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CDC Director: Social Distancing is "The Most Powerful that We Have" to Fight Virus; "Apocalyptic" Virus Surges Feared in Major U.S. Cities; CDC Coronavirus Cases Likely Ten Times Higher than Reported; Coronavirus Surges Across U.S. as 30 States See Cases Rise; Coronavirus Cases Surge as Trump Downplays Need for Testing; Florida Records 5,000 Plus New Cases In 24-Hour Period; Florida Gov Refuses To Issue Mandatory Mask Order; Eiffel Tower Reopens After Longest Closure Since WWII; Experts; Varied, Confusing Mask Rules Could Be Lethal. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 25, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Lucy Catherine (ph), that was an important story. Thank you so much.

Thank you so much for watching this special two-hour edition of The Lead. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. I'll see you tomorrow.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Bill Fletcher in the Situation Room. We're following the deepening Coronavirus crisis here in the United States, where new cases are now surging to the worst level in months.

The country's most populated states. We're talking about Texas, Florida and California are breaking new daily records and warning of rising hospitalization. The CDC director is urging Americans to practice social distancing calling it and I'm quoting him now "the most powerful tool that we have to fight the virus" and says the true rate of infection may be 10 times higher than the official case count.

President Trump is in denial over the scale of this pandemic and refusing to acknowledge the resurgence of the virus. And it's clearly a disturbing abdication of leadership at a time when the nation needs it most.

Let's go to CNN's Nick Watt. He's got more on the surging coronavirus epidemic here in the United States.

Nick, update our viewers on the very latest.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you just mentioned the director of the CDC, he is stressing once again, this pandemic is not over saying masks when -- we should wear masks, if we can't social distance, social distancing, as you said, he calls our most powerful weapon.

But listen, we are seeing numbers now nationwide that we haven't seen since the dark days of April. Five of the past six days we've seen more than 30,000 new cases a day. And in some states, it's as bad as it has ever been.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) pack this Fort Worth Bar Saturday night but the reopening of the Lone Star State is now on hold. As case counts climb at record rates and hospitals fill up.

MAYOR RON NIRENBERG (D-TX), SAN ANTONIO: If this acceleration continues unabated, we're going to find ourselves overwhelmed. We have to get a grip on this virus because right now it has a grip on Texas.

WATT: The governor just suspended elective surgeries in Austin, Dallas, and Houston.

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, UNIV OF ALABAMA SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: The children's ICU are now admitting adults, that should really alarm people and make them sit up and take notice.

WATT: Nevada, North Carolina and Louisiana also now pumping the brakes on reopening.

GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): I think these numbers make crystal clear the correctness of the decision not to move forward.

WATT: In California Disneyland now won't reopen July 17 as planned.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): That is an example of the data informing decision making.

WATT: California and Florida along with Texas are reporting record high new case times. So, our three most populous states are going in the wrong direction fast and they're home to more than a quarter of all Americans.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): And we've seen most of this case growth in those under 40 category.

WATT: A focus now in efforts to staunch the spread younger asymptomatic spreaders,

PROF. ERIN BROMAGE, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSSETTS DARTMOUTH: We're seeing the infection rates, especially in Texas, Florida, and Arizona, just skyrocketed that demographic.

WATT: Arizona now has the most cases per capita in the entire country.

JEFFREY MORRIS, DIR. BIOSTATISTIC DIVISION AT UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: The increasing growth is staggering and something we really haven't seen in this pandemic yet.

WATT: Yes, watch this Scottsdale City councilman seemingly mocked George Floyd at an anti-mask rally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't breathe. I can't breathe.

WATT: He has now apologized. If 95 percent of us wore masks, we'd save 30,000 lives by summer's end according to one respected model, but the President has made this political won't wear one.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBIT UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: 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 have experienced so far.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And we're actually still trying to figure out what we've experienced so far. The CDC just said that the actual infection rate in the US could be 10 times the confirmed cases. So we're not talking 2.4 million and change we're talking 24 million and change.

[17:05:00]

The CDC has also just added pregnant women to the list of at risk demographics. They say that in women in general, those who catch COVID maybe 5 percent need to go to the hospital. In pregnant women that climbs to over 30 percent. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that is so worrisome indeed.

