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Dr. Anthony Fauci Says, U.S Coronavirus Outbreak Really Not Good; Dozens Of Florida Hospitals Hit Capacity As Cases Surge; White House Refuses To Denounce Confederate Flag. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 7, 2020 - 07:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: We want to welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day.

And a blunt warning from Dr. Anthony Fauci that the U.S. is facing a serious crisis with coronavirus and it's not getting better. And the window of opportunity to recover is closing fast.



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.


CAMEROTA: 31 states are seeing a rise in new cases this morning. Public health experts tell CNN some of those states are now past the point of no return when it comes to controlling these outbreaks. At least seven states report record hospitalizations.

In Florida, 43 hospitals say that they have hit capacity in their ICUs. A Florida government website reports that those hospitals have zero ICU beds available.

Nearly half the country is now pausing or rolling back reopening plans. And more than 130,000 Americans have died from coronavirus. That's what Dr. Fauci is calling knee deep in this.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: So, meanwhile this morning, there is at least one glaring national example of social distancing, major institutions distancing themselves from the president on a range of subjects, in some cases, a distance of more than six feet. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is urging Americans to wear mask despite President Trump's resistance. Fox T.V. personalities, like Sean Hannity, have very belatedly come around to thinking it's important to wear masks.

NASCAR -- the president's friend, Senator Lindsey Graham, are standing behind driver Bubba Wallace after an ugly attack on Wallace by the president. CNN has learned the Pentagon is drafting a policy that would ban the confederate flag in all defense department workplaces. The president has been resistant to this type of thing.

Disney has a deal with Colin Kaepernick. So, the president's island apparently getting smaller this morning on a range of subjects.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Joining us now to talk about where we are with coronavirus, we have Dr. Joseph Varon, Chief of Staff in United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, and Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom, Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Both of you are in red-hotspots this morning. We're grateful that you're taking time to talk with us.

Dr. Varon, what are you seeing in Houston? What's the situation?

DR. JOSEPH VARON, CHIEF OF STAFF, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: Well, we continue to have a lot of patients. I mean, our numbers have increased exponentially. My hospital, for example, there is no single day where we don't have multiple admissions. And the problem is that these patients are coming in extremely sick.

CAMEROTA: Like what? I mean, what are you -- they're sicker than they have been in the past? What sorts of things are you dealing with?

VARON: Absolutely. I mean, when you look at the patients that I admit today compared to the patients that I admitted ten weeks ago, for example, the patients that have come in, they are near dead. These are patients that in the past we were able appoint (ph), putting them in ventilators. Now, we're having to put some of them on ventilators.

These are very, very sick people. People are probably waiting too long to come to the hospital.

BERMAN: And, Dr. Varon, just one more question on this subject. Senator John Cornyn last night reported that doctors in Texas are being exhausted by this. They're just fatigued and tired and worn out by all this treatment. I know the military is sending 50 new doctors to the San Antonio area. What can you tell us about the workload now for you and your colleagues?

VARON: I'll tell you, it is completely correct. I mean, look at me. I mean, I've been working 112 days nonstop since we opened up our COVID unit. Every single day, we have some surprise on COVID. People get very sick. We are running from one place to the other. We are putting anywhere between 16 and 20 hours a day.

CAMEROTA: That is remarkable. I mean, that just really tells the story.

Dr. Odom, what's happened and what are you seeing in Alabama?

JODIE DIONNE-ODOM, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: Yes, so the problem is also getting much worse in Alabama. We were pretty steady at about 250 cases a day, and now we're closer to 1,000 cases a day.

So, I was just in the Infectious Disease Consult Service, and we were getting called every day on patients, in the E.R., on the floor, in the ICU, some of whom actually have had COVID diagnosed two months ago.

So, it's not always a quick recovery. The complications can last for a very long time. Bleeding and clotting and bleeding again. So, it's really good to remind everybody that this is an incredibly serious disease with a very important rate of morbidity and mortality that we're just beginning to understand.

CAMEROTA: Well, Dr. Dionne-Odom, that gets to something the president has said incorrectly over the last few days, that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are harmless. That doesn't sound like what you're describing at all.

DIONNE-ODOM: It's not. You know, we've known since the early days, since the first data from China, it's been very consistent. About 80 percent of the disease is mild. 15 percent of people end up hospitalized. And 5 percent of people need ICU-level care.


So, that 99 percent number is absolutely not correct.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Varon, when experts say, we are getting past the point of no return, what does that mean? How can we be past the point of no return?

