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Soon: White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing As Cases Surge; Trump Ratchets Up Pressure On Schools To Reopen; ICU Beds At 56 Florida Hospitals Hit Capacity. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 8, 2020 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining us today.

For the first time in two weeks you will be hearing from the White House Coronavirus Task Force today, holding a briefing this hour from the Department of Education. We're going to be bringing that to you live when it begins.

One question today is whether Dr. Anthony Fauci will be in attendance, that question becoming all the more intriguing as the president of the United States is now directly and publicly contradicting and effectively belittling the nation's top infectious disease expert on the status of the outbreak in the country right now.

Fauci said that the country was still knee-deep in the first wave of the virus. You can see that in the numbers. He said it's not a good place to be. Asked about that, the president said the exact opposite. He said the country is in a good place and in three, four weeks we're going to be in good shape.

He can, of course, say anything he wants, but here are the numbers. They are getting worse. Nearly 3 million Americans have now been infected. More than 60,000 cases were diagnosed just yesterday. That's the highest number of new cases reported in one day.

Nationwide, 35 states are seeing an increase in new cases. That is not good. That's not a good place. Just three states are seeing decline. The number of people needing to go to the hospital for care is also on the rise with eight states reporting record highs on Tuesday. That is not good.

But that's also not the focus of the president right now. His focus has now turned to focusing in on schools. Forcing schools effectively across the country to reopen as soon as next month. Threatening to cut funding if schools don't reopen. And criticizing his own CDC for putting out guidelines that he calls expensive.

How does that work? Is reopening schools based on not on science, but instead on a hope and a prayer really a plan? Let's get over to the Department of Education, CNN's Kaitlan Collins is standing by for that task force briefing. Kaitlan, what are you hearing?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is really notable because obviously the reason I'm standing outside the Department of Education right now is because the primary focus of the task force in the last few days has been on reopening schools. And we know it's a priority of the president. So many people, actually, and yesterday the president said he was going to pressure governors to open their schools.

And so, what's really striking about this tweet that the president just posted a few moments ago is he is disagreeing with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on their guidance for reopening schools.

Now, the president and the CDC have not been on page during this entire pandemic, but it is striking that he just said, I disagree with the CDC on their very tough and expensive guidelines for reopening schools. While they want them open, they are asking schools to do very impractical things. I will be meeting with them.

So, making clear, he does not agree with the guidelines which include wearing social - wearing face coverings, staying home when appropriate, potentially having staggered schedules, you know communal spaces being closed at schools, having barriers in between students, some kind of Plexiglas type thing that you've seen in other places including at the White House. But then he tweeted just before that, Kate, saying that if other schools do not open, he is threatening to cut off funding.

Now, this is something that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had been asked about yesterday and said was something that they were considering. But let's look at the numbers here because if you're actually looking at what funding is and what actually schools get from the federal government it's not that much. Over 90 percent comes from state and local federal budget -- excuse me, state and local budgets, but there is that crucial 10 percent and a lot of that, Kate, goes to disadvantaged students, title 1 students, students who need this kind of funding the most.

And now, here we are in the middle of a pandemic where schools are asking for more money for PPE, to buy more school busses so they can space students out and the president is instead threatening to cut them off if they do not open in just, you know, a matter of weeks.

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right, Kaitlan. All right. Kaitlan is standing by. She's got to be in that briefing when that briefing begins. We're going to get back to you, Kaitlan. Thank you so much.

Let's focus in on Florida, one -- the epicenter in the nation right now where ICUs in at least 56 hospitals are at full capacity now. Numbers heading in the wrong direction, but we still don't know the full extent of the problem because Florida continues to refuse to release full data on COVID patients, unlike almost every other state in America.

CNN's Rosa Flores is in Miami Beach. She's been following this, trying to get some of this information. Rosa, what's the latest?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. Well, the Florida Department of Health just released the number of new cases and it's nearing 10,000. So, these numbers are not going down. The record was more than 11,400 that was said last week.


Now, despite this continued surge in the number of coronavirus cases in the state. We've reported on this, the Florida -- the Florida Department of Education requiring that all schools reopen in the fall in brick and mortar style for at least five days a week.

