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Forty-Eight States Partially Reopening Or Easing Restrictions By Sunday; Black Light Experiment Shows How Quickly Virus Can Spread; Trump Fires State Department Watch Dog Reportedly Investigating Pompeo; Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) Discusses Trump Firing Linick, Pompeo Under Investigation, Democrat Probe Into Linick Firing, Democrat Coronavirus Aid Bill; McDonald's Details Safety Measures For Reopening Dining Rooms; J.C. Penny Files For Bankruptcy After 118 Years In Business. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired May 16, 2020 - 15:00   ET



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

And by the end of this weekend, the vast majority of the country, 48 states, will have partially reopened or eased coronavirus restrictions. And when you look at the rate of new cases, there are some promising numbers here. 41 states have seen a plateau or a decline in the past week. And as you can see on this map, that meanings nine states have seen a rise in new cases.

This as we get a grim new forecast from CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. He says that all their models predict the U.S. death count will eclipse 100,000 by June 1st.

Meanwhile as medical experts dispute President Trump's promise of a vaccine by the end of the year, the president isn't letting the staggering death toll dampen his message about reopening.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to make something clear, it's very important, vaccine or no vaccine, we're back.


CABRERA: But the reality is only parts of life are reopening, in parts of the country and with hefty restrictions. And one major signifier of a return to normalcy remains in the distance, sports. Yesterday NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced teams can reopen facilities starting Tuesday as long as they meet local qualifications, but coaches and players won't be returning yet. He says certain players may be able to return next month.

Let's begin in New Jersey where preparations are underway to reopen beaches in time for Memorial Day. A dry run being conducted in several towns along the coast ahead of next weekend when most if New Jersey beaches will reopen.

CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro joins us now from Ocean City, which is one of those beaches right now reopening. And, Evan, it looks like it's attracted quite the crowd behind you.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's not hard to be able to come to the beach in New Jersey, it seems. What I'm understanding early (ph) is in the middle of an experiment, which is that New Jersey is reopening all their beaches on Memorial Day weekend, but this weekend was an attempt to see what happens if you ask people to maintain social distance and to be careful when they come out to the beach. Will they come and will they do it?

And early results are showing that the law enforcement agencies say that they are. We got a report from a New Jersey state police, Colonel Pat Callahan, who said that he's canvassed 135 different law enforcement agencies in the shore region and was glad to report low volume.

Now, there's not low volume here in Ocean City, New Jersey, but I spoke to one business owner who actually said that things are actually looking pretty normal.


CHUCK BANGLE, CO-OWNER, MANCO AND MANCO PIZZA: This is pretty much a typical Saturday in ocean city.

This is normal for us. I think people are -- there's no reason to panic up here. People are practicing social distancing. They're wearing masks when asked to. The beaches are open for the first time. People are doing what they have to do to stay safe and they also don't want the governor to shut us down again. So we need to get our act together by next weekend. That's when the big rush to the Jersey Shore will take place.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, look, the issue here is it's up to people to really decide how they want to behave in this stuff. The police are out here but they're not really giving citations or just telling people to maintain social distancing. There's not even a rule saying you have to wear a mask on the boardwalk.

People are told to maintain distancing based on the CDC guidelines, which say masks inside businesses and masks when you are too close to people. We haven't seen a lot of people wearing them. I'm wearing them when I'm off camera. When I'm on camera, I like everybody to see my entire face, but when I'm off camera, I'm wearing one.

We spoke to people who weren't wearing one and they mentioned the CDC guidelines and saying, look, we don't need to be doing it. We're not being required to do it so we're not going to do it. Here in New Jersey, people are deciding what they think is safe and the government is deciding if that's safe enough and that's where we are today. Ana?

CABRERA: It is a very eye-opening scene there in New Jersey. Thank you, Evan McMorris-Santoro, we appreciate it.

