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Las Vegas Mayor Pushes to Reopen Casinos, Hotels; Nevada Governor Says State is Not Ready to Reopen; Union Leader Says the Push to Open Las Vegas is Crazy; Army of Tracers Needed to Control the Coronavirus Spread; Angela Merkel Says Germany Only at Start of Coronavirus Crisis; UNESCO Says Covid-19 Leaves 90 Percent of Students Stuck at Home; Denmark Reopens Some Schools to Younger Children. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 23, 2020 - 04:30   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone.

Well, the Mayor of Las Vegas is doubling down on her push to reopen the city's casinos and hotels despite the pandemic. During a contentious interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Carolyn Goodman refused to provide guidelines on how gamblers could socially distance safely. She said that's up to the business owners.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, AC 360: I mean, hundreds of thousands of people coming there in casinos smoking, drinking and touching slot machines, breathing circulated air and then returning home to states around America and countries around the world. Doesn't that sound like a virus petri dish? I mean, how does that safe?

CAROLYN GOODMAN, LAS VEGAS, NEVADA MAYOR: You know what it sounds like you're being an alarmist. I'm not. I've lived a long life. I grew up in the heart of Manhattan and I know what it is like to be with subways and on buses.

COOPER: I'm being an alarmist?

GOODMAN: -- and crammed into elevators. I think you are by saying what you have just said, I am the one that is --

COOPER: So, you don't believe there should be any social distancing? You don't believe --

GOODMAN: Of course, I believe there should be. Of course. I'm a rational --

COOPER: How do you do that in a casino?

GOODMAN: That's up to them to figure out. I don't own the casino. I don't know anything about building a casino.

COOPER: Wait a minute, wait a minute.


CHURCH: Well, the Democratic governor of Nevada is firing back against Mayor Goodman. He told my colleague Anderson Cooper that his state and Las Vegas are not ready to open yet and he will do what he can to protect his citizens. Listen.


STEVE SISOLAK, NEVADA GOVERNOR: It's important that we protect the health and the future and the well-being of our citizens. We can rebuild our economy. We will rebuild our economy. Las Vegas will continue to thrive, but I can't do that if I lose more people. We need to protect their health and the well-being. There will come a time to open Las Vegas in a phased in approach, and I urge everyone.

Nevada has been incredible. The vast majority of citizens are wearing face coverings. They're practicing social distancing. They're doing everything they can. And we need to send a sincere message and a consistent message and it's difficult when we get one person that's kind of leading people astray and I'm disappointed in that.


CHURCH: Joining me now is D. Taylor, president of UNITE HERE. And many of the labor unions members work in the casino and hotel industries. We appreciate you talking with us.


CHURCH: Now the mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman, says she wants hotels and casinos and everything else according to her open up right now. And she insists that private businesses better figure it out that's their job -- her words. What's your reaction to that? And what do the workers you represent think about what she's suggesting here?

TAYLOR: Well, we're not going to be canaries in the mine as test cases. As you know, the coal miners did that 100 years ago. I thought we were done with experimenting with workers' lives to see if it's safe to work. We are prepared to go back to work when it's a safe environment, not just for the workers but for the guests. So I think it's not only irresponsible, I think it's crazy what she's suggesting. I'm more interested in what scientists and health experts say as compared to politicians.

And our members, they're very worried about their safety of work and their loved ones. You know, just in Las Vegas we've had 11 more members die of COVID-19. We've had scores of our members die throughout the United States and the idea that people would have to choose between their life and work is just unacceptable.

CHURCH: Yes, that seems to be the option the mayor is giving everyone. Doesn't it? And Nevada's Governor Sisolak and his medical advisory team say the data related to the spread of COVID-19 doesn't support the reopening of gaming establishments in this state at this time, but they are working on establishing and implementing protocols. What discussions, if any, have you had with the state's governor, and what's your response to his approach to this pandemic?