Now, we're learning that Miami-Dade County could be exempt from that rule and here's why. Here is a tweet from the superintendent today. He said, the well-being of students and employees remains our top priority. Miami-Dade schools will only proceed with in-person schooling option outlined in tentative reopening plan if Miami-Dade County successfully transitions to phase 2. Currently, the county is still in phase 1.

Here is the reality here on the ground in Miami-Dade County. The positivity rate yesterday was 27 percent here in this county. When you look at the number of hospitalizations, and this is according to data released by the county, there is an increase of 87 percent in the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals in this county. When you look at ICU beds, there is an increase of 91 percent. And this is in the past 13 days. And ventilators, there is an increase of 108 percent.

Now, the state is acknowledging and addressing the fact that there is a surge. They are sending 100 medical personnel to this county and they're also upping the number of beds for long-term care facilities in Miami-Dade County.

But Kate, back to the education focus, in that tweet, the superintendent made it clear that so long as the county is still in phase 1, they wouldn't be reopening in brick and mortar style and it would be difficult to believe with these numbers continuing to rise that this county would be ready to move to phase 2. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Rosa, thank you so much. Changing day by day, but one thing that's not changing is the direction and the trajectory of where this new cases that you just reported in breaking news that it is now almost 10,000 new cases as the pandemic continues.

Joining me right now for much more on this is the mayor of Hialeah, Florida, Carlos Hernandez. Mayor, thank you very much for coming in.

A number that I am so thankful that Rosa can bring to us because Miami-Dade County does report these numbers. The positivity rate in your area right now is 27 percent. That was just yesterday. That is far, far beyond the realm of containment. What does that level of spread mean for your city? MAYOR CARLOS HERNANDEZ (R), HIALEAH, FL: It's a big challenge and you were just talking about the mixed messages that we're getting and that's making it very difficult at the city levels because people are getting different messages from the federal government, state government, even here at the county, we're getting mixed messages. Show -- that's causing a lot of confusion.

And again, what we're trying to do at the local level is first of all, we're trying to continue to educate our citizens, how serious this is. Again, there are still people out there that have not taken this seriously. We had big demonstrations three weeks ago. And all that has caused a perfect storm for these numbers to blow up. Our hospitals are going up. And gain, the expense for the cities, it's amazing right now and we're doing the best we can to do what we can with the little help we're getting from both the federal and the states level.

BOLDUAN: Most of the residents in your city are Latino. I think Hialeah, if I remember correctly, has the largest Cuban and Cuban- American population in the country. "The New York Times" investigation that showed that black and Latino people are three times more likely to get COVID. Nearly two times more likely to die from COVID. Are you seeing this in Hialeah?

HERNANDEZ: We're seeing some of it. I think the hospitals are doing a great job. Their protocols have improved a lot in the last three months. So, I think that's helping a lot. That's why you see death rate lowered.

But again, we still have to continue to - to send a message out and not these confusing messages because I -- you have some people saying we should open the schools, some saying no. We shouldn't wear mask, we should. We should have one united message that say we do need to take care of each other. We do need to wear masks. We need to be responsible about social distancing. We got to wash our hands constantly.

Instead of all these mixed messages, we have to have one message coming from the top to the bottom. And as a city, we need all the help we can get from the state government, federal government because this has really fallen on our laps right now.

BOLDUAN: I mean, specifically, one of the mixed messages is coming from the president when he says that the country is in a good place with the virus right now. What do you say to that?

HERNANDEZ: The numbers are not saying that. I mean, we are finding ourselves in deeper, deeper waters. I'm not going to say we're in a critical situation right now, but we're getting there. And I think the message needs to be united. We all need to wear masks at this moment. We all need to respect social distancing. We all got to keep our hands - wash our hands in a constant - you know as much as we can.

I mean, we all have to unite. This is something that we -- if we don't unite and if we don't all take care of each other, again, we're going to get - we're going to find ourselves in a very critical situation very soon here in South Florida. [11:10:05]

BOLDUAN: What is the most critical thing that you need from the governor, from the state, from federal government right now to help get - get the outbreak under control. Is it consistent messaging? Do you think that has been - that it's been so detrimental having mixed messaging, that just consistent messaging is what You need right now?

