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CNN NEWSROOM

Simon Property Group Reopening 50 Malls This Weekend; Iowa Governor On Reopening Amid Pandemic: If People Fail To Work, There Will Be Consequence; Joey Gonzalez, CEO, Barry's Bootcamp, Discusses California Governor's Four-Phase Reopening Plan; Update On Coronavirus Response Around The World; Husband & Wife Of 73 Years Die Within Hours Of Each Other From Coronavirus. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 29, 2020 - 14:30   ET

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


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[14:30:52]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The nation's largest owners of shopping malls, called Simon Property Group, announced plans to reopen 50 of the shopping malls starting this weekend.

CNN's Martin Savidge in Georgia with details on what that will look like.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Martin Savidge, in Georgia. Small businesses have begun to reopen. Now some malls will, too. Simon Property Group, the largest operator of malls in the United States, says it has plans to open 49 of its properties in 10 different states starting on Friday.

Security will be on hand to make sure shoppers keep their distance from one another. And the food court will reflect social distancing changes as well.

Just because the mall's opened doesn't mean your favorite store will be. That decision is left up to the store or store chain.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Martin, thank you, in Georgia.

Right now, the state of Iowa with more than 6,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and the numbers there, 148 deaths. And 12 of those just in the last day, the largest one day jump so far.

And despite those numbers, Iowa's governor is taking steps to reopen businesses. And if people fail to work, she said there will be consequences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. KIM REYNOLDS (R), IOWA: If you're an employer and you offer to bring your employee back to work and they decide not to, that's a voluntary -- what's the word I'm looking for? Pardon? Oh, quit. It doesn't happen very often. It's a voluntary quit. And so, therefore, they would not be eligible for the unemployment money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: By the way, Iowa isn't alone in doing this. Texas is also considering doing something similar.

So for more on this, Tami Luhby with me, our CNN senior business writer.

Tami, is this even legal and if you're a worker and you don't feel safe going back to work, what recourse do you have?

TAMI LUHBY, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER: Right, well, we have 26 million Americans who filed for unemployment in the last month or so, so there's a lot of people in this situation. But it's not quite as cut and dry as the governor said.

Basically, if you're just generally concerned about exposure to coronavirus and you don't want to return to work, that could be a problem for you. You may no longer be eligible for benefits.

But Congress, in its latest stimulus package that it passed last month, created a new program called the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. And that allows people who have been affected by coronavirus to qualify for unemployment.

So if you're in the vulnerable population, if you have preexisting conditions, certain preexisting conditions, or if you're immunocompromised or living with someone elderly or immunocompromised, those people may still qualify for benefits as well as people who have children or day cares have closed and they don't have someone to watch their children. They may also qualify for the pandemic program.

So we know, yes, that Texas and Iowa have said that you have to return to work. But if you look at Colorado, they say that the vulnerable cannot be compelled to work by their employers if they have to work close to other people.

BALDWIN: I appreciate you outlining that because I'm sure a lot of people don't feel safe quite yet going back to work and there's an area of gray.

Tami Luhby, thank you.

Coming up next, California's governor warns it will be months before places like gyms and hair salons will open. Out west, I'll talk to the head of the chain of workout facilities, really popular workout, about what they're doing to get by in the meantime.

[14:34:28]

Sweden take a laid-back approach to the virus, not forcing shutdowns or lockdowns. What's the result there? CNN investigates. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: As the various states take a patchwork approach to reopening, California's being a bit more cautious than a number of other locations.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced a four-stage approach. Flattening the curve. Then opening lower-risk, like manufacturing, retail, childcare centers. But months before stage three, personal care facilities like hair salons and gyms could reopen.

And then the last stage, stage four, means concerts and live crowds, sporting events. Governor Newsom says that will come only, as he says, once therapeutics have been developed to treat coronavirus.

And so joining me now, Joey Gonzalez, CEO of the workout chain, Barry's.

I have done a few Barry's workouts. It's no joke. But totally different that we're all trying to do the do from home.

First thing's first, Joey, thank you for being on.

When you hear from Governor Newsom, it's months not weeks before places like Barry's can reopen, how do you feel about that?

