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Coronavirus Cases Spiking; Interview With Gov. Jay Inslee (D- WA); U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Nears 125,000; Florida Orders New Restrictions As New Cases Hit All-Time High. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 26, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, the coronavirus death toll here in the United States is closing in on 125,000, as the nation is now averaging more new cases per day than at any time during this pandemic.

The governors of hard-hit Florida and Texas are ordering new restrictions, including closing bars, as their states report record spikes; 32 states are seeing increases in the rate of new infections.

But Vice President Mike Pence is putting an upbeat spin on the crisis, claiming what he calls remarkable progress against the virus. At the first task force briefing in two months, Pence refused to directly answer a question about the importance of wearing face masks, and he didn't wear one himself.

And we have late-breaking news right now as well. President Trump says he has signed an executive order protecting U.S. monuments. We have details on that. Stand by.

But, first, let's go to CNN's Nick Watt. He's joining us from Los Angeles.

Nick, California also seeing record spikes in new cases right now, so how's the governor responding?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not just new cases, Wolf.

It's hospitalizations. It's people in the ICU. The governor this afternoon told Imperial County, which is a big agricultural, rural county in the south, he told them they need to go back to their safer- at-home order.

Meanwhile, the mayor of San Francisco says that some reopening that she had planned for Monday is now on hold, delayed. And so strange, while all this news is coming in, to hear, as you mentioned, Vice President Pence saying that we have made truly remarkable progress.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we have seen new cases rising -- and we're tracking them very carefully -- there may be a tendency among the American people to think that we are back to that place that we were two months ago.

The reality is, we're in a much better place.

WATT (voice-over): But, yesterday, we saw more new cases in this country than ever before.

PENCE: As all 50 states are opening up our country again, people are going back to work.

WATT: No mention of the at least 11 states that are now pausing or rolling back reopening.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We have an exponential rise in many places, and we're not locked down. So it makes me very worried about where we're going to be a month from now.

WATT: At noon in Texas, the bars were ordered to close once more. Houston is now recommending people stay home again.

REP. VICENTE GONZALEZ (D-TX): Clearly, we opened up too fast too soon. In my district in the Rio Grande Valley, we had a 700 percent increase in just the last 30 days.

WATT: In Texas, there are now more new cases and more COVID-19 patients in the hospital than ever before.

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: My only concern is, are these restrictions too late? Are they enough?

WATT: In Florida, the day reopening began mid-May, fewer than 1,000 new cases were reported, today, nearly 9,000, again, an all-time record high. They just outlawed alcohol consumption in bars again, still no statewide mask order, but Miami will now fine anyone who won't wear one, hoping that helps.

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R-FL), MIAMI: We really don't want to have to go backwards and undo some of the openings and potentially reimpose a stay-at-home order. But you can't discount that option as a possibility.

WATT: Meanwhile, some of those Northeast states hit hard early now hoping to have kids back into modified classrooms come the fall.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I can tell you, plan A is the maximum number of kids in schools.

WATT: Today, the vice president pointed out that around half of new cases are now in the under-35s.

PENCE: Which is, at a certain level, very encouraging news.

WATT: Sure, they suffer less, but maybe spread more? Here's another rose-tinted interpretation of the numbers:

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: We have seen a progressive decline in deaths.

WATT: That may be true, but some say, just wait.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: We know the death rates will -- the deaths will follow the big resurgence in the number of cases.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And, right now, those cases are rising at record levels in Florida, Texas, here in California, our three most populous states.

The governor of California just said this afternoon, mark my words, you will see the death rates rising -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Awful situation, indeed.

Nick Watt reporting, thank you.

President Trump was conspicuously absent from the Coronavirus Task Force briefing today, leaving the vice president, Mike Pence, to try to defend the administration's handling of this crisis.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the briefing had a new venue, but the vice president's message was very familiar.

[18:05:00]

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

While President Trump was laying low at the White House, the Coronavirus Task Force returned to the spotlight, holding a news conference not at the White House, but over at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Mr. Trump was not there, as you mentioned, so he did not take any questions. Instead, Vice President Mike Pence seemed to tiptoe around those issues of wearing masks and holding rallies.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci was more direct at this news conference, telling Americans they are not doing enough to control this virus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With COVID-19 sweeping across the South and out West, the administration's Coronavirus Task Force finally reemerged, but Vice President Mike Pence appeared to be looking at the soaring number of cases through rose-colored glasses.

