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Myrtle Beach PIO Director, Mark Kruea, Discusses Executive Order Reminding Beachgoers to Follow Rules; Mayor Jacob Frey (D- Minneapolis) Discusses Wearing Masks Requirement, Trump Pushing for Churches to Reopen; TAPS President & Founder, Bonnie Carroll, Discusses a Different Memorial Day Amid COVID & Helping Americans with Greif; Trump Threatens to Pull GOP Convention Out of Charlotte, NC. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 25, 2020 - 11:00   ET



ERIC HILL, CNN ANCHOR: "NEWSROOM" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to a special Memorial Day edition of the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John King, in Washington. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

This is, above all else, a solemn holiday. The commander-in-chief last hour honoring the fallen with a traditional wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery.

It is also a sober and strange holiday. Sober because of the pain and disruption of the coronavirus pandemic. Strange because, when he is not at a carefully scripted event or at the golf course, the president is mocking both the dignity of this day and the gravity of this moment by spewing falsehoods, insults and conspiracy theories in a holiday weekend treat rage.

We will soon hit a numbing milestone, 100,000 American lives lost from the coronavirus. We will do so as America reopens and Americans fill beaches and pack barbecues.

This is video from over the weekend at a lake of the Ozarks pool party. Guests say there were temperature checks to get in and there was hand sanitizer at every turn. But you can see from the images pool-goers clearly disregarding what the nation's top public health experts say should be our new standard in everyday life, masks and social distancing.

Fifty of 50 states are partially open, not open enough, in the president's view. He will lay another wreath next hour at Fort McHenry. The Baltimore mayor calls that a bad example because his city's residents are still under a stay-at-home order.

The president is threatening to pull the Republican National Convention from North Carolina. That's because North Carolina's governor cannot commit his state will be fully open for visitors and large gatherings by August. Open faster, is the president's constant push, and open for good, he says.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I was hearing millions of people -- and it would have been millions of people. If we didn't shut down --, now would I shut it down again, no, because we understand it now much better. We didn't know anything about it.


UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: You would not, in retrospect, have shut down --


TRUMP: I would have done -- we've done the exact moves that I would have done. And I did it early.


KING: Ohio reopens its pools this week. Kentucky barbershops can cut hair again. California plans to put out guidelines for churches to reopen later today.

Memorial Day, the unofficial gateway to summer but what you can do depends on where you live.

Let's take a look at the most recent trends. Number one, this is the national trend. Over the last two weeks, you see the seven-day moving average is the red line. That's a plateau, down a little bit but coming down very stubbornly.

These are the newly confirmed cases across the country in the last four days. The United States still 20,000 cases a day. A few spikes but you see that line seven-day average slowly coming down but that's a slow drop.

Deaths, these are the top five states as we approach 100,000 right here. New York, the leader, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Michigan and Pennsylvania adding up to the top of that death toll. Again, we will soon hit 100,000.

Let's look at the map as we enter this new week. And 18 states heading in the wrong direction. That means their cases this week -- last week, bigger than the previous week. We're just on a Monday right now.

Eighteen going in the wrong direction, the orange and the red. The red is even worse. Arkansas there.

Twenty-two states, that's the beige, holding steady. They're in a plateau, maybe down a little bit, but essentially flat in their cases.

Ten states heading in the right direction. They're in green, including the big state of Texas. Michigan was hard hit. New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut hard hit. At the moment trending in the right direction. That's good news there. Let's take a look at Michigan. You see here, one-day spike there but

watch the red line. That's the seven-day rolling average. It is slowly but coming down. That is good news for the state of Michigan.

Minnesota is a different story. Again, you see some spikes day to day. Follow the red line, seven-day moving average, and it's flat at best, inching up a little bit, especially if you look at the last few days. If that continues, the red line will follow.

And South Carolina, again, flat, up a bit in recent days. The last four days the case count going up there. You see that line heading. If this continues, that line will start to trickle back up.

CNN's Natasha Chen is live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Natasha, you're in a vacation haven. The trend line flat at best, probably going in the wrong direction. But I see modest crowds on the beach behind you.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, it's definitely less crowded today than it was yesterday. And the city of Myrtle Beach has been careful about this.

