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Trump Pushes for NC to Reopen as It Moves Slower than Bordering Southern States; 50% of Tyson Workers Test Positive at Poultry Plant in NC; NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update on Coronavirus Response; Update on Coronavirus Responses from Around the World. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 21, 2020 - 11:30   ET




GOV. ROY COOPER (D-NC): We want to open the economy, too, but let's do it the right way.

PAT MCCRORY (R-NC), FORMER GOVERNOR: This Friday I can get a haircut.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Pat McCrory is the state's former Republican governor, defeated four years ago by Cooper. For more than a decade, he also served as mayor of Charlotte and now delivers opinion on talk radio.

MCCRORY: If President Trump loses North Carolina, he probably loses the presidency. So it is extremely important to the Republicans and to the president to make sure that we get our message across. And the convention is a major part of messaging.

ZELENY: For weeks he's been calling on North Carolina to reopen faster. There will be fallout come November he believes, but for who remains unclear.

MCCRORY: I think voters are going to be determining between now and November who played politics with the decisions. Both good and bad politics. The interesting question will be: Will this be over by the time of the election?


ZELENY: And that is the essential question: Will this be over by November? Experts say likely not.

But, John, one reason the president is so intent on having this convention, he wants it to be a symbol of America reopening, the economy reopening across the country. But very much an open question what this virus will do.

But certainly there's no question at all, as we move from a health crisis into a political fallout from this, this is now part of our red/blue divide here in the American political landscape -- John?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And, Jeff, we have no idea what North Carolina, what the country, what the pandemic climate, what the political climate is going to look like by the time we get closer to November.

But what about now in that state? You remember it well. Barack Obama won it in 2008. Then Romney took it back in 2012. President Trump won it in 2016. The former governor, the Republican, is correct. If Trump loses North Carolina, you can forget about it. What's the state of play right now?

ZELENY: John, there's no question that North Carolina and its 15 electoral debates are so key to the Trump campaign plan. Without it, almost impossible to see how he could thread the needle to win.

But there are three competitive races here. The governor's race, one of the most competitive Senate races in the country, as well as a presidential campaign. Ads already on the air here.

No one knows how the politics of this will fall. But this will be one of the hardest-fought states. The question is: Will the pandemic play a role in it on either side? And the governor said, who lost four years ago, it's too early to tell who that benefits -- John?

KING: Have to watch this day to day.

Jeff Zeleny, appreciate the reporting live from the ground in North Carolina.

We're also following a growing outbreak within that state. This one at a Tyson poultry plant in Wilkesboro. And 570, 570 workers have tested positive.

Our Dianne Gallagher following this story for us.

Dianne, another plant with a major outbreak.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. This one about 25 percent of the more than 570 workers who were tested at the Tyson Foods poultry plant in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. This is a large plant. It employs a lot of people. Tyson says the majority of those people who tested positive did so at a three-day testing event in early May onsite there at the plant.

Now, they've been operating in this limited capacity for about a week now. They did resume operations on Tuesday there in Wilkesboro.

But Wilkes County has been sounding alarms about the plant for two weeks now, saying the majority of their cases were people who worked inside that plant or who had been in direct contact with that plant.

Tyson says anyone who tested positive did receive paid time off and they're not allowed to return back to work, John, until they met Tyson and CDC standards.

Tyson went on to talk about the different measures they've taken inside their plants that we've heard time and time again at the sites of these different outbreaks, depending on which company it is, adding those different plexiglass dividers, making sure medical resources are on-site, and trying not to incite by staying and working sick. But it just goes to show, John, we're still seeing outbreaks at these

plants. Even after the president did that Defense Production Act measure to keep the plants open, we're still seeing it. People are still getting sick. We're still seeing outbreaks even with measures being put in place to try and prevent them from getting sick in these working conditions.

It's just the way that it is inside those plants. It seems to continue to be a hotbed for the spread of COVID-19, working shoulder to shoulder, even with additional measures, long hours, not as much ventilation inside these facilities.

