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U.S. Sees Highest Single Day Of New COVID-19 Cases; California, Texas And Florida Set Records For New Infections; White House Task Force Holds First Public Briefing In Nearly Two Months. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired June 26, 2020 - 10:00   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Own cases, ten times higher.


But even at that rate, 90 percent of this country's population has not yet been infected and still could be.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: So, today, White House coronavirus task force will meet for the first time in nearly two months. The president, he's not expected to be there. He'll be golfing instead, but we are hearing from Dr. Anthony Fauci this morning, who says the task force is seriously considering a new testing strategy.

We're reporting from across the country as always. Let's begin in the county in the country that now leads in cases, that is Los Angeles. CNN Correspondent Stephanie Elam joins us now live from there.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim, when you take a look at the numbers here, I can tell you overall in California, we saw over 7,000 cases, new cases that were told to us yesterday and then we found out that the next day was 5,349. So while that number did go down, it's still the second highest number of new cases in a day that we've seen here in California. So not the way you want to see things.

Also the issue here is the ICU hospitalization rate. That number is also up. That number is up 34 percent of those beds are now filled. That's a record high here in California.

The governor is saying that he does not plan on closing down the borders to other people in different states coming in, but he does reserve the right for California to toggle back restrictions and bring those back online if necessary and shut down to some extent, but hoping that that's not necessary to do.

What's interesting here when you look at Los Angeles County is that health officials here are not ready to blame this all on protesting because we've seen the numbers jump here. But what they are saying is that they have added more testing so people who have been protesting could get out there and get tested.

Overall in California, 3.7 million people have been tested, and just on Wednesday over 100,000 people were tested here. But they do say that they are seeing people coming back online, going back to businesses, going back out to eat and folks are tired of the pandemic but, obviously, it's not tired of people.

So that's part of it here. They are saying that what needs to happen, they are saying every person you come in contact with, just assume that they have the virus and act like it. And if you do that, then you'll actually not may be just saving your own life but keeping those people around you safe as well, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. As Dr. Fauci said repeatedly, the virus sets the timeline, not politicians. Stephanie Elam, thanks very much.

Mayor Sam Liccardo joins us now from San Jose, California. Mayor, we appreciate you taking the time this morning.

MAYOR SAM LICCARDO (D-SAN JOSE, CA): Good to be with you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Let's begin with California. Your state, of course, the first to implement a statewide lockdown early on in this pandemic. Now, as you're seeing cases rise again there, I wonder if you believe California opened too quickly.

LICCARDO: Well, I think we can certainly protect livelihoods while we're protecting lives. I don't believe, for example, in Sta. Clara County, where San Jose is about 2 million folks, we've been much more restrictive about opening, but we're still seeing the rise in cases.

So even though we're not opening salons and gyms or indoor portions of restaurants, we're seeing seen cases rise, which tells us it's probably social gatherings. It's probably the Father's Day celebrations and the graduations and the protests. And, fundamentally, we all need to be making better decisions about wearing masks and really heeding social distancing.

And we need employers to be stepping up saying, if you're not wearing a mask, you're not up to the task. We need to take better care of each other.

SCIUTTO: You get at a point there, the essential argument being there is a way you believe to tailor a lockdown, to target it to certain events in certain areas rather than being statewide and still get a handle on this. I mean, is there evidence, is there statistical evidence in California that that can work?

LICCARDO: Well, right now we're learning a lot. And, frankly, finding the evidence is challenging because we only know a couple weeks downstream really what is happening with the opening. There's no question that openings of businesses have caused cases to rise, and we expect that. The question is whether those spikes are more worrisome and certainly in parts of the state, such as Southern California and the Central Valley, those spikes are very worrisome.

Here in the Bay Area, they have been a bit more modest. But, obviously, we're watching very carefully. And we'll know more in the days ahead and that will tell us really what we need to do. SCIUTTO: So, so far, Governor Newsom has said he is not considering a border shutdown to travelers from other states with perhaps bigger spikes. Is that a mistake in your view?

