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Concerns Grow Over Food Supply Chain Shortages Amid Outbreak; Trump Threatens to Defund the World Health Organization; Domestic Abuse Rises Nationwide During Pandemic. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired April 13, 2020 - 15:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: You know, just anecdotally we've seen here in the Washington, D.C. area some difficulty finding some staples like rice for instance. I think it took me several grocery outings to be able to find that. When or if those pantry staples, do you think they're going to become unavailable more broadly, flour for instance, eggs, is that a real threat?

TOM VILSACK, FORMER AGRICULTURE SECRETARY (via Cisco Webex): Well, it won't necessarily be a threat based on production. It's still going to be produced. The question is whether or not you're going to have more and more plants with sick workers and basically the decision to shut down those production facilities.

At this point, there is plenty of supply and there is still processing capacity. Obviously, I think the key is not only keeping those workers healthy and safe, but also making sure that people have the resources either to go to the grocery store.

Because your providing unemployment checks more quickly, the stimulus money gets out more quickly, S.N.A.P. benefits get increased or you basically provide commodities to food banks and allow for that supply chain to support people that don't have the ability to go into a store and purchase groceries. It's a combination of both.

KEILAR: You know some of the video that we've been seeing of milk for instance being dumped, the American Farm Bureau and Feeding America wrote a letter saying that farmers are throwing out food that could be going to food banks. According to the Dairy Farmers of America, there are 3.7 million gallons of milk a day that are having to be thrown out. Explain that disconnect and that upset in the supply chain for us.

VILSACK: Well, when you shut down schools and shut down universities, you shut down a supply of milk that goes on a regular basis. Where does that milk go? There isn't enough retail sales to make up for the food service and school lunch program consumption.

And export markets you're basically seeing the same situation playing out in our export markets. So, the question is how can you get that milk to the food banks so it can be distributed to people in need? Here's the problem.

Because of the trade relief that the Trump administration provided because of the trade wars, the Department of Agriculture didn't have the capacity to purchase commodities until recently. That is to say they didn't have the money to be able to do it. Congress passes that large stimulus bill, provides USDA resources but now they have a question of how do they distribute those resources? What commodities get the benefit of those resources?

They're doing it at a time when staff levels are low either because staff positions haven't been filled or because they people who themselves who are sick, or they can't meet together.

So, it is a complicated situation that requires, I think, a tremendous effort by USDA to be creative. Minimize the regulation, maximize creativity so that you get product to people in need as quickly as possible.

KEILAR: You know, I know we're hearing about certain products that are really difficult to come by. Of course, anything of a disinfectant nature including just pure isopropyl alcohol but we're also seeing some of these food staples that are taking time to replenish.

At the same time. it does seem like Americans are able to look for alternatives. I wonder broadly overall, are you worried that we could get to a point or get to a point in certain areas where there is not that food that people can get even if they have to choose an alternative, especially for people who may be food insecure and reliant on S.N.A.P. or W.I.C.

VILSACK: Well, I think there are two concerns there. I'm deeply concerned about remote rural areas in terms of being able to access product. And secondly, anyplace that's got a highly populated, high dense situation where you've got a lot of unemployed people, food banks are really stressed right now, 30, 40 percent increase in demand. At the same time they can't rely on their retail base for donations. There isn't any excess food to provide them from the retail side.

So, it is incredibly important to get the USDA engaged as they are in purchasing these commodities and getting them to the food banks as quickly as possible and being creative about doing it. Maybe it is backing -- if a food bank doesn't have refrigeration capacity maybe it's backing a tanker that is refrigerated to the back of a food bank and distributing out of the tanker.

I mean there's got to be creative ways to overcome the barriers and obstacles that we're faced, otherwise there will be shortages and once you get to shortages there's obviously going to be a lot of concerned -- deeply concerned people and it is just going to put more pressure on cities, states and on the federal government.

KEILAR: Yes, especially if they're refrigerated tankers not in use because of what we've seen with other supply chain interruptions. Secretary Vilsack, thank you so much.

VILSACK: You bet. Thank you.

KEILAR: It is the group that is leading the fight against the coronavirus worldwide and now it is under new scrutiny -- scrutiny, I should say. Next, we'll have a look at the World Health Organization's handling of the pandemic as President Trump threatens to pull funding.



