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U.S. Juggling Need to Reopen with Need for Public Safety; One in Five U.S. Workers File Jobless Claims Since Mid-March; One of Trump's Personal Valets Tests Positive for COVID-19; Analysis Shows No Coordinated U.S. Plan to Track Antibody Tests; U.K. Funeral Homes Deal with Rising Death Toll. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 8, 2020 - 04:00   ET



NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Lives versus livelihood. The U.S. grapples with what to do as coronavirus cases climb throughout the country.

In just hours, we're expecting the worst jobs report in American history. People simply want to feed their families.

And later, arrests in the killing of a young unarmed black man shot while jogging in Georgia. Why his death is only now getting attention months after it happened. The victim's sister speaks with CNN.

Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. CNN NEWSROOM starts now.

And thank you again for joining us.

Paychecks versus pandemic. That is the difficult choice now facing millions of American workers who have been without income for weeks. For them, staying at home just isn't an option anymore.


DANIEL LIRIANO, BARBER: I received my stimulus. We didn't get no unemployment. So basically, we're just starving. We have to pay our bills, our kids, our family. I'm not hurting anybody. I just want to go back to work.


ALLEN: The latest U.S. jobless figures come out in just a few hours. The country is bracing for a level of unemployment not seen since the 1930s and the Great Depression all because of the pandemic.

Even as more new cases and deaths rise in some areas, the push is on for states to reopen though as quickly as possible. Just don't look for updated safety guidance from Washington. The Trump administration has turned down the latest recommendations on reopening from government health officials. The White House called them too stringent. U.S. President Trump said he wants the U.S. back where it was three

months ago when the virus was still a distant threat. Experts say that is unlikely. Still, dozens of states are trying to get their economies restarted. We get the latest from CNN's Nick Watt in Los Angeles.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Three Forks, Montana this morning, kids walk back into school with tweaks.

BONNIE LOWER, SUPERINTENDENT, WILLOW CREEK: We have six-foot distant marks on the playground so that they can play games at recess and stay six feet away from each other.

WATT: Montana hasn't suffered as much as most. Meanwhile, with Lady Liberty looking on bodies now being stored frozen in trucks in New York City, our epicenter, waiting for overwhelmed funeral directors to catch up.

ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK GOVERNOR: If you're going through hell, keep going. And that's what we're doing. We're going through hell. But what we're doing is working, so we're going to keep going.

WATT: Going slow on reopening even though New York's new case counts are falling. Daily new case counts continue to climb in 19 states. Still every one of them among the 44 that will begin to reopen by this weekend.

In Texas, cases climbing but haircuts and manicures are a go as of tomorrow morning.

CROWD CHANTING: Shall be free. Shall be free.

WATT: The State's Supreme Court just ordered the release of the salon owner jailed for operating under lockdown. In Oregon, the trailblazers practice facility will also open tomorrow. That's OK says the NBA. Up to four players can train solo at any one time as long as local restrictions are followed. And there are now different detailed directions in different places.

NED LAMONT CONNECTICUT GOVERNOR: Restaurants outside only. You're 90 percent more likely to get infected inside than outside.

WATT: More than 33 million Americans have now lost their jobs during the pandemic. Depression era numbers. Others have worked on and paid a price. Teen A, a meat packing worker in Colorado couldn't afford to quit. Now she's infected and fighting for her life.

Three of the country's biggest pork processing plants partially reopening today after outbreaks union and management working on how to keep workers safe.

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: I really don't think the economy kicks into any kind of gear until we get a vaccine or some kind of therapy that everyone feels comfortable about.


And even then, it's going to take several years to get those jobs back.

WATT: The FDA did just approve another potential vaccine moving into phase two testing. More than 100 now in various stages of development. But you can only rush so much. Needs to be safe. Needs to work.

MARK MULLIGAN, LEAD RESEARCHER, NYU LANGONE VACCINE CENTER: I do really think we're talking about getting through the end of the year and into early next year before we would have a definitive answer.

WATT (on camera): Here in Los Angeles, they are going to follow the California timetable, and begin to reopen Friday, but just baby steps. Retail, but only for curbside pickup.

