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CNN NEWSROOM

Barack Obama Slams Trump Administration's Response to Coronavirus; Georgia Businesses Picking Up Three Works after Opening; Contact Tracing Vital Step in Controlling Coronavirus; Los Angeles Opens Some Beaches; The Dr. Fauci of China; U.S. Unemployment Claims Hit 36.5 Million; Many Retail Firms Struggling before Outbreak; Brazil's COVID-19 Death Toll Passes 15K; L.A. Firefighters Injured in Explosion; Virtual Graduation for Class of 2020. Aired 4-5a ET

Aired May 17, 2020 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Former U.S. president Barack Obama not mincing words on the current administration's coronavirus response. The White House has now responded itself.

Also this hour, COVID-19 is cratering economies and has led to Depression-era job losses.

Could it mean the death of the American shopping mall?

Plus, CNN spoke exclusively with China's top medical adviser who raised the alarm about the coronavirus even as officials continued to downplay it.

We're live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. This is CNN NEWSROOM.

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ALLEN: Thank you for joining us.

Our top story, amid the crisis, U.S. president number 44 having some harsh words for president number 45. It is extremely rare for a former U.S. president to scold his successor no matter what and Barack Obama has been mostly silent since leaving the office.

But that was before nearly 1.5 million Americans were stricken with COVID-19, killing 88,000 of them in just a few months, an alarming number of them people of color. The former U.S. president would stay silent no longer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Doing what feels good, what's convenient, what's easy, that's how little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grownups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way, which is why things are so screwed up.

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ALLEN: To be fair, President Trump publicly attacks Mr. Obama on a regular basis and the former president rarely if ever rises to the bait. So it is noteworthy Mr. Obama would choose this moment in the midst of the pandemic to speak out. We get more about it from CNN's Jeremy Diamond at the White House.

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JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, for the second time in two weeks, former president Barack Obama is speaking out against the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic, this time speaking out publicly.

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BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: More than anything, this pandemic has fully finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they are doing. A lot of them aren't even pretending to be in charge.

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DIAMOND: That criticism came just after a week after President Obama criticized the Trump administration's response, calling it an absolute chaotic disaster and anemic and spotty.

This time we are hearing from the White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. She said this in response.

"President Trump's unprecedented coronavirus response has saved lives. His early travel restrictions and quarantines protected the American public while his paycheck protection program and direct payments to Americans got needed economic relief to our country.

"Moreover, President Trump directed the greatest mobilization of the private sector since World War II to fill the stockpile left depleted by his predecessor."

Now the last line about a depleted stockpile is something that President Trump and his aides have been repeatedly bringing up as they have defended their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The truth of the matter is that, while certain items in the national stockpile had not been restocked by the previous administration, it certainly was by no means completely depleted. Of course President Trump had been in office for three years before the coronavirus arrived in the United States.

President Trump, while he has not directly responded to his predecessor's criticism, he has been leveling other allegations, something he has been calling Obamagate, essentially making evidence- free claims against his predecessor, suggesting he has been trying to undermine his presidency. In fact, over this weekend, President Trump has been in Camp David

with some conservative firebrands on Capitol Hill, some of his loyal allies, trying to find a way to advance that latest conspiracy theory -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.

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ALLEN: Let's look at states reopening in the United States right now. It's been three weeks since Georgia right here began allowing businesses to reopen. It was one of the first states to take that leap.

The move by the governor was controversial.

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ALLEN: Since the start of the pandemic, the number of confirmed cases in Georgia has risen to more than 36,000. Some critics warned the state may be opening too soon. Natasha Chen has the latest from Atlanta.

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NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Atlanta, Georgia, a lot of people are starting to come back out to businesses that have been reopening over the past three weeks. What we're seeing is the good news. There hasn't been a major spike in daily new cases.

But the bad news is there also hasn't been a major decrease in new daily cases, either. What we're seeing is there are some places taking advantage of being allowed to reopen their dining rooms.