They had an executive order that I want to ask our guest about, the city's public information office director, Mark Kruea.

Mark, Mr. Kruea, tell us about this executive order and why it had to be put in place?

MARK KRUEA, DIRECTOR, MYRTLE BEACH PUBLIC INFORMATION DEPARTMENT: We were trying to make sure that people followed the rules, that they were protecting themselves.

This requires a good bit of personal responsibility. You need to make sure you're wearing a mask and you're self-distancing as much as possible. And for the most part, people on the beach have followed that rule. We wanted to make sure we did what we could to encourage that.


CHEN: I've seen one other person besides the two of us wearing a mask. How about yourself, have you observed that much in town?

KRUEA: It varies. I will say the level of concern varies from person to person. Usually, you'll see a family group and they will all be wearing mask. I would say it's 50/50 or a little higher probably among the people who are on Ocean Boulevard or out shopping or going to restaurants.

CHEN: I know that there are city regulators who have been trying to make sure restaurants keep at that 50-percent capacity or lower. I hear there are a couple of them who have had too many people.

KRUEA: We did have a few instances over the weekend where restaurants were too busy, too much of a good thing, if you will. And we did have to advise them that you've exceeded what the governor's rules are in terms of occupancy and you need to break it apart a little bit.

We've seen lines outside restaurants and perhaps that's where the social distancing is not occurring as people are waiting to get into a restaurant.

CHEN: And I know that the businesses are really welcoming this cash flow, but also it comes at a risk?

KRUEA: It does. This is a quicker start-up than I think we anticipated. There must have been some pent-up demand among the public to get out and do something.

We're glad Myrtle Beach is their go to place but you have to recognize we're not quite back to full strength at this point. The restaurants don't have their full staff necessarily.

CHEN: Absolutely.

Thank you so much for --

KRUEA: Thank you.

CHEN: -- joining us on the beach.

Of course, like he said, people are desperate to get out but it does come at a health risk -- John?

KING: Natasha Chen, in Myrtle Beach for us. Appreciate the live report.

Thank your guest for us as well.

The nation's top health officials are being crystal clear, as more people start getting out and about, wearing a mask can help stop the spread of coronavirus.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, COORDINATOR, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: We have said to people is there's clear scientific evidence now by all the droplet experiments that happened and that others have done to show that a mask does prevent droplets from reaching others.

And 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.


KING: So that leaves local leaders with a decision: Do they recommend or require them? Starting tomorrow in Minneapolis, masks are required in public indoor spaces, from retail stores to government buildings. Businesses have to mandate their employees to wear masks though they do not have to provide that mask. And they can refuse entry to any visitor or customer not wearing one.

Joining me the mayor of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey.

Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for your time today on this important day.

Walk through the decision -- again, you know, you've seen some of the protests. There's a lot of people worried about government overreach. Mask is common sense. Why did you decide "require," not "recommend?"

JACOB FREY, (D), MAYOR OF MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA: Minneapolis, as the largest and densest city in the state of Minnesota, has to take additional precautions as our economy opens in some form. And requiring to wear masks in an indoor public place of accommodation is simply the right move to help out our immune-compromised neighbors.

People are to the wearing masks because the government told them to. They're wearing mask because it's baked into our values. We want to look out for our neighbors and our family. And we recognize while I, myself, may not be particularly high risk, there are others who we want to help that are.

KING: One of the interesting dilemmas, if you want to call it -- maybe that's not the right word at this moment -- is if people are looking for advice, they can look to their mayor if they live in your city or their governor.

And getting a lot of incoming from the president of the United States who demanded over the weekend and he was thinking about your governor in particular, reopen churches, reopen churches. The president wanted it done this past weekend.

Here's what your governor said and let's listen to a little bit. I'm working on it but be patient.


GOV. TIM WALZ (D-MN): Starting on May 27, places of worship may open at a 25-percent occupancy if they adhere to social distancing and other public health guidelines to keep congregants safe.


KING: You mentioned you're an urban dense area for the state. How do you feel about churches beginning to reopen in your city? And is the advice from the president in this case helpful or not helpful?

FREY: I support our governor. I think he's doing a tremendous job. And he's looking out for the entire state of Minnesota. Whereas, I'm looking out for the unique characteristics associated with Minneapolis.

