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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Updates State's Response To COVID-19; Heat Expected To Bring Crowd To California Beaches; Firefighters Battle Massive Fire On Historic Pier 45 In San Francisco; Drug Trump Touted Linked To Higher Risk Of Death; Confirmed Cases Skyrocketing In Brazil; NYC EMT Tells Congress City Was Unprepared For Outbreak. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired May 23, 2020 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so obviously I think that is an important debt but and even when you look at in comparison with other seats New Jersey has 5,522 confirmed nursing home deaths, where has New York, 3,094. Massachusetts 3755, Connecticut 1487.

It's been a national and international tragedy that everybody has had to grapple with and it's something that we're trying to learn from every day and move forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D-NY): Yes, let me just comment on that. We're in a political environment here. I get it. I understand it. I'm a big boy. I can say all day long, I refuse to politicize this discussion. And I have not, and I will not because I represent Democrats and Republicans and Independents and atheists and short people and tall people.

And the politics makes no difference to me. I have no political agenda. I have no political aspirations. There's no politics here. I can say that, but we're still in an election year and people are still playing politics and this is a hyper partisan environment.

To the extent people want to politicize this issue and Republicans are saying, well, New York did this. New York followed the President's agency's guidance. So that depoliticizes it. What New York did was follow what the Republican Administration said to do. That's not my attempt to politicize it. It's my attempt to depoliticize it. So don't criticize the state for following the President's policy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --mental heath patients coming into nursing homes had absolutely nothing to do with the high number of infections and deaths that we've seen in New York?

CUOMO: Yes, we've gone through the infection rate many times. And there's nothing has changed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The three beaches that opened last weekend, how likely are that they'll enter phase two this coming weekend? CUOMO: We're watching the numbers. We said two weeks between phases. That's a rule of thumb. There is no magic or science to that. That's not a hard and fast number. Where the two weeks comes from is, "Experts say" that's the margin of time you have to leave to see if an infection did increase and then the infection incubated and the infection manifested and the person got ill and the person went into the hospital.

That would take about two weeks. But if you see no increase in any of the numbers, could you accelerate that? Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --do you decide to move to phase two or just proceed --?

CUOMO: The phase two is different than phase one because phase one is basically a hard start or stop, right? Either you hit this number or you don't hit this number. Phase two, and Rob correct me if I'm wrong, phase two is more a judgment call of when - have the numbers stabilized to the extent there is an increase?

Can you explain the increase? Or is the increase problematic? But I don't think we have a hard - the two weeks, I explained, I don't know that there are a hard set of numbers for phase two.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, there's no - two weeks is not set as the Governor points out. It relates to the CDC guidelines or in relation to the 14-day incubation period. However, to go to phase two, we'd modify the executive order and then put out all of the guidelines for all of the phase two industries.

So those are being prepared now. Those are ready. If we don't see any uptick in the health metrics and it says as the Governor pointed out previously, you still have a green light. Nothing has gone to yellow, then those regions would move to the phase two, we're monitoring each region.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --decided the executive order allowing gatherings of up to ten people. How do you think that's going to affect the infection rate and the state's ability to reopen?

CUOMO: Theoretically, it shouldn't. It's a CDC guideline. Also the ten people gatherings are up to ten. And, look, it's the same answer to all of these questions, right? It depends on how people act. You can have a safe gathering of ten people.

You can also have a wholly unsafe gathering of ten people. You can have an unsafe gathering of three people. You can have an unsafe gathering of two people. It only takes two. Or you can have a safe gathering of ten. It depends on what people do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --pressure to make that little thing today, can I include law suit that was filed on Friday?

[12:05:00]

CUOMO: I don't even know about a law suit on this one. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did not know about the lawsuit?

CUOMO: No, look, on any given day, if we don't have three lawsuits, something is going wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor going back to - can have a gathering of more than ten people, should you be having a gathering of more than ten people?

CUOMO: Say that again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because the executive order says you can have a gathering of up to ten people, should people be gathering that --?

CUOMO: No, look, this is - this is the whole point. All of these are measuring risk, right? Risk/reward. My daughter Michaela is here today. Risk/reward, one of my constant lectures. Is it worth the risk? Two people say risk? Three people is a risk. Four people is a risk. Five people is a risk. Ten people say risk. The risk keeps going up.

