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Experts Say U.S. Is In COVID-19 Free Fall; Florida Tops 200,000 Cases as Virus Surges; Arizona Tops 100,000 COVID-19 Cases; Texas Passes 200,000 Cases, Hospitals Filling Up; COVID-19 Cases Soar in Latin America; Mexican President Heads to Washington; Australia Closing State Border for First Time in 100 Years. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 7, 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, with hospitals reaching maximum capacity across the United States, top health experts are warning we are still in the first wave. Now multiple states are rethinking their decision to reopen.

Meanwhile, Australia closes an entire state isolating millions of people to keep coronavirus infections from rising.

And later, Donald Trump attracts his base with another round of racially divisive tweets and as usual, the White House backs him up. Is the President's messaging hurting his re-election campaign?

Well, today brings a bleak new warning about the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. is still knee-deep in COVID-19. After only a week and a half, the number of cases in America has doubled yet officials are saying this is still the first wave of the pandemic. At least 24 states are pausing or rolling back their reopening plans as they race to try and stop the spread by limiting parties and other social gatherings. Health experts warn the U.S. is in free fall with cases rising so fast contact tracing is no longer even possible. In a conversation with the National Institutes of Health, America's top infectious disease expert urged people to avoid crowds.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We are still knee deep in the first wave of this and I would say this would not be considered a wave.


It was a surge or a resurgence of infections superimposed upon a baseline. The European Union as an entity, it went up and then came down to baseline. Now they're having little blips as you might expect as they try to reopened. We went up never came down to baseline and now we're surging back up. So it's a serious situation that we have to address immediately.


CHURCH: And the numbers as always tell the story. While New York has managed to come to grips with this COVID crisis, Florida and Texas are reporting record case numbers. Both states have topped more than 200,000 infections. In Texas, the number of patients in hospitals is reaching record highs.

And in Miami, the city is busy shutting down many businesses which may have reopened too soon. In fact, Florida is one of the states leading the way in the number of new infections. Some of its hospitals are overwhelmed and about to hit capacity already 43 of the state's hospitals across 21 counties are reporting that their ICUs are at maximum capacity.


FRANCIS SUAREZ, MIAMI MAYOR: I am looking at the statistics and the statistics are very grave. Right? Every single metric is up.


CHURCH: Randi Kaye picks up the story from the Florida coast.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here in Florida we're now seeing more than 200,000 cases of coronavirus. Miami-Dade County in southern Florida, one of the hardest hit counties which may explain why it's rolling back some of its opening plans. Are closing businesses such as restaurants will now be closed to any dining. You can only do takeout and delivery starting on Wednesday in Miami Dade County. Also, gyms, party venues and short-term vacation rental also shutting down as of Wednesday. Miami-Dade County has accounted for 24 percent of the more than 200,000 cases of coronavirus in the state.

And the positivity rate there is 26 percent. Well above the 10 percent threshold that the state would like to see. They'd like to see that go down to single digits. And still more warnings for Miami-Dade County. In the last two weeks hospitalizations have gone up 88 percent and the ICU beds have gone up 114 percent. And the use of ventilators has gone up hundred 19 percent.

And one other note, Jackson Health, the largest health system in the Miami area, now reporting and 83 percent uptick in COVID-19 patients in just the last two weeks. So the beaches are supposed to open on Tuesday as well in that area. That does seem to still be the plan. But if there isn't social distancing, the mayor of Miami Dade said he will shut them down.

I'm Randi Kaye, CNN Singer Island, Florida. Back to you.


CHURCH: Thanks for that, Randi. And California is reporting a troubling development in its fight against the coronavirus. The state's governor revealed in a press conference Monday that the positivity rate has jumped to 6.8 percent as cases and hospitalizations increased over a two-week period. The governor announced six more counties have been added to the state's monitoring list bringing the total to 23. Arizona was one of the early states to reopen. Now it has topped 100,000 cases. Hospital beds are filling up. The mayor of Phoenix told CNN the reopening was too much too soon.