The governor of Georgia relaxed some of the rules for restaurants this past week. Now 10 people can gather at a table instead of just six. But not everyone is taking advantage of opening their dining rooms.

For example, this restaurant is doing takeout only at the window with people being able to take their food to a table. So some restaurant owners are taking this very carefully.

And there are people who have been observing this over the past three weeks, also being cautious with their families. We met one family who came out today for the first time in almost three weeks. Here's what they said.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's actually like really scary because it's not like coronavirus is over. And, like, everybody is saying like, I wash my hands. I have hand sanitizer, I'm going to be OK.

But you're still going to be around people that cough and touch everything. And like you and you're actually very vulnerable. And it's actually very scary. But it's kind of exciting and happy that you get to go outside to some places that you enjoy again. But you also have to be very careful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I agree with that. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When is the last time you got ice cream?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 2019.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really?

CHEN (voice-over): Georgia governor Brian Kemp has touted lower hospitalizations and increased testing while some officials in the Metro Atlanta area still caution people to stay home if at all possible, despite the fact that many things are reopening.

We're talking to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce as well. Their president says it's really a mixed bag who is opening and who isn't. This is a long-term change that a lot of businesses have to make.

It's not just having the resources and masks and gloves for the next two to three weeks. This is really for the long term. He said no matter what industry they're in, they're now in the business of health and wellness -- Natasha Chen, CNN, Atlanta.

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ALLEN: Here's a new warning from the World Health Organization. Don't spray disinfectants to stop the virus. An advisory says spraying large areas could do more harm than good. It can cause eye problems and skin irritation and dirt and other debris could render the disinfectants useless.

And people applying the chemicals could have health problems. Some governments are fogging streets to sanitize them during the pandemic.

Let's talk about the latest developments. Joining us from Oxford, England, is Dr. Sian Griffiths. She's an emeritus professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and led Hong Kong's investigation into the 2003 SARS epidemic.

It's good to see you, thanks so much for joining us, Professor. I want to talk to you about the United States beaches reopening, restaurants across the United States, all kinds of establishments.

What is key right now to ensure there is not an uptick in the spread due to all of this reopening?

DR. SIAN GRIFFITHS, CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: The key, I think, is to view this as a marathon, not a sprint. By that I mean, we need to think to the long term because what we really need to avoid is an exponential increase.

In Georgia, for example, although there hasn't been an upturn, there hasn't been a downturn, either. So there's still a level of disease in the community.

What's going to be key for controlling the environment is contact tracing, is when we know there's a case, what we're going to need to do is to make sure that we follow up that case, that that case is isolated and that the contacts of that case are also told, please, self-isolate for a period of time.

And that will break the chain of transmission of the virus. That's what we're all aiming approximate for. We want to see the virus contained. We would love to see the virus disappear. But at least we don't want it to create a second big spike.

Let's talk about contact tracing. It seems like a monumental task. We learned more than 1,100 people, including students, epidemiologists and other staff from the Florida Department of health are involved with it in Washington state. They're planning to use hundreds of National Guards for help in contact tracing.

Is this a good idea, all hands on deck, in this effort?

GRIFFITHS: Every country is facing the same challenge, in fact. We in the U.K. are facing the same challenge to find enough people to make sure that as a case occurs.

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GRIFFITHS: We're able to trace and find out who they might have been in touch with so that we can alert them that they potentially have the disease.

You do need large numbers of people. If you have training, then it's possible to do this. I think that the use of apps in some countries is proving very useful. It's a combination of having a public health workforce and the use of apps and a social system that can identify a cluster.

If you identify a cluster, you need to focus on that cluster and make sure that the disease doesn't go any further into the population.

ALLEN: When do you think we will see the effects of the States opening up?

We have a holiday weekend coming up when people usually go to the beach en masse.

GRIFFITHS: I don't know what regulations are being put in place in different states. But if you look around at other countries where beaches are opening up, some beaches use a ticket system to limit the number of people. Some beaches, in China I see, you reserve your spot for the day.

