Return to Transcripts main page


All U.S. States Reopening to Some Extent after Lockdown Due to Coronavirus Spread; Tybee Island in Georgia Reopens Beach; President Trump Demands State Governors Reopen Religious Houses of Worship; Tourist Attractions Graceland and Gatorland Reopening to Public with Safety Precautions; International Hotel Chain Reopening; Pier 45 in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf Catches Fire; Small Businesses Struggling During Coronavirus Lockdown; Hertz Car Rental Company to File for Bankruptcy Due to Fall in Demand Caused by Coronavirus Lockdown; Musician Holds Practices for Neighborhood. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired May 23, 2020 - 10:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Happy Memorial Day weekend everybody. Stay safe, socially distance. I'll see you here next week, same time, same bad station.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, to you. We hope that the morning has been good to you so far wherever you might be in the world right now. It is Saturday, May 23rd, I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you. You are in the CNN Newsroom.

PAUL: So this morning, think about this, for the first time in at least 10 weeks all 50 states are reopened in some capacity. It's Memorial Day weekend, unofficial start to summer. And we know that you want to get out there and gather with your friends. Health experts, however, do have some concerns about spreading the virus.

BLACKWELL: On the east and the west coast, beaches are reopening, but capacity is limited and social distancing is being enforced.

PAUL: This hour we're asking one of the world's largest hotel and resort chains what summer vacation are going to look like now.

BLACKWELL: Also, we speak to the owners of Elvis Presley's Graceland and Gatorland in Florida as they welcome back customers.

PAUL: And the debate over reopening places of worship after President Trump President Trump demanded governors allow gatherings at churches.

With all of that, we want to start with CNN's Polo Sandoval, who is following the very latest on efforts to reopen the country this holiday weekend. He is in New York. Looks a little bit busier now than it did earlier this morning. Polo, what kind of a sense are you getting of what people are willing to do this weekend?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's likely going to get perhaps even busier, not just here but across the country. For example, here in New York state just last night Governor Andrew Cuomo did issue a new executive order that eases some of those restrictions, now allowing for gatherings of 10 people or less for any reason. Previously that was only reserved for religious reasons or for Memorial Day, but now, of course, for basically your barbeques. Those can go on as long as people continue to exercise precautions.

As we heard from Dr. Anthony Fauci at the start of the weekend, it is certainly not the time to let your guard down.


SANDOVAL: President Trump insists the nation's houses of worship must reopen this weekend. On Friday, he deemed them essential before the CDC unveiled new interim guidance for communities of faith. The president also said he would override states that resist, though it's not clear if he has any authority to do so. Some of the nation's governors reminding the commander in chief that reopening decisions fall on the states.

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): It is the governor's decision, of course, and that's why I think he said, look, when the CDC guidance comes out, take a look at the guidance and see what might be possible. That's the approach we're going to take.

SANDOVAL: This weekend also marking the symbolic start of summer and a test for beach site communities that have been preparing for crowds. Many beaches are open on the east and west coasts, though you can expect social distancing restrictions and capacity limits to be in place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm excited. I think it's good. I think people need to be outside and enjoying what nature is giving us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been cooped up inside for so long, and it's nice to get outside and get a little work in.

SANDOVAL: For Florida residents, only beaches in hard hit areas like Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade County will remain closed. As a new study warning some southern states could see a spike in COVID-19 cases, another round of re-openings just in time for the holiday weekend. South Carolina theme parks are open again, as are bars in Texas with limited capacity and dancing discouraged.

ART HARVEY, WESTLAKE BREWING COMPANY: We have to do a lot of extra precautions we didn't have to do before -- increase sanitation, hand sanitizing stations. Our staff has to wear masks, increased sanitation.

SANDOVAL: Overall, it's OK to venture away from home, says the White House's coronavirus response coordinator.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Understand, you can out, you can be outside, you can play golf, you can play tennis with marked balls, you can go to the beaches if you stay six feet apart. But remember that that is your space and that's the space that you need to protect to ensure that you're social distanced for others.

SANDOVAL: The White House is expressing concerns over the region seeing a high number of COVID cases, cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, despite stay-at-home orders.


