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THE SITUATION ROOM

Crowds Across U.S. Ignore Guidelines, Escalating Fears of New Spread; CA Gov: Counties Can Begin Re-Opening Houses of Worship and In-Store Shopping for Retail; Mayor Marty Walsh (D) Boston Discusses His Thoughts About Having Presidential Convention at the End of August; W.H.O. Officials Warns "Disease is Actually on the Way Up" as U.S. Reopens. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired May 25, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and this is a SITUATION ROOM special report on this historic Memorial Day as the U.S. honors the men and women who died in service to our country. A grim milestone is approaching the coronavirus pandemic, almost 100,000 Americans have now died and tonight, there are growing fears the spread of the virus could be actually be accelerating right now as Americans gathered in large numbers this holiday weekend.

Shocking scenes of very huge crowds and many people without masks are raising new fears of another spike in coronavirus cases in the coming weeks and months. And a top official with the World Health Organization now says it's dangerous to assume that the next real danger point in the pandemic won't come until fall. It could come much more quickly.

Let's begin the breaking news coverage out in California right now. Our Senior National Correspondent Kyung Lah is joining us. Kyung, the Governor there just made an important announcement about houses of worship and retail store.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR U.S. CORRESPONDENT: Let me start with retail and this is developing here. The Governor announcing that Californians will once again be able to shop in stores. Now, there will be restrictions so it won't snap back to the way it was before. There will be social distancing, Requirement of mask, restrictions for employees.

But the other big development is that the State of California now says that in-person worship can begin at places of worship, limiting to 25 percent of capacity up to 100 people inside. Another step forward here in the State of California as the country continues to reopen on this Memorial Day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Memorial Day, we remember our father, William E. Cordero (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll always remember Gordon Hartley (ph).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STACY RUTH, OCEAN CITY, MARYLAND: Everybody is going to come back and say you shoulda, coulda, woulda. But you know the reality of it is at the end of the day, I think we're all responsible for our own actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just not good. There's too many people in one little area.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R) ARKANSAS: Today we faced another enemy. It is a deadly virus 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH(voice over): And it is far from over warns the World Health Organization.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MICHAEL RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: 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 then we're going to get a number of months to get ready for a second week. We may get a second peak in this wave.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So put away all of your fears, all of your fears.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH(voice over): The patients run short among some. North Carolina protesters demanded the state open faster even as the state's numbers climb.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[19:05:02]

LAH(voice over): The economy versus science clash weighing on local leaders, trying to contain the public health crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R) NORTH DAKOTA: If someone is wearing a mask, they're not doing it to represent what political part they're in or what candidates they support. They might be doing it because they've got a five-year-old child who's been going through cancer treatments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: Now, here is a live look at Manhattan Beach, California where I am. You can see it's a fairly busy day here, but that you can see any patches of sand is an indication that it's not a normal Memorial Day here in California.

If you look up this way, though, you can see that the boardwalk is very busy. It is very hard to socially distance as people are walking up and down the boardwalk or biking here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Kyung Lah on the scene for us. Thank you very much, Kyung, for that report.

There's breaking news coming out of the White House right now. I want to go to our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, there are changes to a new travel restriction. Tell us about that.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is notable, Wolf. We're just now learning from the White House that they are going to move up those travel restrictions that they announced last night on Brazil by 48 hours. It's now going to go into effect tomorrow night at 11:59 pm and this was a major announcement coming out of the White House, as you are seeing the number of cases skyrocket in Brazil.

