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U.S. Cases Surpass 1.2 Million, More Than 77,000 Deaths; At Least 47 States Will Be Partially Reopened By Tomorrow; Obama Delivers Harshest Criticism Yet Of Trump Administration; A.G. Barr Defends Dropping Flynn Case: "I'm Doing The Law's Bidding"; Two Children Die After Showing Inflammatory Syndrome Symptoms Potentially Linked Virus; VP Pence's Press Secretary Tests Positive For COVID-19. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 9, 2020 - 08:00   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, the Korean Baseball Organization had its opening day Tuesday. Just like soccer no fans. But get this, sports fans here in the U.S. are so starved for content that ESPN has started airing Korean games in the mornings six days a week. So you have something to watch there.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. You get some there. Next hour of your new day starts right now.



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The worst jobs report in American history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think at first it's not going to last very long, but then once you realize you're not going back to work for a while it's pretty heartbreaking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The coronavirus now spreading to the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I'm not worried. No, I'm not worried. We've taken very strong precautions at the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: New fallout this morning over the Justice Department's sudden move to drop the case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.

WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: A crime cannot be established here.


PAUL: Well, we want to welcome you and wish you a good Saturday morning here whether you're in the United States or around the world, we hope you're safe and happy and we are always grateful for your company. BLACKWELL: Always a pleasure to be with you. This morning let's start with the numbers, because they tell the story of this fight against coronavirus. 77,000 people more than have died in this country from the virus and there are more than 1.2 million cases.

PAUL: There's also more than 70 cases of children getting seriously sick from complications possibly linked to coronavirus and that's under investigation in New York right now. Health officials there say the condition caused the death of a five-year-old and a seven-year- old. Governor Andrew Cuomo says this could "open up an entirely different chapter."

BLACKWELL: So as we're learning more about this virus, 47 states will be partially open by tomorrow. Today, more restrictions are easing in five states, one of them Rhode Island where retail shops can now open with restrictions

PAUL: And two positive cases of Coronavirus among White House staff this week. So, look, no workplace is immune here. The Press Secretary for Vice President Mike Pence just tested positive yesterday.

BLACKWELL: A lot to get through this morning. We're going to start though with what we're hearing from former President Barack Obama, some of the criticism of the Trump administration.

PAUL: Yes, CNN, Kristen Holmes is at the White House. Kristen, walk us through what he said.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi and Victor. Well, this is the harshest criticism we have heard from the former president of the current administration. It really gives us a little bit of insight into what the former president's role might be in campaigning for Joe Biden as we get closer and closer to that November election.

Now, these remarks were made on a private call with the Obama Alumni Association, which is essentially former administration workers under Obama. And the audio was obtained by Yahoo News and confirmed by CNN.

And the former president had a lot to say, particularly when it came to Michael Flynn. Michael Flynn, being President Trump's former national security adviser who pled guilty to lying to the FBI back in 2018. Earlier this week, the Department of Justice decided to drop those charges. The decision that the former president slammed saying it looked like the rule of law was at risk. Take a lesson.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): And the fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury getting off scot free. That's the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic - not just institutional norms, but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: And two things to note about this, the first being that the

President seems to have misspoke there - former President Obama. Flynn did not plead guilty to perjury. He did plead guilty to lying to the FBI that wasn't under oath.

And one other thing that sometimes becomes forgotten in all of this is that Flynn worked for President Obama. He served as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency under the Obama administration. And in fact, the former President warned current President Trump at the time not to hire Flynn, one of those things - many things that President Trump did not heed him on.

BLACKWELL: Kristen, tell us what the former President said about the administration's handling of a pandemic.

HOLMES: Well, Victor, all of this was couched in a sort of look at why the former President believes Joe Biden is needs to win in November so you can hear the political tent there. But he called it an "absolute chaotic disaster," meaning the Trump administration's response to coronavirus. Take a listen.



OBAMA (via telephone): What we're going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party, but what we're fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy, that has become a stronger impulse in American life. And by the way, you know, we're seeing that internationally as well.

