Return to Transcripts main page


Texas Governor Puts Restrictions Back in Place as Cases Soar; Moments Ago: Florida Governor Says No Mask Mandate, Will "Trust People to Make Good Decisions". Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 26, 2020 - 16:30   ET


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She's worried that Harris County hospitals could room out of a room in less than a week and that Texas Medical Center behind me, their ICU filled up yesterday, Jake.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And, Lucy, the Trump administration has said it is now going to keep funding five coronavirus testing sites in Texas, a program that was supposed to expire in just a few days.

KAFANOV: It's mind-boggling that the federal funding is getting ramped down as the cases are skyrocketing. This prompted an outcry, in fact, from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Republican Senators Cruz and Cornyn. As a result, the administration pivoted today. They will keep funding open for five centers here in Texas but seven others across the country, their money is going to be cut off as of June 30th -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Lucy, thank you so much for that report.

Joining us is Dr. Bela Patel, the executive director of critical care at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas.

Dr. Patel, thanks so much for joining us.

Tell us what you're seeing in your hospital and your ICU right now.

DR. BELA PATEL, EXECUTIVE MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF CRITICAL CARE, MEMORIAL HERMANN HOSPITAL: So, currently, we're seeing increased volumes across Houston and across our ICU and our campuses. As we know about 20 to 25 percent of all patients who develop COVID-19 and end up in the hospital end up in our ICUs.

There is some good news in that because we're seeing a younger patient population get admitted to our hospitals and develop COVID-19 disease, we're seeing a little less likelihood to end up in our ICUs. Along with, we do have some tools in our tool box, so to speak to manage early disease which we think may be decreasing some progression to the ICU. Regardless, right now, we are starting to make sure that we have increased capacity. The volumes, as you know, are starting to increase and we expect over the next few weeks that we will have large volumes of patients getting admitted. But having said that, you know, we have been practicing now for a few months, making sure that we know how to expand our capacity and surge. So, right now, at my hospital, as well as other hospital systems, are developing those surge plans, implementing those plans to handle the capacity.

So, at this point, I think over the next week or two, we can certainly handle the capacity but if we don't do something right now to stop the spread, to stop the increase in Houston, we won't be in the same place in a couple of weeks.

TAPPER: So, the mayor of Houston just announced the infection rate is three times higher today in Houston than it was three months ago. What happened? Why do you think this is going on the way it is and how do begin to reverse the trend?

PATEL: So, Memorial Day, we really had a good control of infection rates in Houston. Our positivity rate was around 3 percent. We had a steady decline in our cases.

But I think there was a misunderstanding in that when Texas started opening up, I think people assumed it was okay to stop practicing what we know we needed to do to decrease the virus. So, you notice that people stopped wearing their masks as commonly as there was during the shutdown.

We know that people started going to bars and the bars started opening and so forth. So, clearly, I think we let our guard down and now, you can see the volumes have skyrocketed.

We've -- today, we've had five times -- five times -- five fold the increase we did three weeks ago. So, clearly, if we're not -- we need to control it now because we will be in trouble a few weeks from now.

TAPPER: Officials in Harris County where your hospitals located today said the capacity for testing and contact tracing is strained.

How much harder does that make it to contain the outbreak?

PATEL: You know, I know that we don't have adequate contract tracing in Houston. I know that there's continuing increase over the weeks, but clearly not ready to use contact tracing to contain the virus. So, now, we really need to practice what we know.

We need to make sure that we really limiting our contact with other individuals. We need to make sure as we go from our home to our work that we don't actually do other activities where we expose ourselves to other individuals. So, you know, limit take out food rather than going sitting in or making sure if you're taking public transportation that you are social distancing.

What we really need to really make sure that we practice every one of those measures right now because otherwise Houston will be in a lot of trouble in a few weeks. And it sounds simple. I think that Judge Hidalgo as well as Mayor Abbott today put in measures that will help bring the points to light.

But I really think that every one of us has to take our personal responsibility in making sure that we're not contributing to the spread of this, because we will see patients in the ICU and we will see mortality increase because the hospitals won't be able to manage patients as well as we have been doing (INAUDIBLE).

TAPPER: Predictable and not only predictable, but predicted.

Dr. Bela Patel, thank you so much.


Appreciate it.

Last call for bars in Florida, again, as coronavirus cases there explode. But that still has not changed Governor DeSantis' thinking when it comes to mandating that individuals wear masks in public.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Moments ago, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis again declined to enforce a statewide mask requirement despite his states skyrocketing infection rates, saying he will, quote, trust people to make good decisions, unquote, instead leaving local leaders to decide for themselves whether or not to mandate the use of masks in public such as in Hollywood, Florida, which issued an emergency order last night requiring the wearing of masks in public.


