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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Refuses to Wear Mask Publicly in Virus Hot Spot; Georgia Adds a Record 4,484 COVID-19 Cases in One Day; Trump Claims Fauci "Made A Lot of Mistakes"; Trump Visits Virus Epicenter but Not to Address Pandemic; Florida's Average Daily New Cases Up 1,237 Percent Since Reopening; Trump and Fauci Not Speaking As Pandemic Worsens; California Suing Trump Admin In Fight Over Intl Students; Disney World Reopening As Cases Surge In Florida. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 10, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news.
Almost 134,000 Americans now dead in the coronavirus pandemic. As the country sets another single-day record of 63,000 new cases and the death toll climbs in 10 states.
Right now, President Trump is in Florida. That's an epicenter of the pandemic. But rather than address the crisis, the president is just minutes away from attending a closed-door campaign fundraiser as the state sees a record number of cases. A record number of hospitalizations and deaths as well. And as you can see here, despite the gravity of the crisis in Florida, the president still is refusing to follow the advice of his own health experts and simply wear a mask in public.
Let's get more on the pandemic right now. CNN's Erica Hill is joining us from New York. Erica, some truly troubling new numbers right now coming out of Georgia.
ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There are. And, of course, Georgia one of the first states to reopen, Wolf. The state adding nearly 4,500 new cases. And that is a pretty significant jump from the last high that we saw only a couple of weeks ago. And as we look around the country, this is a trend we're seeing more and more of.
HILL (voice-over): Long lines for testing in Florida. As the numbers there continue to move in the wrong direction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation is really concerned here in South Florida. HILL (voice-over): Florida is now averaging more than 9,000 new cases a day. A staggering jump of more than 1,200 percent since the state began reopening two months ago.
The President in hard hit Miami-Dade County today though not because the positivity rate there is nearly 30 percent.
DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: There seems to be this lack of understanding or awareness that we are in one of the most extraordinary public health crises that our nation has ever faced.
HILL (voice-over): U.S. is shattering new case records almost daily. West Virginia now has the highest transmission rate in the country.
GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): The only bullet in the gun right now is this right here. This little mask.
HILL (voice-over): 10 states seeing an increase in COVID related deaths over the past week, half of those posting their highest average for new cases since the pandemic began.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): I think the numbers are going to look worse as we go into next week and we need to make sure that there's going to be plenty of hospital beds available in the Houston area.
HILL (voice-over): It's not just hospital capacity and ICU beds, personal protective equipment is once again in short supply in some areas.
DEBORAH BURGER, CO-PRESIDENT, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: We've had plenty of time to plan and take action and it has yet to happen.
HILL (voice-over): As some states paused or roll back their reopening plans, many jobs are also on hold. The $600 weekly unemployment boost will run out at the end of July. But the needs of struggling families will not.
Back to school looming with some states just weeks away.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I don't think there's anybody who can make an argument that this is especially risky for kids. We have to accept that and then figure out you know how you fashion policy around it.
DR. AILEEN MARTY, INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROFESSOR, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: The viral loads in children are equivalent to that in adults. What does that mean? That means that they can transmit the virus equally well to other people whether or not they show symptoms.
HILL (voice-over): As districts work to find the right balance, the one constant in every decision, a virus that is here to stay.
DR. MIKE RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: In our current situation, it is very unlikely that we can eradicate or eliminate this virus.
(END VIDEOTAPE) HILL: And knowing that the virus will be something that we'll all have to learn to live with. The mayor of New Orleans today was talking about hurricane season, which, of course, we are in, Wolf. Noting that if a mandatory evacuation is ordered, she expects everybody to follow that directive. There will be buses to help. There will be assistance for those who need it. And she said at the shelters, masks will be provided. They will do as best they can when it comes to social distancing.
One other interesting note. She said normally they'll make the call for an evacuation about 72 hours in advance. She said this time around, if it needs to be done earlier, they just might do that. Wolf?
BLITZER: Just hope it doesn't happen. Let's pray it doesn't happen as well.
Erica Hill, thank you very much. Let's go to the White House right now. White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us. Kaitlan, the president is in one of the states currently hardest hit by the pandemic. But, correct me if I'm wrong. So far at least he's had little to say about it.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. This is a trip that could have happened at any other time in Donald Trump's presidency when a pandemic wasn't sweeping the nation. He barely talked about COVID-19 today in Florida and said that he thought about doing it as a phoner phoning into this briefing he was at on drug trafficking in South America but said he wanted to be there in person.
