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THE SITUATION ROOM

Arkansas Governor Reports Second Peak Of New Cases; North Carolina Reports Highest One-Day Total Of New Infections; Visitors Pack Beaches, Many Not Heeding Safety Guidance; NY Governor Cuomo Touts Good News As COVID-19 Cases, Deaths Decline; Brazil Reporting Record Number Of Coronavirus Cases In A Single Day. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 23, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. Memorial Day weekend here in the United States. A holiday usually split between honoring the nation's war dead and celebrating the arrival of summer.

This year under a deadly pandemic, both of those traditions looking and feeling very, very different. Many public events at national cemeteries and military parades are canceled for safety reasons and two states today with alarming public health news.

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 that was one month ago. And over in North Carolina, health officials reporting the single highest one day total of new cases yet.

More than 1100 people confirmed with coronavirus in North Carolina just today. Despite those very disturbing figures many beaches are packed. They've been packed with people, now that every state has relaxed their home restrictions at least to some degree.

Many of those beach goers are practicing your correct social distancing which is good. Others however, we've seen, they are not and there are some serious concerns from medical experts about tomorrow with the potential for very large crowds of people attending Sunday worship services.

That's after President Trump declared churches and other houses of worship essential and warned state governors very sharply to make sure churches are open on Sunday. All of that is happening while the coronavirus death toll just here in the United States climbed steadily towards the once unthinkable number of 100,000.

People worldwide right now 5.2 million people are infected with the virus. More than 340,000 people have died. That number is probably low. In Georgia, beach towns are bracing for potentially historic crowds over this holiday weekend.

So far the Florida beach government certainly hasn't disappointed in so many places unless of course you're a public health expert, in which case all of this potentially is extremely worrisome to see. CNN's Natasha Chen is in Georgia's Tybee Island for us right now and Natasha, what you has seen during the course of this day? Are people basically keeping their distance?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they are keeping their distance between groups which is what they're supposed to do but if I can show you behind us. There are some groups that are larger than 10 people and they're really supposed to keep it under 10.

In fact, we saw a football game earlier were there might have even been tackling going on so it really depends and right now, you're actually seeing a lot fewer people than there were earlier this afternoon. A lot of them have already left, probably to get some dinner so this is what low crowds look like right now Wolf.

And you know we were talking about the fact that I've been wearing my mask, our crew's been wearing our masks especially during interviews, when we're talking to people in close range and we talked to some beach goers about precautions like that and the fact that no one around us seemed to be wearing them. Here's what they said.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no one's really wearing masks besides yourself of course and your crew. People are going to take precautions to 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 exists on earth so if it's my turn to go, I'm going. If not, I'm enjoying life.

CHEN: And a lot of people definitely took advantage of enjoying life today. The Tybee Island local businesses also have been really cash strapped during the shutdown and so they are very much welcoming this needed income and of course this town really relies on that to survive but we've also talked to local residents who understands that.

They appreciate the tourists but they know it comes at a risk especially when this local population some of them are in the vulnerable category and so they are all trying to be very careful and frustrated when they see that the tourists aren't abiding by those guidelines. Wolf.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It's after 7:00 PM now where you are Natasha so a lot of folks have left. I take it earlier in the day, that beach was a lot a lot more crowded.

CHEN: Definitely and we also know that low tide has already happened so that means there will be less and less beach as the hours pass now which means it's good that people are actually leaving. BLITZER: That certainly is. All right Natasha, thank you very much.

Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions is joining us right now. Mayor Sessions, thanks so much for joining us. What kind of crowds are you seeing so far? Are your workers managing at least in the course of today to keep things under control?

[19:05:00]

MAYOR SHIRLEY SESSIONS, TYBEE ISLAND, GEORGIA: Hello. Thank you and happy - just like to say thanks to all of the - thinking about the people who died for our freedoms this weekend is so important to remember that. But yes, we have had a lot of a lot of people on Tybee. I'm not sure about the projection.

Last year we had 14,000 cars coming on the island. We predicted that many or more this - this year just today. As Natasha said earlier the beaches were very crowded. We are fortunate that we - our Governor - Governor Kemp was gracious enough to send the Department of Natural Resources down to help with the social distancing and we appreciate that.

