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New York's New Rochelle Area to Start Phase One of Reopening; Arkansas Seeing a Rise in Coronavirus Cases; Several Graduates at Atlanta Private School Test Positive for Coronavirus; Trump Retweets Post Mocking Joe Biden for Wearing a Mask; Trump Threatens to Pull GOP Convention from North Carolina; U.S. Nears 100,000 Deaths as Concerns Over Coronavirus-Spread Grows. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 26, 2020 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


The United States sadly is nearing 100,000 deaths. But after thousands of Americans ignored health guidelines over the weekend, there are growing fears that the virus could spread even more.

HARLOW: The good news, in one -- in 10 different states, you see some of them highlighted there, the numbers are on the decline, but in 18 states, new cases of COVID-19 are going up. And this message from the World Health Organization, this is no time to let up.


DR. MIKE 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 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.


HARLOW: "We may get a second peak in this wave." Let's begin this hour with our Brynn Gingras. She joins us in New Rochelle, New York.

And Brynn, of course, New Rochelle, one of the first hotspots in the country. I remember when you were there back in March when they were really closing down. Now on track to reopen?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Poppy. I mean, it was just about three months ago, close to it, that the National Guard was here, remember, handing out food to people. Also this whole area which we are in was called the containment zone. Remember people were asked to stay within their homes because more than a thousand people, about a thousand people had to be quarantined because they were linked to a synagogue that's just up the street from where we are, who attended services because someone there had the coronavirus. One of the original cases, one of the first clusters in the entire United States.

And this is now welcome news for this area. Certainly that they can enter phase one. They're not just the only area, seven different counties in this part of the state of New York are going to now move to phase one, which includes manufacturing, construction, retail can open for pickup, or in-store pickup. So certainly everyone very happy. And we're seeing a lot of people as we move the camera a little bit, I mean, this street is a pretty busy street in this section of New Rochelle.

And we are seeing a lot of people come out here with masks. And that's something the mayor, who we also talked to a lot guys, on your show, has said, you know, everyone can take a special kind of satisfaction in the fact that they can reopen. But certainly at this point still cannot let our guard down in order to continue this progress, continue to moving to next phases within the reopening in the state -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Brynn, thanks very much. We wish them a lot of luck as they do that.

Let's get to Arkansas now where the governor already says the state is seeing a second peak.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us now.

So, Ed, this is the concern. What happens in states when they reopen, begin to see a jump in cases in places. How is Arkansas responding? Are they reinstituting some of these restrictions?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, they're moving ahead with the phased reopening here of the economy. In fact, standalone bars will be allowed to open up today in a limited capacity. But when you take a closer look at the numbers here in Arkansas, it does raise some eyebrows as to what exactly is happening. A little more than 6,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported here in this state since this pandemic started.

About a thousand of those alone have happened -- been reported in just the last five days. So that is about 15 percent of the overall case load that is being seen here that has unfolded here in just the last five days, and that is why the governor is describing what they're seeing right now as a second peak of the coronavirus pandemic here in the state of Arkansas. The first one happened a little more than a month ago.

So you would think that this would be kind of making people nervous here in Arkansas, but over the Memorial Day weekend, crowded lakes, Lake Hamilton, just southwest of the Little Rock area, was full of people and when you hear people talk down there, hanging out for the weekend, people mostly unfazed.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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.


LAVANDERA: And the governor here says that when the -- some of the silver lining that he's seen in the data is that the hospitalization rates and the positive infection rate remain relatively low. So they say that is one of the silver linings in the medical data that is coming out. But there is concern about these large gatherings, north of Arkansas, in Missouri, we've seen this video of the Lake of the Ozarks.

Hundreds of people gathered at a pool side bar. You know, that was a video that has made the rounds extensively over the last 48 hours. St. Louis County in Missouri, the public health officials there are urging anyone who attended that area to self-quarantine for the next 14 days -- Jim and Poppy.



See if they listen. Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.

Let's head to Atlanta now where several graduates of a private school have now tested positive for COVID-19. CNN's Nick Valencia joins us now with details.

