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Georgia to Reopen Some Businesses on Friday; Wuhan Getting Back to Norman After Long Lockdown; Restrictions Lower Air Pollution in Major Cities; Alicia Keys' Tribute to Essential Workers; Money from Walls Helps Waiters and Waitresses. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired April 24, 2020 - 04:30   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen and this is CNN NEWSROOM live from our studios in Atlanta.

Confirmed cases of the coronavirus have now passed 2.7 million globally. That's according to Johns Hopkins. And in the United States cases are fast approaching 870,000 with deaths closing in on 50,000.

But that is not stopping the state of Georgia, right here, going forward with one of the nation's most aggressive plans to reopen the economy. Starting today businesses such as hair salons, gyms, and tattoo parlors are allowed to open, but adequate testing remains a key issue. And the President and the nation's top infectious disease experts aren't quite seeing eye to eye on that.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: We absolutely need to significantly ramp up not only the number of tests but the capacity to actually perform them. I am not overly confident right now at all.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Doing very well on testing. Even if he said that, I don't agree with.


ALLEN: Anderson cooper has more on where things stand.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): There are now more than 860,000 positive cases of coronavirus in the U.S. more than 49,000 people have died and though the number of cases across the country is currently declining, there are fears a second wave could be even worse than what we've seen so far.

FAUCI: We will have coronavirus in the fall. I am convinced of that. What happens with that will depend on how we're able to contain it when it occurs.

COOPER: We've also learned the virus has been in the United States earlier than previously reported. Autopsies in Santa Clara County in California showed two people died of the virus there in February, the first on February 6th. More than three weeks before the first recorded victim in Washington state.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: That means there was community spread happening in California as early as mid- January if not earlier than that.

COOPER: It's been almost six weeks since the President declared a state of emergency in the U.S. seems like these are no longer surprising in most parts of the country but some states are taking the first steps on reopening. Georgia is one of them.

Governor Brian Kemp is allowing some non-essential businesses to reopen even though public health officials warned it may be too soon.

FAUCI: I would tell him that he should be careful and I would advise him not to just turn the switch on and go. Because there is a danger of a rebound.


ALLEN: As America tentatively makes moves towards the opening, the original epicenter of the outbreak, Wuhan in China, is working on getting back to normal.


As that happens, a CNN crew which had just made it out of the city before the long, tough lockdown is now back and along with the rest of Wuhan, they're reflecting on what happened. Here's our David Culver.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As the folks that live here within Wuhan look to move forward after this lockdown has eased and try to resume life as it was prior to the lockdown knowing it's going to look a lot different, they're also cognizant of what they have just experienced. And for many that was a painful several months. Some of them losing loved ones, others losing their jobs and not sure if they'll have a financial cushion to return to. And it seems as of now they won't have that, many of them at least.

However, they're also reflecting on those who early on tried to sound the alarm here. And that includes Dr. Li Wenliang. He was an ophthalmologist who simply wanted to alert his friends that there was a SARS-like illness going around back in December. Sent a message. That message got to police. Police reprimanded him, silenced him. He wasn't the only early whistleblower to be silenced. And eventually he went back to the hospital, contracted the virus, got sick and died.

Less than a week before he died, he shared his story with CNN. Now being back here we wanted to follow up with his family. We wanted to hear their side of things to see if they'd be willing to talk. Here's our attempt at contacting his widow.

We've pulled up to the apartment building of Dr. Li Wenliang. He is really seen as a hero here in China. His widow lives in the building that I'm looking at just down the street here. We're going to give a call to see if she would be willing to share a little bit with us about this whole experience and how she's been able to process it.

That was Dr. Li's widow who acknowledged her identity on the phone. We're just in front of where she lives. Part of the concern has been since this story has been politicized by some here and outside of China, the concern is now that there's more pressure on his family to keep quiet and to simply not share beyond what Dr. Li himself already shared. Well, at least we tried.

Out of respect we did not air the voice of Dr. Li's widow. What you heard there was the changed voice of our translator. But Dr. Li's widow told us that she simply is too busy to talk, she had other things to do and didn't go into much detail beyond that.

