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19 States See Increase In New Coronavirus Cases; Protesters Throw Fireworks At Police In Portland, Oregon; Trump Defiant As Cultural Change Sweeps U.S. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 12, 2020 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

This morning, as states across the country push ahead with reopening, 19 states are now seeing a spike in new cases of coronavirus, states such as Texas and Florida, both in fact breaking records for new cases. Notable that both were late to shut down and quick to reopen.

Despite those recent rises, President Trump is still planning to hold a large campaign rally with thousands of people packed, as he said, shoulder to shoulder, inside -- and that's crucial -- inside arenas across the country. This will begin next week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but those wanting to attend will have to sign a waiver agreeing not to sue the campaign or the venue if they indeed contract the virus while at the event, notable there.

And new this Morning, the president is, again, defending his D.C. church photo-op last week that saw, and you can see the video there, peaceful protesters forcibly removed from Lafayette Square by U.S. and military police. This even as top military commanders distancing themselves, apologizing for joining the president in that photo-op, the latest example of the president digging in even as the country is showing signs of tangible cultural change.

We've got all the angles covered this morning around the country. First, let's go to Florida, CNN's Rosa Flores on coronavirus cases rising there. Tell us about the numbers and, crucially, tell us about the governor's response. Is this changing his thinking on reopening?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, he was asked about that yesterday, and he did not quite answer that question, Jim. But as you mentioned, he is talking about uptick in cases here in the State of Florida. According to Governor Ron DeSantis, he says that the uptick is due to outbreak in cases in agricultural communities, in areas like Collier County and also Palm Beach County, where according to the governor in some areas, up to 50 percent of the people who are tested test positive for the coronavirus.

Now, despite this uptick, the governor is recommending the reopening of schools in the fall. Now, a reporter asked him that question also. How can you reopen schools safely given this uptick? And the governor mentioned a few things. He said, among other things, that hospitalizations in the state are flat, that the risk to children is low, and then he mentioned this. Take a listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): And so the majority of our fatalities May, late April, May and into June have been long-term care. The number one age cohort for fatalities have been age 85 and above.


FLORES: So, in summary, what the governor there is saying is that the third reason is that most of the deaths are happening in nursing homes.

Now, we know that visitations are not allowed in nursing homes here in the State of Florida. Now, we also asked and talked to an expert at FIU about what show thought regarding this recent uptick, and she said, as she mentioned, some of the few things that we were all expecting, people not wearing masks, not social distancing.

And, Jim, she also mentioned one more thing. She says, given the ongoing protests, the use of tear gas could exacerbate the spread of the virus because, of course, it damages the airways. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Rosa Flores, thanks very much.

Another state where cases are up, South Carolina. But the governor says the health of his constituents is a matter of individual responsibility.

CNN's Natasha Chen joins us now from Greenville. So, cases going up there, but leaders basically saying it's up to residents to make their own decisions.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, that's right. When he says, individual responsibility, the state is emphasizing that people should be practicing social distancing, washing their hands frequently and wearing their masks in public. That's why I've got mine on today because I'm actually on a public sidewalk in the downtown area, by the way, in a county that's a hotspot, according to the state, and people are walking past us and walking up to us to talk. So it's important that state officials say to keep masks on in public.

And also, you know, the governor is saying at the same time that he would like to keep businesses open because people need a way to make a living.


This messaging is problematic for some local residents we talked to who feel that not everyone is really being as careful as they should. Here is what they said.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been down and I feel like 99 percent of the people that I see every day when I walk out my door right here don't have on masks, and I actually am very high risk. And, I mean, I've multiple times seen like ten people walking down the sidewalk together, and I'm like, could you all please get single file.


CHEN: And let's show you a few graphs here about the numbers of cases here. There's a seven-day average of new cases that you can see since South Carolina began reopening businesses on April 20th. That has gone up in the last few days. And, remember, this was the first state to announce any reopenings of businesses.

And then if you look at the seven-day average of new deaths reported, that has also trended upward in the last few days. And, of course, Greenville County, like I said, the state has determined this to be a hotspot, saying that there are several cases here stemming from households with families spreading the virus among each other. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Natasha Chen, watch the numbers. It's all in the numbers. Thanks very much.

