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Beaches Brace For Huge Memorial Day Crowds As States Reopen; Trump Calls For Places Of Worship To Reopen; Oxford Vaccine Trial "Progressing Very Well;" Uproar In U.K. After PM's Adviser Takes Trip While Under Isolation; Denmark's School Plan Could Be Model For World; NY Governor Cuomo's Daily Briefing. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired May 23, 2020 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[11:00:07]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us this Memorial Day weekend. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We begin this holiday weekend with many places in the U.S. reopening in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. From coast-to-coast states are allowing people to soak in the sun at beaches and parks but strict rules are in place in some areas as social distancing and safety guidelines are enforced.

Nationwide the number of new cases is holding steady or rising in 42 states. Some experts worrying that reopening could cause new spikes of the disease. Confirmed cases in the U.S. now top 1.6 million with over 96,000 deaths.

As states ease stay-at-home orders, President Trump is calling on governors to do even more, demanding they open houses of worship this weekend. Even saying that he, the President, will override any governor who doesn't comply. Legal experts dispute whether the President has that kind of authority.

In Georgia, thousands are expected to gather on Tybee Island this Memorial Day weekend. The small beach town made national headlines when the mayor went toe-to-toe with Governor Brian Kemp. Back in April Kemp opened beaches right after Tybee Island's mayor and city council closed the beaches.

CNN's Natasha Chen joining me right now from the Tybee Island. So Natasha -- there have been a lot of people who have been going to the beaches since the governor reopened it. But now it looks like an even greater influx of people.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred -- it looks like a party out here. Let's show you a little bit of what we're seeing. That guy says it's supposed to be his wedding day so he came down to the beach instead. Ok.

So these parties and families are at least seeming to keep a distance from each other, which is what they're supposed to do. They're also supposed to keep groups under ten people.

Now, you mentioned that the mayor went toe-to-toe with Brian Kemp when the beaches first started reopening to make that clear she did appreciate after that that the state sent resources -- the Department of Natural Resources down here to patrol the beaches, specifically for social distancing and that is happening today as well.

She did mention that last Saturday there were 12,000 cars who came to Tybee Island and you could just imagine what that's like this holiday weekend. Now, it was only last Sunday or so that the city was able to hire back and put back their lifeguards here. So you can imagine how dangerous that was with people coming and not enough eyes looking out for those swimmers.

In fact, we talked to one person who saved an eight-year-old who was really caught by a rip tide there. Here's what he said about the whole situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't really agree with the state reopening the beaches but there's nothing you can do really if there's too many people coming down right now. There's tons of people coming down to Tybee Island. So there's nothing that you can really do about it to be honest.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: And so when he had to save the boy, there were no lifeguards out, at least today there are. So he thinks that is definitely better considering the crowds that we're here seeing today.

So there will be patrolling officers from the state, local officers as well. But we're seeing that there are a lot of people keeping their distance from each other but no masks on anyone -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Natasha Chen -- thank you so much, Tybee Island. We'll check back with you throughout the day.

And this breaking news into CNN. Right now more than 125 firefighters are battling a massive fire at California's Pier 45 in San Francisco. The warehouse fire was first reported early this morning at the iconic Fishermen's Wharf which is home to a pair of World War 2 era warships. Officials say a quarter of the pier has been lost to the flames.

CNN's Dan Simon joining me now from San Francisco. So what sparked this fire?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At this point we don't know -- Fred. But what a scene there with all that thick, black smoke rolling over the San Francisco Bay. We know that a lot of firefighters are out there -- more than 125 of them trying to keep this blaze in check. And they seem to have been successful.

They did save one of those World War II era ships, the SS Jeremiah O'Brien. But you can see crews still trying to get that blaze under control. We understand this broke out about 4:15 this morning and it was at a warehouse there on Pier 45. This is part of Fisherman's Wharf, which is obviously a very popular place for tourists, not right now, though, in light of the pandemic.

