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CNN NEWSROOM

Spain Relaxes Lockdown Rules; U.K. Prime Minister to Announce Next Phase; Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield and Dr. Stephen Hahn Quarantine After Virus Exposure; Virus-Linked Illness Strikes Children; White House Staffers Test Positive; Seoul Sees Spike; Prisons Becoming Hot Spots for COVID-19, Sex Offenders Released Early; Little Richard Dies at 87. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired May 10, 2020 - 02:00   ET

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


[02:00:00]

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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, and welcome to Studio 7 here at CNN Center in Atlanta. I am Michael Holmes. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

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HOLMES: We begin with another disturbing milestone in the spread of the coronavirus. Johns Hopkins University reporting the number of cases around the world topped 4 million on Saturday. Nearly 280,000 people have died.

It did not take long to get to this point, although it may have felt a long time. You can see how steadily the number has climbed since the first million cases were confirmed. That was just over a month ago. It took about 2 weeks to meet the next million mark and the next and the next. The rate of this is staggering and has not let up.

Nations around the world are slowly reemerging from their lockdowns. Millions of people in Spain are about to see their country open up slightly on Monday. More than half of the population goes into phase one of its reopening plans.

On Saturday the prime minister declared that the country had conquered 99 percent of the virus but asked people to remain vigilant. Spain has the second highest number of infections in the world and the most in Europe, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Japan is being criticized as being too slow in its coronavirus response. We will have that in a moment.

South Korea's president warning of a second wave of infections after a spike of new cases. You see there, health officials registering 34 new cases in 24 hours. That is the most since April 9th. South Korea's total now almost 11,000 cases, more than 250 deaths.

Officials think Seoul's nightclub scene could be linked to the recent spike. They claim a man who tested positive this week had been to 3 clubs.

I'm going to take you back to Spain now and the developments of phase one that are about to begin there. Al Goodman is standing by to join us.

Al Goodman, if you are there in Spain, tell us about phase one.

What might that look like for most Spaniards?

AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michael, as you say, that is about half the population in territories across the country. For instance, that is not happening here in Madrid or in the second largest city, Barcelona.

Just a 40-minute drive from where I'm standing here in Madrid, out in the provincial capital of Guadalajara, that will be an area entering phase one on Monday. Up to 10 people will be able to meet. People who did not meet in the same house or restricted to confinement.

Up to 10 people will be allowed to go out to have a beer or coffee at an outdoor restaurant. For the first time, they will be able to set up their outdoor tables again. But they will only have 50 percent of the tables they would normally have to maintain social distancing.

By contrast here in Madrid, right here by the park, which remains closed, you see these people, who are running and walking. They are out for their daily exercise, which is strictly limited. People in Guadalajara can do this but will be able to do so much more in phase one.

HOLMES: Al, it's all important when you talk about the economy tourism in Spain.

What do summer tourism plans look like?

GOODMAN: The tourism industry is just vital to this country. It's 11- 12 percent of the GDP. They really want to get those people back on the beaches. But the German air carrier Lufthansa said a few days ago that they would be resuming flights to various locations around Europe, including Spain's island of Mallorca.

[02:05:00]

GOODMAN: The prime minister said that Spain is working with European authorities to see what borders will be open. One thing we found out this week is that at least one beach town on the Mediterranean will have you sign up in advance.

You have to make a reservation on the beach with your phone application. You show up, someone will guide you to a pre-assigned parcel which will be socially distanced from other parcels. There is a beach in northern Spain that will do something similar.

All of these ideas are coming up on how tourism may be able to come back. But certainly not the way it would be in a normal year. Michael?

HOLMES: Thank you, Al Goodman in Madrid, appreciate it.

Let's turn our attention to France now. It has split into 2 zones to help loosen lockdown restrictions. That begins on Monday. French officials releasing a map, you can see there, which shows red and green areas of the country. Places in the red zone which includes Paris will be more cautious in their reopening.

Public parks and gardens will continue to stay closed there. However, primary schools and most businesses will be allowed to open in both zones. Cafes and restaurants in green zones may also open in early June if cases remain low.

Japan has been criticized as being too slow in its coronavirus response. The country is famous for being a high tech innovator but the government has come under fire for relying on decades-old technology. CNN's Will Ripley explains from Tokyo.

