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Contamination At CDC Lab Likely Cause Of Early Testing Delays; Canada: Border With U.S. Will Remain Closed For Another 30 Days; New York Governor: "Not At Plateau Anymore", But "Still Not In A Good Position; Alarming Rate Of Latinos Killed And Infected By Coronavirus; Miami Mayor Francis Suarez Discusses Concerns Of Latinos Amid Coronavirus Outbreak; Nebraska Mall Plans To Reopen Next Week Despite Rising Cases; "Time" Cover Features Dallas School Cafeteria Manager Feeding Kids Amid Crisis. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired April 18, 2020 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Thanks for joining us. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
Breaking news right now, confirmation from multiple health U.S. officials that the American response to this coronavirus pandemic was delayed for weeks at least in part because of contamination at a laboratory used by the CDC.
Much more on this breaking news in just a moment.
We are also learning the border between the United States and Canada will remain closed, at least for another month, except for essential traffic. That's from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who says this extended border closure was agreed to on both sides. Trudeau says it's to keep people safe.
At least 25 residents in Virginia have tested positive for the coronavirus. Official there say everyone infected is getting 24 hour medical care.
Nationwide, the governors of 30 states have either ordered recommended their public schools to remain closed for the rest of the academic year.
Meantime, we are standing by for the latest update from the White House's coronavirus task force. President Trump tweeted he will be there. It's scheduled to start in just about an hour. We'll bring it to you live here at CNN, so stay with us for that.
Let's get right to CNN Political Correspondent, Sara Murray now for more on that contamination at the CDC lab that likely caused critical delays in testing.
Sara, fill us in on your reporting.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, we have known that there was this black hole in February when the CDC moved pretty quickly to send out first coronavirus test kits they created to all these public health labs and the health labs said we're having problems making sure these tests work. The CDC was trying to fix them and it took weeks and we never got a clear answer as to what it was.
Well, it turns out there was a contamination issue playing out at one of the CDC labs. You know, for a while, it was unclear what was going on and an FDA official actually went down to the CDC labs to check it out and an administration official tells me that what they found was that there was contamination. It was causing the testing malfunction and that the CDC had actually violated its own protocols in this manufacturing process.
What this means, though, Ana, practically is that there was a long delay in figuring out what was wrong with these tests and figuring out how to fix them, how to advice the states adjust the tests they received so they were useful and to get new tests, and it meant that these public health workers who were really on the front lines had very limited testing throughout the month of February, and, of course, we know now that was this key month where the virus was spreading throughout the United States of America essentially undetected.
CABRERA: Sara Murray, fascinating reporting. Thank you.
So, that was February, this was the president in early March when he visited the CDC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anybody that needs a test gets a test. They're there. They have the tests and the tests are beautiful.
I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised I understand it. Every word these doctors say, how do you know so much about this? Maybe I have a natural ability, maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Facts first and to be clear, a month and a half later, everyone who wants a test still cannot get a test.
Dr. Leana Wen is an E.R. doctor and a former Baltimore City health commissioner, and Dr. Darria Long is an emergency physician with University of Tennessee health system.
Ladies, thank you for taking the time.
Dr. Long, what was lost not being able to get those tests out?
DR. DARRIA LONG, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE HEALTH SYSTEM: Ana, good to see you.
And, all of us know in reality is we have been behind the eight ball when it comes to this virus for many, many weeks in terms of E.R. doctors like myself for being able to get the tests. That said, I really want us to pivot, going forward, we need to look at what we're going to do for today, for tomorrow. We can't look back right now.
Going forward, we will eventually look at the root causes, but right now, E.R. doctors like myself need to know when are we getting the tests, when are we getting the accurate number of tests so we that can proceed with the care we need to provide.
CABRERA: Dr. Wen, do you agree? What are your thoughts about the testing issue?
DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: I completely -- absolutely, Ana, I completely agree with Dr. Long. We need the tests to be available for all the individuals who want it and need it.
