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THE SITUATION ROOM
Americans Celebrate Memorial Day Flocking To Beaches And Public Places; Arkansas Seeing Second Peak Of Coronavirus Cases; Novavax Begins Humans Trial For Coronavirus Vaccine; President Trump Spends Memorial Day Golfing And Tweeting; WHO Stops Hydroxychloroquine Testing; Gov. John Carney (D) Delaware Is Interviewed On The State Of Delaware's Response To Coronavirus. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 25, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST: We also want to salute 86-year-old Gerard Bartuch. He served in World War II and his grandson says Bartuch loved all things Disney. He was someone who comforted everyone with his laugh.
He lived in Melrose Park, Illinois. And the Bartuch and Kahn families, to you all, may your loved ones rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing. Our coverage continues on CNN right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and this is THE SITUATION ROOM, a special report.
On this Memorial Day as the U.S. coronavirus death toll nears 100,000 people, Americans are flocking to public spaces after months of sheltering in place.
But many are not practicing social distancing and there have been shocking scenes of people gathered very closely together and without masks and they are raising serious new concerns about a potential new spread of the virus.
A top official with the World Health Organization is now warning we could be facing a second peak and he says it's dangerous to assume that the next real danger point in the pandemic won't come until the fall.
Let's begin this hour with our senior national correspondent Kyung Lah joining us now from Los Angeles. Kyung, what, less than three months ago on March 5th, there were just 11 known coronavirus deaths here in the United States. And now less than three months later, we're approaching 100,000.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly a very grim marker and this bears repeating, Wolf. The administration expects that the numbers are still anticipated between 100,000 deaths and 240,000 deaths here in the United States.
So, what does it look like on this Memorial Day? I'm here in Manhattan Beach and I want you to take a look at the beach right now. It's actually, for a Memorial Day, it's quite thin. You can see people enjoying themselves.
This is Memorial Day, the spacing is happening here, but I want to move you over to the boardwalk where there are many more people. It is very busy up here. If you go up to the commercial street a block away, it's also very busy up there. Busier yesterday, but this is what it looks like amid a pandemic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Memorial Day, we remember our father, William E. Cordero
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll always remember Gordon Hartley --
LAH (voice-over): As Americans gathered in online forums to remember the fallen on this Memorial Day, many others met in person, willing to push boundaries on this weekend that marks the start of summer.
STACY RUTH, OCEAN CITY, MARYLAND: Everybody's going to come back and say you shoulda, coulda, woulda. But you know what, the reality of it is, at the end of the day, I think we're all responsible for our own actions.
LAH (voice-over): In Alabama, crowds pack the sand, many ignoring social distancing. In southern California, this beach sits mainly empty and visitors are wearing masks. But just a short drive away, California hikers packed this canyon shoulder to shoulder.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just not good. It's too many people in one little area.
LAH (voice-over): In response, Los Angeles County shut down the trail immediately. Crowds apparent as a cooped-up country reopens, from a giant pool party in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, to this one in Daytona Beach, Florida.
CARLOS DEL RIO, EPIDIMIOLOGIST, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: We are beginning to see an uptick in cases in Georgia and I think it's clearly a result of people relaxing social distancing.
LAH (voice-over): Data shows more states are heading in the wrong direction and the weekly average of new cases while 10 states here in green are down, 22 states in yellow hold steady, with 18 states in red and orange, showing an increase.
One of those states showing an increase in cases, Arkansas. The governor marking the holiday says his state is in the middle of a second peak, citing some relaxing of social distancing but also increased testing.
GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: Today we face another enemy. It is a deadly virus that cannot be seen. It silently attacks and kills. Almost 100,000 Americans have lost their lives within 100 days as a result of this new enemy. LAH (voice-over): And it is far from over, warns the World Health
MICHAEL RYAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WHO's HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAMME: We need to be also cognizant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time. We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now, that it's going to keep going down and that we're going to get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So put away all of your fears, all of your fears.
LAH (voice-over): But patience runs short amongst some. North Carolina protesters demand that the state open faster even as the states numbers climb
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want all of North Carolina to be open. We want for us to be able to take care of our own health, all right? We don't want the government keeping us safe.
