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United Nations calls for Global Solidarity to Battle Coronavirus; U.S. Most Coronavirus Infections in the World; Fear of Coronavirus at Moria; Island of Lesbos Having Only Six ICU Beds; Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greek Prime Minister, is Interviewed About Greece and Migrants; Death Toll in U.S. Surged to More Than 4,000; General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, Commander, NORAD, is Interviewed About Leading the U.S. in Worst-Case Scenarios; South Africa's Homeless People in Open Stadium with Limited Sanitation and No Social Distancing; Interview With Will.i.am; College Students Facing Crisis During Pandemic. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired April 1, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the world needs now is solidarity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The United Nations calls for a united response to coronavirus but the cracks are showing in Europe and in the United States. The Greek
prime minister joins me for an exclusive interview and General Terrence O'Shaughnessy joins me, the designated survivor who would lead the United
States in a worst-case scenario.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARA GOLDRICK-RAB, PROFESSOR OF HIGHER EDUCATION AND SOCIOLOGY, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY: That college degree is the thing that most likely is going to
help them get out of poverty. And now, they're essentially trapped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The crisis faces students out of school an out of work.
AMANPOUR: -- artist and producer will.i.am on joining forces with Bono to make a song for life.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London, working from home, broadcasting to you from here.
Now, the United Nations is calling for global solidarity, a unified action to battle this coronavirus. Here in the U.K., a 13-year-old boy has died of
the illness. Hospitals are overwhelmed and a row has broken out about the lack of testing despite the British government's promise to ramp up that
As cases surge and peaks are yet to be attained around the world, nations that could cooperate instead are fighting to acquire much needed lifesaving
equipment for themselves. There's even in the United States competition between states as the U.S. now has the most infections in the world. This
as President Trump gets somber about the prognosis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead. We are going to go through a very tough two
weeks. And then hopefully, as the experts are predicting, as, I think, a lot of us are predicting after having studying it so hard, we're going to
start seeing some real light at the end of the tunnel but this is gone to be a very painful -- very, very painful two weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But his ally in South America is still in denial, still ignoring the experts and the evidence. The Brazilian leader, Jair Bolsonaro, met
supporters on the streets this weekend saying that people need to face COVID-19 like men and get back to work.
Europe is also struggling for a united approach and perhaps, most in need is Greece. It was the E.U.'s worst hit country after the 2008 economic
crisis. And also, it suffered the brunt of the 2015 migrant crisis. The Island of Lesbos has the biggest refugee camp in Europe. It's designed the
hold 3,000 people but currently, holds 20,000. And there are reportedly only six intensive care beds on the whole island.
Joining me now to discuss all of this for an exclusive interview the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis. And he's joining me from Athens.
Prime Minister, welcome to the program.
I just want to ask you, because your country, I believe, has in the region of 1,300 cases. Some 49 or 50 deaths. You're under lockdown, you have been
for the better part of the week. What is the trend there now?
KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS, GREEK PRIME MINISTER: Well, first of all, Christiane, thank you for having me on your show. I think the trend is relatively
encouraging compared to other European countries but we obviously know that the hard work is still ahead of us.
What we did which I think was relatively successful was to implement strict social distancing measures relatively early, and it seems to have worked.
We have had almost full cooperation by the Greek people and like to thank them for the fact that they have respected our directions and have actually
stayed home with very, very few exceptions.
And it is very, very clear to me, I'm not an epidemiologist or an expert but it is very clear to me that if you take social distancing measures
relatively early, you can actually flatten the curve. We have had 50 people tragically losing their lives in Greece from COVID-19. But our health care
system is coping relatively well.
And I should point out this is a health -- public health care system battered after 10 years of austerity. So, we were painfully aware of the
fact that we were at bigger risk compared to other European countries, seeing our health care system being overwhelmed. This has not happened up
to now and we hope it's not going to happen.
AMANPOUR: I mean, those are incredible statistics to be able to tell the world and it's really interesting to hear that because as we have said and
as you have just said, you were one of the worst hit countries over the last, you know, 10-plus years, 12 years since the 2008 financial crisis.
Can I just quickly ask you, are you at home? Are you at your office? How are you running the government at distance?
MITSOTAKIS: I'm at my office with, you know, a tight team of my closest collaborators. We work out of the office and we -- of course, you know, we
are running the country by using, you know, a video conferences and getting in touch with the people we need to talk to by using technology.
And I can tell you one thing which has struck me, is how quickly the Greek State has actually moved towards its digital future. We have implemented
new platforms, new applications. Have gone people online at a much, much faster pace. So, in a sense this crisis has also been an opportunity, if I
may use that term, for the Greek State to sort of embrace the digital era at a much quicker pace.
So, so far, we have had only one member of parliament who's tested positive to COVID-19. He was in the hospital. He is now out of the hospital and no
members of parliament yet. So, that's, at least, allows us to remain in a properly functioning mode.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, you heard the United Nations secretary-general call for a unified global response for solidarity. And you've also,
obviously, know because you're living it, that even within, you know, a united E.U. there are -- there is competition between countries, sort of an
almost like a me first, let me have, you know, whatever equipment and medicine that I can get for myself. I don't want to export it. I need it
for my people.
