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Trump Announces Ambitious Plan To Develop Vaccine By End Of Year; CDC Director Forecasts 100,000 U.S. Coronavirus Deaths By June 1; NY Stay-At-Home Order Extended Until May 28; CDC Releases Scaled- Back Guidance As States Reopen; Growing Pain For U.S. Workers As COVID-19 Hammers The Economy; Justice Caravan Travels Through Georgia To Honor Ahmaud Arbery; Data Shows New Cases In GA Trending Downward In Recent Days. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 16, 2020 - 08:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I just wanted to hug Nanna (ph).


BLACKWELL: You realize how--

PAUL: it's not just about Nanna.

BLACKWELL: That's true.

PAUL: Everybody's missing the hug.

BLACKWELL: And they're so young. So--

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Two months - two and half months for them, it seems like an eternity. All right. Top headlines right now. Next hour of your "NEW DAY." Starts right now.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Vaccine and no vaccine, we're back.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A nationwide experiment shifting into high gear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am excited, but it's - like I said, I'm just it's just nerve racking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's either open or close my doors for good.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Do not underestimate this virus and do not play with this virus.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak you may not be able to control. TRUMP: It will go away at some point. It will go away.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Beautiful start to the day across Atlanta. Good morning to you. And this morning, we're going to balance the happy talk and the sunny optimism we're getting from the White House with the reality in the race for this vaccine.

Researchers around the world are rushing to develop this working coronavirus vaccine. President Trump, though, formally unveiled his administration's "Operation Warp Speed."


TRUMP: Its objective is to finish developing and then to manufacture and distribute a proven coronavirus vaccine as fast as possible. Again, we'd love to see if we could do it prior to the end of the year. We think we're going to have some very good results coming out very quickly.


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: You heard the President they're doubling down on his goal for a vaccine by the end of the year. It's an aggressive timeline. Most health experts are claiming it's just unrealistic at best. Potentially dangerous at worst. More on - in just a moment on why scientists believe other promising - the overpromising could be, in fact, really detrimental at the end of the day.

But there's also this new warning we need to tell you about regarding the U.S. death toll. As states push ahead on plans to reopen, the Director of the CDC is forecasting more than 100,000 deaths by the end of this month that is two weeks from now.

BLACKWELL: We have reporters on all angles here. We want to start, though, with CNN's Kristen Holmes who's at the White House. Kristen, the White House - the President outlined this strategy, said the country would return to normal with or without a vaccine.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Victor and Christi, good morning. That's exactly right. President Trump really doubling down on that idea as well, essentially saying that the virus would go away without a vaccine.

Now, that is something that health experts and scientists, including members of his own task force earlier this week, have said is simply not true. That a vaccine is really the key for Americans to go back to the way things were to enter back into normalcy. But that wasn't the only thing that this community raised issue with when it came to President Trump's press conference.

The other part of this was that timeline. President Trump saying that "Operation Warp Speed" aimed to get hundreds of millions of doses of a vaccine out to the public by the end of the year. And the medical community. as well as scientists really warn against that. They say that it is unlikely that could happen, particularly with a virus like coronavirus since we are still learning some of the details of how that actually impacts the human body right now. I mean, we're getting new details every single day.

Now, take a listen to what President Trump said on how they plan on doing that.


TRUMP: Typically, pharmaceutical companies wait to manufacture a vaccine until it is received all of the regulatory approvals necessary and this can delay vaccine's 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.


HOLMES: All right. So two things I want to focus on here. One is that manufacturing angle. First of all, manufacturing is an important part. We know the administration has already signed contracts for syringes and needles. But manufacturing is not the only part. There is the actual science there and all of that testing.

The other thing to note is about that testing, is about that timeline. Now, Dr. Fauci testified this week in front of the U.S. Senate and essentially he said that while it was possible to have this accelerated timeline, there was no guarantee that the vaccine would actually work.

This causes a lot of concern among the medical community. We know right now there's already an anti-vaccination group out there - a movement out there and there is a fear that if they put a vaccine on the market that doesn't work, that this will really cause Americans or many Americans to lose faith in vaccines altogether.


PAUL: So we know the President Trump's going to be at Camp David this weekend. What is the expectation there?