KATE GALLEGO, PHOENIX, ARIZONA MAYOR: Bars and nightclubs were open with no masks so people were out drinking free champaign and celebrating. Casinos opened. Really dense indoor environments where people were unlikely to wear masks. The spread began with people in the 20 to 44-year-old age bracket. So young people out having a good time not worried about COVID but now it's hit heartbreaking levels. Today my county reported a positivity rate of 28.8 percent.



CHURCH: And the mayor (INAUDIBLE) the federal government to make more coronavirus tests available. She said some people who were very sick have had to wait up to eight hours in the searing heat for a test.

Texas is another place where cases are spiking. The state past the 200,000 mark in total COVID-19 cases on Monday. And health officials say hospitals across the state are rapidly filling up. The U.S. military says it's sending about 50 medical personnel to the city of San Antonio amid concerns that civilian doctors and nurses could be overwhelmed by the rise in cases there. With more, here's CNN's Ryan Young in Houston.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The city of Houston is obviously dealing with a spike. 963 new cases just in the last 24 hours. There is a bit of good news though. There haven't been any deaths in the last two days.


But there is a strong focus from city officials and health officials about getting the word out, not only about wearing masks and washing hands, but by being safe in terms of social distancing.

When you look at the graph that we have for over the last few months, around June 3rd, you see Memorial Day. These are when it starts to spike. When you see bars open to 50 percent, that number continues to rise. And of course, at one-point bars are closed again. But the big conversation right now is how can businesses survive, especially in the climate where the numbers continue to rise. All of this is massive conversation in this state, especially because some folks believe that when the heat showed up, that the coronavirus would disappear. Well so far what they're seeing in Texas is that cases continue to rise. They're hoping that health officials can get the word out to the public to make sure they snap down these numbers once again.

Ryan Young, CNN, Houston, Texas.


CHURCH: I'm joined now by Dr. Ogechika Alozie. He is the chief medical officer at Del Sol Medical Center and a Texas Medical Center COVID task force member. Thank you for all you do and welcome.


CHURCH: Well, as we watch about 32 states across this country show spikes in COVID-19 cases, we also see hospitalizations grow in 23 states and Texas admissions are soaring to a new record. More than 8,000 Texans hospitalized with COVID-19 on Sunday. Among the highest in the U.S. and now the military is deploying medical personnel in response to help. What is going on in Texas? And what are your main concerns right now?

ALOZIE: First of all, thank you for having me. But focusing specifically in on Texas, I think what we're really seeing is something that we did not expect. Inasmuch as people talked about waves, I think a better analogy is really a fire. Like you go to a campfire, you don't put it out. You have a slow burning fire and then tinder blows off into the forest. We're seeing multiple fires blaze out in Texas, Florida, Arizona, South Carolina is not looking well either and is really concerning. We're hoping we can get a handle on this but it's yet to be determined.

CHURCH: Yes, that is an incredible analogy there. And of course, as you mentioned, California, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada and others are also seeing growing COVID-19 hospitalizations. And when you see the images of Americans partying at bars, pools, beaches, water parks over the July 4th holiday, how worried are you that we will see even more spikes in cases and increased hospitalizations in about three weeks from now because of that lag time?

ALOZIE: I think that's a perfect analogy, right? As we look at the behavior and the human spread, it's concerning. You know, the fact that people are still engaging in a way that almost lays claim that this pandemic is not real is very concerning. I think one thing that people really have to understand and we probably in the health care space have potentially done some messaging errors from the beginning. We have to understand. If you want to get this under control, we have to focus on masking. We have to focus on hand hygiene, how to social distance or physically distance as much as possible. And I think it's just as important for people to understand, if you're sick, isolate yourself from family members, potentially work and get tested where you can.