COLLINS (voice-over): Air Force One touched down today in one of the nation's worst coronavirus hot spots where a mask less President Trump was greeted by local officials wearing face coverings. The positivity rate in Miami-Dade County has hit a stunning 33 percent. But the president isn't here to talk about the pandemic. Instead, he's in Florida for a drug trafficking briefing and a campaign fundraiser. Though he briefly mentioned COVID-19.
TRUMP: As you know, in the United States at least before the COVID came to us, the flu, the virus, the China virus, whatever you'd like to call it, it's got many different names.
COLLINS (voice-over): Trump left Washington amid lingering tensions with one of his top health experts, Dr. Fauci, who told the "Financial Times," he is trying to figure out where Trump got his misleading claim that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are harmless.
TRUMP: 99 percent of which are totally harmless.
COLLINS (voice-over): Fauci told "The Times" what I think happened is that someone told him that general mortality is about 1 percent, and he interpreted that 99 percent is not a problem. When that's obviously not the case.
After calling into Sean Hannity's Fox News show last night, Trump publicly criticized Fauci.
TRUMP: Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he's made a lot of mistakes. A lot of mistakes were made. A lot of mistakes.
COLLINS (voice-over): Though Trump has insisted things are fine between him and Fauci, the two are barely speaking anymore. Fauci told the "Financial Times" he hasn't seen Trump in person since June 2nd and hasn't briefed him in at least two months.
Shortly after Trump left for Florida today, Fauci was seen arriving at the White House for a task force meeting. The tension between the two comes as Fauci is offering dire warnings about the state of the country while Trump is relaying a different message entirely.
TRUMP: Everybody says we have so many cases. That's because we test so many people.
COLLINS (voice-over): But while Trump tries to reassure Americans about surging numbers, a new poll from ABC News shows that 67 percent of Americans disapprove of how he's handled the pandemic. Trump has been anxious to return to the campaign trail. But that effort hit another roadblock today when the president announced he's canceling a scheduled rally in New Hampshire tomorrow, but not because of the record number of new cases.
TRUMP: We are fully prepared. FEMA's ready in case it's bad.
COLLINS (voice-over): Instead, Trump said he's postponing the third large gathering he's hosted in recent weeks because a tropical storm is approaching the east coast. Trump is still expected to travel to Walter Reed Military Hospital outside of Washington, Saturday, after a lot of pleading from aides who worry about him being the last leader to endorse face mask, he's agreed to wear one.
TRUMP: I expect to be wearing a mask when I go into Walter Reed. You're in a hospital setting. I think it's a very appropriate thing. I have no problem with a mask.
COLLINS (voice-over): Walter Reed is where the president also receives his annual physical. In 2018, Trump took a cognitive test as part of his, which he still brags about to this day while criticizing former Vice President Joe Biden.
TRUMP: The radical left was saying, is he all there, is he all there? I proved I was all there because I aced it. I aced the test. And he should take the same exact test. A very standard test, I took it at Walter Reed Medical Center in front of doctors, and they were very surprised.
COLLINS: Now, Wolf, the president told Sean Hannity he took that test recently. We asked the White House when he took this test, which test it was that he took. But they have not gotten back to us with any answers yet. But the last test that we know he did take was as part of his 2018 physical. That was the Montreal Cognitive Assessment test. And if you look at this test, Wolf, it's not exactly difficult. It's a 30-point test that lasts about 10 minutes. And you could see there, it's things as simple as drawing a clock, labelling animals like a lion and a camel. It's to see if you have any cognitive dysfunction, which, of course, you know, that is what the president has bragged about so much as he has tried to put the focus on Joe Biden's health, even though there have been plenty of questions about his own. And we still don't know what was behind that mysterious visit that he made to Walter Reed last fall when they claimed that he was doing part of his physical.
BLITZER: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much. Kaitlan Collins during her reporting off from the White House. Thank you.
Let's get some more on the worsening crisis in Florida right now. It is dramatically worsening. CNN's Randi Kaye is joining us from Palm Beach County. So, Randi, what are you seeing? What's the latest?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, another terrible day in terms of case numbers here. More than 11,400 new cases in the last 24 hours here in the state of Florida. We've had several days now where we've had higher and higher amount of cases than New York at its worst. But take a look at this graph because we looked at the re-opening and we charted it for you. The number of average daily new cases since the state reopened back in early May is up now more than 1,200 percent.
