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White house Criticizes CDC for Early Testing Failures; Texas Records Highest Single Day Increase in Cases; New York State Sees Major Drop in New Cases; Two Hard-Hit Counties in Florida Can Begin Reopening; Japanese Economy Falls Into Recession; Kenya Facing Shortage of Life-Saving Ventilators; Australia Rolls Out Virtual Campaign to Boost Tourism. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 18, 2020 - 04:30   ET




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, President Trump's top trade advisor who criticized the CDC on Sunday for its early testing failures.

PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISOR: Early on in this crisis the CDC, which really had the most trusted brand around the world in this space really let the country down with the testing. Because not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test. And that did set us back.

DIAMOND: Now Navarro is actually right in his criticism here that the CDC made critical mistakes early on that delayed the release of accurate testing kits across the country for several weeks. But of course, that was just one of several early missteps by the Trump administration. So the question is why is Navarro singling out the CDC? And what we do know is that it comes as there are rising tensions between the White House and the Centers for Disease Control. Part of that tension stems from the disagreements over how the CDC is tracking data related to this virus.

But then there is also those detailed guidelines. 68 pages of guidelines that CDC officials have compiled for how businesses and states can begin to reopen. The White House shelved those plans and said releasing just six pages of far less detailed guidelines last week.

Now as there is some internal firing in the Trump administration, we are also hearing some criticism from a very prominent voice on the outside. And that is the former President Barack Obama who we know just a week ago had been criticizing President Trump's response to the coronavirus as anemic and spotty. Calling it an absolute chaotic disaster. He offered some more criticism, this time publicly during an address to graduates on Saturday.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. 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're doing. A lot of them aren't even pretending to be in charge.

DIAMOND: President Trump over the last week has been repeatedly attacking former President Obama, leveling a series of unsubstantiated allegations against him, including suggesting that he was part of a conspiracy to try and undermine his presidency in the early days for which we do not have any evidence to back up those claims. President Trump did respond directly to that criticism from President Obama on Sunday afternoon. All he had to say though was that President Obama was grossly incompetent as President.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: And CNN spoke with a senior official at the CDC who noted the agency's director, Dr. Robert Redfield, was appointed by President Trump. The official says if there is criticism of the CDC, ultimately that is a criticism of the President.

Well, Jeremy mentioned those vague guidelines from Washington about how to reopen America safely. States are forging ahead anyway. 48 states have now eased at least some restrictions. And this comes as 11 states see a rise in the number of confirmed cases. The governor of Texas is allowing more businesses to reopen today despite a big jump in cases over the weekend. CNN's Ed Lavandera has more.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This weekend Texas reported its most dramatic increase in the number of new coronavirus cases. More than 1,800 cases reported on Saturday alone. On Sunday, those numbers dropped to 785 new cases but if you take a closer look, it also came based on less than half the number of tests that were reported on Sunday. So if you do the math, it comes out to about the same percentage. And this really underscores this growing concern among especially many big city leaders here in the state of Texas as to whether or not the economy here is opening too fast too soon.

State health officials say that the reason for the dramatic increase over the weekend was because of testing being done in the Texas panhandle area around Amarillo where there are a number of meat packing plants and workers who are infected there with the coronavirus. State health officials say there has been localized and focused testing on those areas. And that is in large part why we saw such a dramatic increase. 734 of the 1,800 cases reported on Saturday we're told came from that Texas panhandle region.

But as I mentioned, this is still an area of great concern as the governor here continues to push for the reopening of the economy. And it's hard to imagine barring any other jarring medical data that would be coming out here that this plan to reopen the economy will not continue. In fact, the governor has scheduled a press conference for Monday announcing more reopenings on the same day that gyms and workout facilities will be allowed to reopen for the first time as well since this pandemic started.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.



CHURCH: New York became the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak early on. It still has the most deaths and infections, but it's seeing a major drop off in new cases. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro has our report.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: New York governor Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that there are real signs of improvement in this state hit hardest by the pandemic.

