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Alex Azar Says Window Closing to Get Virus Under Control; Florida Reports 8,530 New COVID-10 Cases Sunday; Texas Becomes a New Virus Hotspot; Many Americans Resist Wearing Masks Despite Risks; Trump Retweets Then Deletes Video of "White Power" Chant; Report Says Russia Offered Money to Taliban to Kill U.S. Troops; Trump Denies Knowledge of Russia-Taliban Intel; 400,000 People Under Lockdown in China's Hebei Province. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 29, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, a top Trump administration official says the window is closing for the U.S. to get a handle on the spread of the coronavirus. A few states are recording their highest ever case numbers.

The U.S. President denies being briefed about Russian bounties on U.S. troops amid reports the attacks may have led to the deaths of service members.

And more big-name companies are pulling their ads from Facebook to push the social network company to crack down on hate speech.

And we begin with a staggering and somber milestone in the global coronavirus pandemic as the death toll reaches 500,000 according to Johns Hopkins University. And around the world more than 10 million cases have now been recorded with some countries saying huge daily jumps in just the past week. The U.S. continues to lead the world in the number of infections and deaths from COVID-19. Only two states are seeing a decline in cases compared to last week. 36 states have reported a rise and with that jump comes growing calls for increased mask usage and greater social distancing. The country's health secretary put it this way to CNN.


ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: This is a very, very serious situation and the window is closing for us to take action and get this under control. If we don't social distance, if we don't use face coverings in settings where we can't social distance, if we don't practice appropriate personal hygiene, we're going to see spread of disease.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: And there's new concern over an increase in cases involving younger people. America's top infectious disease expert has this warning.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: They don't realize that by their getting infected, it is likely they're going to infect someone else who will infect someone else who ultimately will infect a vulnerable person and then you have home hospitalizations and deaths. So like it or not, by getting infected yourself, you're not in a vacuum. You're part of the propagation of the dynamics of a pandemic. So you have your own individual responsibility to protect yourself but you really do have a societal responsibility to be not part of the problem but to be part of the solution.


CHURCH: And one state that's seen a recent surge of coronavirus cases is Florida where total infections now top 140,000. Officials reported more than 8,500 new cases Sunday, one day after the state saw its highest single day increase since the start of the pandemic. The governor explained what could be behind the jump.


RON DESANTIS, FLORIDA GOVERNOR: That positivity increase is really being driven by a big increase over the last three weeks in individuals testing positive throughout the state of Florida in younger groups, particularly 18 to 44. And if you look at the 25 to 34 age group, that is now by far the leading age group for positive tests in the state of Florida.


CHURCH: Natasha Chen has more details now from Pensacola Beach.


NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the state of Florida, many jurisdictions are taking matters into their own hands. Some are creating mandates for people to wear masks in public. Employees and patrons who go inside stores. Other places are shutting down beaches before the July 4th holiday weekend, places like Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County. But not everyone took kindly to that announcement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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.

[04:05:00] CHEN: Governor Ron DeSanctis visited Pensacola on Sunday afternoon describing the rising number of cases and the fact that out of all tests done now in Florida, about 12 percent are positive, he says in large part because of young people who have been going out and he says, not being vigilant with social distancing and in some cases not even knowing that they have the virus.

Natasha Chen, CNN, Pensacola Beach, Florida.


CHURCH: Texas has become a coronavirus hot spot in recent weeks forcing the state's governor, Greg Abbott, to set new revised orders. On Sunday, the Republican appeared to make a significant shift calling on Texans to wear masks.


GREG ABBOTT, TEXAS GOVERNOR: It does require all Texans to go back to those strategies that we mastered, wearing a facemask, sanitizing your hands, keeping a safe distance and remembering this, and that is, if you don't need to get out, there's no reason to go out at this particular time. If you can keep your distance from others, that's a very good, safe place to be.


CHURCH: Texas had been at the forefront of states pealing away restrictions allowing bars to reopen as early as May. It has since witnessed some of the biggest spikes in new cases reporting more than 5,700 on Saturday.