KING: Dianne, you've been reporting on this for weeks now. And it pops up in different states, sometimes in multiple states, almost on a daily basis. But to the point you just made -- I'm sorry.

I think the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, beginning his briefing. He's in New York City today.

Sorry, Dianne.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): -- the city of New York. Let's talk about some facts of just to where we are today.

Everybody knows who is with us today. From my left, Dr. Jim Melatrus. Robert Mujica, budget director. Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor. Gareth Rhodes, young genius.

Total hospitalizations down, great news, 5,187. The net change is down. That's good news. Intubations are down. That's very good news.

New COVID cases are down to 246, which is actually lower than we were when this first started. So we're back to a point earlier than we were when this COVID strike hit us and we started that spike. So that's really good news.

The number of deaths, 105. That's terrible news. Relatively, it's better than it has been. Still, 105 families who are grieving today. And they are in our thoughts and prayers.

But you see the overall trajectory of the situation. March 20th to May 20th, a period of time that will go down in history. A lot of pain, unique period. But we got through it. We got through it. We got over the mountain, literally and figuratively.

We're not talking about reopening across the state. We're doing it region by region. Rockland County today is eligible for elective surgery and ambulatory care. When we open up out elective surgery in the hospital system, it means we have the hospital bed capacity.

One of the mad scrambles, if you remember earlier on, was making sure we had enough hospital capacity because the projections were where we would need double the hospital capacity in this state, so we stopped elective surgeries. Opening up elective surgeries means we have hospital capacity.

When we reopen a region, we start to reopen a region, there will be increased activity. More people are coming out. That does not necessarily equate to an increase in the number of cases. It does not have to be that increased activity means more cases. It tends to be true but it doesn't have to be true.

You can have more activity, and if people take the right precautions, you don't necessarily need to see a rise in the number of cases.

And none of this is preordained. As you increase activity, what will happen is a function of what we do. And that's not just rhetorical. If you tell me how New Yorkers react with increased activity, I will tell you what will happen to the infection rate. It literally depends on what we do. And everyone has a role to play as we go forward.

You reopen shops for curbside retail. How do the shopkeepers, the retail owners, how do they perform? How do the employees perform? How do the employers who have people coming back perform?

And probably most importantly, as individuals, how are we acting and how are we performing? Are we maintaining social distancing, et cetera?

Of all the bizarre things we've gone through, this fact is probably one of the most important facts to me. Logic would have suggested that first responders would have had the highest infection rate, right? Just common sense.

The nurses, the doctors, the EMS workers who are first responding to COVID-positive people, working with COVID-positive people all day long, they had to have the highest infection rate, right? Just logic.

Think about those emergency rooms. People working 12, 14, 16, 18 hours a day with COVID-positive people. They must have had the highest infection rate. NYPD, first responders, fire department. They must have had a higher infection rate.

The first responders, the frontline workers, wind up having a lower infection rate than the general population in that area. How can that possibly be? Because the PPE works. Those masks work.


We've literally tested all the frontline workers. Transit workers, they're driving the buses. They're encountering hundreds of people a day. They're driving the trains, subway system, on stations, in cars.

Health care workers, nurses, doctors, hospital staff, NYPD, fire department, correction officers in state prisons with a congregate population, state police administration, they all have a lower percentage than the general population. That's good news for the frontline workers, and we were all worried about what they were doing.

But there's a message for all of us, which is that the PPE actually works. The mask is not just a social symbol, right? This is not do it because we're asking you to do it. The surgical mask, this mask, is the same thing that is given to the frontline workers. They're not using anything different.

If it reduced the infection rate for them, it will reduce the infection rate for you. But you have to wear it.

Now, we say that employers must provide this to employees when they go back to work. If they do not get one, employees should call this number and report an employer who is not operating with the right precautions.

Also, we're starting our tracing operation, and this is totally new. A person who tests positive, the tracers will then contact that person and ask who they may have exposed.

And you could get a phone call following up on this tracing information, saying you were with John Smith last night, John Smith is now positive, you may want to be tested.

