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Trump: Reopening Country Will Be "Biggest Decision" He Will Ever Make; U.S. Has Largest Single-Day Jump In Coronavirus Deaths; New York Has More COVID-19 Cases Than Any Country In The World; Dr. Fauci: Too Early To Ease Social Distancing Restrictions; Arkansas Does Not Have A Statewide Stay-At-Home Order In Place; Jim, Jeannie Gaffigan Raising Funds To Feed NY Health Care Workers; IRS Says Stimulus Payments Will Begin Next Week; Airlines Accused Of Refusing To Give Refunds For Cancelled Flights; Coronavirus Pandemic Taking Disproportionate Toll On People Of Color; Families, Religious Groups Adapt To COVID-19 During Holiday. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired April 11, 2020 - 08:00   ET




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Want to wish you a good morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good morning.

PAUL: So glad to have you with us. You know the numbers this morning are just astounding. We are at half a million COVID-19 cases in America. And the single day death toll hit a new milestone: 2,074 people here in the U.S. died from the Coronavirus just yesterday

BLACKWELL: But the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force Dr. Deborah Birx says that there are some encouraging signs that potentially the outbreak is leveling off. And Dr. Chris Murray, he's an expert who helps create models used by the White House, he says that the U.S. seems to be close to the peak. But he warns that the down slope that is going to be very slow.

PAUL: Yes, and of course we know families across the nation are finding new ways to celebrate Easter and Passover this weekend. Experts say social distancing and stay at home orders are working. And Dr. Anthony Fauci says a large number of antibody tests could be available within the next week.

BLACKWELL: President Trump is taking a slightly more cautious approach to reopening the economy. He says that he's looking at a date. He notes that nothing will happen until he's certain that the country will be healthy.

PAUL: CNN National Correspondent, Kristen Holmes, is at the White House right now. Kristen, good to see you this morning. Does the President - is it his authority to decide when businesses reopen and people go back to work? I just had somebody ask me that question on Twitter, because they heard that their governor may do so. Talk to us about where that authority lies.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: OK, so let's break this down, because Christi that's a very good question. The short answer is, no, he doesn't have that authority.

I mean, I'll take you back to last week, the week before, essentially every day for the past several weeks in which President Trump was asked in these briefings, why he wasn't issuing a national stay at home order or a national lockdown. He said that is the role of the governor. So in turn, the governors took that responsibility and they are the ones who ordered those lockdowns, those shutdowns, those stay at homes across the country.

So it's not in his purview to reopen that to go over the governors. But there is a caveat here and it's a big one. One part of it being that Republican governors have wanted to align with President Trump this entire time, throughout their response to this pandemic, and there's a chance that they would do so if he wanted to loosen those restrictions.

I talked to one Republican state official, asked if they would reopen the economy even if their state hadn't hit the peak yet. And he said he wasn't sure. But he knew whatever they did, it would require a lot of tap dancing.

What other point I want to make here is that it's not just the Republican states, these Democrat governors, they're going to feel a lot of pressure if he loosens those restrictions, because they're the ones who have to face their constituents, those average Americans who are out of work, who are suffering, looking at their cities, their towns, and seeing the real pushback, seeing the real destruction that this has taken.

BLACKWELL: Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. Last month, President Trump said that he wanted churches packed with people - would love to see that on Easter. Now, he says that he's going to watch Easter service online. What's his message to the rest of the country about tomorrow morning?

HOLMES: Well, Victor, the message now is please stay at home. Of course, this is very different from what we heard from President Trump just a few weeks ago when he said he hoped that the economy was back open by Easter. That it was a beautiful day.

We know he was getting a lot of feedback from these faith leaders, these religious leaders who were saying that they were hoping Easter would be open. It was an important holiday and they wanted to be in church for it.

But it's become very clear, as we look at the modeling, as we hear from these doctors, these medical experts that it was just too soon to do that tomorrow. So now President Trump saying everyone stay home, take a lesson.


TRUMP: I know there are some pastors and ministers and others that want to get together. I would - and I have great respect for two of them - two of them I know. But I would say first heal - I'm a Christian - heal our country. Let's get healed before we do this. And - but this time to do that, we'll do it for hopefully the rest of our lives.


