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U.S. Cases Surge To Highest One-Day Level Since April; Mexican Officials: Triplets Born With COVID-19 Now Stable; Court Orders Judge To Drop Cases Against Michael Flynn. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired June 25, 2020 - 02:00   ET




ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello and welcome to our viewers from all around the world. I'm Anna Coren, live in Hong Kong.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, renewed worries about overwhelmed hospitals as some U.S. states experiencing a steep spike in new coronavirus cases.

Australia's flagship airline slashes thousands of jobs as it tries to navigate through the pandemic.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think Democrats were guilty of impeachment malpractice, they took this issue and drove it straight into a ditch.


COREN (voice-over): John Bolton on the defensive, deflecting blame after refusing to testify in the Trump impeachment hearings about the allegations he's now making in a new book.


COREN: The surge of coronavirus cases in the Americas is alarming. The U.S. now seeing the third highest one-day increase in infections since the pandemic began. Nearly 35,000 new cases were reported across the country Tuesday. Officials predict hospitals in Arizona and Texas will reach capacity soon.

As intensive care units fill up, mortality rates rise. The nation's top infectious disease expert is urging a buildup of state and national stockpiles. Cases are spiking across Latin America as well. Brazil surpassed 1 million cases over the weekend.


CARISSA ETIENNE, WHO: Last month, I announced here that our region had become the new epicenter of the pandemic. I'm sorry to say that, since then, cases of COVID-19 in Latin America have now tripled from almost 690,000 May 23rd to more than 2 million today.


COREN: The World Health Organization expects the pandemic to hit 10 million cases by next week.


DR. MICHAEL RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The pandemic for many countries in the Americas has not peaked, they are not reaching a low level of transmission within which we can achieve a sustainable exit from public health and social measures or extreme public health and social measures.

So I will characterize the situation in the Americas in general and Latin America in general as still evolving, not having reached its peak yet and likely to result in a sustained number of cases and continued deaths in the coming weeks.


COREN: Now that 3 states in the northeastern U.S. have brought their infections under control, governors there want to make sure there are no setbacks. Nick Watt reports on the action they're taking.



GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D) NEW YORK: We're announcing today a joint travel advisory, people coming in from states that have a high infection rate must quarantine for 14 days.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT(voice over): So from midnight, three northeastern states, one sour epicenter won't let anyone in from these nine southern and western states unless they quarantine. In Arizona, another record COVID-19 death toll.


WILL HUMBLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ARIZONA PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOC.: Within days we're going to be overcapacity in dealing with hospital crisis in my opinion.


WATT (voice over): In Florida, more new cases today than ever before. One hospital system says they're seeing more young patients.


DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: And if they're spreading the infection to older people, people with chronic diseases right now, we'll see an increase in deaths potentially two weeks from now. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WATT (voice over): Another new record case count today in Texas.


ABBOTT: There is a massive outbreak of COVID-19 across the State of Texas today. We are making sure that the rules are enforced so we are going to be able to better contain the spread of COVID-19.


WATT (voice over): And for 11 days straight, Texas has set new records for the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to the hospital. Nationwide and more than half our states new case counts just aren't going down.


DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Basically we're back to where New York was back in March, except that this time, I don't think that there is the political will and the public support to have these shutdowns.


WATT (voice over): Dr. Anthony Fauci says we need to get past mask wearing being a political issue.


WATT (voice-over): The Democratic governor of North Carolina just said he's making them mandatory and the Republican governor of Florida just said, he won't.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We advised from the beginning of May, we advised if you can't social distance, wear the mask, but ultimately we've got to trust people to make good decisions.


WATT (voice over): And those well-known University of Washington modelers say, we would save more than 30,000 lives by the end of the summer if 95 percent of us wore masks, but right now, we aren't.


LT. ANTHONY ALMOJERA, FDNY EMT: We just went through hell, trying to revive and take care of people and we don't want to go through it again. Wear a mask. Just wear a mask.


WATT: Here in California, they set a new record Tuesday more than 5000 new cases. Wednesday, the obliterated that record. More than 7000 new cases. But there are still beds and hospitals to deal with these cases according to state officials -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


COREN: Dr. Raj Kalsi is a board certified emergency medical physician, joining us from Illinois.

Doctor, great to have you with us. The virus, obviously, surging across the U.S. with near record cases in the South and East. This almost feels like the U.S. has found itself back at the start of the pandemic.


