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U.S. Sets Single-Day Record for New COVID-19 Cases; Florida Reports 5,000+ Cases for Second Day in a Row; Trump Dismisses Severity of Coronavirus as Cases Surge. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired June 26, 2020 - 06:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Friday, June 26. It is 6 a.m. here in New York. And the breaking news, a record number of new cases. Think about that.

[05:59:41]

Four months into this pandemic, after everything we should have learned, after every opportunity where leaders should have led, more people reported sick in one day than ever before. Nearly 40,000 new cases reported yesterday. Nearly 40,000 reasons to believe that leaders didn't lead. They didn't learn. Or maybe it's reasonable to ask whether they don't care.

The president is complaining about too many tests. He proudly refuses to wear a mask. And he held a campaign rally with more than 6,000 people so medically fraught that every one of his campaign staffers there is now in self-quarantine.

This morning, 32 states are seeing a rise in cases. Every state there in red, the deep red states, that much worse. The CDC says the number of Americans infected with the virus is likely ten times higher than reported.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And overnight, Arizona and New Mexico joining Texas and eight other states in pausing their reopening plans.

Texas is reporting an all-time high in new cases. And the city of Houston faces a dire critical care shortage.

And this morning, the White House coronavirus task force will hold its first briefing in nearly two months.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Lucy Kafanov. She is live in Dallas with our top story.

What's the situation there, Lucy?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, good morning.

With the number of cases surging here in Texas, some cities are now reporting that their hospital ICUs could be nearing full capacity. Meanwhile, as President Trump continues to ignore expert calls for

additional testing, we have seen Republican Senators Cornyn and Cruz, both of them quite prominent in the Republican Party, now pleading with the federal government to keep testing sites funded. This as a handful of locations will be closing at the end of the month, despite the fact that this pandemic is raging.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAFANOV (voice-over): The United States hitting a high for new daily confirmed coronavirus cases, nearly 40,000, surpassing figures from the end of April.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Unfortunately, I don't see an end in sight. We are going to continue to have this acceleration of cases.

KAFANOV: Nearly 6,000 people testing positive here in Texas, another single-day record for the state.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER CDC ACTING DIRECTOR: The situation in -- in Texas is a warning shot.

KAFANOV: The state seeing record hospitalizations, too, with that number steadily increasing each day over the past two weeks.

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON: We started opening up in May. I will agree that it was my opinion then that we were opening too quickly, too soon.

KAFANOV: Texas was one of the first states in the country to begin reopening 56 days ago. But now the recent surge forcing Governor Greg Abbott to hit pause on the state's reopening plan.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): We work on a daily basis. And you should anticipate more orders coming out in the coming days.

KAFANOV: But his earlier reopening order would still allow many businesses already open to continue operating, including malls, restaurants, and gyms.

Neighboring Louisiana and New Mexico also pausing their reopening, trying to stop the possibility of similar increases like Texas. And other states like North Carolina, Kansas, and Arizona pausing, too.

GOV. DOUG DUCEY (R-AZ): We expect that our numbers will be worse next week and the week following in terms of cases and hospitalizations.

KAFANOV: In California, Los Angeles County has more confirmed cases than any other county in the nation.

In Florida, where 5,000 more cases have been confirmed, Governor DeSantis still resisting implementing a statewide mandate to wear masks.

And in Ohio, the state reporting a staggering number: Nearly 60 percent of new cases are people ages 20 to 49.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: 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.

KAFANOV: At a CNN town hall, Bill Gates saying that the global and domestic picture are bleaker than expected.

BILL GATES, CO-CHAIR, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: The U.S., in particular, hasn't had the leadership messages or the coordination that you would have expected.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: But basically, we're still not doing enough now on this pandemic?

GATES: Not even close. I mean, just, you know, people died today.

KAFANOV: Despite President Trump repeatedly insisting that the country needs to reduce testing to keep totals low.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we didn't do testing, we'd have no cases.

KAFANOV: The CDC believes that, for every one person who tested positive with the virus, ten have gone undiagnosed, which means that an estimated 20 million more Americans have possibly been infected.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR (via phone): The virus causes so much asymptomatic infection. We probably recognized about 10 percent of the outbreak.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAFANOV: And that coronavirus task force meeting will be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence. It won't be at the White House. It will be behind closed doors, but we are expecting a public briefing afterwards, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: That will be very interesting, Lucy. Thank you very much.

