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More Countries Approach Reopening; Californians Protest Beach Closings; Exchange Of Gunfire At Korean DMZ; Britain's Response To Deadly Crisis; Spike In "Mysterious" Deaths In Nigeria. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired May 3, 2020 - 03:00   ET




ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Parts of America are reopening this weekend despite some public health officials insisting it's too soon and too risky.

Quarantine fatigue: the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds and nice weather equal a troubling social distributing problem.

And later, one of Austin, Texas' all-time greats on music after the pandemic.

Hello and welcome to CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Anna Coren.

Across the United States, the number of people infected with the coronavirus is more than 1.1 million. In just nine weeks, we've watched the number of those who have died in the U.S. rocket from zero to more than 66,000.

Despite those rising numbers, more than half of the country is moving toward restarting businesses and services. The governors of more than 30 states are easing restrictions to some degree.

Malls, museums and restaurants are opening in Texas. And New Jersey opened state parks and golf courses this weekend. And in other places around the country, where stay-at-home orders are still in effect, there are signs of quarantine fatigue.


COREN (voice-over): This was the National Mall in Washington Saturday afternoon during a military flyover to honor health care workers and first responders. The mall was crowded, despite officials asking people not to cluster.


COREN: And New York City's Central Park also very busy, despite the stay-at-home order. Police were out reminding people to keep a safe distance from each other. New York's mayor told CNN's Ana Cabrera for the most part people in the city are following the rules.


MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: More and more people putting on the face coverings. We're giving them out for free today all over the city to make it easier for people so New Yorkers have been pretty amazing in following rules in a place where it's tough.


COREN: New York's governor says the number of new infections in his state is still too high while California's governor is being challenged on his decision to shut down all the beaches in Orange County. We'll take you to New York in a few minutes but first, Paul Vercammen reports from California.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here on Huntington Beach, Surf City, an eerie scene ,the beach completely empty after a judge let stand Governor Newsom's closure of Orange County beaches.

Attorneys for Huntington Beach and (INAUDIBLE) and others have launched a legal assault against the governor, arguing, among other things, that he was violating their constitutional rights, saying that he made his decision from a podium in San Francisco and had used compressed photos from the ground that did not reveal what Newport city officials say from the air which was that there was social distancing last weekend.

Basically what happened in the end is the judge upheld Governor Newsom's order but not before some heated arguing, especially by the Newport Beach city attorney.


MICHAEL GATES, CITY ATTORNEY, HUNTINGTON BEACH: Huntington Beach has done an absolute remarkable job. And notwithstanding, the governor issues this order shutting our beaches.

We feel targeted, I think it's punitive and if he -- if it was really a matter of statewide concern which is his purview, he would have close all the beaches up and down the state, but he didn't.

He's picking on Orange County, he's picking on Huntington Beach. And the empirical data, the data about spread and cases and deaths here in Huntington Beach Orange County absolutely do not support the beach closure.


VERCAMMEN: A deputy attorney general arguing for the governor says this is not a case of singling out Orange County. This is more of a need to social distance in the middle of a pandemic.

Also in Orange County, sporadic protests popping up in various cities, all of them asserting that Governor Newsom had overstepped his bounds. Perhaps if there's any silver lining in all of this, he indicated that

he may start to reopen parts of California beginning as early as Monday -- reporting from Huntington Beach, I'm Paul Vercammen, now back to you.



POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Because it is a beautiful day in New York, authorities here are hoping New Yorkers will resist the urge to actually go out, saying, at this point, it's certainly not the time to relax. We're not yet out of the woods.

New York officials are still stressing those guidelines that we've heard from the very beginning of the pandemic, which is use those facial coverings as well as practicing social distancing and stay home.

But I can tell you from our vantage point here in Manhattan, there are people adhering to some or none of those guidelines.


SANDOVAL: At the state level, there's still some very troubling numbers, including deaths that remain, as he describes it, obnoxiously high. The number of infections, close to 900 per day. Governor Cuomo asking hospital officials to ask people being admitted more questions.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We're still getting about 900 new infections every day walking into the hospital. That is still an unacceptably high rate. We're trying to understand exactly why that is.

