Return to Transcripts main page
Virus Cases Surging Across Latin America; Mexico Confirms Highest Single-Day Surge; China Proposes Controversial Hong Kong Security Law; Model Predicts Case Spikes in Early-Reopening States; U.S. Experts Push Back on Death Toll Conspiracy Theories; Asian Stocks Drop as Beijing Pushes for New Security Law; Death Toll Rises as Rescue Teams Search for Victims of Cyclone Amphan; Unemployment Aid Exceeds Normal Salary for Some; Denmark Turns Churches into Schools. Aired 12-1a ET
Aired May 22, 2020 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, welcome to our viewers joining us from around the world. I'm John Vause. Coming up this hour on CNN NEWSROOM.
As the number of cases worldwide passes 5 million, the pandemic now has a new epicenter: Brazil, where the president seems incapable of a serious response to the grave threat his country is facing.
Protest time has over. Beijing moves to shut down Hong Kong's pro- democracy demonstrations with a sweeping national security law, which critics say will mean an end to whatever autonomy the city had under one country, two systems.
And early damage assessments from Cyclone Amphan: dozens dead, thousands of homes wiped out, millions without electricity. Heartbreak, and devastation across India and Bangladesh.
A surge in the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Latin America has driven the global count past the five million mark. Johns Hopkins University says the biggest increases are being seen in Brazil, Peru, and Mexico, while overall, new cases in Latin America and the Caribbean have now overtake in the U.S. and Europe, according to the Pan American Health Organization.
Health experts say the chances of community transmission increases significantly in highly-populated areas and are urging governments to ramp up containment measures to slow the spread and avoid overloading hospitals, as well as health-care workers.
The new epicenter appears to be Brazil, where the president has constantly downplayed the coronavirus as a little flu. The daily death tolls have now surged to its highest levels yet, more than 1,100 dead on Thursday, bringing the overall total to more than 20,000, which means, Brazil is just behind Russia, the third highest known case count. President Jair Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for his response
to this crisis. He opposes social distancing guidelines. He's urging more businesses to reopen. He's also pushing that unproven drug hydroxychloroquine, against the advice of health experts.
Meantime, officials in crowded Sao Paolo have declared a five-day holiday to encourage people to stay home. They say the war against the virus is more dangerous than ever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DIMAS COVAS, DIRECTOR, SAO PAOLO COVID EMERGENCY CENTER (through translator): We're losing the battle against the virus. That's the reality. The virus, at this moment, is winning the war. These days coming up, the holidays, I don't see them as holidays, but I see them as battle days. The most important days in the fight against the virus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Sao Paulo's mayor is worrying the hospital system will be completely overwhelmed if social distancing guidelines are not implemented. As CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports, the hospital system is already on the brink of collapse.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sao Paulo, the biggest city and hottest spot for the coronavirus in Brazil. The deathly quiet outside of Emilio Ribas Hospital, no new patients arriving on ambulances is not a good sign. In fact, it spells the worst, because this huge ICU has run out of beds.
(on camera) More startling is that the peak is possibly well over a week away from hitting Brazil. And already, this enormous ICU is full. And in between the beds, there is a growing sense of anxiety -- fear, really -- about what lies ahead.
(voice-over): Doctors here have heard President Jair Bolsonaro dismiss the disease as a little flu. But presidential platitudes haven't protected them. One of their nurses died two days ago. Inside this room is one of the team's doctors on a ventilator, and another has tested positive this day.
JAQUES SZTAJNBOK, EMILIO RIBAS INFECTIOUS DISEASE INSTITUTE: Never before it's touched us -- touched us like this -- this time. Because we have never lost a colleague in this intensive care before.
Yes, definitely, it's not a flu. It's the worst thing we have ever faced in our professional lives.
WALSH (on camera): Are you worried for your life here?
SZTAJNBOK: Yes. Yes.
WALSH (voice-over): It's a virus that stifles and silences, but suddenly, here, there is commotion.
One patient, a woman in her forties, has had cardio respiratory failure. The doctors' heavy pulse is the only thing keeping her alive. But after about 40 minutes, it's clear she can't survive.
The body is cleaned, the tubes that kept her alive disconnected, and she's wheeled out. And the space will be needed. It all happened so fast. It will leave a long scar.
A scene so distant from presidential rallies, masks, now common much of the time. But wealth put before health.
"We have to be brave," he says, to face this virus. "Are people dying? Yes, they are. And I regret that, but many more are going to die if the economy continues to be destroyed because of these lockdown measures."
The holes here, in the hills above Sao Paulo, are not dug, ready for a recession, though. Endless fresh graves for the dead, who also seem to never stop arriving.
(on camera): In Brazil, the numbers are already staggering. And it's clear, it's not the entire picture, because testing simply isn't as widespread as they would like. But everywhere you go, you see the people understand this is just the beginning.
Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
VAUSE: The number of new cases surging in Mexico, as well, with the ministry of health there confirming nearly 3,000 additional coronavirus infections just on Thursday.
CNN's Matt Rivers reports now from Mexico City.
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has been a very difficult week for Mexico, just one day after Mexico saw its highest day over day death toll increase, a new daily record has been set, this time in terms of newly-confirmed cases.
On Thursday evening, Mexican health officials reporting an additional 2,973 cases of this virus. That is the largest day over day case total increase that we have seen since this outbreak began. That puts the death toll just north of 6,500 people, and that puts the overall case number here at just shy of 60,000.
