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As America Reopens There Are Deeply Troubling Images Concerning Many Health Experts; Unlike Many Years Virtual Ceremonies For Memorial Day Are Taking Place; British Prime Minster Boris Johnson Still Defending His Senior Advisor, Dominic Cummings As He Faces Allegations. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 25, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, as America reopens, images like this are deeply troubling for many health experts concerned about an early second wave of the coronavirus.

A dire warning from the White House about the unemployment rate and how high they expect it to climb.

Plus, four sports legends hit the links. The winner -- all of us. As together they raise millions for coronavirus relief efforts.

Good to have you with us.

Well, Memorial Day in the United States will look a lot different this year as Americans navigate a new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic. And that includes virtual ceremonies on this holiday meant to honor the country's war dead. But is restrictions ease from coast to coast, more and more Americans are heading outdoors to beaches, parks and parties. This despite the coronavirus death toll edging close to 100,000 people. The number of infections now well past 1.6 million. And there's increasing concern that if people don't stay apart and follow safety guidelines, there could be a spike in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks. A worry voiced by the Governor of New York.


ANDREW CUOMO, NEW YORK GOVERNOR: Next week is a function of what we do today. Oh, that sounds too glib. That is factually true. You tell me how people act today. I will tell you the infection rate three days from today. So you want to open faster? Be smart and we'll just calibrate it to the infection spread.


CHURCH: Top health experts are also urging Americans to stay safe as they gather on this Memorial Day and advising them to social distance even outdoors.


DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: I think it is good for people to get outside. All the evidence says that you're less likely to get infected outside than inside. So getting outside is a good thing. But getting outside and getting back to normal are not exactly the same thing. And what we want to do is while we get outside, we have to maintain social distancing.


CHURCH: Our correspondents are tracking developments coast to coast. Paul Vercammen is keeping and I on the situation along the beachfront in Southern California. But we begin in Pensacola, Florida, where we find our Rosa Flores.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm in Pensacola Beach, Florida. I want to show you around. Because here's what people are doing to make sure that they social distance. If you look behind me, you'll see that the umbrellas are separated more than six feet apart. Now this allows families to have a good time, intermingle, but also social distance. And that way they don't have to be intermingling with other families.

Now this is definitely a downward scale from what Memorial Day weekend normally is here in Pensacola. I talked to the county commissioner that represents this area and he says normally this beach would be shoulder to shoulder. There would be concerts going on. At the other end of the island Pride Week would be going on which brings in about 50,000 people. So this is definitely a downgrade in the number of people.

But take a look at the numbers because he was able to help us out with some figures. If you compare Memorial Day weekend 2019 to 2020, it almost looks the same. Take a look at these numbers from Thursday to Monday according to this commissioner, there was about 85,000 cars that drove into Pensacola last year. This year he was able to get the numbers for us from Friday to Sunday at about 1:50 p.m., and that's about 50,000 cars. If you just compare Saturday, it's about 20,000 cars coming into Pensacola.

Now this is a very drivable beach because people from Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee drive to this beach for Memorial Day weekend. Now I asked this commissioner the obvious question. Is he concerned about the spread of coronavirus and here's what he said.

ROBERT BENDER, ESCAMBIA BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS: Something we are concerned about, that's why we closed the beaches to begin with in March.


But of course as we learn more about it, as people know more about the symptoms and what to do, we've been very fortunate that we've had a lot of testing available here. And so, if people are experiencing any type of symptoms or anything like that, then they need to get tested before they come.

FLORES: According to the county commissioner, 34 lifeguards have been on duty throughout Memorial Day weekend. And if you look around me, you'll see that a lot of social distancing is going on, but not very many people are wearing masks. And that's because while social distancing is required, masks are not.

Rosa Flores, CNN, Pensacola Beach, Florida.



PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here at Dockweiler Beach, Los Angeles County, you can see open sand behind me. People for the most part were honoring the social distancing guidelines, staying six feet apart. They also had opened up this 22-mile-long bike way behind me. We saw most people along the bike way were wearing their masks. And they said a lesson can be learned in other parts of the country about being sensitive to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They get social respect. You know, people might be symptomatic, pre-symptomatic, asymptomatic and it's just -- it's just social respect, I think.

