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Trump Calls Hight U.S. Case Count a Badge of Honor; Trump Defends His Use of Hydroxychloroquine; CDC, Experts Recommend Face Masks as States Open; Michigan Auto Industry Reopening Slowly and Safely; Trump Considering Travel Ban for Brazil; U.K. Prime Minister Under Growing Pressure as Death Toll Rises. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 20, 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, the U.S. President on the defense, pushing his messaging on a controversial drug and disclaiming scientific studies warning against using it, calling them phony and false.

Plus, the world's top air transportation agency is laying out a roadmap to make flying safer. How air travel could look in the wake of the pandemic.

And as restaurants and bars reopen, we test out whether it's really safe to practice social distancing and still eat out.

Good to have you with us.

Well, the world is fast approaching 5 million cases of the coronavirus, with most here in the United States. But that's not stopping the country from continuing its push to reopen. In the coming hours, every U.S. state will have partially lifted their stay-at-home measures. And while infection rates are slowing across most of the U.S., cases continue to rise in at least 17 states. But President Donald Trump says that's not necessarily a bad thing. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we have a lot of cases, I don't look at that as a bad thing. I look at that in a certain respect as being a good thing because it means our testing is much better. So, if we were testing a million people instead of 14 million people, we would have far fewer cases, right. So, I view it as a badge of honor. Really, it's a badge of honor.


CHURCH: Well, despite what Mr. Trump says, the U.S. is nowhere near the world's leader in testing per capita. Data shows several countries are ahead of the U.S. As states reopen, the Centers for Disease Control is issuing its guidelines for reopening. A document that had previously been shelved by the White House.

Here's CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, speaking about it earlier.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: A lot of it's going to look familiar because of the gating criteria, saying states should have 14-day downward trend, they should have plenty of testing in place, things that we've heard. But you get a sense from this document that it's really leaving it more up to the discretion of governors now as opposed to being a sort of national, cohesive strategy. So, they don't want this to get a lot of attention.


CHURCH: And two states that were among the first to reopen have come under fire for their reporting of cases. Florida and Georgia are being accused of publishing misleading statistics and limiting public access to COVID-19 data in their states, raising questions about their counts.

Meanwhile, President Trump's re-election campaign is actively recruiting doctors to serve as surrogates who will help support his messaging on health care and his response to COVID-19. The push comes as Mr. Trump faces criticism over his use of the drug hydroxychloroquine to prevent getting the virus. Jeremy Diamond has more.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump defiant, defending his decision to try and ward off coronavirus by taking an unproven drug, hydroxychloroquine.

TRUMP: Many, many doctors, doctors, many doctors came out and they said, it's great. Now, you have to go to a doctor. I have a doctor in the White House. I said, what do you think? And it's just a line of defense. I'm just talking about as a line of defense. I'm dealing with a lot of people. Look at all the people in the room.

DIAMOND: The President ignoring an FDA warning against using hydroxychloroquine outside of a hospital setting, which said the drug has not been shown to be safe and effective for treating and preventing COVID-19.

TRUMP: But I think it's worth it as a line of defense, and I'll stay on it for a little while longer. I'm just very curious myself. But it seems to be very safe.

DIAMOND: And rejecting a clinical study that found hydroxychloroquine ineffective against coronavirus.

TRUMP: There was a false study done where they gave it to very sick people, extremely sick people, people that were ready to die. It was given by obviously not friends of the administration and the study came out. The people were ready to die. Everybody was old. That with a phony study, and it's very dangerous to do it.


The fact is, people should want to help people, not to make political points. It's really sad when they do that.

DIAMOND: That study conducted on hundreds of patients at VA hospitals was partially funded by the government's National Institutes of Health. Trump also falsely claiming the drug is risk-free.

TRUMP: What has been determined is it doesn't harm you. It's a very powerful drug, I guess, but it doesn't harm you.

DIAMOND: But clinical trials have shown the drug can cause serious heart rhythm problems, a heightened concern for a president who has a common form of heart disease, according to the results of his physical exams. Dr. Sean Conley, physician to the President, revealing in a new memo that he concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risk.

DIAMOND (on camera): Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday saying that he is not taking hydroxychloroquine, even though his press secretary did test positive for the virus. So he is not following the President's lead on this questionable decision to start taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.

