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White House Claims U.S. As Global Leader In Fighting Coronavirus; White House Refuses To Make A Stance On Confederate Flags; Miami-Dade Shuttering Indoor Dining, Gyms Amid Virus Surge; Brazil's Largest City Reopening Despite Soaring Cases; Virus Case Surge Threatens Pro Sports Return. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 6, 2020 - 17:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: 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.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM and we're following breaking news.

A very grim new milestone in the coronavirus pandemic which has now claimed more than 130,000 American lives over the past four months alone. And as the number of known cases in the country nears 3 million, the virus is clearly surging in 32 states.

But despite leading the world in cases and deaths, the White House is claiming the U.S. is seen as the global leader in fighting the pandemic. And it's also defending President Trump's unfounded claim that 99 percent of COVID cases are "totally harmless."

And more disturbing developments, the White House also refusing to denounce the Confederate flag while Mr. Trump stokes racial divide. He took a direct swipe at NASCAR's only top tier African-American driver, Bubba Wallace, and claimed NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flag has caused its lowest ratings ever. Not true.

Let's begin with the breaking news pandemic coverage. CNN's Nick Watt is joining us from Los Angeles right now. Nick, California, one of 32 states where the numbers clearly are climbing.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, California is one of many places in this country where we have seen the case counts climb. We have seen the number of people in the hospital climb to record levels. And we are now just hoping that the death toll does not catch up.

The governor of California just said he is modestly optimistic that it won't because among the new infections, a lot of young people who are less susceptible.

But listen, as Dr. Anthony Fauci just said this morning, we are still knee-deep in the first wave of this and we need to deal with this situation immediately. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): On Independence Day, Florida suffered more new cases than any state has ever. Still, the governor seems sanguine.

RON DESANTIS (R), GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: I mean, there's no need to really be fearful about it.

WATT (voice-over): But some mayors are.

FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MAYOR OF MIAMI: What happened is, what's happened across the country, which is, you know, when we opened, you know, people began to socialize as if the coronavirus didn't exist.

WATT (voice-over): Miami-Dade just closed dine-in restaurants again.

DAN GELBER (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: We're starting to roll the carpet back up. You know, it's pretty clear we have this real problem.

WATT (voice-over): Because a staggering 26 percent of all COVID-19 tests in the county came back positive on Sunday.

AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER, PROVIDENCE HEALTH SYSTEM: That means we're not capturing the virus very well. We're not putting a ring around all those infections and keeping them contained. And, instead, it is exploding beyond those boundaries.

WATT (voice-over): CNN contacted 27 people who tested positive in Florida. Only five said they were called by a contact tracer.

PETER HOTEZ, DO-DIRECOTR, TEXAS CHILDREN HOSPITAL FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: We call them spikes but I call this massive resurgence. We're in free fall and nothing (ph) can stop it.

WATT (voice-over): In Texas, the number of patients in the hospital is hitting a new record high every day.

RON NIRENBERG (I), MAYOR OF SAN ANTONIO: If the pace continues, we're a week away from running out of hospital beds and ICU capacity.

WATT (voice-over): Now, remember those Memorial Day crowds back in May? Well, three weeks later, new case counts climbed nationally. And 32 states are now going in the wrong direction. Did we learn a lesson? Well, this was Backwater Jack's in the Ozarks Memorial Day weekend and July 4th. Almost indistinguishable.

There were crowds across the country this past weekend. Too many drawn to water. And a house party in L.A. and a peach party on Fire Island. So many celebrating shaking off the Brits, but not this virus. Not even close.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: We're right back where we were at the peak of the epidemic during the New York outbreak.

WATT (voice-over): And remember what New York looked like in April. Crowded hospitals, morgue trucks outside. Today, though, a different story.

ANDREW CUOMO (D), GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: The numbers have actually declined since we started re-opening.

WATT (voice-over): Apparently it's simple. New York was the first state to mandate masks for all and, for example, decided not to open indoor restaurants in the city today.

CUOMO: Keep your hand on the valve. As you see it start to go up, slow down the valve. If you don't see the numbers going up, then you can open up the economic activity valve. And that's what we've been doing.



