Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Americans Flock To Public Places As Death Toll Nears 100,000; Public Health Experts Urge Safety Vigilance As States Reopen; Interview With Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) About Memorial Day Weekend Amid Coronavirus Pandemic; Mexico Sets New Record For Daily Increase In Coronavirus Cases; Some Houses Of Worship Reopening, Others Remain Closed. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 24, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello again to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Thank you for joining. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Memorial Day weekend 2020, and this holiday meant to honor America's war heroes and mark the start of summer, will now be remembered as the weekend that the U.S. coronavirus death toll edged painfully closer to 100,000 people, zero to nearly 100,000 deaths in just three months.

The pandemic lockdown put in place nationwide so many weeks ago being eased this weekend in some places for the first time. Beaches and public parks cautiously allowing visitors to venture out. Most of those places with visible reminders of health and safety guidelines, instructions to wear a face mask and avoid close human contact.

Clearly, that advice not being followed at this large swimming pool party in Missouri. This video was made yesterday by a T.V. reporter in Lake of the Ozarks. No sign of any precautions at all, people partying, clustered close together, nobody visible wearing a protective mask. The governor of Arkansas this weekend as well announcing a second peak of coronavirus cases in his state and blamed that in part on a swimming pool party that resulted in a cluster of new infections.

CNN correspondents are all around the country right now. Rosa Flores on the beach in Pensacola, Florida, Natasha Chen is in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Paul Vercammen just outside Los Angeles.

Rosa, to you first, show us where you are, how full the beach is, and what are public safety officials telling you?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDNET: Hi, Ana. Yes, walk with me and I'll show you, because here in Pensacola Beach, Florida, what they've done is they separated umbrellas on the beach to make sure that families can come out here, yet social distance at the same time.

Now, it's possible here in Pensacola because there are 8.3 miles of beaches here, and this particular beach in itself is about 250 feet deep, so it allows for this type of separation. Now, as you look at these pictures, please consider this, I talked to the county commissioner that represents this area, and he tells me that, normally, during a Memorial Day weekend, people here would be shoulder to shoulder, there would be multiple concerts, there would also be pride week at the end of the island. The pride week alone brings about 50,000 people. So this is definitely a downgrade from that. But, of course, he said that they wanted to reopen.

Now, if you look over here, you can see that lifeguards are also on duty. We talked to the water safety chief here in Escambia County, and he says that he has been working with his lifeguards to make sure that they are out there saving lives but also being safe. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE GREENWOOD, WATER SAFETY CHIEF, ESCAMBIA COUNTY: Continuous hand washing, maintaining social distancing of six feet or more between people. If we have to work on a patient, the lifeguard providing care will have an N95 non-rebreather or a N95 mask on and also with gloves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLORES: Now, as you take another live look out here, you can see that the umbrellas are being separated. People are able to have a good time. But I actually asked the county commissioner of this area the obvious question, Ana, which is, is he concerned? Is he worried that all of these people coming in from other states, that that could spread the coronavirus here in his community?

And he said, of course he is, but they've done everything that they can. He says that they have followed all of the rules that Governor Ron DeSantis established to reopen safely and smartly. Ana?

CABRERA: And, hopefully, those beach-goers continue to follow the rules. Thank you, Rosa Flores.

Natasha Chen, you've been talking to people going to and from the beach there in South Carolina. What are they telling you?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, Ana, the beach-goers here are starting to leave for dinner time, so it's actually thinned out a bit, but they had been keeping distance from each other, from other groups, that is. And the city manager tells me that it's actually been an extremely peaceful weekend, with the exception of a shooting incident overnight from Saturday into Sunday in a place south of where we are. And, unfortunately, in the same area, there was another shooting the last weekend.

And so, some of that behavior had prompted the City of Myrtle Beach to have a resolution, an executive order, giving police a bit more authority to do things, like potentially close down businesses from 11:00 P.M. to 6:00 A.M., if they need to.

Now, it's recommended by the city and the governor to wear masks in public. I'm wearing mine when I'm not on camera. If there's no one around me, during live shots, that is, I'm taking it off momentarily, but I'm definitely wearing them during interviews, especially when people are at close range. Here is what beach-goers said to me about that.

