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Trump to Meet with Governor Cuomo on Infrastructure Projects as New York Reopens; Interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci on States Reopening as U.S. Nears 100,000 Deaths; U.S. Nears 100,000 Deaths as States Reopen; Protests in Minneapolis After a Blackman Dies Amid Police Encounter; Biden Fires Back at Trump for Mocking Him for Wearing a Mask. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 27, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Wednesday morning to you, I'm Jim Sciutto.


This morning, the country nears 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 and the president is waging a war on masks despite evidence that they do save lives. The proven way to protect yourself and others now a political flashpoint. And former vice president Joe Biden responding in an exclusive interview with our Dana Bash.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's a fool. An absolute fool to talk that way. I mean, every leading doc in the world is saying we should wear a mask when you're in a crowd.


SCIUTTO: Also breaking overnight, protesters in Minnesota clashing with police over the death of an African-American man in police custody. Police firing tear gas, some protesters throwing rocks. The scene unfolding just 24 hours after George Floyd screamed and repeatedly said, I can't breathe, as a police officer kneeled on his neck. Warning, this video is extremely disturbing.


GEORGE FLOYD, VICTIM: I can't breathe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you got him down, man. Let him breathe at least, man.

FLOYD: I can't breathe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been trying to help -- FLOYD: I can't breathe.


FLOYD: I'm about to die.



SCIUTTO: Well, four Minneapolis police officers have now been fired. No charges filed. The FBI is investigating.

We'll have more from Minnesota in just a moment. But first, let's get to CNN's Brynn Gingras. She's in Port Washington, New York, for more on today's reopenings there. And this is something we're seeing across the country, even in what has really been the hardest hit state, New York.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Jim. I mean, it was just about a month ago that we were reporting in Suffolk County where a barn was being converted to a morgue because the number of people dying from the coronavirus was happening at such a fast rate. Even still on Long Island, it counts for about 80,000 coronavirus cases. It's the highest number next to New York City here in the state.

So this is a significant milestone for the people on Long Island, making the step to phase one. Just like we were talking about yesterday, phase one now includes manufacturing, construction, pickup, retail, wholesale, so there are baby steps for these phases, of course, that the governor of New York has laid out, but certainly significant just seeing what this area has certainly gone through.

And talking about the economy, one in 20 people on Long Island last month filed for unemployment. People are excited to get back to work. And that's actually something that the governor is going to be addressing when he meets with the president later today. He wants to talk about infrastructure. He basically has said that now is the time to get people back to work and to kick start some major projects that need some help with the -- from the federal government.

Some of those projects that we're told he will be highlighting with the president in his talks today is a new Penn Station, a train or air link to LaGuardia Airport, a Second Avenue subway extension. These are all big, big projects that he would like to do while people are not moving around as much, and jobs are certainly needed -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Brynn, thanks for that reporting, we appreciate it.

Our Rosa Flores is in Miami Beach, Florida. Restaurants there beginning to reopen. What are they reopening like? I mean, it's hard to imagine that happening in New York City. So what's it like here?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, it's going to require some restrictions. Let me show you around because it will give you an idea. I'm live on Ocean Drive, an iconic Miami beach. Now the street is completely blocked off and that's for a reason. It will allow restaurants to spill over seating on to the street to allow for social distancing.

Now, all along this strip, you will also see hand washing stations like this one again so patrons can be safe. And as you look down the strip, you'll see that some restaurants appear to be reopening, others are not.

Now here are some of the restrictions. Restaurants will be allowed to reopen at about 50 percent capacity. Employees and customers will have to wear masks. The floors will have to be marked for social distancing purposes and also employees will have to do temperature checks.

According to the mayor of this city, about 800 restaurants are in Miami Beach and only a third will be reopening today and here's why.



MAYOR DAN GELBER (D), MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: Many of them have suffered some pretty severe economic injury and also because there is a real question as to how many people will actually be coming out recognizing that they still have to be comfortable going into the public and going into the economy.


FLORES: Now, beaches and hotels remain closed, but they could reopen on June 1st.

