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Restaurant Owner Pleads for PPP Changes; Trump Threatens to Withhold Funding; Experiment on How Germs Spread; Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired May 20, 2020 - 09:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I don't have to tell you this. You know the restaurant industry has been decimated by this crisis. The National Restaurant Association says that more than three decades of jobs in the industry have been lost in two months, more than 8 million hospitality employees laid off or furloughed. Renowned Chef Thomas Keller has had to close his restaurants and lay off nearly all of his 1,200 employees. He spoke to the president about it yesterday at the White House. He, of course, is also the only American born chef to hold multiple three star ratings from Michelin. He joins us now.

It's so good to have you, not only behalf -- on behalf of your employees, but on behalf of the entire restaurant industry.

And we've been talking about this, Thomas, since the beginning of the crisis when you were on my podcast. And it's just gotten so much worse.

So if we could just begin with the PPP loans, because you guys had a plea really to the White House and the president yesterday which sounded to me like you were saying, these loans are not going to cut it for our workers and our industry.

THOMAS KELLER, CHEF AND RESTAURATEUR: Well, thank you, Poppy. And it's good -- it's good to be back here.

We were very grateful to the president and Congress for really taking this issue very seriously. So the meeting at the White House was something that I felt was very positive. We presented our PPP ideas to them and I believe that's they took them to heart and hopefully we'll have some movement on that, that's really positive for the restaurant industry in short order.

We're not asking for a lot. We're asking for an extension of the timeline from eight weeks to 24 weeks and the date that it begins, the date we can open our restaurants.

The restaurant profession is much, much different than our businesses. And I'll give you an example. I have restaurants and I -- and I also have direct to consumer product goods. We sell flour, chocolate and things like that. In the restaurants, we have not been able to take our PPP loans because we cannot open our restaurants. On the other hand, in our -- in our direct to consumer products, we've been able to use those PPP loans very effectively. So it just depends on the kind of business that you're doing that allow -- be able to be -- to take the PPP loans and use them to bring back all of your employees. So there are really two different scenarios here.


KELLER: And one size doesn't fit all.

HARLOW: The reason people might not know, but you can only get those loans forgiven if you bring back -- if you spend 75 percent of the money on your employees. If your restaurants are closed, you can't have those employees working. So this is what so many restaurant owners, especially the smaller folks, are stuck in.

We heard your friend, fellow restaurateur Danny Meyer, say last week something pretty shocking. He said, we won't be welcoming guests into our full service restaurants for a very long time, probably not until there's a vaccine.

Is that what you're facing as well?

KELLER: Well, I think we're all facing the question of when to reopen. I mean certainly staff safety, guest safety is important. The guidance that we're getting from our state and local governments on distancing is really important. It's going to be a whole new world for us and, in many ways, it's going to be a much more expensive world for us and how we're going to operate our restaurants, how to bring our staff back.

Remember, when we closed our doors, all of our inventory left. So just reopening the restaurant is going to be much more expensive than opening other businesses. The PPE, the personal protection equipment that we're going to have to purchase has never been in our inventory before, so this is going to create much higher cost for us. And we're already -- we're already operating on a very, very small margin.


KELLER: So we're very concerned about getting our restaurants reopened. How many -- what our revenue will be with the guidance and the restrictions and then how long that ramp up will be. So the PPP loan will give us a bridge to what we hope to get, which is a restaurant stabilization fund that will help make sure that the restaurants are able to continue to stay in business for the next six, eight, 12 months.

HARLOW: What is -- talk to us about what that is, because that was brought up at the White House yesterday. Is that something akin to what the airlines, et cetera, are relying on here? Is that what we're talking about for the entire U.S. restaurant industry? That's what you need?

KELLER: Exactly. So, you know, we're looking -- we're looking at getting our restaurants reopened with our PPP loans. Hopefully the White House and Congress heard us and we'll be able to extend that time period. But that's just the bridge. In 24 weeks, we really don't believe that our restaurants are going to be running at full capacity. HARLOW: Yes.

KELLER: They'll probably be more or less running at 50 percent capacity. The fact that tourists aren't coming to -- to the locations anymore. New York City is the perfect example in the summer, where there -- there will be no tourists, no visitors to New York City.

I live here in Napa Valley. The same thing.

So it's going to be a long ramp up for us and we're going to need a bridge to that vaccine and that bridge is what we're talking about is the stabilization fund.


HARLOW: You have 8 million hospitality workers unemployed today. That is remarkable. But you told a story at the White House, it was striking, and I wonder if you could briefly share it here, because it's about all of those that rely on it, on your industry, and that rely on restaurants like yours being open. You brought up the example of Diane St. Claire (ph). She's a dairy farmer in Vermont. The fallout is enormous.

KELLER: Yes. Yes. And, you know, the supply chain -- and I'm not sure everybody understands the people that we impact, the businesses that we impact. And I brought up Diane because she is one of the smallest farmers, actually the smallest farmer that I work with. She only has eight cows and relies on us for about 90 percent of her -- of her revenue. And when our restaurants shut, that's it, she has -- she has no revenue.

