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ICU at 56 Florida Hospital Hit Capacity; Texas Hits Single-Day Record for New Cases; Trump Claims the U.S. in a "Good Place" as Cases Surge; Trump to Pressure Governors to Reopen Schools Despite COVID-19 Case Spikes; Connecticut Reports Zero COVID-19 Deaths in 24 Hours for First Time Since March; Hospitals Strained, ICUs Filling Up as U.S. Nears 3 Million COVID Cases. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 8, 2020 - 09:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good Wednesday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. Glad you're with us.

Well, it is getting worse. The nation sees a record 60,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day of coronavirus. We're closing in on three million cases across the country. And a key model is predicting 208,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States by the beginning of November. All of this and yet the president says we are in a, quote, "good place."

Here are the facts, though. California and Texas both saw record days of new cases on Tuesday. In Florida at least 56 ICUs are now at full capacity. There are fewer than 200 intensive care unit beds left in the entire state of Arizona. And now fears this morning that the spike is dangerously coming back into the Midwest. Ohio's governor now mandating masks in what he calls seven red hot counties warning people they should be, quote, "frightened."

All of that is happening. We're covering it all this morning. Let's begin in California with my colleague, Rosa Flores. Tell us more about what the hospitals are facing again this morning.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, good morning. You know, there's a lot of concern from local leaders and experts here in Miami-Dade County and across this state quite frankly because here is the latest. 56 ICU hospitals across the state in 25 different counties have zero capacity. That means they do not have more ICU beds. That includes eight right here in Miami-Dade County where I am. Another 35 ICU hospitals have bed availability of 10 percent or less.

Now here's the reality here in Miami-Dade County where I am. The positivity rate yesterday was 27 percent. When you look at the county data that was released for the past 13 days, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has increased by -- excuse me, 87 percent. The number of ICU beds have increased by 91 percent and the number of ventilators have increased by 108 percent during the same time period.

Now yesterday during the press conference, Governor Ron DeSantis acknowledging and addressing the surge in cases. Take a listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Well, we have no doubt seen a major increase in cases. The median age of our new cases was in the 50s about a month and a half ago. Now that's dropped into the 30s. We've had days where the median age was 33. And obviously that's important, Sean, as you know, I mean, because people who are healthy and under 40, you know, the death rate on this thing is very close to zero. So that's significant.


FLORES: To address the increase in hospitalizations, the state has pledged to send 100 medical workers here to Miami-Dade, which is considered the epicenter, and through a partnership through the state and Pan American hospitals, they plan to increase the number of beds for long-term care facilities of patients with COVID-19 by 150.

And Poppy, we're just learning this. Remember we were reporting that the state was requiring schools to reopen in brick and mortar fashion starting in the fall. Well, despite that, Miami-Dade County could be exempt because according to the superintendent, Miami-Dade County is still in phase one and so long as it doesn't move to phase two they're not required to reopen in brick and mortar fashion -- Poppy.

HARLOW: I guess the question, Rosa, would be for other counties in the state. Can they reverse course back to phase one to -- you know, to prevent the schools from being forced to reopen?

FLORES: You know, that's a very interesting question. The -- what's interesting to me too is that Governor Ron DeSantis is the one that has been announcing and allowing counties to reopen.


FLORES: And you remember, the three counties here in southeast Florida were the last to reopen because of the surge in cases and because this area has been the hotspot and epicenter. I mean, 24 percent of the more than 200,000 cases in the state of Florida are right here in the county where I'm standing. And so that is why we might see that schools and other places might not fully reopen because of that particular factor.

So I'm not sure if Palm Beach and Broward will follow suit, but it will be interesting to learn if that's the case because again these counties didn't quite reopen in full force like the rest of the state.

HARLOW: Yes. Rosa, thank you so much for that important reporting this morning.

Let's go to Texas now which saw its highest single increase in new COVID cases once again, more than 10,000 in a day.


Ryan Young is in Houston. Good morning, Ryan.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. You think about that number, 10,000, what an astonishing number that was and really smashed numbers from previous times but one of the things we also wanted to focus on is how this is having an impact on small businesses. And in fact, we're standing in front of a farmer's market that you can see right here.

