Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Hits Highest Single Day of New Cases, 40,000; California, Florida, Texas Report Record Spikes; Some Americans Resistant to Wearing Face Masks; Trump Facing Multiple Crises Amid Reelection Campaign; U.S. Democrat Joe Biden Leads Trump in Several New Polls. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 26, 2020 - 04:00   ET




NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Live from CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Natalie Allen and this is CNN NEWSROOM.

4 a.m. here in Atlanta, Georgia, thank you so much for joining us.

Our top story, the surging number of COVID-19 cases in the United States has now hit 40,000 people in a single day. That is the highest ever. On top of that, Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the real number is likely ten times higher.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: This virus causes so much asymptomatic infection, we've probably recognized 10 percent of the outbreak.


ALLEN: That means some 24 million Americans, many of them with no symptoms, are probably spreading the virus and don't know it. Infections are climbing in more than 30 U.S. states with record spikes in California, Texas and Florida. Some governors are hitting the brakes on reopening any further. All of this will hang over the White House coronavirus task force on Friday. It will be the group's first public briefing in two months.

The CDC's head stressed social distancing is the most powerful tool to stop spreading the virus. The exact opposite of this crowded beach here in southern England. Local officials declared a major incident and begged everyone to leave.

As U.S. cases surge to alarming levels, the push to reopen is getting pushed back from some state governors. CNN's Erica Hill has the latest for us.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the nation's three most populous states, California, Florida and Texas, things are going from bad to worse.

DR. DAVID PERSSE, PUBLIC HEALTH AUTHORITY, HOUSTON HEALTH DEPARTMENT: I don't think history is going to look back forgivingly upon the United States and the Americans who are going down this road.

HILL: Los Angeles County now has more confirmed cases than any other county in the country.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We're still in the first wave of this pandemic.

HILL: Texas pausing its reopening to, quote, coral the spread of COVID-19. Also restricting elective surgeries in four counties.


HILL: Texas Medical Center now using nearly all its regular capacity ICU beds in the greater Houston area. Hospitals also a concern in Florida, which just added more than 5,000 new cases. Governor DeSantis resisting calls for a statewide mask mandate.

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: I think it's incredibly unfortunate that this has become so political.

HILL: While, in hard-hit Miami, where masks are required, the mayor is now considering a fine for anyone who ignores his order.

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

HILL: The CDC confirming more young people are contracting the virus. In Ohio, where cases have jumped in the last 24 hours, nearly 60 percent of the state's cases are people between the ages of 20 and 49.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): We have increased testing.


But no analyst that I have talked to believes that the total increase is due to that at all.

HILL: Hospitalizations and ICU admissions also up, especially in the Cincinnati area.

Across the country, for every person diagnosed, 10 more were likely infected, as many as 20 million people according to new findings from the CDC.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: It's about 10 times more people have antibodies. HILL: There is new concern for pregnant women, the CDC reporting Thursday they may be at higher risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms, especially black and Hispanic women.

Disneyland's reopening now delayed. California says it hasn't met the criteria. Apple closing more stores in Florida because of the virus.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), NEW YORK CITY: The data is telling us yes right now.

HILL: While, in New York City, plans are under way for phase three, bringing back indoor dining, sports, and dog runs on July 6.

(on camera): CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield stressing on Thursday this pandemic is not over. He says the best tool, the best weapon to fight it is social distancing and stresses when you can't maintain the six feet of distance and even when you're outside in public, you should always be wearing a face covering as well. Back to you.


ALLEN: Joining me now in Los Angeles is Dr. Anish Mahajan, chief medical officer, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Doctor, thanks so much for joining us.


ALLEN: Well, 15 counties there in California are seeing increases in COVID cases. How might this affect hospitals and capacity if this trend continues? What is the situation there where you are?

MAHAJAN: Well, we are certainly seeing an increase in hospitalizations in many of the counties in California. So as you know, we are seeing increases in cases and usually when you have increases in cases, it's five to ten days afterwards you start to see increases in hospitalizations. This is happening all across California and it is very concerning.

ALLEN: The governor is resisting easing up on restrictions and also not mandating masks. We are seeing that in some other states with big issues. Do you agree with these decisions? Is now the time to get more aggressive?

MAHAJAN: Well, we know masks save lives in COVID-19. There was a recent study out of Texas A&M and a few other universities that have now definitively shown that wearing a mask protects others around you but actually also protects you if you are uninfected from contracting the virus. So masks are a must but not enough. We have seen reopening occurring all across the United States and one of the metrics that has to be followed when you're reopening is the number of cases you're having and the number of hospitalizations you're seeing from those cases.

Now we are seeing cases go up, we're seeing the hospitalizations going up, which means that the epidemic and the virus is out of control again. And so we have to not only pause reopening, we need our leadership to say to themselves and to the public, maybe we might even need to roll back some of the opening because the cost in lives is too much even when our hospitals have the capacity to take on more COVID ICU patients. We in the health care system know that some 30 to 50 percent of patients who end up on a ventilator from COVID will die. And we have to ask ourselves, is this worth it?

