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Twenty-one States Report Coronavirus Increases; Interview with Gov. Ned Lamont (D-CT); Mexico and the United States Disagree Over Tourism During COVID-19. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired June 17, 2020 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Vice President Mike Pence, later today, will hold a closed-door meeting of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. This, as he calls fears of a second wave of the virus, quote, "overblown." He writes that in a new op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal," and he says the U.S. is winning the fight against COVID-19.

Here are the facts as they stand this morning, though: Twenty-one states are reporting an increase in new cases, and three states just hit record daily numbers, that's Texas, Arizona and Florida. Let's go to the White House. Our correspondent, John Harwood, joins me now.

Those are undeniable facts, and it's not just because, John, of increased testing.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No. Testing is up, and that's a good thing, but the increase in cases, especially in some of those Sun Belt states, is exceeding the rate of increase in the testing, so there's a lot of concern there.

Now, to some extent, Vice President Pence is right to say we're not in a second wave, but that's only because we're still in the first wave, we're still plateaued at around 20,000 cases a day.

Now, there are some good things happening, which is that the rate -- numbers of deaths has gone down to somewhat below 800 a day. It had been over 2,000 a day at its peak, so that's positive. And physicians know how to treat this better.

But the administration clearly, Poppy, is going back to the strategy that President Trump adopted before the shutdowns in February and March, of downplaying the impact of the virus, trying to talk up the economy and put us in a place where he can try to inspire economic activity by looking past the coronavirus.

The -- you could see that in a symbolic way, in the way neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence wear a mask or encourage others to wear a mask, ether in campaign events or in their appearances at the White House. We know at this event in Tulsa, they are going to distribute masks but not require them. Notable contrast here, Republican senators who have seen their poll

numbers go south along with the president's, as he's become more politically isolated, when they announced their police reform proposals today at a press conference on Capitol Hill, everyone, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Poppy, was wearing a mask.

HARLOW: I thought that was notable as well, John, it really was. Thank you for that reporting.

Let's get to Rosa Flores in Miami. This is one of the states we just talked about, Rosa, where they just set a new daily record for cases. But Governor DeSantis has been very clear, it doesn't matter if the numbers go up, we're not reversing course and closing down again.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right. And that daily record on Monday was nearly 2,800 cases in just one day. But as you mentioned, Governor Ron DeSantis, digging in his heels, saying that even though there is an uptick, he is not shutting down the economy.


He has mentioned that there are outbreaks in several communities including prisons, long-term care facilities and agricultural communities as well.

Now, when it comes to agricultural communities, those cases could become the issues of other states pretty soon because, according to Governor Ron DeSantis, many of the individuals who have contracted the coronavirus are migrant workers, and they're about to move to other states. Take a listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Some of these workers are migratory, so they're going to be going -- some of them already left this weekend to go to other states. Florida's Department of Health is in contact with Georgia, Alabama, some of these other states, to be able to work with them and give them a heads-up about what might be coming down the pike.


FLORES: Now, Poppy, I want to share with you some examples that the governor gave, because it really paints the picture. He said that in one migrant worker community, the positivity rate was 90 percent. At another location, the positivity, 36 percent, 63 percent, 46 percent, 52 percent, you get the idea.

Now, like the governor said, now, the state of Florida is in contact with other states like Alabama, like Georgia because some of these cases will be moving to other states.

HARLOW: Course they will. Of course, with things much more open, they certainly will. Rosa, thank you very much for that. Connecticut's governor, imposing sweeping reforms on police in that state. The ACLU there says it doesn't go far enough. Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut joins us, next.



HARLOW: Well, this morning, a major development. Chokeholds and other tactics that restrict breathing are officially banned from use by state police in Connecticut. This is after Governor Ned Lamont's signing of a new sweeping executive order on Monday. He joins me now.

Governor, thank you very much for being here.

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): Good morning, Poppy.

