Return to Transcripts main page


Concern Over Potential Post-Holiday Spike in Coronavirus Cases; Trump Claims 99 percent of COVID-19 Cases are Harmless; More Than 40,000 New Cases in Florida Since July 1; Arizona Struggling with Resurgence of Cases; Growing Concern Over Hospital Capacity as Texas Cases Climb; Australia to Close Border between Victoria and New South Wales; Fire Damage to Key Iranian Nuclear Site; First Person Charged in Hong Kong Under New Law. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 6, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead. As the U.S. faces a deepening crisis over the coronavirus, we are learning more about how people may become infected. The U.S. saw a wave of gun violence over the holiday weekend with children among the victims.

And the British Royal Family is again entangled in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal after this photo surfaced of the alleged accomplice sitting on thrones at Buckingham Palace with Kevin Spacey.

Good to have you with us. Well as dozens of U.S. states struggle to control rising coronavirus cases, there is growing fear we could see a post-holiday spike after Americans headed out over the Fourth of July weekend. And scenes like these are only heightening those concerns as many beaches, pools and parks across the U.S. were open and packed with people.

Right now, this is what the trend looks like compared to one week ago. Just three states are seeing a decline while a total of 34 states are seeing their cases go up. And that includes California. The state just set a new record for the most cases reported in a single day. With more than 11,000 new cases and that's according to Johns Hopkins University.

Now amid-all of this, President Trump has made an unfounded claim that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are, quote, totally harmless. The commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration declined to defend that comment.


DR. STEPHEN HAHN, FDA COMMISSIONER: So I'm not going to get into who's right and who's wrong. When going to say, Dana, is what I 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 guide from the White House task force and the CDC.


CHURCH: Well the news out of Florida at this hour is not good. It now has more than 200,000 total confirmed infections. Many of them coming from a surge over the holiday weekend. Boris Sanchez has the story.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We saw the record-breaking Fourth of July holiday weekend for the state of Florida, more than 40,000 new coronavirus cases in only the first four days of July for the sunshine state. Keep in mind, last month in June they saw 100,000 new cases roughly the entire month. The concern is real. And so is the demand for testing. Outside the Miami Beach Convention Center this weekend, we saw sizable crowds line up both on foot and in their vehicles. Some 1,200 tests were administered and actually had to close early because they ran out of tests. Now local officials are concerned that folks may not be following the social distancing guidelines. And that's why we're seeing surges that we are. We spoke with the mayor of Miami beach, Dan Gelber, who shared his concerns with us. Listen to this.

DAN GELBER, MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA MAYOR: How do you tell somebody they have to wear a mask and be socially distanced when the President doesn't and hosts a rally where they're almost celebrating the lack of those simple countermeasures. So really, we're not on the same page. There's not unity in the, you know, in our community or any community right now. And I really feel like that's the greatest challenge. If people listened and did what they sensed and knew was healthy, we would get through this much better.

SANCHEZ: The big open question is what happens next. Two weeks from now, specifically with the COVID-19 numbers, the number of coronavirus carries that 14-day incubation period. And after another holiday weekend in previous months, on Memorial Day weekend, we saw a surge in cases nationwide because people were ignoring social distancing. So what happens in two weeks? Will we wind up seeing even bigger numbers than the record-breaking ones we saw this weekend.

Boris Sanchez, CNN, Miami Beach.


CHURCH: The resurgence of infections in many U.S. states is pitting mayors of hot spot cities against their governors. A prime example is Arizona. Case there are skyrocketing. The mayor of Phoenix criticized the governor for initially not allowing local leaders to impose facemask requirements. And she says Arizona had no business reopening as quickly as it did. Take a listen.


KATE GALLEGO, PHOENIX, ARIZONA MAYOR: We opened way too early in Arizona. We were one of the last states to go to stay at home and one of the first to reemerge and remerged at 0 to 60. We had crowded nightclubs handing out free champagne, no masks.



CHURCH: And she went on to say large family gatherings remain a problem and, in some places, people are still waiting for eight hours to get tested.

And in Texas where cases are on the rise, the governor is distributing hundreds of cases of the antiviral drug remdesivir to more than 157 hospitals. That is part of the state's sixth shipment from U.S. Health and Human Services. And right now, hospitals in at least two counties have hit their maximum capacities. And while the mayor of Austin says he's pleased the governor has finally issued a mandate on face coverings, he warns more action may be needed as hospital beds quickly fill up.


