Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
President Trump To Pressure Schools To Reopen; Interview With Houston, TX Mayor Sylvester Turner (D); Florida Schools To Open Next Month Despite Surging Cases; Miami-Dade Hospitalizations Up 90 Percent, ICU Beds At 86 Percent Capacity; Brazil Reports 45,000-Plus New Infections Today As Country's President Announces Positive Test. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 7, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The virus is clearly surging in at least 31 states, with the majority of new cases coming from just four hot spots. We're talking about Texas, California, Arizona, and Florida.
But President Trump is brushing off the growing public health crisis and vowing to pressure governors to reopen schools in the fall, saying -- and I'm quoting him now -- "We're not closing. We will never close."
Let's begin our coverage this hour, with CNN's Nick Watt joining us from Los Angeles.
Nick, one of the most influential coronavirus models now projects the U.S. death row will rise to at least 200,000 by the beginning of November, unless everyone starts wearing masks right away. Give us the very latest.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Wolf.
I mean, basically, they are saying that another 77,000 or so Americans will die by the beginning of November. But we could save about 45,000 of those lives if most of us just wore masks.
Meanwhile, Texas set a new record today, 10,000-plus new cases in 24 hours.
WATT (voice-over): Big Tex taking a break for the first time since World War II, the Texas State Fair just canceled, as the military sends medical personnel to San Antonio to help.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): The four days leading up to the Fourth of July combined were the four deadliest days that we have had. My concern is that we may see greater fatalities going forward.
WATT: In Florida, ICUs in 43 hospitals are now full.
CARLOS GIMENEZ (R), MAYOR OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Especially, we need to look at our younger population that we know had a tremendous spike in their positivity rate, which in turn has infected other people.
WATT: Florida still won't reveal how many calls COVID-19 patients they have in hospitals, despite the governor's claims today.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): All the data that goes into this is all available.
QUESTION: I have spreadsheet from that data, Governor. It is not available.
WATT: But Miami-Dade does. And it's up 90 percent in just two weeks.
Still, the state just issued an order for schools to reopen next month.
SHEVRIN D. JONES (D), FLORIDA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: We can't go on this on this path of putting our teachers in this petri dish of danger.
ALBERTO CARVALHO, SUPERINTENDENT, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA, PUBLIC SCHOOLS: I will not reopen our school system August 24 if the conditions are what they are today.
WATT: California school district just terminated employee who apparently coughed in a baby's face in a coffee shop during a social distancing dispute.
And the state's capitol is now closed indefinitely, after at least five lawmakers tested positive.
Test lines are getting longer.
DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: All of this just makes it so much harder to manage this disease.
WATT: Quest Diagnostics says, last month, results were taking two to three days. Now it's four to six. And quick results are key in effectively isolating the infected.
DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: The cases are rising so rapidly that we cannot even do contact tracing anymore.
WATT: Undiagnosed silent spreaders might be responsible for around half of all cases, according to one new study. And, as cases climb, nearly half of states now slowing or rolling back reopening.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): So, if they keep moving up, we're going to dial back if we have to. And that's the last thing any of us wants.
WATT: Now, responding to these little spikes we're seeing around the country, the Department of Health and Human Services just announced they are going to open three new testing sites in places that are being hit hard.
They are Jacksonville, Florida, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Edinburg, Texas.
Now, down in Hidalgo County, about half of the COVID cases they have ever had through this entire pandemic have come, Wolf, in about the past 10 days.
BLITZER: That is so, so worrisome, because it does not bode well for the coming weeks and months.
Nick Watt reporting for us, thank you very much.
Let's get some more news right now from our White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond.
Jeremy, the president is making a major push to reopen all public schools all across the country starting next month. What are you hearing? What's the latest?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
As coronavirus cases are continuing to surge in more than half the states across the country, President Trump today making a full-court press for those schools to begin reopening.