HOLMES: Now, President Trump says he will be leading by example, he's going to be watching an Easter service coming out of a mega church in Dallas on his laptop, a very different kind of Easter for him than we usually see. We usually see him down at Mar a Lago. So, again, leading by example, there, watching on his computer.

BLACKWELL: All right, Kristen Holmes for us there at the White House. Kristen, thanks so much.

So there's a new polling out that shows the country really is split down the middle when it comes to how the President is handling this crisis. CNN public polls here. About half the respondents - 49 percent it shows, approves of how the President is handling the outbreak. 48 percent on the other side, disapproving of the President's response to the coronavirus outbreak.

PAUL: I want to go to CNN's, Cristina Alesci now who's in New York. And Cristina, what I'm about to say here - I just want everybody to take a minute and really absorb this, because it is jolting. That in New York, there are more cases in that state alone than there are in any other country in the world. How's New York handling that?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: It's crushing. It really is creating a lot of anxiety and fear about who's next. I mean, it's almost impacted every single New Yorker in the sense that they either know someone who has it or has a healthcare worker in the family who's on the front lines. This is a deeply personal story for New York.


And it's not just the number of cases, but the death toll here is just stunning and it's reached a very grim milestone of nearly triple the death toll of 9/11. We lost 2,700 New Yorkers in 9/11. Now we're looking at a statewide death toll of 7,800 in New York, that is absolutely horrible.

And we're still getting some reporting from hospitals that they are struggling to deal with the influx of patients, still under resourced and understaffed. So it does seem a bit jarring to be talking about, reopening the city, reopening the economy with these kind of figures in front of us. The reason that we're hearing these conversations happening, though, is because we are starting to see some glimmers of hope, and one of them is actually behind me. This is the Javits Center. It was meant to go to about 2,000 beds. That was the capacity - 2,500 beds. But we're hearing that so far, it's only treating about a couple of hundred patients. That's actually a very good sign.

Governor Cuomo talking about the fact that the three-day average of hospitalizations is actually declining and the ICU admission rate also declining. So those are very encouraging signs. Look, what's happening in New York is also emblematic of what's what may be happening in other parts of the country.

There are enormous health disparities here. For example, the virus is killing blacks and Latinos at double the rates of whites and there is such an anxiety behind how you go about even thinking about reopening safely so that we don't see a spike in the number of cases and deaths.

And against all of that really bad news, there are moments of light and hope in this city. Just yesterday, the mayor was at Bellevue Hospital celebrating the doctors and nurses who are on the front lines along with the fire department and the NYPD. Very encouraging to see that and of course New Yorkers trying to celebrate the Holy Day of Easter and Passover this this weekend. So very mixed emotions here, but certainly we're not out of the woods yet. Christi, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Cristina Alesci, for us there in New York. Christina, thanks so much.

PAUL: Experts say we're close to the peak and there are encouraging signs the outbreak is leveling off, in a sense. Dr. Anthony Fauci, though, warns, if we do relax social distancing guidelines too soon, there could be or will be a relapse or arise in cases.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: 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 you respond to them.


BLACKWELL: In Arkansas, there are - I got the precise number here. 1,202 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. is requesting a stay at home order for his city from the governor, but has not been granted it yet. Mr. Scott joins us now to talk about this and other things related to Coronavirus. Mayor Scott, welcome back to New day Saturday.

MAYOR FRANK SCOTT JR. (D), LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS: Thank you so much Victor. It's a pleasure to be with you.

BLACKWELL: So let's start here. You would like, and you think that for Little Rock, for your city that a stay at home order would be best. The governor has not done that statewide and will not allow mayors to enact stay at home orders for their cities. What is the impact on your constituents that you can't do that?

SCOTT JR.: Well, law the city of Little Rock can't do that. We understand that what's good for Little Rock, may not be good for Fort Smith, Arkansas. And so what we've done is to - we've been creative and respecting the governor's commerce restriction on stay at home orders.

And so what we've done is gotten very creative by issuing day curfew for minors, night curfews for all a Little Rock residents. We've restricted restaurants to take out delivery, curbside only services. We've also instituted a caravanning executive order. We're doing all that we can to socially distant. And we're excited that many of our residents are staying the course.


We understand that it is a challenge to be restricted in this way. But if long as we stay the course we know that we will continue to flatten the curve and Little Rock, Arkansas has been leading the way for our state in flattening the curve. And all the while being in great partnership with our governor in restricting the commerce restriction.

