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Two Children, Teen Die In New York After Experiencing Very Rare Syndrome That May Be Linked To Coronavirus; Interview With Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL); "Washington Post:" CDC Director Will Self-Quarantine After Exposure To Person At White House Who Has Virus; Farmers Forced Into Painful Choices As Pandemic Hits Food Supply; Legendary Rock 'N' Roll Musician Little Richard Dies at 87. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 9, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:18]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello again, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

More businesses, restaurants, services and leisure activities opening to Americans this weekend.

By tomorrow night people in at least 47 states will see their stay-at- home restrictions eased to some degree, restrictions put in place to slow down the spread of the deadly coronavirus. A sharp focus will remain on social distancing and cleanliness.

And this is all despite the number of infections in the U.S. still rising now to more than 1.3 million. One reason state leaders are so eager to get things rolling again, the staggering historic unemployment numbers.

Unemployment has soared to nearly 15 percent nationwide. The U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April alone. The pandemic wiping out literally years of economic growth in just two months.

The coronavirus now detected in the halls of the White House. President Trump confirming that Vice President Pence's Press Secretary tested positive for the virus. Earlier in the week, one of the President's Personal valets also tested positive.

Also a blistering slam of the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus crisis coming from former President Barack Obama this weekend.

He was recorded during a private phone call Friday night and described the U.S. response to the crisis as an absolute chaotic disaster.

We begin this hour with disturbing new developments out of New York, three children ranging from five years old to a teenager have died and dozens more have fallen ill from a syndrome believed to be connected to the coronavirus.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is following the developments. Polo, Governor Cuomo today casting doubt on the belief that children are at less risk than adults from this virus. What more did he say?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have been hearing for multiple weeks that perhaps some of the younger members or some of the younger residents perhaps may not be as vulnerable.

But now this new information that the Governor Cuomo described is not only new, but disturbing, specifically for parents. It's really what we don't yet know.

At this point, what I can tell you is that authorities are looking to the hospitalization of at least 73 children, many of them toddler or elementary school aged children, and these children that have been hospitalized in and around New York City have been exhibiting symptoms that have been very similar to toxic shock syndrome or Kawasaki disease.

At this point, authorities have only gone as far as to say that they believe that it could potentially be directly linked to COVID-19. But still, there isn't a lot that we know at this point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Now, these are children who come in who don't present the symptoms that we normally are familiar with COVID. It's not a respiratory illness. They're not in respiratory distress.

But the illness has taken the lives of three young New Yorkers. So, this is new and it's developing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: New and developing -- those two words that you heard from the governor is a reminder for parents across the state and really from across the country to pause for a moment and at least stay informed as to what's actually happening, because there's still many unknowns here. And we do know that authorities are trying to answer some of those questions.

And that includes having New York's Health Department get together with C.D.C. to actually come up with some kind of criteria that could potentially be adapted by states across the country as they try to actually learn more about what got these children sick in the first place, and that perhaps those three children who unfortunately did not survive, if perhaps they were experiencing other complications.

CABRERA: It's just all shame. So sad and so concerning for all parents. Polo Sandoval, thank you.

Earlier today, I spoke with Dr. Glenn Budnick. He is the Chairman of the Pediatrics Reliance Medical Group. We spoke about these concerns and these symptoms and how they may be related to coronavirus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. GLENN BUDNICK, CHAIRMAN, PEDIATRICS RELIANCE MEDICAL GROUP: Kawasaki's disease is an inflammatory disease, an inflammation of the blood vessels.

But what concerns us especially with Kawasaki's is that the blood vessels of the heart can get inflamed, and they can actually cause weakening of the blood vessels of the heart and you can sustain damage to the heart even similar to a heart attack as they had an adult because these blood vessels are damaged and it can damage the muscle of the heart also.

So, it can cause severe damage to the heart and including, including death.

CABRERA: Obviously nothing has been proven, but what could possibly explain this possible connection to coronavirus?

