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White House Predicts Vaccine This Year, Experts Skeptical; Restrictions Eased In Parts Of New York, Maryland, Virginia, 48 States To Phase In Reopen Plans By Monday; United Kingdom Scientist Working On Unconventional Vaccine; Germany And Austria Reopen Some Border Crossings; Washington, D.C., To Stay Home Through June 8; McDonald's Details Safety Measures For Reopening Dining Rooms; Aging Veterans Losing Battle With COVID-19; Second Brazilian Health Minister Out. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired May 16, 2020 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): U.S. president Donald Trump unveils his plan to develop the coronavirus vaccine but says the country will be back with or without one.
This, as most U.S. states begin taking steps to lift lockdowns but it is a mixed picture as new cases appear to rise in some states but decrease in others. We'll talk about that.
Also in a bid to save Europe's summer, the European Union is allowing some regions to open their borders as infection rates slow.
We've got much ahead this hour. Live from CNN headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
ALLEN: 5:00 a.m. here on the East Coast. We appreciate you joining us.
Our top story, the coronavirus has infected now more than 4.5 million people around the world, a figure that keeps rising daily. While over 300,000 have died, with so many of those cases in the United States, it makes sense that the Trump White House is spearheading an effort to get a vaccine as soon as possible.
But the president isn't waiting for a cure. He wants the U.S. to reopen now. Millions of Americans are laid off and need to work. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a $3 trillion economic relief package. But Senate passage is doubtful.
And although the rate of infection has slowed in many parts of the country, U.S. disease officials expect more than 10,000 additional deaths in the United States by the end of this month. CNN's Kaitlan Collins has the latest from the White House.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Unveiling his vaccine effort in the Rose Garden today, President Trump said the country would return to normal with or without one.
TRUMP: I just want to make something clear. It's very important. Vaccine or no vaccine, we're back. And we're starting the process.
COLLINS: Asked what he meant by that, the president offered this explanation:
TRUMP: We think we're going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future. And if we do, we're going to really be a big step ahead. And if we don't, we're going to be like so many other cases where you had a problem come in, it'll go away. At some point, it'll go away.
COLLINS: The president was formally announcing the leaders of Operation Warp Speed, his administration's effort to develop and distribute a vaccine.
GOV. GUSTAVE PERNA, U.S. ARMY MATERIEL COMMAND: It is going to be a Herculean task.
COLLINS: But, at one point, the president seemed to downplay how critical a vaccine would be.
Though many health experts have viewed an effective vaccine as the only way life can truly return to normal, the president made clear he doesn't agree.
TRUMP: No, it's not solely vaccine-based. Other things have never had a vaccine and they go away.
COLLINS: He also repeated his hope that a vaccine can be ready by the end of the year.
Some health experts have said that's unrealistic. And, yesterday, the administration's former vaccine chief, Rick Bright, who was pushed out of his job, said he's doubtful it could happen soon.
DR. RICK BRIGHT, FORMER DIRECTOR, BIOMEDICAL ADVANCED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: I still think 12 to 18 months is an aggressive schedule.
And I think it's going to take longer than that to do so.
COLLINS: The president said he's hopeful a full vaccine will be ready by the end of the year and available to the general public, not just for emergency use.
(on camera): Do you mean a fully approved vaccine for everyone, the full public, or a partially approved vaccine with emergency use?
TRUMP: No, we're looking for a full vaccine for everyone that wants to get it. Not everybody's going to want to get it. But we're looking at a full vaccine. COLLINS (voice-over): Nearly all of the guests in the Rose Garden today were wearing masks, but on stage some of the president's top officials were and some weren't, including the president.
TRUMP: I told them. I gave them the option they could wear it or not. So you can blame it on me.
COLLINS: Sources say Trump and his aides have questioned whether the coronavirus death toll is being overcounted. Today, the president said he assumes the numbers are correct.
(on camera): Do you think that's accurate, or do you think it's higher than that?
TRUMP: I don't -- or lower than that. I don't know. I don't know. Those are the numbers that are being reported. I assume they are correct.
