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NYC Mayor Says Schools To Remain Closed, But Governor Pushes Back; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Is Interviewed About The Coronavirus Pandemic; COVID-19 Disproportionately Affecting African- Americans; Prisons & Jails Turning Into Hotbeds For Outbreak; CDC Eases Return-To-Work Guidelines For Essential Workers; Pediatrician, Dr. Glenn Budnick, Answers Viewers' Questions On Coronavirus And Children. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired April 11, 2020 - 16:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Erica Hill in today for Ana Cabrera.

We begin this hour with a historic, grim moment for the United States. The death toll from coronavirus in this country has now surpassed 20,000. There's also this: every single state is now under a disaster declaration simultaneously. New York state alone has more than 180,000 confirmed cases. That is more than any single country outside the U.S.

And in the nation's largest school district, New York City, there is a fight over when the 1.1 million students there will be back in the classroom. Mayor Bill de Blasio this morning announcing the city schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year. But then hours later, Governor Andrew Cuomo said no decision has been made, going so far as to call the mayor's announcement his, quote, opinion.

Meantime, in Kentucky, state police will be at the ready to take down the license plate information of anyone who shows up for an Easter service, a mass gathering. Remember more than 10 people, the governor warning anyone who's found to have attended one of those services could face a misdemeanor violation, their information will be given to the health department and they will be put under a 14-day quarantine.

Beginning today in Michigan, people can no longer travel between two homes. If they do, they risk $1,000 fine or even jail time. That ban sparking some pushback in a state where many people also own vacation homes, it's fairly common place.

Meantime in Los Angeles, it is now mandatory for both employees and customers to wear a face covering in grocery stores and other essential businesses. Here in New York state today, two very big updates in New York state and New York City. More people are sick. More people have died from the virus, of course, in New York than anywhere else in the country.

A very cautious bit of good news, though, from the governor, who today announced the curve is continuing to flatten in New York state and that is sparking some hope. The number of people who need to be hospitalized, could it have peaked? There are some new infections statewide but those numbers are down a little bit. The mayor of New York City, meantime, announcing public schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year. As we know, the governor pushing back on that.

CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is live in New York.

So, where does this stand and who gets to make that call?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the open question. I mean, as you mentioned at the top of the piece, this is still a very much ongoing crisis here in New York City, and to that end, you know, schools have been closed for quite a while, and to that end, this morning, the governor came on and did a press conference where he said, unequivocally, the schools will remain closed in New York City through the end of the school year, through June, which is a big deal. I mean, there's a lot of stuns students that go to school here. There's a lot of teachers and administrators and everything else.

It's a massive system that does a lot more than just teach kids and keeping it closed is a big deal. But the mayor was pretty unequivocal about why it needed to stay closed and how he was going to go about trying to do that. But shortly after that, the governor, Andrew Cuomo, came on and did his daily press conference and said something very different.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: You can't make a decision just within New York City without coordinating that decision with the whole metropolitan region because it all works together. But we're going to do it in a coordinated sense with the other localities.

That's his opinion. But he didn't close them and he can't open them.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, essentially, if you are a parent at home watching TV today, what you saw was the mayor say the schools are going to be closed and then the governor saying, well, that's his opinion. No indication that schools are going to be open, but still, an open question.

I've been talking to people over the past couple of hours about this. I spoke with a parent coordinator at a public school in Brooklyn who said that, you know, school administrators like her, school staff like her were told this morning right before the mayor made his announcement that the schools are going to be closed and then, of course, the governor comes on and says what he said.

Her job is to interact with parents and coordinate them with the school and she said already she's getting a lot of weird questions about it. Other parents, a school in Manhattan, got an email from their school coordinator saying, hey, the schools are going to be closed for the rest of the year.