LAH (voice-over): The economy versus science clash weighing on local leaders, trying to contain the public health crisis.
DOUG BURGUM, GOVERNOR OF NORTH DAKOTA: If someone is wearing a mask, they're not doing it to represent what political party they're in or what candidates they support. They might be doing it because they've got a 5-year-old child who has been going through cancer treatments.
LAH (on camera): And we have some developing news that we want to share. A company has just announced a new experimental vaccine has entered human trials. The first vaccination scheduled to take place tonight, Australia time. Wolf, this is the 10th announcement by a company to enter human trials for a coronavirus vaccine, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's hope they succeed. That would be critically, critically important. Kyung Lah in California for us, thank you.
Amid the pandemic, President Trump has actually spent much of this holiday weekend tweeting political attacks and golfing. Our White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond is joining us right now. Jeremy, politics very much on the president's mind on this Memorial Day.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly has been, Wolf. The president spent much of this weekend attacking his political opponents and amplifying conspiracy theories.
Even on this Memorial Day, the president continued attacking the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden and threatening to withdraw the GOP convention from the state of North Carolina.
But between those tweets, Wolf, the president did visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and speak at Fort McHenry there, Wolf. This year though, with more Americans having died of coronavirus than in the Korean and Vietnam wars combined. The president, though, was honoring more than just those who have died on the battlefield.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The new form of battle against an invisible enemy.
DIAMOND (voice-over): On the brink of 100,000 deaths, President Trump marking Memorial Day with a tribute to the victims of coronavirus.
TRUMP: As one nation, we mourn alongside every single family that has lost loved ones including the families of our great veterans. Together we will vanquish the virus and America will rise from this crisis to new and even greater heights.
DIAMOND (voice-over): Even as he acknowledged an ongoing battle, the president today, putting politics above public health, threatening to pull the GOP convention from Charlotte unless North Carolina's governor can guarantee he will allow a packed convention in August, demanding Republicans must be immediately given an answer by the governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied. If not, we will be reluctantly forced to find another Republican National Convention site.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE/FEMALE: Freedom!
DIAMOND (voice-over): Trump's threat coming two days after North Carolina recorded its highest one-day spike in cases.
ROY COOPER, GOVERNOR OF NORTH CAROLINA: The good thing is that this is three months away and it's too early to tell where North Carolina will be. This is not political. This is not emotional. This is based on health experts, data, and science.
DIAMOND (voice-over): The president also still refusing to model the health precautions his experts are calling on Americans to follow amid a national reopening.
DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: As Americans that care for each other, we need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social distance.
DIAMOND (voice-over): Dr. Deborah Birx tiptoeing around the question of whether the president should do the same.
BIRX: I've asked everybody independently to really make sure that you're wearing a mask if you can't maintain the six feet. I'm assuming that in majority of cases he's able to maintain that six-feet distance.
DIAMOND (voice-over): But on the golf course this weekend the president coming close to others without a mask. The same went for his trip to Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, cutting a stark contrast to former Vice President Joe Biden who wore a mask as he laid a wreath in Delaware. TRUMP: I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of
worship to open right now.
DIAMOND (voice-over): While Trump opted for golf instead of church on Sunday, his demand to quickly reopen churches met with some caution by Dr. Birx.
BIRX: And I made it clear that it's very important for governors and communities to let people know where there is still high levels of virus. So, although it may be safe for some to go to churches and social distance, it may not be safe for those with preexisting conditions.
DIAMOND (voice-over): FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn also urging Americans to continue taking precautions, "With the country starting to open this holiday weekend, I again remind everyone that the coronavirus is not yet contained."
The Trump administration is also looking to boost testing capacity, promising in a report to Congress to buy 100 million testing swabs and vials by the end of the year. And with cases surging in Brazil, the president on Sunday issuing new travel restrictions, barring foreigners who have recently been to Brazil from entering the U.S.
