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Trump Silent as 100,000 Milestone Reached; Coronavirus' Toll on African-Americans; Americans Hit By Coronavirus. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 28, 2020 - 08:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And that soon it would be gone. He said, when you have 15 people in a few days it will be down to zero. That's a pretty good job that we've done.

So, you know, we often hear the president with his own magical thinking, but this time coronavirus doesn't care what he says or what he thinks. And here we are. And just, you know, you've covered so many presidents, is this a strange moment that the president of the United States hasn't marked it?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: These are strange times. I mean this Trump presidency is a step into the surreal. And we've had years to discuss that together.

This is not a compassionate person. He's a divisive president. I think he views that as more of a strategic approach to divide Americans, to rally his base, to take on fights. He's happiest when he's fighting, when he's distracting. He sees some political gains from that. So I don't think he has his voice as a big, compassionate leader who can summon the strength of the country and remind Americans of who we are and how we stand together. I just don't think he's demonstrated an ability and, frankly, a willingness to do that. I think there's a defensiveness about his presidency that pervades everything that he's done. He wants to focus on how the economy can reopen, where they have done a good job under these circumstances and not dwell on what he sees as the immediate, political peril that comes from a focus on this grim milestone.

Now, to be fair, he wasn't the only leader who was minimizing aspects of this, who didn't close down soon enough. But he is the loudest and he is the president and he's got a bully pulpit like none other. And those trail -- that trail of statements follows him.

And, again, I'm with you, I don't see his desire to turn that corner to kind of capture this moment to say, this is hard. We'll get through this. But this is really, really horrific for the country.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Look, I don't see this as being about the politics of it. I see it as being about the humanity of it. About saying, I feel for you. I feel sorry that you are going through this to the 100,000 people and their families that have lost, to the country that has lost so much over the last several months. It is a matter of decency. And over the last -- I've been trying to follow it over the last 20 minutes, he's awake, he's on Twitter, tweeting about Russia, tweeting about James Comey. He even re-tweeted an article which talked about masks, saying maybe masks aren't about safety but a matter of social control. So he's awake and choosing not to express empathy.

Sanjay, you are a doctor. You deal every day with life and death and loss. How do you express humanity and empathy to people going through suffering?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean this is a -- this is a huge, huge gut punch. I mean I think that we've known for some time that this -- this tragic number of 100,000 people was going to come. But I think it makes it no less painful and I think a lot of context will be given, people will compare this to, you name it, you know, wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, plane crashes. None of that even matters here because this was not inevitable by any means. No one should ever say this was inevitable in this country. So many of these deaths could have been prevented. And I know that's painful for families to hear this morning who have lost someone, but so many of these deaths could have been preventable.

And I'll take it even a step further and say, there was a willful ignorance in this country. You know, in the end of February, there was -- there were people at the CDC, you know, widely regarded as one of the best public health agencies in the world, who were saying it's no longer a question of if but when this becomes a pandemic. No longer a question of if but when this starts to dramatically affect the United States. And at that point, after that point, there was still really no progress in testing, there was no progress in trying to curb the mitigation in this country, there was a lack of seriousness about this all along.

And I hate to compare to other countries, but I think it's a fair comparison. In South Korea, their first patient was diagnosed on the same day that our first patient was diagnosed. The same day. I know they're one seventh the size of our country. They've had fewer than 300 deaths. So multiply that by seven, multiply that by 100, whatever you want, there were places around the world without a magic therapeutic, without a vaccine, without anything else that we didn't have as well that we're able to greatly, greatly mitigate this infection and the number of people who died.

We've got to learn these lessons.

GREGORY: And can I just --

GUPTA: We've got to -- there's a provincial arrogance sometimes in the United States that says we are the greatest country, while other countries did it better. We need to learn.


GREGORY: Can I just say, to add to that, I think one of the things that Sanjay says that's so important is about the unwillingness to have a national drive to meet the moment that we were faced. And, John, I understand the point that you were making about basic

humanity and not politics, but when it comes to national leadership, it is about politics because it takes politicians to make something a political priority, to say the entire government, and with the power of media, to direct a national response to a threat.

You know, a lot of people say you go back to 9/11. And there was a thought, well, why didn't a previous administration before 9/11 take out Osama bin Laden and attack Afghanistan? Why? There was no consensus in the country to make that a political priority, to go invade Afghanistan before 9/11. And then something happened. Often the country is more reactive than it is proactive. We were certainly not on a war footing and ready when Pearl Harbor happened in 1941.

But the political failure to say this is something we have to mobilize for and the whole government has to be geared toward getting society to take what Sanjay is saying, take this virus as seriously as it should have been taken at that time.

