Answering Your Coronavirus Questions: A Doctor's Advice, N.Y. And Free Entertainment On this broadcast of The National Conversation, NPR reporters answer your questions about the economy, free entertainment and an update on the situation in New York City.

Answering Your Coronavirus Questions: A Doctor's Advice, N.Y. And Free Entertainment

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A lot of this money goes to jobs, jobs, jobs and families, families, families.


Congress moves closer to a rescue package, and the president says he's ready to sign it. It's Wednesday, March 25. And this is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.


MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin. We're taking your questions about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

CODY HARRINGTON: Why are we only seeing huge numbers in New York? Why are we not seeing the same jump in cases in other large cities?

MARTIN: We'll hear from New Yorkers who are trying to make difficult decisions during this pandemic. Also this hour, we'll speak with an infectious disease doctor to help answer your medical questions. Ahead, many folks are having trouble finding basic goods. What can be done about bare grocery store shelves?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: It seems like grocery stores can't prevent hoarding. At what point does the government need to intervene so families don't go hungry?

MARTIN: That's all coming up. But first, this news.


MARTIN: This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michel Martin, and we're here to answer your questions.

RILEY: My name is Riley (ph).

NATALIE RYAN: Hi. My name is Natalie (ph).

ALLISON: I'm Allison (ph) from New York City.

RYAN: My business has been essentially ground to a halt.

AMY ZIMMER: My 18-year-old is chomping at the bit to get outside with his friends. They would like to play Ultimate Frisbee together. Is that OK?

SETH DIETZ: Should I continue paying my mortgage and other bills, I will very likely run out of money very soon.

ALLISON: I was wondering when the hospitals in New York City expect to reach capacity.

KURT: And I was wondering if it was possible for the government to suspend all debt. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Thank you so much. Have a good day.

ALLISON: Thank you.

MARTIN: Tonight, we'll get to your questions about the impact of the coronavirus on all facets of life - politics, the economy, your health, even the arts and culture scene. Keep those questions coming. You can send them to us at Or on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, use the hashtag #NPRconversation. Each night since we began this project, we've decided to begin THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION by answering the question, what happened today? In Washington, D.C., Congress and the White House say they have a deal on a $2 trillion relief package. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin negotiated for the White House.


STEVEN MNUCHIN: Our expectation is this bill passes tonight and gets to the House tomorrow and they pass it. We need to get this money into the American economy and American workers.

MARTIN: President Trump said he will sign it immediately. The bill will send cash payments directly to Americans earning less than $100,000. It also injects money into hospitals and businesses struggling to hang on.

New York continued to struggle. Close quarters in New York City may have led to the explosion in the virus there, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.


ANDREW CUOMO: The closeness is that New York humanity that I think exists nowhere else.

MARTIN: Worldwide, the death toll from the virus passed 20,000. The World Health Organization called on countries to aggressively isolate, test and treat the virus.


TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS: We call on all countries who have introduced so-called lockdown measures to use this time to attack the virus.

MARTIN: Buckingham Palace announced 71-year-old Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has been diagnosed with the virus but said his symptoms are mild.

President Trump again tried to strike an upbeat tone, saying he's hoping the country will get back to work sooner rather than later.


TRUMP: I would say by Easter we'll have a recommendation, and maybe before Easter. And at the end of the 15th day, or even during the 15th day, I think we'll have some kind of a recommendation. But our country wants to get back to work.

MARTIN: So now let's get to your questions. Joining us now is NPR's chief economics correspondent Scott Horsley. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Michel.

MARTIN: So we've been getting - virtually, of course. Good to be with you as well. And we've been getting a ton of questions about what's in the bill and who is getting what. So why don't we start there? Tell us what you know.

HORSLEY: Yeah. Let me run through some of the big provisions. You mentioned those direct payments. Folks making under $75,000 will expect a check of $1,200. Kids get $500. If you make more than 75,000 but less than 100,000, you'll get something a little less than $1,200. And then over 100,000 a year, you're not included here. That's about $250 billion of this $2 billion (ph) package.

There's another 250 billion that's going to substantially beef up unemployment benefits for the millions of people who we expect to be unemployed temporarily as a result of the pandemic and the very aggressive public health measures we're taking to contain it. Then there's hundreds of billions of dollars more that's going to go out in loans to small businesses. Some of those can be forgivable if the businesses meet certain conditions. Then there's another chunk of money that will be used to leverage lending by the Federal Reserve for bigger businesses and corporations. And then there's also money to beef up the health care system and to help cities and states that have been hard-hit by this.

