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U.S. States Reopen Amid Rising Death Toll; Seven States Banding Together To Purchase Medical Supplies; Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) Is Interviewed About Lifting Restrictions In The State; CNN Special Report: "Pandemic & The President"; Astronaut Returns To Earth During A Pandemic; Homage To Frontline Workers. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 3, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you so much for staying with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Tragically, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has now surpassed 67,000. This virus claiming the life of one person in this country every 44 seconds during the month of April.

And yet, more and more states are taking the first steps of reopening. Beginning tomorrow, you will be able to eat inside a restaurant in Florida, go to the gym in Arkansas, shop at a mall in Indiana and even gather in groups of 10 or more in Missouri.

Meantime, in the city of Stillwater, Oklahoma, an emergency proclamation requiring the use of face masks in stores and restaurants was amended after reports employees were being verbally abused and threatened with violence for trying to enforce the order.

Also today, the governor of Ohio saying his order requiring face masks went too far because "people were not going to accept the government telling them what to do." But when it comes to wearing masks, this question of wanting to do versus should do was front and center today. Here is the governor of New York.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Wear a mask. Okay. It is not the most attractive garment ever created. So what? Well, I don't like it, you know, it feels uncomfortable, unnatural. So what?

You want to honor the health care workers and the people who literally gave their lives in some cases for what they did here? Act responsibly. Wear a mask. You know how you show love, by wearing a mask.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Let's head to Florida now where some businesses in all but three counties will start reopening their doors tomorrow. Governor Ron DeSantis saying Florida restaurants and retail spaces can open to customers but only at 25 percent capacity. Staying close for now, movie theaters, bars, gyms and hair salons. CNN's Randi Kaye joins us now from West Palm Beach - Palm Beach County along with Miami-Dade and Broward not reopening tomorrow. The governor is saying businesses there will begin phase one when it is safer. Randi, what more can you tell us about this?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's going to give it a few more weeks for those counties for now at least. This is a very slow and steady process for the governor. Phase one, as you said, starts tomorrow here in Florida. Beaches will be reopening -- many beaches around the state and very popular areas such as Pensacola, Clearwater, Destin.

You will recall probably, Ana, a couple of weeks ago when the Jacksonville beaches opened and how crowded they were. They weren't exactly social distancing. So we'll see what happens there.

Also, state parks are going to open around the state of Florida. And Governor DeSantis has been saying that, you know what, take a look at the DHS study that says that hot weather and warmer temperatures and heat and humidity can kill the coronavirus. So he's been pointing to that as a reason to open.

But DHS itself has said that, you know what, this is in the preliminary stage, this study, and it is still under peer review. But either way, the governor is planning to open, as you said, some restaurants here to 25 percent capacity as well as outdoor sitting. Retail stores as well will be open to 25 percent capacity.

Of course, masks are encouraged. Social distancing is still encouraged. Here's a little bit of what the governor had to say about his reopening tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS, GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: Being safe, smart and step by step is the appropriate way to consider that. And I think we're going to respond well and I think we're going to be able to continue to take some good steps. But tomorrow is just one step. It certainly not the Florida that we had in February, but I think we obviously want to get to where we're back in the saddle doing a lot of great things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: And I should mention that another part of the governor's reopening plan is increased testing. He had announced just today that nine Walgreens around the state will have drive through testing. Right now we're testing about 15,000 people a day here.

He hopes by May 15th to get that number up to 20,000 and by June 15th, to get that number up to 30,000. So, increased testing is a big part of the reopening plan here in Florida, Ana.

[17:05:03]

CABRERA: All right, Randi Kaye, in West Palm Beach for us. Thank you. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that he is banding together with the governors of six other states in the northeast to purchase medical supplies without having to rely on the federal government.

Cuomo called the mad dash that has occurred over the past month for protective gear absurd. Polo Sandoval joins us now from New York. Polo, Governor Cuomo also announcing PPE requirements for hospitals in his state, what are they?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This has to do, Ana, with what these governors in the northeast are preparing for months from now. Of course, what we've heard from health experts, that there is a concern that we could potentially see a second wave of this COVID-19 come this fall.

