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Meat Plant Workers To Trump: Employees Aren't Going to Show Up; Farmers at Mercy of Stalled Food Pipeline; NYC Mayor Apologizes for Remarks over Crowded Funeral for Rabbi; Fauci: Some Sports May Have to Skip this Year Entirely; "Human Touch" Series Helps "Detroit Beats COVID-19". Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 29, 2020 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:30:00]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Meat producers are also finding themselves at the mercy of a stalled food pipeline. The president of the United States has now ordered meat processing plants to stay open, despite serious outbreaks of coronavirus among workers who spend hours a day working in close contact. But will these workers show up to work without protection?

The stalemate is putting beef, pork, and chicken farmers in quite the quandary. What do you do when you can't take your animals to market? According to one estimate from the National Pork Board, 1.5 million hogs will have to be euthanized in the coming weeks.

And Mike Patterson is a pig farmer in Minnesota.

And, Mike, my heart goes out to you. You know, we need our farmers in this country. And to think what you all are going through. This must be excruciating?

Can you just tell me the situation at your farm with your hogs? And have you had to start euthanizing as well?

MIKE PATTERSON, MINNESOTA PIG FARMER: Yes, thanks for having me on and talking about this issue.

So, our farm, we have about 3,000 head of finishing hogs on our farm, which you know, is kind of a typical average-size finishing operation for the upper Midwest.

So, our hogs, we were supposed to start selling to Smithfield in Sioux Falls on April 15th, and we haven't sold any hogs. So, they're still here. We're still feeding them. They're getting larger.

I'm part of also a hog cooperative where we've got a dozen families that work together. And we had to make the difficult decision that, starting this week, we will be euthanizing some hogs, depopulating some barns. Our hogs here on our farm are close to that point but not yet.

BALDWIN: And explain to people why you have to do that, why you say this is an animal welfare issue. PATTERSON: Yes, really, we really think it is an animal welfare issue.

There's only so much room to house these animals. We've got our system down very efficient from getting those animals from the sow unit where they're born to the nursery facility where they're raised to about 50 pounds, and then from our farm, from about 50 pounds to harvest weight.

There's only so much space. We've got it all planned out exactly how much space we need. We know that the processor can take them in a typical situation. So, there's not a lot of excess space in the system.

So, the hogs on my -- in my barns, they're getting big answer. Hogs can gain 30, 40 pounds in two weeks, you know, and just that much more mass, they're just more crowded together, and it does become an issue.

And I've got hogs that are supposed to come to my farm in just a couple weeks, and I haven't sold any to our packer, and I don't have anywhere to go with those hogs.

So at some point, there's just nowhere to go with them because the barns are full and the pigs coming up from the younger ages are coming into these barns and there's just nowhere to go with them.

BALDWIN: So, you're forced to euthanize.

And I know there are people watching and they're thinking, you know, how dare you do this to the animals and how dare you throw away food when so many people in this country are hungry. I was even reading about some farmers receiving anonymous death threats because of what's having to happen.

But I imagine this -- does this make you sick to your stomach to have to do this?

PATTERSON: Well, absolutely. I mean, we're farmers. You know, what we do every day is we're trying to care for that animal. Their health and well-being is our top priority. We do, you know, everything we can to keep these animals.

And they are meant for the food supply. And we pride ourselves in creating that delicious, nutritious pork for people's plates, you know, bacon, pork chops, all those things. That's what they're intended for.

To see them go to waste is absolutely totally opposite of everything that we do out here on the farm. If we had any other options, we absolutely would take it.

We have been working within our system to find as much space as possible, but at some point, there's just, there's no way we're going to be able to handle the backlog because the plants won't even be at full capacity when they do get running. And there's just nowhere to go with them.

BALDWIN: Yes, I hear you on lack of space. You've got more pigs headed your way. I know you also have been trying to get creative in selling your pigs on Facebook, you know, trying, doing what you can.

At the end of the day, you are a dad. You have a family to provide for. I read about your four girls, you know, ages all the way from college to kindergarten. Bless you.

PATTERSON: Yes.

BALDWIN: You know, how -- we don't know how long this is going to last, Mike, so what are you going to do?

[13:35:06]

PATTERSON: Well, really, you know, being the dad of girls, we've watched a few Disney movies. And kind of like in the "Frozen 2" theme, you do the next right thing. And that's really what we're trying to do. We're trying to do the next right thing for our animals. We're trying to do the next best thing for our family. So, it's, you know, to do that next right thing.

