Return to Transcripts main page


Florida Reports Over 6500 New Cases Ahead of Holiday Weekend; Sarasota, Florida Mandates Masks; Spread of Coronavirus Complicates Plans to Reopen Schools; School Districts in States With Spikes in Infections Grapple with Reopening Plan; Richmond Mayor Orders Removal of Confederate Statues; Trump on Confederate Statues, Battle to Save the Heritage; Biden Seems to Indicate Distinction in Statues to Honor Founding Fathers Who Owned Slaves Versus Confederate Leaders; 19 States Pause Reopening Plans as Infections Surge. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 1, 2020 - 15:30   ET




JAKE TAPPER, HOST: In our health LEAD today, despite Florida's continuing surge in cases and a rising death toll in the state, which today hit a total of 1,000 dead in just Miami-Dade County, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis still refuses to roll back any reopening plans or even at the very least to mandate masks in public forcing local officials to issue their own regulations in an attempt to slow the spread and save lives.

Joining me now the Mayor of Sarasota, Jen Ahearn-Koch. Mayor Ahearn- Koch, thanks so much for joining us. You mandated masks in Sarasota earlier this week. Are your citizens abiding by this?

JEN AHEARN-KOCH, MAYOR OF SARASOTA, FLORIDA: Yes, actually, our meeting was on Monday. It was an emergency special meeting that I called and our city operates maybe a little differently than other cities and we actually had to have a supermajority of our five member commission, so four out of five commissioners had to vote for this. Which means that you're probably having a stronger support from your entire community. So, we had a vast majority of our community and our businesses ask for this and so far, so good.

TAPPER: The Governor, Ron DeSantis, has not mandated masks statewide, he says he's not going to close businesses that have reopened. Do you agree with his position on this?

AHEARN-KOCH: Well, I like to look at it in the way that the Governor has not preempted us from acting locally because that could happen too. So, in this case the Governor has encouraged the local municipalities and counties to act accordingly and with that we did, we took the ball and we ran with it. And, you know, we're just trying to do everything we can protect the health and safety and welfare of our citizens. That's our oath and with this it protects all of them. TAPPER: I heard one health official refer to that kind of plan, where

you allow different parts of the state to do whatever they want to do in those different parts, as like having a peeing area in a swimming pool, where it is OK to pee in the corner of the pool but just not the rest of it.

Aren't you worried that people in parts of the state where there are limited or no regulations are going to come to Sarasota?

AHEARN-KOCH: Well, that's a funny analogy. I don't know how much that applies here. But am I worried? No. What I'm hopeful is that once the Governor sees that counties and cities are signing on to doing this that it will tip the scales and that he will make it statewide. It's actually something that I'm hoping for.

I'm on the Governor's call list pretty much every day. I try to get in a call and ask for this. But since, you know, the only thing we could do at this point was to mandate the wearing of masks in the city of Sarasota, that's what we're doing. And we have other municipalities and counties around us that have signed on.

In fact, the town of Longboat Key will be discussing this tomorrow. A city just north of us decided this last week. And so, I think that as more and more cities and counties sign on that might been an indication to the Governor that this is something should be done statewide and would be absolutely more effective if it were done statewide.

TAPPER: Madam Mayor, how worried are you? I mean Florida is going through a real crisis right now. What more do you need from the federal government, what more do you need from the state government and from your citizens to keep people safe?

AHEARN-KOCH: Yes. No, we are very concerned. And when I say "we", I get my information not only from the citizens but also from our medical community. I have a really good communication and line with our Sarasota Memorial Hospital, which is a world-renowned hospital and the experts there, I'm in touch with them on a daily basis.

And if I could quote Dr. Manuel Gordillo who wrote me an email and he said, I am worried at the rise of cases. And he's concerned with the capability of exponential growth and that the growth rate.


If it continues unmitigated, can overwhelm even the best health care systems. So, when your head epidemiologist at your local hospital sends you an email like that, you should take heed which is what we did. So yes, I am worried. I am concerned. I am hoping our communities will wear masks and face coverings. They will continue to physically distance at least six feet and continue with good hand hygiene.

TAPPER: All right. Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch from the beautiful city of Sarasota, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

AHEARN-KOCH: Thank you. TAPPER: It is a decision that will affect some 50 million children in the United States, the debate over the return to school and why a new study is raising alarms. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In the health LEAD today, children can spread coronavirus just as easily as adults. That today in a new study by Swiss researchers, they found no reason to discount kids as COVID carriers even though children may not as frequently develop severe symptoms.

