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Global Coronavirus Cases Surpass 5 Million; Push to Reopen Collides with Reality of Uptick in Cases; China Threatens Retaliation for Friendly U.S. Treatment f Taiwan; Three Wounded in Arizona Shopping Complex Shooting; 2 Companies Announce Progress in Vaccine Testing; Thousands Left Homeless After Cyclone Batters South Asia. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 21, 2020 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Still a long way to go. A record number of new daily coronavirus cases as the global case count tops 5 million. A new warning this morning to expect future shutdowns.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: And breaking overnight, three people shot at Arizona shopping complex. People on site forced to shelter in place all night.

ROMANS: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's Thursday, May 21st, 5:00 a.m. here in New York.

We begin this morning with the global push to reopen from coronavirus colliding with a harsh new reality.


DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL: In the last 24 hours, there have been 106,000 cases reported to WHO, the most in a single day since the outbreak began.


JARRETT: The World Health Organization says nearly 2/3 of the cases were in just four countries, the U.S., Russia, Brazil, and India. The real number is likely even higher because of delays in reporting. Now, overnight, global coronavirus cases passed the 5 million mark.

ROMANS: In the U.S., California reported its second highest daily COVID death toll as most counties move forward with reopening. And now, a new coronavirus model projects spikes in some areas that have reopened early and aggressively. This model by Pennsylvania researchers predicts rapid upticks in places like Miami, populous parts of Texas and parts of Alabama and Tennessee.

JARRETT: Meanwhile, embattled CDC chief Robert Redfield is warning there may have to be a second round of lockdowns later this year. Redfield told "The Financial Times", the rapid spread in the southern hemisphere suggest a likely flair up in the U.S. this fall and winter as seasonal flu coincides with the second wave of COVID-19.

ROMANS: And new overnight. Startling research from Columbia University. It suggests if the U.S. had locked down just two weeks earlier, 84 percent of deaths and 82 percent of cases could have been averted.


JEFFREY SHAMAN, ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SCIENCES PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: If you don't recognize the problem early, and if you don't jump on it, it's going to really come down on you harder than it would otherwise. If we don't monitor it and if we don't recognize it really early and jump on it, it's going to jump out of control again.


ROMANS: Proof is in the numbers. Last Friday, 28 cases had the number of new cases trending in the right direction. This morning, it's only 12 states.

JARRETT: New overnight, President Trump is going further than ever, criticizing China's president because of the pandemic. Without naming Xi Jinping, Trump says it all right here, it all comes from the top. That's the opposite of what the president said in the first few months of the crisis.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think President Xi is working very, very hard. I spoke to him. He's working very hard. I think he's doing very good job.

I have great respect for President Xi. I consider him to be a friend of mine.

The relationship I have with President Xi is, you know, I think is extraordinary.

Now we're friends. Maybe we've never had a better relationship. And we're working with them very closely on the coronavirus.

He is working very hard. He is very capable. The country is very capable.

And as far as President Xi, likewise, he's a friend of mine. I believe that we are dealing in good faith.


JARRETT: CNN's Anna Coren is live in Hong Kong for us.

Anna, what is China saying in response to all this? ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Laura, I just heard from

the ministry of foreign affairs in China and a rather timid response. They're basically dismissing Donald Trump's tweet and claims of massive worldwide killing and that it all comes from the top. They say they're taking a responsible action, a global response and basically, yes, playing the long game. This is not something that they are going to get caught up with.

Obviously, Donald Trump wants to lay blame squarely at China. Hence, those series of angry tweets late last night.

But really, Laura, what is taking place in the last 24 hours, which is also ratcheting up tensions between the United States and China, is Taiwan. As we know, Taiwan is a very sensitive issue for China. It considers it part of the mainland, part of its territory. It's pushing for reunification and has threatened that it will do it by force if necessary.

Well, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday congratulated the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen at her inauguration.


She's been re-elected for a second term.

And this has angered the Chinese. They are talking about retaliation.

Now, President Tsai, the Taiwanese president, she said herself during inauguration ceremony that she will not degrade Taiwan. She will not sign up for the one country, two systems policy. So, this is something that is really creating tensions here in this part of the world. We're waiting to hear from China as to the latest arms deal as well between United States and Taiwan. $180 million arms deal which was just signed off overnight, Laura.

