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U.S. Now Leads In COVID-19 Deaths; "The New York Times": Trump Saw What Was Coming; Curve Of New Cases Continuing To Flatten In New York; British Prime Minister On The Mend; Spain Eases Lockdown; Hospitals To Launch Trial Of Japanese Drug To Fight COVID-19; Presidents In Brazil, Nicaragua And Belarus Ignore Health Warnings; Police Give Birthday Boy A Surprise Parade; IRS Deposits First Wave Of Stimulus Checks. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired April 12, 2020 - 04:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen, coming to you live from CNN World Headquarters. This is CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for joining us.

Our top story: Easter is supposed to be a day of hope. It's also the day President Trump said last month he wanted the U.S. economy reopened. Instead, the U.S. enters the holiday with more reported COVID-19 deaths than anyone else -- anywhere else on the planet.

Johns Hopkins University says more than 20,000 people have lost their lives in the U.S. and cases have topped 0.5 million; 1,800 new deaths were reported in the U.S. Saturday alone, a brutal figure but a slight dropoff after more than 2,000 deaths reported on Friday.

It is raising a slim hope that the virus in the U.S. may have peaked but with the addition of Wyoming on Saturday, all 50 U.S. states are now under disaster declarations. That's the first time in history for this country.

You have also probably heard Donald Trump repeatedly claim no one could have seen this pandemic coming. But a new report in "The New York Times" outlines just how untrue that actually is.

It details how administration officials were sounding the alarm as early as January. Not only was he reportedly aware of those warnings, he largely ignored them for weeks.

Mr. Trump continued to downplay the threat publicly until he issued social distancing guidelines in mid-March. Health officials had wanted that implemented weeks earlier. Jeremy Diamond has more on this report from the White House.


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.


HOLMES: Let's take a closer look at one of those warnings that went unheeded. "The New York Times" reports that, on January 28th, a senior medical adviser sent an email about the virus which read, in part, "Any way you cut it, this is going to be bad. The projected size of the outbreak already seems hard to believe," end quote.

So just how early did the administration know it should be acting decisively but didn't?

A short time ago a reporter, David Sanger, one of the authors of "The New York Times" story spoke about that with CNN.


DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: 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.


SANGER: 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.


ALLEN: Let's talk with Natasha Lindstaedt, a professor of government at the University of Essex.

Good morning to you.


ALLEN: The bottom line from this report, it seems, is that President Trump ignored warnings, he claimed there weren't warnings -- actually, there were -- and then was slow to act.

What is your takeaway on this report?

LINDSTAEDT: Right, "The New York Times" has been doing some excellent reporting and this is really a summation of a lot of these reports and it goes into deeper detail about the extent to which Trump was aware of this virus.

A lot of the warnings came in January from the Secretary of Health, from intelligence reports and also from his own trade adviser, Peter Navarro. They made it very clear that this is a very aggressive virus and the U.S. is going to need to respond immediately and in a very forceful way.

He didn't pay attention to this. As the report mentioned, by mid- to late February, everyone in his own administration believed it was going to be pretty dangerous. But it took them another three weeks to convince him to act. As a result there's been complete chaos and confusion and a total lack of coordination.

ALLEN: Right. We want to read an excerpt from "The New York Times" report and this refers to the plane ride home from India, when Mr. Trump visited there a few weeks ago.

Here it is.

"On the 18-hour plane ride home, Mr. Trump fumed as he watched the stock market crash" after a CDC official's comments. This official commenting on the dangers Americans could face. He was furious.

He called the Health and Human Services secretary when he landed February 26th, raging that the official had scared people unnecessarily. It did seem that the president continued to downplay the severity of what this country was about to face and you've got to wonder why.

LINDSTAEDT: Right. And what the reporting was insinuating was this was because he was really eyeing what was going to happen to him in 2020 and everything was banking on having a robust economy with full levels of employment. This was going to really wreak havoc on the economy because nothing is worse than uncertainty.

Of course a pandemic is going to cause great levels of uncertainty. He didn't what to project an image that would cause fear and confusion. He was hoping to calm everybody down.

But by doing so, he downplayed the threat and then refused to act. As mentioned many times in this report, that ended up causing all kinds of coordination delays when they needed to be procuring protective equipment for hospital workers, when they needed to be procuring ventilators, ensuring there were enough hospital beds.

And he decided that he wanted to downplay it because he was worried that this would then affect his chances in 2020.