Andrew Cuomo, New York Governor: Let's look at the tracks today. Total hospitalization is down. Good news. Net change is down. Intubations is down. And new COVID hospitalizations are down. Number of deaths are down, 139. At a different time in place if I had that news to deliver, that would be incredibly shocking to people. Only in this environment is it not shocking and relative to where we were, it's good news.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Along with the news of improvement, some reopening in less populous areas of the state. But here in New York City the pandemic lockdown remains in place just as it has been for the past two months. On Sunday Mayor Bill de Blasio said that New York City beaches will remain closed for the foreseeable future. As the weather improves, people are coming out. And here in this park Brooklyn authorities responded by painting circles on the ground six feet apart to keep people distant.

Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: Well, Florida is about to further ease its restrictions. The state has already allowed some shops and public spaces at most of the state to enter its phase one reopening. Now the governor will include two counties hit hardest by the coronavirus. Starting Monday, Miami Dade and Broward counties in south Florida can begin reopening. Miami- Dade has a third of the cases in Florida, more than 15,000. And on Sunday Florida's health department reported a spike in new cases statewide. More than 700. Still, Miami's mayor says the city is taking a cautious approach.


FRANCIS SUAREZ, MIAMI, FLORIDA MAYOR: If we have businesses that are flagrantly violating the rules and are not demanding that their customers comply with social distancing norms with wearing masks inside of their businesses, then we will unfortunately have to shut them down. The big issues that we have is our airports and air travel. And I'm

not sure that anyone feels safe right now or many people feel safe traveling. And so, I think that's going to be an issue. And then obviously, you know, we'll see how this reopening goes. We're hopeful and obviously optimistic that we it will go well. We're hopeful that, you know, the cases continue to go down so that we can enter into the next phase which would be phase 2 in the next 14 days.

But some of the things that we've seen across the country are, you know, concerning and the fact that we just had a one-day spike, it's just one day but, you know, it's something that we have to look at and monitor carefully.


CHURCH: And the pandemic is taking a financial toll on countries around the globe, including Japan. First quarter GDP data shows it's now slipped into a recession for the first time since 2015. The world's third largest economy was already struggling before the outbreak in the summer Olympics, which may have provided some economic boost, had to be postponed. Well now economists predict the situation could get much worse. Let's head straight out to Tokyo. Where journalist Kaori Enjoji is standing by. So, Kaori, what is the likely impact of this in Japan? And how will the country respond to it?

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: Well the country will respond with fresh stimulus. And they're crafting that stimulus now. And it's likely to come out by the end of the month. They've already spent $1.1 trillion, which is a huge amount, 20 percent of GDP to try and shore up the economy. And I think today's number for the first three months of this year was just a preview as to how bad the economic situation is this quarter. I mean, if the economy slips 0.9 percent in the first three months, imagine what it's going to do this quarter when the state of emergency took place.

So consumption is getting hit. Experts are getting hit. And economists are saying that right now the Japanese economy could be posting its lowest growth since the end of the Second World War. So they're throwing a lot of money into this to try and shore up not just the small businesses but the big companies that are starting to suffer as well.

They're also planning to -- they're also preparing billions of dollars in subsidies to try and get Japanese companies to move their factories out of China and bring them back here to Japan. Because this whole pandemic has made it very clear where the risks are in terms of the supply chain. They woke up and realized that 90 percent of their ventilators needed to be imported. The masks they need were all coming from China.


So they're trying to addressing that. And I think, Rosemary, in normal times this might be criticized as protectionist. But in times like this they can argue that it's the best for national security -- Rosemary . CHURCH: Some other countries considering the same thing. Kaori

Enjoji, thank you so much for joining us.

And you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, we take you inside an intensive care unit in Nairobi, Kenya where lifesaving ventilators are in short supply.


