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New Task Force to Focus on Reopening U.S. Economy; Mayor Francis Suarez (R) Miami, Was Interviewed About Gov. Ron DeSantis' Decision to Get Back Kids to School; Blacks the Hardest Hit by COVID- 19; Coronavirus Highlights Wealth and Racial Divides in the United States; How Tech Companies are Using our Phone Data to Track Social Distancing in the United States; The Faithful Celebrate Amid a Pandemic. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired April 10, 2020 - 23:00   ET




ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OutFront next, the president wanted to reopen the country by Sunday. Now he's weighing his, quote, "biggest decision yet," vowing to listen to public health officials warning against easing restrictions too soon, though.

And the death toll soaring in America's third most populous state. So why is Florida's governor now floating the idea of reopening schools and soon. Miami's mayor weighs in. He of course, has coronavirus. And some grim new projections of what could happen if national stay-at- home orders are lifted as planned. Let's go OutFront.

And OutFront tonight, half a million cases now in the United States. As about an hour ago, more than 2,000 lives taken by this virus in the past 24 hours in this country. That is the most in a single day. It brings the total death toll known now to more than 18,000.

Today the president saying he'll listen to his top medical experts before committing to starting the country up again in May. New York's governor argues sufficient testing will be the key to reopening America, both diagnostic testing in terms of who has it and immunity testing who has had it in the past.

But according to President Trump testing is not needed on a widespread basis.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's not a lot of issues with testing. Certain sections of the -- we go to Iowa. We go to Nebraska. We go -- and interestingly Idaho is interesting because they had a few break outs, small break outs.

But they are very, very capable states and they are big distances, a lot of land, a lot of opening. You don't need testing there. You don't need to test 325 to 350 million people. Because number one, it's unnecessary. Vast numbers or vast areas of our country don't need this.


BURNETT: OutFront now with White House correspondent John Harwood and top CNN fact checker Daniel Dale.

So, John, we know right now there is a divide in the White House between the president's economic advisers and his health experts on when to reopen the economy and how. Right? I mean, reopening the economy is not just, you know, fling the door open and we're back to normal. It's not going to be that. No matter how much the president wants it to be. Do we know where his inclinations lie at this point though in terms of what and when?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We know, Erin, that the cross pressure is on him are much more intense than they were just a couple weeks ago when he faced a similar decision and decided to keep restrictions in through the end of April rather than opening the country up by Easter.

I think some of what's going on is he's going to preserve the maneuvering room. See if the numbers change. See if the models change their projections. I think some of what he's doing is showing business interest and other members of the Republican base that he's listening to them. He feels their impatience and shares it.

But the more I hear him and Mike Pence say we're going to follow the data and the more we hear the custodians in the data like Anthony Fauci say no time to back off, the more I suspect that he has fairly limited maneuvering room. And there are couple of reason for that.

One is Fauci and the governors urging caution have more credibility than the president has. Second, our CNN poll shows this week that 60 percent of Americans would be reluctant to try to resume normal routines in the month of May. They are scared about it.

And third, most of the economic activity in the United States in fact is in large metropolitan areas that are populated and governed by Democrats. Partisan divide here.



HARWOOD: Republicans are more impatient than Democrats. But Democrats control the keys to the economy. So, I think there is a risk that you get the reverse of the old saying from the field of dreams. You open it, they will not come.

BURNETT: Right. Of course, in those large metro areas is exactly where the risk is highest of another quick spike if you do reopen too soon because of density.


BURNETT: You know, certainly, in some of them. You know, Daniel, asked about religious services, and I bring it up because of course, you know we all remember when the president said, right, that he was going to open churches by Easter. He said he'd be watching virtually on his laptop. Right. But of course, it was only three weeks ago that he did say he wanted a packed church.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: It was. I mean, we've gone round and round with the president on all of this stuff. And frankly, this is a president who just says things. He says things when they pop into his head. They aren't always thought out. And he gets talked off the ledge or decides to keep going. And it's hard to know where he's going to land on any given day.