What's important about this, in New York City, is that shutting down the schools for the rest of the year requires some big planning over what the rest of that school year is going to look like. That coordinator from Brooklyn I spoke with said that, look, the status quo of the shutdown as it is, which is sort of done on an ad hoc basis as this crisis began, just can't keep going the way it is. They need to prepare for the marathon of the rest of the year.

And while the leadership is not in alignment, they can't do that. So, they're waiting for that alignment to happen so they can figure out what to do -- Erica.

HILL: Yes, a lot of questions hanging in the air there. Evan McMorris- Santoro, thank you.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

And as we were just listening to this confusion, Senator, for a lot of parents in New York, the mayor saying schools were closed until September, the governor saying the mayor doesn't have that authority.

Are you concerned about the mixed messaging in your state today?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): No. I think they'll sort it out. My view is I think we can't really reopen schools until we are further along in this epidemic. The one thing we don't have, which I really think is necessary for parents and students and teachers, is testing. We really need to get a rapid test at every school in the country, and until we can create the manufacturing pipeline to get that done, it's going to be very hard.

I think most parents would want to know that every child has had a test before they go back to school. I'm sure teachers and administrators think that would be the best way to start school, and the technology is available. We just need the manufacturers to then create enough of these test kits to send to every school.

HILL: Governor Cuomo has been calling on the president to use the DPA for that exact purpose. We know that the testing exists, the Department of Health in New York state has approved it, they're working on tests at this point, but as Governor Cuomo said he has 9 million people that need to go back to work. He can't do that with only hundreds or thousands of tests a week.

Do you see that changing? The president didn't seem to think that it would be needed to help move forward, this testing.

GILLIBRAND: Well, the president's been wrong from the beginning. He didn't take this crisis seriously. He did not shut schools and ask governors to ask people to have stay-at-home orders early enough, and we squandered months. We knew about this virus in probably December, certainly in January, and the president failed to act.

And so, now, governors and mayors are doing their absolute best to meet the needs of their communities, but we know that this virus is highly contagious. We know that the stay-at-home orders are working. We know that the spread is being stopped in its tracks because people are taking this seriously.

But to bring kids back to school to get things up and running, you need a lot more testing.


GILLIBRAND: If the president would -- if the president was using his Defense Production Act authority, he would be talking to the labs, Abbott Labs and Roche Labs, and demanding that they increase manufacturing of these tests and he would be organizing a national pipeline for this testing to get done.

HILL: As you look at what may be needed to reopen the economy in your state, testing is a key component. As you point out, as we've heard from Governor Cuomo, he also said you can't separate public health and the economy. You can't divorce the two, as you're looking at when to reopen businesses and schools.

What are your markers beyond testing? What are your thresholds? What do you need to see?

GILLIBRAND: So, I can speak as a parent, and as a senator. As a parent, I want to know that my school community is safe and that my child isn't spreading a virus or that other children aren't spreading the virus to people who are home who may be vulnerable like grandparents or older parents.

And so, I think testing is absolutely necessary before we go back to school, and I think remote learning is working. The parts where it's not working, not all of our at-risk and at-need students have the devices they need. We need more of Silicon Valley to actually donate more devices for homeless children, low income children, children in foster care.

New York City has done a very good job of getting computers to people quickly but we still have about 200,000 kids in New York City alone that don't have a computer. In upstate New York, not everybody has access to Wi-Fi. We've still not guaranteed Wi-Fi to that very last mile, and so as a consequence, there are still kids who do not have Internet in their homes.

And so, we have a lot of infrastructure to be building. I'm hoping that Congress can appropriate more money for remote learning to close the digital divide between the haves and have-notes, between rural America, between low-income America and so I'm hoping that we can work on that in the next package and the next package.

I'm also concerned we've not -- we've not put enough resources in for, frankly, our first responders and our at-risk workers. The people who are on the front lines, whether you're a food worker, you are at a grocery store, at a pharmacy, in a hospital, we still don't have the protective equipment we need. So, we need the Defense Production Act to be utilized to get that supply chain, again, streamlined and flowing more aggressively. HILL: I also want to get your take. This morning, House Minority

Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a joint statement and they said they will not agree to any compromise with their proposal that would add $250 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program being run by the Small Business Administration because they want this to be a clean increase in funding and they say that program is actually going to run out of funds by next week without that additional infusion of cash.

