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U.S. States Ready or Not Will Open Businesses; Kim Jong-un's True Condition Still Unknown; Boris Johnson Back with Piled Up Work; People of Color Highly Hit by COVID-19; Weighing Public Health Risks Against Reviving Economy; More U.S. States are Easing Virus Restrictions; Stimulus Checks Include Letter From Trump; New York Bears Brunt of COVID-19 Impact in United States; Turkey's Daily Death Rate is Dropping, 99 People Reported Dead from Virus in Past Day; Ramadan in the Age of Coronavirus; High-Tech Helmets Monitor Temperatures in Dubai; Belgians Asked to Eat More Fries to Reduce Potato Surplus; Beatles Bringing People Together. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired April 27, 2020 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN Newsroom. And I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our own four walls around us at home are starting to feel like prison. So, you know, if we can walk around outside on our street, like why can't we walk around at the beach?


CHURCH: This hour, a sea change in America's delicate balancing act as the country begins to open up. And here's a chorus of warnings about the danger still lurking.

Plus, with growing speculation around the health of North Korea's despotic leader, CNN speaks to a top diplomat from the kingdom who defected on what's going on.

And when he is not programming robots in the future, he is helping feed doctors and nurses working on the front lines. This hour, my interview with Emmy Award-winning actor, Jeffrey Wright.

Good to have you with us.

So, in some corners of the world hardest hit by COVID-19, authorities appealing back restrictions and trying to bring aspects of life back to normal. This week, multiple U.S. states will begin easing the stay-at-home

orders that have likely saved a lot of lives, even though the national death toll is still shooting up. Now this headline from the Washington Post cutting right to the chase. Ready or not, America is opening backup.

In Minnesota, some manufacturing businesses have been given the green light. Elective surgeries will resume in Iowa. And in Georgia, restaurants will be allowed to open their doors in the coming hours.

Now while the governor of Colorado is still urging residents to stay at home as much as possible, he has officially relaxed restrictions. As Gary Tuchman shows us, some shops in the state are ready to open.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN REPORTER: So, this place right here, this is called the barbershop. That's literally the name of this barbershop inside. Two hours ago, a cleaning crew came here, and you can see the sticker they put on here, 4, 26, 2020 they were inside. They came here and put on outfits that looked like they were going into outer space, but obviously to be careful.

They spread this place down, and this, place according to the owners, is ready to open tomorrow. And they say they actually have a book full of reservations between 9 a.m. and 6 pm.

This gentleman right here is one of the barbers. This is Ty Salzman (Ph). It was interesting, we were in here a while ago, they got a call from the governor's office after one of our reports that they should not be opening tomorrow. They don't have the authorization to open. And they said, you and your owner said, the county said you could be open. Correct? So, are you staying open?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. Yes. We'll be open tomorrow at 9 o'clock.

TUCHMAN: OK. We're going to stay a little distant from you to be safe. That's the way that we should play up. But here is what I need to ask you. Are you confident that you are going to be safe and your customers are going to be safe?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One hundred ten percent. We practice safe practices 24/7, 365.

TUCHMAN: Right. But tomorrow what are you going to do that's different?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, tomorrow what we plan on doing is we ask that customers if they have masks or would like to wear masks, bring those in with them. We'll be offering gloves and hand sanitizer. I mean, all sorts of precautions to our customers. But then also, we as well we'll be doing that personally.

TUCHMAN: If the county asked you tomorrow, if they change their mind, the commissioner have said you should not be open, would you close?

TUCHMAN: Absolutely. No. I mean, we have to follow whatever guidelines are put in place and we have to listen to whatever we are being told. We are just trying to make sure that the client and the customers safety comes first.

TUCHMAN: Ty, thanks for talking with us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely, absolutely.

TUCHMAN: Well, we do want to tell you this is a really nice salon. They put a lot of spacing between the chairs. They also have a bar that will not be open. A pool table that's usually here they've taken out to create more space.

But restaurants and bars, there is no plans right now to reopen at least for now in the State of Colorado.

