Return to Transcripts main page


"Pause" Needed Before More Stimulus Aid; NY Governor Announces Coalition With Neighboring States To Buy PPE; Florida To Reopen Certain Businesses Across State Tomorrow; California Beach Closures Spark Lawsuits, Protests; Dr. Birx: Possible "On Paper" To Have Vaccine By January; Pompeo: China Hid The Extent Of Coronavirus Outbreak; U.K May Soon Have Worst Coronavirus Death Toll In Europe. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired May 3, 2020 - 14:00   ET




FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday.

I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin with the White House pushing the pause button on aid as millions of Americans struggle with the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus.

This morning the administration announced that more than half the money set aside for the second Paycheck Protection Program has already been given out -- more than $175 billion. And according to President Trump's national chief economic adviser it could be a while before any more aid could be given out.


LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: There's kind of a pause period right now. You know, we've put up $3 trillion of direct federal budget assistance in one way or another. The Federal Reserve has actually put in as much as $4 trillion to $6 trillion. So it's a huge, huge package. Let's see how it's doing as we gradually reopen the economy.


WHITFIELD: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he is advancing his plans for a seven-state consortium to get the East Coast economy back on track. By tomorrow morning over 30 states will have partially reopened their economy despite warnings from medical experts. But others are not moving fast enough for some critics.

Protesters have staged demonstrations in several state capitals venting frustrations about stay-at-home orders and often disregarding their own safety and the safety of others by not following social distancing guidelines. Today the White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator said this about protests in Michigan.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE TASK FORCE RESPONSE CORONAVIRUS COORDINATOR: It's devastatingly worrisome to me personally, because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather, who has a co-morbid condition and they have a serious or very -- or an unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives.

So we need to protect each other at the same time we're voicing our discontent.


WHITFIELD: The number of deaths continues to rise across the country with more than 66,000 reported so far.

But there are some signs of progress. Dr. Birx also calls the drug Remdesivir a first step forward in the search for effective treatment. We have a team of reporters covering all the latest developments.

Let's start at the White House. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is there. Jeremy -- we heard from Larry Kudlow today that there may be a pause for additional stimulus money. What other details are there?


Well, the White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow suggested that the White House will be taking the next couple of weeks to assess whether they need to put more money into that small business loan program or other economic stimulus programs.

Kudlow indicated that the White House wants to see how the economy begins to recover as some of these states start to reopen their economies.

But what we know, Fred -- is that in just the last week more than half of the new funds for that Payroll Protection Program, that small business loan program, have already been approved, and so Kudlow telling Jake Tapper this morning that the White House hasn't decided though if that program needs more money.


KUDLOW: This has been an extremely popular and effective program -- no question about it. You know, keeping folks on the payroll is so important and even if they're furloughed for a while they'll be picked up by the unemployment compensation.

So yes, that suggests, I might add, a potential strong spring back once the states gradually phase in their reopenings in the transition months of May and June.

So I don't want to rule it out. I think your point is well taken. You know, we waited a little bit too long, I thought, when the last tranche ran out. Let's not make the same mistake again.


DIAMOND: And so you hear there Larry Kudlow at same time as he was saying they're not sure whether that program needs more money or how soon it will need more money. Also saying that the White House and Congress shouldn't make the same mistake that happened last time which was that that small business loan program, the funds for it actually ran out and millions of business owners were left without the ability to actually get those loans.

He says he wants to avoid that mistake. But at the same time, most economists at this point are saying that it's clear that the economy will indeed need more direct fiscal stimulus funds, and earlier this week we heard from the Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell. He was already encouraging Congress to pass additional direct fiscal stimulus -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jeremy Diamond at the White House. Thank you.

So governors in seven northeastern states are banding together to purchase medical supplies without having to rely on the federal government. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement last hour calling the early mad dash for PPE absurd.



GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We're going to form a consortium with our seven northeast partner states which buy about $5 billion worth of equipment and supplies. That will then increase our market power when we're buying. And we will buy as a consortium, prices at consortium for PPE equipment, ventilators, medical equipment -- whatever we need to buy when you put all those hospitals together.