SANDOVAL: You can bet authorities will be closing tracking those numbers. Back on the streets of New York City it is still relatively quiet even for a holiday weekend. But I can tell you, Victor and Christi, the beaches will be quite busy. As for New York City beaches, Mayor Bill de Blasio still not allowing any swimming, though people are allowed to actually head out onto the sand as long as they continue to be extra careful.

BLACKWELL: Right. We'll see how many people head out. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much.

PAUL: We want to get to CNN correspondent Natasha Chen who is on a beach. She is in Tybee Island in Georgia. And people are with her. We can hear them in the background. We can see them. What's it like there right now Natasha? And good morning.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi and Victor. It is a very sunny and warm day already here on Tybee Beach. And you can hear the music, you can see the people. There are a lot of folks gathering. Just for context, last Saturday the mayor said there were 12,000 cars who came onto the island.


And so this being a holiday weekend, we can probably expect that or more. There are lifeguards also out now. They've been out since last week, something that has been an issue before because people had been coming to the beach when there were no resources like that. And you know, this is still an important thing for people to remember that parties are supposed to stay at least six feet apart. We are seeing that happen, and they're supposed to be groups of 10 or fewer people. And the Department of Natural Resources from the state is patrolling to make sure that people are actually keeping their social distance.

But you can see from these shots there are no masks around. Zero. We were wearing masks earlier, before this live shot, and someone even came up to us, upset that we were wearing them, saying that we're outside, why are you doing that? And so this has been an interesting thing for local residents to observe. Here are Don and Mary McLemore. They saw a very large group last weekend near where they live.


MARY MCLEMORE, TYBEE ISLAND RESIDENT: We're not making this stuff up. We're not being crybabies. We're not being alarmists. We're just saying this is happening. And young kids just don't think they're vulnerable.

DON MCLEMORE, TYBEE ISLAND RESIDENT: It's like letting the air out of the balloon right now. Everybody is coming out, and they're anxious to get out. That's all good. It's understandable.


CHEN: Yes, and they were also telling me that most of the residents on Tybee Island, the average age is just under 60, they say. So some vulnerable populations here. There's also a nursing home. So they're concerned about a lot of tourists perhaps and not abiding by the rules.

At the same time, they understand that their community thrives on tourism, and that is how these local shops and businesses make money. And so, they're happy to see that those cash strapped businesses are now seeing customers. But it comes at a risk. Christi and Victor, back to you.

PAUL: Natasha Chen we appreciate it so much, thank you.

Theme parks and attractions are an industry that are really anxious to open as well. Gatorland in Orlando, for instance, is welcoming back guests today. They have new rules in place so they say they can keep their employees and their visitors safe, and have fun at the same time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our staff, led by the Social Distancing Skunk Ape, will be watching to make sure that everyone stays six feet apart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel much safer! Thank you, Social Distancing Skunk Ape.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Man, he is insistent that you stay distant.



PAUL: Oh, my goodness. Earlier we spoke with Gatorland's president and CEO about what they're doing.


MARK MCHUGH, PRESIDENT AND CEO, GATORLAND: We have implemented a temperature check program with our employees, a mandatory facemask program with our employees. We have social distancing placards all over our park. We introduced over 100 additional hand sanitizing stations. We had hand sanitizers to begin with. You can't even turn around without running into one now.

And we're asking all of our guests when they come in to certify to us that they do not have any symptoms of COVID, that they have not travelled internationally in the last two weeks, and that they agree that we have the right to take their temperature as well. So we've been planning and working on this for many, many weeks. We're so excited to be able to get back open. We're very serious about safety, and all that seriousness and all of our safety occupation is going to be running, a lot in the background.

We have introduced the Social Distancing Skunk Ape. By just chance his wingspan is six feet from fingertip to fingertip. So he's going to be our mascot. He'll be going around the park. Unlike the video, he won't be touching people, but he's going to be a fun way to help us maintain these social distancing guidelines and all of our safety guidelines here in the park.


PAUL: So Gatorland doesn't require visitors to wear masks, but they are strongly recommended.

BLACKWELL: One of the world's largest vacation companies is opening one of its resorts on Monday. Joining me now is the Hugo Aguilera. He is the director of marketing and business development for RIU Hotels and Resorts. Good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: I'm doing well, thank you. Let me first start here with just a general question. Why is now the time to reopen these properties?