CHURCH: In California, this week, officials in one city may consider temporarily closing beaches. That's after a weekend heat wave sent flocks of people to the sandy shores.

CNN's Paul Vercammen has more.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The weather cooled off, but more of that head on collision between the need to social distance and people's desire to get some fresh air and get down to the beach here in Southern California.

Here in Ventura County, the beach opened. Limited access, maintain your distance, the authorities say. Don't go ahead and throw any bonfires or parties or that sort of thing. So, most people were cooperating.


But just down the road a couple miles, L.A. County beaches still shut down. No access allowed. So, people left L.A. County and they went to the beaches in Ventura County and Orange County. So, we talk to some of those residents here and they say they were just desperate for a chance to get out of the house.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, as a person who loves to get out, I wanted to get out, you know. We have been stuck inside and honestly, how can you stay inside on such a beautiful day, you know? As long as we are abiding by the rules that they are giving us, why should we be able to do what we want?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our own four walls around us at home are starting to feel like a prison, so, you know, if we can walk around outside on our street, why can't we walk around at the beach? As long as we're social distancing.


VERCAMMEN: L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti weighed in on this on Twitter. He says, we won't let one weekend ruin a month of progress while the sunshine is tempting, we are staying home to save lives. As idyllic as this scene looks behind me, there are people who told us on this beach that they don't have jobs.

They are exhorting city officials, their state representatives, the governor, to give them some timeline in this state. They want to get back to work.

Reporting from Ventura County, California, Paul Vercammen. Now back to you.

CHURCH: Thanks for that report. And days after President Trump made his disastrous comments about disinfectant, a lot of people are still concerned and confused. You will of course remember during his briefing Thursday, he suggested coronavirus could be treated with an injection of disinfectant, into the body.

Doctors and disinfectant manufacturers say that is just dangerous. The White House coronavirus response coordinator is trying to soften the impact of Mr. Trump's words. Take a listen.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ACHOR: What should the American people know about disinfectants and the human body?

DEBORAH BIRX, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: Well, first, that was a dialog he was having between the DHS scientists and himself for information that he had received and he was discussing.

We have made it clear, and when he turned to me, I made it clear, and he understood that it was not as a treatment. And I think that kind of dialog will happen.


CHURCH: And here is why state leaders say it's necessary to keep talking and keep debunking the president's comment.


GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): We had hundreds of calls in our hotline here in Maryland about people asking about injecting or ingesting these disinfectants, which is hard to imagine that people thought that that was serious. But people actually were thinking about this. Was this something you could do to protect yourself?

NGOZI EZIKE, ILLINOIS PUBLIC HEALTH DIRECTOR: Injecting, ingesting, snorting household cleaners is dangerous. It is not advised, and can be deadly. In the past two days, there's been a significant increase in calls to the Illinois poison center compared to the same time last year, associated with exposures to cleaning agents.


CHURCH: Well, people in Maryland are rallying around a beloved community member who lost her husband to COVID-19. This motorcade went past the home of Tamela Taylor-Orr. She is an assistant principal at a middle school in Prince George's County. Her husband, 55-year-old Curtis Orr died suddenly after contracting the virus earlier this month.

Tamela's friends, colleagues, and students say they wanted to find a special way to show their support while also paying tribute to her husband.

Well, officials in South Korea say North Korea's leader is, quote, "alive and well." Questions about Kim Jong-un's health have been floating around for days now after he missed the celebration of his grandfather's birthday on April 15th. North Korea's most important holiday.

Well, our Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, South Korea. She joins us now live. Good to see you, Paula. So South Korea says Kim Jong-un is alive and well. What evidence of they have to support that after U.S. intelligence revealed to CNN last week that Kim was gravely ill after surgery? What are you learning?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, we are hearing a very different story here in South Korea than Jim Sciutto heard last week in the United States. This was from an adviser to the President Moon Jae-in, Chung-in Moon. He basically said that Kim Jong-un is alive and well. That is what he would say on the record at this point, saying he is believed to be in Wonsan which is on the coast of North Korea.