ALLEN: Absolutely, and it's not just California, it is Florida, it is Texas. Where one infectious disease expert warns despite there is leading to apocalyptic surges in major Texas cities. And we know the U.S. broke the record for the most cases reported in a single day Thursday. So the question is can we get a handle on this, doctor? And we also know that a lot of these cases we are seeing are younger people.

MAHAJAN: Right. You know, I think we all hoped collectively that the summer heat would slow this virus down and that we wouldn't see as much transmission. We also hoped that as we reopened, if people did wear their masks and did appropriately social distance even while resuming their lives that we wouldn't see as much transmission. But the numbers don't lie. Look at what's happening all across the United States. We are seeing cases rise and rise and so at this point we have to ask ourselves, what are we going to do about it? We really have to take a hard look at really wearing these masks, at being careful, and maybe even rolling back the some of these reopenings so we can get a handle on this.

ALLEN: Right. One doctor in Florida likens not wearing a mask to driving on a highway drunk without a seat belt.


So what do you say to people at this point that are simply refusing to do these two very simple things, social distance and wearing a mass. And of course, we also know that from the very top with the U.S. President, he doesn't wear a mask and even sometimes makes fun of it.

MAHAJAN: Well, I think it's a great metaphor that not wearing a mask is like driving drunk. Because when you drive drunk, you're risking other people's lives and your own. And now we know that masks work to protect others and to protect yourself. And really, we have a number of young people now in the United States who have resumed their lives who may have COVID but are not going to get sick from it. But we know that they can transmit it. And so, we need our young people to wear the masks so they don't get the virus when they're out and about and not give the virus to their loved ones. To their loved ones who may be susceptible to bad outcomes if they do get COVID.

And leadership is the most important. We need the President, we need all of our leaders to speak in one voice and say that masks are essential. To say we have to be careful about how we reopen, to say that we have to have appropriate testing supplies and contact tracing if we're going to get a handle on this.

ALLEN: And that's where we're at. I mean, this is the moment that is so important. Are we going to be able to get a handle on it? You've got the European Union questioning whether they'll allow Americans or people in the U.S. to travel to Europe because it's so bad here. Did you ever imagine that the United States could have it this bad? How did we get this so wrong, doctor?

MAHAJAN: Yes. It is really shocking for all of us, and we should have done better. And we went wrong probably right from the beginning when in the beginning we had the CDC unfortunately bungle the rollout of testing for COVID. We lost critical time at a very early stage before COVID became a big forest fire throughout her country and we never caught up. And part of not catching up is leadership at the highest level saying to all of our governors, saying to all of our jurisdictions, that let's have a national strategy for testing. Let's have a national strategy for contact tracing and isolating people when they're infected, let's have a national strategy about reopening.

On each of these things, unfortunately we did not come together as a nation, whereas, we see other nations like Taiwan, New Zealand and many other examples where they did just that and they don't have as big of a problem as we do.

ALLEN: Right and look where we are. Dr. Anish Mahajan, we really appreciate your expertise and your time. Thank you very much and we wish you the best.

MAHAJAN: Thank you.

ALLEN: Next here on CNN NEWSROOM, U.S. President Trump facing several national crises while asking the country to give him a second term. We look at the daunting challenges faces in this election year. And meantime, his expected challenger Democrat Joe Biden enjoying a sizeable lead according to a slate of recent opinion polls. More about it next.




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we have more cases because we do the greatest testing. If we didn't do testing, we'd have no cases. Other countries they don't test millions. So we're up to almost 30 million tests. So when you do 30 million, you're going to have a kid with the sniffles and they'll say it's coronavirus. Whatever you want to call it.


ALLEN: U.S. President Donald Trump there speaking with Fox News Host, John Hannity, falsely claiming the United States has more coronavirus cases because it does more tests. Mr. Trump faces a major health crisis and a civic crisis caused by ongoing protests for racial justice in this country. Both are of these problems are confounding his reelection efforts. For more about it, here is CNN chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With coronavirus cases spiking and his poll numbers tanking, President Trump is chalking up the pandemic surge in the U.S. to increased 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 tens of thousands.

TRUMP: Could have been stopped in China. But we could have lost anywhere from two to four 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. It could get up to 150. Could go beyond that.

ACOSTA: That's roughly 100,000 more deaths than 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 it. One is too many. But we're going toward 50,000 or 60,000 people.

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can take a step back, if that makes you comfortable, sir.

TRUMP: No, but you're way -- I mean, you're not social distancing, based on the question.

ACOSTA: But hold on. In Ohio, Vice President Mike Pence was wearing a mask. In Texas, where GOP Governor Greg Abbott is pausing his state's reopening.

