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Brazil Sees Increase in Coronavirus Cases as Winter Approaches; President Trump Criticizes Michigan for Practice of Mail-In Voting Ballots; Soon: Trump Visits Ford Plant Where Masks Are Required; Michigan A.G. Calls on Trump to Wear A Mask During Visit Today; Coronavirus Cases Soar in Russia & Brazil; Faith Groups Helping Members File For Unemployment. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 21, 2020 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: CDC Director Robert Redfield warns of a new attack of coronavirus in the fall and winter and does not rule out the possibility of a new lockdown. What concerns him is the evidence, the data, what's happening before our eyes in Brazil. As the southern hemisphere gets closer to winter, there has been a sharp rise in coronavirus cases and deaths. Dr. Redfield is concerned that this could come back to the United States. This comes after the World Health Organization reported the largest single day increase in virus cases since the pandemic began. Global coronavirus cases surpassed 5 million.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump, meanwhile, travels to Michigan today after falsely claiming that Michigan and Nevada were sending absentee ballots to all voters. He threatened to withhold federal relief funding from those states. Both are battleground states, and all they did was send out applications for absentee ballots. Michigan's attorney general will join us in a few minutes. Remember, the president himself has voted by mail-in ballot, but for some reason he does not want anyone else to.

BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and William Haseltine, he's a former Harvard Medical School professor and founder of the university's cancer and HIV/AIDS research department.

Sanjay, I want to start with you. Look, Dr. Redfield is talking about the fall and the possibility of this next wave or at least a new bump. I just want to make one thing clear. It is not gone now. We had 1,500 new deaths yesterday, 20,000 cases. So this thing is still here in force right now. But what Dr. Redfield is talking about is something that I think is of growing concern, particularly as you look to the southern hemisphere and they get into their winter. He said, "We have seen evidence that the concerns it would go south in the southern hemisphere like flu are coming true, and you're seeing what is happening in Brazil now. And then when the southern hemisphere is over, I suspect it will reground itself in the north." Brazil just saw its single biggest day increase in the number of cases, Sanjay, and if that's a sign of what is to come, that is of concern. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is of concern. And

people have been paying attention to this almost since the beginning. In the beginning, it was a question of we're not seeing that many cases in the southern hemisphere, patients becoming infected. Is this going to be a seasonal -- have a seasonal sort of pattern to this virus? But it is exactly like what you said, John. It's not gone away here. We may be getting a little bit of a break as the weather gets warmer in the summer. But we don't have immunity to this virus. That's sort of the issue. But the concern that not only in the fall could -- as the weather starts to cool, could it start to spread more easily, but then you also have flu on top of that.

I interviewed Dr. Redfield back in February, I have to say. And he basically said the same thing back then. There was a concern. We didn't know for sure. Now we have more data as you look at what has happened in the southern hemisphere. But I think that in some ways the CDC, the premiere public health organization has been thinking/planning for this for some time.

CAMEROTA: Professor Haseltine, should this be a surprise to us? Shouldn't we be mentally prepared for another fall stay-at-home order until we have a vaccine?

WILLIAM HASELTINE, CHAIR AND PRESIDENT, ACCESS HEALTH INTERNATIONAL: Definitely we should be prepared for this virus to continue. It will continue through the summer. And it is very likely to resurge in the fall. This is a coronavirus. We have studied in great detail how these viruses that cause colds work around the world. There is peaks in winter months, but it doesn't go away over the summer. It comes back.

And one of the peculiar things about this virus is the same viruses come back every time. They have been doing this for the last 50 years. There is four of them that we know about. This is just another one that has very unpleasant effects. But it behaves like all the others. So there is no reason to suspect that this virus won't be back in force, and no reason to suspect it won't continue through the summer.

GUPTA: Professor Haseltine, while we have you, we brought up the issue of vaccines. And you've written an op-ed which I think is a warning to all of us as we see the drip, drip, drip of news about vaccine research that has come out over the last few days and the hope that has come from the release of information from some of these studies. Moderna coming out and saying where they are in research, other companies as well. But you say in your mind, it's publication by press release, and you would like to see the actual data, and you have it. What is your concern here?

HASELTINE: Well, I'm concerned about the issue of trust, that medicine and science depends on trust. And trust depends, as our former president said, on verification. We would not accept a CFO's remarks to the big company if they said they had a positive earnings report and they weren't showing us the data. We just wouldn't accept it. Yet here we're accepting a series of claims from companies, and we're not allowed to see the data. We just can't see it. They say it works.


