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U.S. Oil Crashes Below $0 a Barrel; Chain Restaurants, Hoteliers Helped Drain Funds Intended for Small Businesses; Trump Claims He Will Suspend Immigration into U.S.; Farmworkers in U.S. Facing Their Own Crisis; Germany Eases Restrictions, Allows Some Shops to Reopen; The Psychological Toll of Strict Lockdown in Spain; Last Major Cruise Ships at Sea are Docking. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 21, 2020 - 04:30   ET




REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Before you know it, boom, all of a sudden, they were out of money. And when the secretary came and asked me for $250 billion, a quarter of a trillion dollars in 24 hours. I said, well, we want to see the data on how that is spent. But also, we want to make sure that we are -- as long as we're going to the floor, that we do so in a way that makes sure that everyone can participate in the program.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Meantime, U.S. oil prices have been shaky after a stunning collapse Monday. They saw levels for May delivery crash below zero. You're looking at the numbers there. Brent crude down nearly 12 percent. And the coronavirus pandemic has caused oil demand to drop so rapidly that the world is running out of room to store barrels. Let's turn to CNN's chief business correspondent Christine Romans. She joins us now live from New York. Great to see you, Christine.


CHURCH: So it looks a matter of too much supply, too little demand and now no room to store what they have. What's the solution?

ROMANS: It's just remarkable. I mean, the world is literally upside down. We're probably already in a global recession -- definitely a deep one. Probably worse than the great recession. The worst thing we've seen since World War II and it's on purpose. This is what's so remarkable about this situation. And then means that the demand for oil is essentially nil, right, as the supply is huge.

So you have people who own oil, a valuable commodity in normal times, are actually paying someone else to take it off their hands. So an upside-down situation. There were some technical reasons. The expiration of a futures contract that exacerbated things. But essentially when you look at these west Texas intermediate crude prices, I mean, well-below what's break even for U.S. oil producers and suppliers.

So essentially, you're talking about more pain for this part of the economy, maybe layoffs, maybe bankruptcies, but certainly a huge disruption in the way the world operates.

CHURCH: It is just extraordinary, isn't it? In looking at those numbers, I mean, just amazing. And I did want to ask you why you're here about the federal government's loan programs for small businesses. It turns out restaurants and hotel chains drained large portions of those funds. And now there's an effort to get an agreement on more money for that program. How was that even allowed to happen and what might the consequences be for some of those big chains?

ROMANS: Well, it was allowed because lobbyists were in there when they were writing this bill and saying that we want to make sure that, you know, that the people who work for the big chains also get the relief that people who work for smaller mom and pop chains. So they're really focused on the person who works the job as a waiter or someone who cleans a hotel room, not necessarily discriminating based on the size of the company.

But in the end what happened was mom and pop operators felt shut out of this whole thing while some of these big companies that have other access to capital were able to get some of these loans. So that was I think a stain on the whole project. But I want to be very clear, they need to spend this money to get a shock absorbers to the small companies and they need to do it quickly. You know, they're running out of cash.

A lot of the small business owners who I talked to, they've only got a few weeks of operating expenses that they can, you know, rainy day fund that they can raid, and that money has dried up. They don't know whether they should layoff their workers and have them go get these enhanced unemployment benefits or if they should try to get these loans that have been very difficult for people to get, especially if you don't have, you know, big ties to a bank, and you've borrowed a lot of money before. You know, the banks are giving the money first to the companies that they know. That's the law. You know, know your customer in banking. So it just has been very uneven and frustrating, I would say. Very, very frustrating

CHURCH: Yes, totally understandable. Christine Romans, many thanks to you covering all things financial and of course the oil. Appreciate it.

Well, as we mentioned earlier, President Trump says he will soon sign an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration into the country. And he claims the move is in response to the pandemic and says he's doing it to protect American jobs. But he has not explained how the Executive Order would affect U.S. border crossings or green cardholders. The White House has so far declined to provide any details. But some immigration advocates are already condemning the move. Take a listen to what Los Angeles mayor told CNN's Don Lemon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ERIC GARCETTI, LOS ANGELES MAYOR: I believe in governance by law, not necessarily by tweet. I'm proud to be the grandson of an immigrant from Mexico. That's why I'm the mayor today. We have a President who is the grandson of an immigrant as well who married immigrants. We can't run away from who we are and the people who are helping us most right now. I think we are all in this together and all life matters. And this isn't going to get stopped by playing politics.