So the concern here is that the supplies won't be there should they be needed. So what we saw today was this joint group of governors coming to that agreement that they would jointly purchase that protective medical equipment as well, the PPE of course like masks like this. Mine came off for just a few moments so we can have this conversation.

The focus here is, or the concern here is that these medical facilities will not be prepared should we begin to see another increase in the numbers months from now. So what Governor Andrew Cuomo is requesting of the facilities here in New York State, is that they at least keep on-hand about a 90-day supply of the supplies that are needed to be able to treat patients.

And then of course there is the other side of this agreement that will allow these states, multiple states, to be able to make these purchases of about $5 billion worth of medical equipment and supplies should we see that. So that's really looking ahead.

As for what we're seeing right now, he governor also saying that the number of intubations, hospitalizations, that has also dropped significantly, at least lower rates that we've seen in quite some time. But much of that is because people are exercising caution and that includes, of course, wearing those masks if they cannot maintain that six feet of distance. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 is 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 mask? You put so many people at risk because you didn't want to wear a mask.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: In the next press, Governor Cuomo also reminding people that ultimately those masks are there for people who cannot maintain that distance with others. Again, it's about maintaining those numbers as low as possible, Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Polo Sandoval, safety first. Thanks.

Now, Colorado is among the states starting to reopen. This past Monday, retail businesses were allowed to open for curb side delivery. Realtors were allowed to start showing homes again and doctors were given the okay to move forward with elective medical procedures.

Then on Friday, retail businesses were able to open to the public including salons. Tomorrow, non-critical offices can open as well. Here is where that state currently stands number-wise. The number of new cases is decreasing, you can see there.

It was clearly a big spike in April. The number of deaths is also decreasing. The peak here even more defined. They have gone from a high of 35 deaths on April 9th down to two deaths this past Thursday. Joining us now is Colorado Governor Jared Polis.

Governor, how confident are you that Colorado is out of the woods?

GOV. JARED POLIS (D-CO): Well, thanks, Ana. I don't think anywhere in the country of the world is out of the woods. But certainly people are relieved in Colorado.

They were able to - many of them able to go back to work, earn a living and of course, people are able to shop and get their haircut, and those basic things. And as we enter a sustainable phase of how we make sure that social distancing is part of everything we do for the weeks and months ahead.

CABRERA: What numbers are you watching though that could potentially trigger you to maybe reinstate some restrictions?

POLIS: A lot of the requirements about going back involve businesses that have a responsibility to take people's temperatures when they go in. It goes into our state automatic online symptom tracker, sort of the monitor that in real-time.

Of course, the increase testing, we purchased over 100,000 tests from South Korea that have arrived. We're also working in partnership with our federal government for even more.

And of course, in addition, just tracking real-time where there are outbreaks, we need to act quickly on a site specific basis to really close it down and make sure the people are then quarantined rather than let it, really, spread to the whole economy and the whole state.

CABRERA: You mentioned those tests you purchased from South Korea. I heard you had, you know, told Colorado public radio that you kept that shipment under wraps for fear, you know, the federal government may get involved there. Why was that concern?

[17:10:04]

POLIS: You know, we don't talk about anything that we're buying, and you know, we're buying, of course, N95 masks, we're buying gloves, we're buying gowns, we're buying tests. We don't talk about it until it has arrived here because there is just too many bad experiences that others outbidding us, poor quality suppliers who aren't reliable.

We are competing in a global market. That means we're competing against other states, other countries, even our own federal government. We're ready for it in Colorado.

We got a great team of folks we brought in from the private sector, public sector experience, supply chain experience. We're doing our part for Coloradans, but it is frustrating and it's often in competition with our fellow states and our federal government.

CABRERA: One more question on testing because I want to know where Colorado stands when it comes to all the supplies and having everything that you need. Here's a quote from Jared Kushner in the "Washington Post."

"We figured out how to get all the states enough complete testing kits to do the testing that they have requested. We can get to a really big number in May. The biggest thing holding us back is not supplies or capacity. It's the state's ability to collect more samples." Is this the case for you?

POLIS: Well, the federal government is helping with swabs and they're helping with the transfer reagent. They are not yet helpin with the tests themselves or the viral reagent. We have to purchase those from manufacturers, both domestic and international.

