Answering Your Coronavirus Questions: Relief Package, The Food Industry And Sports On this broadcast of The National Conversation, we answer your questions about the relief package, your health, the food industry and sports during a pandemic.
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Answering Your Coronavirus Questions: Relief Package, The Food Industry And Sports

Answering Your Coronavirus Questions: Relief Package, The Food Industry And Sports

Answering Your Coronavirus Questions: Relief Package, The Food Industry And Sports


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They have to go back to work. Our country has to go back. Our country is based on that.


A jobs report out today shows record numbers of Americans out of work. A $2 trillion relief bill is on the way. It's Thursday, March 26, and this is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.


MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin. This hour, we're answering your questions about the COVID-19 relief bill.

STEPHANIE: My question is, for relief money, what is the government using to determine someone's income?

MARTIN: We'll also speak with a doctor and global health expert who'll be taking your medical questions.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: If you get COVID-19 and recover, will you have immunity to the virus? And is there any sense for how long that immunity would last?

MARTIN: If you have any questions about the virus, we'd like to help you get answers. Go to or go to social media using the hashtag #NPRconversation. That and more after this news.


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

LUKE: My name is Luke (ph).

NATALIE: Hi, my name is Natalie (ph).

STEPHANIE: This is Stephanie (ph) in San Diego.

LUKE: I drive for Uber and Lyft, but my wife is pregnant and her doctors don't think it's safe for me to continue to drive.

SUSANNA: I'm retired. And I'm living on a widow's Social Security.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: The big question that's on my mind...

SUSANN: I'm wondering...

STEPHANIE: My question is, for relief money, what is the government using to determine someone's income?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: What is known about the effects of the virus on individuals who have asthma?



UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: Thank you so much. Have a good day.

MARTIN: Tonight, we'll get to your questions about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on all facets of life - the economy, your health, the food industry and sports. Keep your questions coming. You can send them to us at Or on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, use the hashtag #NPRconversation.

But every night, we begin The National Conversation by answering the question, what happened today? 3.28 million Americans lost their jobs last week and filed for unemployment. President Trump said he thought the number could have been higher.


TRUMP: But it's a lot of jobs. But I think we'll come back very strong. The sooner we get back to work - you know, every day that we stay out, it gets harder to bring it back very quickly.

MARTIN: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told NBC's "Today Show" an economic recovery depends on stopping the virus.


JEROME POWELL: It will really depend on the spread of the virus. The virus is going to dictate the timetable here.

MARTIN: The $2 trillion recovery bill passed in the Senate and heads to the House for a vote tomorrow. The total cases in the U.S. reached 85,000, with more than 1,200 dead. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said they're rushing to build 1,000-bed hospitals in all five New York City boroughs.


ANDREW CUOMO: We're literally adding to the hospital capacity every way we can.

MARTIN: Louisiana's governor said they could be out of ventilators by the first week of April. The White House said they'll issue guidelines for labeling U.S. counties high, medium or low risk. Will things get back to normal soon? Jeremy Konyndyk, a former Obama administration official now at the Center for Global Development, says that's the wrong question.


JEREMY KONYNDYK: The relevant question right now is holy, God, how do we build a Manhattan project for public health over the next two months so that we can avoid losing hundreds of thousands of American lives?

MARTIN: Around the world, there are more than 500,000 cases. China announced they're temporarily closing their borders to all foreign nationals starting Saturday, while in Italy more than 8,000 people have died, including 40 health workers. Here with the latest and to answer some of your questions is NPR's political and economics reporter Danielle Kurtzleben. Danielle, welcome.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Yes, thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: A lot to talk through tonight and lots of questions about what happened today in Washington. So what's the latest? What can you tell us?

KURTZLEBEN: All right. So let's stick to the coronavirus relief package because judging by the questions we've been getting, that's something our listeners are paying a lot of attention to. So like you said, the Senate passed it. My Capitol Hill colleagues here at NPR say it's set to pass the House tomorrow morning. The president is set to sign it. But one more thing to pay attention to here is the timing because Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said today on CNBC that he's expecting the money to get to people in three weeks. And well, maybe (laughter) because my colleague Vanessa Romo and I at NPR, we've been talking to tax experts all day today. And what they say is, look, if you filed your 2019 taxes, if you e-filed, if you gave the IRS your direct deposit information, you might get your money around then. But if you're expecting a physical check, if yours is a more complicated situation, it could be a bit longer than that, even months.

