Return to Transcripts main page


Crowds Pack Alabama's Beaches for Holiday Weekend; New York Stock Exchange Set to Reopen Trading Floor; Denmark Offering COVID-19 testing to Entire Population; New Studies Show How COVID-19 Travels; China's Military Vows to Uphold National Sovereignty in Hong Kong. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired May 26, 2020 - 04:30   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: The United States is edging closer to a grim new milestone as the coronavirus death toll is expected to exceed 100,000 in the next few days. There are more than 1.6 million cases in the U.S. and right now more than 2 dozen states are seeing new cases rise or hold steady as the country continues to reopen.

The World Health Organization is urging all countries to remain on high alert warning 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. He says a second peak could come months from now during the normal flu season.

Well despite the lingering danger, many Americans are not willing to give up their Memorial Day weekend at the beach. CNN's Gary Tuchman reports from the Gold Coast in Alabama.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Coronavirus cases in Alabama are going the wrong way. They are trending up. But the state is now wide open for business. Social distancing is the state's rule but their effort is often been an exercise in futility at restaurants and bars in the beach towns of Alabama this Memorial Day weekend as people come back to party. At this restaurant and bar in Gulf Shores, Alabama, many wondered why it took this long to open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just here, just to have fun and meet everybody and be cool, you know.

TUCHMAN: Across the street the beach was jammed. Groups are supposed to be six feet away from each other. Police worked to enforce that. Groups are also ordered to only consist of people who live in the same household. There is no active effort to enforce that.

Mamie Kara (ph) is 21, she just graduated from college.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think everybody has to go somehow. You know what I mean.

TUCHMAN (on camera): You mean die?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, but in a way like, I mean, I don't want to die. But, I mean, if that is what god has in store for my life then that is OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My family has the same mindset as me. And we kind of disagreed that if we get it, we get it. We're going to handle it as a family and just get over it. Because that is what family does.

TUCHMAN: When it comes to coronavirus, medical experts will tell you they're very concerned about the immediate future here in Alabama. On this beach though, your eyes and ears will tell you something much different.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just like the flu, right.

TUCHMAN: Well, it's not just like a flu. It's far more contagious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I know, but people die from the flu also.

TUCHMAN: They do die from the flu.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, to me that is just the way that I look at it.

TURNER: Do you have any concerns about being at the beach with so many people with your children?


TUCHMAN: How come you are not worried at all, that if someone could be sick and walked by a get you sick?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because there's enough wind and air that's going to be clear it all out of here.

TUCHMAN: The wind and the air do not clear it out of the way. There is no proof of anything like that. There's wind and air everywhere in this world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. Yes, no, I am not worried about it at all.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And then, there is the issue of masks, we saw a grand total of zero being worn on the beach.

(on camera): Do you ever wear a mask?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. My wife and kids do. I don't.

TUCHMAN: How come you don't?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just feel comfortable that I'm going to be OK.

TUCHMAN: But the mask isn't to keep you OK. It's to keep your wife and kids OK, to protect them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I get it. I get it. The survival rate is so high. I think --

TUCHMAN: You are not worried about them getting sick, because you are going to live?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are all going to get sick for something eventually.

TUCHMAN: President Trump is part of this conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean if he is not wearing a mask. I am not going to go wear a mask. If he is not worried, I am not worried.

TUCHMAN: The president?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Speaking of mask, Alabama has mandated them for restaurant and bar workers. Some restaurants have them, but at others where we arrived unannounced and shot cellphone video, employees were not wearing masks. The manager here telling us after our visit he has now given masks to his employees with instructions to wear them.

At this other restaurant and bar, where we also saw no employees wearing masks. The manager told us they will continue not wearing them because she wants it that way despite violating the state order.

Traffic very heavy in Alabama's beach towns. All nearby hotels sold out as the holiday weekend began.


Alabama is back in business, COVID surge or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it's my time is go it is just my time to go, I guess.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Rosemary, the police departments throughout the state of Alabama have the authority to make arrests based on reopening orders. Here in Gulf Shores, Alabama, we are being told by a police department spokesman that no arrests pertaining to those orders were made over this Memorial Day weekend. We did talk to a police officer on the beat though who said that several warnings were issued.

The fact is during this time it's a very unpleasant thing to do to have to make arrests like that. But it's very easy to find restaurants and bars here on the beach in Alabama where the employees and the bartenders are not wearing masks -- Rosemary.


CHURCH: Thank you, Gary Tuchman. Appreciate that.

Well if there was ever a symbol of America going back to work, it's this one. The New York Stock Exchange is set to reopen its trading floor in the coming hours. It's been all electronic since March 23rd when two people working there, tested positive for the coronavirus. Anna Stewart is with us now to talk more about those safety measures.

Good to see you, Anna. So when the New York Stock Exchange opens in just a few hours from now, what will the new normal look like?