All right, Nick Watt, thank you very much.

Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta for more in President Trump's response to this clearly growing crisis. What are you learning Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Trump is on the road in the battleground state of Wisconsin and a furious attempt to rescue his reelection chances as the economy is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. After the President was making these appeals to reopen, some GOP governors are now nervously embracing a more cautious approach to beat back the virus. But Mr. Trump believes he's found a potent distraction for his base and the statues. He's vowing to save from the protesters.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With coronavirus cases spiking and his poll numbers tanking, President Trump is chalking up the pandemic surge in the US to increase COVID-19 testing and nothing more tweeting, "The number of cases goes up because of great testing, while the number of deaths mortality rate goes way down."

But the President is signaling the number of dead could continue to soar by the 10s of thousands.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Could have been stuffed in China. But we could have lost anywhere from two to 4 million people, as opposed to where it is now, which is probably 115. But it could get, you know, a little bit higher than that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But is it right to --

TRUMP: -- to 150 could go beyond that.

ACOSTA: That's roughly 100,000 more deaths in what Mr. Trump predicted in April.

TRUMP: Now we're going toward 50, I'm hearing, or 60,000 people. One is too many, I always say one is too many, but we're going toward 50 or 60,000 people.

ACOSTA: The President is still bristling at questions over wearing masks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you try --

TRUMP: Why aren't you further away and why aren't you wearing a mask?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can take step back if that's makes --

TRUMP: No. But you're away. I mean, you're not social distancing based on the equation.

ACOSTA: But hold on, in Ohio Vice President Mike Pence was wearing a mask.

In Texas where GOP Governor Greg Abbott is pausing a state's reopening. He said in his statement, "I asked all Texans to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly and socially distancing from others."

In Florida, Republican Senator Marco Rubio is recommending masks too.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Masks work. They reduce infections by up to 50 percent. It's not a big deal.

ACOSTA: Ever since the President's disappointing weekend rally in Tulsa where thousands of empty seats were on display. Dozens of Secret Service agents have now been forced into quarantine as that agency is now asking its teams on presidential trips to undergo COVID-19 testing. That's an addition to the Trump campaign staffers testing positive and now in quarantine as well.

With one and a half billion new initial unemployment claims filed last week and more than 47 million since mid-March, the President is now trailing Joe Biden in critical states like Wisconsin, where a new poll finds the former vice president with a strong lead.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He's like a child who can't believe this has happened to him. All his whining and self-pity. This pandemic didn't happen to him. It happened to all of us. And his job isn't to whine about it. His job is to do something about it.

ACOSTA: The President is banking on distractions to bail him out like the protesters threatening to tear down statues across the U.S. as Mr. Trump is deploying U.S. Marshals to protect these historic sites. TRUMP: They're looking at George Washington, they're looking at Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson. Not going to happen. Not going to happen. Not as long as I'm here.

ACOSTA: Ex aides like former National Security Adviser John Bolton say the president simply hasn't focused enough on the virus.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: And he didn't want to hear about the potential impact of a pandemic on the American economy and its effect on his reelection, turning a blind eye to all these early signs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: The administration appears to be making some major mistakes in trying to boost the economy effort. Government Accountability Office report found the Treasury Department sent stimulus checks to more than 1 million dead people accounting for more than $1 billion in lost revenue. Some inside the White House would like to see another round of stimulus payments for Americans. But that could be a hard sell up on Capitol Hill have a portion of that money is going to the debt. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that's pretty disturbing too.

Jim Acosta at the White House for us, thanks very much.

Let's get some expert analysis right now from the Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, Dr. Ashish Jha, and former FDA Commissioner, Dr. Mark McClellan.

Dr. Jha, the big picture in the United States right now is so worrisome very concerning. 30 states are now seeing a rise in new cases, in some ways. Is the country actually worse off now Dr. Jha than it was only a few months ago?

[17:10:00]

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Wolf, so thanks for having me on.

In some ways it is. Now obviously, we're not seeing the level of death that we saw a couple of months ago and that's a relief. We've gotten better at treating this disease and that's a relief. And we have better testing so we can see these cases.