I mean, today's briefing alone we heard him say that he listens to the doctors and the experts about everything. We heard him when asked what the metrics will be in making his decision about restrictions. Point to his own head and saying that's the metrics that's all I can do.

And also making an argument for why keeping people at home can cause death just like letting people go about their business can cause death. So, where you -- where -- you know, what you get when you combine all of these thoughts, I frankly have no idea.

BURNETT: So, John, you know, one thing you get though is that there's going to be another task force. He says. Another, a second one coming on Tuesday that that's going to be focused specifically on this issue of reopening the economy. So, what do you know about this group, who's going to be on it, how much powerful it's going to be? What's this going to be?

HARWOOD: Well, we believe it's going to include economic advisers. People like Larry Kudlow, people like Steve Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, outside business interests, representatives from industries, sports leagues, that sort of thing.

It's going to be less formal. And I think less powerful than the coronavirus task force for the simple reason that everyone knows that the economic problems we're suffering from now are caused by the coronavirus. And therefore, the solution lies in the control of the coronavirus.

So, as Anthony Fauci said the virus is going to decide when we're going to be able to open up the country and so I think you can make plans and you can talk about phased reopening of the economy, but again, until you have that virus under control, people aren't going to go out to work in those high metropolitan areas where most economic activity takes place.

And businesses are not going to make investments knowing that the consumer sentiment and the availability of the consumer to take a lot of the products that they will be producing is shaky.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you. John Harwood, Daniel Dale, I appreciate both of your time.

On the Friday night, and OutFront now, Dr. Anthony Fauci weighing in on the Florida governor's plan to reopen schools amid the pandemic. Here he is.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If you have a situation in which you don't have a real good control over an outbreak and you allow children to gather together, they likely will get infected. And if they get infected the likelihood that they will bring it home. So that's really is a risk.


BURNETT: There are 392 public schools in Miami-Dade. I want to go out front now with Mayor Francis Suarez. And Mayor, it is good to see you again. So, I want to start on this issue with the schools. You know, as a parent of children myself, this is an issue that matters deeply to me. And I know so many millions of Americans right now they want schools open at the right time.

So, when you hear your governor saying that right time might be very soon. And you've got 392 public schools. What do you say?

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R-FL): Well, I agree with Dr. Fauci. I think we are not certain as to where we are exactly in the stage of this contagion. There are some evidence that we are close to the peak or around the peak, but it's too early to tell.

It's still sort of, too premature to make any sort of decision when you have the fourth largest public school system in Miami-Dade County with 350,000 children. That is an incredible amount of children who could be at risk and whose parents could be at risk and whose grandparents could be at risk.

You know, we saw a lot of the devastating images of south Florida during spring break when some local officials refuse to close the beaches timely. And so, I think, you know, we have to be very prudent and very careful. And we should air on the side of caution. I think listening to Dr. Fauci, the medical experts it's probably the best advice that we can adhere to.

And certainly, with the public-school system as large as ours, it would be particularly dangerous to open it up too soon.


BURNETT: Do you think schools will open before the end of the school year as scheduled at this point, or do you think that that is that extremely aspirational?

SUAREZ: I think it's aspirational. I think, you know, we have to see the data. And as Dr. Fauci have said, you have to, sort of, let the virus dictate the outcome. But I think at this point it's way too early to tell. We need at least a couple more weeks.

We have had, you know, in Florida seven days of declining number of cases. Unfortunately, we have some of our deadliest days as well because there's probably a lag between when someone is diagnosed and unfortunately if they pass from they pass.

But you know. So, there is some light at the end of tunnel. But I still think we need certainly a few more weeks to -- of data to determine whether or not it's going to be safe to open up before the end of the year.

BURNETT: And you talk about, you know, new cases dropping. Obviously, that could change dramatically if things reopen at the wrong time.


BURNETT: But given that where you are now, and what you see now with the way things are, do you have enough for the hospitals that you have? For ventilators, equipment, PPE? Are your hospitals staffed for what you see now?

