Return to Transcripts main page


Navy Says USS Theodore Roosevelt Will Return to Sea This Week; Nursing Homes Face New Reopening Guidelines; Restaurant Owners Plead with Trump for Changes to Small Business Loans. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 19, 2020 - 15:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: This just into CNN, a top Navy official telling CNN the USS Theodore Roosevelt will return to sea by the end of the week. This despite a major coronavirus outbreak we've talked so much on the aircraft carrier that sickened more than a thousand sailors just weeks ago. Let me bring in CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, who's standing by. Barbara, this also comes as you have an exclusive interview with Navy's top medical officer.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: A lot going on now. The Theodore Roosevelt has been tied up in port in Guam for several weeks while they essentially isolated almost the entire crew more than a 1,000 testing positive for the virus. They had to switch out and get a healthy crew back aboard the ship.

What has happened now is the Navy has decided the ship will go out to sea sometime this week. They have enough people healthy on board now that they can perform the essential functions. Everything ranging from the nuclear power plant to, you know, serving meals.

So, they will do that. They will go out for several weeks. It won't be a full cruise because the aircraft on board have to fly off and get recertified somewhere else for operations because they've been out of the picture for so long.

But what this tells us is that on this ship, they really are hoping, once and for all, they've got a handle on it. And they have had this last than-minute wrinkle. 14 sailors who had been testing negative after being positive. Once again, positive. We talk to the Navy's top surgeon general about this earlier today. He says he feels very strongly that the entire crew, the ship is medically clear, medically able to go out to sea.

What they're beginning to learn is interesting for all of us. That you can retest positive, but it doesn't mean that you have the live virus. You may have some very small remnants of the virus, but you wouldn't necessarily re-infect anybody. You can essentially go back to work. An important piece of information for everybody if that medical research really pans out as we watch this very stricken aircraft carrier get itself finally back out to sea this week.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And you know how closely they are watching those Navy officers and that ship now after everything that went down. Barbara, thank you so much. Great stuff.

STARR: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: And also, just into CNN, sources are telling CNN, President Trump went after the CDC, his own CDC behind closed doors during his lunch with Senate Republicans just a little while ago. Let me get back over to the White House, CNN's Kaitlan Collins is standing by who has the reporting. Kaitlan, what are your sources telling you the President said?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the lunch the President just left on Capitol Hill. And we're hearing that he was pretty critical of the CDC during that lunch. He praised his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and the team that he brought on to help with those coronavirus response efforts. But he was very critical of the CDC, talked about how he believed they botched testing at the beginning of this, delaying that testing rollout.

And Kate, of course, that's a criticism we heard from the President's top trade adviser Peter Navarro on the record on Sunday when he said that the CDC let the country down when it came to testing. Talking about, of course, that infamous contamination that happened because of sloppy lab practices which led to those inconclusive results that delayed testing.

And it's been notable because that's caused some friction inside the White House in the last few days. Because after Navarro made that comment, the Health and Human Services Secretary did an interview yesterday where he said those comments where be believed were inaccurate and he praised the CDC in their efforts so far, and talked about that incident but said he did not believe it had a big effect on testing because it was result within a few weeks.

But some people say those weeks were really critical and that the CDC was just too slow there. So, this is notable. We should say that the CDC Director Robert Redfield was here at the White House yesterday for a coronavirus meeting. He was there. You saw photos of him but, so far, we've learned that, yes, the President was pretty critical of the CDC to these Republican Senators as they were talking about the coronavirus response overall.


BOLDUAN: Yes. Even though he needs the CDC in this public health emergency. Seems like yet another chapter in deflect and distract. Kaitlan, thanks so much for standing by to see if anything comes of the cabinet meeting at the White House. Kaitlan's going to be standing by with us for that.

Also, this ahead, a new report showing how nursing homes have borne the brunt of this pandemic form the very start. Now, the White House issuing new guidelines. What it means for residents of nursing homes, staff and honestly family members who want to visit their loved ones. We'll be back.



BOLDUAN: The White House has officially released new guidance for nursing homes. Including in those guidelines testing all residents and staff and continuing to test employees weekly. Also, facilities can only start allowing visitors in once again when they have shown no new cases of coronavirus for 28 days.