On the weekend, some golf courses and trails will also open, but everybody has to wear a mask. Now, San Francisco has said that they need a little bit more time. They probably won't even start for another 10 days.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


ALLEN: So let's zero in on the crushing blow this pandemic is dealing to U.S. workers. Millions of initial jobless claims are being filed each week. The numbers since mid-March are staggering with one in five American workers filing for unemployment payment. 3.2 million claims were filed just last week bringing the seven-week total to more than 33 million.

The economic fallout has been swift and crushing and for the newly unemployed, getting food on the table can be a challenge. Our Kyung Lah shows us the impact on families who just weeks ago were prosperous.


ARMAN SARIAN, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: It is hard, emotionally, financially. Everything. Our life has changed 180 degrees.


SARIAN: Overnight. It happened overnight.

LAH (voice-over): Armaan Sarian tells the story you hear again and again at food banks across today's America. He pulled up for free food in his BMW. Until coronavirus hit his Los Angeles printing shop more than supported his family of four.

(on camera): Are you scared?

SARIAN: Yes, but as a household of the family, I don't show it. I have two teenagers to raise up. They have to keep up the good spirit but we're all scared.

LAH (voice-over): The lines of the needy and the numbers of unemployed all harken back to the darkest time in America's economy, the Great Depression. Like then, this downturn touches millions upon millions. Entire industries halted like air travel.



LAH: Cruise ships, tourism and theme parks and retail and restaurants. From Las Vegas to main streets across the country gutting jobs.

LARRY HARRIS, USC MARSHALL SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: Think about five fingers. 20 percent is one out of five. So one out of five people in the United States who wants to be working is no longer working and that's jaw dropping.

LAH: But there is a difference with today's economy.

HARRIS: We know exactly what's causing the job loss. In the great depression people understood there wasn't enough money but they didn't really understand why.

LAH: A vaccine, a medical breakthrough could help put this father back to work.

(on camera): Have you ever had to do anything like this before?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. This is the first time for me.

LAH: He's a writer and actor in Hollywood. An estimated 750,000 jobs in California have been impacted as the entertainment industry suddenly stopped. Driving up with his son, he said he wanted to talk in support of the L.A. regional food bank but only if we didn't use his name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's difficult for a lot of us to try and provide for families and you know, still maintain some dignity. So once you realize you're not going back to work for a while, it's pretty heartbreaking.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Glendale, California.


ALLEN: The lines at all of these food banks truly do tell the story. The U.S. government April jobs report is due out in the coming hours and it is expected to paint a very bleak picture. That's at odds with the rosy economic outlook President Trump is tweeting.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to come back very, very strong and it's going to be a lot sooner than anybody would understand. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Well we will know the true picture in a matter of hours. And chief business correspondent Christine Romans will join me a little later in the show to discuss what it means.

ALLEN: Well there are deeply worrying signs about the economy across the Atlantic too. The U.K. is on track for its worst crash in more than 300 years. The Bank of England said the country's GDP could shrink by 14 percent this year. A dip that has not been seen since, get this, 1706. That's several years before the term Prime Minister even existed in England, but for all the gloom the bank is hoping for a swift recovery in 2021.


We sure hope so.

Well, just how safe President Trump and his top aides might be from the virus is in question right now after one of the President's staffers tested positive. The President is playing down the threat but as CNN's Jim Acosta reports, the number of times he's getting tested is going up.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For President Trump, the pandemic just hit home, as in the White House, as one of his military valets has tested positive for the coronavirus. But the President is insisting it's no big deal that a personal aide was infected.

TRUMP: Know who he is, good person, but I've had very little contact. Mike is -- had very little contact with him. But Mike was tested, and I was tested. We were both tested.

Yes, it's a little bit strange, but it's one of those things.

ACOSTA: But the potential for the virus to spread around the White House does exist. White House officials tell CNN few aides to the President actually wear masks around the West Wing, just as the President decided to forego putting on one earlier this week during a factory tour in Arizona.

TRUMP: Well, I just wouldn't wear one myself. I think wearing a face mask as our great Presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know. Somehow, I don't see it for myself. I just -- I just don't.

ACOSTA: One White House official said of the President, he's a unique individual. He can't be seen walking around wearing a mask.