And 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.


HOLMES: So, of course, we'll be looking into seeing whether or not this is just the beginning of the former President becoming really involved in that campaigning of Joe Biden.

I do want to note that these remarks come after a particularly chaotic week here at the White House as the Trump administration was really encouraging states to reopen, two members of the staff here, people close to both the President and Vice President testing positive for coronavirus.

PAUL: All right, Kristen Holmes we so appreciate you. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in CNN Political Analyst Margaret Talev. She's also a Politics and White House Editor at Axios. Margaret, good morning to you. Let's start with - and I think Kristen offers the appropriate context here. We are now moving into a general election, for all intents and purposes. What's the potency of these comments in that context?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, Victor, good morning. Look, President Obama's still tremendously popular figure who carries a lot of sway, not just within the Democratic Party, but within certain blocks that are really essential to helping Vice President Biden - voters of color, younger voters.

And don't forget, he was also a constitutional law professor, I think legitimately he does care about these issues and speak out about them with some personal experience. But he can be tremendously influential in motivating the base and then helping with rallying another important group for the Vice President, that's donors.

We're seeing this Alumni Association and this loose collection of thousands of people who have worked for President Obama in the past at the White House or through his campaigns come together.

And I think we're going to look at this to be a vehicle not just for internal discussions, but when you tell hundreds or a couple thousand people on a phone call what you think it's not exactly going to be a secret for long. So this is a way for President Obama to communicate without directly going out to Twitter or doing a television hit.

PAUL: So I want to ask you about the Michael Flynn case, because former President Obama had said, "the rule of law is at risk," that's a quote. I want to listen here to how Attorney General Bill Barr defended his decision.



WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, you know, people sometimes plead to things that turn out not to be crimes.

HERRIDGE: What should Americans take away from your actions in the Flynn case today?

BARR: I want to make sure that we restore confidence in this system. There's only one standard of justice.


PAUL: How do they do that, Margaret?

TALEV: How does he restore confidence in the justice system? This is now a highly politicized issue and I believe that it will be through the end of the election year. And, look, you have a number of Justice Department officials who are completely apolitical or have - leave their political preferences at the door.

You've had some members of the Justice Department quit, many members of the Justice Department raised concerns, not just over this action, but in recent months. So I think this will continue to be up for discussion. But the truth is that it has always been true that presidents and attorneys' general have a lot of leeway in terms of what to focus on and where to take these cases. And this is where the Attorney General stands now, what President Obama is doing, what I think we'll see Joe Biden do as the presumptive Democratic nominee going forward, is to raise these issues that they believe they can argue should galvanize voters at the polls.

PAUL: All right, Margaret Talev, so grateful to have you with us today. Thank you. I want to shift here to this rare new illness that's related to coronavirus and it's just showing up in New York.


The health department there says at least two children died after experiencing symptoms consistent with an inflammatory condition, Victor.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is with us. Evan, tell us what you've learned about this condition and the potential connection to coronavirus.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, look, everyone knows the story of COVID-19 at this point. It's something that we have been covering as affecting older people, weaker people who are adults and people with immune deficiencies.

But over the past couple of days the governor has started talking about some children in the area being affected by this disease and tragically two boys under 10 yesterday dying. Now one of the major hospitals here in the area, caution this is a very, very rare condition, according to the hospital, but that is now under investigation. And the governor now telling families that if some of their children experience some of those symptoms that we talked about and adults, that they should call their doctors right away.

BLACKWELL: Evan McMorris-Santoro for us there in New York. Thanks, Evan.

PAUL: Want to bring in Dr. Jane Newburger now. She's the Director for the Kawasaki Disease Program at Boston Children's Hospital. Doctor, thank you for being with us.

I want to point out to everybody listening that the reason we're talking to you is because the conditions and the symptoms that they're talking about that some of these kids have been suffering in New York, are very relatable to or very similar to Kawasaki disease.

