Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Key Model: 200,000-Plus U.S. Coronavirus Deaths By Nov. 1; At Least 50 Percent Of New U.S. Cases Come From Texas, California, Arizona, and Florida; Trump: Will Pressure Governors Over School Reopenings; Brazil's President, Who Downplayed Virus, Tests Positive; Despite Soaring Numbers Of New Cases In FL, Governor DeSantis Insists They Are In Better Position To Handle The Wave. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 7, 2020 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[17:00:00]

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.

We're following breaking news. The U.S. now closing in on 3 million known coronavirus cases as the death toll tops 130,000 people.

Right now, cases are on the rise in 31 states with Texas, California, Arizona and Florida accounting for at least half of new cases.

And we've just received a new forecast by the influential University of Washington model, it now projects more than 200,000 Americans will die from coronavirus by November.

Despite the worsening health crisis just moments ago, President Trump push for schools to reopen along with the economy saying I'm quoting the president now, "Now it's time to be open. We're not closing. We'll never close."

Let's begin this hour of CNN's Erica Hill. She's joining us from New York.

Erica, very disturbing new developments in the pandemic. Update our viewers on the very latest.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Wolf. You mentioned that revised model that we've talked about so much over these of these last few months now saying that by November 1, more than 208,000 Americans could die.

But keep in mind, they also said if 95 percent of the population were to wear a mask in public, that number could actually drop to 162,800. Just a reminder of how important masks are. We hear it all the time from public health experts and increasingly from officials.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (voice-over): A sunny outlook from Florida's governor who says schools will open this fall and touts his state's efforts to prepare for the long haul.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: The whole point of the curve, flattening the curve was to make sure we had enough health care capacity.

We're in a way better position today to be able to do that.

HILL: Yet 43 hospitals in Florida report their ICU beds are at capacity. Dozens more are close.

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, FORMER NYC ASST COMMISIONER OF HEALTH: We're back to even before square one honestly because of the massive surge in cases.

HILL: Miami-Dade's restaurants told to pull back and that curve the governor mentioned, it's looking more like a steep cliff.

Though it's not just Florida, Arizona reporting a record number of deaths on Tuesday and cases there also continue to rise.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: In Arizona the cases are rising so rapidly that we cannot even do contact tracing. The epidemic is out of control in the southern part of the United States.

HILL: The military sending medical personnel to San Antonio, as Texas grapples with its own search.

PABLO LAREDO, HOSPITAL DIR. SOUTH TEXAS HEALTH SYSTEM, WESTACO: I can speak for all the E.R.s here in the Rio Grande Valley. A lot of us are overwhelmed.

HILL: Houston's Mayor urging the state Republican Party to cancel its upcoming convention in his city scheduled for July 16.

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON: I believe canceling the in person convention is the responsible action to take.

HILL: The Texas GOP still planning to hold the event, adding a mask requirement for attendees.

Meantime, the Texas State Fair cancelled for the first time since World War Two.

As cases rise, the governor now pointing the finger at bars.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT, (R) TEXAS: You have to wonder if they should have ever been open at all because bars really aren't made in a way that promotes social distancing.

HILL: California State Capitol closed after at least five assembly members tested positive.

A new study finds so-called silent spreaders may account for as many as half of all cases. DR. MIKE RYAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WHO HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAM: Today we're dealing with 200,000 cases a day. And that is not purely as a result of testing. This epidemic is accelerating.

HILL: Testing a growing concern in many areas increased demand, leading to long lines and an even longer wait for results.

Two of the country's biggest labs say the turnaround time has nearly doubled in some places.

WILL HUMBLE, EXEC DIR. ARIZONA PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION: The turnaround time is what you need to get the contact tracing in place so that you can get isolation and quarantine on your side. And without a fast turnaround you'd lose that intervention which is so critical.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: And in terms of that testing turnaround time (INAUDIBLE) announcing today or rather acknowledging today that there has been an issue with some of the commercial labs. He says they're not at max capacity, but they are in his words, pushing the frontier.

The Department of Health and Human Services also announcing new testing sites in hotspots, Jacksonville, Florida, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Edinburg, Texas, 5000 tests a day can be performed at each of those sites.

And one more note, Wolf, in Texas, we just learned 10,028 cases added that is the highest single day increase in Texas.