As CNNs Bianna Golodryga reports findings such as this only complicate the decision for schools on whether to reopen, a decision some school districts have to make within the next few weeks.


BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST (voice-over): A message to parents and school administrators from the country's most prominent doctor.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It is very important to get the children back to school for the unintended negative consequences that occur when we keep them out of school.

GOLODRYGA: But with more than 50 million K through 12 students across the country returning to class in just weeks, the big question is how to do it safely?

FAUCI: It will depend on the dynamics of the outbreak and the particular location where the school is.

GOLODRYGA: That's exactly what local school leaders are debating in many states. Especially those currently seeing spikes in infections like Alabama.

ERIC MACKEY, ALABAMA STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION: One jurisdiction it's under 5 percent and another jurisdiction it's about 80 percent or more of parents who say they intend to keep their children home. So can see how it's so difficult to do a statewide plan when even from community to community people have such varying ideas about how they want school to look.

GOLODRYGA: In other southern hot spots, officials in Marietta, Georgia and Nashville, Tennessee, have given families two options for when classes resume the first week in August. In person or distance learning. Texas and Florida are still planning for a return to the classroom in August.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): There's not going to be a substitute for that in-person instruction.

GOLODRYGA: California also currently experiencing a spike in cases says its 10,000 schools will have a plan in place in time for late August and September re-openings.

TERRY THURMOND, CALIFORNIA STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC EDUCATION: We'll be ready for either scenario, in person or staying in distance learning.

GOLODRYGA: And if cases continue to rise, Dr. Fauci has some advice.

FAUCI: There are things that can creatively be done about modifying things like the school schedule, alternate days, morning versus evening, allowing under certain circumstances online virtual lessons. Those are the kind of things that we need to consider.

JOSEPH ALLEN, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: We cannot afford as a country to keep our schools locked down for another year.

GOLODRYGA: Joseph Allen is the lead author of a new report on risk reduction strategies for reopening schools. Among them distance hygiene, mask-wearing and proper ventilation.

ALLEN: We know these risk reduction strategies work even with a full load of kids in class. Kids are at lower risk of getting this virus.

GOLODRYGA: That may not be enough to convince many parents and teachers that returning to the classroom will be safe.

DAN DOMENECH, EXECTIVE DIRECTOR, AASA, THE SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENTS ASSOCIATION: I'm so glad I'm not in that seat right now. There's the pressure from the community and the staff for the plans to be released, again, but releasing plans at this point with so many unknowns is what makes it such a difficult process.


GOLODRYGA: And, Jake, Joseph Allen, that expert in the piece, said that it didn't have to come to this. It's didn't have to be so confusing, and parents didn't have to deal with competing guidelines just weeks before schools started. He said the priority should have always been reopening schools and making sure that schools would be ready for reopening in August and September. The focus should have been on schools and not bars.

TAPPER: All right. Bianna Golodryga, thank you so much for that report. Appreciate it.

As coronavirus surges in the United States, the Trump administration is now forming a new task force. Its focus is protecting monuments and statues. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national LEAD today, the Department of Homeland Security is now backing up President Trump creating a special task force to protect monuments, memorials and statues. This after the President tweeted last night, quote, this is a battle

to save the heritage, history and greatness of our country, unquote.

Note the #maga 2020, digging in on another divisive issue to rally his base. The issue specifically of honoring Confederate generals. I want to bring in LZ Granderson, a sports and culture columnist from the "Los Angeles Times."

LZ, good to see you. Today the President attacked New York City's plans to name a street in each borough Black Lives Matter.

The President tweeted, maybe our great police, quote, won't let this symbol of hate be affixed to New York's greatest street.

The President it seems to be calling the Black Lives Matter movement a symbol of hate, there.

LZ GRANDERSON, SPORTS AND CULTURE COLUMNIST, LA TIMES: He does. Which is weird because I thought for sure they were good people on both sides, but I guess not in this case.

Look, this is an old playbook that a lot of Republicans in history which is to try do the southern method using race to try to separate people, drum up their base. The only difference is whereas, Ronald Reagan used like the welfare queen to try to rally troops to get elected, President Trump seems to be using this method in order to hide from his incompetency which continues to be glaring during this COVID-19 pandemic.