How are you facing that? And is there any move towards actually more sharing, not just of the burden, but of the lifesaving equipment?
MITSOTAKIS: Well, as you know, Christiane, there is a global computation for personal protective equipment, for ventilators, for, you know, ICU
beds. And, you know, every country, at least in the short-term, is on its own in this effort. I do need to point out, however, that the European
Commission has attempted to put in place a frame work for common procurement of these goods with, you know, a fair distribution mechanism
amongst member states.
But, of course, these procedures, you know, sometimes take time and there's a clear, you know, asymmetry between supply and demand, which will force
us, at some point, to also, you know, reconsider our supply chains and the ability to produce some of these goods domestically, not be so dependent on
the imports, which can easily dry up in a crisis.
So, we've seen clear indications of European -- of an attempt to manage this crisis at the European level. But when you are in crisis mode, it is
very clear that each member state is trying to secure for its own citizens the necessary goods, and Greece has been no exception in this effort.
What I think we've did relatively successfully was also to mobilize the private sector, mobilize the big foundations. We have had lots of
donations, large and small, by the private sector, by our foundations and they have managed to actually help us purchase a lot of this protective
equipment from abroad. And I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them.
Greece was perceived as a rather individualistic society. But if I retain something which has come out for good out of this crisis is a clear sense
of solidarity and the belief that we are in this together. And I think we have also managed to be able to restore trust, trust in the state, trust in
the government, and as you know, trust after 10 years of economic crisis was in very short supply in Greece. So, there's a general appreciation that
we're doing our job professionally.
But we have also done is we have given the communications lead to the experts. We have a daily briefing by experts, not by politicians, who brief
people on exactly what is happening. And in a sense after, you know, a decade of populism where we have heard incredible things being articulated
in the public discourse, it is very comforting that right now the true experts, you know, "the technocrats" that were vilified, you know, over
many years are actually guiding us and are guiding us in terms of the proper policy decisions that we need to take.
AMANPOUR: Well, Prime Minister, you know, then I have to ask you, because I led into you talking about some of the other leaders simply not taking
the expert advice and still in denial about what's going on. Notably, the president of Brazil who's out there busily chatting with people, shaking
hands. No social distancing, no nothing. And he's telling people to take it on the chin like a man, you know, man up. Can you just tell me what you
would say to him if you were to meet him across a G20 table?
MITSOTAKIS: Well, first of all, I wish Greece is going to become a member of the G20 very, very quickly. We are not there yet. But if I were to see
him, I would tell him he's making a huge mistake. This virus spreads like wildfire and there's one way of stopping it, and that is social distancing
and telling people, you know, the truth.
I don't know if, you know, the climate in Brazil is, you know, allows us to make different assumptions. But after some point, we have a responsibility.
And I feel I have a tremendous responsibility towards my citizens to actually tell them the truth. We have imposed -- it is very painful to stay
at home. We are all suffering the economic consequences of this lockdown but our number one priority is to protect people's lives.
And at some point, what I cannot accept and what I -- you know, I've told our team is we don't want our health care system to be overwhelmed. We
don't want to reach the point where we have to choose who goes on a ventilator and who doesn't.
Of course, in any epidemic, you know, some people tragically will lose their lives. But if you let this thing spread out of control and then you
start imposing social distancing measures with a significant delay, I have significant doubts as to whether this is going to work.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, about the migrant crisis, because this has hit your country very, very hard, you've had several waves of this since 2015.
And now, I think you've got in the region of certainly nearly 40,000 on Lesbos in a big, huge camp at Moria. There is fear of an outbreak there.
What will you do to be able to contain it? There are six ICU beds on that island. What will you do to keep people safe there?
MITSOTAKIS: Well, first of all, thank God, Christiane, we haven't had a single case of COVID-19 on the Island of Lesbos or any other island. We
only had one case on a refugee camp in the mainland. I think we're pretty at contact tracing. And you can actually do contact tracing at the very
beginning of an outbreak. So, we're keeping a very, very close eye on what's happening in Lesbos.
You are right to point out that we're faced with a complicated situation and our plan has always been to make sure that we gradually alleviate the
pressure when it comes to Lesbos and the other islands. But of course, the refugee and the migration problem is much, much more complicated, is very
much related to what happened in Greece over the past month. You know, the beginning of last month.
We had, you know, a very, very clear attempt by Turkey to use desperate people, refugees and migrants, and push them into Greece with a clear
attempt to blackmail the European Union. This didn't work. Greece protected its borders and we will continue to protect our borders. But at the same
time, I think we have a very good track record, Christiane, of dealing with this problem in a very, very humane manner and we will continue to do so
and, of course, keep a very, very eye on what's happening on our camps.