HOLMES: Well, we asked President Trump what was on the agenda for the weekend? He said there's going to be some military talk and some not military talk. But this is a trip that he's taking after fallout from his last trip to Camp David.

We should note, he went up there two weeks ago with aides. It was described as largely an uneventful weekend. And then the White House was sent into a scramble just days later when we found out that one of those aides that was on the trip tested positive for coronavirus.

We know then the White House really ramped up its contact tracing efforts at that point. But, again, back to Camp David. He is going with some conservative lawmakers and one thing that we are told they will be talking about is how to push forward this conversation on these claims that Obama was involved in some sort of conspiracy.

BLACKWELL: Kristen Holmes for us, thank you so much.

PAUL: Thanks Kristen. So let's talk about states reopening here across the country, because millions of New Yorkers are still under a shelter in place order. However, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced five regions in the state will be allowed to begin phased reopening.

BLACKWELL: And one of those regions, the Southern tier of New York, let's go to Polo Sandoval there in Binghamton. And streets still empty behind you. It's still early on a Saturday morning, but a lot of optimism that folks will return to some of those shops. Plans still have to be written up.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly, Victor and Christi. And, look, when it comes to the signs, the obvious signs of phase one, they really aren't that obvious. That's because a lot of what we're seeing is now in manufacturing, for example.

Construction projects, we heard from one contractor here that you're about to hear from shortly - in a little while. He says they are now beginning to take on those jobs. And we need to be clear, it's a small percentage of New Yorkers. For the mass - vast majority, including those in New York City, they are still under stay-at-home orders.


SANDOVAL (voice-over): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo extending the state's stay-at-home order through May 28th, maintaining restrictions for the more populated regions, including New York City, which have not hit all seven of the benchmarks set by the state to begin the reopening process.

CUOMO: If a region hits its benchmark at any time, regardless of the pause order, then that region can open. We're opening phase one in those five regions today.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): That's allowing curbside retail, manufacturing and construction work to resume in some more sparsely populated communities in the state hardest hit by the COVID pandemic. In Upstate New York, building contractor Joe Dundon already busy fielding job calls.

JOSEPH DUNDON, OWNER DUNDON CONSTRUCTION: I think the most I'm going to have on a job is four, maybe and that's a lot different. We used to have seven eight guys on jobs, so things might take a little longer, but at least we're going to be safe moving forward.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): And New York's beaches will reopen in time for Memorial Day weekend with limited capacity and with the exception of New York City beaches. Neighboring states, New Jersey, Delaware and Connecticut, also planning on opening up their shores by Sunday. 48 U.S. states will have partially reopened. Despite a recent uptick

in COVID-19 deaths across the state, Texas is on track to reopen exercise facilities and also expand capacities at movie theaters and restaurants as soon as Monday. And in Florida, starting Monday, restaurants will be allowed to serve at 50 percent capacity and gyms also slated to reopen.

GOV. RICK DESANTIS (R-FL): If you're inside, make sure you're doing the social distance and then sanitized machines and surfaces after use.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unveiled new flow charts designed to help communities and businesses decide whether they can reopen. Six short documents came after lengthier guidelines were shelved by the White House earlier this week.

The CDC also issuing a new health alert about a COVID related inflammatory illness reported among children exposed to the virus. The agency putting an all call out to doctors across the country, asking they report suspected cases. Federal health officials say, they're hoping to better understand a rare, but potentially deadly condition.

DR. ROBERTA DEBIASI, CHIEF OF PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASES, CHILDREN'S NATIONAL HOSPITAL: We're all putting our heads in cases together to really get an answer to what is driving this, the best treatments. And then we can then - once we have those answers have a - be in a better position to make data driven recommendations.


SANDOVAL: Entering phase one does come a great responsibility. You see these local governments that choose to reinitiate those procedures still have to closely monitor COVID numbers. If they see any sort of increase in these numbers, Victor and Christi, then as we heard from the governor yesterday, then that could potentially mean re-pausing the economies and of course closing some of those businesses that are finally allowed to reopen again.

BLACKWELL: Polo Sandoval for us in Binghamton, thanks so much.

PAUL: Thank you Polo. So fear of a looming economic crisis may be driving the push to reopen businesses, of course, as leaders try to come up with their own strategies for handling this. Our next guest says they are quote "guilty of a colossal failure of imagination."