Joining me now is Dr. Rob Davidson. He's an emergency room physician and the Executive Director for the Committee to Protect Medicare. Dr. Davidson, always good to have you on.

So, you look at the data, 19 states now seeing an increase in new cases and a particular rise, it seems, in states such as South Carolina, Florida, where we just were, where reopening has been more aggressive and the shutdown orders came a bit later. What does this tell us? I mean, the fact is this is what was predicted, was it not, but healthcare officials?

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE COMMITTEE TO PROTECT MEDICARE: It is exactly what was predicted. When we don't have a good national strategy for adequate testing, for tracing of contacts of infected individuals, and then when we don't have good communication from the top, at the federal level or at state level. We can't tell people what we're going to do when we see hotspots. We should have a plan in place anticipating if there's a hotspot what you do next, and we don't have that communication.

SCIUTTO: The trouble is politics that have infused this from the very beginning. Are you concerned that politics will influence the response to these spikes as they come, right, that some political leaders will say, we're just not going to go there even if the data shows the risk is rising for residents of their states, communities, et cetera?

DAVIDSON: I mean, I think we have seen that from day one. I think we've seen it when the president tweeted out to liberate particularly my State of Michigan when our governor was doing everything to keep our cases down and effectively flatten the curve. And the closer we get to the election, the more President Trump wants to have political rallies, the more he wants to have the RNC in Florida now, which they have accepted.

I think the more you're going to see his allies standing by him no matter what, not wearing masks, not social distancing and having these rallies of, you know, 15,000 people indoors with a waiver attached saying, you may get sick, but, please, don't hold us responsible.

SCIUTTO: Let me give you an opportunity here to speak to people who may attend those rallies there and sign those waivers, their choice. What risk are they taking by going particularly an indoor arena close to other people who are going to be shouting, kind of expelling droplets as the doctor was telling us the previous hour? What risk do individuals who take part, what are they facing?

DAVIDSON: I think the fact that it is indoors is a very unique and particular risk. We do believe that this virus aerosolizes. Meaning it can exist in small droplets across fairly significant distances for several hours. We don't know about the ventilation system at the Box Center. We don't know about HEPA filters, which would be helpful.

And so in not knowing any of that, I would encourage people to wear masks. I would encourage the press to be very cautious about sending their reporters into these without adequate perm protective equipment, because I think this is a very high-risk event.

SCIUTTO: Have we learned -- what have we learned about the transmissibility of this virus on the good side, if you can call it that, right? There is some data indicating that surfaces, right, that it's less likely than we thought to get it from an infected surface, more likely, as you say, in confined indoor spaces where people expelling droplets. What are we learning that will be of use for people at home as they make their decisions?

DAVIDSON: Yes. I think we have learned that masks do effectively reduce the transmission. The study out of Hong Kong showed a 75 percent reduction a few weeks back. You know, we've shown that, you know, like surfaces are less of a concern although washing your hands and sterilizing and not touching your face still always a god idea.


I think that we have learned that there is some impact on humidity on the transmissibility as far as how far the droplets will spread, perhaps meaning that outdoor events are safer in this humid climate in this time of year. But, again, everything we can do, in particular, wearing a mask, in particular, keeping social distance, that's the key, you know?

Antibody treatments, vaccine development, that's all very important, and we need to keep doing that, but we know what works this public health with these kind of -- with these kind if viruses. It's the simple things, like wearing a mask, like staying, you know, not in close contact with others. That's what we need to keep messaging on.

SCIUTTO: Well, folks, listen to the doctors, smartest thing you can do. Dr. Rob Davidson, thanks very much.

DAVIDSON: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Right now cases of coronavirus are spiking in the State of Arizona as well. Hospitals there have emergency plans in place. Our guest sadly says that worse times are ahead.

Plus, if schools reopen this fall, they will not look the same. We're getting an inside look at one school district's plan to reopen safely.

And President Trump shows no signs of ending racial divide in our country. In fact, insiders who speak to the president says he thinks that stoking those divisions are a winning strategy for him in November.



SCIUTTO: Protesters in Portland, Oregon started throwing fireworks, other projectiles as well at police overnight, this after the city council failed to pass a proposed budget that would have cut funding for the police department.

The council did vote to cut funding to a school resource officer and the transit police.

