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U.S. Nears Grim Milestone as Death Toll Approaches 100,000; Brazil Surpasses U.S. in Daily COVID-19 Deaths; George Floyd Family Calls for Officers to Be Charged with Murder; Soon First Manned Rocket to Launch from U.S. Soil in 9 Years. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 27, 2020 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00]

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BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: As the United States approaches the grim milestone of 100,000 coronavirus deaths, it's important just to put that number into context. 100,000 that is a small city in America. Wiped out. And we should point out this did not have to happen.

A Columbia University study showed had the U.S. taken action sooner and encouraged people to stay home, put social distancing guidelines in place earlier, just by one week, one week, more than half of the number of deaths and infections could possibly have been prevented.

Take a look at the COVID deaths in other countries across the globe. This graphic shows six countries with the highest death tolls around the world. The United States, guessing we don't have it so let's just pass on by and just say that this did not have to happen.

Here's another perspective. If you compare the United States death toll to other developed nations like these three, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, the U.S. death toll is so high compared to these other countries, you can barely see all of the lines.

To be fair, the population in each of the countries is smaller than the U.S. but at nearly 100,000 deaths the U.S. has nearly 30 percent of the world's fatal cases even though we account for 4 percent of the world's population. This did not have to happen. And now the World Health Organization says South America has become the new epicenter in this global pandemic.

[15:35:00]

A new IHME model cited by the White House projects Brazil could see more than 125,000 deaths by the beginning of August.

CNN's international security editor Nick Paton Walsh is live in Rio de Janeiro. And, Nick, why the vulnerability among Brazilians, why so many deaths there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: I think the short answer is that on the federal presidential level in Brazil there simply hasn't been a serious enough message to stay at home. And we have seen one of the common threads where the death toll is high apart from the fact as many as 210 million people in Brazil, so in proportion wise, the deaths here you always have to bear in mind what you're talking about in terms of the size of the country.

But the message from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro initially was this was just a little flu. He talked about athletic people like himself, a former soldier would just brush it off like a cold. And even now, even though he's accepted the fight against the virus as quote, a war ,recently, the focus is still on the economy.

That doesn't change what's happened though on a local level in cities like here in Rio de Janeiro, the beach Copacabana behind me there. Still busy at times. People wearing mandatory masks often, although I have to say here sometimes not as well.

But issue is of course that people are beginning to tire of this lockdown. It's been in place for about two months now, a little more. And so, it's beginning to slip, some polling suggesting that people are less and less inclined to go along with all rules as businesses are still shut here too.

But the numbers in Brazil are very bad. And they aren't the whole picture. 24,000 deaths even though there's some modeling from the IHME in the U.S. that suggests by early August it could get to 125,000. The number of confirmed cases, well, it's a little more than New York got frankly at 374,000 or so. I think I may be out of date on that, it might have gone a little bit higher in the last 24 hours. But this is the amount of people they've managed to actually test. And that's key, Brooke.

Because if you aren't able to saturate the population with testing, then it's very hard to know where it is, where it is not, who has had it, who's not had it. And so certainly here in Brazil doctors tells us that you normally don't give tests to people unless they have three coronavirus symptoms, that means that number is significantly probably smaller than the true picture, too.

So, Brazil going now, it seems, into a fortnight probably in which the peak will occur in major cities like Rio, Sao Paulo and a town in the middle of the Amazon called Manaus we visited recently. It was heavily hit too. The peak there is behind them. It's moving differently at a pace around the country. But certainly, here in the major cities, a very dark fortnight ahead as we see how devastating this virus will actually be -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: It's an eerie juxtaposition looking at you over the normally beautiful and bustling Ipanema Beach and just to think of the deaths to come. Nick Paton Walsh in Rio, thank you so much, Nick.

And just a reminder to all of you, join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta with Science writer, David Quammen, author of the book "Spillover." Why he says viruses like coronavirus will keep happening. That is "CORONAVIRUS: FACTS AND FEARS" tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern.

BALDWIN: These were the streets of Minneapolis last night. Hundreds of protesters clashing with police and demanding justice for the death of George Floyd. Floyd died in Minneapolis on Monday shortly after this encounter with police before we see the pictures, just to warn you, it's graphic and you could see Floyd pleading for his life.

You hear him saying he can't breathe. As this police officer pins him with his knee to the ground. The officer's knee pressed down on his neck for several minutes. The four officers have been fired, the incident is under investigation, but Floyd's family is called for them to be charged with murder.

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BRIDGETE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S SISTER: There is 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.

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BALDWIN: Joining me now, John Blake, one of our senior writers at CNN Digital. And John, you wrote this incredibly powerful piece on CNN.com. Let me just share the headline with everyone.

There is one epidemic we may never find a vaccine for, fear of black men in public spaces.

And John, it is always a pleasure to have you on with your wisdom and your perspective, and again, this is not happening in a bubble. Right, this comes after Ahmaud Aubery was killed in Georgia, and just a couple days ago the video of that white woman who called police on the black man saying that he was threatening her life after he simply asked her to follow the rules and put her dog on a leash in Central Park. I don't even have words other than I'm sorry.

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JOHN BLAKE, CNN DIGITAL SENIOR WRITER: Well, thank you. Yes, it's not only happened in the past couple of weeks but as I try to point out in the article, it's been happening for years. It's been happening throughout this nation's history. And that there's something about black men that brings out the worst in some of white America.

And as a black man I was trying to kind of express some of the frustration that I think a lot of us feel like when is this ever going to end? Like we had a holiday weekend, but this fear never takes a holiday. It's always around, it's always present when we go outside, when we're working, no matter what we do.

BALDWIN: I want to ask you just obviously as a white American, as a white woman, I feel that much of the onus is on me, is on us. You wrote about how folks like me need to know what it feels like to be the only white person in a room, on a team, what then do you think will change?

BLAKE: Well, I think of change in kind of two ways. I think there's a kind of systemic change when you talk about issues of justice. I think the law should change. I think police officers should be held accountable. I think there are things like that, but I think on a personal level that there are things we can do. You talk about being the only white person in a room.

For me there's an expression I go by, you have to do the work before the work. You can't -- it's not enough to be in the moment when you see a black man walking down the street and you decide in that moment that I'm going to see him as a human being not as a threat. You have to live your life a certain way so when that moment comes, you're not automatically thinking that way.

And what I tried to convey if you're a white American you should have people of color who are friends. You should have them in your house. You should have them in places of worship. There was a poll about two years ago where it said about 75 percent of white Americans do not have a single friend who's a person of color.

So, when you have that kind of a situation, you have this -- you don't really see black people and particular black men as human beings. So, I think there are things you can do in your personal life, your personal life should not be segregated.

BALDWIN: Yes. And then you write about this, you know, age old question, how do we fight the fearful gaze, your words, of the black man. And John, just also personally for you, how has this affected your life as a black man, what are some of your unconscious behaviors that you have to do as a result of this?

BLAKE: Well, I've been -- I've been racially profiled. I've been pulled off of planes by police officers, people with guns, men with guns, but the way I try to adjust, there's one way I act in public. I don't walk up too quickly to someone who is white from behind. I try not to -- if I get on the elevator and there's a white person and I'm the only black person there I almost feel sorry for them because I see the fear.

So, I try to do things like that. But I think for people of color, men who are large, and dark, I think it's even more difficult. I even see it in the corporate setting where I see men who are dark and people like men who are physically imposing they almost shrink down when they get around white people, and they raise the pitch in their voice so they don't come off like too intimidating.

And sometimes I think they're not aware they're doing it. So, I think there are all things that we do that we're conscience of, but I think there are things that we do that we're unconscious of. But the thing that binds it together it's so mentally exhausting to live that way day-to-day.

BALDWIN: I sit here as a privileged white woman. I cannot imagine but I appreciate you educating us, and I want to be an ally and I know many people do as well. John Blake, thank you very much. You can read John's piece, just go to CNN.com.

Still ahead here on CNN, all eyes this afternoon on Kennedy Space Center in Florida as we wait for this historic launch. The first launch of astronauts on U.S. soil in almost a decade. By the way, in a rocket that has never carried humans, period.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For our country and our country is number one again. NASA has done a fantastic job. The whole group, we're working, as you know, with Lockheed Martin and with many other companies. You know Marilyn from Lockheed Martin, she is a great executive, one of the greats of our country. And what they've done is incredible.

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BALDWIN: President Trump there speaking just moments ago at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. We are on standby for the final go from Kennedy Space Center for the first launch of astronauts on U.S. soil in almost a decade.

CNN's space and innovation correspondent Rachel Crane is there. And Rachel, the last time we spoke, we didn't know if it was a go, there were tornado warnings. Tell me what you know.

Do we have her?

OK. We lost her. But I can tell you that is the rocket there on that launch pad where within the hour we will see these two astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, two veteran experienced astronauts taking off on Demo-2. So, stay here at CNN. We'll be right back.

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BALDWIN: All right. Again, back to Florida. We are on standby for the final go from Kennedy Space Center for the first launch of astronauts on U.S. soil in almost a decade. Remember, the last shuttle launch that was STS-135 that was 2011, that was the "Atlantis." so we're back.

At the Kennedy Space Center, CNN space and innovation correspondent Rachel Crane, is on the scene. And Rachel, beauty of technology, here we go. So, the last time you and I spoke, you know, there was a tornado warning, of course, we're in the middle of this, you know, coronavirus pandemic. This is a rocket that has never carried humans. This is a really big deal.

RACHEL CRANE, CNN SPACE AND INNOVATION CORRESPONDENT: This is a very, very big deal, Brooke. And it's starting to feel very real.

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That's because we're, you know, we're only 38 minutes out from a potential launch here. Now they've already retracted the crew access arm. They've armed the launch escape system. And they should begin fueling the rocket with over a million pounds of liquid oxygen and liquid kerosene any minute now.

So, you know, we're really getting down to the wire here. We're crossing our fingers, hoping that the weather cooperates. But one thing that I want to point out, Brooke, that's really different about today that anyone was expecting was there's no crowds here, obviously because we are in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic.

So, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine urging everybody to watch from home, watch from their backyard if they're in the area. But, you know, as exciting as this moment is, everybody from NASA and SpaceX have expressed some kind of sadness that, you know, they don't have the crowds here, the thousands and thousands of people that they expected to gather here at Kennedy Space Center and all across the space coast to witness this historic, hopefully historic launch -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Tell me, Rachel, I'm going to stay with you, so we know that these two astronauts, Doug and Bob, have been in strict quarantine since March. And I was talking to an astronaut of the top of the show and she said whether it's, you know, COVID or what, obviously, you don't want to send any viruses up to space so they have been hyper safe and self-protective. Tell me beyond that, what preparations have these astronauts undergone to get them to this moment right now to launch day?

CRANE: Well, NASA and SpaceX have taken every precaution they can to ensure that the crew is safe. You know, were at Kennedy Space Center there are temperature checks before you go into any building, everybody is wearing a mask and other protective gear so they're really taken every precaution that they can. Only having mission critical personnel around them.

A lot of people are actually working -- the ones that can are working remotely. Still a part of the mission. But they've done, you know, everything that they can to continue forward with this mission and ensure the safety of the crew. But it's certainly not business as usual here at the Kennedy Space Center. It doesn't feel that way. And you're constantly reminded of it, obviously everyone around wearing their masks.

But this was a critical mission for NASA. They decided to push forward and launch, regardless of the pandemic. It gives everybody something to root for, something to be hopeful for. So, we're hoping that that does happen -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: So, the significance of private space enterprise, right, Elon Musk's SpaceX and along with NASA. Why is this such a significant marriage? Because as you pointed out the last time we chatted, the U.S. has been reliant on the Soyuz, on Russia to ferry astronauts up to the International Space Station. Why is in terms of business and maybe saving money, and being self-reliant, why is that so key here? Big picture.

CRANE: Well, you talk about saving money, I mean we've been paying the Russians over $4 billion over the past several years to ferry these astronauts back and forth. NASA, they want to focus on bigger things. They've already, you know, mastered low earth orbit, they want to pass the torch to the commercial sector.

And that's exactly what they're doing here. They paid SpaceX over $3 billion for this program. And, you know, they're hoping that a robust space economy will develop in low earth orbit and then NASA will be able to focus on, you know, the moon, Mars and beyond.

So, this is part of a larger goal of NASA, to continue to maintain a $150 billion investment that we have in the International Space Station, make sure there's a robust space economy to support it. But that they don't have to, you know, have their hand so tightly enclosed around it. That they can, you know, continue to dream big and think about those deeper space explorations.

So that's, you know, what this program is all about, passing the torch of these ISS ferries, and taxis, rather, to the commercial sector, so NASA can once again, you know, dream big and go back to the moon and to Mars. And Brooke, I just want to point out that fueling has just started. So once again, a major milestone, to actually getting this rocket off the ground today, fingers crossed.

BALDWIN: Fueling has begun. It will shortly be go-time. Rachel Crane, thank you so much. It's been so fun to be able to just get everyone excited for this big launch in about a half an hour, thank you so much. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me. Quick break and Jake Tapper will be up next.

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