SUAREZ: Right now, we are. Obviously, if we had a situation similar to what's happened in New York, that would change things dramatically. What is pretty clear is what we've been implementing, you know, with cancelling large events, with stay-at-home orders, with my recent order for that, for everyone to wear masks if they go into a convenient store, if they work in a convenient, if they work at a construction site.

That what's clear is that it's working. And so, I think what's important is that we discipline ourselves that we not become complacent.


SUAREZ: That we don't, you know, think that we have -- or, you know, victory already. And that we understand that it's going to take more time for us to really get to a point where, as you said, we don't have a situation where we have another flare up because we are premature.

BURNETT: So, Mayor Suarez, the last time you and I spoke you were home with coronavirus. And you had actually taken actions to get tested. Because you had been around, you know, the very same people that were at Mar-a-Lago. This obviously were several weeks ago.

And at the, you know, you were had symptoms but you weren't terribly sick. How are you doing now? Are you fully, fully better? And did anyone in your household end up getting sick?

SUAREZ: I feel great. Thankfully nobody in my household got sick, nor the employees of the city that came in close contact with me were sick. We tested over 40 employees in the city. I actually had to go through a very strict testing protocol from, you know, with guidelines from the CDC. I actually tested negative twice in a 24-hour period.

And because of that, I was able to do something that I call on other former COVID-19 positive people to do. Which is to donate plasma to try to help others who may have had far worse symptoms than I had.

I was only I think the first person in Florida and one of the first in the United States to do it. And it's a - listen. This is a battle that we all have to fight together. And hopefully when we're individually victorious in that battle we should help those who are having a very difficult time.

And we're trying to facilitate as many plasma donations as we can here in Miami. There are so many people that are in critical condition, in ICUs, and it's really unfortunate. You know, if you are hospitalized, there is a 20-percent chance that you don't make it. And if you're in ICUs that obviously that percentage goes up dramatically.


SUAREZ: And so, we're hoping that the antibodies that we have formed can help others as well.

BURNETT: Mayor Suarez, good to talk to you again. And thank you.

SUAREZ: Thank you.

BURNETT: Next, the White House pushing ahead with plans to reopen the country possibly in weeks. So, that's the big question. Right? What would that look like? What does open mean.

And the administration says it's now taking steps tonight to address the outside impact coronavirus is having on black communities. But is it enough?

And tech companies are now tracking some Americans in an attempt to spread -- to slow the spread of the deadly virus. So how is that working?



BURNETT: Leading projection of the pandemic says U.S. deaths from the virus hit the peak today. Yet, we also learned of over 2,000 reported deaths today. It is the most in a single day.

So where are we in containing the spread as the president weighs the reopening of the economy? If you listen to the president himself and his task force coordinator it's actually quite unclear.


TRUMP: The number of new cases per day is flattening substantially. Suggesting that we are near the peak.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: It's really about the encouraging signs that we see. But as encouraging as they are, we have not reached the peak.


BURNETT: OK. So, let's go outfront with Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, the CNN medical analyst who treated America's first coronavirus patient. So, doctor, you know, look, we've got projections from the HHS. The New York Times is reporting on those so you saw those.

Basically saying, if you lift the stay-at-home orders after 30 days which would basically be, you know, lifting them at the beginning of May, which is the president has said he hopes he wants to be able to do, would result in a dramatic spike in cases. In fact, they said it would be back to these worst-case scenarios and undo everything basically we've already done. So, what do you do at this point?

AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: So, what you do is try to keep the germ contained. So, right now, all we have done is start to slow the growth. Right? That's what flattening the curve is about. It's not going down yet. It's not gone yet. It's only slowed the growth.


We need to wait a couple more life cycles of the virus so that it starts burning itself out and decreasing rather than just getting flat in the number of cases. And then once that starts going down, then we can start doing what we want to do at the beginning, which is isolate each individual case, trace everybody that that person has been in contact with. And start containing the new cases.

In that way we can actually start getting in front of this rather than having the germ be the one beating us.

BURNETT: When you say a couple cycles that is, that translates into another month from here? Or I mean, I've just, you know, going off the 14-day period. What do you mean when you say cycles?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: Yes. You know, if we were doing it right, it would be another 28 days after you -- after you stop the spread to keep people really locked down. The question is, are there parts of the country that we might be able to really get enough testing in that we could start opening things up, you know, little glimmers of light before then.