Now there have been a lot of conflicting reports when it comes to Kim Jong-un's health. What we do know is that he did miss a key appearance. His absence at the birth date of his grandfather, and the founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung, on April 15th did raised eyebrows. And did make people question what exactly had happened.

Now we have heard just in the past hour or so the South Korean President Moon Jae-in as well also talking to Blue House senior cabinet members. And he did -- didn't actually broach the subject of Kim Jong-un's health. What he did say is that he was looking forward to working with Kim Jong-un pushing forward to a peace economy.

So, clearly, when it comes to the South Korean government, they believe that they still have a partner and Kim Jong-un to be able to negotiate with.

Now I also spoke earlier to Thae Yong-ho, who is a North Korean defector, a former high elite within the regime and now a South Korean lawmaker. And he did question where exactly all these conflicting reports of come from.


THAE YONG-HO, FORMER NORTH KOREAN DIPLOMAT: The only people who can confirm his real condition might be Kim Jong-un's wife or his sister or his close, you know, the aides. Those rumors of he is now, whether he has had surgery, I don't think, you know, that is really based on facts.


HANCOCKS: That's right. He did also go on to say that it is highly sensitive to talk about the leaders health within North Korea, and the fact that very few people would even know where he is, let alone what kind of condition he is in, and the fact that he was disconnected, even for much of the elite and the leadership within North Korea itself.

So, he did, though, say that something has happened. It does appear as though there is some health implication. The fact that if he was unable to stand or to walk properly on the day of April 15th, that potentially that is why he decided to be absent.

CHURCH: And Paula, what role, if any, might the coronavirus pandemic have played in Kim's absence from the April 15th birthday celebrations of his grandfather, that of course, as we said, a very significant day in North Korea?

HANCOCKS: Well, I did ask Thae Yong-ho about this. I've asked the experts and observers about this as well. And most downplayed the role of novel coronavirus. They don't believe that that has had any impact on what we are seeing at this point.

But of course, they all caution that we simply don't know for sure. Now Thae Yong-ho was saying that as the leader, Kim Jong-un would not be mixing with the vast majority of the elite, the vast majority of the leadership, let alone with regular North Koreans.

But he also did say that there is no possibility that North Korea does not have coronavirus cases, pointing out the smuggling that goes on between the borders of China and North Korea. Those smugglers bringing goods into the country, also go to many of the markets within the country.

So, he does believe that the virus would have spread fairly, fairly quickly within the country itself. But he does not believe that that would have had any impact on Kim Jong-un.

CHURCH: All right. Paula Hancocks, following all of these developments and this story and all of the possible speculation, and we will talk again very soon. I appreciate that, Paula.

We'll take a short break here. Still to come, the British prime minister is back on the job after recovering from the coronavirus. We will look at the growing pressure on Boris Johnson to determine what's next in tackling the pandemic. We are back with that in just a moment.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

Well, British prime minister has a lot on his plate as he returns to work. Monday marks his first day back after battling a debilitating case of the coronavirus, and it will be a very busy first day.

The government is working on rolling out more testing and the opposition Labour Party is putting pressure on Downing Street to reveal an exit plan for the lockdown.

For more on all of this, let's turn now to CNN's Isa Soares, she joins us live from London. Good to see you, Isa. So, what are all the tough decisions facing Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he prepares for his first day back after recovering from COVID-19? And are we likely to hear from him?

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Rosy. The expectation everyone waiting to see whether it will be Boris Johnson leading today's meeting at 5 o'clock or so with the update on COVID-19. We know that he is raring to go. We know that he is in charge. We know that he is at Downing Street.

But like you said, it'll be a busy morning for him. And I can imagine his inbox will be rather fall. There are several meetings he has today. One of those meetings, the early morning meetings on COVID-19 will he meet with senior ministers together with science to get an update on the numbers where we are fighting COVID-19.

The numbers from yesterday, 413 people died in hospitals, that's just hospitals, the number is low, considerably lower for the month of April, but we need to be wary because these numbers tend to change during the week.

