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Memorial Day 2020, Everything Is Different; Airline Travel Safety In The Age Of Coronavirus; Sources: CDC Staff Being "Muzzled" As White House Prioritizes Politics Over Science; Trump Declares Houses Of Worship Essential & Threatens Governors; Poorest Areas Of Brazil Devastated By Coronavirus. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired May 23, 2020 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello on this Saturday. You are live in the CNN Newsroom. Thank you for being here. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

It is Memorial Day weekend in the United States, and this year, take everything normal and traditional and time honored about this holiday and everything looks different this year. Tributes to America's men and women who died serving our country are still happening but under the shadow of the pandemic. Picnics, beach time, barbecues, marking the unofficial start of summer, it all looks and feels a little different this year.

And how can you celebrate school is out when school, as we know it, went away a few months ago? The coronavirus changed everything about how we do everything. The virus has sickened more than 1.6 million people so far just in this country and killed more than 96,000 people. Memorial Day weekend 2020 is very different this year.

But every state now is trying to ease back to normal, safely. Many beaches, public pools and parks are open this weekend with strong cleanliness rules, crowd control, and officials on the job to enforce social distancing. But at the same time, this is sparking fears of a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, especially in the southern states if people charge into this holiday weekend without taking the health precautions very seriously.

CNN is live now on both coasts where Americans are flocking outside celebrating summer as much as possible in this very different, very surreal time for all of us. Let's begin in Georgia, where record breaking crowds are expected at Tybee Island this Memorial Day weekend. More than 12,000 cars made their way into the small beach town last Saturday, and that number is expected to be even higher today.

Let's go live to CNN 's Natasha Chen on Tybee Island. Natasha, the beaches have been packed. I've seen you reporting throughout the afternoon. But you say groups seem to be keeping their distance. What else are you seeing?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there are supposed to be fewer than ten people per group. We are also seeing zero masks as you look around us. And you were talking about how this Memorial Day weekend is going to look and feel different. Well, it doesn't look and feel that different here on Tybee Beach, honestly, except that people are keeping groups kind of separate and there are department of natural resources officers from the State of Georgia here assisting to enforce that.

There was a bit of an issue the mayor told me last weekend when she said about a hundred, 150 students were bunched together celebrating and even when Tybee Police went over there to break them up, she said that the parents of some of the kids actually gave the officers some pushback. So it's been a little tricky because the local residents, of course, really want the tourism dollars but they also know this comes at a risk.

We are -- I am taking my mask off just for the live shots but putting them on when we interview people at closer range. And here is what a couple of the beachgoers said to me about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no one is really wearing masks 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 also got a Jesus that's a lot larger than any virus that it's served (ph). So if it is my turn to go, I'm going. If not, I'm enjoying life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: And enjoying life is what many of these people are doing here behind me today. Of course, as we mentioned, the local residents, the local shops, they are very much appreciating the tourism dollars coming in this weekend since they were very much cash-strapped for a while there.

And an association of short-term rentals here, they said that as a group, they made a decision to cancel April reservations but restarted those in May. They're, of course, seeing that business back now but they are still kind of keeping an eye out for the future months because they say they're still getting some cancellations. Ana?

CABRERA: Interesting to hear no one is wearing a mask. Of course, they're on the beach and it's hot and it is an issue. We need to think about tan lines. But the masks are to protect other people, not necessarily yourself. And we know according to research just this week about 35 percent of COVID cases are people who are asymptomatic and that the transmissions are happening 40 percent of the time before people feel sick.

[15:05:12]

So something for all of those people who are heading out this weekend to keep in mind. Natasha Chen, thank you for your reporting. We'll check back.

Let's head to the southwest coast now. More than two-thirds of California is moving ahead with the next phase of reopening, including beaches. But Memorial Day weekend arrives as California has reported more than 2,000 new cases of coronavirus a day for each of the last four days.

And CNN's Paul Vercammen joins us from Santa Monica. And, Paul, what are expectations there over this holiday weekend?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they have loosened up some of the social distancing rules. And most notably, right behind me, you're going to see a whole bunch of bikes go. Well, they've opened up the famed bike path here in Santa Monica. And you see a mix of people wearing masks and some people not.