President Trump, though, even as he dives in headfirst into this hydroxychloroquine pool, he is not following the advice that public health experts are saying could help prevent the spread of coronavirus, and that is the issue of wearing a mask. The President on Tuesday was noncommittal about whether he will wear a mask when he visits a Ford manufacturing facility in Michigan on Thursday. Ford, though, has said that it did inform the White House that anybody who goes into that facility is required to wear a mask. We'll see whether the President follows that directive.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: So, let's bring in Dr. Dennis Carroll, who joins us now live from Washington. He served as an infectious disease expert for the American government for decades, heading up U.S. AIDS emerging threats division, overseeing threats from Ebola, malaria and avian flu in dozens of countries around the world. Thank you, doctor, for joining us.


CHURCH: So, President Trump is now doubling down, defending his decision to take hydroxychloroquine, despite there being no evidence to suggest in any way that it prevents COVID-19. The President also claims this antimalarial drug is used by frontline workers and does no harm. What's your reaction to all of this?

CARROLL: Well, it's obviously at this point not a surprise to hear him double down on something that has no basis in reality. You know, there is very strong evidence now that, one, hydroxychloroquine does not really bring the miracle cure that he was touting a month ago. And we've seen from studies that there's also risk to patients with certain conditions that, in fact, exacerbate the infection and cause death. So, at one point he said, what do you have to lose? Well, clearly, there can be a loss of life through inappropriate use of this drug. So, it's a remarkable display of irresponsibility by a president who we look to for good advice, and right now, he continues to tout fiction.

CHURCH: Yes, and of course, that is the concern that others might follow his lead and do this. And as you say, the risk is very high. I did want to get your reaction to this new research out of South Korea offering new hope, perhaps, of immunity for COVID-19 survivors. Preliminary findings show patients who retested positive for COVID-19 after being discharged are not contagious. What should we take from that study?

CARROLL: Well, again, it still remains a remarkable mystery as to what extent being pre-exposed to COVID-19 virus provides immunity or not. And we should take each of these early reports with a cautionary tale. We need to be careful to understand. You know, immunity that we're looking for can be short-lived in many different kinds of infections, and they can be long term. Obviously, what we need to get the kind of protective effect we're looking for is an immunity that would last for at least years. And at this point, we have no indication about just how protective or not an infection might be.

So, the story is still out. It's going to be key to controlling this virus. If, in fact, we do find that there is substantial immunity acquired through infection.


It really elevates two things -- one, those people who have been infected sort of decrease the pool of potential populations for the virus to spread to, but it also lays down a really good metric for thinking about how effective a vaccine might be.

CHURCH: The Washington University model often cited by the White House projects there will be 147 deaths in the United States by early August due to this increased mobility we're seeing across the country as these states open up. But Dr. Christopher Murray, who heads that up, thinks wearing masks could make all the difference. But of course, President Trump hasn't been wearing a mask and is not committing to wearing one in the future. Why do so many Americans push back on this? And what's the science behind the wearing of a face mask?

CARROLL: Well, remember, this is a respiratory disease, which means the virus -- the large percentage of the virus that's in our body is in our respiratory tract, our lungs. And when we cough and sneeze, that is how we spread the virus. So, obviously, the smart thing to do is, by wearing a mask, we limit -- if we are infected, if I'm infected, I have a mask on, when I cough and sneeze, I really trap that virus inside the mask and protect the people around me. And from the other side, if I'm not infected, but a person close to me is, and they cough and sneeze, I lower the risk of my sort of inhaling that virus. So, it's really a protective barrier. It's nothing more than that.

And again, as we know, the virus travels by air, by way of our coughing and sneezing. It's a smart, common-sense thing to do, very low-tech, very simple, and very inexpensive, but extraordinarily effective. That's why when you go in the hospitals, you're always seeing nurses and doctors and health workers wearing protective masks, because there are so many diseases that are spread by this route, and it's a proven clinical effectiveness.

CHURCH: Dr. Dennis Carroll, thank you so much. It is an honor to speak with you. Appreciate it.

CARROLL: Well, it was a pleasure being with you this evening as well.

