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Vaccine Trials; President Trump's Memorial Day Tweetstorm; Memorial Day Crowds Raise Fears of Virus Spikes. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 25, 2020 - 15:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Send us story ideas. Send us feedback at

Our special coverage continues now with Brooke Baldwin.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Brianna, thank you so much.

Hi, everyone. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me on this special holiday edition of CNN NEWSROOM on this Memorial Day.

And it is a Memorial Day unlike other in recent memory, as the large parades and public ceremonies usually held in honor of our fallen service members are replaced by scenes like this one.

Take a look with me, Freeport, Long Island, where veterans, Marines join local firefighters and police in a wreath-laying, all the while maintaining a distance of six feet apart. And in Virginia, this year's ceremony was livestreamed, with some portions pre-taped, both cities showing how Americans continue to adjust to the new realities of COVID-19.

President Trump marking the day with the annual wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery, this as the nation inches closer to the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths from the virus, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases right here in the United States.

And you see the map here, the majority of the 50 states holding steady or showing a decline in cases. That is compared to the previous week. But some are posting a double-digit increase.

And that makes videos like this one taken during this pool party at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, on Saturday all the more startling and frustrating to officials trying to fight a second wave.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the governor there says the state is experiencing a second peak.

So, Ed, I will come to you on that.

But, first, Natasha Chen there live in Myrtle Beach, I want to begin with you. And, I mean, the city council is taking steps to protect the public. I know it's a popular spot to head out to catch some rays. What are they doing to keep people safe?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this was called an extraordinary event, according to the city resolution, an executive order, and it was prompted by some problematic behavior that they saw in previous weeks, people not social distancing.

And what it does is allow police a little more leeway to do things like potentially shut down businesses between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., though I have been told that they haven't had to do that this weekend thus far.

You can see that people on the beach here are actually doing a pretty good job keeping parties very separate. And, of course, these crowds are much lighter than what we saw earlier this weekend.

I should mention also that we just heard someone play "Taps" here on the beach, and that was very moving. So people are remembering Memorial Day, as well as having a good time.

They are also packing the local businesses, who really need these tourism dollars. But, of course, indoors is when it gets a little bit tricky in terms of social distancing and face masks.

Here's what the city's public information officer told me about that.


MARK KRUEA, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC INFORMATION, MYRTLE BEACH: As we're waiting in restaurant lines or in the hotels, I think that's where we need to practice that safe social distancing, that we need to keep the COVID-19 rules top of mind, so that everybody is safe.


CHEN: And the city also said they sent out regulators to check the local businesses, making sure that those restaurants are staying at that 50 percent capacity or less, as the state has dictated.

They found that a couple of places had too many people, so they had to ask those restaurants to show some patrons out the door -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: I get it. People want to enjoy their long -- long weekend, get a little sun. But is everyone really six feet apart? Is everyone truly safe?

Natasha, thank you.

Speaking of parties, Ed, we showed the picture of the pool party in Missouri. And we also have new video of people hanging out on this lake in Arkansas. Tell me more about those scenes.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's kind of unfazed people here in Arkansas, based on what the governor is saying. The governor said over the weekend that the state here is experiencing what he believes to be a second peak of coronavirus cases here in the state.

The first one came about a month ago, around April 20, but from what we can tell, most people unfazed by all of this. This started kind of coming to light last Thursday, Brooke, as some 450 new cases were reported.

And over the course of Friday, Saturday and Sunday, anywhere between 150 to 160 new cases were reported each day. The governor says that the spike is due in large part to more testing. And the fact of the matter is, is that, based on people's actions today, we won't really know the effects of all of this for another couple of weeks, for -- that's how long it takes for this virus to spread and to really show up in the testing results.

But the governor attended a wreath-laying ceremony here for Memorial Day earlier today, and he got kind of walked this balance between urging people to not be living in fear, living sequestered, and kind of tied that into patriotic duty.



GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): So, today, let's remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. Let's continue to enjoy our freedom. And let's work to protect those who are neighbors, fellow Americans and friends.


LAVANDERA: So, Brooke, if you really break down the numbers over the course of last week, we should point out that Arkansas has not seen the vast number of cases and deaths that many other parts of the country have seen, but it's nearly 6,000 coronavirus cases that this state has reported since the pandemic broke out; 900 roughly of those have been reported in just the last four days.