BLITZER: Yes, these numbers are so, so disturbing. And let's not forget these are real people, not just numbers.

Erica Hill reporting for us, thank you very much.

Let's go to the White House right now. Our White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond is joining us.

Jeremy, the President wants schools in the United States open Even though it's not clear how that can be done completely safely.

[17:05:05]

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as coronavirus cases continue to surge across the country the President is making a full court press today for schools to begin reopening.

At a White House event today, the President and other top officials making the case that school reopening should be a priority both for the mental health and the academic wellbeing of students as well as for the economic health of the country. The President's even vowing to put pressure on governors to begin reopening schools.

But, Wolf, those CDC guidelines on how schools should reopen, they're not expected until next week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do we want to reopen the schools? Everybody wants it, the moms wanted, the dads want it.

DIAMOND: Tonight, President Trump pushing for schools to reopen despite rising cases in more than half the country, arguing mental health and economic concerns outweigh the physical health risks and accusing those who wants schools closed of playing politics.

TRUMP: They think it's going to be good for them politically so they keep the schools closed, no way. So we're very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.

DIAMOND: CDC director Robert Redfield backing the President's call.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: CDC encourages all schools, all schools to do what they need to reopen, and to have plans that anticipate that the COVID 19 cases will in fact occur.

DIAMOND: Senior officials say the government will provide financial resources and share best practices with local school districts. But today those details were nowhere to be found. Instead, the CDC plans to release reopening guidance next week. But Vice President Mike Pence stressing that the CDC and Task Force guidelines are just that not mandates.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In a word, Mr. President, you've made it clear to us we don't want to be the reason any school doesn't reopen.

DIAMOND: This as the President continues to downplay the seriousness of the virus.

TRUMP: If you look at the chart of deaths, deaths are way down.

DIAMOND: Claiming the U.S. has the lowest mortality rate in the world. But those aren't the facts. While fatality rates are difficult to calculate due to differences in testing availability, CNN has found at least 14 of the 20 most affected countries are estimated to have lower death rates than the U.S. And experts warn that deaths which often come weeks after a surgeon cases could soon rise in the U.S.

And Trump isn't letting the virus stop him from traveling to one of the hardest hit states flying into Florida on Friday to get a briefing on drug trafficking, before attending a fundraiser for his reelection campaign at a private home.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We've traveled and we've done so safely and we'll continue to do it.

DIAMOND: The briefing will be at the U.S. Southern Command in Miami- Dade County, which has seen a 90 percent increase in coronavirus hospitalizations over the last year two weeks raising questions about the strain on emergency response resources of a presidential visit.

While Trump continues to downplay the virus and flout CDC guidelines, Dr. Anthony Fauci today urging state and local officials to mandate masks.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I don't like to be, you know, authoritarian from the federal government, but at the local level, if governors and others essentially mandate the use of masks, when you have an outbreak, I think that would be very important.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DIAMOND: And Wolf, we are also learning that President Trump is formally withdrawing the United States from the World Health Organization.

The Trump administration notified Congress and the United States -- the United Nations of its intent to withdraw, setting off a one year timeline for the U.S. to officially exit that comes despite calls from public health officials for the U.S. not to do that. The President of course has criticized the World Health Organization for its early response to the virus but now public health experts and the President's critics are saying that this move is counterproductive. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right Jeremy, thank you very much. Jeremy Diamond over at the White House.

Let's get some more in all of this. Dr. Leana Wen is joining us, the former Health Commissioner for Baltimore. Dr. Wen, thank you so much for joining us.

And let's get to the breaking news. This new model from the University of Washington medical school projects more than 200,000 Americans will die by November 1. This is a huge warning. Right now, 131,000 Americans have died over the past four months, but more than 200,000 by November first. This is so alarming.

DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: It is Wolf. And I think the key though, is that we did not have to be here right now. When we look at other countries, they have successfully crushed the curve. They didn't just bend the curve. They crushed the curve and they were able to suppress their level of COVID-19 infections in a way that we just did not do in this country.

But it's not too late. We have learned the lessons from other countries, these other countries had the same virus that we do. It's not that they have a vaccine and we don't. They have the same public health tools of physical distancing, wearing masks and really ramping up their testing, contact tracing, isolation infrastructure, we can do that now. And that 200,000 number does not have to be inevitable.