Another close advisor pointing fingers at the press.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: I think if anybody should start wearing masks, and showing more respect, it should be the media. ACOSTA: White House officials have said it's not necessary for the President to wear a mask because he and aides around him are routinely tested for the virus.

But the director of the National Institutes of Health said one of the test often used by the White House has a notable false negative rate.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I think the other concern has been that it does have about a 15 percent false negative rate. And if you're in a circumstance where you really, really don't want to miss a diagnosis of somebody who's already carrying the virus, you'd like to have something that has a higher sensitivity than that. And I know they're working on how to make that happen.

ACOSTA: As for restarting the economy, the White House is rejecting proposed guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, offering recommendations on just how to reopen restaurants, schools, and other public spaces.

A coronavirus task force official told CNN, issuing overly specific instructions -- that CDC leadership never cleared -- for how various types of businesses open up would be overly perspective and broad. Guidance in rural Tennessee shouldn't be the same guidance for urban New York City.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: I find it very concerning. You don't want to get into a situation where public health, and public health science, is set up as the enemy of restarting the economy.

ACOSTA: The economy could use a shot in the arm after 3.2 million people filed unemployment claims last week, making for a stunning 33.5 million since mid-March.

TRUMP: He was an innocent man.

ACOSTA: But the President is welcoming a development away from the pandemic, after the Justice Department dropped charges against former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators. After once firing Flynn for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about the Russia investigation, the President now views Flynn as an innocent man. Mr. Trump appeared to signal what was coming last week.

TRUMP: I'll tell you, for sure, when I looked at what they did to him, they tormented him, dirty cops, tormented General Flynn. Because he's in the process of being exonerated.

ACOSTA (on camera): As for taking precautions here at the White House, the President said he'll be receiving a coronavirus test on a daily basis. Same goes for the Vice President, other aides who work closely with the President. That is a major change in protocols here at the White House and provides a stark contrast with what many Americans have experienced across the country, that it is sometimes difficult to get tested. Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


ALLEN: Health experts say a key component to safely reopening any community is adequate, reliable testing and that sounds simple enough. But some of the testing that's considered critical in the U.S. isn't living up to the hype. CNN's Drew Griffin has been investigating.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The antibody test, a blood test that can tell whether someone has COVID- 19, even without symptoms, has been so important. President Trump last month announced the test would be a major decision-maker in getting America back to work.

TRUMP: We are also working to bring blood-based serology test to the market as quickly as possible, so that Americans can determine whether or not they've already had the virus and potentially have immunity.

GRIFFIN: But as millions of antibody tests are being shipped across the country, a CNN analysis finds there is no coordinated effort by the federal government to track the full number, or all of the raw data of those tests from every state. Like other areas of the U.S. coronavirus response. The antibody testing process has been confusing. A mix of false starts, changing rules and no coherent plan for all of the states to report results.


DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: The way it usually works is that data is fed into the various state health departments, then the state health departments will often funnel information to the CDC.

GRIFFIN: But many states aren't collecting any antibody testing data. Of the 41 state health departments that responded to CNN's questions, only 22 states said they are currently collecting some data on antibody testing, and only California, New York, and Louisiana said that they required it.

HOTEZ: One of the problems has been that a lot of the tests that have been given temporary authorization turned out to be not very accurate.

GRIFFIN: As a CNN has reported in its rush to jump start antibody testing across the country. In March, the FDA allowed antibody test to be sold without any federal review, and many inaccurate tests flooded the market. This week, the FDA reverse that policy, now requiring test makers to prove tests work like they should. But the damage was already done.

Oregon's health department said, antibody testing data are of dubious reliability. Several other states like Vermont, saying the tests are not accurate enough to use them for any public planning.

CAROLINE BUCKEE, T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: They are a couple of reasons that we really want to know who had this virus. The first is, just to figure out where we are on the epidemic curve, and that has really important implications for policies like whether we are going to go back to work, and whether we are going to reopen schools.

GRIFFIN: The CDC is only collecting data from some states, but it's also doing what is called Seroprevalence Surveys, collecting blood samples from labs across the country that were originally used for other purposes like routine cholesterol tests and performing testing to look for antibodies in the blood sample. For now, the real number of people who had been infected with COVID in the U.S., is still unknown.