He also sent the Georgia state patrol and the Night Hawk team to make sure that DUIs and traffic speeding was kept at bay. We have a very active police force that was on top of everything. We're fortunate to have parking services and department and public works that were out in full force and yet there were a lot of people as Natasha said who do seem to be a bit complacent about the seriousness that we're still not sure what does virus is doing.

And our Tybee Island residents tend to stay closer to home on these holidays, it's - it's hard to determine what type of virus you know people are taking with them. There were tags from everywhere, car tags from everywhere so you know when people go back to their home, who knows what types of chaos they're seeing there.

We - we just hope that everybody will be precautious and continue to space distance and if they are around people, to be cognizant of wearing a mask if not for themselves for other people.

BLITZER: I know that you were wearing a mask when you were down there speaking with Natasha earlier in the day but we're looking at live pictures right now. I don't think I see anyone wearing a mask right now. Is there any regulation or rule or is just a recommendation that folks wear masks?

SESSIONS: Well, we're going with the recommendation of the Governor. Governor Kemp has put out his rules and Tybee Island has been put - we don't really have the authority to have greater or less rules than the governor at this point. One thing, I'm hoping that people will take personal ownership of their safety and of their health.

It's no surprise, the CDC health officials, they have warned people you know repeatedly what to think - what to look for, what to do and I think really people need to take personal responsibility and quit looking to government to tell them what to do and what not to do, to keep themselves, their family, their neighbors and their community safe and I'm - I'm hopeful that people will really think about that.

BLITZER: I'm hopeful too. Mayor Sessions, I know you were critical of the Georgia governor Brian Kemp, when he initially reopened the beaches in early April. His mandate went against local orders including your own. What are your thoughts now? Do you stand by that early criticism?

SESSIONS: Well, of course at that time, we were very - we were taken off guard. We had done a lot locally to put things in place that were working well and when the Governor overturned that, we were taken aback and what I and our council members and our community have decided is to go forward, look at the things that we can do to protect our community.

As you know Wolf, we're getting ready to begin the hurricane season June 1. So we're - we're looking at plans for preparing for hopefully nothing but being prepared for the worst. We've got a lot of things on our plate that we're - we're trying to move forward and take a proactive stand on what we can do, rather than look back on what we would have liked to have happened.

So again, we do thank the governor for what he has given us and what he has done for us and we appreciate that and we will need the support of not only the governor and the federal government and our local municipalities, our county and so we want to try to work together and most importantly try to keep our beaches safe, try to keep our communities safe and we - we need everybody's help to do that.

BLITZER: I know there's going to be a big crowd tomorrow, sure there'll be a big crowd, Monday, Memorial Day as well. Mayor Shirley Sessions of Tybee Island, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone over there. Thanks so much for joining us.

SESSIONS: Thank you. Thank you Wolf. I appreciate it.

[19:10:00]

BLITZER: Thank you. So some people are flocking to beaches like Tybee Island, health officials, they are of course urging a lot of caution. Just how dangerous is it to ignore the warnings, we'll speak live with a former U.S. Surgeon General as well as the head of the American Medical Association. All that coming up. Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.

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BLITZER: We're going to see live pictures coming in from Hollywood beach in Florida in Broward County. I think the beaches are going to formally open this coming week in Broward county, I think in Miami Dade County as well. I'll be speaking with Mayor of Miami. That's coming up later here in The Situation Room.

But you can see, there aren't any people on the beach in Hollywood, Florida at least not now. As many Americans flock to the beaches and parks on this holiday weekend, officials and health experts are urging people to be very cautious, to continue to social distance and to wear a mask but in some places those guidelines are falling on deaf ears. Listen to what one beachgoer on South Padre island told our affiliate KRGV yesterday.

[19:15:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't matter there. Coronavirus don't exist. Look, hey, we're good, Gucci. Gucci. Look at that, look at them all. No mask.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, joining us now the President of the American Medical Association, Dr. Patrice Harris. Dr. Harris, what's your biggest concern right now as you see so many people gathering together on the beaches which is understandable, it's a Memorial Day weekend but when you hear a comment like that from one of those beach goers?

