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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Joe Biden Slams Trump in Pennsylvania; Coronavirus Cases Rising in Texas and California. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 25, 2020 - 15:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to the Lead. I'm Jake Tapper. We begin today with our health lead in. We are breaking records on new coronavirus cases in states across this nation.

Right now there are nearly 2.4 million confirmed cases and that number is tragically surging with the CDC director warning this afternoon that the actual infection rate could actually be 10 times higher because of those who show no systems but have the virus and can spread it.

[15:00:00]

Infections are soaring in California, in Texas, in Florida, three states that make up more than a quarter of the U.S. population.

In Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott is suspending the reopening to deal with the growing crisis and, once again, in several counties canceling elective surgeries in hospitals. The mayors of Houston and Austin in Texas are warning, intensive care units could soon become overwhelmed, as one medical expert in Texas gave this sobering assessment.

Increases in hospitalizations and infections across the Lone Star State, he said, could become -- quote -- "apocalyptic."

CNN's Alexandra Field is in Dallas, Texas, for us.

Alexandra, is this a major reversal from Governor Abbott, considering how much of the state has already reopened? What does this actually change?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, he has certainly pumped the brakes here.

You will remember, of course, that Texas was out in front with a handful of other states that were quick to reopen during the course of this pandemic. They moved to open businesses quickly.

Now you have got the governor, Greg Abbott, calling this a pause on the reopening. It means that the businesses that are already opening can continue to stay open. They can continue to operate within the thresholds that they have been given by the state already, but you won't see the easing of any restrictions, at least not yet. No word yet on when Texas could continue to open farther. But, look,

this is a state that has wanted to put people back to work. It has rushed and moved quickly to open up businesses again. There has been some reluctance to wear masks in this state. And now you're seeing these numbers that have been rocketing on upwards over the last few days, reaching record highs in the last two days.

We're also seeing this hospitalizations go up over the last 13 days. So, the governor admitting here that change needs to happen, that they have got to get control of this virus, that they have got to stop this spread.

TAPPER: Alexandra, according to the Texas Medical Center Web site, 100 percent of their intensive care unit, ICU, beds are now in use. Are they prepared for an even bigger surge of patients?

FIELD: Yes. And mayors across this state had been sounding the alarm that this would happen in major cities.

The CEO of the medical group which represents the hospital system across Houston, four major hospitals, are saying that they have been preparing for months for the possibility of a surge. They say that their hospital capabilities are not being eclipsed by the very alarming numbers that we're seeing right now. They say they have reserved 15 percent of hospital capacity for COVID patients, that they are working together, hospitals within the system are working together now.

And they are saying that they have the resources and the staff that they need to deal with this, but, certainly, we have heard officials warning that this problem could get worse if it isn't turned around quickly.

TAPPER: All right, Alexandra, thank you so much.

Joining me now is Dr. Peter Hotez, who leads the vaccine development program at Texas Children's Hospital, and is working on a potential coronavirus vaccine.

Doctor, thanks so much for joining us. We know hospitalizations and deaths usually get reported after surges in cases. They're a lagging indicator. How dire the situation is there in Texas right now?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes.

No, it's pretty just dire, Jake. We have got an enormous amount of community transmission. If you look at the curve of the numbers going up, it's following what we call an exponential curve, which is, it looks initially flat, and then it accelerates very sharply, almost vertically.

And that's where we're at right now. And you're absolutely (AUDIO GAP). We're not seeing the deaths yet. But that will start. Those deaths will start to mount up, I would say, in a couple of weeks.

The projections look pretty dire. And they are models, but the epidemiologic models are suggesting that we could be at by July 4 weekend 4,000 cases a day, so three or four times even this very high acceleration, a very high rate in Houston. And similar things are happening now in Dallas and all the metro areas, in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio.

So, this is a real -- I can't stress enough how concerned I am. The other piece to this, Jake, that we're not really talking about a lot is, we have seen in Houston and some of the other Texas cities a disproportionate impact on people living in the low-income neighborhoods, where it's harder to do the social distancing, where there's higher rates of underlying diabetes and hypertension.