Trump is still refusing to back off his support for hydroxychloroquine, promoting the drug after yet another study found it increases the risk of death in coronavirus patients. And tonight, that study is prompting the World Health Organization to suspend its studies of the drug.
DIAMOND (on camera): And Wolf, even as the president did honor the memories of those who have died fighting coronavirus during his remarks at Fort McHenry today, the president today on twitter after that event is now touting the great reviews for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and lamenting the fact that he has not gotten enough credit for his handling of this pandemic. And Wolf, as a reminder, in just a few days we're expecting the death toll to hit 100,000. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, it's 98,000 plus right now. Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thank you.
Joining us now, the governor of the state of Delaware, John Carney. Governor Carney, thank you so much for joining us. And as the death toll does now approach 100,000, how concerned are you to see so many people gathering on beaches around the country and not social distancing or wearing masks?
GOV. JOHN CARNEY (D-DE): Yes, Wolf, it's very concerning to me. And that's why I traveled down to the beaches in Delaware this morning to see for myself how we were doing as we lifted some of the restrictions on the beaches and boardwalks. And frankly, what I saw was very encouraging. I saw not many people on
the beaches. It wasn't a great beach day in terms of the weather. But on the boardwalk, most of the people, I would say 80 percent were wearing masks as we require on the boardwalk.
And as I traveled around the Rehoboth Avenue and Rehoboth Beach, I saw businesses with plexi-glass shields at the cashiers. I saw markings on the ground and on the boardwalk to designate six feet separation among people in line.
I just was really impressed. Contrast with what you're seeing on your program with other states, I'm just so proud of Delawareans with what they're doing over this Memorial Day weekend. And we need to say, Wolf, express our honor and our gratitude for those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country on this solemn of holidays.
BLITZER: We certainly do. So you say you estimate maybe 80 percent were wearing masks on the boardwalk over there in Delaware. What about the 20 percent who weren't? Do they pay any kind of price for that? Do they get admonished? Do they get a citation?
CARNEY: So, the other thing that was very impressive was the signage we've been working with Rehoboth and other coastal towns creating signs to advise people of their responsibilities and they were very evident on the boardwalk and the approaches to the beaches in Rehoboth.
And the beach ambassadors, the beach patrol, I talked to the captain of the beach patrol and a couple of his lifeguards there and they were very positive. They are focused on education first. They're going to meet people, but in the minority, they aren't wearing masks.
And that's different than it was really even a couple of weeks ago and certainly way different than it was back in March when we had to shut the beaches down in the first instance. So, my trip down there today, I was just really impressed with what I saw, very proud to be a Delawarean.
BLITZER: Yes, people who wear masks not only protect themselves but much more importantly, they protect others who are walking nearby or standing nearby, which is critically important.
I know you have mandatory 14-day quarantine in Delaware for visitors from outside the state and a ban on short term rentals. How long do you think those measures are going to be in place if somebody from New Jersey or Maryland wants to come into Delaware? What happens?
CARNEY: Yes, so those were key tools if you will, mechanisms for trying to control the crowds on our beaches. I think some of the towns that you reported on with just an onslaught and crowds of people rushing to the beaches.
Part of it is because people could do that. We had the bands over this weekend really to test and see could we get the kind of behavior on the beaches that we need to be safe. I saw that today myself, I heard the reports yesterday.
I did say late last week that tomorrow, we would make an announcement as to the future of those two provisions and protecting crowds on our beaches.
But I was very impressed with what I saw today. And I feel very much more comfortable about rolling into the first of June.
BLITZER: Let's hope it works well. Governor John Carney of Delaware, thank you so much for joining us.
CARNEY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, we'll have more on the holiday crowds around the country, many people not following guidelines and raising some serious new fears of a new spread of the virus.
Plus, details of the serious safety concerns that prompted the World Health Organization to halt its hydroxychloroquine studies.
BLITZER: As the nation closes in on 100,000 coronavirus deaths, we're seeing large crowds disregarding social distancing, wearing masks, other safety guidelines, as people get out to enjoy the long holiday weekend. Let's discuss the implications of all of this.
