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Millions Of Americans Mark Memorial Day, Some Ignore Guidelines; Officials Fear Spikes As Americans Crowd Public Places; U.S. Nears Grim Milestone Of 100,000 Dead Americans. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 25, 2020 - 07:00   ET


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Out there going through 18 holes, just giving each other -- ribbing (ph) at each other as they made some bad shots.


Not many people can make fun of Tom Brady. Tiger Woods is one of them.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEW DAY: Yes, it's just nice to see live sports in this country. Andy, thanks very much.

New Day starts right now.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is a special Memorial Day edition of New Day. John is off. Jim Sciutto is with me. Great to have you here, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Good to be here.

CAMEROTA: This morning, we remember the brave Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country, as well as those we lost to the coronavirus. Later this morning, President Trump and the first lady will visit Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

This Memorial Day will be unlike any other, as the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus nears a staggering 100,000 Americans who have died.

This weekend, beaches from coast to coast were crowded with varying degrees of social distancing and mask-wearing, and that includes Alabama, which is seeing a steady rise in cases. So we will speak with the mayor of Montgomery coming up. He's sounding a warning that his city is running out of ICU beds for the sickest patients.

SCIUTTO: Well, the head of the FDA is calling on everyone to follow those safety guidelines, warning that the coronavirus is not yet contained. And the head of the White House coronavirus task force is reminding Americans that there is clear, scientific evidence that masks work to help stop the spread of infection, this even though the president does not follow those guidelines. The president spent the weekend playing golf as the nation nears a very grim, a very sad milestone.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Rosa Flores. She is live in Pensacola Beach, Florida. Rosa, tell us what you're seeing down there.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Jim. Well, we're seeing people hit the beach very early this morning, just like millions of Americans will be doing across the country. But, look, this year, Memorial Day has extra meaning as we remember the nearly 100,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus.

Now, here in the beach that you see behind me, we observe social distancing happening yesterday, but that was not the case in other parts of the country.


FLORES: 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.

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

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

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

MAYOR DERRICK HENRY, DAYTONA BEACH, FL: 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 without face coverings. Dr. Deborah Birx urging Americans to stay vigilant with social distancing and wearing masks.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: What we have said to people is there is clear scientific evidence now by all the droplet experiments that happened and that others have done to show that a mask prevents 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 capitols, 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 what 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.

CLAY GODDARD, DIRECTOR, SPRINGFIELD-GREENE COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT: 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 to spread the coronavirus to several people.


GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): 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 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 get to houses of worship sooner than later but we want to do it right, responsibly and that we don't kill anybody by doing it too fast.


FLORES: Here is how social distancing worked in Pensacola, Florida. If you look at the beach behind me, the depth of the beach is about 250 feet. Now, umbrellas were set more than six feet apart allowing families to take in the sun together but also social distance.

And, Alisyn, you need space in order to social distance. And here in Escambia County, there's 27 miles of white sandy beaches. Alisyn?

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

So Alabama is seeing a steady rise in cases with nearly 1,000 new infections just over the weekend. In the state capital, there is serious concern that the hospitals are running out of ICU beds for the most sick people.

Joining us now is the mayor of Montgomery, Alabama, Steven Reed. Mayor, great to see you this morning. Give us a status report of how Montgomery is doing because last week, you had said that you were worried because I believe there was one ICU bed left. So what's happening this morning? MAYOR STEVEN REED (D-MONTGOMERY, AL): This morning, we have six ICU beds out of 100 in this region. And so while that is some mild improvement, it is not the type of improvement we like to see. We're still at a crisis level in this community. We still have issues right now with more positive cases coming in and patients coming in, in a much worse position.

So we have to make sure that in this community, we're staying focused on all the guidelines and all the steps that we took months ago and when we had progress and our numbers were low and we don't relax things too soon and we don't really go back into some of the practices you just covered before coming on.

