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Forty-eight U.S. States to Reopen; White House Trade Adviser Points Finger at CDC for Testing Problems; President Trump Says Obama is Incompetent; WHO Warns of COVID-Related Disease in Children; Spain to Enter Phase Two of Reopening; U.K. Prime Minister Accepts Public Frustration Over Lockdown Rules; Italy Takes Calculated Risk to Reopen; Brazil is Now Fourth Most Infected Nation; Mike Pompeo Backtracks on Theory of Origin of Coronavirus. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired May 18, 2020 - 02:00   ET




ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Hi, welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You're watching "CNN Newsroom." I'm Robyn Curnow.

So, just ahead here on the show, blame game at the White House. Why a top advisor is criticizing the government agency that typically plays the lead role during a public health crisis in the U.S.

Secretary of State no longer sounds confident that the coronavirus originated in a Wuhan lab, but he still blaming China for that epidemic.

Plus, he's been called a medical miracle, a father who spent 18 days on a ventilator and then went home after a month in hospital.

So across the United States, 48 of the 50 states are all reopening to some degree and many are closely watching to see if more mobility causes a spike in COVID-19 infections. Now, Texas could be a telling case.

It's launched one of the most aggressive reopenings yet and more restrictions will be relaxed today. That is after a weekend of pretty grim figures as you can see from this. Texas just reported its single biggest increase in new COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is in full on blame mode, with the White House trade adviser taking swipes at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: Early on in this crisis, the CDC, which really had the most trusted brand around the world in this space, really let the country down with the testing because not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test. And that did set us back.


CURNOW: Now, we will have the CDC sharp rebuke a little bit later on, but the president himself is also casting blame now on his predecessor.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, he was an incompetent president. That's all I can say. Grossly incompetent. Thank you.


CURNOW: Then he went on to twitter and repeated that, to call Obama not just the most incompetent, but also part as most of the corrupt administration in U.S. history.

Now, these latest insults come after Obama told graduating seniors that the pandemic has exposed the inadequacies of America's current leaders. And across the U.S., the death toll has now risen to nearly 90,000 people.

That is almost 30 percent of the world's confirmed coronavirus fatalities, even though the U.S. makes up less than 5 percent of the global population. But as Natasha Chen now reports, no amount of troubling data is dampening the drive to reopen.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At least 48 states will have partially reopened businesses or eased restrictions by tomorrow. And with it comes some familiar sites. NASCAR held a race with no spectators today. Graceland is inviting visitors back. But also with it, troubling images of crowded bars and boardwalks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels like a regular summer right now.

TRUMP: Tremendous progress is being made.

CHEN (voice-over): President Trump has encouraged reopening the country with or without a vaccine. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar explained.


ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Everything does not depend on a vaccine. We are committed to delivering a vaccine. We're going to put the full power of the U.S. government and our private sector towards getting to a vaccine, but that's one part of a multi-factoral response program.


CHEN (voice-over): One of the important factors is expanding testing. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was tested during his live press conference today.


CHEN (voice-over): New York is now conducting 40,000 tests a day. Cuomo said, per capita, that's more than other countries. More testing is one of the reasons Texas says it saw the highest single day increase in new cases since the shutdown began. And that has some officials in Texas wondering if they are on the wrong path.

STEVE ADLER, MAYOR OF AUSTIN, TEXAS: What we do know based on our last six to eight weeks is that if we are on the wrong path, we're going to be able to react in time to fix it. And if that happens, I sure hope the governor is on board for that.

CHEN (voice-over): Georgia, one of the most aggressive in opening high contact businesses as early as three weeks ago, has not seen a dramatic spike in the seven-day average of daily new cases, but there hasn't been a dramatic drop either.

Wandie Bethune's family has been watching carefully and did not go out before this weekend.

WANDIE BETHUNE, ATLANTA RESIDENT: I just did not feel as if we were really ready and I wanted to feel that the establishments were really taking the proper precautions.


ELAINA BETHUNE, ATLANTA RESIDENT: It's actually very scary, but it's kind of exciting and happy that you get to go outside to some places that you enjoy again, but you also have to be very careful.

CHEN (voice-over): In New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, a phased reopening did not begin until Friday and only in certain regions. The state seven-day average of daily new cases has been on an obvious downward slide.

