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New Cases Surging in Latin America and Caribbean; U.S. Begins Reopening in time for Memorial Day Holiday; London's Imperial College Says Pandemic Far From Over in U.S.; Oxford Recruiting People for Larger Vaccine Trials; Sao Paulo Hospitals Struggle with Surge in Cases; Trump Refuses to Wear Mask in Public During Ford Visit; Trump's Approval Rating Holds Steady in Fox News Poll. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 22, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ANNA COREN, CNN ANCHOR: There are more cases of coronavirus in Latin America than the U.S. and Europe. We'll take you inside a devastated Brazilian hospital.

For the ninth week in a row, a devastating number. Millions filing unemployment claims in the U.S.

And as the U.S. marks this side of summer beaches across the nation are opening up. How to protect your family this holiday weekend. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Anna Coren. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

After sweeping through China, Europe and the United States, the coronavirus pandemic is now surging in parts of Latin America. The Pan American Health Organization says new cases in South America, Central America and the Caribbean have begun outpacing those in the U.S. and Europe. Brazil, Peru and Mexico are getting hit the hardest, according to Johns Hopkins University. We'll have more on that just a moment.

It's a mixed picture across the U.S. as Americans are set to mark the Memorial Day holiday. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware are among the states that will reopen their beaches but with rules to avoid crowding. And health experts continue to warn of a possible resurgence if people are not careful. We get the latest now from CNN's Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): There have now been more than 1.5 million positive cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. more than 94,000 people have died. The U.S. continues to lift restrictions, for the first time in two months, all 50 states have partially reopened. 12 states are now reporting a drop in the numbers, last week at this time, there were 24 states that saw their cases declining. 17 states are now seeing the number of cases rising.

ANDY BESHEAR, KENTUCKY GOVERNOR: If we see dramatic increases, then yes, the way we're doing it we can pause. COOPER: Even though the country is opening up, the estimated death toll has fallen. The University of Washington is now projecting fewer deaths. Last week it was at 147,000. They now predict 143,000. This drop may be explained by one simple factor, face coverings.

DR. CHRIS MURRAY, DIRECTOR, THE INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND VALUATION, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: 40 percent of the U.S. wears a mask all the time. About 80 percent wears a mask sometimes and that's probably helping separate out that impact of rise in mobility.

COOPER: The urgency for a vaccine has only increased. Some companies this week have released promising results from early trials. Still, there are no guarantees. And the CDC director warns of another flare- up of the virus in the fall and winter, which could lead to a second lockdown.

As we head into a long holiday weekend, many beaches, restaurants and parks all over the country will be open, and potentially packed with people. Ahead of that comes a sobering statistic, 106,000 new coronavirus cases worldwide were reported to the W.H.O.

COREN: that's the single-largest increase in a 24-hour period since the outbreak began. Almost two-thirds of those cases came from just four countries. India, Brazil, Russia, and the United States.



COREN: Anderson cooper with that report.

Well, many Americans are understandably weary of staying home, wearing facemasks and social distancing. But the Imperial College in London has a sobering message. This pandemic is far from over. Well, I spoke about this earlier with Dr. Esther Choo. Who teaches emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University. Here's what she had to say.


DR. ESTER CHOO, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, OREGON HEALTH AND SCIENCE UNIVERSITY: It still feels early in many respects. I mean, the cities that have been hardest hit are really on the coasts. There are large areas in the middle of the country and in rural where the virus still has yet to travel. There's still are burgeoning hot spots. So it certainly feels like on the ground that we have a long way to go and this is far from over.

COREN: Well the mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, says there is a shortage of ICU beds in his city due to new COVID cases. And some other states that began to open early are showing an uptick in cases, how worrying is this?