WHITFIELD: Polo Sandoval is in New York for us. So Polo -- I understand the Governor also, you know, putting PPE requirements for hospitals in his state, all in preparation for that reopening period.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Fred -- this also goes back to that concern that we've heard from not just officials but also health authorities. And that concern that we could potentially, again possibly, see a second wave perhaps in the fall.

So what we heard today from Andrew Cuomo here in New York is that he will be communicating with area hospitals really across the state of New York and requiring them to have at least a 90-day supply of that PPE, that personal protection equipment should we see that.

And it also goes back to your earlier mention here of regional consortium with partnership between New York and other states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, as far as Massachusetts where the Republican governor there has agreed to participate in this to be able to come up with these billions of dollars. It's $5 billion to be able to purchase not only medical supplies but also equipment to be prepared not only for the reopening but also for that potential second wave.

So that's what we're seeing right now. It's not just monitoring the current numbers but also this effort in the northeast to potentially not rely on the federal government should we begin to see that rise in numbers again.

WHITFIELD: All right. Polo --


CUOMO: You wear the mask not for yourself. You wear the mask for me. It's a sign of respect to other people. And you make me sick. That's disrespectful. I have to go into the hospital. I have to call an ambulance. That's an ambulance driver. I have to go into an emergency room, that's a nurse, that's a doctor who has to put on PPE that somebody has to buy and pay for.

They have to risk being exposed to the virus because you wouldn't wear a mask? Because you wouldn't wear a mask? You put so many people at risk because you didn't want to wear a mask.


SANDOVAL: And Fred -- I do need to quickly add some context there which you just heard from the Governor earlier this morning which is that request for New Yorkers to continue to wear, of course, those masks.

Mine comes off for just a few moments so that I could talk to you while I keep distance with my colleagues and then comes back on.

So what we're hearing right now from authorities is that if people are going to go outside, as many of them of course do want to do, since they've been cooped up for such a long time. Then at least act responsibly so those numbers can continue to go down.

WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval -- thank you so much.

Back on with the mask now.

All right. Some hair salon and barber shop owners are lobbying Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to allow them to reopen at soon as tomorrow. This as all but three counties in the Sunshine State prepare to open up shop in the morning.

CNN's Randi Kaye joins me now from West Palm Beach. So Randi -- what are you hearing from people there?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred -- people are certainly looking forward to much of the state reopening tomorrow -- May 4th, Monday. They are excited about that. The governor has cited this DHS study that the virus can be killed by sunlight and humidity and high temperatures although the DHS has said that that study is just preliminary and is still under peer review. But that's part of the reason why the Governor has decided to open state parks here in the state of Florida. He's also opening some of the most popular beaches including Clearwater, Pensacola and Destin.

And Fred, you may remember just a couple of weeks ago when the mayor of Jacksonville decide to open the Jacksonville Beach. We were there and it was quite crowded. People were not social distancing even though that was suggested that they only. It was only supposed to be for recreational use but people were still congregating with their coolers and laying in the sun.

So we'll see what happens with these beaches.

Also opening are restaurants, outdoor seating as long as the seat -- the tables are six feet apart. Indoor capacity is maxed at 25 percent. Same for the retailers as well. Elective surgeries and golf courses also, Fred -- will open as of tomorrow which people are looking forward to.

But still closed, Fred -- are the movie theaters and the spas and salons. And you mentioned that the Governor did meet with some Orlando salon owners yesterday, and they are pleading with him to open. They say their business depends on it. They say that they have safety measures in place. They can text people from the parking lot, tell them to come in. They won't need people to congregate inside. The governor says will take that under review.

Also still closed are those three most populous counties in the state of Florida, in the state -- in the area of southern Florida. That would be Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County where I am -- Fred. They will remain under stay-at-home orders. That's about six million people, about 30 percent of Florida's population.


And I did speak with the dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Southern Florida, and he said that's the right call. He said that is the epicenter of the disease. And he told me, Fred -- that 60 percent of all the cases, all the deaths and all the hospitalizations are coming from those three counties.

WHITFIELD: Wow. And then what about an increased testing? Is that part of any reopening plans, particularly for those it three counties?

KAYE: That is. The governor is very proud of the testing that he says is taking place here in the state of Florida, although many still say it isn't enough. But right now they are doing about 15,000 tests a day here in the state. And the governor says he hopes to increase that with some mobile units going around the state as well. Hopes to get that to 20,000 tests a day by May 15th and 30,000 tests a day by June 15th.