STEVE ADLER, AUSTIN, TEXAS MAYOR: We're on a trajectory right now that we could be inundating our intensive care units here within the next week to ten days. We're watching the numbers on a daily basis. We may have to take more drastic action and we've laid that out and it's something that we're discussing publicly in the community right now.


CHURCH: And a group of 239 scientists say the coronavirus can be spread through tiny droplets in the air and that authorities should be honest about it. The group is publishing an open letter calling on health agencies to talk more about airborne transmission. They say researchers have known for months that COVID-19 can survive in the tiny droplets we emit while talking. Rather than fall these droplets float in the air and can be inhaled deeply into the lungs.


Joining me now is Dr. Saju Mathew. He is a public health specialist, a primary care physician and a CNN medical analyst. Always good to talk with you, doctor.


CHURCH: So a group of health experts plans to ask the W.H.O., the CDC and other health agencies in the coming hours to do a better job of telling people that the coronavirus can float in air droplets and is likely transmitted that way. It certainly my understanding that that has been out there for some time. It has been discussed publicly before. So what is the significance of this new push you think?

MATHEW: Yes, I think, Rosemary, the main reason for that, just like as you mentioned, is to push the notion that wearing a cloth mask is really going to try to help us contain this pandemic. We already know that it's transmitted in the air droplet when is you talk, when you breathe. There's been a lot of simulations that talk about how far the air droplets can spread depending on if you're whispering, if you're talking, if you're shouting or screaming. So I think it's just a push by the W.H.O. to make sure that we all understand the importance of wearing a mask.

CHURCH: Yes, we can't labor that point enough, of course. And doctor, President Trump tried to downplay the severity of COVID-19 over the weekend by falsely claiming that 99 percent of cases are harmless, totally harmless, he said. The FDA commissioner refused to defend or deny Trump's claim. What's your medical response to the President's claim and of course, the FDA chief's refusal to dispute it? And where does that leave trust in this issue?

MATHEW: You know, with due respect to our President, there's nothing that's 99 percent harmless, Rosemary, about COVID-19. Here's some quick stats -- 5 out of 100 people can potentially be hospitalized. Greater than 50 percent of patients with COVID-19 will have severe symptoms requiring mechanical ventilation or oxygen therapy. Get this. The mortality rate is 3 to 5 percent. Compare that to influenza, the common flu, which is .1 percent. And, Rosemary, I know of patients that are dying from blood clots to the brain and the lungs. There is nothing that's 99 percent harmless unfortunately about COVID-19.

CHURCH: Yes, the facts are very sobering. Aren't they? And of course, the U.S. just saw 45,000+ new cases in one day as 34 states reported spikes, including 121 students a at the University of Washington in Seattle testing positive for COVID-19. And we're seeing large crowds of party goers across the country for July Fourth holiday, at lakes, water parks, beaches, bars, people not social distancing, not wearing masks. Clearly, this message is not getting through. What needs to be done right now to contain this and what do hospitals need to be doing to respond to the increased hospitalizations?

MATHEW: Yes, so, Rosemary, I see that as -- if you will, like two arms to that question. The first thing is we need to deal with the surges that are already occurring.


There is an article in one of the Houston magazines the other day that's saying that 2,000 new COVID-19 patients could potentially show up at the hospital every single day. We need to really be concerned about taking care of the health care workers, make sure they have PPE equipment, the facemasks and also the psychological help that they're going to need to deal with the surge.

And then secondly, Rosemary, we have to attack the community. We have to make sure that the community is aggressive about making sure that they are staying at home if it they can, work from home. And I have to go out on a limb and say, Rosemary, that the governors need to issue a stay at home order in states where the surges are more than, you know, so many cases every single day for five days in a row. So if the cases are going up every single day for five days or a week, those states need to really issue a stay at home order. Otherwise, we're going to be playing in this vicious cycle where we can't get out of that circle. And that's the only way, in my opinion at this point, to take care of these surges. CHURCH: Sadly, there is a reluctance to do that at the top. Isn't

there? And as we've seen, some U.S. citizens still refusing to wear masks along with their President. How much of this resistance is due to the initial message from the surgeon general, the W.H.O. and other medical experts at the very start of this who said not to wear masks because medical workers needed them. But they didn't explain that properly. Should people have been told back then to make their own masks and wear them in public and what difference could that have made if they had done that?

