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As U.S. Coronavirus Infections Rise, Deaths Are Expected to Follow; Interview with Savannah, Georgia Mayor Van Johnson (D); Turkish Jamal Khashoggi Murder Trial Begins Today. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 3, 2020 - 10:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: -- this because Dr. Giroir, his own assistant HHS secretary, one of the leaders on this, said, It is also actually -- we're also seeing a rise in positivity rates -- just for folks at home, that means a greater percentage of people are testing positive as you test more, which means the infection is spreading.

And just for the sake, Dr. Reiner, of our viewers, I'm going to give an example. Here is Arizona, a state hard-hit by this. Their tests are up 175 percent, yes, increasing. Positive cases up 700 percent. Just explain, in the simplest terms, why it's a lie to say that the number of cases in this country are rising only because we're testing more?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Sure. So you know, early on in a pandemic, when there is a lot of virus in the public and when you test people, you find a very high proportion of positives because it's like you're fishing from a pond with a lot of fish, and so you find a lot of positive tests in a very highly infected population. As the virus recedes and as you test more, the number of fish in that pond, infected with the virus, declines. So the positivity rate declines.

What we're seeing now in the southwest is a surge in both the number of positive cases and the percent of people tested who are positive.

Now, it' that's not enough evidence, we also look at the rate of hospitalization. So in places like Texas for instance, in Texas Medical Center, the largest conglomeration of hospitals in a single place in the world, they are at capacity. So the number of hospitalizations has increased.

So it's not just that we're finding more asymptomatic people because we're testing more, we're finding more sick people. So it's not just an artifact of testing. So the system is really being stressed, there's no question about it. The virus is surging in large parts of the United States.

SCIUTTO: OK, so one thing we have not seen is a rise in the daily number of deaths. Deaths, still happening every day, but at a lower number than we saw weeks or months ago.

REINER: Right. SCIUTTO: The president cites that as a hopeful sign. Notably, the

surgeon general, Jerome Adams, this morning, urged caution on that, noting that oftentimes the deaths lag the infections, right? Because it takes people a certain time to get sick and, sadly, some of them die. Is that something you expect to see, or is it -- on the good side, is it also positive that we are getting better at treating people, therefore preventing more tests -- deaths, rather?

REINER: Right. So there are multiple parts, you know, to this answer. So first of all, sadly, we are seeing a rise in deaths in parts of the country. There a rise in mortality in Arizona, we're starting to see a rise in mortality in Texas. But you're right, the mortality rate is a lagging indicator.

So if you think about it, the incubation period for the virus is about anywhere between seven to 10 days, so it takes about that long for someone to get infected. It then takes about another week for someone to be sick enough to be hospitalized. And then typically, about another week for someone to potentially die from this infection.

So mortality lags infection by at least a couple of weeks. So we will see, going forward, a spike in mortality as a consequence of this spike in infection.

Fortunately, mortality rate has dropped in the United States. But some of that might be a consequence of the kinds of patients -- the demographics of the patients getting infected now. Early on in the pandemic, the most vulnerable were being infected. It swept through nursing homes, where the mortality rate was extraordinarily high. Some of the patients -- some of the people becoming infected now are younger with a lower risk of dying, so that's good.

And as you said, we've also learned a lot of things about how to treat patients. We try and keep people off the ventilator, we use maneuvers in the hospital to prone patients to improve their oxygenation without needing to rely on mechanical ventilation. We have remdesivir, which seems to help particularly when used early on. And now, steroids.

So we're learning a lot, so we're getting better at treating these patients. But it's incorrect to say that these new -- that this new surge in infection is not and will not affect mortality, it certainly will.

SCIUTTO: Right. All right, folks, as we say repeatedly, listen to the doctors and listen to the data.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, thanks very much.

REINER: You're welcome.


SCIUTTO: It is, of course, July Fourth weekend and several tourist towns are on edge as coronavirus surges. I'm going to speak with a Georgia mayor who just issued an emergency mask mandate. That's coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: Welcome back. This weekend, there will not be a fireworks display on Savannah, Georgia's famous river street, but there will be masks. The tourist town, becoming the first city in Georgia to impose a mask mandate. And joining me now is the mayor of Savannah, Mayor Van Johnson.