Let's go coast to coast and head out west now where many beaches in Southern California are reopening for the first time during this pandemic, but in Los Angeles County, strict rules are in place for beachgoers there and CNN's Paul Vercammen joins us from Malibu.

So, Paul, what restrictions are in place and are people following those guidelines?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're seeing mixed results, Ana, on following the guidelines. Let's look out here into the water. They want you when you're on shore to wear your mask.

And inbounds (ph), what we're seeing here, it's okay for you to wade into these 60-degree waters right now and it's okay to go out there and surf and off in the distance, there is a lifeguard boat watching and so far the reports from the lifeguard's and sheriff's deputies are that people are complying but still makes people nervous because we have seen a lot of people walking in and around the boardwalk not wearing masks and we talked to somebody who is a longtime goer here to Zuma Beach and she's frankly uneasy.



KERI, BEACHGOER: I absolutely love being out here and glad that I'm able to come out to this beach and walk my dog and walk for us, but because people are still disregarding we're not bringing our kids, our kids are actually staying with my mom right now because I don't quote feel comfortable enough to bring them out here yet.


VERCAMMEN: So, this is Los Angeles County, 10 million people, and this is the very last of the California counties to reopen its beaches. We'll learn a lot more later when it gets crowded a little crowded. One thing that's a factor this weekend is it's unseasonably cool. It's not that hot. So that's not driving people toward the beach. But it's a wait and see thing and they've been saying in the County of Los Angeles they want the masks on.

CABRERA: That's an interesting point you bring about the temperature outside, because here on the east coast, it's a warm weekend which may explain the larger crowds we're seeing in New Jersey versus where you are there, Paul. Thank you for your update.

As more states begin to reopen, President Trump is making big promises, vowing that millions of doses of a vaccine will be available by the end of this year. Whether or not that timetable is realistic remains unknown. But one thing he has made clear, the U.S. economy will be open for business no matter what.

CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond joins us. And, Jeremy, top health officials have said a COVID-19 vaccine will take at least 12 to 18 months to develop. How is the president planning to deliver on this promise by the end of the year?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Ana. 12 to 18 months really has been timeline outlined by public health experts up until this point. But what the Trump administration is trying to do is really to shorten that timeline dramatically by doing a few key things.

Right now, there are 14 coronavirus vaccines in development that the federal government is monitoring and essentially, as time goes on, the leaders of Operation Warp Speed, which include pharmaceutical executive Dr. Moncef Slaoui, they will be essentially betting on a few coronavirus vaccines that they will be trying to put into production before those vaccines actually finish those full clinical trials.

Listen to the president describing this herculean effort.


TRUMP: Typically, pharmaceutical companies wait to manufacture a vaccine until it is received all of the regulatory approvals necessary and this can delay vaccines' availability to the public as much as a year and even more than that. However, our task is so urgent that under Operation Warp Speed, the federal government will invest in manufacturing all of the top vaccine candidates before they're approved so we're knowing exactly what we're doing before they're approved.


DIAMOND: Now, even with that plan, everything would have to go basically perfectly in order to get hundreds of millions of doses of this vaccine ready by the beginning of next year. But that is the ambitious timeline that President Trump and his administration have set upon now.

But the president, though, even as he was touting this vaccine effort, he was also cautious to say that he is not betting everything on a coronavirus vaccine, making clear not only that he wants the economy, states to begin reopening right now even without a vaccine, students to begin going back to school, for example, and also saying that even a return to normalcy, even if there isn't a vaccine that they should move forward with that return to normalcy regardless of whether a vaccine is successful. Ana?

CABRERA: Right. Jeremy Diamond for us, thank you.

Coming up, the cringe worthy results from a black light test taken over the course of a dinner. Why buffet-style eating may never be the same.

And we are counting down a star-studded event this evening when CNN honors the graduates of 2020 with the help of former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as LeBron James and Gal Gadot. The two-hour event starts right here at 7:00 P.M. Eastern. Don't go anywhere.



