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World Health Organization Warns of Second Peak; Many Americans Refuse to Social Distance on Holiday; 10th Company Begins Human Trials on Possible Vaccine; Trump Threatens to Move Republican National Convention; Brazilian City in the Heart of the Amazon Overwhelmed by Virus; U.K. Prime Minister's Advisor Defends Violating the Lockdown; Italy Requesting Civil Assistant Volunteers. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 26, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world, you are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, with millions of COVID-19 cases around the globe, the World Health Organization is warning the pandemic is nowhere near over. As the U.S. death toll fast approaches 100,000, some Americans are taking a big gamble rushing to crowded beaches despite warnings about masks and social distancing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we get it, we get it. We're going to handle it as a family and just get over it because that's what a family does.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to die but, I mean, if that's what God has in store for my life, then that's OK.


CHURCH: And the New York Stock Exchange is reopening its floors in just a few hours from now, but traders will have to follow strict new guidelines.

Good to have you with us. At some point in the next few days the United States will mark a grim milestone when the coronavirus death toll reaches 100,000. That staggering number will come about three months since the first reported U.S. death from COVID-19. And the World Health Organization warns this pandemic is far from over. The head of its emergencies program says we are right in the middle of the first wave of cases, meaning the disease is still on the way up. He says a second peak could come months from now during the normal flu season. And the W.H.O. is urging all countries to remain on high alert. That warning amid an urgent search of a vaccine. Novavax has now become the 10th company worldwide to announce it's starting human trials of a potential vaccine.

Well American's marked the Memorial Day holiday over the weekend and many took a holiday from social distancing even though the rage of infections is

still on the rise in 18 U.S. States. CNN's Kyung Lah has our report.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Memorial Day we remember our father William E. Cordero.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll always remember Gordon Hartley.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (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 should a, could a, would a. 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: 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: 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, 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.

LAH: 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.

ASA HUTCHINSON, ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: 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: And it is far from over, warns the World Health Organization. DR. MICHAEL RYAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WHO 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: But patience runs short amongst some. North Carolina protesters demand that the state open faster even as the state's 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: The economy versus science clash weighing on local leaders, trying to contain the public health crisis.

DOUG BURGUM, NORTH DAKOTA GOVERNOR: 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): The state of California made two announcements about how Californians can shop as well as worship. In person shopping will be allowed but with heavy restrictions and Californians will once again be allowed to worship in their places of worship but only at 25 percent of occupancy.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Manhattan Beach, California.


CHURCH: Joining me now is Dr. Craig Spencer. He is the director of Global Health in E.R. Medicine at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. Thank doctor for being with us.


CHURCH: So the World Health Organization warns we could see a second peak of coronavirus cases not in October but in the next few weeks with of course this increased mobility we're seeing. And when you hear that and see the images from the Memorial Day weekend with Americans gathering at beaches and pool parties disregarding medical experts, not wearing masks or social distancing. How inevitable is another peak in just a few weeks do you think?

SPENCER: I think there are a couple of things to unpack there. One, around the globe, the number of new infections is still going up quite steadily. We're seeing hot spots everywhere, not just in the U.S., but in places like Brazil and Mexico, et cetera. So it's important to recognize this isn't just a U.S. issue where we're having new cases, this is everywhere. Regarding the U.S., when I see those images over Memorial Day weekend

with people not practicing social distancing, I'm upset of course especially with everything I've seen here in New York City, all of the cases, all of the death. But I'm also comforted by the fact that I do think the majority of people around this country have listened to public health experts, are practicing social distancing, are wearing masks. Because they all realize that this virus cannot infect you if it cannot find you. And people are rightfully scared of it.

So I think that those are all -- I think that's all really important. I also think it's really important to recognize that the W.H.O. said, maybe we'll see another peak. People have heard of a plateau or second wave. I think people are confused about what's coming. The reality is, is that we don't exactly know. But what is almost certain is the majority of people in the United States and the overwhelming majority of people around the world have not seen this virus, have no protection from it. And we will continue to see cases, and maybe even big spikes of cases for the next couple of months and maybe even the next couple of years.

CHURCH: Right, and worth pointing out, too, that President Trump did not wear a mask as he marked Memorial Day. This despite his own coronavirus task force coordinator, Dr. Birx insisting everyone wear a masks to protect others, not necessarily themselves. What's your reading of that?

SPENCER: My reading is I think this is unfortunately, a lot of the reason we have so many problems right now. People are trying to figure out who they should be looking to for guidance, whether it's our politicians or public health officials. Our messaging and our messages is should be one and the same. Our political leaders should be taking direction from the experts, from the public health experts. And unfortunately, I don't think that that's happening now and that hasn't been happening for quite some time.

Here in the United States and obviously in the most impacted countries around the world. You know, the one similarity between all of the countries with the highest number of cases and the number of deaths, is the fact that they're run by politicians who think, quite frankly, they know better than public health experts.