So we'll see if he gets there, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Randi Kaye, thank you so much. All right. Some communities in Orange County, California are suing

Governor Gavin Newsom after he ordered all beaches there closed. His order came after crowds lined the beaches last weekend and thousands of protesters have demonstrated against the closures this weekend.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is in one of those cities -- Huntington Beach. So Paul -- what more can you tell us about what led up to this battle and how things are right now where you are?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred -- this is Huntington Beach. This has been a flashpoint. This is one of the cities that is suing the governor over that hard closure of the beaches. And if you look behind me, just a short time ago, we heard the officers on bullhorns -- the lifeguards that even went out in a wave runner and they told the surfers to get out of the water. Same pattern they seem to allow the surfers a little latitude in the morning and then they basically chase them off.

As the surfers left, lots of frustration with the governor. They were expressing how they thought this was just a little excessive to say the least and people who walk by sort of often chant some things that we can't mention on television.

It's a very difficult situation also for the Huntington Beach Police Department. There's times when you have a police officer basically telling his neighbor that he can't surf. It's tough.


ANGELA BENNETT, PIO, HUNTINGTON BEACH POLICE: Asking people to be patient. We understand the culture of this community very well. We have so many great partnerships with our business owners and our residents and even our visitors. We're a tourist community so we understand this is why people come here.

And it's a difficult time, it's a difficult setting but we're going to get through it and we're just asking that everybody be patient with us.


VERCAMMEN: So let's try to give you a perspective on the beach closures in southern California. We'll start in the north. Ventura County beaches, most of them are open. Los Angeles County beaches are closed. Orange County beaches now closed. So the people from those counties, there is a concern that they're going to go north and south. San Diego County just reopened.

And the argument here in Huntington Beach is, please, just tell us what it is that Ventura County did right and San Diego County is doing right and we'll adhere to those rules so we can open up.

But of course, the governor stressing time and time again, the reason California has coped with the COVID-19 crisis better than some other states is the social distancing measures. He's saying this is all about social distancing. But again, in Orange County, they're saying no way. This is all about singling out our county.

Back to you now, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So the argument continues over whether it's a populace issue or whether it's a data issue or something else.

VERCAMMEN: well, absolutely. And that's one of the arguments that has been made here in Orange County where they have three million people but there are only 50 coronavirus deaths.

So they're saying that they're handling this fairly well but yet you still have an increase in cases that comes along with testing. It's a debate that's going to rage on for some time and if it's not solved soon they will go back in court on May 11th. The judge is ordering both sides to try to mediate this thing out of court -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Paul Vercammen -- thank you so much in Huntington Beach -- California.

All right. Coming up, there are more than 100 studies trying to find a vaccine for the coronavirus, and one of them is expressing new optimism that we could see a vaccine by June.

Plus -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today says he has seen overwhelming evidence about where the coronavirus came from. Details on that.

And later, an exclusive report. We'll hear from the U.S. Army reservist who has found herself the target of a false conspiracy theory that she was Patient Zero in China.



WHITFIELD: An Oxford professor who is conducting clinical trials says the prospects of coronavirus a vaccine are pretty good with early results from the tests coming this summer. Also today a key member of the White House coronavirus task force would not rule out the possibility of having a vaccine by January.


DR. BIRX: The way that is possible is if you bring forward five or six different classes of candidates, which the Operation Warp Speed has done. And so it's not relying on a single vaccine platform. It's relying on several different candidates that are made differently and act differently.

And then it's about doing compressed phase one, phase two, phase three trials in an overlapping way, moving forward when you have a good safety (INAUDIBLE) data but not with the level of pauses that are often present in vaccine development. S

And so on paper it's possible. It's whether we can execute and execute around the globe because you also, for phase three, you have to have active viral transmission in a community in order to study its efficacy.



WHITFIELD: Dr. Syra Madad is a special pathogens expert. Doctor -- good to see you. So do you share that same level of optimism that there could be a vaccine as early as January?

DR. SYRA MADAD, SPECIAL PATHOGENS EXPERT: Well, I'm cautiously optimistic but it doesn't seem like it's a very realistic timeline just because knowing how long vaccines actually take to develop.

