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Governor Pushes Schools Reopening as Cases Surge in Florida; U.S. COVID-19 New Cases Break Single-Day Record; Trump Commutes Pal Roger Stone's Prison Sentence; Cases Surge in America's Three Most Populous States; Trump Confirms U.S. Conducted Cyber Attack on Russia; Cases Continue to Spike Dramatically in South America; U.K.'s Black Nurses Battling both COVID-19 and Racism. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired July 11, 2020 - 03:00   ET

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


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MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Yet another day that the coronavirus rampage is out of control in the United States, as cases climb at an alarming rate and we will look at some of the hardest hit states.

President Trump, commuting the sentence of longtime friend and convicted felon, Roger Stone, days before he was due in federal prison.

Also, in the U.K., a tale of two pandemics, coronavirus and racism. The way some black nurses say that they are treated on the job.

Hello, welcome to CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Michael Holmes.

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HOLMES: We begin with another record day in the U.S., more than 66,000 new COVID cases reported on Friday, alone, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That is the highest ever, single day increase, in new cases for the U.S. surpassing the previous record, set, yes, just a day earlier.

Across the country, only four states are experiencing a downward trend and, here in Atlanta, the city's, mayor rolling back its reopening to phase one. That includes, in order for all city residents to stay home, except for essential trips. Remember, the state of Georgia was among the first to reopen.

The U.S. president, Donald Trump, meanwhile, visiting the neighboring state of Florida but not to address the pandemic in any meaningful way, instead, there for a private campaign fundraiser and a few other meetings. That is even as the case numbers in Florida are increasing faster than in any other state, up by almost 1,240 percent since May 4th.

As many as 10 U.S. states are seeing increasing coronavirus death counts and the virus tearing through the U.S., particularly across the South and the West. California and, Texas among the states breaking new case records as well. CNN's Erica Hill, with the latest.

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ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Long lines for testing in Florida. As the numbers there continue to move in the wrong direction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation is really concerned here in South Florida.

HILL (voice-over): Florida is now averaging more than 9,000 new cases a day. A staggering jump of more than 1,200 percent since the state began reopening two months ago.

The president in hard hit Miami-Dade County today though not because the positivity rate there is nearly 30 percent.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: There seems to be this lack of understanding or awareness that we are in one of the most extraordinary public health crises that our nation has ever faced.

HILL (voice-over): U.S. is shattering new case records almost daily. West Virginia now has the highest transmission rate in the country.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): The only bullet in the gun right now is this right here. This little mask.

HILL (voice-over): 10 states seeing an increase in COVID related deaths over the past week, half of those posting their highest average for new cases since the pandemic began.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): I think the numbers are going to look worse as we go into next week and we need to make sure that there's going to be plenty of hospital beds available in the Houston area.

HILL (voice-over): It's not just hospital capacity and ICU beds, personal protective equipment is once again in short supply in some areas.

DEBORAH BURGER, CO-PRESIDENT, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: We've had plenty of time to plan and take action and it has yet to happen.

HILL (voice-over): As some states paused or roll back their reopening plans, many jobs are also on hold. The $600 weekly unemployment boost will run out at the end of July. But the needs of struggling families will not.

Back to school looming with some states just weeks away.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I don't think there's anybody who can make an argument that this is especially risky for kids. We have to accept that and then figure out you know how you fashion policy around it. DR. AILEEN MARTY, INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROFESSOR, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: The viral loads in children are equivalent to that in adults. What does that mean?

That means that they can transmit the virus equally well to other people whether or not they show symptoms.

HILL (voice-over): As districts work to find the right balance, the one constant in every decision, a virus that is here to stay.

DR. MIKE RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: In our current situation, it is very unlikely that we can eradicate or eliminate this virus.

HILL: Dr. Deborah Birx on Friday reiterating guidance about wearing masks.

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HILL: She also said at the ACE 2020 Conference that it is important as a nation that the United States reduce indoor interactions and reduce indoor gatherings -- in New York, Erica Hill. CNN.

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HOLMES: And joining me now is Dr. Raj Kalsi. He's a board-certified emergency medicine physician in Illinois.