Who are those 900?

Where is it coming from?

What can we now do to refine our strategies to find out where those new cases are being generated?

I spoke to all the hospitals and asked them to take additional information from people walking into the hospitals, to try to find out where these infections are coming from.

Are they front line workers or are they people who are staying home?


SANDOVAL: We are seeing unprecedented steps being taken to try to keep the mass transit system clean and safe, the subway system shutting down overnight during low-traffic hours as they try to disinfect those cars every 24 hours. It is a task that is monumental but also as Governor Cuomo described it, heroic as well for those workers getting it done -- Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COREN: Parts of Australia are beginning to ease their coronavirus restrictions. The entire country could start lifting measures next Friday, earlier than planned. Now Canberra is demanding answers from China, where the virus originated. Simon Cullen explains.


SIMON CULLEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the coronavirus outbreak has taken hold in the United States, President Donald Trump has regularly pointed the finger elsewhere.

TRUMP: It comes from China, that's why. It comes from China. We are not happy with China. We are not happy with that whole situation.

CULLEN: It's a message that has resonated although more diplomatically with Australia's prime minister. He has been pushing for an international inquiry into the pandemic.

"Just got off the phone with president Donald Trump," Scott Morrison tweeted last month, adding that the pair spoke about working together to improve the transparency and effectiveness of international responses to pandemics.

SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: We will need an independent inquiry that looks at what has occurred here so we can learn the lessons. I would certainly hope that any other nation, be it China or anyone else, would share that objective.

CULLEN: China is not happy, accusing Australia of pandering to Washington's desire for a scapegoat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Chinese government has released information related to the COVID-19 in open, transparent and a responsible manner. And we have worked closely with other countries.

Its embassy in Canberra has been releasing tit-for-tat statements with its host country, say it doesn't play petty tricks. But if others do, we have to reciprocate.

MORRISON: Australia will continue to, of course, pursue what is a very reasonable and sensible course of action.

CULLEN: The diplomatic comes as many parts of Australia ease restrictions.

In Queensland, residents are allowed outdoors to go shopping for non- essential items but the new freedoms come with warnings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't want to see those beaches and the national parks shut. It's going to be on people to take that responsibility seriously.

CULLEN: Nationally, the country has kept the number of coronavirus deaths below 100, a sign of success and one it's not willing to put at risk -- Simon Cullen, CNN, Australia.


COREN: Coming up, Britain's government is defending its response to the coronavirus epidemic. But hindsight is giving us a clearer picture. We'll talk about that next.

Plus there's been a spike in deaths in one Nigerian state. Some are calling it mysterious. The details coming up.





COREN: There are reports of an exchange of gunfire across the Korean demilitarized zone. South Korea's military says several bullets were fired from the north and hit the wall of a South Korean guardpost. It says it responded to the shots with a verbal warning and returned fire twice. No casualties or damage have been reported.

Well, meantime, U.S. president Donald Trump is weighing in on the apparent reemergence of Kim Jong-un. Mr. Trump retweeted the pictures recently put out by North Korean state media, adding that he's glad to see the country's leader back and well.

A U.S. official tells CNN that the current assessment is that the images are legitimate. Will Ripley is following developments for us from Tokyo.

Will, Kim Jong-un has reappeared in public after an almost three-week absence but we still don't know why he missed the anniversary of his grandfather's birthday.

Will, can you hear me?

Will, I'll ask you the question again.




RIPLEY: I'm not hearing the air, though, I'm just hearing your voice.

COREN: -- three-week absence. We just want to know the latest about Kim Jong-un.

What can you tell me?

RIPLEY: There we go. Hey, Anna, sorry, we were having a little bit of an earpiece issue there. The latest with Kim Jong-un is that he is alive and that has been

verified by U.S. intelligence after looking at pictures and video that North Korean state media released on Friday at a fertilizer factory outside of Pyongyang.