And Jim and Poppy, I of course asked the mayor what happens if crowds get big and this area gets overcrowded, and he says that they are definitely ready to close again if that happens -- Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Rosa Flores there in Miami, thanks very much.

Joining me now to talk about the country reopening, other headlines regarding COVID, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Fauci, it's nice to have you back on this morning.


SCIUTTO: So many headlines to move through. If we could begin on hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID, France today has banned its use. Doctors there saying that the data does not provide evidence to support it. Given that data and other studies, should the U.S. do the same and ban hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID?

FAUCI: You know, Jim, I'm not so sure it should be banned. But clearly the scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy for it and even the possibility that there could be -- not could be but there's, you know, the likelihood that under certain circumstances, might be rare, but you'd see it, adverse events particularly with regard to cardiovascular and the arrhythmias that may be associated with it.

I mean, there was suspicion of that for a while, but as data comes in, it becomes more clear. So I'm so sure you'd want to ban it but certainly the data are clear right now.

SCIUTTO: Understood. OK. As you know, all 50 states are opening to some degree, some variance within that, but taking steps across the country. As they open, wearing masks is recommended for people to help reduce the spread.

In your view, does it make a difference to encourage that when public servants set an example by wearing a mask as you often do when you appear in public?

FAUCI: Well, Jim, I think we certainly should be recommending it. I mean, as you know, I wear it whenever I'm outside. You know, and we can try and keep the usual distance, but sometimes it's out of your control. So there are some fundamental things that we can do. We're very aware of and sensitive to the need to try and make those steps towards reopening. But there are certain things that you can do and still do as you're reopening.

One of them is wearing a mask. The other is avoiding crowds of more than 10 people, depending upon where you are and where the dynamics of the outbreak are. The other is continuing to wash your hands, which is important. You know, and those kinds of things are simple. They're easy to do. And I think one can do that at the same time as you're gradually trying to get to the point of doing a reopening. And I think those are the things that everybody should seriously consider doing.

SCIUTTO: Do you think when folks -- members of the public are being asked to do this and they look at folks like you doing it, does that encourage its use to a positive degree?

FAUCI: No, it does, Jim. I mean, I wear it for the reason that I believe it is effective. It's not 100 percent effective. I mean, it's sort of respect for another person and have that other person respect you. You wear a mask, they wear a mask, you protect each other. I mean, I do it when I'm in the public for the reasons that, A, I want to protect myself and protect others and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that's the kind of thing you should be doing.

And when I walk around the street and the neighborhood where I live in Washington, D.C., which still has a considerable number of infections, it's very clear that many people are doing that.

SCIUTTO: It is. And I live here as well and I see the same thing. Reopening, as we mentioned, as it happens, some people are taking reopening as license to go back to the way it was, right? I mean, to mix closely without wearing a mask. I mean, you saw some of the scenes, I think we put it up on the screen, some of the worst examples of this, a pool party there in Missouri. I just wonder, as a doctor, with an enormous amount of experience not

just on COVID but previous outbreaks, what do you say to people who are taking gradual reopening orders as license to just go out there and do it like they used to do?

FAUCI: Well, what I do, Jim, is I try and encourage them whenever I'm in a public forum like now to really be careful and be prudent about that. I mean, we all want to reopen. Everyone understands that. But when you see some of the scenes that were shown just now, that's very troubling because that's inviting there to be an issue.


I mean, we are going to see upticks of cases, even under the best of circumstances, when you reopen. We know that. That's something you accept and what we need to do is have the capability of responding in an effective way, of doing the kind of identification, isolation, and contact tracing.

But when you have situations in which you see that type of crowding, with no masks and people interacting, that's not prudent and that's inviting a situation that could get out of control. So I keep -- when I get an opportunity to plead with people, understanding you do want to gradually do this, but don't start leapfrogging over some of the recommendations and the guidelines because that's really tempting fate and asking for trouble.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, given the uneven availability of testing in many states and communities, do we as a country actually have the ability to get a handle on potential outbreaks that result from reopening? A handle not only by testing, but also contact tracing so you can track down the folks who've been infected and others that they might have come in contact with. I mean, should Americans have confidence that the government can really get a handle on these things?