But I think that's what really Dr. Fauci was talking about when he said you can start getting the country back. You don't just flip a switch and then send everybody back to school and everybody back to work. And then you end up in the same boat that you're in now.

And instead, how do you actually start loosening things a little bit in a planned and thoughtful way.

BURNETT: The president says you don't need universal testing in place to restart the economy. And of course, when you look at historical things like, let's just say, swine flu, right, you don't get to your estimate of tens of millions of Americans having it because you tested tens of millions of Americans. Right?

I mean, you get to this because you test enough to be able to make mathematically inference and actually know the numbers. But it appears that in this case it's a little bit different. Because the situation is different, the deadliness of this is different. Right? I mean, how much testing do you need in order to get the information that you need about where it is and who has it to contact trace to open up an economy?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: We really need a lot more information about this germ. We just don't have enough yet. So, the serology testing you were talking a little about before about, who all has already been exposed. You know, we don't know yet.

We know that the incidents of people who had symptoms and who have been tested but we don't know how many people actually have gotten exposed to the germ and developed antibodies to it and now are immune to it but never had symptoms or had, you know, sniffles and thought it's spring, it's allergies, something really mild.

And so, not knowing that. We don't know at this point how many people are immune in different communities. And so, we don't know what the level of what we would call herd immunity is. And it's when we start getting more and more people immune that the virus has a harder time getting to these very peak frightening levels.

BURNETT: All right. Dr. Compton-Phillips, thanks so much. I appreciate your time tonight.


BURNETT: And next, the administration now saying it's trying to reach and strengthen communities of color which have been hit so hard by this virus. But is it too little too late? Van Jones and Derrick Johnson, the president of the NCAACP are outfront.

And see how tech companies are now able to track Americans in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. They will know where you are and who you're with, though.



BURNETT: Our country in crisis. And once again we're hearing that minority communities are being hit the hardest. So how is this reality being confronted by the White House and what does it mean for black and Hispanic Americans.

Out-front with us now, Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, and CNN political commentator Van Jones. So, Derrick, let me start with you. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams addressed communities of color today. He's been talking about how his upbringing has made him more susceptible to getting extremely sick from this virus. Today, he used some colorful language talking about the overall issue. Here he is.


DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs. And call your friends and family. Check in on your mother. She wants to hear from you right now.

And speaking of mothers, we need you to do this if not for yourself, then for your abuela. Do it for your granddaddy. Do it for your big mama. Do it for your popup. We need you to understand especially in communities of color, we need you to step up and help stop the spread so that we can protect those who are most vulnerable.


BURNETT: And Derrick, when he's pressed on it, the surgeon general says he's been speaking with you about how to best address this issue and to target outreach in the black community. Here's that exchange.


YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Did he talk about whether or not people -- could you, I guess have a response for people who might be offended by the language that you used?

ADAMS: Well, I use that language because that's the lang -- I have been meeting with the NAACP, with the National Medical Association, with others. I actually talked with Derrick Johnson multiple times this week, the head of the NAACP. And we need targeted outreach to the African-American community.

And I use the language that is used in my family. That was not meant to be offensive. That's the language that we use and that I use.


BURNETT: Obviously, you know, that exchange a bit tense there. Were those comments part of your discussion, Derrick?

DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT, NAACP: Let's be clear. What we're looking at now is a pandemic that was made, made and created not because of individual personal behavior but because policymakers in the White House right now did not take the necessary precautions to ensure that all citizens of this country were protected.

It is manmade because we have the defunded the key aspects of the infectious diseases. It is manmade because we have refused as a nation to expand Affordable Care Act so more Americans can have access to healthcare.


It is manmade because of the social conditions that people live in.


JOHNSON: So, I don't want anyone to ever think that this is about their personal behavior when in fact this is public policy that has gone awry because we have not taken all citizens health into consideration when we are making policy decisions.