COLLINS: You may have noticed the vice president was not in the Rose Garden today with the president. That is because he has been keeping his distance from Trump this week after one of his top aides tested positive for coronavirus. He has been on White House grounds.
COLLINS: But instead of being in the West Wing, in attending these meetings or those events in the Rose Garden, he has instead remained in the executive office building, next door, which aides say is just out of an abundance of caution -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.
ALLEN: The United States tops the list for the most coronavirus cases in the world. State and local governments took the lead on lockdowns to fight the virus. Now as CNN's Erica Hill shows us, even without a vaccine or a nationally coordinated plan, most states are opening up again.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A nationwide experiment, shifting into high gear.
A nationwide experiment shifting into high gear.
JEAN-FRANCOIS FLECHET, OWNER, TASTE OF BELGIUM: The one thing that we know is that tomorrow will be different than today. That's the only certainty we have.
HILL (voice-over): Restaurants in Ohio and Virginia can now offer table service outside. Florida's hardest-hit counties, Miami-Dade and Broward will begin seating customers on Monday. In Maryland, barbershops, salons and churches can reopen at half capacity. Casinos are back in Louisiana as stores large and small adapt.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am excited. But it's -- you know, like I said, it's just nerve-wracking.
HILL (voice-over): Consumer spending, the lifeblood of the American economy, has taken a massive hit. Retail sales plunging more than 16 percent in April. The largest drop in nearly 30 years.
NICOLE FORD, PITTSBURGH BUSINESS OWNER: I'm sinking. The cavalry never showed up as promised. It's either open or close my doors for good.
HILL (voice-over): The number of new cases is trending lower. In 28 states, including Colorado, Georgia and Oklahoma, which started lifting restrictions weeks ago. New cases each day in Texas, however, are 20 to 30 percent higher than they were when stay-at-home orders were relaxed on May 1st. So, what do those numbers tell us about the impact of reopening?
DR. JENNIFER LEE, EMERGENCY MEDICINE ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: These numbers that we're looking at are not real time. What we're seeing is actually a reflection of what's probably the virus was doing a week or two weeks ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open your business now!
HILL (voice-over): Protests continue in Michigan where the stay-at- home order was extended through May 28th.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): When people are showing up with guns, when people are showing up with things like, you know, confederate flags, it tells you that this really isn't about the lockdown or about a perception of a stay-at-home order. It's really an organized political statement.
HILL (voice-over): Resistance is also brewing in North Carolina, where some restrictions were lifted last week, though not for large gatherings, including religious services.
SHERIFF STEVE BIZZELL, JONSTON COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: How long is this going to last? They didn't build sanctuaries to sit in their cars in the parking lot and look at.
HILL (voice-over): Several regions in New York state moving into phase I of reopening on Friday. Still, the stay-at-home order extended for the most populated areas including New York City until May 28th. Though there is some relief in sight. Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing a multistate plan to reopen beaches in time for Memorial Day.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): What one state does will affect other states. That is probably nowhere more clear than when it comes to opening beaches. One state doesn't open beaches, another state does open beaches, you will see people flood to that state.
HILL (voice-over): New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware all part of that effort, but not New York City.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), NEW YORK CITY: We would all love to be able to go to the beach with the hot weather. That's something that we're just not ready for. We're -- we're going to look at it, constantly. We're going to be in close touch with the state. And the day may come but we're not there yet.
HILL: One of the reasons Mayor de Blasio says this city is not ready to open its beaches involves transportation. Getting there would require most people to get on a bus or on the subway, which the mayor has said, very clearly, is nonessential travel.
And he just doesn't want people doing it. There is a lot of concern, too, about the weather. In New York City this weekend, it is supposed to be beautiful. The mayor saying they will be limiting capacity at some of the parks around the city to make sure people are safe. Back to you.
ALLEN: Mark Jit is a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He joins me now.
Good morning, Professor.
MARK JIT, PROFESSOR, LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE AND TROPICAL MEDICINE: Good morning.
ALLEN: How does this sound to you?
Almost all U.S. states are reopening and each state has its own rules and guidelines. We see the trepidation from some people and businesses. But so many feel they have to take the risk to get their economy back going.
