Return to Transcripts main page


South Florida Beaches to Close for July 4th Weekend; Texas Hospitals Nearing Capacity as COVID-19 Cases Surge; Arizona Reports Highest Single Day Spike in New Cases; Dr. Anthony Fauci on the Surge of Coronavirus Cases in the U.S.; Trump Not Focused on Coronavirus Pandemic?; HHS Secretary: "Window is Closing" to Control Coronavirus; Thirty One States Report Rise in Cases as Coronavirus Surges Across the U.S. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 29, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

Coronavirus cases continuing to surge across the nation, but is America, is our president, listening? Thirty-one states are now seeing an increase in new cases. Florida, Texas, Arizona and California reporting record numbers of new infections. More states are either halting or rolling back their reopening plans as a result.

Globally now we are at more than 10 million coronavirus cases confirmed and this pandemic has become the deadliest this planet has seen in more than a century. More than half a million people now dead.

President Trump's Health secretary is warning that the window is closing for the U.S. to get this pandemic under control. And as many pin their hopes on a vaccine, Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning that might not be enough by itself. The nation's top infectious disease specialist says it is unlikely the U.S. will achieve what's known as herd immunity even with a vaccine.

We have lots of headlines to get to today. Reporters throughout the country following this story first. Let's go to CNN's Randi Kaye. She's in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Randi, so cases continuing to rise in Florida after state officials had declared victory there. Next step, closing beaches July 4th.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Here in Palm Beach County, Jim, the beaches will be closed for the July 4th holiday weekend. They just announced that yesterday and that's not good news for folks like those out here enjoying the beach, enjoying the water. Of course the beaches are a big draw for many who come to Florida and many who live here.

It's not just Palm Beach County, though, where I am. Miami-Dade is also closing the beach for the July 4th holiday weekend and so is Broward County. Officials just don't want to see a spike on top of the pike as they put it. So Broward County officials held a press conference yesterday announcing their plans. And the mayor of Hallandale Beach had a hard time telling what the plan is over the hecklers. Listen to this.


MAYOR JOY COOPER, HALLANDALE BEACH, FLORIDA: You should stay at home, celebrate with your families, be grateful for the wonderful America that we have. We're all in this together now and we will get through it if everyone cooperates and continues to social distance, wear a mask, wash your hands and make sure we care for one another.


KAYE: They came to heckle because of course many people see it as an infringement on their freedom to not be able to go the beach on July 4th weekend. They want those beaches open. But the numbers here are spiking. We hit a record high in the state of more than 9500 cases on Saturday, Jim.

And then on Sunday more than 8500 cases which the "Miami Herald" says is 144 percent increase from the previous Sunday high. So those are pretty alarming numbers. And they're hitting younger people, not the elderly here in Florida. They're hitting the age group of 18 to 44, mainly, Jim, 25 to 34 which is very concerning.

Back to you.

SCIUTTO: Yes. A group that the feeling had been we're almost immune to it as it were.

Randi Kaye, thanks very much.

To Texas now, another hotspot where hospitalizations are spiking there at alarming rates. Miguel Marquez live outside a Houston area hospital.

This of course key, Miguel, because this means folks are not only getting infected but they're getting sick, really sick. Tell us what you're hearing from inside the hospital.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are getting very sick. This is -- look, we saw hospitals in New York a couple of months ago. We are seeing many of the exact same things here, just hospitals being overwhelmed with the number of patients.

I'm going to show you one thing right now. There are people -- this line of cars behind me. It's not parked cars. That's people who have been sitting in line. The first car in line got here at 1:00 a.m. They are sitting here waiting for a coronavirus test.

This hospital that we visited, United Memorial Medical Center, they do about -- they've done about 85,000 total tests so far. The positivity rate is 13 percent on those tests. The doctor we spoke to, Joseph Varon, here's how he see how this pandemic is playing out.


DR. JOSEPH VARON, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: There are two types of patients, those who have COVID and those who will get COVID. My concern as a health care provider is that when they get sick they all come to me at the same time which is what is happening at the present time and that's what's going to kill patients because we don't have enough resources.


MARQUEZ: And that's what we saw in New York. That's what they were so worried about in New York. That's when everything clamped down in New York and now Texas is grappling with all of this because they opened up early.