And in general, I think what we need to do is to remind the public that social distancing is necessary to make sure that the disease doesn't spread any further and rely on not just measures taken by the state but on people's individual behavior.

If people can keep social distance, it's good that they get out to exercise and good that they're able to actually feel freer than when locked up at home. ALLEN: Right. And it's not asking too much during these challenging

times to continue to utilize social distancing, either. Dr. Sian Griffiths, We always appreciate your insights. Thanks for your time. Thank you.

GRIFFITHS: Thank you.

ALLEN: In the United States, two states on opposite coasts are experimenting with reopening beaches before the summer tourism season begins. New Jersey and California are looking to see if people will follow social distancing rules and other guidelines meant to stop the spread. Here are the details from the Jersey Shore.

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EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Several beach communities in New Jersey opened Saturday as part of a dry run for the larger Jersey Shore economic engine. The rest are expected to open on Memorial Day weekend.

Authorities wanted to see what would happen if they reopened boardwalks and parks and asked people to be responsible for social distancing.

On Saturday, state police reported the experiment appeared to be working, saying there was a relatively low volume of people. Here in Ocean City, many attractions remain closed.

On the beach, CNN drone footage captured groups of people sitting apart from one another. The boardwalk was packed. And most people didn't wear masks though they were not required to.

There's a concern if people don't remain socially distant, the summer season could be shut down, creating another blow to the economy -- Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, Ocean City, New Jersey.

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PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A major development in the easing of social distancing rules in Los Angeles County. I'm at famed Zuma Beach, now reopened this weekend.

You can see off in the water some new rules. You can use the beach in L.A. County for recreation. You see them wading there. You're to keep moving along. One thing we've noticed, we saw sheriff deputies on ATVs and they would address people who they thought were parking or setting up tents or umbrellas.

That clearly was a red flag. They want these people to keep in motion. They're also telling people, if you're going to be on the boardwalk or closer than six feet, you're to be wearing a mask. That has mixed results. Not everybody has a mask and that has some people concerned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I absolutely love being our here and I'm glad I'm able to come out to this beach and walk my dog and walk for us. But because people are still disregarding, we're not bringing my kids. Our kids are actually staying with my mom right now because I don't feel quite comfortable enough bringing them out here yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't assume everybody's totally sat down and read all the county's policies on reopening the beach. So a lot of our job is educating the public out here.

VERCAMMEN: Los Angeles County was the last of the Southern California counties to reopen beaches. And in neighboring Orange and Ventura County, they're celebrating, because L.A. County has 10 million residents; that's bigger than some countries.

And some of the residents were spilling off into the beaches in other counties. It seems this has relieved the pressure point and now, with new rules, this is all an experiment as the sheriff's lieutenant said, this is still a work in progress, with reopening Southern California's very, very beloved beaches.

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VERCAMMEN: I'm Paul Vercammen, reporting from Malibu, back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Big department stores were losing ground to online retailers before this pandemic hit.

Next here, will shopping malls survive the current economic upheaval?

We'll talk with an author who wrote about the death of malls.

Plus CNN's exclusive interview with China's top medical adviser. He's the face of the fight against the coronavirus there. Why he's sounding an alarm once again.

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ALLEN: Residents of Wuhan, China, where the COVID-19 pandemic began, lined up Saturday for a massive virus screening effort. Health officials aim to test all of the city's 11 million residents within 10 days. Authorities say the program is necessary to track cases and prevent a resurgence.

The effort began after new, locally transmitted cases were reported in Wuhan and two other provinces.

China's top coronavirus adviser who also saw the country through the SARS epidemic is criticizing the early response to the pandemic and sounding an alarm.

[04:20:00] ALLEN: He said China could get a second wave of infections, especially if there isn't a vaccine. CNN's David Culver sat down with him for this exclusive interview.

