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Meat Shortages Across the Country; Ginsburg in Hospital with Infection; Answers to your Coronavirus Questions. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 6, 2020 - 08:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Meat plants across the country struggling to deal with outbreaks of the coronavirus. And that is leading to shortages in some states. Nearly one in five Wendy's restaurants is no longer serving burgers. They've run out of fresh beef. So, should you be concerned about the nation's food supply?

Joining me now, CNN business reporter Nathaniel Meyersohn and CNN national correspondent Dianne Gallagher.

Dianne, you've been reporting extensively on the issues that are affecting processing plants and the food supply in general in this country. As we look at what we're seeing out of Wendy's, the fact that they're saying they don't have enough beef to make their burgers, what does that tell us about the larger issue?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So this is sort of the result of the larger issue that we're dealing with here, Erica, that maybe we don't have a meat shortage in this country. And every economist and every expert we've spoken to has said exactly that, we don't have meat shortage but we are having meat interruptions.

And in their statement, Wendy's kind of said, look, we're still getting our regularly scheduled deliveries of meat, but the problem is with these processing plants, the fact that we've got this bottleneck here. There's plenty of cattle to be slaughtered in this country right now. The farmers would like for it to be happening a lot quicker. But because so many of these processing plants have not just closed, but because they're operating at a reduced workforce right now, in part because you can't operate these plants fully and practice good social distancing, but also because so many of these workers are getting sick, Erica. Remember that part of why we're seeing these slowdowns is because we do have so many of these workers who are black and brown and immigrants and refugees who are coming -- who are being diagnosed with Covid-19, and we have these massive outbreaks in these facilities.

And so, so many of them are getting sick. Some of these companies are shutting down plants for deep cleaning and to put in safety measures. In other cases, they simply aren't bringing them back on board fully. And if you're not processing at the same rate, we're not getting as

much processed meat out. Some of that's because of restaurants and Wendy's is particularly affected because it relies only on fresh meat. It has a slogan, fresh, never frozen. And that's kind of what landed them in this position here.

HILL: So that's why they're dealing with this.

When it comes to the actual supply of beef in the country, Nathaniel, as we look at this, we're starting to hear stories of price increases at supermarkets. People are talking about what isn't there when they want it. What is the reality when it comes to grocery stores right now and what Americans will be seeing in term of not only availability, but that they're going to pay for that?

NATHANIEL MEYERSOHN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Yes, so, last week the Department of Agriculture said that beef production in the United States fell around 35 percent compared with the same time last year. So we're starting to see the effect of the -- of the shutdowns and the slowdown in production at plants at grocery stores and at fast food chains, like Wendy's.

So, Costco and Kroger, two of the country's biggest grocery stores, are limiting the number of -- are limiting the amount of beef and pork and poultry that customers can buy. Other companies, like Wegman's, are saying that you should expect to see some out of stocks on some -- on some type of cuts.


So we're starting to see limits, we're starting to see some price increases at grocery stores. I think the ones that will be most impacted are smaller grocery chains that don't have the buying power and the scale of the companies like Kroger and Costco and Wegman's have.

HILL: This -- there are so many ripple effects to this as we're seeing with everything, frankly, related to coronavirus.

But, Dianne, you touched on the farmers and the ranchers and there is cattle ready to be slaughtered. There may be an increase in what you're paying at the grocery store, but they are not seeing an increase in what is being paid for their cattle and they're struggling too.

GALLAGHER: They're struggling immensely. And it's not just the cattle ranchers, hog farmers, poultry, all livestock at this point has expressed the fact that not only do they have nowhere to send their livestock, or they have reduced options to send their livestock. We've talked about these hog farmers that are making the exceptionally difficult decision of having to euthanize because they just don't have enough room to keep the hogs that have not yet gone to slaughter and also the piglets that are coming up. They're running out of room right now.

And they are not being paid the same amount. We're seeing in some cases a 40 percent reduction in what they are getting for each hog or each cattle at this point. And so they're not seeing the return on it either. They're receiving less money and right now the wholesale price has increased by roughly 40 or more percent at times. It's gone up for 19 straight days. So there's a disconnect here, but all of this still goes back to that bottleneck that we're dealing with. We don't have a food problem, we have an efficiency problem is what the UFCW president, Mark Perrone, said to me. We don't have a food problem in America at all. We have this efficiency problem that right now we're not able to get all of the -- the ways that this works, all of the different steps to work in unison at this point.