ALLEN: Right. He reportedly fixated on the stock market, of course, very concerning about the economy.

But "The New York Times" reports that a national security adviser said in the Oval Office meeting, the economy would be destroyed by the pandemic regardless of whether the White House stepped up to take strict measures.

But the indications are the president was focused on the stock market and perhaps that kept him from looking at the health consequences that would lead to what Americans are now facing. LINDSTAEDT: Right. And, remember, this is a president that hasn't

tended to believe in science. He tends to use his gut. That was illustrated throughout "The New York Times" article, that his use of gut decision-making often makes it difficult to respond to a pandemic. We know there's controversies over who disbanded the pandemic office or whether it just disbanded on its own.


LINDSTAEDT: But it made it very difficult for this administration to respond quickly and to understand the severity of these types of crises. The economy in all countries are going to face a severe recession. There's no way around it.

But the point is to try to save lives and to ensure that we have fewer deaths than we could have. And he didn't act quickly enough. And that's what the report was indicating.

ALLEN: How will the president's handling or mishandling of this crisis, plus the economy, the horrific unemployment, affect his presidency and his hopes for re-election?

It's hard to focus on the election when so many people are suffering. But it is coming.

LINDSTAEDT: Right. So some of the polls that were taken by Gallup a couple weeks ago indicated that he did have a bump. He never got above 50 percent but his approval rating was 49 percent; 80 percent of the public did believe he was doing a good job.

But there have been so many lies by his administration and there's even efforts by Republicans to keep him away from doing these nightly briefings that go on for hours because he contradicts himself and he gets caught in a web of lies.

We know in February he said that the virus would be like a miracle, it would disappear and then weeks later he's saying he always knew it was going to be a pandemic. These types of statements don't look good.

Of course, his base is unbelievably supportive of him. They like the fact that he is always trying to keep them calm and telling them it's going to be fine. But you're going to see more and more people really questioning, as their own people have been affected by this questioning, that there's just no -- there hasn't been a coordinated federal response and it has actually really cost many, many lives.

ALLEN: And we're still playing catch-up and we're about to talk about that next. We appreciate your insights. Natasha Lindstaedt, thank you.

LINDSTAEDT: Thanks for having me.

ALLEN: Well, again, New York remains the worst-hit U.S. state for COVID-19 with more than 180,000 cases and 8,600 deaths. That's more than four times the number of fatalities in the second most affected state, neighboring New Jersey. New York state and city governments have repeatedly said they need

help fighting the pandemic but there are however now signs of hope. Here was New York governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Good news is the curve of the increase is continuing to flatten. The number of hospitalizations appears to have hit an apex and the apex appears to be a plateau, which is what many of the models predicted, that it wasn't going to be a straight up and straight down. It was going to be a straight up. You hit the top number and then you plateau for a period of time.

And that looks like what we are doing. The hospitalization rate is down and that's important. We have more people getting infected still. We have more people going to the hospitals. But we have a lower number. That's all this is saying.


ALLEN: Let's look closer at the situation with Dr. Peter Drobac, a global expert at the University of Oxford.

Hi, Peter. Thanks for coming on.


ALLEN: Good to see you again. The governor there, as he has most days, chilling remarks about the deaths, the horrific number of deaths that New York has seen. But it does seem the curve continues to flatten.

How significant is this?

DROBAC: It's important and, of course, the daily news is still grim because hundreds of people just in New York state are still dying everyday. But what we know is that when we put in place an intervention like social distancing, that it's not going to take effect for several weeks.

We expect the first thing we'll see is a leveling off in the number of new cases, followed a couple weeks later by a leveling off of the number of hospitalizations. And deaths is going to be the most lagging indicator because people die a month after they're infected.

What we're seeing now with the reports of leveling off and a decline in the number of hospitalizations suggest that New York is at its peak and we may see again deaths lagging for a little bit.

But we hope we're getting to the point where the worst is behind us. That's assuming we keep all of the social distancing measures in place for some time further.

ALLEN: Right. That was my next question. This is the time when no one, I think Dr. Fauci said, needs to hit the accelerator at all. It appears to be working and it needs to continue and that might get more and more difficult as time goes on and people remain on lockdown.

DROBAC: That's right.


DROBAC: We know from places like Italy, which are a little bit ahead of where New York is, is that rather than just being a peak and a quick dropoff, there's a plateau and a slow decline after that.

