Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump in Florida; Interview With Miami-Dade County, Florida, Mayor Carlos Gimenez; Interview With Former FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan; Trump In Florida Attending Campaign Fundraiser As State Sees Record Cases, Hospitalizations And Deaths; The Disproportionate Impact Of The Pandemic On People Of Color; The Disproportionate Impact of the Pandemic on People of Color; Brazil Passes 70,000 Virus Deaths, 1.8 Million Cases; Hong Kong Shuts Schools As New Cases Surge. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 10, 2020 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:02]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The breaking news this hour: Nearly 134,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus, as the U.S. sets yet another record for new cases, 63,000 in just one day.

And the death toll is surging in at least 10 states. President Trump is in virus hot spot South Florida right now, but he's not there to address the pandemic. Instead, he's at a closed-door private campaign fund-raiser in a state suffering from record cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

And as you can see these pictures, he's still refusing, as always, to wear a mask in public.

Let's begin our coverage this hour with CNN's Martin Savidge.

Martin, first of all, let's get some breaking news. I understand the mayor of Atlanta, where you are, is planning to issue a stay-at-home order right away. Tell us about that.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.

This is because Georgia in the last 24 hours set a new record for coronavirus infections, about 4,500. As a result of that, the mayor of the city of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, is ordering the city to now roll back, go from phase two, where it is currently, back to phase one, where people essentially would have to stay at home and could only go out for essential business.

However, the governor is saying that is unenforceable, that his executive order that has the state at level two supersedes whatever the mayor does. So, it is purely a recommendation, he says, on the part of the mayor.

It shows you the confusion and concern going on as coronavirus numbers spike.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SAVIDGE (voice-over): Long lines for testing in Florida, it's a clear

indication of the painful price the state is paying.

In addition to a record single-day death toll of 120 on Thursday, including the death of an 11-year-old child, Miami-Dade County reports hospitalizations are up 74 percent in less than two weeks, and 88 percent of ICU beds are currently in use, though the governor today pushed back.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You have got a lot of beds available.

SAVIDGE: The county is also seeing a staggering 28 percent positivity rate of tests being taken now, according to the mayor's office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation is really concerning here in South Florida.

SAVIDGE: The nation's infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the coronavirus surge can be traced back to states opening too soon.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Certainly, Florida, I know, I think, jumped over a couple of checkpoints.

SAVIDGE: Governor DeSantis response?

DESANTIS: There was really no justification to not move forward.

SAVIDGE: Even as Florida grapples with a deadly surge, Disney World reopens this weekend, bringing thousands of families to the state.

President Trump is also in Florida today, not planning to focus on the pandemic, but discussing drug trafficking and attending a fund-raiser.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an honor to be with you.

SAVIDGE: But, as he campaigns, the virus continues to spread, with the U.S. seeing its highest single day of new COVID-19 cases Thursday, with hot spots spreading from coast to coast, today, West Virginia becoming the latest state dealing with a surge, the virus there spreading faster than anywhere else.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): This is the only bullet that I have right now to do something other than to shut our state back down.

SAVIDGE: The Texas governor with a warning.

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.

SAVIDGE: And the contagion goes far beyond just those who are infected. With so many still unemployed, the lines at free food distribution sites like this one in San Antonio, Texas, demonstrate a different misery.

Meanwhile, an ominous warning today from the World Health Organization.

DR. MICHAEL J. RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: In our current situation, it is very unlikely that we can eradicate or eliminate this virus.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: Again, George's new record set in the last 24 hours for new infections of coronavirus, 4,484.

Also today, the governor has ordered that the Georgia World Congress Center -- it's a very large convention center in the middle of downtown Atlanta -- be reopened and reactivated, ready to take potential overflow of COVID-19 cases from hospitals that could become overwhelmed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, this situation is getting worse and worse by the day.

Martin Savidge reporting for us, thank you.

Let's get an update from our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, right now.

Kaitlan, the president, as we know, he's traveling in South Florida right now. He's not there to work on the coronavirus pandemic. Tell our viewers what he's up to.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, Wolf, it's really a trip he could have taken before the pandemic even happened.

It certainly was not the main item on the agenda. And the president really barely mentioned it while he was there, despite being in a county that is seeing a surge in cases and setting record numbers.