This is an interesting development, because it does show that Kim is walking around, he's still smoking. He's still doing what he normally does.


RIPLEY: But what this video doesn't answer is the key question.

What happened for the last three weeks that caused him to vanish from view after that meeting on April 11, missing the Day of the Sun, the anniversary of his grandfather's birthday?

He has always attended that event. He didn't make it this year and North Korea stayed silent amid intelligence reports that his health might be in danger after surgery. Normally, North Korea would come out quickly on that kind of thing.

When President Trump said he received a nice letter from Kim Jong-un, North Korea responded the very next day and denied that statement. But they didn't deny these reports.

Instead, they put out small bulletins, saying Kim was sending thank you notes to various world leaders and organizations. And now we see him back out and about. We may never know what caused him to vanish for 21 days.

COREN: OK, Will, I think we'll leave it there due to the technical issues we seem to be experiencing. Will Ripley from Tokyo.

Well, Moscow's TV tower has joined others to pay tribute to health care workers, part of the Heroes Shine Bright event launched at the Empire State Building in New York City.

And in the heart of Paris, one of the most iconic structures sparkling before sunset. The Eiffel Tower is lit to honor health care workers and those fighting coronavirus.

The French government is planning to extend the state of emergency for about two months. Parliament will look into the proposal starting Tuesday. It includes a quarantine process of people entering France from abroad, its overseas territories or Corsica.

Efforts so far seem to be paying off, as the number of people dying from COVID-19 each day there continues to drop.

Well, British prime minister Boris Johnson is sharing more about his time in intensive care. Last month he spent a week in hospital fighting coronavirus. He told "The Sun" newspaper that he was given liters of oxygen to keep him alive and leaders were putting together strategic plans in case he didn't make it.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is covering the story from London.

His condition far more serious than many people realized.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Including, frankly, the public statements from his own office, Downing Street, who sort of continued to sound optimistic at times, notes that even though Boris Johnson emerged and says it could have gone either way.

Never one to play down the personal drama, even suggesting that there was "a death of Stalin" scenario, but obviously, a very serious moment for him and he played on that very deeply on this particular interview.

At a time when the headlines in this country otherwise were not dealing with the fate of its most prominent politician, have been dealing with how the U.K. is edging towards perhaps having the worst death toll in Europe in the days or possibly even hours ahead, possibly beating it.

Its population is slightly larger but bringing renewed scrutiny on exactly what Boris Johnson's administration did and when. He said he's always been happy with the timing of their moves but many people are asking how is it the death toll has got so large in the United Kingdom.


WALSH (voice-over): 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 would not lock down too early and that some spread was unavoidable, even desirable.

PATRICK VALLANCE, U.K. SCIENCE ADVISER: If people go too early, they become very fatigued. It's not possible to stop everybody getting it and it is also actually not desirable, because you want some immunity in the population.

WALSH (voice-over): 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 the lockdown.

And the prime minister said he was still shaking hands...

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

WALSH (voice-over): -- and no deaths were announced; four had already died in England when Cheltenham horse races were criticized for going ahead, ended the U.K. toll was officially 10 when really 58 had died.

And when the lockdown slammed pub doors shut publicly, the toll was 359. But really 847 had died in England alone.


WALSH (voice-over): Should the U.K. have moved faster?

NIGEL EDWARDS, NUFFIELD TRUST: It is too early to tell. But there are some early signs looking at experiences in some other countries that if we'd gone a bit earlier, we might be looking at slightly better results now.

SIAN GRIFFITHS, CJHK: It's more likely to be next year when people in the cold light of day can look back at all the different countries and (INAUDIBLE) at the time what did and what didn't work.

KEITH NEAL, UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM: If you take 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 until now.

But as the disease continues to spread to the population, the differences are that people will die.

WALSH (voice-over): Testing and contact tracing was a problem from the start partially dismissed and then heavily embraced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 100,000 tests per day.

WALSH (voice-over): Many grand schemes were announced, home antibody tests, 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 (voice-over): Still, despite the huge toll, the U.K.'s health service was not overwhelmed. Even huge overflow hospitals like this one in London were barely used. Half of those who died in England, so far, were over 80.