But on this Memorial Day weekend, here is the smoking gun indicator for how tough times have been. Look at that, the Ferris wheel, the Rollercoaster, not operating, the Santa Monica Pier closed. This city, like a lot of other small California cities that rely on tourism, has just been jackhammered by a lack of tax revenue, both hotel tax and sales tax. $40 million lost alone in Santa Monica, there have been layoffs. Only a city of 90,000. So, a far different picture here.

What they want to see but they want to be safe in Santa Monica is this beach filled with people on Memorial weekend but you cannot cluster up on the beach. They are saying the beach is only for recreational purposes. And we talked to a New Yorker and he was astounded by this vista. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TROY SETH, TOURIST: I'm die-hard New Yorker. But, to be honest, right now, if I had to sit in New York or I had to sit in California, Santa Monica Beach, hands down, I'm going to take this. It doesn't get better than this. I feel like I'm in Bora Bora right now but I'm in Santa Monica.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: Bora Bora, as in way off, I think Bora Bora is part of Indonesia.

Anyway, you see this strange sight behind me. You would never see this ever on Memorial weekend here. So they're paying attention. They have made it difficult for crowds to gather here because the public parking lots from those part are not open. But we'll see what happens later in the day. It is only noon and you know people are going to want to get out and get to the beach and it remains to be seen just how heavy they'll have to enforce this.

But so far, so good, people are compliant. It seems like this tactic of opening up this bike way is really helping alleviate some of that pressure, that fight between the need to social distance and Californians who think it is their divine right to go to the beach, Ana.

CABRERA: I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everybody continues to play nice, I guess, you could say.

Are there concerns though, Paul? Have you heard people there worried about the potential for an increase in infection as the state there begins to ease restrictions?

VERCAMMEN: Well, everybody is worried. And that is why you're seeing people wearing masks. I know it is a mixed bag behind me. They don't want to see another surge here. They don't want to see more infections.

But one thing, again, the stark, stark expanse of empty sand tells you that the people are playing along right now at least. They are not coming down here in droves. And, again, try parking in Santa Monica when the public lots are closed. I mean, you're going to be have to be pretty wily and creative.

So perhaps a little bit of a move on that part by both city and county officials has eased the congestion.

CABRERA: All right. Paul Vercammen in Santa Monica, California, thank you.

With us now Dr. Darria Long, an emergency room physician, as well as a Clinical Professor at the University of Tennessee, and Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Dr. Schaffner, based on what we are seeing as people gather together over this holiday weekend, how concerned are you about a potential spike in cases?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, of course, I am concerned. We want everybody to have fun, Ana, and to enjoy themselves, but we want them to do it carefully. I was listening very carefully and I wish Natasha Chen had followed up with that fellow who was so exuberant and wanted to live life, reminding him the coronavirus does not take a vacation and it is contagious. It is not just about him, it's about everyone around us. We have to be careful of everybody in the community.

And the mask is absolutely important. I don't leave the house without wearing a mask and that is six-foot distancing. So we've had mixed reports. People are trying to be careful. We want them to continue to do that. We want them to stay healthy. We don't want that second spike of infections.

[15:10:03]

CABRERA: No doubt about it. Dr. Schaffner, would you say is it safer to be outdoors versus, say, inside a store or even if you're wearing a mask? SCHAFFNER: Well, out of doors, you do have the breezes and that the open air dissipates the virus if it is around. So you're less likely to get an infectious dose. Out of doors, I'd still want to wear that mask. I don't know if I'd wear it on the beach, but otherwise I'd wear the mask inside, absolutely, the six-foot rule and keep that mask on.

CABRERA: Dr. Long, let me ask you about some concerning reporting coming out of the southeast, indicating a potential surge in cases there. In fact, Montgomery, Alabama reported just one ICU bed available earlier this week and was having to send sick patients to Birmingham, which is about 90 miles away. What do you think is going on there?

DR. DARRIA LONG, CLINICAL PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE: So, Ana, the big question here is this really a surge or is this a hospital capacity issue? What many people don't realize is that most ICUs run as it is at 110 percent capacity.