AGUILERA: That's a very good question. We've been working actually for several weeks in some of the largest and more complete protocols that I've seen in the market. We actually partnered with a very well-known international brand to come up with this hugely taken care of protocols like we're taking care from everything from check in to rooms, restaurants, everything.


And to answer your question about why is it perfect timing now? It's because we are working with all the sanitary and the governments to make sure that we are opening the hotels in time.

BLACKWELL: Let's start here, because from what I understand, you're aiming to open properties in Germany on Monday and then Mexico a week later. That's the goal at least. Let's put up the numbers, because Mexico reported 479 deaths from COVID-19 yesterday. That's a single day record, 2,960 new cases, almost tying the single day record for new cases. Why is now the right time to look to open in Mexico?

AGUILERA: The first one to open, as you mentioned, it's going to be on Monday, but that's going to be in Berlin, in Germany. Right after that we are waiting on the green lights from the government to open the resorts. So at this particular moment we are still waiting to get the authorization to do that. And we are making sure that we follow with all the protocols, and we are also monitoring closely the numbers that you mentioned.

BLACKWELL: Is there a threshold you need to meet? Tying or beating the single day death number and the new case number, why would that suggest that even if you get the green light from the government that that would be the environment to welcome international tourists into?

AGUILERA: As I mentioned, we are following the government's procedures, and we are ready as a company to make sure that when the clients start to travel that we will have all the necessary protocols. So we are going to monitor closely everybody who checks into our resorts, from temperature control checks at the entrance. We will have some protocols implemented as well in cases where we receive somebody coming with a high temperature, or if somebody gets the high temperatures or symptoms within the resort when they are staying there. We're ready to give the support.

BLACKWELL: So we've talked about, and a lot of your properties are all inclusive, especially throughout the Caribbean. And we've talked about the individual challenges of restaurants and bars and gyms and spas and salons and nightclubs. You've got all of those on one property. Will those amenities be available? Will they be open?

AGUILERA: Yes, of course they will be open, and they are part of the essential protocols includes restaurants and bars. So we are enforcing the six-feet distance between each table, and also at the bars we are removing the bar stools. We are going to have full-service, but there's going to be social distancing implemented. There's going to be some of these transparent barriers that will cover the bartenders, so we are protecting the clients.

So it is a very integral and comprehensive manual that we are putting in place. As we speak, we are starting with a training program to all of our employees, so they are going to be ready when we start opening the resorts. And this is going to be as soon as we hear that it's safe to do that.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you, you right on the website, or at least the company has on its website, that RIU, the company, is firmly committed to maintaining its buffets. We've seen studies that show how quickly the virus can spread at a buffet. Why continue to have those open?

AGUILERA: It was started before, and, as I mentioned, we partnered with an international brand on health matters, and they gave us all the recommendations. So there will be -- it will be open, but there will be some protocols that you will need to follow.

The sanitizer before you get into the buffet, there's going to be gloves available. It will be somehow restricted the way it used to be the buffet before. Now there's going to be people serving some of the food. The food will be rationed. The rations will be less, so there's not going to be a lot of people going around.

And the most important thing is that our hotels will be operating only at a 50 percent capacity. So that means that it's mostly it's going to be half of the people we used to have. So we are making sure we have less people in the resorts for every single matter. For restaurants, for bars, as you mentioned, the buffet lines, and also because we want to implement the social distancing as well in the rooms. So with 50 percent of the resort occupied only, we're able to spread out the clients within the same resort, or even we are ready to put somebody in quarantine if necessary. We can isolate that person in one of the wings of the hotel.


BLACKWELL: All right, Hugo Aguilera, 99 properties across 19 countries, RIU, thank you so much. The first one reopens on Monday. Good to have you this morning.

AGUILERA: Thank you, Victor. Thank you, everybody.


PAUL: Following some breaking news this hour, take a look at the latest pictures we're getting in here, live pictures of a huge fire that ripped through the iconic Pier 45 in San Francisco, Fisherman's Wharf area this morning. As you can see, firefighters appear to have it under control right now, but a short time ago look at what they were dealing with. So glad everybody is OK thus far. We have got more on this, though, when we come back.

BLACKWELL: Plus, across the country, tourist attractions starting to reopen. One of them, Elvis Presley's home turned museum, Graceland. Owners are hoping the new safety precautions will not leave fans out of Elvis's home. That's ahead.