So, we've done that. So, we're certainly appreciative of any help that we can get. If the federal government is in a position to send us the viral agents and test, we would deeply appreciate it.

CABRERA: Do you have what you need at this moment>

POLIS: Well, I mean, every state could use a lot more, every country could use a lot more. So, we have increased testing about 20 folds from the start of the crisis and we're increasing it even more in the next couple of weeks.

We should be in about 5,000 to 8,500 a week - a day, I'm sorry, throughout most of May. And of course, like everybody, we'd love to do it even more.

CABRERA: There have been protests in cities throughout the country including there in Colorado, demanding the state's do more to reopen. I'm sure you've heard about what happened in Michigan this week, with demonstrators crowding the capital building there, some were even armed.

Here's what President Trump said about that, and I quote from a tweet, "The governor of Michigan should give a little and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely. See them, talk to them, make a deal.

Governor Polis, we have seen some governors relent, for example, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recently backtracked and said his order requiring face masks went too far. Have you been influenced by hearing from constituents that disagree with you? Have you, I guess in effet, made deals?

POLIS: Well, I think that every governor, Republican or Democrat is focused on doing what is right for the state. And that means talking to and listening to health experts and figuring out the best plan. The folks who are demonstrating are of course, exercising their First Amendment rights.

But they ae not armed with the science. They are armed with gun. This is a time for science. It's a time to look at the data and make the best decisions we can so that we can shorten the economic disruption. People can get back to work in the safest way as possible.

CABRERA: Governor Jared Polis, good to have you with us. Thank you as always.

POLIS: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Ready or not, America is reopening this weekend. Now what? What does life look like for you? What about for your kids? What if we don't have a vaccine anytime soon? Some tough answers to the toughest questions we thought we would never have to ask about what comes next. You're live in the "CNN Newsroom." Stay right there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:15:00]

CABRERA: It is reopening weekend in America and we have been giving you live looks of what that looks like as more than half of the country is getting a taste of loosened coronavirus restrictions. With more than 67,000 dead and rising, the U.S. has dealt with more death than any other country by far.

But as the nation starts reopening, we're only just beginning to contemplate what life look like in this next phase. It's life without a vaccine and with a financial crisis that has us on the verge of the next Great Depression.

How we go forward as a society isn't just a medical question, it is a socioeconomic question, it's an ethics question. To answer these questions we thought we would never have to ask, we turn to Dr. David Katz. He is a public health specialist who has been on the frontlines. He is also the founder of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center.

And Dr. Katz, thank you for being here. In your opinion, is it too soon to be lifting these stay-at-home orders or is it time for scenes like we saw what we saw yesterday at the National Mall in the nation's capital, as lots of people gathered to witness that fly over of the Blue Angels or do we need something in between?

DAVID KATZ, FOUNDING DIRECTOR, YALE-GRIFFIN PREVENTION RESEARCH CENTER: Thank you, Ana. Something in between, first of all, you can argue that whatever we do state by state as a nation is a form and it should follow some particular function. And one of the things we need to do is declare what is the function of

all of our various actions? What is the function of policy related to COVID-19? And I think that's pretty clear. Our goal is to minimize the total harms. That's our one and only goal.

We need to recognize that there are lots of ways this can hurt people. It can hurt people by infecting them, it can hurt people if we have societal collapse and economic ruin and people lose the means to feed their families.

It can hurt people because they are neglecting other medical conditions that they had before and they don't want to go to a hospital because there are so much COVID there. We really need to look across the full expanse and use all of the available data we have to minimize the total harms.

And I do think that's kind of down the middle. It means we have to let people who are at low risk of severe infection back into the world, back into the workforce, back to school, but it means we also have to be very careful at protecting those segments of the population at high risk of severe infection and potential death from this virus so they don't get exposed.

And I think we can do both, but I think it all begins by knowing that is our policy objective, to minimize the total harms.

[17:20:04]

CABRERA: If we are at 67,000 deaths right now and that's while we are all staying at home, and now we're having states reopen, the death toll will inevitably rise, right? What is the reality, the number of deaths we should have to perhaps accept as you envision life with fewer restrictions on people's movements and interactions?