But the other -- the downside is we don't have the ability to shut down or not really, we've used that already in the political space needed to shut the whole country down again, I think is really limited. And so, the states where we're seeing these big outbreaks, they've got to get aggressive if they're going to bring these virus outbreaks under control or they're going to be forced to shut down and I think no one wants that at this point.

BLITZER: Yes, the number, Dr. McClellan, of the confirmed coronavirus cases, clearly going up, not bending down. The head of the CDC is warning that this pandemic is not over. And he says the most powerful tool that we have, in his words, is social distancing. Is that warning though falling on deaf ears?

DR. MARK MCCLELLAN, FORMER FDA COMMISIONER: I don't think so, Wolf. The one reason that the number of deaths is down as Dr. Jha mentioned is that older individuals are paying attention. So they know they're at higher risk. And we're seeing a skew in the cases towards younger people.

What I think we'd like to see more of though is those younger individuals as well, recognizing that when they make a choice about distancing or wearing a mask, it's not just a choice for them, it's a choice for everybody else in their community. It doesn't take very many cases to really disrupt the healthcare system.

Texas is averaging about 5000 cases a day, maybe it's a state of 30 million people. So, we all are in this together.

BLITZER: We certainly are.

You know, Dr. Jha, one expert says the forecast for Texas cities, talking about cities is, in the words of this expert, on the verge of being apocalyptic. Are some of these states heading for the same type of crisis we saw just a few, you know, a month or two ago with hospitals, for example, overwhelmed in New York?

JHA: Well, that's what we want to avoid, right Wolf? And what we're seeing the problem is that by the time we start seeing hospitals getting filled up. You've got several weeks of cases already kind of baked in, because remember, it takes a couple of weeks after an infection before people end up in the hospital.

So, if we don't act aggressively now, and just let this go for a little longer than we can get into that apocalyptic situation. I think we all want to avoid it. And we can, but we got to move fast and we got to move aggressively.

BLITZER: Dr. McClellan, the -- this is very disturbing. The CDC today said the infection rate here in the United States is probably 10 times higher than the official count. What does that tell you about the accuracy of the information we have right now? Right now confirmed cases in the United States 2.4 million, if it's 10 times higher, in reality, it could be 24 million.

MCCLELLAN: Yes, it is a reminder that many people especially with mild cases, and limited symptoms aren't getting tested but may still be transmitting the virus. So, one important part that everybody can play to help slow down the speed is not just wearing a mask and keeping their distance, it's also staying home if they have even mild symptoms, and that can be hard for people. But it's reinforced by the CDC statistics showing that there is a lot of virus out there.

BLITZER: There certainly is.

Dr. Jha. Let me read to you what Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the CDC told reporters today, and I'm going to quote what exactly what he says because it's really rather simple what everyone in this country needs to do from the President and down.

"The Coronavirus does not travel well over distances of longer than six or seven feet, he said. So if we can maintain six feet distancing, if we can wear face coverings when we are in public, particularly when we can't maintain the distancing and maintain vigilance in our hand hygiene, these are going to be really, really important defense mechanisms."

What Dr. Redfield is saying, Dr. Jha, is rather simple, but there's a political divide on these issues. And there are arguments that we're seeing all over the country over a simple thing like simply wearing a face mask.

JHA: Yes, so it's really remarkable on some level, Wolf, that here we are in the greatest pandemic in a century 120 some odd thousand Americans dead. And what we need to do to prevent this from really getting out of control is wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and washing our hands.

I will add one more thing, which is the government has to put more time and pressure and effort into ramping up more tests and tracing so that we can isolate people who are infected. That is not a very complicated set of things. Instead of politicizing them, I'd like to see our leaders really double down on those scientific areas of advice so that we can keep Americans safe.

BLITZER: Yes, the President said the other day was to slow down testing and certainly not leading by example in what his own director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is saying, but that's another matter.

All right. Dr. Jha, thank you so much. Dr. McClellan, thanks to you as well.

Up next, we'll have more on the breaking news. Once again the CDC director urging all Americans, all Americans to practice social distancing amid a really disturbing new surge of the coronavirus around this country.

