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Over a Quarter of World's Coronavirus Deaths are in the U.S.; States Begin Reopening Despite Warning from Health Officials; NAACP Pushes Back against Georgia Governor's Reopening Order; Health Experts Emphasize Need for Widespread Antibody Testing; Dr. Sanjay Gupta Takes Antibody Test to Learn whether he had Virus; Top UK Health Official: "Concerning" Evidence of Reinfection. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 25, 2020 - 17:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello on this Saturday. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera.

In New York right now in the United States, the number of people sick and dying from coronavirus is continuing to rise even though health officials in a number of states report some encouraging news that their infection curves are flattening but not all, and still, more than 920,000 people in the U.S. are known to have the virus and more than 53,000 have died.

The World Health Organization warning today that people who have had the virus are not necessarily protected against getting it again. Scientists say there's no evidence that patients become immune to further infection.

And this just in to CNN, from the state of Illinois, at least 2,600 healthcare workers in that state alone have tested positive for the coronavirus. Public health officials in Illinois say about 4,700 people are hospitalized there this weekend, a quarter of them in intensive care.

Despite still rising infection rates. Some states like Georgia are rolling out the first phases of their back to business plans. And the White House's Coronavirus Task Force is meeting right now. The vice president and doctors Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci arriving just a short time ago.

Let's begin in Georgia where businesses are reopening even though there has not been a 14-day decrease in new cases. As recommended by the White House Task Force, nonessential businesses including hair salons, tattoo parlors, gyms and more are officially allowed to open their doors and accept customers.

CNN's Natasha Chen is live in Douglasville, Georgia. And Natasha, these relaxed rules are expected to extend to even more businesses in Georgia come Monday. What can you tell us?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Ana. Well, some of these opened on Friday like the barber shop there. They said that when they opened for the first time in a month, there were 15 people waiting to get in. The tattoo shop is also open and other hair salons on the strip. And come Monday, restaurants will be allowed to offer dine-in service.

Now, a lot of the ones that we've reached out to and others who have posted on social media, they are saying that it's still too early for them to open for dine-in, Topps Sports Bar and Grill, Taco Mac across the street there, they're not choosing to reopen on Monday. Only a handful of them that we know of are actually doing that.

Now, we did visit with the bowling alley on - yesterday and they were very excited to reopen. Here's what the owner said knowing that his decision may meet some criticism.


RANDY HICKS, BOWLING ALLEY OWNER: You know, I'm sorry for that. I hope -- I hope they don't hold against us for no reason. We are not trying to hurt anybody. If you look, we just want to get the business going. We have 25 employees that support families out of this bowling center. And we, you know, we are trying to get them back to work also. You are sitting there watching, you know, the money fly out the window, I guess, you know. You still got to pay bills.


CHEN: Yes. And we also heard from a fellow owner there, Debra Holland, who her -- she is a cancer survivor. So, she is very conscientious about how they are social distancing there, how they are cleaning everything. She said that she doesn't want to end up going to the hospital with this virus since she is missing half a lung. There are other people that we've talked to in the small businesses with similar concerns, but they also tell me none of them have actually gotten any financial help. So, there's a lot of pressure financially to the make some money here. Even if there are still some hesitations with the health risk are, Ana.

CABRERA: That is a tough position for those businesses to be in. Natasha Chen, thank you.

And it's not just Georgia. States around the country are looking to restart opening businesses and get people back to work. But as health experts are warning, it is simply too soon. Some governor say, the time is now to reopen. CNN's Kyung Lah takes a closer look at this debate.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the U.S. death toll crosses 50,000 lives lost, some businesses reopen. Donning masks, barbershops are back. Defying public health warnings, Georgia and Oklahoma allowed doors to open at some businesses like salons. In Texas, curbside is open.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I walk out to their trunk, put them in there and go on the front seat, thank you so much for your purchase for helping us.

LAH (voice-over): The state pushed to restart the economy, happening from the South, the Midwest, to Alaska, a real-time experiment of the virus versus state policies.

In South Carolina, department stores are now open with some restrictions. Wisconsin, golf courses and some retail open curbside. Alaska, restaurants allowed to open at a quarter of capacity, into the weekend and next week, more states open up.


Tennessee will be allowing restaurants to open at half-capacity on Monday, saying it's time.