[17:10:19]

BLITZER: It certainly doesn't because the model itself and we just got a copy of it. The model itself shows that if there's widespread mask use, let's say 95 percent of the American public is using these face masks when they go out in public, the death toll could be held down by November 1 to around 160,000 instead of more than 200,000. I'm just reading the quote from Dr. Murray, who's in charge of this projected -- projection mask mandates delay the need for reimposing closures of businesses and have huge economic benefits. Moreover, those who refuse mask are putting their lives their families, their friends and their communities at risk. It's really simple to just put on a mask, yet it become so politicized in this current culture.

WEN: I'm just struck by that number that we can prevent 40,000 deaths, if we just wear a mask. And if we think selfishly about this, we also know that wearing a mask is something that protects all of us. It is our way of showing our respect for one another, but it also protects ourselves too.

And some studies have shown that wearing a mask can reduce the risk of transmission and acquiring COVID-19 by fivefold. So think about this as an economic necessity that this can prevent shutdowns. Think of it as a personal responsibility and a societal responsibility to one another too.

BLITZER: Yes. And people who don't wear these masks they're simply being selfish and it is also dangerous because they may be asymptomatic but they're passing on this deadly disease.

As you know, Dr. Wen, the country is now approaching about 3 million confirmed cases, probably a lot more than that, but those are confirmed that at least half of the new cases are coming from these four states, Texas, California, Arizona and Florida. So what are these states need to do right now that they're not necessarily doing?

WEN: I'm very concerned about what we're seeing in these four states. Basically, we're seeing what happened in New York back in March, except it's happening in multiple metropolitan areas of the country. And we don't have the political will, and the public willingness to impose the shutdowns as we did back in March.

And so the states have to, at this point, they have to do as much as they can that people would tolerate. And that would certainly include restricting all indoor gatherings because we know that indoor gatherings really promote the spread of COVID-19.

We also see that these are states where ICUs are even reaching capacity, and patients may soon not be able to have a ventilator. And so these states are, I'm sure putting into place all their search capacity now, but they need as much support as they can. And that support, in part, comes from other states of the country.

Even the states that are doing well right now should be on guard because they could be next. And we want to do everything we can to increase surveillance or increase testing in these other areas. These other states too also need to be hitting pause on their reopening and reassessing exactly where they are.

And just to underscore this, but universal mask is something that every state, even states that seems to be doing a well should be imposing right now.

BLITZER: You might be doing well now, but a month from now, you might not necessarily be doing well unless you take important steps.

Two major testing companies, Dr. Wen, they now say there's so much demand for testing that the waiting period for again getting real results has doubled since a month ago. Does that actually contribute to more spread of the virus?

WEN: Very much so. We are now seeing in these hotspots states, these epicenters, that patients are waiting six, 10 even 13, 14 hours just to be able to get a test. They're waiting in line to get a test.

That patients who have symptoms and who have known exposures are not able to get the testing that they need much less surveillance testing for people who are asymptomatic. We're now seeing studies showing that asymptomatic transmission can account to up for -- up to half or even more of the total number of COVID-19 cases. We need far more testing in order for us to have any chance of reining in this infection.

And the sad thing is, Wolf, is that we've known about this all along. And it's a tragic that we still don't have a national testing strategy to get us to that widespread testing that we absolutely know is critical to controlling COVID-19.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a total failure, I must say.

At the same time, the White House is moving ahead on plans to reopen schools nationwide. Obviously, there are a lot of benefits to parents and kids and teachers, principals being back in the classroom, but how do you make sure that that is done safely amid the spikes, especially in some of these states?

[17:15:02]

WEN: Well, what you said is exactly the key, Wolf, is that we have to reopen schools safely. I think every single person wants schools to reopen, we want to prevent these educational disparities from widening in our country. But we also cannot jeopardize the health and wellbeing of our children and the staff and teachers and their surrounding communities.

The single most important thing that we can do to ensure that schools can open for in person instruction in the fall is to reduce the level of COVID-19 spread in the summer, and we need to think carefully about a priorities. If the priority is to open schools in the fall, then maybe we need to keep bars close into summer.