MARTIN: All right. Well, thanks for that summary. Now let's hear from some listeners. Our first question is from Dee (ph) in Michigan.

DEE: The checks that are going to be given to the public, they say it's going to be direct deposited into a bank account. But what about the millions of people who need this money the most and they don't have a bank account? How will they receive their money?

MARTIN: Thanks, Dee. Scott, what about it?

HORSLEY: Good question, Dee. We've been talking about checks in the mail. And for people who don't have a bank account, there will, in fact, be a check in the mail. There may be some paperwork you have to do that let the government know where they are, but they're - they'll get an actual check.

For people who have maybe had their tax refunds deposited directly into their bank account or who've paid their taxes from their bank account and the government already knows what their bank account number is, that's the most efficient way for the government to deliver this money, so it will be direct deposit.

MARTIN: OK, here's a question from Luke (ph). Let's listen.

LUKE: I drive for Uber and Lyft, but my wife is pregnant, and so she's of high risk. Her doctors don't think it's safe for me to continue to drive. I am also a bus driver. In the morning, I drive a school bus, and that school that I drive for is closed. And then I also coach soccer at night, and that club that I coach soccer for is actually closed as well. I'm self-employed, and I don't really know where to go to find the help because I can't file unemployment because I'm actually considered a licensed contractor, so I get denied unemployment insurance. And I don't have anywhere else to turn to after getting denied unemployment as far as where to go for financial help.

MARTIN: Well, first, Luke, let me just say I'm sorry for what you're going through here, and I'm sure a lot of people are in your situation. So, Scott, tough situation. What can we tell him?

HORSLEY: Well, I think Luke is going to benefit from this 2 billion - $2 trillion measure. I talked about how they're beefing up unemployment insurance, and one of the things they're doing is making it - making folks who are self-employed, like Luke and gig workers who drive for Uber, Lyft, eligible for unemployment when ordinarily they wouldn't be eligible.

The other thing that this bill does is it makes it four months of unemployment instead of the usual three, and it pads the typical state unemployment benefit by an extra $600 per week. So for many workers, that'll mean they - it should be full replacement of what they would be earning in their ordinary job.

Now, that was a little bit of a sticking point with a number of Republican senators. They were worried that in some cases, workers might actually get more out of unemployment than they would from working. And so that's been a little bit of a speed bump this afternoon, but hopefully that'll get worked out.

MARTIN: And did you answer the question about just having trouble getting through to unemployment - the unemployment office? Scott, can you just reiterate, because we've been hearing from a lot of people?

HORSLEY: I should - yeah. This bill provides a lot more money for unemployment benefits, but the caveat is right now, we are seeing a crush of people applying for unemployment. And we expect to see initial unemployment claims, which are going to be reported tomorrow morning, top 2 million people. So we've gone from having a very low unemployment to suddenly having a lot higher unemployment. And the creaky unemployment system is going to have some trouble dealing with that balloon of people coming through. A lot of folks have had trouble getting through on the telephone. A lot of computer systems have crashed. I can just say, be patient. But the money should be there in the end for you to get those benefits.

MARTIN: OK. Our next question is about debt relief. Let's listen.

KURT: Hello. This is Kurt (ph) from Plain City, Ohio. And I was wondering if it was possible for the government to suspend all debt during the crisis.

MARTIN: Scott?

HORSLEY: No. We have seen the government give a temporary reprieve to student debt, student loans that are issued through the federal government. The interest is being forgiven for the time being or suspended for the time being. We've also seen some pretty aggressive moves by Fannie and Freddie on the mortgage front - that people who've been affected can suspend their mortgage payments for up to a year.

Again, there's a caveat. We've seen in the past mortgage servicing companies can be very tough to deal with, so actually delivering on this promise of forgiveness may be a challenge. But there is supposed to be some debt relief there. But I haven't heard any suggestion that all debts will simply be forgiven as a result of this.

MARTIN: OK. I'm just going to go to one more question, Scott, as briefly as you can. Steph (ph) writes, stores in my area have many empty shelves, and I haven't heard much about the near future of the food supply chain. How will the pandemic affect the availability of groceries and other goods, especially in terms of the economic crash we're expecting?

HORSLEY: Yeah. I'll just say very quickly we should all owe a debt of gratitude to grocery workers, who are doing a heroic job. There is no actual shortage of food. We are having some hiccups in getting it where it needs to go, but there's plenty of food in this country.

