“I think today we are going to be doing roughly 125,000 meals across America in very strategic places. Restaurants transforming to Community Kitchens are going to be playing a vital role in every neighborhood of America to provide basic food relief for people in need. And obviously, if you can, you pay, but if you cannot pay, that’s fine. No questions asked.” – Chef Jose Andres
How do you feed people during a crisis? Dr. Celine Gounder and Ron Klain talk to Chef Jose Andres, who has fed millions during hurricanes, tsunamis, and all forms of natural disasters, about his work in feeding patients and others impacted by the coronavirus.
We also discuss the President’s latest comments about health care workers, hear from someone on the front lines, and take your questions, including how to safely bring groceries and delivery food into your home.
Celine Gounder: I’m Dr. Celine Gounder.
Ron Klain: and I’m Ron Klain
Celine Gounder: and this is Epidemic. Today is Tuesday, March 31st
Ron Klain: In this episode, we’re going to speak with chef Jose Andres, who’s on the cover of this week’s issue of time magazine. For his heroic efforts to feed those who’ve been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and as an outspoken voice of one of the largest group of workers who have been hit hard by this crisis, the many restaurant workers who’ve lost their jobs.
Celine Gounder: You’ll also hear from a frontline health provider,
Ron Klain: And we’ll wrap up today with some listener questions and consistent with our topic on food and coronavirus. We’ll answer a question about how you can safely bring groceries and delivery food into your home. But before we get started saline on Sunday, March 29th president Trump asserted that the supply shortages we’re seeing of masks, gloves, protective gear in our hospitals is not a real problem.
He essentially accused doctors and nurses of stealing or wasting masks. Here’s what he said in the Rose garden, courtesy of the Washington post.
Jose Andres: How do you go from 10 to 20 to 300,010 to 20,000 masks to 300,000 even though this is different,
Ron Klain: something’s going on
Jose Andres: and you ought to look into it as reporters
Ron Klain: where the Masco and are they going out the back door?So Celine, you’ve been on the front lines, you’ve been in a major hospital in New York. What did you see there?
Celine Gounder: So Ron, let’s, let’s just do some basic math. You know, he asks, how do you get from 10 to 20,000 to 300,000 masks? So the usual team for people who don’t work in the hospital is one attending physician.
So that’s sort of the head physician to about 20 patients and between zero and one of those patients under normal circumstances, have a medical condition that requires us to wear an 95 respirator mask. Today with the coven 19 pandemic, we now have 19 or 20 out of 20 patients of just about, everyone now has suspected coronavirus infection.
So in other words, they all have a condition requiring us to wear it at 95 masks. So that’s a 20 fold increase in the need for masks. So you go from 10 to 20,000 multiply that by 20 that gets you to 200 to 400,000 masks. The math works perfectly. That’s exactly what you would expect. But to your bigger point, Ron, what does it really like to be on the front lines caring for patients right now?
Well, in this and future episodes, we’ll share short messages from healthcare providers to help everyone understand what these providers are thinking and feeling as they bear witness to all of this. If you’re a healthcare worker and have a story you’d like to share, please record an audio file on your phone, keeping it to under two minutes and email that to email@example.com.
This one is from a doctor in New York city. She received an email from the hospital where she works. They were asking for more doctors to step up, to be part of a pool of folks willing to put in more time on the wards in the hospital. In order to get control of this escalating coven 19 pandemic in the city, we’re going to need all hands on deck.
Now. I am a hospitalist. But I’m pregnant. I’m actually in my first trimester and I feel deeply, deeply conflicted about this call of duty carrying a fetus that hasn’t even fully developed. And yes, there are some reassuring observational studies up there and all of which are just a few women from China, all of which were in their third trimester.
You know, I don’t think there are any policies right now because there is no. Data from first or second trimester when the fetus isn’t developed. So I just kind of sit here waiting with my anxiety. Will I get called in? How will I protect myself?
Ron Klain: You know, saline, listen to what you said a few minutes ago, listening to the story from this doctor.
