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Millions of Americans Mark Memorial Day, Some Ignoring Guidelines; Trump Golfs as U.S. Death Toll Approaches 100,000. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 25, 2020 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE; The first summer holiday since the start of the COVID outbreak, and Americans are flocking to beaches from coast to coast.

[05:59:41]

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

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People are being real respectful, they really are, even on the beach.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: You don't know who's infected. If you can't social distance and you're outside, you must wear a mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is impossible to enforce that. It's a matter of public choice, and we don't have enough arrest powers or facilities to harbor that many people who are not following the guidelines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not about politics. This is one time when we truly are all in this together.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is a special holiday edition of NEW DAY. It is Monday, May 25, 6 a.m. here in New York.

And I want to welcome Jim Sciutto. He is in for John Berman.

Great to have you here, Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Nice to be here. Thanks so much. And happy Memorial Day to everyone.

CAMEROTA: On this Memorial Day, we remember the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

And this year we also pay tribute to the nearly 100,000 Americans we've lost to coronavirus.

Millions of people marked this holiday by heading to beaches, pools and parks. But not all of them followed social distancing guidelines or wore masks, as you can see.

Take a look at the huge crowds in Daytona Beach. Here's an aerial view for you. And check out this scene in Missouri. Hundreds of people elbow to elbow at a pool party. So we'll talk about the safest way to be outside, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. That's not one of them.

It comes as 18 states are seeing new cases rise by 10 percent or more. This includes Arkansas, where the governor there confirms his state is experiencing a second wave now.

Twenty-two other states are holding steady, while just ten states are seeing cases decline. That, of course, a requirement by recommendations for reopening.

Despite all that, President Trump urging schools and churches to open. The president made little mention of the staggering human toll of the pandemic this weekend. Instead -- and you see it here -- he golfed on both Saturday and Sunday.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Rosa Flores. She is live in Pensacola Beach, Florida. Tell us how widespread there, Rosa, you've been seeing crowds like this coming together.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we have seen a lot of crowds here in Pensacola Beach, Florida. We also have seen a lot of social distancing, especially on the beach.

But as you were mentioning, as millions of Americans are flocking to beaches and parks around the country, there is extra meaning this year on Memorial Day as we remember the nearly 100,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus.

Look, the weather has been nice. People are fatigued. They are tired of quarantining. And we're seeing large crowds around -- around the country and many people ignoring social distancing rules.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FLORES (voice-over): Scenes from the unofficial kickoff to the summer showing many Americans not practicing social distancing measures.

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

FLORES: Over the weekend, people crowded beaches and parks and even restaurants and bars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody going to get sick one day. I mean, everybody. That's just life. I mean.

FLORES: This pool party in the Ozarks showing revelers nearly arm to arm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's just go ahead and shut down all eastbound.

FLORES: Take a look at this police footage from Daytona Beach, showing hundreds gathering in the streets.

MAYOR DERRICK HENRY (D), DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA: Our residents are excited about having access to their beach, so we're going to have to figure out how we can control these crowds and, largely, how we can inform the visitors.

FLORES: Ocean City, Maryland's boardwalk packed with people, many of them without face coverings. Dr. Deborah Birx urging Americans to stay vigilant with social distancing and wearing masks.

BIRX: We have said to people, is there's clear scientific evidence now by all the droplet experiments that happen and that others have done to show that a mask does prevent droplets from reaching others. We need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social distance.

FLORES: The question of wearing a mask has become political: from President Trump repeatedly refusing to wear one in public to protesters gathering outside state capitals, many without their faces covered, rallying to expedite the reopening process.

Ohio's governor says this should not be a debate.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): This is not about politics. We wear the mask. And it's been very clear. The studies have shown you wear the mask not to protect yourself so much as to protect others.

FLORES: In Missouri, two hairstylists potentially exposed 140 clients to the disease while working up to eight days with symptoms.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we need to comprehend the consequences of this. If we're going to work sick and sharing this illness with others, that's not a good approach.

FLORES: And in Arkansas, a high school swim party helped spread the coronavirus to several people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're young, they're swimming. They're just having activity. And positive cases resulted from that. And so it's just an encouragement for us to be disciplined in our activities.