The president's and other top officials during a White House event today arguing that schools reopening needs to be a top priority, both for the mental health and the academic well-being of students, as well as for the economic health of the country. And the president even saying that he will pressure governors of states to begin reopening those schools if they don't do so themselves.
As for the CDC guidelines that will help schools reopen safely, they're not expected until next week.
TRUMP: We want to reopen the schools. Everybody wants it. The moms want it. The dads want it.
DIAMOND (voice-over): 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 want 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, with 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 have 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 surge in 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 fund-raiser for his reelection campaign at a private home.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have traveled. We have done so safely. And we will 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 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, NIAID DIRECTOR: I don't like to be 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.
DIAMOND: We are also learning that President Trump is moving to formally withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization. The Trump administration has notified both Congress and the United Nations that it is withdrawing from that health organization, triggering a one-year timeline for the U.S. to officially exit. Wolf, the president has criticized the World Health Organization for months for what he says were missteps in how it responded to the virus early on. But both public health experts, even those who recognize some of the WHO's missteps, they're saying that this is a counterproductive move, Wolf, particularly as this pandemic continues to rage on.
BLITZER: All right, Jeremy, thank you very much, Jeremy Diamond reporting from the White House.
Let's get some analysis from the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, Dr. Ashish Jha. We're also joined by Dr. Chris Murray. He leads a team of coronavirus modelers over at the University of Washington.
Thanks to both of you for joining us.
And, Dr. Murray, your new model, which I have now gone through, projects more than 200,000 Americans will die from coronavirus by November 1, unless, unless almost everyone starts wearing face masks.
So what factors contribute to this staggering new figure?; 131,000 Americans have died from coronavirus over the past four months.
DR. CHRISTOPHER MURRAY, DIRECTOR OF HEALTH METRICS, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: Well, we have got the upsurge in the states that you have been talking about, the hot spot states. We're also seeing it spread into places like South Carolina. So it's not just Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California.
We're seeing disturbing upticks in even places like Ohio. And then you combine that with schools opening, seasonality, and that's where you get this sort of constant death rate that will continue through to November.
But, of course, we can do something about it, which is what you were mentioning on masks.
BLITZER: Because your model estimates -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- about 45,000 Americans, their lives will be spared if almost every one in the country starts wearing masks when they're supposed to wear a mask.
We're talking about 45,000 Americans. So what do you say to people, even in spite of that, who refuse to wear a mask, which is so simple?
MURRAY: Well, it's an incredibly simple strategy and intervention.
It's one that will save lives, but it'll also help the economy enormously, because it'll avoid shutdowns that will inevitably come when things get completely out of control in some state.
BLITZER: And if people don't wear masks, as they should, you also report in this new forecast that the actual number of Americans dying by November 1 would be anywhere from 186,000 to 244,000.
How worried should -- 200,000 is bad enough, but 244,000 is a projection that is potentially out there? Is that right, Dr. Murray?
As you forecast father out, of course, the range of what's possible becomes wider and wider. And, certainly, things can be worse than that 208,000 figure that is our best estimate.
BLITZER: Yes, it could be another 100,000 Americans could die by November, worst-case estimate.
Dr. Jha, when you hear all of this, beyond wearing masks, what meaningful steps do Americans, American officials and citizens, need to take right now to avoid losing more than 200,000 Americans by November 1?
JHA: Yes, Wolf. So, thanks for having me on.
And, look, I think it's pretty clear what needs to be done. We are at a perilous moment in our country, where large outbreaks are happening in large parts of the country, as Dr. Murray said, not just in those four states.
And we absolutely need a national approach to wearing masks. I think there should be a national masking law. Or, certainly, every state should pass one.
But then, beyond that, we really have to look at our indoor spaces. I don't think we can afford to have bars and nightclubs open. Even restaurants may not be a possibility.
And even on the issue of schools, the question isn't, can you open schools? Everybody wants open schools in the fall. The question is, can we keep them open? And the way that we're going and the way we're acting as a country, we're not -- we don't seem like we're serious about keeping schools open this fall.