A move up to 25 percent capacity and up to 250 people in places of worship is a recipe in Minneapolis for a public health disaster. That is not the route that we can or should be going on right now. We are considering some form of an emergency regulation ourselves to prevent that number of people gathering in one place.

And look, think about the characteristics of these places of worship. It's oftentimes older senior citizens attending services, singing and breathing and, at times, even with physical distancing, they're in close proximity to one another.


We've seen how this has played out in other cities throughout the world. In Frankfurt, a one particular religious ceremony had like 40 people that came out with COVID-19 and six were hospitalized. Out in Washington State, you had almost the entire choir that contracted COVID-19 in some way.

So we need to be looking out for public health right now. And, you know, the truth is there's no right to put other people's health at risk.

KING: Mayor, give me a sense of where you are right now, your state and area have been a roller coaster, starts to go down, and then up. New confirmed cases. That's a pretty flat line if you think about it, a dip in the middle. It's hard to read that, one day up, one day down. If you're the mayor trying to get a steady down, that would be a plateau. Maybe if you disagree please jump in.

What's your sense? Where are you right now?

FREY: We took fairly aggressive measures very early on to elongate the curve. And because we were able to elongate the curve, we're still seeing ascending numbers right now. Most public health experts are saying we won't hit our true peak until sometime in late July or August.

Here's the important thing that people often forget. By taking all of these measures, we're not decreasing the total number of people that contract COVID-19. We're decreasing the total number of people that contract COVID-19 all at once to the extent that it would overrun our hospital system and we wouldn't have enough ICUs and ventilators to keep up.

We're taking the right precautions now looking to -- listening to public health experts and then making decisions based on that data here in Minnesota.

KING: Mr. Mayor, keep in touch as you go through those weeks. As you say, weeks and potentially months ahead as you stretch this out. Thanks for your time, sir.

FREY: Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

As we do to break, a reminder on this Memorial Day right here from the governor of Virginia.


GOV. RALPH NORTHAM (D-VA): We all honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend the blessings of liberty that we hold so dear. I ask that you remember their courage, their devotion and, above all,

their sacrifice. I ask that you remember the families that they left behind.




KING: This Memorial Day, most ceremonies honoring the fallen are being held virtually or with restrictions.




KING; That a bit earlier today. The president, vice president, secretary of defense attending the annual wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Next hour, the president is visiting Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

Already there is our next guest, Bonnie Carroll. She's the president and founder of TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

Bonnie, thank you for sharing time with us on this special day.

When I was a kid, my dad was active in his local VFW post leadership. And it was a day to go to the cemetery and military memorials, to have a parade, to have crowds, to have people around to honor the fallen and to remember their families as well. It's very different this year.

BONNIE CARROLL, PRESIDENT & FOUNDER, TRAGEDY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM FOR SURVIVORS: It's very different, John. And for 25 years, TAPS has brought the families of American's fallen heroes to Arlington to participate in ceremonies with the president.

But this year things look very different. We held our national survivors seminar still with thousands of families across the country but it was held virtually.

Today, we have just a small group of our families here for this White House ceremony at Fort McHenry.

KING: You have this experience born of sadness but such critical and heartwarming experiences because you help the families of the fallen, the survivors, people who need to get through their grief and find a sense of direction, perhaps.

Now you're trying to help people with COVID-19 who are dealing with this, whether it's frontline workers. Walk us through those efforts.

CARROLL: Grief is tremendously isolating, but there are resources available. We have a wonderful site at that's available to absolutely everyone.

We want people to know that they're not alone in their grief, that there's support available. Please check out that resource. It's got the mourners Bill of Rights. It has so many useful tools that will help all those who are grieving.

But today, as we honor those who have paid the ultimate price for freedom, we stand with Americans who are struggling as well.

KING: And what are you learning? Obviously, you deal with this mainly with military families in the past. What new things are you learning?

You talk about how isolating grief can be. People are losing family and can't say goodbye. That happens to many military families if the serviceman or woman is deployed overseas when that happens. Is there similarities and what are the differences?

CARROLL: Absolutely, John. It's incredibly similar. For military families, they have struggled with that separation, that anxiety of losing a loved one while being separated, much like people are experiencing now with COVID.