As CNN's Miguel Marquez reports for us now, reaction to the new restrictions cross all party lines.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sunshine state in state of crisis. The number of coronavirus infections climbing at alarming rates with Florida reporting nearly 9,000 new cases, its highest single day to date.

Cities like Hollywood now mandating masks be worn in public even outdoors except when exercising.

LISA FEINTUCH, WEARS MASK EXCEPT WHEN EXERCISING: I do think for the safety of everybody, especially with the numbers rising here, just do it. It's selfish not to.

TINA LAPRE, WEARS MASK ONLY AT WORK: I think it should be up to you, honestly.

MARQUEZ (on camera): No matter the circumstances?

LAPRE: No matter the circumstances. It should be up to you. It's your right to wear it or not wear it.

MARQUEZ: Except it you could give it to someone and it could kill them.

LAPRE: That's -- I mean that's life. At this point, I mean, I can also give someone the common cold. I could also give someone the flu, right?

MARQUEZ: Those maybe don't have as high a death rate.

LAPRE: I think it's a little over rated.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): While some see government mask orders as infringing on their rights, officials here once confident they had beat the virus are scrambling to contain it.

New infections skyrocketing, Thursday statewide 13 percent of those tested came back positive. In Osceola County, near Orlando, 23 percent positive for the virus.

In Lee County, Fort Myers, nearly 20 percent positive. In Dade County, Miami, 14 percent positive and here in Broward, nearly 12 percent positive. All way too high.

MAYOR JOSH LEVY, HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA: Right now, our -- in Florida, we're doing this. You know, the gating criteria really supposed to be doing downward. So, as long as you maintain and go downward, sure you can keep reopening. But so -- for now, it's paused.

MARQUEZ: Hollywood paused at the first stage of reopening.

Look, the mask order is a good thing, she says, because it protects me, my employees and my customers.

As wearing mask has become increasingly political, driven largely by the president and his handling of the crisis, even some supporters are beginning to question his judgment and their vote.

OZIEL ELIAC, VOTED FOR TRUMP: You ask me five months ago, I'm going to said you definitely Trump because he handle everything right. But now, with all --

MARQUEZ (on camera): Because of the pandemic.

ELIAC: The pandemic and also Black Lives Matter and all those what happened now, it's complicated now.


MARQUEZ: Very complicated. And while the state may not be ringing the alarm bell, some cities, some counties are. Also ringing the alarm bells are some parts of the state. Today, the state of Florida like Texas has banned the sell of alcohol in all bars across the state -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Miguel Marquez, thank you so much. Stay safe. The Trump administration just asked the U.S. Supreme Court to get rid

of a policy that seems like it's probably pretty helpful during a pandemic, especially with millions unemployed. We'll talk about that, next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead today: The Trump administration is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, AKA, Obamacare, even as nearly half-a-million Americans have turned to Obamacare during this pandemic because they lost their jobs and thus their health insurance.

Joining us now to discuss, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's chief legal analyst, and Abby Phillip, CNN political correspondent.

Abby, let me start with you.

I want to make sure I understand this. The Trump administration is trying to get rid of a program that, whether you like it or not, it provides health insurance for millions of Americans right now.

The president last year this month pledged that he would propose an alternative health care proposal to fill the place of Obamacare. Is this move to kill Obamacare in the Supreme Court, is it be accompanied by anything from the White House, any alternative proposal to help the tens of millions of Americans who are trying to survive a pandemic and need that health insurance?


And it wasn't actually last year either. When the administration claimed that they were going to put out a plan, that was actually something -- something of a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that it was so politically unpopular for them to make this move, that they said, oh, we're going to put something out. And then they never did.

And, in fact, there were never any plans to at the time, as we reported. So, this is just a continuation of that. And it's been -- it's interesting, because, as you pointed out, 500 -- half-a-million people have -- I'm sorry -- so many people have now used the Affordable Care Act to get health insurance because of the coronavirus.

And in the White House's statement, they said: "A global pandemic does not change what Americans know. Obamacare has been an unlawful failure and further illustrates the need to focus on patient care."

But, Jake, I do think that the coronavirus actually has changed the way people feel about the Affordable Care Act, because now millions of people who before had a job, could potentially get health insurance through their jobs, are now forced to use the exchanges to get insurance. That does change things, both politically and practically, for the American public. And so even though they're going forward this way, I just -- I don't

see how they can justify it, given the dramatic increase in the utilization of the Affordable Care Act at this time.

