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Crowds Pack U.S. Beaches Despite Pandemic; Air Travel Picks Up Heading into Memorial Day Weekend; RNC Sues California to Stop Mailing Absentee Ballots to Voters. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 25, 2020 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: A deadly pandemic doesn't stop some big crowds for the holiday weekend, even as officials warn of spikes in some states.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: We have reports from Arkansas, Brazil, London, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and Jerusalem. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, this is a special Memorial Day edition of EARLY START, I'm Boris Sanchez in for Christine Romans.

JARRETT: Great to have you in, Boris, this morning --

SANCHEZ: Thank you --

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett, it's Monday, May 25th, 5:00 a.m. here in New York. We remember all of those who have given their lives serving our country on this Memorial Day. And this morning, many lives are at risk across the country where we face a very different kind of battle on the home front. The holiday that typically marks the start of Summer stirring some big crowds, coast-to-coast, some social distancing, some not.

Pictures like this setting off warnings that people ignoring distancing rules risk reigniting the pandemic that has killed nearly a 100,000 Americans to date. In Myrtle Beach, restaurants had to turn away customers to manage the crowds. Some beach goers say it felt like any other holiday weekend.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You wouldn't know a pandemic was going on by looking at the beach today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, there are some people wearing masks, but I'm not wearing one. So, I should have a mask, but I don't have a mask on right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, like since I've been here, honestly, no. I mean, I've -- you know, the first mask on I've seen if I'm being honest. Everybody here is just kind of letting it fly.


SANCHEZ: Letting it fly. All those people apparently ignoring warnings that an estimated 40 percent of coronavirus transmissions actually occur before any symptoms show up. Concerning scenes playing out in the Ozarks, Missouri, at this pool party. And in Daytona Beach, Florida, my home state, never seems to disappoint, 5 to 10,000 people mobbing this scene where a guy apparently was making a rap video and started throwing money from a car into the crowd.

JARRETT: Well, there are growing concerns about a spike in coronavirus cases, now that restrictions are being eased. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn tweeting, "with the country starting to open up this weekend, I again remind everyone that the coronavirus is not yet contained, but his boss has never seen it that way."


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's one person coming in from China, and we have it under control.

When you have 15 people and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero -- no, I'm not concerned at all. No, we've done a great job.


SANCHEZ: Concern is especially high in the southern part of the country. Houston's mayor reversing course, insisting that the fire marshal is going to enforce 25 percent capacity rules in clubs, bars and restaurants after seeing images of large crowds over the holiday weekend. And with so many families pent up for so long, take a look in Alabama, coronavirus cases are surging there, but families still packed the beach. And in Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson confirming a new cluster of cases stemming from a high school swim party. CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Little Rock.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura and Boris, Arkansas is one of the few states in the country where the governor did not issue a stay- at-home order. There were other restrictions put in place for businesses and schools were closed. But that is one of the reasons why this second wave of coronavirus cases here is troubling. The first wave came just about a month ago.

The governor here says that this new wave of cases is largely attributed to more testing that is being done here in this state. They started noticing this trend on Thursday, 450 cases reported that day, another 150 on Friday, about 160 on Saturday. The Sunday totals were a little bit lower, but that could have something to do with testing records and reports coming in over the weekend.

So, we'll have to see how these numbers continue to play out in the days ahead. But the governor says here that the silver-lining so far is that the positive infection rate and the hospitalization rate remains relatively low. But in -- he's saying essentially what the state needs to do at this point is learn how to co-exist and manage this virus for the months to come. Laura and Boris. JARRETT: All right, Ed Lavandera, thanks so much for that. Well, on

the weekend dedicated to honoring America's war heroes, President Trump appear to have other things on his mind. He went golfing twice and he tweeted mercilessly, ranting against everyone from Jeff Sessions, Stacy Abrams, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Scarborough and Hillary Clinton, among others.


SANCHEZ: Yes, and he was up late last night tweeting again. This time about wanting schools open ASAP. The vast majority of American schools are closed until at least September. And here's what he failed to mention, the pandemic.

