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Governors in Florida and Texas Split as Cases Surge; Brazilian President Test Positive for COVID-19; Melbourne to Reimpose Six-Week Lockdown as Cases Spike; Civil Rights Groups Disappointed After Zuckerberg Meeting; TikTok Leaving Hong Kong in Wake of National Security Law; Trump Attacks Mail-In Voting as More States Allow It. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 8, 2020 - 04:30   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: A number of coronavirus infections is still on the rise worldwide. And the United States is leading the way with nearly 3 million cases. More than 58,000 of them have come in the last 24 hours. The states that are currently being hit hardest are sun belt states. In Florida at least 56 ICU units reached capacity on Tuesday. Texas reported more than 10,000 daily cases, the highest since the pandemic began. And those two states have governors that are on paper similar. Both Republican, both in charge of Southern states, but right now they are handling the crisis very differently. Brian Todd has that report.


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

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

TODD: Compare that to the upbeat assessment from Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, whose state has also had a horrible surge of coronavirus cases and deaths.

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

TODD: There now seems to be a tale of two governors playing out, both Republican, both presiding over states that are reeling from the virus. Florida and Texas both surging past 200,000 cases. But Abbott seems to be acknowledging the reality admitting he made mistakes with his state as reopening. ABBOTT: If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have

been to slow down the opening of bars.

TODD: While DeSantis unrepentant moves full steam ahead.

DeSantis: We're not going back closing things.

TODD: Governor Abbott has ordered facemasks to be worn in public in all counties that have 20 or more cases of coronavirus, an order which covers the majority of Texas counties.

DeSanctis while encouraging mask wearing has issued no statewide mandate on masks in Florida. Leaving that up to counties and cities to decide on their own.

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

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

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I just can't imagine schools opening when you have this level of virus circulating in the community. I do think there are ways to reopen schools safely once you suppressed transmission enough. But we're not anywhere close to that yet in Florida right now.

TODD: Why are these two Republican governors handling the crisis in their states differently? Political analysts say it could it be because of Abbott's longer experience as a state leader and because DeSanctis appears more beholding to the President. Having counted on Trump's help to win office in 2018.

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

TODD (on camera): David Swerdlick believes there's another factor at play here as well. He says we should remember that the Republican National Convention this summer has just been moved to Jacksonville, Florida. And politically it might appear incongruous if governor DeSanctis were to order all Floridians to wear facemasks in public at a time when President Trump continues to rejects mask wearing.

Brian Todd, CNN Washington.


CHURCH: Latin America and the Caribbean have reported more than 3 million cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday. That's according to Johns Hopkins University. Brazil, Peru, Chile and Mexico are the top four Latin America countries with the most infections.


They're also a part of the top ten countries around the world with the most cases. Colombia's President is extending his country's lockdown through at least August 1st after seeing a new spike in cases.

And Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has tested positive for the coronavirus and is using controversial medicine to treat it. On Tuesday Bolsonaro posted a video of himself taking what he claims to be a third dose of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine even though promising studies of the drug have been disputed and others have found no benefit in fighting the virus. Bolsonaro continues to tell the public that nothing bad will come of it.


JAIR BOLSONARO, BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Younger people take care. But if you're affected by the virus, rest assured that for you the possibility of something more serious is close to zero.


CHURCH: And the Brazilian President is only one of more than 45,000 new cases reported in the country on Tuesday. Mass graves like these in Sao Paulo are being used to bury the dead. More than 1,200 people in Brazil reportedly died from the virus on Tuesday, doubling the amount that passed away on Monday. Brazil has more than 1.6 million cases of the virus, second in the world after the United States.

And in Australia millions of Melbourne residents are preparing to enter a stage three lockdown as cases in the state of Victoria climbed to nearly 3,000. Starting midnight local time residents could only leave their homes for essential trips like getting food, going to work, and caregiving. And this comes a day after the government shut down roads between Victoria and New South Wales. CNN's Anna Coren joins me live from Hong Kong. Good to see you, Anna. So what is the latest on this lockdown and how are Australians reacting to it?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, that lockdown is going to go into effect as of midnight tonight, Australian time. So Melbournians and there's 5 million of them have been out, obviously, stocking up on supplies before that lockdown comes into effect. This is the second lockdown in many months. The first one was obviously back in March when the rest of Australia went into lockdown for about two months. Melbournians doing it again and the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, he addressed this issue this morning saying that you've did it once, you can do it again. That we're all with you and that as a country we will prevail. Take a listen to what he had to say.


SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: We're all Melbournians now when it comes to the challenges we face. We're all Victorians now because we're all Australians. We will prevail and we will get on top of it and we will protect the rest of the country.