KATZ: I honestly don't think anyone can answer that question, and your prior discussion with the governor of Colorado indicates we really have a tremendous need to get more data.

And by the way, Ana, we don't need to test everybody in the country. We need representative random sampling. How many people in the United States have been infected already? We don't know. How many people in the United States are immune? We don't know. And so relative to those numbers, how many are at risk of severe infection, hospitalization, death? We don't know because we don't have the denominator.

So, we really can't answer with confidence. So far, the total death toll from COVID-19 is pretty darn close to this year's seasonal flu. It's a comparison that is someone fraught, but that's the truth. We've had about 60,000 deaths from flu this year and obviously we don't shut down our society for the flu. The concern is --

CABRERA: But that is also over the course of several months, right. Flu season starts in the fall and so that's been over the course of maybe six plus months and here we're talking about this number of deaths in just six weeks. KATZ: Well, yes and no. It looks like COVID was circulating in the

United States all the way back in January. So, yes, a different timeline but not a hugely different timeline. The other point you raise is a good one and we don't know that either. How much of this is despite effective social distancing, sheltering in place?

You know, let's face it. When the virus first came to the United States, we were figuring out what to do for some number of weeks. There was widespread circulation before we started to social distance. And we've only been able to detect a very small number of the total cases.

We've measured slightly over a million, but a zero prevalence study in New York suggests that the New York State alone has many millions. So, it may mean that the risk of death and severe infection has already been confronted and there isn't that much more risk to come.

On the other a hand, we can't say that with confidence. We have to be careful. I think what the governors are doing to prepare for the worst make sense, but I do think we also have to worry about 30 million people unemployed and many lives potentially at risk because of food and security depression, desperation, destitution. Those are real people too, right. So we want to minimize harms in both directions.

CABRERA: If you are advocating then for this approach where we open up, but focus on protecting high risk people, you know, what about schools and daycares? They are already a pitri dish? So, how do we send kids back without a vaccine? Will we just have to accept that they'll be carriers?

KATZ: Well, potentially they could be carriers. I think one of the things that's going to complicate letting kids go back too because this disease, unlike flu by the way, generally spares children, so very, very low level of risk. That doesn't mean zero, but, you know, to be honest, we have to confront the notion that living never takes risk to ero, right.

There are some risks driving our kids to school. There are some risks putting our kids on the school bus. There are some risks letting our kids ride their bike across the street, so the risk won't be zero but it's very, very low.

But what about the parents? What about the teachers? What about the kids who have chronic illnesses? What about school administrators? There are a lot of these what if's and by the time you're done with them, Ana, you've got a 1,200 page policy manual that deals with every decision note.

We should use this time to gather data so we have data driven policy, and frankly to write that 1,200 page policy manual so we can think about everyone of those what if's and have a plan in place for that.

But by and large, I think it would be safe for kids to return to school as long as we make appropriate allowances for kids at higher risk, teachers at higher risk, administrators at higher risk. We're going to have to make certain adjustments. CABRERA: But as you point out, there are still so much we don't know.

We don't have all the data. We do have some data that suggest, you know, that there are strokes happening in younger adults with COVID. They may not be dying but they're having serious strokes.

Or we're starting to see reports of symptoms of Kawasaki disease identified in children with COVID. And then, you know, you also have to consider their interactions with people who may be vulnerable, not while they're at school or while they're at work, but you know, as they start to have these paths that cross with people they don't even know. How do you account for that?

KATZ: Well, there are always going to be anomalies. And when the news is focused on every bad outcome related to COVID and let's face it, it is news cycle after news cycle, we're all riveted on this issue.

It will make it seem like this is a widespread threat even if these events are exceedingly rare relative to the number of kids who have been infected with this.

[17:25:05]

And that looks to be the case. If we were reporting some rare cancer in children every time it occurred, we might think there was an epidemic. So, I'm not disagreeing with what you're saying. There is a lot we don't know. There is some level of risk even to children.

As best we can tell from global data, that risk is very, very small. I'm a parent. I want to reassure fellow parents, very, very small and commensurate with many risks involved with just being a kid in the world.

In terms of having gaps in our knowledge, absolutely true and we should do everything possible to fill those gaps. I have a 30-year history as a clinician and Ana, we never have perfect knowledge when taking care of patients.