Is it worth putting those paychecks in jeopardy?

GILLIBRAND: It's worth writing a bill that's going to work. One of the problems with the paycheck protection provisions is that it's not working for all businesses.

It's certainly not working for restaurants and bars. They cannot be up and running by June. It's not working for a lot of rural businesses. It's not working for businesses that are owned by minority owners and from some communities throughout our state.

And so, some of the banks just aren't lending to some businesses. They are only lending to people that they have a relationship with or they think they could make money from. So we need more of the money to actually go to the community banks, to rural banks, to banks that service minority owners and women-owned businesses.

And so we need to fix what we did in the last bill so this money can get everywhere and for the Republicans in Congress to be unwilling to negotiate in good faith, they are really harming Americans by their belligerence.

HILL: Senator Gillibrand, we're out of time. We'll have to leave it there. Appreciate you joining us this afternoon. Thank you.

GILLIBRAND: Thank you.

HILL: The president has said repeatedly he is hoping to reopen the country soon. Just ahead, what's at risk if the economy reopens without adequate testing for every American?

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



HILL: President Trump is eager to reopen the economy, a source telling CNN Mr. Trump's Wall Street friends are urging him to set a date. Many local leaders, however, say it is essential to have more aggressive testing before even a consideration of easing social distance guidelines. Here's what President Trump said about testing at Friday's task force briefing.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You don't have to test every person in the state of Iowa, as an example. You don't have to test every single person so say, let's open up and let's get the tractors moving and let's get the corn and let's open up all of the different things they do in that great state. You don't need that.

With that being said, if there's a little hot corner some place, we'll be testing.

So we're going to do testing but you don't need to test 325 to 350 million people because number one, it's unnecessary. Vast numbers, vast areas of our country don't need this. I think you agree with me on that. You just don't need it.


HILL: Joining me now, Dr. Esther Choo, an associate professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Science University. Dr. Larry Brilliant is an epidemiologist and CNN medical analyst.

Good to have both of you with us.

So, Dr. Brilliant, we've heard New York Governor Andrew Cuomo say, I think I've heard him say it almost every day this week, we need more aggressive testing than we have now. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has said the same thing.

The president has said we don't need to test 325 million Americans. A lot of officials would actually agree with that. However, they do want more testing.

So, in your eyes, what does the testing that is necessary to reopen the country and the economy look like?

DR. LARRY BRILLIANT, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Hello, Erica. Happy Easter, happy Hanukkah -- I mean, happy Passover. I'm so confused these days.

HILL: Now you're really looking far ahead, huh?

BRILLIANT: Really far ahead. But you know, I'm a person of faith, and can you imagine if we had opened up the country to -- for Easter Sunday as the president wanted to before? We've had almost 2,000 deaths today. Two days ago, we learned that the R-naught, the infectivity of the virus, is not 2.2. It's more likely to be closer to 6, almost three times higher, and we don't know where it is because we haven't had testing.

We have to have universal testing. We have to have a Manhattan project to get enough tests that are cheap enough that we can have them everywhere almost like a pinprick that you do for your diabetes test, your glucose test, and we can -- we're close. We can have a point of care diagnostic now that would enable everybody to be tested.

Don't you want to know that your schoolteacher is safe and has had the disease and is immune before you send your kid to school?

HILL: So, then, you are saying we should test every single person in the country? BRILLIANT: No, I think that's what happened is that we've missed plan



BRILLIANT: We've missed plan a, which is to find every case and then test the case and all the contacts and then put around it a ring of people that were the contacts that we put into quarantine. I think we're ready to do that again now. We don't have to test everybody in the country, but we have to keep social distancing until we can find those foci, those localized places and double down on those places, test them and all their contacts.