They started opening up early in May in a very aggressive fashion. Now they're reversing some of those things that they've opened up like closing down bars. The doctor here thinks that it was a mix of things. It was Mother's Day, it was Memorial Day, it was the reopening of the state and the bars and the restaurants, that people were going into where it is now -- and the protest that they had here. All of that adding to what they are seeing.

One more terrifying statistic for you, this hospital is still seeing -- they're about 80 percent capacity right now. They're still seeing regular patients and whether you come in with a hangnail or a heart attack, they test you for COVID. Right now 47 percent of people coming into this hospital for other things are positive for the coronavirus. That's how much is out there, but they don't know about -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: That's a remarkable measure, Miguel. Thanks very much for being on top of it.

To Arizona now where the state just reported its own highest single- day spike in new coronavirus cases. Let's get to Stephanie Elam in Phoenix.

Stephanie, health officials there, they're sounding the alarm, warning that the health care system could be overwhelmed soon and this is really the concern, right, is that you have such a surge of cases you can't treat those who are most ill.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And we saw this play out already, Jim, in New York City when they were going through the thick of it and now we're seeing these other states following along with that same pattern.

Here in Arizona, that highest number of cases reported in a day, you're talking about 3,858 cases that they reported. So it's a jump of over 5 percent from Saturday. What's also really alarming here is the number of ICU beds that are filled. It's nearing 90 percent and this is why health officials here are very concerned about that. They've seen this rise in cases really spike up in June, and this is after Arizona's stay-at-home order ended in May. Now at this point the Governor Doug Ducey has come out and said that

people should wear masks and they should socially distance, and stay home as much as possible but he did not go further to indicate that people -- that he would make a mandate. He left it up to the individual counties and cities to do that, so you've seen Maricopa County, where we are right now, they have said that masks are mandatory when you're out and about.

He's also tweeted at bars and people gathering there and saying that some have voluntarily closed but they're going to go after the bad actors. But overall here the state, the health officials very concerned with these numbers going up and the spike and making sure that they don't have a system where their surge capacity which they already enacted that process there for their hospitals to have more room for people who need it, but they're very concerned that they're going to hit capacity and then you're in a very difficult place of trying to move people around where there aren't enough beds.

It's a scary situation here and that's what they're fighting here in Arizona -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: And we saw it play out in a place like New York. It's not like this comes out of the blue.

Stephanie Elam, thanks very much.

With cases now on the rise, perhaps more now than ever, it is critical we hear from the experts including the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

CNN' Elizabeth Cohen, she recently sat down with Dr. Fauci for an interview.

Elizabeth, what was his message as we see these fires, as it were, I know he's used that image before, fires of infection spread?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: He is very concerned, Jim, and his message is, don't go out into a crowd. If you do, wear a mask. Always practice social distancing. Of course, a vaccine is our pathway out of this pandemic, and he said that there's human data that is going to be published soon. It will be the first time we'll have published data on humans. He said that he has seen it. I asked him about it. Let's take a listen.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I doubt seriously that any vaccine will ever be 100 percent protective. The best we've ever done is measles, which is 97 percent to 98 percent effective. That would be wonderful if we get there. I don't think we will. I would settle for 70 percent, 75 percent effective vaccine because that would bring you to that level of would be herd immunity level.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COHEN: Now Dr. Fauci told me something that is truly disconcerting. A third of Americans say they are not going to try and get a vaccine when it comes out even if it's easy and inexpensive or even free. And so I said to Dr. Fauci, if we have a vaccine that's 70 percent, 75 percent effective, and if 70 percent, 75 percent of Americans won't get it, will we reach herd immunity? And he said no, that is unlikely.

That is very scary. What that means is that if a vaccine comes out and it's 70 percent, 75 percent effective, and people don't get it in those numbers, that is a big, big problem.

SCIUTTO: OK, contact tracing essential to stemming the spread, someone gets it, you talked to them about who they've had contact with, so you could talk to those other people.


Dr. Fauci, critical of those efforts so far. Why exactly?

COHEN: Well, I told him, I said, Dr. Fauci, I have spoken to so many people with COVID in the United States. Not one of them has been called so that contact tracing can begin. I said, how do you think it's going? And here's his answer.


