Return to Transcripts main page


Mitch Albrom Discusses the "Detroit Beats COVID-19" Project & Future of Sports; Trump Pushes Back on Senators Asking for More Testing; David Coleman, CEO of The College Board, Discusses Upcoming SAT & ACT Tests; Rev. Traci Blackmon Discusses Alarming Number of Deaths in Black Communities from Virus; U.K. Extends Lockdown for "At Least" Another 3 Weeks. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 16, 2020 - 14:30   ET



MITCH ALBROM, COLUMNIST, "DETROIT FREE PRESS": And you can download it for free at And if you like what you read, just ask at the end, that maybe you make a donation to Detroit Beats COVID- 19, a project we're spearheading here.

Because as you know, Detroit is really hard hit, really hard hit. and we're giving money to first responders and kids, homeless people, and the like.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: You know, you raised so much money for so many important causes in Michigan, Detroit, and Haiti, you operate an orphanage. To be able to use what you do better than just about anybody of writing and telling stories, to be able to use that to try to raise money, that's a huge blessing.

ALBROM: You know, there's entertainers out there performing concerts for free and I thought this is what I have to offer, if people are interested in it.

It is a little weird to try to write fiction a week at a time, and then put it up every Friday and then turn around and have to put up another chapter every Friday, and then record the audio book, which is available on as well.

It's not the way you usually write a work of fiction but these are unusual times. And if it helps raise money, and so far, the first very week, it's done exactly that, then I'm happy to continue to do it. Do it for the next eight weeks.

COOPER: You've written stories about five people you meet in Heaven, so much about loss and grief and hope. I'm wondering what you see, what goes through your mind when you see all that's going on now.

ALBROM: That's why I entitled this project "Human Touch" because I see the yearning for that human touch. I think we took our hugs and our kisses and our handshakes for granted.

We took our contact with people for granted. And now, all of a sudden, we're locked in and we don't have it, it changes our whole perspective.

So I think when we finally do get past this, and we will, there will be a new appreciation for those kinds of things, get-togethers, handshakes, hugs, and the like.

COOPER: As you know, I don't know much about sports, but I do know that sports are not being played right now.

What do you make of what is going to happen in the sports world? In L.A., they talked about not having anything this year. I mean, do you think fan-less games being played without fans there, is that the best thing we can hope for?

ALBROM: Oh, absolutely, Anderson. As someone who spent most of my life in stadiums and press boxes, I don't see any way there's not going to be fans and press boxes.

So many people involved in the sporting events, groundskeeper -- unless they do it without fans, there's no hope this year, in my mind that they can have organized professional sports or even college sports like that.

Even doing it without fans has got a lot of challenges because you still have all the players and if they go home to their families and the equipment people go home to their families and come back in, you're talking about bringing in all the potential contagious thing that is there are with this.

It's not just because we open the country back up a little bit that the contagiousness of this goes away.

So I know, I love sports as much as anybody, I spent half my life in it, but I think we're going to have to wait a while to see what we used to call sports.

COOPER: What kind of an impact do you think that has? First, it's important to so many people, it's an intrinsic part of most people's lives. What does that do to us?

ALBROM: Well, I mean, listen, in Detroit, we have people dying in waiting rooms and hospitals, not having the care they need. There are people who can't bury their loved ones.

I recognize that going without a new movie on a Friday night or without a sporting event is not the way we used to do it, but we will survive. We'll get by if there aren't sports for a little while. They've still got plenty of old ones to show on TV, apparently.

And until they can reorganize and get it together, it's the top priority. It's people on the front lines and suffering from this. That's what I'm trying to do in my own little way.

It's And if you forget that, just download it for free and hope that people will pay it forward and if they like it, they'll make a donation and 100 percent of the money goes right to the front lines of COVID-19 battle here. COOPER: Mitch Albom, I appreciate it, always. Mitch, take care.

ALBROM: Good to see you, Anderson.

COOPER: Breaking news. We've learned President Trump pushing back in a call with Senators against what most leaders in business, health and states are telling him about testing.

Kaitlan Collins with more details on this.

What have you learned?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the president is hearing a similar message from lawmakers to the one he heard yesterday from business executives, and this, to reopen the country, you've got to scale up testing before people are going to feel comfortable going back to work, to restaurants, to stores.


And this is a call with Democratic and Republican Senators today that the president had. He's putting all these lawmakers on a task force, focused on reopening the country. And really, he's taking the temperature in listening about their ideas and concerns for their states and their districts that they come from.