CHURCH: Yes, and of course we are all eagerly awaiting the possibility of a vaccine in U.S. based biotech company Novavax has started phase one of human trials for its vaccine in Australia. About 130 participants will take its experimental vaccine. And this is just one of about 10 potential vaccines being worked on globally. How hopeful are you that this or any of the other vaccines will work and become available by the start of the next year?


SPENCER: Well I'm quite hopeful and optimistic that we will find a vaccine. It should be noted that that's not a guarantee. There are many viruses that circulate amongst us that are looking for vaccines and we just don't have them. However, I and many other health experts think that we will be able to find a vaccine for this. Now there's a lot of hurdles between, you know, trying this out on just over 100 people and getting it into production, manufactured and into people's arms. As you mentioned, this is around one of ten candidates.

It's good that the candidates are all quite different in their approach, meaning some use RNA, some use kind of old dead viruses. They all have a different approach to try to create this immune response which is great. We have a bunch of different things in production and hopefully one or more of those pan out. The reality is, is that phase one of the trial you're talking about won't be done until July. There'll have to be a phase two or phase three. I think it's safety data, know if it actually works.

And then a lot of the really hard work begins. Making sure there's enough vials. Making sure there's the laboratories, and the plants to produce this. There's a supply and logistics network to get it out. And then determining who do we give it to first. Those are all really tough questions that are going to take potentially a lot longer than just finding and starting a phase one of any vaccine candidate.

CHURCH: Right, some great points there. Dr. Craig Spencer, thank you so much for talking with us. I appreciate it. And thank you for all that you do.

SPENCER: Thank you for having me.

CHURCH: And on this Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., President Trump honored the nation's war dead. He also launched online attacks on political enemies, promoted conspiracy theories and threatened North Carolina's Democratic governor about the upcoming Republican National Convention. Kaitlan Collins has our report.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the United States nears 100,000 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 a speech at fort McHenry in Baltimore.

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.

COLLINS: Trump didn't wear a mask at either event unlike Joe Biden who made his first appearance in months as he visited a veteran's 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 up end both it and the Democratic national convention a week before. On Twitter Trump complained that North Carolina's Democratic Governor Roy Cooper is still in shutdown mode and not able to guarantee that by August we will allowed to hold a full convention. Vice President Mike Pence said they may move it to a state that's

further along in reopening.

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.

COLLINS: Last week Governor Cooper told CNN it wasn't a political decision.

ROY COOPER, NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: This is not political, this is not emotional. This is based on health experts.

COLLINS: 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 he often criticized Barack Obama for golfing while in office. Trump said he was only exercising and accusing the press of portraying it was 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.

DR. DEBORAH BRIX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: 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.

COLLINS: On Sunday, the U.S. added Brazil to the list of countries from which travel is banned because cases there have skyrocketed.

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

COLLINS (on camera): Now back to the President's threat about pulling that convention out of Charlotte, North Carolina, despite the money and planning it's already gone into it. We are told by Charlotte officials that they do expect to put out some kind of guidance in June about how they're hoping big events like that are going to look like. Because they're also juggling several major sports events, concerts, things of that nature, not just the Republican national convention. And there are conversations happening between the Republican National Committee and the state of North Carolina about will they test every delegate who came in the door, temperature checks, things like that to make sure that the people who do attend that convention are safe.


Though it still seems to be determined whether or not it's actually going to go forward in a way that the President himself has envisioned it.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: And the White House is enforcing its travel suspension on Brazil two days ahead of schedule as the South American country struggles to contain the coronavirus. Brazil is still reporting the second highest number of coronavirus cases in the world with more than 370,000 so far. Nearly 12,000 new infections were recorded on Monday alone. The new restrictions from the White House will go into effect Wednesday. It will suspend anyone from entering the U.S. who's been in Brazil within the past 14 days.

In the heart of the Amazon, Manaus is one of the Brazilian cities overwhelmed by the virus. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is there and filed this report.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, here in Manaus, the worst hit city in Brazil, the worst hit country in Latin America, the worst hit region in the world. We've seen some startling scenes today that show the gravity of the problem.

And frankly, the enormity of the challenge here in the heart of the Amazon to get people affected by this disease to medical treatment. We've seen flights landing, bringing people in from far-flung places. We've seen startling large cemeteries built in a record amount of time. Fifteen hundred people buried in one plot that we saw, and troublingly too. About four-fifths of them were suspected COVID cases, not people who tested positive. And that cause to question, frankly the official numbers the Brazilian government are giving out.

It varies between states but the full tally of 374,000 confirmed cases may not be the entire number because it doesn't always contain suspected cases as well. Eight hundred seven people have died in the last 24 hours, and that of course is a deeply troubling number for Brazil, but may have had some possible relation, these worsening numbers to why President Donald Trump's administration has moved up the travel ban against Brazil forward 48 hours to the end of Tuesday.