But I think the other problem that we have is not just the development of these vaccines but then manufacturing them and distributing them. So that also adds a lot of time and resources.

And I think that here in the United States we need to make sure that we have a manufacturing capability and then be able to actually distribute it at large scale. So there's going to be multiple different factors and stuff at play here.

WHITFIELD: There are more than a hundred different vaccine endeavors under way around the world and we understand there are eight human trials taking place around the world. Two are taking place, human trials, in the U.S. Is it your concern that everyone's moving too fast?

DR. MADAD: We want to -- you know, there's a notion of moving at pandemic speed. But at same time we want to make sure that we're still holding on to the integrity and the scientific and ethical standards that we've established for vaccine development and manufacturing.

That shouldn't (INAUDIBLE) we can accelerate that but we want to make sure at the end of the day, we have a safe and effective vaccine because we don't want to start jabbing people on the arms and then finding out that obviously it's not something that is -- has been very effective.

We also need to see some of the data on some of these vaccines that are being developed. So I think there's still a lot of unknowns, but it looks very promising. But at the same time we need to make sure that are holding true to some of our golden standards, if you will.

WHITFIELD: Dr. Deborah Birx also said today that while she's encouraged by the experimental drug, Remdesivir, for helping patients recover, she downplayed the drug as being a potential, you know, silver bullet. Where are you on this?

DR. MADAD: Well, I certainly don't think it's a blockbuster drug. I think that it's great that we have something available that shows that it has, you know, clinical improvement in those, in the severe cases.

But if you look at the end point, you know, it's not a blockbuster drug. It's not a cure by any means. We need to continue to invest looking at additional therapeutics that can be used that can be more effective. But certainly it does look very promising.

WHITFIELD: And where are you on so many states reopening? More than 30 reopening. You know, about half a dozen more that will open up by the end of this week? Are you concerned about the timing? With so many cases of coronavirus you know, still going up in many states.

DR. MADAD: Yes, I'm very concerned because if you look at the virus itself nothing has changed. It's still a highly transmissible virus. we're still seeing a lot of hospitalizations and infection rate increases. In fact, you're seeing at least 20 states, you know, potentially reaching their peak hospital resources in the next two weeks.

And so you have this backdrop of increasing cases on an ongoing basis if you take out New York state out of the equation. And so we really need to make sure that we have some of these infrastructures in place in terms of containment and mitigation so not just the testing but making sure that we have, you know, good, you know, behavioral models in place that people need to understand. We need to continue these social distancing measures, you know, at the same time.

And so we need to make sure that a lot of that messaging is continuous.

WHITFIELD: Dr. Syra Madad -- thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoing President Trump on where the coronavirus might have come from.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.


WHITFIELD: We'll talk more about that in a moment.



WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today doubled down on claims by the Trump administration that China intentionally tried to hide the extent of the coronavirus spread, including concealing medical supplies.

He also repeated the President -- President Trump's rather, assertions that the responsibility for the outbreak rested squarely with China.

White House reporter Sarah Westwood is with me now from Washington. So Sarah -- this seems like a deliberate escalation of the war of words between China and the Trump administration. SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes -- Fred.

We saw Secretary of State Mike Pompeo really point the finger at China this morning, not just over the origins of the virus claiming that it id originate in that lab in Wuhan but also accusing China of stockpiling medical supplies in the early days of the virus and of withholding information from the international community about the loss of life within China, about how rapidly the virus was spreading within that country earlier this year.

Now, this morning Pompeo said he had seen enormous evidence that the virus originated in Wuhan and in a laboratory and suggested that the rest of the world is coming around to America's view of the origins of the virus.

Take a listen.


POMPEO: There's enormous evidence that that's where this began. We've said from the beginning that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China. We took a lot of grief for that from the outside but I think the whole world can see now.

Remember, China has a history of infecting the world and they have a history of running substandard laboratories.


WESTWOOD: This is a different tone from what the intelligence community has been saying this week. The office of the director of National Intelligence issued a rare on-the-record statement about the intelligence assessments surrounding the origins of the virus. The intelligence community said they are rigorously examining whether this was transmitted from an animal or whether it came from the lab in Wuhan but not issuing any kind of conclusion that the intelligence community has reached.