And we look at the numbers in states like New York, that are going down significantly. And here, in Chicago, for me, fortunately, things are getting back to some kind of quasi-normal.

I'm starting to see, in the E.R.s that I work at, the traditional fare that we would routinely see and also some of the bystanders that did what the government told him to do and social distance, and now they're paying price because they waited too long to come to the hospital.

It's a little alarming to see these states that are now surging and I hope that, with the right mitigation and direction from leadership, they, too, can endure the surge in their states and come down, like we did here in Chicago and New York.

COREN: As we heard from the WHO a little bit earlier, they warned if the Americas can't get the pandemic under control, perhaps a general lockdown needs to be imposed.

Would you agree that hardhit U.S. states should be considering looking at locking down again?

KALSI: They have to at least consider it and balance that against the tensions of social discord and chaos. Right now, we are a powder keg. This country is a powder keg. As you appropriately broadcast, people have quarantine fatigue and COVID-19 fatigue, including health care workers.

And People are feeling less and less scared, I believe, as I look around. Even my own community to go out and to foray into the public without a mask or with a mask and rather than stay quarantined at home and abide by the most strict guidelines.

That being said, I think we have to do something or we have to realize we are going to endure 30,000 to 50,000 more deaths by August or September and that's the price of not doing anything.

COREN: Let's talk about that complacency and coronavirus fatigue, if you'd like. It really does feel like it is setting in.

KALSI: Absolutely. I see it in real time because it's probable for me as an E.R. doctor. I see all the patients that stayed away from the E.R. because they were very concerned about coronavirus and catching coronavirus in the hospital.

They're all coming back now. They're all coming back in the same volumes that they would even before COVID-19. And this tells me that, at least in my local community and probably based on my communications with other colleagues and peers in other states, people are getting more and more courageous about going and doing what they normally do.

And some of them are getting corona. And they're coming to hospitals and others are just done with this quarantining or they're ready to go out into the public without masking because they just don't believe that it has affected them because it's a silent disease until it affects you.

Dr. Kalsi, the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced that 2 weeks' quarantine will be imposed on travelers from hardhit states. This isn't a novel idea. Other large countries such as Australia have been doing this domestically. It makes sense. You want to maintain those gains.

Is this what other states should be doing?

KALSI: Absolutely. We did this with internationally, locking down ingress from other countries.


KALSI: And it made a difference. I truly believe it made an epidemiologic difference. So absolutely. It's a small price to pay. If you are going to ingress into a state where the state is declining in cases and you're coming from a state that's inclining in cases. I think it's a small price to pay to avoid reigniting the surge in the state that's doing so well.

COREN: The small price to pay, you mentioned, wearing masks, so simple yet proving to be so hard in the United States. Despite the surge in cases, the death toll is lagging but Dr. Fauci predicts it will rise.

What is your forecast for the weeks and months ahead?

KALSI: I'm worried, Anna, that, as I mentioned before in a previous broadcast, we have flu season around the corner and that something that's annual and there's no hiding that fact. The symptoms for influenza are literally the same roughly for coronavirus.

And this is going to set us back significantly if we are not adequately prepared. Additionally, if we engage in appropriate masking and appropriate social distancing, ongoing, we could even mitigate and reduce the deaths from influenza.

There are a lot of deaths anyway in the world from influenza. So if we continue to push this envelope and do well with social distancing, we can reduce the deaths and make up for the deaths from COVID-19, if that makes sense. COREN: For sure. Common sense. Doctor Raj Kalsi, we appreciate the

incredible work you and your colleagues are doing. Thanks so much for taking time out to speak to us.

KALSI: Thanks for having me.

COREN: Moving on to Australia, where the national flag carrier Qantas is slashing 6,000 jobs due to coronavirus. The airline says it's part of a 3-year plan to recover from the pandemic and saving $10 billion in costs; 15,000 Qantas employees remain idle, their job still on hold. Journalist Kaori Enjoji has more for us from Tokyo.

This is certainly a brutal response, slashing 20 percent of its workforce. But Qantas SAS it's necessary for its survival.

KAORI ENJOJI, JOURNALIST: One of the oldest airlines in the industry saying it needs to cut 20 percent of jobs because revenues are just not there in the time COVID-19.

A lot of jobs including cabin crew, 1,050 of them will be let go, 220 pilots and ground staff as well will be let go as part of the restructuring. And the CEO announced a 3-year restructuring plan, including plans to tap the equity market to try and raise some cash. Take a listen to what the CEO had to say with.