CAMEROTA: Well, let's talk about that, because here is the graph of where the cases are going in Alabama. And they're going in the wrong direction. I mean, you can just see, if you follow that red line, they are trending upward. There are some times, including this past weekend, where there's a huge spike in cases. But, in general, it's going in the wrong direction. And why do you think that is, Mayor?

REED: Well, I think certainly people have decided that the pandemic is over, that there's not a risk out there and that they're ready to get back to their normal way of doing things. And that's a mistake that we've been making over the last few weeks as we have kind of eased restrictions in this community and across the state, it's that it's given people false sense of security.

We're still in the middle of a crisis. We're still battling this pandemic. We still have to practice social distancing. We have to wear masks when we're in public. And people have to make sure that they are passing that on to friends, family and colleagues that this is not over. We have not won yet and we have to get that to the public.

And that's why we wanted to sound the alarm last week and that's why we're continuing to talk to our community and talk to business leaders, faith leaders and everyone else to remind them of where things stand and the risk that still exist, not only here in Montgomery but throughout the State of Alabama.

CAMEROTA: I heard your governor speak last week and, basically, she said that she was very eager to reopen. Obviously, there are all sorts of economic consequences for having been shut down. And she said they were going to rely now on personal responsibility. Everyone was just going to have to take personal responsibility. Are you comfortable with that plan?

REED: No, I'm not. I think that we have to ask people to be personally responsible but I also think the government has to set the tone. I think we have the facts and information. We have the data. We cannot put that aside for the sake of trying to get the economy going only to prematurely have us go back into a second wave of this.

And so I think that it's important to ask people to do their part. People have done a great job in this community of coming together, helping their neighbors and really looking out for one another. However, it has not been enough. So we want to make sure that we are present for and the information that's needed. But the public can make their own decisions but also free to make the decisions as leaders that we think is best for the residents that we serve and the people that depend on us to give them the information and made the best decision with the data that we have.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about high school sports.


High school students are going to be able to, as I understand it, starting next week, June 1st, resume their workouts and their training and conditioning and I think that's a week earlier than had originally been predicted. So why move up the date and how do you feel about that starting?

REED: Well, listen as a little league coach, I understand the importance of sports in this community. I understand what it means to not only the kids but the parents and families and to the communities, I think, again, this is another example of us moving too fast and moving too soon.

Again, in many communities, this is the way that brings people together. It's a rallying point. But I'm concerned that we may put not only the students at risk but we may also put their loved ones, their families at risk as well in a state where I don't believe we have figured out what we're going to do about public education and we don't know how we're going to educate our kids in school buildings and what that's going to look like.

It just seems to be out of step to allow people to come back and start practicing as teams and in groups when we're still seeing the numbers in various parts of this state that exists right now.

CAMEROTA: Let me again pull up for people the things that have been reopening. The stay-at-home order went into effect in Alabama on April 4th, through the 30th. Then on May 11th, which was earlier than some other states, bars, restaurants, gyms, hair salons, nail salons, reopened. On May 22nd, entertainment venues, summer camps, childcare facilities. So what has it been like in Montgomery since then? I mean, are you seeing a sort of robust return to the economy? Are people going out to restaurants and movie theaters?

REED: Not yet. At least here in Montgomery, we have not seen that type of response. What we're seeing is kind of a split community, where you have people who believe that this is over and have decided that they're going to get back to their normal way of living and they're willing to take the risk. What they're not considering is the risk that poses to others when they do not see some of the symptoms in themselves and how they can spread this virus. That is the issue here.

And that's why we're trying to make sure everyone understands it that we still need them to stay home as much as possible. We still need our vulnerable communities to make sure they're protected. And we have to do our part and really letting people know what's at risk.

I understand that people have seen stories of recovery. That's exciting and we are all proud of that and we're all praying for more recoveries. However, we still have to do our part to make sure that we don't continue to see these numbers rise and we don't prolong this virus staying around not only in this community but the entire country.

So I think that while we're seeing people move out and start to get back to the normal way of doing things, we have to make sure that as leaders, we're sounding the alarm and we're trying to guide them in a more precautionary approach to this pandemic.

