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Interview with Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D) About COVID-19 Surge in Texas; FDA: Vaccine for COVID-19 would have to Be At Least 50 Percent Effective for Approval; Cases Rise in 37 States as Coronavirus Surges Across the U.S.; Fauci Warns New COVID Cases Could Rise to 100,000 a Day. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 1, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A good Wednesday morning to you, I'm Jim Sciutto.

The question this morning for the country, for the administration -- where is the plan? If we as a nation do not contain this surge, the nation's top infectious disease expert says we could spiral to 100,000 new infections per day.

Thirty-seven states are now seeing a rise in cases. Almost every day it seems like another state is added. Nineteen states are pausing or rolling back their reopening plans as a result. Top health officials pleading with Americans to take the simple step of putting on a mask, it works.

But that's something that our president still will not commit to himself. In fact, he's still planning to attend a Fourth of July celebration at Mt. Rushmore where thousands are expected to attend. The fears this holiday weekend will only fuel the spread.

First, let's bring in CNN's Randi Kaye. She is in Riviera Beach, Florida.

Randi, as cases continue to surge in Florida, what are the next steps that local steps are taking if state officials are not?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're doing what they can, Jim. We saw more than 6,000 new cases in the state of Florida yesterday. So there's still no statewide mask mandate from the governor, no statewide beach closure from the governor. So local officials, local communities like here in Palm Beach County, they've decided to go ahead and close the beach for the July 4th holiday weekend.

And then you have something interesting happening in Miami-Dade. The mayor of Miami-Dade has decided to close restaurants starting at midnight tonight, between midnight and 6:00 a.m., because he said that's when they turn into nightclubs which he called breeding grounds for this virus. We've seen that in other countries so that's why he's taking that very interesting step. Meanwhile, the governor is still saying that Florida is not as bad as

New York as some in the media have predicted. In fact he's criticizing the media still for what he called a partisan narrative saying that the media never should have compared Florida to New York.

I caught up with him yesterday at a press conference and I asked him given the spike in numbers here, were you wrong to criticize the media? Were you wrong to say that the media got it wrong? Here's what he said.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We're not even close to that. So we went through March, April, people were predicting we'd have 400,000 people hospitalized. Never came. We had, you know, very stable numbers all through May and early June. So we're very well positioned to be able to handle what comes down the pike. But to compare us, what we're doing with that, totally apples and oranges.


KAYE: Apples and oranges he says. I tried to follow up with that but his handlers quickly shut me down and called on another reporter. But he said there were 10 percent to 15 percent positivity rate here in the state of Florida, Jim. That is absolutely not true.

Just in Miami alone in the last seven days there was 17.4 percent was the positivity rate. Much higher than what the governor is quoting. We've seen that in other counties as well. Twenty-two percent in some areas and also 10,000 new cases in Miami in just the last seven days alone. Nearly 50,000 statewide, Jim. So certainly not as rosy a picture as the governor is trying to paint.

SCIUTTO: Folks, watch the data. That's what we're going to focus on. The numbers don't lie.

Randi Kaye there in Florida. Thanks very much.

Hours from now, California Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to announce that he will again tighten restrictions as his own state continues to shatter one record after another of new cases.

Joining me now from Pacific Palisades, California, CNN's Dan Simon.

So, Dan, you know, California acted early. They seemed to get a lid on this, they reopened and now cases coming up again. How aggressively is California acting now?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Jim, you're right. California earned wide praise for taking that proactive measure with shutting the economy down and it seemed to work. The state did flatten the curve but now there is increasing alarm in terms of the surge of cases that we are now seeing.

One leading doctor in the state, Dr. Robert Wachter, he is the chair of the UCSF Department of Medicine, says California's miracle is essentially over. He says that over Memorial Day weekend when the state started to reopen a bit, there was a spirit of complacency that took over and now we are seeing, you know, the surge of cases.

What Governor Newsom plans to announce today is going to be critically important in terms of stemming the tide. We don't know exactly what he is going to do but there is a broad consensus that he has to do something fairly dramatic. I can tell you that the beaches are going to be closed throughout Los Angeles County over the weekend, over Fourth of July weekend.


Could that expand to other parts of the state? We shall see. The governor did express concern about family gatherings and the potential for more community spread that way.

We had 6300 cases, Jim, yesterday. That is the second highest tally that we have seen throughout this pandemic -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: We will be speaking to the doctor that Dan mentioned next hour.

