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Flooding Emergency In Michigan After Two Dams Fail; CDC Releases 60-Page Detailed Reopening Guidelines; French Vaccine Maker Backs Off Priority Access For U.S. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired May 20, 2020 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Dams failed in Michigan. Thousands crowding into shelters this house despite coronavirus.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: A major ruling on mail-in voting in a red state could mean big changes for the presidential election.

ROMANS: And the CDC finally releases guidelines for reopening after all the states have reopened. What's in there, what's not, and when the nation's most populous county may finally get moving.

Good morning, this is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. Thirty minutes past the hour here in New York.

Breaking overnight, a state of emergency and thousands of people evacuating in Michigan after two dams fail. It's the first big test of how a state responds to a natural disaster since coronavirus swept the U.S. Both the Edenville and Sanford dams breached last night following heavy rains and flash flooding across the state.

ROMANS: The Tittabawassee River is expected to set a new record this morning cresting at 38 feet before receding slowly.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says the situation is bad and will get worse today.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately nine feet of water. We are anticipating an historic high-water level. If you are in one of these impacted areas please, right now, evacuate.


ROMANS: The timing an especially serious problem as officials try to prevent the spread of Covid with evacuees forced to gather in shelters. County officials say teams at shelters will be screening everyone and handing out masks, and they say emergency personnel there have plenty of PPE. JARRETT: No deaths or injuries have been reported so far but the flooding is causing damage in areas well beyond Midland County.


TOM PORTER, ARENAC COUNTY RESIDENT: Me and the kids and the wife, we're all talking about what are we going to do, what are we going to do.

NICOLE RICHEY, GLADWIN COUNTY RESIDENT: I knew it would be bad, but not this bad. Yes, not this bad. This is real bad. I don't know how long it's going to take for the water to go down now.

RAYMOND GULVIS, ARENAC COUNTY RESIDENT: This is the worst flooding I have ever seen in this area.


JARRETT: The National Weather Service in Detroit says a flash flood emergency continues in Midland County through 7:30 this morning.

And new this morning, a major ruling in Texas that could have big implications for the presidential election. A federal judge has ruled Texans afraid of catching coronavirus, meaning everybody, can vote by mail. The decision says a disability provision in the state's absentee voting law includes people who lack immunity from Covid-19 and fear infection at polling places.

Republicans in the red state, and President Trump, have resisted calls to expand mail-in voting. They've been claiming without any evidence that it invites voter fraud.

ROMANS: Mail-in voting is expected to be used widely in November because of the pandemic. In-person voting proved very chaotic in Wisconsin last month. And sowing doubts about the process now could give the GOP ammunition to fight a result they don't like in the fall.

The Texas attorney general said he intends to immediately appeal the ruling.

JARRETT: On the very same day the 50th and final state reopens from coronavirus, detailed guidelines on how to reopen have finally emerged from the CDC. The guidance was shelved by the White House over concern that faith-based groups were being unfairly targeted. Now, a senior CDC official says references to those groups were stripped away.

And CNN's Drew Griffin reports multiple sources inside the CDC are convinced politics, not science, is the driving force behind decisions to end a pandemic that has, so far, killed almost 92,000 people.

ROMANS: There are now 18 states where infection rates have climbed in the last week. On Friday, there were only seven. Ahead of Memorial Day, states are loosening restrictions even further.

Most notably, New York will allow Memorial Day ceremonies with up to 10 people. And, Miami will join the rest of Florida, allowing some businesses like shops and salons to open with restrictions.

JARRETT: As for the 60 pages of those CDC guidelines, it's a lot of what local leaders have already been doing in their states. For schools and day camps, it recommends desks at least six feet apart; lunch in classrooms, not the cafeteria; and temperature checks for everyone.

ROMANS: For restaurants, no sharing of menus or condiments, outdoor seating first, and signs to keep diners six feet apart. Again, local business owners already doing a lot of this.

So as of today, all states are reopened in some form and we now have a better idea of when America's most populous county could open up. CNN's Nick Watt is in Los Angeles.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, Christine and Laura, today, Connecticut becomes the 50th and final state to start opening the door. They are taking baby steps according to the governor, but he says the timing is right. The numbers are going down.


You know, mid-April they were seeing maybe 1,000 new cases a day, 100 deaths. That's now down to 300 and some new cases in a day and yesterday, just 23 deaths. That is a lot of death but in the new normal we all live in that is sadly considered progress.

Here in California, we have just heard from the county supervisor here in L.A. County, home to 10 million Americans, that July Fourth is the goal. Independence Day is the day by which they want to get most business open again, but they are still going to go by the data.

