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U.S. Now Leads in COVID-19 Deaths; There's No Church but Christians Are Still Celebrating Easter; Turkey Imposes 48-Hour Lockdown in Major Cities; Moscow Introduces Pass System to Stop Coronavirus; "The New York Times": Trump Saw What Was Coming; Medical Workers Face Coronavirus Mental Health Crisis; IRS Deposits First Wave of Stimulus Checks; Food Banks Face Unprecedented Need; Coronavirus Crisis Catastrophic for Undocumented Immigrants; Trump Wants to Reopen Economy, Voters Disagree; Japan to Declare State of Emergency. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired April 12, 2020 - 00:00   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. Thanks for your company.

We begin with a grim distinction for the United States. It now has more people to have died from the coronavirus than any other nation in the world.

According to Johns Hopkins University, more than half a million cases are confirmed in the U.S. That is nearly a third of the 1.7 million cases reported worldwide. More than 20,000 people in the U.S. have died. That passes Italy's death toll.

In Italy and across much of the world, it is Easter Sunday, the holiest day of the year for Christians. This will be a very different type of Easter, with many churches empty, as people mark the holiday at home.

Among them, St. Peter's Basilica, where Pope Francis urged followers not to get into fear. In England, Queen Elizabeth II released a message of hope, speaking of light overcoming darkness and saying the pandemic, quote, "will not overcome us."

Nearly 10,000 people in the U.K. have died of the coronavirus. That is according to the latest figures. The government urging people to continue to stay indoors. But as you can see, not everyone is listening.

Boris Johnson thanking the National Health Service, saying, he owes the workers there his life. This is the first time we have heard from him since he was hospitalized a week ago now. Downing Street says he continues to make very good progress.

It has been a week of muted celebrations for Christians and for Jews, marking Passover. Police in Italy patrolling the streets, making sure people are respecting stay-at-home orders this Easter Sunday. Delia Gallagher shows us how people are adapting.

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DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a strange time to be celebrating. But perhaps now more than ever, the ancient rituals of Easter and Passover bring us together.

The Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, the street said to have been walked by Christ before his crucifixion, normally crowded with pilgrims, on Easter Friday, is empty like never before. But a few representing the many carried the memory.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Today, Lord, during holy week, the whole world is ravaged by a pandemic that is wreaking death and immobilizing us.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): In a small sign of rebirth from Notre-Dame Cathedral, itself victim of a devastating fire last year, prayers are raised for the COVID-19 victims and their families.

And the creativity of community: a priest in Ireland offering blessings from an old Popemobile used by John Paul II.

In Germany, drive-in services.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): For weeks we have been at a distance. We stay at home, churches are closed. Right now, for Easter, it doesn't need to come together this week.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Passover commemorating the Jewish exodus from ancient Egypt during a time of plagues takes on new meeting today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're celebrating Passover because we hope the coronavirus will pass us over.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Seders are virtual across the world as Jews celebrate love social distancing.

While governments continue to battle the global pandemic, urging all to stay home this Easter...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After all the sacrifices, so many people have made, let's not ruin it now.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): -- it may be song which can unite us. Opera legend Andrea Bocelli will sing alone in Milan's Duomo cathedral on Sunday evening.

ANDREA BOCELLI, OPERA SINGER: It will be a prayer and, as a consequence, it will not be important who is present physically but rather who wants to be with me spiritually in that moment. GALLAGHER (voice-over): A celebration of human spirit and

transcendence, a prayer of harmony in a time of hardship -- Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.

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HOLMES: Turkey reporting its higher number of daily coronavirus cases, more than 5,000 in the past day. But it is also seeing its first decrease in the number of patients in the ICU. This comes as much of the country is in the middle of a 48-hour total lockdown. Arwa Damon takes us on a tour of a nearly deserted Istanbul.

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ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the Bosphorus and it's one of the world's busiest straits. On any given normal day, there would be nonstop traffic coming through. You have the ferries and the fishermen and the cargo ships. Right now it is eerily silent like the rest of the city.

You hear nature in ways you never even used to before. Late on Friday, the Turkish government announced with no warning that there would be a 48-hour lockdown.