He writes, "Even leaving the human and health care toll aside, the scale of the economic problem ahead is larger and worse than our leaders and politics appear capable of handling or even recognizing."

That writer Garrett Graff with us now. He's a CNN Contributor and he wrote about this recently in "The Washington Post." Garrett it is so good to have you with us. Thank you for being here. So let's talk about this imagination of the country's leaders that you

talk about. You say they don't seem up to the task. You point out that the administration has been hampered by open positions and acting officials. And you did give a shout out to Congress that they are to blame there as well because they too, you say, were unprepared. So who should the long-term planning fall to?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it - what - part of this challenge is, is that it's going to involve a level of imagination larger than our government's certainly right now seems capable of doing.

I mean if you look back to something like what FDR did with the New Deal, that took amazing alacrity and imagination over, both, a very short period of time, and then the better part of a decade.

And that what I worry about is that our government's response thus far appears to be off so far by an order or two of magnitude. I mean, just that new job numbers this week make clear that more than the working population of 30 states combined has lost their jobs over these last eight weeks. And we're just nowhere close to reckoning with the second and third order effects of that problem.

PAUL: And a lot of people, anyway, aren't feeling it just yet, probably, because no businesses have been opened or they're opening so slowly that we're just not quite sure where this is going to land yet. So the gravity of it maybe hasn't hit some people. It certainly has hit others.

There are four policy questions, you say, that indicate there is trouble ahead, and I want to read this. First of all, you say the problems with the bailout for the small business - we know they ran out of money. The money that colleges and universities are going to need, so they can keep operating. There's the budget crisis that the COVID-19 response has caused for state and city governments.

And then of course how businesses adjust to this new reality of social distancing. How that affects unemployment. That's a lot on a plate to deal with. How do leaders prioritize all of this? Where to start? How to focus?

GRAFF: Yes. So I tried to zero in on those four issues, because - in fact, they are actually nowhere close to the most important issues that we face. That those - the idea that colleges and universities might need somewhere between $200 billion and $400 billion just to finish out this calendar year successfully. I mean that's not even one of the industries that is going to be most hard hit by this.

I mean, when you look at airlines, cruise ships, hospitality, I mean, those industries are going to be a much more dire situation. So, the Payroll Protection Program, one of the key cornerstones of policy thus far, it's really only meant to be an eight-week crunch. And so by June 5th those companies are going to be back looking at either additional layoffs or additional bailout money.

And that these are problems that each of their own might be something that the government could deal with. But collectively they've become incredibly complicated, especially when you add in the problems of the more - of the industry sort of more directly hit by these challenges.

PAUL: Yes. The weight of it is amplified, no doubt about it. I want to show you some of the headlines this week regarding the economics of all of this, and the unemployment and the things that are really affecting people who are sitting at home right now watching this.

So when you look at this, the people who have filed for unemployment, the number of households that have no job and don't even know what they're going to do. Consumer spending, we know that 70 percent of our GDP and the growth of this country, and that's down more than it has ever been since tracking began in 1992.

What is it going to take here? What is it going to take to put together an economic plan, even for the near future? Well, I mean, we know we're looking ahead, but even for the near future what is it going to take?

GRAFF: The short answer is trillions of dollars, and probably tens of trillions of dollars and that's just a number that we have never thought about in public policy before. If you go back just two months ago - I mean, remember the first COVID response plan that Congress passed was a little over $8 billion. And we thought at that point in the second week of March that that was a large number.


We came back pretty quickly with a $2 trillion plan, and now you saw the House last night pass a $3 trillion plan. That's the first sign that I've seen that people are beginning to realize just how big this is. But you know I think it's entirely possible that we need to be looking at $5 trillion to $7 trillion or maybe $8 trillion or $9 trillion in federal help in this year alone. I mean that's a number that is just staggering to consider.

PAUL: And a lot of people hear it and say where is that going to come from? Garrett Graff, a thoughtful piece. Thank you so much for taking the time to be with us and explain it. Take good care.

GRAFF: You too.

BLACKWELL: Still to come a Friday night surprise from the White House while President Trump says he plans to fire the State Department Inspector General.

PAUL: Also a justice caravan is making its way from Atlanta to Brunswick, Georgia right now. They're protesting the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery. We have the latest on that ahead.



