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Shanghai Disneyland Reopens; Lawsuits as Workplaces Reopen; Transit Workers Face Increased Risk; Full United Flight. Aired 9:30- 10a

Aired May 11, 2020 - 09:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: For the first time in three months, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Shanghai Disney has now opened its doors to visitors.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: The park opened only at 30 percent capacity though, says tickets are sold out, which means somewhere around 24,000 people are at the park today, certainly a step forward.

CNN's David Culver joins us now from Shanghai.

So, David, how do they do this? They spaced customers, they required masks, et cetera. Tell us what it looked like on the ground.

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: OK, well, part of it has to do with the capacity that you just mentioned there, Jim and Poppy. And 30 percent is the government regulation here. But what we're hearing from Disney is they started well below that 24,000 number. For the first several days they plan to do this.

And it makes them feel a little bit easier as they're going forward with this and trying to implement the social distancing, trying to make sure that their new online ticket sales, which happen to be certain intervals of time so that they don't have a mass gathering at the front gate, are working properly.

And we also were able to get a better idea as to how they were able to pull this off after being closed for three and a half months.


CULVER: Welcome in to Shanghai Disneyland, where we are getting a sneak peak of what the new operations are going to look like for this park and reopening three and a half months after they had to shut down because of the novel coronavirus outbreak here in China.

Now, normally, when you're in the park, as they reopen, you're going to have to wear a mask. We're able to take ours off because the crowd isn't in just yet. But as you can see, the preparations are underway. They've used this time to rethink how they're going to have people coming in safely, keeping that social distance, and avoiding any sort of contact, not only with each other, but also with cast members. So, it's going to have things looking a little bit differently.

I'm going to take you outside the park to show you how we got in, with senior vice president of operations, Andrew Bolstein.

ANDREW BOLSTEIN, SENIOR VP OF OPERATIONS, SHANGHAI DISNEY RESORT: We asked our guests to do a few things now differently than before. One is we ask every one of our guests to have temperature screening as they arrive here at the resort.


We also ask them to show their QR code, which is a Shanghai specific health code.

We put a little more structure, decaling and markers in place. So these are very clear. Don't stand here.


BOLSTEIN: And then you stand in the blank space in between.

As always, we require government I.D. to redeem your tickets at the entrance, but we're also going to be capturing government I.D. information for every guest that comes into the park, not just one per party, as part of the traceability measures that we have in place now per the government guidelines.

CULVER: Give us an idea, I mean, as we're walking through, what folks will notice that's different. I mean one thing that stands out to me is constant sanitation.

BOLSTEIN: Yes. So we have a very dedicated team of custodial cleaners that we've even increased the numbers of those throughout the park that are constantly wiping down all the surfaces.

CULVER: And noticing that parade goes by. Obviously a distance, but you can still see the characters.


CULVER: Not the big hug and high fives, right?

BOLSTEIN: Exactly. More a -- more of a selfie moment and take the photos.


BOLSTEIN: But, again, it gives the guests that ability to have an emotional moment and that connection.

CULVER: As you're walking along the line here, you'll notice places you can stop and the places you need to keep a distance. And then, eventually, you make it to the attraction.

Notice this. I want to point this out. As I go into number one, normally you have number two to go into. They've got it roped off.

Stepping off the ride, the new normal. And they've got several more along the way out.

BOLSTEIN: As for the guests understanding, for your health and safety, the table is unavailable. So basically we're asking the guests not to sit here, sit there. And, again, it creates kind of that separation between all the different parties.

CULVER: Safe spacing, even for the performances. This is one of the stages. Look here in the crowd. Pick a box. That's where you and your family unit will stand, keeping that distance.

BOLSTEIN: We'll be able to strike that right balance between that safety and health and confidence side and then the magic that we're able to deliver every day.

CULVER: Do you feel, in many ways, that not only other parts of the company are look here and other parks hopefully, you know, going to be reopening. But maybe even other companies saying, well, we see how they're doing it, maybe this could help us reopen too?

BOLSTEIN: Sure. Every where's a little bit different, though. There's different regulations. There's different environments. People are at different phases of the epidemic. But I think what we have can be a model, hopefully some inspiration for them, and they'll adapt it for what their local conditions are.

The same thing with the other operators around the world. We communicate and we share. In this type of environment, where we want to focus on safety and health, that's -- that's an area we all share together.