Right now, people are only able to get tests in those places if they are very sick. Even if you have symptoms you may not be able to get tested. So, we need to get to the point that everyone who has symptoms can get the test.
But we have to go beyond that, too. We have to do surveillance testing to understand what is the true prevalence of COVID-19 in our communities. We know that there are many people who are asymptomatic carriers who have no symptoms at all, but can transmit coronavirus to others. And, right now, we're seeing communities around the country that may believe that they only have one or two cases or a few dozen cases, but those numbers don't represent reality unless we're able to get widespread testing and we need data to guide decision making for public health purposes as well as for clinical decision making.
CABRERA: Ladies, I want you to hear what the vice president said regarding the testing and the ability to help re-open the country when it comes to getting people back to work. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our best scientists and health experts assess that states today have enough tests to implement the criteria of phase one if they choose to do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Phase one allows restaurants, movie theaters, houses of worships and gyms to re-open as long as they follow strict social distancing guidelines.
Dr. Long, you're an emergency room physician.
CABRERA: What's your experience been in terms of getting testing for those who may need it and do you have confidence testing is where it needs to be for any state as the vice president just said to reach phase one?
LONG: Ana, up until this point, there's not a lot that's given me confidence when it comes to testing, and I did a quick surveillance on some of my other fellow emergency room doctors anywhere from Kentucky to New Jersey to Colorado.
Some said for patients who weren't being admitted to the hospital, they can't test them at all. Others said that they can test rapidly in-house, but they have three tests per day that they can run. Others have it easier. So, the reality is if that's going to happen and these tests are going to appear, that's great. That's what we need to do as Dr. Wen said to be testing, to understand prevalence, to understand how to care for our patients. It's not there yet.
CABRERA: Dr. Wen, you wrote an op-ed recently for "The Washington Post" in which you say, there are actually three key issues that are missing from the president and White House plan that they put out in terms of guidelines to re-open the country, and I just want you to tell us more specifically, testing is issue number one.
What are the other key issues still missing from the plan?
WEN: Well, we need to have three components. First and most critically is that testing because again, if we don't know the numbers, how do we know where to proceed? I think the vice president is wrong in the clip that you played. He said we have enough tests to take us through phase one, but going through phase one depends on us knowing that the number of cases are going down, but how do we know that unless we have testing? So, we definitely need that as a component.
Another component is that we have to have the public health infrastructure in place. Ideally, we get to a place that we can identify every person who tests positive. We can trace their contacts and quarantine all those individuals so that we're able to box in the infection. We don't need to lock down all society, we only need to find the individuals who have exposure to COVID-19 and we don't have nearly that public health infrastructure in place.
And then the third component is we do have to have our health care system to be stabilized. We can't have patients be worried that they're going to contract COVID-19 by going to the hospital for their routine care, and we need so much more, understanding that once we start to re-open, we could have to -- we may have to re-implement these restrictions. And I just don't know what kind of communication is coming from our public officials, from the White House, should that type of re-lockdown need to happen.
CABRERA: Dr. Wen, I want to follow up on the fact of contact-tracing. Listen to Governor Andrew Cuomo today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Tracing requires an army, literally an army. You would need thousands of people who just trace in the state of New York, right? Because any one person then leads to 10, 20 possible people who were infected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Dr. Wen, what goes into tracing and how do you get an army of people to participate? WEN: So, contact tracing is the bread and butter of routine health. We
do this on a routine basis for patients who have multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, who have Legionnaires' disease, measles and other infectious illnesses. It's a very time and labor intensive process. So, an individual who has an illness, let's say COVID-19, you have to look back at the entire period of time in which they could be possibly infectious.
And then you ask the individual where they've been, how many people they've come into contact with and then you have to contact each of those people to see if they're exhibiting any symptoms and to give them instructions. That takes time and it's possible to train as Governor Cuomo said, an army of people to do this work.