COREN: 134 new cases in Melbourne today. Active cases in the state of Victoria just over 860. The numbers obviously relatively low, I should say compared to the rest of the world as we know and as we've been discussing, Rosemary. Australia has been extremely aggressive in the way that it's tackled this pandemic. And the state border between New South Wales and Victoria that was closed as of midnight last night. The idea is that Melbourne itself is going to self-isolate from the rest of the country. So they are stopping anyone from Victoria heading north in the attempt to stop the spread of this pandemic -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: Certainly a very different response compared to what we see in the United States. Anna Coren joining us live from Hong Kong. Many thanks.

Well, China is trying to prevent another outbreak this one bubonic plague. Now a city in the country's inner Mongolia region is on high alert and five tourist areas there were closed down after a case of the plague was confirmed on Tuesday. A plague prevention alert will be in place through the end of the year in the city where it was found and people are being urged to take precautions. A small number of cases of bubonic typically show up around the world each year including in the United States. It can usually be treated successful with antibiotics if it's caught early enough.

When we come back, the outcry over hate speech on Facebook. What happened when civil rights groups came face-to-face with Mark Zuckerberg. We'll tell you when we come back.



CHURCH: Activists and are civil rights groups are blasting Facebook's leadership after meeting with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives. They were discussing how the company can better combat hate speech. Activists said they are disappointed and believe Facebook is still not taking calls to action seriously. Still hundreds of advertisers are boycotting the social media giant until it changes its policies.

And for more CNN's John Defterios joins me now live from Abu Dhabi. Good to see you, John. So this meeting between civil rights groups and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ended in disappointment. So what do these groups want to see happen and how is Facebook responding?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, these are the key points to cover here, Rosemary. It's a high stakes game with $70 billion of annual revenue on the table. And that's why we saw Mark Zuckerberg as the CEO and Sheryl Sandberg as the COO, the chief operating officer, participate in the Zoom call which lasted only an hour. But often overlooked from all the advertisers, some 750 that stepped away, what are the key points that these organizers are looking for? So there are ten that we've talked over the last couple of hours on

air but we wanted to pick out four of them, kind of the key points if you will. Let's bring that up and take a look. The organizers are calling on Facebook to pledge to do regular independent audits of hate and information. Be more active on what's being posted online. Remove public and private groups focused on hate or violent conspiracies.

Facebook has argued that they've already kind of banned 250 white supremacist groups but they admitted they could do more in that effort and give all content moderators anti-bias and hate related training in the next 90 days. It's hard to kind of digest this. But these are those on the front line that have to make a decision whether to allow content to get posted or not and then to ban political ads. That would be expensive for Facebook during an election year and blatant lies.

Mark Zuckerberg has been accused being too soft on President Trump. Actually had a phone call before his own Facebook town hall and there was no transcript or release.

Now Facebook did not lay out a very clear timeline of action but it did put out this statement hoping to kind of quell some concerns that are out there. This is what the company had to say.


We know we will be judged by our actions and not by our words and are grateful to these groups and many others for their continued engagement.

Basically say that this is a good thing to do, some rattling of the cage within Facebook. This is also, though, I think very important to suggest, Rosemary, it's starting to shine light on the oligopolies of Silicon Valley and in the West Coast of the United States. Are they too big to take outside counsel or influence or to have independent auditors. Not only Facebook, but Google, Amazon, some even say Apple. They are so wealthy, market cap so big that can they be challenged, can this campaign be sustained past July. And as we say in television, to be continued, right? Because this story is not near its end yet. That's for sure.

CHURCH: Yes, and we will certainly continue to watch it. John Defterios, many thanks from Abu Dhabi. Appreciate it.

And we are following an announcement from another popular social media app, TikTok says it's pulling out of Hong Kong in the wake of the controversial new national security law. CNN's Hadas Gold has details.


HADAS GOLD, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: This decision by TikTok to pull out of Hong Kong should really be seen as part of a broader messaging effort by TikTok to try to distance itself from China, despite the fact that it is owned by the Beijing-based company, ByteDance. Because Hong Kong is actually not a big market at all for TikTok. It is nowhere near for example India, which recently banned TikTok from the country. But what TikTok is trying to do here is send the message to its critics that it is not in the pocket of the Chinese government. This despite calls from people like U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called TikTok a security threat because of laws in China which require Chinese companies to work with the Chinese government when asked. And that's part of the reason why Mike Pompeo says they're actually considering banning TikTok in the United States.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are taking this very seriously. We are certainly looking at it. We've worked on this very issue for a long time, whether it was the problems of having Huawei technology in your infrastructure. We've gone all over the world and we are making real progress getting that out and declaring ZTE a danger to American national security. We've done all of these things. With the respect to Chinese apps on people's cellphones, I can assure the United States will get this one right too.