CHURCH: South Africa has seen its highest single day jump in coronavirus cases. There was an increase of 1,160 new cases Sunday. That brings the total in the country to over 15,000. With more than half of them coming in the Western Cape Province alone.

In Kenya, nearly 900 people have been infected with 50 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University. In the last few days, the country has closed its borders with Somalia and Tanzania. In a country of 50 million people there are reportedly only a limited number of ventilators. But it isn't just the number of ventilators, it's getting people who know how to use them. Farai Sevenzo has that story from Nairobi.

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Doctors at Kenyatta University Hospital, Nairobi's largest COVID-19 dedicated intensive care ward are grateful for a nearly empty ICU. With less than a thousand confirmed cases in Kenya head doctor, Dr. Isaac Adembesa says that admissions have been few so far. Over 200 COVID-19 patients have been treated here. Several of them needed intensive care but the numbers are rising.

DR. ISAAC ADEMBESA, KENYATTA UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: We have a full bed capacity, that is not enough. If we get more than 24 patients requiring mechanical ventilation, then you are definitely going to have a problem.


SEVENZO: A chronic shortage of life saving equipment in the region has doctors like Adembesa embracing themselves. While the World Health Organization and private entities race to deliver much-needed equipment across Africa.

ADEMBESA: As a hospital we have requested 400 more ventilators. We have yet to receive any of them.

SEVENZO: But there's one thing he says, he's thankful does have.

ADEMBESA: We're lucky we have an oxygen plant which generates oxygen. I know quite a number of hospitals rely on sealing masks and that really be a challenge. Especially if you get huge numbers of patients at once. I can imagine maybe the off-line areas of Kenya, you know, they have to travel several kilometers to get access to this sealing mask.

SEVENZO: Kenya's government has vowed to mass manufacture ventilators to meet the demand. But Dr. Wangari Siika, an intensive care specialist at Aga Khan University Hospital says sourcing equipment is only part of the problem.

DR. WANGARI SIIKA, INTENSIVE CARE SPECIALIST: The bigger problem is the human resource, the technical know how to operate the machines and operate them safely to guide the care on a day-to-day basis, hour-to- hour basis.

SEVENZO: Critical care as a form of specialty is fairly new Kenya. Kenya has about 20 intensive care specialists countrywide and most of them in the capital, Nairobi. Much of the countries critical care needs have fallen into the hands of anesthesiologists of which there are less than 200 in the country of about 50 million people.

SIIKA: What we could as we say is to network and introduce what we call tele ICU, telemedicine for intensive care units. While I'm in Nairobi and I can have a number of ICUs that contact me, tell me that they received such a patient, we've done this. I say, oh, try this. Give me feedback in an hour. And they keep doing that until ultimately, they are able to do what we are able to do.

SEVENZO: And their team is hopeful but they are spread thin.

SIIKA: If you have a situation where one person can take three or even five ICUs around the country, amongst the 20 of us I think that would give us some good results.

SEVENZO: Around the world, COVID-19 has revealed absences in health systems as hospitals struggle to cope with the outbreak. In Kenya it has shown the gap in critical care.

SIIKA: There is a role for the intensivists and not just for COVID-19 but COVID-19 has brought it to fore. And I think that the end of this as a nation we will realize how important it is to train critical care specialists.


SEVENZO: Rosemary, that's the situation here in Kenya. And of course, as you know, there's a great deal of worry. Because 27 more people the papers are reporting this morning tested positive. The borders, as you said earlier, have been closed between Tanzania and Somalia and this nation Kenya. People are extremely worried. Because even the tests themselves, just over 30,000 people have been tested. And it remains to be seen whether this curve is going to continue to go upwards or whether or not they're going to get a grip on this situation -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, it is a terrible situation. Farai Sevenzo, reporting there from Nairobi. Many thanks.

Well you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, tropical storm Arthur is drifting near the U.S. East Coast. Some places are already feeling the effects. And we will have the latest on that on the other side of the break.



