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Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez Interviewed on Steps Being Taken to Combat the Coronavirus Outbreak; Doctor Says Current State of Coronavirus Pandemic in U.S. Worse than in Previous Months; California Shatters Record with Nearly 13,000 New Cases. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 8, 2020 - 08:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: No national plan or strategy for how to do that safely.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And more than 1,000 new deaths reported overnight as well, which is a number we have not seen in some time. So a good place, those are the president's words. At least eight states reporting record hospitalizations. Now, this doesn't include Florida which obscures those numbers. We do know at least 56 intensive care units are now at full capacity in Florida, which means no beds in those units. In Arizona, there are fewer than 200 ICU beds left in the entire state. One Texas hospital is setting up a tent to handle the overflow of patients there. Across the country, there are long lines at testing sites and major delays in getting test results back.

Joining me now is the mayor of the hard-hit Miami-Dade County, Mr. Carlos Gimenez. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Let me put up on the screen so people can see some of the numbers from your county over just the last two weeks. The number of COVID-19 patients up 87 percent in two weeks. The number of patients in ICU beds up 91 percent in two weeks. Patients on ventilators up 108 percent in two weeks. What direction do you think you are headed in this morning?

MAYOR CARLOS GIMENEZ, (R) MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Hopefully some of the measures that we took last weekend, the orders that were signed yesterday will start to reduce the incidents of positives that we're getting here in Miami-Dade. What I mean by that is the percentage of the people that are being tested, how many are coming out positive. Yesterday we ran at 27 percent. And two weeks ago we were running around eight percent as the average. It's been a rolling average of two weeks was eight percent. We're now over 20 percent, and that's concerns me. And then that's why we had to take some of these measures. We had to put more measures in in order to stop the spread, more emphasis on wearing the masks outdoors as well as indoors, closing some of those places where people congregate, shutting down interior dining. That was done -- that will be done tomorrow. And also the gyms, people there that go there to exercise have to wear masks indoors. And if they're going to do anything worse or anything more, they're going to have to go outdoors. So those are some of the measures that we're taking to start to reduce

the incidents. And we're also going to have to do a lot more enforcing of the rules that we have in place, because, actually, if everybody just followed the rules, we would be OK. But unfortunately, a lot of people didn't follow the rules, especially early in June.

BERMAN: Well, clearly. And clearly, the numbers are headed in the wrong direction, the positivity rate just one more of those numbers. You brought up gyms. You actually backed off a ban. You were going to close down gyms again, and then you backed off, and said gyms can open if people wear masks. Given the numbers that we just saw and the direction things are heading, why the reversal?

GIMENEZ: Well, because, we want to be consistent. And so we have a number of our businesses that are open. Everything, when you go inside you have to wear a mask. And so we need to be consistent with that. And so you can do a workout while wearing a mask, then, OK, you can doing a workout while wearing a mask. There's a whole list of other things that gyms have to do about disinfecting and all that. But they were complying. Gyms weren't the problem here really, and neither were the restaurants.

The problem was young people, and young people that started to party, young people started to go over to their friend's homes, sleepovers, young people that we had that were demonstrating for a couple of weeks here in Miami-Dade. We saw a huge spike in the percentage of young people that were coming up positive, and then they spread it throughout the rest of the community, and I think that's what's happening, and it continues to happen.

BERMAN: Gyms still haven't opened in New York city, which is in a diametrically opposed place to where you are today. So they're not opening gyms here because they still think they're dangerous. People huff and puff, they spray all kinds of fluids. No concern? Or what will happen if you do see cases rise from gyms?

GIMENEZ: Well, then we will reverse course and take further action. But if what the experts tell us, that masks work and that we should all put our masks, and that the number one method of contagion is actually the breath coming out, the mask is there to stop the breath from coming out and stop the ability of the germ to spread. And so we will see that. But again, I don't think that gyms were the problem here. The problem was social interaction, and social interaction without wearing mask, social interaction getting too close. And I believe that's the main cause of what we're seeing right now, and now it's spreading throughout the community.

BERMAN: Let's talk about contact tracing. Let's talk about contact tracing if we can for a moment here, because there was a confusing moment at a news conference that you held with the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis yesterday. Let me just play that.