You don't have to be a public expert or a doctor to do this, but you do need individuals and the time that's available to do so, and it doesn't make sense to have 50 states all hire their own individuals and train them separately. It makes sense to have a national coordinated strategy for this as it does for testing.
CABRERA: Dr. Long, there's been new information we learned this week. Some new data out of South Korea saying that roughly two percent of known recovered patients there are re-testing positive.
What does that tell you and should there be a change in protocol for those who have recovered?
LONG: So, Ana, this new data out of South Korea has brought up a lot of questions and it's re-affirmed some things that we were concerned about, but most of all this does not challenge the concept that we have that a significant portion of people who have recovered from coronavirus will develop immunity.
So, remember, this is 2 percent of people who have recovered, so, I think there's three big factors. One is that they could just be finding remnants from the virus. When they took individuals from that 2 percent and tried to incubate their blood, they couldn't find live virus. You may just be finding particles that actually wouldn't make you contagious.
I think this also points to the fact that those interim negative tests they had may have been false negative. So, again, that's why you need to have two negative tests.
And thirdly, we do know from other studies that some small percentage of people who do recover won't mount a full immunity. So, we do realize that there is some percentage of people who will remain vulnerable to coronavirus won't be immune.
So, in terms of your second question, of should this change their protocols, I say what this tells us is what South Korea is doing is probably what we need to be doing here, which is relying not on one negative test result, but two negative test results and then potentially even isolating those people for two weeks after that negative test result just in case they have a slightly longer course.
CABRERA: Dr. Long and Dr. Wen, I really appreciate your time. Thank you and thank you for all you do. Stay well.
LONG: Thank you.
CABRERA: Still ahead, the latest numbers show New York may finally be on the downward slope, but Governor Cuomo says the state is, quote, still not in a good position. Plus, his challenge to President Trump.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: Turning to the hardest-hit state in the country, New York, where Governor Cuomo is urging the Trump administration to step up its efforts if it wants to see the state re-open. And while hospitalizations and ICU admissions in Manhattan are trending lower, the latest numbers are still very sobering, more than 235,000 cases and more than 17,000 deaths as of this hour across the state of New York.
CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is joining us now.
Evan, what more does the governor say the state needs from the federal government?
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana.
This morning at his press conference, Governor Cuomo outlined what would have to happen for this state, the hardest-hit areas of the state to start to re-open, and what he needs is testing, a dramatic increase in testing. And to do that, he needs these reagents, which are chemicals used in the testing process to really determine, make those tests work. He said they're hard to get right now because everyone wants them, so he needs a global supply chain to be set up to help get those reagents.
He also mentioned that army of tracing people that you spoke about your previous segment, and if all of that sound expensive and complicated, Cuomo says it is and that's where the federal government comes in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: I'm not asking for the federal government to come in and do more than they need to do, but we do need their coordination, we do need their partnership, and we also need from the federal government, we need funding. I get that we have to fund the airlines, we have to fund this business, we have to fund small business -- yes, I agree 100 percent, but you also have to fund state government. If you want us to re-open, we need funding.
(END VIDEO CLIP) MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, look, it's worth noting at this point that this isn't just a conversation between Governor Cuomo and President Trump. We've seen a lot of those in the past few days.
Congress is -- are the ones who allocate money. Governor Cuomo for weeks now has been asking for a stimulus bill that has a large amount of money targeted to states that have been most affected by COVID like here in New York. Congress right now is on recess.
So it's just another example of how complicated things are going to have to be, how complicated things are moving forward before this state can turn the page to the next chapter of this pandemic -- Ana.
CABRERA: Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you.
This weekend in New York City and all across the state, every person, including children as young as two, must wear a mask or a face covering in public. That order made by New York's governor this week across the country. The guidance on masks has changed a lot over the past several weeks and now, this idea of masks for young children has raised some new safety concerns. So I'm going to bring in a medical expert to make sure you have the best information.
Dr. Amesh Adalja is an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University Center of Health Security.