JARRETT: Certainly a lot on the line there.

All right. Anna, thanks so much for staying on top of this for us.

ROMANS: So, will the president wear a mask? That's the question ahead of his visit today to a Ford factory in Michigan, a factory that's been repurposed to produce ventilators.

Of course, medical experts now recommend everyone wear a mask in public. And Ford says face coverings are required at the plant. When asked about it this week, the president was noncommittal.


REPORTER: Do you plan to wear one when you go there on Thursday?

TRUMP: I don't know. I haven't even thought of it. It depends. Certain areas I would, certain areas I don't, but I will certainly look at it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JARRETT: Remember, the mask is intended to protect others. Not yourself.

Several people inside the White House have tested positive, including the president's personal valet. A source at the Ford plant meanwhile says they prefer Mr. Trump wear a mask during this visit. One union worker says masks at the factor are a big challenge but they adhere to it to stop the spread of the virus.

ROMANS: All right. A ruling that would allow Texans to vote by mail in November amid virus concerns is now on hold. A federal appeals court is temporarily blocking a lower courts ruling while it considers whether to take up the case. There are much broader implications here.

President Trump and some Republicans try to sow doubt about mail-in voting. Many states could use it in November so people don't have to choose between health and the right to vote.


TRUMP: Mail-in ballots are very dangerous. There's tremendous fraud involved and tremendous illegality.


JARRETT: Again, the president has absolutely no evidence of that. However, he's going a step further and threatening to withhold money from critical electoral states.

CNN's Abby Phillip has more now.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, President Trump started Wednesday morning with a barrage of false tweets and threats aimed at two swing states, Michigan and Nevada. The president accusing both states of illegally trying to expand mail-in voting in their states. But he got a couple of things wrong. He falsely accused Michigan of sending absentee ballots, not absentee applications, which is what the secretary of state actually did.

And even Nevada's secretary of state, who was a Republican, pushed back on the president's comments, saying that she legally expanded mail-in voting for the state for the upcoming primary because of worries about the safety of in-person voting due to the coronavirus. But when asked about this at the White House on Wednesday, President Trump actually said that when he spoke to Michigan's governor, Gretchen Whitmer, he did not bring up this issue. And, in fact, he says he does not think it will be necessary for him to withhold federal funds, which is one of the things that he threatened in these tweets.

Now I also spoke to a senior administration official who told me no decisions have been made about this withholding of federal funds that the president threatened and, in fact, this official would not say which state the president was referring to or what legal authority he might have to do so -- Christine and Laura.


ROMANS: All right. Abby Phillip, and, of course, Brennan Center for Justice says that type of fraud of -- you know, mail-in voter fraud is incredibly rare. So, we'll watch this. The president just doesn't have any evidence that that is a problem.

All right. New census data shows that pandemic is creating a very struggle for American families. The government survey found about 10 percent of adults reported they're not getting enough to eat. The pandemic is also taking a toll on mental health. Three in ten adults said they were anxious or nervous more than half the day last week.

JARRETT: Thirty-nine percent say over the last four weeks, they delayed medical care. That problem extends to kids, especially in a lot of states not receiving standard vaccinations because of parents fearing taking them to the pediatrician during this pandemic. The number of vaccine doses administered in New York City is down 63 percent. The burden of kids being schooled at home is falling heavily on their parents. Adults spent 13 hours a week helping teach kids in kindergarten through high school.

ROMANS: All right. We're bracing for millions more jobless claims this morning as coronavirus hurts the labor market. Economists expect another 2.4 million more Americans who filed for the first time for unemployment benefits last week. It would be the ninth week of the number of claims are in the millions.


Thirty-six-point-five million people have filed for first-time benefits since mid-March, just a mind-blowing number. Now, despite record levels of unemployment, though, the stock market is still rising.

Stocks rebounded Wednesday. The Dow closed at 369 points. The S&P 500 finished up almost 2 percent high, hitting a two and a half-month high. The Nasdaq also closed higher. So, Main Street is in the depths of a jobs and health crisis but investors, Wall Street looking ahead against a backdrop of trillions of dollars of Fed support and stimulus spending from Congress. Wall Street optimistic about recovery, as states begin to reopen, and ignoring concerns about a second wave of infections.