Good to see you, Doctor. I keep hearing the White House continues to refer to, quote, "embers" of the virus and says those embers are being handled.

When you look at the virus spread in the U.S., especially compared to other Western nations, when you look at the big picture, do you see embers being handled?

DR. RAJ KALSI, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: What is going on right now, Michael -- and, by the way, thanks for having me back -- this is terrible. COVID is rapidly progressing.

And we see upticks in my community as well and that is what I am very nervous about because that is what I can control, my local area. These are not embers. These are surges. These are ICU capacity-ridden states and people are now begging for the protection they need and the ventilators they need in a second, possibly a third wave of COVID.

HOLMES: At a time when, really, the country is crying out for national leadership here, the president saying the other day, the virus is harmless for 99 percent of people who get it.

I wonder your thoughts but there seems to be only two explanations for that obviously incorrect statement. Either he doesn't understand the numbers and how it works or he is deliberately playing down the risk.

How do you see it? And how dangerous is that kind of talk?

KALSI: Think of it this way, Michael, if the most harmless form of COVID-19, where you have symptoms is a cold or an illness where you are out of work for 3 to 7 days, that is still significant on the family, on the household.

And that virus that individual has can spread to other members of the family and also cause a significant detriment to the family.

Now if you then advance to a moderate or more severe case of COVID, these are hospitalized patients that could be in the hospital for weeks.

And when we talk about the fatality rate, the people who die from COVID, we struggle as doctors for weeks, sometimes months, to keep them alive before we actually pronounced these poor people dead, with great respect to their families and their wishes. So this is not a simple harmless exposure to a virus, like a cold.

HOLMES: How is it in your emergency room?

KALSI: Busy, extremely busy. And here's why. People have developed a complacency and, fortuitously for us, in health care, because we need the dollars and cents to pay for nurses and doctors to work in our industry, we were hemorrhaging money, when we stopped all surgeries and stopped all elective procedures so that we could prepare for the surge.

But now, people are becoming very complacent, very comfortable being around COVID and they are coming back with all of their similar ailments that they did pre-COVID in addition to the COVID patients.

HOLMES: Oh, goodness me. The president was in Florida Friday and the case numbers, as we have been reporting, are frankly alarming there and specifically in the county he visited. Experts say we are in the first wave; the president is talking the virus down.

What are the optics of him being in Florida amid this surge and really not even talking about the virus?

He hardly touched on it.

KALSI: Michael, you know me, we've talked many times. I'm not a politician. But as a doctor, when I see somebody in leadership doing something that is contrary to science, particularly in an international pandemic, it seems to me that it would ignite the base of people that support him in all of the things that he is doing wrong.

So if he is not masking, he is not social distancing, he is not worried that all of the people that follow this gentleman will not do all the things that we're supposed to do, because that is how he is leading.

And this is unfortunate for those of us who are trying to do the best that we can for America.

HOLMES: Yes it is disturbing, the complacency. I see it myself. The push to open schools and reopen those, the president is even threatening to withhold education funding to states that do not do as he says.

Most parents would love their kids to be back in school but when it restarts.

But what do you make of the president simply forcing that issue no matter the state's infection rate, what is the risk of schools becoming super spreader sites?

KALSI: Well, Michael, I promise you as parents of 6-, 8- and 9-year old that had to home school our children for six weeks, we were miserable. We're terrible teachers. That being said, my wife as a nurse and me as a doc, we know the risk.

We know the risk of these kids being what we call vectors, meaning, I'm not as worried about the kids getting infected.

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KALSI: I'm worried about them coming back home and exposing the people that are at risk in the household, the elderly people, the people with comorbidities, heart problems, diabetes, organ transplants, chemotherapy.

That's what's going to happen. And we need to have a good plan on how we are going to mitigate children going back to school before we let this happen.

HOLMES: Yes. I wanted to ask you, too, about, I was reading COVID autopsies finding clotting. I think the quote was in almost every organ, according to the pathologists. And this growing evidence of lasting effects, organs, neurological as well.

Our own Richard Quest wrote about that these past few days. Really it does all show how much we do not know about the virus. Even for those who get it and survive, are you worried about those ongoing issues that seem to be a thing?