PAUL: So right now there is a justice caravan traveling from Atlanta to Brunswick, Georgia. They're protesting the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. BLACKWELL: Yes, the demonstrators will rally at the Glynn County Courthouse this afternoon. They're demanding the resignation of two district attorneys over what, a lot of people are calling, a gross mishandling of the investigation.

PAUL: Remember, Arbery was allegedly shot and killed by suspects Gregory and Travis McMichael back in February. And this is the video that showed what happened last week. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested both of those men and took over the case. Arbery's mother spoke with CNN last night about the memory of her son.


WANDA COOPER-JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: It makes me very angry that my son's life was - my son's life was taken so offensively (ph) and they didn't respected - they didn't respect his life at all. And he was just a nobody to them.


BLACKWELL: Attorneys for Gregory McMichael say that he did not commit murder.

President Trump is removing another Inspector General. The President gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi notice of his intent to fire State Department Inspector General Steve Linick in 30 days. He is the third government watchdog fired or replaced since last month.

PAUL: The removal is raising some questions this morning as well, after the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee says, Linick had opened an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

CNN National Security Analyst and Senior Adviser to National Security Adviser under President Obama, Samantha Vinograd is with us. Samantha so good to see you. First of all, I know that when this happened, you had a little bit of a red alert on the timing of this that came up for you. Talk to us about that significance.

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the timing could not be worse when we think about how an IG to IG transition is supposed to happen. The U.S. government is under unprecedented pressure right now because of the pandemic. That means that officials at the State Department, including an Inspector General's office are doing things like working from home.

It seems almost impossible that it will be feasible for the current Inspector General to do a substantive transition to the incoming Acting Inspector General without dropping a ball. And perhaps it is the intent of the timing of this announcement and it will likely limit the ability of the sitting Inspector General to fully substantively transition his caseload to his successor.

BLACKWELL: Samantha, that's the specific instance. Let's talk about the trend. The third IG replaced or rather removed or fired in the last 45 days or so. And add to that Christi Grimm, who was the place holder at HHS after she submitted the report about the shortages of PPE, a nominee was quickly named to that position at Health and Human Services. The significance of the trend over the last 45 days.

VINOGRAD: Well, Victor, as you said the rapid fire removal of inspectors general isn't a coincidence, it's a trend. And this latest spring cleaning operation by President Trump really just amplifies the narrative about what constitutes job security in this administration. Keeping your job means not doing it.

These inspectors general were sensibly removed without cause. They fulfilled their roles and responsibilities. And domestically the removal of inspectors general, who again, are doing their statutorily defined jobs, threatens to allow waste fraud and abuse to run rampant throughout the U.S. government as long as it benefits the President.

Globally, President Trump is his own home team's worst enemy. How can we credibly promote the rule of law accountability and oversight for U.S. foreign policy priorities overseas when President Trump is dismantling them here at home?

And, finally, the U.S. government is staffed with people who want to show up to work every day and do their jobs. President Trump is instead sending the message that he wants personal PIs and publicists to fill the halls of Foggy Bottom and other departments and agencies. These moves will have an enormous impact on recruitment and retention going forward.

PAUL: All righty. Real quickly. We have this assertion from the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that we are talking about, Eliot Engel, who is saying Linick could open an investigation and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as we were talking about. At this point, the President said he lost confidence in him. Does there need to be more explanation given to the reasoning for this?

VINOGRAD: Most certainly. President Trump plays the confidence card whenever he removes an official without actual justifiable cause.


I've read the Inspector General Act and subsequent legislation. Nowhere does it say that the President can tell IGs, "My way or the highway." President Trump is perverting the meaning of confidence in this context. Confidence should be associated with the IG performing his or her roles and responsibilities under the statute, not whether they do their job in line with the President's personal pet projects.

PAUL: Samantha Vinograd, always good to have you with us. Thank you, ma'am.

VINOGRAD: Thanks. Stay healthy.

PAUL: You as well.

BLACKWELL: So nearly every state will be reopened and in some way by Monday. So let's check in on Georgia.