So it is not unusual for a small rural hospital or a smaller community hospital to send patients to a larger maybe academic hospital or to a city. What we need to know, is this capacity or is it a surge? Because if Alabama sees this as actual increase in numbers, then I would encourage them to look at what they are doing in terms of limiting spread and testing and surveillance.

CABRERA: The west coast isn't out of the woods either, Dr. Schaffner. Orange County, California reported its highest single day death toll twice this week, on Wednesday and Thursday, back-to-back days. Remember, we saw the images about three weeks ago in Orange County of hundreds of people gathering in Huntington Beach. They were protesting beach closures.

Of course, you can't draw a direct line from that event to this spike in deaths but I do wonder, is this about the timeframe where you would anticipate the impact of events like this?

SCHAFFNER: I'm afraid so, yes. And we can't draw that direct line but it does make you wonder. You know, there are going to be spikes. This is not going to be a straight line. But we all have to keep working together in order to limit the spread of this virus. We want to keep it down. And so those large gatherings, that's something I certainly would avoid.

CABRERA: Dr. Long, do you think this is all still part of the first wave or could it be the beginning of a second wave?

LONG: You know, I think time will tell. I agree with Dr. Schaffner. This timing definitely lines up in terms of people's activity and expansion of activity and the spike. But we're going to have to look and see what people are doing.

And like Dr. Schaffner said, we can get out but we have to be sensible about it. Are people going out and we're still keeping our medically vulnerable safe? Are we going to take out to a small family picnic and maybe got to a movie drive-in versus are people going to some massive party or going to a beach or a busy bar or a movie theater? That is how we can really quickly resurge.

CABRERA: Yes. And, Dr. Long, I apologize, I didn't mean to step on you there. We are still hearing about lack of PPE and other medical equipment from hospital staff. You mentioned is there a hospital capacity issue. I just wonder behind the scenes, what is happening, I want you to listen to some of the frontline workers are telling lawmakers. This is what they said this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We still lack adequate protective equipment in most hospitals across the country.

TALISA HARDIN, REGISTERED NURSE, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO MEDICAL CENTER: A lot of us have personally went online and bought our own respirator masks because they weren't provided for us trying to keep ourselves and our families and patients safe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Dr. Long, do you think America's medical system is prepared for potential outbreaks from a holiday weekend or a second wave?

LONG: So, Ana, I think our medical system, like we mentioned, is 110 percent capacity at any given point. And the issue is that we reach capacity typically during flu season, except we're not in flu season. We are in the middle of May right now.

So I do think we need to be taking more steps to prepare ourselves for now and to prepare ourselves for what we know will be flu season comes, whether or not COVID is increased then too.

CABRERA: Dr. Darria Long and Dr. William Schaffner, as always, I really appreciate both of you. Thank you and be well.

This weekend, Americans are flying more than they have in the past couple months. But how safe is it to fly during a pandemic? We'll take a look at precautions you should be taking, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:15:00]

CABRERA: This weekend is normally one of the busiest for travel. And as all 50 states, in one way or another, relax restrictions, more and more people are flying again. And as more people fly, the TSA is making changes to how they screen passengers. Officers now only visually inspect boarding passes. Passenger will have to put wallets and phones and carry-ons and you have to unpack your bag yourself if your bag is chosen for secondary screening.

So what safety precautions can you take if you need to fly? CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Things are going feel a lot different the next time you go to the airport. First of all, it will be less crowded, that's for sure. Certain precautions are in place, like plexiglass at the counters, telling people to keep their distance when they're in line.

Most people already do this. But don't forget to put your boarding pass on your phone ahead of time, less surfaces to touch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me see your I.D. card, please.

GUPTA: Try and count how many surfaces you touch throughout the whole process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need everything out of your pockets, please.

GUPTA: One thing I do want to show you is how I pack nowadays. I've got my hand sanitizer. You saw how many surfaces I just touched. So this is when I do a little hand sanitizer, constantly wash the hands.

