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Virus Cases Rise In 37 States As Americans Celebrate July 4th; Weeklong NYC Fireworks Shows End With Grand Finale Tonight; Beaches Closed Across Southern California For July 4th As Cases Rise. Aired 6- 7p ET

Aired July 4, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello and happy Fourth of July. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Across the country this weekend, Americans are facing a decision they've never had to make before, to go outside on this Fourth of July and celebrate the traditional way or keep it closer to home, away from the crowds, safer from the coronavirus pandemic. Just another thing making 2020 a year like nothing we've experienced before.

Now, this is where the number of new cases is on the rise this weekend. As you can see, it is most of the country. And not just high, but record high numbers of new cases being reported in places like California, Arizona, Texas, and especially Florida.

This is Ocean City, Maryland, where beaches on the Eastern Seaboard are open and busy. Some with mandatory facemask rules in effect, others not. The beaches in South Florida, the Miami area, also near Los Angeles on the west coast are all closed for the entire Independence Day weekend and a scaled down Fourth of July celebration is set to go off tonight on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

This is what it looked like just moments ago there. CNN's Alex Marquardt joins us from D.C. What is the latest there, Alex? It still looks empty.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, the President obviously hoping that huge crowds would turn out for what is being called a Salute to America. It's going to be a huge celebration with a massive flyover, all sorts of aircraft, one of the biggest fireworks shows according to the Department of Interior.

But you have to imagine that the White House is a little disappointed at this turnout. Just look at this right here. We are looking down towards the U.S. Capitol, towards the Washington monument. This is the reflecting pool right here.

Very few people here so far, some gathering in the shade. If this trend keeps up, there will not be that many people out here tonight, but of course, we are some three hours away from the fireworks starting up. It's also really hot out here. As you mentioned, Ana, this could not be more of an odd year. So,

there's certainly people who are staying away because of the coronavirus. What's also different this year is that there's no music, there's no speech out here this year.

But some people are coming out. Obviously they want to celebrate the Fourth of July. A number of people who I have spoken to said that they weren't terribly worried about the virus, particularly because there is so much space out here.

I want to speak quickly to Brett and Malia Allsop, they are from Salt Lake City, Utah. You're here not just for the Fourth of July, you're dropping off your son at Medical School, but you are coming down here for the fireworks. Why did you want to be down here for tonight's celebrations?

BRETT ALLSOP, SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH RESIDENT: Just because we're rarely in Washington, D.C., and so we couldn't miss it, so that's the reason we're here.

MARQUARDT: And you guys are, I would say, in the minority when it comes to wearing a mask out here at least. Malia, you had some concerns about coming down here?

MALIA ALLSOP, SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH RESIDENT: Right. We didn't want to be with big, big crowds so kind of drove around to all the outside memorials and they were blocked off. So we ended up coming back and found our way in. It's been pretty sparse, it's been pretty good.

MARQUARDT: So are you -- so you're not so worried about what you're seeing right now.

M. ALLSOP: No. Especially if we stay away from other people, I think we're good.

B. ALLSOP: She thought there was going to be big crowds and didn't want to come in, but after she sees it was so sparse, we decided to come in.

MARQUARDT: Do you think there should have been a large celebration like this this year? You're both shaking your head.

B. ALLSOP: Yes, we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for our son being dropped off, but, yes.

MARQUARDT: So what would you say to -- what would you say to the White House that insisted on holding this celebration, this Salute to America tonight?

B. ALLSOP: Just -- I'm old and diabetic and I'll die if I get it. So, yes, so try and social distance so us old and diabetic people don't get coronavirus and die.

MARQUARDT: And Malia, I imagine you'll keep your distance from other people out here tonight?

M. ALLSOP: Yes. Definitely. Otherwise, if there was a lot of people, we would be heading back. So, yes.

MARQUARDT: Well, I certainly hope you enjoy your time here in D.C. and the Fourth of July, the fireworks and the celebration. Thank you so much.

B. ALLSOP: Thank you.

M. ALLSOP: Thank you very much.

MARQUARDT: Now, Ana, there has been a bit of a conflict here in the City of Washington because the festivities are being organized by the Trump administration while the City of Washington has cancelled all of its celebrations.