So, if you look at when we reopened on May 4th here in Florida, we were averaging about 680 new cases a day. We're now averaging more than 9,000 new cases a day. The governor was asked about whether or not maybe we reopened too early here in the state of Florida. Today in his press conference, he played that down basically saying that the positivity rate was hovering about 5 percent in May and even through the first couple of weeks in June. So he didn't see any reason not to go forward on the re-opening.
He also tried to say that it wasn't just Florida -- it was really the whole sunbelt that was experiencing trouble. But let's remember, he did take that victory lap, Wolf, back in April at the White House when he criticized reporters for saying that New York - that Florida would be like New York or Italy. Well, look at where we are today.
Meanwhile, about 50 hospitals already at capacity for the ICU beds running out. The governor also playing that down today saying that we are not at surge levels and that there is plenty of ICU bed capacity available. And also, Wolf, we know that Miami-Dade is still in trouble. 88 percent increase now in ICU beds and 123 percent increase in the ventilator usage.
But Wolf, here we are in Florida. So, life goes on. We have Disney World reopening tomorrow. People will go, they'll have to wear masks. They will get their temperatures checked. They'll have to social distance while waiting in line. They won't be able to touch the characters up close and personal because of the pandemic. And also, the NBA is sort of hanging out in their own bubble on campus at the Disney resort. 22 teams, the season starts July 30th. They are getting regular tests. No fans of course at the games. But life goes on here in Florida.
BLTIZER: Yes. We'll see how that works out. Randi Kaye, thank you very much. Lots of questions about what's going on in Florida right now especially. Thank you.
Let's get some more on all of this. Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joining us. Sanjay, right now as we've been reporting, the president is in the country's epicenter for the virus, Florida. And yet is not addressing the crisis the state is facing, the nation is facing. Does that make any sense to you at all?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the biggest public health crisis the world has faced for most of us in our lifetimes. So, no, it doesn't make any sense at all. This is issue number one and affects everything else I think that is happening in our lives.
Also, Wolf, I mean you know we saw what happened in Oklahoma, right? You send a lot of people in, you know, and then people can become infected, as happened with the secret service agents in Oklahoma. The president does a trip like this. There's a lot of people that have to go ahead of time. They have to go to the hospitals to make sure hospitals are ready. They have to use personal protective equipment. They have to set aside resources. So, it's a significant demand in a state that already has significant demands because of COVID.
You know from Randi's reporting you just heard, I can tell you there's a lot of ICU beds that are full. While they still have some depending on the county that you live in, there's a real concern at this point when you look at the trajectory that they are going into exponential growth. So that's when you have enough virus that it just starts to really build on itself. And you can start to turn into, you know, go from thousands of cases a day like we're seeing now to tens of thousands and so forth.
So, they've got to get this under control, Wolf. I mean I know we've been saying that for weeks, for months now but they've got to get this under control because at some point you really are not going to have many options left.
BLITZER: And the president is still refusing to even wear a mask which is so simply with that an example, he would encourage a lot of his supporters to go out and do the same. If he were to wear mask, but he's still refusing to simply wear a mask.
As you know, Sanjay, Florida cases have gone up more than 1,200 percent since they opened up the state in May. Just how dire is the situation in Florida right now? And what does the state need to do to turn things around?
GUPTA: When you're dealing with a public health crisis like this, Wolf, what ultimately happens, and I say this from a clinician level. I'm still working in the hospital. I see patients in the hospital. At some point, you start to look at the real demands that are happening at the hospital level. Can you take care of patients that need to be cared for? Someone calls an ambulance, right, from their home. My loved one, my spouse, whoever, is having difficulty breathing. The answer you never want to get back is, um, we don't know where to take your loved one. We're not sure there's a hospital bed available for that person. That obviously would be a very dire situation. It happened in Italy. We know that. That's what they're trying to avoid here.
So, that's the worst-case scenario where you start to have these preventable you know hospitalizations that aren't happening. Deaths that are preventable that occur. That's the worst-case scenario. That's the dire situation.
What needs to happen? Well, I mean, you know this is a more aggressive situation now. It may require more aggressive therapy, if you want to put it in medical terms. If people were wearing masks and keeping physical distance, we know this virus isn't that great at jumping person to person. It can be pretty easily contained by a mask. It can't jump really more than six feet. Typically, certainly not outdoors. So, the answers become clearer and clearer.