HARLOW: What will this mean in terms of actual on-the-ground implementation for all the officers in your state? Meaning will all Connecticut law enforcement officers be required to undergo new statewide training to make sure they know exactly what is prohibited?

LAMONT: Right now, it's just for our state police, our legislature's going to come forward with a bill that follows that on for all of our local police as well. But, really, policing is about trust. And trust means involving the community. So, obviously, a chokehold sent a signal that this is not about trust in the community.

But we found out with the protests, following George Floyd's murder, our police leaders were working very closely with the protest leaders, sometimes taking a knee together, we're able to avoid violence and also able to stand up for a cause bigger than ourselves.

HARLOW: Look, it has been, next month, it will be six years since the world watched as Eric Garner in Staten Island, your neighboring state, suffered from a chokehold and begged to breathe. And I wonder what you say to those who might ask, Governor, why just now? Because you said this week, I don't want to wait another minute. Why did it take until now and not sooner?

LAMONT: I think for myself, I can do something about it. Eric Garner, we were outraged, I can't breathe. And I was so -- you know, one of the things about COVID is, the motto was, we're all in this together. And then it became, I can't breathe. And what was separating us.

So as governor, I have an opportunity to make a difference here, we're going to lead by example, that's what we did with our criminal justice reform, that's what we're doing with police accountability. We're going to -- following that up in terms of judges and state police and the diversity of this amazing state, reflected in those governing groups.

HARLOW: I'm sure you saw the response from the American Civil Liberties Union in your state. They said, quote, "The people of Connecticut deserve much better than Lamont's order, which amounts to lukewarm heat and no light. The Connecticut General Assembly must come back into session and accomplish things that Lamont has refused to do, including reducing the role and size of policing in our state, creating an equitable COVID-19 response plans, and decarcerating prisons and jails."

Is there more to be done here?

LAMONT: There's always more to be done. We have 15 percent fewer people incarcerated today than we had pre-COVID, just four months ago. You're right, when it comes to testing, we're taking the testing and mobile vans, right into those communities that are most at risk, black and brown communities where people are living often close together, that's where the infections are most severe.

So we're doing everything we can to make a difference for these folks, and that makes a difference for us all.

HARLOW: You have, I should note, endorsed Joe Biden for president. And I wonder what your response is on this topic of policing in America. More than 50 progressive groups wrote a letter to him this week. And they say, look, even what he has proposed, it needs to go further. They write this, in terms of the proposal that he's made to invest $300 million in community policing, Governor.


"We're here to tell you unequivocally, this is not the answer. The COPS program has directly contributed to the increased size and scope of policing in cities across the country, and the subsequent stream of violence and killings perpetrated by law enforcement on black people in particular."

They want more of a conversation on reparations, on defunding police, what that might look like. Do you think that there is more to be done by the Biden camp here?

LAMONT: I think there's more to be done by all of us. But I'll tell you, when it comes to the state police, sometimes I do think -- and our municipal police, we're asking them to do too much. You go into a home, maybe there's -- it's a mental health issue, it's a drug addiction issue, domestic abuse. A whole variety of things.

So I think we've got to get our social service groups more involved as well, so we have the right answer to each of these issues. But the police are there because there's often a public safety issue as well.

HARLOW: Yes, no, I mean, look, it's getting a lot of attention now, there are some things that maybe shouldn't be policed, you are saying, they should be left to experts in other fields.

Let's talk about COVID-19, coronavirus, because your state is one of 22 where there is a downward trend in cases, that's a good thing. But today's a big day for you guys, this is phase two of reopenings. That means a number of things, including gatherings of people outside, I think of up to 100 people. What are you expecting to see? And if the numbers tick up, are you willing to reinstate some of the restrictions? TEXT: Connecticut Reopening Phase Two: Amusement parks, museums and

zoos; Hotels; Libraries; Indoor dining; Sports and fitness facilities

LAMONT: So it was exactly a month ago that we allowed outdoor dining, we opened up all of our stores. And in that month, our hospitalizations are down 50 percent and our rate of infection is down dramatically. So that meant that we didn't reopen too soon, we've done it carefully, people are still wearing the masks, which is so important.