DR. PATRICE HARRIS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: Wolf, well, thank you for having me back on and certainly it's a good idea to get out weather permitting. I know we're having great weather here in Atlanta but even if folks are out, even if they are on the beaches, they must continue to practice good public health practices, wear a mask.

Stay at least six feet apart, certainly monitor how long you stay in contact with others that aren't members of your immediate family so we want people to be out, we encourage that but we also encourage continued practice of those good public health practices that will serve to mitigate the risk of infection.

BLITZER: You know, what's very worrisome Dr. Harris, North Carolina today reported the highest - the highest one day increase of Covid-19 cases, just a day after Phase 2 of reopening began in that state and the Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson says that state is now experiencing what he's calling a second peak.

What's your assessment of whether these states and potentially other states waited long enough before easing their restrictions?

HARRIS: Well Wolf, you know the original recommendations that came from that task force suggested a 14 day decline in the number of cases, the number of infections and certainly we did not see that in every case and clearly the risk of that is an increase in cases.

Now we were likely to see some increase in cases as restrictions were loosened and so the key is to make sure you have the appropriate strategy to test and track and quarantine and isolate as needed.

We also have to make sure that data is correct. We've seen last week or so that we've had some issues around data and we want to make sure that our medical systems, our hospitals have the capacity so we certainly have cautioned at the AMA against premature reopening.

But we are where we are today and we certainly have to make sure we continue to track these numbers and react very quickly because we probably would expect some increase but it's a sharp rise that we are really worried about.

BLITZER: We certainly are and what also so worrisome Dr. Harris, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates, get this, that 40 percent, 40 percent of coronavirus transmission actually occurs before people even feel sick at all.

As we see people hitting the beach, some not wearing masks out in public gathering, in big crowds, is the second wave really possible, is it inevitable?

HARRIS: Well, I think it is inevitable that we are going to have an increase in cases. This is a highly transmissible virus. The key is how sharp the rise is and are we ready and can we respond quickly?

So that is what I urge states to continue to do, Public health department to continue to do, is make sure they have the capacity to measure and then adapt quickly. You know, Wolf, we are in control, we, the royal we in this country, all of us are in control of how big of a wave we get and that really is whether or not we continue to be willing to follow those public health best practices and polls say we are and so hopefully, most of us, optimistically all of us will continue to do so.

BLITZER: Yes, we were showing our viewers some pictures from earlier in the day over in South Carolina at Myrtle Beach. South Carolina, big crowds gathering there. We're still hearing Dr. Harris from a lot of nurses and doctors about what they complain about, a lack of adequate PPE, Personal Protective Equipment.

Do you think the nation is adequately prepared right now for potential spikes and - and hopefully, God forbid a second wave?

HARRIS: Well, they need for PPE has been a consistent one Wolf, and I think it did get better but again that's part of the preparation so clearly we were not prepared at the very beginning but now is the time as we again are seeing some decline.

[19:20:00]

But you noticed in a couple of states, we're seeing an increase and so we have to do more than one thing at a time, right? And we have the capacity to do so. We have to prepare and one a piece of the preparation is making sure that everyone, health care workers certainly but those other essential workers who are out there have the equipment that they need and so again, whatever it takes, this is an all hands on deck approach.

If we need of course, if the President, the administration needs to ramp up production using DPA, that is something that we've recommend from the very beginning but when we should be tracking the availability of supplies too. It is about having a national strategy on all fronts and until we do so, we are a great risk of continuing to be unprepared - ill-prepared.

BLITZER: Well, we're always grateful for your expertise. Dr. Patrice Harris, thank you so much for joining us.

HARRIS: Thank you.

BLITZER: The coronavirus pandemic has become a big political issue. At the same time we're going to a closer look at how it's affecting the campaigns of Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. Former President Barack Obama's former Chief Campaign Strategist standing by. He'll join us, David Axelrod will discuss. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

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[19:25:00]

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BLITZER: As the country reopens on this holiday weekend, the virus and how people are reacting to it certainly has become a very, very political issue as it relates to public health. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Violation my - it's constitutional right and my civil right.

GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R-ND): Either it's ideological or political or something around the mask versus no mask. This is a - I would say senseless dividing line. If someone is wearing a mask, they're not doing it to represent what political party they're in or what candidates they support. They might be doing it because they've got a 5 year old child who's - who's been going through cancer treatment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Strong words, let's discuss with our senior political commentator David Axelrod. He's a former senior adviser to President Obama. David, what do you make of the increasingly bitter politicized response we're seeing across the country to the virus?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, it's fitting into the kind of template to the model of our politics that we've seen for some time now, that the President has - has driven which is a very cultural divide.

Those who say they don't want a government telling them what to do versus those who are apt to respond to the advice of public health experts and are more - more willing to follow those directives.

Here's the thing about this Wolf, this is not a partisan virus. It doesn't choose Democrats or Republicans or independents and it really doesn't choose localities. You know there was this myth at the beginning that somehow this was a problem for large urban areas because that's where it began.

But now we see it migrating into smaller communities around the country, into small towns and rural areas in the south and the Midwest and if you just want to put a political lens on it, most of these areas are areas where Donald Trump was a winner in 2016 but so we're in this peculiar position, where he's urging people in some ways to resist the guidance of his own government and local governments.

And at the same time we're seeing it a surge of cases in those very areas, where people are most apt to take his direction.

BLITZER: And we - and we heard the Republican governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson today say, he's bracing for a second wave in his state are down in Arkansas and North Carolina. New numbers just out today, very disturbing. Back in 2016, you remember this well, white suburban women helped Donald Trump win the White House but some people are now calling this group Zoom Moms because of the use of online meet-ups.

Polls are showing the President is in serious danger of losing their support so what does the Biden campaign need to do to win over these voters?

AXELROD: This is really important Wolf, because one effect of the virus is that you're not going to be able to do the kind of traditional organizing, the door knocking and the face to face campaigning that we that we're used to. It puts a premium now on digital campaigning and particularly relational campaigning where your supporters are reaching out to their friends and their associates and urging them to join in the campaign.

And the fact that these so-called Zoom Moms who are very much tilted in Biden's favor in this - in this particular election are becoming so fluent in using this technology is a really important development for the Biden campaign, if they can organize around it.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about what the President declared this week. He said that Houses of Worship are essential all around the country.

[19:30:00]

They must remain open. He said that he would overrule the governors, any governor, if the governors decide that for safety reasons, they need to be closed. So, what was your reaction to that?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, he can't overrule the governors. And, you know, I think that was posturing on his part.

But look, as a political play, it was a pretty shrewd political play. It was a pretty cynical political play in my view.

Of course, people want to go back to their houses of worship, and people are missing that opportunity. But these also have been places where we've seen the virus spread rapidly because people are close together, they often touch each other, and so it is dangerous.

But for the President whose base was so heavily in the white evangelical community, he got 80 percent of that vote in 2016. This is a big play for them saying, you know, forget about the directives. We want to get people back in those pews. They want to be there. And, you know, I saw it as a very political maneuver on his part.

BLITZER: David Axelrod as usual, thank you so much for your political expertise. David Axelrod helping us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

AXELROD: Great to see you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you. Be careful out there.

People, meanwhile, are flocking to beaches in some parts of the country, but one area has a locals only policy. We're going to find out why. That's next here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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[18:35:32]

BLITZER: In New York State, the coronavirus numbers are improving on this Memorial Day weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The news is good news. It has been good news. But every day is a new day and it's good to see it continuing.

The number of hospitalizations are down. The change in hospitalizations is down. The intubations is down. The number of new cases -- new COVID cases walking in the door, which is a very important number, that's down.

And the number of lives lost is down to 84. Eighty four is still a tragedy, no doubt, but the fact that it's down as low as it is, is really, overall good news.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: This time of the year, the beaches of Long Island are usually a very favorite haven for a lot of people who live and work in New York City.

But this holiday weekend, it is locals only as officials remain wary of crowds descending on their shores amid this pandemic.

