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CNN NEWSROOM

Amazon Is Developing Its Own Coronavirus Test for Its Workers; Desperate for Food on Modern Day Bread Lines; Coronavirus Wreaks Havoc on Food Supply Chain as Demand Spikes; Farmers and Ranchers Say There Is No Lack of Food; Navy Identifies Sailor Who Died of Coronavirus, The First Active Duty Death. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired April 17, 2020 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00]

JAY CARNEY, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, GLOBAL CORPORATE AFFAIRS, AMAZON: This is the kind of thing that requires everybody's involvement and I think across the public and private sector. If we can get the kind of testing availability that I think we need, we can really begin to return to a somewhat normal economy.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: So, have you thought about if you get this going for Amazon, is this something then you could share more broadly in the economy with other companies? Would you sell this test to other companies?

CARNEY: Well, we're certainly not looking to make a business out of it. Again, we're starting from scratch. We haven't finished the first lab yet. To get to anything like the kind of scale that we would need and then we could make available to others, will take a fair amount of time and hopefully in that time frame they'll be greater and greater building of capacity by others across the states and the world.

So, but as we have in terms with medical supplies and others, we would make our capacity available to certainly those in urgent need when that became necessary. But again, I don't want to get ahead of ourselves here.

KEILAR: OK.

CARNEY: We're being very humble about this. We're just getting started.

KEILAR: Do you know how many Amazon front line workers are COVID positive or have been COVID positive or are presumed positive?

CARNEY: I don't have a specific number. We, obviously, you know, we have a situation like a lot of people do where we, for example, ask people to go self-quarantine and give them two weeks of paid time off.

KEILAR: But do you know like are you tracking this number, I guess --

CARNEY: If they think they have -- KEILAR: That's what I'm asking.

CARNEY: Well, what I'm saying, if they think they have COVID, because maybe they can't get a test or if they're having to take care of a family member who may or may not have it.

So what we do, we're being very transparent, when somebody is diagnosed and has a positive diagnosis of COVID in a fulfillment center for example, everybody there is informed about it. Steps are taken to clean the facility, to help the people who are in direct contact with the person who tested positive to isolate and self- quarantine.

And then, you know, so that information is shared widely. I don't have an overall number because obviously it is pretty imprecise --

KEILAR: I guess just trying to get are hands around it, please, because "The Washington Post" says right now that are 74 confirmed but that seems extraordinarily low. It seems like it is probably higher than that. Do you know?

CARNEY: Yes, I don't have -- again, Brianna, I honestly don't have it. Because we're focusing our resources on helping our workers and giving them protective gear, giving them paid time off, increasing their pay as you know now we're up to $17 an hour minimum and over time is now $34 an hour minimum which as you know is substantial when compared to the federal minimum wage.

And when there is so much uncertainty about diagnosis itself, we're focused on helping the people that know they have COVID and helping the workers, the Amazonians, who are continuing to work at our fulfillment centers.

What I can tell you is that our infection rates are not -- they are lower than what you're seeing generally in various parts of the country. But we monitor it very closely and take the steps that we've taken to ensure the safety of our workers.

KEILAR: All right. Jay Carney, thank you so much with Amazon. We appreciate you coming on.

CARNEY: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Well, you could call it the modern-day bread line. Cars backed up for miles across the country with people who need food. But in some places, there is simply not enough.

[15:35:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: There are lines for local food banks that are just wrapping around blocks right now. It's really something that's amazing to see. You're seeing more and more Americans who are finding themselves in desperate situations and the food supply chain, it really is under extraordinary strain at this point in time. As CNN's Jason Carroll reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is now a common sight at food banks and pantries, whether it be across the state of Texas, in Los Angeles, or a food distribution center near Pittsburgh. All have seen a surge in demand with more and more people lining up for help. In New York City, food pantries are in a state of emergency. After seeing a huge increase of people needing food assistance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who's next for emergency.

CARROL: The need is so great the community food bank in Egg Harbor, New Jersey, can barely keep up.

KIMBERLY ARROYO, DIRECTOR OF AGENCY RELATIONS, COMMUNITY FOODBANK OF NEW JERSEY: While we see an average of a thousand families per month in our pantry, that number has tripled.

CARROLL (on camera): Tripled?

ARROYO: Tripled. Yes. Just with our one-time clients, clients that we have never served before are coming to our doors for help.

CARROLL (voice-over): A sudden increase of peoples such as Shannon Rua looking for help. Rua says here children relied on school breakfast and lunches, once schools closed for the pandemic, she says she soon ran out of money and options.

