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Trump Uses Task Force Briefing To Lash Out, Point Blame; Centers For Disease Control Lab's Likely Contamination Caused Delays In Coronavirus Testing; Turkey Shipping PPE To The U.K.; Inside An Israeli ICU; U.S. Unemployment Agencies Overwhelmed By New Claims; "The Color Of COVID"; Japan's Sex Workers Struggle Amid Pandemic; Southeastern U.S. Facing More Extreme Weather. Aired 3-4a ET
Aired April 19, 2020 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone and welcome to Studio 7 here at CNN Center in Atlanta. I am Michael Holmes. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
Now the numbers are nothing short of staggering and getting worse. More than 2.3 million cases of coronavirus worldwide and the death toll more than 160,000.
In the U.K., there were fears the National Health Service would run out of some personal protective equipment or PPE this weekend. But a significant shipment from Turkey is expected to arrive and it will be just in time. We'll have a live report from London just ahead.
Now in Spain, the state of alarm, as it is called there, will now be extended until early May at least, making eight weeks of a strict lockdown.
In Italy, the pope is scheduled to hold mass outside the Vatican, outside in a couple hours. That will be the first time since the crisis began.
And in the United States, word that critical early delays in testing were likely caused by contamination at a lab of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And the U.S. President Donald Trump using Saturday's Coronavirus Task Force briefing to, yes, lash out again, point fingers again and say any problems with testing and anything else aren't his fault again. CNN's Jeremy Diamond reports.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was the latest attempt by the president to shift blame elsewhere. The president on Saturday during a White House briefing blaming Democratic governors, accusing them, in fact, of not even wanting to use some of the testing capacity in their states, amid critical shortages. TRUMP: Now they're giving you the other, it's called testing, testing.
But they don't want to use all of the capacity that we've created. We have tremendous capacity. Dr. Birx will be explaining that. They know that. The governors know that. The Democrat governors know that. They are the ones that are complaining.
DIAMOND: As the president shifts blame to those Democratic governors, the president's own public health experts have acknowledged that there are shortfalls in the government's testing capacity across the country.
In fact, it was the president himself who just on Friday was talking about sending 5 million additional testing swabs to states that needed it because of the shortfalls they're facing.
But now the president once again blaming Democratic governors. And it is not just Democratic governors who are saying they need help from the federal government. We've also heard from the Republican governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, saying he also needs some of that critical chemical reagent to actually conduct those tests and to ramp up testing capacity across his state.
But this, of course, fits a pattern of what we have seen the president do as he has come under criticism for his response and faced questions about shortfalls in the government's nationwide testing capacity and other issues.
The president instead has shifted blame to others, a rotating cast of characters we've seen, everyone from the media to the Obama administration to the World Health Organization as well as China. That was also a focus of the president's on Saturday as the president sought to build the case that China's lack of transparency contributed to the pandemic we are now seeing in the United States.
Of course, as the president is now criticizing China, during those critical weeks when that virus began to spread here in the United States, the president was praising China, particularly its transparency -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.
HOLMES: And we are seeing protests pop up around the U.S. as people demand to end stay-at-home orders. A lot of questions about who is behind these protests. There were more demonstrations Saturday, many people ignoring social distancing guidelines as they did.
In Maryland, people rallying from their cars, demanding the governor lift restrictions. In Indiana, people protesting outside the governor's residence, the gathering organized by two conservative groups. They say the stay-at-home order is overreach by the government.
In New Hampshire, hundreds gathered outside the statehouse, calling for officials to reopen the state. And in Texas, protesters gathered outside the state capital there. In Austin, it was called the quote, You Can't Close America rally. And it was promoted by at least one website known for spreading
conspiracy theories and, as you can see, social distancing not so much.
Harvard researchers say the U.S. needs to conduct at least 500,000 coronavirus tests a day in order to safely reopen the economy.
HOLMES: The problem is that's more than three times the amount of testing that is being done at the moment. We're learning about why the U.S. is falling so far behind in developing reliable tests. Sara Murray with those details.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we knew the CDC had problems with their initial round of test kits they sent to states in early February. And now we're beginning to learn why.
