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32 States Seeing Spike In Cases As Virus Surges Across Nation; Supreme Court Says, Electors Must Vote In Accordance With States; FDA Head Refuses To Defend Trump's Claim 99 Percent Of Coronavirus Cases Are Harmless. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 6, 2020 - 10:00   ET

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


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ERICA HILL, CNN NEWSROOM: Good morning. I'm Erica Hill. Poppy and Jim are off today.

Cases outpacing testing. Health officials say the rush to reopen has fueled the surge in new cases that we're seeing across the nation, and some people are repeating mistakes of holidays past, holidays not very far in the past, packed closely together, as you can see, in these images from over the weekend, little social distancing, not a lot of masks being worn. And that is fueling fears that we could continue to see a rise in cases, the repercussions, of course, would come in the weeks ahead.

32 states this morning seeing an increase in new cased over the previous week. California actually breaking the single-day record on Sunday, reporting nearly 12,000 new cases. Florida topped 200,000 cases in the state just yesterday. ICU beds in Texas and Arizona are filling up as cases soar, and still the president now planning a campaign rally just days from now. Rally-goers will not be required to social distance or wear masks.

We want to begin with this surge in coronavirus cases that we're seeing. Rosa Flores is live in Miami beach, Florida. And, Rosa, concerns, of course, there over the number of hospitalizations as cases continue to soar setting reports in Florida over the weekend.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, you're absolutely right. You can look at any metric you want. They are all going. They have all been going up for weeks. And that's why officials here locally are very concerned.

Here in Miami-Dade County where I am, the positivity rate yesterday according to county records was 26 percent. The goal for the county is not to exceed 10 percent. Well, they have exceeded that for the past 14 days.

Now, when you look at hospitalizations specifically, Florida is unique in that it only releases, as a state, only releases the number of available hospital beds. That's at about 26 percent. But Florida does not release the number of patients with COVID-19 that are hospitalized every day.

However, that does not stop Miami-Dade County from releasing those numbers, and they are staggering. They are dire and this is why so many are so concerned about the epicenter here in Miami-Dade county for COVID-19 in the State of Florida.

Take a look at these numbers. Hospitalizations yesterday, 1,538 in Miami-Dade County. On June 23rd, that number was 818. That's an 88 percent increase. When you look at ICU beds during that same time period, the increase is 114 percent. The number of ventilators, that increase is 119 percent.

Again, that is why local leaders here have required masks and then they added teeth to their mandate of the masks by saying now that people can get fines if they don't wear masks outside. They have also been closing down businesses to make sure that these folks are following the rules.

But Erica, one of the main things and one of the main problems, according to the Miami Beach mayor here are the mixed messaging that has been sent out from the top all the way down from the federal government to the state to local governments. Local governments having to make these tough decisions, trying to convince their residents to wear a masks and social distance. Erica?

HILL: Yes, something that we're hearing from mayors in a number of hotspots. Rosa Flores, thank you.

Let's turn now to Texas, where at least two counties were reporting their hospitals were at full capacity at the start the holiday weekend. CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Dallas this morning. Good morning.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. Well, Star and Hidalgo County, these are two counties down in the southernmost tip of Texas and the Rio Grande Valley. The county judges there saying the hospitals there are at capacity.

And there are a number of other city leaders across the state that are also warning that they are headed in the same direction. The mayor of Austin, Texas told CNN this morning that they could see that kind of dire situation in that city over the next couple of weeks. So this as the number of new cases being reported here in Texas are reaching staggering record-breaking levels that we have not seen since this pandemic erupted back in March here in this state.

And the CDC is also forecasting that by mid-July, the state could be seeing some 2,000 hospitalizations per day, which is also quite staggering as well, Erica. And that is the concern here as this state tries to get a handle on the situation that has really started to spiral out of control in many people's estimations.

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And they are concerned about what the next few weeks and months will bring during this pandemic. Remember, the governor here was one of the first to push the reopening of the economy here in Texas, but late last week beginning to show signs of reversing course, ordering that statewide mask mandate for people to wear masks if they are out in public areas. So a change of tone here in this state as the number of new cases skyrockets. Erica?

HILL: Ed Lavandera with the latest from Dallas, Ed, thank you.

Joining me now to discuss, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nuremburg. Great to have you with us.

Based on what we just heard from Ed and what has changed in the state, is it helping at all, the change in tone in some cases or messaging? Are you noticing any sort of a difference?

MAYOR RON NUREMBERG (I-SAN ANTONIO, TX): You know, we've noticed people are taking the mask mandate seriously. Cities in Texas had a mask mandate back in April but then we heard again a lot of mixed messaging from federal and state leaders, including the stripping away of local authority to enforce our mask mandate.

