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Americans Gather To Celebrate Memorial Day Without Uniformly Observing Social Distancing; Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) Interviewed On Reopening Businesses In New Jersey; Eighteen States Report Increase In Virus Cases; Police Use Teargas On Protesters In Hong Kong. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired May 25, 2020 - 08:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: To elbow at a pool party.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, no social distancing there. This is happening as 18 states are actually seeing new cases rise by 10 percent or more. This includes Arkansas, where the governor there confirms his state is experiencing a second wave of the infection, 22 other states are holding steady, 10 states seeing cases decline.

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

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Rosa Flores, she is live in Pensacola Beach, Florida. Rosa, as you know, Florida's been ahead of the game on reopening from the beginning. What are we seeing here now on a big holiday weekend?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, good morning. We're seeing people hit the beach in Pensacola, Florida, early, just like many Americans will do across the country on this Memorial Day, which has an extra meaning as we also remember the nearly 100,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus. Look, the weather has been nice. People are fatigued and tired of being inside their homes. And we're seeing large crowds across the country and many people not social distancing.


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's going to get sick one day. Everybody, it's just life. FLORES: This pool party in the Ozarks showing revelers nearly arm to


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.

DERRICK HENRY, MAYOR, 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.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: 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. 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) OHIO: 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 hair stylists 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 under 10 people.

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


FLORES: Here in Pensacola, Florida, beaches are known because people from Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, as far as Illinois will drive here for Memorial Day weekend. Now Alisyn, I asked the county commissioner that represents this area the obvious question, is he concerned about the spread of the coronavirus?

And he said of course he is, but Escambia County, he says, is following the rules, regulations, and protocols set by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to reopen in a methodical way.


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

And joining us now is New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. Governor, great to see you. Thanks so much for being here on this Memorial Day.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY, (D) NEW JERSEY: Nice to be with you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, so we've seen some video of the Jersey Shore beaches. Were you heartened or alarmed this weekend at what you saw going on at the beach?

MURPHY: Yes, I wasn't alarmed. We were down Seaside Heights, Seaside Park yesterday. We actually live not far from the shore. Mother Nature didn't deal us a good hand weather-wise. It was the big alarm, frankly. It's been cool, a lot of rain.


So I don't think we could draw many lessons from this weekend. But the plan we worked out with the local mayors and counties I think is a good one. It largely leaves to them to execute. Big focus on limiting capacity, social distancing, strong encouragement to wear masks. New Jerseyans have been incredibly responsible throughout this entire crisis, and I have no reason to believe they won't continue to be.

CAMEROTA: Not everyone is thrilled, obviously, with the way you've handled this or what they consider to be sort of the slow approach to reopening. There's a protest scheduled today at Point Pleasant Beach of people who want businesses like gyms and hair salons to be able to reopen, and some states have already done that, governor. And so do you think that the protesters today will be able to sway you?

MURPHY: I don't begrudge their right to protest, but they don't sway me. The only thing that sways me are the facts and the data and the science. And listen, I want to open salons and gyms as much as anybody, but I think folks know this.

But when you talk about indoors, lack of ventilation, close proximity, sedentary, you saw that hair stylist or salon worker in Missouri in the spread that she engendered, that's real. And so gyms, listen, I want to get them opened again as much as the next guy, but we're not there yet. I want to do it responsibly, and I don't want to kill anybody.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about churches. As you know, some churches are raring to get back into actual services, more than 10 people, people shoulder to shoulder, and we saw some of that. In Berlin, New Jersey, they defied basically the state order not to all gather in one place. Are there any repercussions for this?

MURPHY: Well, there will be repercussions in any case where someone willfully violates our executive orders. But putting the specifics of that aside, I want to get churches going as well. I spoke to the president directly on Friday afternoon. I think we all want to -- anyone who worships wants to get back doing what they have always done.

But again, we're going to do it responsibly. I think we could do it. I'm sure we'll get there, but we've got to get there right and we've got to get there at the right time. And when you look at the configuration of that church or temple or mosque, it's got to be properly laid out given the realities of this.

Again, it's indoors, typically lacking in ventilation. You're typically sedentary. That's a bad fact set to begin with. So let's use the data to help guide us as to how that should look like to keep us as safe as possible and, I hope, as soon as possible.

CAMEROTA: But for people who do act irresponsibly, to use your words, what are the repercussions?

MURPHY: There are typically summonses, and either the Department of Health or the attorney general, there will be steps taken. We saw this with a gym last week that opened, and there was local, from the county prosecutor several days in a row of summonses, and then it ended up in court and the gym is closed.

It's a fairly straightforward process, and we just encourage -- the overwhelming amount of folks who lead institutions of faith, who run and own gyms or salons, they understand this. They're chomping at the bit, we get that, but they also understand the risks associated with it. And we've got to do make sure we'll all in this together and we do this the right way.

CAMEROTA: Michigan's Governor Gretchen Whitmer said something this weekend not many politicians, I think, say out loud. Let me play what she said about having to talk about President Trump in public.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel like when you're talking about the president publicly, you have to censor yourself for the sake of continuing to receive federal assistance?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And you've always felt that way?