The Mayor of D.C., the Chief of Police asking people not to come down here, asking them instead to stay at home or near home to celebrate the Fourth of July -- Ana.

CABRERA: Okay, well, plenty of social distancing happening there at least for now. Thank you, Alex Marquardt.

Some states are reporting new coronavirus cases in the thousands. The State of New York is seeing numbers in the hundreds with 726 new cases announced today.

Governor Andrew Cuomo continuing to push hand washing, social distancing and wearing masks to keep the infection rates trending down. But as we're seeing around the country, getting that kind of compliance, especially on a major holiday, isn't easy.

[18:05:10]

CABRERA: In New York City, officials have been getting some major backup from one of the city's most iconic brands, Macy's.

CNN's Alison Kosik joins us with more. Alison, Macy's has been sponsoring a week of pop-up fireworks spectacles, and tonight, those fireworks will be launched from the top of the Empire State Building, that's a first. Does this year's format appear to be helping with social distancing?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Ana. You know, based on just how this fireworks show has been structured, it's actually been put together in stages. It's clear that social distancing is a priority for this fireworks show and it's clear that celebrations are expected to be more toned down, so this is going to be more of a different kind of show. But no less remarkable.

Because not just New Yorkers, but the country, they're going to experience a moment for the first time ever. The finale of the fireworks show is going to happen off the rooftop of the Empire State Building for the first time ever, meaning the pyrotechnics will be launched off the rooftop.

This is an iconic building and one of the most recognizable in New York, if not the country and the world. But this is just going to be the finale because all week, we've seen Macy's put together some secret pop-up shows that have been going throughout the week, Monday through Friday in the evenings over the skies of the five boroughs of New York.

They haven't told anybody that these shows were going to happen up until a few minutes before in order to keep crowds from flocking to those areas. But those shows will be part of the overall fireworks show that we'll see tonight along with the historic finale off the Empire State Building -- Ana.

CABRERA: Okay, Alison Kosik, thank you. Now to California, where many beaches are closed this Fourth of July weekend as the coronavirus continues to spread throughout that state.

Right now, there are more than 251,000 confirmed cases just in California and more than 6,000 deaths with hospitalizations and people in the ICU at all-time highs.

In Los Angeles County, the Health Services Director says they may run out of hospital beds and ventilators in the next few weeks. CNN's Paul Vercammen joins us now from Huntington Beach. Paul, that is one of the areas where they closed down the beaches trying to keep people away, keeping people away from each other. What's the latest?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, four counties in fact closed their beaches. And if you look over my right shoulder, okay, you'll see people coming along on the bike path. Some of them will be dressed in very patriotic attire.

But then you come back over here, and look at this, to slow the spread of coronavirus, these counties agreed to completely shut down the beaches. Off in the distance, the volleyball courts, in front here, the seagulls, they can't even find a stray piece of peanut butter and jelly crust or Cheetos.

There is nobody here. It's a remarkable scene. They would normally have a Fourth of July fireworks show here at Huntington Beach. That's off. What they were saying here that is sort of remarkable with the exception of San Diego County, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange County, all agreed to shut down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA BENNETT, HUNTINGTON BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We're not the only one that's open. We're not the only one that's closed, so the message is there. We're closing down. Let's do it for just a few days, let's try and flatten this curve again and make sure that we can stay safe.

VERCAMMEN: So good vibrations up and down the California Coast.

BENNETT: Big time. Let's keep it chill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: And so they are keeping it chill and maybe it doesn't get any more chill than this.

In Manhattan Beach, we came upon three sun bathers who, though, they couldn't go on the beach found a piece of walkway to lay down their towels and make sure that they caught some of the sun's rays during this Fourth of July weekend, one like we've never seen before in this area in the COVID-19 era -- Ana.

CABRERA: It's a lonely day on the beach for people and the birds, as you pointed out as well. Not even a Cheetos in sight. Paul Vercammen, thank you.

It is a Fourth of July no doubt like no other, but tonight you can stay right there and enjoy an evening of fireworks and an all-star musical lineup with Jewel, Barry Manilow, CeCe Winans, Don McLean and many more.