BLITZER: Well, what do you think about that, Dr. Murray, the impact potentially of reopening schools all across the country next month?
MURRAY: Look, if we -- like Dr. Jha said there, if we can't get people wearing masks and avoiding large group gatherings, which is another huge, easy-to-address risk, then it's exactly what he said, which is, we will end up opening schools.
I have an 8-year-old. We want schools open. But what will happen is, we will have to shut them again when things get worse and transmission gets worse as the winter season comes on us. So it's in our hands how long we can keep the schools up, and it really depends on everybody to do what they can to really cut transmission.
BLITZER: And, Dr. Jha, in addition to wearing masks, social distancing, making sure you wash your hands, there's got to be a lot more testing and a lot more contact tracing. Explain that to our viewers right now.
JHA: Yes, so, Wolf, we have been talking about this for a while. And we have been hearing from the White House that we have plenty of tests.
And yet we're seeing lines of people standing four, six hours to get a test. Look, tests aren't magical, but what they do is they help you identify who's infected. And then you apply contact tracing to identify who they might have infected. And you help people isolate in a way that they don't then infect others.
That's how you break this cycle. And it unto itself isn't going to be enough, but combine it with masks, combine it with social distancing, and we really can bring these outbreaks under control, if we decide that that's important.
But we just aren't getting the kind of leadership we need to move forward in that direction.
BLITZER: We need now leadership right now. A lot of other countries that have done much better in this, they have had a national policy, and not just local, state or cities doing what they're doing.
And, Dr. Murray, you also argue that just because the U.S. didn't see a clear ending to the first wave of this virus, that does not necessarily mean there will not be a significant surge in the fall. You're really worried about that. Tell us why.
MURRAY: Well, we have looked at the historical pattern of COVID transmission. We have seen that it's related to season or temperature.
And so that relationship is actually pretty strong. It also fits what we know about the first SARS epidemic. And so we're pretty sure that the potential (AUDIO GAP) for transmission will go up.
It'll get progressively worse from September right through to a peak in February. So, that makes us very concerned that the period after November one will probably be worse than even leading up to November 1.
BLITZER: Yes, that is so, so worrisome.
And, Dr. Jha, there's -- a new study finds -- and you have seen it -- that asymptomatic spread could be responsible for half of the coronavirus cases out there. The numbers are going up and up and up.
So, what does that tell you about how important it is to detect those silent infections?
JHA: Yes, absolutely.
If we're going to break the transmission chain, there are -- that's why we ask people to wear masks even if they feel totally fine, because they could be asymptomatic spreaders.
But that's why contact tracing is so important, because you can identify people who don't have symptoms, who may then go on to spread to other people. But if you can identify them and help them isolate, again, you can break these chains of transmission.
This is public health 101. We have known about these things for hundreds of years. We just have to implement them in the United States.
BLITZER: Yes, easier said than done. They're not clearly not being implemented.
Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you so much for joining us. Dr. Chris Murray, thanks to you as well. Thanks to both of you for the important work that you're doing. Appreciate it very much.
And just ahead, we will have more on President Trump's vow today to pressure governors all across the country to reopen schools in the fall. Is it safe for children to return to the classroom right now?
And I will speak with the mayor of Houston, Texas, about the surge in coronavirus cases in his city. We have a lot to discuss.
Much more on all the breaking news right after a quick break.
BLITZER: Getting some breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Texas just reported its highest single-day increase in new coronavirus cases. More than 10,000 people in Texas have now tested positive in one day.
The Houston mayor, Sylvester Turner, is joining us right now.
Mayor Turner, thanks so much for joining us. I know you got a lot going on.
What's your response to reaching this new milestone, more than 10,000 cases in Texas in a single day?
MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D), HOUSTON, TEXAS: Well, it's scary. It's not one that I like to brag about, Wolf.