It deals with who's supposed to be running contact tracing in Miami- Dade County. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: I think that they should be able to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You guys are sitting right next to each other. We have the county mayor who as of last Thursday said that contact tracing is in the state purview. You're sitting here, the governor of the state, now saying the county can do it. Can you guys just look at each right know and decide who is hiring contact tracers --

DESANTIS: No, he announced that he was going to do it. And he told me, he gave us a heads up that they were going to be investing in some of it. We obviously have done it at the state level.


BERMAN: So, Mayor, who is supposed to be running the contact tracing in Miami-Dade County?

GIMENEZ: Contact tracing is in the purview of the state. We've been told that. We offered to hire additional people for that purpose, and the State Department of Health down here, they have a certain bureaucracy that they have to go through. But the contact tracing is actually a purview of the state. We're willing to help in any way that we can. We have been talking to the Department of Health for some time about how Miami-Dade could help them, either with resources, money, hiring people. And we're getting close, but it's been a -- this has taken a little bit longer than I would have hoped in order to get more people.

BERMAN: That sound like a little bit of a mess, Mr. Mayor, if you don't mind me saying. It's one thing not to get the job done, and we're hearing anecdotally from a lot of people in Miami-Dade that the contact tracing isn't happening the way it should. I'm sure you're hearing those same things. It's one thing to not be where it should. It's another thing to be confused or have confusion over who is actually supposed to be actually doing it.

GIMENEZ: Well, look, I'm not sure the governor had all of the information about what was transpiring down here, and the governor has been really good to us here in Miami-Dade. Whatever we have asked him to do, he's done. But there is a bureaucracy involved with the Department of Health, and again, we're trying to work through it and trying to see if we can get more contact tracers here.

The governor was right in one sense, though, that contact tracing for this disease is, while helpful, about the same as if you had a traditional disease where everybody who got sick you would know who got sick. There's a lot of people here that are asymptomatic, never knew even it. As a matter of fact, I think we're about 50,000 people positive. That's probably underreported by a factor of 10 because when we ran our studies a couple of months ago, back then, we knew that 200,000 people in Miami-Dade County had already tested positive for the antibody. And so, while useful, it may not be as effective as other diseases because so many people that are asymptomatic. BERMAN: I get that, but we know people and have heard from people who

are sick and haven't been contacted yet. And that's a problem. And I know you know that as well.

The president coming to Miami-Dade in two weeks -- no, sorry, two days. He's coming on Friday. How will that tax your medical system? I know there are ICU units that are out of beds. I know that there are doctors being pushed to the brink. I know that systems are being taxed. Is it the right time for the president to come?

GIMENEZ: Yes, the president is welcome any time he wants to come to Miami-Dade County. He won't overtax the medical system here. We have the capacity, and also we have the capacity to add more capacity. So when you look at the dashboard, you'll see that even though we have 400 something ICU beds and 300 of them are being used right now, we have the capacity also to add another 500. The same thing --

BERMAN: Very last question. I know -- I'm sorry about the communication here. It's tough. We're all working through this.

GIMENEZ: No problem.

BERMAN: I know schools aren't exactly in your purview as the county mayor, but given where things, are you comfortable with the order to open schools in August?

GIMENEZ: Well, if things are the same as they are today, no. But again, the superintendent, I understand the superintendent said that they were goal to follow Miami-Dade County and what was happening down here. And if we don't advance through the more open phase then he wasn't going to be opening the schools. So I need to speak to the superintendent to make sure we're on the same page, which I'm sure we will be. And then we'll see what happens in August when the schools are supposed to open, and in what way they're supposed to open. And so we'll coordinate that pretty well down here in Miami-Dade.

BERMAN: Mayor Carlos Gimenez, I know you've got a lot of work to do, so we appreciate your time being with us this morning, thank you.

GIMENEZ: Thank you, appreciate it.

BERMAN: Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Joining us now, Dr. Leana Wen. She is an emergency room physician and the former Baltimore City Health Commissioner. Dr. Wen, great to see you. Can you just give us the big picture? Because I read that you believe that what we are seeing this morning in terms of this spike in 35 different states, in terms of 60,000 new cases just since yesterday, that you think that what we're seeing today is worse than what we saw in March when everyone was so gripped by this.

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: That's right, Alisyn. So 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.