But also, by doing this, they are dealing a blow to the President there who fashions himself as this close ally of the President and has downplayed the outbreak happening in his country even though you were seeing these devastating images of these mass graves that are happening. And this comes as the weekend where the United States is nearing its own high death toll of a hundred thousand people, potentially, a place that the President said not too long ago, Wolf, he didn't think we'd get too.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS(voice over): As the United States nears a hundred thousand coronavirus deaths, President Trump laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery on this Memorial Day to honor those who have sacrificed their lives. And he vowed to fight coronavirus during his speech at Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In recent months, our nation and the world have been engaged in a new form of battle against an invisible enemy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS(voice over): Trump didn't wear a mask at either event, unlike Joe Biden, who made his first public appearance in months as he visited a Veterans Memorial in Delaware. Earlier today, President Trump threatened to move the Republican National Convention from North Carolina if the State's Governor doesn't commit to allowing a full attendance.

The convention has been planned for months and is scheduled for late August, but the coronavirus pandemic has threatened to upend both it and the Democratic National Convention the week before.

On Twitter, Trump complained that North Carolina's Democratic Governor Roy Cooper is still in shutdown mood and unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed to hold a full convention. Vice President Mike Pence said they may move it to a state that's further along in reopening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We all want to be in

Charlotte. We love North Carolina. But having a sense now is absolutely essential because of the immense preparations that are involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS(voice over): Last week, Gov. Cooper told CNN it wasn't a political decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ROY COOPER (D) NORTH CAROLINA: This is not political. This is not emotional. This is based on health experts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS(voice over): Trump spent the weekend dedicated to fallen troops on Twitter, where he aired his grievances, posted insults, promoted a baseless murder claim and amplified disparaging remarks. As the death toll from Coronavirus nears six digits, Trump complained about the media's coverage of him playing golf twice at his club this weekend.

Though we often criticized Barack Obama for golfing while in office, Trump said he was only exercising and accuse the press of portraying it as a mortal sin. Though he once predicted the death toll in the U.S. would never come close to 100,000. Dr. Deborah Birx said the White House is still operating under the idea that it could range from there to 240,000 people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: With any pandemic and any time when people are fighting to save other people's lives, it's difficult to count at the early part of the epidemic. On Sunday, the U.S. added Brazil to the list of countries from which travel is banned, because cases there have skyrocketed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT O'BRIEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Because of the situation in Brazil, we're going to take every step necessary to protect the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Wolf, back to the President's threat to yank the Republican National Convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, the city said today in a statement that it does expect to put out some guidance next week on where these major stakeholders can be seeing how exactly they think that they're going to be looking as far as it comes to reopening. It's not just the RNC but also concerts, sports, things of that nature that really have big questions about really what life is going to look like in North Carolina.

They said that could happen as soon as June, which could be next week, though it's not clear if that timeline is going to suffice for the President.

[19:10:07]

BLITZER: I want to be precisely, Kaitlan, the President is saying that if the Republican presidential convention is in Charlotte, he wants, what, 20,000 people to gather in the arena there, packed, screaming, shouting on top of each other, right in the midst of this pandemic, is that what he's saying?

COLLINS: Yes, Wolf. If you've ever been to one of these conventions, which of course you have. They are packed with a lot of people, a lot of delegates. There have been conversations about whether or not are they going to test every delegate, do temperature checks at the door, really what is that going to look like.

And the President says he wants a guarantee from the governor that they can have full capacity at this convention, which it's not even clear, even if the Governor gave that permission if they would move to full capacity, because even some Republican officials have raised questions about it. And of course, the Republicans aren't the only ones dealing with this, so are the Democrats who are supposed to have their convention the week before in Milwaukee.

And the question is, is it safe to have that many people in one area together even as late as August and that is a question that hasn't been answered for major sports leagues, concert, artists, things like that. It's not just the President and the Republican convention.

BLITZER: Sounds pretty dangerous to me. All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much. Kaitlan Collins will be coming back, we got more to discuss.

In the meantime, joining us now the Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh. And Mayor, thanks so much for joining us. We've got lots to discuss, but let me get your thoughts on what we're just talking about. Is it safe to have a Democratic presidential convention or a Republican presidential convention at the end of August with thousands and thousands of people packed into a stadium like that?