Any one of those people could be infected and not know it. Any one of those people could be infected, love you to death, and still give you the coronavirus and then you could give it to someone and it could kill someone. So is it worth the risk?

You have to make that judgment. That's why I'm saying it has nothing to do with government at the end of the day. What is my role as Governor? I have a whole operational role. Get the hospitals running, get testing and tracing, et cetera.

But these are people and the virus spread I just give them the information and then say please, here are the facts. Please exercise diligence and judgment. Please, please and here's what happens if you don't? And here are the facts and now you weigh the risk/reward.

But if you don't have to be with a group of ten people, don't be with a group of ten people. It doesn't mean, okay, Governor signed an executive order up to ten. Let's now have a party of ten people. No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor considering that the rise in rates--

CUOMO: Last one, Mr. Jessie. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Concerning the raising rates in highly populous regions like Los Angeles County, Illinois, Texas, places they do a lot of travel in between New York and those locations, is there anything that you are considering, like future measures, to stop that second wave, considering that those regions seem to not have this under control?

CUOMO: If you're asking, would New York now quarantine against people coming from other locales into New York because they could be bringing a virus here, I don't think - first, mobility is weighed down, right?

You have many, less tourism, less business travels, et cetera. So on the numbers I don't know how big an influx it is? Also, Jessie, I don't know that legally one state can bar other states from entrance. And I don't think it is good policy.

I know when the shoe was on the other foot there was talk of other states saying, well, I'm going to quarantine against New Yorkers coming here. I thought it was wrong then, and I think it's wrong now. Go ahead, Jessie. Let me just finish your question Jessie, go ahead Jessie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible)

CUOMO: Can I just finish Jessie's question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess the only follow-up is, is there anything in the toolbox? Is there any - I don't know, cutting down on flights in places like that to prevent - or what sort of thinking are you going through in order to prevent a second wave?

CUOMO: Well, look, the second wave - you can have people come from outside and infect your population, right? That's how we got here in the first place. Where I'm really outraged is the infection - how we got infected from Europe when nobody told us?

It was all about China, and we're all looking to the west on people coming from China. China travel ban. Meanwhile, it came from the east. And it came from Europe. And nobody ever said, watch out for those European travelers.

They could be bringing the coronavirus because, by the time we closed down China, the virus had already left China and was in Europe and then we have 3 million Europeans coming. That's how this happened.

Which is still mind-boggling to me that with all these global health organizations, with all these global health experts, public health experts, federal agencies, whole alphabet soup, nobody realized that the virus had left China and gone to Europe?

[12:10:00]

CUOMO: And nobody realized that people from Europe were then traveling all over the world and bringing the virus. And nobody realized that planes from Europe land at JFK and Newark Airport? I mean, that is still, to me, mind boggling. But that's how it came here in the first place.

New York, a state government does not have the capacity. Look, I couldn't have done anything about it anyway except yell, right? Legally, the state can't close its borders to European visitors. That's a federal action. I don't believe a state can close its borders to other states.

I believe legally that would be challenged and I'm not even sure the Federal Government could do that. So I don't believe there's a state role in setting borders. But even if we do get infected by someone, the question really then turns to controlling that infection. And that's testing, tracing, et cetera. Thank you. I'll see you tomorrow, guys.

FREDERICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo there saying, overall, news is good. Hospitalizations, intubations, deaths are all down, however, he underscored still important for people to wash their hands and to wear masks and, of course, he also says that he is hoping New York might open by Wednesday. All depending on the number of tracers they can get online.

Let's talk about all of this. Joining me right now CNN Correspondent Polo Sandoval Evan McMorris-Santoro and CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Kent Sepkowitz good to see all of you. Polo, you first the Governor trying to remain optimistic but still reminding people that it's personal responsibility that will help ensure everyone's health and safety.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a tone that was cautiously optimistic, Fred. One of the big headlines coming out of this is for the first time since late March the number of COVID related deaths in New York state falling below 100. The Governor saying he lost 84 New Yorkers yesterday.