Don Lemon and Dana Bash host CNN's "Fourth of July in America" live tonight starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

But first, we are roughly 15 minutes away or so from the start of President Trump's "Salute to America" celebration in Washington, D.C. This event includes ten flyovers plus a parachute team. We will have it all right here for you in the CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with me Thanks so much.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:08:38]

CABRERA: Florida setting another daily record with more than 11,400 new COVID infections reported just today. That is the state's highest one-day case count to date.

Look at this this way. Given the fact that the entire United States has been reporting a daily count of around 50,000 new cases, which is high, that means Florida, just one state, accounts for roughly 20 percent of them.

CNN's Boris Sanchez joins from us Clearwater Beach, Florida. Boris, some South Florida cities shut down their beaches for this holiday weekend. What are you seeing there?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, Clearwater Beach did not shut down like Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach County. So here today we saw quite a few people gathering at the beach, people bringing their families, playing sports. Kids playing in the sand, that sort of thing.

From what we understand, locals have told us that it was less packed than usual in part because visitors that come here for the Fourth of July weekend are typically from away from this area and people are hesitant to travel.

Now, folks are starting to head home. There was some rain that came down a short time ago, but I want to show you one of the issues that you face when you come to the beach. Folks are gathering around showers here to wash off sand. It's very

difficult to be more than six feet apart when you're trying to get water off from one of these showers.

And similar to that one, there is one about 20 yards away that is also packed with folks.

There are rules here on signs warning people to stay six feet apart if they don't share a household, asking that groups not congregate. They don't want more than ten people in any specific area.

But we've seen groups of more than 10 people gather here at the beach today. I've spoken to an array of people today, many of them telling me that they are confident that they are taking enough precautions to avoid any risk because of coronavirus.

I actually spoke to one woman who moved from Alabama to Florida in the middle of this pandemic. She told me she's doing everything she can to stay healthy but at some point she just wants to live her life and enjoy Independence Day. Listen to this.

[18:15:35]

KATHY SALGADO, VISITING FROM ALABAMA: I just think that we should all wear masks and protect ourselves as best as we can and keep the social distancing going on.

You know, that's it. If we're going to get it, we're going to get it. I'm happy to be here, I really am. I know the numbers are going up and I'm hoping it drops, but it doesn't seem like it is, so why stop enjoying life?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Well, Ana, if of this Fourth of July holiday weekend is anything like what we saw on Memorial Day when a lot of folks ignored the social distancing guidelines and we saw a surge of cases following that weekend, then a couple of weeks from now, we'll see more and more numbers in the State of Florida, which as you noted, is already in very serious -- having a very serious situation.

In the last three days, the first three days of July, more than 30,000 cases in the Sunshine State -- Ana.

CABRERA: It's serious. Thank you very much. Boris Sanchez in Florida.

Joining us now is CNN medical analyst, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the chief of infectious diseases division at Massachusetts General Hospital and Dr. Jeremy Faust, emergency room physician at Brigham & Women's Hospital.

Dr. Faust, the U.S. reported more than 50,000 new cases each of the last three days and these numbers dwarf the previous highs back in April when many states were still under the stay-at-home orders.

Based on what we're seeing this weekend, do you think Americans are now being responsible?

DR. JEREMY FAUST, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN, BRIGHAM & WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: Happy Fourth, Ana. I think that what we're seeing here is a little bit of America's desire to be out and about, but also a rebellious streak.

We have to remember on today that we're a nation that was founded as a bunch of rebellious people and revolutionary ideas and that usually works for us. We're innovative. We make medical innovations that save lives.

But here, I worry it's working against us because people think that freedom means you have to go show it. They say, hey, it's a free country. Usually when they say that, they're about to do something they shouldn't do.

I've noticed as a doctor, sometimes, I see that, too. So, I think that right now, people are out there celebrating, but they should be thinking about patriotism in a little better way, I would hope, to protect each other.

CABRERA: Dr. Walensky, as we look at this image from Seaside Heights, New Jersey, a lot of people on the boardwalk there. What advice would you be giving to these people who are out and about today?

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Ana. I think it's important to look back at where we were in March and remind ourselves that in March, about 60 percent of the cases of coronavirus were from states that voted blue -- New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut. And only about 40 percent from states that voted red.

Today we are in a place where about 75 percent of cases come from states that voted red. And of course this has nothing to do with how you vote, this has to do with the policies and the behaviors of people in those states.

