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Trump Lashes Out After Criticism from Obama; Nearly All U.S. States Reopening as Death Toll Climbs; U.K. Official Says We May Never Find a Successful Vaccine; U.S. Fed Chair Says Economic Recovery Could Take Till End of 2021; Automakers Restart U.S. Operations with New Safety Measures; Shops, Restaurants Reopen in Italy as Lockdown Eases; U.K. Prime Minister Acknowledges Frustrations Over Lockdown Rules; John Hopkins Reports Brazil has Fourth Highest Cases Globally. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 18, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, as the U.S. nears 90,000 coronavirus deaths, the Trump administration resorts to the blame game, pointing the finger at the CDC, the W.H.O., Barack Obama and even the health of its own people.

We have new figures out of Texas as cases there mount. Regardless, the state is set to reopen even more this Monday.

Plus, the American economy. Just how low will it go? The Fed chair's sobering assessment as several automakers restart the assembly lines today.

Good to have you with us. Well the number of people killed by COVID-19 is fast approaching 90,000 in the United States. But the Trump White House is refusing to accept blame lashing out at everything from the CDC to former President Barack Obama. Here was President Donald Trump on Sunday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, he was an incompetent President, that's all I can say. Grossly incompetent. Thank you.


CHURCH: Those comments were a response to rare open criticism from Mr. Trump's predecessor. In a commencement address, Obama slammed leadership during the pandemic saying those in charge don't know what they're doing without mentioning Mr. Trump by name. And this comes as Johns Hopkins University reports more than 1.4 million infections in the U.S., which remains the world's worst hit country. The Health and Human Services Secretary says America's diversity and underlying health conditions are to blame.


ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Unfortunately, the American population is a very diverse, and it is a population with significant unhealthy co-morbidities that do make many individuals in our communities, in particular African-American, minority communities particularly at risk here because of significant underlying disease, health disparities and disease co-morbidities. And that is an unfortunate legacy in our health care system that we certainly do need to address.


CHURCH: Nearly all U.S. states are now reopened to some degree, but there are still gaps in testing and no vaccine. CNN's Natasha Chen has this look at the difficult road to recovery.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At least 48 states will have partially reopened businesses or ease restrictions by tomorrow. And with it comes some familiar sights. NASCAR held a race with no spectators today. Graceland is inviting visitors back, but also with it, troubling images of crowded bars and boardwalks.

GAVIN SOMMERS, SOMERS POINT, NEW JERSEY RESIDENT: It feels like a regular summer right now.

TRUMP: Tremendous progress is being made.

CHEN: President Trump has encouraged reopening the country with or without a vaccine. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar explained.

AZAR: Everything does not depend on a vaccine. We're committed to delivering a vaccine. We're going to put the full power of the U.S. government on our private sector towards getting to a vaccine. But that's one part of a multifactorial response program.

CHEN: One of the important factors is expanding testing. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was tested during his live press conference today.


CHEN: New York is now conducting 40,000 tests a day. Cuomo said per capita, that's more than other countries. More testing is one of the reasons Texas says it saw the highest single day increase in new cases since the shutdown began. And that has some officials in Texas wondering if they're on the wrong path.

STEVE ADLER, AUSTIN, TEXAS MAYOR: But we do know, based on our last six to eight weeks is that if we're on the wrong path, we're going to be able to react in time to fix it. And if that happens, I sure hope the governor's on board for that. CHEN: Georgia, one of the most aggressive in opening high contact businesses as early as three weeks ago, has not seen a dramatic spike in the seven-day average of daily new cases. But there hasn't been a dramatic drop either. Wandie Bethune family has been watching carefully and didn't go out before this weekend.

WANDIE BETHUNE, ATLANTA RESIDENT: I just didn't feel as if we were really ready. And I want it to feel that the establishments were really taking the proper precautions.

ELAINA BETHUNE, DAUGHTER: 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.

CHEN: In New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, a phased reopening didn't begin until Friday and only in certain regions. The state's seven-day average of daily new cases has been on an obvious downward slide.

CUOMO: Total hospitalization is down. Good news. That change is down, intubations is down. And new COVID hospitalizations are down. So it's a good day across the plate.