And worth bearing in mind the U.K. has passed, unfortunately, the 20,000 mark. It's really a grim milestone that no one wants to achieve in terms of numbers of deaths. But for the prime minister, on a political point, and the colossal decision you have to make, as he faces pressures from really all angles, you'll hear into that there, Rosy.

One within his own party, some conservative donors want the prime minister to ease or lift the lockdown restrictions. They want to see the economy really going kickstarted again. They fear that this is having a huge impact on the economy.

One senior Tory donor basically saying, that there is a risk that the medicine in this case the lockdown causes more harm than the actual care. Then he has pressures as you pointed out as well, from the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, who does not want to see measures lifted, and that's important here, he wants to see an exit lockdown strategy from the government, which we have not yet from -- had from yet.


And then you have pressures really from people who are incredibly restless. They've been at home on the lockdown for five weeks and they've seen the numbers reduce, and we had from the NHS medical director yesterday who said, look, the lockdown is working. We've seen the number of hospitalizations lower, particularly in London, but this is not the time to be lifting lockdown restrictions. And he said, in fact, he is worried that we're already seeing an

uptick in people getting in the cars and actually out and about.

So, a huge decision, and I do wonder, Rosy, whether his brush with death, let's, say whether will have an impact of how and when he lets in roughly a fortnight or so.

CHURCH: Yes. I do wonder whether that would color his approach going forward. But talk to us about whether Boris Johnson would be open to revealing some form of exit plan at this juncture, or whether he would view this is too early?

SOARES: Well, what we have had from several ministers within his own party in the last few days is that they have -- the U.K. has to remain the course. It is imperative said Priti Patel, the home secretary to stay at home.

Having said that, Dominic Raab yesterday speaking on national television he has said that there may be a case for a new normal of opening schools of sporting events, but with social distancing. Something we have seen, of course, in Spain and Germany as well.

But what we have heard time and time again, Rosy, is the question of these five tests. The five markers the government has to hit in order to even consider lifting restrictions.

I want to talk to you through them. One is the NHS' ability, the National Health Service's ability to actually cope, so really, capacity. We understand that has been met. The numbers of hospitalizations are lowered. Then the rate of death as well. If we look at the numbers in the last 24 hours, that perhaps is pointing that way.

The rate of infection, it used to be one to three, now they expected is much, much slower. And then you have the testing capacity, and PPE, and the risk of second infection. Now the last two, specifically, the question of testing capacity. That is a huge headache for the government.

Now the head or the health secretary, Matt Hancocks, promised at the beginning of the month capacity to test 100,000 a day, Rosy. I can tell you that on Saturday, only 28,000 tests had been made. They got four days until the end of the month. It doesn't look like they will get to that point.

And one expert of immunology telling CNN un the last few minutes at King's College London, Rosy, that perhaps we'll get to that 100,000 perhaps in only two or three weeks. Although, the government seems pretty adamant. Rosy?

CHURCH: It is a delicate balancing act, isn't it? We see this in all countries including here in the United States --


CHURCH: -- when to open up, when it is wise. And the worry about that bounce back. Thank you so much. Isa Soares, joining us live from London. Many thanks.

Well, the coronavirus is taking a heavy toll on minority communities, and nowhere is that more evident than on the faces of families who've lost a loved one.

CNN's Phil black has more.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The moments of painful loneliness for one man. He is a grieving son and brother made to wait in a place that can offer no consolation for his loss. A car park, under a mosque in north London now being used to deal with the unequal consequences of COVID-19.

It's become a workshop, a busy production line, rapidly building coffins trying to keep up with the pandemics ruthless demand. This is the confronting reality, what it really means when doctors say people of color are being disproportionately impacted by the virus.

So many people in this community are dying, there aren't enough coffins for them. The carpenters pause as the body is wheeled out of a nearby mortuary room. This is what the grieving man has been waiting for, to begin saying goodbye.

The mosque is closed, so he has to pray here in the car park. For his mother inside of that casket, and his brother who lies in another just meters away. The 70-year-old woman and her 32-year-old son died a few days apart. Both had contracted COVID-19.