It caused a mad scramble to the grocery store, the bakery and some specific areas. The lockdown is specific to 31 provinces, basically, all the major metropolitan cities. That means three-quarters of the population here is not allowed to leave their homes.

It is by and large being adhered to. People realize how serious this is. And many are hoping that these kinds of measures, which some have criticized the government for not taking before, will help bring the virus under control -- Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.

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HOLMES: Stay inside: that is the message we are hearing throughout much of the world. But not everyone is listening. Now Moscow has a strict new system designed to keep people off the streets. But critics worry that it could go too far. CNN's Matthew Chance explains.

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MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the new system of mobile passes comes into force in Moscow on Monday morning. It will require residents to download a pass before they travel anywhere, an attempt by the city authorities to tighten up an already strict lockdown in Moscow.

Moscow's mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, says the rollout of the pass system will be gradual. It will be started with passes for people who need to travel for work, people of essential jobs, medical workers. They will probably get those passes first while workers who are not regarded as essential may be denied them. Later, the mayor says, the passes will be given to people who travel

for reasons other than work, perhaps for medical appointments. And in a final stage, even short journeys around a single district in the city could be limited to people getting passes. So it could be a very restrictive set of rules.

It will be policed with fines for those who violate them. The Moscow mayor, the public face of the tough anti coronavirus measures in Moscow, says that the rapid spread across the city is why the measures are being put in place. Take a listen.

SERGEY SOBYANIN, MOSCOW MAYOR (through translator): From Monday, the situation continued to deteriorate. The number of seriously ill patients with pneumonia is growing fast. If earlier we had some 50 people admitted to hospitals daily, now it is 1,300. The majority of patients are admitted before the coronavirus diagnosis is confirmed in a lab.

CHANCE: Earlier, Russian authorities floated the idea of a cell phone app. It would use facial recognition, technology and geolocation technology to monitor the whereabouts of citizens meant to be under lockdown, obviously meant to be a way of keeping tabs on infected people, stopping them spreading the virus even further.

But the whole issue is raising concerns around the world about how far governments should suspend privacy and freedom of movement in the name of public health. And for the countries like Russia, with a strong authoritarian streak, will ever surrender that control once the pandemic has passed? -- Matthew Chance, CNN, London.

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HOLMES: What did he know and when did he know it?

A new report claims Donald Trump knew a lot about the pandemic and knew early on. You hear from one of the report's authors in a moment.

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HOLMES: Welcome to our viewers all over the world, I am Michael Holmes in Atlanta, where the time is 10 minutes past midnight.

The United States now reporting the most coronavirus deaths of any country on the planet, more than 20,000 people. And the number of infections is well north of half a million. Using Johns Hopkins figures, the U.S. accounts for more than a third of the world's reported cases.

For the first time in the nation's history, every state is under a disaster declaration at the same time. In Los Angeles, it is now mandatory for employees and customers of

essential businesses to wear face coverings. In the pandemic's American epicenter, New York, the governor says the curve is continuing to flatten but the number of deaths is still staggering.

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ANDREW CUOMO (D), GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: Terrible news is the number of lives lost, 783 yesterday. That is not an all-time high. You can see that the number is somewhat stabilizing but it is stabilizing at an horrific rate.

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HOLMES: A short time ago, Donald Trump was asked about a timetable for easing back restrictions and reopening the country. Here was his response.

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DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to bring our country back. I will be making a decision reasonably soon. We are setting up a council now of some of the most distinguished leaders, virtually every field, including politics, business and medical. We will be making that decision fairly soon.

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HOLMES: But the question, when Mr. Trump listen to any of the advice given to him?

A comprehensive, damning, report in "The New York Times" reveals how the president downplayed, flat out ignored warnings, about the virus and what could be done to prepare for it. Jeremy Diamond breaks it down for us.

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JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: According to "The New York Times," it was the third week of February when the government's top public health experts concluded that aggressive social distancing measures would need to be implemented in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

But when that decision was made by those public health experts, the president was traveling in India. So the experts decided that they should brief him in person when he returned.

But that flight, from India back to Washington, was a momentous one. During that flight, the president grew furious at watching the stock market crash after Dr. Nancy Meissonier, one of the government's top public health experts, warned that there would be severe disruptions to daily life.

