Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Mayor of Miami-Dade County, Florida, Carlos Gimenez; Coronavirus Task Force Holds Rare Briefing. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 26, 2020 - 15:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And our special coverage continues now with Brooke Baldwin.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Here we go. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me on this Friday. You're watching CNN.

Let's get to it.

In Washington this afternoon, something we haven't seen in nearly two months: members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force speaking publicly to a nation that, in the words of task force member Dr. Robert Redfield, has been brought to its knees by COVID-19.

Since we last heard from this group, almost 70,000 Americans have died from the virus. Yesterday was the worst day for new U.S. cases since the pandemic began, which makes this outlook from Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the task force, all the more puzzling.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We stand here today, we believe we have made progress. But, as we are reminded as we see cases rising across the South, that we still have work to do.

To one extent or another, the volume of new cases coming in is a reflection of a great success in expanding testing across the country. One of the things that we're seeing among the cases -- we hear this in Florida, we hear this in Texas and elsewhere -- is that roughly half of the new cases are Americans under the age of 35, which -- which is at a certain level very encouraging news.


BALDWIN: The vice president also said -- his words -- the reality is, we are in a much better place.

Well, here is the reality we're facing today, this map, which just a few weeks ago showed a majority of states holding steady or even declining in cases, is now showing 33 states with increases, and 11 of those states have now paused or pulled back their plans to reopen, among them, Texas and Florida, which have smashed daily records for new cases several times in just the last couple of days.

One group of infectious disease experts is warning that, if the country doesn't flatten its curve, it could lead to possible shortages of drugs that have shown potential to treat COVID-19.

Let's start at the White House with our correspondent there, Kaitlan Collins.

And, Kaitlan, tell me more about the briefing.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, Brooke, it was really remarkable. This is the first time we have seen this group of people together, the Coronavirus Task Force, in eight weeks.

They only took a handful of questions. And as you heard from the vice president there, he really projected this optimistic outlook, talking about what's going on, and getting some of the things wrong, like saying that all 50 states are moving toward reopening, when, as you just showed, several states are actually pausing their reopening, because they're dealing with a surge of new infections.

And some of them, like Texas, are even scaling them back. The vice president was projecting a very different message after we haven't seen them in eight weeks. You know what's changed in those eight weeks is, he was repeatedly saying he wants Americans to know he feels this moment is different and that the United States is in a better place now than it was eight weeks ago, even though 70,000 more Americans are dead since that last Coronavirus Task Force briefing that they held here at the White House.

And, of course, the questions are about where they are going forward and how they're looking with these new numbers, because, as he was saying, we're not where we were two months ago, yesterday, we surpassed the daily record of total cases in the United States.

The last time that single-day record was, Brooke, was the end of April, which is right around when they last held that press briefing. Another thing that was, of course, a big topic was this question of wearing a mask, because, if you listen to the vice president as he and these other officials were giving their presentations, at the beginning, he was ticking off a list of ways that Americans can protect themselves and protect those around them from coronavirus.

He notably did not include wearing a mask, which, of course, is one of the number one things that you have seen health experts recommend. And, instead, when the vice president was later pressed on why masks have become a political issue, which we should note is in part because the president has made them one, he deflected and said they should refer to local or state guidance, even though the CDC, a federal organization, recommends wearing a mask when you're in public.

And, Brooke, just one more thing I have to note before we go is that he was asked why he and the vice president -- or he and the president -- excuse me -- have continued to schedule these rallies indoors with thousands of people and very little social distancing going on. He defended his saying they have a right to peaceably assemble,

talking about the First Amendment, and noted that, of course, there is an election just four months away, not explaining why they wouldn't hold those rallies outdoors or in other venues, the way other politicians have been exploring doing.


Because, if he goes with his own advice, and telling people to listen to their local officials, and then, if they listen to local officials in, say, places like Tulsa for the rally who were telling them not to do it -- yes, I hear you on all of that.

We're going to analyze it all.

Kaitlan, thank you so much for the major points out of the news briefing.

With me now, Dr. Seema Yasmin, a CNN medical analyst and former disease detective at the CDC. And also with us, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash.


So, ladies, Dr. Yasmin, I just want to begin with you, because, again, this is the first briefing from this task force in almost two months. We heard a lot of positivity from certain members of the task force. But, despite that, we are still very much in the middle of this pandemic. What's your biggest takeaway here?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: So, this was, as you said, the first public task force briefing in two months, but it feels like yet another opportunity to put political spin on this global health crisis.