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WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As other nations track coronavirus with 21st century tech, Japan relies on a relic that peaked in the 1980s.

"We have to fill out paper documents by hand and send them in by fax machine," says this doctor. "Our system has not changed for decades."

His Twitter tirade about his pile of coronavirus paperwork quickly went viral, getting the attention of Japanese lawmakers, like this man, a deputy minister in charge of I.T. policy.

RIPLEY: You are an I.T. guy.

Is it frustrating for you that this country still clings to Baby Boomer era technology?

"Yes. I'm frustrated," he says. "I think the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic exposed the problem of digitalization in Japan."

Not just the government; most Japanese companies still rely on fax machines. Documents have to be hand stamped with traditional seals. Outdated business practices make working from home nearly impossible for most Japanese.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe has been trying to make the system more efficient. A challenge, says Japan economist Jesper Koll.

JESPER KOLL, ECONOMIST: Coronanomics is doing what Abenomics could not achieve, fundamentally change Japanese behavior. The reality is that the fax machine was a brilliant technology in the early 1980s. But now it is the equivalent of the steam engine.

RIPLEY (voice-over): And this is Japan. They invented the bullet train. Nearly everyone has a smart toilet, not to mention all of the robots.

RIPLEY: When I lived here there was this joke that Japan will invent a robot to carry your fax to you.

KOLL: Right.

RIPLEY: Why are they still using them?

KOLL: Japanese salary men (ph) are incredibly resistant to change. It is about time they start to embrace digital culture as passionately as Japanese teenagers.

RIPLEY (voice-over): He says the pandemic may be changing deeply entrenched rigid behavior, finally bringing futuristic Japan into the 21st century -- Will Ripley, CNN, Tokyo.

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HOLMES: Now in the coming hours, the British prime minister is expected to announce the easing of some lockdown restrictions. The press association reporting that Boris Johnson will likely unveil a new COVID-19 warning system.

He is also been expected to say that the U.K. is close to moving from level for 2 level 3 on their scale. Let's get more details on this. CNN's Milena Veselinovic joins me from London.

What are we likely to hear from the PM?

MILENA VESELINOVIC, CNN PRODUCER: We will hear a roadmap towards the easing of coronavirus restrictions and it will be quite gradual. We do accept that the stay-at-home orders which have been promoted will be revised. Also with the current rule that you can only go out once a day, that will probably be scrapped.

[02:10:00]

VESELINOVIC: We might expect further guidance when it comes to face coverings. They've said in the past that they provide little benefit. But there have some rumblings that they could be used in close spaces, such as supermarkets or public transport, which is something the Scottish government has already done.

Add to that that any changes are likely to be small and incremental. That is what the foreign minister Dominic Raab has said. He's cautioned that this will be a gradual reopening. Other officials have dampened down those expectations. Some excitement then on Monday that Britain will be back to normal, that will not be happening.

Social distancing will remain crucial to the strategy of controlling this outbreak. That is what officials have consistently been saying. That is because data has shown so far that it was due to social distancing that the virus infection rate had decreased.

That will be unwelcome news for those who hoped that, on Monday, they would be able to go out for their first drink or first restaurant meal in a long time. Officials warn that reopening pubs and bars and restaurants is not likely to feature on the government's agenda anytime soon. HOLMES: Milena Veselinovic in London, thank you so much, appreciate

it.

The coronavirus continues a steady spread in some South and Latin American countries. The region is on course to register hundreds of thousands of cases. Peru has more than 65,000 cases. Mexico with more than 33,000.

But it is Brazil by far being hit the hardest, the fastest as well with steep spikes in infections every day. Brazil is the Latin American coronavirus hot spot. Once the first infection set in the virus took off. Brazil's president has pushed against health officials.

Today, the country has more than 150,000 confirmed cases. Over the weekend, Brazil's coronavirus death toll surpassed 10,000. Between Friday and Saturday alone, more than 700 people there died of COVID- 19.

The World Health Organization meanwhile is warning against the use of a product that the government of Madagascar says cures COVID-19. The tonic is made from something called Artemisia. It is a plant used in some malaria treatments. The WHO warns the drink has not been clinically tested.