So instead of that briefing that the president was set to receive upon his return from India to implement those social distancing guidelines, the president held a news conference, putting vice president Mike Pence in charge of the coronavirus efforts.

From there, we know that the White House response began to shift, focusing especially on public messaging, trying to assure the American people that they had the response under control.

Now we also know that, beyond that briefing and beyond those conclusions by those public health experts, there were warnings inside the Trump administration in January as well as in February.

We reported on the memo by Peter Navarro, the president's trade adviser, in late January, warning of trillions of dollars in economic losses and that millions of Americans could be infected with this virus.

We also know that the deputy national security adviser, Matt Pottinger, he was also sounding the alarm back in January about the potential for a global pandemic.

The president, meanwhile, though we know exactly what he was thinking at that time because he was telling the public. The president, in January and in February, repeatedly downplaying the threat of this coronavirus pandemic, insisting that he had under control -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.

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HOLMES: And joining me now is CNN security analyst David Sanger, also the national security correspondent for "The New York Times" ad co- author of this extraordinary reporting.

Really remarkable, David, so much detail. What stands out to me, bluntly, the president downplaying the risk that it seems he knew about or should have known about, as early as January.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That is right.

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SANGER: What we learned in the course of our reporting was that the National Security Council, part of the White House, of course, was so intent on this issue in January, they were holding daily meetings about it.

By January 27th, they held a meeting of what is called the deputies, the number twos in all of the different departments. But it was such a big issue that everybody else crowded into the room.

Of course, within a few days the president did do the ban of Chinese nationals and others who had been in Wuhan from coming into the United States. But that had huge holes in it.

First of all, American citizens were able to come back in and they weren't particularly vigorously tested.

But secondly and perhaps most importantly, if that bought him a few weeks to prepare, he didn't do the preparation. He didn't get out and tell people, hey, look, there's something coming at us, we have to be prepared for and pray it doesn't show up.

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SANGER: But he didn't have time to order the ventilators or the personal protective gear or anything else.

HOLMES: In fact, quite the opposite. I mean, there was one quote, I will read a senior medical adviser, in an email on January 28th, I think it was, and he says this, quote "Any way you cut it, this is going to be bad. The projected size of the outbreak already seems hard to believe."

Yet, the president, the administration kept on playing it down, saying it would go away, a miracle, cases would be down to zero and on and on and on.

So just how early did the administration know it should be acting decisively, yet did not?

And by administration I mean the president.

SANGER: That quote came from an email we obtained that had been written by Carter Mecher, who was the -- is the chief medical officer of the Veterans Affairs Administration, our agency.

And he, of course, has long experience in dealing with these kinds of pandemics. But by the third week of February, just three weeks later, this was pretty much the widely held view inside the White House, the full medical community and so forth.

Yet, it took them three weeks until the middle of March to convince the president.

And the president said three contradictory things here. First he said no one could imagine this happening. Well, of course, they did, they even ran exercises in the Situation Room of what this would look like.

The second thing he said was, I knew it would be a pandemic all along.

Well then, why didn't he act on it?

And then the third thing he said is, you know I wanted to be a cheerleader for the country.

Well, It's fine to be a cheerleader for the country but if you think something is coming that's going to kill a good part of your populace, before you are a cheerleader, you have to get up there and do some warning about the preparations that need to be made.

HOLMES: Yes, being a cheerleader while keeping the public in the dark about something he knew was coming, it just beggars belief.

Another quote was that the president was slow to absorb the scale of the risk and act accordingly, focusing instead on controlling the message, protecting gains in the economy and batting away warnings from senior officials. It is hard to believe these delays did not cost lives last month, at least a month.

SANGER: It is hard to believe that they didn't. It will be impossible to assess, I suspect, what might have been. Now this is a president who has always been driven more by what the stock market does than anything else.

And his first big moment of rage here came on his way back from his trip to India which he took in February.

And he was, at that time, incredibly upset that the head of the Centers for Disease Control had given a pretty blunt statement about how Americans are going to have to prepare for something that could change their lives out here for a while and certainly their habits.