WATT (on camera): And on schools, the governor of New York again this morning said we haven't made a decision yet despite the mayor of New York City last week saying kids will be back in September. We're actually expecting some guidelines on the re-opening of schools from the CDC possibly sometime this week.

BLITZER: All right, Nick, thank you very much. Nick Watt reporting for us. Let's go to the White House right now. Our White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us. Kaitlan, the president and his team seem to have an alternate reality when it comes to the pandemic. Hundreds of Americans are continuing to die every single day.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that's certainly the president has had to be really disinterested in the response to the pandemic. As Nick noted, we are seeing these outbreaks and new cases and what's happening across the United States as some state are scaling back their re-openings.

But Wolf, on several fronts today, the White House is having to defend comments the president made in recent days starting with a claim about coronavirus cases in the United States.

Here at the White House on Saturday night to a tweet this morning where he seemed to criticize NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag from its events.


COLLINS (voice-over): With infections surging across the country, White House officials spent the day insisting President Trump isn't downplaying the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I don't even know that is a generalization. When you start to look at the stats and look at all the numbers that we have, the amount of testing that we have, the vast majority of people are safe from this.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president isn't downplaying the severity of the virus. COLLINS (voice-over): The chief of staff and press secretary argued

instead that President Trump was referencing the fatality rate when he wrongly made this claim Saturday night, that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are totally harmless.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, we have tested almost 40 million people. By so doing, we show cases 99 percent of which are totally harmless. Results that no other country can show because no other country has testing that we have.

COLLINS (voice-over): The FDA commissioner refused to back up or correct what the president said despite being pressed multiple times.


STEPHEN HAHN, FDA COMMISSIONER: So, I'm not going to get into who's right and who's 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.

COLLINS (voice-over): New York Governor Andrew Cuomo accused Trump of enabling the virus.

CUOMO: He makes up facts. He makes up science. He is facilitating the virus. He is enabling the virus by statements like that.

COLLINS (voice-over): Despite continuing to dismiss the record number of new cases, the pandemic got closer to Trump's inner circle this weekend.


COLLINS (voice-over): Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fund raising official and his son, Donald Trump, Jr.'s girlfriend tested positive for coronavirus ahead of his speech in Mount Rushmore.

When the White House was asked why the South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem was allowed to fly on Air Force One after being seen hugging Guifoyle, McEnany punted to Secret Service which does not decide who flies on Air Force one.

MCENANY: Yes, I'd have to refer you to Secret Service on that.

COLLINS (voice-over): During her briefing, the press secretary also struggled to answer questions about Trump's tweet calling on NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace to apologize and wrongly claiming that NASCAR's ratings are down after the sport banned the Confederate flag. McEnany could not explain why Wallace needed to apologize for an

investigation he didn't initiate into a rope he didn't find that the FBI later described as a noose.

MCENANY: In aggregates, what he was pointing out is this rush to judgment to immediately say that there is a hate crime as happened in this case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He saying he needs to apologize. That's what we're trying to ask you, Kayleigh, is why should he have to apologize about that?

MCENANY: I'm not going to answer a question a sixth time.

COLLINS (voice-over): McEnany refused to say if Trump agreed with NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flag and instead insisted that he had no opinion on it at all.

MCENANY: He said he was not making a judgment one way or the other. The intention of the tweet was to stand up for the men and women of NASCAR.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he think it was a mistake for NASCAR to ban it?

MCENANY: The president said he wasn't making a judgment one way or the other. You're focusing on one word at the very bottom of a tweet.

COLLINS (voice-over): In his response, Wallace said "always deal with hate being thrown at you with love, even when it's hate from the president of the United States."


COLLINS (on camera): Now, Wolf, the press secretary said Trump isn't making a judgment on the Confederate flag, but the military could soon. A defense official is telling my colleague, Barbara Starr, that there is a draft policy document circulating among the highest levels at the Pentagon right now that would ban the Confederate flag from all military bases.

Now, Wolf, it hasn't been approved. It's still undergoing a legal review, but if it is, it could pit these senior military leaders against the president.


BLITZER: Very, very interesting indeed. All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Thanks very much.

There's more breaking news. Only moments ago, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency or ICE as its known, announced that thousands -- thousands of foreign students here in the United States will be forced to leave the country or risk deportation if their universities switch to online-only classes in the fall.