We're talking about high temperatures that last five days with a rash, swollen neck glands, dry cracked lips, swelling of the hands and feet, redness in both eyes - just so people understand. But this is being described as a pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome. So, again, just to clarify, these two children that have died, they did not have Kawasaki disease. Is that correct?

DR. JANE NEUBERGER, DIRECTOR, KAWASAKI DISEASE PROGRAM, BOSTON CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: My understanding - and I haven't seen the exact information on those children, but we believe that they have the new pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which is associated with COVID-19.

And that syndrome includes fever, inflammation, one or more organs that don't work well and then other clinical and lab findings that show that the body is extremely inflamed. It can look a little bit like Kawasaki disease or a lot like traditional Kawasaki disease, but the children with a new inflammatory syndrome tend to be a little bit older, in general, and also extremely sick in many instances. Although, you can be that sick with Kawasaki disease, it's somewhat more rare in traditional old fashioned Kawasaki disease,

PAUL: OK. So this is linked to COVID. This much we know. At what point - because this has been characterized as treatable, but deadly - Kawasaki disease itself has. But with this new inflammation syndrome that we're seeing, at what point would parents know I have to get my kid to the ER?

NEUBERGER: Well, I would say that every parent has a sixth sense that some illnesses, particularly over the threshold of what they usually see, if a child has a high fever is extremely sick with that fever. It's somewhat persistent and they have any of the associated signs or symptoms.

By the way, diarrhea and vomiting are quite common with a new inflammatory syndrome, sometimes rash, sometimes red eyes, and sometimes the child may be very lethargic and seem - seeming especially unwell. If a parent is concerned, he or she should call their pediatrician or seek medical attention.

PAUL: OK, so I went to bed last night there were 64 cases, I woke up this morning, and there are 73 cases and two deaths. So does this appear, best as you can tell, to be affecting children randomly or are there certain children who are vulnerable?

NEUBERGER: That's an excellent question. We do think that it's - this new syndrome is likely to represent an immune reaction, and that each of us has a different flavor of immune system. Individuals who are affected predisposed to react with this inflammatory syndrome are the ones who are getting sick, we believe.


We need more research to understand what aspects of the genetic constitution of an individual child is most subject. It's interesting also that at least in one publication in "The Lancet" from England, that it does seem that children in that series of Afro-Caribbean heritage, were more prone, and we'll have to see if that holds.

PAUL: OK. Dr. Jane Neuberger, we so appreciate your expertise. Thank you for taking time for us this morning.

NEUBERGER: Thank you. Thanks.

BLACKWELL: A reminder this morning that no workplace is immune from the impact of this virus, not even with the White House. Ahead, what we know about the latest positive case coming from the West Wing.

Also Dallas salon owner who was sentenced to jail time for violating the state's lockdown order, she's been released.

Also the Texas Lieutenant Governor has paid her fine. And you're going to hear from the top county official who ordered her to close. He'll be with us.



BLACKWELL: Welcome back. We know that testing is going to play a big role in making sure that we're all safe when everything reopens. The first example of that is the White House and aide to the Vice President has now tested positive there.

Yes, CNN's Sarah Westwood is with us. Sarah, what do we know if anything has changed at the White House because of this?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Christi, certainly the White House is taking Steps to respond to yesterday what President Trump confirmed was a positive case of Coronavirus from Pence's Press Secretary, Katie Miller. She tested positive yesterday, just one day after her results had come back negative.

Now White House officials performed contact tracing with everyone who had been close to Miller over the past few days. That includes her husband Stephen Miller, a top Trump administration official also - thankfully, all of those results came back negative.

But a senior administration official tells CNN the White House is taking key steps to respond to this that includes more frequent cleanings of White House spaces and also stepping up testing and stepping up temperature checks throughout the White House - throughout the West Wing.

CNN reported earlier this week that compliance with mask and social distancing guidelines inside the White House or the White House complex was actually pretty low. We should note that President Trump himself, Vice President Mike Pence himself they have not personally been wearing masks in public.

