Return to Transcripts main page


Wisconsin Coronavirus Cases May Be Tied to Election; Unemployment Continues to Rise as 4.4 Million More File; NASA Reports Air Pollution Drops. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 23, 2020 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: At least 19 people who took part in in- person voting in Wisconsin earlier this month -- remember the whole battle and debate and court fight over that? Well, 19 have tested positive for COVID-19.

State health officials say those people either voted or worked at the polls. They also note that some of those people also, quote, "reported other possible exposures."

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Let's bring in CNN national correspondent Ryan Young. And, Ryan, I mean, this was the essential question at the time. Were people being forced to choose between their health and voting? What more are health officials telling you?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what, when you look at this and you know how many people wanted to vote, we saw the long lines, you saw people's dedication to their right to vote. I mean, people fought and died for their right. And obviously, people were willing to stand in line for it.

The lines stretched for, you know, it seemed like forever in some of these polling places, but you've got to think about this. There was the fight to maybe move it to June. And then all of a sudden, the Republicans in that state won and the vote was held on April 7th.

And now you have the numbers back of 19 people having COVID19. And here's the thing, not all the data's back yet. So we're not sure if this is going to be more people who ended up getting infected by standing in that line. Of course, you want to do social distancing. But when you looked at the lines, you could tell that people weren't always doing the social distancing, not everyone showed up with a face mask.

So then there's all these critical questions. With all the data not back yet, how many more people could be exposed to this virus by standing in that line over and over again? And of course, it's a decision that so many people had to make, they felt like, and they wanted to vote. But now here comes the outcome. SCIUTTO: Well, another big election coming up in the fall, when there are concerns about another spike in cases. This question is not going away. Ryan Young, thanks very much.

One of the most crucial factors in combating this pandemic, of course, broad-based testing. Now, Bolinas, a small Northern California town of less than 2,000 people, is the very first in the world to begin comprehensively testing all of its residents for the virus and for antibodies to the virus.


We're joined now by Dennis Rodoni. He is a member of the Marin County Board of Supervisors. Good to have you on this morning, Dennis. I mean, first question I have is, as a rural community, how did you manage to get all those tests? Because that's been a challenge in every state, every community we've spoken to on this broadcast these last few weeks.

DENNIS RODONI, MARIN COUNTY, CALIFORNIA SUPERVISOR: Good morning from West Marin County, California. And yes, it was a challenge. The local community is really resourceful. And they had a connection to UCSF, the medical center in San Francisco. And by working with the local fire district and local clinic, they were able to put together all the necessary materials to do the testing. And they paid for it out of donations.

SCIUTTO: All right, so -- gotcha. So you got -- you're going to do the testing. What do you expect to do with this data? Will it help you get businesses back online, contact trace, et cetera?

RODONI: So there's kind of a multiple benefit here. First of all, individuals will know if they test positive, and they'll be notified right away. Secondly, we'll know if anyone has the antibody, that's the second test they're doing.

And then the entire testing sample will be used by the community to assess their risk and also by the county to assess the county's risk. And I certainly think the data will be used statewide and national- wide to just research, to do more research and more analysis of that data.

You know, the real benefit is what you mentioned, though. Long-term, we'll be able to use this benefit to determine how we might reopen our economy here in California and Marin County.

We're locked down to shelter in place until May 3rd. And so in the next couple weeks, we're going to be trying to determine what sorts of parts of the economy are safe to open. And so a test like this will certainly provide benefit about how many --


RODONI: -- people have the antibodies, how many people have been exposed and don't even know it. And so we're looking forward to results. SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, listen, every elected official we've spoken to has said that, you know, the two go hand-in-hand, testing and reopening. How soon, then, do you expect to have results? And how soon do you expect to be able to then make a decision on what's safe to reopen and when?

RODONI: So this will be the fourth day today of the testing. We expect that people who test positive will hear very quickly, in the next couple, three days. By next week, I think the data will become available to the county. And at that point, the public health officers in the Marin County -- Marin -- will look at that data and try and put it into the bank of all the other data they've been collecting for weeks, to make a determination about what's a safe risk, going forward.

SCIUTTO: Well, please report back when you have that data. It's going to be revealing. Dennis Rodoni, thanks very much.

RODONI: Thank you, thanks for having me on.

HARLOW: So interesting, they could do that all and got donations, help get those tests.



HARLOW: Another week, another round of millions of more Americans filing for unemployment. Our latest numbers, next.


HARLOW: Devastating numbers once again this week. Just last week alone, another 4.4 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits for the first time.

SCIUTTO: How many -- it's staggering, you've got to look back to the Depression to see numbers like this, this quickly. CNN business anchor and correspondent Julia Chatterley joins us now.

Julia, I mean, is there any sign that we're getting close to the total number of folks who are going to be applying for unemployment? Or is this a trend with really no light at the end of the tunnel that we could see?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN BUSINESS ANCHOR: I wish I could give you better news, Jim, and it's an important question. To your point, we've now seen 26.4 million people in the last five weeks, whose lives, their families have been thrown into chaos. What we're seeing in terms of the individual weeks is that the millions of people that are asking for help, the numbers are coming down.

And I do think perhaps we've seen the worst in terms of weekly numbers of claims. But, Jim, I'll be honest with you, I still think we're going to see millions more people, over the coming weeks, asking for help, particularly if we remain in this situation where vast quantities of the country remain in lockdown or are being told to stay at home.

What we're talking about here, probably, is an unemployment rate in the United States of more than 15 percent. It could be as high as 20 percent. And for me, the critical thing to understand for the people involved here is, coming into this crisis, we were talking about an economy that was in a relatively stable situation. And yet 40 percent of households in this country couldn't write a $500 check in an emergency.


