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Trump Politicizes Wearing Masks Despite Evidence It Saves Lives; Brazil Surpasses U.S. In Daily Deaths From Coronavirus; Hundreds Of Protesters Demand Justice After George Floyd's Death. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 27, 2020 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


The nation on the cusp of just a devastating milestone, 100,000 coronavirus deaths and the president is waging a war on one proven method to help stop the spread, that is wearing a mask. But the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told us just a few moments ago something very different.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: 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.


HARLOW: That's the kind of thing you should be doing. Very clear there from Dr. Fauci. If Dr. Fauci says wear a mask, you wear a mask. He also reacted to this new headline today that France has banned the use of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus patients completely. That is the drug the president has not only touted but, Jim, taken himself.

SCIUTTO: The French Health Ministry says that their data does not provide sufficient evidence to support the use of it. So I asked Dr. Fauci his view. And here's what he had to say.


FAUCI: 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 a likelihood that on under certain circumstance might be rare. But you would see it, adverse events, particularly with regard to cardiovascular and arrhythmias that might 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 not so sure you would want to ban it, but certainly, the data are clear right now.


HARLOW: Well, let's speak about all of these major headlines, you'll hear more in a moment from Dr. Fauci, with Dr. Dara Cass, Emergency Medicine Physician at Columbia University Medical Center.

Also I should note, Doctor, a COVID survivor, you know this disease, you've lived it, you've had family members and friends die from it. So I'm so sorry, and grateful to you for being here.

Could you just respond to what we just heard from Dr. Fauci, particularly on France banning hydroxychloroquine?

DR. DARA CASS, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: So I think hydroxychloroquine has been an evolving issue from the beginning. One of the issues with hydroxychloroquine in patients who actively have the coronavirus, is that we're seeing cardiac effects in those patients that may be exacerbated by the presence of hydroxychloroquine, which is why we always need to have really good studies before we introduce even an older medicine into a new clinical scenario.

That's why France is banning right now hydroxychloroquine in patients that have active coronavirus because we now see there might be complications for the heart in the face of a new disease, like coronavirus.

SCIUTTO: The fact is, though, despite the data, and data has been coming in for some weeks now showing at a minimum, no positive benefit and some danger of actually negative consequences of this. The president has continued to go down that path. Have you had patients come to you and say, I would like to be treated with this based on what they have heard from the president and others despite the data?

CASS: Absolutely. I do a lot of telemedicine. And so I take care of patients at home who watch television all day long and then call for advice on maybe their infection or even preventing them from getting it in the community. And we saw an uptick in patients requesting, demanding to be put on hydroxychloroquine after the president spoke about it publicly. And we had to tell them no because we follow the science. Unfortunately, sometimes that's not the president.

HARLOW: Doctor, also, really, I guess, disappointing bit of news out of the CDC, and that is they're finding that up to half the time these antibody tests are wrong. I mean, they give a false negative. This is going to tell us or tell people, inform people like I feel safer now because I have antibodies. So now what?

CASS: So now we realize that when we rush testing and we rush things through approval, we know there are consequences to that, right? We had 70 tests come to market expedited knowing that there would be basically a post production review of whether the good tests and bad tests exist. And now, we're realizing that a bunch of the tests that came to market were not good at accurately predicting and reliably predicting whether or not somebody had antibodies. We knew that when the tests came to market, which is why we were tempered in the results they were giving us.

And it also says that if you get a positive or a negative result, you should confirm it with a different test because then your false negative or your false positive is much less likely to be relevant.

SCIUTTO: A big question for parents, and I'm guessing, Dr. Cass, you are as well, based on the artwork behind you as we all have it in our offices, is about opening of schools in the fall. And I asked Dr. Fauci about this very question a short time ago. I want to play his answer and I want to get your response.



FAUCI: The answer to that I think falls under the category of we can't say that one size fits all. 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 what the outbreak are and to make your recommendations, 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: Dr. Cass, is that your best recommendation as well? Listen, it's got to district by district, maybe perhaps even school by school as to where and how much schools reopen?

CASS: Yes, absolutely. I think the word he keeps using, which is critically important, is flexibility and I would even add humility in this, right?

We're going into an environment of uncertainty. We don't know what's going to happen in the fall, and we don't know how it's going to affect our children and we don't know what our testing and our tracking and our local environments are going to look like.

So we need to be saying, okay, if we're in school one week, we may be home again on Zoom the week afterwards. We have to enter this with the ability to go back and forth, to respond to the disease as it's on our community and keep our children safe. HARLOW: I would just note, that will make it impossible for the economy to turn around unless there's broad childcare for people. You can't go week to week like that, as you know.

Okay, you wrote an op-ed in The New York Times getting a lot of attention, some people love it, some people hate it, about summer camp. And your argument why this can't happen make the case.

CASS: So my argument is that it's not time yet. We definitely need to get kits outside. We need to have them gather safely, but sending kids, hundreds of kids to local settings remote from healthcare, away from their parents just isn't the right time right now. We don't have enough reliable, accurate testing and tracking, and the reality is that the regular virus, as we see, the fevers, the allergies are so difficult to discern from coronavirus.