SHANNON RUA, SEEKING FOOD ASSISTANCE AT COMMUNITY FOODBANK OF NEW JERSEY: I decided to come out on the first time available because I have heard on the news that food banks are running out of food. So that was definitely a concern.

CARROLL: Feeding America, the nation's largest group of food banks, says some of the locations are seeing as much as 100 percent increase in demand. It is also projected a $20 million shortfall in New Jersey. Nationwide they're looking at a $1.4 billion shortfall if things continue over the next six months.

ANDI WELLS, VOLUNTEER, COMMUNITY FOODBANK OF NEW JERSEY: So if we start off the week with a lot of food but then as we get toward the end, we don't have as much to give out.

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CARROLL: Less to give out because in some cases food banks are receiving fewer donations from supermarkets, trying to meet their own demands.

CARLOS RODRIGUEZ, PRESIDENT AND CEO, COMMUNITY FOODBANK OF NEW JERSEY: We're not getting the food in as we need it. And so, we're hoping to get a handle on that and this week hopefully and in the coming weeks, but until then we'll just keep putting out whatever we could get our hands so that folks can make do. CARROLL: Here at the Community Food Bank of New Jersey's 285,000 square foot warehouse, the state's Civil Air Patrol stepped in to fill the gap left by a shortage of volunteers. Still the immediate concern is meeting the spike in demand.

RODRIGUEZ: Even the product that we use to purchase prior, which was much smaller amounts, what we're purchasing now is costing us about 15 percent more. Because there is a supply chain going all the way down to the manufacturer.

CARROLL: The Community Food Bank Of New Jersey is the primary food supplier for Table of Hope. Sidney Williams says on one stop last week he had to turn families away after running out of food.

SIDNEY WILLIAMS, TABLE OF HOPE: We just didn't anticipate the demand. So, this week we decided to go from one or two pickups to three. To make sure we got enough supply to meet the demand, prayerfully we have enough this time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And, Brianna, when it comes to volunteers, a key point here is that many of the food banks are experiencing a shortage of volunteers and that is simply because many folks who used to come in and offer their time now are just too afraid. Going forward, not only are some of these food banks going to need more volunteers, but if the demand is what it is now, they're also going to need more donations -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Jason Carroll, thank you for that very important report.

Let's talk about this now with the Vice President of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Scott VanderWal.

Scott, thanks for being on to talk with us. You represent a number of farmers, ranchers and we're looking at -- you see the shortage. The shortage at food banks and then you're very well aware of the surplus of food that farmers are destroying or just throwing out.

I mean, 2.7 to 3.7 million gallons of milk dumped each day, farmers throwing out food by the ton. There's this missing link between getting food to people, not by restaurants or schools anymore, who is retooling the supply chain to get food to people?

SCOTT VANDERWAL, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN FARM BUREAU FEDERATION: Well, thank you, Brianna, for having me on this afternoon. I'm a farmer too. I've got almost a thousand head of beef cattle right outside of the office here, so this really hits me at home personally as well.

Nobody hates to see their food and produce wasted more than farmers do. Because we put our hearts and souls into that. You've got a lot of expenses into it and even if we have to sell at a loss, we're willing to do that. But so, having said that, it really isn't the supply situation. We've

got the products out here, the animals are here, and the food is here. We're not being able to process it right now in the form that it needs to be, you all go to grocery stores basically, or the amounts that are needed.

That's why Farm Bureau started a program and went to USDA and proposed a voucher system and this was with Feeding America who was mentioned just a bit ago to put a voucher system together, that would let them source produce from local farmers and wherever they could get it. The food that doesn't have a home to go to, basically. So, it's a win-win for both sides.

KEILAR: And so, when is that operational to the point where you're not throwing out food that people could be consuming?

VANDERWAL: Well, we're doing the best we can and we're hopefully working with USDA to get that started. And I'm not sure what the exact status of it is. But we're going to try to make that as expeditious as possible because we know there are a lot of hungry people out there and there's a lot of produce being thrown away and both of those situations are very, very bad.

KEILAR: What do you need and who do you need it from? Is it the state, is it the federal government?

VANDERWAL: It's basically I think the federal government. But it's going to have to come from USDA in voucher form. And I'm not sure where that'll come from, whether it is the disaster bill or where that funding comes from but it's really a big issue. This whole thing is such a big issue. Everybody's affected and it's through no fault of anybody in the United States but we're all suffering together.

KEILAR: OK, and this is your chance to speak to the folks here in Washington. Do you feel like they understand the issue and what they need to do?

VANDERWAL: Well, I think there's some miscommunication or wrong ideas out there. First of all, this whole COVID-19 thing with the packing plants and we've got a packing plant here in South Dakota, that's a pork plant --

KEILAR: Smithfield.