But when you're talking about the number of cases, when you're talking about the number of deaths, you also, in Mexico, have to talk about the number of tests that have been administered so far.
Mexico's government reports that it has tested just over 200,000 people at this point. That is good for one of the lowest testing rates out of any country around the world.
That is why Mexican government officials have consistently told CNN that the actual number of cases in this country could well be into the millions, and the actual death toll could be double the officially reported number, if not higher than that.
But they have also told us that they are not doing mass testing on purpose. They believe that you can test a relatively small number of people, and from those numbers, extrapolate out data that gives them a better sense of exactly how bad this outbreak is around the rest of the country. They believe it's a more efficient method.
Critics would disagree with that, of course, saying that at best, gives Mexico's government an incomplete picture of how bad this outbreak is and where.
But no matter which side you line up on there, what is absolutely without question is that the confirmed cases that have been reported and the confirmed deaths that have been reported so far do not give us an exact idea of how bad this outbreak is here. This is a serious outbreak. This is a deadly outbreak, and it is very much an ongoing outbreak in which we are in some of the worst days that we have seen so far.
Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.
VAUSE: Well, Beijing's patience with Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement appears to have come to an end. The annual gathering of the National People's Congress, China's version of a parliament, will be presented with a sweeping national security law, directly aimed at controlling political dissent, which has paralyzed Hong Kong since last June, only relenting in recent months over public health concerns.
The move is perhaps the most brazen example so far of Beijing's attempts to erode Hong Kong's autonomy under the one country, two systems framework.
For more, CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins us now live from Hong Kong,
Kristie, specifically what is in this law? How far does it go? How much control does it give the mainland over Hong Kong?
KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, make no mistake about it, Beijing is tightening its grip on Hong Kong. On Thursday, China's parliament introduced this new security legislation that would give the Chinese Communist Party more control over this special administrative region.
And today, as the National People's Congress kicks off in Beijing. They are likely to rubberstamp this piece of legislation that would curb sedition, secession, foreign interference, as well as terrorism here in Hong Kong. How are Chinese government officials rationalizing the move? Well, we
do have a statement from a spokesperson of the National People's Congress. We'll bring it up for you. This is according to Zhang Yesui. And he said this: quote, "In light of new circumstances and needs, the National People's Congress is exercising the power enshrined in the constitution to establish and improve, at the state level, a legal framework and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security in Hong Kong, as to uphold and improve institutional framework of one country, two systems. This is highly necessary," unquote.
As expected John, there is outrage here in Hong Kong. They see the move as fundamentally undermining one country, two systems. In fact, one opposition lawmaker said this represents the death of Hong Kong. Here's Dennis Kwok.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENNIS KWOK, HONG KONG CIVIC PARTY LAWMAKER: I just want to say to the international community that this is the end of Hong Kong. This is the end of one country, two systems. Make no mistake about it, that Beijing, the central people's government, has completely breached its promise to the Hong Kong people, a promise that was enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the basic law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STOUT: There is, and has, been a lot of anger here in Hong Kong, directed at Beijing and directed at the Hong Kong government, which many people here see as agents of Beijing.
Anger after the arrest of hundreds of people participating in unauthorized protests during the pandemic, flash mob singalongs at shopping centers; anger after the arrest of 15 high-profile pro- democracy leaders last month, including the 81-year-old founder of the Democratic Party, Martin Lee; and anger over the controversial national anthem legislation, which is due up for debate in the legislative council next week. And if passed, it could make it a crime, punishable with jail time, to mock China's national anthem.
All of this, plus some new security legislation, again, likely to be rubberstamped by the National People's Congress, setting the stage for an explosive new protest season here in Hong Kong -- John.
VAUSE: OK. Specifically, though, what does this new law mean for everyday life for people living in Hong Kong? How will their lives be changed?
I mean, will this law be implemented by Hong Kong security forces? By the local legislature there? I mean, they'll be bypassing the entire process, it seems. So what does it mean if you live in Hong Kong? What changes once this law takes effect?
STOUT: John, this is what everyone here in Hong Kong has been discussing this day and trying to get our heads around this. We know, in general, abstract terms, it means the end of Hong Kong, one country, two systems. 2047, which was the date that Hong Kong was intended to be handed over to Beijing, is, and will already be here when this legislation passes.
But in concrete terms, what is it going to mean for businesses? What is it going to mean for journalists? What is it going to mean for dissidents, activists, for educators, or for the seven million-plus people who call Hong Kong home, who use Google, who use YouTube? What does it mean for their lives and our lives? That remains an open question until, after this legislation is rubberstamped, it's passed and comes into fruition -- John.
VAUSE: Yes. Kristie, thank you. Kristie Lu Stout for us in Hong Kong.
Want to stay with this story for a little bit longer, a little bit more on the security law. And Antony Dapiran, he is also in Hong Kong. He is with us now live, as well. He's the author of "City of Protest: A Recent History of Dissent in Hong Kong."
Antony, thank you very much for taking the time.
It seems that Xi Jinping isn't even trying to hide his attempts now to undercut Hong Kong's autonomy, and notably, this security law's being introduced in a very unusual way, which means the city legislature there there will be bypassed pretty much altogether, right?