You'll remember that it was one of the early states to ease restrictions. How is Georgia doing right now? CNN's Natasha Chen is checking out all of the metrics and we'll check in with her.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor. I'm in Atlantic Station and some of the business here have reopened, some of them have not. But as you said, it's been three weeks since the very first businesses could make the choice of opening or not. We're going to take a look at the new daily cases in Georgia and see how everyone's doing right after the break.



PAUL: So three weeks after Georgia's Governor Brian Kemp began lifting lockdown restrictions, the state is seeing a downward trend in new coronavirus cases.

BLACKWELL: Let's check in now with CNN's Natasha Chen. She's in Midtown Atlanta where more stores are reopening. Still very early. Have to remind people if they don't see crowds behind you, it's 8:30. Most people aren't shopping at this hour. But are the stores - are the restaurants they're seeing a higher volume?

CHEN: Well, Victor and Christi, you're right. This is very early. No one is out here yet. But yesterday we were out here seeing a good number of people on a Friday, trying to take advantage of the places that were open. Some people really going into the restaurant across the street that was allowing a seated dining, but there are some other places that have chosen not to reopen yet.

In fact, there is a sign outside of one of the shop windows here, telling people that even if they get takeout from there, they can't sit in those chairs behind me. So they're kind of a varied set of rules here depending on which businesses feel comfortable inviting people back into their spaces.

Now, when we talk about the downward trend we want to be careful in saying this is very preliminary and the downward trend looks to be a bit unsteady at the moment. If you take a look at the seven-day average, for example, in the state of Georgia. The seven-day average ending Wednesday, is about 6 percent down from where it was the week before. And it looks like sort of a jagged line, that's kind of hovering in the same zone, inching downward at best.

The takeaway. The good news is that there's been no major spike in cases. But if you look at that graph there's also not a major dramatic drop either. So this is something to be carefully monitoring in the weeks to come as we get some more of that data. Three weeks is a good time to take a look at it. That, of course, still not the entire picture. And that's what some critics and local authorities are a little bit concerned about.

The Mayor of Atlanta said it didn't look like Georgia was back to normal. But she said there is nothing normal about what we see here with COVID-19. Victor and Christi?

PAUL: That was a great clarity to point out about the downward trend, Natasha. It is a good point to make. Do you know - you are mentioning the business behind you that was saying you can - you get some food from us, but you can't sit down.

Do we have any indication how expansive these openings are? Are any restaurants really embracing this wholeheartedly or are a lot of them just still, "you can come get takeout. We can deliver to you, but our doors are not opening."

CHEN: It really depends, Christi, on what the restaurant is. And it sometimes depends on how large the business is. I talked to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce President yesterday and he said that the small mom and pops have been a little bit more desperate to open, because they really need to make that income, and we saw that in the very beginning with barbershops and hair salons perhaps.

And some of the larger chains, he says has - they have a little more flexibility and more resources to take their time with this. But that's just a very blanket observation. It doesn't apply in every case. In fact, in our case, looking in front of us, it's the large chain that is very eagerly open right now and the small locally owned business that's taken their time with it. So it really depends case to case.

We have seen and people have told us about certain restaurants that seem packed and people lined up out their door. We do want to mention that Governor Kemp relaxed the restaurant restrictions even more this past week so that there can be 10 people per 300 square feet. And now you can have a party of 10 people at a table as opposed to six. So it's just getting more relaxed right now, we're going to see how that goes.

PAUL: No doubt about it. Yes, quite an illustration there. Also some of the people that still have so much on their plate here trying to make it happen. Natasha Chen, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: So how did we get to a broader reopening, something that's sustainable? Test, trace, isolate, of course, that's the strategy that helped South Korea, helped Singapore slow the spread of coronavirus.

The key step here - that middle one, contact tracing. Joining me now to talk about how contact tracing could work here in the U.S. Dr. Joia Mukherjee, she is Chief Medical Officer for Partners in Health. Thanks so much for spending time with us this morning doctor.


BLACKWELL: So you're running the program there in Massachusetts. 1,000 people have been brought in now to begin contact tracing. Let's start with the basics. How does this work? Is this all phone work or are they going into communities?

MUKHERJEE: Well it has to be on many levels. The part that we are coordinating with the Department of Public Health is all virtual. But, of course, local departments of health, who are really leading the charge, they are also doing some work with EMS services et cetera to do on foot contact tracing. So there's both happening simultaneously, but the large majority of it at this point is virtual.