LICCARDO: No, I think it's appropriate. Look, our challenge is really in our own communities. We need all of us to recognize that with this contagiousness that we're all connected in our behavior and we need to take care of each other through our own behavior.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about the effect on businesses. Of course, you mentioned that, that you say there's a way to restart the economy while still getting a lid on the outbreak.


Congress is currently considering a new round of stimulus as many in that initial round will expire. Where is the money needed most and how best to get it there, in your view?

LICCARDO: With critically need money in the hands of those who are struggling the most. We've got thousands of families without paychecks, many of whom have not been eligible for federal aid in the past. And so we've been raising a lot of money here locally to try to help particularly undocumented families in our community, a lot of folks who simply aren't eligible but certainly extending the unemployment benefits, getting direct cash in the hands of families, particularly families who are not able to engage in distance work.

Certainly, we're a tech community here, but we have thousands of families whose breadwinners really depend on them showing up at restaurants, being able to serve of folks, and those are obviously the families who are most vulnerable. So, really, getting the dollars in the hands of those who are struggling financially the most.

SCIUTTO: California, big engine of the national economy, of course, Silicon Valley, a big engine of the California economy and the national economy as well by itself. You have a lot of claims by how quickly the U.S. economy can recover by this. President Trump insisting it will be a V-shaped recovery. The numbers coming in every week, every month, I mean, they show how lasting this can be.

From your view, how long will it take to turn around, and what's it going to take to turn around?

LICCARDO: I think that the contagion, the disease is going to dictate all of that. The reality is, what we're learning is decisions we make about reopening the economy are pretty irrelevant. It's really the contagion that determines how quickly we're going to be able to reopen. We saw jobless claims rise nationally over the last week, 1.45 million, at a time when we were theoretically reopening the economy. What that tells us really is if people are afraid of going out, we're not going to see economic restoration. We're not going to see jobs coming back.

And so we've got to address the public health risk first and foremost. The economy will follow. And, frankly, it's going to take a very long time.

SCIUTTO: Yes, the false choice, right, between economic health and public health. Mayor Sam Liccardo, thanks for joining this morning.

LICCARDO: Good to be with you, Jim.

HARLOW: Let's go to our Rosa Flores. She joins us in Miami, where the mayor is not ruling out the possibility of issuing new lockdown measures with a new surge in cases, and also they are fining some people for not wearing masks.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Poppy. There is a lot of worry here in Southeast Florida because of COVID-19. As you mentioned, the mayor of the city of Miami, Francis Suarez, saying he is very concerned because of the increase in

hospitalizations, the increase in the need of ventilators, which begs, of course, the obvious question, would he consider reinstating the stay-at-home order, here is what he said.


MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R-MIAMI, FL): All options have to be on the table. You know, when we see our hospitalizations go up, our ICU beds go up, our ventilators are going up, still with sufficient capacity but going up, it's worrisome.

We do have that tool in our toolbox if we need to but we're hoping we don't have to because of the devastating impact that it has on our economy.


FLORES: This as mayors across Southeast Florida are upping enforcement. Here in Miami Beach, where I am, according to city officials, they have closed at least four businesses due to COVID-19 violations. In the City of Miami, the officials there can now fine people for not wearing masks in public. And in Miami-Dade, which accounts for 25 percent of all cases in the State of Florida, they are sending teams to hot zones to educate the public about social distancing and also wearing masks, this as the State of Florida reports two consecutive days of more than 5,000 cases per day.

And this surge, according to officials, is due to young people out and about, not wearing masks, not social distancing. And now we're seeing long lines of testing sites, yet again, people going to these testing sites, trying to figure out if they have this virus. And, Jim and Poppy, we've talked about this multiple times. There are mixed messages being sent by leaders here locally. You've heard it from mayors. They want people to wear masks, and they are mandating masks. Statewide, Governor Ron DeSantis has not issued that order. Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: Rosa, thanks a lot.

The president is digging in. Sources tell CNN that the president is aware that his handling of the pandemic is hurting his standing in the polls, but he seems unwilling to change course. We'll talk about that.

Also, Arizona's governor pausing the state's reopening plans amid a surge of coronavirus cases there. The mayor of Tucson is with us about her growing concerns.


SCIUTTO: And as this pandemic grows, the healthcare coverage of millions of Americans hangs in the balance this morning as the Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act.