It turns out there was an issue of contamination in the CDC's lab. That is what administration officials are telling me as well as my colleague, Nick Valencia. And the CDC itself was confused in early February about whether there was a problem with the design of their test or whether there was a problem with the manufacturing.
An FDA official actually went down to the CDC labs in Atlanta to check it out. The official determined that there was a contamination problem in the lab and that was most likely what was causing these tests to malfunction.
Now it took a little time to sort out between the CDC and FDA and the states how they could use the tests they already had on hand, how to remanufacture some of these tests.
And this is happening at a critical point in the outbreak in the U.S. It was happening as public health officials, especially in states like Washington and California, knew that this virus was likely spreading among their communities and they had very limited ability to test for it.
A CDC spokesperson said there are quality control measures in place but obviously they were insufficient this time around. This issue is under investigation from Health and Human Services.
We should also note the testing remains a problem today. It is one of the key hurdles for the administration as they try to move to reopen the economy -- Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.
HOLMES: And it's not just the testing issue holding the CDC back. Elizabeth Cohen with that part of the story.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: After talking with people inside the CDC and who are tied to the CDC, it seems that CNN's reporting is pointing to a larger problem at the CDC. And this is it.
Even someone I was talking to within the CDC, they said that it wasn't clear to them whether all of this happened because of just a contamination problem or just a manufacturing problem or some combination.
They said even when you're inside the agency, this does still seem a bit chaotic, that no one knows exactly how all of this went wrong. And it also points to an even larger problem.
People around the world tell me how much they admire the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. They say that want the CDC in their countries to be like the U.S. CDC.
But for several years now I've been hearing from people that somehow the CDC has become a bit too bureaucratic, that it's got managerial issues.
Of course, there are some of the greatest scientists in the world -- they care deeply about public health; that's why they're there -- but that there could be some tweaks in how the agency is run so that it's less bureaucratic. Back to you.
HOLMES: Let's talk about all of this with Dr. Muhammad Munir, a virologist at Lancaster University, joining me now from Lancaster in England.
Doctor, thanks for doing so. I want to ask you about these reports of the CDC, the contamination being a likely cause of these testing delays.
Just generally speaking, how concerning is it that the premier disease authority fails in that regard, testing's delayed at a critical point, all the while the administration's rejecting a WHO test that was pretty successful elsewhere?
What does it suggest?
DR. MUHAMMAD MUNIR, VIROLOGIST, LANCASTER UNIVERSITY: Well, thank you very much for having me on the show, Michael. I think one of the major problems in these kinds of situations comes really through intensity of the working.
For example the laboratories where the tests are being developed and optimized and validated, if the virus is also being tackled at the same lab, they are highly likely that the virus would move from the virus working environment to where the optimization of this one is being done.
And, of course, we do have quality control in every laboratory that do the manufacturing and also the processing of these tests later. But sometime it escapes and that seems like it had been the case in the CDC testing.
That is especially critically at the time we need it the most. And also an important thing is really that we know, in January when the disease was spreading all over, we knew it was going to come to the countries. And that was the time it was required the most.
HOLMES: Exactly. Here in the U.S., 150,000 or so tests a day and, as we're saying, Harvard suggesting it needs to be half a million to get ahead. In the U.K., testing is a problem where you are as well.
How essential is it that there is that widespread testing before there is an opening up of society again?
MUNIR: Well, it is absolutely important in this current situation, because we don't have vaccine. We don't have therapeutics at this moment. So the only option is to suppress the infection.
MUNIR: So that we can either isolate them or treat them or allow them to come into work, to resume the economy and life. But it is becoming very challenging now, especially because every country is now in more or less the same situation. And everyone is demanding the same thing; that is limited capability of production in normal circumstances.
Testing has been very critical. And because of the intensive demand, the testing overall efficiency and quality has also decreased. For example, the scandal in the U.K. is that they have been procuring tests to look at the antibody that appear to be faulty from China.
The same is the case in many other suppliers as well. So it is critical to have very good diagnostic tests available for not only looking for the infection but also looking for who is immune to the infection.
HOLMES: Right, exactly. One thing that's sort of getting more and more coverage here, and it's very concerning, is growing reports of patients who have heart, kidney, lung, neurological and other effects, even after recovering from the virus itself.
Are you concerned about these sort of ongoing health issues, even among the recovered, that with a lot of patients they don't just get better and move on with life, there are lingering effects?