PENCE: All 50 states and territories across this country are opening up safely and responsibly. We slowed the spread. We flattened the curve. We saved lives.

ACOSTA: But that's not quite true, as a surprising spike in coronavirus cases is spreading from Florida to Southern California, forcing some states to pause their reopening.

Task force Dr. Anthony Fauci tried to add a dose of reality, gently putting his finger on some of the nation's missteps.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: Everything from maybe opening a little bit too early on some, to opening at the right time, but not actually following the steps in an orderly fashion, to actually trying to follow the steps in an orderly fashion, but the citizenry did not feel that they wanted to do that, for a number of reasons.

ACOSTA: Fauci tried to make an appeal to individual Americans to do more.

FAUCI: You have an individual responsibility to yourself, but you have a societal responsibility.

ACOSTA: It was the first task force news conference in nearly two months, with a change of scenery, as officials addressed the pandemic at the Department of Health and Human Services instead of at the White House.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute.

ACOSTA: Where the briefings came to a screeching halt back in April, when the president suggested that Americans inject themselves with disinfectants to kill the virus.

As for the wisdom of holding crowded campaign events like the president's rally in Tulsa last weekend, Pence tried to dance around the question.

PENCE: We still want to give people the freedom to participate in the political process.

QUESTION: So, how can you say that the campaign is not part of the problem?

PENCE: Even in a health crisis, the American people don't forfeit our constitutional rights.

ACOSTA: Pence also declined to give a full-throated endorsement for masks, despite wearing one in public the day before.

PENCE: The first principle is that people ought to listen to their state and local authorities.

ACOSTA: Former Vice President Joe Biden said he would try to mandate masks.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would insist that everybody out in public be wearing that mask. Anyone to reopen would have to make sure that they walked into a business that had masks.

ACOSTA: The administration is considering a new approach to halting community spread with something called pool testing that would have health officials testing batches of samples from people in groups.

If the batch is positive, individuals in that group need to be tested. If a pool is negative, that means the whole group is likely safe.

TRUMP: If we didn't do testing, we would have no cases.

ACOSTA: Even as the president continues to downplay testing, he is struggling to lay out what he would do if he won reelection, never really answering the question on FOX.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: What are your top priority items for a second term?

TRUMP: Well, one of the things that will be really great, the word experience is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. I have always said that.

ACOSTA: "The Wall Street Journal" argued, Mr. Trump "still has no second term message, beyond his own grievances, and may soon need a new nickname for sleepy Joe Biden. How does president-elect sound?"

While Mr. Trump attacked Biden's occasional gaffes, he had one of his own, appearing to say the former vice president would win the race.

TRUMP: But, I mean, the man can't speak, and he's going to be president because some people don't love me maybe, and all I'm doing is doing my job.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And this administration's failure to control the coronavirus is likely to impact travel plans for Americans this summer.

CNN has just confirmed that travelers from the United States are unlikely -- quote -- "unlikely" to be allowed into the European Union, as ambassadors of the 27 member states of the European Union have agreed in principle to the criteria they will apply on determining which travelers from which countries will be allowed into the European Union.

At this point, Wolf, the United States does not meet that criteria. That is such a huge change, as you know, Wolf, for so many Americans, who are accustomed to traveling to Europe over the summer for their summer vacations -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly, it's a very, very big deal.

And, Jim, I understand the president, even during this coronavirus crisis right now, has just said he signed an executive order today involving monuments and statues here in the United States. Tell us about that.

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf.

The president just tweeted about this a few moments ago. The White House press secretary also tweeting about this a few moments ago. The president says he has signed this executive order. He calls it a very strong executive order protecting American monuments, memorials and statues and, he says, combating recent criminal violence.

As you know, Wolf, earlier this week, the president mobilized U.S. Marshals to protect some of these statues around Washington, D.C., and he's talked about lengthy prison terms for vandals who try to destroy or topple these statues and monuments.

[18:10:10]

We're waiting to see the final details as to what's in this executive order. And I suspect, Wolf, some of what the president is calling for will be baked into that executive order.

Of course, one thing we should also point out, some of his advisers have been telling us in recent days that they would like to see the president moderate his tone on the racial unrest in U.S. cities, as well as tempering some of his stances on the coronavirus, as that has greatly affected his poll numbers in recent days, showing that he is way behind former Vice President Joe Biden.