BLACKWELL: Listen, I understand that you have to work with the governor. You have created a working relationship. You being a Democrat, the President, the governor there being a Republican and you're new to the office. But what is - what - you believe, obviously, that you need to do more to protect people in Little Rock. And what you're allowed to do? Is that enough to flatten the curve to protect people.

SCOTT JR.: Well, as you shared just a few moments ago, Governor Hutchinson, I share a very good relationship of partnership and trust. We're working together every day to protect lives and we're doing all that we can within the existing authority to flatten the curve. And so each and every day, we're getting creative and more creative and have a few more measures that we plan to put in place to continue to flatten the curve.

BLACKWELL: So let's talk about the hospitals there. We know that the next frontier of this virus is rural America and some rural communities are already being hit. You've got the highest density. You've got the largest city there that you're running as mayor.

But a lot of those rural communities will come into Baptist Health, they'll come into the University Hospital there. Give us an idea. If the hospitals in Little Rock are prepared for that influx and if they have the resources that they'll likely need that aren't at those local small town community centers and hospitals.

SCOTT JR.: Well, Victor, as you shared, with Little Rock being the State's capital city, most populate density with the number of residents and many people that will come to our city for healthcare. Early on, we issued a Little Rock COVID-19 Healthcare Task Force comprised of all the state's top health leaders, because many of the state's health institutions reside in states capital city.

And so we already have a plan in place ready to implement if needed. We understand our current surge capacity and the number of ventilators and number beds we need to provide, and so we are ready. So we're very excited for Baptist Health Hospital, University of Arkansas Medical Sciences, CHI St. Vincent, Arkansas Surgical Hospital, Heart Hospital, all of our hospitals are ready to go.

And we're being led by one of my fellow board members on the city board. Dr. Dean Kumpuris is a doctor himself. And so we've been putting pen to the paper on what we need to get done, if need be, if we reach that type of capacity. So we're ready and ready to continue to help our residents not only in Little Rock, Central Arkansas, and the entire state.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you, tomorrow is Sunday - it's Easter Sunday. At last check doing some homework for this. You are an ordained pastor at a Greater Second Baptist, downtown. Houses of worship are exempted from the governor's limit on gatherings of 10 or more, although he's asking people to practice the social distancing. What is your message to congregants who want to be in those sanctuaries on Sunday morning?

SCOTT JR.: Well, one, as an ordained minister, I understand that there are going to be many congregants and pastors that want to have a traditional service during this time of Resurrection Sunday. But many are listening to the governor. They're listening to myself. That we're finding creative ways to conduct worship via live streaming. There's some churches that will have parking lot services where they're still socially distant at this period in time.

And so as we all understand that yesterday was Good Friday, and as we approach Resurrection Sunday, it's a time of reflection, a time to restate, a time to restore and a time to rebuild. And what better way during Resurrection Sunday to focus on how we rebuild as a city, a state and a nation.

BLACKWELL: Mayor Frank Scott Jr. of the City of Little Rock, thanks so much for being with us this morning. Best of luck, sir.

SCOTT JR.: Thank you, Victor.

PAUL: Now across the country, people are stepping up to give meals to overworked healthcare workers. And comedian Jim Gaffigan and his wife, Jeannie have started a fundraising effort to deliver food to hospitals across New York City's five boroughs.

BLACKWELL: So they chose Mount Sinai as the first hospital to receive this surprise.


JIM GAFFIGAN, COMEDIAN: We have an ongoing relationship with Mount Sinai. Jeannie had a very successful surgery. She had a brain tumor that was removed at Mount Sinai. So we developed a friendship there and with a couple of people and we were notified that - obviously, understandably, they're under a lot of pressure and they're working crazy hours.

So we can't provide PPE, but we've thought maybe we can send over some burgers and so we teamed up with Shake Shack and we sent over food for a whole shift.


JEANNIE GAFFIGAN, COMEDY WRITER: So we started this #FoodForFearless campaign to - people might not have any money to buy a pizza for a group, but they might have like a couple bucks to get a cup of coffee. So they can just donate $2 and we'll put it towards like some treat that we're going to be sending to the hospitals. They can go to and go to the service page or the Donate page.