MUNIR: Precisely. I think these are really surprising facts. If we compare it with the SARS coronavirus, we haven't seen those types of situations at that time, back in 2002, 2003. In SARS, we haven't seen the kidney issues.
But here, we also started seeing that the virus is found in the urine, in the blood, which passes through the kidney for filtration. So there are chances that the virus would have been breeding in the kidneys as well.
If we look into the data at the early stages of the infection, 15 percent to 30 percent of people in China who were in critical stages had kidney issues. So this seems to be a real scenario.
And we know receptors that allow the virus to enter the body are present in these organs. So there are fair chances. When we talk about the immunity, that is one of the surprising facts in last two, three days that has been appearing, that even if someone has the immunity, which is detectable antibodies, still they might be reinfected. The phenomenon is not yet known but there are chances that the immunity established by the virus might be insufficient or weak enough to prevent from reinfection.
HOLMES: Not great signs, either; there has been some evidence of reinfection, as you say.
I was going to ask you in the broader public health standpoint, what do you make of the Trump administration pulling funding from the WHO in the midst of a pandemic?
And the president has sort of accused the WHO without evidence of deliberately withholding information and yet you know, as "The Washington Post" reported, there were 15 officials from his own administration embedded with the WHO, from the start of all this.
This isn't exactly the time to sort of pull out when a global response is vital, wouldn't you agree?
MUNIR: Well, Michael, that is true, I think since the start of this outbreak, we have seen that there are a few glitches in the handling of the scenario by the World Health Organization. But that is probably down to the scale and intensity of this overall scenario.
So while accountability for such an international organization is certainly inevitable, this probably isn't the right time to get into these issues because, at this moment, the important thing is to really join the world and pool all the resources, apply collaborative effort globally to tackle this infection.
Once we are passing through this one, we will get it sorted about the accountability issues.
HOLMES: Yes, yes. Exactly. We're yet to even see how it unfolds in Africa and the WHO important in that part of the world. Dr. Mohammad Munir, thank you so much, appreciate it.
MUNIR: Thank you.
HOLMES: The British were bracing to run out of personal protective equipment this weekend as the fight against coronavirus continues. But Turkey coming through with a massive shipment of supplies. Up next, Phil Black joins us from London to report on what was a desperate situation perhaps resolved.
Also we go behind the scenes of one ICU unit in Tel Aviv as doctors try to save patients infected with COVID-19. We'll be right back.
HOLMES: Turkey coming to the rescue of the United Kingdom, just as Britain was expected to run out of gowns and certain masks and other personal protective equipment needed to battle the coronavirus. Turkey sending a large shipment of gear, expected to arrive Sunday. Phil Black joins us now from London.
The U.K. desperate for this.
How did this all come about?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Desperate, Michael, and it's a big shipment, 400,000 gowns or it sounds big. But balanced against the need of the entire health system here, it's expected to be just enough for a few days.
From the very beginning of this crisis, doctors, nurses and hospitals across the country have been talking about not having enough personal protection equipment to deal with the scale of this.
And from the beginning, the government has said it is doing all it can to tap into international supply, boost or even create domestic production. But the reality is it has not worked.
So much so that public health officials here have now issued new guidance on how this protective equipment should be used in hospitals. And it now includes calling for what are supposed to be single-use disposable items to be reused, where the very clear, best, safest practice shows that these items should only be used once.
The government says this is a global problem, that demand is so high everywhere.
BLACK: Supply is tight, that compromises are necessary. But that is balanced against a stark fact. And that is at hospitals, hospital staff are dying, at least 27 so far and there's a lot of anger among those staff over this issue, too, Michael.
HOLMES: Yes. What's the latest, meanwhile, on, I mean, we hear these numbers and you've just got to remember every time that every one of them is a devastated family.
But what is the latest on the cases, the deaths and the trajectory?
BLACK: So confirmed cases, according to the testing regime here, is now more than 114,000, the real number of the cases in the community is many times higher than that. Confirmed deaths as a result of the virus, that's now more than 15,000 people.
So we understand that the lockdown measures are having an effect, that transmission is slowing. Hospital admissions are either stable or even diminishing in some places. But the death numbers every day are still very high.
