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U.S. Hits Another Daily Record With 52,000+ New Cases; Masks Optional, No Social Distancing At Trump's Mt. Rushmore Event. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired July 3, 2020 - 13:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Funds raised will go to food banks.

Just a reminder, Dana Bash, Don, Lemon, they're going to be hosting CNN's 4th of July in America, an evening of fireworks and big musical lineup. It all starts tomorrow 8:00 Eastern.

Have a great weekend, everybody. The coverage continues with Brooke Baldwin.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: HI there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching a special holiday edition CNN Newsroom. Thank you so much for joining me.

For the second straight day, new cases of the coronavirus are hitting record numbers in the United States with more than 52,000 more people testing positive. The number of cases now tops 2.7 million, and the CDC projects another 20,000 Americans will die from the virus over the next three weeks.

36 states now will enter this 4th of July weekend with sharp increases in infections. And just when you think about the comparison to the last big holiday in America, the numbers are still all the more startling. Take a look at the week of Memorial Day, when people getting together and the majority of the country was holding steady or declining, now just 14 states.

Here is Dr. Anthony Fauci.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think it's pretty obvious how -- that we are not going in the right direction.

Right now, if you look at the number of cases, it is quite disturbing. We are setting records practically every day of new cases in the numbers that are reported. That clearly is not the right direction.


BALDWIN: Texas and Florida, just two of those states shattering their own single-day records. Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House task force, is making this plea to Floridians whether they are showing symptoms or not.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: If you have participated in a large gathering in the last four weeks, we ask all of you to come forward and be tested because the level of asymptomatic spread. So we are asking for everyone under 40 that if you were in a gathering, please go and get tested. Please wear a mask. Please do all of the hygiene issues. And please stay away from those who have co-morbidities.


BALDWIN: So let's begin in Florida, which is now really officially the epicenter of this outbreak in this country, as the state is now averaging the most new cases each day. Today, Florida is reporting nearly 9,500 new cases, and that is short of the record high set one day ago.

Boris Sanchez is on Clearwater Beach for us. And so, Boris, I see a bunch people out and about today. What do those high numbers mean for people this holiday weekend?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, the expectation is simply that, similar to what we saw after Memorial Day weekend, so many people disobeying the social distancing recommendations, that is we will see another surge even as we're amid this record setting streak in the State of Florida. And the governor here, Ron DeSantis, has effectively allowed local officials to determine restrictions for their areas. So you're seeing disparities across the Sunshine State.

In the southeast part of the state, Miami-Dade County, they have closed down beaches this weekend. There's a tight curfew in effect. There is a very serious mask mandate.

Here in Clearwater Beach, and take a look behind me, there are people piling into the beach since early this morning. They're playing volleyball. There's a sign over there that does say that folks should not gather in groups larger than ten people. They shouldn't congregate if they don't live with someone. They should stay six feet away from them.

I have seen crowds bigger than ten people coming to the beach this morning altogether, so it's not really clear how strenuously these rules are being enforced.

And just off to the right here, I want to point out Frenchy's Rockaway Grill, people have been coming here all day. They just announced that they were going to have to momentarily stop seating folks because they hit capacity.

So there are crowds out here. I did speak to one local who said it is not as packed as it usually is. This community sees a lot of tourists this 4th of July weekend. Not as many, apparently, out on the beach now but there are people that are still trying to celebrate the 4th of July by coming to the beach. The big question is, how big is the surge going to be two weeks from now when coronavirus in the State of Florida continues to spread. Brooke?

BALDWIN: You said it just seeing the sign. Don't gather or any -- larger than ten people. Then you see tent after tent after tent full of people. The question is how strenuously they do enforce it? Boris, thank you.

Let's go to Texas now, where Republicans will soon hold an in-person state convention as cases surge in that state, this as more and more people are being admitted to the hospital. Governor Abbott just announced he will require almost the entire state to wear masks in public.

CNN's Lucy Kavonov is in Houston. And so, Lucy, who exactly has to wear masks under the governor's order?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, this new order applies to roughly 95 percent of all Texans.


If you live in a county that has 20 or more cases, you have to wear a mask in public. This is a major reversal for the governor who's previously barred local officials from penalizing people from wearing masks in public, but we've seen the cases surge, Texas now reporting more than 175,000 total cases, coronavirus cases. And so some steps have to be put in order.