GOLD: But TikTok has always maintained it never has and never will hand user data over to the Chinese government, even if asked. It will comes at the same time as some of the biggest internet and social media platforms in the world, including Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Zoom has said that they're going to stop processing user data requests from Hong Kong authorities as a result of this national security law.

Because this new national security law gives Hong Kong police the authority to demand these platforms hand over user data, or that they removed content from their platforms that the authorities deemed to be somehow breaking this national security law. Which keep in mind, can be something like calling for Hong Kong independence. Facebook, for example, for its part says it wants to consult with human rights experts before they decide on their next steps forward.

Hadas Gold, CNN, London.


CHURCH: And coming up --


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can safely go to the polls and vote during COVID-19.


CHURCH: President Trump doesn't think the pandemic is a valid reason to expand mail-in voting. Many U.S. states think otherwise. We'll have the details for you on the other side of the break. Stay with us.



CHURCH: This fall voters in Mississippi will get a chance to eliminate a strange voting law. Critics say it was put on the books to keep black candidates from winning statewide office. The 130-year-old law requires candidates to win both a majority of the votes and also win at least half of the Mississippi state House districts.

Well the governor of Massachusetts has signed a bill allowing all voters to vote by mail this November. It joins a growing list of states expanding mail-in voting as the coronavirus surges. President Trump on the on the other hand continues to falsely claim it's ripe for fraud. CNN's Abby Phillip reports.


TRUMP: We can safely go to the polls and vote during COVID-19.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump waging war against mail-in voting. But during the coronavirus pandemic, for voters like 36-year-old cancer patient Maria Nelson, it's not about politics. It's life or death.

MARIA NELSON, WISCONSIN VOTER: It's truly this fear for your health. And when you're a young mother like I am, you just have to look at your children and really say this isn't a risk that I'm willing to take.

PHILLIP: Former Homeland Security Secretary and Republican Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge, part of a bipartisan effort to push for expanded access to absentee ballots and to fix the growing number of problems emerging in American voting.

TOM RIDGE, FORMER UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We've had four months to try to deal with some of these challenges. And the one thing we do know is that the President of the United States could take the lead to provide safe and secure options for all of his fellow citizens.

PHILLIP: This as President Trump, who has voted by mail himself, focuses on undermining the credibility of the election.

TRUMP: This will be, in my opinion, the most corrupt election in the history of our country.

PHILLIP: Former Vice President Joe Biden claiming Trump's attacks on voting are part of a sinister plan.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's my greatest concern, my single greatest concern. This president is going to try to steal this election.

PHILLIP: Meantime, in all 50 states, a patchwork of election rules and a sea of looming problems. Officials now scrambling to recruit new younger poll workers as older workers who are more at risk for the coronavirus choose to stay home.

In the Wisconsin, Georgia, and Kentucky primaries this summer, fewer workers and the need for socially distanced polling locations mean fewer polling stations, and in some cases long lines. And everywhere, the crush of absentee ballot requests has meant delays for voters like Maria receiving their ballot or worse.


MELODY MCCURTIS, WISCONSIN VOTER: I'm still looking for the ballot right now. It still never came.

PHILLIP: Wisconsin organizer Melody McCurtis was forced to take a chance.

MCCURTIS: It was a major risk. And then when I actually went and stood in the lines, there was no physical way to be six feet apart. I'm standing in a pandemic zone at this point, and not by choice, basically by force.

PHILLIP: Maria Nelson and Melody McCurtis are now plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking changes to Wisconsin's voting rules, one of dozens that have been filed across the country that could determine how voters can cast ballots and vote in person in November. Meantime, despite Trump's claims, no evidence of widespread fraud has emerged.

RIDGE: Sometimes, I wonder if the president is more concerned about the outcome than he is about fraud.

PHILLIP: All of this signaling election night uncertainty could quickly stretch on for days or even weeks.

RIDGE: We shouldn't be so focused on knowing that night. We might, certainly a possibility. But let's start talking about election week.

PHILLIP (on camera): Now election experts and political operatives that I've spoken to say it has been probably about 20 years since America has experienced what we might experience in November which is a long wait to find out the final results of the election. But that's why Tom Ridge is urging both Trump and Biden to not say or do anything that could further undermine public confidence in our electoral system. He says even if people have to wait a little bit longer than they are used to, they should have confidence that the elections are being conducted freely and fairly.

Abby Phillip, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: And thanks so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. "EARLY START" is coming up next. You're watching CNN. Have yourselves a great day.