BLACKWELL: We're following breaking news. This is in San Francisco, live pictures here for you.

PAUL: That is something, isn't it? More than 125 firefighters battling a four-alarm warehouse fire. You're looking here at Pier 45 where this is happening.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Dan Simon is following this for us. Do we know, Dan, how this started? What's the status now? Give us what you know.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor and Christi. The pictures and the scene certainly dramatic, with thick black smoke filling the San Francisco skyline and rolling over the San Francisco Bay. This breaking out about 4:15 in the morning in the famed Fishermen's Wharf neighborhood. This is obviously a very popular neighborhood for tourists, not right now, though, with the pandemic going on. But certainly, you have many firefighters there, more than 125 firefighters battling this blaze, and they appear to have made good work. They kept the fire contained to one particular warehouse, but about a quarter of that pier, Pier 45, has been lost.

But crews still there, you do have fireboats in the water, and they do appear to have saved a historic World War II vessel that is there along the wharf. So they've done excellent work, and they're continuing to battle this blaze and keep it contained to that one warehouse. But again, this still active, but the key thing here, Victor and Christi, no injuries. PAUL: That's good to know. I'm telling you, when that thing broke out

and we were looking at what was happening a little earlier this morning, it was pretty frightening. Dan Simon, we appreciate the update so much. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: President Trump is demanding that governors move up their timeline to reopen churches and temples and mosques. He says that the places of worship are essential.

PAUL: All but three states are allowing religious services to resume in some form already. President Trump said he will override governors who don't allow places of worship to reopen by this weekend. We have to point out the president doesn't actually have the constitutional authority to do so, though.

BLACKWELL: This morning, we spoke to Father Edward Beck who argues that reopening plans need the blessing of physicians and health experts.


FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: I want to open all of the houses of worship, Victor. I just think it should be done in a safe and incremental manner, so that all of the precautions are in place. But it's not simply the same as showing up at a supermarket where you can just keep your distance and get on a line, especially if people are going to do it in a way that are custom to do it. So I think churches, synagogues, mosques, they need specific guidelines to address those concerns.


BLACKWELL: The CDC has issued some considerations for places of worship, including social distancing, soap and hand sanitizers, for worshippers to stay safe.

PAUL: As one official puts it, there are, quote, calls of sheer desperation from small business owners right now, the coronavirus taking a really hard economic toll on them. It is extremely concerning when you look at these numbers. U.S. business is largely comprised of small businesses. A survey conducted by the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council shows 99.7 percent of the firms have 500 workers or less, 98.2 percent are firms with fewer than 100 workers, 89 percent are firms with fewer than 20 workers.

Our next guest says money is so scarce for some that they're actually eating just one meal a day. Thomas Sullivan is the vice president of Small Business Police at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Thank you so much. We appreciate you being here, Thomas. I know that this is really heartbreaking at the end of the day. And when you say you are getting calls of sheer desperation, help us understand what you're hearing from these small business owners about their status right now.

THOMAS SULLIVAN, VICE PRESIDENT OF SMALL BUSINESS POLICY, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Thanks, Christi. At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we represent 3 million businesses. Most of them are small, and that's in conjunction with over 1,600 local and state chambers of commerce. And over the past eight weeks, it seems like eight months, but over the past eight weeks, we have fielded calls from small businesses all over America who are desperate for cash.

Now, there have been some government resources that have helped, but the primary reason that they're desperate for cash, and this shows up in the MetLife survey that we've done, is lack of customers, lack of revenue. So right now we have 50 states that are in some process of reopening. And that's key to turning that around so that customers can come in, shop safely, and build those revenues back up at small businesses.

PAUL: That's what I wanted to ask you about. I wanted to know if this fight for survival of these small businesses has shifted at this point.


It's not about a federal bailout. It's about convincing people that it's safe for them to come in and sit down and eat a meal or shop their products and their services. How are small businesses -- how are they addressing that? Do they have specific plans to try to let people know they're open, they're here, they're safe?

SULLIVAN: Christi, they do have plans. And at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we're there to help. We have a complete set of online digital tools that are intended to help small businesses reopen. Whether it's how do you put personal protective equipment in the hands of your employees to types of questionnaires that you should be asking your employees before they come back to work. We need to do everything possible so that a small business feels confident that when they're taking the steps to reopen, their employees are safe, and their customers are safe.