[18:05:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Outside in Ohio, yes, but since I've been here, honestly, no. I mean, you're the first mask honestly I've seen, if I'm being honest. Everybody here is kind of letting it fly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You wouldn't know a pandemic was going on by looking at the beach today. You just wouldn't. Because even during other summers, people are about this spread out about as they are today. It's about the same. People usually don't sit that close to each other. They're giving each other a little bit of space.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: And another indicator that it feels pretty normal here is that there are a lot of people flocking to the restaurants here. That is very much needed as far as the local businesses, needing the tourism dollars. But there are so many people, the city manager told me, that when city staff went out to regulate the 50 percent capacity that they're supposed to be at, they had to tell a couple of restaurants to show some patrons out the door because they had exceeded that limit, Ana.

CABRERA: Wow. It's obviously a different scene now than it was earlier. Thank you for giving us the bigger picture, Natasha Chen.

Paul Vercammen is joining us now from Southern California on the beach near Los Angeles.

Paul, I know people there, as we've checked in with you throughout the afternoon, have largely been doing the responsible thing. Is that continuing?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is continuing. It's quite amazing, in fact, when you look around me. The rule is, if you go into the water, you don't have to have your mask on. But if you just go ahead and take just a little bit of a visual, look at this young man over here digging away. He's got his mask on. And then take another bit of a gander. Are they six feet apart from each other as they stay on the sand? Most of the people are definitely observing that.

This shot can be a little deceptive, by the way, as we were talking about compression shots. It looks like all of these people are on top of each other, but look at this family over here. They are completely socially distanced from everybody else, and every one of them is wearing a mask. And we were talking to people here about this attitude in Southern California, and they feel that people in other parts of the country, some of them, are not being responsible.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SONIA LAFERRIERE, CALIFORNIA BEACHGOER: I think here, most people are more caring about other people and not so, I don't know, thinking about themselves, you know, selfish and just thinking about me and my freedoms and that whole thing.

You know, here, more people are just more accepting of each other and trying to take care of each other, I think. But you always have a few here too, that you know, aren't doing it.

MAURICE LAFERRIERE, CALIFORNIA BEACHGOER: I think it's social respect, you know. People who might be symptomatic, asymptomatic, it's just social respect, I think.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: And as we come back here live, we're near Los Angeles International Airport, by the way, what we've noticed is that people are social distancing and that the county itself is comfortable with the easing of rules because all the big numbers are going down, hospitalizations and deaths and the like. Ana?

CABRERA: OK. Fingers crossed it stays that way. Paul Vercammen, thank you. Our thanks to Natasha and to Rosa Flores as well.

Arkansas saw its biggest single-day increase in coronavirus cases this past week, but the governor says those cases aren't linked to lifted restrictions. Let's get to CNN's Ed Lavandera in Little Rock for us.

Ed, Arkansas reported 455 new cases of the virus Thursday, a single- day high, and yet, the governor is still defending his steps to reopen?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Remember that Arkansas is one of the few states in the country that did not issue a stay-at-home order when the pandemic first broke out. The governor says that he did not feel it was needed because the population here in Arkansas is such low-density population. And because of that, he felt comfortable not issuing that order.

But the first wave of coronavirus cases and the first peak came about a month ago. But as you mentioned, Ana, here in the last four or five days, they've seen another peak of coronavirus cases starting with about 450 or so on Thursday, about 150 on Friday, then 160 on Saturday. The numbers today a little bit lower, but that could have something to do with the fact of how tests are reported over the weekend. So, health experts will be monitoring the situation here in Arkansas closely.

The governor says that the spike in cases is due in large part to more testing being done in the state, and he feels confident with the way it's being handled here, because the positive infection rates are low as well as the hospitalization rates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): And you look at the reason for the spike, and again, it's because we have greater testing, the fact that we're able to trace it, and we want to build that infrastructure, allows us -- we've got to think about next fall. Where are we going to be? We're not going to be cloistered in our home. That's contrary to the American spirit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: But, Ana, you know, the troubling thing is you drive around here, Little Rock, other parts of Arkansas that we have driven through here today, you see very few people here in this state, at least what I've seen so far today, people not wearing masks.

[18:10:09]

So, we'll see how this continues to play out in the days ahead. It's important to watch.

CABRERA: And, again, the masks are so important. Even Dr. Deborah Birx was talking about this morning, that the science is there, the masks work. Ed Lavandera, thank you.