[18:05:05]

BUDNICK: Well, just like your previous doctors were talking about, the inflammatory response. They're seeing this as a possible second phase of COVID virus where your immune system is overreacting to the virus, and because these are inflammatory diseases, this overreaction can cause a Kawasaki-like disease, like you described with prolonged fever of pinkeye, swollen glands, and a rash somewhere between your neck and your groin area, sometimes associated with healing.

So, all of this could be from the inflammatory reaction to the COVID virus.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Now to the White House. It is now responding to the remarks by former President Obama calling the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus and absolute chaotic disaster.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House. Jeremy, what's the White House saying?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, first of all, those comments by President Obama were a searing indictment of President Trump's handling of this coronavirus pandemic.

President Obama calling it an absolute chaotic disaster, and what Obama said was that he believes that this is because of Trump as being selfish and divisive. Listen to some of the former President's comments.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty, and it would have been bad even with the best of governments.

It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset of what's in it for me and to heck with everybody else, when that mindset is operationalized in our government.

(END AUDIO CLIP) DIAMOND: And the White House is now responding to those comments by

the former President saying, "President Trump's coronavirus response has been unprecedented and saved American lives." Tha's a comment from the White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany who also insisted that there has been bipartisan recognition of President Trump's leadership.

Now Obama, of course, is just the latest person to add his voice to a course of criticism that the Trump administration has faced for its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

And while some of that criticism, of course has been partisan, there's also been a lot of bipartisan criticism from Democrat and Republican governors alike, as well, of course as the response by some public health experts who continue to say this administration needs to get on top of that testing issue -- Ana.

CABRERA: Jeremy Diamond at the White House. Thank you.

I want to bring in Florida Democratic Congressman Donna Shalala. She was the former Health and Human Services Secretary under President Clinton and she currently sits on a congressional panel to oversee the administration's handling of the Federal Stimulus Package.

Congresswoman, thank you for taking the time this afternoon. Similar to Obama, who we just heard from, you have been critical of the President's coronavirus response.

But you did have some nice things to say about the Vice President. And I'm quoting you from yesterday, you said, "The President had gotten out of the way, the Vice President would have done just fine because he had just the right tone about working with state and local governments."

So do you believe the Vice President has been a strong leader in all of this?

REP. DONNA SHALALA (D-FL): Well, I think that he's had the right tone and put as much as he could the scientists in front, but the problem is, the President overwhelmed those press conferences with misinformation.

And the stories that came out were about the kind of quacky stuff that the President came out with, including drinking Lysol or whatever he was talking about, and pushing drugs that hadn't been tested.

But I thought that when the Vice President got up in front, while, he spent too much time talking about the President, he actually put the scientists in front and let them talk.

I personally think they should have gotten these briefings out of the White House into one of the healthcare agencies, preferably H.H.S., or N.I.H. or C.D.C. and just let us hear from the scientists.

Right now, we're in a scary situation, with states opening up and they're getting far in front of the science. The science -- go ahead. CABRERA: No, I just I just wonder, though, when you're talking about

the White House response, where the potential dysfunction is, given, you know, you talk about the Vice President's tone, but ultimately, can you really separate his response or that of any other member of this administration? Can you separate their response from the President's given, you know, they've basically been in lockstep.

SHALALA: Well, they basically have shifted everything to the states which is totally inappropriate, and actually the wrong thing to do, they should have taken responsibility for setting the standards and holding the states to those standards. The C.D.C. standards in particular.

[18:10:17]

SHALALA: This is not a situation in which one state can go off this way and another state could go off the other way. What happens in California clearly has an impact on what happens in Florida.

This disease is spreading across the country, including to rural areas. But the most important point I want to make is that this turning up the economy and letting people open up without paying attention to what the science and public health experts are saying, those workers need to be tested every week.

People need to wear masks and have proper equipment. The administration has not put in place a disciplined process. While I thought the Vice President did a nice job in putting the scientists in front. I'm not saying that this administration has its act together.

Tragically, it does not. It has not played the role that we expect the Federal government to play and that is it should have taken responsibility for getting all the PPE out and getting it distributed.

We've overpaid. We've competed with each other. The hospitals are competing with each other. The states are competing with each other. It's a mess.

And I am very frightened that opening up too soon without putting what the scientists say we have to put in place, not paying attention to whether the infections are going down for 14 days as opposed to leveling off is very dangerous in every community.

