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tv   The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  April 18, 2020 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT

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this is cnn breaking news. >> welcome to the viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer, this is a special edition of "the situation room." 2.3 million people contracting the coronavirus around the world, more than 159,000 passing away. the number in the united states, passing 38,000. and that number continues to rise. but tonight, president trump stood over at the white house and lashed out at some state governors. not only accusing them of failing to use their available testing ability, but said some governors are overreacting, being too strict with health and
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safety measures designed to help keep americans alive. listen to this. >> now they're giving you the other, it's called testing, testing. but they don't want to use all the capacity we've created. we have tremendous capacity, dr. birx will be explaining that. the governors know that. the democrat governors know that, they're the ones that are complaining. >> the president saying the democrat governors are in his words complaining. even though governors from both parties are reporting severe shortages in testing supplies and the president's own health experts point out coronavirus test equipment is right now unfortunately in short supply around the country. let's get more on what came out of the task force briefing,
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jeremy diamond joins us. the president took particular aim at the nation's democratic governors, didn't give a lot of time to his team of public health experts, at least not today. >> reporter: that's certainly right, wolf. what we saw was an airing of grievances, one that has become all too familiar from this president. but as we're seeing the reports of testing shortages across the country, capacity that is not being fully used in part because of lack of supplies needed for testing, the president said he bears no responsibility for testing shortages across the country. instead seeking to blame democratic governors. even suggesting that some of them don't want to use all of the testing capacity that they have. >> all right, jeremy, i think we had a sound bite that unfortunately didn't play. but very quickly, when the president says he inherited a broken, terrible system, our
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cupboards were bare, he's in part blaming the obama administration for the lack of equipment, testing, all sorts of other things. what he doesn't point out is that he has had three years-plus to get it going when he took over? >> reporter: right. and that's what we saw, the president focusing once again on trying to blame others forcomin response to the pandemic. at one point, he was blaming the media, then the obama administration, as you mentioned, for the shortcomings of the national stockpile. of course not mentioning the fact that he's been in office for three years before this coronavirus became, came into existence. the president had plenty of time
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to restock the national stockpile if he felt it was understocked. but as the president has faced questions about his on response, the president has chosen instead to shift blame. another target increasingly has been china. and while there is a lot to criticize in china's response to the coronavirus, the president during the critical weeks when the virus was spreading not only in china, but beginning to spread in the united states, he was praising its response, including its transparency. and during the briefing, dr. birx highlighted new orleans. >> you can see clearly, new orleans, about a month ago, very low levels. probably less than 50 cases. large peak and spike around the
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beginning of april. and they have come down, and they are down to very few cases again. >> joining us now, senator bill cassidy from louisiana. senator, thank you so much for joining us. i know you have a lot going on. we appreciate the time. as you heard the president is going after largely democratic governors for getting carried away with social distancing measures, blaming them for lack of testing. why is he doing this, instead of trying to bring the country together and avoiding all the partisanship? >> i can't speak for the president. he has a good, close working relationship with my governor, and he's done a good job in terms of encouraging people to stay home. but i think we have to look how to go forward. there is a mismatch between the people ordering tests and the amount of testing so far. there is capacity that is
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unused, and i would say if we're concerned about a racial disparity between people who are getting sick and dying versus not, why don't we go into neighborhoods that we can highlight, knowing they have a high degree of risk factors, proactively screen people, fill up all those testing trays. in the meantime, if somebody is testing positive, quarantine them to protect everybody else. we need to be proactive. social distancing has helped, now we need to go to the next step. >> you're a physician, a doctor, so you understand these things very well. the president, as you heard, is also continuing to encourage people at the protests, to protest the stay at home measures. do you believe, as a physician and senator that that jeopardizes the work that people are doing to flatten the curve
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and keep out of an abundance after caution, to keep the social distancing in place? >> clearly social distancing has helped. but clearly people are getting restless. one guy told me, i don't care what anybody says, i'm going out. we need to start applying science. if we know there's a neighborhood with cases there, we need to proactively screen. if there's a neighborhood, with no cases, we can be a little more tolerant of interaction. if people are going to rebel, let's give them a scientific reason to keep doing it. people are getting restless, i think that's a good way to address that. >> in new orleans, do you have enough testing equipment?
