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COVID-19 Surges Across the United States; Dozens of Secret Service Agents Quarantining After Tulsa Rally; New Model: Wearing Masks Could Save Over 30,000 Lives; Coronavirus Cases Hit Record Highs in 3 Most Populated U.S. States. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 25, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Today record numbers of coronavirus cases all over again and public health experts are now saying what many politicians won't. Parts of this country are now facing a near apocalyptic scenario, a trend one expert says is like watching a slow motion public health train wreck.

SCIUTTO: It's in the numbers, folks. Look at that graph there. It's going up. It's in the wrong direction. Yesterday saw the fourth highest nationwide number of cases in a single day since the pandemic began. The number driven by the three most populated states in the country now seeing record rises in their cases.

The stakes becoming more clear by the day. New model showing thousands more dying in the coming months if current trends hold. That's key, right? It's not just about increased testing, it's also about people getting sick. More dying. More than 30,000 lives could have been saved these models show if 95 percent of Americans wear masks.

HARLOW: Yes. And we can all still do that. Even as calls for mask wearing grow, more and more bipartisan. As Republican voices in Texas and Florida join the chorus, the president is visiting yet another state today, likely without wearing a mask if his recent trips are any indication.

We're following all of this. Let's begin with our correspondent Lucy Kafanov. She joins us in Dallas.

Good morning, Lucy.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, look, Texas, is bracing for what could be a third consecutive day of record-breaking numbers. Both in terms of new cases and hospitalizations. Officials and hospitals here are worried now about potential capacity if these kinds of rates continue. Houston, for example, is facing such a surge that even the children's hospital there is now making room for adult patients, COVID patients, that could be transferred in.

The mayor of Austin telling CNN that if these current rates continue, he could run out of hospital beds by mid-July. And take a listen to this alarming warning from one of the nation and state's top infectious disease experts.


DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Our big metro areas seem to be rising very quickly and some of the models are, you know, on the verge of being apocalyptic. We're seeing -- the models coming out of University of Pennsylvania, now it's a model, but the numbers say that we'll have a four-fold increase in the number of daily cases by July 4th in Houston.


KAFANOV: So this is obviously a major concern. The governor here did make an aggressive push to reopen the state in May. He's now facing this public health disaster. He is urging folks to stay home, to try to not be out on the streets. But we have seen reports of jam-packed bars. Folks out and about. And with that 4th of July holiday coming up those numbers, guys, could be going more and more up. Guys?

HARLOW: Wow. Well, Lucy, thanks a lot for that.

Let's go to our correspondent, Stephanie Elam. She joins us in Los Angeles this morning.

And in California, you've got a state that just saw a record 7,000 new cases in a single day. And Steph, I mean, a state where it is, right, mandated to wear masks inside and outside in almost every circumstance.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's true, Poppy. That's statewide here and that was early on. A lot of what has been done in California happened early on. We were the first state to go into that stay-at-home order on March 19th and there is a perception that California was really ahead of the curve with leading the charge on beating back the coronavirus. But now if you look at these numbers over 7,149 cases is the number that we got from yesterday.

That's just sky rocketing from the previous record of number of new cases which was about 5,000 a day before that. And yesterday I did ask Governor Newsom about those, about this perception that California was ahead and now seems to be slipping behind, and he says that the state has really crushed the curve and that when the stay-at-home order went into effect the state wasn't prepared for an onslaught of cases and for people to be in the hospital in ICU beds.

But he says now they knew that this was going to come, that this number was going to continue to rise as the state opened back up, as you see more people out mixing, going back to work. But this time he's saying they're prepared and there is a controlled rise here, and that only 8 percent of the hospital beds for COVID are actually occupied right now.

One thing that's also worth noting is that here in Los Angeles County which is basically the epicenter of the outbreak in California that they are now saying that they are increasing their testing. Now saying that they'll be able to test some 13,700 tests a day now, taking that number up from just about 7700.

So you're seeing more increases here on testing. But still, as these numbers sky rocket, people are very much concerned -- Poppy and Jim.


SCIUTTO: Consistent story in a lot of states. Stephanie Elam, thanks very much.