CUOMO: Total hospitalization is down. Good news. Net change is down. Intubation is down. And new COVID hospitalizations are down. So it's a good day across the plate.

CHEN (voice-over): California, the first to institute a statewide stay-at-home order, is seeing numbers fluctuate in the same zone but its budget deficit, like in many other states, is skyrocketing due to the pandemic.

The house passed a $3 trillion aid package Friday that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has indicated would not pass the Senate.

GAVIN NEWSOM, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: The next time they want to salute and celebrate our heroes, our first responders, our police officers, our firefighters, consider the fact that they are the first ones who will be laid off by cities and counties.

CHEN (voice-over): A reality of uncertainty. Natasha Chen, CNN, Atlanta. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CURNOW: We know that the Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar, also suggested underlying conditions, especially among minority communities, were factors in the disease killing so many Americans. Here he is telling CNN's Jake Tapper that diversity is part of the problem.


AZAR: Every death is tragic, but we have maintained our health care burden within the capacity of our system to actually deal with it. Unfortunately, the American population is a very diverse and it is a population with significant unhealthy comorbidities that do make many individuals in our communities.

In particular African-American, minority communities, particularly at risk here because of significant underlying disease, health disparities, and disease comorbidities, and that is an unfortunate legacy in our health care system that we certainly do need to address.

But know the response here in the United States has been historic to keep us within our health care capacity, even in New York, and New York City, to keep this within capacity. It's genuinely a historic result.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I want to give you an opportunity to clear it up because it sounded like you were saying that the reason that there is so many dead Americans is because we're unhealthier than the rest of the world. And I know that's not what you meant.

AZAR: Oh, no. I think that there's -- we have a significantly disproportionate burden of comorbidities in the United States. Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, these are demonstrated facts that do make us at risk for any type of disease burden.



CURNOW: Let's discuss this further with Sanjaya Senanayake. He's an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at the Australian National Medical School. Good to see you, sir. Thanks for joining us.

You just heard those comments there from, you know, a top person within the U.S. here, saying that the reason America is the worst in terms of the death toll is because of obesity, and inequality, and hypertension, and diabetes, and diversity. But countries around the world all have that as well.

SANJAYA SENANAYAKE, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: Yes, that's right. I mean, certainly, we do know that people who get severe episodes of COVID are more likely to have certain underlying chronic conditions, chronic heart disease, chronic lung disease, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, et cetera, but that's not necessarily- CURNOW: But those aren't exclusive to the U.S.

SENANAYAKE: No, no, exactly. It's not exclusive to the U.S. at all. And just because you have them and you have COVID isn't necessarily a death sentence either. So, there are other factors too.

So, how quickly did you get tested? How quickly could you seek testing? And were you able to get into a hospital in time. Did the hospital have the capacity to look after you in terms of doctors, nurses and ventilators? So, all of those are factors as well.

CURNOW: Yes, they certainly are. I want to talk about some of those underlying conditions just a moment, but also when we talk about America, most states here are reopening. We see people, certainly gathering, going out, trying to get back to normal despite the fact that the figures are perhaps telling another story.

Do you think there is a danger of complacency when people see, oh, it seems okay, I don't know anybody who's had this even though that perhaps social distancing is working?

SENANAYAKE: I think there is an enormous danger of complacency, not just in the U.S., but here in Australia where we had a reasonable amount of success in controlling the outbreak and we've recently lifted restrictions. And we are seeing people go into the shopping mall and being very close together and not socially distancing at all.


I mean, you go from that almost siege mentality of being stuck at home for so long to suddenly having to be out and you get a euphoric feeling when you can mix with other people. So that can happen. It's a big danger.

CURNOW: Yes. And obviously, someone is trying to call you, perhaps they're telling you that they see you on CNN at the moment, but wither way, hopefully you've got someone to pick up your phone there.

But if that's what happen and we all work from home in the first place. But it's good to know people are calling in and asking for your advice because I do want to know, I think a lot of parents, even if you have been watching the news, have been really concerned about children and inflammatory problems. What do you know about this?

SENANAYAKE: So, I think this virus is throwing us curveballs all the time. We are learning more and more about it. And even though it seems like we have been having this outbreak for an eternity, it's only been about five months.