There is a lot of fear surrounding speaking out -- particularly to foreign media. There's distrust and concern. And even us being here as foreigners there's an uncertainty as to what we could be bringing virus wise into this area. That's because state media has focused heavily on the external threat and the potential that a second wave could be caused by imported cases.

David Culver, CNN, Wuhan, China.


ALLEN: With people around the world confined to their homes, air quality in many cities has improved dramatically. Where has the pollution gone? Is there any chance we can try not to go back to where we were. We'll have an interview about that in a moment.



ALLEN: Well, the restrictions on everyday life that many nations have implemented to stop the coronavirus also are having an unexpected and, actually, a wonderful result. Significant improvements in air quality around the world. Can you tell from these pictures? Researchers from IQAir, a global air quality information and technology company, studied ten major cities around the world. Seven of those cities saw their air pollution drop by as much as 60 percent in just three weeks. Jess Phoenix joins me now from Los Angeles. She is a geologist and Executive Director and cofounder of Blueprint Earth. Jess, thanks for coming on. How are you?

JESS PHOENIX, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND COFOUNDER, BLUEPRINT EARTH: Oh, I'm doing well. Thanks for asking. How are you?

ALLEN: I'm fine, we're all doing fine. So far so good. I want to ask you, coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on people around the world, but we have seen a lot of changes come about since the pandemic shut down. Much of the globe reports of animals returning to places from which they've been long gone, record low levels of pollution. It shows just how devastating an impact humans are having on the planet.

PHOENIX: Yes, that is correct. And these are all really hopeful little seeds, I guess. We can look at them and like -- that we planted them and suddenly they're getting a chance to germinate in our absence. So now it's up to us to figure out how we take that and grow it into a sustainable future.

ALLEN: Right. What are you hearing from people? We've seen it on social media. We've covered it here in the news about the air being clear and pollution going away during this pandemic. And people's reaction to it, being like shocked, that we didn't realize what we were living in.

PHOENIX: You know, that's correct. And I live in Los Angeles which used to be notorious for its smog in the 1980s and even the '70s, and a lot of clean air efforts went into improving that situation. But I'll tell you, these last few weeks, my husband who has asthma, has noticed the difference just in being outdoors when we take our exercise walks. And I think it's something that while you can hear it and understand it on an intellectual level, seeing the difference for yourself, there's nothing quite like that.

ALLEN: Right. Well, the World Meteorological Organization says carbon emissions have dropped 6 percent during the pandemic. But even with much of the planet stuck at home, that's still not enough to get the world back on track to meet the good old Paris agreement targets from 2015. So the question is, without the Trump administration making environmental gains, they've been pulling back on ways to protect our environment, how do we fix this?

PHOENIX: Well, what this shows us is that this dramatic reduction in output, it is dramatic, because we have cut so much emissions over the last month or so involuntarily though that may have been, that shows us that we actually would be most of the way towards meeting the 2030 goal of reducing carbon emissions by 40 percent. We would be more than halfway there if we did this intentionally.


So to me, that really shows that we have a tremendous opportunity to make sustainable changes in the way that we work and live and play and interact with our environment.

ALLEN: NASA says air pollution in northern India has dropped to a 20- year low. That is an amazing change that can dramatically impact the quality and length of life for millions of people there. Often when it's at its worse, we do live reports with our reporters in India and we can even see them in the shot. That's how bad it is. But the question is, we know so many people are on board with wanting change but governments hasn't taken a step back and said, it's the planet before business.

PHOENIX: Right. That is a very hard thing to convey to people who particularly within the United States are put into power by very wealthy people. That's what's driving the elected officials' mindsets. So if you've got people who are beholden to fossil fuel interests running government, it's really hard for them to stand up and make a big push to change things and prioritize the planet and people over profits.

So I really hope that this time is a time of inspiration for the next crop of leaders so that they can come to the forefront and bring new ways of thinking about what they owe our society as our elected representatives. And they always to try their best to make a sustainable future and happy livable future where we can all exist, earn money and enjoy clean air. That's what we all need here on this planet and you can't get around that.

ALLEN: This pandemic brought about this accident, and it's a lovely accident that we are seeing with these beautiful, clear skies. Thank you so much for talking with us, Jess Phoenix. Thanks, Jess, good luck to you.

PHOENIX: Thank you. Enjoy the air.

