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Update On Coronavirus Responses Around The Country; Dr. Jorge Rodriquez Discusses Avoiding Second Wave Of Virus; Salon Owner Who Denied Tyson Workers Reverses Policy; Gwen Carr, Mother Of Eric Garner, Discusses Death Of George Floyd; White House Press Secretary Defends Own Record Of Mail-in Voting After Defending Trump. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired May 27, 2020 - 14:30   ET




JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Still, some communities feeling confident about reopening after seeing declines in the number of new cases.

In Florida, Disney hopes to reopen its theme parks to the public in July while SeaWorld proposed reopening June 11th, pending approval by the state.

While in Miami Beach, restaurants on famed Ocean Drive have opened their doors with restrictions.

On the other side of the coast, some retail businesses, churches and pools can reopen in California, again, with limitations and a word of caution.

GAVIN NEWSOM, (D), CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: I've been overwhelmed by 40 million Americans living in the state of California. The vast majority doing the right thing, recognizing that this pandemic is not behind us. We're not into a second wave. We still haven't gotten through the first wave.

CARROLL: Back in New York, the epicenter of the pandemic, the numbers continue trending in the right direction. Long Island, just outside of New York City, has begun phase one of reopening with some construction, manufacturing, and curbside retail.

This, as the state's governor met with President Trump this afternoon about how to revive the economy.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Joining me now is Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, an internal medicine and virus specialist.

And, Doctor, first, I want to get your reaction to those comments that you heard in the report from Dr. Fauci. Is it possible for the U.S. to avoid a second wave of the virus or is it just a matter of how big the wave is?

DR. JORGE RODRIQUEZ, INTERNAL MEDICINE PHYSICIAN & VIRUS SPECIALIST: I think you're right in the latter portion. I think that we're going to be in the slow, low simmer for many months, maybe even a year or so. How much we bring that to a boil really depends on what we do.

The virus is not going to miraculously going to disappear. It's going to be present and as we see in different countries that have sort of softened the restrictions and you get spikes. It depends on how seriously we all take this and what we do to prevent its spread. It's going to be here. We just need to keep it from snowballing.

KEILAR: And you heard Dr. Fauci's comments about wearing a face mask. He said he does it as a symbol of what you should be doing, right, what people should be doing.


KEILAR: We still see crowds of people standing close together, they're not wearing masks.

Do you think, what would you say to them and do you think there's any getting through to them?

RODRIQUEZ: You know what? That's a great question. And I think that Dr. Fauci is doing the best thing that he can do which is to lead by example.

But it all leads to who you believe in. So if you are a supporter of the president, I think it's very important for him to set that example.

I don't know how to get across to people. Honestly, I think even in my own peer group and in my own patients, there are some people that just don't want to believe this is true because they haven't seen it. It is true.

And listen, up to 50 percent, depending on the study, people keep walking around, have the virus, just don't have symptoms or the symptoms are so little they don't pay attention to it.


RODRIQUEZ: You know, if people really want to love thy neighbor, you really need to be cautious and respectful of everyone around you, whether you know them or not.

KEILAR: No, it's such a good point. You know, it's a way that everyone can kind of serve their country and their community right now.

RODRIQUEZ: Absolutely.

KEILAR: You mentioned the asymptomatic spread. There's a new study of cruise ship passengers and they found that the silent infection rate, that asymptomatic infection rate, may be much higher than previously thought. More than eight in 10 people on board tested positive and did not have any symptoMs.

What does that tell you?

RODRIQUEZ: That's very scary, isn't it? Where eight out of 10 people in a cruise ship may have the virus, may be coughing virus, may be in their saliva, kissing people while they have the virus and don't have symptoms.

If you look at all the studies, they range from 1 percent in a World Health Organization study, 50 percent in Iceland. Whether it's 10 percent, 50 percent or 80 percent, the bottom line is that people are walking around with the virus without knowing it. That's why we need to be cautious and wear masks to protect other people.

And what it tells us, if we relax our guard, this thing really can snowball. And that's, I guess, my word for the day.

KEILAR: Definitely. Thank you so much. Thank you for explaining that simmer and boil to us because I think that put it into perspective, too.

RODRIQUEZ: Thank you.

KEILAR: Thank you so much, Dr. Rodriguez.

As outbreaks are rising in plants across the U.S., one salon owner refused to cut the hair of local Tyson workers. He's going to join me live.


Plus, we're following breaking news out of Florida because there's a tornado warning that was just issued just ahead of this, what is supposed to be, today, a historic space launch at Kennedy Space Center. So stand by for details on that.


KEILAR: At a Smart Cut salon in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, clients were greeted this week by a sign on the door, which said, if you work at a local Tyson Food plant, you're not welcome here until June 8th.

The neighboring plant there experienced an coronavirus outbreak. Nearly 600 of the plants 2,200 tested positive, many asymptomatic. In fact, most of them were asymptomatic.