ALAN JOYCE, QANTAS: The proceeds from this raising up to $1.9 billion will strengthen our balance sheet and accelerate our recovery. Once we have recovered, this capital will help us take advantage of opportunities that emerge.


ENJOJI: The question is, when that recovery is actually going to take place. He says resuming flights will probably take a long time and that revenues will be much lower for a long time, potentially several years.

COREN: Grounding more than 100 aircraft for at least the next 12 months. They joined other airlines, in New Zealand, British Airways, Lufthansa, in laying off large numbers of workers.

What's the outlook for the aviation industry?

ENJOJI: The industry body IATA says it's going to be the toughest years for the industry. They are predicting a loss of $84 billion in 2020 alone. And the worrying part is they expect the recovery to be very slow. They are expecting losses of $16 billion in 2021.

So Qantas by no means, is not the only carrier to be suffering but 15,000 of their employees will remain on furlough; 100 other flights will remain grounded. It's not just the existing flights. They say they're not going to be taking new orders.

So that will impact the manufacturing space in aviation as well. They are going to be retiring the 787s, six months earlier than they had planned, which means they think it's better to do that than pay the maintenance cost.

And one other big worry is the fact that these travel bubbles may be slow to come. People were talking about a trans-Tasman air bubble but two cases arising in Australia and New Zealand is no longer COVID-19 free as well. So prospects for that kind of travel bubble seemed to be very difficult as well. So certainly a response to very difficult times for the aviation industry.

COREN: That trans-Tasman bubble almost dead in the water now.


COREN: Kaori Enjoji, many thanks for the update. Good to see you.

A surging number of new infections across the U.S. combined with a possible new tariff on E.U. imports saw stocks plunge Wednesday. In fact, it was the worst closing in almost two weeks for the three major indexes. Wall Street is looking to bounce back, so far U.S. futures are being mostly in negative territory.

CNN's Eleni Giokos joins us now live from Johannesburg.

Eleni, for months now, it seem like the markets were operating in a parallel universe. Perhaps with the surge of cases in the U.S., the IMF's dismal forecast and the global indications for the global economy, perhaps it's finally sinking in.

ELENI GIOKOS, CNNMONEY CORRESPONDENT: Incredible to see that kind of disconnect when we see equity prices rising and the real economy taking such pain because we saw so much stimulus coming through from the Federal Reserve and we saw this in many other jurisdictions around the world, central banks trying to prop up the economy.

This money usually ends up in the market space and it ends up as hot (ph) money. but it is a reality check that comes every now and again in the form of economic data, even a dire forecast by the IMF, which, remember, said that this means global recession is going to be a reality.

Saying it's going to be deeper and even more dire, saying that the global GDP number is going to contract by 5 percent this year and next year we're looking at 0 percent growth. That means we are very far away from the recovery. And importantly, I think that the trend is being measured (ph) in what we see in the U.S. You see coronavirus cases rising dramatically in certain states, like California and Florida.

It's a new record highs on daily increases. And you're talking about ICU beds reaching capacity in Houston, new quarantine rules at the same time. They are saying, well, you know, there's optimism because you're opening up the economy.

So the slow part to recovery is going to be a reality. You've got the markets taking this quite seriously. The question is, how much of this bad news have they already priced in? We know they are not over this yet, we have a while to go and it's going to be really important, Anna, to look at jobs because that is where you see the real recovery coming through. When you see the consumer feeling confidence on income, it will feed through to corporate America and companies around the world.

COREN: Eleni, U.S. jobless claims in the coming hours.

What can we expect?

GIOKOS: It's such an important barometer in understanding what Americans are going through right now.

It's important to know the number has been above 1 million for 13 straight weeks. At one point 6.8 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance. And this week we are hoping for a number that will decrease from last week. And it's encouraging because it's pointing towards some kind of recovery but definitely not fast enough.

Employment as a whole in the U.S. is sitting around 13.3 percent. It's down from that record number in April, from 14.7 percent and again you've got to really look at what companies are doing.

Are they going to be heading back to business?

Are you going to see a decrease in coronavirus cases?

This will play a very strong role in the trends that we see in the next few weeks. And I think the IMF gave a hard reality check for many people. Throwing fuel to the fire, the U.S. yesterday was talking about potential tariffs on some E.U. countries in the middle of a pandemic, creating even more uncertainty.