But how careful should these states proceed?
JIT: Well, I think if the states start to open, that must mean that the -- first of all, two things should be happening.
One is that they are -- the infective reproduction number must be under 1, which means under the physical distancing restrictions, there isn't a lot of transmission going on.
But second, we have to make sure that the number of new cases isn't too large. Because once the states start to open, we know that the R number will go up. It will go above 1 and cases will increase.
So what can save us, if cases are already very low, that we get some time before they rise up again in a large enough number that we have to lock down again.
JIT: In a sense, if the cases are low enough, that gives us a bit of breathing space to go back to some semblance of normal life. But we have to be very careful at that time. It can't be a free for all, we can't have people packing into stadiums or clubs.
We still have to have some restrictions so that the time between the lockdowns and the tight physical distancing measures is as far apart as possible. ALLEN: The city is predicting the that the U.S. could see 100,000
deaths by June 1. It has 87,000 now. However, according to Johns Hopkins, the number of cases is going down in more than half of U.S. states; Texas is the exception.
Does that sound hopeful to you or is this just the calm before the storm?
JIT: I think that is hopeful. But there's a few caveats there. First of all, what this is reflecting is that the measures are working. These states that have had lockdowns, have had shelter in place, they have managed to bring the R, the reproduction number, below 1.
What we're seeing actually is probably what was happening a week or two ago. That's because, when someone gets infected, it takes some time before they actually show symptoms and become a case. So we don't have such a good picture of what's happening now. We're probably seeing more of what's happening when the restrictions were tighter.
ALLEN: Well, a top vaccine expert testified before Congress this week that this winter could be extremely dark, indicating a potentially dangerous second wave. However, President Trump announced on Friday, a sped-up way to produce what they hoped would be a few hundred doses of vaccine by year's end.
Where do you place the likelihood of that?
JIT: Well, first of all, I would say the vaccine is absolutely essential if we're going to ever go back to anything close to normal life. So I think we do need to put a lot of effort into developing a vaccine as fast as possible.
Having said that, the normal timetable for developing a vaccine is more than 10 years. We know a huge amount of effort has been put into COVID-19 vaccines. People around the world are trying to accelerate the process as much as possible.
But one of the things that cannot be sped up is we don't know that the leading candidates will be successful. Succeed rates for vaccines is well below 50 percent, that a trial would ever be licensed.
So if the leading contenders are successful, we might see a vaccine, say, in one or two years' time. But if not, it might take longer. So I would say absolutely we need the vaccine as soon as possible but it will take some time.
ALLEN: What are the risks of a fast-track vaccine that, say something gets approved, developed, distributed and ends up not working?
JIT: Well, before the vaccine can be approved, it has to undergo clinical trials. And that is something that won't change, even as we accelerate it. We could have a vaccine that's approved for emergency use in certain situations.
But even then, the vaccine must have shown that it is likely to work in human beings. So before this vaccine will be used in a population, it still has to undergo trials, even though the trials will be accelerated. And perhaps production will start even before we know what the result of the trial so it can be ramped up quickly.
ALLEN: Professor Mark Jit, we appreciate you coming on.
JIT: Great to talk to you.
ALLEN: The British prime minister recently started loosening coronavirus restrictions. But a key plan doesn't seem to be going on. We'll have that after the break.
Plus, a hope for sign of progress as border crossings between Germany and Austria reopen.
ALLEN: Italy has begun slowly reopening after more than two months under lockdown and on Monday, many Italian museums will once again throw open their doors to the public. They'll have to allow space for visitors to maintain social distancing.
But not all are unlocking their doors. The Vatican museums have not announced when they will reopen. And the world famous Uffizi gallery says it will likely wait another week.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to reopen the U.K. economy may have hit a snag because of a key piece of data called R or the reproduction number, my guest was just referring to that a few moments ago.
It represents the average number of people who develop COVID-19 after coming in contact with an infected person. On Wednesday, Mr. Johnson said it was between 0.5 and 0.9.
But on Friday, a government advisory group said the R number had gone up across Britain and is now between the 0.7 and 1.0. An R rate higher than 1 indicates the disease is spreading. Let's get more from international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joining me now.