That may have some impact possibly on how Brazilians feel about their situation globally. They are now the second worst impacted country on the planet. But they are possibly a week to two weeks away from the peak. Still, a much criticism level towards Jair Bolsonaro, the Brazilian president. He called this a little flu initially, and as recently as the weekend we see him not wearing a mask in a rally of his supporters. A common place to see there's rallies, and common place too, for his messaging to be suggesting that it isn't as bad as everyone thinks. And that the economy is certainly a priority.

But it is quite clear here in the city of Manaus, this disease has been utterly devastating. The city is so remote from the rest of the country. And having to fly and so much support to keep itself going.

The peak seems to be behind them, but even at the cemetery we were at, five bodies turned out for burials in coffins while we were there just this morning. So, startling scenes where we are here. And a sign possibly that the worst is certainly ahead for the rest of Brazil. Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Manaus, Brazil.


CHURCH: Coming up next, no regrets, no apology. The British Prime Minister's top advisor rejects calls to resign. We'll have the details for you when we return.



CHURCH: The British Prime Minister's top advisor heckled on his return home after a highly unusual press conference. Dominic Cummings faced the media to defend traveling 260 miles or more than 400 kilometers out of London and back when the country was under a strict lockdown. Cummings actions have put him and the government under fierce criticism for days now and as Nic Robertson tells us, they're hoping to move on.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, that really is the big question. Has this done enough to take the heat out of the situation for the Prime Minister? Is Dominic Cummings job safe? Well I think the answer is for now it's safe. The heat that the Prime Minister was getting from MPs within his own party, some of that seems to have dissipated.

But if you look at some of the newspapers that support a Conservative Party typically, "Daily Telegraph", the "Daily Mail", for example, they're still writing articles that are still critical of the Prime Minister supporting Dominic Cummings. Feeling that he spent too much (INAUDIBLE) propping up Cummings.

But for now the Prime Minister really feels that Cummings giving his expressions yesterday and answering questions even though he said that he had no regrets, no apologies, didn't think about resigning, that the media was essentially to blame for getting the story wrong, the Prime Minister saying it's up to people to make up their minds now. He wasn't going to get back into those details of what Dominic Cummings had laid out. Did he have regrets? He did about the confusion but it seems when he listened to his words perhaps, he was shading that to the confusion that was created by this apparent misreporting.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: At that particular stage I had a lot on my plate and really didn't focus on the matter until these stories started to emerge in the last few days. So my answer to your question is, you know, do I regret what has happened? And yes, of course I do regret the confusion and the anger and the pain people feel.

ROBERTSON: The Prime Minister and leading members of his cabinet wanting to focus forward now. Some classes and schools to reopen June 1st. Some stores to begin reopening in June as well, June 1st. Farmer's market, outdoor car show rooms because there outside to open. And the Prime Minister saying that the big department stores can reopen June 15th providing they take measures to protect their customers. This is the focus of the Prime Minister, not Dominic Cummings.


He wants to put that behind him. He's made that very clear.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


CHURCH: To Spain now where the pandemic has devastated the tourism industry. Now the government is under pressure to revive it. The foreign minister tweeted a message to potential visitors, and I'm quoting here.

The worst is behind us. In July we will gradually open to international tourists, lift the quarantine, ensure the highest standards of health safety. We look forward to welcoming you.

Well starting July 1st tourists will be allowed into Spain without having to quarantine. The entire country is in some phase of reopening. Spain has one of the world's highest death rates from COVID-19.

With coronavirus cases and deaths on the decline in Italy, the country is moving forward with its phased reopening. Gyms, pools and sports centers can all open this week and next month airports, cinemas and theaters will be up and running. Now though there are concerns about Italy's night life and complaints about people not social distancing. So authorities are getting creative to help enforce the rules. CNN's Delia Gallagher explains.


DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Italy has a new plan for those who are out in public and not observing social distancing regulations. The Italian civil protection authority along with regional governments is organizing 60,000 volunteers. They're calling them civil assistants who will patrol streets, parks and beaches to remind people to wear facemasks and to maintain social distance. The volunteers will be over 18. They will wear vests identifying themselves but they will not be able to issue fines or tickets. The civil protection agency says this is a response to verified complaints over the weekend throughout Italy of social activity and night life happening without observing social distancing.

Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.


CHURCH: And you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, COVID-19 cases are trending upward in Alabama, but that hasn't stopped the party on the Gulf coast.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, everybody's got to go somehow, you know what I mean?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, but in a way. Like I mean, I don't want to die. But I mean, if that's what God has in store for my life, that's OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, if he's not wearing a mask, I'm not going to wear a mask. If he's not worried. I'm not worried.