All of these factors, Anna, playing a very strong role in the way the markets will be performing today and even the weakness we saw coming through in Asia and Europe.

COREN: Eleni Giokos, joining us from Johannesburg. Many thanks.

The coronavirus may be about to push another wedge between the U.S. and Europe. Coming up, the E.U. ponders a ban on American tourists the summer. Why it is shaping up to be a battle between public health and politics.

Plus, President Trump's former national security adviser defends his controversial decision not to testify during the impeachment inquiry. That's in a moment.




(MUSIC PLAYING) COREN: Polls will open in Russia in the coming hours for early voting

on whether to change the constitution, possibly allowing Vladimir Putin to remain president until 2036. Lawmakers in Russia's supreme court have already approved the amendment, resetting Mr. Putin's term count from 4 to 0.

Opponents call the vote a coup but the measure is expected to pass. Voting ends July 1st.

President Trump has been trying to make it seem as though COVID-19 is a thing of the past in the U.S., even though nothing could be further from the truth. He made another attempt on Wednesday when he hosted Poland's president at the White House.

The nationalist leader is Mr. Trump's first foreign visitor since lockdown started in the U.S. And he's up for reelection in a few days. When Donald Trump brought up his plans to cut U.S. troop levels in Germany, here is what President Duda had to say.


ANDRZEJ DUDA, PRESIDENT OF POLAND (through translator): I wouldn't dare say to the President of the United States of America where he should send his soldiers because this is the decision which is always taken by the United States, this is a very responsible decision.

However, I do not deny that I requested Mr. President that he would not withdraw U.S. forces from Europe because the security of Europe is very important to me.


COREN: Now to the possibility that the E.U. could block visitors from countries with severe COVID outbreaks, including the United States. E.U. officials say they're basing the decision on scientific data, data like this, which clearly shows that the cases in the U.S. continue to climb while countries in Europe appear to have things under control.

The politics is more complicated. More now from CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We've been working with countries all across the world, including our friends in Europe.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Secretary of state Mike Pompeo with his first public reaction to Europe's plan to possibly ban Americans from traveling there because of coronavirus.

POMPEO: We certainly don't want to reopen and jeopardize the United States from people traveling here and we don't want to cause problems anyplace else. ROBERTSON (voice-over): Last week, E.U. leaders sent a letter to

Pompeo, urging the U.S. to lift its ban on European travelers, imposed in the early days of the pandemic.

TRUMP: We made a lifesaving move with early action on China. Now we must take the same action with Europe.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Now with American infections spiking across the country, the E.U. is considering returning the favor though an E.U. official tells CNN, their decision isn't political. Their plan, though, seems to hurt America the most.

YLVA JOHANSSON, EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER: This criteria should be, of course, first epidemiological situation in the third country. Second is the containment measures while traveling.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): And the third, reciprocity.

JOHANSSON: If we open up from traveling into the E.U., we expect that this country should open up for the traveling from our countries to their country.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): Currently, the U.S. fails two out of those three criteria. E.U. citizens are banned from the U.S., so no reciprocity. Europe has less COVID-19 than the U.S. E.U. countries have an average of 15 cases of COVID-19 per hundred thousand people.

The U.S. has 106.7 per hundred thousand people. It's unlikely to make the threshold currently set at 50 cases per hundred thousand. E.U. officials are, quote, "working around the clock" ahead of a July 1st deadline when the E.U.'s internal borders are mostly opened up.

Agreeing among themselves is the biggest challenge, consensus among the E.U.'s 27 nations is never easy. Even so, it doesn't look good for Americans in what's become a growing political rift between the U.S. and European countries since Trump took office.

TRUMP: Europe has been treating us very badly.

ROBERTSON: But -- and there is a but here -- whatever guidance and lists the E.U. comes up with, it's still up to the 27 individual member nations to decide whom they'll allow into their own countries.

Take Portugal for example. Allowing Brazilian travelers in at the moment but right now Brazil's COVID-19 infection rate is almost double that in the United States. So perhaps that American dream of a summer vacation in Europe this year isn't quite over yet -- Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


COREN: The former U.S. national security adviser says he has no confidence in how President Trump is handling the pandemic. John Bolton is pitching his explosive new book about the Trump administration.

He said Mr. Trump turned a blind eye at the start of the outbreak because he didn't want to hear bad news about his friend, Chinese President Xi Jinping. Bolton also defended his decision not to testify at the impeachment inquiry, despite writing that he knew of multiple offenses. Here's part of his interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): You could have made a difference if you would've testified --

BOLTON: I don't agree. I don't agree.