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>> i'm told by people running the tests, so the trays will come, like, 200 in a tray. they're running 170 in a 200 tray. that's 30 slots that are missing. in some cases, it's even more. that's why i think we need to start proactively going into neighborhoods, screening people, and fill up those trays. but also proactively identify people who are at risk. that's how we can continue to flatten the curve, but allow a little bit more freedom in the economy. >> there was major news today that broke. multiple health officials telling us it was contamination in one of the manufacturing sites at the cdc, the test for the coronavirus that was ongoing, and it caused weeks of delay, slowing the u.s. response to the pandemic. what is your reaction to that? >> well, there's going to be, if you will, an analysis afterwards.
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let's figure out what went wrong. right now, it's more important to go forward. yes, mistakes were made. but on the other hand, what is the plan going forward that flattens the curve, increases economic freedom, and saves lives? that's where we need to focus. >> new orleans certainly based on the numbers is trending in the right direction. but your governor said the state overall is not ready for a phase one reopening plan that the president issued. do you agree with his approach? >> that's what i was told, and i have not read it directly, that the governor will begin to allow medical offices open for things like elective surgeries. dentists and physicians are used to wearing masks, they will set the example for the rest of society, disinfecting chairs, and so forth.
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my understanding is that is the way we're progressing. i also think it's a reasonable way to do so. >> i suspect a lot of people will be nervous about doing to the dentist and doctor right now. >> i suppose. but i'm a gastroenterologist. if someone calls me and has blood in his stool, we need to look at it. it's not an emergency, but it's not elective. if someone has skin cancer, we need to look at it. we're going to be wiping down everything, everybody will be wearing a mask and a shield. she will be reassured, but the skin cancer will be removed. i think that's the way to reopen. >> these are important measures, and thank you, senator cassidy,
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for joining us. we'll continue this conversation down the road. thanks very much. >> thank you, wolf. coming up, as the president appears to push for states to begin relaxing their social distancing measures, cases in some rural areas are starting to rise. nebraska saw a 30% spike of new cases this week alone. we'll take a closer look at what is behind the rise. you wouldn't accept an incomplete job from anyone else.
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as coronavirus cases begin to plateau in big cities, they're starting to surge in rural states. the president accused some governors of getting carried away, but most cases are in states without stay at home orders, an 82% jump in iowa, 205% jump in south dakota. in arkansas, with a 60% jump in
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cases, the governor is eyeing a phase one reopen on may 4th. in nebraska, which experienced a 30% bump this week, one shopping mall will reopen next week. and the governor is not going to stop it. ryan young is outside that mall, joining us right now. the mall owner is moving ahead with this plan, are they expecting shoppers to actually show up? >> reporter: well, that's the plan so far, wolf. here's the thing. the stores may not all open up. there's some major tenants at the mall, and some have corporate policies where they've closed down. the owner thinks they can use it as a template for the rest of the country. maybe with temperature checks, or social distancing. we know people are antsy, and want to get back to shopping. but if you're a health care professional, you're worried about not being able to flatten
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the curve. we talked to both sides about this hot button issue. >> we looked at where things are headed, and maybe a good time to get them all up and running, but you need to have a soft opening, to start getting the stores back trained, developing best practices. we started with our retail brands to look at nebraska as a case study of how to interact with customers, brands, landlords, to work together to create a safe environment. >> it's premature, irresponsible. if we're patient for another, i don't know three or four weeks, nobody can predict the timeline. but we have to listen to the scientists and experts. they're tracking the data, and looking into how it's spreading. we need to be confident that they know what they're doing. why stop short? we need to continue to be vigilant. >> reporter: i've heard the
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argument across the country. people saying how can walmart be open and we can't be open? especially with all the people who work in retail. they want to get back to work, and you can understand that. but i've been in seattle, chicago, detroit, and it hasn't hit nebraska as hard as those cities just yet. that's what the health care professionals are basically saying. we don't want it to hit that hard here, especially with the fact that they don't have the same number of beds that larger cities do. some are hoping it will be a softer opening than what this mall owner is hoping for. we'll see what next week brings. >> ryan, thank you very much. joining us now, dr. wayne riley, as well as our cnn medical expert. thanks so much for joining us. let me pick up right where we just saw, the report from ryan young. i'll start with the doctor, do
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you believe for a shopping mall ee even in nebraska after a 30% bump in cases, is it wise to reopen? >> that's an absolutely terri terrifying situation. the rush to reopen could endanger lives. and in rural america, where 1 in 6 americans live, they're generally older, poorer, and sicker with a few years' shorter live expectancy. to think about rushing to reopen in places where communities are already so vulnerable, it's setting up a situation for a disaster. >> what do you think, dr. riley?