[11:04:52]

SIMON: But crews racing to the scene and keeping that fire contained to one particular warehouse where they seem to have gotten things under control. But obviously a lot of frantic activity. Fire crews still there at the scene. Fortunately at this point, Fred -- no injuries.

WHITFIELD: Thankfully for that. Dan Simon -- thank you so much. Keep us posted.

All right. And now back to the significant number of partial reopenings happening all across the country. In New York, people are now permitted to gather in small groups of ten people or less. Governor Andrew Cuomo signing the measure just in time for the holiday weekend.

CNN's Polo Sandoval joins me now from New York. So Polo -- what more are you learning about how people are out and about this holiday weekend?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Fred -- let me take you back to March. That's when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed that executive order banning any nonessential group gatherings. Fast forward to this week when he allowed those for Memorial Day celebrations or religious purposes to go on. And then last night yet another reversal to that where the governor has now issued another executive order allowing any kind of gathering as long as it's ten people or less and as long as those people are adhering to the social distancing and also disinfecting protocols.

Look, it is Memorial Day yes. Here in New York, it is rainy but the forecast looks better after today. We will see people out and about. And as you hear from officials, it's ok as long as people are careful.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL: President Trump insists the nation's houses of worship must reopen this weekend. On Friday he deemed them essential before the CDC unveiled new interim guidance for communities of faith.

The President also said he would override states that resist, though it's not clear if he has any authority to do so. Some of the nation's governors reminding the commander-in-chief that reopening decision falls on the states.

GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): It is the governor's decision of course. And that's why I think he said, look, When the CDC guidance comes out, take a look at the guidance and see what might be possible. That's the approach we're going to take.

SANDOVAL: This weekend also marking the symbolic start of summer. And the major tests for beach side communities that have been preparing for crowds. Many beaches are open on the East and West coast, though you can expect social distancing restrictions and capacity limits to be in place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm excited. I think it's good. I think people need to be outside and enjoying what nature has given us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been cooped up inside for so long. And It's nice to get outside and get a little work in.

SANDOVAL: For Florida residents only beaches in hard hit areas like Fort Lauderdale and Miami Dade County will stay closed. A new study warning some southern states could see a spike in COVID-19 cases another round of reopenings just in time for the holiday weekend.

South Carolina theme parks are open again. As are bars in Texas with limited capacity and dancing discouraged.

ART HARVEY, WEST LAKE BREWEING CO: We have to do a lot of extra precautions we didn't have to do before. Increased sanitation, hand sanitizing stations, our staff has to wear masks.

SANDOVAL: Overall it's ok to venture away from home, says the White House's coronavirus response coordinator.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE TASK FORCE RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Understand you can go out, you can be outside. you can play golf. You can play tennis with marked balls. You can go to the beaches if you stay six feet apart.

But remember that that is your space and that's the space that you need to protect and ensure that you're social distanced for others.

SANDOVAL: But the White House is expressing concern over the region seeing a high number of COVID cases -- cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington -- despite stay-at-home orders.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANDOVAL: In the next hour or so, we do expect to hear from Governor Andrew Cuomo. One of the things that we'll be looking out for, Fred -- is any possible new information about when New York City would actually begin that first phase of reopening.

But when you hear from experts everybody seems to agree that it may perhaps be the last, and it's certainly not surprising as it was one of the hardest hit and continue -- and we have seen those numbers in New York City. And of course, the concern is that we could see them rise again.

WHITFIELD: Polo Sandoval in a rainy New York City -- appreciate it.

All right. Still ahead, President Trump orders churches to reopen in all 50 states, but can he do that? The legal challenges of reopening houses of worship next. Plus, the President reveals he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, a controversial drug known to actually do more harm than good for coronavirus patients. The safety risk for the President and for you straight ahead.

[11:09:12]

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WHITFIELD: All right. The CDC is out with new guidelines for places of worship to safely reopen. It released the recommendations after President Trump declared churches and other religious institutions essential.

He's threatening to override governors if those states do not follow the new federal recommendations and allow services to begin.

Here now is CNN's Nick Valencia.