BLACKWELL: So you start with people who have been diagnosed, have tested positive for COVID-19.


BLACKWELL: And then you get their list of contacts, how far back are you going? And once you get to that second level of people, the people they've meet or been with, what are you asking them to do?

MUKHERJEE: Yes. So you go - in terms of how far back, you want to try to talk to the person and figure out when they started to have symptoms. And then a couple of days before that period, so usually two or three days before, because we know there is a pre symptomatic phase where you could be spreading the virus. And then walking through who they've been within six feet up.

And just like your last article, that six-foot difference is the definition of a contact. Right? if somebody they just passed on the other side of the street, that's not a contact. Then when you get that list you call people and you say, you've been a contact of somebody - we don't share that information - with COVID-19, and first of all how are you? Are you OK? And if not referring them into medical care, that's a really important step.

The second is to give real information about quarantine because quarantine is different than social distancing. If you're living in a house with other people or an apartment with other people, you have to protect those people within your family. So giving that information.

And then the third step is, saying can you do that? Because we know that some people don't have the material, means to quarantine, they can't leave their job or they can't go out and get groceries. They don't have anyone to help them. And so the third step, which is critical, to deal with the inequity of COVID it is to connect people with resources.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And that's an important variable to remember that everyone who potentially needs to spend seven days, 14 days alone may not be able to have the resources to do that.

Let me ask you. I want you to respond to a criticism of the process. Contact tracing is new to most of us. You've done this following contacts related to Ebola and HIV in reading the history of Partners in Health.

This is from the Director of the Centers for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota Dr. Michael Osterholm. He says, the contact tracing is a quote "good idea on paper but that it wouldn't work during an outbreak."

This is the quote. "Once you see a big escalation in cases contact tracing absolutely cannot work. You'll be having contacts by the thousands and thousands and thousands. It's just not going to work." How do you keep track of all these people in an outbreak and what's your response to Dr. Osterholm?

MUKHERJEE: Yes. Well, I know Mike for many years and respect his work enormously. But I would say that we are in an unprecedented time. And the idea that contact tracing can't work - what is working? Social distancing is extremely regressive. It is easier for wealthy people to social distance.

What we see is the continued inequity of this this virus. So how do you do it? Well, we've developed a lot of different systems, and I can tell you, we did it in a place like Sierra Leone. Partners in Health is a 35-year-old medical charity. We have 17,000 employees around the world and 11,000 are community health workers and one of the things they do is contact tracing.

And so really going out and finding these people, keeping records of that - and we have done already in Massachusetts. There are days that we've done 10,000 calls. So it's keeping track, giving people the proper information, connecting them to resources.

I mean, look, if we could decrease the death rate and protect the vulnerable, then it is worth it. Are we going to be able to totally stop that pandemic at this point? It will be a long time. But can we mitigate and can we have visibility into where it's spreading? Because the thing about social distancing is we're all kind of operating in the dark. Right?

We don't know what neighborhoods, what ZIP codes. And so that's what we really need to do, is give that visibility to our leaders. And Governor Baker has been just an extraordinary leader in this to give data for the reopening that can help us stop the spread of the virus.


BLACKWELL: Test, trace, isolate, multifaceted strategy. Dr. Joia Mukherjee, thank you so much for being with us this morning, helping us understand something that that's new to a lot of people, contact tracing. Good luck.

MUKHERJEE: All right. Thank you. Bye.

BLACKWELL: Bye. Christi?

PAUL: I'm betting you've noticed that groceries seem to be getting more expensive. So any extra money, obviously, can help in paychecks. The largest supermarket chain in the country, though, is ending its "Hero Pay Program". What they're offering instead to their employees who are working through this pandemic, that's next.



BLACKWELL: The largest supermarket chain in the U.S. is ending its "Hero Pay", as it's called for workers. That's ending tomorrow. Kroger gave employees working through the pandemic an extra $2 dollars an hour. Now the grocery chain says that it'll give a onetime, "Thank You Payment", instead.

PAUL: In the meantime, you might have noticed the price of just about everything at U.S. grocery stores seems to have gone up right? CNN's Diane Gallagher explains why.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If it felt like you were paying more on those grocery shopping trips last month it wasn't your imagination. Grocery store prices spiked the most that they had in one month since 1970, nearly 50 years.