On this side over here is a flea market. And of course this would be normally bustling. People would come in and tried to get their foods for the day. You can see all the fresh produce here. They say they've actually been impacted because sometimes people don't know whether or not they can come to these locations because of the 50 percent capacity requirements.

But as you can see, it's all open down this direction. They've been opened for business for more than a few hours right now as people have been coming in to get their fresh produce, to try to stock their restaurants. You can understand the impact there. We were talking to small business owners yesterday who say these cases have really put an impact and a slowed down on their business.

Talking about this administration from all over Houston, they want to make sure that they can start slowing things down in terms of this caseload that they're having. More than 1,000 new cases just yesterday and now you see what that impact has become because there are people who were scared to leave their homes and they have been having ongoing conversations of course about this.

Now everyone that we've seen here for the most part had been wearing a mask. So that is getting out there. But in terms of the other people, there have been, as I have talked about yesterday, folks having to have arguments about making sure people wear these masks as they come to locations like this one.

HARLOW: They shouldn't have to be dealing with that on top of everything else.

Ryan Young, in Houston, thank you so much.

The president with a sharp rebuke of his top infectious disease doctor, while Dr. Fauci says the U.S. still, quote, "knee deep" in the first wave of COVID-19. The president says, quote, "We as a country are in a good place with the pandemic."

Let's go to our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. She joins me with more.

The president and Dr. Fauci both at an impasse. We know what the polling says about who the American public trust on this issue. But it's a big problem when you don't have them on the same page with major health implications.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And Poppy, we all get to decide who we're going to listen to. The president or someone with many decades of infectious disease experience.

Let's take a listen to what President Trump said yesterday about Dr. Fauci.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I disagree with him. You know, Dr. Fauci said don't wear masks and now he says wear them. He said numerous things.


COHEN: Like many things that President Trump says there is this small grain of truth but overall it is just wrong. He didn't -- Dr. Fauci didn't contradict himself on masks. Back in February and early March he said, look, there aren't enough masks out there for people who are health care workers, for people who are truly ill. That is a problem so we're asking others not to wear a mask. And then he said as time went on, we will reconsider this.

Well, the circumstance has changed. The outbreak got much worse, the supply of masks got much better, and now he's saying, yes, wear a mask. So he's really twisting Dr. Fauci's words when he says that he -- or implies that he somehow contradicts himself.

HARLOW: Yes. Thank you for that. Before you go, Elizabeth, the World Health Organization overnight is confirming there is emerging evidence of airborne transmission of COVID. Can you talk about how that's different from what we knew before and what that means in terms of, you know, staying six feet apart from people? Are we less protected by that now than then?

COHEN: Well, first, I want to say the World Health Organization is a little bit behind on this. Back in early April, more than three months ago, the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S., a prestigious panel, said, yes, there is evidence that possibly this can exist in the air and sort of float around. So in other words, it just kind of floats and you walk into it. So this has been clear for months now that there appears to be evidence of this.

It's unclear why the WHO has taken so long to just sort of say it out loud and why it took the pressure of scientists writing to them. But let me explain the difference. What the WHO and to be honest the CDC have focused on is that COVID spreads from coughs and sneezes. When you cough or sneeze, sometimes you can even see them, they're that big. You get these wet droplets, they can hit someone, infect them. But those droplets are so heavy that they drop to the ground.

What we're talking about now with airborne transmission is lighter particles. Particles that float in the air and you don't need to sneeze or cough to generate these particles. You just generate them by breathing. So you breathe, they linger in the air and then someone can walk by even a period of time later and run into those particles. There has been evidence that this is a possible route of transmission for COVID for many months now.

HARLOW: Right.

COHEN: And there are two different things. One of these droplets you get from sneezing and coughing, the other is these particles you just get from breathing.

HARLOW: OK. Very helpful, Elizabeth, thank you very much.

Let's talk about that and a lot more with Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.


Good morning, Doctor. If you could just address what Elizabeth just explained from the WHO, this guidance on droplets in the air, et cetera. Does any of this information from that organization change how people need to be acting day to day in terms of distancing, et cetera?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Poppy, absolutely no change, because the main way this virus is transmitted from person to person is through that close, intimate contact within three to six feet. Yes, you can sometimes get transmission because the virus goes a longer distance. But we think that that is playing a minor role.