MAYOR MARTY WALSH (D) BOSTON: I mean, unfortunately it's not. When you talk to the experts and when I'm talking to the people here in Boston about a second surge, we're talking about anywhere from July, August, September. They're not quite sure. And I think as we start to reopen different businesses, we're going to see spikes in coronavirus cases all over the place and I don't see any way that the Democrats or the Republicans quite honestly can safely have a convention with that many people.

Now, there might be other ways of doing it, but I just don't - today, I don't see it today. Now, I hope I'm wrong and I hope that by August we're in a whole different situation. But I think forcing it is not the way to go, not when you're banning travel from Brazil to United States because Brazil's cases are spiking. We have our own issues here in the United States that cases is still here.

BLITZER: Yes. It's a serious situation. I have heard both of the convention organizers are planning on a limited number of people, but a lot of virtual presentations at the same time. Meanwhile, California Mayor is reopening houses of worship, in-store retail shopping after Gov. Newsom said the state continues to flatten the curve. Houses of worship are allowed to open in Massachusetts, your state, but you feel that Boston is now ready, so taking the steps necessary to make sure everyone is safe.

WALSH: I don't think we're ready to jump right back into it. This weekend, houses of worship could open. Many of them decided not to. They are looking for guidance and help with PPE and also understanding how they can do social distancing inside the church. I think that it's going to be a slow and steady progress as we move forward here and I think we're also allowing today curbside retail.

We're not ready in Massachusetts or in Boston to go inside our cases. We, as you know, we're the third highest in the country for cases in Massachusetts and Boston, a very densely populated city. We're not quite there yet. We're still working on plans on how we can open safely. Our restaurants still aren't open in Boston and Massachusetts and I think that's the next phase that we think about how do we open them.

Obviously, they're not going to be full capacity, but how do we open them so that our restaurants can try and survive through this difficult time for them.

BLITZER: Yes. And I want to show you and our viewers, Mayor, some video that CNN just obtained. It's from a pool party that was held at a nightclub in Houston on Saturday. Videos like this of large crowds gathering across America during this holiday weekend. I wonder what goes to through your mind when you see these kinds of images.

WALSH: I think about the safety of all the vulnerable people we have that's in jeopardy here and I think that a lot of people are smart, and they realize for the last three months, they've practiced social, physical distancing. And when the weather starts to turn good or when we start to loosen up restriction, that doesn't mean the virus is away.

I mean, the virus is very much alive, very much front and center and fear your own safety. I mean, I think it's really incumbent upon each and every person to be careful. I mean, I think that listen, we all get frustrated and get cabin fever, if you will, to a degree. I mean, today wasn't a beautiful day, but the afternoon is beautiful and I'd like to be somewhere else, but unfortunately, I can't be because I'm concerned about the coronavirus, for myself as a leader of the city, but also passing it along to other people, including my elderly mother.

I mean, I think that I have to be very careful and I think we all - it's all important coming upon all of us to continue to be vigilant and very careful here as we move forward.

[19:15:04]

BLITZER: You're absolutely right.

WALSH: This virus (inaudible) quickly.

BLITZER: Have you had in Boston - was it necessary to break up any groups that have gathered Saturday, Sunday or today?

WALSH: No, not over the weekend. Friday was a nice day here. We had some people going to the beaches in the city and tomorrow is going to be an 80 degree day. So anyone who's watching, if you go to the beach, you really have to social distance, physical distance, wear masks. The virus doesn't go away and in order to protect yourself and others from the virus, I'm asking people playing with people to do that, because I think what we don't want to do is we reopen the economy, the worst thing that can happen to our economy right now in this country and in Boston, and in Massachusetts is that we have to shut it down in another month.

BLITZER: Yes. It would be terrible. As you know, we're approaching 100,000 deaths here in the United States. On March 5th, there were 11 confirmed deaths in the United States in less than three months. It's now approaching a hundred thousand. When you see the President tweeting various conspiracy theories over the past few days, golfing Saturday and Sunday what message from your perspective does that send?

