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Multiple Children Killed in Gun Violence Over Weekend; Brazil in Crisis; ICE Forcing International Students Out of Country?; Trump's Culture War. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 6, 2020 - 16:30   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: And welcome back.

We are talking about the president's recent comments about the Confederate Flag.

Toluse, how is this culture war he's stoking different than what he did in 2016? I know Abby touched on it a little bit. But it seems as though he's ratcheting up the racist overtures and focusing more inward inside what's going on in the U.S.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, the president is, as Abby said, pitting Americans against one another.

And not only is he doing that. He's also being much more blatant about it this time around. I think, back in 2016, he would often just use code words like, our heritage, and focusing on things like the history that he wants to focus on.

Now it's much more blatant. When you're retweeting people who say white power and not condemning that kind of language, when you are speaking out directly in favor of the Confederacy, saying that NASCAR made the wrong decision by banning Confederate Flags, it's clear that the president is leaning into this racial grievance politics and focusing on trying to cast any attempts at racial justice as political correctness run amok or attempts to erase American history.

So I think, this time around, the president's being much more blatant about what he's doing. And almost every day we have a new example of the president engaging in these -- these politics of racial division.

BROWN: And, Abby, on that note, my reporting with my team Sarah Westwood Kevin Liptak is that Republicans fear that the president's failure to take a leading role on publicly wearing a mask and to encourage his supporters to follow suit, that that could threaten the economic recovery that Trump is counting on to fuel his reelection.

Do you think the president sees that potential fallout?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is one of those things where, a couple of months ago, the president, I think, bought into the argument by many of his advisers that he really needed to focus on attacking the virus, getting that under control, reopening the country, so he could once again run on the economy.

But it does, in some ways, seem that by switching tactics to focus so stringently on these cultural issues and issues of race, that he himself has abandoned the idea that the economy is something that he will be able to run on.

He's gone back to calling it the China virus, blaming China for -- and implying the China purposefully unleash the virus onto the world in order to hurt the U.S. economy. So it seems the president himself has given up on the economy, and that's why we're seeing so many of these other issues bubbling to the surface.

BROWN: And you saw the press secretary, Jane, attacking reporters today at that podium at the end of the briefing for not asking about the rise in violence over the weekend. And we're going to talk about that today in a little bit later on in the show.

But are Democrats making a mistake when you see how far some of them have gone in some cases with the monuments, for example, like in Thomas Jefferson? Is there a chance progressives are playing into the president's hands here?

JANE COASTON, VOX: I mean, I think that, in many ways, the fact that we're having a conversation about a monument to Thomas Jefferson and not about the forces that led to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery or Breonna Floyd -- or George Floyd, or -- I think that that really is the key focus for me.

The reason why all of this, again, is because a police officer killed George Floyd, kneeling on his neck for an extended period of time. The reason why we're having any of this conversation is because we wanted to talk about police brutality and police misconduct and agents of the state wielding their power, power we give them, in a way that injures and kills people, white and black.

I want to attract people to the attention of the story of Daniel Shaver and other people who are -- other white people, Latinos, others, who have been victims of police violence. And so I think that, in many ways, the entire monument discussion is a bit of a distraction. We are trying to talk about the issues of racial injustice and police brutality.

But it seems much easier to talk about statues instead.

BROWN: Toluse, how do you see it?

OLORUNNIPA: I think that's right, right on point.

I think the president does want this conversation to be about statues, even though it's a more and more isolated position, as we're seeing the Pentagon, we're seeing an awful large number of Republican officials say that they don't want to have anything to do with this conversation about the Confederacy, but the president thinks it's a good move for him.

BROWN: All right, Jane, Abby, Toluse, thank you for this really important discussion.

COASTON: Thank you.

BROWN: And we have breaking news.

Thousands of international students may soon be forced out of the country.


That's next. Stay with us.


BROWN: And we are back with our health lead, and top Texas officials warning, hospitals could be overwhelmed in less than two weeks if the surge of coronavirus cases continues.

The state reported a record high number of hospitalizations yesterday. More than 8,000 patients are hospitalized with coronavirus right now, as we speak.

And joining me now is Dr. Marc Boom, the president and CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital.

Dr. Boom, thank you for coming on.

Let's get right to it. What are you seeing in your hospital right now? Just how bad is this surge of new cases? Bring us in.


DR. MARC BOOM, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HOUSTON METHODIST HOSPITAL: Well, we're seeing a continued and accelerating uptick in patients coming to our hospital.

So, today, we're at right about 700 people in our hospitals. We have eight hospitals across the greater Houston area. To put that in perspective, we have probably about 2,400 beds are, so well over one in four, and actually now more like 30 percent or so, of all of our beds are being used for COVID patients.