MARTIN: All right. That is Scott Horsley. Thank you so much.

HORSLEY: You're very welcome.

MARTIN: So joining us now is NPR science correspondent and senior editor Rob Stein. Rob, good to have you back with us.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Nice to be here, Michel.

MARTIN: So we heard the president strike an optimistic tone at the coronavirus briefing on things getting back to normal. Are you seeing anything that suggests that that is the case?

STEIN: No. I mean, that's not anything like what any of the public health experts I've been talking to are saying. You know, the president had been talking about parts of the country reopening by Easter Sunday, and that idea really horrified a lot of public health experts who say we're nowhere close to being ready to ease up that soon. Today, the president promised he wouldn't do anything rash and would consult with his scientific advisers before changing any of the guidance coming out of the White House.

MARTIN: And there's another moment at the briefing that I'd like to get to. Deborah Birx - Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House task force...

STEIN: Yeah, there was...


DEBORAH BIRX: Her mother succumbed to the great 1918 flu. She never forgot that she was the child that was in school that innocently brought that flu home. This is why we keep saying to every American, you have a role to protect each and every person that you interact with.

STEIN: Yeah. So Dr. Birx was trying to drive home really how important all this social distancing we're doing is to try to slow down the virus, you know, even though we know how painful it is and how difficult it's made life for a lot of people, as we've been hearing from some of these stories we were just listening to. You know, but it's really important to buy as much time as possible to try to, you know, save as many lives as possible.

And it was actually interesting because right after that, another member of the task force, Dr. Anthony Fauci, brought up the possibility that even if the virus slows down more with all the social distancing and when the weather warms up, it could come roaring back in the fall and the winter in another wave. And that's also a reminder of the 1918 flu, which came in waves, and it was actually the second wave that was the deadliest wave.

MARTIN: All right. Rob, thanks so much for your hard work on this story. We appreciate it.

STEIN: You bet, Michel.

MARTIN: You can hear much more of our extensive coverage when you download the NPR One app. You can go to the explorer tab and click on the coronavirus outbreak for our curated stream of stories. Up next, a leading doctor takes your question. This is NPR's NATIONAL CONVERSATION on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. We hope you'll stay with us.


MARTIN: This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michel Martin. You've been sending us questions for several days now, and we appreciate that. We've sorted them into buckets, if you will, so that we can answer them all together. So next, we want to answer all your questions on the virus itself, especially how it relates to your health and our hospitals. Joining us now is Dr. Amesh Adalja. He's an infectious disease specialist from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Center for Health Security. Dr. Adalja, thanks so much for joining us.

AMESH ADALJA: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So let's take a listen to our first question.

NICOLE: Hi. My name is Nicole (ph), and I'm from Mattituck, Long Island. And I just wanted to ask why the coronavirus is so bad to have at any age. Why does it have to be such a pandemic? Why can't we just act like we would with the flu, like taking care of ourselves if we get it and stay away from others? Why do we have to have all this social distancing? We don't have to do it for the flu, so why the coronavirus?

MARTIN: Doctor, we've been hearing this a lot. So what do you think?

ADALJA: This isn't just influenza. This is something that is going to have a case-fatality ratio that is at least, you know, five to 10 times worse than seasonal influenza. There's no population immunity to this virus, so, therefore, it can attack a large swath of the population. And because of that, there's going to be a huge burden on our hospitals that will be limited in their ICU capacities, limited in the number of mechanical ventilators they have. And that's what the social distancing is about is trying to buy time for hospitals to be prepared because this isn't just the flu. This is worse than influenza.

MARTIN: Here's another question we got about young folks hanging out outside.

ZIMMER: Hi. My name's Amy Zimmer (ph). I live in Stillwater, Minn. My 18-year-old is chomping at the bit to get outside with his friends, and they would like to play Ultimate Frisbee together, or soccer. Is that OK? And is the answer different depending who they're living with? Like, if they're living with someone who's over 60 or is a Type 2 diabetic or has a weakened immune system, is that a different answer? And then also, a person who has AFib or a person who has viral-induced asthma, are they considered in the vulnerable category? Are they more vulnerable to the coronavirus?

MARTIN: So thanks for that question. And if you have questions for Dr. Adalja, please go to or use the hashtag #NPRconversation on social media. So, Doctor, you know, what about it - Ultimate Frisbee, soccer?