Dan Simon, thanks very much.

Let's go now to CNN's Lucy Kafanov in Houston, Texas, where state health officials are reporting a record high as well. Nearly 7,000 new cases.

Lucy, tell us about the numbers there, but also how officials are reacting in terms of the shutdowns, et cetera?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Jim. I mean, the numbers are not trending in a good direction here in Texas. 6,975 new cases. That tops the previous single-day record by almost 1,000. We now have a total of nearly 160,000 cases.

Now, we do know that testing is also going up. You can see perhaps behind me the line of cars. This testing facility won't be open for another hour, but people have been lining up overnight. They're desperate to get tested, to get access to medical care. One family that my producer spoke to, this guy was a carpenter.

He's here with his two sons, they parked at midnight last night just to ensure that they have a place in line because one of his co-workers got sick with COVID-19. It shows you just how widespread this disease is here. And people are taking this very seriously.

Now the governor did admit in a recent interview that perhaps it was too soon for the state to reopen in the way that it did, especially in terms of bars. Those have been shut since last Friday, but we haven't seen any new statewide measures. He did extend the suspension of elective surgeries in four counties yesterday, bringing the total to eight.

The goal there is to free up more hospital bed space. But again, no statewide initiatives and that puts local counties and cities in the awkward position of trying to get a handle on this virus. Harris County where we are extending the disaster -- COVID-19 disaster, state of disaster, pardon me, until August 26th. So that means businesses will be requiring patrons and their employees to wear masks until late August -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Lucy Kafanov there, thanks very much.

Let's speak now to the mayor of Austin, Texas, Steve Adler.

Mayor, thanks for taking the time this morning.

MAYOR STEVE ADLER (D), AUSTIN, TX: Good to be with you.

SCIUTTO: So, Texas, one of the states experiencing one of the bigger spikes in cases following reopening. Listen, I know these decisions to reopen are difficult. Everyone wants to get economic activity going again, but as you see a new daily record on Tuesday, did Texas reopen too soon, too quickly?

ADLER: I think so. I think there were three things that Texas did that the rest of the country could learn from. The first is that we moved out too fast before we had testing and tracing fully in place. We didn't really wait for the gating standards, the number of days with decreases before we started.

The second thing is that while we opened in phases, we went from one phase to the next phase to the next phase too quickly so we weren't able to see the data and the information after each phase to be able to gauge what the reopening was doing.

And then the third thing that we did is we opened in a way that looked like how we were back in January and February. And I think that the real learned experience from Texas in May and June is that when we reopened the economy, we have to do it very differently than the economy was opened before. Everyone has to wear masks. Everybody has to social distance.

SCIUTTO: That's a big difference. I want to play you comments from the lieutenant governor of your state, Dan Patrick, who commented last night about shutdowns and took particular aim at Dr. Anthony Fauci. Have a listen. I want to get your reaction.


LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK (R), TEXAS: Locking down doesn't work. If it did, those two states would be doing better than Texas. Fauci said today that he's concerned about states like Texas that skipped over certain things. He doesn't know what he's talking about. We haven't skipped over anything. The only thing I'm skipping over is listening to him.


SCIUTTO: I don't have to tell you Dr. Anthony Fauci, his experience in handling pandemics and outbreaks. What's your reaction to hear the lieutenant governor of Texas say he's going to stop listening to the expert here? ADLER: You know, it's that kind of messaging, it's the messaging also

coming out of Washington that's really making for one of our most significant challenges and problems. You know, I think we have a chance around the country to be able to open the economy, but only if we adapt and innovate. Only if we open in ways that are different, that accommodate people masking, that accommodate social distancing in ways we have never done before and are still not doing now.


But the messaging coming from our lieutenant governor and from Washington is that there isn't a problem. That we shouldn't be wearing masks, that it creates a confused message for my community, and that's what we're dealing with.

You know, I'm now in my community saying we have literally two weeks, if that, to be able to change a trajectory we're on or we're going to be at a place that overwhelms our hospitals so we're not going to be able to do anything about it because it's a lagging indicator. And in this -- there has to be clarity of message.

Everybody has to be focused on the same outcome which is trying to preserve the opening of the economy, which we are not going to be able to do if half of my community is treating this as if there's not a problem.


ADLER: That's our biggest concern. This messaging war that we're on right now is not helpful.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Is it as simple to say that it's more really than mixed messaging, that it's false messaging on simple things like wearing masks coming from Washington, and that that endangers lives?

