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Coronavirus Surges in the South; White House: High Likelihood of Another Stimulus Bill; China Abandons 2020 Economic Growth Target. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 22, 2020 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: An unwelcome reality for the unofficial start of summer. Coronavirus cases resurge in the South. We'll tell you where and why.

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

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's Friday, yes, Friday.


JARRETT: May -- May 22nd. It's 5:00 a.m. here in New York.

Well, the unofficial start of summer will be a holiday weekend unlike ever before. The latest new case numbers are proof that this collective COVID-19 nightmare is far from over.

Last Friday, 28 states were trending in the right direction. This morning, a lot less green on that map there. Only nine states now reporting a downward trend in new cases, 17 states are headed the wrong way.

The U.S. death toll approaching 95,000, a tragic rate coming down at a stubbornly slow pace, and a push to reopen does not change the reality of the virus.


ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAID SERVICES: The lag time that occurs between the time when we start to see these cases and when they convert to a really big spike can be -- can be a matter of weeks. Nothing magic happened while we were staying home. During these lockdown periods, it's not like the virus got less contagious or less deadly.


ROMANS: One immediate concern, beaches will be open in states around the country this Memorial Day. And even more people may be unaware that they are spreading the virus than we thought. Overnight, the CDC released an estimate that 35 percent of coronavirus

infections produce no symptoms. Huge concerns focused on the south now. Places like Florida where new cases in Palm Beach are projected to nearly quadruple in the next month. In Texas, the Houston area could see cases skyrocket more than 10-fold.


DR. DAVID RUBIN, DIRECTOR, POLICYLAB, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: The areas that move too quickly like the South, their distancing practice has been -- you know, has eroded more quickly. The value of our forecasts is that there's still time to modify behavior because if you wait too long, then the risk for some of this resurgence and this spike in cases becomes even higher.


JARRETT: Cases are already climbing in North Carolina and in Mississippi where several casinos have reopened. There's also a surge in Alabama, phased reopenings started weeks ago. A new stay at home order starts tonight that allows schools to reopen in June. There was even an outdoor graduation near Birmingham this week.

The shortage of ICU beds has one mayor calling the situation manageable but not sustainable.

CNN's Victor Blackwell has more from Montgomery for us.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. There is a sense of urgency here Montgomery, Alabama. We're hearing it from the mayor, Steven Reed, who is trying to stop this city from being the next hot spot across the South as you're seeing a growth, a rise in COVID cases. He says that in the first week of May, there was a 45 percent increase in Montgomery County, a 46 percent increase in the second week. We're still waiting for the numbers of the third week, although double digit increases.

And he says that now the ICU beds, four major hospitals here in central Alabama, they are filling. He says it's also directly connected to the easing of restrictions across the state. At the end of April, the governor, Kay Ivey, allowed the shelter at home order to expire. There were other restrictions in place for several days in May, but now, retail, restaurants, bars, gyms, and salons are opening with some rules.

And the mayor says when you loosen the restrictions, add the crowds, you see more cases, of course, you're going to see the increase in the ICU bed capacity.

Listen to the mayor.

MAYOR STEVEN REED (D), MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA: We started getting calls probably about a week and a half ago from hospital administrators explaining to us the number of COVID patients that they were seeing, was not only increasing but that people were coming in worse shape. And so, we thought we would remind our community that this pandemic is not over. We're still in a tough battle and now is not the time for us to relax.

BLACKWELL: When the mayor mentioned this urgency about ICU beds on Wednesday, he said there was just one left at Jackson Hospital behind me. Well, the latest we have from Jackson Hospital is that single bed has been occupied -- Christine, Laura.


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

Health officials are warning there's a strong chance of a second wave of infections in the fall, a second wave. President Trump says no more shutdowns. He wants businesses open.


He wants the economy moving ahead, even if there is an infection resurgence.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to put out the fires. There could be -- whether it's an ember or a flame, we're going to put it out, but we're not closing our country.


ROMANS: Note that states not the president actually make that call. Much as they did this time around.

Health experts including those within the Trump administration have said the virus will keep spreading and may become harder to combat once flu season begins.

JARRETT: The U.S. Postal Service is refusing an order from the Denver Health Department to close a major mail facility facing a coronavirus outbreak. City health officials issued the order after discovering multiple confirmed COVID-19 cases among employees at that facility. Eighteen hundred people work at the processing and distribution center, the fourth largest in the country. The Postal Service says it's essential handling tens of millions of pieces of mail per day.

ROMANS: President Trump backed more stimulus to help struggling Americans as unemployment surges. The president didn't say what this package would include, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did say what it won't.


TRUMP: I think we will. I think we're going to be helping people out. We're going to be getting some money for them during the artificial -- because it is, it's an artificial closure. I would say there could be one more nice shot, one more nice shot. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think there's a high

likelihood we will do another rescue package. It's not too far off. Let me tell you what it won't be. It won't be a $3 trillion left wing wish list that passed the House that couldn't get all the Democrats to vote for, that Senator Schumer is in favor of. That's not going to pass the Senate and not to become law.