BLITZER: Yes, a lot of schools are supposed to reopen in early August or mid-August. That's only a month or so away. Let's see what happens.

Dr. Wen, as usual, thank you so much for joining us.

WEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up Florida is facing a surge of new cases, more than 7,000 in the last day alone. We're going to go there for a live update.

And I'll speak to the mayor of Miami Beach about the rapidly growing number of hospitalizations in the Miami area. That's up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:20:26]

BLITZER: Despite the soaring numbers of new coronavirus cases in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis today insisted his state is in a better position to handle the wave because it had a flatter curve for so long.

Let's bring in CNN's, Randi Kaye, she's on the scene for us. So, explain the governor's thinking if you can, Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Wolf, that he was thinking that, you know, early on, he would protect the vulnerable, he would make sure that hospitals weren't overwhelmed early on, he would get the tools in place that he needed like PPE and ventilators perhaps. And then you would have a slow and steady flattening of the curve.

So, if we see an uptick in the numbers like we're seeing now, the governor felt that the state would be ready. But we are certainly seeing an uptick in the last 24 hours. We've seen more than 7,300 new cases and we've calculated nearly 60 hospitals around the state have run out of ICU beds, they have zero beds left in terms of the ICU.

And the governor still today after being pressured by reporters, he still will not release numbers, statewide numbers, for those hospitalized with COVID-19 even though he promised to do this a week ago. And he told us to go to the charts and the graphs and the reports that are on the State Health Department website. We've sifted through all of that Wolf and it's just not there.

Miami-Dade still having a lot of trouble. Twenty-four percent of the cases coming out of that county in the whole state. In the last two weeks hospitalizations there, Wolf, up 90 percent. We also have the ICU beds up 86 percent there and those using ventilators that uses is up 127 percent.

Another issue in Miami-Dade, Wolf, is contact tracing. The governor still has not sent any contact tracers to Miami, the mayor -- Miami- Dade, I should say, the mayor of Miami-Dade said that he would bring in 800 to 1000 contact tracers. That was weeks ago. Now he's saying that the state health department is the only one who can authorize that and he hasn't gotten one contact tracer.

The two of them were sitting together at the press conference today, the mayor of Miami-Dade and the governor and it was rather awkward when the governor said that he thinks the mayor of Miami-Dade is incorrect. So, listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DESANTIS: Contact tracing is something that can be done. You know, it's a component but understand when you're talking about an asymptomatic, a virus that largely doesn't create symptoms in people who are healthy and under, say 50. You know, the contact tracing is not going to be enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAYE: So he's basically saying that another excuse as to why the contact tracers aren't there and making excuses for that that really isn't the answer. But he did also say that he sent $138 million to counties to use for contact tracers, but still Miami-Dade, the hardest hit County, still not a single contact tracer, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. That's not acceptable at all.

All right, Randi, thank you very much. Randi Kaye reporting.

Joining us now the Mayor of Miami Beach, Dan Gelber.

Mayor Gelber, thank you so much for joining us.

So, you know, the governor, your governor, continues to say the situation is the result simply of more testing and that these younger people won't see as high a fatality rate. How can you keep Floridians safe including in Miami Beach when the governor keeps downplaying the reality?

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D), MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: Well, I mean, the problem is that it's not obviously positive test because there are 343 people in intensive care today that was less than half that number 14 days ago. There are 175 people on the extreme remedy of ventilators, and they were less than half that amount 14 days ago.

So, I know those people and their families obviously would disagree that this is just about more testing. We are in the midst of a very, very vicious spike in our community in Miami-Dade County.

And, you know, one thing you can have is from a governor or a president trying to downplay it as if it's not an urgent thing we need to pay attention to. I sort of feel like everybody's become the mayor and jaws where you know, it's fine. The water's fine, just go on and swim and, and that's not healthy right now because people need to know the challenge so they know what to do about it.

BLITZER: They certainly do. And the Governor DeSantis, as you know, sending 100 healthcare workers to Miami hospitalizations in your county, Miami-Dade County have increased as you know 90 percent over the past two weeks alone. How worried are you, Mayor, that the hospitals in Miami Beach, in Miami itself and throughout the county could be overwhelmed fairly soon?

GELBER: Well, the problem is if this spike continues, that's a very legitimate, a very legitimate worry.