Let's not get distracted. Wear the mask. Six foot distancing. Avoid large groups. That's what we have to focus on and that will help reduce the spread of this virus.

HARLOW: Let's listen to what Dr. Fauci said yesterday about his real concern about false complacency. Here he was.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It's a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death. There's so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus. Don't get yourself into false complacency.


HARLOW: What is the virus' response, Doctor, to false complacency? Because I see it all over the place.

SCHAFFNER: Yes, the virus' response is, I want to keep spreading. Sure, once you get sick, we're doing a better job in getting you better. Remember Benjamin Franklin, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I'm so glad we can treat patients better, get them out of the intensive care unit, reduce the death rate, but wouldn't it be better if they never had to enter the intensive care unit?

We're concerned about the widespread of this virus. Your reporters from the field, that's a very sobering series of reports. My optimism is very concerned. I think this virus is out running way ahead of us still in this country. HARLOW: Given that people still can broadly travel, you know, between

states as much as they want, yes, there is the 14-day quarantine for the tri-state area here in the north, but it's pretty hard to enforce. Would a national mask mandate inside and outside under most circumstances make the most sense right now?

SCHAFFNER: Hallelujah. Absolutely. We need a national program led by the CDC along with Dr. Fauci. And we need one standard for the entire country. Because at the moment, we have a crazy quilt of recommendations and guidelines. No wonder the population is confused.

HARLOW: Yes. I wouldn't -- well, I don't know if we're going to get that. I think there's just so much politics tied up in it right now, but the numbers certainly seem to indicate it would be incredibly helpful. One thing that I wanted to ask you about is when you look at what ER doctors are saying in Texas and in Arizona. That many have just lost hope and part of what was supposed to help control this was contact tracing.

Do you agree with doctors that now say we are at the point where this has spread so much, especially among young people that contact tracing won't even be effective at this point to mitigate?

SCHAFFNER: We're trying to do two things at the same time at the local level. One is confinement. Contact tracing. And that's still going on and has a utility. But in addition, we have to do mitigation. All of us have to participate in wearing our masks, six foot distancing. So let's do both things at the same time. Contact tracing alone won't get it.

HARLOW: Dr. William Schaffner, thank you. It's good to have you.

SCHAFFNER: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Still to come, the president says he will push governors to reopen their schools this fall, but with cases spiking across the country will that happen? And as hospitalizations reach record levels in California and Arizona, doctors in those states say they're losing hope and they worry about where the pandemic could take them next.

Also, major league soccer kicks off tonight with the tournament in Orlando. NBA players arriving there ahead of their practices. More cases of the virus still leave huge questions, though, about the future of how much professional sports can really get back to it.



HARLOW: Welcome back. The president overnight saying that he will pressure governors to reopen schools even as the nation sees record numbers of coronavirus cases. And 24 states including Connecticut are rolling back some of their plans or pausing on them I should say for reopening further.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont joins me now. Governor, it's good to have you, we'll get to exactly what you're doing on reopening in a moment.

But I mean, it's notable that the state of Connecticut in the last 24 hours has seen no COVID deaths for the first time in that, you know, period of time in months. Why is that? What has made that possible?

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): That's extraordinary news for us. As you know, we were hit really hard, Poppy, going back a few months ago. And this is the first time in well over three months we have zero fatalities. And I think that reflects the fact that our infection rate is down below 1 percent, below 1 percent now over a week. So, you know, we're part of a region that's containing the virus for now. But we've got to be very cautious especially when you look at what's going on around the rest of the country.

HARLOW: For sure. This is a health crisis, no doubt. It's also an economic crisis, and there are so many people out there in your state that are feeling an economic pain that I don't know and I'm not living.


And you don't know and you're not living. But their question to you is why are you slowing down the reopening of your state, given what you just said, right? Why not increase capacity at restaurants inside, why keep bars closed? Let me read you this from Scott Dolce; he's the executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, quote, "you're right now telling the sector of the industry they can't open, they can't get business back on their feet. There has to be a way to do it safely." What do you say to him?

LAMONT: I would say, Poppy, you want to stop an economy dead in its tracks, look what's going on in Florida and Texas and Arizona and parts of California, where they have to roll things back and shut them down a second time. That would be a body blow to our economy. We're not going to let that happen. We've had a phased reopening over time. Our outdoor dining is going full throttle. That's been very safe for over the last six or seven weeks now.