[17:15:12]

And he's also warning that the true rate of infection could be 10 times higher than the number of confirmed cases. Stay with us. There's a lot more on the breaking news right here in the Situation Room.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Across the United States tonight we're seeing a very, very disturbing new surge in coronavirus cases. Thirty of the 50 states, 30 of the 50 states are now reporting cases are rising and in several of the biggest states rising so dramatically.

[17:20:08]

Let's bring in our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, along with CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana,

Bash.

Sanjay, five months into this pandemic here in the United States. You've said, and we've heard you, you cannot believe the situation and the country is in right now. So here's the question, why is the United States falling so short in the response to this crisis?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the singular explanation is that we never took this seriously. We never took this as seriously as we should have. We got a late start. And we get -- and then we had a sort of half haphazard start. We started opening things up too early.

But all of it leads back to this idea that this wasn't taken seriously in this country. It's why we don't have enough testing. It's why people are still sort of wishy washy on basic public health measures. It's why it's become politicized because we haven't taken the biggest health catastrophe in our lifetime in 100 years, we haven't taken it seriously.

And it's a sad thing to say. I think we are one of the greatest countries on earth. But we have completely, completely fumbled this.

And I'm worried, Wolf. I'm worried when I look at these numbers, because I'm not even sure right now, how exactly we get ourselves out of this mess. I think we've used up a lot of the strategies that would have worked early on. We were too far astray at this point for some of that to work.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm worried to. All of us are worried.

And Dana, President Trump continues as you know, to use a racist phrase to talk about the virus. The House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, didn't want to talk about that today.

Let me play a clip. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the President has been describing to coronavirus he's been calling it the Kong Flu. Do you think that's an appropriate way to characterize the coronavirus?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Do you think that's the most pressing issue you have about coronavirus?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, think about that.

MCCARTHY: I know. But what I'm thinking about is why that is your most pressing issue as a question. When we just seen the spike in coronavirus, you're concerned about somebody and then the way they name it. That's appalling to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He's concerned that the President of United States is not showing leadership in dealing with this crisis. He's got other issues. What's your reaction, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That that was a maybe politically clever, but not very, but actually also very transparent way for the Senate for -- excuse me, for the House Republican leader to not answer Manu question. It's a very legitimate fair question.

The President of the United States at a very big rally on Saturday night used a racist term to describe this pandemic. And it's a question that should be asked of Republicans whether or not they agree with that, and he didn't want to answer it. So he turned it around on Manu, and I don't, you know, it was a politician's move and we've seen it before.

Maybe other questions are why is, not just Kevin McCarthy, but other Republicans not making the President feel bad in a more aggressive way about not showing leadership on wearing a mask, which is one of the fundamentals that Sanjay was talking about when it comes to trying in this smallest way to mitigate the spread of this disease.

And why is the president shaming people into not wearing masks doing the opposite of what he should be doing. If Republican leaders in Congress are so outraged that members of the press aren't focusing on, "the right thing," well, what about that? That's a pretty big deal.

BLITZER: Certainly is. And Sanjay, testing is so, so critical in dealing with this crisis.

Let me play this clip. I want you to see how the President has spoken in recent days about testing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have so much testing. I don't think you need that kind of testing of that much test.

So in a way, by doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad.

I've always said testing is somewhat overrated.

This is why the whole concept of tests aren't necessarily great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: This comes, Sanjay, as the CDC, as you've been hearing -- all of us have been hearing, says the actual infection rate here in the United States is probably 10 times higher than the official confirmed count. So how important is it to have accurate data and testing to fight this virus?

GUPTA: It's obviously fundamental, Wolf. I mean, to hear the President talk about testing that way, it's not true, right? It's not -- testing is not the problem. You test so that you can find people who are infected, you can isolate them, and you can try to actually break this cycle of transmission, these rising number of people who get infected every day. So it's just simply not true. And I think that what's tough about this, Wolf, is that the truth always matters. But it's becoming increasingly hard to find at a time when it matters more than ever.

[17:25:04]

That is not true. And people are going to think it is the case and we don't need to get tests and we don't need to get tested and we don't need to wear masks. And you're looking at what's happening in the states around the country, and they're saying, well, maybe we should slow down our reopening.

And I'm thinking, you think because your numbers are skyrocketing and you have in your and you haven't fully reopened yet. What do you think is going on here?