BLACKWELL: Great contribution from the Gaffigans And, again, you don't have to spend $100, $200. $2 for a cup of coffee will be appreciated. Imagine Society is the nonprofit organization that they started. You can watch the full interview with Gaffigans on

PAUL: Inspire everybody do such good work, right? Just something you can do. I know, just a little something even. Listen, we know that millions of you are out of work. We also know that many of you are still waiting for that relief check promised by the government. There are even small businesses who say they're having trouble getting the loans they need. We have a look at what's behind the delay.



PAUL: PAUL: 20 minutes past the hour right now and economic damage from the pandemic is coming into sharper focus this week. Another 6.6 million people filed the first time unemployment benefits last week.

Altogether, that's nearly 17 million workers, and that's just some of what we heard about how the economy is handling this crisis. CNN Business Correspondent, Alison Kosik is following this for us. Alison, so good to see you.

I know that it's been three weeks since Congress passed that massive $2.2 trillion stimulus bill. A lot of people don't have not seen that money yet. Can you help give them some clarity as to what's going on.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi. Yes, so we're specifically talking about those stimulus checks and they could start going out, finally, this week. April 13th could be the first day that you may see money direct deposited into your account.

So if you file the income tax returns for 2018, 2019 and you have your banking or direct deposit information with the IRS, you should start seeing those checks next week. Now if you don't have an information on file, the IRS is going to start this tool, this a secure where you can go online and actually put in your banking or direct deposit information and the money may be able to get to you a lot faster instead of them sending you a paper check.

Social Security beneficiaries, they're going to receive automatic payments. Although the IRS says those payments will go out in the near future. And low income Americans who weren't required to file tax returns, they can go on to an a that's called the non- filers tool and putting their information there and go ahead and try to get their money that way. Christi?

PAUL: OK, good to know. Now we are, we should point out, one week into that loan program portion of the bill, and it's called the payroll protection program, but there's criticism that that wasn't ready either. How is that functioning at this point?

KOSIK: Yes, this is this is a situation where the loans and whether the lenders or the businesses needing the loans just weren't up - they weren't matching up, right, because part of it was the government wasn't communicating all the roles to the banks and those looking for the loans, were unable to actually get the money from the banks, because they either weren't preexisting customers, or the banks that they usually do business with, didn't have the information.

So, finally, after a week of having this thing out there, it's slowly starting to find its footing. So banks, not just lending to preexisting customers, but to new customers as well. The good thing is it has been out for a week and this is a first come first serve loan program where you're seeing the government get about $350 billion of loans, most of them forgivable to small businesses. But here's the thing.

According to reliable (ph) data, 66 percent of small businesses, they haven't yet applied for the program. But the Small Business Association reports that 454,000 applications looking for $118 billion i's already given out. So a third of the money is already used up.

And get this, independent contractors, they weren't allowed to apply for these loans until yesterday. So we are seeing Congress once again, go back to the table and try and add another $250 billion to the table on this. But there's no guarantee that that's going to work.

Now, the Federal Reserve has pumped in over $2 trillion to help consumers, to help small businesses, to help local governments, that hopefully will act as a backstop. But this is sort of - it's sort of illustrated - it illustrates really the challenge here to try to hold up small businesses were so critical to the U.S. economy. Small businesses employ half of the U.S. workforce. Christi.

PAUL: All righty. And just a couple more seconds here, but talk to me about airline carriers, because they were told by the Department of Transportation to issue refunds, rather than vouchers, but that they're not necessarily following that.

KOSIK: Right. So this directive by the Department of Transportation said, look, if you go ahead and cancel flights, or you significantly delay flights, airlines, you have to give refunds, not vouchers or credit. So we're seeing some evidence that that's not necessarily happening, that instead, they're continuing to give those vouchers and credits. So people are complaining about this.

It also showing that airlines aren't kind of offering up the information to go ahead and say, listen, we are going to go ahead and give you cash back. So they're kind of holding back that information as well.

Bottom line here, Department of Transportation, saying that they're keeping an eye on this. My sources are telling me that they're that they could go ahead and take action against airline carriers, not exactly sure what that action would be and how long they're going to take. But this is being watched. Christi?

PAUL: All righty. Alison Kosik, thank you so much for walking us through all of that. I know it's a lot. Appreciate you.


BLACKWELL: COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on black communities across the country. We have up with us next two doctors, experts on racial disparities in healthcare about why this is happening and the way forward during the crisis.