CULVER: Disney does not release their exact attendance numbers for each day, but what we do know, Jim and Poppy, is that this was well below the 24,000 mark that the government has set here as their maximum.

I'll tell you, walking around today, it's now closed, but I never, at one point, felt like there were crowds of people in one area. Perhaps during the parade you saw folks getting closer than that one and a half meter. But, for the most part, you had a lot of space to move about.

The lines on the rides were relatively short and people could go in multiple times even. I mean it's part of the advantage of not having it at max capacity. And they anticipate to do this for the coming days to test it out. There's this cautious optimism moving forward.

I will tell you also, here in Shanghai Disneyland, it's actually far more conservative than if you go out, for example, in Shanghai, where they have even in public spaces decided to ease up the restrictions and you don't have to necessarily wear a face mask.

HARLOW: That was fascinating to see and I think a picture of what it could look like here in the coming months.

David, thanks a lot for that reporting from Shanghai.

Well, businesses in states are reopening, as you know, but could that also open the door for major legal trouble for some? We'll ask a law expert, next.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

Well, Congress tried to approach one of the problems of this outbreak, which is the issue of when parents go back to work, what do they do about their kids if the schools aren't open? It was called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. We're getting the first sense of what worked, what didn't.

Joining me now is former federal and state prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig.

Elie, good to have you on.

You say this new law, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, it's helpful and important to parents but may not do all it's intended to do. Put that in simple terms for folks at home.


So this is a new law. It just hit the books in April. There's good and there's bad.

The good -- and people need to understand this because it's out there. It provides important coverage for parents who are trying to juggle the demands of work with now having to watch their kids and provide child care while schools are closed. Perhaps it's limited though because what it does is it provides paid sick leave for people who work for medium sized companies but only for three months. Now, that's important, but three months is a limited time frame.

The other criticism it the act is it only applies to these medium sized companies, between 50 and 500 employees. And one of the criticisms is, well, why wouldn't this apply to the bigger companies, the Walmarts and the FaceBooks.

So it's important, but it's more of a band aid than a cure.

SCIUTTO: The argument that those big companies made was that many of them already have family sick leave policies, therefore did not need this. I mean is that -- is that true in practice?

HONIG: Yes, I think the vast majority do, but why not ensure it, right, for the employees who work for big companies, why not make sure that they're all protected so they can balance work with child care.


SCIUTTO: So what happens now? I mean as companies -- states -- 47 states are opening up to some degree. That means some companies are given leeway to open up. They're opening up. People may go back to work. Their kids are still out of school. So what -- you know, for parents at home who are watching saying, hey, what do I do?


SCIUTTO: If I'm going back to the office, what happens to my kids? What protection do I have?

HONIG: Yes, so, first of all, like I said, this law provides about three months of coverage, but it's a really difficult question. And, look, this is yet another risk to businesses of reopening, right? Sure as anything, people are going to get sick when they go back to work, customers may get sick when businesses reopen and you are absolutely going to see personal injury liability lawsuits. Those can get really expensive.

So the first question is, how far do businesses have to go? Is it enough to do what we just saw Disney do --


HONIG: To provide temperature screening, masks, that kind of thing? The law says there's a standard of reasonable care, but that has to be determined case by case.

And then there's the question of who pays for all this, because these lawsuits could put small and medium businesses out of business.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And three months coverage, of course, the, you know, the fall school here starts in September, so that three months coverage, of course, would not cover if schools are not open come September.


SCIUTTO: Just very quickly, Republicans have pushed for some liability protections in any new stimulus plan to protect companies so they don't get sued. If someone comes back to work, they get infected, maybe they sue the company. I mean is that a reasonable, legal push?

HONIG: It is reasonable. I mean all it does is really shift the cost from the companies themselves either to just the workers, the employees who might get sick, which I think is brutal if it goes that way. Now, if Congress says, we're going to cover these costs as part of -- sort of a relief package, great for employees, great for families, but that is a huge bill for Congress and taxpayers to pick up. So there's no easy decision to be made here, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Elie Honig, thanks so much, as always, for putting it into layman's terms.

HONIG: Thanks, Jim. SCIUTTO: For Americans who rely on public transportation, the coronavirus pandemic has made the morning commute simply dangerous. So what about the transit workers, though, who have to show up for work every day and keep things going?