So, at the same time when the president saying we don't need to test it's actually taking us backwards during all this. I know that's a lot. And I'm not saying this very eloquently, but you just played a string of sound bites that are not true, right? The voice, the words that were coming out of his mouth were not true. People around him are telling him that's not true.

I spent time with the Coronavirus Task Force, they know that's not true. It's not true. But who's going to lead us out of this mess right now, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, their country is desperate for some real leadership to deal with this crisis.

All right guys, thank you very much.

An important note to our viewers be sure to tune in later tonight for a CNN Global Town Hall Coronavirus Facts and Fears will be hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper. That's right here on CNN 8 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, we'll have a closer look at the surge of coronavirus cases in Florida. I'll speak live with the mayor of Miami Beach. The city has closed some businesses for violating coronavirus regulations.

And it isn't just the United States, by any means, Europe also is seeing a resurgence in cases after multiple countries eased their lockdowns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:31:30]

BLITZER: Florida not only is one of the states setting new daily records for new coronavirus case. It's also reporting new coronavirus deaths among young people, even among some who are under the age of 18. CNN's Rosa Flores is in Miami for us. Rosa, tell us more about the situation in the state that where you are right now, Florida.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Governor Ron DeSantis doubling down not requiring masks statewide. This after the state of Florida has recorded back to back days of more than 5,000 cases. Here in Miami Dade where I am, it recorded a positivity rate yesterday of more than 27 percent. And the county has a goal of not exceeding 10 percent. And they've exceeded that metric every day for the past 10 days.

Now when it comes to hospitalizations, Jackson Health, one of the largest health systems here in the state of Florida, reporting a 108 percent increase in the past 16 days. There's a lot of concern here in Miami Dade. The mayor announcing that there was an outbreak in a farm worker community in South Miami Dade saying that these individuals live in very close quarters. And even though they don't need hospitalization, they do need a place to isolate.

And so now the county stepping in and providing hotel rooms so that these workers can isolate. But as the number of cases here in Florida continue to rise now, Apple announcing that it is closing 14 stores across the state including in some iconic locations like Lincoln Road and the Brickell City Center. Look, expert tell us that this surge is being led by younger people who are out and about not wearing masks, not social distancing.

And Wolf, then they're going back home intermingling with their parents and their grandparents and going to work doing the same thing with COVID--workers. And so that is how the virus is spreading. Wolf?

BLITZER: Rosa Flores reporting from the Jackson Memorial Hospital there in Miami. All right, Rosa, thanks very much.

Let's check in with the Mayor of Miami Beach, Dan Gelber right now. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. As you heard, one Miami hospital, a major hospital have seen 108 percent increase in coronavirus patients in the last two weeks. Are you worried that if the Miami area continues along this trend, hospitals in Miami Beach, in Miami itself could be overwhelmed fairly soon?

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D-FL), MIAMI BEACH: I would be foolish not to be worried. We've had -- every day it seems like we hit a new high, and they are younger. There's no question our own local hospital over the weekend had 15 patients come in. And the administrator told me many of them were young. So it's definitely a real thing. People realize it, but unfortunately not everybody is following along in terms of enforcement.

BLITZER: Do you accept the explanation from Governor DeSantis that this surge in numbers is due to more testing?

GELBER: No, no, because you may get more positives, but the percentage of positives is much higher than the 10 percent which the CDC says you should have. And by the way, the amount of hospitalizations are increasing and you can't fake a hospitalization or distort it with more testing either sick or you're not. So this is real. We're getting an increase in hospitalizations and increase in the percentage. There is much more virus in our community. There is no question about that.

BLITZER: Yes, hospitalizations really serious. We checked with one hospital, the Jackson Health System in Miami. You're familiar with that. On June 8th, they reported 104 coronavirus patients in the hospital. On Wednesday they reported 217 coronavirus patients in the hospital.

[17:35:11]

You see these numbers going up and up and up. Miami Dade County, as you all know, is requiring now the use of masks. Are people complying based on what you're seeing in Miami Beach?

GELBER: You know, we were the first city I think in the country to require them. We require them inside and we require them outside if you're not socially distancing. People are not complying enough. We have started to close restaurants where there's not compliance with the use of masks and social distancing.