ROMANS: On Thursday, the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Congress needs to wait and allow the $3 trillion in aid already passed to work through the economy. Earlier this week, Mnuchin warned there could be long term damage to the economy, the longer states are shut down and he said he expects, though, a strong second half of the year.

JARRETT: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says half of the employees could be working remotely by 2030. A Facebook internal survey shows 45 percent of workers who are interested in working from home want to relocate. Zuckerberg says they would have to report where they move and their salaries would be adjusted based on their locations.

The music streaming service Spotify also says its employees can work from home for the rest of the year. Tech giants like Amazon, Google and Microsoft are also allowing workers to work remotely until either the fall or the end of 2020.

ROMANS: Major coronavirus fallout in China overnight. For the first time in decades, the government is not setting an annual growth target for 2020. It comes hours after Beijing moved to subdue opposition in Hong Kong.

And CNN has learned mainland Chinese national security agencies will set up branches in Hong Kong. The move suggests that even as it acknowledges the cost of the pandemic, the government still wants to send a message of control.

All this sending markets in Hong Kong, look at that, sharply lower.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout is live in Hong Kong with more.

And it's so interesting. You know, people who work in international business looking at what's happening in Hong Kong right now with this, you know, new move for new security scrutiny and they're saying, is this the end of the Hong Kong that we've known?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there, is so much uncertainty right now as Beijing is moving to tighten its grip on Hong Kong. On Thursday, China's parliament introduces new national security legislation that would give Beijing more control over Hong Kong. And today, the national people's congress kicked off in Beijing and they look to pass, to rubber-stamp this legislation which would curb sedition, secession and foreign interference here in Hong Kong.

Now, one phrasing in the legislation that's been getting a lot of attention here in this part of the world is something called enforcement mechanism. And observers say that this means if this legislation, when this legislation passes, it would allow China's ministry of state security to establish themselves here in Hong Kong and to enforce this legislation.

As expected, there has been outrage here in the territory, prompting one opposition lawmaker, Dennis Kwok, to call this, quote, the end of Hong Kong, the end of one country, two systems. But also in the last hour we got a statement from Carrie Lam, the top leader here in Hong Kong. We can bring it up for you, she expressed support for this legislation saying the Hong Kong government support the MPC's deliberation of the decision to establish and approve at the national level the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong SAR to safeguard national security.

That's the word from here in Hong Kong. The top leader Carrie Lam.

Christine, back to you.

ROMANS: Kristie, why now do you think? I mean, is this a move amid the pandemic or is this a move to, you know, to make sure there aren't more protests as we come up on important anniversaries here?

STOUT: You know, there are some pro democracy figures I have spoken to including Martin Lee, the 81-year-old leader of the Democratic Party who was arrested last month. He believes that these moves are taking place, being encouraged by Beijing under the cover of the pandemic, at the time when other countries would be too distracted with the pandemic.


But make no mistake about it, what Beijing is doing here by doing this, it is taking aim at the Hong Kong protests of 2019. As you know, it severely disrupted the economy, the tourism sector, life here in Hong Kong. And also, it gave support to the democratic local district elections in November last year for the pro-democracy camp.

Beijing is striking back. That's why we're seeing the introduction of this legislation, that looks -- set to be passed in the days ahead, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. We know you'll be watching it for us, Kristie, thank you so much from Hong Kong.

JARRETT: Well, Latin America has been dealt a devastating blow from coronavirus. Record numbers of cases and deaths, hospitals and cemeteries simply can't keep up.


ROMANS: Latin America reporting more new coronavirus cases than either the U.S. or Europe for three days in a row. These startling numbers driven by Mexico which reported a record number of cases yesterday and by Brazil which reported an all-time high in deaths.

[05:15:08] CNN went inside one of the largest hospitals in Brazil already overwhelmed by the pandemic. Cemeteries forced to dig hundreds of new graves in preparation for what's to come.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has more from Sao Paolo.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Startling record number of deaths in 24 hours in Brazil, 1,188 taking the country over the 20,000 mark and many are seeing a high number of cases every day. Changing the global focus from the U.S. and Europe which so often had the number of new cases, now it's Latin America that appear, in the last three days -- consecutive days to be having the most number of new cases in the world.

But here you've got a feeling that even though the lockdown is in place here in the biggest city, something is beginning and the peak is not yet upon them.

(voice-over): Sao Paolo, the biggest city, deathly quiet. Outside the 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 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 the growing sense of anxiety, fear of 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 tested positive this day.

JACQUES SZTAJNBOK, EMILIO RIBAS INFECTIOUS DISEASES INSTITUTE: Never before 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. Suddenly here there is commotion. One patient, a woman in her 40s, has had cardio-respiratory failure. The doctor's heavy pumps (ph) is the only thing keeping her alive, but after 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.

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, but 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.

So much of the controversy, the confusion, the anger, frankly, focused on the Brazilian government. You saw there the president simply dismissing the disease. So often, yes, of course, every nation struggling with how to balance the needs of their economy and their population in that regard keeping them physically alive.