So I would say right now, we are in a pandemic freefall, that we need leadership. We have leadership currently that is failing to open the parachute for us.

What we really need to do is to have responsible individuals in these states that do frequent hand washing, that keep social distancing, that stay home and that wear masks.

CABRERA: If the tone is set at the top, let's take a look at how the President and his administration is handling this. We saw the President and First Lady last night at Mount Rushmore for this July 4th celebration. There was no social distancing. A lot of people in the crowds without masks.

Today we know the President is expected to take part in festivities on the White House lawn, where face coverings will be provided, but not mandated. Dr. Faust, what kind of risk does this pose for the President? FAUST: No one is immune to this. The President's age, he is over 70,

doesn't necessarily mean he's that much more likely to contract the virus, although, even with all of the protection that they have and all the precautions, someone in his inner circle now has that virus.

However, if he were to become infected, his age and also the risk factor that he has that is known, it's public that he has obesity, would be risk factors that we see higher numbers of those issues -- more patients with obesity and who are older are in ICUs, for example.

The rate of hospitalizations among patients of the President's age is 10, 20, up to 70 times higher than the younger population. Not to say that the young are immune. I don't want people to forget that. When the young get hit, it's so tragic.

But the President does have risks and no one is immune and so I hope that they are starting to see that.

CABRERA: And Dr. Walensky, we learned that Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend, and she is also a campaign official, Kimberly Guilfoyle, tested positive for coronavirus. That happened just yesterday in South Dakota where that event was taking place.

Multiple Secret Service agents and other campaign staffers have also tested positive in the past couple of weeks. Does this alarm you?

[18:20:20]

WALENSKY: I wish I could say I'm surprised. I mean she's been surrounded by many people who we know from Tulsa, who we know in South Dakota. We know these regions have a lot of virus. We know it knows no borders. It doesn't particularly care who you are. And if you don't take the proper precautions to prevent it, then in fact people will get infected.

I want to remind people that the President and his team have been fortunate enough to get test results in real-time. But as we see the snakes of cars of people requesting tests or wanting tests, these testing companies are way behind. Turn-around times of seven days, ten days, not in real-time as the President has.

Of course those turn-around times mean that there are likely tens of thousands of more cases than we are actually reporting because those tests are pending in the lab.

CABRERA: And we are looking at live images there. This is on the South Lawn at the White House where they are having this Fourth of July party ahead of tonight's big event and fireworks and musical performances and flyovers that will be happening here in the coming hours.

Dr. Faust, we still have the U.S. case count climbing, and it appears there's no end in sight. But we have seen some states now take action in recent days. Texas now has a mask requirement for most counties. Several Florida and California beaches are closed for the holiday weekend as we've been reporting. In some states, bars that have been reopened have been forced to close again. How long until we know whether these measures will make a difference?

FAUST: You can start to see some impact within a couple of weeks. It takes some time for people to adopt them. There's two things about masks. There's the medicine of protecting yourself, keeping the droplets out and also keeping your hand away from your mouth. That's a big way we spread this thing.

And there's also the messaging, because a mask mandate is only as good as people doing it. So what I'm calling on the leaders to do is not just to make rules, but to tell people that it matters, to model that behavior. To say mask wearing is safe. There's absolutely no danger for 99.99 percent of everyone to wear a mask.

Surgeons do it all day and they don't pass out and it saves lives. So we need the mandates, but also need the messaging to say this is something that we're doing. That is my Fourth of July patriotism, wear a mask, it's patriotic.

CABRERA: Your message is so important on this holiday. Dr. Jeremy Faust and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, I really appreciate you joining me. Thank you and Happy fourth.

WALENSKEY: Happy Fourth, Ana.

CABRERA: We'll be right back right back with more from the celebrations in the nation's capital where there appears to be little social distancing at the White House at least.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:27:43]

CABRERA: Welcome back. And on this Fourth of July, these are pictures from Washington, D.C., the nation's capital. A blue bird day there and an event about to get under way to celebrate the nation's independence.

This image, we believe, is from the Washington Monument as you look over the National Mall. A beautiful shot there. Not the crowds that the President was expecting, at least not yet, and we are just minutes away from the start of President Trump's Fourth of July "Salute to America" celebration at the White House.