Across London, in a Muslim burial ground, we see more improvisation for dealing with death on an extraordinary scale. The backlog for burials is now so long, Muslim scholars were consulted to approve these trenches. Each one excavated to hold 20 bodies.


Just days later, the first is already full. Staff in Britain's National Health Service first notice the terrible numbers of black and ethnic minority people falling to the coronavirus partly because they were losing so many of their own.

Like Thomas Harvey (Ph), who'd worked at a hospital care for 20 years.


TAMIRA HARVEY, LOST FATHER TO CORONAVIRUS: It's really weird we're not having my dad around.


HARVEY: It hurts every single day.


BLACK: The usually strong, healthy, father of seven was isolating at home with COVID-19 symptoms when he collapsed in the bathroom. His family and police broke through the door, paramedics work to save him. His daughter Tamira says she will never forget the words he heard soon after.


HARVEY: When he came upstairs and he was just like, the viruses got him, like we can't do anything else. I that was just that.

BLACK: Who said that to you?

HARVEY: Sorry.

BLACK: That's all right.

HARVEY: One of the paramedics.


BLACK: Much of the evidence is anecdotal, but in the United Kingdom as in the U.S., it appears undeniable. COVID-19 is devastating communities of color. While reasons are researched and debated a greater need looms clear. Protecting vulnerable people who are experiencing a desperately unfair burden of pain and loss.

Phil Black, CNN, London.

CHURCH: These are difficult stories to tell. We are going to take a short break here. Still to come on CNN Newsroom, you may have seen Jeffrey Wright in west world or the "The Hunger Games." The actor speaks with me about his campaign to work with New York restaurants to provide hot meals for hospital workers fighting the coronavirus. That's next, right after a short break.



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Several states in America are beginning to reopen from their shutdowns. They do it while weighing the risks of public health against the damage being done to the economy. We are looking at both sides of that complex equation, and we begin with public health.

Doctors in New York have been on the frontlines of the pandemic for weeks now, and one doctor who recovered from the virus is now part of a hospital rapid response team. He gave CNN a first-hand look at the daily challenges of treating patients during this crisis.


ZEVY HAMBURGER, ANESTHESIOLOGIST, MT. SINAI HOSPITAL: I'm Zevy Hamburger. I'm an anesthesiologist at Mt. Sinai. I recovered from coronavirus about four, five weeks ago, and I have been working at Mt. Sinai on the frontlines treating patients and trying to support our staff as we fight the pandemic.

I'm donating convalescent plasma, which is hopefully rich in antibodies. We give this -- this plasma to someone who is acutely infected with coronavirus. The antibodies that are in the plasma will start attacking the virus while the person themselves start mounting their own immune response, their own antibody response.

So I am headed right now to assist with an intubation. That means putting a breathing tube in someone who is getting sick and sicker and having difficulty breathing on their own. We are all ready to go. Our respiratory tech is actually bringing in one of our ventilators so that we can be prepared and everything set up before we actually do the procedure.

We have to go to another emergency airway with the rest of the rapid response team. Obviously, we try to assess the situation as quickly as possible and intervene while we can to help people. I'm running to another intubation. This is my fifth of the day actually. It's about 2:30 in the afternoon.

It is a really kind of crazy how sick this virus makes people. And, you know, it's -- because there is no visitors here, we end up taking the role of not just people as doctors but also the representative speaking to their families, trying to connect loved ones with each other. I'm holding the phone and trying to speak between mother and son, and other family member in what might be their last words to each other.

When we are done with this crisis, when we won, I have a lot of hope. I think that is going to make us come out a lot stronger. We are all going to work together. And all of the people who will benefit from that are our future patients.


CHURCH: Extraordinary. The United States is quickly approaching one million cases and close to 55,000 coronavirus deaths. Several states are set to start easing stay-at-home restrictions this week, going against recommendations in an attempt to reboot their economies. Now, for five weeks in a row, millions of workers applied for unemployment benefits.