TAPPER: Moments ago, the Richmond, Virginia Mayor announced an emergency action to remove Confederate statues in that city that was once of course the capitol of the Confederacy. The White House still however defending the President's desire to keep Confederate statues up saying that he's combatting violence. Do you see this the same way in terms of the President dividing?

GRANDERSON: Well listen, a lot of people still would like to rewrite the history of the Confederacy and what that flag represents. There are a lot of people who say it's part of their heritage. But the truth of the matter is, is right now in this country we've been able to have same sex marriage longer than the existence of the Confederacy of the United States. That's how brief of a period of time we're talking about here.

And so, this notion that you're defending this long-standing history in the country is really you're defending this long-standing racism that's in this country. And once again President Trump is dipping his toe into that water because he knows that can drum up his base.

The thing that's really different this time, Jake, is that a lot of people aren't going for that. When you see the Governor of Mississippi taking down the flag, when you see what's going on with NASCAR, when you see students all around this country standing up to the universities and saying we won't play if that flag continues to fly. And these campuses are complying to these students' demands, you're seeing a complete change in the way it used to be, you know, decades ago.

And for a law and order President, as he claims to be, why is he so passionate about defending treason because that is exactly what the Confederacy and what that Confederate flag represents -- treason.

TAPPER: One question that President Trump has posed, and I think it's actually a good question, is where does it end? Because in addition to the Confederate generals there have been moves now to strip Woodrow Wilson's name from a college at Princeton because of his racism and obviously there's been vandalism against statutes of Ulysses S. Grant, George Washington, and more.

Joe Biden was yesterday asked about the calls to take down some of these statutes. Listen to how he threads the needle. I want to get your reaction on the other end.


JOE BIDEN, PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The idea of comparing whether or not George Washington owned slaves or Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and somebody who was in rebellion committing treason, running, trying to take down a union to keep slavery, I think there's a distinction.


TAPPER: So, Vice President Biden there seems to be saying, fighting for the right to have slaves, rape slaves, kill slaves, is different than owning slaves. That's where he's drawing the line. What do you think of that?

GRANDERSON: Well, I do believe Vice President Biden is trying to thread a needle, but I don't believe this stuff is a topic in which a needle can be thread. It's either right or its wrong.

And the question of where does it end? I would answer that question with a question. Why did it begin? Why did those statutes get erected in the first place? Why were these bases all around the country named after Confederate figures to begin with?

When you ask that question, you can answer it truthfully not with white washing history but truthfully, then you no longer are compassionate about finding the answer to where does it end because you realize it should have never should have been there in the first place.

And I understand there are a lot of beloved figures. I am very excited by the way to see live streamed "Hamilton" and I recognize Hamilton's role in terms of

the founding fathers and the writing of the Constitution that did not declare me to be 100 percent human.

But I will say this. There is a difference between in 2020 fighting to continue to honor these despicable figures versus recognizing perhaps we shouldn't have honored them in the way that we're honoring them in the first place. Don't erase the history but why is the history being celebrated with monuments and statutes and buildings being named after them.

TAPPER: LZ Granderson, thank you so much. Good to have you on. We'll have you back again soon.

GRANDERSON: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: It could be the perfect storm, the new warning from an infectious disease doctor who predicts this holiday weekend could spark a major coronavirus spike.

Plus, the decision not to brief President Trump about Russian bounties on American soldiers made by one person whom you've never heard of. That's ahead.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper and we continue this hour with our health LEAD and the acceleration of coronavirus globally.

With more than 60 percent of all coronavirus cases in the world reported just in the last month, according to the World Health Organization. Just look at this map showing the surge of cases in the United States over the past two weeks. The number of new cases soaring in 37 states. And in the wake of this escalation at least 19 states have paused or pulled back their reopening plans.

In the last hour California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered restaurants, movie theaters, museums, and more to stop indoor operations in 19 counties in California. More than 127,000 people have died from coronavirus in the United States as of now.

Though health experts have long warned the actual death toll is likely much higher. A new study out today finding there may be as many as 30,000 more coronavirus deaths in this country than had originally been reported. California is seeing such explosive growth in new cases and hospitalizations. The state's Democratic Governor now reimplementing restrictions. CNN's Nick Watt is in Los Angeles for us.