I want to go back to some of the jaw-dropping images from across the country this weekend, thousands of Americans tempted by warmer weather and seemingly forgetting the past couple of months and ignoring the nearly 100,000 deaths and counting and disregarding advice about social distancing and wearing masks.

So, what does this signal for the weeks and months ahead? With us now is the President of the American Medical Association, Dr. Patrice Harris, and Dr. F. Perry Wilson, an Associate Professor of Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine.

Dr. Harris, these images we are seeing across the country of people crowded together, a lot of people not wearing masks, are these possible outbreaks just waiting to happen?

DR. PATRICE HARRIS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAN ASSOCIATION: Well, we know that masks do help, as Dr. Birx said this morning, the science is clear. And so, if people do not wear a mask, if people decide not to stay at least six feet apart and gather in large crowds, there certainly is a risk that we will see increase in the number of infections and in the number of cases.

I think though that the good news is that we did also see photos of people on the beaches. We understand that people want to get out, and we did see photos where people were staying six feet apart and weren't wearing masks. And the polls show that most folks in this country are aware and believe that we should continue these best public health practices, so that is the good news.

But certainly for those folks who are not and are in close contacts, they're at increased risk of infection.

CABRERA: And when we know people who are going to the beaches or, you know, these pool parties, perhaps are coming from out of town, even out of state in some cases, is the nation's contact tracing system ready?

HARRIS: Well, it must be. And I don't know that we have a coordinated national strategy, and I'm not sure that every jurisdiction has the tracers. It's very complicated. You need, certainly, a lot of folks to do that. Technology can help.

And then once you do the contact tracing, you need to be able to isolate and quarantine. And sometimes you need support for that. So, I believe that, as a whole, there may be some areas that are further along, but I'm worried that not everyone has the current testing and tracing capacity that we really need at this moment in time.

CABRERA: Dr. Wilson, I want to put back up the video of that pool party in Osage Beach, Missouri, yesterday. You can see social distancing is not possible, and no one that we can see in this video is wearing a mask. The bar posted that they were going to take several precautions at this party, including operating at a reduced capacity to allow for social distancing, taking the temperature of all attendees, having bottles of hand sanitizer available for free and placing hand sanitizer stations throughout the property.

And they say they were continually cleaning and sanitizing bathrooms and that they had a paramedic on staff during the entire event. Are those precautions enough?

DR. F. PERRY WILSON, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, YALE UNIVERSITY: Well, they're not enough to mitigate all the risk. We know that the highest risk things you can do is be in a large group of people indoors. But outdoors is by no means risk-free, and that risk increases with every additional person and the closer together people are. And that video certainly has a lot of people that appear to be quite close together.

Now, that risk for coronavirus is different than typical risks people might face in their day-to-day life because we have to remember that in coronavirus, the risk isn't only to you. Any one of those people who got infected at that party is going to spend somewhere between 5 and 12 days before they develop symptoms, when they are able to transmit that virus to someone else.

They won't know they're infected yet and they will be interacting potentially with their parents, with older relatives, people with comorbid conditions, people who are high risk. So we really need to remind people that when you are going to a place like that, you're assuming risk not just on yourself, but on others.

Now, you can mitigate that risk a little bit, of course. We would remind people to wash their hands, avoid touching their face. Don't share drinks. But my advice to my patients and my friends is that if you want to go out, great. If you go and you find a place where there's not social distancing, where people aren't wearing masks, the best thing you can do to mitigate your own risk is to turn around and go somewhere else.

CABRERA: So, Dr. Wilson, do you feel comfortable then with what you're seeing in some of these other locations? In Paul's live shot, for example, in Southern California, people on the beach are wearing masks, they are social distancing. Would you consider that low risk?

[18:15:00]

WILSON: Low is very tough to say because coronavirus is a particularly infectious respiratory virus. And so, it has a lot to do with where you are in the country, how many cases there are around, et cetera. So, no, nothing short of, you know, locking yourself in your house is going to be zero risk. But we don't want anyone to do that. We just want the risk to be as low as possible.

And so, those types of behaviors, that wearing the mask, social distancing, is exactly what we need to get out of this. You know, none of us want to be stuck in quarantine anymore. The pathway out is engaging in these simple, simple behaviors that help not only us reduce the risk to ourselves but reduce the risk to our community.

I've told a lot of people, I find that act patriotic. I think that there's been a real injustice that mask-wearing has been framed as some affront to personal liberty, when, in fact, in the history of this country, when the chips are down, when we face an existential threat, Americans bind together, they engage in shared sacrifice to help each other.