CABRERA: And we know this virus does not discriminate. Aides close to the President and the Vice President have now tested positive for the coronavirus.

I can only imagine the kind of precautions that would be taken around the President of the United States. And yet, we're still seeing a few cases within the West Wing. What does that tell you?

SHALALA: It tells you that we don't know enough about the virus, and that they can't prevent it from getting into the White House itself.

They can't prevent it from getting into every part of our country and that means that even the bubble of the White House can't keep this disease out and that's a very important point, because it means that even they can't keep the disease out, and if they can't, imagine the cost of opening up across the country businesses.

This is about life and death and we have to treat it with that level of concern and responsibility. I believe the states have provided some leadership, but the Federal government needs to do what it needs to do and every state has to be -- has to have the highest standard and that standard has to be set by the C.D.C. and by the scientific experts of our country, and no one is beating that standard yet, which means they're putting all of us at risk.

CABRERA: Well, let me ask you about what we've seen out of your State of Florida. Parts of that state have begun to reopen, barber shops and salons opening back up on Monday.

A man in South Beach Florida was caught on camera yelling "fake pandemic" to a police officer over wearing a mask. What is your message to your constituents who think this is a fake pandemic?

SHALALA: Well, it certainly isn't a fake pandemic and no one else believes that it's a fake pandemic. It's a real pandemic which is killing Americans and killing people all over the world and killing people in Florida, and if we open up without proper testing and proper social distancing and proper equipment, we do so not only at our own peril, but at the peril of our friends and neighbors who listen to government leaders.

And in this case, they're getting far ahead of what they need to put in place to properly open. And they're getting far ahead of what the science tells us. And that is, we have to have a downward trend for 14 days before we even consider gently opening up and then we have to test workers every week.

And we're just beginning to learn about what that testing will require, but we're not even close to having the testing capacity in this country to be able to really open up the economy in a serious way.

CABRERA: I don't think people want to hear what you had to say as far as that goes. It's obviously not the message people want to hear, but it is the reality of the situation. Congresswoman Donna Shalala. Thank you for taking the time.

[18:15:10]

SHALALA: Welcome.

CABRERA: Meanwhile, there is a new study that says blood thinners may help with severe coronavirus cases. Our medical experts are here to explain that next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: It has been widely believed that children are primarily spared from the coronavirus or at least it's more severe symptoms, but there are worrying signs that might not be true. I want to bring in Infectious Disease specialist with Memorial Sloan

Kettering in New York, Dr. Kent Sepkowitz and emergency physician at Brown University, Dr. Megan Ranney.

Dr. Ranney, you know initially doctors thought children were less vulnerable when it comes to COVID-19. But now we have this new reporting of inflammatory symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome that is turning up in connection, it seems to COVID-19 in children. Why might this virus be impacting children this way?

[18:20:07]

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, LIFESPAN/BROWN UNIVERSITY: So we know that kids are not just little adults, Ana, and as a parent as well, as a doctor, I certainly know well that the disease affect my children differently from how they affect me or my parents.

There are a whole host of diseases that cause different symptoms in kids, and it's actually relatively common for infectious diseases like strep or other viruses to cause these kind of post inflammatory syndromes in children.

They are rare. We don't see a lot of them overall, but we do know that infections can cause these types of syndromes.

What's different here is that we had thought until really recently that COVID-19, like you said, didn't really affect kids. So, this is scary for us, again, both as parents and doctors.

But we are hoping that with more science, we will identify why it happens, and then have better treatments for it. But I suspect that it's largely due to those differences in the immune system that cause those other syndromes and kids as well.

CABRERA: So, as a parent yourself, what are you keeping an eye out for?

RANNEY: So, as a parent myself, the first and most important thing is to keep my kids safe from COVID-19. So, to follow those same precautions that we've been seeing over and over -- wear a mask when you're out and about, social distancing, wash your hands, don't touch your face, right?