FAUCI: It's getting better and better, Jim. I'm feeling better about it as we go by with the weeks that go by. And we see that we're getting more and more capability of testing, the CDC is putting more of a workforce out there to help us do the kinds of identification, isolation, and contact tracing. I feel better and better that we're capable of doing that.

And I often say, you know, we often talk about the possibility of a second wave or of an outbreak when you're reopening. We don't have to accept that as an inevitability. Particularly when people start thinking about the fall. And I want people to really appreciate that. It could happen, but it is not inevitable.

If we do the kinds of things that we're putting in place now to have the workforce, the system and the will to do the kinds of things that are the clear and effective identification, isolation and contact tracing, we can prevent this second wave that we're talking about. If we do it correctly.

SCIUTTO: Have you seen any worrisome signs, data in places that have reopened early, more aggressively, of potential outbreaks as a result of reopening too quickly?

FAUCI: Yes, I think if you look at some of those areas, you start to see a little bit of an uptick and those are the things you have to watch really carefully, Jim, because there will be cases when you do that. And that's the thing we need to accept. It's how we respond to it.

One of the things that I think the people who are out there frolicking need to realize that when you do that, and you see no negative effect in one week, please don't be overconfident because the effect of spreading is not going to be seen for two, three, and maybe even more weeks. And at that time you can have the uptick and that's the reason why we encourage people as we want people to be able to have the opportunity to reopen, to be prudent, and take a careful look at the guidelines and to the best extent possible to follow them.

SCIUTTO: OK, vaccines. There have been some positive results from early trials, always have that caveat there because it is early. Have these early positive results accelerated your best guess as to when a vaccine could be widely available in this country, for instance, before the end of this year? Is that possible?

FAUCI: You know, Jim, it is possible. But when you're dealing with vaccines, you've got to remember that you're dealing with things that have a lot of vicissitudes. There are a lot of landmines and hiccups that occur. But the kind of acceleration that we're doing, which I must emphasize, is not at the expense of safety nor at the expense of scientific integrity.

What we're doing is that we're proceeding what we call at risk and at risk, Jim, means that you take the next step before you have the results of the previous step and the next step is an investment. An investment in resources. Such as making vaccine before you have a clear cut signal that it works. That means if it does work, you've gained a few months. If it doesn't, you lost an investment of resources.


FAUCI: You haven't put anyone at risk, you haven't, you know, modified the integrity of the study. If we do that, you might remember when we first started the phase one trial, and when we first developed the vaccine, I said it would be about a year to a year and a half, and that was in January, so a year from January is December.

I still think that we have a good chance, if all the things fall in the right place, that we might have a vaccine that would be deployable, by the end of the year, by December and November, December.


FAUCI: I believe we -- yes.

SCIUTTO: As you know this is an election year. Both parties have -- would normally have big crowded conventions planned for the month of August where you crowd many people into a confined space, an arena, many of them at an age that is a risk factor for COVID exposure here.


Is that a fundamentally unsafe thing to do without restriction, social distancing, et cetera?

FAUCI: Well, what I think we need to do, Jim, is reserve judgment right now to see what the situation would be. I mean, if we have a really significant diminution in the number of new cases and hospitalizations, and we're at a level where it's really very low, then, again, according to the guidelines, you may be able to go to whatever phase you're in and have some sort of a capability of gathering.

But I think we need to reserve judgment right now because --


FAUCI: We're still a few months from there. Hopefully, we will see that diminution. If we don't, then as I've said before, I would have significant reservations about that.

SCIUTTO: OK, schools, a lot of parents, myself included, looking to the Fall, wondering will it be safe to reopen? And you're seeing institutions make varying decisions. Saw University of California, California State University, they're not going to do it, others such as Notre Dame, they're going to open up, and then you have a whole host of smaller school districts around the country, they'd have to make a decision about younger students. Is it safe, generally, for schools to reopen with safety restrictions in mind?