And, look, we're talking everything here. Fruits, vegetables, cereal, meat, dairy, it all went up. Eggs jumped by 16 percent. And, of course, this happened as unemployment skyrocketed. Many Americans are dealing with much smaller budgets right now. And for some of them food insecurity, for the very first time.

Now, economists tell CNN that the grocery store sticker shock, it stems mostly from this explosion in demand and a supply chain that was really slow to react. So as those stay-at-home orders went into effect, schools and restaurants started closing. People started cooking at home a lot. At the same time, the meat processing plants started shutting down, because the workers who were mostly black and brown, immigrants, refugees became sick at an alarming rate with COVID-19. More than 30 of them have died from the virus so far.

Now the nation's top union has blasted Kroger's decision to end its Hero bonus, pointing out the pandemic is not over. At least 65 grocery store workers have died from COVID-19. That extra $2 per hour that employees were getting for being on the front lines, well, that ends this weekend. But Kroger said it is instead offering an up to $400, thank you payment.

Now restaurant owners are also dealing with the sticker shock here as they work to reopen across the country. Wholesale beef prices hit record numbers this week. One restaurant owner told us if I can reopen I'm probably going to have to increase my menu prices, if this does not change, which doesn't bode well in this economy for an already struggling industry. Diane Gallagher, CNN, Atlanta.


BLACKWELL: Thanks Diane. So this is a obviously very different graduation season this year. Right Christi?

PAUL: Is it ever? According to a pair of sisters here in Georgia, though, it's not all bad. The positive side of being in the COVID Class of 2020. That's next.



PAUL: Listen, I just want to tell you that I'm sorry to all of you who are graduating and you feel like you are missing out on something because of this COVID experience and it's just not what you thought it was going to be.

BLACKWELL: You know, this really is the time to celebrate with family and friends. You can do that. It just looks a little different this year.


I'm Blair Wilhoit and I attended the University of Georgia and I'm a finance major. I'm Ava Wilhoit and I graduated high school this year and we're both COVID graduates.

BLAIR WILHOIT, 2020 COLLEGE GRADUATE: Making those lost memories with my friends and that's definitely something that I feel has been taken from me, but at the same time, I've been able to make those memories in other ways.

AVA WILHOIT, 2020 HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE: I'm very upset that we didn't get to have our senior prom and not knowing that our last day of school was actually our last day of school. But we've made up for it. We got to drive to our high school and pick up our cap and gowns and they made sure to celebrate us well, and so that was really exciting.

BLAIR WILHOIT: The plan for me after graduation was that I was going to move to Atlanta with one of my really good friends and kind of like start my life. But with COVID happening, so that's really up in the air and I'm just kind of taking it day by day, trying to figure out my future plans.

AVA WILHOIT: Well, we've definitely been dealing with it together. We've been supporting each other since we're both going through the same thing and so we've been hanging out with each other. And our mom has separately made sure to celebrate us and make us just feel loved and just with everything going on. She knows that it's hard on both of us. So we're all just trying to get through it.

BLAIR WILHOIT: It's definitely been a real blessing to have my sister kind of going through the same thing and just being able to like have that support. We've definitely been hanging out a lot. And honestly it's been really nice because, I think, while this is a hard time, it's like really brought us closer.


BLACKWELL: Good to find a bright side.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Yes, absolutely. Hey tonight CNN is honoring the graduates with a special two-hour event. It starts at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Be sure to watch our "Class 2020 In This Together" and then "Graduate Together, America Honors The High School Class Of 2020.

PAUL: And we want to honor the class of 2020 too. We are pulling for you. We are proud of you because we know it is an accomplishment.

BLACKWELL: It is. [08:55:00]

PAUL: It's been a few years since Victor and I graduated, but just a reminder that that's me with my best friend Ben Meara (ph) in Bellevue Ohio who wears shorts under his cap and gown, and he's lucky that he got out unscathed.

BLACKWELL: Yes. This is me going across the stage at Milford Mill Academy in Baltimore.

PAUL: Yes, sir.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's been a few years. Listen, congratulations to the Class of 2020. We'll be back here in an hour.

PAUL: Yes. We will. "SMERCONISH" is with you next. Stay close.