WESTWOOD: CNN has reported that inside the administration, Pompeo has been pushing for intelligence related to the origins of the virus.


And, Fred, this week, we heard President Trump struck a tone similar to Pompeo and saying that he too had seen compelling evidence that the virus came from that lab in Wuhan.

WHITFIELD: And then, Sarah, there was a skirmish on the border between North Korea and South Korea. Shots have been fired. What more do we know about that?

WESTWOOD: Pompeo this morning said initial reports appear to suggest that was accidental. North Koreans fired across the demilitarized zone. South Korea reportedly returned that fire. Pompeo saying there appears to be no loss of life and, again, appearing that that accident was accidental. The timing is, of course, notable, Fred, coming after the U.S. official said they have authenticated pictures appearing to show Kim Jong-un alive and well and the president tweeting that he's glad to see Kim Jong-un, North Korea's leader, back on his feet.

WHITFIELD: Sarah Westwood, thank you so much.

All right. a U.S. Army reservist is facing the fight of her life during the coronavirus pandemic and it has nothing to do with her health. She's the target of a false conspiracy theory that she was patient zero in China.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan spoke exclusively with her and the man who started this false claim. Take a look.


MAATJE BENASSI, U.S. ARMY RESERVIST: it's like waking up from a bad dream, going into a nightmare like day after day.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: This is Maatje Benassi. She and her husband, Matt, are in the center of an elaborate conspiracy theory promoted by George Webb.

GEORGE WEBB, CONSPIRACY THEORIST: This goes back to our story here, which is patient zero, which is Maatje Benassi.

O'SULLIVAN: He's a conspiracy theorist who has nearly 100,000 subscribers on YouTube. He falsely claims without any evidence that Maatje brought the virus to China during a cycling competition.

Maatje is in the U.S. Army Reserve, and last October, she competed in the Military World Games in Wuhan, China.

Six months later, comments under Webb's YouTube videos about the Benassi's have become the stuff of nightmares.

MATT BENASSI, VICTIM OF CONSPIRACY THEORY: Execute them by firing squad. We need to be killing these key people. These people will get a bullet to the skull.

O'SULLIVAN: The conspiracy theory has even reached China. Webb has been featured in media control by the Chinese Communist Party, which has sought to deflect blame for the coronavirus.

MATT BENASSI: We've got the law enforcement. And because they're not direct threats, there's not a lot that they can actually do. For folks like us, it's just too expensive to litigate something like this.

O'SULLIVAN: Could you talk me through the specific evidence you have that she is, as you described, coronavirus patient zero?

WEBB: Yes. Well, I have to -- there's a lot of circumstantial evidence and then there's a source here that I cannot reveal.

O'SULLIVAN: So -- but specifically on Maatje Benassi, how do you know that she has the virus or has antibodies or how do you know that for sure? WEBB: Well, I have a source at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital and she actually works at where I have someone saying that she works at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital and she tested positive for the coronavirus.

O'SULLIVAN: She denies that.

WEBB: She denies that? Does she deny that she works at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital?

O'SULLIVAN: She denies she's had the coronavirus, that she's had any symptoms of the coronavirus.

A YouTube spokesperson told CNN the company is committed to promoting accurate information about coronavirus and taking down misinformation when it's flagged by users. YouTube took down some trending comments under Webb's videos after CNN asked about them.

MATT BENASSI: A couple years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare cancer. Dealing with that situation is way easier than trying to deal with this George Webb situation.

MAATJE BENASSI: It's getting out of hand and it needs to stop.


WHITFIELD: All right. Donie O'Sullivan, thanks for bringing that story.

The British prime minister has lauded his country's response to the coronavirus, his government declaring a win over the virus. But the numbers are telling a very different story. We'll take a look at what went wrong, next.


WHITFIELD: The U.K. sees a decline in its coronavirus death rate with 315 deaths since yesterday. But it's still too soon, or rather it has already surpassed Italy for the highest death toll in Europe. This comes as criticism mounts over the government's handling of the outbreak.

Nick Paton Walsh is our CNN International Security Editor.



NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Britain is close to having Europe's worst death toll. So what did it do wrong or differently? When global alarm bells were ringing loudly, the U.K. was clear it wouldn't lock down too early and that some spread was unavoidable, even desirable.