VARON: Well, I mean, what's happening is, you know, we are extending and we're prolonging this pandemic. We're getting to a point in which a lot of people are getting infected at the same time, and we're getting to a point of overwhelming the healthcare system.

And I can tell you, at least in Houston, we are approaching levels that New York approached a couple months ago or Italy approached a few months back. That's what's going on. We are getting to a point in which we cannot just go back and say, hey, we're going to be having enough beds and stuff like that.

BERMAN: One of the things that seems clear, Dr. Odom, is that many of the people getting sick now are younger, and by younger, I mean, younger than 40 in some cases. This has been going on now for weeks. I'm curious what impact of that you have seen.

DIONNE-ODOM: Yes. So, unfortunately, we are still seeing people in the hospital in the 30 and 40 and 50-year-old age range. So, many of the cases are in their 70s and 80s, but lower age groups are still impacted.

I'm sure you've heard this discussion of the time lag between young people being infected, spreading it within their community, and then seeing the cases and the disease in older adults. So, we're all waiting very anxiously to see what happens to the mortality rate in the next couple of weeks.

I think this idea that young people can segregate themselves and not have interaction with anyone else doesn't really fit how our communities work. Those young people will work. They'll go in the community and they will expose older people and people with co- morbidities, and that's the ones, those are the ones we're most worried about.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Varon, on that point, I mean, I feel like for the past couple of weeks we've been reporting on how there are younger people, they're sicker, they are showing more neurological symptoms, it's lasting longer, as you both have referred to. Has the virus changed, or are we just getting sort of more awareness about it?

VARON: That's a great question. And the reason why I say it's great is because the answer is, we don't know. There are a lot of us who believe that, indeed, the virus probably has mutated or modified because we are now seeing a much sicker version, if you want, of the virus. But in reality, also a lot of people don't have any social conscience, a lot of people don't have common sense, and they're delaying coming to the hospital. So by the time we see them, they are much sicker.

So, which one of the two it is, it remains to be determined.

BERMAN: Can we put up P-118 so people can see how the United States -- just how different the United States is from other countries around the world? And Dr. Odom, in terms of the cases, we're just almost off the charts here. You can see the number of new cases here, the seven- day moving average, the U.S. in green and the other countries there are dwindling almost to the baseline.

So, let's look forward. How do we get there? How do we get that green line down to where it is in South Korea or Germany?

DIONNE-ODOM: So, John, I think the great news about that graph is they are dealing with the exact same countermeasures we have. They don't have a vaccine yet. We have some limited drugs that we can use. But the way to combat this virus is public health. Viruses are always going to outsmart us. We know in infectious disease how wily they are, how they manipulate and they work on the way humans interact and congregate today. Our social behaviors feed this virus spreading.

So, we can and should use these other countries as a roadmap for what we can do in the U.S. Why can't we do the same thing here?

CAMEROTA: Dr. Varon, in terms of the immunity, if there is any, of people who were sick, have after that, what are you seeing in your practice?

VARON: What we're seeing is that about 10 percent of those patients that have coronavirus, they get it again. That's what we've seen in our own hospital. 10 percent of patients that were admitted to us with coronavirus get it again.

So, the idea that you have immunity because you got the coronavirus and that makes you invincible and you can do whatever is wrong. People need to be aware of that. If you have coronavirus, you just have coronavirus. That doesn't mean that you can go out and forget about your social distancing, not wearing your mask, or wash your hands.

BERMAN: This actually -- I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt.

CAMEROTA: Well, no, I'm just stunned. I'm stunned to hear that because I haven't heard anything that high in terms of 10 percent. Are they just as sick the second time they get it?

VARON: We have some that are actually sicker the second time, and that is the worrisome part. And, again, there are a lot of studies that actually have shown how this immunity kind of dwindles down. So, people, please, be aware of these things. Don't think that because you have corona, that makes you immune forever.

BERMAN: Dr Odom, very quickly, there is this Spanish study which has found that the presence of antibodies is no longer there in people after a set period of time, at least among some people.


Do you have reason for concern here?

DIONNE-ODOM: Yes. So, what the Spanish study showed is that there is some diminution in the antibodies in a small, I think, 10 percent of patients. And we don't understand what the core (ph) of protection is. That means we don't know if that antibody that they're measuring actually gives you immunity.

So we have a lot more to learn about immunology in this virus. And it's possible that immune level could fall and they could still be protected from re-infection.

BERMAN: And this, of course, has an impact and implications going forward in terms of vaccine development as well. We'll have to watch this very, very carefully. Doctors, thank you both so much for being with us this morning.

DIONNE-ODOM: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Such a sobering segment with lots of important information there.

