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Florida Becomes U.S. Coronavirus Epicenter; Hospitals Reach Capacity in 2 Texas Counties; Florida Logs Troubling Positivity Rates in Testing; Trump Falsely Claims 99% of Cases are "Harmless"; Drug Maker Regeneron's COVID-19 Antibody Drug Entering Phase 3 Testing; Trump Focuses on Divisive Rhetoric Instead of COVID-19 Threat; Dr. Tanira Ferreira & Dr. David Lang Discuss Florida Hospitals Running Out of Room as Cases Climb. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 6, 2020 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining us.

Hospitals stretched to capacity. Record number of new cases. The percentage of positive tests still increasing in multiple states.

This is where the nation stands in the fight against the coronavirus. Florida has emerged as the nation's new epicenter. It surpassed 200,000 total cases after having its single worst day on the Fourth of July.

In Texas, the situation is becoming increasingly dire as at least two counties are reporting that their hospitals are at full capacity at the start of the holiday weekend.

Overall, 32 states are heading in the wrong direction, reporting an increase in new cases can over the past seven days it.

And that is why images like these from the holiday weekend have health experts and local officials so concerned.



By the time we're for the fall election, I'm sure we'll easily be at 100,000 cases a day, as Dr. Fauci predicts. And we might even more -- might even be at a higher level than that. So we're in freefall and need to stop it.


BOLDUAN: Let's get to our reporters.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in Miami.

Rosa, what are you seeing there?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I'll start with the silver lining, Kate. The numbers were just released by the Florida Department of Health. They are down a bit just to over 6,000. This weekend, however, Florida busted its record with more than 11,400 cases in one day alone.

Leaders here like the mayor and city of Miami has used the word "exponential" to describe the growth and the spread of this virus here in Miami-Dade County.

Let's look at the numbers here because the number of hospitalizations are staggering. We checked with Miami-Dade County. They are releasing this information even though the state of Florida is not releasing it.

When you look at the number of hospitalizations here in Miami-Dade County, yesterday there was just over 1,500 individuals that were hospitalized. That the number on June 23rd was just over 800. That's an 88 percent increase.

During that same time period if you look at the number of ICU beds being used, there's 114 percent increase. If you look at the number of ventilators during that same time, 119 percent increase.

That is why there are so many individuals here, local leaders, mayors, that are very concerned.

Now, Kate, I want you to process this with me for just a moment because Miami-Dade County is the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis here in the state of Florida. And experts say that contact tracing is essential to stop the spread.

On May 14th, the mayor of the county said he was ready to hire between 800 and 1,000 contact tracers to help stop the spread in this county. Well, we asked the county today how many they hired so far and the answer is none.

They sent us a statement saying that they received this from the Florida Department of Health. Quote, "In Florida, the Florida Department of Health is the only entity authorized to conduct contact tracing."

Now according to Miami-Dade County, there are conversations between the county and the state to see what they can do so that they can help during this crisis.

Now we've reached out to the Florida of Department of Health to ask for comment, but, Kate, during a crisis like this, you would think it would be all-hands-on-deck. And if the county is willing to hire between 800 and 1,000 contact tracers, the question, why is the state not allowing not allowing them?

We've, of course, asked that question. We're waiting to hear back.

BOLDUAN: Conversations that should have happened months ago are happening apparently right now.

Rosa, thanks you.

Let's get over to Dallas and Ed Lavandera in Texas.

Ed, what are you hearing there about hospitals and capacity?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, local officials at city and county officials are sounding the alarm that the hospital capacity is going to come and continue to be a dire situation in the days and weeks ahead.

We have the mayor of Austin saying hospital capacity could be reached there within the next couple of weeks. You have county judges in the Rio Grande Valley and in Hidalgo County saying the hospitals there are already at capacity.


And now we have new numbers from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services new numbers that are quite and staggering and really indicates how difficult it is to control this coronavirus is becoming.

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services reports, in the childcare facilities now reopened, that they are now reporting more than 1,300 cases of coronavirus, most of those cases are among staff members, but some children also infected as well.