HOTEZ: Saying 1.2 million people had been infected is almost certainly a vast underestimate. The problem is we don't know if that real number is 10 times more or 20 times more. And by having widespread antibody testing, that will give us a better idea.


ALLEN: Next here, how funeral homes are ensuring dignity in death in one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus.



ALLEN: The British government is set to give an update on the U.K. lockdown due to coronavirus. The Prime Minister expected to address the country on Sunday. And the foreign secretary said any next step would be modest and incremental.

There are still major concerns over why the U.K. has missed its target of 100,000 daily tests for a fifth day in a row. More than 30,000 people in the United Kingdom have died due to COVID-19.

So there is an impossible scale of grief in the COVID crisis. So much death. So many challenges for funeral homeworkers who deal with the victims and their families with dignity and respect. Phil Black has this story from the United Kingdom one of the worst affected countries in the world.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We all know this is the time of death. Of loss so great it's difficult to comprehend. But Tony Oxley knows what it really means. The numbers of people dying. Their faces, their family's grief.

TONY OXLEY, A.D. OXLEY FUNERAL SERVICES: I was called out last night for a dear old gentleman. It was his wife of many years who passed away.

BLACK: Tony's job is collecting and moving bodies. He's never been busier.

OXLEY: It can be challenging, but I love it. I haven't had a day off since -- since it started.

BLACK: Tony works a patch of territory along England's southern coast. The job has become a constant race around the clock, chasing COVID- 19's relentless body count.

OXLEY: The day has changed already. We'll now going to collect some of the deceased from various places.

BLACK: The phone rings and Tony moves, dashing between hospitals, private homes, care facilities.

OXLEY: Collected an elderly lady from a nursing home there and have just bought her here. I'm now moving on again to another nursing home where somebody else has passed away.

BLACK: So many people are dying in this area, they aren't enough places to store them. So, Tony's job now includes shuffling bodies between funeral directors with spare capacity.

But it's not only the vast numbers that are challenging those who are trying to ensure dignity in death. These funeral workers in London follow Muslim tradition. It's an intimate, deeply respectful process, washing, and wrapping each person before burial. But safety is now a key concern. Everybody must be treated as a potential COVID-19 risk.

Issa Assam has been a funeral director for 25 years. He says he's needed all his experience to endure this pandemic.

ISSA ASSAM, FUNERAL DIRECTOR: I've watched a few war films, that's the closest we've got to experiencing something like this in our lifetimes.

BLACK: This day brings Issa a new professional and emotional challenge.

ASSAM: There is a request of a very small baby passing away. I need some paperwork from him.

BLACK: A small stillborn baby and the baby's mother, both victims of COVID-19. Once collected, they lie side by side in the van. The baby and the adult size coffin.

ASSAM: Very sad. I've never experienced that one ever in my life. Together.

BLACK: Issa wasn't prepared for this.

ASSAM: It's a tough challenge. It's a tough one. Even for me, it's very, very tough. Very painful.


BLACK: Later, Issa arranges another special request. His hearse is driving by a London hospital so the staff can honor one of their own. They are clapping for Abdul Hafiz, an ambulance care assistant, another COVID-19 victim. Only a close few can attend his funeral. They must stand apart to pray and can only approach his grave one at a time. When the ambulance came for Abdul, his family didn't know it was the last time they'd see him.

BLACK (on camera): Tell me what it's like to lose your brother this way?

TARIQ GELLALEDIN HAFIZ, COVID-19 VICTIM'S BROTHER: It's like to lose a brother is like to lose half of you. You lose half of you.

BLACK (voice-over): In this time of death, most of us are shielded from its awful reality. What those numbers really mean. While around us, a committed operation strives beyond its usual limits to ensure every person who couldn't be saved from COVID-19 is respectfully mourned and remembered.

Phil Black, CNN, London.



ALLEN: And welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

The Trump White House has rejected detailed new instructions for reopening the country safely calling them too stringent. But one member of the coronavirus task force says the new recommendations aren't dead, they're just being revised.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: It was more about simplification to really make sure that both the American people as well as public health officials understand the guidelines. And then really working on a whole area on surveillance for asymptomatic individuals.