CHEN: California, the first to institute a statewide stay-at-home order is seeing numbers fluctuate in the same zone. But its budget deficit like in many other states is skyrocketing due to the pandemic. The House passed a $3 trillion aid package Friday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated would not pass the Senate.

GAVIN NEWSOM, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: The next time they want to salute and celebrate our heroes, our first responders, our police officers and firefighters, consider the fact that they are the first ones that will be laid off by cities and counties.

CHEN: A reality of uncertainty.

Natasha Chen, CNN, Atlanta.


CHURCH: And earlier I talked to Dr. Richard Dawood, a Medical Director at London's Fleet Street Clinic. I asked him what a future living with the virus might look like, especially without a vaccine ready.


DR. RICHARD DAWOOD, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, FLEET STREET CLINIC: This is not something that somebody's going to go into a lab with and suddenly come out and say, you know, eureka, I discovered it. Here it is. The process of developing a vaccine normally requires years of efforts to come up with something that is capable of provoking immune response to test its safety, to understand its effectiveness. No vaccine is going to be 100 percent effective. It may not work in people with a reduced immune system, for example.

Then actually scale up its production of a vaccine is an incredibly frail and fragile and vulnerable process. We see this every year with problems producing our annual flu vaccine. We see it with vaccine shortages around the globe where it's more like baking a cake than a chemical process where you can churn out, you know, millions of tablets or millions of doses. It's a fragile process because good -- many different components, the glass wear, the needles, the packaging. It needs to be distributed into a cold chain. The temperature needs to be maintained all the way through. It is not a trivial task to administer a new vaccine to millions of people.

That requires creating an infrastructure. It will require massive teamwork across medicine and across many other different disciplines. It will be important to begin laying that infrastructure from that. It is an enormous challenge that is going to be difficulty doing it in an equitable way within each country and between countries. We don't know which countries even have -- well we do know that many countries do not have a vaccine producing capability. There'll have to be a way of who to target as well for the vaccine.


CHURCH: Dr. Dawood talking to me a little earlier.

Well the U.S. Federal Reserve chairman is giving a sobering reality check on the health of the U.S. economy. Here's what he said in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes."


JEROME POWELL, U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: This economy will recover. It may take a while. It may take a period of time. It could stretch through the end of next year. We really don't know.

SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS, 60 MINUTES: Can there being a recovery without a reasonably effective vaccine?

POWELL: Assuming there's not a second wave of the coronavirus, I think you'll see the economy recover steadily through the second half of this year. For the economy to fully recover, people will have to be fully confident and that may have to await the arrival of a vaccine.


CHURCH: In the coming hours, U.S. President Donald Trump is set to meet with leaders of the restaurant industry which has been one of the hardest hit sectors of the U.S. economy. Among other things, they're expected to talk about government stimulus efforts. And Mr. Trump is also expected to travel to a swing state Michigan this week to visit a Ford manufacturing plant. The company is among several major automakers reopening their U.S. facilities today. New safety measures are being put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. And CNN's anna Stewart joins me now. So, Anna, U.S. automakers

reopening after a pretty tough couple of months. How will they do this exactly?

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Very slowly and very carefully. So tens of thousands of people will be going back to work today in U.S. car factories. But not nearly as many as normally would be working there. And it will be a very different process to make the cars, a much slower process. There will be lots of social distancing rules and measures in place to ensure that everyone is safe. You won't have as many shifts working. They will have to be lots time in between different teams to do deep cleans. And it'll filter all the way through the process. Even to the canteens when people go on break. They won't all be entering a canteen at the same time. They'll have to have staggered times. Lots of spaces between seats and so on.

All of that means that there's much less capacity, of course, producing cars and much less people on the factory floors. For Ford we expect 80 percent of workforce to be back at work this week. For General Motors, for Fiat/Chrysler that's more like 1/3 of the workforce. It will increase in the coming weeks but capacity might not. They won't be making the same number of cars for some time. And actually that may be no bad thing considering that demand has had such a slump. In the U.S. for April we think new car sales were down by over 50 percent. Not as bad as some places in Europe in Europe. The U.K. car sales were down actually 97 percent in April. The recovery on that demand side of things will be slow given the surge in unemployment which continues to tick higher and also that risk of a really prolonged recession. People will be less likely to want to buy big ticket items like cars for the foreseeable -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: It is the new normal. Anna Stewart, many thanks to you. Appreciate it.