So, we're talking by July Fourth, dining inside restaurants, shopping malls. Also a lot of pressure to get the movie industry back up and running. Also to get sporting events back.

Of the 58 counties in California, 53 of them have met the benchmarks to reopen already. But some of them, like L.A., are cautious and are taking it a little slower.

Briefly, back to that July Fourth goal, as somebody who lives in Los Angeles County it is reassuring, I suppose, to get a date -- see a light at the end of the tunnel, but it does feel still a long way off.

Christine and Laura, back to you.


ROMANS: All right, Nick. Thank you so much for that.

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell and the Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin with grave assessments of the economy and different views on the economic outlook after coronavirus. Powell again suggested more money is needed to boost the economy,

while the Treasury secretary and the White House prefer to wait. Now, Mnuchin warned there could be long-term damage to the economy the longer states are shut down but said he expects a strong second half of the year.

The debate over how and when to reopen led to this exchange between Mnuchin and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.


SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): How many workers will die if we send people back to work without the protections they need, Mr. Secretary?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Mr. Senator, we don't intend to send anybody back to work without the protections.

BROWN: How many workers should give their lives to increase the GDP or the Dow Jones by 1,000 points?

MNUCHIN: No workers should give their lives to do that, Mr. Senator, and I think your characterization is unfair.


ROMANS: The exchange illustrates the balancing act between opening up the economy and flattening the infection curve.

And the Fed chief highlighted the strain on state and local governments. He pointed out that one in seven workers works for state and local government. These are firefighters, police officers, teachers.

A new stimulus bill passed by the House includes more money for states. Republicans less eager to bail out the states. Economists say a recovery won't happen without support for state and local employment.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: When you have a situation where people are unemployed for long periods of time, that can be -- 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.


ROMANS: The House plans to vote next week on changes to the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program, including how and when the money needs to be spent.

You know, Laura, there's been so much complaint about how that -- how hard it was to get the money from that program and also, these business owners want more flexibility on how to spend it and get the loan forgiven.

JARRETT: Yes, and for good reason, obviously.


JARRETT: Well, why a big change in France could mean the U.S. won't get a first crack at a vaccine.



ROMANS: Cambridge University in the U.K. announcing plans to move all face-to-face lectures for the upcoming academic year online. Smaller teaching groups may be able to meet face-to-face if they conform to social distancing. Officials say in-person lectures are expected to begin again in the summer of 2021.

Cambridge is the first British university to announce virtual teaching for the 2020-21 school year. That's the school year which begins in October.

JARRETT: Well, a big about-face by a French pharmaceutical company backtracking from its CEO's apparent suggestion that the U.S. would be prioritized for a coronavirus vaccine.

CNN's Melissa Bell is live in Paris on this. Melissa, what's going on here?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was a row that had begun last week when the CEO of the French pharmaceutical giant, Laura, had suggested that perhaps the U.S. market might get priority should his company find a vaccine.

He was then summoned, no less, by the French president that he met with yesterday. At the end of the meeting both sides agreed, according to what the Elysee said, that any access to such a vaccine needed to be universal.

But really, what the row highlights is that companies like Sanofi have been able to turn to the Americans for that crucial funding in a search for a vaccine because of the biomedical agency, something that lacks here in Europe. Really, just highlighting some of the difficulties that European countries have had getting together to fight this epidemic. And, of course, that fight continues here in France.

You know, schools here have been open for less than a week now Laura and already, we're hearing that 70 in the country are having to close because of coronavirus scares. Not that they all have coronavirus cases but there have been scares in their areas that have led officials to close them.

So, everyone really keeping a close eye on that as the government seeks to continue towards reopening some of the country with many restrictions still in place. The numbers though, overall, continue to improve here in France, Laura.

We've had the falling number of people in ICU these last few days. Again yesterday, according to the official figures -- and that is the crucial number -- what the country can cope with in terms of people in ICUs -- as long as that number continues to fall the authorities will continue to seek to open things up, Laura.


JARRETT: All right, Melissa Bell in Paris for us. Thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right.

The U.S. is sending a shipment of ventilators to Russia today to help in Russia's fight against coronavirus. Russia, experiencing a public health crisis, has the second-most Covid-19 cases worldwide. Russian President Vladimir Putin's popularity is in freefall.

CNN's Matthew Chance live with the latest -- Matthew.


The first shipments of that medical aid, including 50 ventilators, expected to arrive perhaps later on today. It's certainly going to be dispatched from the U.S. later on today although we don't know when the exact arrival time is going to be. It's going to be followed up shortly afterwards with a further 150 ventilators, American-made from the U.S.

