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Miami Mayor talks about Social Distancing in Florida; Trump Rages at Criticism of his Coronavirus Response; South Dakota Launches Coronavirus Drug Trial; Farmers See Drop in Produce Demand. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 14, 2020 - 09:30   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Francis Suarez, who, I should note, Mayor, we're glad you're better. You tested positive for the virus. You were in quarantine for 18 days. We're glad you're better and we're glad you're here.

Let's begin with what we're hearing from the president. There's a real push to open up the economy. Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, said you guys are seeing a bit of a plateau. You think the peak in south Florida is about, you know, three weeks away. So I guess my first question to you is, are you worried that lives could be lost in Florida, more lives, if this state is opened up too soon?

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R-MIAMI, FL): Yes, I think that's the main concern. The main concern is that we have to be cautious. I think the surgeon general is right that, you know, social distancing is probably going to be the new norm for a while now.

We saw a peak of cases probably early April and late March because of the strict social distancing, stay at home orders, curfews that we implemented in the city of Miami. Having said that, the deaths are something that lag a few weeks after the infection. So we are seeing still a number of deaths. We are seeing some good data coming in from our hospitals. Our discharges for the last few days are twice as large as our intake. So, you know, there are some positive data that's coming in without a doubt, but we have to be cautious.


SUAREZ: As one of your prior guests said, you know, we have to be worried about a second wave which could, you know, we -- take a huge step backwards if that were to happen and all the progress that we made would be lost.

HARLOW: So how do you, as someone who has lived this disease, written about it, in a pretty powerful opinion piece a few weeks ago in "The New York Times" talking about responsibility and depending on one another, what is the data point or data points you look at to say we can -- we're ready? We're ready to reopen?

SUAREZ: I think you have to continue to see data points that indicate a lower incidence of the viral infection. I think one of the things that worried me or concerns me is asymptomatic carriers, like I was, actually, when I contracted the virus on March 13th. SO we don't know how many of those are because we're not doing asymptomatic testing. I don't think anybody is in the United States. So that's a concern.

Certainly our school system is a concern. We have the fourth largest school system in the country with 350,000 students and so it would be a concern if we open that up prematurely.

I think there are some things that we can look at specifically with regard to recreation, which we already have a recreational exception for our stay at home orders, so there are some things in terms of recreation.

HARLOW: Right.

SUAREZ: As long as we maintain social distancing. But I think the surgeon general and our medical experts need to be followed.

HARLOW: So, the president made very clear yesterday in the briefing that he believes that he has total authority to decide when every state and city should open up. Now, let's set aside the Tenth Amendment for a moment, right, that -- the fundamental misunderstanding there of the Tenth Amendment. If the president ordered, you know, Florida, orders a nationwide opening, what do you do in Miami if you think those data points haven't been met?

SUAREZ: Yes, I'm not even sure what that means, to be honest with you, because, you know, there was never really a nationwide stay at home order. I think we, as cities, we're at liberty to make decisions, and we did. We're very proactive. I mean obviously Miami was the first city that canceled large events probably in the country and implement some of these measures, which is why our data points are slightly better than the state's and slightly better than the county's.

Look, I think -- I think the best way to deal with this is locally. You -- you know, every city is different. Miami is not New York. New York is not Oklahoma City. You know, all the cities are different. They have different densities. They have different topographies. And that -- and different climates. And that all affects how much the, you know, the virus can propagate in their community.

HARLOW: Let me ask -- let me ask you something. This went largely uncovered, but I think it's important for a number of reasons, and that is that on April 1st, Governor DeSantis announced that pro- wrestling, the WWE, would be basically given an exception to the shelter in place orders. And this is after, according to the mayor of Orlando, of Orange County there, a conversation that that mayor had with the governor's office.

Now, I -- now they're going to do it in an arena there with no spectators, only, quote/unquote, essential personnel. But wrestling is wrestling. You're on top of one another and you're sweating. Does that make sense to you? Is that a prudent idea?

SUAREZ: Yes, look, it's hard to argue that wrestling is an essential activity. We have some down here in Miami in terms of the orders that our county mayor has promulgated that are hard to argue that they don't sort of pass the smell test in terms of what is an essential activity. So we've had to deal with that in the city and we've done that through implementing other restrictions.

One that comes to mind is construction workers, where we required our construction workers to wear masks because the county considered them to be an essential industry. I don't know how essential it is to build a condo in the middle of a pandemic --



SUAREZ: But -- but, yes, look, I think, you know, I think the good news about it is that the governor's listening to mayors. I think the part that can be questionable is obviously you want to make sure that if you're going to have an activity like that, it's being done safely and that it's also sending the right message to our residents.

HARLOW: Well -- sure. And who's -- who -- what families are those wrestler going home to.

Final question, I have 20 seconds -


HARLOW: But it's so important, I think. You wrote about how concerned you are about domestic violence and that the calls about domestic violence are down so much.