We have access, also, to European support. We are ramping up medical facilities. But because the islands are relatively self-confined and
relatively isolated communities, it is very, very regulated who goes and who leaves the islands in general. So, we certainly want to protect these
areas of Greece where we have not had a single outbreak of the virus yet. And thank God the islands so far are in that category.
AMANPOUR: Well, Prime Minister, you know perfectly well that there's been criticism of the Greek government's treatment of some of these migrants and
refugees on these islands and in Greece. Basically, human rights were saying that your authorities arbitrarily detaining about 2,000 migrants and
asylum seekers. And beyond that, the conditions in some of the camps "appalling and unsanitary". There just aren't not enough toilets, there
aren't enough water, you know, facilities for people to even wash their hands or maintain social distancing.
So first and foremost, what about these arbitrary detentions of about 2,000 migrants? Because it goes against -- certainly, it goes against World
Health Organization and international regulations in these situations.
MITSOTAKIS: Well, we were very clear, Christiane. We suspended asylum applications for one month, the beginning of March. This suspension expired
today. So, we made it very clear that it was a temporary measure to deal with an extraordinary and premeditated event.
I just want to remind you and your viewers exactly what happened in the beginning of March when the Turkish government consciously and very
systematically encouraged, not just encouraged, but gave people the means to actually try to cross massively illegally into Greece. And it is my
duty, and I made that very, very clear, to protect my borders, and this is exactly what I did.
Greece or the European Union are not going to be blackmailed by Turkey coming to this issue. So, we made it very clear that this was a temporary
measure. It expired today. So, I expect a full return to normality when it comes to asylum applications. We have changed our asylum regulation. We
want to streamline the asylum application and make it much quicker. And the people who are granted asylum have a full right, if they choose to do so,
to remain in Greece and will welcome them.
The people who are not offered international protection should be returned to Turkey or their countries of origin. I should -- as you know very well,
there is an agreement with Turkey between the European Union and Turkey, a statement that was put in place in 2016. This statement was violated by
Turkey a month ago.
We seem to be returning to a normality when it comes to flows across the Aegean. And I would hope that we return to the statement because it does
serve as a basis of common understanding in addressing this problem.
Now, regarding the conditions you mentioned, yes, the conditions are far from being ideal. But I should also point out that Greece is dealing with
this problem basically on its own. We happen to be a border state in the European Union. We haven't gotten as much support from the European Union
as we want.
The environment today for any sort of relocations unfortunately in Europe is not conducive. So, we're also bearing a very big weight when it comes to
managing this problem. We try to do it in the best possible way, in the most humane possible way. And I do expect that if the flows across the
Aegean are actually reduced, as seems to be the case, that gradually the situation on the islands and in particular in Moria is going to get
AMANPOUR: All right. Prime Minister Mitsotakis, thank you so much indeed for joining us from Athens tonight. And we wish you and your people luck
with this terrible, terrible illness. Thank you very much for joining us.
And now, we go back to the United States where the death toll has surged to more than 4,000. Making Tuesday the deadliest day so far in the fight
against coronavirus there. And there's a desperate need for an even more coordinated national response.
I'm joined now by general Terrence O'Shaughnessy. He is leading the United States Norther Command and also, of North American Aerospace Defense
Command. And he is leading the Department of Defense, their operations, to combat the coronavirus in the United States. And he would lead the country
through the aftermath in the worst-case scenario.
So, General O'Shaughnessy, welcome to the program.
GEN. TERRENCE O'SHAUGHNESSY, COMMANDER, NORAD: Thank you so much for allowing us to tell a little bit of some of the things we are doing in the
coordinated national response.
AMANPOUR: So, I'm going to get to that in a second because clearly there's big, big call for that. But can you explain to the American people what
need -- what would happen -- what would need to happen to, you know, sort of have you as the designated survivor, so to speak, to lead through a
period if there was a worst-case scenario? What would that worst-case scenario be? How would you lead? What would be the authority to do so?
O'SHAUGHNESSY: Well, to be very clear, the things that we are doing here now within the United States are to avoid any catastrophic events such as
that. In fact, the great work that we are doing with the national task force that's really been approaching this with a whole of America approach
is really designed in order to be able to put all of the capacity of our United States of America put to bear on this very challenging problems that
we have been faced with.
AMANPOUR: But what would be the circumstance? Because you've got that designation for a reason. So, what would be the worst-case scenario? Does
it have to be the whole top layer of government incapacitated? What would it need to invoke leadership, so to speak?
O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes. I think maybe there's been some exaggerated stories of some of the authorities there. What we're really looking at is I'm leading
the Department of Defense's operational efforts here within the United States. We also contribute to what we call continuity of government to
ensure that we always have the ability to have our nation led by our elected officials. And so, we play a role in that and a very important role
but our whole intent here is we want to make sure that our country is able to get through this, prevail, be on the other side, end up stronger than we
AMANPOUR: OK. So, tell us what is the role of the U.S. military in fighting this enemy from within? Obviously, we all know that the U.S.
military is deployed to fight an external enemy. What is your role in this situation right now?