GOV. BILL LEE (R-TN): Our approach to rebooting the economy, it must be steady and methodical and empower opening in a way that doesn't jeopardize all of the strides that we've made so far in attacking COVID-19.

LAH (voice-over): But other local leaders say that's exactly what governors are doing by opening now.

BEE NGUYEN (D), GEORGIA STATE HOUSE: This is a pre-mature and reckless decision on behalf of the governor. We know these risks are great. And we expect that we're going to see another spike.

LAH (voice-over): New York's governor warned the country must learn from our very recent history. As testing continues to be inadequate said the National Governor's Association.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): What is the lesson? An outbreak anywhere is an outbreak everywhere.

LAH (voice-over): That's why Michigan's governor facing small but vocal right wing protests to reopen is extending the stay-at-home order for her state until May 15th.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): So as hard as this moment is for us right now, as isolated as we feel and as stressed as we are about getting back to work, reopening up businesses. We know that if we do it too fast, a second wave is likely and would be even more devastating.

LAH (voice-over): In Los Angeles, California, a grim announcement that highlights the toll of this virus.

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-CA), LOS ANGELES: And another dark threshold that we crossed is that COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in Los Angeles County. Deaths are doubling every seven to eight days here in Los Angeles still. Across the county in our general emergency hospitals, we continue to be very resilient and strong.


CABRERA: Our thanks to Kyung Lah for her reporting. I want to bring in now the president of the Atlanta branch at the NAACP, Richard Rose. And Richard, your group's response to the Georgia governor's plan to reopen businesses is very strong. You are urging people, especially black people there in Atlanta to defy the governor and don't go to work. This is what you are calling, blackout, sickout. And you wanted it to start yesterday, so what have you seen and heard? Did people call out sick in large numbers yesterday?

RICHARD ROSE, PRESIDENT, NAACP ATLANTA: Well, we think it's a mixed bag. There are some people who do not understand the gravity of this virus, which is airborne, which is -- can exist outside of a host for days and weeks and that, can be carried by a person who is asymptomatic who can infect others.


CABRERA: Let me just stop you for just a second though because I want to make sure -

Forgive me. Forgive me. I don't want to interrupt. But I do want to just make sure that something you said was not right which is that I don't believe there's any evidence that this virus can exist outside of a host for days or weeks. You know, possibly days on surfaces, but definitely not weeks. Has not been any data on that. So I just want to be clear.

ROSE: At these - at those cruise ships they found - they've emptied those cruise ships, they still found the virus. So - but we -- there's too much that we do not know and we have to take this virus seriously. We know that in Georgia 56 percent of the COVID patients are of the black community. And they are having underlying issues in the black community. Such as hypertension, diabetes. So just think that coming back too soon, which is contrary to the experts.

The experts say, hey, wait 14 days after you have seen a decline, we don't have that experience in Georgia. We still have an uptick and we don't have, not even a 1 percent of the -- of the state of Georgia residents have been tested. We are 10 million residents. And we are down in this thousands who have been tested beyond and we have got over 21,000 patients now -- 22,000 patients now.

So, it is just too soon. It is contrary to the experts and we need to follow the scientists. Follow the people who know what this disease and the disease are about. Follow their lead and be careful. We want to -- if you go back to work, you are earning money. But you are winding up in the hospital and on a sick bed or even death. What good did that do? We think it's premature, we think the government was rash.

CABRERA: Well said. Your specific message to people is to, and I'm quoting here, "push back on Brian Kemp." What do you say to those who say, you're the one playing politics with people's lives and livelihoods?

ROSE: So, we think -- well that's always the response when you know, people call the NAACP racist, because we speak out against racism. We see - again, we follow what the experts are saying. What did the infectious disease experts say? What the WHO says? What the CDC says? What President Trump's own experts say?


They say, take it slow. It is too soon to begin a phase of reopening up the economy and they all predict that if we come back too soon, it will be more devastating than the first wave.

CABRERA: Your mayor in Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, supports your message, she's urging people to just stay home and listen to the scientists despite what the governor of Georgia says. Mayor Bottoms and even her son have received now disgusting racist threats. Are you shocked that how ugly this debate has gotten?

I -- unfortunately we lost him obviously. Apologize for this technical difficulties and thank you for your patience with us regarding this - during this time in which we're all social distancing and staying away from, you know, areas including - including the studios that we're normally be able to send somebody like him too.

Our thanks to Richard Rose.