[04:05:00] CHOO: It's worrying. I mean, we knew that we were opening in many places ahead of what would be best practice standards, which would be to see a steady decline in cases for about 14 days. Many places did not even come near that. There are places in the United States where cases were still increasing when they made the decision to open doors. So, it remains -- this is like a huge natural experiment because states and individual communities are making a lot of different decisions. And then of course, there's a distinction between saying things are open and having the public feel comfortable enough to go out there. So there's a lot of individual behaviors that are driving a ton of variety. But certainly in some places it's going to prove to have been too early and we will see a delayed increase of cases.

COREN: There are predictions today that a second wave of coronavirus infections could come in the fall. Are hospitals in the United States prepared for that? Or will they be able to get ready in time?

CHOO: I really hope that we'll use this summer wisely. I mean, this is not a time to say, well, you know, we're declining cases in some areas. We're plateauing in others. We can just take a breath. I mean, there is that temptation because we been going at 150 percent for many months and people are very tired. But the truth is we need to go into the summer with renewed energy and prepare for whatever hits us this fall which will probably be a second wave of COVID that also overlaps with flu season.


COREN: That was Dr. Ester Choo speaking to me a little bit earlier.

Well, top U.S. Dr. Anthony Fauci says he's cautiously optimistic about a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the U.S. based Moderna company. The biotech firm said that some patients produced protective antibodies in the first small human trial. Dr. Fauci explained it this way during the CNN Town Hall.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What we saw, even though there was only eight individuals, we saw neutralizing antibodies at a reasonable dose of the vaccine. And the titers were high enough to get us to believe that if we attain that in more people, in a large enough number of people, you can predict that that vaccine would be protective. So although numbers were limited, it was really quite good news because it reached and went over an important hurdle in the development of vaccines. That's the reason why I'm cautiously optimistic about it.


COREN: Well the University of Oxford said it has started recruiting participants for phase 2 and 3 trials for its own potential vaccine. That's the next step towards discovering whether the vaccine developed by the University's Jenner Institute is effective. The next phase will enroll more than 10,000 adults and children. For more let's go to our Nina dos Santos in London. Nina, what can you tell us about this next phase in the trial?

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks very much, Anna. Well it's eagerly awaited news certainly for people trying to get back to their daily lives. Initially the Jenner Institute at Oxford University had just given this vaccine which is derived from a common cold vaccine with genetic elements of COVID-19 to try and prompt an immune response. But it has been attenuated so it can't take hold and replicate in the human body. Hence, the safety aspect of it. 1,000 people have been given this by now. But they feel confident enough to enter those phase 2 and phase 3 parts of the clinical trials that are going to be so crucial to getting this FDA approval and to try to get it to the market and people who need it.

So as you mentioned, they're going to be adding 10,260 people to this trial as of now. But the really important thing is that they're going to be broadening out the age spectrum to try and figure out what kind of immune response is prompted in various different age categories. They're going to be adding over 65s. That's the category of people who are deemed most at risk and in this country have been told to self- isolate. They're going to be adding over 70s and also young children as well though none under 5. The age group there was 5 to 12.

The vaccine -- well, the unit of Oxford University's vaccine unit, the Jenner Institute, believes that it can have this potentially ready to head to mass market as early as September. And what they've done here is they partnered up with a big British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to be able to roll that out as a distribution partner for many doses when it's ready to go. The reason why it's so important to have a look at the different age bands this time early in the trial is to find out whether or not, not just that it's safe but that it's effective in those age categories. Because those are the types of age categories that will need it first to try and ease the lockdown. Children, of course, going to school potentially in this country from the first of June at this point. That's only ten days away.

And of course, a lot of pensioners have been stuck in their own homes for nearly three months now.


And that also is a situation that is unsustainable and not to mention, of course, many over 70-year-olds inside care homes as well. Where there have been many, many deaths too -- Anna.

COREN: Nina dos Santos joining us from London. Many thanks for the update.

Well, in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the coronavirus as a little flu. But inside hospitals health care workers are struggling with an overwhelming number of patients and watching their colleagues fall victim to the virus themselves. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh takes us behind the hospital doors to show us the front lines of what one doctor calls the worst thing we have ever faced.