O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes. Let me start by just talking a little bit about our command, and that is the northern -- U.S. Northern Command. Our primary
focus is defending the homeland, if you will. And so, while that's really been stationed all over the world and then engaged in different operations,
our focus of the command is right here at home to defend against whatever the threats happen to be. And as you well know, our commander in chief has
declared war on COVID-19.
And so, as such, we are treating this as a military campaign, right here at home, in order to mobilize all the assets that the Department of Defense
has to be able to be part of the nation effort that we have to combat this virus. And as you mentioned, this is challenging. This is really a threat
that is unseen but can be very devastating. And so, we're ensuring that we are part of the nation approach.
But we're tied in all the way to the White House task force that the vice president has been leading and the president often comes into, all the way
down to our National Response Coordination Center that FEMA is leading. We're plugged into all of that and we're making sure that we are able to
put our efforts and our capability exactly where they're needed.
AMANPOUR: The thing is, as you know, there's been calls from various different governors, certainly from New York and elsewhere where things are
very bad and they have wanted the military to deploy and there's a certain feeling that there's a slowness in that. Like, you know, moving
ventilators, for instance, or using the army logistics which are unparalleled, even the Army Corps of Engineers, which I know have been
deployed to an extent in New York or Javits Center and elsewhere.
But there is a feeling that the military's been somewhat slow. And even from the Pentagon, we're hearing that there's thousands of ventilators that
could be shipped out but they don't know where to ship them. I mean, how's that even possible when specific governors are screaming for them?
O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes. Let me take that one at a time. So, let's start with the ventilators. The Department of Defense has done a look at all of the
capability we have to include the ventilators and we've made them available to the national effort. And in this particular case, we have been made them
available to HHS and they are distributing as they need be based on the demand signal.
And one of the challenges we do have and understanding that each individual governor has their needs, we have to look at this at a holistic national
level. And so, all of those requests are actually coming through the National Response Coordination Center that's led by FEMA, the FEMA
administrator, Peter Gaynor. And I'm in daily contact with him, sometimes hourly, with respect to where are those demand signals.
And so, what -- the approach that we've taken, I don't mean we, the DOD, but we, as a nation, is to drive things threw that process and that way,
we're ensuring that the most demand, the most compelling demand is actually the one that we're responding to.
And what we're also able to do, you mentioned the logistics of this, is we are using the FEMA capability and our national capability to ensure we get
the right things to the right place at the right time. And I know there's been just an absolutely tremendous effort and to ensure that, and what we
see a lot about New York, we see a lot about some of the bigger areas that have been affected, we're concerned about the whole nation. And so, part of
it is how do we distribute the -- all the capability, not to just to one or two cities but across the great nation.
AMANPOUR: Just very briefly, what do you think is most needed right now and where is it most needed and what will the military be doing to deliver
O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes. It's a great question. Right now, the biggest demand signal for medical capability, no surprise there. It's both the facilities.
And you mentioned, our Army Corps of Engineer and the great work that they're doing, converting convention centers and all sorts of different
locations to have a capability to actually house some of the patients that we're expecting.
But even more important than that is the health care workers, it's the medical expertise, and that is something that we have some capability
within the Department of Defense, surely, and we're making that available. And that's why you see, for example, the Comfort in New York City. the
Mercy in California. We have three different army hospitals that we've deployed, both in New York City and to Washington.
We're literally deploying now two additional areas, Louisiana and Dallas. We're bringing some naval medical capability. And so, we are spreading that
all across the nation. And again, that goes through the prioritization process that is being run by the National Response Coordination Center.
But right now, the biggest demand signal is really about the health care workers and that's why we're trying to make as much available as we can as
part of the national effort. But this is going to be a challenge going forward. And I have to tell you, I have to salute those health care workers
because they're going to the sound of gun fire, right. They're going in knowingly into harm's way in order to be able to provide the comfort, the
medical attention and the services that our nation needs right now. And so, my hat's off to them.
AMANPOUR: Absolutely. And I know the USS Roosevelt is not under your case but there are dozens and dozens of confirmed cases on that aircraft
carrier. It's in Guam, at the port of Guam. And, you know, the captain has said, we are not at war there, you know, we are not at war right now and
yet, you know, we risk losing some of our sailors and this shouldn't be happening.
Is there a plan to evacuate that aircraft carrier? What is -- what do you know could alleviate that situation?
O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes. Certainly, tracking the situation with Theodore Roosevelt and what I would do is really highlight the things that we are
doing right here at home. That is a microcosm. It is one example. But it really -- it does highlight the fact that we in the United States military,
as well as, for example, the health care workers and so many other essential services, we can't just go home, right. We have to provide this
service. We have to defend our homeland.
And so, what we're really focused on here within the U.S. Northern Command and NORAD is how do we -- even given the virus and the situation that it's
bringing us, how do we fight through that? And not only to support the efforts to combat the virus but how do we defend our homeland? You know,
for example, we had Russian Aviation flying off of Alaska last week. We had to be able to respond to that. We need to maintain the ability to respond.