CHURCH: And Monica Ramirez is the founder and president of the advocacy group Justice for Migrant Women. She joins us now from Fremont, Ohio. Thank you so much for talking with us.


CHURCH: Well, as many Americans worry about the food supply in this country, migrant workers are laboring out in the field helping put food on our tables despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and as they do this what struggles do they face in terms of being able to wash their hands and keep the required social distance from each other while they're out in those fields?

RAMIREZ: Well, we've been hearing from workers around the country that they are not being provided soap to be able to wash their hands at work. Which is something that's a long-standing problem by the way, but particularly alarming in this moment with the spread of COVID and knowing that washing our hands is one of the main recommendations that's being made.

But we're also hearing that they're not getting protective gear. They're very afraid that they're going to get sick and that they're going to take the virus back to their families and, you know, they could then get their entire families and potentially other people in the community sick.

We're also hearing from people that they're not getting information. They don't really have enough information from their employers about what's happening. And in terms of social distancing, it's really difficult particularly for those who are migrating farm workers in the United States to comply with the social distancing requirement. Because they are often transported in bus and vans which basically puts them shoulder to shoulder with many other workers.

And in the housing where they live and these labor camps, many people are often living in one small house and one of our concerns related to social distancing and the living conditions, since they often share cooking facilities, often share bathroom facilities and washing facilities, is that if someone were to become sick in a labor camp, we could be looking at a situation where dozens of people become ill and there isn't suitable housing in order to isolate the people.

And social distancing is also an issue in the workplace. I know there are some farmers around the country that are trying to manage the fact that workers usually work very close together on a grading line or sometimes even in the field working on rows next to each other. And I've heard that some farmers are trying to space people out and put people on different work schedules but there's a whole myriad of problems that these workers are facing right now who make it really difficult for them to stay safe in this moment.

CHURCH: Yes, it's so important for people to understand this story and some rural clinics are closing because of depleted funding and a lack of personal protective equipment. And it's these same clinics, of course, that look after migrant farm workers. What impact could this have on America's food supply if this country fails to ensure that these farmworkers who put food on our table don't get access to health care?

RAMIREZ: It's terrifying. When I learned that the health clinics were facing closures and that some have, in fact, closed, I became immediately alarmed. Because farmworkers are at the center of our food supply. If there are not farmworkers to do the work, to pick the crops, to milk the cows and all the other things that they do, we could see a situation in which part of our food supply chain breaks. And if that chain breaks, we're talking about the possibility of food rotting in the fields and not making it to markets. I mean, I don't think people understand just how severe the situation could be.

And I know that farmers around the country are also alarmed about the same. They're alarmed that if workers become sick, they're not going to have workers to replace them. And for those who are trying to bring guest workers in outside of the country on visas, they're afraid that people are going to be able to get into the country to do the work and they won't have anyone to replace them.

And for farmers, this is alarming. Because some of them work, you know, only on the crop's schedule. And so, for those ready to plant right now in May coming up and don't have the workers, they're very worried about how they're going to get the crop in and certainly, how they're going to get it out once it's ready.

CHURCH: Yes, well, a part of that story, of course, on Monday evening President Trump tweeted that he will temporarily suspend immigration into the United States due to COVID-19 fears and he said, to protect U.S. jobs. What was your reaction to this move? And what's going on here, do you think?

RAMIREZ: Well, you know, we heard before earlier in the pandemic that there was going to be some restriction placed on guest workers' ability to come into the country. Many people became alarmed -- advocates and farmers alike. And with pressure the government rolled back and said that they were not going to place those restrictions on guest workers. I hope that the government rethinks this. It's important for us to be able to allow workers and other people into our country.