He said in a statement, I ask 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 1.5 million 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, PRESUMPTIVE U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's like a child who can't believe this has happened to him, all his whining and self-pity. Well, 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 U.S. 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.

ACOSTA (on camera): And we are learning the President is walling himself off from bad polling. Telling advisers he does not believe the latest polls showing he is trailing Joe Biden and the president is pushing off public health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci who has not spoken to Mr. Trump in some three weeks. Aides are not hopeful the President will ever warm up to wearing masks. As one official told us, quote, he will never change on the mask.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.


ALLEN: Several recent polls show Mr. Trump's likely Democratic challenger with a sizeable lead. One example here, a survey from "The New York Times" and Sienna College has Joe Biden ahead of Mr. Trump by more than 10 points among registered voters. Let's get insight from Natasha Lindstaedt in Colchester, England. She is a professor of government at the University of Essex. Good morning, Natasha, thanks for coming on.


ALLEN: Well polls ended up being wrong in 2016 when Mr. Trump beat Hillary Clinton, but these numbers are certainly looking promising for Joe Biden. What's your reaction to them? LINDSTAEDT: Well they are really significant. I mean, a lot of it is

that -- I just want to mention that this poll gets a very, very strong rating and so it's considered to be a very accurate poll. But the other big thing is that this is by a much wider margin than any lead that Clinton had in 2016. And we need to look at the results from some of the swing states like Michigan, like Pennsylvania, like Wisconsin. At this point Clinton had a very narrow lead in these states and Trump won these states by a very narrow margin.

In this case Trump is doing much, much worse than Biden. Biden has a ten plus point lead in these states and we should also compare this to 2016 where Clinton never had over 50 percent threshold in these states. We also see a big lead for Biden in states like Florida with six points, seven points in Arizona and ten points in North Carolina. And the poll also revealed other demographics that weren't looking good for President Trump. So the only category where he's doing a little bit better by three points is in the age group of 45-year-olds to 64-year-olds.

But in every other age group he's losing by wide margins. We're seeing those over 65, it's a 17-point drop from where he was in 2016. We see that among white voters -- this normally is his biggest support base. But we're seeing that his support is dwindling there, too.

ALLEN: Right, so let's talk about what is going wrong for this President. Certainly, he has been widely criticized for his non- handling of the pandemic which is now spiraling out of control in many states. That coupled with the protests and of course prior to that there was just a strong anybody but Trump movement. It seems like since the protests and this pandemic has gotten worse and worse, that he has gotten worse and worse in these polls.

LINDSTAEDT: Right. And so, I think the pandemic wasn't helping matters and he certainly wasn't gaining any support due to the way he was handling the pandemic. In fact, a majority of the public didn't think he was handling it well and, in the polls, it revealed that in the swing states a strong majority didn't think that he was handling it well.

But where the turning point was seems to be the protests, the way he handled the protests and the way that the public perceives his ability to handle race relations. He only has about 30 percent approval ratings in terms of how he deals with race and how he dealt with the protests. And we can see a big jump from May 25th, around the time that the protests started to take place to now, a month later. And that Biden gained on average three points extra just in that one month.


Now of course anything can change, but the way he's managed this, whether it be using the military on his own protesters or the ridiculous photo op he had with the Bible, he's not being viewed as someone who can really unite the country.

ALLEN: Right, and again and again, he now has a forum, he's doing his rallies to say something different, to come out with something that Americans can cling to that he is the leader that they can count on during a very tumultuous time. So the question is, and you mentioned it, what can he do at this point to turn this around because he's not seeming like he's putting in that effort.

LINDSTAEDT: Right. I mean, I think the number one thing he should do is focus on the economic argument for him. So if you were to look at the -- some of the individuals that were polled and they were asked are you going to vote for Trump again? And some of them said they might vote for Trump again and in many cases, it was for economic reasons.

For example, an owner of a small business said he would vote for Trump again even though he wasn't that pleased with him because he really believes in low taxes and that the government needs to stay out of regulating business. So if I were the Trump campaign, I would be focusing on taxes, on that he would be the president to lower taxes and try to appeal to voters in that way. Because the poll also revealed that it was really only the economy was the one thing, he had an approval rating above 50 percent.

ALLEN: Natasha Lindstaedt, we always appreciate your insights. Thank you again.

LINDSTAEDT: Thanks for having me.

ALLEN: NASCAR has released a photo of the noose found in the garage assigned to Bubba Wallace, the only African-American drive in the stock car racing association. NASCAR's President says he was concerned for Wallace and the photo shows the noose was real. The FBI determined no hate crime had been committed because the rope had been there since last year. NASCAR says all other garages were checked but found a noose only in Wallace's garage. The association was not able to determine who put it there or why it wasn't reported earlier.

Next here on CNN NEWSROOM, coronavirus has reached a crisis level in Texas. Why officials there are having to backtrack on reopening and how far they may have to go.