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Coronavirus Impacting Food Supply; Coronavirus Pandemic around the World; Answers to Your Coronavirus Questions. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired April 24, 2020 - 08:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat processing companies in the country, closing another plant because of coronavirus. The plant closures are adding to concerns about the vulnerability of the food supply and the safety of the workers who keep having to go in.

Joining us now is Julie Anna Potts. She is the CEO of the North American Meat Institute.

Ms. Potts, thank you so much for being here.

We had our reporter show us yesterday the big plant in Waterloo, Iowa, the Tyson pork plant, where so many people, I think 180 workers there tested positive. They had to close it as a result. So whose responsibility is it to keep those workers safe? Is it Tyson, meaning the manufacturers, is it the federal government, meaning OSHA, is it the workers themselves? How is this supposed to work?

JULIE ANNA POTTS, PRESIDENT, NORTH AMERICAN MEAT INSTITUTE: Well, first and foremost, the priority for all of us is to keep our workers healthy, safe and supported through this pandemic. All the steps that our companies have gone to, to do that in the plants, I will get a chance to tell you about.

But we have had the Tyson and our other plants in Waterloo and there and across the country have been working with their local (INAUDIBLE) following CDC guidelines, doing everything they can to put measures in plants in place so that the workforce is safe and comfortable, healthy and supported.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But, I mean I guess what I --

POTTS: Those --

CAMEROTA: I mean I guess what I'm saying is that it hasn't worked. I mean if 180 people are testing positive, those -- whatever those measures were haven't worked.

POTTS: Well, this has been unprecedented, community spread, all across the country. We've seen examples in other areas. And so when the proactive measures started sharing -- we started sharing them across the industry weeks ago, put them into place, and now, going forward, we have dividers in between work stations, masks for all the workers, safety -- plastic shields across your face. Everywhere in the plant that folks can be socially distanced or separated, our plants are doing that and the workers have to -- are being communicated with to understand what they need to do, both in the plant and outside, in order to be safe and to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And how about testing? I mean some of the workers say that they don't know if the person working next to them, albeit six feet away, is positive. So until you test all of the workers, people just keep showing up for work, so how do you know who's infected?

POTTS: Well, the plants have instituted, and some for weeks, temperature testing at the beginning of every shift, there are screening questions, so even if you're not -- you don't have a temperature, if you have been with a family member or someone else, and those people are turned away. There are multiple languages spoken in plants, and so in every language direction to if you feel sick, stay home, don't come to work. And so we've done all of those things to keep people from coming to work when they're sick. No one wants this to spread in the plants.

CAMEROTA: And so -- so --

POTTS: But in our communities, we've seen it across the country.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Yes. And so what does all of this mean for the safety of the meat supply, for the rest of the country?

POTTS: Absolutely. No evidence of transmission of any kind of food, including meat, of Covid. So the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all have posted on their websites information that there is no evidence to say that there is anything in the food supply that would transmit Covid.

But in terms of the food supply itself, and maintaining the supply chain, we are working hard every day to keep the plants open and operating so that people have food on the table.


CAMEROTA: Yes. Yes. Understood. OK.

Julie Anna Potts, president of the North American Meat Institute, we really appreciate your time. Thank you.

POTTS: Thank you, Alisyn. Appreciate your time as well.

CAMEROTA: So millions of Muslims are marking the holy month of Ramadan with social distancing and travel restrictions. See how the pandemic has changed this holiday, next.


BERMAN: Nearly 191,000 people have died from coronavirus around the world and at least 2.7 million confirmed cases now.

CNN has reporters across the globe to bring you the latest developments.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Scott McLean in Spain where more than 300 people have died from the coronavirus every day for the past five weeks straight. That doesn't sound like progress, but the government says that things are getting better.

Two out of the 13 hotels being used as hospital wards have now closed with an eye toward gradually and cautiously closing the rest of them. And the government has also outlined the rules to allow kids to finally get out of their houses beginning this Sunday.


Kids can go out, with a parent, for no more than one hour and they cannot stray far from home. Parks and playgrounds will stay closed.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Berlin, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel is now warning that Germany risks squandering the gains it's made in combatting Covid-19. The Germans has loosened some of the restrictions on public life here after they say they were able to push the pandemic back. Now, Angela Merkel says she feels that some states here in this country might be going too fast in loosening some of those restrictions. All this comes as the death toll here in Germany has now topped 5,000.