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DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is an interview we have been working to get for months, an conversation with the Dr. Anthony Fauci of China. His name is Dr. Zhong Nanshan. He speaks about his concerns that he sees still on the horizon for China. Even though things are starting to open up here, he says they are not in the clear and warns of a second wave. He is also highly critical of how things were handled early on, particularly within Wuhan.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The answer is no and --

CULVER (voice-over): In the U.S., many have turned to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, as that medical voice of reason.

In China, it is Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a well-known respiratory expert, speaking exclusively with CNN.

DR. ZHONG NANSHAN, RESPIRATORY EXPERT: I cannot compare with Fauci, who is the adviser of the president, always standing beside the president.

CULVER (voice-over): Perhaps he does not physically stand next to the Chinese president but Zhong has the trust of the central government. His advice sparks near immediate action.

Take, for example, Wuhan's unprecedented lockdown. On January 18th, five days before the city was shut down, Zhong traveled to the original epicenter of the outbreak. He questioned the local health officials.

ZHONG: In the beginning, they kept silent.

CULVER (voice-over): Zhong, who gained international praise for working on SARS 17 years ago, believed this rapidly spreading novel coronavirus was far more devastating than portrayed by Wuhan health officials.

ZHONG: I suppose they are very reluctant to answer my question. The local authorities did not like to tell the truth at that time.

CULVER (voice-over): Publicly, Wuhan health officials as late as January 19th labeled the virus as preventable and controllable. Later the city's mayor acknowledged not releasing information in a timely fashion.

Zhong pressed harder for the actual numbers and then headed to Beijing on January 20th. He briefed the central government. Within hours, he was addressing the nation in a live interview on state run CCTV. He said that human to human transmission was likely and, as proof of

that, he said the virus had already infected multiple medical personnel.

ZHONG: It's very dangerous showing this kind of disease. It's very contagious. So I suppose at that time the central government listened to our comments, objection and advice.

CULVER (voice-over): Within three days, Wuhan went into a harsh lockdown that lasted 76 days. Yet even with China's central government now taking the lead, there is still skepticism over the official numbers. Zhong believes it is partly political and says the Chinese government would not benefit from underreporting.

ZHONG: The government had a lesson from the outbreak of SARS 17 years ago, they announced one (INAUDIBLE) stack (ph), that all the cities, all the government department should report the true number of diseases. So if you do not do that, you will be punished.

CULVER: What do you believe to be the origin of this virus, in particular?

ZHONG: I think the origin is a very difficult to draw any conclusion to the moment. But I believe, this kind of disease has originated from animals.

CULVER (voice-over): U.S. president Donald Trump and secretary of state Mike Pompeo have said they have evidence that it leaked from a lab, namely, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, an origin theory many international medical experts and even U.S. intelligence say is highly unlikely.

CULVER: Now it seems more and more medical experts do not believe that it originated there.

Do you feel that with certainty?

ZHONG: I don't think so. It took up two weeks to make a very close and deep checkup that proved nothing about that. No. I don't think so.

CULVER (voice-over): Zhong's focus now is on preparing China for a second wave of the outbreak. Over the past few weeks, new clusters of cases have surfaced in several cities, including Wuhan.

ZHONG: We are facing a big challenge. It is not better than the foreign countries, I think, at the moment.

CULVER (voice-over): Zhong, like Dr. Fauci, has achieved a celebrity status here in China. His scientific expertise aside, many are impressed with his physical drive.

CULVER: What is it that you have been doing during this period to stay mentally sane, physically fit?

How does Dr. Zhong conduct his days?

ZHONG: I still keep exercising and sports, so all the things.

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ZHONG: I keep an open mind and eat not too much every time. So that's why it seems to be that I can still do something in my age of 84.

CULVER: Dr. Zhong also spoke about the collaboration he says is ongoing with his medical counterparts in the United States, particularly with Harvard University.

He suggests that, despite things getting highly politicized and tensions between the U.S. and China heightened, the conversations and the collaboration is still underway, at least amongst certain medical professionals -- David Culver, CNN, China.