[15:20:01]

One of the big concerns is always going to be those sorts of train rides. Right now, things aren't that crowded. But as airports start to pick up, you may want to allow extra time so that you can walk to the concourse instead of ride.

Everyone is going to decide whether or not it makes sense to fly. It's the sort of risk/reward proposition. One thing I'll tell you is that separating yourselves out, obviously important. That's the distance. But think about the duration. Shorter flights are obviously going to be better as well.

Also, they say the plane has been sterilized before we actually get on using this electrostatic sterilization process. When you get to your row, a couple things to keep in mind. First, try and touch as few surfaces as possible. When I sit down, I'm actually going to try and choose a window seat, and the reason being that I'll just have less contact with people who are walking by the aisle.

I'm going to go ahead and turn on what's called the gasper here. And you turn it up as high as you can. That's going to cause some turbulent air flow in front of you and possibly break up many clouds of virus. These are small things. They may make a small difference but it's easy to do and it's probably worth it.

I should mention that most airlines, including Delta, the airline that I was on there, are going to mandate masks once you're on the plane even if they're not mandated in the boarding area or on the concourse. A lot of times, they may give you a mask in the boarding area or on the plane so that you wear that. They're going to mandate that.

Also keep in mind your destination. What is the status of the virus there? You know probably what it is like in the area from where you're flying, but if you fly to Norway, for example, there is a 14-day quarantine when you land. And also to two U.S. States, Hawaii and Massachusetts, when you land there, 14-day quarantine. So if that's not part of your travel plans, you're going to need to think about these things ahead of time.

It is a different way of flying for the time being. And, again, I think for most people, it is really just about essential travel for now. We'll see how things change over the summer.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: All right. Our thanks to Sanjay for that reporting. You've made it to the airport now, you've passed through security, you're sitting on the plane, but how safe are you from infection?

Joining us now is Joseph Allen. He is an assistant professor of Exposure Assessment Science at Harvard University, where he specializes in building safety and has studied health safety on planes. He is also the coauthor of the book, Healthy Buildings.

Joseph, we've seen airlines now promoting their cleaning regimens, United even announcing a partnership with Clorox this week. Would you feel comfortable flying right now?

JOSEPH ALLEN, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF EXPOSURE ASSESSMENT SCIENCE, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Yes, absolutely, Ana. But I want to put this in context in this piece I wrote that talks about what is actually -- what are we concerned about on the airplane in terms of exposure pathways or routes of transmission for this virus?

I worked with Sanjay before and I really liked that story. But we also have -- in addition to contaminated surfaces, we also have to think about airborne transmission of this virus. And I've researched air quality in airplanes for a long time. In 2013, I was one of the lead authors on a National Academies report looking at infectious disease mitigation in airports and on airplanes.

It turns out when you're seated on the airplane, the air quality is quite good. In fact, it resembles what is used in hospitals. I'll put some numbers to this. On an airplane, you get about 10 to 12 air change (ph) per hour. That's how much fresh outdoor air is coming into the airplane. And everything that's recirculated runs through a HEPA filter, a high efficiency filter. That is exactly the scenario that is used in a hospital, airborne infection isolation room.

So while we do have to pay attention to fomites to surfaces and keep distance to avoid large droplets, we also have to think about air quality. And it turns out that throughout your whole travel experience, the time on the airplane might actually be your lowest risk because the air quality is quite good while the plane is flying.

CABRERA: However, you are in a tight space, right? We see a lot of airplanes now blocking off middle streets to try to help with social distancing but the International Air Transport Association says they are against that because the risk of transmission aboard is low based on what you've just shared, perhaps you agree. But I just wonder what about the person who is sitting behind you and sneezes? Are you safe? ALLEN: Yes. So, billions of people fly every year. And I am not trying to minimize risk. I just want to take a pragmatic approach and base all these decisions on the science. The reality is when you're sitting at your seat, the air quality is good, it's blowing down, it's being exhausted out of the floor. If someone sneezes or coughs, it's not going to travel very far in the cabin.

I definitely agree with the decision and it should be a requirement that people wear masks. This can also stop someone from coughing or spreading while they cough from spreading that to people on adjacent seats.