SAM KILEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Sam Kiley in Abu Dhabi. And this is the beginning of the Ramadan month long feast in this part of the world over the next 24 hours, other parts of the Islamic world will also declare the beginning of Ramadan. But wherever they are, the world's nearly 2 billion Muslims will be facing a very different period of reflection and celebration with very truncated evening iftars (ph), almost the whole of the Islamic world with the one outlier being Pakistan is under some kind of lockdown, particularly with access to mosques being shuttered. In Pakistan, though, they are saying that Muslims who insist on it will be able to gather.


CAMEROTA: Our thanks to our correspondents around the globe.

There are coronavirus developments every hour. So here's what to watch today.


ON SCREEN TEXT: Soon, New York Gov. Cuomo briefing.

2:00 p.m. ET, Virginia Go. Northam briefing.

5:00 p.m. ET, White House task force briefing. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, lockdowns around the world causing a record drop in air pollution levels and several major cities. New analysis from the air quality information company IQ Air, focused on cities with the worst smog, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Seoul and Wuhan. And those cities saw reductions in deadly microscopic particles by as much as 60 percent from the previous year. The report was released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

And a quick programming note. Tomorrow night CNN's Bill Weir takes to the road to see how America will be transformed by the climate crisis. Don't miss our special report, "The Road to Change: America's Climate Crisis," Saturday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, so around the world families are adjusting to a new reality. In Nepal, CNN Hero Maggie Doyne is quarantined with her 54 kids and has mobilized her non-profit to offer lifesaving food and aid to those literally starving outside of their gates.



We're running a children's home for 54 kids.

Sheltering in place and lockdown, it means different when you're in this part of the world. Rampant foot shortages. It's really hard when there's mothers struggling and children are hungry. Every single day it seems to get worse.

Homes have been broken into for food. People were surviving on salt and chili powder. I never felt so scared or overwhelmed, but I've never felt more hope that we can do something and mobilize to make the situation better for many, many people.

I'm just hoping that more help is on the way.


CAMEROTA: To see how her family of 50 plus stays safe and to learn more about Maggie's lifesaving mission during Covid-19, you can go to

Dr. Sanjay Gupta and a very special guest will answer your coronavirus questions, next.



BERMAN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta back to answer some of your questions. And, if you stick around, we have a very special treat.

So, Sanjay, the first question comes from Amundo in San Francisco who says, we've had coronaviruses in the past, like SARS and MERS. How is Covid-19 different from the other coronaviruses and why didn't we have to take such drastic measures, such as lockdowns, for SARS and MERS?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there have been several coronaviruses in the past. I think there's been seven. SARS and MERS were the ones I think most people remember.

There's a couple of things to keep in mind. When you're talking about a new coronavirus, scientists sit there and look at the coronavirus and see, how is it going to behave? And there's two primary things they're looking at. One is, how easily does it spread, that's a big one, and, two, how lethal is it?

With SARS, you may not remember, but it was -- it actually had a fatality rate of 10 percent. So, you know, 10 percent of the people who contracted the infection died. But only 8,000 people around the world, around the entire world, contracted the infection. So around 800 people died.

With MERS, the fatality rate was actually closer to 35 percent. But it wasn't at all very contagious.


So the reason this is attracted such concern is because it is both very transmissible, far more transmissible than the flu, and seems to be far more contagious than the flu as well. So when you put those two things together, that's really what causes the concern.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting. OK, this comes from Tara in Ohio. She says. if someone is asymptomatic, how long are they contagious?

GUPTA: Yes. We know that people can be contagious with this either when they're asymptomatic or even pre-symptomatic. So you don't know you're about to develop symptoms but you're already spreading. That's what pre-symptomatic means.

Afterward, after you've had symptoms or if you've never had symptoms, they say typically if you've had two negative tests, separated by a day, that usually means you're no longer spreading, or if you've had symptoms, there's a couple of criteria. You have to have not had a fever for three days without taking any medications to reduce the fever, like Tylenol, it has to have been at least seven days since you started any symptoms, and your respiratory symptoms have to -- have to have gone away as well. So that's a little bit complicated. This is all on the CDC's website.