VERCAMMEN: Why did Los Angeles County open up the bike way for Memorial weekend? Well the officials are happy with the numbers. The rate of hospitalizations going down. The rate of deaths going down. Also seeing a smaller percentage of those tested testing positive for COVID-19. So all in all good news for LA County and an easing of restrictions this Memorial Day weekend. Back to you now.


CHURCH: Thanks for that. And several U.S. states are seeing a surge in new infections. Over the weekend the Arkansas governor said his state is experiencing a second peak which he attributed to more testing. CNN's Ed Lavandera has the details.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Arkansas is one of the few states in the country where the governor did not issue a stay-at-home order for its residents. They did have restrictions put on businesses and restaurants and schools were closed, but that is one of the reasons why this second wave, as the governor here is describing it, of coronavirus infections is concerning. This started on Thursday of last week. The governor says more testing is being done for the coronavirus and

it's one of the reasons why they're seeing this second wave. 450 cases or so reported last Thursday. Another 150 on Friday. Then 160 about on Saturday. The case totals were a little bit lower on Sunday. But that could have something to do with the way weekend test results are reported. So we'll have to see how this continues to play out here in the coming days.

But the governor has described it as a second wave. He says one of the silver linings here is that the positive infection rate of these tests and the hospitalization rates for the virus remain low. So by and large, the state of Arkansas has not seen the case numbers and the death totals as high as many other places in the country. And the governor here says that the state and its residents must learn to manage and learn to essentially live with this virus here for the months to come.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Little Rock, Arkansas.


CHURCH: Joining me now is CNN medical analyst Dr. Sanju Matthew. He is a primary care physician and a public health specialist. Thank you, doctor, for being with us.

DR. SAJU MATTHEW, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Good day to you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Now in the U.S. this holiday weekend crowds gathered on beaches and at pools across the country clearly not keeping their social distance. And certainly not wearing masks even though health experts urged caution. What is your reaction when you saw some of those images?

MATTHEW: I was disappointed, Rosemary. You know ultimately, we talk about this so much on air everywhere. I'm sure all over the world just not on CNN. Masks are key. You know, it's not about not having fun. I mentioned this earlier today. That's not what this is all about. This is about having fun responsibly while wearing a mask and maintaining six feet. If you look at those images that we saw at the beaches and people walking on the streets, it didn't give me the impression that they were six feet away. And I definitely did not see a lot of masks.

CHURCH: Yes, when we look at -- we're looking at that aerial shot there of Daytona Beach in Florida. Just extraordinary images there of people very close together. And not sticking with the social distancing for the wearing masks. And White House coronavirus coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, called on everyone to wear masks out of respect for each other.


And Paul suggests that most Americans do agree with her but others are either ignoring or defying those guidelines. Why is it such an affront, apparently, for some of these Americans to wear a mask, including President Trump who seems to think perhaps it's a sign of weakness? MATTHEW: Yes, you hit it right on the nail. Sign of weakness. And

that exactly is what this is not. It's really trying to make sure that you protect other people. You know, if you look at the whole story behind the mask just to be fair, initially the CDC was really hesitant to say, that Yes, you needed to wear a mask. Because it wasn't their fault, we they didn't have the science behind it. A few weeks later we are absolutely sure that a simple measure of wearing an inexpensive mask, a cotton mask, can really prevent the infections from spreading. And I think it's important for people to know that really if you're going to make a decision to not wear a mask, unfortunately, you're not only making a decision for yourself, you are making a decision for other people as well that want to be healthy.

CHURCH: Yes, it's a very key point. Isn't it? And what was your reaction to President Trump pushing for churches and other houses of worship to open over this Memorial holiday weekend and threatening overriding any state that prevented that from happening. And then Dr. Birx revealed that 35 percent of those infected with the coronavirus are asymptomatic. But then minutes after that she said anyone who knows they're sick will clearly avoid going to church. I mean, that's going to be difficult if you don't know that you're sick, right?

So what did you think of those mixed messages that were being given out by President Trump and Dr. Birx?

MATTHEW: You know, were always taught in public health, that a simple, clear message is way more effective when you say that over and over consistently. Listen, you know ultimately, you know, Rosemary, we all need to go back to a new normal. Those are the two buzz words now.