The CDC said every kid who gets a fever at an overnight camp needs to be sent home. And that just is impractical for a camp to operate on safely and it's unfair to the doctors and nurses at work at the camps.

SCIUTTO: As you know, Dr. Cass, a lot of folks around the country have taken the gradual reopening steps and orders to just sort of, you know, take care, go back to normal. You have seen very crowded parties, et cetera. I asked Dr. Fauci about this. Let's listen to his comments and I want to see what you think of it.


FAUCI: 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. I feel better and better that we're capable of doing that.

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


SCIUTTO: Dr. Cass, do you at Columbia right in the middle of it, do you have the capability, does New York have the capability, just as one example, to properly test and contact trace if there are cases of outbreaks as things reopen?

CASS: Well, we're getting there. I think the investment New York is making in moving forward is remarkable. Everything we did in New York was with public health measures alone. It wasn't with magic medications and it wasn't with a vaccine. And it goes to show us that if we respect the public health measures and if we're smart and if we care about each other enough to wear a mask, we really can get ahead of this virus so much so to build the tracking and tracing capabilities to keep the virus at bay and get our economy going again. HARLOW: Dr. Dara Cass, it's great to have you. Thanks for being with us this morning.

CASS: Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: Well, right now, the U.S. is nearing this very grim milestone of 100,000 coronavirus deaths. This as more cities push to reopen. Our reporters are standing by with the latest.

Let's begin with our Brynn Gingras. She's in Port Washington, New York. What's it looking like there?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a beautiful day, Poppy, and there's a lot of traffic on this main street in Port Washington. Further down the street, there are boutiques that will be allowed to reopen today with curbside pickup, construction starting, manufacturing.


This is all of part of that phase one in the State of New York, and this is welcome news to the area. Nassau County in particular, 1 In 20 people filed for unemployment just last month. So getting started, getting back to work, this is something people are really wanting at this point.

Putting it a little bit wider on Long Island, listen, close to 80,000 cases of coronavirus were reported on Long Island alone. It was the second highest number next to New York City. So this area, if you put it in that perspective, has gone through a lot. So, again, more welcome news to getting to this phase one, possibly phase two in the next two weeks or so.

Bigger picture, looking at the economy, the governor is expected to meet with the president and talk about infrastructure among many topics. He said in a news conference yesterday since the economy needs a jumpstart, since people want to get back to work, let's team up together and start working on some major infrastructure projects, like a new Penn station is on that list, a train linked to La Guardia, an extension of the Second Avenue subway.

These are all things that the governor has said he's going to express with the president when he meets with him later today and, of course, we'll find out more information about that after it happens. Poppy?

SCIUTTO: All right. So, Shimon, you're there in New York, New York, and, really, right in the midst of it. If anybody has been there, I mean, you can see in Times Square, it's quiet. Any change coming in the coming days?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not in the coming days, Jim. And as you said, it is virtually a ghost town here. There are some people out and about, but you can see, this is not normally what Times Square is like. There would be chairs everywhere, people would be out here, stores would be open. You know, this is one of the busiest areas in the world, really, when you think of it, for tourists, for businesses. There are many financial institutions all around us here. You usually see plenty of cars and yellow taxis driving through the intersection here. We're not seeing any of that.

Things are easing up a little bit across the city, Jim, but still it continues to be a virtual ghost town. We're waiting for word from the mayor and, of course, the governor, Governor Cuomo, to finally say, okay, it's all right for us to begin phase one. They keep saying maybe the first week of June, the second week of June, but that's all still very much in the air because we really don't know when, the date. They still have not giving us a date as to when we can get to phase one.

Ultimately, of course, the city wants to get to phase two and phase three, but we can't get to that before we get to phase one. And that may not be for another two weeks, Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Understood. We know you'll be on top of it. Shimon Prokupecz, Brynn Gingras as well there in Port Washington, thanks very much.

Still ahead this hour, a historic day for the nation's space program. NASA and SpaceX, a private company, are set to carry two astronauts to the International Space Station. Will the weather cooperate?

Plus, protests erupt in Minneapolis after the death of a black man in police custody. Really, just a disturbing video shows a police officer with his knee on George Floyd's neck as he says repeatedly he can't breathe. We're going to be live there.

HARLOW: Also, coronavirus cases spiking again in Brazil, more deaths there in the past few days than in the United States. Nick Paton Walsh is there live.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: On Copacabana Beach here, you can there is still quite a lot of activity despite a lockdown being put in place and mandatory face masks.



HARLOW: This pandemic is still growing rapidly around the world, especially in South America. Brazil is now reporting more daily coronavirus deaths than the U.S. That has happened twice over the past few days.

SCIUTTO: Yesterday, the health ministry there said the country counted more than 16,000 new cases in just 24 hours. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, he has been following the track of the pandemic in Brazil. He joins us now from Rio de Janeiro.

Nick, as you know, the president there has expressed doubts about this throughout, defied health recommendations. I wonder, is that changing as the data becomes so devastating?