CAMEROTA: You know, there are polls, new polls, that we don't use at CNN. They don't immediate our standards. However, the president cites these polls a lot and they show that people do not feel that they're in good hands actually right now, that they do not feel that the president has provided leadership. I mean these are some of his favorite polls. And they show that his approval rating about coronavirus is going down.

But, Sanjay, I just want to show, just for a point of contrast, this is the president's rival, this is Joe Biden, former vice president, who decided to take it into his own hands to express mourning for the country.

Here's his statement.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To all of you who are hurting so badly, I'm so sorry for your loss. I know there's nothing I or anyone else can say or do to dull the sharpness of the pain you feel right now. But I can promise you from experience, the day will come when the memory of your loved one will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes.


CAMEROTA: And, of course, Sanjay, we're just -- we're just nowhere near the end of this. I mean that's what you keep reminding us, we're just -- we're not even necessarily in the middle, you know? We're -- all we're doing is marking this stunning, jaw dropping milestone of 100,000 different lives, but we -- this is no time to think that this is over.

GUPTA: No, absolutely not. And there are lessons that we have learned painfully just now in this country that hopefully we can apply going forward because, I mean, you know, there's all sorts of models out there, as we've always said on your program, all models are wrong, but some are useful. But what they all show is that there will -- as we reopen, there will be more people who get infected. And more people who need hospitalization. And, sadly, more people who will die.

The question will be, can you reduce that number as much as possible? And, you know, it's going to be a while before we have a vaccine. Everyone talks about that. It leads, you know, the news coverage often and there's excitement around that. I get it. But in the meantime, there are countries that have had a few hundred people who have died. What have they done? I mean we talk about the testing. Are we the greatest country on earth? Did we get stymied by nasal swabs in this country? Is that what part of the problem was? I mean could we not figure out some of these basic problems? I mean we -- our -- it's -- ingenuity is in our DNA in this country. How did we get stymied by these things? We need to figure it out.

And people -- you know, you keep hearing people say still, well, maybe testing's not as important. It is fundamental to all this. People need the physical and psychological confidence to start going back into public. They need to be tested.

BERMAN: All right, Sanjay, David Gregory, thanks so much for being with us.

We are getting brand-new figures showing the unemployment crisis in this country is getting worse. The new numbers, next.



BERMAN: All right, breaking news.

The Labor Department just announced that another 2.1 million Americans, this is 2.1 million more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week.

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us now with more.

I think I've lost count, but we're at 40 million now?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Another week, another gut punch. Ten weeks in a row with claims in the millions. This 2.1 million workers filing for unemployment for the very first time last week, that brings it to more than 40 million who have either been laid off or furloughed over just the last ten weeks. That has never happened before, that many people out of work so quickly.

Now, first time claims, the chart is very important here. They have been declining. Looked like they peaked at that 6.9 million in the final week of March. But these weekly claims, even though declining, are awful. Every one of those numbers, every one of those 2.1 million, somebody who is rushing to get a jobless check to make sure they're trying to cover their rent and try to cover their bills.

This is what I can tell you about the labor force, that means think of all the people working at the beginning of March, John. All the people working at the beginning of March, a quarter of them have lost their job. They have until the end of July to collect this enhanced unemployment insurance, taxpayers giving them $600 a week on top of their state benefits. That expires in the end of July.

BERMAN: Almost impossible to comprehend what you just said.

ROMANS: You're right.

BERMAN: All right, Christine Romans, thanks very much.


CAMEROTA: OK, as you know, coronavirus has had a disproportionate impact on African-Americans. Minority communities see higher rates of infection and death.

CNN's Abby Phillip joins with now with a closer look.

So what have you found out, Abby?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, it has been impossible to miss this proportionate impact of Covid on minority communities, but no other group has been more widely affected, more disproportionately than black Americans.

So I went back to my hometown in Prince George's County, Maryland, to find out why.


PHILLIP (voice over): Terrence Burke was a doting father, a Navy veteran, and a hard-charging high school basketball coach.



He loved coaching.

PHILLIP: In March, the Prince George's County, Maryland, resident became one of the first people in the state to die from the coronavirus.

BURKE: It was just very surreal. I didn't really expect it to happen, like, my dad to be like the example for the state of Maryland.

PHILLIP: Burke's death was a canary in the coal mine for his community in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, and for the entire nation.


PHILLIP: Just miles outside of the nation's capital, one of the wealthiest majority black counties in the nation has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. ALSOBROOKS: We heard what the aggravating factors were. We started

saying, oh, my God, you know, that's us.