JARRETT: Breaking overnight, a suspect was in custody after three people were shot at a shopping center in Glendale, Arizona, about 15 miles outside of Phoenix. One person is in critical condition. Police asked people inside the Westgate entertainment district to shelter in place overnight. They were just let go over an hour ago.


TIFFANY NGALULA, GLENDALE POLICE DEPARTMENT PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER: Those officers arriving heard no further gunshots. We were able to locate the suspect in the Westgate area. They challenged that suspect and were able to safely take that person into custody.


ROMANS: The FBI is helping with the investigation. There has also been a power outage in the area. Unclear if that's related. Police acknowledge reports there may be a video of the shooting and asking anyone to turn that evidence over to the police.

In a tweet, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey says the department of public safety has been in contact with the Glendale police and the state stands ready to support.

JARRETT: All right. Coming up, two companies reporting progress in the race for a vaccine. But finishing the job is easier said than done.



ROMANS: Some religious gatherings now have the green light in New York and a hopeful sign for the hotel industry. CNN reporters have the details.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Erica Hill in New York, where starting today religious services of ten people or less can be held across the state. The governor saying that strict social distancing and mask wearing should be enforced. He's also allowing drive-in and parking lot services. He's convened an interfaith advisory council to look at bringing back religious services as the state moves forward.


The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union says that 68 of its workers have died and 10,000 have been tested positive for or been exposed to COVID-19.

Now, the union cautions the numbers across the country are likely much higher because these are just internal numbers that they have developed from companies that they represent. They continue to push for hazard pay, nothing that the pandemic has not ended. Workers spoke on a press call about the challenges they're facing including getting customers to wear masks.

One employee at Kroger in Michigan, Christine, said that masks have now become a political war. Employees are scared. The union is now calling for stores to hire security.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Pete Muntean covering travel in Virginia. And commercial airlines are coming up with new policies to protect passengers. United Airlines just announced that it will partner with Clorox and the Cleveland clinic to guide the health practices. JetBlue has said that it will now keep planes less full through July 6th. United and JetBlue are the latest to come up with these policies in the absence of requirements from the federal government.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPODNDENT: I'm Paula Newton in Ottawa where Canada has decided to recommend that all Canadians wear non-medical masks when out in public. Now, this is a change from policy just a couple of months ago, when Canada's top doctor said she didn't know the benefits of wearing a mask. She says now, the science has evolved.

And unlike U.S. President Donald Trump and members of his administration, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will be wearing a mask at all times in public when he cannot social distance.


Hotels in the U.S. continue to see occupancy rise and that is welcome news for the industry, especially because the numbers continue to creep up week after week. Of course, this is all relative because only 1/3 of hotel rooms were occupied across the country for the week ending May 16th. And that is 54 percent below the same week the year before and a very important metric for the industry, revenue per available room was down a staggering 74 percent.

Now, the industry group that publishes this data noted that weekend occupancy in places that you can drive to with attractions like beaches and national parks, well, that rate continues at a healthy clip.


JARRETT: Thanks so much to all of our reporters for those updates.

Well, just days after reopening, Ford has been forced to temporarily close two of its plants after workers tested positive for COVID-19. The closures show how hard it is to run factories while complying with enhanced safety measures. One Chicago plant closed Tuesday and reopened in less than 24 hours. Ford's Dearborn, Michigan, plant which sells its bestselling F150 pickup closed Wednesday. It's scheduled to reopen soon.

ROMANS: And that's what reopening is going to look like, fits and starts as people deal with the spread of coronavirus.

All right. Universal Orlando will outline plans today for reopening the Florida theme park. Nearly a dozen other area attractions will also seek approval to reopen. This is a meeting at the Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force. Now, Disneyworld, though, is holding off. A Disney's spokesperson says Disney is not ready to present any plans for reopening their theme park at that important meeting today.

JARRETT: A big step towards the return of college sports. The NCAA voting to allow voluntary athletic activities to resume for football, along with men's and women's basketball beginning June 1st. The vote paves the way for schools and conferences to let students back on campus for workouts.


The Division 1 council is expected to address the other collegiate sports next week.