At this hour, 43 hospitals in Florida have no available ICU beds. We will talk with one state representative about the worsening outbreak there, next.


BERMAN: This morning, hospitalizations in Miami-Dade County are up 90 percent in the last two weeks.


The number of patients in ICUs has grown 86 percent, and the number of patients on ventilators up 127 percent. 43 hospitals in 21 counties now have zero ICU beds available.

Joining me now is Democratic State Representative Shevrin Jones. Representative, thank you so much. I don't want to bury the lead here, you too have coronavirus, as do your parents. Why don't you just give me a sense of how you're doing this morning and what you've been through?

STATE REP. SHEVRIN JONES (D-FL): Thank you so much, John. Thank you for having me.

this morning, I'm feeling just a tad bit better. I'm not 100 percent, but I will admit, it has been a very rough road. My parents, who are doing well, who are experiencing no symptoms at all -- I spoke to my mom and my dad last night -- but they both are doing well. But as for me, I've had a rough eight days so far.

BERMAN: A rough eight days. Well, we hope you continue to improve. I know it can go up and down for so many patients.

In terms of the situation in Florida, particularly where you are in Southern Florida, you know, we woke up to the news that all these hospitals are at zero capacity for ICU beds. They have no more ICU beds left. What are you hearing from the medical community there?

JONES: So, the medical community is asking for a few things. The medical community, one, is asking for the governor to lead us at this moment with a mandatory mask order, considering the fact that right now, we have a lot of these cities who have these cookie-cutter policies that are coming out, whereas in the State of Florida, we are seeing this uptick in these numbers that are going up. And just yesterday, we had over 10,000, and the day before yesterday, over 11,000.

And so the medical professionals are asking, one, that we lead in this moment, they are looking for their leaders to be leaders right now, to ensure that we are keeping the people safe, because they do not have the capacity anymore in their facilities.

BERMAN: So, some counties and some cities are instituting mask orders. Would you be in favor of new stay-at-home orders?

JONES: Well, so, not am I in favor of a stay-at-home order, we need to do a mandatory mask order throughout the state. But what does need to happen, I do know within Miami-Dade County, as of tomorrow, they will be closing gyms and other facilities. I know Broward County will make a decision today. Especially in South Florida, we are a regional area.

And so if Broward is not following Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach is not following Broward County, all you're going to see is individual getting on 95 and traveling up north to go to dinner or to do other things. And so, it should be a stay-at-home order needs to happen until these numbers come back down.

BERMAN: So, it's interesting, because you're calling for a stay-at- home order. The education commissioner just did basically the opposite in terms of schools, which she has mandated that in August, all schools need to open for all students who want to go. Your reaction to that order.

JONES: We can't go on this path of putting our teachers in this Petri dish of danger. As a former teacher myself, there is no way that I would want to be in a classroom with students in this manner, in this climate that we're in right now. I don't think it's safe.

I think we in Florida, we have a great virtual education program that's happening right now. The education commissioner is a very good friend of mine. But on this one, I just don't think that we're making the right call. I think we're putting our children in danger. I think we're putting our teachers in danger. And I believe that we're putting our parents in danger.

BERMAN: Contact tracing is an issue now around the country. In some cases, we're hearing that too many people are getting coronavirus right now to successfully contact trace. You got it. What has your experience been with contact tracing?

JONES: I'm going to be extremely honest with you. Unfortunately, the contact tracing that we have here in the State of Florida is a joke. Last Thursday, when I got the call from the health department, the individual who was on the call seems as if she was reading off of a questionnaire.

And as she was reading the question, there was no question that she was asking that would have led her to the point of who I had probably come in contact with, let alone she got to question number three, her phone disconnected. I have not heard from them since last Thursday. So, if we are -- in Florida, if we are doing contact tracing, the contact tracing is a joke right now.

And then we've already -- we've contracted with a company that we've paid $61 million to who said that they were doing contact tracing. I want to know what happened to the $61 million.

BERMAN: So, it is interesting. You are calling for action at an executive level. You want your state's governor, I assume, the president, to step in and do more, but you're also acknowledging we all have a personal role to play in this as well. And you've acknowledged, you weren't as careful as you should have been. What did you do wrong?

JONES: Absolutely. And I'm going to be honest with you, yes, we all do have a personal responsibility.


I share in one of my diaries that I have been negligent in certain areas where I had gotten lax and started back shaking hands or I started back giving people hugs. And so, no, we -- I got lax in that area, and I'm man enough to admit that.

And I want individuals to see the mistakes that I've made and let people know, you do not want coronavirus. It is painful. It is an emotional roller coaster. And I call it the yo-yo virus, because one day you're up and the next day you're down.