And that (INAUDIBLE) goes on and on with what all the farmers, the fishermen, the gardeners, the wine -- the grape growers, the wineries, the distilleries, the airlines, the commercial real estate. I mean the impact that a restaurant has in the community is enormous. We touch everybody.

Not only that, we are the cornerstone, the fabric of our communities. People come to our restaurants to relax, to have a good time, to have social interaction. And that's the other problem, restaurants are the most intimate business out there. And we want to be close with our guests. Our guests are there so that they have that experience with their friends, with their family. So it's -- it's going to be a difficult reopening for all of us in the restaurant profession.

HARLOW: Chef Thomas Keller, thank you. Thank you for being a voice for so many people that rely on this -- on this industry. We'll watch it and track it very closely. Good luck.

KELLER: Yes. Thank you very much, Poppy.

HARLOW: OK. See you soon.

We'll be right back.



SCIUTTO: This morning, the president is lashing out at states, threatening them in fact, to withhold funding. What's the reason behind it?

HARLOW: Yes, a number of states, Michigan, Nevada.

Abby Phillip joins us on the phone with more.

OK, explain what funding he's saying he would hold up and his actual ability or inability to do that, to carry through with it.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Hey, Poppy and Jim.

Well, frankly, it's not clear exactly what the president is referring to. We should note that he did tag the Treasury secretary and Russ Vought, who is the head of the Office of Management and Budget. And it seems to be that he might be suggesting that some of the money that has been allocated for response to the coronavirus could be held up for this reason.

But, frankly I have not spoken to anyone who has said that that is true. The president doesn't have the ability to force election officials unilaterally to change their election rules or procedures and hold up funds as a result. Congress does have that ability, but the president doesn't.

But I also want to note that a lot of what the president has been tweeting this morning is just not true. He claimed that Michigan would be sending absentee ballots to all voters. They are not. They are sending absentee ballot applications to all voters ahead of the November election.

And, frankly, that is something that other secretaries of state, including Republicans, have done all around the country. All of this is coming in the context of the president's growing anxiety about this issue of mail-in voting. He has insisted that it is ripe with fraud, that it leads to cheating. But there is really no evidence that there is substantial fraud linked to mail-in voting. And the president is particularly concerned about it because he will be on the ballot in November.

So we're seeing tweets this morning about Michigan. A tweet now about Nevada, where the president has also threatened to withhold funding. And, again, I should note, a lot of what the president is tweeting is just not accurate. Nevada changed their election rules for the upcoming June 9th primary to allow people to mail -- to vote by mail, but that is a state where voters have always been able to vote by mail for any reason and presumptively they will be allowed to do that again in November due to the coronavirus.

HARLOW: Understood, Abby, thank you for the important facts. Appreciate it.

As every state is now at least partially reopened, restaurants, some of them slowly opening their doors, and in a very limited way.

SCIUTTO: So, what is the risk? I know a lot of folks have this question. I certainly do.


SCIUTTO: How easily could the virus spread during a dinner out, even with these social distancing restrictions? CNN's Randi Kaye takes a firsthand look.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Put some in. And should I rub it all together as well?

KAYE (voice over): This yellow tinted goo is a mixture of petroleum jelly and fluorescent solution.


KAYE (on camera): OK, and that's going to simulates germs on my hand?

HUGHES: Correct. So this will simulate contact spread, you know, from you to other things that you touch and maybe touch by somebody else.

KAYE (voice over): Dr. Patrick Hughes is an ER doctor who oversees the Emergency Medicine Simulation Program at Florida Atlantic University.

KAYE (on camera): Hi, ladies.



KAYE (voice over): He invited us to lunch, designating me the so- called spreader. So we could see how germs on my hand, which could be coronavirus droplets, could spread in a restaurant setting.

At our table, we keep our masks on to protect ourselves, and each other.

KAYE (on camera): There's a menu for you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Awesome. Thank you so much.

KAYE: You want a menu too?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sure, thanks.

KAYE (voice over): I pour water for everybody at the table.


KAYE (on camera): Thanks for having us for lunch.


KAYE (voice over): And pass around the food, wondering if I'm passing around the virus too.

KAYE (on camera): Chips?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes, awesome. Thank you.

KAYE: Do you want to take the bowl?


KAYE (voice over): We also share the salt and pepper.

Then it's time to turn on the ultraviolet lights to see what I may have spread.

Remember, I was the only one with what could have been the virus on my hand.

KAYE (on camera): You didn't have any germs on you. I was the spreader.


KAYE: So when you look at my hands and look how it transferred to some of you just by sharing items at the table or a knife in this case or a water glass, I mean, even -- it only takes a little bit, right, to make somebody else sick.

KAYE (voice over): How about that bowl of chips I passed around?

HUGHES: You can see where she touched the edge of the bowl to pass it around, the simulated germs, you know, stuck right to the surface.

KAYE (on camera): Then everybody else touches the bowl.

KAYE (voice over): Same with the salt and pepper shakers and the pitcher of water. There was contact spread on the cups, and menus too. Even my lunch friends.