How much of a concern, is this, Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It is a big concern. It directly impacts the government's try to get the economy up and running. And the R factor is something governments always point to so they can move ahead and phase out the lockdowns.
So this is a critical moment for the government. But the figures, according to the deputy chief medical officer yesterday, the R figure is not the only basis for the government's calculation. The R number is arrived at by a number of different government advisory bodies. [05:20:00]
ROBERTSON: And it takes into account many different factors. But it has been critical to the government's calculation of what it can do because different things, potentially, raise the R number in different ways.
Like children going back to school or people taking the London Underground, which has been very crowded and a lot of criticism of the way that's being used. So all of these different issues factor into that R number.
Another issue that faces the government around the R number right now is there's a very high infection rate. The highest infection rate in the country is in the north of the country. And it's understood that the R number in London might be lower than the north of the country.
So does the government need to change its response about return to work in London versus return to work in the north of the country?
These are complicated issues because the north is less populated. It doesn't have these overcrowded travel networks that London, you know, faces as a potential problem with spreading the disease. So it's not quite as simple as it's approaching one.
But it does make the government's job much, much more complex in trying to move forward -- and (INAUDIBLE) statistically, that means the nation is going to generate more cases of COVID-19.
ALLEN: You mentioned the question of schools reopening.
Where is the country in that decision?
ROBERTSON: You know, the opening of the schools is supposed June the 1st, just for the -- in primary education and the reception classes, the youngest classes in year six as well. There's been pushback from the teachers' union. They are pointing to models of return to education in Denmark and France, where it's been done on a regional basis.
In areas where there's lower COVID-19 infection, those are the schools that have reopened. And what the teaching unions are telling the government at the moment, as they met with -- the teaching unions met with some of the government's scientific advisers yesterday, is that they want to go back to schools.
They're on board with that. But it needs to be done in a safe and structured way. And they don't feel that's where they're at, at the moment. They do understand there's risk in any profession going back to work. But they don't feel it's been provided in enough detail and clarity by the government for the teachers just yet.
ALLEN: So many people want to get back to normal. Not so easy right now. International diplomatic editor Nic Robertson in London, Nic, thank you. The pandemic that forced many European countries to close their
borders, now Germany and Austria are beginning to open several crossings. CNN's Fred Pleitgen explains how some of the move might jump-start the tourism industry.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The weather rainy and dreary, but the mood of a motorists could have been better, as several border crossings between Germany and Austria have been reopened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It took time --
PLEITGEN: It's so important, this woman says. These two villages belong together. We live in this one, but we always go shopping on the other side of the border.
Austria and Germany plan to entirely reopen their border by June 15th. Part of a larger European effort to bring the free movement of people back and revive the comatose tourism industry. All while ensuring there isn't another outbreak.
In the near future we plan to open even more border crossings. The spokesman for the Austrian police says. However, all of this has to be in line with our hygiene laws. And of course, we also appeal to people's own sense of responsibility.
Just a few minutes from the border lies the majestic Salzburg. The birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salzburg is normally a magnet for tourists with people coming not just from all across Europe but from the entire world.
Now of course, all of that came to an abrupt standstill when the pandemic hit. But now at least there's a glimmer of hope that some visitors could return in the not too distant future.
For Hannes Bachmann, owner of the famous Braugasthof Krimpelstatter, the future starts now. With restaurants allowed to open since Friday, Bachmann says he's optimistic business will recover.
HANNES BACHMANN, OWNER, AUGUSTINER BRAUGASTHOF KIMPELSTATTER: The people need, optimistic need, loving need social life and that's what I told them and I keep them and --
PLEIGTEN: But hotels like the hotel Zur Blauen Gans will have to wait longer until May 29th. And owner, Andreas Gfrerer says he knows the comeback will be tough.
ANDREAS GFRERER, OWNER, ZUR BLAUEN GANS: A hotel when it opens need some market and we don't have the markets yet. We don't have the markets
from abroad, from America and so on.
[05:25:00] GFRERER: but we don't even have the market next to us, especially Germany.