That's what epidemiologists have always wanted to do, but we've been blind because we didn't have adequate tests.

HILL: As we look forward, too, there's also the question of people who have had the coronavirus but may not -- may have been asymptomatic or may have never been tested to have been officially told that they did, in fact, have it.

Dr. Choo, Anthony Fauci, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has said we're going to have that antibody testing available within the next week or so. What will that mean to have that testing available?

DR. ESTHER CHOO, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, OREGON HEALTH & SCIENCE UNIVERSITY: Yes, that will be so helpful, especially for healthcare providers who would like to go back into the workforce and know when it's safe for them to go back without infecting coworkers and other patients. I mean, the beauty of the serology test is it doesn't just say, you know, do you have this infection at this time point. You know, if you test the same person, they will be positive when they are actively infectious and then negative later but it doesn't tell you if they definitely have had the course of the disease or where they are.

The serology tells you they have antibodies in their blood so they're protected against that infection, it's in their past and we can be confident about their risk of re-infection going forward.


So, hugely helpful, particularly for essential workforce who would like to go back into, you know, into the front lines and help take care of patients.

HILL: We're also learning more about the virus. In fact, a new study points out there are some possible neurological problems that have now been shown to be common among COVID-19 patients which include dizziness, headache, problems with clear thinking, seizure, stroke, this loss of ability to taste or smell, as we've been talking about, but a change in vision, nerve pain.

I mean, it's quite a list there. And they may have had those symptoms but not the respiratory symptoms. Dr. Choo, is that surprising? CHOO: Well, I mean, every virus has a spectrum of symptoms, and when

you have a virus that's hit so many people, you know, now half a million people in the United States, almost 2 million people worldwide, you're going to see not just the classic presentation but the full gamut of potential symptoms.

And I would say those neurologic symptoms, so interesting. I mean, one of my very good friends is just recovering and said that the prominent symptom for him was actually ringing in his ears. There's no doubt that the virus interacts with neurologic symptoms that profound loss of smell and taste has been another really interesting one that isn't common to a lot of viruses.

But I will say those symptoms are still less common than the classic symptoms which are fever, cough, shortness of breath, body aches, much more common. These neurologic symptoms, we still have to sort out and we have a huge number of patients to do this sorting out worldwide, but some of these things, especially symptoms like stroke or seizure, it's phenomenally unclear exactly what's happening.

Is that caused directly by the virus or is that when the virus hits people who are, you know, who are sensitive, who are susceptible to having things like seizure and stroke, maybe they had a stroke before, is it just that when you're very sick, it's making you more vulnerable to expressing a disease that you're already at risk for, or is there a secondary process?

You know, going on in addition to COVID-19 and that's what's causing those exact things. So, hard to figure out right now.

HILL: All right. It is hard to figure out for the -- if it's hard to figure out for the doctors, it's certainly hard to figure out for the layperson.

Dr. Brilliant, as you look at all of that, Dr. Brilliant, to your point about trying to figure out who's had it, right, and putting a ring around these points of contact that may relate to someone, are you worried about underreporting at all? People who may not be going in to get themselves checked out because they're not having some of the more traditional respiratory symptoms that we've been talking about, Dr. Brilliant.

BRILLIANT: Oh, I'm very -- I'm very worried about underreporting. This -- this epidemic certainly looks like an iceberg. We're maybe seeing one sixth, some people think we're only seeing one tenth of the cases.

If that's the case, how can we open up the country when we don't know where the disease is without more strategic testing of places all around? It's a -- it's a very real concern.

HILL: Dr. Larry Brilliant, Dr. Esther Choo, appreciate you both joining us with your expertise this afternoon. Thank you.

BRILLIANT: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

CHOO: Thank you. HILL: The pandemic is disproportionately affecting African-Americans.