Another story we're following, disgraceful and disrespectful, that's how Chicago's mayor is describing 13 police officers who were caught lounging in a Congressman's office as violence was breaking out during protests there last month. Security camera video shows the officers eating popcorn, drinking coffee, even sleeping on a couch while the looting went about throughout the city.

CNN's Ryan Young live now in Chicago. Ryan, there was looting happening as they were sitting there. How did this happen, and what's going to happen now?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Actually, a lot of questions, Jim. In fact, we were covering all these details when it was happening in terms of the looting that was going on. Police cars were being set on fire. There was a violent night here in the city. In fact, there were a lot of murders going on here. That's something that the mayor brought up here.

But there were 13 officers who were inside Congressman Bobby Rush's Office, and they were lounging. In fact, they helped themselves to some popcorn, drinking coffee, used the couch to do a little napping while all of this was going on on the south and west side where businesses were being looted. In fact, that's something that the mayor was very angry about.

And when this news conference started yesterday, we all had no idea what she was going to talk about, to have the congressman talking about having the video footage on the inside has sort of enraged a larger public here in Chicago, especially when people are concerned about policing here in the city. In fact, take a listen to the mayor and what she had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D-CHICAGO-IL): Five hours when literally murder and mayhem is happening everywhere. Police officers are getting the crap beaten out of them. There were 10-1s being called, that's an officer in distress, and you take a siesta for five hours? It's outrageous.


YOUNG: Let me tell you something, Jim. This has been a very difficult sort of week-and-a-half at the Chicago Police Department when you think about the things that I've been seeing. There was one incident at a mall where police officers pulled the wrong women from a car by their hair. Those officers were disciplined. You had others who were flipping protesters off, but then you have the other dedicated officers who were facing people who are looting and throwing rocks at them and fireworks at them, and that's what something the mayor was trying to highlight despite the fact there was this increased number in homicides throughout the city.

But this picture, this video is really hard to have the conversation about how the police department is supposed to be changing within the community. And that's why the mayor started focusing on the fact of needing the change in union contracts between the city and the police department. This is an ongoing effort that we've been talking about for quite some time. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Ryan Young in Chicago, thanks very much.

As you've seen, the president remains defiant as demands for cultural change from Republicans and Democrats are sweeping the nation in many instances. During a roundtable in Dallas yesterday, the president called for unity. He didn't though lay out a plan.


TRUMP: We have to work together to confront bigotry and prejudice wherever they appear, but we'll make no progress and heal no wounds by falsely labeling tens of millions of decent Americans as racist or bigots.


SCIUTTO: The president added that the U.S. will solve racism, in his words, very easily.

I'm joined by Sabrina, National Politics Reporter for The Wall Street Journal, and David Swerdlick, he's Assistant Editor at The Washington Post.

You know, watching this, it's revealing, this is in CNN's reporting this morning, that this is a deliberate strategy in fact by the president to divide in the face of this division, quoting from the CNN story.


The president remains convinced that racially-tinged culture wars he stoked as a candidate in 2016 and throughout his presidency remain a winning strategy, people familiar with his thinking say.

Sabrina, can you react to that, please, the idea that this is deliberate and he sees it in his political interest to divide here?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think that comes as any surprise when you look at the president's response to this moment. You have to take into account his own record on issues pertaining to race. And when you think back to the campaign in 2016 that helped propel him to the White House, it was very much rooted in appealing to the grievances of white voters, whether it was through his rhetoric against immigrants and Muslims or often disparaging majority of black cities as war zones and routinely criticizing Black Lives Matter protesters.

And that is not something that has changed throughout course of his presidency, to Charlottesville, saying there're very fine people on both sides, two, and attacking NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem in an effort to actually draw attention to police brutality and criminal justice.

So it's not surprising that the president is digging in his heels and has declined to engage in a meaningful conversation around police reform or even tackle issues of racism head on. The question is whether enough of the country is now leaving him behind and whether or not his handling of like other moments of crisis has any bearing going into the November election.

SCIUTTO: I mean, you mentioned take a knee as an example, but, I mean, even the commissioner of the NFL, Drew Brees, you know, differing with the president now on the view of that.