On Sunday, the U.S. Treasury secretary predicted that the economy will bounce back in mid to late summer. That is despite one of President Trump's economic advisers painting a very different picture. Take a listen.


KEVIN HASSETT, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: This is the biggest negative shock that our economy, I think, has ever seen. We are going to be looking at an unemployment rate that approaches rates that we saw during the great depression, during the great recession, remember that was a financial crisis around 2008, that we lost 8.7 million jobs in the whole thing. Right now, we are losing that many jobs about every 10 days.

The next couple of months are going to look terrible. You will get to see numbers that are as bad as anything that we have ever seen. I think the unemployment rate is going to jump to a level, probably around 16 percent or even higher in the next jobs report.


CHURCH: Very sobering. It could be another rollercoaster week for markets and commodities. John Defterios joins me now to talk more about all of this. It is great to see you, John. So, interesting, I want to get your take on when we might bounce back economically from this pandemic, because as we just heard, some suggest that could happen mid to late summer, seems very optimistic. Others say it will take significantly longer as we just heard. What role does oil play on all of this?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN ANCHOR AND EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, you know, we heard the unemployment number, 26 million people already, and I've seen Federal Reserve, the Central Bank survey suggesting that could nearly double by the end of June. So it is extraordinary, Rosemary. It is hard to see how growth is going to recover so fast. They talk about a V-shaped recovery.


DEFTERIOS: That's the wish of the president, to go down sharply, up sharply, a U-shaped recovery, which is a slower pick up into the 3rd quarter. It looks more like a "W" and sorry for the alphabet soup, if you will. A "W" is when you go down, back up, and then back down again because of the boomerang of the virus. That is the biggest concern and that is what's weighing on the oil markets as we speak.

Does demand stay as low as it is today or does it bounce back and when? The demand in factories, for trucks, cars, planes, it is all down sharply by about 30 percent. If you take a look at the prices today, Rosemary, it is another sharp loss after that Black Monday that we saw a week ago when we went negative $37. This is about the oversupply and where to put the extra oil.

There are big concerns in the United States about U.S. inventories. We do have OPEC cuts coming into place by the end of the week. But again, this is the problem, supply and demand. They are going to cut nearly 10 million barrels a day. The demand is down about 30 million barrels a day. And kind of the best case scenario, it can stay maybe down 10 to 15 percent in the third quarter.

But it really depends on the confidence coming back to consumers into business and whether you get a double blow and get the virus back in the autumn which yields back a real true recovery or not.

CHURCH: Yeah, that is the concern. So, how is the oil trade impacting stock markets?

DEFTERIOS: Well, oil is all about economic demand, right, as I was explaining. In the stock markets today, again, we see the Central Bank is willing to go to fight to keep liquidity in the market and to buy government bonds to do the same thing.

Today, it was the Bank of Japan doing so, saying it will do so for an unlimited time. That is a green light for investors to come back into the market, Rosemary. So if you take a look at the Asia market performance, we have Tokyo, the biggest gainer, but this spilled into South Korea, also Hong Kong. Shanghai was higher but not by much.

We've seen the same play through here in the European markets. London is up sharply. Germany is up sharply. France is with solid gains, as well. We are going to hear from the U.S. Central Bank later this week, also the European Central Bank, which by the way is supposed to give us similar signal as the Bank of Japan right now.

It is all this liquidity being chase into the market to prop up the economy and hopefully the recovery kicks in. But the oil market is telling us something extremely different right now and it is a commodity that is all based on supply and demand, not the Central Bank intervening.

CHURCH: I always learn something from chatting with you. John Defterios, many thanks, joining us live from Abu Dhabi.


CHURCH: It has been exactly one month since the U.S. president signed a record $2 trillion relief package to help struggling Americans. Since then, at least 88 million people have received the funds, along with a letter from the president. It includes a message that reads, and I'm quoting here, "We are fully committed to ensuring that you and your family have the support you need to get through this time."