WHITMER: Listen, the worst night's sleep that I've gotten the last 10 weeks is when he has attacked me on Twitter.


CAMEROTA: What's your response, governor, to hearing that?

MURPHY: I love Gretchen, by the way. And she's doing an extraordinary job. All I can speak to is my relationship with him. We've been able to find common ground, thank God, on things like ventilators, beds, PPE.

But having said that, I don't pull any punches, and I certainly know he doesn't pull any punches, and there's going to be a whole list of things where we're not going to be in agreement on. But when it comes to saving lives, we've found common ground with him and the vice president and his team, and I hope that we can continue to do so.


We had a spirited, constructive discussion, as I mentioned, on Friday, about churches. We're not there yet. I understand his strong passion to get churches opened, but again, I said, listen, at least in New Jersey, we've got to do it in a certain way, and we've got to do it at the right way and the right timing. And I'm optimistic we could do that and continue to find common ground with him.

CAMEROTA: In terms of President Trump's strong passion to get churches reopened, he didn't go to church yesterday. He played golf. Does that make sense?

MURPHY: Oh, God bless -- I'll leave that to higher authorities. But we did discuss the fact that our colleagues -- listen, are you a member of a church? I said yes, I'm a Roman Catholic and I personally want to get back. I want to get back and worship in a church. So I hope we can do that here in New Jersey sooner than later, but again, I want do it right and responsibly.

CAMEROTA: I understand you leaving it to higher authorities. We will wait to see how they weigh in on all of this. Governor, thank you very much for your time. Have a safe Memorial Day.

MURPHY: God bless our veterans, Alisyn, and thanks for having me.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely.

So how safe are some of your favorite summer activities? We get answers to that next.


SCIUTTO: As more Americans spend time outdoors, we are closely monitoring the numbers.


This is important, because 18 states are now seeing new coronavirus cases increase, only 10 states seeing cases decline, that's important. Last week it was kind of an even split.

Last week, it was kind of an even split.

North Carolina is reporting its highest single day increase of new cases this weekend. Joining us now, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen; and Dr. Preeti Malani, Chief Health Officer at the University of Michigan.

Elizabeth, if I could start with you, because again, we've got to focus on the data here. The data is important.

Are we seeing signs of a second wave already? Because the discussion of that had typically been focused on the fall. But now as you see reopening happening, is there enough data at this point to say, hey, that's what we're seeing.

I mean, you've got the Governor of Arkansas talking about a second wave already.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think we need to think about what we mean by second wave. The experts that I've been talking to say that there may be sort of lots of little waves. Waves go up in waves go down, waves go up and waves go down. It may not be sort of this even and then one big giant increase, and really this is dependent on social distancing.

It's really quite simple. The farther apart we stay from each other, the fewer cases we're going to have. The more we get together, the more complacent we get about social distancing, the more cases we're going to have.

There was an outbreak, for example, here in Atlanta, a cluster among a graduating class at a private school and this was a place where there have been some graduation gatherings.

Friends of mine said to me here in Atlanta, I'm sending my child to a graduation party, but don't worry, it is socially distanced.

I think we all need to think about what we're doing. Teenagers socially distancing is an oxymoron. It's like Jumbo Shrimp. They just don't socially distance well, especially given that high schools -- high school graduations, what happens typically? They drink alcohol.

Teenagers don't socially distance and drunk teenagers really don't socially distance. So, we need to think about what we're doing here.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Dr. Malani, I want to ask you about something that the F.D.A. Commissioner said this weekend because I need your clarification on what he means.

Stephen Hahn said, "With the country starting to open this holiday weekend, I again remind everyone that the coronavirus is not yet contained. It is up to every individual to protect themselves and their communities. Social distancing, handwashing and wearing masks protect us all." I'm still a little bit confused about the concept of containment. If a

town or community has no COVID-19 cases or very few, then have they contained it or once they go outside again and leave their homes, does it come roaring back when you encounter one case?

DR. PREETI MALANI, CHIEF HEALTH OFFICER, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: So thanks, Elizabeth. The concept of containment is a little bit complicated because it does mean like low viral transmission for sure and the ability to test in contact trace, but the gap between containment or in this case, low transmission and a fallout outbreak is pretty narrow, and that's what we worry about.

Everyone's efforts in the past couple months have gotten us to this point where we can think about going outside and gathering in small numbers with appropriate safeguards, like social distancing, and maintaining good hand hygiene and things.

But that gap is really narrow and we can end up in a very bad place very quickly.

SCIUTTO: Elizabeth Cohen, it's sad to ask this question, but sadly, it may be necessary in 21st Century America, but can we be confident going forward in the data and the numbers in that you have folks like the President deliberately attacking for instance, the death toll that we play at the side of the screen, which is based on fact. Johns Hopkins University, et cetera bringing these numbers together.

But given the intense politics with this, are you concerned that the data may be undermined, that cases, expansion of cases et cetera might be muted or masked, so that we don't see exactly where these things are popping up.