The president hoping that this law and order message will change some of that, but not all of his advisers are sure that's the smart way to go about it, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta at the White House for us, thank you very much.

Let's discuss all the breaking news with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our CNN political analyst, David Gregory.

Gloria, the president says he signed this executive order, in his words, to protect American monuments, memorials and statues, and he adds -- and I'm quoting now -- he says, "long prison terms for these lawless acts against our great country."

The details aren't clear. We don't have the exact text of the executive order. But what does this say about his priorities, the statues, the monuments, as opposed to the coronavirus deaths, which continue by the hundreds every single day?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: This is a president who doesn't want to talk about those deaths, Wolf. He never has.

And what this executive order does is, it elevates his new message, which is the law and order message. He doesn't want to address the racial issues in this country right now. He doesn't want to talk about any kind of racial injustice in this country.

What he is doing is, very simply, election-oriented. We know that. John Bolton told you that. That's what he does. He looks towards the election. And in doing this, he can say: I'm strong. I'm not going to let anybody ruin or desecrate these statues.

And so is he talking about -- here you have a president who is saying, OK, you can't desecrate statues. And so you have Confederate statues on the one hand and racial issues on the other, which he refuses to address, but protect Confederate statues.

I think it's a message that is -- that is very much directed towards his base. And it's not what a lot of Republicans would like to hear right now.

BLITZER: Yes, you're absolutely right. It's very, very serious.

David, the president says he canceled his weekend trip to his New Jersey golf club. He was supposed to leave today. He canceled it, in his words, to -- quote -- "make sure law and order is enforced."

He tweeted this. He said: "The anarchists -- the arsonists, the anarchists, the looters, the agitators have been largely stopped. I am doing what is necessary to keep our communities safe."

He says he's keeping community safe. But nearly 125,000 Americans have died from coronavirus over the past four months alone. Hundreds are dying every single day. It's going to continue for weeks, if not months and months.

Where are his priorities right now?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, Rome is burning, and he's polishing the Washington Monument.

I mean, this is a cultural issue. He wants a culture war. He wants to choose something that most people are for. Yes, make sure that nobody harms our national monuments in Washington. Generally, people would agree with that. But he's picking a non-issue to distract from what is the real issue.

And he also has no election message. He'd like to be reelected, but he can't tell you why we should reelect him. The biggest issue in the country right now is the economy and it's combating this pandemic. And the president is absent on this pandemic.

What we need in the country right now is a leader who will take us through the good, the bad, and the ugly, those things that are very difficult, the choices that we have to make, that we have to suck it up and wear masks and give up some of our liberties, just like we did after 9/11 at the airports, and that we need to dutifully try to reopen safely, but that everybody has responsibility.

You need a leader who can tie all this together. Instead, he's just picking fights. He's being very small, when we need a really big leader.

BLITZER: That's absolutely true as well.

Gloria, at the first Coronavirus Task Force briefing earlier today, first one in nearly two months, the vice president was pressed repeatedly on why the Trump campaign refuses to follow the task force guidance, for example, on wearing a mask.

It's simple. It'll save lives. He refused to even include that in this list of what the American public should be doing right now. The president refuses to talk about the critical importance, a simple thing like wearing a mask.

Why do they refuse to do that?

BORGER: Well, Mike Pence refuses to just simply come out and say, wear a mask, you need to do it, because the president, his boss, refuses to do it.

[18:15:03]

And, for some reason, that governs him. And he can't state the obvious, with Tony Fauci standing there right next to him. Instead, he made it a matter of the right to assemble and people have the right to participate in their election.

Of course they do. They have the right to assemble. But they're infecting other people or not keeping themselves safe if they don't wear these masks.

It's such a simple message, Wolf. But the president here is the one who is keeping everybody from saying that. Instead, he wants to talk about protecting monuments? That's great. What about protecting people?

BLITZER: Yes. And everyone has a right to drive a car, but the government has the right to say...

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: ... if you drive a car, you got to wear a seat belt. That's the law.

All right guys, stick around. There's more that we're watching right now. Lots of news happening.

I will also speak with Governor Jay Inslee of Washington state about the president's latest attempts to distract, as the coronavirus spikes across so much other country.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:20:27]

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on the coronavirus crisis here in the United States, as the death toll now approaches 125,000.