BLACKWELL: Across the country, early evidence shows that African- Americans are dying from COVID-19 at a much higher rate than the percentage of their population. Not every state has released data, but several states did release their findings and it shows that black people are also dying at a higher rate than any other racial demographic.

Let's go to Michigan first. African-Americans make up 14 percent of the state's population, but account for 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths. Louisiana, 32 percent of the state's population is black, but they account for 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths.


Now, at a task force briefing this week, President Trump said that he wanted to find out the reason why this is happening in black communities.


TRUMP: Why is it three or four times more so for the black community as opposed to other people. It doesn't make sense and I don't like it. And we're going to have statistics over the next probably two to three days.


BLACKWELL: With us now is Dr. Amani Allen from the University of California and Berkeley School of Public Health; and Dr. Kamara Jones, the former President of the American Public Health Association.

Ladies Welcome to both of you. I've been looking forward to this conversation. Dr. Allen, let me start with you, because we hear this type of surprise from the President and other politicians. There's a saying that predates me - probably predates all of us, that when white people catch a cold, black people get pneumonia. The disparities in these things, they're not new. When you hear that that revelation, how do you receive that, that this is new to some politicians?

DR. AMANI ALLEN, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH. Well, it's not new at all. I mean, we have seen this pattern of racial health disparities for quite a long time, and we see it across numerous health outcomes. It does not surprise me, however, that not only politicians, but perhaps the majority of Americans are not aware of the very drastic and very pervasive health disparities that exist with blacks having higher rates of many illnesses.

BLACKWELL: Dr. Jones in your recent Newsweek column, you said that there are three principles that must be enacted for achieving health equity. Let's list them: Valuing all individuals and populations equally; Recognizing and rectifying historical injustices; and providing resources according to me. Now, my plan was to ask you to focus on one because of time, but the truth is, is that they have to work in concert.

DR. CAMARA JONES, FORMER PRESIDENT, AMERICAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION: That's right. And these principles are in contrast to how our society is structured today. If I were to put a name on why we're seeing these excess black deaths due to COVID-19, I would say it's due to racism, where racism is a system that structures opportunity and assigns value by race.

And as Dr. Allen said, racism has been causing all these excess deaths. Babies dying before their first birthday, mother's dying during pregnancy, all of that. The reason that the country seems to be waking up again as we woke up Katrina or Flint or the Charleston massacre and the like. The reason we're waking up again about the impacts of racism is that these black bodies are piling up so fast that we can't ignore them or normalize this.

BLACKWELL: So one of the things that you support in trying to moderate or decrease the disparity is a lottery system that for hospitals that are overwhelmed that ventilators, the resources, you think that, to be fair, there should be a lottery system. Explain that.

JONES: Well, there is - the basic thing is, the reason that black folks are even ending up in the hospital more is not that black people are more susceptible. None of us is immune. It's that black people are more exposed, less protected, and we have a higher burden of chronic diseases.

So if we get into a hospital situation where there's some kind of local scarcity, because honestly, we shouldn't have scarcity of these resources at all. I'm baffled, first of all, why we haven't wrapped up the Defense Production Act fully and all of that. But even in this country, there - we're not having the same level of epidemic all over the place, so we can be moving resources - sourcing resources according to need. But if we get into a situation where we do have local scarcity, and there are three patients, and one of them needs a ventilator, it is quite dangerous for people to say, well, maybe we should give the one - the ventilator to the one who doesn't have diabetes, or the one who doesn't have heart disease. Because we know as Dr. Allen said, that those - that heart disease, diabetes, asthma, all of these things are over concentrated in black communities.

So to be really fair, we need to just do something lottery so that a patient - or doctor doesn't have to make that this decision on their own, where their implicit bias might not make them value one person more than the other. If we want to value all individuals and populations equally, we have to do it that way.

BLACKWELL: Dr. Allen, let me come to you, because for many of the reasons we have pointed out here that you identify and many people know that there's a degree of medical mistrust in some parts of the black community. Now, the industry may not be able to overcome that in this crisis. But how can it be moderated? How can that be softened moving forward?


ALLEN: Well, I do think that I hadn't thought about a lottery system before. But I do think that that is one strategy for overcoming some of the bias that exists within the healthcare system. And that is going to be imperative for raising the degree of trust among the black community, for institutions like healthcare institutions.