VANDERWAL: -- that's shutdown for about probably for about two week. And yes. Smithfield. And I know there's a perception out there that the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted through meat.

[15:45:00]

That there is absolutely no evidence that that's a possibility. I talked with our state veterinarian a couple of days ago and he said that's just not the case. So, this is not a food safety issue. The food is safe, it's very plentiful and it's not an animal health issue. It's just that the virus spreads between people that are in close contact. And the other thing I want to stress again, is that this is not a

supply issue. The food is here but the case is that these food companies have had their business plans completely turned upside down in the last three weeks to a month.

They're used to putting out food products probably more than 50 percent for food service. You know, Schools and restaurants and those kind of things and now they've had to go put it all through the grocery stores, and that's a totally different packaging method and it's totally different amounts.

KEILAR: Yes, and Scott, that's something obviously the government has to confront as you said. Scott VanderWal, thank you so much with the American Farm Bureau Federation. We appreciate it.

VANDERWAL: Thanks.

KEILAR: There's one Florida city that is actually set to reopen beaches and parks here in just hours so are they prepared to avoid scenes like this one?

But first a look at our CNN Heroes during the coronavirus pandemic. Team Rubicon was founded by U.S. Marine and 2012 CNN Hero Jake Wood. This is a group of veteran volunteers who respond to disasters across the country, now they're stepping up to help during this pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE WOOD, CNN HERO: Team Rubicon has launched a nationwide neighbors helping neighbors' campaign. Our volunteers are engaged in hundreds of communities all across the United States. Ranging from helping to establish testing and screening sites and collaboration with major health care systems to assisting organizations like Feeding America and Meals on Wheels.

Veterans may have taken the uniform off, but they still have service in their hearts, they still have those incredible skills and in times like this we should be turning to the veterans in our communities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: Beaches in Jacksonville, Florida are reopening at 5:00 p.m. tonight despite Florida not yet even reaching its peak. Jacksonville's Mayor announcing this,

CNN's Randi Kaye is joining us now from the city. So, Randi, tell us why they're opening so soon.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are opening in about an hour and ten minutes, Brianna. And that's because the Mayor here, Lenny Curry, here in Jacksonville thinks that the tests have become more available, thanks to the National Guard here in the city. He also thinks that the number of positive cases is hovering about 5

percent which he considers to be low for a metropolitan area here in Florida. So that's part of it. But he's going to be opening these beaches 5:00 p.m. today. They've been closed since March 20th about a month here in Duval County. And they will be open from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. and then they'll open again from 6:00 in the morning to 11 in the morning.

But if you take a look, here behind me, you remember what it was like during spring break, I mean these beaches were packed. So, this is Jacksonville Beach, you can see there's absolutely nobody here. That's part of the reason why people are concerned about the beaches reopening here, some people are worried that we're going to have another scene like the spring break scene and maybe those people would carry the virus elsewhere.

But he is putting very tight restrictions on what you can do on the beaches. You can only swim, surf, hike, walk, maybe walk your dog, you can go fishing. But you can't congregate, Brianna, you can't hang out. You can't bring a cooler, you can't sit around and sunbathe, you also have to still keep a six-foot social distance.

So, he is putting restrictions on it but it's going to very interesting to see what happens come 5:00 p.m. today, Brianna, and certainly over the weekend -- back to you.

KEILAR: Yes, we'll be watching. Ban the tan but take a jog, we'll see how that goes. Randi, thank you so much.

Today in our home front television and digital column which is where we aim to bridge the civilian military divide and the story of military families, we want to remember the first active duty service member who has died of the coronavirus.

The Navy released his name, the first active duty service member on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, I should say, this is him. This is Chief Petty Officer Charles Thacker Jr., a sailor on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier that was docked in Guam. Still is docked in Guam.

He was 41 years old, from Ft. Smith, Arkansas. He worked in aviation ordnance. And Thacker's wife is also active duty military. The Navy flew her to Guam as he was ailing, and she was at her husband's side when he passed away on Monday.

Thacker's death coming as more than 660 sailors on that same ship also test positive for coronavirus. One sailor remains now in the ICU.

[15:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington. Right now, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United

States is approaching 679,000. The death toll has more than doubled in the last week in the U.S. to more than 34,000, in part, that's because probable coronavirus deaths are now included in some state totals.

Across the globe, more than 2.2 million people have contracted the virus with nearly 151,000 dead. Today, governors in a few states are announcing they are taking small steps towards beginning to reopen their societies and their economies. And we have some brand-new models just in to CNN that suggest some states might be able to relax some restrictions as soon as May 4th, though other states may need to wait until June or July. We'll discuss that more with Dr. Sanjay Gupta coming up.