Now, this event where you're looking at these live pictures are an invite-only type of event being held to honor frontline medical workers, their families and other first responders.

The President kicked off the holiday weekend last night at Mount Rushmore where he ignored health experts' advice to socially distance. CNN's White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond is with us now.

And Jeremy, the President is making clear he doesn't really care about the medical recommendations about curbing the spread of the coronavirus when it comes to bringing his supporters together. What do you know about tonight's event at the White House? JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Ana, last

night what we saw was the President gathering thousands of people at Mount Rushmore, shoulder to shoulder, no social distancing. Most people were not wearing masks.

The White House told us that this event was going to be a different story. They were saying there was going to be masks provided, that there was going to be social distancing that was going to be enforced in fact.

But Ana, you can see in the pictures that we can put up on screen; that is not the case. That is not what's happening here on the South Lawn of the White House. We are seeing hundreds of people here gathered, many of them with very little social distancing between them and most people we have seen are not wearing masks.

That includes top administration officials as well as top Republicans from Capitol Hill. I saw Steve Scalise, a top Republican, speaking with the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows and the Campaign Press Secretary, Hogan Gidley, they were all within a small circle of each other. None of them were wearing masks.

So again, if the message that the White House wants to send tonight is that Americans should not be mindful of these social distancing guidelines, should continue to go about their daily lives, that is the message that's being sent here today, frankly, Ana because, again, we are not seeing those guidelines being followed.

[18:30:08]

I did catch Admiral Brett Giroir who's was a member of the coronavirus task force and I asked him quickly whether this is an example for the country. And he simply said, "Good question. But let me just see, I'm reserving judgment."

So very notable that he would not go ahead and say yes, indeed, this is a great example for the country, Ana.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: OK. Jeremy Diamond, keep us posted. Thanks. Just minutes away now from the first flyover in D.C. We'll bring it to you right here on CNN. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:35:14]

CABRERA: Welcome back. Tonight's Fourth of July celebration at the White House causing controversy for packing dozens of people together. Even as President Trump's medical experts warned against doing just that. And during his speech at Mt. Rushmore last night, the President also largely ignored the growing pandemic altogether, instead focusing on a culture war.

I want to bring in CNN's Presidential Historian Doug Brinkley, CNN Military Analyst Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, CNN Contributor Kate Andersen Brower, she's also the author of Team of Five? The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump. And also with us Dr. Patrice Harris, former President of the American Medical Association.

And Dr. Harris, health first, we just saw the video from the White House lawn. People are crowded together. Very few are wearing masks. The White House won't say whether they are taking temperatures. As you look at these images, what is the risk level here?

DR. PATRICE HARRIS, FORMER PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: Well, certainly and I know that public health officials have been saying this and repeating this over and over, but there's no question that certainly being outside is OK. But when you're outside, you still have to wear masks, you still have to maintain distance at least six feet apart.

And so when you're not doing those things, it certainly increases the risk of you getting sick and you spreading the virus to someone else.

CABRERA: Douglas, as you look at the images of the nation's capitol, on this day with more than 129,000 Americans killed in a global pandemic that is far, far from over and in the wake of the massive historic protests about racism and inequality in this country, what mark will this independence day do you think leave on the history of America?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It's going to be remembered for being a solemn Fourth of July and also very solitary. Usually the fourth is a national celebration. It's bipartisan. Everybody is coming to see fireworks or go to fairs, be in parades, have these elaborate barbecues or parties. And you can feel people really rightfully so reining themselves back.

It's about being with the people near you that you've been home quarantining with, saying a prayer for the nation or learning to have some respect to what's happened with these protests and the anger and maybe reflect a little on - we usually do Washington, Jefferson and Adams every July 4th. And now, this year, we may be thinking more about Harriet Tubman and Cesar Chavez and LGBTQ pioneers at Stonewall. Kind of an opening up of what we should be thinking about what our democracy is on July 4th.

But I think it's a good sign that you don't have high turnout on the mall in the middle of a pandemic. That only would increase health problems.

CABRERA: Dr. Harris, do you think that's a sign that Americans are getting the message that health experts like yourself have been putting out there now for weeks on end?