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DR. MATSHIDISO MOETI, WHO: We are advising the government of Madagascar to take this product through a clinical trial and are prepared to collaborate with them. We've also invited them to join the WHO coordinated solidarity trial, where other therapeutics are being tested.

We would caution and advise against countries adopting a product which has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy against COVID-19.

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HOLMES: Madagascar is already marketing the drink and several African countries have already ordered some. Madagascar reporting about 225 cases with 98 recoveries and no deaths.

Top 3 doctors leading Americas coronavirus response are now in self quarantine. We will look at how the virus is affecting the Trump administration's inner circle. We will be right back.

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HOLMES: Hello to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world, I'm Michael Holmes. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. On Saturday, Johns Hopkins figures showed the number of coronavirus

cases around the world topped 4 million. The country with far and away the most cases remains the United States; with just about 4 percent of the world's population, it has a third of the cases, 1.3 million.

More states are taking steps to emerge from their lockdowns. Almost every U.S. state will be back in business by Monday to at least some extent. In Los Angeles, golfers allowed to finally hit the course this weekend, wearing masks of course.

As the U.S. balances opening back up with staying safe, the pandemic hitting close to home for some of the most prominent doctors working on the crisis. CNN's Jeremy Diamond with that.

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JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Three top doctors on the White House Coronavirus Task Force are now going to be teleworking, working from home and carrying out some form of self quarantine for the next 2 weeks after coming into contact with someone at the White House who tested positive for coronavirus in just the last week.

That is Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Stephen Hahn, the head of the Food and Drug Administration; as well as Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has become one of the most public faces of this White House's response to the coronavirus.

All of them announcing that they will be working from home for the next 2 weeks. Dr. Anthony Fauci telling our colleague Jake Tapper that he will be undergoing a, quote, "modified quarantine" for the next 14 days, working from home and wearing a mask at all times of the day.

Though he does note that if he is called to the White House from Capitol Hill, that he will go but will take every precaution necessary.

A similar message we are hearing from a spokesperson for the CDC, saying that Dr. Redfield would go to the White House if he had to fulfill any responsibilities with regards to his role there. But he would be wearing a mask.

Of course, very notable that we are seeing these 3 top medical experts on this Coronavirus Task Force, all of which are undergoing some form of self quarantine. What we have not seen is a sort of unified, centralized approach from the White House as to how to deal with this.

Earlier this week, a White House spokeswoman, Katie Miller, she tested positive on Friday. A couple of days before that, we saw one of the president's personal valets also testing positive, a Navy official.

Again, no message from the White House about whether anyone who's come into contact with them should go into self quarantine. It seems to be much more of a piecemeal approach.

What is clear, though, is that, as the country begins to reopen and many workers are being asked to come back to work.

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DIAMOND: Even here at the White House where there are the most strict protocols, officials coming into contact with the president now being tested daily. Temperature checks being conducted for anyone coming on to the White House grounds. Even here, the coronavirus is seeping in -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.

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HOLMES: Worth noting now that members of the U.S. Secret Service, people who protect the president, were seen wearing masks on Saturday. They were not wearing masks in the day before.

I'm going to show you some images now. You can see a man on the far left of that photograph. This is the Cabinet Room on Saturday. Sources telling us that 11 Secret Service personnel have tested positive for COVID-19.

It was believed that children were at less risk of COVID-19 than adults but a mystery illness that could be related to COVID has made dozens of kids sick and left 3 of them dead. We will have details on that after the break.

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HOLMES: Welcome back. New York is still the American pandemic hot spot, the governor calling the death rate, quote, "infuriatingly constant."

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HOLMES: Although the number of new cases does appear to be going down, there is a disturbing new twist, an illness that might be linked to COVID-19 has struck dozens of children. For three of them, it was fatal. Here's Polo Sandoval with more.

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POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: New York's governor Andrew Cuomo calling these recent pediatric hospitalizations as not new but as disturbing, particularly for parents. At least 73 children in and around New York that have been hospitalized with symptoms that, according to the governor, are similar to toxic shock syndrome or Kawasaki disease.