And one of the things you have to do in clinical medicine is the best you can with what you know, but you never know the future for any given patient. The other thing we're going to have to do here is be humble. There is a lot we don't know.

Whatever policy we develop in the service of total harmonization, we need to subject it to what I would call empirical reality checks. Okay, this is what we intended what's actually happening. Are the data we're getting corroborating what we thought would happen or are they pointing in a different direction?

We're going to have to stay light on our feet. We're going to have policy that can adapt to those reality checks, real-world data. But I think we do know enough to say there is basically differential risks for a bad outcome from this infection.

A large segment of the population appears to be at very low risk and there are harms associated with shutting everything down. And finding that middle path is challenging but possible and I think we should all be looking for it now.

CABRERA: All right. Dr. David Katz, I really appreciate your perspective and your expertise. Thank you.

KATZ: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Be well. In February, President Trump said the coronavirus would disappear like a miracle. On Friday, he said he is hopeful this virus will kill fewer than 100,000 people.

Up next, a preview of Jake Tapper's special report examining what the president did and did not do to prepare for this pandemic. You are live in the "CNN Newsroom."

(COMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:30:00]

CABRERA: Tonight right here on CNN, we look deeply into what really happened at the highest levels of the American government when the coronavirus came into our lives. What U.S. leaders, specifically the president did and did not do to prepare us. It's an important T.V. special called "Pandemic and the President" hosted by CNN's Jake Tapper. Here is a quick look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the president visits the CDC and famously says anybody who wants --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- wants a test can get a test.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that was a surprise to people at the CDC who are working on this issue. They didn't know the president was going to say that. Testing was certainly not a point where anybody who wants a test can get a test.

TRUMP: And the tests are all perfect, like the letter is perfect. The transcription was perfect, okay.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: The tests were flawed. The tests didn't work and as a result we lost valuable time. More people became infected. There area people walking around without any symptoms, no test, and they were continuing to spread the virus.

TRUMP: It will go away, just stay calm.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): But the day after President Trump said the virus would "go away," the country was wrestling with a new reality.

Hollywood legend Tom Hanks and his wife tested positive for COVID. The NBA announced it was suspending his season.

GUPTA: And all of a sudden everybody was saying, what is going on here? What is the deal with this virus?

TAPPER (voice-over): And the World Health Organization officially named COVID-19 a pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president was still contradicting what was actually happening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And some of the experts I talked to said that was because the stock market was really driving the president's decision making and he didn't want to do the kinds of things that you needed to do to mitigate the spread of this virus because it would further hurt the economy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Our Jake Tapper is with us now. And Jake, the strong implication there is that President Trump was putting the economy, the stock market, jobs, all of that ahead of prioritizing readiness for this coming disaster.

TAPPER (on camera): Well, he certainly was listening to the voices in his administration that were more focused on the economy and thought that the health and medical experts in the administration were being hysterical and overstating the threat.

And that is why in February and for a large chunk of March, President Trump was downplaying the threat of the virus. He wasn't the only one in the United States doing so. Certainly, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio and even some members of the media outside of the Trump supporting media in February were saying such things, and in March.

But President Trump, of course, has the bully pulpit and he was out there saying there is nothing to worry about here. This is the flu. It's going to be fine. Everything's going to be okay. Cases are going to go away. Soon we're going to be at zero. And of course none of that turned out to be true. This turned out to be a very serious pandemic and we're on the throes of it right now.

CABRERA: And so I want to ask you about this survey done by Pew Research that we learned about this week when they asked people how much they think made up news information leaves Americans confused about basic facts of this coronavirus outbreak?

Forty-nine percent said a great deal, 37 percent said some. In that same poll, 50 percent of Americans said they find it difficult to distinguish what's true from what isn't when it comes to this pandemic.

[17:35:05]

What do you make of that? Do you think that there is any connection or reflection of, you know, those feelings being connected to how this administration has handled it and the communication from the top?

TAPPER: Well look, I mean, President Trump says one things, you know, one thing one day and a different thing, an entirely different thing the next. Just look at how President Trump and the Trump supporting media were pushing hydroxychloroquine as something that should be prescribed to every American regardless of what the tests and the FDA had to say about it.

