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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Heading to Mount Rushmore; Coronavirus Cases Spiking. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 3, 2020 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And he's saying it's in our hands, as a nation, to stop this crisis from getting worse, as the CDC is currently projecting 148,000 coronavirus deaths in this nation by July 25.

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Now, despite all this evidence that the U.S. alone among Western and wealthy nations is failing completely to contain this virus, President Trump is proposing no changes to what is clearly a failed strategy, and, frankly, seems more focused on divisive culture war messaging than his number one job, which is protecting the American people.

And, as CNN Nick Watt reports for us now, with the fear over July 4 gatherings, some state and local officials are reimplementing previous restrictions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Florida now leading the nation in new cases every day, as the U.S. heads into the holiday weekend.

DR. JEROME ADAMS, SURGEON GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: The most important thing I would say to people is, if you do go out to a gathering or in public, please wear a face covering.

WATT: Beaches will be open again in New York City for the Fourth, but closing down and again in parts of Texas, across much of Southern California, the Bay Area and South Florida, off-limits in Miami Beach.

And the mayor's message?

DAN GELBER (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: The hardest thing to deal with are these mixed messages coming from the state and the federal government and from the president. We're telling people that there's nothing more American than making a sacrifice by staying home.

WATT: Wednesday, more than 50,000 new cases across this country for the first time. Yesterday, it happened again.

The president says it's just more testing news. It's not. So, what is it? DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: Well, it's very difficult to say

that this particular demonstration or that particular rally or that particular holiday at a beach did it, but something happened to make the spike go way up like that.

WATT: And different states, different stories. In Arizona, more people are now being killed by COVID-19 than ever before. Vermont hasn't had a COVID-19 patient in the ICU for nearly six weeks, while, in parts of Texas, we're told there are now waiting lists for ICU beds.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): COVID is spreading like never before.

WATT: He's finally mandated masks for most Texans.

DR. JOSEPH VARON, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: Unfortunately, I think that the cow is out of the barn. I think we are a little too late. I mean, this is a measure that should have been instituted months ago.

WATT: Still, Texas making that move might be a watershed moment.

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: I hope that every government every state takes notice and says, in one of the most conservative, freedom-loving states that would be the last place you would expect can do it, then it's really OK to say, let's put public health first.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: So, today, I'm in Manhattan Beach in California, where the beach is closed, the pier is closed, the bike path is closed, but the Strand, where people walk, is open.

This is part of the problem we're having fighting this pandemic. And it's not necessarily anybody's fault. But it's a fragmented approach with different overlapping jurisdictions. And that can put some confusion in people's minds as to what they are supposed to be doing -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Watt in Manhattan Beach, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss, William Haseltine, former Harvard Medical School professor and renowned HIV researcher.

Thanks so much for joining us.

What do you make of the fact that, today, the surgeon general said that everybody should wear masks in public, but refused to say whether Americans should or should not attend large gatherings, when others, like Dr. Fauci, have been saying, clearly, you should avoid large gatherings?

What do you make of this mixed message?

DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: Well, I think from the very beginning in this epidemic, there have been mixed messages.

What you need in a crisis is, you need clear, consistent, compassionate, and credible messaging from are leaders. And we in this country haven't had that. We have had mixed messages.

In addition to that, the surgeon general has no troops. We need a public health service which is centrally coordinated and has manpower on the ground that can take federal regulations and implement them systematically throughout the country.

It is a big failing. I hope we are learning from it. But now that we're in this situation, it's up to each individual to make their determination. That's what it comes down to. Are you going to protect your family? Are you going to protect yourself? Are you going to protect your community?

TAPPER: So, what's your advice to people who are planning to go to beaches if they're open or attend barbecues to see family or friends? What do you want them to know? What should they be doing?

HASELTINE: Well, we're going to have a barbecue with a few friends.

But, first of all, we have made very careful inquiries to know that they have been sequestered. We know that they will be wearing masks, and we know that we're going to be outside and we will be distant.

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And should it rain, for example, we're going to tell them either to go home or to go under a shelter until the rain stops. Don't go inside. This virus spreads much more rapidly without a mask and even with a mask when you're inside, because there's air that leaks out the sides of the mask.

You do not want to be in a closed space with people who you don't know are not infected.

TAPPER: If more states start to reinstitute restrictions and lockdown measures, how quickly could the United States flatten the curve? You see the curve going in the exact wrong direction the graphic we're showing right now.

If people wear masks and avoid crowds, and especially indoor crowds, could the U.S. flatten the curve? Could we get to where all the other Western and wealthy nations are when it comes to this virus?

HASELTINE: You know, we know we can, because we have done it.

In my city, New York City, we have done it, the whole Northeast pretty much, from Philadelphia on up, Washington, D.C. We have done it. This isn't something Americans can't do. This is something Americans can and do, do in some parts of the country.