ANTONY DAPIRAN, AUTHOR, "CITY OF PROTEST": Yes, that's right. It seems that the provocation of the protests that happened here last year, into the beginning of this year, proved too much for Beijing. And they've decided to act very forcefully, very decisively, to stamp down on it once and for all, and they're going to go over the heads of Hong Kong's duly-elected legislature and implement the law themselves.
VAUSE: What does it mean in a practical sense? We see the PLA, you know, rolling into Hong Kong to enforce this law, or will they essentially be left to local security forces there? The Hong Kong police, for example?
DAPIRAN: Well, very concerning is one clause in the draft document that's being presented to the NPC today, says that China's national security organs will be authorized to establish a branch in Hong Kong, to carry out their duties upholding China's national security in Hong Kong.
What that sounds like that, in effect, means is that China's ministry of state security, China's secret police, if you, will be officially establishing themselves here in Hong Kong, and empowered to enforce China's national security laws on the ground here in Hong Kong, and that has really very serious implications for how this is going to be policed going forward and for the people of Hong Kong.
VAUSE: Is this move a sign that Xi Jinping feels very much in charge right now, that he has a very tight grip on power, or is it the opposite, an indication of just how concerned he is by these pro- democracy protesters? They just keep going, and the threat that they may pose to communist rule beyond Hong Kong?
DAPIRAN: You know, given the control that -- that Beijing has over the rest of China, it really does sort of seem surprising that they can genuinely feel threatened, or worried that the instability in Hong Kong is going to affect the rest of China.
I think what it does show is that Xi Jinping doesn't seem afraid of any threats or warnings from the United States or other countries internationally, that he needs to dial back the pressure on Hong Kong. And he's acting, it seems, pretty much with impunity, regardless of the warnings he's been getting from the international community and is really asserting, as the Chinese government have been saying in their recent statements, that Hong Kong is China's Hong Kong.
VAUSE: And this sort of gets to the point that some critics have said, how can anyone argue from this point on that Hong Kong remains a semi- autonomous region?
DAPIRAN: Yes, that's right. This really is a pretty serious -- pretty serious sign that Hong Kong's autonomy is all but gone, and it may be allowed to continue, for example, from a business point of view to carry on, but anything beyond that becomes under question.
And businesses have to think about, you know, rather than looking at this -- looking at this as a short-sighted, purely political or purely human rights angle. How does this begin to affect their businesses here in Hong Kong and affect their investment decisions, and I think there are some serious questions that need to be asked.
VAUSE: So when you look at the reaction there from people in Hong Kong, clearly, you know, the pro-democracy movement will be outraged, and as Kristie was reporting just before, expect, you know, protests on the street.
What about moms and dads? The people who are there for business? You know, there is a split. In some ways, there are those who are very pro-the mainland, and just want to get on with business, and just want to get on with life. So how do expect this to play out?
DAPIRAN: Well, the thing is that there really is a very strong sense, I think, across all of the Hong Kong community, that people here do treasure the rights, and the freedoms, and the things that make Hong Kong different from the rest of China.
And you saw that with the very large, one-million, two-million-person marches against the extradition law last year. There were ordinary moms and dads, families with kids, elderly people from across the socioeconomic spectrum.
And there really is very broad support among the community for these essential, fundamental rights and freedoms. And so I think that there are just going to be strong pushback, not just from the more radical protesters that you've seen on the front lines over the last six, seven months or so of last year, but the ordinary people. And they're the people that do come out for these large, peaceful protests, and we may, indeed, see them coming out again in large numbers soon.
VAUSE: Yes. When you see two million people out of a population of seven million people, or two million plus, on the streets for these protests, you know that, you know, there is widespread discontent, to put it mildly.
VAUSE: Antony, it's great for you to be with us. We really appreciate your insights.
DAPIRAN: Thank you.
VAUSE: Take care.
Let's see how the Asian markets are reacting to the news from China. There we go. Right across the board.
The Hang Seng down by almost 5 percent, the Nikkei down by almost 1 percent. Shanghai Composite down by just over 1.3, and so the KOSPI down by 1.5 percent. Obviously, some of the reaction to the news of the ongoing coronavirus.
More on the market reaction a little later in the program. Experts are predicting a spike in the number of new coronavirus cases in some U.S. states. After the break, we'll show you where, and why, the numbers are rising. That's next on CNN NEWSROOM.
VAUSE: The coronavirus death toll is fast approaching 95,000 in the U.S., almost a third of the global total. And this weekend, many will be celebrating Memorial Day. We've seen the start of summer. Health experts are worried, though, it will signify the start of a new surge in new cases.
CNN's Nick Watt has our report.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cities like Houston and Miami should brace for a COVID comeback, according to new modeling that monitors how well we're social distancing as we reopen.
DR. DAVID RUBIN, DIRECTOR OF POLICYLAB, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: The degree to which some areas have moved too quickly, or have not been vigilant in regards to individual behavior, we are starting to see some evidence of resurgence.
WATT: Largely in the south, they say. Hospitals in Montgomery, Alabama, reporting they're nearly out of ICU beds.
STEVE REED, MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA, LAWYER: The number of COVID patients that they received was not only increasing, but that people are coming in and worst shape. I think it's in part due to the fact that we opened up the economy too soon.