Now to Florida. The state has reported more than 5,000 new cases for the second day in a row.

CNN's Rosa Flores is live in Miami Beach with more for us -- Rosa.

[06:05:05]

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, good morning.

Mayors here in southeast Florida taking matters into their own hands, upping enforcement here in Miami Beach. Officials say that they have closed at least four businesses in the past week or so.

In the city of Miami, officials there can now fine people for not wearing masks. And in Miami-Dade County, they're cracking down on sporting facilities who are not following the COVID-19 rules. This as Florida reports two consecutive days of more than 5,000 cases

per day. And the surge, according to officials, is due to young people out and about, not social distancing, not wearing masks.

And Floridians are flocking to testing sites, waiting for hours in long lines to see and figure out if they have this virus.

Now, governor Ron DeSantis not requiring, not mandating masks statewide, allowing people to make that decision for themselves.

Now, take a look at this video, because the governor decided to wear a mask yesterday during a press conference.

And this morning, a sad reality, sad new reality in the state of Florida. You know, Gov. Ron DeSantis had used the rationale that no child under the age of 18 had died from COVID-19 in the state of Florida as part of the rationale for the reopening of schools and pushing for the reopening of schools.

But Alisyn, a new reality this morning. In the past week or so, there have been two 17-year-olds who have died from COVID in the state of Florida: a 17-year-old in Pasco County and another one in Ft. Myers -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Oh, we're so sorry to hear that, Rosa. That's -- that's a horrible development. Thank you very much for all of the reporting.

So our next guest says that cases in Houston, Texas, could soon reach apocalyptic levels. What can be done today to stop that? We ask him, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:10:59]

BERMAN: All right, this morning, the unnecessary reality that we should not be seeing. The highest number of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

Texas has more than 6,000 new cases. Look at that curve. Hospitalizations in Texas shooting up, doubling this month alone. All of this leading the Texas governor to pause -- pause, not reverse -- pause the next phase of opening.

In other words, what's happening now is leading to record cases. Let's leave it like it is.

Joining us now, Dr. Peter Hotez. He's the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

Dr. Hotez, I want to talk to you about the biggest -- bigger picture, but how on earth we are here this morning talking about this. But first, you're our eyes and ears on the ground in Harris County, which really is in dire straits right now. What's the situation? HOTEZ: Well, we're in a -- what I call a heart-breaking situation,

this very steep, steep rise in the number of cases in Harris County in Houston. And if you look at the graphics, it's -- it's almost a vertical increase, with no real end in sight.

And unfortunately, we're -- we're looking at some of the model projections, as we move into July. And we're still at the beginning of this. The current numbers are well over a thousand cases a day, with projections going up to 3,000, 4,000 cases per day or more. Unless we intervene very soon, we will continue to have that rise.

Right now, our Texas Medical Center, which is our massive medical city of 60 institutions and 100,000 employees, is -- is able to manage this surge. We have the beds. But we -- I'm very concerned, as we move into July, we need to interrupt community transmission. That has to be our No. 1 priority.

And I think it's especially hitting hard some of the low-income neighborhoods, where -- where -- where it's more problematic to do the social distancing and get those community messages out.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Hotez, you've been our program so many times, even this week, trying to sound this alarm. And you, on Twitter, resorted to an evocative visual to show people what you think is going on underneath the surface. And you showed that this sort of has a Loch Ness monster effect. What does that mean?

HOTEZ: Yes, you know what we're seeing nationally is we had that first big hump in April -- in March and April, primarily in New York and in the northeastern cities in Boston, Philadelphia. And then we started to go down. And we -- I think the country was feeling a bit relieved that we were doing better.

But we let our -- we've let our guard down and allowed this relapse, this recrudescence in number of cases. But it's happening in the -- mainly in a different part of the country now, more in the southern part of the country, especially in the southwest, like in Texas, Arizona where the climb is going unabated. And it's basically forming the neck and the head of the Loch Ness monster.

And -- and this is how we'll continue throughout the summer unless we have both a national strategy and the -- those states in the southwest can figure out how to contain this.

And right now, our weapons, our tools are social distancing, contact tracing, all the things that we've been talking about. And we're going to have to make those very hard decisions and choices.

