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Coronavirus Cases Soar Across U.S. As Warning Signs Grow; South Florida Beaches To Close Over Holiday Weekend As Cases Rise; Trump Denies Being Briefed About Russian Bounties On U.S. Troops. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired June 29, 2020 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day. Alisyn is off, Erica Hill with me here this morning. Hey, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN NEW DAY: Good morning.

BERMAN: So, this morning, nearly 126,000 Americans have died from coronavirus and in some ways, the situation is worse than it's ever been, the average number of new cases nationwide at its highest level yet. Look at that curve going up, 31 states. That's more than half the country seeing an increase in cases, all the states in red going up. Just four states, the ones in green, hidden in the northeast, seeing a decrease.

How bad is this? I want you to compare the map from today, that's on the left, with the map on Memorial Day, just about a month ago. Look how much more red there is today. Only 18 states had rising cases then, 31 today. Ten states were dropping, and including Texas, by the way. They were dropping on Memorial Day. Right now, the cases skyrocketing in that state.

HILL: And the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, continues to sound the alarm. In a new CNN interview, Fauci says Americans are ignoring guidelines about social distancing and wearing masks, which is fueling the current surge. Dr. Fauci gives some states a grade of C for their handling of the pandemic and says Americans have a societal responsibility to not be part of the problem.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What has happened, I guess, understandably, but nonetheless, regrettably, that people took the attitude in some places of either all or none. Either you're locked down or you just let it fly and you just ignore many of the guidelines of physical distancing, wearing a mask, shaking hands, avoiding -- I mean, not shaking hands, avoiding crowds.

And what happened is you see pictures on the T.V. of the fact that even in states that are telling their citizens to do it correctly, they're doing that. There are crowds, they are not physical distancing and they're not wearing masks. That's a recipe for disaster. It's something I spoke about time and again. We do need to open up again. No doubt about it. We want to get the economy back, but you've got to do it in a measured way. And now we're seeing the consequences of community spread.

What's even more confounding is that when you have a community-based outbreak, like is going on right now, in several states, Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, et cetera, what you're seeing is community-based spread, where 20 to 40 percent of the people who are infected don't even 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. They're out there. They don't even know that they're infected.

So, as I mentioned a few times recently, one of the things that we are considering doing is completely blanketing these communities with tests to get a feel for what the penetrance is in the community of infection. You can do that by a number of ways. You can do pool testing of large numbers of people together in one shot. You can get community people to get boots on the ground and to go out there and look for the people instead of getting on a phone and doing so-called contact tracing by phone.


BERMAN: Such an interesting interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, who sounded as frustrated as I have heard him in a long time.

Joining us now, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And, Sanjay, we've been looking at this map comparison and I think it is so instructive. Memorial Day on your right, that is the states in the country that we're seeing a rise in cases then. Today on your left, the states in red, so much more red today, so many more places where cases are rising today that on Memorial Day.

Sanjay, we talked about February as a lost month in terms of testing. I wonder if we're going to look back at June as another month that we will regret in the United States, where we let this pandemic get the better of us.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And we started to reopen too early without the basic measures in place, that were part of these gating criteria that came from the White House itself. You had to meet these criteria. I think the fact that so many states opened without those -- meeting those criteria is going to be one of the things that we look back and I would say, if we had done that, we would be in a much better place.

Two things jumped out at me from Elizabeth's interview with Dr. Fauci.


One is that the role of asymptomatic spread, we have been talking about it since February. That's huge, right? It's so different than any other virus that we've really dealt with. In the past, if you got sick, you pretty much stayed home. Here, if you've got up to 40 percent of people who are spreading this and they're asymptomatic, probably not even knowing that they have the virus, that is a huge problem.

That brings up the second part, which is the role of masks, which, you know, again, if you were sick, you stayed home. But now, if you may be carrying the virus and not know it, it has made masks so much more important in terms of what they can do. And that might be another lost opportunity from end of May to now.

HILL: Certainly. It was remarkable to see Vice President Pence wearing a mask over the weekend, saying those words, to wear a mask. Of course, the president still has not.

Sanjay, the other thing, as we look at this, when I heard Secretary Azar say over the weekend, the window is closing for us to get a handle on this virus, I mean, that is stark. And yet, in some ways, I guess it's not surprising, given what we're seeing.