In fact, President Trump of the White House yesterday to hold an event the same day that that aide tested positive and Miller was not the only White House official this week alone to come back with positive results. Also a personal attendant of the President, a valet tested positive as well as Ivanka Trump's personal assistant. Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Sarah Westwood for us in Washington. Thank you, Sarah.

PAUL: Thanks, Sarah. So the Coronavirus as you know, it's ravaged the U.S. economy. 20.5 million jobs were lost just in April. That's nearly 10 years of job growth wiped out in a month BLACKWELL: The unemployment rate at now 14.7 percent, a number we haven't seen since the Great Depression. CNN, Alison Kosik is with us. Clear evidence here of the stress on workers, the stress on the economy, but expected after what we've watched for the last several weeks.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi and Victor Yes, this is the expected outcome that that was going to happen when you shut down businesses, when you press pause on economies, you get millions of jobs lost. And that's what we saw in April, more than 20 million jobs gone. And there was no build up to this.

This happened in a matter of weeks and is by far the most sudden and deepest downturn that we've ever seen for the U.S. economy since the government began tracking these numbers. Meantime, unemployment rising to 14.7 percent. That's the highest rate we've seen since the Great Depression.

And as awful as these numbers are, they actually don't even capture the true picture of the damage done to the U.S. economy, because the government's definition of unemployment typically requires the person to be actively looking for work. And, clearly, that's not possible in the middle of a lockdown, so those people weren't even counted.

Now, where we saw the biggest job loss is hospitality and leisure. That sector losing 7.7 million jobs in April, retail losing 2.1 million. And even as hospitals struggled with the influx of patients coming in, we saw the healthcare sector lose 1.2 million jobs. Those jobs were for physicians who deal with outpatient services and dental offices as well. Christi and Victor?

PAUL: Yes, Alison, what else was striking was the numerical breakdown by way of race and gender. What did they find there?

KOSIK: Yes, we are seeing historic joblessness in minority populations and among women as well. The unemployment rate for black workers jumping to 16.7 percent; Latino workers, 18.7 percent; Asians, 14.5 percent; and that's versus whites at 14 percent. Women losing 11.9 million jobs. That's versus 10.4 million jobs lost by men.

And we're looking at these numbers, because they stand out, because we did see minorities make strides in the 10-year expansion since the Great Recession and it really was a bright spot in the economy, actually a talking point for President Trump.

I want to give you a glimmer of hope there before I go, because of the more than 20 million Americans who filed for unemployment, who lost their jobs in April, the vast majority of them --18 million - were counted as temporary jobs and so that could be a sign that when these businesses reopen, they can just slip back into their jobs.


But the problem is if these businesses shut down or these businesses restructure the amount of employees that they need, we could see these temporary layoffs turn into permanent ones. And clearly Christi and Victor that is something we do not want to see and that is something we're only going to know as time passes. Back to you.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Alison, we saw the filing - just last week, the additional numbers of people filing for unemployment benefits. How high of an unemployment rate do experts expect will reach as this goes on?

KOSIK: We did hear an administration official say we could see the unemployment rate reach 25 percent in May. That would clearly be shocking, but not unexpected considering the amount of people who've been laid off.

BLACKWELL: Oh, 20 percent.

PAUL: My goodness. Alison Kosik, thank you so much for walking us through that. And we want to give you at least some sense of good news. That is news that maybe you can put to good use here, because we know millions of people are laid off or furloughed during the pandemic.

There are some companies that are hiring, though. Dollar Tree, for example, plans to hire more than 25,000 new workers. That's according to its Web site. CNN has reached out to Dollar Tree for more information. You can visit the Dollar Tree website though in the meantime,

BLACKWELL: Yes, Netflix is hiring too. It's hiring about 200 people. This is globally. 100 roles in Southern California, Salt Lake City area. According to Netflix, the open jobs focus on production and platform engineering and technical operations. So if that's what you do, and you need a job, check that out. Go to our website for more on who's hiring right now.

So states across the country, easing some restrictions, some people are getting back to work. Well, take a look at how businesses are moving forward safely.



BLACKWELL: Well, the pandemic continues, but business owners are hoping that they're on the cusp of changing their trend and shoring up some future for their businesses.