That, we know. But that's not where the coronavirus divide ends.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



HILL: The coronavirus pandemic has once again exposed a wealth divide in America. New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Los Angeles, all victim of the same story. People in largely black communities are suffering far more casualties than the rest of the country, but why?

Here's CNN's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These numbers are very early. They're very incomplete but they seem to be pointing in a direction that is alarming.

(voice-over): One-third of all U.S. residents sick enough from the virus to be admitted to hospitals are African-American. Way more than double their share of the population. That is the suggestion from a small early sample of cases studied by the CDC.

It's not definitive, but it implies in cities such as New York, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit the pandemic is particularly threatening black communities.

LT. GOV. GARLIN GILCHRIST (D), MICHIGAN: This hits home for people. I have lost 15 people in my life due to this virus here in the city of Detroit.

FOREMAN: Yes, the virus can be lethal to anyone but --

TRUMP: Why is it three or four times more so for the black community as opposed to other people?

FOREMAN: The answer? More African-Americans are living in poverty than almost any other group as a percentage, often in densely populated cities with inadequate nutrition and education, less insurance and access to medical care.

Leaving them more likely to develop those related health issues, proving so deadly.

MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: We know that underlying conditions like hypertension, and diabetes, heart disease, this virus is particularly hard on.

FOREMAN: The surgeon general suffers from some of those problems, and he is only 45.

DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I represent that legacy of growing up poor, and black, and in America, and I and many black Americans are at higher risk of COVID.


FOREMAN: What's more, as skyrocketing unemployment makes free food lines explode, poor communities are certainly growing poorer.

And unlike many people in better-paying positions, even those low- income folks who can hold onto their jobs often can't do them from home.

BILLY NUNGESSER, (R), LOUISIANA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: They're working in a lot of the service industry that, unfortunately, is still dealing with the public and the grocery stores and some of the service industries that are still out there doing the job we need them to do. And so they're bringing that home to their families.

FOREMAN: It's not new. Studies have shown, in almost every type of calamity, poor communities are less prepared, less able to compete for resources, less quick to recover.

ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Whatever the situation is, natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina, the people standing on those rooftops were not rich white people.

Why? Why is it that the poorest people always pay the highest price?

FOREMAN (on camera): Again, COVID-19 is an equal opportunity threat. Anyone can get it anywhere. But these early indications do seem to show some of the poorest communities may be paying the biggest price for this pandemic and they may be paying it for a lot longer than most of us.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Bethesda, Maryland.


HILL: I want to bring in now CNN Political Commentator, Van Jones.

Van, you've said the coronavirus is an epidemic already on top of the other epidemics the black community is facing.

And then yesterday, the surgeon general touched on that a little bit further. He looked to explain why. I want to play that moment.


JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: African-Americans and Native Americans develop high blood pressure at much younger ages and it's less likely to be under control and does greater harm to their organs.

The chronic burden of medical ills is likely to make people of color, especially, less resilient to the ravages of COVID-19 and it's, possibly, in fact, likely, that the burden of social ills is also contributing.

Social distancing and teleworking are critical. And you've heard Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci talk about how they prevent the spread of coronavirus. Yet, only one in five African-Americans and one in six Hispanics has a job that lets them work from home.

People of color are more likely to live in densely packed areas and multigenerational housing, situations which create higher risk for spread of a highly contagious disease like COVID-19.


HILL: He went on to hammer home the point, which I know a number of leaders that we've spoken to, have said they've spent a lot of time reminding people that African-Americans are not genetically or biologically predisposed to COVID-19, but they are, in fact, socially predisposed. And that, unfortunately, is not going anywhere at this moment.

How do you deal with that in this time?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "THE VAN JONES SHOW": Well, first of all, I'm so glad the messaging is starting to change.

People say, oh, why you guys talk about race all the time? The virus is not racist, you're playing the race card. No, no, we're playing the data card. This is the data card that we're playing.

And the reality is I have hypertension. I have high blood pressure. Most of the people in my family have that.