Vice President Mike Pence was in Texas on Sunday attending an event in Dallas where a choir of more than 100 people performed all singing without masks. A bit of mixed messaging coming from Mr. Pence given the health advice he offered.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wash your hands, avoid touching your face and wear a mask wherever it's indicated or wherever you're not able to practice the kind of social distancing that would prevent the spread of the coronavirus.


CHURCH: The Vice President went on condemning Governor Abbott for his leadership. Sarah Westwood breaks down the latest from Texas for us.


SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Vice President Pence offered his most forceful endorsement of mask wearing yet speaking in Texas on Sunday. He repeatedly urged people to wear face coverings when they go out in public, stress the importance of that in mitigating the spread of COVID. And notably the Vice President was also personally wearing a mask most of the times that he was on camera during his trip to Dallas. That is a shift we have not really seen that from the Vice President, certainly not from President Trump, them him personally wearing masks.

But not everyone was adhering to those guidelines. In fact, in the church where the Vice President spoke before the press conference, there was a choir of more than 100 people who are singing at full volume in an indoor venue not wearing their masks.

But we heard a big shift in tone from the Vice President in Texas. He was shifting, for example, from praising the reopenings of states across the country, something he was doing as recently as late last week, to praising the fact that some states are pumping the brakes on those reopenings. In Texas, for example, where he was speaking, bars are ceasing their in-person service for now, elective surgeries are being suspended amid a spike in cases there. And Pence was supportive of those measures even though the White House has been aggressively pushing a message of economic revival for weeks now.

The White House and President Trump in particular has really been looking to move on from what Trump had characterized as the war time phase of the pandemic response. He was looking to turn his focus more to his reelection battle, but now the COVID cases as they spike in states across this country has become more of a focus for this White House.

Even so, Pence and other administration officials have sought to blame those spikes in cases not on the reopenings themselves but on the behavior of people who have been starting to venture from their homes. Stating the people are not following social distancing guidelines, they're not wearing face coverings, they're not washing their hands enough. So for the Trump administration right now, the focus has been more on promoting those behaviors and not as much on blaming the states that reopened perhaps too early because that came at the urging of the White House.

Sarah Westwood, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: Dr. Ann Rimoin is a professor of epidemiology at UCLA and she joins me now from Los Angeles. Always good to have you with us.


CHURCH: So White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Sunday that scientific evidence shows that wearing a mask protects both yourself and others, but many Americans are not wearing masks so with cases skyrocketing, is it time to mandate their use?

RIMOIN: Rosemary, everybody should be wearing a mask. There is no reason not to wear a mask.

[04:10:00] We've now seen with data to back up the fact that wearing a mask works, and not only is it important to wear a mask because it protects other people from you but it does provide some level of protection as well to the wearer. All of these masks do. You know, I think the thing here is that when politics gets inside of these issues, all of a sudden science gets thrown out the door. And what we really need to be focusing on is the science. We're asking people to wear masks because this is the way that we will be able to reopen the country faster than anything else. We need to reduce the spread of the virus and to be able to open up. Wearing a mask is going to be a key part of this.

CHURCH: Right, and the U.S. hit an all-time single day record for coronavirus cases. The numbers are just astounding. And ICUs are filling up. This country is failing to control the pandemic. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the window is closing to combat the virus. That's not what the President's saying, so what needs to be done right now to turn this around or is it getting to the point where it's too late?

RIMOIN: Rosemary, it's never going to be absolutely too late to do something. And so what I would say is we are reaching the point of no return where it is going to be a -- gone from an unmitigated disaster to an uncontrolled disaster. And so, we are really at a key point here. We need people to be doing everything they can, everybody doing their part, wearing a mask, social distancing, hand hygiene, avoided crowded places.

You know, our ability to control this virus rests on all of us doing the right thing and to do the right thing is, as I said, wear a mask, social distance, hand hygiene. It's the same three things we keep hitting upon over and over again. And until we have a vaccine or good therapeutics that make it less likely to have poor outcomes, you know, we're really completely dependent upon these blunt social -- these blunt public health measures that will reduce the spread of the virus.