GUPTA: Yes. Here is how I would look at this. And I've had several conversations with people over the weekend both on and off the coronavirus task force. Here is what to keep in mind, is that if you look at the criteria by which we can sort of get our arms around this thing, you have to think about a certain number of people that you can actually find, that you can isolate, that you can trace, that you can start to really extinguish the flames of this pandemic.

If you have 40,000 people becoming infected every day, imagine everything that then has to go into place, just from a pure infrastructure standpoint, just a pure manpower standpoint. You've got to find those people, got to convince them to isolate. Many of them will, some of them can't just because their jobs, their lives are dependent on it.

You have to then trace their contacts. A lot of people, as Dr. Fauci was saying to Elizabeth, again, you may call them, it's a government number, they're not going to answer the phone. You've got to go to their house, knock on the door. They may be suspicious of you, whatever it may be. But the point is, how are you going to do this if the numbers are that high, no matter what? If the numbers were lower, as they would have been, if the 14-day downward trend had been met, we'd be in a much different position position. That's why those gating criteria are in place.

And I think that's what Secretary Azar means when he says, the window is closing. If it gets too big, whatever metaphor you want to apply, forest fire, metastatic cancer, whatever, it just becomes really difficult to contain.

BERMAN: And just so people get a sense of where we are in Texas, there have been in the past, and they're wrong, who argue, we're just are seeing more cases because we're testing more. In Texas, they are seeing the highest number of hospitalizations they have seen today. They have never had this many hospitalizations. And you can see the huge increase in June. We're going to have a report coming up with Miguel Marquez inside a Texas hospital, who will show us just how bad situation is there. I just want people to see that to let that sink in.

Sanjay, you've been doing a lot of work on the role that masks can play. And you've taken a look at two cases and compared them, in California and Missouri. What's going on here?

GUPTA: Yes. So masks can make a huge difference here. Let's just talk about going forward at this point, right, because there will be a lot of retrospective. Masks make a huge difference, and here is an example.

So we hear about these situations, there was a birthday party in California. Someone shows up at the birthday party who's got mild symptoms, you know, not wearing a mask, some of the other guests not wearing a mask. What happens? Five people become infected, all traced back to that party, five to six additional people. So, potentially, up to 11 people become infected at a single birthday party from not wearing masks because of this one symptomatic person.

Now, people may remember what happened in Missouri with this hair salon. There was actually two hair dressers, they had symptoms, they wore masks, they took care of a lot of people, 147 over a period of time. They staggered start times, they tried to physically distance, they did all that. But two symptomatic people, 147 potential close contacts, they then went back and traced them. 46 got the tests, all negative, and they suspect after they quarantined the others that no one got infected.

So two hair dressers, close contact with their clients, symptomatic, they have masks on, infect nobody versus one person without a mask potentially infects 11. These are anecdotal reports, but there's plenty of evidence now of just how significant masks can be. We don't want to wear them. It makes us feel like the nation as a whole is sick. Whatever it is but they work and they're necessary right now to help lead us out of this.

BERMAN: That is a remarkable comparison there, Sanjay. Thank you so much for showing that to us. I really appreciate it. You're going to be back at 8:00. We have much more to discuss with you.


So Florida is shutting down all bars and now beaches in South Florida as this state sees huge growth in the number of new cases. The mayor of Palm Beach County joins us with an announcement, next.


BERMAN: A huge increase in new coronavirus cases in Florida and there have been announcements from Miami-Dade County and Broward County that the beaches will be closed for the upcoming 4th of July holiday weekend. For the third consecutive day, Florida saw the number of new cases topping 8,000. Joining me now, the mayor of Palm Beach County, Mayor Dave Kerner. Mayor Kerner, thanks so much for being with us. I really appreciate it.

Miami and Broward have announced they're closing beaches for the 4th of July holiday. I understand you have an announcement you are making today. What is that announcement?

MAYOR DAVE KERNER (D-PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL): Good morning, it is my duty to inform the public that we will be closing our beaches for the 4th of July weekend. I don't have the specific details to that. I'll be meeting at 9:00 A.M. this morning with the county administer to confine the order to the Division of Board County Commissioners.