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NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After weeks of anticipation the CDC finally released what it calls interim guidelines for faith based institutions. And the guidance goes into great detail as to what churches can do to safely reopen.

Things like modifying methods used to receive financial contributions. Considering a stationary collection box or electronic methods of collecting financial contributions. Other things include considering whether physical contact, for example shaking hands, hugging or kissing can be limited among members of the faith community.

One of the more interesting things that we noticed in reviewing these recommendations was how they began. The CDC saying that this is information considered nonbinding public health guidance. And we hadn't seen in the draft or really any of the final documents that the CDC had published language that is in any way similar to that.

We know that part of the hold up for the CDC releasing their 68-page draft document which eventually came out in a 60-page published report had to do with the hold up over language specifically that the HHS office of civil rights thought to be restrictive of religions.

References to hymnal books, references to also communal cups or communion cups -- sharing those. It's interesting because those details still exists in these interim guidelines.

[11:14:55]

VALENCIA: This comes a day after President Trump spoke to a crowd in Michigan saying that he had put pressure on the CDC to release these recommendations. And now they're finally out for the public to know.

Nick Valencia, CNN -- Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WHITFIELD: All right. Here with me now to discuss is CNN medical analyst Dr. Saju Matthew and CNN legal analyst Shan Wu.

Good to see both of you.

All right. Shan -- you first. So what legal authority does the President have to declare churches essential and to also force governors to reopen them?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALSYT: Right -- Fred. There's basically no legal authority for the President to force the governors of the states to open. The Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reserves rights to the states under our principles of federalism and President Trump has no basis upon which he can force the governors or mayors to do anything and we've seen that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic because it is the state and local authorities who have been leading the way in terms of orders, stay-at-home regulations and the like.

And that of course, makes sense because they understand the local conditions. So he lacks any legal authority to force that. It's really part of his usual sort of blustering, trying to assume more power. And they're already walking that back. I mean they're already again --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: And you look at the map -- you look at the map here, Shan -- the President really may be only referring to three states because the majority of the states have reopened houses of worship. You know, some are in the middle of, you know, reopening completely. There are some restrictions in place.

But does it sound as though the President is really trying to take credit for the majority of the states that have already opened them and just threatening the three that have restrictions in place?

WU: It certainly sounds like he's trying to do that. His spokesperson already backed away from the position reiterating the governors have the decision on what to do.

Now there are some interesting constitutional questions as to whether it's unconstitutional to force the churches to close. But I think at this point, as you pointed out -- Fred, this is a foregone conclusion. They're going to start to open.

WHITFIELD: Ok. And of course, the press secretary for the White House is saying it's unconstitutional, you know, for any other state to do otherwise.

So Dr. Matthew, you know, in your view what does need to take place for houses of worship, to ensure everyone's safety?

DR. SAJU MATTHEW, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes. Hi -- Fredericka. Nice to be back on your show.

You know, when I think about the church, I think of the church as a completely different place an area than say a grocery store. In a grocery store you've got people kind of moving in and around you.

In a church, technically, if you can avoid a lot of the members congregating in the lobby. Once they are seated, if they are 6 feet apart and wearing a mask I think that it might be doable. We all have to find what a new normal is -- Fredricka. And of course, a lot of churches are hurting without income, pastors are hurting. So I understand that they need to go back

But I think those guidelines of wearing a mask, making sure that you're six feet apart at all times and not congregating in the lobby and maybe even doing away with certain rituals like the sign of peace like they do in my parents' church.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Something like, you know, half, you know, of the churches are suffering as a result of not being able to, you know, take offerings, receive donations.

So Dr. Matthew -- let's switch gears and talk about vaccines now. Oxford University says its vaccine trial is progressing rather very well. And it's now moving to the next two phases. So how significant is this that the next two phases are in sight?

MATTHEW: Pretty significant -- Fredricka. If you look at the history of vaccines, we've never developed a vaccine in a year. The quickest vaccine has been for mumps which took four years. Most vaccines take five to ten years.