Every alarming new statistic underscores how the virus is surging and threatening this country right now. But, tonight, President Trump is focusing his attention elsewhere.

We're joined by the governor of Washington state, Jay Inslee, right now.

Governor Inslee, thank you so much for joining us.

As you know, the number of Americans who have lost their lives to this virus is going up and up. Hundreds are dying every single day. And the president just announced he's signed an executive order protecting American monuments.

What does that tell you about where the president's priorities lie right now?

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA): Well, I wish he cared more about living Americans, instead of dead Confederates.

And it is a very hard thing to say, but it is true. His failure of leadership is not just being AWOL, being absent without leave. He's actually trying to sabotage the things we are doing in our states to try to arrest this pandemic.

He's trying to take away health care from hundreds of thousands of people under Obamacare in my state. He is trying to sabotage our effort to help people wear masks, which we know right now is the single most effective technique we have for beating this -- tool.

So, it is maddening. And he's sinking like a rock electorally, and I wish he would start pulling in favor of saving lives, instead of in the opposite direction.

BLITZER: The White House Coronavirus Task Force, as you know, held its first briefing in months today. The president did not attend. The vice president painted a rather rosy picture of the pandemic being under control.

And yet, just yesterday, we saw the highest increase in cases in the U.S. since the outbreak started. How do you square that?

INSLEE: Well, there's a simple fact.

This is an administration, a president who feels unconstrained by the truth ever, unconstrained by science virtually every day. And he just won't listen to the people who know what they're talking about, like Dr. Birx, who made clear that the fact that we are doing more testing does not mean that the infection rate is not going up, because it is.

It's very clear. All the scientists are saying this and the medical personnel. And yet the president continues to try to obfuscate and outright lie about this.

Look, the reason there's more tests, in the large part, is because more people are getting sick. More people are getting symptoms. And they go in and get the test.

The intensity and the positivity rate has been very, very high in many, many places, including in two or three of the counties in my state. And we have been one of the more successful states in bending the curve down. So, when you feel that you're -- you have some sort of right to lie to

the American people, that's what happens. And I will tell you, it's costing lives right now.

This is infuriating. Look, we're fighting. We're fighting every day to try to save lives in my state. And to have the president United States effectively tell people in my state that, effectively, they shouldn't wear masks, that these don't work, this is infuriating.

BLITZER: These are life-and-death decisions you and your fellow governors have to make right now. And wearing a mask is a really simple thing to do.

You would think the president and the vice president would be promoting that. But, clearly, they are not.

Before I let you go, Governor, I want to get your quick reaction. During this coronavirus crisis, you have another pressing issue in your state. The mayor of Seattle is working to try to reclaim what's called this police-free autonomous zone, six-block area that was overtaken by demonstrators.

What's your message to those who are occupying that neighborhood right now?

INSLEE: Well, look, we are committed to ending police brutality.

I have started my task force. We're going -- I believe we will be successful in taking major steps in police accountability measures. And that's not all, because we know we have racial injustice throughout our society.

And these folks have had an impact. Look, they have raised the consciousness. We had 60,000 people demonstrating peaceably. The vast majority of people who are raising our consciousness have acted peacefully.

Those folks there now, I know there's other ways to protest. The Black Lives movement are talking about how to have another place. And I think we are going to succeed having a peaceful transition, so we can get police services into this neighborhood.

[18:25:10]

We do need that. Everybody knows we need that. And I think we're going to make progress on both fronts fairly quickly.

BLITZER: Well, good luck, Governor Inslee.

INSLEE: Thank you.

BLITZER: We appreciate the time you're spending with us. Thanks so much for joining us.

INSLEE: Wash your hands. Mask up.

BLITZER: And social distancing is very, very critical.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: These are not tough things to do, but they're critically important.

INSLEE: It's free.

BLITZER: Yes. Thank you so much.

INSLEE: It's free.

BLITZER: Good advice.

Just ahead, we have our medical experts who are standing by to break down the danger points that are unfolding here in the United States, as multiple states are seeing new coronavirus cases hit an all-time high.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: Tonight, the very real disconnect between the White House and the reality of the coronavirus crisis is clearly on vivid display as the U.S. death toll keeps rising. And we heard a remarkably upbeat assessment from the vice president, Mike Pence.