So, I just don't -- I don't know. We're kind of making decisions week by week. We're trying to get as many into the hands of our local -- into our local butcher shops to be harvested and for consumers here locally.

I am working with some people. Hopefully, we'll be able to provide some pork to the Food Shelf here locally and in Minnesota, so we're working on some things there. You know, we're doing everything we can to not have to waste this food that's perfectly great for consumers.

But in the end, there's -- the system -- our system, we're about harvesting about 125,000 pigs less per day in the United States. So in two weeks, that's 1.25 million animals that would have been harvested. Right now, they're taking up space in barns. There's just physically no place to house all those animals.

BALDWIN: I believe you when you say you are doing everything you can.

Good luck, Mike, to you and all of your girls that you also have to take care of.

PATTERSON: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Mike Patterson, in Minnesota, thank you very much.

Hundreds of people show up to this rabbi's funeral in New York, and the mayor is under fire for his reaction to the crowds.

And New York's governor goes off on politics in America as thousands and thousands die.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D-NY): You can't stop the politics, even in this moment?

(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:41:56]

BALDWIN: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today weighed in on New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio's remarks singling out the Jewish community in connection with this crowded funeral.

Mayor De Blasio's remarks last night focusing on a popular Jewish rabbi's funeral drawing this massive crowd in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The NYPD estimating up to 2,500 people attended this rabbi's funeral, violating the statewide ban on public gatherings.

And CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live for us this afternoon in New York.

And, Shimon, what more are you learning about this?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so, you know, the mayor really stepped in it here. A lot of anger from the Jewish community specifically over this tweet that he sent last night after he went to the funeral.

He said he got word of this funeral taking place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And when he went there, he just couldn't believe what he saw, which then caused him to fire off this angry tweet that then set off the backlash that we're seeing from members of Jewish community.

He specifically singled them out, saying that the Jewish community, he did not approve of this gathering. He was upset by it.

So, they responded. Folks from the Anti-Defamation League responded, leaders of the Jewish community, council members responded, saying that they did not appreciate how he was generalizing the Jewish community, because this really pertained to one specific area of Brooklyn, one specific community and, therefore, to just generalize it as the Jewish community entirely was unfair.

The mayor today forced to apologize, saying it was tough love, saying that he was angry, he was frustrated by what he had seen.

And just to give folks some context here, this has been an issue in this specific community in Brooklyn, in other parts of New York State.

But the mayor, almost on a daily basis, at his press briefings, is asked by reporters about gatherings, religious gatherings, specific in the Hasidic community, and every day, he's said that, he's been asking them not to gather like this.

Then what he saw last night, he got very angry and. therefore, he tweeted what he did, and then, of course, now the backlash.

The NYPD saying they're going to be a little more stricter now. They're going to be enforcing this, making sure folks don't gather as they did last night -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Yes. Shimon, thank you very much, in New York. It is a sign of normalcy for so many Americans, but Dr. Anthony Fauci

says some sports may not return this year at all.

[13:44:28]

Plus, just hours before the president said the U.S. will get to five million tests a day, the man in charge of his administration's efforts on testing said that's impossible.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Whether it is football, baseball, basketball, you name it, Americans love their sports. And the absence of it is just a constant reminder that coronavirus has disrupted one huge part of our lives.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading U.S. infectious disease expert, has both good and bad news for the future. I'll give you the bad news first. Some sports may have to skip the season entirely.

But the good news? I'll let Dr. Fauci tell you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I hope that there's some form of baseball this summer, even if it's just TV. And I do that for -- I feel that strongly. One, because I'm an avid baseball fan. But also, I mean, it's for the country's mental health, to have, you know, the great American past time be seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: "Detroit Free Press" columnist, Mitch Albom, is here, the author of -- this is my word -- a bazillion best-selling books, including currently "Human Touch," a new serialized story of hope during this pandemic.

[13:50:05]

Mitch Albom, from the bottom of my heart, it's such an honor to get to speak with you. I have a bunch of your books. Thank you so much for spending some time with me.

MITCH ALBOM, COLUMNIST, "DETROIT FREE PRESS" & AUTHOR: Thanks, Brooke. I'm glad to see you back.

And before we get started, I want to say how much I appreciate the essay you wrote about your experience with COVID-19 and learning what it means to be connected. That was a powerful piece.

BALDWIN: Oh my goodness, you read it. You made my day, Mitch Albom. Day made. We'll come back to the power of connection.

But, first, just on sports. America's greatest past time. And to think that we won't have that for some time more, what do you think that does to Americans, to the soul of Americans? ALBOM: Well, I've been covering sports for most of my career and I

know how important it is to people. But I also know that in times of real importance, we put sports in its perspective. We can live without it if we have to. We have been.