Up next, many health experts agree widespread antibody testing is essential to getting life back to normal. So, how close is the U.S. to achieving that? You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



CABRERA: Health official say widespread coronavirus antibody testing is essential to reopening the country. But what exactly is an antibody test? What does it tell you? Does it mean you are immune to the virus for life?

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta took one to find out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to put a tight squeeze on you over here, OK?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are two different test that we are all becoming familiar with. A diagnostic test that searches for the genetic markers of the coronavirus, and this one that tests for antibodies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to give you a (INAUDIBLE)

GUPTA (voice-over): First thing you'll notice is that the antibody test requires blood. For me, it was just a poke.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And just like that, we are all done.

GUPTA (voice-over): But then, look at all the steps that take place after that. My blood is taken down to the lab. And then spun down in a centrifuge. You're looking at my serum. That's the clear part that might contain antibodies, if I have been previously exposed. The way to find that out is fascinating. Just take some of my serum and put it in the same test tube as the virus and see what happens.

DR. JOHN ROBACK, PATHOLOGIST, EMORY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: If you have antibodies against that. They're going to bind, then we're going to be able to detect that.

GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. John Roback is the medical director of the Blood Bank at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta where I practiced as a neurosurgeon. I was able to get this test because I'm still working as a doctor at Emory, and healthcare workers are considered to be at high risk for COVID-19.

Here's what happens in your body when you're infected. The blue line, that is how long the virus typically lives inside of you. Take a look at the green line. Early on, IGM antibodies appear but they disappear shortly after. And then the red line, that's the IGG antibody. That's the one that appears after the infection is cleared and might provide immunity.

For just how long? How strong? That we don't know yet.

We do know that for other coronaviruses like SARS, antibodies lasted 2 to 3 years and MERS, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome had antibody presence of about three years. But with this new coronavirus, it's still too early to tell.

GUPTA (on camera): What is the real value of having the test?

ROBACK: I think if you have - if you are positive on this test, it indicates you have been exposed. That can give you a little bit of peace of mind I think that you know -- that you know the cough I had two weeks ago, that was really COVID-19. It could indicate that you know, some of your close contacts should be tested.

GUPTA (voice-over): But perhaps most importantly, Dr. Roback told me something I had not really considered before. That if you test positive for the antibodies that means you have dealt with this infection and you have beat it. And chances are, that if you are exposed to it again, you will beat it again, as for me, that part is still an open question mark. I tested negative.


CABRERA: Our thanks to Dr. Sanjay Gupta for his reporting. And we are happy he is healthy.

We've learned that the FDA has approved three new antibody tests. Bringing the total test currently on the market - again, antibody test specifically to seven.

Now, the few tests that have been completed so far have found that some Americans have already had coronavirus and not even known it. A study of Miami-Dade residents, for instance, found that between 4.4 percent and 7.9 percent of the residents there have antibodies. A separate study in Santa Clara, California found that about 2.5 to 4 percent of people have antibodies. And in New York, the Governor Andrew Cuomo says results in New York City show about 20 percent of those tested have antibodies.

I want to bring in infectious disease specialist, Dr. Celine Gounder. And public health specialist, Dr. Saju Mathew.

Dr. Gounder, what percentage of the population would you want to have antibodies in order to safely reopen?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST AND EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Well Ana, it does depend to some degree on the virus. But in general, we're talking about 70 percent to 90 percent of the population need to have antibodies to have what we consider herd immunity. So the more infectious the virus, so for example, measles, you need to have herd immunity of about 90 percent. You know and even the numbers that we're getting out of New York City which are skewed because the people who were tested were people who are still going to grocery stores at the time. And a lot of them stopped doing that even then it was 20 percent. So, we are really nowhere near what we call herd immunity levels yet.

CABRERA: Here's the thing though. The World Health Organization now says there is no evidence that people who had coronavirus are immunized from the second infection. Although they say that this just hasn't been studied. Here's the UK's chief medical officer talking about that.


CHRISTOPHER WHITTY, CHIEF UK MEDICAL OFFICER: There's a little bit of evidence of some people may be re-infected with this having had a previous infection.


That's a slightly concerning situation. And certainly, some other coronaviruses immunity are relatively quickly. So we need to be careful, we don't assume that we will have a vaccine for this disease as we have for let's say measles, which once you have it, you are protected for life. We may or we may not. We need to be absolutely clear about that.