The Governor making it clear, it is still a heinous number. This does very little to nothing to console the families of those 84 people. But you also have to consider that's a figure that at one point, particularly in late March, reached up to 800 a day almost 800. So you can imagine why the Governor is laying this out as a sign of real progress.

The Governor saying that this is, for several reasons, not only because of those precautions people are taking and hopefully he continue to take today but also because of the testing. A week ago today, or at least six days ago, the Governor actually tested himself live on air to try to show people, to drive that message home that it's easy.

There are 700 testing locations across the state. There was simply many of these locations not being used. The Governor seizing on the opportunity to remind people that one of the reason why these numbers continue on a steady decline is because people are staying informed and continue to be tested.

Not just once but multiple times if people have reason to believe they've been exposed. That one test, of course, does little to reassure them if they have been exposed after they were tested, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And Evan McMorris-Santoro, you are in Bel Mar, New Jersey. Very close by, but it seems a world away weather wise. Let's talk about, you know, while the Governor says this is really a regional issue in which, you know, everyone needs to be on the same page to address it, however, there are some states nearby that have already reopened but in some places, New Yorkers aren't necessarily welcome. What's going on there?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the way you have to look at it is sort of the closer you are to New York City, the more regulated this gets. In New York City, the beaches are closed, closed for recreation, closed for swimming. They're closed. And in the counties surrounding New York City in New York State, they are allowing people to use those beaches who are residents of those areas. Now here in New Jersey, where I am, the Jersey Shore is a huge economic engine to this state.

And essentially, the beaches here are open to anybody who wants to use them but with new guidelines. I've been up and down the shore over the past couple of weeks and yesterday I was in Point Pleasant. The beaches vary on where you are.

Yesterday the beach in Point Pleasant, the beach is open to anybody who wants to come. You have to pay to get a pass to go on the beach and the number of people allowed on the beach is strictly limited. Once you reach that capacity level, the authorities have deemed to be safe, no one else can come on.

[12:15:00]

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So those kinds of rules are being found all over the Jersey shores so it's not exactly at - New Yorker policy here. It's just a social distancing policy. But again, as you get closer to the city, those restrictions get tighter and tighter and tighter.

WHITFIELD: Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, you heard the Governor talk about a competition that is under wear. A mask-wearing competition in New York and while some of it is a little bit funny and in jest, it's a very serious matter because the Governor underscored that while the numbers are dwindling, it's still very important for people to take basic measures of hand washing and wearing masks. How do you see the importance of wearing masks even as all 50 states in some capacity have reopened?

DR. KENT SEPKOWITZ, DEPUTY PHYSICIAN-IN-CHIEF, QUALITY & SAFETY MEMORIAL SLOAN KETTERING: It's more important than ever, if that's possible. This is a situation where you have to kick it while it's down. It wants - the virus wants to come back. The dynamics of this are that as soon as we drop our guard, it will pop right back up.

So now is the moment that we really have to get even more strict with our hand washing and even more strict with our masking. It's harder because the enemy is much less visible. We aren't all frightened for ourselves, but now is the time to really kick it.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it's harder on a number of levels because people were kind of losing patience, right, with this new normal, and they want in any way to return to the normal they once knew. But everyone still having to take a lot of precautions to keep everyone safe. Thanks to all of you. I appreciate it Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, Evan McMorris-Santoro and Polo Sandoval.

All right still ahead, Memorial Day 2020. It's right here. But things are far from normal because of coronavirus. Beaches are reopening for the holiday with social distancing in effect. Our team coverage continues right after.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:20:00]

WHITFIELD: All 50 states are reopening this holiday weekend in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic from coast to coast, people are allowed to soak in the sun at beaches and parks, but strict rules remain in place as social distancing and safety guidelines are enforced.

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

Let's go to Southern California where warm temperatures are expected to attract big crowds. CNN's Paul Vercammen joining us from Santa Monica, Paul, what are you seeing there?

PAUL VERCAMENN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, normally on Memorial Day weekend Fredricka, you would start to see all of this sand filling in and people racing down here with the new social distancing rules. What's allowed is surfing and swimming and walking and running recreation, but not the idea of parking your family on the sand with the tent and the blanket and whatnot.