It would be lovely to see if we can get some of these sports but, knowing how they work, it's logistically very difficult, as Dr. Fauci said.

A football team has at least 100 people it will travels with, players, coaches, staff.

Baseball teams, 25, another 10 or 15. It's hard to imagine with social distancing being a priority how players who get really close and sweat on one another and sit in dugouts, even without fans, how that can really be safe.

BALDWIN: But you mentioned dugouts, like Dr. Fauci seems optimistic baseball could come back as early as this summer. And MLB looking at July 4th, America's birthday being opening day.

Knowing what you know about baseball, do you think that's realistic?

ALBOM: Only if they sequester themselves in sort of like a campus. There has been talk about Arizona or Florida where all the teams would basically be living in a bubble. Come to work, go back, wouldn't be interacting out in the rest of society, maybe their families would be with them.

The umpires, the equipment people would all have to be locked in and playing in just a limited amount of stadiums. Wouldn't be taking planes back and forth, obviously.

And if you could hermetically seal a sport like that, maybe you could pull it off with no fans. But I think it's still very difficult.

BALDWIN: Hermetic seal required. I don't know. We'll see, right? We'll see.

In the meantime, let's talk about you. Because when I was still sick with COVID the last number of weeks, I heard from a number of people saying, you've got to follow Mitch what he's doing with the new book "Human Touch" because we can read your chapters week to week. I've never heard of an author doing this.

For people who don't know what you're doing, explain what you're doing and where, if people choose to be generous, which they have to you, where that money is going.

ALBOM: Well, the most important thing is it's free. Normally, I make my living, obviously, by writing books and selling them. But in unusual times, you have to do unusual things, so I'm writing this story every week, every Friday at humantouchstory.com. You can download it or listen to the audio book from Audible. They're doing it for free as well. And all I ask, if people are inclined, make a donation to "Detroit Beats COVID-19," which you can find all the information in the city where I live that's been very hard hit.

So far, in the first few weeks, we raised over $150,000 and we took the money --

BALDWIN: Wow.

ALBOM: -- yesterday, opened the first mobile testing center in downtown Detroit where not only people who have cars can be tested but for people who don't have cars can walk up and be tested, which is a first. And we did over 100 tests yesterday, which is all part of this project about the fictional story. So it shows how people come together.

BALDWIN: And, that's wonderful, first of all. And the story itself is inspirational and we all need a little bit of that right now.

Can you just explain "Human Touch," the plot? And it centers around this 8-year-old boy. And I want you to also tell me who this 8-year- old boy is roughly based on in your own real life?

ALBOM: So it's a story of one fictional street corner in a Michigan town where there are four families living with four houses and how, when this virus hits, they start to change the way they always related. Some get closer, some come apart and become distrustful.

And the heart of it is this 8-year-old boy who seems immune to getting sick. And as people start getting sick in the community, he sneaks around and lets himself be hugged and held so people can have a connection to "Human Touch," as you wrote about in your piece. And eventually, he becomes the key to solving the whole crisis.

And he is based on a real 8-year-old boy, who I have an orphanage in Haiti I operate every month. I bring him up for therapy and he got stuck here in the travel ban. So he's been here ever since.

And he is the absolute light of our lives. He provides joy and hope. And without him, this would be a much tougher thing to get through.

And I thought, well, if he can provide that kind of spark for us, maybe in a story, he can provide a spark for other people as well.

BALDWIN: It's a beautiful story. Again, we get to read chapter by chapter, whenever else would this ever happen from Mitch Albom?

[13:55:07]

Mitch, thank you again. It's called "Human Touch."

I appreciate it.

ALBOM: He just made an appearance.

BALDWIN: Oh, here he is. Hi.

ALBOM: Say hi.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Hi.

BALDWIN: He's the star. He's the star and a stud.

ALBOM: A star, yes.

BALDWIN: So sweet. Look at that smile. Look at that smile. We all love the smiles. He's the inspiration. And look at this, the "Human Touch."

The story, the book is "Human Touch."

Mitch, thank you very much.

ALBOM: You're welcome, Brooke. Nice to talk to you.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Just in, the "Tampa Bay Times" is reporting that Florida officials told medical examiners to stop reporting information on the number of deaths in the state. This is happening as Florida gets ready to unveil its reopening plan.

Plus, more on our breaking news. Dr. Fauci today is revealing positive news about the trial of a drug called Remdesivir to treat coronavirus if you get sick.

Stay here.

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