I'm optimistic. I'm not 100 percent sure -- Fredricka, that we'll have the vaccines not only effective and ready to go, but also we have to ramp up production for eight billion people in the world and make sure that everybody has access to it. So I'm optimistic. I still think it will take 12 to 15 months.

Dr. Matthew -- let's talk about this hydroxychloroquine. The President has said that he has been taking it to fend off, you know, coronavirus. But hadn't the discussions been that hydroxychloroquine may be helpful to the most severe of coronavirus patients. And now researchers are actually saying that drug may not be as good as the President has touted because it could cause heart problems. So why would the President be using it as a prophylactic in the first place?

MATTHEW: Yes, I want to make one thing clear -- you know, Fredericka. President Trump is taking the drug as he says for prophylaxis, as you just mentioned, which means, how can I avoid getting COVID-19 in the first place?

There is a clinical trial going on right now. We still don't know the results of that study and it's really meant more for frontline workers who are exposed to the disease every single day.

[11:19:59]

MATTHEW: The other study that was released yesterday is one of the largest studies of, you know, hydroxychloroquine that actually says that not only is there any benefits, there is harm. It increases your risk of certain cardiac arrhythmias and actually causes increased risk of death.

So this is a pretty large study that we've never had before. And for me, as a physician, I'm pretty convinced that this is not a drug that we should be using in sick patients with COVID-19.

WHITFIELD: So, Shan -- you know, back to the vaccine issue. If it does become available, what legal protection, if at all, do people have to ensure that they are not overlooked? That they, too, would have access?

WU: Sure. Any vaccine is only good if you can get to it. And what people have to be aware of is that Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act makes sure that any program -- Medicare, Medicaid, that receives federal funding has to not discriminate in how they give out that health care to people.

So for historically disadvantaged communities like the native American community. we know the Navajo Nation has suffered terribly during COVID-19. Their basic access to health care is problematic. And that access is going to cause disparity frequently to them.

But anyone who notices a specific type of discrimination barring them from getting health care or vaccines, they can report that to their state Department of Health and also to the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal agency, through their Office of Civil Rights.

WHITFIELD: All right. Shan Wu, Dr. Saju Matthew -- we'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much.

MATTHEW: Thanks -- Fredricka.

WU: Thank you -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, a top aide to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is accused of breaking the rules around coronavirus. His controversial response to the backlash, next.

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WHITFIELD: There's an uproar in the U.K. after a senior adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson took a trip to visit his family while he was supposed to be in isolation after exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus. Dominic Cummings defended himself today and says he quote, "behaved reasonably and legally".

The controversy comes as the Prime Minister is also facing pushback after announcing a 14-day quarantine for travelers to the U.K.

CNN's Hadas Gold is in London. So bring us up to date -- Hadas on both of these issues.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes Fred -- so on the quarantine for travelers, I mean the tourism industry here has said this just won't work for them because most people when they come for vacation, they come for less than two weeks so what's the point of traveling to the United Kingdom if you have to self-quarantine for two weeks.

But what's making all of the headlines here today is about that senior adviser which if you're to compare him to somebody in the White House, he would be like a Stephen Miller or once upon a time a Stephen Bannon, an incredibly important person to this Downing Street.

What happened is it was revealed over the weekend that in March Dominic Cummings took his wife and his child and drove 200 miles away from their home in London to a family property where they isolated themselves because his wife had been sick and he would soon himself fall ill with coronavirus, to isolate themselves closer to family so they can have help taking care of their child.

But at the time the government advise was that if you're exhibiting symptoms or if you are positive for coronavirus, not to leave your house at all for at least seven days.

Take a listen though to how Dominic Cummings defended himself just earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOMINIC CUMMINGS, AIDE TO BORIS JOHNSON: I behaved reasonably, legally.

(INAUDIBLE)

CUMMINGS: Are you kidding (ph) right now?

