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President Trump Pushing for School Reopenings; COVID-19 Test Processing Times Double; Tucker Carlson Attacks Tammy Duckworth. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 8, 2020 - 14:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Thank you for coming on, president of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, thanks.

DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Thank you for the opportunity.

KEILAR: It's the top of the hour now, I'm Brianna Keilar.

And the U.S. just surpassed three million cases of coronavirus. And it's happening as the country recorded the highest daily case count since this pandemic started, just over 60,000 there.

So 35 states are now experiencing more cases in the past week than the week before, and yet the president is taking this moment to threaten schools, tweeting that he may cut their federal funding if they don't reopen this coming term, pointing out that countries like Germany and Denmark have been able to go back to class.

TEXT: Donald J. Trump: In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!

KEILAR: We have to point out, though, there's a reason why those countries are able to do it, and you can look at it here. Yesterday, Germany had 279 cases, Denmark had 10 -- you can see how we really had to squeeze this in, just to show how the U.S. compares -- Norway 11, Sweden 283, America, 60,021.

So when the vice president was asked, moments ago, exactly what the president meant by his threat, here's what Vice President Pence said.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think what the president was saying this morning, is that if there are aspects of the CDC's recommendations that are prescriptive, or that serve to -- as a barrier to kids getting back to school, we want -- we want governors and local officials and education leaders to know that we're here to work with them to support the measures they're putting into place. But I think that every American -- every American knows that we can safely reopen our schools, and we just want, as the president said this morning, to make sure that what we're doing doesn't stand in the way of doing that.


KEILAR: CNN's Erica Hill is joining us now from New York. And, Erica, the city just laid out its plans to start classes this coming school year. This includes on-campus classes. Tell us about this.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so they're looking at a few different models. And actually, parents have about a month to say that they would like their kids to go online.

But what they're looking at is a bit of a hybrid model, different scheduling. Because based on physical distancing requirements, there's no way, they say, that 100 percent of students could be in the building full-time.

That said, they do want kids to be learning five days a week. They said those with disabilities are a priority. And they're also going to put an online portal up for staff, so that they can make accommodations for teachers and staff who are concerned about any pre- existing medical conditions they may have, who may be concerned about in-person learning.

But just to give you a sense of the limitations here in New York City, they said the ideal size would be nine to 12 kids in a space, based on social distancing. You look at classes, it could range anywhere from 20 to 30 kids and it gives you an idea of just how hard that is. And this is something that school districts around the country are grappling with, as some of them are looking at school starting in just a matter of weeks.


HILL (voice-over): These classrooms need students, according to the White House.

PENCE: As the president made clear yesterday, it's time. It's time for us to get our kids back to school.

HILL (voice-over): The American Academy of Pediatrics says in-person learning is best as long as it's done safely.

BETSY DEVOS, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Ultimately, it's not a matter of if schools should reopen, it's simply a matter of how. They must fully open, and they must be fully operational.

HILL (voice-over): Texas says parents can choose what's best. In Georgia, which just topped 100,000 confirmed cases, the state's largest school district pushed its start date back by a week.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Decisions on opening our schools should be based on CDC recommendations, safety, common sense and compassion, not on an economic or a political agenda.

HILL (voice-over): Harvard and MIT, suing the federal government over plans to ban international students from getting visas if schools offer only online learning, calling it an effort "to force universities to reopen in-person classes." CNN has reached out to ICE and the Department of Homeland Security.

Meantime, the virus continues to spread.

LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: We are in a much worse place, actually, than we were back in March. Because at that time, there was one epicenter. Now, we have multiple epicenters all around the country --

HILL (voice-over): In less than a month, the United States has added a million new cases, an average of more than 51,000 a day. In the past week, 14 states posted their highest seven-day averages.

PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: The cases don't really tell the true tragedy of this, that the patients are piling now into hospitals, into ICUs --

HILL (voice-over): Fifty-six hospital ICUs in Florida are now full, more than a dozen reaching capacity since just yesterday. In Arizona, nearly 60 percent of the ICU beds in use are for COVID-19 patients. More than have of those hospitalized also have the virus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Deaths lag two, three, four, five weeks behind the cases. I fear we're in for a lot of tragedy in the weeks ahead.