CHATTERLEY: And these people now, more than 26 million people, are waiting for money, for help.

HARLOW: Julia, you and I were talking in -- the other day about the fact that, you know, this new money the House is going to vote on today to help prop up small businesses, your reporting is that that could actually run out in, like, two days because so many people have been lined up for it, and that it may not be enough.

CHATTERLEY: I spoke to the chief executive of Lendio, the online marketplace, and he said to me, he believes two days. Others have told me a bit more. Their belief is that just simply seeing how much demand is out there, how few of the 30 small businesses, the 30 million small businesses in the United States didn't get money in the first round, there's just overwhelming demand still out there, and this money could run away really quickly.


Critical as well -- and I'm still fearful -- that the smallest businesses in this country may still be at a disadvantage, even with the changes that have been made.


CHATTERLEY: That's the fear.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes, it's complex to apply for. And, you know, none of this is easy to even just tap the money.



HARLOW: Julia, thanks for the reporting.

SCIUTTO: And the debt figures just keep rising off the charts.

Another story we're following, unprecedented drops in air pollution could be something of a silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic. But will that international pause be enough to turn back decades of damage to the environment?



HARLOW: Well, there's this. A new report from NASA shows that air pollution has dropped to a 20-year low in Northern India. The government lockdowns there, imposed to stop the spread of coronavirus, have resulted in unprecedented reductions in air pollution in major cities around the world.

SCIUTTO: Yes, the contrast is remarkable. I'm sure you may have seen it in your own neighborhood.

CNN's chief climate correspondent Bill Weir joins us now with more. So, Bill, you know, the decades leading up to this, of course, enormously damaging to the environment. Statistically, does this make enough difference to put an impact on that?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Sadly no, Jim. That was the question I set out to answer, talked to some smart climatologists. And, yes, we're seeing a lot more wild critters in our cities and city dwellers are seeing a lot more stars in the sky. But we're realizing that coronavirus is in no way a silver lining when it comes to the climate crisis.


WEIR (voice-over): On the golden anniversary of Earth Day, it's as if Mother Nature has sent us all to our rooms to think about what we've done, and to give us a glimpse of life without us.

The penguins of Cape Town had the streets to themselves, while wild pigs use sidewalks in Corsica. Kashmiri goats are helping themselves to the shrubbery in Wales, and the sea turtle hatch in Thailand is reportedly setting modern records.

A normally shy puma ran a stoplight in Santiago. With no visitors to Kruger National Park, a pride of South African lions can snooze in the road. And with no wall of cars to navigate, Yosemite park rangers are seeing more bears than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the most part, I think they're having a party.

WEIR (voice-over): And while they aren't unheard-of in New York City, these days, it's hard not to be shaken by vultures, circling over the Navy's floating hospital, the Comfort.

WEIR: Man, it'll be a great day when the only big naval ship docked in New York City is a museum, when the Comfort finally sets said, surely those vultures will fly away and we can finally come out of our homes. Surely all those wild critters will go back to what's left of theirs.

But what about the effects that are harder to see? What is this pause in the Industrial Revolution doing to the chemistry of our sky?

WEIR (voice-over): Locals in Northern India say they can see the Himalayas for the first time in decades. And before-and-after satellite imagery shows how nitrogen dioxide pollution over North America's big cities is down by as much as 30 percent. But the blanket of heat-trapping gases around our planet is still thicker than ever.

WEIR: And there seems to be this perception that maybe the virus has helped humanity buy some time when it comes to global warming. What's wrong with that assumption?

JONATHAN FOLEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PROJECT DRAWDOWN: We would have to keep doing this even more, and do it for the next 30 years, to really begin to bend the curve on the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It's kind of like having a really huge bathtub in the sky filled with pollution. And we have the faucet pouring, pouring, pouring more in. And all we've done is kind of turn down the faucet a little bit, but it's still filling up.

WEIR (voice-over): Thanks to the current oil crash, when the lockdown is lifted, we'll see the lowest gas prices in generations. And with Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency gutting dozens of regulations, experts say a spike in pollution seems inevitable.

Both the EPA and Earth Day were born when the air and water got too foul for everyday Americans to ignore. Fifty years later, science is warning that the storms, floods, and fires of the climate crisis are growing too frequent and too severe to ignore. Saving what's left will take everyday folk everywhere deciding that their planet deserves more than one minor holiday, like a dead president, deciding that, to save life as we know it, every day should be Earth Day.


WEIR: And, Jim and Poppy, we have fresh motivation to fight for Earth Day's future. I want you to meet River Weir, he's celebrating his Sweet 16th Day -- birthday --


WEIR: -- and will be raised to be --

HARLOW: Oh my gosh!

WEIR: -- a lover of nature and this big, beautiful blue marble, what's left of it. But it's so blessed to focus on new life in the middle of such a nightmare out there. My wishes out to all the new parents as well.

HARLOW: Congratulations.

SCIUTTO: I was going to ask you about that little guy. Congratulations.

HARLOW: He's beautiful, wonderful.

WEIR: Thank you very much, thank you.

HARLOW: What a blessing. Wait until you recount this time to him, Bill. Amazing. WEIR: Yes, absolutely. Lots of stories to tell.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I'm sure he'll -- Dad, you embarrassed me on my 15th day on this planet.


HARLOW: Yes, yes.


WEIR: Just the beginning.

SCIUTTO: You can all join Bill, Saturday night, as he hits the road to see how America could be transformed by the climate crisis. CNN's special report, "THE ROAD TO CHANGE: AMERICA'S CLIMATE CRISIS," airs Saturday night, 10:00 p.m. Eastern time, only on CNN.

HARLOW: Thanks so much for being with us today. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. NEWSROOM with John King starts right after a quick break.