FLORES: With President Trump pushing for churches to welcome back congregants.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Church is essential.

FLORES: This church in New Jersey defying the state's stay-at-home order, restricting indoor gatherings to ten people.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): I would hope we'd get to houses of worship sooner than later. But we want to make sure we do it right, responsibly and that we don't kill anybody by doing it too fast. (END VIDEOTAPE)

[06:05:07]

FLORES: Now here in Pensacola Beach, Florida, where I am, this is a beach where people from Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, drive to. So when you compare the number of cars that drove into Pensacola last year to this year, just on Saturday alone, it's about 20,000. So it's on par year to year.

Now Alisyn, I asked the county commissioner that represents this area, is he concerned about the potential spread of the coronavirus. And he says that, of course, he is. But that Escambia County is following all the rules and all the regulations set forth by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to open in a smart and methodical way -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Rosa, thank you very much for that report.

So at the same time that people are rushing to beaches like North Carolina's Outer Banks, that state is reporting their highest one-day spike in coronavirus cases.

So how are they handling it? Well, joining us now is Ben Sproul. He's the mayor of Kill Devil Hills. That's a beach county on North Carolina's Outer Banks. It's a beautiful beach community. And I don't blame people for wanting to go there.

But Mayor, just tell us about this weekend and how you feel as people -- there's this of influx of visitors at the same time that -- you know, if I pull up the Johns Hopkins numbers here, this weekend had a big spike of cases in North Carolina, the highest one-day total. So tell us about that contradiction.

Mayor, can you hear me?

Hmm. Mayor Sproul?

Yes, I think that we've lost Mayor Sproul. But the point -- the point is, Jim, that people -- there's a huge influx of people to all of these beaches. You can see the video and understand why. But that the numbers in some places like North Carolina are not going in the direction that officials would want. So we'll get Mayor Sproul back.

SCIUTTO: It's why the experts are saying open up, but open up slowly and deliberately. Let's speak to a couple of them now.

Dr. Amesh Adalja. He's an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins. And CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. She's a former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Of course, DHS very involved in the pandemic response.

Doctor, if I could begin with you, we have a lot of folks watching today. It's Memorial Day. After all, weather is going to be nice in a lot of places. What is safe to do on a day like today if you choose to go out in public? And what's not safe, in your view? DR. AMESH ADALJA, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, JOHNS HOPKINS

UNIVERSITY: It's important to remember that the virus is going to be there in all of our activities until we have a vaccine. So everything is going to be greater than a zero risk.

That said, some things are easier to do and social distance. So things like out -- being outdoors. Avoiding -- and when you're outdoors, to avoid congregate settings, where there's big lines of people, big crowds of people; where you can actually stay six feet apart; where you can wash your hands frequently; where you don't touch your face.

And you have to also mind common-touch surfaces, even if you are in an area that is outdoors. There are going to be tables and chairs that could be a vehicle for spreading the virus.

But the point is that you're going to have to -- if you have to interact with people, there are ways to do it in a safe manner. All activities don't necessarily involve the same amount of people. And you have to choose among those, based upon your individual risk tolerance, knowing that this virus is going to be with us and you're going to threaten to expose yourself to this virus.

CAMEROTA: Juliette, I thought it was very interesting what the FDA commissioner said yesterday. He basically talked about how something that we all know, but he spelled it out, that the virus is not contained. Listen to this.

Oh, here. I'll read it for you. "With the country starting to open up this holiday weekend, I again remind everyone that the coronavirus is not yet contained. It's up to every individual to protect themselves and their community. Social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks protects us all."

And I guess when I read this, I thought, what would containment look like? I don't -- there are some communities that have done a good job of staying indoors, and they're not seeing new cases. So then what would containment -- if that's not containment, what is?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. So containment would be sort of consistent containment in -- across the United States or countrywide.

And I think also, he was speaking to the fact that many of these jurisdictions are opening up and are not seeing any -- any evidence of flattening the curve, that the line is still going up.

I thought the most interesting part of his quote was actually the next part when he says, it's up to every individual. I think what we've seen happen in the last week was the White House move from a sort of government policy about what it would mean to deal with this virus, to live with a certain amount of risk; to essentially every man and woman on their own. I mean, in other words, that every individual has to make their own risk assessment about whether they want to risk either being a carrier or actually getting infected.