HILL (voice-over): HHS, setting up new surge testing sites in Edinburg, Texas, Baton Rouge and Jacksonville, Florida, which it deems hotspots. California and Texas, topping their own records for daily new cases.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of the spread is happening because people are just tired of isolating.

HILL (voice-over): Fatigue that can have dire consequences.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These aren't 80-year-olds that should die. Those aren't 80-year-olds that were going to die next week, these are 80- year-olds that contracted a virus because a group of people just didn't want to wear a mask and they had to go out and have fun. I had a mom and grandmother drive themselves into my hospital, and only one drove home.


HILL: And that is the sobering reality, that so many doctors in those front lines are facing.

I also just want to update you on some information we just got out of Florida. You just heard me say that 56 hospitals ICUs were at full capacity? Well, that was as of this morning. I do want to update you now.

We just learned the number's updated to 42 Florida hospitals that have zero capacity for ICU beds. Also want to update you that now 54 hospitals around the state say they are at 10 percent capacity or less. And we'll continue to bring those updates as we get them -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Erica, thank you for that report from New York.

Vice President Pence did say that the CDC will be coming out with these new guidelines for schools soon. But even the director of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, seemed to downplay the importance of his agency's own current recommendations.


ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: I want to make it very clear that what is not the intent of CDC's guidelines is to be used as a rationale to keep schools closed. We're prepared to work with each school, each jurisdiction to help them use the different strategies that we proposed that help do this safely so they come up with the optimal strategy for those schools.

I think it's critical -- and it would be personally very disappointing to me, and I know my agency -- if we saw that individuals were using these guidelines as a rationale for not reopening our schools.


KEILAR: Karla Hernandez-Mats is the president of United Teachers in the Miami-Dade area. And also joining us is CNN medical analyst Art Caplan, he leads the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU School of Medicine.

OK, Karla, you were listening there, I'm sure. I think -- I bet a lot of parents were too, because this is on their mind, they want to know what's going to happen with schools, they want their kids to go back. They're also very worried about it.

So I wonder, for you, as you hear the CDC director downplaying the CDC's own guidance, how closely has your district been following CDC guidelines as it looks to reopen?

KARLA HERNANDEZ-MATS, PRESIDENT, UNITED TEACHERS OF DADE: You know, our district has actually been a leader in this initiative. When we knew what was happening worldwide and what was happening here in the nation, we were the first district in Florida to close, even before there was an executive order to close our schools. We care very much about the safety and well-being of our students, and of course those who care for students.

And I think it's very irresponsible, and it's unfortunate that the CDC is having to play into this political agenda and the pressure that the White House is giving. I mean, what teachers and parents ultimately want is reassurances that there is no expense that's going to be spared so that the safety guidelines are being followed in every single classroom, in every county, in every zip code so that our children can be safe.

You know, and it's unfortunate that we're having this conversation and that we have leadership that is not showing a real plan, but that is really trying to intimidate people to react a certain way.

KEILAR: Art, tell me what your reaction was to hearing the CDC director say that that guidance, that his own agency has put out, really should not be the rationale for not reopening?

ART CAPLAN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Outrage. It is unacceptable to put our children and young people into what is basically an unregulated experiment, meaning, Let's all go back to school in the middle of a pandemic. We've never had anything like this, the buildings, the setup we have, the transportation isn't set up for this .

You know, Brianna, I'm trying to figure out, Are we trying to do this to educate students -- in which case there's homeschooling, there's remote learning, there's more internet to use; I'm doing it with my students at NYU.

Or is it daycare so that people can go back to work? In which case, sending people into what are often dilapidated buildings, buildings that can't meet these spacing requirements, to just have a place to keep them safe -- if you will -- while the parents both work, that doesn't make any sense either. So I think what we're seeing here is a willingness to sacrifice our children in a risky situation.


And I'm going to add something else, even though CDC guidelines -- they came out just this week, when many scientists had just written to the WHO, saying, This virus looks like it's airborne. And what that means is it could hang around in a room, it can be in the atmosphere, hours after somebody who was infected left, that's not going to be handled by a six-foot spacing in your elementary school or your high school.