I will tell you that it changes from time to time, but that's a general idea of sort of how to know when you're contagious or not.

BERMAN: All right, Sanjay, this is a question on the news. The newest claim is that Covid-19 dies quickly in high humidity and high temperature. But how could this virus exist then or spread in Hawaii?

GUPTA: Right. So we're talking about how this virus might behave or be affected out in the environment. And there is some evidence that with increased temperatures, increased humidity, it's -- the virus doesn't like that. It's not a very hardy virus in those conditions. But, again, it's a very contagious virus. So despite the fact that it

-- it may not like that sort of environment as much, there's plenty of evidence around the world, in the southern hemisphere now of the world where the temperatures are still a little bit warmer, or even in China, as the temperatures got warmer, you still saw significant growth. So despite the fact that you get a little bit of help maybe from the warmer weather and the -- and the higher humidity, when something is this contagious, it's still a problem.

And we don't have any immunity to it. Unlike with the flu, which definitely has this variation, with the flu, most of us have some immunity to it. Even if you don't get the flu shot, you were likely exposed to a variant of this flu last year by virtue of the fact that you live on this planet. But with this, brand-new virus, our immune system has never seen it, very contagious, so the environment helps, but not enough, obviously.

CAMEROTA: OK, Sanjay, we know you have a special town hall coming up tomorrow morning for families and for kids and their questions. And so you have some special guests and you've given us a little sneak peek. So let's play a portion of this.



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Big Bird, this next question is for you.

BIG BIRD: It's for me?

HILL: Yes. Three-year-old Conner from Atlanta, Georgia, has this question.

CONNOR: Hey, Big Bird, what are you doing during this stay at home order?

BIG BIRD: Hi, Conner. Thank you for your question.

I've been reading and drawing pictures in my nest and, oh -- oh, I drew a picture of my friend Oscar the Grouch and I'm going to give it to him when it's OK to have a play date. And, oh, I've also have video play dates with my friend Snuffy. It's kind of hard to see a whole Snuffleupagus in a small video chat screen, though.

And, let's see, what else? Oh, I've been doing virtual exercises with Grover. Here's one that we do. It's called the flap. Just me flapping my wings, really.

And it's been a lot of fun. But, you know, sometimes it is hard. And I do feel sad when I remember that I can't go to school and play with my friends. But, you know, my friends have been helping me feel better.


CAMEROTA: Sanjay, is this your best town hall yet? GUPTA: After -- after 20 years of this, I never thought I would get to

host a show with Erica Hill.


GUPTA: No, kidding, with Big Bird, obviously.

It was a -- it was -- it's really helpful. We filmed some of that. But, you know, I think these questions that really struck me that kids ask that are good questions that adults are often too embarrassed to ask. So, you know, we really get, you know, I think some really important things. So I'm really excited about this.

BERMAN: I have to say, seeing you smile as much as you did, it almost broke your face, Sanjay. It was wonderful to see. And I'm waiting for the Tickle Me Sanjay doll, also, I just want to say that.

CAMEROTA: Oh, boy.

BERMAN: Be sure to watch our special town hall with "Sesame Street" tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. You can go to to submit your questions.

CAMEROTA: OK, Sanjay, stick around, because we actually have "The Good Stuff" that you also are privy to.

And so this was Alicia Keys. She debuted this brand-new beautiful song last night during our -- another coronavirus town hall.


The song is called "Good Job," and it honors the heroes that are taking care of all of us during this time.

So, watch this.


ALICIA KEYS, MUSICIAN (singing): I don't know if this helps it but, good job. 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. Yes.

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. Yes.

6:00 in the morning, and soon as you walk through that door, everyone needs you again. The world's out of order. It's not as --


CAMEROTA: That is so beautiful. What a -- what a poignant message from Alicia Keys.

And, Sanjay, thank you for all that you do for us all week long and all weekend and everything. It's just so comforting to have you and your wisdom with us.

GUPTA: Well, I appreciate that. I feel very safe. You know, I really feel for these front line workers who are out there. You know, I think those images that you were seeing were -- were from CNN and on top of that music. But, you know, the reason our country can keep running right now is because people are out there, you know, putting themselves at risk, at increased risk. And, you know, I'm glad we get to applaud them and thank them and show them that our gratitude.


OK, thank you very much.

CNN's coronavirus coverage continues, next.