If you see in the distance, there it is, the iconic Santa Monica Pier shut down. When that Ferris wheel is not spinning, this small city of 90,000 is not making any money. They've already lost $40 million in the City of Santa Monica due to the loss of hotel revenue and of tax revenue.

They project it will be $224 million into 2022. So tough times here they are getting creative. They do have some ways of moving some money around and tapping into rainy day funds, but it's a real challenge.

We're going to hear from the Mayor of Santa Monica next hour, but as we see a reopening here in terms of recreation, the City of Santa Monica is trying to reckon with, how do you stay safe and socially distant and yet need to reopen the rest of the city, including that pier to get the tourists back over here? It's quite a dilemma back to you now Fred.

WHITFIELD: Right, a dilemma from coast to coast. Thank you so much, Paul Vercammen, I appreciate you on the beach in Santa Monica. On Georgia's Tybee Island, the scene is different with visitors hitting the beach this Memorial Day weekend. Tybee Island made national headlines when the Mayor went toe-to-toe with the 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 now from Tybee Island, Natasha, brimming with a lot of folks on the beach there?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very different from what Paul just described in Santa Monica. The businesses in town are making a lot of money from the people lined up outside their restaurants right now. This is the crowd that we're seeing on the beach here. They are doing a pretty decent job at keeping parties separate from each other and of course that's part of the rules. You have to keep parties socially distant and the parties cannot have more than ten people. There are state resources.

Department of natural resources patrolling for that, making sure people stay apart, which can also be challenging considering there are a lot of folks and it makes a difference whether you're at high tide or low tide. When there's high tide, there's less beach for people to be on.

Low tide is later this afternoon so that's a good thing as more people approach. There will be more space for them. But here are a couple of beachgoers that we talked to about the fact that they're not seeing any masks out here and how they're feeling about all these people.

[12:25:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no one is really wearing a mask out, besides yourself of course and your crew. People are going to take precautions however they want. And, you know, it's their decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not sure if ask to Jesus, say slaughter larger than any virus that hits this earth. So if it's my turn to go, I'm going. If not, I'm enjoying life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: Enjoying life. That's what a lot of people here are doing. Of course, I am wearing a mask when I'm interviewing folks at closer range when I'm not doing these live reports. But it is something that people are watching out for. At least they're trying to keep separate from each other.

The Mayor here told me last Saturday they had 12,000 cars come to Tybee Island. You can just imagine with the holiday weekend what that might be like today, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it seems as though people were really antsy. The lines must have been long just to get onto the Island. Natasha Chen, thank you so much. All right turning back now to some breaking news out of California. Right now more than 125 firefighters are battling a massive fire at San Francisco's Pier 45. It was first reported early this morning at the iconic fisherman's wharf, which is home to a pair of World War II era war ships.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIEUTENANT JONATHAN BAXTER, SAN FRANCISCO FIRE DEPARTMENT: Our aggressive and quick, swift actions saved the historic Jeremiah O'Brien which, if we're looking for one positive to come out of this tragic event, saving an historic World War II vessel at the beginning of Memorial Day weekend is something we should all be proud of as a community. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The warehouse fire is now contained to one section of the pier, but officials say a quarter of the pier has been lost to the flames. No injuries have been reported. Coming up, new information on a drug President Trump took and touted to prevent coronavirus. Why researchers now say it's dangerous and potentially deadly?

Plus, Dr. Anthony Fauci expressing optimism that a vaccine could be available by the end of the year. I'll talk live with a volunteer participating in one of the human trials.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:30:25]

WHITFIELD: A new study is casting significant doubt on a drug President Trump once touted as a game changer.

Doctors are warning that hydroxychloroquine might do more harm than good when it comes to treating coronavirus. This as the President says he is currently taking the drug himself as a preventative measure. CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has more.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's news about the drug that President Trump has touted to fight COVID-19 and it's not good news. This is the largest study ever of hydroxychloroquine. That's the drug that Trump has talked so much about.

Let's take a look at what they found. This study, the main author was at Harvard looked at 671 hospitals over six continents. They looked backwards to see how patients did on these drugs. Nearly 15,000 hospitalized patients received hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine sometimes in combination with other drugs.