SUAREZ: I'm extremely concerned about domestic violence. I'm concerned about suicides. Suicides, particularly because of isolations. Domestic violence because sometimes the -- you know, the victim, now that is forced to stay home, may not feel, you know, that they can call 911. And so we're urging those who are victims of domestic violence to please call 911 if they are the victims of such an incident.

HARLOW: Oh, it's heartbreaking to think about.

Mayor Francis Suarez, good luck to you and the city. Thanks so much.

SUAREZ: Thank you so much, Poppy.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, President Trump has been lashing out over any questions about how little was done initially to prepare the U.S. for the coronavirus outbreak. We're going to have more on that just ahead.



HARLOW: Well, a defiant and defensive President Trump used his White House coronavirus briefing yesterday to declare that he has total authority to reopen the country. It comes as his administration attempts to, in many ways, whitewash its role in this outbreak.

SCIUTTO: The president claimed that he took significant steps to stop the spread back in January, referring to his travel ban on China. But he was pressed by reporters about what he did after that.

Listen to what he said.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You had cases in February --

TRUMP: When you -- you -- excuse me. You reported it. Zero cases, zero deaths on January 17th.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: January. February -- the entire month of February --

TRUMP: January. I said in January.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You -- the video has a complete gap (INAUDIBLE) --

TRUMP: On January 30th --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did your administration do in February for the time that your travel ban bought you?

TRUMP: A lot. A lot.


TRUMP: And, in fact, we'll give you a list. What we did -- in fact, part of it was up there. We did a lot.


SCIUTTO: Here with us now, CNN White House correspondent John Harwood and CNN political analyst David Gregory.

Goodness, I mean, we've seen this happen before, the president making claims that are belied by his own public comments, dismissing this as a real threat, you know, into the month of March.

John, I wonder, in the White House, is there still anyone there who's willing to contradict the president internally on this?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very hard to tell, but we certainly know that there has been division from the beginning between the economic team and the public health team. Certainly when people see what happens, when -- to those who step out and publicly disagree, you can imagine what happens privately. But what we see with the president is this desperate need to absolve himself of blame for this catastrophe that is unfolding across the country. And that is very difficult for somebody of his psychological makeup to accept.

HARLOW: OK. So the issue here is what -- what impact is it going to have, who's going to believe things, because ultimately all politics aside, David Gregory, what matters is people's lives, right? That's all that matters right now. I understand it's an election year. I understand all of that. I just worry that there are a lot of facts getting lost here.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's a couple of things. Obviously the here and now is what's most important. I think the president's frustration is obvious that he's got a White House press corps there that among other things wants to focus on serious accountability for lost time in the administration when you have a president who is so flagrant in his dismissal of the virus in the early stages, it invites that scrutiny. If he had more discipline, he would say, look, there's a time to examine the administration's response. Right now I'm going to focus on one, two, three, four and five, which has to do with mitigation, flattening the curve, getting a vaccine, getting more antivirals there, doing more antibody testing, getting the states what they need. That harkens back to a more conventional presidency that John and I are used to covering.

That's not what you got. I mean it's this -- the presidency of grievance. And the idea that he wants to use that air time that he's commanding to defend himself, to defend his record, to talk about what a good job he's doing. To me, again, the president can be upset with the nature of the questions, with some of the narratives that are being reported if he wants to challenge them, and challenge his decision making. But it's the temperament that it shows, that he wants to use that time --


GREGORY: To lash out at others and just to defend himself instead of focusing on how he moves the response to the coronavirus forward.

HARLOW: Well, I would just say, Jim, it's an interesting point when Jake asked Governor Murphy of New Jersey about that on Sunday, he -- you know, he said, there should be a 9/11 style commission after this and we should assess. But now is --


HARLOW: You know, now is not that moment.

SCIUTTO: Well, you -- and you would imagine, I mean, the 9/11 Commission was taken seriously from a bipartisan perspective. You wonder if that's even possible in the current environment.

John Harwood, you now have this battle royal set up potentially between the White House and the states on who has the power to reopen the economy, parts of the economy, et cetera.

[09:45:02] Is that a battle politically that the president wants? I mean does he really want to take this all the way to the Supreme Court on this question? Does that serve him well in his view?

HARWOOD: I don't think so. And I don't think it's going to turn out to be as big of a battle as it felt yesterday when he asserted that authority. I think this was the president blowing off steam, watching governors take the lead and say, in effect, President Trump's not going to get the job done so we're going to move ahead. And he's responding by saying, no, no, I'm the president, I've got the power.

He sort of gave away the game later in the briefing when he said, well, the states are going to go along with what I want. Mike DeWine was on with Anderson, he's the -- last night. He's the governor of Ohio. And he was asked this question. He said, well, you know, of course the buck stops with me and I'm going make the final decision, but we'll consult with the president. I think that's how this is all going to shake out.

And I do think for all the disagreement privately and the pushing of economic advisers to open up, which we saw in the consideration before Easter as well, in the end, as Fauci said at that briefing yesterday --


HARWOOD: The president acquiesced to those public health warnings. And the public health warnings are so unanimous across that field, it's very hard for me to see how other than in a few isolated places with few cases, that he's really going to try to initiate something that the governors say that they're not ready for.