There's been an epidemic of hypertension, asthma, obesity, and diabetes in the black community for a very long time, you know, the stresses of urban life, the stresses of dealing with racial difference. And then also just, you know, sometimes living in communities where it's hard to get good food winds up with this preexisting epidemic in the community.

And so you now have to deal with the data and the data shows that the hot spots are black and brown communities.

So you got a rush in masks there. You got to rush in tests there. You've got to rush in respirators there because that's where the problem is becoming very, very lethal.

The problem is, early on, we weren't talking about -- we were talking about age. Well, we've got to do this because your grandmother might get sick and die. If you're 70 years old, 80 years old and you're in trouble. If you're 30 years old, 20 years old, don't worry about it.

In the black community, we are seeing people dying in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s in large numbers because those underlying health issues are so epidemic.

And so what we say is: Do you take a pill every day? If you take a pill every day, you are at extreme risk. Do you have an inhaler? Does your nephew use an inhaler or your niece? They're at extremely at risk. They're not old. No, no, in our community, it's not about age. It's about these

underlying conditions. Now people are starting to get into motion but it's come way too late.

HILL: You know, you bring up an interesting point, too, about the concentration of communities. And one of the things that came up at the town hall this week with Magic Johnson, who joined Anderson and Sanjay, was him talking about access to things but also access to testing.

Take a listen to what he had to say about this.


MAGIC JOHNSON, NBA HALL OF FAMER: People want to get tested. Until they get tested, people won't be comfortable, because that's going to tell them whether they have this virus or not.

See, Anderson, the problem is, people want us to drive to suburban America to get that test.


JOHNSON: Why can't you have that testing done right in urban America, right in the inner cities?



HILL: How much -- how much of that issue is really an urban versus suburban issue?

JONES: Listen, you know, all of these things kind of lay on top of each other. And so, you know, you can call it whatever you want to call it.

But here's what you know. You know where the hot spots are now for lethality. In other words, the thing is spreading everywhere but it's not killing everybody in the same way at the same rates. And you have some places that are 13 percent black with 70 percent black fatalities.

And so it's only three things. There's only three things: Masks, tests, and respirators. That's it. So, you've got to prioritize getting the masks and the tests and the respirators.

And by the way, you talk about social distancing. You know, if you live in a housing project, it's hard to social distance.

Listen, rich folks are already socially isolated. They live in gated communities. They got big mansions with one person in there. They can deal with this.

But if you live in a housing project or a homeless shelter or a women's shelter or a prison, a jail, or detention center, suddenly, PPE, getting in those masks and all that protective stuff, becomes a civil rights issue, a human rights issue, a humanitarian issue.


HILL: Right. These hot spots in New York City, we talk about where people live in dense communities, multifamily units in one apartment. You can social distance on the street but it's a little harder to do at home.

Quickly, before I let you go, you brought up jails. Prison reform, I know, is key to where your heart is on so many issues. What we saw in Chicago this week, the largest concentration there, hundreds of people infected at Cook County Jail. The Cook County board president called jails a, quote, "petri dish."

Are you confident that those outbreaks that we're seeing are going to change the way this is being handled in prisons and jails across the country?

JONES: The most important thing I can say is, if you're a governor, if you're the head of corrections in a state, if you're a sheriff, if you're a mayor, the prisons can become morgues overnight across the country.

Some people say, well, I don't care, they're in prison. That's unfortunate.

But here's the problem. You cannot defeat a plague outside of the prison if it's going on inside the prison. The guards come in. The staff comes in. Food services come in. You're going to re-infect the whole community over and over and over again.

You've got to rush -- and also, by the way, you got 2.4 million people who are in jails and prison, biggest prison population in the world. If they all get sick and go to the hospital, they knock the entire public health care system on its behind. So, you have to take this seriously.