Let's bring in our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Infectious Disease Expert, Michael Osterholm.

Sanjay, when you reflect back on where we were simply two months ago, the last time the White House coronavirus task force actually held a public briefing compared to where we are right now, how concerned are you about the overall lack of progress in our country's response?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, significantly concerned, Wolf. I mean, we can show how much things have changed in the country since that last briefing two months ago.

You know, I thought look, they're going to have a first briefing in a couple of months. The numbers have increased in many states around the country. There's real concern from these health leaders in Texas and Arizona and Florida, so I thought that's what the task force meeting was going to be about today, to acknowledge these problems and say, okay, here is the plan going forward.

I think what worries me, frightens me even, Wolf, is that there wasn't even an acknowledgment of how tough things are right now in the country. I mean, I think that that's very frustrating. How are you going to solve a problem if you're not even acknowledging that it really exists?

I mean, there were slight hat tips here and there to things, but mostly, this was a, as you said, Wolf, a very rosy assessment of the situation that is, in fact, worse now than it was back then. BLITZER: Professor Osterholm, I spoke to the top Houston official, Judge Lina Hidalgo, last hour. She told me Houston is becoming the example of what not to do when reopening. How concerning is it that months into this pandemic here in the United States, we're monitoring new potential epicenters?

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: One of the things that we have to understand and we surely have been talking about it on this show is the fact that we're still just in the beginning of the pandemic. As you heard yesterday from the CDC, maybe 5 to 7 percent of the U.S. population has been infected with this virus to-date. It's not going to rest until it gets to 60 or 70 percent.

So when you think about all the pain, suffering, death, economic disruption we've had, think about how much more we have to go. So I am very concerned about where we're at today, but even more concerned about how unprepared we are to go from that 5 to 7 percent to 50 or 60 percent.

BLITZER: And, Sanjay, the vice president refused to even urge Americans to wear face masks today. But that's so critically important, isn't it?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, again, that briefing, frankly, Wolf, was mind numbing on so many levels, but that's another example. I mean, look, as Dr. Osterholm is saying, you know, we have to do whatever we can do to slow down the trajectory of this growth. I mean, this could be a real -- it already is a real problem. It could become a bigger problem.

There's certain things that aren't asking people to change their lives on their heads. Wear a mask, because it does reduce the likelihood of transmission a significant amount. It's not perfect, but it can help. And we don't have a vaccine, as everyone knows now. There's a couple of medicines that people are still working on. But, yes, wear a mask, keep a physical distance.

I don't think this is going to be the rest of our lives but it's going to be a lot longer than it needs to be if we don't do these things diligently now.

BLITZER: What do you make, Dr. Osterholm, of the fact that so many younger people in their 20s and 30s are now testing positive for coronavirus?

OSTERHOLM: Well, you might look at this as kind of the natural evolution of this pandemic, where it first hit in terms of geography, who first became cases, where we saw the older population going into the hospital.

I'll make a prediction right now, that the cases that we're seeing in this younger population, which are substantial, are going to obviously have some health impact on them. Some of them will die, but many of them will only be moderately ill. The problem is the spillover. I wonder right now how many young adults in this country brought the coronavirus to their fathers last weekend for Father's Day. We'll find out in another few days. We're going to see a spillover, I think, that will really impact much of the society that is at risk for severe disease.

So this is not just a simple issue, group of young people getting infected. It's not just that at all.

BLITZER: Yes. Because even if they're asymptomatic, they can still transmit this disease to their mothers and fathers, grandparents, uncles and aunts and friends, and they might not even know what they're doing.

OSTERHOLM: In fact, just to give you an example, we have an experience right here in Minnesota that was announced today.

[18:35:03]

We have one bar in the State of Minnesota that was open for two days and over 100 young adults got infected in that bar just those two days. That's what we're talking about.

BLITZER: Michael Osterholm, Sanjay Gupta, guys, thank you so much for all that expertise and everything you guys are doing.

Just ahead, we're going live to Florida, where the governor there has ordered new restrictions as the state is experiencing record spikes in the coronavirus following his aggressive reopening strategy. I'll speak with the mayor of Miami about the crisis that is clearly unfolding in his city.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: Tonight, Florida's governor has ordered new coronavirus restrictions in the state, as Florida is being hit very hard by the rising rate of new infections.