The governor being very clear that these are likely or possibly related to COVID infections. Still many questions relating to these recent hospitalizations, including 3 children that have not survived.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Now these are children who come in and do not present the symptoms that we normally are familiar with, with COVID. It is not a respiratory illness, they are not in respiratory distress. But the illness has taken the lives of 3 young New Yorkers so this is new and it is developing.

SANDOVAL: These hospitalizations are certainly getting the attention of health professionals, not just here in New York but across the country, especially since, from the beginning, we had heard that it was perhaps some of the younger people who were possibly not as vulnerable to this illness.

But now this new information that is being released by governor Andrew Cuomo is suggesting otherwise.

We should finally mention that the CDC is working with the state of New York. Their main goal is to try and develop some kind of criteria that would be applied across the country as they continue to look into these illnesses -- reporting in New York, I'm Polo Sandoval.

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HOLMES: A CNN medical analyst will break down this story for us when we get back as well as the Trump administration's handling of the crisis. We will be right back.

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HOLMES: Welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world I'm Michael Holmes. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM.

More than 4 million people around the world are being confirmed with coronavirus. That mark crossed on Saturday as reported by Johns Hopkins University. That is 1 million new cases in less than 2 weeks. Nearly 280,000 people have now died.

Saturday the top 3 health experts leading America's response put themselves in quarantine over fears they had been exposed to the virus. This after revelations that two people close to the president and vice president tested positive.

As we heard, New York officials now say an inflammatory illness possibly linked to COVID-19 has killed 2 young children and a teenager.

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HOLMES: Joining me now from New York is Kent Sepkowitz, he's a CNN medical analyst and deputy physician chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Good to have you back, Doctor, always a lot to talk about. Multiple times in recent weeks, the president has downplayed the need for widespread testing. And yet, here we are with what is really a cluster at the White House. The vice president's press secretary, her husband is close to the president, a valet close to the president, Secret Service agents, so on. You have the head of the CDC, the FDA, Dr. Anthony Fauci, all quarantining.

Most of these cases would not have happened without testing because most were asymptomatic.

What do you say about the president downplaying the need for testing when you look at what is happening?

DR. KENT SEPKOWITZ, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think testing is only part of the strategy to keep people safe. If you do not wear masks and you do not socially distance, you can test all you want to.

But you're not going to prevent anything. You will detect it sooner and you can adjust according to that. But this shows to me that, without social distancing, masking and discipline, you cannot control it.

HOLMES: I guess the other interesting thing is the White House are using a quick test but it has a 15 percent chance of giving a false negative when someone is actually positive.

Is that a concern about how testing is being handled there?

People could be walking around positive when they got a negative test.

SEPKOWITZ: It's quite shocking that this is the test they are using, given the 15 percent issue of false positives. That is people, who are truly positive, testing negative 15 percent of the time. It's something that certainly needs to be looked at again.

No test is perfect and that is another reason that you can't just test; you have to also do the less scientific approaches, like social distancing, masks and common sense.

HOLMES: With 1.3 million cases, the U.S. is 5 percent of the population and 33 percent of the sick people. Globally, the average death rate is 34 people per million. In the U.S. It's 232 per million.

What has gone wrong?

SEPKOWITZ: Just about everything, I would say. I think, with any pandemic, the first month or so, 6 weeks is going to look pretty clumsy. Things will not go perfectly.

But I think after that, there is blame to be placed on decision- makers. I do not think there has ever been a decision that seemed like it came based from public health necessity. I think we are having the same conversations today May 9th and 10th, as we were on March 9th and 10th.

HOLMES: Yet we have this push to reopen. When it comes to that move to reopen in many U.S. states and other countries around the world, the thing about this virus is that we are not going to immediately know the results of that.

We are going to be continually looking at lagging data. Today we're seeing the results from 2 or 3 weeks ago.

SEPKOWITZ: Because we aren't testing actively. A very sobering quick report out of South Korea today about a bar that they had reopened.

[02:35:00]

SEPKOWITZ: They found 44 secondary cases from an infected person who was at that bar. They closed again all the bars in South Korea and they were able to get it not waiting for everyone to get sick and show up for diagnosis but by testing immediately.

So the only way you can reopen safely or moderately safely is to have a very aggressive testing program, which we do not have.