But, Wolf, again at some point if the hospitals are getting to this real problem of surge capacity, it probably means that things are going to have to be shut down again. That's how you probably really start to try and stamp down transmission.
BLITZER: And amidst all of this, Sanjay, we're learning the president is no longer even speaking to the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci. How dangerous is that from a public health perspective? You know Dr. Fauci. I know Dr. Fauci. We know him well. He's the top expert on this whole issue.
GUPTA: Yes. I mean, he's the guy that people from around the world will call and ask these questions of to try and get guidance in terms of what they should do. And he's given good guidance. And you've seen countries who have had tremendous success.
By the way, Wolf, I want to emphasize that point. You know as dire as this all is, it is worth looking at other countries around the world and being inspired by what they've been able to do to return to some sense of normalcy, to measure their cases in the dozens or maybe hundreds but certainly not the thousands or hundreds of thousands.
So, you know, there is plenty of examples around the world of what is still possible here. But I think it's a real problem that you know the president's not talking to the guy who is probably the best person to be talking to, Dr. Fauci, about this. It shows that I think they're not acknowledging the problem. How do you solve a problem if you're not acknowledging it?
But I think what I've even become more concerned by, Wolf, lately is I think this minimizing or even demeaning of Dr. Fauci. I did an interview with him, you remember, about football. Dr. Fauci gave his thoughts about that. The next day the president tweets what does Dr. Fauci know about football? He's a nice guy but he's made mistakes.
Yes. You can concede the point that nobody knew everything there was to know from the very beginning about this novel coronavirus. We have learned as we've gone along. But I think this minimizing or even demeaning becomes dangerous. That becomes this sort of assault on science which takes us in the exact wrong direction.
BLITZER: Yes. It certainly does. I just want to point out that the White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, just a while ago dismissing the difficulties of reopening schools, saying, and I'm quoting him now, "just go back to school, it's not that hard."
Just go back to school, it's not that hard. When you hear that, what's your reaction, Sanjay?
GUPTA: Well, look. I put my parent hat on for this. You know and I can tell you I think a lot of parents, they want their kids back in school. But it is hard. I mean these are hard decisions. We want our kids to be safe. There's evidence that kids are less likely to get sick from this. But we are hearing about kids getting sick. An 11- year-old died in Florida. It's rare, absolutely. I'm not trying to create unnecessary fear here. But as you get more and more young people infected as is happening, you are going to see more and more people getting sick and possibly, sadly, even dying.
I think a couple of points. We still don't know all there is to know certainly about how kids transmit or don't transmit this virus. A lot of the data will suggest they don't transmit virus very much. But you've got to keep in mind, Wolf, especially little kids have largely been at home since March. There's not a lot of data on especially younger kids in terms of how they transmit the virus.
We also know it's hard in a lot of school districts to maintain six feet of you know physical distancing. There's just not enough square footage in a lot of schools. So, the basic public health measures may be harder to enforce.
And also, you know the idea that ultimately, you know, what's going to happen if there is a big outbreak in one of these schools? And a lot of people test positive? What are the triggers going to be to possibly having to shut down again? This is the thought process that needs to take place. It's challenging. I talk to school administrators all day. I talked to one today. These are the real-life decisions they are having to make.
BLITZER: Yes. Let's not forget that. I checked earlier today, yesterday, 990, almost a thousand, 990 Americans died from coronavirus in just one day. Hundreds of Americans are dying every single day. And that continues.
Sanjay, we'll have you back later here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks, as usual.
Up next, we'll have more on President Trump's fundraising trip to Florida today amid the state's coronavirus surge.
Plus, his silence on the pandemic as new cases hit a record high here in the United States.
BLITZER: President Trump has been in Florida's Miami-Dade County for much of the day. Florida, as you know, is one of the nation's hot spots right now for the coronavirus. But the president's visit has been focusing in on politics and not, repeat, not the pandemic. Miami- Dade County includes the city of Miami Beach.
We're joined now by the Mayor Dan Gelber. Mayor Gelber, thanks a usual for joining us. So, what's your message to the president as he visits your state today without acknowledging at least hardly at all the record-breaking surge in cases in Miami beach and Miami-Dade County through much of the state right now and the significant loss of life?
MAYOR DAN GELBER (D-FL), MIAMI BEACH: Well, I mean, if you look at my community, Dade County, we have 1,800 people and COVID patients now. That's the highest by many multiples. We have almost 400 people in intensive care and we're about to hit an all-time high in ventilators.