So, as of late, it's been helpful that we're back on the same page, but we lost a good month with people not realizing how important this is, and we're starting to see that obviously in our numbers with hospital capacity being stretched to the very limit.

HILL: And where do you stand in San Antonio when it comes to hospital capacity, ICU capacity, ventilators?

NUREMBERG: We are on the verge of losing our capacity. You know, from the beginning of June, this was a stark difference. And we had one of the lowest infection rates of any big city in the country, and now we are looking at an acceleration of cases. And if the pace continues, we're a week away from running out of hospital beds and ICU capacity.

So this is a dangerous situation. We're trying to get everybody in our community to understand how important it is to do what they can to limit the spread of this virus, which, in some ways, is as simple as putting a face covering between you and another person. So this is very important and the time is now ticking in terms of our hospital capacity in San Antonio, just like a lot of other big cities in Texas.

HILL: We're certainly seeing that across the state, as you point out.

You have said in recent days that a return to a stay-at-home order is possible. One, what would that look like, and, two, do you have the authority at this point to do that?

NUREMBERG: Well, the state has taken away that authority. So, you know, what we have been clear is that we've got to be mindful of the data and what we have been asking our public to do, is regardless of any statewide messaging that they are hearing, you know, be mindful of the public health guidance, medical experts.

No one wants to have to go back into a lockdown, and it would be disastrous on so many levels if we had to do that. But the power to avoid that is in our ability to respect what the medical experts and public health professionals have been telling us from the very start, wearing a mask, maintain physical distance, sanitization, personal hygiene. All of the things that we've been saying from the very start are what can controls us being able to keep San Antonio and keep Texas open as opposed to going back to a lockdown.

HILL: When we look at the city stands -- we've talked about hospitalization, but about testing? So, testing, you're now only testing symptomatic people, is that correct?

NUREMBERG: So we have been testing everyone regardless of symptoms, et cetera. And what we saw was just an incredible demand and rush on all of the public labs. So what we have done is make sure that our public labs are available to anyone, especially those who don't have access to insurance or doctor's orders, et cetera, don't need a doctor's appointment, they can walk up and get a lab.

What we want to make sure is that those who are most in need of a test who are exhibiting symptoms, who have been exposed don't have to wait and also aren't being put in the back of the line and potentially not being able to access a test because of those who might go repeatedly to get a test.

HILL: Okay.

NUREMBERG: But the situation for testing has been playing catch-up in Texas from the very start, and we have now just started to get to a point where we're seeing our positivity rates increase to nearly 22 to 25 percent week over week.

HILL: Which is astronomical.

Really quickly, about ten seconds before I let you go. What do you think would keep you from getting to that place where you don't want to be in a week with your hospitals, what's the one thing you could change?

NUREMBERG: We need to see that curve flatten again. We need to see our infection rates, our daily onset rates drop off pretty dramatically. This week, this is a very important week for San Antonio and for the rest of the State of Texas.

HILL: All right. We'll be watching, Mayor Ron Nuremburg. I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

NUREMBERG: Thank you, Erica.

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HILL: There is some positive news to report as we are talking about coronavirus this morning. A pharmaceutical company that says its antibody drug cocktail has now moved into phase three trials. So what does this really mean?

CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is with us now. So what could this mean and what does this drug do?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Erica, antibody cocktails are a drug for which there's a lot of enthusiasm. People are really hoping that they will be a bridge to a vaccine since it will take us a while to get to a vaccine. What they do is they look at antibodies that are developed after infection and cull the best and the strongest once and put them together into one drug.

Now, let's take a look at three different groups of people who were involved in these large-scale clinical trials. First, you have people who are so sick, they're in the hospital with coronavirus, secondly, people who are less sick but at home recovering from coronavirus and then, thirdly, prevention. Those first two are treatment, they are also looking at prevention, give it to someone who lives in the same house as someone who's at home with coronavirus. They are at high risk for getting it. Will this drug prevent this person from getting infected with COVID?

Now, it will take, you know, months to do these clinical trials but it certainly will be faster, is expected to be faster than doing a clinical trial for a vaccine. Erica?

HILL: All right. So we'll keep an eye on that.

Meantime, hundreds of the world's top doctors are warning that the coronavirus can float and be transmitted in air droplets and they want that information put out there. But, Elizabeth, I have to say, I read this and I was a little confused. I thought isn't this something we already know? Isn't that why we wear masks?

COHEN: Right, it's very confusing. And so let's start with what's been said and what they are saying needs to be said. The WHO and CDC have really emphasized something called droplets. In other words, when you cough or sneeze, I don't mean to be disgusting, sometimes you can actually see these droplets. Sometimes if you're talking to someone who coughs or sneezes, you can even feel them hitting your face.