It’s just another reminder that our doctors, our nurses or healthcare workers, the technicians working in hospitals, they are our heroes right now. And here the president accused them essentially a Pfeffer in the Rose garden to hear people put pressure on these healthcare workers to do things they feel uncomfortable with.
That’s just wrong. And everyone like me, who is not a healthcare worker, needs to use our voices to stand up for these people who are literally putting their lives on the line to take care of the rest of us. You are our heroes at this moment. And we want to go now from the heroes who are in the hospitals to the heroes who are doing something else that is also quite important right now, feeding all of us, and there’s no one who knows more about feeding people in a time of crisis than our guest today.
He is the internationally acclaimed chef Jose Andres, who is fed people all around the world and all sorts of grave circumstances, including during this current coronavirus crisis. So Jose, thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your friendship and most of all, thank you for being on the podcast today.
Jose Andres: Yeah.
Ron Klain: So Jose, we want to talk about two things, how we feed people in the middle of a pandemic, and also how this is affecting all your friends and colleagues in the restaurant industry. But let’s start with how you feed people in the pandemic. You were one of the first to this. You help feed patients who are being isolated in Japan.You set up a tent in Oakland to feed the people where the grand princess was eventually docked. How did you get involved in feeding. These people who had been fallen sick from this disease through the years
Jose Andres: We’ll center kitchen probably from the early days in Haiti when impro prints, we had cases of cholera that was putting on race the work that many NGOs were doing.
Impro bringing some beyond. When I began painting there in some comps, uh, I began understanding then necessity of protecting the copes, but also protecting the people we were fitting on, making sure that nobody in our system would be part of his spreading cholera. So I guess I, I’m not gonna say we’re experts because at the end of the day, we cooked, but, but, but we took all the right.
Uh, measures to do these. When, when we saw the cruise ship, um, uh, inquiring pain in the coast of Japan, um, we were thinking about men. Should we do that on the happens? At the same time, we were kind of thinking how we would do that. We got the phone call from, uh, the cruise ship line, uh, from braces. We went there, uh, then we partnered with the Japanese government on.
We went to the what we do best, we found a way to do it. Keeping everybody again, say everybody healthy, protected from the virus. So these, these going to be gone. Then all clan, we worked with the governor of California and the city of Oakland with the manual. We did a on very good work on and in that moment where we realize that this was used going to be crazy if we had cruise ships as spreading the virus like in a bad movie, and these went very early.
We began saying, man, if this comes from America, many things are going to go wrong before they go, right? Let’s prepare for the Wars and let’s hope for the best.
Celine Gounder: How were you inspired to do this kind of work? Was there something specific that happened or a certain tipping point for you?
Jose Andres: Well, I think my friend and mentor in these humanitarian things, rubber, Edgar, the funder of DC central kitchen, a charity in Washington, he told me 27 years ago, the charity seems as always, but the redemption of the giver when charity should be about deliberation of the receiver.
With that in mind, I’d be gone like, okay, kind of played the food, liberate the receiver, give them an opportunity for a better tomorrow. So when their earthquake, Keats, uh, Haiti, uh, for a Prince, I was in the Cayman islands and I, I was on vacation. Uh, I had this sense of. Oh, I was powerless. I was like, it was happening so close to us, and I wish I was there.
And then when it came by Washington D C a few weeks later, I go with a few friends. I landed in Dominican Republic. I drove all the way to port AU Prince and I found a local NGO. And I began cooking and I realized then that who can seems. He’s always an afterthought that we don’t take food seriously enough.
We borrowed day’s solution and not part of the problem our needs when the idea of use creating was centered kitchen made a lot of sense to me.
Ron Klain: What are you seeing out there right now in the United States about places where people are having problems being fed because of either they’re shutting their homes or because they’re sick or because it’s just harder to get food when everything’s all locked down.
We’re where are the real urgent needs in our country right now that you and your team are focused on?
Jose Andres: Yeah. I remember a few weeks ago that on a CNN interview, he said, I’m listening that the school systems are going to shut down. The schools are very important to provide meals for children, especially children of low income families.