There's a simple solution. The Reform Alliance, where I work, has a safer plan. You just get all the sick and elderly people out, all the people with minor charges out, so you reduce the people there. And then you make sure that they're on home confinement. Later on, you can deal with them.

And then you don't put people in jails anymore for a little minor stuff, jaywalking or whatever. And then, you get in masks and medical equipment urgently so it doesn't flood out into the rest of the population.

Every governor in the state -- every governor needs to be focused on this. Every mayor. This is going -- we do not want the prisons to become a super accelerator of the virus. And so that's why the Reform Alliance is focused on this so heavily.

HILL: Van Jones, always good to speak with you. Thank you.

JONES: Thank you. HILL: With most of the country now under stay-at-home orders, what

about the people who can't stay home? How those on the front lines and in essential positions are putting themselves at risk, and their concerns as they just try to do their job.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



HILL: People who have to be at work, essential workers, are now doing so under CDC guidelines, which are meant to keep them safe. They're told to wear a face covering at all times, to check their temperature.

This, of course, includes not just health care workers but the folks at your local grocery store, people stocks shelves at the grocery store, delivering mail, preparing food for delivery.

CNN's Jason Carroll has more on the people who are putting themselves at risk to help keep the country running.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Businesses closed, streets are empty, as New Yorkers, like many people across the country, continue to live under a stay-at-home order.

But for those who are deemed essential --

CARROLL (on camera): A lot of stress?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of stress.

CARROLL (voice-over): -- staying home is not an option.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just pray to God that I make it through the day.

CARROLL: A number of so-called essential workers we found shared a common worry, thankful to have jobs when so many now do not, but also grave concerns about working during a pandemic.

KHAJA KHATEEB, PHARMACIST, THOMAS DRUGS: It's not easy. It's scary, I'm telling you. Every day we come in, we pray to God, you know, to keep us safe, you know. But it's our responsibility at this time to take care of the customers and the patients.

CARROLL: The focus here at Thomas Drugs on Manhattan's upper-west side, ensuring the staff's safety while keeping up with customer needs for items such as thermometers, gloves and masks.

KHATEEB: It's hard for us to get from the distributors, so we -- we are just trying to get it, but it's still -- no, it's not easy.

CARROLL: But for some essential workers, they have to deal with scenes like this before they can even get to work. Myriam Varela works in an emergency room and shot this video in a

Bronx subway station last Friday.

MYRIAM VARELA, HOSPITAL BUSINESS ASSOCIATE, MONTEFIORE HOSPITAL: So, what do us essential workers do? How do we stay safe, where we're not even safe at work, where we're supposed to be safe because we have to deal with this pandemic and we're not safe getting to work?

CARROLL: Varela says she has no choice but to take the subway. She said she doesn't have the luxury of a car, so she has to commute by train an hour and a half each way every day from her home in Harlem to Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx.

She says the CDC recommendation of six feet of social distancing is challenging, at best.


VARELA: To be honest with you, that really doesn't exist on the train. That's, like --

CARROLL (on camera): It doesn't exist?

VALERA: It's, like, nonexistent. It's to the point that you're lucky if you get on when there's a little bit of people. Usually, it's very crowded in the morning.

CARROLL (voice-over): The city's transportation authority says ridership is down more than 90%, and they do watch for hot spots. But they say it is difficult operating even a reduced schedule, because there are fewer healthy people to run the trains.

Jazzmen Cloye works at Trader Joe's and commutes by train as well. Cloye says she does what she can to keep her distance on her way to work, where her job is to help customers keep their distance.

JAZZMEN CLOYE, GROCERY STORE WORKER, TRADER JOE'S: It is risky to come to work. It's a little bit scary, but I'm trying to keep the safe precautions. I'm trying to keep six feet away, constantly wear my mask, change my gloves, wash my hands frequently. So, I mean, it is a scare, but you've got to stay safe.

CARROLL: And it's not just grocery store workers. Keeping spirits in supply is deemed essential as well. At 67 Street Wine and Spirits, customers wait outside for their orders. Here, they've hired some furloughed restaurant workers to keep up with demand.