MARTIN: And as you said, lots of questions about this from listeners. And our first is from Stephanie in San Diego. And here it is.

STEPHANIE: For relief money, what is the government using to determine someone's income, the 2019 tax return or an individual's W-2s? What about young adults who were in college or grad school last year in 2019 with no income but who are now employed? What about dependents still in high school but who are 18?

MARTIN: OK, Danielle, what can you tell us?

KURTZLEBEN: All right. There's a lot of questions there, so let me sort of tick through them one at a time. So first off, Stephanie there asked about what information the government is using. They are, first and foremost, going to use your 2019 taxes. That is the taxes you are filing this year that are due on July 15, as opposed to April 15. The IRS bumped that out. So if you filed those - now, if you haven't yet and a lot of people haven't - the IRS, the Treasury, they will use your 2018 tax return. Now, if you didn't file taxes in either of those years, for example, if you didn't have enough income, then they'll use your Social Security benefits information. So a few different layers there.

Now, second off, she asked about young adults who were in school last year, maybe, say, a 20-year-old who was in college and who had very little income - that sort of person, if they're not a dependent - that's key - then they're probably entitled to the money. But it means they'd probably have to file taxes to get the money, even if they otherwise wouldn't file. So a big key here is getting the IRS your information so they can get the money to you. That final question she asks about dependents who are 18, experts explained to me that those folks would not get the money because they are dependents. So it doesn't matter your age, if you're 18 or if you're 80, if someone claims you as a dependent, you're probably counted out here.

MARTIN: OK, and next we have Susanna (ph) from Grass Valley, Calif. Let's listen to her question.

SUSANN: I'm retired. And I'm living on a widow's Social Security. But I have a small Airbnb, which, of course, is now not functioning. I'm wondering, will the money that the government is providing go to Social Security recipients with a low income also?

MARTIN: Thanks, Susanna. Danielle, what about that?

KURTZLEBEN: Yes, so the short answer is yes. I mean, if you're an adult, if you're not a dependent, like I said, if you have a Social Security number and you're under those income thresholds, then you can safely expect that you're eligible. But if you're a lower income adult who isn't on Social Security, by the way, and if you haven't filed taxes, it looks like you would have to file taxes this year, even if you would owe nothing, just to get that money. But one important thing I want to add here, though, is some of these questions about logistics, how to get the money, who has to file and when, one expert I consulted pointed out that people are very understandably scared right now. But this bill, it will pass the House once it gets signed into law. After that, we can expect much more guidance from Treasury and the IRS that will make us much more certain about how exactly this would work, for example, Social Security recipients, whether they'll get direct deposit, how that might work.

MARTIN: OK, so...

KURTZLEBEN: Washington has worked fast on this - yeah. So it could be next week when we get that guidance.

MARTIN: All right, TBD, stay tuned. OK, now our next question is from Lisa (ph) in San Francisco. I think I'm going to read this one. And Lisa writes I work in a restaurant that's currently doing curbside pickup or delivery only. However, there are other staff members at the restaurant during business hours. I'm trying to shelter at home because my husband is in his 70s. I have the opportunity to work part time during off hours when I can keep distance from my co-workers. I'm curious, though, as to whether the $600 weekly payout to augment unemployment is only available to those who are completely furloughed. I'd like to work, but I have to think about the financial impact to my household. So Danielle, what do you think?

KURTZLEBEN: That is a very tough one. So here's what I can answer for this listener. Partial unemployment benefits already exist, even without this bill. But generally, they apply to people who have had their hours cut who would prefer to work more, not people who choose to work part time. So that may be different in this person's case. So it's hard to say exactly how this person's case might come out.

Now as far as that $600 payment, I reached out to legal experts. Here's more uncertainty for you. They weren't 100% clear how that would work either, whether people getting partial unemployment under this bill would get that full $600. I mean, the bottom line with all of these questions as always is this - this bill was passed with expediency in mind to prop up a deeply troubled economy as soon as possible. So some of these nitty-gritty case-by-case questions, we're just going to have to get more clarity on them as we get more guidance, as the rubber meets the road, as states in the federal government figure this out.