The Nassau County New York Executive Laura Curran is joining us right now. Also, the former US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy is with us as well. He is the author, by the way have a very important new book entitled, "Together: The Healing Power of Human Connections in a Sometimes Lonely World." I recommend it highly.

Laura Curran, let me start with you. You actually signed legislation to keep beaches closed to non-residents, why did you think that was necessary right now?

LAURA CURRAN, NASSAU COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Well, because we have to do 50 percent capacity at our beaches. And I think it's just fair since we are at 50 percent to give the people who pay the taxes to operate the beach priority.

BLITZER: Well, what do you think, Dr. Murthy, when you see these big crowds -- we saw some big crowds in Georgia and South Carolina, elsewhere, parts of Florida -- what's your reaction as the former Surgeon General of the United States?

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, I must say, Wolf, on the one hand, I absolutely understand people's desire to get out there. Summer is coming. Many people have been in their homes for now several months, and they want to get out.

But my concern is that we are still not seeing that criteria met for opening up in many states.

We've been told by the C.D.C. in the White House that we need to see 14 days of declining cases. That's not the case still in many states. And what we're seeing now as we open up is that while some states are staggering in terms of new cases, others are actually getting worse.

We're seeing Minnesota, North Carolina, Alabama, Wisconsin and other states with increasing numbers of new cases. So, we still need to distance. We still need to wear masks. We still need to observe hand hygiene, and we've got to be cautious because we're still learning more about this dangerous virus.

BLITZER: You know, Laura Curran, how did it go today? You have two beautiful beaches over there in Nassau County on Long Island. How did it go today? The North Shore the South Shore, and what are you bracing for tomorrow and Monday.

CURRAN: You know, we do have beautiful beaches here. We're right next to New York City. Nassau County is one of the two counties on Long Island.

We have about 1.3 million people and a lot of people live here because of the beach, beautiful sandy South Shore beaches, the more rocky sort of New England cut-type beaches on the North Shore.

And we always have a very robust season. Our transportation season last year, it was wonderful, you know, one of the books. Obviously, it's going to be very different this year.

So, while New York City is, you know, they have different capacity issues, they have different density issues. People go to the beach on public transportation, it's a little harder to enforce the 50 percent right now.

So, you know, as the city plans for that and gets to a place where they feel comfortable, then we can open up the requirement and anyone is welcome to our beaches, but it just makes sense because we're stuck at 50 percent for now that we should give our residents the first crack at going to the beach.

Now, today was rainy, it was -- I have to say frankly, a very crappy day for the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, but we're expecting sun tomorrow and Monday and I know people are very itching to get out. They've been stuck inside and they just want to get some fresh air and sunshine.

BLITZER: And in Nassau County, Long Island where you are. Laura, are churches going to be open tomorrow as the President is demanding.

CURRAN: Yes, I'm hearing that houses of worship have protocols in place, only 10 people. We actually have a growing Orthodox Jewish community here on Long Island, especially in the five towns and of course, we need a minion of 10 men, and that's very good news for our Jewish community as well.

[18:40:08]

BLITZER: Well, it's a little bit of only 10, Dr. Murthy, 10 is one thing, but if there are hundreds of people in a church or a synagogue or a mosque, that's a very different thing, right?

MURTHY: Yes. And the greater the number is in terms of the crowd size, the greater the risk is, and what also matters is what you're doing in those crowds.

What we've seen in the past is that when people are in groups, and they're singing together, that can actually create increased risk of spread, because when you sing, you're spreading viral particles more forcefully than when you're just having conversation.

So the truth is here that we want to get back to our way of life, we want to do it safely. But there's some circumstances like large crowd size where it's hard.

And finally, it always -- it just comes back to this point around testing, Wolf, which is that if we want to open up safely, so many of those roads run through testing, that's how we know where the infections are, where we need to concentrate on limiting spread.

Without testing, we are running blind.

BLITZER: You know, Laura, earlier today, you tweeted this and I read it. Let me read it to our viewers. "Our residents have done a great job following the rules so far. They get it."

Are they wearing masks? Are they standing six feet apart? Social distancing? Are they wearing gloves? Are they doing those kinds of things based on what you're observing out on Long Island?