BLITZER: -- you might have made a difference because you spent 17 months in the inner circles of the White House working with the president and you might have influenced some of your fellow Republicans.

BOLTON: The Democrats in the House, by determining right from the get- go, that they were going to focus only on the Ukraine situation and they were going to ram it through as fast as they could so it didn't affect the Democratic presidential nomination process drove House Republicans who might have been open to a broader consideration, a less partisan consideration. They drove those Republicans into their partisan corner and it had the same effect in the Senate.

BLITZER: But you say you wouldn't have made a difference.


BLITZER: But the title of your book is, The Room Where it Happened. And I want to be really specific about that. Because in the book you write stuff that none of the other witnesses could have said under oath before Congress as far as linking money to Ukraine in exchange for dirt on the Bidens, for example.

You write this. The next morning, August 20th I took Trump's temperature on the Ukraine security assistance and he said he wasn't in favor of sending them anything until all the Russia investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over, your words. If you had come before Congress and specifically backed up that allegation, as you do in the book, it potentially could have had a huge difference.

BOLTON: I don't agree. And I'll tell you why. Number one, the Democrats asserted and were not seriously contested by the Republicans that exactly that had happened. There may not have been one person who testified to it and, believe me, there were plenty of other people, senior levels in the administration, who could have said the same thing. The Democrats didn't ask for their testimony either.

And here is to me what I think is perhaps the most important part. The White House argued and Republicans, by and large, agreed that even if all this were true, the president's conduct on Ukraine did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. BLITZER: But there were some --


COREN: A former impeachment special counsel calls Bolton's claim that his testimony would not have mattered "nonsense." President Trump has said the statements in Bolton's book are pure fiction.

You are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Just ahead, the U.S. is doing a dismal job fighting the coronavirus curve, especially compared to Europe. We'll see what's behind that.

Plus, a mystery in a Mexican hospital. Premature triplets all diagnosed with COVID-19 at birth. How they ended up getting it could help us understand more about the devastating virus.



COREN: Welcome back. Coronavirus cases are again surging in the U.S. and health experts feared it may soon spiral out of control. Johns Hopkins University tracked nearly 35,000 new infections among Americans in just 24 hours, a level not seen since April 1st.

As the U.S. total climbs towards 2.5 million cases, infections are skyrocketing to record levels in three of the biggest states, Florida, Texas, and California. Together, they compromise more than one-quarter of the U.S. population. California has already mandated face masks in public, but the governor says too many people are being careless.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We cannot continue to do what we have done over the last number of weeks. Many of us understandably, developed a little cabin fever, some I would argue have developed a little amnesia. Others have just frankly taken down their guard.


COREN: Nevada is the latest state to order masks in public effective Friday. And for people who don't want to wear one, well, America's disease expert says, do it anyway.


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: There's no secret formula for that except to say get tested. You know, it should not be a political issue. It is purely a public health issue. Forget the politics, look at the data.


COREN: And common sense. To try to slow the virus, state and local governments are under growing pressure to make masks mandatory. But some people see face coverings as sinister and even dangerous. As you can hear and see, an angry group of protesters sounding off after officials in Palm Beach County, Florida voted unanimously to impose a mask requirement. The sense of outrage did not stop there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They went to throw God's wonderful breathing system out the door. You're all turning your backs on it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really have many question marks about your degrees and what you really know. I'm sorry, ma'am, but I don't think that you are worthy of your credentials. And I would ask suggestively that you go back to school and get educated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You displace me. You know why? You did not listen to we the people. You made your decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope every one of you gets voted out who votes for a masks here today. Shame on you for voting for a mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are against not masks, but mandatory masks. We believe that it is our body our choice.


COREN: Well, even as the Coronavirus pandemic surges in the U.S., many other countries have managed to get a handle on the crisis. CNN's Brian Todd is on the story for us.



BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Coronavirus crisis in America has reached such disturbing levels that the European Union could soon block Americans from traveling to Europe according to officials. One diplomat telling CNN, Europe will be looking to keep out visitors from countries where the virus is circulating most actively. And by that measure, experts say, the U.S. doesn't stack up well.

WILLIAM HANAGE, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: The United States has not responded in a coherent, organized fashion which is capable of doing anything serious to really stand in the way of this virus.