The almost 100,000 Americans who have died so far, and this "New York Times" devoting its entire Sunday cover of the pandemic, the incalculable loss of family members, loved ones, of our fellow Americans. Worth noting, the president did tweet about a viral outbreak that was back in 2014 you may recall when he blasted then President Obama for golfing during the Ebola crisis which killed exactly one person on U.S. soil.

JARRETT: Well, the unemployment rate has already hit great depression level figures. And White House economic adviser, Kevin Hassett says it could get worse.


DANA BASH, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think unemployment is going to be even higher --


BASH: This month?

HASSETT: Yes, it's going to be quite a bit higher. And you know, there were some technical things that kind of messed up and an economics lecture we'd go into them, but it could be if they fix the numbers and fix the thing that they mischaracterize last time, that you'll end up with a number north of 20 percent.


JARRETT: The unemployment rate has hit record highs in 43 states today. Nevada which has been hammered by the closing of its extensive casino and tourism industries had the country's highest rate at 28.2 percent. Michigan and Hawaii are the next highest at just under 23 percent. And all this as teens are finding it especially hard to find Summer jobs.

The unemployment rate for workers who are 16 to 19 years old hit 32 percent in April. That's the highest since at least 1948. More than 2 million retail jobs has disappeared in April. Other go-to jobs at beaches, restaurants and golf courses, popular for teens have also been hit especially hard. SANCHEZ: Yes, the pain is real and it is widespread. While federal

stimulus money has helped some businesses stay in business, for others, the pandemic has made it impossible to keep their doors open. CNN's Miguel Marquez reports from northern Michigan.


LAURA HART, OWNER, BLUE ROSES BOOKS & MORE: We had a lot of dreams here. We --

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The dream, a book store, Laura Hart and her daughters could run that everyone in this Lake Huron tourist haven could enjoy.

HART: COVID came in and it changed the landscape. We wanted very much to be a community place where people could come, bring their kids play games, you know, open mic nights, game nights.

MARQUEZ: Blue Roses Books and More, Sheboygan's only bookstore will close. Another casualty of the pandemic.

HART: I think I've spent the past week crying. I know my daughter and I have both had some hard minutes.

MARQUEZ: Hart faced a hard calculation. With the high season short here and the pandemic keeping tourists away, she'd never be able to pay the bills into the Winter when it's locals only.

(on camera): How tough is it going to be to lock that door?

HART: Yes, it's going to be really tough. I'm going to miss it.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Sheboygan County in northern Michigan among the hardest hit in the state with more than 30 percent of workers applying for unemployment. The food bank of eastern Michigan has more than doubled its distribution here. And even with businesses reopening, the hiring isn't exactly bouncing back.

PAUL LEONARDI, KITCHEN MANAGER, MULLIGAN'S RESTAURANT: Normally, you know, we would be hiring and I'd be bringing on new faces. But now I'm just working with the people that I have. You know, this is the kickoff to the season, and it really feels like just another normal weekend except for the stress of reopening.

MARQUEZ: Another stress, food prices. With the price of beef through the roof, steaks off the menu.

LEONARDI: I've changed my menu. I'm very thankful that I bought a smoker two weeks before the pandemic because now I could take cheaper cuts at meat and turn them into something fabulous.

MARQUEZ: For this seasonal town, the pandemic couldn't have hit at a worse time.

KEVIN KEMPER, OWNER, MELODY'S LANE MICHIGAN MADE GIFTS & MORE: We've lost our Summer basically, and we'll see more things fall by the wayside for the Fall.

MARQUEZ: Kevin Kemper expects to make only half of what he makes in a normal year. Another consideration, outsiders coming in raises the risk of COVID-19 coming to a place that has seen few cases.

KEMPER: It's a concern because people are handling it different at every level.

MARQUEZ: A high season of low expectations. Miguel Marquez, CNN, Sheboygan, Michigan.


JARRETT: Miguel, thanks so much for that one. The governor of New York says parts of the state are still on track to reopen this week including the mid Hudson Valley and Long Island. Confirmed new cases across the once hotspot state are trending steadily downward now. But Governor Andrew Cuomo warns that New Yorkers have to stick to the program.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): 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.



JARRETT: The governor offered some good news on the return of sports. New York Professional leagues can begin training camps. It will be tough to get a marriage license in New York City. The online system launched on May 7th was quickly overwhelmed. The next available appointments aren't until September.