Who cares about good looks? It's a question of doing the right thing. It's not about what you guys think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GOLD: And the opposition Labour Party is calling on Dominic Cummings to resign. And there have actually been other government advisers, including one of the chief scientific advisers to the government who themselves had to resign over similar instances of breaking lockdown rules.

But so far, Downing Street and the government is defending Dominic Cummings saying that he was following advice at the time. But this uproar continues because it seems to just be hard to square if the government was saying at the time, if you're sick don't leave your home, squaring that with someone driving 200 miles away. Even if they're going to be isolating themselves in a separate property -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Hadas Gold. Thanks so much from London.

All right. There are growing questions about whether or how to open schools in the fall. Schools in Denmark were the first in Europe to reopen last month. In order to maintain social distancing, Danish educators are thinking outside the box. And it could be a model for Europe and the rest of the world.

Here now is CNN's Fred Pleitgen.

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FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 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 the 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. Denmark's government is encouraging as many lessons as possible outside, the teacher says.

[11:29:51]

ANETTE DA CRUZ, TEACHER, VEKSOE SCHOOL: We have to study statistics and math so instead of doing it inside the school, now we can use the cemetery. They can collect data and 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 kids 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 on the stairs and the schoolyard. Children should keep at least their 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 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 and so forth, I think we'll be safe.

PLEITGEN: With many parents fearing for their kids' safety, the Danish government worked with parent and teachers groups to build support for the plan, the country's education minister tells me.

PERNILLE ROSENKRANTZ-THEIL, DANISH EDUCATION MINISTER: Without that dialogue, 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 have 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 in 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)

WHITFIELD: And coming up at 2:30 today right here on CNN, a panel of experts will join me to answer your coronavirus questions, especially when it comes to schools, teachers and our kids.

Go to CNN.com to submit your questions on education. Again, that's today 2:30 Eastern time right here on CNN.

And a reminder. Join Fareed Zakaria, as he investigates the moment a pandemic was born, "CNN SPECIAL REPORT: CHINA'S DEADLY SECRET" begins tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m.

[11:32:34]

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WHITFIELD: All right. To Albany, New York right now. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo with his daily briefing. Let's listen in.

GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I know today is Saturday because Mr. Met (ph) tweeted at me this morning that today is Saturday. He is the Mets mascot, so it must be Saturday. Also know today is Saturday because I'm not wearing a tie. That is a cue to me to understand that today is not Saturday.

Today is Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. It is day 84. Yesterday a number of my young superstars said to me, you know, this is Memorial Day weekend coming up and we've been working for 83 straight days. Maybe we do something different. Maybe we take a day off is what they were trying to suggest.

I said, ok. Tomorrow I'll stay home. So I am at home today. I never said I wasn't going to work. But I said, tomorrow I will stay home. And I am at home today.

But we are working, yes, 84 straight days. When the COVID virus takes a day off, we will take a day off, it's very simple.

We're in the New York state executive mansion. It's not really my home, it's the people's home. It is the residence for governors in New York. It's a great old house, built in 1856. The state acquired it in 1877. They were building the state capitol, which was going to finish in 1899, which was and is really a beautiful architectural masterpiece and the governor's residence is just a stone's throw from the state capitol. And the two work together -- the capital was the place for business and the governor's residence was the place for social events and gatherings and to entertain legislators.

It's been home to 32 governors. You had three governors who served as president of the United States from New York. You had Grover Cleveland. You had Teddy Roosevelt. And you had FDR -- who's between FDR and Teddy Roosevelt, there were the two historic governors who went on. You had Vice President Nelson Rockefeller also lived in this home.

But it's very much a museum and it is beautiful. I don't know that you can fully appreciate it today, but we have great artifacts in this home. We have the wheelchair from FDR that he used when he was in this house. It's the wheelchair that he also would go into a pool, which is in the back of the house, which was a pool that he exercised in.

It was very important for FDR, obviously, to keep his upper body very strong. He was holding himself up and swimming was his exercise. That's his wheelchair.

We have a great portrait from FDR that hangs in the drawing room. We have a great bust of Teddy Roosevelt, which was done by Baker who's an extraordinarily gifted artist. And That's here. We have great art all through this home.

