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Schools Weigh Options to Reopen; Retail Sales Collapse; Casinos Prepare to Reopen; Mental and Physical Effects of the Pandemic. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired May 15, 2020 - 09:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Is the school ready to protect children and employees at higher risk for severe illness? Are you able to screen students and employees upon arrival for symptoms? If the answer to any of those questions is no, the CDC advises don't open.

Could you guys meet all of that, do you think, by September?

ALBERTO M. CARVALHO, SUPERINTENDENT, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Well, number one, thank you for the opportunity to have this important conversation with CNN.

We will be able to implement the vast majority of those protocols if we receive the appropriate support, particularly from the federal government. We had already implemented (INAUDIBLE) across our community a reopening of schooling planned. That does not necessarily mean a reopening of schools. That is a resumption of education that takes into account (INAUDIBLE) measurements, the -- at buses, entering schools, unidirectional hallways to reduce points of contact, obviously increase social spacing between students.

The elimination of traditional cafeteria meal distribution where meals would be distributed to the classrooms instead. In addition to the appointment of a chief health officer to liaison with the health department and CDC.

But we're a long ways away from that point. I mean no one really knows what the evolution of Covid-19 will be over the summer. So the best course of action, which is what we're doing right now, we are surveying our parents.

We are preparing for limited (ph) and hybrid learning models, which would allow (INAUDIBLE) actually to make the decision regarding how to educate your child. We are prepared to teach kids at home. We're prepared to teach kids half time in school, part of the time at home, or 100 percent at school, as long as all the safety precautions guided by science and medical officials are followed.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And you make an important distinction there, right, you know, that education may begin, but the schools may not open to the same degree that we imagined. Debra, I have a question for you. This is the big one. And Poppy and I both have kids and our schools are making decisions and thinking about the fall.

You know the big question here is, what is the risk to children, right? And I'm curious, what guidance you're getting on how at risk they are and then, of course, you have the component question, which is, even if children are more protected, you've got the teachers and the other staff to think about who are adults and who do have, you know, much greater risk from this.

DEBRA DUARDO, SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Right. So we're -- we're following the research that, you know, right now tells us that when students or children do get Covid, they're more likely to have a lesser negative response to it, although we know in similar situations children can get a more severe reaction.

What we're really doing is making sure that we are mitigating those risks to the extent possible. And, you know, some of the questions that you asked about, when we're ready to open our doors, we need to make sure that we have the PPE equipment, that we have the disinfectants and the hand sanitizers. You know, a lot of those things right now are on backorder and they're difficult to stock our schools currently to make sure that our schools have all of the supplies that they need.

So, in the meantime, we are continuing with our distance learning, with our online instruction and making sure that we're planning for when we do return to school, implementing all of the things that we can do to make sure that children are safe.

There are challenges, you know, with physical distancing and young children wearing masks. And so we're planning now. We have task force of superintendents that are coming together and really thinking about how do we implemented the physical distancing and the safety precautions that the department of mental health -- the department of public health is asking us to implemented.

But, you know, again, we need to make sure not only our children are safe, that our employees are safe. We have a lot of employees that fall into that high risk category.


HARLOW: Alberto, one question to you, because we're looking at Miami- Dade and Broward County starting to reopen under phase one. You said something interesting recently, which is that the 2021 school year for some may actually start earlier than September. Are you looking at a July or August start date for some?

CARVALHO: Yes. When I made that announcement it was really out of concern for what I believed would be an historic precedent setting academic regression. You know, we all know what the summer slide is, particularly fragile kids, poor kids, students with disabilities and English language learners, over the summer lose part of the learning from the previous year. Look, we have a significantly disruptive fourth quarter and now we're

going to enter the summer, but we have to believe that these fragile children will lose a lot of academic ground. That is why we planned and are ready to implemented two summer virtual sessions for those students who are planning to bring 25 percent of our student population, the most at-risk students, back to school two weeks earlier.


That's about 46,000 students. We will be adding an additional hour of instruction for those same students and assigning virtual tutors and mentors to all of them.

Now, the geography of where and how education will take place is still up in the air. There's a lot of uncertainty.

HARLOW: Of course.

CARVALHO: And I would not take a cavalier attitude, as Dr. Fauci said, when it comes to the health of children. There's a lot that we do not know and the decision to bring student's back into a physical environment shall be guided by science, medical opinion, and the best logistics on how to do it safely in Miami.

HARLOW: Well, we wish you guys so much luck as you do that and thank you both for looking out for those most at risk children, especially, Debra, good luck. Alberto, we'll talk to you soon.