RUBIN But we're also seeing some optimism in other areas that appear to be moving more cautiously. WATT: That really hot spot, King County, Washington, opening slowly,
and the new case count is still falling.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: Now is not the time to tempt fate and pull back completely.
WATT: Right now, there's a spike in South America as cooler weather, and winter, nears.
"And then, when the southern atmosphere is over, I suspect it will reground itself in the north," CDC Director Robert Redfield just told "The Financial Times." He says he can't guarantee there won't be another lockdown this winter.
And on the information needed to contain this virus? He says, "The truth is regularly the data is delayed, and it's incomplete."
At least four states say they're combining viral and antibody test results for their case counts, potentially muddying the picture of where, and how, this virus is spreading.
Those food bank line tell a different story: the impact of lockdown. Nearly half of adult Americans are now living in a household that has lost income, according to a Census Bureau survey. And 10 percent reported often, or some of the time, not having enough food.
BISHOP NICHOLAS DIMARZIO, DIOCESE OF BROOKLYN: He's going to point out the pews and the confessional.
WATT: Religious services are back today in New York. Catholic leaders laid out their plans. Sanitizer at the door and online worship still encouraged.
DIMARZIO: So we will move slowly, but surely, to get to maximum participation as quickly as we can.
WATT: What happens next is largely up to all of us individually.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): And if people take the right precautions, you don't necessarily need to see a rise in the number of cases.
WATT (on camera): Here in Los Angeles, they're playing golf again, but but everyone's got to wear a mask, even in near 90-degree heat. No one's allowed to touch the flagstick.
This is a long holiday weekend coming up. It's going to be very interesting to see how people get on social distancing.
Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.
VAUSE: And we'll head live to Los Angeles now. Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, board-certified in internal medicine and a viral specialist. So he joins us now. Good to see you, Doctor, thank you for taking the time.
DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, VIRAL SPECIALIST: Thank you.
VAUSE: I just want to start with talking about the implication of this testing -- this testing mix-up that we have.
One test using antibodies, which looks at the past, who had the virus. The other looks at the present, as in who has it. When you conflate the past, and the president, how does it screw up your planning for the future?
RODRIGUEZ: Well, first of, all I don't have as much a problem with this, because both of them tell us how many people have been infected.
Where the problem is, the states and the local health authorities can't separate that. Both informations are important. So again, what this brings is that there is no central guidance as to things need to be done. And that, again, shows that there's lack of leadership at the top. But both of those together tell us how many people have had, and have coronavirus, which is an important data.
VAUSE: And you said, you know, a bigger picture here is that there is no sort of national standard. There is no organization. There is no leadership. So how much of a mess is the current state of testing in the United States?
RODRIGUEZ: Well, I think it's a big mess, because you're -- and you know, I'm tired of hearing what the CDC says, or what the White House says. Somebody needs to take ownership for this, and it always has to be at the top.
Right now, we're testing our patients. I don't know who's reporting it, whether the lab is going to report it to a central organization in our county. And it seems so hodgepodge that, you know, it makes your head spin.
And again, this is the big problem. Because people don't even know what to do with this information. I mean, I think I'm pretty well knowledgeable, you know, so we tell our patients, Listen, if you have antibodies, it could mean that you have immunity. It could mean that you've been exposed in the past.
But again, there needs to be one central system, and it needs to come, in my opinion, from the top down.
VAUSE: Yes. I think that's an opinion which is shared by a lot of people out there. A lot of experts are saying that just isn't happening.
From the White House, the CDC is resting everything on a vaccine. All the hopes and dreams are with a vaccine, which is why the U.S. has committed, what, more than a billion dollars to this vaccine being developed at Oxford University.
Here is a press release from the Health and Human Services. Headline was, "Trump Administration's Operation Warp Speed Accelerates AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine" -- this is the part -- "to be Available Beginning in October."
If all you read was that headline, you'd have this very skewed perception of just how quickly a vaccine could be ready. October doesn't seem to be realistic.
RODRIGUEZ: It doesn't seem to be realistic. And again, haste is going to make waste. And if you put all your chips, right, on this hand, and it ends up losing, we're going to be in a lot of trouble.
Now, AstraZeneca is -- is putting a lot of money and is going to start ramping up their production. And they know that if the phase three trials of the Oxford vaccine don't work out, they've lost a lot.
My concern is that the political machine is going to get involved, and they're going to release a vaccine that has not been tried and true.
Listen, even if you have a vaccine, that doesn't mean that it is going to be producing neutralizing antibodies. As a matter of fact, I think three or four days ago, there was some report that the Oxford vaccine didn't neutralize the virus in rhesus monkeys. Big question mark.
So if all the dominoes fall into place, this could be a game-changer. If they don't, it could be a disaster. Because people are going to get vaccinated, thinking that they're immune, and they won't be.
VAUSE: Yes. I mean, how often do you see all the dominoes falling into place?
RODRIGUEZ: Oh, my gosh. You know what? It hasn't happened before.
RODRIGUEZ: But, you know, maybe with polio vaccine, it did.
But listen, I want to give credit where credit is due. There are very intelligent people working here around the clock to make this happen, and I hope and pray that it does. But they can't rush it. You can't rush it. The virus is going to determine the timeline, not man.
VAUSE: That's one of Dr. Antony Fauci's most memorable quotes, and it was true then. It's true now, and it's true going forward.