And so, in order to do that, what we're doing is what we call mission assurance. We're doing everything possible to ensure mission assurance. And
a couple quick examples I'd give you is we have actually taken a bunch of our most critical crews. We've taken away from their families, we're
building in our own kind of equivalent of a hotel room right here on the bases. And then, they are going to what we call Cheyenne Mountain. Cheyenne
Mountain was actually -- it was built for a nuclear war. It was built to survive a nuclear war.
And so, we have crews in there that are operating out of Cheyenne Mountain, 1,800 feet of granite above them, ventilation system, et cetera. They're
isolated from their families. They're isolated from the society, from the sense of being vulnerable to the virus. And we're doing those kinds of
extreme measures just to ensure that we will maintain the ability to defend our great nation.
AMANPOUR: -- external threats, as well. The United States military can walk and chew gum at the same time. Is that correct?
O'SHAUGHNESSY: That's a great way to say it. And I'll tell you what, we are focused like a laser in the support to bring our nation with respect to
combatting COVID-19. But at the same time, our enduring mission of defending the homeland and doing all the things that our American public
and for the NORAD, which is a binational command with Canada, that are both Canadian and U.S. citizens expect us to do. And we're going to make sure
that we will be able to endure through the COVID-19 and be able defend our homelands.
AMANPOUR: General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, thank you very much for joining us from Colorado Springs.
Now, what if washing hands, social distancing and working from home are all luxuries that you just don't have? Millions and millions around the world
don't have those luxuries like these homeless people sleeping in a converted parking lot in Las Vegas.
Officials painted social distancing boxes on concrete, you can see there, for people to sleep in. The images have sparked criticism as you can
imagine. But a spokesman for the city says, it's an emergency situation. But some are saying, well, if it is an emergency situation what about all
those empty hotels all along the strip? Couldn't they take some of the homeless in?
Meanwhile, in South Africa, now in day six of a three-week mandatory lockdown, Correspondent David McKenzie met many homeless people there who
have been corralled into an open stadium with limited sanitation and no social distancing possible. Here's his report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On day one of the lockdown, the army and police ordered them to go to a home they do
What do you think about the lockdown?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is going to give us a tough time.
MCKENZIE: On day four, around 1,000 of them were taken here to a soccer stadium in the nation's capital. South Africa's homeless rounded up and
confined, 10 people to a tent, many, instead, choosing to sleep in the stands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our hope is that no one here is -- has COVID-19.
MCKENZIE: But it is a real risk, if one person gets it, everyone could get it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It will be like wildfire.
MCKENZIE: Before the pandemic, Sasha Lalla's program tweeted many of these men for substance abuse. Now, he is here to make sure they aren't locked
not locked away and forgotten.
(on camera): Why does it worry you if COVID-19 and could get into these communities?
SASHA LALLA, COSUP: Because I think then we will be seeing a situation where people with compromised immune systems aren't just at risk of COVID-
19. They're at risk of death.
And so we have a responsibility to keep our most vulnerable safe.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): The city says it's working on more permanent, safer shelters. But the need is now.
(on camera): It strikes me, even if just one person in here becomes positive, it's almost impossible to slow this virus.
OMOGOLO TAUNYANE, CITY OF TSHWANE: Almost impossible, but we're really hoping that we don't have anyone right now who has contracted the disease.
And if that is the case, we will be moving them to some of our quarantine facilities.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): Here, the positive cases number more than 1,300. But the virus is already hurting everyone.
Africa's economic capital is shuttered, and millions could lose their jobs in South Africa alone. Across the continent, the U.N. says half of all jobs
are at direct risk because of the virus.
For any government, there are no easy answers to this pandemic. But in South Africa, where social distancing is a privilege, the task is enormous.
(on camera): Are you scared about this virus?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very scared. Two weeks, and we are carrying out dead bodies here.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): And the cost of getting it wrong, unimaginable.
David McKenzie, CNN, Pretoria, South Africa.
AMANPOUR: Now, there's a reality check.
Even before the coronavirus outbreak, many college students in the United States struggled to balance schoolwork and keeping a roof over with their
heads and food on their plates, and they now find themselves in an even tougher situation.
Sara Goldrick-Rab is a professor of higher education, policy and sociology at Temple University in Philadelphia. And she's best known for her
groundbreaking work to combat food and housing insecurity.
And she talks with our Hari Sreenivasan about what needs to be done for this vulnerable group right now.
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sara, we have spoken before about the food insecurity, about housing insecurity that college
students are going through, and that was before the pandemic. That was before a shutdown that's taking all of these kids off campus.
So let's kind of unpack what students are going through now. How much worse does it become?
SARA GOLDRICK-RAB, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY: Well, I think it's become even more difficult.
The challenges that they were facing before, issues like food insecurity, that came from a lack of money and a difficulty paying their bills. And
now, thanks to this pandemic, many of them have lost their jobs or at least seen their hours cut.
And, also, things that they paid for already, things like their meal plans, they can't use them anymore. While their colleges say that they're going to
maybe refund some of the money, it's not going to come right away.