Rosa Flores is joining us from Miami Beach right now.

Rosa, Florida is reporting a record breaking number of coronavirus cases. Update our viewers on the very latest.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you're absolutely right. The State of Florida shattering its record, reporting 8,942 cases in just one day, this after two consecutive days of more than 5,000 cases. Now, what did the state do? Well, the State of Florida banned alcohol sales across bars, across the state.

Here is the thing. That's not going to have much of an effect here in the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in the States of Florida here where I am in Miami-Dade County, because, well, bars never reopened here. There was a reporter at this press conference that asked the governor why don't you just mandate masks? Well, according to the Governor DeSantis' answer, he says that he has recommended masks, he has educated the public about masks, sent out advisories. But, Wolf, he said that mandating them would backfire. Wolf?

BLITZER: Rosa Flores in Miami Beach, thanks very much.

Let's discuss what's going on with the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, who's joining us. Mayor Suarez, thanks for joining us.

You just heard Rosa report Florida set record number of coronavirus cases in a single day. Nearly 9,000 new cases just reported today. How concerned should the people of your beautiful City of Miami be right now?

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ, MIAMI, FLORIDA: Well, we're very concerned. We hit 1,500 cases today. That's three times what I call the high watermark of March, which was 533. So we're 300 percent greater in terms of new cases than we were back in March.

The State of Florida, with hitting 9,000, is seven times greater than the high watermark was of 1,300 cases in March. So it's incredibly concerning. We are seeing hospitals increase or decrease their capacity limitations, increase in the number of hospitalizations, the number of ICU beds, the number of ventilators that are being used.

We're not yet at a crisis level. We still have sufficient capacity, but it is tremendous cause for concern because we know that a lot of these hospitalizations lag behind the new cases.

So the concern is that even though the new cases are younger people, that we haven't yet seen the full brunt of what this increase can mean for us.

BLITZER: Those younger people, even if they're at limited symptoms or asymptomatic, they can still pass it open to others, including their parents or grandparents, for example.

Florida is, though, the state is now rolling back some reopening efforts. You heard Rosa's report, including no longer allowing alcohol consumption in bars, but I know in Miami, your bars, correct me if I'm wrong, Mayor, were not even open. So what does this change signal to you about the approach at the state level?

SUAREZ: Yes. Look, I think the state has to do something. Obviously, being seven times greater than the high watermark of March is a huge cause for concern at the state level. Down in Miami, we're cracking down on our restaurants that are asking (INAUDIBLE) that they serve alcohol in conjunction with the food that they serve. We shut down five establishments last weekend and we're going to be cracking down again this weekend.

We ordered masks requirement in public and we just passed yesterday an emergency ordinance that would allow us to fine those who are not following that order.

So the first, you know, instance is a warning. Second one is a $50 fine, then $150 then a $500 fine and ultimately, can lead to arrest if people are just completely ignoring the mask in public rule.

We're doing everything that we can to give our residents the tools that they need to keep themselves safe. And just like when we implemented a stay-at-home order in March, we're expecting people to follow rules, and we're hoping that they do that, because the only way that we get past this in Miami is working together.

BLITZER: Because wearing a mask is not very difficult. It should be very, very simple for everyone to just do it.

You told CNN earlier today, Mayor, that your team is prepared to make what you called surgical decisions this coming Monday. What exactly does that mean?

SUAREZ: Well, obviously, we're going to continue to look at the numbers. We have a meeting every Monday with our department of health, with our epidemiologists, with our biostatisticians. And some of the things that we're looking at is potentially rolling back some of the capacity limitations. For example, in restaurants, we have 50 percent capacity. We still haven't gone beyond 50 percent but that's a number that we're looking at.

We're also looking at potentially the implementation of a curfew. Again, we had a curfew for a long, long time. And what we know is that some of the parties that are happening, particularly in restaurants, are happening, you know, very late at night.

[18:45:04]

So, one of the ways that we can curb that without negatively impacting restaurants is to look at the possibility of re-implementing curfews.

So, those are some of the things that we're looking at. But ultimately, we're also looking at potentially penalizing our businesses more severely.

Right now, if we close them, we simply close them for the day. They give us a reorganization plan and they're able to open the next day.

What we want to do is make it, you know, more severe, the penalty for not following the rules.

