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Texas to Pause Reopening; Interview with Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg; NFL Hall of Fame Weekend Postponed. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 25, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And just today, after the United States posted another daily increase in new cases since the beginning of the pandemic, the Trump White House is poised to cut funding to testing sites in just a few days. President Trump is shrugging off the spike, tweeting that an increase in testing is the cause.

As you may recall, the president has said he wants testing slowed down, putting him at odds with members of his own task force, who say that it should increase and it will increase. And we should note that multiple members of the president's campaign staff are now quarantining, after interacting with several colleagues who tested positive for coronavirus following the president's rally in Tulsa.

The coronavirus surge is real, despite the president's denials. Just ask anyone in a hotspot. CNN national correspondent Erica Hill is in New York. And, Erica, have many of the states wiped out their gains here during the shutdown by reopening too quickly?

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of question, and there's even some criticism at the local level in certain states about reopening too quickly.

Here's what we do know, we're actually learning more about who's getting infected. More young people, as we know, but the CDC also updating who is impacted more severely. We knew about underlying conditions, we knew about the elderly and those who are morbidly obese.

But the CDC today, saying that anybody with a BMI of 30 or higher is actually at higher risk at that point. And that, Brianna, includes some 42 percent of the population.


HILL (voice-over): In the nation's three most populous states, things are going from bad to worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think history's going to look back forgivingly upon the United States and Americans for going down this road.

HILL (voice-over): California, Florida and Texas, breaking records for the number of new cases reported in a single day.

Governor Greg Abbott, pausing additional reopening in Texas, where hospitalization records are being set too. At Texas Medical Center, there are just two available ICU beds in the greater Houston area, two out of more than 1,300.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're running out of that time. With the runway short and our health care system is filling up, and we need to do everything we can as a community to fight this pandemic.

HILL (voice-over): One of the most effective ways to fight COVID-19? Wear a mask.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's incredibly unfortunate that this has become so political.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We started noticing more and more people not wearing them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not getting clear communication and clear modeling from the highest office. You have to make wearing masks a social norm.

HILL (voice-over): In Florida, where more than 5,000 cases were added Thursday, the governor encourages face coverings but says a statewide order would be too tough to enforce.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is scary here, younger people are getting sick.

HILL (voice-over): They're required in hard-hit Miami, where the mayor is now considering fines for anyone who ignores his order.

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI, FLORIDA: If we don't want to go backwards, the only option that we have right now is to order masks in public.

HILL (voice-over): Dozens of Secret Service agents, now quarantined as a precaution after two agents who worked the president's rally in Tulsa on Saturday, tested positive for the virus.

A new concern for pregnant women, the CDC reporting Thursday they may be at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness, especially black and Hispanic women.

Disneyland's reopening, now delayed. California says it has not met the criteria.

And Louisiana's governor, keeping his state in phase two.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D), LOUISIANA: Without a doubt that the virus is spreading in our community.

HILL (voice-over): Meantime, New York City, on track for phase three, bringing back indoor dining, sports and dog runs on July 6th.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HILL: And just a little more background on this pause we've now heard about from Governor Abbott in Texas. He said businesses that did reopen can pretty much stay in the phase that they're in. No one can move forward right now.

He said the issue here is, of course, he doesn't want to have to go backwards, doesn't want to have to close businesses again. And this has been a big source of contention in the state of Texas, specifically when you talk about things like masks.

A number of local officials, as you know, Brianna, have asked the governor to mandate a statewide order, which he has resisted doing. On a local level, though, that has happened.

The governor, encouraging people to wear masks, to practice social distancing, to wash their hands. But there is significant concern, looking at Houston, looking at Austin, looking at a number of places around the state of Texas right now, and what could be coming in the next days or even weeks.

KEILAR: Yes. It's pretty amazing, Erica Hill, thank you so much, live from New York for us.

Dr. Pritesh Gandhi is a primary care internal medicine physician. He's also a Democratic congressional candidate for the 10th district there in Texas. Dr. Gandhi, thank you for being with us.


KEILAR: And first, I want to get your thoughts on the governor's decision in Texas to pause further reopening there. He's not dialing back what's already open, but he's not going to further open additional businesses. Is that going to be enough?