We're going to get more on this development. That's coming up as well. In the meantime, let's discuss all the coronavirus pandemic developments with Dr. Boris Lushniak, the former acting Surgeon General and dean of the University Of Maryland School Of Public Health. And Jeffrey Shaman, and epidemiologist at Columbia University. Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Dr. Shaman, today the death toll here in the U.S. passed 130,000 -- 130,000 Americans have died over the past four months. The country also hit record numbers of new cases going into this past holiday weekend. If we continue on this trend here in the United States, what's your assessment, how bad could things get?

JEFFREY SHAMAN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, look, it's an unspeakable tragedy to have 130,000 plus people die already from this disease, which could have been mitigated and slowed through better preventive measures.

Unfortunately, we have not completed our journey with the virus at all. There are many people who haven't been exposed and there's a consequence, if we don't get our act together better collectively, if we don't bring this to heel, if we don't act more forcefully against the virus, it will continue to kill people.

It will infect many more people and it will kill people along the way. There are many people who have not yet been infected. And, as a consequence of that, it could continue and it could start up and flare up in places where it already has occurred and in the places that are currently really dealing with it in a hard way we are not yet done with it unless we really take active control measures.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. Lushniak, the White House press secretary today defended the president's claim that 99 percent of coronavirus cases here in the U.S., the president's words, are totally harmless. She said he was referring to the low mortality rate here, but it wasn't harmless for 130,000 Americans died.

And we know many people have long-term complications from this virus. Is there any truth to the president's claim, 99 percent totally harmless? Is there any truth to the president's claim at all?

BORIS LUSHNIAK, FORMER ACTING SURGEON GENERAL: Wolf, you know, the messaging from the White House is getting more and more ridiculous and more and more dangerous as time goes on. We need to acknowledge that this novel virus is in fact sickening individuals and is killing individuals in the United States.

Yes, some people are asymptomatic. Yes, some people have mild cases of this disease. But, in essence, we also are having a lot of people who are being hospitalized. Look at the ICUs in Texas as they are filling up right now, right. These are not harmless cases. This is not a harmless pandemic. And we need to be strong enough to begin correcting the president of the United States.

BLITZER: And it's clearly important to note that even if a young person is asymptomatic, he is not harmless or she is not harmless because that person, Dr. Shaman, could easily pass on the virus to moms and dads and grandparents and others and potentially they could die. That is not harmless.

SHAMAN: It's not harmless and that's the real issue here. This is not just about protecting each individual's health. It's not just somebody saying that I'm 25 years old, I'm healthy. I can go out, I'll get the virus. It's not going to affect me.

You are still capable of transmitting it onto other individuals. You are capable of making other people in your vicinity, in your connective circle sick, many of whom may have comorbidities and chronic conditions that put them severely at risk.

This is the messaging we need. We need to manage people's expectations to understand that we're going to be dealing with this virus for some time and we have to wear face masks and enact social distancing and wash our hands and restrict our activities because it's just not about protecting ourselves. It's about protecting each other.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. Lushniak, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany also claimed the world sees the U.S. right now as a leader in fighting this virus. When you heard that, what was your reaction to that?

LUSHNIAK: You know, far from it. You know, it's no small wonder that the European Union is not allowing Americans to travel to Europe right now. That is not a world leader in this. This is a country right now where we are having a major issue with increasing numbers of cases of COVID-19 throughout the United States.

And, you know, we really have a lot of catching up to do, a lot of work to do. And it really begins at the leadership level, right. Leadership needs to acknowledge this pandemic has gone awry. Leadership has to acknowledge this is a dangerous time.


Leadership has to acknowledge that we have health inequities built into our system. We have to get much more active in terms of our response.

BLITZER: Yeah, more than 130,000 Americans over the past four months alone have died from coronavirus. Hundreds are dying every single day with no end in sight right now. Doctors Lushniak and Shaman, to both of you, thank you very much as usual for joining us.

Up next, we're going to have more on the White House refusal to condemn the Confederate flag. Does the president see racism as a path toward re-election?

Plus, Florida facing record numbers of rising coronavirus cases. I'll speak to the mayor of Miami-Dade County where tough new restrictions have just been announced.



