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Coronavirus Latest; New York Death Toll Surpasses 7,800; COVID- 19 Hitting Poor Populations Hardest; British Prime Minister Taking Short Walks; Spain to Introduce Universal Basic Income; Easter Celebrations amid Social Distancing. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired April 11, 2020 - 03:00   ET

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


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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, and welcome to Studio 7 here at CNN Center in Atlanta. I am Michael Holmes.

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HOLMES: There are signs that social distancing is paying off but the danger from the coronavirus pandemic far from over. Globally, there are now close to 1.7 million cases according to Johns Hopkins University. And not long ago, the U.S. passed half a million cases on its own.

The country also saw its highest death toll so far, reporting more than 2,000 deaths on Friday, alone, bringing the total to more than 19,000. New York, of course, remains the New York epicenter. The state has more than any country in the world. In New York City, you see there, they are digging mass graves for people who have not been claimed by relatives or a loved one.

Meanwhile, the stalled economy and skyrocketing unemployment also plaguing the U.S. The federal government weighing its options, though a new model reported by "The New York Times" shows that cases will spike if stay-at-home orders are lifted at the end of the month.

Now the U.S. president, well, he obviously wants to jumpstart the economy and soon but his advisers say move too fast and we will just see many more deaths. Jim Acosta told us what Mr. Trump is considering.

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JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At his daily press briefing on the coronavirus, President Trump insisted he will listen to his administration's top doctors when it comes to reopening the country, while not committing to following their recommendations.

TRUMP: I will certainly listen. I will certainly listen.

ACOSTA (on camera): Will you take that advice? TRUMP: There are two sides. Remember, there is -- I know -- I understand the other side of the argument very well, because I look at both sides of an argument. I will listen to them very carefully, though.

ACOSTA (voice-over): A sign that he's determined to move forward with ending social distancing guidelines perhaps as soon as May, the president then announced he is putting together what he called an opening our country council.

TRUMP: I will have a council. It's going to be announced on Tuesday with names that you have a lot of respect for, a lot of great names. Different businesses, different people. Top...

QUESTION: Bipartisan?

TRUMP: Bipartisan.

ACOSTA: But the president's medical experts aren't so sure, with Dr. Anthony Fauci raising concerns that there will be new coronavirus infections after the country reopens.

FAUCI: Don't let anyone get any false ideas that, when we decide at a proper time when we're going to be relaxing some of the restrictions, there's no doubt you're going to see cases. I would be so surprised if we did not see cases. The question is, how do you respond to them?

ACOSTA: And Dr. Deborah Birx saying the peak of the pandemic is still to come.

BIRX: So it's really about the encouraging signs that we see, but as encouraging as they are, we have not reached the peak. And so, every day, we need to continue to do what we did yesterday and the week before and the week before.

ACOSTA: The president described his upcoming deliberations as one of the biggest calls of his presidency.

TRUMP: I'm going to have to make a decision and I only hope to God that it's the right decision. But I would say, without question, it's the biggest decision I've ever had to make.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump was also asked what metrics he would use in making his decision.

TRUMP: The metrics right here. That's my metrics.

ACOSTA: The president bristled at the question of whether he's painting too rosy a picture of what's happening across the U.S., as doctors and nurses complain of shortages of medical equipment and health experts warn there is not adequate testing in place yet to reopen the country.

TRUMP: This is not happy talk. Maybe it's happy talk for you. It's not happy talk for me. We're talking about death.

These are the saddest news conferences that I've ever had. I don't like doing them.

ACOSTA: On the issue of equipment, a source close to the Coronavirus Task Force tells CNN the U.S. is not quite where it needs to be on testing. On the question of reopening the government, the president told reporters earlier in the day that he is willing to shut down the U.S. once again if it is necessary -- Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

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HOLMES: The virus has claimed more than 7,800 lives in the state of New York and New York City now facing the grim reality of what to do with the mounting number of unclaimed victims. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz reports.

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SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: There continues to be some good news here in New York City. As the governor said, the number of people that have been hospitalized has plateaued, including the number of people who have been in the ICU, people who are entering the hospital and need intensive care, need those ventilators.

