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New Cases Rising in Some U.S. States, Falling in Others; Moscow Health Officials Hit Back at Underreporting Claims; U.S. Airlines Disagree on Face Mask Policies; Emirates to Resume Some Fights Starting May 21; Japanese Studies Reveal How Easily Virus Can Spread. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 15, 2020 - 04:30   ET



NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well as most of the United States takes steps to reopen, there are encouraging signs that at least some places are seeing declines in new infections. Those are the states in green. States in red are still seeing new cases climb. The others have not gone up or down.

For more on the reopening efforts, here's CNN's Erica Hill.


RICK BRIGHT, SENIOR ADVISER, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to improve our response now based on science, I fear the pandemic will get worse and be prolonged.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A stark warning for the ousted official once in charge of the nation's vaccine response as the country moves forward. In Orlando, the shops and restaurants at Universal's City Walk are now open so are beaches in Los Angeles county, but only for exercise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having gone down to Orange County a lot to get my fix so it's nice to be at home.

HILL: New Jersey's will be back by Memorial Day.

PHIL MURRAY, NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: The Jersey shore after all is where memories are made That's where memories are made.

HILL: The Mall of America, the country's largest, announcing plans to reopen June 1st. Grand Canyon will welcome visitors starting Friday. And Yellowstone National Park will allow limited access on Monday as more states show a decline in new cases. In the epicenter, COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions are also down.

BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK MAYOR: Three for three, a perfect day, New York City.

HILL: Since reopening three weeks ago, new cases in Georgia are down 12 percent. Colorado dropping 36 percent. In Pennsylvania, they've declined 14 percent as the voices pushing to reopen that state grow louder.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not sheep, we're people.

HILL: Packed bars in Wisconsin after the State Supreme Court ruled that the stay-at-home order there was unlawful and unenforceable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome back, America!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am more than happy to be back.

HILL: The governor warning the decision will set his state back.

TONY EVERS, WISCONSIN GOVERNOR: We cannot let the court's ruling undo all the work we have done and all the sacrifices Wisconsins have made over these past few months.

HILL: New findings from the National Institutes of Health show respiratory droplets could remain in the air for eight minutes raising concerns about how long the virus may linger.

At least 18 states and Washington, D.C., are now investigating possible cases of a rare but concerning inflammatory illness in school-aged children which may be linked to COVID-19. Most of the children impacted, more than 100, are in New York.

ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK GOVERNOR: The facts on this virus have changed, and I believe they will continue to change.

HILL: A reminder that as the country reopens, there is still much to learn.

BRIGHT: Without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history.

HILL (on camera): The CDC offering some new guidance late Thursday afternoon putting out decision trees. One-page documents to help employers decide whether they're ready to reopen. These address businesses including day cares, schools, summer camps and also what the public health risk may be. Important to note, this is not the guidance that we were expecting in a multi-page booklet from the CDC. This is separate. They also put out a health alert for doctors to be on the lookout for that inflammatory illness in children. Back to you.


ALLEN: Russia has the second largest number of coronavirus cases in the world but so far, its death toll has been very low. Now Moscow is pushing back against questions about the accuracy of the official numbers and says it has a perfectly good explanation for its calculations. Senior international correspondent Matthew Chance has more about it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across Russia it's become a common sight. Victims of this awful pandemic buried by masked figures in hazmat suits as the bereaved watch helplessly from a safe distance. But one of the most pressing questions has been why, with the second highest number of coronavirus infections in the world is the death toll in Russia been so low? Just a fraction of other badly affected states.

We now know one factor may be the way Russia counts its stead. Health authorities in Moscow, the epicenter of the outbreak, have now acknowledged as much, saying up to 60 percent of suspected coronavirus deaths have been listed as other causes like heart failure, stage four cancers, and other incurable diseases. Only deaths, directly linked by autopsy to coronavirus, it says, are registered as pandemic fatalities.


For months, critics have accused the Kremlin of a nationwide cover-up and of silencing attempts to expose the grim reality of the pandemic, especially by medical workers at the front line.

Doctors are contacting us from hospitals where people with the coronavirus are actually being sent, she says. But instead of honestly saying this, the authorities are calling them patients with pneumonia, and acute respiratory viral infections.

Recent data indicating sharp rises in April deaths has fueled suspicions. But health officials deny manipulating the numbers, the country's deputy prime minister offering a clinical explanation by video conference.

TATYANA GOLIKOVA, RUSSIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I would like to point out that a decrease in pneumonia among the affected, almost 9 fold between the onset of the illness to hospitalization, allowed us to have low mortality rates in Russia, which today are 7.4 times lower than the world's average.

CHANCE: Russian health officials say their methods are unlike other countries and described their numbers as exceptionally precise. A few doubts that it is at least partly true.


ALLEN: Well let's go now to senior international correspondent Matthew Chance who just gave us that report. He's live for us in London. And good morning to you, Matthew. As these questions swirled about cases and deaths, what effect is it having on Vladimir Putin? Certainly, he's seen some of his approval ratings not as good as they normally are.