FAUCI: You know, Jim, the answer to that, I think, falls under the category of, we can't say that one size fits all. And as -- and when people ask questions about what you can and cannot do, you always have to talk about what the dynamics of the outbreak are, in the area that you're talking about. Because we live in a big country, and there are certain states, cities, regions, counties in which the level of infection is at a rate that the schools can be much more flexible in how they open.

Whereas in other areas, it may be that it is really quite risky. And I think what the regions have to do under the leadership of the local regions, with some guidance from the federal government, is to take a look at what the dynamics of the outbreak are. And to make your recommendations --

SCIUTTO: Right --

FAUCI: Be it at a college or a high school or even an elementary school level, there needs to be flexibility, but judgment according to the situation on the ground.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Final question, I ask you this whenever I have the opportunity to speak with you. What's the best news that you've heard in the last couple of weeks about COVID that you could share with folks at home who are -- who are watching for something good to hear?

FAUCI: Yes, I mean, I think, Jim, the best news from the standpoint of public health and then of science, the best news of public health is that we are seeing in certain areas a significant plateauing and diminution. That sort of sobered by the fact that in other areas unfortunately, we are seeing some uptick. So, in the areas that are going down, that means when you do the mitigation, it works.

We've known that for some time. The good news that's encouraging is a question that you asked just a few moments ago, that with regard to the development of a vaccine, although we can't guarantee anything, the initial steps that we're doing actually make us quite cautiously optimistic, particularly with the induction of the kind of response that you would predict might be protected. So, in that arena, I'm cautiously optimistic.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Fauci, always good to have you on, you're welcome back any time, we wish you the best of luck in the work you're doing.

FAUCI: Thank you, Jim, it's always good to be with you.

HARLOW: Such a good interview, Jim. I mean, I was struck, Jim, by a few things. I think the fact that he said a second wave is not an inevitability, right? This is about how we act, is big, and that he's still optimistic about a vaccine maybe, maybe by year's end.

SCIUTTO: It is. And also, just talking about how, yes, reopening is fine, but watch the data, right? And --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: When you see upticks and he acknowledged that there are upticks, you know, be aware of those, you know, and get on top of them early so that those small upticks don't --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Become bigger outbreaks.

HARLOW: A 100 percent, well, good to have his voice.


HARLOW: It's been a while, so thank you for that.


HARLOW: We have a lot ahead this hour. Still to come, protests erupting overnight, four police officers fired in Minneapolis after a video shows one of the officers kneeling on the neck of a black man who is saying repeatedly that he cannot breathe. His knee on that man's neck for seven minutes. We will take you there for a live report.

SCIUTTO: Oh, and Twitter calls out President Trump's tweets for the first time, and now the president is threatening to shut down, shut down social media platforms.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. Former Vice President Joe Biden firing back after the president mocked him for wearing a face mask at a Memorial Day ceremony.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You mentioned the mask, that you wore a mask yesterday, President Trump went to a Memorial Day service, he did not wear a mask. Fact is, some people making fun of you, he did.


BASH: He did on Twitter. He retweeted a photo of you wearing it. He's trying to belittle you for wearing a mask, making it seem like it's a sign of weakness. Is it?

BIDEN: He's a fool. An absolute fool to talk that way. I mean, every leading doc in the world is saying we should wear a mask when you're in a crowd, and especially when you know you're going to be in a position where you're going to inadvertently get closer than 12 feet to somebody. I know we're 12 feet apart. I get that. But it's just absolutely -- this macho stuff for a guy -- I shouldn't get going, but it just is -- it's cost people's lives.

It's costing people's lives. And like I said, we're almost 100,000 dead today. Hundred thousand people.


Columbia's study showing that we could have -- if you just started a week earlier, would have saved thousands of lives. I mean, these are -- this is a tragedy.

BASH: But wearing a mask has become a cultural and political flashpoint. And the president is involved in that, even stoking that.

