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Interview With Mayor Shirley Sessions Of Tybee Island About Memorial Day Weekend; Crowds Flock To California Beaches As Cases Rise; New Jersey Beaches Reopen For Holiday Weekend With Some Restrictions; Trump Golfs At His Virginia Club Amid Pandemic; Bill Coan, ITEC Entertainment President/CEO, Discusses What To Expect When Theme Parks Reopen; Thousands Recovering From Virus Sent To NY Nursing Homes. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 23, 2020 - 17:00   ET




DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, TOP U.S. EXPERT ON INFECTIOUS DISEASES: -- we face because of COVID-19. We need your talent, your energy, your resolve and your character to get through this difficult time. In the next phase of your lives, whatever professional path you choose, all of you directly or indirectly, will be doing your part together with the rest of us to come out from under the shadow of this pandemic.

Hopkins has a rich tradition of nurturing scholars who excel in their fields of study and by extension enhance the global society in which we live. I have no doubt you will become leaders in your respective fields and help respond to the many public health and other challenges to come.

So, congratulations on your graduation. Keep well. And I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.


ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Thanks for being with me on this Saturday. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Memorial Day weekend looking in many places today as close to normal as a deadly global pandemic will allow. Governors and safety officials in every state right now have eased stay-at-home restrictions to some degree, allowing people to hit the beach, to have an outdoor barbecue, or to visit public parks.

Some New York beaches opened today or yesterday as well as beaches in New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut. Strict safety guidelines are in place, though, in Connecticut. For example, some park officials will cap parking at 25 percent to try to keep crowds from getting too big.

And this is the Gulf of Mexico, South Padre Island in Texas. Crowds started arriving yesterday for the holiday weekend. Our affiliate there reporting large groups of people, 10 or more, and very few people wearing masks. Also today, clear signs that this pandemic may be far from over. The

governor of Arkansas announcing that his state is already experiencing a second peak of coronavirus infections, reporting more new cases today than the previous high one month ago. And in North Carolina, health officials reporting the single highest one-day total of new cases there yet, more than 1100 people confirmed with the coronavirus in North Carolina just today.

There's also a concern about what happens tomorrow with the potential for large crowds of people attending worship services. That's after President Trump declared churches and houses of worship essential, adding a sharp warning to state governors to not keep churches closed.

We have reporters spread out coast to coast, CNN's Natasha Chen on Georgia's Tybee Island, CNN's Paul Vercammen in Santa Monica, California, and CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro live for us in New Jersey.

Let's start with Natasha in Georgia where there are more than 42,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Natasha, large crowds are flocking to Tybee Island this weekend and we see how many people are there behind you and I understand you have the mayor there with you as well?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and that's why I've got my mask on. We both do, actually. This is Mayor Shirley Sessions of Tybee Island.

Thank you for joining us, and you know, we are probably the only two people right now wearing any masks. What do you make of that?

MAYOR SHIRLEY SESSIONS, TYBEE ISLAND: Well, I think it's interesting. I like it when people listen to what the governor of Georgia asks that they do, and I have seen a few people with masks, but primarily not the majority by far, no. And I think it's one of those things that it's becoming a complacent situation and I think that people are just thinking that the sun is going to, you know, kill any germs that may be out there.

And they've just gotten a little bit -- kind of forgetting that it's still very real and I do understand that if you're coming to the beach, it is warm, and a mask can be uncomfortable, but I think if you're not going to be cognizant of being close to people that it's important to wear the mask.

CHEN: One of the things that people are supposed to do is keep their parties six feet apart at least, fewer than 10 people. We're looking behind us right there. There is a group kind of seated and standing, that's more than 10 people. What would happen in that situation? Is anyone going to say something about it?

SESSIONS: The governor's office has sent the Department of National Resources, DNR, they have rangers on the beach who are supposed to be dealing with that. I have seen -- we have a pretty big beach, as you've seen. You've had a chance to observe. So, a three-mile beach, I was on the north end earlier. I did see the rangers down there breaking up groups, and I think that they're just -- we're just oversaturated with people, and I don't know that it's, you know, it's just a difficult task to --

CHEN: And -- yes.

SESSIONS: To do that.

CHEN: Absolutely. And I know that you and I have talked about how the local businesses here really depend on tourism to survive and now they get some very much-needed cash flow.