GREGORY: Can I -- can I just add, Jim and Poppy, I think we have to remember the individuals. They have to remember all of us. We're the ones who are going to make this decision. And I think what's interesting is that when the president speaks about the tension between, you know, the public health concerns and our economic concerns, it's a real tension. And there's lots of Americans who watch him on a daily basis who say, gosh, I can't stay in this isolation forever. I have no way to make any money.


GREGORY: And to support my family. I think there is real tension there. But I think individuals are going to listen to their mayor, they're going to listen to -- and see what their schools are going to do, public, private, whatever. They're going to listen to the public health officials. I think the president's less relevant than perhaps he'd like to be.


GREGORY: He's not going to decree an opening of society. He -- he can pave the way for a lot of that, but I think individuals are going to make their own risk assessment.

HARLOW: That's a really great --

SCIUTTO: That's a good point, Poppy, too, because, remember, there were no or very few police in the streets, soldiers enforcing these social distancing. People heard the warnings and they followed it themselves as a sort of act of civic duty. So good points all, gentlemen.

HARLOW: Yes. A hundred percent.

John Harwood, David Gregory, always nice to have you, even from afar. Thank you.

So farmers across the country are dumping tons of fresh produce. Coming up, why they say they have to do this.



SCIUTTO: Well, none of us wanted to see a health outbreak become political, but, of course, it has. South Dakota's governor is resisting calls to issue stay-at-home orders there. This despite having one of the country's largest coronavirus clusters in that state at a pork processing plant.

HARLOW: Yes, almost 300 people there contracting it in one plant. The governor, Kristi Noem, announced the first state-wide clinical trial of Hydroxychloroquine in the country. It's an anti-malarial drug. You've heard a lot about it. It's been championed by the president. But there are just a lot of questions about it still.

Let's go to our Dianne Gallagher. She joins us again this morning.

Talk to us about this announcement as more cases of coronavirus were just confirmed at that Smithfield plant.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, Jim, Poppy, we're talking at well over 300 cases from just that one meat processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. At this point, the governor has resisted issuing any sort of stay at order or shelter-in- place order, saying that it sort of reflected herd mentality, that it would be up to individuals to police themselves in these situations, and even at one point saying South Dakota is not New York City.

But now her state is home to one of the larger outbreaks in the country. And the mayor of Sioux Falls, which is South Dakota's largest city, has put in a formal request asking the governor to issue those shelter-in-place orders, at least for the counties surrounding his city, saying that anything he can do, and he's tried to issue these proclamations, doesn't have any teeth without the governor behind him. Still, with this outbreak, the governor has been defensive, saying that it wouldn't have mattered anyway.


GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): The vast majority of our positive cases are happening in this part of the state. And the fact that this was a critical infrastructure business, a shelter of home wouldn't made a -- wouldn't have made a bit of difference.


GALLAGHER: Now, those Hydroxychloroquine clinical trials that are happening in South Dakota, the first in the state, according to the governor, Jim, Poppy, they're looking at preventative effects of this medication. So they're not testing them in people who already have Covid-19 and said they're seeing if you took it ahead of time, could it prevent you from getting it? Again, at this point, nothing has been proven when it comes to this drug.

SCIUTTO: No. As Dr. Fauci has said, anecdotal evidence only.

Dianne Gallagher, thanks very much.

Now to Rosa Flores. She's in Florida, where farmers have to destroy their crops because demand has plunged so dramatically.

Rosa, tell us what's happening there.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's actually happening right now. Take a look. What this tractor is doing is they're literally destroying zucchini and squash.


This has been devastating for farmers here in Florida. The owner of this farm is Sam Accursio. His family has been working this land since 1948 and he says that this is devastating.

It all started a few weeks ago when schools and restaurants started closing and the supply chains got completely severed. He says that, since then, about 70 percent of his acreage has had to be destroyed. Yes, they are sending food and produce to food banks and food lines, but there is just too much excess he says.

And here's the other bad news. There is no insurance, he says, but he says that at some point the federal government has to kick in, do something in order for them to have a better future. Here's what he said. Take a listen.


SAM ACCURSIO, FLORIDA FARMER: It's going to be a bloodbath. We need to have consumers demand Florida produce. And then as it moves up the chain, they have to demand American produce.

We are still dumping squash in the field. And our competitors from south of the border in Mexico are continuing to ship across the border. I think it needs to stop immediately.


FLORES: As we take another live look here, you can see some of that squash and zucchini that was just destroyed moments ago. The losses are staggering. According to the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, they're trying to keep up. They're trying to get statistics. But, Jim and Poppy, there's just too much. The losses stack up every single day. They say that definitely it's going to be to the tune of millions upon millions of dollars.

Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Wow. Wow. Wow, wow, to see those pictures.

Thank you, Rosa.

The governor of Connecticut saying this morning he won't lift restrictions for another month. The president says the decision to reopen is wholly up to him. We'll talk about that right ahead. Stay there.