And in fact, you know, the real problem is that because this thing shows up two weeks after a spike, the spikes we just saw we're not feeling yet in intensive care or in ventilators in the sort of the critical care that a lot of those folks need. So, the real concern is that we just saw this weekend in these last four days is going to manifest itself in two weeks in ways that we're not prepared for. So, this is real.

[17:25:14]

And I think everybody needs to understand that because if they did, they would know what to do. They would wear masks. They would socially distance themselves. They would take precautions that every doctor I know tells them they should take.

BLITZER: Yes, they certainly should. It's simple to do, and it will save thousands and thousands of American lives.

The new model from the University of Washington medical school projects now more than 45,000 Americans could be saved by November 1 if 95 percent of the American public were to wear masks when they were outside or in places that they need to wear a mask. So what does that tell you that the President and the Florida Governor, at least still right now are resisting what's called a mask mandate?

GELBER: We put a mandate inside and in parts outside about two months ago in my city. I think we were the first, because that's what the CDC said. We're listening to our doctors.

And, you know, I -- look, the only thing I can say is that you can't tell people this isn't a problem if it is a problem. It's like a doctor telling you not to worry about something he knows is going to really impact you. There's no upside to doing it.

At some point, we're going to face the real repercussions of this in a very, very terrible way. So, you know, I hope the governor does it soon. He needs a mask mandate, just so people will start to comply with it the way they did when we gave them the requirement to wear seatbelts and things like that.

People listen to a unified message from their political leaders. We just don't have one right now.

BLITZER: The superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools said today he won't reopen the schools if the situation doesn't improve. I know you're supposed to reopen those schools in a month or so. But President Trump says he's going to put pressure on all the governors around the country to open the schools. Do you fear Florida will be pressured into reopening, even if it isn't completely safe?

GELBER: Our superintendent of Schools is a very independent, brilliant man. And I think he recognizes that oversimplifying this with mandates that are untethered to healthcare makes no sense. I think we're all -- either child in high school to public high school right now and I've got the survey they want to know what we feel. But I am absolutely convinced the wise course and any parent will tell you this, is to listen to the healthcare people tell us what to do.

We all want our kids back in school. Who wants them at home now? We want them socialized and we want them learning in class. But no one wants their child in a position where they're becoming a petri dish.

And by the way, we have about a over a dozen children in in the hospital right now for COVID. So, they're not immune from it either. I mean, this is a upside down approach we're hearing from Washington.

BLITZER: And let's not forget these little kids, these young kids in high school or even elementary school, they can be totally asymptomatic positive for coronavirus. They might not feel a thing but they could pass it on to their moms and their dads, their grandparents, other family members, anyone, so you got to be really, really careful.

Mayor Gelber, I know you got a tough job. Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in Miami Beach.

GELBER: Thanks, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up. We're going to have more on the new model forecasting more than 200,000 American deaths from coronavirus by November 1.

Plus, Brazil's president for months and months has been downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus crisis has now himself tested positive for coronavirus.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:33:38]

BLITZER: We have breaking news, an influential model of the coronavirus pandemic now is predicting 200,000 deaths here in the United States by November 1st, unless almost all Americans, 95 percent of Americans start wearing masks routinely.

Joining us now our CNN Political Correspondent Abby Phillip, along with attorney and CNN Political Commentator Bakari Sellers. Bakari is also the author of the brand new book entitled, "My Vanishing Country: A Memoir". Bakari, thanks for joining us.

You know, it's interesting that this new model used by the White House routinely the Coronavirus Task Force projecting 200,000 deaths by November, but the President says, and I'm quoting him now, we're not closing, we'll never close.

He's painting the current death toll as an actual victory, saying it could have been a whole lot higher. So how scary is it to hear that when we know this virus is only to get worse and worse, especially coming in the fall and winter unless there's a dramatic vaccine development?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, even if there is a dramatic vaccine development in the fall, what we do know is that many people are going to die between now and then. And we have a way that we can curb that.

We're beyond the point where we can just contact and trace, we're beyond the point where we can suppress this virus and contain this virus. We're at a point now where people -- if we want this virus to not effectuate and not kill as many people as this one track to do, we're at a point where we simply have to wear a mask. That is the only thing that we do now.