The governor says the one silver lining that they're seeing here is that the positive infection rate and the hospitalization rate remain low. So he's bolstered by that. But there's definitely a great deal of concern about what is unfolding here in Arkansas -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: And to your point, people won't know -- if people are out hanging out, partying and having a good time, we won't know the consequences of that for another couple of weeks. Ed, thank you very much for the look on Arkansas.

So, now that we have established what's going on essentially over this long Memorial Day weekend, and with all 50 states now partially reopened, expect to see more scenes like that one in Missouri or Arkansas and like these from beaches across the country over the weekend.

After weeks of sheltering at home, many Americans are clearly eager to get out, to enjoy their old activities, even as the head of the FDA warned in a Sunday tweet that the coronavirus is not yet contained. Dr. Leana Wen is an emergency room physician at Johns Hopkins School

of Public Health. She is also the former Baltimore City health commissioner.

So, Dr. Wen, nice to see you.

And when you see pictures of these crowds, it's like, man, you understand why people want to be out and enjoy their lives. Everybody's been hunkered down for months. But there's the safety issue. What do you think when you see these pictures?

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: I am concerned that we're looking at the next outbreak clusters every time I see these pictures.


WEN: Because we know that one person who is infected who is not showing symptoms themselves, potentially, they could affect dozens of others.

And I think there is this fundamental misunderstanding that reopening suddenly means that everything is safe. I see this in my own neighborhood, where there are kids that are hanging out and large groups of people having picnics together.

And look, you can be outside. People should be outside and enjoying the nice weather. But it's keeping that physical distance that actually is even more important now than ever, because now that everybody is out and about, we have to be even more on our guard and keep that physical six-foot distance, wear a mask, wash your hands.

All of that is even more important now than ever before.

BALDWIN: Don't let the beautiful early summer weather fool you into thinking that we're all good.

Let me turn the page and ask you about the World Health Organization. They have temporarily halted studying hydroxychloroquine as a potential COVID-19 treatment because of safety concerns. This is the same drug not only promoted by the president as a cure for coronavirus, but he said that he himself, he says he took hydroxychloroquine himself.

What do you make of the WHO's decision here?

WEN: Well, they're weighing a lot of different factors, and specifically risk/benefit, based on the studies that have been done.

And there are a number of other candidates, quite a few other candidates that are going through clinical trials that do show promise, that do have a much better risk/benefit ratio than hydroxychloroquine does.

And I hope that the president and everybody else will heed the warning of scientists, and not take hydroxychloroquine, except in the context of clinical trials. There should be clinical trials done, especially looking at the use of hydroxychloroquine and other medications as prophylaxis, as prevention, or early on in treatment.

I mean, all those trials should continue, but we should not be prescribing them for untested purposes.

BALDWIN: Dr. Wen, health officials in Missouri say two hairstylists may have exposed as many as 140 clients to COVID after working while they were showing symptoms during the second week of May.

The salon was legally permitted to operate. Officials say the stylists and the clients were all wearing their face coverings. So, even with that precaution, the potential spread was significant.

Can you speak about that?

WEN: Yes, we know that proximity, being close to someone, especially for a prolonged period of time, like the time it takes to get your hair done, that's the danger of exposure.

I mean, it brings up the point, though, that you should not go to work or be around other people when you're sick, when you're clearly symptomatic. Asymptomatic transmission happens, but don't go to work or out when you're sick.

And I also think about how much -- how time-intensive or resource- intensive that kind of contact tracing is going to take. That will easily overwhelm the public health infrastructure in those areas.

So, didn't go out when you're sick.


BALDWIN: To that point, maybe they didn't think they had coronavirus. Who knew what they were thinking? And maybe they had mouths to feed in their family. It's this push-pull.


But on the contact tracing point, the director of that Missouri County Health Department said, all right, if it's just this salon, contact tracing is possible, but if this kind of thing starts happening all over the place, and the resources needed to track every single person down will be strained.

And if this continues to happen, right, you have multiple outbreaks, are health departments up to the task?

WEN: This is the bread and butter of local health departments. I know this, having run one, that we know how to do this.