Joining us now, Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, and our Chief Political Analyst, Dana Bash. Dr. Jha, how worried are you that potentially we'll see a new spike in cases here in the United States from these types of crowded gatherings that have been taking place this weekend?
ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes. So, Wolf, thanks for having me on. And you know, as I look across the country, we see places like Delaware with the governor was just saying, where people have been pretty responsible, and that's great, and I think it's great for people to get out.
But obviously, the other photos and videos we've seen of very crowded beaches, pool parties, that worries me a lot. And the problem is that we're not going to see the effects of that right away. It will take several weeks before we start really seeing the case numbers climb. And so that can lull us into a kind of sense of complacency that I worry about.
BLITZER: You know, Dana, as the country approaches 100,000 deaths, President Trump, he went golfing twice this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday. He spent a lot of time tweeting, stoking various conspiracy theories out there.
And despite calling for churches to reopen, to be open on Sunday, saying they are opening the churches, other houses of worship that was essential, he didn't go himself to church this Sunday. So what message is all of this -- is he sending?
BASH: Look, I mean, he has been, especially in recent weeks, really trying to kind of stoke the political divide. On the golfing situation, Wolf, I covered presidents at the White House, you covered presidents at the White House, there is something to be said for them to be able to get out of the White House, go on the golf course if that's their sport of choice, and just kind of clear their head.
In the case of President Trump, however, there is a hypocrisy factor because, I mean, there were so many tweets from when he was a private citizen criticizing President Obama for golfing, even during the Ebola crisis, specifically saying you don't go and play golf during a pandemic so, there's that.
But then even more broadly, it's the leadership notion. It's the leadership of saying, you know, this is what I am doing as a leader, you should follow suit, whether it's wearing a mask or just being basically respectful on Memorial Day weekend during a pandemic instead of tweeting things that we shouldn't even and won't even repeat on this air because it doesn't deserve any oxygen.
That is the kind of president, unfortunately, that a lot of people have come to get used to. Mostly Republicans are saying, enough already, but for some they say, you know, you're giving it to the institutions that we sent you to Washington to disrupt.
BLITZER: Yes, important point. You know, Dr. Jha, we've just gotten news that a tenth coronavirus vaccine candidate is going into human trials, this one by a company called Novavax. How big of a step potentially is this?
JHA: Yes, so Wolf, as I've said before on this show, I'm really optimistic that one of these vaccines is going to work. There are almost a hundred candidates, 10 now in clinical trials. There probably will be more in the upcoming weeks and months. And none of us know which of those will work out.
And if we're lucky, several will, but ultimately we only need one high quality, safe, effective vaccine to work. And so I'm really pleased to see all of these different efforts and one of them, I'm pretty confident, will end up leading us to a vaccine.
BLITZER: Dana, the president is putting new pressure on the governor of North Carolina to let many thousands of Republicans gather for the Republican presidential convention at the end of August in Charlotte, North Carolina.
If 20,000 people are gathered in that arena and they're screaming and shouting and having a good time, all very close together, potentially in the middle of a pandemic, that could be a disaster.
BASH: That's right. And that's why there have been talks already ongoing, as you would expect, between North Carolina officials, the leaders there, both on the state and city level in Charlotte are Democrats, with the Republican National Committee to try to figure out how to do it in a safe way.
What the president did in tweeting threatening to pull out of North Carolina, I am told, was not actually a real threat. He has no desire to pull out of North Carolina. It's a classic Trump move.
He's trying to use the most extreme warning or threat in order to get what he wants in these talks that are going on, which is information about how they are going to go forward with screening, with testing, and anything else that they need to do.
And more importantly, can they do what they need to do in order to have a safe convention just a couple of months away.
BLITZER: Dana Bash, Dr. Ashish Jha, guys, thank you very, very much. Grateful to both of you.
Coming up, Arkansas, one of the states relaxing social distancing regulations, now dealing with a new cluster of coronavirus cases. We'll have a live update, stand by for that.
And we'll also have much more on the huge Memorial Day crowds at beaches and other public places despite all the warnings from health experts.