Dr. Adalja, the concern I'm hearing about 2-year-olds wearing masks has to do with the fact that they touch their faces a lot and this could only make that worse, plus there's also a concern about whether masks could perhaps hinder breathing.
Are these concerns warranted?
DR. AMESH ADALJA, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY, CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: I definitely think that when a person wears a mask, they paradoxically may touch their face more and that's going to be something people have to really think about. This is part of the controversy that's going on in my field about this recommendation that people wear masks if they're above the age of 2 years old because there are people that are going to touch themselves.
I'm no much worried about a surgical masks hindering breathing. It can be uncomfortable. I was wearing one all day today at the hospital, but they don't really change your breathing that much, but it could be uncomfortable for a 2-year-old to wear a mask, and they're definitely going to touch themselves and adjust their masks a lot more than an adult would, but adults do it as well.
CABRERA: Getting a 2-year-old to wear and to keep a mask on their face, that's no easy task for any parent. Is that even a realistic mandate?
ADALJA: I don't think it's realistic. I think most children are not going to keep it -- a 2-year-old child is not going to keep a mask on and they're likely to throw it around and actually contaminate other people with it. So, I do think that that's one part of the guidance that needs to be re-thought.
CABRERA: The intentions are good. Perhaps you've seen the compelling video from the New England Journal of Medicine. I want to put it up for our viewers.
On the left side of the screen, you can actually see the trajectory of saliva droplets from a person without a mask. On the right there is that trajectory from a person who is wearing a mask and all of those droplets were produced by that person only saying the words "stay healthy". It wasn't a cough or a sneeze or anything like that, just normal speaking.
Doctor, what does this video demonstrate about how far the virus can travel?
ADALJA: It really demonstrates the science behind the six feet rule that we keep talking about. So, someone who is infectious, even if they're not coughing or sneezing, they may generate particles by talking, by shouting, by singing. And if you watch that video, the louder the person becomes, the more -- the more particles actually emanate from them.
So this is why it's really important that we stay six feet away, that we wash our hands and this is some of the rationale that we're seeing with the mask. There's a little bit of controversy over how many people actually spread the virus if they don't have any symptoms and under what circumstance that occurs, but it clearly shows you that you don't have to be coughing or sneezing if you're infectious and you can emanate particles.
CABRERA: And a reminder to the viewers that the masks are protecting other people. We're protecting other people from ourselves if, for example, we have, you know, COVID and are asymptomatic and we don't know. That's where we're seeing more and more of these mask-wearing orders.
I want to ask you about a viewer who's concerned about facial hair and the potential spread of the coronavirus. This viewer asks: How dangerous is my husband's beard? Will the virus attach to his beard?
Doctor, is facial hair an issue?
ADALJA: Not so much in and of itself. But obviously, if somebody is sneezing or coughing, and there's debris from the cough and the sneeze in the beard, that virus may remain viable inside those droplets that maybe suspended in the beard, and that's probably more of a concern for people with more hair in their beard rather than something that's tightly trimmed. But you should have good beard hygiene throughout this epidemic and throughout respiratory virus season.
CABRERA: Your institution, Johns Hopkins University, just introduced a new online coronavirus tracker showing U.S. cases and country by county basis. Doctor, how exactly does Johns Hopkins University track all of these coronavirus cases across the nation and what gaps might there still be in the data?
ADALJA: Well, what -- I'm not specifically involved in that map, that's a different department in the university, but what they're doing is collating open-source material. So, if the health department posts their case counts, if there are news reports and they're kind of putting it through an algorithm in order to come up with that number, and we are seeing health departments post those numbers pretty routinely, so that's where the number comes from.
So, obviously, there's going to be lags in the data because they're pulling data from the health department which may not necessarily be updating immediately everything. So, there is going to be some gaps in the data. But I think it is a pretty comprehensive view, and it's been a useful tool for policymakers all around the world.