MARTIN: You know what that means, Danielle? It means you have to come back next week and tell us more, OK?

KURTZLEBEN: (Laughter) I am more than happy to.

MARTIN: (Laughter) All right, that's Danielle Kurtzleben, who covers politics and economics for NPR. Thank you. And joining us now is NPR science correspondent and senior editor Rob Stein. Rob, welcome back to you as well.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Hi, nice to be here.

MARTIN: So many questions for you. At the White House briefing today, we heard they may soon be offering guidelines to labeling counties around the country as high risk, medium risk or low risk. What does that mean? And how would that work?

STEIN: Yeah, you know, public health experts say they're glad to hear federal officials promising to use, you know, hard data to make decisions about how to fight the virus. But they're kind of scratching their heads about how we'd really get that kind of data anytime soon. You know, we're just still not doing anywhere near enough testing to provide that kind of granular data you'd need for that advice. I mean, just because a county hasn't reported many cases doesn't mean they don't really have them. And even if they don't, they could just be the next tinderbox for the next big outbreak.

MARTIN: And our next question speaks to that. I mean, this is from Becca (ph) in Connecticut. Let's listen.

BECCA: I am scared by the president's announcement of April 12 as being the end of the measures we are taking to prevent the pandemic of coronavirus because I have four factors of risk factors. And I don't want to end up getting sick.

MARTIN: And that's something that we've talked a lot about. I mean, what will happen once we're out of this period of heavy restrictions? Clearly, some people are chomping at the bit to get back out here. But you also hear worry about what happens if that happens too soon. So, Rob, what are you hearing?

STEIN: Yeah, yeah, so, you know, it's totally understandable, Becca, that, you know, you'd be concerned if you're at such high risk. It must be really stressful right now. And a lot of public health experts are equally concerned. The president seems to be backing away a little from the idea that he'll recommend opening up the country by Easter Sunday. And he's promising he won't do anything rash. And no matter what the White House says, it's pretty clear we're all going to have to continue to stay vigilant to protect each other from this virus as this thing kind of goes on for a while.

MARTIN: All right, Rob Stein, thank you so much once again. All right.

STEIN: Oh, sure. You bet, Michel.

MARTIN: You can hear much more of our extensive coverage when you download the NPR One app. Go to the explore tab and click on the coronavirus outbreak for a curated stream of stories. If you have questions about COVID-19, we want to help. Go to Up next, medical questions.


MARTIN: This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michel Martin. There is a lot of information about the spread of the coronavirus and the properties of the virus out there now. But some of this information is confusing and may be even overwhelming. We say that because we've been receiving so many questions about COVID-19 and your health. So to answer some more of them, we've invited Dr. Ashish Jha. He is the director of the Global Health Institute at Harvard University. Dr. Jha, welcome. Thank you so much for taking the time.

ASHISH JHA: Oh, thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So a big area of interest for our listeners has been immunity to the virus. So here is a question from Bob (ph) in Long Beach, Calif. Let's hear it.

BOB: If you get COVID-19 and recover, will you have immunity to the virus? And is there any sense for how long that immunity would last?

MARTIN: Doctor?

JHA: So it's a great question. All the evidence we have so far - and look, we've only known about this virus for three months, so we're still learning - is that once you've been infected and once you've recovered, you should have immunity from the virus. There have been stories of people getting reinfected. I think most of us believe that those are probably not real and that you should have immunity. How long does it last? We really just have no idea. We should at least have short-term immunity. Whether you have long-term immunity or not, we just don't know at this point.

MARTIN: Here's another question on immunity. And this one is from Michael (ph) in Pennsylvania.

MICHAEL: I understand that we need to protect at-risk populations. And I'm all for that. But isn't it important for people in low-risk populations to get exposure to COVID-19 in order to develop an immune response to the virus? Otherwise, won't it be just as deadly for older generations in the future as it is in 2020.

MARTIN: Hm, interesting. What's the scientific thinking on this one, Doctor?

JHA: Yes. So there - this was an idea that actually a bunch of countries thought about and almost thought, well, why not let the virus run wild among younger populations? And once they have immunity, it'll help everybody. There are two problems with that. One is we don't always know who's low-risk and high-risk. We think younger people are lower risk, but a lot of young people still get very, very sick.