Well, the U.S. Secretary of State is again backing away from a theory he's promoted that the coronavirus came from a lab in Wuhan, China. Mike Pompeo says the U.S. is still certain the pandemic originated in that city but now says officials have not pinpointed the exact location.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We know it began in Wuhan but we don't know from where or from whom and those are important things. One of the key facts for scientists and epidemiologists to build out vaccines and therapeutics and to identify how this was ultimately delivered to the world, you have to know where patient zero began and how patient zero became infected.


CHURCH: And just a few weeks ago Pompeo insisted the virus came out of this lab and claimed there was enough evidence to prove it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Secretary, have you seen anything that gives you high confidence that it originated in that Wuhan lab?

POMPEO: Martha, there's enormous evidence that that's where this began. We've said from the beginning that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China. We took a lot of grief from that from the outside, but I think the whole world can see now.


CHURCH: Well, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, a new phase of reopening comes to Italy. But officials warn Italians to be careful because the threat from the coronavirus has not passed.

And in Britain, Boris Johnson acknowledges that there is public frustration with how the government is easing lockdown measures. Back with that and more in just a moment.



CHURCH: Italy reported its lowest daily increase in coronavirus deaths since March on Sunday. The number of active cases is down, too. This as Italy is lifting some lockdown restrictions today, but the health minister is warning Italians to, quote, remain prudent. Shops, hair salons and restaurants can reopen, but they have to maintain sanitary protocols and enforce social distancing.

So let's get more now from CNN's Barbie Nadeau. She joins us live from Rome. Barbie, how are Italians approaching the lifting of these restrictions as they confront a new normal.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well you know, we're really seeing the activity pick up around here where we are in the center of Rome as the shops start to open. Now this is, you know, two months since the last time people were able to go to retail shops. All of these shops have had to rethink how they sell to consumers, how they're going to keep people safe. We've seen people very, very cautious this morning as they go out.

But this comes on the back of scenes we saw last night in Milan. Where people were people were out having their Aperitivo in these huge crowds of people. And the authorities are very concerned, more about what we saw yesterday with the crowds gathering for refreshments than they are today about the shop owners making sure they keep everybody safe. So it is really a brave new world. Everybody's got to rethink everything, Rosemary. And today is the first day we're seeing this in action. We see people in the coffee bars standing very, very far apart from each other. Plexiglass everywhere. And we're going to start seeing restaurants serving for the first time in two months at tables today. All of this which used to be very normal in this country now seems very, very daunting -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, absolutely. And everyone doing different things and trying to figure this out as they go along. Barbie Nadeau, many thanks to you joining us live from Rome. Well, the number of people in hospitals and intensive care continues

to drop in France as the country eases out of a two-month lockdown. On Sunday France recorded more than 480 fatalities bringing the death toll to more than 28,000. That's nearly 400 higher than the previous day, but a health ministry spokesperson says that's due to revised figures they received and doesn't represent a sharp rise in fatalities.

Well, for the first time since March, the daily number of new coronavirus deaths in Spain has dipped below 100. This comes as the country further eases restrictions. On Monday, 45,000 people on four Spanish islands will transitioned to phase 2 of the government's reopening plan. And that means sporting and outdoor activities will now be allowed to take place freely. Most of the nation, however, will remain at phase 1.

Meantime, Brazil has overtaken Italy and Spain and now has the fourth highest number of coronavirus cases in the world.


And the mayor of Sao Paulo warns that if people don't follow social isolation guidelines, the health system could collapse very soon. CNN's Matt Rivers has the details.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, another difficult weekend for the country of Brazil. On Sunday evening the government there reporting an additional just about 8,000 cases or so. That pushes the total amount of confirmed cases in Brazil to more than 241,000. That total amount of cases good for fourth highest out of any country in the world. But given the amount of day to day, daily increases in new cases that we've seen in Brazil over the past week to ten days, it is very likely that over the next week, if not in the next few days, Brazil will overtake the United Kingdom for third place on that list. At which point it would trail only the United States and Russia in terms of total amount of confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Brazil has now topped 16,000 as political controversy continues to swell there. It was just last week that the health minister of Brazil resigned. He was the second health minister to resign from the Bolsonaro administration since this outbreak began. And the President himself, Jair Bolsonaro continues to downplay the threat from this virus. He wants to ease quarantine measures that have been enacted in many different parts of Brazil in order to jumpstart the economy. But the fact is, the numbers don't lie. They tell a story themselves and the story they tell is that each day goes by the cases in Brazil continues to go up. The death toll continues to go up. And the situation in that country just becomes more dire.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