But you need the resources to be able to do it. It's so time- intensive. Imagine calling 80 people, 100 people, and figuring--

BALDWIN: Can't imagine.

WEN: -- out exactly where they were, and what -- and also gaining their trust, so that they will tell you accurate information. Now imagine if it's 1,000 people or 10,000. So, we need far more

resources when it comes to testing, tracing, isolation, all those core capabilities that, at the moment, we just don't have.

BALDWIN: Dr. Leana Wen, thank you so much. Nice to have you on.

As cases rise, the president is taking time to golf, to insult women and spread a debunked conspiracy theory about the death of an intern. We will talk about all of that and what the president is up to.

And a setback for a major vaccine trial -- why scientists now claim it only has a 50 percent chance of working.

And potentially great news, if you are a basketball fan. The NBA and Disney are in talks to restart the season as early as July. All of those details ahead.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

While millions of Americans honor our fallen heroes on this Memorial Day weekend, and the death toll from coronavirus approaches 100,000, President Trump is going on the attack.

In between multiple rounds of golf, the president spent his holiday weekend on Twitter viciously slamming his perceived opponents.

Let me just give you a little sampling of what we saw on his Twitter page. He retweeted a photo of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and mocked her appearance. He retweeted a post that called Hillary Clinton a skank. And he continued to promote a debunked conspiracy theory regarding the death of an intern for then Congressman Joe Scarborough, now, of course, over at MSNBC.

So, joining me now to discuss much of this, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins and CNN political analyst April Ryan.

And so, Kaitlan, first just to you.

When you look at the president's Twitter outbursts over the weekend, they have been extraordinary. I mean, it's just gotten more and more and more. And they continued on this morning, on a day when the nation, as you know, should be honoring our fallen heroes. Why is he doing this?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, and it's not like the president is not prone to these kind of Twitter outbursts.

We have seen them time and time again throughout his presidency. Of course, he's on Twitter every day, but this weekend was really notable, because the president is tweeting things like about this debunked theory that he believes Joe -- or -- Joe Scarborough played some kind of role in the death of this intern that he had, when the police never suspected foul play.

The death was ruled an accident, of course, because this woman had a heart palpitation and hit her head and then died. And the president just tweets that one thing among many. And it's just really notable, given how many things he amplifies.

And you have to remember that he does have 80 million followers on Twitter that he's amplifying these kinds of messages to, not only the other ones from his supporters that made disparaging remarks about several politicians, but also this theory about Joe Scarborough.

And people raise the question, not only, why is he tweeting that on this weekend that is dedicated to fallen U.S. troops, but also while we're in the middle of a pandemic and nearing in on 100,000 American deaths?

BALDWIN: And where is doing all this tweeting? Right in between rounds of golf.

And, April, to you. The president was on the defensive over the fact that he was out and about playing golf. Let's remember, back during the Ebola crisis in this country, Donald, then just private citizen Donald Trump repeatedly went after President Obama for being out golfing.

Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And when you're president, you sort of say like, I'm going to sort of give it up for a couple of years, and I'm going to really focus on the job.

How about, right after the beheading? He then walks over. He has the news conference, and then walks right outside and tees it up. There are times to play golf. We all love golf. There are times to play and there are times that you can't play.

And it sends the wrong signal. But he plays a lot of golf.


BALDWIN: April, pot, kettle?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He called it black. Yes, he did, Brooke.

Here's the bottom line. We are facing the official numbers of 100,000, approaching 100,000 coronavirus deaths in this nation. And, mind you, there are a lot of people who were never confirmed because they were not able to be tested or were able to go to the hospital, so the numbers could be larger than this.

But this president is trying to deflect and also show people that he's standing strong in the midst of this, trying to show that this nation is still on course, when it is not.

So, he is actually the pot calling the kettle black by going to the golf course and hitting rounds on that ball yesterday, when he should have been in the White House, when he should have been trying to calm the fears of the nation on this first weekend, unofficial weekend, of summer.

BALDWIN: All part of the tweets, Kaitlan, the president threatened to move the RNC, the Republican National Convention, out of North Carolina, where it's set a little later this summer.


What's going on there?

COLLINS: Yes, that's not supposed to happen until the end of the -- of August.