You're going to have to do more spacing, more masking, more filtering of air, that sort of thing, if it really is an airborne disease as opposed to something just carried on sneezing and coughing and droplets. CDC ought to be paying attention to that too.

KEILAR: Yes. So, Karla, that's the thing, we just heard this idea that, Look, you're not going to be able to have a ton of kids, all the kids in the classroom, right? And we know -- we know that there are classrooms where 32, 37, 39 kids. And now they're looking at maybe nine or 10, so that's down to a quarter of some classes, right? You know you can't -- they're all stacked on top of each other anyway.

So if you're talking about spacing them out but you're hearing that this is airborne, what are the concerns for teachers? And tell us what you're hearing from teachers who are both -- let's say young, so they're not really at risk but maybe they have kids themselves -- and then older teachers, who they at least don't have the logistical problem of maybe having school-age children to deal with at the same time. HERNANDEZ-MATS: Yes. You know, this is certainly something that we're

trying to account for, and we actually have a robust plan because, you know, educators understand that this COVID is creating something called a COVID gap. And, you know, we're trying to mitigate that achievement gap, because we know there's going to be some regression with kids.

So we understand how important it is to have that face-to-face interaction. We've tried to develop a very robust plan that has taken place over multiple weeks with experts in the industry, and it's very complex. But we're trying to give parents an option, when they come to our school (INAUDIBLE).

But here it is, you know, for our president and the White House and all these leaders to give -- including Governor DeSantis, to put out blanket statements, saying that all schools must reopen when Miami is the epicenter of Florida in terms of the surge of COVID-19 cases, it's really ludicrous.

It doesn't even make sense, it's not a conversation that we can have. Because as educators, I would not want to put anyone's child at risk, their safety, their well-being, their education is extremely important but we're not going to have them be guinea pigs either.

And so it's unfortunate that, you know, we're seeing leaders from our country that are not basing anything on science. You know, we've talked about this being an airborne disease, you know, about social distancing, all the parameters, the personal protective equipment that's needed. They're saying that they're not going to fund us?

This is about science, not science fiction. And what we see here is that we have leaders that are only basing their reality on something that apparently is science fiction. It's ludicrous.

KEILAR: Karla, thank you so much. Karla Hernandez-Mats and Art Caplan, we appreciate it.

A new crisis emerges, test results across America are taking longer and longer. I'll be speaking with the head of America's labs.

Plus, the virus is hitting firefighters in Phoenix so hard that they're asking people who are showing symptoms to not call 911.


And Harvard and MIT, suing the Trump administration over threats to deport international students from universities that are going virtual. I'll be speaking with one of them.


KEILAR: There is a new crisis when it comes to testing for coronavirus. With the increased demand, three major labs say they're having a hard time keeping up. And that means that the average wait time for results has increased, it has doubled for the major labs. Julie Khani is the president of the American Clinical Laboratory

Association, which is a trade association representing the labs that are conducting and processing all of these coronavirus tests. Julie, tell us what is happening on the ground.

JULIE KHANI, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CLINICAL LABORATORY ASSOCIATION: Well, thanks so much, it's a pleasure to be with you today.

Clinical labs have made tremendous strides in expanding testing capacity. Now, speaking for ACLA members, in a period of only a few months, we've performed over 18.5 million tests. However, you're right that there has been a very significant surge in demand. And for many laboratories across the country, it's exceeding their current capacity.

KEILAR: OK, so is this like -- is this a labor issue, is this an issue with supply, of what it requires to do the test? Where is this bottleneck?

KHANI: So there are a variety of factors that influence testing capacity. First, it is the availability of supplies, what's needed to actually perform the test: things like reagents and test kits. Then, it's the number and availability of high-throughput platforms, and those are the machines that are used in laboratories to actually perform the tests.

And then finally, it's the tens and thousands of lab professionals who have been working around the clock for months, and doing everything they can to perform millions of tests for America.