So what we are seeing in certain numbers of children in the U.S. and Europe is this inflammatory condition which is shares traits with non- conditions that we've seen people called Kawasaki disease in children. Another one called toxic shock syndrome.

Now, we think it's associated with COVID-19 because it's occurred in areas with a lot of COVID and some of the kids with this have tested positive for COVID, but not all of them have. So the World Health Organization has recently put up the case definition and said we have to study this further.

But it seems to be a fairly rare syndrome and the reason that it might be being seen in the northern hemisphere a lot more than in the southern hemisphere is because there is a lot more COVID about.

CURNOW: Okay. So that's one thing that certain has people concerned. We also know that there is a diversity of problems. This isn't just a respiratory disease. So we are seeing clotting, increase of strokes, particularly in middle aged or younger people where you wouldn't normally present with a stroke. What do you make of that as well in terms of diversity of symptoms?

SENANAYAKE: That's right. And again, you've hit the nail on the head. This isn't just a sore throat and a cough and a pneumonia. This is an infection which excites the inflammatory system particularly in critically ill people.

And in some intensive care units, about 30 percent of people with COVID or sick enough to be in intensive care are getting clots in the veins in their legs and they are getting clots in the lungs. And a recent study in the U.K., they did CAT scans of the lungs in people with severe COVID, and they found that a lot of the blood vessels were clotted contributing to low oxygen levels. So, this is a complex infection, which acts as a lot of (inaudible).

CURNOW: Yes, it certainly is. Professor, great to have your expertise. Thanks for joining us there live from Canberra. Have a lovely day.

So several European nations are taking more steps to reopen, struggling to find this balance between caution and progress. So we know some parts of Spain are now entering what they call phase 2, allowing more people to go dine in restaurants or to use sports facilities.

Most of the country though is in still in phase one, which is more restrictive. And the country's biggest cities, Barcelona and Madrid are still under strict lockdown rules there.

Meanwhile, Germany's biggest football club, Bayern Munich, played its first match in more than two months on Sunday in an empty stadium, still beating Berlin, 2 - nil.

Nurses in Belgium's capital staged a silent protest as you can see here, turning their backs on the country's prime minister. Local media say the medical staff want more acknowledgment and want to keep unqualified staff from carrying out nursing duties.

And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he knows the public has been frustrated and confused with how the government is beginning to ease lockdown restrictions there.

Well, Isa Soares joins me now from London with more on all of that. That coming -- those comments coming from Boris Johnson, at the same time, that half of U.S. doctors are saying that they are worried about catching it.

ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much so. Good morning to you Robyn. This is a survey that was conducted by the Royal College of Physicians here in the U.K., 25,000 in fact of them. And 48 percent of those surveyed said that they are concerned or very concerned, Robyn, about catching COVID-19.

That number rise is quite significantly if you have a look at the graph, to 78 percent worried about contracting COVID-19 among black, Asian, and ethnic minority doctors according to this survey. And 16.5 percent of them have found themselves in situations without access to PPE over the last few weeks.


Now, the president of the Royal College of Physicians says that whilst people think that everything is okay on the frontlines, that morale is good on the frontlines, this shows that that isn't the case.

Yes, PPE has improved, testing has improved significantly over the last several weeks, but it's still taking a bit to try and get results. With more than 14 percent of doctors saying it's taken four days or so to get the results. Channel: 105 date: 05/18/2020 time started: 02:15 time ended: 02:20

So, important survey here from the Royal College of Physicians, worth reminding everyone that more than 100 NHS staff, National Health Insurance staff here have died of COVID-19.

CURNOW: Okay, Isa, thanks for that update, appreciate it.

So, Italy is further relaxing its lockdown measures and entering into its next phase of reopening, taking what the prime minister calls, a calculated risk. For more on all of this, let's go to Barbie Nadeau in Rome.

And Barbie, you are reporting from where you're standing now for weeks and weeks and weeks, and at least now, I suppose there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It does feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel, but people are nervous about how to take these very first delicate steps towards what is supposed to be normal.

It is anything but normal though. People going around in masks, there is plexiglass in the coffee bars, restaurants will open for seating for the first time tonight. That's going to be really interesting to see how that works.

You know, how the waiters will be able to bring the food. These things are just so basic, but yet, they seem so dangerous in this time of coronavirus. But the country is ready to reopen and the numbers suggest that the contagion is under control and people are ready to get back to their lives, Robyn.