So when he landed from India, he called the secretary of Health and Human Services and chewed him out for the way the head of the CDC had described this.

Well, of course, it turned out she was exactly right and that became the message that the administration turned out but only three weeks later. And you can imagine how many more people were infected in the interim.

HOLMES: Thousands, tens of thousands, more. I mean, the president is notoriously suspicious of what he likes to call the deep state. But in this very situation, what he sees as the deep state are, in fact, longtime government experts, scientists, medical professionals.

SANGER: This combines two characteristics the president has. One, as you point out is, he doesn't like the deep state and he went into this year, of course, beginning with impeachment, determined that he was going to rout out the deep state loyalists who we thought were trying to bring him down.

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SANGER: And that was a theme both during and after impeachment. You saw in what he did with the State Department officials, you saw it with what he did with the inspectors general.

But there is also a deep and abiding mistrust of experts, scientists, data-driven decisions that he can't particularly manipulate or spin. And I think that made him even more suspicious of the doctors and scientists here.

And he did not have a whole lot of experience in thinking about epidemiology before. So he was learning on the way as well, as we all have been in the course of the past few months.

HOLMES: Yes, unfortunately, a suspicion of things like the deep state can be political in other situations. In this situation, a matter of life and death. I've got to leave it there, David, thank you, David Sanger. Terrific reporting, you and the team.

SANGER: Thank you, it's great to be with you.

HOLMES: Every day U.S. medical workers, of course, are putting their lives on the line to care for coronavirus patients. They battle through long hours, staffing issues and, of course, shortages in protective equipment.

And as they come in contact with infected patients, many of them are paying the ultimate price. So scientists are looking for any sign that the pandemic has turned the corner.

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HOLMES: Joining me now is Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, CNN medical analyst, and chief clinical officer of Providence Health System. Dr. Compton-Phillips also oversees clinical care at 51 hospitals, including the one near Seattle, where the first few COVID-19 patients were treated.

It's great to have you back, Doctor. Let's start with what you were seeing in terms of trends in the U.S. The president has been sounding a very optimistic note but it is too early for that kind of talk?

DR. AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think we are seeing glimmers of hope. We are starting to see, here in Seattle, we actually think we are past the peak. In New York, we think we are at the flat part of the curve.

In other parts of the country, we are starting to see a slowdown so we really think we are starting to see benefits from social distancing.

That said, that doesn't mean you get to immediately turn on the economy and make everything go back to normal.

HOLMES: A lot of people think, well, one "The New York Times" analyst said it will be 200,000 within a few minutes.

Speaking of "The New York Times," there is a report out showing that the warnings given and concerns raised were brushed off or ignored by the White House. CNN does confirm that includes an agreement by the government's top public health officials in the third week of February that mitigation like aggressive social distancing should happen; it did not happen, as we know.

How might delays like that may have impacted what subsequently happened in the U.S.?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: There was a great article in "National Geographic" a couple of weeks ago, looking at what happened in the 1918 flu pandemic. There they found that in cities that had sooner and longer social distancing, many, many lives were saved, that places that did social distancing later after the infection had gotten a toehold in a community, a lot more lives were lost.

So the longer we went without having social distancing, without closing the schools and infecting the economy, the more people were affected by this virus. HOLMES: So quite literally, it would've cost lives. I wanted to ask

about the testing issue because everybody is talking about that still, despite what we hear from the White House. It does appear to still be woefully inadequate.

In terms of testing enough people, those who are asymptomatic but spreading in order to be able to promptly this identify, isolate, contact trace, is that still a concern for you?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: It is absolutely a concern and it is how we are going to the economy moving again. Not only do we have to get the number of infections way down to a handful, we have to have the testing capacity once we are able to start ratcheting up our ability to go out of our house again and get back to our lives.

We have to be able to start testing and isolating anybody who does have the virus, which means we have to have much broader access to testing that is available today because, despite what's promoted at times from various quarters across the U.S., it definitely -- there are bottlenecks in terms of getting everybody we need the testing.

HOLMES: It certainly seems to be the case.

I want to ask you a sort of broader question and we have an international audience. I certainly grew up in a universal health care country and lived in a couple of others. Health care in the U.S. is by and large an employee benefit. In most cases if you don't have a job, you don't have insurance or the ability to buy your own.