BLITZER: Over the weekend, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson confirmed the state is in the midst of what he described as a second peak of the coronavirus cases. The governor, by the way, standing by. He'll join us live in a little bit.
Right now, let's go to our National Correspondent Ed Lavandera. He's in Little Rock, Arkansas for us. So, Ed, tell us about the latest outbreak there.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this comes on the heels started about last Thursday, where, for some, 450 new cases were initially reported. And what we have seen now over the last five days is about 1,000 new cases added in just these five days being reported. And this is significant because we should point out that while Arkansas has not been a state where they have seen a large number of coronavirus cases and a high number of deaths, they have about 6,000 cases overall and just 1,000 of those reported in the last five days.
So that is striking. The governor here insisting that they are doing everything properly, the reopening phase here has begun. And hundreds, thousands of people gathering at lakes across the state. Let's check out the images from Lake Hamilton, which is not too far from Little Rock. One reveller there said that they are living with no fear and that they were embracing this experience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KAREN LEE, LAKE HAMILTON: I could get killed by COVID today or I could get hit by a bus or a car tomorrow. I am practicing proper hand washing and hygiene.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: Now despite the increasing numbers here in Arkansas, the governor says that some of the silver lining that he sees is the low hospitalization rates and as well as the low positive infection rates coming back with a lot of these tests that are being reported.
And he attributes the case -- the spike in the case numbers been to more testing here in the state. But despite all of that, health experts say, you know, these are the kinds of situations that can quickly spiral out of control, Wolf. And I can tell you that as you drive around this state and you drive around places like Little Rock, there are very few people wearing masks. Many people seem unfazed by what has happened, Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Lavandera in Little Rock, Arkansas for us, thank you. And once again, the governor of Arkansas Hutchinson, he will join us in a live interview that's coming up a bit later.
Joining us right now one of the experts behind a very influential model estimating, the future spread of the coronavirus here in the United States. Dr. Christopher Murray is the director of the Institute for Health, Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington's Medical School. Dr. Murray thanks so much for joining us. You see these images of crowds gathering as the country approaches 100,000 deaths. More states now have an upward trend in cases than downward. Is it fair to say this crisis is far from over?
DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH, METRICS AND EVALUATION: It certainly is far from over. And we continue to forecast really an awful lot of deaths right through to August. And if we think past August, the toll will continue well past that date as well.
BLITZER: You now have data on mass usage. How are Americans doing on that front?
MURRAY: You know, it's interesting, the survey data is now starting to come in on mask usage. On average in the U.S., about 40 percent of Americans say in surveys that they wear a mask all the time, 80 percent say they wear a mask some of the time or all of the time. So a lot of mask usage up from near zero, of course, before the epidemic. And that we think is part of the reason that things are not as bad as they could have been by now.
You know, back at the end of April and all through May, we've seen people becoming more and more mobile. We expected that to translate into big spikes in cases by now. We've seen some optics. You just talked about Arkansas, we have concerns about Arizona and Florida and Texas and Wisconsin.
But it's not as bad as it could have been. And we really think that's because of mass cues and people being more cautious. But of course, the images this weekend make you wonder if people are starting to forget about that caution.
BLITZER: Yes, that's a serious issue. The World Health Organization today is now warning that it's a dangerous assumption, their words dangerous assumption, for people to think that any current dropping infections represents this virus being seasonal and subsiding over the summer. Do you agree?
MURRAY: You know, I think our suspicion borne out both by what we see and running, you know, statistical analyses and also looking at the big upsurge in the southern hemisphere in places like Chile and Argentina and Brazil, is that there is some seasonality and that's it, but it's not anywhere near as good. In the southern hemisphere, in places like Chile and Argentina and Brazil, is that there is some seasonality. And that's -- but it's not anywhere near as strong as flu.
That does mean that we'll -- we may be lulled into a false sense of things not being as bad as they could be. But if in this seasonal, it means that starting in September, and then progressively going up, it could get progressively worse right through to January.
BLITZER: Yes, let's hope that doesn't happen. I want your expertise on something. And we did some checking here in the situation from South Korea versus the United States and I put these numbers up on the screen.
