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Coronavirus Pandemic: 16 States Seeing Increase in Cases, 10 Flat, 24 Trending Down; Trump: Floyd's Death "A Shocking Sight" But Rioting a "Very Bad Thing". Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 28, 2020 - 16:30   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back, we are awaiting a press conference too begin any moment from the FBI and local law enforcement on the killing of George Floyd. We will bring it to you as soon as it begins.

Right now, to other top story in the health lead, the coronavirus pandemic. There are now 1.7 million coronavirus cases in the United States with the death toll exceeding 101,000 people in the U.S.

Joining me now, CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, when you look at the trends on the map, many of the states seeing a surge in new cases we believe are in the South. That includes major spikes in Arkansas and Alabama as shown by the map on the screen. Tell us what you think about that. What do you attribute to, if anything?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, four of five states, Jake, that have a greater than 50 percent increase in the overall number of people with infection all reopened early. So, obviously, you have to put that at the head of the list in terms of what might be driving this.

I think the big question now and I talked to a lot of people on the ground in these places is we knew that there were going to be more people becoming infected whenever you reopened, to be fair. The question is, how significant a surge of new infections will there be? And will it be a situation where it starts to go a little flat and go into significant growth, one we call exponential growth?

And what are you going to do about that? What is the plan then in these states? Are they going to shut down again, or are they going to partially shut down? I think all of these things need to be in place, in addition to testing, which we have been talking for months, Jake.

So, we're keeping a close eye on it, but I think at this point you'd have to say reopening early is driving some of that. TAPPER: Many of these states have large African-American communities.

We know the sad fact that this virus disproportionately affects people of color. There are researchers in Louisiana who released a report on autopsies of ten African-American victims showing that their lungs were clogged with blood clots. All of them had underlying conditions all these ten.

Obviously, there is so much about this virus we don't know. What, if anything, should the black community take from that study?

GUPTA: You know, I think there's three major things.

One is that this virus can affect African-American, black America as much as any other population and more so as we're learning. Initially, there was the belief it would not affect black America as much and it clearly is, a disparate amount.

Two is, you know, is this a virus, this pandemic sort of creating some institutional sort of divides with regard to healthcare or sort of exposing them, access to healthcare? Does black -- do black Americans have more pre-existing conditions that are making them more vulnerable? We don't know yet. I mean, some of that may be true, but I think there is also a possibility, Jake, that we are seeing some sort of gender difference -- I'm sorry, genetic difference here as well.

Gender as well, we know men are more likely to be affected. But genetically, are people more predisposed to this -- men are more likely, certain population, even younger people certain genetic predispositions. We know, for example, the children -- inflammatory syndrome, Jake. We don't see that in Asia. Primarily seeing that in Europe and the United States, why would that be?

So, I think these are still unanswered questions that will probably answer the question you're asking as well.

TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to what former Harvard medical professor William Haseltine who was instrumental in HIV and AIDS research said on CNN yesterday. Take a listen.


WILLIAM HASELTINE, PRESIDENT, ACCESS HEALTH INTERNATIONAL: It can be stopped without a vaccine and without a drug if we change our behavior.


TAPPER: Change our behavior. What type of behavior could have changed the outcome of 100,000 plus deaths other than completely closing down the country and telling no one to leave their homes?

GUPTA: Well, I mean, that is part of it, Jake. That type of action. But I think more than the "if you do the action", it was "when do you the action".

I mean, I still remember you and I talking about this a few months ago now, saying, you know, you are seeing in places that these stay-at- home orders are in effect. We saw Japan, for example, shut down really early. It came clear those types of orders need to be put in place as well. When you wait longer, you have many more clusters of people who become infected and create significant outbreaks around the country. So, in some ways, we are still catching up from that.

If we get to the point where we have downward trend in all these places, and you have the testing in place, all the things we have been talking about. You can safely reopen, as Dr. Haseltine is saying, without a magic therapeutic, without a vaccine.


That's what you are seeing in South Korea.

And I've been really hesitant, Jake, or reluctant to do these comparisons with other countries, but I think they're very fair, especially when we gone to 100,000 people who died. South Korea, their first patient diagnosed in the same day ours was. They have fewer than 300 deaths.

I mean, you know, it's painful for people to hear, especially families who may have lost someone, 300 deaths. They're one-seventh the side, multiply that times seven, 2,100. Multiply it times 100.

The point is, Dr. Haseltine, what he is saying is that behavioral changes applied at the right time can make a huge exponential difference. We have to learn that lesson and apply it now, because there may be a second wave of this.

TAPPER: And yet, we are still the United States still nowhere near where we need to be when it comes to a national campaign of surveillance testing and contact tracing, although, people at the White House are protected by good programs in that regard.

Sanjay, the CDC is highlighting two new projection on hospitalizations. One is from Columbia University, it predicts a lightly uptick, approaching 3,000 new hospitalizations every day by June 22nd. There is another one from Georgia Institute of Technology forecasting that hospitalizations will fall below 1,000 a day by June 22nd.

Is the difference in these estimates purely based on social distancing and other restrictions staying in place? What's going on here?

GUPTA: Yes. I think that's right. I mean, first of all, say, I looked at these models carefully. They both have significant margins of error. You start looking at these models. We focus on the conclusion here. But there is significant variance in these models.

One is a model that counts on policy and the other one counts on people. The Columbia model says these places are reopening. We've seen the beneficial impact of stay-at-home orders. We're going to see based on people's new exposures hospitalizations go up by this point in June. I think what the Georgia Tech study is saying, yes, that is the

policy. What we're counting on and seeing to some extent is people are doing a fairly good job, a reasonable job out in public. Yes, it's opened. This isn't opened like before March 16th.

This is a different kind of open. People are wearing masks. People are maintaining physical distance, not having long interactions with people. Fifteen minutes would be considered a close contact interaction. All those things they make a difference.

I mean, we're going to follow those models closely.

TAPPER: And, Sanjay, what do you make of these health experts warning even if there is a vaccine coronavirus may never go away, that it will become endemic. Sarah Cobey at the University of Chicago told "The Washington Post", for instance, quote, this virus is here to stay. The question the, how do we live with it safely?

Is this virus here to stay regardless of whether a vaccine is developed and distributed?

GUPTA: Well, it's a very contagious virus. It is becoming, getting quite a foothold in many places around the world. We don't have any immunity to it. So those are sort of the ingredients that make something more likely to say stay.

I mean, you saw with SARS, for example, it did sort of fizzle out. I mean, you know, there was 8,000 people ultimately infected around the world. Eight hundred people died. Very high fatality rate, 10 percent. But not very contagious.

This being contagious and having a significant fatality rate makes it concerning. Ultimately, we may get a herd community and people won't be able to spread from one person anymore, and that will make it fizzle out. But, you know, even the 1918 flu, in 2009, that was a descendent of the 1918 flu. So, some of these viruses do stick around.

TAPPER: All right. Sanjay, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Be sure to tune in tonight for a CNN global town hall, "Coronavirus: Facts and Fears", hosted by Sanjay and, of course, Anderson Cooper. That's tonight at 8:00 p.m., only here on CNN.

We are awaiting for this news conference from law enforcement in Minnesota, expected to give an update on to the investigation into the killing of George Floyd. We're going to bring that to you live.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: Breaking news in our politics lead, moments ago, President Trump commented on the tragic killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Have you spoken to the family of George Floyd yet?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I haven't. I feel very badly, it's a shocking sight. Bill and I were talking about it before. It's one of the reasons Bill is here right now. As you know we're very much involved. I'm asking the attorney general and FBI to take a strong look and to see what went on, because that was a very bad thing that I saw. I saw it last night and I didn't like it.

REPORTER: Do you think those police officers should be prosecuted?

TRUMP: I'm not going to make any comment right now. I can tell you, I think what I saw was not good.


TAPPER: As CNN's Kaitlan Collins report, President Trump made those comments signing an executive order, just moments ago, one that purports to target social media companies for alleged bias.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It took the president more than 12 hours to acknowledge that the coronavirus death toll in the United States had surpassed 100,000. But this morning, he marked the sad milestone on Twitter and said: To all the families and friends of those who have passed, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy and love.

So far, Trump has held no moment of silence or commemoration for the Americans who had died.

But the White House press secretary denies that he's been slow to publicly acknowledge the death toll.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has said one death is too many. He takes this very seriously.

COLLINS: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls the six-digit figure a scar on our nation.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There has to be a stop to this.

COLLINS: Today, Trump also shared a tweet claiming that masks aren't about public health, but social control, and that the image of Joe Biden wearing one endorses a culture of silence, slavery and social death.

"So many different viewpoints," the president added.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says masks may not be 100 percent effective, but they're valuable safeguards.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: A sort of respect for another person and have that other president respect you.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are here today to defend free speech.

COLLINS: Tonight, the president signed an executive order in hopes of limiting the legal protections that social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have when it comes to what's posted on their platforms.

He's hoping to make it easier for federal regulators to argue the sites are suppressing free speech when imposing their own standards and rules, though it's unclear if his order will be enforceable, and it will almost certainly face legal challenges.

MCENANY: I believe it is time to -- quote -- "get the facts" about Twitter and other social media platforms targeting their bias against President Trump and conservatives.

COLLINS: Trump's broadside came after Twitter fact-checked his inaccurate post about mail-in voting. And, today, the president said it was ridiculous for Twitter to say his claims were wrong, because there were examples all over the place, but he declined to cite them.

Democrats say Twitter hasn't fact-checked the president enough.

PELOSI: Seems to be very selective.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, the president did acknowledge there in the Oval Office that this executive order is likely going to face legal challenges, as experts have said.

And as he was criticizing Twitter for what he said was suppressing free speech, he said he would shut down the Web site if his attorneys could find a way.

TAPPER: Well, that is certainly not pro-free speech. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

We are still standing by for an update from law enforcement on the investigation into the killing of George Floyd by a policeman. We're going to bring that to you live.

Also ahead: thousands of recovering coronavirus patients sent to New York nursing homes, potentially infecting the most vulnerable -- a new CNN investigation.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been trying to defend a state order from March that grieving families say led to coronavirus spreading in nursing homes and possibly leading to many deaths in those facilities.

The order came when the pandemic in New York state was starting to get really bad and an influx of coronavirus patients flooded New York hospitals. The New York state directive said nursing homes could not turn away coronavirus patients.

Governor Cuomo, on the defensive, says that order was in accordance with federal guidelines.

But CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin, well, he checked it out.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was March 25. New York hospitals were overwhelmed, needed bed space, and the state of New York issued this directive forbidding nursing homes from denying admission solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.

Nursing homes across the state took in thousands of recovering COVID patients, even if they were still potentially contagious.

Daniel Arbeeny's father was in one of those homes.

DANIEL ARBEENY, SON OF CORONAVIRUS VICTIM: The administration came and told me that they were being forced now by the state to accept COVID patients.

GRIFFIN: His family got him out within a week, but it was already too late for 89-year-old Norman Arbeeny. He died at home last month from complications of COVID-19. No way to tell how he got it.

ARBEENY: It was the absolute worst decision anybody could make in a time of a pandemic.

GRIFFIN: It's impossible to know for sure how many of New York's 6,000 COVID-related nursing home deaths are linked to the state's order. But it is a growing political storm for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who insists he was just following federal guidelines.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): New York followed the president's agency's guidance.

GRIFFIN: That is not quite true. Federal guidelines say nursing homes can accept COVID patients. New York's directive said, no residents shall be denied admission.

Still, Cuomo said nursing homes were not required to take COVID patients, if they didn't feel they could handle them.

CUOMO: I think the rule that you can't discriminate against the COVID patient is right. That doesn't mean the nursing home has to accept a COVID-positive patient.

GRIFFIN: But the heads of nursing home said they viewed the March 25 directive as a mandate, one telling CNN: "We were told that we were not allowed to turn people down."

Nursing homes added staff, tried to make other changes, but many couldn't stop the spread of COVID. After six weeks, Cuomo essentially reversed part of his directive, issuing an executive order, saying hospitals:

CUOMO: Cannot discharge a patient to a nursing home unless the patient tests negative for COVID-19.

GRIFFIN: Critics claim the governor finally realized his policy was wrong.

RICHARD MOLLOT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LONG TERM CARE COMMUNITY COALITION: Nursing homes were never an appropriate setting for COVID- 19 recovery. And they were never an appropriate setting for -- to be a relief valve for hospitals. And that's, frankly, the hardest part for me to wrap my head around.

GRIFFIN: Three organizations representing nursing homes and long-term care facilities say they tried to warn the governor, spelling out the dangers of the directive days after it was issued, and in writing said that: "Sending patients to nursing homes may have the unintended effect of making the problem this is trying to solve worse."

(on camera): Did the state just not listen to you?

DR. JEFFREY NICHOLS, AMDA-THE SOCIETY FOR POST-ACUTE AND LONG-TERM CARE: Sad to say, that is exactly correct. They did not listen to us.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Dr. Jeffrey Nichols is an executive that one of the organizations that tried to warn the governor and Department of Health.

NICHOLS: Yes, so, unfortunately, being right is not a great satisfaction in all this.

GRIFFIN: Governor Cuomo will have none of it, insisting his policy was right, his reversal was correct, and the intent was to prevent discrimination against those with COVID-19.

QUESTION: In retrospect, do you think that was a bad decision, the March 25 memo? Do you think that contributed to the death toll in this state?

CUOMO: No, because you would have to be saying the nursing homes were wrong in accepting COVID-positive patients.

GRIFFIN: That is not good enough for Daniel Arbeeny.

(on camera): What does your family want?

ARBEENY: An apology, somebody to stand up and say, I was wrong. I'm sorry.


GRIFFIN: Jake, we actually may get an answer to all of this.

The New York Department of Health is conducting its own review on admission and readmission data, using fact and science, they say, to track the spread of COVID-19 within these nursing homes and to determine if Governor Cuomo's order played a role in that spread -- Jake.


TAPPER: A lot of angry, grieving families in New York.

Drew Griffin, thank you so much.

Coming up next, we will remember some of the 100,000 lives lost to coronavirus in the U.S., including a couple who was married for more than 60 years.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: We want to take a moment now to remember three lives lost to the novel coronavirus.

Mary and George Schneider lived in Philadelphia, in the City of Brotherly Love. Mary was 91. George was 88. Their daughter says they were always together, going to the orchestra, to church. George was a big Phillies fan. When he would go to a game, he would always stay until the end. Mary and George were married 63 years. They died within three days of each other.

Ernestine Johns Carter (ph) was 79 years old. Ernestine attended the first all-black school in Picayune, Mississippi. She was a majorette and marched with the school band. She loved dancing and music. Her daughter says, Ernestine's goal in life was to keep her family legacy alive.

May their memories be a blessing. Our deepest condolences to those families.

This Sunday at noon Eastern, I'm going to host a CNN special called "We Remember: A National Memorial," honoring the victims of COVID-19, with faith leaders and families sharing personal stories about their loved ones.

I hope you will join us.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.