Mayor, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.



SCIUTTO: So Governor Brian Kemp, Georgia governor, of course, was asked about your city's mask mandate. I want to play his response and get your reaction.



GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): The bottom line is, we don't need a mandate for people to do the right thing. The mayor and I agree on the policy. You know, we agree on the policy, you should be wearing your mask. And that's what I would encourage people to do.


SCIUTTO: Do you not need a mandate to encourage people to do the right thing?

JOHNSON: Well, I mean, obviously, it's clear that people throughout our community sometimes need that mandate, our businesses need that mandate. So I think the governor is absolutely correct. We agree that the science says that wearing a mask lessens our exposure to the infection.

So in this case, we just decided here that it was -- we needed to mandate it, particularly since we have so many visitors coming into our city during this time of the year.

SCIUTTO: As you know, the governor resisted a lot of these steps early on. I wonder, do you think that that cost lives and infections in the state of Georgia?

JOHNSON: I'm certainly not a scientist, I don't know one way or another. I think that you know, this case, I think we've all evolved in our thought process. Again, it's clear that wearing masks help to save lives, and we know that we are growing (ph) exponentially since we started this. We had 211 cases in a single day, we had a new monthly record over from May to June of 209 percent. So it was clear.

And with the weather being hot -- it's 86 degrees here -- we need to do something a little more drastic to make sure that we kept our citizens and those visiting us safe. SCIUTTO: The thing is, you know, this isn't new, right? I mean,

scientists, doctors have known and recommended for some time that masks work, other measures, such as social distancing, that that all works. I guess I'm curious why it took so long, right? I mean, because you know, we all had the experience of other states and other countries that went through this, why do you believe it took so long to get that sense of urgency?

JOHNSON: Well, I think for us it was definitely in the numbers. Just a little over a month or so ago, we were at a six daily -- seven daily average of about six. We have exploded to now 67. So I think, you know, again, the numbers definitely drove that.

And again, for me and for the city of Savannah, we just want to keep Savannahians safe. We want to do all we can to ensure that people are safe. And so this is just kind of a natural progression into what we can do to keep our citizens safe during this very, very critical time.

SCIUTTO: And to your credit for making hard decisions. I know that folks don't like to be told what to do often.

Another big debate is whether this can be localized, right? I mean, the recommendations are that the broader these rules are, the bigger effect they have. Many leaders in this country have said, We're going to leave it up to local communities.

But the fact is, the states that have often done that, hasn't worked out, right? Because people -- things are fluid, people move back and forth, they drive back and forth for work or holidays or whatever. Can Georgia get a handle on this if it's just local communities like your own who are taking steps like this?

JOHNSON: Well, Georgia's made up of 159 counties, over 500 cities. Obviously, for us, we're strategically placed, we're just minutes away from the low country of South Carolina, over an hour from the Florida border. So for us, it makes plenty of sense to be able to do that.

I think other local communities have to make those decisions for themselves, and certainly the governor has to use his best wisdom, his best advice in terms of how this looks for the state of Georgia. Again, for us, you know, we just want to keep our folks safe.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Mayor Van Johnson, thanks very much.

JOHNSON: Thank you so much.


SCIUTTO: It already has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, but experts warn the worst is still yet to come in Brazil.


SCIUTTO: The trial of 20 Saudi nationals charged with the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi began in Istanbul today with none of the defendants present in the courtroom. Turkey has repeatedly called for the suspects to be extradited from Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis have not complied.

Khashoggi was allegedly killed and dismembered in October 2018. That is him entering there, the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for an appointment to pick up marriage documents.

Agencies including the CIA concluded that the murder was ordered by the Saudi crown prince. Saudi Arabia has denied any involvement in Khashoggi's killing.

Earlier this week, we reported that President Trump would blow up at his intelligence briefers if they shared any negative information on Russia's malign activities including election interference. Trump's resistance led his national security team to reduce the amount of Russian-related intelligence they included in his oral briefings. The president's briefers had one simple rule with Trump -- I'm told -- and that is, never lead with Russia.

So my colleague Jake Tapper asked former national security advisor John Bolton his reaction, and here's what he said.



JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I think I have enough scars from bringing up things about Russia that he probably didn't want to hear, that I can say I agree with that.