And then, you know, just about a week or so ago, the Food and Drug Administration said outside of a clinical trial or a hospital, it should not be used because it could cause heart problems. There is a tremendous amount of misinformation that has been going around. It is all over the place. It is on Facebook. It's on Twitter.

A lot of it is coming of course from President Trump. And, I mean, it's a natural reaction from the public that people would be confused. People want to trust their president. People want to trust their governor and their mayor.

And in the beginning of March, President Trump, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio were all saying that those expressing serious concerns about this were hyping it.

Now, de Blasio and Cuomo, to their credit, eventually and quickly from that point changed their tune and President Trump continued, and of course, he has a louder megaphone than Cuomo and de Blasio. But it's also just a factual matter that there have been people warning about this from the very beginning.

There have been epidemiologists warning about the threat of a pandemic literally for years. And for that reason, a lot of people didn't know who to believe, what to believe and now we're in a position where we're going through the same thing with whether or not to reopen the country.

Is it safe? Is it not safe? There is so much confusion out there. We don't know. Governors, president, health experts, everybody is saying something different. It's no wonder so many people are confused about what the reality is.

CABRERA: Well, you have the reality for us in our deep dive tonight. Thank you, Jake Tapper. Join Jake as he investigates what really happened during the U.S. fight against COVID-19. CNN special report, "The Pandemic & the President" airs tonight at 10:00.

The world has been dealing with this pandemic for months, but one woman has only experienced it for a few weeks. That is because she just returned to Earth. I'll talk live with Astronaut Jessica Meir, next. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:40:00]

CABRERA: To say this is a different world than it was a few months ago is not an exaggeration. The deadly coronavirus has taken nearly a quarter million lives and changed the way nearly every single person on Earth works, plays, moves around and interacts with one another for what might be a very long time. The world is completely different. And the extraordinary person I'm

going to talk to next watched this change happen from the best social distancing place in the solar system, Earth's orbit.

NASA Astronaut Jessica Meir launched into space last year and joined the crew of the the International Space Station. She made history in October as part of NASA's first all-female spacewalk. And a little more than two weeks ago, she came back to Earth.

Astronaut Jessica Meir joins us now from Houston. Jessica, first, welcome back. What was this return to Earth like for you? What has it been like given how much has changed on this planet since you left it?

JESSICA MEIR, NASA ASTRONAUT: Thank you so much, Ana. It's a pleasure to speak with you today. It was certainly an interesting experience for us to be on the Space Station as all of this changing Earth unfolded beneath us.

It made it a bit surreal for us because although we were getting the newscast and we were speaking to family and friends, we were actually still going about our normal day up there and doing scientific experiments, doing Space Station maintenance and that kind of things.

So, when we landed and saw this really changed planet with everybody there greeting us in masks, it was quite a stark awakening.

CABRERA: You landed back on earth at a time when this virus was rampaging the hardest around the world, infections, deaths were skyrocketing. How did that impact your reintegration?

MEIR: It did actually change the way that we do things quite significantly, even as to how we flew back in the NASA aircraft to bring us back to Houston. There was a lot of close coordination that the ground teams had to implement in order to get us back safely, of course, with all the travel restrictions and landing regulations and that kind of thing.

We also were in quarantine for a little bit longer than usual. Normally, astronauts will spend maybe the first night at NASA, but then they're allowed to go back to their homes. We - my crew mate, Drew Morgan, and I stayed in the quarantine facility at NASA for a full week before being released.

And that is because our immune systems are actually disregulated a bit in spaceflight. One of the physiological hallmarks of spaceflight is this disregulation of the immune system, and so we could have been more susceptible and perhaps would not have been able to deal with the virus as well as a normal healthy immune system if we were to contract it.

CABRERA: When you were looking down on Earth from orbit knowing what was happening - I know you had some access to the news reports, you know, knowing people were getting sick and dying and you could see the entire planet from up above, what was going through your mind up there? MEIR: It was a hard thing to explain really, you know. Every day the

views that we have from the Space Station are simply extraordinary. All the different land masses, the oceans, all of the different ecosystems, for me as a biologist, the beauty of our planet is always astounding. And that what was really this stark contrast, was the beauty was still the same.