CURNOW: So, what has been the main concern from Italians? Do they feel like their government has handled this well? And is there still this deep concern about the toll it's taken, particularly on health care workers in the north?

NADEAU: Oh yes, there are so many, many different concerns. You know, we're seeing today retail stores opened, but we're seeing lots of stores with signs on them saying that they are not going to be able to open unless they get government help.

There are a lot of stores that are saying will not open at all because they've just not been able to maintain the staff or pay the rent or to keep the stores open.

You know, we'll get a clearer picture of how all of that comes together as the week progresses. You know, there is frustration with the government in a lot of different sectors, especially in the south of the country where the contagion level wasn't nearly as high as it was in the north.

Those people there feel that they have sacrificed a lot for the contagion that was out of control in the north. In terms of the health care workers, the health minister said last night that there are - the number of ICU beds will be increased by 115 percent.

Now, you know, that is to prepare for a potential second wave of coronavirus, so people feel that they are very prepared for whatever happens next, but very careful about how we get there, Robyn.

CURNOW: But for the moment, they want to go out and have a coffee. Thanks so much, Barbie Nadeau, appreciate it.

So, Brazil has overtaken Spain now as the world's 4th most infected nation. It's reporting more than 241,000 cases, more than 16,000 deaths. Look at that graph.

Well, yet, Brazilian Prime Minister Jair Bolsonaro is continuing to flout social distancing guidelines himself. On Sunday, Mr. Bolsonaro disregarded public health advice, posing for photographs with a crowd of supporters.

So you're watching "CNN Newsroom." I'm Robyn Curnow. Still to come, U.S. Secretary of State is no longer confident that coronavirus originated in this Chinese lab, but he is still blaming China for the pandemic. The latest on that war of words.



CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow. Its 22 minutes past the hour. So, the U.S. Secretary of State is again backing away from the conspiracy theory he promoted that the coronavirus came from a lab in Wuhan, China. Mike Pompeo says the U.S. is still certain the pandemic originate in that city, but now says officials have not pinpointed the exact location.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We know it began in Wuhan, but we don't know from where or from whom. And those are important things. One of the key facts for scientists and epidemiologists to build out vaccines and therapeutics and to identify how this was ultimately delivered to the world, you have to know where patient zero began, and how patient zero became infected.


CURNOW: Well, just a few weeks ago, Pompeo insisted the virus came out of this lab and claimed there was enough evidence to prove it. Take a listen.


MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS HOST: Mr. Secretary, have you seen anything that gives you high confidence that it originated in that Wuhan lab?

POMPEO: Martha, there is enormous evidence that that's where this began. We have said from the beginning that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan, China. We took a lot of grief for that from the outside, but I think the whole world can see now.


CURNOW: Well, Steven Jiang is in Beijing with more details on all of this. Clearly, as you can hear there, the U.S. Secretary of State backpedalling from earlier comments. What is the reaction where you are?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Robyn, I think the Chinese government and state media very much going to seize upon these latest remarks from Pompeo as further proof that he is, in their words, a pathological liar who is trying to smear China and shift the blame away from the U.S. government.

Now, this particular claim about the virus was leaked from a Wuhan lab has always been disputed by many experts and scientists from around the world and there's not even a great amount of consensus among U.S. intelligence officials themselves, as well as those from its closest allies.

So, the Chinese government has really been trying to highlight all of these points, but also increasingly trying to turn the tables on the U.S. government, saying, pointing to its own past lapses and bio safety, saying it's the U.S. government that needs to be investigated, instead of the Chinese government.

Now, this kind of rhetoric, obviously, amid growing international calls for independent inquiry on the origin of the pandemic. The Chinese have seen this as a move against the Beijing government, so they've been pushing back very strongly, saying this is not a time to do so, as most governments are still fighting this pandemic.

[02:25:06 They say the appropriate time for such an investigation is after the pandemic is over, then the international community can sit down to review their experiences and shortcomings as well as discuss ways for more cooperation, Robyn.

CURNOW: Just give us a sense of what it's like in China at the moment, getting in and out, if possible, moving between cities. This is in many ways, you guys are, you know, three or four months ahead of much of the world, what's it like?