TODD: The United States is returning to the high infection rates of the outbreaks early days while the European Union has pushed its rate down and seems to be keeping it down. In Europe, even in places like Italy, which was devastated by the virus early on, longer lockdowns, aggressive testing, and contact tracing have proven effective, while states like Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California are seeing enormous new spikes.

TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CDC: The U.S. response is just lagging. We're not doing what we need to do to keep physically distant. We're not across the country scaling up contact tracing as effectively as needed, so we can prevent cases from exploding into clusters and outbreaks.

TODD: South Korea, like the U.S., has big cities with dense populations vulnerable to Coronavirus, but has had dramatically fewer cases and deaths than the U.S. What tactics made the South Koreans more successful?

HANAGE: South Korea, they have an extraordinarily very smart testing program, which enables them to rapidly identify cases, rapidly inform the contents of those cases, and then rapidly isolate them.

FRIEDEN: If you had moved to South Korea on January 20th when each of our countries had its first case, you would have been 70 times less likely to be killed by this virus.

TODD: Experts say another big reason the U.S. has fallen behind other countries in the handling of the pandemic is because the federal government allowed individual states to take the lead and make their own decisions of when and how to reopen. As a result, many states reopened much too quickly while states hit hard early on like New York didn't.

HANAGE: They held it over a period of weeks to months, they wrestled the pandemic to the ground to the point where now they're more worried about there being new introductions from states where it's taking off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open your business now.

TODD: Experts say one other problem the U.S. has had which most other nations have not, the politicization of the response. Leaders like President Trump, Vice President Pence, openly shunning guidelines on wearing masks. Trump on Fox Radio even making fun of Joe Biden who's worn them.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He started to speak into the mask. Again, he feels comfortable with a mask on, I think -- and even though there was nobody anywhere near him.

TODD: But President Trump and other Republicans are not the only ones being criticized for politicizing the response to Coronavirus. Experts point out not only did some Democratic governors not call out or prevent people from staging mass protests against police brutality recently, clearly a risky venture during the pandemic, but a couple of them joined the protests breaking their own lockdown orders. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


COREN: The Coronavirus claimed almost 1,000 lives in Mexico on Wednesday, the country's second-highest daily death toll since the pandemic began. New infections have been rising at a rate of around 5,000 a day for the past two weeks, one of the worst outbreaks in Latin America.

Brazil and Peru have been hit hardest. Over the past few weeks, both countries have recorded more than new -- more new cases per 100,000 people than the United States. Well, details now from CNN's Shasta Darlington.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: COVID-19 cases in Latin America have tripled in the last month, surpassing two million infections. That's according to the Pan American Health Organization. The group's director warns that governments are now facing pressure to ease social isolation measures due to economic and political pressure even though transmission still increasing.

Brazil alone has registered well over a million cases. And on Wednesday, the health ministry reported more than 42,000 new infections, the second highest daily increase on record. Meanwhile, a judge has ordered Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to wear a mask in public or face a fine worth about $380 a day.

The Coronavirus skeptic rarely puts on a mask for public events, or when he joins his supporters in rallies shaking hands and embracing crowds. The government is seeking to overturn the ruling which applies to public appearances in the country's capital, Brasilia. Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the virus, calling it a little flu and urging Brazilians to go back to work. Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.


COREN: A state of newborn triplets in Mexico who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 even though it's extremely rare for babies to be born with Coronavirus. Local health Officials haven't disclosed much about this extraordinary case. But they did say the triplets are in stable condition. Matt Rivers is in Mexico City for us.



MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's still so much that science does not know about this Coronavirus. And we're really getting a stark example of that this week here in Mexico. In one particular state, the state of San Luis Potosi, a doctor said that earlier this week, a set of triplets born prematurely all tested positive for COVID-19.

The unprecedented part according to doctors is that neither of the triplets' parents have tested positive for the disease. The doctors say they aren't sure how the triplets contracted the virus. They're exploring different possible paths of contagion, but they say they simply do not know how this situation came about.

Thankfully, all three triplets are in stable condition. But it's just further proof that science has a lot more to learn about this virus. What is not in question though, is how bad things are in Latin America and the Caribbean.

During a press briefing on Wednesday, the director of the Pan American Health Organization told reporters that in just the last month or so alone, the number of cases in this region's 33 countries have gone from under 700,000 to now more than two million cases, and there are now more than 100,000 recorded deaths in this region for the first time. And health officials are saying this could be around for a while.