CURRAN: You know, I have to say, Wolf, I have been so impressed with our residents. They've really handled this so well. Our lives are turned upside down. Everyone is doing distance learning with their kids.

This is taking a huge toll on our downtown, on our mom and pop shops. But by and large, people get it. You know, we do get complaints to the Fire Marshals about potential overcrowding. A lot of those complaints are unfounded.

And usually when the Fire Marshals or the police have to go, they find that people get it. They just need a sort of a gentle reminder, just a little bit of education, and they get it. They do the right thing.

And when you're out and about, you see people with face coverings. You see them standing six feet apart. People aren't stupid. They get it.

BLITZER: I hope so. You know, Dr. Murthy, you heard the news that Arkansas, North Carolina other places, including other places in the south are experiencing new highs.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson warning today of a second wave potentially emerging right now. Should we all be bracing for more of that?

MURTHY: I think it is worrisome that we have to be prepared this could get worse as people get back to their ways of life, especially if we don't have all of the precautions that we need in place and if we don't have the testing in place to know where the infections are rising again.

We are already worried that in the fall, that there may be a second spike and in combination with the flu season, that will make for a very difficult situation for hospitals.

But finally, we've just got to remember that this is a new virus. We have to approach it with a great deal of caution and humility. We thought in the beginning this is just a disease that affected your lungs. It turns out it affects your kidneys, your heart and other organs.

We thought it was just symptomatic people who could spread, then it turns out asymptomatic people are spreading as well.

That's why we've got to be so cautious and where we need our government to get testing in place. Those are our eyes, those tests. Without it, we are literally flying blind and we can't keep people safe the way they deserve.

BLITZER: And we learned today from the C.D.C. that 40 percent of the infections may be coming from people who have not shown any symptoms at all so far.

Dr. Murthy, as usual, thank you so much for joining us. Laura Curran, good luck out there on Long Island. I know you've got your hands full. Appreciate both of you joining us.

CURRAN: Thanks, Wolf.

MURTHY: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you. Brazil, meanwhile, is reporting a record number of coronavirus cases in a single day. You're going to see how doctors there are dealing with the soaring number of patients.

Our own Nick Paton Walsh, he is on the scene. He'll take all of us inside an ICU. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:48:26]

BLITZER: While many Americans are cautiously trying to enjoy this Memorial Day weekend, Brazil is now tonight only behind the U.S. and Russia and the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus. More than 330,000 people in Brazil have now been infected.

And just yesterday, Brazil reported a record number of cases in only 24 hours, just over 20,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases in one day.

Our Nick Paton Walsh and his team are on the ground in Sao Paulo for us. They're getting a very haunting look at the fight out there on the frontlines.

Nick, a very disturbing scene in hospitals and the Brazilian President, for whatever reason seems to continue to downplay this entire crisis.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yes, he used to call it a little flu. He's talked more about this being a war, but he's still pushing hydroxychloroquine that medicine that Donald Trump, the President of the U.S. has been using, despite medical studies saying, actually, it might be harmful.

We've just heard some news, Wolf, that in fact, the latest numbers today now put Brazil with 347,000 cases, that again makes it the second worst affected country in the world vying with Russia over the last 24 hours back and forth as they've released numbers for that position.

Here in Sao Paulo, though, as we saw chillingly, in the past days, even the best equipped ICU hospitals here are running out of beds.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PATON WALSH (voice over): Sao Paulo, the biggest city and hottest spot for the coronavirus in Brazil, but deathly quiet.

Outside Emilio Ribas Hospital, no new patients arriving on ambulances is not a good sign. In fact, it spells the worst because this huge ICU has run out of beds.

[19:50:12]

PATON WALSH (on camera): What's startling here is that the peak is possibly well over a week away from hitting Brazil, and already this enormous ICU is full.

And in between the beds, there is a growing sense of anxiety, fear really, about what lies ahead.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): Doctors here have heard President Jair Bolsonaro dismiss the disease as a little flu. But presidential platitudes haven't protected them.