CABRERA: Welcome back. Two new experiments are now giving us a troubling look at just how easily the coronavirus can spread in restaurants and through the air. CNN's Brian Todd has the video you have to see.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A disturbing altered reality demonstration of how coronavirus spreads. Medical experts teamed up with Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, to gather ten participants. The setting a simulation of buffet-style eating in a cruise ship's dining area or restaurant.

The first participant rubs his hands with a special fluorescent liquid only visible under black light. He's simulating an infected person who coughed into his hands. Nine other people join him, put food onto their plates and proceed with the communal meal.

After 30 minutes, the room goes dark. Ultraviolet light shows that fluorescent liquid the man had rubbed on his hands is now on several surface, pitchers, tongs, his residue had spread to silverware, glassware. Three people had gotten it on their faces.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Even some basic rules of dining, like buffet style eating, we might have to reconsider that and go back to individual servings.

TODD: After one round, the team in Japan did a second cleaner version of the same experiment, had people wash hands, separated dishes and replaced utensils more frequently. After 30 minutes of that test, no one had picked up the residue.

DR. MARK RUPP, CHIEF, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER: If that initial event where that person had the contamination in their hand had used hand hygiene prior to touching that utensil, that would have prevented the whole line from becoming contaminated.

TODD: Another new study shows how this invisible enemy strikes when we talk to each other. Researchers at NIH and the University of Pennsylvania found that one person talking loudly for one minute in a confined space could generate at least a thousand droplets into a dark box lit with lasers.


A researcher speaks for 25 seconds repeating one phrase.


TODD: Inside the box, thousands of droplets can be seen here as streaks in the air, stirred by a fan which is then turned off. The clock up top shows how slowly droplets dissipate. Some linger for more than 12 minutes. Those researchers say, in real life, that's plenty of time for infected particles to be inhaled by others and cause new infections.

HOTEZ: You're in a loud restaurant where there is a fair bit of noise, people are speaking loudly, there is going to be lots of micro droplets of this virus in the atmosphere.

TODD: One expert says both of these studies show that for the foreseeable future, we'll have to build safeguards everywhere to ward off this unseen threat.

RUPP: Whether that's a flashing light or a piece of tape on the floor or crossbar that comes down or what have you, you know, some sort of reminder for somebody to say, you can't do this until you've practiced hand hygiene. You can't come into this establishment unless you have a mask in place.


CABRERA: Our thanks to Brian Todd for that report.

Joining us now is Dr. William Schaffner, the Professor of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and Dr. Darira Long, an Emergency Room Physician and Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee. Great to have both of you here.

That video, both of them, were just eye-opening, I guess, is the best word for it, on that first study, Dr. Schaffner, showing what can happen if just one person coughs into their hands and then goes through a buffet. I have to wonder, are the days of buffet-style eating just over?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY OF MEDICAL CENTER: I don't know about that, Ana, but I will tell you, your grandmother told you, wash your hands. That's grandmother always told you.

CABRERA: My grandmother also used to tell me you have earth so much dirt before you die, so I guess I'll stick with yours.

SCHAFFNER: Yes, so wash your hands. That's the big answer there. And, yes, we have to keep ourselves spread out, and for the foreseeable future, we'll have to adhere to social distancing. We're going to be wearing those masks. That was shown in the second video.

CABRERA: Dr. Long, also disturbing is this NIH study and that is referred to in the other video that finds droplets created when we talk and actually linger in the air for 8 to 14 minutes. Now, just to be clear does that mean if you walk into a room where an infected person was, let's say five minutes before you, does that mean you can get the virus just by breathing in the air?

DR. DARRIA LONG, CLINICAL ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE, ERLANGER: So, Ana, yes, it does mean that. It means that is possible. But we do have to note that the chances of that diminish for every additional minute. It's not like the virus is hovering necessarily for hours. What the study found is that if after someone have been breathing for about -- and talking for about a minute, about half of the virus particles were still present about eight minutes later.