KALSI: Absolutely. This -- the COVID-19 syndrome that the novel coronavirus, the illness that it causes in human beings, it causes inflammation. This fundamental concept, this fundamental disease called influential information. It starts in the mouth, the throat, into the lungs, sometimes the stomach and the GI tract.

Inflammation promotes clotting, no matter what causes it. Inflammation promotes clotting and clotting ultimately it leads to death and destruction of organs. And then these downstream consequences that we are seeing -- and I am seeing now people with weird numbness and tingling.

They can't feel their face, right, they're feeling like they're in a fog, they're dizzy and, they were diagnosed with COVID three months ago. This is very disturbing. We know so very little because science doesn't move this fast. This thing only started for America in late January.

HOLMES: Yes, it is, it's extremely worrying. I will leave it there. Dr. Raj Kalsi, good to see you, appreciate your time.

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HOLMES: President Trump's longtime friend, convicted felon, Roger Stone, was just days away from heading to federal prison but now, thanks to the president, he won't see the inside of a jail cell. We explain the details, when we come back.

Also, President Trump visited hard hit Florida and hardly mentioned the coronavirus. How his response to the pandemic is impacting voters, ahead of the election. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.

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HOLMES: Welcome back.

President Trump's longtime friend and former adviser, Roger Stone, is a free man. President Trump commuted Stone's 40-month prison sentence, just days before he was to begin serving his time. Stone, convicted last year of multiple felonies, related to the Russia investigation, including protecting Donald Trump. Seeing Sara Murray, from Washington.

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SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump on Friday night commuted the sentence of his longtime friend and political adviser, Roger Stone.

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MURRAY (voice-over): Stone had been convicted of crimes, including lying to Congress, in part to protect the president. He was set to report to prison next week to kick off his three-year sentence.

Stone was pleading publicly for the president to intervene, he said, reporting to prison during the pandemic was akin to a death sentence because he is 67 years old. Ultimately, the president did intervene on Friday and here's Stone, describing his conversation with Trump.

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ROGER STONE, LONG-TIME TRUMP ALLY: He said, you understand, I have the option, I have the authority to either grant a pardon or commute your sentence. He said, you should understand that a pardon would be final and that in accepting a pardon, you are exceptionally (sic) accepting guilt.

And I would rather see you fight this out, which is why I'm commuting your sentence.

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MURRAY: President Trump and Roger stone are insistent that Stone did not get a fair shake at trial. But even attorney general Bill Barr has said the prosecution was righteous. As for Democrats, they're pointing to the president intervening in this case as an indication that he has no respect for the justice system -- Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.

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HOLMES: Let's talk more about all of this. Senior CNN political analyst, Ron Brownstein, joining me now from Los Angeles.

Always a pleasure, sir. I guess we have to start with the president commuting the sentence of his friend, Roger Stone. The case was pretty much seen by all in the legal world as a slam dunk.

But here's the thing, bear with me, you have Roger Stone convicted, won't go to jail; former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, admitted guilt twice; the Department of Justice wants to drop it now; former advisor, Paul Manafort, convicted, jailed but now out of prison; he will probably get a pardon.

All while ordering criminal prosecutions of his political opponents. This is the sort of thing that the U.S. used to slam other countries for, right?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, in any other presidency, you would say that what we saw today would be inconceivable, that the president commutes the sentence of someone who was convicted of lying to Congress, specifically, in an inquiry relating to the president's own behavior.

Before this administration, before the other examples you cite and the firings of inspectors general and the pushing out of U.S. attorneys, that would've been inconceivable.

But in another sense, it is almost inevitable. After -- when the Republican Senate and one Mitt Romney, when Mitt Romney was the only Republican senator who voted to oppose any consequences on the president for his behavior in Ukraine, Susan Collins famously said he learned a big lesson from this process. And in fact, he did, only not the lesson that she claimed.

The lesson was that there is essentially no constraint on him, because there is no behavior that the Republican Congress will not enable and defend. And I think you are seeing, again, as we've talked about before, a preview of what a second Trump term would be, in terms of its willingness to barrel past not only convention and norms but even potentially the law. It's easy to imagine if this happened a year ago, that there would be

an impeachment inquiry about it.