And the Census Bureau has been doing a weekly poll on how small businesses are doing, and even though it is really, really tough out there, it's getting a little bit better. The numbers actually picked up a little bit last week. And so that reopening process, I like to refer to it as a nervous celebration going on right now on Main Street.

PAUL: That's a really good description, a good way to characterize it. The Treasury Department said it's paid out more than 4 million loans worth $5.12 billion over seven weeks, and it says it saved about 50 million jobs. How many of the businesses you've talked to have not only requested the PPP, but they received it?

SULLIVAN: A lot of them Christi. And actually, that census survey that I just referenced showed that 75 percent of American small businesses have applied for those loans, and over 66 percent have received them. There's a local business here called Flags of Valor in Ashburn, Virginia. They make American flags sourced with American wood, and their craftsmen are combat veterans. Can you imagine the pain and how awful it was for their founders, Joe and Brian, to have to furlough four of those craftsmen? Now they just received the PPP loan that allowed for them to bring those four craftsmen back. And so those types of stories are heartwarming, and we're hearing more and more of them, Christi.

PAUL: OK, we are glad to hear that as well.

Real quickly, what are small business owners telling you when they call you and say they just feel like they're at their wits end? We know the story you just told, that anecdote has a good ending right now, but what about other people? What is the most basic need? And what stories are you hearing?

SULLIVAN: Christi, their most basic need is cash. Their second most basic need are customers to get that cash coming in the door. I am overwhelmed with calls of gratitude. It is really amazing to hear that at the depths of destruction, small business owners are grateful for SBA, they're grateful for their local chambers of commerce, they're grateful for me and others that are helping.

There is some fear by these small business owners, they want certainty. They want to know if they take the steps necessary to protect their employees and to protect their customers, that they're going to be shielded from lawsuits and that they're going to be able to continue to hire back and actually get the economy going again.

PAUL: That's a really good point to make. Thomas Sullivan, we appreciate you so much taking time for us this morning. Take good care of yourself. Thank you so much.

SULLIVAN: Thank you. Thank you, Christi. Be safe.

PAUL: You as well.

BLACKWELL: The second most visited home in the United States has opened its doors again. We will talk to the CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises to find out what's waiting for you at Graceland.



BLACKWELL: Welcome back. Amusement parks and tourist traction attractions, this is the phase now of reopening we're seeing, and reimagining operations for the COVID-19 crisis that's at the center of the getting back to work and back to entertainment. Elvis Presley's Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, is already welcoming back visitors. They've reduced the numbers of guests allowed on the grounds. They're hoping that will make for a better changes.

With me now to talk about the changes, Joel Weinshanker, majority owner of Elvis Presley Enterprises. Joel, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: I'm doing well, thank you. Hope you are too.

We had the manager of Gatorland earlier, and that's an outdoor facility. We talked about the amusement parks. And Graceland is an expansive property, but what everybody really wants to see is the mansion. That's an indoor experience. How do you make that work in this new environment?

WEINSHANKER: We've really created what's really become a presidential tour. So many U.S. presidents have visited Graceland, 20 million people have come, and instead of there being 70 or 80 people in the mansion at any one time, it's now limited to 10. So it's really in a house that's 7,000 or 8,000 square feet, it's an expansive amount of rooms. So it's not something that we can make money from. We'd actually be better off not opening and delaying. But this is about bringing America back, doing it in a safe way. We're taking people's temperatures before they even come onto the premises. We're doing all the things that you need to do, social distancing. All of the employees have masks. We obviously do checks of the employees every morning.


So we're doing everything we can, not to make money, because a lot of people are talking about workers not wanting to come back because of the benefits that they're getting. But we have got that same responsibility, and our workers really were so happy to come back, and it really filled us with an American pride. But this is about showing what can be done safely. So 10 people in the mansion instead of 80, having it very much spaced out, people having more room, it really is like a private VIP presidential tour right now.

BLACKWELL: So there are a lot of business owners that we're speaking with who are soon to open, preparing to open, you're open now. How many guests are you seeing?