On Memorial Day, we had 104 patients. So we are now almost seven times where we were just a little over six -- about six weeks ago at Memorial Day. So it's stressing the system. It's certainly straining. We are concerned about where this is headed.

We need to get the curve flattened and really turn the other direction in Houston, or really, in a two-to-three-week period, things get very, very crazy around here.

BROWN: What are the differences in the patients you're seeing now with COVID and the patients you were seeing a few months ago?


BOOM: Excuse me.

Yes, it's actually fascinating. We have -- and encouraging a little bit as well.

We're seeing a younger population. That is both worrisome, because, of course, that's what's been spreading through the community. But it's also encouraging, because they tend to get a little bit less sick. Now, let me be clear. They get sick at every age. And, in fact, we had a young individual in their 20s show up in one of our emergency rooms coding and passing away just the other day, which was very traumatic for everyone.

So we see all ages get incredibly sick. We have seen mortality decrease overall. It's about half of what it was running in the first surge. Part of that is age. A large part of that seems to be getting better and really all the learning that happened over the last four months or so of what we have been doing.

That also means lower lengths of stay, which enables us to kind of manage this surge a little better, and lower ICU utilization, which also has enabled us to be able to manage this a little better.

But let me be clear, it is a challenge. Our people are working incredibly hard. There are just wonderful, heroic people in front lines doing this. And we're very concerned about where things go in the next two, three weeks, if we together, as a society, across greater Houston don't get this curve flattened, which is everyone doing their part.

BROWN: So, then what do you think then? You're expressing this concern, looking ahead over the next couple of weeks.

Is it time for Houston and other cities that haven't done so, that have reopen, to lock back down, given the reality of the situation playing out right now?

BOOM: Well, we have had a lot of movement in the right direction in terms of behaviors.

It's obviously something incredibly hard to measure, but first one partial masking order, then another masking order this last Friday. The governor put that into place. He also limited large -- limited down to small gatherings. Both our county judge and our mayor have been urging everybody to do their part as well.

We saw a lot of better, I think, behavior over the Fourth of July than we saw over Memorial Day. all the hospitals together have been urging people to do that. We have wrapped the paper. We have put out ads on social media.

And so I'm hopeful that can get us bent. We're seeing a little leveling off in the testing data, still really high numbers of people. But it's not accelerating like it was before. That tends to lead hospitalizations by about a week to 10 days. So I'm crossing my fingers that we may see this start to level off in a week to 10 days. But that's far from certain. And people really can't let their guard down. We need them to actually bring their guard up even further here, so that we can get over this curve.

BROWN: And like you said, no one is immune from this. And your staff witnessed someone in their 20s pass away from the coronavirus. So it just shows you how real of a threat that this continues to be.

Dr. Marc Boom, thank you for giving us a glimpse of the reality going on behind the scenes at these hospitals. And thank you for all the work that you and your staff do.

BOOM: Thank you.

BROWN: Well, it is second only to the U.S. in coronavirus cases, but this is what the streets of Brazil looks like.

We're live on the ground up next.



BROWN: Breaking news just in: Thousands of foreign students in the United States will be forced to leave the country, or risk deportation, if their university switched to online-only classes.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement just making this announcement moments ago, as universities nationwide are starting to make this decision whether to continue in-person learning amid coronavirus. It certainly puts many of these universities in a tough spot.

Meantime, the U.S., by far, leads the world in coronavirus cases, and number two right behind the U.S. is Brazil, with 1.6 million cases and more than 600 deaths reported just yesterday.

Yet Brazil is reopening shops and restaurants, restarting soccer games at public stadiums. With a veto, Brazil's president weakened a mandatory face mask law, making exceptions for masks in stores, churches and schools.

As CNN's Bill Weir reports, Brazil is in crisis, with little sign of recovery.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the age of COVID-19, Presidents Trump and Bolsonaro are two of a kind.

Both love Twitter, and, by all appearances, hate wearing masks. Both are openly at odds with their nation's top doctors.


WEIR: And rely instead on the support of fans, as they dismiss the pandemic as a little flu and a lot of hype.

(on camera): So you don't believe COVID-19 exists at all? It's a -- it's a hoax?

(voice-over): "It could exist," this pro-Bolsonaro YouTuber tells me, "but if it exists, it is weak."

(on camera): It's not that deadly?


WEIR (voice-over): He sounds just like his president, who, when asked about his nation passing China in fatalities, said: "So what? I mourn, but what do you want me to do? I can't work miracles."