At least one lawmaker called the letter inappropriate. Democratic Representative Charlie Crist said it sounded like the president was campaigning.

So, over the last few minutes, we have looked at how difficult it is for health care workers on the front lines and how the coronavirus pandemic has thrown many people's careers and livelihoods into question.

New York is bearing the brunt of the impact. The city reports nearly 150,000 cases of the virus with nearly 40,000 patients hospitalized. One Hollywood star who calls New York home decided to help out his community and support local hospital staff and businesses struggling right now.

And joining me now from New York is actor Jeffrey Wright. You probably know him best from "Westworld" and "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." Wonderful to have you with us.


CHURCH: Of course, you live in Brooklyn and you've been trying to help two local restaurants that have been making meals for health care workers who are looking after COVID-19 patients. The reaction has been incredible. How did you first find out about the work these restaurants were doing? Why did you decide that you needed to help?

WRIGHT: Well, we started together. One of the restaurants is a place called Brooklyn Moon by a very good friend of mine named Michael Thompson. He has been in the neighborhood for 25 years. I've lived here for 20 years and we've been friends ever since.

Michael is not delivery-oriented. He has a social space. His space was the center for the spoken words, seen in Brooklyn at one point. Erykah Badu performed her first show in New York City as his place. So, he needed to reorient his business toward delivery mode as we were going into lockdown. So, he did.


WRIGHT: I suggested that I would help boost his efforts on social media, and I did. I called him back the day after the lockdown. I said how we did today? Mike said, bro, I got five orders, which is not good. So, we were thinking about other ways in which we could sustain his business as we try to endure this thing.

We thought about the hospital but assumed that they had a cafeteria that was serving their needs. Brooklyn Hospital was literally just outside my window here as I'm in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. But I've heard that another friend at a place called Graziella's, friend named Vito Randazzo, had asked customers to call in to order pizzas on behalf of Brooklyn Hospital staff. He as well is here in Fort Greene.

When I heard that, I reached out to Vito and asked if he would connect me to a hospital rep and he did. The gentleman's name is Lenny Singletary, VP for external affairs at Brooklyn Hospital. He's been extraordinary. And so Vito and I went down -- this is maybe March 26 -- went down to meet with Lenny.

He told us that in fact the hospital could use more. They needed as much as 200 meals per day because he had staff working 15 and 16 hours, many of them not going home and living in hotels near the hospital. So, they were in need of the extra support.

So, we agreed on that day that we would -- that the two restaurants, Brooklyn Moon and Graziella's would supply 200 meals per day to Brooklyn Hospital and I would try to boost and amplify their efforts via social media and fundraise through a GoFundMe page. That's what we did. On March 27th, we began.

What happened from there is that we decided, hey, we can include some other restaurants in the neighborhood. They reached out to restaurants and other friends of their. I reached out to other friends of mine, other places where I patronize and whose food I like. It began to evolve from there.

CHURCH: Right.

WRIGHT: And then the Brooklyn Borough president took an interest in what we were doing. Eric Adams's office reached out to us and asked us if we would try to expand it very wide. And so we have.

CHURCH: It's a great idea. As you mentioned, you launched a fundraising page to collect money for these restaurants to cover their expenses and the response has been incredible. You want to actually raise a million, don't you? How much have you raised so far?

WRIGHT: We've raised through the GoFundMe page, I believe, about 260 some odd dollars last time I checked. We also raised another 180,000 or so from direct donations to our 501C3, which is Brooklyn, New York for Life Inc. And what's been exciting about it is that the donations have been equally split between small donors and big dollar donors.

So, it's been fairly democratic in that regard, which is wonderful to see that the entire community has really come together to support this effort because really it's done on all of our behalf. We -- Daniel Craig was an early supporter of this and he in fact suggested to me that I put together a video to support that effort. It was based on the NHS video, the thank you video that was made that he took part in.

So, we did that as well to try not only to raise additional funds but to try to put out a message of solidarity and a message of love for community and a message of optimism in these strange and challenging times. So, there's been wonderful support all around.

CHURCH: It is. It's wonderful to hear that James Bond has stepped up.