WALSH: I mean, he's been very inconsistent and I think when he's on message, he talks to the American people and I think people listen, but then he goes on Twitter attacks and says opposite of what the reality is. And I think it's dangerous. I think people are still looking for leadership, people are still looking for a common message here and I think that it's important for all of us as elected officials to be on the same page here moving forward.

And certainly the pressure is on to reopen, but I was elected to make sure that we run Boston and the way to run Boston is by making sure people stay healthy. It's not help first the economy. It's all together and we've got to work together to make this work. So I wish the President would stop doing that. I wish he would stay consistent on it.

I don't really have a comment whether he golfs or not, they opened the golf courses, but I do think it's important that we stay on message moving forward. We can't be saying on one breath we're going to shut down travel to the United States of America because of the virus, on the other hand saying, well, we're OK here. We're beyond it. That's not the case right now.

BLITZER: Mayor, Marty Walsh of Boston, good luck to you, good luck to everybody in Boston. Thanks so much as usual for joining us.

WALSH: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, is messaging coming from the White House in line with what the President's own top health experts are saying?

Plus, we'll head to a traditional holiday tourist hotspot to see what it's like as the country reopens amid a continuing pandemic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:21:08]

BLITZER: We're following the coronavirus danger as the U.S. death toll now approaches 100,000. The Trump White House has decided to suspend travel from hard hit Brazil earlier than expected, making it effective tomorrow. This as some Americans are now engaging in potentially very dangerous behavior here in the United States, disregarding social distancing guidelines on this Memorial Day.

Let's bring in Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, an internal medicine and viral specialist along with CNN's White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, very quickly at this rate we'll soon have, what, a hundred thousand Americans lost to coronavirus. Right now it's 98,184. Does the messaging coming in from the White House right now match the magnitude of this moment?

COLLINS: Well, Wolf, it really depends on who you're listening to. You saw Dr. Deborah Birx on air yesterday talking about where we are in the country right now, urging caution as you are starting to see states reopen, some do so aggressively. But if you looked at the President's twitter feed this morning, he wasn't noting the fact that we are approaching that very somber toll of 100,000 potentially dead Americans, something that he said not too long ago, Wolf, he never thought we would get to.

He thought it would say would remain substantially under 100,000 and, of course, now we are very close to reaching that, unfortunately. So if you look at the President's Twitter feed, he wasn't focused on something like that. He spent the weekend amplifying these attacks of one of his supporter on many Democrats. He was pushing baseless murder conspiracies, things of that nature and also, of course, complaining about the media's coverage of his golf outings that he had this weekend.

So certainly not the same message that you're seeing from some other White House officials.

BLITZER: Yes, certainly not. Dr. Rodriguez, we're seeing some really troubling images of Americans gathering in crowds around the country during this long weekend. The World Health Organization is now warning of what it describes as a second peak, not just the second wave down the road, but the second peak of coronavirus cases. What do you fear the consequences of these kinds of large gatherings right now will be?

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNAL MEDICINE AND VIRAL SPECIALIST: Well, I think the consequences are going to be pretty evident pretty soon. Listen, 35 percent to 40 percent of the people that have the coronavirus do not have any symptoms. They are asymptomatic.

So therefore, when I see these images of these people blatantly disregarding not only their welfare, but those around them, quite honestly it's depressing. It's even angering a little bit, because, Wolf, I also guarantee you that the same people who showed this disregard are not going to have the courage of their convictions.

When they get sick, when they start having a sore throat or a fever, they'll probably going to be the first ones that are going to want health care. So it's ironic, it's hypocritical and it is dangerous for all have us. So that's what I get when I see this.

BLITZER: Yes, it's so worrisome because they don't realize how easily it can spread and you correctly pointed out so many of these people can be contagious, even if they have absolutely no symptoms whatsoever.