And that's what we need to get out of this. We need to get back to that American sense of caring for one another that we seem to have lost.

CABRERA: That's a great place for us to end. Thank you very, very much, Doctors Patrice Harris and F. Perry Wilson. I appreciate you both being here, and be well. Thank you for all you do.

HARRIS: Thank you.

WILSON: Thank you.

CABRERA: A quick programming note. Join CNN's Fareed Zakaria as he investigates the moment a pandemic was born. CNN's special report, "China's Deadly Secret," airs tonight at 9:00 here on CNN.

Memorial Day is dedicated to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for other Americans. So, as we near 100,000 lives lost to the coronavirus here in the U.S., why is it so hard to get Americans to wear a mask to protect others?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:20:00]

CABRERA: I want to show you some video we just got into CNN. This is Virginia Beach, Virginia, here. And you can see a pretty thin crowd on that beach. One thing working to keep those numbers down, overcast, chilly weather, it is just 57 degrees there right now. A very different story in some parts of the country, of course, as we mentioned earlier, because here's how some people in other parts of the country are responding to warnings from public health officials to avoid large crowds. They're simply ignoring them. These are all images from this weekend. And in so many of those images, you see no masks, no six feet of social distancing, no regard for the medical community who is stressing the importance of both. On a holiday meant to honor the sacrifice of brave American soldiers, looking at these scenes, it's clear some aren't even willing to sacrifice comfort to wear a mask in order to save fellow Americans.

Let me bring in CNN's Senior Political Analyst David Gergen. David, it's good to see you. It's been a while. I know you've been doing what you need to do to stay home and protect yourself, your family. You've also advised Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton.

And from your vantage point, you've had a front row seat to some very challenging times, obviously, in this country. But on a weekend dedicated to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for other Americans, have you ever seen the country this unwilling to come together for a common good?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I'm afraid not. I don't think any of us have seen anything like this before. Listen, I think what we're seeing today is people not just ignoring the guidelines but intentionally defying the guidelines. And this has been a country, it is important to remember, that has long had a tradition of individualism, you know.

Personal freedom has been central. We're much more -- we had much more emphasis upon individuals than most other western country. We're different in that respect. So, we have to expect that at a time like this, people are going to go their own ways.

But I do think there is something else that's missing here, and that is, in past crises, anything approaching this, we look to the president of the United States and the team around him for leadership. We look to him for guidance. We look to him for inspiration, and very importantly, for bringing us together.

And we now have a situation where the president, for reasons of his own, is thumbing his nose at science. You know, he's starting to muscle in various ways CDC and Dr. Fauci. The fact that this masking, whether you wear a mask or not in public, has now become political, cultural division, and that whether you have churches open this weekend or not has become a cultural argument, instead of uniting us, I'm sorry to say this president has done more to divide us than any president in my memory.

And, you know, I think Jon Meacham there, one of my favorite writers, said he makes Richard Nixon look like a goodwill artist, or, you know, somebody coming into your -- greeting your children in a very friendly way. And I just don't -- I don't think it's easy to get out of it, and I think it's not going to be solved, frankly, until after the elections, until we have one or the other side wins, and even then it's going to be difficult. But having a president that makes Richard Nixon, you know, look in a way he does now is stunning.

CABRERA: Yes. As we've been discussing --

GERGEN: Mr. Rogers, come to your neighborhood.

CABRERA: You think that he makes Richard Nixon look like Mr. Rogers?

GERGEN: (INAUDIBLE) looks like Mr. Rogers. I was stumping there for a second.

CABRERA: I want to play what we heard from Dr. Deborah Birx, who was expressing her concern this morning about some of the images that we've been seeing this weekend. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Out of respect for each other, as Americans that care for each other, we need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social distance. It's really critically important.

[18:25:00]

We have the scientific evidence of how important mask-wearing is to prevent those droplets from reaching others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: David, Americans died protecting each other, but based on what we are seeing, nearly 100,000 people dead from the virus, and the president not lead by example and wear a mask? Why?

GERGEN: You know, I really think what's going on, he does not want the Democrats to get a picture of him with a mask on that they can use in advertisements coming to fall. I think he thinks that would be a sign of weakness, they can make him the pandemic president, where his numbers are low. He wants to be the president, the man who can get the economy turned back around again. And I think that is really the driving force behind this. He just doesn't want to give them that photo op.