And I'm especially worried of what's happening to the African-American and Hispanic, Latinx populations in Houston. You know, we don't have the data yet, but I'm guessing they are disproportionately being affected, like we saw in New Orleans, and we're going to have to really double down on our health for the low-income neighborhoods here in Texas.

TAPPER: So, Doc, the Texas governor says he's pausing reopening plans, but restaurants are already in Texas reopened to 75 percent capacity with indoor dining.

[15:05:04]

Gyms, bars, stores, water parks, salons, they're all open already. Is it too late to say, we're pausing reopening in Texas?

HOTEZ: Well, remember, Jake, a pause is really maintaining the status quo, isn't it? So I don't see -- a pause is basically saying, we're not going to open it up further, but, on the other hand, things will be as is.

And so those numbers will continue to accelerate. So I don't see how we avoid ultimately going back to dial -- to doing a dial-back, to actually closing some things back up. Otherwise, the numbers just continue to rise.

So, it's -- I'm glad at least we have paused. Glad we now have mandatory masks took place in the workplace and elsewhere. But I -- quite honestly, I think that's going to be insufficient. These numbers will continue to accelerate. And then we're going to see (AUDIO GAP) in a couple of weeks.

So we are going to have to take steps to bring this back. I'm reluctant to be too prescriptive and say exactly what we should dial back. I don't want to tie the hands of our public health leaders in our major metropolitan areas.

But I'm almost certain they're meeting at this point to look at next steps, because just maintaining the status quo probably won't be sufficient.

TAPPER: Texas was one of the first states to reopen, of course. And Governor Abbott has been publicly saying for weeks that, in his view, the virus is under control. How difficult is it going to be to try to convince the public that has

been told everything is fine that now they need to start staying home and wearing masks?

HOTEZ: So, we haven't really done this very much, have we, in the United States. We actually did pretty well in Texas for a while. We saw what was happening in New York. We didn't want to reproduce that here. We wound up shutting things down towards the end of March in Texas, and when virus transmission was only going out for a couple of weeks, where it had gone on for six weeks in New York.

And that's why, in New York, it was such a horrific epidemic. We never had anything of that level here in Texas. And that was great. But then the epidemiologic modelers told us, if you really want to bring this containment mode, meaning one new case per million residents per day, keep this going to the end of May, and then you can potentially prevent it from sliding back upwards.

And we just weren't prepared to do that, for a number of reasons. We did it a month earlier. And then we didn't put all the public health system (AUDIO GAP) that we needed to ensure that we could do that safely. And now we're in this situation again.

And you're right. We have never asked Americans to do this twice, and so we don't have a lot of precedent to go on.

TAPPER: More than a dozen states, including some with Republican governors, are now requiring masks in public.

In Texas, it's not required. It's just recommended. I know you're hesitant to be prescriptive, but isn't that a mistake? I mean, shouldn't people in Texas, where it's surging, be wearing masks and be required to do so?

HOTEZ: Most certainly, in the metro areas like Houston, that is essentially happening.

But it's been more of a -- it's been more of a tussle than it should have been. We should have had this discussion weeks ago. And it should have been relatively easy. And one of the things that we have in -- Texas is a wonderful state for science, and it's been the most productive period of my scientific career being here in the Texas Medical Center and Baylor and Texas Children's.

But we do have a dark side in Texas. We do have this very vocal, very aggressive anti-science movement. They go after me about vaccines because I wrote a book called "Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism" about my daughter, and I defend vaccines, and they go after me about that.

But now they're adding to their remit protests against contact tracing, against social distancing, against testing, all of the few tools that we have. And they have a lot of influence. And that is making things very hard as well.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you so much. Appreciate it. And our thoughts and prayers with everybody in Texas.

We have some breaking news from another hot spot, California, where the new case numbers just came out. That's next.

And later: Moms and moms-to-be, listen up. There are new details linking pregnancy, coronavirus, and ventilators.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:14:13]

TAPPER: Breaking news in our national lead: The governor just announced new numbers for coronavirus cases in California, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom. It's more than 5,000 new cases in one day. It's a decrease from yesterday's record, but still a staggering number that Governor Newsom says is way too high.

CNN's Kyung Lah joins me now live from Los Angeles.