One of their nurses died two days ago. Inside this room is one of the team's doctors on a ventilator and another has tested positive this day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACQUES SZTAJNBOK, EMILIO RIBAS INFECTIOUS DISEASES INSTITUTE: Never before it touches us like this time because we have never lost a colleague in this intensive care before.

Yes, definitely it's not a flu. It's the worst thing we have ever faced in our professional lives.

PATON WALSH (on camera): Are you worried for your life here?

SZTAJNBOK: Yes. Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PATON WALSH (voice-over): It's a virus that stifles and silences. But suddenly here there is commotion. One patient, a woman in her 40s, has had cardiorespiratory failure.

The doctor's heavy pulse is the only thing keeping her alive, but after about 40 minutes, it's clear she can't survive.

The body is cleaned, the tubes that kept her alive, disconnected, and she is wheeled out.

And the space will be needed. It all happens so fast, but it leaves a long scar.

A scene so distant from presidential rallies, masks now common much of the time. But wealth put before health.

"We have to be brave," he says, "To face this virus. Are people dying? Yes, they are, and I'll regret that, but many more are going to die if the economy continues to be destroyed because of these lockdown measures."

The holes here in the hills above Sao Paulo are not dug ready for a recession, though, endless fresh graves for the dead who also seem to never stop arriving.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PATON WALSH (on camera): Now, you have to remember that the numbers for Brazil they say 347,000 now confirmed cases, over 21,000 dead are what they know is happening.

We've heard from doctors that actually they only give tests to people with three confirmed symptoms, which means that often people only get a positive if they're already at reasonably advanced stages of the disease.

So, while it is behind the United States, it is not testing with the same amount of thoroughness or universality, Wolf.

So, while you heard in that report there, the peak is possibly one to two weeks away here in Sao Paulo. Remember also, that summer is coming to an end here. We're moving into autumn and winter. And as you could guess, with normal flu season, that could also be an accentuating factor as they move into the peak here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And amidst all of this, Nick, you know, there's a big story.

The President of Brazil, lashing out at local leaders even using profanity in this newly revealed video from a Cabinet meeting. This is not related to the coronavirus response. But let's give our viewers a look. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): What they want is our freedom. That is the truth. Those guys did with the virus, that piece of [bleep] Governor of Sao Paulo and that manure from Rio de Janeiro among others. It's exactly that. They took advantage of the virus and that piece of [bleep] Mayor of Manaus now digging mass graves, he's a piece of [bleep].

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, what had President Bolsonaro so infuriated there?

PATON WALSH: Well, in short, and that video is released by the Supreme Court and its authenticity is not being doubted, it's just that President Jair Bolsonaro has said that it doesn't really incriminate him in the accusations of interference in police investigations that it reported to do.

The key thing about the coronavirus investigation is one, you see how his inner circle speak to each other the way in which they refer to officials here and two, he is targeting the local officials who have put in lockdown measures and asked their populations to wear masks.

Sao Paulo, where I'm standing, it is in lockdown because of its governor's actions. The same with Rio de Janeiro as well. That may save lives possibly in the weeks ahead or may, sadly already have been late. Sao Paulo is getting a large number of cases.

The Mayor of Manaus, that's important because that is a city in the middle of the Amazon. Remote, still though, possibly the worst affected city in the country as well.

Its mayor has been digging large numbers of graves to deal with the vast numbers of casualties comparatively for that city that they got from this outbreak and as you heard there, the profanity being used to describe these people who frankly it seemed are just working to save the lives of ordinary Brazilians.

This all part of the continual endless political intrigue that seems to blight every Brazilian administration.

[19:55:11]

PATON WALSH: Perhaps, Jair Bolsonaro's, more than those before him. But certainly they are absolute direct evidence released by Brazil's Supreme Court of exactly how he thinks of those officials working to try and slow down the spread of the virus.

He just wants the economy to take precedence -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh, just be careful over there. We are all worried about you, but be safe. Thanks so much for your terrific excellent, excellent reporting.

Nick Paton Walsh in Brazil for us.

We have a lot more going on. We're following all the breaking news on the coronavirus.

People are flocking to beaches here in the United States, despite social distancing guidelines. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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