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Florida Leads Nation in Average Number of Daily New Cases; Texas Governor Orders Statewide Mask Requirement in Public; Arizona ICUs Close to Capacity as Virus Surge; More California Cities Announce Fines for Face Mask Defiance; Masks Optional, No Social Distancing at Trump's Mt. Rushmore Event; Mike Pence's Arizona Trip Delayed After Secret Service Agents Test Positive for COVID-19; A New Study Shows a New Mutated Version of Coronavirus Spreads Faster; Research Study Finds Positive Results from Hydroxychloroquine. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 3, 2020 - 09:00   ET



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

A holiday weekend one we all want to celebrate, but a critical moment in the country's fight against the coronavirus. As 36 states now see a rise in infections, the nation has set a new single day record for new cases. And by some measures nearly 15 million people remain out of work in this country.

Growing fears about large celebrations and gatherings will only fuel this surge and prolong the country's pain, including its economic pain. We saw what happened on Memorial Day weekend. The numbers simply don't lie. But the president keeps repeating this lie, that the increase in cases is due only to an increase in testing. His own task force contradicts that.


ADMIRAL BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH, HHS: There is no question that the more testing you get, the more you will uncover, but we do believe this is a real increase in cases because the percent positivities are going up.


SCIUTTO: Percent positivities. That's the percent of people whose tests are coming back positive. That means the infection is spreading. It's in the data.

Today, the president goes to a celebration at Mt. Rushmore. Thousands are expected to attend. No masks required and crucially no social distancing required. That disconnect and his push to reopen, they're not new, but he isn't pushing to reopen too early. But isn't pushing to reopen too early, how we got here? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would be nice to be able to open with a big bang and open up our country. I want to get it open as soon as we can. We have to get or country opened. We can't our whole country -- we can't do it. The country won't take it. The people aren't going to stand for it. They want to get back. They want our country opened. I want our country opened, too.

Our country has to get back and it's got to get back as soon as possible. Vaccine or no vaccine, we're back. Will something happen, perhaps. But, you know, you can be driving to school and some bad things can happen, too.


SCIUTTO: Listen, everybody wants to get back, but the fact is the economy can't open sustainably without the outbreak under control.

We're covering all the angles this morning. First, let's go to Boris Sanchez. He's in Clearwater, Florida.

Boris, cases, they continue to soar in that state ahead of the July Fourth weekend. How is Florida which has resisted statewide a lot of mitigation efforts, how is it handling the July Fourth weekend now that numbers are rising there?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, it really depends on where you are. Governor DeSantis has made clear that he is not going to enforce a statewide stay-at-home order, the kind that we saw a few months ago. He's also not pursuing the kind of broad almost statewide mask mandate that we're seeing in Texas from Governor Greg Abbott there. It's really up to local municipalities.

Give you one quick example. In Miami-Dade County, the beaches are closed. Here on the gulf side of Florida in Clearwater Beach, it's wide open. We're already seeing families gather, enjoying a nice day out on the beach. Many of them social distancing. I have seen a couple of people wearing masks.

It's present here, the advice from officials here. You could see a sign just off to my left, asking people to stay at least six feet apart. If you don't live together, do not congregate in groups. No groups of 10 or more people.

The enforcement of these rules unclear exactly how that is going to go down. Again, Governor Ron DeSantis effectively leaving it up to local officials. That has spurred a lot of questions.

You'll recall, Jim, just a few week ago he actually touted the fact that no minors had died in Florida because of coronavirus. And we have learned that that is actually changed. Last week, a 16-year-old in Lee County, a 17-year-old in Pasco County passing away, and we got the tragic news last night that an 11-year-old boy in Miami-Dade County died because of complications due to COVID-19. That marks the youngest death here in the Sunshine State so far -- Jim. SCIUTTO: Listen, we're hearing more cases like that. Certainly not the

race that you see with the elderly or people with pre-existing conditions, but this idea that they are immune to this it just doesn't stand up.

Boris Sanchez, thanks very much.

Now to Texas where the governor, as Boris mentioned, just announced he is issuing an executive order that will require about 95 percent of people in the state to wear a mask in public. That's a reversal by the Texas government.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov joins us now live from Houston, Texas.

So Governor Abbott says he's putting this mandate in place, and this is key because he's saying he's doing that so that businesses can open up. Connecting the two whereas the president has often said, well, if you're reopening, you can't have restrictions like this.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That executive order goes into effect in just a couple of hours. Health officials have been pushing for something like this to come into effect even earlier.

This is, as you point out, a reversal for Governor Abbott. He's previously said that local officials cannot penalize people for not wearing masks in public but of course these cases have been skyrocketing and he's been forced effectively to switch gears. Take a listen to what the governor had to say.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Now I know that wearing a face covering is not the convenient thing to do. But I also know that wearing a face covering will help us to keep Texas open for business. I also know that not taking action to slow the spread will cause COVID to spread even worse, risking people's lives and ultimately closing more businesses.