HOLMES: Well, yes, yes, for obstruction, as you say. He is commuting the sentence of a man who was charged in part with protecting him --

BROWNSTEIN: Exactly right.

HOLMES: -- which is extraordinary.

OK, so the president, in Florida Friday, mentioned COVID in passing and in self-congratulation, while he was there. This is in one of the worst-hit counties in one of the worst-hit states.

Is it a strategy to just put on blinkers and ignore what is happening around the country and in some ways put out disinformation about what's going on?

What is the political cost?

BROWNSTEIN: That's the strategy he's chosen, without question, and it kind of fits into his broader vision of how he has approached the entire presidency, speaking only to his hardcore supporters and worrying very little about what the middle of the country thinks.

The problem with that is that this is beyond the elephant in the room. This is the tsunami at the door. When you are talking about 70,000 cases today, almost 30,000 cases alone, in Florida, Georgia, Texas, Arizona, the four Sun Belt states, where Republican governors opened early, responding to Trump cues and blocked local Democratic officials from restricting their reopening in any way, there is a price to be paid, when you seem to be out of touch.

There was polling today from the ABC Ipsos poll, which is not the best poll in the world but it's certainly considered credible, had two- thirds of America now disapproving of the president's handling of the coronavirus outbreak, as well as two-thirds disapproving of his handling of race relations.

You cannot survive numbers like that. No matter how excited your base is, you are playing to too small a part of the American electorate at that point.

HOLMES: Yes, we have it on the screen now, 33 percent approval for handling of the coronavirus. That is stellar stuff when you consider his immovable base. You mentioned these states, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, key states for his reelection.

And as you point out all followed his lead to reopen early, stunning COVID case numbers, resisting moves to combat it.

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HOLMES: What are the political risks, what I know you call Sun Belt states? BROWNSTEIN: Yes, well, look, I believe one of the central battlefields in American politics in the coming decade is whether the big metro areas in the Sun Belt -- Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix in particular -- follow what we have seen in big suburban and metro areas elsewhere in the country, like Denver, Northern Virginia, Charlotte, in the past decade, the coasts in the '90s, in moving toward the Democratic Party.

That has begun to happen, particularly in 2018 -- so Beto O'Rourke and Stacey Abrams do much better in these big suburban counties, around the largest cities in Texas and in Georgia, as well as in Arizona, where the Democrats win Maricopa County.

If that continues in 2020, those are the places that are being hardest-hit right now and not only are the hardest hit by the coronavirus, those are the places where the political combat is most visible and intense because that's where you have Democratic local officials who are trying to roll back the reopening and are explicitly being blocked, as Brian Kemp was today, blocked the mayor of Atlanta today; Greg Abbott in Texas, blocking the county executive in Harris.

And if you continue to see the movement in these big metro areas of the Sun Belt, it is possible -- likely, that you will see Arizona tip to the Democrats in this election; maybe Georgia; conceivably, even, Texas. Obviously, there is no path to a Republican presidency if they cannot rely on Texas.

So stakes are big and this is reinforcing something that's already been going on.

HOLMES: Absolutely, extraordinary, when you think of those four states in particular in play. I wanted to ask you before we go, you had Donald Trump bragging that he aced this cognitive test, the doctors were amazed he did so well.

A lot of people are wondering, why doctors be amazed that he did so well on what is a pretty straightforward test. But the thing I wanted to ask you about, what we have is two candidates, where the opponents question the mental acuity of the other.

It is extraordinary in itself.

What does it say about the tone of this campaign going forward?

BROWNSTEIN: Well before you get to the tone, it's not a great statement about the state of American politics, that we have, in a country as young and scrappy and hungry, like my country is, as they say in "Hamilton," that we have two septuagenarians running against each other. It's really not a great outcome.

And there's almost no circumstance under which Joe Biden would've been the Democratic nominee 50 years after he was first elected to office, which, by the way, is the longest span in American political history, if it wasn't for Donald Trump.