Did U.K. not protect them enough?

Or was there little that could be done?

Tough questions that time and grief will answer.


WALSH: Again, I think the thing that strikes me about those numbers, about who was dying when but now, in England, it appears that half of the deaths have been of people over the age of 80.

And you heard a virologist pointing out, some of it for political gain but some of it about trying to inform what already happened, what we've learned so far and what that necessarily means for how lockdown measures are eased.

Boris Johnson has been cleared. But this coming week he will be unveiling how we get out of this position. Some of the British polls suggesting that Britons are incredibly reluctant to go back to normal life when it comes to restaurants and bars.

Huge majorities of them staying away so a challenge to get people back to normal life and also I think, too, to try and be sure that we don't see a second peak here in the United Kingdom.

The health service was not overwhelmed like many feared it might have been. Its government funded and did sustain itself through this period. But still, the death toll has been absolutely startling here and is still sadly over 700 a day. Many questions to be answered in the U.K., Anna.

COREN: People concerned, very understandable. Nick Paton Walsh, appreciate it.

The Spanish prime minister says he will ask parliament next week to extend the country's state of alarm for another 15 days. He detailed some restrictions that will be eased on Monday and announced an almost $18 billion fund for regional governments.

There have been encouraging signs in Spain recently but the number who have died from COVID-19 now tops 25,000.

In the Nigerian state of Kano, it is common for people to contract infectious diseases. But this year some are calling these deaths mysterious. CNN's David McKenzie has more.


DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The gravediggers in Kano are revealing a hidden truth, an awful toll.

"The day before yesterday, we buried 18 bodies," he says. "Yesterday we buried 20 people and today we have received 14."

Locals call this extreme hot season the merger, the time each year when malaria and other infectious diseases converge. This year is worse. "The numbers are double unusual," he says. "Normally we bury only six

or seven a day."

The government denies that a COVID-19 outbreak is the cause. But their toil raises questions. The dead are mostly elderly and the numbers are rising fast.

In Kano, dread is rising with it. This video shows the region's mega hub of commerce and trade as it once was. It is not where Nigeria and surrounding countries can afford to have infections spread unabated.

DR. IBRAHIM MUSA, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: We're testing (INAUDIBLE) the fear and the anxiety of the public.


MCKENZIE (voice-over): Kano physician and epidemiologist Dr. Ibrahim Musa says many doctors have no protective equipment. With clinics closed due to COVID-19, they are forced to treat patients for just a few hours before sending them home.

MUSA: What we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. So in the next 2-3 weeks, that is when the clear picture will emerge whether we are dealing with a fairly massive spread of COVID-19.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Kano's lockdown came later than elsewhere in Nigeria. The federal government promises to scale up tests and send equipment. Even before COVID-19, health here was never a guarantee.

But there were some hard-fought gains. In June, the U.N. says it could be declared polio-free after decades of education and immunization. But humanitarian officials fear that that success could now lost.

MAULID WARFA, UNICEF: In any humanitarian situation, the world needs to offer a lot of support. But now, the dust is almost everywhere and everybody is trying to protect their own eyes. The world might be forgotten as the countries fight the coronavirus on their own.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): COVID-19 is global and state officials promised an investigation into the rise of deaths. But valuable time has been lost and the impact is already devastating -- David McKenzie, CNN, Johannesburg.


COREN: The pandemic appears to be getting even more political in the U.S., as House Democrats get into a tug-of-war with the Trump administration over a top member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

And presidential hopeful Joe Biden grapples with sexual assault allegations. The latest up next.





COREN: In the United States and around welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Anna Coren. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


COREN: A key figure in the response to the pandemic could be caught in the middle of a political battle.

The president will not allow Dr. Anthony Fauci to testify before a House committee hearing next week but he is expected before a Senate panel later this month. More now from Jeremy Diamond.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is denying the House Appropriations Committee's request to have Dr. Anthony Fauci testify before one of its subcommittees this coming week.

On Friday, the White House said it would be counterproductive to have Dr. Fauci, one of the government's leading experts fighting this coronavirus pandemic, spend his time testifying on Capitol Hill.

But on Saturday, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, focused on a different explanation, saying the White House had sought details from that committee about what exactly Fauci would be expected to focus on during the committee hearing.

And when it did not receive those details, that it denied the request for his testimony. But McEnany also said she believes the request from House Democrats was a publicity stunt.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're working in good faith. We're working good faith and yes, we want to work with the House to ensure that they do get the witnesses that they're asking for but these need to be request that makes sense and not publicity stunts which is what this was as. It was leaked that we were blocking Dr. Fauci which just simply was not the case.


DIAMOND: One of the reasons for controversy is Dr. Fauci has been one of the most forthcoming members of the Trump administration in describing some of its failings to responding to this coronavirus pandemic particularly on the issue of testing.

Dr. Fauci has ascribed some of the early failures of the Trump administration in terms of quickly developing accurate tests, putting this administration behind the curve in terms of responding to the pandemic.

Dr. Fauci will be testifying on Capitol Hill in a matter of a couple of weeks on May 12th. He is expected to testify before one of the committees in the Republican-led Senate.

Democratic members of the Senate committee will be able to ask Dr. Fauci some questions.

On Saturday, there was another issue also between the White House and Capitol Hill. That is because Congress' attending physician suggested there were not enough tests to test all members of the Senate.

President Trump on Saturday taking to Twitter to say that the White House would make some of those rapid Abbott lab tests available to Capitol Hill in order to test members of Congress who would be returning to Washington in order to do some of the legislative business.

But Speaker Pelosi and the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell politely declined that offer from the White House, saying our country's testing capacities are continuing to scale up nationwide and Congress wants to keep directing resources to the frontline facilities where they can do the most good, the most quickly.

Kayleigh McEnany on Saturday saying they simply wanted help but they accept the decisions of the leaders in Congress to deny this help from the White House -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.


COREN: Be sure to watch "The Pandemic and The President" by the CNN documentary unit. Jake Tapper takes us through the last four months, week by week, sometimes day by day. He looks at what the U.S. president did and said, what he did not say and do and how the U.S. ended up with more cases and deaths than any country in the world.

Dr. Fauci has a big fan in Warren Buffett. The billionaire praised Dr. Fauci at his shareholders meeting.



WARREN BUFFETT, CHAIRMAN & CEO, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY: Personally, I feel extraordinarily good about being able to listen to Dr. Fauci, who I'd never heard of a year ago.

But I think we're very, very fortunate as a country to have somebody at 79 years of age who appears to be able to work 24 hours a day and keep a good humor about him and communicate in a, in a very, very straightforward manner about fairly complex subjects and tell you when he knows something and when he doesn't know something.

So I -- I'm not going to talk about any political figures at all or politics, generally, this afternoon. But I do feel that I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dr. Fauci for educating and informing me, actually along with my friend Bill Gates, too, as to what's going on.

And I know I get, I get it from a straight shooter when I get it from either one of those. So thank you, Dr. Fauci.


COREN: Warren Buffett speaking there.

U.S. presidential hopeful Joe Biden said on Saturday that he has a team looking at more than a dozen women to be his running mate. At the same time, Biden is denying a former aide's claim that he sexually assaulted her in the 1990s. CNN political correspondent Arlette Saenz has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe Biden has now repeatedly denied the allegations of sexual assault made against him by a former Senate staffer as his campaign continues to grapple with how to address this issue.

One thing Biden's allies have pointed to in recent days is the 2008 vetting process Biden underwent as he became Barack Obama's running mate. And I spoke with the attorney who led that vetting operation into Joe Biden.

William Jeffress said he had about two months and a team of lawyers looking into his background and speaking with dozens of people. And in that search, they did not find evidence of sexual misconduct.

The name of the Senate staffer, Tara Reade, never came up during the vetting process. And this is something that Biden allies have pointed to as he has continued to deny the allegations.