PLEITGEN: The Salzburg region has seen a tourism boom in recent years. The region's tourism representative says getting visitors back is vital.
LEO BAUMBERGER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, SALZBURGER LAND: We are expecting a loss of revenue for about 25 percent for the whole year, so it's massive. And of course, we are looking forward to restart again.
PLEITGEN: Germany and Austria have both said they're keen to revive travel and tourism between the two countries but it all depends on whether they can continue to beat back the pandemic -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Austria.
ALLEN: U.S. lawmakers just passed another multitrillion dollar relief package. Next here, though, why it's doomed to fail even as people in one of Washington, D.C.'s, wealthiest suburbs wait in line for food.
Also this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A male with pre-existing condition. That's me and every Vietnam veteran I know, practically.
ALLEN (voice-over): A tragic situation facing many American war veterans as they battle an enemy, COVID-19.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world, I'm Natalie Allen. This is CNN NEWSROOM.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the largest relief package in the country's history but it's now going to the Republican- controlled Senate, where it seems doomed to fail. Here's some of what's in it.
ALLEN: It includes $500 billion in aid to struggling state governments, another round of direct payments to individuals and families to help stimulate the economy and hazard pay for health care workers and others on the front line of the pandemic. But the numbers that you see there tell the story. The vote was
largely along party lines. Virtually all Republicans voted against it. Trump administration officials had said they don't believe a new economic stimulus package is needed right now.
What Mr. Trump has insisted is needed is for the country to reopen. But that hasn't happened yet in the nation's capital. By the federal government's own guidelines, it is too soon to lift restrictions in Washington. CNN's Tom Foreman has more about it.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you want a sense of how much this pandemic is affecting life right here in the nation's capital region, take a look at this, this a line of car stretching for nearly a mile, waiting for a free food giveaway in Montgomery County, Maryland, a D.C. suburb.
This is one of the wealthiest counties in the country. And that is how much people are struggling with the economic shutdown. So authorities in Maryland, on the northern side of D.C., and in Virginia, on the southern side, they would all like to get their economies started again.
And Maryland has taken some steps that way. They've now announced they're going to allow some businesses to open up a little bit; some houses of worship, to have people come inside with social distancing, with limited crowds to some degree.
On the Virginia side, a little more open there, more business types being open, including hair salons, barber shops, restaurants that have outdoor seating as well, churches as well, that sort of thing.
So in both cases, you see the states trying to open a little bit. But closer into D.C. proper, that's a different story. Both Virginia and Maryland, they're suburbs that run up next to D.C., they remain virtually locked down because D.C., remains virtually locked down. The mayor there saying she is just not ready to open up yet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER, WASHINGTON, D.C.: We have been looking to the public health experts for metrics that suggest we're ready for safe and phased reopening. And all of those metrics point to a period of sustained decreases in community transmission. And we think we're on the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Really what she's talking about here are the guidelines that the White House itself pushed early on. You should have two weeks of positive numbers before you start talking about opening up.
And as long as D.C. stays that way, probably these suburbs in Maryland and Virginia will, too. So as much as the president wants to see America opening up, he's not going to see it outside of his windows anytime soon.
ALLEN: We are seeing restaurants open up around the country. And the fast food giant McDonald's is preparing to welcome customers back to its dining rooms. But as CNN's Brian Todd reports, the Golden Arches were never like this before.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): McDonald's is planning to reopen its restaurants for people to dine in, a bold step for America's oldest fast food icon. The McDonald's experience may never look the same again.
Some tables will be closed. A table will be sanitized after each customer's use, the bathrooms cleaned every 30 minutes. And you won't be able to tap your drink from those famous self-serve beverage fountains with the free refills. An employee will pour it for you. Experts say these days, even that simple tap and pour fountain is a risk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're stepping over people, you're jockeying in line, that's a problem. Also, any area where you're going to have multiple people touching something is problematic.
TODD (voice-over): The McDonald's reopening playbook, a nearly 60-page document obtained by CNN, also says employees have to wash their hands every hour. Touch screen pay kiosks have to be cleaned after each use. Other restaurants opening for dining in are taking additional creative measures, like the Federal American Grill in Houston.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disposable menus, masks, gloves, we have different colored linens on our table. So if it has a black linen on it right now, we're not seating at. If it has a white linen, we're seating it.