On March 5th, there were 11 confirmed coronavirus deaths in the United States. On March 5th, there were 35 confirmed deaths in South Korea. Now South Korea is 55 million people. We have 350 million people, so obviously a lot more here.
Right now, today, nearly three months later, there are 267 confirmed deaths in South Korea. And right now there are 98,034 confirmed deaths in the United States. Why did South Korea, Dr. Murray, go from 35 to 267 and we went from 11 to 98,034.
MURRAY: Well, South Korea, like some other countries acted quickly, and they put in place social distancing mandates, they had a very active testing and contact tracing program, way ahead of everybody else in terms of the volume of testing that they were able to field or at least way ahead of what we did in the United States. And so that model of early intervention and sort of dampening down transmission seems to have worked well.
Look at New Zealand, they've done an incredible job of basically bringing transmission down to zero. And now they're coming out of, you know, their mandates pretty quickly. So it's really how quickly people put in the social mitigation or the social distancing mandates.
BLITZER: Bottom line, we simply waited too long before we try to shut down the country, the way South Korea and other countries whether Singapore, and New Zealand, Taiwan, other countries in that part of the world did. Dr. Murray as usual, thank you so much for joining us.
MURRAY: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, we're going to get a live update on the dire situation in Brazil where mass graves are being dug to deal with the explosion of coronavirus deaths.
BLITZER: In global headlines about the pandemic, Brazil has passed Russia and now was second to the United States in confirmed coronavirus cases. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is on the sea for us in Brazil right now. So Nick, set the scene for us, what are you seeing?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Wolf, I'm standing on a runway here in the city of Manaus, in Brazil, probably the hardest hit place in Brazil. Probably the hardest hit place in Latin America. Probably right now, the focus of the coronavirus epidemic.
And behind me, we're expecting imminently one of the many mercy flights that are coming in from around the vast Amazon territory with patients on board, some who may be coronavirus, some who are coronavirus, being brought in here to the main city for treatment. The city that's been hit exceptionally hard. And we saw earlier on today at one of their main public cemeteries here exactly how many lives have been claimed by this virus.
Startling site, frankly, to see about a fifth of the graves for confirmed coronavirus cases, and then four-fifths for people who they think may have died of coronavirus. And that gives you the disparity really here the lack of real knowledge in Brazil about what their official numbers mean. Yes, they are number two in terms of confirmed cases 362,000. But as of last night, it was 22,000 deaths, but there is great uncertainty surrounding those numbers.
And also too, frankly, great uncertainty as exactly what the government's policy is. Wolf, I should remind you that it's been policy in Brazil to give people hydroxychloroquine for the last weeks or so. The government's private -- some actual health minister, in fact, will partially resigned over this particular issue. Even though the medical science suggests it may, in fact, be harmful for people and not particularly even beneficial for fighting coronavirus.
Add to that too, President Jair Bolsonaro statements, he's been calling this a little flu playing down. It's potential severity and I should tell you where the city we are here now, Manaus, the mayor of that city in a leaked cabinet video of Bolsonaro and his cabinet colleagues, startling and they called the mayor of this town a piece of excrement, I should say.
He responded talking to me saying that Bolsonaro wanted to be a military dictator but was too stupid to pull that out and should shut up and tell people to stay at home and stay at home himself and resign because he had responsibility. He said for the deaths in Brazil because his advice, that it wasn't that bad caused so many deaths, Wolf.
BLITZER: And the Trump administration announced today that foreigners from Brazil can no longer come into the United States as a result of what's going on in Brazil right now. Nick Paton Walsh, be careful over there. We'll stay in close touch with you.
Coming up, the NBA thinking about restarting its season in late July. But can it be done safely? We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Some college sports are poised to restart soon and professional sports may not be far behind. Joining us now to discuss this and more, the former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. He's on the boards of the NCAA and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
He's also the author of a brand new very timely and important book entitled, "Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World".
Dr. Murthy, thanks so much for joining us. As you know, and you're a sports fan like I am, the NBA is exploring the possibility of restarting its season in late July, but they would use Disney's ESPN Sports Center in Orlando, Florida for all games, practices, and housing. What safety measures should they consider to go along with this plan?