SCIUTTO: Well, transit systems are taking precautions to protect passengers and their workers from the virus. Starting today, the morning commute will look very different for passengers on Amtrak. They must wear masks or facial coverings in all but a few instances.

HARLOW: Take a look at this picture from over the weekend. Wow, look at this, a packed plane. A doctor tweeted this image of what appears to be a nearly full United Airlines flight from New York to San Francisco. This just weeks after United announced it would block middle seats to promote social distancing.

Our correspondent Pete Muntean joins us now.

We'll get to that photo in a moment, which is shocking, but if you could just talk about what transit systems are actually doing because, for example, the MTA here in New York City that operates the buses and subways has come under fire largely from employees for not feeling protected enough.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, workers tell me that they are worried, even though transit agencies want to show that they are on the right track.

You know, this is typically one of the busiest transit centers in the state of Maryland. Rail ridership here has now dropped by 95 percent. Transit systems want commutes to come back, but they warn that your ride will not be the same.


CARLOS GONZALEZ, NJ TRANSIT BUS OPERATOR: I mean it's still -- it's still fresh in my mind.

MUNTEAN (voice over): As Carlos Gonzalez laid in a Hackensack hospital, he worried he would join more than 100 transit workers from across the country who have died during this pandemic.

GONZALEZ: There's nothing there to protect us.

MUNTEAN: Gonzalez is a New Jersey transit bus driver who believes he contracted coronavirus on his daily route to New York City.

GONZALEZ: We're the first ones that make contact with people. You know, this is -- you know, everything comes in through our door. You don't know who's sick. You don't -- you don't know who -- who has what. MUNTEAN: The Amalgamated Transit Union say more than 100 transit

workers from Staten Island to Seattle have tested positive for Covid- 19. Union President John Costa fears that number will grow significantly as states start opening up and commuters, many with no other choice, start coming back.

JOHN COSTA, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION: I'm concerned. Every night I'm still losing a member and the numbers are still going up, not down.

MUNTEAN: Many bus systems, such as those in Austin, Texas, have barred riders from using the front doors near the driver. On buses in Washington, D.C., distance from drivers is kept with a yellow plastic chain. But keeping six feet of social distance between passengers themselves is difficult on vehicles that are often only nine feet wide.

Paul Wiedefeld runs D.C.'s metro bus and rail system. Right now crews are cleaning station surfaces nightly. First and last train cars are now empty to keep train operators insulated from riders.

Two months ago these trains were carrying 600,000 riders a day. Now only 30,000.

PAUL WIEDEFELD, GENERAL MANAGER AND CEO, WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY: We were on a very good climb in terms of our ridership, and I see that coming back. The reality is, to move the vast numbers of people that you need to move in a congested area like ours, transit has to play the role.

MUNTEAN: Unions want passengers mandated to wear masks, but agencies have struggled with enforcing new norms.

In Philadelphia last month, police removed a bus rider who was not wearing a mask and refused to get off.


That transit agency has since changed its policy.

MUNTEAN (on camera): Will masks be a condition to ride, do you think?

WIEDEFELD: I think the public is going to demand it.

MUNTEAN (voice over): Carlos Gonzalez's battle with Covid-19 is in the rearview mirror, but he knows his fellow transit workers have a long road ahead.

GONZALEZ: We're all in this together, you know? For us to move forward and past this and for future, we just have to be more careful with each other.


MUNTEAN: The D.C. metro system says it may mandate masks for riders maybe by the end of this week. Transit police officers here will carry masks to give out to riders who do not already have one.

SCIUTTO: Pete, let's look at that picture of the United Airlines flight. United had talked about steps such as keeping the middle seats empty. Clearly not the case on this flight. What was the airline's explanation?

MUNTEAN: Well, I've been talking to the United spokespeople today and they say this flight was going from Newark to San Francisco. We're told that most flights on United are about 50 percent full. They said that this one was the exception and definitely not the norm. So they are still sort of litigating and explaining their way around this one. It was a lot of volunteer health workers flying back from New York to the West Coast.

SCIUTTO: Pete Muntean, picture speaks a thousand words there. Thanks very much.

Well, of course, now even the White House is immune from the coronavirus. We've gotten a lot of evidence of that in recent days. And there's now a battles between some top administration officials over whether or not they need to quarantine as a result.