And the president did say -- there was talk of him doing this briefing, this briefing on drug trafficking, via the telephone, but he decided that he wanted to be there in person.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (voice-over): Air Force One touched down today in one of the nation's worst coronavirus hot spots, where a maskless President Trump was greeted by local officials wearing face coverings.

[18:05:00]

The positivity in Miami-Dade County has hit a staggering 28 percent. But the president isn't here to talk about the pandemic. Instead, he's in Florida for a drug trafficking briefing and campaign fund-raiser, 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 would like to call it -- it's got many different names.

COLLINS: Trump left Washington amid lingering tensions with one of his top health experts, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who told "The Financial Times" he's trying to figure out where Trump got his misleading claim that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are harmless.

TRUMP: Ninety-nine percent of which are totally harmless.

COLLINS: Fauci told "The Times": "What I think happened is, 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: 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 2 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: 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're fully prepared. FEMA is ready in case it's bad.

COLLINS: 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 masks, 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: 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 were saying, is he all there? Is he all there? And I proved I was all there, because I got -- 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Wolf, the president said he took that test recently.

We asked the White House, when was the last time he took one? They have not gone back to us on any details. The last one we know of was in 2018, when he did that physical, and that was the Montreal Cognitive Assessment.

And if you look at the test, Wolf, it's pretty simple. It's just testing to see if you have cognitive dysfunction. But it's things as simple as drawing a clock, labeling a few animals you see there. It's not really a difficult test. And that's what the president is saying that he aced.

And it comes as he has been putting the focus on Joe Biden's health, while we should remind our viewers there are plenty of questions about the president's own health after he took that mysterious trip to Walter Reed last year, very abrupt, when, typically, those things are scheduled far in advance.

BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins reporting from the White House, thanks very much.

Let's get some analysis right now from the former FDA Commissioner Dr. Mark McClellan and the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, Dr. Ashish Jha.

Dr. Jha, the president, as you know, he's in Florida right now, but he's not addressing the record-breaking number of COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state. He's also not wearing a mask.

Does it makes sense to you that the president would travel to a hot spot, only to ignore what's going on as far as the virus is concerned?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes. So, Wolf, thank you for having me on.

The pandemic is raging across large parts of our country. And ignoring it and hoping that it'll go away won't work. And so, if the president does go to Florida -- and I would be nervous if I were his physician about his going to Florida -- I wish he would address it, and I wish he would wear a mask, and I wish he would talk about the importance of social distancing.

And I wish he would be part of -- he would say the things that would make him a part of the solution. Unfortunately, that's not what we saw today. But I think we need to all keep working on getting this pandemic under control.

BLITZER: And, Dr. McClellan, as you know, coronavirus cases in Florida, they're way up, more than 1200 percent, since the state started to reopen in May.

[18:10:02]

Just how alarming are these numbers? And what's it going to take to see this curve come back down?

DR. MARK MCCLELLAN, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: Wolf, it is very concerning.

And, unfortunately, I think the trends are going to keep going up for a while. To get them to come back down, we need to take further steps to restrict businesses and the economy. And I know we don't want to do that.

Or we need to take further steps to enforce the rules we have in place now. Remember, lots of people and lots of businesses aren't following those guidelines. Or we need to get the American public more behind the steps, just like Dr. Jha was mentioning, around wearing a mask, around distancing, around washing hands, and staying home if you have got symptoms.

If 80 percent-plus of us did that, that would really help bring down these curves.

Short of that, I think we're looking at building more hospital capacity.

BLITZER: Yes, it's really worrisome.

Dr. Jha, the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, has just announced she's planning to roll back that city's reopening back to phase one, which includes a stay-at-home order. Is this the type of action that's needed to address the surges we're seeing, not just the Georgia, but Florida and beyond?

JHA: Yes, Wolf, this is what we were hoping to avoid, right, that we were hoping to avoid having to get the stay-at-home orders.

It should really be a move of last resort. But there are places in the country now that are getting there. As Dr. McClellan said, unless we take very aggressive action, there's really going to be no other set of choices except shelter in place. I still think there's a role for improving testing and tracing, but

that alone is not going to get us where we need to be, absolutely, social distancing, wearing a mask. The playbook here is pretty clear, and we have got to go execute on it in a really effective way.

BLITZER: Dr. McClellan, Dr. Anthony Fauci told "The Financial Times" that perhaps the reason we're not seeing him more on TV right now is because he refuses to sugarcoat the facts.