There's also new data out showing just how tragically hard-hit nursing homes have been hit throughout this crisis. The Kaiser Family Foundation reporting that there have been more than 30,000 coronavirus deaths at long-term care facilities across 35 states. That's one-third of all of the total U.S. death toll from the coronavirus. Just tragic.

Joining me right now, George Hager, CEO Of Genesis Healthcare, one of the largest nursing home chains in the United States operating in 400 centers across the country. Mr. Hager, thank you for being here.


BOLDUAN: What do you think of these new recommendations from the White House? What do they mean for your facilities?

HAGER: Well, clearly, opening up the nursing home industry is very different than opening up the economy. We are caring for and serving the most frail of our population that are extremely vulnerable to this virus.

So from our perspective, the guidance is very prudent guidance from CMS and very cautious. Making sure that we have adequate access to testing, to protective equipment, and to staffing. And clearly, as you stated earlier, the absence of the virus for a period of time so we can ensure the safety of our residents.

BOLDUAN: Do you have the capability of doing that level of testing today?

HAGER: Kate, we really don't. Testing has been the key issue that we've been talking about for a couple of months since this pandemic started. You know, testing for the nursing home industry, unlike hospitals, many of whom have their own labs. We must rely on third- party regional or national labs to provide our testing. And at this point in time, both accuracy of testing supplies, as well as the capacity to test and turn around the results in the time frames we need has been a challenge.

In certain states, it's been handled very, very well. I would point to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and West Virginia to name a few who got out ahead of this, and we are seeing very good results from proactive facility-wide testing of residents and staff. But that testing ability is not consistent across all states across all markets.

BOLDUAN: And that is the thing. It's one thing to put our guidance and it may be good guidance but if you can't get there to get actually the testing done, guidance means bunk when it comes down to it if the federal government can't get to a place of helping getting those tests out there. What about the recommendation for allowing visitors back in? This is something so many families are curious about. Even with the requirement of 28 days without a new case before opening up, do you think you're ready for that?

HAGER: Kate, I'll be very honest. Our advice will be very, very strong to be, you know, safety as first precaution here. Give you a personal anecdote. We just lost the founder of Genesis a couple of week ago to the virus. I had to recommend very strongly to his wife of 50 years not to go in and visit him before he passed away in a nursing home that he not only used to own, but also operate.

So, it comes close to home. We've lost our own employees. Every death is catastrophic to the loved ones of that patient in the nursing home. So, we will recommend extreme, extreme caution before we open up our nursing homes to visitation.

BOLDUAN: I'm so sorry for your loss and for the entire Genesis family for that loss. And not only of the founder, but also for all of the employees that are putting their lives on the line when they want to care for the most vulnerable and so many -- and the families are so thankful for their work and what they do on a daily basis when they can't be there.

The numbers, they just hurt to even say -- 30,000 of the now 90,000 deaths are linked to nursing homes. At this point -- and I know this is a complicated question and tough -- can you say with confidence, Mr. Hager, that a nursing home is the safest place for the elderly in the era of the coronavirus?

HAGER: I think by its nature, a nursing home, because it is a congregate setting, limits the ability to isolate anyone effectively.


We have learned a tremendous amount for these last couple of months. We've learned better isolation protocols. We can quarantine new admissions. We have greater access to testing even though it is still not adequate and greater access to protective equipment.

But just the congregation of that many people in a very confined space in a nursing home, with the amount of traffic. You know, 100 to 200 employees coming in and out of the facility every day and coming and going home to their families. Residents and patients going out of the nursing center for life saving medical procedures. Even new admissions from hospitals.

What we found in research that has been conducted by both Harvard and Brown is it's the amount of -- it's the existence and the prevalence of the virus in the area around the nursing home that is most -- that correlates to the greatest degree, the exposure in a nursing home, itself. So, I can't say it's the safest. I can say it's a lot safer than it was at the beginning of the pandemic and we are doing our best to eliminate any future negative outcome in the nursing homes that we operate.