The New York State Museum provides art but we have pieces by Durant here, by Frederick Church. It's just -- you can't appreciate the scope of the home. But the whole first floor is just magnificent. It can hold several hundred people. And we do a lot of good work here.

My mother did a restoration of the mansion back to the historical accurate portrayal when she was here. And it's still basically very much the same way.

So it is beautiful. It's open to the public. We have a Web site that people can go to. And it's really worth seeing.

[11:39:53]

On the numbers today, the news is good news. It has been good news. But every day is a new day and it's good to see it continuing. The number of hospitalizations are down. The change in hospitalizations is down. The intubations is down. The number of new cases -- new COVID cases walking in the door, which is a very important number, that's down. And the number of lives lost is down to 84.

84 is still a tragedy, no doubt, but the fact that it's down as low as it is, is really, overall, good news. I had a conversation with a health care professional once and I said, you know what, what number should I be looking to -- for to get down as a bottom number on the deaths? And the doctor said -- it wasn't our health commissioner -- he said, if I were you I would look for 100. You want to be below 100.

And I said, why 100? He said, well, people are going to pass away when they're ill and often it's pneumonia or it's something else, but if you can get under 100, I think you can breathe a sigh of relief.

When he said this to me, we were in the hundreds and hundreds and getting below 100 was almost impossible. But I made a little note. You know, you need something in life to shoot for. You need something to aim for. And it's not official, I don't even know if it was 100 percent accurate. But in my head I was always looking to get under 100. And we're under 100.

Doesn't do any good for those 84 families that are feeling the pain. But for me, it's just a sign that we're making real progress. And I feel good about that. We've been talking about reopening, and how we proceed with reopening.

It's been different in different regions all across the state. We have criteria all across the state that applies to every region. There is no variance in the criteria region from region. There is no political difference. There is no local differences.

What's safe in Buffalo is safe in Albany is safe in New York City. And I want people to know where we are with these criteria and that's why they're on the Web site and I encourage people to go look at them every day.

They are controlling what's happening. This is all a function of what people do. This is nothing to do with government, nothing to do with anything else. This is what people do. And New Yorkers have been great in understanding the situation and responding.

In the mid Hudson area -- Westchester, Rockland, (INAUDIBLE) Orange, Putnam, Sullivan, we have met the criteria for the decline in number of deaths that was the issue that we were having with the mid Hudson region.

The only open issue is we have to train tracers. No region opens before it's ready to open. To be ready to open, you need the tracing and testing system in place.

Mid Hudson region we have identified the right number of tracers. They now need to be trained, it's an online course. I spoke this morning to the representatives of the mid Hudson, county executives and I said, look, we have a choice.

If we can get them trained over Memorial Day weekend we can reopen on Tuesday. You can do the trainings online. Many of them are government employees. And we agreed and I thank the county executives and supervisors -- we agreed to ask people to be trained Saturday, Sunday, Monday and we'll open in the mid Hudson on Tuesday. So that is good news.

Long island, the number of deaths are dropping. If that continues, we also have to get the tracing online. But at this rate we could open by Wednesday if the number of deaths continues to decline and we get that tracing up. So that is also very good news.

Memorial Day weekend is here we opened up the state beaches. We asked people to socially distance. This is Jones Beach yesterday. And people were great. People were great. People were great. They're doing what they're supposed to do. And I thank them very much.

In terms of testing, the -- we stress this and we should, just because you are not showing symptoms does not mean you do not have the COVID virus. About a third of people who have the virus never have symptoms. So they never know that they have the virus. But you can still spread it if you have it, even if you don't know you have it.

[11:45:04]

CUOMO: So that's one of the insidious elements to this virus. So get a test. We are trying to make it as easy as possible. We're opening more and more testing sites. We now have -- we're working with Advantage Care physicians. We're bringing more testing to lower income communities. But we now have 760 testing sites across the state. Please go to the Web site and get a test. It protects you; it protects your family, it protects everyone. And we made it as easy as possible. But we do have many sites that have more capacity than they're now doing tests.

