Return to Transcripts main page


CDC Rebuffs WH, Won't Change Guidelines For School Reopening; California Colleges Closes Campus, Offers Online Only Fall Classes. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 9, 2020 - 12:30   ET



ROBERT RUNCIE, SUPERINTENDENT, BROWARD COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Our schools in America has to be connected to overall what's going on in the community. It's not just a school district responsibility. It's not just a community responsibility. It's everyone's responsibility.

So we've got to be more disciplined and diligent in terms of wearing facemask. Making sure that we are doing physical distancing, having robust testing and tracing, because we have to contain it in the larger community to the greatest extent possible to create those conditions where we can properly open our schools safely. And when we look at somebody, yes --

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: I was going to say, that's a great point. It is all connected. You cannot see any of this in a silo. There -- it is all interconnected. And you announced that despite the order that was coming from the state that your county schools are going to remain closed until things improved, until things improve. When are you telling families that is expected to be? I know that's an impossible question to answer. But what are you -- what, I don't know, guidance are you giving them?

RUNCIE: So as you know, things change almost daily in our world now. So we've told our community that somewhere around the last week of July, first week of August, we'll make a call as to what model we will have in our schools when we open on August 19th.

So to be clear, we believe that learning must open and continue on our start date for school. What that looks like is going to be defined by what state we're in relative to the coronavirus in our community. And we're currently under phase one. Pretty much things are being locked down as you know, in Florida. South Florida in particular, has become the new epicenter for this, and that's Palm Beach County, Broward County, and Miami-Dade were all interconnected.

And so the decisions that we make a really good enough to make from a regional perspective. And I think folks need to understand that. So for example, about 10 to 15 percent of our employees were -- live in Miami-Dade, they work in Broward, and vice versa. So we've got to make sure that we are coordinated, because we need all our staff, all our resources in order to open schools.

What we're doing now is we're actually serving our parents at for every single student we have in Broward County, at every single one of our 236 schools to see what their preferences are, for when we return across four different options. One is to continue with 100 percent distance learning, virtual learning model.

Number two is a hybrid model which has staggered school days where you come in two to three days a week. The other days you're at home and you're learning online. Then there's an option for those who have a strong preference for face to face, five days a week. And then we also have what we call a Broward Virtual School, which we've had for a number of years now.

So far with over 110,000 responses back from our parents, for those students, the majority, the largest percentage is around a hybrid model, which is somewhere around 37 percent, 33 percent say they want face to face every day. Interestingly enough, there's 28 percent, who want to continue with a enhanced high quality e-learning model that's connected to their local neighborhood school.

So we're trying to work through all of these possibilities in each and every school. But we got to be flexible because we may be in a situation in August when we want to open, where given the conditions we may need to start off with purely everyone on e-learning and then transition to one of these models depending on what the environmental conditions tell us.

But we got to follow the data. We got to follow the guidance. I kind of look at this almost as a wartime decision, right? Because if we don't make the right decisions, it will cost lives and we have to take this very seriously. We are at war with a virus that has killed well over 120,000 people in this country, obviously infections now at a high number.

So I've got to be concerned also with our 30,000 employees. And quite frankly, if our teachers start to get sick, notwithstanding what people say about students, whether they get it or they don't get sick, but if our teachers get ill, we cannot function. The district won't work. So we have to keep their health environment --

BOLDUAN: Yes, if you do not have teachers to teach those students, no matter if it's virtual or in person. Mr. Runcie, thank you so much. Good luck. We will definitely be staying close and checking back in as things are changing day by day.


Up next for us, Arizona sees a surge in hospitalizations, the warning now coming from one researcher about when Arizona hospitals could be running out of beds.


BOLDUAN: Just into CNN, new data showing that for the past month, Arizona has led the nation with the highest seven day average of new coronavirus cases per capita for an entire month. The case surge comes as Arizona reports it has 145 ICU beds left. That is less than 10 percent of the state's total ICU capacity and the lowest number available since late March.

A new model is projecting that the state is likely to run out of hospital beds by the end of this month. Joining me right now is the researcher behind this report, Dr. Joe Gerald. He's a professor of Public Health Policy and Management at the University of Arizona. Thank you so much for being here.