I want to ask you, David, let's test this. Is it actually a winning strategy for the president? You'll remember before the 2018 midterms that the president similarly, his message was an anti-immigrant strategy. You'll remember the migrant caravans assaulting the border. In fact, the GOP's own campaign data shows that did not help them in districts and hurt, in fact. Is this a winning strategy for November for the president?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, good morning, Jim. I think that's the calculation that the White House is making. They look at their poll numbers, they were at 44 percent. When President Trump took office, they were only at 42 percent now. That's not that much of a dip. So I think what they see is that their base hasn't left them, the bottom hasn't fallen out given that they've approached issues of race, issues about immigration in the way they have over the last three-plus year. And the president is sort of committed now to this strategy of being divisive and playing to his base.

That's why, for instance, even though you have Republicans in Congress saying, look, we'll consider, we'll make proposals about changing military base names and getting rid of names of confederate heroes or confederate generals, the president is sort of stuck with that. Because the calculation is that his base likes it when he sort of draws a firm line in the sand against what many people see as political correctness or, you know, a changing of different perspectives that some voters are resistant to.

And he is in a situation where they want to win a narrow election based on holding their coalition together, not, let's say, expanding it out to a broader cross-section of voters. They know they only got 8 percent of black votes before, and they probably will get something like that again.

SCIUTTO: And not even just not healing but deliberately dividing, which is remarkable here.

I want to ask you, Sabrina, though, it's interesting, because in the midst of this, you have the military publicly contradicting the president, but you also have Republican lawmakers, for instance, on renaming bases named after confederate generals. That got out of a Republican majority committee, and you have since added Marco Rubio, for instance, another Republican Senator, saying he's open to renaming the bases.

Is this driven in part by the president's drop popularity in the midst of all of this? These are all politicians. I just wonder if it's your read that they see a greater freedom to defy the president here based on concerns about his political weakness.

SIDDIQUI: Well, certainly, there is a direct correlation to the polls where you see a growing number of Americans who are supportive of what is at the heart of these protests and addressing issues of racial justice. And that includes an increase in support for removing confederate statues and other symbols, even thought the president, of course, has firmly planted himself on the other side of that issue.

I think on the issue of confederate statues, a lot of that have will be determined at the local level, but even when we kind of go back to the idea of police reform, which really is what is at the center of this debate, most of those changes are going to come from Capitol Hill.


This is a unique area where Republicans in Congress are not really taking their cues from the White House. They are discussing legislation on their own and even holding conversations with Democrats.

The two parties still have very different ideas. You saw the Democrats put for the a much more far-reaching proposal that would implement a nationwide ban on the use of chokeholds and really rein in the use of excessive force, whereas Republicans are looking more at expanding this on body cameras and training around de-escalation.

But there is at least a conversation happening on Capitol Hill. And I think the end result could very well be members of Congress simply sending a bill to the president's desk to sign, and that will be really the moment where he is, in fact, tested, whether or not he's going to go against a bipartisan -- a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress.

SCIUTTO: David, do you see a similar dynamic there? I mean, you do have Republicans, for instance, for a support with a national ban on chokeholds here. Do they defy the president on this and say, we're moving forward regardless of what he says?

SWERDLICK: Yes, I do. Because I think Republicans see a post-Trump future, whether that accrues in 2020 or 2024. These members of Congress have to live with the America of the future, whereas President Trump is only sort of appealing to the now and that narrow strategy.

This is almost a harkening back on some of these baby steps that Republicans are taking, and they are baby steps to the 2013 autopsy that the Reince Priebus Republican-led party did, that sort of went out the window when President Trump captured the heart and soul of the Republican electorate in 2016.

These members of Congress don't want to get on the bad foot with the president, but they also can see into the future and know that they are going to be trying to maintain a Republican majority in a different demographic America with each successive election.

SCIUTTO: David Swerdlick, Sabrina Siddiqui, thanks to both of you.

SWERDLICK: Thanks, Jim.

SIDDIQUI: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, this weekend on CNN, join Laura Coates with four of the nation's top mayors, Washington, D.C.'s Muriel Bowser, Atlanta's Keisha Lance Bottoms, Chicago's Lori Lightfoot and San Francisco's London Breed, Mayors Who Matter, a CNN town hall on race and COVID-19, Sunday night 9:00 Eastern Time right here on CNN.

Emergency plans now in place in Arizona as state hospitals are near capacity there as coronavirus cases spike. This outbreak is not over, and we're seeing it on the ground in Arizona.