SCIUTTO: Texas is now among several states which are scrambling to control a surge in new COVID cases. More than 6,000 were reported across Texas just yesterday.


The governor is now pausing the state's reopening.

HARLOW: Let's go to our Correspondent, Alexandra Field. She joins us in Houston this morning.

I mean, it's a huge reversal, Alex, for the governor of Texas about he sees the data, and it's undeniable.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And now we see even more steps being taken just this morning just minutes ago, Poppy. We are learning from a Harris County official, that is the third largest county in the country, that the county judge, Lina Hidalgo, will later today announce that she is raising the COVID threat level to its highest level, red. That indicates severe. It means that there is a worsening and uncontrolled outbreak in the county. It means that there are strains on resources, like testing and contact tracing, and it is an advisory to people in this county that they should stay home and minimize contacts. Only go out for essential things, like medicine, like groceries.

At the same time, we are hearing about a new executive order from the governor of Texas, Gregory Abbott, no longer just pausing this reopening but actually taking additional steps, going after some of the businesses that he says are most closely linked to this very alarming spike in COVID cases. He now says that bars across Texas will only be open for takeout and delivery, and there are also new restrictions being put on restaurants.

Additionally, we are learning that gatherings will be limited to just 100 people outdoors, and that will require approval from local governments, new measures this morning to try and stop this spread. Poppy, Jim?

SCIUTTO: Alexandra Field there in Houston, thanks very much.

Joining us now to discuss all of the developments, Dr. Leana Wen, she is an Emergency Physician and a former Baltimore City Health Commissioner. Dr. Wen, always good to have you on.

So what we're seeing happening now in a place like Texas, which is seeing an increase in cases, dialing back up stay-at-home restrictions, et cetera, it's the right thing to do, is it not? I mean, as you watch that happened, do you welcome it, and do you also see it having the potential, steps like this of reining the outbreak back in?

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: This is exactly, Jim, what was supposed to happen. We knew by reopening so soon that we were going to see a spike in the number of infections. The hope was always that we had enough of testing facing isolation to be able to rein in those infections before they reached exponential spread, but we know that that's not the case, that we're seeing this rise in hospitalizations, rise in ICU visits and what comes next after that is a rise in deaths.

And so what is the only thing that we can do right now to stop the infection from spreading further? It's same thing we did back in March, which is social distancing, making sure people stay separate from one another.

My only concern is, are these restrictions too late? Are they enough? I mean, limiting mass gatherings is a good thing to do, but maybe it's time to limit gatherings to less than ten people. Maybe it's time to also look at where it is that people are getting sick. If it's in bars, then maybe we should shut down these bars or at least reduce the occupancy for a while, and certainly, we should be requiring masks.

Because if there is a medication that we can all be taking that reduces transmission by five times, we would all be taking that medication. That's what wearing a mask does.

HARLOW: You're so right. That's a great way to put it.

I was wondering too, Doctor, about the 100 person gathering outside. I mean, it still seems pretty big, when in North Texas, you just had a surprise birthday party for a family, where 18 people got COVID. And then the NFL, you've got Roger Goodell saying that they are going to open to fans with the safest possible environment. I mean, is that possible at this point?

WEN: Yes, that's -- that's a lot of people. I mean, do know that outdoors versus indoors makes a big difference. That reduces transmission by 18 to 19 times. But even when you're outdoors, you still need to be able to keep that physical distancing.

And I hope that people who are thinking about getting together over the weekend, over the 4th of July, that they plan to have families staying at least six feet away from each other, don't share drinks, don't share food. This is not the time to give people hugs. You should still wave in greeting.

I mean, there are simple says the that we can take because I know that none of us want to knowingly infect our loved ones and contribute to the outbreaks that are happening in communities around the country. SCIUTTO: Yes. Dr. Wen, you've been vocal about a term that the president has stuck with, used more frequently, you can argue, regarding COVID-19, the Chinese plague, kung flu. You will hear the president's defenders say this is just a joke. Tell us about your experience and your response to that.