I do think that everybody understood the nature of Russia's activities, with the possible exception of the president. And so a lot of activity went on, as you might expect it would, and we just -- we tried to inform the president, tried to get his reaction. Steps were taken, I think importantly, to deal with Russian threats -- but usually as the president grumbled and complained along the way.


SCIUTTO: Well, the information in my reporting was based on accounts of multiple former Trump administration officials who briefed him, were present for his briefings. Also prepared documents for those briefings.

It's all contained in a book coming out August 11th, "The Madman Theory: Trump Takes on the World." Tells you a lot about how this administration operates foreign policy.

Now, to Cuba, where the city of Havana begins partially reopening today, including beaches, bars and restaurants at limited capacity. The island has been on strict lockdown since March, and has only recently begun easing restrictions as the number of coronavirus cases has dropped there.

Patrick Oppmann has the latest from Havana. PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Jim. Yeah, Cuban

health officials say there are only about 50 active cases on the entire island of Cuba, so they feel confident now reopening some businesses, public transportation, even the beach. Imagine, for three months, we haven't been able to swim in the ocean that surrounds Cuba.

That is all beginning to change. We are seeing life returning to the city and this island. You still have to wear a face mask in public, that is the law. You still have to maintain social distancing. And officials say that they could return to lockdown measures if the number of cases begin to grow.

One big problem, like everywhere else, is the economy. So much of the economy here is based on tourism. And for the moment, most of this island remains off-limits to all international tourism. There are simply no flights coming in or coming out on most days.

So while the economy is reopening, while businesses are reopening, most of this island remains cut off -- Jim -- from the outside world.

SCIUTTO: Patrick Oppmann, interesting to see their progress there. Thanks very much.

Well, President Trump heads to Mount Rushmore to celebrate Independence Day as the country sees another 50,000 new cases for the second day in a row. Will the president take action to calm Americans' fears over the virus, or continue to spread falsehoods about it? We're going to take you to South Dakota, live.



SCIUTTO: The Supreme Court has cleared the way for Alabama to make it more complicated, more difficult to vote by mail in the name of guarding -- they say -- against ballot fraud. In a 5-to-4 vote, the justices temporarily blocked a lower court order that would have eased photo ID and witness requirements for absentee voting during the pandemic.

You may remember, President Trump has repeatedly cast suspicion around voting by mail, claiming there is massive fraud though he himself uses it, and numerous studies have shown voter fraud is all but nonexistent in the U.S.

Turning now to one of the bright spots to emerge from the COVID crisis, of course, seeing family, friends, neighbors stepping up to help others and save lives. The CNN Heroes team launched the #GoodJobChallenge to give viewers the chance to say thank you to those who are going above and beyond.


ALICIA KEYS, SINGER: -- good job, doing a good job, a good job --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to two amazing E.D. nurses: Michaela (ph) Perrona (ph) and Taylor (ph) Hoffman (ph). They have shown fearlessness and been so calm through it all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Having experienced homelessness himself for over 20 years, my husband Sam (ph) jumped into action. So over the last eight weeks, he has housed over 221 individuals, families and veterans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, I want to honor my 16-year-old grandson, Jonah (ph). He created a website called, to deliver groceries and other essentials to senior citizens --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mark (ph), who's a retired Chicago police officer. He was creating face shields. He estimates that he has done over 2,600 face shields. Thank you, Mark (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I honor you for the valuable work that you're doing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I just want to thank him for all of his hard work and helping those in need.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You two are truly amazing, and we need more people like you. Thank you.

KEYS: You're doing a good job, don't get too down.


SCIUTTO: Stories that make you smile. We want to know who inspires you. Record a short video, thanking someone who is helping others during this crisis, then post it on Instagram with the hashtag #GoodJobChallenge. And we may share it with CNN's audience on-air or online. Learn more at CNN Heroes on Instagram.

Listen, folks, a big weekend coming up, July Fourth. We all want to celebrate. We want you to celebrate with family and friends, but listen to the doctors, wear masks, socially distance. Do it at home, as many doctors have said. And we wish you a very happy Fourth.


Thanks so much for joining today. I'm Jim Sciutto. NEWSROOM with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.