So as you point out, yes, today is indoor dining, today is hotels, today is nail salons. So approximately 95 percent of the Connecticut economy is now up and operating. That doesn't mean that customers feel totally safe, going into indoor dining yet, so it's going to take a little bit of time, but we're making progress.

HARLOW: OK, finally, quickly, the vice president, who leads the Coronavirus Task Force, says any talk about a quote-unquote "second wave" is, quote, "overblown." Is it?

LAMONT: No. I mean, you've got to be conscious of this. Look what's going on In Arizona and Texas and Florida, look what's going on in Wuhan, China. We thought that was behind them, they've had a flare-up as well. So this is no time to, you know, take down your guard and happy talk won't make it go away. Be careful, be cautious like we've done here in Connecticut, opening up safely, I think that's the best answer.

HARLOW: Happy talk won't make it go away. The facts are the facts. Governor Ned Lamont, thank you and we wish you luck today, for everyone who lives there, as you go through phase two reopening.

LAMONT: Nice to see you, Poppy, thank you.

HARLOW: All right.


Russia, get this, limiting President Vladimir Putin's possible exposure to coronavirus by a special tunnel entrance? -- look at that video -- with disinfectant misting for everyone who wants to come in, next.


HARLOW: The U.S. ambassador to Mexico says now is not the time for tourism there, even if you're getting a good deal. Let's go to Matt Rivers, he joins us from Mexico.

Obviously, this is, you know, a big blow to the tourism industry there, but they're just so worried about the health concerns of people traveling in.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. I mean, there's two things happening right now in Mexico. On the one hand, we're in the worst days of this outbreak by far. But on the other hand, the economy here is beginning to reopen. And in some places, that means tourism, like on the Yucatan Peninsula, for example, that's where you find those famous resort towns like Cancun, Playa del Carmen. And some resorts in those places have already reopened their doors to tourists.

Now, the U.S.-Mexico land border remains closed to all nonessential travel, but Americans can still fly to Mexico and go to those resorts. And the Mexican government, clearly trying to jump-start an industry that is worth billions of dollars to the economy here, says it is safe for Americans to do so.

The U.S. government disagrees. As you mentioned, the ambassador, here in Mexico City, putting out a video statement this week, basically saying even if you get those great two-for-one deals that some of these resorts are offering, the fact is, the number of cases, the number of deaths are still far too high here in Mexico, and continue rising in some cases. And because of that, it is not safe for Americans to take a vacation right now in Mexico, even if so many people would like to.

HARLOW: But what does that mean for actually -- if people book and go, Matt? Because the hotels and stuff, I've still seen Mexican hotels offering incentives for people to come.

RIVERS: Right. And if -- let's say there's an American who's just too stir-crazy to ignore these warnings and wants to come here. What we've spoken to resorts in Cancun about, is that they say there's strict capacity limits, no more than 30 percent. They're doing all kinds of new sanitation measures like spraying down luggage, for example, when you arrive, sanitizing rooms.

So the hotels say they understand the risks, they understand the threat. But they want people to come down there, and they say that they can do so safely. But as we mentioned, the American government disagrees.

HARLOW: Matt Rivers, thank you very much, We appreciate it.


And thanks to all of you for being with us today. I'll see you back here tomorrow morning. NEWSROOM with John King starts right after this.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Hello, I'm John King in Washington. Thank you so much for sharing your day with us.

And big developments on the two stories that have re-wired American life: the pandemic and the protests over police brutality.


Senate Republicans, just a short time ago, releasing their bill to overhaul the police. And it is markup day across the Capitol in the House Judiciary Committee for the Democrats' own reform effort. Already some tension over how to reconcile the two proposals, and big questions despite this clear bipartisan urgency about whether a reform plan will actually get to the --