You know, the CDC has also reviewed guidelines for transmission, notably now saying transmission from surface contact, because the research found the virus could live on for days, I think up 9 days on certain material. It's not a major way of spreading the virus.
That seems to be some good news, but what are the implications? What does that actually say, big picture?
RODRIGUEZ: Well, what it says is that I think we don't have to be super careful, uber careful, with boxes that we receive.
And listen, I tried to not laugh, or be too judgmental, but people are wearing gloves, and they don't even know what they're doing. You know, they're touching surfaces, and then they think that that's protecting them, and then they touch their hands.
At the end of the day, no matter what surface you touch, you need to wash your hands, in case you touched something. Some surface could have the virus, days, especially plastic surfaces.
So what it means is that maybe that is not the primary way of spreading the virus, but we still have to be careful. But we don't have to be overly crazy in cleaning surfaces.
VAUSE: Lastly, there's been some talk in recent days about, you know, you can wear the mask. You can have the gloves. But then transmission can still happen through the eyes. What's your take on that?
RODRIGUEZ: Well, that's absolutely true. Transmission happens through what are called mucous membranes, moist membranes of the body. The eyes, the nostrils, the mouth.
So, there was one very well-known virologist who thought that he caught it on an airplane by touching the eyes. So this is not anything new.
So if you're wearing gloves, and you just touched a dirty surface, and you scratch your eyes, even if you're wearing a mask, you could get it. So, at the end of the day, don't touch your eyes, your mouth, your nose, all right, unless you're in your home, and you've washed your hands. That's how it gets transmitted.
VAUSE: It's -- Washing the hands, do it often, do it regularly, do it for, what, 20 seconds. Oh, boy. Doctor, good to have you with us. Really appreciate it. Thank you, sir.
RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, John.
VAUSE: Well, some preventative measures in the pandemic are too little, too late. Despite record infections, and thousands of deaths, we'll look at the paradox of preparation. That's next.
And the economic toll from the coronavirus is hitting hard in many parts of the world. Ahead, the quarter-trillion-dollar program the Bank of Japan hopes will keep some of the country's small businesses afloat during difficult times.
VAUSE: A senior U.S. health official is warning of the possibility of another lockdown later this year. If a second wave of the coronavirus coincides with the regular flu season.
The CDC's Dr. Robert Redfield warns the coronavirus could reground itself in the northern hemisphere, like it's doing right now in the southern hemisphere. For instance, Brazil, which now has the third highest number of cases worldwide. Frontline workers are also warning they've told the U.S. Congress they
do not have enough protective equipment, and they're terrified to go to work.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TALISA HARDIN, NURSE, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO MEDICAL CENTER: The situation that nurses are forced to be in is astounding. Our hospitals have consistently failed to give us the protections we need.
ERIC COLTS, BUS DRIVER, DETROIT DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: The biggest fear for me while I'm driving, trying to pay attention to the road, is you will have someone in the back with a sneeze or cough. And if you've ever been on the city bus, or public transportation, we look at it as a 40-foot incubator. You have no way of practicing social distancing on a coach.
DIANA WILSON, EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIAN, NEW YORK CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: We trained for Ebola. We've trained for active shooting scenarios. We failed on a plan on training for this pandemic at any scale.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Back in March came a sobering moment of clarity for the U.S. president, with predictions that, if nothing was done to flatten the curve, the death toll in the United States from the coronavirus would be counted in the millions.
Donald Trump suddenly backing his senior health advisers, issued social distancing guidelines to the nation. The somber, serious, Trump didn't last long, nonetheless, with those measures in place, the predicted death toll has been continually revised downwards, at one, point as low as 60,000. Now, though, it's closer to 150,000.
Even so, for many so-called coronavirus truthers, a death toll in the hundreds of thousands, as opposed to the millions, is just more proof that shutting down the economy and implementing social distancing, wasn't needed. The threat, they say, was just overblown to begin with.
This is what's known as the paradox of preparation. And Juliette Kayyem knows all too well from her time as an assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
These days, Juliette is a CNN national security analyst, and she is with us from Boston. Good to see you.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good to see you. Thank you.
VAUSE: This must be one of the most frustrating aspects for anyone involved in disaster preparation. Do everything right, resulting in a significantly lower death toll, only as some say proof that this was a whole con job just from the beginning. How do you deal with that?
KAYYEM: So as you just sort of anticipated, is the preparedness paradox, which is the more people prepare, the less likely it is that there will be as extensive a damage or death in the crisis.
So one is just sort of prepare for it in the sense that you are expecting it. It's sort of typical. And -- and push back against it, right? But it is very frustrating, because, you know, the opposite of it is you're completely ignored, right. More people get harmed or killed, and then they all say, why didn't you speak up more? Right, it's sort of this worst-case situation in both.
The problem with the pandemic and the preparedness paradox is as you are saying in the lead up, is that the modeling rate keeps changing based on our behavior.
So, unlike a hurricane, where it comes and goes, or a tornado, or an earthquake that sort of comes and go and then you pick up and you get -- and you sort of recover. We're going to be recovering in real time for the months ahead.
And -- and so the more that we think that we did fine and everyone overreacted, the irony is, of course, the more people will now be harmed, as we're seeing in the modeling right now, which keeps going up.
