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News Brief: COVID-19 Guidelines, Sanders Campaign, OPEC Meeting


So if you have been exposed to the coronavirus, when can you safely go back to work?


Companies have really been struggling to give their employees who work essential jobs an answer to that question. Now, as part of the government's effort to reopen the country, the CDC is offering some guidelines that might help.

GREENE: And let's talk about them with NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce, who is with us. Hi there, Nell.


GREENE: Do me a favor, if you can, just walk us through exactly what these new guidelines are.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Well, before, if these essential workers were in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus or who was suspected to be infected, the CDC was advising people to stay at home for 14 days. So as you can imagine, you know, as the numbers of infected people are going up, that has the potential to put a real strain on certain critical jobs. And so now, the CDC's come out with this new guidance that says, people in these jobs who've been potentially exposed can still go to work as long as they're not showing any symptoms and they do the following things.

So they have to take their temperature to check for fever. They have to wear a mask at work for two weeks. They got to social distance at work. So, like, don't gather in lunchrooms with their colleagues or anything. They can't share headsets or things that, you know, touch your face, that kind of equipment. And they have to go home immediately if there's any sign of illness.

GREENE: OK. And we should be really careful to stress here, we're not talking about these guidelines applying to everyone. This is just to people in certain jobs.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: That's right. So these are the so-called critical, essential workers, you know, not health care workers, but people who are working in sort of, like, state, local, law enforcement, you know, 911 call center employees, janitorial staff, workers in food and agriculture, some IT - information technology workers - transportation, energy workers, government workers. So it actually adds up to a lot of people, as you can imagine.

GREENE: Yeah, it sounds like it, and probably good news for employers who want to get people into these important positions and back to work. But what is the CDC saying about how employers should keep the workplace safe, I mean, as people are coming back?

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Right. So they basically say that employers have to be really diligent about disinfecting and cleaning the workspaces, you know, sort of offices, bathrooms, common areas. Like, wipe everything down, sanitize it routinely. They need to take employees' temperature before these people enter the workplace. And they said they should also work with facility maintenance staff to increase air exchanges in rooms. So basically, you know, increase the ventilation in buildings.

GREENE: So, I mean, this new guidance coming out would suggest that it's a good sign that we might be getting through all this at some point soon. Although, Vice President Mike Pence, I mean, he still sounded pretty somber yesterday.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Yeah, yeah. I mean, he noted that so far, more than 14,000 Americans have already died from this virus and that there's more tough days ahead.


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: This is one American at a time. It's one heartbreak at a time. And having lost loved ones in my life, just like everyone here and everyone looking on, we want to work every day to make that number of losses the lowest possible. And it will take all of us to do it.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: So he said there are signs that social distancing are having some effect. And we need to keep it up to protect the most vulnerable. But at the same time, they're still closely monitoring cities dealing with outbreaks, including Detroit, Chicago, Boston. And the vice president mentioned that Philadelphia, the Philadelphia area, is emerging as a concern.

GREENE: All right. So lots to keep watching, obviously. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce. Thanks so much.



GREENE: All right. So Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders ended his presidential campaign yesterday.


BERNIE SANDERS: I wish I could give you better news. But I think you know the truth. And that is that we are now some 300 delegates behind Vice President Biden. And the path toward victory is virtually impossible.

KING: And so Biden will almost certainly be the Democratic party's nominee.

GREENE: Let's bring in NPR's Scott Detrow, who has covered Bernie Sanders' campaign. Hi there, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.

GREENE: So Sanders had stayed in the race after - I mean, after even a series of pretty big losses. We don't know the results from this week's Wisconsin primary. But can you explain why now, this moment?

DETROW: Yes. Throughout March, Joe Biden just built this insurmountable delegate lead. And through all of that, Bernie Sanders kept pushing even as he mostly started focusing on the coronavirus and what should be done in these federal response bills in almost every single one of his online events and interviews. Sanders talked about this when he announced this yesterday. He said he knows a lot of his supporters wanted him to keep going. He says he understands that feeling. But he said, ultimately, he realizes the country is in a big crisis right now. He says President Trump just isn't capable of leading. And he needs to be defeated.


SANDERS: I cannot, in good conscience, continue to mount a campaign that cannot win and which would interfere with the important work required of all of us in this difficult hour.

GREENE: You know, Scott, I just think about February. It seems like forever ago, but it really wasn't.

DETROW: Six hundred years ago, yeah.

GREENE: (Laughter) Yeah. Exactly. I mean, that was the time when Bernie Sanders was totally on a roll. I mean, he tied in Iowa, won New Hampshire, dominating in Nevada. What went wrong here?