CAMEROTA: Mayor Steven Reed, stay safe, thank you very much for your time.

REED: Stay safe and have a happy Memorial Day.

CAMEROTA: You as well. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Stay safe, important words.

Well, tropical weather could make Memorial Day a washout actually in some parts of the country. CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers has your holiday forecast. Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good to see you, Jim. Hi. Especially Florida, there will be tropical moisture all over the state and the beaches will be certainly wet and probably lightning-filled in spots. Make sure you're whether aware, when you hear it, make sure you go inside.

This weather is brought to you by Tractor Supply Company, providing pet food, animal feed and gardening supplies.

So let's get right to it. We have a storm system that's going to make severe weather up and down in the middle part of the country and very heavy rainfall in South Florida. Also, rip current problems here across parts of Florida as well. We'll look at the weather through the middle part of the country, there could even be a tornado or two in some of these bigger storms.

Down to the south, here is the heavy rain, not like that you didn't have enough heavy rainfall yesterday in Miami, but more coming in for today as well.

Farther up the coast, things are pretty good. We're going to see a little bit of high surf. But this is the issue here, the heavy rain, four to six inches of rain across South Florida, maybe even toward Panama City. So if you hear the thunder, go indoors.

72 in New York City, 75 Charlotte, 82 in Charleston and (INAUDIBLE) 85 with sunshine.

Now, Jim, the sunshine is very bright today in many spots. This will be the first time people actually got out and about, sunscreen day today for sure. Back to you.

SCIUTTO: I hear you, smart advice all around. Chad Myers, thanks very much.

Well, millions will head to the beaches on this Memorial Day. So how can scenes like this one be avoided? Health officials are voicing their concerns.


There are safe ways to do it, folks. We're going to have the details, next.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Americans are flocking to the beaches and parks this Memorial Day. Scenes like this clearly show that not everyone complying with social distancing guidelines, recommendations, such as wearing masks, still in effect, by the way. 18 states are seeing an increase now in new cases while only ten states are seeing a decline. That's a change from last week. More states seeing an increase.

Joining me now is CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner and CNN National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem. Great to have you both on.

Dr. Reiner, if I can begin with you. We had the FDA director, of course, the Trump appointee, today, in effect, contradicting the president's message saying that the virus is, in his words, far from contained in this country. How should folks at home who understandably want to honor the day, Memorial Day, they want to spend time with their family, they want to take advantage of a relaxation, not an end of the social distancing guidelines.


What is safe in your view for families today and what's not safe?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Good morning. I think what's safe is to do what we know works, which is to continue to social distance. And if you find yourself in a place where you really can't separate yourself from other people, you need to have a mask on.

Look, I think every American on this Memorial Day needs to understand that we protect each other in times of crisis in this country. And in this crisis, we protect each other by wearing masks. It's the patriotic thing to do.

The president is going to visit Arlington National Cemetery today, an intensely holy place that commemorates enormous sacrifice. Millions of Americans are making sacrifices now in this country. And when the president goes to Arlington National Cemetery today, he should set an example and wear a mask. So everyone who goes out in public now should wear a mask, keep your distance. That's how you protect each other.

CAMEROTA: Juliette, Dr. Birx had to address this this weekend. Dr. Deborah Birx, of course, part of the coronavirus task force. She was asked why the president isn't wearing a mask in public and he's proudly not wearing a mask in public. And as always, this is not an enviable position for her. She had to sort of thread the needle between what the science says and try to somehow explain what the president is doing despite what the science says.

But I think that it came down to exactly what Dr. Reiner just said, which is out of common courtesy, that's what you do, and that's she got to. So listen to this moment.


BIRX: What we have said to people is there's clear scientific evidence now by all the droplet experiments that happened and that others have done to show that a mask does prevent droplets from reaching others. And out of respect for each other, as Americans that care for each other, we need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social distance.