CHURCH: So, how --

WRIGHT: That's my brother. That's my brother. Come on, man, we stick together. In fact, he lives here in Brooklyn. He lives just a few neighborhoods away.

CHURCH: That's brilliant. How surprised were you that the neighborhood and beyond responded so positively to all this because so many people have their own problems as well, right, because we're all sort of in this together?

WRIGHT: Sure, it's been really gratifying. And I think that even if, you know, someone has contributed to us and they happen to be in Phoenix or somewhere in the Midwest of America, I think what we're all looking for are ways not to feel helpless, not to feel so frustrated.

CHURCH: Jeffrey Wright, thank you so much for talking with us and for your incredible work for all these health care workers and helping these restaurants at the same time. Thank you.

WRIGHT: Thanks so much for having me.

CHURCH: And we'll take a short break here. Still to come here on CNN, Ramadan is looking very different this year.


CHURCH: How the Middle East is handling the pandemic during the Muslim holy month. That's next.


CHURCH: Good to have you back. Well, now to Turkey, where there's been a noticeable decline in daily deaths. The Turkish health ministry says 99 patients died from COVID-19 in the past day. That is the first time since mid-April that daily deaths have dropped below 100 and it is in line with the week-long decrease in fatalities.

CNN's Arwa Damon joins us now live from Istanbul. Good to see you, Arwa. So, how is the situation in Turkey now and elsewhere across the Middle East?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, I think it's pretty safe to say that everyone here is holding their breath and hoping that this current decrease in numbers that we are seeing, whether it's decrease in number of deaths or decrease in number of people who are testing positive, is going to continue along this current trend.

Turkey took something of a gamble when it came to its COVID-19 preventative measures, only really implementing something of a partial lockdown. There is only a full curfew here on weekends. And during the week, if you're above the age of 20 or under the age of 65, you can go out, provided of course that you do take those preventative measures into consideration, social distancing, wearing a face mask, and people are generally encouraged to stay home.

In some countries in the Middle East, we are beginning to see a slight easing of restrictions. Turkey itself is not there yet though at this stage but in Lebanon, for example, they are easing restrictions. They are beginning to allow additional businesses to open up. And in Saudi Arabia, they have said that they will be lifting the full curfew to allow people to go out during what would have been regular business hours except, Rosemary, for in the holy city of Mecca.


DAMON: Of course, all of these restrictions though mean that this Ramadan, which is the holiest month for Muslims where they fast from sunrise to sunset, is very, very different. Gone are the large family dinners, gone are the gatherings at the mosques.

But by and large, leaders across the region are still urging caution, even though they are lift restrictions at this stage, because like elsewhere in the world, no one exactly knows where this virus is going to be going next.

CHURCH: Most definitely the question we are all asking. Arwa Damon is joining us there from Istanbul. Many thanks. You have probably never seen this before. Check out the helmet this police officer is wearing in Dubai. It can scan up to 200 people a minute.

That's more than three a second, to see if they have a fever. They are hitting straits (ph) as the UAE slowly reopens itself for business with some malls and restaurants taking customers again albeit with tight restrictions around social distancing. Incredible.

Half a century after breaking up, the Beatles managed to bring more than 70,000 people together over the weekend, virtually, of course, and we will show you how they did it. Back in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. In Belgium, a surplus of potatoes because of the pandemic might mean more fritz (ph) or you might call them fries, of course. Every person in the country has been asked to eat an extra portion of fries each week by the association of potato producers. Belgium faces a surplus of 750,000 tons of potatoes with shops and restaurants closed because of the virus.

Fifty years after breaking up, the Beatles are still bringing people together even during a global pandemic.




CHURCH: That's all you need. More than 70,000 people went online yesterday to stream the Beatles' movie, "Yellow Submarine." Fans were encouraged to dress up for the sing-along watch party. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr even made virtual appearances during the event, which the ban called "a celebration of love and music." They are the best.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Rosemary Church. I will be back in just a few minutes with another hour of news. Do join us.