And, Kyung, it's not just a rise in positive cases in California, but a massive rise in the number of hospitalizations.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And that's very concerning.

The governor, in announcing the second highest day for new cases, also talked about hospitalizations, announcing it as a new record, 4,240 people in the hospital because of this virus, all of this a frustrating slide backwards for the state of California.

[15:15:03]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have three lanes waiting.

LAH (voice-over): If you thought the COVID crisis in California was over, it's not even close, say the people living the impact at this Los Angeles food bank.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like, with the stores opening, they're making people feel like it's safe to be out. But, in reality, it's not. It's not safe.

LAH (on camera): What do you say to people in California who think that this problem is over?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stay home.

LAH (voice-over): The numbers paint a stark picture in California. After weeks of keeping the spread largely in check, new infections have shot up, shattering records on multiple days.

Los Angeles County now has the most infections of any county in the country. California's Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom says, closing the state for a second time is on the table.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We don't intend to do that. We don't want to do that. But I want to make this clear. We are prepared to do that if we must.

LAH: How did this happen? California was the first state to shut down. About two months of closures cratered the economy, but stabilized infections. Then the state moved forward in phases to restart the economy, even as testing lagged.

ERIC GARCETTI (D), MAYOR OF LOS ANGELES: Each day, we're getting a little smarter. But, each day, the threat is still there.

Los Angeles just announced an additional 6,000 tests across the city's testing centers to keep up with demand. But epidemiologists say testing and contact tracing is still a struggle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They needed to scale up quickly, so we're always going to be chasing behind this virus, instead of in front of it.

LAH: Meanwhile, infections in nursing homes and the prison population never stopped. And when the economy reopened, then came days of protests over the death of George Floyd, where we saw masks, but little social distancing.

The governor and county health officials say, this may be a factor in the current surge of COVID cases.

(on camera): Is there a lesson to be learned from what we're seeing now in California?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because we had flattened the curve here in California early on does not mean we are out of the woods.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: Live here now in Los Angeles.

This is the food bank, 2,500 cars expected to come through here. They're prepared for 3,000 families to be fed. And this is something we have been seeing throughout the day, a stretch of cars.

One small snapshot of the economic fallout here in California, the governor also announced a massive budget deficit. In just a few short months, he went from a $21 billion surplus that the state was expecting to now a $54.3 billion deficit, Jake.

And this, again, just happened because of the virus fallout -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Kyung Lah in Los Angeles, thank you so much .

Florida's Department of Health, reporting more than 5,000 new cases of coronavirus just today. That state has hit record levels twice in just the last week.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in hard-hit Miami, Florida. Rosa, in addition to increased cases of coronavirus, there are also, of course, other numbers to look at, including the percentage of those tested who test positive for the virus.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely right. The positivity right here in Miami-Dade County, where I am, just yesterday, 27 percent positivity rate, Jake.

The goal for the county is to stay below 10 percent. Well, the county has exceeded that for the past 10 days. Now ,here in Miami-Dade County, the mayor announcing yesterday that there was an outbreak in an agricultural community in South Dade, where farmworkers that have been very -- in very close quarters have an outbreak.

Now, the mayor saying that these workers don't need hospitalization, but they do need a place to isolate. So the county has stepped in, offering hotel rooms, so that these farmworkers can isolate until they get rid of the virus.

Now, I'm here at Jackson Health. Jackson Health System reporting a 108 percent increase in the number of COVID-19 patients, Jake, very concerning, just the increase in the number of people who are having to go to the hospital, some of them very young -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Rosa, yesterday, Florida's Republican senator -- senior senator -- Marco Rubio said that everyone should just wear a damn mask. That's his words.

Is Governor DeSantis, also a Republican, is he considering instituting a mandatory requirement that people wear masks in public, as many other governors, Democrat and Republican, have been pushing?

FLORES: You know, not at all.

And the rationale that he said yesterday was that most of the transmission happens in metro areas, not in rural areas. But, Jake, as I just mentioned, the governor's rationale falls flat when the mayor of Miami-Dade says that he hasn't outbreak in South Dade.

