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

Mar 26, 2020
Originally published on March 26, 2020 10:16 pm

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.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit


ROBERT REDFIELD: Now is the time for us to over-invest, over-prepare in public health. This virus is going to be with us.


The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the country was not prepared for this pandemic. It's Monday, March 30, and this is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.


SHAPIRO: I'm Ari Shapiro. This hour, we'll answer more of your questions about the $2 trillion rescue package that'll send cash into most Americans' bank accounts.

JESSICA: Will Americans have to pay taxes on the $1,200 or so that we will be receiving?

SHAPIRO: Also, immigration and COVID-19.

GABBY: I'm a permanent resident. I hold a green card. And my question is would documented immigrants be able to get unemployment if they get laid off?

SHAPIRO: Plus, what are the consequences of closing the borders with Canada and Mexico? Send us your questions at First, the newscast.


SHAPIRO: This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Ari Shapiro. Each night, we are here to answer your questions.

MICHELLE: Hi. My name is Michelle (ph).

SEAN: My name is Sean (ph).

NANCY OWEN MYERS: Hi. My name's Nancy Owen Myers (ph).


MYERS: I am a sole proprietor of a nonessential business.

MICHELLE: I have a 27-year-old daughter.

SEAN: I have a question.

JESSICA: I'd like to know will Americans have to pay taxes on the $1,200 or so that we will be receiving?

GABBY: Would documented immigrants be able to get unemployment if they get laid off?

KAREN: What financial resources are available for undocumented members of our communities?

GABBY: Thank you so much.

MELISSA: Thank you.

SEAN: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Tonight, we have NPR journalists and outside experts here to offer solid facts and correct some of the misinformation that is floating around. Today, we've got answers about how the virus spreads, the impact on the immigration system. And we'll spend time helping with some of the tough judgment calls that everybody has had to make. Send us your questions and tell us how you're getting through it at On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, use the hashtag #nprconversation.

Each night, we begin by answering the question, what happened today? Well, today, a massive Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, arrived in New York Harbor. It has about a thousand beds to treat patients who are not suffering from COVID-19. Governor Andrew Cuomo says his state needs even more help. He's asking health care workers from around the country to come to New York.


ANDREW CUOMO: We're the ones who are hit now. That's today, but tomorrow, it's going to be somewhere else. Whether it's Detroit, whether it's New Orleans, it will work its way across the country. And this is the time for us to help one another.

SHAPIRO: The Federal Government has greenlit a new, faster coronavirus test. It works on the same platform as the rapid tests for flu and strep throat. Brett Giroir is assistant secretary for health at HHS.


BRETT GIROIR: They'll literally put a swab - certain kind of swab, foam swab - in your nose, put it in a plastic bag, give it in and drop it.

SHAPIRO: The company that produces the test says they can do up to 50,000 a day.

In retail, Macy's, Kohl's and the Gap all announced that they would furlough workers. Macy's says it will let go of nearly all the company's 130,000 workers. They will keep their health benefits through May.

Around the world, more than 775,000 people are known to have the virus. The death toll in the U.S. has just crossed 3,000. Dr. Anthony Fauci estimates that between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans could die from this disease. President Trump said today the U.S. will remain shuttered for the next month.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days. And this is a very vital 30 days. We're sort of putting it all on the line. This 30 days - so important because we have to get back.

SHAPIRO: In a moment, NPR science editor Maria Godoy will answer some of your questions about COVID-19. But first, NPR's chief economics correspondent Scott Horsley is here to explain some of what happened today and answer more of your questions about that congressional relief package. Hi, Scott.

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

SHAPIRO: Well, before the checks for this record-breaking $2 trillion relief package have even gone out, there's already talk of another stimulus. What's going on there?

HORSLEY: That's right. We're just sorting through this $2 trillion - that's a lot of zeros - but already, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is looking ahead to the next legislative response to the pandemic. Pelosi told reporters today she and her colleagues are beginning to put together ideas for a bill that could involve more support for health care providers, other workers who are on the front lines here, as well as state and local governments.

SHAPIRO: Well, listeners have so many questions still about this package that just passed late last week. This first one comes from Jessica (ph) in Indianapolis.