PHILLIP: In Prince George's County, black residents like Burke have been contracting and dying from coronavirus at alarming rates.

STEPHEN B. THOMAS, MARYLAND CENTER FOR HEALTH EQUITY, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: We have some of the highest per capita Ph.D.s,, college educated black folk in the nation, and it is not protecting us.

PHILLIP: And the data shows it's a trend playing out all over the country, in urban, suburban, rural, wealthy and poor areas and in more than half of the country, according to a recent study by the non- partisan APM Research Lab.

In Detroit, 65 percent of cases, and more than 80 percent of people who have died of Covid, are black. In Washington, D.C., black residents account for nearly 75 percent of coronavirus deaths.

In New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, 26 percent of deaths have been among black residents, even though they are just 14 percent of the population.

And in Maryland, black residents account for 42 percent of Covid deaths, but 29 percent of the population.

Prince George's County executive Angela Alsobrooks says decades of racism are having a devastating impact here and all over the country.

ALSOBROOKS: We also have had a really, really difficult time just trying to attract restaurants to come here, the groceries to come here. And it's not because we're not -- we don't have the wealth and income. It infuriates me for people to say that people here are sicker because of our life choices.

PHILLIP: Coronavirus deaths are concentrated, mostly among older Americans and those with pre-existing conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease that are common among black Americans.

But that doesn't explain all of the disparities.

THOMAS: Our workers, our residents of senior living facilities, who works in those facilities? Low paid workers who now have been designated essential.

PHILLIP: Maryland officials are moving to ramp up testing at sites like these, now testing asymptomatic residents to stop outbreaks before they start. Thomas says more help will undoubted by be needed, including from the federal government.

THOMAS: We're going to have to save ourselves. We need a national commission on the colors of Covid-19, one that addresses all people of color.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PHILLIP: It's not just grocery stores. Angela Alsobrooks said hospitals have also been one of those things that she has been trying to bring into her county, but has had a difficult time over the years.

But there is some good news. Prince George's county is now starting to see a decline in cases. They have reduced the number of people in their ICUs, create some capacity. And the county expects to begin a slow and careful phased reopening in the coming days.


CAMEROTA: Abby, thank you for that really personal look back at your hometown. We really appreciate you doing that reporting.

One hundred thousand four hundred and forty-two deaths at this hour in America. We have a closer look at just some of the lives lost, next.



CAMEROTA: The U.S. crossed the 100,000 mark of lives lost yesterday, but that did not slow down the virus. Since then, 442 more Americans have been killed. And the death toll is not spread out evenly.

CNN's Tom Foreman with who is most affected and why.



TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Beyond the protests, the pleas for masks and social distancing --

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: It's really critically important --

FOREMAN: And the general pandemonium of the pandemic, the number of Americans lost has steadily climbed, enough to fill a stadium. Eighty percent of the deaths so far have involved people over the age of 65.

On the upper end of that age group, facilities for the elderly have valiantly tried to keep the virus out, but when it gets in, the close quarters can allow wildfire spreading.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Nursing homes are the prime breeding ground for this killer.

FOREMAN: A study by Kaiser suggests more than a third of all Covid deaths are tied to long-term care facilities. Yes, they've cut off almost all visitors --

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE: But something that is much more aggressive than has been (INAUDIBLE) the past I believe should be done. FOREMAN: Younger people fare better. Those a decade or two under

retirement account for about 18 percent of the deaths. And people under the age of 45 make up only a tiny sliver of the fatalities.

In all age groups, people with other health issues, such as chronic, heart or lung conditions, are also more likely to pass on. That may partially explain why African-Americans are apparently being struck harder than other ethnic groups, since black communities tend to have more of those conditions.

And geographically the toll is uneven too. New York is by far the hardest hit state. Add New Jersey and you have 41 percent of all fatalities. But other states have been hammered too. Among them, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, and Michigan.


FOREMAN: Where despite loud calls to simply throw open the shops, restaurants, gyms and more, the governor is moving cautiously.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): We're going to stay tethered to the data. We're going to follow the science. And we've got to get this right. And anything else is to put people in jeopardy and I'm not -- I'm not willing to do that.

FOREMAN: Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


CAMEROTA: CNN will pay tribute to the 100,000 plus Americans with a special, "We Remember: A National Memorial Honoring the Victims of Covid-19." It's hosted by Jake Tapper. That is Sunday at noon eastern on CNN.

We also have been following breaking news out of Minneapolis. So CNN's coverage continues right after this.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

Just a devastating milestone. The coronavirus has now killed more than 100,000 Americans in less than four months.


People like you and me. And we're learning more this morning about who has been impacted