When I have actually looked at the data that some companies have claimed, or some groups have claimed works, it doesn't work. Actually, what usually happens with monkeys who are vaccinated with a variety of vaccines is maybe it reduces the amount of virus in the chest. It doesn't reduce the amount of virus or doesn't eliminate the virus in the nose. Almost all the vaccinated monkeys actually get infected.

So the idea that this hope is on the horizon, I think the question people should ask is not when we're going to have a vaccine, but if we're going to have a vaccine. And there is another catch-22 people haven't focused on. Vaccines don't work very well for older people. And who needs these vaccines the most? As you get older, just like your memory fades, your immune memory fades for anything that comes in that's new. You might remember something your immune system saw when you were a child, but you don't remember what your immune system saw recently. This is a new virus. We haven't seen it before.

So there is a whole series of compounded issues. Do the vaccines work? Do they protect the virus getting into the primary root of the nose? And will they work for older people? All questions. So the question is if, not when. We're not ready for when if we don't know if.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting. Sanjay, what do you think? Do you have anything to add to that assessment?

GUPTA: Well, I agree completely. I will say that it's challenging, right? We're constantly balancing, as I think Dr. Haseltine is alluding to, this inflexion point between hope and honesty. And honesty absolutely has to lead the way. I've been surprised as well even aside from vaccines when the remdesivir, the therapeutic trial came out, there was a lot of enthusiasm around that. But we hadn't seen the data in the medical or journalistic community before a lot of those press releases went out, talking about the fact that it could shorten duration of illness. We definitely need to see the data. There needs to be independent reviews.

On the other hand, I will say, and I'm curious, Dr. Haseltine, with the vaccine, for example, we do see evidence very, very early, of neutralizing antibodies. That seems significant. HIV, 40 years we have been working on a vaccine and haven't seen broad neutralizing antibody effects. So when something like that happens, that does seem significant. Even though it is early, even though, as you point out, we don't know if it is going to be the same for older people or younger people or all populations, but there does seem to be some signs of hope that we should talk about, no?

BERMAN: Professor?

HASELTINE: Sanjay, that's absolutely true. This looked as if in the early days it would be easier because of neutralizing antibodies. But when you look at it a little more closely, you find that people raise neutralizing antibodies to the coronaviruses, but every year the same viruses come back. You can re-infect people within a year of their successful clearing of most coronaviruses. They did experiments in the 70s. They took a group of people,

deliberately infected them with the virus, came back a year later and re-infected them with the same virus. Not one strain, but two different strains and did the same experiment with. And we're seeing a very complex immune response in survivors. They don't all make neutralizing antibodies. Some do. And we don't even know if those neutralizing antibodies will protect the primary infection. And clearly at this point, massive data from SARS, from MERS, and now from these viruses is not protecting primary infection through the nasal route, which is how we mostly get infected. So they're not getting all the symptoms. That's all.

BERMAN: Sanjay, quickly, a new study out of Columbia University that was published in "The Journal of the American Medical Association" says that had some of the stay-at-home orders gone in place one week earlier, it could have saved, one week, 36,000 lives. You have been speaking to people at Columbia.

GUPTA: I've been speaking. I looked at the preprint of this data. It holds up. It's shocking for people to look at, and it should be, because had we acted just a little earlier -- we keep talking about, OK, we're doing enough tests now, we're doing all these things now, it's not just a question of if we are doing these things. It is a question of when did we decide to do these things.

And early on, I was talking to a lot of my sources in Asia, and people may know this, and it is one of these things which I always hesitate to bring up it because sounds like you're deliberately comparing things just to sort of make the United States look not as effective here, but South Korea and the United States, South Korea is a much smaller country, about one-sixth, one-seventh the size. Both countries, the United States and South Korea, had their first patient diagnosed I think on or around the exact same day. South Korea, they've had 11,000 people infected, 11,000. Look at the numbers on the right side of your screen, 11,000 in South Korea. They've had fewer than 300 deaths. OK, not 3,000, not 30,000. Fewer than 300 deaths.


So here's the point is that they acted early. It wasn't just a question of do you act. It's a question of when you act. And I think the charts that you just showed sort of make that case again. Just a week, just two weeks, we lost a lot of time there. It is not maybe that helpful to look in the rearview mirror at this point, but it definitely, as we talk about the fall, we're not over. This is not over, and we need to make sure we don't make that same mistake again.

BERMAN: Sanjay, Professor Haseltine, I have to say, it has been a privilege to listen to this discussion and some of the ideas presented here. I feel like I learned a lot. Appreciate it.