All of our modeling suggests and experience suggests if we were to suddenly relax on social distancing in the next couple of weeks, we would almost see a very quick second spike in new infections that would have all the same risks in terms of overwhelming the health system.

It's going to take probably several more weeks of extreme social or physical distancing and then hopefully we can put in place a smart plan for testing, isolation and gradual easing of these measures in order to safely get the society back to work.

ALLEN: I want to talk to you about testing. That is still such a huge issue; only 1 percent of Americans have been tested.

Do you expect we'll get to a place where there can be widespread testing because, without tests, without diagnostics, contact screening how can you assess the future threat of the virus?

DROBAC: That's right. It's so important. And have the answer is, we have to figure it out. The only way that we're going to come out of this safely is if we're able to do widespread testing.

There's two kinds of tests, the tests we've mostly been talking about, diagnostic tests for active infection, and that's going to be important. If we ever want to ease lockdowns, we need to be able to test anybody and everybody who has symptoms and then also be able to trace their contacts and test them even before they have symptoms so we can identify every new infection and get them isolated and out of circulation as quickly as possible.

That's how we prevent a second spike. That's going to be critically important and we're not at that point yet.

The second kind of tests are antibody tests. These are tests that show past infection, that the body is starting to build up antibodies, having been infected in the past. Usually they come about four weeks after someone has been infected.

This can serve two really important purposes. The first is, we can do surveys that are going to give us for the first time a real picture of how many people in a population have been infected.

We don't know whether the reported cases are the tip of the iceberg and actually whether there are many, many, many people who had asymptomatic infections who may have some degree of protection. That's going to be important.

The second thing is that antibodies, the presence of them, at least implies that there is a level of immunity in someone who has had a past infection. Once we can detect that, we hope that will give us a means of understanding who may be safe to go back to work and particularly for health workers, that's going to be critically important.

ALLEN: Absolutely. Antibodies, it's a word that the world is now paying attention to for sure and for good reason. Doctor, we appreciate your expertise. Thanks for coming on.

DROBAC: My pleasure.

ALLEN: How is the rest of the world handling this health crisis?

We take a look at Europe, in the U.K.. It's been having as many deaths per day as Italy and Spain on their worst days. Plus an update we'll have on the prime minister's health.

And Spain is reopening some parts of its economy on Monday but the government warns the fight against the virus isn't over. We'll share the new guidelines there coming next. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.





ALLEN: Moving now to Europe. Many in the U.K. hope the government will soon roll back some of the restrictions. But the pandemic is not over. The country is nearing a tragic milestone. Almost 10,000 people there have died from the virus as of now.

And there are almost 80,000 confirmed cases. In her Easter message, the queen urged people to stay home to stop the spread.


ELIZABETH II, QUEEN OF ENGLAND: This year, Easter will be different for many of us. But by keeping apart, we keep others safe. But Easter isn't canceled. Indeed we need Easter as much as ever.


ALLEN: And Spain is loosening up its nationwide lockdown amid encouraging signs in the country's fight against the virus. Some people in sectors such as construction or manufacturing will be allowed to go back to work on Monday.

Health care workers are seen here, using drones to spray disinfectant in public spaces. And police and public safety workers will be handing out 10 million masks in the coming week. Spain's health ministry says more than 11,000 people have recovered in

the past three days. Encouragement there. Let's talk more about that. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is London and Al Goodman is in Madrid.

Good morning to both of you, Nick, I'll start with you because the prime minister continues to recover from the coronavirus.

What's the latest on his situation?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, frankly a statement that sort of is short in which he thanks for the workers for the National Health Service, he says that he can't thank them enough and he owes them his life. That's the entirety of the statement.

But it's the first we have heard from the prime minister since he was troublingly sent to the hospital behind me, St. Thomas'. Then he was in intensive care for three nights and is said to be on the road to recovery. He's doing short walks around the ward.

This hit him exceptionally hard and his gratitude there, short in words but clear in his sentiment, Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes, absolutely.


ALLEN: Nick Paton Walsh for us there. Let's go to Al in Madrid.

Al, word that the country there is loosening up restrictions. Talk to us about that.

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The numbers of deaths now more than 16,000 in Spain and the numbers of new cases, the percentage increases are getting small. And so the government says Spain is not yet in the de-escalation phase. The lockdown continues at least until the end of April.