What they found is that patients who took chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine were 33 to 45 percent more likely to die. These patients were also 2.4 to 5 times more likely to have a heart arrhythmia, which can be very dangerous.

This is now one of several published studies showing that not only does hydroxychloroquine not work to fight COVID it can actually make patients sicker and even more likely to die, studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, and now this one in Lancet.

That is why infectious disease experts are now saying we need to stop treating COVID patients with these drugs. Now, could hydroxychloroquine prevent someone from getting COVID-19, that's what President Trump is hoping because while he was taking it, but there's no studies that show that that is the case. Those studies are underway right now.

Also news about a vaccine, there are five Chinese companies doing human clinical trials and vaccines right now against COVID-19. These are the results of one of them. Half of the patients who took low and medium doses developed neutralizing antibodies. Those are the antibodies that you want to have developed.

They glom on to the virus and disable it from actually infecting cells. The fact that only half of the study subjects at those doses developed neutralizing antibodies was not good news to the experts that we consulted. They said that was unimpressive. You want to see way more than half of the study subjects develop these antibodies that can bind to the virus and prevent it from infecting human cells.

Now, it was more effective at higher doses but at higher doses, you got more side effects. So, this group can't see no -- is going to move forward with clinical trials. But there's some question as to whether they should given these results, back to you.

WHITFIELD: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

All right, joining me now to talk more about vaccines is CNN medical analyst Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, also joining me, Neal Browning, a volunteer in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial, which was the first in the U.S. to begin testing on human trial subjects. Good to see both of you.

So Doctor, before I asked you about vaccines, you know, your thoughts on the President taking hydroxychloroquine? Why would any doctor be giving that to him as a preventative?

DR. KENT SEPKOWITZ, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: That I can't answer at this point. I think when he was starting on it, whenever that was, we didn't have this latest trial or this latest study.

It's a very powerful study. I had not been convinced by any of the work until this one which is a very well done, thorough, huge study and the increase in mortality is quite a lot. It's not a maybe. This is a big deal. This is the opposite of the game changer that he was held. It's a game changer for the drug in the opposite direction.

WHITFIELD: Additionally, the President claims many first responders are taking the drug like he is, you know, being in the medical field. Have you heard that to be true?

SEPKOWITZ: I have not heard that to be true. I certainly know a lot of people who are early in the game were quite tempted to take it because we have nothing else up our sleeve. Right now, I haven't asked around. But I suspect that there's a lot of pills stuck in the drawer somewhere that aren't going to be used.

WHITFIELD: And Doctor, you know, there are more than, you know, 100 vaccine candidates out there now, worldwide. Eight have been approved for clinical trials. What are researchers typically looking for to determine if a potential vaccine is doing well?

SEPKOWITZ: There's two different things you look for. The gold standard would be a reduction in the cases that happen. Right now, there are not that many countries outside of perhaps Brazil and Russia, where there's so many cases every day that you could do a clinical study.

[12:35:13]

Instead, the second thing we can look forward is how strong you can stoke up the antibody, the body's response to the injected stuff, whatever it is. And those are the ones that we've been reading about. These are not clinical outcomes. These are lab outcomes that we hope will correlate with clinical protection. It's a big if though.

WHITFIELD: Yes. All right, Neal, as I mentioned, you are a volunteer in this human test trial. It's been more than two months since you got your first experimental dose. And Dr. Fauci says, you know, the trial that you are part of looks quite promising.

So last time we talked you said you were feeling fine. So what if anything has happened since the last time we talked weeks ago?

NEAL BROWNING, PARTICIPANT IN FDA-APPROVED VACCINE TRIAL: For myself, nothing. I feel completely normal. However, I'm sure a lot of people have seen the press release Moderna did this past week, where they said that myself and seven of the other initial first run people in the trial actually produced those very valuable neutralizing antibodies.

So while there was only eight people that they actually ran that test against, that was pretty much in going back and looking at my calendar. And knowing when they did my blood draws, that was pretty much the only blood that they actually had obtained at that time from people who had had the second dose.

So 100 percent looks good, but out of eight, that's an awfully small sampling number to say, it's really good overall yet.

WHITFIELD: And so Neal, you know, as this trial now enters phase two, what does that mean for your anticipated experience?

