an honor receiving it from my own father.

R. KREIMES: Yes. Well, make sure you use it.



YOUNG: Jim and Poppy, I love the end of that story, where you can see the connection between father and son. Multiply that out all across this country, the best part about this is everyone sort of feels helpless, but you can see the American spirit, especially here in hard-hit Detroit.



HARLOW: You can.

SCIUTTO: Of course, the question is, does that equipment get to folks who need it most in time? Yes. Ryan Young, great to have you there. Thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thank you, Ryan. We are --

SCIUTTO: We're waiting for --

HARLOW: Sorry. Go ahead.

SCIUTTO: Go ahead, Poppy.

HARLOW: Briefing, you know, we're making this work. We're waiting for a briefing from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in just a little bit, and we'll bring that to you live. See you tomorrow.