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ALLEN: We are tracking a developing story out of the Middle East. China's ambassador to Israel, Du Wei, has been found dead at his residence north of Tel Aviv. Police are on the scene but have not issued an official statement. Du Wei has been the ambassador to Israel for only about three months. We'll track this developing story and bring you more information as we get it.

It is the top five list no country wants to be on. Coming up here, we tell you which nation has passed Italy and Spain to become the pandemic's fourth worst-hit country.

Also many of us are doing our shopping online these days. It's easy, it reduces the risk of virus exposure. But that spells trouble for shopping malls and major department stores. I talked with the author of "Death of the Mall," coming up next.

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ALLEN: Welcome back to our viewers in the U.S. and around the world. I'm Natalie Allen. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.

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ALLEN: Let's take a look at the human toll in the U.S. So far there have been more than 1.4 million cases of the coronavirus in the country, according to Johns Hopkins. That's more than any in the world. And the death toll is nearing 89,000. That's almost a third of all the known COVID-related deaths worldwide.

By Monday, 48 of 50 states will have started reopening or loosening coronavirus restrictions. You can see plenty of people here at the New Jersey shore, which opened for a dry run Saturday, ahead of the crucial busy summer season. Across the country, Los Angeles County reopened its beaches this

weekend with the key stipulation that visitors keep moving. Sunbathing and picnics remain prohibited.

Parts of the U.S. are trying to reopen but that doesn't automatically provide jobs to the millions of Americans who now are out of work. In the eight weeks since mid-March, 36.5 million unemployment claims have been filed. More than 20 million jobs were lost in April alone.

But the U.S. Labor Secretary says he thinks many of those jobs are going to come back.

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EUGENE SCALIA, LABOR SECRETARY: There are tens of millions of Americans that have been put out of work and it's a great hardship for them.

But many of those jobs are not lost yet. And I've seen three different surveys over the last week showing that 90 percent of Americans on unemployment think it's temporary, think they're going back to those jobs. What we want to do now is get them back there safely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Retail giants are also reeling from this pandemic. Once mighty JCPenney filed for bankruptcy protection on Friday. The 118 year old company has been struggling for years but blamed coronavirus for the filing. Dallas-based Neiman Marcus declared bankruptcy earlier in May. Like JCPenney, many of its problems preceded the pandemic.

J. Crew's bankruptcy filing came a few days before Neiman Marcus. All three companies said they intend to stay in business. Of course when large retail stores struggle, the malls they anchor struggle, too. And then there are questions about how the pandemic will change the way we all shop.

For more on these issues, I'm joined by Vicki Brown (sic). She teaches at the University of Colchester (sic) in England and she's also the author of "From Main Street to Mall: The Rise and Fall of the American Department Store."

Welcome to you, thank you so much for joining us.

VICKI HOWARD, AUTHOR: You're welcome.

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ALLEN: J. Crew and Neiman Marcus and just this week JCPenney, some of our international viewers may not know it but most of us who grew up here know JCPenney very well.

What do losses like this signal for the future of department stores?

HOWARD: Well, JCPenney, it's in every shopping mall across the United States and it's a company that has a long history. It's an over 100- year history like Sears, which also has faced troubles.

Besides the fact that it employs tens of thousands of people, it anchors these shopping malls. And so if it closes down stores, which it will do, or liquidates, that's going to have an impact on the shopping malls. And it will leave a hole that will need to be filled. And the malls themselves might lose tenants.

Sometimes they have contracts that are dependent upon their being a big department store anchor for them to continue staying. So maybe some of the chains that people rely on in shopping malls might leave, leaving further gaps.

ALLEN: You write that, even before this pandemic, things were not looking good for big department stores. Talk about that.

HOWARD: Yes. This predates the pandemic. As everyone is well aware, it's been in the news.

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HOWARD: Sears closing stores, Macy's feeling the effects. People changing shopping habits.

But I even look further back, beyond the rise of e-commerce and, you know, department stores are a 19th century urban institution. And going forward, nobody knew that they were going to end up in what we now know as the shopping center, which emerged after World War II.