If you have any symptoms, get a test. If you were exposed to a person who turned out to be positive, get a test. If you're a front line worker, get a test. If you're a health care worker get a test. If you're working in a grocery store, you're delivering products, you're public facing, get a test. If you're a region that's opening up, get a test.

And look, we've made it as easy as possible, but this is something where we need people to continue to step up, right. This is not -- and by the way, just because you got a test one month ago doesn't mean you shouldn't go get another test, right. You can get a test and you can walk out of the testing site and pick up a virus in ten minutes.

So it's not, I got one test, I'm done. It doesn't work that way. But again, that's up to people. And all these admonitions, all these pleas, the good news is remember that it is working. What we are doing is working.

You look at the New York curve, you look at how low it is, you look at the number of deaths, you look at the decline. Compare that with the rest of the nation where you still see the rest of the nation's curve going up. So it is working.

And what are we doing? It is the social acceptance and culture of being New York tough which is smart, smart. Smart is get the test. Smart is protect yourself. Smart is risk/reward. Don't put yourself in a situation where it's not worth it.

If you can stay home, stay home. If you don't have to go into a certain store, don't go into a store. We're united. We're disciplined. This is all about discipline now. This is doing the same thing we did the day before, even though it's day 84. And it's showing respect and love for your family and for society and operating that way.

And again, it's working here in New York because what you're seeing across the rest of the country, in many other states, you're seeing the numbers go up. They're talking about a possible second wave in the south, which may have reopened too fast and too aggressively. They're talking about a higher number of deaths in California.

How these counties reopen, how states reopen -- they can make all the difference. 24 states suggest that you may still have uncontrolled spread, right? So don't underestimate this virus. We know that it can rear its ugly head at any moment.

But what do we need to do? It's not rocket science. Wear a mask, wash your hands, socially-distance, use hand sanitizer. But most of all, wear a mask. I am telling you, those masks can save your life. Those masks can save another person's life.

And the most astonishing fact to me, all through this, that the emergency room health professionals have a lower infection rate than the general population. That the bus drivers, transit workers, police officers have a lower rate of infection. Because the masks work. And we gave them the masks. And they wore the masks. So wear a mask.

We have an ongoing competition on the "wear a mask" ad -- the most convincing ad. Mariah, my daughter, is running this because she was unmoved by my powers of communication and persuasion. But that competition is now open.

[11:49:59]

CUOMO: And we have people voting on the five finalists. And the winner will be announced Tuesday and will become a public service announcement for the state.

We're asking people to go to the Web site. Look at the five finalists and vote. And then we will announce a winner.

I'm excited about this. And we are going to be stressing wearing a mask over this weekend. And going to this Web site and this competition is part of it.

We have Rachel Maddow who has a show on MSNBC at night that I have been on. And she was talking about this competition last night in her way. And she made some remarks that I would like to show you, if we can.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: New York asked people to submit their own public service announcements about why you should wear a mask. And what they circulated this week was, what I believe, are the finalists, like the best ones, according to the state. And they're really good. They're also really, really, really New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Now that "really, really, really New York" comment, Rachel is by birth, a Californian, I believe. "Really, really, really New York". I'm curious what she meant by "really, really, really New York". So I want her to do New York a favor and go look at the five. Pick which ad she likes best. And I'm asking all New Yorkers to go and vote on which add they like best.

But I'm really, really curious what Rachel thinks is the best of the five ads. So I'm publicly asking her to go look and vote and let us know what she likes best of the five. We're also posting some honorable mentions because we had over 600 submissions, and I'm telling you, they're phenomenal. I've been watching them. They're just phenomenal.

But we have an honorable mention category. We want to show you five more videos now that are in the honorable mention category.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, buddy. Can you put on your mask?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why? I feel fine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's called asymptomatic. Look it up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not about you. It's about your neighbor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The essential worker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My grandma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. I've got it covered.