BURNETT: So, I want to get to the behavior part in a second. But just as a follow up, are you OK with the way he said it? He said these are the words that are used in my family. You know, when he said abuela, granddaddy, big mama, pop-pop, you did not find that problematic?

JOHNSON: Well, it's about the podium you use when you're having the conversation. It is a presidential briefing. It is not a community or family discussion. I think that's what people are reacting to.

But let's be clear. You have bus drivers in the city of Detroit who have died and have been affected. You have sheriff deputies who have been impacted. You have families who cannot go to work. We need to focus on the impact this virus is having on our communities as a result of public policy, not individual behavior.

BURNETT: So -- and Van, you know, to that point, we understand that part of the reason, right? That you, you know, in black and brown communities, some people are getting much, much sicker, right? It's in part because they are in jobs where they have to keep going to work, right? We were just talking about bus drivers and these are people who are going and putting their lives on the line every day now to go to work.

And it is also because of policy decisions and health care decisions, you know, that pre-diabetic and diabetic issues, right, that exist way, way, way before where we are now.

But the surgeon general today said black Latino and other people of color "should avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs." You heard that at the very beginning of the sound bite. Avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and call your friends and family, check in on your mother.

What's your take on those comments? Obviously, alcohol, tobacco and drugs are -- would affect anybody negatively, whatever your race. And also to Derrick's point, they are personal behaviors.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm glad he said what he said. Let me be very, very clear. NAACP is 100 percent correct in that we have an epidemic already of neglect in communities and we have an epidemic already of hypertension, obesity -- all those different things.

And so you have a pandemic jumping on top of an epidemic. We have an epidemic of bad jobs. They now call them essential jobs, essential workers. They weren't paid as essential workers. They didn't have the rights until this very, very moment.

I want to be very clear about something. I am glad that some of these officials are trying to breakthrough to communities that haven't gotten the message. A lot of the stuff that we have been saying hasn't been helpful. We talk about comorbidities and this sort of stuff. That is not how regular people talk. Regular people talk, hey, do you take a pill every night? Do you take a pill every day? You can die from this.

It's not just about older people. In the black community, we're seeing people die in their 50s, in their 40s, in their 30s, and even younger because we have high blood pressure. We have an epidemic of that. So you got to say, hey, do you have pressure? You can die. I don't care if you are 30 years old. Do you have asthma inhaler? You can die. I don't care if you're 40 years old. When you start talking that way and breaking through -- you got sugar? We call it diabetic sugar. You got blood sugar? Do you have blood pressure? You can criticize somebody for saying that. But somebody will listen to that differently and make a different choice. It is both public policies. It's also -- now in the light of the failure of public policy, we have personal choices.

I think it's important that we stop this high pollutant language that most people cannot understand. One more thing I got to say is this. Please understand there's an epidemic of ignorance about this virus. It is not just in the black community. We have white governors that will not do the right thing by their own states in the south.


JONES: But the reason we're focusing on black and brown people is because in our community the consequences of not understanding this virus are so high. We are the ones that are dying. And so it's important. This is not playing a race card. It is playing the data card.

According to the data, we are the ones who are dying. So, those hot spots send in masks, send in respirators, send in tests, and use language that people can understand. I'm not going to criticize anybody for trying to reach out when we're dying in these numbers.

BURNETT: Derrick?

JOHNSON: Oh, I absolutely agree. You talk about data. We are consistently saying to the CDC, release the data. We need to understand who has been impacted, where they have been exacted --


JOHNSON: -- so we can identify the necessary treatments to address this pandemic.


JOHNSON: For whatever reason, this administration has refused to do so. But it's critically important that we get the data so we can understand how best to navigate in this pandemic. If we don't have data, we cannot isolate where the problem is taking place. Control the spread of the virus so that we can come out of this, the economic realities that we're looking at right now.

As a result of bad policy decisions, individuals, yes, they have to make personal choices but unfortunately those personal choices have been gone to whether or not we're going to have enough food on the table because we no longer have our job and we cannot get through to an appointment office because nobody is answering the phone.