The vice president said, we're making truly remarkable progress. Where? We have just seen 40,000 new infections recorded in a 24-hour period, breaking that record from April 25. How is that progress?

And I'm so worried, Brooke, about this spin that, well, of course, we're seeing more cases because we're doing more testing. That's not fully accurate, because not only are we not seeing enough testing happen in Arizona, a hot spot, people are lining up for 13 hours to get a test, but we're also seeing a higher rate of return of positive cases.

And, also, this falsehood, he said all 50 states are safely and responsibly opening. No, they are not. As we have heard, there are states that are backtracking because of these spikes in cases. So, this optimism is just misleading the American people and has to be called out.

BALDWIN: On -- we're calling it out right now.

On the false optimism, right, Dana, there was a lot of past tense, no, it was handled, or the issue that was, a lot of patting on the back, especially from the vice president. But what I didn't hear was just a plan for how to deal with the record-breaking spikes we're seeing in so many states.

So, what was this briefing all about?


There clearly was pressure on them to do something, to say something, to convene, first and foremost, but then also to have some kind of public message. And it's unfortunate, as Dr. Yasmin just said, for the most part, the message was, effectively, the worst is behind us, and we're doing great.

There were some pockets of realism, particularly from the medical professionals, talking about the fact that there are states that are spiking in a very dramatic way, Texas and Arizona among them.

And the other big message from most of the medical professionals and a bit from Mike Pence is to the young people: You may be invincible here. You may not -- even if you contract, the coronavirus, you may not get very sick or even die, but the people who you infect might.

But there's such a mixed message between that and then the vice president on more than one occasion during the few questions that they took declining to say, yes, people should wear a mask, because that is right now about the only -- one of the only tools we have to allow people to go out and live their lives, reopen the economy, which is one of the big messages that the vice president had at the beginning of the press conferences, but also be safe in the way that they are saying that people have to be.

So, you kind of -- you can't have it both ways, but they are really trying.

And, listen, in the case of the vice president, he's doing that, in large part, it seems pretty obvious, because the president of the United States, his boss--

BALDWIN: Wants to be reelected.

BASH: -- refuses -- and refuses to wear a mask.

BALDWIN: Which I want to get to that, because I know you have reporting on the why behind that.

But, Dana, I want to stay with you, because you have this rosier -- you have this rosier picture. You have the fact that the president is just outright in denial. In fact, he said the virus is -- quote, unquote -- "dying out."

And then this from the briefing today. Watch this.


PENCE: We slowed the spread. We flattened the curve. We saved lives.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: So, let's take a look at this problem that we're facing now, this resurgence of cases.


BALDWIN: OK, Dana, first to you and then Dr. Yasmin.

Just, I mean, these guys are literally standing next to each other, saying very different, very different things. What are Americans supposed to take from this?

BASH: I mean, that's really the question. If they went out there with the goal of trying to send a message, which it seems was a message to young people, which is, be careful, it was very mixed. And that is an understatement. And it was confusing.

Yes, the curve has been bent in places like where you are, Brooke, in New York and New Jersey and other places, which were so, so bad a few months ago. But we're seeing almost a vertical line in places like Texas, and even Arizona.

So it is -- might be true if you look globally, or, more importantly, nationally, but not -- it's not the whole story. And if you combine those two statements, you sort of get almost three-quarters of the whole story.

BALDWIN: Dr. Yasmin, actually, let me get you on this, because Kaitlan had mentioned this a second ago. I think this is an important point.


The vice president was pressed on the Trump-Pence campaign holding those large indoor rallies without social distancing, without requiring people to wear masks.

And just, as a public health official, what's your reaction to that?

YASMIN: It's frightening, because we know that masks considerably lower the chance of somebody spreading the virus to others. We know that asymptomatic transmission might be responsible for as many as 40 percent of cases.

So seeing these leaders model bad behavior, convene gatherings, not where masks themselves, condone people not wearing masks, sends out the wrong signal nationally.

But I want to also want to raise this point about younger people almost being invincible, because the vice president did kind of frame it in quite an optimistic way, that we're seeing about half of new cases in those under the age of 35.


BALDWIN: He said, on some level, it was encouraging news, was exactly what he said.