The bigger issue where we need to be spending more of our time is what happens when we're in the jet way and boarding.

[15:25:02]

Our studies of air quality on an airplane shows that while the planes are parked at the gate, very often they don't have the ventilation system running. And that's a problem. That's when you have everybody walking between the seats. And if the air flow is not going, that's when you can have a buildup of viral particles, same as in the jet way, and same issue in the security queues within the airport.

So we have to deploy some of these healthy building strategies, the same ones you use at home, at school or an office, applies to airports and airplanes, bring in more fresh outdoor air, filter the recirculated air, and do our best to maintain that six-foot separation and absolutely wear a mask not just while you're on the plane, you need to be wearing it throughout the entire trip through the airport.

CABRERA: As you point out, the onus to keep travelers safe and healthy isn't just on the airlines and airports are also now taking steps. Pittsburgh's airport, for instance, using U.V. light to disinfect areas, how effective is that?

ALLEN: So it depends how it is being used. We know surface contamination and what we call fomite transmission is real but it is also less than what we think is the main mode of transmission, which is airborne and large droplet. If they are using U.V. light to decontaminate or sanitize surfaces, the tried and true method is to use an EPA registered disinfectant and simply wipe it down frequently.

Some places, it might be worthwhile to use U.V., what we call upper room U.V. This could clean any airborne contaminants and it doesn't endanger anybody, any of the occupants because the U.V. light is well above their heads and doesn't cause any issues for human health and exposure. So it depends how they're planning on using U.V.

Cleaning this virus is very easy to kill on surfaces, just routine cleaning and disinfection. We need to pay a lot more attention through to airborne transmission, especially when we have a lot of people in these spaces. And so far, I haven't heard a lot of people talking about this in the control strategy. We spent a lot of time talking about cleaning surfaces and wash our hands. We need to do that. We also to take care of airborne transmission. CABRERA: Based on what we've heard from airlines, and we've mentioned a few of the precautions already. What additional measures would you like to see implemented? And is it okay, do you think, for each individual airline to make a decision or should there be across-the- board rules?

ALLEN: Yes. You know, the reality is there are three groups that have to be involved in this decision making, just like we've put in this 2013 report, airports have their job to do. Airlines have their job to do. People have a responsibility too.

In terms of what the airlines can do, it has to be coordinated. It doesn't make sense that we are approaching this ad hoc. It's a little bit how we're doing it with everything we're doing in this country right now, where it's ad hoc state-by-state, city-by-city decision- making. That's a real problem and leads to gross inconsistencies in terms of the approach.

Airlines should leave a space between seats. They should, of course, clean and disinfect between each flight. They should choreograph how people get on and off the plane. They should end in-flight meal service. Give people water and a snack as they board. Let's stop having flight attendants walk up and down.

People have to wear their masks and also maintain physical distancing and the airports have a lot to do on the healthy building strategy side, and also choreograph the movement coordinate the movement of people and the queueing of people at ticketing, at the security and also at the gate, while people are waiting to board.

CABRERA: Well, Joseph Allen, great conversation and good information. Thank you for being here.

ALLEN: Thanks for having me.

CABRERA: Be well and Happy Memorial Day weekend.

Multiple sources inside the CDC telling CNN that they think politics, not science, driving the White House coronavirus response. That reporting, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:33:01]

CABRERA: Politics first, public safety second. That's what some people who work at the CDC tell CNN is driving the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

CDC officials say their efforts to mount a coordinated response to the virus have been hamstrung. And sources say what has worsened the pandemic's impact is just that.

More now from CNN's Drew Griffin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Multiple sources inside the Centers For Disease Control tell CNN they are convinced politics, not science, is the driving force behind the White House response to COVID-19. And those decisions have made the effects of the pandemic in the United States worse.

DR. JAMES CURRAN, DEAN, ROLLINS SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Now, there hasn't been as much input from the CDC from my point of view.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): CNN spoke to six current CDC staff members and many of them say the White House has stifled the CDC in its coronavirus response, and at times, limited its ability to provide health information to the public.