PRITESH GANDHI (D), TEXAS CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: It's not enough. Pausing reopening is literally the very least he can do. And when I mean least, it is the least that he can do.

There are so many things that we should be doing right now. He should be moving forward to mandate masks for use in public areas. And we need to take a hard look at closing down our bars and restaurants for at least a one- to two-week period. We've got to give folks a break here.

I'm looking at my colleagues at the clinic, who are exhausted. We are exhausted, reusing PPE, doubling our drive-through capacity, doubling our respiratory capacity and it isn't enough while people are in bars and restaurants without masks.

And so we need more decisive action, and I think he ought to push that through here in the next week or two.

KEILAR: So if you have this pause but there is not that statewide mask mandate that the governor is resisting, does the pause work? GANDHI: No. The pause doesn't work as well as it could, right? I mean, when we think about public health policy, we think about it as being part of an orchestra. You need to have mandatory masks, you need to give our health care professionals a break for one to two weeks to catch our breath. You have to push forth expansive contact tracing and testing, and all of these things have to work in concert together. We cannot succeed with one-off policy.

And so while I welcome pausing further reopening, and while I welcome the governor deciding to halt elective surgeries in four of the major cities in the state of Texas today, he's pausing elective surgeries to expand our hospital capacity, which means that he's already put up the white flag.

If we think that we're going to continue to be hammered with increased hospitalizations, then we're not pursuing the right policy.

KEILAR: Can you tell us, Doctor, what it's like there in hospitals in Texas, what you're seeing, what your colleagues are seeing?

GANDHI: Absolutely. Well, I think what we know is that we are at record hospitalization and ICU utilization in Austin. We know that this weekend, our ICU capacity will hit -- exceed our baseline capacity in Houston at the medical center, and we know that we've had a roughly 300 percent increase in the number of cases statewide since phase one reopening.

I will tell you that on Monday, when I was in clinic and I walked into clinic and I talked to colleagues of mine, folks said that you ought to walk around and rally the troops. And the reason why is that it's 95 degrees outside, we're about to be hit with a big dust storm, we are reusing our N95s and we're seeing patient after patient come in with symptoms.

And the reality is, is that the exposure isn't happening in health care facilities, it's happening in the community. Their aunts, their uncles, their mothers, their fathers are all coming down with these symptoms, and it's happening so quickly. And folks are tired and folks want science-driven leadership.

And so, yes, it is -- it's exhausting, and I'm worried that my colleagues, who are pediatricians at Texas Children's Hospital, are seeing adult patients. There's something wrong with our policy right now.

KEILAR: Yes, they're -- they're bringing in the folks who are in need of care, right? Even if that's normally who they're not supposed to be treating.

So here in five days, federal funding for testing sites in Houston, El Paso and Dallas is set to stop, and the governor says the state is prepared to transition away from those funds, that a strategy is going to be announced soon.

But first, I wonder, have you gotten any information regarding that strategy? And second, does the state have the capacity to oversee the scope of testing that's needed, especially as you're seeing Houston emerge as a hotspot?

GANDHI: Yes, so first off, no, we have received no guidance from the state level on how we're going to expand our testing and sustain our testing. I think what you've seen is what you've seen all along. All of us are making up the rules as we go because there isn't any kind of state-level guidance.

To your second question, I don't think the state's going to be able to meet the capacity. And let's just look at the raw numbers. Houston leads all cities in the state of Texas in the number of uninsured individuals. Two of these sites that are supported by federal funds test up to 750 patients a day, and they are nearing capacity.

So I don't see a world in which, without federal funds, we're going to be able to not just maintain our current testing capacity, but increase it, which is what we need to do. And so we're all deeply concerned about what's happening in Houston and what's happening with, frankly, a federal retreat at the very time that we need the support.

KEILAR: Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, thank you for joining us.

GANDHI: Happy to be here. Thank you.

KEILAR: As sports leagues are set to return, more and more professional athletes are testing positive for coronavirus, putting the future of sports in jeopardy.


Plus, premature triplets, diagnosed with coronavirus. But the mystery remains over how they were infected.