And the prime minister says he may have to extend it further into May. But they're going to loosen the restrictions. On Monday, construction workers and factory workers can go back to work. They've been forced to be off work for two weeks.

And the police and civil protection will be handing out masks at metro stations. The government is going to increase the frequency of trains and buses during the rush hours but they're testing the behavior, Natalie, of these workers as a test to see how Spaniards can act when they go back to work.

So in a press conference on Saturday, the health minister repeatedly said, here is what these workers need to do: social distancing, at least a meter, maybe two meters is better. That's six feet. Wash your hands frequently. Practice hygiene, sneeze into your elbow area and your work clothes, take those in a bag at home, wash them in high temperatures.

They really want to see if this first group of workers, construction workers and factory workers, can practice the kinds of things the general population will need to practice if Spain is to loosen up the restrictions. So big tests ahead starting Monday here in Madrid.

ALLEN: We'll be watching closely how it turns out. Thank you.

Nick, bigger picture there in the U.K., it still looks bleak for the number of cases.

WALSH: Yes, the drama of one man's fate here, the prime minister has taken a lot of the air time area from the bleak numbers, 900 people a day, roughly, at this point, are being reported dead.

We may see that rise next week because there's a holiday period here for Easter, which may have slightly slowed some of the reporting of cases. But remember, too, these 900 or so a day, that's like four plane disasters every single day. Those are the numbers of people who are testing positive in the United Kingdom.

And it's hard to get a test here as all. You have to show severe infection to get that testing. Those are people who are reported dead who are tested first and die in hospital and there are, according to some figures put out by the government, possibly -- this is in the early stages, some of the numbers from this, as many people die of that reporting system.

The exit strategy for the United Kingdom is not good news, either, at this point because the lack of testing here -- there's been a promise to get 100,000 a day done this month. The lack of testing means it's hard to know how many people have had it.

And some of the modeling which is being put around suggests that maybe 3 percent, 4 percent of the U.K. population has been infected. The figures from Spain were about 15 percent. It seems that the U.K. is significantly far behind in terms of the spread of the virus.

That's good, of course, because it will have limited some of the deaths even though the numbers are catastrophic. It's hard to get in your head exactly what 900 dead a day equates to.

But what comes next is complicated by the fact, frankly, the government policy so far has been big on gestures and plans but hasn't delivered in terms of mass testing. Until they know who has it or who had it, they can't let them back to work.

And that means the restrictions, which are taking a toll on the economy, may have to be in place for longer, a very difficult task for government officials dealing with this situation, often sometimes sick, particularly in the case of the health secretary, who tested positive for COVID-19.

The stark challenge is to work exactly how this exit strategy is formulated, what they need for it and actually put that into place while dealing with this staggering death toll.

ALLEN: Your analogy of the four plane disasters hits home. Thank you both. The leader of a major world economy is touting an unproven drug in the

fight against coronavirus. This time it's not Donald Trump. The Japanese prime minister's controversial endorsement, we'll have a live report from Tokyo on that.


ALLEN: Plus most world leaders agree, social distancing and other safety measures are essential right now. But a few do not seem to share that view. We'll show you who they are.




ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Atlanta. I'm Natalie Allen.

President Trump has come under fire for saying without proof that a malaria drug can be used to treat COVID-19. Now Japan's prime minister is endorsing a different but also unproven drug. For more on this, Will Ripley is in Tokyo.

You've been looking into this one for us. Hello to you, Will.

What exactly is Mr. Abe touting?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This drug is called Avigan. It's an antiviral drug that is used to treat the flu. He's taken to the podium to say that this drug shows promise with limited clinical trials in Japan.

They're giving the drug away for free and they're going to begin trials in the U.S. state of Massachusetts but there are risks associated, especially for women who might be expecting with this drug.


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. 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.


RIPLEY: Imagine if you're a patient and you're told you have to wait more than a week to get your tests in the mail, not an email. That's frustrating for a lot of people. But Japan has a bigger issue on its hands. They want to expand the

production of the drug. But they have a surge of cases having right now. Five consecutive days of spikes in cases, 714 new cases nationwide on Saturday; 197 of those cases right here in Tokyo.

The numbers keep going up. Last weekend it was around a hundred cases or so. So Natalie, the -- even if there is a potential treatment on the horizon, the immediate problem is getting people to stay inside, especially in the seven Japanese prefectures that are under a state of emergency.