CABRERA: So, Dr. Matthew, if this is the case, why does antibody testing matter?

DR. SAJU MATHEW, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: Hey, Ana. You know I'm cautiously optimistic. I mean, I know there are lot of questions surrounding the antibody testing, but it matters for a lot of reasons.

Number one, we can get the community back to working again and jump start the economy that way. If you have got a loved one who is sick, you can actually take care of that person without really worrying about getting infected. And then, as a public health specialist, this also gives us an indirect idea of how many people are actually infected. It's also the bottom line basic framework of developing a vaccine.

And lastly, Ana, plasma donation. That is also something that we have studied quite a bit in immunology, if you have antibodies, you can donate that plasma to somebody who is recovering from COVID-19. So, there's still a lot of questions about the specificity of antibody testing. But I think that this is something that we should be able to work through and previous viral infections have shown immunity. So I'm still cautiously optimistic that that should be the case with COVID- 19.

CABRERA: Oh, man, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and praying you are right.

Dr. Gounder, we heard from Dr. Fauci just today, and he says, he believes the U.S. should double its testing over the next several weeks. Where should we be testing wise, both in diagnostic testing and the antibody testing?

GOUNDER: Well, largely what he is referring to is the diagnostic testing which would be done as part of contact tracing and testing. So, really what you want to do is identify all the people who have been exposed to somebody who has COVID. They may or may not have symptoms, but we want to test them anyway because what we know now is that many people who have been infected with COVID-19 do not have symptoms.

So, really the only way to identify people who may have the disease and who don't have symptoms is to track down anybody who has been exposed and to test them. And that's really going to require ramping up testing dramatically.

CABRERA: Dr. Mathew, the UK chief medical officer also warned that evidence of reinfection means a vaccine, it's much less likely. That is shocking ad scary. If there's no vaccine and if people can get re- infected. Is there a point where we made just need to adapt to a permanent threat of COVID-19?

MATHEW: Once again, Ana, I want to be that fresh breath of air that sounds a bell of optimism. We don't really know. There's so much about COVID-19 that we don't know. There's so many different companies that are trying to develop a vaccine, and we have developed successful vaccines in the past. You know, we have developed successful vaccines for infections that sort of disappear if you will like in SARS, and remember COVID-19 is a cousin. It's in the family of SARS. It's a family of coronavirus.

So, I'm not ready to sort of you know, hang everything and say that we're going to have to deal with this threat for the rest of our lives. I'm still optimistic that we will come up with a vaccine. It's just a matter of time. And it could be easily 12-18 months away.

CABRERA: Right. In fact, I think the latest number or date we were given just this past week was March of next year being maybe the shortest time for now in which we might see a vaccine.

Dr. Gounder, doctors are reporting that this virus appears to be causing strokes in young people who are otherwise healthy and either have mild cases or no symptoms at all. How concerning is this?

GOUNDER: Well one of the ways in which COVID causes disease is that it over revs up the immune system. So, it's sort of like your immune system gone haywire and it causes dramatic inflammation which can cause damage to the lungs. It can also cause increased risk of blood clots. And so, blood clots can cause stroke. They can cause heart attack. We're also seeing blood clots in the lungs and the kidneys causing kidney failure. So this is something that's quite unique to COVID to see such dramatic inflammation due to the virus. And that's actually one of the things that will be targeting with some of the treatments that we're testing right now is trying to turn down the immune system.

CABRERA: Dr. Mathew, let me ask you more about these strokes that are apparently being caused by large blood clots created by this virus. What are blood clotting symptoms that people should be watching for?

MATHEW: Yes, it's a good question, Ana. It's really unfortunate that we are developing or finding out new symptoms that this COVID-19 is causing. But when you develop a hyper-coagulability, that just means that your blood gets really thick. It can actually throw clots to the brain. So, you can have symptoms of stroke and neurological symptoms.


Some people are reporting of these blue toes and blue feet. And that's where, when the blood clot gets into the vessel, it prevents blood supply and your feet can turn almost blueish in discoloration. So, these are some of the symptoms to look out for, if you have got this discoloration of your extremities, when you have neurological type symptoms, then yes. Absolutely, this is something that you need to seek immediate attention and talk to your doctor or go to the emergency room.

CABRERA: Dr. Saju Mathew and Dr. Celine Gounder, my thanks to both of you. I really appreciate your expertise and thanks for taking the time to share it with us.