But the pot and pan protests that now ring out every time he goes on TV are just one sign of a nation at odds with itself. Testing is still hard to come by. And as they dig mass graves from Amazonia to Rio, some experts believe the official 1.6 million infections reported could be 12 to 16 times higher.

And yet the big cities are opening up, just as Bolsonaro uses his veto power to water down new laws to protect the public, ones that would make mask wearing mandatory, in churches, schools, shops and prisons.

NATALIA PASTERNAK, QUESTION OF SCIENCE INSTITUTE: It's crazy. It's crazy. Science is being ignored in this government as it has never been before.

Natalia Pasternak is a microbiologist who lobbies for more science in government policy, and is among the many who were horrified when Bolsonaro fired his respected health minister for advancing quarantines. A loyal general with no health care experience is now running the nation's pandemic response.

PASTERNAK: Are we going to be able to care for these people? I mean, will there be hospitals for everyone? Will be ventilators for everyone? We never reached the situation that they reach in Italy, where the doctor is forced to choose the person that gets the ventilator.

I hope we never come to that. But I'm afraid we might.


WEIR: And, at the same time, Pamela, as they brace for the worst here, thousands of Brazilians are the first volunteers for a new vaccine trial, actually two of them in the third stage, the most important stage.

One is out of the University of Oxford, another out of China. They will give those vaccines or placebos to front-line medical workers who've been exposed. So, hopefully, that may be -- they may find a discovery of a cure for all of this. But, today, as malls open for the first time in a long time, as people dine out together, we will see whether this opening was way too soon, based on the politics of one man at the top -- Pam.

BROWN: All right, we shall see, as you said.

Bill Weir, thank you so much.

And up next: a holiday marked by tragedy, a 6-year-old little girl shot and killed just while she was playing, just playing outside.

She's just one of several small children killed across America this weekend.



BROWN: In our national lead: Take a look here.

At least six innocent kids across the U.S. were shot and killed in senseless gun violence over this holiday weekend. Here are pictures of just four of them, all of these children under the age of 14.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said his city saw too much violence this weekend, with at least 60 victims, 44 different shootings.

As CNN's Nick Valencia reports, this is coming as the nation sees an uptick in gun violence after scrutiny on racial bias in policing.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seven-year-old Natalia Wallace was playing with her cousins in the front yard of her Chicago area home. In Hoover, Alabama, Royta De'Marco Giles Jr. had just finished second grade and was walking in the mall.

Eight-year-old Secoriea Turner was out on a drive with her mother in Atlanta. These young faces are among the at least six children shot and killed in what was a violent Fourth of July holiday weekend.


VALENCIA: An emotional Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms struggled as she begged anyone with information about Secoriea's killing come forward.

BOTTOMS: We're fighting the enemy was in when we are shooting each other up on our streets in this city. And you shot and killed a baby. And it wasn't one shooter. There were at least two shooters. An 8- year-old baby.

VALENCIA: In Chicago, Natalia Wallace's family described their soon- to-be-second-grader as sweet, shy, loving, and good at math. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's sad. You hear this on the news every day that

a child getting killed, somebody get killed, but you don't think about it until it's your own.

VALENCIA: Summer months in cities like Chicago tend to come with a rise in shootings. But it's never easy to accept, especially when the victims are so young and innocent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If our lives don't matter to ourselves, then nobody else is going to take our lives seriously.


VALENCIA: In the nation's capital, the devastating shooting death of 11-year-old Davon McNeal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have words. Like, I don't have words.

VALENCIA: The boy's grandfather founded the Guardian Angels in D.C., spending years fighting against gun violence, only to outlive his grandchild, who was struck by a bullet when he got out of the car to go into his aunt's house to get a phone charger.

JOHN AYALA, GRANDFATHER OF DAVON MCNEAL: Being out here and fighting this for all this years, I never thought it would actually hit home.

VALENCIA: The children killed over the weekend were as young as 6 and as old as 14.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They already had dreams and aspirations of being in the music industry.

VALENCIA: Young lives with hopes and dreams of their own, lives cut short on what was meant to be a weekend of celebration.

BOTTOMS: I want to see this same anger and outrage. I want us to see it on behalf of Secoriea and all the other people and children who are getting shot in our streets. It's a lot of change that has to happen across this country.


VALENCIA: One child killed is enough to create outrage, but six killed in 72 hours, some may call that a national wakeup call.

And here in the state of Georgia, Governor Kemp has decided to do something about it, just a short time ago declaring a state of emergency to activate as many as 1,000 National Guard members to patrol the streets of the state -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right, thank you so much, Nick Valencia.

I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper. Follow me on Twitter @PamelaBrownCNN or tweet the show @THELEADCNN.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. [17:00:00]