HOLMES: Absolutely. This is an administration that sort of ignores its own opening requirements in the U.S., states being urged to reopen when they've not even met the administration's own guidelines and the administration shelving guidelines written by the CDC.

The mixed messaging is stunning really. It seems to be a recipe for disaster.

SEPKOWITZ: Yes. I think the recent reports about kids getting very sick from this virus might change the "hurry up and get back to open business" tone. I think we act tough when it is us.

But when it is our 5 year olds who get sick because they need a haircut, I think people might change their decision making some. That might be optimistic. But I think this is an enormously sad but important development with the kids, something that might open the debate somewhat.

HOLMES: Talk about that for a minute from a medical standpoint. Just for background, you have people in that -- New York investigating the death of 3 kids with what could be related to COVID-19, inflammatory syndromes. Kawasaki disease. Goes to show we do not really know what this thing is.

SEPKOWITZ: It keeps throwing us curveballs. This syndrome is very perplexing. It is associated in most of the cases, but not all, with coronavirus infection. The syndrome itself is one of too much inflammation. If I get an infection, I need this much inflammation to normally control it and that is a good thing.

Once in a while, you will get this much inflammation. The whole program goes haywire. And the immune system starts to attack the person himself with the infection. That is what we are seeing.

A particularly ominous problem with this syndrome and with Kawasaki is not that it attacks here or there or wherever; it actually attacks the arteries that feed the heart, the coronary arteries. So 5 year old kids can have heart attacks. It's a devastating disease, as you can imagine. HOLMES: It shows how much we've yet to know about what this virus can

do and what the long term effects are on even survivors. Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, thanks so much, we appreciate your expertise.

SEPKOWITZ: Thank you, Michael.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: We will take a quick break. When we come back, coronavirus surging behind bars. We talked to a former prison doctor on what measures need to be taken and why some prisoners are leaving early. We will be right back.

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HOLMES: Welcome back.

Prisons are quickly becoming hotspots in the spread of coronavirus. Thousands of prisoners in both state and federal facilities have tested positive. More than 800 inmates testing positive at just one California prison complex, as did more than 2 dozen staff members.

In Ohio, more than one in 5 cases in the state are inmates. Have a look at these signs in the windows of the Cook County Jail in Chicago. Inmates saying, "We matter, too," and, "Save us as the virus spreads."

Back in April, Chicago's biggest jail released almost a fourth of its population over coronavirus fears. The focus on releasing those awaiting trial and low level nonviolent offenders.

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HOLMES: Joining me now from New York is Dr. Homer Venters, a former chief medical officer for the New York City jail system.

Doctor, you are also the author of "Life and Death in Rikers Island." There has been a lot of talk about hotspots in meatpacking plants and cruise ships. But prisons have been a major issue because of close quarters. I've read of 2 facilities in Ohio and California where 70 percent of the inmate population tested positive.

How serious is this issue in American jails?

DR. HOMER VENTERS, FORMER CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, NEW YORK CITY JAIL SYSTEM: This is a grave issue. It is a life-threatening issue for people who are incarcerated and dying. It's also incredibly important for the nation as a whole.

We have 5,000 jails and prisons in this country. Those places are going to drive the outbreak curve straight up for the entire nation. It will place the lives of those incarcerated in jeopardy as well as staff.

HOLMES: As you said, you wrote a book about health issues at prison facilities. You were worried about this well before coronavirus.

What is not in a prison in terms of facilities and supplies to stem off something like coronavirus, basic things like social distancing is impossible, obviously.

VENTERS: Two of the things that are in shortest supply are evidence based practices and transparency. We have spent decades in this country creating a silo around prisons and jails so the health care system in these places is grossly deficient. We do not know when bad outcomes occur.

So when something like coronavirus hits, we cannot just copy and paste our community standards of care onto these places. The people who provide care and those who are incarcerated have not had access to evidence based care before.

So you are correct to say the close quarters create a firestorm for this virus in particular. It's also important to know that groups like the CDC and states' Department of Health have been AWOL from these places for many years. So we have a lot of ground to cover just to get to barebones basics of being able to wash hands with soap and water and paper towels.

[02:45:00]

VENTERS: Let alone figure out who is sick and who needs tests and who needs to go to the hospital.