I'm curious, with a pandemic like this, what holes perhaps in the U.S. health care system have been exposed?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: Many holes, unfortunately. They come up in several different ways. One is, if people are uninsured, if they are homeless.

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COMPTON-PHILLIPS: If they have no papers, they are not here in the country legally, they don't have access to health care insurance. And right now, if people like that don't feel the capacity to come in and get tested but they have a fever and a cough, they are out in the community infecting others.

So the fact that we don't have universal access to care can actually make this epidemic go longer and be worse. So it really is time to start looking at our health care system and understanding what we can do to patch those holes.

HOLMES: Good points as always, Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips thanks so much, it's great to have you on.

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: Thank you.

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HOLMES: We are going to take a short break. Americans, waiting on your stimulus checks, we will tell you when you might expect yours to arrive.

Also, food banks around the U.S. are serving communities in record numbers. We will speak with the head of an Austin, Texas, based food bank, next.

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HOLMES: Welcome back.

As the unemployment rate in America soars, a little help is coming in the form of those stimulus checks. The Internal Revenue Service sent out the first wave to Americans on Saturday.

Deposits will continue in the days ahead starting with people who have filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019 and authorized direct deposit. The distribution is part of the $2.2 trillion economic relief package passed by Congress in March.

Of course, around the world, hunger is a problem. The coronavirus pandemic only making matters worse for the poor. But it is also prompting international acts of kindness. Many are taking it upon themselves to help feed the hungry.

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HOLMES: A mobile breaker in France handing out bread or paramilitary troops in India helping feed migrant workers. The stories go on and on.

In America, thousands of people, many working poor, are sitting in line for hours at a time to pick up boxes of donated food. Joining me now from Austin, Texas, to talk more about the push to feed the hungry is Derrick Chubbs, he is the president and CEO of the Central Texas Food Bank.

Thanks for being with us. Some of the stories we are hearing are striking. I mean, one man talked of 12 hours in a line waiting for food assistance, said peanut butter and crackers was his last meal. That is shocking to hear.

How common are stories like that when it comes to food in the wealthiest nation in the world?

DERRICK CHUBBS, CENTRAL TEXAS FOOD BANK: Well, thank you for the opportunity, Michael, to tell the story.

Normally, here in Central Texas, if you want to call it normal, we distribute food to about 50,000 Central Texans every single week. That's normally. But what we've been seeing, based on the COVID-19 virus, is, just in the month of March, alone, we saw an increase of well over 207 percent of those that were seeking our services. And it's the pandemic itself that has caused major destruction in our

supply chain, reduced food donations from our grocery stores, which we depend heavily upon. We have to purchase more food and causing the entire food bank network across the country to have to reinvent our distribution models.

HOLMES: Is there any way of knowing just how many people in the U.S. are in need of food at this time in particular?

CHUBBS: At this particular time, I can speak for pretty much here in Central Texas but from the U.S. perspective, we are seeing 1.4 million on the average here in Central Texas. We are seeing some more than 400,000 right in our area alone.

During the month of March we saw an increase of over 22,000, something that is simply unprecedented here in the Austin area and the other 20 counties that we serve.

HOLMES: That is extraordinary and really sad. I mean, four out of 10 American adults do not have the savings or other resources to cover an unexpected $400 dollar bill. That was before this happened. Now you have millions added to the employment queue -- unemployment queue in the last few weeks, losing income, adding to those already struggling to feed themselves before this.

CHUBBS: Yes, usually when we speak of the working poor, something that we like to say here in Austin is the face of hunger is not what you think, it's not necessarily homeless, it's not automatically unemployed.

What we typically see, on the average, is the working poor. And what food banks do across the country is provide that extra week of assistance, where a family won't have to make the decision as to whether or not they have to buy food, let them focus on health care for their children or getting their utilities paid.

But now so many of they and others are all unemployed and that's one of the things that are driving our numbers up. So families typically may only come to see us once a week, now they are coming to see us every single week. That is in addition to the others that is on top of that.