ADLER: It is clearly wrong messaging. You know, down here in Texas, I have brought not only the studies from Cambridge but fortunately Texas A&M I think issued one of the most recent studies. Texas A&M again said like so many other studies that masking is critically important. The study said it's probably the most important thing that we can be doing.

The fact that when I walk around in my city I don't see it is as much as we should is a real problem. You know, we -- back in March and April we mandated masking. More and more people started to do it. You started seeing more people doing it around you. That encouraged you to do it, too.

We then lost the ability -- we were preempted and we lost the ability to be able to mandate and enforce masking. And when we did that, people stopped doing it and then when you go out so many people -- if they see everyone around them not wearing masks they're not going to put on masks. And it is --

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean --

ADLER: It is absolutely contrary to science.

SCIUTTO: Peer pressure works on. I think people follow each other's examples and you know what? It's not that hard to do. Just wear a mask, it's not that hard.

Mayor Steven Adler, we wish you the best of luck as Austin does its best to get a handle on this.

ADLER: Thank you very much. Take care.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, just how effective do doctors and experts believe a potential coronavirus vaccine will be? You might be surprised.

Plus the Gang of Eight as it's known will be briefed tomorrow now on intelligence regarding a Russian plot to pay Taliban militants to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. The White House for its part is blaming the Intelligence Community for leaking that information. We're going to discuss. What's the focus of the man who lives in that house there?

And Dr. Fauci says the goal this fall is to get kids back in school. Can that be done safely and how with the rising numbers we're seeing? We're going to talk about it.



SCIUTTO: The FDA with an update on vaccines as the race to find a coronavirus vaccine moving very quickly, unusually quickly. Officials saying, "in order for approval, a vaccine must work at least 50 percent better than a placebo in preventing infection or serious disease. CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins me now.

Dr. Fauci, I believe in an interview with you talked about how aiming for 75 percent effectiveness here. Is 50 percent above a placebo, is that a standard level for judging the effectiveness of a vaccine or is it being lowered, given the outbreak?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, you can see -- if you can see me shaking my head, no, absolutely not, that is not the standard. What Dr. Fauci told me --


COHEN: Was that he would settle for 70 percent to 75 percent effective --


COHEN: And it appears that the FDA would settle for 50 percent effective. You're absolutely right. That is not a very high number. If we get a vaccine that's 50 percent effective and we know from polling that about a third of Americans say they don't want to get it, that's not going to go well. A vaccine that's 50 percent effective being given to only 70 percent of the population, will that help? Sure.

It's better than nothing. Is that great? Absolutely not. Look at measles, measles is 97 percent to 98 percent effective. The vaccine for measles. The vaccines for chickenpox and polio, those are more than 90 percent effective. So, 50 percent is a relatively low bar. I did speak with an expert who is involved in all of this on the government level. And he said, look, we're not going to get down to 50 percent.

They set the bar low, don't worry, it's going to be better than that. I certainly hope that he is right. Speaking of vaccines, a company called INOVIO has come out with their data on their phase one and phase two trials. Those are the early phases. Let's take a look at those numbers. This is one of the contenders of COVID vaccine.

They said that they tried it out in 36 people, and that they got an overall immune response in 34 of those people, so 34 out of the 36. You will note two things here, Jim. One, these are very small numbers, just 36 people. Number two, they didn't really give any details about what exactly those responses were. This was a press release, it was not a public study. There's been a lot of criticism that companies are coming out with these relatively superficial press releases and not publishing actual data. We still have not seen a shred of human data in a published study, and we are pretty far into this. That's very disappointing to a lot of experts. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Yes, you need -- I mean, the studies need to test on thousands of people to get that kind of level of confidence. So --

COHEN: Right --

SCIUTTO: Listen, long way to go. Elizabeth Cohen, always good to have you on the story. Thanks very much. With me now is infectious disease specialist and associate chief medical officer at Emory University Hospital, Dr. Colleen Kraft. Dr. Kraft, always good to have you on.



SCIUTTO: So just quickly, since we were talking with Elizabeth about vaccines there. There's enormous amount of effort going here. Also for speed, and also for what's known as at-risk development, in other words, you're manufacturing the vaccine as you're testing it. So if it works out, then you already have a supply of it. Give us your view of where we stand on this and how hopeful people can be that as soon as the end of this year, maybe early next year as Dr. Fauci has said that this could be available.

