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Coronavirus Update from Around the Country; North Korean Dictator Emerges; China Hid Virus Severity to Hoard Supplies; Greece Easing Restrictions; UFC Sports Resume. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired May 4, 2020 - 06:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, the U.S. Senate returns to Washington with face masks and other restrictions optional. CNN has reporters across the country covering all the latest developments.



And after more than a month away, lawmakers expected to return to the U.S. Senate this week. The attending physician issuing now protocols for how everyone should conduct themselves amid coronavirus, including asking members and staff to wear face coverings, although they're not requiring it.

They're also asking members to limit the amount of staff in their offices and asking members to limit the amount of people on the Senate floor at one time. Everyone is encouraged to continue taking their temperatures and self-check themselves for any potential symptoms associated with coronavirus.

This all comes as some members have expressed a lot of concern about returning to Washington at a time when coronavirus is still very much a threat.


We are continuing to see confirmed coronavirus cases pop up at meat packing facilities across the country, including at a Tyson plant in Logansport, Indiana, where more than half of all employees tested positive. It's a story that is sending ripple effects throughout the food supply chain. Significantly affecting some portions.

Farmers, for example, can't sell to meat packing facilities if they're closed. And for consumers, Kroger, for example, is putting limits on some meat purchases tied to shopper demand.

And while we haven't seen the food supply chain breaking, we have seen it to be, in some cases, vulnerable. POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, I'm Polo Sandoval in

New York City, where neighboring New Jersey adding itself to the growing list of states that's slowly resuming operations. On Saturday, Governor Phil Murphy allowing state parks and golf courses to reopen to the public. Governor Murphy saying that he understands people are desperate to get some fresh air, but he also made very clear that these re-openings should not be seen as an open invitation for people to quickly return to normalcy and disregard that social distancing requirement.


Georgia began allowing malls to reopen last Friday, though some properties, including most Simon Malls in this state, waited until Monday to reopen. Some malls here are marking walkways in one direction only, recommending customers wear face masks and separating furniture to promote social distancing. Simon Malls even said they tested their HVAC system to show their indoor air quality is better than the outside air quality. Though malls can be open, many shops within mall properties have decided to stay closed for now.


BERMAN: We have to learn how to do this right.

All right, North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un seen in public after nearly a three-week absence, as questions grow about his health. That's next.



BERMAN: New questions this morning after North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un emerged in public for the first time in weeks following reports about a serious health battle. President Trump tweeted this. I, for one, am glad to see he is back and well.

Let's bring in former CIA Officer Jung H. Pak. Her new book, "Becoming Kim Jong-un: A Former CIA Officer's Insights into North Korea's Enigmatic Young Dictator" is out like last week. So it's great to have you here with us.

If we can put up this video so people can see it. You made a career out of analyzing pictures of Kim Jong-un doing things. What do you see in the video that has been released?

JUNG H. PAK, AUTHOR, "BECOMING KIM JONG-UN": I'm sorry, John, I -- I'm not able to see the video right now. But is it of the fertilizer plant (INAUDIBLE)?

BERMAN: Yes. Yes. Yes. The video -- I know you looked at it over the weekend.

PAK: Yes.

BERMAN: So, in the video that was released over the weekend, what did you see?

PAK: You know, the regime wants you to see what they want you to see. And what it looks like from the pictures that were released over the weekend is that things are normal. The regime didn't say anything about his absence. In fact, it would have been -- it would have drawn more attention to the fact that he was absent for three weeks if they had something anything about it.

But it seemed to be a very festive affair. He was normal. His -- he was accompanied by his sister, as usual. And so it seemed as if the North Korean regime was saying, you know, he's -- he's well and alive and things are back to normal, or have been normal.

BERMAN: Walking -- walking without the aid of a cane or anything. Smoking at one point. People, of course, make the -- make the claim or make the note that he's been a lifelong smoker, smokes many packs a day.

And, also, there were people around him with masks at some times and he wasn't wearing a mask. What do you make of that?

PAK: Yes. You know, when the North Koreans did artillery drills and ballistic missile tests back in March, Kim made a point of not wearing a mask. And I think that is part of the regime's efforts to show that coronavirus in North Korea is under control. They still say that they have zero infections.

But it's also to advance the idea and reinforce the idea that Kim is invincible and that he's not -- he's not prone to these types of diseases. And so there's an ideological component but also a messaging component in that North Korea says that it has zero infections.

BERMAN: So that tweet from President Trump over the weekend saying he was happy to see Kim alive and well or back and well is what he said.


This is interesting, right, given the history of the United States and North Korea. Perhaps not surprising given President Trump's history with Kim Jong-un. But what message does this send when Kim is still every bit the dictator he's always been?