But their employers are still telling them that they have to go to work because 80 percent of Japanese companies are not equipped to allow employees to work from home.

People -- I'm hearing from people on social media that they're scared to get on crowded trains to go in but they feel they don't have a choice. And people who can, are now leaving Tokyo.

We're getting reports that the highways are full of cars with Tokyo plates going to these rural prefectures to stay with relatives and get out of the city where cases are surging. The Japanese government is trying to urge people not to do that because potentially these people, we know that because there's such limited testing, there's a large number of asymptomatic people walking around, unaware they have this virus.

If they leave Tokyo and go to these rural areas with a high number of elderly people, well, we know that can be very dangerous and could spread the virus outside of the areas that are currently under a state of emergency.

ALLEN: Absolutely. Many complicated situations there in Japan. Surprising that a high-tech country doesn't have the ability to have people work from home. Great reporting there, Will. We appreciate it. We'll see you again. Will Ripley for us, thanks.

Across the world, leaders hoping to stop the spread are encouraging their citizens to follow safety measures. But the presidents of three countries are strangely sending a different message. Matt Rivers shows us who they are.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These three men, the presidents of Brazil, Nicaragua and Belarus would in normal times not seemingly have a ton in common, but these days the common thread here is that while other leaders around the world are taking drastic steps to try and prevent the further spread of this coronavirus, these three presidents are not.


RIVERS (voice-over): Start in Brazil where President Jair Bolsonaro was out and about this week on Thursday visiting a bakery, taking photos, drawing crowds, the kinds of stuff he's been doing in public for weeks now.

Brazil has recorded more than 1,000 deaths, nearly 20,000 cases. The Health Minister has urged lockdown measures be put in place but the President has said he's more worried about the economy.

You don't shut down a car factory because of car accidents, he said. Further north in Nicaragua while President Daniel Ortega attended a virtual meeting last month. He hasn't been seen in public since this military parade on February 21st.

So the response to this outbreak has come from his wife. Vice President Rosario Murillo who regularly says her country's fate is in God's hands.

We don't have community spread, she said on Thursday with infinite thanks to God. So the government lets life go on normally. State-run media Web sites or even promoting holiday discounts this weekend and markets in Managua.

And from Nicaragua to Belarus, more virus dismissal in that country where this past week President Alexander Lukashenko played in a hockey game, saying there were no viruses inside the rink, implying that it was too cold.

It's better to die standing than to live on your knees he said. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lukashenko has encouraged people to keep playing hockey.

Experts worldwide say that prevention measures must be used to stop the viruses spread and we have seen country after country tell people to stay at home. But these three presidents seem to be doing the opposite -- Matt Rivers, CNN.


ALLEN: The money from Congress is now on the way. Americans have started receiving coronavirus help from the government.

But how far will it go?

We'll talk about what people in Hawaii are dealing with after a collapse of its tourism industry. That's next.





ALLEN: A nurse in Florida wanted to throw a party for her son's 7th birthday but that, of course, wasn't possible due to social distancing restrictions. So police and neighbors gave him the next best thing. Here's the story.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's a surprise birthday party that rolled in --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three, four, five.

FLORES: One Pembroke Pines, Florida, police vehicle at a time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy birthday, Carter! Hope you have a great birthday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you.

FLORES: All to celebrate Carter Corzo's (ph) 7th birthday while exercising social distancing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy birthday!

ADAM FEINER, CAPTAIN, PEMBROKE PINES POLICE DEPARTMENT: Carter's mom Crystal is a nurse. She works at a local area hospital. And she's on the front lines with this pandemic. She basically asked from one first responder to another, if we could shed some type of light on her son's birthday because she didn't want is birthday party to not be recognized.

FLORES: Crystal Corzo (ph) has been juggling being a nurse on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak and being a mom. She now works overnights so she can oversee her children's cyber learning activities during the day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As nurses, we are at bedside, we're touching patients. We can't keep social distance. We just do our best to protect ourselves so when we come home we're not infecting our families.

FLORES: Family, friends and neighbors join the birthday caravan. Some wearing costumes and flying balloons, but staying in their cars or wearing masks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, that was (INAUDIBLE). Were you expecting that?



FLORES: And what's a party parade without a fire truck, the motorcycle squad and the big wheels of the SWAT team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We didn't want your birthday to go without anybody celebrating it.