One source telling CNN, "We are working under a black cloud of an administration that doesn't have our backs". Another saying, "We've been muzzled".

Dr. James Curran is dean of Public Health at Emory University and former assistant surgeon general at the CDC.

(on-camera): Has the CDC been sidelined here?

CURRAN: I think the perception is that the CDC has been sidelined, at least part of the time.

Once you feel like the work you're doing is going through a political lens, it gets to be very, very discouraging.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): On March 2nd, as COVID-19 was racing across the globe, a CDC internal daily report obtained by CNN found evidence of local transmission in 29 other countries. Two days later, that had grown to 85 international locations.

The next day, March 5th, three of the top six countries affected by the disease are in Europe. Internal e-mails rival a CDC global travel alert is about to be issued, expected to be posted that night.

[15:35:02]

It would have urged precautions for international travel anywhere, almost two months after a travel warning had been issued for China. But it was delayed for unexplained reasons.

The travel alert that was supposed to be posted March 5th does not take place until March 11th, the same day President Trump would announce his restrictions on most flights coming in from Europe.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Each day of delay bringing exponentially more coronavirus exposure to the east coast of the United States, according to Dr. Ali Khan, a former CDC official. DR. ALI KHAN, DEAN, COLLEGE OF PUBLIC HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER: Those were the days when these cases were essentially being transported via air travel. And we now have really good genetic data that, you know, probably between two to six weeks before we started to see the peak in New York, cases were already slowly spreading within the New York area.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): One senior official inside the CDC says they told the White House about the virus' rapid spread across Europe but that the White House was extremely focused on China and not wanting to anger Europe, even though that's where most of our cases were originally coming from.

Khan says the original sin, as he calls it, was the botched testing at the CDC that lost time and allowed politics to intervene.

KHAN: And if we had testing in place, people very quickly would have recognized that there were cases in the U.S. probably in early January that were being missed.

Similarly, we would have identified people coming in from Europe if we had widespread testing across the United States.

GRIFFIN (on camera): A Trump administration official responded to this report telling us the CDC's views are represented at White House Task Force meetings and rolled into the White House briefings.

As for the CDC, itself, the official told us it is just one of many agencies that is part of the task force.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: The president deeming houses of worship essential but is it really safe to return? The national debate, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:41:20]

CABRERA: President Trump is declaring churches and houses of worship as essential, setting up another potential showdown with governors across the country amid the pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now. If there's any question, they'll have to call me, but they're not going to be successful in that call.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: He went on to threaten to override governors if they do not follow new federal recommendations to reopen churches this weekend. But it is unclear what authority he was referring to, especially since the president has largely left the reopening of the country up to the governors.

CNN White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond, is following this.

Jeremy, the president called it an injustice that churches are not open. How much of this is just a play to his base?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, here is what we know. We know that President Trump has been facing tough approval numbers and numbers in polls in general over the last several weeks.

We know that white evangelicals, in particular, are a key part of his base and the president often plays to that base by using these culture wars.

That appears to be exactly what the president is doing with this move, particularly because there's no authority that the White House has been able to identify that the president would have to override governors and demand they reopen churches in their states.

In case you had any doubt that the White House and the president are viewing this through a political lens, all you have to do is listen to the White House press secretary as she was defending this move. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president will strongly encourage every governor to allow their churches to reopen. And, boy, it is interesting to be in a room that desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worship stay closed.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I object to that. I go to church. I'm dying to go back to church.

The question we're asking you and would like to have asked the president and Dr. Birx is, is it safe. And if it's not safe, is the president trying to encourage that or does the president agree with Dr. Birx that people should wait?

MCENANY: Jeff, it is safe to reopen your churches if you do so in accordance with the guidelines.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: And beyond that condescending answer from the White House press secretary, what we also know is she really struggled to defend what President Trump had just said moments before she took to the podium. That is his threat to override these governors.

In fact, she contradicted the president saying it is up to the governors, it is going to be up to the faith communities.

We heard a similar message from Dr. Birx, who said she'd leave it up to the faith communities to make the best decisions they can for their own communities.

Certainly, mixed messaging as they struggle to defend what President Trump said here, which was that he would override the governors despite lacking that authority.