MATHEW: Yes, of course, Rosemary. You know, hindsight is 2020. You know obviously, it's tough to look back and really in some way decide, my God, if we had really become aggressive with wearing masks way back in February or March, could we have prevented a lot of hospitalizations and maybe even fatalities. If you look at countries like South Korea and Singapore, these are mask-wearing cultures. And yes, you have to also realize that these countries all have dealt with pandemics before. This is really our first experience in the U.S. after such a long time. But you know, moving forward, I think we need to really make sure we clearly message the fact that wearing a mask can decrease the transmission for as much as 50 percent of this virus.

CHURCH: Right, of course, that mixed the message, didn't it, from the start. So we're still working hard on that one. Just finally and just very quickly, we are now learning that a new mutation in the virus makes it more contagious, but less lethal. So how will that mutation likely impact the vaccines currently being developed?

MATHEW: So there's some good news, believe it or not, with that mutation. We know that his virus replicates so rapidly like a cancer cell. The big question is in the replication process, are we affecting those spike proteins through which the vaccine will be developed. The good news is so far, researchers are saying even though there are more spikes in the mutated form, it's not going to affect the development of a vaccine. And as you mentioned, Rosemary, I want to make it clear to our viewers that even though it's mutated, yes, it's more transmissible, it's more contagious, but it's not anymore lethal or virulent.

CHURCH: That is a little bit of good news there. We'll and on that. Dr. Saju Mathew, always a pleasure.

MATHEW: Thank you, Rosemary.


CHURCH: And India has surpassed Russia in overall coronavirus cases. On Monday India's health ministry reported more than 24,00 new infections in a 24-hour period. That brings the country's case load to nearly 700,000. India now takes Russia's former spot as the third worst hit country by the virus behind the United States and Brazil.

And startling new numbers from Brazil. Officials there say 1.6 million people have confirmed cases of the virus. Nearly 65,000 have died. Despite that the largest city is reopening Monday. Sao Paulo's bars, restaurants and hair salons are back in business. Rio de Janeiro allowed bars and restaurants to reopen over the weekend.

And Mexico surpassed France's death toll over the weekend with more than 30,000 people now confirmed dead. Mexico's health ministry also reported nearly 4,700 new cases on Sunday. Just days after more parts of the country began to reopen.

Well, Australia is taking some pretty serious measures to prevent a coronavirus outbreak from spreading. Beginning late on Tuesday, the state of Victoria will close its border with New South Wales cutting it off from the rest of the country. It comes as the state struggles to contain outbreaks in the city of Melbourne.


Mass testing identified 127 new cases across the state on Sunday.

So let's get more from Angus Watson, who joins me now live from Sydney. Good to see you, Angus. So Australia is taking severe action here locking down nine public housing towers and preparing to shut off the state of Victoria from the rest of the nation. What is the latest on all of this? And how are Australians reacting to it?

ANGUS WATSON, JOURNALIST: Well, severe is a very good word for this, Rosemary. It's never happened before through the history of the pandemic. In Australia, 3,000 people on what the government is calling a hard lockdown in Melbourne. Unable to leave their homes for anything. Our 12 other post codes are on a lockdown but it's a much softer one in Melbourne. They're allowed to go out to buy food, or two do exercise or two give care to someone who needs them.

But these 3,000 people who are in nine public housing towers unallowed to go out for any reason. And they're being guarded by the police to make sure that they don't leave. And there's a massive logistics operation on to keep them going through what could be 5 or potentially 14 or even longer days in complete isolation. And we've spoken to some of the people that are inside and some of the social workers that are on the ground trying to help them and tensions are fraying, Rosemary. We've had one arrest of a man who tried to leave his apartment and was detained by police and one social worker that we spoke to, said that the whole area looked more like a crime scene than a health care situation -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: And what about the closing of the border? What's been the response to that? It won't happen until Tuesday but it's coming up.

WATSON: Well, folks from Melbourne can't travel to New South Wales anymore as of right now. New South Wales government has designated the whole of Melbourne as a hot spot and so people from Melbourne won't be able to travel to New South Wales right now, as of now. But -- and that will extend to the whole of the Victorian population as of tomorrow.

And what this is about is keeping the outbreak in Melbourne. The figures that were reported today were the highest that Melbourne has suffered through this entire coronavirus pandemic. That's in a country, Australia, which has been doing very well to keep a lid on the disease. And none of the authorities want this getting out of Victoria -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, there is a reason why their numbers are low when they take action like this. Angus Watson, many thanks. Joining us live from Sydney, appreciate it.

WATSON Thank you.