PATRICK VALIANCE, BRITISH CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICER: If people go too early, they become very fatigued. It's not possible to stop everybody getting it. And it's also actually not desirable because you want some immunity in the population.

WALSH: Hindsight always gives a clearer unfair verdict. But new updated government figures show the death toll just in England was a lot larger than known at the time in the days leading up to lockdown. And the prime minister said he was still shaking hands.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I shook hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know.

WALSH: And no deaths were announced, four people had died already in England when Cheltenham horse races criticized for going ahead, ended, the U.K. toll was officially ten, really, 58 have died.


And when the lockdown slammed, pub doors shut publicly, the toll was 359. But, really, 847 had died in England alone. Should the U.K. have moved faster?

NIGEL EDWARDS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, NUFFIELD TRUST: It's a bit early to tell but there were some early signs looking at the experience in some of the countries that if we had gone a bit earlier, we might be looking at slightly better results now.

SIAN GRIFFITHS, CHAIRED HONG KONG GOVERNMENT'S INQUIRY INTO SARS AT CUHK: It's likely to be next year when people in the (INAUDIBLE) can look back at all the different countries and the different things that were done, what worked, what didn't work.

PROF. KEITH NEAL, EPIDEMIOLOGY OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM: If you've taken different measures at different times, then different people would become infected. If we had come in a week earlier, then probably less people would have died up to now. But as the disease continues to spread through the population, a different series of people will die.

WALSH: Testing and contact tracing was a problem from the start, partially dismissed and then heavily embraced.


WALSH: Many grand schemes were announced, home anti-body test apps, a volunteer army, but this one actually happened nearly on time, albeit late. It can't have helped decision-making that Boris Johnson was nearly killed by the disease too at its peak.

EDWARDS: Some of the messaging has not been as consistent or as clear as might have been helpful. I give the government a bit of the benefit of the doubt. These are somewhat unprecedented times.

WALSH: Still, despite the huge toll, the U.K.'s health service was not overwhelmed. Even huge overflow hospitals like this in London were barely used. Half those who died in England so far were over 80. Did the U.K. not protect them enough or was there little that could be done? Tough questions that time and grief will answer.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, London.




WHITFIELD: More than 30 states have gradually reopened and eased coronavirus restrictions, and that has many wondering about their legal rights.

Here to answer some of your questions is CNN Legal Analyst Shan Wu. Shan, good to see you. We're at the beginning of a new month, and a lot of people want to know what can they do if they can't pay their rent or mortgage.

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They need to read the laws in their area first, because many jurisdictions have established an order where you can't be evicted during this time. But it's important to note, difference between can't be evicted versus late fees or still having to pay your rent, landlords might still start an eviction action and they may charge late fees later on. The pause is really that no one can get kicked out on to the street right now. Talk to the landlords, but don't talk to them before you read the law.

And not to be a pessimist, but some landlords are trying to take advantage of this situations, so want to know your rights first. If they ask for proof that you're being hurt by the COVID-19 situation, that's fine. Ask them what kind of proof they want. If they want things that aren't proper, like bank records, don't do that. So know your rights first before you talk to your landlord, but do communicate.

WHITFIELD: So can landlords evict or charge late fees?

WU: In many places, they can charge late fees. What they cannot do is go to court right now during this emergency and put people out on the streets for not paying rent. That's the protection plan.

WHITFIELD: So are people legally bound to return to work? If they're bosses say, come back to work, and there are some employees who, I don't feel comfortable it, I don't know if there're the proper supplies that are in place, what can happen if they refuse to return to work?

WU: Well, the bottom line, Fred, is the employer gets to say when you get to come back or not and were you to refuse, you could be punished, even terminated. But there are a couple important exceptions. If the employee has an underlying health condition, something, asthma, pulmonary issues makes you more vulnerable to the virus, that should be taken into consideration and the employee needs to raise that with her H.R. people or their boss.

Number two, very important, if you already have an accommodation under the American with Disabilities Act, that's still in place. So they've still got to honor that. The virus doesn't suspend that right on your part.

And something like that based again on an underlying condition, making you more vulnerable, that's got to be honored. They have to accommodate that and possibly allow you to work remotely. So those are important things to keep in mind.