What we also know is that President Trump was clearly throwing out the state-by-state playbook that he has had for every other type of business and organization. Why? Because now he is talking about places and worship and churches, again, that political play there -- Ana?

CABRERA: Jeremy Diamond, at the White House for us, thank you.

[15:44:16]

Brazil's president had dismissed the coronavirus threat but now his country has recorded the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world. We'll take you inside the favelas hardest hit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: In Brazil, the skyrocketing number of coronavirus cases has officials from the World Health Organization worried that Latin America may become the new pandemic epicenter.

On Friday, Brazilian authorities reported a sudden surge of nearly 21,000 new coronavirus cases. On Thursday, Brazil recorded its highest one-day death toll, with 1,188 people dying from the virus. In some of Brazil, the new graves cannot be dug quickly enough as the death toll increases.

Let's bring in CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in Brazil's largest city of Sao Paulo.

Nick, you got an inside look at the poorest areas being devastated by the virus. What did you find?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: It is extraordinary to just look at the numbers as they begin to grow here. We're not even at the peak. Doctors here in the biggest, wealthiest city here, Sao Paulo, wear face masks, which are pretty much obligatory. And there's a lockdown. They think the peak is still possibly two weeks away.

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But in the favelas here, the poor, suburban areas, the sort of shantytowns, almost, where people live, there's little government assistance. People left, frankly, to look after themselves and doing the very best they can as this virus sweeps through their dense streets.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATON WALSH (voice-over): Brazil has always had the haves and the have-nots but in Sao Paulo, coronavirus has the poor of its favelas going it more than ever alone. We follow emergency workers through the dense streets that fuel the fire they're 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 in these densely packed alleyways you can tell the real risk of a high infection rate.

(voice-over): In these tiny rooms, a sickness means kids must look on at those who would care for them.

Renata says she tests only when her 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 an advanced stage of the disease, cases can be tough. One obese woman needed eight people to carry her to an ambulance and a man with Alzheimer's as 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, too, 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 lockdown 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 is sent to isolate in -- a former school. We can't film patients inside. Everything here is done at a distance and says that the worst is yet to come.

(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)

PATON WALSH: So, just some perspective here, really. Latin America had the most number of new cases for three consecutive days this week. Brazil was half of that.

This is the worst place in Brazil, Sao Paulo, and we've seen some of the areas struggling. We've seen doctors in ICUs already saying their beds are full. The peak is not yet to hit Brazil. We should point out the total number of cases is about 330,000, less

than New York, but Brazil, as you heard there, is not testing as much as the United States. So the bigger picture here is probably significantly worse. And that, as I say, is still a fortnight away from the moment the virus peaks.

Back to you.

CABRERA: It is a grim, grim picture there.

Nick Paton Walsh, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, thank you.

Here in the United States, as states are relaxing restrictions and many Americans venture out of their homes this weekend, crowds are filling beaches, like this one in Georgia.

And just moments ago, one governor says his state may be experiencing a second peak in cases. Details ahead.

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JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN MONEY EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR (voice-over): Japan is home to the world's third largest geothermal reserves after the United States and Indonesia. That technological know-how in geothermal largely comes from the East Asian country. Still, adoption of this energy source has been slow to gather steam domestically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translation): Because of the limited land and weather conditions, it's difficult to achieve a significant supply of renewable energy with just one source. The advantage of geothermal is that it can generate power at a constant output, unlike solar and wind power, whose output fluctuates depending on the weather.

DEFTERIOS: He says Japan sits on 20 gigawatts of potential geothermal energy but is currently just using 500 megawatts, 2 percent of its capacity.

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John Defterios, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: As restaurants across the country start to reopen, thousands of service industry workers, who suddenly lost their jobs, are still struggling as the industry slowly tries to get back on its feet safely.

And 2009's "CNN Hero," Doc Hendley, has jumped in to help keep people fed and supported.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOC HENDLEY, CNN HERO: On St. Patrick's Day, we got the order from the government that all restaurants had to be shut down as of 5:00 in one day. It was devastating.

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So we created this program.