And I thought that language was interesting to me, which was yes, that's the stage we're in, in which each of us individually, it's our responsibility to wear a mask, stay away from each other, socially distanced. And the government, at least the White house, is receding in this effort.

[06:10:08]

SCIUTTO: Yes. And listen, that -- any decision you make, of course, is a decision not only for yourself, but for others.

KAYYEM: Right. Yes.

SCIUTTO: For instance, if you're asymptomatic at the time, there might be a risk of spreading it.

But Juliette, just -- just to you, I wonder, in terms of explaining to people so that they can make those decisions but also to understand the stay-at-home orders and the relaxation of them, has the government, have the agencies, have the Dr. Birxes of the world done a good enough job explaining to people the difference between the goal of flattening the curve, right, which was the initial explanation for this, and what stage we're in now? Right?

Because the curve has statistically -- and nationally, a least, been flattened. Have they done a good job saying, OK, it's different now but still important, if you know what I mean?

KAYYEM: I don't think they have. It may be all of our faults, that Americans began to understand flatten the curve meaning as there's no risk out there. No, that was not the point.

Flattening the curve was to ensure that there would be hospital capacity, should there be too many -- too many cases.

What -- the stage we're in now is what we call the adaptive recovery stage. We're going to live with the virus for a period of time until the vaccine.

So it means not that there's a single solution. This is where my security background comes into play. In -- like physical security, airport security. We talk about layered security, that you have a whole bunch of different tools from who's the passenger to a lock on the cockpit door to the screening to taking off your shoes. You have multiple tools to try to minimize the risk.

We should think about sort of living with the virus the same way. We're going to have layered defenses. Everyone has different tools. But we have to use them all. That's why masks are so important. They're not perfect, but they work. And they are part of an arsenal of efforts that all of us have to make to, one, be kind to each other but also to minimize the risk.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Adalja, when you look at the videos from over the weekend, and you see packed pool parties like this one, like this aerial view, I mean, it's hard for -- we're not on the ground there. It's hard for us to know exactly what's going on. But from this aerial view, you -- you don't see people wearing masks, of course, and you don't see people socially distancing.

But when people are outdoors and it's warm, isn't it harder to transmit the virus?

ADALJA: It is something that is harder. It's not impossible. So when you compare outdoors versus indoors, transmission just seems to be much more likely when you're closer to people in an indoor setting where the environmental conditions are much more favorable to virus transmission.

But that doesn't mean you're impervious when you're outdoors. You still have to think about this virus being able to move from person to person. And if you're less than six feet from somebody, the virus is going to be able to get to you, irrespective if you're outdoors or indoors. It's must less surface transmission that you find outdoors.

And outdoors are more naturally socially distant. And that's -- that's what we're seeing in that phenomenon of outdoor being less than indoors. But it's not ironclad, and it's not 100 percent.

SCIUTTO: Doctor [SIC] Kayyem, who as you're watching states and communities around the country try to balance, you know, this understandable balance between getting the economy back running, getting people back to work, and reducing the risk of transmission of the disease, where do you see folks getting that balance right, ignoring the politics, right, which have so sadly infused every factor of this debate here, even the facts? Who's getting it right?

That's for you, Juliette.

KAYYEM: Oh, so various jurisdictions -- I'm sorry. You said, "Doctor," so thanks for the upgrade.

But various jurisdictions are getting it right. They're going slowly. So they're going to have a tiered opening. In fact, Massachusetts is taking it real slow. The governor is getting criticism.

Governor DeWine, the same in Ohio. So across political ideologies.

And what that basically means is what -- what the priorities have to be aligned with the likelihood that you will be infected.

So how do we think about it? We think about what's the likelihood or what's the -- what's the interaction? In other words, a gym is different than, say, a dry cleaner. How are the number -- how many people might you interact with if we do open up?

So that's why churches are such a big deal. That's just a lot of people. It has nothing to do with the religion.

And then finally, can the jurisdiction or the place minimize the risk? So we're balancing those three factors. And that's what we're trying to do across jurisdictions, across industries. And it's the harder part. Shutting down, shockingly, was the easy part.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Adalja, Juliette Kayyem, great to see both of you guys. Thank you very much.