Big question what will it take to get children back in the classroom? Join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta tonight for a new coronavirus town hall with a special appearance by First Lady Melania Trump. That's tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on CNN. CAMEROTA: OK, meanwhile, President Trump heads to Michigan this

morning after falsely claiming that Michigan and Nevada were sending absentee ballots to all voters. President Trump himself has used a mail-in ballot, but for some reason he does not want others to have that option. CNN White House correspondent John Harwood has the latest from Washington. So what do we know, John?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We know it is a pretty strange situation, Alisyn. When you're an unpopular president, and Donald Trump is unpopular, you're trailing your opponent, he's trailing Joe Biden down by 11 points in a national poll that came out yesterday, 50 to 39, democratic elections are not your friend. And so in his agitation over the consequences politically of the pandemic, President Trump went after the voting process yesterday. He went after it, as you said, in two swing states that are important, with wild and false charges.

He said that the two states were mailing out universal absentee ballots. Not true. They were applications. He said that this was a partisan thing. Not true. The Nevada secretary of state is a Republican, Democrat in Michigan. He said that this was illegal. Of course, it is not illegal. Secretaries of state do this all the time. He says that election fraud results from this. There is no evidence of that.

What makes it even more absurd is that President Trump, as you noted, Alisyn, himself has voted absentee, a fact that his Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tried to defend yesterday.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is, after all, the president, which means he's here in Washington, he's unable to cast his vote down at Florida, his state of residence. So for him that's why he had to do a mail-in vote. But he supports mail- in voting for a reason. When you have a reason that you are unable to be present. There is right now, we're very far from November 3rd.


HARWOOD: Now, Kayleigh McEnany's response completely missed the point, because the entire trend in American elections over the last couple of decades is to make voting easier, to have no excuse absentees. It doesn't matter if you're out of town. Thirty-one states in the United States have either all mail-in ballots or no excuse absentees, and that includes, guys, every swing state in the election. So if he's going to attack the voting process in all the swing states he's trying to win, that's going to be an uphill fight.

CAMEROTA: The president deleted one of his tweets, which is unusual and telling. So clearly he knew there was something off about his erroneous claims in that tweet. John, thank you very much for all of the reporting.

HARWOOD: You bet. CAMEROTA: So Michigan's attorney general is calling on President

Trump to wear a mask today when he tours a Ford plant. She calls it a legal responsibility. So she's going to join us next with why she felt compelled to write a letter to him.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is calling on President Trump to adhere to health guidelines by wearing a facial covering, a mask, when he visits a Ford plant today. That is something the president has not done thus far.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joins us now.

Ms. Nessel, thank you very much for being here.

So, you wrote -- you felt strongly about this, you wrote a letter to the White House, asking the president to wear a mask. Why did you feel that was necessary?

DANA NESSEL (D), MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, you know, obviously here in Michigan we have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis. We've lost over 5,000 of our state residents and have well over 50,000 infections.

So our manufacturing facilities just went back online on Monday, but there was a carefully negotiated agreement that became law between the auto manufacturers and the UAW. And there are a number of requirements in place, one, firstly, there not be any visits by outsiders to the plants anyway. But we're waving that.

But also, you know, there'd be six-foot distancing between people in the plant, the people being properly screened before they enter, and lastly, that they wear a facial covering of some type or a mask in order to protect themselves and in order to protect the workers. So, we are just asking that President Trump comply with the law of our state, just as we would make the same request of anyone else in those plants.

CAMEROTA: You also point out that President Trump has been exposed. His personal valet tested positive. So you write in your letter, anyone who has potentially been recently exposed including the president of the United States has not only a legal responsibility but also a social and moral responsibility to take reasonable precautions to prevent the further spread of the virus.

In terms of that legal responsibility, I mean, you're the chief law enforcement officer, of course, for your state. What if he doesn't wear a mask?

NESSEL: Well, obviously, we're asking that he do that. You know, for most people, of course, legally, they can be held accountable as we -- if we learned nothing over the last several years of President Trump in the White House is that he doesn't have the same legal accountability as everybody else, but, honestly, if he fails to wear a mask, he's going to be asked not to return to any unclosed facilities inside our state.

And I know that Ford has asked him to do the same thing. But if he -- if we know he's coming to our state and we know he's not going to follow the law, I think we're going to have to take action against any company or any facility that allows him inside those facilities and puts our workers at risk. We just simply can't afford it here in our state.