So, yes, you could walk in and inhale potentially enough to get sick, but the number of virus particles in the air fall every single minute between you and that other person. So your chances keep diminishing over time.

CABRERA: But if these particles float for that long, does it also diminish some of the positive effects of social distancing?

LONG: I think it doesn't do that. But I think it points out that social distancing itself isn't the only tool that we should be doing. As Dr. Schaffner mentioned, masks, washing our hands, a number of things, social distancing. And just because we're staying six feet apart doesn't mine we are all doing everything we can. That's not the only tool that we have to use.

CABRERA: Dr. Schaffner, there was a striking image at the White House yesterday. Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, they were wearing masks but the president and some of the others were not. And here is what the president said about that.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And, Mr. President, can you just clarify, why are some of you wearing a mask and why are some of you not wearing a mask?

TRUMP: We've all been tested. I have a been tested. We've all been tested. And we're quite a distance away and we're outdoors. So I told them, I gave them the option they could wear it or not, so you can blame it on me, but I gave them the option, we could wear it or not.


CABRERA: Dr. Schaffner, what is the impact if only some people in a group wear masks and others don't, even if everyone in that group has been tested?

SCHAFFNER: Well, let's all pay attention to what it is that Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx were doing. They were wearing masks. The public health leaders who know the most who are public health and medical professionals are wearing the mask. I won't go out my office door or my home door without wearing the mask. I think those are the messages that we would like to convey.

CABRERA: Dr. Long, at that event, the White House announced Operation Warp Speed. It aims to develop a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year, but the president says with or without a vaccine, he wants the country back open. Are you of the opinion that an effective vaccine is the only way life can return to normal?

[15:20:05] LONG: Ana, I think that question means we have to define what we mean by normal. I think if you say to go back to a state where we were not afraid of coronavirus spreading from one person to another and we could control it, then, yes, that means herd immunity, either by people catching coronavirus or by getting a vaccine.

But, Ana, I think we have to acknowledge the country is opening and however we feel about it, it's opening so we're going to have to experience a new normal. And I do think that that means accepting that there is some risk, that while most otherwise healthy people who go out will only have mild to moderate infection from COVID, some could be severely ill. And if we do that, we have to be strategic about it.

We can't willy-nilly open up the country, just like you open up a highway that's been under construction. You don't say, go drive however you want. You put speed limits in place. You make people wear seat belts. We have to be strategic if we are looking at this new normal.

CABRERA: Dr. Schaffner, your thoughts, vaccine or not, the country will reopen?

SCHAFFNER: Well, the country has reopened or is reopening now. The trick is to do so in a sensible fashion. Once again, I will emphasize, if you're older, if you have any underlying illness, don't be first in line to open up. And all of us should be wearing masks and hygiene, obeying the six-foot rule. We're all protecting each other. We're in this together.

CABRERA: No doubt, Dr. William Schaffner and Dr. Darria Long, as always, thank you both and be well.

LONG: Thank you.

CABRERA: We have breaking news this hour, two leading Democrats are launching a probe into President Trump's firing of an inspector general who they say was actively investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. We'll get the latest, next.



CABRERA: Breaking news now, a state department source confirming to CNN this Saturday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is under investigation for allegations that he improperly made use of a political appointee.

This revelation is only coming to light in the wake of last night's late night firing by President Trump of yet another inspector general. And minutes ago, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel and the top Democrat in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, announced that they are launching a probe into that firing. Now, this inspector general was assigned to monitor the State Department.

CNN's Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt is following developments.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: In the Trump administration, it is the watch dogs who are being watched closely with suspicion and disdain now being dismissed at a growing pace. Friday night, with no warning, the inspector general for the State Department was suddenly fired. President Donald Trump informing the House speaker in a letter, it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general. That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.

The State Department's Steve Linick, like inspectors general, was charged with oversight, keeping watch for any wrongdoing and reporting it. According to the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Linick had launched an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and whether, according to a congressional aide, Pompeo and his wife had misused a political appointee for personal tasks. The State Department has not responded to that accusation.