We know, for example, that there is significant racial bias within the healthcare system. Blacks, for example, are less likely to receive lifesaving procedures compared to whites. And this is a well-known scientific fact. There are many studies that have shown this.

And there's also some recent data suggesting that when black show up to get tested for coronavirus, they're less likely to be referred for those tests compared to other groups. And so I think that there really needs to be a pattern of distributing resources in ways that don't rely on physician decision making, because we know that that implicit bias exists.

BLACKWELL: Dr. Allen, all we have really to combat COVID-19 individually is personal hygiene and social distancing - these guidelines. But for a lot of communities, social distancing is not realistic. I mean, if you come home to a community of hundreds of apartments, you live in an urban area.

Or your three or four people in a two bedroom, one bathroom where you have a forward facing job, just to say make sure you have some distance or you're caring for an 80-year-old great aunt who lives with you. You know, what, where is the support in communities for these families? I don't hear a lot of legislators of mayors speaking specifically what will you do with or for families who face that reality?

ALLEN: I'm glad you asked that question. I think that's a very important question. I think that what we tend to do in this country is give everyone the same thing. Give everyone - we try to give everyone equal resources. However, everyone doesn't start off at the same level. It's not an even playing field.

And so there are - well, there are 330 million people in the United States. There are just under 500,000 Coronavirus cases. So that means that the number or the percentage of those infected with coronavirus, or at least what we know so far is point 0.15 percent of the United States population.

So that means that the majority of the United States population is not affected. So, when we use these population level, kind of give everyone the same thing approaches, we may not be using the most efficient, we may not be making the most efficient use of our resources, and we're definitely not targeting those that are most at risk.

So, another strategy - and I like Dr. Jones's strategy, and additional strategy would call for more equitable types of interventions. And that may include strategies that we in public health call proportionate universalism, or what John Powell at the Othering & Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley calls targeted universalism. And that means distributing resources, according to need.

BLACKWELL: Dr. Amani Allen--

ALLEN: --double the rate of coronavirus infections in the black population compared to the white population. That means that we need double the testing centers, maybe that means we need double the healthcare facilities, double the number of health care providers. And I think that that is a strategy that may - that really will only be tolerable to U.S. politicians, frankly, and to U.S. society when we acknowledge that inequality has been born through human design.

BLACKWELL: Dr. Amani Allen, Dr. Camara Jones, thank you so much for an insightful conversation. I hope everyone at home learned a lot from it. Thank you both for joining us this morning.

ALLEN: Thank you.

JONES: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Quick break. We'll be back



PAUL: 43 minutes past the hour right now. We've got stay at home orders, we've got social distancing guidelines in place, which means a lot of you around the world are coming up with some pretty alternative creative ways to celebrate Easter and Passover this weekend.

BLACKWELL: So government officials are discouraging in-person gatherings and calling on people not to travel.

PAUL: Yes, CNN's, Natasha Chen is with us. So Natasha, talk to us about how the faithful are finding new ways to show their devotion

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. When people are being very creative. But there are still some faith leaders who say that they will be inviting people to their doors, and President Trump was asked about that. He has a message for those faith leaders.

He says, let the country heal first, and we have time to meet later hopefully for the rest of our lives.


CHEN (voice-over): It's hard to keep church and state fully separate this Passover and Easter as debates rage over whether religious institutions should be allowed to stay open during a pandemic.

In Kansas, the Department of Health says three Coronavirus clusters are tied to church gatherings. The state's Democratic governor filed a lawsuit after a majority Republican Legislative Council threw out her order to limit religious gatherings to 10 people. In Philadelphia, a greater Exodus Baptist Church protested from the pulpit.

REV. DR. HERB LUSK II, GREATER EXODUS BAPTIST CHURCH: Hello friends. The moment the church start taking orders or instructions from the government about what to do with her doors and their sanctuaries, we may enter into a slippery slope. About we'll never get back


CHEN (voice-over): In New Orleans, religious leaders are taking social distancing to new heights - literally. The Archbishop who just recovered from coronavirus flew over the city in a World War II era plane to send blessings below. And in a show of interfaith unity, a rabbi then did the same.

On the ground, St. Rita of Cascia Catholic Church held drive-through benedictions. But Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski is not even taking a risk with drive-throughs. He only permits his priest to hold mass via Livestream.