Tomorrow, talking about students, CNN will honor the graduates of the 2020 class with a special two hour event starting with the "Class of 2020: In This Together" featuring Bill Clinton, Gal Gadot and more. And then join LeBron James and President Obama for "Graduate Together." The celebration starts tomorrow night, 7:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.



SCIUTTO: Here is another measure of just how hard this virus has hit the economy. New numbers show that retail sales are down a record 16.4 percent last month.

HARLOW: It's horrible. It's the biggest drop we've ever seen. It's worse than predicted.

Our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, is with us now.

And, again, so much of this hits the little retailers.


I mean, look, the stores were closed. And if it wasn't essential, when you're on lockdown or you're in self-isolation, you're not buying it. And some of these categories are simply amazing.

For example, like apparel and accessories down almost 90 percent. I mean that's just remarkable. It's basically discretionary spending evaporated. And people are spending less at gas stations because they're driving less, but also because gas prices are down so much. It's just really a signal that the powerful American consumer who drives, you know, two-thirds of American economic activity stayed home and that powerful part of the economy just stopped.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I'm amazed grocery sales are down give that that's like the only thing you can buy at this point.

ROMANS: Right.

SCIUTTO: But McDonald's, it's laying out detailed instructions for its franchise owners as restaurants begin to open around the country. Interesting, I mean, McDonald's doing -- you know, given the detail guidance that -- that the CDC is not.


SCIUTTO: How are -- how are they saying restaurants are going to look differently?

ROMANS: So I think the retail sales number, that's the worst for it in April, because now you're starting to see places like McDonald's talk about opening up and how they're going to do it.

Look, so at McDonald's there will be stickers on the floor to social distance. No more self-service beverage stations. And that's mostly because they don't want their customers to be nervous. They want that to be controlled behind the counter. They are going to clean the bathrooms every 30 minutes and keep track of it.

They're going to clear those touch screen kiosks after every use or they're going to turn them off all together. So they have very detailed plans for taking, you know, chairs out, taking tables out and making sure that people are at a safe distance and that they're confident. They want their customers to be confident, to be able to go back and start spending money. And that's the key to the recovery.

HARLOW: Yes. I think a lot of folks will look to them for leadership on this and how it goes for -- for such a big -- such a big company.

All right, Christine, thanks. Have a good weekend.

ROMANS: You too.

HARLOW: Another sign of the times, people flying to Los Vegas can now buy PPE from vending machines at the international airport there. The airport has just installed three new machines filled with face masks, gloves, alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer.

SCIUTTO: Well, the casinos never closed really until now because travelers who do come to Vegas will see big changes when they visit the Las Vegas Strip. CNN's Kyung Lah explains.


TONY RODIO, CEO, CAESARS ENTERTAINMENT: It's real eerie and sad. And this place normally would have so much energy and so much excitement going on.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is Caesars Palace in the dark, because of the coronavirus.

LAH (on camera): You can hear our voices echoing through the lobby.

RODIO: Yes, you don't hear that echo because it's muffled because of all the bodies and all the sound and the activity.

LAH (voice over): There's not a soul here. Something the iconic casino has never experienced in its 54 year history says Tony Rodio, CEO of Caesars Entertainment.

LAH (on camera): You're talking about every single day it was operational.

RODIO: Every single day, every single second. There weren't locks to lock the front door. It was really tough in the beginning and there was so much uncertainty on how long this was going to last. And we're starting to see some movement.

LAH (voice over): As Nevada moves to reopen parts of its economy, Caesars is making changes across the casino floor.

RODIO: This is the typical configuration for blackjack-style games and normally there are six seats. In the new world, there will only be three chairs and nobody will be able to be within six feet of any of the three customer that are playing.

LAH (on camera): This looks like it's a little less than six feet. I mean are you -- is that the goal?

RODIO: I think that you're real -- if not at six feet, you're close to six feet and your -- you're certainly not face to face.

LAH: This is a craps table.

RODIO: Correct. In the new world, with social distancing, we're going to limit it to three on a side.

LAH: If a bunch of people come because it's an exciting game, what -- what do you --

RODIO: Between the dealers, the supervisors, security, we're going to limit it to three on each side and they have to be -- anybody else has to be six feet away.

We will be deactivating every other slot machine and removing the stool from the game. [09:45:00]

A customer can't even stand here and play this game because the game's not even active. And so we will do that throughout the whole floor.

LAH (voice over): In addition, a video released to Caesars' workers and the public shows employees will use electronic sprayers. They'll disinfect dice, slot machines and elevator banks. Workers will be required to wear masks and have their temperature taken, but guests, while encouraged to wear masks, are not.

Casino workers have already raised concerns about returning to the Vegas Strip.

LAH (on camera): For people who say, can I be 100 percent sure that I won't get sick coming in here, is that something that you can say to your customers?