Today, for the first time in a long time, we reported in the city of Houston 1,060. So, we represent about 10 percent of those 10,000-plus cases. And we're certainly moving in the wrong direction. And that's why it's just very important for all of us to clamp down hard and to do everything we can to slow the progression of this virus.
BLITZER: Yes, you got to do that.
You have also said, Mayor, that the number of people in ICU beds has exponentially increased. Are you in danger in Houston right now of running out of space to care for the critically ill coronavirus patients?
TURNER: Well, one thing you said, we are fortunate to have the largest medical center in the world. So that's a good thing for us in the city of Houston.
We have just entered phase two at the Texas Medical Center, about 9 percent of those beds, 32 of the 373, to kind of quantify it. We can go to phase three, and that's a little over 500 beds in phase three. So we still have capacity.
The next two weeks will be important, will be critical. You don't want to have to enter phase three. So it's not just about providing beds, but the staffing that goes right along with it.
TURNER: But you don't want to get there, if we can avoid it. That's why we're encouraging people to put on their masks, wear them, to engage in social distancing, all of the things that people have heard over and over again.
BLITZER: Especially the young people, people in their 20s and 30s. They have just got to do it.
Governor Abbott, the Texas governor, Abbott, says that -- says the beginning of July saw the deadliest days yet in Texas. He's now requiring all Texans to wear masks and has paused some reopening plans.
What steps, Mayor, are you prepared to take if daily cases in Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States, continue to climb?
TURNER: Well, I'm already encouraging -- recommend people, for example, to stay home if they can work remotely.
I'm encouraging and asked for our faith-based institutions to voluntarily resume their virtual services, worship services. Many, if not most of them, are doing just that. We have reduced the number of outside gatherings to 10 or less.
We certainly don't want any conferences and conventions taking place in the city of Houston. So we're working on that. And the city of Houston, we have suspended all permitted, produced events for the city for the month of July, as well as August.
If we do all of these things in concert, if we work together, we can be successful. Wolf, we did it in March, April and May. Now we need to do those same things again in July, August going forward.
BLITZER: Well, speaking of conventions, Mayor, you raise an important issue, because I know you're urging Texas Republicans to reconsider their plans to gather in Houston next week for their convention.
Has the Republican Party responded to your request? TURNER: Well, at this point, they are saying that they will continue.
It is my hope that they will place the safety of every Houstonian, quite frankly, every Texan, first, safety over party, over politics. We don't need that.
Look, bringing 6,000 people together indoors over a two-to-three-day event is not good on any level, not in the midst of a pandemic. And so I just would hope and pray that they will take into account the employees who would have to service that convention, the employees' families, the delegates themselves, the people in this city, and the people in the cities -- in the towns and cities that they are coming from.
So, I will continue to believe that wiser heads will prevail, and that people will recognize that this is a pandemic, and people are dying, and people are getting infected, and that the numbers in this state are going up, and not going down.
BLITZER: Yes, maybe they could do a virtual convention, like a lot of other groups are doing all over the country, in a delicate, dangerous moment like this.
Mayor Turner, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to everyone in Houston.
TURNER: Thanks. Thanks, Wolf. Stay safe.
BLITZER: Just ahead: The coronavirus crisis is also surging in Florida, but the governor is ordering schools to reopen next month. Is there any way to do so safely?
And Florida hospitals nearing ICU capacity in much of the state. I will ask the head of a major Miami hospital system about his plan to deal with the spike.
BLITZER: Despite surge in coronavirus cases throughout the State of Florida, the state is announcing it's requiring all schools to reopen for in-person classes next month, August.
Let's get the latest from Randi Kaye. She's joining us right now. Randi, tell us more.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Wolf, the education commissioner now insisting that all schools reopen starting next month, so just a few weeks away, and children will have to be physically in the classroom five days a week. They'll actually have to go to the building. The only way they will get out of that is if some health official says that it is just too risky. So right now, children here in the State of Florida will be heading back to school physically in the building next month. And this is despite the surge that you're talking about, another 7,300-plus new cases in the last 24 hours of coronavirus here in the State of Florida. We've also learned that nearly 60 hospitals have now run out of ICU beds here in the State of Florida.