BERMAN: Very last question. Do you know where you got it? Do you know where you got it from?

JONES: I don't know where I got it from. But it's my hope that individuals who I was around, that they go get tested. And it's my hope that other people go get tested.

BERMAN: Representative, we're glad you're feeling better this morning. As you said, it's a bit of a yo-yo, so good luck going forward. Please keep us posted.

JONES: Thank you, John. I will. Thank you.

BERMAN: So, President Trump choosing to focus on stoking racial tensions in America. What the White House is saying about his defense of the confederate flag, next.



CAMEROTA: President Trump appears to be siding with the confederate flag in tweeting this inflammatory and false attack on NASCAR as well as the driver, Bubba Wallace. It was a position the White House press secretary had a hard time explaining.


REPORTER: Does he believe NASCAR should fly the confederate flag? And why don't they fly it here?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The whole point of the tweet was to note the incident, the alleged hate crime, that it, in fact, was not a hate crime. At the very end, the ban on the flag was mentioned in the broader context of the fact that he rejects this notion that, somehow, NASCAR men and women who go to these sporting events are racist.

REPORTER: 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.


CAMEROTA: All right, let's discuss this. Joining us now is CNN's Senior Political Commentator and former senator, Rick Santorum. Also with us, CNN Political Commentator Bakari Sellers, he's the Author of My Vanishing Country. Great to see both of you this morning.

Rick, I want to start with you. As a conservative, do you understand and/or appreciate the president's position where he is sticking with the confederate flag and appears to be siding with the confederate flag over Bubba Wallace, over NASCAR, et cetera? RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I think this is the thing that sort of infuriates conservatives the most about the president. He came off a weekend which I thought was a great weekend for him at the Mt. Rushmore speech, his 4th of July speech, where he laid out the case for American exceptionalism and, you know, how important it is to not try to rewrite history. Then he completely steps on his message by going off the rails on something that I don't know of any conservative that's going to rally behind him on the confederate flag.

I mean, this is just -- this is the kind of stuff that is infuriating, that is undisciplined, and it is the reason the president is sitting behind in the polls right now, because he can't stay on a message that is a unified message and one that is a positive one for the country.

CAMEROTA: Bakari, Kayleigh McEnany, the press secretary, tried to say that he's not taking a position on the confederate flag. Do you understand? I mean, how do you process the idea that he's not taking a position on it?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Kayleigh is in a position that is quite difficult for her, and sometimes you have to contort yourself in different ways to defend this president. I actually appreciate Rick Santorum, although we may disagree over the oratory of the weekend. I do appreciate him calling out the president for having this stance, which is unacceptable in today's America.

And I think that most Republicans, or I'm hopeful that most Republicans will denounce that, because as I say often, this isn't necessarily a partisan ideal or ideology. We're having a reckoning with our history right now, and it's which side of that history do you want to be on.

You know, we're having conversations about cancel culture, et cetera, and I'm on the side of, yes, we can cancel the confederacy. Like, I don't have any hesitation with that notion. And Kayleigh found herself having to defend something that's indefensible.

CAMEROTA: But you know, Bakari and Rick, that what the president and some of his media supporters do is makes this slippery slope argument. If you cancel General Albert Pike's statue, next it will be Mt. Rushmore. And, rick, do you think that that's effective? As a conservative, do you think that when President Trump tries to make the, you know, getting rid of confederate flags and confederate statues about something bigger, is that something that resonates?

SANTORUM: No. Look, I think you have to be able to distinguish between things that are legitimately controversial and things that should not be celebrated. I mean, I'm not for canceling the culture, but that doesn't mean you should celebrate things that are not things to be celebrated. I don't think we celebrate, in my opinion, people who were traitors to the United States.

And at a time, there was a movement to celebrate these people and put monuments up, I think we need to reflect back on that and say, you know -- a monument on a battlefield is one thing, because people fought there and you can put monuments up to people who fought in a battle. But you shouldn't in a town square celebrate someone who betrayed the United States of America. That's my opinion. I think that's how most conservatives look at it.

But the slippery slope argument is legitimate in this, that we're seeing it. You're seeing people who are calling for, you know -- you had a reporter on your network basically refer to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as slaveholders, and that's it, no context other than that. I mean, those are the kinds of things that I think do concern the president and concern a lot of people in this country, that we can't tell the difference between someone who may have done something bad in their life, which by the way, we all qualify for, and someone who lived a life or principal focus of life was something that was injurious to the country.


CAMEROTA: And does that worry you, Bakari?