On your telephone, if you have one of the new fancy phones, which I do not, it will come up "NYS contact tracing." You should answer that call. It's not a hoax. It's not a scam. It's not a fraud. That is an official message saying New York State contact tracing is calling. So if you get that message, take that phone call. It's for your health. It's for your family's health.

Small businesses are struggling. The numbers of small businesses that they're projecting may not come back are really staggering. We're trying to do everything we can on a state level.

I hope the federal government passes an additional small business relief program.

But we are extending the sales tax filing. We've extended it from March 20th to May 19th. We're now going to extend this to June 22nd. We understand they have financial issues, obviously. So the state is doing everything that they can.

On schools, we adopted a statewide policy for our schools. May 1st we announced K-12 and college would be closed for the rest of the academic year.

Schools, obviously pose risks. They're places of gathering. They're on buses. They're in classrooms. How do you reduce density in a classroom? How do you reduce density in a cafeteria, on a school bus, et cetera? How do you get children to wear masks?

And we have another development that we're tracking, which is the COVID-related child illness. Ms. Russo has done great work on this. I believe -- and I've said this from the start -- this did not present as a COVID situation because it's not respiratory.

And we were told early on that children are not affected by COVID. And that was one of the pieces of news that actually reduced anxiety early on. We're now starting to see that children, who test positive for COVID

or test positive for COVID antibodies, are developing these inflammatory symptoMs. Inflammation of the blood vessel, inflammation of the heart, but it's quite serious. And we've lost a number of children.


New York State Department of Health was the first to really investigate this. The more they investigated, the more cases they found.

Last Thursday, there were seven countries that also investigated and found cases. There were 17 states that found cases, OK? This was last Thursday. Today, there are 13 countries and 25 states.

This is one of those situations where, the more they look, I believe the more they're going to find.

So when we're talking about schools, again, the facts have changed from the, quote, unquote, "experts" because there are no experts on this COVID virus. I've learned that the hard way. Children are not affected. Well, now maybe children are affected, right?

And when you're talking about schools, and you're talking about children, and you're talking about density, exploring the situation and making sure that this is not a widespread situation affecting children. They're not even sure the duration after the COVID exposure that this might occur. Because this is all a case of first impression.

But this is a related issue that does affect children. And obviously, it's something we're very concerned about.

So the question was on summer school. Will summer school open? Summer school is not going to open statewide for in-class teaching. It will be through distance learning. And meal programs and childcare services for essential employees will continue.

In terms of opening up school for the fall, it's still too early to make that determination. We want to get more information on this inflammatory syndrome. We also want to see how the development for treatment of vaccine proceeds.

We will issue guidelines beginning of June on what schools would need to do to come up with a plan to prepare to open. The schools will do those plans, provide them to the state in July. The state will approve those plans or not approve those plans in July all in preparation for an opening in September. But, again, we don't want to make that decision until we have more facts.

And as the facts keep changing, prudence dictates that you don't make a decision until it's timely so you have the most recent facts to make the decision.

We're coming up to Memorial Day weekend. State -- downstate beaches that are open tomorrow, Jones Beach, Sunken Meadows, Heather Hills, Robert Moses, they're on Long Island. Those beaches open 6:00 a.m. and close at 9:00 p.m. Swimming is allowed from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Like Welch Beach in Harriman State Park.

Just a note on these beaches. There are certain rules on beaches that are operating. Primarily, 50 percent capacity and then social distancing on the beach. No contact activities, obviously. Social distancing will be enforced. Masks are required to be worn when social distancing is impossible.

But there's such a demand in the New York City area to get to a beach, to get some respite. It's Memorial Day weekend, people want to get out of the homes.

So 50 percent capacity. Those beaches may reach capacity at 10:00, 11:00 in the morning. So that's something to take into consideration.

I'm a Queens boy. It's a ride to these beaches. And you don't want to take that ride and get all the way out there and find out the beach is already closed.