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>> absolutely correct. it's a clear and present danger for state governments to reopen their communities precipitously. we need to take signals from governors around the country, particularly in the northeast. the leadership of governor cuomo, governor whitmer, governor edwards. we need to do it carefully, methodically. and we still don't have the testing capacity. that remains anemic. and that is, as governor cuomo says, testing is the bridge to getting to the new normal in the united states. >> we need more testing equipment and more tests in general. dr. yasmin, you may think that the argument that areas like nebraska would be safer because there just aren't as many people as in new york city.
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is that logic misguided? >> that is misguided for the reasons i just outlined. the higher rates of poverty and higher rates of chronic health conditions to deal with. covid-19 preys on people with pre-existing conditions. so, these areas may not be so densely populated, but they have higher blood pressure, higher rates of cigarette smoking. and in rural parts of america, i would be astonished that the rural health departments were operating on skeleton staff. two public health nurses doing the work of a dozen. that's exactly the kind of resources and people we need on the front lines to do testing but also to do contact tracing. as we think about peeling back containment measures, we need a constant eye on a second wave
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and guarding against future pandemics and outbreaks of covid-19. that means a boots on the ground staff, and communities like this do not have those resources. >> how worried are you about a second wave in august or september? >> i'm very worried. i share the concern with many health officials that we're likely set up for a second wave. dr. fauci has supported that as well. that's why we need to get the testing right. i hope in six months, once we enter a second wave, that we'll be able to have point of care testing at doctor's offices, quicker access to results. we will be able to surge, what i refer to as surge testing in communities, particularly black and brown communities that are so heavily disproportionately affected. we can't do anything to fuel the
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prospect of a second wave six or seven months from now. >> we may have a wait a year for a legitimate vaccine. but maybe in the next few months there will be some drugs or treatments that could prevent you from dying from coronavirus. we can only hope a treatment will be coming forth. thank you so much for joining us. we're grateful to both of you. the affects of coronavirus are being felt across the world. some of the most vulnerable members of society are finding themselves hardest hit. we have details when we come back. me. oh, that's a good one. wait, what's that? that's just the low-battery warning. oh, alright. now it's all, "check out my rv," and, "let's go four-wheeling." maybe there's a little part of me that wanted to be seen. well, progressive helps people save when they bundle their home with their outdoor vehicles. so they've got other things to do now, bigfoot.
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sex workers are a part of every society. but as a pandemic sweeps the globe, they've become some of its most vulnerable members. will, you say this outbreak has made an already risky profession even more dangerous. >> reporter: absolutely, wolf. we know that members of our community who are of lower income, who don't have a voice, they face a far greater risk during this pandemic. that's certainly true for japan's 300,000 sex workers. the rain normally doesn't keep people away from tokyo's red light district. in 2015, on my first visit, the cold, wet streets were always full.