KEILAR: After taking a full two months to declare coronavirus a pandemic, the World Health Organization is facing harsh criticism for not sounding the alarm sooner. President Trump now considering defunding them but is it justified? CNN's Nic Robertson takes a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is going to be a virus that stalks the human race for a quite a long time to come.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): When the World Health Organization, the W.H.O., speaks, we listen, right. Question is, should we?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They seem to be very China centric.

ROBERTSON: President Trump thinks not, is considering defunding them.

TRUMP: We give them the majority of the money that they get.

ROBERTSON: January 22nd, Wuhan, one day from any form of lockdown, China is in crisis mode. The W.H.O. praises China. Yet, as we now know for the previous two months, China has been silencing its doctors, stonewalling its people, and lying by omission about the disease.

In January at least the W.H.O. seems unwilling to question China's truthfulness, raising concerns it could have done more to stop the pandemic before it got going. Dr. Peter Drobac is a U.K. based global health expert.

DR. PETER DROBAC, GLOBAL HEALTH EXPERT. OXFORD SAID BUSINESS SCHOOL: If there was evidence early on that China was not sharing or was covering up information about a new virus and about this outbreak and trying not to share that with the world, then certainly it would have been appropriate for W.H.O. to call them out on that.

ROBERSTON: The W.H.O.'S senior official Margaret Harris says the W.H.O. was doing all it could.

DR. MARGARET HARRIS, W.H.O. SENIOR OFFICIAL: By the 4th of January we notified the world via social media and by the fifth we put out a formal notification in what's called our "Disease Outbreak News." ROBERTSON: But that was a long way short of the level of alarm public

health officials say the world needed to hear. It would take another month to get to that point.

On January 14th, China is still telling the W.H.O. they have not seen human-to-human transmission. That day the W.H.O. echoes China's message. Also, that day, the W.H.O. reports Thailand gets its first imported case of COVID-19.

Two days later, January 16th, the W.H.O. reports that Japan has its first imported case. The same day that W.H.O. reports a third country affected too. And tweets, considering global travel patterns, additional cases in other countries are likely.

But it isn't until January 19th the W.H.O. actually acknowledged what had become obvious to many experts, human-to-human transfer was happening.

DROBAC: To clear that early on China repressed some information and really didn't share information in ways that might have allowed this outbreak to take hold in ways that became very dangerous.

ROBERTSON: China's epidemic has got traction and is on the way to becoming a pandemic. Still January 22nd, W.H.O. director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is still praising China. The next day W.H.O. experts fail to flag the looming threat.

HARRIS: Independent scientists with expertise are brought together. They came to Dr. Tedros and they said we don't have a consensus at that point on the 23rd.

ROBERTSON: It would be a week later, the end of January, before they announce what to the world already seemed obvious in the broader health community.

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, W.H.O. DIRECTOR GENERAL: I'm declaring a public health emergency of international concern.

ROBERTSON: The next day President Trump calls for a travel ban on China. The W.H.O. Director General criticizes Trump, tensions begin building.

DROBAC: The more that we go on casting blame back and forth, instead of working together, you know, this is really at our peril. China has the greatest collection of clinical expertise and in fighting COVID-19 as anyone in the world. We should be learning from them right now.

ROBERTSON: A point the W.H.O. is keen to flag. That even while denying human-to-human transfer in January, China was providing vital genome data that W.H.O. passes to the world to help make test kits.

Two months later, the W.H.O. would declare the pandemic. The W.H.O.'s track record in previous crisis is checkered. Widespread criticism for the handling of Ebola, better on SARS when it stood up to China.

DROBAC: If you go back to the SARS epidemic of 2003 to 2005, W.H.O. had at least a more muscular posture including in calling out China early and pushing them to provide more transparency and more information. They didn't have any more power at the time, but they simply used the kind of bully pulpit that they had.

TRUMP: I closed the borders despite him. And that was a hard decision to make at that time.

ROBERTSON: By late March, Trump's China travel ban has become a central plank of his defense of his own heavily criticized handling of the pandemic. The W.H.O. becomes a scapegoat.

TRUMP: They got to better than that.


ROBERTSON: Most countries including Trump's friend Boris Johnson's government are standing by the W.H.O. and so, too, most experts.

DROBAC: If this breaks out in sub-Saharan Africa for example, in countries that have, you know, fewer ventilators in an entire country than one New York City hospital does, then we need W.H.O. and international support there to help them get prepared. And if so W.H.O. is weakened or paralyzed now fighting these political fights between the U.S. and China, that could really hurt us in the months to come.