But the governor is still downplaying all of it, saying the state is prepared, that he flattened the curve his way, he protected the vulnerable people early on. He made sure that hospital weren't overwhelmed early on. He got all the tools in place that he needed, like PPE, and ventilators as well. And so, he did a slow study flattening of the curve. And now even with this uptick, he says we are ready.
Also, Wolf, despite the uptick, we're also learning that President Donald Trump is heading to Florida on Friday, not to talk about the coronavirus, not to deal with COVID-19 but to talk about the drug trade in South America and to hold a campaign fundraiser.
And here is a thing, Wolf, he's heading to Doral, which is in Miami- Dade County. That is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic here in the State of Florida. 24 percent of all the cases, statewide, are coming out of Miami-Dade where the president is headed, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Randi thank you very much. Randi Kaye reporting from Florida for us.
So let's get some analysis from our Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash and our CNN Political Analyst, David Gregory.
Dana, this new model, from the University of Washington shows that if 95 percent of the Americans public were to wear masks routinely, when they need to wear mask we could save 45,000 American lives by November. But President Trump just now casts doubt on whether the experts are right about mask.
How do the experts break through on this critically life and death issue when the president refuses clearly to listen?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's so incredibly hard. They're trying to go around the president. They're trying -- they're obviously at least getting to other political leaders, whether governors or senators even and especially Republicans. I mean the president is increasingly on an island alone on this notion of not wearing masks.
And it's very hard to believe, it's because he doesn't understand or doesn't believe the science. He's stubborn. And that's not me saying that, that's from people who I talked to, who are in and around the president, that he made a statement, that he put his line in the sand on this notion of not wearing a mask personally. And so that's where he is going to stay. Statistics and science and reality be damned.
And that is why people like the mayor you just talked to, other mayors and leaders across the country particularly in hotspots are so frustrated because the people in their cities are getting mixed messages.
BLITZER: Yes, so disturbing. You know, David, the president held this event on reopening schools earlier today over at the White House. He accused people of wanting to keep schools closed to help themselves politically, politically he said. You can't seem to separate the public health crisis right now, which is enormous from his own political fortunes, can he?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he can't. And it's just one of the areas where he undermines his own effectiveness and undermines his own leadership at a time when we need it. As I think he's got an important point about education and about schools reopen.
I don't think schools have been aggressive enough. And I think we face the prospect of kids really being set back, having lost time, and it's critical. Dana and I are going through this as parents, seeing schools in the Washington, D.C. area having to balance some real concerns about the number of kids who are on campus. And, as we were saying before we came on the air, and a lot of these cases, the faculty are more concerned about going back to school than even the parents are.
And then we have to remember the digital divide as well. There are so many kids in public schools who are underserved, if they don't have the same kind of work from home option that other kids have around the country. That has to be factored in. So I think it's legitimate criticism and I think that it's a hard problem to navigate because of all of the protocols that have to be put in place. But there are sensitivities.
And, again, the president trivializes it by just making it all about himself. I think there's other factors that are concerns for about people going back.
BLITZER: And as we've been reporting, Dana, on Friday, the president is planning to travel directly into a coronavirus hotspot in Florida. But instead of visiting hospitals, or meeting with frontline workers, the trip is focusing on drug trafficking as well as a political fundraiser that he will attend. So what does that say about his priorities?
BASH: You know, at the beginning of this crisis, he went maybe once or twice to meet with frontline workers and do the kind of thing that we would normally see on a regular basis from a president who was not just trying to show leadership, especially up for re-election as this president is, but just kind to do the job.