YASMIN: It's -- Right. He said, on some level, it's encouraging news. But I don't want people to take away from that if you're a younger person, and you get COVID-19, you're going to be fine, because what I'm hearing more and more as I talk to physicians is what we're calling a group of long-haulers.

These are people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, who get COVID-19 and don't just have 14 days or 20 days of illness. They have 70 days, 80 days of illness. And I have talked to some scientists who are really worried that for some people, even after recovery from COVID-19, they might face six months of post-viral fatigue syndrome.

So I don't want young people to see this and think, I will be fine, it'll be mild for me. It may not. And as a doctor, I can't in good faith counsel you that you will be OK in a couple of weeks, because it could be a lot more serious than that.

BALDWIN: Thank you for that.

Case number one, I had a young woman on yesterday who has now had COVID twice. I have a woman coming up a little later on the show, young 30s, has had symptoms and has been suffering from COVID for months.

If we didn't think it was possible, it is. So--

BASH: And if I may say, Brooke--


BASH: -- you're a young person who got it, and you were pretty sick.


BASH: So--

BALDWIN: I was. I was. And I was one of the lucky ones, because some of these folks have had it so much worse, but yes.

Dana Bash, Dr. Seema Yasmin, ladies, thank you both so very much.

And, again, we will speak with that woman who is still very sick in just a little bit.

But several states are now rolling back their reopening plans, as cases are spiking. And Florida, for example, officials are suspending alcohol service in all bars, as the state reports and new record number of infections. We will discuss with the mayor of Miami-Dade County.

Plus, Texas also hitting pause as cases skyrocket, also shutting down bars and issuing new restrictions. And this mask debate gets heated in our nation's capital when a Democratic lawmaker calls out his Republican colleagues. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): But when he doesn't wear a mask, and interacts with other people in the legislative assembly, it's dangerous. That is a public health menace.




BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Florida. Florida has a serious problem on its hands, as it's just reached astonishing new numbers of coronavirus cases today, nearly 9,000 new infections, the state's highest single-day jump since the pandemic began, bringing Florida's total number of cases to more than 120,000 people.

In recent weeks, Florida has emerged as a major hot spot, as coronavirus cases continue to skyrocket since the state reopened last month.

So, now Florida is suspending all alcohol consumption at bars statewide.

And with me now, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez.

So, Mayor Gimenez, thank you so much for being on with me. Welcome.


BALDWIN: I'm doing all right. But let's talk about you.

Dr. Birx at the Coronavirus Task Force briefing specifically called out your county as the area in Florida with one of the highest spikes

So, Mayor Gimenez, what are you doing to stop the spread?

GIMENEZ: We're stopping education, and we're focusing on enforcement.

What we have seen is a huge spike in young people, 18 to 34. It's almost skyrocketing. And that's somewhat concerning to us, not so much on the 18-to-34-year-olds, although a number of them will get sick, a number of them will have serious consequences, but then taking the virus and transmitting it to their parents and to their grandparents.

And so, when you look at our graph, you will see that the older folks are not -- that this -- the rate of infection is not nearly as high as what's going on with the younger folks. And so we're going into the restaurants. We're making sure that there's a social distancing.

We have -- we have always had a mask order here inside any interior space. When you're outside and you can't maintain a social distancing, you have to wear a mask. And so those mask orders are in place. And now we're just -- to make sure that, hey, we're going to be enforcing and we're going to be tough and our police and our inspectors are going to go out.

And if you're not abiding by the rules, you will be fined. And if you don't really don't abide by the rules, something else could happen to you.

BALDWIN: So, on the point of masks -- and I hear you on indoor, but you have not implemented a countywide mandate for masks. Why?

GIMENEZ: Yes, I have, absolutely. We have a countywide mandate for masks. Any time you're outdoors and you cannot maintain social distancing of six feet, you would have to wear a mask, and that's been in place for two months.

So, we have that--


BALDWIN: If you cannot maintain six feet? So, it's not like you're saying, everyone, all the time wear masks. You're saying what then?

GIMENEZ: If you cannot maintain -- if you're in a space where you can't maintain -- outdoor space -- and you can't maintain a distance of six feet from the next person that's not in your household, you must wear a mask.


That's been--


BALDWIN: But a lot of people not abiding by that, and they are not wearing masks.

GIMENEZ: That's correct.

And that's part of the reasons why we are going to be enforcing now. It's education before, but it's enforcing.