So, if we can keep them from getting COVID-19, that's the best thing. And then after that, if my kid did get sick, I would watch for four or more days of fever, I would watch for signs of more serious disease like changes in their lips or tongue, discoloration of their toes or of their fingers, or of course, other scary things like having trouble breathing or vomiting a lot, not acting like themselves.

But the biggest thing is if your kid has a fever and it lasts for more than four days, certainly call your doctor or come in to see us in the ER.

CABRERA: Dr. Sepkowitz, I just want to get your take on this. Can you think of another virus that infects adults and children so differently? This feels so odd.

DR. KENT SEPKOWITZ, DEPUTY PHYSICIAN-IN-CHIEF FOR QUALITY AND SAFETY, MEMORIAL SLOAN KETTERING: It feels very odd. Most of the viruses that cause severe illness in kids, we don't get a second time. In other words, you only have one shot at measles. You only have one shot at something like coxsackie.

So, they get over it. You're immune so we don't see it in adults. This one is very weird. I would echo Dr. Ranney as a parent, you know, this is alarming. This is seems like it's another case of too much inflammation.

Inflammation is a good thing when you have this much. It can be a devastating and destructive thing if you have too much, and for some reason and corona -- COVID is making inflammation go haywire in certain people. It's very alarming.

CABRERA: Dr. Sepkowitz, there's a new study that finds blood thinners may help patients with severe COVID-19 infections.

Starting in March, some patients at Mount Sinai in New York City were given anti-clotting drugs. They found that 29 percent of patients on ventilators who were given these blood thinners died compared to 63 percent of patients on ventilators who were not given the blood thinners.

How could they help patients with coronavirus?

SEPKOWITZ: We know that people with corona and especially those who are hospitalized in ICUs throw a lot of blood clots to their lungs. It's a common complication for anyone in a hospital bed and especially in an ICU.

What's unusual here and what is provocative, although, I think that the jury is still very much out, as always, for a retrospective study, I know we sound like broken records and we cast aspersions on retrospective studies.

But what's unusual here is they opted to treat not for prevention of clot, but with the double dose, big guns, treatment dose for clot even though they hadn't demonstrably shown it. So, that was an interesting thing to do. It came out of observations from Italy where they were doing it routinely.

And as you say, it might be something. My hunch, though, is that the decision to start the treatment, the double dose went toward healthier looking people for whom that aggressive treatment would be likely safe, and that they avoided giving it to the less healthy looking people who were fated to have another outcome.

CABRERA: Okay, and there's another study I want to ask you about, Dr. Ranney, this is out of Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and it found patients who were taking common heartburn medicine, while hospitalized for COVID-19 are more than twice as likely to survive the infection.

It's a small study, a more robust clinical trial is underway, but what's your read on this?

RANNEY: So, Ana, I think this is going to be one of dozens, if not hundreds of studies that we're going to see come out in the next month or two, with really exciting and provocative ideas on things that may make a difference.

These studies are so important. They show that science is working, but it is too early to call this a game changer.

Just like that other study we were just talking about around blood clots, this study basically watched people. We don't know why some people were on this medicine, famotidine, versus why they weren't. So, there might have been other factors that changed their course.

[18:25:32]

RANNEY: We have to wait for that randomized control trial to have a definitive answer as to whether this drug makes a difference.

But to me, the biggest thing that I can take away from it is encouragement that scientists and researchers across the country are doing what we're supposed to do, which is to try our best to find treatments so that we can stop or decrease the effect of this virus on patients and on American communities.

CABRERA: Dr. Megan Ranney and Dr. Kent Sepkotwitz, thank you both very much, and be well and early Happy Mother's Day to you, Dr. Ranney.

You know, we already know of two people working in the White House this week who tested positive, the President's Personal valet and the Vice President's Press Secretary.

The head of the FDA is also self-quarantining. We are just getting some breaking news now about another senior government official, who is also going into quarantine.

We'll have it on the backside of this break. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:59]

CABRERA: Breaking news, The Washington Post is reporting that the Director of the CDC, Robert Redfield, will self-quarantine after 'low risk exposure' to someone at the White House who tested positive for coronavirus.

Let's get right to CNN's Jeremy Diamond at the White House with the latest. Jeremy, all this comes after we know of a couple of people who are working in the White House who tested positive this past week the President's personal valet and the Vice President's press secretary.