And, you know, people often get hurt. You remember the Michael Dukakis campaign way back when and the Democrats put Dukakis, their nominee, into a tank and let him roll around, and he looked ridiculous. And it was a childish thing, but it hurt him enormously. Ads can have that effect in political campaigns, and I think that's at heart of this.

CABRERA: This country has seen dark times before, from the nightmare of September 11th to a collapsing economy in 2008, but this pandemic is occurring in a terrifying perfect storm, compromised of three parts. Let me go through it. One, death on a scale we simply have not dealt with in modern times, more than 30 times 9/11 and counting.

Two, job losses, on a scale without modern precedent, 8.7 million jobs were lost in the entire financial crisis, versus 20.5 million lost in April of 2020 alone. And then, three, a presidential election year with a commander in chief who thrives on exploiting Americans' fears of each other. David, given all you've seen and been through after serving multiple presidents, as varied as Nixon to Clinton, what from your experience gives you any sense of what comes next?

GERGEN: I think the only thing of which we can be certain is that we don't know what comes next. What I do think is likely, the most likely outcome is going to be determined by what happens on the health front. As long as Americans are too frightened to go to many places like get on an airplane or go into a restaurant or go for a vacation out of the west or something, as long as people are scared to do that, the economy is going to be in trouble, and this is going to be a huge sensitive, sharp political issue as we approach the elections.

If we find a vaccine, it's going to end quickly, that could transform things. The economy would be in much better shape as a result and we'd be more on the road to normal. But given how unlikely that is, how hard that is, you know, we've been -- I think there's been too much optimism, from what I can tell in talking to scientists. There's been too much optimism that a vaccine is just around the corner. The more likely result is it's going to be a longer and slower process.

And if we have more examples of defiance of the suggested guidelines, as we saw in those clips from the lake of the Ozarks -- that was really stunning to see those clips -- then I think it's going to be a much longer process, however, and it's going to leave us much more divided.

CABRERA: And we have to all have strength and patience and perseverance through all of this. David Gergen, thank you very much. And it's nice to see you.

GERGEN: And one thing, be optimistic about the long term. Don't write off America yet. But it's going to be, the long term I think is longer away than we thought.

CABRERA: OK. David, thank you very much. Be well and stay safe.

GERGEN: Thank you.

CABRERA: This Memorial Day weekend, as we all take pause to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, one congresswoman is trying to help families honor their loved ones. She'll join us live to tell us how.

But first, Christine Romans has this week's Before the Bell. Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. A milestone on the road to recovery, the New York Stock Exchange will allow traders to return to the trading floor this week. NYSE Trading has been fully electronic since March 23rd, but the exchange says floor traders help reduce volatility and ensure fairer prices.

Unfortunately, volatility overall may be here to stay. Stocks swung back and forth last week as headlines about progress on a coronavirus vaccine moved the market. Economic data will be in focus this week. May consumer confidence is due.

We'll also get a second look at first-quarter gross domestic product. The initial reading showed the economy shrank at an annual rate of 4.8 percent. It was the first contraction since 2014 and the worst drop since the height of the financial crisis.

Keep in mind, it's a short week on Wall Street. On Monday, the markets are closed for Memorial Day.

In New York, I'm Christine Romans.

[18:30:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: This holiday weekend isn't just about the start of summer. Memorial Day is also about honoring the lives of Americans who died in service to this country. For many families, it usually means a trip to somewhere like Arlington National Cemetery or other cemeteries where veterans have been laid to rest.

But Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, a Democrat from Illinois, knows that many of the people who would normally visit the graves of these heroes are in a high-risk health group.

[18:35:04]

So she reached out by e-mail, offering to visit the graves of her constituents' loved ones for them and place flowers of remembrance. And Congresswoman Lauren Underwood joins us now.

Thank you for being here, for what you are doing. You serve on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and you'll be visiting a number of veterans' cemeteries in Illinois tomorrow, I understand. How did you come up with this idea?

REP. LAUREN UNDERWOOD (D-IL): Hi, Ana. Well, we know that there are many people, whether they're symptomatic and ill with COVID, maybe they're essential workers, or for many other reasons aren't able to go and acknowledge the sacrifices of their loved ones. We've seen during this time of isolation and quarantine that so many of our family gatherings and holiday celebrations have had to be adjusted.