ROBERTSON (on camera): So, what most experts are saying is that the W.H.O. does need reforming. It needs to be given stronger powers, not disbanded or changed into some other organization. And I think when you listen to David Navarro saying that the battle against COVID is far from done, that's correct. But the overall consensus really comes around to the fact that the W.H.O. needs to be part of that fight against it -- Brianna.


KEILAR: Nic Robertson, thank you so much.

And up next, New York domestic violence website is seeing a surge as isolation leaves some stuck in the same home as they're abuser. We'll have the resources, we'll discuss this. Resources to get help next.



KEILAR: 90 percent of Americans now under stay-at-home orders across the country, creating a frightening situation for domestic violence victims. Several cities are already reporting jumps in cases or calls to local hot lines.

And as CNN's MJ Lee reports, some shelters say that they are turning away survivors after they reducing their capacity to maintain social distancing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The coronavirus pandemic putting entire cities and states under lockdown. The stress, uncertainty, and isolation fueled by COVID-19 creating worst case scenarios for some victims of domestic violence. Many living under the same roof as their abusers and finding it all the more difficult to seek help.

AREIL ZWANG, CEO SAFE HAVEN: Well, like everyone else right now, victims of domestic violence are staying at home. And their restrictions on their moving around, just like everyone else.

LEE (on camera): When a victim, a survivor of abuse, is physically stuck inside their home with an abusive partner, for example, I mean that seems like a nightmare scenario, right?

ZWANG: Yes. Under any circumstances it's a nightmare scenario. And of course, now, everybody's got heightened fear, and worry, and anxiety, their economic anxieties, that all heightens the concerns for people who are in violent situations.

LEE (voice-over): New York City's domestic violence resource website, NYC Hope, seeing a surge in the number of visits, ballooning from an average of 45 visits a day earlier this year, to average of 115 daily visits.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline also receiving thousands of calls with stories of abuse related to COVID-19.

KATIE RAY-JONES, CEO, NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE: We've heard stories where survivors are saying my relationship was emotionally abusive, but it became physically abusive last night. We've heard stories from women whose partners were coming home and coughing on them and telling them that they were infecting them with the coronavirus. We've heard really horrific stories of women not having the option necessarily to go to a shelter right now.

LEE: New York City law enforcement warning that while crime overall has fallen drastically, domestic violence happening behind closed doors may be underreported.

DERMOT SHEA, NYC POLICE COMMISSIONER: Crime has dropped off, off the face of the map, really. Domestic violence crime still happens. We have not seen an uptick, but what I'm concerned about is, you know, it's happening and it's not getting reported. And I think that's a reality we should all face.

LEE (on camera): For anybody who is watching, who is stuck at home right now with an abusive partner, what would you want them to know?

RAY-JONES: I just want to remind survivors that you are strong, courageous. You have been surviving every day for most likely a very long time, and that there will be a light at the end of this tunnel.


LEE: Now, here in New York City the Family Justice Centers where victims and survivors of domestic violence can go to get help, they are temporarily closed. But we want to make sure that people know that there are local and national hot lines that they can call to try to speak to someone.

And there are also websites like Safe Horizon where they can chat with somebody online if speaking on the phone is not a safe option -- Brianna.

KEILAR: That's such an important thing to mention. Thank you so much, MJ, for doing this very important story.

And, you know, Dr. Anthony Fauci says that coronavirus could rebound in the United States. We're going to talk with Dr. Sanjay Gupta next about how to prepare and prevent that from happening.



ANNOUNCER: This the CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Right now, there are more than half a million coronavirus cases in the United States and a staggering death toll, now more than 23,000 people, to be precise, 23,070.

This time last week that number was about 10,000, meaning we've seen more than double the deaths in the U.S. just in the last seven days. The director of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, saying this morning that the United States is nearing the peak of the pandemic. And on the other side of the peak will come decisions about when and how to reopen the country.

The most significant development today in the U.S., governors are banding together, because leadership, like nature, abhors a vacuum. The governors of six northeast states announced this afternoon, they are now working together on a plan to reopen responsibly and just in the last few minutes we heard that the governors of Washington state, California and Oregon are announcing a Western states pact on another shared approach. Governors taking the lead.