DIAMOND: That's exactly right. And what we are learning right now, according to The Washington Post is that Dr. Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control that he will be teleworking for the next two weeks, apparently. Meaning, that he will be self-quarantining for two weeks according to a spokesman who spoke with The Post.

This happened after he came into contact with someone at the White House who tested positive for coronavirus. It's not clear exactly who that person is, but as you mentioned we know of at least two White House officials who have tested positive in the last week. At one of the President's Personal valets who was a Navy official as well as Katie Miller who is the Vice President's spokeswoman.

Now, what we do know, according to a senior White House official, is that the White House had been conducting contact tracing after Katie Miller tested positive. Meaning checking on any individual who may have come into contact with her. What's not clear is whether there is a uniform policy at the White House or being directed by the White House to other administration officials who have come into contact with Katie Miller or with this presidential valet as far as self quarantining is concerned.

We know now that Dr. Redfield will self quarantine for two weeks. Yesterday, we learned that the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Stephen Hahn, that he would also self quarantine for the next two weeks after coming into contact with a White House official who tested positive for coronavirus.

But again, it's not clear at this point whether there is a kind of uniform policy being directed by the White House. I did ask the White House for comments. The Deputy White House Press Secretary, Judd Deere, declined to say whether or not there was such a uniform policy or support confirmed the Dr. Redfield is quarantining.

But he did say that the President's physician and White House operations are working to ensure safety at the White House and to ensure that everyone is healthy. And that protocol is being changed to ensure that individuals who come into contact with the President or the Vice President are now being tested daily. Previously, most individuals were being tested on a weekly basis, that has now changed to a day by day basis.

But again, we have reached out for comment to the CDC to confirm this news about Dr. Redfield and we'll get back to you as soon as we have that, Ana.

CABRERA: OK. That sounds good. Keep us posted Jeremy Diamond at the White House. Thanks.

Now, as the coronavirus pandemic upends the economic norms of supply and demand, America's farmers are now having to dump crops, pour out milk, even euthanize animals. The President of the National Farmers Union will join us next to discuss.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:38:23]

CABRERA: President Trump announcing just a short time ago some relief for farming and ranching families who are watching their livelihoods disappear. The President tweeted this afternoon, "Starting early next week, at my order, the U.S.A. will be purchasing from our Farmers, Ranchers & Specialty Crop Growers, $3 billion worth of Dairy, Meat & Produce for Food Lines & Kitchens. 'FARMERS TO FAMILY FOOD BOX' Great news for all."

Now, he's talking about a plan announced last month by the Agriculture Department and it addresses a very strange paradox that this pandemic created when it comes to the nation's food supply. In some parts of the country, people are waiting in food donation lines for the first time in their lives. In other parts of the country, there's so much surplus food that farmers have to destroy crops and make tough decisions about the animals they raise for market.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is in Minnesota farm country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Alex Hoehm is a sixth generation farmer. He, his wife, and his father are proud hog farmers, who are getting ready for a traumatizing experience.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX HOEHM, HOG FARMER: I'd never imagined having to do this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN (voice-over): What they are going to do is a result of a closing of American pork plants. There is no place for these pigs to go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: Each of these hogs should have been out of here two to three weeks ago, sent to market. But it looks like they never will, so the decision has been made to humanely euthanize most, if not all, of them. And that will happen as early as this week.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN(voice over): All of this Minnesota family's fully grown pigs go to market to one particular pork plant in South Dakota.

[18:40:02]

But the Smithfield facility in Sioux Falls was shut down in the middle of April, with more than 800 employee COVID cases linked to it.

With so many plants closed and such a backlog of pigs, some of which weigh up to 340 pounds, the Hoehm family is desperate. Before COVID- 19, they would typically send off about 700 hogs every week. They say they now have about 3,500 ready to go and nowhere to send them.

And these are the family's baby pigs. About 3,000 of them, in an overcrowded nursery barn that usually has around 2,400. The fully grown pigs being euthanized by gunshot will leave room for these little ones as they get bigger, but the babies could face the same fate in a few months.