And that's where the emphasis has been, that that's how it spreads. And it certainly does spread that way but those droplets drop to the ground. They hit you, they drop to the ground.

There are other sort of lighter particles that you get when you breathe. Just breathing sends out these light particles that can float around, and that's call particles that are airborne. And the airborne word makes people feel very scared. But it is clear from studies that COVID can be spread by airborne particles.

The National Academy of Science has told the White House this more than three months ago. These scientists are saying the WHO needs to be more clear that this is one way that the virus spreads.

HILL: Interesting to see if they will. Be a little bit more clear moving forward.

We also know contact tracing. We've talked so much about how it is vital to stopping the spread of the virus. The mayor of Myrtle Beach just told us she's not confident her state and her city has it in place effectively, and you found it similar in Florida.

COHEN: Yes. She has reasons to be concerned about whether this is actually happening. We reached out to 27 Floridians who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 at some point during the outbreak. Only five of them had contact tracing are, only five of them got calls from the Department of Health saying, hey, who have you been in contact with during such and such a period of time? Other ones didn't get any contact tracing call at all.

There are real concerns that when you have more than is 11,000 new cases a day, which is what's happening in Florida, that was the Saturday number, you just can't keep up with it. Contact tracing doesn't work anymore because the number of cases gets so high. It's too many people for the contact tracers to keep up with.

HILL: It is a momentous task, and as you point out, one that we are not seeing being done effectively simply with the numbers. Elizabeth Cohen, always good to talk to you, thank you.

Well, at one point, California was widely lauded for the fast aggressive response to the pandemic. Now, however, that state is seeing a major surge. We'll take you there live.

Plus, the president planning another campaign rally this time in New Hampshire scheduled for this weekend. All of this as he tries to focus on defending monuments instead of surging coronavirus cases.

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HILL: Breaking news from the Supreme Court about the potential impact of so-called faithless electors. Let's get straight to Jessica Schneider, who is outside the court.

So, Jessica, what do we know?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, we all know that the Electoral College is the key to determining who becomes president, 270 electoral votes needed to win. And this morning, the Supreme Court issuing a unanimous 9-0 decision saying that each of the states throughout this country, they may, in fact, bind those so- called electors in each state, meaning that each state can mandate that each of the electors must vote for the state's popular winner.

Now, this didn't even become an issue until the 2016 election, when ten of the electors actually tried to vote for a different candidate. There were some electors, several electors in Washington State who actually voted -- tried to vote for Hillary Clinton, and then there were also -- there was also an elector in Colorado who did not want to vote for the person that they were supposed to vote for.

So this case came all the way to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court saying today that, yes, hat states have the power to dictate how these electors must vote, and they must vote in line with the popular vote. [10:20:01]

So, Erica, this could be consequential in the 2020 election just four months away saying that these electors, once the popular vote is in, they must, in fact, vote for the winner of the popular vote when it comes to casting the Electoral College vote. Erica?

HILL: And as you point out, a unanimous ruling from the justices. Jessica Schneider, thank you.

A remarkable lie and a pretty remarkable refusal to deny that lie. Take a listen to the FDA commissioner when pressed by my colleague, Dana Bash, about the president's false claim that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are totally harmless.

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DR. STEPHEN HAHN, FDA COMMISSIONER: I'm not going to get into who is right and who is wrong. What I'm going to say, Dana, is what I've said before, which is that it's a serious problem that we have. We've seen a surge in cases. We must do something to stem the tide. And we have this in our power to do it by following the guidance from the White House task force and the CDC.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So you won't say whether 99 percent of coronavirus cases are, quote, completely harmless as true or false, what the president said at the White House last night?

HAHN: Dana, what I'll say is that we have data in the White House task force. Those data show us that this is a serious problem. People need to take it seriously.

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HILL: And Dana Bash joins me now.

Dana, you tried expertly, you gave him multiple opportunities, and he would not defend or deny what the president said. And this raises once again an important question for the American people about the fact that the people who are putting out this information, right, are not saying when the president is flat out lying.

BASH: It's incredibly complicated. And if you ask people like, for example, the mayor of Austin, Texas, who I had on right after Dr. Hahn, he said it was dangerous and he was angry. And the reason is because people -- the mayor of San Antonio, who I know you spoke with earlier this hour, they are dealing with hospitals at capacity. They are dealing with, you know, real, real issue, and that's happening, of course, not hospitals at capacity but spikes all across the country. And what they are asking for is something really basic and that is leadership and a consistent message.