HERNANDEZ: I think we should start with that. And of course, we need tracing - a lot more tracing down here from the state. We could --

BOLDUAN: Would you say you've had any tracing from the state level?

HERNANDEZ: Not that I'm aware of. Not that I'm aware of. I don't know. I haven't heard of a state doing any tracing down here or the county doing any of the tracing down here. That's one of the major things that I think that we need, and we've not started here at least in the city of Hialeah or South Florida.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, how is that acceptable? Contact tracing has been talked about since March when this began. Contact tracing is not a new concept to America. Contact tracing is used all the time with other types of outbreaks that happen. It is a basic and fundamental and tried and true mitigation strategy when you don't have something like a vaccine. How is that acceptable that there is -- from your view, no contact tracing going on?

HERNANDEZ: It's not acceptable. I think we're behind. And again, always mixed messages are causing a lot of confusion among elected officials. And at the end of the day I think the - you know people are paying for it and with these numbers going up. We do need to unite one message. This is a very serious situation. It's going to be critical real soon, if big steps aren't taking in the next couple of weeks.

BOLDUAN: So, on schools, we're waiting to hear from the White House Task Force if they're going to be talking about the latest with schools. The state education commissioner in Florida said schools need to be open.

Now, Rosa Flores has just now reporting that there may be some exception to Miami - with Miami-Dade County. What are you hearing about this? What does this mean for what you need to do or are capable of doing with regard to schools?

HERNANDEZ: Listen, they're talking about opening schools and yet tomorrow or today is the last day that restaurants can be open. So how can you be talking about opening schools and close your restaurants today. Again, that's the confusion and that's the misinformation or that it's really causing a lot of problems and people are taking one side or the other instead of everybody coming together and saying let's take care of each other.

So, people are talking about not wearing a mask. At the city level we started enforcing, masks are not mandatory, we can fine people not wearing masks, we're closing down businesses that are not doing all the things that are being asked.

So, those are close that we have at this level to try to protect our community. And of course, educating the community, but we do need a lot of help from the state and the federal government. Again, they're the big dogs. They're the ones that can really make big changes to help us quickly.

BOLDUAN: And they have money, supposedly, that they could be helping if need be especially when it comes to the money that's going to be needed to get the schools to open safely because it's not going to come on the cheap. It's going to actually require more funding. Mayor, thank you very much. We're going to check back in. Thank you. I really, really appreciate it. I am -

HERNANDEZ: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We shouldn't be surprised at this point, but just flabbergasted that contact tracing is still like this novel thing that isn't yet happening in a widespread basis in South Florida. It's really disturbing.

Coming up for us, President Trump directly contradicting Dr. Anthony Fauci. Put the theatrics aside. The very real implications of this split for the country right now.

Plus, President Trump is threatening as we've been discussing to cut funding if schools don't reopen. And he now says he disagrees with the CDC's guidelines on reopening schools. So, what is his plan?



BOLDUAN: One unfortunate constant throughout the pandemic is President Trump not listening to medical experts' advice. Rather Donald Trump listening to Donald Trump's advice on how to handle the pandemic. As he says, he listens to his gut, but now he is saying that very plainly and very clearly taking on, undermining and essentially dismissing the country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Just watch this.


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 are so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus. Don't get yourself into false complacency.


BOLDUAN: Despite that, overnight, President Trump sent out this message. Death rate from coronavirus is down tenfold. And when asked about Dr. Fauci's statement of reality earlier that the status of the pandemic was, quote, unquote, "really not good." This is how the president responded.


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 and he said numerous things, don't close off China. Don't ban China. I did it anyway. I sort of didn't listen to my experts and I banned China. We would have been in much worse shape.


BOLDUAN: With me right now is Dr. Seema Yasmin, a CNN medical analyst and a former CDC disease detective and CNN's chief political correspondent Dana Bash.

Dr. Yasmin, from a public health perspective, what does this do at this point? We are not at the beginning of the pandemic. We are squarely in the middle of it and this is what the president is saying about Dr. Fauci.