Do they have a sense of how -- and I suppose the question now is what do they do? Are they recommending or requiring quarantines?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is very upsetting news for health officials in the state of Georgia. We don't know how many students have tested positive. We do know that they're being treated but even those details are slim.

The school sent a letter to parents in which it said that several families have been impacted by this. The Lovett School, which you mentioned, Jim, is a private school in the Atlanta area. They closed in mid-March. And they postponed their graduation, but like many schools across the country, they had a drive-through graduation parade and reportedly, according to local news reports, one of the students that participated in that parade had the virus, and later had a party back at their place.

It was there that the virus spread and now this letter coming out to parents saying, you know, that several members of their community have it. As we're seeing social easing in places like Arkansas, where Ed Lavandera is and our other reporters, this is exactly what health officials worry about, that this could lead to a higher rate of the virus spreading -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Wow. And Nick, to think that happened at one parade and one party, it makes you question what on earth, you know, can happen in the fall.

VALENCIA: That's right. HARLOW: When every parent is hoping that their kid's school is going

to open. We appreciate the reporting. Nick, thanks a lot.

Let's talk about all these developments, Dr. Michael Osterholm is here, director for the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Jim and I always love having you on with your important perspective.


HARLOW: So thank you very much for taking the time. I was reading the piece you wrote in the last week or so in "Foreign Affairs" and you said this pandemic is probably not the big one. That was shocking to me, I think it's shocking to everyone to hear that.

I guess my question is from what you're seeing now, what can we take away from this one that feels pretty big to all of us to be better prepared for whenever the big one comes?

OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, good morning to both of you. And thank you for having me on again. Let's just put this in perspective. Kind of like a real status as opposed to a light switch on and off. Right now we're in the very earliest days of this pandemic. Don't think of this as yet big. This is not. For all the suffering, pain, death, and so forth we've had so far, only about 5 percent of the U.S. citizens have been infected.

And this virus is not going to rest at all until it gets to 60 percent or 70 percent. So again we have to understand we're just in the beginning. And I agree with Dr. Mike Ryan from WHO you had on earlier who said just that.

What I was talking about is if this were influenza 1918 like situation, which was even more severe than we're seeing now, what we're seeing now could actually be not the worst case scenario. That's why the world has to understand preparing for these pandemics is absolutely essential as much as it is preparing our borders against another foreign invader.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, Dr. Osterholm, because as you see, 50 states, all 50 states to some degree are reopening. Some certainly faster than others. As you watch this, who is getting it the most right? Who do you think -- if you can give an example or two, is opening up at the right pace and based on the right data that they have seen with cases so far.

OSTERHOLM: You know, I don't think anybody is getting it right. And I don't think a lot of people are necessarily getting it wrong. And what I mean by that is we're all trying to feel our way this totally dark room. For example, if you can open up again in construction, you know, several 30-year-olds who are otherwise healthy and construction, you know, if they get infected, their risk of having a serious disease, picture, dying is very, very low.

On the other hand, if their 60-year-old supervisor who's overweight, smokes, and has some heart disease problems, he being at work and getting this infection could very well die from it. So one of the challenges we have right now is all trying to figure out how do we integrate society, how do we deal with everybody, how do we protect those people at highest risk of having a bad outcome and let the rest of society move forward.

So this is the challenge that we have. And we're not having that discussion. We are either a light switch, on or off, that's it.



HARLOW: I don't know, Doctor, if you can see those pictures that one of our reporters just showed from the Lake of the Ozarks, but it was unbelievable. I mean, it was -- I mean, no social distancing totally irresponsible behavior among everyone, you know, and I know that's not the majority, but when you see that, and then you hear the World Health Organization over the weekend warning of a second peak, is that all but inevitable at this point, if that behavior becomes any more widespread?

OSTERHOLM: Well, let me just say the virus itself is going to do what it's going to do. You know, we're not driving this tiger, we're riding it. We have seen in past pandemics of influenza an initial wave of cases and what Dr. Ryan was talking about, we're still in the first wave. Some areas are farther along than others, we may see slight second peaks in the first wave.


What we're talking about is a second wave that would occur sometime several months after it appears cases have started to go down a lot like in 1918.