CNN correspondent Rosa Flores, she's live in Miami where the mayor there is trying to find a way to require citizens to wear masks without, thought, a statewide order from the governor.

I mean, Rosa Flores, even Senator Marco Rubio has said just wear a damn mask, I think were his exact words there. But still no statewide move.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right. And yesterday on the day that Florida broke its record, Governor Ron DeSantis doubling down saying that he is not going to require a mask statewide.

But here's the deal, we talked to experts and here's how one expert put it, and it's very simple. She said, look, there a lot of young people in Florida who are out partying, not wearing masks, not social distancing, and then going home and intermingling with their parents, their grandparents, and then going to work and doing the same with their coworkers.

Look, I checked the numbers here in Miami-Dade this morning. The positivity rate yesterday was 27 percent. The goal for the county is not to exceed 10 percent. They've exceeded 10 percent for the past 10 days. Jackson Health reporting a 108 percent increase in the number of COVID-19 patients in the past 16 days. Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Jimenez announced yesterday there was an outbreak in south Miami-Dade.

He says that there's an outbreak in farm workers there. That they don't need hospitalizations but they do need to isolate and they live in very close quarters. So the county is going to be offering hotel rooms to these individuals until they get better.

And the city of Miami mayor upping the ante saying that not only he wants to require masks, he wants to impose civil fines, Jim and Poppy, but again, this is all done locally. At the state level, Governor Ron DeSantis doubling down saying he is not going to require masks statewide.

HARLOW: Hard to understand why. Rosa, thanks.

Joining us now to talk about this and the record number of cases also in Texas, Dr. Umair Shah, the executive director of the Harris County Public Health Department. Harris County is the third most populated county in the United States, home to Houston, where what they're seeing I think, it's fair to say, Doctor, is downright scary. Is it time for mask mandates everywhere?

DR. UMAIR SHAH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, first of all, thanks for having me, and yes, this week Judge Hidalgo, our county executive, issued requirements for masks in businesses so we think that's a good first step but obviously there's a lot that we're really concerned about as we see these increasing in numbers, both in cases, the positivity rate of our testing as well as what's happening in the health care system. And that concerns all of us.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. Is there a middle ground between a total statewide lockdown and reopening which allows you to have some economic activity, right, but still stem the spread of this. And I know it's difficult to judge and you would have to ratchet things up and down as warranted. Right, but that's the essential debate here, is it not, and in Texas as well, is can you have a middle ground or to really get a handle on it, let's say, listen, for now, folks, stay at home?

SHAH: You know, absolutely, Jim, I think that's been the key issue. Look, even in reopening, we've been saying it's not that can you cannot reopen, it's that you have to reopen with both health and safety in mind, and you and I talked about this. This is not just about either/or. This is an and. You can do both.

You can reopen but you can reopen with health and safety in mind and make sure the protocols are being followed, make sure that we're doing it slowly enough that we're not layering effect of seeing the reopening as well as other milestone events like holidays and other activities, and all of that comes together in making sure that reopening is safe. And so it's the same in the reverse, that if you are looking at how do you go back where if you feel that you have gone to or prematurely or too much in one direction, then you dial it back.

And so it's not an either/or. It's not 100-zero. This is not a black or a white, there are grays in between but we have to be able to work with our state partners to be able to have those kinds of authorities and that's been the challenge because right now the local authorities outside of this requirement for businesses to have the masks and for the patrons and the staff members outside of that we do not have many of those authorities left. And so this is really now at the state level.

HARLOW: So let me ask you about what New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, the Tri-State area instituted yesterday and that is if you, Doctor, wanted to fly from Houston to one of those states you're going to have to go into a 14-day quarantine. Anyone that's seeing a spike such as in Florida, Arizona, et cetera, will have do that.

My main question is about enforcement because reading in the details here, it's largely a big push, a public sort of awareness push, and telling hotels to tell people that arrive they should do this but there doesn't -- I just wonder about having teeth to it and enforcing it.