TODD (voice-over): McDonald's internal guidelines, first reported by "The Wall Street Journal," don't say that every McDonald's restaurant has to reopen for dining-in services right away. Each franchise operator gets to make that call as they weigh the reopening guidelines of their local governments.
But public health experts say all restaurants in America getting ready to throw open their doors have to think about even more stepped-up measures, like what one expert says restaurants he went to in Hong Kong did recently, where servers gave how-to instructions for customers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time I went in a restaurant, they would take my temperature for me. When I sat down, they would explain, here's the knife, fork an spoon that's used to pick up the food; this is the separate knife, fork and spoon that's going to be used to put the food in your mouth. TODD (voice-over): Even with all the safety measures McDonald's is taking, some health experts are not comfortable with the reopenings at this stage of the pandemic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know that transmission is spread through small droplets and so it makes it very difficult to be bringing people in to small, enclosed spaces like a McDonald's restaurant and to say to people, it's OK to take your mask off and talk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who's going to enforce this?
How do you enforce that employees adhere to this?
How do you make sure that they are, indeed, sanitizing surfaces, tabletops and bathrooms as often as outlined in this plan?
TODD: And then there's the matter of McDonald's employees having to enforce healthy behavior on the part of customers. The McDonald's playbook instructs employees how to gently tell customers to distance and stay clean.
But that can be dangerous. Recently, a woman in Oklahoma was arrested on suspicion of shooting a McDonald's employee when she was asked to leave the restaurant because of coronavirus restrictions -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
ALLEN: Americans will soon celebrate Memorial Day, a time to honor those who served the country in uniform. But many of those older warriors are losing the battle with this virus. CNN's Jake Tapper has our report.
JOHN ROWAN, NATIONAL PRESIDENT, VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA: I felt like I had a target on my back.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): It's a terrifying new reality many veterans are facing, surviving in a pandemic world.
ROWAN: Elder male with preexisting conditions. It's me and every Vietnam veteran I know, practically.
TAPPER: And it's a growing fear in the community, especially after the Department of Veterans Affairs released disturbing new numbers, at least 985 patients known to have died with COVID-19 receiving some form of care from the VA health care system that serves six million people; 985, that's more than most states.
DR. LINDA SCHWARTZ, FORMER VA ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR POLICY AND PLANNING: Like everyone else, it was a little behind the curve.
TAPPER: Outside of the federal system, deaths at many state-run veterans homes have skyrocketed.
ROWAN: This disease, once it got into these nursing homes and these veterans home, before anybody knew it, it was running rampant.
TAPPER: Veterans advocacy groups have had questions for the VA on any number of topics, including its use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus and whether it did sufficient outreach to veterans who were particularly vulnerable.
Perhaps most importantly, however, is the question of oversight of state-run facilities. According to a report from the Vietnam Veterans of America, more than 550 residents in veterans homes across the country have died from this virus.
And not all states are reporting. And families of those residents have been forced to face unfathomable and painful realities, as their loved ones fight for their lives, sometimes remaining in the dark as they wait to hear if their family member is still alive, as in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where more than 70 residents have died from COVID-19.
SUSAN KENNEY, DAUGHTER OF CORONAVIRUS VICTIM: I took a grease crayon and I wrote on my car: "Is my father alive? Shame on you, Soldiers' Home."
TAPPER: And in New Jersey at Paramus, where 72 residents of one veterans own passed away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They gave us only 15 minutes at the cemetery.
TAPPER: But despite the VA partially funding and overseeing these state-run homes, Secretary Robert Wilkie is bucking the blame, instead pointing the finger at local governments.
ROBERT WILKIE, U.S. SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: We take complaints when we hear complaints. We cannot impose our will on those state venues.
TAPPER: The VA press secretary tells CNN that federal law states that the VA, quote, "shall have no authority over the management or control of any state veterans home" and that individual states, not the federal government, quote, "are solely responsible for the operation and management of state-run veterans homes and any problems that arise within them."