And although they appear to have plateaued they are still 800 plus or more. And it's expected to stay that way for at least a week or two. On top of that, those figures only cover the deaths that take place in hospitals. There are many more dying in the wider community, particularly care homes.
And it's going to take a longer time to collate those figures. The estimation is that the government's aim of keeping deaths below 20,000 people is not looking like it will be achieved. It could be double that, to the point where the U.K. is perhaps the worst-hit country in Europe, Michael.
HOLMES: Yes and a lot of complaints about people dying at home, not being tested postmortem as well. That number's very rubbery. Phil Black in London, thank you, Phil.
Israel plans to start easing restrictions put in place to combat coronavirus in the hours ahead. Industrial and high-tech workplaces as well as certain stores will be allowed to reopen under health and social distancing rules.
More than 13,000 cases of coronavirus are reported in Israel. More than 150 people have died. CNN's Oren Liebermann has more now from an intensive care unit in Tel Aviv, which cares for those worst hit by the virus.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Deep inside Tel Aviv's Sourasky Medical Center, even the simple answers are hard to find.
DR. ADI NIMROD, TEL AVIV SOURASKY MEDICAL CENTER: It's something else, it's another disease that we are learning all the time more and more about it.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): This is an intensive care unit for COVID-19. The toughest coronavirus cases come here.
Before we were allowed in, we had to dress like the medical staff for protection. My blood sugar monitor for type 1 diabetes required an extra wrapping. I've stood under rockets from Gaza, near artillery and sniper fire and more.
And yet a part of me was more nervous here. As we step inside, I meet Dr. Adi Nimrod, who shows us around the 16-bed unit. Most of the patients here are sedate; many on ventilators. Here patients get individualized attention around the clock. The risk of anything less is too great.
There is no set treatment for coronavirus.
NIMROD: You have to sense them and to see them every day to check them, to see their faces, to check all the parameters. There is the atmosphere around the patient.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): An external control room allows remote monitoring of every bed and a place to breathe. Part of head nurse Ceres Berman's (ph) job is to keep everyone positive.
CERES BERMAN (PH), HEAD NURSE: It's very tough. Sometimes I'm not so positive. But I think if I won't be positive, no one will be.
LIEBERMANN: One day at a time in there?
BERMAN: Yes, one hour at a time.
LIEBERMANN: Within a few minutes of putting on all this protective equipment and walking into the intensive care unit here, I started sweating, my mask, as you can see I think, fogged over. But I have the luxury of taking this off in a few minutes when I step outside.
The doctors and nurses will wear this hour after hour, treating patients who need intensive care. They'll take a quick break; they'll step outside and then they'll do it all over again.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Israel's mortality rate has hovered around 1 percent, among the lowest in the world. Israel has put restrictions on travel and public gatherings very early and the country's health care system is among the most advanced, which has helped lower the mortality rate.
But that number soars for the critical care patients who need to be ventilated. Like many here, sometimes the outcome is measured very differently.
NIMROD: You try, you do your best. You're just a doctor, just a human being, as they are. And if you cannot succeed, be compassionate.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Dr. Nimrod's treatment is guided by the latest science and also his experience.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): He was in the army during the 2006 Lebanon war. That's him treating the soldier on the stretcher. This, he says, is a different fight, one he calls much more complicated.
NIMROD: The virus taught us to be more modest, more humble. And a lot of compassion for legions of families. And it's just a virus. But not just a virus. It's something much bigger.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The doctors and nurses are tested every week for the coronavirus. The hospital says everyone has so far tested negative. In this most sterile of environments, families are only allowed in if it's to say goodbye. Otherwise messages are recorded and sent through the nurses.
And prayers must penetrate the layers of protection around the ICU. The patients see only the unit's staff. There is solidarity here through a common vulnerability. LIEBERMANN: The closer you get to the patient as a doctor, does that
make it harder and more personal as a human?
NIMROD: It's all personal. We are human. We are fragile just like they are. Now he is in this bed, tomorrow I might be here or my family. We are very fragile.
LIEBERMANN (voice-over): Oren Liebermann, CNN, Tel Aviv.
HOLMES: Turkey taking a different approach to battling the coronavirus. It is restricting the movement of certain age groups and it has put in place a limited curfew in some provinces. Arwa Damon reports.