CHURCH: Well, like most of us, social distancing is taking a toll on rapper Snoop Dogg. He showed his Instagram followers one way he dealt with his frustrations.


SNOOP DOGG RAPPER: I had to come sit in my car and listen to this (BLEEP), man. Let it go. We'll be outside soon.


CHURCH: Of course that was Idina Menzel singing "Let It Go" from the Disney movie "Frozen." As Snoop would say back in the day, so good.

Well, it was supposed to be a meal out for the New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her partner, Clarke Gayford. But a restaurant practicing social distancing measures turn the couple away because it was too full. Gayford admitted he didn't book a reservation. The cafe later offered the couple a table when one opened up and Gayford said the service was worthy of an A-plus. Fantastic.

Well, tropical storm Arthur is slowly moving closer to the U.S. East Coast. Parts of North Carolina are under tropical storm warnings. And could be experiencing wind gusts up to 60 miles an hour by midday Monday. Riptides are expected from South Carolina to Maryland.

Cyclone Amphan is getting bigger and tracking north through the Bay of Bengal. The massive storm is now packing winds of nearly 150 miles or 240 kilometers per hour. That's according to the latest update from the joint typhoon warning center. Amphan is now equivalent to a super typhoon in the West Pacific or strong category four Atlantic hurricane.

And this weekend Australia called on crocodile wranglers, chefs and celebrities to live stream the best of down under. As CNN's Lynda Kinkade reports, it's part of a push to entice Australians to travel in their own country when it's safe to do so.


LYNDA KINKADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From a stunning sunset over Leroux to and in the Great Barrier Reef, Australians kicked off their travel bucket lift this weekend without even leaving home. The virtual event hosted by tourism Australia aims to inspire people to plan a strip once restrictions are lifted. Crocodile wrangler, Matt Wright, put his body on the line to lure people out of their homes.

MATT WRIGHT, OUTBACK WRANGLER (voice-over): I've worked with crocodiles my whole life and wildlife my whole life. What I do is a very risky job.

KINKADE: And in the coming months, many will weigh the risks on whether to travel.

PHILLIPA HARRISON, TOURISM AUSTRALIA MANAGING DIRECTOR: Australians took 6.5 billion outbound trips last year.


So there is real opportunity to encourage those people taking those troops to discover their own backyard.

KINKADE: The push to holiday at home is being eyed as a potential coronavirus recovery model for other countries.

HARRISON: Yes, I do think it is a big opportunity for the U.S. market.

KINKADE (on camera): But we know Chinese visitors are typically the biggest travelers to Australia. They still can't come. How much is that going to affect business?

MATT STONE, CO-EXECUTIVE CHEF, OAKRIDGE RESTAURANT: We'll kind of scale up as the laws and the restrictions scale up and stop. And so, is just a matter of adapting.

KINKADE (voice-over): 2020 has delivered Australia a double blow. First came the worst bushfire season on record.

CHAD STAPLES, ZOOKEEPER, FEATHERDALE WILDLIFE PARK: There was a lot of habitat loss, a lot of damage. You know, potential extinction events really.

KINKADE: Kylie Minogue Tourism Australia ad to convince Brits to come to Oz was quickly derailed as the fires took hold. Tourism Australia urged people to holiday locally.

CHRIS HEMSWORTH, AUSTRALIAN ACTOR: Spread the word Australia is open. For tourists it's open for business.

KINKADE: Less than two weeks later Australia was closed again. The coronavirus forcing a lockdown.

(on camera): Australia has had a pretty tough run.

HARRISON: We have faced the most challenging period in the history of Australian tourism over the last six months.

KINKADE (voice-over): With restrictions starting to ease, this whole business will be back, so, too, the tourists.

HEMSWORTH: I have no idea that there is some animals that are desperate for visitors to come back.

KINKADE: Linda Kinkade, CNN.


CHURCH: Australia has done a great job with this. And thank you for your company. Take good care. I'm Rosemary Church. "EARLY START" is up next. You're watching CNN.