RODRIGUEZ: Correct.

BLITZER: Kaitlan, the President spent - yes, go ahead, Doctor.

RODRIGUEZ: I want to say a second spike, it isn't if it's going to happen, it's going to happen. Because as you see, listen, we're one world, Brazil is spiking right now. It's all going to come to roost, the chickens are going to come to roost eventually.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a really dangerous situation. Kaitlan, the President spent part of the weekend golfing, a lot of the weekend tweeting political attacks, as you correctly pointed out. And despite insisting the houses of worship across the country are essential and must reopen yesterday, Sunday, the President himself did not attend church did he?

COLLINS: No, he didn't. And that's interesting, given how his conviction was on Friday when he said that he wanted these houses of worship to be deemed essential by the CDC, so then, therefore, they could open in addition to grocery stores, liquor stores, other places that have already been deemed essential by several state officials and by federal health officials.

[19:25:10]

The President himself did not take up on his own push though to open these churches by attending a service on Sunday. And the question that many reporters had for the White House on Friday when they announced that they were going to be deeming this essential, was really is it safe for people to go back yet. Because, of course, a church is a very communal place, you're there, you're greeting people, sometimes they share the same materials.

Singing, of course, has been a place that we've noted as an - big outbreak of coronavirus cases and choirs when we were first learning so much about this outbreak and really how this virus spread. And so that was the big question that people had and you did see some churches be incredibly cautious on Sunday about opening up.

And the President said he was going to override governors if they ignored that guidance about them being essential, though you saw his health officials be a little bit more cautious, saying that they should actually pay attention to the outbreaks in their area. And if they decided they needed to wait another week before opening and making sure they could do so properly with distancing and other measures in place, then they should do that.

BLITZER: Dr. Rodriguez, the World Health Organization today stopped studying the drug hydroxychloroquine. The treatment touted by and taken actually by the President over the last couple of weeks. They cited safety concerns for coronavirus patients. They said it was simply too dangerous. How significant is this development?

RODRIGUEZ: Well, it's very significant and hopefully it's the nail in the coffin, because every single study that has come out, every legitimate study has shown that A; not only does hydroxychloroquine not help in either in treating COVID-19 but it is also dangerous for people whose heart system, whose lung system are already being taxed right by the demands of COVID.

This medication actually makes their heart beat less effectively. So you're adding danger on top of danger. So hopefully this will end the discussion, period, paragraph, close the chapter. Put a fork in it. It's done. Hydroxychloroquine does not treat and does not help COVID- 19.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, thank you very much, Dr. Rodriguez. We appreciate your joining us, Kaitlan. Excellent reporting, as usual. Thanks to you as well.

Coming up, a new progress toward developing a coronavirus vaccine. Even as some researchers are warning there are, what, 50/50 odds of success. And we're going to tell you who is recruiting volunteers to police social distancing, lots more going on right here in our special SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:31:35]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: There's another step forward tonight in the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

Let's discuss with Dr. Patrice Harris. She's the president of the American Medical Association, and our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, a vaccine candidate by a company called Novavax is, what, the tenth vaccine now to enter human trials. Does that improve the chances that one of these vaccines will eventually work?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, we've heard public health experts say as lots of shots on goal. That's what we're looking for, because the chances of all ten of these working are really quite small. We're probably going to have fewer than ten. So, yes, as many attempts as possible is a good idea.

Now, that does come with a price because the government is funding many of these efforts at least to some extent. Right now, we have four vaccines by U.S. companies in clinical trials. We have five in China and one in the United Kingdom.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. Harris, vaccines I'm told don't necessarily work as well on older people. So do you expect we're going to need multiple vaccines to work on different people?

DR. PATRICE HARRIS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: Wolf, we may need more than one vaccine which again is all the more important to have as many as can go through the process and to have as many as possible in the pipeline, so we have a greater chance of finding one or two or three that work on the various populations.