HOLMES: The coronavirus has disproportionately devastated the African American community and other communities of color. We'll talk about it with the president of the American Medical Association and tell you what that group is doing to try to change this all-too-familiar reality.
Also, millions of Americans waiting for that much-needed stimulus check to arrive.
So what's the holdup?
We'll explain when we come back.
HOLMES: And welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.
The latest on the coronavirus pandemic for you. According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 2.3 million people have been affected worldwide. The death toll now topping 160,000.
In Spain, the state of alarm, as it's called there, will be extended until early May at least. That makes eight weeks of the strict lockdown there.
In Great Britain, a shipment of personal protective equipment or PPE expected from Turkey at any moment, just as the National Health Service feared it would run out.
And in the United States, word that critical early delays in testing were likely caused by contamination at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab.
Well, the coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of Americans into unemployment at a record rate, a staggering rate. Look at that number there. Over the last four weeks, roughly 22 million U.S. workers filed for jobless claims. That's just shy of 14 percent of the total workforce.
And it is the largest and most dramatic rise, needless to say, in unemployment claims since the U.S. Labor Department began tracking data back in 1967. The federal government sending out stimulus checks to help people get by. But the crisis is overwhelming unemployment offices. And that has left millions of Americans waiting without. CNN's Brian Todd reports.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In San Jose, Laura and Andrea Shelp are trying to be patient. They've gotten their stimulus checks sent by the government to help people during the coronavirus pandemic, but they both been furloughed from their jobs, have applied for unemployment benefits and haven't gotten a penny of that yet.
LAURA SHELP, FURLOUGHED FROM JOB AT SURGERY CENTER: We've gone through all of our savings. You know, we've really had to dig in. We've had a lot of mounting bills, we had to contact all of our creditors and tell them that we weren't able to meet our obligations right now because there's absolutely no money.
TODD (voice-over): In addition to unemployment benefits not reaching people like the shelves, there are roughly 16 million Americans still waiting for their stimulus payments. Logistical and clerical obstacles are causing delays and getting those payments out and the pain is palpable.
DAVID WILCOX, FORMER DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH AND STATISTICS, FEDERAL RESERVE BOARD: Tens of millions of American households are no doubt gathered around their kitchen tables, wondering how on earth they're going to make the next rent payment, how they're going to purchase the necessary food.
TODD (voice-over): The reasons for the delays according to experts, the sheer volume of Americans who are eligible, some 150 million. For people who didn't file electronic tax returns and don't have direct deposit arrangements with the IRS, it's taking longer to get them their payments via snail mail.
WILCOX: That process of printing and stuffing those checks is going to take many, many weeks and the estimate I seen is that it will take about four to five months.
TODD (voice-over): Also some people told CNN, their payments were sent to old bank accounts that have since been closed and millions of low income people who are not required to file tax returns are harder to locate. While they wait desperate for money, some are turning to pawn shops. This Tucson, Arizona, pawn shop has seen a 90 percent increase in
people looking for quick cash through loans. The owner says some people come in crying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never seen it. And I hope I never have to see it again.
TODD (voice-over): And scenes like this, cars lined up for miles in Texas, in Florida at food distribution sites. To compound the suffering, the government's separate program to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic has run out of money. And Congress hasn't been in session to work on getting more in the pipeline.
Brian and Kristen Ward had to lay off 26 people at their restaurant in Manhattan, Kansas. They were told they weren't eligible for the small business payment because the restaurant hadn't been operating for a full year yet.
KRISTEN WARD, UNEMPLOYED IN MANHATTAN, KANSAS: It all happened so fast. It still doesn't seem real yet. So it is kind of numbing that we're jobless, we have no income, we don't know how to support our family right now.
TODD (voice-over): The Wards did eventually get loans from state officials and total strangers, but only after they'd appeared on CNN.
TODD: Experts say there's another large category of Americans who the government has not been able to send payments to.
One economist calls them the unbanked, people who have no formal bank accounts anywhere, who rely on check cashing places, pawn shops and payday lending operations to process their paychecks and take care of their most basic financial needs.
There are millions of those people experts say and they're so hard to locate that many of them will never get stimulus payments -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
HOLMES: Earlier on our network, CNN's Don Lemon and Van Jones hosted a star-studded special called "The Color of COVID."