I mean, that is -- it is a presidential leadership 101, to get out there and thank the frontline workers, see what's working, see what's not working, what does the federal government need to give that the people on the frontlines don't have. And this president decided he wasn't going to do it.
His only real public effort was in those hour to two-hour press conferences which stopped abruptly when he said something really stupid and he realized it. And that's when he started to rollback everything, not just as the public inventory and addressing it publicly but also what appears to be even close to a robust federal response.
And so that's still the path that this president is on. They're saying inside the White House that they're going to try to figure out a way to have a strategy where the president -- where they will say that Americans need to co-exist with this. But, you know, co-existing with the virus is one thing, just completely ignoring it is quite another.
BLITZER: You know, David, how much risk is the president assuming from himself? He's 74 years old, he has some underlying health conditions. How much of a risk is there for his staff, his security, Secret Service agents, for example? What does all this say about how seriously he is taking the threat of this virus?
GREGORY: Well, it is an unnecessary risk and it's selfish risk because he is not there to lend support for those who are on the frontlines fighting this virus. He's doing it to advance another message altogether. I mean, we've seen this from his rallies and his Secret Service who had to be quarantined afterwards, or who contracted the virus. We're seeing in time and time again where he is undermining science, he's negating science.
We need a leader who is going through the good, the bad and ugly, to show resolve, to show a commitment to reopen the country and to take this seriously enough so Americans will take it seriously enough, which is not easy when you've gone through this much time in a lockdown.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Thank you very, very much, David Gregory and Dana Bash, as usual.
Just ahead, Brazil's president test positive for the virus after months of downplaying the threat. Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: As coronavirus cases surge in Florida, hospitalizations are rising at a truly alarming rate and dozens of hospitals are reporting their intensive care units are at capacity.
Joining us now, Carlos Migoya, the President and CEO of the Jackson Health System in Florida's Miami-Dade County. Carlos, thank you so much for joining us, thanks to everything you and your team are doing.
The Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, today announce 100 nurses, 47 new beds, will be sent to the Jackson Health System, which you run. Will that be sufficient to meet your needs in the coming weeks?
CARLOS MIGOYA, PRESIDENT AND CEO, JACKSON HEALTH SYSTEM: It is, for the time being. The challenge that we have and what we've been doing and balancing, Wolf, is as we reduce the number of urgent and emergent surgeries only in the way from elective surgeries would be balance in the sense as the number of patients in beds that are non-COVID related.
So, today, our numbers of COVID patients have grown by 60 percent over the last 14 days. In fact, it continues to grow, we'll only be able to continue with that growth, if we have reduction of non-COVID patient. Reduction of elective surgeries is up. We think we can do that for two or three weeks. We cannot sustain that forever.
But we have a good number right now, and, frankly, we're feeling comfortable that the next several weeks we were okay. After that, it's tougher to say.
BLITZER: What you're saying is two or three weeks from now you might need -- you might not necessarily be all that comfortable. So how would you describe the health system right now? How dire is it?
MIGOYA: Right now, we are fine. The challenge that we have is that we've been at this for over 100 days. The first patient we saw in Jackson was in the second week of March, and it's been going ever since. So our people are tired.
We better -- we're much better at dealing with the disease today than we were back in March and April. We learned a lot from a lot of parts of the country, specifically New York, and we're much better at it that (ph) we are today.
But the people are tired. Having those extra hundred nurses which, by the way, we've also hired an additional 80 nurses that will come on board and really be ready to go in about three or four weeks. All that will continue to help as be able to relieve the staff because it is stressful -- stressful for everyone of us. It is stressful for other communities.
The best solution, and you guys could talk about it, and I love the way you do it, once you continue to do it, it's going to be to reduce the infection rate in communities. In all South Florida, the focus that we have everywhere is using the masks and be socially distant.
Every county mayor continues to do that. The kind of challenges we have and how we are dealing with curfews, that's the only way to really try to get it done. And we've got to get the younger people to understand that keeping that mask and social distancing is the only way to reduce or prevent the infection rate.