VAUSE: And also, creeping into all this is, you know, the politics of the pandemic. And, you know, we saw that kind of playing out at the White House on Thursday, because earlier this week, we had the study from Columbia University, which quantified the numbers of lives which would be saved if the White House had implemented those social distancing guidelines a week earlier, two weeks earlier, whatever, and the numbers are in the tens of thousands.
And this is how the president responded to that study. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Columbia is an institution that's very liberal. It's -- I think it's just a political hit job, if you want to know the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: You know, this is how Donald Trump often reacts when he has data --
VAUSE: -- or facts that he doesn't like. He says it's a hit job. It's out to get him. But you know, it seems beyond cavalier to say this when there's a second wave in the offing.
KAYYEM: Right. Well, we're -- we're first wave. I mean, in other words, we're -- The president keeps talking about this as if it's in the past. Right? So like, in almost half of the states, the numbers are climbing. We are nowhere close to the two weeks of downward slope that the CDC had recommended before we open up. Americans got impatient. The president got impatient. But the president's capability, or capacity, to turn everything into camps. It's -- you know, there's this camp, versus that camp, is remarkable in the midst of a global pandemic where we're going to hit 100,000 dead.
So in this instance, you know, he has the -- you know, he has the pro- economy camp, and the pro-quarantine camp. It doesn't work that way. People like me, who you know, are saying we have to socially isolate, recognize that we have to get out and begin to spend money, but -- but the president doesn't view even a crisis like that.
You see this, you know, just -- just in the last couple of hours when he is, you know, saying that people should be able to go to places of worship without any rules. And you're thinking, places of worship are literally the worst places, you know, in terms of people congregating.
VAUSE: And one thing, it also seems we've moved on from the whole issue of PPE, but it still remains a big issue out there. You know, there's a doctor, Shanti Akers, who was testifying before Congress on Thursday, about how the virus spread in those initial days, had no idea what they were dealing with. And this was the situation they had with PPE.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SHANTI AKERS, PHOEBE PUTNEY HEALTH SYSTEM: The hospital administration was there every day to make calls and went through extraordinary efforts to obtain equipment and PPE to provide to its clinical staff. Efforts that, in reality, it shouldn't have had to make, as that equipment should have been readily available.
What PPE we had stockpiled to last six months lasted one week. We were, and still are, forced to make that supply stretch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: And this sort of brings us back to where we started. You know, if all the frontline emergency workers get exactly what they needed, it seems to prove, for some, that there's no problem to begin with.
KAYYEM: Right. That's exactly right. And -- and the waves that we should anticipate will mean that there's going to be more burdens on -- on frontline workers in terms of PPE and other materials that we -- that we need.
But this is, I think -- you know, there's a lot of stories to be written about the Trump administration in terms of its response capabilities with the pandemic.
But certainly, the one that stands out to me is just how, they -- in almost everything they're a month or two too late. Whether it's at the beginning, you know, when we could have potentially tested better to stop the spread, to the PPEs and getting frontline workers what they need; to guidance around what governors should do. Everything has been so delayed. Then, because governors, and mayors, and the private sector, and
individuals behaved well -- they stay inside, they cancel work, they tell people to stay inside -- the president then does a victory lap, and says, OK, everyone -- everyone now needs to be free.
And I'm, honestly, just very worried about the next couple of weeks and what the numbers look like.
VAUSE: Yes, and Juliette, we're out of time, but there was also this member which came out from, you know, former staffers with the Obama administration saying this strategic stockpile needs to be rebuilt in three months, by September. You know, otherwise, you know, we're in serious trouble again. I guess we'll see what happens with that.
But Juliette, as always, thank you being with us. We appreciate it.
KAYYEM: Thank you so much.
VAUSE: More indications of the impact the pandemic has had on the U.S. economy. Last week, 2.4 million Americans filed for jobless benefits, which means nearly 40 million people have filed for unemployment since mid-March.
The layoffs and the furloughs continue, even with all 50 states now in the process of restarting their economies, and ending shelter-in-place orders.
But it should be noted, new jobless claims have been on a steady decline since a record seven million at the end of March. Hong Kong's Hang Sang index dropped more than four percent on Friday, reacting to news that Beijing will move to pass a controversial national security law. Other Asian indexes are down, as well.
Kaori Enjoji is live in Tokyo with more on this.
Kaori, it seems that not only, you know, are the residents of Hong Kong, you know, worried and don't like this new national security law. Investors are far from impressed, as well.
KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: Absolutely. And that's why we're seeing losses across the board for equity markets in Asia. And as you pointed out, the Hang Seng is now down over 4.6 percent. This is a seven-week low, as Beijing moves to impose more security measures on Hong Kong.
I mean, investors are concerned that this will reignite pro-democracy protests that really put -- put Hong Kong in a lockdown for six months of last year and turned very violent at some point -- at some parts.
And I think investors, in particular, are concerned, because Hong Kong is such a key place for them as the financial hub. And when you have concerns rising about autonomy, rising about civil liberties that have been in place since the handover in 1997, this is sort of 2019 revisited. And as a result, we are seeing weakness across the board.
And on top of that, you have the NPC, the biggest political event in the Chinese calendar, coming out and saying we are not giving a forecast for GDP for 2020.
And you have the tensions between the U.S. and China, as well. So all of that seems to -- have a compound effect today to push a lot of these equity markets lower, John.
VAUSE: What's happening with the Bank of Japan? I mean, this massive stimulus package. And we're looking at, what, zero-interest unsecured loans for small businesses which are being impacted by the pandemic. That seems pretty sweet, but is there a downside?