SHAH: You know, I think that's one of the biggest things about this entire aspect of the pandemic for several months. This is not just been about the education. It's also about the enforcement. It's about not just -- you know, we have been blue in our face, if you will, to do everything we can to make sure our community knows what they should do in order to fight this pandemic.

And by and large, we have to give credit to our community. It has fought this pandemic successfully. You know the numbers have shown that. The case rates, the death rates to date have shown that. But now that we are at this new phase where we're seeing increases it's not just -- what I call is the ABCs. It's the awareness, but it's also the BC part which is behavior change. And that's a really difficult thing. Right?

So when you say to people, wear a mask or wash your hands, it's one thing for people to hear the message. The behavior changes to actually do it. And I think there are big key policy issues here but there are also individual actions that people can take and we need to do both because guess what? We're running out of that time, where the runway is short and our health care system is filling up, and we need to do everything we can as a community to fight this pandemic.

SCIUTTO: Listen, and the leader of the country is not willing to spread that message. That's notable and seems to have an effect.

Dr. Umair Shah, thanks very much.

SHAH: Yes. Well, and Jim, just inconsistent messaging from the federal, state, local, I don't care what level is that, that impacts the individual community member who gets complacent, confused or decides no, I'm not going to do it.


SHAH: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Thank you, Doctor. Always good to have you on.

Still to come this hour, dozens of members of the Secret Service are now self-quarantining. This after working President Trump's campaign rally in Tulsa. Of course no masks required there. We're going to have the latest ahead.

And House Democrats are set to vote on their own police reform legislation today. Is there any chance for a compromise with Republican lawmakers?

HARLOW: Also, amid calls for renewed scrutiny, the Colorado governor's office is now investigating the death of a young black man who died after being placed in a chokehold by police. You need to know more about this story and the man himself, Elijah McLean.



HARLOW: Right now, dozens of Secret Service agents are in quarantine after working the president's rally in Tulsa last weekend.

SCIUTTO: CNN White House correspondent John Harwood joins us now. John, this is remarkable here, right? Because it gets to risks to the president, of course, these are people who work very closely with the president, but also gets to a question of have the president's events in public, in indoor arenas without masks put the secret service detail in danger themselves?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, they have. We had not only eight advanced workers test positive from the Tulsa event, but two Secret Service agents and as a result, you've got a couple of dozen Secret Service agents being in quarantine now. Now, the Secret Service says they've got enough agents so it doesn't impact their ability to protect the president.

But obviously, infected Secret Service agents pose a risk to the president, and also the more events the president has, if you get more confirmed cases, and you have to quarantine more officials, then you start to get just as you may have exponential spread of the virus, if you have exponential spread of quarantined of Secret Service agents, then you do impact the protective ability.

As of now, the Secret Service says that every agent who goes on a Trump event is going to be tested 24 to 48 hours ahead of time for COVID. We do not know whether there are confirmed cases from the Phoenix event as of yet. The president goes to Wisconsin today. But this is clearly something to watch and the president's insistence on not embracing mask-wearing both with his audiences and in his own modeling for his supporters is something that has real world consequences that we're starting to see.

SCIUTTO: No question and real health consequences. John Harwood --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Thanks very much. Let's speak now to Dr. William Schaffner; he's professor of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Schaffner, you're a doctor, but I purely -- I want to ignore the politics here. I just want to get at the health effect of the president, the commander-in-chief being in denial here about the facts.

He says the virus is going away. It's not. The numbers don't lie. He says that the cases are only rising because of increased testing. That's also false because the positivity rate, that is the percentage of people who test positive is also rising.

And everybody knows face masks make a difference, but the president won't wear them and doesn't require them at his events. I just -- in the simplest terms, are the president's statements and behavior endangering lives? WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR OF DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES AT

VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, what's happening, Jim, obviously, is that we're not getting clear communication and clear modeling from the highest office, and that's really something that we need. It's been a confusion of communications about COVID from the beginning. And that really impairs what it is that local people can do because they simply are confused.

They're getting conflicting messages. Sure, we need absolutely leadership to show us that we all need to wear masks when we're out and about. Six foot distancing, all of that is very important, avoiding those large group events.