ADALJA: So certain sports are more conducive to be able to practice social distancing, and there's not any kind of hard-and-fast rule over what sports are safe, which ones are unsafe. But what we want to do is avoid physical contact as much as possible and trying to keep people 6 feet apart from each other, at least in this acute stage of this virus' outbreak.

So Ultimate Frisbee - there may be ways to do that in a safe manner. If people are washing their hands a lot and not touching their face, I wouldn't completely rule that one out. Soccer becomes a little bit harder because there is physical contact between players during soccer, so that might be a little different. Maybe kicking the ball back-and-forth might be safe, but I think a full soccer game might be a little bit difficult.

And definitely is the issue of if you're living with somebody that maybe is at higher risk for severe complications, you don't want to become an unwitting host to this virus and pass it on to one of those individuals. And regarding asthma, I would say, yes, that is a risk factor for severe infection and severe disease and complications. Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, the caller mentioned, I don't think in and of itself is a major risk factor, but definitely lung disease and other types of heart diseases.

MARTIN: We know that a lot of people are worried who need to get regular treatment for an illness, an underlying health condition or something that they've been already dealing with. Let's listen to this question. This listener is worried about taking a family member to the hospital for cancer treatment.

SEAN: My name is Sean (ph). I'm from Santa Barbara, Calif. We're worried that going to the hospital every day for a month of treatment seems a little dangerous right now. How should medical patients with ongoing treatment be prepared to handle the next wave of cases? And is going to the hospital safe for those with compromised immune systems?

MARTIN: Doctor?

ADALJA: So this is a very tricky question, and it's one of the problems when you have an infectious disease pandemic that there are these cascading impacts on other health conditions. And we know that for someone with cancer, chemotherapy is lifesaving. And we don't want to interrupt chemotherapy at all, if possible.

So what I would do is each hospital kind of has a protocol for how those individuals can get to the hospital safely and get their chemotherapy safely. So I would not delay chemotherapy over this infection. I would talk to the hospital about the best ways to come in, and that may be that you keep those individuals segregated from other individuals and that there are protocols in place. Because this is what we don't want to happen - we don't want other health conditions to suffer because of this pandemic. And I'm afraid that that's going to happen to some extent, but hopefully we can minimize it.

MARTIN: And we've talked some today about what it's going to take to get back to normal. But this listener asks, what are the metrics to watch for? Let's listen.

CHRIS HAILEY: Hi. I'm Chris Hailey (ph) in Williamsburg, Va. What kind of metrics will government and medical professionals use to determine when it's safe to open businesses and schools? Are we looking for a certain level of new cases, a particular death rate or something else?

MARTIN: And, Doctor, before you answer, Joseph (ph) in Wisconsin wrote us a question which is similar, along those lines. And Joseph asks, how does this end? Unless a vaccination is developed, are we all eventually going to get COVID-19? So what do you say to Chris and Joseph?

ADALJA: I do think that there's going to be a large swath of the population that is infected because there is no population immunity. And remember; the H1N1 virus infected 20% of the world's population within a year, and there was some immunity in the population. So we can expect the majority of individuals to get this without a vaccine.

The question is what are the metrics that you use to start to bring the world back to life, and that's an open question. And it may have to do with what's going on locally with the virus? How many cases do you have? How much has the population been exposed to this virus? And can you open certain businesses with modifications that will allow social distancing? How are your hospitals doing? What is the hospital capacity? Has there been new capacity added? All of those are important metrics that are going to play a role in how well we can move back from some of this extreme social distancing. But this is a really hard question to answer, and there are no hard-and-fast rules here. And it's something that's going to really require a dialogue with the community when we do do this.

MARTIN: And here's a question that kind of loops back to where we started, Doctor. Grace (ph) in Florida wrote us and asked, why didn't SARS or MERS spread the way COVID-19 has?

ADALJA: Well, SARS and MERS are both coronaviruses, just like this novel coronavirus, but the thing was about SARS and MERS is that they were something - they were viruses that didn't have the ability to spread efficiently between humans. SARS and MERS both came from animals. And it went into humans but didn't really find it very hospitable, and their ability to spread between humans was really limited. We are still having MERS cases, for example, now in the Arabian Peninsula, but they don't really go anywhere because it's just basically going from camels to humans and then stopping. And that's something that this coronavirus hasn't had is an obstacle. It's been able to spread efficiently between human to human, and that's why it's taken off and become a pandemic. And SARS and MERS never did and never could.