KAFANOV: So masks do save lives, it's now required to wear them if you live in a county that has 20 or more cases. That applies to roughly 95 percent of all of Texans. This does come as the state continues to see a surge in cases. Yesterday, nearly 8,000 new coronavirus cases. Hospitalizations are also up. More than 7,300 people in the hospital. That's putting a strain on facilities and people are worried that as we go into this Fourth of July weekend, despite these new restrictions, we could still see cases continue to rise -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Listen, just watch the numbers. Follow the data. That's what we're doing.

Lucy Kafanov, thanks very much. This morning, health systems in Arizona, another state on the brink of

disaster. One emergency room physician telling CNN that intensive care units are near full capacity as the virus there soars out of control.

Joining me now from Prescott, Arizona, is Evan McMorris-Santoro.

Evan, here's another state and the issue here of course is that this is not just infection rate, this is people getting really sick and having to go to the hospital.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. Yesterday, the governor announced another 3,000 cases about here in Arizona and 37 new deaths from the disease. And the challenge here this weekend in Prescott is this is a huge weekend for this town. I'm standing in what will soon be in just a couple of hours a very busy craft fair that botched up against the finale weekend of a weeklong rodeo that this town bills as the world's oldest.

So it's a big deal. Fourth of July is a big deal here. And they're trying to balance how to do this Fourth of July and also deal with this rising pandemic here in Arizona. The governor asked people to not go to large gatherings this Fourth of July. To stay away from that kind of thing, but he left it up to individual towns to make a decision on what to do.

And here in Prescott they decided to go ahead with their festivities but they've added things like hand washing stations and signage requesting people to stay socially distant. But for now, seeing where I am in Prescott, this feels a lot like a normal Fourth of July -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: That's a concern. And it's not a normal Fourth of July. We know that. That's a fact.

Evan McMorris-Santoro, thanks very much.

Let's go to CNN's Dan Simon. He's in Santa Monica, California, where beaches are now officially closed. This in three counties for the holiday weekend.

Dan, what's happening now? Because the issue with California, right, is they had let county by county -- like counties make decisions on reopening and that's being blamed for the resurgence of infections there. So how are they handling this now as we head into July 4th?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey, good morning, Jim. Well, beaches in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura Counties are closed for the weekend as you said. We are in Santa Monica, you could see this sign along the biking path that says temporary closure. It's going to be up to the various individual jurisdictions how they want to enforce the order, but of course what officials are looking for is voluntary compliance.

And it comes as cases continue to surge across California. In Los Angeles County, one out of 140 people are now considered to be infectious. Mayor Eric Garcetti says next week that could drop down to actually one out of 70 people. And if you live in certain jurisdictions you can now face a fine for not wearing a mask. In West Hollywood if you're caught it's $300 for the first violation and Santa Monica, it's $100 and $500 for a third violation.

And check out this new PSA from the state encouraging people to wear masks.


GRAPHICS: Even without symptoms you can spread COVID-19. And people can die. People like your mom, grandpa, like your friends. Wearing a mask slows the spread.


SIMON: And there's something else you should know if you plan on going to church this weekend, the California Department of Public Health has issued a new order that says singing and chanting activities are to be discontinued to prevent the spread of the virus -- Jim.


SCIUTTO: Yes. The reason is the science shows that singing in particular propels droplets through the air, leads to more infections.

Dan Simon, thanks very much.

In just hours, President Trump will travel to South Dakota to join thousands for a fireworks celebration at the Mt. Rushmore National Memorial. Masks, they will be passed out but not required, and there will be no social distancing.

CNN's John Harwood joins us now from Washington. Let's begin, though, with CNN's Joe Johns, he's already out there at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.

So, Joe, the president has repeatedly flouted what all the scientists say including those working for his own task force about the necessity for masks and social distancing. What's it going to look like on the ground there?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what, Jim, any public gathering the president would go to right around now would be controversial because of coronavirus. This is no exception. We're expecting about 7500 people here this evening by the time the president of the United States arrives. And as you said, there will be no social distancing.

Also people who are arriving and want face coverings will be provided with them. But South Dakota is one of those states where the trend line has been going upward now and there are about 7,000 people who have been tested positive so far. There are also about 97 deaths. Still, the governor of the state says she's going ahead with this show tonight. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 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 socially distancing. We're asking them to come, be ready to celebrate, to enjoy the freedoms and the liberties that we have in this country.


JOHNS: And this gathering is also going to be controversial for a couple of other reasons. Native Americans are expecting to demonstrate. This has long been considered sacred land to the Sioux among others. And they say they have a problem with the government even being here.