So how do you feel about that paired with the news that we're getting out of Arkansas that there's a second peak now. North Carolina seeing the highest single-day increase. Are you afraid of something like that happening here with these many people out, even while you need the cash?

SESSIONS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Safety is always the number one goal for government, and unfortunately, we're not going to be able to really see the numbers because most of these people are not Tybee. They don't live on Tybee. They're going to go back home to wherever they came from. We're not going to know the numbers. We're not going to have any idea where those numbers could be spiking in other cities and other communities.

I've noticed that there's not a lot of local residents that I have seen out today, so I think our local residents are being aware of where they're going, what they're doing, and the numbers are very, very important, but again, it's going to be really impossible for Tybee or for Chatham County, our health department, to know what all of these -- where all of these people are coming from. You look at the tags in the parking lots and they're from literally everywhere.

So, it's very concerning, and I hope that when people go home, that they will get tested if they feel that they can do that. Testing is very, very free, obviously, and very available, especially in Georgia, so I hope that people will take advantage of that.

CHEN: Well, I like the smile on your mask, and hopefully people continue to enjoy themselves here on the beach while staying safe as the mayor said and paying attention to CDC guidelines.

Ana, back to you.

CABRERA: I like the smile on her mask, too. I was thinking the exact same thing when you said that, Natasha. I often smile with my mask on and then I realize, oh, maybe people don't know I'm smiling. Hopefully they can tell it with my eyes.

CHEN: I'm smiling now, just so you know.

CABRERA: OK. We see it in your eyes, Natasha. Thank you both.

Let's head to California now where more than two-thirds of counties in that state are moving ahead with the next phase of reopening, including beaches, but Memorial Day weekend arrives as that state has reported more than 2,000 new cases of coronavirus a day for each of the last four days.

CNN's Paul Vercammen from Santa Monica. And Paul, we have been seen people riding by you on bikes all afternoon. Beautiful weather there. But how much do visitors seem to be adhering to social distancing guidelines?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're seeing some good examples right here. You can see these people walking by with their masks on. I'm not saying that everybody is wearing masks. It's a bit of a mix. Clearly somebody who's at a full run or on their bikes might find it difficult to breathe with their masks on. So we're also seeing masks that are slid around people's necks.

Now the game changer here in Santa Monica today and throughout L.A. County is the opening up of this bikeway. This is popular. What they don't want is people bunching up on the beach and look at all that white sand. I mean, ordinarily, Memorial Day weekend, it would be almost shoulder-to-shoulder. There'd be so many people out there and then of course you can see over there, there is that pier that shut down.

We'll talk about that more in just a moment. But what we saw is families were really paying attention to the mask rule. We ran into a family of folks on razor scooters and they drove something like an hour and a half just to be part of this and get out of the house.


SITHA ATH, RIDING SCOOTERS WITH FAMILY: This is beautiful. I mean, I love the nature. I love to take the kids out for -- you know, for a ride. Because, you know, ever since COVID started, we've been cooped up in the house.

JOSHUA ATH, RIDING SCOOTERS WITH FAMILY: It's like it was very boring and stuff. We just did homework online.


VERCAMMEN: So, that sense of euphoria, being able to get out here on Memorial Day weekend, come down to Santa Monica, sit of city of 90,000. So far we're not seeing people misbehaving. We're not saying that the crowds won't show up later on but they sure have made it difficult for the crowds.

It is not easy to find parking anywhere around here because most of the public parking is shut down, Ana, and that is not conducive to bringing your tent and your cooler and setting up some sort of barbecue pit or whatever the case may be.

It's sort of compliance by inability to access in some ways as well. And we're seeing people wearing their masks. You'll have a bike rider come behind me with a nice bright yellow mask on showing that the folks here do indeed -- peace sign. Thank you. (LAUGHTER)

VERCAMMEN: Pay attention to the rules and as you know, all along, Californians have sort of followed along a little more diligently with some of the social distancing rules.

CABRERA: And yet I know people there have been hit just as hard financially and economically as anywhere else, Paul. The city of Santa Monica has taken a huge financial hit. How long -- you know, you talked to the mayor there earlier. How long did they expect to -- it to take to recover?

VERCAMMEN: Years. And in fact, they're forecasting a budget deficit of something like $240 million into the year 2022 and the problem is they just lost all of their hotel and sales tax revenue so it's going to take a long time for them to come back to what they were before.