And so we knew that this would be an opportunity to serve our constituents and make sure that we could mark this important occasion of those who so honorably served our country and gave the ultimate sacrifice.

CABRERA: So how many graves will you be visiting tomorrow? How many families have reached out to you?

UNDERWOOD: Well, the last report that I got was we're in the 30s, but we've been doing a lot more outreach, so I don't know. I'm getting up early tomorrow, heading out around 6:00 a.m. and so we're going to have all the supplies, some flags and some flowers, and I look forward to being able to honor these great heroes. CABRERA: You offer to do this for people who don't feel comfortable

going out, are high-risk, or maybe they aren't feeling well. So what's your reaction to some of these scenes we're seeing across the nation this weekend, you know, huge crowds of people, many people who aren't social distancing, who aren't wearing masks?

UNDERWOOD: Well, I'm worried. I'm worried that we're going to see a spike in cases, increase in hospitalizations, and that more people will die. You know, while we've all been at home, the virus has been outside waiting for us. And you know, when I see these images on television, I just worry about the health and well-being of my community.

CABRERA: You worked at Health and Human Services helping communities prevent and prepare for public health emergencies. So as we approach 100,000 Americans dead in a few months' time and some people are behaving like things are simply back to normal, why do you think there's such a disconnect?

UNDERWOOD: Well, you know, there's been a little bit of a disparate experience with COVID-19. I live in a state that's had a lot of cases for a long time. We've had pretty consistently around 4,000 people in Illinois hospitalized due to COVID-19. And I personally continue to get e-mails about deaths in my personal network, people who are dying of all ages after being exposed and falling ill.

I think that that experience is a little bit different than some other people. I talk about my colleagues who, for example, in their communities might not have a health care crisis. They might only see in their backyards an economic crisis. And so, they're not feeling the tensions of both. But here in northern Illinois, we have seen sort of the dark side of COVID-19, when it takes over a nursing home and we see an outbreak there, or an outbreak among essential workers.

And then we've also seen the swift and unprecedented economic impact. And so I think that it's just a function of people not realizing the damage that this virus can do and who truly is at risk.

CABRERA: That damage may not be as tangible, as you point out, for some people in different communities.

UNDERWOOD: Yes.

CABRERA: When you think about the sacrifices --

UNDERWOOD: A simple yes. That's right.

CABRERA: You know, as we think about the sacrifices made by the people whose graves you will visit tomorrow, what would you say to people who are griping about having quarantine fatigue?

UNDERWOOD: Well, I would say I understand. This is a lot. For people who are isolated and they're alone during quarantine or maybe spending a lot of time with family members where they've never done that before or facing a real economic crisis of their own, we understand. And this is an enormous sacrifice that we are all making. But just because you haven't felt the impact of the health care crisis yet doesn't mean that it's not on the other horizon.

So, please, take this opportunity to protect yourselves and your families and all of us in our communities. There are many, many vulnerable people, whether they're immuno-compromised, have pre- existing conditions, or other reasons that they may be more vulnerable to COVID-19. Take the opportunity to wear the mask, wash your hands, and stay six feet from one another to limit the spread of this highly infectious illness.

CABRERA: Congresswoman Lauren Underwood, I appreciate your time today. Thank you and good luck tomorrow in your efforts.

UNDERWOOD: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: New tonight, as the number of cases surge in Brazil, the White House is announcing new travel restrictions on Brazil. We'll have the details next.

[18:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: President Trump today unveiling new travel restrictions for Brazil. The White House announced it will deny entry to any individual who has been in Brazil within 14 days.

Brazil has seen a big surge this week in coronavirus cases. The country's now second behind only the U.S. in the number of virus infections with nearly 350,000 cases and more than 22,000 deaths, prompting the World Health Organization to call South America the new epicenter of this pandemic.

In Mexico this weekend, a grim, new record for the most new coronavirus cases in a single day. The country's Ministry of Health reporting more than 3,300 new infections, bringing the total number of cases to more than 65,000 in that country.

This past week has been Mexico's worst since the beginning of the outbreak. Deaths from the virus recorded over the last seven days represent nearly one-third of Mexico's entire official death toll of more than 7,000.

Let's go to CNN's Matt Rivers in Mexico City. And Matt, what is behind this sudden surge of new cases and deaths there?