And we also have to understand that the virus is in our country right now. There are people across our communities who have the virus or who have been exposed to the virus. [04:40:00]

And so, we need to contain that situation and closing the border isn't the answer necessarily, especially when we're talking about these guest workers. But we have to make sure that if guest workers are going to be allowed into the country as we expect they will be, that the right measures are taken so that they can stay safe as they do their work and live in the labor camps where they will be living during the time that they are here on their visas.

CHURCH: Of course. Monica Ramirez, thank you so much for talking with us. We appreciate it.

RAMIREZ: Thank you.

CHURCH: I want to take a short break here. Still to come, some U.S. states are getting closer to reopening their economies after coronavirus lockdowns. We will go live to Germany where that process is already underway. We'll learn a little bit more about it. Back in a moment.


CHURCH: Sweden's princess of fear is joining the fight to help doctors and nurses during this pandemic. The princess shared a photo of her new uniform after completing training to help with non-medical tasks at a hospital. She will be caring for patients and cleaning the hospital so medical workers can help with emergency patients. Johns Hopkins University reports more than 14,000 cases of the virus in Sweden with more than 1,500 deaths. The princess says being able to help in this difficult time is extremely rewarding.

Well, as some states in the U.S. are getting ready to reopen, some countries around the world are experimenting with similar measures. Germany on Monday started easing its restrictions allowing businesses and shops to reopen as the country takes steps towards a new normal.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in Berlin. He joins us now live. So, Fred, many countries around the world are actually looking to Germany as a possible roadmap to opening up. So how's it looking so far?


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rosemary. I would say, after the first day that the people that we were speaking to say they are absolutely happy with the fact that things are opening up again.

I'd say the government here in Berlin is a little bit more concerned. We were speaking to folks yesterday who for the first time in a very long time were able to go shopping, especially in these European pedestrian zones. Where you have those smaller shops that are now allowed to reopen. Of course, we have to remind our viewers that in Germany it's shops that are under 800 square meters. So about 8,600 square feet that are allowed to reopen. Folks that we spoke to said it was just great, they said, to have life

back in these pedestrian zones, to be able to go out to see that there's other people milling around while they say they're also keeping that social distancing in place.

The shopkeepers, of course, also saying this is basically a lifeline for them. Because they lot of them were fearing that they were going out of business. A lot of them were saying they simply were also -- didn't know exactly what to do because they had to keep their shops closed and still obviously pay rent. So a lot of them are saying they believe this is something that could save them.

However, we did see, Rosemary, yesterday, a very, very concerned Angela Merkel going in front of the press and say, look, people cannot get complacent in all of this. People need to keep these physical distancing measures in place.

Now what we're seeing today is that the number of new infections here in Germany has not gone up. But of course, that's something that really doesn't say very much. As Angela Merkel said yesterday, it's going to take about two weeks to see whether or not there is going to be a new spike in new infections. And that's certainly something that the government here fears, that maybe people won't be as disciplined as they were before.

And the big discussion that we have now, Rosemary, is that in Germany you obviously have this federal system where states can basically decide in many cases how they conduct these physical distancing measures, as whether or not more states are going to force people to wear facemasks in public. Right now there is a recommendation here on the federal level to wear facemasks.

For instance, the state of Berlin where I am right now, you don't have to do that. There're other states like Bavaria, Saxony where you do have to do that. And there's many people that believe that more states are going to tell people, look, we are going to open up, shops are going to be able to open up but people are going to have to wear those facemasks a lot more than they have so far.

So the experiment, as you put it, is very much going on, but I do feel -- and we have heard from Angela Merkel, from the government that there is a bit of concern about whether or not maybe this will actually work out the way that they want it to or whether or not they might have to go back to maybe putting more additional restrictions in place -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Certainly a very different approach to what we are seeing in the United States, and particularly in the state we are in, in Georgia. Fred Pleitgen joining us live from Berlin. Many thanks to you.

CHURCH: Well, in Spain one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe has kept millions from leaving their homes for weeks and the confinement is taking a psychological toll. Scott McLean reports from Madrid.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not easy to take the pulse of a city with almost no one in the street. Spain is under one of the strictest lockdowns on the earth. People here can leave only to buy food or medicine or in some cases work. Outdoor exercise is not allowed. Social distance is mandatory, and the police could not be stricter. Shut in for five weeks, we wonder how Spaniards are coping. But to hear from them we had to extend our reach.