WEN: Well, it's not a joke to Asian-Americans to -- to people of Asian descent all around the world who are suffering from racist attacks and xenophobic comments because -- directly because of the president. I myself have -- every time I appear on CNN and writing papers about COVID-19, I get comments about how I should go back to my own country and people are not trusting my advice because they think my people, quote, unquote, are the ones who brought this virus to this country.


We know that when we hold these types of attitudes, we're also impeding public health response, that many of the initial cases that entered the U.S. are from Europe. And because we had our blinders on China, we missed all those cases too. So this actually hurt our public health response.

So I think everyone needs to stand up against racism and xenophobia and we need to stand up against racial injustice of all kinds as we also very urgently support the efforts for Black Lives Matter.

HARLOW: Yes. I'm so sorry, Doctor, that you've had to endure that. It's unimaginable. I'm sorry about that.

I do want your take because of your medical expertise and you just gave birth in April to what people need to take away from this new study about pregnant women. Are they more at risk?

WEN: Yes. So pregnancy is already a time of such uncertainty, and there's so much misinformation. I know that when I was pregnant and I now have a 12-week-old, I had a lot of concerns at that time. And I think still now, we should consider pregnant women to be medically vulnerable. Pregnant women are more likely to get all kinds of viral illnesses.

And now, there is a new study that the CDC published yesterday that shows that pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized, more likely to be in the ICU and more likely to be on ventilators compared to non-pregnant women with COVID-19.

Now, the problem is the study also -- that pregnant women are also in hospitals for other reasons other than COVID, but I think the takeaway still is that pregnant women should take every precaution, and so should those that they are around.

HARLOW: Dr. Leana Wen, thank you very much for being here. Have a nice weekend.

Still ahead, new reporting from inside the White House where an official tells CNN the president knows that masks are important but still refuses to wear them or admit he's wrong. Why? We'll discuss that reporting ahead.



SCIUTTO: Well, in the midst of spikes in 32 states, later today, the White House coronavirus task force will hold its first briefing in almost two months, even as some of those states see a record rise in cases. President Trump will not, however, be there. He will be heading later today to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

HARLOW: He appears to be at one of his weakest points of his presidency if you look at the polling with mounting pandemic and a national reckoning on racism. And polls indicate that if the election were today, the president would lose.

Let's go to our Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash. Dana, you have some really interesting reporting on what the president knows and thinks about masks and how effective they are but why he's unwilling to model that behave by wearing one and talking about it.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the one word to describe it is stubborn. That's obvious from his -- from his actions or maybe inaction when it comes to masks, but that suggests that he doesn't get it. And our reporting, as you said, mine, Jim Acosta and other members of our team here in D.C., tells us that, according to sources close to the president, he is understanding that something has to change.

Now, let's be clear. When he tells people something has to change, he's talking about the fact that his political fortunes are diminishing and that he understands that part of that is because of the coronavirus pandemic and his response or lack thereof of to that.

It doesn't mean that he is recognizing in these conversations that we're told about that he needs -- that he needs to change dramatically or is willing to change dramatically, is a better way to say it. He's not in the short-term, despite the fact that people around him are trying to convince him, for example, with masks. Just do it. Just do it and it will change the subject and it will change the conversation, but there's no indication that that's going to happen any time soon.

SCIUTTO: Dana, as you know, there is a conventional wisdom that his political judgment is somehow secretly brilliant or flawless, right? You look, for instance, particularly as you approach another election day here, but you look at, for instance, his hard anti-immigrant message leading into the midterms, the caravan, the wall, et cetera, it didn't work, seemed to, according to Republicans, actually hurt the fate of Republicans at the ballot box.

Does he have anyone in his circle who is telling him that his political judgment on the COVID response may be wrong?

BASH: People are trying. I don't know how effective any of that is when he is dug in. And on masks, for example, he's dug in, but much more importantly on the broader notion of a more robust federal response. There's no indication that he's going to change dramatically. We'll see what happens with the coronavirus task force today if there are real sort of tangible recommendations that are different from what we see now. It's possible that that will happen given how dire the situation is again in this country.

But you're right, I mean, one person close to the president familiar with his thinking said to me that on coronavirus, that it's one thing to, you know, follow people.