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: So it's not just sidelining and silencing scientists, but it's actively discrediting them and the more that I hear these clips and hear these exchanges the more I struggle for words to describe what's happening and how it's making so many in the public health field feel because it's frightening to see the experts who have dealt with countless epidemics, with six administrations, six presidents be discredited when they know what they're talking about. They're giving concrete advice based on the best available evidence.


And what we end up with is this tit for tat situation where the president says one thing and the experts have to try and debunk it, try and keep people accurately informed and then every time they speak the president says don't listen to them. And it's not just him, of course.

We're hearing the same narrative from officials in different parts of the country and in different levels including state governors. And Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas also saying I don't need to listen to him anymore referring to Dr. Fauci. So, it just means we have this awfully mismanaged pandemic response where the evidence is being ignored.

BOLDUAN: Dana, as a longtime Trump watcher, the president's position here may not be surprising, but it doesn't make it any less troubling for what leaders and the government actually want which is to get past this pandemic.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and you know, the doctor just talked about how much this is hurting and is wrenching for medical experts around the country, never mind those obviously on his own Coronavirus Task Force, but let's just think about what this means when it comes to basic response.

I mean, Kate, you just spoke to a mayor in Florida. Poppy spoke to the mayor of Phoenix last hour. And they are talking she in particular -- is talking about the fact that there are doctors in hospitals who are having to make tough choices effectively turning away people who are older or maybe less severe, but still in trouble.

This is the United States of America. Why is this happening here? And the answer according to the mayor you spoke to, this mayor and across the country is they're not getting the federal resources. They're not getting the level of federal response, the coordinated response, the strategic response that is absolutely vital to making sure that people are able to go to a hospital in America and get treated.

BOLDUAN: As was noted by those smarter than me earlier this morning, it is not just that he is ignoring science is that he's now making it about picking sides, and I heard that from the mayor of Hialeah. He says now there's one side or the other. There's not really -- there's only one side to be on.

It's we're on one side and the virus is on the other, but what is the impact, Dr. Yasmin, of the president creating two sides of a discussion about masks or about Democrats, about reopening communities safely. Remember when the president said the Democrats wanted to keep it closed from - keep closed down for political purposes and now he's doing the same thing with school openings.

YASMIN: It's just turned very simple, straightforward public health interventions like wearing a mask into political hot topics where people are divided down party lines and it should never have been that way. The virus doesn't care what your political ideologies are. It just cares that you're vulnerable and that it can infect you. So it's completely dangerous to have politicized this and just to keep lying to us.

You know, just yesterday Azar said that healthcare workers in the U.S. don't get infected with COVID-19. You can't get more of a falsehood than that. We've had 85,000 American healthcare workers infected and around 800 who have died from COVID-19 in just the past few months. So, stop politicizing this. Get the PPE out to people. Have that unified, easy to follow guidance, basic communication that tells people how they can protect themselves, protect their families, stop making it political.


BOLDUAN: Dana, looking into today -- I just wanted to ask you, Dana, looking to today, there's a kind of a big question mark with this very public split between Fauci and the president. If Dr. Fauci will be at the briefing that's going to be happening in the next few minutes.

I mean, Dr. Fauci was really the only official who directly acknowledged that the last briefing about two weeks ago that there was a problem, that there was a big issue with rising cases. If he is not there today what message does that send?

BASH: Well, it sends a pretty clear message that they don't want the people who are telling the truth giving the hard truth to Americans and also coming up with potential solutions. They don't want them to be out and speaking for the federal government. We'll see what happens. We'll see if he's going to be there. It sounds like maybe he won't, but he's obviously trying to do his best to get out there which is why the president felt that he had to contradict him.


The one thing I will say to Dr. Yasmin about taking politics out and that's, you know, probably should go without saying, but I could make an argument as somebody who has covered politics for a long time. That if you want to play politics, the best politics is to address this and be a leader as opposed to pretending like it's not happening and sticking your head in the sand.

BOLDUAN: That's a great point. That's what we call a win-win, to be on the right side of history at the same time. Let's see where we end up in another couple of weeks from where we are right now. Doctor, thank you. Dana, thank you.

They're going to stick around because we're going to be waiting for this briefing to be happening and see what news we learn from that.

Coming up for us, though, the World Health Organization is updating its guidance on how the coronavirus can spread.