COHEN: Very much so. I'm very concerned about that because as we all make decisions about what we're going to do, what steps we're going to take to be social or not be social, that's the first thing you want to do, you want to go to your county or your state website and look up the numbers and see how many cases are all around me.

And unfortunately, what we've learned is that those numbers might not be right. That's a problem in some areas.

There has been criticism about how Florida keeps its numbers, about how Georgia keeps its numbers, as well as other states.

And if you don't have the basic facts right, it's hard to make a decision. As Dr. Hahn said, it's become an individual decision.

Well, first of all, it's problematic that it's an individual decision because getting rid of an outbreak is a team sport, not an individual sport.

But even given that, if you want to make an individual decision, how do you do that if you can't trust the numbers?

CAMEROTA: Yes, and not only that, Dr. Malani, maybe you could give our viewers some tips for how to enjoy, you know, summer weekends safely because I think that they're confused about what to do when you go to the beach for instance.


CAMEROTA: When you leave your home to go to the beach, you don't know if it's going to be overrun or not, you don't know when you put your towel down if somebody else is going to sit within six feet of you.

So, I think the temptation is to not bring a mask to the beach. That feels sort of unnatural, but how do you know if you're about to encounter a crowd?

MALANI: Yes, so well, you don't know. Part of it is, I suppose if you drive there, you'll know based on how crowded the parking situation is, and just your familiarity with a particular location.

But you know, I would say if it is crowded, maybe head home or go early or go late. And do your best -- this is the shared responsibility.

You know, maybe some days like Memorial Day might be a little bit busy, but maybe during the week, it can be a little less busy and you can still enjoy yourself.


SCIUTTO: That's a point.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, this is going to be a new summer for everybody, and we're all just going to have to be flexible in terms of our behavior and comfort level with everything.

But Dr. Malani, thank you very much for all of that. Elizabeth Cohen, as always, thank you for all the information.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Well, protests and teargas on the streets of Hong Kong. How will the U.S. respond to China's imposition of a draconian new National Security Law? We're going to have a live report there, next.



CAMEROTA: And now to this developing story. Protesters in Hong Kong clashing with police over China's plan to impose tough new security laws over the territory.

CNN's Ivan Watson is live in Hong Kong with the latest. Ivan, what's happening.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, the police here in Hong Kong say they arrested at least 180 demonstrators who tried to protest in the streets against this law in Hong Kong on Sunday. The central government of China has argued that the protests of last

year that went on for more than six months that got increasingly violent that they pose a threat to China's national security as a whole. And they say that is why they need to impose this new National Security Law.

Now, people here in Hong Kong, critics of this proposal, they warn that by criminalizing things like sedition and subversion and treason, by threatening to introduce secret police into this former British colony, that this would rip up the agreement that was made decades ago, when Britain handed over this former British colony to Chinese rule, and there were freedoms that were supposed to be enshrined here until the year 2047.

The new law proposal has also kind of alarmed business circles in this international trading hub, that China's top diplomat here in Hong Kong spoke to foreign diplomats and business leaders and tried to reassure them with a message don't panic.


XIE FENG, CHINA'S FOREIGN MINISTRY COMMISSIONER TO HONG KONG: There's 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 meddling, obstruct it or provoke confrontation.


WATSON: So, Chinese government officials insist that they'll still be freedom of assembly and press here in Hong Kong, but I think a lot of people are concerned who will define who is a terrorist? Will it be legal in the future for people to criticize the authorities here? To criticize the government? To worship freely?

Will the internet be censored by such draconian measures as we see very nearby in Mainland China? Hong Kong is the freest corner of modern day China, and already governments, such as the U.S. government are threatening that if the autonomy isn't preserved here, that this could threaten trade agreements with this city, and could potentially put at risk its future as a place for international trade, transport and tourism -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Ivan Watson there in Hong Kong. Thanks very much. Joining me now, Ian Bremmer, he is President of the Eurasia Group and G-Zero Media.

Ian, good to have you on there. You see China's defense in effect saying don't demonize, don't stigmatize this law. All will be fine.

I've spent a lot of time in China. I've seen how China handles internal dissent. They imprison people. They stifle online discussion, even of things. How should folks at home here in the U.S. look at this sedition law in Hong Kong?

Is it an attempt to apply Chinese kind of authoritarianism to Hong Kong?

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Yes, the Chinese, of course, are never at fault for anything they do domestically. They've said that they've handled the coronavirus transparently. They've said that the Uyghurs are only having, you know, voluntary education camps.

I mean, this is going to be a complete change in trajectory for Hong Kong as a comparatively independent economic entity.

And, you know, in an environment where so many people have done business there because they want to have a foot in both places, they want to be able to do business with Western rule of law, but they want access to the Chinese market, an environment where the Chinese Foreign Minister just yesterday warned that we might be heading into a Cold War.

Places like Hong Kong are going to get squeezed a lot more strongly both by the Chinese change in law, and also by the Americans and American allies who will change their arrangements for being able to treat Hong Kong as a separate entity.