But, apparently, the president and the RNC are concerned that, because North Carolina is moving a little bit more slowly than other neighboring states in reopening, their fear is that, basically, it'll come close to the convention, and it won't be able to be like you would normally see a convention.

And that's been a question raised by people from the head of the DNC and head of the RNC of what exactly that's going to look like and whether or not you can put thousands of people in one arena, like you so often see at these conventions every four years.

And so the president is now saying that, unless, very soon, that North Carolina's governor can commit to them being able to have a full attendance at that convention, that he says they are going to consider moving it to another state that's further along in reopening.

Now, my colleague Jeff Zeleny spoke with the governor, who, of course, is a Democrat, Roy Cooper, last week, and he said, it's not a political decision that he's making, but they want to make the best decision that's safest for people, since they are hosting it in Charlotte, North Carolina.

And he didn't seem prepared to give an answer about whether or not it's going to be able to be at full capacity yet. And so the question is whether they actually move it. A lot of work and money has already gone into putting this in North Carolina.

But the president seems to be serious about his threat about moving it. And, of course, that's going to raise questions about, which state would he go to? Would he go to Florida, Texas?

He already denied having it at one of his properties in Miami and Florida. But, really, the question of where you could move something like this so quickly is still an unanswered one.

BALDWIN: The president wants the crowds.

And, April, speaking of crowds, we were just talking off the top of the show the images of people hanging out, partying, lakes, pools, beaches over the weekend, leading to obviously real concerns that some are completely abandoning social distancing.

And does the president of the United States, April, have a responsibility to address this?

RYAN: He has a responsibility. He has a moral responsibility, as well as a responsibility to the oath that he took saying he is protecting and serving.

Right now, the American public is getting confusing messages. The president is out golfing without a mask, without gloves. And we don't know if he was physically distancing, because the pool reporters are not able to be on the golf course with him.

But what people are doing is going against what the CDC guidelines are saying. And this president is not going by what the CDC guidelines are saying. This president has an oath that he has to uphold. He has the moral authority that he needs to take. And give people the understanding.

We are still in the midst of a deadly pandemic, even as he is trying to reopen the economy, and that this is deadly. It's not the flu. It is not a cold. It is something that you could die from. And we still need to take the precautions, until there is a vaccine and then, after that, there is mass production of the vaccine, and then there is a global immunization of people.

The president has to do that. If he doesn't, we're going to see numbers spike again in many communities that are having these massive pool parties, having these massive gatherings, where people are not using common sense, as well as the sense of the CDC.

BALDWIN: You bring up the vaccine. We're going to get a little bit of news on how quickly hopefully we can all get a vaccine coming up.

But, for now, April and Kaitlan, ladies, thank you very much. Good to see both of you all.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made his first public appearance in months. We can see with me the former vice president and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, visited a veterans memorial in Delaware.

Biden has been campaigning from home since mid-March. Today, the couple plays to white wreath at a wall honoring the state's fallen soldiers and some time to stand in silence. Both were wearing masks.

A setback in the race to develop a vaccine -- why scientists at Oxford University in England now say they only have a 50/50 shot at success, but we do have some news on the efforts here in the U.S.

And how a pair of photographers organized an honor guard for fallen heroes amid this global pandemic.

We will talk to them coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BALDWIN: The race to develop an effective coronavirus vaccine is picking up speed, but scientists at Oxford University in the U.K. say they have suffered a setback.

They claim they only have a 50 percent chance of success now because fewer people in England are getting sick. And with so few cases of the virus, scientists won't be able to tell if the vaccine is effective.

So, joining me now, Dr. Larry Corey, who is helping design vaccine trials here in the United States. He's also the president and director emeritus of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

So, Dr. Corey, thank you so much for all of your work. And it's so nice to have you on.

And I want to talk about your efforts in just a moment.

But, first, just on this news out of Oxford, where we should just point out, on the one hand, it's a good thing, right, that fewer people are getting infected, but, on the other, if you are a scientist trying to develop a vaccine, explain to me why it makes their work more challenging.

DR. LARRY COREY, FRED HUTCHINSON CANCER RESEARCH CENTER: Well, it is challenging to design trials with a virus that is sort of moving in time and space.