JOEY GONZALEZ, CEO, BARRY'S BOOTCAMP: Yes, I would say it was definitely a bit of a gut punch. I think a lot of us being here in California and seeing some positive results, as a result of them taking early action, we were hopeful and optimistic we might be slowly and very carefully opening our doors in the early summer, maybe June- ish. So that was definitely news yesterday.

[14:40:11]

I would say that as a result, we're just strategizing ways in which we can continue to elevate our Barry's at-home product and maintain the connection within our community. Our mission is to inspire people to work out hard, have fun, find their strength and be their best.

So we're just working on ways to innovatively deliver on this promise because I think people need it now more than ever.

BALDWIN: As you're innovating and people are moving and grooving and lifting weights in front of their tv and laptop, what have you, because I know you're doing this now virtually, really, how is that going and are you making any money?

GONZALEZ: So you have to kind of separate the fact that we are -- we have turned on revenue, but we have not turned on profitability, and they are two very different things.

And what I mean by that, I'll start off by saying our commitment has been, first and foremost, to the safety of our employees and our clients. And we most definitely put that above revenue from the very beginning. We proactively decided to shut down all our studios across the

country, prior to any governmental mandates, and once we shut down, we continue to support 100 percent of our employees the first couple of weeks of closures.

Beyond that, we sadly had to lay off part-time staff but we did keep on and still today have 60 percent of our full-time employees, at a slightly reduced compensation.

And we're actually the only boutique fitness company that I know of our size to have offered to keep every single trainer full-time, part- time, all of them employed and paid throughout the past six weeks of closure. And as you can imagine, continuing to support an employee base of this size is very challenging, with no meaningful revenue coming in.

So, unfortunately, we're in a position now where, if we can't resume in the next few weeks or month and a half, we'll have to continue to make some additional difficult decisions.

BALDWIN: I'm sure people can find information about how to do the virtual Barry's. And good on you for being able to keep as many people employed during all this as possible.

Joey Gonzalez, I appreciate you. Thank you.

GONZALEZ: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Just into CNN, the U.K. has revealed a huge spike in the number of people who have died from coronavirus. We have that update. We'll take you there.

And more on breaking news back here at home. The "New York Times" reports the FDA is expected to issue an emergency authorization for the drug that Dr. Fauci said is showing can actually block the virus. Huge news on that today. Stand by.

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[14:47:26]

BALDWIN: Breaking news out of the U.K. The country's just revised its death toll and it's a grim development. Over the last two months, more than 26,000 people have died from coronavirus. That is 4,000 more than the previous count and that surpasses Spain and France.

This is happening as Russia deals with its own crisis.

Let's take you around the world.

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MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matthew Chance. And the Kremlin acknowledged acute shortage of personal protection equipment, or PPE, needed for front line health workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic. President Putin said production of protective suits has increased from

100,000 in March to an expected 150,000 by May but that's still not enough, he says, to meet the growing Russian demand.

This, as the official number of coronavirus infections rises to nearly 100,000 in Russia, amid strict lockdown measures extended until mid- May.

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jomana Karadsheh: Tensions high in Lebanon following another night of violent protests. After nearly two months of the coronavirus lockdown, protesters are back on the street in what is being described as the hunger protest.

Lebanon's fragile economy was hit hard by the lockdown over recent weeks, the Lebanese lira tanked. Inflation has done up. The price of food skyrocketed. People are angry, hungry and desperate.

It was projected that Lebanon's poverty rate would be at 45 percent in 2020. And the government says 75 percent of the population will require financial aid.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Phil Black, in Stockholm, where authorities are pursuing a controversial strategy. There is no lockdown. There are no rules are all. Most people are advised to work at home and social distances.

Many shops are still open, including bars and restaurants. The authorities say they're not deliberately trying to build immunity in the population but trying to find the right balance, they say, for managing COVID-19 in the long-term.

It means, for this small country, this has been a big human cost. Over 2,300 people have died, a significantly greater figure than other neighboring countries, which employed tougher measures.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Thanks to all of you.

Just ahead here, a soccer player tested positive for COVID-19 for the fourth time in six weeks.