But the law also states Secretary Wilkie can inspect any veterans home whenever he wants. And former VA Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning Linda Schwartz says Wilkie can create and enforce guidelines to hold these homes accountable.
SCHWARTZ: They have the authority to make changes. And they have in the past.
TAPPER: And she would know. She was the Connecticut veterans commissioner for 11 years and managed all state-run homes there, directly dealing with federal VA oversight.
And she says urgent action needs to be taken.
SCHWARTZ: There is a real need to do an analysis of what's going on here and what are the needs of the population. And it can't be something that takes years. It has to be now. Taking care of veterans is a great honor and a great responsibility.
TAPPER: And as we approach Memorial Day in the middle of this pandemic, it will also be a moment for the nation to pause to reflect on the lives of veterans lost.
TAPPER (voice-over): And what more might have been done to prevent it.
SCHWARTZ: It's sad to think how many we will be mourning this year who died because of a virus and not on the battlefield. But, in a way -- in a way, the battlefield is in the streets of America today.
TAPPER: Jake Tapper, CNN, Washington.
ALLEN: Next here, we'll get the view from Russia, as the coronavirus rips across that country. Thousands of new cases have just been reported. We'll get the latest from CNN's Moscow bureau chief, right after this.
ALLEN: President Trump has fired another watchdog, whose job is to hold government officials accountable. Steve Linick has been a U.S. State Department inspector general since 2013. Mr. Trump didn't spell out why Linick was being sacked.
But there's word from Capitol Hill Linick had opened an investigation into U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo. A Democratic aide said it concerns possible misuse of a political appointee to perform personal tasks for Pompeo and his wife.
Brazil's health minister is stepping down at what looks like the worst possible time. The country reported its daily COVID-19 case record the same day. He thanked president Jair Bolsonaro for the opportunity but didn't say why he was leaving. Shasta Darlington takes a look.
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brazil has lost its second health minister in a month. Nelson Teich stepped down on Friday after clashing with president Jair Bolsonaro over how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
His resignation came with the number of cases rising by a record 15,305 in one day.
[05:45:00] DARLINGTON: The death toll by rose by more than 800. At a short press conference on Friday afternoon, Teich thanked his colleagues and health professionals but didn't give a reason for his sudden departure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NELSON TEICH, FORMER BRAZILIAN HEALTH MINISTER (through translator): Life is made of choices and today I choose to leave. I tell you that I did my best in those days that I was here in that period.
It is not a simple thing to be in charge of a ministry like this in such a difficult period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DARLINGTON: Teich also thanked Bolsonaro for the opportunity. But in recent days the two have clashed, as Bolsonaro pushed to expand the use of anti malaria drugs to treat COVID-19 and opposed quarantine measures, arguing that unemployment and hunger will kill more people than the virus itself.
Teich was appointed just a month ago on April 17th after his previous minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, was fired, also after repeatedly clashing with Bolsonaro.
Brazil has seen Latin America's worst outbreak of coronavirus. Officials say it is far from peaking. Now a new health minister is expected to be announced in coming days -- Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paolo.
ALLEN: Coming up here, in the U.S., summer means it's time for camps.
But with the coronavirus is that possible this year?
We take a look.
ALLEN: In Russia, coronavirus is spreading fast in the country's 11 time zones. On Saturday alone, the country reported more than 9,000 new cases. Let's get perspective from CNN's Moscow Bureau chief, Nathan Hodge, who joins me now from London with the latest.
Good morning, Nathan.
NATHAN HODGE, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, Natalie, as Russia has passed a very grim milestone this week, the second highest number of cases in the world. It's the country behind the United States, that now has the highest number of confirmed cases of the death rate from coronavirus (INAUDIBLE) with statistics compared to other countries seems relatively low.
And observers inside of Russia and outside of Russia have been asking questions, compared, say, for instance, to the United Kingdom, which has seen over 30,000 deaths. And Russia has seen just 2,500 deaths to coronavirus.
And according to health authorities, in 65 percent of suspect coronavirus deaths, following an autopsy, they're attributing these suspected cases to other causes of death. That could be heart attack. It could be renal failure. It could be stage four cancer.