KEILAR: So there's not enough of all of these things to varying degrees? We've heard, Julie, Dr. Fauci say that the task force is seriously considering pool testing. That's where laboratories would mix several samples into a batch or pool. We've heard this, for instance -- this has been something that's been discussed maybe say at universities, where you have 25 people in the same dorm, or in certain class pods.

And so that way, you could test 25 people with one test. If it comes back negative, you've eliminated 25 people with one test. If you get a positive result, then you can test everybody individually, but this clears up some of that capacity. What are your thoughts on that?

KHANI: So there's been a lot of innovation amongst laboratories since this pandemic began. When you look at other challenges that we faced, we've done things like validate different types of swabs, the swabs that are used to collect a specimen. Laboratories moved forward with at-home specimen collection, which dramatically reduces the use of PPE.

We're also engaged in discussions and review of specimen pooling. We want to lead with the science. Accuracy and reliability, you know, continues to be key, but we do think that in certain circumstances -- such as areas where there's low prevalence of the virus -- that there are opportunities for pooling.

KEILAR: OK, that's very interesting, where there's low prevalence.

Julie Khani, thanks for being with us.

KHANI: Thank you.

KEILAR: So, next, Fox News' Tucker Carlson hurls a new series of insults at Senator Tammy Duckworth, calling the Purple Heart recipient a coward and a hack. I'll be speaking to a veteran who has worked with the senator.

Plus, Harvard and MIT, now suing over new Trump administration guidance that international students should be deported if their schools go online.



KEILAR: There's controversy surrounding comments by Tucker Carlson, questioning Senator Tammy Duckworth's love for her country. Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in Iraq, after an RPG took down the chopper that she was copiloting in 2004. She has received a Purple Heart because of that.

And Carlson criticized her because he disagrees with her statement that there should be a national conversation about statues. This was Carlson, Monday.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST, TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT: You're not supposed to criticize Tammy Duckworth in any way because she once served in the military. Most people just ignore her. But when Duckworth does speak in public, you're reminded what a deeply silly and unimpressive person she is.

It's long been considered out of bounds to question a person's patriotism, it's a very strong charge and we try not ever to make it. But in the face of all of this, the conclusion can't be avoided. These people actually hate America.


KEILAR: Duckworth responded on Twitter. She said this, "Does @TuckerCarlson want to walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America?"

Carlson, though, who -- look, he never served in the military himself -- doubled down last night, and attacked the senator again for not accepting an invitation to come on his show.


CARLSON: Her flack (ph) informed us that before even considering our request, we must first issue a public apology for criticizing Tammy Duckworth. In other words, I will not debate you until first, you admit you're completely wrong.

Keep in mind, Tammy Duckworth is not a child, at least not technically. She is a sitting United States senator, who is often described as a hero. Yet Duckworth is too afraid to defend her own statements on a cable TV show? What a coward.


KEILAR: I am joined now by Brandon Friedman, a retired Army infantry officer who served in the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he worked with Senator Duckworth at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. He's also the author of the book, "The War I Always Wanted."

OK, so you're listening to Tucker Carlson, you've seen now what he said over the course of two days. What's your reaction when you hear him questioning whether Tammy Duckworth loves her country, right? He says that these people hate America, and he calls her a coward.

BRANDON FRIEDMAN, VETERAN AND DUCKWORTH COWORKER AT V.A.: Yes. It's pretty astonishing to hear that from him. But what's amazing about Tammy is that her family goes all the way back to the very beginning of America, she had two fifth-great-grandfathers that fought alongside George Washington in the Revolutionary War. Her father was a World War II veteran, she served in Iraq, obviously, and lost both her legs.

So you can disagree with Senator Duckworth on policy all you want, but to question her patriotism? I don't think that's a really valid critique here, to say that she doesn't love America or question her love of America is quite outrageous. It -- however, it's not something that is entirely surprising from someone who is cozied up to Nazi sympathizers, as Tucker has done.

KEILAR: OK, so maybe consider the source with Tucker Carlson.

Tell us about Tammy Duckworth, who you have worked with. Because she's in the running to be Joe Biden's vice presidential pick. Tell us what it was like to work with her.


FRIEDMAN: Tammy's great. So as a person, she'd kind, she has a great sense of humor, she's a mom, she's collaborative.