California, for example, the north of California is completely different epidemiologically from the south. We can do this, and we need leadership. But in the absence of leadership, we have to take it into our own hands and understand how important it is to protect ourselves and our family and everybody we love.

A simple message is, unless you have to be inside with people you don't know, you should be extremely careful. You shouldn't do that if you can avoid it at all. And if you do avoid it, you should do everything in your power to make sure everybody there has a mask, and you're in that closed space for a short as time as possible.

TAPPER: Well, in light of what you just said, what do you make of President Trump this evening attending an event with more than 7,000 people, no masks required, no social distancing at all? It will be outdoors at Mount Rushmore.

I mean, this is the president of the United States and he's not doing any of the things you just said?

HASELTINE: Well, first of all, is good that it's outdoors and not inside, like Tulsa. That's the first step.

However, people will be using common toilets. People will be crowding together. That is unsafe. People will be breathing close to each other. That is unsafe.

We know that that increases the risk of transmission. We also know that simply wearing a mask can decrease the rate of transmission by almost 20 times. That is enormous.

And so, if people do, do that, and they're outside, and they're wearing masks, some people will be infected, but not nearly as many as if they don't wear masks.

TAPPER: President Trump last night again repeated this false claim.

He tweeted -- quote -- "There is a rise in coronavirus cases because our testing is so massive and so good, far bigger and better than any other country."

Now, there is a lot of testing in the United States, and kudos to the United States government for that. But it's patently false that increased testing is the only reason that we're seeing so many new cases. We're also seeing the percentage of those being tested, having positivity rates go up.

Do you see a risk in the president continuing to say things like this that are simply not true?

HASELTINE: Well, there are two things wrong with that statement.

The first is that we're the only country with the most testing. There's other countries that test far more than we do. That's the first thing to say. I think, if you look at a number of countries, you will see that some, numerically and percentage wise of people tested, do more than we do.

The second thing is, all you have to do is look at the hospitals to know that people are getting sick. Many more people are getting sick in parts of the country where they simply weren't doing it. You look at the hospitals in Florida, you look at the hospitals in

Texas, you look at the hospitals in Southern California, those people aren't sick because they were tested. They are sick because they have the virus. And the increased numbers of sick people is a true measure of the infection that is spreading through this country like wildfire.

It is a very worrying situation. And unless we change, the number 150,000 that you are almost at today is going to look small.

TAPPER: William Haseltine, thank you so much. Happy Fourth of July to you and your family.

Coming up: Roosevelt, Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington, all will be looking on as President Trump kicks off the Fourth of July with a large crowd, no social distancing, and no masks required, in the middle of a virus surging.

What would they say, those four presidents?

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Then coming up: North Korea says it has zero coronavirus cases. Of course, we question that.

Stay with us.

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TAPPER: In our politics lead today: Just minutes from now, President Trump and first lady Melania Trump will head to South Dakota to celebrate an early Fourth of July at Mount Rushmore. There will be fireworks, a planned speech, and an estimated 7,500 people in attendance.

This is, of course, during a global pandemic.

And, as CNN's Pamela Brown reports for us now, masks will not be required there, and there will not be any social distancing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, as the U.S. sees the highest single day of new coronavirus cases, President Trump hits the links ,before heading to Mount Rushmore to watch fireworks with an expected 7,500 people.

Despite the president's 180, now insisting he supports masks...

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That includes face coverings, social distancing, testing, and personal hygiene.

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Wash your hands.

BROWN (voice-over): The crowd in South Dakota getting a different message.

GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): Those who want to come and join us, we'll be giving out free face masks if they choose to wear one, but we won't be social distancing.

BROWN: Many are questioning why the event is necessary.

RANDY SEILER, CHAIR, SOUTH DAKOTA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: We're proud of the fact that the president is coming to South Dakota to help us celebrate the Fourth of July and our Independence Day. But the terms and circumstances under which he is appearing basically are turning out to be a dud.

BROWN: All as the nation's top health officials say --

DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Larger gatherings are a higher risk. You have to take that into account again with whether or not you're at risk, whether you live with someone who is vulnerable.

BROWN: The trip coming as fallout from Trump's rally grows. Former 2012 presidential candidate and Trump supporter Herman Cain now hospitalized with COVID after attending that rally, and not wearing a mask.

Also word that campaign staffers and Secret Service agents continue to test positive for the virus. Now, CNN is learning that eight Secret Service agents assigned to President Trump's detail tested positive for the virus just before he was scheduled to travel to Arizona on Tuesday.

Pence ended up traveling there on Wednesday after positive agents were swapped out.

TRUMP: I'm all for masks.

BROWN: Inside the White House, officials are debating whether the administration should take more of a leadership role and urge mask wearing nationwide.

But the one person they need to convince doesn't sound like he's really buying the argument.

TRUMP: If I'm in a group of people where we're not 10 feet away, but usually I'm not in that position and everyone is tested.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And tonight with Mt. Rushmore as his backdrop, President Trump will focus on race and the movement to take down controversial statues. A campaign aide says that the president will blame the, quote, left-wing mob for tearing down history and dividing the country.