[18:45:01]

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we've just seen a general steady uptick here in Mexico. It's not like there was a backlog of cases or anything like that. It has just been slowly incrementally getting worse to the point that we are, without question, in the worst days of this outbreak that we have seen here in Mexico so far, and there is every indication that it could continue to get worse. I mean, there are people out and about all over the place here in Mexico City, many of whom don't wear any sorts of protection in terms of masks or anything like that. So we don't know really where it goes from here. But you mentioned it,

I mean, this week we've seen nearly one-third of all of the deaths recorded, you know, just in the last seven days. It's pretty remarkable. And the amount of cases has gone up about 40 percent as well. But when we talk about Mexico, Ana, you have to talk about testing.

Mexico is one of the lowest testing rates of any country around the world. And so, when you look at these numbers, yes, they might seem relatively low, 65,000 cases, 7,000 deaths, but that is why health officials tell us that because the testing here is so low, the actual number of cases could be well into the millions, and the actual death toll could be double the officially reported number, Ana, or even higher than that.

CABRERA: Wow. That's a scary thought. Matt Rivers in Mexico City tonight. Thank you.

President Trump this week pushed for houses of worship to reopen in this country, but even faith leaders remain divided about whether that was the right decision. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:51:02]

CABRERA: Right now there is a memorial in honor of those who passed away from COVID-19. 100,000 churches across the country are holding a service to remember the nearly 100,000 Americans who have lost their fight against the coronavirus. The plan was hatched by faith leaders who are concerned over people's ability to properly grieve loved ones, given the stay-at-home restrictions that have been in place.

Meanwhile, today, from coast to coast, we saw some Americans heading to their houses of worship. The CDC has issued new guidelines for the reopening of churches and other religious institutions and their reopening is one that the president pushed hard this week, even threatening to override governors who don't comply. This as the number of Americans infected with the coronavirus tops 1.6 million and the nation's death toll nears 100,000.

Father Edward Beck is a CNN religion commentator and joins us now.

Father Beck, it's so nice to see you on this Sunday. Do you feel confident that it's safe for people to return to church?

FR. EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Well, not totally yet. I think we need to do it incrementally as we are. And I think it depends state to state. I think it depends church to church. Some churches have very small congregations, some have very big congregations. So I think that the guidelines need to be tailored to the denomination, to the size of the congregation and to where you are.

CABRERA: Do you agree with the president that houses of worship should be deemed essential? BECK: Well, houses of worship are essential for some people, but

essential does not necessarily mean that they have to be opened en masse all at once for everyone to come. I mean, essential services have still been being performed even during this time of lockdown. I mean, I've heard confessions. I've anointed the sick. You know, we've said mass via Zoom and we've counseled on the phone via Facetime.

So it's not as if the essential services has ended. What has ended is the capacity for people to come together in a large group. And I understand people want communion. They want to be able to gather. But we have to wait until we can do that safely.

CABRERA: I was looking at some headlines this afternoon and we know that, you know, 38 percent of those who attended an event at a church in Arkansas eventually became positive with coronavirus, and when you think about that, I mean, there are still churches who have had services and clearly it's not like everybody who's going to church is necessarily doing the right thing and even when they are, it doesn't make anybody immune to catching this illness.

Do you think it's enough for everybody to be making their own choice as to whether they're willing to take the risk or does there need to be more, I guess, guidance or regulations about it from the top down?

BECK: Well, I would prefer the regulation but, you know, Ana, it gets tricky. So does that mean the pastor has to enforce it? Because we've heard some of these pastors say Jesus wouldn't let that happen in my church? I'm protected. And actually one of those pastors who said that died of COVID-19.

So you see, you can say that the state can legislate something or the CDC can put out guidelines. But unless the pastor or unless the diocese, unless the synagogue, the mosque is willing to enforce those guidelines, then I don't know really what you can do about it. I mean, it's people's commonsense but sometimes they seem to lack it.

CABRERA: Father Beck, it's great to have you here with us. Thank you. Be well.

BECK: Thanks, Ana. You, too.

CABRERA: Up next, as America reopens, images like this are deeply troubling for many health experts. We know our country can't slow the virus unless we follow social distancing guidelines. I'll speak with the mayor of Daytona Beach where this happened, straight ahead live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

[18:55:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Thank you for joining me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York and Memorial Day weekend 2020, this holiday meant to honor America's war hero and marks the start of summer.