The mayor of Tucson had told us that her immediate concern was exactly what you are touching on, running out of beds, specifically ICU beds, she said. And she said it on Tuesday, there were five to 10 ICU beds left available in a county of a million people. And then with your projection and your model, that the hospitals could reach capacity in terms of beds by the end of the month. Is it inevitable that that's going to happen at this point?

DR. JOE GERALD, PUBLIC HEALTH RESEARCHER, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA: Yes. I think so. We're already there. So there's a difference between functional capacity or ability to care for patients without doing unusual things like bringing in outside healthcare professionals. We still have listed beds. So we have physical places to put them. But right now our healthcare workers are our most critical shortage.


BOLDUAN: You are also watching testing capacity in your state very closely. What are you seeing there?

GERALD: Yes. So testing is still lagging far behind our needs. And so our test positive rate is up above 20 percent. Ideally, you'd like to see that number less than 10. And so it gives us a good indication that we don't have nearly enough tests as we need.

BOLDUAN: So with that, as background, Vice President Mike Pence said just yesterday that when it comes to the positivity rate of tests in Arizona, that the White House Task Force on the coronavirus is seeing, and the way you put it is, indications of percent positive testing flattening. Is that what you're seeing?

Doctor, it's Kate Bolduan, can you hear me still?

GERALD: I'm sorry. I have missed your question.

BOLDUAN: No. It's OK. You can hear me though?


BOLDUAN: OK, great. Vice President Mike Pence. He said that he is seeing indications that in Arizona, the percent positive, indications of percent positive testing, flattening. Are you seeing that?

GERALD: Yes. I'm sorry. I lost your connection.

BOLDUAN: I think we've lost him. All right, Doctor, thank you so much. Unfortunately, in the technical age of COVID.

Still ahead for us, after seeing the rising cases and deaths in California, some colleges are deciding to take classes fully online this fall. How is that going to work for one school? That's up next.



BOLDUAN: Online or in person or combination of both, these are the very real time decisions that colleges and universities across the country are making. Pomona College in California outside L.A. has made their call, online only. And here might be why.

The current status of California, the state is among those leading not just the country but the world in the number of new coronavirus cases. And the Los Angeles County specifically is a major contributor to the state's surging numbers. The positivity rate in L.A. County is double what we're seeing statewide.

Joining me right now is the president of Pomona College in California, G. Gabrielle Starr, great to see you. Thank you for being here. The situation in Los Angeles County as we're laying out it is a serious situation that's unfolding right now. What was it that you saw specific -- that you saw specifically, that forced you to make this decision?

G. GABRIELLE STARR, PRESIDENT, POMONA COLLEGE: Well, Kate, thank you having me on. It's been greatly concerning. I think there are -- were two trends that really made us change our minds up until two weeks ago, we were planning on a socially distance but otherwise as normal as we could be in person semester.

And watching the infection rates rise, especially after Memorial Day weekend, it was our first leading indicator that the hope for drop or stabilization and transmission of infection rates was just not going to happen. And given what we know about the virus and how long the incubation period was, we decided that we needed to change our plan.

We also knew from contact with several hospitals in the area that they were beginning to reach capacity in beds, if not in a nursing skilled nursing. And those were a grave concern for us as the five call Claremont Colleges don't are not a research university. And so we don't have a hospital of our own.

And we felt that most ethical decision would be to go through this semester really plan fully and maximize a liberal arts education in this new climate.

BOLDUAN: Yes. None of it -- all of those data points are truly scary that you're pointing out that you're looking at right now. We've seen faculty speak up very loudly at other schools like Georgia Tech about reopening and being back on campus or not. What have you heard from faculty? How did this weigh on your decision?

STARR: There are very different things from faculty? You know, there are some who, you know, the whole professors as a whole are on average, older than your average worker and so many of them had health concerns in terms of risk factors and exposure to COVID-19.

But we had a bunch of faculty who wouldn't dream of teaching any other way then in the face to face environment, never dreamed of it, and are now moving quite engaging with our instructional technologists to reformulate their classes.