BIDEN: Sure he is. And look -- and stoking deaths. That's not going to increase the likelihood of people who are going to be better off --

BASH: So, do you think wearing a mask projects strength or weakness?

BIDEN: Leadership. What it presents and projects is leadership. Presidents are supposed to lead, not engage in folly and be falsely masculine. It reminds me of the guys that I grew up with playing ball, they would walk around with a ball in their hand, but they didn't like to hit very much.


HARLOW: All right, now, listen to this exchange with the president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, two questions about a couple of things you've tweeted about in the last few days, were you meaning to criticize Vice President Biden for wearing a mask yesterday? And can you explain why you've been tweeting about a conspiracy theory that has been proven to not be true?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, Biden can wear a mask, but he was standing outside with his wife, perfect conditions, perfect weather, they're inside, they don't wear masks. So I thought it was very unusual that he had one on. But I thought that was fine, I wasn't criticizing him at all. Why would I ever do a thing like that? And your second question was, I couldn't hear you?


TRUMP: Can you -- can you take it off because I cannot hear you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll just speak louder sir --

TRUMP: Oh, OK, because you want to be politically correct.


HARLOW: No, just keeping people around him healthy. Dana Bash joins us now. Dana, first of all, great job with that interview. Important to hear from him on all these fronts. Interesting that this is the flashpoint between, you know, the presumptive Democratic nominee and the sitting president about what all health experts say is necessary to keep people safe.

BASH: Very interesting. And it's not just a -- or it is a flashpoint between these two men because it's become, as I mentioned to the former Vice President, a cultural and political flashpoint around the country. One --

HARLOW: Yes --

BASH: Republican strategist explained to me that people who are traditional Trump voters now see not wearing a mask as kind of having an MRA sticker on their car -- on their cards. It's a point of pride and a symbol for what they believe in, and more importantly the way that they think that Americans on the coast and elsewhere just don't get how they live.

SCIUTTO: You know, it's remarkable too because you see soldiers wear -- I mean, at the Memorial Day ceremony, it struck me --

BASH: Yes --

SCIUTTO: There was no hesitation for the honor guard to be wearing masks there, and you know, clearly there's not a manliness issue or womanly issue with that when it comes to the military. I'm curious as you spoke to vice -- the former Vice President, did he talk about getting out more, right? I mean, there are health risks, but there's been some concern as you know in the Democratic Party that he's not visible enough in this, the campaigning from the basement as it were is not putting him in the headlines sufficiently.

BASH: Listen, he feels very comfortable because he is following the orders of the governor of his state. And he told me that he's not going to change his campaign strategy until his own governor lifts the stay-at-home order, which is still in place in the state of Delaware, which is where we did the interview, by the way. The other thing that I asked him about, Jim and Poppy, was, look, the president, you know, is -- it's easy to criticize him because he's the guy in charge.

But one of the obvious questions is, if Joe Biden was in the White House, what would --

HARLOW: Yes --

BASH: He do differently? Listen to what he said.


BASH: Let's talk about the fact that nearly 100,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus. If you were president right now, what would you do differently? How would you balance people's well-being, medically, and in terms of their health versus their economic well- being.

BIDEN: I don't know how you separate the two. I don't know how you separate -- if you're dead, you have no economic well-being, your family has no economic well-being. So, first of all, I'd listen to the scientists. I'd tell the truth. Tell the truth. There are ways to reopen certain areas and rationally with distancing, wearing masks, making sure that you don't congregate with too many people in one spot.

Making sure you're in a situation where you don't spread, you in fact inhibit the prospect of a spreading of this disease. This is a ubiquitous disease. And the president doesn't seem to me to be prepared. We should be testing and tracing before we can fully open. We should be in a position where we're able to make sure that people have all the protective gear that are needed.

The first responders don't like, they still don't have all that. We should be in a position where we're able to make sure that people are -- we -- if he cares about people reopening, start lending the money to small businesses, not one more penny to a major corporation. Put people in a position where they don't have to risk their lives to be able to make a living.