Indoor dining, more limited capacity. But the riskiest thing in the world would be to have another flare-up. That'd be the toughest thing for our economy.

HARLOW: Yes, what's also very hard is, you know, at the end of July, these -- you know, increased unemployment benefits, $600 extra a week for all these folks are going to end, and evictions are going to ramp up. And this is the economic reality of what many people are facing. Let's talk about schools, your -- in Florida, you have the education commissioner saying they're going to open brick-and-mortar schools, you know, kids are going to have to attend five days a week.

There's been a lot of blow-back from teachers to that. Your recent plan at least as of -- as the latest that I've read says that schools, they're going to fully open in the Fall, significant changes, like mandated masks, deep cleaning, social distancing, et cetera. Is that still the plan in Connecticut for schools? LAMONT: Now, that's still the plan. We're working very closely with

our teachers and local superintendents, get a normal school day going, you know, on time, on schedule. That's key to the economy. More importantly, that's key for our kids and we can do it safely. But again, look at the CDC metrics that they set out. You've got to have declining infections, lower hospitalization.

We've got that here in Connecticut. And other parts of the country, they do not have that. So it's a little surprising to me that the president has mandated that they open in the middle of a 30 percent infection rate.

HARLOW: Well, here's what Shelly Davis(ph); a parent, education teacher in Hartford, Connecticut said, quote, "the safety and the health should be the thing that comes first. I don't know why we're going back to school. There is no plan. I don't have the confidence in going back." She says one of her questions is, "why don't we test all the students and all the staff like they've done in other countries?" And she says she has not gotten an answer to that. What do you say to her?

LAMONT: I say two things. One, that is not the CDC guidance at all. But more importantly, we have a 50-page plan out there. It's very detailed. It really is in and around the fact that you're going to keep your class intact if you don't feel comfortable going in. You can, you know, learn from home. We'll set you up with the IT, and the such, and cohorting is so important.

Meaning, don't let your fifth grade class hang out with everybody else in the school. We want to keep --

HARLOW: Right --

LAMONT: That limited, so if there was an infection, we can limit that.

HARLOW: That's important. So students and their parents have a choice to opt for at-home online education. But governor, do teachers have a choice? What if they don't feel comfortable or safe coming in, will they lose their jobs?

LAMONT: Look, if you're over a certain age, if you've got a pre- existing condition, if the doctor has said you should not be going in, they'll be the ones taking the lead when it comes to, you know, online education. But the rest of the teachers are essential workers just like our nurses are. You know, we couldn't have everybody saying, I don't feel comfortable going into the hospital when we were at the height of the pandemic.

HARLOW: Right.

LAMONT: We're going to be able to do this safely. The teachers are going to be safe, kids will be wearing masks, teachers can wear masks, we'll have testing available as needed.

HARLOW: So but they'll lose their job if they say are taking care of an elderly parent at home, and they could be risking their parents' lives if they go and teach every day. Their option is either stay home and care for your parent, you know, and take the risk or lose your job?

LAMONT: No, we're still working that out with the teachers. But let's face it, I mean, we had nurses, we had food service workers, we had day care folks that were working, they all had risks and we took care of them in the safest way we possibly could. But we had to take care of these essential services as well.

HARLOW: Yes, I'm just looking because the president has just tweeted that he may cut off funding to schools if they are not open. Your response to that, federal funding?


LAMONT: It's incredibly heavy-handed. Again, I think in a place like Connecticut, we can reopen safely and some of these states that have a 30 percent infection rate and given regions is dangerous.

HARLOW: Governor Ned Lamont, good luck to you, and I'm glad, so glad, to see the good news out of your state in the last 24 hours.

LAMONT: Appreciate that, Poppy.

HARLOW: Of course. Still ahead, California's hospitalizations remain at an all-time high. As ER doctors there in Arizona say they're losing hope in the battle against COVID-19. We'll have a live report from both states, next.


HARLOW: Well, there are a record number of patients now hospitalized with coronavirus in the state of California. At the same time, supply shortages are forcing several community testing sites there to shut down. Let's go to my colleague Sara Sidner, she joins us from a hospital.