So they're working on different options and we have seen these plants begin to open back up again. But, again, Erica, the most important thing is making sure those workers inside those plants are safe and that those farmers are able to continue to survive financially through this.

HILL: Dianne Gallagher, Nathaniel Meyersohn, appreciate it. Thank you both for your reporting.

Developing overnight, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the hospital, but she's working today. Details on how she's doing, next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is recovering from a gall bladder infection at a Baltimore hospital. The 87-year-old is still planning to be part of the Supreme Court's oral arguments by phone today.

Our Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue live in Washington with the details.


ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: John, she is a tough woman, 87 years old, four time cancer survivor. She is in the hospital recovering, going through treatment, really, for what's called a benign gall bladder infection. Experts tells us that's really painful.

But here's what's key. She's going to participate at 10:00 for oral arguments. Keep in mind, the Supreme Court's doing something it's never done before, which is hearing oral arguments by phone. In a statement last night, the court said that she would call in, participate in those arguments from the hospital.

She has had a history of several health scares. She always bounces back. But in November, 2019, she was hospitalized for fever and chills. Before that, it was pancreatic cancer. In 2018, it was lung cancer. And then before that, fractured ribs.

And, of course, all this comes as the term is in the middle of this blockbuster term. Next week, they're, again, going to hear on the telephone a big case concerning President Trump's bid to shield his financial documents from release. And then they raced trying to get opinions out. There are a lot of big cases having to do with abortions, DACA, LGBT rights. But Ruth Bader Ginsburg is going to participate at 10:00 and she said she'll participate from her hospital room, Erica.

HILL: Look for the update there as she calls in.

Ariane, thank you.

Globally, at least 257,000 people have now died from coronavirus. The U.K. now has the highest death toll in all of Europe. And it is second only to that death toll here in the U.S.

CNN has reporters all around the world with the latest developments.


NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Nina Dos Santos in London, where the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, is likely to face a grilling from his fellow lawmakers later today, keen to know whether or not his government missed an opportunity of preventing the coronavirus from getting such a deadly foothold in this country.

This as on Tuesday the U.K. reached a grim milestone, becoming the worst hit nation in the whole of Europe with its death toll now having surpassed that of Italy.

Testing still remains behind the government's own self-imposed schedule, but they are rolling out a new contact tracing application, a pilot scheme which will go live today in an island of the south coast.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Berlin, where Angela Merkel's government is set to decide on possible further measures to open this country's economy back up. Some of the things that are being talked about, for instance, are allowing larger stores to open up again, also bars and restaurants and getting this country's soccer league up and running once again.

Also, U.S. company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech has started clinical trials in the United States for a possible coronavirus vaccine. I was able to speak to the CEO of the German company BioNTech and he said he's very confident because they've gotten good results in preclinical trials.


Jordan says it has recorded no new coronavirus cases over the past eight days. But as it is gradually and cautiously reopening the economy, the risks are still high. The country of about 10 million people has less than 500 confirmed cases and nine deaths.


They say that the reason for this initial success is because Jordan moved fast, it hit hard with one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. They also put in strict quarantine in place. They went for aggressive contact tracing and random testing.

But they know that the price for this initial success is going to be the impact on the country's already struggling economy.


BERMAN: All right, thank you to all of our reporters.

Many developments in the pandemic today. Here's what else to watch.


ON SCREEN TEXT: 10:00 a.m. ET, House coronavirus hearing.

10:00 a.m. ET, Supreme Court Obamacare arguments.

4:00 p.m. ET, White House press briefing.


BERMAN: So is there a benefit to wearing gloves when grocery shopping? Dr. Sanjay Gupta answers your questions, next.



BERMAN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta back now to answer some of your questions.

And, Sanjay, this comes from Natasha. She says, this question has been a hot debate in our household. Is there a benefit to wearing a pair of gloves while grocery shopping?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the CDC and other public health organizations, they don't think that you need to do that. Keep in mind, again, I think most people know this, that you're not -- you're not actually getting the virus through your hands. The issue is that you could contaminate your hands and then you can touch your face. That's how it could potentially spread. If you have it on your gloves, the same thing could happen. So if you want to wear gloves, fine, but make sure that you're still not actually inadvertently contaminating yourself. A good option is, obviously, wipe down surfaces, wash your hands. That's probably going to be your best bet.