FLORES: It's something law enforcement is doing all over the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy birthday, Zach (ph). FLORES: The bomb squad in Albuquerque, New Mexico, used a robot to deliver gifts to four-year-old Zach.

Multiple law enforcement agencies in Mishawaka, Indiana, cheered for 6-year-old Brantley (ph).

And in Bakersfield, California, police surprised 10-year-old Drew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were sirens. It was just really cool.

FLORES: Back in Florida --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're welcome, buddy.

FLORES: Even the canine unit made the party and Carter's cousins joined in too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His name is Kofi (ph) and he says happy birthday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was above and beyond what I just wanted to surprise him with, just to give him something for his birthday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, you did it.

FLORES: Rosa Flores, CNN, Pembroke Pines, Florida.


ALLEN: OK, how about that one?

That made my day. Hats off to our police departments for their ingenuity and kindness. We'll take a quick break. More news after this.





ALLEN: As unemployment in the U.S. soars because of the pandemic, a little help is coming for Americans. The Internal Revenue Service started depositing stimulus payments into the bank accounts of many people on Saturday.

The cash, part of the $2.2 trillion economic relief package, the money is meant to help the economy and those struggling to make ends meet. Now with those stimulus checks, individuals earning less than $75,000

a year can expect up to $1,200 from the government and that increases for couples or parents with children.

But in places with a high cost of living like Hawaii, that money is stretched thin pretty quick. We want to talk about it now with Allison Schaefers. She's the Waikiki bureau chief for the "Honolulu Star- Advertiser."

Thank you for coming on.

How are you doing?



ALLEN: Hawaii's tourism economy has taken a huge hit; 100 of 140 hotels has closed. What is the impact on jobs?

SCHAEFERS: It's been really challenging for people. Tourism is about 17 percent of our state's GDP. There's a lot of people out of work right now and struggling to get their unemployment.

It's so bad right now. With the people out of work that last week we had something somebody rob a food bank. We had a situation where the Salvation Army was giving away small bags of food. They had potatoes and bread, those types of things.

And just for that little bit, we had more than two miles worth of lines wrapping around the stores.

ALLEN: It's unreal how many people are hurting. Give us the numbers as far as tourism.

How many tourists does Hawaii typically see in a day or a month?

And who is coming now or not coming?

SCHAEFERS: That's part of the reason our economy is struggling. We've had an almost complete, and unprecedented tourism collapse. On any given day before the COVID-19 concerns came, we would have had 250,000 visitors in Hawaii. (INAUDIBLE).

After March 1st and COVID really hit and the tourism industry started to collapse, we put in a tourism quarantine March 26th, a 14-day quarantine for all passengers. And that continued to dampen tourism.

Normally at this time of year, we would have 30,000 passengers arriving daily. Now we've got more in the neighborhood of 600 passengers arriving daily and about 100 of them are tourists, that's it.

ALLEN: That's unbelievable. What a drop. Well, the first government stimulus checks are going out. [04:55:00]

ALLEN: What impact could that have in helping the situation?

People lined up for miles to get free food.

Have the checks gotten into people's hands?

SCHAEFERS: I'm not aware of the checks getting into people's hands yet. I know they're waiting for them. The issue with the checks, though, it just really gives people a chance to take a break and get a little bit of a break from worrying at the time.

Most of the checks, because of the high cost of living, won't be enough even to pay the one month worth of rent. Our typical rent is about $1,600 for a one bedroom, about $2,500 for a two-bedroom apartment. If you have a three-bedroom or a house, it's even beyond that.

ALLEN: The vacation outlook looks very bleak, too for when people will be able to travel again.

How long might it take, is there any idea, for Hawaii to recover from this?

SCHAEFERS: Hawaii typically lags any kind of recovery on the mainland as well. And so, in this particular instance, I think it's going to take quite a number of months.

Even when the tourism industry is able to welcome guests back, there will be a -- the industry was staffed for a bustling industry. In January and February, we were expecting this year to surpass last year, which, last year, we had 10.4 million visitors.

With the downturn, not everybody is going to need to be brought back so this will take months and months to unwind.

ALLEN: It's going to be tough. At least you're in Hawaii, the most beautiful state in the United States. We wish you all the very best and the people there, Allison Schaefers, thank you so much for helping us out.

SCHAEFERS: Thank you very much.

ALLEN: Take good care.

Thank you for watching this hour. I'm Natalie Allen. Please stay right there. I'll be right back with another hour of news after a short break.