TAYLOR: We've been very supportive of Governor Sisolak. And we thought he's done a measured way of dealing with this that first and foremost put the safety of Nevadans and then all the guests who come from all over the world. We want places to open as soon as possible but we want them to be safe for the workers and the guests.

I've had discussions with the governor. Other leaders from our local union have had discussions. We don't want to have one more member die of COVID-19 because they're at work.


At the same time, we want to listen to the scientists and the public health experts. They're the ones who understand this. They're the ones that the governor is listening to. So our incidents of cases have not been that bad because he was proactive and got ahead of it.

CHURCH: Right, and as you mentioned, 11 culinary members of the union have died so far from COVID-19. So for their families and other workers in this industry, this situation is very personal. Tell us about some of those stories and how vulnerable some of these frontline workers would be if they were sent back to work in the midst of this pandemic.

TAYLOR: Well they pick up bags. They pick up plates. They pick up ashtrays. They pick up drinks. They clean rooms. All those touch points which could potentially transmit COVID-19, so they're very worried. They want to make sure there's PPE when they go back. What the social distancing policy is, hand sanitizer, thermal checks. All of those things that I guarantee you executives or any white collared jobs would insist upon. We want that for our workers, and not just the workers we represent, all the hospitality workers in the United States and Canada. No one should have to choose between the effects and their health and potentially their life and their job.

CHURCH: So we're hearing that pressure coming from the mayor of Las Vegas. Are your workers feeling pressure from any other areas at all to get back to work?

TAYLOR: Of course our folks want to go back to work. Not just here in Las Vegas but throughout the United States and Canada. But they want to go back to a safety safe and healthy environment so they don't have to worry about whether going back to work means they might contract COVID-19 and die. All I have to say is we've -- and I've talked to many of our members about people who know who have perished. I've known some of those people who have died. There're no words that can express our sorrow, and I'll be damned if a politician is going to treat us like experimental animals before it's safe.

CHURCH: We all need to see smart heads prevail. Let's hope that that is the outcome. D. Taylor, thank you so much for talking with us.

TAYLOR: Thank you so much. Stay safe. CHURCH: Well, horrifying photos from Pennsylvania show bodies being

transported from a hospital to a medical examiner's office in the open back of a pickup truck. The photographs from the "Philadelphia Inquirer" show seven bodies arriving under mats in the back of the truck and being unloaded into the medical examiner's storage area. The Philadelphia Department of Health says it was a breach of protocol and the hospital where the bodies came from has ended its contract with the funeral home responsible.

Well crematoriums in New York face more than a month of backlog because of the pandemic. And licensed funeral director volunteers are stepping in to help. The organization Hands with a Heart was started by Dr. David Penepent and four of his students. During Easter weekend they transported 70 bodies to crematoriums out of state and the numbers have continued to increase. Penepent says his reward is knowing that families can grieve. Aware that their loved ones have been laid to rest.

Well despite the move by some U.S. governors to begin reopening their states, many health experts are warning that doing so prematurely could see the coronavirus spread even further and make contact tracing much more difficult. CNN's Brian Todd has our report.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mission, build an instant army.

ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK GOVERNOR: I have to put together an army of tracers. That's thousands of people. It's never been done before.

TODD: Contact tracers who track down the people who a coronavirus- infected person has had contact with to monitor them for infection. Public health officials say it's a crucial component to being able to reopen the economy so new cases can be contained.

A Johns Hopkins study says an army of about 100,000 contact tracers may be needed to track the number of cases in the U.S. Other experts suggest two or three times that many. But a crisis within this crisis could be brewing.

According to various reports, the U.S. has nowhere near the number of contact tracers needed. By some estimates, only a couple thousand people have been doing it before the outbreak started.

ERIC FEIGI-DING, FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS: Health departments are completely overwhelmed. Health departments are not designed to send out field armies of people to trace every single case that pops up in their community. Some communities have hundreds of cases in a single day.


TODD: States are rushing to ramp up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're already training hundreds if not thousands of contact tracers.