They just had to lay off 150 people here in the city of 90,000. They also had buyouts of another 120 or so. It's been gut-wrenching and these beach cities have been super hard hit and you may know the unemployment rate in California now, 15 agonizing percent.

Back to you now, Ana.

CABRERA: OK. Paul Vercammen in Santa Monica, thanks.

Let's go to CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro on the boardwalk of New Jersey's Belmar Beach. We know New Jersey's governor, Phil Murphy, is allowing outdoor crowds of up to 25 people to gather this weekend but it's a rainy weekend here in the northeast, Evan. Are people still going to the beach?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the plan for this weekend was for towns in the Jersey Shore to debut these complex and expensive plans to reopen these economically crucial beaches while also maintaining social distance, kind of a two-prong strategy involving personal responsibility, requesting people to wear masks and stay distant from each other and also some light enforcement, taking away benches, things like that.

We see it all over -- you know, monitoring the number of people who are on the beach, things like that. But as you say, we haven't really had a chance to put those plans to the test this weekend because it's been raining. The beach here in Belmar has been mostly empty.

The boardwalk there hasn't seen much traffic. But locals that I've talked to have said it actually seems like it might be thin numbers, even for a rainy weekend here on the Jersey Shore during beach season. And I spoke to one business owner who says that might be a bad sign for the rest of the summer.


DARBY TARRANT, CO-OWNER OF EASTERN LINES SURF SHOP: I think it's going to be a little rough, for sure. You know, I think if the weather's a little bit more cooperative, you know, where people can actually go sit on the beach, I think it will be OK. But if it's just kind of ho- hum weather and people can't really go to the beach and can't go to bars, can't go to a restaurant, I think it's -- we're definitely going to struggle for sure.

Because our season is limited to begin with, and now, you know, we're just making it smaller and smaller and smaller, you know. Even though we are a year-round business. The bulk of our business is, you know, between Memorial Day and Labor Day.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, look, no one really knows what the coming weeks are going to bring, but the reason why these beaches are open is because they're so important to the economy here, and the goal of all these rules is to allow enough visitors to come to the Jersey Shore and allow the social distancing rules to allow them to spend enough money to make all the extra effort it's required to make this happen worthwhile.

And so, right now, we're seeing if that's going to happen and this weekend just hasn't been the best test because as you can see behind me, and I can tell you because I'm standing right here, the rain's about to come back -- Ana.

CABRERA: Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you. We hope you stay dry. Get out of the rain, Evan.

As we watch people flock to these beach towns, recall what I mentioned at the top of the show. Landlocked Arkansas saying it is already seeing a second peak. And some of its new cases stem from a single pool party.

Joining us now live, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a medical professor at Harvard, and also with us, Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and professor at Brown University.

Dr. Ranney, let me start with you because you testified been a congressional committee on COVID-19 just a couple of days ago and you told the members very directly that the country is not prepared for a second wave of coronavirus infections. In what areas are we not prepared?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: So, Ana, unfortunately, we are still not prepared in so many areas. You know, the last 10 weeks we've managed to flatten the curve across much of the United States, but the virus is still amongst us and that wave two is going to come in a rolling way in different states as we reopen at different times.

Across the U.S., we know from our data at Get Us PPE that there are so many healthcare workers who still don't have adequate protective equipment, basic masks, gowns, hand sanitizer. Particularly in places like nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities, they're desperately in need of that protective equipment. We still don't have adequate, reliable testing in much of the United

States. We don't have reliable data on who's sick in much of the United States. We don't have clear and consistent public health messaging. We don't have adequate funding of public health departments. We're seeing reports of Departments of Health having to cut workers who are out there on the front lines trying to stop this pandemic, even while the virus is still here because funding is inadequate.

And of course we haven't addressed the underlying issues that allowed this virus to spread in the first place. We have a chance now to prepare our public health system so that we can be aware of what's going on so that we can distribute resources in a fair and equal way, but we have a very short period of time to take advantage of that chance, and I worry that we're not doing it yet.


CABRERA: And Dr. Walensky, you know, as we look at those pictures out of Georgia from Tybee Island and we hear the mayor of Tybee Island discuss people, you know, not wearing face masks and not necessarily social distancing the whole time, that they're there thinking that the sun is going to protect them, those UV rays, or the idea that all these people who are there aren't necessarily residents of that area. They are from all over the place, all coming together. How concerning is that?