So I think looking forward, we don't know what's going to happen. There could be some other way of doing shopping in the future that lies ahead that we don't know about. But I think it's fair to say that, you know, they were in bad shape going into this pandemic and that certainly going to be emerging from it in a much weaker position.

ALLEN: Shopping online is certainly convenient.

What about shopping for a social outlet, strolling to stores and being with friends?

Shopping is fun and we need some socializing these days. It's community, it's where you go.

Will a new kind of mall re-emerge?

HOWARD: Well, I can't predict the future. But I do think that once this is over, people are going to be very hungry to go into public places to -- once the fear of catching a disease is lessened, they're going to be anxious to join their friends, to go out in public, to just partake in ordinary civic life on the streets and shopping malls.

And so shopping malls and stores like JCPenney offer something that e- commerce, which we've been relying on now, can't offer and that is that sense of place, sense of connection to your town, your city, your suburb, the people that you meet there. We've lost that sense of place. And I think people are really anxious to get back to that. ALLEN: For department stores that do survive -- and no one is saying

that we will no longer have some of these retail giants -- what will change?

What do you think they'll learn from all of this?

HOWARD: Department stores specifically have gone through disasters in the past and gone through the Great Depression, wars and they've always managed to re-emerge in maybe a leaner form but they've survived. I'm not sure if we're in the same situation now.

But just look back at the Great Depression, a lot of department stores closed. They were urban institutions then. They lined small towns, big cities across the United States and many of them closed.

And they did emerge and no one knew that they were going to end up being the suburban anchor of these decentralized shopping centers that sort of emerged across the landscape in the 1950s and '60s.

Looking forward, I can't say what will happen but I'm guessing that people's desire to be with other people, to engage in trade in public places, which is an age-old activity, will survive.

ALLEN: We really appreciate this very interesting. Your book, "From Main Street to Mall," Vicki Howard, thank you so much.

HOWARD: You're welcome.

ALLEN: Italy has recorded the fewest number of daily deaths since its lockdown began in March. Its 153 deaths on Saturday raised its fatality count to more 31,700. Once the center of the pandemic, confinement measures will be further relaxed on Monday.

The prime minister calls it a calculated risk that has to be done with prudence. As Italy looks to recover, it's been surpassed by Brazil on the list of worst hit countries in the world. According to Johns Hopkins, Brazil now has the fourth highest number of cases and those cases are still surging.

All this as Brazil's president has continued to downplay the COVID-19 threat. CNN's Matt Rivers has more from Mexico City.

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MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As each day passes, the news out of Brazil continues to seemingly get worse and worse. And it is without question now that what is going on in Brazil is truly one of the worst outbreaks in the world.

New data released by the Brazilian government shows the death toll in that country now tops 15,000 after an additional 816 deaths were reported on Saturday. The total number of cases also continues to go up.

The government there reporting just under 15,000 newly confirmed cases of the virus. Those new cases push the total amount to more than 233,000 cases countrywide.

[04:40:00]

RIVERS: That amount is good enough for fourth highest in the world. Brazil now trails only the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom in terms of the total amount of confirmed cases in the country.

And because Brazil continues to record more daily case total increases than most other countries around the world, it wouldn't be a surprise if at all if Brazil passes the United Kingdom for number three on that list.

Meanwhile, there continues to be controversy among the political leadership in Brazil, among the people responsible for responding to this outbreak. The health minister resigned this week. He is the second health minister to resign from the Bolsonaro administration since this outbreak began.

The president himself continues to say that the greatest threat facing his country is the threat to the economy overall as a result of certain quarantine measures and shutting down the economy.

But the numbers speak for themselves here, the number of cases, the number of deaths continue to go up in Brazil at a dramatic rate and there is no end in sight -- Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Other stories ahead here on CNN, after decades on the run, one of the world's most wanted fugitives has been captured. What his arrest means for victims of the genocide.

Authorities issue a mayday call after explosion and flames injure firefighters in downtown Los Angeles. We'll show you the massive effort to put out the flames.