PAK: You know, the two men have been focused on keeping at least their channels open. And, you know, I -- I suspect that president, President Trump, is glad that Kim Jong-un is back, although I thought the tweet was a little gratuitous in that, you know, we don't want to have an unstable North Korea or a prolonged absence by Kim because it could lead to some sort of instability in the region, not just inside North Korea, but -- but in the region as well.

And the last thing we want to have during a global pandemic is the -- is a problem of an unstable North Korea or a loose nukes situation in North Korea.

BERMAN: And the subject of instability, there was an exchange of fire over the border between North and South Korea. Now, Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, says he believes that it was accidental. Awfully coincidental timing to have something like this be accidental. But what do you see here?

PAK: Yes, it's -- it's something to watch. And it's -- it's, you know, things like this happen. But this is the first time since 2017 that the two Koreas have exchanged fire. You know, and this is -- and the fact is that as -- as -- as we speak now, the North Koreans have not yet responded to the phone calls along the military channel that the South Koreans are using to try to figure out what happened. And this is also, you know, against what the Panmunjom Declaration

back in 2018, when the two Koreas had their -- had their first summit in a decade. So -- so I find it odd that not North Koreans are not picking up a phone or trying to explain what's happening given the agreement that they have in place.

Also, you know, even though this might not have been an intentional issue, I would be worried about what kind of lesson North Korea, the regime, gleans from South Korea's response or the U.S. response.

BERMAN: All right, I want to finish where we began, with the pictures of Kim Jong-un out and about. You think -- the world seems to think these are genuine. Typically if they're released domestically in North Korea, there's reason to believe that they are real.

Does this disprove, though, or what does this tell us about what health situations he might have had over the last few weeks?

PAK: Right. You bring up an excellent point, there's no indication of his health status. He hasn't lost weight since we last saw him three weeks ago. He hasn't gained weight since we last saw him three weeks ago. So there's no way of telling what happened in the past three weeks.

The health issue is something that's going to linger regardless of whether, you know, his -- his appearance at the fertilizer plant. We know that he's -- he's obese and he doesn't do well, that the summits in the past two years have shown that he's not in -- in top shape.

BERMAN: Yes, and you can see, we're looking at pictures of him cutting a ribbon and moving. You know, the man does not move gracefully, not now. It doesn't look particularly well for a man of his age. But impossible to tell if that's changed over the last three weeks or not.

Jung Pak, thank you very much for being with us and helping us understand the situation we're in this morning. Appreciate it.

PAK: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, a new U.S. government report accuses China of concealing the severity of the virus outbreak and accuses them of hoarding medical supplies. We have a live report from China, next.


[06:47:35] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: A U.S. government intelligence report says China intentionally concealed the severity of the coronavirus outbreak while stockpiling medical supplies.

CNN's David Culver is live now in Shanghai with the very latest.

So what -- what are we hearing about this, David?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, Erica, so this is a Department of Homeland Security report that, according to a source familiar with it, tells CNN that essentially they're accusing the Chinese of having concealed the severity of this outbreak early on, even going back to January. And while doing so simultaneously started stockpiling some of the badly needed PPE, some of the medical gear. We're talking the gowns, the face masks, the goggles.

Now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked about this over the weekend. I want you to hear what he had to say.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We can confirm that the Chinese communist party did all that it could to make sure that the world didn't learn in a timely fashion about what was taking place. We -- there's lots of evidence of that. Some of it you can see in public.

This is classic communist disinformation effort that created enormous risk and now you can see hundreds of thousands of people around the world, tens of thousands in the United States have been harmed. President Trump is very clear, we're going to hold those responsible accountable and we'll do so on a timeline that is our own.


CULVER: The Chinese government is in the midst of a national holiday here, mayday. But we did put a request for their comments on this. Haven't yet heard back. However, in global times, state-run media, they are responding in a pretty strong editorial. I'm going to read you part of what they say with regards to Pompeo's remarks. They say, quote, since Pompeo said his claims are supported by enormous evidence, then he should present this so-called evidence to the world and especially to the American public when he continually tries to fool. Now, the truth is that Pompeo does not are have any evidence and during Sunday's interview he was bluffing.


HILL: Wow, strongly worded is right there.

When it comes to PPE and medical equipment, as we know, this was politicized early on. But early enough that it may have influenced the initial evacuation months ago from Wuhan where this all started. What more are you learning about that?

CULVER: All right, to go back to some of our early reporting in this, if you go to just after we left Wuhan, and shortly thereafter, the consulate, the American consulate, was shut down. Several other foreign governments did the same with their respective consulates. And what was happening was several governments were trying to evacuate their citizens, including the U.S. government.

However, after the first flight took off from Wuhan with American citizens, there were supposed to be four more flights, but there was a big delay between that first and that second one.