[17:35:09]

And just look at the different things this administration has said. You had the Surgeon General, General Adams who actually had a tweet about people not buying all the mask because they weren't going to be effective. Back in February and March, you've had this being called a hoax, you've had people who would not take this virus seriously. And as the father of an immunosuppressed daughter, one of the things that I can say is I hope people wear a mask, not for themselves, per se, but for everyone else around them.

And to everybody who's a millennial out there, who's my age and Abby's age, who's out there just partying away, who's enjoying the Fourth, you know, do not choose a beer or a barbecue or a celebration over your life because that is what it's apparent that we're doing.

When you look at the images coming out of Atlanta, Georgia, the nightclub compound with a pool in the middle and people partying, when you look down in Florida, and you see people on the beaches and at clubs, we have to do a better job, especially young people, millennials and Generation Z have to do a better job of saving this country for themselves wearing a mask and protecting our self.

BLITZER: It's not just themselves that they're saving, but they're saving their family members because they could easily pass on a virus even if they're totally asymptomatic.

You know, Abby, the President, he says he's going to put pressure on all the governors to reopen the schools in the fall. And he repeated this claim that some wants schools closed, in his words, because it's good for them politically, good for them politically. This is hard enough already without the President politicizing all of this, isn't it?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This school decision is probably one of the most difficult that public officials are facing across the country. We want kids to learn, we want them to be in an environment where they have a chance to get the best possible education, but there are risks involved as you just discussed with your previous guests. Risks not just to them but to their teachers, to their families when they go home. But President Trump is really focused on this issue of how this is all affecting him personally, and how this is affecting him politically.

We saw him use the same kind of language. In an interview with the "Wall Street Journal", in which he suggested that people could be wearing masks as a political statement against him. This is the kind of stuff that is making this task of controlling the virus much more difficult.

We even heard in an interview that he did just today this afternoon, on the topic of masks, the President basically breaking with Dr. Fauci and saying, well, Fauci has been wrong about masks in the past. So he's saying all kinds of things and he doesn't agree with Fauci that people ought to wear masks. I mean, this is a real problem. And instead of making this about politics, the President really does need to listen to people on the ground and their concerns and figure out a constructive way forward because no one is keeping schools closed for political reasons. Everyone wants kids to learn, but that there has to be a way to do it safely.

And in some of these places like Florida, where the virus seems to be really raging out of control, it is hard to see how that can be done without more control being placed on the virus, finding these people who are sick, isolating them and getting these numbers to go in the other direction down instead of up.

BLITZER: Yes, fall semester and a lot of school districts that starts in early to mid-August, that's a month or so away from now. Abby and Bakari, guys, thank you very much.

Coming up, I'll be joined by the doctor behind a key model that predicts 200,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths by November 1st unless more people immediately, immediately start wearing mask. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:43:27]

BLITZER: We're following some very important developments in Brazil right now. The country's President, who totally dismissed the coronavirus as a, quote, little flu, he totally ignored safety guidelines, he announced today he has now tested positive for coronavirus. CNN's Bill Weir is on the scene for us in Brazil right now. So what is President Bolsonaro saying right now, Bill?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, plenty of critics I'm sure hope to see him come out coughing and humbled and changed. But this -- but, no, (INAUDIBLE) President Bolsonaro basically doubled down on everything he's been doing since the pandemic broke. He says I feel great. I had two doses of hydroxychloroquine, the controversial malaria drug first floated by Donald Trump and then stockpiled by President Bolsonaro. He has his military making it and gave it to people in the clinics.

Because his message all along was would be to take this, this familiar malaria drug and then go to work because we need to get the economy back, regardless of what the health minister said. I just spoke to the former health minister who he fired in a fight over this, who worries now that he's going to come through it fine. And then will just use it to amplify his message of more malaria pills and going to work, less masks and social distancing.

BLITZER: You know, Bill, you're in Sao Paulo right now. So how bad is this surge where you are?

WEIR: Well, it's a big city. 20 million people, at least counting the suburbs. But the striking -- most striking thing we saw today was that the largest cemetery in Latin America, they can't -- it's not large enough.