I will continue to talk to health care experts and professionals because the politicians have failed us. And so my conversation with the surgeon general is like it is with the National Medical Association because as African Americans, we have to come up with a solution to address this because government has failed us the same way they failed us during the hurricane Katrina.

BURNETT: All right. Derrick Johnson and Van Jones, thank you both very much. Next, state governments want to know if you are really obeying stay-at-home orders. And now, some of them are going to be working with tech companies that developed a way to find out where you are at all times.




BURNETT: So some tech companies are now actually able to track how well Americans are actually following social distancing orders. How are they doing it? And how are some state governments now using that information? Sara Sidner is out front.


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Official government orders to stay at home stereo in the face, but are you obeying them? The tech company Unacast knows, grading the nation state by state, even county by county.

As of Friday, Nevada, Vermont, and California were at the top of the list as far as residents staying put. Six states were near failing. Overall, the United States got a C-plus. How did they do it? It is by tracking cell phone data.

And now, some state governments are hiring companies to do it, too. They developed social distancing models that gauge how well residents are adhering to stay-at-home orders.

GOV. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM (D-NM): As we dig deeper, using cell phone data --

SIDNER (voice-over): The state of New Mexico is one of the firsts to go public about hiring a company, Descartes Labs, to get cell phone geolocation statistics.

MIKE WARREN, CO-FOUNDER, DESCARTES LABS: We came up with a way to measure statistically how far a typical person in a community was going far away from where they started their day.

SIDNER (on camera): So, you actually could track cell phone to show that people were following or not following the stay-at-home order?


SIDNER (voice-over): Mark Warren says other states have also signed on during the pandemic. China goes even further. It is using citizen smartphones to control their movements around their cities. A QR code on their phone determines where they can go.

SIDNER (on camera): Americans are really concerned about that kind of personalized tracking. Is that concern addressed by the technology?

WARREN: Absolutely. I personally and concerned about that as well. So, we have got a number of controls that prevent us from tracking individuals.

SIDNER (voice-over): He says the data sold to the U.S. government is just statistics. Anonymous information that does not reveal who the phone belongs to. You play a role and being tracked, too.

When you download certain apps and agreed to let them use your geolocation on your phone, that data is being used by third-party companies and advertisers, and now some states and local governments. There are plenty of companies buying the tracking data. For example --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not on spring break.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is not happening.

SIDNER (voice-over): Remember those spring breakers who flocked to beaches even after the warnings to social distance? X-Mode collected spring breakers phone data. Another company, Tectonix, was able to show where those spring breakers ended up. Those little points of light are cell phones pinging from the beaches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): As we zoom further and further out, it becomes clear just how massive the potential impact just one single beach gathering can have.

SIDNER (voice-over): If just a few of those spring breakers had contracted coronavirus, they could have spread it far and wide. Now, governments want this kind of data in part to see if stricter measures to distant citizens are needed.

GRISHAM: I am talking with governors around the country about how you do that. And again, everything on the table, including if we needed to, I would consider curfews.

SIDNER (voice-over): All of these tracking capabilities have brought up the quintessential question about privacy. How much of your personal liberty are you willing to give up for security or the health of the nation?

WARREN: Like many things, it can be used for good or it can be used for evil.


SIDNER: He is clear that the data being used now is being used for good and it could help save lives. But Erin, I do want to mention this. Beginning next month, Apple and Google -- and this was just released today -- will release software that will allow health officials to gather detailed data on the whereabouts of cell phones, and they say that that data will be collected through apps that you voluntary download.

But both of those companies say that they are going to go farther and build a new contact tracing capabilities within the software of your phone.


SIDNER: They say that their plan will maintain those strong privacy rules. But again, a lot of people are trying to decide how much they want to be tracked and if they will do it for the good of the country or if it becomes a real issue of trying to protect your own privacy and personal liberties. Erin?

BURNETT: It is crucial question which, of course, China didn't have to deal with. They just tracked and did and did as they chose. All right, thank you so much, Sara.

In "OutFront" next, keeping faith and hope on this Good Friday before Easter and a holy time for many religions.