ALLEN: Well, next here, Alicia Keys.


ALICIA KEYS, SINGER: I don't know if this helps it, but good job, doing a good job, good job. You're doing a good job. Don't get too down --


ALLEN: A powerful song with a powerful message to the world at this troubled time. We'll take that next.


Keys: Doing a good job. Good job. You're doing a good job. Don't get too down. The world needs you now.




ALLEN: A song with a message of gratitude and appreciation. Alicia Keys debuted her new song "Good Job" on a CNN Town Hall Thursday, paying tribute to all of the essential workers tirelessly working around the clock helping people during this global pandemic. Here's what she told CNN's Anderson Cooper.


KEYS: The message is, is really, you know, a message of gratitude. A message of thanks. A message of knowing that we are going to make it and the way that we're going to make it is by being together, is by uplifting each other and sharing, you know, these everyday moments that really make us stronger.

But specifically, you know, for the essential workers, for the teachers, for, you know, the guy at the grocery store that gets up every morning at 5 a.m. so that somebody else can eat. For that delivery person that you're talking about that you saw on the bike on your way to work, making sure that an elderly person has food in the refrigerator or the medicine that they need.

You know, these things that seem so mundane under normal circumstances, are huge. And so, the appreciation to those heroes that are walking among us is what the message of this song is and really just, you know, reminding each other, don't get too down because you're needed. You are needed more than even these words could ever express.

KEYS, SINGING: I don't know if this helps it, but good job. You're doing a good job, good job. You're doing a good job. Don't get too down. The world needs you now. Know that you matter, matter, matter. You're doing a good job, a good job. You're doing a good job. Don't get too down. The world needs you now. Know that you matter, matter, matter. Six in the morning as soon as they walk through that door everyone needs you again. The world's out of order. It's not as sound when you're not around. All day on your feet, hard to keep that energy. I know when it feels like the end of the road, you don't let go. You just press forward. You're the engine that makes our things go. Always in the skies my hero. I see a light in the dark.


ALLEN: A lot of unsung heroes right now keeping this world going. What a beautiful song and a tribute.

Well, you know that old saying, money doesn't grow on trees, but it does make for some lucrative -- get this -- wallpaper. As CNN's Jeanne Moos explains people hit by the COVID crisis are now cashing in.


JEANNIE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Laid off workers are getting a little something to line their pockets thanks to money that used to line the walls.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Taking dollars down.


MOOS: Dollars plastered with messages and then slapped on the walls of places like The Sand Bar in Georgia, Hott Leggz in Fort Lauderdale and Hamburger Joe's in North Myrtle Beach. Where the slogan is, "Bite my buns!" When coronavirus took a bite out of business owners raised the bar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We literally had money on the walls and time on our hands. MOOS: So they put their hands to work prying off all that cash to give

to laid off employees. It took the establishments anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks to take down the bills.

RICHARD BROOKS, GENERAL MANAGER, HAMBURGER JOE'S: Some of the money is in not the best condition. Some of it had been up for 30 years of hamburger grease and dust and good memories.

MOOS: But it was good money. Around $6,000 at Hamburger Joes.

KY NOVAK, CO-OWNER, HOTT LEGGZ: When you tear them off you got to tape them together, you got to keep the serial numbers together.

MOOS: Hott Leggz retrieved as much as 10,000 bucks to take to the bank.

NOVAK: I don't think the bank likes dealing with us. We've had bills that had over 20 staples in it.

MOOS: At The Sand Bar they peeled off over $3700, then an anonymous donor doubled it. One bartender said she was OK financially and gave her 600 bucks to this bartender.


MOOS: Who works elsewhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god. Now I can pay my rent.

MOOS: The mermaid once surrounded by bills is looking a little lonely without them. Hott Leggz, the co-owner says --

NOVAK: The bar looks too clean right now.

MOOS: He'll be happy when customers start attaching money again.

(on camera): Everybody knows money doesn't grow on trees.

(voice-over): Money grows on arch ways and ceiling and corners. It sprouts from the rafters.

Jeanne Moos, CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go a dollar bill now.

MOOS: New York.


ALLEN: And that is CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks so much for watching. I'm Natalie Allen. The news continues right after this.