Isn't that a reason why we should be seeing more of him on TV, not less?

MCCLELLAN: Well, that's one of the things I have really appreciated about working with Dr. Fauci over the years is, he is a steady hand who always focuses on the facts and what's best from a science standpoint, from an evidence standpoint for the country.

I do think he's continuing to play a very big role, if not visibly, certainly behind the scenes. And I'm really glad, Wolf, that we have got him there working for us.

BLITZER: Yes, me too.

Dr. Jha, as officials and families across the country weigh whether students should return to school in the fall, some as early as early August, for that matter, the White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, offered this rather dismissive advice.

And I'm quoting him now: "Just go back to school. It's not that hard."

What's your response to that message?

JHA: Well, I think there's an underlying sentiment here that everybody agrees with, which is that we really desperately all want kids to go to school this fall.

I mean, as a dad, I certainly do. But it is actually that hard. If you are in a large outbreak zone, just getting people back to school, you can do it, you can open up schools, Wolf. The problem is going to be that, within weeks, those schools are going to be shut.

So, as opposed to just saying, I want my kids back in school, I wish that the federal leadership would really work hard to set up the conditions where kids can go back safely and stay in school safely.

I just don't feel like we're doing that.

BLITZER: Yes, I think you're right.

Dr. Jha, thank you very much.

Dr. McClellan, thanks very much to you as well. We always appreciate both of you joining us. Thank you.

And just ahead: President Trump (AUDIO GAP) Florida right now, but he's not there to work on the pandemic. Instead, he's attending a private off-camera fund-raiser, campaign fund-raiser, as the situation in the state grows increasingly dire.

We will get the reaction from the mayor of Miami-Dade County, where hospitals are running low right now on intensive care beds.

There's the mayor. We will talk when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:18:18]

BLITZER: President Trump right now in South Florida, an epicenter for the coronavirus crisis here in the United States, but he's largely ignoring the pandemic, instead spending his time right now at a private campaign fund-raiser.

Let's get reaction from the mayor of Miami-Dade County, Carlos Gimenez.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.

Do you think it would have helped, helped you address this ongoing crisis if the president had focused in on what's going on in Miami- Dade County, in Florida right now, even if he simply would have worn a mask to encourage his supporters to do so?

Because this virus is clearly infecting and killing Floridians in record numbers?

CARLOS GIMENEZ (R), MAYOR OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Well, I was -- I was made aware and actually participated in greeting him at the tarmac.

And they take some extraordinary measures to protect the president. He kept social distancing. And I'm sure he gets tested every day. We got tested just before we met him. And so it was a safe encounter.

Look, we have a problem here in Miami-Dade. Our positivity rate is now over 25 percent. We have doubled our number of people that we have had in the hospitals. And we have a lot of people now in the ICU. We're getting close to running into our capacity level.

The good news is that we can add more critical care beds and more ICU beds. But it's becoming more and more of a problem. And we have got to get this contagion, this positivity level down in this county, so that we can take the strain off of our medical personnel.

BLITZER: We all saw you when the president walked down Air Force One. You were there to greet him.

I wonder what you actually said to the president, because I listened to almost everything he was saying today at the various events. He did a bunch of events that had nothing to do with coronavirus at all.

[18:20:04]

Should he have addressed this issue to the people in Miami-Dade in Florida?

GIMENEZ: Well, I mean, I didn't see him afterwards. And I don't know what he said. I had to do some other work that -- I'm the mayor of Miami-Dade County, and we are facing a difficult situation here.

We talked a little bit about what the situation here is in Miami-Dade. He complimented me on my work.

And I said: "We have a difficult situation here, sir."

And he said: "Well, I know you're doing a really good job."

And then he went on to the other folks. And so, look, I -- it's -- like I said, it's a very difficult situation here. He had other things that he wanted to focus in on, in Venezuela and what's happening with the Maduro regime. And I know that also he wanted to see what we were doing here.

There are other things that are happening here, interdiction and our -- and what our SOUTHCOM -- we're the headquarters of SOUTHCOM -- what they're doing here to help our cause. And so he had other things to do.

So -- but I have got to do my thing.

BLITZER: Yes, you have certainly got a lot going on. And it was a little awkward. The president could have been discussing those issues any time.