He was seen specifically as the solution, the antidote, to a very particular problem, Trump's strength with blue-collar white voters in the Midwest. So it does show there is a need for revitalization in both of these parties.

But looking forward, Trump is facing the kind of approval rating among an incumbent that almost always ensures your defeat. There is only one way out of that, is to make some of the voters who disapprove of him even more reluctant to accept Joe Biden as an alternative.

I don't think you can do that from 40 percent. You have to get yourself back closer to somewhere like 45 percent or 46 percent.

But what does that point you toward?

That points you toward a complete scorched Earth campaign to discredit and disqualify Biden with voters who are now disillusioned with Trump.

HOLMES: Yes, going to be ugly. Ron Brownstein, as always, a pleasure, thanks for your time.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: We are taking a quick break, when we come, back on CNN NEWSROOM, now we know for sure, the president makes an admission about a cyberattack on Russia. Find out what he said.

Also, Brazil's president, no longer the Latin America's only leader with COVID-19. We'll have the details, when we come back.

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HOLMES: A first time official admission from U.S. president, Donald Trump, he has said that the U.S. conducted a covert cyber attack, on Russia, in 2018. This confirmation, of sorts, came during an interview with "The Washington Post" columnist, the target, he, says was a troll farm from the U.S. that blamed from interfering in the 2016 and 2018 elections.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins us now, joining from Warsaw in Poland.

As the president is telling, it how did this alleged attack work?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This was on a run up to the 2018 midterms and, of course, we know from back then, maybe the Democratic, Party but some of the administration, who are saying that they believe the U.S. was, once again, under something of an attack by this Internet Research Agency, by the troll agency, which, as you mentioned, was already active, in 2018, aiming to sow discord among the U.S. electorate. If you remember, at that time, the Director of National Intelligence,

Dan Coats, came out and said, he believes the United States was under attack. The Democrats were calling for President Trump to do something.

And as he has now admitted, he seems to have said that the cyber attack against the Internet Research Agency, should go forward. This was very much a landmark case in all of this, because it was the first time the United States can do this under the unified cyber command and they say, they say the attack was largely very successful, that it managed to get the research agency off line, as they put it and obviously put an end to some of those trolling activities, that were once again shaping up.

The U.S. still reeling from what happened in 2016, that some believe, that the Mueller report certainly believes, that in 2016, the Internet research agency was very much active in the U.S. electorate, trying to sow discord there and then, as well.

HOLMES: Very quickly, we've only got a few seconds but how active is the agency now?

PLEITGEN: That's one of the things. It is still quite active. The interesting thing about the Internet research agency. It has change its name and changed its legal status within Russia. But it is still doing the same things hesitant before. One of the things, that we have seen and some of us have seen, they seem to have gotten more sophisticated in their methods and seem to be using different platforms, now than they have in the past.

In 2016, a lot of it was via Facebook groups, now, they seem to have gone more toward things like Instagram, rather than Facebook but by and large, the activity still seems to be the same.

Michael, one of the things we have to keep in mind, the Internet research agency or what was the Internet research agency and the new way it is doing things now, it is part of a larger media empire, by a businessman who is close to Vladimir Putin. Certainly, the money is still, very much there for them to continue the activities, Michael.

HOLMES: Carrying on, as it were. Fred Pleitgen in Warsaw, appreciate it, thank you.

Still to come, more medical personnel, under pressure, because of the coronavirus, of course. But black nurses, in the U.K., facing another scourge at the same time, racism.

Also, when we come back, how one of the first states to reopen its economy, is responding to an alarming spike in coronavirus cases. Stay with us, we will be right back.

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HOLMES: Welcome back, the U.S. is breaking its own daily coronavirus record for the third, time in the past four days. Johns Hopkins University has a number of new cases, just under 67,000, on Friday alone. More cases are leading to more people being hospitalized of, course in Arizona, people have been waiting in long lines just to get tested, while major hospitals are nearing capacity. Since Florida reopened, aggressively, its case numbers have gone up by more than 1,200 percent.

America's leading disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the state jumped over checkpoints in reopening. Florida's governor, though, defends his decision to reopen the state when he did, as he moves forward with plans to reopen schools.