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ALLEN: This is Los Angeles, a large fire and explosion injured at least 11 firefighters Saturday in downtown L.A. The fire department says there was a blast just as crews were entering the commercial building triggering a mayday call.

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ALLEN: It took more than 230 firefighters to extinguish the flames. We're waiting for word on the condition of the injured firefighters.

It has been 26 years since the Rwandan genocide, when Hutu extremists massacred as many as 1 million people. One of the alleged leaders of that slaughter may finally face justice. His name, Felicien Kabuga and the U.N. says he was arrested Saturday in Paris.

Kabuga has been indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal on several counts of genocide. Now in his 80s, he's expected to be moved to The Hague before standing trial. Let's go to David McKenzie. He's live with more about it.

This is an incredible breakthrough, David.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. And Felicien Kabuga was one of the biggest perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide. You just have to look at the memorials in Rwanda to look at the terror and the pain that men like this caused.

Kabuga was a very rich businessman at the time of the lead-up to the genocide, where more than 800,000 people were killed in the span of under 100 days. He's accused of multiple counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.

But the specifics are just horrifying. It's alleged that Kabuga earned a radio station and helped push the propaganda that incited people's hatred against the Tutsi minority and moderate Hutus. He also physically brought in hundreds of thousands of machetes that were just used to perpetrate the crimes.

His businesses, according to the indictments, were used to even transport the militia group that were the main perpetrators and instigators of this genocide. He's been on the run for more than two decades.

It was clear at times, rumors were swirling that he was living in Kenya for some time, parts of Europe and sheltered potentially by allies and others. The fact that he was found in a suburb of Paris is pretty significant.

French police were aided, according to the U.N., by multiple different agencies. He had a $5 million bounty on his head in terms of his capture from the U.S. government. And in the early 2000s, I remember quite clearly there was a moment where they believed they would lure him out of hiding in Kenya. That never happened.

So I think what will be crucial in the coming days, Natalie, is just how they managed to find him, did some of his protection finally evaporate and, most crucially for the victims of the genocide, will he successfully be transferred to The Hague and prosecuted for these crimes, crimes that he's been wanted for, for all this time? -- Natalie.

ALLEN: An incredible breakthrough. It has taken so long but it will be interesting to see how this played out when they finally caught up with him. I was in the anchor chair during that massacre, one of the most horrific stories I've ever covered. David McKenzie in Johannesburg, thank you, David.

We'll be right back.

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[04:50:00]

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ALLEN: The first named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is churning off the coast of Florida right now. Tropical storm Arthur is packing winds of 40 miles per hour. It's expected to remain well off Florida's East Coast and move near or east of the North Carolina coast on Monday.

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[04:55:00]

ALLEN: Graduating high school students in the U.S. had their senior year derailed by the pandemic. That's not stopping the class of 2020 from celebrating with a virtual graduation, including a commencement speech from a famous guest speaker.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Just as you've been looking forward to proms and senior nights, graduation ceremonies and, let's face it, a whole bunch of parties, the world has turned upside down by a global pandemic.

And as much as I'm sure you love your parents, I'll bet that being stuck at home with them and playing board games or watching "Tiger King" on TV is not exactly how you envisioned the last few months of your senior year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

ALLEN: Former U.S. president Barack Obama there. He encouraged graduates to lead their communities and shape the future, saying, "If the world is going to get better, it's going to be up to you."

Another former U.S. president also offered some words of wisdom. Bill Clinton encouraged graduates to keep an open mind and a caring heart and to find ways to help others.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congratulations to the class of 2020 and to all the educators, parents, friends and mentors who helped you reach this milestone.

The coronavirus has given you a graduation you will never forget. And it's released you into an uncertain future. I urge you to embrace the challenge. The world needs you. Your country needs you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ALLEN: Clinton also thanked health care workers and first responders for risking their lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

I'm Natalie Allen. Thanks for watching. I'll have another hour of news right after this.