BLITZER: We'll check back with you on Monday, Mayor Suarez. Thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to everyone in Miami.

SUAREZ: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, an expert who warned long ago of a pandemic like this one reacts to the Trump administration's latest attempts to downplay the crisis.

We'll be right back.

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[18:50:30] BLITZER: We're tracking the resurgence of the coronavirus here in the United States. New cases just hit an all-time high and the U.S. death toll is now approaching 125,000.

Let's bring in an expert who warned about the risk of a serious pandemic years ago, CNN medical analyst, Dr. Larry Brilliant.

Dr. Brilliant, thanks for joining us.

You warned about this pandemic long before there was any thought of COVID-19 on the radar. Did you ever imagine though that this is how the U.S. would respond to, let's say, the greatest health crisis of our time?

DR. LARRY BRILLIANT, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Thank you, Wolf.

No, this is a sad moment. I never in all the modeling that we did and all the projecting, we never modeled a federal government that didn't take charge, that didn't have a strategy. It's really disheartening.

Forty thousand cases in a day. This is the all-time high we've had since the beginning of the pandemic and it was squandered in five months.

BLITZER: Back in 2006, you actually gave a Ted Talk where you called for a global system that would help identify and contain pandemics before they spread. We've clearly missed that opportunity.

So, what's the most effective way at this moment to try to contain this virus?

BRILLIANT: Well, I would learn from what other people have done successfully. I would look at our colleagues in Europe, Italy and France and particularly Spain. Even in the U.K., they've been able to take national numbers down and bring them down quickly. But mostly I'd learn from New York City. We have three cities right now.

We have Miami and Houston and Los Angeles, any one of which could become another New York if we're not careful. And then I would look at Japan which created a team of cluster busters, a national team that would go in whenever there was a big outbreak and they would bring it down to its knees. At the same time, I would find every case in the country. I would do, as you know, contact tracing.

I would find the people who had been in touch with a case, I would test them, and I would isolate them, and, of course, across the whole country, masks and social distancing. That would do it. That's what every epidemiologist has been asking for since the beginning of this outbreak.

BLITZER: That's what they did in South Korea. They had fewer deaths than the United States. Since then we've had 125,000 almost deaths here in the United States. They've had under 300 deaths in South Korea. They knew what they were doing and they did it.

What do you see happening in the weeks ahead? BRILLIANT: Well, first of all, if you imagine we've had some days with

deaths that were eight too times more than South Korea's had all together.

What I worry about now is the Fourth of July. We had Memorial Day, three or four weeks after that, we have a peak in cases and three or four more weeks from that, we will have a peak in deaths. We're going into the Fourth of July weekend, with all the viral load we brought from Memorial Day.

If we don't do something to make sure that the crowds that go out on this most wonderful holiday, picnic day, Fourth of July, if we don't make sure they're careful we'll have a double spike. That'll take us into the flaw with influenza season will begin. This is the moment that we must really be careful.

BLITZER: Do you see anything to say leaders have learned anything to prevent this from escalating and potentially happening all over again?

BRILLIANT: The opposite. I just listened to vice president pence say we're not where we were in April. He's right. We're in far worse shape because we've squandered that time and we have a higher case count.

BLITZER: This is a really, really awful situation that we're watching unfold right now.

Dr. Brilliant, thank you so much for joining us. We are grateful to you.

BRILLIANT: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: And we'll have more news just ahead.

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[18:58:48]

BLITZER: Finally, tonight, we share more story of truly wonderful Americans who died from the coronavirus.

Ernestine Johns-Carter of Mississippi was 79 years old. She attended the first all-black school in Picayune and was one of its first majorettes. Survived by seven children, her daughter says Earnestine's greatest goal in life was to keep her family's legacy alive.

Bobby Barber of Washington state was 84. He was married to his wife Grace for 64 years and worked for the same company for nearly four decades. He also was devoted to his children and to his beloved sports teams, the Seattle Seahawks, the Huskies, and the Mariners.

May they rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing.

Quick programming note before I let -- before I go. Don't miss the CNN special report "TRUMP & THE LAW AFTER IMPEACHMENT". It's hosted by our own Jake Tapper. It's Sunday night at 10:00 p.m., right here on CNN.

And I'll be back tomorrow night 7:00 p.m. Eastern for another special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Until then, thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.