Add to that, too, here in Brazil, there's an ongoing debate about hydroxychloroquine. You've heard that a lot in the United States. President Donald Trump has said he's taking it but his own FDA have questioned frankly whether it's any use against coronavirus. There have been some suggestions, too, that it may harm people if they're taking it correctly.

Here in Brazil, well, you're now being recommended to take it even if you haven't got a severe case of coronavirus. And that's adding to people's confusion here and the fear that I think they're not simply prepared on a federal nationwide level for the harrowing weeks that are ahead.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Sao Paolo, Brazil.


JARRETT: All right. Nick, thanks so much for that report.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends tomorrow. Now, many Arab countries are reimposing strict lockdowns after cases spiked during a highly social Ramadan period.


Joining us now, CNN's John Defterios live in Abu Dhabi.

Hi, John.


JARRETT: So, what can you tell us?

DEFTERIOS: Yes, indeed. This is quite a change. This is a Ramadan -- well, I was going to say, this is a Ramadan, Laura, that people certainly will not forget in their lifetimes. You know, they did very strict measures in the month of April hoping they would be able to ease these restrictions at the start of Ramadan. They didn't throw open the doors but the cases snapped back in a big, big way.

So, now, the clamp down is coming clearly. Saudi Arabia has the most cases here in the Gulf, over 65,000. They've moved during the Eid al- Fitr weekend here to a 24-hour lockdown. Kuwait had the sharpest percentage rise here, triggered in part because it has flights coming very late into this COVID crisis passing through Dubai and Charga (ph) from Emirates here into Kuwait. That spread the virus rapidly.

Then Qatar for the 2022 World Cup, of course, had some labor challenges here. Forcing to rethink labor practices from those from south Asia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India about health, hygiene, and even transporting housing for them going forward.

JARRETT: The UAE is trying to open up business. Tell us about that.

DEFTERIOS: You know, in the last 24 hours, I was at Dubai international airport. I would say it's a gingerly move to open up. Let's put it that way.

They're going to nine destinations, and they've had 157 before the virus. But they're doing so trying to rebuild trust.

Three weeks ago, I was in the Dubai mall. The same thing, they're limiting capacity to 30 percent. Nobody over the age of 60 can go into the mall there.

But we had one retailer who spoke to me and said, look, I have 1,400 shops. We're glad they put down the very severe health measures at the start of this thing. We want to test reopening, being safe.

But they have to restart the economy. This is the reality here. It's a small population in the UAE, just 10 million people. They need to be globalized. That's why they started with the malls that everybody knows about, Dubai Mall. And also the Dubai International Airport which has been the connection between east and west -- Laura.

JARRETT: Major hub there.

All right. John, thanks so much. Good to see you.

ROMANS: All right. The man who recorded two white men, father and son gunning down a black jogger, he now faces murder charges himself.



JARRETT: The man who reported the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia is behind bars this morning.

William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. is the third person to be arrested in Arbery's death. He now faces charges in felony, murder and attempted false imprisonment.

We get more now from CNN's Martin Savidge.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Christine. Good morning, Laura.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is holding a press conference and we'll get more details of the arrest of William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. But he is the man we already know as the person who captured on his cell phone that 36 second video clip that showed the pursuit and the eventual struggle and then death of Ahmaud Arbery on February 23rd.

It was that video that changed everything regarding this case. Remember, for two months it seemed to be going nowhere and then that video was leaked. People were shocked. They were horrified. And that's when things began to change.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation got called to the case. Thirty-six hours later, they had two men under arrest. That was Gregory and Travis McMichael, but there had always been this question and even some suspicion that had been hanging over the head of Roddie Bryan, mainly because it was Gregory McMichael in the original police report that had named Roddie as being one of those who helped in the pursued saying he had attempted to use his vehicle to block the path of Arbery.

And then there was a district attorney's letter that described all three men as equal participants on that particular day. The family of Ahmaud Arbery said they are relieving and went on to say, we called for his arrest from the very beginning of this process. He was involved in the Mr. Arbery. It was obvious to us and to many around the country.

The attorney representing Roddie Bryan said his client was nothing more than a witness who captured a key piece of evidence. Roddie Bryan is now in the very same jail as the two other men in this case -- Laura and Christine.


JARRETT: Important developments there.

Martin Savidge, thanks so much.

EARLY START continues right now.


JARRETT: An unwelcome reality for the unofficial start of summer. Coronavirus cases starting to resurge in the South. We'll tell you where and why.

Good morning. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: So nice to see you this Friday morning, Laura, a holiday weekend. I'm Christine Romans. It is 29 minutes past the hour.

The unofficial start of the summer will be a holiday weekend unlike anything we've ever seen. The latest new case numbers are proof this nightmare is far from over.

Last Friday, 28 states were trending in the right direction. Today, this morning, a lot less green on this map. Only nine states are reporting a downward trend in new cases, 17 states are headed the wrong way. The U.S. death toll approaching 95,000. A tragic rate coming down at a stubbornly slow pace.

And a push to reopen doesn't change the reality of the virus.


SLAVITT: The lag time that occurs.