In a city like Austin, that's very energetic from an entertainment perspective, with restaurants, bars, music, now we have those that they are all closed, we have everything from restaurant workers to musicians in our lines to get food.

HOLMES: I mean the work you do is just so extraordinarily important.

Have you come across -- I'm sure you have, the issue of undocumented workers, who won't even benefit from government assistance at the moment.

Are you seeing an increase in suffering there as well?

CHUBBS: Well, we don't ask a lot of questions in certain cases. Most of us distribute food through a group of partner agencies here in Central Texas. We have approximately 250 of them that help us distribute the food across the 21 counties that we serve, which is an area about twice the size of the state of Massachusetts.

So where -- it's safe to assume that there is a spike in hunger all across the board and everyone involved. And this pandemic is literally unprecedented and unseen, nothing like we have ever seen in our lifetimes.

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HOLMES: As I say, the work you do is so important to many. Derrick Chubbs, the president and CEO of the Central Texas Food Bank. Thank you so much, appreciate it.

CHUBBS: Thank you for having us, Michael.

HOLMES: As the pandemic continues, undocumented immigrants in the U.S. face increased uncertainty, as we were just discussing there, largely ignored when it comes to that federal assistance we were talking about. Many families now shouldering even more pressure than usual. CNN's Paul Vercammen reports from Los Angeles.

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PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Irma and Miguel, undocumented immigrants from Guatemala with three children. They drove to a free cookout from the Los Angeles Dodgers to ease family's burdens in the COVID-19 era.

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IRMA (through translator): They are closing all the businesses and these are jobs that we need.

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VERCAMMEN (voice-over): The couple's cleaning work vanished with countless other jobs in L.A. County. It has more than 900,000 undocumented residents according to recent estimates.

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ISAAC CUEVAS, DIRECTOR, IMMIGRATION AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS FOR THE L.A. ARCHDIOCESE: Many times, they don't qualify for a lot of the Federal protections that are being issued out right now.

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VERCAMMEN (voice-over): Isaac Cuevas battles for immigrant rights and the 4.3 million parishioners Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

So many are Latino immigrants are praying for help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CUEVAS: With our help in social services and social justice, we're pushing to make sure that they don't get evicted, that they have food on the table and that spiritually they are sound.

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VERCAMMEN (voice-over): Cuevas says the church mediated with landlords who tried not to honor the L.A. moratorium on evictions for renters who cannot pay due to coronavirus circumstances.

Immigrants' advocates say too many of their clients won't speak up or apply for aid during the COVID-19 crisis, because they believe it will raise red flags that will lead to deportation.

Or if they have green card legal resident status, they fear their citizenship application will be stalled.

But L.A. offers many programs available to undocumented and legal immigrants including My Health L.A., or L.A. Care if they qualify. It's the largest publicly operated health plan in the U.S.

The CEO of L.A. Care encourages immigrants to apply and fill out their census forms, because he believes that will help them when L.A. exits the pandemic recession.

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JOHN BAACKES, CEO, L.A. CARE HEALTH PLAN: They're going to be eligible for Medicaid and we need to know how many there are because it will determine how much funding flows to any state whether it's California or somewhere else in the country.

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VERCAMMEN (voice-over): No healthcare, no jobs, but Irma and Miguel found food.

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IRMA (through translator): We are very grateful.

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VERCAMMEN (voice-over): Dodger dogs and snacks, a virtual feast during a pandemic -- Paul Vercammen, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: The U.S. president wants to send Americans back to work and jumpstart the economy.

But is that his call to even make?

We will discuss next.

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HOLMES: The U.S. president eager to reopen the economy as soon as possible, as we know. His advisers are urging though to consider the deadly consequences of sending Americans back to work too early. Mr. Trump says he will weigh their advice but still isn't sure what choice he will make.

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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.

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HOLMES: Joining me now, Catherine Rampell, CNN economics commentator and "The Washington Post" opinion columnist.

Thanks for being with us, Catherine. A lot going on. We have been hearing the president on the subject of reopening the economy. He called it the biggest decision I've ever had to make.

Firstly, let's clarify this, is not really his decision, is it?

It's up to the governors, the mayors, individual business owners, right?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. If you look at who has actually been issuing the orders to shelter in place, to engage in social isolation, close down schools, businesses, that sort of things, it's not the president, right?