But, also, look, we can do all those things outside, but it appears to me that young people are doing what young people do. And it's almost impossible for government to stop them from getting together with friends in a house inside, a pool party, in a private home. Those things are very difficult.

And so we can do those things and enforce the wearing of masks and making sure social distancing is complied with in public spaces. But something tells me that something else is going on, and that these young people are actually getting together in private spaces, and they're not abiding by these rules, because, frankly, they probably think they're invincible.

And they think that it's not going to be a big deal for them. And so that's why we're seeing these giant spikes in young people, not so much the older folks, young people. BALDWIN: But the problem is -- and, again, going back to what the

vice president just said -- at some level, the fact that -- I'm roughly paraphrasing -- he was saying, at some level, the fact that more young people are getting sick is encouraging news.

I don't find that encouraging. I mean, I guess it sounds like, because you're bringing up the point about young people, you don't find that encouraging.

The other issue is the aging population in Florida. And, listen, we all have -- a lot of us have relatives in Florida or know folks who have older relatives in Florida. Young people hang out with their parents, who hang out with their parents, and people get sick.


And that's why we want to enforce and we have to enforce the rules that we have in place, have had in place here for two months. And we have got to reiterate again to the young people, hey, it's your responsibility to act responsibly, because, while it may not be -- or you may think that it's not going to be a problem for you, you're going to carry that on to your parents and to your grandparents.

And that's why you have to be responsible. Our motto here is, I protect, you protect me. And so that's what we're going to do. We also have seen in Miami-Dade that there are certain hot spots inside Miami- Dade where it's really a problem.

And we're going to be setting up what we call surge teams to go in there, teams of about 100 people, that are going to go in there to educate the residents and the business owners of those areas, also give them masks, give them sanitizers, other equipment to keep them safe, but really focus in on those really hot spots.

There are four different zip codes here in Miami-Dade where the infection rate is much higher than the rest of the county. And so we're going to be focusing in on those two. And then, obviously, with the help of our cities, the county is going to go out and be enforcing these rules.

And I go on TV every day. We have to follow these rules. We have to follow these rules in order to start to reduce the incidence of positives, which, by the way, that's what concerning me, right? It's not so much the number of people, because, like I have said before, we ran a study here a couple of months ago that indicated, at that time, we'd already had 200,000 people that had -- were shown positive to the antibodies.

And so it's not really the sheer number. It's the rate of positives. And, yes, we have seen an increase in the rate of positives here from about 8 percent to about 14.

BALDWIN: No, it's been quite a bit. I think -- I hear you, but I do think it is shocking to see the numbers in Florida and obviously the rate of positive deaths, and a lot of folks currently are just working on previous test data, and not actually the numbers that are indicated today.

I know you're going to keep an eye on this. I know you're also providing shelters for folks who are getting sick and have nowhere else to stay because of the crowded home.

So, Mayor Carlos Gimenez, I do appreciate you. I appreciate you coming on. You have got a big job on your hands. Good luck.

GIMENEZ: Thank you. Appreciate it. Have a good one.

BALDWIN: The fight over wearing masks is boiling over on Capitol Hill. A heated exchange broke out during a coronavirus hearing this afternoon.

Democrats slammed Republicans who chose not to wear masks, despite guidance from the attending physician that face coverings should be worn during meetings held in an enclosed space that lasts longer than 15 minutes.


RASKIN: -- and then show up and not wear masks and put terror and fear in your colleagues and perhaps your staff.

We have got a rule which says, you can't -- you have to wear a jacket on the floor of the House. And I know people tease our friend Mr. Jordan about never wearing a jacket. I don't care about his not wearing a jacket. That's a fashion statement.

But when he doesn't wear a mask, and interacts with other people in the legislative assembly, it's dangerous. That is a public health menace.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): In reference to Mr. Jordan, I think you used the term public menace. That's not a -- I hope you weren't referring to him.


BALDWIN: Again, just a reminder, health experts in the CDC continue to recommend we wear masks when you're in an enclosed space.

And just moments ago, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney weighed in on Twitter, posting a picture of her dad, the former Vice President Dick Cheney, wearing a mask, writing: "Dick Cheney says wearing a mask. #realmenwearmasks."


Texas also sounding the alarm and rolling back reopening plans, the governor closing all bars and announcing other restrictions. We have a live report ahead there.

And as millions of people are losing their jobs, and thousands suffer from COVID-19, the Trump administration just asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)