And what is that new normal? Well, that new normal really means being very strategic about the places that you're visiting. So for instance, the other day I was given the example of a grocery store where people are running around you and you may not have as much control. If you look at a church setting as long as people are not congregating in the lobby and when you're seated, you're sitting 6 feet apart wearing a mask, I think that it is possible.

I mean, a lot of churches are hurting and I can see why they want their members to get back to church. And I think things can be done. Even one simple thing could be making sure that you made the offering online so that that basket is not passed down the pew. Simple things can be done to make it possible.

CHURCH: Yes, that is critical, isn't it. And you know, some of the faith leaders are going slowly. They do want to take it slowly, others not so much. And doctor, I wanted to ask this. Because now we're learning that Centers for Disease Control and 11 states have been counting antibody tests in with diagnostic testing for COVID-19. Which clearly would inflate the numbers showing the level of testing. What's your response to this revelation?

MATTHEW: Very disturbing. Ultimately if you think about it, one of the measures of the metrics by whether we are ready to open a state is that downward trend of cases for two weeks. So if you're mixing the results of an antibody test, which reveals previous infection, and you're mixing that with a COVID-19 or a viral test, which means a current infection. Yes, you're inflating the numbers and almost giving people that impression that testing is available and that you're ready to open. And then really quickly as well, it's really important that we know people that are positive. Because if you test positive for a COVID-19 infection, that means that you are potentially infectious and that you can transmit that virus unknowingly.

CHURCH: Dr. Saju Matthew, thank you so much for joining us. We do appreciate it and everything that you do. Thank you so much.

MATTHEW: Thank you, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Well, U.S. President Donald Trump is restricting travel from Brazil to the United States to anyone who's been in the South American country in the last two weeks. The White House says the move is aimed at slowing the coronavirus pandemic. In an email to CNN the Brazilian foreign ministry says the two nations are collaborating in the fight against COVID-19. Brazil is now the country's second most cases worldwide behind the United States. Johns Hopkins University reports Brazil has more than 363,000 confirmed cases and more than 22,000 deaths.


And yet, you're looking at Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday here. He was greeting, shaking hands with and embracing supporters at a rally all while not wearing a mask or any sort of health protection. And this has been Mr. Bolsonaro's typical behave behavior during the worst health crisis in Brazil.

You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, the British Prime Minister defending a top advisor. The latest format over his alleged breach of lockdown goals. That's ahead.

And residents of Spain's two largest cities now have more access to public spaces as some coronavirus restrictions are loosened. And we will get the latest in a live report from Madrid. Back with that in just a moment.


CHURCH: Well, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still defending his senior advisor Dominic Cummings. This as Cummings faces allegations, he twice broke the country's lockdown rules by traveling. He denies the allegations and says he isn't stepping down. The leader of the opposition Labour Party wants the cabinet office to launch an inquiry.



KEIR STARMER, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: This was a huge test of the Prime Minister and he's just failed that test. He hasn't sacked Dominic Cummings. He hasn't called for an investigation. And he's treating the British public with contempt. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And CNN's Hadas Gold joins me now from London. Good to see you, Hadas. So pressure mounting on Cummings over his two lockdown breaches. Will he be able to hold on to his post, do you think?

HADAS GOLD, CNN REPORTER: Well, so far, he is holding on. We have seen a defiant posture from Number 10 and from Dominic Cummings himself. Saying that these trips, one of them a 250-mile journey from London while both he and his wife were actually suffering from coronavirus. They say they traveled in order to get closer to family who could them take care of their young son when they were ill.

But this all coming at a time when the government advice was to everybody to not leave their homes. Don't travel even if you're feeling well and especially if you have coronavirus symptoms not to leave the house. But last night at a press conference Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he believes that Cummings acted responsibly and legally and with integrity. That he had no plans to fire him.

But the criticism is mounting not just from the opposition party but also from inside of Boris Johnson's own party. Several conservative members of Parliament have called on Cummings to resign. Because it gives the impression that there's one rule for the rest of the country and another rule for the political elite. And even the conservative leaning "Daily Mail" newspaper on today's front pages is also calling on Cummings to resign. Asking "What Planet Are They On," the Prime Minister and Dominic Cummings, for thinking that he can continue in his post.