But, right now, you're in the middle of a horrific, horrific situation. Since reopening began in May, the number of average daily new cases has gone up some 1200 percent in Florida.

Dr. Fauci says Florida reopened simply way too quickly, is now paying for it. Did you reopen too quickly?

GIMENEZ: No, I disagree with Dr. Fauci. I think what happened here is not the opening. It's the compliance with the rules.

We opened. We had a very methodical process of how we opened. We had a lot of different rules that you had to maintain. And really what happened was, somewhere around the beginning of June, I think kids either had graduation parties, kids started to go out.

And when I talk about kids, I'm talking about high school kids, college kids. We had demonstrations here. And people just started to party. They thought that this thing was over. And then their positivity rate just shot up like a rocket.

They in turn infected the rest of the community. That's what we find. People were just not complying with the rules. We have to maintain our masks on. We have to maintain social distancing. Indoors, we have got to keep our masks on, because that's the most dangerous locations.

And so had we just -- if we, all of us, if we just followed the rules, we can beat this thing. Unfortunately, we had some people that were not following the rules. And that's what caused this -- our infection rate to go up.

BLITZER: Yes. And the rules as not -- as you correctly point out, not that difficult. Wear a mask. It would have been good for the president of the United States to tell the people in Florida. He's there right now at this closed-door fund-raiser.

Simply go out there, wear a mask, and show an example of him doing it himself, which he still refuses to do.

Let me get your reaction to what the mayor of Atlanta is set to do. She's announcing, Keisha Lance Bottoms, that she's ready to roll back to phase one, which includes a complete stay-at-home order.

If cases continue to surge in Miami-Dade right now, do you think a similar action could occur there?

GIMENEZ: Look, I have said that all options are on the table.

I'm getting some pushback right now because we closed the interior spaces of restaurants. But I listen to my medical advisers. I don't listen to politicians. And so my medical advisers are telling me that -- advising me of the things that we need to do.

That's what I'm going to continue to do. I'm the mayor of this county. It's my responsibility to keep us safe. And I have told many people that, hey, all options are on the table. Safety comes first. Safety will always come first.

As you know, I'm a former firefighter. I'm a paramedic. And to me, the loss of life is not acceptable. And this spike really was something that should not have happened, if we had just -- if we, all of us, had done the right thing and kept our masks on, kept social distancing, if we had not partied, not gotten together, and then we wouldn't be in this condition.

So, yes, we may have to roll -- roll the economy back, but that's not something I really want to do.

BLITZER: Nobody wants to do it, but what would it take, Mayor, how many more cases, confirmed coronavirus cases, how many more hospitalizations, how many more deaths would it take for you to roll back and say, there's got to be -- we have got to go back to that stay-at-home order?

GIMENEZ: Well, I talked to -- that with my advisers today and said, is there something else we need to do?

Well, they said -- they advised against it. They said, we need to see if the measures we have already taken are going to grab hold.

And, again, Wolf, it's really not the number of cases that we have, because we know that we have a heck of a lot more people that are infected. It's the rate of positivity, that's what concerns me, and then the hospitalizations.

We need to see if our curfew -- because we now have a 10:00 curfew. We closed all the places of assembly, banquet halls, and movie theaters, and bowling alleys, and casinos. They're all closed. We closed the interior spaces of restaurants.

And now we have strict mask wearing inside and out. If those -- if we just follow those rules, and keep these other -- these kind of businesses closed, where people can't gather, and have the curfew, where people are not gathering late at night, having parties, et cetera, we feel we can drive this contagion down, the positivity level down.

[18:25:15]

And then, with the addition of some more contact tracers that we just recently added, once we drive that down, then the contact tracing can actually be much more effective. Contract tracing is not as effective when you have such a high infection rate in a community.

BLITZER: And speaking of the positivity rate, it's really amazing and awful, what's going on in Miami-Dade County right now, positivity rate of some 28 percent; 28 percent of the people tested test positive.

We're learning your county is also right now, correct me if I'm wrong, Mayor, running low on ICU beds. Will you have room to take care of these patients who have tested positive, who fall very seriously ill, need to get to the hospital, need to be in ICU units?

GIMENEZ: Yes, we will.

I mean, the problem is staffing. But I talked to the CEO of Jackson Health System today. They have a plan of how to increase not only critical care beds,but ICU. We have the capacity to add another 500 ICU beds. We're about 100 ICU beds right now that are vacant. We have the capacity to add another 500 to that to get to about 1,000.