ENJOJI: Well, I mean, I think they're taking a page from the U.S. Federal Reserve's main street lending program.
The problem is that they can throw money into the system, but if there are no takers, it doesn't circulate the money in the economy, which is akin to blood circulating throughout your system.
So what they're trying to do is trying to tell the banks, Look, if you lend, we'll actually pay you interest to lend to small and medium- sized businesses. They're struggling right now. We're going to pay you. It's a small interest, 0.1 percent.
And we'll guarantee you, through some kind of government guarantee program, that even if these loans go sour, we will be compensated for that.
And I think this goes to the heart of the matter, in that big companies may have cash to ride out a couple of months of bad economic -- of bad -- a bad economy, but these small and medium-sized businesses, which make up more than half of the economy here, are really struggling.
And so I think this adds another layer to the trillions of yen that the Bank of Japan is prepared to throw into the system. And -- and in fact, today, they said that they're going to extend this program that they already announced until March of next year, for six months. So at least until that period, they do not expect any kind of recovery. At a time when Japan is already in recession, deflation is raring its ugly head again, and credit costs for all banks are rising.
VAUSE: Kaori, thank you. Kaori Enjoji there with the latest on that move by the Bank of Japan. Appreciate it.
U.S. regulators are taking a closer look at the internal accounting of some Chinese companies listed on American stock exchanges. It appears the search engine giant Baidu -- Baidu, rather, may not be wanting to stick around much longer. The CEO says the company is reconsidering its listing.
He said, quote, "The U.S. government is constantly tightening its control of Chinese companies listed in the U.S. Our basic judgment is that, if you are a good company, there are many options for a way to list, and it's not limited to the United States."
The U.S. Senate this week passed a bill which would force Chinese companies off the exchange if they do not comply with U.S. order standards for three years in a row. The House expected to pass it, as well.
Still to come, a dangerous one-two punch to the death toll climb from a super cyclone as the pandemic leaves many too afraid to flee. The very latest in just a moment.
VAUSE: Rescue teams are continuing to search parts of coastal Bangladesh and eastern India as the death toll from Cyclone Amphan now tops 80.
The most powerful cyclone to hit the region in more than a decade came at the same time a pandemic made many too afraid to head to shelters for safety. CNN's Sam Kiley has details.
SAM KILEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a fight against the elements that many knew they could never win. Shoring up dykes while out in the Bay of Bengal, the biggest cyclone ever recorded in the region, stormed closer. It's a fight, too, against the coronavirus. The storm, an immediate threat. The disease, a longer term terror.
RUMKI KHATUN, VILLAGER (through translator): There are too many people here. It is impossible to maintain social distancing. I'm very concerned. We couldn't stay home due to the storm, and here's the potential of corona. I'm just trying to dodge both.
KILEY: At least 2.4 million Bangladeshis and 650,000 Indians were evacuated from their homes as the Cyclone Amphan's winds and rains lashed at them.
The need for social isolation, a risk from the cramped conditions of emergency, while others feared the virus more than the tempest.
SHAFIQUL ISLAM, RESIDENT (through translator): We did not go to the shelter last night. When the storm came, we took shelter under the bed when the house was being battered.
KILEY: Amphan had deepened in the Bay of Bengal but spent much of its energy at sea, still hitting land with winds of 160 kilometers an hour, tearing into homes, and the fabric of nations.
Decades of experience with cyclone has meant that both Bangladesh and India were able to prevent a much higher death toll with mass evacuations.
The fragile Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh were largely spared by Amphan. This is a region now well-rehearsed in coping with the greater numbers and ever more ferocious strengths of cyclones due to climate change. But now, a double fury of storm, and a pandemic, is being unleashed on those least able to bear it.
Sam Kiley, CNN, Abu Dhabi.
VAUSE: Well, a message from the first lady, Melania Trump, for America's schoolchildren during this pandemic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the past two months, I know you have had to make many changes in your life. Many of you had to attend classes in your homes and haven't been able to see your friends.
Many of you, you were looking forward to your prom, spring sports, and graduation. These changes were not easy, but you have been so strong, and I am proud of the examples you have become.
Your determination to get through this will define your generation for years to come. So thank you for helping your families, your friends, your communities, and our country to stay healthy, and safe during these unusual times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: That message just one of the highlights from our global town hall. You can watch the entire program at the top of the hour, about 12 minutes from now. It's 1 a.m. Friday in New York, 1 p.m. Friday in Hong Kong, only here on CNN.
Well, despite great level -- Great Depression levels of unemployment, it seems many Americans are reluctant to take some work opportunities, CNN's Kyung Lah explains why.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello?
ANDREAS NUNEZ (ph), JOB RECRUITER: How's it going? My name is Andrew. I'm calling from Reliable Staffing.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As businesses look to reopen --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll work with you during the COVID situation.
LAH: -- job recruiters like Andreas Nunez (ph) search for people to take the jobs. Yet, one out of every five calls he makes --
NUNEZ (ph): They don't want to come out. They don't want to come out because the price isn't right.
LAH (on camera): How does Unemployment fit into that piece? NUNEZ (ph): People would rather just get the Unemployment.
LAH (voice-over): Because in many cases, it pays more.