CROWD: It's up to us New York, New York.

I love New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wear a mask when I go grocery shopping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I take the subway.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every time I leave the house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wear a mask for my friends and neighbors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To help others feel safe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I don't know if I'm carrying the virus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For my family members.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To protect essential workers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For my sister who is my best friend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: because the people at the laundry matter. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wear a mask to flatten the curve --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm wearing this for all New Yorkers in hopes that you will, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: COVID-19 has put New York on hold. Since we cannot track this virus it's hard for New Yorkers to move forward.

But there is something we can do to fight against it. Wearing a mask in public protects you and dramatically lowers the chance of COVID-19 infecting others.

Even if you feel healthy, wearing a mask shows New Yorkers that you care about them and our essential workers. So if you're in a public space, indoors or out, please wear a mask and help New York get back in motion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:54:55]

CUOMO: Ok. Last point. In this house, staying here -- and as I said, it really feels like a museum in many ways. But you can't ignore just the number of greats who lived in this home -- historic greats. What FDR did, what Teddy Roosevelt did.

And I read a lot of history. New York tough. Yes, yes -- this is a tough situation. And, yes, New Yorkers are tough. And we've shown how tough we are here.

Tough means many things, as I've said. Loving, disciplined, et cetera. But even tough is tough. Tough is about courage. Teddy Roosevelt, "Courage is not having the strength to go on. It is going on when you don't have the strength."

Day 84, I can't do this anymore. I can't do this anymore. We have to do it more. We have to continue to do it. And this new normal, we're going to have to do it for a long time.

They're talking about the fall. They're talking about a possible second wave. We have to get back to activity. But we have to do it in a different way. A smarter way. Maybe a better way when all is said and done.

And that's courage. And Teddy Roosevelt was a tough and leaned-in to being tough. He liked being tough, Teddy Roosevelt. He liked being physically tough. Teddy Roosevelt had a boxing ring built on the third floor of this house -- a boxing ring. And he would challenge the legislators during the day to come box with him in the boxing ring on the third floor at night.

Can you imagine that? The governor says to a legislator, come, we'll go into the boxing ring. I think that's how they got the budget done at the end of budget session. Any discordant voices -- come to the mansion and we'll go to the boxing ring.

But he was -- he was tough in that sense. Rough rider tough. Physically tough. Pushed himself.

My father was governor of New York, lived in this house for 12 years as governor, served as governor. He had a different version of tough. He was more of the loving definition of tough. He was more of the inclusive definition of strong.

That strength was in unity and strength was in community. And strength was in giving and selflessness. And strength was finding the commonality among people and connecting among people. That's his sense and his definition of toughness.

This nation at its best is at its best only when we see ourselves all of us as one family. And he brought it back to the metaphor of a family. What is society? What is community? It's a family. You're a family. Just treat each other as you would treat your own family members. Showing benefits and burdens. That was his version of tough.

So you're going to have a number of iterations of the same concept. But the concept is right. And that concept is New York.

Questions?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, the Associated Press in its own app (ph) found more than 4,500 recovering COVID patients from hospitals were released into nursing homes under the state directive that was in effect for nearly two months. What did your state survey numbers show on this and why (INAUDIBLE) are you not releasing the results of the survey?

CUOMO: We had 68,000 hospitalizations. So the 4,000 number would be a subset of that. And I don't know what information we have that we haven't released at this point. Do you know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't think there's any information that we have that we haven't released at this point. I just want to reiterate once again that the policy that the Department of Health put out was in line directly with the March 13th directive put out by CDC and CMS that read and I quote, "Nursing homes should admit any individuals from hospitals where COVID is present." Not could, should.

That is President Trump's CMS and CDC. So I know that there's been a lot of discussion on this topic. There are over a dozen states that did the exact same thing. Many of whom were concerned about hospital capacity at the time. Everybody remembers the projections were well into the 140,000 hospital bed range whereas we started out with I think it was about 50,000.

[12:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so, obviously, any death is an unfortunate death.