And we -- and the problem is, we can't go back and forth for weeks. This has to be done now. I would like to see in Houston, for instance, in Harris County, a decision made not just to halt the opening, but actually reverse components. We have to go into different phases of shutdown. I know it's tragic, and no one's happy about it, but we have to save lives at this point.

[06:15:11] BERMAN: Yes, two things you said there that really jump out to me. No. 1, we let it happen. And No. 2, unless. Unless something is now done about it.

There are 11 states now that have paused in stages of reopening. Paused. And I have to say, you know, when you talk about Texas, when you talk about Arizona, for instance, when you talk about Florida, pausing where you are -- where you are has put you there. Where you are has given you a record number of new cases. Where you are has led to a doubling of hospitalizations in Texas over last month.

How is pausing -- how is pausing going to fix this? Where's the leadership?

HOTEZ: John, I -- it's as though you reproduced everything I said yesterday on various phone calls. Pause means status quo, and the status quo is not working for us. The status quo means we continue to climb and climb.

And you're absolutely right. We now have to try to put this back. And it's going to require very aggressive measures. And I want to see it done by -- by today, hoping there's some type of announcement very soon.

We have some tools at our disposal. Our county executive, Lina Hidalgo, county judge and our mayor, we've gone in Houston into what's called an alert -- color alert system, green, yellow, orange, and we're still at orange. The top one is red. And red means actually dialing things back.

You know, I'd love come up with more creative solutions, but we have to focus on saving lives right now, because remember how the deaths work? The deaths lag behind the cases by a couple of weeks, as people are on ventilators for prolonged periods of time. So we haven't seen the big spike in deaths that go along with it, and that's sometimes used as justification for not -- for not dialing this back. But that's -- that's going to come in the next two weeks.

CAMEROTA: But specifically, Doctor, what are you saying in terms of the aggressive interventions that you want to see today?

HOTEZ: Well, I'm trying not to be too prescriptive in terms of what actually gets dialed back. I don't want to put our -- we have some great public health leaders in Harris County in Houston, and I don't want to put them on -- put them on the spot to dictate to them what I think should be done.

They know -- they know what the problems are. They're on the ground. They know precisely what needs to be done. They're working on a plan. I'd like to see them come up with it, and they will.

And by the way, it's not just Houston.

BERMAN: Right.

HOTEZ: It's all the metro areas in Texas. It's Austin. It's San Antonio. It's Dallas.

And -- and then we're going to have to put in some new technologies. We're going to need to do better at syndromic surveillance. What I mean by that is looking at the spikes of new cases and -- and respiratory illness. We're going to need -- we need more granular models, epidemiologic models.

And unfortunately, none of this is coming out of the federal government. It's shocking to me that --

BERMAN: Well, to that --

HOTEZ: -- by now, we --

BERMAN: To that point, Doctor, what about what the president is doing? I mean, the president continues to proudly not wear a mask. The president continues to suggest that testing isn't necessary. There's federal funding that's going to be pulled from testing sites in Texas as your cases are spiking.

HOTEZ: Yes, we obviously can't -- can't allow that to happen.

And so, you know, part of the problem is we're not getting any kind of -- nothing in the way of granular guidance for what needs to be done. So the can is being kicked down to the states. And then the states, in many cases, are kicking it to the local -- to the metro areas.

And then in some cases -- not here in Houston, but in some cases, the metro areas throw their hands up, and then they tell the local businesses to figure it out.

And -- and this is why we have that Loch Ness monster and why we saw that first peak. We went down. Now we're going back up again. And there's -- there's no end in sight to this. So we really need leadership at every level right now. And it is a crisis.

And people are using different metaphors. I think Mike Osterholm called it a forest fire from now until the rest of the year. I called it a Loch Ness monster. Whatever you want to call it, we've got, now, to make some hard decisions, and we need leadership at every level.

BERMAN: All right. Dr. Peter Hotez, thanks for being with us this morning. I hope -- I hope people are listening. I really do.

So according to a White House official --

HOTEZ: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: -- President Trump knows masks are important, but he doesn't want that image or to admit he's wrong. Let that sink in. The president so concerned about his image. We discuss the leadership void next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:24:12] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: 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 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: The United States just recorded the highest number of new cases since the pandemic began. And sources tell CNN that President Trump is aware that his handling of the coronavirus pandemic is hurting his standing in the polls, but he seems unwilling to change course.