CABRERA: We keep hearing from governors and health officials that among the barriers in testing for coronavirus is a shortage of cotton swabs to take samples. The FDA has now approved a new Q-tip-like swab made of synthetic materials that would even allow for patients to test themselves. Do you see this as a game changer?
ADALJA: I do think so. One clarification, it's usually not cotton. They call it a cotton swab but it's actually a synthetic to begin with because cotton interferes with the test, but the more different types of swabs we can have and the fact that we have saliva tests, all of that makes it much better to make it easier to people -- for people to test. And what -- right now, we don't so much have a shortage with the test kits but with these ancillary materials like swabs, like the reagents that are used to run the tests.
So, we want to make testing as easy to have and as seamless as it can be, just like if we get an HIV test, there's no -- there's no paperwork. There's not bureaucracy and we don't worry about supplies. We want it to be like that in order to move this country forward to the next phase of this pandemic.
CABRERA: Why is there even a shortage of swab? It seems like that's such an easy product to produce, no?
ADALJA: It's just the huge demands for them right now. We use those swabs for other types of tests as well, and I don't think this was something that people anticipated and, again, it's another factor and the pandemic preparedness has never been taken seriously by any administration over time. It's something they fund when there's an outbreak and when there's panic, but they kind of neglected.
And what we've seen is these ancillary issues, ones that you don't anticipate can hamper the response and this is another reason why pandemic preparedness has to be something we think about all of the time and we think about these cascading effects that a pandemic has.
CABRERA: Always preparing for the worse, hoping for the best. Dr. Amesh Adalja, thanks very much, sir.
Don't forget, CNN's new podcast has answers to your questions about coronavirus. Join Dr. Sanjay Gupta for coronavirus fact versus fiction. You can listen wherever you get your favorite podcasts.
Breaking news, Spain has just announced it is extending its state of alarm until early May, prolonging its strict lockdown for a total of eight weeks. Originally, the lockdown there was due to expire on April 26th, but now, it will go until May 9th, putting severe restrictions on businesses and people's movements.
According to Johns Hopkins, Spain now has now more than 190,000 confirmed cases and a death toll that has surpassed 20,000.
Coming up in the CNN NEWSROOM, coronavirus is hitting the Latino community harder than the general population in the U.S. We'll take a closer look at why and the challenges they're facing.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: When you break down coronavirus cases in New York City alone, it's Latinos dying at a faster rate than any others demographic. And the alarming number for this community stretches nationwide.
CNN's Nick Valencia explains why.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Anthony Acevedo says he honestly can't remember the last time he got sick.
VALENCIA: But two weeks ago, he tweeted that he felt an itch in his float, more severe symptoms followed.
ANTHONY ACEVEDO, TESTED POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS: Yes, so I got the results that I was positive with the COVID-19.
Body aches. I had a whole lot of body aches. And recently, I developed a lot of night sweats.
VALENCIA: His condition hasn't improved. Acevedo thought he was turning the corner, only to be diagnosed with pneumonia.
The 35-year-old works in hospice care, making home visits to terminally ill patients. He knew he was at higher risk of contracting the virus and said he had been taking precautions. But in his line of work, that doesn't always guarantee your safety.
ACEVEDO: Latinos are mainly, you know, the CNAs and the janitors. When you go into these facilities, that's where you see us. You see us as the janitors cleaning everybody's room. And you see us as the once changing all the diapers, you know, giving them showers, you know, feeding them face-to-face.
VALENCIA: Dr. Genoveva Ollervides O'Neill, who serves the Latino community in Vancouver, Washington, says Latinos are often found in these essential but lower-level hospital jobs. She says such employees may not have health insurance or the option to stay home if they get sick.
DR. GENOVEVA OLLERVIDES O'NEILL, FACULTY PHYSICIAN, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: This leads not only to worsening health for those people, but also spreading of this pandemic and prolonging the illness and the effects that this is going to have.