MARTIN: Well, thank you so much for your expertise there. That's Dr. Amesh Adalja. He's an infectious disease specialist from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Center for Health Security. Doctor, thanks so much for joining us today, and especially for making it so that the laypeople among us can understand it.

ADALJA: Sure, anytime. Thanks.

MARTIN: And if you have questions about COVID-19, we want to help. Go to or ask us on social media using the hashtag #NPRconversation. Much more - please stay with us.

It's THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, as New York continues to be hit hard by the coronavirus, one woman wants to know, will the hospitals be able to meet the demand for beds and treatment?

ALLISON: I was wondering when the hospitals in New York City expect to reach capacity.

MARTIN: Now news.

This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michel Martin. New York state has been the most hard-hit state in the country, and New York City is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. Roughly half of all confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. are in New York - more than 30,000. More than 200 people there have died from COVID-19. Here's Governor Andrew Cuomo.


CUOMO: We still have the trajectory going up. We have not turned the trajectory, nor have we hit the apex. We're still on the way up the mountain.

MARTIN: So in this part of the program, we're going to answer your questions about New York, especially if you live there, if you know somebody who does or if you want to understand how the city is coping. Please send us your questions at Or on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, use the hashtag #NPRconversation.

To help answer some of your questions, we have NPR's national correspondent Hansi Lo Wang, who's based in New York, and NPR science reporter Rebecca Hersher, who's been reporting on the outbreak. Hansi, Rebecca, welcome to you both. Good to hear from you both.

REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: Thanks for having us.

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: Good evening, Michel.

MARTIN: So our first question is from chef Jeremiah Stone. He co-owns two restaurants in New York. Chef, welcome.

HARRINGTON: My name is Cody Harrington (ph). I'm from South Bend...

MARTIN: Oops. Not - that wasn't the chef.


MARTIN: Chef Jeremiah, are you there? Hi.


MARTIN: How are you?

STONE: Good, good.

MARTIN: Well, thanks for joining us. So first of all, can you just tell us a little bit about what you're up against during this pandemic?

STONE: Yeah. So me and my partner have - we own four businesses. We have three restaurants and then a wine shop with our partner Daryl, all in the Lower East Side neighborhood of New York City. We decided to close, I think, maybe two days before it was mandated for all New York City restaurants to close. And since then, you know, we've had to lay off pretty much 95% of our staff.

MARTIN: That's hard to do. Sorry about that. And how - and I can actually hear it in your voice. I know that's not easy to do because, you know, you've worked closely together, and you care about the people. Do you have a question for us that we can answer?

STONE: Yeah. I guess the big question that's on my mind, and actually, you know, a lot of chef and restauranteurs I've been talking to, is what the best, you know, thing to do in this time is. I know, like, you know, for us, our restaurant is - it's a bit of a luxury because it's a tasting menu and it's a higher price point. But, you know, we've held off for about a little bit over a week on getting delivery and takeout going. And we're kind of - you know, we've been really weighing the options between, you know, we want to supply our regulars and neighborhood people who, you know, have been coming in the restaurants and have that service of hospitality and generosity, and also to keep our staff safe, and just kind of understanding, you know, are we doing the right - we've put a bunch of steps in place and precautions to make sure that, you know, the staff is self-quarantined. And, you know, they're all arriving in private cars and not taking the public transit. But, you know, just weighing between the two of, you know, trying to provide for potentially people's families and well-being versus their safety.

MARTIN: Well, thanks for the question, Chef. And I'm going to ask our reporters to weigh in here. And this has to be a question that's on the minds of - it has to be - what? - hundreds of thousands of people. I mean, restaurants are among the major small businesses in this country. So, Hansi, Becky, what do you say?

WANG: Yeah, this is a very tough question facing a lot of New Yorkers right now, especially 'cause there's this executive order that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed. And it's been in effect since Sunday night. Only restaurants - the only restaurants that can stay open in this state are ones that have been declared essential. And those are ones that do takeout and deliveries, which, you know, like for businesses like Mr. Stone's, this is a very big change.

And, you know, it's not clear how long this order will last, how long other restaurants will have to stay closed who are in this waiting period. Over the next three weeks, New York cases of COVID-19 could really peak. It's a fluid situation. It's really hard for business owners to plan in the long term and really think what's best for sustainability.

MARTIN: Becky, do you have thoughts about Chef Stone's question about whether takeout - moving to a takeout model is really a good idea?