SANCHEZ: Americans are slowly starting to fly again with the Summer travel season officially underway, the TSA reports that they screened more passengers at U.S. airports last Thursday and Friday than at any time in the last two months. There's still a long way to go to return to normal. About 348,000 people were screened on Friday, that's compared to more than 2.6 million on the same day last year.

JARRETT: That's a big difference. Well, Republicans trying to sew doubt about mail-in voting are now going after California and its 55 Democratic-leaning electoral votes. The RNC and other GOP groups are suing the governor who ordered absentee ballots mailed to all voters to stem the spread of coronavirus at polling places in November.

Now, last week, the president went after leadership in key swing states like Michigan and Nevada over this very issue. Voting by mail is expected to be widely used this Fall to ensure safety during the pandemic. And despite the president's protest, there is absolutely no proof of widespread fraud in mail-in voting. SANCHEZ: Yes, despite no proof, I guarantee you that we are likely

going to hear more and more about that. Laura. As we're watching COVID cases spread across the globe, in Latin America, we're seeing a spike, in Brazil, they now have the second most COVID cases in the world. So why is the president there still stoking the crowds against restrictions? A live report next.



SANCHEZ: President Trump imposing new travel restrictions on Brazil. The country with the second most COVID cases after the United States. More than 15,000 new cases in just the last 24 hours. Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro who has largely dismissed the pandemic, shows no signs of changing that view. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh has more now from Brazil.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura, Boris, Brazil is firmly second most impacted country now in the world by coronavirus, and the most impacted United States has banned travel from Brazil to it, and for anybody who's been in Brazil for the 14 days prior to their attempt to arrive in the U.S., it seems for an indefinite period, a bit trying to slow the infection from this country where the numbers frankly don't show the full picture.

The pictures though that are troubling to many of those, of President Jair Bolsonaro who again on Sunday was seen in crowds of supporters near them, not wearing a mask. He is reported to have flown into this unexpected rally in the seat of government Brasilia in a helicopter, but then later on, he's flanked by a cabinet minister and by lawmakers, he's later on seen near crowds of supporters over a traditional display of support he likes to put on, he's not wearing a mask.

And that adds to the criticism he'll face. He simply has never taken this disease as a real threat. He's called it a little flu, he's later changed his rhetoric to suggest the fight against it is something like a war. But certainly here, there are many Brazilians furious at the mixed messages their president has given them, how that's hampered a move towards a lockdown and possibly why they are now a week to two weeks away from the peak, seeing such startling numbers. Laura, Boris?

JARRETT: All right, Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much for that. The biggest threat to the lockdown in the U.K. could be coming from the highest levels of government, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson is refusing to fire his top aide, even though Dominic Cummings has broken lockdown restrictions on multiple occasions now.

Nic Robertson joins us live from London. Nick, what is going on here? We're hearing reports that Cummings was just traveling everywhere, and now growing calls for him to resign?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, I think one of the fundamentals here is that in the U.K., when the government issued its guidelines for the country, stay-at-home, save lives, protect the national health service, one of the messages with that was don't travel away from your primary home. Don't go to homes elsewhere in the country.

And this is why the issue with Dominic Cummings is taking on some massive proportions here. What Dominic Cummings did was drive his wife and 4-year-old son 250 miles across the country when his wife had COVID-19 symptoms, and then went into isolation in a house close to his parents house in the north of England. The Prime Minister is saying that Dominic Cummings acted legally, responsibly with integrity.

That he took a decision that any parent, any father would do in this situation, and the Prime Minister won't mark him down for that. But that's a fundamental difference to the way that many people in this country feel, who have made huge sacrifices to stay at home, not attend funerals, not travel across the country when they thought one of -- their partner might be ill or a child might be disadvantaged because both parents could be become ill.

People have made huge sacrifices here. And that's why the political messaging that the Prime Minister is pushing here really isn't getting traction, even within his own party, the Conservative Party. Members of parliament are saying -- members of parliament are saying very clearly that Dominic Cummings should step down. The leader of the opposition here is saying that Cummings must resign.

And members of the Scientific Advisory to the Government Community are also saying this completely undermines the government's message for people to stay at home. It's a very big issue here right now.