JIANG: That's right. I think, domestically here in China, it's very much a slow return, a gradual return, to a state of new normal. Meaning, crowds have returned to the streets and more people are taking their masks off in outdoor areas.

And a lot of businesses have reopened as well, but you still have these obsessive health screenings and checks as well as tracking of people's movements. Now, this of course comes as you still have a small number of new cases on a daily basis.

The latest figures we are seeing is seven, on the previous 24-hour cycle, three of which were locally transmitted, including one in shanghai, involving someone from Wuhan.

That is why you see the Wuhan authorities continue their very challenging task of testing the cities, 11 million residents, even though now they have clarified a little, saying they are -- this is not mandatory. They are only strongly encouraging people above the age of six to take this test.

And if you hear from the authorities that means you are positive. But they still haven't said how they are going to announce test results from their citywide effort, Robyn.

CURNOW: Okay. Thanks for the update, live from Beijing, Steven, appreciate it.

So you're watching "CNN Newsroom." Still to come, a White House adviser publicly criticizes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the CDC response. The latest on the coronavirus finger-pointing.




CURNOW: Welcome back. Thanks for joining me. I'm Robyn Curnow. So CNN first reported President Trump is scheduled to tour a Ford Motor Company plant in Michigan this week. The automaker says the White House wants to thank its workers for producing medical supplies and equipment during the pandemic.

But while the administration has praised for Ford, it's been critical of one U.S. Agency at the forefront of the coronavirus fight. CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond now reports. Jeremy? JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it would be remarkable at any moment for a top White House official to criticize a government agency, but particularly remarkable when it's the senior White House official who is criticizing the Centers for Disease Control amid a global pandemic. But that is exactly what we heard from Peter Navarro, President Trump's top trade adviser who criticized the CDC on Sunday for its early testing failures.


PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: Early on in this crisis, the CDC which really had the most trusted brand around the world in this space really let the country down with the testing, because not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test, and that did set us back.


DIAMOND: Now, Navarro was actually right in his criticism here that the CDC made critical mistakes early on, that delayed the release of accurate testing kits across the country for several weeks. But of course, that was just one of several early missteps by the Trump administration. So the question is, why is Navarro singling out the CDC.


DIAMOND: But -- and what we do know is that it comes as there are rising tensions between the White House and the Centers for Disease Control. Part of that tension stems from some disagreements over how the CDC is tracking data related to this virus. But then there's also those detailed guidelines, 68 pages of guidelines that CDC officials compiled for how businesses and states can begin to reopen. The White House shelved those plans instead releasing just six pages of far less detailed guidelines last week.

Now, as there is some internal firing in the Trump administration, we are also hearing some criticism from a very prominent voice on the outside, and that is the former President Barack Obama who we know just a week ago had been criticizing President Trump's response to the coronavirus as anemic and spotty, calling it an absolute chaotic disaster. He offered some more criticism this time publicly during an address the graduates on Saturday.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: More than anything, this pandemic is fully finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge, know what they're doing. A lot of them aren't even pretending to be in charge.


DIAMOND: President Trump, over the last week, has been repeatedly attacking former President Obama leveling a series of unsubstantiated allegations against him, including suggesting that he was part of a conspiracy to try and undermine his presidency in the early days against, for which we do not have any evidence to back up those claims.

President Trump did respond directly to that criticism from President Obama on Sunday afternoon. All he had to say though, was that President Obama was grossly incompetent as President. Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.


CURNOW: Thanks, Jeremy. So CNN spoke with a senior official from the CDC who had this to say in response to this criticism. "We should remind Mr. Navarro that the CDC is a federal agency, part of the administration. The CDC director is an appointed position, and Dr. Redfield was appointed by President Trump. If there's criticism of the CDC, ultimately, Mr. Navarro is being critical of the President and the man who the President picked to place to lead the agency."

Well, the U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman is giving a sobering reality check on the health of the U.S. economy. In an interview with CBS 60 Minutes, he said a recovery is not going to happen right away.


JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE: This economy will recover. It may take a while. It may take a period of time. It could stretch through the end of next year. We really don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can there be a recovery without a reasonably effective vaccine?

POWELL: Assuming there's not a second wave of the coronavirus, I think you'll see the economy recover steadily through the second half of this year. For the economy to fully recover, people will have to be fully confident, and that may have to await the arrival of a vaccine.