[14:49:58]

Plus, they were married for 73 years. They died hours apart after they both got sick with coronavirus. We'll talk to their son, live, next.

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BALDWIN: One of the most heartbreaking parts of the pandemic is it is forcing families to say good-bye to family and loved ones on the phone or through Facetime.

[14:55:00] One couple's was a little different. Mary Kepler and her husband, Wilfred, tested positive this month and were admitted to the hospital on Easter Sunday and passed away the following Saturday.

After a lifetime together, the couple, with beds next to one another, got to say I love you one last time before dying six hours apart.

And joining me now is their son, Mike Kepler.

So, Mike, thank you so much for being with me and I'm so sorry for the loss of both of your parents.

MIKE KEPLER, PARENTS DIED OF CORONAVIRUS SIX HOURS APART: Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: Does it at all ease your grief knowing that unlike so many other COVID patients who have been alone, at least your parents were together until the end?

KEPLER: Well I think it eases it a bit. Obviously, it doesn't ease it entirely but at least some small measure of comfort arising from that.

BALDWIN: I had read one family member was quoted saying they essentially were the glue that held your family together. I mean 73 years of marriage, holding hands between hospital beds. That is incredible.

KEPLER: We're very happy that they could do it and we give all credit to the Froedtert Hospital for making that happen. My dad had been in an ICU unit but moved to the same floor where my mom was and they had the idea of putting them in the same room and putting them together so that was very nice of them.

BALDWIN: Did you get a chance to say good-bye, Facetime or otherwise?

KEPLER: I did. I think it was the day before they died, they put both my mom on. My mom was able to communicate and say that she loved me. My dad, he was barely awake but he did make some motions with his mouth. He didn't say anything. I did get to say good-bye to my mom.

BALDWIN: And I know your family hasn't been able to have a memorial service yet because of the -- the odd existence, social distancing, it sounds like you have a pretty huge family. How are you all doing and then how do you plan on honoring your parents?

KEPLER: Well, I think it is pretty tough for us to do it. It gets better day by day but still there are some bad days and today is one of them because it is my mother's birthday. She would have been 93 today.

BALDWIN: I'm so sorry.

KEPLER: But we do plan to hold a graveyard ceremony sometime in the future. They've got their stone already erected and we'll put their remains under the stone.

BALDWIN: Can I ask, Mike, just for everyone watching, I mean 73 years of marriage. What was their magic?

KEPLER: Well, it's in some ways there's a little bit of tolerance that has to go on with each one's foibles; But my glue that held the family together. During the last five years, my dad was in ill health and they were able to live at home because my mother was able to act as the nurse maid for my dad and herself. So a lot of credit to my mother.

BALDWIN: Who would have had a birthday today.

Mike Kepler, again, our condolences. And thank you so much for sharing.

KEPLER: You're welcome. Thank you much.

BALDWIN: And we must never forget those on the front lines of this pandemic. Doctors and nurses and other medical workers risking lives to save others.

And in one tragic case, a doctor taking her own life. Emergency Room doctor, Lorna Breen, died by suicide Sunday morning. She had recovered from COVID-19 and was continuing to care for virus patients.

And Chris Cuomo interviewed her father.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. PHILIP BREEN, FATHER OF DR. LORNA BREEN: She was a doctor every bit of the word that a doctor should be. She put her life on the line to take care of other people. She was in the trenches, so to speak, right in the front line as people were dying left and right around her and she contracted the virus herself, went home sick.

Had proven that she did have the virus and, indeed, stayed home for just a little more than a week, which I don't think was enough in hindsight.

But she -- I think she felt overwhelming sense of wanting to help her colleagues and her friends who were still fighting the good fight. And so she strapped on her hardest and took the bit in her mouth and she went back.

And she talked to her -- just before the final 12-hour shift and during the time she was on that shift, she basically went down into the traces like a horse that had pulled too heavy a load and couldn't go a step further and just went down. So she went down.

[14:59:51]

She was retrieved and brought back by her family to Charlottesville, Virginia, where she was hospitalized for a brief period of time. Judged well enough to be out on her own but clearly was not better. And her sisters told me that you could see in her eyes that there was something not there.

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