KRAFT: Right, so this is the fastest we've ever made a vaccine, and so I think that we're going to learn a lot of lessons going through this. I think what you were just saying with Elizabeth is that we are going to be, you know, pushing the efficacy as high as we can. And I think there's just a lot of concern that, you know, we want to do this right, we want to do this quickly. But one has to -- you know, I think that doing it right is going to have to take precedence over doing it quickly. And so we may be farther out than we want to be, but I think it's important to make sure that we do and we have a good efficacious vaccine.

SCIUTTO: OK, let's talk about Fauci's view yesterday. I mean, it caught a lot of attention for him to say, we as a country could go up to 100,000 new infections per day, and just when you look at the graph of this in this country, I mean, we're almost alone in the world, right, in terms of still having this kind of rise here, not being able -- you know, forget about flattening it, right? You know, we can't keep it --

KRAFT: Right --

SCIUTTO: From looking like a ski slope. How concerned should folks at home be about that, and what needs to be done now to change that?

KRAFT: So I don't know what more -- I guess it needs to affect everybody individually for people to change their behavior. We must wear masks. We must hand-sanitize. We absolutely should be concerned about the transmission of this disease. I don't -- I don't spend a lot of time outside of the hospital or my house. But when I am in public, I'm very shocked to see that people are not taking this seriously. This is a life-threatening disease.

This is going to crush our health care systems, and you yourself will be affected by this if you don't take very personal responsibility to just wear a mask.

SCIUTTO: Yes, listen to the doctors, folks, we always say it. OK, let's look at what happens when you close down and reopen, which is -- everybody wants, right?

KRAFT: Sure --

SCIUTTO: Because they want to be able to go back to work, they want their companies to open --

KRAFT: Absolutely --

SCIUTTO: They don't want them to shut down forever. Look at California, so here's a state acted early, had enormous effect in holding this back, they reopened, they see it come up again. What do we learn from California's experience here?

KRAFT: Well, we learn a lot, Jim. And I think this also has to do with, you know, it's about what you said earlier, which is innovation and creativity. We could go back to our economy being open if people wear masks and are creative about how they protect themselves. To me, this is not -- this isn't anything more than logic, this isn't --


KRAFT: Political. It's really just safety, and it's -- we are American dreamers, right? We're supposed to be innovative and out in the forefront, and I think we're just collapsing in and on ourselves, and we honestly have no one to blame but ourselves for sure --

SCIUTTO: To your point about masks, we have a graphic up about the difference with how far a cough travels without a mask and various masks. And just because you can't see this, no mask, 8 feet. A bandana that people like to wear around their neck, 3.6 feet. A folded handkerchief, 1.25. A cone mask, just 8 inches and a stitched mask, 2.5 inches. That struck me because I thought the cone masks like those N95s were the gold standard here. But it says a stitched mask is better. Regardless, Dr. Kraft, the numbers speak for themselves.

KRAFT: Right. Again, I think, you know, you and I are obviously on the same page. This isn't rocket science. But we somehow view this as not sort of real logic, and so the best thing we can do is just cover our -- cover our nose and mouth so that we're not spreading anything, and then when everybody does that, we can actually go back to our normal lives.


KRAFT: But we must be wearing masks. And I would say, if you don't want to wear a mask, what's your alternative strategy for preventing transmission? Because I'm not sure how we could do anything any simpler than wearing a mask.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's not hard.

KRAFT: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Listen to the doctors, folks. Dr. Kraft, thanks so much.

KRAFT: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Thank you. Well, the White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany says the president is quote, "the most informed person on planet earth when it comes to threats to this country's national security". So why wasn't he briefed on intelligence Russians were plotting to kill U.S. troops? Intelligence the U.S. shared with partners and with crucially commanders on the ground.



SCIUTTO: The so-called gang of eight, that is the leaders of relevant committees on Capitol Hill will now be briefed tomorrow on intelligence related to Russian bounties for attacks -- deadly attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That briefing was initially scheduled for today. The Trump administration says the president was not briefed because the information was not fully corroborated. Now taking aim at the intelligence community, the president's national security adviser saying --


ROBERT O'BRIEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, UNITED STATES: It may now become impossible ever to get to the bottom of this, to get to the truth of the matter. And that's one of the very sad things. We were working very hard on this matter. It may be entirely impossible to get to the bottom of it because someone decided to leak to hurt the president rather than uphold their obligations to the American people.