FAUCI: I don't think we're doing very well for a number of reasons, not all of which is the fault of the system in that, you know, I mentioned this over the past few days that if you go into the community and call up, and say, how is the contact tracing going? The dots are not connected, because a lot of it is done by phone. You make a contact, 50 percent of the people, because you're coming from an authority, don't even want to talk to you.

If you're in an area where there are a lot of brown people, people who are Latinx at the border, they're concerned if you give them confidential information it's going to work against them. And then there are those who will give you the contact but you don't exactly isolate them. They get lost in the shuffle. That's very, very difficult situation. That we've got to do better on.

But what's even more confounding, Elizabeth, what's even more confounding, is that when you have a community-based outbreak like it's going on right now in several states, Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, et cetera, what you're seeing is community-based spread where 20 percent to 40 percent of the people who are infected don't have any symptoms. So the standard classic paradigm of identification, isolation, contact tracing doesn't work no matter how good you are because you don't know who you're tracing.


COHEN: Dr. Fauci then went on to say that he can't think of any other virus where so many people are asymptomatic, and on the other end of the spectrum, so many people die from that virus. This large percentage of people who are asymptomatic makes it difficult to do contact tracing in general, makes it so difficult to get this virus under control. All the more reason that we need to practice social distancing and wear masks -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: That's a big revelation, given how central contact tracing is -- has been described to us repeatedly in stemming the spread of this.

Elizabeth Cohen, great interview. Thanks very much.

Let's speak now to John Harwood for more on the president, what he is saying and not saying about the pandemic.

And John, it was interesting to see some pressure from unusual quarters if you could call it that, but someone like Vice President Pence saying yes, we should all be wearing masks now. You're starting to see more Republican lawmakers do that. The president, though, sticking to, you know, head in the sand kind of line. Any change?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not yet. And it's striking the very things that Pence and Deborah Birx were doing in Texas, Greg Abbott, the governor, accentuates what the president is not doing. He seems to be doing his best to affirm the portrait that his former National Security adviser John Bolton has painted of a vacant chair in the Oval Office when it comes to the coronavirus.

We've got a crisis that is accelerating in the United States, threatens public health, threatens the economy, and the president is not talking about it. He's not setting an example on masks. He's not urging others to wear masks.

The impression that's being conveyed is that the grownups in the administration are trying to handle this themselves, as if he's not there, and the president is like a child in the sandbox who is playing with sharp sticks. And when I say sharp stings, I'm talking about videos that he has retweeted of white people with guns.


HARWOOD: While protesters march by. White people yelling "white power," "wanted" posters for people who are going after statues in public parks. He seems to be in a very dark place mentally right now.

SCIUTTO: And we should note, protesters who were walking by were unarmed as that couple pointed weapons at them.

John Harwood, at the White House, thanks very much.

Still to come this hour, Dr. Deborah Birx now says that wearing a mask will not only prevent you from infecting others but it may also partially protect you from getting infected.

Plus "The Washington Post" reports that Russian bounties paid to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are believed to have resulted in the deaths of U.S. servicemembers. President Trump says he didn't know about it. So why?

And shootings in New York City are up dramatically this year. This comes on the heels of an uptick in NYPD officer retirements as well as growing tensions between the police and the community. What's going on there, how widespread. We'll have the latest just ahead.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. As cases soar in 31 states across the country now, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar warns that the U.S. is running out of time to control the outbreak.


ALEX AZAR, SECRETARY FOR HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES: Things are very different from two months ago. We now have three therapeutics. We have hospital capacity, we have reserves of personal protective equipment. We're speeding our way towards having vaccines. So it's a very different situation, but this is a very serious situation and the window is closing for us to take action and get this under control.


SCIUTTO: All right, let's speak now to Michael Osterholm; he is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, also an early warner about the seriousness of this outbreak. Michael, good to have you on.


SCIUTTO: Tell us what he means there about -- Secretary Azar, about the time running out to control this. Why and how?


OSTERHOLM: Well, I'm not sure I do understand what that means. Let me just say that you know, we know we're at about 5 percent to 7 percent of our population has been infected with this virus to date. That's something we have been talking about for the past several months about that number growing. But we also know that this virus is not going to slow down its transmission in people until we get to that 50 percent to 70 percent level, the thing called herd immunity. And so best we're doing is we're riding this tiger, we're not driving it.