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prostitution is against the law in japan, but everybody knows what is really for sale. fast forward five years to 2020. coronavirus is doing what the rain cannot. turning off the neon lights. in all my years of living in tokyo, i've never seen it this empty. normally, these streets are lined with women trying to lure customers into their shops. the shops are closed, and the women have to find other, more dangerous ways to make a living. a woman asked us to hide her face and change her name. her family doesn't know she's been a sex worker for ten years. these days, with all the shops closed, she goes directly to customers. often older men, a risky proposition, with the virus spreading quickly. of course i worry about my health, she says. but i worry more about how to survive. what if i can't afford to buy food? as a young girl, she wanted to
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be journalist. life didn't work out that way. she's not asking for sympathy, she's asking for help. sex workers can't stop working, but we don't want to spread the virus. japan's estimated 300,000 sex workers are eligible for the government's coronavirus cash handouts, about $1,000. they say that won't be nearly enough to keep most off the streets. there is a lot of discrimination against sex workers, says this man before his toddler takes an appearance. many different people are involved as sex workers. his nonprofit tries to find sex workers new jobs that they're not afraid to tell their families about, jobs that won't
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put them or their children at risk. this is the sad reality of the situation. here in japan and around the world, men and women have to make a choice. feed their children, or go out into these jobs and have direct contact people that could put them at a risk of coronavirus. and despite the fact that the number of official cases has surged over 10,000 in the last few days, on wednesday in tokyo, just 277 people were tested. so if the official numbers are rising, just imagine how many cases we don't know about. >> yeah. i can only imagine. will, excellent report. thank you for joining us. meanwhile, there is breaking news coming into "the situation room." the venezuelan president is calling for the postponement of the country's parliamentary
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elections because of the pandemic. originally scheduled for december of this year. he now says it would be irresponsible to carry them out in this environment. asking for them to be held in january instead. san francisco taking drastic measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. while it seems to have turned a corner, vulnerable populations are still very much at risk. san francisco's mayor is standing by to join us live, standing by to join us live, when we come back. one of them. nnected shou'e that's why we're offering contactless delivery and set-up on all devices. and for those experiencing financial hardship due to this crisis, we'll work with you to keep your service up and running. hi! because at at&t,
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as a result, san francisco's covid-19 numbers are well below what you would expect. as of today, 1,137 cases and just 20 deaths. mayor, thanks so much for joining us. the case counts indicate the bay area may have turned a corner in the outbreak. fewer new cases than the week before. what is your biggest concern right now? >> my biggest concern is that people may think that the fact that the numbers seem to appear to be lower than we anticipated, that that would mean that people should get comfortable and go back to their normal lives. but the last thing we need to do is let up. and i remind people of what happened with the spanish flu in 1918, when in november of 1918, the city was reopened a month
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after september, when the cases first started to hit. and all of a sudden, it went back to what was problematic. all of that time that people spent closing businesses and libraries and schools and everything else, it didn't matter because more people were infected, more people died. we don't want to repeat history in this case. >> we certainly don't. beginning wednesday, i'm told, you're mandating face masks for anyone who is indoors or in close proximity to other people. how important is it? >> we are recommending it for those 12 and over. we say face coverings. we want people not to panic and run out and feel like they have to find masks. you can't find masks in many places. so you can use a scarf, anything
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that you, when you're out, to cover your nose and mouth. it's just something that is necessary, based on the behavior of what we're seeing. it doesn't take the place of social distancing. we want to use both of these tools hand-in-hand, because ultimately we know this is going to help to reduce the spread as well. and it is really necessary in order to keep our essential businesses open. we're seeing grocery store clerks getting infected at higher rates. bus drivers and other people trying to provide essential services getting infected with the virus. we want to protect you, but we also want to protect them as well. >> we certainly do. in some cities, we're seeing protests against the stay at home measures. if a similar protest erupts in san francisco, how are you prepared to respond? >> we've had protesters in their
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vehicles, maintaining social distancing. i think ultimately, what we will do in any instance is make sure people are social distancing, and that we manage the protests in a way that doesn't lead to someone being infected. i understand, people are ready to get back to their lives. but at the same time, this is really a matter of life or death. and we all need to participate, and we know that we're not going to get 100% compliance. there will be people who will be upset about that. but we will do what we need to do in order to protect public health in our city. and law enforcement plays an important role. >> like a lot of major cities around the united states, including where i am here in washington, d.c., there is a major homelessness problem right now. i know san francisco has a major
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homeless problem as well. what are you doing to try to help these people? >> the first thing we did, our shelter system, thinning out the shelters, moving the most vulnerable, those over 60 and with underlying conditions out of the shelter system, and moving others into hotels. and we've started to outreach to people on the streets, bringing the most vulnerable in first, again. but it's been very, very challenging. although we've been able to get almost 1,000 homeless people into hotels in san francisco, the management of that has been difficult. the logistics and capacity to really manage and maintain this has been challenging. people who suffer from substance use disorder and mental health don't just go away because we're in a pandemic.