HILL: Speaking of washing hands, we also talk a lot about hand sanitizer. Mike says, if it kills germs, Covid-19 is a virus. So doesn't that mean that hand sanitizer is useless?

GUPTA: Oh. Well, you know, I guess, Mike, it depends how you define "germs." I've always thought of germs as, you know, bacteria, viruses, fungi, whatever it might be. And sanitizer can work on germs. You know, some germs more than others. So hand sanitizer can be useful for this virus. Soap and water can be really useful as well.

Erica, as you and I talked about when we did the "Sesame Street" thing, the outer portion of the virus is actually just a lipid, it's a fat. And if you think about like a greasy pan, would you rather use alcohol-based cleaner or would you rather use soap and water? Soap and water actually helps dissolve that fat, same is true with the virus. So soap and water not only a good bet, probably a better bet.

BERMAN: So better bet, that's interesting. So hand sanitizer versus soap and water, you'd always go with soap and water?

GUPTA: Yes, because it actually really helps break up the outer layer of that virus. This was a good image that I -- that I came across as well when I was looking at, you know, how these things are actually inactivated, these viruses. Soap and water actually helps break apart the outer layer.

HILL: I love that. And I know you had said too, that's why we can use soap and water for cleaning. It doesn't have to be all of these --

GUPTA: Surfaces.

HILL: Everything that's sold out, yes.

GUPTA: Right.

BERMAN: All right, this question comes from Lou who says, I'm 67 years old and in good health. I'm considering taking a job with the U.S. Census Bureau, going door to door, but I'm concerned about the risk. What would you do if you were in my position?

GUPTA: Well, Lou, good for you, first of all, I mean, for thinking about that. That's obviously an important job. And there's an interesting -- sort of interesting discussion about census workers also maybe doing some of the contact tracing work that we've been talking about.

That aside, you know, this is -- if you can take the precautions, which we've been talking about, you should be OK. You know, you still want to maintain physical distance as much as possible from people. Wear a mask. And there's surfaces, again, you know, doorknobs, other things like that, you just have to be careful.

Again, it's not so much the touching of the surface, it's the touching of the surface and then the touching of your face. So try and reduce how much you're touching your face. Carry some hand sanitizer around with you and, you know, I think, in terms of reducing your own likelihood of infection, you should be good. If you have any symptoms, of course, you should stay home.

HILL: Sanjay, this one we need a quick answer, but I know you can do it. If the coronavirus dies off in the summer months, why and how would it return during the fall and winter, asks Robert?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, dying off -- the virus is probably still around. And with this particular virus, it -- it is a very contagious virus, we know. We don't have immunity to it, so it's unlikely to go away completely, although it may sort of -- there may be a little bit of a lull. They say about 2 percent for every degree Celsius. BERMAN: All right, Sanjay, thank you very much for being with us.


BERMAN: I know you will be excited now for "The Good Stuff."

GUPTA: Of course.

BERMAN: It is a very special "Good Stuff."

Today kicks off National Nurse's Week. So we want to honor some healthcare heroes.

Page Hughes (ph) has worked at Guthrie (ph) Hospital in Pennsylvania for eight years. What she enjoys most as a nurse is being a light for her patients in their darkest days, bringing a smile to their faces when they need it most. She says one of the hardest things during this pandemic is having to wear a mask that covers up her smile underneath. Look at that smile.

Trina Sutherland (ph), a registered nurse with three children, was among 29 healthcare workers last month on a plane from Atlanta to the epicenter of the pandemic here in New York City. She felt like a soldier in combat, she says. Sometimes she wanted to give up. Sometimes she wanted to cry. But Trina told her 16-year-old daughter who wants to follow in her mother's footsteps, this is the highlight of my career.

And few nurses have ever lost -- left the hospital like this. You can see the staff lining the halls to cheer nurse turned patient Alissa Labasco (ph). The 23-year-old had just started her career in nursing in North Carolina when she was infected last month with coronavirus.


She spent weeks on a ventilator in critical care. She's now on the road to recovery. Alissa says it might be a while, but she can't wait to get back to work saving others. And we know that's how all the men and women in nursing around the country feel about this. And our hats go off to all of them this morning.

HILL: Can't thank them enough.

BERMAN: All right, CNN's coronavirus coverage continues right after this.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


The White House is winding down its Coronavirus Task Force, even as cases around the country go up.

[09:00:04] And now a new study shows this virus was spreading around the world far earlier than first --