BERMAN: Why is that decision necessary now?

KERNER: Well, first of all, it is absolutely necessary, and I appreciate you phrased it that way. You know, South Florida is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic here in Florida. We account for about 7 million people in the entire state in those three counties, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County. And the reality is that we cannot -- we love to celebrate 4th of July. Beaches are part of our culture down here. But with the two southern counties to the south of us, closing beaches, it's very prudent that we do that, as well.

Just the optics, the community spread that would go with that type of -- that amount of people on the beach, we're not in a position to handle that from any metric that we utilize to measure success in this pandemic.

BERMAN: Now, your county has also voted -- the County Board unanimously, I think it was, voted to require mask wearing in public where people can't social distance. I want to play that moment where you passed this. Listen.


KERNER: All in favor of the motion, say, aye. All opposed? That motion passes 7-0. The Board of County Commissioners will be in recess will be in recess for 10 minutes and we will reconvene at 1:02. Thank you very much.


BERMAN: So, mayor, this is the part that I think that is truly extraordinary. You can see how upset a certain number of people are about the requirements to wear masks. Now, polls tell us it's a minority, a vast minority of people who are upset about some of these mask-wearing requirements. My question is, how helpful would it be for you in getting the message out in the importance of wearing masks if leadership in this country, including the president of the United States, went out and wore a mask and said it was important to do so?

KERNER: Well, to answer your question directly, I think it would be very helpful. There is a contingent of our society, and I can't testify to where this belief comes from, but certainly leadership from the top would help clarify that masks are a very important tool in stopping the spread and combating COVID. And I understand that also has a very prophylactic effect to protect the wearer of the mask.

And I'll also disclose to you that you showed about a 30-second clip of that meeting. The three hours prior to that were the people testifying to the Board of County Commissioners and the vitriol and the fear and the passions were incredible, but they were incredibly misguided. And to think that there are everyday people that think that these conspiracy theories that they read on the internet or wherefore they get it from are real is a problem, particularly in a state of pandemic right now.

BERMAN: How are you hospitals right now, hospital capacity in Palm Beach County?

KERNER: So I get a brief every morning and I just got my brief today. Right now, we have good COVID hospital bed utilization numbers in Palm Beach County. We're about 9.3 today. COVID ICU bed utilization is 18.1 percent. Ventilator utilization in Palm Beach County, about 37.4. And our overall positivity in the county since the start of the pandemic is 9.5.

But we are seeing an increase in both ICU and hospital admissions. And we're seeing an increase in aggregate number of testing positive. And it's not a good -- it's not a good curve.

BERMAN: It's interesting, because the mayor -- sorry, the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, way back in May, was spiking the football a little bit in terms of coronavirus. I want to play some sound. He was responding to people who were asking questions about whether Florida had opened too early.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You've got a lot of people in your profession that waxed poetically for weeks and weeks about how Florida was going to be just like New York. Wait two weeks, Florida is going to be next. Just like Italy, wait two weeks. Well, hell, we're eight weeks away from that and it hasn't happened.

So we've succeeded and I think that people just don't want to recognize it because it challenges their narrative, it challenges their assumption. So they've got to try to find a boogeyman.


BERMAN: In terms of narratives and assumptions there, was that too early to claim success?

KERNER: Listen, Governor DeSantis is a Republican and I'm a Democrat and that's not relevant in this conversation. But what I want to say is that I've worked very well with this governor. He's led from the front in a lot of ways, operationally, he's been in this county. He's empowered myself and our local officials down here to make the decisions and also to utilize the resources that we need.

Now, we are not New York. And it's not about who did a better job. I can tell you that things are very stable and very positive in Palm Beach County. Now, there are some concerns about spiking the football too early regardless of who that official is because we have a long road ahead of us.


But having said that, I must say that if we maintain, if we can get community buy-in on the mandatory masks, and we can do what Dr. Fauci said we need to do, which is take this seriously, day in and day out, like it is a battle, then I'm unconcerned about any actions in the past, as long as we make any course correction needed going forward.

I take responsibility for that. I can't speak on behalf of the governor, but I'm operationally focused and I know this governor is as well.