Unemployment benefits average more than $350 a week nationwide in state benefits, plus, an additional $600 per week in federal stimulus funding.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before Unemployment, I was lucky to make between 250 and $300 a week.
LAH: This recent college graduate, who asked her name not be used, was laid off from a bowling alley in Ohio in March. Her untaxed unemployment is three times her old take-home pay.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been able to pay off my car three months early.
LAH: You are making more money not working. What does -- what do you think about that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's lessening the stress of going back to work.
LAH (voice-over): Exposure to the virus is the biggest concern, she says, as the economy reopens.
(on camera): If the bowling alley calls and says, We want to hire you back, but you have this option of Unemployment, which one do you choose?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See, that -- that's actually a hard question. This is the first time I felt financially stable in a very long time. But then again, I'm very much the type of person where I like to feel like I'm earning my money in the same way. Like, everyone has, in my mind, a right to live comfortably and not have to worry. And I think this level of Unemployment money is allowing that to happen.
JOSH Souder, RESTAURANT OWNER: How you doing, guys?
LAH (voice-over): But that doesn't help employers like Josh Souder.
SOUDER: I have, you know, employees that won't return my calls. I had one employee show up and quit two days later to go back on Unemployment.
LAH: Souder runs a Drunken Crab in North Hollywood, California. When we met him at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, he had just laid off 75 employees.
SOUDER: I'm worried about having a heart attack, to be perfectly honest with you.
LAH: Today, his dining room sits empty. Carry out only.
Unemployment verification requests are delivered by the handful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Would you like ranch with your Cajun fries?
LAH: A few employees are back. As far as the others?
SOUDER: The amount of money that people are making on Unemployment right now, quite honestly, is more than what we were paying them before.
LAH (on camera): Do you feel like you're competing with Unemployment?
SOUDER: No question. I don't blame them. But we do need workers to come back eventually. This is a limited amount of money that you will receive for a limited amount of time that will run out.
LAH (on camera): The federal stimulus money, the $600 per week, is set to expire at the end of July.
The unemployed woman you heard from in our story, she said that this entire experience has taught her that her wages, and the wages of people who might work in a theater behind me, well, those wages simply are not high enough in this country, especially if you consider college loans and health care.
Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.
VAUSE: We'll take a short break. When we come back, in Denmark, school is back in, and for some students, class is being held in a graveyard outside their church.
VAUSE: In Denmark, high schools, museums, theaters, are all opening weeks ahead of schedule. After a decline in the number of patients being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals, the government accelerated its reopening timetable.
And as CNN's Fred Pleitgen reports from Copenhagen, that means school for some students isn't quite how it was before the pandemic.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Math lessons from the pulpit. When the Veksoe School outside Copenhagen didn't have enough space for all kids, because of physical distancing rules, the local church became a classroom. Students don't mind.
MARIE ERIKSEN BOEGNER, STUDENT: It's different, but I like it. And we learn a lot.
PLEITGEN: To help with their statistic lessons, they needed a place with lots of numbers, so they just moved to the church's graveyard.
[00:55:03] Denmark's government is encouraging as many lessons as possible outside, the teacher says.
ANETTE DA CRUZ, TEACHER, VEKSOE SCHOOL: We have to study statistics, matt, so instead of doing it inside the school, now we can use the cemetery. They can collect data, we can work with it, and they get much more curious.
PLEITGEN: Denmark is rapidly reopening its schools, under very strict hygiene measures. Arrival times are staggered, so there aren't too many children at school at once.
You won't see students, or teachers, wearing masks, though. Instead, here at the Hendriksholm School in Copenhagen, they use police tape to make sure children don't cross paths in the stairs and the schoolyard. Children should keep at least three feet apart.
And they wash their hands and sanitize at least every two hours, a new experience for many.
ANDY CHANG JOHANSEN, STUDENT: It is a little hard to get used to, but when you get used to it, it definitely feels more normal.
PLEITGEN: With that concept, Denmark first brought the youngest students back to school, and now, the older ones, as well.
The head of secondary education at the Hendriksholm School, Jimmy Adetunji, says the key to making it work is trusting the kids to be responsible.
JIMMY SKOV GLASDAM ADETUNJI, HEAD OF SECONDARY EDUCATION, HENDRIKSHOLM SCHOOL: If you follow the guidelines given, if you keep distance, if you make sure to wash your hands, keep sanitizing, coughing in your sleeve, and not in your hand, and so on, so forth, I think we'll be safe.
PLEITGEN: With many parents fearing for their kids' safety, the Danish government worked with parents and teachers' groups, to build support for the plan, the country's education minister tells me.
PERNILLE ROSENKRANTZ-THIEL, DANISH HEALTH MINISTER: Without that dialog, I think many people would have felt that it wasn't safe to send their children to school. I think the guidelines that we would've made wouldn't have hit the target, and then we would have outbreaks in different schools. And that would have made other parents uncertain about the situation.
PLEITGEN: Opening schools does not appear to have led to a spike in coronavirus infections and Denmark. And while some might find math lessons on a graveyard a bit awkward, well, so far, Danes say their way of bringing school back is working.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Copenhagen, Denmark.
(END VIDEOTAPE) VAUSE: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us for a CNN global town hall, "CORONAVIRUS FACTS AND FEARS." It includes a special message from the U.S. first lady, Melania Trump. Don't want to miss that.
You're watching CNN.