So I honestly think that it's pretty likely that larger numbers of them are dealing with these challenges now.
SREENIVASAN: Outline some of the challenges that college students were already facing.
GOLDRICK-RAB: Before this pandemic, my team spent five years doing surveys of college students around the country, focused mainly on the public
sector. Public higher education enrolls three out of four college students.
And our surveys added up to over 330,000 students across 400-plus colleges and universities. In February, we issued a report. So this is before the
pandemic. Our report documented that 43 percent of those 330,000 students, 33 percent of them had experienced food insecurity while they were in
college; 48 percent had experienced housing insecurity, and 16 percent had experienced homelessness in the prior year.
That was before the pandemic. We can only imagine what that looks like now.
SREENIVASAN: The financial picture that you paint also, a lot of students actually have to have jobs to be able to attend college, whether it's an
on-campus job or off-campus job.
And as we have watched over the past several weeks, there's not a single part of this economy that has been untouched.
I mean, about 70 percent of college students were working before the pandemic, and an even substantial -- even more substantial were involved in
the labor force in some way because they were looking for a job, but they could not find one.
Now you have all of these people who have been told, we either can't go to work or my job closed. A lot of people in college work at restaurants,for
example, and we have been see what's happening there.
So to be told you still have to pay your rent, and you don't have money coming in, it really does create a significant crisis.
The other thing is, most of these students have no idea what unemployment insurance is. And if they have heard of it, they don't know how to access
SREENIVASAN: What are some of the stories that you have been hearing or even reading? I know you get e-mails from students around the country.
GOLDRICK-RAB: Well, I have been part of a team behind an organization that is running a relief fund called StudentReliefFund.org.
And I will share with you -- I have a couple of e-mails here that I received. One of them is from California Polytechnic State University at
San Luis Obispo.
And the student writes: "I lost my on-campus job because of the coronavirus. I use this job to pay for my rent and utilities, and I'm not
going to be able to pay my bills. I don't know what to do because I have independently supported myself on this front all through college. My
parents cannot afford to just pay the costs for me."
And another one who was also writing from California, this time from the University of California, Irvine, a top public university, says: "My family
doesn't have money saved for emergency situations like this because we're a low-income family. We need the money of every check we get. And we're
scared we're not going to be able to pay for rent and utilities. We're scared we're not going to have a roof over our heads. I'm scared that I'm
going to have to leave school to work full-time. And I'm just one quarter away from graduating from college."
I mean, the level of terror that some of these folks are feeling is real, because they know, especially if they come from a low-income family, that
that college degree is the thing that most likely is going to help them get out of poverty.
And now they're essentially trapped. They're not going to be able to get it.
SREENIVASAN: So, what is a college supposed to do? What our colleges doing in response?
GOLDRICK-RAB: I'll tell you, the best colleges right now are, first and foremost, acknowledging the reality of that situation. They're not trying
to pretend that every student who had to leave their institution went home to two parents who are just paying the bills, and the student is sitting
around doing a TikTok video, OK?
They are saying to their students, we know this is really hard. We know you're losing your job, we know you're having trouble with your rent, and
we want to connect you to a variety of resources to help you do that.
So those folks are talking about things like unemployment insurance, they're talking about things like SNAP, they're telling students that
they're going to do their best to get them refunds, and they're giving them some sense of when it will come if they, for example, prepaid their
But that isn't the majority. The majority of schools seem to say to students, look, we have got to close and you got to get out of here. And
they're even arguing with them over issues of refunds.
What I mean is, they're really not being very sensitive. And as a result of not acknowledging how hard this is for everybody, I don't know that all the
students are going to return to those schools.
SREENIVASAN: A lot of times, especially for first-generation students, it's already difficult to choose college over supporting your family.
And I'm imagining right now there's some difficult conversations with kids who may be just a quarter away or a semester away from graduating, but the
families are calling and saying, hey, all of us have lost our jobs. We need you to pitch in.
GOLDRICK-RAB: Yes, I mean, that's been going on. The pitching in has been going on for a long time.
And it's one of those untold stories of higher ed in many ways, where we imagine that, if a student runs out of money, it's because they spent it on
pizza, when the truth is, they spent it helping mom keep the lights on for the younger brothers and sisters.
Now that problem is going to be exacerbated. And I do expect that some of the educational disruption that we see, some of the leaving college is
going to be because, when work does reappear, these students are going to have to work especially long hours to help their families economically
Some of these folks are quarantined or locked down right now with those family members. And their college is saying something to them like, we have
an online class, and it meets today at 2:00.
Well, those folks are trying to manage the younger siblings who are in the house who also are not in school, a similar situation to the 4.3 million
college students who have children of their own, who right now are being told, you're supposed to go to an online class and pay attention when their
children are running around.
SREENIVASAN: Is there still a digital divide, a gap here?
Because online courses came on really the scene maybe 10 years ago or so. But, at least on the elementary school level, we're seeing cases where kids
from impoverished neighborhoods, they don't have laptops, they don't have access to Wi-Fi, they don't have access to high-speed Internet at home.