CHURCH: And you can follow the latest developments of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. and around the globe. Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta host a CNN Global Town Hall, "CORONAVIRUS FACTS AND FEARS." That's 8:00 p.m. Thursday in New York, 8:00 a.m. Friday in Hong Kong, only here on CNN.

Well, the U.S. Treasury Secretary and Federal Reserve Chairman were grilled by the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday. Steve Mnuchin warned lawmakers of potential long-term damage to the economy if states remain shut down. And Jerome Powell added that Congress may have to authorize additional spending to get the economy going again. But Democrat Sherrod Brown asked Mnuchin why the Trump administration is so eager to send employees back to work during uncertain times. Take a listen.


SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): If you're pushing people back into the workplace. There's been no national program to provide worker safety. The President says, reopen slaughterhouses, nothing about slowing the line down, nothing about getting protective equipment. How many workers should give their lives to increase the GDP or the Dow Jones by 1,000 points?

STEVE MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: No worker should give their lives to do that, Mr. Senator, and I think your characterization is unfair.

JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE: When you have a situation where people are unemployed for long periods of time, that can permanently weigh on both their careers and their ability to go back to work and also weigh on the economy for years. Equally so with small and medium-sized businesses, which are the jobs machine of our great economy. This is the biggest response by Congress ever and the fastest and the biggest from us, and still this is the biggest shock we have seen in living memory. And the question looms in the air of is it enough?

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: Well, meanwhile, all 50 U.S. states will soon be partially reopened or have eased restrictions. In northern Michigan, some businesses will be reopening Friday. CNN's Miguel Marquez takes a look at the safety measures many are taking to keep their employees safe.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The auto industry, all important to the Michigan economy, slowly inching back into gear.

(on camera): You opted for the face shield, the goggles and the face mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes. You want to stay as safe as possible.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Safety in making employees feel comfortable. A temperature check before they start. Some areas cordoned off to avoid crowding.


First steps for companies like Vintech Industries that supplies parts for the auto industry worldwide.

JIM SCHOONOVER, PRESIDENT, VINTECH INDUSTRIES: If you don't feel safe, what can I do to make you feel safe? And if you don't feel safe, then go home, right. What are you going to do?

MARQUEZ: Employers everywhere facing similar questions -- how to reopen with COVID-19 still a threat.

(on camera): When do you see full production?

SCHOONOVER: You know, I don't see full production -- I don't know. I don't think it's going to come back full production until January.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Vintech says it doesn't expect new orders for at least another couple weeks. Because automakers are inching back to work. This video from Fiat Chrysler shows new entrances, thermal scans, masks, sanitizer and socially distant work and break stations -- the new workplace reality.

LYDIA VASQUEZ, CHASSIS UNIT LEADER, FIAT CHRYSLER: In stations that we could not physically move, we had to hang barriers to create the distance for the employees.

MARQUEZ: The industry may be stuck in first gear for a long time. The University of Michigan's research seminar and quantitative economics forecast, Detroit's big three automakers' sales won't get back to near where they were until late 2022. A slow recovery in the auto industry will have enormous impacts across the entire state.

LAURA WINN, OWNER, TWO GIRLS AND A BUCKET: Financially, it's very difficult. My business is closed. And you don't have any income. MARQUEZ: Laura Winn built her own business, Two Girls and a Bucket,

cleaning homes and offices for 26 years. Eight employees and three family members count on its income.

WINN: I've worked too many years and too hard to lose it. I'm a very hard worker. My girls are hard workers. And this has been a livelihood. So, when you take it away, what do you have? Nothing.

MARQUEZ: Winn faces a double hurdle, clients who might not want others in their homes or offices, and others who may not want to spend on cleaners for now. Reopening Michigan won't come easy or fast.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Macomb County, Michigan.


CHURCH: And adding to Michigan's troubles, roughly 10,000 people are being told to evacuate their homes after two dams failed under heavy rain and flooding. And if you look into the distance there, you can see the water rushing over the top. Authorities warn, the water level could surpass historic records in the coming hours with some areas possibly under nearly 3 meters of water. The timing of the dam breaches is, of course, especially difficult, as officials are trying to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Teams are screening people at emergency shelters.