BURNETT: We are in the midst of Passover. Sunday is Easter. And in less than two weeks, Ramadan begins. But like so much in our lives right now, these holiest of times are different now. "OutFront" now with CNN religion commentator Father Edward Beck.

Father Beck, it is good to see you, just to see your face even through this. I know, obviously, you and I have spoken over text but not seen each other, as so many are not seeing each other. And, you know, Passover is different. I know we saw a lot of Zoom Seders this week. You know, people alone or trying to join by phone. What do you make of how people are finding ways to come together right now that are not physically being together?

EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Well, I think what's so interesting is it pushes us, Erin, toward a new spirituality that might not be a terrible thing. When you think about it, that image of the pope, a few images of him alone in that square and the isolation of it, and yet it was very contemplative.

There was something very spiritual about it, that there is real strain in spirituality of the contemplative part, of the aloneness part. I mean, the desert fathers and mothers went into the desert for a reason, to be free of distractions and to be replenished in some way.

So I am kind of thinking about using this time and have been and encouraging others to, yes, we cannot come together, physically, and that's part of community, but there is a real value in spirituality and in faith to be able to have this time in contemplation and meditation, and discover new ways of connecting to god, and of course, online to one another.

BURNETT: Yes. It is -- it is -- you even experience that when you are just in New York City and you're on the street, right? There is almost like a community and camaraderie of meeting someone's eyes that you didn't have before even though now you can't have a conversation with them because you are six feet apart. You know, I guess, on a certain level, I understand what you are saying. Just on a human-connection basis.

But we are at a time of year, you know, it's spring and there's rebirth and renewal which, of course, is one of the traditions many will celebrate this Easter Sunday. How is that message, though -- I mean, how do you take that message of rebirth and renewal and then see these pictures of, you know, mass graves?

I mean, literally, this is in New York, right? Heart Island, unclaimed bodies are being put in there. It is like a mass grave. These are unclaimed bodies with no one to know who they are, to want to bring them somewhere. How do you put those things together, rebirth and those images?

BECK: Well, Erin, there's never been a time in our lives when, as a global community, we have entered these mysteries that we are celebrating now as Christians these days in an experiential way. I mean, just think about it. Today is Good Friday. It is about suffering and death. Tomorrow, Holy Saturday, it commemorates Jesus in the tomb, waiting for rebirth, waiting for renewal.

Who of us, in some way, during all of this pandemic and this isolation, doesn't feel like we have been entombed in some way? And, yet, I think the whole part comes, and the reason it's called Good Friday, is because it's not the final word.

We do believe -- Christians believe two days later that Jesus was resurrected, life was restored. And I think we believe that about ourselves, too. We're not going to stay in the tomb. The end of this is not suffering and death. And we have seen that in so much of the kindness you are talking about.

I mean, it's almost like a post-9/11 feel here in New York, walking down the street and encountering people. And there is love and there's compassion. And there is a coming together that I think is so rare. And that's where I am finding the new life and the hope of renewal, and the possibility of something else here. And I think it's really inspiring, as well.

So I think going through these mysteries, in the midst of actually going through these mysteries, has been a really powerful experience for me, and I know for many others.

BURNETT: And in terms of how -- I mean, obviously, you know, you are -- have always relished sort of your time alone to think and to read. But, you know, what have you turned to during this time?

BECK: I have turned to, actually, trying to be more quiet and to read less and to be on my device less or my devices less. I have picked up a new novel which -- and I haven't read a novel in quite some time. I have just been reading other stuff.

[23:54:58] BECK: And so I've just been trying to savour some of the time and realizing that this time, while I don't want it and I am longing just to go out to dinner or go to a movie like everybody else, there is something about it that's also a gift for me.


BECK: And I am trying to use it in a productive way. And to realize that there is a mystery in this that I can absorb and that maybe months from now I look back and see there is a grace instead of just a punishment of some kind.

BURNETT: Father Beck, thank you very, very much.

BECK: Thank you, Erin. Great seeing you even this way.

BURNETT: All right. And that is all for us tonight. Thank you for watching. Stay tuned as the news continues here on CNN.