Linick had a small but important role in the impeachment inquiry and also had issued previous damning reports about the State Department under Pompeo. It was Pompeo, according to a senior State Department official, who recommended that Linick be fired.

The president has repeatedly shown and voiced opposition to his agency's watch dogs, fixated on getting rid of those as he sees as Obama loyalists, who aren't sufficiently loyal to his administration.

TRUMP: Did I hear the word inspector general? Really? It's wrong, and they'll talk to you about it. It's wrong.

MARQUARDT: It was the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson, whose actions sparked what became the Ukraine investigation and then impeachment proceedings of the president. Last month, Atkinson too was fired.

In addition to Linick and Atkinson, last month, the Pentagon's acting inspector general, Glenn Fine, who was overseeing spending on coronavirus response, was removed from the top job. And two weeks ago, the official serving as watch dog of Health and Human Services was replaced after investigators found shortages of testing kits and masks along with delays and coronavirus test results.

TRUMP: Where did it come from, the inspector general? What's his name?

MARQUARDT: Three of the four were dismissed late on Friday night. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted the firing of Steve Linick, saying, it has accelerated Trump's dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people.

Linick will now be replaced by a veteran State Department official, Stephen Akard, who is a close ally of Vice President Mike Pence.


Stephen Akard has been been serving at the State Department as the Director of Foreign Missions. He's also served in a number of diplomatic posts around the world. He also worked with the vice president in Indiana when Vice President Pence was the governor there.

There are now a growing number of Democrats coming out angrily against this move to replace Steve Linick with Akard. With the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs who oversees the State Department calling it outrageous.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


CABRERA: Joining us is Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly, of Virginia. He's on the House Oversight and Reform Committee as well as the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, after this news dropped last night, you tweeted this, "The firing of I.G.s is meant to intimidate and silence those who wish to hold corruption accountable. It is an attack on democracy and should trouble all members of Congress. The GOP silence on this is a dereliction of duty."

A reminder, here's the president's explanation for the firings. In a letter, he writes, "It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointee serving as inspectors general. That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general."

Congressman Connolly, is that not a valid reason to remove Linick?

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): No, because let's look what's behind when he asserts I have -- I as president have to have confidence. What erodes confidence?

In the case of Mr. Atkinson, the inspector general at the Intelligence Community, it was his following the law with a whistleblower complaint that led to the impeachment inquiry.

So Mr. Trump wasn't comfortable with that. That's not a standard. This man followed the law. And should be supported, not removed.

The I.G. at the Department of Health and Human Services was doing her job. She was reporting on shortcomings and failures in the response to the coronavirus crisis. That's her job. And he removed her because he didn't like what she had to say. It contradicted his narrative.

And, of course, at the State Department it's even more petty because apparently the -- Mr. Linick, the I.G. -- removed last night, another Friday night. so no one notices -- was looking into charges that Secretary Pompeo and his wife were improperly using staff for personal errands and they're not supposed to do that.

And it's perfectly properly for an I.G. to look into that complaint. There were no charges. But Pompeo apparently didn't like it. Went to Trump and complained and Trump removed the I.G.


CONNOLLY: This is the dismemberment of accountability in the federal government if it continues.

CABRERA: Our sources also confirm that there was this investigation into the secretary of state and these alleged errands that you are also claiming to be part of this investigation. Do you know what kind of errands are alleged to have happened or taken place?

CONNOLLY: I don't, Ana. All I know is the reports we received. I don't even know if there's any truth to them. Neither does the I.G.

The role of the I.G. is to look into it. To be removed because you were doing your job and following the law is really a very troubling and chilling thing for the United States government.

Because I.G.s are the gatekeepers. They're the ones who really make hour that everybody is doing their job properly, that they weed out waste, fraud and abuse and corruption and they also absolve the innocent in the process and they're looking at audits of programs and how many spent.