And the mayor of Miami wants to start fining people who do not wear masks, but some in Florida aren't listening to science.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to throw God's wonderful breathing system out the door. You're all turning your backs on it.




KEILAR: Miami's Republican mayor wants to fine people for not wearing masks in public. Masks are now mandatory in Miami and other parts of Florida, and anger erupted at a commissioner's meeting in Palm Beach County following a unanimous vote to make masks mandatory.

The arguments made against the masks were jaw-dropping. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You literally cannot mandate somebody to wear a mask, knowing that that mask is killing people, it literally is killing people. And my -- the people, We the People are waking up and we know what citizen's arrest is because citizen's arrests are already happening, OK? And every single one of you that are obeying the devil's laws are going to be arrested. And you, Doctor, are going to be arrested for crimes against humanity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The problem with humanity today is ignorance, arrogance and apathy. Keep taking the road of least resistance, keep listening to the TV brainwashing you from birth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they want to throw God's wonderful breathing system out the door. You're all turning your backs on it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really have many question marks about your degrees and what you really know. I'm sorry, ma'am, but I don't think that you are worthy of your credentials, and I would ask suggestively that you go back to school and get educated.


KEILAR: I'm joined now by the state attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida, Dave Aronberg with us. Dave, you heard those arguments, pretty stunning. But you believe that this is actually, as some people say -- look, it's not constitutional to have these masks laws in place, you say that's not true. Explain this to us.

DAVE ARONBERG, FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY: Brianna, these folks, who claim to be constitutional experts, have obviously never read the Constitution. You know, their right to flail around their fists stops at my face.

They are up there, doing politics. They claim to care about their personal liberties, but where were they during the last hurricane? You know, we do get hurricanes here in South Florida, and the same very county commission that they are now decrying had imposed curfews and mandatory evacuation orders during recent hurricanes, we didn't hear a peep from these folks.

But now, we hear from them about masks. And now, they're outraged about their personal liberties. In reality, this is about politics. And the code was broken when they unfurled their massive Donald Trump banner in the middle of the meeting and held it up for 20 minutes.

You would hope that this would be the one area where we could come together because we're all in this together. But yet again, it's all about owning the libs, it's all about sticking a middle finger up at the media, and trying to get their leader re-elected as president.

KEILAR: Senator Scott, Dave, said just moments ago that he doesn't think masks should be mandatory. He said, quote, "People ought to be able to make those decisions themselves." What's your reaction to hearing him say that?

ARONBERG: Well, he's not alone because that is the message from the president, and the Republican Party is taking their cues from the president. The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, is a disciple of this

president, and that is why we still don't have a mandatory mask order in Florida. Even though his own surgeon general, his hand-picked leading health official, has told Floridians that they should wear masks. But the governor is going to follow the lead of the White House and apparently, they don't think it's manly to wear a mask, they make fun of others for doing so.

And that's the great tragedy here, because this is an unprecedented pandemic in our lifetimes. Lives are at risk. And you have all these political games going on.

KEILAR: You say there's a basis for fining people for not wearing masks. Explain that to us.

ARONBERG: Under state law, especially when there's an order from the governor that is an emergency order, local governments can institute their own executive orders, and they're doing so. And it is a second- degree misdemeanor if someone violates a local or state emergency order.

In Miami, they apparently are moving ahead with a mandatory mask order that would result in a possible second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail. In Palm Beach County, it's a civil fine. And in the ordinance -- it's an executive order -- the executive order days that warnings should be issued first. And then, after repeated warnings, then you get a $250 fine, then a $500 fine.

The whole goal of this is to educate people that they need to wear masks. It's about public safety. If it's not about you, it's about them, it's about everyone else. And yes, it is constitutional, it's in the law. And the only reason why we're debating this is because some people want to make this into a political fight. They think this rallies their base, when I think it's going to undermine their cause in November.

KEILAR: Yes. Dave Aronberg, thank you so much, joining us from Florida.

And here's a look at what else to watch for today.


TEXT: What to Watch... 3:00 p.m. Eastern, CA Gov. Newsom daily briefing; 4:40 p.m. Eastern, Trump tours Wisconsin shipbuilding company; 5:00 p.m. Eastern, Gov. Beshear daily briefing


KEILAR: Las Vegas is now requiring everyone to wear masks. We'll see how that is going over there.