VALENCIA: According to the Pew Research Center, concern about the virus is even more pronounced among Latino than the wider American public. About two-thirds say the outbreak is a major threat to the health of Americans, compared to about half of the general public.
BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: There are clear inequalities, clear disparities in how this disease is affecting the people of our city.
VALENCIA: In the epicenter of the outbreak, New York City, the mayor says Latinos are dying at rates higher than any other group, making up 34 percent of deaths.
Other locations have been slow to release a breakdown of deaths by race or ethnicity, so no national trends are clear yet.
Meantime, Dr. O'Neill and other medical professionals say underlying health conditions and economic disparities, which disproportionately affect communities of color, play a role.
O'NEILL: Oftentimes, you'll find us living in multigenerational households with grandparents, along with newborns, and just creating a situation where it's very hard to contain the spread of disease.
JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Do it for your big mama. Do it for your papa.
VALENCIA: This past week, the U.S. surgeon general addressed how communities of color are getting hit hard by the virus and urged blacks and Latinos to protect themselves. But he was criticized for the language he used while doing it. Dr. Jerome Adams said he was only using words he would with his own family.
Latinos, used to getting together many times a week with family and friends, are now finding themselves having to change their normal routines. Like these coffee happy hours at Ventanitas (ph) in south Florida.
Acevedo sees the risk for himself and others. It means not pushing to go back to work before he's ready.
ACEVEDO: To me, that's the worst fear is to hurt people, to put other people in danger. So just to know that I have it so I can, you know, stay home and try to take care of this properly without infecting other people.
VALENCIA: Nick Valencia, CNN, Atlanta.
CABRERA: The mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, joins us now.
I want to start on the inequalities of this outbreak. Latinos make-up over 70 percent of Miami's population. They're over-represented in some of these industries hardest hit by COVID-19, like hospitality, leisure and they're working essential jobs in hospitals.
Mayor, what are you doing to address the specific concerns of Latinos in your community?
MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI: We're doing everything we can. These are unprecedented times. We're helping them fill out unemployment forms, their income taxes so they can get their checks. We're helping them find jobs in essential businesses, trying to connect them from jobs where they may be laid off or fired from jobs that currently exist in this economy.
We're even going as far as to try to create an insurance product so that security deposits can be used for rent. and released by landlords for rent. We're doing a rent and utility subsidy through the city and also feeding the elderly and those in poverty in our community.
We understand that this COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting minorities in our community. And as you mentioned, 70 percent of our city are Hispanics, many Cuban and many non-Cuban Hispanics. So we've been hit particularly hard. We have the most cases in the state of Florida.
We're working as hard as we can to help people every single day.
CABRERA: There are more than 25,000 confirmed cases and 741 deaths in Florida right now. That's 55 more deaths that yesterday.
The governor says Florida is only behind New York and California in terms of testing. Governor Ron DeSantis is looking at Miami-Dade County as the next location for walk-up testing sites to help the underserved community. Why isn't that happening already? What are the barriers for that right now?
SUAREZ: We were the first city that started doing in-home testing for the elderly, in-home testing for people who are asymptomatic -- sorry -- that are symptomatic at all ages. We need to do more asymptomatic testing to see the prevalence of the COVID-19 virus in our community.
I was asymptomatic when I found out that I was positive.
So one of the big fears is, there's a contemplation to open things up, is there's thousands of people that may be asymptomatic that could create a second wave that would require us to shut down again. And that would be disastrous for our economy.
I think we have to do a lot more asymptomatic testing. And I think we also have to do more testing of people who have tested positive and want to reassurance that they are virus free before they go back to work or leave isolation.
CABRERA: Am I hearing you say you don't believe testing is where it needs to be in order for you to feel safe enough to reopen your city?
SUAREZ: No, it's not. We're doing, at this point, very little to no asymptomatic testing. And we're doing almost no testing of people who have tested positive -- retesting is the best way of saying it -- to ensure that the virus has cycled through their body, even though they're doing well.