HUGHES: This is the spot where -- when Randi came in to have lunch with her friends, she touched right on the shoulder, just to greet everybody. And you can see the outline of her palm print, her hand print, right on the shirt.

It's quite scary the amount of spread that one person can have in a room like that.

KAYE (on camera): We also wanted to see what would happen if you're out for lunch or dinner with a friend or your family at a restaurant and somebody coughs. So let's turn out the lights and let's see the cough.

KAYE (voice over): There were now more droplets on the bowl of chips, the menus and the water pitcher too.

KAYE (on camera): Look at what happened to the fork after that simulated cough. Those would be real germs if that was a real cough on my fork. And I would have picked up the fork, not being able to see those germs with the naked eye.

KAYE (voice over): Even the woman sitting to my right, several feet away from the mannequin that coughed, had droplets on her face.

HUGHES: You can see it's on her face, her glasses, her mask.

KAYE (on camera): And if she wasn't wearing a mask, she would have breathed it in.

HUGHES: Correct.

KAYE (voice over): Randi Kaye, CNN, Boca Raton, Florida.


SCIUTTO: While fighting for her own life against coronavirus, an Ohio woman brought new life into the world, giving birth while in a coma suffering from the infection. Now she is recovering at home and thankfully healthy little baby boy able to meet her newborn son. We're going to hear from her and her husband, next.



SCIUTTO: An Ohio woman, a new mother, will never remember her newborn's first cries. Alicia Kappers was battling coronavirus on a ventilator in a medically induced coma when doctors decided they needed to deliver her baby right away via an emergency c-section.

HARLOW: Right, at just 32 weeks. Five weeks later, Alicia is recovering at home and has finally been able to hold her son, Lathe (ph). She and her husband joined us yesterday to talk about what it's all been like.


SCIUTTO: We know Alicia started getting sick in late March. I'm curious, tell us about your concerns then. Was it clear early on that it was going to get this serious? I imagine it came up on you like a surprise.

ZIAD RAZZAK, WIFE GAVE BIRTH WHILE BATTLING COVID-19 AND IN COMA: Yes, sure. To some extent it did. I think it had run its course through our toddler and myself. It was pretty early before we understood some of the symptoms that we were -- we were getting. And I had a suspicion. It was something I had never felt before. And when Alicia started presenting those same symptoms, I had really done my due diligence, almost obsessively did my research, knowing that Alicia was pregnant and potentially could fall into a little bit more of the immuno compromised subset of people that it could affect with such severity.

So, you know, the fatigue, the cough, we could kind of tolerate. And then, you know, really Tuesday, March 24th, in the morning, the shortness of breath, when she was unable to complete sentences. I heard some crackling, some fluid in her lungs. I knew that this was going to get pretty serious. I didn't know that it was going to reach the level that it did. But, fortunately, we were able to identify it early on as we were told every moment counted at that point.

HARLOW: And, Alicia, as I understand it, you believe that not only was the birth of your son such a gift, such a blessing, but that it actually saved your life because it precipitated your ability to take this drug, Remdesivir.

ALICIA KAPPERS, DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19, GAVE BIRTH WHILE IN COMA: As I understand it, they were only giving this drug to people that were needing compassionate care. So pregnant women or adolescents. And because I was still pregnant, I qualified under that category. And so, yes, I like to think that Lathe saved my life because I was still pregnant and carrying him and I was able to obtain that drug.

SCIUTTO: I wonder, Ziad, were you concerned at all about the health of the baby through this? I know the studies have shown that typically the virus or the infection not passed from mother necessarily -- pregnant mother to child here. But, listen, I'm sure you were watching closely throughout.

RAZZAK: Yes, absolutely I was and that kind of semi-emergent delivery was a little bit alarming because it kind of came out of nowhere. About a week later, after Alicia was admitted into the ICU, I received a call at about 8:30 p.m.


I had just gotten our toddler to bed. And, you know, the first thing that kind of goes through your head is, what's going on here? Is everyone OK?

My main concern was Alicia because she was kind of the host for this baby, right? And so if -- if she was going to pull through and survive this thing, so was he. And I thought, you know, in the setting they were in, the care that they were getting, as long as -- as long as she kept fighting, I really didn't have any doubts that Lathe would be joining us at home as a healthy newborn. And I really felt pretty confident about Alicia because she's so strong.

And once -- once I knew she had a fighting chance, I knew that we were going to get to share this moment together here today and with you all.

SCIUTTO: Well, Alicia and Ziad, we're so happy it worked out for all of you. Lathe is a cute little guy. You must be very proud. Congratulations from us.

HARLOW: Congrats.

KAPPERS: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: And wishing you lots of sleep. Lots of sleep. That's the best gift you can get.


HARLOW: Thank you both.

RAZZAK: Thank you. We'll take it.

KAPPERS: Thank you.

RAZZAK: Thank you. Take care.


HARLOW: And we're so happy for them.

All right, still to come, the CDC has released guidelines on reopening as sources, people that work inside the agency, tell CNN they are convinced politics, not science, is at least in part driving the administration's response. Much more on that ahead.