BERMAN: I know you're working hard, Mayor. We really appreciate you being with us. We look forward to speaking with you again, the best of luck.

KERNER: I look forward to it. Thank you, John.

HILL: We want to take a moment to remember the nearly 126,000 American lives lost to coronavirus.

Rene Chavez was an English teacher at Franklin High School in El Paso, Texas. School officials say he touched the lives of many of his students there. He is survived by his wife, Annette, and his daughter, Amanda.

Curtis and Betty Tarpley were high school sweethearts, married for 53 years. They both tested positive for coronavirus. They were eventually admitted to a hospital in Ft. Worth, Texas, where they died holding hands. Their son, Tim, said nurses allowed the couple to be together in their final moments.

And Adolfo Fernandez's daughter tell us her dad was utility porter at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, a member of the culinary union, Local 226. He'd actually gone back to work at the casino after it reopened earlier this month. Adolfo was 51 years old.

We'll be right back.



BERMAN: Developing overnight, President Trump denies being briefed about Russian bounties on the lives of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and now the president claims that intelligence did not find those reports to be credible. This morning, the Kremlin calling the news a lie.

Joining us now is CNN National Security Analyst James Clapper. He is the former Director of National Intelligence.

And, Director Clapper, The Washington Post is the latest to report on this. And their reporting is that intelligence sources tell them that U.S. lives believed to be lost as a result of these Russian bounties in Afghanistan. What's the significance of that, if Americans were killed because of Russian payouts?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, again, assuming this is -- this reporting is credible, it's obviously serious and very disturbing. And particularly, again, if true, the reporting is true, then -- and if the president, the vice president weren't notified or briefed on it, that's pretty serious indictment, I think.

BERMAN: Right. Because if this reporting is true, there are two options here, number one, the president was briefed and didn't do anything about it. Now, he says he wasn't briefed and it raises a whole ton of questions about why not? Because if U.S. troops are being killed, believed to be killed, is the language that The Washington Post used this morning, the president wasn't told about it, how can the president not be told about that?

CLAPPER: Well, exactly. And it appeared the initial approach was, well, the president wasn't briefed, so he doesn't have any responsibility for this, which is kind of a, you know, rhetorical guise for avoiding responsibility.

You know, putting aside for the moment the logic of why the Russians would do this since we're on the way out, but I think it's quite plausible. Russians are known to do things like this in other places, notably the U.K. and the Ukraine. So either way, it doesn't look good.

And certainly, if there were deaths of U.S. service members caused by this, that's pretty serious.

BERMAN: Now, this morning, the Russians deny it, but I think we have to just leave that aside for a moment, because the Russians still deny --

CLAPPER: Yes, I'm shocked.

BERMAN: Yes, shocked, the Russians denied attacking U.S. elections in 2016, as well. But overnight, the president put out a new statement where he says the reason he wasn't briefed is because intelligence did not find the reports credible. That's different than what the White House was saying about this initially.

CLAPPER: Well, exactly. And I noted the press secretary kind of tiptoeing through the tulips there a bit rhetorically by not questioning the merit of the reporting. And I don't -- I haven't heard anything from the DNI, who has not denied the reporting, just to affirm that the president and I guess the vice president weren't briefed on it.

And, again, this could be a rhetorical flourish, as well. There's a difference between briefing denotes an oral presentation or an oral discussion as opposed to the written report, a written word that would presumably be included in the president's daily brief.

BERMAN: Right. They haven't denied, as far as I can tell yet, that it was written down in the daily brief, which he may or may not be handed two or three days a week. We know he often doesn't read it. So it's still possible it was in that.

Director Clapper, now, if the Russians did do this, what would the range of options be for the U.S. to retaliate or take action?

CLAPPER: Well, first, to make a public statement about it, and also to engage coalition members, because this wasn't specifically, according to the reporting, just against the United States. It was against all coalition members. So, presumably, if this happened, then one of the first things you want to do is consult with all the other coalition, the governments, all the other coalition members who still have troops in Afghanistan.

What the range of options are? Well, certainly to make a public condemnation of it, presumably by the president and, of course, there are a whole range of other actions, notably including sanctions that could be imposed.


BERMAN: And the consequences if these reports are true, of not taking action or not.