BOLDUAN: And Mr. Hager, thank you for your time, and thank you for what you do in trying to keep your employees and all of the residents of your

facilities safe. Thank you.

HAGER: Kate, thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

We will continue to pound this drum about getting testing to nursing homes. It is beyond ridiculous at this point. They need the tests.

Coming up for us, a group of restaurant owners went to the White House to make the case that their industry needs more help. Do they think the President heard them? Does he get it? We're going to talk to one restaurant owner who was in the room, next.



BOLDUAN: It is an industry that's been economically decimated by the coronavirus outbreak. The nation's restaurants and bars forced to shut their doors and now trying to figure out how to survive as they reopen. Yesterday President Trump met with a group of independent restaurant owners. They are asking for help. Did the President hear them? Are they going to get what they need?

Joining me right now, someone who was in that meeting, Sean Feeney, owner of restaurants, Lilia and Misi, here in New York and a member of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, a group of restaurant owners and chefs that have come together in the era of COVID to try and save the industry.

It's good to see you, Sean, thank you for being here.

SEAN FEENEY, CO-FOUNDER, GROVEHOUSE: Kate, thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Of course, the President seemed to paint a bit of a rosier picture on what's happening to the industry than most are.

At one point he said, we've saved and will continue to save the restaurant business.

Do you think anybody should be saying the restaurant industry has been saved at this point?

FEENEY: It needs to be saved. I think if you look at the numbers, over one in four Americans unemployed last month were restaurant workers. And then if you look at the domino effect of this grim existence for the hospitality industry, you see that there's a $1 trillion economy of farmers, fishers, and others, suppliers that we support, then they're at risk.

I think the impact that's been catalyzed by this pandemic is huge. It's the prolonged economic shutdown plus now a looming weak economy. It creates challenges for our industry specifically and the derivatives of it. And it needs to be met with policies that will inject liquidity, that will inject investment, hiring consumption back into our economy.

I think that before we talk about the actual existence of our profession and our industry, it's important to talk about the health and safety of our people, because at the end of the day, that, that is our secret ingredient.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right. Do you think the White House got -- did they get it? You had basically all the big hitters in the meeting with you. Did they get you what you need?

FEENEY: Yes, I think that yesterday our goal was pretty specific. We communicated that PPP is currently not working for restaurants. We all agreed that it wasn't perfect. It was an eight-week solution for an over 12-month problem. And just with a few simple changes, it can help us reopen our doors when it's safe to. And start reemploying some of those 11 million people that are out of work from our industry when our businesses can support them.

And I think that they heard that loud and clear. It was encouraging to hear the President look at the Secretary of Treasury and ask him can we change it? And he said, yes, we can change it. And now it's imperative because a lot of people have these loans and the clock is ticking.


FEENEY: And it's imperative that they act quickly to make these fixes to PPP so that it could help us reopen our doors when it's safe to, so that we can support these people who are out of work currently. And I think it was also important that they not only understood that and want to change that quickly. It was important that we communicated, and they agreed to continue this conversation of a restaurant stabilization fund. Because what happens with the PPP it is a very short-term solution. It's a bridge to get us open.

BOLDUAN: I've been wondering, can restaurants sustain, if they've got a limit of 25 to 30 percent capacity, like, can a restaurant survive?

FEENEY: It's a nonstarter. You can't do that. You cannot open a business with 25 to 50 percent capacity. It's impossible. Unfortunately, we have to be very innovative in order to survive.


And the good thing about the restaurant industry, the hospitality industry, is the people that make it up are resilient, they're accepting, they're compassionate, and they are optimistic.

BOLDUAN: Right now.

FEENEY: And as optimistic as I am and I think every day is a good day, none are easy, and in order for us to open our businesses, we have to make sure that we create spaces that are safe for everyone to come back to work. And we have to confidently say that to people and believe that. And once we then do open, we have to make sure the business is healthy.

BOLDUAN: Oh, that's right. And, I mean, there's so many steps to go. But it's great to see you, glad you had the meeting. Let's see what happens next. Good to see you, Sean.

FEENEY: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you all so much for joining me. We'll be right back.