Paolo, the biggest city and hottest spot for the coronavirus in Brazil, but deathly quiet. Outside 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): What's startling here 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.

JACQUES SZTAJNBOK, EMILIO RIBAS INFECTIOUS DISEASES INSTITUTE: Never before it touches us like 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?


WALSH (voice-over): It's a virus that stifles and silences. But suddenly here there is commotion. One patient, a woman in her 40s, has had cardiorespiratory failure. The doctor's 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 life disconnected and she's wheeled out.

And the space will be needed. It all happens so fast but leaves 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'll 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.


COREN: Well, Donald Trump went to the Ford factory with a facemask in hand to tout America's reopening. But it's what he didn't do with that mask in public at least that has stirred a controversy.

Plus, despite an increasingly astronomical unemployment rate, many Americans are not rushing to get back to work. We'll explain why just ahead.



COREN: President Trump is pushing ahead with his effort to restart the U.S. economy. On Thursday he visited a Ford motors plant in Michigan that's now making medical ventilators. That's as Jeremy Diamond reports it's what Mr. Trump didn't do that once again is stirring controversy.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump defying the state of Michigan and the Ford Motor Company touring a Ford manufacturing plant without a mask pushing for a return to normal. Even as he was surrounded by others wearing masks, the President sticking to his guns and saying he chose not to out of spite.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wore one in this back area but I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it. I put it on and it was very nice. It looked very nice.

DIAMOND: Trump's decision came after Ford informed the White House masks are required. And after Michigan's Attorney General warned the President would not be welcome back if he refused.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Is the President no longer welcome in Michigan?

DANA NESSEL, MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I will say speaking on behalf of my department and my office, that's right. That's exactly right. I mean, today's events were extremely disappointing and yet totally predictable. This is not a joke and he's conveying the worst possible message to people who cannot afford to be on the receiving end of terrible misinformation.

DIAMOND: The President tonight also insisting he has no plans to fire his CDC director.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you looking to replace Dr. Redfield or his (INAUDIBLE)?


DIAMOND: The questions about the CDC director's fate come amid tensions between the White House and the CDC, including over the President's push to reopen churches more quickly.

TRUMP: One of the other things I want to do is get the churches open. The churches are not being treated with respect by a lot of the Democrat governors. I want to get our churches open and we're going to take a very strong position on that very soon.

DIAMOND: While Trump tries to spur a return to normal, the government's health experts are warning the pandemic is far from over. Dr. Anthony Fauci warning --

FAUCI: Now is not the time to tempt fate. People say, do you think we will be back to normal this summer? And I say, you know, I don't really think so. Because it may be a new normal but it's not going to be the way we had it before.


DIAMOND: And Dr. Fauci also raising concerns that the name of the government's effort to develop a vaccine by 2021 is being misconstrued. When they hear operation warp speed they're thinking, oh, my God, they're jumping over all of these steps and they're going to put us at risk. You're going really fast but you're not compromising safety.

Meanwhile, the economic devastation across the U.S. unrelenting. 2.4 million Americans filed for unemployment last week sending the total number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits to 38.6 million in just nine weeks.

(on camera): And now when the President did step out in front of the cameras without wearing a mask, he was still in close proximity to Ford executives who were wearing masks as well as other White House officials and members of the media. And as for the Ford chairman, Bill Ford, he was asked at the end there by a reporter whether or not it was true that he had told the President it wasn't necessary to wear a mask. All he would say is it's up to him.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.