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Good afternoon, Ana. Very concerning. You know, what I would say is people are tired. We are exhausted. It's been a long winter. I know it's certainly been a long spring, and the weather is good and people want to be outside. But this is just not the way to do it. We have safe ways that we can do it. You've seen people exercise some of those safe ways.

If you want to go on a morning walk, early morning, and not wear your mask and no one is around, then I think that would be fine. But to see these crowds of people who clearly are not co-quarantining together. it's not families, it's crowds of people coming together from different places, that is just really concerning when we think about how this virus is spread. To see them not wearing masks is even more concerning.

CABRERA: Yes, because it is different depending on where you go. Not all beaches are having those same issues, as we were seeing in those shots from Santa Monica, much different story than Tybee Island.

But, Dr. Ranney, one thing that I thought was really interesting this week as I was reading all my e-mails trying to stay on top of the information is that the U.S. is now sending ventilators and other protective gears to other countries, the first 50 of 200 U.S. made, and donated ventilators arrived in Russia on Thursday, for example.

And we have an administration official telling CNN this week that the U.S. has committed over 15,000 ventilators to more than 50 countries, including some of our European allies and partners. And given our discussion about a second wave, should the U.S. be giving these ventilators to other countries right now?

RANNEY: So, international cooperation is critical in our fight against this virus as we know well. The virus does not respect either state boundaries or international boundaries, and us working together is going to be part of the way that we can combat and ultimately vanquish the virus. However, it's critical for us to make sure that we have adequate supplies at home.

Right now, we have adequate numbers of ventilators and there's been talk about trying to increase the number in our Strategic National Stockpile so that we can distribute them if and when the second wave hits across the country. But I would hope that those ventilators that are being sold overseas are being done so only after we've made sure that we've replenished our Strategic National Stockpile and that we have adequate manufacturing in place so that we can scale up as we need more locally here at home.

CABRERA: Dr. Walensky, President Trump announced yesterday that houses of worship are essential during this pandemic and he threatened to override governors who keep churches closed.

Is it safe now to attend worship services in person, and what can people do to protect themselves if they do go?

WALENSKY: I think the big question here is, how do people practice? I think everybody is interested in being able to have people join communities, houses of worship, certainly when you think about funerals that people have had to endure alone or with very small amounts of people in attendance. These houses of worship are really critical for community.

That said, when I see footage of people gathering, not in masks, in enclosed spaces, it certainly gives me concern. So when you think about how people might come together as a community and houses of worship, there could be multiple small services. They could be outside. They could be distanced. And they need to be in masks.

It would really concern me to see, especially elderly people who often use houses of worship as their communities, coming to these places and not seeing everyone else in masks.

CABRERA: OK. Some really good information. Thank you so much, Dr. Rochelle Walensky and Dr. Megan Ranney. I appreciate it as always.

Ladies, I hope you have a nice rest of the weekend.

Up next, the president spending his Memorial Day weekend away from home as well. He is back at one of his golf courses, his first time since March.

Plus, for all of you longing for sports, basketball could soon return. What we are hearing about the NBA's plans next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CABRERA: While many are opting for the beach this holiday weekend, the president hit the golf course.

Let's get to CNN's White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond.

Between the president's demand to governors to reopen churches immediately and his golf appearance, Jeremy, what message is he trying to send this weekend?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Ana, it appears that without a doubt that this is the latest attempt by the president to try and send the message that he wants the country to be back open. He wants things to return to normal, and he is certainly trying to will that return to normalcy into existence, even as we see those rising case counts still in several key parts of the country.

The president now, he knew that he was being captured on camera. At one point, he waves to the photojournalists, including our Khalil Abdallah, during the footage that you can see of the president golfing. But the president, even though Secret Service agents were wearing masks, the president was not wearing a mask, neither were his three other golfing partners, and we saw the president certainly not appearing to maintain any of that six feet of social distancing between him and his golf partners.

Now, this comes as President Trump, he has previously criticized the last president, President Obama, for golfing amid a crisis. President Trump criticized President Obama after there was just a second confirmed case of Ebola back in 2014. Watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And you know, when you're president, you sort of say, like, I'm going to sort of give it up for a couple of years and I'm going to really focus on the job. How about right after the beheading, he then walks over, news conference, and then walks right outside and tees it up?


You know, there are times to play golf. We all love golf. There are times to play and there are times that you can't play, and it sends the wrong signal, but he plays a lot of golf.