PAUL: Yes, we hope that, because there are millions - literally millions of you out of work, and they're even more that maybe had their hours cut or their pay cut, so they're struggling to pay bills, even if they do have a job. CNN's Natasha Chen spoke to some business owners who are cautiously optimistic about their state's reopening.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By the end of the weekend, all but three states--


CHEN (voice-over): --will have eased quarantine restrictions in some way, even in one's hard hit Rhode Island where the governor said Friday, her state will be the first in the Northeast to lift a stay at home order.

GOV. GINA RAIMONDO (D-RI): If you look at the facts on the ground, the data on the ground we're doing better. And so therefore we're in a better position, so we can start to lift our restrictions a little bit sooner.

CHEN (voice-over): Restrictions are lifting from coast to coast. In North Carolina, retail stores have reopened, but at 50 percent capacity. In Delaware, stores can now offer curbside pickup. That goes for California as well restores can also now deliver just in time to send flowers for Mother's Day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For me as a small shop, I'm not going to let anybody in, but at least I can operate, cannot just open everything, because we will have a second wave and then we will go back to square one.

CHEN (voice-over): San Francisco has decided to keep businesses closed until May 18th, but the rest of the State has some businesses reopening with modifications

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay out of the politics of - I need to open. We're ready.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what we have right now for takeout.

CHEN (voice-over): Nevada and Alaska have now joined more than a dozen states to resume dine in service and restaurants with restrictions. People can also now get a drink at a bar in Alaska at 25 percent capacity.

In Arizona, people can get their hair cut by appointment only. Same for Texas with owners eager to open their doors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything is ready and my clients are more than ready. Everything. I lost everything. Destroyed my business, I lost my business, that's what it has done.

CHEN (voice-over): In Iowa, people can go back to the dentist's, go to campgrounds, the drive in movies and tanning facilities following special guidelines. Tennessee now joins Georgia in allowing people to go to bowling alleys. Pennsylvania is taking a county by county approach to reopening. Welcome news for this chocolatier in the town of Williamsport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're hoping that the people, especially those who are, let's say under age 60 come out more, because again, they - they need to just get out I think.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PAUL: And thank you so much to Natasha Chen, and gosh, best of luck to

all of you out there who are really trying to just keep it together right now. I know it's hard.

BLACKWELL: Yes, let's go to Texas, where they have now begun phase two of reopening, that's despite a growing number of COVID-19 cases. This weekend, hair salons and barbershops and nail salons and tanning salons are open. And Dallas County officials reporting more than 230 cases - this is for the six consecutive days - last six consecutive days this week.

The Clay County Judge - County Judge I should say Clay Jenkins noted that hospitalizations and intensive care unit occupancy were not on the decline. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins joins us now. Judge thanks so much for being with us.

Victor thanks for having me.

BLACKWELL: So I read that you had a day this week that tide as it relates to deaths, the high of the entire pandemic. And do you disagree with opening at all or just what's opening first?

c: Well, it's what's opening first. So if you look at what the scientists say both at the CDC level and here locally at our teaching and University Hospitals, we're looking - we need to look for a 14 day decline and then we can open.


But the first things you open are not movie theaters as our Governors say. You follow those models that have worked in the countries that have - where it has worked, and then all the medical journals are pushing you towards, which is the lower contact businesses first. And the higher group settings like worship and churches is somewhere down the line. Luckily, even though the governor's open them, most of the houses of worship and movies here in Dallas, are not opening.

BLACKWELL: So why are we seeing this surge specifically in Dallas County? Let me say one of the largest counties in the country - 2.6 million people. Is this, are you seeing a larger percentage of positives? Or is this just part of an increase of testing across the county?