HARRIS: I am encouraged, because while we do see some instances of folks not social distancing, just watching the reports from earlier today, we do see a lot of folks who are really taking this seriously or really appreciating the fact that this virus is with us and, in fact, it's surging. So it is encouraging and I think that is because there's a more consistent message from more leaders across this country.

CABRERA: And maybe mother nature is helping out a little bit with how hot it is right now there in D.C. and in many parts of the country this weekend.

Kate, you've pointed out that this is the second year now in a row that President Trump has sparked a controversy over his Fourth of July celebrations. What would a typical Fourth at the White House look like?

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it would be about unifying the country. If you look back at the speeches by Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, it was all about American exceptionalism, but also bringing the country together, Democrats and Republicans.

I think he runs the risk here of looking insensitive and tone deaf to what's going on in the world. During the Great Depression when Herbert Hoover did that and kind of minimize the toll that the depression took on the country, he lost his reelection bid. So I think there's something that he's risking by insisting on Mt. Rushmore last night and then today doing this big elaborate celebration in D.C. at a time when Americans are dying this terrible virus.

CABRERA: General, we're about to witness multiple flyovers this evening. We've already seen images of flyovers in other parts of the country leading up to the big production that will happen there in D.C. Shortly, we're going to see aircraft from World War II, from the Korean War, from Vietnam.

[18:40:09]

When is the last time something like this happened?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, when you go to small towns across America, things similar to this happen, Ana. I think Douglas would comment, excuse me, on the fact that John Adams actually said July 4th should be a time of pageant, and pomp and parade. A celebration of our history.

Truthfully, Ana, this is one of my favorite holidays. I love this holiday. I'm distressed that it's not going to be a big day this year. We'll find other ways to celebrate and perhaps reflect on how we can do better in the years ahead. But you're going to see flyovers, the air force does that, the Blue Angels, the Thunderbirds, there's going to be the re-enactors, the aircraft from World War II and World War I. That's all part of the pageantry.

But truthfully as Dr. Harris said this is a time for us to unify as a nation to stop a disease. That's what's critical right now. And the fact that there aren't that many people on the mall, a place that my wife and I went to two dozen years ago and it was a magnificent event with all kinds of immigrants celebrating with food and everything, that's the kind of celebration we want. But that's not the kind we're going to get this year.

CABRERA: Douglas, the fact that President Trump is throwing this big two-day celebration in the middle of a public health catastrophe and mass deaths. I mean, we're seeing more than 50,000 cases of new infection here in the country every single day and the curve is going up, not down. Have you ever seen an embattled president try to deflect away or just ignore a crisis, a health crisis in this manner?

BRINKLEY: Woodrow Wilson during World War I tried to minimize the Spanish flu epidemic because we were fighting abroad and Europe and we didn't want to create too much of a kind of morale buzzkill here at home that we lost so many ...

CABRERA: Doug, what was your thought, for just a moment, excuse me, I just want to tell our viewers, these are live images with the President and the First Lady now making their appearance there on the White House south lawn as part of this fourth of July party to kick off the celebration tonight. Please continue.

BRINKLEY: Yes. So I was just saying Wilson was kind of - tried to ignore that particular epidemic, but nothing like what Donald Trump's doing here, which is trying to turn July 4th into his own private lionization of himself. I mean, he's going to Mt. Rushmore and like in the Tulsa, Arizona rallies not caring an iota about social distancing or mask, not leading the country barely touching on the COVID.

Can you imagine Franklin Roosevelt on the middle of World War II not invoking the spirit of World War II? I mean, at the very least, Donald Trump should be giving a speech on this fourth saying we have new heroes, the medical workers in America, the nurses, and the doctors, and the technicians that we now can be proud of and some days there'll be hospitals and memorials named after them.

He could take that route to make this proud about the medical infrastructure of our country. But instead, he's just playing the game of kind of scooping up monuments and memorials and (inaudible) they're in my club now.

And so it's been an abysmal performance by him. It was a bad speech in Mt. Rushmore and then today trying to do this sort of tepid mall ceremony, have a martial flavor with it if he can. Remember, he always went in military parades in Washington.

I think a bit more humility and being a little more somber and preaching love and unity when he go, I think, further in history than the type of speech the President gave last night, a political speech. He's acting as a political operator, instead of a healer and chief.