We need to make sure that the school lunch program stays alive. Because the only food that some of the children, sometimes, many million of children are receiving every day, two days later, I guess they’re right. Throwing the Redlands, California governor announced that they will, they were going to keep those high school lunches and so this is a great thing to see.
I mean, we began watching what the food banks were doing, feeding America. I tend to put, banks are doing an amazing work. They are going to be vital to keep feeding America, but we need so much more. Right now, I, it’s a lot of Americans that they are, is still in the comfort of their homes and they’re, they may live like, this is not going to happen to us.
And even people that they think they are saying from getting food, they’re going to be in trouble. Supermarkets, uh, uh, we need to make sure they are kept open. Our farmers, who is going to buy the bounty of vegetables from them now that the restaurants are closing. Is the USDA going to be putting money to buy food from those farmers so we can give it to the food banks and to the school districts and make sure that we use that amazing network that is already in place in every corner of America to make sure that every person in need high school, and I need to make sure that if we go through our crazy times where this is going to last no wigs, but moms.
That’s four is going to be part of the solution and will not be another problem that our mayors and governors, the white house will have to solve. Where he here to try to think what may come and trying to be there. Like if we were a firefighters going to stop the fire before the house burns down.
Celine Gounder: Jose, I think it was in near in the time magazine piece that you say Corona virus is a wakeup call and, and you see that as a call to leadership. What kind of leadership were you referring to here?
Jose Andres: I seen too many meetings. I see too many speeches. I see too many saying, uh, things about what’s happening, uh, who is responsible, but I need to see more boots on the ground. I, we, we all need to see in this crisis, boots on the ground, people on the front lines.
If you have a big thing happening in Seattle, and he’s one of the bad ones because we’ve all done otherly home by the adapt. Leadership to me is Gabby having the biggest experts right there on that, their elderly home and make sure that we learn from what happened. And so we are able to establish a protocol to protect every single other of the homes across America.
We didn’t learn the lesson from Seattle and we didn’t put the protocol to make sure that this was no good until we have problem leadership should be happening with boots on the ground. Never, ever again from saving down in the comfort of an office. Leadership has to happen on the front lines. I needed the only way to be changing the world and make sure that we’ll respond to events like this one.
Ron Klain: Well. And speaking of leadership, Jose, once again, your leadership here has been incredible and it includes you turning your restaurants into community kitchens. How’s that going?
Jose Andres: I think today we are going to be doing roughly 125,000 meals across America in very strategic places. Comedic kitchens was a plan to, to say restaurants transforming to community kitchens are going to be playing a vital role in every neighborhood of America to provide basic food relief for people in need.
And obviously if you can’t, you pay. But if you cannot pay, that’s fine. No questions asked. Well, we went beyond that. We are trying to open maybe some convention centers. I had of whatever may happen because I think we have to, here in D C we’re trying to open the convention center kitchen where everybody, we will put the in.
I want them to be tested. I want him to stay inside under service, though their country will be that those young cooks, uh, on this tuition, teams will stay for 21, 28 days inside the safe, a safe Haven kitchen where they will be all plain, all perfect in perfect health, but they will never get in contact with anybody with outside world.
He’s way I can provide a place that can produce 5,000 200,000 meals a day and delivered to hospitals that may be in trouble because maybe they, the kitchens just stop working because nobody shows up towards the first responders, firefighters, police doing work and sit there and Sintra. So this is the kind of thinking that we do.
Celine Gounder: Jose, could you just describe for us what these community kitchens look like for people who’ve never been to? One.
Jose Andres: Number one, we reduce the density of the people in the restaurant enormously. What you’re going to find is that kitchens, restaurants would have 50 or 60 people working on them. All of the sudden you only have three, four people in the kitchen having a protective gear within a half, a very specific way for you to wait on line, keeping everybody six feet away with halls we paint on the floor.
Within a half in formation and the walls telling you what you should be doing is stay home. Keep away was your hand to tid. Kirra we’re going to create the system that you don’t have to be touching private car or money and that you can use in your phone to see the menu, uh, and doing payment and everything.