HOLMES: They looked at how the virus pandemic is devastating communities of color in the U.S. have a look at these numbers. The rate of COVID-19 deaths in the black community is more than double that of any other race. And in nine states in the Midwest, the South and East, it's exceeding the population rate for blacks by more than 20 percentage points.
HOLMES: And joining me now is Dr. Patrice Harris, the president of the American Medical Association. And it's great to have you on. You are dealing with many things but we
did want to discuss this issue of the racial disparity in terms of COVID-19, who it's affecting. You've got data from New York City showing black residents twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than whites.
Same in Louisiana, New Jersey; African Americans are 59 percent of the deaths, 33 percent of the population.
The thing is that these are terrible numbers, obviously, but they aren't for new reasons, right?
DR. PATRICE HARRIS, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: They really aren't. These numbers are troubling but, unfortunately, not surprising particularly when we learned early on that if you had high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, you were at greater risk of having a more severe course of COVID-19.
So knowing that African Americans were already disproportionately impacted by those diseases, these numbers, unfortunately, are not surprising.
HOLMES: It raises the issue of, among many other things, the health care system in this country, a for-profit system, unaffordable to millions of Americans who are forced, basically, to be uninsured or underinsured. But African Americans are disproportionately affected by the inequities of that health care system, right?
HARRIS: Particularly in the South. African Americans and other members from communities of color are overrepresented when it comes to a lack of insurance, which is one of the many reasons why the American Medical Association supports Medicaid expansion in all states.
We certainly need to have a strong safety net. So access to health care is just one issue, social determinants of health, structural determinants of health, such as past racism and other policies that were biased, and misinformation and trust all contribute to these very, very tragic numbers.
HOLMES: Speak to those underlying conditions, the socioeconomic conditions a part of it, poor access to, in many cases, poor access to good, affordable food, housing, health services, housing instability, employment opportunities and so on.
And what coronavirus has done, and correct me if I'm wrong, is basically expose things that were already there.
HARRIS: You're absolutely right. Among many things, including our underfunded mental health system.
But certainly COVID-19 has shined a bright light on what I call preexisting conditions, again, these social determinants of health, folks living in food deserts, lack of access to transportation and, again, some of those structural determinants of health, all are contributing to this disproportionate impact on African Americans. HOLMES: I imagine it must be intensely frustrating to you and others
in your field, that this was exposed before in other health crises. There is an AMA letter to the Health and Human Services in the U.S.
And it points out that the 2009 H1N1 pandemic exposed these very issues in terms of disparities in racial and ethnic impacts. And yet here we are.
HARRIS: We at the American Medical Association, you know, many organizations -- the former surgeon general, Dr. David Sacher -- have been elevating these issues for years. Certainly, these are amplified even more with COVID-19.
But here's what we all must commit to do and we will get on the other side of this epidemic. There are -- pandemic. There are certain things we can do now.
But when we get on the other side of this pandemic, the AMA and, of course, I know many others I've been speaking with about this over the last month or so, will be there, committed to addressing this issue.
The AMA just established a Center for Health Equity and we also hired our first chief health equity officer, Dr. Aletha Maybank, about a year ago.
HARRIS: So the AMA is planning to lead this conversation going forward, continuing to, because we have been working on this issue.
HOLMES: And what needs to happen?
I mean, structurally, the question is, whether what's noticed now in terms of these underlying factors will be remembered post coronavirus.
What needs to change fundamentally when this is over?
HARRIS: Well, we certainly are going to have to, again, elevate the conversations about the uninsured. We certainly are going to have to continue to partner. And, again, physicians and the health care system cannot do this alone. This will require an all-in effort to relook at policies that have contributed to this.
Make sure that we are ensuring equitable access, equitable access to housing, looking at neighborhoods where there are no fresh fruits and vegetables and making sure that residents of those zip codes have access to that, transportation.
So all of these issues will require partnerships and commitment, again, not just from the health care system but really from everyone at all levels, government, public-private partnerships, certainly an all-in effort to address these issues.
HOLMES: It's a societal issue. And if any good comes out of this, hopefully it's structural change in those glaring inequalities. Thank you so much. HARRIS: Thank you for having me.