CABRERA: Kate, as we look at these images with the President and First Lady as they make their walk down the South Lawn waving and smiling. You sat down with the President, you've spent some time with the people inside this White House, as you wrote your book recently. What can you tell us about the relationship between the President and the First Lady and what these images tell you?

BROWER: Well, I mean, Melania Trump is often thought of as somebody who's kind of on the sidelines, not involved in daily decisions. But from my reporting, she's very much involved and a huge supporter of his and standing by his side throughout this.

And I also think when I interviewed Trump, one thing I noticed in the Oval Office was he has three times the number of flags of any other president, including Eisenhower, Kennedy, Bush all of these presidents who served in wars. He's got the battle flag of the Marine Corps, of the Army and I think it speaks to, as Doug was saying, there's kind of sense that he's cloaking himself in patriotism and using it in a very political way that we haven't seen before and he is someone who didn't serve in the military.

[18:45:07]

So it's fascinating to me how he hugs the flag in a way and he really uses the military, I think you saw it last year, and we're seeing it now, and uses this holiday for his own political advancement.

CABRERA: Let's take a look at what we're seeing here right now. This is the beginning of flyover. I understand this is the Boeing 747 used to fly the President is flying over the Washington, D.C. area. They are going to be followed by the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army parachute team used for competitions and demonstrations. They're about to parachute onto the (inaudible), let's just pause a moment and take this in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, from the United States Army Golden Knights, please welcome Sergeant First Class Ryan Reese.

SERGEANT FIRST CLASS RYAN REESE, U.S. AIR FORCE: Mr. President, Madam First Lady, guests and the American people, it's truly an honor to be here this evening. I'd like to direct your attention, high overhead to the beautiful sky behind us and our distinctively painted Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft that is flying at an altitude of 12,500 feet.

CABRERA: Lieutenant General, can you talk to us about what we're seeing here and the flyover we just witnessed and the parachute team we're about to see as well?

HERTLING: Well, I can talk about the parachute team a lot more than I can talk about flyover. That was simply the 747 that is usually Air Force One if the President is onboard, but it's one the fleet of aircraft that they have at Joint Base McChord or, I'm sorry, Andrews.

with the Golden Knights, it's a precision parachute team. They travel across the country, some unbelievable skills and these individuals who will as the narrator just said parachute from high altitude. They'll have a low opening. You'll see their parachute streaming down.

It's a team of about I think between 20 and 25 individuals who will probably parachute today. They'll be fewer than that, but their precision they will land on a dime somewhere in the in the capital region. I'm not sure where their target area is but they'll jump from - about - I'm sorry, they'll jump from about 12,000 feet and hit a target and it'll be very impressive because they come out sometimes in teams. There'll be locking arms and just show the precision that is required of training from high altitude low opening parachute jumping.

CABRERA: And we're just watching them as they float through what is a blue bird sky here in the in the U.S. nation's capital, Washington, D.C. And here we go they're coming on down. We're going to stay with this. Let's just listen for a second. REESE: ... 12,000 square foot drop flag maneuver. The team leader of

the demonstration team flying a predominantly black and gold canopy, Sergeant First Class Roman Grijalva.

CABRERA: And why don't you just continue to describe what we're seeing here, Lieutenant General.

HERTLING: We will see all of them there. One of the team members is carrying the American flag. That's something that they typically do and you'll watch very closely, Ana, as they come close to landing. Someone will come in underneath that parachutist and scoop up that flag so it doesn't hit the ground. They normally - I didn't see the earlier part of the film but they normally have smoke canisters tied from their boots so you can tell where they're coming down.

But they will all hit literally within feet of the target area. Their parachutes are quite maneuverable. They can really narrow in on a dime's width and you'll see that as they come in for a landing. Each one of the skydivers will literally aim for and hit that target at different intervals and it takes a lot of skill to do that.

And these parachutist, these airborne troopers are the very best that the army has. They're used throughout the country, truthfully, and sometimes in recruiting efforts, sometimes in displays as you're seeing today. But it's just an impressive show of what the American military does. And they're very good at what they do.

CABRERA: Yes. It is really amazing to watch these images.

Doug, why do you think this kind of imagery is so important to President Trump?