WEINSHANKER: We're seeing -- so we're down to 25 percent. So we're down from a capacity of over 3,000 people a day to 800. And we're starting to see that fill in. We started on Thursday. We've doubled the number on Friday. And we'll probably go 50 percent up today. And exactly what you said, Victor, is right on. We've been asked by the state of Tennessee and by Shelby County where we're in to show best practices. So the businesses that can show those best practices have the obligation to, and that's where we are right now.

BLACKWELL: You have got Elvis Week coming up in I think the second week of August. Thousands of fans come in from around the world. There is that candlelight vigil that happens on the eve of the anniversary of Elvis's death. Is that something that you're planning for? You still have a couple of months.

WEINSHANKER: So we are absolutely planning for there to be the candlelight vigil. Elvis passed away, and every year tens of millions of fans around the world use it as a week of remembrance, but also of celebration. Do I anticipate that there are going to a lot of international guests, no. Are we going to be providing the same kind of distancing that's needed within our community? Absolutely. We're part of our community, so we're going to be listening to the health officials on a county and state and federal level and working best practices. But there will be some sort of celebration and memorial. BLACKWELL: There was a story in the "Rolling Stone" back in March

about how the estate has worked to reintroduce Elvis to a younger generation. That was this movie, this biopic that's being shot in Australia, and actually Tom Hanks was there shooting it when he and his wife, Rita Wilson, they went public with the diagnoses of being COVID positive. Do you know what's going on with that project?

WEINSHANKER: Sure. I was actually involved. And I think like many Americans it made it real to me, because I was actually going to go to Australia a few weeks later for the start of production, and I got a phone call very late one night, and it was the first person with any sort of connection that I had that had gotten COVID. So Australia has done a fantastic job with remedying the issue. And obviously their seasons are flip flopped. So they go into summer when we go into winter.

But I think people are looking at in the next six months possibly coming back, but it's going to have to be in a safe environment. And when you're talking television and film production, you can -- not only social distancing, but you can keep a tight group of people away from everyone else.

BLACKWELL: You're right about that Tom Hanks announcement. I remember when it came out, and then the NBA suspended the season. It was a ball rolling pretty quickly back then in March when all that happened. Joel Weinshanker, thanks so much for your time. Good luck there at Graceland.

WEINSHANKER: Thanks, Victor.


PAUL: So still ahead, this call company survived the Great Depression, the halt in auto production during World War II, and oil price spikes. But it may not survive this pandemic. We have details for you in a moment.



BLACKWELL: The governor of North Dakota got a little choked up while he was talking about protections against COVID-19. This was during a news conference yesterday. Republican Governor Doug Burgum fought back tears as he asks the people across his state to use their hearts while thinking about wearing masks.

PAUL: Governor Burgum said North Dakotans shouldn't look at wearing masks as an ideological or a political debate. He called it a senseless divide.


GOV. DOUG BURGUM, (R) NORTH DAKOTA: If someone is wearing a mask, they're not doing it to represent what political party they're in or what candidates they support. They might be doing it because they have a five-year-old child who's been going through cancer treatments. They might have vulnerable adults in their life who currently have COVID they're fighting.

And so again, I would love to see our state, as part of being North Dakota smart, also being North Dakota kind, North Dakota empathetic, North Dakota understanding.


PAUL: You can hear his voice, how this has affected him personally. So far more than 2,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus across the state of North Dakota.

Listen, Hertz is one of the highest profile companies yet that is now turning to bankruptcy to deal with the economic impact from COVID-19.

BLACKWELL: So the rental car company blames a drop in travel demand. We know that's going on. They say it was sudden and dramatic. CNN's Alison Kosik is watching this one. Alison, good morning. Again, Hertz not going out of business, we should say that. What does this mean? And what should their customers, what should the industry think of their move?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christi and Victor. So what it basically means is Hertz filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which allows it to restructure its $17 billion in debt and try to come out of this even stronger. Some companies have been able to emerge stronger from bankruptcy.

Interestingly enough, though, you look at the industry as a whole, the car rental industry, it's not just Hertz that's having issues. The entire industry is being hurt by this plunge in travel because the pandemic that hit earlier this year. And for Hertz, two-thirds of its revenue comes from these rentals happening at airport locations. Hertz, by the way, also owns the brands Thrifty and Dollar as well. So with fewer people flying, fewer people are renting cars.