[17:45:00]

There was no difference between what we could see on the Earth and the stunning views that we had before and after, everything that was unfolding. And that was, you know, really making it more difficult to believe.

But I think one of the things that was really resounding in my mind when I had those views, was it was very easy for us to see from our perspective on the Space Station, it's very easy for us to see that we were truly all in this together.

CABRERA: And right now, there are additional crew members up there at the International Space Station. They replaced your crew last month. What were your conversations with them like when they arrived? How did they, I guess, prepare you for what awaited you back on Earth?

MEIR: Yes, we did have a lot of conversations with our crew mate, Chris Cassidy, and the two Russian cosmonauts as well about exactly that. Their lives were quite changed in the weeks before their launch where the quarantine period was very strict, much stricter than normal, and even the weeks and months leading up to before that immediate quarantine.

They were really hold up in their final training in Russia, really not seeing people, not being exposed to anything. And they did try to prepare us for what was awaiting, that it truly was going to be a different planet, the one that we were returning to.

And that it might be difficult for us to make that transition coming from the environment that we had, but I think, you know, what we knew was that the whole planet was being affected. And that was the one thing that was hard to believe.

There were three of us up there and we were really only the three humans out of the 7.5 billion on the planet that weren't affected by this. Of course, now we are just like everyone else, but there was that brief time where we remained unaffected.

CABRERA: I am sure you had a different idea of what returning to Earth would be like for sure. Are you at least a little disappointed that you can't celebrate this amazing, amazing achievement of yours with your friends, with your family, your admirers? You can't even go to a movie.

MEIR: Of course it was a little bit disappointing in terms of how we would want to spend these moments, but just like everybody else on the Earth, we have to adjust to the situation that we have and of course, I am really on the fortunate side of everything that's unfolding right now.

So my thoughts are really with everybody experiencing this virus and all of the frontline workers who are really making a difference in the lives of so many people.

CABRERA: And Jessica Meir, thanks for sharing your perspective and your experience with us. Be well.

MEIR: Thank you very much.

CABRERA: Coming up, Jeanne Moos on the heartfelt and very creative tributes to frontline health care workers.

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CABRERA: It's a place where medical workers are celebrated for the marks left by their masks, a physical symbol of their bravery. CNN's Jeanne Moos reports on #CourageisBeautiful.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tributes to health care workers have sprouted like spring flowers, from lawn signs to celebrity-led sing-alongs.

TONY BENNETT, AMREICAN SINGER: Let's sing our song.

MOOS (voice-over): Tony Bennett's statue is even masked these days as San Franciscans paid tribute to frontline workers.

I left my heart in San Francisco

MOOS (voice-over): But there's another location where the tributes are more concentrated, where images are shared of medical workers with angel's wings, grouped among other masked superheroes, photo-shopped with an added cape, #CourageisBeautiful bubbled up when Dove soap made it it's tag line in a video that went viral.

Showing the marks made by the protective gear medical workers wear. Dove donated some $2 million to the cause and paid to promote the hashtag. Now relatives of frontline workers are adding their own images -- "my daughter," "my beautiful niece," "my cousin, ICU nurse in the indy praying before a shift with no N-95 masks."

Tributes range from a shared montage of exhausted health care workers to this sand sculpture of a medical worker holding the world in her hands, created by a New Jersey couple. John Gowdy has won prizes in sand sculpting competitions, but those can't compete with the emotion that went into this one.

New Orleans artist Terrance Osborne didn't know his painting "Frontline" had been shared on #CourageisBeautiful.

TERRANCE OSBORNE, ARTIST: I'll take it. I mean, that's nice, of course, that's what it's about. So, the piece is a notch to the Rosie the Riveter piece, you know, that piece from World War II.

MOOS (voice-over): Though Rosie didn't face the dangers medical personnel do, the next time you hear -

I left my heart -

MOOS (voice-over): -- leave a piece of it for those who wear their mask in marks, even when they take it off. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

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CABRERA: Such amazing people among us. Thank you for being with me this weekend. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York wishing you strength and good health in the week ahead. Wolf Blitzer is live in "The Situation Room," next.

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