So those are two major concerns I have, and things we have to look at very carefully before we think of opening up our economy.
CABRERA: You touched on some of the economic concerns for Floridians. Yesterday, DeSantis admitted Florida's unemployment system was overwhelmed, saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We're now in an economic crisis as well because of the results of this national shutdown. It's thrown a lot of Floridians out of work, through no fault of their own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: In the last month, more than 650,000 people in Florida applied for unemployment benefits. That was before yesterday's announcement that he's beefing up call centers to help with the demand.
"Politico" reported only about 5 percent of applicants in the past month have actually received payments. I mean, what a disaster, it sounds like for people to get access to the money they so desperately need. What's going on?
SUAREZ: It looks like the Web site that was created didn't have the capacity to deal with all the requests. At our office, our satellite offices we have throughout the city, we handed out paper applications so people could sidestep the Internet process. There's a lot of people that don't have access to computers right now.
So we wanted to make sure everyone who had a need, which is a tremendous amount of people in our community -- I mean, 80 percent of our businesses, if not more, are closed at this particular moment.
It's just devastating. And we need to do everything we can --
SUAREZ: -- from rental assistance to unemployment to help people get back on their feet. CABRERA: Let me ask you about the beaches. When you talk about
reopening businesses, beaches, tourism is a big part of the economy for Florida. Jacksonville reopened beaches this weekend with restricted hours. The video we've seen just from Friday shows they are packed right now.
As somebody who was infected with the coronavirus early on, and with the states cases and deaths still rising, is it a good idea to reopen beaches right now? Is it safe?
SUAREZ: One of the things I did was I cancelled large events, cancelled out large events nationally, and our county mayor criticized me for cancelling large events and didn't close our beaches.
We're saw a lot of the same scenes as we're seeing now in Miami Beach during spring break with spring breakers. That was very upsetting to me that I had taken such a political risk in closing down these large events.
What we saw, unfortunately, a couple deaths that resulted from some of those events where there were particular parties in the beaches, beach parties.
It's -- to me, it's very distressing to see what's happening, with the opening of beaches. It really makes you wonder whether that's a good idea to be done in the near future.
Given the fact that we're still not convinced, first of all, the data we received is accurate, and in terms of new cases.
Secondly, we're beyond the curve to the point where, if we don't continue the measures we've implemented, we're not going to see a reinfection wave.
CABRERA: Mayor Francis Suarez, thank you for joining us. Send our best to the people in Miami and all of Florida as you continue to battle coronavirus as well. Thank you.
SUAREZ: I will. Thank you.
CABRERA: CNN is taking a closer look at coronavirus in communities of color. Don't forget to join Don Lemon and Van Jones for a special conversation and messages of hope from Sean "Diddy" Combs, America Ferrera, Charles Barkley and many more. "THE COLOR OF COVID," live tonight at 10:00 here on CNN.
We'll be right back.
CABRERA: In Nebraska, a state that is banning gatherings of more than 10 people, a shopping mall owner near Omaha is planning to open his doors next week. This coming as Nebraska's reported coronavirus cases jumped nearly 30
percent in the past week. Right now, that state has over 1,100 cases and 24 deaths.
As for Nebraska's Governor, Pete Ricketts, he's not planning to stop the mall reopening. And Ricketts has not issued any shelter-in-place orders, requiring people to remain at home.
Let's go to CNN's Ryan Young outside that mall.
Ryan, how is the owner of the mall planning for stores to comply with social distancing guidelines?
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's the big question. How are you doing, Ana. Everyone wants to know, how is he going to do this.
First, there are a lot of big anchor tenants here. Some of those places may not open. Maybe some of those smaller shops that open up during this.
But he said maybe it will be a test for the rest of the country. Temperature checks, six-feet distance, all of this will be present to see if the rest of the country could do this.