And we just had some auto manufacturing plants that had reopened, already had to close down because people are testing positive and they have to disinfect the plant.


So, we're asking if President Trump doesn't care about his own health, doesn't care about the health and the safety of people who work in those facilities, at least care about the economic situation of, you know, costing these facilities so much money by having to close down and disinfect the plant after he leaves.

CAMEROTA: I mean, we know he cares enough about his own health to take hydroxychloroquine preventatively, though, that's an unproven drug. But when asked about whether or not he planned to, he said something interesting. He said he hadn't even considered it. So here is the president yesterday.


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

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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. It depends on what situation. Am I standing right next to everybody or am I spread out?


CAMEROTA: It will be interesting, Ms. Nessel, to see what he does because he hasn't publicly warned a mask yet which protects other people. I mean, that's the main call (ph) of it.

But I also want to ask about what the president was tweeting about absentee ballot applications. The president says they're illegal. Can you clarify that for us?

NESSEL: Yeah, I can clarify it for you easily. They're not illegal. We, in fact, passed no-reason absentee voting in 2018 in Michigan. Nothing that the secretary of state did was illegal, and I think, obviously, the president's biggest fear is that more people in our state will vote, and that that might be detrimental to him in some capacity.

But if we learn anything from the Wisconsin presidential primary, is that during the course of this crisis, when people have to vote in person, they become ill. And that's the last thing we want in our state.

We want to make certain that the democratic process is protected and I'm sorry that we have a president that finds that concept to be so offensive.

CAMEROTA: Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, we really appreciate you being here. Thank you for your time.

NESSEL: Thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: The unemployment crisis has faith leaders doing things they never had to do before. We'll explain, next.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, coronavirus cases are soaring in Brazil and Russia, raising concerning in the United States and around the world.

CNN has reporters all over bringing you the latest developments.


MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matt Rivers in Mexico City. Further south in Brazil, another day, another new daily record for that country as the government Wednesday evening reported nearly 20,000 newly confirmed cases, the highest such daily increase since this outbreak began. The death toll there now sits just shy of 19,000.

Meanwhile, Brazil's health ministry announced it has approved the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat people with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. That, of course, being the drug that President Trump himself has said he is using despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration in the United States says doing so comes with severe amounts of risk.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matthew Chance and a first shipment of U.S. aid to Russia is arriving this morning to combat what U.S. officials call a true public health crisis due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. It includes 50 American made ventilators, and another 150 are expected to follow suit.

The aid delivery marks a dramatic turn around from last month when Russia sent medical aid to the U.S. at the height of the pandemic in New York. Since then, the true extent of the coronavirus crisis in Russia has started to emerge. Latest official figures confirm infections there at over 317,000 people, more than anywhere except the United States.


The World Bank has warned that up to 60 million people across the globe could be pushed into extreme poverty because of COVID-19 and because of the ensuing lockdown of economies. They have provided 100 counties emergency assistance. But there is a worry that progress in alleviating poverty could be now lost.

Now, there is some good news, the U.N. is saying that Africa could be spared the worst of the virus but there is a fear that livelihoods are now at stake.


A hundred schools in France have been closed due to coronavirus cases, either in the school itself, students, teachers, staff or more often than not in the greater community. In one single town southeast of Paris, 25 schools were shut because of two cases of COVID-19. The education minister warns there could be more school closures as cases continue to be detected.

And the head of the scientific council who advises the government sees a silver lining here. He said the system is working. To put all this in perspective, 100 school closures means more than 99 percent of the 40,000 schools that started to reopen across the country remain open.


CAMEROTA: Our thanks to our correspondents around the world.

Meanwhile, the latest unemployment report is due out in minutes. More than 36 million people have filed for unemployment during this pandemic. And in this desperate time, faith groups have stepped up to help.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich joins us now with more. Tell us what they're doing.


Well, tens of millions of Americans filed for unemployment, but we have been hearing from folks over the last couple of months saying they didn't know how to navigate the system, they didn't know where to turn to help. Now, we're hearing that many Americans are actually turning to their faith groups, churches and mosques for the first time are now helping their congregants apply for unemployment.


YURKEVICH (voice-over): Sunday sermons look different these days at River Church in Durham, North Carolina.


YURKEVICH: That's because Bishop Ronald Godbee Sr. is now leading them online.

GODBEE: We want to make sure we're serving you. That's right. We're here for you.

YURKEVICH: And their mission is different too.

GODBEE: We're seeing people come to us for things that otherwise.