And second, it's really hard to separate young people from old people. Like, if you - unless you can take all older and high-risk people and send them off someplace far, far away, there's no real way to keep populations separate. And so this has been an idea that a lot of countries have played with, but ultimately, people have abandoned. It's too impractical to figure out how to make it work.

MARTIN: Sure. It's an interesting hypothetical unless you're the one being infected - right? - and having to figure out what to do with your life.

If you have questions for Dr. Jha, please go to, or you can use the #NPRconversation on social media. Next, we have Lucille (ph) in California, and she has a two-part question, so let's listen.

LUCILLE: Are recovered individuals expected to practice social distancing as strictly as those who have not been exposed to the virus? Also, what is known about the effects of the virus on individuals who have asthma?

MARTIN: So social distancing - and I do want to mention - so many questions about asthma, so please be sure to answer that one, Doctor, if you would.

JHA: Yeah. So let's start with asthma first. Again, we're just learning a lot about this disease, and so we don't have very good data on asthma. That said, I think it stands to reason that asthma is going to be a risk factor for having more severe disease. We've seen chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is kind of like asthma - that is a risk factor for a more higher mortality. And so I think if you have asthma, you are going to probably be in a higher-risk group, especially if you have moderate to severe asthma.

In terms of the issue of social distancing, once you've had the infection, presumably, you can't be reinfected - or that's what we think right now. And therefore, you should be safe to go back to work. You should be safe to go back and be able to do whatever you were doing before this outbreak began because you should neither be able to infect other people nor should you be able to get reinfected yourself.

MARTIN: Another big area of interest has been masks. Here's Pamela (ph) from Las Vegas.

PAMELA: Why can't protective equipment, like N95 masks and gowns, be washed in soap and water, like our hands, and reused?

MARTIN: So Doctor, I'm going to ask you to explain - first of all, what's an N95 mask? We've been hearing so much about them, but I can't assume everybody knows. And what about that?

JHA: Yeah. So there are a couple of different types of masks. And people don't have to become experts on masks. But think of it in simple ways. They are these surgical masks you just put on. And they prevent droplet spread. So they're for people who might sneeze on you, so you're not going to end up breathing that in. N95 masks are really respiratory masks that pick up if you've got aerosolized virus, it won't - you won't breathe it in or it'll filter out most of that aerosolized virus. And so these N95 masks are absolutely essential, we think, for taking care of patients with COVID-19. We just don't have a ton of them, and we're running out in many places, and so people have been thinking a lot about how to reuse them.

Now, we don't have very good evidence on what the safest ways of reusing them are. We don't think soap and water would work - because while it might sterilize the mask, it would hurt the integrity of the mask itself because the mask has - you know, it's got to have very - it, has very, very fine fibers. It's got to be able to filter out the virus. If you destroy that, you might have a sterile mask; it just won't work. And so people are working on new techniques for sterilizing the mask and keeping its integrity.

MARTIN: And I have another question from Bridget (ph) in Colorado about the spread. And she writes, can the coronavirus be spread through the wind, making six feet of social distancing moot?

JHA: It's a good question. So I think a lot of us think, you know, six feet may not quite be the optimal amount if you want to be really be safe. Probably, it's a little bit more than that. The thing about wind is - let's imagine you sneeze. It's a super windy day. That - you know, the droplets you essentially sneezed out will disperse very, very widely. And any single person will end up getting such a small amount of it that I don't think we're super worried about windy days causing a lot more coronavirus spread. But to be perfectly honest, we don't have much evidence. We don't have much data. But my general take is once you get about 10, 12 feet away from somebody, you're pretty safe, probably even on a windy day.

MARTIN: OK. That's a relief because that's what's keeping me sane right now - is going out into the air.


MARTIN: Let's just - let me just be clear about that.

JHA: Absolutely. (Unintelligible).

MARTIN: All right. So I'm going to clean up some business from yesterday. Yesterday, we had your colleague on, Dr. Amesh Adalja. He's a colleague from Johns Hopkins. And a listener posed a question to him about social distancing and playing Frisbee. And Dr. Amesh said that it's relatively safe to play it because players are far apart. But we immediately got a follow-up question from Roger (ph) from Portland, Ore. And here's one.