[17:45:11]

They're digging thousands of holes as fast as they can. It's filling up two and a half times the normal rate, for a city the size of Sao Paulo. And health professionals worry that now that cities like this, are opening up without more stringent monitoring and testing, that those graves sadly will fill all too fast. And know the saddest part today is you see them -- each family is limited to 10 minutes to say goodbye. No time for awake these days in Brazil.

BLITZER: Yes, it's an awful, awful situation. Bill, just be careful over there. We'll stay in close touch with you. Bill Weir on the scene for us in Brazil right now. Thank you very, very much.

Coming up, the Republican governors of two of the country's largest states, they are split. They're split big time on how to handle the coronavirus crisis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:50:56]

BLITZER: The governors of two of the states currently hardest hit by the coronavirus are taking very different approaches to the pandemic. CNN's Brian Todd is working that part of the story for us. Brian, we're talking about the governors of Texas and Florida, both in the spotlight right now. What are you discovering?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. You know early on, Governor Greg Abbott of Texas and Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida were both eager to reopen their states both supremely confident that they could handle whatever was coming. Well, tonight, Governor Abbott at least is on a very different wavelength.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Coming off a devastating rash of COVID deaths in his state over the past few days, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is blunt in his assessment of what's ahead.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: My concern is that we may see greater fatalities going forward as we go into the middle part of July.

TODD (voice-over): Compare that to the upbeat outlook today from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who state has also had a horrible surge of coronavirus cases and deaths.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We obviously want to see, you know, get over this wave as soon as possible, but we have the tools in place to be able to deal with it in ways that not only Florida didn't, but really no state in the country had it when we're talking about the beginning or middle of March. It's just something that wasn't there. Now it's there, and we're much better off to be able to handle it.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, there seems to be a tale of two governors playing out both Republican, both presiding over states that are reeling from the virus. Florida and Texas both surging past 200,000 cases. But Abbott seems to be acknowledging the reality, admitting he's made mistakes with his state's reopening.

ABBOTT: If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars.

TODD (voice-over): While DeSantis unrepentant moves full steam ahead.

DESANTIS: We're not going back closing things.

TODD (voice-over): Governor Abbott has ordered face masks to be worn in public in all counties that have 20 or more cases of coronavirus, an order which covers the majority of Texas counties. DeSantis while encouraging mask wearing has issued no statewide mandate on masks in Florida, leaving that up to counties and cities to decide on their own.

DESANTIS: Ultimately, we've got to trust people to make good decisions.

TODD (voice-over): While Abbott is going along with the U.S. military sending dozens of medical and support personnel to Texas to help besieged hospitals. DeSantis's education commissioner has just ordered all Florida schools to reopen in, quote, brick and mortar fashion and retweeted President Trump's tweet saying schools must open in the fall.

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: I just can't imagine schools opening when you have this level of virus circulating in the community. I do think there are ways to reopen school safely once you've suppressed transmission enough, but we're not anywhere close to that yet in Florida right now.

TODD (voice-over): Why are these two Republican governors handling the crisis in their states differently? Political analysts say it could be because of Abbott's longer experience as a state leader. And because DeSantis appears more beholden to the President having countered on Trump's help to win office in 2018.

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: DeSantis is more seen as a Trump-like figure in Republican Party politics. Abbott certainly has aligned himself with Trump on a number of issues, but again, sort of made his political bones well before Trump came into the political picture.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: David Swerdlick believes there's another factor at play here as well. He says we should remember that the Republican National Convention this summer has just been moved to Jacksonville, Florida. And politically, it might appear in Congress, if Governor DeSantis were to order all Floridians to wear face masks in public at a time when President Trump continues to reject mask wearing. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, the time when Florida of course as a hotspot right now. Brian Todd reporting, thank you very, very much.

Breaking news coming up next, the very grim new death project just -- death toll projection as the coronavirus pandemic worsens. I'll speak to the doctor behind a key model, a brand new model now forecasting 200,000 American deaths by November 1st.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:59:30]

BLITZER: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news. The United States is now on the verge of 3 million confirmed coronavirus cases, as the U.S. death toll now passes 131,000. And an influential University of Washington model has now updated its forecast which now projects more than 200,000 American deaths by November 1st.

I'll speak to the doctor behind that model in just a few moments. The virus is clear surging in at least 31 states with the majority of new cases coming from just four hotspots.