CURNOW: Well, several major automakers will reopen their U.S. facilities today with new safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Ford will provide testing and four Heartland cities would operates plants. Ford joins General Motors and Fiat Chrysler in restarting production this month. Well, Anna Stuart joins me now with more on all of that. Hi Anna. What can you tell us?


ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: So thousands of workers will be finally heading back to work after weeks and weeks of their factories being shut down. It will look incredibly different for the workers of Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler. They'll be going back to factories where social distancing will be part of the process.

So, far fewer shifts would have to work at the same time. There'll be cleaning between shifts, deep cleaning. There'll be time for people to push on their PPE. And it goes all the way down as canteens are being -- you know, people will be spaced apart, so you just simply can't have as many people in the same places at the same time.

These carmakers are taking the lead from factories in Asia and Europe which have already started to reopen. So many actually have the same measures. Some interesting technology, Ford are going to be trying out some watches that factory workers will wear. If they come too close to another factory worker, it will alert them. So we're seeing a bit of a development there.

Many of the same measures, not much capacity in terms of the cars and not all of the workforce were back at the same time. So 80 percent of the workforce are starting this week, and around a third for General Motors, a third for Fiat Chrysler. So back to work for many but not for all.

CURNOW: Who wants to buy a car under the current economic conditions? Anna Stewart, thanks so much. So Japan is facing a harsh economic reality as well. New GDP data shows the country has fallen into a recession, the world's third-largest economy shrank by nearly a percentage point in the first quarter of 2020 and more than three in the year.

It's the second straight quarter of decline and analysts will map first quarter, and those first-quarter numbers don't really reveal the full effect of the pandemic. The government has already approved $1 trillion stimulus package and could announce more measures later on this month.

So you're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, travel restrictions keep adoptive parents from reaching newborn babies in Ukraine. What one father had to overcome just to hold his daughter in his arms?



CURNOW: So we know that dozens of babies born to surrogate mothers in Ukraine are stranded due to the coronavirus. And nationwide locked arms preventing their adoptive parents in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere from traveling to Ukraine to pick up their newborns. It's not necessarily adoptive, any parents.

So Matthew Chance now has a story of one American family who overcomes all the tight regulations and restrictions to be with their daughter. Take a look.


JOEL LEINEKE, FATHER: So this is my daughter Amber Rain Leineke. She's a little tired at the moment

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Amid this lockdown, a family united. One American dad getting into Ukraine just to hold his newborn daughter. She is a very lucky girl indeed.

LEINEKE: Thank you. I'm a lucky father.

CHANCE: When you saw her for the first time, what was going through your mind? What were your feelings?

LEINEKE: At the same time, I was elated to see her, I was also this -- my heart was broken, right, that I was the only one there by myself, and then my wife wasn't able to be in the delivery room and it was just -- so it was it was both. It was really mixed.

CHANCE: Mixed but relieved because dozens just like Amber Rain born amid the pandemic in Ukraine to surrogate mothers remains stranded. Marooned in a screaming lockdown. CNN gained access to just one facility and care were tight Coronavirus restrictions mean more than 50 babies here can't be collected by their legal parents, mostly locked down themselves in Europe and the United States.

Some parents have waited 15 years for this dream to come true, the owner tells CNN. One couple about 55 years old. Another has tried 36 times for a baby, he says. They can't wait any longer.

Ukrainian officials say they're trying to speed up access to foreign parents. But the pandemic means the country's borders are sealed, special permits are a bureaucratic nightmare.

For Amber Rain's mom, Michelle, watching all this remotely with her two other kids in California, even the thought of being unable to reach a child in another country is agonizing.

What must their parents be going through now, parents who can't get to their children?

MICHELLE LEINEKE, MOTHER: I can't even imagine. Honestly, I can't imagine not being able to be there. We had the same thought before we were able to get there. And so for me, it was mind-numbing to know that somebody that we don't even know would be taking care of our daughter. And luckily, we were able to find a way but other people, because their countries aren't allowing them to travel into another country, are not being allowed in. So we found a way and we were lucky, but others aren't so lucky and I'm sure they're just devastated.