BLITZER: This afternoon, faced with new salvos of divisive tweets and rhetoric from President Trump, the White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany went to truly extraordinary lengths to defend the president.

She refused to denounce the Confederate flag even though just days ago, Mississippi removed the Confederate battle symbol from its state flag. Listen to this exchange. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he think NASCAR made a mistake by banning the Confederate flag?

MCENANY: So, he said, I spoke to him this morning about this and he said he was not making a judgment one way or the other.

The president said he wasn't making a judgment one way or the other. You're focusing on one word at the very bottom of a tweet that's completely taken out of context and neglecting the complete rush to judgment on this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is the president so supportive of flying the Confederate flag?

MCENANY: So, I think you're referring to a tweet this morning. Is that right?


MCENANY: So, I think you're mischaracterizing the tweet. The president never said that. Again, you're taking his tweet completely out of context.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president said that NASCAR saw bad ratings because they took down the Confederate flag, banned the Confederate flag. Does he believe NASCAR should fly the flag? And why don't they fly it here?

MCENANY: The whole point of the tweet was to note the incident, the alleged hate crime that in fact was not a hate crime at the very end. The ban on the flag was mentioned in a broader context.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why can't this White House unambiguously state whether or not it supports displays of the Confederate flag --

MCENANY: No, I said that --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and Confederate monuments, which are more a part of this question than Gandhi (ph).

MCENANY: Yes, I said that, you know, he was -- his tweet was not to indicate approval or disapproval of that particular policy of NASCAR. It was an aggregate to stand against the rush to judgment, to call something a hate crime before the facts were out when clearly the media was wrong about this.

The president has made clear he was not taking a position one way or the other in that tweet.


BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our political experts, Dana Bash, David Axelrod along with the NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson. Derrick, what do you make of the spin on the president's overtures, which a lot of people are describing as racist overtures to his base? DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Well, he is seeking to get

reelected by increasing the base that no longer exist. I was a plan of a 1993 in Mississippi to take down the flag. We're talking about 27 years ago.

When the Mississippi speaker of the house, when the Mississippi lieutenant governor both can speak out against the flag and remove the flag just last week. These are staunch Republicans. This president should be able to find his way and do the same.

I personally believe this is a distraction, a distraction from the fact that he cannot keep the public safe because of the result of coronavirus. This is a distraction because Russia has had a contract on our military officers in a foreign land and he cannot keep them safe.

He is doing what he's always done. He distracts from the main point. But the Confederacy was an act of treason and no president of the United States should be supporting directly or indirectly acts of treason.

BLITZER: You know, Dana, what does it tell you that Kayleigh McEnany can't even say whether or not the president supports or condemns the Confederate flag?

BASH: Because no matter what she says, it's very possible. I would even say probable that the president will contradict her. I mean, you remember she said that he was just kidding about the fact that when he said in his rally in Tulsa that -- when he was talking about testing. And, you know what, slowing testing.

And you know what, the next day he said I don't kid. So, it's almost kind of like what's the point? You know, she was grasping at the thinnest and the furthest of straws she could find. But there is no good answer for what he did. Politically, morally, policy-wise, you know, you name it.

Because even politically you could even -- if you go down the road of what we just heard that he is trying to get to his base, he's got his base. And I was talking to Trump allies this afternoon after that tweet who are pulling their hair out. They are so frustrated because this is -- its classic Trump, that when he feels threatened in the words of one source, he just retreats to where -- what he used in 2016, what got him to where he is now.

But that's not what he needs now. He needs the politics of addition, not status quo or even subtraction, that is not me speaking, that's a source who wants him to win but very frustrated.

BLITZER: You know, David, do you believe the president sees racism as a potential path to re-election?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, there's no doubt that -- and I've said this before, this president, his political calculus is all about division, not addition. He thinks that if you hit these themes that you can rally your base, and he views the world as binary with very little swing.

He thinks that this is a battle between two bases and if he just motivates his, that he can win the election. If he looks at polling, what he should see is that he's driven away many groups that were with him in 2016.


Including and most notably suburban voters who voted for him in 2016, are now 22 points on the average in these polls against him. But seniors, independent voters, college-educated white voters. And he is losing some ground even among non-college women voters.