JESSICA: With the passage of this economic stimulus package, will Americans have to pay taxes on the $1,200 or so that we will be receiving?

SHAPIRO: That's a good question. How does that work? Is it taxable income?

HORSLEY: That's an easy one, Jessica. No, you don't have to pay taxes. This direct payment is not subject to taxes.

SHAPIRO: Good news for Jessica and everyone else who is getting a $1,200 check. There's a question here about the payout having to do with children from Nancy in Oregon. Now, she says she claimed her three children on her tax returns last year.

MYERS: Two of them are in college, and the third is 18. We also pay for their support, so that's why we claim them. But the older two had wages and filed tax returns for 2019. I'd like to know are we going to get any payout for those kids, either 500 for the 18-year-old or anything for the other two? Or will they get their own checks?

SHAPIRO: How does that work, Scott?

HORSLEY: No, I'm afraid they won't. Nancy and her husband will be eligible for $1,200 payments themselves, assuming they make less than $150,000 combined. If they make less than 198,000, they'd be eligible for somewhat smaller payments. But unfortunately, their offspring are not eligible. They're too old to get the $500 payments for children. You have to be under 17 to get that. And because they are claimed by their parents as dependents, they don't qualify for $1,200 adult payments of their own.

SHAPIRO: We actually got a lot of questions about children. This one from Jessica (ph) in Texas asks, will people who have children but make over $100,000 still get a $500 check?

HORSLEY: OK, so the cutoff for a couple is, again, $150,000.

SHAPIRO: Right, 75,000 each.

HORSLEY: Each, yes. But if you're above that, you - well, it's actually 198,000 where you're completely out of it. If you're over that, no, you don't get the $500 check for your kids.

SHAPIRO: OK, and one more question about kids, this one from Michelle in Cleveland, who has a question about her adult daughter.

MICHELLE: I have a 27-year-old daughter who is on disability and does not need to pay taxes. I was wondering if in the stimulus bill she will be able to get the $1,200 check to help her with extra expenses that she will incur while she's self-isolating to protect herself from the virus. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Interesting question about somebody who is already on a social service support program, like disability. How does that work, Scott?

HORSLEY: That's right. So recipients of disability, whether it's SSI or SSDI, are eligible for the $1,200 payments as long as they don't make over $75,000. And as long as they're getting their disability payments through direct deposit, that means the federal government already has their bank account information. So even if they don't file a tax return, they shouldn't have to do anything extra to get that money. They should automatically get the direct deposit.

SHAPIRO: All right, let's move on from questions about children to questions about small businesses, because we certainly got a lot of those as well. This one comes from Melissa (ph), who owns a small alterations and tailoring business in Helena, Mont. She wants to know more about how to get funds to keep her business afloat.

MELISSA: We don't take out any unemployment or Social Security for me. Our business is down 95% in March. We usually work a lot with proms and weddings, and those have all been canceled, so there's no way to make up that lost business. How do I get funding to cover my overhead and if there's any funding to cover my own labor expenses? Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Scott, do you have any good news for Melissa?

HORSLEY: Melissa might want to explore one of those Small Business Administration loans. The relief package does include $350 billion for new lending by the Small Business Administration, and the aim here is really to keep more small businesses afloat during this squeeze. The Treasury secretary has said the government is working to get that money out the door quickly. He hopes to have a simple application available at banks around the country as early as this Friday. And a small business that keeps its employees on the payroll for at least eight weeks may be eligible to have the loan forgiven. So in a way, it could be free tide-you-over money from the government.

SHAPIRO: All right. And some of those phone lines might be busy, so people should keep trying. NPR's Scott Horsley, thanks a lot.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you.

SHAPIRO: I also want to bring in NPR science editor Maria Godoy now to answer some of your COVID-19 questions. Hi there, Maria.


SHAPIRO: You know, the Trump administration said today the U.S. has tested a million samples for the coronavirus. President Trump says that's more than any other country. Can you compare the numbers for us?

GODOY: So President Trump has repeatedly said this - that the U.S. has now conducted more than any other country, but experts point out that a more useful metric is actually how many tests you're running per capita. And on that front, the U.S. still lags. There's - those 1 million tests performed in the U.S. - they translate to about one test for every 327 people in this country. But if you look at South Korea, they've run one test for every 130 people, so that's more than 2 1/2 times as many tests per capita as the U.S.