CAMEROTA: It's just hard to understand how the president could hear that and still decide not to wear a mask.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. He's gotten it in his head that the mask is a symbol of sort of defeat to the virus. No. It's actually a symbol that you are, in some ways, respecting the virus and recognize your responsibility to limit the likelihood that you would be either a transmitter or that you would get sick.

We have to think of masks as not only sort of an important aspects of protecting ourselves but part of -- I mean, we're in the security world now, right? We're in the sort of risk reduction world. As one of many tools that as we start to open up are necessary to minimize the risk to the American public. We know we're not going to get the risk down to zero. We are living with this virus for many months, if not years, to come.

But we do know what works. It's masks and social distancing. It's trying to limit the amount -- the number of people were around, trying to limit the kind of interactions we have with people so that gyms are very, very different than, say, going to a retail store. And then to use every tool imaginable to mitigate the likelihood that we will spread the disease.

We know what we need to do. It's just a variety of different tools, totally manageable, none of them scary, none of them shocking. And the president has sort of put a political overlay, and so I'm not surprised the American public is confused.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Dr. Reiner, that is a sad fact, right, that the politics have and continued to trump science here, not just on recommendations on masks, even the numbers. I mean, the president is raising questions about whether the death toll is real. Of course, there's nothing to support that. In fact, most of the data shows it probably understates.

What are the health consequences of that, because you're seeing that playing out state by state, community by community, right? Because the politics are leading some places to open more quickly and violate those recommendations. Are we seeing already in the numbers a consequence of that?

REINER: I think we are. Look, there's a difference in how the news from the administration is presented. When it's presented by a scientist like Dr. Fauci or Dr. Birx versus how it's presented by the president. You heard this weekend Dr. Hahn explain to the public that we still don't have containment.

If you removed New York City and the New York area from the national mix, the virus is still on the rise in the United States. We are not at all close to containment. But we get mixed messages from this administration. The president doesn't wear a mask. He says we're opening. He wants to open big. He wants to open churches. And the result is what we saw in the Ozarks and all around the country.


We see people shoulder to shoulder without masks. That's how you spread a virus, not contain the virus. The message needs to be very, very focused.

We can defeat this virus and we will. But we do it by simple measures, social distancing, wearing a mask. Think about carrying the biggest golf umbrella that you have. If people are inside or under that umbrella, they're too close to you. Keep your distance from people. Be smart.

CAMEROTA: On that note, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Juliette Kayyem, thank you both very much for all of the advice.

REINER: My pleasure.

CAMEROTA: So, as the U.S. death toll nears 100,000 Americans, people in California are setting an example when it comes to social distancing, even at the beach. CNN has reporters across the country to bring you all of the latest developments.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Paul Vercammen at Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles. You can see all the empty sand behind me, a lot of people paying attention to social distancing rules here. In fact, we saw people riding their bikes and wearing their masks on this 22- mile long bike way that the county just reopened.

Some of those bike riders telling us that people in other parts of the country should pay attention to them and how they are following social distancing rules and wearing their masks because it takes a whole country to stop the spread of COVID-19.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ed Lavendera in Little Rock, Arkansas. Health experts will be closely be watching the state this week. The governor here says that they're in the midst of a second peak of coronavirus cases. Nearly 900 new coronavirus cases have been reported since last Thursday. The governor says that is due in large part to more testing being done in the state and that the silver lining that they're seeing so far is that the positive infection rate and the daily hospitalization rate remain low.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Kristen Holmes at the White House, where one of President Trump's top economic advisers is giving a dire outlook at those unemployment numbers. Kevin Hassett telling our Dana Bash on Sunday that he believes those unemployment numbers could still be in the double digits by November.

Now, as for the New York Future, he once again predicted that it could be north of 20 percent this month and that the unemployment rate could be even higher in June. He added that this was going to be one aspect of the economy that came back slower as the country reopened.


CAMEROTA: Our thanks to all of our correspondents around the country.

So, anti-government protests breaking out again in Hong Kong. How will the U.S. government respond to China's controversial new plans?

Our correspondent is on the ground in the middle of all of it, next.