MATHEW: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Be well. Many of us have many questions about coronavirus. What to do? What to avoid? When to see the doctor? Don't forget. We have a podcast with answers. You can join Dr. Sanjay Gupta for "Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction" anytime and you can listen wherever you get your favorite podcasts. We will be right back.



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: The "Washington Post" is reporting that a chicken processing company was forced to kill two million of its chickens earlier this month because of a labor shortage due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It's just another example of the challenges meat and poultry plants have been dealing with in the pandemic as outbreaks at a number of plants across the country are forcing many to close.

CNN's Gary Tuchman spoke with workers at one plant who say they have been left wondering about their health and their future.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cars rolling into the parking lot of the Tyson pork production plant in Waterloo, Iowa, hundreds of them. The plant itself has been shut down. But the employees are waiting in a long line to take company provided tests for COVID-19.

The plant only shut this week after COVID-19 positive tests of employees have reached the 182 mark.

Earnest Latiker works at the plant.


TUCHMAN: Scared because he said somebody that he worked next to for hours tested positive. So Latiker went ahead and got a test on his own.

LATIKER: I have not gotten my results back yet.

TUCHMAN: Latiker is a husband and father of a baby. And is one of the many employees of the plant, people in the community and politicians who called for the plant to close earlier when the word of the first infection came to light.

He says he called the Tyson H.R. Department last week.

TUCHMAN (on camera): And you said what?

LATIKER: I was concerned about the coronavirus being in the plant, and I was scared for me and my family.

TUCHMAN: And what did H.R. say to you?

LATIKER: They told me, I was -- I was safe. And they told me that everything was OK. And they told me I will have a better chance of catching the coronavirus going out to Walmart than in Tyson. Come to work. You're safe.

TUCHMAN: And did you believe them?

LATIKER: I wanted to believe them. And then, I needed that money at the same time, so I went to work.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This employee doesn't want to reveal his identity, fearing retribution from the company.

(on camera): Do you feel they care about your health?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not as much as they need to. TUCHMAN (voice-over): He waited hours in the line to get tested and he

also got tested on his own last weekend and was negative. But felt if he did not do it again at the plant, he may not be allowed to come back to work when it reopens.

But he is angry, particularly AT how the company dealt with one of his co-workers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She was sick, asked to go home, was told that she could not go home because she did not have a fever at the time. A couple days later, she ended up testing positive for the virus.

TUCHMAN: The company tells me it can't address the specific situation as described.

Tyson is paying employees while the plant is closed. However, many workers remain angry at the company.

But the president of Tyson foods did not seem contrite in an interview on CNN, in which he said the company is fully committed to the employee safety.

DEAN BANKS, PRESIDENT, TYSON FOODS: We are part of the community. And from everything had that we have seen, the spread of the disease in the community is affecting us in the plant.

TUCHMAN: But the much more common sentiment here is the opposite is true, that the spread of the disease at the plant has affected the community.

Ernest Latiker feels that way.

(on camera): Will you go back to work once they say it's safe to reopen?

LATIKER: Yes, I got to feed my family. So, yes, I will go back to work.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): After we met him, Ernest Latiker found out he tested negative, a feeling of relief amid the continuing tension.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Waterloo, Iowa.


CABRERA: Up next, we are learning more about the health of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. Details next.



CABRERA: Another U.S. Navy ship reporting outbreak of the virus. Military officials say 33 sailors aboard the "USS Kid" tested positive for coronavirus, with two of them medically evaluated and had to be evacuated to a hospital in the United States. The "Kid" is a destroyer. Her crew was performing counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific. The ship is now returning to port.

In Japan, a fresh surge of coronavirus cases is putting pressure on that nation's health care system. Japan has now surpassed 12,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and has more than 340 deaths.

Meantime, there's 60 new confirmed cases among crew members on board an Italian cruise ship that is docked for repairs in Japan. No passengers are on that cruise ship.

Let's go to CNN's Will Ripley, in Tokyo.

Will, what are Japan's health authorities planning to do about the recent spike in coronavirus cases?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is becoming a crisis here for Japanese health authorities who had focused for so long on very limited the testing and the tracing of clusters at the expense of bolstering the public health system, adding more ICU beds and ventilators and expanding to widespread testing.

Now, they are trying to expand to widespread testing but it's slow going. For example, here in Tokyo, they are testing fewer than 300 people per day on average for the month of April.