ROMANS: All right. New research may explain why kids appear less likely to catch coronavirus. Scientists found that the molecular doorway used by the virus to enter cells is less common in children's noses than in adults. The study in the journal of the American medical association shows cells inside the nose are the first point of contact for COVID-19. The findings seem to back up medical advice that blowing your nose may help ward off the virus.

JARRETT: Well, that's interesting. Two companies reporting progress in vaccine tests. Right now, there are eight vaccines in human clinical trials, 110 in pre-clinical trials. Health experts tell us most if not all will fail but it only takes one to work.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has more.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Laura, some interesting advances in animal studies for COVID vaccines. But before I continue, I should point out the obvious. We aren't monkeys. We aren't guinea pigs. We aren't mice.

There are lots of vaccines and drugs that work out in animals that turn out not to work out in humans. However, it is a necessary first step and certainly these advances point us in the right direction.

So, let's talk about what Johnson & Johnson did. They have several vaccine candidates for COVID and they're working with doctors at Harvard and they took 25 residential rhesus macaque monkeys, and they gave them the vaccine and they found that they develop what are called neutralizing antibodies. So, these are antibodies that have the ability to bind to the virus and disable it, keep it from infecting human cells. And, obviously, that is a good thing.

After they were vaccinated the researchers exposed these monkeys to COVID and they found they had relatively low viral load. Some of them had no detectible virus and it was because they had been vaccinated.

Now, Inovio, another company, did something a little bit different. They've used guinea pigs and mice and they found those, too, developed neutralizing antibodies.

Now, this is important for many reasons, as I said, because it points us in the right direction, but as vaccine researchers like to say, mice lie and monkeys exaggerate.

But, of course, we will keep hoping that a vaccine works. All of these steps that we're talking about right now, small steps. This is a marathon, not a sprint -- Christine, Laura.


ROMANS: All right. Elizabeth, thank you for that.

America's leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, trying to ease concerns about the pace for finding the coronavirus vaccine which the White House has branded Operation Warp Speed. Fauci said that name has led to misconceptions about the risk of speeding up the effort. He says only financial investments and not safety are being put at risk.

He tells "The Washington Post": You're doing things in a totally unprecedented way and you're going really fast but not compromising safety because you haven't cut out any of the steps you would have done and you do and had you done it in the traditional way.

Fauci has largely been sidelined by the White House as it focuses less on health and more on reopening the economy.

JARRETT: First Lady Melania Trump will take part in CNN's weekly global town hall on coronavirus tonight. Her prerecorded remarks are the first solo broadcast from the first lady since the pandemic started. She's expected to address the nation's students, most of whom have had their academic and social lives completely turned upside down.

This week's town hall hosted by Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta is focused in part on education. Join us tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern.

We'll be right back.



ROMANS: Thousands of people now homeless as a devastating cyclone slams South Asia. The India disaster agency says one part of West Bengal was, quote, pulverized. Now, the cyclone also bringing huge loss and damage to nearly every coastal district of Bangladesh. Waves reached as high as 15 feet.

CNN's Sam Kiley is live in Abu Dhabi.

This is just a monster storm.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it could have been a whole lot worse. When it made landfall it was called a level 2 hurricane. But out in the Bay of Bengal, it got to level 5. It is that energy that is coming out from deep in the sea that is producing these very high, very damaging levels of waters.

You say there are at least 15 feet high, that for low lying Bangladesh is particular, Christine, is absolutely disastrous, not just because more than 2.5 million people have had to have been evacuated, but because crops get destroyed. The rice crop is being harvested at the moment. Six hundred and fifty thousand people evacuated from their homes in neighboring India, or on the east coast. And, of course, in both countries, they're already struggling with how to get to grips or control the spread of the coronavirus in highly overpopulated areas where social distancing to begin with was very, very difficult.

Now, the local authorities in Bangladesh is saying about 15 people killed there. Similar number, about 12 being reported outside -- out of India at the moment. So the death toll fairly low, but the real issues are going to be the short-term recovery. First of all, the effects on the evacuated people of having to be crowded inevitably as a result of the evacuation and therefore spreading the coronavirus and then, of course, the longer term humanitarian aspects still to be dealt with.

ROMANS: Always a tragic situation, but a cyclone and a pandemic obviously has its own level of pain and suffering.

Sam Kiley for us. Thank you so much, Sam.

EARLY START continues right now.