But we let our families know that they can recognize their grief, that they can have rituals. They may look differently, but they can honor the life lived. It's not about the moment or the manner of the death.

In our case, it's about the service given to this country. And today, on Memorial Day, we remember and honor all those who have served and died for America.

KING: Yes, we do.

It's important, sometimes people are afraid to ask for help, especially if they come out of a culture of strength in the military.

Talk to those who at home whether from a military family or somebody deal with the coronavirus if they think maybe it's a sign of weakness to reach out and get the help that you can give them?

CARROLL: No, it's so important to reach out. Our Web site at really lets folks know that they're not alone, that what they're feeling is completely normal and that they can reach out for support, even if it has to be physically distanced.

KING: Bonnie Carroll, thank you so much for your time and expertise today and your compassion. It's critical every day, but especially on this day.

CARROLL: Thank you.

KING; Thank you very much.

CARROLL: Thank you very much.

KING; Thank you.

Just ahead, on this long weekend dedicated to the fallen, the president of the United States for whatever reason is in a Twitter rage.



KING: The president's Twitter feed is a rolling display of conspiracy theories and grievances this long holiday weekend. Insults spewing to Hillary Clinton and Jeff Sessions.

And today, a threat to pull the Republican National Convention out of North Carolina.

The president tweeting, in part, "Unfortunately, Democrat Cooper is still in shutdown mood and unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the arena. If not," the president goes on in the tweet, "we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site."

Vice President Mike Pence mentioned two states with Republican governors this morning as he discussed alternatives.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We think of Texas. We think of Florida, Georgia, the last two states I visited last week that have made a tremendous progress on reopening their communities.

We look forward to working with Governor Cooper, getting a swift response. And if needs be, if needs be, moving the national convention to a state that is farther along on reopening and can say with confidence that we can gather there.


KING: With me now, two veteran Trump watchers who work for the "Washington Post," Toluse Olorunnipa and Seung Min Kim.

Toluse, let me start with you.

In this threat to pull the convention, Governor Cooper says, science, data, I need time. I'm not sure if it's going to be wise to bring thousands of people from all around the country, have them descend into one packed arena and then go home. He says he needs time.

Does the White House have a timeline here? We are talking days away from trying to find an alternative site or do we think this is a push?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": It's always hard to tell with the president because there's a lot of difference between what the president is doing and what the officials within the White House, the officials in the campaign are doing. I've spoken to people in North Carolina who have said they have been

working cooperatively with members of the RNC, Republican national officials, who are actually trying to decide how to move forward in a way that's safe and makes sense. And they're working cooperatively behind the scenes.

When the president blows up the process with a tweet like this and makes it seem like he can easily decide, just on impulse, to say or tweet that he's leaving North Carolina behind and moving toward a more friendly state, he's on the phone with governors of Florida and Georgia and Texas all the time, I wouldn't be surprised if a president calls an audible and overrules the cooperative work going on between the RNC and officials in North Carolina.

KING: In a bizarre way, Seung Min, in the world of Trump, we could at least say this tweet is about something real, right? The president does have a convention scheduled in North Carolina. It is an issue.

If you look at the Twitter feed this weekend -- and we can scroll through some sf it it's hard to keep up with --- vicious insults at Hillary Clinton, his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, Speaker Pelosi, Stacey Abrams, flat-out conspiracy theories, accusing former congressman who now works in the media business of murder.

To that point, as you watch all these things roll through here, Adam Kinzinger, the Republican congressman from Illinois, tweeting about the president retweeting a conspiracy theory: "Completely unfounded conspiracy. Just stop. Stop spreading it. Stop creating paranoia. It will destroy us."

This issue comes up from time to time. But here we are, the Memorial Day weekend, where we pause to remember those who wore the uniform for this country and died doing so. And we're about to hit 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus. And I don't know what to describe the president except just rants and rage.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": I mean, he is taking out all sorts of grievances, which we have seen over the last three and a half years of his presidency do that.

But is especially stark on this Memorial Day weekend and almost -- it is always a solemn time to remember those who have given their lives for this country. But at a time when the pandemic is still sweeping the nation. We are about to hit 100,000 people who have died from this virus in the coming days.


And the president is still using his old playbook. He is digging up these old grievances against Hillary Clinton.