ROGER: I wanted to comment on an answer I heard yesterday about Ultimate Frisbee. Ultimate Frisbee is a competitive sport that results in people being in close contact. Often, people are no further from one another than the diameter of a frisbee. It is definitely not a safe sport to play when social distancing. Having a Frisbee catch is different than Ultimate.

MARTIN: Well, first of all, my bad - I did not know this. But Doctor, what do you say - Frisbee catch, yes, Ultimate Frisbee, no?

JHA: So Ultimate Frisbee - definitely not. If you're doing social distancing, Ultimate Frisbee people get right up into each other's faces. That is not safe. Regular Frisbee should be OK. Of course, you'd worry if one person's really infectious, and, you know, we do think that things can be spread by the Frisbee, possibly. So maybe, if you're going to play Frisbee with somebody else, play - keep at least a good 10, 12 feet away from each other and then just wash your hands before you touch your face or nose.

MARTIN: All right, Dr. Ashish Jha.

Dr. Jha, thank you so much for talking with us today.

JHA: Oh, it was my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

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.




MARTIN: This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION FROM ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, today was supposed to be baseball's opening day. Instead, fans are celebrating with their peanuts and Cracker Jacks at home and on Twitter.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Singing) Where are you, baseball? It's opening day...

MARTIN: We'll tackle the sports-shaped hole in our hearts. Now news.



Nearly 3.3 million Americans filed new unemployment claims last week. To say that's a record from one week doesn't even begin to capture the scope of it. It's nearly five times the numbers we saw during the worst weeks of the Great Recession. Bars and restaurants have been hit especially hard. It's an industry that employs 15.6 million people in this country.

And we wanted to talk about all that's going on with someone who's deeply involved with all facets of that world and the world at large. We're talking about Chef Jose Andres. And he is on the line now. He is a chef, a restaurant owner and founder of the nonprofit World Central Kitchen. Hello, Chef. Thanks so much for joining us.

JOSE ANDRES: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: So you've worked in disaster zones and emergency situations with your organization World Central Kitchen all over the world, as the name implies. So what have you been doing to keep feeding people in the middle of this crisis?

ANDRES: Well, I would say that World Central Kitchen began work in helping on this crises of the coronavirus all the way back to Japan in Yokohama, where we went there and we began helping feed the many Americans and the many different people from different countries that were on the cruise ship, the Princess. And we were there many weeks. We had this experience before from feeding people from Haiti to Mozambique in cholera areas. And I guess, we put, you know, the systems in place to make sure that our teams were protected. And that entire process was the right one. And I think that teams did a very good job.

From there, we went to Oakland, where we began serving another cruise ship. And as we saw that this was going to be something that was going to be hitting America before we knew, we began organizing ourselves. We began saying, if this is going to come here and it's going to be as bad as other parts as we saw in Asia, Europe, Italy, Spain, what are we going to do - cooks, like us - to make sure that if there is a need, we can be providing food to the people? And that's what we've been doing, just thinking big, preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.

If there is people in need of food through this crisis, we're going to make sure that with World Central Kitchen, with our partners and with the many other organizations doing, so far, a fantastic job keeping America fed, that all together, we will work as one - we, the people - to make sure that nobody will be hungry through this crisis.

MARTIN: So, Chef, I don't know if this is top of your mind right now, but the reality of it is that restaurants and cafes are such a big part of the life of the country now. I mean, they're a source of employment, but they're a source of joy to so many people. I mean, do you think the restaurant industry will be able to come back from this?

ANDRES: Oh, sure. We need to be hopeful that the restaurant industry is going to come back from this. The restaurant industry, the food people of America, we are going to be part of supporting the many people that are going to be fighting this virus - obviously, doctors, nurses and everybody else - that as many of us, we stay home, many other people are there making sure that the country has all the necessities covered.


ANDRES: So I think the restaurant industry is very clear. We are - as a French philosopher said, tell me what you eat, and I'll tell you who you are. Restaurants and small businesses in every single city, every little town, we are part of the DNA of the melting pot that America is. So things are probably going to be different. We're going to have to start rethinking, to a degree, who we are, our businesses. But I'm sure restaurants will come back.