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PROKUPECZ: And that is actually down for the first time since the height of the pandemic here in New York City, hospitalizations have plateaued. Sadly, the number of people who are dying continues to be high. Close to 800 people in the last 24 hours from Thursday to Friday, have passed away. Over 7,000 people have died across the state and about 5,000 people, now, have died just in New York City.

The next part of this, obviously, is going to be what happens to a lot of the dead. The bodies that are now being stored at the medical examiners' offices, also at these refrigerated trucks, all across the city. The city, today, the mayor is saying that some of those bodies are going to be buried on an island off of the Bronx in New York City.

It's called Hart Island. Some of those bodies are going to be buried there because a lot of the families are not going to be able to claim them right away. So temporarily, basically, the city plans to put those bodies on that island and then, at some point, allow the families to retrieve those bodies so that they could have the proper burial.

Of course, the city is trying to do this in a very sensitive way, being sensitive about the fact that these families want to pay respect and treat the bodies the right way.

That is going to happen in the next few weeks, the next few days, as the city continues to grapple with this, deal with number of dead and of course, the number of sick -- Shimon Prokupecz, for CNN, in New York City.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: Here in the United States, communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. surgeon general addressing that issue on Friday, laying out how the problem is partly about chronic health issues within those communities but also likely about longstanding social disparities. CNN's Tom Foreman explains.

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TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (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-MI): This hits home for people. I have lost 15 people in my life 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-WA): We know that underlying conditions like hypertension and diabetes and heart disease, this virus is particularly hard on.

FOREMAN: The surgeon general suffers from some of those problems. He's only 45.

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

LT. GOV. BILLY NUNGESSER (R-LA): 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.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): 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: 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.

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HOLMES: Around the world impoverished populations are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

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HOLMES: Jagan Chapagain is the secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, he joins me now.

We are delighted to have you. It is times like this when the Red Cross/Red Crescent, is most valued.

What is the organization focusing on right now?

What have been the challenges to the organization?

JAGAN CHAPAGAIN, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES: Thank, you Michael, for having me on CNN. As you mentioned, the Red Cross has always been on the forefront when a natural disaster or health crisis happens around the world.

But this has been a particularly unprecedented health crisis that we have seen in our lifetime. We have been focusing primarily on dealing with the communications, running awareness campaigns but dealing with the information, the wrong information and the fake news that is spreading.

So really trying to address those issues and getting the right information. The second bulk of activities that we have been involved is around really providing comfort and care services. You know, delivering of the foods, for example, for the lonely people, making sure that they get access to the hospitals, making sure that they get a social call. Making sure that they get the caregivers that also provide support, like doctors, nurses, cleaners, even the police in India because workers have been supporting the cleaners and police because they have been standing on their feet.

The other big piece of work we have been supporting is the Internet services and the (INAUDIBLE). In many countries, the Red Cross is the sole provider of the blood and because of the virus, the supply of the blood, the blood donors numbers have gone down significantly, including in the United States.

HOLMES: It's a fact, isn't it, that no matter the crisis, it is the poor who are most impacted. Those with the least are the most hurt by things like this. Tell us what sort of food needs you're seeing, what sort of shortages people are facing.

CHAPAGAIN: You are absolutely right, we hear this (INAUDIBLE) opportunity (INAUDIBLE). I think that is too simplistic. I think that the people living in the poor conditions, people living in areas where the health conditions are weak, are impacted disproportionately.

Even they don't have a basic need for washing hands, they don't have a basic need for keeping physical distance. They don't have a basic need for getting the testing. So that is a very simplistic thing to say that (INAUDIBLE) opportunity threat. The threat is much higher in the poor communities.

So one of the -- the lockdown that is happening in many countries and I think it is done for good reasons but it is disproportionately affecting the people who don't have the means to buy food products. For example, (INAUDIBLE).