And based on what sources are telling my colleague, Kevin, one of the main concerns is the level of testing here in the United States. Because their concern is that people who are not showing symptoms are going to go back to work, further spread the contagion, and then it's going to continue to see what we see playing out now, where there are areas with higher outbreaks than others.

That's something the president heard yesterday. We're told today on the call, he pushed back, similar to what he said in the Rose Garden yesterday, where he was talking about how they have ramped up testing somewhat.

But of course, the concern we've heard from health experts on the president's team is that it's not at the level, adequate level as it should be to reopen the country and send people back to work.

Now, despite the concerns that the president is hearing these last two days, he is still scheduled to announce the new guidelines on reopening the country today.

He's pushed it back a little bit further. Now the president is saying we're going to formally get those around six. Though we are expecting him to preview that on a call with governors here in the next hour. So we may learn a little bit more about what those are going to look like.

But, Anderson, one thing is clear, testing still remains a concern, not just for business executives but for these Senators as well.

COOPER: All right, Kaitlan, thank you. Stand by. Much more on the breaking news. Sanjay Gupta will talk about

the real-life impact of reopening too soon.

And we'll speak with one of many pastors across the country with an appeal to the president addressing the alarming number of coronavirus deaths in the black community.



COOPER: With the pandemic, college hopefuls may soon take SAT tests in their own homes. The College Board announcing it's preparing a digital exam for the fall in case the high school students are following stay- at-home orders.

Also the College Board revealing plans for administering national SAT tests on weekends beginning in August, only if it's safe to do so.

Some colleges are waiving ACT and SAT requirements or making them optional for applicants.

Let's talk about this with David Coleman, CEO of The College Board.

David, how do you design a take-at-home SAT test? What's to prevent cheating or students looking up answers?

DAVID COLEMAN, CEO, THE COLLEGE BOARD: Well, again, Anderson, as you said, we'll only use the home SAT in the unlikely event schools are not open in fall. We think the evidence is they likely will be. And then able to test in school during the school week or on the weekends. That will cover all kids.

If we are forced to test at home, there's big advances over the last four years in remote proctoring technology, which is the ability to use the video capabilities in computers to allow proctors to observe students as they take exams at home.

COOPER: That's interesting.

You're optimistic that schools will be open, that colleges will be open in the fall?

COLEMAN: I'm relatively optimistic. I do a job where I have to be ready for all contingencies, so we're ready if schools reopen gradually to provide the SAT widely.

But we're providing the A.P. exam to students at home in May. And just got today, eight million students on the online A.P. courses. So we adapt as things change. We've got to be ready for everything.

Kids have worked all year like for advanced placement and we want to make sure we're there so they take the credit they've earned.

COOPER: So if some schools, which are making the SAT optional, so they would what, pay more attention to school grades, extracurriculars, things like that?

COLEMAN: That's exactly right. If school is optional, you can still submit the exam and it will confirm your grades are strong and may provide other reason for you to be let in.

So some schools require, some schools are optional, and my task is to make sure that it's an option for all kids, not just wealthier kids.

So the real mission of The College Board is to make sure, if you're a low-income kid, you have the same power to reinforce your grades with the strong test score and show colleges your strength.

COOPER: David Coleman, appreciate it. Thank you very much, David.

COLEMAN: Thank you, sir.

COOPER: The coronavirus outbreak taking a greater toll on people of color in America, not for genetic or biological reasons but for social ones. Now African-American countries across the country have issued a moral appeal to the Trump administration over the alarming number of deaths in black communities from the virus.

One of the pastors joins me now. Reverend Traci Blackmon is a senior pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ in -- is it Florissant, Missouri?


COOPER: Thank you for being with us, Pastor.

You said, out of your congregation of 80 people, five have tested positive so far, two people have died. I'm so sorry for those losses.


COOPER: What do they tell you about this pandemic?

BLACKMON: Well, thank you for having me on, Anderson.

It tells me that those who are already marginalized, those who are already suffering in our community on a normal everyday basis are being hit extraordinarily hard in this moment.

It tells me and reminds me there are undervalued workers like people who cook and clean in hospitals, bus drivers, mail carriers, taxi drivers. All of these people are undervalued as employees, many making under living wage but are essential workers at this time. And they're not going to their jobs with the adequate protection that they need.

It tells me that they're predisposed by racism and economic inequality in this country will be hit harder at a time crisis, and this is definitely a crisis.

It tells me that those areas in our cities and our urban cores and rural areas that lack already adequate health care facilities, adequate reach for grocery and things that many are suffering extraordinarily in this time.


In just our area, Anderson, many of the schools who have stopped having classes. Many of those students were 80 to 100 percent free and reduced lunch. And now many of the school systems have stopped providing the lunches in the absence of school, because we've also had two bus drivers die of COVID-19.