Celine Gounder: Jose, one of the worst effected hospitals in New York city right now is Elmhurst hospital in Queens. And it actually did not surprise me because if you look at where people who are still having to go to work to support their families to put food on the table. Pay their rent. They tend to live in places like Queens and some of the other outer boroughs, not in Manhattan.
Restaurants are close to the public in New York city right now, but many are still providing takeout and delivery service. So how is COBIT 19 effecting restaurant workers right now?
Jose Andres: Well, at least had a number one. I don’t know how these will shape my business, but, and the day I beside clothes, um, I offer all my direct employees at the headquarters cooks.
Waiters monitors everybody. We offer four weeks full salary and full benefits. It was a way to say, we’re all in this together, but I’m supporting you to stay home. So for me, this was very important. I’m taking very seriously that my team’s my family at work. My employees was all through these pandemic healthy.
I believe that the every single person that is in charge of, of, of managing one person a thousand should have this responsibility and there used to be at the government level down, it should be everyone who plans. So what is going to happen? What is going to happen in the restaurant industry? We are ten four percent of the GDP.
More than 90% of the money that comes into a restaurant goes into the local economy because we pay the farmers and the truck drivers and Wailers and tenders and manners, and they’re under designers and the architects and the guys that do the cleaning. My God, the restaurant really touches every single corner of our economy.
I’m realizing that now these woman that is in the supermarket, uh, cashing you out, uh, all of the sudden she’s like Euro because she’s feeding one family at a time by taking take into payment and she’s putting herself a risk. All of the sudden, every day people that sometimes our system seems not to care for them.
Sometimes undocumented more than 11 million that they are going to be right now feeding America on providing aid and relief to America. All those unsung heroes, they are going to be the ones through these hard times in the weeks that hat that are going to be making sure that America is fed and that the American active’s moving forward.
I hope everybody is going to be realizing that right now the war is happening, that the bios is shooting all of us and that we have people in the front lines fighting these war for us.
Ron Klain: Well, Jose, we’re going to let you get back to your important work, but it’s the greatest indication of a hero that he talks about other people as heroes, and I think everyone listening to this knows what heroic work you and your team are doing.
Jose Andres: I want to close by asking everyone who’s listening to go to WC K. dot org backslash chefs for America. That’s WC K for world central kitchen.org backslash chefs for America. There’s an easy button to click to donate to support this important work. I’m a big supporter of it. I hope everyone listening is a big supporter of it, and most of all, Hosea joined everyone in this country and thanking you for your incredible leadership, generosity, and hard work to get us through this.
Celine Gounder: Thank you, Jose. Thanks very much.
Jose Andres: Thank you for being such a light in this moments. Thank you.
Ron Klain: Every week we answer a couple of listener questions. You can get your questions answered by recording an audio file on your phone with your question, keeping it under a minute long, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org that’s email@example.com our first question is an emailed question from Marlo Katz in Carmel, Indiana.
If I’m getting groceries and meals delivered to my home, what should I do to these items before I bring them into the house to keep my family safe?
Celine Gounder: So Marlo, that’s a great question. And there was recently a paper published in the new England journal of medicine. Looking at how long the SARS Cove to virus persists on various different kinds of surfaces.
Looking at plastic and stainless steel, the virus does seem to persist out to 72 hours, which means that when you’re bringing stuff home from the grocery store, you may well want to wipe down plastic and metal items with, you know, just your regular household cleaner and then wipe down the counter and wash your hands once you’re done with all of that.
Ron Klain: Next, we have a question from Bobby Stroger.
Jose Andres: Hello. My name is Bobby Strother in Lewisville, Texas.
Celine Gounder: I
Jose Andres: understand how social distancing, staying at home self quarantine would at least slow down if not stop the spread of the Cove in 19 virus. But once we returned to normal social interactions, won’t the virus just start spread exponentially again?
Celine Gounder: That’s a great point. And that’s why we can’t lift social distancing measures without a plan for what to do next. So first of all, we do need to see the cases on the decline. So infections on the decline, deaths on the decline. And we need to be at a point where we can do things like contact tracing and testing.