CHURCH: And coming up next, one of Iran's key nuclear sites have been damaged by an unexplained fire. We ask if it's sabotage or accident. That's ahead.

Plus, a 23-year-old protester is facing plenty of pressure and a court appearance. He is the first person to be charged under a controversial new law in Hong Kong. And we will take you there live. Back in just a moment.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone.

Well this hour, Iran claims it knows what caused a mysterious fire at a key facility in its nuclear program but won't yet reveal it. Take a look at the significant damage the blaze caused here. This image is from Iranian state media. Authorities say no one was killed in the incident but the blaze did cause, quote, significant financial losses.

So let's get to CNN's international security editor Nick Paton Walsh to help us get a sense of what's going on here. Good to see you, Nick. So what more are you learning about this?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, this instant occurred at the Natanz nuclear plant and the images you see there show certainly some damage referred to by the spokesperson for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Behrouz Kamalvandi, as significant damage. He pointed out nobody lost their lives in this incident but suggested that that shed, as it was referred to, held some advanced machines that may at some point have been used in the calibrating of instruments in the creation of advanced centrifuges.

Now it seems to suggest in his language there were no centrifuges in that building at that time because of Iran's previous commitments to the JCPOA, otherwise known as Nuclear Deal. Under which they said they would significantly reduce their enrichment of uranium. Now they've pulled out too many of those commitments since the U.S. pulled out of the deal itself. Now saying they will enrich over 5 percent, possibly further as well. That has caused considerable concern amongst Iran's opponents in the region and certainly the U.S. and the IEA. Over the past weeks have pointed out they'd like to see greater transparency from Iran in terms of access to various locations.

What happened in Natanz is still unclear. Now there's been speculation. Anonymous Iranian officials briefing state media both suggesting it was not sabotage or that it may have been more suspicious itself. Obviously, there are some concerns about this maybe being related to Iran's opponents in the region trying to disable any kind of nuclear technological movement. It has partly because Natanz was targeted by the Stuxnet cyber-attack in 2010 for which Israel was blamed.

So lots of moving parts here. And certainly one of them as this wasn't the only instant that occurred in Iran over the last few days. There have been other unexplained fires and even explosions in various parts of the country. Yes, there is a heat wave in parts of Iran now as well. And there could be more innocent explanations. But it is key, of course, to see Iranian officials persistently trying to explain this particular instance to other individuals. But also saying they know the reason why this occurred but will wait until a later, more appropriate time to reveal it. Something very strange clearly went down here. We simply don't know and transparent on the record away from anyone, quite what that was yet -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Nick Payton Walsh, we'll continue to watch that story. Many thanks.

CHURCH: In Hong Kong, the first person charged under a new and controversial national security law has just arrived for his first court appearance. Police say the 23-year-old man violated the new law at a protest on Wednesday.


He is accused of injuring officers and carrying a flag that said liberate Hong Kong. China enacted the law last week to crack down on what it considers subversion and terrorism. And CNN's Anna Coren is live outside the court. Anna, we know he has arrived there. What more are you learning about this young man and what lies ahead for him?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, he has just now left the court here at West Kowloon. He was in there for about an hour. He was brought in in a wheelchair because he was injured during that incident on the 1st of July as he was driving through the streets holding that flag that said liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of its time. That slogan is now banned. Shortly after that he crashed into police in causeway by injuring himself as well as three police officers.

Now the prosecution said inside the courtroom that because the crowds that had turned out, thousands of people had turned out protesting that national security law, because the crowds were cheering as he drove past with that sign, that in itself incites secession. So that is why he's being charged with that particular crime. The other one is obviously terrorist activities, injuring police officers. They say that three police officers were seriously injured.

Now his lawyer, who we just spoke to a short time ago, he really couldn't tell us much because under this new national security law they really cannot part with much information. The sensitivity of this, still so much ambiguity is involved. But he said that his client was in good spirits mentally and physically. But the lawyer himself, that these are challenging times for Hong Kong and the city was facing its darkest hour. The 23-year-old, Ying-kit Tong, who was Eurasia. He will reappear in court on the sixth of October. The prosecution has asked for three months to put together the case. But as I say, Rosemary, uncertain times for this city where there is a great deal of fear as to what can be said and just the paraphernalia that people can have in their possession -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, people are just trying to figure this out as they go along. Anna Coren joining us live from Hong Kong. Many thanks.

Well, after a new COVID-19 outbreak in Spain, authorities are taking some extreme measures. We will have a live report from Madrid just ahead.