The director of the Pan American Health Organization told reporters that she thinks that absent a widely available vaccine, there could be outbreaks in this part of the world for the next two years. In fact, she went on to say, "We must be realistic about the future. All of us must adjust to a new way of life and redefine our sense of normal."

There's a lot left to be learned about the Coronavirus, but the fact of the matter is that right now Latin America and the Caribbean is going through the worst days of this outbreak so far. Matt Rivers CNN, Mexico City.


COREN: The global demand for ships goods has only increased with the Coronavirus pandemic, but many of the sailors bringing it up those items will have stuck on huge vessels as borders closed and flights were canceled. CNN's Ivan Watson reports some shipping companies are worried about the mental health of their sailors who haven't been home for months.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Coronavirus pandemic may have emptied many of the world's airports, but the world's seaports appear as busy as ever. In Hong Kong, colossal cargo ships arrive day and night, each carrying thousands of containers of goods.

It's because of ships like this, that you can then go to the store or order online and get a new shirt or a bottle of shampoo or a tube of toothpaste. This is what helps the goods of the world move around.

But these vital arteries of the global economy are under strain.

How's everybody doing?

Because since the pandemic hit hundreds of thousands of seafarers, the professional mariners who operate these enormous ships have been stranded on these vessels unable to go home.

Okee Alba, this is Jungle Jane, you copy?

I hail the anchored cargo ship. Okee Alba.


WATSON: The second officer, a Filipino father of three named Merwyn Lagan answers.

How long have you been at sea? LAGAN: More than 11 months.

WATSON: You've been working for 11 months straight?

LAGAN: Yes. I should be going home last March. They start already locking down their borders so we have to stay.

WATSON: Governments close their borders and airlines canceled flights when the pandemic struck last winter. That's left seafarers stuck working on ships.

When was the last time you stepped on dry land?


WATSON: Priyanka is the first officer aboard an oil tanker now operating in the Gulf of Mexico. She says, she was supposed to go back home to India when her contract ended two months ago.

PRIYANKA: Immigration authorities are not working right now. And so many airlines have stopped. So basically, there is no access and no passage for the seafarers.

WATSON: Do you have any idea when you will be able to go home again?

PRIYANKA: At present, it is very uncertain. We have no idea.

FRANK COLES, CEO, WALLEM GROUP: I'm worried about the mental welfare, most of all.

WATSON: Priyanka's boss is Frank Coles of the shipping company Wallem Group. He says 35 percent of his 7,000 employees work contracts have expired, and he's struggling to get those people home.

COLES: Well, they feel imprisoned without any reason. They obviously -- the stress becomes heightened, the depression sits in.


WATSON: The International Maritime Organization estimates there are more than 200,000 seafarers around the world waiting to be repatriated. People like my new radio friend Merwyn Lagan.

What do you want to tell people around the world about your job right now?

LAGAN: That the job of a seafarer is very hard. And we are also one of the frontliners to keep the economy running.

WATSON: After 11 months at sea, he says, he still doesn't know when he'll get to go home to see his family again. Ivan Watson, CNN, Hong Kong.


COREN: Be sure to follow the latest developments of the Coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. and around the world. Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosts a CNN global townhall, Coronavirus Facts and Fears. Watch it at 8:00 Thursday evening in New York, that's 8:00 Friday morning in Hong Kong, only on CNN.

Well, the criminal case against President Trump's former National Security Adviser has rattled Washington for years. Still to come, how a court ruling on Wednesday has likely ended the legal battle over Michael Flynn's case.

And the Sandstorm that originated in Africa is turning the Caribbean's beautiful blue skies gray and is heading towards the U.S. More when we return.


COREN: The Trump administration and Michael Flynn is celebrating a big legal victory. On Wednesday, a U.S. federal appeals court ordered the dismissal of the criminal case against Flynn who is President Trump's former national security adviser. The decision likely ends the long running court fight stemming from the Russia investigation.

You'll recall, Flynn pleaded guilty in court twice to lying to the FBI about his conversation with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 presidential transition. Flynn now claims he's innocent. Attorney General William Barr pushed the Justice Department to drop the politically charged case last month. Mr. Trump reacted to the news tweeting, great.

Now, to another legal battle rocking the Trump administration. In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, two Justice Department prosecutors accused Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department are politicizing Roger Stone's criminal case.

Prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky said this sentencing recommendation for Stone, a friend and advisor of President Trump was watered down due to political pressure from what he called highest levels of the Justice Department. Stone was convicted last year of lying to Congress and threatening a witness regarding his efforts for Trump's 2016 campaign. He was sentenced to more than three years in prison.