Doc Hoehm is the patriarch of the family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOC HOEHM, FARMER: We put down sick pigs, because you feel sorry for them. But have a healthy pig, and have to take a rifle and shoot it, it's unreal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN(voice-over): This family is saddened, but they are also financially stress. They say what's made this all worse is their government.

D HOEHM: These trade wars for the last three years had just killed us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN(voice over): The Hoehms and many other hog farmers say they are desperate for federal assistance.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREA HOEHM, HOG FARMER: If we don't get help, I truly think that we are looking at bankruptcy. That this is going to be the end of our family farm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN(voice-over): Even if every shut down pork plant opened quickly, with all the employees coming back to work, which is not about to happen, including in South Dakota, where Smithfield reopened Monday with less than one tenth of its original employees, many farmers say there are just way too many hogs backed up in the pipeline.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

A HOEHM: And there's just a lot of people that will not survive this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN(voice-over): Does this family see any realistic chance in avoiding financial ruin?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

A HOEHM: No, but I'm surviving solely on hope.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN(voice over): That may not be enough.

Gary Tuchman, CNN Waseca, Minnesota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: I want to talk to someone now who knows full well what those farming families are going through this weekend. Rob Larew is the President of the National Farmers Union, the group that represents the interests of American farmers and ranchers in Washington.

Rob, that was so heartbreaking to see the man in that report, a farmer shedding tears because of his painful decision to kill hundreds of perfectly healthy pigs because he has nowhere to sell them or keep them. Is his case the exception right now or are there a lot more families making those same tough decisions?

ROB LAREW, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FARMERS UNION: Unfortunately, it is being repeated among many farm families right now. Certainly a lot of the pressure is on hog - in hogs in particular with the pressure in the backup right there. But we're seeing exactly the same kind of emotional toll and stress put on our cattle ranchers, dairy producers.

And I think one of the things that was highlighted in that piece also is the fact that for many of these farmers, they've been facing financial pressures from weather disasters, trade wars over the last three years. So coming into this pandemic with these pressures and new challenges is really making the stress incredibly hard to bear.

CABRERA: As agonizing as it is to see perfectly good crops plowed under and healthy animals euthanized, can that food be donated or somehow sent to parts of the country where people cannot afford groceries right now?

LAREW: Yes. So farmers are working hard to try to connect a lot of the surplus product there with food banks. There's a lot of coordination also with USDA now for those kinds of purchases. But that has taken some time to work its way through.

With the hog processing and the beef processing, that takes a little bit longer, right, because we also want to ensure worker safety right there. So these plants being closed and the concentration and so few plants out there really one of the fundamental problems that we're seeing. We have a lot of concentration in the ag markets that hopefully we can resolve on the other side of this.

CABRERA: The President just tweeted about this program to buy fresh produce and dairy and meat. Are you heartened by that? Is it enough? What do you see as the impact?

LAREW: We're certainly encouraged. There's a lot of attention being given right now to not only get the bottlenecks in the system flowing, but also to buy a product where possible so that those who are hungry right now and needing food can certainly get it. Those issues are going to be done. We'll certainly have plenty of food. It's really this conundrum of making sure that we connect the food to those that need it right now.

In terms of assistance, though, this is going to take a Herculean effort to get farmers the help that they need and keep them on the farms. We have a lot of pressure and it's going to take a lot of help.

[18:44:57]

CABRERA: So can you just, I guess, really drill down as to where the bottlenecks are and how this is so different than normal times for folks when we talk about pigs being slaughtered and milk being dumped - with milk being dumped, that doesn't appear to be an issue of manpower or is it?

LAREW: Well, I think one of the fundamental challenges here is not really at the farm level. It's the fact that we have been working to consolidate the meat industry in many ways all in the interest of efficiency and with a very efficient program. But right now we have so few companies we have for beef plants or sorry four beef companies that control about 86 percent of the production and three pork facilities or companies rather that represent about 63 percent of that industry.

So as a result of that have so few places for folks to send their product to, to get it processed. And so with this virus came through and workers became sick, those places had to shut down. And that then had the backlog through there.