He's also allowing local officials to restrict outdoor gatherings to just ten people, encouraging people to practice social distancing, but some officials say that doesn't go far enough. You might see behind me a few folks talking. We are actually at a press conference by the local representative here, Sheila Jackson Lee, the congresswoman, the Democratic congresswoman from Texas. She has a strong message for the governor. She wants him to empower local authorities to do more for them to be able, for example, enforce stay-at-home orders. Take a listen.


REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): If you give authority back to the cities, City of Houston, Harris County, let them make the decision about an effective stay-at-home order that I believe we need guided by the science. So I guess we're calling for a stay-at-home order guided by the science.


KAFANOV: And she believes they need that here because Houston is buckling under the surge in cases. The positivity rate here is 25 percent. One in four people coming in for a test come back with a positive result, so this is something that very much worries local officials here as head into the 4th of July weekend. Brooke?

BALDWIN: Understandably. Lucy, thank you in Texas.

California is also seeing a troubling rise in cases and hospitalizations and beaches in California. And some counties are closing for this 4th of July holiday weekend and several cities are now vowing to issue fines to people who are not following the state's mandatory mask order. So, let's go to Santa Monica to my colleague, Dan Simon. And, Dan, I think I see part of that sign saying, what is it, temporarily closed, where you are?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brooke. It's sunny, perfect conditions, 75 degrees out here. Normally, this place would be humming but the beaches in Los Angeles County, Orange County, Ventura County closed this weekend. You can see the sign here. There are a few folks here on the bike path. But what officials are looking for, of course, is voluntary compliance. So, as long as the area isn't jammed, I don't think you'll see any citations.

And this comes amid a surging amount of cases in California. In Los Angeles County, one out of 140 people are said to be infectious. Mayor Eric Garcetti says, next week, that could actually go down to one out of 70 people.

And now, you're beginning to see cities in California enforce the mask policy. West Hollywood now says that if you're caught, you have to pay $300 fine. It's Santa Monica, it's $100, $500 for a third violation.

Meantime, check out this new PSA from the State of California, pretty disturbing. Take a look.

And, Brooke, there's something else you should know. If you plan on attending church in the State of California this weekend, the Department of Public Health actually put out an order that says no singing and no chanting in church because, of course, if you sing, that could expel particles and spread the virus. Brooke?

BALDWIN: Just this all shows how incredibly serious this is. Dan Simon on that beautiful Santa Monica Beach, Dan, thank you.

Dr. Pritesh Gandhi works in Primary Care Internal Medicine in Austin, he is also a Democratic congressional candidate for Texas' 10th District. So, Dr. Gandhi, nice to talk to you again.

And let's go back to Texas for a second because, obviously, that's where you are. And we were just talking about the mask mandate in your state going into effect just a couple of hours ago. We know that Governor Abbott had resisted calls to take this action, but he now says that the number of cases, quote, unquote, reveal a stark reality. What's your reaction to that move?

DR. PRITESH GANDHI, PRIMARY CARE INTERNAL MEDICINE: I'm glad he is doing it. Look, am I disappointed it didn't happen a couple weeks ago? You bet I am.

Brooke, when you and I first talked, I think, the very first time in the middle of May, we were sitting at roughly about 45 or 50 hospitalizations from COVID in the Austin area. That number now is at 415. There are about 150 in the ICU. And we've got four times as many hospitalizations than in late May. And so we should have had that mask mandate in place back then but I'm happy it's coming now. We've got to reward governors, whether Republican or Democratic, when they make the right choice, so this is the right thing to do.

BALDWIN: The governor is pushing back though on the idea of doing a second shelter-at-home. He says the goal of the mask mandate is to just help keep Texas open.


We know that he's ordered bars to close and restaurants to reduce capacity by half. But are -- do you think tighter restrictions are necessary at this point?

GANDHI: I absolutely do. Dr. Jha went on T.V. earlier today and he was talking about the notion that we can each put up sandbags around the home if a flood is coming but that's not enough. For folks that live on the south, we all know that if the levee breaks, you are done.

And so we have to fortify this levee and the way to do it is through very strict protocols, like not just shutting down bars but shutting down in-dining in restaurants, by mandating masks, which the governor has done, but allowing local officials to have the power to implement stay-at-home orders if they need to.