So, you know, if this is his strategy, and I think part of it is deflection from his failures on COVID, wants to change the subject, his strategy is to start a dumpster fire over here to ignore that one over there or deflect from that one over there.

But this is not a winning strategy for him. And if I could just make one more point, Wolf, when Kayleigh said, well, he wasn't taking a side, what the president said in that tweet was that NASCAR, by taking the flag down, has its lowest ratings ever.

And anyone who knows the president knows that is like the worst thing he can say about someone, is that they have bad ratings. So, of course he was making a judgment.

BASH: Can I just add one thing, Wolf, if I may? We're talking right now about the Confederate flag part of the tweet, but there's something else that's really important. He went after an African- American NASCAR driver personally with a bold-faced lie, with a lie saying that he should apologize for this "hoax."

He was the victim. He was presented with the notion that there was a noose in his stall by the head of NASCAR. He didn't do anything wrong except receive this information. And the fact that he picked on this driver is very telling and very unfortunate.

BLITZER: Yeah. It certainly is. And, Derrick, let me read that tweet because it really is very, very awful. "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 that the whole thing was just another hoax? That and flag decision has caused lowest ratings ever."

You can see the all caps for hoax and ever. You know, I think it's fair to say that Bubba Wallace, derrick, has absolutely nothing to apologize for. What he did was absolutely perfect in this area. And the president is just going after him for whatever reason.

JOHNSON: Again, I think this is a distraction from the fact that the numbers of infection from COVID keeps going up. All of his predictions has proven to be wrong. There is no federal plan to address this national pandemic, even in the southern states that was aligning with him, they are now backtracking in Texas and in Florida and in Georgia because the numbers are going up. Our medical facilities are becoming overwhelmed. He lacked any

response. And now as he's done over the last three and a half years, he created a distraction away from the core of the issue where people are really concerned about their health.

This administration lacked any plan to address the health pandemic his constituents are now faced with in Georgia, in Florida, in Texas and across the south.

BLITZER: Do you think, Derrick, his comments, his tweets, his remarks are racist?

JOHNSON: Oh, absolutely. I've said it in year one, he is a racist. He is a racist based on his statements. He is a racist based on his actions. He is a racist based on his affiliations. Steve Miller is in the White House still.

We have a problem with this administration. Racism has germinated from this White House for the last three and a half years. And for many of us, we cannot wait to November, allow us to make the corrective course necessary for this nation to look forward and stop looking backwards.

BLITZER: All right, Derrick, thanks very much. Dana, thanks to you. David, appreciate it always.

Coming up, we are going to focus in on the surge of coronavirus cases. In Florida where more than 200,000 people have now been infected. And I'll speak with the mayor of Miami-Dade County. He's just ordered restaurants and gyms to close once again.



BLITZER: With coronavirus cases surging in Florida right now, the Mayor of Miami-Dade County is expected to issue an emergency order that will roll back at least some business reopening some, perhaps, including in-person dining at restaurants. Mayor Carlos Gimenez is joining us right now. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. Can you give us a preview of what you're expected to do in the coming hours?

MAYOR CARLOS GIMENEZ (R), MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: We're going to be closing some of the businesses that open sometime around the beginning of June because we saw a huge spike and in young cases and in young people becoming positive or on June 14th. So we went back a couple of weeks and around May 31st, we issued orders to allow the gyms et cetera, those kind of facilities to open up.


We also took away some restrictions on the operating hours of restaurants at the same time. And around the same time obviously we have some protests here. And so all of those things kind of put together, kind of lead us to believe that young people especially, we need to curtail the social activities of young people, because that's where our problems started with young people and then transmitting it to their parents and their grandparents to, where now, we've had a doubling of people in the hospital with COVID-19. We have a doubling of people in ICU and a doubling of people in ventilators.

And my concern is that we're going to reach the capacity or medical capacity here in Miami-Dade. That's something I do not want to get to.

BLITZER: Yes. I mean, it's so, so worrisome. In fact, we did some checking, Mayor, in the past two weeks, as you know better than anyone hospitalizations in your county have increased by 88 percent. The number of ICU beds are being used increased by 114 percent. So I'm wondering why you waited until after the busy holiday weekend to roll back some of these reopenings.