Texas, meanwhile, providing onsite COVID-19 testing, at assisted living facilities and nursing homes, with same day results. Showing you the numbers in the state, obvious they're soaring. Confirmed cases nearing a quarter million hospitalizations and deaths, also up and the governor says he doesn't think next week will bring any relief. CNN's Ed Lavandera with the latest from Dallas.

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ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been another record setting week here in Texas, the coronavirus statistics continue to raise all sorts of alarms all across this state. Let's take a look at some of the basic numbers.

The number of new coronavirus cases being reported have jumped almost 40,000 in the last four days. That's almost 10,000 per day. And the total number of people who have died because of coronavirus in the state has now topped the 3,000 mark. Nearly another 100 people reported dead on this Friday as well.

So those are alarming statistics as city officials, health officials all across the state are reporting troubling signs of just how much stress is being put on the hospital systems all across the state.

And the governor here in Texas, Greg Abbott, who was one of the first governors to reopen the state economies here in the United States, is now saying that next week could be worse.

And one of the factors that he has been looking at over the last few months is the positive infection rate that are coming back on all of these coronavirus tests in all of these cases. The positive infection rate now has jumped to almost 15 percent.

Just to give you an idea of how dramatically things have changed here in Texas, that number was just at 4.2 percent at the end of May. And that is where state officials had pointed to as being one of the factors that lead them to want to reopen the economy here.

But all of that talk is essentially over for now, as the governor here is preparing residents in the state for a dramatically worse week next week with the coronavirus -- Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas, Texas.

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HOLMES: Meanwhile, President Jair Bolsonaro is still hoping that Brazil will reopen as soon as possible, even as he battles the disease himself, in semi-isolation. CNN's Patrick Oppmann, has more, on the alarming spike, in Latin American countries.

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JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT: (Speaking Spanish).

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the coronavirus test result heard around the world. Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro is not the first head of state to test positive for the coronavirus but he perhaps more than any other leader has dismissed the impact of the pandemic.

[03:35:00]

OPPMANN (voice-over): On Tuesday, Bolsonaro revealed that he had caught what he had once termed "a little flu" and continued to downplay the danger coronavirus presents, even though the death toll in Brazil is now around 70,000.

"Younger people, take care. But if you are affected by the virus, rest assured that, for you, the possibility of something more serious is close to zero," Bolsonaro claimed falsely.

The coronavirus is raging through Latin America and the Caribbean with a particular vengeance. This week, the number of reported cases reached 3 million. In a region plagued by economic disparity, many live in crowded slums and can't afford to not work or socially distance.

In Peru, many people don't own a refrigerator and have to regularly leave their homes to stock up on food. Despite a strict lockdown, over 11,000 people have died from the pandemic. But increasingly the coronavirus is hitting those at the top of the food chain as well as those at the bottom.

On Thursday, the interim president of Bolivia, Jeanine Anez, also announced she tested positive for the virus. At least four other top officials in Bolivia have also tested positive, including the country's health minister and armed forces chief. Anez is now the third Latin American head of state to fall ill.

"I urge the population to collaborate and contribute," she said, "so that they know security measures not only save their lives and avoid contagion but also save the lives and avoid contagion for their families."

In Mexico, the number of reported deaths topped 33,000 and the number of infected is more than 280,000, although some health experts say the true toll could be far greater. Before heading to the White House to meet President Trump, Mexican

president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was required to take a test for the coronavirus, something he had so far resisted doing. The results came back negative.

The second most powerful official in Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello, was not as lucky. Cabello, who the U.S. government has indicted, along with president Nicolas Maduro for drug trafficking and accuses of siphoning off tens of millions of dollars in state funds, announced Thursday he had also tested positive.

Cabello said he would go into isolation quarantine with, quote, "his head held high."

Latin American populist leaders who continue to hold rallies during a pandemic threaten to spread the disease to their supporters and themselves. Before falling ill, Jair Bolsonaro assured crowds in Brazil they had nothing to fear.

But the grim side of mass graves being dug in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo tells a much different story -- Patrick Oppmann, CNN.