But that's been a big concern across the country. In fact, listen to the owner give his explanation for why he's trying to do this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD YATES, OWNER, NEBRASKA CROSSING OUTLET MALL: We looked at where kind of things are headed and it may be a good thing to get the mall up and running. You have to have a soft opening, start getting the stores back train, start developing best practices.
So we started working with our retail brands to look at Nebraska as a case study, so to speak, of how you're going to interact with customers, employees, landlords, how we're all going to work together to create a safe environment.
BRIAN NOONAN, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS & EDUCATION, NEBRASKA HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION: It's premature. It's irresponsible. You know, really, if we just be patient for, you know another -- I don't know if it's three to four weeks, I don't know. No one can predict the timeline.
But, again, we have to listen to our scientists and public health experts. They're the ones tracking this data and looking deeply into to how it's spreading. So we have to be confident that they know what they're doing. We've done a good job so far. Why stop short? We need to keep continuing to be vigilant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YOUNG: You see the argument there between the two sides in this. You obviously understand there are some people that want to flex their retail therapy. There are other people that need these jobs on a day to day basis to put food on the table. So you understand it from that perspective.
But in terms of health care workers, when you see the flattening the curve working, you want to make sure it stops from spreading any wider than it possibly could.
These two sides are going to have to have a conversation in the next few days to figure this out. Next week is when this all gets put into practice -- Ana?
CABRERA: OK, Ryan Young, keep us posted. Thank you, sir. Stay well, my friend.
There have been a lot of heroes throughout this pandemic. Still ahead, we will speak to a cafeteria manager at a Dallas middle school who landed on the cover of "Time" for her efforts during this crisis. That's next.
CABRERA: "Time" magazine chose to feature in their latest issue the everyday heroes helping communities keep going in these challenging times.
One of those covers highlights Yolanda Fisher, alongside her colleagues at T.W. Browne Middle School Cafeteria in Dallas Texas. They return to the kitchen every day, despite the school being closed, so they can feed thousands of kids who rely on the school meals.
Yolanda Fisher joins us now from Dallas.
Hi, Yolanda. You are an angel. Thank you for the work you are doing.
We have a photo of you and your team when you got the magazine. How are you doing, and how does it feel when you see that cover?
YOLANDA FISHER, DALLAS SCHOOL CAFETERIA MANAGER FEATURED ON "TIME" COVER: It's still unbelievable. A lot of people talked about it, and we can't believe we're on the cover.
CABRERA: The recognition is so deserved.
What do you hear from kids when they come through to get food? I know you told "Time" it's not just kids that attend your school, right?
FISHER: Right The first customer I dealt with Thursday, she was like, was that you on the cover, and I'm like, yes. She said, that's an awesome accolade for the job we do.
CABRERA: Talk to me about what it's like for you. Because I know I have family who are working in essential services. For example, my brother is working at a grocery store right now. He's been slammed. He's exhausted. I'm concerned, as his sister, about his safety.
What has it been like for you during this time?
FISHER: Well, we have our gloves. We have our masks. We have our hand sinks to wash your hands. We have our sanitizer and stuff.
It's always a scary thing. You don't know how you get it. That's always in the back of our mind. And they're making other adjustments. We don't have to have contact with the customers.
As far as tiring, oh, yes, it's backbreaking. We're taking aspirins because we give together a lot of bags with a lot of food. That's something we love, something we do, and pop out aspirin and we fill the bags up for Thursday.
CABRERA: You just don't stop.
There were pretty incredible aerials this week of all of the cars lined up outside one Dallas food bank. How important are these meals to kids in your community?
FISHER: It's heartwarming. It's something we do because we've seen them before the epidemic, seen them on a daily basis. And we've seen the day some of them weren't getting fed. It warms our heart.
Though we get tired. It's overwhelming at times. But it's a feeling to make sure they're fed, even their parents are fed, so we can have a good night's rest going into day eight.
CABRERA: Yes. Yolanda Fisher, thanks again for all you are doing. Be well.
We'll be right back.
CABRERA: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
We begin this hour with breaking news.