And I also had a really lovely set of offers, you may also know that, that the decision to be largely on the line, may have implications for international students. And so we may need to offer some courses on campus and we've had volunteers to do that. So it's --

BOLDUAN: Oh, that's very interesting because I was going to ask you about that just to bring people up to speed to remind them what we're talking about here is the Trump administration has sent out guidance that essentially if schools only offer online classes, international students may have to leave the country and may have to go home.


I believe I saw that 12 percent of your student body is from outside the United States. So tell me more about what this means for you and what you're doing about it if the administration would follow through on this threat?

STARR: Well, I think that there are several legal challenges that are being mounted around this decision. It's very hard to think about, essentially punishing students. And by punishing I mean the -- if they are to leave and lose their current SEVIS status, they would not be able to take advantage, full advantage of American education by being able to work for a set number of years in the United States after they have completed their degree.

So what we really want to do is to be able to offer a continuation of education with Pomona, and that might be for those students to study abroad for a semester at an institution nearby. And so we're actively working right now to create some partners with other institutions, so that they can continue.

And we also have students who are international who did not leave the country over the summer, in part because of the COVID crisis. And we may need to offer courses for those students in Claremont. We also are considering legal options, because this is an extraordinary step to take that seems to be really focused on ensuring that schools teach online -- teach not fully online, but teach in person, even when that could be a grave health risks for faculty, students, and staff.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Just as you lay it out, there is no easy, no easy choice and so very clear that this is not a situation that you would want to have to be presented with or having to present your faculty with or having to present your student body with.

But Madam President, thank you for coming in.

STARR: Thank you for having me. BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Still ahead for us, new developments out of Seoul, Korea, where the mayor of that city was reported missing today.



BOLDUAN: The mayor of Seoul, South Korea has been found dead. Police say Park Won-soon had been reported missing by his daughter earlier today. Police then of course launched a massive search operation and his body was reportedly found seven hours later in the mountains in Seoul.

No cause of death has yet been published a long time activists, a 64- year-old Mayor had been considered as a possible liberal candidate for president of South Korea in 2022. Let's turn out of Germany and their blunt words from Chancellor Angela Merkel, as Germany takes the helm of the European Parliament. Merkel saying that the pandemic highlight the limits of quote, fact denying populism. Let's check in there and with our reporters stationed all over the world.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Frederik Pleitgen in Europe where German Chancellor Angela Merkel has denounced what she says is populism and a lack of facts among some and dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

In a speech in front of European Parliament, Angela Merkel said that so far, lies and disinformation have proved futile in dealing with a pandemic as have incitement and hatred. Angela Merkel says that democracies need transparency if they want to be successful in stopping the pandemic.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Here in Brazil, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now topped 1.7 million and fatalities are nearing 68,000. But there are many experts who believe due to lack of testing, those numbers are woefully underreported.

Meanwhile, President Jair Bolsonaro battling his own case of COVID-19 as having all of his health ministers who have come in contact with him tested for coronavirus but telling those office workers he might have come in contact with they should still come to work.

He also vetoed a several bills that would have provided pandemic relief to indigenous communities here in Brazil, including such basics as sort of access to clean water and medicines, vetoing that as well as other bills that would have made mask wearing more mandatory around the country.

And meanwhile, Facebook has removed several fraudulent accounts tied to President Bolsonaro so much misinformation and propaganda swirling around social media around these scary times. Bill Weir, CNN, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Will Ripley in Hong Kong where there's growing concern that this city is in the middle of a third wave of coronavirus. In fact, in the last two days, 38 people at least have tested positive and a lot of those cases are very concerning for health officials here because they don't involve people coming in from other countries, but they involve community spread.

And some of these cases, they don't know where the virus actually came from. They don't know who these people caught it from, which raises concern that the small numbers we're seeing today could grow to much bigger numbers if measures are not taken. What will those measures be? We haven't heard yet from Hong Kong government officials.

But remember, they closed down the borders here. They enacted social distancing very early on. And as a result, Hong Kong, a city of 7 million people, has had just over 1,300 coronavirus cases and only seven deaths. And officials were determined to keep that number low.


BOLDUAN: Thank you all so very much. A reminder for you as well before we go, Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper are hosting a new Coronavirus townhall that is tonight at 8 o'clock Eastern only on CNN.