That's their job. They protect the taxpayers but they also protect the Democratic structures of these federal agencies.

And as I said, Trump is single-handedly dismembering those structures, so that essentially there will be no accountability.

CABRERA: As you pointed out four inspectors general have been removed or replaced just since the beginning of April. And I know you and other Democrats are expressing suspicion about this. How will you get to the bottom of what's going on?

CONNOLLY: Well, obviously, we now are going to have an enhanced capability to have hearings and virtual hearings and I certainly would expect the subcommittee I chair and maybe the full committee with Carolyn Maloney will have hearings and investigations about what's happening here.

But we also have two or three bills to protect and insulate the inspectors general from precisely this kind of partisan political interference so that they can have their professional independence and do their jobs without interference.

One of those bills was incorporated into the Heroes Act we passed yesterday. And I'm hopeful that Congress will act on it. We have to protect the I.G.s.


And this has never been a partisan issue before until President Trump. And, all of a sudden, my Republican friends, who for decades have been outspoken in supporting whistleblowers, inspectors general, independent auditors, suddenly see here and speak no fault with a president who is attacking that system.

CABRERA: I want to ask you about this bill you passed yesterday regarding the coronavirus. This $3 trillion relief bill you voted for it, 14 other Democrats and all but one Republican opposed it. It's expected to be dead on arrival in the Senate.

So what do you say to the many Americans right now who are desperate for aid looking to their leaders in Congress and seeing them unable to agree?

CONNOLLY: Well, I don't control what a Republican Senator in the U.S. Senate does. But the voters do.

And so what I would say is, look, there are two views here, the Republicans, in the form of Mitch McConnell, and Kevin McCarthy, in the House, have said, out of their own mouths, their top priority is protecting corporations from liability during the pandemic. That's their answer.

Our answer is, we got to plug holes in a shattering economy. We've got to save lives. We've we got to help people in need. We've got to put people back to work. We've got to make sure that people have the medical treatment they need in the worst public health crisis in over 100 years,

And I will point out, no less a figure than Donald Trump's appointee as chairman of the Federal Reserve said on the eve of our passing the vote yesterday, look, he said, go big, don't worry about the debt. The hole in the economy is so big, you got to try to fill it.

And you got to save institutions. You've got to save our state and local governments and save the postal service and save the public health structure. And you've got to, you know, provide help for individual families running out of cash and can go hungry.

We've never seen 36 million Americans unemployed. We've never seen the kind of contraction in the economy we are now experiencing. We've never seen the kind of small business failures and even big business failures and bankruptcies that we are experiencing right now. And it's only going to get worse in the short term.

We have an opportunity to stem it, to mitigate it, to save the country from going off an economic cliff.

That was the mistake Herbert Hoover made, you know, in a different generation in the depression. Let's not repeat that. But my Republican friends seem to have learned nothing.

CABRERA: Well, there were 14 Democrats who voted against the bill as well.

Congressman Gerry Connolly, thanks for taking the time. Good luck.

Fast-food giant: McDonald's outlining new safety plans for their dining rooms. How they'll look drastically different, just ahead, here in the CNN newsroom. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


CABRERA: Your next trip to get a Happy Meal will look a whole lot different. McDonald's just released a 59-page plan detailing how it plans to keep customers and employees safe when their dining rooms re- open.

The tables and rest rooms will be cleaned every 30 minutes. All customers must stay six feet apart and there will be stickers on the floor to ensure this. The self-serve beverage bar, no more. Touch- screen kiosks will be cleaned after each use.

Let's bring in Chief Business Correspondent, Christine Romans.

Christine, McDonald's is a global giant. Do you expect to see playbooks like this with other restaurant chains? And will this kind of transparency, 59 pages, boost customer confidence?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I think it's all about customer confidence. When you read the document, this playbook, it's very clear, they want people to feel safe and comfortable to come in, right? And they want to be very upbeat about how they remind people to stay six feet apart. You have the thumbs up if you're doing the right thing in the dining area.