So what Dr. Hahn was trying to do was say, I support the CDC guidelines. The CDC guidelines, of course, do say -- you know, explain how dangerous this virus is, say that people should wear masks, social distance, so on and so forth. And he was trying to go on that road as opposed to going on the road I was trying to take him on, which is the president said something that is a flat lie. Can you, as a medical professional, a member of the task force, you know, tell Americans the truth and he didn't back up the president but he didn't say he was wrong.

HILL: Yes, it's astounding, as you point out. But the mayor of San Antonio also said at one point the most effective tool that we have here, I'm paraphrasing, but he said it's public trust. And when we're seeing the mixed messaging, where's the public trust?

Meantime the president is tweeting again this, nothing revolutionary there. However, it's what he's tweeting, writing, has Bubba Wallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers and officials who came to his aid, stood by his side and were willing to sacrifice everything for him only to find out the whole thing was another hoax? That and flag decision caused the lowest ratings ever. So the president going back into his toolbox for T.V. ratings, as we see.

But, really, I mean, once again, focusing on -- he says that flag decision. This, of course, is about the confederate flag, which is no longer allowed in NASCAR events. In some ways, that tweet, I saw it this morning and it stopped me for a minute, and then at the same time I thought it's actually not surprising.

BASH: No, it's not. And, look, there are two very important things about we should point out about that tweet, just on the substance of it. Number one, the whole notion, as you mentioned, the confederate flag, the fact that he is chiding NASCAR for removing the confederate flag.

This used to be, when I started to cover politics, a debate in politics, a debate within the Republican Party, it's really not anymore. I mean, Nikki Haley started the ball rolling when she removed it in South Carolina, and Republican leaders, Democratic leaders alike, for the most part, by and large, understand what's going on with the flag, the fact that Mississippi changed their flag, that's a big deal.

The other really important thing is he's picking a fight with an African-American NASCAR driver and lying about it. Bubba Wallace did not start this. He was presented with information. He was very clear to Don Lemon and other people that they came to him. The head of NASCAR came to him and, said we found this -- we found this what looked like a noose.

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And he was reacting to it, he didn't put it out there.

HILL: Right, and it's so important and I'm glad you did clarify that too. And when NASCAR launched that investigation, NASCAR was pretty clear about it from the beginning too.

BASH: Exactly. HILL: Again, really important to when misinformation is put out there to correct, as you just did, Dana, and important when it comes to public health as well. Good to see you, my friend. Thank you.

BASH: You too. Thanks, Erica.

HILL: The president's falling poll numbers, particularly in swing states, well, those numbers are creating intense concern for some Republicans. Many longtime strategists seemingly puzzled by the president's strategy to ignore the virus and go without the divisive, as we just saw once again.

CNN Senior Political Writer and Analyst Harry Enten joins me now. So, Harry, good to see you, it's been a long time.

What are we seeing nationally at this point?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Yes. Look, last week, we had two polls from the Pew Research Center, Monmouth University, we see double-digit leads for Joe Biden. And it's not just that Joe Biden has double-digit leads, he's over 50 percent, and that's, of course, a key threshold, because you can't beat somebody if they're over 50 percent. Third-party candidates can't play a major role and buying this over that 50 percent mark at this point.

HILL: There's obviously focus on swing states for a reason. What are you seeing there?

ENTEN: Yes. So, I think, obviously, you need to get to 270 electoral votes. And what I essentially did was I said, okay, if the polling averages and all those swing states hold through the election, where are we right now? We see that Joe Biden well over that 270 electoral mark, around 370 electoral votes. Obviously, we still have time to go until the election. But right now, what we're seeing nationally is translating into those

swing states.

HILL: So as we look at that, there have actually been a fair number of complaints from Republicans when it comes to polling. What do you make of those?

ENTEN: They are a bunch of B.S., to be perfectly honest. The way you know it's B.S. is because if Republicans really had something, they would be releasing their own numbers. And, in fact, what we see in House districts across the country since April is Republicans have released zero, count them zero polls to the Democrats' 17. And if you go back since 2004, that ratio was highly predictive. And the fact that Republicans are not releasing polling suggests that the public polling is right on the mark.

HILL: Okay, so that's fascinating to me. But we can't forgot, and, obviously, you just said this, we know we're still four months out from the election. So what should we really be taking away from what we're seeing now in the beginning of July?

ENTEN: Yes, you point correctly, we're still four months out from the election. But what I will say is if you look at the national polling since 1972, what you see is that the winners tend to be polling in the high 40s to the 50s, losers tend to be polling in the 40s to 30s. And what we see is, right now, Donald Trump in the low 40s, looks a lot more like a loser from past years than a winner.

HILL: Harry Enten, always appreciate it, thank you.

ENTEN: Shalom, be well.

HILL: California is seeing a dangerous surge in new coronavirus cases. So where does the state, the first to shut down go from here?

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