TODD: But among the concerns tonight, how quickly states can build armies big enough to call dozens of people for each new person infected and who's going to pay for them.

As for the type of person needed --

CUOMO: It's a detective -- investigator in the public health space.

TODD: For example, this Massachusetts job posting seeks people who can make calls, follow a script, and give instructions or referrals. Quote, A headset is preferred. They have to interview an infected person. Get them to help identify anyone they've been in close contact with over the past two weeks.

FEIGI-DING: You could define it as anyone within six feet for more than one minute or it can be anyone within six feet for more than 10 minutes.

TODD: And contact tracers have to race against the clock. Experts we spoke to say they have on average less than three days to find someone who an infected person has been in contact with and get that person to isolate.

At this contact tracing center in Arizona, now working virtually, a team leader tells us it's time-intensive, emotionally taxing work.

KRISTEN POGREBA-BROWN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA: Our biggest challenge, honestly, is just getting people on the phone initially and talking to them, and then getting them to open up once you get ahold of them.

TODD: And there are more obstacles. Health professionals says the decision by some governors to reopen businesses so quickly, like Georgia's governor throwing open gyms and hair and nail salons this week, will make accurate contact tracing harder.

FEIGI-DING: If you reopen businesses, now you infinitely increase the number of people that people have been in contact with. It makes contact tracing so much more difficult than if we have a lockdown or shelter-in-place.

TODD (on camera): Experts say another major challenge regarding contact tracing is that it's like a police officer trying to get a witness account of a crime. People's memories of encounters are often shaky and unreliable. To help with that, Apple and Google will soon have apps that people can download. Where they can share data on anyone they've been in contact with, with health departments through their cell phones. But that raises concern over privacy issues.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: And you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, Germany's Chancellor addresses Parliament about her government's response to the pandemic just as the company confirms more deaths. We'll have a live report from Berlin. Back with that in a moment.


CHURCH: Germany has just confirmed more deaths from the coronavirus pandemic. According to health officials, the virus has now killed more than 5,000 people nationwide. Last hour Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the German Parliament and warned that Germany risks squandering the gains it has made if it opens up too fast.

So let's get the latest now from CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He joins us live from Berlin. Good to see you, Fred. So what else did Angela Merkel have to say about where things stand in Germany with this pandemic?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Rosemary. Well by and large Angela Merkel was fairly positive about the way things are going right now in the fight against the coronavirus. She said that Germany acted very quickly, very decisively and also, very early on. Especially with that mass testing that the Germans put in place. But she also warned that Germany now can't risk squandering some of the gains that were made.

And essentially, what she's talking about is the fact that this past weekend and starting on Monday the German government loosened some of the restrictions on physical distancing, allowed some shops to open. And she said that she still supports those measures. But at the same time she also feels that the way they are being implemented is simply too bold.

Now I did see some of this act out in the earlier parts of this week when you saw people come out, going into pedestrian zones. They were pretty crowded. Going into a lot of these shops that were reopening as well. And generally the Chancellor is saying she believes that physical distancing now cannot be relaxed despite the fact that some of these measures have been relaxed. Otherwise Germany risks another spike. And as she put it, squandering the gains that have been made so far.

It was very strong words that part of her speech from the German Chancellor. And certainly something that she definitely wanted to emphasize. Is to tell people, look, the economy in Germany is going to do better if we see this all through. Right now if we stay strong right now rather than relax right now and risk another shutdown. Those were the words she used.

She also said that Germany is committed to dealing with this crisis internationally. She said that no country can deal with this alone. Of course, that's very important, Rosemary, because there is a big EU summit coming up later today where the European leaders, and Germany of course is the biggest and strongest. European countries are going to debate on how they want to try and help each other to tackle all of this. The German Chancellor saying that she's for European solidarity but once again rejected common European bonds to try and deal with the economic fallout of this crisis on a European level -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Absolutely. We'll take her words of caution. All of us should follow that. Fred Pleitgen, joining us live from Berlin, many thanks. We'll take a short break here. Still to come, millions of students

have been forced to stay home during this pandemic leaving parents to juggle work with home schooling. When and how can they expect schools to reopen? We'll have more on that when we return.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, the coronavirus has forced more than 90 percent of students around the world to be stuck at home. Some students have returned to their classrooms in Denmark, but with schools closed in about 190 countries, the process to reopen will vary widely. CNN's Isa Soares has our report.


ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Count how many pens there are and circle the number.

SOARES (voice-over): Parenting in a whole new light. The coronavirus pandemic has transformed our lives more quickly than anyone thought possible, and that includes me as I, like so many others, balance the demands of doing my job as a journalist and schooling my 4 and 2-year- old sons. A shocking 91 percent of the students around the world are out of the classroom because of school closures according to UNESCO. So when will it end and how will schools reopen.

(on camera): Here in the U.K. we're still not sure when schools will reopen. When our children will eventually go back to schools and nursery. But it's a very different story in other parts of Europe.

SOREN JOLLMANN, DANISH PARENT: When they come home from school, that's where they are hungry.

SOARES (voice-over): Maiken and Soren live in Denmark. So as of this week their daughters Kirsten 3 and Eden 7 are now back in school. Across Europe some schools are open. Some opening soon, some closed indefinitely.

SOREN JOLLMANN: They've divided the playground into --


SOREN JOLLMANN: -- five areas. And then they've divided the kids into groups. While they're sitting in the classroom, they're sitting some way apart. They don't have as many desks and the chairs as they usually have. So they're sitting like --

MAIKEN JOLLMANN: They are spaced two meters apart each.

SOREN JOLLMANN: Two meters apart.

MAIKEN JOLLMANN: Then they focus on hygiene and hand sanitizing or washing their hands. That's what they do a lot. SOARES: The young parents say they were surprised that primary schools

reopened so quickly. But they know children are less vulnerable to severe cases of the virus and are just happy that they can be with playmates their own age.

SOREN JOLLMANN: I think they can definitely feel that there's something different but not necessarily that they can't reflect so much about what and why.

SOARES: Maiken and Soren, of course, have good jobs in a rich country and the pandemic is exposing a societal fault lines.

In New York last month students for long lines to pick up laptops for remote learning. A 2018 Pew survey found that 17 percent of teenagers in the U.S. couldn't finish homework because of a lack of reliable internet connection, and that number was even higher for students of color and low-income families.


The virus clearly bringing to the surface all of the inequalities that already plague our societies.

JOHN KING, PRESIDENT AND CEO, THE EDUCATION TRUST: And this COVID-19 practice is going to have a very detrimental effect. It is clear that there are families that don't have the devices, don't have the band width access. It is clear that there are districts that because of the pace at which they had to move to distance from couldn't provide the professional development for teachers.

SOARES: When and how to get students back into school will be about weighing risks. Here in the U.K. the authorities have made it clear, they're not reopening until it's clear that the crisis has eased. Geoff Barton, whose union represents school principals and administrators agree that this is not something we can rush into.

GEOFF BARTON, U.K. ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL AND COLLEGE LENDERS: You're not going to be able to have your staff there because some of the staff are going to be vulnerable to the virus anyway, they might be diabetic. Some of them are living with people who are vulnerable.

SOARES: And what that safety mean, all a work in work in progress.

In Denmark parents drop their kids off outside. Inside the masks come off. In the Netherlands they split the week so only half the students are in on any given day. So how do we reopen schools? Well, it's a long process.

Isa Soares, CNN, London.


CHURCH: And CNN and Sesame Street are teaming up to host a special coronavirus town hall for kids and parents. Big Bird will join CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Erica Hill to talk about how this is affecting kids. The ABCs of COVID-19, a CNN Sesame Street Town Hall will air Saturday morning at 9 in New York, 2 p.m. in London right here on CNN.

And thanks for your company. Stay safe and strong and get through this. I'm Rosemary Church. CNN NEWSROOM continues next with Robyn Curnow.