We have inadequate testing and inadequate health care.

COOPER: And the issue with bus drivers dying, we've seen that now in a number of states and that stopped those lunch food programs from continuing.

A situation like this, just like we saw with Katrina, it does -- and I'm not the first person to say this, others have pointed this out who are far smarter than I -- it's like an X-ray machine. I mean, all the inequities and inequalities that exist previous to it, it brings them to the fore. It shows them, it lays them bare.

\People of color are treated differently in hospitals by the medical establishment in terms of what prescriptions they're given or how their pain is even treated, and that's in normal times.

What can be done? I mean, we've already seen differences in how the CDC hasn't really been taking records of racial breakdown of fatalities. We've seen it by the states. What more do you think needs to be done?

BLACKMON: Well, thank you for that question, Anderson. Quite a few things can be done.

First of all, we have to hold our elected officials accountable. I am furious with governor parsons, the governor here in Missouri. Missouri saw its first case of COVID-19 on March 7th. We had one case, and now we're just a little under 5,000 cases.

Governor Parsons, a Republican governor, refused to issue a shelter- in-place order until April 5th. He refused to do that in spite of calls from pastors, in spite of calls from other elected officials.

This is not a moment for partisanship. We must put the needs of the people first.

One of my favorite theologians has a quote where he says, "Treat the people's needs as holy," and that's what we have to do in this moment.

We also want to recognize and celebrate the incredible efforts of our health care workers. They are doing all they can to manage a very difficult situation. But we have to understand that those that have been racialized already in the health care system, those racializations are amplified now.

One of my members, one who, thankfully, is surviving and at home now, still in quarantine, I had to insist, I had to get involved and insist with this family on three encounters before they would test him for COVID.

And this is in spite of the fact that there was a caregiver coming to their home to assist with their care that had already tested positive for COVID. He went back three times before they tested him and he was positive.

If this is happening all over, how many people are unnecessarily exposed because we are lacking in adequate treatment of those populations that are already marginalized and we already know are at greater risk for contracting this virus?


Reverend Blackmon, a pleasure to talk to you. And I'm sorry it's under these circumstances. And thanks for all you're doing.

BLACKMON: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Reverend Blackmon.


More on our breaking news. The president pushing back on expanded testing before states reopen, which goes against what governors, businesses and health leaders have been recommending.


COOPER: In the United Kingdom, the lockdown will continue for at least three more weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement coming even as there are indications that social distancing measures have slowed the spread of the virus.

Clarissa Ward has more for us.

The curve is flattening, but not enough to relax regulations?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. Basically the message we're hearing is that it is still quote, "a mixed picture." That in some parts of the country, the numbers are still rising.

So unlike many European countries, which we've seen over the last few days announcing the first tentative baby steps towards relaxing some of those restrictions, the U.K. says simply but they are not in a position to do the same thing.

They went so far as to outline five criteria that would all need to come together in order to go ahead and relax those restrictions.

The first they said is that it's essential that the national health care system, the NHS, is up to capacity and able to cope with the flow of patients moving through its hospitals.

Number two, there needs to be sustained and consistent fall in the death rates. So far, there has been plateauing but not a sustained consistent fall of the death rate.

Also there needs a fall in the rate of infection. There's a lot of different metrics they are using, Anderson, to kind of measure the reach and scope of the coronavirus. And each of them has a different impact, if you will.


The fourth is that, operationally, the U.K. still has a ways to go in terms of the testing. They hope to carry out 100,000 tests a day in the near future. They've been promising that for weeks now.

Also in terms of PPE, which, of course, is an issue in many countries, making sure that everyone who needs it has it.

The fifth, and they said the most important criteria, those, Anderson, is that they feel comfortable and confident that there's no risk of a second wave of infection.

The argument being that, if there was a second wave, that could be even more damaging to the economy and result in an even longer more protracted period of social distancing and those kinds of restrictions -- Anderson?

COOPER: Interesting to see how they are doing there.

Clarissa Ward, appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Mark Zuckerberg announcing major changes to Facebook's planning, posting that Facebook is cancelling any large physical events they had planned with 50 or more through June of 2021. Some of those events he said would continue but virtually.

A reminder, we'll be hearing more from Mark Zuckerberg and his wife tonight on CNN at our weekly live global town hall. It starts at 8:00 p.m. Former Vice President Joe Biden, also cover task force member, scientist, Deborah Birx, will join us as well. Starting at 8:00 only on CNN. Dr. Sanjay Gupta and I.

We'll be right back.