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we need more people and more support in the age of social distancing in order to help with a very challenging population. it's been tough. but we've been doing it. and i'm proud of the work force here, people who don't necessarily work with the homeless, like our librarians, park staff, people who work in other city departments have stepped up and are working at the hotels, learning to work with this population. seeing people step up is incredible, but it's also very challenging. >> i spoke to the mayor of new york earlier tonight. he's worried about his city going broke. what is it like in san francisco? a lot of cities are begging the federal government to come up with some cash. >> well, the fact is, it's not coming fast enough. and here in san francisco, we anticipate a $1.1 to 1.7 billion
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budget deficit. we've looked to find money that we've not already spent, we've done hiring freezes, and been creative, partnering it with philanthropic funding, redirecting already limited resources, but we need the federal government to kick in sooner than later. this is going to be hard not just now, but in the future, as we come out of this. it's going to be difficult, because we rely on tourism, it's not going to come back that easy. i set up a economic recovery task force, but we need the federal dollars right now. >> you certainly do. all right, mayor, thank you so much for joining us. good luck to everyone in san francisco. we'll stay in close touch with you. >> thank you, wolf. some republican governors are looking to reopen their
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states as soon as next month. but medical experts say that's impossible without proper testing. sean penn is working with officials in los angeles to get more people tested. he's standing by. that's critically important. we'll be right back. (soft music) - [female vo] restaurants are facing a crisis. and they're counting on your takeout and delivery orders to make it through. grubhub. together we can help save the restaurants we love.
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more than a month into the pandemic in the united states, testing for the coronavirus remains a very serious problem because of critical shortages in supplies and staff. but now some private enterprises are stepping in to try to help. sean penn is one of those
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people, teaming up with the city of los angeles right now. his disaster relief covid-19 relief effort is trying to help across california. sean, thank you for joining us. truly a wonderful thing you and your colleagues are doing. how many tests have you conducted so far? tell us why it was so important for you to get personally involved with this. >> the organization, i think, let me refer to my notes. we're two weeks on the ground as of this evening, we'll be north of 20,000 tested in the city of los angeles, and on pace to do, with the current sites, 100,000 a month. we're aren't looking to expand our partnership with the
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fire department. i had access to an infrastructure disaster resupports with core which is now ten years of disaster response experience and what was gratuitous was that -- because certainly we'd never worked in california before. we had worked in the hurricane belt here in the united states but because mayor garcetti and the l.a. fire department had such an extraordinary plan in place, we were able to just be plugged into their system and relieve the firefighters with their exceptional skill sets and responsibilities on the streets and the station, leave them to
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serve the people that they do best, the paramedics, et cetera, because the lane of testing doesn't take an enormous amount of experience. we can train our testers very quickly and move people very deliberately through the drive test site and come up with both surveillance and notification for people in their own circumstances and those with whom they're in contact. >> this testing is so, so critically important. as you probably know, sean, the president just tonight repeatedly blamed governors for not making full use of coronavirus testing capacity in their states, even though many governors say they simply don't have enough supplies right now. as someone whose organization is conducting test, what advice would you offer? >> i part ways with the president on this rather dramatically. i am seeing it day to day.
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i am in contact with the governor, the mayor of the city of los angeles. i do know what's happening with these supply chain materials, supplies from n95s that are so critical to the test kits themselves to the lab turn yove of those results, et cetera, and all of the things that will feed the scientists that will ultimately get us out of this mess with a vaccine, but this is also a kind of -- you know, we're going to have to take the silver linings on this. this is a mandatory rehearsal for things to come and that we are going to have to deal with as a society. so in that i would suggest that people strongly advocate for the president to set up federal guidelines and to make a robust use of the defense production act. this is the area, this is the single most important thing that could happen. and it also is a hoover dam-like
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project. this is something that can create current jobs and safe-made work sites because we're learning how to do that. and so i think that's really what i would say to people is write the president and just say, please, you know, get this country's greatness back into that work, into that workforce of defense production of all these necessary, life-saving kr critical materials that are so desperately needed by the doctors and nurses and those of us who complement the work they do with the component of testing. >> if people want to donate to your cause or get more information on how to get tested, where can they go? >> core response.org/covid-19.
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>> that's an important place to go. sean penn, thanks so much to what you're doing. we're grateful to you and all your colleagues and friends. they can get more was in about sean's organization and the work it does at coreresponse.org/cov coreresponse.org/covid19. thanks very much for watching tonight. i'll be back tomorrow night with another special edition of the situation room at 6 p.m. eastern. a special presentation about coronavirus in communities of color is next. but before we go, the healing powers of music. a violinist performs a rooftop concert at an italian hospital
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welcome to a very special evening on cnn. i'm done lemon in new york. >> and i'm van jones in los angeles. tonight we're here to confront the color of covid. the virus doesn't discriminate but you're going to see how this disease is tearing through america's minority group and why it's tougher for so many of our neighborhoods and communities. >> the nation has lost more than 38,000 people to the virus. every

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