DIAMOND: Now, President Trump has not golfed, as far as we know, for more than two months now. That's his longest stretch without golfing during his presidency. But it comes, as we know, Ana, there are more than 1.6 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States currently. Nearly 100,000 dead and counting, but perhaps that's the point is President Trump is trying to send the signal that we are no longer in the midst of this coronavirus crisis. Despite what the numbers say, despite what the facts say, President

Trump is trying to send a message to the country that the United States is now past that and moving towards this reopening phase, not only of the economy but also resuming all of the other activities that comprise this sense of normalcy that President Trump so desperately wants to convey to the country.

Again, despite what we are seeing and despite the warnings from public health experts, including Dr. Deborah Birx who just yesterday pointed out that this very region where the president was golfing is one of those regions where there are still a high plateau of confirmed cases and a high positive rate of coronavirus cases in terms of the number of tests being done. So, certainly some mixed messaging once again from the White House -- Ana.

CABRERA: Yes, and Dr. Fauci saying this week as well, now is not the time to let up. We've got to keep the pedal down, we've got to stay disciplined in order to make sure people stay safe. Thank you very much, Jeremy.

We'll be right back.



CABRERA: We've all felt like we've been on a roller coaster the past couple of months. But how would you feel about riding a real one again? Theme parks have always been a staple of summer but there are a lot of questions when it comes to the crowds, the lines, and even those character meet and greets.

Universal Orlando Resort says it will open its parks to the public starting June 5th with stringent health, safety and hygiene procedures in place. There will be masks and temperature checks.

Disney took a step forward this week by reopening Disney Springs, the shopping, dining and entertainment complex in Florida. Everyone over the age of 3 must wear a mask and get a temperature screening to get in there.

And while Disney hasn't reopened its U.S. theme parks yet, we are getting a preview of what they could look like post-shutdown.

Last week, Disneyland, Shanghai, welcomed guests back with strict new rules in place. All visitors now need to register online and book for a specific arrival time to keep from congregating.

You also have a green Shanghai Q.R. health code that you have to show, the government's high-tech way to track potential exposures.

Once inside the park, reminders to keep your distance. Yellow tape added to lines for attractions and every other table blocked off to space out diners.

Here's CNN's David Culver getting a sneak peek. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Safe spacing even for the performances. This is one of the stages. Look here in the crowd. Pick a box. That's where you and your family unit will stand, keeping that distance.


CABRERA: And after stopping off each ride, you'll find a row of hand- sanitizing stations along with crews ready to wipe down surfaces.

And for now, you can no longer hug Mickey or Minnie. Not even a high five. A safe selfie distance will have to do.

For more on what you can expect, let's turn to Bill Coan. He is a former Disney imagineer, who is now the president and CEO of ITEC Entertainment, a company that has worked on theme parks around the world.

Bill, the thing about these parks is they offer a fantasy, an escape from the outside world. Is some of that magic lost if you can't even hug Mickey mouse?

BILL COAN, PRESIDENT & CEO, ITEC ENTERTAINMENT & FORMER DISNEY IMAGINEER: Yes, of course. I think -- Ana, nice to speak with you. These are those kinds of things that are going to have to be important to the guests and to the operators initially and with the hope that this will come back to more normal experiences over time.

But in the short-term, this is what's going to be the typical protocol and that's distancing and probably not those close-up selfies that you were talking about.

CABRERA: I'm curious about the rides because, on some of them, when you are sitting next to total strangers or you have people directly in front of you or behind you, how do you fix that and make sure you keep the virus from spreading?

COAN: Well, you know, that's the challenge because none of these attractions were designed that way. We developed projects like theme parks and really high-end attractions for capacity, for throughput, and that's what makes the business work.

And now they've got to look at different ways of doing that. So they're going to distance. They'll probably separate the riders by cars. They'll separate them by seats if they're not with a family unit. And then, of course, in the preshow and queue line, they'll separate them by distance.

So, some of those practical operating protocols are going to be important, at least in the beginning.

CABRERA: The wait times, I imagine, will grow. Already, they can be long. But if people have to wait even longer since they can disinfect the chairs or the seat belts, what do you think Disney will do to make that more of an enjoyable experience?

COAN: That's the challenge is that one of the many challenges they've got, which is how do they keep up that capacity we were just talking about and how do they make sure that the guests are moving through these spaces while keeping distance.