ARCHBISHOP THOMAS WENSKI, ARCHDIOCESE OF MIAMI: We are together. We're not separate, but we are distant be at this particular time. We are united in the one body of Christ. But we have to maintain the social distance for the public good, for the common good.

CHEN (voice-over): For those who participated in virtual Seders over Zoom, one of the traditional questions asked every Passover is, why is tonight different from all other nights? That question says the CEO and Founder of City Winery means so much more this year as he organized his annual entertainment Seder done this time via Livestream.

With More than 40,000 views across Facebook and YouTube--

MICHAEL DORF, FOUNDER & CEO, CITY WINERY: And I think this can be a nice extension to expand the reach. It gives this message a broader breath and I do think that's a positive. CHEN (voice-over): Everywhere people are embracing different ways to keep their traditions and connect both spiritually and technologically.



CHEN: And state government leaders are pleading with people to attend services online rather than in person. Kentucky is going so far as to record people's license plates if they joined mass gatherings this weekend, they'll then turn that over to local health departments who will ask those people to quarantine for 14 days. Victor and Christi, back to you.

PAUL: All righty. Natasha Chen, good to see you this morning. Thanks for the update.

BLACKWELL: So if you want to learn more about the full breadth of how this pandemic is affecting the economy, affecting families in the U.S., visit our website. There's a new interactive section there "America on Hold," that's

So these bogus claims, maybe you've heard them about the coronavirus pandemic being linked to 5G technology. Well, believers of the theories have gone as far now as to set fire to cell phone towers. Coming up this morning, we are debunking some of the conspiracies about the spread of COVID-19.


BLACKWELL: Millions of Americans now out of work are going to food banks across the country and those banks are really trying to manage the surge in demand. Look at this, the greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.


You see all the cars here. They teamed up with the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team to hand out food - 65,000 pounds of food. The food bank estimates the more than 1,600 cars rolled through the parking lot yesterday alone.

PAUL: More than 6,000 families received food at the event in San Antonio that you're looking at here. The San Antonio Food Bank gave away more than a million pounds of food. According to the CNN affiliate there, the nonprofit has gone from serving 60,000 people a week to more than 120,000. Doubling what they do. Wow.

And from coast to coast, these historic landmarks and buildings that are turning blue, they're doing it to show their support for health care workers and first responders. We appreciate it so much. Atlanta joined the Light It Blue" campaign this week. The Braves and Falcons home stadiums well lit up, several other sites in the Georgia Capitol also awash in blue. BLACKWELL: Los Angeles, blue as well. Staples Center, Knott's Berry Farm, LAX, The LA Coliseum were also blue - the landmarks there took part. And thank you to everyone on the frontlines fighting this pandemic.

And Christi it was just - it was not just the landmarks, we've had pictures of people lighting their houses with blue as well to say thank you. The applause around the country from people just stopping in front of hospitals, singing during shift changes, anything you can do to say thank you in this time when they're doing the jobs a lot of us cannot.

PAUL: Yes, somebody on Instagram I saw was driving by people's homes that they know are nurses or doctors or workers at a hospital so kind of caroling, in a sense to let them know that we did not forget them and we keep saying it that we hear you and we appreciate you and we're so grateful for the work that you're doing, because we know that you feel it's dangerous sometimes. And yet you do it and that says a lot. Yes.

BLACKWELL: All good. All good.

PAUL: There is a 99-year-old woman in Illinois who may be among the oldest survivors of the coronavirus. We want to tell you about Betty Draper here. She arrived home Wednesday from the hospital. This was a tough battle for her against COVID-19. She tested for the virus two weeks ago, got the positive result a few days later. Family and friends - look at this - filling the streets with homemade signs that read Draper's strong and 99 stronger than COVID-19


SAM DRAPER, BETTY DRAPER'S SON: Just a huge collective sigh of relief from everybody and I think a realization that all our prayers and all our wishes came true and she's back with us.



BLACKWELL: If you're looking for ways to help your community or people affected by the coronavirus, visit our website,

All right coming up. It is a coronavirus showdown of sorts that's being taken up today by the State of Kansas's Supreme Court. Should more than 10 people be allowed to gather specifically at church services. The governor said no, the state law makers overturned that executive decision.

PAUL: Yes. Also how a simple blood test could help life return to some sort of normalcy, those stories when we come back at 10. In the meantime, here "SMERCONISH."