But just look at how this has jumped in just the last two months. May 15th, there were 59 COVID cases reported in childcare facilities in Texas. A month later, 210, and now we're at more than 1,300.

This, as in the course of the last few weeks, we have seen a staggering increase in the number of new coronavirus cases being reported here in Texas, towards of end of last week some 7,000, 8,000 new cases a day that are being reported.

Kate, the really more troubling part of all of this is the positive infection rate among these new cases being reported is now over 13 percent. The goal here in Texas, state officials have been saying, is to keep that under 6 percent. So they are more than double where they want to be -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Geez, Louise.

Ed, thanks very much for the update.

One key measure throughout the pandemic is what Ed was talking about, has been how many people are tested and how many people among them test positive, the positivity rate. In south Florida, the news there's startling.

Joining me right now Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, CNN medical analyst and chief clinical officer for the Providence Health System.

Doctor, thank you for coming in.

Miami-Dade County, Rosa Flores was reporting about it, reporting a positivity rate of 26 percent. And 26 percent of the COVID tests administered on Sunday came back positive. The goal in the county is to keep that below 10 percent. They have obviously been above that and they have been above that for two weeks.

Why is this so important for people to understand in looking forward? What does this mean for how the virus is spreading in the state's largest county?

DR. AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes. Thanks so much for asking, Kate. And what that means is that the number of infections is outstripping the test supply.

The reason we test, of course, is people individually want to know what they have going on, right? But also you want to be able to -- to constrain the virus.

And so if you test adequately, if you get most of the cases, then those people can stay home and prevent themselves from going out and infecting others, so really ensuring that you can capture everybody who has the virus and preventing it and interrupting the spread, preventing is it from going on.

If we have a 25 percent positivity rate, that means that we're not capturing the virus very well. We're not putting ring around all those infections and keeping them contained and, instead, it is exploding beyond those boundaries.

BOLDUAN: It is very clear why Dr. Peter Hotez says this morning that we're in freefall and that's what it looks like.

In terms of the federal response, you have the president saying this weekend that 99 percent of COVID cases are totally harmless. This morning, the White House is not trying to clean that up. They are not claiming that he was joking or being tongue in cheek as they often do when he says false things about the pandemic.

His chief of staff is actually pushing the very same thing saying that the risk is extremely low for most people. Doctor, what do you say about that?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: I would say that's a made-up number. That's not a number steeped in any kind of science. It's not validated anywhere.

Right now, from the people who have had COVID so far in the U.S., the mortality rate, the death rate is over 4.5 percent. And that is not only the people who have died, right? Around 20 percent of people are put in the hospital, which is not an insignificant virus.

We do know that we are underdiagnosing COVID, that there are more infections out there than we have the diagnosis for. And so that mortality rate, when we look back a year from now, will be a little bit lower, but 99 percent is just pulled from thin air. So that really has no basis in the literature anywhere.

BOLDUAN: It also gets to put the -- put the number aside. What it's trying to evoke you don't need to be scared or serious. It's likely not to impact you. That is not the message that we're hearing on the local level when you heart numbers that we're talking about.

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: No. That's exactly why, here in the U.S., we are suffering dramatically more from this virus than countries whose leaders have managed this well.

So right now, in the U.S., we've had pushing now 130,000 people die, which is dramatically higher than other wealthy Western nations.


And the reason being is that we've had inconsistent messaging from leadership saying what you can do to protect yourself and how important it is to protect yourself.

We would get our economy moving much faster if we simply had everybody wear a mask and wash their hands and take it seriously. It's not asking people to do a whole lot. It's not asking us to shut down our economy. Just asking us to take our precautions and work together and be kind to your neighbors by wearing a mask.

One of the key things that I think should be called out is the that the preamble of our Constitution says that the government's responsibility is to promote the general welfare.

So in this case, we really need our elected officials to adhere to what the Constitution stays, promote the general welfare, and encourage everybody to wear a mask, wash their hands and socially distant.