So when he talks about control, we're surely trying to dampen down these big increases in cases. But short of a total lockdown like they did in Wuhan in January and February, we won't completely control this virus. We have to come to understand that, and the challenge I think we have right now is we have not figured out how to live with this virus and what we --


OSTERHOLM: Want to accomplish to get to that herd immunity level.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this again because I think so folks at home, and I ask you this periodically, but just so we understand. The goal here in your view, should it not be to prevent everyone from getting the infection, but slow down the rates so hospitals can handle it, if you know what I mean?

OSTERHOLM: Exactly. I mean, the reality is we can't stop all the infections. I mean, we just don't have that capability, short of a total complete lockdown. And we would recognize not just an economic hit of unimaginable proportions, but we would kill society as we know it. So the other side of it is, well, then we can't let this uncontrolled transmission occur, like it has been occurring in a number of states over the past month, which is overrunning their ICUs.

What we're not having this is the discussion of what we do in the middle. You know, you heard the Secretary say we have to control it. Well, what does that mean? And so one --


OSTERHOLM: Of the things we're asking for is how do we keep it somewhere in a slow-burn mode without being able to close down completely or without letting it run willy-nilly in our society. That's the discussion we have to have and we're not having it.

SCIUTTO: OK, so what do you need to do to get to that sweet spot, if you could call it that, right? I mean, for instance, you have July 4th coming up, and there's already some data that shows that folks going out to beaches and parties and socializing in the Memorial Day weekend, we're seeing the consequences of that right now. So what has to stop, right --

OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, we have to give better direction --

SCIUTTO: To keep it under control?

OSTERHOLM: We have to give better direction.


OSTERHOLM: You know, if you're indoors at a bar that is inviting a catastrophe. Indoor air is a challenge, just as we saw with the protests, we had very few cases because outdoor air is a much better place to be in terms of if you're going to be around people. So, how do we accentuate those activities that decrease the risk and at the same time minimize the ones that increase the risk.

We're going to be learning more and more about how do we do transportation? How do we office again? But the bottom line is, instead of just saying we're going to control it, it is like a light switch. This is not a light switch on or off. This is a real stat. And so I think the question --


OSTERHOLM: You just asked is exactly what we need to do. Right now in the Summer, we've got the outdoors, use it. And no indoors events like bars are going to be major places of transmission. SCIUTTO: OK, I want to show you and you're aware of these, but just

our viewers, some graphics here that compare the state of the U.S. with regards to the outbreak versus other countries, and it's just -- it's remarkable. There's the U.S. in red there, higher and trending way higher than Europe, Canada, Japan, other developed countries.

And I also want to show at the same time the deaths per I believe a 100,000 people. So that's per million residents rather. Why is this? And when the president and the vice president say well, this is really just about more testing or that, well, it's all fine or better than it looks, because the death rate is lower, is that true?

OSTERHOLM: No. First of all, it's not about testing. One point that is being missed in all of this, we're doing a lot of testing, but we're actually the 26th highest country in terms of testing in the world. There are 25 other countries that per a million population are testing more than we are. So, it's not about just testing alone. And the fact of the matter is, we're seeing a much higher rate of positives among those who test positive.

So, we are doing a lot of testing, but that's because we have a lot of cases. I think the second thing is the data are going to show clearly over the course of the next several weeks that the transmission that has occurred in the younger population will result in more serious ill people and deaths, but not at the rate we saw with the older population or people who have otherwise serious illnesses, but that's going to change.

In the next month, we're going to see this spill over from that younger age population, more into even the seniors who have been cocooning or have been trying to protect themselves, and we're going to see this kind of this happens and this happens and this happen, and that's what we have to start anticipating and we're not doing that. We're playing this like yesterday's battle, and it's really a public health war for the future we --


OSTERHOLM: Have to be planning for and we're not.


SCIUTTO: It's sobering, you know, and I'm just amazed that with all that data and all the advice from smart people like you who know it, that so many folks just aren't listening in positions of power. Michael Osterholm, thanks for speaking the truth, look forward to having --

OSTERHOLM: Thank you --

SCIUTTO: You back on.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you very much, thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, President Trump claims that he was not briefed on reports, intelligence assessments that Russia paid Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan. If that's true, why wasn't the commander-in-chief briefed? We're going to discuss, next.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back.