JENKINS: It's hard to know exactly how much testing we have. We believe it's a larger percentage of positives. What we know is we can look at the hospitalizations, we can see that those go up and then flatten. And so we're not seeing that decline there. So we're looking at hospitalizations, emergency room visits, deaths, of course, and ICU admissions, because those can't be disputed by naysayers as easily as testing here

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about Shelley Luther. She's the salon owner in Dallas who refused to close despite the state order to do so. You sent her a cease and desist letter. She ripped that up at a news conference. Another judge sentenced to seven days in jail, $7,000 fine. The state Supreme Court ordered her release and then the Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick tweeted this. "Seven days in jail. No bail and a $7,000 fine is outrageous. No surprise Texans are responding.

I'm covering the $7,000 fine, she had to pay and I volunteer to be placed under house arrest, so she can go to work and feed her kids." What do you take from this episode? And what do you believe the lesson is for the people of Dallas County?

JENKINS: Well, I think the lesson is that the politics in this instance will trump science. So Dan Patrick is the most powerful Republican in Texas. He is to the right of Governor Abbott slightly and Governor Abbott originally had call this person, encouraged her to close her salon.

When she refused to do so he refused to let her out of jail. Dan Patrick and the Tea Party jumped on Abbott and probably within 12 or 13 hours he had completely changed his position and attempted to pardon her.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you broadly about some of these - the orders. You, there in Dallas County, among the first in the state to order face coverings when going into essential businesses, working at those places as well, also on public transportation, a violation was potentially punishable by $1,000 fine.

You said that fines would not be issue. If there's no consequences for a business owner who refuses to close, if there's no consequence for not wearing a face mask, what's the point of these orders?

JENKINS: Well, there is - there are consequences for employees not wearing face masks. The inspector - you can't go after the employees. But the inspectors can deal with a business. The Governor--

BLACKWELL: But for individuals, sir - for individuals, if you're going into a grocery store - I've read that you've said there will be no $1,000 fine if there is no teeth behind these. And if a person can stay open and the Lieutenant Governor will pay the fine and they don't have to go to jail, what's the point of them?

JENKINS: Well, it's difficult. So the fine was done by the Commissioner's court. They wanted to do away with fines. Although, I said that we'd never really give a person a fine for going to the grocery store and forgetting their mask. And then the governor has done away with the teeth behind his order. So it makes it harder. And what we're seeing is less and less compliance because the others keep weakening these orders.

BLACKWELL: All right, Judge Clay Jenkins for us there in Dallas County. Listen, you've had a rough a week and a trend going in the wrong direction. We wish you all the best there.

JENKINS: Thank you, Victor. Have a Good morning,

BLACKWELL: You too. PAUL: So, listen, we've all heard of the Daytona 500. Right? Well

imagine racing around the track to get your diploma, some very lucky high-schoolers are going to get to do that. And one of them is with us next.



PAUL: So we know that high schools have had to get creative this year when it comes to graduating. Well, thanks to some fast thinking seniors at two high schools in Florida, they're going to get to graduate at one of the most famous racetracks in the world.

BLACKWELL: Joining us now Chip Wile president of Daytona International Speedway. Chip, good morning to you. And I've read that this was actually your idea. How did it come to you?


CHIP WILE, PRESIDENT, DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY: I actually dreamt it, if you can believe that, which is crazy that I'm having dream of racetrack. But we have an incredible facility in Daytona Beach, spent $400 million on it in 2016 and hosts some of the world's biggest races.

But knowing that these seniors are not going to get the opportunity that we all had when we graduated from high school to walk across that stage, what better way to do it then at the Daytona International Speedway.

So I called our friends out at Flagler County and I said, Hey, I got a crazy idea and we worked through the logistics and we're really excited that we're going to give these seniors a memorable moment. You know, they've been robbed of this. It's a rite of passage to graduate from high school. And for us to be offer - be able to offer the Daytona International Speedway as the backdrop for their graduation, it's going to be something really special.

PAUL: OK. So when you say you worked through the logistics, what are those logistics? As I understand it, they're driving their cars around the speedway, is that right? And is there a speed limit?

WILE: That's right. So they will all be contained in their own car. They will - and they'll - they actually will do the commencement ceremony. We have a low frequency AM radio station, so everything will be broadcast through the radio in their vehicle.