How are colleges or how are institutions trying to solve for that?
GOLDRICK-RAB: So, look, the situation's exactly the same in higher education. And, frankly, many of those school-age kids that don't have
broadband access live with an adult, who then doesn't have broadband access for their college work too.
There is a dearth of laptops. There's a lack of good and strong enough broadband access. And then let's be off -- let's be honest. If you're going
to do Zoom every day, you actually have to have pretty high-speed Internet, and your laptop actually has to be really high-functioning.
Some of these folks, just that's the part where they fall short. So colleges are trying. I have been watching a lot of community college
presidents that are digging deep into their budgets and pulling out the little bit they have and trying to buy Chromebooks and other supplies for
But the need far outstrips the amount of money that they have available. As a result, we're seeing things like community colleges are driving buses
around and parking them in parking lots and broadcasting the Wi-Fi, so people can come and sit in the parking lot and supposedly take their class
or get online, all kinds of creativity.
But let's be honest. Online education simply isn't equitable. It's not equitable in who has access to it. And it isn't equitable in terms of its
quality of teaching people. The people, those first-generation students, all the studies show, learn the least from online education. They really
need the in-person.
And they're the ones who are really losing out right now.
SREENIVASAN: What about the faculty that are caught up in this? I mean, we have this notion of faculty being tweed-jacket-wearing, tenured, spectacled
Well, that's not most of them, are they? I mean, they're also, I'm imagining, in their own households, feeling a big pinch here, because,
other than this university job, there's got to be others that are embedded in their house.
GOLDRICK-RAB: That's right.
I mean, look, the inequality among faculty is extreme, and most people don't get it. I'm going to be honest with you. I'm a full and tenured
professor, and I am not worried about my job security right now. And, as you can see, I have a nice home.
I have colleagues, even in my own institution, who are not sure they're going to have a job next week, who are not living in any kind of nice home.
They're living in an overcrowded apartment with their children. Some of them are living in their cars, OK?
So these folks are deeply affected by these challenges. And the really kind of horrible part of all of this is that, when the universities take deeper
and deeper budget cuts just to survive, what they're going to do is hire more and more people under those same working conditions.
So they're going to hire more adjunct faculty and pay them badly. They're not going to have offices on campus. They're not going to earn a living
wage. And an increasing number of college students are going to be taught by people facing those working conditions.
And studies show that does not lead to the same educational outcomes for those students. So, again, this is another way the situation will play
itself out repeatedly over time.
SREENIVASAN: What about the stimulus bill that was just passed? Is that going to be enough?
GOLDRICK-RAB: The stimulus bill, it's tricky. No, it certainly won't be enough. It won't be enough for anybody, I mean, whether it's college
student or not.
But one of the things I'm concerned with is, it looks like, from the stimulus bill, that if you're a college student, and your parents claim you
as a dependent on their taxes, you're not going to get a stimulus check, even if the truth is, your parents really don't provide you with financial
I know they're not supposed to claim you as a dependent and not provide you with a substantial amount of financial support, but that happens all the
time. And it especially happens to LGBT students who are disproportionately estranged from their parents.
So I am really worried that some of the most vulnerable students who are already in tough situations are going to be completely left out of the
SREENIVASAN: The aid in this package right now is somewhere, what, around $7 billion just for students, right? That's not going to be enough?
GOLDRICK-RAB: Seven -- now, so this -- yes, the $7 billion isn't going to be anywhere near enough, to be perfectly honest with you.
It's going to be -- it's a lot more than we had expected to come. So that's the starting point. I mean, when Senator Patty Murray put out her bill, and
it had $1.2 billion in emergency aid in this, most of us thought that would be a reach. And this is certainly more.
But we do need to be honest, as I have been saying, about the gaps that existed even before the pandemic and have now widened. So we cannot pretend
like, before the pandemic, there were no financial shortfalls. That's the problem with the funding amount, is that we have the existing shortfall.
Now it got even larger.
To make up for those shortfalls would probably be three times that $7 billion.
SREENIVASAN: Even if, let's say, best-case scenario, we get through this surge, we flatten the curve, how long are the consequences to the higher
GOLDRICK-RAB: I have a hard time believing this is something that we recover from within even a five-year period.
You know, the last recession had such lasting implications. It's more than 10 years out from that recession, and I don't think that higher ed really
recovered. So I am afraid that this is going to be at least 10 years.
The only thing that could really change that is if we see federal policy change that helps states and bring states back to the table, so that they
begin to reinvest in higher education sooner, rather than later. It's not just about the implications for higher ed. These effects trickle down.
So, for example, if higher education becomes even less affordable because of this pandemic, that will affect how children across America look at
their future opportunities.
We know that, if you're a middle-schooler and you don't think college is in your future, you're much more likely to get in trouble and much less likely
to invest in your education and secondary school.
So, I'm concerned that we don't think about this proactively enough.