OSTERHOLM: It could be much worse. So, you know, we're going to have to figure out how for the next 18 months we can't lock down for 18 months. At the same time your point is a very good one, is this the behavior that we want to have when a virus is circulating out there. Our intensive care unit beds in Minnesota are filled like they've never been before with this virus.


OSTERHOLM: That's a concern.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Osterholm, it's a sad fact that politics have infected, if I can use that word, the debate over this. Of course that's to be expected. But politics have also infected the numbers. I mean, questions about data and accurate counting of the data.

I wonder, as a researcher like yourself who needs that data to properly get a handle on how far and wide and how quickly this is spreading, should Americans at home have doubts about whether state governments, federal governments are sharing or even seeking out the most accurate data on this via testing and contact tracing?

OSTERHOLM: Yes, very, very important question and let me just say the experience that helps me answer that as I was in the state epidemiologist in Minnesota for over 20 years, and I was responsible for collecting those very data that today we're using to make a judgment. What's happened is state and local health departments have been overwhelmed. And so the challenges in getting good data making sure that they can identify individuals with the test results and passing that on has been a challenge.

I don't think there's been anything that's been intentional. I don't think that there is anything that was in fact -- I'm going to misrepresent the data to show one persuasion or another. Nonetheless, the point you raise is critical. We've got to have better data. And that means we have to invest much more in our state and local health departments who in the first instance are where those numbers are coming from.


SCIUTTO: Yes. So much being put on their shoulders at the state and --


SCIUTTO: And community level.

Listen, Dr. Osterholm, it's great to have you on.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: We hope you'll keep coming back as we'[re going to need your wise counsel throughout this as it continues.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you very much. Good morning.

SCIUTTO: Well, ahead this hour, traders at the New York Stock Exchange can go back today, but they have some very strict rules to follow and they have to sign a liability waiver. We head to Wall Street.

HARLOW: Plus, the hospitality industry hit unbelievably hard as you know during this pandemic. What will it take for a comeback? Danny Myer, one of the top restaurateurs in the country, will join us on what he is doing.

And hours from now, the White House travel ban for Brazil kicks in as cases in that country surge. We'll take you live to Sao Paulo.



SCIUTTO: Well, President Trump is taking aim at his Democratic presidential opponent for doing what health officials recommend hours after the president attended Memorial Day ceremonies without wearing a mask. Trump retweeted a post, mocking Joe Biden for wearing one.

HARLOW: Joe Johns has the latest from the White House. Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. The significance of this is really about setting examples for the public and sending the message of why you wear a mask. The mask is to protect other people while this coronavirus pandemic rages. So, yesterday, we really got pictures that illustrate the divide in American politics right now.

The president of the United States not wearing a mask in public, even though his coronavirus taskforce as well as the Centers for Disease Control here in the United States recommend it. On the other side of the coin, the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, as well as his wife Jill Biden in public both wearing masks. So that right there tells you a picture is worth more than a thousand words, Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Yes, well, we should note that U.S. soldiers of those ceremonies were also wearing masks. So, we're learning more about the president and his taking aim at the RNC being held in North Carolina. The president threatening it seems by Twitter yesterday that he wanted to take it out of North Carolina, but we're hearing that was not really a real threat. Well, what's it about?

JOHNS: We heard from Kayleigh McEnany; the presidential Press Secretary here at the White House this morning out on another network, essentially saying the president would like to see this convention in North Carolina, despite his threat on Twitter yesterday. Nonetheless, also saying that the president is concerned that the Democratic governor of North Carolina not play politics with the convention. So big questions, of course, about how feasible it would be to move that convention at this late date, Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Big question on that. Thanks, Joe, appreciate it. Be sure to watch the situation room today for CNN's sit-down with Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. You'll see it 5:00 Eastern only right here on CNN. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Joining us now, Democratic Congresswoman Donna Shalala of Florida; she's also the former Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Clinton. Congresswoman, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.

REP. DONNA SHALALA (D-FL): You're welcome, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, it appears that some of Trump's pressuring North Carolina is because he wants to have a big rally for the convention. A lot of people in that room there together, which of course seems to run counter to what the health officials are recommending at this point. It's been raised moving the convention to Florida, as a Florida congresswoman, would you welcome that?