So, we're a community that's getting really stressed by this and strained by it, and we could use some leadership. Unfortunately, the president hasn't been really helping a whole lot. He keeps telling people not to worry, that this is going to go away. And, frankly, he's not even listening to the doctors that we hang on, whose words we hang on when they speak. So, I wish he pointed and gave us good advice and good leadership. But I don't have any expectation that that's going to happen because it hasn't as of yet.
BLITZER: I want to get your reaction to some breaking news just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, Mayor. We are just learning that the Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is planning to roll back the city's re- opening to what's called phase one due to the spike in COVID-19 cases where she is, that according to her spokesman, phase one includes an order for all city residents simply to stay-at-home except for essential trips. What's your reaction when you hear that?
GELBER: Listen. I understand why she's doing it. And you've got to look at these metrics. We were the first city in Florida to do precisely that. My city sheltered in place. It's harmful and harsh on your economy. So, you want to make it a last resort. But the problem right now is we're headed in that direction obviously. We learned yesterday that the contact tracers that the state is supposed to put in place to sort of cabin the disease and investigate it are barely calling 17 percent of the people who test positive. We keep getting these mixed messages from Washington and the governor won't even require a mask order.
At this point, if we don't get our act together as a country, as a state and as a community, that's obviously where we're going to end. Because our hospitals are already at 97 percent capacity with their ICUs. And at some point, there are no other beds you can convert to intensive care. So, this is really, we're in a dire position right now.
BLITZER: You certainly are. I want you to look, Mayor, at what's happened in Florida since reopening began to much of the state on May 4th. I know your reopening in Miami Beach came slightly later. Average daily new cases are up more than 1,200 percent. Dr. Fauci says Florida reopened simply too quickly. And now is paying for it. Do you agree with Dr. Fauci?
GELBER: Well, we opened up too early because we didn't have the appropriate countermeasures. We opened up well after that, by the way. And we were the last city to really to reopen because we get so many visitors, we were very concerned about it. But the problem is we didn't have these contact tracers in place to deal with the surge. And everybody, you know, I think really from the top to the bottom treated this thing as a green light and an all clear, and obviously isn't.
And you know in a lot of that is because, as leaders, we have to let people know how they're supposed to perceive this and how they're supposed to act. And when everybody gets excited about opening and acts like the virus is gone, of course it's going to come back. Without the contact tracing to cabin it and to control it, it's not a surprise to me at this point that it's spreading like wildfire through our community.
BLITZER: Yes. And that's going to have a huge impact on whether or not you can reopen schools next month in Miami-Dade County. All right. Mayor Gelber, thank you so much for joining us. Always good to have your thoughts here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Coming up, the startling gap between the rather rosy messaging coming out of the White House and Dr. Anthony Fauci's serious warnings about the coronavirus surge. We're also hearing President Trump will, repeat, will wear a mask in public or at least when he's walking around the Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital. That is tomorrow. That's what we're hearing. We'll see if that happens. Much more of our coverage when we come back.
BLITZER: All right, breaking news, President Trump is spending the day in Florida, which is a coronavirus hot spot, but he hasn't been talking about the virus. In this hour, he's attending a campaign fundraiser. Let's discuss the health and political ramifications with CNN's Senior Political Reporter Nia-Malika Henderson and Dr. David Shulkin, the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs during the Trump administration.
Mr. Secretary, this trip to Florida could have been an opportunity for the President to change his messaging on the coronavirus wear a mask, for example. Instead, he continues to ignore the reality of this crisis. Why is that?
DR. DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Well, I do think it's a big missed opportunity. We need national leadership now more than ever watching these statistics about what's happening in Florida and other parts of the country. This is the time that we need people to set the right example, and we do know what works to prevent this virus.
But more importantly, Wolf, I'm concerned about why the President is traveling to an area like this, where the rate of infection is so high. You know, when I would travel with the President with Air Force One, you have hundreds of people that are part of that trip that are there creating security, the logistics. And as we've seen before, when the President travels, a lot of these people end up getting sick. And the last thing we want to do is to start spreading this infection and making sure that the situation doesn't get worse. And so the best thing I think the President could do is to stay quiet, not travel and deal with this as a national pandemic that it is.