GIMENEZ: No, no, what I did -- well, one of the first thing I did, I mean, before the holiday weekend, we instituted a curfew again, that's in order to curtail some of this social activity that we've been seeing, you know, around town. Young people getting together, either using restaurants as quasi-bars after hours or actually getting together in homes, and maybe banquet halls and all that. So banquet halls, all those things are going to be closed before the holiday season.

Also, I haul it -- you know, the last holiday weekend, closed all the beaches because we felt that it was going to be a surge there. And we also closed a lot of casinos and -- casinos, movies, theaters, bowling alleys, all those things that were closed before the weekend. This is the next step going into trying to tamp down the rate of infection here in Miami-Dade County.

BLITZER: Yes. And people don't necessarily realize or appreciate that over the weekend, Florida reported more cases in a single day than New York did at its peak back in April. I guess I'm wondering why the Governor DeSantis continues to say this is simply the result of doing more testing. Is he wrong?

GIMENEZ: No. Well, look, the more testing you do, the more people you're going to see is going to come off positive because we did a medical study here in Miami-Dade two months ago, that we knew over 200,000 people had already tested positive.

If we took the positive rate that we put that out, 200,000 people would test the positive to the antibody. So the official number that you see, especially in Miami-Dade, we have about 40,000, we know it's way under counted. It's probably by a factor of 10. And I expect the same thing in the state of Florida.

So the more testing you do, the more people you're going to find the habit. Our problem isn't so much the number as it is the percentage. And so we were testing at about an 8 percent positive rate of the numbers of the tests that were being conducted. Now we're over 20 percent. That's the real issue.

And then when you correlate that with the increase in the hospitalizations, then you know you're having an uptick in the infection rate here in Miami-Dade County. We need to bring that down below 10 percent. So we have to roll back some of the things that we did.

Our problem too is that a lot of people didn't take personal responsibility. They didn't wear their masks. They didn't wear their masks outdoors when they were within six feet. And so those rules have been in place since mid-April.

And unfortunately, a lot of our young people are not complying with those rules. They're getting together, they're partying, and they're not wearing their mask. And this contagion really took off with that young, you know, that young demographic 18 to 34, 35 to 45 age group, they just shut up --


GIMENEZ: -- and now we're seeing the results of that.

BLITZER: And I don't know why it's so hard thousands of lives will be saved. If people just wear the mask, wash their hands, engage in social distancing, lives will be saved. These are simple things to do, but so many people are simply not doing it and it's so awful to see them out in the streets behaving the way they are.

Mayor Gimenez, good luck to everyone in Miami-Dade. Appreciate it very much you're joining us.

GIMENEZ: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf. I really do.

BLITZER: Thank you. Coming up. We're going to have a live update from the country that trails only the United States right now in coronavirus infections and deaths. We're talking about Brazil and its president also pushing businesses to reopen.

And later, will professional sports resume here in the U.S. anytime this year? We'll have an update.



BLITZER: Brazil ranks second to the United States for the most coronavirus cases and deaths of any country in the world, yet it's pushing ahead with reopening businesses in its largest cities. CNN's Bill Weir is in Sao Paulo for us right now. So set the scene for us, Bill, what are you seeing?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of the businesses were only allowed to be open for about six hours today, usually in the middle of the day. So we're seeing folks sort of trickle in and out of the shops here as they get closer to closing time. There's a mall across the street that was opened today for the first time as people get to sit down in restaurants at 40 percent capacity or so.

But in the shopping district, in the center of old town today, I saw people elbow to elbow and not all the masks were at full mask, so to speak. And a lot of that has to do with much the way Brazil as the United States, the pandemic has become really politicalized down here. [17:45:03]

Thanks to the man in charge, President Bolsonaro of Brazil from the beginning has dismissed COVID-19 as a little flu, that Brazilians are strong enough to handle. He poo-pooed calls from the health ministry to social distance and to quarantine. In fact, he fired his health minister, a lot of people were worried that President Trump would fire Dr. Fauci. Well, Bolsonaro did that. The replacement quit after a month and now the man in charge of the pandemic response is a loyal army general who has no health policy experience at all.

But what's interesting at the same time is Brazil is now the site of two major vaccine sort of phase 3 trials. Thousands of Brazilians would volunteer to get very promising medicines. But, Wolf, have those probably even in the best case, won't be ready for public consumption until this time next year.