HOLMES: I think I read that you wrote about how, when you mentioned the CDC and major health authorities that look after people in society, it's not the case in prisons. Often it is the local sheriff who is deciding what can be life and death issues of health care.

VENTERS: That is right. To be fair to sheriffs and commissioners in correction, they are not doctors nor health administrators. But we have given them these critical jobs and often not the resources to do those jobs.

But the groups that decide the quality of your care and my care are the community, they are essentially absent from these places and have been for many years.

HOLMES: Of course one of the major issues is just how many people are incarcerated in American jails, more people per capita than any country in the world.

What would you say is an immediate possible move during this current crisis?

What kinds of things can be done, things like releasing nonviolent inmates, what would you recommend?

VENTERS: Sure. I think the first step is to release people who can be released because there are very high risk folks behind bars, people with health problems, if they become infected with COVID-19, will have a higher risk of dying.

Secondly, in order to manage the outbreak behind bars, the facilities need space to move people around, to separate the sick people from the healthy people. Facilities cannot do that basic job if they are at 100 percent or probably 75 percent capacity.

So release is job one. Not just to save the lives of high-risk people but to allow for effective management of the outbreak inside the facility.

HOLMES: You have people who will say, they are in prison, they are there for a reason, they do not impact me. But of course, staff in these prisons have been heavily impacted as well. They go home and go back into communities.

What kind of attitude would you like to see change?

VENTERS: You are right. Many of the people who have become infected with COVID-19 and who have died behind bars are staff, correctional staff. It's also important to remember that when people get sick behind bars, they go to local hospitals when they need higher level of care.

This virus spreads like wildfire when it gets behind bars. So we've seen in multiple places around the country, one single jail or prison can completely overwhelm a local hospital. That is exactly the opposite of flattening the curve.

When the rest of us are trying to engage in social distancing and taking all of these measures to flatten the curve, just one facility can completely overwhelm a local hospital. That is something that impacts everybody in the community.

HOLMES: Just finally, speak to policy changes that are needed for infectious diseases. COVID-19 has highlighted some of these institutionalized issues.

What needs to change after this as well?

VENTERS: Sure. Right now we have some fleeting attention from the CDC and state departments of health and other health structures that we think are evidence based. Those organizations need to stay. They need to help us improve the quality of health care but also the transparency of health services behind bars going forward, not just for COVID-19.

HOLMES: Dr. Homer Venters, great to have you on and your insights into this, it is a important issue into the U.S.

VENTERS: Thank you for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: When we come back, a musical legend has died. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES (voice-over): He gave us rock 'n' roll, gospel, even a little bit of film. The life and times of the flamboyant, the one and only Little Richard, coming up next.

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HOLMES: It's hard to imagine what music what it might be like today without Little Richard, the flamboyant singer died Saturday at age 87. His former agent said he had bone cancer.

There was simply no one like Little Richard before he began wailing his tunes as George Howell tells us, he revolutionized rock 'n' roll but just wanted to have some fun tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Little Richard change the course of rock 'n' roll history with that iconic song. He sang "Tutti Frutti" with raw inhibition (sic) and it became a hit.

RICHARD PENNIMAN, "LITTLE RICHARD": When I started in the business, I had never heard rock 'n' roll music before.

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 become 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."

PENNIMAN: I always felt that I would be a star.

HOWELL (voice-over): A star he certainly was. Little Richard even landed a part in the music 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.

PENNIMAN: I went through those different periods.

[02:55:00]

PENNIMAN: But I have always loved rock 'n' roll.

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

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

HOWELL (voice-over): For a period of time, Little Richard lived a 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 thanked God for saving his life.

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

O'LEARY (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 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

PENNIMAN: I'm just glad to be alive at this time. I am glad to be in Cleveland. I am glad that I am the originator and I'm glad that I'm not the death (ph) of rock 'n' roll. I'm glad that God has seen fit through his mercy to let me still be here.

HOWELL (voice-over): In 1993 the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences awarded the fiery performer with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Little Richard, the showman, performed well into his twilight years.

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HOLMES: A true legend.

Thanks for your company this hour, I am Michael Holmes. Please stay with us. I will be back with more at CNN news just in a few minutes.