CHURCH: Yes, it's an interesting double standard there. And, Hadas, the U.K. is reporting its lowest daily COVID-19 death toll since March 26. But will they be ready to reopen schools on June 1st as planned?

GOLD: That is currently the plan that some schools or some grades will start opening on June 1st. Specifically kindergarten, first grade and sixth grade with the hopes of getting a month of school in before summer vacation. And you're right that it has been the lowest daily death toll, just 118 deaths recorded in the last 24 hours since that was the infection rate yesterday. Still, it's a high death toll overall for the U.K. More than 36,000.

But there is the hope that schools can slowly start reopening beginning next week. But we have seen some opposition, some push back from local counsel saying they're not ready. The teacher's unions have warned that they don't think they can be ready and that it may not be a smart idea. Now the government advice perhaps might be changing that local councils can perhaps work at their own pace. But this is all part of a broader plan by the government to slowly bring the country back away from this very strict lockdown we been on.

But of course, if going back to this Cummings issue, that begs the question though if you're still asking people to adhere to these lockdowns, there are those who are criticizing the government saying, how can you ask people to continue adhering to the strict lockdown, to do what they need to do to help quell the spread of this virus while a top advisor is seemingly flouting these rules.

CHURCH: Yes, good point. Hadas Gold bringing us the very latest there from London. Many thanks.

Well, Spain's two largest cities are joining the rest of the country and easing more coronavirus restrictions. Madrid and Barcelona had been held back while the rest of Spain progressed into the early phases of the de-escalation plan. With their addition, the entire country is now either in phase one or two. And Al Goodman joins us now live from Madrid to talk us through this. So how's this easing of restrictions going so far?

AL GOODMAN, JOURNALIST: Hi, Rosemary. We're talking about one of life's simple pleasures. Having a morning coffee outside. This is my neighborhood in Madrid. I might be seated at one of these tables. The last time that we were here just a few minutes ago, this was all full. As you can see, one table has just left. This table right here, there were four doctors, now there are two. They work right across the street at the hospital. They treated COVID-19 patients during this crisis. They said it's just a real pleasure to be able to come outside and have a cup of coffee.

The reason that the restaurants have been closed for these 10 weeks has been because Madrid and Barcelona, the two hardest hit places, the authorities wanted to keep people away, keep the confinement order going. Now these two big cities are able to get out and have this kind of attention with ten people that you don't live with. You could have a meeting. You can be at the outdoor cafes. That's half the country. The other half of the country is further advanced because their health indicators are better. So restaurants not only outside with limited seating but inside with limited seating. Shopping centers open with some limitations. Swimming pools in some locations, some beaches with social distancing. So things are starting to open up as the health indicators have continued to improve here. 10 weeks on, the state of emergency still continues. You have to wear a mask, that's a rule, that's a law. While the state of emergency continues, if you are closer than two meters or six feet from other people.


But the idea here -- according to the Prime Minister on the weekend -- is that Spain would open up to international tourism by July as the companies, the hotels, the restaurants try to salvage some of the tourist season. Such an important business. Meantime, all eyes to try to avoid a second wave. So that there's a ramp up of testing, the tracing, who might be able to get it and how quickly can a jump on that and isolate those people. So that they don't have another overwhelming wave which is what hits the country so hard the first time -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Absolutely, that second wave that's what concern everybody. Al Goodman bringing us up to date on the situation there in Madrid. Many thanks.

And as Spain gets back to work, the White House issues a dire warning on the America's unemployment rate right here on CNN. We will look into that. Back in a moment.


CHURCH: U.S. President Donald Trump will participate in the annual wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony later today. But the ceremony will be closed to the public. That's only one of the ways the virus has changed Memorial Day plans in the U.S. CNN's Boris Sanchez reports.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Even at a time of great uncertainty, there are still efforts underway this Memorial Day weekend to honor those Americans who lost their lives serving their country. Though this Memorial Day weekend will be very different than in years past with officials weary of having large crowds at memorials because of coronavirus, many ceremonies including wreath laying are going online.

The annual observance of the Arlington National Cemetery will be live streamed and closed to the public. Though on Thursday about 1,000 old guard soldiers were allowed to continue the annual tradition of.