GREGORY: Yes, and Juliette, by the way, I anointed you a doctor there. That's my gift on this Memorial Day.

KAYYEM: My mom will be so happy.

SCIUTTO: Thanks to both of you.

As, sadly, the U.S. death toll nears 100,000 Americans, President Trump spent the weekend golfing. And insulting people on Twitter. And spreading the conspiracy theory. We'll discuss next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Well, the numbers, they're hard to comprehend this morning. But remember, these are people with families and stories. The coronavirus death toll in the United States is nearing 100,000 people.

President Trump has not acknowledged that sobering reality. Instead, he spent the holiday weekend tweeting insults in between two rounds of golf.

CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House with more.

And Joe, this seems to be, frankly, part of the president's message here to some degree. Deliberately playing down the outbreak while going back to normal, or attempting to.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's true, Jim. Good morning from Washington.

An unusually sad holiday weekend here in Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, as the U.S. approaches a deadly milestone in the coronavirus pandemic.

[06:20:05]

The president, though, spent most of his weekend, as you said, either tweeting on his phone or on the links playing golf.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump spending much of the holiday weekend doing two things: golfing and tweeting. Sunday, protesters gathered outside his course in Virginia, criticizing him for golfing while Americans are still grappling with the pandemic. One sign declaring, "I care. Do you?"

This visit marked the 358th the president has made to one of his properties and the 266th trip he's made to one of his golf clubs since taking office.

President Trump also reigniting his feud with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, calling on him to drop out of the Alabama Republican Senate primary. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Jeff Sessions was a

disaster as attorney general. Should have never been attorney general. Was not qualified. He's not mentally qualified to be attorney general. He was the biggest problem.

JOHNS: The back and forth continuing throughout the weekend with the president, again, criticizing Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.

But Sessions firing back, "I did my duty, and you're damn fortunate I did."

Meantime, the president defending his decision to golf, tweeting it was the first time he had played in almost three months.

The president further took the opportunity to attack former President Obama and former Vice President Biden for frequently vacationing and relaxing while in office, even renewing his attack on Obama for, quote, "always playing golf," a line of attack then-candidate Trump often made against his predecessor.

TRUMP: It was reported today, played 250 rounds of golf.

Everything is executive order, because he doesn't have enough time because he's playing so much golf.

I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf.

JOHNS: Trump even criticized Obama for golfing at the height of the Ebola response in 2014. That public health crisis saw four diagnosed cases in the United States.

But as the U.S. death toll from coronavirus approaches 100,000, noticeably missing from the president's tweet storm, any mention of the Americans who have died. Instead, tweeting positively about the nation's response, writing, "Cases, numbers and deaths are going down all over the country."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: And that last tweet is misleading. Ten states, according to our count, have seen increases -- have seen decreases over the last week, but 18 cases have -- 18 states have seen increases.

Today, the president is expected to visit Fort McHenry in Baltimore. That, of course, is a place where local officials have said they're concerned about the president's visit, because they say it sends the wrong message.

The president is also expected to go to the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery to lay a wreath.

Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: Joe, thank you very much for all of that. Joining us now is CNN senior political analyst John Avlon. John, great

to see you.

There are a few interesting things about the president choosing to play golf yesterday. And one is that, over the past week, he's been very interested in churches. He's been very interested in churches reopening. He's encouraged them to do so, even against the advice of medical experts.

But then yesterday, he didn't go to church. He played golf. So how do we process that?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's just more of the do as I say, not as I do presidency. But I think it shows how he uses -- he's willing to use religion as a political weapon but not walk the walk. And that's because he's never particularly been a person of faith, even though he's very popular among evangelicals.

But I do think as America marks -- marches towards that grim milestone of 100,000, to be golfing, to be tweeting, to never mention the victims, he's raging because his ability to distract doesn't work. He seems small against the scale of the crisis we face. But that's a very stark reminder how disconnected and apparently callous the president can be.

SCIUTTO: John Avlon, everything is political with this president, particularly a few months from an election. Does he calculate a political benefit to doing what he's doing here?

AVLON: The president is all impulse. He has no self-control. So while the president has a certain gut political cunning that has proven incredibly effective, particularly in marshalling his base, and you've got to admire, and historians will, his ability to capture the nomination out of nowhere.