BLITZER: What are you hearing, Carlos, from doctors, nurses, patients, families about what they'd like to see top officials do to combat this deadly pandemic?
MIGOYA: Well, it's mixed. So, if you're someone that has an experience with COVID, you get it. You want everyone to be out there shutting things down and making sure that everybody is socially distance and quarantining themselves. If you're someone that doesn't have an experience, you have the doubts they even exist, believe it or not, but that's what's going on today.
Many people are out there. They're not doing what they need to be doing in social distancing and masking, and they're giving it to each other. And they say, well, it's not going to matter. It's not going to have an impact to us.
Here in Miami-Dade County, as you know, Wolf, we're a predominantly international city with a lot of diversities. Our diversities are people that have multigenerational families in one home. So the young person comes home and gives it to the mother or the grandmother. That's what the challenge has become, and that's what the problems are.
And then, all of a sudden, it's too late.
MIGOYA: But we want to make sure that everyone is out there preventing as much as they can so that we can, inside of Jackson and every hospital in South Florida, can handle it based on the virus (ph) we have. We're stressed but we can continue with this for a while. We can't do this forever.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, good luck down there, Carlos. Really appreciate everything you're doing. Thanks so much for joining us.
MIGOYA: Thank you.
BLITZER: All right. Just ahead, after months of downplaying the coronavirus and calling it simply a little flu, Brazil's president has tested positive.
We're going live to Brazil when we come back.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news as Brazil's president tested positive for coronavirus. The country is now reporting another 45,000 new infections just today.
CNN's Bill Weir is in Sao Paulo for us with the latest.
What are you learning, Bill?
BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know he had enough of a fever and symptoms to go to a medical hospital, or military hospital in the capital, and get his long scanned with an MRI machine, also had his at least fourth COVID-19 test, and then today, around noon time, he stepped out in front of the presidential palace with the mask and said, yes, I have it, I've been tested for it.
But what's interesting is how he treated that announcement. If you want to know what, you know, Jair Bolsonaro is going to do during this pandemic, ask yourself, what would Donald Trump do? He has done many things and gone steps beyond, and he turned it into a commercial for hydroxychloroquine, this controversial anti-malarial drug that he says is already making him feel better. He also said young people should have no problems going back to work, don't worry about it.
Both things are in conflict with health ministers and doctors around the country trying to flatten the curve that's really, really scarily going in the wrong direction, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly is. And I understand, 45,000 new confirmed cases of coronavirus are reported just today in Brazil. So what does that kind of surge look like in Sao Paulo, a huge city where you are?
WEIR: Well, it's -- you know, we heard reports that one of the major hospitals was reaching scary capacity, 90 percent capacity in their ICU, it is a huge city as you say, near 20 million people here but we were out today at one of the biggest cemeteries in all of Latin America really, and they have dug thousands of fresh graves there in anticipation for what is to come. The infection rate is one thing. Now, we're getting close to 1.7 million in this country of 210 million.
But the death rate is a slower metric. It takes time for those numbers to process. But today was so heartbreaking. You see people forced to grieve in 10 minutes or less because there's so many families coming through.
BLITZER: Yes, that's a really, really awful picture. You see all those graves over there, mass graves site.
Bill Weir, be careful over there in Brazil. We'll stay in close touch with you. Thanks for your excellent, excellent reporting.
And we'll have more news here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.
BLITZER: Finally, tonight, we pay tribute to more Americans who died from the coronavirus.
William Stone of New Jersey was 76 years old, a father, grandfather, and devoted husband to his wife Mary for 41 years. We're told he cared most about his family, his friends, church and his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.
Irwin and Theodora Balaban of New York were 87 and 88 respectively. He was an engineer who worked on nuclear submarines; she, a loving mother was an enormous, enormous heart. They were married for 65 years before dying within a week of each other.
May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNsitroom. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.