It's a city of 13.5 million, a densely populated city. Loudspeakers are blaring, telling people to stay inside. People are not hearing. They are packing parks, gambling parlors and supermarkets.

And people have been packing public transportation going to work. Most Japanese companies are not set up to allow employees to work from home.

The number of cases here in coronavirus in Japan, Ana, has increased more than 10 times just in the last month. And then, of course, you have now 150 confirmed cases on the "Costa Atlantica" cruise ship with more than 600 people on board.


So clearly, Japan is trying to get a handle on this, but it's a struggle and the numbers are rising quickly.

CABRERA: It looks like it was a good call to postpone the Olympic Games.

Will, let me turn to new reporting I know you have been working on regarding the health of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-Un. What can you tell us?

RIPLEY: I want to call your attention, Ana, to these new satellite images, that shows a train, likely Kim Jong-Un's train, which is believed to be outside and has been for several days his luxurious beachfront compound in the North Korean coastal city of Wonsan. This is a place that Kim Jong-Un loves to be. He spent summers there as a child. The fact that his train is there does not prove or disprove anything

in terms of his health. But let me give you some context. When I have been in Wonsan and Kim Jong-Un travels there, he always travels by plane or maybe he drives. It's fast and more convenient and he likes to fly his own plane when he is in good health.

A train is something that Kim Jong-Un would be riding on for a much more serious, much more formal procession.

The fact that his train is outside of his compound could indicate that Kim Jong-Un is planning some sort of a very serious procession somewhere out of Wonsan, something not time sensitive, like an emergency medical flight.

It's worth noting, for context, Kim Jong-Un traveled by train when he went to go meet with the Chinese president. He also traveled by train to the summit with President Trump in Hanoi.

Kim Jong-Un's father, Kim Jong-Il, reportedly died on his train and was brought back on the train in a formal way.

Look, clearly, something major is happening inside North Korea. The fact that state media has been completely silent for days, ever since CNN's Jim Sciutto broke the story that the U.S. was monitoring intelligence that Kim was in grave health after a surgical procedure.

There's been radio silence on state media. The projection is business as usual. But the fact that his train is in the Wonsan, and Kim Jong- Un is believed to be there, I believe it's something that we need to watch very closely in the coming days.

CABRERA: We know you are watching and working your sources.

Thank you very much, Will Ripley.

As people around the world are on lockdown due to the coronavirus, air pollution is falling by unprecedented levels. And wild animals are roaming city streets. We will look inside what the environment might be trying to tell us, next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



CABRERA: The coronavirus pandemic has changed life as we know it. And the environment is responding to weeks of global lockdown. Air pollution is falling by unprecedented levels in major cities worldwide.

In fact, in Los Angeles, a city known for its notorious smog, the downtown skyline is fully visible for first time in years. The EPA said this is the longest stretch of good air quality in L.A. in at least 25 years.

And in Venice, Italy, the canals are so clear, you can see the bottom. You can see jelly fish.

As this week marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, CNN's Bill Weir takes a closer look at what the environment may be trying to tell us.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (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 used sidewalks in Portugal. Kashmiri goats are helping themselves to the shrubbery in Wales. And a sea turtle hatch in Thailand is reportedly setting modern records.

A normally shy puma ran a stop light 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, the Yosemite Park rangers are seeing more bears than ever.

UNIDENTIFIED PARK RANGER: For the most part, I think they're having a break.

WEIR: While they are 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."

(on camera): Man, it will be a great day when the only big Naval ship docked in New York City is a museum. When the "Comfort" finally sets sail, surely those vultures will sly 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 effects harder to see? What is this pause in the industrial revolution doing the chemistry of our sky?

(voice-over): Locals in northern India say they can see the Himalayas for the first time in decades.

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.

(on camera): 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?

DR. 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 huge bathtub in the sky filled with

pollution. We have the faucet pours, pouring, pouring more in. And all we've done is turned 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. Saying what's left will take everyday folks everywhere deciding that their planet deserves more than one minor holiday, like a dead president. Deciding that to save life as we know it, everyday should be Earth Day.


CABRERA: CNN's chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir, joins us now.

Beautiful piece, Bill.

WEIR: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Scientists say this brief pause in human activity isn't going to be enough to turn back the clock on the climate crisis. But do you think it might spur people to take how their actions affect the planet for seriously?