It's governors, it's mayors, other municipal officials who are making those kinds of decisions. So Trump can issue guidance, I suppose; that would encourage these local and state leaders to reopen the economy.

But it doesn't seem like it would have force of law at this point. And even if they decided to listen to him, of course, beyond that, just because businesses are allowed to operate does not necessarily mean that customers are going to feel comfortable going out and eating at restaurants or attending concerts or other things that continue to be high risk.

HOLMES: I think 60 percent of Americans think it's a good idea to stay indoors at the moment. It's interesting, too, when the president was asked directly what metrics he would use in deciding whether to reopen the economy, which we have established is in his decision, I mean, he just pointed to his head and he said that's the metrics there.

CNN reporting part of his consideration has been pressure from Wall Street, friends on Wall Street.

How much influence do you think they have on him in the middle of a public health emergency?

RAMPELL: I think he basically listens to the last person who was in his ear at any given time. So if that was a friend on Wall Street, if that was some sycophant in the White House, that is who he will be listening to, or people who tell him what he wants to hear.

My concern, of course, about the advice being given by CEOs, is that they are not public health experts. And we need to be listening to the public health experts about what we need to be doing policy wise, guidance wise, in order to mitigate the spread of this outbreak so that the economy can be on a better footing.

Actually, there was no tension between what economists think is good for the economy in the long run and what public health experts say is good for saving lives.

What you need to do is to save those lives and get the spread of infection under control, hospitalizations down, so that people can go about their normal economic activities and so, in the long run, basically, the economy can normalize more quickly and there will be less damage.

HOLMES: And without false starts, exactly.

Is there a sense from those you are in touch with that the president is, in some ways, willing to risk at least some element of public health in order to boost the economy in what, let's face it, is an election year?

RAMPELL: Yes, I mean, he has been pretty clear about that, right?

[00:45:00]

RAMPELL: He has said essentially that he needs to make sure that the cure is not worse than the problem or the cure is not worse than disease, referring explicitly to the fact that he is unhappy that economic activity has been shut down and people are out of work.

Of course, we don't want those things, we don't want to have record high numbers of people filing for unemployment and businesses going out of business and new filings for bankruptcy and things like that.

We all want the economy to get back onto a solid footing but, again, there is no actual trade-off here. I think Trump seems to think there is a trade-off here between doing what is best for public health and doing what's best for the economy. But economists are saying that is not the case.

HOLMES: I think it's a third of American renters did not pay their April rent. That is a staggering number. Even before this crisis, also, the Federal Reserve found that four out of 10 Americans did not have the savings or other resources to cover any unexpected $400 dollar expense. Millions of people just lost their jobs; in many cases, their health

insurance as well, some of those checks are starting to arrive

But realistically, it's not a lot of money, is it?

RAMPELL: Yes.

HOLMES: I speak to the social and economic damage being done here.

RAMPELL: No, and people are suffering. Again, we have seen record high unemployment claim filings. We do have these so-called stimulus checks starting to reach people's bank accounts but not coming quickly enough.

It's going to be weeks, if not months, before the last group of people who are eligible for those checks get them. And when they get them, it's not going to be sufficient. In the United States, we are doing other things to beef up the safety net, including expanding the number of people, the types of people who could be eligible for unemployment insurance.

But states are not really quick enough to ramp quickly enough for all of that. So, look, Congress has done a few things to try to ease the pain. It's not sufficient. There is going to have to be another coronavirus relief bill of some sort, even beyond the fact that we've already passed three rounds of relief at this point, including a record $2 trillion -- it's called stimulus but it's really not stimulus, it's just relief at this point and survival at this point. There's going to have to be more to be done.

HOLMES: Exactly. Catherine Rampell, always a pleasure, good to have you on.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

HOLMES: Still to come on the program, as Japan battles a spike of coronavirus cases, the country's prime minister touts a drug he says could hold promise as a treatment.

Sound familiar?

We will be right back.

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HOLMES: Welcome back.

Japan announcing a spike in coronavirus cases. They are up for the fourth day in a row to more than 7,000 in total. More than 100 people have died. Meanwhile, the government touting a possible treatment. CNN's Will Ripley has more for us. He joins us now live from Tokyo.