It's a big turnaround, of course, because it was just last month, in April, when Russia sent its own ventilators and a bunch of other medical equipment to New York and New Jersey to help with the coronavirus crisis there. But that situation has reversed dramatically. Russia now just struggling under the weight of its more than 300,000 coronavirus infections identified across the country.

And that's having an impact on Vladimir Putin. His normally sky-high popularity ratings -- the Russian president -- were over 80 percent just a few months ago. And now, down to an all-time low -- still, 59 percent.

But still, opposition figures in the country have said some weakness is being accused of appearing disengaged, appearing only by videoconference. Even looking bored at times when his senior officials talk to him about how they're handling the situation.

One opposition figure said he looked less like a supreme commander and more like a scared old grandad hiding in his bunker -- hardly the kind of strongman, action-man image we're used to with Vladimir Putin -- Christine.

ROMANS: Absolutely right. All right, Matthew Chance for us in London this morning. Thank you so much for that report.

We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ROMANS: Global coronavirus lockdowns may drive carbon emissions to their lowest level since World War II. A new study finds daily global carbon emissions were down 17 percent between January and April compared to 2019. Researchers expect the declines to be temporary. But depending on how reopenings go worldwide, the annual decline could still be as much as eight percent.

JARRETT: A baby powder that's been a staple in American homes for decades is disappearing from store shelves. Johnson & Johnson announcing it will stop selling its talcum-based baby powder, among other products, in both the U.S. and Canada.

The company has had to pay out billions of dollars in lawsuits over claims the product causes cancer, something Johnson & Johnson denies. Most studies suggest more research is needed on this.

ROMANS: Now let's take a look at markets around the world this Wednesday morning. You can see that European shares are mixed following a mixed performance in Asia as well.

On Wall Street, futures this moment pointing slightly here. Stocks snapped their three-day winning streak, though, Tuesday. The Dow closed down 391 points. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also lower.

A big question for a lot of you out there. How much longer will America work from home? Visa will allow a majority of its employees to work from home for at least the rest of the year, following the lead of Twitter and Google.

Memorial Day weekend typically kicks off the summer travel season -- not this year. Data from the Travel Association shows travel spending over Memorial Day weekend is expected to be just a third of last year's levels.

More than half of the nearly-16 million travel-related jobs in the U.S. have disappeared. That's double the rate of -- unemployment rate of the height of the Great Depression. The Travel Association says the industry is already in a depression.

Home Depot's sales were strong in the first quarter but it spent $850 million on expanded benefits for its workers, including more paid time off and higher overtime pay. That, of course, hurt its profits while protecting its workforce. It could benefit if more consumers decide to do more home improvement projects while at home.

With more sports -- with most sports, rather, on hold, the documentary about Michael Jordan proved to be the escape fans needed. "THE LAST DANCE" brought in 6 1/2 -- 5.6 million viewers over its 10-episode run making it the most-watched documentary ever for ESPN. For context, a Sunday night baseball game between the Red Sox and the Yankees brought in roughly two million viewers last year.

It was fun to watch, wasn't it?

JARRETT: I've got to tell you, Christine, my household had a really hard time not binging and being able to watch all those episodes whenever we wanted, but we got through it.


JARRETT: Well, horse racing's Triple Crown will have a new look from start to finish due to coronavirus.

The Belmont Stakes will be held without spectators on June 20th. For the first time ever, it will run before the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Traditionally, the Belmont is the final leg of the Triple Crown. The Kentucky Derby is scheduled for September fifth and the Preakness for October third.

ROMANS: All right, that's it for us for this morning. Thanks for joining us this Wednesday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The CDC releasing detailed guidelines on how to safely reopen the country.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You get the sense from this document that it's really leaving it more up to the discretion of governors now.

MNUCHIN: There is the risk of permanent damage. We want to do this in a balanced and safe way.

WHITMER: In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately nine feet of water. We are anticipating an historic high-water level.

ROBERT NORTH, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR, GLADWIN COUNTY, MICHIGAN: The dams in the county are all wide open. We're just waiting for the water to crest and we're assessing what damages we have.

BRAD KAYE, CITY MANAGER, MIDLAND, MICHIGAN: We are looking at flood heights that are the highest we've ever had in the city of Midland.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, May 20th, 6:00 here in New York. This morning, all 50 states are at least partially reopening. And we finally have detailed guidance from the CDC about how to do it safely, though they have omitted guidance for churches and other faith-based institutions.

Also this morning, tension between the White House and the CDC escalating. Sources inside the CDC tell CNN they are convinced that politics, not science, is driving the administration's response and they say that has made this pandemic worse.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: There are also new questions this morning about the data on coronavirus.