CHANCE: At the moment, Ukrainian officials say around 100 babies born to surrogates are stuck in clinics like this one around the country. But pregnancies are in progress, and they say numbers could soon rise to 1,000 if borders stay closed.

The longer the lockdown, the more Ember Rain's with nowhere to go.

While there is growing criticism in Ukraine because of the stranded babies of commercial surrogacy in the country, the Human Rights ombudsman there has called it a massive and systemic problem and it could be curbed in the future. But for the moment, the focus is on trying to get the babies already born united with their legal parents. Matthew Chance, CNN London.


CURNOW: Agonizing story. Thanks, Matthew for that. So I want to turn now to U.S. politics. CNN has learned that the ousted U.S. State Department Inspector General had been investigating where the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a staff member run personal errands.

Now, President Trump fired Steve Linick on Friday and his senior State Department official confirmed it was one Pompeo who recommended the move. And the Democratic aide tells CNN, the errands included walking Pompeo's dog, picking up dry cleaning, and making dinner reservations. Linick's firing was just the latest in a series of dismissals of independent government watchdogs responsible for the oversight of the Trump administration.

And then we're also watching this. Tropical Storm Arthur is drifting closer and closer to the U.S. East Coast. Take a look at these images. Parts of North Carolina, as you can see, under tropical storm warnings. Rip tides are expected from South Carolina to Maryland.

Meantime, a cyclone is lumbering through the Bay of Bengal. It reached category four strength on Sunday, and is expected to get even stronger. Well, Pedram Javaheri is tracking both of these and joins us now with the latest. Hi. Talk us through the numbers and the data you're getting, Pedram.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN INTERNATIONAL METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good seeing you, Robyn. You know, it's an incredible setup here when it comes to not just what's happening across the United States, but especially into the Bay of Bengal, and more on that momentarily. But across the U.S., six consecutive year. Of course, we've had a name system come ashore, at least get close to land within the next few hours here within six consecutive years.

Of course, June 1st being the first day of hurricane season, but this particular storm, Arthur, is sitting about 175 or so miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. We think the closest approach will be sometime around the afternoon hours there of Monday. But the searing environment and the atmosphere is a such that we think the closest approach again could be just within say 25 to 30 miles, and then this storm is essentially shunted off towards the Atlantic Ocean and then moves away from the United States.

So that's the good news. You'll notice this incoming front here kind of disturbs the tracks of the system and moves it away from the United States. Again, a tropical storm winds generally about 35 to 40 miles per hour. You notice gusts as high as 60 miles per hour. But some dangerous rip currents, and that is about it when it comes to the direct impacts of the storm system. And the indirect impacts, of course, some heavy rainfall crosses particular region and then it moves away from the United States.

But the broader picture shows you what's happening across the Bay of Bengal because we have a massive tropical cyclone. This is Amphan, 150 mile per hour winds or 240 kilometers per hour, equivalent to a major hurricane, a strong category four if it were in the Atlantic Ocean, or a super typhoon everywhere in the Western Pacific. But you'll notice the cloud field roughly twice the size of the U.S.

State of Texas. Now of course, this region among the most vulnerable regions on our planet when it comes to tropical systems. Seven of the 10 -- top-10 deadliest systems on our planet have impacted either Bangladesh or Myanmar. In fact, the deadliest all time was in November of 1970. Bhola took some half a million lives. Just 12 years ago, Cyclone Nargis in one night took 138,000 lives.

So again, when you talk about an area that has some 24,000 kilometers of waterways, 700 rivers and tributaries, of course, very densely populated -- in fact, we take a look at the population of Bangladesh, about half the population of the United States located all within the size of say, the state of Illinois or Iowa. So that is the amount of land we're talking with half of the population in the U.S., a rather densely populated. So this is going to be a serious story, Robyn.

Wednesday into Thursday is when we're looking at the storm to approach land, potentially make landfall either near Kolkata or points to the east in this region, home to the world's most populated refugee camp as well in southern Bangladesh, about a million people reside across that area. So we're going to watch this very carefully in the next several days.

CURNOW: Yes, you make an excellent point there. Lots of vulnerable people and certainly looks like a monster aiming towards them. Pedram, good to see you. Thanks so much.

So a miracle recovery from a deadly disease, the case of a man from Maryland leaving doctors scratching their heads. This is him. We'll have his story next.