TAPPER: And, Jeffrey, Solicitor General Noel Francisco is arguing that, once Obamacare's individual coverage mandate and two other key provisions are invalidated, that the remainder of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, should not be allowed to remain in effect.


This is the third time the court is going to hear a challenge to Obamacare. It is a conservative-leaning court. Do you think the justices might actually sign with President Trump on this and kill Obamacare?

And, if so, when? When could this happen?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the answer is, they definitely might do that.

I mean, I have been wrong on predictions about what the Supreme Court will do about Obamacare at least once, and I don't want to be wrong again. But, I mean, this is a conservative court, as you point out.

And Chief Justice Roberts, who saved Obamacare in the first case in that 5-4 decision, he did not necessarily commit himself on the precise issue that is now before the court. And this case will probably be argued in October, at the beginning of the Supreme Court's next term, which is, of course, days or weeks before the next election.

Now, it is possible that the justices could kick it until after the election. And, certainly, the decision will not come out until after the election.

But, as Abby pointed out, the human stakes of this case in terms of people who will lose the ability to get insurance because they have preexisting conditions, people in their 20s who want to stay on their parents health insurance, and, of course, all these people who've lost their jobs, and now are going to, the exchanges, to try to get insurance, all those people have an incredible stake in the outcome of this case.

PHILLIP: And, Jake, it does make me wonder whether that is something the court might consider, because the fact that there is no alternative is a real practical issue.

And the administration -- it's one of the reasons, frankly, why there were many Republicans who did not agree with the president's decision to join into this case, because they knew that, in the absence of anything, people could be left in the lurch. And that could be a huge problem from a very practical perspective.

TAPPER: Yes, more than 20 million Americans, to be specific.

Jeffrey Toobin and Abby Phillip, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Washington, D.C., closer to changing the map, theoretically, at least, and perhaps even the flag of the United States. We will explain.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Our national lead today: For the first time ever, the House of Representatives passed a bill which would make Washington, D.C., the nation's 51st state, theoretically.

The proposed state boundaries would remain the same, but in the middle there, you see that thing there. That's -- that would be the new federal district, a nearly 100-sided cutout, with the White House as the only residence.

As CNN's Tom Foreman reports for us now, this D.C. dream could only become reality if Democrats have a very, very good Election Day.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cue the fireworks and patriotic music, just in time for Independence Day. Washington, D.C., is closer than ever before to becoming a state.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): The District of Columbia statehood bill H.R.-51, is passed.

FOREMAN: A vote in the House of Representatives made it happen, and proponents are thrilled.

DEL. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), WASHINGTON, D.C.: For three generations, my family has been denied the rights of others Americans take for granted.

FOREMAN: But hold on. Supporters of statehood still face a long, hard road, first because the Constitution says D.C. should be a neutral ground where lawmakers from all states can meet and govern.

The new proposal would carve out the center of D.C. for that purpose. But critics aren't swallowing that doughnut.

REP. JODY HICE (R-GA): Washington, D.C.'s status as the capital of the United States is exactly as our founders intended.

FOREMAN: Second, the balance of power. In 1961, passage of the 23rd Amendment gave D.C. residents their votes in presidential contests, but statehood would give the largely Democratic region a voting representative and two senators. Many Republicans really don't want that. And many Democrats find their opposition really offensive.

MURIEL BOWSER (D), MAYOR OF WASHINGTON, D.C.: People should not look to us and say that we're too urban, we're too black, we're too liberal, and we have to justify our American citizenship and representation.

FOREMAN: And, third, demographics?

When it was pointed out in debate that Wyoming has fewer residents than D.C., Republican senator Tom Cotton said, no kidding: Yes, but those Wyoming folks are miners, loggers, construction workers.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): Wyoming is a well-rounded working-class state.

FOREMAN: If statehood were approved, the new state's initials would still be D.C. for Douglass Commonwealth, a salute to Frederick Douglass, former slave, abolitionist and author.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We have come a long way.


FOREMAN: But the Republican-led Senate and the White House have vowed to stop this effort in its tracks, meaning those who have literally waited for decades for this to happen will have to wait at least a little bit longer, because, frankly, that is the state of politics in the District -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

Tune in Sunday morning for "STATE OF THE UNION."

My guests include Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, President Trump's former National Security Adviser John Bolton, and South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott.

That's at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern, only on CNN.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

I will see you Sunday morning. Have a great weekend.