So that requires a couple things. One. We need to get to the point where there’s not community transmission where it’s much clearer what the chains of transmission are, where you could say person a gave it to person B, and C and we’re nowhere near that right now. And then secondly, you need to be able to do the testing so that you can confirm who indeed has it.
We simply don’t have the capacity yet to do the kind of testing we need to do. So. Those are the things we need to be putting into place now while we’re doing the social distancing measures, so that in late April, early may, hopefully, at least in some parts of the country, we’ll be in a position to do those things.
Ron Klain: You know, Celine, I think that’s a great point. I mean, I’m asked this question when I’m on TV all the time. What’s the date? What’s the date? And this discussion about the date is the wrong discussion. The questions, what are the preconditions that we need to have in place before we can reopen large swaths of economic activity.
And I think you hit on the right ones. We have to know that the healthcare system in a place is robust enough that if there is a flare up, that we’re able to treat the people who get sick, that we have enough healthy doctors and nurses, that we have hospital beds, that we have ventilators, that we have the protective gear for those things.
So I think we need to get away from this debate about a date and focus more on discussion about conditions. And so now our last question comes from Ryan in Los Angeles.
Celine Gounder: Uh,
Jose Andres: a few of my friends and coworkers
Celine Gounder: have mentioned to me
Jose Andres: that they were sick in early January. I also,
Ron Klain: uh, for about a week with
Jose Andres: sick in early January, and I’m wondering, they’re wondering, we’re all wondering, is it possible that we could have had coven 19 before?
There are documented cases in the news, uh, here in LA here in Los Angeles, in the United States. Uh, thank you for all of the work that you do.
Celine Gounder: It’s certainly possible that what you and your coworkers in Los Angeles were sick with back in early January. Could have been COBIT 19. This quite plausible that we did start seeing cases here in the United States in early January, given the tempo of transmission back in China, and that you have a lot of people who are traveling between various countries around that time of year, around Christmas and the new year.
So it’s certainly possible eventually when we have what are called serology tests, which is where we can check antibody levels. We may be able to confirm that for you, but right now, I can’t tell you for sure.
Ron Klain: And Celine, don’t you think this is very important that we develop these antibody tests because we’re going to want to know who had the virus and who therefore is likely though not yet proven, but likely to be immune to further outbreaks of the virus as it kind of comes back at various iterations over the course of the next year, year and a half.
Celine Gounder: Well, Ron, I think that’s a great point. I think this is precisely the kind of testing we really do want available when we lift social distancing measures, because that would be able to tell us much more accurately who is still susceptible, who’s already had it. Who’s presumably immune because those are the people you could put back to work safely.
I think the problem with saying, well, we’re just going to have it be young people, people without chronic medical conditions, that’s a bit too crude of a, of a way of saying these people are safe to go back to work, and plus if they’re not immune, they can continue to contribute to spread of the disease.
So I think having those antibody tests is really going to be crucial in the next phase of our controlling all of this.
Epidemic is brought to you by just human productions. Today’s episode was produced by Zach dire and me. Our music is by the blue dot session. If you enjoy the show, please tell a friend about it today. And if you haven’t already done so, leave us a review on Apple podcasts. It helps more people find out about the show.
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We release epidemic twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays, but producing a podcast costs money. We’ve got to pay Zack, so please make a donation to help us keep this going. We also want to give a shout out to our very first intern, Sonia Bharadwaj. She’s a second year medical student at Harvard in Boston, but she’s currently studying virtually from home in Calgary, Canada.
She’s one of many medical students who’s been asked to stay home in order to conserve personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and to limit her own exposure to COBIT 19 in her free time, Sonya is going to be helping us out behind the scenes with the show. Also, check out our sister podcast, American diagnosis.
You can find it wherever you listen to podcasts or at American diagnosis. Dot. FM. On American diagnosis, we cover some of the biggest public health challenges affecting the nation today, and season one, we covered youth and mental health in season two, the opioid overdose crisis, and in season three, gun violence in America.
I’m Dr. Celine Gounder
Ron Klain: and I’m Ron Klain.
Celine Gounder: Thanks for listening to epidemic.