CURNOW: Here's a good story. 104-year-old woman in central Italy has recovered from COVID-19. Isn't that amazing? The governor of her region made the announcement on Twitter on Sunday congratulating her and thanking healthcare workers. And the announcement comes on the heels of Italy reporting its lowest daily increase in deaths in more than 10 weeks on Sunday, so good news all around there.

Meanwhile, a man in the U.S. battled Coronavirus for nearly a month in ICU, in intensive care. Now, he's sharing the story of his remarkable recovery and what motivated him to keep on fighting. Here's Miguel Marquez.


KEVIN SWINK, RECOVERING FROM COVID-19: I'm a miracle. Yes, I'm a miracle. A lot of people in the hospital call me medical miracle.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: 18 days on a ventilator, nearly 30 days in the ICU.

SWINK: Now, I'll take this syringe here. MARQUEZ: Three times intubated, a tracheostomy. His throat healing. He still eats through a tube.

SWINK: Right here is my stomach tube.

MARQUEZ: At the worst, his heart nearly stopped beating. The miracle, he's alive.

Is there a point where you realized this may be it?

SWINK: There was a point where it hurt to take even one breath. And I did actually at one time just want to die. But then I heard a voice in my head that said, you're being selfish.

MARQUEZ: Selfish because he thought he'd mar graduation for one daughter and a birthday for another. He had a wife, two parents, a church, and friends that loved him. He also had a team of doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists caring and pulling for him.

DAVID GOLDSBOROUGH, RESPIRATORY THERAPIST: You know, the whole time that he was here, you know, I don't know if our patients can hear us or if he even heard it, but I used to tell him, don't give up. And I don't know if you heard that and I would like to know if you've heard me saying that to him.

MARQUEZ: Kevin says he does remember that. He wasn't sure if he imagined it, but he remembers it and a nurse named Beth.

SWINK: She's the one that comes up and told me, you know, I was there the night you almost died. And you know, I'm like, I know nothing about that.

MARQUEZ: COVID-19 keeps patients like Kevin sedated and separated from loved ones. Medical staff wear masks and gowns. It's hard to know who's who. Beth Gelston was in the room on Swink's worst day.


MARQUEZ: This is when his heart nearly stopped.

GELSTON: It did. So I was caring for him that day and in the room with him while all of this was happening. And when I saw him on the day that he left the hospital, I told him that. I told him that he almost died and I thought he was going to die. And I just -- I'm so thankful that he didn't.

MARQUEZ: Kevin Swink now an inspiration for the staff that saved him.

How do you cope with patients as sick as Kevin?


ARIEL NICKERSON, REGISTERED NURSE: In the beginning of all of this, it definitely wasn't easy and a lot of us left in tears a lot of the time. But I really believe that we've become together as such a support for each other. And also seeing people improve, it's helped. Like, the fact that Kevin is home and doing so much better it, it helps -- it really helps us to know that we're making this much of an impact.

MARQUEZ: Kevin Swink not typical in another way. 50 years old, no underlying medical conditions, otherwise healthy, another COVID-19 mystery. Some for reasons still not understood get deathly ill while others barely know they have it.

MIMI NOVELLO, VP, MEDICAL AFFAIRS AND CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MEDSTAR FRANKLIN SQUARE: It's very confusing to us. And, you know, I think there are people that are looking into why this might be. You know, could it be related to genetics, could it be related to the viral load or the amount of virus that the person is exposed to?

MARQUEZ: Kevin's recovery as mysterious as his illness. His father also tested positive and may not recover, other family members got it too and we're barely affected.

SWINK: It just blindsided me. I didn't think I'd get it. I didn't think there was any possibility or anything like that.

MARQUEZ: When he was discharged, his church organized a drive by parade. Kevin will see graduations and birthdays. He's looking forward to solid food, A double portion of Maryland crab cakes.

MARQUEZ: How sweet is life?

SWINK: Nice. Very sweet. Very sweet.

MARQUEZ: Miguel Marquez, CNN, Baltimore, Maryland.


CURNOW: Sweet indeed. Thanks, Miguel, for that lovely story. I'm Robyn Curnow. Thanks so much to you all for your company. CNN NEWSROOM continues next with Rosemary Church. Enjoy. You're watching CNN.