JARRETT: People have made a lot of sacrifices, so they want to see the same from their government officials. All right, Nic in London, thanks so much.


SANCHEZ: Ramadan ended this weekend, and for Muslims around the world, the festive holiday that follows Ramadan is a somber one this year because of coronavirus. Let's go live to Abu Dhabi and bring in CNN's Sam Kiley. Sam, quieter eat outfit than usual.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Much quieter, Boris, and quieter because the science says it should be that way. Now, over the last month during the Ramadan period, the daylight fasting and then of course, the Iftar meals in the evening and prayers after the both of those moments in the Ramadan process, moments when families get together and then communities go to pray.

In both cases, right across the Islamic world that people have been discouraged or forbidden from meeting. But many have. And in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, elsewhere, there has been a significant uptick in the numbers of infections. There were really pretty much flattening out prior to Ramadan. So, in Saudi Arabia for example, there's been a three-day curfew, day and night curfew on people, not allowed on the streets, let alone go to the mosque or even Mecca of course to pray. Similar institutions have been shut down across Georgia and Egypt has very strict controls in, the United Arab Emirates maintaining very high levels of strict control. Even Indonesia, with 225 million Muslims maintaining this very strict control because they've been pretty successful in trying to flatten those infection curves up until now.

But they have seen some of the signs indicating that they risk a second wave of infections as a result of these religious celebrations, Boris.

SANCHEZ: All right, Sam Kiley reporting from Abu Dhabi, thank you.

JARRETT: Domestic flights in India resuming today. They have been grounded for two months during the coronavirus lockdown.

KILEY: Thank you.

JARRETT: The country's aviation chief says only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to fly. And they must wear a face mask and carry a hand sanitizer. Passengers will have to check in online and download the government's contact tracing app.

SANCHEZ: Yes, as cases spike around the world, all eyes still remain on the origin of coronavirus in China. Could the United States sanction China over a new security law in Hong Kong that could threaten the rights of people there?



JARRETT: Thousands of protestors met with tear gas in Hong Kong. They're demonstrating against China's move to impose a controversial national security law which they say threatens Hong Kong's autonomy and civil liberties. Now, the White House is threatening to sanction Beijing over this. Ivan Watson joins us live from Hong Kong. What are you seeing there, Ivan?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, Hong Kong police say they arrested at least 180 people on Sunday, protesters that they accuse of being rioters, who they claim were engaged in vandalism. Meanwhile, the Chinese government and its proxies, if you can put it that way here in Hong Kong, are trying to defend the controversial introduction of this national security law which critics say could mean the death of Hong Kong and its special freedoms and autonomy that it has.

Since it's supposed to survive under international treaties until 2047, without the one party rule that exist on the rest of mainland China. So I just heard China's top diplomat stationed here trying to reassure diplomats and international business leaders about this new initiative. Take a listen.


is absolutely no need to panic or worry that you may be unfavorably impacted. Do not be intimidated or even misled and exploited by those with ulterior motives. And in particular, do not be a rumor monger yourself or join the anti-China forces in stigmatizing and demonizing the legislation. Let's do less, meddle, obstruct it or provoke confrontation.


WATSON: The Chinese government insists it will only target what it describes as terrorists, separatists and agents of foreign countries here in Hong Kong. But who defines that? Who determines that? The fact is that while there have been violent protesters here that I've witnessed beating people up, there's also a broad segment of society that's really unhappy with how things are unfolding here.

The Beijing appointed leader of Hong Kong only has 27 percent support according to the latest public opinion poll. No dissent whatsoever is tolerated in mainland China. So, there are real concerns that if this law is pushed through simply for criticizing the government, that could land you on a terrorist list. And that is also one of the concerns that the International Business Community that is headquartered here and diplomats, the European Union, Australia and the U.S. are all raising right now. Laura?

JARRETT: All right, Ivan, thanks for staying on top of the situation for us.

SANCHEZ: Staying in Asia, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un moving to ramp up his nation's nuclear deterrence. The state news agency says Kim at a meeting of the central military commission set up new policies designed to put the countries strategic armed forces on a high alert operation. His announcement comes nearly two years after a historic summit.