And, Jake, as the president finds himself politically vulnerable, you're seeing him really step up this focus on race and heritage to appeal to his predominantly white base, Jake. TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Good to see you again.

Come on in, the water is warm. One community keeping their beaches open this holiday weekend, but what about the people in the city next door? Next, we're going to talk to the mayor in charge of a city near several open beaches.

Stay with us.

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TAPPER: In any other year, millions of American families would right now be heading to beaches across the country to celebrate, but states across the nation are instead shutting down that option as cases of coronavirus grow, including in California where all state beaches in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties over the weekend are closed.

And even in Florida, where the governor has been hesitant to roll back restrictions, despite record-setting cases, some counties are shutting down their beaches.

But in North Carolina, which just saw its biggest one-day increase for cases and where hospitalizations are at a record high, many beaches there will be open.

Joining me is the Democratic mayor of Wilmington, North Carolina, Bill Saffo. Wilmington, just a short drive from the beach.

Mayor Saffo, thanks for joining us.

How worried are you about people going to the beach and maybe contracting the virus and then bringing it back to Wilmington?

MAYOR BILL SAFFO (D), WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA: We're very concerned. Obviously, we saw a significant spike after the Memorial Day weekend and we're just looking at those numbers now. And as of yesterday, there are over a thousand cases where we were down about 200 before we started reopening our economies here.

So, yes, it is a significant concern of mine and the community here. We know that we have people from all over the country that come here to our area beaches. And when we were shut down and we had no hotels that you could stay at or short-term rentals, we kept it under control. But since we have reopened, we are seeing spikes and we're seeing people that are coming here and obviously bringing it here with them. So, it's definitely having an impact on our community.

TAPPER: Are you concerned about people on the beaches? Or is it more the idea of people going to bars and restaurants and other indoor locations where they could catch it? Because it does seem that indoor activity is much more dangerous in terms of the infection than outdoor. SAFFO: What we have seen here since our bars are still closed and our

restaurants are at 50 percent capacity, what we have seen with some of the infections as of late are people that have congregated together for parties, graduation parties, birthday parties. They come down to the beach. Somebody may come in, a family member or friend that has it. And then, of course, if there's 20 or 30 or 40 people there, then several people get it.

In the last couple of weeks, we've heard a lot of reports of folks that are getting it based on the events they're attending. And we're just asking people to continue with the social distancing.

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Please wear these face masks, they're important. And, you know, if they would just abide by those guidelines, it would help us all. And, you know, when you're at the beach, you're outdoors, you can get -- you can have that spread, you can get away from other folks.

But we seem to see people that are congregating in large groups. And it's just unfortunate, but we keep asking the public to please adhere to what we've been talking about since March, since the latter part of February.

And some people are adhering to that and some people are not. But that's what we're seeing the large infections in this area are people that are congregating in large groups.

TAPPER: Even if they're congregating outside, it sounds like a false sense of security for some people thinking that they can't get it outside. It's not the case, obviously.

So, North Carolina had more than 2,000 cases in just the last day and nearly 1,000 people in your state are hospitalized. Again, that's the highest your state has seen.

As people head out to celebrate Fourth of July weekend, what is your biggest concern for Wilmington?

SAFFO: It's to please keep the social distancing, wear the masks. We keep asking people over and over again (AUDIO GAP). Jake, it's just been a disjointed rollout of public policy from the federal level to the state level to the local levels. Every municipality is kind of doing its own thing. Every state is kind of doing its own thing.

You know, you're hearing concerns from the CDC and from Dr. Fauci. And then, of course, the president says I don't think you ought to wear face masks. It's just this messaging that's just all over the place.

And we know talking to our health experts here, our health professionals at the state level, if we would just wear the masks and just keep that social distancing and wash your hands, and just keep doing what we were doing during the mitigation phase, it would really reduce the infection rate. But it's just hard to get that across to people because some people just say, "I'm not going to do it no matter what you tell me" -- although the governor in the last week has made it mandatory that when you're in public you have to wear the mask.

But it's just been -- it's just been a bear of an issue to contend with at the elected level trying to get this message out and continuing to get this message out to give to people to just be safe. And it's a tough thing.

But I tell people when you're going out and you may have a false sense of security when you're around a group of people and you're outside, it spreads if you get close enough. So please stay away from each other if you can. We're seeing a lot of people boating and going on little islands and then congregating there.

And it's just -- we know that the spread is going to happen. And we know probably in about two weeks, we'll see a spike from the July 4th weekend.

But you can help us all out by just wearing those masks and doing that social distancing. It would help us all out here at our local levels in combating this issue.

TAPPER: All right, an important message from Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, from the great state of North Carolina. Thank you so much and best of luck to you and the citizens of your city.

The United States just got put on a red list by one of its closest allies because of the coronavirus spread out of control in the United States. We'll explain that next. Stay with us.

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