Plus, premature triplets diagnosed with coronavirus, but the mystery remains over how they were infected.

And one expert says it's safer to send kids back to school than to keep them out of it for a year. Hear why.



KEILAR: The NFL Hall of Fame weekend in Canton, Ohio has now been postponed until next year, and that includes the induction ceremony and the opening pre-season game, which was supposed to be in early August. This move, coming as several NFL players have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Coy Wire, reporting now on the new COVID-19 cases being reported in other sports.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Hi, Brianna. As teams and athletes ramp up towards a return to play, the potential reality staring them in the face? More positive tests, especially in MLB, where teams planned to travel to multiple cities for games, unlike other leagues that will be playing in bubble environments.

With just six days until the planned start of Spring Training, the Red Sox, Tigers and Mariners, all confirming at least one positive test. That makes nine of 30 MLB teams reporting positive cases since last week.

And former Rookie of the Year and Pacers star Malcolm Brogdon is one of three NBA players who announced yesterday that they tested positive. The NBA, set to resume games in Orlando July 31st.

Finally, the Kentucky Derby, planning to allow a limited number of fans for the race that's been set for the Saturday before Labor Day.

But major events like the New York City Marathon continue to be cancelled, athletes are pulling out of competitions. So as more athletes test positive, Brianna, how will teams, leagues and players respond in the coming weeks? Certainly something to keep an eye on.

KEILAR: Thank you, Coy.

Doctors in central Mexico are trying to figure out how a set of premature triplets were born infected with the coronavirus. Doctors say the babies are stable and, quote, "evolving favorably." But how they contracted the virus is a mystery because both parents have tested negative.

This is happening as cases and deaths in Mexico are skyrocketing. More than 5,000 cases and nearly 1,000 deaths have been reported just in the last 24 hours.

Pediatrician and child health expert Dr. Tanya Altmann is joining us now to discuss this. Doctor, thank you for being with us. You're also an assistant clinical professor at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital. So give us your expertise here. This is such an unusual case, how is this possible?

TANYA ALTMANN, ASSISTANT CLINICAL PROFESSOR, UCLA MATTEL CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: So it is very unusual, Brianna, and I think this sort of also brings to light that there's so much we still don't know about this virus, and that we're learning.

Now, I would expect that if the babies really contracted it in utero, the mom would be sick. So I do believe that the parents are negative, and potentially the babies contracted it after birth, which, you know, can sometimes happen.

I think the great news is that they are doing fine and that when we do have babies and young children -- and even older children -- that have been infected with COVID-19 and testing positive, they are usually doing very well. Kids have more flexible immune systems, and they tend to be more tolerant to respiratory viruses.

And although we don't know exactly why, I think the good news is that most of our young population that are catching the illness are going to do OK.

KEILAR: So doctors right now, as you know, they're trying to investigate sources of transmission when it comes to mother and baby. They're looking at breast milk, they're looking at the placenta. What -- where are they on this, and what would this information reveal?

ALTMANN: Well, I think if they -- you know, we're going to have to wait and see what comes out of the testing. And I haven't been involved in this specific case, so I don't know the details. I think only time will tell if they can isolate the virus through any of those sources. But I do think it's unlikely, since both parents, you know, were negative.

But we'll have to wait and see, as we're learning more every day and this will help us figure out, you know, how to -- new policies and procedures and things to keep in place to protect everybody.

I think in the United States, we've done a very good job of, you know, protecting pregnant moms and babies in the hospital, and we've really seen very low numbers when it comes to babies being born that are infected with COVID-19.

KEILAR: I want to -- since I have you here, I want to talk to you about something that I think so many parents are wondering right now, and that is the possibility of their children getting back to school. Because they know coronavirus is such a risk, and then on the other hand they're kind of watching what feels a bit like a disaster, having their kids not being in school, right?

So there's a Harvard environmental expert who's saying it's better to reopen schools, but with strict safety protocols, than to keep them closed because of the devastating health risks that9 some children can face at home.