ALLEN: All right. We're sorry, we've lost Nathan there. We'll move on for now.
Many kids look forward to summer sleep-away camps. What's not to love about camp? But this year, many kids and their parents in the U.S. are wondering if it will even be possible. CNN's Laura Jarrett has our story.
LAUREN RUTKOWSKI, OWNER-DIRECTOR, CAMP IHC: Outdoors and socializing is the medicine that everybody needs.
We know how advantageous the camp experience is in every domain, psychologically, physically, emotionally.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST (voice-over): Across the country, parents, children and camp directors all wondering if a summer rite of passage will be lost to Covid-19.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was supposed to go to sleep away camp for the first time.
JARRETT: Without any federal guidance, camps are taking direction from state and local government officials. Camp industry groups are also crafting guidelines to help, recommending camps stock up on supplies and ideally test every camper for COVID ahead of time.
RUTKOWSKI: We are not public health experts. We are experts in running Camp IHC.
JARRETT: But whether to open camp fluctuates from state to state.
GOV. JANET MILLS (D-ME): We're working on that. See if there's a way we can safely allow them to reopen in some capacity, some degree.
JARRETT: In states like Illinois, some camps opting not to open this season. Others, like in Connecticut, announcing day camps will open.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometime in July we'll have outdoor camps. They're outdoors, smaller groups.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See you guys in the morning. Have a great night.
JARRETT: But sleep away camps aren't there yet.
PAUL MCENTIRE, CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER, YMCA And if you've got children being transported from a high-impact area with children that aren't, there's risk there.
JARRETT: From California to Maine, plans are in flux, leaving many families in limbo and working parents like Kelly Foster, a mom of two, bracing for disappointment.
KELLY FOSTER, PARENT: I've always counted on summer camps to help watch them so that I can work during the summer. And I know that they're getting some fun, different experiences and I'm able to work. So, not sure what we're going to do.
JARRETT: And families aren't the only ones worried. With an estimated 20 million kids going to camp each year, if camps don't open this summer, they could see a devastating loss in earnings.
MCENTIRE: So our overnight camps do over $300 million of revenue. Our day camps do over $400 million, almost $500 million of revenue.
JARRETT: The challenge now for camp directors, how to open safely and keep camp, well, like camp. And even if camps get the green light to open this summer, bunks, dining halls and activities will all look different and no visitors allowed.
RUTKOWSKI: Typically our campers would receive letters in the mail. We've already, you know, talked about that we won't be receiving letters this year.
JARRETT: Some directors like Lauren Rutkowski say they're not even sure they should open.
RUTKOWSKI: I want to be able to look my parents in the eye and say, no matter what the decision is that I make, whether it's to open or not to open, I want to be able to look them in the eye and say, I left no stone unturned to ensure the safety of your child.
JARRETT (voice-over): Laura Jarrett, CNN, New York.
ALLEN: Country music star Keith Urban has demonstrated that socially distanced concerts are possible.
ALLEN: The Grammy award win organized a private concert at a drive-in movie theater. More than 200 were able to enjoy Urban's music live from the safety of their cars.
Urban spoke with CNN Friday about the show and about the future of live music.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEITH URBAN, SINGER: First of all, we've got to play, we've got to play somewhere, it's what we do.
So I think the idea of playing to people in vehicles is a bit of a no- brainer, figuring out, scaling that up to play more people. Doing it, you know, in a safe way with the guidelines. I mean, we spent a month putting this particular concert together.
Even though it wasn't for a paying public, it was specifically for Vanderbilt University Medical Center. So all the people there last night were doctors, nurses, health care workers, emergency responders, front liners, they were -- everybody was in that field and we gave away every ticket last night to them.
So it was a way to see what this could look like, but it's definitely a potential. I think you can see potentially in massive parking lots. I mean, you know, country concerts are renowned for their tailgate partiers, I think the concert's just going to be the tailgate party now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Sounds like a plan. That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for watching. I'm Natalie Allen. Feel free to follow me on Twitter or Instagram. "NEW DAY" is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
URBAN: God bless you guys. God bless you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)