Good to see you, Will. Let's start with those new figures out. A record spike third day in a row.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, the fifth day in a row. I have lost count as well, Michael. I have to go back and look. It has been five days in a row that the numbers keep going up here in Tokyo, which is certainly not the track that they want to see.

They are trying to flatten the curve; the exact opposite is happening here. So the social distancing measures this week, not entirely effective. People are still going to work. They are still taking public transportation. I think Tokyo is trying but I think a lot of people, frankly, don't know what to do.

Their employers still want to go into office, they feel like they don't have a choice. One thing that Japan is optimistic about is this drug that is made by a Japanese company, Fujifilm, called Avigan.

In fact, Prime Minister Abe is so confident about it, he's giving it away to scores of countries for free and clinical trials are set to begin in the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RIPLEY (voice-over): As the world battles the novel coronavirus pandemic, U.S. president Donald Trump and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe are peddling possible treatments. Trump is touting malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, despite slim evidence it's actually effective against the virus.

TRUMP: What you have to lose?

I will say it again, what you have to lose?

RIPLEY (voice-over): For Abe, it's antiflu drug Avigan, the Japanese brand name for favipiravir, made by Fujifilm.

"We will triple the current stockpile of Avigan and expand the use for 2 million people," he says.

Researchers point out key differences between the pills promoted by President Trump and prime minister Abe.

RIPLEY: Is what Shinzo Abe doing any different from what President Trump is doing?

STERGHIOS MOSCHOS, NORTHUMBRIA UNIVERSITY: Marginally different; favipiravir has been around for quite a while and, unlike hydroxychloroquine, it has been used to test its efficacy on other viruses.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Reports in China do show favipiravir has been effective in treating coronavirus. But research is limited. Clinical trials are underway in Japan and set to begin in the U.S.

Japan plans to provide the drug for free to 20 countries. There are potentially dangerous side effects, including birth defects.

RIPLEY: If someone has coronavirus, would you recommend that they take this drug?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This COVID-19 doesn't cure people.

So right, what then? What do you choose?

RIPLEY (voice-over): Hydroxychloroquine can also have serious side effects like heart trouble and eye damage.

Researchers around the world are testing all kinds of drugs. They may be the only hope until a vaccine is developed, if a vaccine is developed. Patients, under quarantine, isolated in their homes, can battle loneliness and desperation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You feel really depressed.

Chika Miyatake's Tokyo apartment is full of supplies. She has to wait up to 10 days for her coronavirus test results. Miyatake is frustrated.

CHIKA MIYATAKE, QUARANTINED PATIENT: Japan hasn't set up any kind of a computer system, you know. Even the test results will come in post, in letter.

[00:55:00]

MIYATAKE: So no emails, that makes me really get anxious. And getting test result as soon as possible is more important than stressing on using Avigan at this stage.

RIPLEY (voice-over): She wonders why her government is focusing on an unproven drug instead of speeding up the testing process for patients in limbo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Will Ripley, Japan's prime minister has been warning urban areas, I think you told me, under a state of emergency, they are not reducing human contact drastically enough.

Why are more people not staying home?

RIPLEY: That's a great question, Michael, I think there are several different factors at play. One, some people just can't because 80 percent of Japanese companies are not equipped to let people work from home. That is according to government data from last year.

Also, the warnings reached a lot of people pretty late. It was only after the announcement of the Olympic postponement that the government started to get serious and sound the alarm that the number of infections was rising.

You also have a situation where the case number is still relatively low, even though it's going up when compared to other countries. So a lot of Japanese look at the relatively low number of infections and think, OK, it's really not that bad.

The thing is, though, the testing is extremely limited here in Japan; 69,000 people have been tested so far during this entire pandemic nationwide. Here in Tokyo, the number is around 7,000 people, 7,000 people in a city of 13.5 million. So likely there are asymptomatic people walking around, who just don't know they have the illness.

HOLMES: Testing, testing, testing, it's the same everywhere around the world. Will Ripley, great reporting as always. Good to see you, my friend.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes. I will be back with more news in an hour.