And that awful number that you mentioned of 60,000 new infections is almost certain to be a vast undercount. Even the CDC director has said that we are picking up about one in 10 of the COVID-19 infections in this country, so we could be looking at as many as 600,000 new infections every day. And that is a lot of suffering and pain. The president has talked about 99 percent of people getting the virus will be -- it will be harmless to them. And it's simply not true. We know that 20 percent of people or so get hospitalized. And these are individuals who get severely ill. We are seeing previously young, healthy people who end up with strokes that are debilitating. They can't move a side of their body. We are seeing patients with permanent lung damage, kidney damage, blood clotting issues for even months after their infection. And I think it is time for all of us to take this extremely seriously, including people in states where there is not yet a surge, but they could well be having community spread that's happening and they just don't know it yet.

BERMAN: You talked about the difference between now and March and April. One epicenter then versus multiple epicenters now. Another big difference was that the country was shut down. Everything was shut down then. And now, it's not. And we're being told by leaders at the state and national level that it won't be no matter what. So what happens?

WEN: I do think it's true that we have this profound quarantine fatigue, which is real and I also understand that. People look at what happened in March and April, they saw that we were able to bend the curve, but you know what, John, we didn't crush the curve. We had a chance to do that. Other countries did. They were able to get the infections basically down to zero, and as a result they were able to ramp up their testing, contact tracing, isolation, other capabilities so that they could rein in and find each new infection that occurred. I don't think we have the political will to do that, and the best that we can hope for now is to put out these multiple fires around the country and get to a point of a slow burn where there is a steady rate of infections and, unfortunately, deaths. And I hate to say that, but that's truly the best that we can hope for is not overwhelming our health care system and having so many more needless deaths. But unfortunately, we will be seeing more infections and deaths in the months to come.

CAMEROTA: We have proven that we don't know how to contact trace. I don't know if it's lack of will, as you say, if it's incompetence, if it's laziness. We just aren't doing it. From the federal government and the White House there's no plan or no ability, I guess, to do it. Locally, as you know, local municipalities are overwhelmed and not doing it well. But so that's out. That's just out. I think we need to give up because nobody has a vision or plan.

But in terms of testing, we were doing that better, but I am still hearing all of the stories from multiple people in various states that they are waiting a week to 10 days to get their test results. Why? Why does it take so long to get test results?

WEN: Well, it's worthless. If you're waiting a week to 10 days to get -- to find out if you have COVID-19, there's no point, because in that time, you have infected a whole lot of people, and it's also not reasonable for somebody to stay home from work and isolate from their family waiting for a test result for that period of time. So we have a huge issue with testing and contact tracing, and ultimately it comes down to what you said, which is that we do not have a national strategy.

Things like testing, contact tracing, we actually know how to do. Other countries have figured this out. It's not like there's a different virus that they're encountering. It's not that they have a vaccine and we don't. We have the exact same tools. Contact tracing actually is the bread and butter of local public health. It's what we do as local health officials every single day. We know how to do this. But the key is we need the resources to be able to do that. We should not be having 50 different plans across the country for how to accrue and train and deploy contact tracers.

We need one national plan, and that's the same problem that we're seeing with testing. We keep on running out of reagents and swabs. We're not anticipating for what's ahead. We keep on reacting to the problem rather than anticipating for the problem that we're going to be seeing even in a day or two, and that's precisely what we're seeing now with the surges across the country. Our numbers are so large that we just don't have the testing and contact tracing to keep up. But that's a problem that was preventable, and the federal government now should be putting into place a national strategy that, frankly, is months overdue.

BERMAN: Dr. Leana Wen, thank you, as always, for being with us this morning. I appreciate you helping us understand this. It's a lot. It's a lot to get your arms around this morning.

California one of the states setting a new record for coronavirus cases, the number there staggering. Where did things go wrong there?


Such a different story than what was coming out of California six weeks ago. That's next.


BERMAN: More counties in California have been added to the coronavirus watch list as cases and hospitalizations continue to reach new highs. A new record yesterday, almost 13,000 new cases.

Joining me now is the lieutenant governor of California, Eleni Kounalakis.

Thank you so much for joining us once again.

Look, bad records being set in California. Record numbers of cases. Record numbers of hospitalizations. Record numbers of patients in ICU beds.

I had a chance to talk to you a couple of weeks ago when things were headed in a bad direction. But since, they have gone worse. Why?

LT. GOV. ELENI KOUNALAKIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, you're right, John, and we're really watching this very closely. I should mention we have 23 counties that are now on the watch list. So in those counties that have been moving from phase two into phase three of their reopening, we have dialed that back -- closing bars, closing movie theaters, closing down dining inside restaurants to get a handle on this again.