The problem right now is one of enforcement because I'm not sure we would have the political ability to go back to a shelter in place. And, of course -- so we've got to find other ways to get people to comply and that's the big challenge right now.

BLITZER: The mayor of Miami Francis Suarez, a man you know, he was here in "The Situation Room" with me earlier in the week. He's considering a fine for people who refuse to wear masks. Are you considering a fine or some other specific enforcement measure along those lines?

GELBER: Yes. I mean, the problem is, yes, I spoken to the -- our city manager this morning about it actually, to see what we're allowed to do. I think they actually have to pass an ordinance. I think we would have too also. But the problem is this, there's no unity in our -- in the community right now to do what needs to be done.

Some people, older people often are understandably concerned and they're complying 100 percent. Younger people, not so much. And then there's this whole group of people that just think politically they shouldn't be doing this. Somehow this has become a political statement. So we are so -- there's no unity of approach right now. Like there would be for any other challenge like a hurricane or any other disaster we were facing.

BLITZER: If the situation, Mayor Gelber, gets worse, would you consider backtracking on reopening or even putting a new stay-at-home order in effect?

GELBER: We're going to have to figure out how to backtrack whether it's with a curfew, whether it's with enhanced enforcement. But at some point, if our health system is going to be overwhelmed, we won't have a choice with that, then it's a binary choice. You either want to allow people to not be treated for deadly illness or whether you're going to shutter in place, but we don't want to do that. People have to wear masks and wash their hands.

BLITZER: It's a simple solution. We heard from the CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield today, social distance, wear a mask and just do things like that and tens of thousands of American lives will be saved. Mayor Gelber, thanks so much for joining us. Mayor Gelber is the mayor of Miami Beach. Appreciate it very much

GELBER: Thank you.

BLITZER: And good luck to all the folks down there.

Coming up, the political war over wearing masks. The Vice President Mike Pence wore a mask in public. Plus this, the former Vice President Joe Biden returns to the campaign trail today and he's blasting President Trump's leadership when it comes to the coronavirus.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:42:38]

BLITZER: Thanks to CNN's global resources, we're keeping a close track on the coronavirus headlines from around the world. Today, the World Health Organization warned Europe is seeing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Now that countries have started easing lockdowns.

CNN's Nick Robertson is keeping track of the situation from London. Nick, tell us more.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Wolf, here in the U.K., authorities have declared a major incident at one of Britain's seaside holiday towns. Why? Because it's not holiday time. But the beaches were absolutely crowded with thousands of people flocking out on what has been a very hard couple of days here.

The concern is that they're not social distancing and the people in that town are not ready for people from other parts of the country to come on vacation yet. Concerns about a second wave growing across Europe. In Germany, more than 1,500 workers at a meat processing plant tested positive for COVID-19. And the WHO says over the past week, it has seen a significant increase relative to the past few weeks of positive cases across 30 different countries in Europe. Eleven of those countries they say, if they don't take quick action, then it's possible that the virus will get out of control there again, Wolf?

BLITZER: Nick Robertson reporting, thank you. Brazil is closing in on 1.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases. The second highest number globally, just behind the United States yet offices and stores are reopening despite a continuing surge in cases. Let's check in with CNN's Shasta Darlington. Shasta, what's the latest?

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Brazil has reported more than 100,000 new cases of COVID-19 in the past three days alone. The death toll is well over 50,000 and no signs of peeking. Here, the first wave never ended, but several cities have already reopened stores and shopping malls while workers head back to offices.

Meanwhile, the President Jair Bolsonaro has been ordered by a judge to wear a mask in public or face a fine worth about $380 a day. Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the virus. He rarely puts on a mask for public events or when he joins rallies, shaking hands and embracing supporters. But for the last few days, he has been wearing them to events in the country's capital Brasilia, Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Shasta, thank you very much.

[17:45:00]

France, meanwhile, is launching a major testing effort in Paris and area surrounding the city. They're planning to test over a million people in hopes of finding hidden coronavirus clusters. The French also just reopened the country's most iconic landmark. CNN's Cyril Vanier is over at the Eiffel Tower. Cyril, what are you seeing?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Eiffel Tower has just reopened to visitors after its longest shutdown since the Second World War. We're on the first level right now, with already a sweeping view of the city and its landmarks. Tourists have started to come back, although not in their usual numbers. The tower is hoping to attract some 4,000 to 5,000 visitors today. Compare that to 23,000 normally at this time of year.