[18:50:00]

BRINKLEY: Well, it's important to all Americans. I mean, I'm being moved by watching what we're seeing right now with the American flag coming down in the precision of our armed forces and everybody watching right now wants to send love to anybody that's abroad representing our country. I think for Donald Trump, he has a lot of insecurities.

I mean, he's somebody who hadn't served in the armed forces, somebody who had bone spurs to avoid the Vietnam War. And he saw that Ronald Reagan and other Republicans started wearing American flag pins and claiming (inaudible) ...

CABRERA: And now they have just landed.

BRINKLEY: ... history and I think it makes him feel that he's powerful and he is. He's the President of the United States and it's a very pretty visual we're looking at there right now in Washington, I think with the red and the blue smoke behind it in the beautiful, always beautiful Washington Monument.

So there are a lot of TV viewers, people may not be there, but millions of people are watching and trying to get a little bit of a July 4th morale boost, feel good about the country and some of the music entertainment tonight and some of the spectacle is bound to make people feel a little better and lose the Independence Day blues for a few hours.

CABRERA: OK. And we are going to take a quick break as we gear up for the next part of this show and we will be right back. Stay with us. You're watching CNN.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... our heroes, our heritage ...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:56:12]

CABRERA: Welcome back to CNN and Happy July Fourth. You are live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Yes, it is Fourth of July weekend and like everything else in our lives right now, there's nothing normal about it. The coronavirus pandemic has taken the normal out of literally everything, new infections skyrocketing in more than half of the country this weekend, setting disturbing records in some states. And still Americans are making a choice to celebrate Independence Day outside in large gatherings or to play it safe and to stay only with people they know and with a facemask close by.

As for large scale public celebrations, this is Washington, D.C., it's the place of one of the few big events still scheduled that wasn't canceled overpay endemic concerns a concert and firework show hosted by the President and First Lady are expected this evening.

And CNN Alex Marquardt joins us from the National Mall. We know, Alex, the celebration is underway. Walk us through what you could see as we saw the flyover of that 747 and the parachuters from the Golden parachute team.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana, that's right. The celebration very much is underway. In fact, we've seen our first pyrotechnics, the first glimpse of what's going to be a monumental show they're saying tonight that was right at the base of the Washington Monument there. You could see the smoke is still clearing just moments ago.

Air Force One flying right over us, banking low and hard towards the White House. Loud cheers going up from the crowd here. This is, it must be said, a much, much thinner crowd than we have seen in years past, Ana. I was just speaking with an EMT who has worked out here for the past 40 4ths of July and he said that he's never seen anything like it.

But as you've been saying all afternoon and evening, we've never had a year like this. People are staying away for a number of reasons most importantly because of the pandemic. The Mayor of Washington has asked people to stay away. It's unclear how much of her warning played into people's fears. But I just want to walk around here and show you some of the crowd

that has gathered along the reflecting pool just in front of the Lincoln Memorial. That's where most of the people have gathered. So people are coming in bigger numbers and setting up shop here because all of this is going to be prime seating, Ana, for everything that is going to happen in just about two hours.

Just after nine o'clock just after 9 pm, that's when that fireworks show is starting. It's going to be happening essentially in two places back at the monument that I just showed you and then there's going to be a setup that is about a mile long stretching from the Jefferson Memorial over there, all the way to behind the Lincoln Memorial.

There are two companies involved that are going to be firing off some 10,000 fireworks, Ana, and that show is due to last some 35 minutes. So now we are just the beginning of the program, we've seen Air Force One go over. That is the first aircraft in a long procession armada, if you will, of aircraft flying across the sky, older historical aircraft from World War I and World War II all the way to the present day.

So everyone out here, the smaller crowds, those who have dared to venture out here they're in for a real show, as are frankly the people who are watching at home and, of course, many authorities. Many officials asking that people do stay at home and watch all this unfold on TV, Ana.

CABRERA: OK. Alex Marquardt, again in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall where we are starting to see more people began to gather in preparation for the events this evening in the salute to America that will take place including a 35 minute long firework show with 10,000 fireworks and you can watch it right here on CNN.

I want to bring our panel back with us now.

[19:00:00]

We have Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling as well as Dr. Patrice Harris, Doug Brinkley and Kate Andersen Brower.