What was happening was between the U.S. and the Chinese governments there was a disagreement because the U.S. was flying in empty aircraft to pick up its citizens, while as other governments, such as South Korea and Japan, were bringing in aircraft full of supplies. So this was a big issue. And the Chinese were very upset and essentially said, you're going to hold off until we can get aircraft that have supplies coming in and then you can use those aircraft to take your citizens out.

So, yes, Erica and John, this was something that early on was politicized and medical supplies in particular was in dire need here. There's no question. However, now it's at a point where you perhaps could say it's been stockpiled and there is a surplus?

BERMAN: David Culver, on the ground doing the reporting, asking the questions, from the very beginning of this in China. Thanks so much for being with us this morning.

So new this morning, easing restrictions in Greece. This is a country that was early to impose a strict lockdown. In the coming weeks, small shops and schools will open with the goal of welcoming tourists back, they hope, this summer.

CNN's Nic Robertson live in Athens with the latest.

And, Nic, every country that begins to reopen, we watch here in the United States, wondering if there are lessons to be learned.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, I think everyone is looking everywhere, John, for those lessons. And there are remarkable lessons to be learned here. And one of those is that this country was early and fast to lockdown. You know, just to leave your house here yesterday to come out on the streets, you had to inform the government, text them a number of what you were going out on the street to do and get a response so you could show to the police if they stopped you what you were doing. So they put in these fast -- this fast, tight lockdown.

But the payback in terms of controlling the coronavirus has been incredible. They've had 145 deaths so far and about 2,600 people infected. That's total across the whole epicenter of this pandemic here, not just in a day or a week. So that's -- that -- that is quite staggering.

And I spoke to the prime minister yesterday and asked him, you know, if he thinks that they've done this right way. He said, look, we didn't get everything right, but we do think we got the first phase right. The next phase is what you're seeing now, which is a slow opening up. They do have concerns. They will be watching carefully and closely.

But another startle result of the prime minister's actions, and I've got to say here, this is a prime minister who replaced a populist prime minister. This new prime minister is very pragmatic. What we found when we went to the main Covid hospital here in Athens yesterday, there was not a single doctor or nurse infected in that hospital. One-fifth of their ICU beds are occupied. The others are empty. And what the doctor there told me was, the reason that they feel they had this successful and there were no doctors infected was because the government acted fast, but because they had the PPE equipment that was required.

I find this staggering, John. I don't know about you. Because everywhere else now we take it for granted that the front line medical workers are going to get infected and perhaps die in big numbers. That hasn't been the experience here in Greece.

BERMAN: Yes, one of the things that is so interesting to examine is country by country and, in some cases, state by state why there are such big differences in how this virus has affected people.

Nic Robertson, thank you so much for being there for us. Please keep us posted.

All right, stuck at sea. We will speak with a cruise ship performer who says she has not been able to get home for more than a month. Her story ahead.



BERMAN: An update this morning on when you might be able to get to see sports. Live sports at least on TV. UFC President Dana White says somebody's got to be the first, so why not him?

Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Andy.


Dana White, yes, is going to be holding UFC 249 in Jacksonville on Saturday. It's going to be the first live, professional sporting event in the U.S. since everything was shut down back in March. Now there will be no fans in the arena. And White telling CNN, he's taking every precaution possible.


DANA WHITE, PRESIDENT, UFC: Well, I believe that we can pull this off and do it safe. I don't think that you're going to see crowds back at live sports for a while.

Listen, we -- we have families, too. I have a family. I don't want to hurt my family. I don't want to die.

At what point, who's first? Who's going to be first and who's going to get out there and find out, you know? I'm flying down to Florida. I'm staying there for ten days. I'm sleeping in the hotel. I'm doing everything that everybody else is doing. We believe that we've got this as safe as we possibly can. And we're going to be first and we're going to do it.


SCHOLES: Now, UFC 249 was originally scheduled for last month but was rescheduled after ESPN and Disney executives told White to stand down on trying to hold it. So we will get UFC events back this weekend, John.

And the NFL is telling us that they plan on releasing the schedule for the upcoming season by the end of the week. And, for now, it's business as usual.


SCHOLES: A full slate of games for every single team. The openers still going to be September 10th with fans in the stands. The NFL saying they will adjust if need be.

BERMAN: Yes. You can put it on paper. On paper is one thing. We will see if it actually happens. You can keep the athletes safe, the vendors safe, it would be great to get to watch something on TV. More than that, a lot to hope for now, Andy.


BERMAN: Thanks so much.

NEW DAY continues right now.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: Our projections have always been between 100,000 and 240,000 American lives lost. And that's with full mitigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are still over 2,000 deaths per day in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to blow past the IHME latest estimate of 72,000 deaths on Tuesday.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are very confident we're going to have a vaccine by the end of the year.

[07:00:01] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governors in dozens of states are further loosening their stay-at-home regulations or letting them drop altogether.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I know people want to get out of their house. Fine.