The other significant area of revenue for Hertz that is just now coming in is rentals for people who have car accidents. So fewer people are out on the roads these days. They're working from home, not driving as much, and, you know what, thankfully not having car accidents, but in turn that's hurting Hertz's revenue as well. Victor and Christi?

PAUL: OK, so just to be clear, Hertz isn't the only company, obviously, facing these challenges?

KOSIK: Right. Where you look at Hertz, and Hertz actually you can honestly say that it was directly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, people staying at home and not traveling, a lot of these retailers have actually had issues long before the coronavirus. They had this competition from online sales, companies like JC Penny, Neiman Marcus, J. Crew, they've all this month just filed for bankruptcy. There were also these issues with Victoria Secret as well. They just announced they're closing hundreds of stores.

We're seeing that there is this sharp divide between - in the retail sector between the stores that were allowed to stay open and considered essentially, like the Walmarts, the Targets, and the Lowes, they are going strong while we're seeing these other retailers having issues. A lot of companies we're keeping our eye on, one of those include Macy's which just reported some dire earnings just last week. Christi and Victor?

PAUL: Wow. All right, Alison Kosik, always appreciate your input, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: A world-renowned musician giving his community something to smile about. Up next, how he is turning his band practice into a weekly event for his neighbors.



BLACKWELL: So as we've seen throughout the pandemic, and we've known this for some time, that music can be a really powerful way to bring people together. And that's exactly what world-renowned harmonica player Fred Yonnet did even if he didn't mean to at first.

PAUL: Yes, sometimes those unintentional moments become the real good ones, right? Fred was just looking for a place to practice for his band, but that blossomed into a weekly event for his entire Washington D.C. community. Take a look.


FREDERIC YONNET, MUSICIAN: When COVID hit Washington D.C., I was driving my wife nuts. She was going crazy. I wanted to play, started very, very basic. Just in need of performing and playing.

My name is Frederic Yonnet, I'm a harmonica player.

Stapling some big sheets of plastic on the ceiling to separate each of the band members from each other create these virtual giant face masks so we could still be creative in a safe environment. We knew that it was going to be loud, so we decided to let the neighbors know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His wife sent out an email to the neighborhood, telling everybody they were going to have a jam session.

YONNET: Their reaction was absolutely phenomenal. Once the neighbors showed us some appreciation, it was a natural extension to think about my friends on social media. Dave Chappelle, Michelle Wolf, the comedian as well. I actually had the honor of touring with Prince and Stevie Wonder. I have people from nearly all over the world right now watching this from Toulouse, France, from Normandy, my family gets to watch.

Something pretty interesting happened. We started meeting neighbors we had no idea lived in the neighborhood for 20, 30, 40 years. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a perfect outing, a perfect way to meet,

a perfect way to enhance friendships, a perfect way to see each other.

YONNET: Now we know each other, we wave at one another.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have had people who now come every Sunday, and they know us, and they take the same seats on the wall. And it's great. We didn't know these people before, and now we do.

YONNET: The reason I come outside at the end of the performance is to get reconnected with a real, live audience. It's fulfilling. We're connected through the darkness of COVID, but also through the positive energy of live music.

Thank you, everyone. Stay safe. See you again maybe next Sunday.



PAUL: Fred, you are pretty darn amazing.

If you are looking for ways to help your community, or those affected by the coronavirus, visit our website,

Following breaking news this hour, too, we're going to show you some of the pictures coming into CNN live right now. A huge fire ripped through the iconic Pier 45 in San Francisco this morning. Firefighters appear to have it under control right now, but CNN has been told this is still considered an active fire.

BLACKWELL: So this is what officials are telling us now, that this started at a warehouse on the pier in the fisherman's wharf neighborhood, spread to a four alarm fire, more than 125 firefighters are battling this one.


PAUL: And we know that the fire caused a partial building collapse, they're telling us now, that was on the southern part of the pier. We are going to monitor this story, obviously. Stay with CNN for the latest on the breaking news, of course.

We hope that you go make some great memories today. Thank you so much for being with us for this hour of Newsroom.

BLACKWELL: Stay with us. There's more ahead in the next hour of CNN's Newsroom. Fredricka Whitfield is up after a quick break.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining.