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Science Experts: Change in Behavior More Crucial Than a Vaccine; Coronavirus Kills More Than 100,000 Americans in Less Than 4 Months; Violent Protests Erupt in Minneapolis Over George Floyd's Death. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 28, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And we're learning more this morning about who has been impacted the most. But first --

Breaking overnight, violence erupting in Minneapolis, hundreds of protesters demanding justice for those responsible for the death of George Floyd. An unarmed black man who died shortly after a police officer pinned him to the ground with his knee in his neck. Floyd's death fueling anger across the city and across the country. A country that has seen too many incidents just like this one.

Soon after those protests started, they turned from peaceful to dangerous, building set on fire, raging throughout the night. Many still burning as we speak this morning.

CNN reporters are on the ground witnessing looting of businesses like this at a Target store. Police used tear gas and reportedly rubber bullets in some cases to disperse those crowds. The mayor is pleading for protesters to leave the area and even reportedly asking the governor to call in the National Guard.

Here is the mayor of Minneapolis this morning on CBS News.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that was murder?



FREY: I'm not a prosecutor. But let me be clear. The arresting officer killed someone.


SCIUTTO: Let's get right to CNN's Omar Jimenez. He is in Minneapolis this morning.

Tell us what the scene is there now, has it calmed down at all?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, things have calmed down in regards to protesters and people being out and about. But bottom line, this part of Minneapolis is waking up to a very different city than they knew when they went to bed last night. Namely you see behind me there is smoke in the air and this auto zone was a completely and fully functioning auto zone just last night and then in a matter of hours, it was set on fire and burned completely out.

As you look throughout this street here as well there are cleanup crews trying to pick up the pieces. Again, a protest that started peacefully but then eventually devolved into rioting and looting. And as you look across, again, this intersection here, you get a good perspective and the main centerpiece of this perspective is right there, is the Minneapolis Police 3rd Precinct. That has sort of been the central location of these protests.

And the main thing they have been protesting is surrounding how George Floyd died and how his death is now being handled. The police department acted pretty swiftly, firing the four officers involved. But we have heard from not only the protesters, the mayor of Minneapolis and the family of George Floyd saying they want to see more done. They want criminal charges to be filed.

And as you can imagine, it is a tense and emotional time for this community here. But maybe for no one more than the family of George Floyd himself. Listen to how his family is describing what these moments have been like for them.


PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: It was hard. But I had to watch the video. And as I watch the video, those four officers, they executed my brother. The paramedics, they dragged him across the ground without administering CPR, and showed no empathy, no compassion. Nobody out there showed it. Nobody.

I grew up with him. That was my oldest brother. I loved him. I'm never going to get my brother back. We need justice. We need justice. Those four officers need to be arrested.


JIMENEZ: And it's a pain being felt not just by the family, but by this community and in many places across the country and in the world. But again maybe none more significantly than the family itself.

In regards to what we could see moving forward, an investigation continues on multiple fronts, at the FBI level, potentially recommending charges to the U.S. attorney's office, and then at the state level potentially recommending charges to the county office. But, again, every moment that charges or decision for charges isn't made, the tension here remains over what will be done about these officers -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, just that poor family, heartbreaking to see his brother there.

Omar Jimenez, thanks very much. In fewer than four months this virus has now killed more than 100,000

Americans. Maybe you know one of them. To put that in perspective, it is as if every person in Boca Raton, Florida, were to lose their lives. And this morning, we're getting more information on who has been hit the hardest by this pandemic.


CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here.

Elizabeth, you know, we're learning every day, every week about this. Tell us what the numbers are telling us about who has been most impacted.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think more and more, as this outbreak continues, it is becoming more and more clear, Jim, that African-Americans, Latinos, people of color are being disproportionately hit by this virus. There are probably many reasons for this but that is becoming clear.

I want to share with you some numbers that recently came out from the Oxnard Healthcare System. That's a large healthcare system in Louisiana. What they found is that usually about 31 percent of their patients are African-American. Sort of pre-pandemic on a usual day. They found that among their COVID patients, 77 percent of them are African-Americans.

Now, again, unclear why this is true, but there was another interesting study that came out recently that looked at autopsies on 10 African-American patients who passed away from COVID and they found blood clots in all of their lungs. Now blood clots have been a deadly signature of this disease. Many patients have had blood clots and so it's unclear whether African-Americans are more prone to them, we just don't know. But that's one of the things that's going to be studied to how to figure out why this is happening.

SCIUTTO: No question. You hear that from doctors every day. They're learning every day.

OK, so for months, you and I, people watching, have been told six feet apart. That's the key number here. But the news is some experts are questioning whether that might be enough. Tell us what you're learning.

COHEN: Yes, there is a new report out in a scientific journal saying, hey, maybe we shouldn't be focusing as much on the six feet as telling people that they ought to be wearing masks. And here's why. Even if you're six feet apart from someone, especially if you're indoors, that person -- the person you're with could then walk away, you could then enter their air space and that air -- those aerosolized particles that they just breathed out might be hanging there. In other words, you could have been 10 feet away at the time, but then when you walk into that air space, you may breathe what they -- in what they had breathed out.

Now this is not entirely new. As a matter of fact, scientists at the National Academy of Scientists wrote a letter to the White House about this very thing many weeks ago. This is really something that needs to be figured out. But what it points to is the importance of masks.

SCIUTTO: No question. Can't be said enough.

Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Let me welcome in my partner, Poppy Harlow. We had a small technical difficulty this morning.

Nice to have you, Poppy. And I'm sure yours equally happy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: You know, when the camera doesn't work at 9:00 a.m., but the amazing team at CNN comes in and fixes it in a flash, that's a good news day.


HARLOW: Good to be with everyone. Hello. And we do have this new forecast highlighted by the CDC, Jim, right, predicting that we're just weeks away from a jump in new coronavirus hospitalizations. Just think about that. Researchers from Columbia University are projecting a drop over the next two weeks before new hospitalizations go up, an increase they think by some 3,000 people a day by late June.

Brynn Gingras joins us again this morning with a little bit more of where things stand right now.

Good morning.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, good morning to you. Yes, listen, there is a majority of the states that are on good footing right now. Their numbers are seeing a decline. But let's first talk about those cases where they're going up. In those states primarily, 16 of them, they're mostly in the southeast part of the country. We talk about Kentucky, we talk about Alabama, those states are seeing significant surges in the number of cases that they're seeing.

Just earlier this week, another state, Virginia, the governor was pleading to its residents to wear masks. There are a number of states also, though, that are holding steady at this point. Ten in all. And then as far as the decreasing, 24 states are seeing those numbers of cases going down. New York, where I am now. Of course, one of them.

Now, remember, New York was the epicenter of this all. Their cases were the highest in the country, but they are among the states that really were listening to the CDC guidelines that were laid out about the reopening, making sure it was done in phases, being cautious about it, spacing out the time in between, certain things could open from one date to the next. And those states typically for the most part are seeing fewer cases by being a little bit slower in the process.

Of course it we know Memorial Day was this week and as we've been saying it could be a few weeks before we see even more cases based on what we have been seeing across the country on Memorial Day long weekend -- Poppy and Jim.


HARLOW: OK. Brynn, thanks very much for that update.

It has been well over 12 hours since this nation surpassed 100,000 coronavirus deaths. The president is up and he is tweeting a lot this morning. But nothing about those deaths.

SCIUTTO: Not a single mention. CNN's Jeremy Diamond joins us now from Washington.

Jeremy, it's perhaps to be expected. The president has tried deliberately to tamp down discussion of the rising death toll. Tell us what the strategy is here. Is there a strategy?


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, look, Jim, to the extent there is a strategy, it's that the president, you know, does not want to acknowledge, it seems, this grim milestone of 100,000 deaths because perhaps at how he feels it reflects upon his administration and his administration's handling of this coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, Jim, what we have seen from the president this morning is an airing of personal grievances on a number of fronts. The president has issued more than -- nearly two dozen tweets or retweets focused on the Russia investigation into his campaign and, you know, also going after the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, who has been a frequent target of his, accusing her of not allowing the people of Michigan to even breathe, which is, of course, a false hyperbole there.

To the extent that we have heard about the death toll from the president, it has been, you know, over Memorial Day the president did acknowledge the facts that Americans have lost a lot over this coronavirus pandemic. But on Tuesday, the most direct reference that he made to this 100,000 person death toll was in fact a preemptive rebuttal of sorts in which the president suggested that it was far less than what could have happened.

We have heard the president repeatedly talk about this figure of two million deaths or so. That is a similar line that we're hearing this morning from the White House as they're trying to explain why the president has not yet acknowledged this grim milestone. But, again, so far nothing from the president's 12 hours and counting -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. 100,000 American families mourning, of course, those losses.

Jeremy Diamond, at the White House, thank you.

Health officials say it will be months before we get a vaccine, but what if we can stop this virus without one? Is that possible?

HARLOW: Plus, more than 40 million Americans have now filed for unemployment benefits in just the last four months in this pandemic. Let that number sit with you for a moment. That is nearly one in four American workers. And that doesn't begin to tell the whole story. More on that ahead.

We're also on top of all of the developments this morning out of Minneapolis after a second night of violent protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody.



HARLOW: Researchers are racing, of course, for a vaccine. But one expert says we can beat this virus without one. Listen to this.


WILLIAM HASELTINE, CHAIR & PRESIDENT, ACCESS HEALTH INTERNATIONAL: We look at South Korea, we look at China, we see with serious epidemics, they've gone to zero for days. It's in the single digits, and you know, it can be stopped without a vaccine and without a drug if we change our behavior.


JIM SCIUTTO, CO-ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Let's bring in Dr. Richard Besser; he is the former acting director of the CDC, during that time, Besser led the CDC's response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic. Dr. Besser, always good to have you on, on this topic and others. Let's begin there if we can on how to get on the other side of this, right? Because --


SCIUTTO: The health experts we tend to talk to on this program say listen, it's going to be a combination of things, right, change behavior and you know, perhaps soonest possible at the end of this year a vaccine. What's your view of that view that perhaps we could do this even if we don't reach a vaccine for coronavirus?

BESSER: You know, it's an interesting point, but I want to push back on that, Jim, that it's about personal behavior. Personal behavior is really important. We have to follow the public health guidelines, wear masks, social distance, do those things to protect yourself and others. But it's never just about individual behavior.

You know, we were hearing from Elizabeth Cohen earlier about black Americans, Latinos being hit hard. That's not just personal behavior. It's the systems and structures. So when you look at who are essential workers, very high proportions of black and Latino Americans. When you look at people who live in housing where it may not be possible to socially-distance if someone is infected or had contact, high proportions of people of color.

So we have to encourage personal behavior and that has to start at the top. But we also have to look at our systems and say, how do we ensure that everyone in America who is out there working has the personal protective equipment to be safe, and how do we ensure that every person in America who is infected or exposed has a safe place to go, where they're getting income support and food support so that they're not spreading this to their loved ones and their community. And we are not being serious about that. We have a lot of work to do.


HARLOW: Dr. Besser, I was struck by your recent comments on rural America. And it's something we've -- you know, been thinking a lot about especially on this show and Appalachia, et cetera. And as we reopen, your belief that rural Americans are at even more risk, and I think we're already seeing that play out in the data.

BESSER: Yes, we are. You know, when you -- when you think about communities that are hit hard, communities where there's been disinvestment or un-investment for long periods of time, rural America has a lot of that going on. We've seen a lot of hospitals closed, clinics closed, so access to healthcare is challenging in many places. Where you have many people living in multi-generational households. So, you have someone who is young and healthy who gets this, but they bring it home to somebody else who is not going to do well with this. That's really important.

And again, lower-income individuals who are forced to go back to work because they have to put food on the table. So whether you're talking about people who are in meat-processing or poultry, these are industries where we're seeing outbreaks in a big way, and many of them are in rural America.


HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Doctor, given that some states do still have very low rates of infection, Missouri for instance versus New York, I mean, the disparity is huge. Is there any reason for those states with those lower rates not to open more quickly, reopen more quickly, more aggressively?

BESSER: Well, you know, I think it does make sense to see different things going on in different parts of the country. As long as the public health measures are in place to ensure that it's done safely. And what concerns me is I don't see that happening. You want to see in every state the collection of data and information so that a state will be able to pick up very quickly when there's a spark of a new case in a community so that, that doesn't spread.