ANDRES: We are going to have to prepare for what is about to happen the next few days, few weeks. So I do believe that, first, we need to fight this health crisis we have, concentrate all working as one, making sure that this virus is out. And then in the process, restaurants will be part of the new America.

MARTIN: OK. Let me - I have a couple of your colleagues who have some questions for you. And I want to be sure we get to those. So last night, we spoke to Jeremiah Stone. He's a chef owner in New York City. And he was - frankly, he was struggling with whether or not to open for takeout and delivery. So let's play that question really quickly here.


JEREMIAH STONE: What the best, you know, thing to do in this time is. I know, like, you know, we've been really weighing the options between, you know, we want to supply our regulars and neighborhood and have that service of hospitality and generosity and also to keep our staff safe.

MARTIN: Briefly, Chef, you have some advice for him? What do you think he should do?

ANDRES: Listen. Many, many, many chefs, restaurant owners in the country, we closed our restaurants even before the measures or the governors began shutting down some cities, some estates. I do believe that we need to see that this is a different moment. I don't believe this is a moment for business. This is a moment of feeding America. So it's when I decided that I was going to stop calling my restaurants restaurants and I called them community kitchens. Why?

I was trying to show a blueprint learning from what we were watching that was happening in China in Wuhan, where, at the end of the day, we need to have community kitchens in neighborhoods all across America to make sure that we take care of those people that maybe need a meal, maybe elderly, that they are staying home and they don't have anybody helping them anymore or maybe a nurse coming back from a very long day of work, nonstop, coming back home and needs something to eat.

I believe this is a moment only to think that our restaurants are going to be there for the service of the people that are going to be in need of feeding themselves. So that's why we need to have that mentality. If you go to, there we've been trying, with support and guidance from the CDC and George Washington University, creating protocols that make sure that run our our kitchens right.

MARTIN: All right. Let me bring in Jonathan Fox from Atlanta, Ga. He and his twin brother Justin own Fox Brothers Bar-B-Q. Hi, Jonathan. Can you hear us? Well, he sent us a question. We're having trouble connecting with him. But let me just play the question that he sent for you. Here it is.

JONATHAN FOX: We've had to shut down our catering commissary facility. And given that we had space, we partnered with several other restaurant groups here in Atlanta. We will come in. And any display service industry folks, we're looking at taking in staff to prepare to make meals and distribute those to those that need it. So we're looking at, how can we expand that to another level?

MARTIN: Well, it sounds like he was listening to you, Chef, because he's talking about scaling up his sort of community service operations. Do you have any advice for people like Jonathan who want to do that based on your experiences?

ANDRES: Yeah. I think it's very important that we create teams that are not very big. It's very important in the kitchens. Even in the kitchens, we keep this operation, making sure that our teams have every single thing to protect themselves and also to protect the people we're serving - gloves and masks or, if not, we make a bandana. Make sure that sanitation is key.

But again, it's not about filling the kitchen. We're going to have to go to menus that are much simpler, that they don't require so many hands, and that we establish this system of pick-up outside the restaurant - nobody goes inside the dining rooms - or delivery systems that, believe me, they are going to be vital in the days and weeks to come. We're going to have to have a very strong system of delivery at home because, again, a lot of people are going to be needing that we feed them in case of need.

MARTIN: And so, Chef, I understand that you graciously agreed to stick around to answer a couple of more questions. We need to take a short break. This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. More with Chef Jose Andres in just a few minutes.


MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin. This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION FROM ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Chef Jose Andres is staying with us for a few more minutes.

And now we want to talk about the situations a lot of people are finding themselves in at home, trying to get meals together for their families. And, Chef, I don't know if you've seen this, but people across the country say that when they're shopping for food, they're finding some shelves bare. And we're hearing from people who say they can't find common items like wheat flour and eggs and pasta at their local grocery stores. But experts are telling us that that doesn't really - that doesn't mean that the U.S. is facing a food shortage.

So, first of all, can you just tell us, why is it that we're not being able to find some of these common items?

ANDRES: Well, let's say that what happened in the early days was like a snowstorm coming - that everybody goes and fills up and the shelves of the supermarkets are empty. That's why it's so important as Americans we believe that hoarding is not the right thing to do. We should be buying enough food for a few days, maybe a week and not be thinking, like, we're going to be just filling up for the entire next six months. To do that is the right thing. It's the right American thing.