In Biden's denial, he has also called for the Senate to identify and locate and release any possible complaint that the staffer might have filed against him back in the 1990s. But for some, they want to see more information.

Biden has said that he will not open up his Senate papers, which are currently held at the University of Delaware. He said that personnel files relating to people's employment would not be in those records.

But "The New York Times" editorial board released an editorial, calling for an independent, apolitical panel to look through and find and conduct an investigation, specifically looking to see if there's any mention or connection to Tara Reade.

Now the DNC pushed back on that, saying it was an absurd idea and pointing to that 2008 vetting process as having researched and gone through Joe Biden's background.

But this is certainly an issue that Biden and his campaign will continue to have to deal with and grapple with as they're heading into that general election against President Trump -- Arlette Saenz, CNN, Washington.


COREN: Texas gives the green light to some businesses but it's not business as usual.

Plus, a musician rules the Austin, Texas, music scene but is coping with social distancing restrictions like the rest of us. He'll join me live to talk about what it takes to keep the music playing during the pandemic.



[03:40:00] (MUSIC PLAYING)

COREN: More than 30 U.S. states have started to ease social distancing restrictions. Texas is one of them. The state's stay-at-home order ended this week and now many businesses, libraries and museums have the right to reopen but at a quarter capacity. Ed Lavandera spoke to shop owners in Texas.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the first weekend that restrictions have been lifted and retail areas can operate but they can only operate at a 25 percent capacity. There is a great deal of trepidation and anxiety as to how this is unfolding.

It's clear when you walk around the streets of this shopping district, this is just southwest of downtown Dallas, normally on a beautiful spring day would filled with people walking in and out of diners and ice cream shops. You're not seeing that in large part because many stores haven't reopened. Many are opening in different ways.

We met one owner, Denise Manoy, who has been running a store here since 2006. She's only operating by appointment only. She says that's a good way to control the cost of her business and make sure that everything is safe not only for her and employees but also for her customers.

And she talked about how this is actually an incredibly stressful time. As everyone is reopening, there is lingering fear that the number of coronavirus cases could spike again and cause the businesses to shut down again.


DENISE MANOY, OWNER, INDIGO 1745: For me, I feel like I have to almost plan for that. I have to plan for what ifs now. If everything goes well, there's this and then we come back out too fast or something happens. We have a second spike, then I have to plan for that. I have to have A, B and C plans now. I can't just -- I'm not comfortable assuming it's going to be one way or the other.


LAVANDERA: The timing of this phased reopening is also troubling, because over the last few days, there has been a large spike in the number of new coronavirus cases being reported. More than 1,200 on Saturday.

But there's also a large number of tests being done. More than has been taking place here in Texas.

So you know, all of that, people aren't quite sure what to make of it, because it will take several weeks to fully see the effects of this reopening and what it does to the spread of the virus and to have all that come through. But business owners are feeling that anxiety.


LAVANDERA: As Denise said, she started her business before the 2008 downturn. She says operating in this atmosphere is way more difficult than it was than getting through that financial crisis some 12-13 years ago -- Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.


COREN: Bob Schneider is seen by many as the music king in Austin, Texas. He's won more than 50 Austin music awards to date. That's thanks in large part to work like this.


COREN: However, bars and honky tonks in Texas aren't able to reopen. Yet working musicians still have to pay their bills. Bob Schneider has found a way to make ends meet while giving fans what they want, more Bob.


COREN: Bob Schneider joins us now, live from Austin, Texas, where it's 2:40 in the morning.

Thank you for staying awake and speaking to us. You play every week in Austin, talk us through the struggles of professional musicians during this pandemic.

BOB SCHNEIDER, MUSICIAN: I think most musicians, especially at my level and below, are just kind of eking out a living and getting, you know, going from paycheck to paycheck.

So I think it's going to really be difficult for a lot of guys to kind of get through this period. And, you know, the clubs, it's the same situation for them. They're just kind of getting by month to month.

So I mean, I have no idea what's going to happen but it seems like it's probably going to have quite a toll on the live music business. And you know, I can't see it changing anytime soon. I mean, even now that they've started to open up places, I can't imagine that many people wanting to go sit in a bar with a bunch of strangers right now.

COREN: Yes, I mean, you think this is going to permanently change the live music scene?

SCHNEIDER: I think it is. I think it's going to change it in, again, I don't know how it's going to change it. But I think the same way that, like, airline travel has changed since 9/11. There's going to be some sort of measures put in place that protect people when they gather in big crowds.

So I don't know what that's going to look like. But I imagine it will be something like that, that we'll just kind of get used to and, you know, couple years from now, that will just be the normal, you know, way we deal with, you know, large crowds of people.

COREN: So you used to play in front of thousands of people. Now you're playing in front of an empty room.

What's that like?

SCHNEIDER: It's weird. The first couple times I did it, I thought it was like an episode of "Black Mirror" or something. I was looking at the light and I was like, uhh, this is scary. But it's like anything in life. You get used to it.

And, you know, you, I have a lot of people at chatting while I'm playing, so I can see that there's people there and they're interacting with me. So there is this sort of sense of community that you get, even though everybody's separated, you know, and they're in their own spaces. We're still kind of enjoying this time together. So I think it --


COREN: As long as, as long as they're interacting with you and not ignoring you. I just wanted to say --


COREN: -- Texas retailers, restaurants and other businesses, they opened on Friday, not concerts, obviously.

Your thoughts on getting back to normal and when do you envisage playing back at the club again?

SCHNEIDER: Until something changes, until like there's widespread testing or treatment to this thing or there's a back scene or something, I don't see it going back to normal anytime soon. I think it's going to take something kind of drastic like that to get back to normal.

COREN: And tell me, when that day finally comes, when you can play before a crowd, what are you going to do for that first concert?

Have you thought that through?


SCHNEIDER: No, I haven't. I don't really think that through really that sort of stuff. I just, it's something I've been doing my whole life, so I'm sure I'll just do what I've always done, which is, you know, try to do my best and not be boring.

COREN: I'm sure you won't be. Tell us about the importance of music during times like these.

SCHNEIDER: Well, I mean, I think everybody's got a lot of anxiety and stuff. Just because it's so uncertain. We haven't gone through anything like this. So I think the familiarity of music and how it brings people together I think is really important.

I know I get a lot of people that are really grateful for the fact that I'm doing these concerts. It just, they can kind of forget about their problems for a little bit and I think that's helpful.

COREN: You are one of the most prolific songwriters of our generation. You've written thousands of songs. Will you be writing a song about 2020, about this pandemic?

SCHNEIDER: I mean, I don't know. I don't really, I don't normally write sort of autobiographically. But I'm sure I'll write about the feelings I'm having in this time, that always seems to come through in the writings, so I'm sure there will be a lot of songs about, I don't know, just the uncertainty of things.

I do know that this thing has been really humbling and I feel like I've grown a lot as a person. They've made me grow as a person I in a way I don't think I would have been able to grow had this not happened. So I hope, you know, there will be some positive things that come out of it.

COREN: I hope so, too, Bob, well, you have a lot of fans, obviously around the world but also here at CNN, I have to mention, Bob. Great to have you with us on the show and we certainly do hope you can perform before the crowds again very soon.


COREN: All right. Bob Schneider joining us there from Texas.

Well, putting on the best show you possibly can, just ahead, why a group of performers did exactly that in an all but empty theater.





COREN: The show must go on in Taiwan, even if large indoor gatherings are still closed to the public. A musical called "Goodbye To Musicals" played Friday to an empty theater. Organizers say the performance was about putting on the best possible show in difficult times. But an actor admits it's a bit strange without an audience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Applause from the audiences is always an actor's biggest reward. So you work hard all day and not only there's no laughter during the show, there's no longer a simple applause at the end. This is even worse than your bosses not paying you for performing.


COREN: Now that is wrong.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Anna Coren. The news continues after a short break.