And that means collecting data, information on testing by race, by income, by neighborhood. It's about encouraging everyone who is going out to do those practices of wearing masks. It's making sure that as people go back to work, there's enforceable standards so that for every industry, workers know that the measures are in place to limit and reduce their risk of getting infected.

HARLOW: Yes --

BESSER: And all of those pieces are critical, and I don't see that happening as it should be.

HARLOW: And I think to your point, doctor, about people going back to work, I mean, let's not forget the people that never got to leave work, right? All the frontline --

BESSER: That's right --

HARLOW: Workers not only in healthcare and our grocery stores, driving the buses, leaving the subways, and you wrote about this so eloquently in your op-ed earlier this month, and you said "those who have been historically marginalized in our country must not be marginalized again in a rush to reopen." Tell me more --

BESSER: Yes, I mean --

HARLOW: About what you mean again, on top of what they've already faced.

BESSER: So, you know, as we talk about reopening the economy, there are many people who are going to be able to continue to work remotely. And they're encouraged to do so because the more interaction, the more risk there is. But for many people that's not a choice they're going to have. They're going to have to go back to work, they're going to be losing their unemployment benefits.

You know, half of the low-income workers in America don't have sick leave or care-given leave. So, imagine what that's like if you're sick and you're having to decide, well, do I go to work so I can put food on the table and pay rent or do I stay home in which case I may be at risk of eviction. So, we have to look at some of the things that were done short-term and look towards long-term policy changes to be able to affect this.

You know, when you -- when you hear about people riding the buses to work, and buses are crowded, what does that say? What does that say about --

HARLOW: Yes --

BESSER: How we value different workers if we're not providing people with what they need?

HARLOW: I walked by --

BESSER: Yes --

HARLOW: You know, few days ago on our block in Brooklyn, and there were -- the bus was so crowded at 4 O'clock in the afternoon, it was standing room only. You know --

BESSER: Yes --

HARLOW: That's all -- BESSER: Yes --

HARLOW: Not a choice --

BESSER: That's not a choice -- that's not a choice anyone should have to make, Poppy.

HARLOW: No, I know.

SCIUTTO: And if you -- and some can't -- don't have the ability to make a choice, right? I mean --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: A sad fact in all this. Dr. Besser, so good to have you on and look forward to keeping up the conversation.

BESSER: Thanks very much.

SCIUTTO: Well, demonstrators in the streets of Minneapolis all night, demanding justice for George Floyd. Up next, we're going to speak to the police chief of neighboring St. Paul, Minnesota, who says he was, quote, "disgusted" by what happened there and made his officers watch that disturbing video.

HARLOW: And we're moments away from the opening --

SCIUTTO: And we're moments away from the opening bell -- you go, Poppy, you go.

HARLOW: Bell on Wall Street, futures are mixed this morning, U.S. stocks closed higher on Wednesday, logging their third-straight day of gains. The market is just not reflecting the economic reality here. We're going to see how markets react after that new jobless report that showed another 2.1 million people filing for first-time unemployment claims last week. Stay right here.



SCIUTTO: Story we've been following here, and here's the video of the incident at the core of this. And let's warn you again, the video is simply disturbing. The police chief of neighboring St. Paul, Minnesota, this is a place in Minneapolis, says that he was shocked and disgusted when he saw a video of Minneapolis police officer there with his knee on the neck of George Floyd.

HARLOW: So much so that he says he made all of his officers watch the video and challenge themselves to put themselves in Floyd's shoes. Joining us now is St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell. Thank you, thank you for being here. This is such a painful moment for the country, obviously, for George Floyd's family, for me as a Minnesotan to see this happen --

SCIUTTO: Yes -- HARLOW: In the city I love, it is unconscionable. I guess I'd like to

get you to tell us a little bit more about what you've told your officers and what you thought when you first saw this.

TODD AXTELL, POLICE CHIEF, ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA: Yes, Jim and Poppy, thank you so much for having me on this morning. You know, this is an incredibly challenging time across the country for our community, who is grieving the family of Mr. Floyd, who tragically lost his life and our police officers. Again, you know, we look at the number of officers we have in this country, over 1 million police officers, the actions of very few can really take us back generations of trying to build up trust and confidence with all of our communities within the cities we serve.