The owner of the salon, who admitted that it was a little cut and dry, has since posted another note a little more tactful, more carefully worded. But now he has apologized and has also had a change of heart about whether to exclude Tyson's workers.

And he's joining me now, Bob Hartley.

And watching you go through this, Bob, you can kind of -- I think there's a lot of people muddling through what are the best practices, how do you serve people without taking on risk. [14:40:08]

And I wonder, as you, we see this progression with you, what made you come to this decision to have a change of heart?

BOB HARTLEY, OWNER, SMARTCUTS: OK, if I may first make a brief statement to the Tyson Food employees. Those folks truly are frontline people. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for what they're doing going through their efforts to feed hundreds of thousands of people literally. We certainly did not mean any disrespect and dishonor for those people.

But when -- if I could place our decision-making process into a context. The hair salons in our area were closed down in late March. So for the past two months, we are asked most salons to be preparing at my time of reopening, with hand sanitizer, buying new thermometers and those kinds of things preparing for what's a new world for us. We've done all those things, training documentation.

And during the week leading up to us reopening in North Carolina, on the Wednesday before we were to open, on Saturday, the news came out that 570 of the 2200 employees at the local Tyson Food plant had tested positive for COVID-19. Wilks County with 70,000 people. And before that, 20,000 or 30,000 people who tested positive.

In the local community, that was a big deal. The local director of the Health Department said that they believed there may be spikes emanating from that 570. Of course, there could be false negatives. And so we had an extreme concern for two main reasons.

One is our employer group, many of whom I've known for 15 to 20 years, and also, our civic duty for the local Wilkesboro community. But we decided that maybe we should have those folks wait for roughly a two- week period before we can serve them. And at that time, a $3 discount when they go back to work to get their haircut.

KEILAR: And so, look, it sounds like it was certainly a process, and we think we understand that because you're weighing all of these considerations. Of course, they felt like they were being singled out.

And I wonder something. Give us more context on this, because this actually was something that went beyond your store, right? There's been a lot of, I guess, companies or services in your area that have also been struggling with how to deal with this. And there was kind of a pattern of excluding these Tyson's workers. You were seeing that as well.

What do you do if Tyson's workers -- and I don't know if this is a right or wrong answer because this is a tough problem for you? But what do you do if they come in and you start to see spikes and your employees getting infected? Will you think about the decision you made?

HARTLEY: We have a fair amount of confidence in the cleaning procedures that we have installed. I would say that a hair salon going by the standards that are needed

in this situation are safer than most retail environments, because both our patrons and our employees have masks. We require the use of hand sanitizer upon coming into this salon. We take the temperature with the touchless thermometer and go through battery of questions. Most are not requiring masks of all employees, for example.

And so we think it's as safe an environment as is possible and so we don't believe that's going to happen. But should it happen, we just have to deal with it at that time.

So what we want to slowly understand is the perspective of the Tyson employee. We did not fully understand how this was calling them out and offending them because of the local response to extend their dates by a couple of months. The babysitters who won't see their children anymore, that kind of thing.

So we didn't realize --




KEILAR: No, and we certainly understand.

Thank you joining us, Bob. There's a lot of people in your position. And we appreciate you kind of walking us through your process. Thank you.

HARTLEY: Thank you very much.

KEILAR: We're watching some live pictures right now from Kennedy Space Center because we're waiting to see if this historic SpaceX launch is actually going to be a go here. There was a tornado warning nearby but it just expired as liftoff here is less than two hours way hours away. Both actually strapped in their capsule already.


And protesters demand that four officers be charged with murder in the death of the unarmed black man. The mayor will join me next.






KEILAR: Protesters clashing with police in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody. The four officers involved in the incident have been fired.

Floyd was arrested on Monday after officers responded to a call about an alleged forgery. Bystander video shows the 26-year-old being held down by a police officer with a knee to his neck, and this was for several minutes as he repeatedly told officers that he could not breathe.

A warning here that this video is very disturbing to watch.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let him breathe at least.




KEILAR: Well, Floyd was declared dead at a hospital a short time after that incident where he said he was going to die.

Minnesota state officials have launched a criminal investigation into Floyd's death and the FBI is looking into potential civil rights violations.

But Floyd's family wants these officers involved to be charged with murder.


BRIDGETT FLOYD, SISTER OF GEORGE FLOYD: There's definitely not enough justice for me or my family. I feel like those guys need to be put in jail. They murdered my brother. They killed him. They don't need to walk the streets and mess around and this happen to another family.


KEILAR: My next guest has become one of the biggest justice advocates against police brutality after her son, Eric Garner, was killed by a New York City police officer. Gwen Carr joining me now.

Gwen, thank you so much for joining me.

Because when we heard George Floyd saying the words, "I can't breathe," in this video, I know I did, and a lot of people heard the echoes of your son when they heard him say the exact same thing.

What is your reaction to what you saw happen and what you've seen the repercussions be for these officers so far?