SHALALA: Well, I think he's talking about Doral, which he owns. He'll stay in North Carolina. There's a very tight Senate race, and I'm sure that's why they backed off of North Carolina. The most important thing here is the president needs to pay attention to his own scientists. He's not wearing masks. He's talking about large gatherings which are very dangerous for the people of North Carolina and the people of the country. What happens to North Carolina, it doesn't stay in North Carolina. That's what we have to understand. The state-by-state --


SHALALA: Strategy is just a mess. And it is really going to cause deaths that are unnecessary.

SCIUTTO: You saw vice -- former Vice President Joe Biden take grief from the president and from some conservative commentators for wearing a mask, as recommended, the president of course, did not. Does former Vice President Biden have something to be ashamed of from wearing the mask at Memorial Day festivities yesterday?

SHALALA: Absolutely not. He's respecting the people around him, he's setting an example. He's protecting seniors and little kids. He's protecting everyone that he has come in contact with, but more than anything else, he's saying to the country, this is what the public health people have said, this is what we must do. So setting a high standard is very presidential.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about Florida because of course, Governor DeSantis there got a lot of criticism early on for taking time to shut down, and then opening up more quickly than other states there. But fact is that the numbers in Florida have stayed pretty much under control, and I certainly don't want to cast aspersions of the people who did lose their lives but not as many as some of the worst projections there.

And I just wonder, as a Florida congresswoman, what do you believe Florida got right in terms of reopening?

SHALALA: Well, actually, I think that we have to be very careful about reopening because we're not testing people who are reopening. We're still not testing everyone that already is working at a grocery store. We're not testing those seniors and disabled who are in our nursing homes, and we're certainly not testing all of the people we're asking to reopen in restaurants. So it is a very dangerous situation where you don't have the level of testing that you want.

In addition to that, here is what the CDC has said, they said that you shouldn't reopen until your numbers are going down. Not leveling off, until you're actually starving the virus so that you can follow up on every individual that gets infected after that. We're not meeting those standards. So we have to be extremely careful. Look, I have isolation fatigue.

Everybody has isolation fatigue. But if you're going to open up, then you have to test and do contact tracing at the same time. Those pieces have not been put in place in Florida. We need to put them in place, every place in the country as we slowly open up. There is a responsible way to do this, but it involves large scale testing, and neither the White House nor individual states, there are a couple that have tried to test people in nursing homes, for example. But we need to test everybody that works in a restaurant. Who are we

asking to open up? A lot of these --


SHALALA: People are low income workers, they need to be tested. They need to be protected. And the rest of us --

SCIUTTO: Right --

SHALALA: Need to be protected.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this because part of the essential argument from those pushing for a faster reopening, the president included, but others is that because the economic damage is so great and the job losses are so great, that some risk and sadly, even some loss of life is worth reopening in the face of the risk of greater outbreaks. Well, what's your response to that argument?

SHALALA: I don't think any life is worth an exchange for the economy. Let me put it this way, we can responsibly, gently open up, but only if we put the right processes in place and that involves testing. We also have to test those that are the most vulnerable. Florida is not testing everyone in nursing homes. Those are the people, 45 percent of our deaths are people that have been in nursing homes or in assisted living.

If you know that, then you should be testing and providing services. And so, you know, you just can't use that excuse. Of course, we're going to open up gently, but it has to be combined with proper testing and proper safety precautions, whether it's -- whether it's sanitation approaches or masks.


SCIUTTO: Congresswoman Donna Shalala, good to have you on the program this morning.

SHALALA: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right, it won't look the same, but the New York Stock Exchange is set to reopen the trading floor after two months of being closed. We'll take you there. We're also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. U.S. futures rising as a growing number of cities and countries around the world take steps to open their economy. Look at that, Dow futures up more than 600 points.

This also after so many people crowded onto packed beaches in several states for Memorial Day weekend. You do have investor confidence boosted by some promising preliminary information regarding vaccines. We'll keep a close eye on the market.