BOLDUAN: Those simple things are empowering for the economy to get back up and running if that's what your goal is.

There was some news, Doctor, out from the drug-maker, Regeneron, announcing they have moved into phase three trials for an antibody treatment cocktail that can be used to treat patients in and out of the hospitals when we're taking about the use of antibodies.

What does all this mean?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: Again, it gives us hope for, when you already do have the virus but, hopefully, it won't get so bad that it will kill you, which is -- which is a positive, right? We want to be able to have therapeutics and treatment.

But what we really want to do is not only be able to put our finger in the dike of when you get sick, we can treat you. We want to stop the infections in the first place, which is why we're working on vaccines and working on social distancing and why we shut down the economy in the spring, right?

We want to stop the number of infections. But if you do get infected, we want to have treatments, so those are the antibody treatments or Remdesivir or the steroid therapy we're all hearing about.

Those are good to have as backup, but really the goal is to keep people from getting sick in the first place.

BOLDUAN: Someone described it this morning as a bridge between where we are currently and the moment a vaccine is available. So it is something. It's definitely not a long-term answer.

Doctor, thank you so much.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, President Trump is focusing on just about everything but the pandemic. And also inflaming racial tensions in a truly remarkable way over the weekend. Is the this his bet for re- election?

Plus, as cases are spiking to record levels in Florida, hospitals are beginning to get overwhelmed. We'll get the view from one major hospital in Miami.



BOLDUAN: President Trump marked the July Fourth holiday with two speeches with two very clear messages, division and darkness, and also denial. The president focusing very little on the very real and urgent public health crisis that's only getting worse right now. Instead, choosing to send this message to the American people on Independence Day.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are now in the process of defeating the radical left, the Marxists, the anarchists, the agitators, the looters and people who, in many instances, have absolutely no clue what they are doing.

Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.

We will not be tyrannized. We will not be demeaned. And we will not be intimidated by bad, evil people. It will not happen.



BOLDUAN: That was just some of it. I mean, the president continuing this morning to stoke the flames of racial tension in this country, tweeting out an attack against NASCAR driver, Bubba Wallace, and also attacking NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag.

Joining me now former Republican governor of Ohio, John Kasich, a CNN political commentator.

Governor, some of the things the president was talking about, division, talking about Confederate statues, talking about fear of indoctrination, comparing left-wing activists to Nazis and essentially denying the reality of the virus.

What were you left thinking after seeing these speeches on July Fourth?

JOHN KASICH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Kate, I thought it was something -- I thought it was an Netflix show. I actually thought it was some fantasy. I mean, it's just so hard to believe.

But one of my friends said this morning, and he made a lot of sense talking about this it. He said he's not getting too worked up with the president because the president is flailing and failing and he's become desperate.

So he's using this rhetoric of division. And he somehow thinks if he uses that, that that's going to create strength and energy. But it isn't working.

You know, the reason it isn't working is people don't want to hear that out of their president. They want to hear somebody on the Fourth of July that says we're all in this together.

And by the way, we're in the middle of fighting this virus and things are starting to get out of control. Please wear a mask. Social distance and wash. Wash your hands.

Well, I'll tell you what it is, he's just desperate. He's looking at all the polls and lashing out at any media organizations and not only just at CNN but now he's telling people not to the watch FOX News.


KASICH: It's really like a Netflix show, really like some sort of a fantasy show.

BOLDUAN: It's as if he can't take in new information. He doesn't want to -- he's not adjusting. He is not adapting to the reality that the rest of the country is face.


But also I'm -- the Republican Party -- many times you and I have talked on this topic of the party struggling to deal with Donald Trump since the beginning of this presidency, the division that he stirs up.

On the virus, the president now denying the facts that he's trying to sell that it's 99 percent harmless. And it's life and death.

I mean, we talk about responsibility quite a bit. But what is the responsibility of elected Republicans when we talk about leadership in this country when you have a Republican leader in Donald Trump doing what he's doing?