BLITZER: Yes, but that's not going to happen as we clearly know. The President is determined to get out there. You know, Nia, the numbers clearly don't lie, cases are skyrocketing in Florida. They're up 1,200 percent since the state began reopening in early May and yet rather than meet with healthcare workers or grieving families, the President is raising money. He's at this closed-door political fundraiser right now.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, the political calculation is all about November. He needs to win Florida to win the White House. If he doesn't win Florida, he doesn't win re- election. He's also talking to Latinos. It's such an important demographic for him if he is to win re-election, particularly when the state of Florida.
But listen, all Latinos obviously are also facing the brunt of some of these skyrocketing cases that we see in terms of COVID. And we've got a President who's essentially ignoring this global pandemic that is hitting certain communities quite hard. But this is his strategy. It's a strategy that's based on having essentially ignoring that COVID is happening.
He wants to move on. He's essentially a board by this and you can tell in these poll numbers that we've seen recently that this isn't a strategy that is working for him politically, but it is a strategy that he's sticking to. And if you look down there, some of the papers in the coverage of his travels down there, they're essentially saying, listen, this is a President who's come down here not wearing a mask, even though in some of those parts of Florida, it's mandated to wear a mask. But this is part of his strategy.
As you said, he wants to get out, he wants to pretend like nothing is happening. He wants the economy to magically come back to life. And what he's ignoring is that every day Americans are experiencing this in real ways, every single day of their lives, worried about whether or not they're going to be able to go back to their job safely, worried about whether or not they're going to be able to send their kids back to school in the fall safely. And this is a President who is happy to ignore all of that stress and strain that Americans are going through at this point.
BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, Dr. Fauci tells the "Financial Times" that he and the President have not spoken since June 2nd as a doctor who worked with the President, why do you think the President isn't seeking Dr. Fauci's counsel at this critical time?
SHULKIN: Well, I think it's a big oversight, Wolf. I was so optimistic when I first saw the way that Dr. Fauci and the President were working together. I thought this is exactly what the President needs to surround himself with competent people who know how to manage issues like this and who better than Dr. Fauci. But, you know what we've seen time and time again, the President does like competent people and intelligent people until the point where they don't have the same opinion. And then he grows with very short patience for them.
And I think, unfortunately, that's what we've seen. Dr. Fauci has stayed true to his message. He's not willing to give advice that he doesn't believe in. He stands up for his principles and that's a very difficult situation in this setting. And the President has time to time again, showing that he will distance himself from people who do not go along with his message.
And I think we're very fortunate that Dr. Fauci still remains in his leadership position in government. We need him there. We need people like Dr. Fauci, who can help us through this time of crisis.
BLITZER: We certainly do. He's a national treasure, as I've often said. Secretary Shulkin, thank you so much for joining us. Nia, thanks to you as well.
Coming up, we'll have the latest on the fight over sending international students home to get out of the United States if their colleges and universities don't hold in-person classes. I'll speak with California's Attorney General who's suing to try to let these students stay here in the United States.
BLITZER: There's major new pushback right now against the Trump administration's plan to send international students home if their colleges or universities here in the U.S. don't hold in-person classes. We're joined by the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra who's suing the Trump administration right now, in hopes of letting those students stay. Attorney General, thanks so much for joining us. Tell us why you decided to file this lawsuit.
XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Wolf, there are real health, life, economic consequences to what the President is proposing to do in this flip-flop. Just three months ago, he issued a guidance for all universities, for all students on what they could do about staying put so they wouldn't have to go in class, in-person to class. And now all of a sudden, the flip-flop so the next -- the commencement of the next year school, and just it's crazy because a lot of these students can't even go back home right now, because people aren't taking -- these countries aren't accepting folks from various countries.
So it's just ridiculous. It harms not only people's health, but it really does harm the ability for universities and colleges to plan moving forward.
BLITZER: I understand that coming to the U.S. to take only, only online courses was prohibited until the administration offered some flexibility due to the coronavirus in the spring. So what legal grounds, Attorney General, do you have to try to make a case for changing what was considered to be long standing policy?
BECERRA: Actually, Wolf, the legal grounds were given to us by the Trump administration on March 13th, when they changed the rules for the right reasons because of COVID-19. They haven't yet given a reason, other than perhaps a political campaign reasons why Donald Trump wants everyone to start going to school.
And we understood the basis for the March 13th order. So did colleges and universities, other education institution and all these students and professors. What they haven't done is explained why all of a sudden they're flip-flopping on their own action. This volatile behavior may work when you're a CEO of your own company. But it doesn't work when you're the president for 320 million people.