They're used to earning on a daily basis and buy food in the evenings. That has now stopped. There are also a lot of elderly people living alone who don't have the means to go and buy the food, even if they have the means to buy the food. These are the types of vulnerable population that our volunteers are supporting, daily, being on the front lines, getting, sometimes, the ready food for example, in the Philippines that the Red Cross is providing for to these types of populations, people living in the urban slums, (INAUDIBLE) settlements, refugee camps.

These are the places where the need of the basic hygiene, ability to wash hands and ability to get decent meals is becoming increasingly difficult.

HOLMES: I'm wondering, you know, how do you think people could best help in this situation?

CHAPAGAIN: I think one of the best ways to help is really heed to their advice coming from (INAUDIBLE) and listen to the message coming from national health authorities. Stay home, maintain physical distancing, make sure you wash your hands, make sure that the -- one of the key things I want to mention here is that the (INAUDIBLE) is causing a lot of problems because we don't want people to be socially distant.

We want people to be physically distant. Because of the isolation and because people haven't been able to link up with their families and friends, the (INAUDIBLE) social needs and the mental health needs (INAUDIBLE) people are feeling a big (INAUDIBLE). So let's ensure physical distance but socially close. And that is the key message I think we need to convey so that the people who are feeling that increasing mental health needs can be supported.

HOLMES: Yes, social distancing and not -- physical distancing, not social distancing. That is some great advice. Jagan Chapagain, thank you so much, with the International Red Cross/Red Crescent.

CHAPAGAIN: Thank you so much, Michael for having me here.

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HOLMES: He is the most high-profile leader to be infected by the coronavirus. When we come back we will see how British prime minister Boris Johnson is doing after being released from intensive care.

Also despite being in lockdown for over a month, France's coronavirus death toll is continuing to climb. We'll have a live report.

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HOLMES: Welcome back.

The British prime minister Boris Johnson is taking short walks, we are told, after being moved out of intensive care. He does remain in the hospital, though, where he has been for almost a week.

Mr. Johnson taken to the hospital last weekend, when he displayed persistent coronavirus symptoms 10 days after testing positive. An official spokesman says he is in good spirits.

E.U. finance ministers meanwhile may have announced a half trillion euro stimulus package to cushion the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic but the Eurogroup chairman telling CNN the debate over financing has just begun.

Meanwhile Spain's health minister warning the country has yet to enter a de-escalation phase. France is reaching a grim milestone as its COVID-19 death toll passes 13,000. CNN's Cyril Vanier is standing by in Normandy and journalist Al Goodman is live for us in Spain.

Al, let's start with you. The Spanish health minister making it clear that this is far from over there.

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is saying that the de-escalation phase has not started yet, Michael, even though the numbers are giving officials cautious optimism.

The numbers of deaths in Spain, almost 16,000 now and the number of new cases is also rising but both of those as a rate of increase are quite low. The new cases rising at the rate of less than 1 percent. Still, the prime minister warning in parliament the nation just a

couple of days ago that he expects, he said he is confident he is going to have to come back to ask for an extension to the lockdown order, which is going to be a total of six weeks currently until the end of April.

He thinks he may have to take that into May. Still there are economic pressures, so on Monday construction workers and others like them who have been told to stay off the job for the last two weeks are going to be allowed to go back to work.

Officials are going to increase service on the subways and metros and the city buses. And they are planning to hand out masks at metro stations just like this. But they are telling these workers who are allowed to go back that they must keep the social distancing at least a meter, better 2 meters or 6 feet -- Michael.

HOLMES: Before I let you go, the overall economic situation in Spain and what is this talk of a basic universal income?

GOODMAN: Well, they are calling it right now minimum vital income. It wouldn't apply to everybody but it would apply, according to a senior government official, to the families that are most desperate, who don't have any way.

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GOODMAN: They aren't getting unemployment benefits up to 70 percent of their income on the temporary layoffs like so many Spaniards. They have nothing. This government minister is saying that, the minister for social rights saying that in the 2008 financial crisis, the bailout went to the banks.

This time, he is saying, the government has to get it right, it has to go to the families -- Michael.

HOLMES: All right, Al. Good to have you there. Al Goodman for us in Madrid there. Let's go to Cyril Vanier in France.