SHAPIRO: Interesting. We have a question...

GODOY: Now, that said...


GODOY: ...The U.S.'s testing capability - oh, yeah. Go ahead.

SHAPIRO: Oh, sorry. There's a bit of a delay on the line.

GODOY: I was just going to say our testing - yeah - the U.S. testing capability has ramped up a lot. But we need more widespread testing, basically, to understand how pervasive this pandemic is in the U.S. and how we're going to contain it.

SHAPIRO: Maria, we've got a question here from Karen (ph) in Birmingham, Ala., who asks, will the heat in a clothes dryer or dishwasher kill COVID-19? Will sunlight kill the disease? And if so, how long would I need to be in the sunlight? What guidance can you offer?

GODOY: OK, so we know from other viruses that sunlight can be a good disinfectant. But at this point, with this particular coronavirus, we just don't know exactly how conditions like heat or sunlight can affect the survival time. As for fabrics, we don't yet have data on how long the coronavirus can survive on cloth, but we do know it can survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on nonporous services like plastic and stainless steel for up to three days.

And we know and it's good news that the coronavirus has a fragile structure. It's what scientists call wimpy. And basically, it's because it has a lipid, or fat, envelope around it that holds the RNA in. And that's actually why soap and water is such a powerful tool against it, because soap is a detergent, and detergents are designed to break down grease, and fat is a grease. So basically, you can destroy the structure of the virus and inactivate it just by using soap and water. So if you are washing your clothes, the detergent and the warm water itself, plus that just physical agitation of the washer, they should inactivate the virus and wash it away.

SHAPIRO: All right. NPR science editor Maria Godoy, thank you for the insight.

GODOY: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: And if you have questions, we want to help. Go to On social media, use the hashtag #nprconversation. Up next, an infectious disease expert answers your questions. This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Ari Shapiro. In this part of the program, we're going to get medical advice about staying safe and healthy as COVID-19 continues to spread. Dr. Celine Gounder specializes in infectious diseases at New York University, and she is here to answer your questions. Thank you for joining us, Dr. Gounder.

CELINE GOUNDER: My pleasure.

SHAPIRO: Let's start with a question about recovery.

WASHINGTON ROSS: Hi. This is Washington Ross (ph) calling from Washington, D.C. And I'm wondering after someone has already contracted and recovered from coronavirus, when is it safe for them to resume contact with the uninfected public, like going to the grocery store?

SHAPIRO: That's a good question. We've heard about a two-week quarantine. Is that the guideline? Or after somebody has had the virus and it passes, Dr. Gounder, what do you recommend?

GOUNDER: Well, it really depends on what you're counting from and to. So when we talk about a two-week quarantine, you're really counting from time of exposure to potentially developing disease, which is very different from what your caller is discussing, which is more about counting from having disease to whether you...




GOUNDER: ...You know, safe to not transmit to other people. And so there's a lot of confusion about that. So 14 days is really from time of exposure to when might you develop disease. It's what we call the incubation period.

SHAPIRO: I see. And so if you have the disease - you're coughing, you have a fever - and then you're feeling better, how long after you're feeling better is it safe to go out in public again?

GOUNDER: Well, that's actually an area where we have much less data. And so some of the departments of health, including the New York City Department of Health, are recommending, you know, OK, let's say you no longer have symptoms. From that point on, let's count three days - 72 hours - and say you're clear. I think that's probably about right for most people. But, you know, we don't have precise information because this is a new virus. That's not going to be exactly 100% right for everybody.

SHAPIRO: OK. Well, here's another question from Jan Even (ph) in Oregon.

JAN EVEN: My question has to do with the pneumonia vaccine. I've read that about 80% of the cases are mild of people who get coronavirus and that for those that do become more serious, it often turns to pneumonia. So I'm wondering if you've had the pneumonia vaccine, does that protect you from becoming seriously ill if you do, in fact, get infected with the virus?

SHAPIRO: Dr. Gounder, do you have any insight into that? Is the pneumonia vaccine helpful at all when it comes to COVID-19?