BROWNING: So people aren't allowed to jump from one trial to the next. I'm stuck in phase one of the trial through 13 months from my first injection. And much like was just discussed, that's mainly just to see how long those very precious antibodies remain in my bloodstream. I'm going to be doing blood draws for the next year at three month intervals just to check on how many are still there and how long they stay.

WHITFIELD: So Dr. Sepkowitz, what are your thoughts? I mean, you know, Neal said, you know, eight is a very low number. You nodded during that. What are your thoughts?

SEPKOWITZ: Right. Eight is a very low number. And we're all hoping that it's the real deal. But we have miles to go before we can even start to feel confident. A, for it's nice, we don't really know what the results that we haven't heard about are and there might be some of those results as well.

So we're just going to have to wait and see. It is, you know, the top of the first inning of game one of the World Series. It's too early to say what -- which way it's going to break.

WHITFIELD: Does this seemed like the track that a vaccine would need to take in order to be ready for distribution by the end of this year?

SEPKOWITZ: I worry a lot about the toxicity side. And Neal, I'm glad that you're doing so well with it. The toxicity side is a bumpy business. And I think we saw that with the Cansino result. The higher doses, there's a lot of sore arms, fevers, pretty messy stuff.

So gratified that the product that Neal is taking is not showing that, but that's a whole other deal in terms of toxicity, not productivity, not efficiency.

WHITFIELD: Well, Neal, glad that you are doing well. Hopefully we can stay in touch with you as the trial progresses so that we can stay up to date on your experiences. Thank you so much for being back with us. Neal Browning and Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, appreciate it.

SEPKOWITZ: Thank you, Neal.

BROWNING: Thank you.

[12:38:53]

WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, Brazil now has the third highest number of coronavirus cases in the world. Major obstacles are standing in the way of families getting the care and attention they deserve. We'll introduce you to a health care worker who is trying to change that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: The World Health Organization says South America is the new epicenter for coronavirus. The biggest hotspot is Brazil, which now has more than 330,000 confirmed cases, the third most in the world.

The mayor of Sao Paolo says it is just going to get worse if people don't start social distancing. CNN International Security Editor, Nick Paton Walsh, is in Sao Paulo, Brazil. So how did it come to be like this?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Essentially, I think two months watching the rest of the world go through these mixed messages from the government frankly underplaying the significance of this disease.

And only now in parts of a big city wealthy like this is a lockdown in place and masks nearly mandatory. And also to I think, sadly, a healthcare system that's doing its best. A lot of Brazil is not wealthy enough to get the best health care.

And we saw how some of the poorer neighborhoods are struggling with this disease.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH (voice-over): Brazil has always had the haves and the have nots. But in Sao Paolo, coronavirus has the poor of its favelas going in more than ever alone. We follow emergency workers through the dense streets that feel the fire they are fighting. This is the place people don't want to live in. Yet, poverty means it's packed all the same.

(on camera): It's nice densely packed alleyways. You can tell the real risk of a high infection rate.

(voice-over): In these tiny rooms, sickness means, kids must lock on those who would care for them. Renata says she tests only when a patient has three symptoms. And even those tests are paid for by private donations.

Mostly the test is done, she tells me, when the person is already in advance stage of the disease. Cases can be tough. One obese woman needed eight people to carry her to ambulance and a man with Alzheimer's, well, we had to ask the family if we could physically remove him from his home. It's hard.

Up above is Maria, 53, who caught the virus despite being masked up in the market, she says, so she's distancing from up high. Even yesterday, the owner of the pharmacy died, she tells me, many are losing their lives due to someone's carelessness.

Renata is part of a wide operation medicine. But masks here to teaching people how to make them and giving them machines to do it and also food 10,000 meals a day sent out in small numbers into the community, because locked down means they can't put food on their own tables.

This is a community in some ways already isolated economically saving itself. They have a place where the sick are sent to isolate in, the form of school. We can't film patients inside. Everything here is done at a distance and says that the worst is yet to come.

[12:45:11]

(on camera): It's pretty likely these beds will sadly soon be full, a school given over to this purpose by the government. But an operation here funded by private donations.