In central Madrid, we found people still in remarkably good spirits. And speaking of spirits --

(on camera): are you going crazy?

(voice-over): People also told us they were doing more eating and smoking. And I can't stop thinking I only have eight more packs of cigarettes, she tells us. Physical health has definitely been better. As for the mental kind, we saw professional health.

(on camera): Do you worry about the mental health of this country.

BARBARA ZAPICO SALOMON, PSYCHOLOGIST (through translator): Yes, a lot, she says. I see patients feeling agoraphobic, the fear of going out into the street, going to open air places, the fear of interacting with other people.

MCLEAN (voice-over): And not just because of the virus but because of the police and the likelihood of being questioned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I have to go with my shopping bag very clearly at first sight. Like I'm going shopping, OK.

MCLEAN: For all the anxiety, people also found their wine glasses half full.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You kind of realize really how much time you have in a day.

MCLEAN: Their neighbors more interesting, their relationships getting stronger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As we are spending more time together, more time than before, it's good for us here.

MCLEAN: And I their waistlines wider, 4 or 5 kilos, he says. Tired and restless people are still finding time to show their appreciation and finding joy in whatever they can.

Scott McLean, CNN, Madrid.


CHURCH: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


Still to come, another way the coronavirus has changed the world. Within hours there will be no major cruise ships at sea. We will look at the cruise industry's fight to survive.


CHURCH: Well, the journey is over for people aboard this cruise ship which pulled into Marseilles, France on Monday. It was among the last major cruise ships at sea. And pretty soon there will be none. The last ship is due to arrive within hours in Genoa, Italy.

And here to discuss more is CNN reporter, Anna Stewart. It is just extraordinary, isn't it, Anna. But tell us what you know about those ships that are still waiting to come into port.

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Well, this is the very last one we're expecting, the Costa Deliziosa. It let some passengers off yesterday in Barcelona. But it's very final stop is Genoa in Italy. It should get there around 5 p.m. local time. It's about 11 a.m. eastern where you are, Rosemary.

It will be a relief for hundreds of passengers on board that they're finally able to get home. Now these trips, these last cruise ships did worldwide tours.


They set out in early January before the virus became a global pandemic. And really, they raced ahead of the virus. Each the stops they went to initially in Africa and Latin America. When there is relatively untouched by the virus that when they got to the South Pacific around five weeks ago the virus caught up with them. All of a sudden no one could disembark at any of the stops.

These ships haven't had passengers going off board for the last five weeks. They've made technical and operational stops. As a result, the virus never made it on board. These have been ships that have been really the safe haven for passengers who have not had any contact with the virus at all.

Now these passengers need to make their last legs home. That can be tricky given travel restrictions and if you can imagine a few chartered flights there. And of course, they'll now join the rest of the world in self-isolation. Now once this last ship docks today, that means all cruise ships around the world are at a standstill.

And that is costing the companies that own them billions of dollars every single month. They are burning through cash. So you've got to wonder how long can they survive. 10 they raise finance. Some of them certainly have been able to, particularly big ones like Carnival -- I'll show you some the stock prices here. We've got the big cruise liners Carnival, World Caribbean and Norwegian. Carnival managed to raise some money. Saudi Arabia disclosed an 8 percent stake in them.

So some investors do see a buying opportunity. But course, for many investors the big questions here are -- A, how long will cruise ships be at a standstill in the U.S.? The CDC has put it at least until mid- June. And also, will people want to be booking cruise holidays when restrictions are finally lifted? Now, the ships were talking about today, the ones that are coming to dock, they were untouched by the virus.

And you got to remember some of the horror stories that we heard early in the pandemic. The Diamond Princess, for instance, which has to dock in Japan, hundreds of people contracted the virus and several people died -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: It will be interesting to see if that industry can survive. We shall see. Anna Stewart joining us live from London. Many thanks.

And thank you for your company. Do stay home, stay safe, stay strong. I'm Rosemary Church. CNN NEWSROOM continues next with Robyn Curnow.