GOUNDER: Well, I have to say that is such an important and good question. So thank you for asking that question. I think what we need to distinguish are what I would call syndromes. So when we talk about syndromes, you're talking about, you know, runny, stuffy nose, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia. Those are really about, OK, this part of your body is infected, and these are the symptoms that go along with that. And there are many different viruses, bacteria that can cause each of those syndromes. So pneumonia, for example, can be caused by COVID-19. It can be caused by streptococcus pneumonia, which is a bacteria. And that's the bacteria that the pneumonia vaccine is trying to protect you against. So, you know, I think it's important to distinguish between the two.

But where getting vaccinated, whether it's against the flu or the strep pneumonia bacteria, is really important is - here's how I think about it. It's basically this big haystack of things that can cause runny, stuffy nose, cough, cold in the winter, as well as pneumonia. And so the more you can prevent all of those things, the more you shrink the haystack and the easier it gets to find those other random things like COVID-19 that can be causing those symptoms. And, you know, and then we can address those. But...

SHAPIRO: So it sounds like you're saying a pneumonia vaccine is never a bad idea.

GOUNDER: It's never a bad idea. Never a bad idea.

SHAPIRO: OK. We got a question on Twitter just now from Sarah - Sandra VanderZicht (ph), who asks, would you clarify aerosol transmission? A friend forwarded an LA Times article about a deadly outbreak at a choir practice in Washington state, but an expert on NPR said today that the droplets don't linger in the air. I actually saw that LA Times article and heard that NPR interview on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED this afternoon. I, too, would love some clarity on that.

GOUNDER: All right. So this is a rather complicated question, and it's one that in my podcast with Ron Klain we have addressed. So if you go back about a week ago, we had the bonus episode on the false dichotomy between droplet and airborne spread. And aerosol is sort of in the middle.

I have spoken with a number of fluid dynamics researchers, so they really study, like, how does fluid and gas travel through the air with infectious particles? And there's a woman by the name of Lydia Bourouiba, who's a professor at MIT, who is the person, the gal on this. She just published another piece in The Journal of the American Medical Association on this last week specifically looking at COVID-19.

And I think there is a false dichotomy between what is droplet spread and what is aerosol or - I wouldn't go so far as to say airborne. But here's why it matters. It matters in terms of what distance you need to be from people...


GOUNDER: ...And what protection you need to wear. So...

SHAPIRO: Do we have enough research to know whether people should be worried about being breathed on by somebody with COVID-19?

GOUNDER: Well, if somebody's breathing on you, it doesn't really matter how it spread - right? - like, at that point, you know? But that said, what I would say is for the average person who is not a health care worker, so your risk is already decidedly much lower, your best protection still, by far, is the social distancing stuff. So stay home. Stay within your household bubble. And I think of it as a bubble where, literally, you don't want to pop the bubble.


GOUNDER: So you don't want to pop it with anybody going in and out, and that includes - and this is where I've been very frustrated in New York with people who have housekeepers and nannies. No, that does not - that's not allowed.


GOUNDER: You know, unless they're living with you full-time, that constitutes popping of the bubble. So I think that...

SHAPIRO: Somebody coming in and out, yeah.

GOUNDER: Yeah. And so that's certainly important. It's not safe for them. It's not safe for you.

SHAPIRO: So just in the minute and a half that we have left of this segment, I want to pose this question for you from Helen (ph) in Winston-Salem, N.C., who asks, I wash my hands many times a day. I dry my hands on a terry cloth towel in the bathroom of the kitchen. Should I launder the towel each time, or should I use and waste paper towels each time I wash my hands? What guidance can you give her?

GOUNDER: Oh, in terms of what to dry your hands with?

SHAPIRO: Well, whether a towel can carry whatever kinds of bad things you're trying to get rid of.

GOUNDER: Well, if you wash your hands before drying your hands on that towel, that - presumably no. I'm less worried about that, especially in terms of viruses. You know, bacteria you could talk about, well, it's damp fabric and, you know, what might settle on there. But from a virus perspective, I am not so concerned. I think if you're washing your hands, I am really, really happy with you. I think you're doing the right thing.

SHAPIRO: Just applaud the people who wash their hands.

GOUNDER: Yes, absolutely.

SHAPIRO: Don't make them stress out about how they're drying them.