BLITZER: This is an important development today, Dr. Harris, and we've been reporting when it comes to potential therapies the World Health Organization today announced its halting, completely stopping any study of the drug hydroxychloroquine after a different study showed it increased the risk of death in patients, potential heart irregularities. So what does that tell us?

HARRIS: Well, the FDA several weeks ago sent out an alert cautioning us against the use of hydroxychloroquine outside of clinical trials. Certainly we want those clinical trials to continue, but this latest study, 96,000 patients, it was observational. It was a retrospective review, a look back. But when they did look back, they showed that there was an increase in the number of deaths, increase in the number of cardiac issues.

And so, I think we should continue on with the use of the drug in clinical trials, but clearly we are seeing more and more evidence about the risks, sometimes fatal risks of using hydroxychloroquine.

BLITZER: And I remember and a lot of our viewers will remember, to your credit, Dr. Harris, weeks ago, more than a month ago when the president was saying, defending supporting hydroxychloroquine at one point he said what do you have to lose and I remember playing that clip for you and you said, you know what you have to lose, your life potentially.

And some of his supporters were criticizing you, but you were absolutely right at the time and ahead of the curve.

You know, Elizabeth, when you step back and look at the overall trends right now more states in the country are seeing an upward trend in their cases than downwards right now. So, what should people be keeping in mind as we go into these summer months?

COHEN: I think you want to ask yourself, Wolf, whatever I'm about to go do, what activity I'm about to go do that could put me in close contact with other people, is it worth it?

[19:35:07]

Because there's a chance that you could contract the virus. There's a chance you already have the virus and you could be giving it to someone else. Many people have this virus and are asymptomatic. So you may feel like, oh, I'm looking around, everyone looks fine. Looking fine does not mean that you're not infected. Many people look

fine and are infected. So think about it for yourself and think, how would I feel if I got infected and then got my spouse sick or my mother sick or friends sick? Think -- really think through the actions you're going to do.

If you do decide to reenter society as it were think about two things, space and time. The more space you put between yourselves -- yourself and other people -- the better and of course a mask is an important part of that. And time, meaning the least amount of time that you can spend in close proximity to people the better. And being outdoors is better than being in an enclosed space.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. Harris, we're now approaching 100,000 deaths. Right now, 98,184. And less than three months ago on March 5th, there were 11, only 11 deaths -- it's gone from 11 to nearly 100,000 in less than three months. This virus is exploding right now and it's so worrisome.

HARRIS: Wolf, this is certainly a grim milestone. This is highly transmissible virus. Certainly, we need to make sure we continue to do everything we can to decrease the transmission, and that is again using those basic public health measures of staying six feet apart and using a mask.

And I really hope that we get beyond the partisan view of mask wearing. I really was impressed with the governor of North Dakota who said this about caring for one another. You know, I know I can talk about science and it is evidence based and based on the science, but it is about our caring for one another and really our desire, I think our shared goal across this country to do all we can to reduce the transmission so we can get back to doing our activities that we were doing and enjoying pre-COVID.

BLITZER: As I often say these are not just numbers. These are mothers and sons, brothers and sisters, almost 100,000 new here in the United States in the last three months alone.

Dr. Patrice Harris, always good to have you here. Elizabeth Cohen, thanks to you as well.

Coming up, a tourist town reopens for business but who's coming, and are they following guidelines for staying safe?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:41:57]

BLITZER: This holiday weekend, tourists have been returning to one of Michigan's top destinations but it's not -- it's not business as usual. Our national correspondent Miguel Marquez is joining us right now. He has the story.

Miguel, a lot of businesses there depend on tourist dollars this time of the year simply to survive. MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they do indeed. And

the 32 counties in the northern part of Michigan did reopen at least partially. Some people were expecting a huge weekend here, but really it underscored just how long and difficult the recovery is going to be.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ (voice-over): In northern, Michigan life beginning to feel a little like life again.