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HOLMES: The U.K.'s prime minister, saying that England may need stricter face mask rules, we will show you Boris Johnson here, wearing a face covering himself. He says, he wants to see the morning shops in England, as they are in Scotland.

Meanwhile, Britain relaxing quarantine rules for travelers from some countries, including France and Italy but not, however, the United States.

The coronavirus is not the only pressing challenge. Health care workers in the U.K., finding themselves confronting the other, racism, a societal ill that is deeply ingrained. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz speaks to black nurses there and discovers the disparities they must overcome every day.

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SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Racism and coronavirus, twin pandemics that are forcing a reckoning across the world.

PROTESTERS: Black Lives Matter!

ABDELAZIZ: Efe Obiakor, a nurse of 12 years, who says she's on the front line of both battles, treating COVID-19 while also fighting for equality.

EFE OBIAKOR, NURSE: As a black nurse it's very important for me to come out today because in the system where I work and the NHS, as a whole, there is racism.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): And what do you face on a daily basis? OBIAKOR: You just feel you're drowning and nobody is hearing your voice. On the coronavirus of course it got worse because you had more of the blacks in the forefront.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Obiakor is not alone. CNN interviewed a dozen black nurses across England, all say they faced systemic discrimination that only got worse when the pandemic hit.

(on camera): We asked NHS England about these testimonies of racism. It says it's doing everything it can to address discrimination swiftly and effectively, but they admitted that COVID-19 has shown a spotlight on stark health inequalities.

(voice-over): At her home in South London, nurse Neomi Bennett said that racism is so pervasive there's a code to warn each other.

NEOMI BENNETT, NURSE: I have been to wards before and I will say to the nurse as I'm getting handed over, what is it like?

[03:40:00]

BENNETT: She will say, you know, just be (INAUDIBLE).

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): What does that mean?

BENNETT: It basically means that the staff here, they're not really fond of black people and there is going to be some forms of discrimination in the shift. Also with the allocations, sometimes you're literally allocated to the worst ever place to work and sometimes you might be given a lot more patients.

ABDELAZIZ: The pandemic, coronavirus hits.

Does it get worse or better for nurses?

BENNETT: From my experience it definitely became quite challenging. It just made me feel really undervalued.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Undervalued and under fire. About 20 percent of England's NHS medical staff are minorities, but early analysis shows they accounted for 60 percent of health care worker deaths from COVID-19.

Ken Sazuze knows the risks. A few years ago, he and his wife Elsie went back to school to become nurses.

KEN SAZUZE, STUDENT NURSE: I wasn't aware of the discrimination side of nursing until when I studied it. Then I saw, boom, it's different. It's dangerous.

ABDELAZIZ: The childhood sweethearts endured racism as a team and Elsie soon graduated and got a job in the NHS.

SAZUZE: They headed it in the NHS, if I could be honest.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): And you feel she was treated differently because of the color of her skin? Because she was black.

SAZUZE: Not only because she was black, because you're black, you're trying to change the system. Because the system is designed black will be the last.

ABDELAZIZ: So she goes through this for four years and she said it's time to go?

SAZUZE: I can't do it anymore.

ABDELAZIZ: And she says I can't do it because of the racism and the discrimination?

SAZUZE: Yes.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): She never reported out of fear of retribution. Elsie found a new job in a local care home, life got better and then much worse.

This is the last video Ken filmed of his wife. The mother of two died a few days later of COVID-19.

SAZUZE: I could feel a little bit of warmth. But when I saw the machines I could understand that life is gone. I couldn't tell my kids.

ABDELAZIZ: But her passion lives on.

SAZUZE: I want to continue her legacy.

ABDELAZIZ (on camera): So even with everything you have faced?

SAZUZE: It doesn't change my world. I don't let the bad people change me, no. I will always help people, regardless of where they come from, what color they are, what they say to me. I'll still love people.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): The words of a survivor, but surviving the system is never enough -- Salma Abdelaziz, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: Thank you for spending part of your day with me, I'm Michael, Holmes appreciate that. Do stay tuned for now, "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" coming, up in about 20 minutes or so, Natalie Allen will have more news for you.