SHAPIRO: Dr. Celine Gounder, thank you very much.

GOUNDER: My pleasure.

SHAPIRO: And she is going to be with us again later in the hour to talk through some of the difficult quandaries facing all of us these days, decisions that may have once been easy or at least straightforward that have suddenly gotten a lot more complicated, like whether to see family or go through with a big move or just go outside. If you have questions, you can send them to us at Or on social media, use the hashtag #nprconversation.



This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Ari Shapiro. Coming up, a doctor helps us work through the tough choices everyone's making about risk and safety.

AARON: I want to get out of my apartment and run or bike on the trails, but the trails are only about 10 feet wide, so it's impossible to stay more than 6 feet away from people. It is safe to still be out there?

SHAPIRO: First, the news.

This is THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Ari Shapiro. The COVID-19 outbreak has brought many unprecedented developments, including this. The U.S. closed about 8,000 miles of border with Mexico and with Canada. There has never been a shutdown like this in the history of the country, not even after 9/11. So in this part of the program, we'll be answering your questions about immigration, borders and travel. Send them by going to or use the hashtag #nprconversation on social media. Joining us now are NPR's correspondents John Burnett and Joel Rose, both of whom cover immigration. Good to have you with us.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: It's great to be here, Ari.


SHAPIRO: Our first question comes from Rana (ph) in Memphis. Let's listen.

RANA: So part of my green card application involves applying for a work card. And the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is the entity that grants work cards. But unfortunately, its biometric sector is shut down right now. My question is, what plans is the USCIS putting in place to meet the needs of immigrants like me whose livelihoods depend on a work card?

SHAPIRO: And we actually have Rana on the line with us. Hi there, Rana.

RANA: Hello.

SHAPIRO: Thanks for your question. And also, I understand congratulations are in order. You got married over the weekend?

RANA: Yes, I did. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: But it was a no-hug wedding from what I hear.

RANA: You could definitely say so. It was a weird quick two-second side hug sort of wedding. We met our judge and a few friends at a beautiful park nearby. And the ceremony...

SHAPIRO: Oh, I think we might have just lost you, Rana. Are you there? Seems like we might have lost Rana. But we, fortunately, have Joel Rose on the line, who heard Rana's question about part of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services being shut down. And for people who are operating under difficult, tight deadlines, what can they do, Joel? What advice do you have for Rana?

ROSE: Well, so Rana is in an interesting situation. I mean, she can still apply for her green card - right? - because she's now married to a U.S. citizen. But that is a process that takes a long time even in normal times. So - and while she's waiting, she can also apply for her work permit. But that's where this pandemic may start to present a problem for Rana and people in a similar position because she can't go and get the biometrics that she needs - the fingerprints - because USCIS offices are closed to the public right now. So there's going to be, potentially, an interruption in her ability to work legally in the U.S. That could be just a few weeks, or it could be longer. And it really depends on how long the shutdown goes on. And it could be that her green card process winds up taking a lot longer, too. But at least she should be able to stay in the country while that's playing out.

SHAPIRO: OK, Rana, I think we have you back on the line. Are you there?

RANA: Yes. Yes, you do. Sorry. I don't know what happened.

SHAPIRO: OK, great. No, that's all right. Can you tell us just what's at stake for you here? I mean, is your ability to stay in the country hanging on whether you can get the biometrics done?

RANA: Actually, so my ability to stay in the country depends on whether or not I submit my green card application on time. And so the list of documents to submit is really long. And with the current situation, some are just really out of reach. Like, Chris (ph) and I can take care of everything digital, such as online forms and whatnot. But for instance, I'm unable to apply for a work card, like I said in the question.


RANA: And for example, I'm unable to get medically checked and cleared by a legal surgeon right now because, A, it seems like a risky thing to do during a pandemic, and, B, their services don't seem to be available at the moment.

SHAPIRO: And have the immigration offices given you any indication of whether they're going to make special allowances because of the extraordinary situation that everyone is in?

RANA: I honestly have no idea. I had a conversation today with my lawyer, and he told me that the things related to my medical exam, they are applying some exceptions. But I don't know if I qualify for them. We have to see that.

SHAPIRO: All right, Rana, thank you for sharing your story with us.

RANA: Oh, you're welcome.