HERSHER: Yeah. I think the issues he brought up are ones that I've heard a lot of restaurant owners concerned about. And I think he's right to really think about how his employees are getting to the restaurant, whether he is asking them to put themselves at risk and, if he is, whether he has a good reason to do that. And I think, unfortunately, there are no easy answers here. I have talked to restaurant owners who have decided to close down entirely, permanently because they can't switch over to a takeout menu or they don't feel like they're in a position to safely employ their employees right now. There are others who have been able to do it. And so I think - I know it's a hard time, but I would - I applaud Mr. Stone for really thinking about these issues before he makes decisions.

MARTIN: Chef, I'm not sure that's satisfying to you, but we're in unchartered territory for all of us. So, you know, thank you for calling, and, you know, best of luck to you. And we'll keep a good thought for you.

STONE: Thanks so much. Stay safe.

MARTIN: Now let's answer some of your questions. Next, we have Cody.

HARRINGTON: My name is Cody Harrington. I'm from South Bend, Ind. And my question is why are we only seeing huge numbers in New York? Why are we not seeing the same jump in cases in other large cities?

MARTIN: Hansi?

WANG: You know, the short answer is we don't know for sure. But something to keep in mind is that testing right now for COVID-19 is not uniformly available around the country, and so it could be that because more testing is happening in New York, we know about more cases in New York. And, you know, another thing to keep in mind about the numbers out of New York state - about 60% of those numbers are coming specifically from New York City, which is the most densely populated major U.S. city. You know, 27,000 people live per square mile in New York City. And it's, of course, a major travel hub. And New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, has called New York, you know, a canary in a coal mine - that this, what's happening right now in New York, is likely to repeat itself in other places and other states, in, you know, California and other states and other cities coming up.

MARTIN: Let's go to a question from a different part of the country. This is Adam (ph) from New Orleans. Let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: I was wondering when...

MARTIN: Whoops.

ADAM: ...In the country, it seems to me that per capita numbers rather than raw numbers should be the most effective way to determine the impact of the virus on a community. But is there a reason experts in the media look at raw numbers instead of per capita? Is a larger city like New York or a city with a more normal infection rate going to spread the virus more than a smaller tourism-centric city with a higher infection rate like New Orleans?

MARTIN: I'm not sure who wants to answer that. Becky, Hansi, I'm not sure which of you wants to take that one.

WANG: I can jump in there, Michel.


WANG: This is Hansi. I think it's really hard to compare infection rates right now in different parts of the country because, again, testing is not widespread enough. But, you know, raw numbers really do give us a sense of the scale. And as we see numbers continue to climb here in New York, you know, one thing to keep in mind is that each new case may mean that hospitals need to prepare an extra bed or, in extreme cases, a ventilator. And those are really, really hot commodities right now. There are not enough ventilators. There are not enough beds. And we're trying to track whether, you know, the number of cases really match up with the resources that New York has currently.

MARTIN: Hansi Lo Wang and Becky Hersher are going to stay with us. We have more questions for THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. We hope you'll stay with us.


MARTIN: New Yorkers are just starting to cope with the reality and scope of the coronavirus outbreak in the city. It's already having a huge impact on health care, and not just in ERs and ICUs. We've got Eugenia Montesinos on the line with us now. She's a certified nurse midwife with a hospital-based practice in New York City, and she lives in Brooklyn. Eugenia, how are you? Thank you for joining us.


MARTIN: Well, we're hanging in there. How are you doing?


MARTIN: Well, what about your patients? How is the outbreak affecting your patients?

MONTESINOS: Oh, it's affect - when the - as the previous person who was talking about New York, New York has a unique - the uniqueness of the number of people for the square, you know, for the square feet. And since it's very dense populated, it affects much more. And in terms of our mothers, it's affecting in a way that there are changes how we practicing in different areas. We have midwives in cities - hospital cities. We have midwives who work in a - at home - home births. And we have midwives who have been working the birthing center. So it's so different because it's been a little different where they are going to have their babies.

MARTIN: Tell us how different, though. Give us a sense of what some of the changes are that you're seeing and what they are concerned about and what you're concerned about.

MONTESINOS: Well, they're most concerned about the mothers, as the latest change that had happened at some hospitals, they said that they can't have a partner - not a husband, not a doula, no one. So the women have to be in labor on their own. On a shift when we have to go and see it or the nurses go, she's not completely alone. But for a woman who is going to have a baby, it is essential that she has to have someone, a partner or doula, to support her because we are not with her all the time. We have another number of mothers that we have to see. There is so many things that we got to see. It's a lot to be just with one person.