WEIR: Well, we could hope so. It is a reminder that we're all connected. Our little decisions add up. And, you know, going into wild places and devouring all the wild creatures is not a great idea.

You know, there was a time when we had enough wilderness where these viruses might be locked away. And now they just keep -- you know, 80 percent of new viruses are coming from animals.

And whether it is wet markets or bush meat or traditional medicines in some cultures, all of us need to realize that value of keeping some places wild in order to keep our planet in balance.

CABRERA: Yes, Bill, you have a special report tonight, "THE ROAD TO CHANGE: AMERICA'S CLIMATE CRISIS." That's at 10:00 Eastern and Pacific. Here's a preview.


BRIAN BRETTSCHNEIDER, CLIMATE SCIENTIST, UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA: This whole lake was -- there was no lake in the early 1950s.

WEIR (on camera): Really?


WEIR: I saw the ice went all the way down to the --

BRETTSCHNEIDER: The end of the lake.

WEIR: -- the end of the lake down there.


WEIR (voice-over): You know, once this water melts off and goes into the ocean, you know, as long as we have all this carbon dioxide in the atmosphere it's not coming back here.

This is what is left of Alaska's Spencer Glacier. What took thousands of years of the snow to grow has melted away in mere decades.

BRETTSCHNEIDER: The ice that we're standing on is probably about 5,000 years old. Once this water melts off and goes into the ocean, as long as we have all this carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it is not coming back here.

WEIR: And if you count Greenland and the polar caps, since 1961, earth has lost the equivalent of a block of ice the size of the United States, 16 feet thick.


CABRERA: Now that is some perspective.

What are the long-term environmental ramifications of all that ice melting?

WEIR: Well, in Miami, the voters actually voted a tax raise for themselves, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to raise their streets and put in bigger pumps. They're bracing for two to three feet of sea level rise.

And that's just on the coasts. This will affect farm country. It will mean more droughts. It will mean six times as many wildfires in California.

And it happens so slow that we don't notice these things. And on a beautiful day, you think, hey, everything is A-OK, but it is insidious and happening faster and faster and faster.

And so this is what this special is about, is to realize that this is not some distant thing we have to plan for. It is happening right now.

CABRERA: Yes. It is already here.

I know you are dealing with many sleepless nights right now, Bill. Not just because of all the hard work you have been doing for your special report, but you have a newborn at home. Congratulations.

WEIR: Thank you. Do you want to meet him? This is River.

CABRERA: We would love to meet him.

Oh, oh.

WEIR: He's sleeping right now.

CABRERA: Oh, he's so precious.

WEIR: He's been such a blessing to focus on this new life, which is such a nightmare for so many folks. And my heart goes out to all those other parents out there who think about it.

You know, all these commercials now saying in these uncertain times. Well this is an uncertain lifetime I'm looking at right here. And so the best thing we can do is try to empower this next generation to cherish and protect every ounce of this planet anyway they can.

CABRERA: The time that we're experiencing right now, and you wrote a letter to River about this moment --

WEIR: Yes.

CABRERA: -- but do you feel more optimism or more fear for his feature?

WEIR: I try to walk that line. I don't want this kid to fear anything. I want to protect him from fear.

But at the same time, it is our obligation to prepare him for a new normal and to teach him that, ultimately, humans are made of stories. We are just the sum of stories. Our borders, currency, corporations, just stories we tell each other.

And the great thing about stories is that they can change for the better. And I'm counting on our generation, not just putting it off on them, to write a better story and use this pandemic as a wakeup call to understand that all our little decisions add up.


The way we flatten a curve when it comes to a virus, we have to do the same thing when it comes to climate. Because if you think this is bad now, imagine a lockdown in a hurricane or a flood. And, you know, this is the stuff that I'm going prepare this boy for.

But, yes, I wrote a letter to him. And the response has been really, really overwhelming. And I hope it resonates with all those other parents out there. Because, ultimately, knowledge is power. And we can change the story.

CABRERA: He's just beautiful, Bill. Congratulations to you, your whole family.

WEIR: Thank you.

CABRERA: We send you all our very best.

I just want to give him the big virtual squeeze and a kiss.


CABRERA: Of course.

We'll be tuning in to your special report tonight, Bill. It's "THE ROAD TO CHANGE: AMERICA'S CLIMATE CRISIS." It airs at 10:00 right here on CNN.

We'll be right back.