SHAPIRO: Joel, do you have any further insight for her?

ROSE: You know, these are good questions. I mean, USCIS has made some accommodations, like they've changed a little bit of the way that they do business. They've extended certain deadlines. They've allowed electronic copies of signatures on paperwork instead of actual signatures on paper, which that doesn't sound like much, but that is a change for this agency.

But in general, you know, they haven't said what they're going to do for people in difficult situations whose visas may be expiring. These field offices are not closed totally, but they're closed to the public, so anything that involves this kind of personal contact - you know, interviews, biometrics - is suspended indefinitely.


ROSE: So are some of the high-speed processing things that they normally offer. So, you know, I think a lot of immigration lawyers are worried about people like Rana who are going to lose their work eligibility and maybe even their status during the...

SHAPIRO: Well, Rana, good luck. And please let us know how things turn out.

RANA: Thank you very much. Thank you very much.

SHAPIRO: All right, let's go to a question now from Karen (ph) in Boulder, Colo.

KAREN: What financial resources are available for undocumented members of our communities who are hard-hit by the coronavirus and not eligible for many sources of assistance? Are there any states, counties or cities that have set up relief efforts specifically for undocumented community members?

SHAPIRO: John Burnett, down there in Texas, I know you've done some reporting on this. What can you tell us?

BURNETT: Well, so we know that the U.S. Treasury is going to be sending out these stimulus checks for $1,200 each, but it's only going to people with valid Social Security numbers. There's absolutely no help plan for these workers who build our houses and cook restaurant food and make hotel beds and tender lawns. They're left to fend for themselves in this historic crisis. These unauthorized immigrants comprise, like, 5% of the U.S. workforce, more than 7 million people. It's a huge number. And they're the most vulnerable workers. They don't have paid sick leave. They can't work from home like I'm doing right now, Ari. They don't have any unemployment insurance, no financial security. And so they...

SHAPIRO: And are any cities, like cities that have declared themselves sanctuary cities, taking extraordinary steps to help these people in ways that the federal government might not?

BURNETT: I'm not aware of those. They may be doing that. What I do know about is in terms of private efforts. The National Day Laborer Organizing Network in Pasadena has started an immigrant worker safety net fund. And so you can contribute there.

But, you know, this is sort of a controversial notion because in this unique crisis in American history, you know, people - some are thinking that the 2 billion - $2 trillion bailout is to help Americans and would oppose any official local or statewide effort for non-U.S. citizen workers.

SHAPIRO: Sure. Yeah, I could also imagine these people are more likely to be living in close quarters, less likely to have good access to health care. How are undocumented immigrants feeling the impact of COVID-19?

BURNETT: Well, you know...

SHAPIRO: I should say we've just got about a minute left, John.

BURNETT: OK (laughter). I mean, how are they feeling it? They need their jobs because they're saving money. They're sending it back. And so in many cases, there are no protections for them. And if they're lucky, you know, they still have jobs.

But, I mean, for instance, I know one example, a pistachio farm in Southern California, where the owners are sequestered in their house and using, you know, lots of lockdown rules. And the workers - the dozen crew and the workers - are out there pruning trees and planting trees and working on the irrigation system. There's no - nothing to social distance them.

SHAPIRO: All right, that is NPR's John Burnett and Joel Rose, both of whom cover immigration for us, answering your questions about the borders and immigrants during this crisis. You're listening to THE NATIONAL CONVERSATION WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

Joel and John are still on the line with us to talk more about these issues of immigration and borders. And we have a question here that comes from Gabby (ph) in Kansas.

GABBY: I'm a permanent resident. I hold a green card. And my question is in relation to the immigration public charge rules, would documented immigrants be able to get unemployment if they get laid off? Also, in regards to the checks, would we be eligible for that since we are permanent residents?

SHAPIRO: Joel Rose, can you explain that? Would somebody who is in the country legally but is not a citizen be eligible for these various benefits?

ROSE: I believe that it's possible. It's sort of - you know, it would depend on your visa status. Like, a lot of temporary work visas are tied to a particular job. And so there's a chance that, you know, if you lose that job, you lose sort of the legal status that goes with it. But if you're a permanent resident, like Gabby, your status is not tied to your job. And so I believe if you're eligible for unemployment, that would be - yeah, I don't think that those benefits would be a problem. And I don't think that they would trigger the public charge rule, which is another part of her question that I think we...