AARON ZELINSKY, ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY IN MARYLAND: What I saw was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from every other defendant. He received breaks that are, in my experience, unheard of, and all the more so for a defendant in his circumstances, a defendant who lied to Congress, who remained unrepentant, and who made threats against a judge and a witness in his case. And what I heard repeatedly was that this leniency was happening because of Stone's relationship to the President.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COREN: The allegations from Zelinsky and John Elias represent stark public admonishments of William Barr who critics say has taken multiple actions to protect President Trump.

Well, a massive plume of sandy dust from Africa's largest desert has surged across the Atlantic and is now covering parts of the Caribbean. It's turning blue skies into a murky brown haze and setting off air quality warnings. Patrick Oppmann is in Havana, Cuba.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Caribbean right now is being blanketed by a Sandstrom that has come all the way from the Sahara. It sounds incredible, but it's actually something that happens usually every year about this time in the summer.

What is unusual about it though, is the density of the sand. There are scientists who say that has been years, perhaps even decades since they have seen such a thick sand -- so much sand in the air over the Caribbean. And it has gone island by Island.

Now, it is going over the island of Cuba, this morning, Wednesday morning in Havana. It was a normal morning, it seemed perhaps a bit smaller than usual. But throughout the day, we have seen the sky get darker and darker. Behind these buildings that usually would be able to see very clearly, have become more and more blurry.

And that is supposed to continue over the next hours into Thursday morning where meteorologists say that it may actually be unsafe to be outside. They're recommending that everyone wear masks, which people of course alright now because of the Coronavirus outbreak.

They said that people should stay inside, drink lots of water. But otherwise, it really isn't too much of a health risk. What is unusual though, is some of the images we have seen, you can actually see this Sandstorm from space and other islands in the Caribbean and is pretty much blotted out the sun. It made it seem like it was much later in the day than it was. People said that they went the entire day without seeing the sun.

In Cuba right now, it feels a lot hotter than it usually would. It feels like a very muggy, smoggy day. That is just supposed to continue. One good side effect of all this though, is a sign to say that dry hot weather means the hurricanes are unlikely to develop. So while this is going on, they say it is unlikely we will see any hurricanes develop in the Atlantic.

Of course, this is just temporary. The Sandstorm is supposed to pass through the Caribbean eventually get into the United States. And at that point, that effect that blocks hurricanes from forming will be over. Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Havana.


COREN: Well, the Eiffel Tower is reopening on Thursday, but COVID-19 means new measures are in place to get best -- the best views of Paris tourists are going to have to earn.



COREN: The Eiffel Tower, one of the most famous landmarks in the world is reopening. COVID-19 was responsible for its longest closure since World War II. But everything won't be back to normal just yet. Tourists will have to convince themselves that it's no pain, no gain to go up as CNN's Cyril Vanier is about to show us.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: During the worst days of the Coronavirus crisis, Paris's Iron Lady still played her part with a simple message to healthcare workers from a grateful nation, thank you. The Eiffel Tower visited by almost seven million tourists a year, shut down three months, one week, and four days ago.

I haven't been back to the Eiffel Tower in many years and my first impression is that the ground level right here is an underrated vantage point of the tower itself. Just look up. This feels pretty special.

The first level, a reminder that the Eiffel Tower experience is now COVID compatible, distancing, signage, face masks, and hand gel, the new normal. The tower keen to show it's even going a step further, regularly checking that surfaces are well and truly disinfected.

For now, the lifts are closed because of distancing rules. So, if you want the view, well, you have to earn it. It's also more fun this way.

745 steps to the second level, that's a 15-minute climb for an estimated four to 5,000 visitors expected on day one.

PATRICK BRANCO RUIVO, CEO, EIFFEL TOWER: You see the familiar, the best view that we can have from Paris. That's why it gives us a big emotion when you come just here.

VANIER: Notre-Dame, the Louvre, the Sacre Coeur, the Arc de Triomphe, all there if you know where to look.

At the risk of sounding cliche, the view here truly is amazing. You feel like you're floating above the city and you have a direct line of sight to all the landmarks. Cyril Vanier, CNN, Paris.


COREN: What a beautiful city. 745 steps, that is a workout. Well, thanks so much for your company. I'm Anna Coren. The news continues with Rosemary Church after this short break.