HARLOW: OK, so you had Dr. Jonathan Reiner; he's a professor of medicine at GW University say yesterday something that was striking, and he said, "going out in public without a mask is like driving drunk. If you don't get hurt, you might kill somebody else." It's true, except if you drive drunk, your likelihood is pretty good that you're going to get a DUI, right or DWI at some point.

And there are major consequences for that. My question is how do you compel people to do what they need to do to keep other people safe without really consequences other than maybe a possible fine?

SCHAFFNER: Well, Poppy, first of all, you have to model it. You have to make wearing masks a social norm. Every business has to have a sign outside their door that says, if you wish to patronize us, please come in with a mask. If you haven't got one, we'll give you one. And then everybody who works in the business has to wear it.

Religious leaders have to preach that to all faiths, all the time. We need chambers of commerce coming out. Local political leaders, all harmonizing with that message to normalize that behavior in our society. And on occasion, you may indeed have to mandate it.

SCIUTTO: That's not happening, sadly, it's not. And the president seems to be doubling, tripling down on this approach. It's become a political issue, it's a medical issue, but it's become a political issue. So I wonder from a public health perspective, without that kind of leadership and broad national strategy as opposed to state-by-state strategy, can the U.S. get a handle on this, right?

Because countries who have in Europe included South Korea are ones that had a national strategy and required a lot of these behaviors, et cetera. I mean, without that, are we stuck in this, you know, constant, you know, growth in cases?

SCHAFFNER: Jim, I think we are. Look what happened. Initially, the virus was introduced from China and it went to major metropolitan areas, and of course, we developed some hot spots there. Then over time, it began to go to medium-sized cities, and now over the Summer, it's going to smaller cities and it's now getting out to rural areas.

So whereas it was rather geographically constrained initially, now it's spreading out across the country. And when the Fall comes, and influenza takes off and COVID takes off, all of a sudden, it's going to take off all across the country, and we are going to be stuck in a very bad place. The time to normalize wearing masks and social distancing behavior is now so that we get used to it by the time the Fall arrives.

And I'm very concerned that the second wave this Fall will be substantially greater than what we had experienced so far.

HARLOW: Dr. William Schaffner, thank you so much for being here. Well, Bill Gates warned of a pandemic like coronavirus years ago. Not a lot of people listened. Now he weighs in on the rising number of cases we have, and what can be done at this point to curb all of it. He joins Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta tonight for "CNN GLOBAL TOWNHALL: CORONAVIRUS FACTS AND FEARS", it's live 8 O'clock Eastern right here on CNN.

Despite this pandemic and as cities nationwide push police reform, violent crime actually is on the rise in many places. We'll talk about that.

SCIUTTO: And we're moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. We're watching how investors will react to new Labor Department numbers, showing another 1.5 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week. It marks the 12th-straight week, three months, that claims have risen -- well, fallen in terms of number, but still more people added to the list since mid-March when the pandemic began. In total now, 47 million Americans have reached out for unemployment assistance.



HARLOW: Well, today on Capitol Hill, house Democrats are set to pass their Policing Reform Bill. The proposal is expected to pass largely along party lines.

SCIUTTO: This comes one day after Democrats blocked a competing bill in the Senate, arguing it did not go far enough to address police misconduct. CNN congressional reporter Lauren Fox joins us now. And Lauren, we've been here so many times before on so many major issues, whether it was a national swelling of public support, think about gun control. Congress doesn't get anywhere in terms of compromise.

I mean, is the driving force here that perhaps both sides they want to cause, not a law. They want an issue, not a law.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: I think certainly, Jim, what we saw yesterday was Democrats blocking this proposal in part because the country was having this swell of debate. This moment where everyone wanted to see action. However, Democrats argue that this bill was not salvageable. That no amount of amendments could actually improve it. A no-knock warrants when it came to choke-holds.

They were arguing that the Republican bill didn't even touch qualified immunity, that was one of the key sticking points. But even when Republicans argued there will be an amendment process, Democrats argued that is not enough. This bill, it is not even salvageable. Now, we're going to see the house Democrats pass their own proposal along party lines.