(voice-over): The bigger test here how this amazing spirit of community holds up when the peak makes these streets seem even deadlier.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: Doctors in hospitals here that it already full, some of the best hospitals, not the ones you see trying to do their best there. Volunteer health workers say they are full. They expect the peak to be a week to two weeks away still and Brazil slowly becoming the second worst impacted country on the planet.

Yes, Russia over the last 24 hours have been vying with them for that position looks like today though. It will likely be second place. And it isn't the full picture because it's about the capacity to test. Yes, you may think well, Brazil's got a little bit less than New York has. But New York tests so much more.

As you heard there, you need three symptoms to get a coronavirus test, often here in Brazil. And that means the numbers that are public simply don't capture the full picture now, let alone how bad it may be in a full night when that peak finally hits. Remember, we're heading into autumn and winter here in Brazil. That's another challenge too. Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Indeed. All right, Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much in Brazil,

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says the coronavirus deaths in the state fell below 100 in the last 24 hours. And newly reported cases are also falling. But first responders say they still face dangers from the exposure to the virus.

One New York City EMT told Congress this week. They weren't ready for an outbreak of this magnitude.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:50:02]

DIANA WILSON, FDNY EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIAN: We trained for Ebola. We've trained for act of shooting scenarios. We failed on a plan on training for this pandemic at any scale.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The Union for the city's firefighters is now calling for line of duty benefits for all first responders or their families if they are seriously injured by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And now New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he also supports the request. Gerard Fitzgerald is the president of New York's Firefighters Association. Good to see you. So you can hear the frustration, you know, from that first responder. Is that a common feeling among your members?

GERARD FITZGERALD, PRESIDENT, FDNY UNIFORMED FIREFIGHTERS ASSOCIATION: Well, yes. Since the very beginning of this pandemic, we've had numerous first responders get very, very sick. We have firefighters, we haven't lost anybody, we -- their life hasn't been lost, but their medical condition has been very serious and we don't know what the ramifications are going to be in the future.

So we're trying to get this done that it would be called on as a presumptive that you did get sick at work and then if you become disabled or die that your family and yourself will be taken care of.

WHITFIELD: And taken care of to what lengths? You know, what are you hoping those benefits would mean?

FITZGERALD: Well, that there will be financial security and health coverage for the family if you want to die. And then and if you are to become disabled, that you will be taken care of financially for the rest of your life because of your disability by getting the COVID during this pandemic, while responding, you know, doing your job.

WHITFIELD: And when it comes to coronavirus testing, our first responders getting it?

FITZGERALD: Yes. A few weeks ago we finally started getting it on a regular basis with priority and priority results. And now, we have gotten to antibody testing. We're in the middle of it now also joined the whole department. So yes, testing has come around at the beginning, we couldn't get testing at all. It was very frustrating.

WHITFIELD: And what about protective gear, does everybody have what they need?

FITZGERALD: Yes. Right now, our PPE is going well. We're not going through as much as we were at the time, and we're still getting deliveries. I'm told that we're secured right now and we're good. You know, the N95s were the major problem, but it seems that we're doing well. We're still rationing them. But we have enough right now.

WHITFIELD: New York, like many other states have spent billions of dollars fighting the outbreak and also trying to support those who are suffering economically. Are you concerned that there just simply isn't enough money left at this point for additional benefits?

FITZGERALD: Well, absolutely, I you know, I think you'd be crazy if you, you know, they just can't keep printing money. So we are concerned, you know, the world should be concerned. But New York City, New York State, the United States collectively, we should be very concerned that there's a, you know, the businesses haven't returned, the tax dollars, aren't there.

So, yes, we're very cognizant of what's going on. But we also believe that these folks should be taken care of, because they were doing their job and when they got sick.

WHITFIELD: All right, we're wishing you well, all the first responders, the best. Stay well. Gerard Fitzgerald, thank you so much.

FITZGERALD: Thank you so much. And you all stay well as well. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Thank you.

FITZGERALD: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, China says it has had no new positive coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours for the first time since the pandemic began. Health officials say there were 28 asymptomatic cases reported in the last day. The U.S. has accused China of covering up the extent of the initial outbreak and since then, China has used strict measures to try to contain it.