And we also have the capacity to add 1,200 to our critical care beds. I believe we have got 1,500 critical care beds still vacant. And we can add some more.

I know the governor is helping by bringing down 100 nurses to add more capacity. We also have a 1,000- or a 500-room hospital, temporary hospital that is set up at our Convention Center that we can also ramp up to 1,000. That will add additional capability.

The governor is aware of the situation down here and he's promised that he will send us the help we need to make sure that we don't run out of hospital space, critical care beds, ICU beds here in Miami- Dade.

BLITZER: Yes, you have got a big county, nearly three million people in Miami-Dade County.

GIMENEZ: Yes.

BLITZER: What, you have another two-million plus in Broward County and Fort Lauderdale, not very far away. There's millions of people who are relying on you. These are life-and-death decisions, Mayor, you and your team have to

make.

And we're grateful to you for joining us. Thanks so much for joining us.

GIMENEZ: Thank you, Wolf. You have a good weekend.

BLITZER: All right, thank you.

Just ahead: President Trump is refusing to publicly wear a mask, as he travels throughout South Florida right now, the hot spot for the virus.

And some stunning remarks today from one of the president's top advisers, who told reporters just a little while ago that children should just go back to school. He says, it's not that hard.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

BLITZER: We're following breaking news, President Trump in Florida right now but he's not there to work on the pandemic despite the growing crisis in the state.

Let's get some more from our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Political Commentator, Michael Smerconish and our White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

Sanjay, the president is there in the coronavirus hot spot yet he's not addressing this health crisis today at his various appearances. Does that make any sense to you at all?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it doesn't. I mean, this is the biggest public health crisis of our lifetime. It's the biggest public health crisis in the world. And he's visiting one of the hottest spots for this crisis anywhere on the planet. So the fact that you wouldn't talk about this when you go to a place like that, it doesn't make any sense. It's such an opportunity to address this head on.

And that's not to say anything about -- to say nothing about the potential risks of this. You know, if you're going to a place where the virus is clearly spreading, the risk is higher. The risk is higher that you're going to come in contact with somebody who has the virus. You have to have all this planning that goes into this. There're people who go to the hospitals, put on personal protective equipment to scout the hospitals on behalf of the president in case there's a need. So, no, it doesn't make sense and it's a real risk, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Michael, the Florida trip today presented so many opportunities for the president, for example, to lead by example, wear a mask, to help the nation get through this horrific crisis. So why didn't he take that opportunity? MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not only would it seem to make common sense to do that, Wolf, it would also seem to make political sense. That new survey that just came out today from ABC shows that he is far underwater politically and largely because of the perception of his handling of this issue.

Now, to answer your question requires me to get in his head. I can only imagine that it's a sign of machismo on his part that he thinks that it shows strength not to be wearing that mask in contrast to all the public health advice, and it's doing harm to him politically.

BLITZER: Yes. We've been told that if 95 percent of the American public between now and August or September simply wore a mask, tens of thousands of Americans would live as opposed to dying as a result of coronavirus.

You know, Kaitlan, the White House also said it cancelled the president's rally scheduled for tomorrow in New Hampshire due to impending storms. CNN is learning though that the campaign may have also been concerned about low attendance.

There's one really good reason not to host a large event, that campaign event or rally like this right now, and that would be the ongoing pandemic.

[18:35:05]

Why simply -- why didn't the administration simply say the campaign simply say that's why he's not going, this is not a good time to gather a lot of people inside an airport hangar and do a campaign rally?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and they didn't cite the pandemic at all for the reason they were cancelling that rally. They just simply said it was just because they were worried about what the weather was going to look like because of the tropical storm that's approaching the east coast.

And, you know, what they've been balancing is the president who wants to get back on the campaign trail and wants to have those same full- scale rallies that he's so used to, but also the fact that they are dealing with a public health crisis.

And they underestimated putting those two together when the president went to Tulsa. And we saw that even the president's own supporters were skeptical of coming out during a pandemic. And that arena only end up being about a third of the way full.

And they have had some issues with this, Wolf. It's not just this New Hampshire rally. Actually, the president was thinking of having a rally in Alabama tomorrow night but state officials there were even worried about having a mass gathering outside, of course, a state where the president enjoys great support.