But I do believe that these solution (ph) systems are important. We're going to see that food is a national security issue. But we need to give time to the food industry that delivers the food to be able to refill the shelves of every single supermarket. I see people - men and women working over night refilling those shelves. So let's go. Let's shop. Let's shop for whatever we think is right for a week at the time at the most. And listen, people, don't buy enough toilet paper for the next year of our lives, OK? Just buy what you need because probably it's going to be an elderly person coming that really needs it. And because they cannot be fighting the hordes of people going, you're going to be leaving them in a hard spot. So please, just be conscious that whatever is coming behind you, they need also the chance to feed their families and to provide for their own.

MARTIN: OK, so let's have a little bit fun for the two minutes we have left. So you're all about keeping an open mind when you're cooking. Is there something you think people should try if they haven't tried it? If they can't find what they're used to, like, what should they try instead? You have some ideas for us?

ANDRES: Well, listen, this is all about maybe an opportunity to use change what we like and try this vegetable that nobody seems to buy because the turnip looks very ugly and very nutty (ph). And all of a sudden you discover that the turnip is so nice and so sweet when you cook it, you boil it, you roast it, you saute it. It's a moment to use change. You don't find your favorite pancake mix, listen, go on the Internet, go on Google and you're going to find great recipes. Make your pancakes from scratch. There's plenty of things we can be doing only not to be feeling in disrepair because we don't find that ingredient that we always buy. You should adapt. We need to adapt. And adapting is a great thing.

MARTIN: What'd you make for dinner?

ANDRES: Tonight, actually, I probably even I was having too much fun and at a point even we began putting music and with my daughters we began cooking Chinese fried rice that probably people in China will be very upset with me because probably doesn't honor their traditional fried rices. But we made our fried rice. And let me tell you, I think it's good because everybody's behind me as I'm talking to you eating. And everybody's silent because obviously I'm here on the radio with you. But I think they like it because the plates are empty.

MARTIN: OK, that sounds delicious.

ANDRES: Do you like it? Do you like it?


MARTIN: It's good?

ANDRES: They like it. They like it.

MARTIN: OK, that's chef and restaurant owner Jose Andres. His nonprofit is called World Central Kitchen. Chef, thank you. Save some for us next time.

ANDRES: I will.

MARTIN: If you have questions about COVID-19, we'd like to help. Go to Or go to social media and use the hashtag #NPRConversation. This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.




AARON CHEWNING: (Singing) Where are you baseball? It's Opening Day.

MARTIN: That's a tweet from baseball fan Aaron Chewning. It would have been Opening Day, but the beginning of the season has been postponed due to the coronavirus and so was the NBA season. March Madness canceled. The 2020 Summer Olympics postponed till 2021. Sportscaster Joe Buck is trying to stay sharp. With no games to call, he's doing play by play of social media videos, like this one with two boys playing tennis in their house.


JOE BUCK: Now to watch these two guys go at it in their basement - unbelievable. This point will go on forever. There's grunting. There's effort.

MARTIN: For many of us, social distancing has left a baseball or football or just sports-shaped hole in our hearts. Howard Bryant is one of those folks. He's a writer for ESPN and the author of "Full Dissidence: Notes From An Uneven Playing Field." And he is with us now. Hi, Howard. Sad face here.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Hi, Michel. How are you?


BRYANT: Well, it's definitely different. Let's put it that way.

MARTIN: Well, what is the role of sports right now, do you think?

BRYANT: Well, I think it's been really interesting because I think that in the past when you think about national crises, the sports lane was an easy one. Sports was always the healer. Sports was that - remember 9/11 and everybody rallied to the ballpark and felt closer to each other. And you had 50,000 people looking at each other and feeling like things were normal again. Well, sports can't do that now. If there's one thing that I do think sports did do, even though it seems very, very strange not having games, I think the one big service that sports did provide was once the Indian Wells tennis tournament canceled and then no Venus, no Serena, no Federer, no Nadal and then a day later the NBA canceled, I think people got the message that this was serious. And I think that they - when you're like, well, wait a minute - and then baseball postponed their Opening Day and then hockey got in line. And so I think once the sports did this - between Tom Hanks and the NBA, suddenly people were like, oh, this is a real thing.