CHANCE: Yes, I think we've seen approval ratings, which by Vladimir Putin's standards are way down on the usual levels. I mean, look, he's been taking something of a back seat when it comes to addressing the nationwide problem of the pandemic in Russia. People around him are being affected by the virus, of course, very acutely. Not least his main presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. A couple of days ago he was hospitalized with coronavirus. The Prime Minister has been hospitalized with the symptoms of the disease. And so have other ministers as well.

Vladimir Putin, we're told, himself is basically being shielded. He's working from his office outside of Moscow and his country house or Dacha, official resident outside there. And we're told that he's regularly tested. But clearly, with all of these people inside the Kremlin that are succumbing to the virus, there are lots of questions being asked about, you know, how really protected Vladimir Putin actually is -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. We'll continue to watch this story in Russia and just see how this might affect him further. Thank you, Matthew Chance for us, live in London.

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. And still to come --


PAUL GRIFFITHS, CEO, DUBAI AIRPORTS: What we've had to do is reconfigure the airports to conform to all the social distancing rules.


ALLEN: How the CEO of one of the world's busiest airports is preparing for a new kind of air travel.



ALLEN: In the U.S. airlines are disagreeing on how to enforce the facemask policies they adopted to prevent the virus from spreading hopefully on planes. This animation from Purdue University shows the spread of cough droplets which often carry the virus across the cabin. Look at that. But Southwest Airlines memo obtained by CNN says the carrier won't deny passengers from boarding if they don't wear facemasks. Let's get more on it from CNN's Pete Muntean.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: I'm Pete Muntean in Washington. And Southwest Airlines is departing from mask mandates while flying something all major airlines have started instituting over the last few weeks. Southwest policy went into effect last Friday. And it says to its flight attendants in a memo that I obtained that passengers will not be denied boarding if they refuse to wear a mask. That is something that is very different from policies of other airlines like American Airlines and JetBlue. Which explicitly state that passengers will not be allowed to board if they do not wear a mask. Southwest policy says, quote, we will not deny boarding based solely on a customer's refusal to wear face covering. We have reached out to Southwest Airlines. By the way, airlines are instituting these policies in the absence of a requirement from the federal government. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Well, globally Emirates Airline will be resuming some flights next week after it grounded most of its operations in March. That means the reopening of one of the world's busiest airports. 86 million travelers went through Dubai's airport last year, the busiest for international arrivals.

CNN's John Defterios has been speaking with Dubai airport's CEO about what passengers can expect there as travel resumes. And he joins me now from Abu Dhabi. Hello to you, John. Well why is the world watching Dubai so closely as it begins to open?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, I think it's because, Natalie, the biggest in terms of international arrivals gets put under the magnifying glass, if you will, or under the spotlight at least. But in this case, they do welcome it because they've tested for COVID-19 more than 10 percent of the population. So they want to use it as an example of if we test like this and we're rigorous, we want to re-establish our bilateral relations with countries for the airline links.

So they're starting in Europe, Canada and Australia, the main destinations on May 21 for Emirates Airlines that is. But they had 160 plus destinations before. So this is a slow process. And the user experience at the airport is going to be very different because of the safety concerns that everybody has. This is the CEO of Dubai airport, Paul Griffiths.


GRIFFITHS: What we've had to is reconfigure the airport to confirm to all the social distancing rules. So the check-in has been segregated. We've now got barriers separating people. We've got stickers on the floor to make sure that people don't breach the social distancing distances. And of course, we'll have our staff protected in masks and various hazmat accessories to make sure that they can direct people. Plexiglass screens in front of check-in desks and all the way through the entire airport process people will have to observe those social distances.

DEFTERIOS: You didn't mention on site testing. The false negative results are scaring people. It doesn't rebuild confidence. You're not confident in it?

GRIFFITHS: Well, I think the thing is there are two problems with it. The false negatives and the reliability of it. And also the time it takes and whether it's scalable. The difficulty is you might be able to operate some form of preflight testing using the current techniques with a limited number of passengers. But if each of those passengers needs to wait ten minutes before the result is there, again that's a limit on their capacity.


I think there are techniques being developed which will take preflight testing to a much, much quicker result. Now if we get that and it's not so intrusive that actually might be quite a good way to go.


DEFTERIOS: Testing is a good idea but it has to be faster and more reliable, Natalie, kind of a global standard. Also, Griffiths said something I thought was interesting, he likes this idea to push ahead in the industry with an immunity passport. But again, it has to be verified and perhaps IATA, the trade body, could be the one that kind of backs this process going forward.

And most fascinating and most challenging for the airline industry itself, he was suggesting you can't live off of 30 to 50 percent capacity for a long period of time. So they're going gingerly now but they have to do it in a measured way. But if you keep that sort of capacity, the costs for airline travel is going to be extraordinary. Two times to four times the tickets you have now, Natalie. I would think more than twice about buying a plane ticket if the costs is going to go up that much over the next year.