MARTIN: Hansi Lo Wang and Rebecca Hersher, NPR correspondents, have stayed with us. Has either of you come across anything similar in your reporting?

HERSHER: Yes, this is definitely coming up. Two major hospitals, New York Presbyterian system and Mount Sinai, have said that you cannot have somebody with you when you're in labor in New York. They are trying to protect their patients, babies and mothers, and, frankly, the medical workers from having extra people coming in.

But I think we're getting at something else here, which is that when you put normal life on hold, which is what's happening right now, you put birth and death, all the ways we deal with those normal things on hold. We usually want to be close to each other in those big moments in our lives. And so it can be heartbreaking if, like this listener, you are in a position where you're watching people go through these big life moments alone in the middle of a pandemic. It's really hard.

MARTIN: Eugenia, before we let you go, is there something that would be particularly helpful right now, as briefly as you can?

MONTESINOS: Well, one of the things that would be very helpful - of course, I mean, due to the virus - the novelty of the virus, we have no idea how much it really, really affect the pregnancy on the labor and on the newborns. We have no data - very little data about it. And so if the World Health Organization is saying that they can have one person as essential support, and I think that will be...


MONTESINOS: ...You know, prudent to have that.

MARTIN: All right. Well, thank you so much for calling us. We appreciate it. That's Eugenia Montesinos. We're also joined by Hansi Lo Wang and Becky Hersher. Up next, we're looking for ways to feel better. We've got arts recommendations for you.



In this part of the program, we want to help you find hacks that will help you get through the small daily challenges of this new reality. How are you coping, and what would be helpful to you? Go to, or you can ask us on social media using the hashtag #NPRconversation.

How much screen time have you logged over the past week? Joining us tonight is arts correspondent Neda Ulaby to answer your questions about what to stream, what's live and what's hot. Hello, Neda. How are you?

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Hi, Michel. I'm really embarrassed. I have to admit that my streaming time has gone up - rather, my screen time has gone up more than 25% over the past week. And I think it's partly 'cause I've been gobbling up the news, but also because I've been hiding out from it with entertainment.

MARTIN: I don't see any reason to apologize for that. And if you don't talk about your screen time, I won't talk about my snacks - how much snacking I've been doing.

ULABY: (Laughter).

MARTIN: So why don't we just have a mutual nondisclosure pact about that? OK. All right. So we've heard from so many people, what should I watch?

ULABY: OK. So we're so awash in streaming possibilities. We're just going to focus on our talk about livestreaming, and that's about watching stuff in real time - bands playing, cooking demonstrations, stuff like that. This is just so we could narrow it down, and because livestreams are totally booming right now. And this is partly because entertainers, whose tours have been canceled and whose shows have been shut down, are super hungry to connect with audiences.

So we're going to start with somebody who's really emerged as a livestream star, DJ D-Nice. Tonight, you can hear him spinning tunes at his home in Los Angeles.

MARTIN: All right.


UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing) Lost in her music (ph).

MARTIN: So that's from a livestream dance party.

ULABY: I think it's still going on. This is social distancing with a beat.


ULABY: DJ D-Nice - his real name is Derrick Jones - was feeling really restless and anxious last week, like so many of the rest of us, so he started throwing events on Instagram Live. He's calling them Club Quarantine. And at first, just people in the music industry were showing up. But these days, he's pulling in more than a hundred thousand people in his livestream events, including celebrities like Beyonce and J-Lo.

MARTIN: OK, let's see - then we have to compare our moves with them. I'm not sure this is something I really - I don't really want to see that.

ULABY: Well, actually...

MARTIN: And their outfits, too. Wait.

ULABY: I think you're fine because they just comment on - they just comment virtually, so...


ULABY: ...I think you can out-comment them.


ULABY: I have total confidence in you.

MARTIN: OK, OK. OK, I feel better. All right. So - but this has been a great moment. Well, great - that's not really fair. I mean, people are seeing their tours canceled right and left. But it has been a moment for musicians.

ULABY: And NPR Music is here to help you out. There's a list online of musicians who are doing livestreams. And what's kind of interesting is that a lot of them are taking this really disastrous moment and using it to experiment.

So Bela Fleck, the banjo player/banjo god, has a livestream on Mondays on his Facebook page. And so I grabbed a little tape from the last one. And he's sitting in what looks like his living room with his fellow musician Abigail Washburn. And they're wearing flannel pajamas. And they're picking songs that are clearly intended to cheer us up.