There's also a concern about forest fires, Jim. There are going to be fireworks. The National Park Service says it's going to be no problem. Back to you.

SCIUTTO: The statement there saying there will be no social distancing, it's just remarkable. In defiance of the science.

Joe Johns, thanks so much.

John Harwood at the White House. So, John, a fact of this, right, is by continuing to hold these events like the Tulsa rally, or Mike Pence's trip to Arizona, is that the president, the White House end up endangering their own staff. The second time Secret Service are facing this. Tell us why and how.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, we've seen a very consistent pattern with the president placing his own interests above those of others, not just those who work for him, but also his constituents because he's chosen not to lead in trying to suppress the coronavirus.

We saw it at the beginning of the pandemic when he thought the strong economy was his ticket to re-election. He downplayed the virus. Then he was forced by events to address it on a national basis. But he pulled the plug prematurely because he wanted to get the economy reopened, get back to that economic message.

Now that the virus has surged across the sunbelt and much of the country, he is simply ignoring it. He said yesterday at the White House briefing that I attended that it's being handled, but he was touting new jobs numbers and left without questions because he knew he's going to get questions about the coronavirus.

Here, we've seen he had the Tulsa rally without requiring masks, without social distancing. Requiring people who attended to sign a waiver of liability if they got sick. Well, the arena was two-thirds empty but a bunch of advanced staffers and Secret Service agents tested positive afterwards.

Herman Cain, one of his surrogates, former Republican presidential candidate, has tested positive for the coronavirus and is now hospitalized. So the president is not exhibiting concern for others. He is trying to have the re-election campaign that he envisioned from the beginning. Big event at Mt. Rushmore. More events down the road and it's at odds with what his public health officials are urging people to do.

SCIUTTO: Just briefly, John, has the president at any time expressed any regret or concern for those Secret Service agents or for his surrogate, Herman Cain, as a result of their infections?

HARWOOD: Not that we've seen. He's not been tweeting about it. He tweeted just a short while ago that coronavirus cases are up because testing is up. And again, celebrated on Twitter those new jobs numbers.


The irony is, that if you don't get a hold of the coronavirus, those jobs numbers which predated the surge of cases at the end of June, you're going to throw that economic recovery into reverse, just as many governors across the country are slowing down their reopening. Greg Abbott; the governor of Texas yesterday mandated mask-wearing, something that he had previously resisted and that President Trump continues to resist.

SCIUTTO: John Harwood at the White House, thanks very much. Still to come at this hour, a new study shows that a mutation of the coronavirus makes it spread faster, though it doesn't necessarily make people sicker. What this means for getting the virus under control.

Plus, you are taking a risk if you are flying during this pandemic. So how to make it less risky? We're going to talk about that just ahead.



SCIUTTO: As the U.S. continues to fail to bring these -- this outbreak under control, new research shows that the virus is mutating, getting even more infectious. We should note the new mutation not any deadlier than the original, but it could affect how we as a respond to it, also even how a potential vaccine might work. Joining me now CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. So a more easily transmissible coronavirus. What does that mean for the country right now?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, this -- we apparently have been seeing this virus for quite some time now. This mutated form of it. I want to talk a minute about mutation because I think that word really scares people and brings up sort of horror movies, not all mutations are created equal. So as you said, this mutation doesn't get you sicker. It doesn't mean you'll be more likely to die if you get infected.

It is as you said -- what it does is that, it makes the virus more transmissible, more contagious. And this is the reality we're dealing with. I mean, we can see from these state numbers how quickly this virus is spreading. This could mean for the vaccine that you will need to get -- that we will all need to get a booster. Dr. Frances Collins at a hearing addressed this. He's the head of the National Institute of Health.

And he said it could mean that we need to get a booster because we treat the vaccine, we come up with a better one. That -- you know, that would not be such a big problem. If that's the only thing that this mutation does, that would be great. And according to the experts, we're talking to -- they think the vaccine will work, maybe a better one will come along, and we'll have to get it again. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Right, OK, that's good to hear. OK, let's talk about hydroxychloroquine. So many claims have been made including by the president of how effective this is, and a lot of studies have shown no effect. There are even some studies that show that it has a negative effect for patients. But there's a new study that shows that for some people as an early treatment, it may help. Well, how broad is this and for who exactly?

COHEN: Right, so this is just one study showing that it worked. Let's talk a minute about the studies that didn't show, that showed that it didn't work. There were two studies similar to this one that showed that it didn't work, and there were two clinical trials, one in the U.S. and one in the U.K., that ended early because it showed that it didn't work.

The one in the U.K. was on 11,000 patients. That is a lot of evidence showing that hydroxychloroquine doesn't work. This is really the first major study of its kind, showing that it does work. The authors who were at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit say it's because they were smart and they gave it early, they didn't give it to people, you know, at death's door.