The other piece we have to think about is, higher education is also an intervention in community health. We have a chance here to ensure the
nation's community colleges in particular do their part in remediating the effects of this pandemic, in helping people become healthier, and in
preventing the next one.
And those investments are important, but that means reversing the longstanding trend of putting the least amount of resources into the most
SREENIVASAN: What's your sort of optimistic outcome here? I mean, what are the positive things that could happen that you have already been talking
about which are necessary for institutions, when, essentially, this pandemic seems like a giant reset button in some ways?
I mean, look, if we were going to make lemonade out of the situation, what I'd say is, first, to the extent that colleges and universities are now
waking up to the reality that their students are first and foremost human beings, and they must have their basic needs addressed before they can
learn, if they were to use that in their practice going forward, if they were to approach every incoming student, every returning student first by
asking about whether they have enough to eat and a safe place to sleep, and trying to bridge community services to help make that happen, that would be
a sea change in higher ed
If that also meant that faculty got professional development to help them integrate those lessons into their practice, that would be a sea change.
The other thing that I think is promising is, this is the first time that we have really seen the federal government acknowledge that the federal
financial aid system is terrible at getting money to people quickly when they need it.
They have essentially authorized colleges to deliver money much more rapidly. And that needs to be in all federal policy for higher education
moving forward, because there have always been cracks in the financial aid system. It's always hurt students.
And if we can now set precedent for an emergency aid funding in the federal government's support for higher ed, that would also be good.
SREENIVASAN: All right, Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University, along with the founding director
of the Hope Center, thanks so much for joining us.
GOLDRICK-RAB: Thanks for having me.
AMANPOUR: And imagine the global education disruption. According to the United Nations, hundreds of millions of kids from primary up through
college are out of class around the world.
And finally tonight, the Grammy Award-winning musical artists Will.i.am, he is now collaborating with Bono, Jennifer Hudson and the Japanese rock star
Yoshiko on a new hit called "Sing For Life," inspired by the resilience shown during this global pandemic.
Here's a clip.
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AMANPOUR: Will.i.am says, just because we're self-isolating, it doesn't mean that we're alone.
And he's joining me now from his L.A. studio.
So, welcome to the program.
And it's Yoshiki. I got it wrong the first time. He's very well known around the world.
How did this come about? What made you all want to do this?
WILL.I.AM, MUSICIAN: Well, Marc Benioff from Salesforce has an amazing thread that I'm honored to be on that has an amazing list of people that
are all on it.
And Bono is on that thread. So, Bono is quarantined at his home in Ireland. And he and his son were playing the song. And they made a recording. And
Bono shared it with us on our thread.
And later that -- later after that, he put it on his Instagram page. And I responded to Bono's song with his son, and I answered some of the sentences
that he sung, and then I shared it back on the thread.
And so Marc Benioff pushed me to, like, finish it and complete it. I was like, you know what, let me call J-Hud and have J-Hud answer, and Yoshiki
to answer with piano.
And we all made it on our phones while we were isolated at home to inspire folks to stay creative, keep their spirits up, and reflect on how they want
to enter the world once this is all done, because creativity and optimism is important right now.
AMANPOUR: So it's called "Sing For Life."
And according to Bono, it was inspired by the Italians who were taking to their balconies and singing and supporting the health workers there. We're
just going to play a quick little clip of that, which did actually inspire so many people around the world.
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AMANPOUR: Will.i.am, the tragedy of Italy has been has been told so, so in-depth, and it's really a hard, hard situation.
And now in the United States, it's really got the most infections anywhere in the world in the U.S. What was your feeling when you first started, A,
to see this news, but then the resilience, the ordinary people who suddenly became musical artists, if you like, in public?
WILL.I.AM: There's no words to really define the concern that I have.
It all started with how concerned and worried I was about my students that go to my program in the ghetto that I'm from. So, we serve about 720 kids,
who are now all being homeschooled. And their moms and dads are raising their kids in -- with low income.
And this is really affecting my students. So we made sure that our foundation gave on all of our students laptops, because a lot of them don't
have personal laptops to be able to work from home.
And -- but everything is on course as far as, you know, the funds that we raised this year to be able to send our kids to college. So that hasn't
stopped. All the donors that donate every year, Ron Conway, Marc Benioff, thank you guys so much, Laurene Powell Jobs, for helping my kids finish
their school year and go off to an amazing college.
WILL.I.AM: So, we haven't stopped that.
You guys still there? Yes. Sorry about that.
AMANPOUR: Yes, we're still here.
So, I'm glad to hear that. We are sort of running out of time, but we just heard the expert talk to Hari Sreenivasan about the importance of
maintaining kids in class and their education as well.
And just to finish this, I, think, was -- you all did this, the four of you, for the doctors and for the health care workers and how they inspired
So I just want to thank you for joining us tonight, Will.i.am. And I know there won't be any proceeds from the actual recording. However, you all
want to show that, if you can stay at home, so can everybody else out there.
So, stay safe.
We're going to end our program tonight with more of Will.i.am's song, along with Bono, J-Hud, and Yoshiki.
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