So this is a widespread concern about having these big gatherings. And the president is the one who's hosted several of the biggest gatherings that this nation has seen during this pandemic.

BLITZER: Yes, and tomorrow, it will be two weeks since the campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Sanjay, the tropical storm cited by the White House certainly not nearly as dangerous as coronavirus right now. And when you look at the numbers -- the number of cases in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and then in the area of Tulsa following the president's rally there nearly two weeks ago, those numbers clearly have gone up.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, they have gone up. And this is somewhat predictable, you know, Wolf. I mean the coronavirus is fairly constant and predictable in terms of how it behaves. You have these significant events and then a couple of weeks later, the people start getting tested and you see those case numbers go up. A couple of weeks after that, you may see increase in hospitalizations.

So, we've seen this over and over again, Wolf. The question about the storm is sort of an interesting one. I was just thinking about this idea that we are familiar with storms and we can see them, and as a result, we take cover and protect ourselves and protect our loved ones.

With a virus, it's a kind of a storm as well. It's a storm of these viral particles. But we can't see it. It's this unseen enemy. And I think that's part of you know the challenge, I think, here. Something that you can't see but poses, as you point out, even a bigger threat means that sometimes people don't do enough to react to it or they react too late or not aggressively enough.

So that's part of, I think, what we're seeing here as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Michael, you mentioned that new ABC News poll, 33 percent of the American public now, only 33 percent approve of the president's handling of the coronavirus. Look at how his approval rating on this issue has declined over these past weeks and months. Should the president be really, really concerned about these numbers as he seeks a second term?

SMERCONISH: It's obviously not something that Joe Biden wishes for, but I have to say that the pandemic suits him politically because it leaves the president out there to be his own worst enemy. Joe Biden is not constantly under the media glare, the spotlight and so forth. And so the status quo really suits the president's opponent.

I think that what's also lacking is his ability, as you were just discussing with Kaitlan, to feed off that live audience that he was so counting on, for example, tomorrow night. So a combination of all these factors, I think, has really upset his campaign.

BLITZER: Yes. I assume, Michael, he was also concerned that maybe a whole lot of people in New Hampshire wouldn't show up tomorrow night.

SMERCONISH: Wolf, I'm an old papa Bush advance man. And the first rule of advance is always book a room that is too small for your audience. The Tulsa lesson bore that out. And so I have to believe that that was a large part of the concern that they were facing for tomorrow night, that they had a room that they couldn't fill.

BLITZER: Yes. Then Tulsa nearly two weeks ago, they had a big arena that seated about 19,000 people and the fire department said 6,000 or so actually showed up. And that was an embarrassment for the Trump campaign, although they did have a big viewing audience on Fox News which took the event clearly live.

All right, guys, thank you very, very much.

And very important programming note for our viewers. Of course, be sure to watch Smerconish here on CNN tomorrow morning at 9:00 A.M. Eastern. I watch it every Saturday morning.

But here is a very important note. Later tomorrow the premiere of Michael's New Special, The Things I wish I knew Before I Started Talking, that's tomorrow night, 10:00 P.M. Eastern only here on CNN right after our special Situation Room tomorrow night on CNN.

Just ahead, we'll take a closer look at the coronavirus and race in America, as the pandemic takes a disproportionate impact on people of color.

[18:40:06]

And later, the president of Brazil is handling his coronavirus diagnosis by touting hydroxychloroquine, even though studies show the drug doesn't work and could potentially even be dangerous.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Black and brown Americans have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic, disparities that persist across the country right now.

[18:40:02]

Our Political Correspondent, Abby Phillip, has been digging into this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. has shifted from the north to the south and west. But one thing has remained the same. In Arizona, Mississippi, and in Florida, black, Hispanic, and Native Americans are still being disproportionately infected, hospitalized, and killed by the virus.

And the problem is likely to get worse. The 23 states in the South and West with growing coronavirus outbreaks are home to 71 percent of all Hispanics, and nearly two-thirds of all people of color in the United States, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Yes, most of these are red states. In some cases, the states that resisted stay-at-home orders and mask-wearing, moving quickly to reopen with the support of the Trump administration.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's time to stay open, and we will put out the fires as they come up.

PHILLIP: But black and brown communities are paying the price.