(on camera): What's it like to be out?

SANTANA HUTCHINSON, VISITING NORTHERN MICHIGAN FROM SAGINAW: It's nice to be out in restaurants and shops again and to be able to enjoy socialization. I'm not going to lie.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The Hutchinsons visiting Mackinac City, masking up when they entered shops. Not everyone says they're willing to follow the rules in this tourist dependent part of the state.

VERN SMITH, VISITING FROM SOUTHERN MICHIGAN: This virus is going to go away. This virus I do not even feel is going to come back. God is going to heal this land, plain and simple.

MARQUEZ (on camera): And with regard to safety and wearing masks, you don't do any of that or have you taken some precautions?

SMITH: No, I'm not going to wear a mask, OK? I don't feel this COVID is going to affect me or touch me, and I don't feel that I'm going to pass it onto someone else.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Retail shops, restaurants, bars all playing by new rules. At bars, patrons sign-in to be traced if there's an outbreak. Masks for everyone at these shop door, wait staff, masks and glove in dining rooms with lots more space.

(on camera): How difficult has it been to prepare for the reopening?

MARK SPOSITO, OWNER, MACKINAC GRILLE: It's been very difficult inasmuch some of the products we need as far as sanitizers and sanitizer dispensers have been very hard to find, gloves, masks.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Mark Sposito's Mackinac Grille would typically serve 1,400 dinners a night. Today, he's doing about 200. But the bigger concern with tourists coming from everywhere, preventing an outbreak, top priority.

SPOSITO: We have just a very small hospital and I think that's the big one. If that starts to get, you know, where it's not -- keeping up, I think we're going to have to shutdown.

MARQUEZ: Many businesses staying shut. Owners preferring to wait a couple of weeks and see if cases spike. Mackinac Island, the jewel of Michigan's upper peninsula, closed for summer's traditional starting weekend. (on camera): What are we looking at here?

JENNIFER DOWKER, CAPTAIN, YANKEE SUNSHINE: You're looking at Mackinac Island which should be teeming with people right now.

MARQUEZ: And it's a ghost town.

DOWKER: It is a ghost town.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Jennifer Dowker runs tours on her glass bottom boat. For this weekend, she had high hopes.

(on camera): Given how cooped up everyone was , I expected a much bigger weekend this weekend.

DOWKER: I am, too. I'm still optimistic for later on in this summer.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUEZ: Boy, we live in hope. And this is something we've heard not only here but other parts of the country that people want to reopen, they want to fully engage. But until they know they won't get it, they won't pass it onto somebody else, until basically there's a vaccine, it's going to be really hard to get to that sort of full engagement in the economy -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure it will.

All right, Miguel, good report. Thank you very much.

Just ahead, the White House is moving up the start of a travel ban on Brazil as the virus cases there grow rapidly. We're going to bring you the details on the new restrictions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Breaking news this evening. The White House announced it is pushing up the start of a new travel ban from Brazil. It takes effects together night just before midnight two days ahead of what had been originally announced.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is in Brazil for us. Cases there, deaths there, numbers there surging.

What are you seeing, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: You're right, Wolf.

Yes, 807 deaths reported in the last 24 hours and over 11,000 new cases. Not as bad as a few days ago when they were getting about 20,000 cases reported new a day and now about 374,000 cases.

[19:50:05]

We have to remember, this is not the full picture. This is down to how many tests they're able to carry out. And that was demonstrated very clearly today at a cemetery here in Manaus, one of the worst-hit cities in Brazil, frankly, which is the worst country in South America, the worst hit area in the world.

Now, that cemetery had one area they had tested people positive for coronavirus, but another area was about four times the size, and that was people who died who they thought had coronavirus. That's the disparity between what's officially in the numbers and what may actually have been happening here as well. Manaus extraordinarily badly hit, as I said.