So we've got to fortify the levee now and the governor's orders don't quite come far enough. Do I think we need a stay-at-home order today? I don't. Do I think it's in the pipeline here in the next week or two? It very well may be.

BALDWIN: Your lieutenant governor says that he no longer is listening to Dr.Fauci, that the nation's leading infectious expert has been wrong every time. Dr. Gandhi, what kind of impact does saying that have on the lives of Texans and do statements like that, especially from one of the state's top officials, just put more lives at risk?

GANDHI: His words will cost Texans their lives. Let's be really clear about it. This isn't a partisan thing. This is overt science denialism from one of the highest officials in the State of Texas. This isn't a time where we need undercut the expertise of public health officials and clinicians and physicians across the State of Texas and nationally, and he can set an example.

He could wear a mask at all times. He could ask the state GOP to pull out of their convention where 6,000 individuals are going to descend on Houston in just a couple of week's time while Houston is in the middle of and -- frankly, the epicenter of this outbreak. We've got healthcare staff there overtaxed (ph). We've got ICU beds, they're at capacity in the medical center, and we're having this convention in the middle of a crisis and the lieutenant governor could lead instead of spitting in the faces of scientists across the State of Texas.

And so it's unfortunate and he ought to do more with the platform that he has. BALDWIN: You mention -- I mean, I'm so glad you brought up the issue of ICU beds both in Harris County in Houston but also San Antonio. There was a doctor on just yesterday saying, listen, I had to admit ten very sick young people with COVID, I only had three beds and I don't think we were prepared to make that high-level judgment as far as who gets the beds and who doesn't.

You add to that the fact that this weekend is a holiday weekend, tons of people will be coming together. Just lastly, Dr. Gandhi, what's your message to people who want to have a good time this weekend but should be safe?

GANDHI: The most patriotic thing to do for your country is to stay home this weekend. And I don't say that lightly. I say this from the perspective of someone that is treating patients at an outpatient health center that is looking at the faces of my colleagues in medicine, in nursing, in social work, respiratory therapy.

Folks, we have got to stem this rising tide here. And the way to do it is to stay at home. So, please, the patriotic thing, stay home, avoid large gatherings, wear a mask. That's what it takes. That's a sacrifice we need to make for our neighbors and for our country.

BALDWIN: Dr. Gandhi, thank you so much for all of that.

GANDHI: Good to be here. Thanks.

BALDWIN: As the country hits all these coronavirus records just in the absolute worst way, President Trump is pushing ahead with his planned event in Mt. Rushmore. 7,000 people set to gather. Masks and social distancing not required.

And it's not just the health risk, by the way, that has so many people concerned, why some believe Trump is literally playing with fire.

Plus, more mask mandates could be coming in Ohio as the governor there deems six counties as red alert spots for coronavirus.

So much more to talk about on this Friday, stay here, you are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: We are back. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

Despite a number of warnings from officials, President Trump and the first lady are traveling to South Dakota just a couple of hours from now for a big fireworks celebration at Mt. Rushmore. And they expect several thousand people at this event, no social distancing, no masks required, which as you know, according to most basically all of the scientific guidelines, that doing those things are critical in slowing the spread of coronavirus.

And there are other controversies surrounding the president's trip to Mt. Rushmore, namely the fireworks themselves.

So let's start with Joe Johns. He is there with just this picture- perfect live shot. And, Joe, first, just what are the plans for this evening?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you said it. This is all systems go as far as we know. 7,500 people expected here at this location, including the president of the United States this evening. We're told no social distancing but people who come here will be provided with a mask if they ask for it they won't be required to wear the mask. Now, we got large public gatherings here, so there's a potential problem.

Another problem, of course, is the messaging that's coming from the government on this issue in healthcare crisis. That includes the president who doesn't wear a mask in public and his people don't wear mask. We'll see what they do tonight. But also the governor herself, who uses as a justification for all of this, liberty and American freedom, not the issue that everybody says is most pressing, which is science and protecting the public health.




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. We are asking them to come, be ready to celebrate, to enjoy the freedoms and liberties that we have in this country.