KASICH: Because they have coddled him and they have made it easy for him to say these kind things because they operate out of a sense of fear, that if they criticize him, he's going to go after them and somehow he's going to cost them their election.

If, in fact, Republicans, as a group, had come out early on, particularly starting with Charlottesville, and said that this language is unacceptable, I believe he would have changed or the party would have separated from him.

But, you know, somebody was telling me, at the Mt. Rushmore, one of the Senators out there, clapping his hands and laughing and, on the one hand, saying, I don't agree with Trump and kind of supporting him.

Look, you know, I -- I see that some of them are beginning to move away from Trump, And I guarantee you, Kate, at some point in the future some of these people are going to say -- once they understand that their election imperiled by Donald Trump, they will say I've never supported Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

KASICH: That's the way it works in politics.

So, you know, they have really encouraged it.

It's like when you have kids, right? If you don't correct your kids, they do things far worse than if you had stopped them in the beginning. And the Republican Party has been absent, largely absent, terrible.

BOLDUAN: Another thing we've noticed --


KASICH: And by the way, Kate, they are damaging the brand, too. So if you're a Republican now and you're in a moderate district, you'll likely lose because you're a Republican. And if you're in a solid Republican district, you're living in fear of a primary.

You're like -- that's why so many of them are leaving because they don't want to deal with this any longer. It's a party meltdown right now.

BOLDUAN: Well, there's -- another thing, trust, trust in facts, trust in public information, trust in public health, I think, is another thing that I'm interested in, the responsibility of public health experts now.

Because let me play to you what the current FDA commissioner said in refusing to correct the president's claim of 99 percent of COVID cases are totally harmless in his words. He was on CNN yesterday. Let me play what you said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. STEPHAN HAHN, FDA COMMISSIONER: So I'm not going to get into who is right and who is wrong. What I'm going to say, Dana, is something that I've said before, which is that it's a serious problem that we've had. 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.


BOLDUAN: This gets back to responsibility again. What is -- what is Hahn's responsibility here?

KASICH: Leaders have a responsibility to speak the truth to power, if you want to be a leader. If you want to say, well, you know, I'm not going to argue -- of course, he's dead wrong. Why would with the guy not say it? Is that job that important to him?

Look, put ourselves in his shoes, Kate. Put us in the shoes of that FDA guy. Are we willing to stand up and say the president is wrong?

Fauci has done it. He's been able to say it and keep his job. But is keeping your job the most important thing in life? Because after all, life is short.

And -- and sometimes, it's hard to speak truth to power. But when you do it, you feel liberated. You feel great. And you're not, quote, "a collaborator" with this nonsense. Because the president's actions around this virus have been reckless. That's the easiest, the nicest thing to say. Totally and completely reckless.

People dying. People get infected. And we don't know, over time, if it's damaging their organs or things in their body that we don't even know right now.

Wear a mask, come on! How silly is this? If you're outside on a bicycle, not so much. But if you're inside and you can't social distance, be responsible. How hard is that for a president to say?

BOLDUAN: Not hard.


KASICH: Or the Senators.

BOLDUAN: Not hard for a John Kasich to say. And that's why I appreciate it.

Governor, thank you.

KASICH: OK. Kate, thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

[11:24:24] Coming up for us, hospitals in Florida are seeing a judge jump in the number of COVID patients coming through their doors. Next we'll talk to two doctors on the front lines of the fight.


BOLDUAN: Florida has become the epicenter now of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. Look at the numbers, and you will see why. In Miami-Dade County, coronavirus hospitalizations are up 88 percent over the last two weeks. Patients in ICU beds, that is up 114 percent. And there was a 119 percent increase in patients on ventilators.

These are shocking numbers in and of themselves. But it's one thing to talk about the numbers, but what does that look like and feel like for doctors on the front lines in this fight right now?


With me right now is Dr. Tanira Ferreira, chief medical officer at the University of Miami Hospital, and Dr. David Lang, who is medical director of emergency medicine at the University of Miami Hospital.