CHURCH: And, doctor, you mention a vaccine. Dr. Anthony Fauci says that a COVID-19 vaccine may only be 75 percent effective and because many Americans say they won't get a vaccine, that could leave the U.S. without herd immunity. Why does Dr. Fauci think a vaccine will only be 75 percent effective? Just explain all of that to us.

RIMOIN: Absolutely. It's very rare to have a vaccine that is so effective that you're going to be reducing the -- that you will be preventing 90 to 100 percent of the disease. The only vaccine that we have that comes close to that is measles vaccine, which is 97 to 98 percent effective at preventing the spread of disease.

So the deal is this. If this vaccine is only 70 to 75 percent effective and we have only 2/3 of the population getting this virus, we won't reach this threshold of herd immunity, which is really somewhere around 60, 70, maybe 80 percent of the population. And so that is going to be an issue of how we're going to be able to completely arrest the spread of this virus.

It's my guess that this vaccine will probably be something that's more like a flu vaccine which in the best-case scenario is usually somewhere between 40 and 60 percent effective at preventing disease, and that would be a big win. You know, anything we can do to stop spread of the virus will be important.

But let me be clear, the vaccine is not going to be a magic bullet. The vaccine will be important in terms of reducing spread of the virus, but it is not the only thing that we're going to need to do. It's going to be layered on top of the same blunt public health measures, like social distancing, and wearing a mask, and hand hygiene to be able to really have a good, effective opportunity to stop the spread of the disease.

CHURCH: Dr. Ann Rimoin, always wonderful to have you on the show, thank you so much.

RIMOIN: It's my pleasure.

CHURCH: Well meanwhile, in the White House, the U.S. President is once again accused of fueling racial tensions and on his favorite social media platform Twitter. Jeremy Diamond has details on that and the White House response.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump on Sunday amplifying a video in which one of his supporters can be heard saying white power, white power. The President posting a retweet of that video and also adding this comment saying, thank you to the great people of the Villages. That is a location in Florida where this video was reportedly shot.


Now the President did delete that tweet after it was online for more than three hours and the White House says that the President simply did not hear that message before he posted that tweet.

The White House's deputy press secretary, Judd Deere, saying in a statement, President Trump is a big fan of the Villages. He did not hear the one statement made on the video. What he did see was tremendous enthusiasm from his many supporters.

Now this of course is not an isolated incident. It is the latest in a string of examples where we've seen President Trump amplifying hateful or racist measures. We saw the President, of course, after that white supremacist rally in Charlottesville say there were many fine people among those at that rally.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Very fine people on both sides.

DIAMOND: We've seen the President retweet anti-Muslim videos and many other examples exist as well. And particularly this is striking because President Trump has really struggled to address issues of systemic racism and racism broadly in America amid these protests since the death of George Floyd. He has not in a comprehensive manner addressed that. Instead what we have seen is him fanning the flames. And this was

really just the latest example. Now while the President did delete that tweet ultimately after more than three hours, what he didn't do was apologize for posting it in the first place nor did he condemn the Trump supporter who said white power.

Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.


CHURCH: Well, right now we are seeing some of the world's biggest companies pulling the plug on their advertising budget on Facebook accusing the social media giant of profiting from hate speech on the site. We'll have the details for you just ahead.

Plus, President Donald Trump said he didn't know about explosive allegations that Russia offered the Taliban money to kill U.S. troops. We'll have a live report on that next.



CHURCH: At least five people have been killed after gunmen attacked the Pakistan stock exchange in Karachi. Police and security officials are among the dead. The director of the exchange tells CNN at least four attackers wearing what looked like police uniforms stormed the compound using guns and grenades. He says they were all killed and the situation is now under control. The attack reportedly happened in a highly secured area where a number of banks are also headquartered.