CHURCH: And the U.K. has recorded 170 deaths in the latest 24-hour period, the lowest number since March. That brings the total death toll close to 35,000. And comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledges there is public frustration with the rules for easing the lockdown. A new poll shows support for the government's handling of the crisis is falling, down 9 points in just a week. And CNN's Isa Soares joins me now live from London. Good to see you, Isa. So Boris Johnson is aware of public frustration over his muddled messaging. What's he going to do about that and about fears the doctors have of getting COVID-19 revealed in a recent survey?

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, we've seen Boris Johnson's -- what he had to say regarding that muddled message. He wrote a piece, Rosemary, over the weekend on Sunday where he attempted to draw a line under what was, frankly, and not a very good week for the government following confusion over his muddled message, as you say, over the new message which is stay alert.

Now he wrote -- he conceded, in fact, that people will be frustrated with some of the new rules but went on to say what we're trying to do is something we hasn't been and that done before. That is trying to lift lockdown without risking another high risk of COVID-19. And that is worrying and that they need to do in baby steps.

You also said what is being asked, Rosie, is much more complex than just simply saying stay at home. Hence, I think people were trying to make sense of whether they should go home, whether they should go to work, how are going to manage on Wednesday, if they should go at all? If they should go by bicycle. So there's some confusion over that message. But still the Prime Minister says he expects to return to near normal by July.

Having said that, what we are seeing here, Rosie, is the administration the whales, Northern Ireland and Scotland don't seem to be following the Prime Minister's advice and not lifting the lockdown. And what we have seen as well is that the city of Liverpool has decided to go really against the Prime Minister and not have children return to school in June.

All of this as you say as we have a new survey from the Royal College of Physicians. They expect to 25,000 doctors -- I think we've got a graphic to show you here in terms of the numbers. Nearly half of them, 48 percent of them are concerned or very concerned about attracting COVID-19. That number rises quite significantly, 76 percent among black, Asian, and ethnic minorities, who doctors who are worried about contracting COVID-19. And 16.5 percent of all doctors surveyed -- according to the Royal College of Physicians -- says they found themselves in a situation where they couldn't get PPE in the last few weeks.

And the President of the Royal College of Physicians says that while, you know, people assume everything is OK on the front line, the morale is good, this shows that isn't the case. Yes, testing is improving and PPE, they're getting more PPE. What is showing is that trying to test and get the results in time is still taking a while.

[04:25:00] 14 percent of those who were surveyed said it took more than 4 days to try and get results. So moving but it seems like at snail pace -- Rosie.

CHURCH: Yes, that has been incredibly frustrating. Isa Soares, many thanks to you bringing us that live report from London.

Well, hospital workers in Belgium gave their Prime Minister a cold reception when Sophie Wilmes visited their hospital in Brussels Saturday. The staff lined up outside and turned their backs to her car as she arrived. Representatives for the workers say they're upset with the government's handling of the coronavirus and health care overall, including budget cuts, personnel shortages and low salaries.

And you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, a top Trump advisor takes aim at America's leading public health agency. Why Peter Navarro is slamming the CDC. That's ahead.

And Japan's struggling economy has now fallen into a recession. We will have the latest in a live report from Tokyo. Back in just a moment.


CHURCH: As CNN first reported, President Trump is scheduled to tour a Ford motor company plant in Michigan this week. The automaker says the White House wants to thank its workers for producing medical supplies and equipment during the pandemic. But while the administration has praise for Ford, it's been critical of an agency at the forefront of the coronavirus fight. CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond has our report.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it would be remarkable at any moment for a top White House official to criticize a government agency, but particularly remarkable when it's a senior White House official who is criticizing the Centers for Disease Control amid a global pandemic. But that is exactly what we heard from Peter Navarro --