Again, this is a first time for all of us. But 50 percent capacity. With this pent-up demand, those parking lots will reach capacity very quickly. So take that into consideration when you're making your plans.

This week is National EMS Week. And it's a time to thank the EMS workers who just were on the frontlines and did a magnificent job. Some of them actually gave their lives to this. And we are all very, very grateful to them, the EMS workers, as well as all of the frontline workers.


But to those who we lost in this battle -- and it was a battle, it is a battle -- we want to say special condolences to their families.

Really, everybody knew. They knew what inferno they were running into. And they ran into the fire. For us. Everybody knew COVID-19 was dangerous. But they didn't stay home. They didn't call in sick.

Some people volunteered to come from across the country to help us here in New York. And they lost their lives. We should remember that.

When we're in the midst of this now, when we get a chance to reflect on what has been done here, what we've gone through and how people reacted, Winston Churchill, "Never was so much owed by so many to so few."

COVID-19, it could kill you. Everyone, stay home. Except the frontline workers and essential workers we need to you go to work. Well, I thought you just said COVID-19 could kill me? Yes. But you have to go to work anyway.

And they did. And they did. Hospital works, NYPD, fire department, EMS, grocery store workers, delivery boys, delivery women, they showed up. God bless them. God bless them. And we thank them. Questions? Comments?


KING: The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, giving his daily coronavirus briefings in New York City today.

The big news of the briefing, number one, the governor says the medical metrics all continue to head in the right direction.

But, number two, he said, as New York State starts its cautious reopening plan, he announced today that summer schools will not be open for in classroom. Distance learning will continue for summer schools.

And says there's still not a decision yet about bringing students back to schools across New York State in the fall because of that new mysterious inflammatory syndrome now being detected in children around the world. But more than 100 cases in New York City. So, the governor says they want to study that in more detail before he makes a call about schools at the end of the summer.

But no summer schools across New York State. Distance learning will continue there. That big announcement from the governor.

Quick break. We'll be back in just a moment.



KING: Brazil is experiencing a sharp spike in coronavirus cases. And its president believes Hydroxychloroquine can help.

CNN reporters bring us that and other major developments around the world.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Brazil, the health ministry has published new guidelines expanding the use of chloroquine to treat coronavirus, despite warnings from international health experts.

Egged on by President Jair Bolsonaro, the ministry determined that chloroquine, the anti-malaria drug, can now be used to treat even mild cases of COVID-19.

Bolsonaro, like his counterpart in the United States, has been a major proponent of the use of chloroquine, clashing with doctors and even his own health ministers. Last week, his second health minister resigned and he has yet to name a replacement.

In the meantime, Brazil has surpassed the U.K. in the number of total coronavirus infections. Now it's behind only the United States and Russia. And on Wednesday night, the health ministry reported a grim new record of nearly 20,000 new cases of COVID-19 in a single day.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in the U.K., the country's security minister said that an app that will test and track people with the coronavirus will not be ready as anticipated by June 1st, to coincide with the reopening of some of this country's schools.

And this had been a major concern and demand from teachers' unions, that this app be ready, that the ability be in place to track and trace people who might have coronavirus to see whose contacts they might be passing that virus onto.

The government is saying, this should not be a problem, because they have a manual system in place that will be ready on June 1st that they say can monitor up to 10,000 people who have the virus and their contacts to see who they might be passing it onto.

But all of this really feeding into the lively debate that is going on at the moment here in the U.K. about this anticipated opening of some classes in Britain's primary schools that is supposed to take place on June 1st.

Clarissa Ward, CNN, London.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in Denmark, this country is further accelerating the process of reopening schools. As of next week, even the older classes are going to be back in session.

Denmark is really seen as a role model for reopening the schools. Most of the students already back in classes.

But like every other country, the big question for them is finding enough space to accommodate all of the students who are coming back under the physical distancing rule. The Danes have gotten creative about that. They've moved classes to churches, even to cemeteries as well.


Another interesting thing is you really don't find students or teachers wearing masks in the schools. It's not something the Danes believe in. Instead, you have a lot of handwashing.