MARTIN: So what do you think sports offers when it can't be the healer, when we can't go to the games or watch the games? Of course, you know, people are watching - you know, I'll just say hypothetically there might be certain people I happen to be related to who are watching some old games.


MARTIN: But he's a Steelers fan, so you know how that is. But what does it offer when it can't be the healer? What does it do? Like, where does it fit in?

BRYANT: It's a great question. And for me, I think where it can offer you a lot of comfort or at least some leadership, I think there are two separate things at work. One, when it comes time, when we start to move into a different space and maybe the curve gets flattened, you can still do. Go spend time with your friends and your family. Or do this virtually and play. You know, I'm much more of a doer than a watcher anyway. But while we're indoors and while we're watching and while we're indoors and unable to do things, I think one of the areas that's really important is to look at the citizenship of these leagues and of the players.

I think you've seen the players - you saw Zion Williamson go out and try to provide financial assistance for the workers in these empty stadiums. You've seen some of the sports teams - but a lot of the sports teams have been in the exact opposite. They've been very reluctant to lead in terms of making sure that the people who work those stadiums are actually going to receive a paycheck. Let's not forget that these games are multibillion-dollar industries. And you've got some of the owners - the owners of the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Bruins - most specifically being very reluctant or actually unwilling to provide relief for their workers. So I think the best thing that some of these teams can do is to be citizens. Be better citizens. And I think that when the games begin, they'll receive a fair amount of currency from that.

MARTIN: But just briefly, Howard, just a couple seconds left here, but do you think that they will remain important on the other side? I mean, there are all these things that happen in professional sports that kind of dim the glow, and then we sort of forget about it and move on. What do you think? Thirty seconds here.

BRYANT: Yeah, sports has always been - the illusion that it's important is what keeps sports going. And I think that what will happen is I think you're going to get a burst. I think people are going to come back. And the minute they can go outside, they're going to feel good about feeling normal. And the best way to do that is to go to a ballgame.

MARTIN: All right. That is Howard Bryant of ESPN and ESPN The Magazine. And he's the author of "Full Dissidence: Notes from an Uneven Playing Field." Howard Bryant, thanks so much for talking to us.

BRYANT: My pleasure. Thank you, Michel.


MARTIN: If you'll permit me, a few final thoughts for today. Earlier this week, a friend sent me an article from the Harvard Business Review. And I liked it so much I passed it on. And no, it wasn't about how to pivot to the pandemic economy or anything like that. It was an interview with one of the country's foremost authorities on grief, David Kessler, who collaborated with the late Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She's the one who identified those stages of grief we talk about so much. Kessler has also worked in hospitals with the Red Cross and with law enforcement on coping with traumatic events. The title of the article tells it. It says "That Discomfort You're Feeling Is Grief." Kessler affirmed something you probably felt but might not have been able to name, something percolating inside deep down. Or maybe it's more like a surface irritation, something you can't quite shake, like a pebble in your shoe. That feeling, Kessler says, is grief, that the world has changed in a way we did not choose, that we do not want. And we feel that loss. And it hurts.

Of course, there are so many people whose losses are tangible and immediate. And we're hearing from so many of you about that. And we're grateful you've reached out. For some, the losses are indeed sickness and death, whether because of COVID-19 or something else. For others, the loss is jobs and financial equanimity gone overnight. And for others, it's less permanent or far-reaching, but it's still painful - proms and athletic competitions canceled, long planned trips and celebrations put on hold for who knows how long. And let's be honest, knowing that others have it worse doesn't make it better for you. Can I just tell you? The point is that naming a thing is the first step to coping with it. And Kessler's advice on coping with it is worth hearing. He says grief comes in stages. No one is the same, so try to respect that. Find your balance. Control what you can. But most important, he says - and paraphrasing a bit here - your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger because pretending you're not having those feelings doesn't make them go away. Letting them in for a few minutes a day lets you know you're still in control. And finally, he said, store up on compassion. You never know what someone else is going through, even though we're all going through something.

And when you think about it, that's why we're here. And we're going to be here for a while to let you know we see you. And we hear you. And you're not alone. In my tradition, we say blessed are those who mourn. And right now, that's kind of like all of us. So hang in there. I will if you will.


MARTIN: This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michel Martin. We'll be back tomorrow. Good night.

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