Gwen, I'm not sure if you can hear me now. Can you hear me? Gwen, it's Brianna.

GWEN CARR, MOTHER OF ERIC GARNER: I can hear you. I can hear you.

KEILAR: OK. Thank you so much.

I wanted to ask you, since you heard what George Floyd said and it was like an echo of what we heard your son say, I wanted to know what your reaction was to what you've seen happen and there and what your reaction is to what happened to the officers so far.

CARR: Well, to hear that young man cry out, I can't breathe, the same as my son did, it was so heart-wrenching. It brought back so many memories of what happened to me the day that my son was murdered.

And I feel nothing but sympathy for that family. I feel empathy because I was there. I know what the pain must be like. And I just can't say enough words to show them how much I stand with them, how I want to be with them in this moment of despair.

And as far as the officers, I am so glad that they've been fired immediately. Not like in my son's case. They waited five years, five years to even fire one officer when there was more involved. So I commend that mayor for firing those officers.

But it is not enough. Criminal charges should also be brought before those officers, because it was outright murder what they did to that young man. And there's no excuse. You don't do that to a human being, no matter who they are.

KEILAR: When you see -- you mentioned this, it was five years before any action was taken against any officer involved in your son's death. It was much more quick in the case of the officers.

I wonder if you think anything has changed since your son died and you watch this happening. It is so much like what we heard your son say. And yet, the officers are being dealt with more quickly. Has anything changed, do you think?


CARR: Well, the change is coming about very slowly but it is bringing more awareness. And people are seeing just how poignant and how disrespectful they treat people of color. They terrorize. They kill us. And most of the time it is swept under the rug.

But we cannot treat this as another news story. We have to get out and show support. We have to make all of America aware of this. America cannot be on your comfort zone any longer. You have to be uncomfortable about situations that happened like this, not only in my community, but in all communities around the nation.

KEILAR: You spoke with George Floyd's family. There are very few people who, I think, are in a position of yours, having taken this advocacy route and being able to share an experience like what you went through. I wonder what did you tell them and are you planning to help them

build on some of the actions that you have helped move?

CARR: Well, when I spoke to them, I know that they were in pain because I know how I felt on those first few days after the death of my son. So I tried to tell them not to give up the fight.

And I'm glad that the officers were fired as they were. And I told them that I stand with them in solidarity. And I would -- if they need anything, if they need to call me, they could.

And the pain is just so real. It came back to haunt me when I heard about this video, what happened. Even the age of the young man. It just struck me so hard. I could do nothing. But tears just rolled down my face as I called them.

KEILAR: Gwen Carr, thank you so much. Your voice on this is so important. Thank you.

CARR: Thank you for having me.

KEILAR: Well she has been defending President Trump's attacks on mail- in voting and now White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, is defending her own record after a report from the "Tampa Bay Times" shows she's been voting absentee for 10 years.

So let's get to CNN chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

How is she responded to this, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, as you know, the president is making this false connection between mail-in ballots and widespread voter fraud. And it has gotten so out of hand that Twitter posted a flag on one of the tweets encouraging people to get the facts on mail-in ballot and how it doesn't lead to voter fraud.

But Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, has been weighing in on this. But it turns out the "Tampa Bay Times" is reporting she voted by mail 11 times over the last 10 years.

I asked McEnany about this and she sent a statement over to us. Let me put this up on the screen. This is what it says: "Absentee voting has the word 'absent' in it for a reason. It means you're absent from the jurisdiction or unable to vote in person. President Trump is against the Democratic plan to politicize the coronavirus and expand mass mail-in voting without a reason, which has a high propensity for voter fraud."

She said this is a simple distinction that the media fails to grasp.

A couple of things to point out. People would take issue with the portion of the statement saying there's a good reason for people not to show up at the polls right now and that is because of the coronavirus and they don't want to get sick.

There was a situation in Wisconsin where people were showing up to the primary and getting sick as a result of the coronavirus.

The other thing we should point out, according to the Florida Division of Elections, you could vote by mail without any reason. You don't have to be absent or have a reason. They have no-excuse mail-in voting in the state of Florida. And that is a fact that escapes the White House press secretary in all of this.

But yet, she's defending her record of voting by mail 11 times over the last 10 years.

It is a right the president wants to have, it's a right the press secretary wants to have, but they appear to be trying to deny it to millions of Americans who want to vote by mail instead of catching the virus -- Brianna?

KEILAR: The reason? I could think of two million reasons, right, Jim Acosta, for why this would be a possibility.

ACOSTA: Right.

KEILAR: Jim Acosta --

ACOSTA: Thank you.

KEILAR: -- at the White House, thank you so much.

And special coverage continues now with Brooke Baldwin.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Here we go. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here. You're watching CNN.


We're tracking two major stories this hour. And you can see on your screen the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. is almost hit the 100,000 mark. And we'll have much more on that in a moment.