COREN: Well, despite the backlash the President has faced for his coronavirus response, Mr. Trump's approval rating remains likely the same. A new national poll from Fox News indicates 44 percent of Americans approve of the way he's handling his job as President while 54 percent say they disapprove. Those numbers are almost identical to his approval rating for how he's responded to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ron Brownstein is a CNN senior political analyst. He's also a senior editor for "The Atlantic." He joins us now via Skype from Los Angeles. Ron, great to have you with us. Based on this new polling it doesn't appear that the coronavirus is having much of an effect on the President Trump's approval rating. What do you make of this?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (via Skype): You know, the country is really dug in. And we have seen that throughout the President's very -- you know, it's been an incredibly tumultuous, rocky tenure. I mean, unprecedented events have happened, impeachment, you know, the Charlottesville comments, just controversies every day that would seem to consume another presidency. And it would kind of end up back where we started with the President facing a majority of the country disapproving of him but a very solid 43 to 45 or 46 percent approving.

And I think that's where we are now with one exception, Anna, that is important and noteworthy. Is that since all of this started the President has suffered some erosion among older voters, including older white voters who are important part of his coalition. But who have I think recoiled from the suggestion from him and other Republicans that in effect old people have a duty to die if that's what it takes to restart the economy.

COREN: Yes, it really was quite extraordinary because as you say, older Americans they seem to have cooled on Trump . Because they are just part of the collateral damage and reopening the economy.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, you know, it's interesting, you know, four years Democrats have been talking about expanding the electoral college map. And the assumption has been that the way you do that is by expanding the electorate, by bringing out more younger, non-white people who don't usually vote in states like Florida and North Carolina, in Georgia and Arizona and even Texas. But what's fascinating is that Joe Biden may be in a position to expand the electoral college map in a very different way. Not by expanding the electorate but by doing a little better with the most reliable voters who tend to be older people. And the fact that he is running better than Democrats had done since 2000. No Democrat since Al Gore in 2000 has won seniors in an American presidential election. The fact that he is doing better with those seniors is allowing him to put in play states like Arizona and Florida, as well as strengthening his position in some of the Rust Belt states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that also have a lot of older voters.

COREN: So should President Trump be concerned?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, clearly this is not a sustainable trend for him and they realize that. I mean, you know, they exhume a lot of confidence on every front but the fact that he -- you know, we saw in 2018 the first step back from his coalition of 2016 and in 2018 what moved back were a lot of white collar, well-educated suburban voters who usually voted Republican, largely on economic issues but simply could not abide Trump's behavior as President. And that's what fueled the big Democratic gains in suburban areas outside major cities all across the country. And that his stayed as a problem for the President. If you add to that, an erosion among older voters, that is just like, I think, too many straws on the camel's back where he can't the math add up.

COREN: When the President was in Michigan for that Ford tour, the subject of mail-in voting was brought up again. Here's what he said, let's take a listen.


TRUMP: Voting by mail is wrought with fraud and abuse.


If you're president of the United States and if you vote in Florida and you can't be there, you should be able to send in a ballot. If you're not well, you're feeling terrible, you're sick. You have reasonable excuse, just a reasonable excuse you should be able to vote by mail in.


COREN: So several states have already sent out applications for absentee ballots. How does this strategy work out for the President?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, and one sense this is entirely on brand for the President. Because he's always alleging voter fraud, that there is simply no evidence of it happening. But in most ways, this is a bizarre line of argument for him. First of all, the evidence is that in 2016 roughly the same share of Democrats and Republicans voted by mail. About 1/4 of all-Americans voted by mail. Second, and a number of the key states historically it's been Republicans who have most emphasize voting by mail. In places like Florida and Arizona. Democrats have focused more on what's called early voting. Where you can vote in the days before election day which is very popular in the African-American community. And the second reason this is bizarre is because he is picking a fight that he has already lost. In the states that are -- both sides agree are most likely to pick the winner in November which are Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin across the Rust Belt, North Carolina, Florida and Arizona across the Sunbelt, in those six states anyone can vote by mail for any reason already under current law.

Ron Brownstein, always great to get your insight and analysis. Thank you so much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

COREN: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Coming up, the White House may be rolling out a second stimulus bill very soon as the unemployment rate continues to soar. We'll explain what the Trump administration is considering.

And after months of crashes on the streets of Hong Kong, Beijing proposes a hugely controversial new security law.