JOHNS: So, South Dakota is one of those states where we're seeing that trend line go upward. About 7,000 cases so far, about 97 deaths from coronavirus. A question, of course, when the president of the United States gets on Air Force One and flies back to Washington, what happens here in South Dakota? Brooke?

BALDWIN: Joe, thank you.

I want to talk more about tonight's fireworks show specifically. So joining me is Joe Lowe, former Fire Chief for the South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression and an international author in wildland fire. So, chief, thank you for joining me. Welcome.

JOE LOWE, FORMER FIRE CHIEF, SOUTH DAKOTA DIVISION OF WILDLAND FIRE: Well, thank you, Brooke. And it's a pleasure to be on.

BALDWIN: So, fireworks, there were fireworks at Mt. Rushmore between 1998 and 2009 and it was all canceled the next year because of high fire danger. And I was reading a lot about this this morning.

And so during those years, according to the National Park Service, there was a minimum of 27 wildfire starts, and I know you were the fire chief for much of that time. Do you think that the fireworks celebration tonight is wise?

LOWE: You know, Brooke, any time -- first of all, the temperature is going to be about -- it's going to be about 87 degrees up there. The relative humidity is going to be low. Are you there, Brooke?

BALDWIN: Yes, I am.

LOWE: I'm starting -- can I -- just a second, we are losing power here.

BALDWIN: Oh, okay. Standing by, chief. Standing by, ready for you.

LOWE: Okay. So it's going to be 87 degrees, the temperature up there. And in addition to that, you're going to have low relative humidity. So any time you launch fireworks over a dry fuel bed with high temps, steep slopes and possible thunderstorm winds, you have a potential for a large fire.

BALDWIN: So the question is, let's say, whether it's the president obviously wanting to do this this evening or anyone, and you just named all those conditions, and you know all about, you know, the flammable ponderosa pine, right, all in that area. Is what they're doing tonight wise?

LOWE: Well, let me frame this for you a little bit, Brooke. On contiguous lands, the 1.2 million-acre Black Hills National Forest with the buts (ph), the national park and the monument, fireworks are prohibited. State lands, you know where that fire was in Custer State Park, which was six miles as the crow flies? Fireworks are prohibited in Custer State Park. So the partners, your interagency, fire community partners aren't allowing fireworks.

So I sat in the parking lot across there when I became fire chief 2001. I sat in the parking lot with my crews and we had to pre-stage fire equipment over there. And we staged usually about five engines and a hand crew and the rest of the interagency community also staged engines and things. That would have been the USDA Forest Service and National Park Service and we had some volunteer fire departments.

Each of those years, as I can remember, when we launched fireworks, when you had the flaming embers coming down, they'd land in that dry receptive fuel bed and we have spot fires. So most years we were very lucky, we were able to have enough resources to pick up the spot fires and spot fires did not outpace the resources that we had on scene, so we didn't have a really large fire but the potential is there.

So if your interagency community really is banning fireworks, we're all kind of on the same page. It's still risky business when you do what you're doing.

BALDWIN: I hear you loud and clear. And just -- I got one more minute with you. Given all of that and given the fact that, you know, a lot of places just given circumstances, sometimes wonderful and lovely and safe and sometimes depending on the wind blows and the humidity, you're in for some trouble.

You are there in Rapid City. Are you going to go? It could be a beautiful night.

LOWE: No, not a chance. Two reasons, I'm not really wanting to go with no masks and no social distancing and sitting next to a bunch of people from other states.


And the second thing is I spent 12 years up in the hills during the 4th of July and I'm kind of retired now. I'm not ready to go sit there and suppress fires. So I've had a good career and, like I say, it's risky business. We'll see what happens tonight with this.

The other thing is we're in a moderate draught right now. And so we're -- it's not a real good thing to do this, so we'll see what happens.

BALDWIN: I hear you. The list is long. Let's hope everyone is safe and it goes off without a hitch. Joe Lowe, former fire chief there, thank you, sir. I appreciate you and Happy 4th of July. Stay healthy.

LOWE: Well, same to you, Brooke. Happy 4th of July, stay healthy. Bye- bye.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

A critical vote is happening right now in Cincinnati, where city leaders are deciding whether to make people wear masks in public. But the debate is over where the requirement would actually apply, indoors or outdoors.

Plus, people are trying their best to fly while social distancing. We'll show you what that is looking like for the holiday weekend.