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, thanks Wolf. It's good to be with you today. And like you and like many others in the country, I very much miss sports. I'm a huge sports fan, and it's been painful to not have the championships and other things that we're used to having at this point in the year. With that said, many of the sports leagues that I have spoken to in college and professional sports all recognize it, returning has to be done safely.
And there are few key measures that the NBA and other leagues are thinking about and that are critical to consider. Number one is that playing with fans is unfortunately going to be too risky right now. And until we have a vaccine, getting large crowds together, is just not going to be safe.
The second thing they have to consider, if they're going to bring their athletes together in one space, they've got to do everything they can to reduce the risk of those athletes getting infected, recognizing that they may not be quarantining them entirely for the duration of the games. But that means they've got to encourage players to reduce their contact with others to not go to crowded restaurants and bars and also to ensure that they're taking safety measures like wearing masks and social distancing.
And finally, Wolf, and this is perhaps the most challenging piece, is the testing part. Is they need to be regularly testing their athletes? This is not a simple provision, because testing is number one expensive, can cost up to $150 per test.
It's also not easily accessible everywhere. And many leagues are concerned about what it looks like if they are testing their athletes every other day, while people in the community around them are still having trouble getting testing.
So these are some of the hurdles that leagues are having to consider. And they're having to do this in the absence of any clear guidance, unfortunately, from the federal government.
BLITZER: And I know they've been seeking your expertise and you have a lot of expertise in this area. The NCAA says, Division 1 sports can start on what they describe as a voluntary basis next week, on June 1st. You're on the board of the NCAA. Do schools have the resources though, Dr. Murthy, to deal with possible cases of the virus emerging among the student athletes?
MURTHY: Well, Wolf, the simple truth is many of them do not. Even before COVID-19 struck, many schools were struggling financially, many universities. And we know that the NCAA championships were canceled and that was a significant source of revenue not just for the National Collegiate Athletic Association to keep in mind that a huge portion of those revenues get dispersed back to schools.
And many of those schools rely on that disbursement every year to help support their sports program, but also the larger university. So many schools are in a financial struggle right now. And the idea of both having to test athletes regularly, as well as having to potentially shut sports down again, if somebody tests positive, this is a very expensive proposition.
That's why you're seeing some universities, particularly in California and elsewhere make the decision to just stay virtual for the fall semester because the sheer expense of having to go through testing is just too much for him to deal with.
BLITZER: That's really a critical issue. You also serve on the U.S. Olympic Committee, Dr. Murthy, do you agree with the pronouncement from Japan's Prime Minister today that a vaccine will be significant to Japan's being able to host the Summer Olympic Games next summer. Without a vaccine, can they go forward and do it?
MURTHY: Well, what that saying certainly would help greatly. I mean, it would increase our chances of getting herd immunity, and that would make it safer for crowds together. Keep in mind, though, and this is incredibly important for everyone to remember that we need to not only develop a vaccine that's safe and effective, but we need to be able to dispense it and administer it to people all across the world.
And that's not a simple proposition, that doesn't happen overnight, that will take time. And that will potentially impact the Olympic timeline. Without a vaccine, could they still have the games?
In theory, it's possible, but they would have to do so without crowds. They'd have to do so in a setting where the athletes were likely brought together in advance, quarantine for some portion of time, tested to make sure that they did not carry the virus before they entered competition.
BLITZER: Yes, it's a complicated issue, indeed, with enormous ramifications. The former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, as usual, thanks for your expertise.
MURTHY: Of course. Thank you, Wolf. Good to be with you.
BLITZER: Thank you. And coming up, a new developments emerging right now in the race for a vaccine yet another biotechnology company says it is now getting ready to begin human trials. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and this is THE SITUATION ROOM special report. Tonight, Americans are marking a memorial day unlike any other as the nation is still waging a life and death battle against the coronavirus and closing in on a very, very grim and sad milestone. The U.S. death toll will hit 100,000 very, very soon.