But we've seen community spread. I mean, it's as simple as that. We went from about 4.5 percent infections across the state to about 7 percent. That's a pretty sharp increase in the very short time. So --


KOUNALAKIS: -- back in that state (VIDEO GAP) vigilance again.


BERMAN: We're going to try to refresh your connection here, but we got almost all of what you just said there. Look, there are counties that are taking measures. Napa has shut down wineries, tasting rooms, indoor restaurants. San Francisco has delayed opening up any kind of indoor dining and things like that.

But how much further does it need to go? That's where we are now and with these measures in place now, we're still seeing these record numbers.

So, what more weapons do you have in your arsenal?

All right. I think we lost -- all right. Lieutenant Governor, I don't know if you heard my question. My question was basically we are starting to see some counties take measures like Napa and San Francisco is taking measures now.

But what more do you have in the arsenal? What more can we expect to happen?

KOUNALAKIS: You know, John, Dr. Wen was just talking about the fatigue that people feel and they want to be back in their communities with their friends.

And what we know through the contact tracers who we have trained, 10,000 more contact tracers is that a lot of the spread is happening because people are just tired of isolating and want to be around their friends.

And so, we have started a public service announcement campaign all across this state, a very major effort to really remind people that the virus is very dangerous. It's still out there. We need you to wear that mask, we need you to wash your hands, and really take those precautions again in order to be able to stop the spread of the virus through our communities.

BERMAN: So, you're in Sacramento. Our understanding is that five testing sites in Sacramento needed to close because of supply shortages. And these are mainly in lower income areas.

How did this happen? How can you fix that?

KOUNALAKIS: So the testing in California has been actually very big success. We test about 100,000 people every day. There is an issue with some of the labs in Sacramento that didn't have reagents, didn't have enough of those supplies, but other testing sites do have plenty.

So, while we're looking into that, it hasn't hindered our ability to test. We are testing, we are tracking. We know what is causing this.

And now what we are doing is launching this PSA campaign to get into people's living rooms, to remind them, please, take those precautions, wear your mask. And, of course, we're shutting down some things that had opened up as you mentioned, wine tasting, dine-in restaurants, that kind of thing, to flatten the curve all over again.

BERMAN: What more do you want from the federal government now? I'm asking because the president said something yesterday. The president made this claim that Vice President Pence asked the state governors, what more can we do for you, and no governor said anything.

Be that as it may, what more do you want from the federal government?

KOUNALAKIS: Well, there are a few things. First of all, the CARES Act was very important in helping us with the economy and helping us to combat the effects of the virus. So, there are more proposals coming out of Washington to help provide additional aid.

The Heroes Act, the ongoing support of people on unemployment. We have more than 5 million people on unemployment. We'd very much like to see these programs get re-upped, extremely important for us right now.

And then, of course, you know, the messaging. How in the world anybody in the federal government, in particular the president of the United States can signal that we don't need to be wearing masks. It's science, it's basic.

Science has gotten California as far as we have in this response and we have saved tens of thousands of lives here because of our early shutdown. We have to rely on the science in order to be able to combat this virus. And that starts with people taking these precautions.

It is an extremely contagious virus. We know this now. And so wearing the mask, washing your hands, and avoiding contact with other people is the new normal for the foreseeable future.

BERMAN: The president -- in fact, the entire administration yesterday is putting pressure on states and local governments to open schools. What are your plans now? Do you think it's a good idea to open schools as soon as August?

KOUNALAKIS: So, opening schools is really important. It's important for the emotional health of our children and our families. We need our kids to be in learning environments. One of the things we're really focused on right now is closing the

digital divide and making sure the students have computers and laptops and iPads so that they can learn from home.

But what we are really focused on is trying to get kids back in school for at least part of the day, half day, reducing the number of students in the schools, so that there are morning shifts and afternoon shifts as the teachers and educators are protected.


We're able to sanitize and clean classrooms, in between students coming in and other groups of students coming in. I don't disagree with that. I think getting kids back in school to some degree is critically important for our kids and our families and our economy.

But we have to do all of this based on a scientific approach in order to keep people safe and stop the spread of COVID-19.

BERMAN: California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, we do appreciate your time. Thanks for waking up early to be with us this morning.

KOUNALAKIS: Great to be with you, John. Thanks.

BERMAN: Alisyn?


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