KRISTIN URQUIZA, LOST HER FATHER TO COVID-19: My father, I believe, was robbed of life. My father was Mexican-American. For the majority of the stay at home ordinance, he was working until he was furloughed.

PHILLIP: Kristin Urquiza lost her father to COVID-19 in June. Her family, including this criticism in his obituary.

URQUIZA: His death is due to the carelessness of the politicians who continue to jeopardize the health of brown bodies through clear lack of leadership.

PHILLIP: According to CDC data where race is known, non-white groups represent a majority of coronavirus cases, and about half of deaths.

Add to that, how to pay for treatment. According to the CDC, Hispanics and Native Americans are three times more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic whites. And non-Hispanic black Americans are nearly two times more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic white Americans.

As cases rise in Republican-led states that have not expanded Medicaid, that problem could get worse.

DR. OLUWADAMILOLA FAYANJU, SURGEON & BREAST CANCER SPECIALIST, DUKE UNIVERSITY MEDICINE: That means there are a number of individuals for whom the healthcare exchange through the Affordable Care Act is unattainable.

PHILLIP: Then there's testing. Racial disparities also continue to be a problem there, experts say.

DR. KEVIN THOMAS, CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE SPECIALIST, DUKE UNIVERSITY MEDICINE: The populations who are most at risk, that's our Latino and African-American communities. There's not many testing opportunities for those folks.

PHILLIP: And when and if a vaccine arrives, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warning that a lack of trust in health care institutions among communities of color could hamper efforts to protect those groups.

Fauci telling the "Financial Times" today: We've got to do some serious reaching out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: Kristin Urquiza, who you saw in that piece, said that she spoke out about her family's heartbreaking story because she wanted public health officials and public leaders to have a national strategy for addressing this crisis, including mask wearing.

In Arizona where her father lived, the governor of that state had resisted a statewide mask order. But as cases rose in the state, he has now allowed states and localities to implement their own mask mandates -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It will save so many lives if people just start wearing those masks.

Abby Phillip, good report. Thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, disturbing new coronavirus numbers in Brazil right now. The country has just surpassed 1.8 million confirmed cases, and now tops 70,000 confirmed deaths.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:53:08]

BLITZER: Let's turn to coronavirus headlines from around the world. First, let's go to Brazil where new cases are overwhelming hospitals and deaths are quickly growing.

CNN's Bill Weir has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the official count of COVID-19 cases now in Brazil well past 1.7 million, about 8,000 people in critical condition in intensive care units that are brimming to capacity. So, it's likely they will hit the grim milestone of 70,000 deaths at some point today.

The president, Jair Bolsonaro, is still isolation. Just down the road at his palace, not here at his office where he is using social media to continue to promote hydroxychloroquine as a cure for this, even though so many institutes from the World Health Organization to the National Institutes of Health have proven it does not work.

Meanwhile, in 11 of 26 Brazilian states, investigations of pandemic corruption charges, scheming, profiteering, buying stock piles of ventilators that simply do not work -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Bill Weir in Brazil for us, thank you.

Let's go to Hong Kong where schools are shutting down amid a wave of new infections.

CNN correspondent Will Ripley has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, here in Hong Kong, there is growing concern about a third wave of coronavirus potentially spreading like wild fire in this city. And they're now taking fast action. Even though the numbers every day are still relatively low, you're talking about dozens of cases being conducted.

What's concerning is these are local transmissions. These are not people bringing in the virus from the outside. They set up at the airport. They have a plan to handle that.

But the contact tracing isn't working on the ground here in Hong Kong. They say some of these cases are tied to bars and restaurants. So, they're reducing the capacity of those businesses starting this weekend.

Also, taxis and senior care centers. And on Monday, schools which just reopened will be closing again -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:55:00]

BLITZER: All right. Will Ripley in Hong Kong for us, thanks very much.

We'll have more news just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Finally, tonight, we pay tribute to some wonderful people we've lost.

Martin Addison of New Jersey was only 44 years old, a loving father of two and a devoted husband to his wife Pamela. She tells us she found joy in playing with his children and surprising her. After his death, she learned he was actually planning a trip for their anniversary in October.

Alan Hirshman of New York was 89. His daughter Alison (ph) calls him a pioneer who fought against racism and injustice as an attorney. She says he never let age slow him down and truly lived life to its fullest.

May they rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing.

I'll be back tomorrow night 7:00 p.m. Eastern for another special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.