He has never been about strategy. He has always been about impulse. That has served him well up to a point. But it absolutely is a misfit for leading a nation during a pandemic. And that's what's been revealed, is how often the emperor is simply not wearing clothes.

He's making accusations, and it doesn't fit anything resembling a comforter in chief, anyone who's trying to unite the nation. That's because this is really the first president in our history who has no impulse or apparent desire to unite the nation. He likes to divide. He likes to attack. Makes him seem petty and small.

[06:25:13]

CAMEROTA: This squabble has gone public that he's having with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

AVLON: Yes.

CAMEROTA: So for a long time, he was just insulting Jeff Sessions, and Jeff Sessions was taking it. And now Jeff Sessions seems to be less inclined to just sit silently, and it's been very interesting to watch.

First of all, President Trump is saying that he was a horrible attorney general, should never have been chosen, wasn't qualified. He chose him.

AVLON: Who would have chosen him for that, Alisyn? I don't know. It's so --

CAMEROTA: He's the person who picked him. I'm not sure who President Trump thinks -- how Jeff Sessions got there.

But Jeff Sessions tweeted back this weekend. He said, "You and I fight for the same agenda." And he's talking about Tuberville, who's Jeff Sessions's opponent in this upcoming Senate race, "is so weak heh won't debate me and too weak for Alabama. Alabama will vote for you this fall, but Alabama will not take orders from Washington on who you -- who to send to the Senate."

So what do you think Jeff Sessions's chances are here, going at the president?

AVLON: Look, I think Jeff Sessions is finally, perhaps, learning the right lesson of Donald Trump's rise, which is that people respect strength.

For so long, he's been walking -- basically, cowering like -- like a puppy, trying to avoid a newspaper as the president insults him at every step and really emasculates him in the eyes of the Republican primary voters.

Jeff Sessions, realizing that Donald Trump is very popular in Alabama, but he was the longtime -- 20-year senator.

But I think it's a larger cautionary tale, as well. There's the first senator who endorsed Donald Trump, when no one else would go near him. And this is how he's repaid. That's because loyalty is a one-way street with Donald Trump. Jeff Sessions has learned it. He's still trying to hug the agenda, but for the first time he's fighting back. That's probably a smart impulse. People respect strength, not weakness.

SCIUTTO: John, there's clearly impatience with the lockdowns in many states across the country, some of which you're seeing play out in those videos we've been airing here as people kind of, you know, freed from the cage, go out and violate many of the best health recommendations here.

On the politics of this, and given the very real, though, economic damage, does the president, potentially, have something right in terms of throwing his lot in -- when I say right, not in terms of health advice, in terms of the politics here, throwing his lot in with the impatient in this country and saying, now, enough of listening to the doctors. Go out and do what you want to do?

AVLON: Yes. Everyone is saying he has it right by saying, Let's ignore science and medicine. Although that -- that certainly is his impulse. Look, we're watching the president try to pull off an incredible magic

trick, which is to campaign as an incumbent president of the United States as the outsider. That is consistent with his self-conception; it's consistent with his base.

But rarely -- and I wrote a book called "Wingnuts" ten years ago about extremism in American politics. Rarely have we seen anything as surreal and self-defeatingly stupid as people protesting against health experts and medicine in the middle of a pandemic when they're the ones who are going to suffer.

So the president's, again -- he plays base politics incredibly well. His ability to listen to science, to unite the nation, to lead while minimizing -- (AUDIO AND VIDEO GAP)

CAMEROTA: Well, I guess John has had enough of us.

SCIUTTO: He must have heard. It happens. That's television in the age of -- of the coronavirus.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. I mean, honestly, Jim, there's -- you know, people have gotten very comfortable with all of the technical gremlins that every day happen. And obviously, it's hard to do all of this without the usual setup. But we're pulling it off.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Our thanks to John.

SCIUTTO: Have you -- have you ever had a relative freeze on a Zoom call, anybody at home? I think you have, right?

CAMEROTA: That's right.

All right. Meanwhile, Brazil's president greeting supporters while not wearing a mask, despite the growing outbreak in that country. So overnight, the U.S. announcing a travel ban from Brazil. We have details and a live report, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END