WALSH: There's been a tweak in the rhetoric, certainly, where he's now referring to the fight against the virus as, quote, a war, but still focusing really on the economy being more important. And even in a leaked recording of a cabinet meeting put out by the Supreme Court as part of a separate investigation, he was heard being exceptionally rude about the mayor of one of the worst-hit towns in brazil deep in the Amazon Rain Forest. It should be remote, but it didn't protect it. It's been hit exceptionally hard. It's Manaus. We traveled there to see how heavily it's been devastated.


WALSH: This is a landing of last resort, seeking salvation in a coronavirus hotbed. Tiny planes bring the sickest COVID patients from hundreds of miles away deep in the Amazon to Manaus, Brazil's worst hit city, and to a hospital bed, a journey most make alone, from which some, won't go home.

This is what doing well looks like on these flights moving. The woman onboard struggling, motionless. Once, they had to intubate a patient in midair.

DR. SELMA HADDAD, TREATING COVID-19 PATIENTS: It's very hard. You carry a weight that you don't see. Every time I carry this weight, I feel like I carry this weight.

WALSH: They arrive in a city mired not only in death but also fury. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has made light of the virus and called the mayor here a piece of excrement for digging these mass graves.


They had little choice here when the bodies started piling up.

This month, they buried 103 in one day, digging at night. Even in two hours, five come, one by one, laid in the trench. Many mourners say those aren't coronavirus deaths but it's hard to know here.

The official numbers in Brazil don't tell the whole picture partly because there isn't enough testing. You can see that here. These are those who have died and have tested positive for coronavirus, but these graves, staggeringly, well, they're the ones that they suspect may have died of the disease.

The mass burial itself, distressing.

PEDRO CHAVES, MANAUS RESIDENT: We are here around 30 minutes waiting for more bodies. I just want to put my mom there and finish this. We don't need this. My family doesn't need this.

WALSH: We asked the grave diggers who thinks fewer would have died here if the president had kept quiet. No one listens to Bolsonaro, one says. He's not there for the people, adds another. He should have asked us what was going on.

But still, the hospitals here receive a daily stream of new patients. These from outlying villages where local tribes live, badly hit too. The ICU, which have all its (ph) ventilators where possible using less invasive means is frenetic, and even the patients have heard what the president said.

The mayor is just trying to save lives, says Raimundo, and the president is against that.

Inside, a local indigenous leader visits newly adopting the role from his father killed by the virus two weeks ago.

I took my father into hospital where he was intubated for five days, he says. Now, we have 300 people with symptoms. Politically, the president forgot us, and it's killing the indigenous people.

Bolsonaro insists he is for economic growth and safety, but the virus is still tearing through the poor here. Their remote way of life was no protection from this modern plague. It just put help further away.


WALSH: And you saw indigenous community there, one of them took us to their village and showed how one street was all isolating, the other street, all in hospital. It's hit exceptionally hard there.

But the message of those images are still not getting through to the larger cities. In Sao Paulo, yes, perhaps, we saw everyone wearing a mask there, but it's not the case here in Rio. This beachfront lifestyle here at Copacabana, limited. Shops closed, people not supposed to be on the beach, but it's still bustling to some degree. And that part of that may be the reflection of the advice of the President Jair Bolsonaro playing this down.

I have to say though, some of the modeling coming out of the United States suggests that there could be 125,000 deaths here in Brazil by early August. So there are some potentially very difficult two months ahead. Jim, Poppy?

HARLOW: Wow. Nick, wow, what important reporting. Thank you very much for being there.

Public outrage are following the death of a black man who died in police custody. Four police officers have been fired and the FBI is now investigating. We'll take you live to Minneapolis, next.



SCIUTTO: Anger and heartbreak in Minneapolis, and really across the U.S., after 46-year-old George Floyd died in police custody, and the release of really just this incredibly disturbing video that showed the moments leading up to his death.

HARLOW: That's right. Last night, protesters crowded the streets and clashed with police. Floyd was arrested on Monday after officers responded to a call about an alleged forgery. A bystander's video shows Floyd handcuffed and pinned to the ground with one police officer's knee on his neck for more than seven minutes.

CNN has obtained that video and a warning, it is disturbing.


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

GEORGE FLOYD: I can't breathe. I'm about to die. I can't breathe. My face is (INAUDIBLE).


SCIUTTO: I can't breathe, he said. Floyd died a short time later at a local hospital. The four officers involved have since been fired from the department, but no charges have been filed against them.

CNN Correspondent Omar Jimenez has the latest from Minneapolis.


JIMENEZ: -- intensifying overnight in Minneapolis. Four police officers were fired after their involvement in the death of George Floyd. Police lined the streets throwing tear gas and non-lethal projectiles to disperse crowds after thousands flooded the streets, Tuesday.

Anger boiling over in the community when a cell phone video was shot Monday night showing a police officer with his knee to Floyd's neck while he's on ground handcuffed.


For several long minutes, George Floyd told the officer he couldn't breathe, as bystanders pleaded with officers that Floyd.