So at least, initially, they're going to do that by capacity of the overall park. They're just not going to fill these parks up, and the attractions, therefore, won't have as great a demand.

But they'll go to some technology. They'll use some, you know, reservations and ways that they can make sure that the guests aren't sitting in a queue for an hour waiting for the attractions.

So, there's plenty of ways they can do this both operationally and using some technology. They'll be able to manage it.

And then when the crowds return in full, hopefully, they've got some -- again, some practices that will allow the people to be a little bit closer but still feel safe on the rides.

CABRERA: Universal Studios in Orlando plans to reopen. The public will be able to visit come June 5th with masks mandatory. If a guest doesn't have one, they'll be given a disposable one.

Disney is also expected to require masks, something that the CEO of Disney admitted may be an issue for some people.

He said, quote, "In Asia, as you know, it's fairly common place, even before COVID-19, for folks to walk around in public with masks on. That is not the case in the U.S. So that will be something -- that will be a little trying for some of our guests, particularly in hot, humid summers that we tend to have."

So, if it's 90 degrees out in Orlando, do you foresee masks being mandated? If yes, who enforces that? If no, it's a big health and safety gamble, isn't it?

COAN: Well, I think so. But I also think that, initially, you know, people have been thinking about this for the last six weeks, two months, three months, so the masks are now becoming a little more ubiquitous in our everyday life. So will that be a surprise to go to a theme park and be asked to wear a mask? I don't think so.

I think the Disney/Universal guys are very focused on how to ensure the guest has a great experience. So at least walking in the door, they're going to require the mask. Everybody will understand that.

But it's a good point that, over time, if you're in a 95-degree typical Florida July day here in central Florida at one of the parks, it's going to be a little bit of a struggle to keep those masks on.

But I also think Universal and Disney will find entertaining ways of reminding the guests to stay safe and maybe reapply the mask and wash their hands and do those kinds of things.

So I think initially, it won't be a shock. But you're right, if you're in a park for six or eight hours, it's going to be a struggle to have it on full-time.

CABRERA: I notice Disney's Web site's already selling character- inspired face masks. You can get one with baby Yoda's face or Winnie the Pooh's nose or the Hulk.

If masks are required, is that just brilliant marketing? Could these become the new Mickey ears?

COAN: I think it's not only brilliant marketing but it's bottom line business, right? The theme parks are -- do well when they have big crowds. But they do even better when those big crowds buy merchandise and food. So if a mask is a retail opportunity, like an umbrella or a raincoat in the summertime here in Florida, those are great sales opportunities.

And they're also takeaways. There's nothing more important to a big, major entertainment company, theme park company than for somebody to take away from their experience in the park something that they can remember it by. And if it's a mask, that's great. But I think it's a commercial opportunity for sure.

CABRERA: But another way to encourage health and safety.

Bill Coan, I appreciate the conversation. Thank you for your insights.

COAN: My pleasure, Ana. Nice to speak with you.

CABRERA: Back at you.

From the happiest place on earth to a very grim reality right now. A new report alleging thousands of recovering coronavirus patients in New York were transferred to nursing homes under a state directive. How did that happen? The criticism facing New York's governor, next.



CABRERA: Nursing home patients have been among the most vulnerable during this pandemic. Early, during the crisis in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order saying that nursing homes could not deny patients based solely on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of coronavirus. Some are now saying that may have done more harm than good.

CNN's Jason Carroll has this report -- Jason?


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says, if his critics are looking for someone to blame about the number of coronavirus deaths at the state's nursing homes, look to the federal government.

ANDREW CUOMO, (D), NEW YORK GOVERNOR: 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.

CARROLL: The policy Cuomo was referring to was his March 25th executive order, which asked nursing homes to take in recovering COVID patients even if those patients had not first been tested to see if they were clear of the virus.

That executive order was based on federal guidelines released on March 13th, which advised that state nursing homes should accept COVID-19- positive patients if they could care for them.

MELISSA DEROSA, SECRETARY TO GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: 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.


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

CARROLL: Just how many ended up in nursing homes across the state? The Associated Press reports more than 4,500 recovering COVID patients were returned to nursing homes in the state following the governor's executive order.

The governor today had this to say about that number.

CUOMO: We had 68,000 hospitalizations. I don't -- 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.

CARROLL: The State Department of Health says they're still trying to verify those numbers. CNN has not been able to independently confirm the number of patients discharged from hospitals to nursing homes.

Stuart Almer is the CEO of the Gurwin Jewish nursing home in Long Island.

STUART ALMER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, GURWIN JEWISH NURSING & REHABILITATION CENTER: Might have been more of a rush to find a solution during a crisis.

CARROLL: Almer says, under the government's directive, his facility had to take in 58 recovering COVID patients from hospitals.

ALMER: Then the mandate came, and it just took things to another level. It was almost a cascading effect of events.

CARROLL: Almer says 53 residents from his nursing home died from COVID-19. But he says it's unclear if any of those deaths were a direct result from accepting recovering patients.

Others in the long-term care industry not surprised so many recovering COVID patients ended up in nursing homes.

DR. ELAINE HEALY, AMDA - SOCIETY FOR POST-ACUTE AND LONG-TERM CARE MEDICINE: The focus was really 100 percent on the hospitals. And the nursing homes -- I always feel that we're sort of an afterthought.

CARROLL: As for the governor's executive order, under intense criticism and almost two months after the governor initiated it, he reversed it on May 10th and required testing of nursing home residents once a week and staff twice a week.

CUOMO: So, we're just not going to send a person who is positive to a nursing home after a hospital visit. Period.

CARROLL: According to the State Department of Health, over the past two months, there have been more than 3,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths among residents at state care facilities.

On Friday, the administration showed troubling numbers of COVID cases at care facilities nationwide. And again, asked states to do more testing, something New York is already doing.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: To encourage governors to test 100 percent of the nursing home residents and staff because many of our outbreaks that we have seen over the last two months have started in nursing homes.

CARROLL: But some health experts say, looking forward, what is needed are more than CDC guidelines but a national policy addressing COVID-19 at nursing homes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What concerns me most is that the country hasn't learned enough from the mistake, and we don't really have a national testing strategy for nursing homes.


CARROLL: Nursing home advocates say that if New York State officials had a problem with the federal guidelines, then they should have spoken out about it.

And they say because that didn't happen, that gives even more reason to why they say they should have more of a seat at the table, the nursing home advocates should have more of a seat at the table, they say, when these policies are being made -- Ana?

CABRERA: Jason Carroll, great reporting. Thank you.

Up next, for all of you longing for sports, basketball could soon return. What we're hearing about the NBA's plans. That's next. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



CABRERA: This just into CNN. There is a chance basketball could be back in a little over a month. We're told NBA in talks with Disney about resuming the reason in July. Games, practicing and housing would all happen at Disney's ESPN Wild World of Sports complex in Florida. And there's also reports that Major League Soccer is considering holding spectator-free matches at that same complex as early as next month.

Until then, we have your sports fix. Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning are teaming up against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady in Capitol One's "THE MATCH, CHAMPIONS FOR CHARITY." That begins tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. Eastern ON TNT, TBS, TruTV and HLN.

The future in the fight against COVID-19 might be a little furry. A trial is under way in the U.K. to see if six specifically trained dogs can sniff out the virus early before symptoms appear, like they do with other diseases like Parkinson's and malaria.

And now, as CNN's Max Foster reports, man's best friend might be the best defense in this pandemic.


MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This dog has been trained to detect prostate cancer. She's presented with urine samples and rewarded when she identifies the correct one.

This dog is able to identify the odor of malaria sufferers. The next mission here is to train dogs to sniff out people infected with COVID- 19.

DR. STEVE LINDSAY, PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGICAL AND BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES , DUNHAM UNIVERSITY: The way we're going to do that is by collecting used facemasks. And we're asking people to wear these facemasks for a few hours. Then we carefully collect those.

And the other thing we're going to do is get people to wear nylon socks. That sounds a bit strange. But we know from our previous experience that this is a really good way of collecting odors from people and it's such an easy way to do it.


FOSTER: If the training is successful, one of their first deployments is likely to be airports where dogs are already used to sniff out drugs and other contraband.

If they help reopen the travel industry, that could be the boost to international trade that governments everywhere have been looking for.

Max Foster, CNN, outside London.


CABRERA: Cute little guy there.

Memorial Day weekend, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, looks a lot like a normal holiday weekend in some places. But are people observing social distancing? Are people wearing masks? We are live with how states are handling these reopenings, next.

Stay with us. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.