DETROW: He was absolutely the front-runner at that point. His rallies had turned into rock concerts. Thousands of people were showing up. And more importantly, he was the one defining the issues in the race even for candidates who disagreed with him. Just remember, all of the debates last year, Sanders had "Medicare for All." But a candidate like Pete Buttigieg, who opposed that, named his plan Medicare for all who want it.

But here's what happened. When Sanders got on a roll, moderate Democrats got worried. And after Joe Biden won South Carolina, we saw that very fast consolidation - candidates dropping out of the race, coalescing around Biden. Sanders had about 30% of the Democratic electorate all along. That was enough to win in a crowded field. But he wasn't expanding his base beyond 2016. He was getting less of a share, actually, as the race got on. And in a two-person race, Bernie Sanders' base just was not enough. And Joe Biden got all of those wins from Super Tuesday on.

GREENE: Well, let's look forward here. I mean, Bernie Sanders says he is going to support Joe Biden. But, I mean, he has passionate supporters who believe so much in this movement. Are they going to get behind Joe Biden now?

DETROW: That is a huge question. And a lot of Democrats think it'll be a key question in whether or not Biden can beat Donald Trump. Sanders had some really harsh critiques of Biden's voting record throughout the primary. And there is a significant chunk of his most enthusiastic supporters who are wary of moderates, establishment politicians. Joe Biden is both of those things.

So here's two key factors. How much does Bernie Sanders go out and campaign for Joe Biden himself? And how much does Biden work to woo progressives on either policy or his vice-presidential pick? One interesting thing Sanders said yesterday, he's going to stay on the ballot in remaining primaries to get more delegates so he can bring them to the convention and try to influence the party platform.

GREENE: All right. NPR political correspondent Scott Detrow talking to us about the Sanders campaign, Bernie Sanders dropping out yesterday. Thanks so much, Scott.

DETROW: Anytime.


GREENE: All right. Oil prices are at their lowest point in nearly two decades.

KING: That's right. And there are two big reasons for that, one is the pandemic. People aren't driving as much. They're not flying as much. Businesses are closed. Demand for oil is just way down. Now, at the same time, though, Saudi Arabia and Russia are in the middle of a price war. So today, the group of oil-producing countries, OPEC, is going to hold an emergency meeting about this.

GREENE: All right. Jackie Northam is here - she is NPR's international affairs correspondent - to talk about this. Hi, Jackie.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: Can you remind us what started this whole price war between the Russians and Saudis?

NORTHAM: Oh, sure. It's been going on since early March when Russia and Saudi Arabia became locked in a dispute over production levels. And since then, Saudi Arabia in particular has been pumping an historic amount of crude onto the market. Now, at about the same time, the demand for oil worldwide plummeted because of the coronavirus.

You know, as Noel was saying, there's fewer drivers and flights. And industries are going quiet. So now, we're seeing a glut of oil on the market. And that's driving prices downward. It's hurting oil-producing countries, including the U.S. and its shale oil industry. So the meeting today is a step to try and reverse this situation.

GREENE: Well, you mentioned the U.S. I'm curious about the U.S. role here. I mean, you have President Trump who has been tweeting about this, is following it. He has long made these disparaging remarks about OPEC. But the U.S. is not part of the group and may kind of need OPEC right now. I mean, does Trump have any ability to affect all this?

NORTHAM: Yeah. Well, you're right. He certainly is no fan of OPEC. An analyst I spoke with said the U.S., President Trump, will be at this meeting in spirit - meaning that the president has been trying to broker a deal with Russia and Saudi Arabia. And remember, he considers the Saudis allies. Actually, the analyst described it more as a divorce mediation.

The point being that if this rift between the two countries can be patched up, that could at least curb this oil flooding onto the market. Now, Trump feels he has a special relationship with both Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Now, whether he can leverage those relationships really remains to be seen.

GREENE: OK. So heading into this meeting, what are the expectations for some kind of agreement?

NORTHAM: It's hard to say. You know, all oil exporters are really staring at the same harsh reality. If the overproduction of oil doesn't slow down, the world will likely run out of storage for oil in May. And at which point, prices will really drop. President Trump has a couple cards up his sleeves. And he's threatened sanctions against Saudi and Russian oil if they don't come to an agreement.

And a large group of House Republicans last week sent a letter to Saudi Arabia's crown prince warning that the U.S. economic and military assistance to the kingdom could be in jeopardy if Saudi Arabia doesn't help stabilize oil prices. But again, David, the real problem is the lack of demand for oil. And that won't change until the coronavirus crisis is over.

GREENE: Something that we could apply to many things in the world today, I think. NPR's international affairs correspondent Jackie Northam. Jackie, thanks so much. We really appreciate it.

NORTHAM: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.
David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.