ABIGAIL WASHBURN: (Singing) Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side - keep on the sunny side of life. It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way if we keep on the sunny side of life

MARTIN: OK, the flannel pajamas I can do. I can get with that scene.

OK, one of the comments that we got on Instagram tonight was from the Twitter handle - well, the handle is @hoodleswithsauce (ph), which I love. And they mentioned, I love writing workshops from various authors, poets or journalists. Anything there for them?

ULABY: There certainly is. Pretty much any place that has offered writing workshops in person is now offering them virtually. So @hoodleswithsauce might want to look at their local art center. They could go to the 92nd Street Y in New York City, that lauded place. They're offering writing workshops online. And I just read this great article in the LA Times about playwrights teaching online. One of my favorite playwrights, Young Jean Lee, is teaching online for free. I - it's fantastic.

If you go to the website or Facebook pages of any cultural institution or a lot of famous writers, you can find livestreams. Like on YouTube, the author Michael Chabon has been reading stories for kids live. So we're going to hear a little bit from him reading from his own children's book, which is called "The Astonishing Secret Of Awesome Man."


MICHAEL CHABON: (Reading) I have a cape as red as a rocket, a mask as black as midnight and a stylin' letter A on my chest. I'm just basically awesome.

MARTIN: I would listen to that. So - but, Neda, are there art forms that don't lend themselves to livestreaming?

ULABY: Yeah, sadly. You'd think that this would be a great moment for theater, for opera. And I was really excited to think, well, maybe this is a chance for me to see some theater on livestream from Chicago, where I used to live. There are so many great theater companies there. But you think about it and, of course, a bunch of actors onstage together is a really terrible idea. That said, actors are experimenting. Theaters are working out various ideas. There are complications around technology and copyright, but people are using this as an opportunity.

MARTIN: Well, what about old performances or past performances - is that, you know, a possibility?

ULABY: Sure. Yeah, not all livestreaming is technically live. So the Metropolitan Opera, for example, is livestreaming old performances. Right now, they're doing a total week of Wagner. They're doing the entire Ring cycle for free online, which you can see during their livestreams.

The arena rock group - like I have to explain who Metallica is. Metallica is doing a livestream of its favorite old performances on Mondays. And Phish is doing one on Tuesdays on its Facebook page. It's going to be really interesting to see how livestreams work out for these different bands or these different performers.

MARTIN: So not live livestreams, right? That's not such a - so is there anything you're particularly interested in livestreaming?

ULABY: You know, there's a brand-new website that I just discovered called The Social Distancing Festival, and I'm absolutely fascinated by it. It's (unintelligible), and it's gorgeously curated. People - whoever's doing it is bringing in audio dramas and puppet shows and concerts, all livestreamed from all over the world - Poland and the Ukraine and all of these different places. And, you know, I'm not - I haven't made it to LA recently, but there's a comedy event I love there called Uncabaret, and they've just announced a live show on Sunday on Zoom. And, Michel, I've never used Zoom before a couple days ago.

And I just can't help but think that I think so many of us right now are kind of retreating into Netflix and re-watching television shows that we know are going to make us happy. And maybe instead of taking on a super ambitious project, like organizing your closet or a new exercise routine, maybe something that you could do that will challenge yourself a little bit is supporting artists in a new way by checking out new platforms and being part of a show, even if you can't really be there physically.

MARTIN: OK. And another response that we got on Instagram from folks when we asked how they're trying to unwind in all this was by taking classes like meditation, yoga, workshops. Briefly, any recommendations there?

ULABY: My favorite thing that I've seen - my favorite instructional livestream I saw today. It came from Debbie Allen...


ULABY: ...Who is, of course, the star of "Fame," one of our leading choreographers and directors. So she was teaching salsa on her Instagram Live today.

MARTIN: All right, that is Neda Ulaby, NPR arts correspondent. Neda, I'm going to just admit this because you did. I just started using Zoom myself, too. So, OK, I won't Zoom-shame you. Thank you so much.

ULABY: Thank you.

MARTIN: So what's getting you through these difficult times? Is it a song, a poem, a verse, a memory? Let us know. Go to Use the hashtag on social media. We'll be back tomorrow with more of your questions and our cast of experts giving you the best answers that we can find. I'm Michel Martin. This is NATIONAL CONVERSATION.

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