HOLMES: We'll take a short break. When we come back on the program, making a living is getting tougher for sex workers in Japan. How the coronavirus is threatening an already vulnerable segment of Japanese society, that's when we come back.
HOLMES: One group often forgotten about in the pandemic is sex workers.
HOLMES: Since the spread of the coronavirus began in Japan, Tokyo's bustling red light district has gone pretty quiet and that is leaving many who work there wondering how they will get by. For more on this, let's turn to CNN's Will Ripley, who joins us live from Tokyo.
It's a delicate issue but an important one and a real problem for some.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a large group of people here in Japan and around the world, Michael, who typically don't have a voice. An estimated 300,000 sex workers in Japan are having to find other ways to make a living. Once the brothels close, they're going directly to customers' homes, potentially putting themselves and their clients at risk.
RIPLEY (voice-over): The rain normally doesn't keep people away from Kabukicho, Tokyo's red light district. I remember my first visit here five years ago in 2015. The cold, wet streets of this sleepless town were always full, just like the shops lining these dimly lit halls.
Prostitution is against the law in Japan. But everybody knows what's really for sale.
Fast forward five years to 2020, coronavirus is doing what the rain cannot, turning off the neon lights.
RIPLEY: In all my years of living in Tokyo, I've never seen Kabukicho this empty. Normally these streets are lined with women, who are trying to lure customers into their shops. The shops are closed now and the women well, they have to find other ways, more dangerous ways to make a living.
RIPLEY (voice-over): A woman we'll call Mika asked us to hide her face and change her name. Her family doesn't know she's been a sex worker for 10 years. These days, with all the shops closed, she goes directly to customers, often older men, a risky proposition with the virus spreading quickly.
"Of course I worry about my health," she says, "but I worry more about how to survive. What if I can't afford to buy food?"
As a young girl, Mika wanted to be a journalist. Life didn't work out that way. She's not asking for sympathy. She's asking for help.
"Sex workers can't stop working," she says. "But we don't want to spread the virus."
Japan's estimated 300,000 sex workers are eligible for the government's coronavirus cash handouts, about $1,000. Advocates for sex workers say that money won't be nearly enough to keep most off the streets.
"There's a lot of discrimination toward sex workers," this man says, just before his toddler makes a brief appearance.
"There are many different types of people in the sex industry," he says, "Like single moms who need to earn money. They may be scared about coronavirus but they're more scared of losing their jobs."
His non-profit tries to help sex workers find new jobs, jobs they're not afraid to tell their families about, jobs that won't put them and their children at risk.
RIPLEY: The problem is jobs are really hard to come by these days. Many businesses are shut down. They're not hiring or they're laying people off, which means if people want to put food on the table for their children and their families, they have no choice but to go out on the streets and put themselves at risk, Michael.
HOLMES: Yes, Will, while we've got you, I mean, Japan was pretty late to the party in getting moving on coronavirus.
What is the latest on the case numbers there, the testing and so on?
RIPLEY: Testing is still extremely limited. Here in Tokyo on Wednesday, they tested 277 people in one day, in a city of 13.5 million. So there's a lot of concern that there are many people walking around perhaps asymptomatic, unaware that they are spreading the virus.
But the number of cases continues to climb every single day, it's expected to climb over 12,000 today here. There is a shortage of hospital beds set aside for coronavirus patients and a shortage of ventilators.
The government warning if these cases escalate, if the social distancing measures are not effective, you could have potentially hundreds of thousands of death even though Japan's death rate right now is very low. But that's not sustainable if the virus pushes the health system, which doctors have already warned is nearing the brink of collapse.
HOLMES: Will Ripley there for us in Tokyo. Thanks, Will, good to see you.
We're going to take a break. When we come back, parts of the U.S. face a double threat this weekend, the coronavirus and extreme weather. Meteorologist Derek Van Dam will have a look at what's in store when we come back.
HOLMES: The southeastern U.S. bracing for what could be another weekend of severe weather. This just a week after a string of deadly tornadoes in the same region. This leaves many wondering whether to go to a storm shelter in the middle of a pandemic.
HOLMES: And thank you for spending part of your day with us. The news continues with Natalie Allen after a short break. You will enjoy that. Please stick around.