WHITFIELD: And then some folks are venturing out, they are finding out when they go to the gas station or certain convenience stores, or even grocery stores. There are signs up that say, if you enter, you must wear a mask. Well, are they legally bound to do so? Can store refuse your entry if you don't have a mask?

WU: That's going to depend a lot on the particular state or jurisdiction, city borders on that point. Many of the cities are requiring the store employees to wear the masks and now putting up signs, as you said, where the customers have to wear them. So depending on those orders, the stores may refuse to let the customers in.

That's really a very interesting problem that can develop here because so many of these issues are kind of novel with COVID-19.


You know, historically, there are anti-mask laws, laws that say you cannot wear a mask. And those were targeting the Ku Klux Klan, really, saying they don't want people running around with masks to disguise them while doing crimes. So many people, particularly people of color, were worried even about putting on masks. And, in fact, in Georgia, the governor had to specifically lift the anti-mask law. So that's an interesting aspect that may cause other issues going forward.

WHITFIELD: All right, Shan Wu, always good to see you. Thank you so much. Be well.

WU: Good to see you, Fred. Take care.

WHITFIELD: Thank you.

All right. New York Mets player Pete Alonso first on the scene last year leading the sport in homeruns as a rookie. Well, now, he's trying to make a difference off the field as well. Alonso and his fiancee, Haley, have started a Homers for Heroes program to raise money for frontline workers.

Here is CNN's Andy Scholes.


PETE ALONSO, METS FIRST BASEMAN: There are so many different heroes and people that are unrecognized and we want to bring those people to light. Everyone is a hero to somebody. If you just impact one life, you are a hero.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Giving back, you know, that's nothing new for you. You donated part of your winnings from the Home Run Derby. And you are doing so much now. Where does your desire to give back come from?

ALONSO: I'm very fortunate and blessed. I want to give back because I've been given so much from the game. I've had so many awesome people in my life, and I just want to help. I want to impact others in a positive way.

After last year, I recognized that I have a platform, I have a voice. And I want to use that voice for good and to help people.

Hey, Gina, hey, John, what's up, Brian? I want to say thank you so much and thank you on behalf of everybody. Thank you for keeping everybody safe.

Thank you again and let's go Mets.

I think words and encouraging words, especially now, I feel, like are extra important, because right now, we need to be as positive as we can. This virus doesn't discriminate against anybody. And it's affected the entire world. So all of us need to stick together and stay unified and I feel like that's the best way for us to collectively get through this thing.


WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks to Pete Alonso and to Andy Scholes for bringing that to us. And you can learn more at

Coming up, as the country fights the coronavirus pandemic, one former president is calling for an end to partisanship when it comes to fighting the virus.



WHITFIELD: In a powerful video released by the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the former president calls for an end to partisanship in the nation's continued battle against the coronavirus. He's urging Americans to, quote, remember that empathy and simple kindness are essential, powerful tools of national recovery. I want to play the whole message for you.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This is a challenging and solemn time in the life of our nation and the world. A remorseless invisible illness threatens the elderly and vulnerable among us, a disease that can quickly take breath and life.

Medical professionals are risking their own for the health of others, and we're deeply grateful. Officials at every level are setting out the requirements of public health that protect us all and we all need to do our part.

The disease also threatens broader damage, harm to our sense of safety, security and community. The larger challenge we share is to confront an outbreak of fear and loneliness and and it is frustrating that many of the normal tools of compassion, a hug, a touch, can bring the opposite of the good we intend.

In this case, we serve our neighbor by separating from them. We cannot allow physical separation to become emotional isolation. This requires us to be not only compassionate but creative in our outreach. And people across the nation are using the tools of technology in the cause of solidarity.

In this time of testing, we need to remember a few things. First, let us remember we have faced times of testing before. Following 9/11, I saw a great nation rise as one to honor the brave, to grieve with the grieving and to embrace unavoidable new duties. And I have no doubt, none at all, that this spirit of service and sacrifice is alive and well in America.

Second, let us remember that empathy and simple kindness are essential, powerful tools of national recovery. Even at an appropriate social distance, we can find ways to be present in the lives of others, to ease their anxiety and share their burdens.

Third, let's remember that the suffering we experience as a nation does not fall evenly. In the days to come, it will be especially important to care in practical ways for the elderly, the ill and the unemployed.


Finally, let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat.