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Thousands Of Crew Members Stuck On Cruise Ships For Weeks; White House Economic Advisers Downplay Need For More Stimulus; Education Experts Warn Students Could Fall Behind. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 4, 2020 - 07:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Thousands of crew members are stuck on cruise ships weeks after passengers disembarked because of coronavirus. CNN has just learned Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises sent letters to staff saying they would agree to strict terms from the Centers for Disease Control to disembark crew members safely.

Joining us now is Julia Whitcomb. She is a performer onboard Celebrity's Infinity cruise ship, currently anchored in the Bahamas. Julia has been quarantined on that ship for more than a month. I think you've been stuck there for 50-some-odd days at this point.

When you got this letter yesterday which says basically, you are going to be home by mid-May, what was your reaction?

JULIA WHITCOMB, CRUISE SHIP PERFORMER STUCK ON CRUISE SHIP FOR 54 DAYS: I am so relieved. I'm so (audio gap) at the same time, so many plans have come and gone.

HILL: Yes.

WHITCOMB: But this one's signed by a CEO so this time, I'm really hopeful and now it has to happen. The public knows now, so I have to go home.

So it's very exciting. I can't wait to, like, hug a tree.

HILL: Yes. You seem like you have this huge smile that you can't quite wipe off your face and I think people can understand why. But as you point out --


HILL: -- you've kind -- you know, you've been close before.

So in April -- April 10th, I think was the date, you were ready to go. A friend was going to pick you up in Miami at the boat, you had a plan to get home, and then you were told you couldn't do that because you couldn't take a flight.

What was it like for you to be that close once before and then all of a sudden be told that you're staying right where you are?

WHITCOMB: Yes. I mean, actually, that happened on April 13th. I was supposed to go home and then on the 20th I was told that I was going to go home on the 29th. That plan was taken away on the 21st.


And then on the 29th when were docked, again, I was told I was going home. And then again, they took it back and I had to still be on the ship.

It's so difficult because I'm looking at my country and I'm not allowed to step on it. I could literally see it. I could smell the air. So it was really difficult.

And it made me feel really worried about my international friends because I'm in my country and they couldn't finesse getting three of us home on land. How must international people feel?

So, yes, it was so difficult.

HILL: I know at one point, your mom was even in touch with Rep. Adam Kinzinger. You're from Illinois.


HILL: And his office said that --


HILL: -- they had discussed some options but they were getting some uncertainties from the cruise ship, which made it difficult to navigate.

Do you think that your mom's conversation with your congressman in any way helped to move the cruise line forward? Where do you think this change is coming from?

WHITCOMB: I absolutely think that it's a part of it because the thing is we are in limbo for a long time. At least with the cruise company, a lot of the info that we are getting was scarce and it was contradictory.

HILL: Yes.

WHITCOMB: So it was hard to tell what was going to happen.

So we started making a lot of noise on social media. My mom, who is on land -- it's easier for her to make a lot of noise. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, he was able to make a lot of noise.

And I think the noise was starting to hold people accountable. I think it was a voice for everybody because I think that people forget that we were out here. So, in a way, I absolutely think that my mom and Adam Kinzinger, they helped move this process along.

HILL: Before -- I love seeing that smile on your face, I have to say, as I just see you light up the screen there.

But, you know, prior to this we had reached out, of course, to the company and they had said at the time they're working with governments and health authorities but they appreciate the crews' patients, understanding, and good spirit.

How is your patience? How has your patience been over the last few weeks?

WHITCOMB: You know what? I think that my patience has been -- in my life, it's my biggest struggle and this situation has really tested it. At this point, I'm not going to lie, I've been really patient. I started to not get patient. As soon as the third plan got canceled I was like, I'm done with my patience, get me out of here.

HILL: Yes.

WHITCOMB: So I would say that it's at the brink. It's at the -- it's really at the brink now, so --

HILL: I think a lot of people would understand.

You mentioned your international colleagues. We know you really become a family. You've worked for the cruise line for two years at this point as a performer. There are plans by country and by region around the world to get those folks home as well.

Are you confident that you are all getting off this ship in the next few weeks?

WHITCOMB: I'm going to say we'll see. That's all I'm going to say is we'll see. Because, again, I am more than anybody would know or like many would know that plans come and go and they have come and go with this company.

So I want to say because it's written on a piece of paper, because it's -- the CEO signed it. Because now we're at the public -- we're talking, we're acknowledging it -- I'm going to say maybe. I'm going to say maybe. I'm hopeful, though -- I'm very hopeful -- where I've been before.

HILL: We're hopeful -- we are hopeful for you, Julia. We definitely want to stay in touch. We want to know. Tell us step-by-step as you get updates. We want to see you -- we want to see pictures of you hugging that tree, too, when you get home to Illinois.


HILL: Thank you for being with us today and we look forward to the next update.

WHITCOMB: Thank you so much for having me.

HILL: The first major retailer now filing for bankruptcy as businesses are impacted hard by the pandemic. We have those details for you, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, THE LEAD AND STATE OF THE UNION: Do you think there's going to be a phase four stimulus bill? And, if so, should it include money for state and local governments?

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: Well, I don't want to get too far ahead of the story, Jake. There may well be additional legislation. There's kind of a pause period right now.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That's White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow suggesting there is no more imminent help to stem losses from coronavirus. And he's not the only economic official throwing cold water on chances for more relief, at least soon.

Joining me now, CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans, and CNN anchor and correspondent Julia Chatterley.

Romans, first of all, may the fourth be with you.


BERMAN: Secondly, this does seem to be an orchestrated message saying --


BERMAN: -- we're done for now. Why?

ROMANS: Well, I think there's pressure here. You're seeing two camps.

You have Republicans who want to see immunity for businesses. They want businesses to be protected from lawsuits related to the coronavirus as people start to go back to work. So that's the perspective of the Republicans. The Democrats want state and local aid.

So you're starting to see, I think, a political tug-of-war happening here.

You know, Larry Kudlow did say in that interview we Jake -- he said that, you know, maybe we should put some more money in the PPP -- the small business Paycheck Protection Program. That has been very, very successful.

I think where you're seeing the issue is the state and local aid. They don't want to rush into a phase four before they've done the horse trading there.

BERMAN: States and local governments need --

ROMANS: Oh, yes.

BERMAN: -- that money and they need it badly.


BERMAN: Julia, the president is also clinging to the notion of a payroll tax cut. There is just one problem with that now, though, right?

JULIA CHATTERLEY, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, there's a few problems, actually. Congress isn't on board. We've been here in the past and it didn't get signed off nor will it, I think.

But it doesn't help the 13 million people that are now claiming for financial benefits. It only helps people that are still in work.

So there's a reason I think that Congress doesn't back this and, of course, we know the president perhaps would like it. But there are other targeted measures.


And I think to Christine's point, it's right -- the calculus has changed here, too, because states are reopening and this is really important. The best stimulus for this country is to get people back to work. You have to be targeted about boosting consumer confidence and making businesses rehire. And that's why the PPP, of course, has been so important and potentially, talking about more money for that is key, too.

BERMAN: Let's talk about big companies because --


BERMAN: -- one big company this morning, Christine, is doing something that is causing people to take notice -- J. Crew --


BERMAN: -- filing for bankruptcy. What exactly does this mean and why?

ROMANS: I mean, this is the first big casualty -- the first official casualty of the COVID-19 problem. And we know that there will be more of these. I'm sure of it.

I mean, when you have your customer base simply stay home and you're a company that is saddled with all kinds of debt anyway. It had been criticized in recent years for at one point, raising prices and another point, seeming to have lost its way in what kind of products it was -- it was offering. But look, apparel -- who is buying apparel now? I mean, apparel is on a deep discount.

So it's going to go into the bankruptcy process. It's going to try to shed some of that debt and those liabilities. And it's going to try to, we're told, emerge on the other side probably as a slimmer company, but it will try to stay alive.

BERMAN: You know, that was going to be my next question, Julia. What does this mean for my khakis, I say glibly.

But what does it mean for companies when this is over or when conditions improve? How does that type of action set you up for those moments?

CHATTERLEY: It's a great question. COVID-19 has accelerated a shift that we've already seen -- a push towards online e-commerce retailing away from bricks and mortar. And what J. Crew have said here is look, we're still going to keep the online business going. The question is what happens to all the workers that were in stores that will probably be reduced?

And this is going to be the question for all of us going forward if we're talking about you buying your khakis. Do you want to go into a store and have someone come and help you, wearing a mask? Do you want to be trying on clothes that other people have touched? This is just one of the bigger questions about getting back to business.

We don't know what this looks like, even if people are going to be willing to spend on things like clothes that they don't really need.

BERMAN: Yes, I don't want anyone near me, ever, when I'm trying on pants.


BERMAN: But that's a whole different story. It's not a pretty sight.

Romans, just very quickly. The discussion about liability --


BERMAN: -- is really important.

ROMANS: I mean, I think it really is, especially as you have people going back to work. I mean, they want protections just like companies want protections that if their workers get sick they can't be sued. So this is a very tricky territory here.

And on the subject of more stimulus John, until last week, we were sort of barreling ahead toward a phase four stimulus. All of the economists who I follow and have been talking to, they have more money baked into their assumptions for recovery either later this year or next year. Virtually no one is saying that we end at almost --


ROMANS: -- $3 trillion here.

So more money is probably coming. I think the Washington, D.C. fight over what the priorities are and the horse trading before states -- Democrats get the aid that they want for states -- it's going to be fascinating to watch. BERMAN: If the situation is dire in a month, they will change their tune.

Julia Chatterley, Christine Romans, thanks so much for being with us.

So, parents nationwide -- and I count myself as one of them -- we all have the same questions. When will kids go back to school?

What happens to all this time lost? Will they fall behind for good? We hear from an expert, next.



HILL: Parents are increasingly concerned about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their children's education. Now, most kids at this point have missed months of school and that is time they may never make up.

Laura Jarrett joins us now live with details. Laura, you can put me in that camp of parents.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR, EARLY START: Well, a lot of parents feel that way, Erica.

Parents and teachers know what happens when their kids are out of school for summer break -- the so-called summer slide, right? They show up to fall a little bit sluggish. But now they're going to be out of school for potentially months longer than just a summer break and educators say they're worried.


KRISTEN DICARLO, PARENT OF THREE STUDENTS DOING VIRTUAL SCHOOLING: I'm worried about where they will be. If they're going to be at the level they should be at when they get back into school next year. I do think the learning loss is huge.

JARRETT (voice-over): Parents across the nation growing increasingly anxious with schools closed for months as education experts begin to warn of a possible COVID slide for students heading into summer break.

MEGAN KUHFELD, RESEARCH SCIENTIST, NORTHWEST EVALUATION ASSOCIATION: So it's kind of a double whammy of starting to forget and moving that kind of academic mindset being out of school and missing out on a couple of important months of instruction, particularly for those young kids where we know learning happens at a really fast rate.

JARRETT (voice-over): Drawing on existing data from roughly five million students in third through eighth grade, Megan Kuhfeld, a research scientist at the Northwest Evaluation Association, has been using learning losses typically seen in the summer to forecast how extended school closures could cause significant backslides for students currently struggling to adapt to remote instruction.

KUHFELD: What we saw was pretty alarming.

JARRETT (voice-over): Kuhfeld predicts that for students working through the toughest conditions now, come fall, they could have retained as little as 70 percent of their reading progress and only 50 percent of gains they'd made in math. The potentially serious secondary consequences of COVID-19 widening the achievement gap between wealthier and lower-income students.

KUHFELD: There is a lot of technology limitations. We know that many don't have access to Internet or a quiet place for kids to be learning.

JARRETT (voice-over): Already, teachers like Jill Marangoni, a special ed teacher in New York, says she sees the signs of students falling behind.

JILL MARANGONI, SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHER: Fifth-graders that were strong writers in school who would never have turned in anything without editing it first, you see what the work they're turning in. It's missing capitals, it's missing end punctuation, run-on sentences. Just lacking that quality that they had at school and that they just don't have now.

JARRETT (voice-over): And it's not just concerned teachers and parents. Kids are stressed about school, too.


MARANGONI: I had a second-grader say to me, Ms. M, do you think I'm going to be allowed to go to third grade? Am I doing OK? It breaks your heart to think, like, this is what the 7-year-old is thinking.

JARRETT (voice-over): While the full extent of any COVID slide remains to be seen, parents like Kristen DiCarlo, a mom of three in Atlanta, says she hopes teachers are ready to adapt to learning losses whenever classrooms finally reopen.

DICARLO: School systems are going to have to pick up and recognize they can't expect a child to go from pre-Algebra into Algebra immediately. There's going to have to be some remediation.


JARRETT: John and Erica, many of the parents I talked to for this piece are concerned about learning loss because of COVID-19, but they're not really sure what to do about it. Some experts say we should be considering summer schooling but many parents I talked to said the kids are exhausted already from trying to adapt to virtual learning.

And so, there's a real (audio gap) for educators right now about what steps we should be taking this summer.

HILL: A lot of questions.

Laura, thank you -- a great piece. And you had questions that John, I know you and I are struggling with on a daily basis with our seventh- graders and I have a fourth-grader, too. And we don't know what the answer is.

BERMAN: I have to say, that was such an amazing piece but it was a nonstop kick in the gut. And I actually -- it wasn't even a kick in the gut. It was a kick somewhere else. I mean, it was just -- I don't know what's going to happen to these missing months.

It's four months for my boys, who are seventh grade, they'll never get back. And I don't quite think we have adjusted for that yet. I know the school's trying.

HILL: Yes.

BERMAN: I mean, they're doing the best they can to give them something to do every day, but it's not the same. It's not the same and I don't know how this gets replaced.

HILL: I don't know how it does either. And talking with good friends of mine who are educators, they are exhausted and they're working overtime as they're trying to figure out.

But to your point John, I know my kids, some days are great and some days are terrible. And some days they are great self-starters and other days what they really need is a communication with the adult who knows what they're doing, who is likely not their mom or dad as hard as we try. Because I don't really remember algebra even just for simple questions. And it's a challenge -- it really is.

BERMAN: And the other thing I am concerned about is the socialization aspect.

HILL: Yes.

BERMAN: And I think back to what I did for my last four months in the seventh grade. And a lot of it was not great, by the way. A lot of it was things that I regret. But it's such an important time.

HILL: It is.

BERMAN: How do you make up for this time that you're not interacting with friends? That you're not succeeding and failing and learning through life around a group of other people.

And I'm not -- this is not criticism. These are just questions that I don't know that we have the answers to yet, and we have to ask them. Most of the schools are closed now for the rest of the year, so we've got to figure something out by the fall.

HILL: Yes, that we do. I know we don't have the answers but boy, do we certainly have the questions, as you point out.

It's interesting to see, too, as we heard from Gov. Newsom, I think it was last week -- I've lost all track of time. But he was talking about possibly starting the school year early. And my husband and I were talking about that and saying well, what

would that look like if our kids did that and would those extra weeks or months -- is that where you try to get everybody up to speed to where they should have been in September?


HILL: Who knows?

BERMAN: I just don't know. Look, if you out there have any advice for Erica and me, I want you to please tweet us. I mean, I'm trying, you know --

HILL: In all seriousness.

BERMAN: In all seriousness. I'm trying to get my kids to read more. I think that's the one thing you can do -- force them to read books --

HILL: Yes.

BERMAN: -- just to keep their minds sharp. You can't force them to do more science. I can't teach science. I can't really teach math. But maybe to get them to read more and that's all you can do.

HILL: I'll take it.

All right, NEW DAY continues right now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I used to say 65,000 and now I'm saying 80 or 90. And it goes up and it goes up rapidly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The medical experts haven't altered their projection, which was 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration's ambitious plan to make 100 million doses of a vaccine available by November.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, RESPONSE COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: On paper, it's possible. It's whether we can execute and execute around the globe.

GOV. JARED POLIS (D) COLORADO: And I don't think anywhere in the country or the world is out of the woods. But certainly, people are relieved in Colorado that they've been able to go back to work.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: And I think we're going to be able to continue to take some good steps, but it's certainly not the Florida that we had in February.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman. JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, May fourth, 8:00 in the east.

Erica Hill is in for Alisyn. Great to have you here with us.

HILL: Good morning.

BERMAN: Breaking overnight, the president -- he has a huge revision now in the number of deaths he says he now expects from coronavirus. Now that number is up to 100,000, he says. That's a far cry from where he was just two weeks ago.


TRUMP: We would have had millions of deaths instead of it looks like we'll be at about a 60,000 mark, which is 40,000 less than the lowest number thought of.


BERMAN: That was April 19th -- that was April 19th. Two weeks ago he was predicting 60,000 deaths.