CHURCH: Yes, and I wanted to talk about that because New York appears to offer a unique model for the country. It started out as the worst affected state but now all of its coronavirus numbers have declined even since reopening. And Governor Cuomo puts that down to the fact that he mandated the wearing of masks and kept restaurants closed to patrons for any indoor dining. Is that the key here, mandating masks and closing indoor dining along with bars?

ALOZIE: I think that some of the political capital around that is questionable as we'll be able to move forward with that. I think what I really do focus on, I think it's really important for the audience to understand is that we each individually have a responsibility not just to ourselves and to our families but the community. If we each individually take that responsibility on, we can change how we (INAUDIBLE). We can change wearing a mask. We can change the spread.

People always say, Rosemary, that it's the economy, stupid. But the reality is that it's the virus, stupid. We're in virus time. And until we understand that this virus isn't going to go away until we take the measures to slow it down, nothing else will matter. The economy, health care, a host of other things. That's actually the message we're trying to get to people, that we are where we are now. And let's try and move forward and ensure that we're able to get out of this peacefully.


CHURCH: Right, and Doctor, most medical experts say the U.S. is in free fall with this pandemic currently, but the White House claims the world is looking at the U.S. as a global leader in the fight against COVID-19. So, doctor, with the highest death toll in the world currently standing at more than 130,000, how can they be thinking such a thing?

ALOZIE: I think if we look back, and there will be more than enough time for postmortems, we can attribute blame to a host of factors and a host of players in this narrative. One of the things is that as tragic as all of these loss of lives has been, I think that as people are slowing down their movement -- that's evidenced by credit card data that we're seeing, the Open Table data. People are changing their behavior irrespective of politics. And so, the longer we give science the time to kicks in, whether it's remdesivir that we have, whether it's dexamethasone, whether it's looked at broadly neutralizing antibodies and a host of other therapeutics that are coming down the line, people need to understand that our behaviors today don't play out for another four weeks until it's critical that we really take the responsibility to change our movement now.

CHURCH: Dr. Ogechika Alozie, thank you for joining us and thank you for all you do. Appreciate it.

ALOZIE: Thank you so much, Rosemary.

CHURCH: Well, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms who is considered a potential running mate for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has tested positive for COVID-19.


KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, ATLANTA, GEORGIA MAYOR: I'm still in a state of shock because I don't have any idea how we were exposed, but we've all been -- we've been very careful. You know, my kids have been careful. So I'm stunned. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: And the mayor says her husband and one of her kids also infected. Bottoms says they decided to get tested because her husband was sleeping more than usual. She says it's scary because they did everything, they were supposed to do to stay safe.

And still to come, Mexico's death toll from the virus is climbing, but that's not stopping its President from taking a controversial trip to the United States. We'll explain. That's next.

Plus, Australian authorities are fighting to contain a COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne, and they're taking measures they haven't in a centuries. We'll explain when we come back.



CHURCH: Welcome back, everyone. Well, Latin America is being particularly hard hit by the coronavirus with numbers of infections and deaths soaring in the region. Just take a look at this. Brazil, Peru, Chile and Mexico all in the top ten worst affected countries worldwide. Brazil now just second in the world behind the United States when it comes to cases and deaths. Cases there now there soaring to over 1.6 million and a massive toll in Mexico, too, with nearly 5,000 new cases reported in just the last 24 hours.

Well, on Monday Brazil's President announced he's recently taken yet another COVID-19 test and he expects the results today. And yet here are photos posted on social media of Jair Bolsonaro at a Fourth of July event at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, standing next to the President is the U.S. Ambassador to Brazil. The U.S. defense it attache reportedly also attended that event. No one is wearing a mask or social distancing.

Mexico's President is also carrying on business as usual despite the pandemic. He is gearing up for a trip. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is heading to Washington to meet with President Trump, but it's how he's getting there that's raising eyebrows. Here is Matt Rivers.


MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, later on today the President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico will begin his journey to meet with President Trump in Washington, D.C. They've got meetings scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday mainly to celebrate, in their words, the implementation of a new free trade deal between the United States, Mexico, and Canada, the USMCA. That free trade deal went into effect on July 1st. It is replacing NAFTA. And that is really the main reason why the Mexican President is journeying to D.C. even as the Canadian President says he's not at the moment. In part due to concerns over the coronavirus.

You know, you can certainly question the timing of this meeting given that the pandemic continues to rage both in the United States and in Mexico. But there's also questions about exactly how the Mexican President is getting to Washington, D.C. So later on today we know he's taking a commercial flight to D.C. We don't know the exact itinerary. But we know he's going to be making a stop somewhere in the United States. Because in his words, there are no direct flights right now between Mexico City and Washington, D.C.

And it's interesting because the President does have use of a presidential plane here in Mexico if he wants to, but he's never used it because he says it's an example of presidential and government excess. So he's actually trying to sell the plane which is currently sitting in an airfield in Los Angeles. He's trying to sell it for around $130 million and that's why he is flying coach.

Now critics would say that that is just a cheap political trick, that he's putting not only his own personal security at risk but also the security of those travelers that happen to be on the same flight as him, especially when he could take another plane, say one that is owned by the Mexican Air Force. But that is not changing the President's mind. He is going to take a commercial flight later today to Washington, D.C. So that means that the President of the tenth most populous country in the world could be your seat mate if you, for example, find yourself traveling on a plane this week between Washington, D.C., and Mexico City.

Matt Rivers, CNN, Mexico City.


CHURCH: In Australia authorities are taking drastic measures to contain a COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne. Parts of the state of Victoria are facing stage three stay at home restrictions for another six weeks. The country is also shutting the border between Victoria and New South Wales, Australia's two most populous states. A measure it hasn't had to take in a century.


Anna Coren joins me from Hong Kong with more on this. And, Anna, Australia has certainly kept it COVID-19 numbers down with only 106 deaths across the country. This latest action appears particularly severe. What are you learning?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's severe but, you know, as far as Australia is concerned, you know, these measures need to be taken certainly as far as the Victorian Premiere Daniel Andrews is concerned. You know, we have to remember that Australia, you know, has aggressively tackled the pandemic. It shut its borders. It has quarantine in place for any Australian residents returning to Australia. It is taking this very seriously.

So for this surge in cases in the state of Victoria, particularly in Melbourne in the past week has been extremely alarming for the rest of the country. 191 new cases were recorded today. That is a record and this afternoon the Premiere came out and said that he's imposing a six-week lockdown on the state's capitol on metro Melbourne in the hope of really protecting the rest of the state. Listen to what he had to say a little bit earlier.


DANIEL ANDREWS, VICTORIA PREMIER: I think a sense of complacency has crept into us as we let our frustrations get the better of us. I think that he each of us knows someone who has not been following the rules as well as they should have. I think each of us know that we've got no choice but to take these very, very difficult steps.


COREN: Difficult steps, but he also said that Victoria was on the cusp of something very, very bad unless these steps were taken. You mentioned that border closure between Victoria and New South Wales. Well, police officers as well as the military, about 1,000 all up, will be used to man that border that stretches some 2,000 kilometers. There are 55 border crossings. But the aim obviously is to contain the outbreak in Victoria. They do not want this spreading throughout the rest of the country. They're trying to contain it. Premiere Andrews said this is like a public health bush fire. If they cut off, you know, greater Melbourne, which is about 5 million people, they're hoping to get on top of this and flatten that curve -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Yes, and that is why Australia has been able to control this. Anna Coren joining us live from Hong Kong. Many thanks.

Well, President Trump's re-election strategy appears to be divide and conquer, from calling protesters fascist and defending Confederate symbols, to questionable commentary about the coronavirus pandemic.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the world is looking at us as a leader in COVID-19.