They then will drive across the start/finish line and we've been working with our great partners at Advent Health to ensure that we're adhering to the CDC guidelines about handing them a diploma through their window. So the superintendent of the Flagler county is going to actually help them by doing it.

We'll call their names actually out over the loudspeaker at the speedway. They'll then make an entire lap around the speedway at slow speeds. And then they'll park back at - right at pit end, right where the cars enter pit road and we'll actually do a hat toss.


WILE: So really trying to find all of the different elements that happened during your graduation and be able to incorporate them into the event.

BLACKWELL: So let's bring in one of the graduates now. We've got Hunter Perez, a senior Matanzas High School and a member of the Flagler County School District Graduation Committee. First, congratulations to you, Hunter. And, listen, I know how much the school events there in Bunnell and Flagler Beach and Palm Coast are part of the socialization. How does this offer change this season for you?

HUNTER PEREZ, SENIOR, MATANZAS HIGH SCHOOL: Thank you for having me, first of all, and it changes it tremendously. It allows us to still have that kind of community involvement and allow us to graduate with the kids we grew up with and that was one of our big things.

PAUL: So what are you most looking forward to when it comes - I mean, this - this is better than any regular commencement ceremony, let's just be very honest. This has worked out really well for all of you. What are you most looking forward to when it comes to this kind of graduation that we might not ever see again?

PEREZ: I think I most look forward to get getting that picture at the speedway, something that I'll be able to show others and always have something to remember.

BLACKWELL: Hunter has the planning of the car decorating began? What is this vehicle going to look like?

PEREZ: As it has. It's going to have my senior banner on it. We're going to write with car paint on it. It's going to look - it's going to look awesome.

PAUL: So first of all, we want you to record this, because we want to see - we want to see this when it actually happens. And I wanted to ask you as well, if I could Chip. You said that this just came to you. Do you see this potentially becoming something that you might do in the future, coronavirus or not?

WILE: You know I'm - I don't think so. We want to make a memory for these kids at the speedway. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. And I think if we do it again it takes away from what these kids have gotten - unfortunately gotten robbed up.

So I don't think this is going to be something we're going to do year after year. The speedway is so busy. In fact, I'm up in Hammock Beach this weekend. The Hammock Beach Resort to be actually hosting a rock concert at the speedway this weekend.

So, you know, with the coronavirus, obviously our schedule has changed and open up the opportunity for us to do special things like this for our community. But next year this time, we'll probably have some sort of cars on the racetrack.

PAUL: We're seeing some of the pictures there of the high schoolers who are going to be graduating. Hunter, first of all to you, congratulations, happy graduation to you. Please video it because we want to see this happen.

BLACKWELL: Absolutely.

PAUL: And Chip thank you for making it happen. I also want to point out Chip said something about a concert there, but you're also having a Daytona Race there at the track this weekend without, we understand, a crowd there necessarily, but still in business. So thank you both so much for being with us. We appreciate it. What a great idea. Memories all around. Take good care. We'll be back in a moment.


WILE: Thank you so much for having us.

PEREZ: Yes, thank you so much.


BLACKWELL: The artist Banksy unveiled new artwork honoring healthcare workers. It's called "Game Changer." It's a child here playing with a nurse wearing a face mask and a cape. You see the child here ditching his Batman and Spider Man toys for a new superhero. A piece was donated to the University Hospital, Southampton in the U.K.

PAUL: Yes, making the rounds on social media as well. It is a powerful one. We're celebrating National Nurse Appreciation Week, in fact. Of course, every day is nurses day, we should point out, not just during a pandemic. But we'd love to share your messages of thanks this weekend. Tomorrow's Mother's Day as well, maybe you want to say thank you to your mom or your grandmother and her friend.


BLACKWELL: Yes, find us on Instagram and on Twitter. I'm @VictorBlackwell. Christi is @Christi_Paul.

PAUL: And we hope to see you in another hour. We'll be right back here for you.

BLACKWELL: Yes, "SMERCONISH" is next. We'll see you at 10:00 Eastern.