SHAPIRO: Right...

ROSE: Is that where we're going next?

SHAPIRO: ...Which says that immigrants who are - explain what the public charge rule is.

ROSE: Yeah, it's easier said than done. But the public charge rule is this new Trump administration rule that took effect this year, which says, basically, if you're an immigrant, you can be penalized for using certain public benefits, things like food stamps and housing assistance...

SHAPIRO: And you're saying this is not likely to trigger that penalty.

ROSE: ...Anything immigration officials think that would likely become a burden in the future. I don't think that it would...


ROSE: ...Because you know, the things that are covered under the public charge rule are, like, recurring, you know, sort of what we think of as welfare payments. Unemployment is not one that's actually covered under the rule. And the rule is very specific. Now, there's a lot of confusion around the rule, and that's been a big challenge and why we get a lot of questions about it. So I'm not surprised that Gabby would be confused.

SHAPIRO: Let's go to this question from Sarah (ph) in Lincoln, Neb., who asks about the pandemic and camps along the Mexico border.

SARAH: What about those internationally in refugee camps?

SHAPIRO: John Burnett, you spent time in the Matamoros camp in Mexico where people who are waiting to apply for asylum under the Trump administration's Remain in Mexico policy are living in tents. What's the situation there?

BURNETT: Well, some 1,500 asylum-seekers are down there. And the Department of Justice has shut down these temporary immigration courts at the ports of entry. So they're all just waiting for this crisis to pass. They're living sometimes five people in a 10-by-10-foot camping tent, living cheek by jowl in this wooded park down near the international bridge.

Some measures have been taken to protect people. There are hand-washing stations. They've advised them no abrazos - hugs - or handshaking or kissing on cheeks. They've urged volunteers who've been flocking down there from all over the U.S., don't come, because they could bring the virus with them and infect the refugees. And there is a medical clinic that has a COVID-19 game plan.

But the fear, as one volunteer doctor put it, was, you know, if one case gets into the camp, the entire camp will have it.

SHAPIRO: All right, a sad note to end on. But NPR's John Burnett and Joel Rose, we appreciate the insights from both of you.

BURNETT: It's a pleasure, Ari.

ROSE: Thanks.

SHAPIRO: And we will continue answering your questions about immigration, the border and other issues related to COVID-19 and the way we live now. Submit your questions on social media using the hashtag #nprconversation or go to





Many questions that you have been sending us about the coronavirus don't have clear answers. Often, there's a risk-benefit analysis. And we have an expert with us now to help you walk through some of those tough questions where reasonable people may disagree. Dr. Celine Gounder is still with us. She is a professor at New York University, where she's an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist. Welcome back, Dr. Gounder.

GOUNDER: Great to be here.

SHAPIRO: I want to emphasize again that the questions we're going to hear now might not have unambiguously right answers, like this difficult situation from Lisa (ph) in Kalamazoo, Mich.

LISA: So I'm second-guessing my rational decision to tell my daughter, who's 23 years old and working as a surgical nurse's aide, that she and our 1-year-old grandson can no longer come to our house. It's heartbreaking for us to tell her that. But because we have some underlying health conditions, we know that it's important to protect ourselves. So as a tightknit family, we're wondering, from an emotional perspective, how this is going to impact our family and if it still makes sense to stay away during this time.

SHAPIRO: Dr. Gounder, that sounds like such a difficult situation. What guidance can you give to Lisa? Is she making the right choice here?

GOUNDER: Well, I think this is one of the questions I've been getting over and over and over again. I think for the number of elderly parents - my father-in-law, for example, is at a memory care facility in Arizona right now, and my husband and his brother have been trading off for months for years now going to visit every other month. And they can't do that anymore because it's just not safe for all the residents. So this is a - I think this is a conundrum for a lot of families, whether it's you have a younger generation with a middle-aged generation or a middle-aged generation and older generation. Like, I think this is happening for a lot of folks.


GOUNDER: I think from a disease perspective, from a public health perspective, the way I keep describing this is you have a household bubble. These are the people who you live with in your household, and they may not all be blood relatives.