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: The new normal will look nothing like the pre-pandemic normal, Rosemary. It's going to be very, very quiet. Only a quarter of traders are allowed to return today. And the measures you'll see will make sure that it's really quite subdued restarting to all of this. There will be no big opening bell celebrations for IPOs. They'll be no media there. And much like factories, much like offices, all around the world as territories have reopened, we'll see things like temperature checks, facemasks, social distancing, dividers between computers. Just to ensure that everyone can keep some distance.

Now in media reports it does suggest that traders have been asked to sign off liability forms. So that if they do contract the virus while they're working at the NYSE exchange will not be liable for that. Which really is a stark reminder that this virus is very real, very present, still very much a risk even for those who have decided to go back to work. And it will be a decision for individuals as well as the businesses that they work for within that NYSE trading floor -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Is it all worth the risk considering so many trades are now done electronically? And that's exactly how they've been done since what, March 23rd.

STEWART: And it has been a debate, actually, even before the NYSE closed that so much can be done electronically with trading. The NYSE is one of the few exchanges that still has floor traders. And they rely on them fairly heavily in terms of some parts. For instance they have a lot to say in terms of the closing prices. Just before the closing bell each day they do dampen down volatility. They do help with liquidity.

Also, for the traders that were actually talking about -- as opposed to those big market makers -- these traders are often very small businesses, just 20 people or something. They have been really heavily hit by the closure. So they've been very keen to get back to work but there is a risk involved. So I think the NYSE will be very careful to see how this goes, how the reopening goes. And of course, they'll be ready for increased lockdown in closing it back down again if there is any risk. But back to work for lots of people in just a few hours -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Absolutely, we'll see how it all goes. Anna Stewart joining us live from London. Many thanks.

Well now to a developing story that we're following. A multi-state manhunt is underway to find a University of Connecticut student suspected of killing two people and abducting another. Authorities say Peter Manfredonia may have killed the victims in Connecticut on Friday. He's also accused of abducting someone from the scene at the second homicide who was later found unharmed in New Jersey. An attorney for the student's family has made a public plea for Manfredonia to turn himself in to police.

U.S. President Trump made an empty promise in March that any American could get tested for the coronavirus. We will show you where they're really doing it. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.



CHURCH: Well the largest air carrier in Latin America is filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. The CEO of LATAM Airlines Group says travel restrictions due to the coronavirus are the main cause of the bankruptcy. Affiliates in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and the U.S. will be impacted. But the carrier says the bankruptcy will not affect reservations, employee pay or flight vouchers.

Well Johns Hopkins University says the coronavirus has now killed more than 4,000 people in Sweden. Officials there chose not to impose mandatory lockdowns and allowed schools and businesses to stay open. The country also trusted the public to practice good hygiene and social distancing. The country has seen more deaths compared to its neighbors in the Nordic region but many fewer deaths than hard-hit countries like Britain and Spain.

Well across the border from Sweden, cases and deaths in Denmark are dramatically lower. And the country is taking a big step to keep them that way. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen has our report.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): It was a big promise President Trump made in early March. Coronavirus tests for anyone who wants them.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anybody that wants a test can get a test.

PLEITGEN: A promise the President has not fulfilled to this day. But now tiny Denmark is making exactly that possible. People are flocking to tent centers in Copenhagen and other towns. Sarah Wiese lives in a shared apartment and says she wants to make sure she's not jeopardizing her flat mates.

SARAH WIESE, COPENHAGEN RESIDENT: To get certainty and also see that if I have it, I can tell my friends because we have been a little bit close, too close.

PLEITGEN: The process is simple. Make an appointment by an app and head to the nearest testing facility. The average waiting time to get an appointment, Denmark's health ministry says, is less than a day. There's even a drive-in facility where motorists get tested in their cars.

HELLE HOSTRUP, TEST CENTER LEADER: Testing a lot, lots of people in Denmark just to be wiser, to learn about how the virus is spreading. PLEITGEN: Denmark is seen as a role model for the way it's combatting

the coronavirus in Europe. It shut down very early and its death toll remains low. But the country only recently started mass corona tests to test both the presence of the virus or the antibody showing a previous infection.


Now anyone, whether they have symptoms or not, can get tested. That's to make sure there's no pockets of the virus left. Denmark's health minister tells me.

MAGNUS HEUNICKE, DANISH HEALTH MINISTER: We are really chasing the last pockets and it's important for us to find them and then to really stop the spread of the virus.

PLEITGEN: With a population of less than 6 million, Denmark says it easily has the capacity to test anyone who wants to be tested. The health ministry says the broad testing scheme is part of a larger push to gradually open up the country after beating back the virus.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Copenhagen, Denmark.


CHURCH: And Montenegro has become the first European country to declare itself free of the coronavirus. The Prime Minister made the announcement Monday after the country went 20 days without any new infections. Montenegro has a population of around 630,000. It's recorded only 324 cases of the virus with nine deaths.

And the Czech Republic will no longer enforce wearing facemasks in public. As of Monday masks are only required on public transport or in enclosed areas. The country has been easing restrictions for the past month as the number of new infections stay low. Well done.