I think really, if there was any positive here is the fact that those that are selling either into regional markets and more independent places, those farmers who are selling directly to consumers, that is where some bright spot is and that's probably what we need to do to make a more resilient food system here in the country.

CABRERA: Have the safety issues at these plants that are now forced to be opened, have those safety concerns been adequately addressed?

LAREW: Well, when the President announced his executive order to reopen these plants, one of our primary concerns, certainly from our perspective, was the worker safety. We didn't want as much as we needed to make sure that those plants were operational so that farmers could deliver the animals, we, of course, wanted to make sure that workers were saved.

We understand that many of them are starting to come back online. Some of them though with half production are less in order to ensure that safety. We'll have to wait to make sure, but again, worker safety is paramount to being able to make the system work. If we had more plants, smaller regional plants, again, I think that's what we're looking at in the future to make sure that we kind of decentralized this to make a stronger food system.

CABRERA: All right. Rob Larew, thank you for helping us understand how this all works and what's going on.

LAREW: Thank you.

CABRERA: We appreciate it.

Two quick programming notes for you, join CNN's Jake Tapper as he investigates what really happened during the U.S. fight against COVID- 19. CNN SPECIAL REPORT The Pandemic & The President airs tonight at 10 Eastern.

And next Sunday, a new CNN film uncovers the dirty truth on America's largest tabloid, the National Enquirer and how it got the scoop on scandal. The CNN FILM SCANDALOUS airs on Sunday, May 17th at 10pm Eastern. We'll be right back.

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CABRERA: Finally, this evening, remembering the self-proclaimed architect of rock 'n' roll, Little Richard. Here's George Howell.

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George HOWELL (VOICE OVER): Little Richard changed the course of rock 'n' roll history with that iconic song. He sang Tutti-Frutti with raw inhibition and it became a hit.

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LITTLE RICHARD, SINGER: When I started in the business, I've never heard rock 'n' roll music before.

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HOWELL (VOICE OVER): The singer who inspired the evolution of rock 'n' roll was born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Georgia in 1932. Even though his roots were deeply planted in gospel music, Little Richard signed with specialty records in 1955 and began his incredible journey to becoming a rock 'n' roll icon.

During the '50s Little Richard made several more hit songs including Long Tall Sally, Good Golly Miss Molly and Lucille.

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RICHARD: I always thought that I would be a star.

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HOWELL (VOICE OVER): A star he certainly was. Little Richard even landed a part in the musical comedy The Girl Can't Help It in 1956. His flamboyant persona captivated audiences and his soulful voice paired with his piercing screams made him a household name.

However, at the height of his stardom, the self-proclaimed architect of rock 'n' roll quit the music business. He became an ordained minister and traveled across the country as an evangelist and recorded gospel music between 1959 and 1963.

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RICHARD: I went through those different periods, but I've always loved rock 'n' roll.

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HOWELL (VOICE OVER): During the late '60s and '70s, Little Richard returned to the spotlight and began recording rock and roll once again. His influence on many unknown artists at the time proved to be invaluable.

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RICHARD: The Beatles was with me, they started with me, James Brown was my vocalist, Jimi Hendrix was my guitar player, 18 years old.

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HOWELL (VOICE OVER): For a period of time, Little Richard lived the wild life of a rocker, but he never lost his faith. In 1985, the 52 year old singer was involved in a car accident in Los Angeles and thank God for saving his life.

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RICHARD: Everything else is secondary to have God, oh, glory to God.

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HOWELL (VOICE OVER): He experienced a career resurgence in the '80s after landing a coveted role in Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Then, Little Richard became one of the first icons to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

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RICHARD: I'm just glad to be alive at this time. I'm glad to be in Cleveland. I'm glad that I am the originator. I'm glad that I'm the architect of rock 'n' roll. I'm glad that God have seen (inaudible).

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HOWELL (VOICE OVER): In 1993, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences awarded the Fiery Performer with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Little Richard, the showman, performed well into his twilight years.

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CABRERA: That was George Howell reporting. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for joining me and Happy Mother's Day to all of the moms out there this weekend. Wolf Blitzer in a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM is next. Good night.