[15:20:00]

And the governor himself just last week was saying that there were outbreaks in rural communities -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Rosa Flores in Miami, thank you so much.

Coming up next: the virus and the rally -- new details on how it's impact Trump -- impacting Trump campaign staff and Secret Service agents at Saturday's rally.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:25:17] TAPPER: As the coronavirus pandemic rages on across the United States, President Trump continues to deliberately mislead the public about just how bad the pandemic is.

The president, instead, seems to be focused on his own reelection and using divisive rhetoric. Today, the president accused a Black Lives Matter leader of -- quote -- "treason, sedition, and insurrection," while, simultaneously, the president is defending monuments and tributes to individual racists who actually can be said to have committed treason, sedition and insurrection, namely, Confederate generals, this instead of any sort of aggression -- aggressive national leadership to lower the number of new COVID-19 cases and save American lives.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live for us from the White House.

Kaitlan, the president is in Wisconsin right now. It's a state where, according to a Marquette University law school poll, Joe Biden is leading currently with 49 percent of voters, compared to Trump's 41 percent. Why is the president seemingly more focused on divisive rhetoric and his reelection than on the pandemic?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Because I think he's looking at numbers like those and "The New York Times"' poll out today that has Biden ahead in double digits, not only in Wisconsin, but also in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

And, Jake, he's also seeing numbers that people do not approve of the way he's handled the coronavirus pandemic. And getting into a culture fight, like it is with his monuments that the president has been talking about so much, is much more comfortable territory for him than handling the pandemic, which he knows voters have rejected the way he's handled it so far, according to the polls that he's been shown, that he's looking at all of these as well.

And even though he disputes them, he knows what's out going on. The question is, can he really put this pandemic behind him, as he's been trying to do over the last few days, making all of these trips? And even his aides, people like the vice president, Mike Pence, and his top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, today are trying to downplay these new outbreaks that we're seeing happening.

Listen to what Larry Kudlow said just a few hours ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: There are spikes and hot spots. There's no -- no doubt about that. And there will be some shutdowns in individual places or certain sta -- basically, the lineup is still so positive, even with these hot spots, that we have to live with this from time to time.

But that's a different matter than the whole country.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COLLINS: Larry Kudlow saying, we are not going back to shutdowns across the country widespread, like we had seen before, despite how the cases are the highest that they have been since April.

And so these are questions that local leaders are making on a local level, but you're seeing people like Kudlow, who, we should note, once said that the virus was contained, he believed, in March.

TAPPER: It's also interesting that the president is dismissing coronavirus, not talking about it as the kind of threat it is, talking about how it's going to fade away, which it obviously is not, when multiple staffers for his own campaign and members of the U.S. Secret Service have tested positive after his own campaign rally in Tulsa.

COLLINS: Yes.

And now all of those staffers, all the campaign staffers who were in Tulsa are quarantining this week. They're not going into the office after they had just returned, because of those restrictions. Instead, they are working from home and quarantining because they're concerned because they did interact with those eight staffers who got it.

Yet the president doesn't seem to be concerned about that fallout. It doesn't seem to be changing his activities, at least. And we should note the White House staffers who also went are not quarantining, though they do say they're regularly tested here at the White House.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

In Pennsylvania, former Vice President Joe Biden just wrapped up remarks on health care. He was with families in Lancaster, PA, reminding voters of the president's recent comments that he had asked his administration to -- quote -- "slow down the testing" on COVID-19.

CNN's M.J. Lee is live at the event.

M.J., what is Vice President, former Vice President Biden saying?

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, as you know, it is not every day now that we see Joe Biden out on the campaign trail.

And the focus of today's event here in Lancaster was health care. He talked a lot about protecting Obamacare. But then he really turned to those comments that Donald Trump made that you just referred to where he said he wanted his administration to slow down testing, even though, of course, we all know this goes against the advice that we have heard from so many doctors and public health experts.

Joe Biden said that, when -- I'm sorry -- I was getting some sound in my ear. I apologize.

When Joe Biden -- Joe Biden said that, when Donald Trump talks about the testing being a double-edged sword, he is doing it because he believes that this is a bad look for him.

He also got incredibly personal in talking about Donald Trump, calling him a child. Take a listen.