BLITZER: The Trump administration is arguing the students could transfer to a school with in-person classes in order to remain in the United States. Do you think that's a reasonable alternative to deportation?
BECERRA: Well, Wolf, I have three daughters who went through college, I suspect, you know, it's who did the same thing. You tell me one person who can apply for college at this late date and get few weeks before having to start classes. And what happens to that tuition you may have already paid? I guess it's ridiculous. You don't do business this way.
And we're not going to let the President do it this way. Not on our watch. We're going to do it definitely (ph). California graduates, more people from college than anyone else. We're not going to let them destroy it.
BLITZER: Attorney General Xavier Becerra you got a lot on your plate right now. We're grateful to you for taking a few moments to join us. Thank you so much.
BECERRA: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, Disney World reopening as coronavirus cases surge in Florida. One health expert is now calling it a recipe for disaster. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: As coronavirus cases surge in Florida, one of the state's top tourist attractions is reopening this weekend. We're talking about Disney World. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, there's certainly lots of concern about the safety of visitors and workers.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of concern, Wolf. One prominent infectious disease doctor told us she is outright angry at Disney for doing this right in the middle of a state that's experiencing a horrific spike in cases.
TODD (voice-over): The magic is back for better or worse.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We look forward to seeing you soon at Walt Disney World Resort.
TODD (voice-over): Disney World in Orlando is reopening its theme parks to the public this weekend after opening them just to annual pass holders earlier this week. One guest said he loves it that the crowds are smaller, so far.
KURT SCHMIDT, GUEST AT DISNEY WORLD: So it's a different feel. But you definitely are seeing characters around, just not in the traditional way.
TODD (voice-over): On its website, Disney says it's, "Reimagined the Disney experience, so we can all enjoy the magic responsibly". But already, medical experts are warning that Disney World reopening in the middle of a state that's now one of the worst epicenters of coronavirus is inviting catastrophe.
DR. ANNE RIMOIN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, UCLA SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Who doesn't want to be at the happiest place on earth at a time where we're all stressed out and could use some fun. The problem is Disney World is going to be the happiest place on earth for the coronavirus.
TODD (voice-over): On its website and promotional videos, Disney is hammering home all the steps it's taking to ensure the safety of guests and employees who it calls cast member.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prior to entering, guest will undergo a temperature screening with no touch thermometers.
TODD (voice-over): And Disney says it won't admit anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Disney is reducing capacity, letting fewer people into the parks. It's enforcing physical distancing on rides, in lines and at dining areas.
Hand Sanitizer and washing stations are everywhere. Surfaces in the parks and hotels will be constantly disinfected and everyone above the age of two has to wear a face mask. The head of the Union representing 43,000 Disney employees says Disney has to get this right in ensuring the safety of workers.
MATT HOLLIS, PRESIDENT, SERVICE TRADES COUNCIL UNION: We expected Disney will continue to take the recommendations of the CDC, the recommendations and local ordinances.
TODD (voice-over): And Matt Hollis believes Disney has done that so far. But another union representing Disney performers says Disney's not properly testing their performers, calls it shameful. Disney says that union rejected its safety protocols and broke off negotiations.
Experts say Disney's counting on guest to be disciplined with mask wearing and distancing, never a certainty. And there are other worries.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CHIEF OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: It's not clear to me that in all of these inside rides that they've taken the measures for ventilation and air filtration that are needed to keep these indoor spaces safe. When you have these indoor spaces, you have a lot of people in a given -- on a given ride. You have people screaming on that ride. It's just a recipe for disaster.
TODD (voice-over): And medical experts don't believe a tactic that park owners in Japan are using would work at Disney World. The "Wall Street Journal" reports park executives in Japan are asking customers not to scream out loud on rides for fear of transmitting droplets, but to, quote, scream inside your heart.
TODD: Now one epidemiologist we spoke to has another serious concern tonight. Dr. Anne Rimoin from UCLA points out that after all of these visitors gather at Disney World, if some of them contract the virus while they're there, they will then go home some of them to other states, maybe even other countries. She is worried that Disney World could be a seed for outbreaks in other places, Wolf?
BLITZER: It's really worrisome indeed. All right, Brian Todd reporting, thank you.
Breaking news next, the U.S. coronavirus death toll now approaching 134,000 people as the country sets yet another single day record of 63,000 new cases. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.