ALLEN: That's true. And how many people will be flying mainly just because they have to and how many because they just want to go somewhere. Well that's another interesting aspect to watch.

Well it is the world's busiest airport for international arrivals as we mentioned, but how does that feed into the economy there, John.

DEFTERIOS: Well, I think this hub and spoke system that Dubai has perfected, I think, over the last three decades is, again, a really strategic way of doing it. It's Singapore but almost on steroids if you will. Because the population of Dubai is about 3 million, just under that, but they handle all of these different passengers -- some 90 million in the peak there in 2018 for the country.

So it represents 1/3 of GDP being the travel hub. It feeds into tourism as a destination here. It feeds into exhibitions and also business conferences. Very importantly, as a finance hub as well. And it's always had this reputation as a trade hub. As the minister of the economy told me recently, we have to be globalized. We don't survive as an economy without being open. And this is a completely different experiment under COVID-19. And why, Natalie, I think they're trying to push the envelope here saying we'll do it safely but we want to start reopening and rebuild confidence and those destinations I was talking about.

ALLEN: We appreciate it. Very interesting stuff. John Defterios in Abu Dhabi. Thanks, John, good to see you.


ALLEN: Next here, a black light experiment shows how fast the virus can spread, especially inside restaurants. That's next.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ALLEN: Republican Senator Richard Burr has resigned as chairman of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee saying he didn't want the investigation into his stock sales to be a distraction. A senior Justice Department official confirms Burr turned his phone over to the FBI after the highest levels of the Justice Department signed off on a search warrant. Burr sold up to $1.7 million in stocks in February around the time he received classified briefings on coronavirus and before the markets began to slide. The Senator said he was using publicly available data to make his decisions.

Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia also faces scrutiny selling stock along with her husband. And Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein's office confirms the FBI contacted her about stock sales her husband made earlier this year.

Two new Japanese studies are revealing some unnerving ways the coronavirus can spread. A video released from one of the studies shows how infectious the virus can be through droplets in the air or on surfaces. CNN's Brian Todd shows us.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A disturbing altered reality demonstration of how coronavirus spreads. Medical experts teamed up with Japan's public broadcaster, NHK, to gather 10 participants. The setting a simulation of buffet style eating in a cruise ships dining area or restaurant.

The first participant rubs his hands with a special florescent liquid only visible under black light. He's simulating an infected person who coughed into his hands. Nine other people join him, put food on to their plates and proceed with a communal meal. After 30 minutes the room goes dark. Ultraviolet light shows that florescent liquid the man had rubbed on his hands is now on several surfaces, pictures, tongs. His residue had spread to silverware, glass wear. Three people had gotten it on their faces.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Even some basic rules of dining like buffet style eating, we might have to consider that and go back to individual servings.

TODD: After one round, the team in Japan did a second, cleaner version of the same experiment. Had people wash hands, separated dishes, replaced utensils more frequently. After 30 minutes of that test no one had picked up the residue.

DR. MARK RUPP, CHIEF, INFECTIOUS DISEASE, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER: If that initial event where that person had the contamination in their hand had used hand hygiene prior to touching that utensil, that would have prevented the whole line from becoming contaminated.

TODD: Another new study shows how this invisible enemy strikes when we talk to each other. Researchers at NIH and the University of Pennsylvania found that one person talking loudly for one minute in a confined space could generate at least a 1,000 droplets. Into a dark box lit with lasers a researcher speaks for 25 seconds repeating one phrase.


TODD: Inside the box thousands of droplets can be seen here as streaks in the air. Stirred by a fan which is then turned off. The clock up top shows how slowly the droplets dissipate. Some linger for more than 12 minutes. Those researchers say in real life that's plenty of time for infected particles to be inhaled by others and cause new infections.

HOTEZ: You're in a loud restaurant, there's a fair bit of noise, people are speaking loudly.


There's going to be lots of micro droplets of this virus in the atmosphere.

TODD: One expert says both of these studies show that for the foreseeable future we'll have to build safeguards everywhere to ward off this unseen threat.

RUPP: Whether that's a flashing light, or a piece of tape on the floor, or a crossbar that comes down, or what have you, you know, some sort of a reminder for somebody to say, you can't do this until you've practiced hand hygiene. You can't come into this establishment unless you have a mask in place.

TODD (on camera): Dr. Mark Rupp says these studies are also a reminder of how easy it is for all of us to have that momentary lapse in judgment. That instant we're you haven't washed your hands before interacting with others or you're not wearing a mask. And he says they show just how dangerous that lapse in judgment can be because the virus will exploit that in seconds.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


ALLEN: Initial and three-star restaurant has a unique idea about how its customers can socially distance. Check it out. When it reopens in two weeks, diners at the inn at Little Washington -- that's the name -- in Virginia will break bread alongside mannequins dressed in 1940s era costumes. Seatings for the humans will be capped at 50 percent capacity. The mannequins are not expected to complain about anything or wear masks. Yes, we'll see how that goes over. Interesting.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen. The news continues after a break.