Joining us now is CNN political commentator Errol Louis and CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser. She's a staff writer for "The New Yorker."

Susan, President Trump seems to be in a very strange mindset right now. I don't know if you would describe it as self-destructive, but he -- he has always called himself a numbers guy. He loves looking at the ratings. He sees the polls across the board, from FOX News to "The New York Times," that his handling of this and, of course the, you know, the racial moment that we're in, are hurting him. Yet, he continues to do nothing.

What -- how do we explain that?

Well --

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Alisyn --

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Susan.

GLASSER: Yes. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

So listen, I think you've hit on something really important here. What -- Trump seems to be almost in denial, not that he's in trouble, but about what to do about it. You know, I watched him for an hour on his good friend Sean Hannity's show last night, and you know, several times, he even referred to the idea that Biden might be winning: Well, maybe he's winning because people don't like me.

But it collides with another central aspect of President Trump's personality, right? Which is that he never wants to admit that he's in the wrong. He never wants to change course. He doesn't want to say, you know, I am not following the right tact.

He had a plan for June, and it was a great reopening of America, transitioning to greatness. Even after the debacle of his rally in Tulsa, this week, you've seen him actually double down on his approach. He's going to go down, he seems to be indicating to us, name calling and finger pointing and denying until the very end. It's really striking that that's the course he's chosen, even as

Republicans are starting to groan ever more loudly and say, basically, Hey, buddy, you know, give us some relief here. Change course.

BERMAN: So here's the thing, though. If it were only self-destructive, that would be one thing. If it were just poor campaign strategy, that would be one thing. But people are getting sick, Errol. People are dying in this country. A hundred and twenty-four thousand people -- I'm looking at the screen right now -- have now died in this country.

The president won't wear a mask in public. The president won't say that we should have more testing. The president barely acknowledges that this is spreading. He had a campaign rally, and every campaign staffer there is now in self-quarantine. He is putting people in harm's way. They are getting sick because, in some cases, of the decisions he has made.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's correct. And look, at some point, people have to take some responsibility for this.

It is heartbreaking for me, talking to you from my home, where I've been for a number of months, since our whole company up here in New York have been sent home, to see tens of thousands of people lost in New York, New York City alone, in just a matter of weeks. It is shocking what happens. It happens so quickly.

The morgues are overwhelmed; the funeral homes are overwhelmed. Refrigerated trucks are set up outside of hospitals. Medical staff themselves start to perish. Friends, coworkers, neighbors, gone. It happens so quickly.

People have to recognize that that's real. It's not a political slogan; it's not propaganda. Frankly, it's not even related to the -- what the president says.

Reality is here staring people in the face, and we've got a president who's off on some other track. He's not acknowledging it. He's mired in his own political problems, which are severe. Many of which are of his own making.

But people are going to have to really wake up and say no leadership is coming from the White House. You're going to have to look to your governor, your local public health officials, your friends, what information you can find from trusted sources. Not the White House. Definitely not the White House.

CAMEROTA: Susan, it's very interesting. "The Wall Street Journal," right-leaning newspaper, has an editorial this morning that talks about the lack of leadership.

It says, "President Trump may soon need a new nickname for 'Sleepy Joe' Biden. How does President-elect sound? On present trend, that's exactly what Mr. Biden will be on November 4, as Mr. Trump heads for what could be an historic repudiation that would take the Republican Senate down with him."

That is notable.

GLASSER: Absolutely, it's notable. Generally speaking, the remarkable thing about "The Wall Street Journal's" conservative editorial page is that it had been anti-Trump originally, but it had been trending more towards, you know, supporting the president in the last couple of years. And so I do think it's a wake-up call that, by the way, this has use for President Trump's allies politically.

I think it's important to note that scaring him a little bit with these numbers, using that to scare his faithful base, as well, is not entirely politically useless at this moment, No. 1. So there is some value, even for the Republicans' campaign, in serving as a wake-up call right now.

Secondly, though, you have to acknowledge right now the political geography of the pandemic is changing in ways that are deeply threatening for Trump's re-election.

It was one thing when, you know, in a terrible political calculation, he looked at the initial outbreak of the pandemic.

END