BLITZER: Yes, it's an awful situation in Brazil as well. All right, Bill Weir on the scene for us. Thank you very much.

Coming up, Major League sports struggling to find a way to practice and play safely as the pandemic puts upcoming seasons in jeopardy. Plus, the White House defending President Trump's baseless claim that 99 percent of coronavirus cases here in the United States are quote, totally harmless.



BLITZER: This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. The Mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms has just announced that she has coronavirus. She just tweeted and I'll read it to you, "COVID-19 has literally hit home. I have had no symptoms and have tested positive". We, of course, wish her only, only the best. Hope she continues to have no symptoms.

And, you know, obviously she's going to have to be in quarantine for a while and we know she has four kids as well. Hope all of them are going to be fine at the same time. We wish Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms only, only the best. It's disturbing news, hits home indeed.

Other important news we're following right now, dozens, dozens of Major League sports players have now also tested positive for the coronavirus but that's just one of the many hurdles putting the future of play this year in some serious jeopardy. CNN's Brian Todd is working this part of the story for us. Brian, every team in every league is struggling right now big time with how to practice, how to play safely during this awful pandemic.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a struggle for all of them, Wolf. With a rash of positive tests recently, teams are trying to figure all of this out as they go. Some of them tonight putting at least a temporary halt to their training.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): Today, both teams that were in last year's World Series, the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros temporarily canceled summer workouts, nervously awaiting delayed coronavirus test results. A top pitcher on the world champion nationals expressing frustration that rising cases across the country are jeopardizing the return of sports.

SEAN DOOLITTLE, WASHINGTON NATIONALS RELIEF PITCHER: Sports are like the reward of a functioning -- a functional society and we're just like trying to just bring it back, even though we've taken none of the steps to have -- to flatten the curve.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, the major sports leagues that are planning to return to action this month are seemingly being stopped by the resurgent virus. More than three dozen Major League Baseball players and team staffers have tested positive. The National Hockey League reporting similar numbers. And in the NBA, no fewer than five teams have now shut down practice facilities after positive tests. All of it throwing into question the wisdom of these leagues returning to action now.

BARRY SVRLUGA, SPORTS COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: It seems like it's somewhere between unrealistic and irresponsible. We're three weeks away from those openers. We've got positive tests among players, we've got workouts that are shutting down. It seems right for some combination of realism and skepticism about whether these sports can return.

TODD (voice-over): Some players in the NBA and Major League Baseball have opted not to return for these shortened seasons. One of baseball's top stars, the Angels Mike Trout whose wife is expecting their first child could be ready to shelve it.

MIKE TROUT, ANAHEIM ANGELS OUTFIELDER: Honestly, I still don't feel comfortable, you know, obviously, with the baby coming. There's a lot of stuff going through my mind right now and my wife's mind.

TODD (voice-over): All the leagues have elaborate plans for players to live and play these seasons in isolation. The NBA going to a so-called bubble in Orlando. Players isolating in hotels, playing all their games in one place. But one medical expert says it's problematic that some states where these leagues are practicing and playing like Florida, Texas and Arizona are among the worst coronavirus hotspots in the country.

DR. AMESH ADALJA, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: You'd probably want to have this ideally in a place where if they do break their bubble, if they are in contact with people from the community, that the risk of them running into a coronavirus case is very low. So maybe they should be having these things in Alaska or in Vermont where the percent positivity is very low.

TODD (voice-over): With all the precautions, observers say the bottom line is that the leagues are putting their expensive workforce and maybe even more vulnerable coaches and staff members at risk. For one obvious reason. [17:55:06]

SVRLUGA: This isn't about, yay, we can play baseball. This is about if we have a baseball season, we will get some measure of television revenue back even if there are no fans in the stands.


TODD: But sports journalists and medical experts say there's also a very good chance that these leagues will be able to start their seasons again, but not be able to finish them if players break their bubbles. If a given team experiences its own outbreak. If we return to another nationwide spike in cases this fall, all of it is a recipe to have to shut down sports again. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. You and I are big sports fans. We hope they play safely.

All right, there's more breaking news we're following, 130,000 Americans now dead in the coronavirus pandemic, as cases are rising right now in 32 states.