They're going to close the play place for those kids. No more interactive games. And those touch screen kiosks, I think you'll see some franchise owners take those out because they'll have to be cleaned every time somebody uses them this.

But it's all about making people feel safe and comfortable again and other companies are working on guidelines as well for their employees and for their customers.

CABRERA: Christine, we've learned this pandemic has claimed yet another retailer. The 118-year-old retail giant J.C. Penney has officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. How significant is it?

ROMANS: It is. It is so fascinating. This was a staple of rural economies. You know, I mean, I got my first prom dress at a J.C. Penney, haircut and pictures, too. This was so important for rural families.

And to see that -- to see its demise in bankruptcy, it will try to make it on the other side. But it has competition from Walmart and Target and Amazon and online, all kinds of online shopping venues. How many -- how many stores like that will you have in a shopping mall when the experience has been changed? So it's a tough road ahead for J.C. Penney.

CABRERA: You had me thinking of my own family memories of going to get pictures there as well. Unfortunately, the big stores as well as small mom-and-pop stores are suffering. There were another three million new unemployment claims last week.

Not good news. But it is at least a number lower than initial filings in the previous weeks. What does that tell you?

ROMANS: These numbers are still mind-blowing. But you're right to look at the trend. And every week has been a little bit less horrific than the week before.


What it tells me is those early layoffs of retail workers, restaurant workers, bar workers, people who work in hotels, those are pretty much done. And now you're seeing other kinds of layoffs to a slightly lesser degree.

I'm hoping that April and May, Ana, will be the really ugly months of this. And as states re-open, hopefully safely, people will have the confidence to go back out and start spending money again and people will start to get hired again.

CABRERA: Christine Romans, thank you. And I know you'll be back to tell us why surprises are spike for everyday grocery items we all need. So we'll look forward to that.

Thanks, Christine.

Also ahead, an CNN exclusive. Slot machines disabled. Chairs gone. We will take you inside Caesars Palace to see how the iconic Las Vegas casino is preparing to re-open.

Plus, be sure to tune in tonight when CNN honors the graduates of 2020 with a two-hour event, first at 7:00, the "CLASS OF 2020: IN THIS TOGETHER," featuring former President Bill Clinton and wonder woman, Gal Gadot, and then, at 8:00, join Lebron James and former President Obama for "GRADUATE TOGETHER: AMERICAN HONORS THE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 2020."



CABRERA: Las Vegas casinos betting on reopening in just a few weeks, but the casino floor will look much different.

CNN's Kyung Lah has this exclusive look inside.


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.

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.


CABRERA: Our thanks to Kyung Lah for that report. We will be watching and waiting and reporting out what happens when those casinos reopen.

Now, during this pandemic, people of all ages are finding ways to give back and make a difference. Here's Anderson Cooper with a look at two inspiring kids who took the initiative to support their vulnerable neighbors.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "A.C. 360" AND HOST, "CNN HEROES" (voice- over): In the wake of COVID-19 --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Kevin.

COOPER: -- these boys realized that senior citizens in their communities could use a helping hand.

This 12-year-old expanded his nonprofit's efforts, providing hundreds of bags filled with essential items to a local senior home.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I'm doing my part in helping. And I feel like it's everyone's duty to help out where they can.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I need your help to help others.

COOPER: This 7-year-old used his $600 in savings to purchase food and supplies for seniors.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Look at all this food we got.

COOPER: And now, these two remarkable kids are teaming up to help more people.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Anyone can have an impact, no matter their age, no matter if they're older or they're young.

Here's a care bag for you. With love, we can get through this together.


CABRERA: Those kids are awesome. To see the full story about the great work these kids are doing, go to


We're back after this.


CABRERA: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. Thanks for being here.

Across the country, the numbers of daily new reported coronavirus cases appeared to be dropping in most but not all states. And by Monday, the vast majority of the country, 48 states, will have partially reopened or loosened coronavirus restrictions.