Well there's a lot we still don't know about how the coronavirus spreads. Are you more likely to get it from touching a germy surface or by breathing the same air as an infected person? Brian Todd shows us two recent studies on how the virus travels.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A disturbing altered reality demonstration of how coronavirus spreads. Medical experts teamed up with Japan's public broadcaster NHK to gather 10 participants. The setting, a simulation of buffet style eating in the cruise ship's dining area or restaurant.

The first participant rubs his hands with a special fluorescent liquid, only visible under black light. He's simulating an infected person who'd cough into his hands. Nine other people join him, put food onto their plates and proceed with a communal meal.

After 30 minutes, the room goes dark. Ultraviolet light shows that fluorescent liquid the man rubbed on his hands is now on several surfaces, pitchers, tongs. His residue had spread to silverware, glassware. Three people had gotten it onto their face.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Even some basic rules of dining like buffet style eating we might have to consider that and go back to individual servings.

TODD: After one round, the team in Japan did a second cleaner version of the same experiment. Had people wash hands, separated dishes and replaced utensils more frequently. After 30 minutes of that test, no one had picked up the residue.

DR. MARK RUPP, CHIEF, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER: If that initial event where the person had the contamination in their hand had used hand hygiene prior to touching that utensil, that would have prevented the whole line from becoming contaminated.

TODD: Another new study shows how this invisible enemy strikes when we talk to each other. Researchers at NIH and the University of Pennsylvania found that one person talking loudly for one minute in a confined space could generate at least 1,000 droplets. Into a dark box lit with lasers, a researcher speaks for 25 seconds repeating one phrase.


TODD: Inside the box, thousands of droplets can be seen here as streaks in the air stirred by a fan which is then turned off. The clock up top shows how slowly the droplets dissipate. Some linger for more than 12 minutes. Those researchers say in real life, that's plenty of time for infected particles to be inhaled by others and cause new infections.

HOTEZ: They're in a loud restaurant, where there's a fair bit of noise. People are speaking loudly. There's going to be lots of micro droplets of this virus in the atmosphere.

TODD: One expert says both of these studies show for the foreseeable future, we'll have to build safeguards everywhere to ward off this unseen threat.

DR. MARK RUPP, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER: Whether that's a flashing light or a piece of tape on the floor or crossbar that comes down or what have you, you know, some sort of a reminder for somebody to say you can't do this until you've practiced hand hygiene. You can't come into this establishment unless you have a mask in place.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


And we'll take a short break here.

Still to come, a top Chinese military commander has a new warning for Hong Kong protestors. The pro-democracy movement is facing its biggest challenge yet. CNN reports live from Hong Kong next.


CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

Well with Beijing moving to impose a new security law on Hong Kong, China's military says it's ready to safeguard what it calls national sovereignty in the city. Hong Kong's pro-Beijing security secretary publicly supported the draft law on Monday. One day after clashes erupted again between city police and pro-democracy demonstrators. A military commander is warning of a growing threat from terrorism and said calls from independence could undermine national security. The new law under review by Beijing is widely seen as an attempt to strip away another layer of Hong Kong's autonomy.

And CNN's Anna Coren joins us now live from Hong Kong. Good to see you, Anna. So how likely is it that we'll see China arresting Hong Kong protestors in the near future?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, I mean, on the weekend we certainly saw people being arrested at what was the first demonstration for 2020. Police show zero tolerance with these protesters arresting more than 190 people over the course of the day.

Now this was in response to this national security law that Beijing says that it wants to enforce here in Hong Kong. Completely overriding Hong Kong's legislature. Now we spoke to Carrie Lam today.


She held her weekly press conference as the city's chief executive in LegCo behind me. And I asked her, can the rights and freedoms that Hong Kong people have enjoyed for the last 23 years, will they still be allowed to go out and protest on the streets? That freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and she said as long as the protests are legal. Now the issue here, Rosemary, is that police are not issuing permits for these protests. So these protests are considered unlawful assemblies.

Now as you can see, this water barrier behind me, that stretches around the entire complex of LegCo. And police are expecting thousands of protesters to come here in protest of the national anthem bill that is being debated inside LegCo. Now if enforced, that will mean that mocking or insulting China's national anthem here in Hong Kong will be a crime. People will be fired. People can end up in jail.

Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets, a city-wide strike is also expected but we are also hearing that 3,000 police will be deployed around the city. And as I say, those scenes that we saw on Sunday where police show zero tolerance to the protesters, we're expecting a similar response tomorrow.

Now we heard from the commander of the PLA here in Hong Kong, the People's Liberation Army. He issued an interview a few hours ago and he said that the PLA was determined and confident in safeguarding China's national sovereignty here in Hong Kong. This just confirms people's fears that the PLA, Rosemary, or the Chinese state police will be allowed to come into Hong Kong and arrest people who have -- who have committed a crime in relation to that national security law -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right, Anna Coren bringing us the very latest there from the streets of Hong Kong. Appreciate that.

And think you for your company. Do stay safe. I'm Rosemary Church. "EARLY START" is up next. You're watching CNN.