And those who do come are getting a slightly different Eiffel Tower experience. Starting with face masks, of course. Distancing isn't so much of a problem here in the open but it does mean that lifts are not in use yet to avoid crowds and confined spaces. So if you want the view, you have to earn it and take the stairs. That's about a 15- minute climb to the second level. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Cyril, thank you very much.

Coming up, experts say the inconsistent patchwork of mask wearing regulations could severely set back efforts to fight the virus here in the United States. Should there be clear nationwide rules? We'll take a closer look.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:51:21]

BLITZER: Medical experts say universal mask wearing could significantly slow the spread of the coronavirus. But not every state requires people to cover their faces in public and some governors have even blocked, blocked local officials from enforcing rules of their own.

CNN's Brian Todd is taking a closer look at all of these. Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we found that in most states across the country, the rules for wearing masks are inconsistent, confusing, not communicated well. Medical experts are telling us those problems alone could be lethal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Across America, protests and pushback to requirements for people to wear face masks in public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe that it is our body, our choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Violation of my constitutional rights and my civil rights.

TODD (voice-over): In Florida, the state where that outburst occurred at a grocery store in May, masks are not required for everyone to wear in public. Some counties and cities in Florida have mandated it. Personal care employees have to wear them. Businesses are encouraged to require them. But the governor says it wouldn't be a good use of state resources to try to enforce a rule for everyone to wear them.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Ultimately, we've got to trust people to make good decisions.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: What he should have said to the people of Florida is, I put you before anything else. Everyone who goes out in public must wear a mask.

TODD (voice-over): But Governor DeSantis isn't alone. According to CNN research, 31 states do not have requirements for everyone to wear masks in public all the time. Nineteen states and Washington, D.C. do require them for everyone.

In states that don't, the rules go all over the place. Restaurant, retail and personal services employees have to wear masks. But other people don't. In Texas, where there's no statewide requirement, Dallas County makes businesses require customers and employees to wear masks or be fined $500. Experts say these varied confusing rules could be lethal.

DR. THOMAS INGLESBY, DIRECTOR, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: Certainly is likely that absence of face coverings is contributing to disease spread in this country. It makes no sense that the policy is so inconsistent around the country.

TODD (voice-over): In three states which don't require everyone to wear masks in public all the time, Arizona, Texas and Florida, there are massive spikes in new coronavirus cases. California which is also experiencing a huge spike made the mandatory in public a week ago and for mask wearing to be mandated across the country for it to be normalized. And for that message to come from the President who has resisted it.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROF. OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: We're not getting clear communication and clear modeling from the highest office and that's really something that we need.

TODD (voice-over): But what about the argument many Americans make that it's their constitutional right not to wear a mask in public.

INGLESBY: It's not your right to drive 100 miles per hour on a local road where school or kids are crossing the street.

REINER: Going out in public without a mask is like driving drunk. Even if you don't get hurt, you might kill somebody else. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Medical experts acknowledge that much of the overall information on this virus has been confusing and they say the information often changes. But most of them agree the pure health information on masks is very clear. They'll save lives during this pandemic. And they say it's not just on the presidents and the governors to put that message out.

Church leaders, principals, school officials, other community leaders have to get in on this, Wolf, as Senator Marco Rubio put it so eloquently, quote, everyone should just wear a damn mask.

BLITZER: Yes.

TODD: Wolf?

BLITZER: He's right. Everyone should. Thanks very much, Brian, for that report.

Coming up, Joe Biden is blasting President Trump for whining and self- pity in handling the coronavirus. More on that in just a moment. And later, I'll speak live with a baseball legend, Alex Rodriguez, about the return of Major League sports during this time of a pandemic.

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[17:59:42]

BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room". We're following breaking news on the coronavirus crisis tonight. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is pleading, pleading with all Americans to keep social distancing as infections are spiking cross much of the country.

The number of new cases hitting record highs in Texas, Florida and California. The three states with the biggest populations.