Fareed Zakaria's special China's Deadly Secret, airing Sunday at 9:00 p.m. takes a deep dive into what the Chinese government knew and when they knew it. Here's a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EVAN OSNOS, JOURNALIST: You began to see drones flying over people, reminding them, put on their masks.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): This is China's version of contact tracing. The country relied heavily on technology, using mobile apps to further track the movement of its people.

Citizens were assigned scannable QR codes showing their risk of carrying the virus.

DONALD G. MCNEIL JR. NEW YORK TIMES: You can't get on the subway without the app.

(voice-over): Green means unrestricted movement, yellow for people with moderate risk, and red for individuals who are sick and need to quarantine for 14 days.

Oxford University researchers praise China's system of digital contact tracing for achieving sustained epidemic suppression.

[12:55:06]

PROF. YANZHONG HUANG, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: In China there's a different cultural and then people probably are willing to sacrifice their privacy for safety.

(voice-over): Western democracies such as Germany are debating whether to roll out their own versions. But they have been met with a storm of concerns about privacy and infringement of individual rights.

The trade-off between individual rights and public safety in the wake of a pandemic is one both governments and citizens are reevaluating.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Fareed Zakaria joins me now. Fareed, you know, can we attribute this drop in cases directly to the strong measures? I mean, China was, you know, was a model of all the things that went wrong at the start of the pandemic. Are they now a model of changing the tune or getting things right?

ZAKARIA: I think there's no question. They've handled it very, very effectively in large parts of the country from probably about February, I'd say.

Initially, you're right. They were kind of a model of haven't gotten it wrong. But they got it wrong particularly at the local level. But it is worth pointing out. It was very new. There was a lot of confusion. There was a lot of incompetence. And there was some cover up.

And one of the things that the special tries to show is, you know, we tend to sometimes think of these, you know, countries like China is, you know, 10 feet tall. They had -- they made mistakes. They was, you know, there was also the fact that it is a dictatorship. And there was covering up. And trying to separate all that has been difficult, but there's no question. Within the last two months, they have handled it very, very effectively.

WHITFIELD: On those accusations of, you know, China covering things up what did you learn about how deep that was?

ZAKARIA: That's the hardest thing to figure out. So it's pretty clear that initially, the Wuhan that is the local party officials and the government officials were very concerned. And I think they were concerned for reasons. Honestly, some of them very similar to why Donald Trump was downplaying it in March, which is they didn't want to spook the markets. They didn't want to affect economic growth. They didn't want people to run, you know, run away from their cities.

This was the period of incredible celebration in China. This was sort of like the New Year and Christmas put together. I mean, a New Year and Thanksgiving and Christmas all put together. So it was a moment where they were trying to suppress it. And the whole system works like that, you know, it is a dictatorship. Control of information is very important.

The key question that we don't have a good answer to is, when did Beijing know and what did they know? We have some very good clues. And certainly by about the middle of January, the Beijing government also knew that this was something pretty serious.

But, you know, it's important to remember, the nature of the Chinese Communist Party is that they control information and they shape that information to serve the party. So you're trying -- it's like pulling teeth to try to figure out exactly who knew what, when.

WHITFIELD: Right. So then that makes me wonder how willing were the Chinese to impart some information to you?

ZAKARIA: Well, you know, we try -- you -- there's a lot that's publicly available. There's a lot that you find out from social media. One of the reasons that a country like Taiwan or places like Taiwan, depending on how you describe it, was acted so fast and so aggressively is that they knew how to read what was going on out of China, not just the official stuff, but the unofficial stuff.

They read -- looked at social media. They, you know, followed stuff like that. So we talked to people who were in China at the time. We talked to -- we looked at social media. And you can piece together as, I say, that local officials clearly knew more than they were letting on. And they were, but, you know, but it's always worth remembering.

We knew what we needed to know by late February, the President knew that it was spreading. It was infecting people of his own. Top aide, Peter Navarro, said that Chinese are telling us this could be a pandemic. The real question is why then he waited not six days, but six weeks really to act.

WHITFIELD: All right, Fareed Zakaria, we're all watching. Thank you so much. China's Deadly Secret airs tomorrow night 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

[13:00:01]

Hello again everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. This holiday weekend is looking very different than usual as the U.S. grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.