RODIO: I don't know of anybody in the country that could say that to anybody in any circumstance. And I'm a casino operator, so I don't pretend to know everything about an infectious disease, especially one as contagious as this. So all I can do and ask of my team is to listen to the experts.

LAH: Are you ready for people to come back?

RODIO: Oh, my gosh, yes. I'm ready. Our staff's ready. Our team's ready. Our customers are ready.

This is what it looks like outside Caesars Palace. People would normally be getting out of their taxis, walking up those stairs with their luggage. All of this would be filled with limos and Ubers and there's nothing. What that's meant for employment is that of their 60,000 worldwide staffs at Caesars Entertainment, they've had to furlough 90 percent of workers.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Las Vegas.


SCIUTTO: Well, there are new warnings of another side effect to all this. A possible global mental health crisis because of the pandemic. And that could lead to a jump in overdoses, suicides here in the U.S. It's a real concern. Many are tracking this. We'll have the details ahead.



HARLOW: It is a stunning new headline. The U.N. now warns this global pandemic is leading to a global mental health crisis just exacerbated by Covid. At the same time, new analysis by the public health group Wellbeing Trust (ph) shows as many as 75,000 Americans could die due to alcohol abuse or drug overdoses and suicide just during this pandemic. Nancy Lublin is here. She's the CEO and co-founder of Crisis Text

Line. They're a free service. They provide 24/7 confidential support to anyone in crisis all via text.

Nancy, thanks for being here. Obviously I've followed your work for a long time and I thought your voice was just so needed right now in this crisis.

Who is coming to you guys right now?

NANCY LUBLIN, CEO AND CO-FOUNDER, CRISIS TEXT LINE: Thanks. Yes, it's -- look, it's a hard time. It's a hard time.

We've seen a wave of anxiety. Some of them people who were already prone, and this is very triggering, but a lot of people who've, you know, never thought that they had mental health issues all of a sudden are feeling anxiety.

And then the second wave has really been the impact of the quarantines themselves. A 78 percent increase in domestic violence, 44 percent increase in sexual abuse, eating disorders, substance abuse, depression, isolation. That's the second wave. And the third wave we've just started seeing is the trauma of job loss.


LUBLIN: And the trauma also of grief from -- from deaths because so many people have lost people.

HARLOW: Well, Nancy, to that point, the president, just a few weeks ago, talked about suicides related to the economic pain.

Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're going to have suicides by the thousands. You're going to have all sorts of things happen. You're going to have instability.


HARLOW: Do you think we're facing an exacerbated suicide crisis as well, particularly tied to the economic pain that you mentioned?

LUBLIN: So, so far we haven't seen a spike in suicidal ideation. I just want to say that so far. In the past two months, we have not seen an increase in suicidal ideation.


LUBLIN: But we expect that that -- yes, because people are -- most people are actually quarantined with other people. And most quarantining with other people, you're in a safe situation.

So, for example, young people, who's the majority of what we see, they're sleeping more, they are, you know, with people. And also there's been a, how are you feeling? There's been more talk about emotion, but we do expect that this mental health crisis, the other issues are spiking, and we do expect that suicidal ideation will increase now.

And you're right, tied to jobs and to the job situation, the economic situation, and that this mental health crisis like it's -- it's -- it's -- there's not ever going to be a vaccine for it, right?


LUBLIN: It's not like the -- you can put on a mask and curtail it. This scar is going to burn deep and long.

HARLOW: Nancy, in terms of healthcare workers, you guys have just launched something to focus on front line healthcare workers and essential workers, people that drive the bus, people that operate the subway, people that, you know, help us at the pharmacy. What are you -- what risk are they at and what resources are out there for them?

LUBLIN: So it's It's for anyone on the front lines. We're also been hearing of relatives -- from relatives of people on the front lines who are worried.

Here's -- you know, the most beautiful thing, actually -- and there are. There are always beautiful things in moments of resilience and inspiration even in the darkness. The most beautiful thing is, while those front line people are telling us that they're worried for their own health and they're worried about the -- their own job, the number one thing they're worried about is infecting other people.



LUBLIN: They're worried about bringing it home. They're worried about their neighbors. They're really heroes.

HARLOW: Yes, they are. It says a lot.

Nancy, thank you for the work you do. We're going to put up on the screen the number for Crisis Text Line. People can text. And also the Suicide Prevention hotline.

LUBLIN: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you, Nancy.

You can contact a counselor at the Crisis Text Line any time of day or night. Just text the world Home, 741741. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time. That is 1-800-273-TALK.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Folks, please reach out for help. Use those numbers. They're there if you need them.

Well, the push to reopen. States such as New York now allowing some places to open their doors, but it's not yet anything like business as usual.



SCIUTTO: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.