There is some good news in terms of transmits some sobering news as well.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes Michael, that's absolutely right. And the good news is that the situation here in France is starting to plateau. It's starting to level off. You can see that if you look at the number of people being admitted to the hospital daily, the death toll daily and especially the number of people who are intensive care. That number is starting to decrease and has done so for the last two days consecutively.

So it's a very encouraging start for the French government because bear in mind that the primary purpose of the national stay-at-home order was to slow down the rate of infections so that the health care system, the health system would have time, it would have the ability to cope with the number of people who would be infected and require intensive care. So people who have needed the care have got a bed. And that has been

in no small part thanks to the national stay-at-home order. That's the good sign. The bad thing is it's leveling off at a high level. We are seeing more than 500 deaths a day within the general population.

And just yesterday, we had upwards of 400 deaths in nursing homes. Now the nursing home situation, Michael, is a tragedy. This has been really a story within the story. And the French government, as of a few days ago, has started counting the deaths within the general population and the nursing homes separately.

And where the virus has got into the establishments, into nursing homes, it has killed unfortunately very fast. And those numbers, sometimes there is a lag before they can be reported and we get them.

But the numbers they paint is terrifying and nursing home deaths account for about a third of deaths overall in France since the beginning of the epidemic.

HOLMES: Terrible situation in those nursing homes around the world. Cyril Vanier in Normandy, also Al Goodman in Madrid. Appreciate it, thanks to you both.

We'll take a short break. When we come back, the coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on religious services around the world. A look at how Christians are celebrating the most holy time on their calendar amid an epidemic.

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HOLMES: Pope Francis celebrated Good Friday by holding a liturgy at an empty St. Peter's Basilica. Traditionally there is also a Way of the Cross at the Colosseum with thousands of people turning up but that was moved to St. Peter's Square due to the health crisis.

The pope is praying for priests who died during the coronavirus pandemic, calling them saints next door.

The fight against the coronavirus has altered centuries-old religious traditions, all around the world. Lynda Kinkade looks now at how the faithful are adapting during the holiest days on the Christian calendar.

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LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A procession without pilgrims, just a few clerics trailed by photographers walking the route that Christians believe was the path that Jesus took. His final steps before being crucified.

A somber ceremony that is part of the holy week before Easter, a time of faith that perhaps takes on a deeper meaning during a global pandemic, a time when many are suffering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I think to those who are in the hospitals and in the houses fighting with coronavirus, in some way, they are walking a very hard and (INAUDIBLE).

KINKADE (voice-over): Leaders around the world are asking people to stay at home this Easter. Many religious sites normally packed this time of year are empty and quiet.

In Rome where the pope would traditionally lead prayers at the Colosseum, the great amphitheater is dark. Tens of thousands of people would normally gather here. The Vatican says its Easter services, including mass this Sunday, will be livestreamed.

Only a handful of visitors sit in silent reflection at this religious shrine in Bosnia. More than 2.5 million people come here each year. The isolation for some is a blessing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What is happening in this time will be beneficial for many of those who are growing in faith and they will grow even faster.

KINKADE (voice-over): A message echoed in the burned out chambers of the Notre-Dame cathedral, which was engulfed by fire nearly a year ago. A mass held there was attended by a small group of people, a sign that life and faith will go on, even in the most trying of times -- Lynda Kinkade, CNN.

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HOLMES: And finally, when you hear of personal protection equipment, many think of the masks that our emergency workers wear every day. But one hospital in Thailand is taking safety to the next level by creating face masks for newborn babies. Look at their little tiny faces, hopefully, germ free behind those plastic shields.

What a time to be born. Thanks for spending part of your day with us wherever you are around the world, be safe, be kind to each other and maybe thank those who are keeping things running for the rest of us.

If you can, help those who might be struggling, whether it is getting takeout from a local restaurant or perhaps donating to help those who can't afford to, who are going without today. Stay home, if you can.

I am Michael Holmes, stay tuned for "AFRICAN VOICES CHANGE MAKERS." I will see you tomorrow.