GOUNDER: It just depends on how you define your household. So that might be roommates. It might be, you know, you have a nanny who lives with you. It just depends on how you define that. But however you define it...

SHAPIRO: You just don't want to pierce the bubble, yeah.

GOUNDER: Exactly, exactly. And that's the only way to be safe.

SHAPIRO: Well, that actually speaks to the next question we have here...


SHAPIRO: ...From the Schrader-Patton (ph) family in Bend, Ore. Charlie (ph) and Linda (ph) are the parents, and they write to ask if they should let their teenage daughter keep nannying a few hours a week. They say the whole family's practicing social distancing in all aspects of their lives, but one parent of the kids their daughter nannies for is a health care worker. Charlie and Linda want to know if allowing their daughter to keep working as a nanny increases the risk of infection too much. Sounds like you're saying that pierces the bubble, and maybe they shouldn't be doing it.

GOUNDER: I think she needs to pick one household or the other. And whichever it is that she wants to commit to, that's what she needs to commit to during this period of social distancing.

SHAPIRO: A lot of listeners are debating whether they should leave their homes at all, even to exercise or enjoy the outdoors. This is a question from Aaron (ph) in Washington, D.C.

AARON: I want to get out of my apartment and run or bike on the trails, but the trails are only about 10 feet wide, so it's impossible to stay more than 6 feet away from people. Is it safe to still be out there?

SHAPIRO: What do you think? How can people judge whether it is safe for them to go for a run or a walk or a bike ride?

GOUNDER: Yeah, that's a tough one. There's no question that being outside in the great outdoors you're diluting whatever it is that other people are releasing into the air through their talking or coughing or sneezing. But I would be very hesitant even then to recommend being anywhere closer to somebody than 6 feet, even outdoors. So I would be very careful about that.

SHAPIRO: Let me ask you this question that comes from Sean in Southern California. He's having to make some tough choices because he just sold his house.

SEAN: We are in the process of moving 400 miles away up to Central California, and we cannot postpone the move. Our house has already closed escrow. We have a couple friends and some movers who will be helping us in relocation. And I'm just wondering, given the situation in California with the coronavirus, how dangerous it is and what precautions should we be taking during this move?

SHAPIRO: Just briefly, Dr. Gounder, in our final moments, what do you think Sean should be paying particular attention to?

GOUNDER: Oh, gosh. Stay at least 6 feet away. Stay outdoors. Be wearing gloves. Cover your mouth and nose with a scarf or a bandana. And be washing your hands with hand sanitizer, at the very least, over and over as you're doing this.

SHAPIRO: A good checklist. Dr. Celine Gounder, infectious disease expert and professor at NYU, thank you for joining us tonight.

Finally, this evening, as we have watched this virus spread around the world, we've also watched something uplifting follow - nightly cheers of support for health care workers and others on the front lines.


SHAPIRO: Back in January, isolated people in Wuhan, China, would shout out their windows, add oil, a Chinese expression of encouragement that means keep up the fight.

As COVID-19 spread to Europe, Italy became the country with the highest death toll. And Italians effectively under house arrest started emerging on their balconies every night. Some played music, serenading one another with voices and instruments.


SHAPIRO: Italians also picked up the tradition of the nationwide cheers for health care providers. Seventy-three-year-old Emma Santachiara in Rome told The New York Times, it was from our hearts to say thanks and show that we can get past this.

As the disease continued to travel, the evening displays of resilience did, too, to the U.K., Spain and France, where the people rallied their neighborhoods using the hashtag #tousalafenetre, all at the window.


SHAPIRO: Now the practice has reached the United States, where people are using the hashtag #ClapBecauseWeCare. Each night, I see video clips that my friends in New York have posted on Instagram and Twitter, the sun touching the horizon, a cacophony of people applauding from their rooftops, balconies and open windows, cheering health care providers, grocery store workers, delivery people, celebrating their neighbors and themselves, reminding everyone hearing that beautiful racket that they are not alone and that they have made it through another day with the help of each other.


SHAPIRO: We want to hear your questions about how you are getting through this extraordinary time. Send us your thoughts at On Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, we're using the hashtag #nprconversation. I'm Ari Shapiro.