Well, the U.S. President is denying he knew anything about an alleged Russian program paying Afghans militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops. In a tweet, President Donald Trump insisted neither he nor the Vice President were briefed about the intel because it wasn't credible. ?he Washington Post" reports U.S. troops are believed to have been killed through that alleged Russian program. The story was first reported by "The New York Times." The "Times" story says the Trump administration was briefed on the intel in March. So let's get perspective now from CNN's Nick Paton Walsh who has reported extensively from Afghanistan. He joins us now live from London. So, Nick, what all are you learning from this.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, we know from a European intelligence specialist I spoke to two days ago there was a Russian military intelligence scheme to incentivize with cash Taliban militants to kill coalition soldiers. Now they believe that European intelligence shows that in fact it did result in coalition casualties. That's being confirmed too by U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence talking to my colleagues in Washington. But they were slightly more cautious and skeptical about how verified that particular intelligence and reporting had been. Saying it initially emerged in the early months of this year sort of raising in February or March.

"The Washington Post" has gone a little further in its reporting to say, in fact, that the casualties we reported about on Saturday were, in fact, U.S. fatalities. Now there haven't been many, frankly. You can count them probably on both hands in the past 18 months or so. But in recent months, too, U.S. troops have been confined to base because of the coronavirus pandemic. But increasing details dripping out here.

Remarkably though, Rosemary, the White House has managed to turn the story about Russian plots to kill American soldiers using Taliban militants into a story about its own process. So now Donald Trump questioning himself the voracity of the intelligence, whether it was worth him being informed about, whether it was considered verified enough. And his press secretary quite fast after the stories emerged saying not necessarily disputing the intelligence itself but disputing the fact it got to the point where President Donald Trump had been briefed about it or Vice President Mike Pence.

So a bit of a Washington confusion element to this where they're trying to play down the nature of the intelligence. Extremely grave that the allegations are and the point that who was possibly briefed when and where. For the Taliban's part, they say they had nothing to do with this. Denied that that they need foreigners to explain to them how to run their insurgency. And the Russian Embassy in Washington have issued a stark denial as well.

All of this occurring during renewed effort to get peace talks off the ground that have stalled between the U.S. and the Taliban because of a prisoner exchange not going through. So a very precarious time for America's longest war in Afghanistan. Where this frankly, a very startling suggestion of Russian military intelligence trying to get Taliban to kill American soldiers -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, it certainly is. Nick Paton Walsh bringing us the very latest on that from London. Many thanks.

And you are watching CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, half-truths and half histories, criticism from a top historian. Who says England needs to get with the program if it wants to wipe out racial injustice? We will explain just ahead.



CHURCH: From the United States to Brazil to India, we are seeing huge daily jumps in the number of new coronavirus cases, and now the global count tracked by Johns Hopkins University has passed 10 million. In just the past few hours we've learned India recorded its highest one day jump in cases for the eighth straight day. The country has seen more than 100,000 new infections in just the past six days. And in China a small increase in cases has prompted officials to put some 400,000 people in Hebei Province near Beijing under lockdown. So let's go to the capitol of Beijing now with CNN's Steven Jiang who joins us live. So, Steven, what more are you learning about this?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, Rosemary, this is a deja vu for many people here in terms of draconian lockdowns measures being put in place and affecting a lot number of residents. Remember, this is something we haven't seen this in a while in terms of sealing off an entire area of 280 square miles and each household in that county only allowed to send out one representative each day to buy groceries. And all outsiders and non-locally registered vehicles barred from entering this county.

Now this is catching a lot of attention because people obviously having comparing this to what's been happening in Beijing. Remember, local officials in the Chinese capital have been emphasizing the precision of thorough continued measures since the latest outbreak began. They have been sealing off neighborhoods where they have seen recent cases. We're talking about a few city blocks or a few residential compounds instead of locking down entire districts let alone the whole city.

Now this obviously echo's what the Chinese leadership has been saying for a long time, that is local authorities need to strike a balance between rigorous containment measures and economic recovery efforts. So it's not being fully explained why this county.