The U.K. has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Europe. That is adding increasing pressure to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as he looks ahead to reopening schools. CNN is live in London, next.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to ask you a question on Brazil.

TRUMP: Brazil?

CHURCH: Yes. In third place now, catching up to Russia in second place with number of cases. Are you finally considering a travel ban from Brazil and Latin America?

TRUMP: We are considering it. We hope that we're not going to have a problem. The governor of Florida's doing very, very well testing. In particular for Florida because a big majority come into Florida. Brazil has gone more or less herd. You know what that is, herd. And they're having problems.


CHURCH: President Trump there saying he is considering a travel ban on Brazil, and that country reported its biggest daily jump in new coronavirus cases and deaths on Tuesday and currently has the third highest number of cases globally. CNN's Shasta Darlington has the latest now from Sao Paulo.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN REPORTER: In Brazil, record-high deaths and COVID-19 infections setting it on the path to become the world's next hotspot. On Tuesday night, the health ministry recorded 1,179 deaths, a new record. The number of new confirmed cases also a record at 17,000.

U.S. President Donald Trump says he's considering a ban on travel from Brazil, while in Sao Paulo, officials have declared a five-day holiday to try and get people to stay home. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is focusing his attention on expanding the use of malaria drugs to treat coronavirus and has yet to name a new health minister, even though his second one resigned last week.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.


CHURCH: So, when will it be safe for children to go back to school? That is the question on the minds of parents and educators all around the world. And we are learning there's not a one size fits all solution here. In South Korea, it's a big day for some students. School is back in session for those in third year through high school as part of a phased reopening. There was some concern about reopening schools after a cluster infection was reported at nightclubs in Seoul, but officials say students and teachers will have their temperatures checked twice a day to keep everyone safe.

In France, it's one step back. Some schools had to close after suspected cases were detected in the community just one week after reopening when the lockdown ended. According to officials, 40,000 schools are open and nearly 1.5 million students have gone back to school. But 70 percent of primary school students are still being homeschooled.

The U.K. announced more than 500 additional deaths from the coronavirus on Tuesday, as the British government's strategy is under new scrutiny. Johns Hopkins University counts more than 35,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.K. and more than 250,000 cases, making it the worst-hit country in Europe. And that is adding pressure to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.


His plan to reopen schools is raising concern. A new survey from a leading British teachers union says 85 percent of teachers think it's unsafe to return to school on June 1st.

And CNN's Nic Robertson joins me now live from London. Good to see you, Nic. So, the U.K. is now the worst-hit nation in Europe, so how will they ever be ready to safely open schools by June 1st?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the government says one of the keyways to do it is their test, track, and trace system. But that is experiencing problems at the moment. The government says it will recruit 18,000 people to track all people who have come in contact with somebody who has tested positive for COVID- 19. They've recruited 21,000. They're going through the training of those people at the moment.

But a key part of the test, track, and trace is an app that is currently being trialed in the Isle of Wight off the south coast of the U.K., population about 140,000, 40,000 to 60,000 people so far have taken up the use of the app, but there does seem to be technical issues with the app. It's not rolling out as fast as the government anticipated, and teachers' unions here are saying that until this test, track, and trace system is up and running, it's not safe to go back to schools.

And I think they would perhaps point to the exam that the French system, whereby the French have allowed children to go back to schools in areas where there is low incidence and infection rates of COVID-19, and that when those rates have been detected going up, schools there have been closed.

The implication that in Britain at the moment, this system to monitor that effectively what is happening in the communities around schools is not in place yet. So, not only do you have, you know, 85 percent of teachers saying that they don't feel it's safe to go back to school, 93 percent think that the government's messaging on all of this is confused. And more than 50 percent say they don't think there can be proper social distancing inside schools. So, there are a lot of issues here, but they're compounded by the fact that the test, track, and trace isn't up and running. Worse than that for the government, some of the government's senior scientific advisers are backing the teachers unions at the moment as well.

CHURCH: Yes, very problematic. And June 1st is not very far away. Nic Robertson, many thanks to you joining us live from London.

Well, the World Health Organization agrees to hold an inquiry into the global handling of the pandemic. Ahead, President Trump's take on China's role and Beijing's response to the crisis.