DAVID WEISER, MANAGER, 67 WINE AND SPIRITS: At the end of the day, ultimately, it's about the people. So, if we can keep people employed, we feel happy.

CARROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


HILL: And our thanks to Jason for that piece. Coming up, the coronavirus and your kids. We're going to speak with a

pediatrician to answer some of your questions as a parent.

Stay with us. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



HILL: Little ones need protection, too. Take a look at this. This is from a hospital in Bangkok giving newborn babies face shields to protect them from coronavirus droplets that could come from coughing or sneezing. It's also part of an effort to give some new moms a little peace of mind. Look at that sweet face.

Of course, moms, parents in general, are not alone. Anyone caring for children has a lot of questions right now.

So we're going to the expert for some answers. Pediatrician Glenn Budnick is here with answers. He's the chairman of the Pediatrics Reliance Medical Group.

Doctor Budnick, great to have you with us.

If we stick with this topic of newborns and infants, this is hard enough when you're a parent and you've got this sweet little baby who can't talk to you and can't tell you what's wrong. But if the time of coronavirus, that is even more concerning. What should parents be watching for, specifically?

DR. GLENN BUDNICK, PEDIATRICIAN & CHAIRMAN, PEDIATRICS RELIANCE MEDICAL GROUP: Well, in an infant and child, they should always be watching for fever, cough, signs of shortness of breath.

But in general, we've been lucky with children and lucky with infants, is that coronavirus has been very mild for infants and children and has been asymptomatic in the majority of them.

So, so far, in this pandemic, infants and children have, for the most part, been spared the severity of the disease.

HILL: We hear a lot about not going to the E.R for the things that you used to go for because they're so overloaded with coronavirus.

But when it comes to a regular visit, you know, my 10-year-old is due for his annual physical, probably a couple of shots would come with that. If a child is due for routine vaccines or routine appointments, should they be going to the doctor's office right now or should that be postponed?

BUDNICK: If -- especially, in infants and young infants and people to the children or to the age of 2, who are due for their routine primary vaccines, the vaccine rate in the United States has dropped dramatically since the coronavirus outbreak because parents, rightly, are scared to bring their child to the doctor. But we're concerned that the levels of immunity will drop to the

typical childhood diseases that we've been protecting for years. So we're telling parents whose children or infants are due for vaccines to come to the doctor's.

We're doing different things in the doctor's office. We're texting patients in their cars. We're not having them waiting in waiting rooms, which is, of course, totally different. And we're -- we have designated well rooms for infants and children.

So we're trying to do as much social distancing but, yet, seeing the patient as possible.

HILL: Yes. You bring up immunity, and you know, as much as parents joke about, oh, all these colds their kids bring home from school, there's a certain comfort level that it's kind of helping build that immunity in your child.

Is there a concern in the medical community that, with this social distancing, and with kids staying away from one another, that it could lead to a less robust immune system?

BUDNICK: Well, we're certainly living in a bubble now, and it's a different sort of an existence than being exposed to all the children at school and all the infants in the various play groups and day care centers.

And, yes, that does help to rev the immune system. But hopefully, it's going to be a relatively short period of time and we don't think it's going have a long-term effect on their immune system or their immunity in the future.

HILL: Well, we will end on that positive note.

Dr. Glenn Budnick, great to have you with us today. Thank you.

BUDNICK: Thanks, Erica.


HILL: Just a reminder, you can join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta with special guest, basketball great, Magic Johnson, for a CNN global town hall, "CORONAVIRUS: FACTS AND FEARS." Be sure to tune in tonight at 10:00 right here on CNN.

We'll be right back.



HILL: Thanks for joining us in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Erica Hill, in New York, in today for Ana Cabrera.

We begin with a staggering new number in the coronavirus crisis. The death toll in this country has now topped 20,000.