That's not where they were headed, they gave it to people earlier than other people did. However, I spoke to some of those other hospitals and they said, oh, that's not true. We gave it really early as well. So that may not be the reason. Something that is a little disturbing about this study, according to experts I've spoken to, is that they excluded more than 260 patients from the study because they were still in the hospital at the time they ended the study.

That's problematic. If they were 260-something people and that's about 10 percent of the study population was still in the hospital, that may mean that they were really sick. And just kicking them out of the study means that you could have skewed the results. Jim?

SCIUTTO: OK, good to break it down, thank you, Elizabeth Cohen. Joining me now to discuss all of the developments, Dr. Jennifer Lee; clinical associate, professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University. Dr. Lee, always good to have you on. And it's regrettable how often on this program we have to deliberately knock down deliberate disinformation from the White House.

But we do have to pay attention to this because it's so often repeated by the president and others. OK, so the president tweeted once again in the last several hours that the number of cases in this country only going up because of testing. This is false. And I'm going to show some full screens here that look at some of the hardest hit states. Let's look at Arizona. So Arizona, when you look at it, yes, testing in Arizona has gone up.

That's the blue line there, up 175 percent. But positive cases, that is people who test positive when they are tested up 700 percent. Let's throw just for comparison as well. Texas, another state, hot spot, tests up 98 percent, positive cases, 273 percent, three times as much.

Can you explain to viewers why when the president and vice president say that this is only going up because there's more testing, why that is false?

JENNIFER LEE, CLINICAL ASSOCIATE, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Absolutely, Jim. And this is something that we have to be very clear about. The numbers are not going up because we're testing more. The numbers are going up because the virus is being transmitted more. And we know that because of just those figures that you showed.

When you -- if the virus was not spreading, and you tested more people, then the percent positive of cases that we found would actually go down, but we're seeing the opposite. So take Arizona, for example. Just the number of weeks ago, the percent positive cases out of all of those that were being tested was less than 7 percent or so.


Now, it's almost 25 percent. So even though we're testing more people, the percent -- that are coming back positive is higher. So we know without a doubt that the virus is spreading because it's not -- it's not just the testing. The other thing you can look at too is the rate of hospitalizations. So over the last few days and weeks, we've seen record-high hospitalizations in some of these states as well.

An you can't argue with that, people are getting sick, they're getting hospitalized. This virus is spreading, it's spreading rapidly.

SCIUTTO: And Dr. Giroir, Admiral Giroir reiterated that yesterday in his own testimony, saying that its positivity rates are going up, so contradicting the president -- the person the president appointed at HHS to respond to this. Now, I want to look at another state because New York is a state where it is inverted where as testing is going up, but that positivity rate remains down.

Is that because of aggressive mitigation? This was not the case a number of weeks ago when New York was in the midst of really, you know, being the prime hot spot in this country. Is that because of aggressive mitigation?

LEE: I think it is. I think, you know, it's interesting, is if you look at the curves in the cases, the trends over time for New York and the tri-state area compared to the rest of the country, you see that it goes up in peaks, and then it clearly comes down. So because of the very aggressive social distancing and all the other measures that they took in the New York area, they were able to bring the levels of virus down to a much lower level.

You saw that in the numbers that were tracked every day. So -- SCIUTTO: Yes --

LEE: Even though they're testing so much more than before, the percent positive continues to go down, which is --

SCIUTTO: Right --

LEE: Exactly what we would hope to see.

SCIUTTO: Right. And we know that can be fragile. That things can change because you look at California, had it under control and now we're seeing, you know, trouble with it rising again. Final question if I can. So the question is going to go to Mount Rushmore and the governor of New Mexico, a remarkable statement from a sitting elected leader of this country said in definitive terms, "there will be no social distancing at this event."

A simple step supported by every doctor and health expert including those working for the president's taskforce. As a health professional, what's your reaction to hear a sitting governor say, you know what? We're not going to bother with that?

LEE: I think it's shocking and sad. I don't know how you can say that if you really care about the health of your people. We know this works. It's a simple measure just like you said, Jim. And we know this virus is spreading rapidly all over the country. And the more people it infects, the more people will get sick --


LEE: And eventually, more people will die. So why not --


LEE: Do this? Why not social distance? And if you have to be out, please wear a mask. But the safest thing is to keep that distance.

SCIUTTO: Yes, folks, listen to the doctors like Dr. Jennifer Lee. They're unanimous on this for a reason because the science backs it up. Thanks so much, Dr. Lee.

LEE: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: With travel already picking back up in this country, how are airports and airlines handling a potential surge in holiday travel over the long weekend, and how will you be able to stay safe? We're going to have some recommendations coming up.