And in a sense of political row here in Brazil as well, its mayor has been digging graves, mass graves, sadly, to accommodate the sheer volume of dead, 103 people buried in one day. One grave digger I spoke to today said, yet, that angered the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who's often light to the virus, calling it a little flu, not wearing a mask in front of supporters as recently as Sunday.

He said in a leaked video recording of a cabinet meeting that the mayor of Manaus was a piece of excrement, I'll be polite here. I put that to the mayor of Manaus and he responded harshly and said, look, Bolsonaro is a dictator, he's too stupid to run a dictatorship. He should shut up, stay home and resign now, saying he was partially responsible because of his rhetoric playing down the threat of the virus and the number of deaths here in Brazil.

But that political row aside here, those numbers are continuing to ride even Manaus seems to have the worst behind it at this point, it is still devastating to be at the graveyard and see five bodies turn up for a burial, a mass grave even today. And as you say, that travel restriction 48 hours, not entirely clear what prompted that. The numbers here are getting bad. The peak, it seems, is a week to perhaps two weeks away in the major city of Sao Paulo where there are major cases.

But it is extraordinary, Wolf, just to see how little Brazil's federal government has done in terms of its messaging and how it is being left to a local level here to make people wear face masks and try and slow this down. Does that sound familiar, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, I saw President Bolsonaro's security guards wearing a mask. He was not wearing a mask, obviously for deliberate reasons.

Nick Paton Walsh, be careful over there in Brazil. We'll stay in close touch with you.

Meanwhile, the tensions and name-calling between the U.S. and China, that -- they really have expanded beyond the coronavirus because of a new Chinese crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

CNN's Ivan Watson is there for us.

Ivan, tell us more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Beijing is warning Washington not to meddle in its internal affairs, and by that it means here in Hong Kong. And it's right after the Chinese government has announced that it's introducing a controversial new security law that would criminalize sedition, subversion, treason and other offenses here in this former British colony that enjoys freedoms not seen in nearby mainland China.

Secretary of State Pompeo has said, well, if Hong Kong loses the autonomy it's supposed to have until 2047, according to a number of international treaties, then it could lose free trading status with the U.S. and visa status. There's a lot of alarm here.

Chinese top officials are trying to say, hey, don't panic. This will only affect those types of terrorists and separatists, as they describe them, the kind of protesters who have been clashing with security forces in the city for six months and the last year -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Ivan Watson, thank you very much.

Italy, which is now cautiously reopening, is looking for tens of thousands of volunteers to help enforce social distancing rules.

Let's go to CNN's Delia Gallagher. She's on the scene for us.

Delia, tell us more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Italy has a new plan for those who are out in public and not following social distancing regulations. The Italian Civil Protection Agency, along with regional governments, is organizing 60,000 volunteers. They're calling them civil assistants who will patrol streets, beaches and parks, reminding people to maintain social distancing and wear face masks.

These volunteers will be over 18. They will wear vests to identify themselves, but they will not be able to issue tickets or fines. The Civil Protection Agency says this is a response to verify complaints over the weekend throughout Italy of night life and social activities happening without adequate social distancing -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Delia Gallagher, thank you very much.

Coming up, we remember veterans on this memorial day who have lost their lives in the coronavirus pandemic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:59:08] BLITZER: On this Memorial Day, as we pay tribute to America's fallen servicemen and women, we also want to remember some of the military veterans who have died in our new battle against the coronavirus.

Jonas Chaves of Massachusetts was 86 years old. He was a Navy veteran, a former FAA employee and a fire department volunteer. His nephew says Chaves took his civic responsibility very, very seriously and he loved to discuss politics over the phone and in his final months did a lot of that.

Alfred Lizzio of Pennsylvania was 99. He served as an air mechanic in World War II. He would sometimes joke that a daily glass of red wine was the secret to his long life. But his grandson credits his beloved pop-pop's remarkably positive attitude.

May they -- may all the veterans we have lost rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thanks very much for watching.

Anderson Cooper starts right now.